The Tarnished Ring

It came in the night, sneaking into my mail box like a virus trying to convince me it was really a cute video of a dolphin–and since I know dolphins are all a bunch of thrill-kill rapists, I won’t ever look at that mail . . . but I had to look at this one.

It was a message from Harper Voyager.

I knew what it was going to say the moment I saw it in my inbox.  There was nothing in the title that made me believe I was going to find a pot of gold inside.  So rather than play the guessing game, I opened it–and within was the rejection.  They’d read my novel, or at least looked it over, and decided it didn’t feel right for the Harper Voyager list, so thank you for the submission, and wish you well on your career.

As I told the two people I know the best right after I received this good news, I’d expected this.  Forty-five thousand manuscripts shows up in the HY inbox, and they were choosing a dozen, or perhaps a little more, so the odds of getting that brass ring were incredibly high.  I didn’t get it, so the world has come to an end–right?

The hell with that noise.

George Clooney is quoted as saying, “The only failure is not to try,” and that’s all the truth you need to know.  I wrote, I edited, I polished, and I sent the damn thing in.  It came back with a big “X” on the sucker, but it was marked.  The try was there, and Yoda can eat a flaming bag of cat poop for all I care, because o say you either do it or don’t is bullshit.  You have to go for it, to take a chance, and if you don’t, then nothing was accomplished.  You ain’t gonna win every time, and it does no good to bitch about how hard it is to, you know, write these damn things, and then clean them up and send them out.

So, the story is still mine; I don’t have to worry about an editor going, “Okay, there’s way too much lesbian stuff going on in this story, can you do something about that?” and throwing out an answer along the lines of, “I’m thinking orgy.”  No, it’s up to me to decide where Her Demonic Majesty is going, so I should start with the deciding, right?

What’s next then?  First comes the ebook formatting.  Then comes the cover–one that, I hope, does not land me on Bad Romances Tumblr, home of Objectified Scotsman Thursdays!  This means I want something that doesn’t suck, got it?  Once that’s all done, then up to Smashwords to take it place alongside the forced dragon breeding porn, then over to Amazon and get it uploaded for the Kindle.  Then promote, and do the interview things on different blogs, then I don’t know what, followed by profit!

Really, though:  that’s the plan.  Finish Suggestive Amusements, then get Her Demonic Majesty ready for self publication.  After that’s finished, then get Replacements ready for self publication as well, because why not have two stories up and ready to go?  And then . . .

You only win if you try.

Love in the Shrunken Universe

Since getting into the development of Elektra’s life within Chapter Thirteen of Suggestive Amusements, I feel like I’m learning more about the state of New Mexico than I’d ever imagined I would.  When I put her together I created her home town on the fly, making her a Southwest Desert Girl from the go, so living in Las Vegas wasn’t going to be a huge climate change for her.

Culturally, though, I’ve got her growing in ways I wouldn’t imagine the rest of us would ever experience.  Then again, we don’t live in novels.  Or do we?

It seemed to take hours to write my eleven hundred words last night, mostly because I not only did my research, but I was doing my nails, too.  Hey, nothing wrong with a little base coat drying as you type away, right?  But for an hour or so I did a lot of set up, and then, when I was down to the last six hundred words, I imagined her visiting these different areas of the state, and before you knew it I had her hooking up with . . . Izzy.

Don’t laugh, but that’s her nickname for another person in her past who led her onto the Road of Kink.  Believe it or not, I took the name from a character that grew up in New Mexico, and I even mention that other character by name.  (I don’t need to tell any of you who it is, because I have very bright readers.)  So she and Elektra met, get to know each other, have dinner, get to know each other better, and before you know it, they’re meeting on a regular basis.

That’s how good relationships should begin.  Find your interests, get to know each other, and eventually end up on a side road near Roswell laying on the hood of a Jeep, staring up at the sky and holding hands while looking for UFOs.  That was how I left Elektra and Izzy last night, thinking it was a good place to jump out and gather my thoughts–and get ready for bed–because I needed the time to see where I’m taking this . . .

If you asked, “Straight into the gutter?” you’d likely be correct.

I like this chapter, and I like what I’m doing with Elektra.  All this, “What I did before I met you” stuff is giving her dimensionality, it’s turning her into a real–albeit kinky–person.  This is what we, as writers, strive to do with every character:  we want them fleshed out so when they turn sideways to us, we don’t watch them vanish.  Sometimes a writer doesn’t care if their character is two-dimensional, because the story is driving the character, not the other way around, but for this story, I’d like the characters to have a bit of thickness to them.

