About Mario

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mario Piumetti is a freelance writer of science fiction, horror, screenplays, and nonfiction. He has a bachelor's degree in English from California Lutheran University and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. An avid music lover, his work is heavily influenced by rock, punk, and metal. You can contact him at mario.piumetti.writer@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Aliens Win

Hey, folks.  I'm sorry that I fell off the radar for a while, but I've been very busy brainstorming the online novel, weighing in aliens versus zombies like I was in my last post a week ago.

I've decided to side with the alien story.  I feel that, right now, a return to my science fiction roots is probably the smartest thing to do.  It's me returning to a genre that I love, a genre that I don't think I ever really gave a strong enough chance.

No, I haven't abandoned thoughts of writing zombie fiction entirely.  When you're a fan of multiple genres - science fiction, zombies, romance, undead erotica - you want to give each one a shot at least once, but there are only so many hours in the day, so many days in the week, and you've got to prioritize.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Undead and the Inhuman

I know I should be working on ideas for the online novel - and I am, I swear! - but right now, I think I just need to vent, rant, or pull my hair, because the project is really kicking my ass.

I'm stuck between two ideas.  The first (and I wanted to keep this a secret, but I also wanted the Iron Man suit for Christmas) is to redo Starship Troopers my way to appease my love of science fiction.  I loved that novel, but at the same time, there was a lot that it'd have done differently.  The second idea is to take my zombie story to the web, focusing on a small town trying to survive and rebuild after the apocalypse.  And I'm not saying that because it's Sunday and The Walking Dead was on tonight.  Truth be told, I haven't been watching any TV lately, let alone AMC, but I hear the second half of this season has been good.

Right now, I guess I'm just trying to figure out which monster - the alien or the zombie - has my attention the most.  Science fiction and alien war stories really grabbed me when I was a kid, made a reader out of me, got me thinking of being a writer in the first place.  But oh how research intensive they can be, and I'm really worn by all the research I've done for projects in the past.  The zombie story, on the other hand, is light on research and the fact that anyone can die in the story heightens the tension from start to finish.

In other words, I haven't got a fucking clue what I'm doing.


Talking to my writer friend Ashley, we touched on the issue of how many characters you should have in a story.  She expressed some nervousness in the fact that a lot of her stories focus on just one or two people.  I told her that, in the end, if she's happy with what she's got, then the number of characters shouldn't matter.

Personally, I think that fiction is something that should be close and intimate, not an orgy.  Yes, there are writers who do well with a large cast of characters.  Harry Turtledove comes to mind with his Tosev novels.  There are easily a dozen important characters, and behind each of them is at least half a dozen supporting characters.  Other works know for their large casts include George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo.  And of course, there's the Leo Tolstoy's leviathan War and Peace, which I've hear had hundreds of main characters.  Frankly, I think Tolstoy might have gone too far, jerking off and trying to make each drop of cum into a fully formed character.

I think that each character needs to have some sort of a purpose in the story.  I'm not talking about the background characters like Sergeant This or Mr. That.  I'm focusing just on primary and secondary characters here.  Sometimes, these tangled webs can work to an author's benefit, especially if the story revolves around intrigue and backstabbing.  In such cases, a complex character web makes the reader just as paranoid as the characters, constantly trying to keep track of everyone, always sorting out friends and foes.  I have no problem with that, and if you can do it - and do it well - then more power to you.

Sometimes, a large group of characters can help if they focus on different aspects you want to talk about.  The stories of King Arthur, for example, continue to appeal to people because there's something in it for everyone.  Guinevere and Lancelot have a forbidden love affair.  Merlin adds magic to the story, while Uther Pendragon uses the wizard to seduce Igraine and father Arthur.  Gawain tries to stay true to the tenets of chivalry, and Galahad
is looked upon for his bravery.

In the end, every writer - you, me, even that guy at the far end of the library "researching" on the computers (he's really looking up porn) - needs to decide on which characters are going to be usefulJust as long as you don't weigh your story with characters just for the sake of bragging that it's complex.  Complexity is one thing.  Complications are another.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

To Bitch or Not to Bitch

I was a fan of Chuck Wendig before I ever read his work.  For me, it started with his blog.  I forget exactly how I came across it - I think a friend had tweeted one of his entries - but that doesn't matter.  What matters is what brings me back to his blog are his "twenty-five" posts; 25 Things Writers Should Beware, 25 Thoughts on Book Piracy, 25 Things I'd Like to Say to My 18-Year-Old Self.

