Details, we need them.

How many passes through a scene does it take for you to get all the details in? For me, it’s around… many. That first draft is really just about plunking down the ideas, and focusing on the characters as a whole. I don’t have too much trouble generating dialog, so my initial drafts always have a lot of it when there are things to be said. My brain seems to effortlessly generate sarcasm and bland expressions which can easily overwhelm a scene. Normally I have to go back through it all with a more critical eye and decide if it actually serves the scene, or just my love for the sound of my own ass-hattery. Sometimes the answer will be both. (happy dance!)

Once I’ve picked over all the dialog and tuned it to the exact frequency I like, then I just sit around being proud of myself for awhile. Ideally I should walk away from it here, because the scene is nowhere near finished, but I can never seem to remember that until after I’ve embarrassed myself by showing it to someone. Then I’ll sit in front of my computer for a while poking at the problems that are now completely visible and making me regret my excitement. (insert heavy, self-judgmental sigh)

Now that I’ve reached the stage of realistic I can start putting in details. This includes everything from hair, clothing, furniture and facial tics to weather, time and background noise. It’s really a lot like building a world for your Sims. There are always things that need to be accounted for in every scene or your reader isn’t going to be able to appreciate the world you are creating. The main things I tend to overlook are weather and surroundings. What does the room look like? Is there furniture? What about décor? What’s the character’s kitchen scheme reflect? Is it glitzy and showy, or practical? Is there a toaster? Does she use it? If she doesn’t use it, then why does she have it? Maybe I should change it to a coffee maker.

And what about the weather? The sun is always somewhere, even if somewhere is the other side of the planet. Is the wind blowing? Rain? How about a storm? What time of day is it? The beginning of Smashing Pumpkins starts with a wind storm, and I found myself forgetting that in spots as I worked on other characters. Everyone is existing in the same place during the same time frame. This means they all have the same weather. Some of them will undoubtedly be talking about it because that’s what people do. We talk about the weather.

Personality quirks are another thing to think about. Where did they come from? Why does that guy always twitch and look hungry when someone says the word camel? That didn’t just happen, it started somewhere. So figure it out. Even if you never tell your reader that the man once crossed a desert with only a small, black button for a companion, the fact that you know it will go a long way toward helping you make that character three dimensional.

After all of that thinking and discovering, there are times when I’ll go back and rework a scene days, weeks or even months after I thought it was finished. You really never know what detail you might have missed, or may have to add, until you reach the actual end. My appreciation for detail has really grown in this past year, and I know my work reflects. Detail has slowed down my production, but really, I was going to fast anyway. I needed the bumps in the road to show me the problems with my car. I can still draft at full speed, but my consciousness of detail has changed the feel of the final product.

If you want to join me on Patreon for the final push of Smashing Pumpkins I’ll drop the link on you next Monday. Launch day is September 24th! A single dollar will get you access to the finished chapters as they roll out, and I could really use your support.

As always, I wish you the best of your inspirations and hope you are living your dream.

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Dystopia or Bust!

Dystopian themes are about the authors view of what the world would look like if a certain set of variables are changed. For some of us, the catalyst could be something as simple as a jack-o-lantern contest where the losers are executed Shirley Jackson style. This is exactly what happened here. My wife made a comment to the effect of “What if…” and my brain exploded. For me to create a world where this could happen, I needed to change a lot of things. I haven’t actually split the atom here, but there are definite differences. For the most part I have left the world itself alone and dealt only with the U.S. of A. As with many authors who tackle projects like this, I have taken the politics of my time, and the opinions of the hundreds of people I’ve encountered and had conversations with, and built a country that matches what I envision. My point of view is very Spartan-esque, slicing away a lot of frill and general garbage. I’m a firm believer in doing for yourself as opposed to buying your way to happiness. My own world, the one I see when I look out the window of my apartment is very small and troubled. People are confused and struggling, and the reasons that stand out to me the most are corporate greed, and the desensitized inaction of a dying government. What if that all went away? What if a livable wage was not an issue, and people everywhere could have fresh food without having to micro-manage their accounts, or beg? What if you could go anywhere in the country for free? What if all debt was erased? What if violent crime was erased? What if, in exchange for all of that, you had to give the government the right to assess your children during their early school years and remove the ones they didn’t like?

