13 January 2017 4 comments

Courage, young warrior.

It takes bravery and courage to move forward through life. Over and through and under and around all the obstacles and resistance rising up to thwart us.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important. - Theodore Roosevelt
 Confronting fears and pushing forward despite them takes strength. I like to think the Fool isn't unaware of the cliff before them, or the precipice of unknown. Instead, they're choosing to focus on the possibilities, the positive, and the potential gain of flight. They've stopped second guessing. They've stopped doubting. They've stopped asking "what if" and decided to find out what they're capable of.

"The Fool's Journey" is often described as the parallel of "The Hero's Journey" which most avid readers would agree is a staple framework for the majority of literature out there, as well as movies. But as the calendar turns and offers an opportunity to "start fresh," I've found that what it's inspired in me is the strength to let go.

For me, taking that step means making the decision to do a final editing pass on a story that's been with me since my teens, in what seems a thousand variations and iterations. It is a fragment of my magnum opus; the story is so large it will require more than a single book for the telling. I've sat on it for a couple years now, stalled and stagnated, unwilling to release it, the need for perfection and control too strong to overcome, the fear of finishing, of completion, paralyzing me.

So this is not so much some character in a story I'm telling who's embarking on some new journey of self discovery and enlightenment as it is the choice to face one's fears and push forward into the unknown regardless. This is more important to me than any misgivings I harbor, it means more than my flaws and my weaknesses. I will not let me keep this story from telling itself any longer. I have the next part of it to work on, and my death grip on this part will cripple me no more.

The energy of the Fool gives me courage to face my reflection in the mirror, look myself in the eye, and give a Lion's Roar.


This entry is part of the Tarot Rebels Alternative Tarot Blog Hop. January's topic revolved around The Fool. Click through the badge below for the full list of participating blog content.

12 December 2016 5 comments

A Time & A Place

(From L: Mary-el, Arcana, Lumina, Darkana, Wooden)
The Wheel of Fortune in the traditional tarot structure is customarily portrayed as a wheel construct or form. The cyclic nature of life, of seasons, the constancy of only one thing -- change -- is inherent in this card's meaning and interpretation.

For me personally, this card evokes a theme introduced early in life while still beneath the influence of religious upbringing. And despite the deviation of my spiritual path away from those teachings, I find that some truths are simply universal and cannot be claimed, contained, or constrained by any particular faith or path. In Hinduism, it is dharma, the principle of cosmic order. In the West, it is Ecclesiastes 3, written by Solomon, recognized as a king of Israel by both Muslims and Judeo-Christians.

There is a time and a place for everything, a season for everything under the sun.

The Wheel: Fortuna, the heartless and unbiased goddess of Luck and Chance. The Orbweaver, webspinner of Fate, Destiny, Synchronicity. I cannot force or push things to happen faster than they're meant to. Does that mean everything is preordained and I don't control anything? Of course not, but there is a rhythm, a natural cadence for the pace at which things occur. Embracing that and acting in synchronicity with the energies of my environment and those around me will cause things to happen with greater ease, with less effort and strain, with more positive outcomes. Sometimes I must bide my time and follow the path through the darkness, knowing it is not unending, knowing that the sun will return, just as the moon swells and fades, just as the tides surge and recede, just as the heart beats in my chest.

Accepting the natural order of life, working and moving in harmony with it instead of straining uselessly against it. Waiting for the chance to come around, that optimal moment, and recognizing it when it arrives, grasping the opportunity with both hands and making the most of it. This is what Fortuna is for me, this is what I see in the Wheel. It is a reminder to attune myself to nature, to ground myself back to the earth, to remember that we inevitably return to the earth from which we came.

This blogpost is part of the Tarot Rebels' Alternative Tarot Blog Hop. Click the link below to see the full list of participant blogs and content for this month's Wheel of Fortune theme.

31 October 2016 9 comments

Remain Nameless

(This blogpost is part of the Tarot Rebels' Alternative Tarot Blog Hop. This month's theme is "The Thirteenth Card." Click the icon for a full list of participating blogs and their related content.)

Call me when you need me,
Call me anything you want.
~Florence + The Machine, "Remain Nameless"

Most readers who've been following me for a while know who my writing mascot was.
A Blue Heeler and Australian Shepherd cross, he came into my life thirteen years ago as a bright-eyed two-month-old pup in a year when, fortuitously, my soul path card was The Fool. We parted ways earlier this past summer when his tumors finally got the best of him. My soul path card this year -- XIII.