The question I have now is:  does Elektra think about some of the experiences she had with Izzy, and do I get into the fantasies she never got to experience with her?  I know the answer to both side, so it’s a no-brainer for me.  I believe the second part of that question should be shown in Chapter Fourteen, because that’s what we’re always being told:  “Show, don’t tell.”

Okay, I’ll do that.  I wouldn’t want to upset any writing instructors . . .

Desert Rose and Points West

It’s a strange thing, having to meet with someone on a video link when you’re a couple of hundred miles apart–and the stuff on your end isn’t completely up to snuff and you have to scramble to get your connection working.  It wasn’t important, really:  just me talking to my therapist, whom I was paying for the honor of the chat.  So if I have to bail because my side isn’t connecting right, I get my money back–right?

Fortunately, I fixed things quickly, so there was no need to cry about losing my fifty minutes of chatting.  It was a good chat, too, and I figured out a few things that I need to work on for the next month.

We didn’t chat about my writing, but I’m sure that’s going to come.

I only managed seven hundred and sixty words–of which I blame my therapist, but probably have to blame that I was doing some looking on Google Maps as well, because as I dug into Chapter Thirteen, and began looking at Elektra’s reasons for leaving her home in New Mexico and moving to the wildness of Las Vegas, it became pretty apparent that she grew tired of living the small-time life in the middle of nowhere.

Now, in all honesty, the city of Alamogordo–Elektra’s home–isn’t a small town:  it’s a small city.  It’s suppose to be a great little place–the city motto is “The Friendliest Place on Earth”–but I can imagine the place being a pain in the butt for someone looking to do other things, who’ve had their mind expanded by college in the big city of Albuquerque, and can’t wait to move on to better things.  Or maybe they just want to get away from the goddamn giant ants that pop up now and then . . .

I imagined her taking a job to get away from home, even if it took her to another little shit burg further in the middle of nowhere.  Although that’s not quite correct, because in her new home Elektra is close to two interstate highways, and those lead to better places:  Socorro and Albuquerque to the north, El Paso to the south, and Tucson to the west.  I imagined her having an old college buddy living in Tucson, and she headed out there for a weekend jaunt, spent time looking around, getting a feel for the city, and even visited the remains of an old mining town left decaying in the middle of the Arizona wilderness.

It may not sound like a good time to you, but it opens Elektra’s eyes just a little wider.

Building on a character’s life as you write is a fun thing to do, because you’re taking a blank slate and you start scribbling upon it with washable markers.  Nothing is permanent yet, and it’s possible to go back and change things once I start the first edit.  Though why would I do that?  I’ve got her living her life this way now, and if I change her past, then I make her a completely different character–

If I do that, I can’t write what’s coming next, can I?

Gearing Up For the Strange

I am not one of those people who believe thirteen is a evil, horror-ridden number that will bring nothing but misery and pain whenever it crosses our path.  Friday the Thirteenth does nothing for me, though I’ve had some interesting things happen on this day.  I’ve been on thirteenth floors in China and never had a problem, mostly because over there you’ll never find a fourth floor, and your biggest fear is worrying about a dragon looking over your shoulder.

This is why I’m starting the thirteenth chapter of my novel, and I give not a single shit that things will go wrong.  I don’t expect something bad to come above because I’m hanging with the One and Three.  No, this is going to be like every other Chapter Thirteen I’ve ever written–

Let me back that last line up:  this won’t be like every other Chapter Thirteen.  It’s going to be a little . . . different.

This is the part of the story where Elektra–the girlfriend, and she knows it–is wondering what Keith is going to do next.  She knows he’s writing, but she’s also wondering what he’s going to do as far as paying the bill are concerned.  When she starts going down this path–the Writer and Their Money Route–this is where she wonders just how much input she’s going to have–

Because if there’s one thing she doesn’t want to be, it’s the pain in the ass significant other who sits off to the side clicking their tongue in their mouth, saying, “It’s very nice, dear, but what are you doing to make money?”

I’ve said before, a lot of people who are creative are surrounded by people who aren’t, and those aren’ts can drive a person right up the wall if they’re not careful.  They don’t even have to be careful, because a lot of times the non-creatives are just saying things believing that if they go negative enough on you, you’ll give up those crazy dreams and be happy sweeping the floor of the Emerald Bar.

It’s only to help up, don’t you know?

I’ve hit on that at the start of the chapter, but what will I get into next?  Fantasies.

