Quiet Twilight, Unquite Night

Yesterday wasn’t my best day ever.  It happens.  Sometimes you simply aren’t on your game and everything feels like it’s falling apart, and about all you can do is hang on and ride everything out.  Sort of like whale riding, only without the whale.

But You still get through.  I took a nap–something I never do these days–then chatted with a few people.  I didn’t get to writing until about eight-thirty, which is late for me, and only wrote for about an hour.  The feeling wasn’t there, but I could sense what I wanted to write, so I took my time an worked it down to the paper.

As a treat, here is everything I wrote last night, all six hundred and fifty-five words without an edit.  Enjoy.

 

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

Dinner was an early affair for Annie and Kerry. After Basic Spell Casting came Basic Science, running from thirteen to fifteen, taught by Polly Grünbach, a young woman from Lithuania with a long braid of black hair cascading down her back. When the class was over they had the afternoon off, so they returned to the tower to relax and nap before eating.

They napped because there was an evening class: Astronomy, starting at twenty-one thirty and running until half-past midnight. The classes were held at the Observatory, which sat in the middle of the far-northern area of the campus, far away from all the other building. As it was placed so far from The Pentagram, it made for the longest hike to any classroom: a kilometer and a half straight line, which translated to almost seventeen hundred meters overland or through the tunnel system. That meant walking a mile there and back, and not getting into bed until nearly one in the morning—something neither Annie or Kerry were thrilled to do, but saw no other way out of the predicament.

It was early, however: class wouldn’t start for another ninety minutes. Kerry could have used the time resting, but Annie wanted to go out and explore. They’d covered most of the southern part of the campus, and also walked along the walls, but they’d not ventured north of the Witch House yet. The buildings here weren’t clustered together: there was plenty of wooded land between each classroom, and one was expected to cover six or seven hundred meters to get from one location to another.

They walked the main tunnel from the Arts and History Building towards Memory’s End. Kerry found a surface entrance—more of a sunken tower encasing a spiral staircase—that brought them out a few dozen meters from Memroy’s End. From there they began following the path to the Witch House, then after ten meters turned left onto a not-well defined path that wasn’t in any way marked.

Kerry asked Annie why she wanted to go this way, but her only reply was that she wanted to “see something.” He could have checked the map on his tablet—he found he could get excellent wifi everywhere, even in the tunnels—but every time he hauled out his computer while they were walking, Annie would give him . . . It wasn’t a dirty look but more like a slight irritation, as if she couldn’t believe he was going to hop on-line to look up something while they were out together. He’d quickly learned over the weekend there were times he could bring out the computer, and times he should leave it in his backpack.

This was one of the later times.

It was getting dusky, and the sky over head and to the east was a deep purple. It was just a little after nineteen, and actual sunset would happen in about ten minutes. Kerry had read yesterday that the pathways were illuminated in “unobtrusive fashion,” which he took to mean the lighting was probably just enough to keep someone from wandering off a path and getting lost in the woods. Neither of them had been out past the Pentagram after dark, so wandering to the Observatory along a dark path was going to be an unusual experience.

Annie said nothing for most of the walk: she held Kerry’s hand and sauntered along the path, absorbed in the gathering gloom. She’d been in a good mood after Basic Spells, feeling better about having performed magic, and having seen Lisa get her comeuppance. She’d also expressed pleasure that Kerry had managed the same, which he still found amazing. He told her after Science that he’d felt something tickling the back of his neck, just the way Professor Douglas described it might feel. When that happened he just though of the power going into his image and—pow. Magic.

Every writer has moments when they think they suck.  George R. R. Martin has said he’ll look at what he’s written and thing, “How the hell did you ever become a writer?  This is crap!”  He probably thinks that after he kills off a dozen characters in a tragic orgy held in a dragon’s nest, but that’s another story.

I’ve become used to having ups and downs when I write.  There are many times when I think I should just give up and call it a day, because nothing is happening with what I’m doing.  Then I read what I’ve posted above and think, “Yeah . . . it’s not that bad,” and I keep going.  There are even moments when I think I’ve written some great stuff.

Oh, and my dreams last night–screwed up.  One of them had me on a train with a woman I know, going off to rescue someone.  I think her kids.  I’m not sure.  All I know is there were a lot of nervous people around, and I was like, “Yeah, sweat it out, I got this covered.”

Now to be that cool in real life.

