Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writing and Bootcamp

Status: Bleary-eyed

What's playing on the iPod? THAT SONG by Big Wreck

I think every human being should go through bootcamp.

I'm sure there are many who might beg to differ, but there's nothing like having everything you've ever taken for granted snatched away from you at a million decibels, and then having to earn it back piece by piece. Wanna know what nirvana is in bootcamp? A patio break. Just fifteen minutes of blissful solace on a twenty by twenty slat of concrete just outside the squadron without any devil-spawn training sergeant filling your life with terror and irate tangents. With a can of Coke and a bag of Famous Amos Chocolate Cookies.

True story.

So, who gives a flying rat's furry butt, anyway? Well, you should, if you're a writer or know one. There is a link. In the same way only another veteran can know the trials and tribulations of bootcamp, (words are inadequate to convey the experience properly, which is saying something coming from a writer) only another writer can know the AAAAAHHHRRRGGGHHHH-ness of the craft.

Creating something from nothing is no tip-toe through the petunias. Especially when you're already too little butter spread over a seriously large jalepeno bagel. I love this one, "Oh, you're just going to go and write? Can you help me with some real work?" Suh-lap. Please pick up lips off floor and come again.

And even when you do get the time, it's no guarantee that you're going to get anything useful done. Suddenly the dictionary becomes riveting. I once organized a handful of dried pepper seeds into three armadas and did battle with a quarter and two nickels. The pepper seeds won.

I guess my point is this: Writer's are a different breed. They're a little on the weird side and they have little...peccadillos, so if you know one who is reaching exasperation level 5 kajillion because they're looking for a little tranquitlity to tackle a particuarly obstinate chapter, go easy on them. Otherwise they might just spontaneously combust. And that's no fun. Well, for most people at least.

Steve out.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dodging a Bullet

Status: Happily alive.

What's playing on iTunes? STAND BY ME by Ben E. King

I almost died today.

Sounds dramatic, right? Perhaps a little exaggerated? Nope. Today, I almost bought it, and in spectacular fashion too.

There's a reason why mechanics, parents, and anybody with common sense or an aversion to procrastination tells you to change bald tires. If you don't, you could DIE.

Take today's little near death experience. I'm driving back from the city, merging from I684 to I84 in the sodden mess called New England weather, and took the ramp a little too fast. I feel myself begin to skid, make a small adjustment which evidently was too much, fishtailed a little bit more to the left, then waaaay too much to the right, and found myself doing a complete 360' right in the middle of the highway in oncoming traffic; in fact, I got the front license plates of the two tractor trailors bearing down on me, honking and swerving and challenging my bladder to remain sealed.

Fortunately, God loves me, because that's the only thing that saved my keester. Even my fabled panther-ninja skills weren't enough. Chronometric time as I knew it disintegrated. I had time to freak, pray, yank the emergency break and somehow spin perfectly to the side of the highway right into the breakdown lane while somehow avoiding obliteration. Well, almost perfectly; my back end was sticking out a little.

Trembling, wide-eyed and completely sprizzlefracked, I realized that I was still alive. Yippie-Skippies! Nothing like a little near death experience to get the juices flowing. Suddenly everything that was dragging me down didn't seem so heavy. After a couple of quick, shallow breaths I realize that an argument could be made that that was fricking AWESOME. Well, maybe awesome is not the right word, exhilarating perhaps? I dunno, something. Terrifying for sure, but...what a rush. In fact, that more I think about it, the more I realize that all that was missing was me rolling down my window and sticking out a Glock to fire on my villain pursuers! All right, that's the writer in me, but it was cuh-raazy! I haven't told my parents. I don't think I will. This will be a true test to whether or not they actually read my blogs.

Moral of the story? Don't be a Steve; procrastination is not your friend. Change your tires, drive safe in the rain, and be grateful for all that you have. Or there might be an angry tractor trailor in your future.

Oh, and guardian angels rock. Thanks, guardian angel. :)

Steve out.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Grr-factor

Status: Unabducted

What's playing on ipod?: DANCING SHOES by the Arctic Monkeys

Try this one out.

I'm all ready to go to my cousin's 18th birthday party (a cousin I haven't seen in several eons), I come to my car, and guess what's sitting in the driver's seat?

A big fu**ing rock.

