20 December 2010 0 comments

A few last words for the year.

Despite the fact that I'm an obsessive realist, I tend to focus (most of the time!) on the positive.
This has been a good year. A year of changes (thanks, Chinese Metal Tiger) that haven't quite ended just yet (another six weeks) that have all proven to be for the better despite the difficulties they present.  A year of challenges, to the way I think. The way I see myself.  And my writing.  A year of new relationships -- friends, acquaintances, both personal and professional. I feel as if this single year has been the condensed version of a decade. Other times it has felt like it couldn't possibly end soon enough.

I'm looking forward to the coming year (the Metal Rabbit), of peace and introspection as a time to engage more fully in my writing. There will be more to come. A lot more. This, this is just the beginning. I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me.

Beginning the first week of January (to be posted on the 7th) the next Muse in the series will be Black. Yes, the one that's been giving me ten kinds of hell for the past three months. That's the one. I look forward to introducing this particular muse, and hope you won't mind following me a little off the beaten path.  Because... I always take the road less traveled. The path of greater resistance. The probability of hardship is greater, but the experience is all the richer for it. And that, after all, is what makes life interesting.

In February, I'm going to celebrate my birthday by pulling out a muse from my oldest work. One that I've had in and out of the trunk for roughly twenty years. It's an epic fantasy that bleeds over into science fiction, and challenges the concept of magic versus technology. It seems to be slowly turning into the story of a woman, told by the men around her. Brother, father, comrade, mentor. The dynamic qualities of the myriad relationships in our lives, and the influence they have on our choices, our perspectives. Of course, that could all change completely and the story end up something entirely different. *eyeroll* Can you tell I have a love/hate relational dynamic going on here?

Starting in March, I'm aiming for introducing the muses from "Father of All Things", if all goes well. I have a few excerpts that didn't make it into the text, and the cast in the story is more than rich enough to keep us busy up until the book's release later in the summer.

Don't worry, I promise not to spoil the story for you. But I'll tease you, to no end...

And let you walk the journey with me.

I'll let you see inside my head, but it's rather messy in there.  So, no guarantees that any of it will make sense.

Enjoy the holidays, and hopefully they're full of peace and the joy of family. The comfort of home. However you might choose to define those terms.
Oh, and don't forget to go out and watch the winter solstice eclipse tomorrow night...
14 December 2010 1 comments

Meet the Muses: Interview: Konaton

Getting Konaton to sit down with me wasn't all that difficult. It was the conversation itself I found to be the most difficult. Not the most uncomfortable muse discussion I've had, by far, but short of a jackhammer and a pair of draft horses, I knew I wouldn't be getting anything more from him than he was feeling generous enough to give.

Konaton and generous are antonyms in the New World Dictionary. I'm now convinced of it.

Everything about him is dark, as he sits staring at me with a sullen expression from the opposite side of the living room. The hint of color covering his scalp in a shadow of fuzz. The circles smudged around his eyes. The complexion of his skin, too cafe au lait to pass for a tan, especially in the dead of winter.

I tap my pen against the notebook with its carefully worded list of questions. I knew from the inception this wouldn't be easy.  Konaton jiggles a leg, solid black cargo pants bloused military-style into black Goretex boots. He arches a brow at me expectantly, and folds his muscled arms across his chest. Not overly bulky, his physique. More that well-toned, dense musculature that comes from exercise.
Lots of it. Either that or he deliberately wears his black tees a size too small. Gauging by shoulder span, I'd say not.

"So you served in the military." Not a question. Just a starting point. He declined the offer of beverages ("I don't need stimulants, thanks.") and refreshments ("Not hungry.") at which point it became blatantly clear that getting him to open up would demand a crowbar.

"Yeah, you could call it that." He rubs a hand over the tight trace of hair on his scalp, roughly, like the fuzz serves as sandpaper against his callouses or something. The corner of his mouth twitches. "Ten years, or near enough."

"What branch?"

"All of 'em, at one point or another."

"Lovely. Throw me a bone here, would you?" At least his voice isn't some high-pitched squeak. Actually, he has a very soothing voice. A slight burr, but that just-this-side-of-bass pitch makes it pleasant.  "Where were you born?"


I'm learning quick with this one. "And your childhood? Where did you grow up?"

He grins, like the expression is a cookie for me.  Sadly, it's accurate. He has a very engaging smile.  Highly contagious. "Detroit."

"Siblings? Parents?"

"No. Yes." He cants his head a fraction. "Did you think I was cloned, or something?" He snorts, a derisive sound. "I told you where I was born. That fancy shit is for the rich. The merc companies."

There's a hint of an accent in his voice in those last couple sentences, one that wasn't there before. It's faint, though. "Oh, right. The ranks of the military are full of the clone types, then?"

"No," he drawls. "That tech is still too expensive to be employed in such a way. They still use the expendable population for that. Grunts are full of cybernetic upgrades though. Especially the jarheads. All gung-ho for that ultimate soldier crap. "

There's the accent again.  Heavier. Sounds almost like an inner-city slang, or multi-lingual patois influence. "Do you have any? Upgrades or implants?"

His jiggling leg stills, and his shoulders drop a fraction. It's not relaxation at all. More like he's gathering himself to jump up off the couch. "A couple. Necessity only. Can't be a soldier for a decade without accumulating a few injuries along the way." The accent is gone. Completely. As if it never existed. Every syllable perfectly enunciated.

"No, I imagine not. Unless you manage to get a desk jockey slot."

Konaton arches his brows and laughs, a soft chuckle. "Yeah."

"Was it lonely, growing up without siblings to play with?"

