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.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

No Tomorrow: Day 22

Today, I got the bright idea to write outside.  It was a nice, sunny day, so it seemed like a good thing to do.  Ah, but it backfired.  It was such a relaxing day that I found myself relaxing more than writing half the time.  Still got a solid 1,600 words out of it.  Unfortunately, I still have at least another two thousand to go.

Aw, crap.  It never seems like I'm getting enough words written in the day.

No Tomorrow is covering just a week of story time right now.  That is, in the universe of the story, only a week has gone by since the first page.  I don't have a specific time scale in mind.  It could be a month, a year, a decade.  Still, I'm well over a hundred pages into it.  I would have thought that more time would have gone by.  Joke's on me, I guess.

The word count I'm aiming for is still a hundred thousand words, but that I've covered just a week of story time, I think I might have to add another fifty thousand on top of that.  That's nothing set in stone.  It's just a possibility at the moment.

On top of everything, I'm going back to my day job of tutoring tomorrow, which, of course, means I've got a few hours less each day for writing.  Having the whole summer to myself was nice while it lasted.  This was really why I wanted to get the first draft done by the end of July, so that I wouldn't have to worry about it alongside getting my tutoring work done.

But hey, shit happens, you know?

The Infamous Website Post

Anyone who's followed my blog for a while knows how much I hate having to do this...


Yay!  Time for shameless self-promotion!

God, can I sound like any more of a douchebag?  Well, I did this for Twitter and Facebook, so I might as well carry on the proud tradition.

Yes, I just launched a new website for my writing called heavenshaker.com.  And sure, I am going to give myself a little pat on the back because I had no idea what to expect.  I've never actually tried running a website before.  I thought I would have to be some massive computer nerd to get it right, but it was a surprisingly user-friendly experience.  And as long as I remember to pay the regular maintenance fee, long may it live.

I was also hesitant to launch the sight because of a bad experience with the project not too long ago.  I originally wanted to register the name mariopiumetti.com through a service called Slam Dunk Domains.  My friend Marina uses it for her photography site and spoke highly of it, but it just didn't click for me.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess.  The project collapsed after just a few hoursThe customer service reps at Slam Dunk were understanding and I did get my money credited back to me, but the domain was no longer available.

Enter Intuit.  They're known for financial software, but they develop websites as well.  My family's construction company used to have a website with them, and I remember how nice it looked.  The cost of the service is pretty reasonable, about $100 for the domain registration and monthly maintenance.

Why did I pick the name Heaven Shaker?  Off the top of my head, I remember hearing about a manned torpedo the Japanese used during World War II.  They called it Kaiten, but its nickname the Heaven Shaker sounded cooler.

But as LeVar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow, don't take my word for it.  Check it out.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

No Tomorrow: Day 21

The title of my zombie novel has officially become No Tomorrow.  I had a few other candidates in mind and ran a survey among my friends.  Most of them sided with Infected as a title, but too many apocalyptic stories have used it over the last few years, so I discarded that.

I was at the library today and got quite a bit of work done; two thousand words!  I still got another 1,500 to go for tonight, but it's still a lot closer to my daily quota than I've been able to get in a few days.

I was dwelling earlier on the fact that I'm still twenty thousand words short of where I should be, but then I realized that it's best not to fixate on that.  I'll save the big push for the weekend.  During the weekdays, all I can ask for myself is to strive for 3,500 words.

Still, working out of a library has helped quite a bit.  It's quiet and I don't enjoy Internet access, which means I've got nothing to distract me except for the occasional kid running down the aisles of books.  With long works of fiction, I'm starting to think that maybe a library is the best place for me to work on the first draft.  Subsequent drafts are different because I've already got something down in front of me, but when I have to come up with fresh material, I find that it's best to cut out all the bullshit; as much of it as possible.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Zombies: Day 19

I've crunched the numbers.  I need to put in five thousand words a day for the next week in order to catch up on Zombies.  That's the bad news.

The good news is that today hasn't been too bad.  True, I do need to catch up for yesterday as well, and that puts today's quota at ten thousand words, but I've managed to get down a quarter of that with a nice degree of ease.  It got me thinking of something Stephen King said in On Writing:

"With the door shut, downloading what's in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable.  If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes into my mind, only looking back to check the names of my characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that's always waiting to settle in."

That's what if feels like.  It feels today like I'm jacked in and downloading the story from my brain.  I like that.  In the past, I've found that the freeway between my brain and my hands on the keyboard are often gummed up with enough traffic to make the roads of Los Angeles look like a quiet countryside.  On days like today when it comes out nice and naturally, it's a good thing.

