Another Round Of YAIA: You Ask, I Answer

Sometimes, I go to write a blog post and all I find in my skull is a hollowed-out cavern bereft of even the meagerest crystal or the squirmiest eyeless centipede. It’s all just echoes and dripping water; nothing to see here, quite literally nothing at all. It doesn’t help that today — the day before you’ll actually read this post, as I tend to prep my posts one or several days in advance now — my bowels feel like they’re filled with chewing rats. Rats with ebola. Microwaved ebola. And the rats all have sharp fingers and mining helmets and by god, they’re building a warren.

What I’m saying is, got a small gutty-bug working it in my meat-plumbing. It’s not as bad as the last time I had a gut-bug, because then I was horking up valuable tracts of intestinal real estate and actually pulling neck muscles I was puking so hard.

This is probably very exciting reading for you, isn’t it? Me describing violent regurgitations?

Some might say that’s all this blog is. Violent regurgitations.

Anywho.

What I’m saying is, I got nothing for a new blog post today, but I’m going to be that some of you have something. Thus I introduce the old standby, YAIA: You Ask, I Answer.

Spelunk into the comments. Deposit a question into the dark chasm.

And I’ll answer it. If it’s too long for me to answer in a comment, I’ll take it and turn it into a blog post. Sound reasonable? You can ask me anything. Obviously, writing is a hot topic roundabout these parts, but don’t feel constrained by the chains of that subject, either. Ask me about anything. Favorite Easter candy. Porn. Portal 2. Movies. Twitter. Food politics. My dogs. Whatever.

I don’t know that I’m all that interesting, but I’m happy to have people pick my brain.

My dark, dripping cavern of a brain.

Ready? Let’s do it. Fire when ready.

YAIA!

58 comments

  • My brain shut down an hour ago, so don’t expect anything fancy out of me at this hour, Mr. Fancy Pants. (Captain Fancy Pants? Kommandant Sehrhosen? Okay, that last one’s actually “Commandant Pretty Trousers”, but you get the point.)

    Have you ever seriously considered writing something for publication out of your comfort zone?

    • Oh, damn, I wake up and you people have already launched bodily into it.

      Let’s take these one by one (and now more than ever do I wish for nesting comments):

      @Maggie: Define “comfort zone?” Like, would I publish a romance novel? Or lit-fic? Or do you mean stuff that’s emotionally outside my comfort zone? My novel on submission, Blackbirds, features a lot of stuff that’s emotionally outside my comfort zone. Collapsus featured global economic problems that fell outside my comfort zone. I guess the answer is, “Yes, but with reservations,” those reservations being, can I actually publish this?

      @Sarah: Challenging part of a transmedia projects? It’s either determining the proper medium / media for the story’s expression, or trying to nail story beats in an unconventional outlet.

      @Natalie: I am, like the father in the story, a dog-man — but if I found a winged cat, that cat is coming inside. Actually, even without wings, he’s coming inside. I like animals too much. Yesterday we had a red cardinal trapped mysteriously between our basement window and the window’s screen, so I just ripped the damn screen out. The cardinal looked at me like, “You’re an asshole,” then fled.

      @Pia: The blog in particular is an exercise in me just trepanning a hole in my forehead and seeing what gooey shit comes out. I don’t restrain myself much here in terms of metaphor. Fiction, I’m a little more restrained, especially on subsequent drafts.

      — c.

  • Amazing! You come up with over 300 words of fun on an empty brain-cavern additionally sucked dry by intestinal twisters. I raise my hat to you. When my mind is empty, it’s like “… … …” with about a thousand exclamation points just to make sure I understand there’s nothing to understand. I strain for words till I get red in the face and probably look like I’m straining in a whole other bodily region.

    So my question is: Do you just spit out what comes to mind or do you have to think long and hard about every word and simile?

  • Mine is an old question, and probably one you have answered in the days of yore, but I haven’t read the backlog of your blog.

    Who are your influences? What authors, books, stories, myths, comics, artists, directors, films, plays (hell even video games or RPGs) do you draw from for inspiration, stylistic emulation or even just think are really neat and helped draw you to storytelling?