"I had other playmates, as a child. My father loved dogs. Said they were the best companions for a kid. There were always five or six of them living with us. They slept in my bed, played with me, watched over me. My first squad."

"Uh. Your first squad?"

His smile is a soft, secretive one this time. A loose expression borne of fond memories. "Yep. Dad was prior military. Made me count heads to make sure everyone was accounted for when he let them in from the yard."

"That old military adage, 'never leave a man behind'?"

"That would be the one. It stuck with me."

"I bet you were a good squad leader."

"My men thought so. They were the best I'd ever seen."

"Good leadership has that tendency, though, doesn't it? To bring out the best in people?"

Konaton shifts on the couch and chafes a hand down his thigh, stretches his legs out and crosses his ankles. He looks more comfortable now, like he's finally beginning to relax. "Yeah. There's a heavy weight of responsibility, but it's not much of a burden when you have a good, solid team like I did. I didn't have to tell them to watch each others' backs. They did it anyways, because they cared. We weren't just comrades serving together. I wasn't just their squad leader. We were the best of friends, for those years we served together. And I was a good leader only because I always brought them home."

He looks up at me, then his gaze slides past me and I know he isn't seeing my living room anymore. I sit in silence and watch him, the haunted, strained expression in his eyes, his face. And wait for him to continue at his own pace.

"Some implants come standard with the service commission. One of those is a synaptic communication chip. Lets squad members share information without speaking, even on a subvocal level. Much more efficient, secure. The technological application was still in its infancy when it was installed. My squad...we didn't have the filters and blocks that most of the military service makes use of now. The thing is, the implant can't be removed once it's in place. And it can't be deactivated either."

"So you're still able to communicate with your squad members? Is that what you're saying?"

"I think so. To some extent, at least. You learn to block it out, shut it off in your head, after a while. To filter it on your own. We all did, while we were together as a squad. I've made use of that a great deal since I resigned my service commission. I imagine they've all done the same. Sometimes I get vague impressions that leak through. And those barriers don't seem to stay in place while I'm sleeping. I guess they require constant conscious effort to maintain? Not sure."

"Do you have weird dreams sometimes, then? Talk to them in your sleep?"

He gives me a strange look and laughs. "Yeah, now and then. Psychological trauma from combat service tends to have a detrimental influence on a person's sleep cycles and quality."

"You don't sleep much."


"How do you know they're not just intensely lucid dream patterns? How do you know it's real?"

A sheepish grin appears on his face. "I'm a logical, rational individual. I'm willing to concede that it's entirely possible I've simply gone completely insane."

Gotta love this guy. "If you had, you would no longer be rational though. That's slightly counter-intuitive."

"In which case, I'm either correct and the communication link is still active, or I really am crazy."

"Which concludes absolutely nothing."

"Only way to know for sure is to ask one of them."

"Ask them if they hear you too?"

He shrugs. "Yeah. To consciously attempt to contact one of them. And see what happens."

"Have you tried that?"

"Not yet. But I've been giving it serious thought. I know they've all moved on, settled into their own lives or whatever, but some shit's been flying around my general vicinity. And I could use a few people I can trust to watch my back again."

"You'll have to let me know how that goes."

Konaton grips the edge of the couch and pushes to his feet in one fluid movement. "No worries. I'll give you all the gory details. I promise."

He doesn't look back as he leaves. I listen to the door slam on the porch, and smile. He could have left without making a sound, so I'm grateful he was considerate enough to let me hear him depart.
10 December 2010 1 comments

Take what you can get.

There are as many techniques for successful productivity as a writer, as many schools of thought on the subject, as there are writers out there.

Some writers insist that focusing on a single project, and devoting all your energies to it, is the best approach. The only approach to take. That dividing your energies between multiple projects lessens the quality of energies devoted to any one single writing project.

Although there is some measure of truth in this philosophy, I don't adhere to it at all. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a story is walk away from it, let it rest, give your mind another project to work on, so that you can work through whatever block you're struggling with—on a subconscious level.

The solution will come with time, when it's ready.

At which point, the story will return to the top of the to-do list, ready to cooperate fully.


Personally, I adhere to the school of belief that when a writer has "block", it's the mind's way of saying, "there's something fundamentally flawed in this story's structure, and as it stands the story cannot hope to resolve itself logically with any success."

It brings to mind a computer software program with a fatal error.

If, instead of hunting down and repairing the error, you instead create innumerable subroutines to alleviate the symptoms of the flaw, what you end up with is a Microsoft operating system. I mean, a mess. *ha*

One you can't hope to untangle. Not with any amount of effort or good intention.

So instead of pushing forward, slogging through to the culmination of a flawed plot, or flawed characters, you go back to the beginning and assess the assets on hand. Pros versus cons. Where can I shore up the positive attributes, strengthen and build on them? Identify the cancerous growths that undermine the resilience and vibrancy of the storytelling. Cut them out, without bias or regret or guilt.

And then rebuild, from the foundation up. Incorporating what remains into the new structure.

Optimally, one has a blueprint for the design. Otherwise…you end up right back where you started. Having a vision of what the end result should look like is great. Awesome. Building a blueprint puts it all down where you can see it. Where you can tweak the little details, and increase the quality of the end result. This is kind of like how an artist or painter will step back from their work every few minutes. Stand there and stare at the progress they've made. Identifying the places that aren't quite right. The points in the picture that don't reinforce the overall effect or impact.

It's why the old-school painters (Leonardo Da Vinci comes to mind here) had a hundred sketches of the painting, before they ever put brush to canvas.

Okay, maybe not a hundred.

But enough to refine the image, the overall impact, over the course of a series of sketches, before the end result took actual form. There's no room for error, when carving marble statues, for instance.

