When It All Goes Sideways

As I was making what I thought was some fairly impressive progress on my novel “Requiem for a Laborer,” moving right along with finding research for the opening of the story, I hit a small snag.

Well more of a major disaster, really.

I lost the file where I had an annotated map of the setting for the opening, as well some character notes and plot points. You know that feeling you get when you’re already late and you are about to step out the door for an important appointment just to realize, at that point, you have no idea where your keys are? That is a pretty good summation of how I felt. Just when I was going to start the rumbling engine that is to be my story, somehow I had lost the keys.

NowI know what a lot of you are thinking, “Why didn’t you back up the thing, to begin with?” I have a perfectly reasonable answer for that: “I have no idea what the fuck I was thinking.”

“I have no idea what the fuck I was thinking.”

We all make bone-headed play like that, don’t we?

So after the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and finally coming to acceptance, I thought that what I would need was a little time away from the site of the now key-less story. So that Is what I did. I worked on the house some and the yard a little. I read a good bit, too.

What I am learning, as a writer is to take these inopportune happening and see how I can turn them to my advantage. In this case, I reread my first draft and I am trying a different angle to open Requiem. Although I liked the changes that I had made, I felt that I was still telling more than showing. This had been the demise of many of what might great novel

This had been the demise of many of what might great a great novel. If the writer doesn’t grab the readers’ interest early on, it’s pretty much, “Ya know? I could be doing many more fun things than reading this. Sitting in a dentist’s chair come to mind.”

So for me, this has been a learning experience, Not only will I be saving more often, but also taking the chance during something negative to build something positive.

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How To Get Out of Conversations With Cowokers

Short answer: Be a writer.

Longer answer: One of my coworkers asked me what I was doing this weekend. I told her the absolute truth. I told her that I was working on my novel again and then I went into fairly grim detail of how in my novel the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. I went on to explain how the fire caused the fictitious Chicago Steam Works to catch fire and explode along with the Central Chicago Gasworks to also meet the same fate, further expanding the destruction.  how the entire area of the manmade island between the North Branch Canal and the North Branch of the Chicago River were also consumed in my version of the fire. How because of these, more people were lost in the disaster and how I could really do justice to both what happened historically and what happened in my version of the Great Chicago Fire. How the fire jumped the north branch and continued!

Well, apparently, the fictitious imaginings of a novel writer, when explained with increasing excitement about a tragic event of huge proportions made worse by said imagination, produce horror in those that ask the simple question: What are you doing this weekend? The response I received was well, shocked at best, to be honest. My coworker, who’s eyes had grown quite wide, slowly backed away and never let her eyes leave mine. Although, I’m sure that my excitement over the imaginary happenings might not have helped.

I have come to the conclusion that the only people that would understand me, in this case, are fellow writers. What’s more and the added bonus is if I want to make my hasty escape from an unwanted conversation with anyone whom I really don’t want to be chatting with at that moment, is, to be honest about what in on my mind regarding my writing.

Why? Because only writers understand other writers because we are our own special breed of crazy.

 

When I Should Walk Along, or Over the Edge

I want to let you in on something, Y’all.

I’ve has a kind of a downer week where I work. But I don’t blame my job, or the managers there, or my coworkers; I blame myself. When I’ve told my coworkers that I want to be a writer and that I’m writing a novel, I’ve let their negativity make the decision for me that I am not a writer.

One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made.

I’ve never been one to have much faith in myself, even when my English professor, Alayne Peterson assured me that I have talent and she liked my writing.

I always had my doubts: “Is she just being nice to me/ feeling sorry for me?”

But tonight, as I was plodding along in my writing through researching the Great Chicago Fire for a plot point, I realized that even though this is the most tedious work of a fiction writer, that I am loving what I am doing.

Christ, I hate looking at the surface of aluminum extrusions for surface imperfections, setting up a saw to run the same length of part for gods know how many cycles. Cut the metal, stack on a skid, repeat ad nauseam.

But after (my real?) work today: I was reading about the Great Chicago Fire, it impacts on the citizenry, And trying to fit in how the protagonist of my story finds his first steps into the chaos of his future. I was trying to incorporate concepts like Maxwell Street, South Branch Chicago River,  Monroe & Dearborn to make a realistic storyline.

My point is writing is hard, like really hard! I am glad that I am doing it. Damn glad, in fact. To do a good job at it I need to be on my best game, but I need to have my writing friends with me, because dammit, I’m with them!

 

Old New Old Beginnings

I have been working on this steampunk novel idea for about a year and a half now.

The only conclusion that I have been able to make is this:

“Great Idea; poor execution, Tom. Best try again.”

I love the characters, a good number of the plot points but there was something out of place. I decided that it was in the execution: I was going to shelve the idea of an alternative history and go balls-to-the-wall,  madcap, all-in, steampunk adventure; with some ideas taken from current events but for the most part out of my own little Attention Deficit Disorder brain. And why not? This is my own little world; Right?