    Secondly, and somewhat more shallowly: In the White Wolf nWoD what’s your favorite thing to play (vamp, mage, werewolf, geist, promethean etc.)? Same question can be applied to oWoD if you like.

    • @Sparky: nWOD, I love Changeling and Hunter above all others. oWOD… Werewolf, probably? And as for influences — well, early pen-and-paper gaming mattered a lot, but so do many of my favorite writers, like Joe Lansdale, Robert McCammon, Christopher Moore, Douglas Adams, Bradley Denton. Video games: Ultima series, plus a lot of Sierra’s titles (something “Quests”).

      @Angie: “Fuck” is, to me, a great word. It’s a strong spice, but I don’t use it sparingly. I don’t bring it out to play on special occasions only. It is, for better or for worse, a big part of my vernacular. And it further helps separate me from some of the other blogs and dubious-advice-givers out there, who always feel that you have to be polite and buttoned-up. I figured, I’d get shut of that. If you want to go further back, my own father was a profane dude, and even my mother, to some degree. I don’t know if the word really loses its power or, more importantly, if it ever had power to begin with. It’s just a word, really.

      @Josin: Uhhh. Context?

      @Sean: Portal 2 — I’ve no idea. I assume we’ll just try the split-screen and see how it goes. :) Regarding profanity (oooh, another profanity question), I don’t use profanity to necessarily surprise, so that one is out the window. (I think creative profanity — “Fuck-widget,” “Shit-pony” — can be amusing, though not necessarily surprising.) In writing, I don’t drop the ‘g.’ In speech, well, sure, “fuckin’,” comes easier than “fucking.” And in dialogue, too. I don’t have any rules, really. Again, profanity’s just another cabinet of potential words: it’s curry instead of thyme, it’s a Doc Marten boot rather than a Reebok sneaker.

      — c.

  • I love your blog, you’ve inspired me to write more and publicly and obviously many others. You are much more accomplished that I but I have a question: Why do you use “fuck” so much? I have always loved to curse and “fuck” is fun to use but in my view when you use it so often it loses its power and becomes repetitive. I also think that it may limit your audience. It is only my opinion.

  • So, once you get Portal 2, how are you handling co-op, given that you usually pool your reflexes with your wife’s puzzle solving ability? Add in a third person online?

  • One more question: When I was young, my mother gave me sage advice regarding swearing. She said there were two rules:

    1. Don’t do it too often, or people won’t be surprised; and,
    2. Never drop your “g”s.

    Do you concur? Do you have any other rules?

  • The Ultima Series? Clearly you need to watch the Spoony One. And in case you didn’t already know the various Sierra titles are available cheap from Good Old Games for a DRM free modern windows compatible download.

    Now a follow up (if you don’t mind) : Why Hunter and Changeling?

  • Let’s say there is this guy, we’ll call him “Dick”, and he has a wife. Let’s call her… uhm… wow, there are a lot of ways to get yourself in trouble playing letter replacement with “Maggie”. So let’s call her “Hank”. Anyway, Dick and Hank are married and they like to read a blog by a well known bearded dude (we’ll call him “Sodpiece Thompson”). Now, this Sodpiece is apparently apt to reproduce, even after being warned off by Dick’s rapidly deteriorating grasp on reality.

    I don’t really have a question in all that, I just wanted to participate.

    Hey, proximity cuts are a huge thing for building tension in movies. Have you ever tried tackling that in prose?

    • @Rick: My next novel, coincidentally, is called PROXIMITY CUT. … okay, what the hell is a proximity cut? Also, I hope Hank and Dick have a great life together.

      @Sparky: NO FOLLOW-UPS. RELEASE THE DOBERMANS. … okay, fine, a follow-up. :) Changeling and Hunter are both games for me that represent the power of the tool-box. I open those books and am assaulted by options, and that’s how I like to be assaulted. I like that I can choose my kith, my tier, my whatever, and create the game or character I want to creature. I feel those two games above others most easily facilitate that right out of the core.

      — c.

  • They will, after overcoming adversity and mayhem. On their way to the store, they are sure to become embroiled in a comedic misadventure after witnessing a mafia execution. While they attempt to escape, they’ll find love, tragedy, comedy, and happiness while dodging mooks, doing a song and dance number at the White House, hitting a home run, and delivering Sodpiece’s baby while fighting the sinister Squish KaPow, a renegade Shaolin monk that came back in time to execute Ryan Seacrest. (As it turns out, without him, this entire planet goes down the shitter. Who knew?)

