Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Consider Me Climaxed

Woo hoo! I was about to call it a night an hour ago but I found my second wind.

Done with the climax! One chapter to go!

Light me a cigarette. I'm going to sleep. No talking or snuggling.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Writing the Climax

Still finishing up my penultimate chapter (possibly I'm prolonging the process unconsciously because saying "penultimate" titillates me). I bid farewell to another major character, and now, I embark upon writing the climactic scene.

Depending on how one measures "climax," it might be appropriate to apply the word to the entire chapter. But if I have to narrow it down to a single scene, this would be it. I've had this plot point in mind since I started writing the novel four years ago. I won't say much, except that it involves freezing water, an abrupt (probably useless) change in perspective, and a young man at the end of his rope. I anticipate four to five pages in length, so I may be able to finish this weekend.

Wish me luck, or better yet, inspiration.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Biweekly: A Useless Word

It's the little unexplainables that drive me insane.

From Merriam-Webster:

Pronunciation: \bī-wē-klē\
Function: adjective
1 : occurring twice a week
2 : occurring every two weeks : fortnightly

And of course, the same double meaning applies for "biannually." And "bimonthly." By extension, in one out of every four cases, "biweekly" and "bimonthly" mean essentially the same thing.

How often does the Benevolent Order of Butt Plug Manufacturers convene to discuss the future of the industry?

Biannually, you say??? Great! Now I've got it narrowed down to either once every two years, or four times every two years. Thanks for nothing.

How did this happen? Isn't this what we have lexicographers for? To fill in gaps? Screen out bullshit? Lend some fucking clarity to our backwards language? I'm not trying to do anyone's job here, but what about adding "diweekly," "dimonthly," and "diannually" to our canon? One prefix for over, one for under. I'll even let you assign which is which. What, would half a million words, plus three more, be too many?

I can't do my job as a writer if those maintaining the English language don't do theirs. Until this insult to intelligence is rectified I'm on strike.

Whoever is responsible for this, identify yourself immediately, and take your punishment like a man.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Writer's Blog Progress - First 55 days

Yesterday marked the first day that typing in "ink and beans" (without the quotes, mind you) made my blog appear at the top of a Google search results list. Exciting!

In addition, Googling "Jim Cooney" (no quotes) listed my blog as hit number 25, and googling "fledgling novelist" listed me at 151. This is mostly an emotional milestone, offering a little assurance that I am, in fact, making some sort of progress in terms of my Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

But my SEO is far from translating into increased visits to my site. My best day was March 31st, when an established (Google pagerank"4") writer's blog (where I regularly post comments) linked back to me in a post --- 33 visitors that day, 26 the next. Since then I've averaged 9.3 visitors per day, and it's a safe bet that on any given day, one those visitors is me.

For my newsletter I have the same 22 friends and family I forced to subscribe at the beginning, and the same three people (not including me) subscribed to my RSS feed. In fact, since I last posted two days ago, I'm no longer the top "ink and beans" hit. Google is so fickle!

I expected as much. I don't entirely understand the figures that come back to me from my Google Analytics report, but from what I can ascertain, even if I post somewhat regularly (2.5 posts per week on average) and strive to keep the writing high quality, visitors will not magically arrive at my site (via search engines, or generous unsolicited links, or what have you). My readers will come by my actively promoting my blog through other blogs, plain and simple, a task to which I've devoted a minimal amount of time thus far.

Just goes to show that the Internet does not solve that anticlimax of art creation, such that sculpting your masterpiece is only half the battle. The other half is getting people to actually experience and appreciate it.

I shall press forward, however, bolstered by the hope that I will soon have more hours to invest in giving this blog-thing some momentum.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Top Five Available Pen Names

5. Crystal Tunnelingus

4. Franklyn B. Wad

3. Wanda Logginside

2. Yanus Penetran--... huh? Oh, pen names.


5. Scott F. Fitzgerald

4. J. R. R. R. Tolkien

3. J. K. Rowling (rhymes with "howling")

2. Fyodor Tolstoy (see also "Leo Dostoevsky")

And the number one available pen name is... um...






...Franklyn B. Wad

Saturday, April 5, 2008

"The Wire" Creator David Simon Comes to Harvard

Friday night I met another writer hero of mine, namely David Simon, creator of the HBO television drama The Wire. This is one of the wonderful benefits of working at Harvard, and at the Kennedy School in particular --- no shortage of stimulating, free events to attend.

Simon was part of a panel, composed also of political academics and law enforcement, which discussed the show's portrayal of an American City (see video). If you haven't heard, The Wire, which just concluded its fifth and final season, is the most critically acclaimed TV show around, and has been touted by many as the greatest television show of all time.

I may come to agree. Just last week I finished Season 4, and was on the verge of tears. But the show is not lauded (at least, not first and foremost) for its emotional punch. Rather, the praise comes for its authentic, panoramic view of the inner city, and all the broken systems (media, government, education, etc.) and human weaknesses (greed, fear, ambition) that perpetuate its deplorable conditions.

