Write...or Die Trying

I used to work in a factory. Now I work in an office. Either way, my writing was dying. So now I must: Write...or Die Trying.


I've Moved!

I've moved to a new blogging home. Please join me over at:


More Search Terms

How people get here from search engines always interests me. Here’s some more search terms that recent vistitors found this site with:

From Yahoo!:
“Did M. Night Shymalan die”

From Google:
“onion of ancient egypt” Huh?

Books I've Read Recently

It was asked recently on a writer’s email list I’m on what books we’ve read recently. Since I’ve been woefully inconsistent with my blogging lately, I thought I’d share this list with you folks as well.

First, books I'm reading and haven't had a chance to finish yet:

Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
Some book about this kid named Harry who's got a lightning bolt tattooed to his forehead.
The Phantom Ship - Capt. Frederick Marryat
Paradise Lost - Milton

Books I've read recently (in no particular order):

Light in August
As I Lay Dying
Sound & the Fury
all by William Faulkner (for a class, so not sure if this really counts :-)
Significance: although I can't say he's one of my favorite authors yet, his style and what he wrote about is starting to grow on me.

Salem's Lot - King
Significance: yeah, right :-)

Something Wicked This Way Comes - Bradbury
Significance: his storytelling style is similar in some ways to Faulkner in that it's stream-of-consciousness and emotionally provocative. It makes for an interesting and incredibly unique read.

Dune - Frank Herbert
Significance: world building, world building, world building. There are and have been a lot of great SF authors who can create vivid worlds, but for my money, Herbert's got them all beat if for no other reason than that he was there first. I can still taste the hot sand and smell the spice. If he wasn't so enamored by a strange mixture of Bolshevist and Hindu/Eastern religion in his personal beliefs, I might have enjoyed him more :-)

The first Earthsea book - Ursula LeGuin

War of the Worlds
The Time Machine
The Invisible Man
by H.G. Wells
Significance: Wells is so ingrained in English-speaking culture I doubt he needs any explanation.

Inferno - Dante
What a fantastic tome. 13th century literature at it's best, IMHO. Who else could have gotten away with that? (Sometime look up the significance of hairy palms to a medieval audience...caveat emptor ;-)

Well at the World's End - William Morris (1834-96, no relation to the tobacco company :-)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Who knows?

Frankenstein - Mary (Mrs. Percy B.) Shelley

The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole
Significance: The Horace Walpole school of writing:
1) Get fantastically rich on inheirted money.
2) Do all kinds of interesting, but entirely pointless things for the sheer adventure of it.
3) Write a hilariously cheeky book that will be considered by many as the first Gothic novel.
4) Get bored with writing after one book and never do *that* again.

The Princess Bride - William Goldman...I mean, S. Morganstern :-) Explain to me again why he did that, please?


Planet of the Apes - Pierre Boulle

The Dreamquest of Unknown Kaddath - H.P. Lovecraft


They keep bumping up the number of invitations I can give out if someone wants to try Google's Gmail.

My allotment of disk space is at 2.5 GB right now. It's still technically in beta, so there's hardly any advertising on it. I use all that disk space to archive my stories online for backup and so that I can easily get to them from anywhere.

If anyone wants to try out Gmail, then email me privately ( jon dot brisbin at gmail dot com) and I'll send an invite to you.

Input or Output

I spend a great deal of my day just absorbing information. A lot of times I don't turn around and put that knowledge into something. I just absorb it. Today was a good example.

Besides my Modern Fantasy class, in which we discussed Jospeh Campbell's mono-myth theory, how Christianity rests on a "weak" logcial premise, yada yada, I spent a goodly portion of the day trying to figure out how in the heck I had broken this program I'd written. I was trying to make it work better; improve it, so to speak. In the end, I actually accomplished my goal, but I broke several things inside it first. So I had to read and research and get more information so I could figure out why it was broken and how could I fix it.

I'm a self-taught programmer. By self-taught I mean I learn by propping something up I don't fully understand, watching it fall, changing it slightly, putting it back up again, watching it fall, changing it a little more, prop it back up again (still not fully understanding it), yada yada... They say the first sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result. I see.

In programming there are basically two pipes of communication: data coming in (called input) and data going out (called output, oddly enough.) My days normally consist of managing vast quantities of input, distilling it down, and producing a weensie-teensie bit of output. Programming is like that. You have to absorb so much information to produce a small thing that is then judged based on it's apparent, relative size, instead of its unwieldy actual, relative size--which doesn't compute with management, given the amount of time you said it would take and how much you said it would cost.

Writing is like that too, I'm finding out. Vast truckloads of input are being dumped into my brain every day--whether I want it or not. I have to sift through all that chaff for the wheat or the dirt for the worms. I have to manage this input or lose it. A good writer has to process so much more information than what they eventually output that the small apparent relative size of their output is often judged as not being enough; not quick enough; not "good" enough (God forbid.) But that's just part of writing. It's hours and days and years of input input input. Then a little blip. Output. Maybe there's some sort of rule someone can attach their name to that recognizes that: the larger the exponent between what the writer's input and her output, the better the fiction. The more I read and observe people the better my writing gets. I can't explain it, it just works.

Input input input input input input input input. Blip. Output.

More Search Terms

The referrers from search engines are a never-ending source of material for me. Here's a recent one:

"i'm getting dumber"

Quote from Joseph Pulitzer

You know how conversations wander from one topic to the next, until you've gone so far from your original topic that the trip there becomes more important than what you were discussing? That happened to me today. I found this quote by Joseph Pulitzer after googling the name "Nellie Bly," which my wife had heard on a show my kids were watching this afternoon:

"Every issue of the paper presents an opportunity and a duty to say something courageous and true; to rise above the mediocre and conventional; to say something that will command the respect of the intelligent, the educated, the independent part of the community; to rise above fear of partisanship and fear of popular prejudice. I would rather have one article a day of this sort; and these ten or twenty lines might readily represent a whole day's hard work in the way of concentrated, intense thinking and revision, polish of style, weighing of words."

Joseph Pulitzer, 1911