Smashing Pumpkins focuses mainly on the lives of four people who are all affected by the same rules. We’ve all got histories and lives that shape how we react to things, so I’ve really dug into the backgrounds of my characters and tried to show the connections that make them who they are in the story. Overlaying it all is the political practices and opinions that will always insert themselves into a group’s dynamics. Seems like a lot to manage in a single novel, right?

Well, the Patreon ball will be rolling soon and everyone who wants to will have the opportunity to give their opinion. If you want to join the community, just follow the link I’ll post here at launch. The current projection is September 24, as in next Monday.  In the meantime, happy writing!

Moving to Patreon

I’m obviously not writing shorts or scenes or anything anymore, I’m just working on the book and… well… working.  The whole of the story has become really large and intricate, more than I ever thought it would, and my need for feedback has become a tangible thing.  Patreon seems like a good place to finish this out.  I’ll be posting a link here at launch for any of you who would be interested in joining in.  There are some nice rewards in the tiers and I would love to hear your thoughts on the characters and the world I’ve built.  September 24 is the set date, and there is still so much to get ready.  I’m even sucking up my camera shyness and recording a short intro video.  I’ve never done one before so I’m really nervous about it.

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner!  I won’t be joining in this year, but I would love to support those of you that are taking up the challenge.  It was really a great experience for me.  I intend to do it again after Smashing Pumpkins is finally finished and in print.  I’ve got two more books in the wings, waiting for their chance to be in the NaNoWriMo spotlight.  If you decide to participate please do drop me a comment and I will happily cheer you on.  And don’t forget the Word Sprints.  I absolutely LOVED those!  If you don’t have a Twitter account then go get one and follow the Word Sprints.  It really added to the sense of community for me as well as giving me a competitive focus.

Power forward my friends!

Git Yer Fortune Told! (Shameless plug for a friend… who’s actually my wife)

 

Self-taught on the dusty, sweltering, crime infested streets of historical 2008 Austin, Texas, Tarrien has honed her perceptive, ice-cold skills to a point sharp enough to leave you rocking back and forth while drooling and eating your own hair. If you are brave enough to pay the blood price you can avail yourself of her arsenal of fortune telling weapons: tarot reading, tea reading, candle reading and flesh melting, crystal ball reading, pendulum reading. All priced at a measly $30 because she completely undervalues herself. Add an extra $5 to get her to do the spooky voice and behavior. When your reading is finished you must walk away quickly and not look back. NEVER LOOK BACK!

Tarrien’s Tarot Readings on Facebook

Tarrien on Etsy

My Thoughts on The Shape of Water

So, I took my wife to see this movie the other day, and while I couldn’t get into the whole ‘sex with an amphibian’ idea I did find the whole thing interesting as a thought project.  After reading Guillermo del Toro’s article on the film and what it meant to him to create it, I find myself still not quite reaching the same conclusions.  I believe that is the beauty of a well crafted film or story, we can all relate to it in different ways.  The events I’m about to cover are not necessarily chronological so please don’t spam me over the way I’m presenting things.

In my world, a place filled with ghosts and psychics and tarot cards, water is a significant symbol for emotions and longing; a dream for something that is not already present.  The title of the movie is a huge indicator for me that what I am about to see is not a reality in its most literal form.  The opening scene backs this up by showing a home filled with water and all the contents are floating.  As the credits fade out, the floating furniture begins to assemble itself properly; lamps and photos come together with tables, chairs align within the kitchen, and a sleeping woman lands gently upon the couch as oxygen separates from hydrogen and the sentient creatures of the planet begin to go about their day.

1962 is the year.  The first character we see is a woman who we learn is named Elisa.  She is mute.  She also has a strong attraction to hard boiled eggs and masturbating in her bath water to a literal egg timer.  I’m thinking of a three minute egg here.  How is that even possible?  Elisa lives in one side of a split apartment next to Giles.  We meet him after the egg timer goes off.  She slaps two of the four eggs she just boiled onto a plate with half of the sandwich she prepares and takes it to him.  The other two eggs and the rest of the sandwich are packed into a brown lunch bag that goes with her to her job.

