Guest Post by Aaron Michael Ritchey: The Horror of the B+ and the Terror of the Pretty Good

What’s good, peeps? Today I have something super dooper special–a little somethin’ somethin’ from my dude Aaron Michael Ritchey, author of The Never Prayer. Check it out, and make sure to give his book a gander.

Scott J. Clemons.  Yes.  That is his name.  However, it might be my name, too.  What’s the old song?  John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?  I’ll stop now.  If you know the song, you are already singing it in your head, which is a sign of madness.

Scott and I hit it off because we just might be the same person.  When he offered me a chance to guest blog, I thought it would be kind of redundant.  But then we talked on the phone for an hour, and I had a flash of what I could write about.  And here I am.

I’m a complicated man.  Like Shaft, no one understands me but my woman.  And even she might be jivin’ me.

When I get done writing, I am either the most brilliant author to ever string words together, or I am a hack who should be muted and stuck in a hole.  I am either on top of the pile of writers, lording over them, or struggling underneath, looking for more mud to eat.

My wife videotaped me saying I was a good writer.  She had to.  Because when I’m in the dumps, I truly don’t remember anything good I’ve ever written, and it drives her insane.  John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt madness.  It’s a diagnosis in the DSM V.  I’m a child of a psychotherapist.  I know.

Talking with Scott, he said something similar, but I won’t out his crazy.  I’m here to talk about my own.  Yes, there are times I have wanted to throw in the towel, leave writing forever, and do something constructive with my time, like watch more baseball, or rescue puppies from burning buildings.

Because again, I’m either the best or the worst.  I should either quit my job and write full time, or I should never write again and look into a career as a puppy rescuer.

The truth is, I’m pretty good.  Not great, but definitely not in the “I should be killed for writing” camp.  Pretty good.  Which is a hard place to be for me.  In school, I either wanted an A+, or I wanted an F-.  When I got a B+, I would rage.  B+!  What the hell is a B+ good for?  Absolutely nothin’, say it again.

I’m a good enough writer to be published.  My debut novel, The Never Prayer, was shoved out into the world on March 29, 2012.  And you would think my stupid head would be satisfied.  But here is the lesson I’m learning—my stupid head will never be satisfied.

My mind is a tool.  It can help me plot my stories, it can create wacky characters, it can help me with the craft of writing, but it can’t help me with meaning.

Call it spirit, call it soul, call it what you want, but there is another part of me, not my mind, that knows the truth.  How I stack up in the grand pile of authors doesn’t much matter in the end.  I need to embrace the books I write, love them, and sing my songs to the world.  Yes, my voice might crack.  Yes, the Simon Cowell’s of the world might criticize me, but when I write, I am taking part in the sacred art of storytelling.  That transcends the stupid extremes of my thought-life.  It transcends me.  As it should.

Henry Miller said that the only reward for writing is writing.  If I’m good, I should write.  If I’m bad, I should write.  If I’m pretty good, I should write.  If I have a story to tell, I should write, no matter what.

And if you read my book, The Never Prayer, and give me a B+, well, logically speaking, that’s better than a C.  And if I touched you at all with my story?  That’s better than any grade ever.

Thanks, Scott, for letting me invade your blog.  Have you seen the other sock we wore last Saturday night?  I can’t tell if it’s in Colorado or Tacoma.  Or someplace in between.

For more about me and The Never Prayer, you can visit us both at www.aaronmritchey.com.  And of course, I’m on Facebook, as is the book at http://www.facebook.com/TheNeverPrayer.  And I tweet – @aaronmritchey.   If you are at all curious about the novel, our friends at Amazon.com would love for you to visit them!

If you are a try before you buy type of cat, hit me here for an excerpt: http://crescentmoonpress.com/books/TheNeverPrayer.html

Aaron Michael Ritchey

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All My Friends Live On The Internets

I fricken love the internets. Seriously, there’s so much awesome stuff out there just waiting to be seen, read, and loled at. Just take a second to think about anything that’s not on the internet. Nothing, am I right? It’s all there. Why just the other day I bought a new pair of glasses online. Yeah, dude. Glasses. And I got them on the cheap for just $89.00  What a screaming deal! You can’t beat a deal like that with a stick.

Know what else the internets are good for? Finding people who are into the same stuff you are into. Think about it. Before the web was super accessible, geeky kids like me were enjoying more than our share of lonely lunch periods. Now all you have to do is type a few key words into the Google machine and blamo! You’ve just found loads of people who are as excited as you about the new [insert fandom here] episode/book/comic/movie.

