Hi There!

naruto-hello
Naruto is (c) Masashi Kishimoto, of course

Thanks for visiting Welcome to Bridgetown!

This is the official blog for my writing and other creative endeavors.

I wrote few books I call The Bridgetown Trilogy, which are also under a larger umbrella called The Mendaihu Universe.  They can be found in e-book form at Smashwords!  They can also be found as trade paperbacks on Amazon!  Please check out the Buy Stuff tab above for links!

Welcome to Bridgetown is where I talk about writing for the most part.  I’ve been learning the ropes as a self-published author, and I’m more than happy to Pay It Forward by sharing any knowledge I pick up along the way.

I also have another blog called Walk in Silence, which is where I talk about my other obsession: music.  I might talk about anything from new releases to old records to goofy videos to college radio to internet radio and anything in between.  You can find it here.

My blog schedule here at Welcome to Bridgetown is Monday and Friday, with the occasional fly-by or extra post.  I try to post them first thing in the morning, but they may run a few hours later if there are scheduling issues.

Please enjoy!

Without people you’re nothing

joe strummer quote

So.

It looks like Patreon turned itself around and said ‘we done fucked up’, and decided not to follow through with the fee changes.  Which is a good thing.

Doug Jones barely eked by with a win in Alabama, and won it fair and square with just enough that an automatic recount won’t happen…and Roy Moore refuses to concede.

Now we have the FCC voting among party lines yesterday to kill Net Neutrality.

It’s been that sort of week.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the Republicans have been voting in lockstep for nearly all the least wanted, horribly written, barely thought out bills and resolutions.  I start wondering if they have an endgame here, if there’s some Big Reveal that’s going to happen in Act III that’s going to explain just what the flying fuck they’re attempting to do.  Or is it just going to stop mid-sentence with no resolution?  Have they even made an outline to this book of theirs?

[Don’t get me wrong — it’s not that I hate the party.  If they want to have an intelligent conversation and work in tandem with (if not alongside) the Democrats, then I have no problem with that.  But this past year has been one incompetent shitshow after another from them, and they’re really not selling me on their brand of governing.  Especially when they’re literally targeting my parents, my family, my neighbors, and my friends with their unabashed hatefulness and ignorance.  And me, with the Net Neutrality repeal bullshit.  And being pretty fucking brazen about it at that.]

But what I’ve also been thinking about, a lot, has been community.

I’ve already tweeted and blogged about that Jane Jacobs book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, but more to the point I’ve been thinking a lot about community in general.  I used to think of community service (I’m talking here about donating your time and services because you want to, not the court-assigned version) as a good thing to do, though for years I thought it really wasn’t my bag.  Let’s face it, at the time I was either lazy or selfish, both, felt it was expected of me or that I was guilted into it; it was rarely of my own volition.

The idea of community ties in with my new novel project; in fact, the idea of community service is a subplot for a few of the characters.  Not to worry, I’m not planning on doing any soapboxing here.  It’s just part of the overall story.  In fact, it’s more about embracing the fact that there are other people out there in one’s immediate vicinity than your family or significant other.  Acknowledging that they’re there, that they may be different from you in some ways, but just the same in others.

Community can’t happen if you choose to ignore or exclude people.  Sure, you can paint it in patriotic colors and all, but those colors are going to fade if all you want in your community is People Just Like You, and leave out the Other.  Even and especially if you try to paint it as ‘personal freedom’.  Community doesn’t work that way.

So what does this have to do with writing, anyway?  Why am I bloviating about this here?  Well, a) because it’s my blog and I can do so if I want (neener neener pthththbbt!), and b) the public’s reaction to these hateful shenanigans has been absolutely amazing.  The overwhelming response has been one of true community — bringing all kinds of people together, often in breathtakingly high numbers, to counteract the hate and the ignorance.  I see amazing numbers fighting back.  And even winning.  I join in when I can and how I can, and in the process I realize I’ve not been reacting as with feelings of doom and sorrow as much as I used to.  It’s more irritation and annoyance now, and I can work better with those.  Because that feeling of community.

