Why I Hate Writing by Hand

I've been doing a lot of self-improvement lately. You know, trying to become more productive and what not. Part of this process has involved journaling, which I'm told is supposed to be awesome. Moreover, I've been told how wonderful writing by hand can be for—well, just about everything. One of my friends has shocked and awed us with the fact that he writes all of his novels' first drafts by hand. To the point that he's convinced others to try it too.

I hate it.

It's not writing-by-hand's fault. I'm not sure whose fault it is. When I was a four-year-old, learning how to write for the very first time, I could hardly have been expected to make good decisions. One of the worst decisions I may have ever made was the choice to hold a pencil in an extremely awkward way.

Here's my confession:

Nearly thirty years later, I can see that I chose poorly. The way I hold a pen is not designed for long-term writing. I guess I was stubborn enough at age four that the adults in my life decided to let me be. Consequently, I can write about a paragraph or two before my hand starts to hurt. I'm a sprinter when it comes to writing by hand; novel-writing is like cross country running. There's no way that's happening for me.

I've considered relearning how to write. I used to be a peck typist. I didn't have to hunt for the keys; I basically have the QWERTY layout memorized after thirty years of using keyboards. By the end of high school, I was typing by using my left index finger, my right index and middle fingers, and both thumbs. I was pretty good—but I was never going to get better. There's a skill ceiling as long as you need to look at the keyboard.

My freshman year of college, I decided I was going to teach myself how to touch type. I told my IRC chat friends that, for a few months, I might type like an amateur, and I asked them to be patient with me. At the end of one month I was already touch typing faster than I had ever pecked. Today I can type about 72 words per minute.

I haven't needed to write as much as I've needed to type, so the pressure to correct the way I write has never been there. I don't know that it'll ever be. At 33 years of age, considering the way technology is moving, there isn't a lot of incentive for me to learn how to write differently. I just can't rationalize choosing to write like a kindergartener for the years it's going to take for me to write enough to develop an adult's level of handwriting again. For much of the same reason I don't expect I'll ever sit down and relearn how to write in cursive comfortably.

What do you think? Should I give it the old college try anyway (again)? Should I continue journaling on paper or switch to a Word document? Should I stick to writing on paper only when I really need to memorize something? Should I practice my cursive writing? Let me know in the comments.

Book of Blasphemous Words Open for Submissions!

It's here! It's here! A Murder of Storytellers has opened submissions for Book of Blasphemous Words. I've been salivating for this anthology, and I'm so excited to see it in print! Even more excited to write a short story for it. Book of Blasphemous Words is edited by CJ Miles IV.

If you want to contribute to making this anthology great, you've gotta get in on this. And do it early! I've mirrored the basic info for the anthology submissions process below. Check it out, then follow the link to submit your piece to A Murder of Storytellers via Submittable.


Deadline: October 31, 2016 

Payment: $15 and contributor’s copy

Theme: Not so long ago, human beings were cursed with fear. They clamored for hope in a world of boundless suffering and death. They called out to the heavens and summoned gods. They crafted religions that would serve as a candle against the howling night.
 
That which alights must also burn.
 
A zealot spits venomous words from his pulpit, his congregation listening and nodding, their disgust with their neighbors boiling into a riotous rage. A girl returns from Bible Camp nine-months pregnant with God’s child—images of a golden flame pressing on her chest, paralyzing her, flood her nightmares. Heaven replaces its angels with automata, dispensing salvation and damnation with callous efficiency.
 
Book of Blasphemous Words is a weird fiction, horror, and speculative fiction anthology about humanity’s relationship with its gods. When we answer the call for salvation from the bondage of the material—when we believe in gods—we reach a hand into the unknown and risk losing it to something peckish. When we forget the power of the hearth, we risk a conflagration that can return civilization to the dirt whence it has come.

Simultaneous Submissions: Sure, but please let us know immediately if it was accepted somewhere else.

Multiple Submissions: Yes

Reprints: Yes, but let us know where it has been previously printed and make sure you have the rights to have it reprinted.

Word Count: Up to 10k words.

Formatting: This is a very good guide if you have any questions. You can't really go wrong with it. But, if you don't feel like reading that, here's the down and dirty of it.

  • Italicize italics. Do not underline.
  • Don't use spaces to lead paragraphs. Use tab or, even better, the formatting options to get the indent.
  • For scene breaks, use either "#" or "***".
  • Use an easy to read font, like Arial or Times New Roman in a reasonable size (about 12 point).
  • Double space your work.

Submission

Please make sure to include a synopsis of the piece in your cover letter. If you're not sure how to do that, here's a good collection of articles to learn from. Yes, even it's poetry or flash. Just a quick line or two helps us out a lot.

Aside from that, just be yourself. Tell us anything you think we should know about you or your work. What inspired you to write this? How did you find us? What's your favorite part about this work? Who inspires you? 

Once you've done all that, go ahead and click this button:

Oh Genre, My Genre

"You are what you eat." We've all heard someone tell us that. But it might be that we are what we consume, whether that be food, literature, or souls. Richard Thomas had us look at what we've consumed, and we did:

  • Favorite Authors: Madeleine L'Engle, Christopher Pike, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jonathan Swift, Chuck Palahniuk, and Neil Gaiman.
  • Favorite Books: The Starlight Crystal by Christopher Pike, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk, and American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
  • Favorite Movies: The Matrix, Captain America: Civil War, Cabin in the Woods, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Favorite Television Shows: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Stargate: SG-1, and Breaking Bad.