This is where I begin to think the movie isn’t about Elisa at all, but rather Giles himself.  He is the voice of the narrator.  He is the artist who is starving.  He is a recovering alcoholic and… Giles is gay!  Evidently everything is forgivable but the last one.

As a mute, Elisa uses sign language and her lines are captioned on the screen.  There are only two people in the entire movie who actually talk with her, Giles and Zelda.  Zelda, played by actress Octavia Spencer, appears to be Elisa’s only female friend.  I spent more than a few minutes waiting for her deliver another victoriously brutal line that I could whip out at a moments notice to impress my friends and family with.  I was disappointed.  Of course Octavia wasn’t the lead role here so I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up in the first place.  Still, her role as Elisa’s interpreter at their job in a super secret government laboratory was quite meaningful to me in the end.

In this super secret government laboratory (in my mind I’m pronouncing that as lah-bore-a-tor-ee because it’s fun to say it that way) we meet several males in various positions of importance.  Elisa and Zelda are part of the janitorial crew for the facility.  Evidently Elisa is habitually late for work, a fact that is pointed out by another of the ladies on the crew who is irritated by Zelda holding up the line to the time clock so Elisa can take cuts and punch in.  While our social climate is riddled with people being offended I cannot pull gloss over a few facts of the movie here.  The angry lady is black, Zelda is black, Elisa is not black and she’s a mute.  The angry lady calls Elisa a dummy and talks down to Zelda for coddling her.  Why is this important?  The socio economic climate of this film makes a few biting statements regarding race and sexual preference.  To have the main character despised and coddled by members of a different race places her at the bottom of the human totem pole.  This is driven home later in the film by a weird diner scene.  It’s not as weird as the water filled bathroom scene, but it’s still weird.

The super secret government laboratory gets a new toy.  It’s surrounded by armed guards and mystery and it’s kept in a tank filled with water.  Elisa is drawn to the tank like a fish is drawn to water… oops, I may have given something away there.  The creature in the tank turns out to be The Creature From The Black Lagoon from 1954.  He looks great!  Man, this guy has aged fabulously.  As it turns out, there’s a reason he looks so good, he’s actually been living in a south american river all this time and being worshipped as a god.  He has some killer regenerative abilities.  He also has some pheremones that seep through heavy glass and iron.  Elisa gets one look at this monster and sets her egg timer.

It’s valuable to note here the treatment of this creature.  He is sentient and a very unwilling captive.  He also lacks the ability to effectively communicate with his captors.  He is chained, tortured and studied.  He is also despised.  Then he becomes coddled by Elisa.  Despised and coddled.  I believe I said those words before about something else.

As it turns out, Elisa is able to secretly teach the creature some sign language and get him to eat her eggs.  Of course the language of sexual attraction doesn’t need words so a lot of things go unsaid.  And before you beat yourself senseless with what I’m implying here, the answer is YES!  I know, I was astounded at it too, but who am I to judge?  The creature is clearly sentient and made its choice.  It’s not like Elisa busted out a jar of peanut butter and coerced him.  She was even kind enough to provide a visual to Zelda on exactly how the amphibious penis was accessible.

Let’s drift back to Giles now.  In my mind, he is the real main character of this story.  While Elisa is making googly eyes at the gilman, Giles is doing his best to get work as an advertising artist.  He is working furiously on an picture of a lovely American family being happy about a ring of red jello.  He thinks it’s some of his best work.  When he tries to sell the piece to an agency that he’s obviously worked for in the past he is told to make the family in the picture happier with bigger smiles and to make the jello green instead of red.  He is also reminded that he is an alcoholic.  The whole scene leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Whatever trouble Giles’ drinking caused him in the past it’s not going to go away quietly.  You get the sense he is banging his head on a locked door.

Now we can talk about the diner.  Giles takes Elisa to a small diner to get some key lime pie.  This pie is the color of green that you would find on an aerial photo of the ocean.  The color is beautiful in its natural setting, but looks deeply traumatic as pie.  As it turns out, it’s not really the pie that has attracted Giles to the diner, it’s the man working the counter.  This is where we find out that Giles is homosexual.  He wants this man in a big way and has an entire refrigerator full of slices of sea green key lime pie to prove it.