Seeing as I love the internets so much, you can probably guess about how much time I spend on computers. Mostly I like reading made-up stuff (check my Spec-Fic tastes at the top of the page!) but I’ve been known to pass the time watching interesting videos, reading what other bloggers are up to, or checking out assorted lulz.

It’s boring, but it’s my life.

It was during one these typical perusing sessions that I found something pretty darn sweetical (that’s a combo of sweet and radical–use it if you need to). It’s a YA fiction blog straight out of the Windy City and run by a lady named Anna. I know, I know, there’s a bajillion blogs about YA fic, but her blog really struck my fancy when I saw this post.

The post is about trends that the author would like to see in 2012–more straight up sci-fi, less hot-and-heavy romances–and I can get down with almost all of them. While I’m definitely on board with her desire to see more sci-fi without all the woe-is-me dystopian overtones, I’m not so much down with her point about seeing more stand-alone novels.

See, I think book series are wicked fun to read. That’s why finishing a book that is packed with characters I’ve fallen in love with is the bummer to top all bummers when it comes to reading. However, if I know the series is going to keep going then I know I’m going to get to see those characters get wrapped up in a whole new mess of wacky adventures.

But that’s not even the most important part of the deal.

Maybe you didn’t know this, but writing is really really hard. Seriously, it’s tough–one of the hardest things in the world to do well. Believe me, I know. I write a lot. That’s why I think it’s awesome–and I mean super amazing crazy awesome!–when a writer gets a book deal and the books take the heck off. Considering that a writer puts so much of their lives into a book there’s not many sweeter payoffs than being popular enough to warrant a series.

So yeah, check out the link to Anna’s blog, and don’t forget to like her post. Maybe even give the old follow button a click, eh? Oh, yeah, and read lots of books.

Bon weekend!

You Can’t Take The Sky From Me

And I’m back!

Now I know I said I’d be back yesterday, but it turns out that I am a liar. I big fat horrible liar.

But I have a good excuse.

As you may have noticed I’ve been spending some time working on the appearance of this blog thingy. See, I’m the kind of guy who waits and waits for something to drive me nuts before I get around to changing it. Perfect example: the cleanliness of my house. Things have to be looking pretty sketchy around here before I’m willing to do something about it.

*Here is a brief pause for you to get all the “Ewwwww!” out of your system.*

I know, I know. It’s a bad habit. But I feel that if I’m comfortable being that way then I’m just going to do it. Why change it if it works for me, right?

Now, back to what I was saying about the appearance of this here Bloggity Blog. The time came for change. Drastic change. The fresh-out-of-the-box look just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I needed it to be something cool but also had elements of what I like. I needed a color scheme, a header, and few other little doodads that showed the things I’m into. After thinking real hard about the stuff I like, I came up with a few heavy hitters:

1. Aliens

2. Spaceships

3. Americana

4. Made-up words

What do you get when you put them together? A cross-stitched header with grey alien heads, flying saucers, and a totally made-up word (Guess which one. It rhymes with “sloggity.”). I hope you like it!

Now, down to the real point of this entry: the giggly tale of my fanboy encounter with the author of Cinder, Marissa Meyer.

Let me start off by saying how fricken nice she was. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it was a publicity event and she was probably trying to be extra nice, but I did not get a single vibe of fake niceness that one might expect from someone in her position. Plus, if my face was half as red as it felt then there’s a decent chance she thought I had some sort of contagious skin condition. If that was the case, then she deserves extra points for keeping it together in the face of perceived bodily danger.

The whole thing kicked off with her giving the crowd a little background on how she got started writing (did somebody say Sailor Moon fanfic?), and then followed it up with a reading from her book. After all that she got into a Q & A session with the audience where she shared her thoughts about everything from Joss Whedon’s world building in Firefly, to the impact Sailor Moon had on her. She even shared her story about how one exhausting NaNoWriMo saw her hammer out full manuscripts for what would become the first two books of the Lunar Chronicles (all for a walk-on spot on Star Trek, no less).

Not too long ago I read an interview with Marissa where she said that at times she wanted to be a writer so badly that she felt like she could cry. Man, I can empathize with that. It’s that exact sentiment that pushes me to work harder–to dedicate months worth of time to become a master of the craft and succeed as a writer. That’s why seeing her in front of all those people–people who were there because of her work–was definitely my favorite part of the day. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate someone who is willing to sacrifice their mental well-being to get on Star Trek. I’d be the first to champion that noble cause! But the feeling that I got from seeing someone who has put in the work and seen the results had to be the best part of the deal for me.

Well that, and the picture Marissa took with my wife and I.