On a side note, I've got about a dozen candidates down for the book's official title.  I'm hoping to narrow that down to maybe a field of four or five by the end of the night.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Zombies: Day 18

Another slow day.  I'm trying to get a little more done before going out to an event tonight.  Waking up late (again) didn't help, and I've also been thinking a lot about a proper title for the novel.  Zombies just isn't going to cut it for me.  The title ought to be something cool, something catchy, something that doesn't sound like a devotional for teen.  I'll see what I can come up with and maybe run a poll on which one sounds the best.  Until then, I'll be banging my head against a wall.

Friday, July 26, 2013

I Will Not...

I will not run myself down all the time.

I will not tell myself that every good remark I've gotten is a lie.

I will not assume that Stephen King, Max Brooks, and Neil Gaiman are excellent writers by virtue of their names.

I will not act like I don't deserve to see my work in print.

I will not indulge that fantasy that elves are going to come over in the middle of the night to do my work for me.

I will not blame my lack of progress on others, including friends, family, and Mr. T.

I will not get drunk, because chemicals don't give birth to creativity.  Music, however, is fair game.

I will not sit around waiting for my career to begin like Walter White sat around waiting for his life to start.

Zombies: Day 17

Just a quick post because, quite frankly, it's been another slow day with just a few hundred words.  I don't know why it's been such a struggle this summer for me to push myself more and more, but I do know that, even after lowering my daily quota and extending my deadline, I'm still over ten thousand words behind.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Zombies: Day 16

I've been getting in a little more work today than the last few days.  I crunched the numbers and realized, "Hey, it took me four days to write two thousand words!  Maybe I ought to step on it?"  I've written just over half of today's word count, and I'll see if I can get at least a little more done; because if I can get a little more work done, then I'm just that much closer to the end.

I'm still struggling to get back into the groove.  When you have a slip-up, it's easy to follow that with another one, and another after that, and then you've dug yourself into a hole before you know it.  So today, as I've been getting my words down, I've also been brainstorming a set of rules and guidelines that might help me get back on track and see this thing through to the end.

In fact, I'm going to print this out, stick it to the wall by my desk and read it once or twice a day as a reminder:

  • I will stop punishing myself for failing to meet the previous day's quota.  Like they say in Tibet (or in that movie Seven Years in Tibet), "If a problem can be solved, there is no use worrying about it.  If it can't be solved, worrying will do no good."
  • I will set aside a day or two each week to really push myself in order to catch up on my word count.
  • When the clock strikes 1:00 AM, I will stop writing for the day and go to sleep, because all-nighters just aren't doing it for me.
  • I don't want to wake up early.  I also don't want to drive on the right side of the road, pay my bills, or wear pants, but I have to.  So in order to get the most out of my day, I will wake up early.
  • I will let my friends help me to succeed, especially the non-writers.  Chuck Wendig said, "You need the people in your life to know that this is an important thing to you, that they'll need to accommodate your writing hours.  The people in your life deserve to know, and they deserve a chance to help you accomplish this thing you want to accomplish."

Words Count

I've been busting ass on Zombies, but I'm still behind, ridiculously behind.

In fact, I'm so behind that I've had to push back the deadline on the first draft to the first week of August for sure.  Eventually, I might even have to push the deadline back to the end of August, but that might be due to increasing the size of the book rather than a lack of progressI'm a third of the way through the manuscript but only on the third day of the zombie outbreak, so I might need a high word limit in order to tell the story.

But back to this whole busting-ass thing.  It's no secret that I've been tackling the book while screaming bloody murder.  It got me wondering how I'm doing, how I'm really doing.  To answer this, I went onto Twitter and posed a question to three writers I admire: Neil Gaiman, Chuck Wendig, and Rob Roberge.  All three of them responded, even Gaiman, which gave me a fan-boy high for a few hours.

The question was simple: when you're working on the first draft of a novel, about how many words per day do you get through?

Here are their answers...

Gaiman: "1,500 to 2,000 if I can."

Wendig: "2,000, bare minimum."

Roberge: "Totally depends. can be anything from a paragraph to, on the really lucky ones, 20+ pages.  A couple of 30 pages days.  Some zeros."

This doesn't really surprise me.  The general average I've heard from other writers has been a daily output of about two thousand words.  Since starting Zombies, my daily average has been three to four thousand words.  That's right.  I've been working as hard as two Neil Gaiman's, as two Chuck Wendig's, and (just so he doesn't feel left out) as hard as Rob Roberge and his doppelganger from Dimension X.

Whenever I feel like I'm dragging my feet, like I'm not really making headway on the writing, I try to remind myself of that.  I sometimes feel just enough pride in myself to keep going.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Zombies: Day 15

Hey, everyone.  Just a quick update on the book today.

