Friday, December 10, 2004

Tough love

Kicked "Carrion Comfort" out of the house. It's on its way to Dark Energy. Fingers crossed. Next up is a major rethink/rewrite on "Bare Trees". The conflict is just not getting through. Just have to remind myself: Relax, Breathe, Write. Let the story tell itself, then polish it up.

WITB work will resume Monday.

Gettin' Modern

Getting my RSS feed set up (icon on the sidebar, check out the cool animated link on My Home Page). Found a PHP module that looks decent; I'm thinking about putting up a page with recent headlines from various blogs, sites, etc.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Finished again

Finished "Carrion Comfort" for the third time. I think I nailed it this time. 3634 words. Net gain of 334 today. 8 potential markets lined up. First on the list is Dark Energy Speculative Fiction. I'll try to get it out tonight or tomorrow night. I have to get it out the door, else I'll pick and pick and pick at it and never be quite satisfied. At some point, I have to say it's done and ship it.

One of my biggest problems is just staying out of the way. I have a tendency to try to bend a story into what I think it should be. That never works. I either get blocked or wind up with something really bad and trash it. I know not to do this, but it's hard to let go and just let the story tell itself. With "Carrion Comfort", I wound up twice with the endings I wanted grafted onto the story, and they didn't work. This time, I was able to let the ending flow from the internal logic of the story and the mind of the Main Character. By doing that, I lifted it from a good story to a Damned Good Story. I feel good about its chances in the world.

Can I handle that much torque?

I'm mulling over the idea of opening another blog that I can use to write up my thoughts on my daily Meditation Card. I draw a card each morning from whichever one of my Tarot decks calls to me and think about the message it gives me. I have Rider-Waite, Legend: the Arthurian Tarot, The Mythic Tarot, and the Faery Wicca Tarot. All are beautifully drawn and carry different symbol sets. Usually, I use Rider-Waite, but sometimes others beg me to look. A blog might be a good way to warm up in the mornings. I'll sleep on it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Maddened and saddened by Mundanity

Read the Mundane Manifesto this morning (saw the link on Silent Bounce, Holly got it from Paperback Writer, word travels fast these days). I find myself both maddened and saddened by this document. It appears to be perfectly serious; I think I would recognize irony or satire if any were present.

Why am I mad? This is the Voice of Stagnation. This is the voice that cried "Man was not meant to fly". This is the voice that cried "Here be Monsters" and forbade sailors to venture beyond sight of shore. This is the voice that, at the end of the 19th Century declared that "All that there is to know is known".

Stagnation is death for our species. Impossible dreams are one of very few things that distinguish us from the other animal species on this planet. Where would humankind be if no one had dared to dream of killing a lion, instead of being their prey? How much poorer would we be if no one had dared to dream of raising a pyramid unlike any before or since to honor their Pharaoh? How sad it would be if no one had dared to dream of using hand tools and human hands to build a great cathedral in the city of Chartres to the glory of Almighty God?

Did we not dare the impossible, we would still live in trees as snack food for larger and more powerful animals. Stagnation is not an option; it is not in our natures. Humans have always and will always look up and wonder, see a problem and solve it, imagine the impossible and make it so. It's who we are.

The Voice of Stagnation seeks to smother our spirits. It seeks to strangle our dreams.

Why am I sad? My heart is heavy today. Despair has claimed more victims. Fear has triumphed yet again, and humans cower in the mud, not daring to raise their eyes or open their ears. They fear to see anything new or to think anything remotely dangerous. They seek comfort in the known and dare not step away from the fire. They fear the unknown, the uncomfortable, and something in them dies.

I know this fear. I have lived with it every day of my life. It almost killed me. I know how hard it is to raise your eyes from the ground and how easy to lie down and just give up. So why am I still alive today? Why didn't I go ahead and kill myself and just be done with all the pain and struggle?

Through the love of my wife, my family, and my friends, and with the aid of a very good psychiatrist, I discovered that I could have courage. Even me, the poster child for fear, the epitome of weakness and despair. I could have courage. All I had to do was want it.