The original Tarot de Marseille called this card L'Arcane sans nom, -- the Arcane with no name. Later iterations included the label LA MORT, yet naming the thing doesn't give us power over it. Or does it?

In the archetypes, XIII is a point of transition, where the focal point of the major arcana shifts from the individual path to the grander spiritual path where everything is bigger than the body, beyond the parameters of the individual, extending into higher awareness, the spiritual journey, the oneness of the individual with the universe as a whole, as a small piece of a grand tableau.

I like to think my friend, who walked with me a little while, has moved on to the next stage of their journey. And for all that we give one another names, whether we name our children or our animal friends, we can never know truly another's name. Names have power. Names influence how we perceive a thing, be it a concept, object, or individual. Names give us power. If we can identify and label a thing, it loses so much of its mystery, and thus its influence over us. Ignorance, after all, isn't a strength.

Is XIII about mortality or death of another kind? Either way, can we diffuse the power it has over us? Why do we grieve what ceases physically? The corporeal form doesn't truly identify us, only houses the essence of who we are. Energy cannot be destroyed, only transmuted. Thus XIII isn't a literal mortality but a figurative one. Slay the things that rule you, it says. Kill what holds sway over your soul, constrains your path. Separate the gross from the divine. Set yourself free.

We mourn the things we lose from our lives, even when they aren't fellow souls. Our jobs, our homes, our relationships. Change is painful, for some reason. It places us at the whims of the unknown, in the currents of chaos. In a visceral sense, it represents an increased risk, and for the earlier, more primal humans, such upheaval could spell disaster and doom. Yet for modern humans, this no longer holds truth.
In the same vein, freeing ourselves from the structures holding us captive is equally disruptive. Social expectations, cultural convention, archetypal roles, presumptive labels and stereotypes. These are the true characters in need of slaying, depicted in later iterations of L'Arcane sans nom. The king, the pope, the woman, the child.  Overriding our programming takes strong will, determination, and perseverance.

Whether there's a skeleton with a scythe staring back at you from XIII, or the imagery of transition takes on another form, the message is the same. Let go of what no longer serves you. Clean out your closet; let go of the dead things, the pieces of the past, to which you cling.

Does all this give new meaning to the loss of my mascot? Not really. My friend has ascended and moved on. He is with me in spirit, as are the others who I hold close to my heart though they no longer walk with me. The synchronicity of what this year means for me personally has helped me come to terms with his departure, though. L'Arcane sans nom holds new and more personable meaning for me now.

The cards hold meanings unique to each of us, within the context of our experiences, our perspectives, and our mindsets. How far we've come, where we are, the path we walk, and where we're heading. I don't imagine XIII will hold the same colorful meaning in a few years' time, for only a year ago it certainly didn't have the connotation it does now. For where I now stand, this is what the landscape looks like for me. Once I have accepted the pain of change and moved forward, the scenery will alter, and even looking back won't offer the same view as I have in this moment.

29 October 2016 0 comments


Is 2016 over yet?
It isn't!?.... Fine then.

I know I'm not alone in saying it, but it's been an extremely rough year. For all of us. I've struggled to find creative energy and inspiration for the greater part of this year. I've shown up, and I've been writing, but it's all been of a non-fiction nature. Tarot studies, shadow work. I haven't shirked my daily spreads, and sitting down to do that each morning, and the associated writing, is admittedly a huge part of what's kept me going long enough for the juices to start flowing again. The trigger point that tipped me back into writing earlier last week was an album that Aleks shared on Facebook -- the soundtrack from a video game, Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. Never mind that the character on the game cover looks suspiciously like a muse of mine, from a futuristic spec-fic I've been toying with, which will likely be my next-year project.
Image link takes you to the full soundtrack on Youtube.
The music in this game reminds me of Bladerunner, which of course makes me think of the Blue District, and lyche. So the urge to return to Black's rewrite has settled back upon my shoulders. Just in time for... a week's respite from the day job before the warzone of the holiday shopping season begins in earnest.

01 January 2016 0 comments

Having survived the apocalypse of holiday zombies, our hero continues their quest.

In which resolutions are not made.
(Because aren't they made to be broken or something?)

