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. (more…)

Publications

fiction

Shoot Like You’re Awesome” – originally published by P.Q. Leer

Teeter” – originally published by Bartleby Snopes

Tag” – originally published by Thematic Literary Magazine

 

nonficmemoir

Smartiecaine” – originally published by Squalorly

Mickey Tettleton” – originally published by Specter Magazine

A Vinyl Revival” – originally published by PANK

New” – originally published by Monkeybicycle

 

essays

Skyfall and the Question of Spacetime” – originally published by Sundog Lit

Sony bets big on the Vita” – originally published by Tekhne (now Upstart.co)

The effect of the creative technologist” – originally published by Tekhne (now Upstart.co)

“How Nintendo hopes to postpone the death of the console generation” – originally published by Upstart.co

“Can the WiiU rescue Nintendo?” – originally published by Upstart.co

The long slow slog of socially-responsible games” – originally published by by Tekhne (now theUpstart.co)

Connected: Whole-brained logic, half-baked construct” – originally published by Tekhne (now theUpstart.co)

 

bondage

the entire project is contained on the #Bond_age_ tumblr at 007hertzrumble.tumblr.com

#1: SKYFALL and the Question of Spacetime (a #Bond_age_ Introduction)

#2: DR. NO’s Adaptation and the Curious Case of How a Giant Squid Helped Define James Bond

#3: The Argument for Tatiana Romanova (and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE)

#4: Subtext and the Rape of Pussy Galore in GOLDFINGER

#5: James Bond’s THUNDERBALL, D.W. Griffith and Spectacle

#6: Solving the Murder of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

#7: ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE Pleads the 4th (Wall)

#8: Remaking DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER

#9: What We Write About When We Write about LIVE AND LET DIE

#10 No Shame: Guilty Pleasures and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN

#11 How THE SPY WHO LOVED ME Can Help You Avoid the Lobster Trap

#12 MOONRAKER: In the Teeth of Nostalgia

 

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.

 

A Fiction(al) Disillusionment

I’m going to type this out in a flurry before all this alcohol wears off and I lose the  drive, the inspiration, whatever it is that drives me to spew disappointment. Pardon the typos and half-baked thoughts. They are what they are. The ramblings of a mad, semi-inebriated lunatic.

It was nice seeing you again tonight, old friend.

I sat at dinner tonight — I took my nine-month old out for pizza and beer (she did not care for the Irish fare on tap and elected to instead partake of whole milk). I sat there, watching my daughter mash puffs and pizza crust in her face and occasionally taking a glance up at the muted ESPN on the television. Per usual, ESPN was detailing the many reasons I should not care about either the Lakers or Celtics, yet continually devoting airtime to the very topic. But I digress. I spaced out for a minute, trying to think of the last word of fiction I’d written.

I couldn’t remember exactly.

I’d last left a story 15,000 words in. It had to do with teenagers running a haunted forest attraction. The fictional chainsaw wielder that the main character used as the mascot for the entertainment had apparently come to life, killing “innocents.” I’d tried to bridge literary fiction with genre horror. It has humor and gore and passages of great internal analysis. In short, unpublishable. 15,000 words describing a severed penis has more chance of getting published. And it has nothing to do with my quality of writing, which is, intermittently, of reasonable merit.

Dr. Chainsaw will rise again.

Dr. Chainsaw will rise again.

Since then I’d written a few short memoirs, thousands of words about James Bond, music reviews, blog entries, but no fiction. Why? Writing fiction has always fueled my desire to write. Fiction made me want to be a writer. Quite frankly, I write these short memoirs because they get published. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing them, but they aren’t my first choice in reading and they aren’t my first choice in writing. So why the fiction drought?

I’d been reading more One Story issues. I’d been reading more online Literary Magazines. I’d been reading magazines devoted to writing.

Some blonde on the TV with a Farrah Fawcett haircut is still talking about either the Lakers or the Celtics. Where’s Linda Cohn when you need her?

Oh hai, Linda.

Oh hai, Linda.

