This is the official blog for my writing and other creative endeavors.
I wrote few books I call The Bridgetown Trilogy, which are also under a larger umbrella called The Mendaihu Universe. They can be found in e-book form at Smashwords! They can also be found as trade paperbacks on Amazon! Please check out the Buy Stuff tab above for links!
Welcome to Bridgetown is where I talk about writing for the most part. I’ve been learning the ropes as a self-published author, and I’m more than happy to Pay It Forward by sharing any knowledge I pick up along the way.
I also have another blog called Walk in Silence, which is where I talk about my other obsession: music. I might talk about anything from new releases to old records to goofy videos to college radio to internet radio and anything in between. You can find it here.
My blog schedule here at Welcome to Bridgetown is Monday and Friday, with the occasional fly-by or extra post. I try to post them first thing in the morning, but they may run a few hours later if there are scheduling issues.
I’ve said it before: I really don’t want to wax politic here, I really don’t. This blog is about writing. It’s about my love of writing, the things I’ve learned that I want to pass on. It’s a part of my lifelong career. I don’t want to wax politic because a) that’s not what this blog is about, b) I don’t want to bore you/chase you away, and c) I try to avoid said waxing as much as possible these days for health reasons.
So I’m just going to say this about Shakespeare in the Park’s recent interpretation of Julius Caesar: to be honest, when Shakespeare is reworked and set in a more current context, quite often it’s bloody fantastic. We saw a recent version of Hamlet that took place during an extremely paranoid Cold War that worked perfectly. West Side Story (aka Romeo and Juliet, of course) is one of the best musicals ever made. The Globe Theatre’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in present time that we saw last year was absolutely hilarious. So a version of Julius Caesar in which JC is a very clear interpretation of Donald Trump? Totally makes sense to me. [And yes, it is true that the same troupe did a version some time ago using Obama, to little or no controversy.]
The issue here is not using a sitting President (a term I presently use with a bitter taste in my mouth, natch) in a play in which a major plot point is that he snuffs it. I mean, come on — remember Primary Colors (the book and the movie), which was supposed to make Bill Clinton look like a moron? LOLs for days from the right wing, as I recall. I saw the movie myself — it was pretty bad quality, but its ham-fisted attempts at cleverness didn’t give me the vapors.
The issue here, at least for me, is the willingness to be so incurious, so impassive, so willing to blindly idolize a person to the point that logic flies out the window. Or as Darrin Bell’s comic strip Candorville put it so wonderfully yesterday, “I’m starting to think you’ll say anything just to win an argument.” The vocal backlash was boggling. Blessedly short, but boggling.
On the plus side, it’s ridiculous situations like this that empower me even more to keep on writing. I don’t need to fight against pointless agruments like this. These voices may be loud and have a network megaphone, but they’re also a shrinking base. The longer this play goes on, the less comedic it becomes. There’s the unfortunate byproduct of all this, in which certain people will find this claptrap as God’s Truth and hurt someone, and I do sometimes fear that will escalate if this keeps up.
BUT — I refuse to lay down my quill because of it. More to the point, I want to pick it up more often. To keep sanity alive and kicking.
With my Sort of Secret Next Project taking up my daily practice words, I’ve been tearing down some of the boundaries I’ve had set up for ages. I suppose you could say it’s part of the ‘own it’ mantra I’ve been using lately…instead of trying to find reasons not to write a certain scene for whatever reason, I’m forging ahead and writing it anyway.
These are passages that work within the context of Secret Next Project, of course. It’s not so much about pantsing the writing as I’m letting myself come up with things that I would normally not write. Here’s the thing: when I’m writing a character, I have to have at least some connection with them, whether mentally or emotionally. I get inside their head and see how they tick. This is all well and good, but there is the tendency to write samey characters, or worse, write Jonc Personality #483.
I tried (and I think mostly succeeded) writing this way for the trilogy, especially when I had to get inside the head of characters like Denni and Amna, who were major players with a hell of a lot of stressful issues going on. I think this is also partly why I trunked some of my earlier novels, because I’d failed.
The Secret Next Project involves quite the menagerie of characters, so I definitely need to stretch my boundaries there. In writing my daily practice words, I’ve been doing my best to set as few boundaries as possible. In the process, over the last couple of days I found myself writing some passages that surprised even me! And I like that feeling. It means I’m doing something right.
…That said, it also means I still need to focus mostly on Meet the Lidwells. Which means the Secret Next Project is currently also the I’d Rather Be Working On This Fun New Project Instead Project.
It’s a question that came to me the other day when I received an email response to an agent submission that I’d completely forgotten about. I’d forgotten about it because I’d sent it out early in March of 2015, over two years previous, for A Division of Souls. One of the last times I’d submitted a manuscript before deciding to self-publish the trilogy. The response was a rejection, but a nice one…they explained why they felt they couldn’t connect with my book.
