Day Six: The Realistic Dreamer Climbs a Tree

I am what you might call a realistic dreamer of unrealistic dreams. You probably don’t, but you might. I have this tendency to dream the elaborate fantasy, always complex in detail, always glorious to behold. Life, conversely, likes to drop rocks in my pond, fracture the stillness of the water with ripples that bound end-to-end, and sit in amusement upon the shore whilst I fuss and complain about it. I believe life does this to everyone, if for no other reason than to realize my desperate hope that I am not alone at the center of the bullseye.

As always, I will endeavor to get to the point, despite my consistent desire to offer preamble to every form of thought I ever have ever.

You see, I don’t like to write at home. Not the home I currently live in anyway. Over the years of rental madness, I’ve had a writing space here or there, but never anything fitting my need for isolation and inspiration in one. One major hurdle I’ve always dealt with is how easily I am distracted. Roaming the webbernuts, catching up on a show, grabbing a book, yelling at the cat and dog because THEY WON’T QUIT STARING AT ME FOR THE LOVE OF TIMMY CHRIST, snacks, sitting on the patio, whatever. It’s just too easy. I need a place that is solely for writing, secluded yet in proximity to home, inspiring and radiating in a positive flow of creativity. I often times head for a cafe–which is great for caffeination, but horrible for creativity. Again, distractions.

What I need is this:

Behold the beauty that is the writing treehouse.

The future home of bestselling books I will write because it demands it.

Granted, I need a house. A house with appropriate trees. And resources, a.k.a. “money”. And someone who knows how to build one of these things that won’t drop me into squish the first moment I step through the door. You know, just to name a few. But that doesn’t keep me from dreaming about it. Seeing myself with some dopey smile, typing away, a cup of coffee on the desk fueling the words that flow onto the page. Beautiful words. Words that inspire, or at least inspire you to buy my other books.

So if anyone wants to make that happen for me, you know, I’m game and stuff.

Is it realistic? Or am I a dreamer? Or is it just something I really really want and you can shut the hell up about reality?

I always tend to the latter.

I didn’t want to write Friday. I had a whole day, minus a few hours, in which to create, but I just didn’t want to. I whined to my insistence, balled up on the floor and scared the hell out of the dog, and outright refused to participate. Being at home contributed. I had other things to do. Important things I had neglected, like scooping cat poop out of Her Majesty’s litter box, washing dishes, watching an hour of that Guns N’ Roses concert I had on the DVR so I could marvel at how awful and out of breath Axl Rose sounded. Ultimately I wrote a paragraph, and only because it popped into my head and I didn’t want to forget it. Then I left the file open the rest of the day as a good-hearted testament to my desire to write something later. Which I didn’t.

This is not terribly uncommon for me. It’s likely the primary reason why I have only published two books thus far. Yeah. Likely.

Today, I went to a cafe. My usual spot. Usual time, when I know it will be mostly empty for two hours, yet the coffee is still fresh from the end of the lunch rush. Still, as the caffeine train wailed at the station, distraction happened. I people watched. They played Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys so my brain was like, No worries, dude, I know these lyrics. Check it, and proceeded to continually interrupt my flow. I managed to write Chapter Three, knowing it will likely be gutted later because it probably sucks. But it’s written, which is still better than not. And because I vowed to keep this blog project raw, I’m posting it despite my insistence that I log out immediately and go edit.

Not that I could. It has to sit for a day before I can look at it again. Distance and all. Like revisiting a soup the day after you make it. Sometimes it’s better than you thought. So, here it is. Agatha’s thirteenth birthday, and the chapter–more or less, since this is all narrative–the story told me I need to start Agatha’s tale with. As I said, it will look different at some point.

This puts me at exactly 6,100 words, or roughly 6.8% of my target of 90,000 (which would be about 300 printed pages). After this, Chapter Four will return us to the present, with a surprise awaiting Agatha.

As always, comment away. I welcome the input.

