Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This Just In! Intelligent Life Has Been Discovered!

It's just that I had to make my way to North County to find it. Whereas South Bay is the intelligence-and-culture vacuum in which I currently reside - the area between downtown San Diego and Tijuana, North County is the area north of San Diego. I've been informed that this is where the artistic, intelligent, creative folks all tend to reside. (But remember, we've got the nail salons and tattoo parlors!)

Last night, I made my way 45 miles north to join a writer's group that I stumbled onto on I'm not going to say too much about them, since I'm not really prone to smooching tuckus, but I will say it was an extremely pleasant change to meet with writers who seemed to have voices of their own, who sought honest criticism (and got it!), and who accepted it pretty graciously. Plus we all seemed to come from out of the same pool of interests (yeah, geeks, but literate, functional geeks).

I'm more curious about North County. What is it - the water? What is it about that place that keeps you people up there? Can't we get a sort of international exchange program going on? How about some of you artistic sorts come down here to this cultural third world and bring a sort of artistic care package? ("This is an oil painting. It's painted on canvas." "Oooo!") Maybe you could do a USO show. ("This is clog dancing!" "Really? When do I take my clothes off?")

I doubt that this will happen, so I comfort myself with the thought that every few weeks, I'll get to pack up the laptop, some paperwork, and drive 90+ miles round trip to spend several hours with some writers of like minds. But, you know, I'm the guy that used to drive 150 miles, round trip, to Memphis every 2 weeks to get comic books. I'm sure they understand - and I suspect they'll know I can't wait.

So, to all you up there in North Bay, to all you everywhere, to Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea, I'm sending this dispatch from deep in the cultural apocalypse that is South Bay. Back to you, Ted.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Oh, Yeah. One Other Thing...

I joined Twitter. I know. It's freaking me out, too. If you want, you can blame everyone else who does it and says how great it is. Or, in my case, you could blame the guy who sent me an email telling me to get an account, just so he could follow me (Philip). Blame him.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get the damn thing on this page.

That's me. Caving in to modern technology, while remaining stubbornly illiterate. So far behind the curve, I can still see Trash-80's from here.

This May be the Last Bit of Sanity You See...

...At least for a little while. You see, according to my calculations, which are never wrong (ha!), the earliest that a certain special manuscript could arrive at a certain special publisher's office in NYC is tonight. Which means, in reality, the earliest it could be dumped into the slush pile to be ignored by editors, to be used as a coaster for coffee, or to finally be sneered at, looked over, and/or read by some assistant would be tomorrow morning.

Realistically, it'll hit the pile and stay there for many moons until someone deigns to pick the dang thing up and look at it (it's a mighty big package - 857 pages). But with the earliest possible chance of anyone putting their publishorial hands on it being tonight or tomorrow, I am saddled with the knowledge that my last frayed edges of sanity are going to go bye-bye.

I'll be a nervous wreck for weeks, at least until I'm distracted by enough bad things, good things, or frustrating things that I'll have pushed it away and am able to think of something else. Don't get me wrong. I won't stop worrying about Heroes until I hear from them, for good or ill, but in a few weeks, I'll be able to contemplate the joy of a simple sunset, the perfection of a tasty barbecue rib (Kansas City-style, of course), or the happiness I feel at the thought of hurling a mindless functionary through a window. Ah, yes. To be sane again. I'll look forward to it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"It's Away!"

Yes, it's official. As of this afternoon, I have launched the newest, latest (and with any luck - last) version of Heroes toward New York City - specifically DAW Books. I sent it off in a large Priority Mail box, and yes, I got delivery confirmation. The reading time is supposed to be 3 months or less, and from what I've been able to research, DAW is pretty dang spectacular about reading & considering even faster than that. I'll let you know what I hear. It may not be too long before we found out if it goes in, or like Red Leader's attack, just impacts on the surface.

[manuscript name edited on 1/25]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"I See Trees of Green -- Red Roses, Too..."

"I see them bloom for me and you.

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blues, clouds of white,

The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world."

