Thursday, July 21, 2016
We've all been there, slaving away at a story and finding yourself getting more lost or frustrated with where it's going. Even if you have a well planned outline to guide you, there's always a scene or situation that arises that leaves you flummoxed and frustrated. You can't seem to move the story or yourself forward for one reason or another. What do you do?
Well, in my case I get up and walk away from the story and I mean in every sense of the word. Step away from your computer and do other things. "But for how long?" I hear you ask. My answer is simply this, "As long as it takes."
"But I can't stop writing, I've got so many ideas in my head..."
GREAT! Go work on one of those instead. I'm not saying stop writing by any means. What I'm suggesting is that you let your brain work on other projects, or activities such as go bowling...
Take a nice long walk...
In short do whatever else you enjoy or have been thinking about doing and have put off. Let your mind wander and experience something other than trying to figure out your story. Brains need downtime or something new to work on in order to keep them working right. Or like I said before, work on some other stories or ideas not connected to your work in progress.
Sometimes I find working on an entirely different project makes me feel better about having been stuck on the one I've stepped away from. I actually relax and feel the same passion and satisfaction from using my creative side.
In my case, I've been working on "The Door" for almost two years now and still haven't finished a 1st draft yet. Why? Because I kept hitting various roadblocks.
And each time I hit one, I'd bang my head against it for days before finally walking away. Then after a while (i. e. a few days, weeks, or even months) I'd come back to it with a new idea and started making progress again. But then I hit another obstacle and had to walk away again. It's not that I don't like the story, I love it! It's crucial to furthering my Para-Earth Series, which may have been part of the problem. I was trying to put TOO much into the story and kept getting myself bogged down, or losing sight of the plot. Within the last year I tried introducing new characters who would appear in later books (such as my vampyre Nathan) which helped open new avenues and scenes, but the story began getting too long and convoluted. I was losing sight of the main characters for "The Door" (Alex, Veronica, Cassandra, Julie). So I pulled him back out of the book. But some of the scenes his presence inspired remained because they were useful.
But then I found the book was almost 70,000 words long, even with Nathan and company's removal, so I set the book aside again and worked on "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" getting it ready to be released this October.
Now, with "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" in the hands of beta-readers who I won't hear back from until next month, I found myself coming back to "The Door".
What happened next? I'll tell you in my next entry.
Until then, take care and keep writing...
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Welcome back to another installment of collaborations: what do they look like and how do I make mine work? Okay, actually, I’m continuing the discussion from last time. After all, this is supposed to be a blog, not an ongoing saga. I also want to apologize for any strange grammar or punctuation errors in this entry because I’m using Dragon instead of actually typing on a keyboard.
WRONG DRAGON! SORRY DIDN'T MEAN TO WAKE YOU UP, SIR. PLEASE JUST GO BACK TO SLEEP!
Whew! Anyway, I'll be sharing my adventures with Dragon Speaking Naturally software, and learning how to use it, in another blog entry, For now I’m going to continue to share my experiences with collaborations
Now, last time I talked about my collaboration with my old friend Rich Caminiti, today I’m going to be discussing my other collaboration with my wife Helen. First off, unlike with Rich, I am able to work with my wife, face-to-face.
Being able to spend time with each other in real life instead of waiting to go on Skype to plot or give feedback like I do with Rich. This gives a whole new dynamic to our collaboration since we don’t always have to be at our computers to work on the story. Instead, we could be driving someplace or having dinner at a restaurant and will be discussing ideas and scenes for the story. Being able to operate like this gives us a distinct advantage to rework a scene before we actually put it to paper. We get the chance to work out the dynamics between the characters, feelings, emotions, reactions and have a more clear idea of how we want a scene to read.
Does this automatically mean that we have every scene worked out perfectly? Absolutely not. In fact, we will rework a scene time and again until we find a version that we both really like that works. Even then we will occasionally go back to that scene and rework it with new elements that we hadn’t thought of before to improve it.
Furthermore, we may not always agree on exactly how we want a scene to play out. There might be elements that one of us thinks would work better in a later point in the story. In cases like this, it’s much easier to have the other person there with you to work out those differences and come up with a common solution that we can both live with. Another benefit is on occasion someone might forget a detail or plan that we decided to use in a scene a few days before. This actually happens quite often due to my fibromyalgia. I get the infamous "brain-fog" and forget things. Luckily, Helen is always around to help me remember what I forgot what we had planned for a scene and proceed to fix it. I often refer to her as my spare brain in these cases, since they happen rather often to me.
