Thirty Hertz Rumble

A bl-g about movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick

Category: On Writing (Page 1 of 4)

The Fuck It All Catharsis

From a certain perspective, I got back into the writing game these last few months. I’d taken a long time off to work on my James Bond project and start dabbling with a manuscript detailing the evolution of the entire project. With all my essays completed and the heavy lifting begun on the “behind-the-scenes” or “immersive journalist-y” part of the manuscript, I abruptly stopped writing. That makes sense right? I’d submitted 10 agent/publisher queries for the manuscript and received nary a derogatory comment in return. I’d not received a positive comment either. I’d received exactly zero words in return. In case you’re not well versed in the submission process, one must prepare a tailored pitch for every agent or publisher. So in addition to the hundreds of hours of work poured into the manuscript, there’s at least another 30-45 minutes spent on each submission. This includes researching targets and crafting the query. Silence is absolutely, positively, 100% the worst response for any submitting writer. This says, “Hey, you’re not even worthy of a form rejection.”

I’m not wallowing here. I accepted this bullshit part and parcel when I resigned myself to being a writer… or a failed writer. Or whatever kind of purgatory this is. Still, this is damaging to forward momentum. I shifted that manuscript to the “HOLD” pile while I tended to a few other projects and figured out what about my sales pitch caused people to not give any fucks.

During the month of May I poured myself into a James Bond short story for LICENCE EXPIRED: The Unauthorized James Bond short story collection. I played it safe, used characters from Fleming and drew inspiration from my favorite James Bond novel. I felt really good about my submission. I didn’t try to push boundaries. I made a few sly inferences that the nature of James Bond was something like taxidermy. I wrote what I felt was a very strong story with a nice bit of commentary on the whole franchise.

 

Dear James

Thank you for submitting your story The Bulgarian Tumble to LICENCE EXPIRED: The Unauthorized James Bond. Sadly, we are unable to include your story in the collection.

It did come very close, but ultimately didn’t make the final cut as it dwelt on themes and characters that too many other of the stories also touched. We’ll both be keeping an eye out for your work though; if you spot one or both of us in an editorial capacity, do consider submitting.

 

I should have known that expectations in the writing game only exist to be trampled upon. I hadn’t felt disappointment like this in years. I’d become hardened to all manner of writing rejection. At least I thought. This rejection, however, rekindled a landslide of forgotten emotions. I even heard from those old friends Self Doubt and Self Loathing, the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of cliched, sad sack writers everywhere.

Until this rejection arrived on Saturday, I’d planned to tackle another two projects in short order: a submission packet to write a 33 1/3 book for 333Sound’s open call window and a short story for Matrix Magazine’s LitPOP competition. Now, eh… let’s find out what’s jamming up the DVR. (A whole bunch of TCM movies! I’ll finally watch Wasp Woman!)

How quickly confidence becomes a bottle of gin. This is why writers become f’ing alcoholics. Gin always loves my writing. I kid. (I don’t. I really don’t.)

I went for an early evening run in the rain on Monday evening. I went for a run in the rain because it’s been raining every day and if I wanted to go for a run it was apparently going to have to be in the rain. I didn’t wear my headphones. As a result I couldn’t listen to some sad sack singer-songwriter with the Michael Smith seal of approval corroborate and lend credence to my unhappiness. I watched the rain come down and felt like a pathetic stooge in a 1980’s teen dramedy meant to piggyback the success of Say Anything. I felt thrilled to be a part of such a production. I also came to the realization that I’d never actually written a detective/spy/genre short story in my life. To backtrack/summarize: my harshest critic (me) had been *happy* with a story I’d written despite never having dabbled in that style of writing once in my life. (Anybody know where to submit a spy/espionage story featuring James Bond Clive Hardwood?)

George Saunders is a big f’ing deal because he was on the Colbert Report.

I came home and immediately sat down to polish a story for the Matrix Magazine contest, judged by George Saunders. Why? Because George Saunders is one of the reasons I write. If I had to name my literary idols, the list would begin with George Saunders. I picked an old oddball story about self-aware puppets on a Christian version of Sesame Street. The original ran upwards of 40,000 words. I selected one storyline and excised it, specifically for George. 6 hours of brutal editing brought the story in under the 3,000 word maximum.

Do I think it’ll make the cut?

No. Because that’s the healthy response.

