Friday, April 18, 2014

The Bloom Falling Somewhat Off the Rose

Dear 90-Day Novel:

Okay, I just want to say up front that I think you're really special. These last three weeks, they've changed me. You've introduced me to worlds I never knew before. I think about you every night, and our daily dates have been inspiring. You're an inspiration. I'm glad you're in my life. 


I have to say, some days it's been hard. Wait wait, before you get upset, let me finish. I know it's not news to you that you can sometimes be... demanding. Remember, we used to laugh about it? And I know it's what I signed on for but... I mean, every day? Do we really need to meet every single day? I want to be with you, sweetie, but it can get a little overwhelming. Not you, just... Life. Trying to fit it all in. And sometimes I feel like I need a little break, you know, to recharge, to find myself again, (and, you know, to check the Twitter and the Book of Face from time to time. :) )

Oh, I can just see you, reading this, that little furrow starting to deepen between your eyebrows, that pulse on the side of your neck asserting itself... don't go there. I know you were straightforward about what you expected. I know your feelings about commitment. After all, it's there in your name. All or nothing. 90 days or bust. And I'm not bailing. I am absolutely not. It's just that sometimes I feel like I don't have it in me, every day, and I have to confess that sometimes... I'm just going through the motions (I'm just being honest here).


I thought you'd want to know. God, now I feel awful. Not even a month in, and I'm already balking? What's wrong with me? Jesus. I'm weak. It's me, it's totally me. Let me prove myself. I want to go the distance with you, baby, I do. Please give me another chance. I promise I'll do better. I love you. Just forget I ever wrote this, okay?

See you tomorrow,


PS. I am totally counting this letter as today's work. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Week 1 Recap— 90-Day Challenge Gone Disney

WARNING: The following text-chat recap of my 90-Day Creative Challenge contains scenes and images of intense Disney-fication. May be too saccharine for more cynical readers. How this element crept into my blog is unknown. Perhaps it is a natural result of bringing together two people who met in an animation studio. I, however, blame Holly and her blog. She is a pernicious influence.

Reader discretion advised.

Holly Myer: Hello!

James Sie: "I will find my way
I can go the distance
I'll be there someday
If I can be strong
I know every mile
Will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere
To feel like I belong..."
HM: Hercules?

JS: I thought I would freak you out by quoting a Disney song, Ms. Frozen. And, 
this morning for some reason I could not stop watching youtube videos of this guy named Chris Villain singing Disney. He dressed up as a mermaid and sang “Part of Your World.” I was horrified and yet I could not look away.

HM: Hmmm. Sounds like an incredible person.

JS: As you can see I am making productive use of my time.

HM: How was the first week?

JS: So, my week? Well, I sprang out April 1st full of energy and I got an INCREDIBLE lot done. Felt like all this bottled creative effort was finally shaken and sprayed out. 

By the third day, I was thinking, "Is 90 days over yet?"

HM: Hahaha. Pace yourself! But at least a strong start is a good sign!

JS: I have to say, against my better snarky judgement, that this book is very helpful. It's having me write around the plot without diving in, like tinkering at the edges, so that I can be open to all possibilities. He keeps talking about holding the story loosely at this point.

HM: I can see the strategy there, to figure out how little things work in that world before you get wrapped up in bigger events.

JS: Exactly. I have to do all these exercises, like imagining the worst day of the antagonist's life, or the thing that the protagonist loves above all else, or something she has never told anyone...

HM: Those sound like fun assignments!

JS: Fun? Sometimes. Sometimes I get impatient. But it also helps because you're not thrown into "Write! Write your book NOW!" I'm not allowed to actually write pages until next month. It’s like productive procrastination!

And you? I see from your blog there are lovely pictures popping up, like crocuses in Spring...

HM: The first week went well! I am on track with 7.5 drawings. 

JS:  Nice!

HM: It's been really interesting trying experiments with color--I'm already moving past the idea of having an outlined/black&white version of each…because I like the colors!

JS: Is it manipulation of photos?

HM: No, I'm drawing on layers on top of a photo, then I remove the photo.

JS: Ah… very cool. And do they pair with your writings?

HM: Some do so far. I'm going through the GIFs I've used on the blog, and choosing a frame (or two) to study to create the individual image. Plus, I've been going through family photos and using the same technique. It's a very thoughtful process, looking at all the little details of someone's face.

JS: How long does each one take?

HM: The more monochrome style takes about an hour, full color takes longer. And with some, I'm adding the background, which adds another 30 minutes.

JS: Wow. You're really putting the time in! I love the frowning, direct-to-the-camera one. I see a book cover!

HM: Ha, thanks! I'll take that into serious consideration!

JS: Are you surprised that you have somehow found the time?

HM: Yeah, actually. I spent a lot of quiet time this weekend working. I also tried drawing at Republic of Pie, a local coffee/live music/study hall place I love.

JS: That is a great place-- good tables. And good pie.

HM: A caught a lady looking in the reflection of my glasses to see what I was drawing…then the lady started talking to her friend about Marilyn Monroe.

JS: I'm afraid I'm a Starbucks man, myself. Mundane, I know, but habitual.