Last year, around this time, I made a decision to get to know my recently acquired tarot deck, the Mary-el, with daily card readings. It worked, and with every passing week and month, I fell more in love with Marie White's artistry as well as her positive interpretations and applications of traditional and conventional meanings and associations.

I guess one could claim it was a resolution. If so, it's gotta be the very first time I've followed through for the entire year, to the very end. Sure there were days when my interpretations were little more than a few sentences. And I think that, somewhere along the way, I actually missed a couple days here and there. It's the intent and follow through that matters. Even when I faltered, I didn't give up. Mostly because it was something I was doing for myself, something I was interested in and moderately passionate about, and at the same time I was bettering myself, walking a bit further along my own spiritual path to enlightenment.

It was easier, I'll admit, than making a resolution to write three hundred fifty words a day (the equivalent of a page). It required no coherence and very little forethought. The image and its meaning did the work for me, I just recorded my thoughts. And now? Now I make time for it in the mornings, even if I don't get to do a written entry, even if it means I'm a couple minutes late getting to the day job at ass o'clock.

The discipline is something I know about myself. The dedication, well, that is something I intend to apply to my writing this year. One page each evening, of fiction. It doesn't have to be the same project every day. It doesn't even have to be an existing project. Just a page a day, to let the waters flow, to stimulate that aspect of my brain, in a regular and predictable schedule.

[The rest of my ramblings, along with hi-res photos, under the cut.]

02 June 2015 0 comments

Those words lost in translation

I wanted to preface this impromptu discussion born of a stream of tweets churned out on my Twitter feed. This is not about inexperienced writers snubbing their noses at any sort of editorial effort on their work. This is about knowing the rules and knowing when to break them, and breaking them in a specific sort of way as an artistic technique. Let us not confuse the two, for we have all of us read unedited stories published on Smashwords or Lulu or Amazon that made our brains bleed with the urge to claw out our eyes. This is about the presence of prose poetry in fiction as a writing technique, and about how much of it is damaged or lost in translation through the course of the editorial stage of the publishing process.
Prose poetry is a recognized form of art, in that it is a recognized form of poetry. Sadly, it is not wholly recognized as a form of prose. Or at least, it is not recognized as a form of fiction prose.

I know that I am not alone in this. I also know that I am not the only one who struggles with how to maintain some kind of precarious balance between the details of the art and the polish demanded by the editorial process of the publishing industry. We don't want to be accused of being Anne Rice, too good for her editor, churning out chaff. We just want to be true to our artistic vision, and it sometimes goes beyond simple plot structure, character development, and setting descriptions. It's in the language. It's in every word. Just as the painter considers each brush stroke with deliberation and precision.

I have never been a writer to churn out shallow fluff. And by no measure do I write fiction to pay my bills. I have a shoddy day job that I tolerate that does that. I write because I have demons in my head, voices that argue with one another while I'm distracted, whisper their life story just loud enough to echo through the stillness in those quiet moments when I find a bit of peace.
It's the best way to describe the process, at any rate. It's the most accurate means of putting into words something that cannot be described. Like a painter who stares at a blank canvas until the painting reveals itself, layer upon layer. Like the Renaissance sculptor, who claimed, I seem to recall, that the marble had the statue in it already, he just set it free.

Though far from being a master in my chosen artistic medium let alone a genius beyond my time, I am an artist all the same. And in that regard much of the process, and the struggles, translate. Including the censors. While the constraints imposed on me hardly compared to Michelangelo and his turbulent professional relationship with the Holy Roman Catholic Church, there are days when I can sympathize with what he, as an artist, experienced on a psychological level.

It's not that I made Lucifer too alluring.
But all the same, there are times when I found myself struggling with what was lost in translation from original draft to the final product that ends up in the reader's hands.
I'm reminded of a reader who once mentioned, perhaps flippantly or in passing, that they would enjoy my writing so much more if it resembled more strongly the content of my blog. It happened early enough on that I frowned, filed it away, and forgot about it.

Polished writing has its place. For some writers, or some stories, it is in the polishing that their story and the style of its telling truly come to shine.
Yet not every story is a diamond waiting to be cut just so to enhance its luster and depth. Some stories are most evocative when their writing is left raw, when the imagery and poetry of the writer's words and language and cadence remains unmarred.

