Monday, December 31, 2012

Shoot for the stars

Over a year ago, I posted a blog titled "Don't shortsight your goals like JFK and NASA did"

Without rehashing it here, the gist is about goal-setting and what your list consists of.  Last week, I advised everyone to have a "pie in the sky" goal amongst their list.

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately regarding Kickstarter projects.  One piece of advice that has come about these is to have a "pie in the sky" goal.  For example, if you want to fund a writing project and you feel $5,000 would do it, once you've established the lesser dollar goals, establish one big, awesome goal.  Something like, for $20,000 I'd fly the person to my house, and I'd spend an entire week counseling them on their writing project.  No one may not ever take it on, but what if?

So, in your list of goal you'd like to accomplish for 2013, make one of them a "pie in the sky".

Here are some examples:

Lose 50 pounds and will run in one half-marathon

Pay off the car two years early

Learn a new language

Commit to writing a book.

Publishing a book

Double your income

Big, hairy, audacious goals, huh?  "Pie in the sky" for sure, but at the same time they're very doable.

What's your "pie in the sky" goal?  Have it?  Good.  Write it down, then commit to brainstorming ways to accomplish that goal, as well as your other goals.

One reason why you need this is because if you don't shoot for something way out there, you're never going to grow as a person, mentally, physically, intellectually . . .

Set one goal super-high.

Then do it.

Because you can.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My 5-Star Review of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

In college, the Harrison Ford movie Clear and Present Danger (based on the novel by Tom Clancy) came out into the theaters.  I've always liked Harrison Ford as an actor and once again it proved to be a great action movie.

A few days before I went to the movie, a guy in our dorms (I believe it was the R.A. but don't quote me on it) said, "Yeah, Mark, don't waste your money.  The movie absolutely sucked."

I found this incredibly odd as Harrison Ford, once again playing the Jack Ryan character, was a decent actor and I didn't quite believe the movie would be that bad.

I pressed further.  "Why did it suck?" I asked.

"Because it had nothing to do with the book."

Okay, he got me there.  I had bought the book but was holding off reading it because it was quite a lengthy tome--as much of Clancy's novels were.  I then went to see the movie, despite the seemingly 1-star review from one person.  I liked it.  It was a great action flick, worthy of repeated watchings.  What was that guy thinking?  Then I read the book.  He was right: the book had little to do with the movie.  In fact, the Jack Ryan character was maybe in 1/3 of the book.  But movie-goers would be a litle pissed to spend their money to see a movie where Harrison Ford was only in it for 40 minutes.

I still liked the book.  And even the movie.  They were just two different versions of the same story, and I was fine with that.

The same goes with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three movies based on J. R. R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit, directed by Peter Jackson.

If one were to watch the movie with such a critical eye to see if all of the elements of the book were in the movie, you may be disappointed.  But only because there is so much more in the movie than I had expected.  I won't reveal any spoilers here, except to say that so far Peter has done a wonderful job of tying this movie in with the three Lord Of The Rings movies as well as the other histories of Middle Earth (i.e. The Silmarillion).

Keep in mind, when Tolkien first published the Lord Of The Rings, he released a newer edition of The Hobbit because in the first edition the One Ring did not play as large as role as he originally planned.

I give 5 full stars for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The only drawback is that I have to wait a full year to see the second of the three films.  But, like millions of others, I will be waiting with much anticipation.

Going back to what we talked about at the beginning of this blog post, let me ask you a few questions:

How many versions of Bram Stoker's Dracula have been made?

How many Batman or Spiderman or Superman movies have been made?

How many different versions of fairy tales (i.e. Snow White, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk) have been made--no, Disney isn't the only one doing this.

Aren't there two theatrical versions of Stephen King's The Shining?

Tales can be told in various ways, depending on the medium.  Theatrical movies and written novels are two entirely different ways.  Don't criticize one if it doesn't match with the other one.

Go see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  It's well worth it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 28-Dec-2012 / A few changes in the outhouse

You may--or may not--have noticed that I didn't post anything this past Wednesday.  There's a reason for it.  Possibly many, but I've decided to blog a little less.  Not much.  I'm already (on this blog) down to three days a week.  I'll post a "Happenings" on Fridays (or every other, depending on what's going on) and one other.