I've been feeling a little bit sluggish the last few days, but I'm still pressing on as much as I can.  Yesterday was a pretty frightening day though.  The previous night, I'd gotten no sleep whatsoever; not a wink.  I was up all through the night right into the morning dealing with computer problems, so I had no rest.  The bed sheets weren't even touch.

Sleep deprivation isn't new to me, but it did freak me out yesterday as I was driving towards the Studio City library to get some work done.  I was passing through Glendale, and I started nodding off.  I was falling asleep behind the wheel!

I didn't get to the library - I turned around and headed home - but I also don't remember the drive back.  I think I was still in Glendale when I got off the Ventura Freeway and started to backtrack.  At that point, I was probably ten minutes away from my house and I tried forcing myself awake just until I got back to my driveway.  The more I fought it, the more my eyes began to droop, and I had to slam on the breaks a couple of times.

When I got home, I texted a friend of mine about the what happened and I fell asleep in my truck, right there on the driveway in mid-sentence!  She told me that was a bad sign and that, even though I had a lot of work to do, I had to set aside some time for a nap.  I slept for a few hours and then got about a thousand words written.

Last night, I got a few more hours of sleep before my alarm went off.  I hit the snooze button and kept sleeping until about noon.  I had relatives visiting, so lunchtime was spent with them.  I got several hundred words written in the last few hours, and I hope to get a little more work done before heading out for the evening.

But yikes!  I think I've hit a tipping point with my insomnia.  It's a problem that I've got to deal with pronto.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Past, Present, and Future

I'm a writer, a man of words, but I'm also a guy who loves movies.  And the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past has definitely caught my eye.

With the exception of the two Wolverine movies - the 2009 one and the one that, as of this writing, hasn't come out yet - I've seen every installment of the franchise.  Last Stand left me feeling disappointed, and when First Class came out in 2011, I thought it was a 90% reboot.  Yes, it was a prequel and, yes, Hugh Jackman made a wonderful cameo appearance as Wolverine, but beyond that, First Class felt like it stood apart from the rest of the series in terms of style and storytelling.  It was very clearly something new.

A sequel was inevitable.  When has Hollywood ever said no to a follow-up on a successful film?  Originally, I'd heard that the next film would be about the Kennedy assassination with Magneto controlling the bullet that kills JFK.  Then it changed to the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.  Whereas First Class was set in the 1960s with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the sequel was going to move forward towards the 70s.

Then Days of Future Past was announced.

Bryan Singer was back on board, which I thought was interesting.  Keep in mind, I thought that First Class was a reboot, no significant ties to the previous films, and thus it seemed strange that crew from those movies would come back.  Then Patrick Stewart was cast, and then Ian McKellan.  Halle Berry.  Hugh Jackman.  Anna Paquin.  Ellen Page.  Now, I'm not a big comic book guy, but I knew enough about the story that two generations of X-Men were going to come together.

But I was still skeptical because, again, I just assumed that these people from the previous films were cameos, that they'd pop up in a scene, say hello, and be on their merry way.

Again, I was wrong.

Days of Future Past looks to be the X-Men version of The Avengers where you've got characters from very distinct films - First Class and the Bryan Singer-spearheaded trilogy - merged together in one piece.  I think it's a brilliant move.  To me, the core of X-Men has always been the conflict between Professor X and Magneto.  Their younger and older selves are unmistakably different people, and it'll be interesting to see them interact.  Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan have already established themselves in their roles.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were very good in First Class; Fassbender's performances have never failed to astound me.

As far as the details of the story goes, you're guess is as good as mine.  I have no idea what the movie is going to have in store for us when it comes out next year.  We might have a scenario like what J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek in which characters from the future travel back in time and break history into another direction that neither the old nor the young can predict.  Old Professor X might try to persuade Young Magneto the value of peaceful resolution.  Old Magneto might try to convince Young Professor X that violence solves everything.  If I were in the writer's chair, that would be my suggestion, but I'm not.  I'm happily part of the audience.  Still, the possibilities and the not-knowing are making me smile with anticipation even now as I write this post.

And yes, folks, it looks like Bryan Singer is going to finally stop teasing us and deliver Sentinels.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Zombies: Day 13

Today, I wrote a whopping...180 WORDS!  Aw, yeah.  That's right.  180 palabras.

Okay, maybe I shouldn't suck my own dick over that.  Here's what happened.

Every so often, I like to go to my local Coffee Bean for a chocolate chunk muffin.  It's one of my simple pleasures.  After getting the day off to a late start, I drove over to the nearest one in Montrose.  They didn't have it.

