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.
Hi there and thank you to those who stopped by for my reading earlier today, or will stop by on my panel tonight! Or even if you saw the url for this blog from my flyer on the freebie table. Glad you stopped by! As a n00b self-pubbed author, it really means a lot to me. 😀
…that I sat down in the food court at Solomon Pond Mall and wrote the first pages of The Phoenix Effect. The timestamp (something I do when writing longhand) shows 10:30, which I recall was later that evening — the original first pages were full of scratch-outs and mistakes, but the prose is the same. This was the start of a new project that would take me through multiple Day Jobs, multiple years, and multiple apartments.
You might notice a few things here:
–Nehalé Usarai was named Halley Brown here, a holdover from True Faith. [The name itself was inspired by the play between rocker Bill Haley and Halley’s Comet. I morphed the name to its present form when I started on the revision that became A Division of Souls.]
–This version starts just like ADoS does, with Nehalé/Halley on the side of the Mirades Tower. The Tower hadn’t been given a name yet…it was just known as ‘The Tower’ for now. The original version also had him at the 92nd floor, which was kept almost up until the last minute, when I felt he needed to be even higher up and changed it sometime in 2015 to the 142nd floor. There are a few failed attempts that were written not that long before this, but they never got past a few pages as I was unhappy with them. One failed version opens not with Nehalé but two alien characters (who would morph into Ashyntoya and Akaina Shalei a short time later) witnessing explosions at a nullport terminal.
–“High up.” That was the opening sentence for years until I chose to cut it sometime in 2012 or so, replacing it instead with Nehalé using innerspeak to say ‘dehndarra Né hra nyhndah.’
–I originally had Nehalé armed, but I decided soon after that I didn’t want guns to be a part of this story…not when they had psionic powers they could use instead. (I also have very limited knowledge of automatic weapons, something I never had an interest in.) The name of his pistol (Shrieve) was named after Michael Shrieve, a drummer that was briefly in a group with Sammy Hagar called HSAS. That gun name originally popped up in True Faith.
–The geography of the Bridgetown Sprawl in The Phoenix Effect is exactly the same as what we see in the three finished books, complete with the names. [Although I changed ‘The Docks’ to ‘the Waterfront Sector’ soon after.] Pullock Street Heights was inspired by Sandra Bullock, with the name slightly changed. I-90 was named after I-90 in Massachusetts, aka The Mass Pike, which was just down the road from the mall.
–It’s not on this page, but Halley will mention the name ‘Mihari’ a page or so later. This was the original name for the Mendaihu, and taken from the Japanese word for ‘guard’. The Shenaihu’s original name was ‘Misuteru’, which is Japanese for ‘abandon’. These were in use for years until I chose to use names of my own making instead, maybe around 2013 or so. ‘Mihari’ was the original name in this universe back in the winter 1993 attempts, and was of course inspired by all the anime I’d started watching about that time.
–A much darker, more cynical approach to the prose. I’ll admit, I was going for the William Gibson cyberpunk feel. I phased that out early on, realizing that mimicking someone else’s style rarely ever works out well for me. And instead of Nehalé’s intense Awakening Ritual, he’d started a chain reaction of explosions around the city (climactic scene of V for Vendetta, anyone?), which basically did the same thing as the present version only with a hell of a lot more violence and destruction.
–Ah yes…the chapter titles. I’d given each chapter the title of a song (oh so creative and typical of me…eesh) that tied in with the plot of the chapter. ‘Ring of Fire’ refers to the Johnny Cash song as well as the ring of explosions that causes the mass Awakening. I dropped those when I was working on ADoS in 2000. The NEW chapter names are a relatively recent addition, added when I was finalizing the initial post-production for the e-book.
It’s kind of fun looking at this early version, which is still in its original spiral bound notebook. After a year or so of not really getting anywhere with True Faith or any of my other writing, it felt absolutely great to dive into something that I felt strongly about, something that I knew I could expand into something big. It was when I got serious with my writing habits. When I’d decided that my Day Jobs would be my paychecks, but my writing would be my lifelong career. When I knew I was going to be in it for the long haul.
