Saturday, January 25, 2014

Virtual Gypsy

I was raised by a Master Sergeant in the US Air Force. So as a kid, I moved around a lot. I was born in Germany, lived in The Philippines, Italy, England, and even Nebraska (among several other states). People often ask me what that was like, and my only response is "That's all I knew". I knew that some people stayed in one place, developed friendships for long periods of time, maybe got a job in the town they grew up in, lived and died there, or at least nearby. But I didn't really know what that meant, and definitely didn't know what that felt like. As an adult, I've settled down a bit, only living in six different states and two countries since I was 18. I've been here in Madison, Wisconsin for almost seventeen years now, and I love it. It's really different for me, watching my kids go to start school and graduate in the same school district. I hope I've given them enough opportunities to get out and see the rest of the world and get to know a range of people. Thankfully, Madison is a very diverse city with a lot of interesting people from widely varied backgrounds. Nevertheless, we're here for a while longer, at least, and I might get old, retire, and die in Madison. Who knows?

In some ways, I really miss getting to meet new people and see new places every couple of years like I did when I was a child. There was something intoxicating about interfacing with people who had a deep cultural background that was fundamentally different than mine. We might not even speak the same language, at least not fluently. But there were times when we were thrust together and had to work out our differences. I learned a lot from those experiences, and I credit my upbringing with giving me the ability to deal with strange circumstances and, frankly, strange people. My life is richer for it.

So this got me to thinking about my virtual life. When I was a kid, the only one in my family using anything like an internet was my Dad, who used HTML at work to communicate intelligence through the military network. But he couldn't tell us that, or he'd have to kill us . . .

But back to the subject. I've settled down, physically.  But virtually, I sometimes feel like I'm all over the place. I'd like to map out where I am and what I do with my virtual presence. I'd love to know how you use each of the tools I'll describe below, as well as some others.

Facebook: I really hate Facebook. Clunky, inefficient, with conversations bleeding across lines that I would never want to see crossed in my day-to-day life. It's just not compartmentalized enough and, frankly, I do like to compartmentalize my life a little so I can focus on whatever task is at hand. I have a Facebook account pretty much to say "Hey world, I'm still here. Remember me? I was that creepy kid in high school. I'm better now." And that's pretty much the extent of the enjoyment I've gotten from Facebook. Good for connecting with old friends and relatives until they start warring with each other. Not so great for establishing new relationships with people who share your interests. Really, it's a hot mess over there in facebook land.

Google+: Ah, much better! Now I can compartmentalize and keep my annoyingly conservative relatives away from my liberal friends away from those who frankly don't care. Also, I've found that there are a LOT of role-playing gamers at G+. It's really kind of a haven for gaming geeks. I've loved the connections I've been able to make on G+ with fellow gamers. Sure, I occasionally intrude on them with a book review or a lame post, such as this one, but mostly I'm in it for the gamers. Oh, and the music lovers, too. I've discovered some great music through G+, and that's made my life richer. This is a place where I can have fun without being confused by ever-changing formats and difficult to navigate menus (*cough* facebook *cough*).

Twitter: The beautiful and the banal, the pithy and the profound. I like Twitter because it's fast-paced, I can get on for a few minutes, retweet or favorite a post, spew out 140 characters of wisdom, post a cool video or artwork, and quickly connect with others. It's like seeing that guy with the Iron Maiden shirt on walking down the street and you just smile and nod and point at his shirt and he smirks and gives you the devil sign. You know, whattup man?! There's a little too much advertising there, for my tastes, but I've stated on there several times that if I see you post 10 tweets in a row that are marketing attempts for your book or writing advice, I'm dumping you. I've dumped a few, and will probably have to do more over time. Twitter needs to be managed, or it will 1) consume your life or 2) get so convoluted and scattershot that you'll want to quit forever.

Blogger: Well, here we are. This is what I consider to be "home base". There's a lot more permanence to a blog entry than to a tweet or a G+ post. Really, everything revolves around here for me. This is where I'll send you if you really want to know more about me and want to learn it on your own time, rather than trying to chase me via Twitter.

Goodreads: I use Goodreads primarily as a reader, only secondarily as a writer. There have been some shady goings-on over there, though. A lot of great reviewers have left Goodreads as a result. This is too bad, since the functionality there is incredibly good. I've gotten a ton of great book recommendations there. I still spend time there, but not nearly as much as I did in the past.