(George Weiss & Bob Thiele)

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Archives are Open - And There's a Funny Smell Inside

Let's call this the early pre-official non-grand opening of my online archives. As I said earlier, I want to post some of my earlier paid work online, and I now have about 40 different pieces in the Writer's Washroom Annex. At the moment, none of this is fiction. There are five categories: Columns (from my "From the Extremes" and "The Bipolar Extremist" days), Features Writing (from Planet Weekly and a few other places), Interviews, Press Releases, and Scripts.

I'm having formatting issues with the Scripts section right now, so only one is up: the original three-page script for Pop-Up Prophecy. There should be two or three more scripts up soon (if I can figure this dang thing out...rassum frassum...stupid formatting).

I've tried picking out a representation of each category. Some of them are better than others, but all of them I feel fondly about. I had a tendency to really make obscure comments about local politicos; as such, I've skipped over columns that did that too often. I've also left out some features and articles that I felt were good, but were perhaps too similar to ones that were better.

The six interviews I've selected are among my favorite pieces ever (featuring the Mayor of Jackson, a wonderful local mixed-media artist, the President of Jackson State, a Survivor contestant, a rapper/producer, and...yes, a Presidential candidate. It says in the interview that I had a beer while interviewing him. One hundred percent true. I was not about to pass up the opportunity to have a beer with a man running for President of the United States.)

I'll work on the scripts problem and try to find a copy of "Wasteland," my sole published fiction piece - from way back when. As far as the rest go: we'll see.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Why No Blogspot Love for the Writers?

Yes, yes, I know -- this seems like a ridiculous question. After all, a blog is a place for people to write, so Blogspot must love the writers, correct? Well, let me ask you something: what's your favorite TV show? Check my profile, or check yours; that question isn't there. Go ahead, I'll wait.

The reason I bring this up is that there is an old adage (and I'm paraphrasing here): movies are the domain of the director, the stage is the domain of the actor, and television is the domain of the writer.

(Then there is my more current codicil to that: music is the domain of the marketing directors, record producers, sound engineers, video directors, makeup artists, stylists, sequencers, programmers, choreographers, drug dealers, Hennessy salesmen, ClearChannel, Simon Cowell, iTunes, MTV, and only very occasionally the musicians - but I digress.)*

As a rule, the best television shows have the best creators, and the best creators are the best writers. When the writing drops off, the show suffers. See Heroes as an example. When it left the big-picture DC Comics ideas of the first season for the navel-gazing, meta-time-traveling Marvel Comics shifting philosophies of everything later, it suffered. The writing went from good to bad, and took the show with it.

So why is it that Blogspot has a spot for your favorite books, music, movies, and hobbies, but not television shows? It seems a bit short-sighted to me to ignore a form of mass media which is developed and shaped by the writer. Yes, books are listed, but in a world where children under the age of 18 are failing to learn to read and write because they are learning to text instead, listing favorite books is tantamount to asking what their favorite alchemical process is.

I've left my list of favorite books vague because it changes every day. There are some constants, but most of them change with the wind. Right now I'm reading the David McCullough's John Adams biography, and enjoying it greatly. I recently read Terry Pratchett's Making Money and loved it. I've reread a dozen books I liked, but none of them are on the list, simply because I don't have the room, time, or inclination to figure out which books are the tops of my list. (Doing the music list cured me of that - it took almost 8 hours. It started at 5,500 characters, and had to be cut to 2,000. It took a while to edit my music down, and I feel about books as I do about music, but at a factor of ten.)

My television choices are easier, though. There are much less to choose from and the quality is much, much lower. For no other reason than a desire to share my points of view, I've put together my list of my Favorite 17 Television Shows of the Past Decade or So.

17. Life - I like this one for a combination of the characters and the quirky writing (and by quirky, I don't mean 'wacky', which I hate). This show is dark, but with a light touch, and Charlie Crews is one of the more endearing characters on TV. So his partner simply doesn't look like a cop, and so this is one place I've seen Donal Logue that I hate him? I'll overlook it all for that parakeet turn of the head that Crews uses to unnerve a perp.