But why is all this reading a bad thing? Reading other published writing tends to convince me I’ve made rather poor decisions with my life. It is rare that I read something in a lit mag that inspires me. I consider 90% of the short fiction that gets published in these so-called proponents of creative thought to be more of the same old same old. I’m under no delusions about my own abilities. I also know that if I were to write fiction I want to read, I wouldn’t get published. I know this because I never read it.

I shouldn’t say never.

I should say hardly m’f’ing ever.

I get so excited when I read a piece of short fiction that really tries to be something different. People are writing them. I read quite a few in my MFA program. I read friends trying different things. I hold a grudge against the guy that beat my story in the monthly Bartleby Snopes competition but I sent him a tweet telling him so. I also told him I was jealous of his story and loved reading it. This kind of shit is rare. And it’s only getting worse.

This trend toward sincerity and earnestness, a refocus on the New Yorker ideal is only growing more pervasive despite the glut of new online literary magazines run by recent post-graduates. Pardon my following grand generalities but in my experience the generation following directly behind me, the children of the mid- to late-80s take themselves so seriously there’s no room for jest — even if through jest, you aim to reach a greater truth about the human condition. So these Literary Magazines are growing in numbers, offering more avenues for readership (a good thing) but they are also doing nothing more than perpetuating a status quo. They believe that their particular Lit Mag, little more than a Blog, is above reproach. That perfecting a kind of ultimate stasis is the only way to succeed. If that makes sense, huzzah. I’m still working the logistics out in my head. The problem is that many of the newly founded literary magazines don’t realize how frivolous they really are. They have little understanding of their place in this environment. Another magazine publishing earnest fiction. Be still my telltale heart. They claim to take the best of all varieties of writing. Sure, a few live up to this. But for most it’s lip service. They don’t want to explicitly limit themselves to Raymond Carver wannabees (but they do, because that’s what they see was “quality” fiction). Is this sour grapes? Hell yes it is. But it’s also a sadness that the ideal toward which I strive is little more than a Chance card in Lit Mag Monopoly. At least in real Monopoly I might get a $25 bank error in my favor.

 

The New Yorker, because sometimes cartoons don't need to make sense.

 

The New Yorker, because sometimes you don’t need to entertain to be published.

I asked a band this week in an interview: What does success mean to you? They didn’t really have an answer. Success changes as you grow older and as you accomplish new things. So what is success to me? I don’t have an answer either. All I know is that I don’t have it. And I’m not even sure I know how to get there anymore. It used to be so clear. If I write and continue to write, I will be successful. I don’t know anymore. Maybe it’s not even in me to begin with. Maybe I’m destined to limit myself in everything I do. The onus is on me. If I am to be a so-called “real” writer I need to write no matter the environment or external influences. I understand that. But the drive to create is fragile. And, perhaps to my benefit (emotion is good) and detriment (barriers = bad), I allow myself to get caught up in all that other noise.

When I look for inspiration, sometimes I just need to remind myself that Mel Brooks wrote this scene… and then I think, again, that anything might just be possible.

 

Welp. Apparently I’m not a writer – a 30Hz rant.

A writer is told by pretty much everybody  that a writer is only a writer if that writer writes. And if you read those so-called “craft” books, a writer can only be a writer if that writer writes at least two hours per day. More is encouraged. Less is, well, fine, if you want to [audibly scoff] write fan fiction. Pick up any copy of Poets & Writers or Writer’s Digest and you’ll find advice like this. It might be cloaked in encouraging exclamation points but, in the end, every piece of writerly encouragement boils down to this: Just sit down and write. 

When Harry Met Sally - Sally's nagging look

The voice of the nagging compendium of writer’s advice looks at me like this when I’m not writing. She looks innocent, but she’s got angry opinions.

So, thusly, I am not a writer.

I cannot sit down to write 2 hours most days. I cannot, with certainly, count on anything beyond 30 minutes each day. And even then those 30 minutes are the foggy, dreary-eyed minutes after midnight when birthing words seems as impossible as birthing a baby through my eye’s lacrimal ducts. Some days I don’t even have time to register the guilt that comes along with being a writer that doesn’t write.

