Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

July 29, 2011

Wendig flash fiction challenge – “The Ctesian Ass”

Filed under: fictionchunk,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 4:45 pm

While I continue my relentless and ill-thought-out campaign promoting the works of Chuck Wendig, I figured I would join in his weekly flash fiction writing challenge this week. The subject: unicorns. I wrote three-quarters of this short story last Friday night, and then had a hell-week of colds, sleepless nights and kids with colds and sleepless nights. It’s taken all week to finish the damn thing. That’s my feeble justification for the clumsy ending…  Still, it amused me so I will probably go back and tighten it up in the next week or so. Enjoy!

Edit: Story has been renamed after Emma sensibly came up with a better suggestion than my uninspired placeholder…

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July 22, 2011

Review – Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey

Filed under: reviewage,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 1:23 pm

Is Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey the most useful book of writing advice I will read all year?

When it kicked off with the self-castigating affirmation “I am a writer, and I will finish the shit that I started” I knew I’d come to the right place. Chuck Wendig’s ebook collection of essays on the life and trials of the self-employed writer cuts through the accumulated mythological detritus of the freelancer and tells it like it is.

Confessions is frequently blunt to the point of cruelty – “Crap Habits of the Highly Ineffective Writer” and “Why You Probably Still Suck as a Writer” are just two of his dilettante deterring screeds, and not even close to the worst for ego-deflating brutality – but it’s fair. Professional writing would appear to be a pretty tough gig. (I wouldn’t know, I’m one of those wanna-be dilettantes).

Wendig pulls no punches in laying out just how much work goes into writing, editing and publishing, not to mention finding ways to avoid starvation during the long gulf between typing “The End” and commencing the four-continent book-signing tour. For that matter, Confessions will leave you with a pretty clear picture of the effort required to make a living from writing for money.

To that end, this book conveys practical, no-nonsense advice (albeit in an authorial voice so nonsensical it verges on the drunken. And hilarious). Wendig puts fiction-writing under the microscope from every angle until something catches fire: dialogue, editing, structure, plotting. He looks at action scenes, sex scenes, descriptive passages, purple prose. And rewriting: he’s big on the rewriting. (I personally find that kind of a shame, since I was hoping he’d reveal the secret to summoning the Second Draft Pixies, who work for praise and toenail clippings. Turns out the secret is arduous, painstaking labour. Huh.) He also dishes the grill on the life of the jobbing writer, on subjects such as handling criticism, engaging with clients, getting paid for your work and not being a dickweed on the internet (advice certain comic-strip authors might recently have benefited by).

Confessions is dazzlingly crude, too: Wendig loves swearing and he’s worked hard to become good at it. So if for some reason you have an aversion to creative variants of the fornicative verb, this may not quite be your preferred infusion. But c’mon: “Cock-waffle”? “King Jerk of Don’t-Do-Shit-Town”? “Freaky garter-snake breeding-ball fuck-parties”? This man has a gift.

And yet, the take-home vibe of Confessions is sheer exuberance for the written word. Sure, it’s an exuberance tempered with steel-eyed professionalism, relentless determination and a suspicious fascination with hobos, but Wendig’s love of his chosen vocation is infectious. How can you not love someone who, in a discussion of caffeine, describes soda as containing sugar of the “we molested corn with science until it yielded cheap sweetness” variety?

Is Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey the most useful book of writing advice I will read all year? Shit yeah. You too, if you’re smart.

I read the Kindle version, obviously – it was my first purchase from the Amazon store – and there’s also a Nook (whatever that is) version but if you don’t happen to use a compatible ereader or mobile device, you can also just purchase the PDF directly from the author (requires a Paypal account). I’m sure he’d appreciate that, what with not having to pay Amazon a cut on those sales. the man has a new baby to support, after all. I’ll also reiterate my general love for Chuck Wendig’s blog terribleminds.com, which is the archival home of most (but not all) of the essays in Confessions. Worth a visit for the occasional Search Term Bingo articles alone.

July 7, 2011

My reading future

Filed under: geekery,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 11:33 pm

Did I mention that it was my birthday last week? That Old Father Time shuffled one step closer to the delicate crystal hourglass in which my earthly hours are counted out, ball peen hammer clutched in one gnarled and bitter old claw? Because it was, and he did. But don’t worry about him. I’ve got a plan that involves dodgy black-market anti-ageing serums, nightsight goggles, an assault rifle with a grenade launcher attachment and a backhoe full of the finest Columbian lifesand that money can buy.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the Kindle. Thanks to the generosity of a not-completely-clearly-defined group of my nearest and dearest friends, coordinated by Brother Jimbo, I now have in my possession a brand new Amazon Kindle e-reading electramajig. With the protective leather cover in burnt orange, no less. Sexy!