16. Doctor Who - I like the new one. I like David Tennant and liked Christopher Eccleston. I like all the companions so far. I love the dialog, the writing, and pretty much everything about it. Why isn't it higher? Because when they get something wrong, they get it wrong. The whole Doctor-Who-clap-for-Tinkerbell-to-save-the-world thing nearly made me hurl my TV through a wall. I'll forgive them that for the "Blink" episode, which was one of the best episodes of any show ever aired, but inconsistency plagues this could-be-great show.

15. Friday Night Lights - Another show that I really like. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are the best couple on TV and they've got a great cast of unfamiliar faces and good writing. I'd rank this one higher, too, except for the fact that I sometimes think the writers aren't trying that hard. Events tend to slide into laziness when you know they're capable of better. But when the writers are on, and the cast is on (which they always are), this show turns job interviews into the best television out there.

14. The Amazing Race - I hate reality TV. I love this one. I don't have much to say, except that it's nice to see different places and that host Phil Keoghan is the best reality host out there, because you don't hate him after each episode. And they have, thankfully, seem to have come away from having some terrible human beings on the show each season.

13. Farscape - Muppets in space, man -- no show ever looked like this one, and none ever will. Anchored in the whipcrack pop-culture dialog between Ben Browder, Claudia Black, and Anthony Simcoe, this dark fish-out-of-water tale was disguised as a romp and fooled people who couldn't get beyond its very thin skin. If you did, you were rewarded with a complex, nuanced story of friendship, independence, love, and most of all - loyalty.

12. Scrubs - Yes, the fantasy sequences can be overdone and repetitive, and yes, some of the jokes can be seen coming over the horizon, but I personally love the way that the show takes you from belly laugh to melodrama in a moment. The show also has given us Dr. Cox, Dr. Kelso, and the Janitor - three of the best malevolent characters in television history, all of them mean-spirited in their own way, and all of them surprisingly layered and emotional. Plus, Scrubs really helped Elizabeth Banks break big (as J.D.'s baby's mama), and as far as I'm concerned, that's a very good thing.

11. Torchwood - Argue with me if you want, but I prefer this to Dr. Who. I think it's even more inconsistent and shaky at times than its parent series, but it also takes many more risks. It's visually unique, the writing can be excellent (particularly in the second season), and the world has got a new matinee leading man in Captain Jack (John Barrowman). The fact that Captain Jack is bisexual would seem like a deal-breaker for most television, but considering that even that retirement-home standby, TV Guide, has written about him and the show demonstrates that the world maybe becoming ready for a ladies' man who is also - in no uncertain terms - a man's man. But I will join the chorus of those folks who hated the events of the last episode of the second season. Feh.

10. Eli Stone - It seems really strange to me that Trainspotting's Sick Boy can be television's greatest prophet, but he is. This one gets my Most Uplifting Award. I enjoy watching the show, and I hate schmaltz. I love the cast, the characters, the dialog, and the situations. I hate ABC for canceling the show, and I hope that the network exec responsible for it is in a debilitating car wreck. In Eli's world, the exec would actually be saved, there'd be a musical number, and at the end, I'd not hate the exec. That's how good the show is.

9. Deadwood - I wanted to do this one like Al Swearingen did, but...I'm trying to keep most of the blue language out. I love David Milch, I love Milchspeak, and I love the idea of transplanting it into Deadwood. The stories were great, the plotting was unbeatable, and the laughs came often, and often when they did, it was too help shake off the horror of watching Swearingen or Dan brutally murdering someone. Plus, the show gave us a holy trinity of badasses: Ian McShane's Swearingen, Timothy Olyphant's Seth Bullock, and Keith Carradine's Wild Bill Hickok. There were others, but it was the actions of those three that set everything in motion.

