Hey everyone. Or whoever's left of everyone.
I know it's been quite a while since I've updated the blog, and I do have a fairly decent excuse, but I feel terrible about the absence. Fortunately, NaNoWriMo gave me just the kick in the pants I needed to come back and try to post again.
For those unaware, I currently live in China. Yes, that China. What can I say, I'm a moron who loves adventure. It's been a bit rough getting settled in over the last few months and getting things straightened out with my job here, but I think everything's just about as settled as it's going to get. There's a lot to talk about when it comes to China, and I could rant for days without even touching political issues. Still, this is a writing blog and this is NaNoWriMo. With that in mind, I think a much needed update on The Paladin is due.
For one, the novel has been split. There was so much I needed to pack into the initial story that it ended up being overstuffed. No agent would touch something that big from a first time author, and frankly I couldn't blame them. I tried so hard to remove everything that wasn't essential, but the end product kept feeling dry. My beta readers felt like the changes were stripping the story and that I should tell my story my way, regardless of word count.
While I appreciated the sentiment, I needed a solution that would work for both them and any potential agents, so I decided to break the book in half. Essentially, the first half of the novel will remain the same, but will get a new antagonist and ending, which the second book will have a new opening, but retain almost all of the back end. This way I get to tell my story, include everything I want, but still have a small enough word count that agents don't just toss it aside.
So for the last few months I've been reworking the story, and I have to tell you, it's gone through some crazy changes. Just as an example of something that I felt was integral to the new story but still ended up on the cutting room floor, I had an entire b-plot about a vampire murder. I was working in how a crime scene works when Paladins have to deal with police, how things are kept under wraps, how you might quietly assassinate a vampire, and so much more. But then I cut it all. Zip! Gone!
Don't get me wrong, I liked it and I want to maybe revisit the concept in a later work, but it just doesn't work for what I'm doing now. But what I do have, I feel, is a leaner, better story. Everything flows. I've spent the last few months going over my plot like the guys from Cinema Sins and Pitch Meeting. In fact, as a fun exercise for would-be authors, watch a few videos from each of those YouTube channels, then imagine how they'd talk about your story. You'll find yourself noticing all your narrative flaws if you're anything like me.
I suppose the point is, the story is still coming. In fact, a lot of things are on the horizon, thanks in part to the lovely adventure I'm having in China. The Paladin is still pressing forward and I think I may have some exciting new about related projects in the future.
Be Excellent to Each Other
I missed a blog post yesterday. It was the first time I've EVER missed one. I couldn't help it. I've been far too busy preparing for this move. Now, here I am sitting in the dark, my room is barren, and I'm feeling distant. I think I may have been feeling a bit more than I've ever felt over the last week. Anxiety. Worry. Dread. Excitement. Hope. Fear. Joy. Despair. I think I may be out of feelings.
As I write this I can't help but think that I should still be feeling nervous, yet all I feel is tired. I'm ready for this to be over, one way or the other. While I certainly don't expect anything to stop Elizabeth and I from moving to Shenzhen, I can tell you this: if one more thing happens, I'm done. I just don't think I ever want to go through this stress again.
I will say this, though; it's been remarkable the support I've received from family and friends. I wish a few of them had better timing, but it's still encouraging to find yourself running out of time to see everyone that wants to say goodbye. I've had to combine a few meetings (and I really should inform all the people involved) and, I don't know, I guess it just feels nice that there's a group of people out there that look at me and think "Aw, man, I'm going to miss that doofus."
Something about this is just... different, though. I've moved a dozen times before, I have that down. Moving to Vegas. Moving to Flagstaff. I was this close to moving to Los Angeles. But this... China. It's so vastly different. Sure, if I play my cards right I'll never have to speak a word of Mandarin (or Cantonese), and I can hang out with expat friends every week, but I don't think that's what I'm in for. This whole experience is just something... different.
