Tuesday, November 11, 2014

walking to Oksu

Hey there, blogsphere.

I'm going to start posting on this here blog more regularly. One of my Facebook friends put me on to Young Adventuress, and I tell you: it's hard to find a cooler travel blog. I've visited lots and they were all pretty insipid, or were glorified travel brochures, or spent way too much time trying to look cool instead of focusing on the important stuff like quality writing. YA doesn't bother too much about that crap. And she belongs to the same philosophical school of blogging that I do: nice, long, wordy, florid, descriptive, opinion-driven posts with scads of luscious photos, breezy language, profound ideas and whatnot. So hey, follow along. She's gotten some intense recognition for her blog 'cause she works darn hard at it. 

Anyway, she also offers advice for wannabe travel bloggers, and part of it is to blog frequently and build a platform (Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest...everything). Awful similar to the advice I keep reading for wannabe novelists, too. Build that platform, build that platform. Create ways to get seen and get contacted. 

So I decided to get serious. I now have a Twitter account, and I went through and revamped my Google+ pages (both my writer's page and my blog's page). As soon as I get home and get a smartphone I'll update my Instagram account and start posting photos regularly there and let you folks know how to find me. I've updated my contact info on this page, too—see the about me page just underneath the big title up top. 

So...what to post? I don't believe I've shown you nearly enough of South Korea or Seoul. So here's some pics from another long walk I took on Saturday, November 8. All told it was about 7.3 kilometers, or 4.5 miles, on a grey, misty day that couldn't really decide what it wanted to be and just sort of hung there like it was waiting for its ship to come in.

I love walking around this town. Since I started doing all these long walks last month, I've discovered so many strange and wonderful things hiding just around the corner. A couple of weeks ago I saw a guy sitting on a bench by the Jungang Stream with a big blue macaw on his wrist. No explanation, no signage, nothing. Just a guy and his parrot. This particular Wednesday, as I walked from my oneroomtel to my new favorite burger joint in Oksu-dong, Seongdong-gu (near Oksu Station on Line 3), I saw this—some kind of dredging operation going on near the northern bank of the Han River, about level with Seongsu-dong, not far from Seoul Forest. 

Looking east along the bicycle path on the northern shore. You can baaaaaarely see the incomplete Lotte World Tower in the misty distance, in Jamsil.

Looking west, downriver toward the Seongsu Bridge.

Han River Park beneath Gangbyeonbuk-ro (North Riverside Road) in Oksu-dong.

Now I simply must tell you about this burger place, kids. It's called Bartwo. It's a beer-and-burger pub, and one of the absolute finest places in Seoul to get a goddamn good burger. It's right at the interesection of Deoksodang-ro and Hallimmal 3-gil, just a few steps up a hill from Oksu Station (go out Exit 4, turn right, pass the Paris Baguette on the left, and walk up the hill; it'll be on the right at the T-junction). I've been there a few times and have never been let down. The owner, Jeremy, is a gyopo and speaks really good English. He's a friendly dude and he keeps his bar stocked with excellent West Coast craft beers like Ballast Point and North Coast, and some I'd never seen in Korea before (Widmer Brothers anyone?). The Bartwo draft beer is only ₩2,500 a pop and tastes surprisingly good. The extensive menu includes stuffed peppers, tortilla pizza, chips and salsa, hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Also these, the fried mandu (Korean dumplings) with homemade salsa, three for ₩7,000: 


The crowning glory is the Oksu Burger, ₩9,000. Beef patty cooked to perfection before your eyes, fresh red onion, lettuce, dill pickle (not sweet), tomato, melted cheese, fresh bun, a pile of fries, and all the ketchup and mustard you want. Add in the seasonal import beer (Sam Adams OctoberFest, ₩8,000) and the pickles I got as a side order (₩2,000) and my total bill came to ₩27,000 for one evening's debauch. 

How's that for a slice of fried gold?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I'm doing NaNoWriMo 2014

In the wake of Ace & Roc's rejection of my first novel, Revival, I've done a lot of soul-searching, self-persecution, and agonizing about the precise reasons why. What I finally hit upon was this:

I've lived my entire life under a cloud of puerile delusions—which were pretty typical of my generation, but that doesn't make having them any better. I grew up with two simple goals: (a) to make my mark on the world, and (b) to have fun and never work hard. I realized a couple of days ago that those goals are mutually exclusive. Up to this point I looked at both my journalism career and my writing as mere games—cheat codes to get me out of doing any heavy lifting in life. I should have seen them for what they truly were: real jobs requiring real effort. If I had just treated my career and my writing with a bit of respect and seriousness, taken some initiative, had an ounce of industriousness, put in a drop of effort...maybe I'd actually have a career right now. I'm due to go back to the United States in early January 2015, never to return to Korea, and I'm going back with no prospects, hardly any job experience, and not a whit of marketability. Who knows what I'll wind up doing, or even if I'll find any meaningful work at all? If I'd just tried harder in my youth, perhaps I'd be published already, and working as a respected magazine columnist or radio talk show host, with a first novel printed and another slated for publication, with savings and investments and mortgages and a 401k...instead of, you know, utterly wasting the first thirty years of my life trying to ensure that said life was as fun as possible.