Courage is really not hard. Not the normal, everyday courage to live a meaningful life, that is. I found courage in simple things. Every morning, I would lie in bed and make myself a promise. Every morning, I promised myself: "I will not die this day". I will not lie, that promise did not give me the strength to face the world every day. Many days I was unable to do anything but lie back in the recliner with my dog in my lap (God Bless him!), and stare tearfully at the TV. But I kept my promise, I did not die. Courage.

Courage means putting one foot in front of the other. It means living one day after another. It means looking up from the ground and seeing the world. Courage means making up your mind that you will not die this day. After that, things get a lot easier.

So I pray for the Mundanes. I pray that they can find the courage to lift their eyes from the mud, to see the green of the trees, the blue of the sky, to feel the warm touch of a summer breeze, to hear the sound of an infant's toothless giggle. What impossibilities these are! What glorious beauty! Whose dream was this?

I ask those of the Mundanes who dare, and any others who may wish to, to have the courage to dream, to stand with me today and take up arms against Stagnation and Despair, and to say:

No! I will not let you smother my spirit!
No! I will not let you shatter my dreams!
No! I will not die this day!

That concludes today's incoherent rant.

Onward to more mundane affairs :)

1872 words on Washed in the Blood today. 4072 for the week! Not too shabby. Had 2 new characters pop up today. One was expected (Bob Sperling, an Investigator for the Sheriff's Department), but one was not. She is Polly's best friend (as yet unnamed, maybe Beth). She came in because of a turn the story took this morning that raises the tension and creates more opportunities for the near future. I have to go back and develop her some in earlier scenes, so she doesn't just appear out of thin air.

I may have to put WITB aside for now and work on other projects until Monday. Bob discovered Maggie's body today. It was really bad. Really, really bad. I've never mutilated anyone like that before, and I am disturbed that I could do it at all, especially to a character that I love as much as Maggie.

It can be hard to remember that these are not "real" people, sometimes, especially when the words are flowing and Derek and the Dominos is on the CD player ("Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?" Eric Clapton and Duane Allman in the same studio, awesome!) and the world just goes away. Those are the moments I live for; they are times that make all the work and frustration worth while. Those are the payoffs for having the courage to dream. Uh-oh, don't get me started again. :)

Finished Writing the Breakout Novel this afternoon. I have scheduled a more careful re-reading (with a highlighter) for January. In the meantime, it's on to the Workbook. Cover me, I'm going in!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A really good day!

It's great when these happen. 2200 words on WITB. A new record! Now at 14995 total. Yeehaw! If I could do this every day, I could finish the first draft sometime in January. That won't be possible, though (pout). Just have to keep moving forward.

In today's work, Polly discovers that her parents have not picked up their mail or newpapers since Saturday (it's Monday now). Both their cars are in their usual spots, but their is no sign of life at the house. After dark, John bursts into her house raving incoherently and covered in dried blood. In the course of their interaction, she cuts her hand, and he attacks her. He catches himself in time and bolts into the woods. After running up the mountain, he stops to indulge in grief and horror and begins to ask the most dangerous question ever asked: Why?

In the next scene, Maggie's body will be discovered by the police in her own bed (that's not where the main event occurred). John is immediately blamed, given the above circumstances.

Reading WTBN has started the wheels turning faster and faster. "Raising the stakes" and "tension on every page" has pushed my plot further toward the disturbing. An outline revision is upcoming. I forsee the disappearance of a 5-year-old girl (Polly's daughter, John's granddaughter) in the near future. That is also laid at John's door. Break out the torches and pitchforks!

An FBI agent with some experience in "strange" deaths shows up shortly thereafter. He and Thomas know each other by reputation and begin their dangerous dance with Polly in the middle. He also causes the usual jurisdictional friction with the local PD. John? He's too busy just trying to stay alive right now.

Ah, my mind is such a deep and Devilish cess-pool of horrors! Sometimes I scare myself.

Haints and apparitions

Saw Holly's pictures of orbs on Silent Bounce. Many people say they're just dust, reflections, lens defects, etc. They may be right about most of them, but that doesn't really explain videos I have seen of orbs flying around a "haunted" area. I'm probably more inclined than most to believe things like this since the night I spent in the house my brother was living in many years ago. It was purported to be haunted. I'm willing to say that ghosts are real after sitting up all night in the living room with my two brother, my sister-in-law, and my nephew listening to the rocking chair by the French doors upstairs (there was nothing on that floor except dust) and the footsteps walking up and down the back stairs (complete with creaks from the risers). I never let darkness catch me in that house again.

