“Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain”

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Image Source: Vintages, Antiques, and Collectibles

“Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain” is an old baseball “rallying cry” that has been shortened into this nice, pithy saying.  If you want the full details on this saying, there is a great synopsis of it on billjamesonline.com.  My uncle used to say this to me, not often, but every now and again.  According to Bill James, there are two interpretations of this saying: 1) Lack of pitching depth on the Braves’ roster, so praying for rain to help you get back to your most consistent and valued pitchers, or 2) praying for rain so that you wouldn’t have to face these two reliably dominant pitchers.  My uncle most definitely used it in the 2nd sense: Go out with your best!

Sci-Fi and Fantasy are my favorite genres–be it books, games, movies, television, comics, what have you.  Generally speaking, I’m going to gravitate to those genres before everything else.  So it makes sense that I’d concentrate my writing efforts on those genres as well.  I love the sense of adventure and wonder that Sci-Fi and Fantasy allows me to have in a mundane world of bills, intolerance, rudeness, and a general lack of concern for one’s fellow man.  Now to be sure, you can find those things–and more–inside the wrappers of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but at its best you can find true wonder and adventure as warriors fight mythic beasts, starship captains struggle to keep their ships and crews safe, and young boys and girls grow up to be powerful warriors against the struggle of tyranny.

If I’m going to go out, then like Spahn and Sain, I want to go out leaving everything on the field and giving it my best and trying find a way to do so at a consistently high level.  Just as Spahn and Sain were masters at their craft, so too I strive to be a master at mine.

That’s why I continue to both read, watch, play, and write things that are Sci-Fi and Fantasy related.

For the sheer wonder of it all.

No Spoilers, Please!

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Image Source: Larkable.com

Wow. Just wow (but not in a good way).  So the first part of the two part storyline for the Season Finale of Doctor Who released over the weekend and it contained three MASSIVE revelations (i.e., spoilers to the story).  Do you know that I was “spoiled” on 2 of the 3 spoilers by people on YouTube?

Now, you know me, when I “review” something on this blog, I go out of my way to give “impressions” rather than actual “specifics” in order not to ruin the experience for others.  I HATE spoilers, unless I go looking for them.  What makes the spoilers for Doctor Who so  onerous is that I didn’t want to be spoiled.  I avoided looking at the “Coming Next Week” portion of the show (this is the first season I’ve actively avoided it), just so that I would have no clue as to what was coming next.

I’m trying to figure out the reasons (rhetorical) why someone would choose to be a part of the “spoiler” culture.  I understand that there are a group of people who get enjoyment for ruining things for others–but that’s not the sense that I get from the YouTuber who put the “spoiler” in the “thumbnail” for her video.  I had no choice to get spoiled because she put a spoiler not inside her video, but on the outside wrapping (as it were) to get people to click on it and watch her video (no, I do not subscribe to this person’s videos, but YouTube so “helpfully” put her video in my “recommended” feed, not recognizing that her thumbnail gave me way more of the story than I wanted).

I don’t think there was any malice in her video, but a kind of unthinking blindness to the fact that while you may know and want to discuss the story (before it is released), others just want to watch the story and then discuss afterwards.  I don’t want to paint her as just an unthinking fan (she did put the spoiler) in the thumbnail image for the video, so there was some forethought in the matter, but I think it was more of “isn’t this so cool,” rather than “I know more than you,” type of thought.

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Image Source: Radio Times

Either way, however, knowing ahead of time really blunted my enjoyment of this week’s episode (made worse that it wasn’t me who went looking for it).  I knew who the villain was and was able to make the deduction of what was going on about twenty seconds too early and figured out two of the three big reveals too early.  Not sure how I’m going to dodge the season finale’s spoilers, but starting next Thursday I may have to go on media blackout.  It’s pretty bad that it has come to this just to avoid knowing what’s going to happen in a story.

People always talk about the advantages of social media, but they never mention the disadvantages.  I remember when social media (or The Web 2.0 as pundits called back in 2010) was supposed to revolutionize the web.  Well, if this is the revolution, then I want to revolt against the revolution.

