Recently in Writing Category

There's a winter storm outside -- the first solid evidence of Winter in the first week of December for several years. The New Hampshire tourist industry -- by which I mean the ski industry, the snowmobile industry, the ski industry, the ATV industry, the ski industry and did I mention the ski industry -- is breathing a sigh of relief, as it looks like we might actually, y'know, have a ski season before February this year.

(Not that they were taking any chances, mind. I've driven by a bunch of phallic "look at our new snowmaking equipment" billboards since early September. By God they were going to be skiing this year whether we liked it or not! And, of course, I like it fine though I myself haven't gone skiing for at least fifteen years. Probably more like twenty, now that I think about it. Christ, I'm old.)

It is the Christmas season, though very few people seem to care this year. Including me, though I'm well ahead on my Christmas shopping for the first time... well, ever. (I am entirely in favor of fiancees who have well developed Amazon wishlists. I have a well developed Amazon wishlist too, but that's less for my fiancee and more for my family, who love me dearly and haven't a clue what sort of gizmos to buy me. I'd post a link for the curious but it would seem crass, and I like to wait at least four or five posts into a revival after a multiple week hiatus before I appear crass.)

For the most part, all is well. We wait patiently for the government to let Wednesday and I get married. (We could get word any day, or it could easily go into February with no word a'tall. We keep the lines of communication open to the single greatest immigration attorney in the world, and we check the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website, and we wait and we hope and I get up there whenever I can (she can't come down here until she comes down here to get married. That's just the way the law works.) and we talk every day, and that's what that is right now.

There's a winter storm outside, but the home fires are burning well. Having weathered financial issues aplenty over the Summer (as I'm sure you all remember), everything is fine now. I actually have some money in a savings account. Not a lot, but some, and that builds with every paycheck. There's always more unexpected events on the horizon, but barring the same kind of sudden, rapid smackdown of them that started the summer travails, things should just be okay.

I have it on good authority that the Month of November was, for me, essentially an anti-Nanowrimo. Which isn't to say I've gone negative on Nanowrimo. I've enjoyed it when I did it, and I enjoy seeing it when others do it. But for me, it was a month where I generated... well, essentially nothing, both here and on Banter Latte. Almost certainly I needed that. If you use your brain for writing too many days in a row without a break, it gets hot and eventually the RAM fails.

But it's December now, and it's the Christmas season, and we're heading to close the year out. There's things happening, in the world and on the web. The Russians own LiveJournal, the Primary is a month away in the state I live in, and Chuck Norris has embraced the meme in more ways than one. Halfpixel has become a full on online guild a la Dumbrella, bringing the Blank Label collective down to a tight six In Mystery Science Theater 3000 news. Rifftrax has started doing heavy advertising in targeted media, the Rifftrax crew has also formed "the Film Crew" which is doing the MST shuffle, which means the Mike Nelson/Kevin Murphy/Bill Corbett version of MST3K is fully back in production only minus the muppets and the SciFi network. At the same time, the original MST3K team of Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, and special bonus not-quite-original-but-still-seminal Frank Conniff have launched Cinematic Titanic, which somehow doesn't make any reference whatsoever to Rifftrax or the Film Crew (and vice versa) even though Mary Jo Pehl has done work now for both groups. And if that wasn't interesting enough, Best Brains, Inc., in the person of Jim Mallon (the original executive producer and the voice of Gypsy) has spun up some truly crap web cartoons 'continuing' the story of the Satellite of Love, alongside some old school folks like Paul Chapman, who we all remember as Pitch. Right?

Okay, the crappy webtoons are clearly just designed to get you buying DVDs, but still! It's... something....

That's right. Three entirely distinct entities of former MST3K folks, all cheerfully suckling at the teat of a show that went off the air in 1999. Three collectives of entertainers, writers, gadabouts town who all have legitimate claim to some of the MST3K legacy. Three separate performing troupes that are not acknowledging the other two's efforts in any way, shape or form, absent a brief mention on the Cinematic Titanic website that Josh Weinstein was the guy who actually hired Mike Nelson in the first place.

Yeah, there's no behind the scenes 'fun' going on there. None at all.

The interesting thing is, for all three of these groups... we're actually seeing models that the webcomics world pioneered in play. The MST3K site, with its free crappy Flash animations (seriously, guys, I know that the art is supposed to be 'stylized' but it looks... um... bad) is drawing eyeballs to sell videos. Rifftrax works off of -- I swear to Christ -- Micropayments, and from all accounts it's been monster successful. That's right. Someone made micropayments work. With, I would add, podcast technology and absolutely no DRM. It looks as though Cinematic Titanic may do the same, though we don't yet know. The Film Crew is straight online distribution -- they don't advertise in traditional places, their production facilities are essentially a minimal set possibly made in someone's garage, and they're clearly selling DVDs briskly.