Why, may you ask, would I do this?  I love blogging and I love writing.  But as I continue to fill my RSS feed with fellow writing blogs, from agents and writers and other industry wisdom magnets, I've discovered many of them don't blog every day (or every other) either.

I want to spend my time writing.

What am I writing?  Right now I've identified 10 short stories--one of which titled "Salute" is available for free on this blog--that I'm in the process of polishing up and will be submitting to publications.  "Salute" is done and the other nine are progressing very nicely.

Beholder's Eye is still being queried out to agents.  I've recieved only rejections so far, but a few of them have been extremely heart-felt--I responded back in kind to one in particular because I could tell this one would have taken me on if it wasn't for her hectic schedule (I believe all of them have hectic schedules, and are possibly some of the busiest people in the world).  Oh, by the way, this one I went back and forth with a bit on Twitter, so people it does work, this social media thing.  Don't be afraid of it.

After the short stories are completed, I have several writing projects planned for the next year.

How are your plans for 2013 coming along?  Have you written them down?

If I might make one suggestion, try this: make one goal a "pie in the sky".  Something huge and awesome, something that would take much effort to accomplish.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What I Listen To: The Tolkien Professor

With the new Hobbit movie, directed by Peter Jackson, out in theaters--no, I still haven't seen it yet at this point--I want to share a podcast series I listen to fairly often called The Tolkien Professor.

The Tolkien Professor is Professor Corey Olsen, who is an English professor at Washington College, and he has various lecture-style podcasts on . . . you guessed it: Tolkien!

His first introductory lecture is about "How to Read Tolkien and why."

He even has a lecture series on The Hobbit and has written a book on the subject.

With tons of various lectures, be sure to check out the lecture feed for a list of all the subjects.  So, if you love Tolkien and want to know more about Middle Earth, or even about medieval literature in general, be sure to check out The Tolkien Professor podcast.

For more information, here's a TED Talk Professor Olsen recently did:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 21-Dec-2012 / End of the world?

The end of the world came . . .

And went.

We're still here.

Thank you, Mayans!

I'll keep this brief today.  My literary agent search is still commencing, although with the holiday season much of the publishing industry is on hiatus so it may have to be put on hold until after the new year.

But still I press on.

Despite the supposed end of the world.

What else am I working on?  Right now I have a list of about a dozen short stories I'm editing and expanding.  One I even had published in a regional publication several years ago and have changed it up quite a bit.  Once that is done . . . who knows.  I have other projects in the wings, all waiting patiently for me.

Have I seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey yet?  Nope.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, this may have to wait a few more days, but rest assured I will see it in the theaters.  It is my absolute dream to see a blockbuster movie like this on the opening night--one day, by God, I will!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

There's no excuse nowadays

I grew up in a small town in northern Minnesota.  The only radio station was a local AM which played oldies from the 50's and 60's.  If you were lucky, on a clear night you could pick up the faint whispers of an FM pop music station out of Grand Forks, ND--Magic 96 it was called.  Needless to say, my exposure to great amounts of rock music was limited to the selection held at the local Ben Franklin store--Poison was my first taste of hard rock, and I've loved that kind of music (80's hair bands being my favorite) ever since.

This was the genesis of the compact disc.  Portable CD players were large boom boxes guys held over their shoulder like a bazooka.  And the bigger the better!

My selection of books was also limited to whatever was at the local library.  Now, I must admit, there might've been a wider selection, but no one ever showed me where it was so it's possible it never existed--I mean, the section where great tomes of science fiction and fantasy were housed.  I read Stephen King and practically memorized the AD&D DM Guide and Player's Handbook.  I listen to a lot of podcasts nowadays, and while so many great writers and editors are mentioned, I feel like I'm behind the eight-ball due to my lack of exposure in this field.  However, it's a lack of exposure I'm quickly eliminating the more I learn about the field and the who's who.

Today there's no excuse for this lack of exposure.  Through the web, there is a vast field of knowledge right at your fingertips.  What's your excuse for not learning about your desired field of work?

There is no excuse.