When I began my foray into published writing, I had no clear defining labels for my style or technique. I just wrote the words, let the characters talk to the reader through my fingers, and worried about the rest of it...well, never, to be honest. Or so I thought.
The struggle I experienced through the editorial process was real. Very real. Excruciatingly. It resembled a ritual disembowelling. With every editorial restructuring of a sentence, through the course of every sentence in a paragraph, the tone and flavor of my prose shifted. And with every shift the artist in me screamed and flailed and struggled against the straightjacket, helpless and confined, terrified at the prospect of the impending lobotomy.

And it was all because I didn't understand, except on a visceral level, the value of my prose and the weight of my style. It was all because I trusted that polish held the most value. It was such a battle, though, because one cannot transform etched dinosaur bone into precious gemstones no matter how much elbow grease one applies. Instead of refining the prose, all that happened was the raw edges got worn away, smoothed over, the teeth blunted, the claws formed down into an immaculate manicure.

As anyone who's read my writing knows, that's not a quality of my prose. That is not me. I cut my nails to the quick to keep from gnawing on them, I chew the callouses from the sides of my thumbs. I have the hands of an excavator, unearthing those bones inch by inch to engrave my story in scrollwork and slashing runes.

I appreciate the learning experience that the editorial process provides. I have grown and matured as a writer thanks in some part to that. My style has not changed, but I have learned to hone that style, to sharpen my technique. Deep down, though, I question whether my true art has suffered to some degree as a result. I am still reteaching myself to trust my instincts, my intuition. After all, it's not paranoia if your suspicions prove true, is it? I try to stay true to honesty and seek the truth, always, but how does one identify truth if there is no definition, no label?

I had a reader recently inquire about the original unedited version of Black's story. They were curious to see how much had altered and what impact those alterations would have on the language and delivery of the story. Black's story has a strong voice and unique style to it, and the stream of conscious technique is inherently prose poetry. It was written to be raw, slightly disordered, misdirecting and even misleading in its meandering journey from front cover to back. It is, as a piece of art, not so much the destination but the vibrant quality of the path the reader walks, the evocative experience of each moment, saturating the reader and oftentimes submerging them.

It is no wonder then that some readers expressed feeling claustrophobic, closed in, constrained. And at the time, I still didn't get it, I still didn't understand. It didn't click. Looking back I wonder if they felt that way in part because that sector of the audience didn't connect with the artistic delivery, or was it in fact that the artistic delivery was incomplete or flawed as a direct result of the editorial process?

It has taken me a few years to come back around to a state of mind where I can approach that work of art again without the residual negativity overwhelming me. The prospect of revisiting it when the contract expires at the end of this year actually incites a spark of interest, fueled by these tidbits, these puzzle pieces, that are finally sliding into place. There are so many of them. The artist in me sobs, grief-stricken, as the shards of shattered marble and dust settle against my upturned palms.

I cannot undo what is done. But I can make it anew. I can make it what it wanted to be. I can forge it into what it should have been all along.

And I find myself wondering how many of us as writers and artists turn to self-publishing for this reason. To hold true to ourselves, to hold true to our artistic vision, to keep the teeth long and pointed, the claws edged razor sharp, to retain that raw edge. Sure, it might draw the reader's blood here and there, but damn it they'll feel the pain and their pulse quickens and they feel alive. Their blood stains the bone alongside mine, though. They aren't the first, they won't be the last. But the experience, oh the experience, if it's raw enough they'll keep coming back for more. Just like I do. My muses know it, and they laugh at me, and then fight over who gets to whisper their story next.
08 February 2015 1 comments

Walking a crooked mile

American Crow mobbing Red-tailed Hawk.
Source: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_crow/id
While driving yesterday, I saw three large crows circling above a winter-bare tree. They took turns dive-bombing at a dark shape in the branches. They were persistent, calculating, and energetic. Thankfully traffic was sparse enough to let me slow down a good bit as I got closer.

That dark shape was a red-tailed hawk. It didn't seem terribly disturbed by the mobbing crows, but then, even bare the branches kept them from getting too close so it's possible they'd treed it out of the sky.
This time of year, with no nests or juveniles to protect, it's rather curious to see crows being hostile. Defending hunting territorial lines, perhaps. Or did the hawk steal their roadkill, maybe?
Or they were just being the intellectual assholes that's earned them notoriety in the avian world. All equally possible.
Strange omens. It hasn't been that rough a winter, really.