When we looked at our influences, it was easy to see that I was attracted to fantastical stories with philosophical or psychological themes. Much of the fiction I love sprinkles its story with humor. Dialogue is sharp-witted and informal. And there's a deep sense of nostalgia or romanticism towards the past. Madeleine L'Engle's stories were timeless in scope—the magical past and the rational present collided and worked in tandem to push back an evil primordial. Christopher Pike and Friedrich Nietzsche both explore eternal recurrence in their stories—where time is a circle, and everything that has occurred will re-occur ad infinitum. In Pike's horror novels, there is always a sense that love is a crucial spoke in the rolling wheel of time. Nietzsche is a poet. He's like Plato, but funnier and more transgressive—which it turns out I love. Jonathan Swift and Chuck Palahniuk—I'm convinced—are literary twins born in different times. Both transgressive in their own times, they manage to peel the aesthetic l from the rotting carcass of the grotesque. Neil Gaiman is able to weave ancient lore into contemporary stories that are beautiful and gritty and a delight to read. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a philosophical and psychological exploration into the mind of a man cleaved in two by an idea—the nature of Quality.

I assume most people have at least heard of my other influences. The Matrix is a stylized rendition of an old argument between Plato and Aristotle—whether the best things are or whether they become. Captain America: Civil War is a fantastic movie that explores the relationship between security and freedom, and between revenge and justice. Cabin in the Woods is a speculative horror piece asking the question "What if all horror movies were true? And what if there was a reason for all the clichés we rail against?" Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic adventure story, with a helping of romance and a thrilling story about an archaeologist competing with the Third Reich in his search for the Ark of the Covenant. The humor in this movie lies in both the action and in the dialogue—from Indiana Jones's abruptly short showdown with the black-garbed swordsman to Sallah's comically self-evident revelation that Indiana had been given "bad dates."

Buffy the Vampire Slayer's witty dialogue and innovative take on old horror tropes are great. But Adrean and I think that Joss Whedon affected us as writers more deeply because the main characters of the show were our age. While I was a grade behind Buffy, she started high school in Sunnydale on the same year that I entered North Miami Senior High as a freshman. The timbre of their dialogue became the timbre of my generation's. It became mine, as much as I became its. Stargate: SG-1 also had fast-paced, sharp dialogue. Its main plot revolved around two warriors, a scientist, and an archaeologist exploring the galaxy, blending science and magic, the new and the ancient, into their stories. As in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where the ancient and powerful gods of Bajor, the Prophets, play a major role in shaping the sociopolitical future of the nations of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, Stargate: SG-1 displays a romantic nostalgia for the past while valuing the future for its own merits. Breaking Bad is transgressive, tragic television at its finest. One man's hubris brings the lives of everyone around him crashing down. Sometimes literally.

I'm not telling you what these titles are about; I'm telling you what I took from them. I learned that I'm an author of transgressive speculative fiction, occasionally skirting the edge of literary fiction. Now I know where to look for my literary brothers and sisters, and how to improve my skills by learning from what they do right—and also from what they don't.

The Oculus in Clavi

This blog post and others like it represent fictional characters, places, or groups existing within the universe of Stormborn. They will serve as supplemental material to the serial novellas.

The sigil of the Oculus in Clavi, adopted November 12, 1944, at Sète.

The sigil of the Oculus in Clavi, adopted November 12, 1944, at Sète.

The Oculus in Clavi formed in Languedoc as part of the Albigensian Crusade in 1202, following the murder of Pierre de Castelnau. It began as an organization composed of Catholic magi to hunt down and kill Cathar magi in the south of France. When Pope Gregory IX handed authority over the Inquisition to mortals during the 13th century, witches and non-magi were removed from the Oculus in Clavi and labeled heretics.

The Oculus in Clavi hunted non-Catholic witches throughout Europe until the 15th-century, when magi who used Kabbalic practices began to be targeted by the Church in France and Spain.  A bloodless coup followed within the organization, leading to its separation from the Catholic Church in 1494. After the Act of Supremacy of 1534, established by King Henry VIII of England, the Oculus in Clavi in England became known as the Eye in the Lock. The mainland European branches of the Oculus in Clavi retained their Latin name.

The Eye in the Lock spread to North America along with the European colonists. The American Revolutionary War led to a schism within the North American and English branches of the Eye in the Lock. When the United States formed, the North American branch changed its name back to Oculus in Clavi, further strengthening its alliance with its founding branch in France. The magical nation of Terra Nova formed across the new American states, with the authority of the American Oculus in Clavi set forth in its founding document.

After the American Civil War and Canadian Independence, the American branch of the Oculus in Clavi and the British Eye in the Lock became allies. Eastern Canada joined Terra Nova, spreading the authority of the American Oculus in Clavi all the way to the Arctic. During the Reconstruction Era, the American Oculus in Clavi was also the first of its branches to allow witches to join its ranks in four centuries.

During World War II, the American Oculus in Clavi and the British Eye in the Lock's alliance strengthened. The English and Latin names began to be used interchangeably on both continents. The democratized structure of the American Oculus in Clavi spread as far as West Germany, stopping at the Iron Curtain, where the Soviet Volsek—the Russian analogue to the Oculus in Clavi—retained control until 1992.

Today, the Oculus in Clavi has branches throughout most of the magical nations of the Western world, with some exceptions in Latin America and Eastern Europe. It functions as a magical intelligence and counterintelligence agency. Although the Oculus in Clavi remains largely unified and holds world summits every ten years in the beautiful Mediterranean city of Sète, its branches are known to spy on one another regularly. Its stated purpose is to protect both the magical and mortal worlds from the combined threats of reckless magic use and daemonic influence.