Closer to Believing

Where am I today?  That’s a good question.

I’m not in a cabin at Camp NaNo, that’s for certain.  I checked their site to see if I’ve been placed somewhere new after packing up my crap and abandoning the cabin where I’d been placed.  There is another twenty or so hours until they give another assignment, but I know I won’t get in with anyone I requested, so I have to assume I’ll spend Camp NaNo by myself, in a tent, listening to the crickets chirp while I work on my story.  Alone, in the night.

Yeah, seems to be the story of my life of late.

It’s probably obvious as hell that I’m going through a bought of severe depression.  In the past writing helped, but the last couple of months has done little to alleviate the feelings.  If anything, I believe the act of getting Her Demonic Majesty helped exasperate everything.  I’m touchy, I’m bitchy, and when I perceive myself as being less that perfect, I spin out and get down on myself far too hard, sometimes to the point where I just want to chuck it all and walk away into whatever sunset awaits.

It was sort of like that yesterday.  I had my new story all set up, I started laying out a time line for what certain characters in the story were doing . . . and then it hit me, that old feeling of, “You’re wasting your time on this shit, wouldn’t you rather do something self destructive?”  After that I spent the rest of the afternoon, and a large part of the evening, staring at my time line as if I expected it to jump off the screen and start tap dancing.

A funny thing happened, though.  After hours of sitting at the computer, listening to music and thinking about how I completely, totally suck as a writer and a person, I kept looking at my story and time line, neither of which I closed out during this whole process.  The longer I looked at what I’d prepared, what I’d created to that point, the more ideas started working their way into my mind.  As they ideas came, the depression faded, and with that fade came the notion that, yeah, I can do this, I do have something that’s wasn’t only worth while, but pretty damn good.

With that I spent about forty minutes plotting out my novella while speaking to a friend who is a very good person, and a hell of a creative person in her own right.  When I was finished with both, I saved my work, bid my friend a good evening, and went off to bed–

When I awoke this morning, I came across a couple of works–one a story, one a story idea–and was struck by the thought that while I might think myself kind of suck-o at times, I would never sink to the creative levels I saw this morning.  Just . . . damn.

It’s not fun being this way–but then, I’m in good company.  Find a truly creative person, and you’re going to find a tortured soul, someone who is, from time to time, beset by their demons and ready to jump into the lake of fire so they don’t have to listen to their bullshit any longer.

If nothing else, I can do my best to show my demons they don’t own me, that they are as fictional as my characters–and just like my characters, I control them.

Not the other way around.

 

Without You

Some days I feel just like poor old Psylocke here:  no matter how bad assed I am, no matter how mad my skills are, I gotta get into the vacuum-sealed latex uniform and spend all my time hyper-extending my knees and breaking my spine for the entertainment of others.  At least she’s not in heels–this time.

Today isn’t so bad.  I slept well, got up at 6 AM, had to deal with a cranky computer but managed to whip it into proper form, and I’m finally getting my butt in gear here at somewhere close to nine-thirty.  I have my plan in place for today, and it doesn’t involve playing games or suffering for strange things, though the later isn’t completely out of the question.

No, what I have to do is get some writing done.  I need to get this Fantasy story finished, because I want to move onto something else.  What, I’m not sure yet, but I do want to get onto something else.  It’s been a while since I wrote an erotic fantasy that jumped into this sort of word range, and I’ve felt strange about this development.  There’s that little trip hammer of doubt tapping away in the back of my mind that’s saying, “Nope, you shouldn’t be writing this, it’s going to suck, you’re going to find people laughing at this shit.”

I’ll admit, I’m sensitive to this sort of stuff.  Sure, a few days ago I said it was okay to think you’re going to suck, because people with talent tend to fall into that trap.  Then I take my own advice and kick it to the curb because, hey, I suck, and this story sucks . . .

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Stop being so hard on yourself.  Why are you writing if you feel this way?

I came to a realization yesterday that I get way too wrapped up in my work, that I have a difficult time disconnecting myself from the story in the sense that when I’m given advice, I need to step back and look at it critically, and not get depressed because of something I don’t like.  It’s a sucky thing to start spinning because you start beating up on yourself over things that other people blow off.

Being critical is good, to a point.  You have to look at your work, all your work, with a critical eye.  If you didn’t, you’d churn out crap, which happens a lot:  that’s why we have Sturgeon’s Revelation.   When you eye turns into a frickin’ shark with a laser, however, it can kill your creativity faster than said fictitious shark.

