Been away a long time …

It’s been too long since I posted on The Write Path. I’d like to say I’ve been busy hammering out a novel and getting it published, but I can’t say that. Rather, a great many things have occurred in the last few months and I unfortunately let some things – this blog and my writing in general – fall by the wayside.

Creativity Prismatic
titleActually, that’s not entirely true. Yes, the blog has been horribly neglected, but my writing has simply become less focused and more broad-base. I’ve put my main novel on hold for a bit, to re-evaluate some of its content and concepts as well as work on a couple of short stories. Additionally, I’m focusing some of my creative efforts on a project for my wife, The Burnesyd Magical Muggle Railway. I re-posted something from the blog a week or two ago and we may see some cross-over here and there, from time to time. It’s a Harry Potter-themed model railroad display I’m working on for the next Christmas season (hopefully), so it will be the point of some of my creative focus as well. Check it out if you are interested and get the chance. Of more focus on my writing, I’ve also recently joined a review group with my wife and the talented Kim Ventrella, who is in the midst of releasing her 1st novel, Skeleton Tree, a middle grade novel slated for fall 2017 release.

Idle Tears, Idle Rage
I must admit that much of my ‘derailment’ stems from two events. The first was theIMG_0164[1] passing of my beloved dog Boomer. I’d detailed his fight on the blog in posts from 2015 and in earlier 2016. This last fall he began to slowly diminish until he finally passed on December 20th. Even now, his loss still has a great impact on me; he was without doubt, my best buddy and I will never replace his loss from my life. I must admit that the persistence of my grief has been unusual and I’ve even had a few people suggesting that it is time to move on.  However, I know that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve and ultimately, Boomer meant a great deal to me.

The other event would be the election (and more recently, the inauguration) of Donald Trump. Mr. Trump is perhaps the most blatantly dishonest and duplicitous electee to the office of President in the history of this United States, even accounting for a villain like Nixon. In his first 100 days, he has systematically (and thankfully: largely ineptly) try to attack everything that I cherish about our nation and our democracy. If it were just him, it would have less of an impact. However, the worst of it for me is the fundamental psychological dysmorphia of the nation since his election. The inception and large scale acceptance of ‘alt truth’ and ‘alt facts’, the wholesale prostitution of the Republican party’s patriotism and civic duty for the sake of expediency and power, and (worst of all) the willful ignorance so many people are showing towards his many misdeeds, usually for the sake of a single issue, is… democratically appalling. Believe me when I say that I’ll be making further posts on this topic.

TrumpocalypseGamingThankfully, I’ve become energized and enraged (and engaged) by this, even to the point of accepting a (quasi) public ‘office’, that of vice chair for my voting district. Yes, it’s silly, but it is a positive action. Additionally, if less importantly, I founded the Trumpocalypse Gaming Night, a quarterly get-together of people for fun, board games, and some good old Trump-bashing. Is it politically effective? Perhaps not. However, I think that the more people who purposefully do not accept the normalization of Trump’s insane Greater America, the better we will be. He thrives on praise and is driven insane by criticism and (oh, especially) ridicule. So, if the current occupant of the Presidency is a child who gets his feelings hurt when people disagree, I see that as a challenge to mock him more. It’s a form of activism, if not particularly active.

The Blog, Expanded
So, moving forward, I’m going to be a bit more broad spectrum with this blog. Clearly, I’m still going to focus on my writer’s path, but – given the type of world we’re now living in – expect a few more esoteric, political or philosophic posts as well. Especially now.

If you are still receiving my blog posts and you read something that impassions you, I encourage you to respond, either on this site or on Facebook. I welcome your interaction and am always open to a good discussion. For now, I wish you all the best and look forward to sharing more with you, either on The Write Path or the BMMR site.

