Back in the saddle, again

Ahh…. I am home, home at last after one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken in my life. My physical body never left Cluj, in fact I believe I never even made it out of centru except for one trip to Cora (a French superstore). But in my mind I was in a very faraway place.

I wrote myself a book here over these past two weeks, at just under 90,000 words all told, so you can do the math and figure out that the words were flowing fast and furious. It’s a book of fiction, which is my very first foray into this kind of writing. Usually I stick to expository type stuff (like most of what you see here on this website) because it’s easier in a sense. It’s kind of like one of those mannequins fashion designers use – you drape your creations on something that already exists. So expository writing always has a foundation in facts and what’s real.

Fictional writing is like flying – you can go anywhere! A talking dog can zoom into space on a unicorn, if you like, and it’s a lot of fun seeing where all of it goes. Anyway, the book is written and done but I’m going to let it sit “in the drawer” for about a week and rest before I dive back in and edit it and figure out all the margins and other “fun” things like that. When it’s all ready to go and for sale online, of course I’ll let you know!

As I believe I mentioned before, some of it is set in Romania but it certainly is nothing like anything I’ve written before. This isn’t a guide book or stories about my adventures here or even based on my adventures. The characters all do things I’ve never done before and other than the fact that they’re extremely gabby and love to talk a lot, none of it is really based on me or my life.

I’ll write up the back cover summary here soon but essentially it’s about a regular (American) guy who one bitterly cold night accidentally gets locked out of his apartment building. He then has an encounter with a strange man who is a member of an extremely secretive cult. And then he gets mixed up with the cult and the only way out is to solve a 5,000 year old mystery. So if that kind of thing sounds appealing to you, hang onto your hats because it will be ready soon!

That mystery, by the way, is very real, although of course the characters in my book are not and the way they solve it is fictional. But I’ve always had a deep fascination for ancient history, ever since I saw Tutankhamen’s gold mask on display in Chicago when I was a kid. I know a lot of people living here in 2012 really like some of the high-tech gadgetry we have like iPhones and the internet but one of the very cool things (for me) is how much written information we now have access to.

In ancient history times, whether Egypt or Sumer or any of the rest, there was writing but only some people knew how to read. For the next few thousands of years, even the most literate person had access to some books (or papyri, scrolls, etc) because literally every single one had to be created by hand, so they were both expensive and hard to come by. One of the coolest things I ever got to do was handle a book written in 1461, all of it by hand of course, bound in goat leather, by some monks living in England and writing in this tiny little gothic kind of script that was basically impossible to read. But it was fun touching it and imagining them sitting in some cold drafty cell writing it by candlelight using a real quill made from a bird’s feather.

And then Gutenberg and the mass printing era came in to effect, but even so a reader was limited by what books you could get physically buy, store and lay your hands on. Even if you lived, say, in New York City and could walk into one of the best libraries on Earth, you still had a physical limit on what you could read. And then came the internet and the digitization of books and newspapers and magazines and translations of hieroglyphs and cuneiform and for the first time EVER, there is no effective ceiling on what can be read. Finally it’s a reader’s paradise!

And as far as I’m concerned, that makes me a king. It makes me mightier than any emperor in history, any pompous fool in a purple robe, because there is no cap on what I am able to learn and know. There are no impediments, no obstacles, no restrictions. I can perform statistical analyses on sports scores or become an expert in 18th century Hungarian cabinetmakers or study lunar eclipses or tell you a thousand recipes for carrot cake. It’s amazing and I love it.

So yeah, now me from my little old apartment in Unicorn City, now I can travel through time and see what life was like for the ancients, reading their very words as they wrote them thousands of years ago. And when you dig down, when you get past the odd phrasing and the fantastical, mythological elements and the lacunae and all the rest of it, there is a mystery to uncover. It’s like trying to solve a murder case that’s thousands of years old. And well, I’m not sure it’ll ever be “solved” in real life but my fictional characters gave it their best effort :)

And so there you go, that’s what I’ve been doing and now I’m back. I got to tell you, sometimes people ask me advice about writing and I’ll tell you exactly what I tell everyone. If you feel like writing, write. If you feel like cooking, cook. If you feel a thrill in your veins from doing it then it’s the right thing to do and you move your hands and it gets done. First you got to write (or cook or anything else) for yourself and then you do it for others because I guarantee some people will hate it and criticize you for it.

You could be a chef with five Michelin stars and there will always be some asshole who sends the dish back because there’s “too much pepper”. Fuck ’em. And fuck anyone who doesn’t like what you write. Tell ’em to send the book back in for a refund or visit a different blog or whatever else. We’re not on a deserted island with no choices about what to read so they’ll live just fine.

And likewise, no matter how “weird” what you write is, even if it’s poetry written with no vowels or something bizarre like that, there’s someone out there who WANTS to read your stuff. I guarantee that too. In fact, I dare you to write something that doesn’t find a loyal and enthusiastic readership. There are just too many billions of people out there who have widely differing tastes and if you like it, there’s a thousand more people out there who like it too. It’s like trying to invent a flavor of ice cream that nobody likes – it can’t be done. If you like garlic onion ice cream, some other crazy mf-er out there will too :P

So my advice for anyone who wants to write: just sit down in your chair and do it. Simple as that. Not easy but simple. Lift up your fingers and press the keys or move the pen (or crayon or chalk or whatever) and just do it. Quit talking about it or thinking about it or researching it or anything else. Just do it. You want to be a cook, grab a knife and a pan and start chopping things. Maybe you can’t cut onions as fast as Gordon Ramsay or type 10,000 words in a day but so what? Just do it. And if doing it makes you excited, if it gives you a tingle, if it makes you laugh with happiness then you’ll be fine. I promise :)

Okay, okay, okay, no need for a book-length post here! Point is, I’m done, I feel great, I had a nice rest, I took naps with my cats and did lots of other good things so we’re get back to “normal” here on the blog, whatever that means.

Thanks for your patronage and I’ll see you soon!

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