People — and by “people” I mean the cultural hegemony of false positivity — suggest that we should always think positive. I disagree. I think we should try our best with as much time as we have and just say “fuck it all” when we’re done. “Fuck it all” doesn’t dismiss or judge or place expectation. It’s not even necessarily negative. “Fuck it all” just means, in that moment, I’ve done all I can do, I’ve done my best, so come what may. It means now I’m moving on to that next thing. I will not dwell on my disappointment. “Fuck it all” is new wave self help.

I had 48 hours to turn a 40,000-word story into a 3,000-word story. I did my best because I how often do you have the chance to put your work in front of your idol. I submitted that story early this morning. I’m under no delusions here. He won’t see a word of it. The Matrix Mag editors will put the kibosh on that puppet story long before he sees it because I didn’t play it safe or I did play it safe or it just wasn’t any good in the first place. It’s not what they’re going to want to read. But maybe it is. Maybe he will read it. Either way, fuck it all.

Now on to that other project. No, not the Bond book. Those typed pages are staring at me right now from that “HOLD” bin. I’m crafting a submission packet for the go ahead to write a book about one of my favorite albums for the aforementioned 33 1/3 series (a collection of books about music — each one focusing on one individual, influential record album). When I first thought about sending in a submission, I tried to figure out what album would be worthy of the series. I had a list of five or six records that hadn’t yet been tackled by 33 1/3. Records that most everyone would agree deserved a spot in the series. But then I thought about what records mattered specifically to me. And about what records inspired me, shaped me… and I decided I wanted to write about Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Dulcinea. Do most people consider that an essential record? No. But it is. And I do.

So fuck it all. Back to writing. Back to giving all the fucks… but at the same time none at all.

 

 

The Two Week Deadline

I’ve been plugging along on #Bond_age_: The James Bond Social Media Project for nearly 18 months now. The end goal has been, for some time now, to create a book out of everything we’ve accomplished with the project. I’ve had some people express cursory interest in a full-length manuscript. I owe it to myself to give the publication thing a shot.

Thus, the two week deadline.

I gave myself a deadline of two weeks from today to complete the book proposal along with the screenplay I’ve been tinkering with, on and off now, for six months. It too ties into the James Bond project as it is a revisionist version of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER spun off with different characters. I am viewing it as both an homage and a satire of the film I revile and enjoy in equal measure. I wrote my #Bond_age_ essay for DAF considering how I would recast and thus re-assemble the film. Thus NOT IAN FLEMING’S DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (working title) was born.

I plan to use my sluggish bl-g here to document my push to finish both projects. If I confess my inactive days, my distractions, my procrastinations I only have you to blame when I don’t finish and nobody calls me out on my tardiness. I’m already redirecting responsibility…. this will surely be a smash success.

The bottom line is this: I need to finish something. Anything. I’ve been toiling on this book for 18 months. I need to nut up and try to make something out of all this time and effort.

In order to complete my quest I have enlisted Raiden, my go-to Mortal Kombat character from back in the Genesis days, as my spirit animal because he’s a guy that knows how to finish.

Mortal Kombat - Raiden finish him

Words of wisdom, support and/or packages containing liquor are welcome.

Commence NaNoWriMo

It’s November. For some it’s #Noirvember (watch as many Film Noirs as possible). For others it’s NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words or die trying).

I’ve been “participating” on and off in NaNoWriMo for five or six years. The first year I was just out of my MFA program, and gung f’ing ho to write that first m’f’ing goddam novel! YEEAAAAAHHHH.

NaNoWriMo calendar

Year One:

By the time Thanksgiving hit, I was something like 30,000 words in and hating. every. single. sentence.

I wasn’t into the book I was writing and I’d hit a stone cold wall of self doubt. There’s nothing… and I mean nothing that kills a writer’s mojo more than self doubt. 99.9% of all cases of so-called “writer’s block” I’d guess have something to do with self doubt. That’s how much it cripples me. And it doesn’t happen all at once. It starts with 0ne discordant sentence that grows into a paragraph, a page, a chapter… and then, finally, consumes the entire project. With only a week left, I threw in the towel, scrapped the project and never returned.