As midnight approaches and another missed blog day looms, I don't feel the crunch, the anxiety that I once did. And not just because I've already missed one blog post, but because... well... this whole thing is different. And because of how different it is... I think now I'm different. And I haven't figured out yet if that's good or bad. I guess I'll have a couple years to figure it out.
Hey. Be Excellent to Each Other.
I almost didn't make my blog post today. So much to do getting ready for China. Looks like we'll be spending a day in Hong Kong prior to our arrival in Shenzhen so... yay? I mean, I'm sure the city is beautiful and, if I'm being honest, I'm actually excited to see it, but we'll be completely on our own. Still, we're two level-headed adults. I'm sure we'll only get mildly lost and confused left by ourselves.
Things are working out. We were prepared for the worst, but our employers actually worked with us to make sure that we could do this. I'm actually quite touched by amount of effort they went to in order to make sure we could actually come and teach there.
So now... I guess I just focus on getting there, getting settled, and doing my story in my free time. I'm super excited to be headed out. There's so much to experience and I'm ready for it all. Once my heart stops throbbing a million times a minute. I don't know when I'll be able to post again, but rest assured, I'll post until I can't, then I'll post again the moment I can. Until then...
Be Excellent to Each Other
For those following my exploits to move to China, you'll know that things have been incredibly frustrating. Like... INCREDIBLY frustrating. We're possibly just over a week away from actually being in China and now things might be falling apart.
The process we've gone through to get things authenticated and verified might be one of the least efficient methods I've ever participated in, and that's not necessarily anyone in particular's fault. There is a language barrier. There is a cultural barrier. Things are implied and not received, expected and not executed. It just happens.
To boil things down, it's come down to a matter of finances. Travel from here to Los Angeles is not cheap. Renting a car (since we can't trust ours on long trips), paying for gas, lodging, food, and then finally the processing fees involved with getting authentications and visas are, well... expensive. Like, really expensive for two people still trying desperately to pay off student loans. We made the trip out to Los Angeles a few weeks back and made a little mini-vacation out of it. We didn't go overboard by any means (my Disneyland trip was actually free) but it was still pricey to do that. Basically, we knew we couldn't do it again if our applications weren't accepted. Luckily, they were.
But now, only days away from our expected departure, with plane tickets just a mouse click away, we have finally received instructions on obtaining our visas. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that we are expected to make another week long trip out to Los Angeles. Oh, and did I mention Elizabeth and I just quit our jobs and no longer have an income?
We are trying to work with our would-be employers to rectify the situation, but things aren't looking great. Don't fear for us, though. We're practical people. We have a Plan B, albeit a much less exotic plan.
I'm a journalist. I worked in Las Vegas, I can find work down in Phoenix. It's not ideal, but it'll do. We have made the preparations to leave our current residence, so that's kind of set in motion, but our destination isn't quite set in stone yet. Phoenix isn't what I had in mind, but just a quick search found several jobs I qualify for there, I have plenty of friends that would let us stay with them, and we even found apartments we can afford. We will be fine.
I just hate the idea that I've spent so much time, money, and effort in trying to get this all done and now it may go up in smoke. Still, our TEFL certifications don't expire, so we can always recover and try again when our finances improve. I just have to realize that it's better to cut your losses then continue pushing forward when there's a cliff up ahead.
Like I said though... either way, we will be fine.
Be Excellent to Each Other.
Sometimes I wonder if I put too much effort into my backstories. I'm currently plotting out the new sections to the first half of The Paladin (Remember, I'm cutting the story in half and making it into two books now!) and I just can't move forward until I know exactly what the villain has been doing behind the scenes for every part of the action.
So far it's moved by fairly decently, but I find myself occasionally stuck. Sure, I could write without know what they're up to, but... no. No I can't. I just can't. I need to know how all the cogs are fitting together so I know where people can be and what they can be doing. I need to understand motivation and context for everything.