And in the process it’s given me a clearer way to get through my day, to get through my creative endeavors without feeling useless.  And it’s inspired me to think more about how I create my characters; who I base them on, where they come from, who they are, what they do.  A vibrant community of all different kinds opens up not just different cultural ideas but different points of view.  And that’s what a good novel always needs.

 

Getting it right and completing the work

your name taki erasing

As much as I would LOVE to release Meet the Lidwells! right now at this very moment, I’m still not entirely happy with a few things related to it.

The cover, for instance.  I’m still not happy with it. I’ve thought through a few layouts, played with a few in Photoshop, and I’m still not happy with it.  To be brutally honest, at the moment it looks like the original cover of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity, which I so mercilessly tore apart upon its release.  And the last thing I want to do is make it look like I’m saying …but hey, if *I* make a cover like that, it’s art!  Come on, Jonc. Face the facts.  That ain’t how it’ll work out.

Thankfully, during one of those nights where I’m lying in bed after lights out, thinking about my writing when I really should be trying to get to sleep, I realized where I was going wrong, and came up with an excellent alternative that I’m quite certain I can pull off.  Which means that sometime within the next week or so, I can start working on the improvements.

As you can see in this outtake I did a few months ago, my original idea had some merit, but it also looked like I threw it together in about five minutes.  It looked too sparse, too unfinished.  I need to do more with it, but I wasn’t sure what.  The piece that needed to stay was the image of the six silhouettes; it’s an important plot point in the first third of the book, as it’s the cover of their debut album.

The error I made was that someone looking at the cover without looking at the book wouldn’t know that.  I realized this was the same exact issue the original Purity cover had — I learned much later that the woman’s image is in reference to a passport photo.  Having never read the book, I would not have known that if someone hadn’t told me.

This meant that I had to figure out how to get the point across that these silhouettes are something important.  And that late evening, I realized that it didn’t have to be an album cover, per se.  In the book, that ‘iconic’ image of the Lidwell kids didn’t originate as their album cover, but as a flyer for their first shows.

Which gave me an altogether different canvas to work with.

SO!  This means that I have some more work to do in creating this cover, but I know exactly what I can do with it, and how.  And even better, I can once again pull it off on my own!  Self-publishing FTW!

*

I’m telling you all this, because this is how a writer, especially a self-publishing one, should think about their product.  There will definitely be times where you get stuck on certain parts of your project, where you can’t quite figure out how to fix it.  You’ll waste time trying all sorts of things that won’t work.  The temptation to say ‘screw it’ and call it done can be quite high sometimes.  Or worse, you’ll talk yourself into believing that your half-assed attempt will be understood by everyone else as a brilliant move.  You’ll be getting close to your self-imposed deadline, or even fly past it, and want to kludge something just to get it out there.  I’ve hit these roadblocks plenty of times.

Thankfully, my stubborn will kept me from taking that route.  As long as I kept telling myself there was a better way to do this and that I just had to figure it out, I was fine with releasing it a little later than usual.  All I had to do was work through this roadblock.  And I’m happy I finally did!

A time for being a pain in the ass

OK, I don’t often talk about questionable business practices here at Welcome to Bridgetown, but a hell of a lot of webcomic artists and writers I follow are *NOT* happy with Patreon right now, and neither am I.

In short: They’ve rearranged their payment fee policy so that instead of taking a percentage cut out of the creators’ payout [I should add that the creators are OK with that part. Think of it as the publisher taking their usual cut from your just-released book.], they are now taking it out of the donors’ payment.

And I quote, from their recent email to creators and donors:
“Starting December 18th, we will apply a new service fee of 2.9% + $0.35 that patrons will pay for each individual pledge. This service fee helps keep Patreon up and running.”

