Bad Habits

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I’ve gotten into the habit of writing out doors.

Some of the reasons for this I won’t go into.  (No, I’m not currently homeless.)  But I think I’m addicted to it.  I base this assumption on the fact that I write out of doors even when it’s quite cold.  37 with a mild wind chill factor is about my limit for now.  Any colder than that and I can’t last a full writing session (usually about 3 hours).

People who know i’m doing this find it strange.

That’s part of why I can’t stop.  I also came across an article that said cold might burn fat, and that couldn’t hurt.

I need a suggestion for something affordable to keep my coffee warm.  Right now, the coffee doesn’t stay warm long enough to finish it.

I think the real reason I like writing out here is that I’m alone.

Another reason is that I’m uncomfortable.  With everything going on, in the world and in our backyards, I think a writer needs to stay uncomfortable.  While bearing in mind that having the choice of being comfortable presupposes comfort, even in conditions of self-inflicted discomfort.

Still, I like it out here.

Insignificant Bullets, Evil Poachers, and L.A. Culture | Work in Progress

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Insignificant Bullets, Evil Poachers, and L.A. Culture | Work in Progress.

I love this snippet of an interview, and also really enjoyed visiting this nicely designed site.  The image is also powerful.  Is getting shot at (and surviving) really a thrill?  I imagine it must be.  On the other hand, even if the bullet did fail to “perforate (my) abdomen,” I’m pretty sure my behavior surrounding the event would not have been pretty.  If I’ve been shot at, I am blissfully unaware.  I have been mugged at gunpoint–something that has always made me think of Batman–but never shot at.  Staring down the barrel of a gun in the hands of someone who wants something from you is no fun.

And then there’s the irony of living Hollywood and freaking out because someone is interviewing “yet another celebrity” on the hill near your house.  And then shooting at him.  And not missing, so props to the shooter for that, I suppose.

The few times I’ve had the opportunity to fire guns, I didn’t have any fun.  I’m extremely clumsy, and I couldn’t shake the feeling I was a threat to myself and my loved ones whenever I had one of those things in my hand.

I’m also a terrible shot, even though I tried to control my breathing and focus on the flame and the void…the flame and the void

Aikido and Kendo would be the perfect new hobbies for me.  No matter how angry you get, you still can’t throw a sword at someone on the top of a hill.

 

via Insignificant Bullets, Evil Poachers, and L.A. Culture | Work in Progress.

Ken Follett: By the Book – NYTimes.com

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Ken Follett: By the Book – NYTimes.com.

via Ken Follett: By the Book – NYTimes.com.

 

I love Ken Follett.  I read Pillars of the Earth before I read Eye of the Needle, and Pillars of the Earth remains a milestone book for me.  The depth of research and how that research was revealed–not through boring exposition but through character interaction–amazed me.  I consider the book a true example of what Donald Maas would call a “breakout” novel.

In this interview, Follett expresses a lack of interest in the fantasy genre.  He says, “I just can’t read whimsical fantasy. I’ve never got through a Tolkien. If there are no rules, and anything can happen, then where’s the suspense? I hate elves.”

OK, well, the elf hating thing is just wrong.  I mean, why hate an entire species?  Makes no sense to me.

More importantly, I take issue with the notion that there’s no suspense because “there are no rules.”  In fact, this is something I’ve thought a lot about.  If a magic-using character’s abilities change with the needs of the plot, and a wizard-type can pull a day-saving rabbit out of a hat as easily as a deus ex machina can descend to the stage, save the day, and send everyone home feeling dissatisfied, then Follett is right.  Nothing’s worse than a plot turn based on a character suddenly revealing a power or ability not previously exhibited.

That having been said, as any former Game Master can tell you, magic can be codified and controlled, and a magic-using character with clearly defined limitations can easily be as suspenseful as a secret agent with tech to get them out of tight spots, or a young noble wondering about how her connections to a throne and other powerful families determines what she dare and dare not risk.

I enjoy the fantasy genre immensely and one of my main projects is a fantasy world and the stories set there.  Learning about the world (created from scratch, usually), the abilities of the characters including their limitations, and then watching the quest begin is as exciting as it can be in any other genre.  But fantasy, where individuals may have innate or learned powers and abilities that are far beyond the realm of everyday human capabilities is not outlandish at all.  To me, casting magic spells is really no greater a power than the ability to charm thousands with a song or instrument, a poem, or an artfully coded app.  If one is truly gifted in any of these areas, then one has a tremendous capacity to alter the future, and to change the world.  Magic is just another talent a character may have, and watching a young elf figure out how far his archery skills may take him, or a young wizard wonder how much her magic can change the world, has always seemed to me exactly the same as wondering where my writing might take me, and what challenges I might face along the way–from those represented by the talented and successful masters (including Follett) to my peers hoping to find representation as I am, to those who would say writing ability is as useless for changing the direction of a country, or the fate of a world, as magical powers.

When done properly, magical powers and magical creatures are no more difficult to understand, relate to, and read about then gifted architects, stone masons, generals, and priests.  Protagonists are by nature special, and magical abilities or a fantasy world to explore don’t make such characters any harder to connect with then the special gifts we find characters wielding in literature and other genres.

Follett uses plenty of magic and fantasy elements in his books.  He just cleaves very close to the reality line.  But when I look at his body of work, there’s no doubt in my mind that he is a story-telling wizard.

Follett should try some of the best fantasy out there, old and new.  Perhaps one day he’ll take a foray into the fantasy genre, and write something with the same depth, characterization, and high stakes as his historical fictions.  Along the way, he’d probably end up inventing his own rules for magic, and I’m sure the result would be something as intricate, profound, awe-inspiring, and grounded in reality as the most beautiful cathedral.

Social Media and Cost-Benefit Ratios

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TITLE IS MISLEADING

That title really makes you think I’m going to say something important here, but I’m not.  I’m just going to say that I spent the day cleaning up some of social media accounts.

I announced the upcoming closing of three twitter accounts and consolidated under @craigsoffer, which is the Twitter account that has my real name, and a Twitter feed that reflects my real thoughts and feelings.

Then I got lost in trying to figure out, once again, which accounts should post to which other accounts.

ACCOUNTS FOR NOW

I think the full “Soffocles” experience for now will be limited to the following:

Twitter: @craigsoffer

Tumblr: totemcomicteam.tumblr.com where I’ll focus on the indie comic I’m developing and reblogs from the world of comics.

cowboysdontswim.com which will remain the hub for the time being.  I may open a blog for my company, Puzzled Sphinx Productions, LLC, but I’m not sure yet.  I think my goal is to give my readers and fans one stop shopping here at cowboysdontswim.com, even though the blog name tends to confuse people.  You can also see some of my stuff at 

RELEVANT?

On the one hand, I enjoy all this social media computer geek stuff I get to do; on the other hand, I’d rather be in a dark box somewhere, working on my novel.  But it’s a modern world, and I think it’s key to embrace the new that comes along if you want to stay relevant.  Or become relevant in the first place.