Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Weekend Novella

This was the plan: To write an 18,000 word first draft this weekend and write the second draft next weekend for a market that's closing to unagented submissions next Sunday night.

I've never written that much in two days. Some people can knock that out without too much trouble, but I've never been one of those. When things aren't distracting me, I'm shaking them violently and shouting, "Distract me, damn you!"

This weekend's results: An incomplete first draft of 11,496 words.

I'm not down about it, though. For me, that's a lot of work. And much of what I have worked out is great. The first two chapters, in fact, are very close to what their last drafts will be. The plot's all worked out. I've got some completed chunks of scenes, the characters are coming to life, and the major players have their arcs. Best of all, it's fun and funny, which is what I was going for from the get-go.

I probably won't have time to work on the manuscript this week, between work and Mango obligations. But I'll do what I can next weekend and if I don't have an awesome manuscript to send out next Sunday night, I'll make it awesome later and send it to someone else.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Love Or Fear

I get lost at metaphorical sea on a regular basis. I just woke up after much too little sleep over the last twenty-eight hours and I was pep-talking myself with the thought that you can either choose love or choose fear and your results will reflect your choice. This idea is ancient, not mine, and I don't consider it new-agey in that "universe provides" sort of way. I see it, instead, as a way one's subconscious mind categorizes one's possible decisions.

Anyway, I told myself this as I was washing up: "You can choose love, or you can choose fear." And then I walked back into my bedroom and saw what my uneyeglassed sight took to be an enormous freaky spider on my floor. I didn't panic, but I did say to myself, "Well, I guess I'm going to have to choose fear this time." Bending in closer to this unmoving mass, I realized it was not an enormous freaky spider, but two lizards wrapped up in each other, not getting it on, but just chilling. I'm cool with lizards. The universe threw me a softball and let me choose love after all. Now that sounds horribly new-agey, but it's just anthropomorphization. I believe the universe is unintelligent and uncaring. It feeds with the same hand it kills with and is unaware it even has a hand. The best we can do is soak the universal hand in a bowl of Palmolive (with love) and hope for the best.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Song Of Ice And Fire Fan Fiction

Chapter 1

Hodor

Hodor. Hodor, Hodor, Hodor. Hodor.

"Hodor?"

"Hodor, Hodor!"

Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor, Hodor. Hodor. Hodor. Hodor.

Hodor. Hodor. Hodor, Hodor, Hodor, Hodor.

Hodor.

(I'm sure this has been done, but I've avoided the series and the fans for years and am only now beginning the second book. Hodor.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sleep Tight!

I was tired and just packing up for bed a few minutes ago when I discovered a monstrous spider in my room, two feet from my pillow. My mattress is on the floor because I dumped what passed for a bed frame when I moved, and haven't spent the dough for a new one. The spider wasn't moving, so I grabbed a can of insecticide and a long-handled dust pan from the kitchen. The dust pan's purpose was to block Ms. Spider from the mattress when she inevitably made a run for it.

I sprayed her good and was surprised that she didn't move. Her legs hadn't been curled up like a dead spider's would be. Why do I refer to her as a female? Because SUDDENLY LOTS OF BABIES CAME POURING OUT OF HER! GAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

I kept up the chemical warfare and big momma woke from her labor and went on the move! I had to sweep back and forth between her and the kids, keeping in mind that she could be dropping a trail of children off along the way. When it was all over I had a literal puddle of insecticide on my faux wood floor. I mopped up that and many arachnid corpses with the shivery, itchy, crawly sensation one gets all over one's skin when one is less than stout-hearted.

I'm hoping I'll be exhausted enough to sleep in a few more hours.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fiction Crawler 15



I did my first Fiction Crawler in ten months on last week's StarShipSofa. Go listen and then stick around for some great fiction by Rachel Swirsky and Suzanne Palmer! The Palmer story is narrated by the lush-voiced Ibba Armancas. If you haven't heard before, you're in for a treat.

http://www.starshipsofa.com/blog/2014/07/16/starshipsofa-no-346-suzanne-palmer-and-rachel-swirsky/

Here are the stories I'm covering (links are on the Sofa's site):

Feature Development for Social Networking by Benjamin Rosenbaum

Tornado’s Siren by Brooke Bolander

The Oregon Trail Diary of Willa Porter by Andy Marino

A Debt Repaid by Marina J. Lostetter

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler

The Curandero and the Swede by Daniel Abraham.

