On Beyond One Thousand

After all the fun and well-wishing yesterday, it’s back to business and new days.  It’s the last day of January and the first day of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse, so work hard, play hard, and leave a good looking body, as the Fonz always used to say.

After a day off from the novel–and it was Wednesday, ’cause I had the all time consuming big post to get out–I took my time jumping back into it last night.  There were reasons for that, but the main reason is that after a long, trying day at work, I really need to decompress and come down to something resembling reality.  Yesterday was a trying day, and it was close to eight PM before I was ready to roll.

But roll I did.  Strangely enough, it was all about the days of birth, and names and genealogy, which really all came about because of someone trying to weasel their way out of not talking about what was really on their mind.  You get into those places and you gotta think fast, and it lead to some great word play–and needing to look up stuff that I hadn’t looked up in a while.

You’d think I’d know better, but sometimes that happens.  I can’t be perfect all the time.  Hell, I can’t even be close to imperfect most of the time, so there are moments when I stumble from one life event to another.  Sometimes that works, other times it feels like a bad dream.

No, I never thought I was a purple unicorn finding myself back in school.  That's just crazy.  I was pink.

No, I never had a dream where I was a purple unicorn who found herself back in school. That’s just crazy. I was pink.

But the conversation between Annie and Kerry went fast and smooth while they relaxed in their own private universe.  They revealed their birthdays, then from there they went to the naming of names, which in a school full of witches is a thing you only do in a moment of supreme confidence (no, not Supreme, I’ll probably write about that tomorrow), because as they’ll learn with the Queen of Darkness and the Master of Spirits, knowing a true name is one of the guaranteed ways to control things, living and otherwise.

Handing over your name to some girl you just met a couple of weeks before is a great way to find yourself getting controlled to hell and gone later–though the door swings both ways, and as she did the same, it’s turnabout fair play.

I stopped when I did because there’s a particularly emotional part coming up, and I didn’t want to end on a bummer, even though thinking about it got me a bit weepy.  I don’t hate that, but I didn’t want to leave my writing for the night on a down note.  It affects the way you look at it when you come back the next day.  It drops your emotional energy to a low before you have to crank out more words, and when I start writing anew, I wanna feel up and ready.

We’ll get to the weepy parts tonight.  It’s Friday and I’ll be inside writing.

Perfect time to start crying.

Millennium

Here is it, the one and only, my 1000th post.  After nearly three straight years of coming here to share, with my audience and followers, my almost-innermost thoughts, I have reached a most impressive goal.

"It's all darkness and misery, leading to a lonely, pointless death."

“What is the point?  In the end it’s all darkness and misery, leading to a lonely, pointless death.”

Thanks, Frank.  I knew I could count on you to bring the good times to the party.

At least there are others who feel differently . . .

"I already knew your inner thoughts and secrets--your passwords were easy to break, even with the childish encryption you used."

“I already knew your inner thoughts and secrets–your passwords were easy to break, even with the encryption.  You are a sad, foolish girl.”

Ray of sunshine you are, Lisbeth.  Don’t you have a large Swedish corporation to take down?

What started me down this strange path?  Well, to be honest, writing.  Not writing a blog, however.  No, not at all.  When I first started this sucker I was going in fits and starts, and my postings were uneven.  I had nothing to say, I just posted things here and wondered if anyone would read them.  And frankly, I gave very few shits if anyone did.

What started me working hard on the blog was when I was writing my novella Kuntilanak.  I wanted to get into the habit of writing, and it wasn’t just enough to work on the story, because I was afraid I would–as I had done many times before–just give up somewhere along the line.

Then came the brilliant idea:  what if I talked about writing my story by writing on my blog?  It’s simple:  I work on the story in the morning, do a little editing in the afternoon, and at some point in between I’d set up a post detailing my writing exploits.  Not exactly the greatest idea in the world, but it kept me writing my story–and it’s kept me writing my blog.

And how much have I kept writing.  I went back and looked, and found that the last day I didn’t post an entry was 24 March, 2012, a couple of months short of two years ago.  However, there were two posts on 23 March because of something that kept me from posting on the 24th.  So it’s not really a missed day, just a day where I posted the day before.  The last day where nothing was written:  8 September, 2011.  Which, if you’re following the details of current work in progress, is the actual day Kerry is shocked so badly by the Queen of Sorcery, Helena Lovecraft, that he ends up spending the night in the hospital.

Coincidence?  You tell me.