So I went to the one in Glendale by the city college, wasting a solid half-hour just to look for parking; plenty of parking, but I simply didn't have the permit for the spaces.  The college shop didn't have it.

So I go to the other one in Glendale at the Americana on Brand.  Success.  Sweet choco-joy!  Manna from the bakeries of Hell.  Call it what you will, but I got my fuckin' pastry.

Satisfied, I went back to the library near my house.  The parking lot was full and I'm thinking, What the hell?  I live in a town of old people and teenagers.  The teenagers don't read and the elderly got their own homes to sleep in.  What gives?  What gave was that someone got the bright idea of putting on a magic show for everyone's grand kids.  I cry bullshit but suck it up and begin heading over back to La Crescenta to their library.  That was when I realized that I needed the Inter-Webs today because I had to look up some reference material.

So back to Glendale I go, back to the library with the hour-long parking limit but Internet access for all.  Good for them.  Free the Web.  Power to the people.  Except...they're packed too!  Not a quiet spot in the Houses of Silence.  What is this?  Asshole Day?

Conceding defeat, I went home, pigged out on a shit-load of comfort food, and then, food-baby gestating in my gut, I was too full to think properly, let alone hammer out twelve to sixteen pages.

I'll try my luck again tomorrow.  Hopefully, I'll have more success and won't run around like a headless chicken.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

That Zombie Thing, or Day 12

I ought to be writing, but the truth is that I'm so damn exhausted that I need a break, even if it's a short one.

The last time I posted almost two weeks ago, I said that my vampire-and-alien novel Undead and Inhuman was on the verge of collapse.  And it did.  I was a little sad by that because it was a concept that I really liked, but I gave my reasons for stopping it, and it's ultimately better to stop a struggling story sooner rather than later.

But in the wake of Undead and Inhuman, I've resurrected my desire to write a zombie book.  This was originally going to be the online project, but then I just transferred it over to the book.  There's also another zombie project I'm planning to do, but it just started coming to mind this week and I'm not really ready to talk about it.

At the moment, the novel doesn't have a title.  I've just taken to calling it Zombies, but I know I'll have to come up with something catchier later on.  It's set in a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains and focuses on the townspeople trying to cope with the zombie apocalypse, which I think is a nice shift back to the Romero-style stories of characters barricaded in one location rather than a Cormac McCarthy-type road trip in search of a safe haven.  Not that there's anything wrong with those road stories; it's just a bit refreshing to go a little more old school.

I would still like to make my July 30th deadline on the first draft, but I've been lagging behind on it and might have to keep going into August.  However, my progress had still been impressive.  I started the novel about a week ago, and I'm over a quarter of the way through it.  I don't remember how much time I spent doing research for it (there wasn't really that much to do), but the prep work in figuring out the town took just a few days.

All in all, it's been twelve days since starting the project, which brings me to another thing.  Notice that day counter in this post's title?  I'm going to commit to providing daily updates on how the book is coming along, whether there's been a mountain of progress or just a little trickle.  I've been feeling a little less self-conscious and shy about outing myself as a writer, and it's always fun, I think, to give a day-by-day account of how something is changing and evolving whether it's a book or a poem or a full-blown career.

Also, it'll help keep me sane, and at this point, I'll try just about anything to keep my head on my shoulders.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Edge of Failure

Right now, I am so pissed off at myself that I'm literally sick to my stomach.  I physically feel disgusted with myself because Undead and Inhuman is hanging on the edge of failure.  It's not a confidence issue.  It's a pure plot problem that slapped me like a sledgehammer.

Let me back up a bit.

Undead and Inhuman was supposed to be about vampires in the future going to the Moon to stop an alien enemy from bombing Earth.  It sounded cool and whenever I talked to people about the concept, even they couldn't help but get caught up in the enthusiasm of it.  I did the research as best as I could.  I had a production schedule for the damn thing!  The deadline was supposed to be July 2015, no later.  I swear to God I had this figured out!

Here's where things slipped, and it all happened tonight.

There were going to be just a few hundred vampires going to the Moon to stop the aliens.  The reasoning behind this was that it costs a lot to send even a few people to the Moon.  A few thousand is out of the question, and even a few hundred is pushing it.

I was brainstorming some dialog for an upcoming scene and I had one character telling his commanding officer: "This mission is going to cost billions of dollars in resources, all of our lives, and it'll accomplish nothing."  They're wildly outnumbered against an enemy with technology that's beyond them, and they'd be fighting in an environment that's practically engineered by nature to kill any living thing.  I can't just magically up the number of vampires going to the Moon because then that's jumping the shark.  Then it's, like, "Oh, really?  You're going to send tens of thousands of people to the Moon all at once?  Are you fucking joking?"

