Friday, November 30, 2012

Favorite Writerly Quote.

"I started out very quiet and I beat Mr. Turgenev. Then I trained hard and I beat Mr. de Maupassant. I’ve fought two draws with Mr. Stendhal, and I think I had an edge in the last one. But nobody’s going to get me in any ring with Mr. Tolstoy unless I’m crazy or I keep getting better." -- Papa Hemingway
Honestly, I feel this way--like it is a contest.  (Even if that's vain or dumb...It makes it fun.)   Maybe you could, like, replace Turgenev with Stephenie Meyer, Stendahl with J.K. Rowling... and Tolstoy with Dostoyevsky. (Pretty natural.)

Then, another quote I like: "I took on the world.  I'm pretty.  I'm a bad man."  (Actually, any Muhammed Ali quote--can't go wrong.)

Then, while I'm at it -- with boxing metaphors: Picasso  [in Dore Ashton's "Picasso on Art," one of my favorite books ever] said a boxer told him: to be in the ring, you feel like a diver at the bottom of the sea.  With the weight of the whole ocean on you.  That's pretty deep.    

: { ) 

What I Ate for Lunch

Went to 3 fast food places in a row today (within 100 yards of each other): KFC, Taco Bell, Burger King...

The kids couldn't decide, and I didn't care. (Killing time after Library--and a little money to burn, some payday.)    (Hardly ever go, normally, that much.)

Ate: a mini-chicken sandwich, chicken soft taco, half a whopper, some fries. Washed it down with half a Mango Fruitista.  (One child saying: "That's mine.  I owned it.")

Felt a little too full, after, of course. Took a second to clean up the car...  Coincidentally, also got a print-out from some lab in-between, for insurance purposes.  Clean bill of health, so I'm not worried about my arteries. 

Would I do it all over again? I don't know...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Writing an Essay.

I haven't written a real, big essay in a long time.  (A few tiny example ones, for students.)  We ask them to write them all the time, but...

Applying to a PhD program--maybe--so I need one.  Don't have very many good ones sitting around.  Have to start from scratch.  And it is funny.  I feel like Dostoyevsky and a genius, sitting there, working on Fiction / my novel.  But scared a tiny bit about this.

Here's my two ideas !

A. Magical Realism thought to have Latin American origins [fine].  And it's fiction, right ?  But, then, the brand of poetry I like best... [I mean, I can like different kinds.  Maybe the most like what I write, most of time]: James Tate, Russell Edson, Mark Strand, Charles Simic, Billy Collins…Richard Garcia, Diana Hartog, Cynthia Rylant…Gerald Stern, Marvin Bell..."

Anyhow: oftentimes stuff like that called Neo-Surrealism, for example; but I don't think that's true.  I think it's more like Magical Realism.  So, the essay could be called "The Case for a Magical Realistic Poetry."  I almost want to say "Magically Delicious"--like Lucky Charms.  (Or: one time I thought up the name: "The Harlequin Romantics."  Thought that was cute--and I don't use the word cute very often.)

B. Just to write something about Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games... -- what I'm into lately.  (If I was accepted, I think I'd want to study where and if YA Fantasy & Magical Realism converge.)

Or just: why Harry Potter so successful, the others less so.  Look at their influences, precursors: Charles Dickens, 1984, romance novels.  (You know: Stephenie Meyer says Romeo & Juliet, Wuthering Heights...but I don't think so similar, in form.  Maybe content, if lucky.)

And even stuff like Frankenstein or Bram Stoker's Dracula--but definitely watered down.  Basically: giving us what a regular Hollywood movie would give us: a little action, romance, comedy--everything.

Then, that it's kind of formulaic. 

That is the real thing I believe in lately -- even the experiment I'm trying to prove by writing a book myself.  That it can be nailed down, duplicated.  (And I usually say YA Fantasy, but... it's pretty big -- maybe more like Dostoyevsky, I wish.)

Even... I used to write poetry; then...took me a while to figure out: no one likes poetry.  So, and I like Harry Potter, stuff like that.  (And before that: Ray Bradbury.  And, for example--w/ Magical Realism: love Haruki Murakami's Hard-boiled Wonderland at the End of the World--and Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar...)

Anyhow... So I felt like I was slumming a tiny bit, or just going where the money is, when I started writing Fantasy.  Even: made the comment one time: "Writing YA Fantasy is like shooting fish in a barrel."  I'm not making fun of people -- b/c it is an art -- J.K. Rowling a genius -- but just that sometimes: Doesn't matter what the book's about.  Just has to have some monster or bad guy in it.  Something magical, some kids doing something, and they'll buy it, make a movie out of it.  For example: Percy & the Lightning Thieves, Beautiful Creatures...