Yeah, Elektra’s got them; some are even pretty crazy. (Well, maybe for you, ’cause what you call “crazy”, I call “Saturday Night”, but that’s beside the point . . . She gonna start thinking about what Keith is writing, and that’s going to trigger some things in her mind, and before you know it–

Naw, I’m not telling.  I’m funny that way.  I’ve probably said more about this story than I have about any other story, and yet, most of what I’ve mentioned has been in the form of very broad outlines.  The same with this part:  you’re getting a peek at the curtain, and you might think you’re seeing things on the other side, but it’s really all Wizard of Oz stuff:  you gotta pull that curtain back if you wanna know who’s on the other side.

It’s time to Bring the Strange.

And if anyone can do that, it’s me.

 

Departing on Your Own Fantasies

Chapter Twelve of Suggestive Amusements came to an end sometime last night, at the end of what I can only call a long day.  Writing at the end of the day, as I was, usually leads to a mild case of creative burnout, but I never felt that way.  If anything, by eleven-thirty PM, I was still awake, though I could feel the exhaustion starting to close in on me.

Even then, it seemed to take me forever to fall asleep.

Keith’s days with his company came to an end, and he spent the time telling his manager and the company’s HR flack what he was going to do, and what they needed to do to prevent the loosing of a viral meme that would eventually declare them, “Gigantic Assholes of Sin City”.  The company backs down, Keith removes his things from his Cubical of Hell, he leave down the elevator, and the HR flack is left hearing something coming from said elevator that tells him, in no uncertain terms, that they lost their asses in the latest conflict between company and employee.

I will admit that, at the very end of the story, this was something I wish I’d done when I was leaving my last former position.  I’ve stated that when I was told my position was being eliminated, I felt a wave of relief that I’d no long visit that dump.  At the same time, there was the urge to leave a little of me behind as I was walking out the door–something that someone would probably bring up a few weeks down the line, by mentioning my name and saying, “Can you believe they said that?”

That didn’t happen, probably because deep down, I’m not the sort of person who can do what Keith did.  Which is a shame, because each of us has an inner Lester Burnham who they’d like to turn loose as they’re being let go from a place of employment, so they can dish out something tasty before they’re sent on their way.

The closest I’ve actually come to that point was when I caught up in a massive layoff at a company where I’d worked for over thirteen years.  I was brought into a room filled with seven or eight people, told what was happening, and was then told I’d sign a paper that would prevent me from coming after the company for anything if I wanted to receive $19,000 in severance and a year’s worth of medical insurance; don’t sign, and I’d leave the company with two weeks pay and nothing else.

I signed and was then told goodbye.  I got up, and as I reached the door, I stopped and turned around, then told the assembled, “You guys are lucky I’m on meds,” which I was taking at the time for depression.  It was at that point that someone in the room followed me to my cubical, watched me closely as I cleaned out my possessions, then walked me to my car.  They didn’t leave my sight until I pulled out of my parking spot . . .

Not that I actually would have done anything, but sometimes it’s good to keep the suckers guessing.

With this part of the story out of the way, now comes the strangeness, and I do mean that.  Well, maybe:  your strange is just another day in my imagination.  I mean, I find werewolf gangbangs to be pretty strange, and not at all erotic, but I’m certain there are a few people out there who find those pretty normal–

I think we can all agree on furies, though . . .

The Snows of Saint James

Getting on late Friday night as I write this, because I’m judging a grade school science fair early Saturday morning, the third in as many years.  If there’s one thing I like to do, it go out and encourage young people to do something different, and if that means getting into science, then so be it.  At the same time, my daughter will participate in our regional Science Olympiad, so I hope I’m doing something good.

Tonight was not a writing night.  Still coughing like made, and after putting a few hundred records into a data base today, I felt pretty brain dead.  After I return from my science fair I’ll get my writing in, then maybe write a little more tomorrow night.  I know I can get three thousand words in this weekend, not a problem, and that should get me set up around forty-seven thousand words before I call it a Sunday night and head for bed.

I’m already thinking about what’s coming next, which is a bit of a fantasy thing:  not fantasy as in “I have a muse looking over my shoulder as I write,” more like, “Oh, I didn’t know you were into wearing PVC school girl uniforms.”  Something strange is happening, and I’m just the person to bring it, because if there is one thing I know, it’s strange.

Like the dream I had last night–oh, did you see what I did there?  I know you did.

I was talking to someone tonight about it, because it was a dream that really comes out of an idea I had for my character Kerry, he of the young child learning magic at a school in the middle of Maine.  He and his bestest flying buddy, Emma, are on a three-day survival flight that they undertake during their third year of Flight School, and since Emma and he are so damn good at what they do, the instructor gave them the hardest flight of all:  fourteen hundred miles from a point near Churchill, Manitoba, back to the school.  All of this happening in the middle of January, so you know it’s a party.