So I've decided that, from now on, I'm going to put more conscientious effort into my work—both my nonexistent career as a journalist and my writing skills. 

To that end, I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. The reasons are fourfold: 

Reason #1: I need to get back in the habit of writing every day. Ace & Roc probably rejected me because my writing was almost good, but not quite. It was sterile and clumsy enough to preclude any chance I had of publication. There was too much fixing that would have had to be done before the thing was fit for the press. I haven't been writing every day, not for a year or so now. NaNoWriMo is a great way to jump-start the habit again. I need to sharpen my skills—reforge the swords, so to speak. And NaNo is the furnace. 

Reason #2: It's a good way for me to stretch some new writing muscles as well as the old ones. The novel I decided to write this November involves a female protagonist. I've never written anything from a female's first-person perspective before. I get the feeling that the lady characters in Revival are pretty sterile and flat and weak-chinned, so I'm gonna use this NaNo to train my brain in the subtle art of writing strong, intelligent, and engaging women. 

Reason #3: I did some clicking around over on Robert J. Sawyer's blog (he's none other than the president of freakin' Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America). I discovered something earth-shattering: Revival, my first novel, the first entry in what I had hoped would be an epic science fiction series...is not science fiction. Nope. It's got some elements of the fantastic and the metaphysical, and what science is involved is rather soft stuff, even pseudoscientific. That puts it firmly in the realm of speculative fiction, perhaps even fantasy. Small wonder Ace & Roc rejected the manuscript! All this time, since the age of 19, I thought I was writing science fiction, and it turns out that I wasn't. That made me question what I knew. Do I really know what sci-fi is? Did I ever? 

Obviously I need to get reacquainted with my chosen genre. When I get back home in January, I'm going to buy up as many Hugo- and Nebula-winning novels as I can, read through 'em, and find out what great science fiction is really all about. I'll shelve the Revival series for a while and focus on writing and publishing short science fiction to build up a solid foundation of writing credentialsenough to attract the attention of a literary agent. After I get that agent, then I shall focus on finding Revival a home. I know it'll have a home somewhere, but probably not with a traditional science fiction publisher like Tor, DAW, Ace, or Baen. 

But for now, for the month of November, I'm writing a science fiction novel. A real one. Hard science fiction, where facts are facts, the science is sound, and there's no fluff or fantasy. I want to see if I can do it—if I actually know what sci-fi is, and if I can write it. The best way to learn is to do, right? I'm using NaNoWriMo to relearn the nuances of my craft so I don't make the same genre-busting mistakes I did with Revival.  

Reason #4: Simply put: writing hasn't been fun lately. That's probably why I haven't been doing it on a daily basis, why I let it slide. It's become a chore. Even before I decided to look at it as a job that required real work, it already felt like a toxic bore. I couldn't tell you why. Maybe I felt hemmed in by all the rules and characterizations and plot lines I'd spent years constructing for the Revival series. Maybe that same series was sapping all of my creativity. Maybe I'd gotten so wrapped up in publication fever that I was looking at every writing project as a potentially salable piece, and putting enormous pressure on myself to make it perfect and right and good with the very first draft and psyching myself out. Probably some combination of the three.

I need to pull back, take a breather, and remember why I want to be a writer: because it's fun, dang it. Crafting worlds, playing God, moving pieces around on a chessboard, and all that rot. Oh, and potentially creating something that other people will see and love, and might inspire them to create something themselves. 

And you know what? NaNoWriMo, so far, has been exactly that. FUN

It's November 2. Yesterday afternoon, I commenced writing Charlie Ward, Interstellar Soldier-of-Fortune, a space opera. This story has been a blast so far. The thing is practically writing itself. Words are rolling off my fingertips. My brain is a blast furnace. My knuckles are oiled and ready. My mind is teeming with words. On the first day I did 2,500 words in less than an hour. Finished the first chapter. Ka-BOOM!

This is the only image I could find on Wallpaper Abyss that approximated my MC's appearance and demeanor.

So here's to getting back into the daily writing game, sculpting my first female protagonist, reacquainting myself with my one and only literary love (science fiction), and just having a ball with writing again. I'll keep you posted about how it all goes. 

This is the refreshed and rejuvenated Vaunter, signing off. Gotta go do another 2,500 words. 

my sardine can in Seoul

I've waited way too long to tell you guys about this.

Miss H and I returned from Hong Kong on August 7. On August 10, she decided to quit her job. She gave a month's notice at work, packed up all her stuff, and flew home with our black cat Charlie. She's now living in a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in Henderson, Nevada, and working two or three jobs to be able to afford it until I get there. 