Today, he had a post called 25 Things I Want to Say to So-Called "Aspiring" Writers.  It seemed to give me the motivational boost I needed.

Writing boils down to either being, or not being.  You either do the work, or you don't.  You're either writing the story, or talking about writing the story.  You're either sharpening your skills, or you're using the "I'm a writer" thing to score women at the bar.  You're either living the dream, or crying about how it's so tough.

In short, you're either being a bitch (*shakes head in disgust*), or slapping a bitch (*nods enthusiastically*).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Old Ideas

When I was in grad school, I was working on a novel that was meant to kick off The Solar War, a series about an alien invasion of the solar system.  It gave me a story arena in which my characters could fly to many wondrous worlds without having to deal with the inconvenience of interstellar travel.

Ultimately, The Solar War collapsed and joined the ranks of failed writing projects, but I still think back on it from time to time if only because I stuck with it longer than any other story.  While thinking up ideas for the online novel, I thought that maybe this would be a chance to resurrect it.  Me being me, I hopped onto Google to do a quick search to see if anyone was working on a title like that...

...and it turned out someone did!  Just last month, in fact, a little indie game called Solar War was released.  Same premise: humanity must fight off an alien invasion not only of Earth but the entire solar system.

I have to say I did not see that coming when I turned to Google.  Now, I'm not saying that I'm going to sue the guys who made the game.  I haven't played the game (it's not available for Mac), but from what little I've seen, it's different enough from my idea to be distinct.  So congrats to the game guys.  Big ups!

I guess I'm just scratching my head over the idea of seeing something so familiar done somewhere else.  The sensation is like seeing a woman who reminds you of that girl you date for about a month before realizing that she didn't give two shits about you.

I might still try to bring back my own Solar War idea, mixing it in with some other thoughts I've had recently.  Realistically, however, it might end up being a pipedream.  The two or three years that I spent on it the first time kind of left me a little bitter.

The Meaning of Writing

Talking to my friend Ashley today, I started thinking about what it means to have meaning in writing.  Writers get this a lot, I'm sure.  "Yeah, this is a wonderful novel-poem-play-porno you've written, but what does it mean?"  I take no offense in that question, but I think it needs to be rephrased to: "Why did you take the time to write what you wrote?"

That's something of a hazy area to me.  Honestly, I'd prefer to leave meaning to the reader and write for my own enjoyment.  Say I'm taking a stab at writing Transformers.  I'm not going into it thinking about the meaning of organic versus robotic consciousness.  I'm not even going into it thinking about Megan Fox running in slow motion.  I'm writing it because I like GIANT FUCKING ROBOTS BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER!!!

However, I would still need to step back and ask myself what it all means because without meaning, writing (or any form of art) loses its soul and becomes another shitty Michael Bay blockbuster, although it can be argued that even Bay has soul in his work; he admits that he's no Martin Scorsese.

What's the meaning in this or that piece of writing?  I don't know.  I don't think anyone knows when they begin a project.  Beginning with theme is too heavy-handed.  You begin with the story and then find the meaning underneath it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I kept chipping away at ideas for the online novel throughout the day and well into the afternoon.  I constantly as the overriding question: what do I want?  I mean, sure, like Tyrion Lannister, I want to die at the age of 80 (preferably older) in my own bed with a belly full of wine and a woman's lips wrapped around my cock, but I'm neither short nor a resident of Westeros, so let's rephrase the question to "what do I want with the online novel?"

The question comes back to an issue of subject matter.  There are so many things I'd like to cover, so many topics I'd want to write about.  War.  Exploration.  The human (and alien) condition.  I want to write about survival and culture clashes, about who we are and where we're going. I want to write about science and technology, and how they'll have an impact on us and the future.  I want to write about fear, to give the reader that strange Giger beast from Alien that jumps out of an egg and fucks an astronaut, depositing an entity within.  Of all the aliens in science fiction, I think that Giger helped to realize the best one.  Certainly, it was the most memorable.

I want to write something that even I won't expect.  I want to have a moment where something pops in my head, and I shout, "Holy shit!  What an idea!"  Instead, I feel like I'm wandering around like an idiot groping at empty space.  I've got no science fiction story; no character, and certainly no solid situation.