That's not to say that you absolutely need to know what's going on in the background in order to write your story, especially if it's a "one and done" kind of deal, but if you plan on writing more (as I do) you're going to eventually have to explain what was going on. Trust me, I've watched enough CinemaSins to know this.
So I will continue to push forward, figuring out what my villain is doing at any given moment. Has it hampered me? Only a little. Will it pay off later? I certainly hope so.
What about you guys? Do you need to plan (if not plot) out every detail before you start or are you a discovery writer?
End of an Era... sorta
Since September 2017 I have faithfully and steadfastly updated this blog every day. I haven't missed a single update and, trust me, there have been some close calls. But, I am entering a new chapter in my life.
It looks like within ten days or so I will be in Shenzhen, China, beginning my new life. I'm excited. I'm terrified. I have lots of plans for all the things I want to work on while I'm there. But one thing I know that I won't be able to do is maintain this blog the way I have so far. This is not to say that this blog will stop updating. No, I very much intend to continue working on this blog, but with my new job and new restrictions on internet usage (yay China...) it will simply be less often.
As it is I've updated it every single day. I think, moving forward, I will be pulling that back to either once a week or simply whenever I feel I have something relevant to share. In the meanwhile, I think I will be resharing some of my favorite blog posts and short stories, so there will still be content.
I'm very thankful for everyone that's read my blog and I thrilled to have maintained it as long as I have. Going forward The Paladin will continue to be a top priority, but there will be others.
Thank you so much for your readership. I don't know exactly when my last daily update will be, but expect it in the next few days.
Until next time.
Be Excellent to Each Other
Okay, I think we, more or less, have all the necessary documents in with our employer. The date of May 1st is floating around, which is later than we hoped and yet still so freakin' close! It's a little nutso. A little scary. But let's talk about Shazam.
I'm headed out in just minutes to check this movie out. Now, I don't usually talk about movies here (perhaps I should?) but I'm actually kind of excited for this. I enjoyed the last several movies I watched, from Alita: Battle Angel to Captain Marvel. This movie looks like DC's chance to finally do something fun, to finally have a superhero movie and not just a movie with a superhero in it.
I think the popular opinion is that DC is trying way too hard and Marvel is capitalizing on a decade worth of storytelling. In that desperation to match Marvel, DC has put out some questionable movies. I won't argue that there aren't good parts to Batman v Superman, but it was largely bad. Wonder Woman was better, but then there was the darkness of Justice League. Aquaman, well... darn it, I like it. I think it was funny and entertaining. Kind of how I felt about Venom; better than I thought it would be. (Oh, by the way... ahem... "Like a turd... in the wind...")
So apparently Shazam is getting good reviews and it looks fun so... I'm excited. I want to believe this is where DC finally remembers that comic books are supposed to be fun. Dark and gritty doesn't mean everyone has to have PTSD and be dwelling in self-loathing and angst. I mean, that's why I liked Teen Titans Go! to the Movies so much! It was fun!
So, let's see how this goes. I'll update ya'll tomorrow.
Paladin Playlist 66
It was a long, stressful day. China stuff beating me down from every angle. So today's song isn't something I listen to when I write. It's freaking Magic Dance by David M'f'n Bowie. Why? Because I needed some Bowie today.
This song has been with me for years. I wasn't even that big a fan of the movie Labyrinth, but this song... this song! It's just infectious! How can you not want to sing along with this. And it's freakin' David Bowie on top of everything else. And you know, sometimes we just need a little David Bowie to get through the day.
So please enjoy his Bowie-ness in Magic Dance from the movie Labyrinth.
So... if I'm not mistaken about what my employer in China is saying... I could be out of here in two weeks. Whoa.
Now, don't get me wrong, I've been trying to get out of the US and into China since January. I thought I'd be there by now. But now, with them saying things are in place and just about ready to go, I'm... a little intimidated. Maybe a little scared.