So…outlining a story naturally leads from this train of thought. It becomes a necessity to do so. Otherwise the artist expends energy needlessly, fruitlessly.

And I am so tired of wasting my writing energies. They manifest rather sparsely, as it is.

Yay. Plot outlines. K

Thrilling task.

Muses are going, "nooooo…I Don't Want To."

Time to break out the whip and start cracking it. I've been much too lenient and indulgent with them, obviously.

I mean, really. Vacationing in Bora Bora? While I freeze my ass off? Seriously. Way too indulgent. I want some sun too, damn it.

08 December 2010 0 comments

Meet the Muses: Origin: Konaton

I thought it might be best to start out slowly, with a character that isn't yet engaged in actively telling his story.
Not that I haven't tried, of course. Konaton is ... not the chatty sort. As you'll no doubt get to see firsthand.  That's next week.   The origins alone, the sheer span of time it has taken me to get him even this far out of his shell, totally boggles my mind.

I was trolling search engines, looking for names for secondary characters. Unique, but viable, spellings. I hate nonsense names, and I hate to arbitrarily just change the way something is spelled just for the sake of differentiation. Especially not without verifying any meaning or source it may have. There are so many cultures out there in the world, varied and rich, one tends to sometimes stumble upon unintentional meanings.

From the US Geological Survey, Geographic Dictionary of Alaska.
This name caught my eye, and immediately sparked a muse in my head. That photo in the Excerpt post is almost exactly how he manifested.  Lurking in the deepest shadows, barely visible; just a presence so strong it was almost tangible, palpable. It's rare that you meet people like that in real life, right? To have one suddenly in your head is... powerful. And disturbing.
I wanted to poke at him. "Hello, who the hell are you and where'd you come from?" 
No answer, of course.
Just this. Below is the original character sketch I drafted when "Konaton" first crossed paths with me and took up residence in the darkest reaches of my mind.

The name is South-Pacific Islander in origin. Rolls off the tongue nicely, with a combination of sharp consonants and round vowels.  He's someone who changes moods in the flash of an eye. A man who can smile at you one minute and stab you through the heart with your own fork the next. Not in the back; he does have honor after all.
 He's a "black irish".... No flaunting his temper in a head of red hair for all to see. This one, you don't see coming, like a Mack truck with no running lights plowing through an intersection. His eyes are the icy grey of a winter sky, offering no promise of warmth and not even the faintest hope of relief in sight. A Winter Solstice Dream.... the longest night, with only the dismal anticipation of brutally cold weather ahead. Though many cultures use this pagan observance as a reason to indulge in revelry and the celebration of light and life that the coming spring will bring, Konaton is the "Black Death" lurking in the shadows, leering. He is the wolf pack racing over the ice-crusted snow, hunger spurring their speed as they ambush their prey. He is the deadly chill that freezes the sap in the trees and shatters them with a sound like the volley of cannon-fire.
 Konaton is, understandably, a cynical pessimist. Not so much "gloom and doom, woe is me" as he is "yeah. sure. let me get right on that" while he keels back, kicks up his feet, and tosses down a shot of whiskey. One never knows if a task will hold his interest long enough for him to complete it or not. He lives for a challenge, but the best way to ensure he'll follow through -- is to engage his self-preservation instincts in the process. 
During the time that I was co-writing FOAT with Aleks, I went searching for a photo to serve as a visual representation of the character I was writing. I needed to "see" him. I found one -- but I also discovered the silhouetted figure of Konaton as well. I saw it, and knew in my gut it was someone. Was distracted with the current project, though, so I saved it to my computer. A few weeks later, he deigned to make the connection for me.

The excerpt wasn't written until early September, shortly after the co-write project reached resolution. I had the opportunity to chat with a few vets about PTSD, about the things it does to them. About their experiences, both before and after retirement from the armed forces. It's rare that they talk about such things. People don't understand what they've been through.  People don't understand what the military trained them to be. They just want to be left alone, not poked and prodded like lab rats.
One vet in particular told me of roosting outside his mother's house for months on end, because he wanted her to be safe. It was this instance that birthed the scene, that inspired it. Konaton spoke up, and showed me what it was like to do that sort of thing. The mindset that a former soldier would have, what would drive them to do it.

It's difficult for me to see where Konaton is trying to take me. What he'll show me next, or even the nature of the story he has to share. It's entirely possible that this is the predator to pit against another of his own ilk.
What a showdown that would make -- sniper versus vampire. Who's hunting who?
07 December 2010 1 comments

A little writing research

Toward the goal of delving into the facets of the soldier's psyche, I've been wanting to watch the film "Restrepo" for some time. Limited theater engagements meant waiting until the movie released to dvd. It was a long wait, but well worth it.

Ironic that, as with CSM Prosser's valiance being witnessed and recorded by embedded journalist Michael Yon in 2005, and subsequently recognized and rewarded, Giunta's actions were likewise witnessed and recorded.

The Sal Giunta Story from SebastianJunger/TimHetherington on Vimeo.

Giunta makes a very valid statement in this interview. "Fuck you," he says. Every soldier he's served with, he explains, deserves the recognition for their service that he's received.

I watched the movie, earlier today. Many poignant moments trapped on film, and no doubt I'll watch it many more times, to view them again and again. The movie isn't filled with graphic gun-fighting though. And that's not what I find valuable anyways. I watch their eyes, their facial expressions, in the moment, in the interview excerpts. Those moments when they stop talking, when you can see the memories playing out in their mind, and the emotion that goes with it.
The humanity in the soldier. That's what I strive to portray. I don't aim to glorify The Soldier in any way. To glorify the soldier is to glorify war, and there is no glory in war. No, I strive to glorify the humanity. To portray the moments of compassion, of passion. The softer aspects that are not lost in civilized society's ranks of the "expendable".