So much has changed since that summer of 2011.  Since then I’ve been through three jobs, and I’ve moved for two of them.  I still suffer from depression, but not nearly as much as back in 2010 and 2011.  I cry more, but that’s because I feel more, I’m not cut off from my emotions any longer.  I finally came to grips with my gender dysphoria, began seeing a therapist and came out, and now spend a reasonable portion of my life as female (as opposed to Life in Technicolor, but you can blame Coldplay for that).

Most of all I write.  I write stories, and I write on my blog.  I’ve sold one story and self-published two.  My sales are crap, but I’m keeping at it.  2014 is the year I start sending more things out, because I’ve got a slush pile and a half waiting, and it’s time to move that monster.  Talk is cheap, and I got bills to pay.

Yesterday and today I looked over my posts and my stats, and decided to list my ten biggest posts in the history of this blog.  We  aren’t talking huge numbers here, and with the exception of one time when I was sort of damned with faint praise by someone who said, “You only get about forty hits a day?  I thought you were huge.  I get more than that,” I’m happy with my few thousand followers who literally come from everywhere on the planet.

Behold my Global Empire!

Behold my Global Empire!

Since I’ve always wanted to do this, allow me to offer up my own top ten.

 

Top Ten Posts of All Time:

10. If I Go the Plane Way, 8 November, 2013.  140 views.

This was about a set of scenes I was working one during the last NaNo, and how I used Scrivener to layer additional scenes under existing scenes.

 

9.   The End Beginning Again, 5 January, 2014.  144 views.

This was about my idea file, and how something I’d thought about using for an old story in the file was considered for a much later story I wanted to write.  This is the only post from 2014 to make my top ten.

 

8.   Time Tunneling, 16 October, 2013.  148 views.

In the run-up to NaNoWriMo 2013 I went into a lot of detail about how I set up my novel, and some of the things I was doing with time lines.  This was the third of my “October Three” where I had fantastic hits for three posts in a row.  Just as I did layers of scenes, this showed how to do layers of timelines within timelines.

 

7.   You Are Now Leaving Silent Hill, 22 September, 2013.  167 views.

My first “Daily Excursion” post after arriving in Harrisburg, PA.  I ran up to Centralia, PA–which was once used as inspiration for the art direction of the movie Silent Hill–walked around, got pictures, and lived to tell the tale.

 

6.   Preparatory School, 14 October, 2013.  207 views.

The first of my “October Three” post, where I show the lay out of what was to be my NaNo 2013  novel, and that is still my current work in progress.

 

5.   Playthings in the Hands of the Arbiters of Decency, 27 February, 2012.  231 views.

This is the only one of my rants that made the top ten.  It was about how PayPal was getting crappy about being used to pay for what it saw as smut, and how it arbitrarily decided to impose rules that screwed over a lot of writers.  Things are much better now, unless you write monster smut . . .

 

4.   Dancing with Demons, 4 November, 2011.  272 views.

The oldest of my top tens, this one puzzles me.  I was four days into my first NaNoWriMo, hard at work on Her Demonic Majesty, and I threw this one up pretty fast.  And for some reasons it has pulled in nearly three hundred hits.  Must be the demons . . .

 

3.   Done Ready, 21 October, 2013.  312 views.

A quick discussion about how I was ready to start NaNo 2013.  I say in this post that I’d finish the first book of The Foundation Chronicles by 31 December.  I think I meant I’d finished my drugs then.

 

2.   Timelines and the Aeon, 15 October, 2013.  644 views.

The middle of my “October Three”, and the biggest by far.  This is where Aeon Timeline ended up on my computer and I told everyone about it.  Apparently a lot of people liked that.

 

1.   Penultimate Daydream, 2 May, 2012.  645 views.

And this is another puzzle.  Why?  Because nothing much is said here.  Well, actually, there is, but it doesn’t make that much sense.  I was sleep deprived, I hated my job, I was almost hallucinating.  It was the day before I turned 55, and the incident I speak off while dining, I did think someone I knew was dining with me.  And then they weren’t, and it killed me.  I’ve always wondered if there was some kind of bot that drove the numbers up.  Not that it maters today.

 

Honorable Mentions:

The Rough Guide to My Alternate Chicago, 12 December, 2011.  120 views.

This was the first post where I really got into talking about the wonders of editing, and though most writers hate it, about this time was when I was starting to love it.  And so I have to post my love.

 

Hail, Scrivener!, 31 July, 2011.  128 views.