Hope I’m not Overdoing It

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Image Source: Pinterst (Calvin and Hobbes, Created by Bill Watterson)

Every since I was a lowly undergraduate, cruising the English Department offices at U.T. Knoxville (& later U.T. Chattanooga) and seeing all those wonderful English related comics strips taped to professors doors, I’ve thought to myself that I’ve always wanted to something like that “when I grew up.”

I’ve never been one for customizing my “workspace” as the colleagues who I worked with at the public library can attest and I’m rarely at my workspace to begin with if I can help it.  However, you could always find one or two comic strips (like the one I found above by Bill Watterson) adorning my workspace in some capacity–either on the desk itself or in a drawer or stuck unobtrusively to a wall.

Now that I’ve completed a year at MTSU, I’ve begun to do the same with the small cabinet  that I was assigned in the Graduate Teaching Assistants office.  However, for some reason, I also find that I want to add copies of the first pages of my published work.  I hope I’m not trying to “show off” or “impress” the other G.T.A.s (nothing good comes of me trying to show off–I’ve learned that  through HARD experience).

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Image Source: Greensoul

Yet, I feel the need to customize my space, and to say, “hey, I’m a creative writer and this is what I do.” Perhaps, it is because at this level, creative writing is somewhat frowned upon.  There’s this idea that you’re not a true academic, that you’re not truly one of us, if you’re not writing papers for conferences, for (academic) publication, and for scholarly pursuits.  Perhaps, customizing my workspace is my need to say, “no, my creative writing is just as hard and matters just as much as your academic writing, maybe more so, because I’m doing both . . . your academic writing and my creative writing.”  I just hope that I’m not overdoing it and setting myself up for a fall.  It would be awesome to be able to put clips from both cartoon strips and my own published writing on my very own office door one day.

A Few Thoughts on Time Travel (in general) and the Star Trek Universe (in specific)

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Image Source: Topgentlemen.com

Time Travel is a favorite concept of Sci-Fi writers as it allows us to explore the possibilities of “What If . . .” and to mull about changes in the time line that did not occur vs. the reality that we see around us.  Popular culture is replete with television shows, movies, and other media that delve into the notion of what might happen if you could go back and change time (in effect, mulligan a decision or choice) to see what effect it would have on the timeline (if any).

I guess the reason that I’m thinking about this is two-fold: 1) Star Trek Enterprise has quite a few instances of Time Travel (in fact, most of the show’s 3rd Season is built around the idea) and 2) as a PhD student, I’m supposed to pick two areas of concentration.  As Creative Writing was off the table, I chose Composition and Rhetoric and Popular Culture.  There was a Call For Papers (CFPs) on the topic of Time Travel and how it affects/manifests itself in popular culture.  I didn’t get a chance to write a paper for it during the last semester (too busy trying to stay afloat!), but now I’d like to write at least a rough draft of some of the things that I’ve noticed in recent Sci-Fi shows/movies/media that I’ve watched recently (Doctor Who, Star Trek Enterprise, Dark Matter, and Mass Effect Andromeda to name a few) about how time travel is used (what effects does it have on the characters’ lives), and what pop. culture currently thinks about it.

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Image Source: Cellcli.com

One thing that I’ve notice that popular culture seems to use time travel for is the idea of Erasure, or righting a wrong and then resetting the timeline (so as to start again–from scratch as it were).  Now, the movie Back to the Future used a “literal” erasure from the timeline itself–and that’s not what I’m talking about.  This erasure is more of a “mulligan,” a do-over, a way to say hey, no that’s not the outcome I desired, let’s start again and try for a better outcome.

I think writers like this technique because it allows them to go into some wildly divergent territory with characters, but it doesn’t mean that they have to commit to changes to the characters (as the characters can be “reset” back to their pre-time travel/time incursion selves or entities).  It means that writers (and actors and directors) can stretch themselves creatively without destroying the likability of the characters.  In other words, characters can act and grow in ways contrary to their original characterization and then be reset.  I think audiences don’t find the this element of time travel as appealing because many times it seems like a “cheat” (much like the “and it was all a dream” cliche’).  Audiences want to characters change and interact in new and novel ways to conflict, but they (we) are fickle . . . change too much and we might lose what we like about a character.

