The Story of Zuo Si

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I added a book of Chinese Proverbs: the Wisdom of Cheng Yu to my library. Each proverb has a little story behind it and I thought this one in particular was funny (in that “Oh, I should remember this way.) and still applicable even in our modern times. Each saying in the book has a literal meaning “Luoyang paper expensive” and an idiomatic meaning that follows. In this case, that’s “selling like hot cakes” or a “best-selling book.”

The proverb comes from a story about Zuo Si, a writer in the 3rd century. As the tale goes, Zuo Si told everyone around him he wanted to write a history book about the Three Kingdoms’ capitals. They told him it would never sell. When he finished it, everybody wanted a copy, but there wasn’t any mass distribution like there is now. The books were hand-made and had to be copied by hand. People loved this book so much, their demand drove up the price of paper.

To me, the lesson here is: write what you’re passionate about. Don’t listen to the naysayers because you won’t know if it sells until that book is in people’s hands. But, talking about it won’t sell copies.

    Mood: Getting used to the quiet again.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I had one cup of green tea.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Spent most of the day lying down. It was not fun.
    In My Ears: White noise. Zzzzzzz…
    Game Last Played: Sonic All Star Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: Lovecraft’s Monsters anthology
    Movie Last Viewed: Mantera
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.


No-Ness and Baby Demons

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

We live in a world of “No.” Rejection is part and parcel to the writer’s world, to the artist’s, to the musician’s. The expected answer is always: “No.” It starts early. You don’t have time to see a kid’s painting. You’re not overly impressed with what an artist has done. You’ve seen a different professional do better than the writing standing right in front of you. What you’re experiencing (e.g. book/song/etc.) is not your thing so you’re vocal about it: “No, this sucks.”

Trolls aside, that negativity is pretty normal and some of that is to be expected. Criticism, whether it’s upbeat or harsh, is necessary to improving the quality of one’s work. Handling direct feedback is a balancing act between protecting the Work/Self and figuring out what comments are valuable. However, there are cases when that negativity has nothing to do with what I’m doing. I have to make a conscious effort not to fixate on outrage and negativity from non-relevant, outside sources. (It should be said that I’m not perfect and I sometimes fail at this.) Why? Because as we get older, “Nos” from our childhood become the foundation for what we feel about our own creativity. The more “Nos” I hear, even if they come from non-relevant sources, the more that impacts my ability to protect and insulate myself so I can do quality work.

Writer’s block? Doesn’t exist. It’s writer’s avoidance behavior. Sometimes it’s laziness; other times it’s because those niggly little “no” voices pop up everywhere — on comments, e-mail, submissions, award nominations, contracts, checks clearing, reports, reviews, etc. — and there’s a teeny tiny little demon belly-butt whispering in our ears. “Why bother? Look, it’s so easy… Just stop. Someone else can write that story. Someone else can paint that, film that, create that.” Or, in my case, I have a green little demon belly-butt in the shape of a dollar bill. (Don’t ask, it’s an origami thing.) “Your work will never sell. Why bother?” The internet has a particularly unique flavor of cyber-bitty demons: “You’re obviously not a good writer because you’re not popular enough. So many readers think popularity equates to quality and commercial success. If all these people believe that, it must be true, right? You don’t belong here.” Um, no. It isn’t true. That doesn’t stop the demons from saying it, though.

It is easier to say “No” (e.g. war and red pens and cemeteries) than it is to say “Yes” [sunshine and rainbows and chocolate (or raspberry if you’re allergic to chocolate. And, if you are? I’m so, so, sorry.)] — just look at how terrible our news is today. Just look at how people who are nice get shoved aside in favor of the outrage over someone acting like they’ve just eaten a celery stick dipped in motor oil. Pointing out the negative, my dear readers, also shoves aside the positive. It makes the belly-butt demons grow and they are nasty. This is especially true because right now outrage is what’s being rewarded; this is the example set by yellow journalism and it’s trickling down, down, down.

Our society is geared toward rewarding our efforts only when an artist/writer/etc. is at the very beginning of their journey or at the very end. Even then the messaging is a mixed bag. You’re just starting out? Here, let’s nurture the baby artist. So cute! Wait, but you can’t possibly do that as an adult. It’s not a real job! RIGHT?! But, when it is a real job and the artist becomes successful, they’re a sell out. They’ve made TOO much. This other art that I prefer is better. Mediocrity, which can sometimes be self-imposed, is safe. You’re too old. You’re too blonde. You’re too smart. You’re too fat. You’re too whatever. More b.s.

I believe the act of creation is a miracle and we are conduits who bring that forth. How we do that is unique and amazing and imperfect and mysterious. Here’s a human being (or, in my case… rumored cylon) who takes a vision, an incongruent mess of thoughts, and translates that into something for others to see, hear, touch, smell, taste, and read. To me, there is nothing more beautiful and I love what I do.