After all, isn't that what the definition of a soldier is? In the purely academic sense. I don't perceive them in such a manner at all, mind. But the accurate, authentic portrayal of one who is employed in such a role, must needs take into account this philosophy, this aspect, even if only for the purpose of turning it on its head and refuting it.

Because no life is truly expendable. The humanity is precious. And the spark of compassion, of intimacy and solidarity and cohesion, that is worth celebrating. It is the contrast, after a fashion, that holds the fascination. Life, in the face of death. Love, in the face of hatred. Compassion, in the face of rage. Intangible ideals may drive an individual to wage war, but in the end a soldier fights not for those, but to defend and protect the lives of his shield brothers, to guard their backs as they guard his. From that comes true valor.
05 December 2010 1 comments

A Plethora of Writer-Flail Analogies

I've the climactic scenes roughly outlined for the end of "Black".
It's not making the actual writing of the words any easier. I have this *waves hands* vague mental concept of what's going to happen.  The main antagonists are coming front and center to the stage for the first time in the story... at the end. I don't know if this technique will work at ALL.

Have you ever gone walking down a the line of a large television display? LED's have phenomenal contrast ratios. Beyond anything a standard LCD is capable of. And let's not even bother with standard Plasma. You look at the picture quality of one compared to the next. From 10k:1 contrast ratio, to 100k:1 in the LCD models. Big difference, right? The sharp image, the clarity. This is what the initial stages of writing is like. You get the detail, the greater focus. Yeah, this is great, it's beautiful. The quality of the colors excites the eye.

Then walk on down the line to the LED models, and the contrast against the LCD makes the latter look like you're watching mud or something. What's 10k or 100k when you've got 2 million or 4 million to one, right? Holy shit, you can see the flaws in the stage makeup. The zits they scrambled to hide. The flaws that come with age, the wrinkles and crow's feet.  Don't stand too close, though, because your eyes will start to hurt. Gives you a headache real fast. Trust me. I'm speaking from experience. Optimal viewing distance is at least ten feet. This is what editing is like. Can't bury yourself in the throes of writing each scene, and feeling the emotional tension. You have to start looking at the bigger picture, the overall slope of the the plot development.
Stand too close, and all you see is ugly. The beauty, the artistic impact, is completely lost.

Can't even describe what a 10 million to one contrast ratio is like.
But that's where I'm at. Two feet from a 47" LED screen with 10 million to one ratio. I'm seeing nothing but every little detail that is less than perfect.
And it's giving me a splitting headache.
Welcome to the Bookhate stage, in which the writer wishes to utterly obliterate their creation. In which all that was good, and beautiful, and awe-inspiring has been transformed into nightmarish proximity.

Need a breather. Need to take a few steps back. Bigger picture. The little flaws aren't that big a deal. Who cares if the character has a zit. It's the part they play, the impact of their performance. The emotion and passion their role evokes in the audience. Quit looking at the obvious signs of age in an actor portraying a character half their age.

Going to finish these last few scenes. Wrap it up, pull the threads together. And I'll worry about tightening it up after I walk away from it for a while. Come back with a fresh perspective, and make sure the design is the way I envisioned it in my head. Tweak the flaws to strengthen the impact.

And then tie the knots.

I really should stop with the analogies. Can't help it, though. It's how I work through the gunk and devise a way to tackle the obstacles that face me. It's the only logic I can wrap my head around.

I wonder what sunsets look like, if you're colorblind?...Hmm.
02 December 2010 1 comments

I Blame the Delay on Environmental Factors

Nah, I'm not talking about snow. The torrential rains and temporary 60-degree weather (that dropped 30 degrees by nightfall) was bad enough. I cannot think of any other reason why I spent the past two days feeling, in turn, restless and lethargic.

Trying to churn out 90 pages in two days is a monumental task, for me. Needless to say, it didn't happen. I did, however, manage to outline the remaining scenes for the plot. So I know what's going to happen now -- thank you, Black, for finally bothering to share that with me -- and all that remains is to flesh them out. And then maybe go back through and plug in a few scenes that got cut into other areas of the story. Because only two sex scenes? Damn that's sparse. No worries, that Steaming Couch Scene made the cut.

Although I may need to fluff one in at the end, because as things stand the story will end without Black's gender being much clearer than mud, really. I think.
Might need some beta feedback on that. It's entirely possible that I'm not giving the reader/audience enough credit. It's not really necessary to thwack the reader over the head with the finer points -- I forget that sometimes, when I'm in the throes of writing and plotting and trying to untwist the hopeless mess of a story into something that resembles coherency.

I'm planning on making a dent in the climactic scenes over the next couple days, but I doubt the ms will reach its conclusion before Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, when I've a couple days off to slam-dunk it.

So I'm a week behind schedule. *cringes* I really must learn to OUTLINE my stories in advance. Instead of waiting until I reach the point of "holy shit there's no way this is going to work" before I bother. Heh.

Must say, though, that my plot flailing was partially cured by a few suggestions from that Burn Notice article Aleks wrote.  Make things bad, then make them worse, and stir vigorously.  And make your antagonists competent. And make your protagonist work to overcome them.

What I like, though, is the hero who never succeeds singlehandedly. Theoretically he's capable of it, but in the end he owes at least partial credit for overcoming the obstacles to someone else. Not dependency so much as teamwork. Because few things in life are attained in solitary effort.