Everyone still reading these words will recognize the models at play. And clearly everyone involved with MST3K has the advantage of a massive cult phenomenon from the 90's (probably the defining cult phenomenon among geek culture of the 90's, all apologies to Babylon 5 -- Buffy was transitional into the 21st century so nyah) to give them a continuing fanbase. But the simple truth is, it's not costing them much money to make Rifftrax. You or I could do it with scriptwriting time (and talent we might not possess, of course) and our personal computers. Admittedly, Nelson partnered with Legend Films who's shouldering the website costs, but come on.

Put yet another way? Other media besides comics have begun to figure out the whole web thing. Between that and the rise of direct-to-DVD stuff... and the fact that both and fucking Wal-Mart have come out as anti-DRM...

...well, it's an interesting time to be on the web.

But then, winter storms are always fun to watch from the inside.

Service Disruption


It's nothing technical, you understand.

Seriously. As near as I can tell, everything's aces. The internet is working, the websites are up, and while I did migrate to Leopard, that was about as seamless an OS upgrade as I've done for a while. And Time Machine just plain works, for the record, which is staggeringly cool.

Well, all right. Upgrading led to some issues with my windows partition and I had to reinstall it, but honestly. It's the first time I've ever had to reinstall Windows in the era of Boot Camp, so how upset could I be?

So it's nothing technical. And yet, there has been an interruption of service.

It may have been my last trip to Ottawa. You can tell when it was -- it was the day my first Superguy post in years went up. And that was really cool, as it was on the heels of Gary posting, and there's been a flood after us so Gary started something. Apparently the collective Superguy writers have been waiting for someone to break the ice. And now they have.

But the day it went up, I drove to Ottawa, and spent a week up there. Up with Wednesday, kept by the government out of the United States until they get through processing the fiancee visa that will let her come down and let the two of us get married and on with our lives. This is the longest visit we've done for a long time, and it also featured a move to brighter surroundings for her. And time spent together. And time spent listening to a radio station with ten minute synopses of Ottawa in general. And time spent being on the weaker side of the dollar divide while in Canada for the first time in my life.

For the record? When they make the same jokes to you you made about them for your entire life? You don't get to be anything but gracious about it. Even when gasoline ends up costing five bucks a gallon after conversion. God damn it.

It may have been the change of time. I love love love love love the day we Fall Back. I am no fan of Daylight Savings Time. I think the system should have been abolished years ago. I am no farmer, and I like the day being an hour later in the morning, thank you kindly. But I am also of an age where the time change screws with me something fierce. It took a few days this year, as the trip back corresponded to it so I was exhausted enough to make it easy, but I'm in the throes of crappy sleep cycles right now.

It may have been work, which has been busier than November normally is, not the least of which was a day we had a power outage and the central core's backup generator didn't kick in. We managed to shut everything down before UPSes failed, but it's like doing work on someone's heart -- when you stop it from beating for a few minutes, it's gonna be a few days before they're feeling up to jogging and you have to do a lot of post-op stuff.

I've had people e-mail me. Just to make sure I wasn't dead. I appreciate that. I'm not dead.

I'm just not writing.

Which is weird.

I have ideas, mind. Tons of them. Banterable ideas. Websnarkish ideas. It's not that. It's not that at all.

But it's not actually going onto paper.

Maybe this notice of service disruption is the jolt I need. Maybe that'll get the big writing stone rolling down the hill.

I sort of plan on writing more Superguy today. I enjoyed that, and it too might spark things.

If it does, it'll go up sometime this week, and then a Myth will follow it, and Justice Wing will follow that.

And maybe somewhere in there I'll talk about the sale of City of Heroes and Issue 11 and dual blades and flashback and stuff. And talk about Zuda and how their interface (and their decision to downsample God damned cursive into it) makes the Baby Jesus cry and no one gives a shit about Zuda as a result.

And, you know. Stuff. Things.

I dunno.

But for now? I'm okay. I am.

We're just having a minor service disruption. Please stand by.

Meanwhile, not far away....


So. I've been trying to work out... well, things. As folks know. And the writing is a part of what I've been trying to work out, because....

...well, because. I'm a happier person when I'm writing lots of stuff, and being a happier person is pretty much a good goal in and of itself.

And that brings me to trying to find the best way to actually do more of it, and to fire the writing spirit, and all that. Because... well, because I want to, and because I want momentum, and because that's all a cool thing.

Let me begin by saying that Websnark isn't ending. Not now, not for the foreseeable future. I like this place. I like all of you. I like the outlet. I like the chance to write on any topic or any subject, at any time. It's amazingly cool, and you guys make me happy.