As you can see, we rely on each other quite often which makes our collaboration work even better. Mind you, we don’t always work on the project together at the same exact time. In fact, since she’s a bit of a night owl, I’ll find that she’s been in the story working on it during the night while I was asleep. This is actually a lot of fun for me, because then I get to see all this new material as if I was the reader and now I get to react to it. And of course will be times when I’m working on the story when she doesn’t know what and when she goes in show find what I’ve written and then it will be her turn to react and come up with a new scene or response. In a way to sort of the game of role-playing for us except that were actually putting together a story for others to read and enjoy.
Now as I said in the previous entry, Rich and I take turns working on different scenes as well and we get the same effect. But with Helen, I get to see the reactions on her face and get her input and feedback a lot sooner which gives me a great deal of pleasure.
So as you can see both collaborations share a lot of similarities but there are also a number of differences. And there are number of ways that you can make a collaboration work, it’s all in how you and your cohort approach things. Most of the time you’ll find there is always a way to make it work, it’s mostly a question of what method is going to work best for the two of you.
And that’s all I have to say for now folks, so until next time, take care enjoy the summer and keep writing.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
As you all know by now, I've been working on not one but two different collaborations. The first is "The Pass" a historical/fantasy piece with a fellow I went to high school with some 30 years ago, Richard Caminiti. (for the sake of privacy, I left the clipboard showing his name and arrest number from this police photo out - JUST KIDDING!) Actually it's not really a mug shot, but I couldn't resist using this shot because the expression on his face is so serious. Of course I'm going to get an earful later for this, but that's what friends are for, right?
The other is another installment in my Para-Earth Series, titled "The Misty Mountains", with my wife Helen Krummenacker. Note: DEFINITELY NOT A MUG SHOT!
Okay, now that I got that bit of silliness out of my system, lets get back to today's topic namely the discussing more challenges one faces with a collaboration.
Now in Rich's case, the biggest challenge the two of us faced was the distance between us. Now, I'm not talking about ideas or suggestions, we're actually pretty good on that front. I'm talking physical, geographical distance. Rich lives over in North Carolina, whereas I live on west coast of California. So how do we make our collaboration work? Simple use the following:
Rich and I Skype on a weekly basis, sharing ideas we've come up with and give each other feedback on what the other has added to the story that week. Then through Dropbox, we share the document, going in whenever we have a chance and add new scenes, ideas, etc. However, we always read what the other has added first. We've gotten into the habit of hi-lighting new sections in different colors so we both know who added new material. This way each of us has a good idea of the feel and mood of a particular scene before adding our own touches to it.
Now for the most part this has been relatively easy because we each created certain characters for this book, and they fall mostly under the respective creator's control. Plus there are many scenes where these characters are not in the same scene, allowing each of us to add to the overall story by having each one learn more information about the greater mystery and threat, which will bring everyone together in the end.
However, we also borrow each other's characters for certain scenes we've discussed on Skype and consult back and forth on whether or not the characters behaviors are consistent. Admittedly, this kind of system means it takes us a while to get a story completed, but Rich works full-time, and I've been studying at university, so neither of us have all the time in the world to simply sit and write. Plus there are times where one or the other of us is hitting a wall and needs help. This is where our Skype sessions and e-mails become a great asset. We can help each other out by figuring out where the blockage is coming from, does an area need to be rewritten or cut out, etc. For us, the old adage of "two heads are better than one" really gives us an advantage. Plus, we are very much on the same page for where this story is heading overall. But at the same time, by not always telling the other what we've got planned in a scene, it allows both the other author the surprise and excitement the reader will enjoy, as well as firing up the imagination to build upon this new material.
Again, this is where our weekly Skype sessions come in extremely handy. We can congratulate or raise questions if something in the scene did not seem to make sense, and together we can correct and move things forward. Both Rich and I are very agreeable, but we also trust one another to raise questions or concerns about certain points and whether or not it is working for this particular story. We are already planning on more collaborations and sometimes remove a section to be used in a later work. After all, you can only cram so many ideas into one book without confusing the hell out of the reader, so we try to be careful about that.
So now we drift over to another set of questions, such as what about my other collaboration?
How does a writing with the person I'm living with work for a joint project? Do you agree on everything? Are your writing styles compatible? How do you find a mutual voice you can agree on? What do you do to avoid hurt feelings?
I'll cover these and other issues in my next installment. Until then, take care and keep writing.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
As a writer, I try to avoid talking about choices made by other writers in regards to where they decide to take characters or storylines. I know how much thought must go into each story idea and how it grows, develops, and takes final form. I also understand how certain decisions are in the end solely up to the author.