This is what’s been happening with me that last month or so.  The Doubt Wagon pulled into town and won’t leave my driveway.  It feels like every time I touch something, it turns into fail.  It’s easy to be ripped apart by that–

What you need is someone who’ll give you honesty.  Who’ll point out some things that need correcting, but at the same time tell you, “Your story is amazing.”

Writers are their own worse enemies.  Stick to killing your characters–

It’s so much more fun to watch your readers suffer.

Last Night in Mister Moon’s Drive

I was out last night.  It was another in a long line of visits where I go out, have pizza, chat, and watch shows that either invite snarky commentary about plot holes (Prisoner of Azkaban, why walk back to Hogwatts when someone could have apparated Peter back?  Why not have someone go back and get Dumbledore?  Why not just take Peter to Hogsmeade, which was right next door?  Why did Lupin conveniently forget there was a full moon that night?  Why was the story plot hammered like it was being run by a bad GM?) or something more interesting (like two episodes of Season Two of Sherlock).

Then came the drive back after midnight.  For some reason there was almost no traffic, and my drive home was one of just letting the cruise control do its thing just point the car down the road.  There wasn’t a need to touch the brakes, so I drove and thought . . .

I had a waxing gibbous moon on my left shoulder for most of the drive, and it struck me that this would be my last moonlit drive for 2012.  And it was strange because on so many moonlit drives, I’ve been with characters who have made my stories shine, with ideas that drive me on to produce good stories, and plots that I hope work out once I put them to paper.

I had none of that last night.  It was just me, and a few of my thoughts.  Not that there was anything wrong with that, but as perfect as the night seemed, I really wanted to have someone alongside, sharing the experience.

This is has been a long year, with plenty of ups and downs, things to be remembered and forgotten.  There has been exhilaration and doubt.  Particularly the doubt, which has seemed to increase in the last few weeks.  Don’t ask why, because I don’t know myself.  It’s the way my mind works, and it’s not ways a good thing, that.

The thing about being a writer is there is always doubt.  Is this story good?  Are the characters believable?  Does any of this make sense?  Is the cover nice?  Is this damn thing going to sell?  It’s the nature of the beast, these doubts, because creative people are like that.  Nothing is ever good enough for them; everything is “okay”.  Or, if they are really down on themselves, “not so good”.

Quite honestly, we’re all seconds away from an Admiral Ackbar moment, and it will drive you crazy when all the thoughts of everything bad that could happen to you come knocking.  I had a touch of that last night, then kicked them out of the car because I realize the more negativity you embrace, the longer it stays with you.  That was the problem with my last job:  it was a negative environment, and very little made me happy.

I don’t want negative:  I want happy.

It seemed that once I pushed the bad stuff out of the car, a couple of characters who I hadn’t thought of in some time entered my mind, as if to put me at easy and tell me, “It’s okay, love.  We all go thought this:  you’re no different.”  It was comforting that even someone fictional could bring a smile to my face . . .

Perhaps they needed someone to ride with as well.

Deep in the Underwhelmed

Day Three of the New Position, and I’m noticing something:  I’m in possession of a singular lack of imagination of late.  I have a drive to and from home that takes a bit of time, but unlike the trips to The Undisclosed Location, I seemed to have no time to think about what I could be working upon.

I find this just a little troubling, because this was one of the things that helped me through my time when I was doing that other job (if by “other job”, you mean some soul-sucking creature that demanded you kneel in brain-dead supplication, then yes, you’re correct).  Constantly working on ideas in my mind was what kept me more or less sane.

Now, it seems as if this has vanished.

I’m of the opinion that this is short lived, as on the drive home last night I came up with something that I thought would show a deeper connection between Olivia and Martha in my story Replacements.  Something even alluded to as I was performing my edits of Chapter 6 last night.  It’s there, it’s becoming a real thing—

It’s just that I’m feeling a bit underwhelmed at the moment.

This is, as they say, one of those things.  I’m starting something new, something that is keeping me away from home for eleven hours in a day.  Then I return, eat, and try to manage my writing time at the computer.  I get in a chapter a night for editing—what I’m doing now—and when I start on a new work in progress, I’ll try and keep to my goal of a thousand, or more, words a night.