The question I keep asking myself, as a novelist, is whether The Wire might not be the most important work of fiction produced in my lifetime. If my criteria for "most important" are factors like impact, appeal, integrity, thematic significance, scope, well then... yeah, it may trump anything else, novel or otherwise, to surface in the last three decades. Time will better tell, perhaps.

Suffice it to say, if my goal is to create a work of fiction that does more than just tell an interesting story, that taps into something real, and endures, then the bar has been raised pretty high. And that says nothing of the action, the character development, and downright Shakespearean rendering of urban dialect (the dialogue is music).

But no sense in regurgitating the show's accolades. What I can offer are some highlights from the Q&A portion of the discussion.

1:03:50 - First question of the night ends up being a massive spoiler --- only one of the night. (If you haven't seen Season 5 skip 20 seconds here). I knew there was a risk, and was impressed that even though the final season had aired in its entirety, not a word was uttered throughout the event... that is, until this nitwit decided to entertain us with his lame fucking joke. A third of the audience laughs politely. The other two thirds, who (like me) don't have HBO and await the DVD release, silently plot his death.

1:22:06 - Some dweeb, who has never even watched the show, gets on his soapbox and subtly touts a greater free market economy --- watch David Simon pull the rug out from under this chump. Awesome.

1:25:58 - I ask m-m-muh, muh-m-m-my question, which is essentially, "What's next?" His simple answer is an HBO seven-part miniseries based on Marines fighting during the first weeks of the Iraq War (trailer). Again, awesome. When I invite him to answer in terms of his activism and also "his art," he laughs and shakes his head.

1:30:55 - Last question (better than mine): "How do you pick your writers?" His answer is that he avoided television writers altogether. His background is journalism, his partner Ed Burns is a law enforcement and teaching veteran. Who else fills in the holes??? You guessed it, novelists. Hence, Dennis Lehane ('Gone Baby Gone,' 'Mystic River'), George Pelecanos ('Hard Revolution,' 'Right as Rain') and Richard Price ('Lush Life,' 'Clockers'). Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Afterward I stuck around so I could meet him personally, and get him to sign the cover sheet of my novel, which he did. I asked why he laughed when I said "his art," to which he only shook his head again. "You do believe you're an artist, don't you?" I persisted, to which he flatly replied, "No." I figured he was being modest. But as I was walking away, he called after me and added, "'Artist' is a bad word."

Really? Interesting. He doesn't know it yet, but someday, when I'm as respected as the other novelists he recruits to help him write, we're going to continue this conversation.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Celebrity Sightings in the Mirror

Nothing makes my day like a stranger claiming that I look like some celebrity. A few have made my spirits soar with the magic words "Val Kilmer." A dentist once made drilling more pleasant by assuring me I was the spitting image of Chipper Jones (don't watch much baseball but I'm not picky). And, oh, how I long for the Matt Damon era of 1998-2000 --- even folks who could barely speak English excitedly stammered as they tried to make the comparison. I had to help them out. "You mean, Matt Damon?" I'd say, suppressing my glee. And they would clap their hands, "Yes! Yes! Heem! Dat guy!"

It's a high that seems harder to come by the older I get. But then this week at work we hosted an international conference, inviting "innovators in governance" from across the world. As you can imagine this vague qualification drew all sorts of characters.

My duties on Day One were simply to stand guard in the rotunda of our office building as conference guests arrived, provide information and schmooze a little as they waited to go on complimentary tours of the Harvard campus. It was a no-brainer, and I welcomed the break from my normal duties, not to mention the excuse to wear a suit.

During one of my quieter moments, with the rotunda nearly empty, a middle-aged African woman approached. She cackled as she shuffled toward me, and said she just had to meet me, because I looked like a prince. She wore a cheap pink coat over a white grandma gown, and white socks with sandals. She had a witch doctor's eyes ---yellowed and thickly glazed, constantly watering --- and boobs (forgive me ladies) than hung well past her waist.

She told me she was from Ethiopia, and was also an alumnus of the Harvard Divinity School. She now advocated for the orphaned children of her country, and actually ran an orphanage herself. She was a staunch Christian (spent much of our conversation aggressively evangelizing me) and was utterly smitten with American politics.

She went on to say I reminded her of a young Ronald Reagan. Quick to reference her credentials for making such a claim, she noted that she had a huge poster of him on her bedroom wall.

As is my tendency, I was prepared to accept this flattering observation immediately, without question, knocking aside all apprehension, ignoring all creepiness. But it was the first I've heard such a claim, and the more I considered it, the more it seemed a stretch.

Hmm. I do feel a kinship with men who possess crooked smiles. But I'm sorry, I just don't see it.

I guess this lends evidence to that uncomfortable truth, that all Caucasians look alike.