Secret Future Project Outtake: Ghosts

A little something I wrote on Friday that may or may not have something to do with the Secret Future Project, aka the College Story.  Enjoy!

[Note: the College Story is not a horror novel, nor is it only about the hedraac (my vampire-like characters that are also in the Secret Next Project universe, though the stories are not related).  This is most likely going to be a New Adult coming-of-age story, which happens to feature many human and non-human characters.]

*

When I cross the quad, there’s always a sense of stillness there, even if other students are mingling about. They could be shouting political slogans, or grunting and shuffling about playing touch football, or practicing their scales and harmonies, or simply scuffling along on their own, but all that tends to get drowned out by the stillness in the air. Even on a windy or rainy day.

I haven’t quite figured out why I feel that, and sometimes I even avoid crossing the quad some days, and I’m not sure if I ever will. Perhaps it’s the ghosts of the campus, forever traipsing along the four corners of the flat grass, forever hovering in front of the brick buldings with blank books and styli long emptied of ink in their arms.

I can sense those ghosts. Not many of us can. Mostly the hedraac, but there are others. The faculty tend to ignore the ghosts. They’ve gotten used to them by now. You know who the new professors are, because like me, they get skittish when they cross this area. They’re not scared, just wary. Like me, they’ll eventually learn to cross the quad without a single worry.

I met one of the ghosts during one of my shifts at the radio station. I’d just entered Davis Hall and headed down to the basement, and I was just about to pull the heavy door into the station, when I stopped short. Hovering in front of me, maybe less than six inches off the ground, a young ghost of a student waited for me. He didn’t look threatening. Maybe a little overtired with heavy eyes and stress lines on his forehead, but other than that he looked like any other student here on campus. A weathered jacket, an overfull book bag slung over his shoulder, worn jeans, and very worn sneakers. He and I locked eyes for a moment. He smiled in response, and slid out of the way.

“Pardon,” I said, well aware that others could have just seen me talk to myself. But I don’t mind that… a lot of students do that here.

My shift started in another twenty minutes, and I always got there early to slide through the music library to pick out the evening’s play list. Another hedraac was finishing up his own show, and was currently running down his own play list. He caught my eye through the studio window and waved. I wondered if he could see the station ghost as well.

This was my third semester at the radio station, and I was slowly making my way up towards the position of music director, something I’d been wanting since I’d discovered college radio when I was a teenager. Some deejays are there for the extracurricular activity or because they have nothing better to do, but me, I plan to stay in the radio field as long as I can. I’m one of those music fans who obsesses over records and bands, knows far too much about them. I’m also one who loves the night shift. It’s not that I’m a night hedraac… I just like the ambience and the fact that I’m alone for the most part.

My shift started as normal and I set the mood by throwing on some of my latest favorites, a wide range of styles that I know most of my fans like to hear. Now and again I’ll get a few calls from them, asking for obscurities or well-known classics, and I do what I can to provide. I may be a music geek, but I’m not a snob about it. I’ve been known to play a few major label tracks now and again.

It’s entering the second hour of my shift when I start hearing the voice.

It’s soft at first, a quiet humming that I mistake for an open feed that I forgot to tune down, and after a few flustered moments of checking and double checking the faders, I realize it’s not going out on the air at all. It’s in the speakers, alright, but it’s not anything I’m playing.

It’s the ghost, and he wants to talk to me.

“I hear you,” I say into the air. “I can’t make out what you’re saying, but I can hear you.”

I feel a tap on my hand, which makes me twitch. He’s trying to guide me to open one of the faders to a test channel. I shiver, but at the same time I’m intrigued.

I turn up the fader in the test channel. “You’re plugged in,” I say, and wait for a response.

Looking for: Stories with a college setting

amherst college
Source: amherst.edu

Not only do I have a Secret Next Project that I’ll be working on once Meet the Lidwells is finished and released, but I have *another* story — set in the same universe as the SNP, but not related — that I’ve deemed Secret Future Project.