I mean, yeah this is a solo project -- but I haven't been doing it alone. Far from it...
01 December 2010 2 comments

Meet the Muses: Excerpt: Konaton.

The colors they see, I’ll never appreciate. Where I lost one sense, I gained another. The darkness others see, I’ve never known. And it’s made all the difference over the years.

Few snipers are forcibly decommissioned – like bullets, you don’t dismantle them. You put them in the rifle and pull the trigger. They’re tools, meant to be used. Expended. Nobody cares much about the empty shell that hits the ground, so long as the bullet’s on target. One shot, one kill.

The cool steel of the rifle feels alive beneath my touch. Not living and breathing, not like that. More like me. Chilled, dead and still inside. A corporeal manifestation of my soul, visible, tangible.

Strictly functional, stripped down to the fundamentals, to the core of its being. Flat, unpolished, giving no surface for even the faint light of moon, stars, or stray beam of streetlight to refract off of. No scope – don’t need one, not with my vision. Just gets in the way. Can put flying metal through the eye of a target in LOS without one.

I can feel the tension, the danger. It makes the hairs stand up on my skin. Everywhere. That sensation drives me out here to roost each night. To watch, and wait. I know that out here, I’m safe.

Never the same roost twice in a row. I’ve staked out a dozen spots, more, to use. Random selection each evening at dusk. Unpredictable is secure. Whomever it is out there watching me, I haven’t caught a glimpse of them. I feel their presence, their attention focusing where it shouldn’t. Beyond that, there’s been no sign. Nothing tangible or visible.

That lack isn’t enough to stop me from crouching in the vee of a tree, or stretching out prone beneath the dense cover of the honeysuckle bush along the edge of the property, where civilization meets the wilderness of untouched woodlands. Cool steel against the warm flesh of my forearm, finger resting flush against the trigger, waiting, watching.

I sleep with my eyes open.

Don’t remember how else to do it.
30 November 2010 0 comments

Yes, You Can Learn Something From Screenwriters.

A very interesting blog article written by my Rather Stellar Co-Writer, Aleks.

Discussing the finer points of plot development, tension, character flaws, and antagonists. Not saying every screenwriter gets it right; daytime soap operas are evidence of that, clearly. But when one gets it right like the writers of Burn Notice do, it's a slam dunk.

And, ultimately, that's what I aspire to write. Don't know about the majority of professional writers out there, but I'm not willing to let go of a story until it's everything it is capable of being. Everything it should be. Which is why the trunk novel still sits collecting dust in the trunk. *lol*

But Aleks tells me I'm not allowed to nab a copy of the series and start watching it just yet.  Because then I'll disappear from the internets for a few weeks and that's just not acceptable.
And of course, I agree with that.  Really need to get Black finished. Can't do that if I'm vegging on the couch watching episode after episode...

Another Editing Update...

...what I hope is the last for this ms, to be honest.

Black is coming along. It's the homestretch, and I've still a lot of work to do.
295 of 363 pages. 97.4k word count.
That's with a total of 43 pages of content cut, so far. Most of that will be recovered in the rewriting of scenes, the reordering and reworking of the plot climax and resolution.
I can see where it's going, I just can't see how smoothly its going to get there. The picture lacks the clarity of detail -- but it likely will until I get to the scenes and work through them one by one.
Some of the smexxing is gone. I don't mourn the loss, but all the sudden this book is more intrigue and thriller than "hawt manluv" ... which doesn't surprise me, because I think that's what it was intended to be all along. Black's relationship with Garthelle isn't the main plot thread. It's secondary, and it's finally coming out that way.
I suck at the "when all else fails, make the characters have sex" band-aide. I don't do it well. I need plot in my stories, or the energy level is unsustainable. I just hope it's a better, more engaging story this way...
23 November 2010 2 comments

Editing Journey Update... & Snippet.

I set myself a deadline to have the "Black" manuscript edited/revised completely by the beginning of December. So that I can focus on some other projects floating around in the ether.

The current state of the ms sits at 278 of 401 pages, with a 106.5k-word count. This last section has a few sections in need of heavy revision and/or rewrite, in order to pull the story together properly.

Day job and general funk working against me, but I've a few mornings and two full days off in which to tackle this story and beat the antagonists into submission. And thus far the rewrites have come along nicely... or so I think.

And so... to wrap up the pre-Turkey Day editing frenzy, I've a snippet to share. This scene made it through the edits with only a few tweaks, mostly because I just like it too much the way it stands:

“Don’t you feel it?”  He whispers, mouth hovering just a fraction from mine.  “Please, tell me you feel it.”  The words come out rushed, almost hoarse.  As if he’s going to start begging in a moment if I dare deny it.
My skin tingles despite the layers of clothing that separate us.  His arousal rests heavily against my groin, eliciting an almost instantaneous response from me.  Quick enough to make me lightheaded.  I open my mouth to say something, anything, but all I manage to do is gasp.
His lips brush feather-light against mine.
“Not here,” I manage to force out finally, my frantic brain slipping gears for what seems an eternity before something snags and catches.
Garthelle’s mouth hovers close, every puff of breath mixing with mine.  He smells of scotch.  I want to taste it.  But not here.  Gaia please, not in the middle of the hallway with how many lyche lurking everywhere.  His gaze slams back into mine, yellow eyes half glazed with energy-driven lust.
Oh hell, who am I kidding?  The only thing I care about at this moment, the only thought registering in my brain, is the fervent hope that he does more than dry-hump me this time.
“Not here,” I repeat.  And stare at his mouth.  I want to kiss him.  Badly.  I tear my gaze away from his lips and look him in the eyes.  “I want you completely naked this time.”
Garthelle blinks.  Either I made something snap irreparably, or forced his brain to reengage.  He smiles, lips curling by slow increments.  I never realized how much pleasure could be found in witnessing the birth of a truly authentic expression.  It takes all the breath from my chest.
“Ditto,” he murmurs, grabbing my hand.  He turns and heads off down the corridor again.  He’s not running, but it’s a close thing.  And I think if anyone, or anything, interrupts or tries to thwart him—well.  It definitely won’t be pretty.