The oldest of my posts with more than one hundred views, this is where I started talking about Scrivener, and how much it was helping my writing and my story telling.  What was nice about this post was there was a comment from the Scrivener people, saying they enjoyed the kind words I had for their product.  That was when it first hit me:  there are people out there actually reading this stuff!

 

In looking over some of my old posts I saw likes from people who no longer blog, who have vanished from the face of the Internet, who I wonder about.  Blogging isn’t something you stick with day in and out for years.  I’m probably one of the strange examples, getting up every morning and cranking out my five hundred words, or more, before starting out my day.  And if any of you who used to blog, who I used to see every day, are still out there following me–hey, I miss you guys.  Hope your life is treating you well, because we all need that.

What comes next?  No more special posts for a while, that’s for sure.  If I do another, it’ll come when I reach my 2,500th post, which over four years away.  And that begs the question:

When will I stop blogging?

Because everything comes to an end, doesn’t it?  In four years I’ll be sixty-one, and I can’t say if I’ll still show up here, blogging every day, or if I’ll still continue churning out stories that no one reads.  Or if I’ll even be alive, cause the next eleven hour run back to Northwest Indiana could see me flying off the side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike at high speed into a valley, all the time regretting nothing.

Or perhaps I will have reached my dream of being a full-time writer, and I can be like Chuck and blog to all the word slaves out there (the penmonkeys are his), giving them encouragement and telling them why they shouldn’t stop, because look at me, I made it.

I won’t be quitting any time soon.  I can’t.  I still feel as if I have something to say.  But should it become time to move on and find my wide awake dreams elsewhere, I’ll fall back on this quote–something I heard over Christmas, and something that speaks to me of what can be the finality of change:

 

“Times change and so must I. We all change when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s ok, that’s good, as long as you keep moving, as long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear. I will always remember when The Doctor was me.”  The Eleventh Doctor, The Time of the Doctor.

I’m not quite as good at The Doctor, but I do remember so much of who I’ve been these last three years.  I remember the people I’ve known, those who’ve been a pain in my ass, and those whose friendship and help I have cherished through the years.

And I remember those who have left their mark on me in such a way that it will never be erased.

A thousand down, and still more to come.  Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.

There are stories to be written, you know.

Penultimate Madness

Number nine, number nine, number nine.  That’s what you get when you bring together the numbers for the post.  Don’t know if it means anything, but there it is in all its glory.

This look nothing like the picau ar y maen I ordered--

This looks nothing like the picau ar y maen I ordered–

Last night I inched over the line into one hundred nineteen thousand words, which adds another nine to this party.  I do mean inch, too:  I think my final word total was 119,007.  I had what I was looking for, but I semi distracted myself looking up marvelous pastry confections cooked in Ireland and Wales.  Didn’t find any in Ireland, but found some for Wales, and that was added to my “Things Kids Talk About When They’re Sitting on a Sofa in the Middle of a Big, Dark Room” list.

Plus, I ended the new scene in a spot that, if I’d gone on, I’d have broken my chain of thought for the scene, and when I’d come back to it tonight I’d probably screw something up in the continuation.  I believe it was Chuck Wendig who said when you’re writing end your time with your characters on something of a cliffhanger moment, so when you sit back down at your story, you’ll see that, you’ll wonder what’s next, and the creative juices get flowing again.  When I see that point in my story, I stop and recharge–

But it’s not as if I don’t know where the story is headed.  I know what comes next, I know what Annie and Kerry say next, and I know who I’m introducing in the story next.  Yes, at nearly one hundred and twenty words into the story, I’m bringing in another character.  And why not?  I’ve already had something like twenty characters speak, so throw in one more.

And just because I’m a bit nuts, the people who have so far had speaking part are:  Annie, Annie’s mom, Annie’s dad, Mr. Mayhew, Kerry’s mom, Kerry’s dad, Kerry, Ms. Rutherford, Collin, Alica, Headmistress Laventure, Deanna, Erywin, Helena, Adric, Isis, Coraline, Madeline, Victoria, Wednesday, Harpreet, Emma, Jessica, Holoč, Bianca, Gretchen, Ramona, Matthias, and finally Una.  Forgive me–twenty-nine speakers.  Now I bring in number thirty–this is a party, people, so let’s rock!

I’ll finish up the current scene by this weekend.  I have something I need to work on tonight, so even if I do get to the novel, I won’t write much.  Maybe I will put in a few hundred words to get it where it’s suppose to be, but if not, there it always Thursday and Friday evenings.  Then just one more chapter and a bit of fanfare, for Act One will be in the books, so to speak.  When?  Maybe another ten days, maybe less, maybe more.  But this project should come to an end within the next two weeks.