When J. K. Rowling published the seventh book in the "Harry Potter" Series, I was very one of those readers who was screaming and jumping up and down in a rage at the loss of certain characters (I won't mention names as there might actually be readers of this blog who have not read her series), because I felt their deaths served no real purpose to the main story itself, especially since some of them took place off camera. Since then, even the author herself has admitted regret in some of the choices she made.
However, all those characters were her own creation and she had full control to do with them as she pleased. Whereas, figures like Captain America and Superman, have been handed off time and again to new writers at their respective company's behest. But sometimes, certain decisions are made or ideas proposed that are so far out, that one wonders who gave the "Okay" for them in the first place. Especially when those decisions leaves the fans wondering what purpose did it serve?
Superman, who has been one of the longest running characters in existence, had always lived by certain rules and tried to uphold them in even his darkest moments, had his nature changed in Zach Snyder's "Man of Steel", which left a sour taste in the mouths of a large part of the audience. Having a long-time hero violate their own code of not killing, was more a shocking disappointment than anything. But, Mr. Snyder wanted to take the character in new direction, making his world darker and more gritty, which was a total 180 from the bright colors and hopeful ideals Superman had always represented in the comics.
Now several years later, after a disappointing continuation of that dark world Mr. Snyder's version of Superman exists in ("Batman Vs. Superman"), we have Marvel Comics publishing a storyline where on of their most iconic characters Captain America, who many have looked to for hope and inspiration, is and has always been a deep undercover agent for Hydra (an offshoot branch of the Nazis back in World War II). This new concept and 'retconning' of Cap's stories over the last 70 years, seems like a slap in the face to readers and fans worldwide.
While Cap has gone down some dark roads at times, the idea that he was actually working for such a diabolically evil organization all this time seems like nothing more than a cheap gimmick by the parent company to sell more books. Unfortunately, I fear it may have just the opposite effect. Marvel higher-ups seem be banking on dragging the story out for a number of issues that will keep the readers coming back for more in order to find the real truth behind this supposed betrayal of everything Captain America has come to represent.
Of course, longtime comic book fans know that sooner or later this whole storyline will be retconned or weeded out when another writer takes over the book down the road, but still it seems to make little sense to even do it in the first place. This fascination some people have of "dirtying up" iconic heroes who have inspired children for decades, is quite frankly bewildering to me. I see no reason for it.
Yet at the same time, I can understand the allure (from a writer's standpoint) of putting your own spin and touch on characters you've read about for years. So-called Fanfictions do it all the time. People insert favorite characters and sometimes themselves, into dark or unusual stories and taking them places one would never expect. This to me is normal. I did it myself for newsletters, and just for fun, among some of the science fiction fan clubs I've belonged to over the years. But those stories were always for a specific audience, not for the general public. And this is where I have to question the wisdom of decisions like making Superman darker, or muddying Captain America.
The challenge of taking characters to dark places can be exciting, but if you want them to still shine or be even greater beacons of hope than ever before, you better have one helluva finish for that storyline. At present, I'm not sure what Marvel's writers have planned and will be sitting on the sidelines to wait and see what they do. Based on interviews with the editor and writers, I don't have a lot of confidence at this point, but then again writers, like magicians, never shows you what they have planned. They lie and use misdirection constantly in the hopes of giving you a breathtaking finish that leaves you spellbound and wanting more.
I pray Marvel does have something spectacular in mind, because if they don't, I fear they will have destroyed an iconic character who was created by two Jewish men (Jack Kirby: born Jacob Kurtzberg, and Joe Simon; born Hymie Simon) in 1941, who wanted to create a beacon of hope and justice to a world that needed one more than ever.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
After getting my hands on the original "Rosemary's Baby", I was fascinated to see where Mr. Levin would take the characters after having left them untouched for almost 30 years. I was not disappointed.
This story takes up 34 years after the conclusion of the first novel. We find Rosemary waking up from a coma she had fallen into some 28 years earlier. Her last memories were of still living in the Bramford, and glancing at her son Andy who had recently celebrated his sixth birthday. From the other side of the walls, she could hear the coven chanting as usual then blackness.
She awakens in the year 1999, to learn that the coven had put her into a long-term care facility under the name of Rosemary Fountain (the last name of one of cults members). Realizing the coven had put her into a coma as they had her friend Hutch, she is outraged and fearful for what had become of her son Andy, whose father is Satan himself.