I think one deep problem I'm having is looking at the online novel as something that will go on forever.  It won't be like writing this blog.  This, I'm always working on and adding to.  My Corner of the Catacombs is a place where I talk about writing and what's going on with me.  It's less of a narrative and more of an ongoing journal open to the public.  The online novel, however, needs an ending.  Justin Cronin once said that beginning a novel is important, but finishing one is more crucial.

So I've basically been taking each of those beads in my head and trying to line them up in a string to go on and on with no end.  Bad idea.  The only difference between an online novel, or an e-book, and their hard copy counterpart is the material.  One's got paper, and the other lines of code.  Regardless, there's always and end to a novel.  There has to be.

Let's look at one more example: Harry Turtledove's Tosev novels, an eight-part series dealing with humanity's relationship with reptilian aliens called the Race.  It's broken into three main portions: World War set in World War II, Colonization set during the 1960s, and Homeward Bound the conclusion.  Now, imagine that Turtledove posted these books online like I want to do with my project.  It works up to a point.

The World War portion ends in anticipation of the Race's colonization fleet heading towards Earth.  You know there's more to come.  The final book, Homeward Bound, has humans going to the home planet of the Race, but it ends with uncertainty about the future.  That book was published in 2004, and I'm sure that Turtledove could have go one.  He could have written about how humanity colonizes the galaxy with faster-than-light spacecraft while the Race lags behind, but at that point there really stops being any conflict.  The Race simply cannot compete anymore.  So Turtledove would have ended an online project at that point rather than dick around with it a decade on simply because he could.

So let me recap.  First, I need to settle on a single premise.  I can't go planning where this is going to go ten years down the line.  Second, I need to find an end point where this goes from an ongoing series to a finished product.

Monday, March 18, 2013

All I Need is an Idea

Frantic is coming along smoothly.  I'm riding the high of Grind seeing the spotlight.  But Jesus Titty-Fucking Christ, why is this online novel mind-fucking me so much?  I mean, even after my motivational rant, I'm still stuck.  Getting out of the starting gate is one thing, but sometimes getting to the gate in the first place is a total mindjob.

It's like you're staring through a window, a grimy window fogged by steam on the other side, and you kind of see something moving in the distance, something you want to see.  But you can't see it clearly, and you're not even sure what it is you hope to stare at.  It's like you don't know what you want.

Maybe this is the fear manifesting itself again.  Maybe I'm being too much of a perfectionist trying to please myself that I'm not looking for a stop sign, a reason to tell myself it's time to stop thinking and time to start writing.  Or maybe there are so many disparate ideas and topics I'd want to write about that melting them all together is overwhelming me, seasoning the dish too much and ruining the flavor.

They call science fiction the literature of ideas.  You have different histories and timelines, other forms of life (other universes, even), new technology and how that ripples through society.  There's hard science fiction and soft science fiction.  There's cyberpunk, steampunk, biopunk, and nanopunk.

There are - how can I put this politely? - just a shitload of options!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Publication: Grind

Just a quick post to let you guys know that my short story Grind just got published today on the website Arts Collide, a fantastic venue full of heart and the Force.  Grind is a sequel and part of a series of stories concerning troubled artist Andrew Ursler.  The first installment Are You Proud of Me? was published in August of last year.  You can find Grind here, and you should check out more of Arts Collide while your at it.  Do it for Saint Patrick.  He was all about the online publications...and beating the shit out of snakes.

Shitty Writers

My friend Ashley and I have a problem: we think we're shit.  Let me clarify, we think we're shit, not the shit.  Ah, the ol' "I suck at writing and will never make it bit."  It's a classic, like missionary.

It's rooted in fear, and while I can only guess at the source of Ashley's fear, I can tell you exactly the cause of mine: I'm afraid that I'm not going to be good enough.  It's a legitimate concern.  I've spent years learning how to be a writer.  I don't want that to go to waste.  I don't think the fear ever goes away.  Even Stephen King admits that he wish he were better, and he's Stephen "I Wrote The Goddamn Stand" King!

Now, I know that my biggest fear right now is getting the online novel off the ground.  Every idea I've come up with just doesn't seem to set and congeal, and it's frustrating.  I'm sure it's the reason why I'm not sleeping lately.