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The Next Big Thing(s)

The Next Big Thing is a meme, like “Rick-Rolling” or “McKayla is not impressed.” As Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus—that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects.” The Next Big Thing is a circle of writers answering variations on the same questions about their next writing project. Mary Harwood tagged me in her blog, Deer Apples, which is also the title of her novel in progress. In my entry, I answer questions about two of my many ongoing projects (including a novel and a 007 essay series/Twitter film festival). All of my James Bond essays will appear here on my bl-g and on Sundog Lit Mag. Feel free to share with anyone you know! Virus and all.

 

PROJECT 1: MALE SECRETARY

What is your working title of your book?
The novel in progress is called Male Secretary. Normally I like to be cagey with my titles but this one hits right at the core of the thing.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I couldn’t get a job when I first moved to Boston. I’d been a gainfully employed copyeditor before the move. Going from full employment at a well paying job to nothing was a blow to my ego. I ended up working for a temp agency that placed me at the MIT Sloan School of Management. I was told that I was chosen because prior temps “had not lasted.” I knew that didn’t sound good, but it paid well (for a temp position) and I’d already had my share of terrible bosses. What could be so bad? I was called a “Professor’s Assistant,” but I was a secretary. And I was the only male secretary in the building and probably only one of five or six in the entire Sloan School. After only a few weeks I realized exactly why other temps and secretaries had not lasted. The job was to cater to the whims of four very different but brilliant (and often temperamental) professors. One of these professors made it his hobby to test his secretary by being intentionally, well, let’s say “candid.” I was picked for the job because my staffing contact at MIT thought my personality was strong enough to handle the cast of characters that had turned the position into a revolving door. As I told my stories about this job to friends and family, they all, unanimously, told me to write down these stories of eccentric academia. Which I did.

What genre does your book fall under?
I suppose this goes under Creative Non-fiction / memoir. My first draft fell pretty solidly on the memoir side of the fence, but I think, in order to get at some of the greater truths about gender in academia, I’m going to need to take some more creative liberties. The best part of it is that the most absurd elements of the story are 100% true.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This is too much fun. First you’re asking me who I want to play myself. And then who I want to play five insane MIT professors.
First the MIT professors, who I name by initial only.

S. is Australian, gregarious but highly intellectual. I want to say Guy Pearce, but worry the studio will overrule me and pick Hugh Jackman.

A. is tough. He’s the “difficult” professor. He’s also too smart to function and has no time for chit-chat, emailing or, really, explaining anything. Joaquin Phoenix.

Assistant Professor F.’s office hours are booked by nubile young post-grads. They laugh at his awkward jokes and pretend to understand all of the statistics spouts ad infinitum. I like Ryan Reynolds here, because we need someone to nail the attractive guy angle. But he’s got to be oblivious.

Dept. Head W. doesn’t really teach anymore, he merely writes books in his office and takes walks around the office to monitor progress. Easy. Alan Arkin.

Responding to the university-wide call to hire more female professors, the department hires B., played by Rachel Weisz. She is a British flibberdigibit with a ton of nervous energy and not enough time in the day.

And now, me. At the time I was 26. Can I use John Krasinski from eight years ago? We are roughly same age. If not him, then we’d have to choose to play up the comedic insecurity angle (Michael Cera) or the out of place, over-educated writer part… perhaps Anton Yelchin, as long as he can pull off disheveled.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An over-educated twenty-something who can’t yet manage his own life and laments his current stagnation is forced to manage the academic lives of five brilliant lunatics and come to terms with his current identity: a male secretary.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? (if this applies – otherwise, make up another question to answer!)
This is the novel I hope finds representation. I’ve started but not finished other novels that never really offered much hope for broader appeal.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote the first draft in a month (approximately 80,000 words) but much was already composed in notes and ideas jotted down while I was working at MIT. So that’s a little misleading. I’ve just recently come back to this after three years on the shelf. The ideas are on the page. That’s the important part. Editing is fun, right?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Uh. It’s hard to admit, but I don’t particularly like reading books of this nature. I’m not naturally drawn to them. If we’re talking about borrowing tone and pace, I’ve looked to fiction, especially books set in university. Most recently, Harbach’s The Art of Fielding inspired me in its treatment of university life. I liked the way it handled the balance of characters living under the academic umbrella.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Everyone who told me I wasn’t crazy… that the escapades of these professors really were insane – it’s just that at MIT, they’re just a few intellectual nuts in a sea of eccentrics. The advantage I had, however, was that as all this was going on, I struggled on my own with my notions of “self” and identity. I had no idea who I was anymore. Two years before these stories, I was on my way to film school before deciding it just wasn’t for me. I was lost inside myself when I first started working there. When I left, I was still lost, but much less so.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think the feeling of being lost within yourself is a pretty universal emotion. We’ve all reached a point in our lives, some sooner rather than later, when we realize that nothing is going to plan, when we question what we’re doing and how we got here. I wanted to focus in on that while telling these stories from the inside of a segment of elite academia that most of us never get to witness.

