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Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
Mind effed: Jose Saramago karate-chops the 4th wall and drops knowledge about lazy novelists
Posted 27 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / Mind Effed

The journey was uneventful, that’s what novelists in a hurry always say when they think that, in the ten minutes or ten hours they are about to eliminate, nothing has taken place that would warrant any special mention. Strictly speaking, it would be much more correct and honest to put it like this, As in all journeys whatever their duration and length, there have been a thousand incidents, words and thoughts, and for a thousand you could read ten thousand, but the narrative is dragging, so I’m allowing myself to abbreviate, using three lines to cover two hundred kilometers, bearing in mind that the four people inside the car have traveled in silence, with neither thought nor gesture, pretending that by the end of the journey they will have nothing  to relate.

-from The Stone Raft (pg 122)

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Blame Caleb for the BP Oil Leak
Posted 21 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / Blame Caleb

It seems book deals are overwhelmingly the result of celebrity. But because I have never madamed a gubernatorial knob gobbling session, didn’t shoot to national fame by positioning my condescension to gullible suckers as empathy for “the real America,” and unfortunately wasn’t smart enough to fool Oprah first, my current celeb-cred holds steady at terror alert level negative green. In fact, I barely warrant an obituary, let alone a book. But if controversy is what the industry wants, then controversy I shall give.

With that realization in mind, I selfishly admit: the BP oil spill was my fault.

See, back on the tragic day, 4/20, Frank and I—Frank was the rig’s main guy—we got a bit high in honor of the holiday and decided to pass the evening hours playing dominoes. “Playing” used loosely, here, as we mainly spent the night arguing over what the black dots on the dominoes tasted like.

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Transubstantiate, the first novel from Richard Thomas, is now available
Posted 18 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / General News

July will forever forward be known not as the month in which America celebrates its independence, but instead as the month that witnessed the release of Richard Thomas’s debut novel, Transubstantiate.

This novel has been a long time coming, and I urge everyone to grab a copy as soon as possible. And as you do that, get involved with some of the discussion and live readings surrounding the novel, including a July 19 live Q&A at Bitten By Books (Time TBD), a July 18th reading at Archie’s Iowa Rockwell Tavern in Chicago, IL from 8:00 – 11:30, an October 16th reading the infamous Quimby’s also in Chicago, IL, and an ongoing book discussion at The Velvet’s goodreads group.

Not yet convinced? Read a few excerpts at Plots With Guns. Or perhaps this review at Bitten By Books.

Don’t know enough about the author? Get to know him at his The Cult interview.

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Another Great Unexpected “Literary” Reference
Posted 16 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / Unexpected Literary References

(part of my ongoing Unexpected Literary References series)

Last night, a new episode of Futurama featured another novel reference.  “The Duh-Vinci Code” appropriately features a reference to Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. See the full clip here. The clip is actually quite funny, though isn’t this turd of a book a bit of an easy target? Yes, the quotations in the post title around Literary are intentional. I can’t bring myself to call The DaVinci Code literary at all. But, still any novel reference is a win for the good guys.

See my original list here.

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Mind effed: Jose Saramago fucks with the encyclopedia’s self-esteem
Posted 14 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / Mind Effed

The encyclopedia that father and daughter have just opened on the kitchen table was considered the best of its kind at the time of publication, whereas today its only use would be to find out about areas of knowledge no longer considered useful or which, at the time, were still only articulating their first, hesitant syllables. Placed in a line, one after another, the encyclopedias of today, yesterday, and the-day-before-the-day-before-yesterday represent successive images of frozen worlds, interrupted gestures, words in search of their immutable cycloramas, prodigious projectors whose reels have gotten stuck and which show, with a kind of maniacal fixity, a landscape which, because it is condemned to be only and for all eternity what is was, will at the same time grow older, more decrepit and more unnecessary.

-from The Cave (pg 58-9)

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Lessons from a nobody – writing has two anchors
Posted 11 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / Study (the world/the craft)

I can’t claim to be a master o’ the written word, but I can pretend to be one. With that in mind, I am compelled to push forward any writing-related knowledge I may have in hopes that you too can promote a false sense of superiority.

Today’s lesson: Writing has two ways to keep you grounded in your story, or “anchors,” as I will call them.

  1. The words you’ve already put down
  2. The words you have yet to put down

The first anchor is touched upon in the brilliant book by Ron Carlson, aptly titled Ron Carlson Writes a Story (which I reviewed at the How Publishing Really Works blog). Basically, the idea is that every word you write should be used as a bank of ideas to further the story itself. For example, if I begin a story with the following line:

Greg topped his tank for what he knew would be the last time in many miles, days, perhaps even weeks.

Then I already have a wealth of information to use as I continue the story. Writer’s block be damned. Here I can explore who Greg is, why he is traveling, why it will be the last time for a while, what kind of car does he drive, whose car is it, and so on. This advice seems obvious doesn’t it? Because it is. So many times we simply fail to recognize the simple things. Keeping this bank in mind can literally help sprout a full story from a single, random line.

The second anchor is a reference to story outlines. I am a strong proponent for outlining a story. The concept is scary to many writers, as it implies the structured tiered outline forced upon us in middle school. But, an outline can be something as simple as a numbered list of plot points. The goal is to simply know your general direction so that you are never daunted by infinite possibilities. Believe it or not, restriction is important when writing. The goal isn’t to open you mind to infinite ideas; the goal is to tame those ideas down to a manageable level.

I think it is Max Barry who compares this second anchor to a car’s headlights (if anyone knows the source for sure, please let me know in the comments below). One should write with only a few future plot points in mind, basically the distance that a car’s headlights reach. I agree with this. The headlights allow a story to move in a visible direction while at the same time not allowing the story to wander off the road.

Now, tell your friends that I am a genius.

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Mind effed: Jose Saramago on Reading
Posted 8 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / Mind Effed

The same method doesn’t work for everyone, each person has to invent his or her own, whichever suits them best, some people spend their entire lives reading but never get beyond reading the words on the page, they don’t understand that the words are merely stepping stones placed across a fast-flowing river, and the reason they’re there is so that we can reach the farther shore, it’s the other side that matters, Unless, Unless what, Unless those rivers don’t have just two shores but many, unless each reader is his or her own shore, and that shore is the only shore worth reading.

-from The Cave (pg 62)

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Books I’ve Written
AsAMachineAndParts-Re-issue-medium-175 Version 3 front cover-175 StrangerWill-reissue-175 CharacteredPieces_1stEdition-175 Version 2 front cover-175
Essays I’ve Written
In Lieu of Emo I Listened to the Metroid Theme
It Takes a Man to Get a Vasectomy: The History of the Vasectomy and 5 Things You Probably Didn't Consider Before Getting One
Tiny People in Your Semen: The Discovery of Sperm