Thursday, July 28, 2011

No BACKSPACE! An Experiment

Thi s is an experiment. I am for this post going to use no backspace, no edit, no delete, no spell-checker, no undo, and no do-overs.

See, this is how the OLD generation used to do it. Often (stricke that), b

Okay, start over.

Before typewriters, tehy even had to d write out their work by hand. If they fucked up, they had to scratch it out and type over it.

They had to think about what was going on the page before it every lef t their mind and fled down to their fingers. They had to capture thoughts directyl in raw form, unadulterated, mutilated, deformed as they were, and slam i them onto the patper before they got away.

What did this do for the writersz/?

I'll tell you.

It forced them to do something we tell ourselves every day to do: KEEP WRITING!

They didn'gt get bogged dowin in the infinite edit loop that so many of us suffer from.

They didn't write a paragraph, nuke it, re-write it, nuke it , and so on ad foreverum.

No. They had to trudge on. Misspellings be damned. Fat fingers go to hell. So the muse stopped talking, who cares, keep writing, because there is no go-back and revise that prior page.

You must write FORWARD, not backward.

That's how they did it, with pens and typewriters and stnen stencils.

Maybe that's why we don't have the great writers anymore. Maybe we delete all our best stuff. Maybe theo power to edit has destoryed the muse and shut her up.

So i I encourage you to try this experiment. Type up a blog freestyle, no edits, no revisions, NO BACKSPACE, and esee what pops out.

I may even do this with my next picee. It makes for a lot of spellchecking, but it may also forsce me to really slow down and think about what I am writing. Who noknows. Maybe I'll even write something brillian t and NOT erase it!

- Eric

PS. I am not going to proof-read this. Type and SEND to the blogosphere! I'l l read it when it's on the site. Good luck with your own, if you so choose to accept teh challenge.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

JK Rowling, the Pomeranian, and Me

I watched the JK Rowling story tonight on Lifetime. I now know how to properly pronounce her name, and what the J stands for.

I also learned a couple of other things, and at one point I started crying. It was a man-sob, nobody saw it, and I held the Pomeranian up to my face to shield my eyes and I don't think anyone noticed, except maybe the dog and she won't talk, but I cried nonetheless.

Hold on. I gotta fetch a beer. Grab one, too, will you...

Ah, okay, better. I'm drinking a local brew, a "Munich-Style Helles Lager" that tastes a lot like feet. I bought it not knowing how it tastes, but I'm a soldier, by God.

Now, back to the Pomeranian tears.

I knew Rowling had submitted an even dozen times, a wonderfully magic number, before being accepted.

I knew she had been a welfare mom and I know how rich she got off the book.

(I take the show as fact, so please excuse me if the show is incorrect.)

What I ~didn't~ know is that she was top of her class in high school, and that she didn't get into her college of choice. That sort of got me, because I was top of my class, and I didn't get into my college of choice.

No big deal, though, that happens to everyone. It's called reality.

The scene with her dad, though, when he explained to her, and I paraphrase, "You can't be a writer! You'll live off the state. You need to do something practical, like math--" and that's where I broke down, right there during that sentence, at that word, that's where I picked up the Pomeranian and held her to my face and let her lick my forehead.

See, because I was top of my class, I earned the valedic scholarship. I began majoring in Biochemistry-Pre-Med at the University of Texas at Austin.

After my freshman year, I changed my major to Literature-slash-Philosophy, intending to study books and Greek mythology. Maybe it wasn't Philosophy, but it was something like that, Greek Mythology maybe. I don't remember, because it didn't last but a couple of weeks.

I went home and as always at the end of the semester sat at the bank in front of my scholarship benefactor and explained my grades and my plans and how I intended to spend their money.

"I changed my major," I said.

"To what?"

"Literature and philosophy."

Man, I remember the look on his face, those steepled fingers. My aunt worked at the bank and it's a small town and everyone knew me and my parents and my brother and cousins and God help us all, my Grandparents, who practically shut down the bank every time they stopped in to chat. My aunt sat at the desk next to him, but she wasn't there just now.

"Literature," he said. It wasn't a question.

And let me pause here. He was a good guy. He died a little after I got out of college, and the advice was sound, but it was a helluva a thing to hear. There were no malice in his words.

He shook his head. "You can't major in literature," he said.

"Why not? My mom is a librarian. She has a library science degree and taught English. I've been reading since I was in the womb. I'm a shoe-in."

"I won't argue with that," he said, and he couldn't, because he knew mom and he knew how freaking smart she is. "But you can't major in literature. You're too good at math. Not everyone has that talent. You need to major in something you can make a living at, like math or science."

Now, I'm eighteen just turned nineteen, an April baby and sober to boot, because I didn't start with the booze until I hit my 21st birthday, on the day, and haven't stopped since. But I didn't possess the emotional fortitude to handle what he had just said.

Hell, I knew I was good at math. Math is easy. It's just numbers. I like it all right, but that's not what I was angling at. He'd just hit me in the head with a bag of Stephen King books, It maybe, or Pet Cemetery.

"I'd really like to be a writer," I said to him.