The message of the ravens-- paying attention to what I've learned, owning and truly embracing the knowledge, is a challenge for me at times. Embracing my strengths, and my weaknesses, and trusting what I know and what I am -- those things are difficult as a writer. I struggle a great deal, unable to just let the muses flow. My own struggle frustrates me. It's a bit of a vicious circle.

It reminds me of a video I saw, a time lapse of a dam being dismantled and the land reclaimed to the river, setting the water free. It was a slow, arduous process over years, redirecting and reshaping the land, removing the buildup of sediment that had accumulated in the original riverbed.

Tearing down the obstacles and obstructions in one's psyche isn't swiftly achieved. It has to be done over and over again, I've found, a retraining of psychological self-speak habits that have formed ruts.

The hawk represents the perspective often lost when one's focus become too deeply engaged. A caution to step back, remember the big picture, let the mind escape from the worry and anxiety.

The crows harassing the hawk... I've spent a great deal of effort as of late trying to hold true to those aspects of awareness and knowledge I've gleaned, trying to find ways to incorporate them into my life more fully. Creating broader grooves, new tracks through the woods.
Taking a break to enjoy the refreshing breeze against my skin (figurative, since wind chill factor is a thing, this time of year) and reinvigorate myself, renew and ground my energy, is probably the best reminder I've had for a while. Can't always be pushing, pushing, pushing. Gotta relax and recharge somewhere along the way, regain that perspective, remember what you're doing it for, what it's really all about, what the end goal is.

There's as many paths from point A to point B as there are people in the world.

It fascinates me, all the possible permutations that exist.
It's also quite enlightening to observe the expansion and evolution of my writerly abilities over time.
Scrivener is such a crutch when it comes to outlining; it's something I loathe doing unless I'm writing an academic research paper of some kind. Which, you know, tell me to write a thesis and I will absolutely crank out an outline. It's just an association thing, after so many years of higher education, I guess. I have this delineation between creative writing and academic writing, and though it sounds like an excuse, it's also a delineation between left and right brain engagement as well. Too much order stifles my creativity -- and turns my prose into post-grad level rambling that would have most readers of fictitious escapism throwing their Kindles against the wall.

So. No bulleted outlines, by all the gods old and new. NOPE.
Before recently, though, I'd not dared attempting to toss timelines out the window and write non-linearly. The thought of jumping around writing scenes out of order had me in a panic trying to imagine keeping track of what happened when, who knew what, etc. My brain? Doesn't care enough to keep up with things on good days, let alone over the course of however many months it takes to write a novel.
Scrivener to the rescue, it turns out. Using a loose structure of scenes nested in chapters, I've developed enough comfort with "outlining" that I can do the jumping around, and write what the muses throw at me, without losing track of what's planned for where, and who's done what.
Good thing, too, because Konaton seriously wanted some blood today. That's makes three times now that blood has a role in the story, all so neatly fleshed out you'd think I planned it that way. HA.
Fucking muses, I swear.

That puts Red's story over 50k. That scene doesn't quite wrap up the ending, but it comes close. There's still a good bit to flesh out in between a well, but at least now Konaton's given me a solid picture of what he's capable of doing, as well as what he's willing to do. Having that character awareness definitely helps.
12 December 2014 0 comments

Failure is not an option.

Okay, so I didn't reach that 50k goal.
But November was far from a loss.
Red's story is sitting just past the halfway point. I have a solid framework of where it's going and how it's getting there. I just need to find the energy and inspiration to write it. And...that's not a thing that will happen this month. My momentum dies every year around this time. It's inevitable.
I'm planning to reach the fin for her story during the month of January. It was one of the projects on my "To Write" list for 2014. Or was that 2013. I don't recall. I've been sitting on it so long, if it had been plant life we'd be dealing with diamonds right about now.

Actually, I think that particular analogy is best allocated to my old trunk novel, DC. Whose first volume has been lurking in a shadowy corner of my psyche for the past year, draft completed and just...waiting.
For the time to be right. And soon, I think.

First, though, I want to finish with Red's story. And I have another step I want to take first, too. I don't want that epic series, with my enormous investment of time and emotion, blood and sweat and tears, to be my first foray into self-pubbing. So.

I'm going to self-pub a reinvention of Blood & Peyote. I think the story the boys originally tried to show me deserves to be seen, because it's the way it should be told. It's not a story that many publishers would seriously consider, what with the multicultural mysticism I plan to build upon, the graphic violence which will only get expanded upon, and the religious and spiritual drug use that deserves more space and proper justice.

