Heya! I’m taking a few weeks off from blogging so I can get The Balance of Light completed and ready for self-publication!
I’m extremely excited to be within spitting distance of one of my biggest goals, to see my trilogy out in the wild like this. It took a hell of a lot of learning, hard work, and stubborn dedication to get to this point, and it was totally worth every minute.
I’ll post once more when the book is ready to drop, and then we’ll be back to our regular blogging schedule.
I’ve got seven chapters left before I’m done with the final edit of The Balance of Light. Once that’s done, it’ll be a week or two of formatting, processing, creating the cover, and releasing it out into the world. It’s looking like that may end up being the first or second week of February at this point.
And then I’m done with the Bridgetown Trilogy.
I mean, aside from my next project, Meet the Lidwells!, which I’ve been sneakily working on now and again during downtime.
Nearly everything I’ve ever worked on is more than five years old already; the Bridgetown story will officially turn twenty (!!) in March. My trunked vampire novel, Love Like Blood, was brainstormed around 2003, written over the course of four years, and finally trunked by 2008. Numerous other ideas, many of which I’ve also trunked or given up on, were created at our old apartment, which we moved out of in 2009. I’ve been focusing so much on the trilogy that I’ve only got maybe two or three solid ideas I could work on — if that.
So what do I have planned, anyway?
Well, the biggest plan I have is to try to see how quickly I can turn a project around. I know I can do it — I’ve written and revised past works in a very limited amount of time. I can definitely work to a deadline.
I also want to try writing something that’s not epic in length. Lidwells is partly an attempt at that. I’d like to write some standalone novels. Not everyone loves a good doorstopper novel, so I’d like to appeal to the quick-reader fans as well. This will not only teach me how to narrow my focus on the plot, it’ll also be a great exercise in concise writing.
I may even try a short story or two. Technically I’ve written only one, and it’s pretty bad. It was my ‘just to see if I could do it’ attempt during a very slow and broke-as-hell summer over twenty years ago.
But do I have any ideas rolling around right now?
That’s a good question. Technically, no. I only have the Lidwells project, maybe a reboot of Can’t Find My Way Home…and that’s it. As I’ve said, this is why I’m making myself do the daily practice words. I’ve already come up with snippets of scenes, snatches of bigger ideas, and random conversation that may be worth looking into later on.
It’s a bit daunting, to say the least. Yeah, my subconscious occasionally pops in and reminds me that the only thing I can ever write in this lifetime is more Mendaihu Universe tomes, and if I don’t write them, I won’t have anything at all. And that voice I usually ignore. I’ve been in this Clean Slate situation before. It’s completely natural to be nervous.
But hell, if Lidwells can pop up out of nowhere and take on a life of its own, I’m sure I can make that happen again.
Hi, gang! Currently hanging out in the LA area for a quick mini-vacation. The above was taken on Santa Monica Pier, where I recorded some crowd sounds for the Lidwells project (it’s a plot point about 2/3 thru the book) and even expanded on that particular thread in the process! Win!
So yeah, we’ll be back up and running later this week!
No, really. If you put me on the spot and say “WRITE SOMETHING!”, I’ll completely freeze up. “Okay, write something about goats!” …goats…? Umm. I got nothing. I’m not a big Mountain Goats fan. LJ had a goat for a mascot. Aaand…that’s about it. “It’s not that hard! Write a story about a goat!” Doing what? “I don’t know! Make something up! You’re the writer!” Umm…
Yeah, from that transcript, it sounds like I just don’t have much of a thought process at all. It sounds like my brain just can’t get out of first gear.
On the contrary, my brain is most likely going:
Okay, goats. Goats. Mountains? Which mountain? Any mountain in the US, or one in Siberia? Which country is it that we usually see mountain goats on those BBC nature shows? Okay, a story about a goat that’s filmed by Attenborough’s team. No, that’s stupid. A goat that befriends the team? Meh. Too hokey. No, let’s back it up. The Pet Goat. NO! No no no. Not gonna go there. What the hell should I write about a goat? Why goats, anyway? I don’t have any interest in goats. Well, goat’s milk cheese is pretty tasty…that reminds me, we need to do our food shopping this weekend. I need to get that, and some more cereal — wait. Where was I? Goats. Man, I can’t think of anything.