I have no excuses either.  I am tearing down the barriers of my limited knowledge--although, isn't all knowledge limited to some degree, as you can't certainly know everything about everything.

And, as an aside, one day . . . I would also love to see my favorite band in concert.

Thanks Bret, Rikki, Bobby, and C.C. for the great tunes.  And a special thanks to Bret in his fight to cure diabetes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Literary Agent Database:

Looking for a literary agent?

One online resource you may want to check out is Agent Query.

This resource has drop-downs that allow you to search for specific topics under both nonfiction and fiction.  You may also search for various industry blogs under Agent Query's Blog Roll.  Here you can find agent and editor blogs, as well as categeries like "Digital Publishing" and "On Writing."

Be sure to check out Agent along with your other resources to look for your next literary agent.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My thoughts on tragedy

I vowed myself I'd stay out of this, but as a writer I found out I couldn't.  So much as been said already, no matter what side of the 2nd Amendment you sit on or the effects of video games on our youth or even the entire mental health issue.  I won't muddy the waters here with any of the rhetoric, as all that will happen is push everyone even further apart.  And that's not my intentions here.

In the quiet little community of Sandy Hook village, of Newtown CT, tragedy befell them in a big way--the last notable crime to have occurred there was in 1986, a crime known as the Woodchipper Murder.

Tragedy can--and will--fall upon everyone.  Even tragedy of yesterday's magnitude (and even larger, when you think of the 9/11 terrorist attacks).  My deepest prayers go out to everyone involved.  Mourn the loss of your loved ones.  Then, prepare to heal.

Since the beginning of Man, tragedy (large and small) has occurred.  And then people moved on to buidl stronger lives.  And it will in this case too.  You may not know it yet, but there will be someone--or many someones--who will emerge from this tragedy stronger than ever because of their involvement.  How many stories from 9/11 are out there, the individual stories of heros and heroines who fought the tragedy and won?  Just wait and see.

Less than a month ago, tragedy befell our small community: two houses away from mine, a madman entered a woman's home and tried to kill her.  She fought off the attacker and ran to the neighbor's house, where they called 9-1-1.  In the meantime, the cowardice killer took his own life.  I can honestly say that I'm proud of the neighborhood, and community, I live in that one would feel comfortable to go to the neighbor's house for help.

How's your neighborhood?

Do you know any of your neighbors?

Maybe what needs to be done in light of this tragedy is to mourn where it sees fit, then move to glueing this society back together.  Get to know your neighbors.  Then, when tragedy comes crawling into your life, you will have people who can help.  There isn't a day that goes by of how thankful I am for this community to pitch together when my wife was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game, mourn and pray for those involved.  Then move on.  Emerge stronger than ever.

It can be done.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 14-Dec-2012 / The agent search revisited

My literary agent search is an interesting one.  With social media nowadays, how I've done agent searches several years ago is far different.  My research has even increased as I've come to the realization this time around that I need to spend some time finding out what agents want, whether or not they're open for submissions, and overall what their "platform" looks like.

One day, after I've signed with an agent and Beholder's Eye is published, I'll share the history of "how I found an agent."  Now, I'll just tell you that it's an interesting world and far more connected with the use of social media.

Before I go, I must share a literary agent database I stumbled upon while listening to a podcast.  It's called Agent Query.  It seems to be another resource one can use for finding an agent.

What else have I been up to?  Brainstorming and writing.

Not only do I have my ambitious 2013 goals set, I'm using my strategic strengths to plan for the immediate future.  First up are 10 short stories, all of which have been written and edited, but now they need a thorough polish and then . . . well, let's cross that bridge when we come to it.  I may decide to self-publish them or tack them into another self-publishing project I'm working on.

After that I have at least three more short stories I need to write, two science fiction short stories I need to edit, and then work on a novella--at least I think it's a novella.  It's called "Guest of Honor," something inspired by my recent viewing of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Before I forget, I said before that I was possibly going to do NaNoWriMo in the early part of 2013.  I still might do that, as November is typically a busy month for me.  I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo isn't just for November

I know, I know, the month of November is over and you're still hearing the throngs of NaNoWriMo--the National Novel Writing Month.  I promise, only a little more and then that's it . . . maybe.

What did you learn?

