NaNoWriMo: A Completely Unprepared Journey

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This is the second year that I have attempted NaNoWriMo. Last year I failed in a spectacular fashion. I think I ended up with maybe–maybe–10,000 words. This year, eight days into the month of November, I am at one-tenth of where I ended up last year. There are probably a series of reasons that I haven’t been up to par on the needed word count (only 1000 of the needed 13,000 plus). Lack of preparation, lack of motivation, lack of self-confidence? It could be one over prevailing fact, or it could be all three combining into a perfect maelstrom of not-getting-anything-done.

I’ve read, and been told, that any amount of words is good. That any amount of words means that you have a start on something, something to build on once you are ready. Right now, though, I’m feeling pretty unaccomplished. Obviously, even if I make the word count for NaNoWriMo, my book won’t be done. There will be editing, rewrites, editors reviews. After November there will be a long road ahead until I am actually finished.

But right now, on the eighth of November, 2014, I feel like I am far behind where I need to be. I feel like I am not going to ever get to that 50,000 word count.

But that’s right now. Tomorrow it may be different. I may get a burst of words done over the weekend. I could catch up within a few days. Who knows?

Perhaps it’s better to look at NaNoWriMo as a motivational tool. A tool to help me get out there and write. Write as much as I can. 50,000 words is a goal, but there’s no punishment if I don’t make it. And any motivational tool is good, whether or not you are able to completely achieve the end goal.

I’m going to keep at it. Maybe i’ll make the goal, maybe I won’t. I’ll keep you all apprised on the way.

How are the rest of you doing with NaNoWriMo? Is your word count exponential? Or lacking (like me)? Let me know in the comments below!

Comic Corner: Comic Book Week

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Comic Con used to be the standard for the comics community. It was a festival that was devoted exclusively to all things comic and nerdy. So whenever it happened itt was, in essence, what you could call a comic book week. But Comic Con is not what it used to be. Instead of just a celebration of all things comics, it is now a celebration of all things pop-culture. That’s not a bad thing, but it leaves comic books without a true dedicated week to call their own. Well, I think that I have found one. I think that this week, along with being Banned Books Week, could also be called Comic Book Week. Let me tell you why.

1. Banned Books Week is all about comic books!

Banned Books Week this year is emphasizing banned comic books and graphic novels. Both Captain Underpants and Bone are on the top ten banned books list, and they are both graphic novels. And trust me, there are plenty more banned graphic novels out there that you should definitely be reading. While you’re out there getting one of those banned books at your favorite comic shop why don’t you…

2. Celebrate National Comic Book Day!

Yup. Today, September 25th is National Comic Book Day. It’s not the same as Free Comic Book Day, but there are still some deals out there for you can grab up. One of the better deals out there is ComiXology, who is offering up 25 different titles for free! I think I may just pick up a couple, or 25, of those titles myself.

3. Panels.net will be launching next week

Okay, it’s not technically within what I am calling Comic Book Week, but a pretty cool website called Panel.net is launching on October 1st. It has a pretty simple tagline–read comics, be happy. And, it is self described as, “A community celebrating comics, the people who make them, and the people who love them.” I’m pretty interested in what they have to offer, and I’m keeping an eye on them. If you want to keep an eye on them too, you can sign up here.

 

Always Ask What if

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There is a large percentage of Scotland, somewhere around 45 percent, wondering today, what if? Wondering what may have happened if another 6 percent of their countrymen could have voted with them. There is a large portion of the world who wondering what may have been, too. Flanders, Catalonia, the Basques, Quebec, all wondering if the Scottish bid was in the affirmative, whether or not they, too, would be allowed to pursue their own independence.

Most of them will allow these thoughts of what if to fade into the background. They will perhaps come the front of the mind every once in a while, but they will quickly fade away as real life takes back over. There are a group of people who will not let the what ifs go away.

I am a part of that group. I am one of those who looks at the what ifs and lets them run wild. Lets them run so fast and far that they entangle all of my thoughts. It creates story ideas that are sometimes fulfilled, sometimes temporarily put aside, sometimes completely abandoned.

Asking what if creates ideas like a man dealing with a breakup before the end of the world. It spawns ideas like a girl inside a virtual theme park attempting to save the digital world. Ideas like a kid who can travel though time with a toaster. Or stories like what will the world be like after global warming destroys the globe.

Creators of great and small works alike ask “what if.” And then they take that question as far as they can get it, allowing it to shift in form until it becomes a story that they feel is worth telling.