I’m in love with it already. It’s slender – less than one centimeter thick – and the face is about twenty-by-twelve centimeters. The reading screen takes up maybe three-quarters of that space, leaving room for a square QWERTY keyboard and a few navigation keys at the bottom and some page-left-and-right tabs on either side. It’s light enough that holding it in one hand doesn’t feel like it will hurt in fifty pages’ time. The screen display is smaller than that of a typical paperback page, but not by much, so while that means you’re flipping pages more frequently than you would be with a book, the new pages resolve in about or slightly less than the time it would take to turn the page. No real loss.

The screen is an e-ink display rather than digital, so it is not backlit and requires an external source of light in order to be read. So, you know, just like a book would. In terms of the print quality, from my limited experience with a few different titles, the lettering is sharper and more readable than print typically is. I’ve tried a few different PDFs on it, as well, mostly roleplaying game rules. Some are good, but unless they’ve been laid out with a reasonably large font, they’re mostly too small to read [1]. Ones that have been laid out with e-reading in mind are fine, though – even image-heavy ones – so I expect I’ll get at least a little use out of the Kindle for gaming as well.

Storage is ridiculous – allegedly it can store 3500+ novels, which is far more than I am ever likely to read between now and when the device eventually conks out. Which will hopefully be sometime after the showdown with the Embodiment of Mortality alluded previously.

In the meantime, mine currently contains somewhat less than the Kindle’s theoretical carrying capacity. Simon and Sarah bought me an Amazon giftcard, so I picked up “Black House” (Stephen King and Peter Straub’s sequel-as-I-understand-it to their collaboration from 20+ years ago, “The Talisman”) and “Child of Fire” by Harry Connolly, which came recommended by people who like the Harry Dresden urban fantasies but feel they could contain more bleak horror.

These two books point to the first of two big attractions of the Kindle for me, which is that they are books I am not at all sure I’ll like, so buying the cheaper electronic version feels like less of a risk than, say, the king, which in physical form is a fat-arse brick that probably costs in the vicinity of thirty bucks from Dymocks. Forking over less than eight bucks is a far more palatable proposition. Even if it turns out to suck harder than ‘Desperation’, I’ll have lost far less than I would have in the buy-new-and-trade-later hard copy form. And come on, it couldn’t possibly suck as hard as ‘Desperation’ did.

The other big advantage for me is that there are an awful lot of good authors out there who have opted to take advantage of the rapidly-changing publishing landscape to put their own work out there. Self-publishing probably hasn’t quite brought the great edifice of the 20th century publishing houses crashing to the ground…yet…but there is an awful lot of good stuff out there in electronic-only format. Case in point, my friend Andrea’s just released her fifth [2] novel in less than a year, with the next one after that not terribly far behind. *Nobody* going the traditional publishing route, no matter how fast they crank out new material, would get a deal that permitted a release schedule like that. [3] I’ll review her complete works in time, but if you can’t wait that long (I wouldn’t advise you to try) then go and see what she’s got for sale over at Autumn Wright.

There’s a couple of authors whose writing I’ve stumbled across through their past work on RPGs : Patrick O’Duffy, who has a couple of short story collections, and Chuck Wendig, whose blog at terribleminds.com sets benchmarks for hilarity, profanity and inspiration and whose recent “Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey” is the best book of writing advice I’ve read since Stephen King’s [4] “On Writing”. More reviews for all of the above as well, as and when I get through them all. Both those guys have been (indirectly) pushing me a lot lately to focus more on my writing, so I figure I owe them (and various others) some good karma and/or sales.

Ooh, that just reminds me of a third reason to start an electronic book collection – all the free stuff, and the stuff that’s otherwise out of print. There are probably hundreds of classic works on my “I must read that someday” list. Many of them are available for free or some trivial charge. As soon as I finish this I’m going to go and see what Bester and Howard and Dostoevsky there is to be had…

So yes, I declare myself an instant convert to the cult of Amazon. Anyone have any recommendations?

 

[1] Clam – unfortunately the PDF I have of “The Ghost Years” is a bit too dense to read easily. Do you have a text or RTF version that I could try instead?

[2] Or sixth, I think I’ve lost count

[3] There are obvious disadvantages to self-publishing, like having to pay for and manage your own editing, layout and cover production, not to mention access to chains of book stores and vast and terrible engines of marketing, but I will leave that digression for another day.

[4] Him again? God, I must be such a frickin’ fanboy. But if I may reiterate: “Desperation”. Sucked. Balls.

July 2, 2011

Back to the Island 1.27 – Season One Review

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 2:12 am

Damn, it’s late.

Here, for my entertainment if not yours, is an extremely long rambling consideration of Lost Season One taken as a whole. Tl;dr version: like the show itself it asks a lot of questions and only answers the ones you were probably not all that interested in to start with. It’s already long enough without a lengthy introduction, so I will open the comments to mad speculation and frustrated questions if y’all have any. And if you are not terribly interested in Lost I can only apologise and make vague promises that July will be a fiction writing month for me so you might see something you prefer up here soon [1].

[1] Unless you also don’t care to read any of my fiction [2]

[2] In which case unless you want to hear about my neglected garden bed I think I may have absolutely nothing for you at all. Sorry.

 

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