Back to my reading. Let's see what new horrors I can bring to life. Heh, heh, heh.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Small progress

Rewrote the ending to "Carrion Comfort". Net gain -- 400 words. I'll let it rest until later in the week before doing a final edit. I'm considering resubmitting it to Wicked Hollow. They rejected it a couple of months ago with the comment that the ending didn't work. Otherwise they were very complimentary. I'll think on that.

Also rewrote "Done to Undeath" per Zette's suggestions and resubmitted it. Net gain of 200 words, there.

I have finished the first two section of Writing the Breakout Novel. They cover "Premise" and "Stakes". This is the book I have been looking for for years. Maass covers each topic succinctly yet thoroughly and gives examples to illustrate his points. He shows the what, why, how, and why of each aspect of a novel. Good stuff!

I now know not only how much work I have yet to do (I had only a suspicion, before), but how to go about doing it. With the insights, information, and ideas generated from this book and the exercise in the Workbook, I may not get my first draft done before the end of 2005. That's OK. I know now that when it's done, I'm going to have a bang-up novel.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I thought I was crazy, but the voices in my head disagree

I was thinking...damn, I hate when that happens! I was thinking about the last rejection letter I received. Only a writer can understand that "a good rejection letter" is not an oxymoron.

By the standards of polite society, all fiction writers are insane. We hear voices; we talk to people who aren't there, and THEY TALK BACK (!). We create whole worlds, even entire universes, out of nothing but imagination. We are delusional, hallucinatory, and out of touch with reality. Worse, we are contagious. We spread our disease to others through our words, and they inhabit our realities, at least for a little while. According to the "real" world, we are crazy.

In actuality, though, writers are the ones who really are in touch with reality. We see the things that others decide not to acknowledge. We use our words to puncture the bubbles, rip the veils, throw open the doors so that others may see. In the Bible, the oft-repeated warning is "He that hath ears, let him hear". Our warning to the world should be: "He that hath eyes, let him read". I say warning because there are often grave dangers in seeing the things that others deny, much less trumpeting them to the world at large. It takes a lot of nerve to point your finger and say "That man's nekkid!", and the repercussions can be hard.

"Be careful what you wish for..." So I want to be a professional? Am I sure I can pay the price? I have to. I have no alternative. My silence would be the silence of the grave.

So much to do, so few of me

Here I am looking at my paltry little to-do list, and Zette has the nerve to post her list just for the month of December at Forward Motion. She has more work lined up for this month than I could get done in 3 months. AND SHE'LL GET IT ALL DONE! Amazing.

My list looks something like this:

Work on Web site (on-going)
Work on marketing short stories (on-going)
2 stories ready to submit (swift kick in the pants to get this done)
7 stories and 1 essay awaiting revision
8 stories, 1 essay, and 1 novel in various stages of first-draft disarray

Setting priorities and goals is tough. I have a lot of balls to keep in the air at one time. My current (and extremely provisional) thoughts are: devote 1 day per week to Web development until I get a substantial amount of content and functionality going, a couple of months, possibly; short stories and essays are my strength right now and my best hope for getting my name in front of the right people while working on the novel -- 1 day for story development, 1/2 day for market research, 1000 new words and/or 1 complete revision per week; 1000 new words on Washed in the Blood each week. My "day" averages about 5 hours, and my usual average is around 400 words / hour, though I have done 1000 when I was on a real roll. I need to play with the math and scheduling a little bit

General priorities (subject to change without notice):

1. Short stories / essays (writing / revising)
2. Market research and submitting
3. Novel
4. Web site

Right now, the difference between first and fourth is a little less than a smidgen. I'm working on clarifying that, too.

Enough boring stuff

Santa Claus came to see me yesterday (I love payday!) and brought me my long-awaited copies of Writing the Breakout Novel and WTBN Workbook. I'll have something to do while the Falcons are getting their butts kicked in Tampa Bay. They've been playing far too well lately, so it's time for a let-down.