Chapter Three (Word Doc)

Chapter Three (.pdf)

Day Five: Inside the Outside of the Dog’s Inside World

Project Stats:

4,619 of 90,000 words complete (5.13%)

In Anointed, one of the many lengthy ramblings I utilize to open a chapter has something to do with a dog’s perspective. I can’t really profess to know the first thing about a dog’s perspective, owing to my lack of being one, but not being something never kept a writer from writing about being one, so why should I be any different? Anyhoodles, it goes like this:

It is the general opinion of most compassionate and caring animal
enthusiasts that human beings are without heart in forcing dogs to be left to
suffer the elements of nature under a dilapidated structure of rotting wood and
rusty nails, if any is offered at all. Most often, they would say, this particular
brand of cruelty to these loyal, loving beasts of nature brings about irreparable
harm to the fragile psyche of the pooch in question. The dog becomes a
defeatist, a beaten spirit in a lonely world of dark shadows and torrential
downpours, and a borderline anemic amidst the brutal blood-sucking assault
of ticks, fleas and mosquitoes.
They would say this.
Dogs, on the other hand, have a much more personalized and simplistic
perspective. Outside is Inside, Inside is Outside; rain is a cooling gift from
heaven, a bath is the unbearable warmth of a liquefied hell; a petting is a
trolley ride through Pleasure, a brushing is open-eye surgery under the
unforgiving shear of a chainsaw; a tick or flea or mosquito is an unwarranted
annoyance, and a flea collar is an open invitation to a severe thrashing at the
paws of the three nomadic Dobermans down the road.
Dogs would say this.
And who would be right but the one holding the perspective?
After all, someone will always be at the mercy of another’s perspective,
whether it be at the hands of a well-meaning Master, or the seemingly
distraught, but actually carefree, antics of a dog Outdoors. Or
Indoors…perspectives accounted for, of course.

Seems rather egocentric to quote myself, but there you go.

Point is, everything is about perspective. For example, when working through a chapter, a clear perspective of all the facets of that particular beginning, middle and end, aren’t entirely clear until the last word is written. Today, as I rounded out Chapter Two of what is now called The Progenitor (Specimen A may become the title of a separate book, but who knows!), it occurred to me that my earlier perspective lacked all the necessary details. So I added them. A few line from Agatha’s mother, some clarification over what Ag’s motivation is, and some refining of The Incident with Justin that has her so out of sorts. Therefore, in that What-You-Read-Before-Still-Exists-On-Some-Level kind of thing, I present Chapter Two in completion, unedited. I have also included the a file for the whole manuscript, should you rather follow it that way (allowing you to read the previous chapter(s) as you go). Frankly, I’m not yet sure which is best. Only you know what you prefer. So let me know.

I admit to being intrigued by the development of Agatha’s story. She certainly has a lot to hide. Hopefully she’ll let me in on her secrets before I try to write about them. Oh, and because someone asked where the name came from: I was heavily inspired to write by two wonderful female authors, Judy Blume and Agatha Christie. So, I combined the two names, and put the other two in as characters she knows. Just one of those fun things I get to do as a writer to pay homage to those who inspired me.

As always, I welcome all input!

Chapter Two (Word)

Chapter Two .pdf

Progenitor Manuscript .pdf

Day Two: In which one may not be one at all

A hero is only a hero unless they aren’t. A bit hard to be a hero if you’re edging off screen at the moment the crisis begins. Likewise, a confident Well, by Golly, I used to be a hero doesn’t do much for a gathered crowd short of create a swell of sympathy for the fallen.

I mean, in The Matrix, Neo goes to see the Oracle, uncertain about what he will hear, and hears the bad news that he is not The One. Only he is. He just has to believe it for it to be true. He just has to make a choice for it to be true. What if the Oracle had said Well, you were The One, until you weren’t. Tough too bad for you, huh?

That would be kind of deflating, I think. Like landing the lead in Broadway musical, seeing your name in the early publicity, then getting the boot a few days before the curtain first opens. Then who are you? You’re the street name people can’t recall without using GPS. The Mexican place–um, whatever it was called–where you had that great burrito that one time. That kid you knew once in elementary school that punched you in the ear. What was his name again? You are the person that Google was created for, because without it you never existed at all.