"I'm not saying you can't, but you need to major in something we can invest in. Literature is a bad investment for this endowment."

"What does that mean?"

"It means, Eric, that if you major in literature, I'll stop funding your scholarship."

Hells on a stick, that got my attention. I was a poor white boy scraping through college on scholarships and work-study and loans. If I lost the scholarship, it was game-over.

The word FUCK went through my mind, but I didn't say it. I knew he was bluffing, and he was bluffing (I assume), but I got the point.

"All right," I said. "What should I major in?"

"Have you thought about engineering?"

I left the bank, and I left town, and I drove home. Home was Austin since I stayed, keeping my job, and so I went back to Austin and up to my brand-new adviser and said, "I can't do literature. I have to change my major."

I can't even remember if the adviser was a he or a she. It only lasted a couple of weeks, such a short-lived and fucking BEAUTIFUL relationship. I felt for those few weeks like I had wrapped God around my finger and He was doing MY bidding.

One of my senior gifts, from high school, was from my Aunt, the one I consider the grandmotherest of my relatives. She bought me a Brother Word Processor. I wrote this story for her and she was kind enough to tell me it was a great story. I don't remember what all I wrote on that thing, but you had to write a paragraph and then print it, something like that. You couldn't write but maybe 500 words at a time, but at least you could edit before you typed. I went through a lot of ribbon and I have no idea what I wrote, but I fucking wrote by God.

I lugged that thing up to college my Freshman year, left my drum set at home but I took my Brother Word Processor, and I banged on it every once in a while. I submitted to Playboy. They turned me down, which didn't surprise me, because like any good writer, I know and accept that I SUCK.

I hacked my way through that Freshman year in Austin, and at the end of it knew science was a good gig and all, but it was the Brother Word Processor that I looked forward to, not my HP calculator.

I was tried and tested, and I found my gig. It wasn't math. It was writing. It always was writing. Always from the beginning of always, and when the teachers read my story, or the girls passed around my stories, or people cried when I wrote, there I was with God on my finger again, a white-robed ringlet nodding up at me saying, "That's what I created these fingers for, boy. That's what I created you for!"

And I get to the bank and the scholarship benefactor, and I'm told it just isn't the right thing, forget your talking finger-God.

So I said FUCK YALL! and dropped my Lit major. Romeo just dumped Julie, baby! End of story!

I had already scoped out Chemistry, Organic Chemistry (which I loved, but didn't want to major in it), Biology, Zoology, and the other softer sciences.

So I went a few buildings down on campus and rang up the math prof. We talked about actuarial science, which is statistics and I still love statistics, but I didn't want to major in it. It sounded too easy, actually, and I was good at math, by God, I needed to use my talent, not squander it analyzing stats for insurance companies!

I tried physics, but that science has always seemed somewhat impractical to me. You learn so much about things that may or may not be true, that you probably can't prove, that nobody will believe, that are untrue not long after you learn them, but trust me, there really are black holes we just can't see them. I'm a PHYSICIST, BY GOD! I JUST SHAVED SHRODINGER'S CAT WITH OCCUM'S RAZOR!

Yeah, whatever.

So I went over to the engineering department. Civil, Mechanical, Aeronautical (one of my current characters is an Aero Eng), they didn't sound tough enough, and so I kept on a-moving.

I finally whittled it down to two majors: Electrical Engineering, and Chemical Engineering.

Me and electricity never have been tight, but my whole family is in the oil field, so I chose Chemical Engineering.

Plus, everyone said Electrical and Chemical Engineering were the hardest majors on campus, and to be honest, the EEs at work still raise their eyebrows when I tell them I'm a Chem E, sort of a Holy Shit look, and then they expand my personal space a few feet.

I figured Chemical Engineering would suffice, and it would use my aforementioned God-given math skills to my benefactor's liking, and so I called him up, told him of my change in major, and he said, "That's more like it."

"Fuck yeah, it is!" I didn't say that, but I thought it.

And so here I am, a Chemical Engineer who has NEVER quit writing.

I am a writer. I always tell people that first, after a father I am a writer. I work days as an engineer, but I am a WRITER.

And when I saw that scene in the Rowling story, where her dad said, "Writing is too impractical. You're too smart. You should major in something like math."

Man, I broke down and dabbed my eyes with the Pomeranian's belly. They only have eight nipples, you know, not ten like big dogs, or at least that's all I could find on her and I just checked again.

Anyway, we've all had those moments, haven't we, where people say, DON'T BE A WRITER!

"Sure," they say, "go ahead and write. I love your stories and all, but don't quit your day job."

Even writers say that. Family, friends, everyone.

Because that would be so impractical, wouldn't it. People don't even read anymore.

How about you? Have you ever been discouraged from being a writer? Do you have God on your finger, or is He shaking his head because you are doing something you were not meant to do?

Thank you for reading this post. It was somewhat of a torrent for me.

And don't quit writing. For the love of finger-loving God, don't quit writing. Not now, not ever.

- Eric

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Have you met Mr. MacGuffin?

(Image from

I learned something recently when my publisher beta-read my piece and said this:

"The MacGuffin side story about other Percy needs to be seen and not talked about."