I keep saying that, but this project won’t end for a long time.  I know this, and I keep telling myself this, but a part of me cringes whenever I figure out just how much I have left to write.  By the end of May I’ll have spent almost a year prepping and writing, and if I’m lucky I’ll be about half way into Act Two by then.

Oi.  Why do I do these things to myself?

Views from the Madness

The wind chill is seven below so I will bundle up for the walk to work.  There’s nothing like a walk in numbing cold to sorta wake you up and get you to where you want to spend the rest of the day under the covers.

Just like my kids at school.

The pajama party is starting and my kids are in the hall.  Everything is light and entertaining.  It’s probably better to show than to tell:

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

The dining tables and chair were gone, replaced by large, comfortable reading chairs, love seats, sofas, and even—yes, there were even a few huge beds capable of holding a half dozen students easily, as a couple already were. Scattered around the hall were a few large carpets covered in throw pillows that reminded Kerry of the classroom in Memory’s End where they met with Professor Arrakis. The light was down in the hall, but there were small, brighter spots here and there—floor lamps that were set alongside a few of the large chairs and love seats.

As they entered the hall Kerry took in the relaxed but excited environment.  With each chair, sofa, or bed there was at least one table where one could set snacks, drinks, and various forms of entertainment.  Three girls to his right, sitting on a sofa and an easy chair, were playing cards on a coffee table made of a dark wood.  Another boy was sitting in one of the large chairs reading, a drink sitting upon the end table to his right.  The bed with the six girls had high, narrow tables at what he guessed was the head and the foot of the bed, and while they talked they were also munching on snacks kept in bowls on both tables.

Something caught Kerry’s eye: a group of five kids, three boys and two girls, sitting on the floor around a low, circular table. One of the boys had his tablet at his right and a cardboard screen in front of them, and all the students had sheets of paper and dice laid out before them. “Hey, those guys over there are—”

“Oh, look.” Annie tugged on Kerry’s arm and pulled him along.  “There’s the perfect spot.”  She dragged towards a sofa located near the center of the hall, one facing the east wall. It wasn’t alone: there was also a table at each end of the sofa, an easy chair facing north and south, and a low coffee table in the middle of it all. Kerry was surprised no one was already sitting there—then again, there were maybe seventy people in the room, and it looked as if there were plenty of empty places remaining.

Magical girls spending the evening chatting about other kids, doing their nails, and thinking about demons they gotta smite.

Magical girls spending the evening chatting about other kids, doing their nails, and going on about demons they gotta smite some day.  Cats and sushi not included.

All and all an enjoyable, fun evening.  A bunch of magical kids relaxing in what may or may not be the moonlight–let me check the sky for that day . . . yep.  Almost a full moon–blowing off the first week of classes and doing things that Normal kids do at these shindigs.

Now, as for my kid–well, it’s a new experience for them, but one of them knows a little about what’s going on, and the other doesn’t care, he’s just happy to be where he’s at, because it’s not home.  It’s also with someone who’s at least once said that she loves him, and when you’re an emotionally withdrawn kids who has spent a lot of time on his own and being alone, it’s a heady thing with which to deal.

That’s also part of the story, and part of the Madness.  These kids grow up fast, a lot faster than Normals on the outside, and it’s not out of the question to say that some of them will face life or death situations before they are out of their early teens.

When you got that sort of heavy hanging over your head–not that they know this yet–it’s no wonder the school gives them to chance to kick back and let their hair hang down.

After all:  Witch Hard, so Party Hard.

That also works if you’re a mutant or a mad scientist, too.  This school is nothing if not equal for everyone . . .

Acts of the Madness

Back home it’s Indiana Blizzard Time:  here isn’t cold, but nothing near that bad.  Tomorrow, though, we get wind chill out the butt, so that’ll make the walk into work all the more interesting.  Though back home it’ll drop to twenty below zero, so I’m not complaining.

So Nice, So Neat.

So Nice, So Neat.

Home stretch time on the novel.  Not only did I whip out one scene last night–short and sweet, just under thirteen hundred words that sets up what’s coming next–but I also organized my novel into what I feel is the final format.  In the picture I’ve placed here for all to see, I’m showing what the current act looks like, with parts and chapters and scenes laid out in Scrivener Outline Mode, but looking in the binder to the left one can see the other parts laid out in the other acts.  Yep, she’s looking good.  I even managed to get everything named the way it should be named.