I’m totally fine with that. In fact, I’m totally fine that it was rejected, and that it took two years for them to respond. I’m actually kind of touched that they not only took the time to finally respond, but they read my submission and gave a reason why they didn’t accept it. That doesn’t always happen.
I thought about it some over the weekend, and realized that if I had heard back from the few agents I’d submitted to then, and if, in a stroke of luck, my manuscript had been accepted, then I’d have most likely gone a different route in my writing career altogether.
Instead, I’d given them all three months to respond — a generous amount of time to be honest — and after a no-response from a fly-by follow up, that’s when I chose to self-publish the books. A Division of Souls would be self-released that September, and I’ve stayed on that course ever since.
Over the course of the last two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s multiple reasons why I self-publish.
Quick turnaround. Let me be clear on this: I totally get that it takes a long time to go from submission to finished product. I’ve done my homework; I completely understand what goes into releasing product via an established company. Self-publishing on the other hand means that it’s all on me, which means I don’t need to worry about my release conflicting with someone else’s. It also means that the wait for the end result is all on me; I assign my own deadlines and schedule my production work and release dates.
The DIY attitude. In the process of learning the ropes from the pros, I’ve also learned a secret: I can take those same steps on my own. As I’ve stated before, I’ve treated all my books as if I were a punk band self-releasing my new single. It won’t have the high gloss or the artful editing, but it’ll be something I think is pretty darn cool (and from what I’ve heard from readers, I think others feel the same way). This has become one of my favorite reasons for self-publishing. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s work I absolutely love doing.
I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. This is the reason for self-publishing that I’ve been thinking about lately. I know that my stories don’t exactly fit into a specific mold. I know of professionally published authors who have this issue, where they are unable or unwilling to work on a project due to its possible inability to sell commercially. Some of them have even stopped writing altogether, or have written in a completely different genre (and even written under a new pen name) to circumvent the failure of their chosen career path. This in particular caused me to think about how that would play out, had I gone the professional route. To be quite honest, I’m sure it would have frustrated the fuck out of me and might have even caused me to rethink what the hell I’d done with my life. [And on a personal note, it most likely would have thrown me into a long and deep funk. Definitely something I prefer not to deal with again in my lifetime.] I’m not a commercial writer; I’m not the best at that style, and mainly because it doesn’t interest me. As soon as I’d self-released A Division of Souls, I knew I’d chosen the right path. I can write what I want and not have to worry whether or not the publisher will be able to market it. Again, that’s all on me, and I love being creative about stuff like that.
Self-publishing is a hard (and sometimes expensive) road, but it’s the road I’m best suited for. It excites me on almost every level, from the writing to the editing to the cover art, and even to the release. My only constraints are of my own making. I may not be pulling in the dough, but I’m putting my work out into the world, and I love getting responses about it. Plus I’m paying it forward by telling you about the process here at my blog, and now at a growing number of conventions.
It’s a hard road, but it’s the one I chose, and I’m glad I chose it.
Another thing about perseverance, especially when you want to be a writer, is knowing full well that you’re going to face-plant into that next tree, but you go ahead anyway, scream “Yoiks, and away!” and make the jump.
It took me a long time to figure that out. I’d say most of my 90s output was really just about fostering the writing habit, getting used to it, getting better at it, little by little. Sure, I had delusions of grandeur that I’d be able to sell what I was writing, but there was always a small part of me that knew those delusions were exactly that. My attempts at submission then were during a time when I had no idea if I was any good. If they’d get accepted, then I’d figure I was on the right path and doing something right. If they didn’t, well…at least I knew that I still had some ways to go.
I still metaphorically face-plant into trees on a regular basis, of course. This time it’s less about quality or submission success, and more about dedication and time management. On Wednesday I wasted too much time doing other things that I didn’t give myself enough time for my daily practice words. I only got a few hundred down before I had to log off of that and get some Lidwells work done. I made up for it Thursday by avoiding Twitter* and making a point to get the practice words (and a few other creative things) out of the way early.
(* – Well, given that it was filled with comments, hot takes and livetweeting of the James Comey hearing, I had good reason.)
That’s the thing, really…despite the face-plants, I still have to shake it off and jump again at the next opportunity. Maybe one of these days I’ll clear all those obstacles.
If I’ve learned anything over the last week, it’s that the downside to coming up with a secondary project to play around with while working on Meet the Lidwells is the temptation to fall prey to the “ooh shiny!” of the newer project, leaving the original one undone. I love the apartment complex idea at the moment, and I’m quite sure it’s because I’m still in the world-building phase of that one. Two daily-words entries and I’ve already come up with some neat ideas that I’d like to play with.
BUT! I really need to focus on my other story! The one that’s been on my mind over the last few years. The one I can FINALLY devote my time to. The last thing I need right now is another distraction!