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Image Source: Den of Geek

Star Trek (in general) and Star Trek Enterprise (in specific) seems to be a perfect test-bed for the idea of erasure.  While many of the elements and changes to the characters have “stuck,” most have not and most of the characterizations that have not stuck, or been “erased” through time travel are more radical characterizations/plot lines.  While I won’t know for sure until I finish STE, I’ve noticed that, unlike Doctor Who, for instance where there are often “cusp” events that are fixed and where time is more malleable (“Timey-Whimey, Wibbly-Wobbly”), events in ST’s universe, specifically STE tends to be more recursive (circular, or fractal–like the beginning image above.)

While this is a deeper dive than I normally do in a blog post, I wanted to just get a few thoughts down on the nature of time travel (esp. recent developments in media) down on paper.  I’ve done another post on time travel, Where You End is Not Where You Begin: Time Travel in Movies, and I will probably combine these two posts before the summer is over and develop this idea into a longer academic paper over next school year.  I don’t think that I can use this as my dissertation (I think that has to be Rhetoric or Composition based), but it is an interesting paper idea–and more importantly, seems to be something that I can be VERY LONG-WINDED about! 🙂

Keeping it Simple

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Image Source: iTunes (Apple.com)

When I write rough drafts for my stories, I’ve discovered that almost anything will work for me–notebook paper, notepads, scraps of paper that are around, the computer, the Notes App on my phone–pretty much anything that will allow me to get the idea into a fixed form.

However, once I’m ready to start drafting the “Working Draft,” I try whenever possible (for fiction) to move to SimpleNote.  I like SimpleNote because it is free (at least it was for me when I signed up at simplenote.com), but even more than that, I like it and use it because it allows me to quickly and easily sync between all my devices and as well as wherever I may be.  It has a website that you can use and log into, or an app that you can download.  I personally use the website on my laptop and the app on my phone and tablet.

For instance, I started Project OPaK on my phone at Walgreens Pharmacy while waiting on a prescription to be filled.  I hadn’t intended on waiting for the prescription, but since the pharmacist said that it wouldn’t take that long, I waited and in that time, I was able to write 3 basic paragraphs on my phone.  I can now log into my SimpleNote account on my computer and expand those paragraphs more.  Also, if I want to, as long as I log into my account and bring up the story beforehand, I disconnect from the internet while I’m writing to give myself a distraction free writing session and then when I reconnect to the internet, I only need to hit the little “save” button on the screen and my changes are uploaded to the server.

For me, SimpleNote gives me the flexibility to work on the working draft of the story pretty much anywhere even if the conditions aren’t ideal.  If I were ever to have enough time when school starts (which is doubtful) and I wanted to work on my story, I could log into my account on the school’s library computers or the writing center ones and use them to work on Project OPaK or any other story that I’m writing (so at least I know the capability is there should there be any downtime).  Now, before this starts to sound like an ad, there are many other apps that do the same thing/similar things (EverNote and OneNote are two that come to mind immediately), but in my quest to work “smarter, not harder,” I’ve found that SimpleNote helps to increase my productivity by allowing me to access my stories everywhere I go and it helps my writing process because I know that I always have access to the most current version of my story available for editing on SimpleNote’s servers.

The Writing Life: An Update

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Image Source: Really Deep Stuff

Before I start this blog entry, I’d like to say thanks to the bloggers who read (& liked) yesterday’s post).  It was really gratifying see that people really responded to it so much!

And now, on with today’s blog.  So, after last semester, I managed to have four stories out to markets that I was proud of and didn’t think needed major work (in terms of revision).    In other words, I had them in a state where I thought they were strong stories and marketable to markets that deal in Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I’ve got some news on them, so I thought I update you how where they stand currently.

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Image Source: Haiku Deck

HAWKEMOON: Just heard from this market today.  It is currently on the “maybe” list.  If it holds up well against the other stories that come in during the reading period, then it has a chance to be published.  This is actually very good news.  It’s sort of like going to a job with two Interview components and passing the first Interview.  If HawkeMoon passes the second “interview,” then it gets the” job” (to extend the metaphor).  It is also a lesson in persistence; this is the 10th story that I’ve submitted to them (they’ve actually seen my entire catalog except for Silence Will Fall & Citizen X), but this is the first time that I’ve gotten onto the “maybe” list!  Wahoo for small victories!  (I won’t name the market until they actually accept the piece, but fingers crossed that the “maybe” turns into a “yes!”)