She soon learns that Andy, has become a respected man of influence who is loved and reknowned around the world. Thanks to her own celebrity status as Rip Van Rosemary, the woman who woke up from a 28 year coma, she uses a television interview to reach out to Andy and let him know she's alive and well.
After a tearful reunion, she learns that the coven had told Andy she had died in an effort to raise him in their ways. But as Rosemary had hoped at the end of the first novel, his human half made him rebellious and he has been using his 'influences' to thwart his father's plans and machinations. Or so Andy says.
The story continues with Rosemary being both relieved and skeptical of her son's motives and actions, along with the God's Children organization he has formed to make changes towards peace and tolerance throughout the world. Yet in spite of all the good she sees he has done, something still does not feel right. Especially in those moments when his horns peek out (literally) and his eyes turn from hazel to "Tiger". Still she does her best to aid his more noble efforts, not realizing that they are both being manipulated to bring about the end of man on New Year's Eve at the stroke of midnight, when almost everyone in the world will light special candles provided by the God's Children network.
Many have criticized this book because of how the story ends...
****Warning Spoiler Alert--Do not read further unless you want to know what happens****
Satan reveals himself to have been in Rosemary and Andy's midst all the time. He even crucifies his son for rebelling against his plans thanks to his mother's influence. Yet at the moment of Satan's apparent triumph, Andy manages to send his mother back in time to before his birth and arrange her life in such a way that she and Guy (her husband) do not wind up moving to the Bramford, thus escaping the coven's trap.
The complaint with this angle is that Rosemary wakes up from this prolonged nightmare (i. e. "It was all a dream..."). Yet we are given definite hints that it wasn't and that a part of Rosemary does realize what her son had actually done and that her fondest wish that his human half won out in the end.
Like the first book there is not a lot of gore or outright horror, as seen in other Son of Satan works such as the "Omen" series. Instead, Mr. Levin sticks to the spirit of his original work and plays a psychological game with the readers and Rosemary, leaving us wondering until the end if Andy can be trusted or not.
A brilliant effort by the man who also gave us "The Stepford Wives".
Monday, March 21, 2016
After reading Miss Du Maurier's classic "Rebecca" I set out to find more of her works, in particular I wanted to read some of her short works. In "The Doll: THe Lost Short Stories" I found a treasure of tales which left me both fascinated and a bit disconcerted.
One might easily wonder at how I reconcile those two emotions, but I can safely say I learned from the author herself. In this collection of early works, we get to see the sharp insight Miss Du Maurier had to the minds of people. Each story contained in this tome, involve people making bad choices in love and relationships, yet still pursuing objects of affection who are most definitely wrong for them. Those they pursue are either disturbed, toxic, or playing games with the affections of others.
Yet, Miss Du Maurier keeps our interest in each tale, as the reader finds themselves reflecting on their own relationships and behavior, or those of family and friends who they've watched go down similar paths. Each story left me disconcerted in one way or another, which only served to demonstrate the keen insight of the author and the mastery of her craft. To evoke such feeling and thoughts in the reader is truly a work of genius.
I certainly look forward to reading more of her works, especially "The Birds" which the great Alfred Hitchcock brought to the screen starring the wonderful Miss Tippi Hedren.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
I've waited to get my hands on this novel for some time and it was certainly worth the wait.
Keeping in mind that this book was written and set in 1967, this novel is tame in some respects compared to the gore and horror many authors and movies unleash on today's readers. But they are able to do so thanks to the efforts of Mr. Levin and other authors who broke ground and explored these mysteries and possibilities.
Rosemary Wodehouse and her husband Guy find themselves searching for a new home in New York City, so Guy can pursue his acting career on the stage, and soon find themselves with the opportunity to rent an apartment in the old Victorian building called "The Bramford" which has seen its share of notorious characters including a Devil worshipper who claimed to have summoned Satan himself some decades ago.
But now, considered a respectable/historic structure, Guy and Rosemary take a chance after seeing the apartment who's last elderly tenant who slipped into a coma and never recovered. The young couple soon get to meet other residents of the Bramford, including their odd next door neighbors the Castavets, an elderly and rather eccentric couple who take an unusual shine to them.
Shortly afterwards, things begin to happen. Guy is getting more roles and his star begins to rise in the theater world as well as drawing attention from Hollywood. Shortly after that, Rosemary finds herself pregnant after a very unusual dream where most of the other residents of the Bramford, including her new doctor, are wearing dark robes and chanting while Guy makes love to her... or was it him?