However, it's worth noting that Websnark, in the end, is an outlet for nonfiction. There have been exceptions, here and there, but this is primarily a blog for commentaries and essays. Critiques, or just me talking 'bout stuff. And that's been amazingly cool, but it's also been limiting. In the nearly three years this thing's been a part of my life there's been a couple million words between Wednesday and I, but my fiction output has crashed through the floor. And that has created an imbalance in my humors, increasing bile and phlegm and requiring an infusion of foods higher in fire and air.

Now, I could change Websnark if I wanted. I could add in fiction, poetry, a wet bar -- whatever I felt like, at least as far as Weds would be comfortable -- and Weds is, at heart, desirous of my being content. But that doesn't seem like the right reaction to me. Folks who come here and who have been coming here have been doing so for very specific reasons. They'll indulge the odd Sestina or the occasional bedtime story, but for the most part they'd rather there not be a monumental shift in tone.

And honestly, I don't want to change what Websnark is. I like what Websnark is.

The solution, in the end, is to expand.

Which brings me to Banter Latte.

Banter Latte is a new blog, chock full of that new blog smell. It was born in the weekend following my existential writing crisis. It is dedicated to fiction, to poetry, to whimsy -- to all the stuff that Websnark isn't. It has a bunch of new bits of writing, some old writing that's been sitting on my hard drive -- sometimes for years -- and locked posts designed to let me put up chapters of novels I'm working on.

That this will hopefully also force me to, you know, finish and refine those novels is a side benefit.

The protected posts, mind, are still meant to be accessible. See, part of the problem of the publishing world adapting to new electronic distribution is the question of what "previous publication" means. By locking the posts, I can skirt the edge between publishing my novel on the web and providing a place for fans of my work and interested parties to read drafts of the posts without actually releasing it. And keeping it out of search engines at the same time.

So. What is Banter Latte?

Banter Latte is a place for me to write. Just like Websnark. They're meant to compliment each other. Folks who like reading what I write will want to head on over there and see what there is to see. Folks who like my essays but can't imagine enduring my fiction can avoid it. (Though I'll post regular links over here to the stuff going on over there -- mostly because I don't want this place going quiet again.)

Though quiet isn't as likely. As I've said before, when I'm writing regularly, I'm usually writing prolifically. You'll notice I've written more on Websnark in the time since I started beta testing Banter Latte than in the three months before. That's likely to continue.

Why "Banter Latte?" Because as has been mentioned, I have a love of dialogues taking place while my characters are drinking beverages. Nothing more or less. Also, I tend to drink a lot of coffee or tea while writing.

There is a schedule to Banter Latte, in hopes of building an audience and (paradoxically) making things easier on me. Mondays are "The Mythology of the modern world," when I tell whimsical stories about the myths behind everyday life. Post beta period, we have two entries up right now: Introductions and Coffee, and Why Does Starbucks Drip Coffee Taste Like Crotch? These are generally going to be written new for the site, which should keep me doing a few hundred or thousand words in a week, all to keep the pump primed. Wednesdays are "Storytelling" days -- vignettes, scenes, stories, past stuff and new stuff all blended. Some of the more serious stuff will go here, though I don't promise that. Right now, we have a short story set in the greater Gossamer Commons universe -- the first entry of Gossamer Reflections, called Whisperdance.

Fridays are when the protected chapters of novels in progress go up. One of the state goals -- born of a conversation I had with my father -- is that I'm going to write one chapter of a novel each and every week, thus making the completion of said novels far more likely. Right now we are in the semi-hard science fiction novel Theftworld, which is password protected (though right up in the nav bar or also on the sidebar you'll see a link to a form for requesting it -- it's not exactly hard to get access to the password if you want it.) We have two chapters plus a prologue and a bit of preface material up.

Thtree days a week with three types of content. Tuesdays and Thursdays are Random days. Any day I feel like doing something that doesn't fit one of those categories, I'll throw something into a Tuesday or a Thursday. That's where poetry will go, fan-fiction if I've a yen to write it, bits of other stories, or whatever. Or nothing at all. Those aren't officially scheduled days, but right now it looks like there's plenty of stuff for them. We have a couple of related stories in them right now: the first part of Interviewing Leather -- meant to be a Rolling Stoneesque interview of a minor supervillain, and we have On Call, a slice of life story about a doctor who specializes in superhumans, played more for laughs.

Finally, on the weekends we'll have very basic open topic posts, for people to shout out comments or make dook dook noises or do whatever it is you kids do.

And, of course, there's a chance to buy ad space if you want. Right now, it's going for like two cents, so it's a bargain!