And in a superb bit of serendipity, I’ll be reading the first chapter of A Division of Souls tomorrow at FOGCon. Exactly twenty years and one day after I’d written the above first page.
Suffice it to say, it’s been a hell of an interesting ride from then to now, but it was worth it every step of the way.
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.
Okay, so I’ve done my End of Year reviews, my Coming Year Expectations, and my mixtape listing. I think I’ve covered all the typical year end benchmark posts. Now what?
It’s been quite the busy year for me. Most of my writing time was spent carving up The Balance of Light for publication. And right now, I still don’t think it’s fully hit me that, once that book has been released, that this long project of the trilogy will finally be DONE, and that for the first time in ages, I will have absolutely nothing on my project list.
I mean, yeah, I’m looking forward to not having the trilogy hanging over my head. But it’s been far too long since I’ve been able to start a new project without thinking, how can I juggle this with the trilogy? Not just that, I’m also really looking forward to writing NEW stories in that universe that are not directly related to it.
Other than the two or three possible projects (and the possible Secret Long Term Project) I have to think of, what else can I add here?
Well, for starters I’d like to shake things up a little bit. Perhaps try a new genre. Write shorter fiction. Hone my nonfic writing skills. Expand my reading habits. Focus a little less on social media (heh, yeah right) and more on self-promotion in multiple avenues. Believe my gut instincts more instead of flailing in Reactive Mode. Follow up on bursts of inspiration as soon as possible. Staying positive despite the odds. Get creative not just on the writing end of things, but artistically as well as commercially.
And most importantly, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.
I’m a hell of a better guitarist than I was a few years ago, and that’s mainly because I’ve made it a point to practice more often, even if it’s just to pick up one of my axes and noodle around on it for ten minutes when I really should be focusing on my Day Job. [Well, that, and making a concerted effort to expand my knowledge of chords past the plain major-minor ones. Playing along with the Beatles has helped that considerably.] If I make it a point to exercise my creative muscles every day and expand my knowledge at the same time, I can only get better at them.
That’s my plan, anyway.
See you in 2017, kids. Stay safe, stay strong.
“Talk hard…I like that. It’s like a dirty thought in a nice clean mind.”
— Mark Hunter, Pump Up the Volume
Due to complete and utter incompetence of AT&T in failing to upgrade our internet to Uverse and then failing to reverse the request correctly, and THEN turning off our DSL connection TWICE in one week (because this is what happens when you go purely by work tickets and little to no contact between departments), there will be no post today.
At present I am hoping they get their shit together and make the needed fixes, at least until our new service with a different carrier kicks in later this month.
As of tonight, A. will be out of town for nearly the entire month on a business trip. She’s gone on these trips before, usually going for a week or two at most, but this is the first time in quite a long time that she’s gone for over three weeks. This includes Thanksgiving! [Not to worry, folks…I can certainly make do with one of the many local restaurants or cook myself up a turkey breast with a few sides. I’m not that helpless!]
So what am I to do when I’m the only one in the house for a few weeks? Well, I’m too old to slide around the floor in my socks and underwear like Tom Cruise (and we don’t have the floors for it anyway). I’m not about to play hooky around town like Ferris, either. On the contrary, the worst thing I can do is be a Complete Lazy Ass and not do a damn thing at all, and order out every night.
Seriously, though…I do have plans. I want to go out and get some exercise, whether it’s walking around the neighborhood or going to the YMCA a few times a week. And after all that doughnut eating during our vacation, I definitely need to go on a diet, or at least a hell of a lot healthier. There’s always laundry and housecleaning. And writingwise, I’m very close to finishing the line edits for The Balance of Light (about 1/8 to go, I think), so that should keep me busy in the evenings. Plus I’ve got my blogs to keep up.
It does feel a bit weird to be left to my own devices for nearly a full month, but I think I can keep myself from causing any mayhem. 🙂
I very briefly mentioned a few weeks back that I’m feeling the need for Changing Things Up. I get this way when I’m feeling a bit twitchy near the end of a Big Project, but I also get this way when I’m feeling a bit…well, bored, creatively. When I feel that certain writing habits have worn thin. Perhaps I’ve used them to the point where they no longer work for me.