This is under the guise that it’ll standardize payouts for the creator. Which is NOT a thing any creator actually asked for.  They state they ran a poll recently about it, but to my knowledge, I have not heard of any creator actually taking part in it.

So.

This means that for those of you barely scraping by but still wanting to give money to your favorite artist or writer, Your $1 donation per month is now $1.37 per month.

Per donation.

As you can imagine, this adds up. Already we’re seeing $1 donors saying “fuck this” and deleting their payments. We’re already seeing artists and writers think about moving to new donation sites. [Kickstarter currently has one in beta, I believe called Drip, that may start next year that many may be flocking to.]

So what’s my part in this?

Well. I’m okay funds-wise so I’m willing to have the payments go up slightly. The artists and writers I donate to are worth it. So I’m not going to say ‘boycott’ because that won’t work.

No, I want y’all to do something else.

I want you all to be the biggest pains in the ass and email Patreon, @ them on Twitter and on FB, whatever, and make a lot of noise to have them turn this Really Bad Idea around and come up with something else.

Look, I get that Patreon needs to make money too. But this ain’t the way to go about it.

*

And for the record, here’s the email that creators and donors received recently,l, minus the ‘we’re a nifty company’ spiel at the end.

“Dear patron,

Your support is truly changing the lives of creators around the world. You give creators a reliable paycheck that enables them to do their best work. Thank you thank you thank you.

In order to continue our mission of funding the creative class, we’re always looking for ways to do what’s best for our creators. With that, we’re writing to tell you of a change we’re making so that all Patreon creators take home exactly 95% of every pledge, with no additional fees.

Aside from Patreon’s existing 5% fee, a creator’s income on Patreon varies because of processing fees every month. They can lose anywhere from 7-15% of their earnings to these fees. This means creators actually take home a lower percentage of your pledge than you may realize. Our goal is to make creators’ paychecks as predictable as possible, so we’re restructuring how these fees are paid.

Starting December 18th, we will apply a new service fee of 2.9% + $0.35 that patrons will pay for each individual pledge. This service fee helps keep Patreon up and running.”

On Writing: Unexpected Ideas

puella magica homura
Homura Akemi from Madoka Magica

I’ll say this: pay attention when ideas pop up, even if they’re weird and unexpected.  Especially when they’re unexpected.

A few weeks back I was listening to the new live album from Jeff Lynne’s ELO (Wembley Or Bust — it’s quite excellent and contains a lot of ELO classics old and new) when their take on “Xanadu” came on.  I remember being a big fan of that movie as a nine-year-old kid.  It wasn’t just the music that captivated me — I was a fan of the band even then — but I was intrigued by its fantasy elements, of muses come alive.

Amusingly, it occurred to me that it would be quite fascinating to see an update/rewrite of Xanadu as a Magical Girl story.  And then I riffed on that a little: ELO’s next album after that was the cult classic Time, a time-travel concept album which also happens to contain the track “Twilight” (known in anime circles as the track used in the DAICON IV film).  Somehow that album would tie in as well.  I shared that as a tweet and didn’t think too much about it after that.

A few weeks later, and the idea is still stuck in my head, and I think I might be able to do something with it.

I thought about it some: a magical girl sent back in time (Time) to save the world somehow, or at least change someone’s fate (Xanadu).  She realizes she’s stuck in that time stream and can’t escape (Time) and has to come to terms with her own fate (Xanadu).  She changes the lives of a few certain people by teaming up with them (Xanadu) though she’s afraid she can’t completely connect with them (Xanadu, Time).  In the end she’s changed the world, or at least someone’s fate (Xanadu) and is finally able to transcend the time stream to return temporarily (Time).

Of course, I’m omitting the rollerskating and the musical interludes, but still…I’m a bit surprised at how easily this came together.  I’m still not sure if I’m going to follow through with it, but the temptation sure is great.

So yeah…pay attention to those ideas when they come up unexpectedly.  You just might have your next story!