This SFP will be set in a Pioneer Valley-like setting.  [For those unfamiliar with the PV, that’s a corridor in midwestern Massachusetts known for containing five colleges (UMass, Amherst, Smith, Holyoke and Hampshire) and thus having quite a sleepy collegiate town feel to it.  I grew up thirty miles to the northeast of it, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world.  For those familiar with the PV, I can hear y’all from here yelling at me to stop talking about it so damn much.  Heh.]

ANYWAY.  I’ve been wanting to write a story set in this kind of place for decades, and I think I’ve found the one thing to write.

The only downside is that I think I’m a little behind the times in terms of my knowledge of stories set on college campuses.  When I think of college stories, unfortunately my mind either goes to John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, F Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, or JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.  I’ve read a lot of stories that are more recent, and numerous webcomics as well (a few like Agents of the Realm, Check Please!, and Questionable Content come to mind).  Movies?  Well, aside from the boomer stories like The Big Chill and The Return of the Secaucus 7, and Gen-X stories like St Elmo’s Fire and all those drunken-frat-bro movies, I’m still searching for more ideas.

SO!  I’m curious:  what are your favorite stories that revolve about college life?  It can be any style, format, or genre.  I’m definitely open to all kinds of stories, including LGBT/PoC-centric stories; I’m looking to come up with some unique characters, so everyone’s invited.  I’d like to get more of a recent feel of what college is all about nowadays, and I think I need to do more than just listen to the college radio stations that I already listen to.

Thanks ahead of time for your help! 🙂

 

 

 

Trying a little something new

hanks-aol

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.

As is typical of any writer, of course.

Balancing

Goats-balancing-on-sheet
….yeah, I’m not sure either.

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.

 

Rough Draft: Untitled New Project

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.

 

 

Continue reading “Rough Draft: Untitled New Project”

Starting fresh

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In contrast to the previous post, where you got to see all the paperwork and whatnot that I accumulated during the writing of the trilogy, the above is pretty much everything I have for my new project, Meet the Lidwells!   A print out of the very rough draft I wrote two years ago using 750 Words, and a pile of index cards that I’ll be using to outline the next draft.

That’s it.  Well, okay, there’s a few MS Word files of an incomplete outline and a rewrite I wasn’t happy with, and an mp3 playlist I’m slowly building, but other than that…that’s all I have.

I’ve got a nifty idea for a cover in my head (which I’m hoping I can pull off, as I’m not sure if I’m able to do it in Photoshop).  I already know what the format’s going to be.  And if all works out, this will be one of my fastest project turnarounds ever.

But yeah.  Starting fresh.

I’m looking forward to it.

(Not so) Great Starts

snoopygreatstart

The upside is that I’ve already gotten a good couple thousand words in on Meet the Lidwells!  Most of the text is coming straight from the very rough draft I wrote a few years back, of course, but it’s going in the right direction.

The downside is that I can already see where I’m going wrong.  Thankfully I know exactly what it is that’s wrong, and how to fix it.

I’ll be honest — the beginnings of my novels are always a mess.  I spend the first couple of chapters knowing what I want to write, but I haven’t quite grasped how I want it to play out.  The prose is all over the place as I try out all kinds of different styles on the fly.  I’ll plant the seeds of one or two minor plot points that may or may not survive the end result.  I may even get a few of the details mixed up.

But hey, that’s what revision and editing is for, right?  Once I do figure it all out (which is usually around two or three chapters in), then I have a solid platform for the rest of the novel, and I can clean everything up in those two or three sketchy first scenes.   A Division of Souls had at least three wildly different openings before I put all the pieces together and figured out which one works the best.  I had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to start The Balance of Light the way I wanted it.  Lidwells is no different; once I get into the groove, I’ll be able to build a more solid opening.

Do I wish I could write a perfect opening?  Nah.  Doing it the way I do is actually part of the fun!  It helps me connect with the story on an emotional level; once I’ve done that, then I can reshape the opening to fit that mood.  I don’t see it as wasting time and words; I see it as part of the whole exercise.  As long as I’m going in the right direction…that’s all that really matters.

Okay, now what?

addams-bored
Hmmm….

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.

Then what?

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.

Here’s to hoping.

Coming soon, Autumn 2017

lidwells-practice-cover-a

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!

I hope you enjoy it!