I’ve had more issues getting this thing laid out and sections named than I’ve had with any other book, but then, I’ve never written anything this big and complicated before in one sitting.  When I look at the other acts and realize there’s probably a quarter of a million more words waiting to get written, this is a long-term project, and may end up being the only original material I write this year.

What did I write about last night?  The Midnight Madness.  What is that, you say?  At my school, every Friday and Saturday night the school lets all the students who want to join come to the main dining area and hang out with their fellow classmates.  The one main requirement is that they have to come in appropriate sleepwear.  Once there they sit around and play games, read, have snacks and refreshments, or just spend the night talking with friends until sometime after midnight.

It’s a school-approved pajama party, and everyone’s invited.

Does this mean that some couples are off in shadowed corners locking lips and sucking face?  They’re teenagers:  what do you think?

When you think about it, when you have a few hundred advanced and intelligent kids locked up in one spot, and all of them are either witches, gifted (they got crazy mutant powers, yo), or budding mad scientists, you gotta give them the chance to get out of their coven towers and relax.  And some of these kids occupy all three spots on that Vern Diagram, which means they’re really burning the candle at three ends, and they probably need to drink fluids, munch on sandwiches and pastries, and play a few card games to unwind.

Only when you’re losing a game of Magic at Salem, you flip that table with your mind.

There you have it.  Kids unwinding, author unwinding.  Lucky for them their weekend is just starting, and I’m having to get back into the week.  At least it’s not twenty below zero outside, but rather a tolerable cold.

Makes the walk to work feel like less of an impending doom.

Your Permission to Suck

After one of the longest posts I’ve ever written–yeah, I’ve had a couple inch up into the two thousand word range before–Saturday was a sort of get back to basics and get some writing done kind of day.  Mostly because I’d taken Friday off and I needed to get the mojo restarted.  Those are always a good think, I find, ’cause you need that recharge from time-to-time.

And look where it got me?  Two thousand plus word blog post, and sixteen hundred words of novel writing during the evening.  I’d say that’s a pretty good day of word cranking.

In my story all my Week One classes are out of the way.  Just a little something for the last Friday evening awaits my kids, and then some Saturday inquiries–and that’s Act One.  Seven remaining scenes to write, and I can bring this part of the story to Wrap City.  I even spent part of last night moving a few scenes around in Scrivener so my Book One, Act One, Two, Three format would work.  ‘Tis not a big thing, and after five minutes I had things formatted oh, so right.

The scene I worked last night sort of speaks to me as a writer, and it’s something I have to remind myself of every so often.  But my Professor Ellison gets the truth out there in short order, and in a way you wouldn’t expect instructors to speak to eleven year olds.

The setup is he gets Kerry to play him part of a song that, in my little fantasy world, was recorded live on the very interment Kerry is going to play–sort of like being shown the guitar Jimmy Page used to record Stairway to Heaven and then being asked to play Stairway to Heaven with said ax.  It would be, for some people, a slightly heady experience.

And it leads into a discussion . . .

 

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Her smile grew wider as the professor joined in on the piano and Kerry stepped back just a little, pleased with what he was creating on the keyboard. After another fifteen, twenty seconds he waved his arm and stopped playing, then half-threw his hands into to air. “Oh, man, yes.” He half-skipped to where Annie stood. “I can’t believe that. I’ve heard recordings of that song played live on that keyboard, and I just did the same.” He threw his arms around Annie and gave her an excited hug, then turned back towards the approaching Professor Ellison. “What did you think?”

“You were a bit slow to start, and off a little on tempo here and there, but given how nervous you were likely feeling . . .” He slowly applauded. “Bravo, Kerry. Bravo.”

“Thank you, Professor.” He bowed his head and shook it while continuing to smile. “That was unreal.”

“I can imagine.” Ellison flipped off the Quadra. “You should consider playing at our Ostara Pageant next year.”

Annie felt Kerry stiffen slightly. “What’s that?”

“It’s the celebration we hold for the Vernal Equinox every year. Your coven is responsible for getting it organized.” Ellison moved back a couple of steps, so as not to make Kerry feel pressured. “The Saturday night after the equinox we hold a talent celebration in Orchestra Hall, and students get up and do creative things.”

“Really.”

“Yeah. We usually get a couple of dozen kids every years. Some dance, some read poetry, some play instruments—one year we had a student do some spoken word free verse.” Ellison glanced down at the keyboard that Kerry had played. “We don’t get too many people who actually play their own songs.”

Kerry didn’t look at Professor Ellison as he mumbled a reply. “I don’t . . . I’m not sure I’d be any good.”