When this happens, I’ll take stock and clean house. What do I no longer need to do anymore? What can I do without? What can I put to the side and let go? Why am I working on these projects/exercises/daily words that aren’t being used anywhere? And if these words are online, is anyone actually reading them?
My Tumblr feed has pretty much become an aggregator for my WordPress posts, as I haven’t posted any photography there for some time. Do I want to pick that back up? Or is Tumblr really where I want to post such things? I still visit the site, as I follow a lot of artists there, but I don’t post nearly as much as I have. That may change, but for now it’s on the backburner. My Live Journal is pretty much in the same status. I only post there on the weekends, and I still follow a few writers and friends who are still there.
I’m even contemplating putting aside the 75o Words — not getting rid of the daily word practice, mind you, just taking it offline. I’ve proven to myself that I can work to assignment and deadline, and with my personal journaling I’ve proven that I can make it a daily habit. Taking the exercises offline will give me much more versatility, as I’ll be able to work on different things within one notebook: poetry, artwork, and daily words. And I can hit them at any time and not have to log in.
[Speaking of artwork: this Saturday is the beginning of Inktober, and yes, I will be taking part! I may even post them here for your enjoyment!]
On the one hand, it’s kind of a bummer when something you love doing so much comes to an end, but on the other, it’s healthier to move on when it’s clear that something’s not working as well as it used to. And in the process, sometimes I even learn something new!
Has it already been one year since I self-released A Division of Souls into the world? Yes! And it’s been quite the trip. I’m far, far from rolling in the dough, of course, but I don’t consider myself a failure. In fact, I’d like to think that I’ve succeeded far more than I’d ever expected to, and I couldn’t be happier.
Let’s break that down:
–The Bridgetown trilogy contains three books that I wrote early last decade and edited, revised, rewritten, and re-revised countless times since late 2009. I’ve not only made the prose better, I’ve learned how to write better. I’ve also learned how to be a ruthless editor with my own work. I’m quite proud of the results.
–I researched to find the best self-publishing avenues; not only to choose what felt right to me but what felt right for the books. It’s never been just about making all the money (though that might be nice eventually), it’s been mostly about sharing my stories with everyone.
–I learned how to format for e-book as well as for paper. The two are mutually exclusive, come to find out, but thanks to a lot of online information, I was able to pull it off.
–I felt my way through various avenues of promotion: making the books available on NoiseTrade, taking part in a Smashwords month-long promotion, and so on. Kept my eyes open for other avenues that I may take in the future, once Book 3 is out.
–Thought I’d try my hand at creating my own book covers, and to my complete surprise, not only am I pretty good at it, I happen to really enjoy it.
–The responses I’ve gotten, both from friends and readers, have been helpful and informative. Many have commented quite positively on the unique storyline and are looking forward to more. This was one of the best payoffs: it means I did it right.
–I’ve come to the conclusion that I also really enjoy self-publishing in general; not as a way to circumvent the Big Pro Publishing machine, but simply as an alternative. [And you know how I like all things alternative.] I can definitely see myself doing this as a long-term prospect.
–All this, while holding down a full time Day Job in banking, which has very little to do with my creative writing (unless you count my work emails, which can get quite lyrical in its business-speak sometimes).
Many times I’ve thought that I happened to drift into self-publishing at the perfect moment, when it’s starting to gain respect in the field as a viable and important avenue for writers. I remember when self-pubbing first crossed my mind, back in 2008 or so, when I was inspired by John Scalzi having done the same thing early in his fiction career. I knew it wasn’t something I’d jump into blindly; I didn’t want to make too many rookie mistakes and ruin my work and career. I knew I wasn’t the best writer, that I could be even better if I set my mind to it and took the time to learn.
I also find myself incredibly lucky in that I’d noticed all the unique parallels between writing books to publication and recording music to public release. The DIY structures of punk that I was familiar with served as a guide for DIY publication. I also find myself incredibly lucky that there are more avenues than just vanity houses and small presses than there were even ten years ago. It’s been quite the thrill ride, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot over the last decade or so.