On a solo return trip to the diner Giles tries to open a door between himself and the man behind the counter.  He is instantly shot down and there is nothing gentle about it.  The only saving grace for Giles is the black couple who enter and try to sit at the counter to order.  The man behind the counter is savage to them about not sitting down and they leave the diner.  Once they’re gone he tells Giles, who has been sitting at the counter all this time, to get out also, that the diner is a family place.  I guess by waiting until the couple were already gone the man behind the counter was acknowledging that gay white guys deserve a bit more respect than black people even though they are equally undesirable inside the diner and at the counter.  

While Giles is being abused both professionally and personally, Elisa is plotting to steal her amphibious lover away from the super secret government laboratory and hide it in her bathtub.  Giles agrees to drive the getaway van and applies his artistic talent to faking an ID that will get him through the gate.  He thinks it’s some of his best work.  Elisa finds surprise assistance from Zelda who is never far away from her friend at work, and is gifted with a box of bath beads from a secret Russian scientist named Hoffstetler who is hiding his true identity because – Cold War, eh?  The bath beads are evidently necessary to properly condition the water in Elisa’s bathtub so the gilman doesn’t die.  I encourage you to really think about this scenario for a moment.  The gilman is easily six feet tall.  He is broad shouldered and aggressive.  He has gills and fins and webbed toes and hands.  Elisa is going to put him in her bathtub and keep him there for a specified amount of time that spans several days.  It’s not like he’s a guppy.  The gilman is muscular and needs to eat something other than hard boiled eggs.  He’s also sentient.  Living in a small bathtub is going to bore the crap out of him.  And I don’t believe that Elisa can afford to keep this creature for more than a couple days or it will starve to death once it has worked its way through Giles’ many cats.  One becomes an hors devour early on but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone too much.  Maybe the snack cat was a bitch?

In the end, Elisa and Giles manage to get the creature down to the local canal that swelled tremendously in size due to some heavy rainfall.  I believe the canal leads out to the ocean and the plan is for the creature to just make a getaway.  The problem is the super secret government facility has been looking for it.  They find it just before it jumps into the canal and everyone gets shot a few times.  The creature looks dead for a couple minutes, then uses its amphibian super power of regeneration to heal itself.  It stands up, wipes off the bullet holes, then slashes the throat of the jackass that shot it.  While Giles watches, the gilman then picks up the shot (and maybe dead) Elisa and jumps into the canal with her.  We are then treated to the sight of her neck opening into gills so she can breathe and her eyes open.  She gets to live happily ever after with the gilman.

Obviously I’ve left a few things out here.  Let me clarify about Elisa’s gills.  She was an orphan who was found in water with three cuts on both sides of her neck that healed over into scars.  I think we are supposed to make the association that she is a crossbreed.  This would explain her inability to speak and her egg timer fixation.  However, it also brings up the question about her father.  Wouldn’t it be the gilman himself?  He seems to be the only one of his kind.  My wife insists that there might be other gilmen out there.  Just because we only see one doesn’t mean there aren’t others.  I see the point, but I still want to be appalled.

Incest aside, let me lay out what I think the film is really about.  I’ve already stated that Giles is the narrator of this tale.  He doesn’t narrate a lot, but it’s enough to let you know that he’s the one telling it.  The apartment he lives in is literally cut in half, each half with its own door.  Elisa lives in one half and he in the other.  I see Elisa as the manifestation of his homosexual needs.  He can’t speak of them and he must act on them in secret or risk being ridiculed and abused by his fellow man.  I believe what Giles wants is a family.  He longs for a white picket fence world with kids and a husband, someone to love and respect him and who will sit down to dinner at a table like a real family would.  All those eggs and the timer are a symbol for his own biological clock that is ticking futilely away.  By paring Eisa with Zelda you can see exactly where Giles feels his innermost desire rates on the social scale.  

Our human brains have a root brain that comes from the amphibian days of our evolution, back when we first crawled out of the sea and began to breath air.  Nowadays it is referred to as the reptilian brain, but without the amphibian beginning we would all still be bottom feeders.  Giles has reached a point in his isolated misery when his sentience is breaking down.  He is losing his ability to think like a human and has become trapped by his own reactions.  Elisa has become his silent voice of freedom.