I am Artist, Hear Me Wangst.

Not really. Promise. It just sounded catchy. And grabbing the reader's attention is what it's all about, right?

Of course, I'm just now starting my second cup of coffee so anything I write can be construed as, and likely is, lacking any inherent value. My brain is rarely in gear before Cup Number Three.

Writer's block.
One of those things that everyone who writes either mentions or whines about or even uses as an excuse or avoidance tactic at one point or another. Hell, I've certainly encountered it enough times over the years. This isn't a psych eval though, and I'm not your shrink. =)

Lack of ideas. Lack of emotional engagement in the story content. Lack of direction. Lack of motivation, intrinsic or otherwise.

In each case, the issue revolves around the surge of energy. Artistic energy. Creative energy. It's a resource that ebbs and flows like the tides of the ocean. Endless, but the presence at any given point in the process of writing is not constant.

There are ways to trigger a resurgence, but the techniques vary as widely as the artists who employ them. Every writer is unique in their execution, their methods.

For me, it's music.

I've found it to be one of the best methods for finding a source of energy. And it's endlessly fascinating that art can feed art. One medium providing the trigger for a flood in another medium. With the right song, or the right genre, I can tap into the emotional psyche of a given character with relative ease.

Finding the right one for a character is largely a process of trial and error. Not every muse likes the same music; I can't channel a streetwalker with the same energy source as I do a soldier.

When I'm working on fleshing out a new character, I spend a lot of time trolling through the music collection. Skimming, skipping around, moving from one genre and/or artist to the next, until something snags. And then determine why. Is it the lyrics, the harmony, the mixture of instruments?

Narrowing it down leads to the playlists. A series of songs that evoke imagery, emotion, and energy associated with a specific muse or scene. Once that association exists, the playlist never fails to trigger a flood of inspiration and motivation to write when its lacking.

Yes, here there be playlists. And dragons. But that's later. Much later.

Have a pleasant holiday, everyone... I'll be back at the beginning of the month with the first post in the "Meet the Muse" series. See you then!
19 November 2010 2 comments

Does this make it official, then?

Been waiting for roughly ten days to hear back from the publisher regarding deal sheet.
Waiting rather impatiently, I might add.

Then again, I don't have patience for my own tendency to procrastinate. So...

Deal sheet came today, though. Yay! Giddiness all over again. I spent the past week in a dreamlike limbo, the mindset of "You were imagining things, Rhi! You dreamed it, vividly. It wasn't real."  It was impetus to keep me working on other projects. Keep me writing, editing. Keep that giddiness momentum going, ride it as long as possible. Yes, I know. That logic has a distinct rational flaw. It's okay. It worked. That's all that matters.

Deal sheet, though!

Haha, take that you devious psyche.  The vivid dreams are never the ones I remember. If I'm lucky.

I stumbled over a few of the details in the deal sheet, though. Found myself reconsidering the prospect of locating an agent. I'm not going to do it right this moment; the contract details weren't negotiable, so it's not really a necessity. But when one lacks the familiarity with standard publishing protocol, and legal jargon, it's stressful. Even in small amounts.

And now I have to once again go off to my day job. Please, Goddess, let there be no more confusion about the unavailability of blank ink.

Introducing the "Meet The Muses" series

Readers always ask where the characters come from. The inspiration, the source, the process... how does one get from intangible fog-bank of concepts, ideas, to the person who comes to life with a few words on the page.  The truly fascinating characters I read -- I share that obsession. How did that one get birthed, anyways?

Toward that end, I thought I would begin a once-monthly series of posts. Each one highlighting a specific muse or character. Introduce them. Try to, when possible, explain how it was they came into existence.  For each muse, there will be three once-weekly posts. The first will include a short excerpt of prose to introduce the character to the audience.  The second will consist of an explanation of how they came to be. And the third week will involve an active interview sequence with the muse.

I do agree with the sentiment that art in its truest form shouldn't be over-analyzed, but instead appreciated for the depth and richness of its beauty. Writing is, without a doubt, a form of art. So I will refrain from picking anything to pieces. Only that which is flawed is truly beautiful, right? Perfection is not only unattainable, but ... boring.  The intent and focus here will be to simply relive the process of birth, the facets and/or phases that each one progressed through to become what they are.  The source(s) of inspiration, be it a song, an acquaintance, a news story, a picture, a dream. Whatever.

I think I can surprise you with the number of muses hiding in my head, waiting to tell their stories. Look for the initial series post on the 1st of December. 
18 November 2010 2 comments

"I need a blank ink cartridge."

Good morning, world.
I'm sitting here with my Sumatran Blend and my additive-free nicotine, pondering the philosophical implications of "blank" ink. And working up the intestinal fortitude and determination to tackle a few chapters of Black today.

Elderly gentleman with silver hair comes up to me yesterday evening, with a small crumbled piece of paper ripped from a larger sheet. It has some writing scrawled in barely legible penmanship.

"Hi there, can you help me? I need an ink cartridge for an Epson printer."

I walk him to the printer aisle, where the replacement cartridges are arrayed on the shelf.  He tells me the number jotted on the paper, and I point out the correct replacements.  "Did you need a black or color cartridge?" I ask.

"Oh, this says blank ink cartridge. You don't carry blank ink?"