And how did said rock arrive? Why, through the window of course. I must say, NY and my car seem to be in some kind of tiff, because I've been hit by an off duty cop who despite my freakishly fast reflexes reversed right into my grill, accumulated several parking tickets due to 'street washing' (yeah right), and then a nice, deep key-ing right in the hood of my car. Yup, I believe the exact terminology used by the vandals was 'Dick' (can you believe it? I'm such not a dick) and then yesterday...Mr. Rock.

But here's where the story get's interesting. I peer into my busted to merkatroits window, and the first thing I see (besides a bazillion fragments of glass) is two one dollar bills. Curious. I do a quick inventory and see that nothing is missing. My eyes go back to the two dollars. They're just sitting there, on top of the open, ransacked glove compartment door.

I'm gonna ask it. Why go through the trouble of a throwing a rock through a window, break in and enter, and then leave EVERYTHING? Especially two loosely rolled dollar bills that would have been so easy to just snatch; I mean they were right there.

And then I saw it. Sitting right next to the bills was a small, yellow card with neatly typed words. Every Sunday, my church (Calvary Fellowship in West Hartford, hoo-ya!) prints out a single verse relevant to the sermon preached on little yellow cards. This one evidently got away from me and slipped into the darkness of my overfilled glovebox. Lurking.

And then it pounced! Of course I'll never know exactly what stopped them from pilfering my belongings, but that little card was just sitting there. I think these guys just might have been God-fearing thieves.

Isn't that funny? I mean, how mad could I get?

Thanks God. You too Bill.

Steve out.

P.S. I would have preferred just a pic but evidently freezing a snapshot from a video on an iPhone is tougher than I first surmised...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Perfect Word

STATUS: Studious

What's playing on Pandora? THE KILLING MOON by Echo and the Bunnymen

I get pleasure from many things.

Easy now; I wouldn't want to redden any tender ears in the realm of PG, I'm talking about somebody saying 'exactly' because I've humbly provided the word they were searching for (don't know what you were thinking about, sparky). Yes, I am easily amused, but not only is it mental sharpening, it also shows my friend, colleague, or whomever, that I am truly listening.

That's what panther-ninjas do.

Sometimes a word will lurk in my mind, awaiting the chance to pounce and be known. Oh yes, it wants to shine but I don't let it out; nosiree, trying to look fancy or showoff-ish-y-esque makes you look like a great big FUGEIZE, and nobody wants that.

Flow the word must (my best Yoda).

And then it happens. You're engaged in a lively, stimulating conversation and your forgotten, jack-in-the-box adjective of 'obsequious' just emerges and the person you're talking to says "Exactly!" "Love that word" "Great diction!"

And then I smile. Another panther-ninja strike.

I was watching Madmen last night and heard this one: "You've crossed the line from lubricated to morose."

Great diction! Exactly! Love that word morose, I should use it more.

A new word lurks...

Steve out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Writing Scraps by Steve Vera

Status: Sparky

What's playing on itunes? ONE BOURBON, ONE SCOTCH, ONE BEER by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Sometimes you have to kill your children.

Not literally you bunch of sickos, in writing. I used to agree with this, too, after all, somebody way wiser than me said it (lil' guy by the name of Stephen King), but then something dawned on me.

I don't like killing my children.

If you're a writer, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about, if not, follow along anyway, it could save your life. Or something. Sometimes you will write something utterly fantastic, something exquisite with perfect cadence, mood, and with the most vivid of detail--something all around kick-ass--but it's useless.

It doesn't propel your story.

You want it to, it should, but the more you read it, the more you clench your fists and curse the injustice of it. This my friends, hurts. Hurts so much in fact that you're tempted to just leave it in there, just because it's so pretty, but you know, deep down, the difference between a good writer and a great writer is having the courage and strength...to kill your own children.

The poor little critters...Stephen King, you're a monster. After an ugly season of heeding this advice and bludgeoning my own offspring, I had an epiphany. I asked myself, isn't there some way I could just put them to sleep, hibernation-style, and summon them when needed...even if it's a novel I won't write for another fourteen years?