    Now, I have seen this done in prose before, but usually pretty clumsily, but I like the technique and it works really well for flicks. As the object of the scene is getting close, to build tension to that primary conflict the camera starts doing jump cuts, coming in fast and faster until the payoff. For example, say that our heroes Dick and Hank are fighting Squish KaPow on a rope bridge over a pool lava. Sodpiece is up in the stirrups while Hank urges him to push, and Dick is whipping out his wicked Spetnaz fighting techniques on Squish.

    You’d have you establishing shot, then maybe an over-the-shoulder medium long shot of Squish, reverse it to see Dick, then Hank’s sweaty face as she reaches into Sodpiece to guide the baby, then Sodpiece with his eyes clenched shut (and squishing sounds), then a medium shot of Dick whipping out some Ryu-style fireball on Squish, close up of the impact, Codpiece clench, Hank screams, fireball hits, etc, etc, etc until the center-piece of the action (the birth of Dicky Thompson, named after Sodpiece’s savior).

    It’s a cheap, but effective, way of setting pace.

  • How do you feel about collaborative fiction? Like the sorts of things Niven & Pournelle or Niven & Barnes or Gaiman & Pratchett write together.

    • @Josh: How do I feel about doing it or about when others do it? Others can do what they like, obviously, it seems successful. And I think writing with a partner provides a lot of creative agitation, and creativity thrives in that kind of atmosphere. I’m pro-collaboration, since, after all, almost all of my script work is done with Lance, my writing partner. But that collaboration has to be a good fit, otherwise it’s potentially not going to end well.

      @Rick: You’re just talking about cross-cutting between two — erm, very horrifying — scenes? Yeah, I recommend doing that in fiction. It’s just as effective there as it is in film, especially if prior to each cut you can instill a sense of cliffhangery goodness. OMG WHUSS GONNA HAPPEN I GOTTA KNOW NOW *poop noise*

      etc.

      — c.

  • Where’s my money, Wendig? *palms a knee capping stick*

    Nah. Ummm … at what age will you introduce the little wendigo to the wonderful world of RPGs (you know, provided he’s interested)? Wouldn’t it be neat if someone developed a tabletop for the under 8 set? That would be nifty.

    • @Kate: I’ll get you the money. PLEASE HAGGARD DON’T HURT EM. … uhhh. Yeah. Anyway. RPGs? I dunno. I guess whenever he’s interested. 8? 10? 12? There’s always Daniel Solis’ Happy Birthday, Robot: http://critical-hits.com/2010/08/17/review-happy-birthday-robot/

      @James: Well, I dunno — this is a cop-out answer, but you just *do.* The reality is, it’s easier to do Not Something than Something. It’s easier to NOT eat healthy. It’s easier to NOT be responsible. It’s easier to NOT be productive and instead, sit on the couch eating heroin and Funions. The realization has to reach you at some point that, if you really want to do this Writer Thing, then you have to *do* this Writer Thing. Because the battlefield is littered with the corpses of those who chose the easy path of talking about writing instead of ever actually writing. So, you have to decide: are you going to be one of those corpses, or are you going to be a survivor? Are you going to be a Not-Writer, or a Writer? If it’s the latter, then that means writing.

      If you have the drive, for real, then you have to have the follow-through.

      — c.

  • How do you fight the malaise/procrastination that comes with being a writer? I mean, how do you push past the feeling of “it’s easier to Not Write than to Write, so I’m just going to Not Write”?

    I feel the drive to write; I can’t *not* be a writer. My problem is the actual writing part.

  • Good to know. *totally doesn’t file that information away for later*

    Not a question and definitely not a follow-up, but let me know if you got that thing I sent ya yesterday.

    • @Josh: The Philly thing? I did. Maiden Media looks awesome. Getting to Philly for me is a little more epic these days then I’d prefer (it’s almost easier to get to NYC, or, at least, more pleasant). But thanks for thinking of me.

