Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I am Spartacus.....man I wish

A few things before we get started:

1) I am trying to branch this blog out into areas other than writing and self publishing so this will be my first TV show review. Hopefully, I can do a few more of these as time goes on.

2) I had this blog ready to go at the beginning of last week but decided to hold off because of all the craziness going on in Boston. My thoughts are with all the victims and, hopefully, some day those people and the city as a whole will be back to some semblance of normal.

3) Go check out my editors new look blog and editing website. Pretty snazzy if you ask me. She is pretty amazing at everything she does with writers. Cannot recommend her enough. Even if you aren't working on a novel, she might be able to help with you essay, article or blog post. http://www.eclecticeditor.com/

If you are a fan of the show Spartacus: War of the Damned and have not seen the series finale "Victory" stop reading this and go watch it already.

I have watched a lot of TV in my life. Some of it really good like The Walking Dead (which may be my biggest obsession) and some of it pretty terrible (my wife "makes" me watch Teen Mom 2 and it doesn't get much worse than that).  Very few shows really got to me the way that Spartacus did throughout the course of its run.

Back in 2010, I stumbled upon the first episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand in a fit of insomnia one night. I figured the show couldn't be too bad so I gave it a shot. Boy was I wrong. The first episode of the series was not very good. I almost gave up halfway through, but there was something about Andy Whitfield's portrayal of Spartacus that made me want to actually watch the second episode. I DVR'd the next few episodes and decided to watch them on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Halfway through episode two, my wife walked in and thought I was watching a cheap porn. If memory serves, she walked in the room and yelled at me because she was so appalled. I explained to her that it was just Spartacus, not porn and she was surprisingly okay with it despite the fact that she told everyone this story for the next few weeks. This was the one aspect of the show that I felt was overdone in the first season and, as the show grew more confident, was needed less and less.  

Near the end of the first season, the show really hit its stride and Andy Whitfield became Spartacus in my eyes. The show looked like one that would last for years and years. I couldn't wait the year it was going to take for the next season to start. Not too long after I finished the first season, Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with and, tragically, passed away after a fight with cancer. I believe this was the point the show itself began to mirror the story it was telling. The show became tragic and hopeful at the same time with the casting of Liam McIntyre (glad to see the news that he was just cast to play a major role in the new Hercules movie) and the decision to not cancel the show.

This brings me to the last season of Spartacus. I was quite upset when they announced that there would only be one more ten episode season. The show finally hit its stride at the end of Vengeance and then they decided to end the show, I felt, one year too early. I believed there was no way they could give the show a proper send off in just ten episodes. I nearly decided not to watch so Starz wouldn't get the satisfaction of taking the show away from me (the hubris we have about things personal to us never ceases to amaze me). I still believe four or five more episodes exploring the stories of some of the new characters would have been nice.

There can only be one series finale, and if it is screwed up, it can ruin everything the series ever stood for. This was not the case with "Victory". Nothing extremely surprising happened (although my jaw did drop when I saw Kore up on the crucifix) and history was served fairly well by this retelling. That being said, a part of me still rooted for Spartacus to make it over the mountains even though, deep down, I knew he could never make it out. I still groaned a bit when the first spear went through him even when I knew it would happen (thanks Twitter for spoiling it for me).

The good (the impressive overhead view of the battle scene, Crassus finding out about his son's death and previous indiscretions with Kore, the meeting between Spartacus and Crassus on the hilltop, Gannicus' death scene in the arena) certainly outweighed the bad (Spartacus dying by being stabbed in the back despite the Caesar reference, Naevia's unceremonious death). All in all, I think the writers, actors and directors did every possible thing they could to give the audience closure. That is what I felt in the end, closer. I even teared up a bit when they showed Andy Whitfield from season one yelling "I am Spartacus" in the arena. The entire series came full circle.

Despite the sex, nudity and gratuitous violence, Spartacus was a show about hope, fighting for what is right, not giving up on your family, and brotherhood. Not too shabby for a show my wife thought was a cheap porn.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Burnout is not just a Playstation game

 My life has been crazy lately. Work, coupled with family and trying to write got me to a point where I despised even looking at someone else’s book. I have been working on a few short stories for a collection and, even when I got positive feedback, I would tell the person that they were crazy because the writing was terrible. Nothing I was producing made me happy. Everything seemed like it was being written by a six year old. All the plot twists seemed obvious, even when I was told that readers did not see it coming.

Then it happened. I had a complete meltdown about writing. I decided that my blog tour was the dumbest thing I had ever done (mostly because I didn't sell five-hundred books the first day) and that my book must be a pile of crap because no one bothered to review it on Amazon. “That’s it. I’m done.” kept racing through my mind until I couldn't take it anymore (my close friends will recognize this as my response to getting destroyed by my wife and her team at a board game at one in the morning).

I stopped writing almost immediately. I posted one last time on my blog (the post that is going around on my blog tour, not even new content) and decided that was it. I wasn't going to do it anymore. I quit writing the short stories right in the middle of one of the stories, which incidentally might be the best of the lot, and decided writing wasn't for me. This is very out of character for me. I usually don’t quit things no matter how hard they get. Now my parents might tell you stories about me quitting guitar lessons when I was seven or how they put me in numerous activities until they forced me to continue bowling every Saturday morning until I was 10. Needless to say, I still hate bowling with a passion, but I digress.

I had a discussion with my wife and an email with my editor (another shameless plug for http://bee-editing.com/). It was then that I realized how burned out I truly was. I wrote the first draft of The Hunter’s Son in around 65 days. It was 84,000 words in it’s original draft. 1200 works a day does not seem like a lot, but I work full-time, volunteer with different organizations and help my wife out with extra stuff for her band program. I then launched into a full edit of the material. Three or four rewrites and numerous proof reads happened over the next few months. The only break I took was from May 2012 through August when I ran for a local political office which took up any remaining time I had.

My additional free time was spent researching publishing options, cover artists, formatters and the like. These things, initially, I decided to do all by myself. I got to the end of the process, launched The Hunter’s Son and began writing the sequel the next day. I pushed through 17,000 words before I got so sick of the whole universe that I quit writing it and decided I would tell my wife how the series ends and be done. She, needless to say, refused to listen. Instead of taking a break from writing, I decided to pump out a short story collection. I figured I could do five or six small stories around 2,000-3,000 words each and have the whole collection out in a month. Never once did I stop to think if I was putting too much pressure on myself. Working ten hour days, coming home and writing for two or three hours before bed, while fitting in dinner, time with my wife and friends, blogging and promotion was just the routine. A routine that was simply not working for my life style.

This has led me to a more normal pace. I am still shooting for 7,000 words a week but am okay if I do not meet that goal. I am still hoping to have The Hunter's Vengeance out by early next year and a short story collection out by mid-summer. If those things do not happen, it won't be the end of the world, but I am going to try. I hope it happens and I am going to work hard to make sure it does.

I guess, after all this I want to say a few things to those of you reading. If you were enjoying the blog posts and updates, sorry. Sorry to my wife and friends for having to put up with crabby Ben for a few weeks. Sorry I did not pace myself. Sorry I did not realize what I was doing to myself. Sorry if anyone was let down by the lack of content. I may have hurt my “brand” by disappearing for a few weeks, but I needed it. Everything was starting to suffer, not just my work, but my attitude in general.

Moral of the story: Take your time. Pace yourself. Your true fans will stick around. It is okay if you don’t sell 500 books right away. If you want writing to become your job, don’t make it too much work, just work hard.

Common sense, right? Well, tell that to the version of me three weeks ago.