In the meantime, yours truly had to move out of that lovely three-bedroom apartment near Daecheong Station in Gangnam-gu (from which I used to take all those lovely walks by the Yangjae Stream, remember?). With the help of a website geared specifically toward foreigners, I located and moved into a tiny little oneroomtel in Gwangjin-gu, close to Sejong University, where I work.

What's a "oneroomtel"? 



...basically a closet with a bathroom. Oneroomtels are a nicer and slightly larger version of your basic goshiwon, which is just a room, a bed, and a desk. Mostly they're used by students who need to sequester themselves somewhere quiet and peaceful to study for exams, or by older men who've recently lost their jobs or gotten divorces. Either way, goshiwons are at best a temporary state of affairs. Technically I'm not supposed to be living in one; that's just nuts. The cabin fever will drive you insane. I'll be here four months in total, from early September to early January, at ₩400,000 (approximately $370) per month. 

It's not so bad. I jokingly call it my "sardine can," but it's actually quite livable. Having an en suite bathroom is nice. And I've made the place as cozy as possible, with soft bedding, an electric fan, a calendar on the wall, snacks and drinks in the mini-fridge, and so forth. The Internet sucks, so the room really comes in handy as a distraction-free writing zone. And I'm getting out of this monk's cell as much as possible. I take long walks by the Jungnang Stream now (which runs north of the Han River, not south like the old Yangjae did). I'm within walking distance of Itaewon now—nine kilometers—so I walk there and back sometimes. It's how I discovered a delicious burger joint in Oksu, in fact. I walk south or east across the bridges and into Gangnam-gu or Songpa-gu or Gangdong-gu, or I go west into Seongdong-gu and Dongdaemun-gu, or I go north into Jungnang-gu. 

Why so much walking, and so far? Exercise. I sold my bike. It was getting old and rattly and I figured I'd better let it go. So now my only way to exercise is to walk, and I figure the longer and farther I walk, the healthier I'll be (and the less time I'm spending in my sardine can). I've been living like this for two months, and I have two months left. This is the halfway point. I've seen more of this city in those sixty days than I did the previous three years, and uncovered many of its hidden gems. 

Postie out. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

writing updates, 10/27/2014

Ace & Roc Science Fiction & Fantasy has rejected my manuscript.

...but very gently. 

You remember how I interrupted the tale of my Southeast Asia tour to tell you that A&R liked my query and wanted to see the full manuscript of Revival

Well, they sent me this email on October 14:

Dear Mr. Post,

Thank you for submitting Revival to Ace / Roc. I apologize for the continued delayed response—but part of the delay was you were under consideration for longer! I appreciate the opportunity to read your submission, but I’m sorry to say that in the current crowded market, this does not sound to me like a book that we can make into a success.

Your novel shows potential in you; perhaps you should try to find an agent. A literary agent can be a great way to start on the road to publishing, as they can offer writing guidance and help you find the best publishing houses to submit your work to. THE WRITER’S MARKET (www.writersmarket.com) lists literary agents, as does PUBLISHERS MARKETPLACE at www.publishersmarketplace.com. SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) has information on finding reputable literary agents (and avoiding scams) at www.sfwa.opg/for-authors/writer-beware .

You can also look to find writer’s groups in your area, who can help you to develop your own writing.

We do wish you the best of luck with other publishers, and thank you again for thinking of us.

Regrets and best wishes,

The Editorial Staff

Ace/Roc Science Fiction & Fantasy 

A rejection, yes. But as kind and encouraging a rejection as any aspiring writer could hope to receive. 

It was also a wake-up call. I'd been mighty puffed up and hadn't realized it. I shouldn't have ignored Moonrat's advice to never submit without an agent. 

It was also a seminal moment. This is the first time that I've ever been rejected and still felt that the work in question was worthwhile—that it wasn't a steamy pile of crap and should be burned to a crisp and scattered to the four winds. I haven't had the urge to go back and gut the story, rewriting and editing for endless hours until it's fit again for human eyes. It seems Ace & Roc just didn't think it was a paying proposition, that's all. That doesn't mean the work itself was irredeemably awful. It has potential. 

Well, I guess you know what this means, folks. It's time for ol' Andy Post to square his shoulders, edit Novel #3, finish Novel #4, commence Novel #5...

...and wait to see what the editor at Baen Books says. 

They've got my manuscript now too, remember? I sent it off to them in late June, when I thought that Ace & Roc would never get back to me. Baen's reporting time is 9-12 months, so I've got to sit on my laurels for a while.

But I won't be idle. I'll be writing short stories (a 1,600-word piece entitled "Emeritus" was sent to Daily Science Fiction last week) and working on the aforementioned novels. I look at my first rejection by a major publisher as a blessing in disguise. Thin disguise, in fact. 

Oh, and in other news...it looks like Stephen King totally ripped off the title of my magnum opus for his next novel! Why, that ham. My idol has stabbed me in the back.

Postie out.