Tear duct diagram

Imagine the pain.

At this point in my life I’ve typed many many volumes and hopefully have many meaningful volumes left. I’ve had some minor screenwriting success. I’ve written hundreds of movie and music reviews for various publications and been offered invaluable opportunities as a result. I’ve interviewed Tom Hanks and John Travolta. I was close enough to Paul Newman that I could smell his cologne. I’ve been through an MFA program. I’ve been published in literary magazines and tech magazines both online and off.

 

But apparently I’m not a writer. I’m just a guy typing a lot of disparate words.

I’ve spent 16 years of my life typing these words. Not all in fiction, though. Fiction has only been a more recent development. And it’s only been within the last couple of years that I could admit to anyone that I was a writer, even if I don’t wholeheartedly believe it — what with that burdensome guilt resulting from not writing all the time.

Sam Raimi beat me to it.

My “career” began with movie reviews and entertainment journalism before moving into screenplays and copywriting. Back then, I might have been more of a “writer” though. I hauled my 47 lb. Dell laptop/boat anchor to Caribou Coffee and sat for hours on end, just working and writing and drinking massive amounts of coffee. That right there was the sweet life. Unlimited time, unlimited potential… but only limited talent. It takes years to learn how to write and write well. And though my fledgling confidence soared, I was only a student with big dreams of writing a low-budget indie horror movie that spanned genres, gained some notoriety at film festivals before being picked up by a major studio and given a limited release… and ultimately selling big as a DVD.

I keep going back to this oft suggested 2-hour rule for writers. Quite honestly, it is a source of despair and envy and frustration. If I compiled a list of all the things I need to do each day I’m pretty sure I’d need a 48-hour day. Being a part-time stay-at-home father of two girls (one is 3 and the other is 6 months) more than half my day is already spoken for. I wake at 7:15am. I generally don’t get to sniff freedom until 8:00pm in the evening. By that time, I have two-hours of clear-minded time available for productivity. But that time is split fourteen different ways. Picking up the house (half-assedly), dishes, fleeting moments of face-time with the wife, working out, taking care of leftover tasks for my day job… yada yada yada… it’s 11:00pm and I didn’t even yada yada the best part. I haven’t even opened my laptop. Maybe I “wasted” twenty minutes during that time to relax — gawd forbid — play a video game or watch a sitcom on the DVR.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6kRqnfsBEc[/tube]

Meanwhile this nagging voice in the back of my head keeps whispering:…writers make time to write…

I have a response to this voice of collective holier-than-thou literary smugness.

“I can’t make time, cocksuckers. I can’t fabricate more time or patience out of thin air. I have to do the best with the 24 hours given to me each day.” And while I’m not always the most skinflint of time conservationists, I try. And often I fail. And those days are riddled with guilt. Sometimes I give up too easily. But when I give up on a day it’s often because I hear that voice, nagging, ever-present in the back of my mind….writers make time to write… …a writer writes… That voice does not often inspire me. It has been repeated and reinterpreted to the point of meaninglessness. I feel like a child that’s been spanked too much. I feel so much guilt from thinking these things while I struggle to find time to write that the guilt means nothing. It doesn’t inspire me. It often just leads to anxiety and sometimes, as it has in the past, depression. And ultimately more non-writing.

We Must Cultivate Our Garden

It is true beyond a reasonable doubt that writers must write. But like the end of Voltaire’s Candide, a writer (or really any slave to the creative drive), must also first tend to his garden, guilt-free, in order to create without baggage. When I am immune to the guilt, I am a writer. I scribble notes in my journals and on napkins and receipts in my wallet. My mind is always working and plotting ideas and fixes for broken stories. I’ll put all of those notes aside to tackle whenever it is I’ll next have 30 minutes or 2 hours of rare undivided, uninterrupted, unshackled writing time. But rest assured when I have the time, I’ll be a goddamn writer whether that voice approves of me or not.

In conclusion:

Henry David Throeau - Sit Down To Write