Man-Super

The Boy just learned about Batman villain, Man-Bat. He thought it was a stupid idea and suggested a Superman villain called Man-Super. I said maybe he's a super-powered janitor. The Boy said:

"Man-Super, I asked you to turn the water on six times!"

"Never! Mwah-ha-ha-ha!"

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Oglaf

If you like wonderfully surreal, pornographic, medieval-fantasy-trope-filled webcomics, why aren't you reading Oglaf already? As a sample, I offer this, something that fans of Beware the Hairy Mango might assume I'd like: http://oglaf.com/fully-fleshed/ Be sure to always roll over any given strip for an extra gag.

Lots of the strips are one-shots, but there are some multi-strip stories. You don't always realize that when you're reading them and therefore sometimes wonder what the hell a certain ending was supposed to mean. But you'll get over it. There are lots of returning characters and over time you get the larger picture of the awesome, impossible world in which Oglaf is set. There was one long storyline about the Funsnake with a rather mind-blowing climax. My advice is to go to the archives and start from the beginning of the strip.

It's very adult, very porny, and not everyone's cup of tea, but if my words haven't put you off, give it a look. If you like it, you'll have hours of comics to enjoy. This one is one of my favorites. It seems to be a more poorly drawn, more insane than usual filler, but the insane part is why I love it: http://oglaf.com/trueslut2012/1/

Have fun!

Friday, July 04, 2014

The Idea Generator #1 - The Junk Dealer

Hey! My daughter, Ivory, and I are starting a new video series called The Idea Generator. It's all about how to come up with new ideas. Take a look at episode number one - The Junk Dealer!


The Story Behind Three Kingdoms

Happy Independence Day, Americans!

My story, Three Kingdoms was just published at Kaleidotrope. It's number 95 of The One-Thousand. Go read it here: http://www.kaleidotrope.net/home/three-kingdoms-by-matthew-sanborn-smith/ and then come back and read what went into the making of the story after the jump.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

150

Just wrote and sent out a piece of flash fiction which is officially number 150 of The One-Thousand!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Some Good Health News

As you may have read in the post before this one, I had a little health scare over the weekend. A big scare to me, actually, as I thought I might be having a heart attack. But between the tests at the hospital and the stress test I did yesterday afternoon, the doctors determined that my heart and arteries are healthy (healthier than I would have guessed, given my eating habits). The only issue is blood pressure. I've already started eating better to lose weight and I'll make exercise a regular thing.

The medicine I was given on Sunday is an ACE inhibitor and, apparently, a small percentage of people get a persistent cough when using ACE inhibitors. I'm part of that percentage. The cough was bad enough that it ruined my sleep for a couple of days. Today I'm on new meds. Thought I'd get a better night of sleep tonight (The cough hangs on, but is a little less severe), but I ended up volunteering for a late night at work, because the carpets were being cleaned and I had stuff I could do. It ran a couple of hours later than I expected. Ah, well. If I'm lucky, I'll squeeze in six hours before the next shift.

With the medical stuff and the lack of sleep, not a lot of creative work got done this week. I hope to have things back to normal by Sunday at the latest.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Brief Hospital Visit

I was feeling super funky a few hours ago and asked The Boy to call 911. Turns out my blood pressure was higher than I've ever seen it. The paramedics brought it down quickly, but I'm stuck in the hospital at least for the night while they make sure my heart's fine. So far it seems fine.

After my last blood pressure problem, I got healthy. When the doctor told me everything was looking good, I slacked off and here I am again four years later. Anyway, everything's cool right now. Hospital has wi-fi. I'm just lying here hoping I don't have to stay too long.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Lessons Of Compressed Mango

Here's the lesson that MuchoMangoMayo tries to teach me every single year: Get the goddamned shows done before May!

Not only have I refused to learn that lesson, but this year I was less prepared than ever! There was the additional work brought about by the new subscription feed, Beware the Elitist Mango; there was my burst of short story frenzy at the beginning of the year; and there was my move across town in March.

MuchoMangoMayo is thirty-one shows in thirty-one days and each five minute show is fully scripted. It can take three and a half hours to write, record, edit, upload,and schedule one show. The farthest ahead of the conveyor belt I've been this year is maybe three episodes. Many days I'm doing the episode hours or minutes before it goes up.

This happens every year, but this time it's been happening since almost the beginning of the month, even though I took a week off from the day job and worked on Mangoes five hours a day. I was nine minutes late with one show early on, but I otherwise have ridden the wave, and continue to ride it. My goal for today, after some sleep, is to finish four scripts and produce one show. We'll see how that goes.