      @Joseph: In future days, I may do something like that, but what happens there is that takes me away from writing and puts me into publishing. I love other people and love their work, but at present, I have to focus on my own shiznit. Any moment spent publishing an e-zine (which offers dubious financial value) is a moment I’m not writing, or spending time with my future spawn, or not eating fistfuls of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

      — c.

  • With the wide range of interests you skate across: writing, gaming, electronic media, networking, Lithuanian porn, scotch and bacon….hmmmm..bacon..have you ever considered starting your own magazine, or ezine? I know you mention Terrible Minds was initially your online community/forum brainchild that evolved into your pit of madness, but I mean a legitimate, you are the editor/publisher controlling lunatic of a submission accepting, subscription selling, space dragon peddling magazine. Kind of like what Alan Moore did. Any thoughts on ever pursuing something like that?

  • When you posted about your book Double Dead you seemed to indicate that you were certain it would be published, even though you’ve only just now completed it. How does one get to the point where one says, “I’m going to write book X,” and a publisher says, “You write that and we’ll print it,” without them having actually SEEN the finished work? That is not how I was told the publishing system worked for fiction. Then again I was told that the publishing system was a many tentacled destroyer of dreams so I may have been misinformed.

    • @Albert: Abaddon invited me to pitch to them, and I did. I pitched the project with a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline that they seemed to dig it. It doesn’t usually work this way, no, not for first novels.

      — c.

  • I don’t suppose there’s any common linguistic ground between your name and the mythical snow-cannibal, is there? Have you watched Invader Zim? Why are people so worried about the fucking profanity thing? Do you think it’s possible that ghosts are objectively real? Why do I miss working on Hunter: the Reckoning so much? Did you shift any eBooks yesterday?

    • @Tim: I am not the Wendigo, nor is he in my heritage. So I know, anyway. I have barely seen Zim. People are fucking worried because people fucking worry about everyfuckingthing these days. Ghosts are real and I received my own proof of that. Hunter: the Reckoning was double-fisted awesome, that’s why. I shifted… 13 e-books, I think, yesterday.

      @Lisa: Paid as in, freelance? Or first short story? First short story I submitted to NOT ONE OF US when I was 18 or 19, and was lucky enough to find an editor who would publish it provided I worked on the story and turned in another draft. My first paid freelance gig was with long-time client White Wolf; they put out an “all-call” for writers, I wrote 1000 words on the external and internal loci of fear (pretentious shit, that), and ended up with a gig writing Hunter: the Reckoning RPG. The same RPG that @Tim there is talking about.

      @Tribi: I have not read that, nope. As to should one keep the job? If you like the job and it affords you time to write, sounds like a clear win to me. If your soul is not crushed, keep the job. IMO. You gotta do what you gotta do.

      — c.

  • Throwback time. How and when did you get your first paid writing gig? As in did you have a lot of free clips, know some people, went small then large, etc. Mostly, how the hell did you get your first screenwriting gig?

  • Have you ever read that book about the Aspidistras by George Orwell? It’s about this guy who quits his job to be a writer and then becomes obsessed with not starving and is unable to write. If one has an easy-peasy secretarial job that pays well, has excellent benefits and affords oodles of time and technology for writing should one keep it even when the employer keeps offering buy-outs and the years slip by without a publication to show?

  • @Tribi: I know I’m not Chuck, but great GODS, no. Writing is ludicrously precarious at the best of times. Less than 1 in 14 _professional_ writers can support themselves solely through writing. And if the words are not coming when life is tolerable — which I sympathise about a lot — they definitely won’t come when you’re running out of money.

    • @Marlan: No. See? I answered your question. HA HA HA HA HA. … okay, fine, fine, but you’re really making me work. Except, I’ve got wordmonkeying to do and am ultimately lazy. So, instead, I point you to this story: THE BALLAD OF WITCH TITS. It should cheer you up that you are not the titular WITCH TITS, nor do you live near her. Or, alternately, if you want to hear about an owl, then there’s this.

      — c.

  • I love it that even when you’re brain is empty, you write amazingly interesting, if disturbing, images.

    I wanted to ask, who did your website and with what tools? How long did it take for it to look right and get a following? *is attempting her own blog/website*

    • @Amber:

      Heh, well, thanks.