“I can understand that.” Ellison now moved a little closer, relaxing to keep his body language neutral. “Are you worried you’re gonna suck?”

Annie almost laughed; Kerry looked up a bit surprised by the question. “A little.”

“That’s okay, you know—” The professor leaned against the machine closest to Kerry, but he kept the boy the center of his attention. “As a creative person you have permission to suck—particularly if it’s your first time trying something. Writing, painting, drawing, playing: the first time you try any of these things you’re probably going to suck—and that’s okay.”

“I’d rather not suck in front of a bunch of people.”

“No one does, but even the best do now and then. And between now and and the weekend after the 21st of March, you’ve got about five months to practice and get better.” He decided to try another approach. “You know who never sucks?”

Kerry almost said “Professionals,” then caught himself because he knew of numerous examples where they had. “No. Who?”

“The people who never take a shot. The ones who are sitting in the audience going on about how people suck, how you suck, all the while doing nothing but running off their mouths.” He let himself relax, so as to put Kerry at ease. “I can get you a good tutor. I know just the perfect one for you, too.” He stepped away from the synthesizer and stood before the boy. “What do you think? Wanna be one of the few A Levels who gets up and shows everyone what you got?”

Kerry felt conflicted. In a way he wanted to say yes and have the chance to “take his shot”. But he’d never performed for anyone before, much less in something called “Orchestra Hall,” which meant that all the students in the school would be there. And the instructors. And the staff. And maybe other people . . .

He felt his right arm squeezed. Annie was holding him, her arms wrapped around his, the look on her face one of adornment. “I don’t know about the rest of the students, but I’d love to hear you play.” She tilted her head to one side. “And if you have five months to practice, I believe it’s impossible for you to suck.”

Ellison held his hands up and out in mock surprise. “See, you already got a fan. And you should listen to your fans.” This time he held his hand out towards Kerry. “You wanna try? Yes?”

 

Sucking.  We who try to be creative suck every so often.  Sometimes we suck all the time, and we realized it and we figured out that our creativity lay elsewhere.  Well, some of us do, but that’s another story . . .

Ed Wood

“It’s not that I suck, it’s that you can’t comprehend my vision with your stupid, stupid mind!”

 

I’ve written steady, in one form or another, for almost three years now.  I’ve a few works out among the public, and I’ve more waiting to spring upon these folk.  I still make mistakes when I write–my fingers simply can’t or won’t always do what my mind tells them to do.  Or I misspell stuff and never catch it.  Or I write a clumsy paragraph that, first time through, looked fantastic, but on review pretty much blew hard because it made no sense.  Which is why we rewrite, because unless we are all literary Mozart’s, our first drafts aren’t the shit, but more like crap that needs a serious massaging.

The more I write, the better I become.  I do feel that to be true.  I also feel that my style has changed as well, and if I go back and look at work I wrote years ago, it doesn’t read the same as my work these days.  If you stick with any author long enough you’ll see their style evolve as they charge ahead from novel to novel.  Sometimes it comes from taking chances, sometimes it comes from understanding what works for them and what doesn’t.

Remember, though:  there will always exist the possibility you’re going to suck with whatever you’re producing.  Which is okay.

Go on, take that shot.  It doesn’t hurt.

Much.

The World Beneath the Water

Lets roll out the new from last night, first.  It was “I’m Off Night,” last night, because after dinner and a little shopping I had zero creative energy to sit and do anything.  I knew what I wanted to write, but after a good hour of looking at the story, I finally said, “I think I’ll just sit and relax,” and did that until I started falling asleep at ten PM.  It’s not a bad thing:  sometimes you need to recharge your batteries, and if that means a night off, then take it.  I don’t have anything to do today, so it’s a good time to make up for last night’s lost time.

So what I’m going to talk about today is something completely different, and in the process of this discussion I’m going to bring up some things about a rather well known television show about zombies where no one ever says the word zombie.  There will be times when I’m gonna go all Ms. Spoilly McSpoil, so if you don’t want to read something that’s going to cause you to shake your fist at your computer screen while you scream, “Curse you, Cassie!” through clenched teeth, then read a book, listen to music, or watch some good movies–TCM will show Bonnie and Clyde, Jaws, and Alien back-to-back tonight, so you might want to keep that block open.

I have given warning–you know–

Or is that, "Don't Dead, Open Inside"?  Maybe I should check . . .

Or is that Don’t Dead, Open Inside? Maybe I should check . . .

