Saturday, March 05, 2005

Wicked Women

Thanks, Debra! It was the other Judith, the one in the Apocrypha. I've loved that story for a long time. Isn't that what always happens when a guy keeps his brain in his pants? :)

I'm still kind of leaning towards Deborah. She was a bad-ass, too. She was Israel's only woman Judge and kicked the Canaanites' butts at Kishon and sent Sisera running for Mommy. Unfortunately, he stopped in at Heber's house, and Heber's wife Jael nailed his head to the ground while he was asleep. Them Israelite women didn't play.

The plot thickens

Maggie and Thomas have met before, though she may not realize it. Their previous relationship is intimately tied up with the reason for Thomas's enduring and consuming hatred for John. There may even be some fogginess surrounding Polly/Deborah's parentage. Although Thomas could not be her father, there may be other people involved. This could get good.

Why can't Thomas be Polly/Deborah's father? As an undead creature, his sperm is not viable. The ultimate in safe sex, since he also cannot contract or carry human diseases.

Food for thought: some strange things happen back in the deep coves and hollers. Some of the people way back in the woods have been inbreeding for generations, and some of them are more than a little bit crazy. Remember Deliverance? Magic lives back there, too. Witches, ghosts, and strange powers abound in the heart of the primeval forests.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A Random Walk

Today's topic is anything and everything, randomized for your protection. This has been a bad headache day, and I haven't gotten much done except thinking. I did manage to get the WIP page updated. I'm thinking about throwing together a Gantt chart to give me a visual indicator of progress. That will help keep me out of the Slough of Despond.

First on the list is a big "Amen!" for Holly's comment in one of today's posts on Silent Bounce:

"...there is nothing in life better than having people who love you."

Truer words have never been spoken. Thank you, Holly for reminding us of the important things.

Maggie comes through

After yesterday's peek into the underside of Maggie's brain, down where the slimy things live, I realized that I now have an entry point into the story. This has been a problem since I first started thinking about this novel. I have been writing in strictly chronological order, which leades to a deadly slow beginning. Now I know where to start. The new beginning means lopping off the Prologue (which now becomes backstory for Michael to use in trying to convince Polly of Thomas's true nature) and Chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 1 may crop up as the new Chapter 2-- that's still in the air. All of this means that I will lose about 1/3 of my existing words. That's OK. A lot of them will be recycled in a different form somewhere along the way. That is good progress.

Raising the Stakes

Maass talks about "raising the stakes" for your characters a lot. I see his point.

How high can the stakes go? What is the single thing your character is most ashamed of? What is the one thing that she will fight to the last extremity to avoid exposing? What is the one thing that would ruin her life?

Maggie has told me about hers, but what about John and Polly? Their turns on the stand will come soon enough. Hmmmm. What about Thomas? That could make things very interesting.

Speaking of Thomas, his motives still remain cloudy to me. I need clarification. Whay is he doing these horrible things? And why to these particular people? There must be something in John's past that has provoked Thomas, but I can't see what it is. It would have to be something powerful. Strange things live in the mountains, and primal powers still flow freely there. We'll see.

Name change

Polly has to assume a new identity. I don't remember where "Polly" came from in the first place, but it's just wrong. John and Maggie would have drawn their daughter's name either from the Bible or from an ancestor. I come down on the side of the Bible. Some possibilities include:

Madeleine (from Magdalen)

Maybe Ruth, given Polly's history. I wish I could remember the name of the woman who cut off the invading king's head with his own sword. More research.

I guess I've done my part to promote global warming for now.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Stupid Human Tricks

A friend of ours just got caught embezzling. This is one of the nicest people you would ever know and intelligent. This person worked up the ladder to a position of responsibility and has never received less than the best evaluations. Why? To pay the light bill. I'm not going into specifics about the Stupid Marital Tricks that brought this on. I just want to use this situation as a springboard for thinking about character development.

No matter how good one of your characters is, they will never take on a real personality until you discover their tragic flaw(s). We all have them; it's the nature of humans to be imperfect. The most Holy Saint that ever lived had something they never showed the rest of the world, something slimy, possibly even evil, that they dare not admit to, even to themselves.

And that gives me a clumsy segue into the epiphany I had this afternoon about one of my characters. Maggie has always been a favorite of mine. She has always been squeaky-clean and an absolute paragon of virtue, somewhat of a Virgin Mary figure. I found out today that she is more akin to Mary Magdalene or maybe Guinevere. She does have a flaw, and it's a big one. As a matter of fact, this is the trigger that sets off the chain of events that leads to her death and John's conversion.

See, the problem is that Maggie, too, is human. She is still relatively young (early 40's) and as healthy as a horse. John is gone a lot. For long periods. He is also intensely devoted to his work. Maggie gets lonely and feels ignored. She also has hormones and instincts to deal with. Up to this point, she has been able to get along through having a rich fantasy life and masturbation. Being a non-liberated, non-enlightened woman, she is consumed with secret shame about this, but rationalizes it by telling herself that it's better than actually having a sexual encounter with another man.

Enter Thomas, a vampire posing as a psychologist doing research on ministers who wants to interview and study John, who is unfortunately out of town and won't be back for another 3 weeks. He is devilishly handsome and this somewhat hypnotic way of talking.

I don't know what to do,
and I'm always in the dark.
I'm living in a powder keg
and giving off sparks.
--Jim Steinman "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

The slide to Hell is greased with human failings. God help us, for sometimes we cannot help ourselves.

