25 August 2009

Kinda Dead Inside

X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl TPB X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl TPB by Peter Milligan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I didn't get as much of a kick out of this as I did Milligan's original X-Force/X-Statix run. Dead Girl didn't stick to its premise, which was to take shots at the trope of comics characters dying and come back. Milligan took shots at every trope as it came up--Dr. Strange's quirks, his servant's, the supervillain getting repeatedly beaten, etc.--and even threw in some self-referential X-Statix stuff.

It's good for a single read but in the end, it felt like I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League by Giffen and DeMatteis, a phoned-in return to the good ol' days.

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24 August 2009

Tough Love

Finally finished the work in progress and brought the ending to the biweekly abatoir that is my critique group.

Remember the last few times when the Win list was longer than the Fail list? Not this time, but that's okay. It's called a "puke draft" for a reason. Not only that, I brought about 3 times as many words as I'd brought before--of course the Fail list was going to be longer!

For the Win
  • Folks liked my description of the painful way the protagonist "solved" his problem.
  • Those scenes had a "feeling of menace and chaos."
  • Praise for how I cashed in on a couple of plot points from the beginning of the story. (It's funny--I had no idea I was gonna do that.)
  • The usual praise about dialogue, prose, etc.
  • Unresolved question #1: What are the stakes? (Yikes!)
  • Other unresolved questions:
    • What exactly is the protagonist's motivation for getting involved in this "strange, new world" in the first place?
    • Why does he choose such a drastic solution to an unclear problem?
    • In fact, isn't he making matters worse?
    • What's his sister's motivation, 'cos the way she pushes the protagonist and where she pushes him to makes her look like more of a bad guy than the bad guy?
    • What did the bad guy want that was so bad?
  • I definitely strayed from the idea of "cultural tension" that I started out with in the beginning.
The entire puke draft clocked in at over 7300 words, so there's a lot of tightening and rethinking to do. In a way, this piece is a victory because it's been so long since I just cranked out a first draft of a "full-length" story with as little looking back as possible.

I've got a good feeling about this story though. I know all the pieces are there, even if they're in a jumble.

21 August 2009

Force of Will

Willful Creatures Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I gave it the same rating as Bender's previous collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt even though I did like that one a little better. I seem to remember it being a little more playful than this collection.

This collection had its playful moments, but I sensed a little more pain in these characters. I'll have to reread Flammable Skirt again to be sure. The characters are definitely the best part of each story. A lot of them were odd or fantastic, but still relatable, with more or less the same sorts of problems as mundane folk.

Aside from attempting to channel Lydia Davis at times (e.g. "The Meeting), the prose is really well-done, to boot.

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18 August 2009

So You Think You Can Just Waltz Back In Here?

Looks like LoudTwitter came back yesterday and pumped yesterday's tweets back out. Thing is, I kinda got used to not having it around. I was warming up to the idea of actually blogging, like now.

It's like when an ex-girlfriend you know you're better off without comes back around looking all hot. Now I'm torn. I want to hold her, even though my head is screaming, "You have some goddamn nerve coming back after the way you left!" :)

Anyway, LoudTwitter, I need time to think about it. So I'm going to turn it back off for now. But, I have your number.

17 August 2009

"All Afternoon Those Birds Twitter Twit"

  • 08:17 Feeling sorry for all the suckers at the Diamond Mine retreat today! #
  • 08:18 Oh noes! I'll miss Wednesday's all-staff meeting. The important info I'll miss!! Not. #
  • 08:42 RT @drmabuse Dave Eggers whistles on Aimee Mann's new album... (What next? Vollmann firing his pistol on the next Kings of Leon album?) #
  • 10:10 Feeling stressed out as I realize just how thick my "in" pile has gotten. Where's my shovel? #gtd #
  • 10:35 Easily the best roadtrip hack I've ever seen! bit.ly/4FBHpA #
  • 11:21 Inbox-sorting Playlist: @swingout sister mix. It's like an archeological dig. Only have 1 layer done. :( #gtd #
  • 12:23 Inbox processed! Now, I feel like I deserve to eat. :) #
  • 14:51 "Oh it's too hot/ Too hot, lady/ Gotta run for shelter/ Gotta run for shade." #lyrics ♫ blip.fm/~buxv5 #
  • 15:11 Done with organizing (read: procrastinating). Can't put off errands or writing anymore, despite the heat. *sigh* #
  • 16:43 On page 127 of 224 of Willful Creatures. 5* for "I Will Pick Out Your Ribs (From My Teeth) tho it reminds me of my psycho-ex. #
  • 16:52 Errands 1/2 done. At the PM writing spot wh ich is almost crowded! Grr. Summer's definitely winding down. #
  • 17:40 Got an outlet just as my battery was in the danger zone. I was actually starting to write stuff :). #
  • 18:10 Dammit, dammit, dammit. The last 100 words of the #wip have to go. Makes the protragonist look too passive. Dammit!! #
  • 18:12 Just realized it as I was listening to the chorus of the song "Without You" by @billchamplin: "How am I to find my way? Where am I to go?" #
  • 18:48 Frak me, I just figured out how the #wip needs to end!! I've even got the last line worked out. Just need a little more research. #
  • 18:49 S crew you, writer's block! How ya like me, now? :) #
Via LoudTwitter