Now that sentence didn't make a bit of sense and I had to look up MacGuffin. I thought it meant buffoon or prankster or some such, which still didn't make sense.

Here is what Wiki says about Mr. MacGuffin:


I always called Mr. MacGuffin my story question, the thing that propelled the reader from the beginning to the middle and on to the end.

As Wiki said, Mr. MacGuffin is that Maltese Falcon of your story, that thing everyone is focused around obtaining.

I've been intuitively adding MacGuffins to my stories, but now I have a name for him!

Or her. Or it.

In this case, my latest story, working title Out of the Great Black Nothing, I have the MacGuffin of the other Percy.

With that in mind, I beefed up my first scene and added scenes and inserted details here and there.

I put a name on my story question and it jumped to life! I feel like Shelley's Dr. Frank when he finally bottled lighting.

Until I put a NAME on it, the MacGuffin had no face, no identity, just an implied existence that I found hard to press under my thumb and make it BEG to be read.

I rotated my story around this point, the story question, that thing driving every character in the story to act the way they act. It is the central motivation, that ~thing~, the piece of Kryptonite, the Holy Grail, the Fountain of Youth, that mystery and tickle and itch that every character is killing to scratch! It is the propulsion that keeps the reader turning!

It is the MacGuffin.

Thanks to my publisher Mr. Debrin Case for educating me and introducing me to a term I had somehow all these years overlooked.

I now share that knowledge with you, in case you missed.

He extends his hand, Mr. MacGuffin. Take it. He's a good guy.

- Eric

Monday, July 11, 2011

Asking WHY: A Vampire's Dichotomy

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the difference between smart and genius is the asking of WHY.

Why why why.

Smart people know how to do something. It's the genius who understands why it's done that way.

So I've been wondering why it is that vampires are the sensual monsters, the sexual killers. They suck your blood and that's downright gruesome, but for some reason we still want to schlep em.

And my why-thinking has brought me to this, which may not be all that original of a thought, but it's where I arrived. Vampires are sexy murderers owing to their dichotomous nature.

See, the vampire kills you, but gently. That's a contradiction. Many times the male (historically the vamps are overwhelmingly male) seems downright gentlemanly. Ma'am, he says, I would like to please suck your blood.

He then takes the woman in his arms, kisses her a few minutes, and then sticks his fangs in her carotid and gets his rut.

But it goes deeper than that, which is where I think most people stop.

See, the vamp also has fangs. They're sharp and gruesome. Werewolves and all sorts of monsters have fangs, and even for the vamp the fangs are intimidating, scary, and always at the fright-scene the vamp reveals the fangs before the scream.

But unlike most monsters -- say, a werewolf with its hairy maw, or the freak-monsters with its gruesome visage -- the vampire's fangs are housed in a succulent mouth, perky lips, inside a beautiful face.

Do you see the dichotomy there? Terror inside beauty.

It's the same with their claws, which the vamp usually grows as demanded by need. Sharp claws, but soft hands and gentle fingers.

Total dichotomy.

They remain young and beautiful in many renditions, and in other manifestations are allowed to morph between beauty and beast.

Often the bad-guy vamp, if there is one, is old, wrinkled, and sexually undesirable. Why do we do this, authors I mean, why do we make him (usually a him-vamp king) so old and wrinkled and gnarly?

It's to remove the beauty of him, to make him undesirable, to squash that dichotomous nature and make him all monster and no beauty.

Now where am I going with all this? I've been thinking of vamp-whys for a while, now, because I want to create a monster like a vampire, but who is not a vampire. I want the desirability and sexual attraction invoked by the vampire myth, but for my own unique monster, my own creation. Nobody wants to mount and ride Frankenstein's jock.

But what if Frank had been built from perfect body parts and groomed to be a gentleman?

See how that works? Even Hannibal Lector in his grotesque insanity maintained a strong sex appeal, with his understanding of Claire and his succulent and classical high-class behavior.

Me, I'm making women-monsters. I look back at my work and see sexually desirable women doing much of my killing. Weird how that works, a man's mind bent on finding the perfect villain, that perfect spider who satisfies and eats me afterward.

- Eric

Thursday, July 7, 2011

First Final Draft Complete!

Ah, I am ending the blogatus. Hiatus. That's what I mean. A hiatus to blogging, a blogatus, get it?

I've been focused on work, baby, work, wife, work, kids, writing, work, house, vacation, and work.

Holy crap. Even on vacation I have to work. I'm working right now, and then off this weekend on another short jog into Oklahoma to drop off my boy at summer camp.

But but but but BUT!

But I finished my first final draft. It is actually the 5th version of the completed text, and the 18th version overall.

Now it's in for edit, and the revisions will increase all the more. I've looked at that piece so many times I think I hate it now. Watch the same movie twenty times in a row. That's how it feels. Ugh. A break will be nice.

I hope to visit your blogs soon. I miss everyone and as always regret the neglect. I hope summer finds you all well and good.

By the way, I am at present at a trade show, in my lonely booth, alone, drinking some free beer and abusing the free wireless access. That's how I roll.

- Eric