Who is Marissa's fav Sailor Scout? Sailor Venus, of course!

Thrice All American

So here we are again.

There are a few things at the front of my brain meats that are pressing hard to get out. One, I’m about ready to roll on the first round of rewrites to my book. I was going to leave it for a while more–kind of let my brain juices recharge for another day or so–but I just read something that got me super amped to get going on it again.

See, I have been planning on going and seeing Marissa Meyer, author of the fairly new YA novel Cinder, when she comes to the Wheelock Library this weekend. When I first heard about it I was a little hesitant about going. The last reading/signing I went to was for a collection of short stories–a literary collection of short stories, mind you–and I felt like the only one in the joint who wasn’t huffing their own smug. But as Cinder is a YA novel, I think this might pull a crowd that’s more my speed. As the event is a few days away and I barely know anything about Ms. Meyer, I decided to Google her name and see what came up. I know from experience that Googling a name sometimes brings up all kinds of weird facts. For instance, when I Googled my name I not only found one of my stories online, I also found out that the mayor of Panama City, Florida is named Scott Clemons too. Good thing to know if I ever decide to run for office there.

Anyways, back to the point. What I found for Marissa Meyer was way more interesting than my name doppelganger in America’s wiener.

According to the Google machine, Marissa Meyer is from Tacoma.

Is that algebraic or what? A real-life New York Times bestseller, right here in my hometown. Maybe that doesn’t mean a lot to you, but when I find out about people from Tacoma doing big things it makes me wicked happy. So happy, in fact that I feel instantly motivated to start cracking on my own work and become a highly sought-after writer with legions of crazed fans (preferably not the Annie Wilkes kind, please). Seriously, famous Tacomans–Tacomites? Tacomanians?–get me motivated. It’s like every time I listen to Neko Case, or one of those other three people from Tacoma that did stuff. Okay, maybe there’s not that many people from around here that are doing things, but you get my meaning.

So it’s with all that in mind that I come to the next thing that’s itching in my mind. When I started my book I took a whole bunch of advice from a grip of different of websites on how one ought to write a book. Some people swear you ought never plot–Stephen King–while some people swear by plotting the whole thing–Ayn Rand. Me, I took a more plot-planning approach to the whole thing and came out with something I feel pretty good about. The thing is, now that the first draft is done I’m spending a bunch of time trying to figure out how I ought to start the revisions. Not to worry though. There are a gazillion people on the interwebs who have published their thoughts on the subject. (See antiquated meme: “Don’t worry, sir. I’m from the Internet.”)

The first author I am going to check out is Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe. ATU is a seriously dope book so I suggest you pick it up if you haven’t already. Beth’s website lists the methods she used for working through the revision process, and while some of them don’t feel like my style, a few really make sense to me. One of the things I can’t help but nod to is when she renames the “revision” process, the “rewriting” process. I can relate to that. Over this past month I’ve had a thousand ideas of things I want to chop. The thing is for everything I decide to cut something needs to be written in to make the story flow, and that means rewrite rewrite rewrite. On an unrelated note, when I wrote that I heard the fat guy from Total Recall yelling, “Rekall! Rekall! Rekall!” Anyone else have that experience?

Okay, that’s all I have in me for this post. If I spend too much time messing around with this blog I’ll eat up every minute I have to actually work on my book.

Actually, I do want to post one last thing. I’m usually opposed to quotes from famous dead people; especially the sort that try and make you feel uplifted but come off clichéd (exactly like this: Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things). Seriously? I feel like that should be on a decorative wall hanging. However, I am making an exception for this one because it brings the fire:

“Anyone who says he wants to be a writer and isn’t writing, doesn’t.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

Since We Last Spoke

So it’s official: I’m the worst blogger ever. Honestly, my stomach twists every time I think of someone following a link to my blog and finding nothing but a few entries from forever ago. But please, don’t judge me yet. I have a good excuse! Well, an okay excuse. All right, a more or less lame excuse, but it’s the only one I’ve got: I’ve been really busy.

“Yeah, yeah,” you say. “You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. What’s that got to do with anything?”

In my case, it’s a really valid excuse — or at least I think so. Let me lay out some of what’s been going on lately.

First of all, I’m super stoked to say that I finished the manuscript for my very first novel at around 1:00 AM on the first of this year. That thing was a beast! I took two, maybe three days off in those 2 months and 29 days it took to write the thing. Still, good times, right? I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to have finished such a serious undertaking as writing a book. My next step is to let it sit for a while, but in a couple of weeks I am going to start hammering out the first round of revisions and rewrites — good times, part deux. For anyone that’s keeping track, that’s 120,000 words of raw writing to sift through. Whoa. That’s all I can say. Whoa.