RUWUEU,

Sean

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5 Men at a Table

My apologies for the lengthy absence from this blog.  As it is, I’ve been posting under my project blog, so I wanted to share with you my most recent post.  I hope you enjoy:

This post will be a bit different from the rest as it will not have anything to do with trains or the Burnesyd Magical Muggle Railway. However, I felt it was an interesting enough mental exercise and substantially thought-provoking and thus was suitable for inclusion on this site. Hopefully, you may enjoy it was well […]

via Five Men at a Table — Burnesyd Magical Muggle Railway

Paper, Ink, Legitimacy

newspaper11Something to think about at the dawn of 2017:
This morning at work I walked by our common cafe area. On one of the tables was a copy of the New York Times. On impulse, I picked it up to look at the section (an editorial about all that woman have lost this year) and was overcome with a sense of nostalgia, from the feel of the paper and the ink to the smell that only a newspaper has. It took me back many years to my childhood, of Sundays where my parents made an event of the family reading the Sunday paper after breakfast. No TV, no digital media; just the paper for an hour or so. So, clearly those feelings reminded me of a more innocent, hopeful time.

But as I stood there, sniffing the NYT, it made me reflect on some of the issues facing our country, specifically journalism, the emergence of fake news and the culmination of an almost universal distrust of traditional news sources. With a PEOTUS the routinely questions the nature of facts, that trucks in misinformation and with news companies that are rapidly focusing more on ratings than on journalism, I ponder if perhaps all of this didn’t start with the decline of (and if we’re not sorely in need again of) printed media.

As I writer, I’ll make no claims that I am not biased. EBooks are wonderful in their own right, but nothing feels as real to me as an actual physical book. Call me a Luddite if you wish, but I feel that printed news is more easy to trust, to believe. Why? Because a printed newspaper by definition takes time. It takes preparation. Huffpost, Brietbart, FoxNews.com, MSNBC, you name it. News on websites is nearly instantaneous. You can get a lead, call some sources and have it printed in minutes. That’s the problem: in a world where news can be generated in seconds, people will create it in seconds. That means its a race to be first, the get the most attention, the highest ranking on news aggregators. That leads to the obvious argument that the faster we create news, the less time we are cultivating it and the more likely we are to generate news before it is properly vetted or to ‘fill in the blanks’ where something is missing. That observation is not new; I am far from the first to forward it.

However, I think that is a flaw in the medium as well as in the system. It has opened new worlds, especially in respect to international views and events, but if the price is believability, then the value of those new and influential opinions dwindles to zero. But with a printed newspaper… you sense the time and care it took. The news was developed, cultivated. Facts were checked. Sources consulted. Viewpoints considered and editorial decisions made. That’s not to say that the news might not have an obvious political slant or that it was not as susceptible to bias as its digital media, but the essence of printed suggested validity, believability. Trust.

American Journalist changed our country more than once. It inspired advances in the workplace, took us to war in both just and unjust wars, brought down presidents and propelled us to other worlds. This year might see the death of journalism, for all intents. Twitter and Instagram, with all of the boons and curses inherent in them, may replace the New York Times or the Washington Post. People trained to identify, research and peruse facts will be replaced by people with a mobile device, a viewpoint and an agenda. Perhaps it could be said that the news deserves it: last year was a shameful one for news media, as they feigned mock indignation at the audacity of Donald Trump, all the while waiting with eagerness for every single drop of outrage and insinuation that dribbled from his mouth or those of his surrogates. They should have denied his views oxygen to survive in but instead turned on gas lines and lit the match. For their part in the coming world, the deserve to suffer in ignominy and die in disrepute. But we need them. We need honest reporters who will pursue the truth, editors willing to put unflattering truths to print, and executive willing to forgo profit for purpose and ethics.

I don’t have an easy answer. If I had my way, I’d institute a government allowance, allowing all citizen to subscribe to a printed newspaper of their choice. unfortunately, there’s no way to cork the genie back in the bottle. The world has changed and so has the news. Perhaps we need fresh eyes and hearts, people uncorrupted and idealistic, pursuing truth for its own sake. Yet, even if they succeed, they will eventually falter, as success and prestige is corrupting and seductive and renews the cycle we see in play now. Perhaps the system will need to self-destruct and be rebuilt, to endure a draconian purge in order to be reborn.