There’s a meme that’s been rolling around Facebook of late, one that doesn’t actually involve some kid getting picked up for a DUI in Miami.  No, this is a picture of a huge iceberg, floating peacefully along while waiting for a ship to smack into it.  As you know an iceberg is pretty much under the water, a huge thing you never see, which is probably good because you’d likely get hypothermia swimming around trying to get a look-see.

The part above the water–the small part–is labeled “Movie”, while the part below the waterline is labeled “Novel”.  You know what they’re trying to say:  the parts you see in a movie are only a small part of the story that’s adapted from a novel–if, of course, the movie is adapted from a novel, and it’s not an original tale.

But this is often true.  One could point to any of the biggest movies of late–the Harry Potter films, the Lord of the Rings, the Hunger Games–had to leave out a lot of the story to get the tale up on the screen.  For some tales you need to do a four or five hour flick if you want to get everything on the screen–or do as was done with The Godfather, which took the early life of Vito Corleone and worked it up as a flash back around original material.  And in doing this, they still left out a lot of the story.  (Maybe due to threats of a lawsuit by a certain Italian-American singer and actor who’d won an Oscar who didn’t like a character in the novel who was Italian-American singer and actor who ended up winning an Oscar, all with a little help from his godfather.  Purely a coincidence, I’m sure.)

When you translate a novel to television, however, you are allowed a little more leeway, because you have, if you’re lucky, more time to develop your story.  Rich Man, Poor Man was a good example of the early television mini-series, where you could take your time moving as much of the story from the page to the screen, and stay true to the material.  Yes, some things don’t get translated well–maybe due to things that are going on inside a person’s head, or, depending on the times, there are things in the story that violate a network’s “standards and practices,” which is a fancy way of saying you’ll never get a particular scene past the censors.

This is pretty much alleviated by the advent of premium cable these days, where one can pretty much get away with showing so much that the joke has  become, “It’s not porn, it’s HBO.”  Yes, there are some things that HBO won’t show–in A Song of Ice and Fire our lovable Mother of Dragons was more like I’m Just Barely a Teen Mommy of Dragons, so she was aged up just a little for Game of Thrones.  And by “just a little,” I mean she could have appeared on 16 and Pregnant–with DRAGONS!  Which is a reality show I’d watch . . .

Basic cable has gotten into the act as well.  Breaking Bad was a true gem of drama, with a story and characters that was at both times compelling and revolting.  This was, however, an original show, and the story could develop as slowly and fully as the creator/producer liked.  And that brings us to the real iceberg of this tale, The Walking Dead.

"I don't speak with an English accent.  I'm from Kentucky; no one from the South speaks with an English accent."

“I don’t speak with an English accent. I’m from Kentucky; no one from the South speaks with an English accent.”

At the moment the AMC show is three-and-a-half seasons into a four season run, with a fifth promised.  It’s done very well in ratings and has a loyal, sometimes fanatical following, but that’s to be expected with any fandom.  The show follows this guy, Sheriff Rick Grimes, who wakes up from a gun shot-induced coma and discovers that, no, he’s not in Indiana, he’s in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypsetm, his family is missing, and everything he’s known has gone straight to hell.  In the process of the first episodes he finds his family, a group of survivors, and most of all his best-I-left-you-for-dead-and-I’m-bangin’-your-wife-friend and former partner from the force, Shane.

The show has followed the meta plot pretty closely:  they find Atlanta messed up, they find  Hershel’s Farm, they find The Prison, they find The Governor, they fight The Governor, they lose the Prison, and as of right now they’re On The Road looked for each other and safe harbor.  Since it’s been stated they run into the traveling trio of Abraham Ford, Rosita Espinosa, and mullet-sporting Eugene Porter, the metaplot will have them heading northward to the Alexandra Safe-Zone, where life won’t exactly become any easier for them.

I’ve only watched the show off and on throughout the years.  I usually haven’t had the time to watch the show, though these days I find there is more time in The Burg for relaxing, so I have watched episodes off and on.  I’ve also been an off-and-on fan of the comic, which has run since October, 2003, and is now up to Issue 120, with a confirmation of printing through Issue 132.

In terms of iceberging, this story is the perfect iceberg.  There is so much that has been set by the wayside in order to get the story on the screen.  About half of the Prison story was removed, for example, which could have been an entire season in of itself–instead of, say, a whole season of hanging out on The Farm.  That season could have seen Hershel losing two of his kids to his zombie kid in the barn, Tyreese’s daughter and boyfriend messing up their suicide pack, the beheading of Hershel’s twin daughters by crazy prisoners, Tyreese giving Rick a beatdown and throwing him off a second-story walkway, Carol deciding to do Death By Walker–

Wait, what?