This is why I’m not much of a person to write via a suggested prompt. I tend to overthink the exercise. It’s not that I can’t write like that, it’s that my default setting is usually long-form story. It’s why I’ve never really tried writing short stories in the past. It’s also why I know I’d never be a reporter on assignment. It’s not my default setting.
That said, however…
This is one of the reasons why I’ve resurrected the daily practice words. I’m trying to break out of that habit of thinking oh god I have to write 750 words about something and my brain is blank. I don’t know what the hell to write about. Or more to the point: I’ve already written about X, Y and Z. I’m sick of writing the same damn thing over and over again. I want to write something different but I DON’T KNOW–
You know, this is why I need to tell myself to STFU every now and again.
But seriously, I’m doing my best to break my bad writing habits. Instead of blanking out or freezing up, I’ll just write a random passage of conversation, just to see where it goes. It’s one of my favorite exercises, actually: writing a passage that tells a story or part of a story, using only dialogue. No prose, no ‘he said’, ‘she exclaimed’, no descriptive action. I force myself to write as if it’s two people on a blank stage, interacting purely through voice. And in the process, it makes me rethink how to approach my writing.
It’s good that I know what my bad habits are, that way I can do something about getting rid of them.
I was talking with A. earlier tonight about how often we see characters on American TV shows that don’t seem to evolve all that much. Or if they do, it’s often on an external level instead of an internal one. What I mean by that is that there are some characters who aren’t so much evolving as they’re reacting. A lot of 80s shows fell prey to this, and in the process, when they did evolve for any reason, it was usually forced. A character changed personality due to a death, or a lover leaving them; or on the positive side, they changed because they ‘saw the light’. Sure, I’m super-generalizing here, but you get the point. [And if they didn’t evolve, the show was usually a Perils-of-Pauline drama of the week.]
This has changed a bit over the years, and American TV has had characters evolve on different levels. Spiritually, emotionally, and so on…they were changing and not just because of that episode’s actions.
We noticed this primarily because we don’t watch much network TV at all, preferring to watch British imports on Acorn or Netflix. And I’ve read quite a few non-American novels over the years where character evolution is handled differently. I sometimes think of animes like Ergo Proxy, where the female lead evolves from a stellar but snooty investigator (she’s the daughter of an extremely high-ranking leader and often thinks She’s All That) to a more empathetic hero who realizes her actions affect others. Or AKIRA, where Tetsuo and Kaneda, both violent biker teens with death wishes, evolve to the point where they both achieve their own versions of spiritual enlightenment.
These are the kinds of characters that usually inspire me when I create my own. I try to give them not just a background and a list of actions they must take, but a way for them to evolve somehow. Alec Poe is a good example of this: aloof, somewhat distant and often terse at the start of A Division of Souls to fiercely dedicated and understanding by the end of The Balance of Light. His evolution is not just jumpstarted by the Awakening Ritual in the first book; it’s challenged numerous times throughout from those nearest to him, including friends, coworkers, and family.
It’s one of my favorite things to do when writing novels, to tell the truth. This is a story that’s not part of the main plot, but it’s to be told anyway, through action and emotion. It shows that the character isn’t just reacting to what’s going on, it’s affecting them to the point that they’re consciously aware they need to change in order to move forward. It gives the novel a richer, more realistic life in the process.
See, this is my problem sometimes. Maybe it’s an empathy gene that I’m unable to turn off. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing where I automatically feel guilty for whatever is going on in the world, even if I had nothing to do with it. Maybe it’s that I haven’t done enough to train myself to be proactive instead of reactive. Empathy’s good, sure. I’m glad I have the ability to utilize it. But I’m really sick of getting caught in that Everything Is Horrible Nothing Is Fine reaction. It’s not debilitating to me as I can manage how much media I take in, but it is distracting.