So how to handle this sort of thing? All writers fall prey to it sooner or later…the rogue new idea that tempts you and won’t leave you alone, and you know damn well that if you don’t write it down RIGHT NOW it’ll be lost forever. Often to the detriment of any other deadlines you might be working on at that moment.
Well…I’ve learned that there’s got to be a bit of balance. From past experience, the worst thing I can do with a completely new idea is to try to create an entire novel out of it. I definitely don’t have the whole story and its universe in my head at that point. The end result will be a lot of making stuff up as I go along, thus needing a hell of a lot of revision on the back end. It’s one of the reasons the trilogy project took so damn long.
I wrote outtakes of Meet the Lidwells via my daily practice words, and I knew that wasn’t going to be the final version. And I wrote it while I was rewriting and revising the trilogy, so I put just enough into it to keep it alive until it came time for it to be my main project.
I’m doing the same with this new story idea. Right now I’m looking at it from a workshop level, throwing stuff at it to see what works. Coming up with characters, names, settings, and other background details that I can reference a little later. And I’m sure sometime within the next few months I might even draw a layout of the main setting, maybe even some of the characters. Bits will change along the way. It’s all up in the air right now, malleable.
And that’s just for fun, at the moment.
The heavy work is on Lidwells, and that’s where it’ll remain until it’s done. That’s my evening writing work, the stuff I’ll treat more seriously. Attending to details, focusing on the feel of the story in my head, contemplating what needs work and what needs excision. And besides…this one has a deadline that I don’t want to break. If I have to put New Shiny Idea aside to devote more time to Lidwells to get it done on time, so be it.
Finding that balance is a bit of crazy work, but I believe I can get it done.
For your enjoyment…something I wrote Thursday afternoon for my daily 750 Words. It’s a rough draft of an idea I’ve had for the past month or so. The setting is an apartment complex in a suburb of a sprawling mega-city, where its tenants are of all kinds: humans, aliens, monsters, mythical beasts. It’s a Studio Ghibli-inspired story about a young kid living at this complex (whose family owns and runs it) and his adventures meeting all kinds of beings, getting to know their lives, eccentricities, and maybe even starting a few friendships in the process.
This is most likely going to be my next project after Meet the Lidwells, and I’m looking forward to writing and self-pubbing it.
I’ve put the passage under this here cut. Hope you enjoy it.
I’d completely forgotten today is Monday. This is what happens when you have a four-day weekend full of fun plans: you completely forget what day it is. Which means I’d completely forgotten to write up an entry for today.
Oh well, that’s okay. I have a few things in mind that I’d like to post about, though we’ll be heading out to San Mateo pretty soon for the last day of BayCon (in which I’m featuring on two panels). I’ll either post something later today or I’ll have something in the next day or so.
I’m writing this on Wednesday evening, but by the time you read this on Friday, I’ll be awake and preparing for BayCon down the road in San Mateo. Come by and say hi if you’ll be there!
Speaking of preparation…this is officially the second convention I’ll be going to where I’m actually taking part in panels to some degree. Which means that even though I’ll be going there mostly to have fun and meet other writers, in a way I’m also there on business. As much as I feel more at home riffing in conversations, playing off what other people are talking about, I should also ensure that I stay on subject. And more importantly, I should be prepared to bring up certain points that I’d like to share with the audience.
For two of the panels, the moderators reached out to the rest of us panelists for some preplanning and idea sharing, which I thought was a brilliant idea. [The moderator for one of the panels I was on at FogCon did the same, which helped a lot then as well.] It gives us a chance to come up with a barebones list of points to make and where we’d like the conversation to head. It also breaks the ice a bit! If you’re ever moderating a panel at a convention, I highly suggest doing this.
There’s also my half-page flyers to prep. By this, it’s just a simple address label stuck in the lower corner where I’ve written something along the lines of “I’ll be at these panels. Come and say hi!”. If someone sees these on the freebie table, then they can follow up if they so choose.
And as always, I’ll have needed to take some allergy meds and stashed a few bottles of water with me. Yapping on a panel for an hour or so does dry you out!
And lastly, A. and I are familiar with the area, as it’s just down the road from SF Airport. I’m sure the hotel will have a restaurant and probably a snack shop, but it’s good to know places nearby where we can stop for take-out on the way home!
I don’t need to prepare for every detail, of course. But doing at least the bare minimum so I’m prepared is good enough.
Note: Monday’s blog post will either be up late or will be up on Tuesday, due to the fact that it will be the last day of the con and I have two of the panels that day. 🙂
My original plan to take the week off from blogging was simple: I had a lot on my plate, my energy was tapped, and I’d run out of things to blog about. I’d earned it, considering I’ve had a solid updating schedule over the last five months. Just a week off to focus on Day Job and personal deadlines, and not feel guilty about it.