      This site features a theme from Themeforest called Los Angeles. I then tweaked that theme with my own photography and logos/icons which I did in Photoshop. I guess I’ve had these theme up since… well, this time last year, I believe.

      But I’ve had terribleminds for 10 – 12 years now. I don’t know exactly how long it took to get a following — I mean, arguably, it took me 10 – 12 years. :) That said, things on the Internet move pretty fast, so it’s probably a lot easier to build a community or audience now than it was 10 years back. At least, in terms of the ‘Net.

      The biggest tool in my audience-building arsenal has been Twitter, without a doubt.

      — c.

  • Thanks for the quick answer and you answered so well!

    OOoooo, I just got another question that came to me right now.

    Would you ever be interested in teaching? I mean, directly instead of writing articles. As a mentor or in a workshop?

  • That poor owl was just trying to die in peace.

    Witch Tits reminds me of a crack whore who got arrested outside my house when I was in college. Good times.

    • @Marlan: If that owl was trying to die in peace, he failed miserably. (Those owls apparently sometimes swoop low over roads, so I’m guessing he/she got thwacked by a car.) In the end, the owl/owlet was just dazed. Had he been left there, though, I suspect another car could’ve flattened him.

      — c.

  • Heck yes, brother. Heck yes.

    Next question – whatever became of the Army of Darkness poster bequeathed to you? You know how much you get can for that sucker on ebay these days?

  • Oh yes, and a semi-serious question: is there any place on the web where I can find that 1000 word essay on the internal and external loci of fear you wrote for White Wolf? That actually looks like a pretty interesting read.

    • @Anthony: Nothing I probably haven’t already covered — just put out the most professional product you can. Spend money going in.

      @Ben K: I’m sure it’ll create a need in me to tell stories that apply to my kid, but I also don’t think it’ll censor my stuff — I think I’ll still want to tell the same kinds of crazy stories, but probably will want to add some to the cabinet that the boy can read before he’s, say, 18 years old. :)

      — c.

  • Unless I missed it, no one asked you about the impending birth of your child. My daughter is 14 months old, and it’s taken me about that long to figure out how to reorganize my life — not just writing.

    You’ve talked about making time for writing and how and when to write in the past — but do you ever wonder if the family dynamic (a nerd way of saying “having a kid”) will change the nature of *what* you write? In other words, will have Junior Wendig around force you to, in some ways, censor yourself? “I wouldn’t want Junior to read that!”

    Thanks. And good luck entering the parental temporal dimension.

    • @Evil Ray: Neither. Correct answer: Tastykakes!

      @Maggie: No deal.

      @Susan: Given that I don’t know what a paleo/primal diet is, probably not? Unless it’s accidental. :)

      — c.

  • A paleo diet means eating only things that were available in the times of cavemen. (There’s a lot more sciencey information about it, but that’s the gist of it: eating like our ancestors.) Meat, fish, nuts, berries, roots, fruits, eggs, etc. Nothing processed, nothing artificial. Raw and real. I have a friend who swears by the health benefits, but I’m personally skeptical.

    • @Maggie:

      Ohhh. Yeah, no. I mean, I skirt that, I guess. I don’t eat a lot of processed foods, and when I do, I try to stick to ones with ingredient lists that breed familiarity rather than quizzical glances. And right now I’m on a low-ish carb thing (which, lo and behold, actually works to lose weight, go figure). But no, not really a paleo primal thing.

      — c.

  • I’ve spent money on a professional editor and I’m so glad I did. It spared me a lot of potential embarrassment and assaults by grammar Trotskyites. Like that saying about about representing yourself in court, the same thing applies. You have an idiot watching your back.

    @Maggie – I thought the Paleo diet was that you only ate food featured in the Flintstones. I couldn’t BrontoBurger at Whole Foods.

  • Regarding your snippet regarding the Cup in World of Darkness: Mirrors, what’s some of the stuff you’ve seen put into said cup? How did you come up with the idea? And lastly, what open ended free reign plot hooks/story ideas would you put in there yourself?

    IE dear GM/Story teller: here’s something I think is bizarre, awesome, twisted and cool as fuck. I think it would make for an interesting story arc.

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