"I'm sorry, sir, the printers only use black or color ink. I've never heard of blank ink. What does one use that for? Secret encrypted document printing? Photos of the invisible man?" I couldn't help myself. The parameters of stupid exceeded the capacity of my brain.

He looks at the shelf, and glances at me.  "You really don't carry blank ink?" He pulls a cell phone from his pocket. "I should probably call and double check."

Wow. Really? Okay, you do that. Here's your sign. I'm going to go back over here and try to regain a semblance of sanity and intelligence while you call and verify that what you actually need to purchase is BLACK INK.

Yep, that's pretty much my day job. Woohoo. I really must get a few more sales under my belt and devise a way to... escape. There are times when I feel like I'm locked in Alcratraz. There's no way out that won't kill you. But like a wolf with his foot caught in a trap... desperation leads to amazing feats of survival. Like chewing through one's leg.

Dreamspinner has a few anthologies planned for release next year. None of my current muses will deign to lower their noses sufficiently to work on a short <12k piece, so I'm busy devising an appropriate soldier character for the task.

The general consensus amongst the muses? Laughter. The eldest of them seems to be the spokesperson, for whatever reason. Seniority amongst muses? Strange, that.

"Oiy. You really think you can write that story and keep it under 12k?"

"Yep.  Gonna try, anyways."

"Good luck with that. Remember what happened last time?"

"Yes. Black happened. How could I forget."

"Precisely."  Much snickering in the background, shuffling, the barking complaints and grunts that result from elbows in the ribs and jockeying for space. "Don't you think there's enough of us in here already?"

"Thought you troupe took off to Bora Bora for the winter already. Why are you here harassing me about this, anyways?"

"...Well, because obviously someone needs to be the voice of reason here."

"Right. And you were elected to fill that slot by democratic vote?"

"Watch it. I'm older than you."

"No, you're not. I invented you when I was fourteen, I'll always be older than you. So there. Now run back to your beach hut on the water and soak up some sun before I decide to put you to work."

Now he's looking like a belligerent child.  "Right. Like that'll happen. You haven't so much as glanced my way in... what is it now, five years?"

"Three. You're a guy. Where's your logical detachment?"

He straightens a fraction, rolling his shoulders back. As if additional height gives him greater clout. "It's useless against the whims of a female."

"Well. That explains much." I toss him a can of Tootsie Rolls and the rest of the muses descend on him in excitement, a pack of starving dogs on a chunk of meat.

Black edits are the sole agenda for today. The few remaining household chores will not be employed as procrastination devices. Nope, not today. Today, I am the Editor.
16 November 2010 1 comments

The language is leaving me

I have every intention of completing edits/rewrites to "Black" by the end of the month. It's just going to require a bit of pep-talk. That guy from the Adam Sandler movies comes to mind: "Yoooo can doooooo eet!" Yeah.

While I still hold a distilled essence of that renewed vigor -- I did it once, I can do it again, dammit -- I've reached that point where I'm getting sick of looking at it. It sucks. All of it sucks, and I should just scrap the whole damned thing and be done with it. Start over from scratch with a fresh and invigorating idea and --

Right about here is where I tell myself to shut the fuck up and get my sorry ass back to editing. Whining about it doesn't get it finished. There are other projects out there, other stories that want written, need told.  This one comes first, though. I refuse to give up on it. I have that -- what would one call it, precisely?  Bulldog mentality. I don't give up even when I know I probably should. I don't fight and flail. No drama here. (Nope. That there wasn't drama. I don't whine. Nope.) I just sink my teeth in and hang on for all I'm worth.

I'm acutely aware that this is just... part of the process, another facet of a story's development. The "IT'S SHIT. SRSLY." stage. Also known as "OMG WTF am I writing?!" Just have to work my way through it anyways, and believe the perspective will prove wrong when I finally reach the other side. The words and images are still coming to me, but I've been slaving over this on and off for so long, that the language is beginning to feel stale, the colors are fading, the lines blurring.  It's losing its polish. I struggle to hold the original vision firmly and clearly in my mind's eye.

(I am NOT whining, lol.)

Back to editing, for me.

[12:15 p.m. ETA: Thus far today I have: gotten a haircut; started the laundry; taken a short nap. Words written? 0. Writing Machine has not even been turned on yet.]
15 November 2010 1 comments

Necessity is the Mother of Invention, or so it's said.

Or, a day in the life of a writer. The mundane little things that make the larger picture actually come together.

My day began about two hours ago. Sitting here in my Writer Corner (it's horridly cluttered, no I won't take a picture of it right now, maybe some other time) with my cup of joe, poking around the internets. Just the daily wake-up routine to get the brain out of neutral before I get started.

And the Wee Racy Red (my Aspire One, the procrastination tool) starts having keyboard spasms. I know I'm hitting the space bar. It's just not registering. *eyeroll* This is what comes of multi-tasking. Technology and crumbs do not make a good combination, as most people are aware.

I happen to know for a fact that the local superstore retailer doesn't carry keyboard protectors of any kind. Not for standard desktop keyboards, let alone laptop skins. They're a relatively cheap product, only cost a couple bucks. But no! I would either have to drive to ... god knows where ... or order it online. For $2.50. Wonder how much the shipping would cost. Likely more than the product. Uhhh, NO.

Screw that. Winter's almost here, and I've been working on weatherproofing the windows. So what do I have handy? Clear plastic and two-sided tape. Uh huh. That works. Laptop keyboard is now sealed. It's a couple years old already, and thus far it hasn't given me any major problems. Last thing I want is to start having issues with the buttons. Do not want to have to fork out funds to replace the music machine, slave to the 150 Gig iTunes library. So a few minutes of meticulous customizing of tape lengths and widths, and my multi-tasking issues are moot.