The Plan

Thanks for the encouragement, Debra! In my admittedly biased opinion, I think I have an excellent idea going. One of my biggest hangups the past few years has been the idea that I can't do justice to it. The more I write and the more I learn the craft, the more confident I have become. I think I'm ready now, but there's still that voice way down deep that keeps saying: "You only have one chance at this. If you blow it, you'll be a complete failure and the laughingstock of the world. Who do you think you are, anyway?"

It catches me off-guard sometimes and throws me into a funk, and I have to climb back up into the light. I hope it will shut up one day. In the meantime, I argue with it sometimes, but mostly try to ignore it and concentrate on realities. I am a good writer and getting better. I am, I am, I am! :o

I did get some work done on The Plan today, which I'll post to the Web site tomorrow. The feeling that I'm getting organized is really helping keep my optimism up, and assigning actual dates to the steps along the way and committing to them publicly helps as well. Instead of being an amorphous lump of goo that grows by the hour, this is turning into a doable project with a timeline. Mo' better.

Rant. Definitely not PC. Turn back now while you still can!!!

The Ten Commandments issue raises its ugly head again. To me, this one is a real no-brainer. The First Amendment not only gives me and every other American citizen the right to practice our religions, it also gives me the right to be free of other people's religions. "But this country was founded on..." Bullshit! "In God we trust" is not the founding principle of the United States of America. This country was founded on the idea of individual freedom.

No one has the right to force their religion on me. If we post the Ten Commendments in our public buildings and town squares, will we also give equal time to Hindus, Buddhists, and Moslems? What about Satanists? Pagans? Wiccans? Yeah, That's what I thought. What about the rights of agnostics, atheists, and the undecided? Are they also second-class citizens who have no right to express their views or enjoy their freedoms?

Tolerance and respect are major parts of the foundations of civilized societies. I exercise tolerance and respect for other people's beliefs, even when I don't agree with them. Even when they are downright offensive to me. We all have the right and the freedom to choose our own paths to Hell or Salvation. To all those who will not extend me the same courtesy, I say: "Keep your mind on your own business and your nose out of mine."

Can't we all just get a lawn?

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Laughing all the way

"Real Monsters" is now up at The Harrow. My second paid publication. I could get used to this.

Thanks, Debra, for the kind words. As I said in a previous post, there are parts of it I really want to change. It's like an unscratchable itch. Oh well, "Your sins will find you out", as they say. Does that urge to edit just one more time ever stop?

A novel approach

I've been thinking for a long time about applying some business planning practices to novel writing. The parallels between writing a novel and a business project are apparent, at least to me. Toward that end, I am applying business planning to Washed in the Blood. The steps I forsee are:

  • Writing a Mission Statement for the novel so I can keep my focus on the Big Picture stuff.
  • Writing a Strategic Plan which lays out the major steps I need to take.
  • Breaking the Strategic Plan down into specific goals.
  • Developing an Action Plan for each goal specifying the steps to accomplish that goal and the schedule.
I began this morning by writing the Mission Statement and a beginning on the Strategic Plan. Now I begin work on breaking this thing down into manageable chunks. I will keep the WIP page on my Web site updated with progress, as well as reporting significant milestones here.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Apparently, I dare not

Fell one short of the January-February 2005 Short Story Rewrite Dare (Apprentice Level) at Forward Motion. The goal was 4 stories of at least 1000 words each rewritten and submitted by midnight tonight. I actually submitted 5, but one was a turn-around with no editing -- "Real Monsters", which will appear on The Harrow Real Soon Now (maybe tomorrow) -- and the other was a flash -- "In the Hands of an Angry God", 400-something words submitted to Vestal Review-- so they don't count. The ones that do count are:

  • "A Time for Every Purpose" (Fantasy) submitted to Quantum Muse 2/2/2005
  • "Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet" (Horror or Dark Fantasy) submitted to Cemetery Dance 2/28/2005
  • "Carrion Comfort" (Dark Mainstream or Literary) submitted to The Chattahoochee Review 2/28/2005
On the other hand, I'm ahead of the game on my submission goal for 2005. I set a goal of 1 per month finished and submitted, and I have 4 so far. Yay, me!

I'm going to skip the next Dare and work on Washed in the Blood for a while.

Herb magic

Set out some more herbs today:

Sweet Marjoram
Greek Oregano
Bee Balm
Lemon Balm
and for the youngest of the family: Catnip (as if she weren't psychotic already :/ )

My bok choi is all bolting to seed, it's a bust, but the broccoli is really taking off. 4 more weeks, and I can set out tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers.

Magic day

Grey, chilly, steady drizzle all day. The kind of day that drives the cold into my bones. The only thing that will warm me up is a cup of tea or hot cocoa (sugar-free, of course) by the fireplace with a cat on my chest and a dog on my feet. What's not to like?

This kind of weather puts me into a sort of contemplative melancholy mood. A lot of story ideas come out of that.

Cleaning up

Went upstairs yesterday and started sorting through books. I have too many. No I don't! Yes I do! Do not! Do too! Y'all just shut up and let me work! :)

There is no such thing as too many books, actually, but I have to make space for future purchases, so the torn-up ones go in the ... in the ... in the trash. You'll just have to imagine the screams of agony. Volumes that have been read too many times, except for a very few, and the ones that I don't think I will ever get to go into boxes for the public library's annual book sale.

An unfortunate side effect of this project is that my To Be Read list has ballooned to elephantine proportions. I came across a lot of things I had completely forgotten I had. First on that list (and already started) is Mythologies by W. B. Yeats. This is a compilation of stories from his various collections of Irish folk tales and legends. Fascinating.