But all that is just set-up for the point of this post: the lessons this year's MuchoMangoMayo has taught me.

1) I can work harder than I thought I could. Working five hours or more a day on my days off and two to three hours a day around my day job has taught me that I can work harder than I thought I could. One of the reasons I've been writing for decades with relatively poor results is that I've been slow, inconsistent, and have had to wrestle with my ADD self always to get any work done at all. The past three weeks have been my most intense creative period ever, and that includes NaNoWriMo, which I finished the first time I did it some years ago.

2) It feels fantastic. Working at this level is what I've always wanted to do and I feel more creatively satisfied than I ever have in my life. I'm more tired (and that's saying a lot, because I'm always tired), but less cranky. I'm a little less anxious and way less stressed. For thirty years, I've been wanting to make creative work my life and although I've always done the work, I've never done enough of it to feel like I'm at the level I want. But now I feel like I'm living the dream. I'm squeezing more than ever out of myself and I'm getting good work done consistently. I've arrived at the life I've always wanted.

Don't get me wrong, the ultimate teenage dream involved much more money and fans and no day job, but the day to day work and satisfaction is all there.

3) I need to ship on time.  In the world of manufacturing, shipping a new product on time means getting the thing designed, mass-produced and out the door on the day you say you're going to do it. I've known for many years that I work better with deadlines than without, so I started setting deadlines. I almost always missed them, but I worked harder knowing they were there.

I've known for less years than that that I'll work harder for someone else than I will for myself. For a couple of years I told other people my deadlines—my dear friends Emily and Diane—so I'd feel obligated to get the stuff done on time and not disappoint them. I'd still blow deadlines, but not as many.

With MuchoMangoMayo I've promised people I don't even know that I will ship on time. Every day in May, they will get a show, delivered at midnight. That is my promise. People donate more money to the show in May than in any other month because I'm delivering something special. I sure as hell don't want to disappoint them and so far I haven't.

So there's my lesson for future projects: tell people what you're doing and when it's going to ship and make sure that happens. There's creative power in time limits and I heard Ian Boothby talk about this just hours ago in the latest episode of the Sneaky Dragon podcast. When you've got to hustle to get something done for someone else, you'll deliver something that's less than perfect. The beauty is you won't have time to fret over imperfection because you'll have already moved onto the next thing. You'll never make one perfect thing, no matter how long you work and how much you stress. Say that to yourself a few thousand times while you're making many, many imperfect things and chilling.

4) The fountain's got to sit down. When you're kicking off into a creative life, you have a tendency to think that it's possible to run out of ideas. After a while you realize that's not true, but you don't really feel it in your gut yet. A few years ago, I began to feel it in my gut. I never worry about the ideas anymore. They always come even though I burn through a shitload of them with every project. But even though ideas flow from a never-ending fountain, that fountain needs occasional maintenance, some chlorine, a cleaning out of the spigots or whatever it is fountains have. Sometimes the fountain has to go sit down over there for a while.

I'd put in about nine or ten days straight when one day I had stuff to do. I did that stuff and then problems happened. I dealt with the problems and it was getting late in the day and I wasn't getting to work. This is normally the point where I wrestle myself into a foam of paralysis, guilt, and despair. This time I said to myself, "I think I accidentally gave myself the day off." I didn't freak. I relaxed and read and screwed around online. The next day I was back at it.

Normally when I take a vacation, I dread going back to work. I'm sure many of you do too. This time I didn't. As each day passed, I was working and I knew when I went back to the day job I'd still be working. Come Sunday I was a little bent out of shape that I wasn't going to have enough time to work on the show, but my destructive emotions just weren't hitting the highs that they normally do.

The alien thing was that when I went back to work, I was almost relieved. I was going to have an excuse not to think creatively for hours! I just slid in and did my job without a bit of frustration. That was weird. Normally I'm bubbling with ideas at work and I'm writing the best ones down, but it took me about four days before that started kicking in again. I'd worked my making-things-up muscle hard for a week and it needed to rest up a bit. Once it was rested, it started flexing again. This doesn't mean I stopped creating for a few days. It means I had many waking hours when I wasn't creating, couldn't create, and didn't have to create.

I had finally, for the first time in my life, sated this appetite within myself. It felt great. My bubbling demons were at peace for a while.

If you can do it, work your mind hard. Run a long distance race with it. It's wonderful.