So, yes, the story of Apisi Howling, Chartreuse Beaudrou, and their squad, will be in the very least a novella if not a full-length novel, and will mark my first foray into self-publishing.

As a writer, I enjoy taking the reader outside their comfort zones. And sometimes, so deeply inside them that their zone flips inside out much like a sea cucumber expelling its intestines.
Red's story, for instance, will revisit the first person present tense style of Blacker Than Black, a POV style so deep that its confining blindness disturbed and turned off some readers. It's quite fun, as a writer, to find ways of encouraging the audience to consciously acknowledge their discomfort, the shifts of perspective and perception that maybe open their eyes to something else beyond the art itself. I'll admit that I don't have visibility to the moments of self awareness that follow days or months later, but I hold out hope they occur.

Granted, Red's story engages a slightly looser POV, as the narrator is more actively focused outward than inward. The narrator is a wholly different sort of character than Black was, and that difference shows in myriad ways. Including their perceptions of Red and Blue, Black and Garthelle, their collective and individual presumptions and expectations. I'm having fun with it, but it's certainly not an easy story to write.

Not that Api and Char's story was easy to write. Or that the expansion of it will in any way be easier. War is ugly; a dirty, nasty burden that soldiers step forward and volunteer to carry on our behalf. The moral injuries inflicted upon them through the course of their service, however, are not a burden they should carry alone. As the curator of soldierporn.tumblr.com, a blog that focuses exclusively on military personnel, their experiences, ethos, sentiments, and plights, I remain firmly dedicated to the belief that we, the civilian population, have both a duty and a responsibility to listen to the stories and experiences of those that wage war at the behest of politicians we vote into office. Their moral injuries are ours to bear.

So when I write of military personnel, when I forge characters from the recesses of my mind and fashion them into a story, I'm incorporating intricate, tiny facets of every veteran I've met or spoken with. I'm incorporating shadows of the stories they've told, the experiences they've shared, the wounds they carry still. The combat medic who carried the spinal column from the driver of a VBIED through a field in Afghanistan, in search of the rest of the man's body [X]. The vet who mourns the loss of the brother in arms with whom he was closest, who died in a mortar attack while waiting to return stateside from Afghanistan [X] [X] [X]. The medic who remembers the names of every brother he worked on who didn't survive [X]. The Medal of Honor recipient who denies the label of hero and abhors any public recognition, the death of his comrades too high a price to pay, still too raw a wound to tolerate poking by random strangers [X] [X] [X]. The Marine who knelt in the dirt with his battle buddy as he took his last breaths, unable to say "I love you" to his boyfriend because DADT hadn't yet been repealed. The painfully fake cheer in the last words of a veteran, recorded on a voicemail to his brother in arms, before he committed suicide [X]. (This is just a small cross section. Check out the full archive of soldier stories I've collected over the years.)

I abhor the medical term of PTSD. It has birthed a stigma, a faulty and darkly tinted lens through which all combat veteran military personnel are viewed, this Rambo Fallacy that every last one of them is a time bomb with a broken fuse that can detonate at any moment. There is nothing wrong with them, there is nothing broken that can be fixed. An expensive cocktail of prescription drugs certainly won't do the deed.
They are different people, the chemistry of their brains has changed. They have Survivor's Syndrome, and they must get to know themselves all over again. Their sensitivities and tolerances are altered. Their personalities have changed. They have moral injuries from which it is impossible to heal or recover fully. They must each, following their own path, learn to live with the demons that have followed them home, deeply embedded shards of the battlefield in their psyche.

There is nothing glamorous in war, or warfare. Fetishizing the uniform in pornography and mainstream music culture is bad enough; portraying combat veterans as abusive, violent, damaged or unstable is outright harmful to everyone. The truth of the matter is that the in-depth training that accompanies military service guides personnel in setting aside the shackles of civilized humanity. When they return to civilian life, they are not retrained quite so exhaustively, or at all in fact, in how to once again regain that constrained mindset.

While being a soldier is in fact a job, military service demands an oath of sacrifice the likes of which no other form of employment demands. "To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same." The part about following the orders of the President and the officers placed over them, as in keeping with the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, is tacked on after this important piece of the oath; like a hierarchy of ethos, in order of precedence.

