Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two Poems for Tuesday

Here are a few new poems from me. The first I got the idea for while I was flying to San Francisco for Spring Break. Just the joys, the difficulties, and the excitement of traveling overwhelmed me. It made me think, why do we travel? Why do we find a thrill from some unknown place? The second I thought up today, during a panic of anxiety and doubt. I need to be more sure of myself, I guess writing this out is a cathartic release.


The road winds on an on
And feelings pull even harder
Like a quiet mournful song
It draws me across borders
Through the fields, across oceans
Down dusty trails
Long since abandoned,
Haunted by ghostly gales
What drives us here,
To places now unknown
Is it a fear of the static
Or fear of being alone?
I'm caught by a grip
Is it excitement or fear?
This nervousness in me
Am I afraid of leaving what I hold dear?
Yet I'm drawn towards the road
Pulled towards what is far away
Be it silent plains and lonely towns
Or loud and bustling bays
If the road winds on
And I'm just a traveler,
Do I know what brings me down the road
Or am I just a wanderer?


Why am I nervous?
Things are going fine
Yet here I am, as hesitant as ever
I know things are well between us,
But I'm just a wreck
Maybe it's me
I've never been good at this
I've never had the company of someone like you
Okay, it's definitely me
I'm just afraid
Not of your or us
But of me
How do I not ruin things?
How do I not drive you away?
Things are so perfect right now
And I don't want them to pass
But I don't know how to ask you
If I'm good or am I bad
I want to stay, I don't want to go
Please give me a sign
I'm anxious, my mind is racing
I'm trying my best, but I'm just a mess
I second guess and doubt
I'm trying to stop, I'm trying to be free
Of the fear that grips me tightly
Things are so good,
So why I am nervous?

A tale of the writer,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Five Stories that Influenced the Writer

Whenever I've talked to anyone interested in writing, or any avid reader, the question always comes up: "what's your favorite book?" To writers and literary buffs, this is like choosing between de Havilland and Bacall, or Zepellin and The Who. It's not an easy question, and usually won't get a simple answer. There's a lot of "Well I'm in the mood for this..." or "If you're talking this genre..."

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend and much-more-successful-than-me writer and the question came up again. He settled for Dickens, but I was at a loss. So, here are my five favorite books of all time, the one's that have influenced me as a writer and entertained me as a reader.