Por Supuesto! I created a file in Word simply called 'writing scraps' and lay all my children on nice little soft quilted pillows of rainbows and scratch'n sniff stickers to await summoning. See Stevie? Brilliant! (hand me a Guinness please)

In fact, I recently had to come up with 12 000 words I wasn't planning on (not always an easy feat) but instead of sweating I took a stroll through 83 pages of bits of dialogue, names, characters and snippets of brilliance and just like that (smack of a walrus head) I was three quarters done...THAT was cool. Even cooler is when you've completely forgotten about something you've written and it's like, 'wow, I forgot how much that kicked ass, why did I take that out again?' (titter)

I don't consider myself a dispenser of writing wisdom, but if I were...I think this would be my first bit of advice: Don't kill your children. Writing Scrap'em...and let them await resurrection.

Steve out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dark Paths

STATUS: Spooky

What's playing on itunes? SILVER by The Arks

Ever get sucked into a song that you have no business listening to? Something 99 times out of a 100 you would skip right over or downright delete?

That's me right now. I got a buddy of mine who recently bequeathed me about 45 ka-billion MP3's, and in the course of two months, I've listened to maybe 4oo; I'm still in the A's.

Now, I consider myself a pretty savvy music connoisseur, but I have to say, only a fraction of these 9000 tracks sound even vaguely familiar. Am I really that far out of the loop? Tonight, I stumbled on some pretty demented, warped alleged music.

Honestly, this stuff sounds like something Buffalo Bill (that warm and cuddly villain from the THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) would be listening to in his cave just just before he prepares to do some...tailoring. It's chaotic, thrashing, and loud, like...rebel monks on a bad acid trip. I think it borders on evil.

But I haven't turned it off.

In fact, it inspired a little exploration. I tied a silver rope around my waist and rappelled right into the basement of my own mind.

I didn't linger mind you, just hitched a ride on a handglider for a couple of songs; but I think 'surreal' is a good adjective to desribe the evening's foray. I don't even know if i could duplicate it if I wanted to.

The question I'm asking is this: Is that all right? Is it cool to embrace a little darkness on occasion? Get caught up in the music and do a little role-playing within the safety your own mind? I say yes. Just come back, that's all. Learn something about yourself, get inspired or just feel and then apply it to your life. Ahem, constructively please, no need to go all creep-o. As for me...come on now, you know where that's going...to the craft.

Villains have to come from somewhere...right?

Steve out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fireworks and Climaxes

Status: 3 Bowls of Lucky Charms Happy

What's playing on Pandora? LITTLE SUZY by Tesla

Is it possible for something to be TOO spectacular?

The question popped into my head this past 4th of July (hope yours was fun) as I was witness to the most dazzling, close-up displays of fireworks I have ever seen in my life. I got a buddy who lives right on the water in Milford, CT--how he acquired this gem is still a mystery to me--but it might as well be in Nantucket, same feel. Each of his neighbors are wicked rich, and every year they try to outdo each other with their fireworks displays, much to everybody's delight, and these displays folks, are of the professional grade. No different than what the towns and cities use, in fact, the official town's display was going off simultaneously, adding its own colors to the summer night over the backdrop of the ocean.

Beautiful I tell ya.

If the night had ended right there, I would still be telling you about the most awesome fireworks I'd ever seen, five at the same time for forty-five minutes. But that was not the end of the evening. Nope, not by a medium shot, my buddy's neighbor was waiting for everybody to blow their load so he could unleash his masterpiece. Mwa ha ha ha...

And guess where this masterpiece was? Yupskies, RIGHT next to all of us. It was so close several times I 'hit the deck' and came up brandishing a Nerf battle-ax. Alright, maybe I would have done that anyway, but it was crazy loud, like a Civil War artillery battle going on around us. The sunbursts and starbursts and glittery willowtrees (you know which ones I'm talking about, right?) that lit up the sky were so stupendous that my mind went numb; I mean they were right there.

I looked around at everybody else, and at first all I saw was awe and wonder, but after another forty minutes piled onto the already forty-five minutes of the pregame show, it got to the point where I was like, 'alright already, grand finale so I can think again'.

Which got me thinking...that happens in books and movies all the time. (why's it always gotta come back to the craft, Vera?) An author or director can actually undo the effect they wish to evoke simply by going overboard.

Think about it, investing and expending time, energy, and resources to a cause that sabotages the story effect desired. I know I've been guilty of this, perhaps that's why I'm bringing it up. Of course, if there were ever something to go overboard about, spectacularness is probably a good way to go, (the very fact that I'm blogging about it says a little something) but be that as it may, it is difficult to taste the subtleties of a Sancerre when you've been drinking sour apple martinis all night. Unless of course getting lit is the effect desired, then...pound away.