15 August 2009


Local Local by Brian Wood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book deserves all the hype it's gotten. The total package, from start to finish, is an evolution in every sense of the word--the evolution of the character, the writing, the art, even the series concept. And I could tell that even before I read as much in the backmatter.

The main character, Megan, sums up her story and the point of the book (not just as a whole, but in each of the interconnected stories in each issue) thus:
You need to do what's best for you, even if it means leaving some people behind, burning some bridges, severing some ties. You'll never forgive yourself if you don't. You only get one shot. Take it when you can, and don't blow it.
This sort of advice can only be given by someone who did just that, and who took shots and actually did blow them sometimes. Most writers fall back into the grosser antisocial behaviors--alcholism, drug use, and other Raymond Carver-type stuff--to illustrate dirty and gritty. Here, Wood & Kelly show that the pain of just making mistakes and learning from them can be just as dramatic.

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09 August 2009

Tough Love

I feel like a writer again, having brought the most words (1.5k) than I have in weeks to the crit group. Of course, that's more to be vivisected. The good news is that the win column on this latest bit of my short story seems to be longer than the fail column!

For the Win
  • The story remains "intriguing."
  • One reader was glad to be able to understand my world's tech as I've written it (she isn't typically a sci-fi reader). Another appreciated [I'm paraphrasing, here] the lack of technobabble.
  • More praise for my dialogue. One person in particular noted that when characters are asked questions, no one really gets a "direct answer." Put by another reader, the answers are given "how real people talk."
  • There "wasn't a dull place" in the section I brought.
  • Praise for the family dynamics I illustrated between the main character, his sister and his parents.
  • My descriptions about emotional reactions were "sparse" yet "dynamic."
  • Unclear to some readers "where we're going from here." Namely, with regard to an important secondary character's plans for the protagonist being unnecessarily vague.
  • A couple of lines that need to be rearranged for clarity.
  • A plot point about a lie that didn't really make sense.
So, maybe on my road trip to Boston, Mass tomorrow, I can at least give some thought to where I'm going from here. 'Cos hell if I know.

07 August 2009

"You've changed the desktop theme, haven't you?"

I'm proud of myself! I only have one "before" picture. The rest is (semi-) finshed product.

Still lots to rearrange, sort, and maybe dump. I've got my eye out for a new desk. Something without a hutch and with lots of space on top. But I consider this major headway on something that's been bugging me for the better part of this year. I was finally inspired to do something after months at leering at the productivity pr0n that is the Lifehacker Workspace Show and Tell Flickr group.

02 August 2009


Fell Volume 1: Feral City Fell Volume 1: Feral City by Warren Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Why the hell did I put off buying this for so long? I've read about it for years, Ellis's experimental 9-panel 16 pg comic with art by Ben Templesmith.

Fans of Ellis's writing will find a lot to love, here: a flawed hero who wins some and loses some, odd and sometimes disturbing facts seamlessly woven into the story, and not too much of, as another reviewer said, the usual ranting.

Two nits: The style of Fell's dialogue sometimes blends into that of the minor characters, which is to say into Warren Ellis speak. Consider my favorite line, a bit from a narration box by Detective Richard Fell:
Grab a death coffee from Mr. Yang, the food pervert. He melts a Hershey bar into a pot of filter coffee, pours a 1602 and then drops a depth-charge of espersso on it. And maybe crystal meth. I don't know anymore what feels worse: Having one death coffee a day, or skipping it. I can already feel my internal organs going into crisis mode. At the end of my shift, the world's going to fall out of my butt.
As much as I'd love this coffee, the writing is the same stuff I read daily on Ellis's blog.

Second nit is that, like Desolation Jones, I'm left hanging, waiting for more adventures. The last issue published was #9, which I bought awhile ago. I didn't realize that I now have the entire series! :(

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