So this whole issue stems from a mental/ creative log-jam that I’ve created for myself. Specifically, not giving myself permission to be imaginative ENOUGH. That is to say, Selling myself short in my creativity: “Would I REALLY be madcap enough to develop places no one will visit, people that will never be born, in places that don’t exist?”

Answer: “You’ll never know if you don’t try; Nothing ventured, nothing gained;…”

Aw, screw the cliches :

FUCK IT! I’M ALL IN!

I want to tell a story and dammit, I want to tell my story. I think it’s a damn good story. I think there is a story here that a few people might read. Hell, maybe enjoy. But I can’t let myself be hemmed in by what a few people that haven’t even read ten words of it tell me. And that includes those that until this point, I’ve thought were closest to me.

I WILL NOT, let those who never venture anything of theirs decide for me what I can’t and, far more importantly, CAN venture of my own. From now on, it’s me and those that support me, and those elements that I create (because who in their right mind would not support their creator?) together, amiright?

Peace, all.

A Christmas Short Story

Happy Holidays to you all. Thanks for taking the time to read and follow my little piece of the Blogosphere.

I wanted to share this bit of a novel that I wrote a little more than a year ago. This excerpt is a holiday piece that I hope you will enjoy.

Peace to all.

It was late December. Katherine Hunter-Price closed the front door to her apartment behind her. She was sick to death of editors riding her ass as she was working on stories and once again being forced to put her feature stories on hold. It was the same frustrating bullshit she had to deal with for years now. This story was big. She knew that she was the investigative reporter to work it because she had the connections in the railroad that could get her information. To hell with them if they weren’t going to listen. Katty wondered if she would have had as many issues if her name was Samuel or Thomas.

But in two days it would be Christmas. At least, she had a couple of parties she was invited to. Being with friends would break up the stress of dealing with work.

Katty looked out the window and saw that it was late dusk. She smiled to herself and tried to remember that the scientific term was for this time of day from her astronomy class that she took as a science elective: Was it Astronomical Twilight? She giggled to herself. How long had it been since she had taken that course?

After putting on her ski jacket and pulling on her boots, Katty stepped into the refreshing chill.

The air was completely calm. The only air moving was her own breath. She took as deep a breath as she could manage, arching her shoulders back. She smelled with wonder the scent that was only in the air around Christmas. She closed her eyes. There wasn’t a single solitary sound to be heard.

When Katty opened them, she looked at the color of the sky.  She marveled at the beauty; the silver of the rim of the horizon, the red-gold of last bits of broken sunlight, the pale blue above that darkening trough blue-green to electric to royal, and finally to the deepest, inky indigo. Katherine imagined a time before she was Katty. One Christmas, when a very young Kathy Hunter-Priest wondered if this was what is must be like to be inside her mother’s huge turquoise pendant looking out.

Christmas. The word had awoken an old memory…

Her daddy had given her mommy that necklace for Christmas when Katty was what? Eight years old? It had come in a black satin gift box that had silver letters printed on she couldn’t read, with a picture of a funny looking kachina that she giggles at. Katty remembered when her mommy opened the box and showed her little girl the gift, Katty could only stand agape. The turquoise stone seemed bigger than the palm of her hand and too magical to touch. The stone was mostly a gorgeous blue-green but mixed with shimmering pools of pure blue. An irregular web of copper looked like it was straining to hold the two colors of ice together and protect it from melting.

Katty remembered asking her mommy if she could touch the piece of jewelry. Her mommy said she could and Katty was surprised that if felt not like the ice of a frozen Wisconsin lake but warm from her mother holding it for her to see.

“Would you like to try it on, Kathy?” Her mother asked, smiling warmly at her your daughter.

Kathy couldn’t speak but only nodded, surprised at the offer. She lifted the necklace over daughter’s head and the two of them laughed together when the beautiful pendant fell to near the little girl’s tummy.

Katty was mesmerized by the night and the happy memory. She stepped off the sidewalk and listened to the snow crunch beneath her snow boots. The walked a few steps farther into the snow and began to dance to an old holiday song that came into her mind. She whirled and twirled in small circles all the while thinking of happy memories from her childhood and this time of year when almost everything held a magic of its own. She made turns with her arms stretched over her head with her eyes closed.

This time, when she opened them she was cognizant that the sun had completely set and that the sky had become completely dark. She didn’t feel that this was the kind of frightening dark of a woman walking home alone late, but the comforting dark of a little girl in her favorite pajamas, nestled deep in a down comforter after mommy had tucked her in and daddy had kissed her good night.