Steve out.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Source

Status: Jolly Good

What's playing on the IPOD? THE DISTANCE by Cake

I get this one the most: Just where exactly do you get your ideas from, anyway Mr. Panther-Ninja? (alright, only a few people call me Mr. Panther-Ninja) Now, I've talked to many writers, and so far, I've discovered that I am the only one who gets my ideas this way, at least as far as I know, and it's simple. It's the music.

Since I can remember, whenever I hear something bad-ass, or sad, or head-bouncing, I see a scene in my head, something happening and behold! A story is born! Take...hmmm....and oldie but goodie, KICKSTART MY HEART by Motley Crue. Now, every single time I hear that song, to this day, one scene comes to mind, and that is a car chase right down the highway at rush hour, weaving and skidding, I can see it in my mindscape as if I were already there! And I love it, and have I ever incorporated it into a scene of my books? Yessireee, that would be an affirmative Ghostrider. Get a whole bunch of scenes like way points, thread them together, devise a beginning, middle, and end, and voila! Let the clickity clacking begin.

The cool thing is that I listen to alot of music. That means LOTS of ideas (which is quite handy as a writer) Ever ask someone, what sort of music do you like most and they annoyingly say, "well, everything." SUH-MACK! Well, I'm one of them : )

As long as it's good and moves me....deal me in, and because of my rather diverse repertoire of music appreciation, I have oodles of notebooks just filled with scenes, characters, bits of dialogue and story ideas just awaiting summoning. Like I said, very handy.

I'm curious though, other writers....where do you get your inspiration? Do tell!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

To Smack or not to Smack

Status: Insightful

What's playing on 101.9 RXP Stream? I WAS A TEENAGE ANARCHIST- by Against Me!

I love debates. I know there are many out there who feel the opposite, but a good debate gives me a rush. Of course there is an art to debate, and it boggles my mind at how many people are UNAWARE of this art, and it's not really that complicated. I got four rules that I think would help this world.

1. Ya gotta frickin' listen. We were born with two ears and one mouth so that should be a clue, and note the contrast between hearing and listening.

2. Give props. "Never thought of it that way," or "good point," are part of my verbal repertoire, granted they're warranted. Here's the kicker...it should be reciprocated. A flag should go up when someone refuses to acknowledge common knowledge. That means they are a fugeize face.

3. Always treat your idealogical opponent with dignity and respect. There is nothing constructive about mudflinging and reveals more about the flinger then the...flingee?

4. Lastly, but real important-like...back your sh#% up. There is nothing more frustrating than somebody going on a tangent who is clearly ignorant about their facts but is clueless as to that ignorance. I will engage politely, usually with a question, but a mudflinging ranter is a hard thing to overcome. To them I just fold my hands together, smile politely, and do all in my power to depart.

There's more of course, but these are the Big Four. At least in my humble opinion.

So why am I sharing this? Well, since you asked, I got into a heated debate with this woman about smacking kids. The lady I debated with (whom I shall not reveal) had a different stance from me and it was this: Under no circumstances should a child ever be struck. Ever. There is always a better way.

I can respect that.

My personal opinion is similar but profoundly different, and it's this: Hitting a child should always be reserved for Plan DoubleZ. Last Resort. If there's a better, more illuminating or psychological way to address the problem, deal me in. I'm open. But I've noticed that there comes a time when a child, and not all of them for sure, but some of them, are 150% committed to defying their parents, to authority in general. Where I come from, that was not tolerated. I loved my parents but I feared them. "Wait till your father gets home" were words that could ruin my universe.

Where I come from, there were consequences to breaking rules; in fact I can think of many times when I was confronted with peer pressure. "Let's go vandalize West Hartford by dumping a carload of newspapers from the back of a hatchback," is a concrete instance I can recall from miscreant friends. I remember being called a wuss, a pussycat minus the cat, even a yeller bellied muskrat (alright, maybe not that one) but you get the gist. My reply?

A serene smile and a shake of my head. "I'll take a pass."

There wasn't any insult in any language in this whole cosmos that could get me to risk my father's wrath. No way. Sorry, come back again. And if I was going to do such a thing (which I did extremely rarely)...newspapers? Really?