Fly-By: Taking the Week Off

polar bear cafe penguin

Hey all!  I’m not exactly up-to-my-neck busy and (I hope) the Day Job won’t be too stressful the next few days, but I thought I’d take a week off from blogging just to get my ducks in a row, Christmas presents ordered, novels written, errands done, book covers created, etc.   I’m also in the midst of switching priority levels on my writing projects and want a clear head for that.  You know how it is.

See you next Monday!

Post-Thanksgiving Haze

Luffy eating
This may have been me yesterday.

D’OH!  I seem to have completely forgotten to write and schedule a post for today.  It’s been such a weird week that it completely slipped my mind.  And being that it’s (hopefully) going to be a quiet day here at the Day Job, hopefully I can take care of other things that slipped my mind and/or didn’t have time for.

Such as making some headway on the Apartment Complex story outline.  I finished the initial revision run-through for Meet the Lidwells just the other day, and I’m letting it simmer for a few days before I go through it one more time…so this is the perfect time to kickstart that next project.  [I do need to futz with the MtL cover some more, but I think I’ll do that on the weekend when I have more time and space to breathe.  I know what I want, I’m just having a hell of a time trying not to make it look like it’s a craptacular botch job finished in five minutes on Photoshop.]

I’m hoping things quiet down on the Day Job from here on in so I can a) relax a bit, and b) sneak in some writing work if needed.  Things usually do start winding down post-Thanksgiving (with one last short burst in late December), so this is when I get to unwind and not have to stress out about all that much.  And I am so looking forward to that!

On Writing and Stylistic Moods

anime snowing gif

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my recent new projects, and how much lighter and more positive they are in terms of mood and setting.  Not filled with Shiny Happy People, mind you, but neither have I filled them with Miserable Wretches.  I’m quite sure this is a personal emotional and mental reaction to things going on In Real Life, but I’m fascinated by this decision nonetheless.

The Infamous War Novel was written a) when I was a moody-ass teenager and b) during the last few years of the Cold War in the 80s, so you can well imagine how much of a funfest that book would have been.  Several of my trunked stories from that era and up to the late 90s were written during my high school, college and post-college years when was trying to figure out who the hell I was and what I wanted to do with my life.  So a lot of Gen-X whinging going on there.

It wasn’t until the project that became the Bridgetown Trilogy that I forced myself out of that rut and made it a point not to write purely as a reaction to Real Life Stuff.

In a way, though, I haven’t really shaken that off, not completely.  I know I’m not the only writer who’s done this.  Put it this way: I’m nerely making it a point not to write something pessimistic or grimdark, because that’s not where I want to be right now.  I want to write stories that are more positive in some way, to balance that out.  Granted, I’m certainly not writing Teletubbies-level harmlessness in reactive response, either.

Meet the Lidwells was an exercise in writing something purely for the fun of it, and for someone to read for the same reason, and I think I’ve pulled it off.  There are serious moments in that story, but they’re not High Drama.  It’s about the evolution of a band, as well as a family, as they grow from teens to adults.

The next project — the Apartment Complex story — is along the same lines.  There’s a reason I’ve been describing it as my Studio Ghibli story; the style is not just about the physical action, but also about the evolution of lives.

It’s kind of hard to describe, because it’s not exactly an American style of storytelling; it’s more inspired by Asian fiction than American.  There’s a kind of poetry to this style, where your focus on the physical movement of people is just as important as the movement their internal changes — spiritual, mental and emotional.  The pace of the story slows down a little, causing you to pay more attention to the details.

Will I pull this style off?  That’s a good question.  I’ve read so many books of this style over the last ten or so years that I think I have an understanding of how it works.  I hope I pull it off, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

Convention Time Coming in 2018!

anime crowd

HEY KIDS!  I’ll be hitting the science fiction convention circuit with a force next year, as we’ve just bought our registrations for three of them that will be our neck of the woods!  And yes, I’m planning on getting myself on some panels and maybe even doing a reading of something from the New Project (aka the Apartment Complex story)!