One of the main events that happens, however, is that as they are coming into Ontario–after making a mad dash across James Bay–they run head-on into a brutal blizzard.  Instead of flying for a few hours after sundown while navigating by the star, they are forced down in the forest south of the Eastman River, where they have to set up camp and get inside before they freeze.

In my idea for at story they spend the night in zipped-together sleeping bags, huddled for warmth, because their heater is very low on fuel.  During the night, close as their are, Kerry is asked if he’s scared.  He admits he is, because at thirteen, he’d never had to deal with conditions like this.  Emma says she’s worried, too, and wonders if they’ll make it back.  Kerry tells her not to worry; they’re going to get back to the school come tomorrow, if for no other reason, as Kerry says, “Annie’s waiting for me, and she’ll be upset if I don’t come home.”

My dream was inside the tent, late at night, with the wind hollowing outside, and the cold all around the two kids.  Emma asks Kerry if he’s worried, only I’m the only saying yeah, but don’t worry, we’re getting home tomorrow, and I’m going to see Annie.  Only when Emma looks up at me, it’s not her, it’s Annie, and she tells me she’s not worried–

Which is the point when I realize it’s not really Annie, but someone else I know.  Someone who tells me, “If anything were to happen, I’m right where I want to be–here with you.  But we’ll get home, because I need you back where you belong.”

Fade to black as the wind dies out in the darkness . . .

I haven’t had a dream like that in a while.  For a long time I was having some extremely vivid dreams, but my time at The Undisclosed Location put a serious kibosh on that for some reason.  I’ve been home a few months now, and it seems like the dreams are returning, they are starting to grow strong once more, and they’re telling me something.  Maybe something good, something bad, or something I haven’t heard in a while.  (I’m trying not to hear that in Phil Collin’s voice–I believe I succeeded.)

My story of the Polar Express was one that has kept me intrigued for some time, because it not only helped my character grow, but it gave me a chance to grow as well, and not just as a writer.  I learned something while imagining all those things happening, all the way back in December of 2011.  I’ve kept it close to my heart the whole time since, even when I was sinking into one of my darkest times last summer.

It’s still with me.  Maybe I’ll even see it tonight, when the wind picks up and the snow begins to fall.

And once more I hear Annie call my name, and she tells me the thing she tells me every day.

The Truth Through the Lies

After a few days of chatting and playing and doing things that might not be considered necessary for the art of writing, I flew into my story.  It was done because I was ready to do and say thing that needed to be said, and I did those things.

I did it in two stages, because I had real life tell me I needed to do something, then I had free time, then I had to do something again, then it was Project Runway time, and then . . . I had six hundred words to write in the hour before I headed off to bed.  But for the first time in a while, I felt like I wanted to tear up the keyboard and rocket the story like I hadn’t since NaNoWriMo.

So on with a little music, then into the story.

Keith was being lied to, of that I leave no doubt.  This happened in the business world, where much of a day is spent dealing with the illusory bullshit that some people seem to think is important.  He’s getting massive amounts of smoke blown up his ass as his human resources people try to tie an action they want him to take to an action they want to take.  But he’s not going to take it; in fact, he’s starting to throw the truth back in their faces . . .

Six hundred and fifty words next came so easy.  I was finished with my writing for the evening about 9:56, which means I was on a tear for about twenty-five minutes.  Most of the time I’m a little more deliberate in what I want to say, but this time, the word were flowing like water from a new hose.  I was on a rate of fifteen hundred and sixty words in an hour, and that’s something I haven’t done in–oh, maybe a year?

What brought forth is gush?  Why was there a firestorm of creativity all of a sudden?  Was it because I knew exactly what I wanted to say?  That’s part of it:  I’ve worked this scene over and over in my head for some time, so it wasn’t difficult to pull it out of my mind and into Scrivener.    Or, was there something else I’m pulling upon?  Something more personal?

One of my favorite stories is Harlan Ellison’s All the Lies That Are My Life, which is found in his collection Shatterday.  It’s the story of two writers and the relationship they share while both are alive, and in the aftermath of the death of one of the gentlemen.  I’ve always felt that the title is a good way of summing up any writer’s life, because as one person pointed out to me, writing is usually a hell of a lot better than any therapy you seek.  You take people you like and make them your friends and lovers; you take people you hate and throw them into the Sarlacc.  You take events that happened to you, and . . . you bend them, shape them, do anything you want to them, and turn them into the events you wish you’d lived through, rather than the ones you did.

Writers pull from this well and transform their experiences–and in doing so, transform themselves.  When you look what “What could have been,” you start to see the outlines of “What could happen next,” and file that information away.  For one never knows when a situation will arise where you can use that–

For your next story.