Or perhaps I’m high on paper ink. Who knows? Maybe I’m just a middle aged guy with memories of a better time which -in truth- differed far less than today than I choose to remember. Something has to be done. Yet I think it must be done by those with a better grasp of the options.

Method Writing

My wife sent me a link a couple of weeks ago from the Independent to an article by the columnist Thomas W Hodgkinson. It discussed (half-seriously, half-humorously) the introduction of a new movement in writing: the Method Writers. Following along the same lines as Method Acting, the writer would try to duplicate as closely as possible the environment and behaviors of their main character. While I have not seriously considered trying to undergo this process, I have nonetheless pondered its validity.

I believe that writers naturally delve into their characters without artificially inflating it to be life-consuming. I routinely put myself into the character’s place and their mind, imagining how they would act or react, how they feel and what they would say. Actors have a script they interpret; writers create their own script.  I would say that anyone writing fiction, even if it’s firmly based in real world events and a real world environment, is doing so entirely within the confines of their imagination – that’s how writing works. That means that you’re imagining how the characters act and that requires you also imagine how they think, who they are, what makes them have the personalities they possess.  I feel that this is inseparable from the act of writing fiction. Even biographers must extrapolate historical data to some degree, adding this personal letter or written passage to that verbal account and painting a realistic picture of their subject.

That’s not to say that immersing yourself more fully in the genre that your work falls within or – better yet any type of subculture that your work appeals to – is not important. Indeed, putting yourself in the minds of your reader is key to understanding what they are seeking in your work. Not only does it give you a greater appreciation for your audience and their needs and wants but also can help your enrich your own appreciation for the genre you write in. For instance, my first series of novels – the Shattered Clockwork Saga – falls well within the steampunk genre; except where it didn’t. While I termed it steampunk, it missed some of the hallmark traits of the genre at first, such as the aspirational quality found in most steampunk works. It was really just a novel with a Victorian-industrial-dystopic world. It was ‘steampunk’ without being Steampunk. So, I immersed myself in the culture more, built upon my appreciation and understanding of my reader would be and what they do and even have a couple of scratch-build and DIY projects planned. I placed myself not in the mind of my characters per se, but in the minds and hearts of the people who will come to love them.

Another valid use for immersion would be for researching the world you are writing in, even if it’s an imaginary world. Star Trek as a subgenre of science fiction is an excellent example of this. Nearly everything in that world is imaginary. However, after decades of movies, television shows and novels, there is a library of scientific and technical documentation that would rival the USAF. It’s all made up, but it’s so detailed and precise that it might as well be real, and in some cases now is real.  Knowing your genre and researching is guaranteed to make your world feel more real. While there is no such thing as steampunk airships in the real world, I researched real-life seabound equivalencies so that my descriptions of aerial battles and shipboard environments would be both deep and consistent.

While the concept of Method Writing is an interesting one, I believe that treating it as something unique or better than the ‘normal’ method of writing is ‘gilding the lily’ somewhat. I could not image writing without delving into my characters, their environment and the minds of my readers. That’s nothing special; that’s just writing with purpose, focusing on my craft and the world I’m creating.  To paraphrase Laurence Olivier’s gentle admonishment of Dustin Hoffman’s trouble with method acting in the movie Marathon Man: “My dear boy, why don’t you just try writing?”

Oh, Inconsistent Author!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

victorian heartI’d like to start this post by apologizing for my absence for the last two weeks or so. There’s been a lot going on that has diverted me, if not in my schedule, at least in my mental space. Unfortunately, my focus hasn’t been on my writing as much as it should and my blog has suffered the most. I regret this as I look forward to sharing with my readers and I’ve left you in the dark for too long now. I’m going to keep today’s post short and light on the ‘big thoughts’ portion, just basically to share some of the things that have been occurring over the past month or so. Perhaps it might explain a bit as to why I’ve been so absent of late.

Continue reading “Oh, Inconsistent Author!”