Whether Guillermo del Toro intended the things I have taken from his film is anybody’s guess.  As I said at the beginning, in my world water is a symbol for emotion and desire and that is clearly what I see in every aspect of this film.  I feel ill equipped to view this story as a fairy tale.  To me it will never be some reptilian form of Beauty and the Beast.  Still, I found a lot to like about this story despite my aversion to some of the elements.  And my wife absolutely loved it.  If she is happy then I am happy.  All is right in the world.

Peace out my peeps!

Liebster Award!

I got an email the other day telling me I had been nominated for a Liebster Award.  Having not encountered this particular creature before I sought the knowledge of the Great Oracle.  Google lead me to the link above.  It appears to be a thoughtfully constructed exposure chain for the upcoming year, similar to a blog tour but different.  I find the idea both fun and compelling and I am pleased to be included in this.  According to the rules, I have to include them in my post so here they are, copy and pasted.

  • Link to this blog post in your Liebster Award blog post
  • Answer the questions given to you (if nominated, if you were not nominated you can use my questions)
  • Create more questions for your nominees to answer (I’m looking for unique and creative ones)
  • Comment on this blog post with a link DIRECTLY to your Liebster award. To make it easy for me to read them all.

Right out of the gate I would like to acknowledge the blog that nominated me, The Stories In Between and tell you a little about them.  I hadn’t run across the blog before the nomination so I’ve been doing a little reading.  I have to say I’m quite impressed.  The author’s style of writing is smooth and I have no doubt there is a lot of personal experience behind the writing.  I can feel it in the shape of the characters and their quite natural dialogue.  I always appreciate a story that will take me away from wherever I’m at and leave me feeling like I want to go back.  Truly a talented writer who takes the craft seriously.  I strongly encourage you to have a look at the blog and enjoy the writing.  I’m not finished there yet so I’ll be ramping up the views as I make my way through Thursdays In The Valley.  I am genuinely flattered to have to such a fine storyteller nominate my blog.

EDIT:  This post has taken me a few days to write and before I was finished a second nomination was dropped on my blog.  Thank you so much A Tree’s Roots!  Your blog is quite inspiring.  The energy that you put into your life and your words is meaningful to me on many levels and I look forward to spending more time on your blog.  The answers to your questions follow right after The Stories In Between.  I hope it’s not cheating to do it like this.

Next up is the questions.  The Stories In Between answered ten questions posed by the blog that nominated them, then created ten new questions for the blogs nominated by them.  My job is to answer the ten new questions then create ten of my own.  So here goes.

The Stories In Between

  1. What hobby would you get in to if time and money weren’t an issue?

Cartooning.  I realize this isn’t a big money issue, but I simply don’t have the time for it.  I draw a little bit but it’s nothing major.  If I really had time to devote to it I would develop both a comic strip style storyline as well as an animated version.

  1. What is the most annoying question that people ask you?

How old are you?  Lol.  I’m 51 but I seem to still be holding up pretty well.  The question seems to spark a lot of argument on occasion, prompting me to dig out my wallet and show my ID to prove I’m really that age.

  1. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t gotten around to it?

Making my own condiments.  My wife just got me a stick blender for Christmas so I’ll be trashing the kitchen soon while I try to make homemade mayonnaise.  Wish me luck!

  1. Do you have a dream job? What would it be?

Writing.  My mother always beat me over the head with the idea of having something to fall back on and as a result I have always devoted my time to the fall back job and never enough time to my writing.

  1. If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would you make?

Walk the way you drive people!  Stop charging up and down whatever side of the sidewalk you feel like.

  1. If you could make a 20 second phone call to yourself at any point in your life present or future, when would you call and what would you say?

I would call myself at a rather specific moment twelve(ish) years ago and say “Don’t apologize.  You are right.”

  1. What do you do to deal with stress?

I write stories and turn my antagonists into demons.  I also play video games to kill things with impunity.

  1. Do you have any pets? What are their names?

I have three pets.  Bill is a gray tabby who stares and chirps at things only he can see; Louie is a fat, orange tabby I bought from PetSmart… cuz I looked at him and he looked back.  Ya know?  Everette is a white ferret that seems intent on convincing Bill and Louie they are adopted.

everette13124735_1731342480476028_2084345437711386703_n

  1. What is something that is really popular/cool right now that really annoys you?

Memes.  ‘Nuff said.