Support someone who’s creative. Kill a baby demon by being positive — even if it’s every once in a while. I’m not advocating that we sanitize every comment and walk on eggshells; just to manage that No-ness by balancing it out because it matters–especially to introverts like myself. Sometimes? It’s hard to speak up even if we like dropping F-Bombs online. And, to be perfectly clear: being nice or uplifting does not equate to being spineless and weak. That is a revised definition that needs to be thrown on the pyre. Cool? Anyway, I promise I’ll try to remember to do the same thing, with or without coffee.

    Mood: Waxing philosophical again. SHOCKER!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Ummm… Not telling. Nah, nah, nah.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH
    In My Ears: Right Here, Right Now by Fatboy Slim
    Game Last Played: Sonic All Star Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: Lovecraft’s Monsters anthology
    Movie Last Viewed: Game of Thrones Season 3. I am not pleased with the Jamie development.
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.


Keanu’s The Man from Tai Chi

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I popped in The Man from Tai Chi this past weekend. I really love watching martial arts movies — the good, the bad, and the ugly. ‘Course, it should be said I watch a lot of these for fun. I’m so clueless I can’t recognize what’s kung fu and what’s not; it’s a touch embarrassing as I’ve always admired the art. But, as a writer myself, I do like a good story and a tightly shot one at that. Having seen so many of these films, I have certain expectations when I watch these movies–especially if they’re being shot by an American director.

The Man From Tai Chi surprised me in a lot of ways because I felt it was a solid movie that played with (and expanded) certain tropes in a great blend of East-meets-West. To me, Keanu Reeves seemed more confident acting on screen than he had been in years. The casting was great, the costuming was flawless, and many of the screen shots were extremely subtle. There was a marked balance of opposites throughout the film to further the point of the story. Rich versus poor. Passion versus stillness. Power versus control. And, of course, the main character was aptly named Tiger.

Other than the movie’s title, I liked this conspiratorial film. It’s a very tightly woven narrative and I feel the story/theme was respectful of what’s preceded it in the genre. I also really appreciate seeing female characters in roles that aren’t marginalized and overly romanticized as well.

Overall, I think this was a solid directorial debut and I’m curious to see if Reeves is going to take the plunge again. Dare I say… I’d love to see him direct a version of Blood that’s more in line with the original? Or The Last Airbender? It’s nice to see an American director “get” the genre and translate it appropriately.

Official Trailer below.

    Mood: Obsessing about words
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A few.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: 30. What. Again?!?!
    In My Ears: Nuts and honey.
    Game Last Played: Sonic All Star Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: Lovecraft’s Monsters anthology
    Movie Last Viewed: Game of Thrones Season 3
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.


100 Times

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When I was in Chinatown this past December, one of the store owners asked me if I was going to learn Chinese. I laughed (which is what I normally do when I’m nervous) and explained that the language was beautiful, but it intimidated me. “100 times,” she said. “You have to practice each symbol 100 times and then you’ll learn it.”

There’s a lot of power in repetition, especially when learning a new routine or breaking a bad habit. Sure, you might have to manage your addictions because they never go away completely, but there’s wisdom in “practice makes perfect.” What I like about the number 100, is that it’s a definable and clear goal: do this 100 times.

P.S. 100 is now the maximum number of times I’ll allow myself to look at a manuscript before handing it off.

P.P.S. Italian first, though!

    Mood: Sage writer is sage.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Less than five but more than four.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: 30. Boo-yah!
    In My Ears: Sappy New Age-y piano music
    Game Last Played: Sonic All Star Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: The Book of Chinese Proverbs
    Movie Last Viewed: The Man from Tai Chi
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.


Please Help a Small Press Lovecraft Publisher

I come to you in this late hour after reading a blog post by Mike, the editor of The Lovecraft Zine. If you don’t know Mike, he’s a stellar individual. I’ve been very lucky; not only did he publish one of my short stories (“The Dig”) he’s been EXTREMELY supportive of all my other efforts as well. Folks like this are rare, indeed. Given how much small press publishers rely on social media these days, I hope this situation is rectified quickly.

Guys, I need help. Facebook has blacklisted parts of the Lovecraft eZine website; in other words, I can’t link to it to anything in the /chat portion of the site (and some other parts) from Facebook.

Lovecraft eZine IS a safe website. In fact, it is a wordpress.COM website — with wordpress.COM sites, you cannot even use Javascript. I don’t know if this happened because some jealous person reported the site, or what, but the only thing that will fix this is lots and lots of you reporting to FB that http://lovecraftzine.com/chat IS a safe site.

In addition, the Lovecraft eZine Facebook GROUP (the message board) has completely disappeared!
–SOURCE: PLEASE HELP: FACEBOOK IS BLACKLISTING “LOVECRAFT EZINE”

I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information other than this. I tried posting the blog post link on Facebook and it came through as “offensive.” The main website link was not blocked which confused me more than a little bit. I’ve sent my comments to Facebook that it’s a safe site across the board. Hopefully this is a big misunderstanding and Mike can resume your normally scheduled insanity quickly. If you’ve had to deal with Facebook before to get an issue resolved, I’m sure you can appreciate the need to have multiple voices verifying that you are who you say you are and your website is, in fact, safe.

Thank you!
🙂

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