So, keep asking what if. Ask it as many times as possible. Asking what if is the only way that the Scottish referendum got floated in the first place. It’s the only way that great events happen. It’s the only way that great stories get told. And in the end, asking what if is the only way that anything every changes.

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I am a fan of history and absorber of all things news. I am a writer of books and blogs, and an enjoyer of all things pop culture. There is more about my that I can not currently think of. I will answer any question via email bearded bards at gmail.com, or in the comments below. If your question is, “Can I get your book for free?” My answer is yes, just send me an email. If you would rather pay for the book on Amazon, the link is below.

Tim and the Breakup of Impending Doom.

 

 

 

Copy Cats Need Not Apply

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Each semester I would inevitably have a teacher who would espouse to the class how they always had one person who plagiarized. One person who thought that they could get away with copying their paper and pass it off as their own. There was an underlying threat involved–the teacher could and would find all plagiarists in their class, so don’t even try. The reality was something different. Most teachers are far too overwhelmed by the amount of work that they have to actually identify any plagiarism. Most cases of plagiarism in the academic setting will go under the radar. Unless the plagiarism is completely evident (as in, the writing level is far exceeding that which the student has previously written), or the teacher has somehow already read what the student is putting forward as their own, the plagiarism will go unnoticed (unless the teacher is using a service like Turnitin.com, which is another blog post entirely).

That doesn’t mean that I’m endorsing plagiarism. I’m just saying that it is incredibly easy to do. There are plenty of instances of professors and journalist plagiarizing work. Most of the time it’s for one of two reasons–they are too overwhelmed with other projects in order to take the time to make their own original content, or they just don’t want to make their own original content. Any way you cut it, those who plagiarize either believe whole heartedly that they will not get caught or hope beyond hope that they will not get caught.

Being writers on the internet, and being self-published authors, Zach and I have to be especially aware of plagiarism. Not only do we have to be diligent ourselves to not take credit for what is not our, but we also need to make sure that nothing that is ours has been appropriated by someone else. The internet, with all of its glorious achievements, has also made plagiarism incredibly easy to do–and incredibly easy to spot.

Here are a few cautionary tales of plagiarism.

1. If you get caught, don’t be a jerk about it

Plagiarism Today, a great site about all things copyright and content ownership, has a great post about a lurid tale of plagiarism in the University setting. The story is a flip on the usual, as a professor instead of a student is the one who was accused of plagiarism. His come-back? Attempt to completely dismantle the life of the guy who found him out. The story is worth a read and definitely gives a good moral: if you get caught for plagiarism, go quietly into the night.

2. There are a lot of forms of plagiarism

One thing that I learned in my time interning at a writing center is that plagiarism comes in a lot of different forms. Ed Tech Digest does a nice little breakdown on the different forms of plagiarism in what is called, “The Plagiarism Spectrum.” I would recommend anyone who is questioning whether or not what they are doing is plagiarism to check out this post. Not only does it describe the different forms of plagiarism, but it breaks them down into easily identifiable categories. According to the article, “The Plagiarism Spectrum was developed specifically to help students better grasp what plagiarism looks like in practice.” Personally, I think that it can be used by anyone to great affect.

3. Anyone can plagiarize, and anyone can get caught

Our Bad Media, an anonymous group of two bloggers/twitter users (@blippoblappo & @crushingbort) put up a post outlining numerous episodes of plagiarism by author and CNN host Fareed Zakaria. While the whole incident has not gotten nearly the traction that it should, there are some great dissections of the whole mess. One in particular that I think is well worth reading is a post by Steve Buttry, where he gives a great journalist perspective on why what Zakaria did is plagiarism in every sense of the word.

One more place plagiarism is rampant is in the music industry. And as this Westword article points out, it’s usually identified pretty quickly.

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I am a fan of history and absorber of all things news. I am a writer of books and blogs, and an enjoyer of all things pop culture. There is more about my that I can not currently think of. I will answer any question via email bearded bards at gmail.com, or in the comments below. If your question is, “Can I get your book for free?” My answer is yes, just send me an email. If you would rather pay for the book on Amazon, the link is below.

Tim and the Breakup of Impending Doom.

Peyton Manning, Regression, and Redemption

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There is a legend. A man, young and strong, comes to a kingdom in need of help. This man overcomes trials, fights off beasts, and eventually comes away with an ultimate prize. The man, after completing his tasks, rests for a time. He ages, it seems as though he will not be able to come back. But he does come back. He comes back and once again undertakes the road of trials, so that he may once again fight a beast, once again undertaking a journey fraught with peril. That man is, of course, Peyton Manning.