So, that in mind, meet Donnell Shepherd. He’s a sweet guy. Forty, a bit autistic, terribly fascinated with time, and a severe thorn in my side. Why for, you ask? Well, he’s the former lead of Specimen A. The one who quit then came back after his slot was filled and asked for a job, any job that allowed him to stay on with the project. I told maybe him something had opened up, but I’d have to check with the story and I couldn’t guarantee permanence. Three books is a lot of space to devote to a story and if I just tossed him in Willy-Nilly and it threw a fit about him not being invited, he might find himself dead all quick like. It was beyond my control, I said. Just one of those writing things. He pondered it a few days, then showed up out of nowhere when I was driving back from Richmond, all eager to sign on and confident he could convince the story he was a vital cog worth keeping.

Ha. As if the story cares about anyone.

Look, in the words of Gordon Ramsey: Here’s the thing. You can’t trust a story. Oh, sure, it’ll lead you in with kind words, stroke your ego, tell you how pretty you look in that dress, and wonder aloud how such a creation could be wandering about without someone latched onto your arm. You’ll swoon, giggle, blush, and loose all ability to speak whatever language it is you thought you knew but seem to no longer be able to recall. It’ll pour you some tea, talk about where it sees your relationship going, lead you onto your path and then SQUASH YOU LIKE A BUG.

The story is like your older brother who told you that one time you’d absolutely love being spun around by an arm and leg until your glasses fly off, the blood rushes to your head, and you nearly loose consciousness while you cry. If I had known I would have been spun into an alternate dimension, I might have said no. I mean, you. If you had known. This isn’t about me. Never was.

Ahem.

The most improbable part of this is that Donnell’s pleas worked, to a degree. He not only got his job back, but he got dropped into the first chapter as the focal point of view. Now, it remains to be seen what context his POV maintains going forward, but who wouldn’t want to be aboard the Rebel ship trying to evade capture from the Star Destroyer in the opening of A New Hope? Except the rebels, that is. That didn’t end well for them. Whatever. Moot point. He’s the lead into the story. I’m still not sure how he managed it. God, I hope he didn’t sleep with the story. Gross.

Nah, Donnell’s a nice guy. He wouldn’t do that.

Besides, there’s a very real chance this version of Chapter One doesn’t make the cut. It might not be Chapter One at all. It feels like a Chapter One, but the original Chapter One in Anointed felt like a Chapter One and yet became Chapter Three in the final edits. The existing Chapter One came out of nowhere to steal the lead at the last minute. The current Chapter One of The Storyteller was Chapter One from the beginning, only notably different by way of the fourteen-thousand, five hundred and sixteen edits it’s undergone. By Universal edict, I’m required to say that number may be exaggerated a bit, but you can’t convince me it’s by much.

So, all that in mind, here is a look at the newly minted Chapter One of Specimen A. I’m pleased with it. Donnell showed himself well, and what he experiences is the catalyst to everything that will follow. I have attached a Word document and a .pdf, so that you have options. Options are good. Even Donnell would agree, providing those options allowed him to get to work on time. Read up. Please offer your thoughts in the comments (though my posts on social media are fine as well). This is meant as an interactive project, and I’d love to hear what you have to say as I drop bits of the book in (and ramble about mostly nothing otherwise).

Happy reading. Nah-noo nah-noo.

Chapter One Original (Word Document)

Chapter One Original PDF

Day One: In which one is the day, and the day shall be one.

I am Captain Impossible. I am also highly caffeinated¹.

That could mean that I am the captain of impossible things, or that I am so impossible to deal with that I’m often found wearing a fancy hat and tugging at my cuffs as I comment on the breeze. I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Nevertheless, here I am, prepared to undertake a project that could be–might be–an impossible chore. Blogging my way through a book project sounds a bit like bludgeoning myself with a hammer just to see what will happen, or at what point I begin screaming Why am I doing this? But FUN FOR YOU! You get to witness it!