Then, not just A. that I'm trying to say "No, it's Magical Realism," but: B. Even though I'm writing something like YA Fantasy, I still come at it like I'm writing Dostoyevsky's The Idiot or Brothers Karamazov.  Like: I want it to be a classic--and that well-written.  Down to the smallest detail: obsessing over punctuation, dashes.  (Did I mention I love dashes ?)

And I do think of Dostoyevsky as being the Master, incidentally.  I used to idolize / love him, and hate Tolstoy.  Tried to read Anna Corrine [spelling intentional] and War & Peace.  Couldn't.  Stopped after certain number of pages.  (Just like with Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged: there, could read 2/3.)

Anyhow...Used to think: Dostoyevsky & Tolstoy living in exact same time period, but D. = funny / action-packed, deeply philosophical  and  T = just plain dull.  But reading Anna Karenina now, for a book-club, and I guess I was wrong.  Think a bang-up job of writing, and pretty deep, too.  (Maybe: just so much about marriage / family / relationships -- and that not the first thing I look for, in writing.)

Anyhow, main point: I already said it.  Trying to write something like YA Fantasy in the manner of Dostoyevsky.  And been thinking about it lately: that explains why it's so long.  I am a tiny bit self-conscious about that.  580 pp. -- and it's just the first half.  But--recently read: J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings originally not a trilogy, but one book.  So I'm not crazy.  It's okay to be epic.

And if Peter Jackson can turn The Hobbit into not just two films, but two films, I can have my first book be huge times two.  However, I guarantee: book two will be smaller.  B/c it's a lot of work.

Okay / Sincerely !

Monday, November 19, 2012

My dream last night.

Dream last night: I was homeless. A bunch of us. Purple sleeping bag--took a while to find. Then police & dog kicked me out. "Okay, I guess can go back to my Dad's house," I told him.  (But thinking: come back later.)

Then, an abandoned bookstore--a crowd of us. Walked by, overheard some guys--maybe hiding stolen money in some books. Had to pretend I didn't hear them.

Then, at the subway station. Two guys--with entourages--going to fight. Thenone pulls out a shotgun, shoots the other. I saw it (even blood), from far away. Crowds disperse. Then... [I forgot.]  But remember thinking: "In the confusion, I can go back and check..."  A. Maybe the bookstore again, B. My sleeping bag ?  Anyhow...

O Dreamland ! What adventure awaits me tonight ?

10 Rules of Golden Age Detective Fiction

The Ten Rules of Golden Age Detective Fiction
Ronald Amber Knox

1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.

2. All supernaural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.

3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.

4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.

5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.

6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.

8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.

9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Where I got the idea (for the Jaws of the Vortex).

It happens so often--in Twilight, Tangled, and Fight Club, for example--that they begin by threatening: "This is the story of how I die." (Death being the biggest thing we can think of.)

Then, they weasel their way out of it, and don't die. I think to myself: "That's cowardly. If it's fiction, let 'em die. Then what would happen?" That was the impetus for this book.

Then, I thought: "If Hell is half as big as our regular world, seems like there'd be more than one person in charge." (Or, after thousands of years: someone else.) So, voila. Why not six kings?

Then they can fight amongst themselves--and there's a rumor: that if one of the kings [or queens] kills the other five, then he [or she] becomes the god of the Underworld.

So, I'm aiming to write six books. One of the kings dies in each of the six books. (For suspense--and mystery: to figure out, who'll be the last one standing.)

And p.s. What's available now is actually only half of the first book (altho. it's 500+ pages). It's epic.  The rest should be available post-Christmas break, ideally.


When I was a kid, my father was an art teacher, into Buckminster Fuller. My mother was a reader: Agatha Christie / Shakespeare / Ray Bradbury / Sherlock Holmes...

So that's like the best of both worlds. It took me a while to decide: if I wanted to be an artist or writer.

I went to Brigham Young, UT -- had a nice time. Got a BA in English. Decided to teach college.

Moved to LA, worked at Goodwill Industries, then taught 6th grade. (That was when Sept. 11th struck.)

Went to poetry school, UMass Amherst -- studying under James Tate (and I do like to--try to--be funny) and Martin Espada, who taught me to be more serious / political / what I believe in.

+ Noy Holland was very nice. Also, it took me a while to realize there: Nobody likes poetry. I should write a novel. (And got a wife and kid to feed.)

Started writing the Jaws of the Vortex  circa 2008 -- after two other unfinished novels: [The Monkey Novel] and "Under the Sign of Gravitron the Freelance Tiger."

The Tiger one was getting too complex. So I thought I'd switch, to work on something simpler -- the day I started working at the University of Nevada, Reno (and Truckee Meadows C.C.), where I am now.