  1. Do you have a favorite book/story from your childhood?

I have a number of them however there are two that stand out:  A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle (I’m curious about the upcoming movie.  Will my hope for a good translation from book to film be met or shattered?) and Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander.  Taran was given to me by mother who had a bad habit of not bothering to see if the book she was buying was part of a series.  It was only after reading it that I actually read the entire cover and discovered I needed to save my allowance and buy the rest of the series.  I am my mother’s child.

Questions from A Tree’s Roots

1,  What is your favorite color and what does it mean to you?

A deep emerald green.  To me it means health and good fortune.  Just seeing this color will make me smile.

2. What prompted you to start blogging and/or writing?

I’ve always written stories.  When I was around five or six my mother gave me a book with blank pages and it set my mind on fire.  The blaze has burned long and hard.  Starting a blog as an outlet for this seemed like a natural step.

3.  What is the most significant journey you’ve been through?

The one I’m on right now, my life itself.  I have made so many choices that I felt were arbitrary but turned out to be significant in the end.  Where I’m at right now is not a place I would have seen myself even five years ago.  It’s kinda fun to know that I can still blow my own mind.

4.  Who or what is your greatest adversary?

I have to say my own fear of failure.  Judging myself as harshly as I do can become paralyzing.

5.  If you could conceptualize yourself as anything other than a human being, what would you be?

A tree.  My life has been quite nomadic even in childhood.  I would love to find a single location where I could put down my roots and just live.

6.  How would you describe your safe place?  If you don’t have one what do you imagine it might be like?

My safe place is anywhere without other people.  I need to feel like my mind is the only one active in my immediate surroundings.

7.  What is your favorite website?

Hmmm.  I’m not sure how to answer this one.  I don’t think I have a favorite but there are several that like a lot.  I’m a big fan of Reddit and Twitch.

8.  What type of media resonates most with you?

I love audio.  Tell me a story.  Read me a book.  Turn on a podcast!  I think I listen to movies more than I actually watch them.

9.   Do you have any background/education/experience you feel benefits your blog?

Not really.  I took a few college classes back in the day for english and creative writing but I didn’t enjoy them.  I found them to be tedious and unenlightening.

10.  On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) how would you rate your ability to empathize?

I have to go with 10.  I am firmly standing on the side of over-empathizing to the point that it can ruin my whole day if I encounter someone oozing unhappiness.  I carry that stuff around with me.

Before I list my own questions I would like to provide the list of blogs I am nominating.  Each one is one that I follow and have enjoyed.  I would really like it if you would take the time to check them all out.  

 

Nominees:

https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/

https://iainkellywriting.com/

https://nonexistentbooks.com/

https://thefreedomof.wordpress.com/

https://thougthcontrol.wordpress.com/

https://dwaynewolff.wordpress.com/

https://mabrycampbell.wordpress.com/

Now for my questions.

  1. What is the one piece of advice that will forever jump into your mind because you didn’t take it when your were first given it?
  2. What is your favorite thing to binge on?
  3. What is a physical gesture you tend to use a lot and why?  EX. talking with your hands, winking at someone while you speak, shaking your leg.
  4. Pick a card, any card… a tarot card.  🙂
  5. What are your top two pet peeves with our digital age lifestyle?
  6. What is your all-time favorite blogging beverage?
  7. Name a book/movie that you can watch/read again and again.
  8. What is an activity you enjoy watching other people do but don’t want to do yourself?
  9. How do you explain why water turns into ice to a four year old?
  10. What is a habit you have that you got from someone else?

I Know Your Face!

The sign on the door read: Laundry Thief!  5’ 4”, brown hair, hiding under the stairs.  I know your face!

Um, okay.  The stairs leading to the basement of my apartment building, a.k.a the laundry room, are actually quite open and non-threatening.  Aside from knowing there are twenty-nine of them, I’m not too bothered by the climb.  The picture below is not the actual stairs, but it gives you a good idea of how a saw them.   See all the light?

safeStairs

 Thanks to that sign, written in brown marker, and taped to the inside of the main entry door, I now have to go to the laundromat.  

notSafe