Most folks know the full story so I won't go any farther, but I will say Mr. Levin does a very good job of creating an atmosphere of suspicion and isolation, while still surrounded by the city of New York.
The ending actually took me by surprise because of the ray of hope that still burned in spite of the darkness that Rosemary finds herself surrounded by.
I look forward to finding the sequel "Son of Rosemary" to see what he did with it.
I also highly recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing fancy regarding the supernatural and black magic. Even though it may not hold a lot of surprises, the story does have a lot to keep the reader busy.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
A few days ago, I managed to finally locate a copy of this book at my local used book store and immediately snatched it up. Having seen both the original 1975 movie starring Katharine Ross, as well as the more recent Nicole Kidman version, I was eager to read the actual book that made the term Stepford Wives part of our everyday lexicon.
I'm going to assume that most people reading this blog already knows the story and how it ends. If you haven't seen either movie I strongly recommend the 1975 version which is much closer to the book, and not read the rest of this entry until you have because it contains huge SPOILERS!
For those who are continuing to read this post you have been warned...
Mr. Levin once again presents us with an idyllic setting and situation, namely the homey little town of Stepford with its picturesque white picket fences and home town charms. We meet Joanna Eberhart who has just moved here with her husband Walter and their two children Pete and Kim.
We quickly learn that Joanna is a modern thinking woman of her time (early 1970's) and is a freelance photographer who has made good money selling her photos to various magazines. Walter is a successful lawyer who wanted to move from the city and raise his family out in this charming place.
Through Joanna we are introduced to the various residents of Stepford whose female population seems to have a strong leaning towards housework. On her first night Joanna spots her next-door neighbor who is putting out the garbage. While this is not unusual in and of itself, the fact that the woman, who is backlit from the light from her open door, appears to be wearing nothing at all. Even when she returns inside her house, Joanna can clearly see her neighbor's perfect curvy silhouette in the window as the woman continues to do the dishes still naked.
We soon learn that most of the wives of Stepford are pretty much dedicated to being good housekeepers and making their husbands happy in every sense of the word.
Feeling out of step with the female 'crowd' Joanna is delighted to make friends with two other women who have only recently moved to Stepford; Charmaine and Bobbie. Charmaine is a dedicated tennis player who has a clay court in her yard, while Bobbie is a strong woman with definite reservations about how the women of Stepford behave, vowing never to be like them.
After a weekend away with her husband, Charmaine proceeds to neglect Bobbie and Joanna who pay her a surprise visit to find she is having her tennis court ripped up to be replaced by a putting green for her husband. Charmaine has also taken up housework with a vengeance and appears more full-figured than either Joanna or Bobbie remember. Yet even more chilling are Charmaine's words when she is asked why, "Ed's a pretty wonderful guy, and I've been lazy and selfish..." Such phrases like this are echoed repeatedly throughout the book by other wives as well.
As in his work "Rosemary's Baby" Mr. Levin uses the supporting cast of characters to present reasonable arguments that Joanna and Bobbie are just letting their imaginations run away with them. He plants the seeds of doubt liberally, but never enough to be fully convincing. Especially when Bobbie falls to the same fate as Charmaine, leaving Joanna more alone and afraid than ever before.
But the most terrifying part of this story for me was the knowledge that Walter, like so many other husbands, brought his family to Stepford for the sole purpose of having a 'sexy, obedient, fantasy' version made of his wife, knowing she'd be killed after the copy was ready.
For me, it was the enormity of this betrayal that provides the true horror for this piece. The idea that the patriarchal sense of entitlement was more important to these men, than the lives of the women they supposedly loved is inexcusable.
At the time this book was written (1972) the women's movement was still going strong, in spite of facing huge resistance. Yet 40 years later, feminism is still trying to make progress while being attacked with a vengeance on a number of fronts. Wanting true equality for all, regardless of sex, gender, skin color, or whatever, should not be a crime or something one needs to fight for. It should be a right offered to everyone.
Instead the struggle continues, which is why this book is still extremely relevant now. Personally I feel this book should become required reading in high school/college in the hopes of opening more minds so that the future holds more opportunities and understanding for all.
Saturday, March 5, 2016
When most people talk about an experiment failing, we all get a particular image in our heads...
The results were very promising. I began coming up with new scenes and situations that really got the storyline of "The Door" moving again. Within a few weeks I'd added almost 40,000 words to what I'd already done and the story just kept on growing.
But, not all experiments take place inside a cartoon or a lab. Some experiments take place in our writing. Time and again writers struggle to make a scene or idea work with varying results. Sometimes we get great results, other times we have to take a step back and have a think...