In the end, all of this is meant to stimulate my doing what I like to do most outside of spending time with Weds or sleeping: writing. And I'm really excited about it. I hope you guys enjoy it. And I hope this helps keep the writing stream -- in Websnark and out of Websnark -- more regular than it's been.

Thanks all. And enjoy.

Oh -- bear in mind the site is still new. There may be functionality changes, and there almost certainly will be look and feel changes. So, you know. Be warned.

And now, literature.


I'm trying to wrap my brain around On the Banks of Lethe. It's not easy. But James Grant does that to my brain.

I think I probably got into Grant's stuff thanks to Randy Milholland. When Grant's original webcomics magnum opus, the Jay Storyline, was in full flower over at FLEM Comics!, Randy did small cameos in Something Positive. Jay was one of the people Davan knew back in Texas. Simple enough. That led me to FLEM, which later on led me to Two Lumps. I loved it.

I loved it because Grant is a sick fuck. Which is really the only way to describe him. Except he's a funny sick fuck. He's a talented sick fuck. He reminds me, in his own way, of George Carlin. When I watched the DVD of The Aristocrats, I was pretty blase through the telling and retelling of the most obscene joke in the universe. I'm a jaded person by nature, when it comes to such things. But while Sarah Silverman's deadpan version was the best and most memorable, George Carlin's is the one that got me within three gags of actually throwing up. And yet, it was still funny.

That's the kind of power Grant has. And it's a power he carries through into his writing.

I read and greatly enjoyed Pedestrian Wolves, Grant's first book. It was vivid and evocative -- a shout down down the throat of New Orleans, written before Katrina and in its own way a testament to a city that doesn't exist in the same way any more. However, I wasn't sure that Pedestrian Wolves was so much a novel as a travelogue -- a taste of the city, of the mores of the place, of the scene, of one man's understanding of the streets he had walked. Grant's second book, the aforementioned On the Banks of Lethe is a solid, full on, hardcore novel. It's the story of Charlie, and it's the story of memory and loss. Which can't possibly be coincidence -- it is absolutely nothing like the short story "Flowers for Algernon," or the novel that it grew into, and yet when you read about Charlie in Lethe, you think of Charley in that original story. You think about pain. You think about loss.

If I were to describe the book, I'd be somewhat at a loss. It's got a little Noir to it -- a little sense of the One Good Man fighting a battle. But at the same time, it's Noir as written by Sean Stewart and soundtracked by the Sisters of Mercy. The One Good Man is always a flawed figure, but this time his flaws are held together with barbed wire and set on fire. It's Portrait of the Artist as Cursed By Non-Euclidean Monstrosities.

And it's fascinating. Fascinating as the stare of a cobra.

There's no comfort in this book. I never got the feeling that Charlie would win. I saw him struggling, and trying -- saw him trying to hold on to the woman he loved and the world, but this is James L. Grant, so I figured there would be a few shotgun blasts to the ego along the way. And the book doesn't disappoint. It reminded me of some other stories -- Vellum, by Hal Duncan. Perfect Circle by the aformentioned Sean Stewart. Even "The Unpleasant Occupation of Jonathan Hoag" by Robert Heinlein (though more if the other side won in that particular work). The imagery is powerful and disturbing, the voice is solid.

In a way, as stated, this really is Grant's first novel, since I don't think we can really call Pedestrian Wolves a novel. And there's some sense of that in the book. He overwrites a bit, here and there. Sometimes phrases like "Daughter of Red" beg to be shrunk down instead of repeated over and over again. But these are comparatively minor -- like brushstrokes on one of Charlie's paintings. The paint may seem thick in places, but it adds texture to the whole.

This is not a comforting book. But man, it was a good ride getting to the end. I'm looking forward to the next time Grant takes a few shots at our collective psyches.

For those who haven't seen my slow but steady efforts to 'make up' posts done after the fact, here's what I so far have. I call these necroposts, because they revive a dead day and give it the horrible false impression of life in the form of a post.

The January 11 Necropost was on Malfunction Junction.
The January 12 Necropost was on culling iTunes.
The January 14 Necropost was on the superhero fiction site Star Harbor Nights. (Which also gets the sweet spot for the first post in the archives after the proposal.)
The January 18 Necropost was a brief, random note about Apple's hold music.

I still owe necroposts for: January 15, January 19-24, and January 27-28. Each day my intent is to do the day's post first, so as not to go farther into post debt, then with luck do at least one other necropost until we're all caught up and happy, shiny people.

I should have made this a necropost for like January 28, thereby cheating and cutting down on the backlog, but that's just not the way I roll.

(For those who've wondered, oh Hell yeah I intend to write about Order of the Stick.)

Logo: Sleeping Snarky

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