Here's the most important part. My father tempered it with love. When my Paw (that's southern folks though I don't have a drop) unleashed, it was always followed by, mmmm, I'm gonna say an hour or two, of his coming to our room (my sister too) sitting us on his leg and asking us if we understood exactly what had happened, and why it had happened. He would then ask us if we believed that he loved us. It was a serious question, I can still remember. We'd then babble and leak tears, of course we did, he was our hero (my Maw too), and then he'd tell us how much he loved us. AND THEN, and I remember distinctly the look that would come in his eyes--molten steel-- when he'd tell us point blank that if we ever did whatever trespass we'd committed...we'd get it twice as bad. And it was the truth. And we believed him. And then he'd tell us to go play. Guess what? We didn't do it again.

Drat, I have so much more to say but once again I'm reaching novella status. Let me end by saying this. The heated debate with my...acquaintance, ended well, and though neither of us persuaded the other to their side, I did get a grudging acquiesence that I might have a point. Maybe. Her passion was that abuse of a child is an abomination, which I agree with. In that regard, she was preaching to the choir. I invested my energy with her because I value her opinion, and...I love to debate :)

And that's my angle. I would love to hear yours.

Steve out.

If I could wave a magic wand list item #3: Control my dreams

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Had to do it

Status: Content and then some.

What's playing on PANDORA? FALL DOWN by Toad the Wet Sprocket

Had to do it.

Had to see The Karate Kid, and as a Gen X'er, I feel quite qualified. I'm not gonna make it a habit to review movies, but I must have seen the first two originals a half bazillion times, visions of Peter Cetera clenching his fists and crooning into the camera dancing in my head, interspersed with flashes of Ralph Macchio bleeding. I mean come on, 'wax on; wax off' for crying out loud.

So for Father's Day I rattled off the list of movies playing to my Paw and when it settled over none other than the The Karate Kid, we both looked at each other. Hmmm. Eyebrows went up. "You hear anything?" I asked him, and he was like "Heard it was supposed to be good, Will Smith's kid." I had not known that, so daring to hope we went......DUN DUN DUUUUUNNNN.

First thing. The 'Karate' Kid. Karate is Japanese. They went to China, homeland of Kung Fu (of which, ahem, I studied for several years). Kung Fu is quite distinct so five demerits right off the back, HOWEVER, they address it rather quickly, and effectively so...I didn't hold it against it though I could have. I wanted to like this movie.

Just as in novel writing, the first page (first paragraph really), or for movies, the first two minutes, count highly for me and I must say...well done, and all without a word spoken. The villain, WAY better than the first (sorry Johnny), little Jaden, right on little bro, I thought he did a way good job! In fact, all the characters were awesome, frickin' awesome even, plus a couple others that weren't in the original, but enhanced it. Great writing too.

VERDICT....best movie I've seen this year, and I'd see it again. Call me sentimental but it was strangely nostalgic, and pleasant. Indeed.

Somebody told me that blogs shouldn't be novellas so....

Steve out.

P.S. It was cool to see inside China

If I could wave a Magic Wand List item #2: Learn how to use a bo staff! Soft Style and Hard Style.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On Straddling Two Worlds

Status: The deep breath before the plunge.

What's playing on Pandora? BORN ON THE BAYOU by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Every once in a while I'll get a strange look questioning the wisdom of living in two places simultaneously. Not literally of course, I have yet to acquire the technology to get me a couple of clones working, but the first half of the week I live Elmwood, CT, the second half I live in Woodside, Queens, but that strange look usually evaporates when I give them my reason, and the reason is this:

When I'm eighty years old chilling in my favorite rocking chair and listening to some tunes, I want look back at that time I just dove in and lived in a magic city. And I'm a Red Sox fan.

Being a writer helps of course, and I find myself savoring the oddest things, like...oh, I don't know solace perhaps. Ironic to come to one of the world's most bustling cities to find some peace, but I'm just calling'em like I see'em. A sanctuary if you will.

Enough songs have been written and movies have been made so that i won't bore you with what I love most (though there is something comforting about hearing that 7 train rumbling down the night) but I am a convert...New York is New York for a reason, and I am a fan. Thanks Jester for dragging me down here and introducing me to Aubergine!

This is my first foray into the realm of blog writing, and though I am a novelist and love to talk shop, there are way too many subjects out there for me to avoid so...I'll be hitting them all, well a bunch of them at least, that is the plan.

For now I am honored that you have joined me; greetings and salutations. (humble bow)

If I Could Wave A Magic Wand List...item #1--Know how to play the blues on this here guitar.