The ramblings and musings of author and musician Geoffrey Young Haney.
Much more coherent and loveable fare from his wife, Michelle.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book Review: On Writing, by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's no surprise - and probably no accident - that King's book on writing is as easy to digest as his prose. This doesn't make it any less important, no matter what critics of King's work may try to tell you. King is a phenomenal writer and has a great understanding of story. Nothing of this work is particularly groundbreaking, but the nuggets of wisdom here are presented in such a straightforward and concise manner that I believe it'd be hard for any writer of any literary genre or style not to find something golden within these pages.

I found King's talk on his drafting process - the open and closed door - particularly interesting. I also enjoyed every bit of the "memoir" part of this work. King has an easy voice and an inviting earnestness, even while talking about such heavy subjects as drug addiction, the passing of his mother, and his own brush with death. Having listened to the audio version of this book, I found it even more like a conversation between two friends than a textbook on writing. I was learning things, but it never felt like learning. I'd like to believe this is what King was aiming for.

As a writer myself, I did find the whole section on finding an agent and getting published laughable. This book isn't that old, but it certainly seems old when it speaks on this. King tells the story of a younger colleague (or colleagues, as it were, whose experiences here are mashed together under one pseudonym) who sells around 6 short stories to various rags that publish short stories. (Even this seems like the stuff of historical fiction.) Said writer then starts work on a novel. Seeking representation to help in the eventual sale of that novel, the writer sits down and crafts a polite and interesting letter to an agent before having even finished the book. Then, shockingly, said colleague actually receives numerous cordial responses from actual agent interested in their work. Some ask to see his short stories, some ask to see the 80 pages of his unfinished novel. The idea that any agent in this day and age would ask to see a) stories that have already sold and b) 80 pages of anything based simply off a letter that barely describes a work that isn't finished means either this author is fantastic or that this was what publishing might have looked like before the creation of the slush-pile. My guess is its a bit of both. It sounds like a great time to be a writer, a time where you could create some publishing credentials for yourself and then speak with an agent who is looking for AUTHORS to WORK with (not NOVELS to SELL - and I seriously believe those are two very distinct things.) I don't believe King even once used that dreaded word "query" while talking about finding an agent. Ah, the simplicity of years gone by...

And maybe that is what's best about this book, this air of hopeful ease; the feeling that for a writer, crafting a story should like breathing. No bullshit, no politics, no hoops to jump through. Just practice, passion, and the dedication to write every day. There's no magic bullet, no secret lesson to be learned. Write, and keep writing until you're good enough that someone wants to read what you've written. And when that's done, write again. Sometimes in pop culture, what floats to the top is often the worst of what our "arts" and culture has to offer, dumbed-down works of insipid simplicity, ready-made for a lazy public. This is what "serious" critics have come to learn, and what continues to shape their world-view. Who can blame them, though? There's so much evidence to the rule.

Then again, as is the case with The Beatles, sometimes what's popular is what's best. King is a popular writer, but don't hold that against him. The Beatles wrote the book on writing a pop song. With On Writing, King has written a love song to the pop book. And the world is better for it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Side Quest! 2.7.12

Side Quest! is a Friday segment where I basically share some links to stuff that entertained, enthralled, and distracted me during the last few days. The idea of "Side Quest" as a segment comes from just such a thing: The Indoor Kids, a podcast on the Nerdist Network (a site sure to make many an appearance in this segmant...) Hosts Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon talk videogames, movies, and generally nerdery with a slew of awesome guests. Sometimes thought-provoking and always entertaining, The Indoor Kids is slowly becoming my new obsession.

Yes, it says "Friday segment" up above. Yes, it is Tuesday. But I have a 1-month old baby at home right now so time management (as well as sleep, sanity, and clean clothing) has gone by the way side. So technically this is LAST week's stuff, but its cool stuff nonetheless, so click some linky-links and be cool... and stuff.

Last week I dug on some Marvel/DC silhouette art submitted to Geek Art by Lily's Factory, I shed a single tear over Neil Gaiman taking a sort of social media hiatus to work on his next novel, and I finally started watching Doctor Who. Oh, and on Saturday I watched Star Wars Episodes 1-3 on BluRay. It was my first foray into the world of High Def. I've decided that I may not want to see everything in a movie so clearly...

Not the most eventful week in nerdery, but that's probably a good thing. I spent a lot of time writing. I started up a fresh new draft on an old concept, which I eluded to in my last post, I kicked a few more words into my angels-and-demons series, The Cormin Chronicles, and I brainstormed a new film script with two of my favorite creative peeps. So it was a productive week. Hope yours was just as creative and wonderful.