8. Two and a Half Men - Laugh if you want at me, but you'll laugh at the show. This one makes my list, simply by being the funniest sitcom of the last 20 years. I don't care what you throw up against it, I'll argue that you get 6 or 8 belly laughs every episode, and no other show can touch that. Plus, this one gets bonus points for being the most profane show on TV. No other network show has gotten laughs from lines about Tijuana donkey shows. The creator, Chuck Lorre, is like a sick, dark, mean-spirited god to me.

7. The Sopranos - Guess what? I loved the ending. I don't care if you didn't. This is one of the best shows of all time. I'd rank it higher, but for the fact that I believe that so many of the shows, particularly toward the middle and end, were just filler. You could have removed 20-25 shows out of the entire run and nothing would have changed. This strikes me as padding a storyline that didn't need to be padded - or of trying to keep something going longer than it should go. Plus, like some other shows, when it got it wrong, it blew it. Christopher's run through the music industry? Please. The Big Gay Romp Through New Hampshire? Spare me. That said, this is one of the best casts ever assembled for TV, some of the best writing ever put to paper, and without question this show uses music better than any show ever has or will. It's great, but not the greatest.

6. C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation - And by that, I mean only the first one. I don't like the New York version and I hate the Miami version. The Las Vegas version is the original and still the best. Another great cast, with great directors, and outstanding writers. This one is on the list also because of how influential it is, and also because it's the oldest show out there I still watch - it's still excellent, eight years after it began. Last night, Gil Grissom (William Peterson) left the show, and they had to get Lawrence Fishburne to take over for him. I'll miss Grissom (as will my girlfriend, believe you me), but we'll keep watching.

5. Firefly - Though I don't wear a brown coat, I love me some Firefly. For all the fun little things about the show (the setting, the six-shooters, Adam Baldwin), this one is on here for one reason - the dialog. Firefly's sarcastic, witty, oddly-accented, brutally nasty dialog flew between the characters like .45 rounds, often striking with the same impact. There has never been a more quotable show with as few episodes. It was a magnificent experiment that fell to Fox's executioner early, like so many others. But it left us with pleasant memories and the knowledge that it never had a chance to go wrong. Now, why the hell hasn't someone given Nathan Fillion another massive leading man gig?

4. Lost - This is one of those shows that really is as good as you've heard. It's dense, intelligent, complex, and well-written. It has a huge cast of talented actors and a completely original concept. It's given us John Locke, Desmond & Penny, the black smoke, and the world's most lovable Iraqi Republican Guardsman, Sayid - who is also network TV's baddest dude. I've knocked it down 2 spots, though, because it has also subjected us to "Benjamin Linus: International Man of Mystery," which seemed ridiculous from the beginning and has only gotten worse over time. Ben Linus almost made up for it with last season's finale, but frankly, I hope the character dies off and we never have to see him again. Two spots, people; I hate him that much.

3. House, M.D. - Officially the best cast on television. This show is nearly flawless, the dialog is fantastic, and the storylines are great. I love the fact that the characters are separated into triads: House, Wilson, & Cuddy; Foreman, Chase, & Cameron; Taub, Kuttner, & Thirteen. I think House is the most complex character on TV and I fully admit to madly crushing on Lisa Edelstein's Cuddy (which is okay - girlfriend has an even madder crush on Wilson), and I think bringing the younger team in was a stroke of genius. This is probably the best-made show on TV. Why isn't it higher on my list? Just because of the ones that are already there.

2. Battlestar Galactica - This is the greatest reboot ever. As much as I love science fiction television, and I do (a scan of my list demonstrates that), this is the best one ever made. But it's not really a science fiction show. It is simply the most densely-plotted, tersely-acted apocalyptic drama ever made; it's just wearing science fiction clothing. This show had much going against it to start off with, and it has literally beaten every obstacle. Fanboys hated the reboot idea ("Starbuck can't be a woman! He's a man!"); there was only two cast members Americans knew, Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell; it was a science fiction show on Sci Fi; it was a remake of a Star Wars ripoff; and it had a basic cable budget. Now fanboys who once blasted the show hail it as the greatest thing ever, it is the flagship show of Sci Fi (which has begun to look respectable), it is loved by the critics (except by the Emmy people, but they still watch Boston Legal, so what the hell do they know?), every episode looks like a feature film, and people all over the world now know who Jamie Bamber, Tricia Helfer, Aaron Douglas, and Donnelly Rhodes are. And we love their characters (Apollo, Number 6, Chief Tyrol, and Doc Cottle). The producers also set the stage for shows to follow:** they announced that they would do 4 seasons and that was it. They're done. They're going to go out on top, and unless they really start to screw things up tonight, they will go out on top.