Anyways, here are some points that I try to keep in mind when I'm feeling craptacular:

  • No writer ever has a stellar lift-off.  Ray Bradbury once said that if you keep your early work and look back on it years later, you see that it really is dreadful.  Look at the early career of every great artist - every great author, actor, singer, painter, or sculptor - and you will find weeds of struggle think like a jungle.
  • Never call yourself an "aspiring" writer.  You're in your "pre-published" phase.  Some people might say you're feeding off of delusions and euphemisms.  So fucking what?  If you can find a bottle or two of unicorn's blood at an affordable price, have at it.  Until then, you and I are "pre-published" writers.
  • This point is largely geared towards myself: you have GOT to make yourself happy with your work.  Yes, a writer ought to be happy with everything put to the page, but I think we need to go a bit further and have at least one project that, no matter where the career takes us, we can sit back and say, "I wrote that because some part of me needed it."  Even if you dedicate your book or poetry to someone else, that's fine, but at the heart of it, you're filling your own needs in some way.  I love writing Frantic because I love zombie stories.  I'm excited for this short story romance series because I have a heart and deserve to explore it.  But the online novel?  There's something waiting for me there, something that can't be touched by zombies or romance.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sweet Glorious Mental Breakdown

I love the fact that my brain seems to hate me, most likely due to the fact that it's an asshole.  Not gonna lie, I do hate the discombobulation that brain sometimes causes (and I just realized that I haven't used the word discombobulation since high school; it was the favorite word of one of my history teachers).

So I'm going to 'fess up: the online novel crashed again.  This is the third time in the last couple of weeks, and it's frustrating me.  One of the reasons I'm sharing this with you guys - documenting the calamity that this project seems to be turning into - is so you know that there are writing projects that have a tough time just getting on their feet, let alone out of the starting gate.  Another reason, of course, is because I like to rant.  It makes me feel better, and I have a hunch that there might be other writers out there who deal with this crisis as much as I do.  So hail, brothers and sisters!

I honestly don't know what it is I want to do with the online novel.  It seems like there are a lot of directions I want to take this project, but they don't seem to fit together.  I want it to have a good amount of action, but I want it to be a work of art like a Kubrick film.  I want it to be expansive, but I don't want to dilute the story.  I keep jumping around with the setting; 1890s, 1914, the Civil War years.  I want it to be an homage to the science fiction I love growing up, but I want it to be my own thing.  I want it to be true to science, but I also don't want to waste a lot of time on research that I ultimately might not even need.  And I don't even know what subgenre of science fiction I want to focus on: apocalyptic, time travel, steampunk.

I feel stretched in so many directions that I'm losing sleep over it.  And I know that's a dumb thing to do, stressing over something that hasn't even begun, but I stress because I know that I do want it to begin.  I don't want this to be one of those projects that just hangs in my head and never finds traction.

Making the Cut

Working on notes for the online novel this week - the alien invasion one - I started thinking about Harry Turtledove and his Tosev novels.  The guy's got a wonderful ability to write about an ensemble cast.  His series features viewpoint characters who are American, German, British, Chinese, Russian, Nazi, Jewish, and even alien.  Showing different perspectives on the conflict was one of the reasons why I've grow to love his series so much, and I thought it would be great to follow in his footsteps with the online novel.  After all, I've already taken his cue of replacing Mars with a different planet more suitable to my needs.

But now, almost a week into character work for the novel, I've noticed that I've got more of an uphill battle than I thought.  The problem isn't that I have a rich pool to draw from.  The problem is that I've got too large of a pool, more like an ocean or a great lake.

The way I started was to have different countries that I could have the story set it.  Some of them appear twice on this list because there are alien as well as human characters.  And there are four main categories of character that I'm thinking about: scientists, soldiers, politicians, and civilians.  Multiply all the possibilities, and I've got a maximum of a hundred characters.

That's not bad, but the nature of this online novel, in my mind, is different than that of a printed book.  With a printed book, all your characters are delivered in one package.  With the online novel, with each chapter delivered monthly, there's a risk that the readers might not remember everyone serving as a viewpoint character.  It's not impossible to break up a story and stretch it over a long period of time.  Lost had a massive ensemble cast and went on to great success.  But Lost had the advantage over my online novel in that each chapter was presented in weekly increments.  The pace was such that a week would go and the audience still remembered what happened in the last episode.

The way I see it, I've got two options: A) make the primary cast smaller, or B) deliver chapters much more quickly than a month at a time.  Well, Option B isn't going to work.  I can't produce a short story in one week.  Even a piece of flash fiction takes me a couple of weeks to get through.  So I need to go back to the list, trim off the fat, and try to keep an eye out for who the most interesting characters might be.