In any case, it's important to realize that no matter how many times you try to write a book, scene, character, or whatever... you learn from the experience. The piece may not work out the way you had hoped but you gained knowledge, namely what didn't work.
Recently, in an effort to jump start "The Door" (which had been languishing for months in Limbo because I couldn't come up with a clear path of where to take the story next) I introduced one of up my upcoming characters from another novel which is part of my Para-Earth Series. Specifically, I brought in Nathaniel Stewart, a human who entered one of the numerous Para-Earths and came back a vampyre. I had planned on unleashing him on the world in his own book "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home". I was able to justify doing this because I had written a six part short story over on my other site "The Vampyre Blogs - Private Edition" where I had Nathan meet Veronica, Julie, Roy and Jason in the past. Having mixed the characters once before, it seemed only natural that Nathan could show up again in these people's lives.
The results were very promising. I began coming up with new scenes and situations that really got the storyline of "The Door" moving again. Within a few weeks I'd added almost 40,000 words to what I'd already done and the story just kept on growing.
And that's when I realized I'd made a mistake...
The story was getting TOO big. By 80,000 words I still wasn't even halfway to reaching the climactic battle I had planned. In fact, I couldn't even see the finish line looming anywhere on the horizon, period. Something had to be done.
I kicked around the idea of breaking the book up into two installments, but the story had gotten too convoluted to risk such a move. I could also aim for one mega-book, but the story was getting too complex even for me to follow at times. Something or someone had to go!
After looking over the piece and seeing where Nathan had come into play I began to ask myself, could another 'existing' character serve the same purpose? Did Nathan have to be the one dealing with this scene? And every time I asked myself this, the answer came back the same, "Yes, someone else could fill that role. In fact, this would beef up that character's part in the book..."
So after having gone to so much trouble introducing Nathan into the story, I removed him.
Now some people would say that I sure wasted a lot of time going down this path. But they'd be wrong. As I said before, I only removed Nathan, I didn't remove the more important scenes which I'd created for him that were moving the story forward. By removing just the scenes where he was interacting with other characters, had a lot of dialogue, and other small bit parts, I wound up losing almost 20,000 words from the first draft. And now the story is moving forward a good pace with a tighter plotline.
Furthermore, I've freed up "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" to be released this October. Had I kept Nathan in "The Door" I would've had to hold back on release Nathan's book. As it is, I have a good release schedule in place for both books.
So while the experiment of bringing in Nathan didn't work out completely, it wasn't a total failure either. And this is something we all have to learn as writers. We have to try different avenues to get a story to work or get past a serious case of writer's block. In some cases we may abandon a project entirely, but certain ideas, characters, or plotlines can be resurrected in a brand new piece. It's all a matter of trial and error.
And sometimes those outcomes can lead to even better stories.
So until next time, take care and keep writing.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
As you may recall, a while back I revealed that I had begun not one but two collaboration projects. One is with my wife Helen and the other is with my high school friend and author Rich Caminiti. Working with my wife has not been a problem since she's always been my confidant, science advisor, etc.
But working with an old friend like Rich... that presented me with some challenges that both thrilled and worried me.
The biggest concern I had was the fact that he looks to me for guidance in many ways since this is his first full-fledged novel, whereas I already have two under my belt. He had tried one before but due to the fact that it involves time-travel and altering an individual's personal history, it presented him with a lot of issues that he is still working out. I've seen the early versions and I think the story has a lot of potential and will be a great read when the time comes. But before going back to it, he wanted to try his hand at another writing project first, to get more experience and knowledge about the process of creating a novel and getting story-line worked out into a logical and easy to read format.
In some ways I found being in the role of a mentor as well as co-author a little daunting, but I've known him for so long that I trusted in both of us to come to agreements and be open to each others ideas and suggestions. However, we can both be almost too agreeable, which presented pitfalls of another kind such as trying to fit too many ideas into one story and the main plot becomes muddied and convoluted.
Luckily, this has not been the case. We talk every week and discuss ideas and really give a lot of thought to each one to see if it can actually fit into the main story. If the idea doesn't fit, we'll work and rework it until it does fit or set it aside for another story entirely. (Remember that file folder I keep on my computer where discarded ideas go, that's where they land up. Just because the idea doesn't work here, it can work elsewhere or even be the basis for a brand new story.)
As for where Rich and I are at right now, the above image gives you an idea of our thought processes. We have plenty of ideas and red-herrings to throw at the audience, but also a solid progression to the final climactic scene.