Like I said, there were a lot changed to move the story from the comic to the small screen.  For one, they got rid of a few characters:  Hershel had a huge family, and he pretty much gets to watch six of them die almost right before his eyes–the last one, his son Billy, does when he takes a bullet to the head during the Woodbury assault on the prison. There are a few prisoners who make it as far at the Woodbury assault but no further, and one of two Woodbury defectors also meet their end at that point as well.  Dale–he of the famous show’s Dale Face–survives well beyond the Woodbury assault, only to be eaten by cannibals while on the road to Washington, D.C..  He is also the one who loses a leg, but since Dale was long-gone by the time of the show’s Prison Time, that leg bite went to Hershel.

Oh, and the Show Rick swears a lot less than that Comic Rick, but that’s because It’s Not HBO, It’s AMC, and while the show may be able to get away with a “shit” and “asshole” now and then, having Rick throw out the word “fucker” every so often wouldn’t go over well, and tell Michonne and Tyreese that the Woodbury folks “have fucked with the wrong people!” is pretty much HBO fodder.  And there’s a few sex scenes, because even when you’re surrounded by the undead, there’s always a moment for sexy time, right?

"This is my resting bitchy face.  I'm really not as bad as I'm made out."

“This is my resting bitchy face. I’m really not as bad as I’m made out.”

And then there is Lori.

If there is a part of this ‘Berg I find way the hell off, it’s the way a few of the women are portrayed.  In the original story, Lori is concerned, she’s protective of her family, she admits to having had sex once with Shane but no more, she makes it through Judith’s birth, becomes a protective mother–and then dies in about as gruesome a manner as one can imagine.  If it’s any consolation, her death–and the death of another–leads to the death of The Governor, but by that time Lori’s a Walker in Training and gives no shits.

The Show Lori, however . . . when your character is made out as the worst thing in a world full of undead looking to eat you and your loved ones twenty-four/seven, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, until the day you join the shambling herd, there is something seriously off.  By the end of Season Two most viewers, given the choice of having their face gnawed off by a hungry Walker, or having Lori ask them if they saw Carl in the house, would say, “Hey, Walker:  you want a side salad with my face?”  No way was she ever getting Mother of the Year awards, and given the narrowness of that field in the story, it’s a pretty damning indictment for her character.

The same thing was done with Andrea.  On the show she was something of an annoying pain in the ass who got separated from the group, was rescued by Michonne, went to Woodbury, hooked up with The Gov, waffled back and forth with the, “Is he good, is he psycho?  I can’t kill him, the sex was pretty good,” line, and ultimately ended up dead due to her own kind of stupid.

"No, I never shot a redneck by accident.  If I shoot him, he ain't gettin' up!"

“No, I never shot a redneck by accident. If I shoot him, he ain’t gettin’ up!”

This is more the way she really was:  kicking ass and forgetting the names as soon as they were dispatched.  And that scar on her face?  That’s from taking a rifle shot to the head, which sort of kinda put her out of action just a little in the final Woodbury assault.  But, in the comic story, Andrea’s still alive, still kicking ass, and pretty much Rick’s girlfriend at this point.  A lot of her personality in the original story got ported over to Carol, who, on the show, you learned not to be near if you had a bad cough.

I can understand some of the changes that were made:  it’s basic cable, you only have so many episodes in a season that can air, you wanna cut through as much of the Peyton Place stuff as possible and stick to the action, and you never know how long your actors can stay with you, so sometimes you kill off ones where they shouldn’t die, and keep around those who should have died because they’re good for the story, which is to say fans like them, and fans equal viewer, so go with that.

That, ultimately, is why you have the iceberg when you translate a story to a screen.  Reading is one thing, the visual medium another, and a lot of the people doing the viewing aren’t necessary going to be doing the reading.  There are a few exceptions to the rule–Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings instantly spring to mind, as well as a few superhero movies based upon other comics–but in the case of TV, it does seem that you have a lot more people who watch the story, and are surprised as hell when one tells them that what they’re watching was based upon a book, or in the case of TWD, a comic.

It’s an interesting thing to look at from the point of being a writer.  I’ve seen more than a few Facebook threads that go, “If your story is made into a movie, who do you want to play your characters?”  A better question may be, “If your story is made into a movie or television show, what would you be okay with getting changed or dropped?”  After all, your story would end up someone else’s iceberg.

And there’s so much water in which to hide.