I may need to rework that simile. Then again, the whole point of this is to offer a raw, unedited look at the madness that is writering, so you get what you get. It’s my hammer. Don’t tell me what to do with it. I’ll turn this whole thing into a Three Stooges free-for-all quicker than you click your way clear and run from the room screaming why, why, oh Dear God, why is Shemp?

From left to right, I believe they are Writer, Plot and Story, but I could have them confused.

I didn’t want to have to say that, but you left me no choice.

Anyway, if you’ll please stop interrupting, I’ll continue. I was talking about the book I want to write. The working title is Specimen A. It’s Young Adult. It’s one of those speculative fiction/fantasy deals. Originally, it was supposed to be a straight up adult fantasy, but then my main character quit and I found this teenage girl who said she could nail it. And she did. Originally I figured the story would be a one-book ordeal. Then the story told me to screw off and expanded while I slept. This happens. If a writer ever tells you they knew exactly where the story was going from the moment they started, they’re lying. Damn things are like kids in a sugar factory, bouncing all over the place while you run after, arms wide, expecting they’ll bounce your way any moment. Nope. I can tell you where the story is showing me it wants to go now, but it may change its mind. It may have no choice, because some random back-story character will probably pop his head up on page 101 and say Hey, I’ve got something say, all right? And you’ll be all, The Hell you do. And he’ll be so What if I was a woman and married to that guy? And you’ll jump out of you chair and scare the bejeezus out of your cat because you’re like WTF man? Where’d you even come from anyway? And the story will pipe in with I’m good with it, just so you know. And that will pretty much be the end of your outline.

Writing, ladies and gentlemen.

So instead of a general fantasy, one book story with a forty-something year old protagonist, I have a Young Adult trilogy with a female teen as my lead, and, oh, the forty-something year old wants to know if there’s a smaller role he can accept because his agent said it would be good for his career. What a putz. Fine. Whatever. But he’ll probably die. If the story is so inclined. Book One is called The Progenitor. I think. Yes. I like it. Done.

There is, gratefully, a constant in this all. The story hasn’t departed from the original concept, and I’m fairly certain it won’t. The story remains the tale of a main character who discovers … something … about something and something and something happens to … something … or someone and something.

No it’s not. But writing these damn one-sentence synopsis is a frustrating thing. Just find a book on your shelf that you’ve read and know ok well. Summarize it in a sentence and make me want to read it. Not a run-on sentence either. Like 25 words or less. I’ve edited more synopsis than I have pages of actual books I have written.

Specimen A: A young girl discovers her ability to move through time is neither rare, nor unexpected, and leads to a revelation that will change her world forever.

25 words. Boom. Not happy with it, but it’ll do. I much prefer the fifty to hundred-word plus synopsis that allow a deeper crawl into the where the story is going.

I could take a different approach. One I would take if I were a bookseller rather than an author. In that case: Imagine you had the ability to travel through time, but you knew someone, or something, was watching you do it. They don’t like it. They want to find you. You’re pretty sure they want to kill you. So you try to keep your movements through time short, simple. A quick shot through a day of school, for instance, because you don’t want to see your best friend who you saw at the movies with the guy she knew you liked. Or to the night before because you want to study for the pop quiz you’re about to fail. Then you encounter a boy who has the same ability, only he isn’t trying to hide it. In fact, he’s quite reckless with it. Even worse: He moved into the future and found himself in a coffin, and he’s determined that he’s going to die in two days and the best he can tell is that it has something to do with you. However, his presence has awakened those that have been watching, and now they know your secret. They know what you can do, and if you don’t do something soon, the boy won’t be the only one who dies.

I’ll leave it there. As I’ve said before, I want to avoid spoiling the reveal of what is happening. At least until I write that bit. If the story lets me, that is. Ugh. Stories. Can’t live with ’em, can’t be a writer without ’em, amirite?

I have vowed to keep these posts around a thousand words or less, and with this sentence (technically, the footnote that follows, but, um, whatever) I have crossed that. So, that’s it for now. My next post will be after I write the first chapter, which may or may not be tomorrow, life depending. Might be Friday. Because, you know, you’re going to mark that on your calendar. But I’ll add a link to the entire chapter, and await the torrents of comments that will undoubtedly follow.

