williamallenpepper

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Archive for the tag “Neil Gaiman”

WRITERS GOTTA WRITE. I GOTTA LISTEN

I like to write.

No, I really like to write. I like building a world in my head and seeing if I can move it to paper and have it look as cool s it did rattling around my brain. Sometimes it does. Often it doesn’t and that’s actually more fun, because it means I can keep on building that world to make it better.

But the thing I like to do when I’m not writing (or reading) is listen to other writers talk about what they are writing and reading. One of my favorites is Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig on Twitter. Do, please, go follow him.) Chuck writes urban fantasy – always profane, often violent, sometimes really violent, and occasionally humorous – but filled with some of the richest, grittiest, emotional writing ever. Check out his Miriam Black books Blackbirds and Mockingbird for starts. As a palate cleanser look for his Dinocalypse books coming soon which are much cleaner, but oh so much fun.

Urban fantasy is a genre, frankly, I only got interested in because Wendig is so damn captivating with his tweets and even more so with his blog at terribleminds where he dishes out really, really good (and dare I say it, sometimes inspirational) writing advise. He also curses a lot and can spin the hell out of a whacked-out metaphor. So there’s that.

One of my favorite shows right now is the Sundance Channel show “The Writer’s Room” where the host sits down with the creator, some of the writers, and a star from a popular TV show and they just talk about what goes into breaking stories and turning ideas into TV. So far they’ve done “Breaking Bad”, “Dexter”, “Parks and Recreation” and “The New Girl”.

I subscribe to a number of podcasts: The Nerdist, The Nerdist Writers Panel, Book Riot, and others. I like the ones centered on writers the best. Others, like Thrilling Adventure Hour, or even the NPR show Fresh Air have lots of great stuff I enjoy, but I’ll still zero in on the writers. My iPod scrolling is like, “Yeah, yeah, interview with the doctor who cured cancer. Oh, another episode about how the US just got sold to China which is turning it into condos. Boring. Blah blah…ooh, Neil Gaiman!”

Side note: I’ll listen to Neil Gaiman talk about anything anytime. His voice is awesome. He could describe the workings of the large intestine and make it sound magical.

The special features are my favorite parts of DVDS. I love this stuff.

I love it because (1) listening to people who are passionate about what they do is just fun. Even if I’ve never seen that show or movie or play they’re involved with, I love hearing them talk about it; (2) it’s also infectious. It makes you passionate about what you do.

As much as I’m enjoying the final eight episodes of “Breaking Bad”, I’m enjoying the “after-show” called “Talking Bad” where Chris Hardwick interviews the creator and stars of the show about what just happened on the episode that night just as much.

So, yeah.

I may have a problem.

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TOP TEN BOOKS. EVER.

I like books.

Duh.

That’s a pretty lame statement, isn’t it? It’s kind of like, “I like puppies.” or “I like ice cream.” Wait, though, if you’re lactose intolerant, I guess the “I like ice cream” bit wouldn’t be obvious, would it? Unless maybe it’s soy ice cream? But is it still “ice cream” then?

Anyway.

There are a lot of great sci-fi books. A lot of great literary novels. A lot of great biographies, fantasies, mysteries, and any other “ies” you can think of. I love them all.

Well, not all. But the remainder of this post is dedicated to ten books that I do love for…reasons. If I’m inspired to offer one of those reasons, I will. Some books, though, have just left an indefinable impression on me.

So, here they are.

1. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. A funny, moving, impressive tale of several individuals with nothing in common except they all showed up on a bridge at the same time to kill themselves.
2. Redshirts by John Scalzi. Part wink and nod to the tropes of modern sci-fi, especially “Star Trek”, part compelling sci-fi in its own right. I smiled through they whole thing.
3. Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States, by Dave Barry. When I’m asked what my favorite book is, this is the one I give. Why? Because it was the first book I read, around seventh grade, where I really thought about what the author was thinking when he wrote it, where I realized that writing could be fun, not just something that I did. Until then, I had written a lot, without really thinking about why. This book made me do that.
4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Read it years ago and it still lingers. Bleak and gripping at the same time.
5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Magical, moving, and momentous.
6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Fun. Absurd. Fun and absurd.
7. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. Yes, this is actually a play, but I’m including its script here because I thought it was awesome. I’ve never even seen the play. It’s a retelling of Hamlet from the point of view of these two minor characters. It rocks. And I’m not even all that big a Shakespeare fan.
8. Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson
9. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. I’m not generally a big elves and swords guy, but I couldn’t not include this seminal work of fantasy fiction. (Plus, I got to say “seminal”. Har har.)
10. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. Also funny and absurd. But also weirdly believable and heartfelt.

So, Blog-reader-types, where do you stand of the whole this is the best book ever debate? Speak up, you!

A WRITER WRITES EVEN WHEN SHE’S NOT WRITING

Full disclosure: I do not make my living as a writer. I have written for money. (This, for example.) I have a day job. Doesn’t really matter what. Suffice to say it’s less exciting than The Most Interesting Man in the World, more exciting than that dude I encountered working the fast food drive-thru out in the middle of nowhere a couple months ago. I was nearly rendered suicidal by his wretchedly sad voice as I placed my burger order.

I have a family that likes to see me now and then.

I have other things that need doing: appointments, sleep, playing with the cat.

All of this adds up to me not spending as much time at the writing desk as I would like. Writing advice books always tell you to “write every day.” And that’s good advice if, for no other reason, because it just feels weird to a writer to go a day without writing. It’s like missing your morning coffee or the afternoon workout or not bathing in hot fudge. Sure, you can get through the day without it, but it seems wrong somehow.

So, friends (Not you in the back. I still remember what you did.), the advice to write every day is good. Sometimes, for me, that “writing” consists entirely of scraps of paper with half-legible (at best) notes about what I intend to write later. See a road sign that inspires a cool character name? Write it down. Inspiration for a killer scene hits you in the shower? Sprint naked to your office/nook/garage to write it down. It suddenly dawns on you how your steam punk/sci-fi/Christian/chick-lit/cookbook should end while you’re watching your kid’s ballet rehearsal and you are so overcome with joy you leap up whooping, causing Erica Wongermakerdoogal to face-plant? Put that ending in your iPhone while you wait for the ambulance to arrive.

Do these things, even if you never sit down at your computer or fountain pen (ala Neil Gaiman) that day. Why? Because, friend, it’s still writing. And don’t feel bad about it if that’s all you do on a given day. You’re still pushing your creative endeavor forward.

The key, of course, is to actually follow through and develop that scrap of whatever into something someone other than your mother would want to read. Otherwise, all those bits and pieces are just nexting material for the Spoon-Billed Wannabe Warbler of ShouldaCouldaWoulda.

Go ahead. Wikipedia that. Then get back to writing.

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