THINGS I'M READING: Dove into Joseph Robert Lewis' new Europa series with the novella Omar the Immortal and I downloaded Kelsey Miller's debut novel Retribution (for free, nonetheless!) Still plugging away at Colston Whitehead's Zone One, but I'm sadly finding it less and less engaging. The writing is wonderful, it's just the story isn't really grabbing me. Oh well. Like a good and faithful zombie, I will dredge on. I hate not finishing books.

Have a great week!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Side Quest! 1.27.12

Side Quest! is a Friday segment where I basically share some links to stuff that entertained, enthralled, and distracted me during the last few days. The idea of "Side Quest" as a segment comes from just such a thing: The Indoor Kids, a podcast on the Nerdist Network (a site sure to make many an appearance in this segmant...) Hosts Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon talk videogames, movies, and generally nerdery with a slew of awesome guests. Sometimes thought-provoking and always entertaining, The Indoor Kids is slowly becoming my new obsession (especially in an easter-egg-oriented episode where they discussed a haunted Majora's Mask game and I spent the next day and half reading and watching this insanity...) So, thanks Kids!

What's sure to be another regular source in Side Quest! is the Book of Matches Tumblr. This week I longed for a sweet piece of nerd art, reminisced about one of my favorite exchanges in cinamatic history, and learned Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, which I leave you with now.

[via The Trad]

What about you? What random Interweb wonders have you stumbled on recently?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Let's Begin At The Beginning

Things have been feeling... oddly familiar as of late. Not deja vu, per say, more like God hit the reset button on the videogame of my life and I forgot to save. So now I'm repeating levels, trying to figure out a more perfect way to conquer a task - looking for a more ammo-effective means of slaughtering the El Gigante, if you will. 

(If you understood that reference without clicking the link, you and I are now best friends.)

What I'm saying is that many things in my life feel like they're starting over. I have another son now, just 1 month old, who is beautiful and wonderful and looks in many ways like my first son, who is beautiful and wonderful and old enough now to spend most of his day talking our ears off, singing Elmo's Song, and asking to watch Toy Story 1 or 2 for the 800th time (man, I really gotta buy the third one...) Newborn Nolan feels a lot like Newborn Carter. Of course, there's a Big Brother in the equation now, but things seem similar. Same song, second verse.

At the same time I've hit a point of regeneration in my writing. See, my co-author and I were on the verge of publication, but we knew we wanted to first get some professional words of advice. We never thought some of those words would be not really connecting to your main character and probably wouldn't pick up the second volume... but the world you've built is stunning! Why don't you tell that story?

Why don't you tell that story? This question is a reset button, at least it has been for me. See, I thought my story was about one thing... but the critiques we've been getting as of late spell out something else. They see a story they'd love to see as the focal point. They see a story unrealized in the background of what we're doing now. And so I find myself asking all those deadly questions: What would the book look like if this happened? What if we started our story at this point on the timeline instead of this point? Resets. Same game, same rules, same level. Only we're trying it again, to see if we can do it better.

This is a wonderful thing, honestly; I know it in my heart of hearts. I feel really pumped about the future of the book. It's just that I've already done this level and feel an overwhelming sense of been-there-done-that with my story. And yet I would never dream of viewing Nolan as a simple redo. I lovingly take note of every nuance - see each tiny difference and cherish each little moment, even if the whole newborn baby thing is water already tread. Can't I do this with my creative "children" as well? I'd like to have a heart that embraces the creative work ahead in the same way I embrace the fatherly work ahead. So that's what I hope and pray to do. After all, what are babies without a bit of a mess. And what are stories without a few drafts.

So as Mr. Willy Wonka would say:
You've got to go forwards to go back, better press on. 

What about you? Have you hit points in your writing where the best option is to start again? To start somewhere else? How do you combat the negative feelings that can come from what could eventually be a positive thing - a better understanding and more satisfying presentation of your work?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Baby On Board!

On December 26th, 2011, at 6:11pm, Nolan Sirius Haney entered the world. Weighing in at 7 lbs, 6 oz with a vertical of 20 in, this all-star took only about 3 good contractions to make his presence known... that was after 11 hours of labor (some at home, some at the hospital) and a solid 5 hours or so of pretty intense back labor, a slow-to-get-going epidural (which did finally kick in... just in time,) and a brave - albeit puking - rock star of a Mom. Both Michelle and Nolan are doing well. Nolan's been bathed up, is eating great, and is sleeping it all off. Looking forward to visitors today and for Carter (our oldest boy) to come visit here in a bit. So thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers and kind words over Facebook and phone calls and texts and the like. Our friends and family are a true blessing and we look forward to sharing more momentous occasions with all of you!