5. The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
I owe this series of books a lot. I was 10 years old, wandering through my elementary school's library when I saw The Dark is Rising. Until then, I had passed the time reading kid mysteries like The Hardy Boys. I saw the title of this book, was intrigued, and picked it up. This was the novel that got me into serious reading. It was dense, think, and smart. I didn't understand all of it then, but I loved what I understood. I read the rest of the series, growing more enthralled as I went. This was a series with character development, mysticism, adventure, all told on an epic scale that never felt cliche. It was fantasy, but unlike most series today, even the excellent Harry Potter series, never felt dependent on tropes. And unlike, say, the Percy Jackson series, where mythology is a gimmick, Cooper weaved Arthurian and Celtic myths into the series, creating a unique mythos that felt natural instead of standing out to catch attention. I still reread this series, and now I get it.
4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman may be British, but he crafted what is surely the Great American Novel. I've read The Great Gatsby; it's good, but it does not capture what America is the way American Gods does. It's an epic about immigration and assimilation, told through the filter of a road novel mixed with crime literature. The mix of genres fascinated me, and the direct, serious way Gaiman told the story really helped the novel. It works on so many levels: as a low key personal story of an ex-con, a tale about gods, and what it means to be an American. I would love to see this taught in high schools across the country.
3. Rex Mundi by Arvid Nelson
Okay, it's a comic book, but it's the best comic book of the last ten years, and the best mystery series you'll find. This is a story about the Holy Grail, only not the conventional cup story. You're probably thinking of The DaVinci Code. That was a lackluster thriller that gained fame only through controversy. Rex Mundi, which not only came before Dan Brown's book, is a smart murder mystery set in a 1930s Paris where magic is real, the Protestant Reformation never happened, and masked Inquisitors roam the streets. A political thriller, a murder mystery, a romance, all told through a noir filter that seques into an Indiana Jones-style adventure? Oh hell yes. The work Nelson put into the series really stands out. There's a good deal of world building going on, and it is really effective, from subtle differences to shocking alterations from our history. A compelling cast, brilliant art, and excellent buildup and payoff make Rex Mundi a must read, even if you aren't a comic book fan.
2. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
I love spy fiction, and I always have. From Ian Fleming's James Bond series to the sometimes-espionage Dirk Pitt books, dark alley meet ups, paranoia, and spy vs. spy action has been a favorite of mine. When I picked up Greene's 1950s Vietnam spy story, my perception of spy fiction was turned upside down. Here was a tale of terrorism, idealism, and cynicism told through a love triangle. It was realistic, without cliched espionage tropes. Greene was a force to be reckoned with; he was a king of characterization and character growth, and he could paint vivid locales, be it Vietnam or the Cuba of his great spy-comedy Our Man in Havana.
1. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Without a doubt, my favorite novel of all time. I came across this thanks to Roman Polanski's excellent, if different, adaptation The Ninth Gate. This is quite simply the book for bibliophiles. Books play a huge part in the story, both the adventure serials of Alexander Dumas and books on demonology. This is a story that plays with the characters and the reader, shifting between adventure and crime, all under the banner of a great gothic mystery. A "literary mercenary" is called into authenticate both a chapter of The Three Musketeers and book that may have been written in part by Satan. Soon bodies start piling up and characters seem to come to life from Dumas's classic. Is it the work of ordinary people, or is the Devil involved? Immensely satisfying, this is a book I reread constantly, and each time I find something new that I missed, a connection, a bit of foreshadowing, or a new insight to a character. This, more than any other book, has shaped my views as a reader and a writer, and if I could write a novel half as good as this, I would be thrilled.

A tale of the writer,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Weekly Round Up and this Blog's First Poem!

Here is the first weekly round up of the blog. To keep this from just being my articles, I want to through in a poem or a music with each entry.

I write for USC's newspaper the Daily Trojan, with both Thursday's internet column and a variety of articles bearing my byline. These past two weeks I had some of my favorite articles published. One is a look at The Losers, a great comic by Andy Diggle that's been made into a movie that comes out in April. Anotheris a look at the blog culture that explores the hidden sides of Los Angeles. Thanks to Sean Percival of Lalawag for his help with that. And I got to write about blogging! How wonderfully fitting for this. http://dailytrojan.com/2010/03/03/comic-book-losers-get-their-own-action-flick & http://dailytrojan.com/2010/03/03/getting-to-know-l-a-the-online-way/ & http://dailytrojan.com/2010/03/10/blogging-provides-students-a-soapbox/

I also contribute to Dan Northern's excellent college-tip blog, College Thrive. I write the weekly drink column "Screw the Solo Cup." With Spring Break fast approaching, here's my recommendation for a wonderfully classic and tiki cocktail. http://collegethrive.com/drink-of-the-week-mai-tai

Now onto the poem. I haven't written poetry in a while, so this is a great time to get back into the practice of it. A word of warning, the poetry on this blog is going to be sentimental, maybe inane, irreverent, and sometimes very personal. This one, "Maybe," is my first poem in months. It's short, but very true. I've met a lot of great people recently, and one of them is truly awesome. You could say she was the muse for this one.

Maybe it’s the way you smile,
So truly happy
Without a care in the world
Maybe it’s the taste of your lips,
The sweetness you have
In the warmest embrace
Maybe it’s the words I can say,
How I can be honest
Knowing you’re listening
Maybe it’s the way I feel,
The nervousness of screwing this up
And upsetting you
Maybe it’s how much I want to be with you
When we’re together,
And even more when we’re apart
Maybe I’ll never know
Why I love you
But I do
And maybe that’s all I need
Since I’m with you

A tale of the writer,

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Shape of Things to Come

So, now that this blog is up, what is going to be on here? Well, I work on the University of Southern California's newspaper the Daily Trojan, and I have a weekly column there, in addition to the other articles I write. So I was thinking about a doing a "weekly roundup" of my articles, every Friday or Saturday. I also want to put up information on some of the bigger projects I'm working on, as well as a few short stories, some poetry, and even my thoughts on writing as a whole.