If you’re in the SF Bay area, and are at one of these, come and say hi! 🙂

March 9 – 11: FOGcon, Walnut Creek, CA

May 25 – 28: BayCon, San Mateo, CA

August 16 – 20: WorldCon 76, San Jose, CA

[I will of course be posting this elsewhere on the blog later on under an ‘Appearances’ tab and again when it gets closer to the dates…just thought I’d share the excitement now!]

Writing During Q4

anime yawning
I feel your pain, kid.

It’s that time of year again, I see.  When the Day Job teeters between being completely dead and boring to being so insanely busy I lose all track of time.  While I’m thankful that I’m no longer working in retail (or in a warehouse, or on a phone branch) during Q4, the bipolar quality of the job still tends to drive me crazy sometimes.  I never quite know whether it’s going to be one or the other until the day comes.

With my current Day Job, I’ve firmly stood by my rule: I do not think about the Day Job once I clock out for the day.  What if I still have outstanding work to do?  Don’t care.  What if I — DO. NOT. CARE.  It has nothing to do with how I feel about the job.  It’s got everything to do with maintaining sanity and energy for things other than Day Jobbery.

It’s the only way I can deal with the sheer volume when and if it comes.  I work in first-in-first-out fashion on cases that come my way — even and especially if they’re labelled as OMG requests.  These are most often the ones dumped on us at last minute, usually because the requester has forgotten to forward it to us two months ago.  The only ones I’ll drop everything for are critical escalations (and even then I tend to be a bit cynical when they’re labeled such, because sometimes they’re really not).

All this is so I still have that reserve of energy at the end of the day to work on my writing.  You know how I get when I miss a day due to circumstances beyond my control…I get irritable and cranky.  So even if my beloved writing time is spent working on minutiae or revision or low-level preparation for an upcoming project, I’ll at least have gotten that much further.

With this particular Day Job, I have a very vague idea of when it gets superbusy:  mid-month (a few clients send big monthly files then), close to month-end (clients trying to make their metrics), and end-of-quarter (tax season).  And I know that once the last few weeks of December roll around, it’s mostly about wrapping things up, finishing off outstanding queries, and taking it easy for a bit until mid-January.

That’s the trick, at least for me: having at least a vague idea of what to expect on the Day Job over the course of the month, so I can plan accordingly.  [Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ll spend the first of those quiet, dead days by goofing off.  I figure I’ve earned a bit of a respite, though!]  It’s the only way I can keep up with my writing schedule without tiring myself out to the point of exhaustion or illness.

It’s not ideal, but hey, it’s a paycheck, and I’m willing to work around it.

 

 

 

Days Off

shirokuma cafe relaxing

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day, so had I planned it earlier, I could have taken today off as a floating holiday.  [If memory recalls, I think I used it up earlier in the year so I could go to one of the cons.]  On days like this, I usually get up around the same time, maybe an hour or so later, and start the day.

[Granted, I thought I *did* have the day off (A. even initially took the day off so we could do stuff during the day), thus the inspiration for this post.  I figured I’d keep it up and revise it a bit.]

And like most creative people, my Best Laid Plan on bank holidays is that I want to spend the entire day writing, or doing writing-related things, or catching up on all the small fiddly writing-related things that I’d put aside.  Carpe diem!  Or something like that.  I say Best Laid Plan, of course, because in reality I’m usually doing the exact opposite: futzing around with email, watching cat videos, goofing around with my mp3 collection.  And just like most regular days, squeezing the actual writing work into the last three hours of the day.

Really, though…I do have to remind myself that it’s good to use a day off as a real day off.  Do stuff I enjoy doing that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with my creativity.  Going on a road trip, going to a movie…hell, even watching an anime series on TV.  There are other things out there I enjoy doing, especially with A., and days off are good for that sort of thing.

If that means I’m squeezing my work into just a few hours as the sun goes down, then so be it.  At least it’ll have been a full, productive, and entertaining day!