Daredevil and Binge Watching

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The Daredevil Netflix series premieres today. If you see me online, it’s because it’s boring and I’m looking for something else to do.

Or that I’m taking a break or something.

Anyway, I’ve never binge-watched a TV series before. I’ve done a few episodes at a time, but a whole season? First attempt. I hope I hate it, for the sake of my productivity.

I’m taking a short internet fast, sort of.

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Posting this today, on 3/31, because if it goes up tomorrow people might think it’s a dumb prank: I’m going to get offline as much as possible for the remainder of the week.

This has always been a tough time of year for me. Spring in Seattle is the winding down of impossibly long nights and dim, gray days, and it’s always made me feel out of sorts and unhappy. Combine that with traditional post-book blues (x4), burnout from writing 30K words of blog posts, and general life/health stress, I find I’m not engaging very much online.

And what’s the point of spending that time on Twitter (or whatever) if I’m not going to respond to people?

Is it wise to be offline so soon after releasing a bunch of books? Maybe not. Maybe I should still be out in the mix, trying to soft shoe on my blog about… something I care about, I guess. Trouble is, at the moment I don’t have the energy to care, not about Clean Reader, not about Hugo Puppies, not about tv shows or their hosts.

Probably, I will check my emails and social media notifications once a day and otherwise avoid the web until Sunday. That will give me more time for writing (still working on that Great Way supplement for Fate Core), reading, walking, and generally interacting in the real world[1]. By Sunday, I should feel better. Besides, that’s when my next G+ hangout rpg session will be.

Wish me… Huh. I don’t know. Wish me productivity.

[1]Interacting with the real world not guaranteed.

Sometimes it helps to clarify your goals

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When I’m writing, sometimes my goal is as simple as “Finish this day’s work so I can have finished this day’s work.” Sometimes it’s as complex as “I don’t know how to solve this problem.”

Then there are times like right now, when I have a list of odd tasks that accumulate around a writing career, and I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do, except cross off everything on this list. And then I have to wonder why I’m doing any of this.

It’s not money, despite what some “fans” might say. If I wanted money I wouldn’t have become a writer. It’s certainly not awards; that’s someone else’s concern. And if I wanted writing-style fame, I’d probably do readings or conventions or whatever. So, what do I want, then?

It was this article that reminded me: How Terry Brooks Saved Epic Fantasy.

Regarding the article itself, I don’t think Brooks gets a bad rap. He wrote accessible, commercial fantasy fiction, and was lucky enough to hit the NYTimes bestseller list when other fantasy writers couldn’t. Even now, 35+ years later, his books are gateway fantasy to bring middle-graders into the genre, and as comfort reads for older fans. And if you think I have something against comfort, you haven’t seen my Goodreads page or my waist line.

However, the article itself reminded me of What I Want: I want people to be still talking about my work, decades after it was published.

That’s not to say I want people to think I “saved [genre]”. I don’t really think about genre as a unified thing that could be/needs to be saved. Fantasy is certainly doing better now than it has in a long while.

But I want to have an impact. I want people to look back at my work and believe that it mattered in some way. I want to be remembered.

Which is not nearly the same as winning awards or hitting bestseller lists. There are plenty of award-winning novels that nobody reads, and the thrift store shelves are packed with forgotten bestsellers from “#1 New York Times” authors that few remember.

I mean, awards would be nice, and money would make things easier for my wife and kid. I’m not saying those things don’t matter at all. But the number one thing is to be remembered because things are different because of what I’ve done. I’m not even sure it’s possible, but it’s what I want.

Christmas Kindness

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I debated writing about this, but what the hell. Here goes.

We don’t have very much money. This isn’t a lament or an accusation, just a fact. My family lives without a lot of the things that other people have (car, home, cell phones, cable TV, etc) and that’s largely a conscious choice. We homeschool. We write and paint. We are at home a lot and together, eating meals at the table and spending time together, not eating in our car as we drive from one thing to another.

Still, even though these are the choices we’ve made, sometimes they’re still tough. Very tough. Case in point: grocery shopping. For the last six or seven years, we have pulled a child’s red wagon the eight blocks or so from our apartment to the supermarket, locked it to a bike rack, shopped, then put the bags in the wagon and pulled it home.