1. The Wire - This is the best show in television history, bar none, I will brook no argument. As a writer, I simply cannot except that there has ever been a better show, and frankly, I don't think there will ever be a better one. This one is here simply because it is the best-written show of all time. There was never anything done wrong. Sure, some people may say that Season 5 was a drop-off in quality, but I'll argue that that must have been. I believe that The Wire's Season 4 (the season of the schools) is the single greatest season in television history. When 4 is the best of all time, 5 cannot be as good.

The Wire had as many obstacles as BSG: a vast cast of unknown, mostly African-American faces; a storyline that branched out again and again, leaving no plot ever truly ended; a tendency to use philosophy juxtaposed with violence to shock truth into the viewer; and an insistence on refusing to cater to the lowest common denominator. The producers and creators wrote this show, assuming the public to be smart enough to get it. Those that watched it, got it. Critics loved it. Writers loved it. Thugs loved it. All kinds of people loved it. Emmy people don't, but we already know they're idiots. This may be the only show ever written to assume that the viewing audience would be smart enough to get it, and then give them a show to reward them for doing so. It was television's masterpiece.

It also gave us some of the greatest characters ever on the small screen: Snoop, Marlowe, Proposition Joe, Frank Sobotka, Kima Greggs, Avon Barksdale, Bunny, and Detectives Bunk and Freamon. It also gave us an unholy quartet of great television characters. Any list that doesn't include these guys isn't a real list: Detective McNulty, who would do anything to anyone to do the right thing; Omar, the master of roguish violence who arrived in a location 30 seconds after his reputation did; Stringer Bell, the farsighted, intelligent, pragmatic, loyal drug dealer and budding real estate mogul who almost left the streets behind; and Bubbles, the heroin addict, snitch, and newspaper hawker who was finally able to do just that.

I once wanted to write for television. I've since put that idea away. It's the fault of The Wire. I realize I would never be able to write anything nearly as good as that. Instead, I'm going to rewatch an episode or two on DVD, get ready for tonight's episode of BSG, and bask in the glow of the masters.

*Thanks, Chris! I've officially stolen "but I digress" from you.
**Both Lost and Desperate Housewives have followed this concept since BSG started it. It's a great idea.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"To the Last, I Will Grapple With Thee!"

Officially, I'm bummed. I've just heard on CNN that Ricardo Montalban has died. We are now officially missing Khan/Mr. Roarke.

I only hope he goes out in a coffin lined with rich Corinthian leather...

The Cultural Vacuum of So-So Cal

Usually the first thing people want to know when they find out I live in southern-Southern California (So-So Cal) is how good the weather is. They've all been told that the sun shines all the time, there is a constant seabreeze, and it never rains. As much as I had to admit it, there's a bit of truth to that. The sun shines a lot. The seabreeze...well, the seabreeze is righteous, particularly in the summer and fall. And it rains rarely enough that we leave all sorts of things on the porch, because we know they won't get wet. (Of course, this winter was simply terrible - what with about 10 days of rain, temperatures down into the 40s, and fog every night for a few weeks - sigh.)

I don't generally like to lie, so I admit that the weather is pretty nice, and yes, the beaches are very cool, the mountains are nice, the deserts are lovely, and so on. The problem comes when people quit listening; they believe they have heard everything there is to know about this part of the country. They have jumped the gun; there is much more to know.