Katty walked through the bare trees of the little woods near her home. She had just walked around the trunk of a large ancient oak when she startled and was startled by, a pair of cottontail rabbits. She laughed quietly to herself as she tried to follow the rabbits, just to see where they were going. As they would hop a few yards ahead of her she would do her best to follow them as quietly as she could. The two rodents became bored with this game quickly and bounded off in different directions. Katty laughed in spite of herself. As she turned to go home she came upon a fallen branch that was as long as she was tall.

Taking hold if the branch she amused herself by making snowflake designs in the ice topped snow with its sharp point. After a few of these, she tried to draw a simple rabbit’s face with the long ears and whiskers and nose with a smiling mouth but was made to stop by her own laughing at the silly look of her attempt.

As she walked home, Katty became acutely aware that she had not let herself have the fond fun of a child in months, no… years.

As she walked up the steps to the stoop of her apartment she took a last look at the night sky and the made a point of taking in the beauty of the stars, even if most of them were washed out by the city lights.

In her living room, she shook off her coat and the chill of the night. Making her way to the kitchen, she decided that she would make hot chocolate, to warm herself. As the water was heating up she looked out her kitchen window and noticed it had clouded over; started to snow. As she mixed the water hot, chocolate mix and tiny marshmallows the snow picked up and had become big fluffy flakes.

She set the steaming mug down on her coffee table and made her way to her bedroom where she changed from her clothes into warmest, most comfortable pajamas.

Katty made her way down the stairs, turned on the table lamp sat on the couch and opened a book.

She smiled. She put the book down and leaned over and turned off the lamp. Then she went into the closet and pulled out an oversized down comforter. She turned high back chair toward the picture window and fully opened the blind. Picking up the comforter she spread it over the chair and dragged the end table next to it. Sitting down, she wrapped herself in the comforter and picked up her mug.

She watched the snow in the quiet and the dark. But this was not the quiet of someone forced to be alone but the quiet of meditative prayer. This was not the dark of a fearsome city street, but the dark of a little girl snuggled deep in her warm down comforter. This is how the hardened and jaded journalist, Katherine Hunter-Priest, fell asleep. Safe in the arms of memories she thought were long forgotten.

 

Am I Too Far Gone?

Right now I keep paging through the manuscript for my current novel, “Requiem”. I am having a problem with what to correct and what to pass over because this is just a first draft.

So at this point, I am asking myself: “If I am asking myself these questions, am I honestly into my first revision?

I know that this may sound like silly semantic questions, but there is a purpose here. It has to do with achieving goals and how I define them. I set the goal for myself that I will have the first draft of this novel done by the first of the year.

But what is bothering me is that I still have holes in the story that I need to fill, but I keep getting pulled into what I see as glaring problems; mostly with mechanics.

I have it in mind that I should work from the biggest problems. i.e. plot holes, faults in character arcs and the like, but I keep getting sucked into the minutiae of misspellings bad punctuation etc.

Is this just a problem for me? Good Lord! Is it possible that I am whacked, even by fiction writer standards?

*shudder*

How does anyone else decide where the first draft ends and the rewrite begins?

Maybe I’m taking the whole dilemma too seriously.

Perhaps it isn’t even a dilemma?

Or perhaps my little red choo-choo has gone chugging around the bend. O-o

In any case, a happy week to all.

Why I Write

I have been back to writing after taking a break after National Novel Writing Month. I’ve gotten out just a few more thousand words, but I’m going to be picking up that pace. Now the goal is to have the first draft done be the end of the year.

After that, some time off, no more than a week, and then the process of the first rewrite.

Why do I write, though? Why do I feel that I really need to sit at a computer and pound out thousands of words that it’s quite possible no one will read?

To be honest, there are times when I’m not sure.

But when I become quiet and introspective, like I am now, today, I think that I write as a means of coping with my depression. And, yes, I am working through a bout of depression.

Photo of Depression

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

I believe the greater part of why I write is it often feels that it is the one thing in my life that I have complete control over. And it’s just that easy. And complex. I work in a factory where I am trying to get promoted off the production floor, I have a family with three cat’s included, and for the most part, it all goes pretty well.

I just feel that there should be something thatI have complete control over. Is that wrong, maybe even egotistical?

During times when I have the companionship of depression, the feeling of needing to be in control takes on an added depth. Like I am missing something by not being in charge or I would feel better if there was something that I could control. This goes beyond the control inherent to the creation of characters, places, and events. I mean I am in control of the process. I decide when and how much I write, when I rewrite and edit, what mood I want to evoke and with what words, who sees my work and when.

Underwood typewriter

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

Yes, I understand when I turn my work over to beta readers and editors, that they have criticism and suggestions. There again I have the right of refusal. I don’t have to listen. Although it would be in my best interest to do so if I would ever want to become a published writer.

That is so much unlike how I perceive other aspects of my life. I have to do what I am told to at work. It is a very good idea to do my best to get along with my family and happily be engaged with family obligations. Things I have to do to be a good person.

So I am now off to write some more today. Here’s to a better tomorrow.