It’s not an activity that ever made me feel like an up-and-comer, let me tell you. Worse was when the cheap plastic tread on the wheels split and fell apart, leaving the wagon to rattle on its white “rims”.

So when my wife announced that she was going to take over the shopping, I was glad and embarrassed. If I were more successful, we’d have more fun money for a car or something.[1]

And I started to learn about the staff at the supermarket. I’m not really one for talking to strangers, but she’s an extrovert and will talk to just about anyone willing chat back. So I heard about the staff and what they’re doing, and I had a few conversations with them when I’d stop in for something quick. “Where’s your wife? Tell her this tell her that tell her I said hello.” She even told them about my new book, something I would have never done.

What I’m saying is, she’s the nicest person I’ve ever known, and she’s very comfortable connecting with people.

To get to the point of this story, when she was shopping on Christmas Eve, the supermarket staff were unusually attentive, checking in with her and asking if she was ready to check out. When she went to check out, she was doing her usual thing, facing the register and chatting while she sorted the food.

Then she realized the whole staff had gathered around, and they invited her to turn around, and she realized they had all chipped in and bought her a gift.

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And assembled it, too.

It really meant a lot to her, that gesture of kindness from people who had no reason to offer it except that it was Christmas and they wanted to make her happy. And they did.

It’s been a subdued holiday season with a few big distractions[2] but this was a moment that really made things special.

[1] Yeah, I know about Uber, Flexcar, and the rest. I’m not looking for advice on how we could spend our money better.

[2] Which means I have a new book out.

Today is my son’s birthday

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My son was born on Boxing Day, and his mom and I have always made an effort to make this day special for him. Not just a little christmas, where he gets a few more gifts but everything is all colored lights and decorated tree. My wive and I used to strip all the Christmassy stuff off the table and replace it with a bright yellow table cloth, balloons, and birthday pie (never cake).

But he’s turning 13 today, so it’s unlikely we’ll be spending the day together like we used to. He got a new gaming keyboard and mouse yesterday, so I expect he’ll want to spend at least part of the day trying to get used to his new “rig.” (God, I can’t believe he calls it that.)

Still, we planned lunch at a local Japanese place that he likes, and we have gifts to give him: a couple of books and some Tshirts from Threadless.

And I have work to do. Some folks are having problems with the books I published, plus I’m trying to work out some publicity, plus I have end of the year payments and tax stuff to do. Will I be online, doing all that stuff, or will I be press-ganged into a co-op game or something?

Time will tell. In the meantime, if you received bookstore gift cards, you can pick up a copy of The Way Into Chaos. Order a paper copy now and, like the Kickstarter backers, you’ll get the version with the massive but invisible proofing error on the back cover. Seriously, readers send me typos all the time, but no one has caught this. (I certainly didn’t!)

Looking at numbers, part 2A

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As an addendum to yesterday’s post about not getting responses to my Kickstarter fulfillment emails, it seems that no matter how old I get, I can still be blindsided by the realization that Other People Do Things Differently.

If you offer me something I want, I take it, all other things being neutral. If I’m in a situation where it’s not convenient to take it, I might put it off a while, or maybe not. I did carry a quart bottle of OJ around on a date night with my wife because otherwise no OJ.

I’ve certainly put off dealing with emails that required a response, but to acquire a thing I wanted? It would never even occur to me. It’s the way I was brought up.

That’s why I assumed I could get good open/ignore stats on a Saturday night from an email sent on a Wed/Thu. However, I spent a large portion of yesterday reading tweets, Facebook comments, LiveJournal comments, and emails from folks who will get around to it, who will do it after they finish a book, who have to fight for computer time, who are doing holidays, who are traveling.

You get the picture. What seems, to me, to be a matter of habit and instinct isn’t really.

Sorry for reading so much into things, you guys.

At least I sold a bunch of copies of my short fiction collection.

A two-hour movie from a 32-page picture book???

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For the past several years I’ve been listening to people griping/mocking/whatever about the The Hobbit being turned into three movies. Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous.

Shrek is a 32-page picture book that was turned into a two-hour movie. See also Where the Wild Things Are and The Iron Man (which became The Iron Giant).

The next Captain America movie will adapt Marvel’s Civil War crossover story, but how are they going to fit everything from dozens of issues into one movie?