This doesn’t leave me a lot of time to do other things when I return for the evening.  Yes, I did the same when I was off to the Job in the Hole, but this feels somewhat different.  I’m unable to put my finger on the issue, but I know it’s there—

Or so I think.

This morning I saw the follow quote floating about on Facebook:

 

“Sometimes I feel so stupid and dull and uncreative that I am amazed when people tell me differently.”  Sylvia Plath

I’ve suffered through the same feeling time and again.  I’ll look at something I’m working on and shake my head, because I’m convincing myself that I’m wasting my time working on crap.  And then I’ll let someone look at what I’m working on, and there are good vibes all around.  It’s an amazing thing, because I then have to shake the feeling that these people are somehow wrong.

This once happened with The Muse.  I was working on something, didn’t like what I was doing, let her see it—and she get deep into my nether regions over the fact that I didn’t agree with her opinion.  Ugly thing, an angry Muse; good thing she was wearing flats that day.

The point to be made is that, as writers, we hold ourselves up to an impossible standard at times, and we’re always our own worst critics.  We have to know when to push ourselves to get something out, but we always have to understand when we need to lower the bar and stop worrying about how shitty we’ve become.

The happy medium is there, somewhere.

I’ll probably find it on a drive home some night . . . maybe tonight.

I See What You’re Doing There, Dreams

Back to the Real Home, back to editing . . . back to my dreams being a pain in my butt.

Though the drive was long and stressful, I managed, after a little rest, to get back into Her Demonic Majesty.  There was a chapter waiting for me, the second one of Part Three, and since it was only about thirty-four hundred words, I figured I could knock it out pretty quick.  With some help from Genesis (I’ve been listening to a lot of their live shows on YouTube, in particular one great bootleg recorded in Zürich in 1977), I got through it with few problems.

The next chapter was up, and it was about 9:30, but seeing how the waiting chapter was a little over fifty-four hundred words, I decided to leave it for today, which was tomorrow yesterday.  I know:  wibbly-wobbly timey-whimey.  Don’t worry; I got this shit.

So it was off to bed with the Luna Moth.  The window open–which I can’t do at The Undisclosed Location because of noise–and the cool air entering the room.

Then the dreams hit . . .

I’ve been remembering bits and pieces of my dreams lately, but nothing that I would call complete.  But this one last night–it was vivid, it was long, and it was sort of condescending.  To make a long story short, it seemed most people I knew had a device that would tell you just about everything important about anyone you picked out.  Nearly everyone I knew was checking out things on everyone else–famous people, not-so-famous people, and people in our own little circle of friends.

When they got to me, the readout was always the same:  blackness, with nothing written upon the dark background.  The slate was, so to speak, completely blank.

The only thing everyone in the dream took away from this was that I was not an interesting person, and nothing important had ever happened to me.

This went on for what seemed like hours.  Even with all the running around I did trying to find things to do, to find people to interact with, to conjure up some magic in this world that would make someone sit up and take notice–nothing.

The screen remained black.

Yeah, I know what you’re doing there, Subconscious.  All this talk I’ve given, and the words that I’ve written, about sending off my novel–this is your way of saying, “Hey, loser, stick to coding, because that’s something you at least know how to do.  If you’re gonna fail, fail at that.”

As people may, or may not know, I have made no secret that I have suffered from great doubt at times.  I think everyone who gets it in their head to do something creative, to try their hand at making something that can be appreciated by other, always reaches points where they step back and say, “This totally sucks.  Why am I wasting my time?”

I’m no different.  I have had more than a few “Worst Novel Evar!” moments, and I believe I’ll have them for some time to come.  It’s the way the creative mind works:  you are your own worst judge, your own worst critic.  Even when you’re creating something good, you think it’s the pits and should be left in an alley for the rats to consume.

But, I can look at this dream in another way . . . see, the screen was black, because the future, for me, hadn’t been written.  If there ever was a tabula rasa, that device was it.  My life hasn’t been written, and I can do anything I want.  I don’t need to worry about perception, because that hasn’t occurred.

I can look upon this, not in a negative way, but as the Schrödinger’s cat of dreams.  It can go anywhere, depending upon observation of events.  Until there, there is not future, and without a future, there isn’t a past.

So bring it, Dreams.  I’m two-thirds of my way through that big chapter, and I’ve got a story to write.

You really think you’re gonna hold me back?