Booklikes: Which brings me to Booklikes. This is where many of the best reviewers are. It's a refugee camp for those whose reviews were censored at Goodreads because the reviewers spoke their minds about some authors and their mediocre work, then called out Goodreads/Amazon for not only censoring some of their reviews, but posting reviews that they liked at Amazon without permission. Booklikes is newer, so not nearly as populous as GR. And you're not going to find quit the same breadth of books there as you will at GR. But the quality of interaction there more than makes up for the quantity of people enrolled.

Smashwords: I have a few novellas up for sale here and a couple of free short stories. I try to use Smashwords to redirect people to my other social media, though you're free to buy my e-books there, if you like.

Etsy: Not only is this one of the coolest places on the internet to shop, you can have some cool interactions with people here. Cottage industry meets the internet. I've discovered some very talented and very creative people here. I could drop $10K here in one night without blinking an eye. There is some great stuff made by great people on Etsy.

Tumblr: I'm new to Tumblr. Lots of cool art. My kids are gaga over tumblr. I'm so new to it that I'm still trying to figure out how to find them so I can follow them. Low on content, so far, but lots of good art. And I like good art.

What am I missing now? I looked at pinterest, but wasn't pinterested. Instagram seems to be where all the good artists hang out. There's a new book review site called leafmarks, which I might have to check out, as I hear some librarians really like it (and they are usually the best at sniffing out these sorts of things). Is there anywhere else I should be regularly stalking people looking to engage with others on a regular basis? I'm open to suggestions. For the moment, though, I have a pretty good virtual world to wander in - a world that maybe keeps me away from the real world a little too much.

Speaking of which, I need to go put on the writing hat and do some editing on Heraclix & Pomp. See you on the interwebs!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

In Which I Catch Myself Cheating!

My editor is incredibly good. He has brainwashed me into clearly identifying instances where I'm being a lazy writer. He sent me his suggested edits for the first 7 chapters of Heraclix & Pomp.  In several places he showed me that, by using an intrusive narrative voice, I have pushed the reader out of the character's point of view (whether the character is Heraclix or Pomp or a minor character). For this, I am grateful.

In the process of cleaning things up, I came across these sentences from chapter 9, wherein Pomp has just entered Hell:

Bits and pieces of her . . . "past" is the word, float all around her. She cannot comprehend the many images and events, but knows they are hers.

It made so much sense when I wrote it, but now I look at it and I hear the word "LAZY" being screamed into my brain (don't worry, my editor doesn't scream - my conscience takes care of tone and volume control in my head).

Here, I'm telling, not showing. To make matters worse, I'm telling the reader what she intuitively knows. Now, there's nothing wrong with 3rd person omniscient POV, but it really robs the reader of the joy of discovery. My readers are smarter than your average bear, I like to think. So why not provide them with the information in some other way that lets them discover Pomp's intuitive feelings and thoughts with her? Then, the reader is a part of the story and feels more of a bond with Pomp, allowing sympathetic and even empathetic feelings to come into play later on in the story.

Now, how am I going to fix this? To be honest, I don't know. That's the struggle of editing - identifying what's wrong, then making it right. I suspect that the second sentence will have to be exploded into a larger description of what she sees that clearly shows to her that these memories are owned by her

Wish me luck! Later this year, you get to read the results. :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Heraclix & Pomp - The Cover!

A thing of beauty! This is the cover of Heraclix & Pomp. Behind the cover live Heraclix, a flesh golem, and Pomp, a fairy, thrust together by their involuntary proximity to an evil sorcerer. I've spent a good deal of my last few years inhabiting their world(s) and following their adventure through 18th-Century Eastern Europe and Hell and back again. I am extremely excited to share their story this September! I would love it if you shared the cover and news with anyone who might be interested. Feel free to repost, retweet, or reblog wherever you'd like. The more the merrier!

Here is the formal announcement, as sent out by Resurrection House publishing/Underland Press:

HERACLIX & POMP, by Forrest Aguirre, is a delightful alternate history set in Eastern Europe. The twist is that the main characters are non-human: a golem and a fairy. Forrest, who is no stranger to the New, Old, and Still Considering a Maturation Date Weird, delivers a fantastic fable that dives deep into the existential crisis of being a unreal creature in our real world. 

Heraclix was dead and Pomp was immortal. That was before Heraclix’s reanimation (along with the sewn-together pieces and parts of many other dead people) and Pomp’s near murder at the hands of an evil necromancer. As they travel from Vienna to Prague to Istanbul and back again (with a side-trip to Hell), they struggle to understand who and what they are: Heraclix seeks to know the life he had before his death and rebirth, and Pomp wrestles with the language and meaning of mortality. As they journey across a land rife with revolution and unrest, they discover the evil necromancer they thought dead might not be so dead after all. In fact, he might be making a pact to ensure his own immortality . . .