Did you know that the screenwriter of the KULL THE CONQUEROR movie took advantage of his contractual right to create a novel version of the movie, which was closer to his original script? I haven’t read it, but he says he never wrote the stupid stuff about Kull being terrible with a sword, and he included the reason for the “madness” that drove the king to murder his children, along with other complexities cut from the film?

In other words, yeah, people adapt things. They condense them. They expand them. They change them significantly. They put happy endings on the end of Romeo & Juliet. They turn Stephen King’s vampire into a wordless nosferatu. Works high and low are altered in the adaptation, and I’m tired of hearing the same old gripes about Jackson’s Hobbit films.

Yeah, there’s profit-seeking in it (says the guy about to release a fantasy trilogy of his own) and can I say that I’m shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on in this establishment. Of course, the only way to stop movie-makers from splitting adaptations into more than one film is to turn them into flops. Having just taken my son to see MOCKINGJAY PART ONE, I’m not holding my breath.

Me, I haven’t seen any of THE HOBBIT films yet. Maybe they suck. Maybe they’re fine and people are shit-mouthing them because they feel ripped off.

In any event, I have a ticket to see all three films, in a marathon, on an IMAX screen, this Monday afternoon. It’s going to be a nine-hour event, starting at 1pm (watching all three LOTR films on my birthday took 13 hours) and I’m going to be there for the duration. Unfortunately, my wife and son aren’t bit on movie marathons, the poor dears, so I’m having a Me-day.

(Seattle-area folks: is anyone else going? Drop me a note on Twitter at @byharryconnolly and maybe we can arrange to meet up)

Certainly, some parts will be dumb, some will be entertaining, some will be both. I last read the book a few years back, when my kid was young enough that we could subject him to family read-aloud time, so I won’t notice minor changes and won’t care about large ones. In other words, fuck Tom Bombadil. I expect that the worst thing about it will be eating meals out of the concession stand.

If I get a shit ton of work done this weekend, I’ll even be ready to sign and mail out the paperbacks when they arrive the next day.

Seriously, though: if you’re going and want to meet up, let me know.

Today marks 25 years in Seattle

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Leaving Philadelphia didn’t fix my life, but it sure gave me a new perspective on it. I also acquired a brand new opportunity to do things for myself. All my life I’d been told I was a lazy person who did the bare minimum to get by, and I believed it. Living in Seattle, I was waking up at 2am so I could write before leaving at 4:30am for my day job, but I still believed that story about being a slacker.

I haven’t made the friends here that I did back in Philly, but I did fall in love with and marry an amazing woman. It’s a good life, if a little quiet. It would be even better if we could move again, preferably someplace sunny.

Yesterday marks 25 years since I left Philadelphia

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I meant to post this on the actual day, but I was busy working on the Fate game supplements and fucking around on Twitter.

Yes, on November 13th, 1989, I hopped on the train and headed off to Seattle, where my friend Andrew had just moved. He promised to put me up in his living room, and I took off.

Was I excited to be going to Seattle? Not for itself, no. Andrew had moved here for a girl but I was just looking to get out of Philly. I had great friends there, but I was stuck in a rut, having graduated from college the year before and fallen into bad habits. In 1989, I was a wake-and-bake stoner, going nowhere, doing nothing, no money, no girlfriend, no prospects. I was still living at home, too. I knew I had to get out, but it just seemed impossible.

Looking back, I was probably dealing with some kind of mental health issues. Depression or anxiety or some mix of the two? Maybe? I don’t know. I’d suffered through a lot of self-loathing over the years, and getting high made it bearable. I’d also had lots of suicidal thoughts, but maybe they weren’t as commonplace as I’d believed. I’d never gone any further than laying a knife against my wrist, just to see how it would feel (answer: not sharp enough) but I figured everyone had those thoughts all the time so I brushed them off and never acted on them. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

Anyway, Andrew had a going away party sometime near Labor Day, and I floated through it thinking “I should be doing this, too.” When I contacted him about coming out there a couple weeks after he left, he was enthusiastic about a friendly face.

So I left my friends, my family, and a McJob with a 90-minute commute each way. Plus side for the job, they were nice enough to let me bring my Brother WP 75 to the shipping dock, where they bagged it, stuck it in a box, and packed it with quick-drying spray foam. It arrived in Seattle in perfect working order.

Anyway, late in the day yesterday, 25 years ago, I boarded a train for the west coast to remake my life. I figure that’s probably a big deal.