So what is our project? It's a paranormal/historical piece which begins in a snowy winter in 1846 and culminates in a dangerous race against time to thwart the most diabolical plot to cripple the Union Army in 1863-4. No, you won't find Abraham Lincoln fighting werewolves or General Grant taking on rampaging hordes of zombie leprechauns (Yeah, I know that last one is pretty far out there but some of the things that Hollywood comes out with sometimes is pretty far out there too, folks).
However it does involve actual historical events and figures, as well as a healthy dose of the supernatural and mythological beings from not one but at least three different cultures. These cultures include: Native American, Chinese, and even some European mythos.
Yeah, I know it sounds bizarre but I'm being serious here, folks. Without giving too much away, let me just ask you to think about what was happening in America back in the mid-1800's. We had an influx of Chinese/Asian immigrants during the California Gold Rush, and the expansion of the railroads. On the East Coast, we were getting immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Italy etc. due to the Great Potato Famine, unstable regimes, and other events. With all these different cultures coming to America, they brought religion, ideas, food, cultures, etc. So why not a bit of supernatural concepts or beings as well? When looked at in that light, the concept is not so far-fetched is it?
However, it took me and Rich several months to reconcile these ideas and actually formulate a solid workable concept that, based on where we were having the story take place, actually works. We both did extensive historical research on a number of fronts including the Opium Wars in China, events and historical figures involved in the Civil War, Native American tribes located west of the Sierras, as well as San Francisco here in California.
Sharing what we learned through, weekly Skype sessions, we slowly pieced together how the story we wanted to tell could take place and blend into the time period and connect with the turbulence of the Civil War. We also drew upon another event from 1846 which led to the title of our project "The Pass".
This is part of what makes our collaboration work. Sharing the job of research, ideas, facts, thoughts and hashing things out 'together' to make a cohesive concept. There is give and take, as well as turning to each other when one of us hits a mental roadblock or cannot see a way forward. We're there for each other and offer as much support and friendship as possible.
So that's what collaboration looks like for us. How far have we gotten with the story and how are handling the writing portion?
Well stay tuned. I'm hoping to explore that area in my next installment. Until then, take care and keep writing everyone.
Friday, January 29, 2016
Well, my first week of working for the county started out good and ended with a release... from employment. I had to step down and leave due to a health issue from a previous employer that dogs my every step... Asthma! Some years ago I worked in a building that had a very bad ventilation system, which even may have contained toxic molds.
I tried to fight and argue, but the company insisted there was nothing wrong with their system. "We've had it tested..." I was told repeatedly. I even asked to see the test results and specifically know what kind of airborne things they had tested for. They told me that wasn't possible and it was company privilege. Finally, I was told that if I wanted to get a test done of my own I'd have to pay for it, AND I'd have to get their approval to allow the people who would do the test permission to enter the building in the first place.
Really fair and independent, right?
At the time I was too sick to fight 'city hall' and wound up leaving. But the damage to my lungs remained. I've gotten better with time, but they've never healed completely and probably never will.
Fast forward to this week. We began orientation in a building that I had no problem with. In fact I felt rather safe there. But the actual training was taking place in another location which I did not enter until yesterday. My lungs felt itchy, but I figured I would tough things out. After all I was only supposed to be there for 12 weeks (that's what we were told in orientation). Unfortunately, reality stepped in and said we'd be there at least 17 weeks, with the strong possibility that after that this building is where we'd be assigned.
Still I kept quiet. But then we went on a tour and when I reached the areas where we'd be working I felt much worse. I continued throughout the day in the hopes that maybe it wouldn't be so bad, but those of you with asthma know what it's like. It doesn't get easier in a place that's triggering you off. If it had truly been only 12 weeks, I might've been able to stick it out. I was willing to try, but when I heard this might be were I'd be staying (and no there was not a way to make sure I'd be located somewhere else after the training) I had to make a decision.
I couldn't risk being stuck in the same type of situation that damaged me in the first place, so today I tendered my resignation.
As you can imagine, I felt completely lost and gutted by this decision. I felt like I let so many people down, but what choice did I have. I spoke with my better half first and she told me to quit. She could hear the breathing problems over the phone.
By the end of the day I asked the trainers if this was the only facility where this kind of training took place. They confirmed that it was and then said, "Why do you ask? Is there something wrong, you don't look all right." I told them my problem and they were very sympathetic but explained that indeed their hands were tied.