To say that writing is a happy exercise is a bit of a rose-colored glasses. So many famous writers lived tragic lives, and met nasty ends. Hemingway, suicide. Byron lived in constant depression before dying of a violent illness. Don't even get me started on the Russian writers of the 1800s. The Pulitzer Prize winning writer J. Anthony Lukas once said "All writers are, to one extent or another, damaged people. Writing is our way of repairing ourselves." That may be one of my favorite quotations of all time. I went through a very rough time a few years ago, and while I turned my life around, I have not forgotten my past. I wouldn't say that I am haunted, but I carry that turmoil in me. And it fuels my writing.

You may be wondering, what exactly is he writing? Well, my main project is one which actively involves my past depression. I am working on a novel about a group of people tied together by past suicide attempts. It is a romance and character drama, told in the fog covered banks of the Siene, where self-doubt and fear cast a shadow over everyone, and loneliness runs deep. It is an extremely personal project, and a way to come to terms with a part of my life that I want to purge. In many ways it's difficult to write, but at the same time, very fulfilling. I will try to provide updates on it, maybe even an excerpt or two.

In addition to that story, I have a few ideas I'm working on. I've always been fascinated by gothic and religious horror, and I have an idea for a very dark comic book involving cults, secret societies, hidden secrets, and the occult. I am also working on an adventure novel in the style of Clive Cussler; something with history, action, exotic locations, and a good mystery and sarcastic, slightly jaded lead. It's been on the backburner for a while, but I'm starting to revamp a lot of my previous pages in it to get back into the main plot.

It's not much, but it's a plan. Writing is everlasting, highly personal, tormenting, and fulfilling. Writing is my passion.

A writer's tale,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Prologue of Sorts

"You know what I want to think of myself? As a human being. Because, I mean I don't want to be like 'As Confucius say,' but under the sky, under the heavens there is but one family. It just so happens that people are different."
-Bruce Lee

A few years ago, I doubt I would be where I am. To be honest, I did not know if I would even be around. I was a wreck, both physically and emotionally. I was always the kid other people picked on in elementary school, all the way through high school. So I was basically going through my childhood with a fear of society, little self-confidence, and no faith in my works. I had, and still have, amazing parents who were always there for me, but my peers and my self-doubt ruined my childhood.

Three years ago I decided to change all of that. I don't know what the catalyst was that made me actually take action, but whatever it was, I owe it my sanity. I found a way to beat my depression. I turned myself around, and improved, be it physically, intellectually, or socially. I found a way to not fear people around me and instead make friends with them. I was able to get the fresh start that I've always wanted.

At the same time, I discovered a passion for writing. I always loved to read. Book, comics, poetry, and screenplays, all had been my solace during my childhood. Now I realized that I too could make the stories that I loved. Writing was an accessible outlet, a way to share my ideas and make something out of my dreams, imagination, and fantasies. And it wasn't just fiction. I took an interest in journalism, and started writing for my high school's newspaper. That only helped to improve my state of mind further. I was in a group of people with a shared passion, and we were encouraged to pursue it. The newspaper became my outlet, and it still is, even in college.

I still write fiction, or at least, I still try to. I have more than a few ideas for stories, some prose, some comic books, some even movies. Some are very personal to me, others are fun and adventurous. I want to write them all one of these days. I'm going to try to. And that's what led me here.

So, what do I hope to get out of this blog?

Well, I want this blog to be my place to share my ideas, to practice my writing, and to keep myself focused on my passions. I plan on putting a bunch of different pieces of writing-poetry, short stories, novel ideas, comic ideas, etc, as well as some thoughts on life, college, and the writing process.

Life is an endless novel, and this is my attempt to document it.

The first of many tales,