I HIGHLY recommend Bose noise-canceling ear bud headphones. They are made by magical elves. Costs more than a Luxury Suite at the Venetian, but worth every penny. They tune out most everything. 

HM: I imagine. Perfect music is important to creative work!

JS: Yes. I have found that playing "Da Pacem" by Arvo Part automatically makes my writing sound 200% more compelling.

JS: Are you looking forward to this week? I am terrified of not sustaining.

HM: I'm a little nervous about keeping up with my solid start, yes. But definitely looking forward to more coloring time. I'm four [years-old]. But I get excited to draw, like when I was four. So that's good.

JS: Very good. And you have images to plaster around and remind you how good it is.

HM: Yes. Thank you. And now, thanks to you, I have "Go the Distance" on repeat.

(the Lucas Grabeel version, obvi.)

JS: Oooh. Sorry. It was meant ironically.
 So, good luck on the week. See you on the flip side!

Thanks. You too!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

No April Fools— 90 Day Challenge Begins Today!

I’ve done it. After a massive assist from my illustrator, Sungyoon Choi, the manuscript of Still Life Las Vegas has been delivered to my editor Sara at St. Martin's Press. Nothing so hefty as a giant stack of papers boxed up and shipped, just a digital PDF Dropboxed over the internet, but it's a weighty milestone nonetheless. Godspeed and a safe voyage, oh little book!

Now, what do I do with the year before it actually makes it to print? I can think of nothing better than to begin something new, and I'm getting my ass in gear with the help of a book called “The 90-Day Novel. 
(Incidentally-- what's up with all of these 90-day improvement programs? Novel in 90 Days, P-90X,  90-Day rehab— it seems one can do ANYTHING in 90 days. Has "90 days" become the new "40 days and 40 nights" for our non-biblical times?) 

I’ve finished the prep from the book, which included writing about my fears (chief amongst them being the urge to throw the book across the room) and what I believe most strongly in (pot pies). I’m ready for my start date of today, April 1st. 

I’ve decided to document this process (misery loves company) and I’m joined in my 90-day odyssey by Holly Myer, writer of the blog “Unemployed on Purpose,” who also has a project she wants to get off the ground. This 26-year-old, unrepentant optimist has agreed to regularly check in with me, just so we can keep each other honest. Here’s the text transcript of our initial Facebook chat:

James Sie: Okay, before we begin: which character from "Girls" do you most identify with?

Holly Myer: I'm 1/2 Hannah and 1/2 Shosh. I've thought a lot about it.

JS: Excellent answer! You pass the first test.

So... let's talk about our projects, shall we? You first.

HM: Okay. I want to make at least 100 illustrations for my based-on-blog book.

JS: What kind of illustrations, and in what medium?

HM: Digital drawing/painting via Photoshop.
I hope to have a black/white and full color version of each one.

JS: 100... it'll be a little more than one a day, then, yah? Will you feel like Julie whatsername going through every one of Julia Child's recipes?
Does that make me
Meryl Streep? Yay

HM: Yeah, at least one a day. And yes, I do rather see myself as an Amy Adams-type in this situation. If only Chris Messina were my husband.

JS: We'll work on that.

HM: Great. I wish I could say I was planning to study the works of a legend like Julia Child, but I'm just going through my own essays to think about them again, with a more visual perspective

JS: I, for my part, am writing a novel about coyotes. Real ones, not smuggler ones.

HM: I'm hooked, tell me more!

JS: I'm hoping it's going to be like Game of Thrones, but with canis latrans. And set in Los Angeles. Lots of nudity. With fur. Or let's say... "Watership Down" meets "The Sopranos."

HM: That's an incredible mashup. Sounds like it has HBO written all over it.

JS: There are coyotes in our neighborhood, and when they pass me and my dog  on our walk they stare at me as if to say, "Man, are you working on that thing yet?"

Holly, thanks for pushing me to do this. And I'm sure your boundless optimism will be equal parts infuriating and inspiring.

HM: You're welcome! In sixth grade, I won the Initiative Megaskill Award, and it's one of my proudest accomplishments.

JS: I’m frightened.

We have two people who may be joining in. Grace is working on a screenplay, and Wendy is wanting to do a daily kind of journal, but still unsure about the parameters. They're down with the 90 days. So, a variety!

HM: Wooo! WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER [Note: “High School Musical” reference]

JS: Though I keep feeling like this is "Ten Little Indians" and we'll be whittled down one by one. [Note: this has already happened, as Grace has unfortunately had to bow out]

Do I lose you with the "Ten Little Indians" reference?

HM: No, I get that one! And I refuse to be whittled.

JS: So, Thelma, ready to rev the engine and go over the cliff?

HM: Yes, Louise!
(Thelma and Louise, right?)
Holly would have made a GIF.
I just... can't. 
JS: Very good.

HM: (I've never watched the whole movie)

JS: Shit. Sorry for the spoiler. WATCH THE WHOLE MOVIE, FOR CHRISSAKE!

HM: It's okay. Troy Bolton goes to Cal at the end of “High School Musical 3: Senior Year.” Now we're even.

JS: Maybe we should just leave it there. Check on you next week?

HM: Yes, please!

JS: Good luck! Happy April!

HM: To you, as well!