This is an adventure, no two ways about it. I went to the Netherlands to study for six months a few years back and I had doubts all the way up to getting on the plane. I was fortunate to have my wife to there to almost push me onto that plane and, frankly, thank goodness. But now she's coming with me. There's no one to push us when our knees begin to shake and our feet turn to lead.
Still, my brain knows this is a good thing. It's good. But my heart is both excited and scared. It's terrifying. I was terrified to go to the Netherlands and they LIKE speaking English over there. China is a completely new experience. It's the most foreign country I'll probably ever experience.
I know this isn't very literary (I mean, maybe I can remember this fear for writing someone going to a new land) but I really needed to get things off my chest. I've been in this limbo for the past few months of knowing that at any moment I could be a week or two away from China. Today I got the message from them that they'd like us to come over within the next couple weeks. So much to get done. Geez, why didn't I start sooner?
Knowledge Bomb: Tidbits 2
Hey everyone! I'm finally back from my Wrestlemania trip to visit a dear friend and now we can get back to more literary minded subjects. Since I don't have a long topic to expostulate on, I thought I'd do another Tidbits.
For those that missed the first one (click here!) this is a variation on the Knowledge Bomb segment where I address a few different things that pop up in my life but aren't worth individual blog posts. As always, I'll be citing my sources, so don't just trust me. With that said, let's take a look at a couple little tidbits of knowledge that can help your writing a bit.
1. Gray/Grey and Ax/Axe
This one is purely regional, but seeing as how I'm from the US and I see people in the US getting this one wrong, I wanted to share. A lot of people have been getting confused about whether to spell the word as "gray" or "grey." Now in recent years, both have become acceptable, but in general, if you're in the UK, it's grey (Gandalf the Grey) and if you're in the US, it's gray (Castle Grayskull.) This isn't a big one, but if you're looking to be more proper, you should probably default to the one appropriate to your side of the pond.
A big confusion for this likely arised from the book/movie "Fifty Shades of Grey," in which the spelling is for a proper noun, so it really doesn't matter.
Along those lines, especially because I went to a university with a lumberjack for a mascot, we have some confusion over "ax" and "axe." Likewise, these are becoming more interchangeable. Again, this is largely a matter of which side of the Atlantic you're on, as the UK favors "axe" and the US (more or less) favors "ax."
This one I really want to quash. Too often I see/hear people use this word to talk about how big something is. Please understand, enormous and enormity are not the same thing.
noun: enormity; plural noun: enormities
Yes, through misuse a lot of people are accepting enormity to mean something big, but it's original meaning is something heinous and morally reprehensible on a grand level. You can talk about the enormity of the holocaust, but you shouldn't talk about the enormity of your cousin Bo's Ford unless it was used to run down scores of people.
Okay, here's the top one for me. I know it's pointless, but I just have to try. Irony does not mean a funny coincidence. It doesn't mean something surprising. It doesn't mean something unfortunate. It means...
Yes. The use of words to express a meaning other than their literal intention. Now, there is dramatic irony, which is used in plays and, more recently movies, which is where you, the audience, have knowledge the characters do not that shows an incongruity between the actions of the characters and what's going on in the play. So... Romeo and Juliet. You know that Juliet is secret alive when Romeo kills himself (spoilers!), but they don't.
So... the Alanis Morissette song Ironic actually expresses no examples of irony... which I think some people try to say is, in itself, ironic. It's not. A thousand spoons when you need a knife is bad luck. Rain on your wedding day is unfortunate. Neither is ironic.
Irony, in general is actually a lot more boring that what most people think of. Sarcasm is a form of irony. You're using words to convey a meaning that's different from the literal meaning of those words. Also, bonus fact, it's only really sarcasm if the intention is malicious, otherwise it's just irony.
Well, I hope that helped. Feel free to debate me on these, I'm always willing to expand my sphere of knowledge, just make sure you've done the research.
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.