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Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
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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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My Tom Waits inspired non-fiction piece is now live in the first issue of Cannoli Pie Magazine
Posted 7 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / Publication Announcements

Back in February during the AWP Conference in Denver, CO, I read a non-fiction piece called “The Author Who Gets Free Drinks: a (Hopefully) True Story.” Fine man extraordinaire Stephen Krauska was in the audience. After the reading, I spoke with him for a bit, and got the (eventually proven true) impression that he’s an all around damn nice guy. So nice in fact that for the first issue of his (and co-editor Claire Suellentrop‘s) Cannoli Pie Magazine he asked to print the AWP piece.

That issue is now live at the Cannoli Pie homepage. Download the .pdf, give the story a read, and be sure to listen to the AWP reading, available as part of The Velvet Podcast.

Oh, and for those curious, yes, it worked. My next piece will be called “The Author Who Gets Lap Dances and Pizza For Free Every Morning.”

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The Velvet Podcast, Episode 006: Jennifer’s Lost Overboard Body: Cinemuck Boogaloo
Posted 6 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / Media
Episode #006 of The Velvet Podcastjust went live a few hours ago. Gordon Highland, Jesse Lawrence, Logan Frost, and Stephen Graham Jones talk about:

Discussion of other mediums like film and television has always been an important aspect of The Velvet, because we find that our shared tastes in books translates well to art and entertainment in general. Inspired by one of our most popular forums, this episode features three Velvet staffers and author Stephen Graham Jones waxing about the big and small screens, both as consumers and creators, cinners and cineastes wading through the Cinemuck.

Please, give it a listen. Subscribe via Feedburner, Podcast Alley, or iTunes.

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Episode 006: Jennifer’s Lost Overboard Body: Cinemuck Boogaloo
Posted 6 July 2010 / By Caleb J. Ross / The Velvet Podcast

velvetpodcastlogo-mic

Discussion of other mediums like film and television has always been an important aspect of The Velvet, because we find that our shared tastes in books translates well to art and entertainment in general. Inspired by one of our most popular forums, this episode features three Velvet staffers and author Stephen Graham Jones waxing about the big and small screens, both as consumers and creators, cinners and cineastes wading through the Cinemuck. Read More

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