¹ Which is neither a by-product of, or leading to, previous or future statements, but rather a non-parenthetical aside lacking in necessary format and function to provide insight into much of anything except that I do, indeed, like coffee.

An Idea at 10,000 Feet

“So, I’ve got this idea.”

“I literally just tensed up. Like you were going to hit me.”

This is a real thing, apparently. I tell my friends I have an idea, and it’s like I’ve catapulted a cow over the rampart. RUN AWAY.

I like ideas. I have many of them. Some of them become living breathing things. Others squirrel away in my head, awaiting the End of Days and Mental Apocalypse that will signal end of Me. Some of my ideas have worked. Some of them worked for a short time then flamed out badly. Some idea were quite splendid, but ultimately forgotten. A couple of them right-out sucked. But I keep going, producing ideas as if planting for a bountiful harvest come Fall, never the wiser, never the worse for it.

Like I said, I like ideas.

This a page from one of my favorite ideas EVER.

This a page from one of my favorite ideas EVER.

Ideas are the seed of creation. Plant them, water them, talk to them about your league-leading fantasy baseball team, and wait to see what happens. Do this daily and the growth will amaze. Forget a few days, give it half water, half evaporated passion, and maybe not so much. Forget it altogether and try to contain the shock and horror when you realize your ideas are smoking-hot scorched earth. I often time find myself in the in-between there, a shortcoming I continue to work on. My little factory of ideas is overrun with product. Distribution has been a bit slack.

Which brings me to my point. You see, I have this idea…

I want to blog my way through a book, open the door to the reader, offer raw material and my thoughts on it as I take the journey from conception to completion. The aforementioned friend, who shall remain nameless no matter how tall or bald he may be, thought me–perhaps justifiably–insane. Why would I want to put myself through the added strain of writing a blog every time I’ve written my day’s work? I don’t know. Jeez, if I had to come up with reasons for the vast majority of my ideas, I’d have shut down the factory long ago. I’m not what one might term an A-type personality, after all. I like cheese, and I damn well prefer to sit while I eat it. That said, I do believe that the exercise–and it would be precisely that–would be an interesting one. I have no idea how it will go, and I have no real plan for what material, or how much of it, I will share. But, being able to lay out the process of creation for all to see would have quite an appeal. If not to readers, then perhaps to writers. At worst, it will to me.

Again, this is an idea. In my head it seems a good one. At least an interesting one. But we’ll see. What I do know is that having people monitor my work and (EGAD!) even comment on it as I go would be significant motivation to create the best manuscript I’ve ever written. Then, after I’ve produced this other-worldly masterpiece of literature, the publishing industry will be so fond of the process they’ll create small rooms along Broadway in Manhattan, windows looking over the work space of writers in need of motivation, their day’s work scrolling atop the space, or accessible via tablets on the outside of the glass! They’ll be forced to record videos about their day’s work! People will watch the breakdowns as they flow from euphoric to despondent, from absolutely certainty to complete despair! BRILLIANT!

Then again, maybe not. My ideas can get away from me, after all, otherwise my friends wouldn’t fear them.

So here’s what I am proposing: I have an idea for a Young Adult fantasy novel. It’s been sizzling away in my brain meats for some time, and I’m pretty sure it’s at the right temperature to break out and devour. When next I write here, I will begin the process, detailing the idea, where it came from, how it has transformed, and give a rough idea of where I see it going. I’ll refrain from talking about the end point, or revealing spoilers that might dampen the reading of any material I post. Also, I’ll refrain from posting entire chapters, as I’m not entirely sold that people won’t run away screaming. If, however, you find yourself one who might be up for taking post in the bookstore of my mind and reading all that I have written, I’ll gladly create a way for you to do so. But you’ll have to let me know. Which seems a rather simple thing to say, but this is me we’re talking about. Assume nothing.

The working title of this project is Specimen A. If it had a subtitle it would be: The Progenitor. It may well wind up with both. Or neither. Or one. Who knows?

So there you go. My idea. Well, my most recent idea. We’ll see how it goes.