PROJECT 2: Of [In]human Bond[age]

What is your working title of your essay series?
The 007 essay series is called Of [In]human Bond[age].

Where did the idea come for the essay series?
In the days before Skyfall was released I was talking James Bond on Twitter with a few Tweeples. One of them runs an online literary magazine. He suggested, perhaps facetiously, that I write a series of essays on the James Bond movies, one for each of the 23 films. After returning from Skyfall I asked him if he was serious, and if so, could I over-intellectualize to my heart’s content. He said yes. So I said I’d do it.

What genre does your book fall under?
Irreverent analysis of minutiae. Is that a genre?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
N/A

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I do hope to turn these 23 essays into a collection when all is said and done. I want it to be “Bondage from all different angles.” Is that too risqué?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? (if this applies – otherwise, make up another question to answer!)
While I love the idea of publishing a book about James Bond nonsense, I doubt this will catch on. So much has been written about 007, it would be nearly impossible to catch someone’s eye. I might self publish if I like the way it turns out.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I write one essay per week for 23 weeks. (We’re on week 6 now.) After that I’ll revise and add to the essays when necessary. While some of these essays are casual and rely on irreverence, I just wrote one on subtext and sexual politics in Goldfinger that would benefit from a more thorough conversation.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films is what I’m aiming for on the intellectual side. But I go lowbrow far too often with these essays to be taken all that seriously.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted a new challenge. Every Wednesday I host a live tweetalong. By next Wednesday I need a 1,000- to 2,000-word essay on the last movie. The people that have latched on to the series hold me accountable. I like that. I like that some of the same people tune in every week because they just love talking James Bond.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
First of all, the tweetalongs are just fun. Many people haven’t seen these movies before. They’re experiencing them for the first time. As someone who’d seen all of these movies as a kid, I love seeing what people pick up on, what they latch onto. The Connery Bond films especially have come to us from a different time and place, a time and place that was free of our modern cynicism. I don’t think these essays are necessarily just for James Bond fans. I think they’re about our ever-shifting sense of decorum and intense seriousness. We’re not headed in a good direction, and I want to show that through the ways in which the Bond movies have course-corrected through the years to entertain modern audiences and remain relevant.

—-

Phew. That was a lot of thinking about two things at once. I hope I kept my thoughts straight. I also hope some more people join us for the Bond tweetalongs (every Wednesday at 9PM! Follow my Bond twitter annex at @007hertzrumble. I also expect you to all purchase a copy of Male Secretary. By reading this, you are now obligated. If it never gets published, buy me a drink to drown my sorrows.

Here are some of my writer friends (all TBD), who are all working on this and that and some of the other. I’m sure whatever it is, it’s brilliant.

Oh, and remember…

…McKayla is not impressed.

 

The #TeamAntiOxford Mission Statement

I posted this in response to one of the regular Oxford comma circle jerks that appeared on my Facebook wall. I find it’s the best thing I’ve ever said on the topic of the Oxford comma. Thus, I am sharing it with you.

“Pro-Oxfords seem to think that every comma sequence is unintelligible without the serial comma. Which isn’t true. You pick out absurd examples that clearly require an Oxford for clarity and use that to champion why every sentence in the history of the world -EVAR- requires an Oxford comma for clarity. Frankly, it’s like watching Fox News up in here. For most serial comma sentences, an Oxford just isn’t necessary for you to understand what that sentence intends to say. If it’s because you can’t handle disorder, fess up and own your OCD. I’d understand that at least. The aesthete in me will always be #TeamAntiOxford. A sentence that does not require the Oxford for clarify just looks better. It smells better. And yes, it even feels better in braille. A comma, by its nature, breaks the flow of writing. It is a pause. Without that Oxford, a sentence transitions better to the next. Your prose becomes less red light, more greens and yellow. Coast through that stale yellow, fine reader, because you have no Oxford comma standing in the way of this otherwise fine and eloquent sentence.”

In  closing, I took this from a blog called The Language Hippie.

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