I say this here at WtBt, because this reactive part of me is not conducive to my creativity. On the contrary, it usually stops it cold. And I fucking hate that. This is why this post is so late today. I just could not find anything worth writing about last night, and I had to beg off so I could get my editing done.
So. What to do about that.
I’m not going to be a blissed-out hippie or an e-head raver and avoid the world. It’s kind of too late and I’m too old for that. But what I can do is be healthier on the emotional/spiritual end of things. [By now, you know by ‘spiritual’ I mean mind-and-body stuff and not religion. Not dissing it, just that I’m not looking for that right now.] Give myself a more positive outlook on life. Be more proactive on how I process things in the Big Bad World rather than just being reactive about it.
And in the process, that just might open up more creative avenues for me.
It’s a rock memoir. It’s a music biography. It’s fiction. It’s a love story. What the hell is it, anyway?
Meet the Lidwells! is the story of a family band from the 90s — four siblings and two cousins — rocking out at town and county fairs and wherever their parents could book them, until they hit the big time with the insanely catchy hit “Grapevine.” They sign to a major label and become a huge success, selling out on tours, finding their faces plastered in teen magazines…only to burn out fast, lose their way, and go out in a blaze of glory less than a decade later.
And yet, somehow, they manage to keep their love of family (not to mention a ridiculous obsession with music) strong and unbreakable.
Not the final cover, obviously, but you get the idea.
This was a story that came to me out of nowhere while I was working on my daily 750 Words back in early 2015. Okay, maybe not out of nowhere. One of my online friends had casually mentioned family bands at some point, and that led me to think of the Osmonds. [I will freely admit that I loved that band when I was a little kid, well before my obsession with the Beatles. Crazy Horses is still a great album.] At the same time, I’d been reading a lot of music biographies, and was also working on my Walk in Silence project, when it occurred to me that writing a fictional music bio would be a hell of a lot of fun.
And it was! I spent a good couple of weeks utilizing my daily words, coming up with fictional interviews, backstory, and even a discography. Meet the Lidwells! will be my next project once the Bridgetown Trilogy is wrapped up, and I’m totally stoked about completing this one!
Here we are, second day of 2017. The writing whiteboard has been updated, the blogs have been updated, plans have been made. Sure, January 1 is an arbitrary First Day of the Year, but that hasn’t ever stopped me from the ritual of taking stock of the past and making plans for the future.
So I say this: Bring it on, 2017. I’ve got plans for you.
As you can see above, I’ve reinstated the daily 750 Words to the whiteboard. I’ve also added a second day for ‘art’ — which is actually a catch-all for multiple platforms, including photography, drawing, and more. The blog schedule remains the same, as it’s been working quite well.
But I also have plans that aren’t on that whiteboard. Longer-term plans that are currently in my head, waiting to be sketched out on my normal calendar (this year’s selection is lovely paintings my Hokusai). The release of The Balance of Light, the scheduling of new writing projects, the planning of future ones.
Will this work, in reality? Well, I have to make it work. Sure, I’ll be juggling all this with the Day Job and IRL stuff, but I’ve done it before. I kind of let most of this get away from me near the end of 2016, though for an honorable reason: I had to do some serious longhand surgery on TBoL before I could attack it digitally. And once that’s taken care of (current deadline: end of this month), I’ll have a lot more time to work with.
I’m also in a good frame of mind to be able to focus on these goals with little distraction. That was a long time coming, with a lot of false starts and frustration, but I believe I can even further this year. I’ve got a lot more clarity and focus this time out. And as mentioned previously, I’ll be attacking the business end of my writing career with gusto this year as well. It’ll be tough, but I’ll do the best I can.
I plan to be busy, in a good way. And I’m looking forward to it.