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Monthly Archives: June 2012

I stumbled upon America Gods several years ago.  I had a lot of driving to do, and chose to grab an audiobook, rather than just listening to music.  I had run across a reference to Neil Gaiman in a web comic that I read (www.sluggy.com),  and decided to give American Gods a try.

What I found intrigued me.  Putting mythological Gods in a modern setting is hardly ground-breaking.  Rick Riordin also does this well (America Gods predates his work, of course).  What caught my attention was how he wrote it.  The characters had a vitality and gritty realism (even the fantastic ones) that many authors fail to capture.

What was most striking was his ability to write creepy without being scary.  This quality is really his trademark.  I’ve since read several of his books, and all share this.  The one that made my skin crawl the most was actually Coraline, which is for a younger audience.  

The effect that his works have had on me, and my writing is simple.  Although I enjoy many genres, the books I’ve mostly read have been traditional fantasy, either for young adults or adults.  This was a strong reminder of how much a genre can stretch.  To use an analogy: you can build a better car without getting more mileage per gallon.  Build an electric car, or hydrogen powered, or solar!

As a caveat – some of Gaiman’s work, including American Gods, is not for younger readers.

I like to think that Gaiman’s influence will be seen in my next book, which I hope to have completed before the end of the year.

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Ok, I’m a nerd.  Most people would not consider Star Trek fodder for literary or personal inspiration.   To paraphrase: I enjoy being a nerd.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn was penned and directed by Nicholas Meyer,  who is likely the most significant reason for the fabled Star Trek “even movies are better than odd movies” phenomenon (the second, fourth, and sixth installments are generally considered the better movies, first, third and fifth – not so much).  In my opinion, The Wrath of Kahn is the standard by which all Trek movies are measured.

What has always stood out about this movie, to me, is Spock’s decision at the climax of the movie.  His self-sacrifice saves the day.  I have always felt that the nobel self-sacrifice is the gold standard for any hero.   The willingness to give your life (as opposed to merely “risking” it) because it’s the right thing to do is what makes a character truly a hero.  “The needs of the many outweigh . . . the needs of the one.”  This is a theme that will doubtless crop up more than once, as I write about my inspirations. 

As I grew older and was exposed to literature a new element showed itself in this movie, though.  (As an aside, the best books and movies are the ones that can continue to be enjoyed, even as we grow older and wiser.  Or after we’ve watched it dozens of times.)  Sprinkled throughout this movie are literary quotes, in particular from “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Moby Dick”.  In many ways, Kahn is Ahab, obsessed with killing his “White Whale”.  In a much more general way, Spock takes the role of Sydney Carton – sacrificing himself for others.  What is important to me about this, though is the reminder that works of fiction are intertwined.  No work exists without its predecessors, even if they are far removed from the work at hand.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.  Fantasy can be inspired by the bible, romance can be inspired by science fiction.  Literature is all a family.

 

Everyone has works of fiction (whether movies, literature, stage, or even stories told by the campfire) that resonate with them.  These works, especially the ones from our youth, help define who we are, and who we want to be.  As a writer, I’d love to be responsible for that kind of connection to readers.  [As an aside, “trying” to write powerfully moving story is a good recipe for disaster.  If this doesn’t happen organically, it won’t happen at all.]  I thought I’d share some of the works that inspire me as a writer and a person.

I saw the NeverEnding Story in the movie theater when I was pretty young.  I don’t know what I found appealing about it at then, but in the time since I’ve come to appreciate it in many ways that I didn’t comprehend all those years ago.  In many ways, this movie (and the book it is based on) is a celebration of imagination.   At its heart is the message that without dreams – even fanciful ones – we lose ourselves.

The movie is filled with some great moments, but my favorite **Spoiler Alert** is when the movie breaks the 4th wall twice – at the same time.  The characters in Bastian’s book refer not only to Bastian, but also all of us watching the movie!

Along the journey, we also find many lessons:

  1. The hero’s journey is hard, and filled with sacrifice
  2. Even the wisest do not always know the answers
  3. It is always darkest before the dawn
  4. Among the hardest challenges in life are confidence and knowing yourself

I read the book years later.  Although I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel the resonance I did with the movie.  I don’t think this reflects poorly on the book, though.  It’s more likely simply because of the stage of my life at which I found it.

There will be more of these to come.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what inspires you!

I love it when I look at a piece of writing that’s been on the back burner for a while and say, “Man, that’s pretty good!”

I ran across one that I haven’t touched (to my surprise) in about 3 1/2 years.  I’ll have to spend some time on that, soon!

Most of the posts I’ve made so far have revolved around entertainment, and specifically writing and story creation.

This post won’t.

A few years ago, I started working for a joint venture.  We’ll call the parent companies “Mom” and “Dad” (for those of you not in the business world, marriage is a pretty good analogy for joint ventures).  I am an employee of “Dad”, and work on a “Dad” site.  A little over a year ago, “Mom” and “Dad” got a divorce, with “Mom” getting custody.  But I still live with “Dad”.  Wait, maybe that’s taking the analogy too far:  “Mom” bought out “Dad”‘s share of the joint venture, but we continue to have ongoing operations at the “Dad” site, where I continue to work.

There’s been a lot of speculation about how long this situation will last.  The products we make at the “Dad” site can all be made elsewhere (and there is active work to do so).  In some cases, their volumes are also declining, and are expected to phase out over the next few years.  If they do cease operations at “Dad’s” site, where does that leave me.  “Mom” is 2000 miles away, so even if they offer relocation, I don’t think I’d take it.

Adding to all this is a rumor that the “Dad” site I work at will be acquired by another company.  There have been some changes lately that could support the rumor:  changes in organizational structure, and an announcement that our pay periods will change, in particular.  Could these be an indication of absolutely nothing?  Sure.  But they could also be preliminary indications that there are big changes on the horizon.

Here’s hoping my family and I can navigate whatever changes are heading our way.