Did you accomplish your goal?

There are pros and cons to participating in NaNoWriMo, none which I will rehash here.  Instead, take what you've learned into the other eleven months of the year.  Keep writing.  Think as a professional and treat the end of the month as the deadline from your editor.

There are many lessons learned while participating in NaNoWriMo.  What did you uncover?  How will you use it to enhance your writing in the future?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Unusual writing styles. Do what works best for you.

In as about as many writers out there in the world, there are as many writing styles.  When I mean styles, I'm talking about the manner in which their stories are written.  Now, most probably are similar in which they involve sitting down at a desk or table and putting words into a computer or on paper.

Two such fantasy/science fiction writers I know of are different--well, one is but the other has a work schedule that needs some attention here.  They are Kevin J. Anderson and Peter Orullian.

Kevin J. Anderson, for the most part, dictates his stories while hiking along the trails near his Colorado home.  Then, when he arrives home, he takes the dictation and has them entered onto the computer--I want to say either his wife or an assistant does this but don't quote me on that one.  It's possible he does it himself.  If he happens to find this blog, I'm sure he can comment below and clear the water for us.  Otherwise, if I run into him, I'll ask.

Kevin J. Anderson has had a long career in the fantasy/science fiction genre.  I first ran across him while reading one of his many Star Wars novels, which are truly awesome.

Peter Orullian is a fantasy author who lives up in Washington state and has a full-time job at Microsoft.  When does he have time to write?  At 3am!  Yes, kiddies, he gets up at three o'clock in the morning and writes.  He has one published book out now and is working on a second one.  And all the while he holds down a full-time gig at Microsoft--I believe in their Xbox division.

There are several more I could mention here, but both Kevin's and Peter's writing style is so unusual yet impressive.

What is your writing style like?  What sacrifices could you make in order to become a published author?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Happenings In The Outhouse 07-Dec-2012 / Goal setting

My 2013 goals have been written.  It's quite an impressive list too.  I've written some bold goals before but somehow I have a feeling that 2013 will be different.

In my research, experts say goals should be broken down into seven categories.  This is something different for me.  They are (in no particular order):








How are your goals coming along?

My literary agent search for Beholder's Eye is going well.  I've narrowed the list down and am engaging them via social media to find ones to query.  It's a far different world than what I've done even a few years ago.

Different . . . yet better.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

An interesting conversation with my niece

A few weeks ago on Thanksgiving I had a very interesting conversation with my niece.  It involved writing.  (insert smiley face emoticon here)

"Will you read my book?" she asked me, the notebook poised in her hands.

"Of course!"

At this point, it had been passed around to a few other people, who all said "it was good."  Honestly though, as a writer, you love to hear that kind of praise but you also want to know "how can I make it better?"

Hence, that's where I stepped in because she knew I was a writer and could help her.

The opening line was gripping, something that could be the opening line to any number of bestsellers, and she had sentences that made me all the more impressed.  Her dialogue was engaging as well, and you could almost hear the teenagers talking to each other.

Afterwards, I curled my finger and we talked about what she had written.  She was thrilled at the constructive criticism I was able to offer, talking about what worked and what didn't.  I suggested areas where she could cut, and then she said something about "the story's point of view."

I smiled.  "Now you sound like a writer," I said.

She understood that it takes long hours (10,000 to use Malcolm Gladwell's analysis) to build up the craft of writing.  They say an overnight success takes 10-20 years.  No one sees that hard work that goes into publishing a book except those that live it.

And she's well on her way . . .

Monday, December 3, 2012

Was this movie ahead of its time?

Probably not one of Christian Slater's best movies, but Pump Up The Volume could be a movie ahead of its time--if only when compared to the advances in technology nowadays.


The premise of the movie is a teenage boy (one Christian Slater) who is a loner and finds a way to break into an unauthorized radio station.  The movie may be worth watching on Netflix, and sorry to say the movie trailer doesn't do it justice.

Fast forward roughly twenty years--this movie came out in 1990--and instead of an unauthorized radio station, the main character would probably be the star of his own podcast.  He would have revolutionized it by doing what he did to the radio station.

And it would not have been illegal.

Interesting food for thought . . .