Granted, there are other sheepdogs that stand between the sheep and the shadows that walk the night. None other walk the night to make it safe the way the military does, however. No others return home in pieces as often, physically or mentally or otherwise; no others sacrifice so much.

And so it is my passion and duty as an artist to portray with authenticity and realism the military aspect of the characters I create. I swear to pull no punches. I swear to let the reader feel the full brunt of moral injury to the best of my ability. I swear to you, the readers, that in no story I write will the uniform worn be presented as little more than a prop. You will have a glimpse of reality as best I can fashion it. And the blood and grit may get on your tongue; you might even choke on it. But in the end it's artistic portrayal. Unlike the soldier whose combat boots still carry the dark stains from the dead and dying, you'll have no reminders when you finish reading and walk away.
15 November 2014 0 comments

Behold, my monster stumbles forth into the light, squinting.

Today marks the halfway point for NanoWrimo.

Bringing Red's story to life has not been an easy journey thus far, nor is the path likely to become more forgiving in the weeks to come.
I've felt more like Frankenstein than a parent. Fashioning from the death, despair, and destruction a miracle of science, not some fresh gift of nature to be molded and formed like wet clay.

Largely this is because the first portion of Red's story has lurked in the back of my mind like a ghost limb in the years since Blacker Than Black came to fruition. She was there, loitering in the shadows, sharp gaze following every shift of inspiration, the ebb and flow of creative energies. Waiting for her time to come.

And in the end, she isn't the one telling her story. The task of narrator falls to someone else. She approves of this in ways I cannot begin to describe. For her, it feels like a relief. The pressure has shifted. The performance anxiety no longer exists. She can breathe, and be, and someone else can worry about whether or not every thought is presented properly, concisely, coherently. So often, hers are not. She has thought sequences that few could track, let alone keep pace. The complication of her internal debate over what she is, and is not, and what she permits to define her, trickle out in pieces as she acknowledges and comes to terms with them, instead of dumping into the reader's lap all at once.

Last weekend the words flowed effortlessly. For the past week, every sentence has resembled a monumental struggle. Her story is roughly a third of the way done. It is the meat, the middle, that is creating the greatest difficulty, this time around. I already know how it ends. Pieces of it are already written. Getting her there, getting the rest of them there... well, some days it resembles herding cats with a feather duster.

I recall writing every sentence three times before I was satisfied, while in the throes of Black's story. There's less of that, now. But all the same, it seems to demand the same amount of effort.

I'll get her to the end eventually. Her, and Konaton with her, the meaning of family once again redefined.
04 October 2014 0 comments

Old projects, fresh blood

Literal and figurative, mind.
The past couple weeks have been rife with research, exploring and developing writing tools.
Resurrecting old projects, that sat incomplete and untouched for too long, is a large contributor.

Foremost on my mind lately has been Red's story, the sequel (of sorts) to Blacker Than Black. Many of the dangling threads from the end of that tale have provided anchors and, if you will, belay lines, for the skeleton of what Red's story will become. It's been almost three years since I touched that 150k word tome. And I'm going to have to reread it because I never did finish fleshing out the timeline and character references as I intended.
Red's character is very easy to slip into. It's the plot that, as usual, will offer the greatest obstacles for me. I lean heavily toward character-driven stories. But there's means, motive, and opportunity floating around like flotsam and jetsam and it needs addressed. And also, nothing in the lives of Black, Red, or Blue is in any way simple or straightforward.

I'd been poking at the WIP with no name for much of September, but the impetus and drive died and sputtered out. I can't figure out why, so I shoved it to the back burner until I have the tools to do some more thorough in-depth exploration of characters and motivations. The timeline for that one is all but (vaguely) set, but that whole "unhappy ending holy shitballs," aspect that I've known was there all along, finally caught up with and depressed me.

Also how do I even market or sell something like that unless I've got the sequel all but finished when I do. So there's that, and that's a damn enormous load of (largely emotional) work. So Red's story seemed like a saving grace in comparison, despite the fact that I have been Avoiding It Like Ebola for quite some time now.

Face what you fear and write straight at it, huh? Well. It might seem strange, but my two greatest fears are (1) success, and (2) failure.
I'm just fucked either way.
So I may as well write the damned thing. And finish it. Here's me gritting my teeth and slogging back into it.