Beowulf would fit the mold, too. But, hey, that’s old and boring. Plus, Manning throws footballs, avoids tackles, and is the hero to millions of people. Plus—he did an awesome SNL commercial for United Way.

Beowulf on the other hand only ever killed a Grendal and Grendal’s mother, and a dragon. Boring.

Peyton Manning was a force to reckon with in the NFL in the first incarnation of his Hero’s Journey. He passed his road of trials, fought against and lost to the evil Tom Brady, and eventually was able to gain his boon and come back to the promised land of Indiana. Manning’s own story is much like that of Beowulf—who came to a kingdom as a rookie knight, defeated a beast, saved the kingdom, and got his own boon in the way of fame, fortune, and kingship.

Both could have rested at that point. Both had completed the Hero’s Journey. Both were in their promised land and could have retired (Manning) and died (Beowulf) in complete piece.

But neither did.

Peyton, after injury, came back to the NFL. And Beowulf, after old age overtook him, came back to slay another beast. I’m of course not conflating one of the most prolific figures in history with Beowulf (see what I did there?). The two have all the differences in the world. But they do have one thing very much in common—regression and redemption within the Hero’s Journey.

Regression and Redemption

Everyone regresses. It’s a basic fact that there will be highs and lows throughout our lifespan. Everyone goes through the ups and downs of repeated trips through the Hero’s Journey. There are plenty of examples of regression and redemption throughout literature, cinema, television, and everyday life. Here are just a few:

TV Procedurals — Each week the members of the CSI team, or New York’s finest, must solve a new crime. They go through every step of the Hero’s Journey, the initial call, the trials, the boon, and the return (a simplified version of the Journey, but one that still hits all the major points). Every week, though, they must solve a new crime or overcome a new challenge and repeat the Hero’s Journey. Despite completing the quest, they must regress back to square one and start all over again.

The Hunger Games — In every incarnation of the Hunger Games, Katniss must overcome what amounts to the same obstacle. In each book (and movie) she must overcome some form of the arena. In each part she gets called into the arena, overcomes the trials, and comes away with the boon of victory. Just because she has completed an arena, though, doesn’t mean that she is done. In each episode she must start at square one of the Hero’s Journey before she can start on the next arena.

The Mighty Ducks — This is perhaps my favorite version of regression and redemption. Each film, the team must come together and go through their trials in order to win the big championship. And at the end of each film they are able to win said championship. They celebrate in how far they have come and the skill at which they play the game. However, at the start of each film they basically start over. Even though they have gone through all the cycles of the Hero’s Journey and come out the other side as champions, at the start of the next film they start playing hockey like they have never done so before. It’s the perfect example of regressing to zero and having to redeem yourself through the Hero’s Journey.

Repeating the Journey

We all go through multiple Hero’s Journeys everyday. Almost every task we take on could be fit into the Hero’s Journey frame work. Let’s take this one from myself yesterday. Yesterday I wanted to go find a little device that I needed in order to make my own TV antenna. In my truncated form of the Hero’s Journey I, 1) Got the call, figured out that I needed this part in order to make the antenna, 2) Went through my road of trials, I had to go to multiple stores in order to get the part that I needed, and 3) Received my boon, got the piece that I needed, and then 3) returned, I went home to celebrate in my victory.

Nearly every micro and macro task that we undertake (micro–getting an antenna, macro–birth, life, death) can fit into the Hero’s Journey framework. But nearly every task that we undertake is pretty boring. Sure, there are some that are more interesting or involved than others, but most of the things that we do which fit into the Hero’s Journey don’t quite feel like they fit into the Hero’s Journey. And the majority of the time when we start on a new Hero’s Journey it feels like we are starting from square one.

The point I want to get across is this: the Hero’s Journey can repeat and be repeated multiple times. It happens to us everyday, it happens to the Mighty Ducks in every one of their movies. In fact, most of the time when we finish a Hero’s Journey, a new one begins right afterwards. The fact that Peyton Manning is currently going through a second incarnation of the Hero’s Journey, or that Beowulf went through the journey twice in his epic, should come as no surprise.

How Many Boons for Peyton Manning?

Peyton Manning With his Boon http://www.concordmonitor.com

There is a question over whether Beowulf is able to gain a second boon. Is death a boon? Is defeating the dragon a boon? Personally, I think he does. I think that in defeating the dragon and dying as a king who was able to protect his people that he is able to gain yet another boon. Effectively, he is able to complete two distinct journeys during his epic.