Until then, I leave you with the Nolan...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Nolan Sirius Haney

So admittedly I've been pretty neglectful of this blog. One thing that's kept me busy has been work. Since Thanksgiving weekend I've been working 10 hr days and Saturdays, logging lots of extra hours in my cold, cold (though not as cold as previous years, thank God) warehouse. But the OT is a wonderfully blessing because Michelle and I have been expecting our second child, a boy, Nolan Sirius Haney (nerd name - poor kid.) And of course, whenever a new member is added to the family, the overtime checks are a seriously welcomed. So that's been our December; lots of work and preparation and holiday fun, all spent waiting for Nolan.

Well, the waiting is over! We are currently at Holland Hospital waiting for our little man to arrive. Michelle is wandering the halls with her cousin Emily in hopes of keeping dilation on track. She really wants to do this naturally. She was SO close with Carter, but total exhaustion and some terrible back labor forced her to get an epidural at the last minute. Michelle is more afraid of needles, however, than of birthing pains, so she's hoping to spare her spine this time.

So as we did with Carter, I will post a few updates here so family and friends can meet digital Nolan, and we can have a permanent record of this monumental day! Please keep my family in your prayers.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Review: Stephen King's The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower 1)

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)The Gunslinger by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephen King is one of those authors I've loved since I was a young teen (I even visited his house during one summer vacation.) However, being a young teen with a short attention span - and King having the tendency to pen some rather thick tomes - I never finished any King novel I started. Pet Cemetery; Gerald's Game; It. I even wrote an 11 page book report on Cujo my freshman year... having not read the entire thing. So King and I go way back, sorta. We've shared some good, albeit truncated, times.

Well, I have finally got around to finishing my first King novel; the trick was apparently that I needed an audio book. The Gunslinger introduces us to Roland Deschain, the titular Gunslinger, as he traverses a barren desert in search of Man in Black, a shrouded and intriguing antagonist with God-like abilities to possess the minds of people and even raise the dead. Along the way, Roland meets a young boy, Jake Chambers, whose strange past causes Roland to think heavily about the world he lives in, and whose companionship is just another woeful test set forth by the torturous Man in Black.

The Gunslinger is a somewhat disjointed narrative - a Fear-and-Loathing-esque head-trip - one that jumps from present to flashback to alternated reality. But for me this form does a good job at putting us in Roland's own disoriented mind. King's description are spot on without being insensate wordy and his characterization is excellent. All in all I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed my trek through Mid-World, and narrator George Guidall was a fitting and entertaining companion. I look forward to continuing the journey.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Neverending Story

No, this post isn't about the awesome 1984 flick that shaped a chunk of my childhood. But I will point to another monumentally influential film as an example of what I fear.

Embracing of technology as I am, I am afraid of the never-ending story.

Case in point: Star Wars.

By now you Star Whores (see what I did there?) may know that the interwebs were all abuzz with last week's revelation that George Lucas has yet again gone back and tinkered with his films in preparation for the up-coming Blu Ray release, adding pointless things like Vader yelling "Nooooo!" when he tosses the Emperor into a flashing, high-voltage, God-knows-what abyss at the end of Jedi, or the cringe-inducing oddness of giving Wicket freaky digital eyelids. (I'm not joking... but I wish I was...)

Now maybe old George is just the poster child of the compulsive self-editor who can't help but go back and tread the same waters over and over again looking to tweak crap until he's simply doing it just for the sake of tweaking. But it's not out of the question to think that, in the age of e-readers, books could fall victim to the same sort of non-completion. Get a couple of cranky reviews on a book, pull it down, tweak it, and set it up again for new scrutiny. We're already encouraged to change a cover if your books not selling, even though there's hardly proof the cover has anything to do with it.

So the question is: is anything ever done?

When Hollywood remakes, reboots, and reissues any story you could ever think of, tacks on franchise tags and sequels to even the most inane of properties, and dishes up rehashes of the same stuff on multiple DVD editions and "director's cuts," its hard not to wonder if in the age of the digital books publishing couldn't fall into those same traps. I'm not saying it will happen, I just wouldn't be shocked if it did.

This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but I miss the idea of a finished product. Its there on paper (or screen) in all its glory or failure for generations to marvel at. When its done, its done, and let the chips fall where they may. I think its unfortunately to have a "Lucas" mentality, where everything is subject to alterations no matter what the original incarnation of your work looked like. I mean, honestly, Star Wars SHAPED A GENERATION! If Lucas can't stop messing with a classic, what's to stop us from rewriting until the end of time that little indie book that's not selling so great, when instead we should be moving on to the next project.

Maybe its just me, but I like things set in stone. I like a story being cover to cover or first reel to last reel and letting that work be judged on its own singular merits. I miss endings.

So put a fork in it, Lucas; that goose is cooked. Go find a new dish to serve up.

(And honestly, if you're going to go back and change anything, could you maybe hop in the DeLorean and go un-imagine Episodes 1-3? At the very least shoot the casting director in the face for their Anakin choices. Something? Anything? Please???)


Oh well. Until next time nerds.