There's a certain brain-dead nature here, a bit of vacuousness that permeates...yeah, okay. I've got to use smaller words, or most of these troglodytes wouldn't be able to understand. Yogurt has more culture than this place. People assume that coming here would make everything all right. Culturally speaking, I think of it as more of a soul-numbing, mind-draining, body-churning squat over the outhouse of Hell.

My girlfriend (who shall remain nameless - no point dragging her through the mud) and I live in the area called South Bay, which is the area between San Diego proper and Tijuana. There's nothing here, but here. You want a bookstore? You have to drive - and drive and drive. The nearest one to us is a tiny Border's which cares more about its attached coffee shop. They sell more music than books. They don't update their magazines when they're supposed to be updated, and when I asked if they knew when the knew Terry Pratchett book was coming in, it took three of those chimps to scratch themselves and admit they didn't know who I was talking about. Worse yet, none of them knew how to operate a computer and find out.

Last Halloween, I went to the nearest Blockbuster to find a classic horror movie, and by classic, I meant a Hitchcock film, people. I'd have settled for a good Hammer film, but I was looking for the master. I am certain you can see where this is going.

The first dolt I spoke to scratched his soul patch and started to point at the shelf when I asked if they had any 'classic horror movies.' I then said I'd be very angry if he pointed out that the first Saw was still available to rent. As God is my witness, he stopped, blinked, and said, "Well, it is available. It's a classic." I left him (not bleeding - I showed restraint) and went to the desk. I found the geekiest-looking fellow I could and asked the same question. He asked what I meant. I said I was looking for a Hitchcock movie. He was quiet, and then said (and I swear to Christ this is true), "That's not out yet."

I cocked an eyebrow. He said, "That Will Smith movie's not out yet." I responded, "That would be Hancock. I am looking for a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest directors of all time."

Neither he nor the manager, who was standing next to him, knew who Hitchcock was. (I always thought that Jay Leno heavily edited the "Jaywalking" portion of his show, but now it's clear to me that he doesn't have to. It's no mean feat to hunt stupidity on these streets.)

Suddenly, the geek asked, "Wasn't Alfred Hitchcock that fat guy on TV, back in the black and white days?" He did look up Hitchcock and found that they actually had one movie, Strangers on a Train, but it had been rented and not yet returned. The manager then told me that they didn't carry any older movies, because the customers didn't rent them; she said her area manager said they had to get rid of any movie older than 10 years old. I blinked at that a moment and then asked her: "Who rented Strangers on a Train?" She had no answer for that, which seems to be the usual mental state around here. (When she checked me out, I made a snarky comment that I was used to video stores that had sections for foreign films and film noir - even chain stores. She looked at me and said, "What's film noir?")

What we're missing in any sort of culture, we do make up for in nail salons. I mention those, because around here I'm fairly certain that the nail salons lead directly to the area's Number 1 hobby - getting pregnant. Since the Catholic influence is pervasive, and since there are no other real hobbies (based on the lack of bookstores, music stores, art and framing stores, museums, galleries, craft shops, decent video stores...), it seems like it must happen. The sad thing is that there really seems to be some pride at being young and pregnant here. And when I say young, I mean exactly that. I watched three girls walking home from high school together, all with their Trapper Keepers held over their baby bumps. All of them looked happy and no one glanced askance at them. In Mississippi, at least one housewife would have shouted "Whore!" in their direction.

Last night, I made a late-evening run to Staples for office supplies and came across an odd batch - not only of babies-having-babies, but those little twerps pretending to be dads. The Staples is next to a Babies-R-Us. While I was coming across the lot, I watched a truck pull into a spot and two kids get out. Of course, he looked maybe 18. She looked about 16.

Apparently, there was some kind of sale going on. I watched this young couple waddle (she waddled - he shuffled alongside) as quickly as they could toward the store. It was clear she was hurrying as quickly as she could, but her cantilevered belly was keeping it from happening. As I watched, I saw about six or seven other couples all doing the same thing: shuffling and waddling together in the direction of the front door of the store. It looked like a cross between Mi Familia and Night of the Living Dead.