It seems I chose to get all philosophical instead.
The week before, I’d been using my daily 750 Words to type up a sort of 90s version of my Walk in Silence riff — just writing about the various things that had gone on in a rollercoaster of a decade for me personally. As with the 80s riff I’d posted over at the WiS blog, this was partly about the music but mostly about me purging things out of my system once and for all. By purging, I mean this: writing it out for the final time, coming to peace with it, learning from it. And then moving forward.
I finished up that riff on Monday and briefly thought: what am I going to write about for my daily 750 Words now? I thought about it some and realized that the overall lesson I had to learn from my life in the 90s was this: stop trying to fit in where you so obviously can’t and don’t want to belong.
It’s a general statement to be sure, but the reasoning behind it makes sense. It started way back in my senior year in high school, actually; there’s a reason I half-joked to one of my friends with the following: “It’s hard to be a nonconformist when there’s no one else to be nonconformist with.”
I said that knowing full well how oxymoronic (and moronic) that sounded. The reason I’d said it was because my closest friends at the time, who were all a year ahead of me, had all left for college. They’d all been on my wavelength, something I hadn’t been able to find with anyone else, to such a degree.
I started riffing on that with my Daily Words. It reminded me of something one of that group had written sometime in 1989 along the same lines. He’d talked about being a nonconformist — not so much in a political sense but as a personal decision — and what it took for that kind of mindset to thrive. Like me, he grew up in a somewhat conservative small town where rebelling against the mainstream didn’t take all that much effort: listening to college radio, liking weird things, wearing odd clothes, and giving up all intentions at trying to fit in with everyone else. No mohawk, piercing or tattoo necessary, unless you wanted to go that far. [To my knowledge, none of us did at the time.]
One of his points kind of resonated with me after all these years: it’s kind of hard to be a nonconformist in a vacuum, because the energy behind that mindset tends to dissipate. Why rebel against the mainstream when the mainstream doesn’t care about you either way? And on the other end of the spectrum: if the only reason you’re rebelling is to be among your own kind — other nonconformists — you’re kind of missing the point.
My mistake in the 90s was that I was trying so hard to achieve the latter. I was looking for a surrogate crowd to take place of my old circle of friends. [Remember, this is well before the Age of Social Media, so the only way we could remain in contact was by phone (too expensive), by weekends off (too iffy due to different schedules), or by letter writing (too much of a pain in the arse and a super slow turnaround).] That itself was a dismal failure, and while I did end up finding a great group of friends a short time later, it wasn’t exactly the same. I always felt a bit out of place. And would continue to feel this way throughout the rest of the 90s.
So. What’s the point of this current riff? What’s with the sudden resurgence in fascination with nonconformity? Well, I would be lying if I didn’t say it might have a little to do with the current presidential administration. In an odd way, too me, he and his cronies are a shocking parallel to the jocks and the popular kids at school. They weren’t always causing harm, but they certainly knew how to fuck with people’s heads, and they could not deal with the square peg. Or they’re the eager followers, willingly ignoring reality and/or other people while desperately trying to claim their role as part of The Gang.
Part of it is also me revisiting my fascination with nonconformity, but on a more stable, creative and positive level. It’s no longer about rebellion just for the sake of it (“What are you rebelling against?” “Whadda ya got?”); nor is it about achieving a reactive response. As I’ve said before, I’m trying to avoid falling into the reactionary trap; I’ve wasted far too much time and energy playing that game.
The nonconformity I started riffing on, and what I’ve been contemplating lately, is really about relearning how to ignore outside influence that I don’t need or want. This is more about shedding all the extraneous bullshit in my life, the distractions and the irritations that derail me from what and who I am, and who I want and need to be. I’ve already figured out who I am at this point; I just need to make a more concerted effort to be that person.
This is why I’m the kind of writer that I am, writing stories in the way that makes sense to me creatively, publishing them in the way that makes sense to me creatively. I’m the kind of writer who will hear certain ‘don’t do this’ writing advice and immediately think, well, why not? And then follow up with an attempt at proving it wrong. I go with what my soul sings to me.
In the end, with this bit of recent insight and clarity, my long-game plan is to regenerate a bit (to borrow a Whovian term) and return to that True Self I’d had in my head for years but hadn’t been able to achieve.
“When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” – Doctor Who (11th Doctor, Matt Smith)
Taking a week off from blogging, folks, starting yesterday. I’ve pulled myself quite thin lately between Day Jobbery and Writing Projects that I forgot I only have so much energy to spare.
I’m going to take some time to reorganize my schedule and activities so I’m not running myself ragged. I may have been able to do this in the past, but age and stress does do a number on a person after awhile.
I’ll be back on the horse on the 22nd. See you then.