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Image Source: Seriable.com

SILENCE WILL FALL: On this one, I actually wanted to revise it and did so last semester with the help of the MTSU Writing Center (where I also worked as a Consultant, in addition to teaching a Freshman English Class).  I knew that I wanted the ending to more closely match the ending of the dream that had originally inspired to the story, so I rewrote it and made sure (via the Writing Center) that it made sense and have started to submit it again.  It received a rejection letter (again just this morning), but I’m happy with the way the story ends, so I will continue to send it out until I find a market that likes it (see above about persistence).   Will be sending it to a new market this weekend.

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Image Source: Pinterest

I, MAGI: So this one went out to the market in January and I still haven’t heard about its fate.  According to Duotrope, it has been out for about 150 days.  The market is still replying to submissions, but I’m probably going to have to request an update for the story over the weekend.  Now, I’m patient (I’ve waited over 9 months for a response for one market before), but they do say to query if they’ve taken over 45 days to respond and  I would like to send I, Magi back out if they aren’t going to use it.  If they don’t respond, I’ll probably give them another 30 days and then move onto the next market.

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Image Source: Pinterest

HERE BE MONSTERS: The market for this one unexpectedly went on hiatus this week with my story still under consideration.  I’m usually pretty good about sensing a market’s imminent change in status (this is actually only the 2nd time this has happened to me in over a 132 total submissions tracked by Duotrope).  However, this one caught me off-guard.  There was nothing to indicate there was anything out of the ordinary happening, until I checked the listing on Duotrope and saw that the website was no longer functioning.  Alarm bells began ringing at that point and I hoped that it was just a temporary hiccup, but no, it looks like the market just didn’t have the resources to continue.  So, I’ll pick a new market and resubmit this story over the weekend.

So there you have it–a (mostly) complete update on the status of the four stories that I currently have out at the moment.  Lesson to take away = persistence, persistence, and more persistence.

Breakfast and a Blog

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Image Source: Hostelling International Blog

Long time readers of the blog may have noticed that I have blogged six days out of the week (Monday-Saturday) for the past two weeks.  This is highly unusual for me and you might be wondering why I made this change.  Well, to be succinct, I’ve been wanting to change my writing habits for a while.  I’ve wanted to follow the advice of one my professors who suggested that life as a PhD student would be much easier if you found a regular time to write that works you and you stuck to it.

Now, I have a lot of dedication, but I tend to be more mercenary with my time as an adult than as a child.  As a child, I read every night from 10:00pm to 11:00 pm (my curfew) without fail.  Even as an adult, I read regularly on my 30 min. breaks at the Public Library (17 years of regular reading).

Yet, as an adult I’ve written (creatively) on my lunch hour when I worked at Eastgate Public Library (the air conditioning was too cold, so I’d sit out in the car) and that’s how I wrote, revised, and published my first article.  I’ve written short-stories at 7:00 pm (right after dinner), 8:00 pm, 8:30 pm, 2:00-4:00 pm, 5:00 pm (right before dinner), etc.  My point is, unlike my reading habits, my writing habits have been much more scattered.

I’ve attempting to follow the advice by regularly writing this blog as I eat breakfast.  This gives me a chance to collect my thoughts and put them down on (digital) paper before the day starts for me–no matter how hectic the day is.  I’m finding that by doing this, I’ve been much more creative and I’m enjoying the writing process even more.  I also try to keep the blog entries much shorter and tighter, and I try not to write more than 30 minutes (I’m actually at 35 mins. right now) in order to not to be too long-winded.  Here’s hoping that I can keep up this routine as I really enjoy the effect that it is having on both my enjoyment of writing and the production of entries on this blog–and here’s hoping that I can find a way to transfer this technique to my creative writing.

I don’t know if you read the blog, but thanks for the advice, Dr. R!  It has been really, really helpful!