Jesus!  I could have sworn that this would have been the bookAt times, I could almost see a finished copy sitting on my desk.  Instead, all I'm seeing now is junk hastily stitched together.

I feel like all of this is going to make me throw up.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Bandwagon

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post on zombie fiction.  This was around the time that World War Z was just starting to make waves on the movie circuit; I think Brad Pitt had just signed on to play a character that Max Brooks never wrote about.  I wrote about why I thought zombie fiction was so cool.

But then last week, I saw this article on the zombie fad that look at it just like that: a fad that was the hot thing of the moment but would inevitably lose steam.  Take a moment to give it a read.  It's not that long of an article, and it'll help make sure we're all on the same page.

Done?  Good.  Let's move on.

So the article was basically saying that zombies mean big bucks.  Hotel Transylvania made the top of the highest-grossing zombie films of recent years, and I applaud the filmmakers for doing something that includes the kiddies too.  But when it comes to the hardcore, bloody, gory zombie films that we all really go after, World War Z has made the number one spot.  The global income of just the film was projected at being $300 million.  If I was a studio executive at Paramount, I'd totally green light a sequel or two.  Why wouldn't I?  It's my job to make money for my studio, right?  This isn't Disney.  We're not making John Carter or The Lone Ranger (*cringes at the thought of Johnny Depp's Tonto*).

Now, I'm really split on how the zombie craze is going to turn out in the long run.  I don't predict how long it's going to run, nor do I expect any one person to have the answer to that question.  Max Brooks did a video on Reddit in 2010, and even he was on the fence about the whole thing:

"I have mixed feelings about it because, as a writer, the sort of zombie glut that's happening, it's great for me.  I'm selling more books than I ever deserve to.  And when that backlash happens and people stop buying zombie books, I have no right to complain.  It bothers me as a zombie fan because I like good zombie stories and for me it's getting harder and harder to separate the wheat from the chaff because I don't have a lot of time.  And what bothers me is somewhere out there someone is working on a really good zombie story, and I'm talking much better than World War Z.  Right now, someone is thinking of or making notes for or actually writing the next great zombie novel that is just going to blow World War Z out of the water.  People are going to read this and go, 'Oh, my God.  I thought Word War Z was good, but this?'  I'm going to be one of those people.  I want to read that.  But the problem is that person, once they finish their magnum opus, the zombie genre may have passed away, and they may go to publishers and publishers will say, 'You know what?  We're done.  We're done with zombies.  Enough.'  And that great zombie story may never see the light of day, and that's what upsets me."

Brooks is right.  The day will come when people get tired of zombies just like they got tired of the CG bonanza that was the Star Wars prequel trilogy.  It's not restricted to just zombies.  It can happen with any genre.  Look at superheroes.  Studios are buying up as many comic book titles as they can so they have a lot of material to work with and be flexible on.  Again, I don't blame them when that's the reasonable thing to do.

What gets on my nerves is that all this feels like a warning sign against doing a zombie story of my own, something that I've been thinking about as I consider revitalizing my plan to do an online novel.  I hear stuff like this and feel like I'm going to be one of those assholes looking to make a quick buck on the undead.  Those nerves get settled when I realize that the novel would be post completely free and that the only way I'd make any money off of it would be if a studio or network approached me to buy the adaptation rights.  That, of course, is a ginormous "if", and it's kind of foolish for me to get ahead of myself like that.

But for me, as a writer, I have to ask myself whether I should even give it a shot, and I think that if you're doing it just for the fun of it all, you should be in the clear.  There is no crime or backlash for doing something for free for fun.  In that case, the only crime might be in holding back.

You want my advice?  I've never tried this out, but I'm going to: draw up a list of four of five zombie movies that you feel might really hit the spot for you.  You got Romero's Night of the Living dead there because it's a classic.  I would also include 28 Weeks Later (which I think it better than 28 Days Later), I Am Legend, Stake Land, and the Italian film Eaters.  I would also like to check out a British film called Colin simply because it impressed a lot of people at the Cannes Film Festival despite being made for $70!!!  That's right, folks.  A two-digit budget!

These are just my personal options.  Your tastes might run differently.  But when you do have your heavy hitters, watch them - watch them twice - and ask yourself what is it about each of them that makes them special.  Try putting yourself in the mind of the writer and see if you can find out why someone with a strong vocabulary and grammar skills would go ahead and write something like that.  Chances are it's going to involve a sense of passion.  Try finding your own passion for the genre, and then tap into it.