The question is still out there for Peyton Manning.

All of us and the charters that we view and read about can fail during the Hero’s Journey. We can easily refuse the call and not go on the journey at all, we can fail at our trials, we can fail upon attempting to get our final boon.

Manning’s ultimate fate still waits for him. He has successfully completed the Hero’s Journey once, but that does not mean that he will successfully complete it again. He may fail, he may not be able to win a second super bowl, he may retire and find that the boon that is his second Lombardi trophy eludes him.

Of course, he will have other attempts at the Hero’s Journey. Most of those attempts will not be broadcast over national television. In all probability, he will be able to successfully complete the majority of his journeys without any difficulty at all. But will those really matter as much as this current journey that he is undertaking?

The Everyday Journey

I think all that really differentiates you or me from a person like Peyton Manning or Beowulf is the amount of people who care. Manning’s return to the NFL was a long scrutinized endeavor, Beowulf is a story which is studied in literature classes across the globe, and millions of people have paid to watch The Hunger Games.

Like I said above, we all go through the Hero’s Journey everyday. The biggest question you have to ask is whether or not your journey is really all that important? Sure, we are all the center of our own universes, but is what we are doing really as big a deal as we make it out to be? Is making sure that you get to the post office before it closes really all that important in the big scheme of things? Do other people care if you get to the post office or not?

I’m not sure. But there is something that we can relate to with Peyton Manning and Beowulf. We can see people who are taking on the call of the Hero’s Journey despite everything that is fighting against them. Despite being injured and aged they still accept the call. The Might Ducks, despite not quite being all that great at hockey anymore (for some reason) still take on the call.

It’s an inspiration for any of us. If we look at the tasks that we undertake as if they are all Hero’s Journeys, just like those that Manning or Beowulf are taking on, it become easier for us to accept that call. We may feel that we have regressed, that we may not be able to undertake and complete the task ahead, but if Manning can do it even after a neck injury, why not us?

Three Things: Cold War Redux

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Things continue to heat up between Russia and the West. While it’s not yet at Cold War era levels, the rhetoric and actions between the East and West are creating tensions that could quickly lead us there. The Cold War was a terrifying period of history. The prospect of nuclear annihilation lay just over the horizon. And, the amount of times that the world almost ended because of malfunctions, misunderstandings, and human error, is unthinkable. There are some great lessons to be learned from the history of the cold war, and, like Dan Carlin says, context is key to understanding. Here are some of my favorite places to learn some Cold War context, which will hopefully help you to be more informed about current events.

Ghosts of the Osfront

 

World War Two turned the United States into a global power. But, it also turned the USSR into a global power with nearly the same reach. Understanding why the USSR was able to gain so much territory and authority in post-WWII Europe takes an understanding of its role in World War Two. Dan Carlin, host of the podcasts Hardcore History and Common Sense, gives a great overview of the war that the Third Reich and USSR fought on the Eastern Front.

The USSR lost much in blood and treasure in the war, but it also gained a great deal in power and influence across the globe. Really, the ramifications of the Eastern Front are what made it possible for the USSR to face off against the United States for the next 50 years.

Carlin is also able to take a great deal of the context from this podcast (Russian fear of invasion from the West, erosion of the Warsaw Pact and rise of NATO, and dual militarization) and bring them up in his Common Sense podcast. Poking the Bear and In Search of Context, are two must-listens for anyone who wants to be truly knowledgeable about what is going on in Eastern Europe.

Cold War

CNN isn’t usually a place that I go for news. But with Cold War, they created a mini-series that gives an informative and interesting overview of the Cold War from 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Originally aired in 1998, the 24 part mini-series was re-released earlier this year. The series has a great amount of interviews with people who lived through the era, both from the East and the West. Plus, it’s narrated by Sir Kenneth Branagh. How can you go wrong?

While there have been some questions about whether or not the series was biased in one form or another, I think it is important to make two points. First, if you are looking to CNN to get all of your information on one topic, you need to look at other news sources. Remember when they did a month straight of 24 hour reporting on Flight 370? CNN is not exactly known for their hard hitting, focus-from-all-sides reporting. And second, it’s a documentary with great footage and interviews. Documentaries can often be one sided or biased in some way (although, I really don’t personally think that this one was all that biased), and to be a truly informed viewer, you need to look at other sources of information to get the full story.

Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth

 

 

1961 gets far less interest than the Cuban Missile Crisis in the annals of US history, but it is just as–if not more–important. 1961 was the year that the Berlin Wall went up, encasing West Berlin inside of the Iron Curtain in a literal sense. From 1961 until 1989 the Berlin Wall stood, keeping East Germans from entering into West Germany and West Berlin at any cost (though, while prohibited with the consequence of death, many East Germans still made attemptssome successful–to enter into the West).

With 1961, author Frederick Kempe creates a book which paints a complete and thorough picture of the political and social reasonings for the creation of the Wall. Along with the background of why the Wall was built, the books paints the dark attitudes and fears that painted this period of time. It is incredible how close the world came to annihilation because of some miscommunications and increasingly threatening rhetoric from both sides. If you don’t know enough about the politics and people of the Cold War and want to learn more, 1961 is a book worth reading.


 

I’m a fan of history, mythology and absorber of all things news. I’m a writer of books and blogs, and an enjoyer of all things pop culture. There is more about me that I can’t currently think of. I will answer any questions via email (bearded bards at gmail.com) or in the comments below. If your question is: “Can I get your book for free?” My answer is yes, just send me an email. If you would rather pay for the book on Amazon, the link is below.

I don’t only muse about the total annihilation of humanity through nuclear war; I also think about the total annihilation of humanity by asteroid! As seen in my current Amazon.com offering: Tim and the Breakup of Impending Doom.

 

 

Comic Corner: Respect for the Indies

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There was a time when all I read was main-universe superhero stories from Marvel and DC. The first independent comic that I can remember reading was a Concrete comic book that I found at my local library, and, let’s be honest–I didn’t like it very much. It lacked the superheroes, rich (or, what I thought to be rich at the time) story lines, and–most importantly to my young mind–the Marvel or DC logo. It wasn’t until I started reading J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars that I truly started to appreciate independent comics. Over the years independent comics–those not under the DC or Marvel main banner–have become my favorite reads. The Boys, Witchblade, Rising Stars, Global Frequency, and A Man Called Kev, just to name a few. But even those are under imprints that can still have quite the impact across the comics world. Where you are really going to find the best indie comics is with the little guys, imprints that only have a few titles, or, even better, self-published titles. Here are a few indie comics that I enjoy and I think you should check out.

The Unauthorized Biography of Winston Churchill: A Documentary

Writer: Erica Schultz Art: Claire Connelly

You can tell from the name that this isn’t your grandpa’s Churchill. Time travel, English dinosaurs, H.G. Wells–yeah, this is something new. In the comic we find Churchill embroiled in the middle of World War Two, looking for anything that can help him to overcome the impending Nazi doom. And his lead scientist has something that may just be able to help him fight back against the impending blitzkrieg title wave.

The main stand-out from this comic is the art from Connelly. The black and white, straight line, comic strip style illustrations help add to the craziness of a time traveling Winston Churchill. If you are looking for a comic book which is short and fun, look no further than this book.

The RISE

Writer: Matt Wahlquist Art: Ryan Winn

The RISE, published by Tartar Sauce Comics, does one thing right: action. The comic moves in pace and tone incredibly smoothly from one frame to the next. There is no question that Wahlquist and Winn know how to create incredibly well done action-themed pacing. The first issue of the series is light on dialogue, relying instead on multiple fast moving frames to help tell the story. There’s nothing wrong with this, and I think that adding in more dialogue would hurt the overall pacing of the story.

Issue one leaves the reader with plenty of questions. Who are the characters? Where are they? What are their motivations for what they are doing? All of these questions are left out in the open. However, the issue doesn’t leave you feeling like you have been robbed. It’s more like the action-introduction of a thriller movie. Sure, there are plenty of questions, but the action keeps you tied into the story, and you know that somewhere down the line all these questions will be answered. I for one look forward to getting those answers in future issues.

Good Guys

Writer/Artist: Neil Alexander

It took me a little bit to figure out why I enjoyed Good Guys so much. There are some things it does that I immediately loved: It makes a clever play on the superhero genre–It’s set in a world where 98 percent of people have super powers (also called Su-po) and the other 2 percent (the No-po) spend their time clamoring over the super powered celebrities who fill their TV screens. The premise alone is great. And that great premise is followed up by writing and art that makes the comic enjoyable, readable, and reread-able.

I think the reason that I enjoyed the comic so much is because of how much it reminded me of other comics of its same ilk that I love to read so much. Good Guys reminds me a great deal of comics like The Boys and Promethea. The comic does not shy away form the ridiculous, and it does not shy away from subject matter and images that some may find inappropriate. It is definitely a comic that you should pick up if you enjoy stories that take the super hero genre and shake it up.