As I watched these couples slouch toward the only store in the South Bay that interested them, I realized I was beginning to have an understanding of the problem: a loss of culture in an area is a generational problem, and when the generations are hurrying themselves along, the loss becomes even more noticeable.

So, how's the weather here? The weather's fine. The mountains are pretty. The beaches are lovely. Pretty much everything else is messed up.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why I've Come Late To the Party (or Don't Call Me a Blogger)

It's not my intention to offend anyone who reads this, but likely anyone who is reading this and knows me is aware of the fact that I will probably do it anyway. Yes, this is my first official blog, and yes, this is my first official blog entry, and yes, this is my explanation as to why I'm not a blogger.

I have long referred to myself as a neo-Luddite. I like certain aspects of technology. I love my laptop, my iPod, and my PS2. What I don't have is our culture's pervasive need to power-up my laptop, to get the newest iPod and to upgrade to the PS3. I also don't want an iPhone (the touchscreens just make me feel icky), I don't know how to Twitter (I think it sounds perverted when anyone but CNN's Rick Sanchez says it), and I try to keep my texting to an absolute miminum - and when I do it, I still feel a low-level bit of shame.

I've also avoided the whole blog scene. I've been writing professionally for about six years now, and blogging has been on the rise most of the entire time. It hasn't interested me until now, and to be honest, it's still not quite grabbed me. To do this was a professional decision. This week I am sending my fourth version of my first novel to the first publisher to seek interest.* One piece of advice which has begun to flit around in the past year or so is that publishers now expect serious writers to have an online presence. It makes them seem professional.

Please excuse me for noting the irony here. Very few of these online writers are actually professional writers. They are bloggers. They've never submitted a query letter or proposal to a publisher. They've never waited months to hear if their manuscript would be published. They've never been given a 24-hour, 1000-word assignment on a subject on which they know nothing. They've never had to fill 12 column inches with 3 column inches' worth of background information. They've never even had 1 day to compose the greatest ad copy ever for two different clients at the same time - neither of whom are willing to pay for this great copy within 180 days. These people are bloggers, not writers.

I'm a writer, not a blogger. If that sounds arrogant, so be it. I had a piece of fiction published in 1992 and received a $35 check for it. Since then, I have never written anything and not been paid for it. By definition, this is what makes me a professional. I've been published in several different fields in several different markets and even been reprinted in eight different countries. I've also done the mercenary work - the ad work, the commercial work. I've been paid for all that, too. In each case, I had to deal with another person, or group of people - a publisher, editor, selection committee, agency, or client - who decided that this work is good. In each case, I met the standards, did the necessary rewrites, and let someone else publish my work. I believe this is as it should be.

Often I see bloggers refer to the act of putting something on a blog as 'publishing' it. It's not. Publishing it requires a publisher, a decision made by someone else, and an act of actually being published - which I still believe means, in print. I won't refer to this as being published. I'll say I have 'written' a blog entry. I'll 'display' it.

For the moment, I hope to write and display at least once a week. Perhaps that will improve in the future. Perhaps not; we'll see. I can say that it is my hope to eventually put a short story or two on here. I haven't written a short story since 1995, simply because I prefer writing in long form. Yes, for those who know (who are probably the only people reading this), the first one will probably be a Heroes (not the TV series) short story. I also might try serializing another piece for feedback.

I don't really mean to offend anyone here by saying this, but frankly, I've been pretty offended by the nouveau literati's way of co-opting terminology to make them sound professional. Yeah, I've come late to the party, and I've only brought Jameson's. But I don't drink Protestant whisky.

*Anyone who ever read my columns in Planet Weekly knows I love my footnotes. This is the first! -- The first version of Heroes went to TSR and arrived the week that TSR was bought by Wizards of the Coast. The new batch of editors from WOC were rude and obnoxious and refused to give me anything but a condescending attitude when I contacted them about the novel. As a result, I rewrote Heroes the first time and cut all ties with TSR. About six months after it was finished, TSR/WOC contacted me and asked to publish it. I told them to go to Hell. I've never regretted that decision.

[manuscript name edited on 1/25]