Second order of busyness: work work work. I’ve been putting in major work at my job and at school that’s had me running around like a crazy person. Also, I’ve been thinking a lot more about what I am going to do as a career — man, the word career makes me feel so old — and as such I’ve decided to make absolutely sure that I earn good grades this quarter. Not that I haven’t pulled A’s since I’ve been back in school, but seeing as I finally have an idea of what I want to do with my life (see: When I Grow Up) I want to make sure that I don’t shoot myself in the foot with a couple of stay B’s and C’s. The career, of course, is just until I start getting those fat checks for my writing. Those folks at Putnam have probably already dropped the first check in the mail. Still waiting for that check, Putnam!

I thought that I had way more things to say about how incredibly busy I’ve been, but that’s pretty much it. Wow, that does seem lame. I feel like I should have gotten way more done these past few weeks. I guess taking time off from writing the novel has made me lazy. Big surprise there. After I finished those last keystrokes of the novel, all I wanted to do was watch re-runs of Law and Order. Oh, that and read lots and lots of books.

Actually, there is one thing that’s been on my mind a bit: all the recent unpleasantness surrounding politics. On January 18th you might have noticed that some really big websites went dark in protest of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) — the two bills that are threatening to put gigantic restrictions on the interwebs. For those of you in a tl;dr sort of mood, PIPA and SOPA are really really bad for the internet, and by “bad” I mean “one of the worst things that could happen short of a global electromagnetic pulse like on Escape from LA starring Kurt Russel.” If you haven’t done so yet, you should definitely contact both your Senators (for PIPA), and your representative in the House (for SOPA) to tell them to vote “NO!” Another bit of political shenanigans that’s been bugging me was the whole NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) that Obama signed into law not too long ago. There’s been some strange talk surrounding the limits of the government’s power to hold US citizens without trial, but I don’t really know the ins and outs of the whole law so I am going to leave it at that. The one thing I do know for sure about the law is that all the sanctions that we’re going to be imposing on Iran were all part of that same bill and they could potentially lead to very bad things happening in the Strait of Hormuz.

That’s it for now. Hopefully I can stop sucking at being a quasi-blogger and get some regularly posted stuff going. We’ll see, I guess.

Oh, I just remembered. I published another story in December entitled “Dick Cheney was Fishing for My Heart” in Wake up 253. It’s about a pissed off veteran who gets a letter asking if he’ll donate his heart to the ex-Vice President after he dies. Morbid, I know, but somewhat funny too. Comment here or hit me on Twitter — @ScottJClemons — if you want to check it out.

Peash

Words and Food

Things are crazy busy for me right now. I’m wrapping up chapter eighteen of my book right now–well not literally right now, but it’s going to be done by tonight–and I’m looking at submitting an application to another MFA program. On top of that, I’ve also been submitting stories to zines, trying to keep up on this blog, writing lesson plans for a couple of workshops I’m leading at work, and finishing end-of-quarter papers for my classes.

Like I said, I’m busy.

Despite being totally swamped, things are awesome right now. This book is really coming along great. I’m cranking out at least fifteen hundred words a day which is not too shabby considering how much other stuff I have going on. What’s more, when my classes are super slow I spend time doing light revisions. Multi-tasker in the house! I’ve worked through the first chapter and a half so far and I keep catching little stuff that needs to be reworked or cut out. A lot of writers say going back and editing before the manuscript is done is a serious no-no, but I find that it can be pretty useful. Then again, I might get through this thing and find that I totally regret what I’ve done. If that happens, I’ll write a blog post about how wrong I was. I guess we’ll see.

But enough about my writing. Just this morning I finished So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (check out his blog). To be honest with you, I was not that stoked with this book. I found myself having to trudge through long sections of it. Honestly, had I not been so pleased with his other work, I probably wouldn’t have finished it.

I got turned onto So Yesterday after reading The Uglies a month or so ago. I was all about that book even though there’s a whole slew of people on Goodreads who absolutely loathe the whole series. Most cite his transparent metaphors as their main gripe, which I think is a little l4m3. Just because Westerfeld didn’t write about Tally waking up one morning as a cockroach doesn’t mean that the book is bad. I mean, it’s a young adult book, people! Give the guy a break.

Anyways, I’m hungry. I need some pizza and pecan pie. Maybe I’ll get some ice cream too? Who knows. I’ve got a lot of writing to do tonight–another 600 words to hit my goal–and I’m going to need to keep my energy up.

I think I’ll get the ice cream.