And there is a single piece of Blue Heeler hair entombed within, white against the black keys... *lol* but that's okay. Nor is it the heavier, durable plastic that the marketed laptop skins are made from, but that's okay also. I don't chicken-peck my keyboard with pointy objects. That thickness isn't necessary.

Now I'm eyeballing my ergonomically shaped desktop keyboard, wondering how well the same alternative solution would work on it. It's relatively new (the keyboard, not the Writing Machine) and hasn't been subjected to the same multi-tasking residue issues. We'll see. My computers are my lifeblood. Without them I would have crippled hands from all the longhand writing. Pen callouses, paper cuts, ink stains... never mind the editing and "typo" frustrations that would drive me quickly past the point of insanity.  Technology offers improved tools of the trade. Yeah they're toys... but I make them work for a living also.
11 November 2010 3 comments

Luring the monster from the dark.

After completing the zero draft of FOAT back in September, my co-writer and I spent approximately one week doing a round of edits. I hate editing. I have this compulsive obsession, this love/hate relationship, with editing. It takes conscious effort to restrain myself from performing the task indefinitely. Perfection is unattainable; that doesn't deter me from striving for it.

Being the co-writer with decidedly less experience in the publishing industry (i.e. none, thus far) I deferred to his suggestions for submission location. He sent it off around the 15th of September. Imagine my shock when I opened my email on November 9th to discover an email from the editor at Carina Press, offering a publishing contract for FOAT with a tentative release date of August 2011.

There were a few moments of response lag, during which I stared at the words on the screen, reread the ones compiled into such key phrasing. And then I screamed. Really, really loud.

Let me just clarify, here. I do not *squee* -- I do not possess the psyche capable of such a feat. I scream. And flail. And scream. There were generous amounts of both occurring. I stared at the email. Reread it. I think I screamed again. Then I started laughing. And yelled, "I DID IT."

Well, I didn't do it. Aleks and I did. It was a team effort. The most profitable ventures, the most valuable creations, come about as a result not of an individual striving in solitude toward a goal but of two or more joining their abilities and talents, their strengths, toward attaining it. Synergy.

I see it not unlike the draft pulls at the local farm show each January. Pure horsepower measured by a dynamometer. A pair of heavy draft horses, harnessed together, hooked to a sled holding more weight than either would be capable of displacing singlehandedly. It's a breathtaking display of teamwork, and it gives one a renewed appreciation of how much is involved in creating a team. You can't just lash two random equines together on the yoke without inviting, or even encouraging, disaster. They must compliment one another, be able to pull with equal vigor -- at least one, if not both, must be experienced enough to know he shouldn't out-pull his yoke mate.

Twenty years ago, I elected to take the path less traveled. I spent many years disguising my efforts. There were times, many of them, when I was self-conscious or even ashamed of what I wrote -- or the fact that I did so at all. Things happen when they're supposed to. This first has been a long time coming. I have every intention of feeding this invigorating sensation, this renewed energy, into another creation. And hopefully birthing many more firsts as a result.

Aleks, I'd say you've created a monster, but I think it's safe to say I've been one all along. You just lured me out of the cave and into the light of day. And for that, I cannot thank you enough.
08 September 2010 1 comments

FOAT, zero draft.

Sergei Stolkov and Andrew "Mike" Villanova officially have their story.

Just shy of 95k, the zero draft is complete.
I'd have to troll back through the annals of my LJ to see just how long it's actually taken.  Less than three months, I think. Given the length, I think that's ... astounding, personally.

Okay, fine. Mind-boggling. Especially given that it has a complete plot arc. w00t. That's the real feat, from my perspective. It is, in every way, a complete book. The ends aren't all tied up neatly, or anything, but... given the serious consideration to an additional novel, a companion, it's not strictly necessary.  And as far as the two main characters are concerned, the story is done.  Which is, really, all that matters.

So now... back to slaving on the Black edits. Fixing the plot, largely. I have one month to do it. That is my self-imposed deadline.
23 August 2010 1 comments

New muse? Noooo...

In the throes of first-pass editing on one project and a co-write on another. Yet all it takes is a generalized comment to birth a new one.

Some people walk through their lives as if they aren't there. Just... existing, and nothing more.

My sister made a similar comment some years ago, when she was in her early twenties. Something to the effect that life felt like a dream, and her dreams felt more vivid than waking life did.  As if she led an entirely separate existence, and this reality was, in actuality, the dream.

An extraneous muse character, who's been lurking in the shadows of my mind for close to a year without making a single effort to grab my attention, sat up and took notice of these mental threads.

"This," says Konaton, "is the direction my story will lead you."
While I'm in the midst of a tandem-write. Yes, thanks Konaton. *pats head* Go back to sleep now. Please. I'll wake you when September ends. And you can gear up for NanoWrimo.

Never mind that Bruce Willis did a very strange sci-fi movie recently that incorporated this general concept... wherein everyone seemed to ride a surrogate body as opposed to using their own. As if the notion of Avatar wasn't similar enough.
But, no... Konaton's story, when I get around to telling it, is likely going to be a good bit darker.
Or... at least much more twisted, at any rate.
And it's at this juncture that Greigar, the genetically-enhanced psychotic assassin chimes in with, "oh, I wanna piece of this action too, Rhi."

Go back to that pretty beach in Bora-Bora for another couple months.  Soak up the sun, enjoy the heat.
Because space is damned cold. And I'm not gonna crank the heat for you two bastards when you start complaining about freezing your nuts off. Nope.