So I came home last night and spoke with Helen who told me not to go back. So this morning I put on my 'big boy' pants and made the phone call to resign. Now I had a special ID badge that I wanted to get back to them and the person I spoke with told me to take it to office where Orientation had taken place and sign the forms for my resignation.
Well, I braced myself for the experience and went to Personnel and told them the purpose for my visit. The folks that greeted me were very sorry and asked if I wouldn't mind talking with one of the higher ranking personnel staff. I agreed and was shown in to an office where a very nice woman sat me down and talked with me about the situation. She was very sweet and sympathetic and then asked me a particular question that floored me. It was "Would you want to come back and work with the county again? In a a different position and location of course?"
Naturally I gave her a resounding and enthusiastic "YES!"
She smiled and told me to keep watching the employment board online and if I saw some positions I qualified for, to try for them. I took this to mean that the fact that I got on with them in the first place, meant that they considered me the kind of person they wanted in their employ.
I spent the rest of the morning getting myself back to full-time status as a student at the University and so I could get my full financial aid package, as well as preserve our current residence for possibly the summer if nothing else happens on the work front.
Where do I go from here? Attend classes, try and get something part-time either at the college or nearby and keep putting in applications for State and County work, as well as write. In short I move forward and keep trying.
At least now I know that I do appeal to employers and can land something. Parts of me are damaged, but I'm not tainted. There's no cloud or stain that tells people I'm "Unemployable", and that means a lot.
Until next time, take care and keep writing...
Monday, January 18, 2016
How come no new posts lately Allan? Have you given up Blogging? Is everything all right with you?
These are the questions I've been hearing a lot lately, and with good reason. With the holidays over and I have Winter Break from University, a lot of you were expecting more frequent posts here. Well, so was I. But then life got in the way and hasn't stopped yet.
What do I mean by that? Well let me take a moment to gather my thoughts and I'll explain...
After my last post, there was of course the holidays to contend with. Both my wife Helen and I were in heavy demand so naturally I didn't have a lot of time to even think about blogging. What time I had available to write I spent working on "The Door", focusing on the confrontation scene I mentioned in the last entry.
However, even that got derailed by events that began shortly after the new year began. I started getting requests for job interviews which took up more of my time as I prepped and primped to make a good impression. Then early last week, I got an offer with the County of Monterey, which I have accepted.
The job in question is full-time, which of course means I cannot take a full class load at CSU Monterey Bay, which led to a new crisis. Helen and I live in off campus-housing, which requires I be enrolled as a full-time student. We don't have the money or resources to move right away, so I had to put together an appeal to allow us to stay where we are until our lease runs out in May, which would put us in a better position to move then as well as still permit me to take a couple of classes.
I should be hearing an answer on our appeal late this week/early next week. In the meantime, we've been exploring back-up possibilities of where to move (which would be really stressful and difficult) in the meantime.
We have some possibilities in mind, but would really rather not be forced to move at this time as I still have to get past the 'Probation Period' with the county. They could decide I'm not working out and dump me, in which case I'd simply go back to being a full-time student if no other work offers show up.
All this worrying and running around has taken up most of my time this month and I'm simply praying at this point that we'll be given to okay to stay until the end of the lease and not have our lives disrupted even more.
So keep your fingers crossed for us that things work out and I can settle into the new job and juggle the classes I'm still taking with time for more writing.
I'll post again later this week or early next week with an update, so stay tuned... and keep writing.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
As you all know, for the past couple of months, I was pulled away from my writing by all the demands of my classes at the California State University of Monterey Bay. But now all of that is over, until next semester begins late next month/early February when it all starts up again... possibly, things may change before then. I'm up for a couple of job interviews which could change everything.
In any case, you'd think I would be eager to jump back into my writing right? Yes and no. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still in love with writing, but trying to awaken my muse has been hard. Being away from my writing for so long left me drained emotionally and mentally on the creative front. Plus there's been other things I had to deal with which also got pushed aside thanks to all the schoolwork.
Luckily a lot of that is done and I have more time to get back to writing, only I found I was stuck staring at "The Door" and not being able to do anything with it.
(NOTE: This is NOT the final design for the bookcover... still working on it)
Now before anyone mentions plotting, let me explain that I've always known where the final confrontation was going to take place and who'd be there. I could clearly see each of the characters who needed to be there having their own special moment. I even knew why they were there, but I couldn't figure out what they'd be doing DURING the fight. Most of the scenes I was picturing were aftermath moments, or pauses when the action moved elsewhere, so they had to be on hand. But what were they doing while the action was happening was puzzling me.
I tried turning it over again and again in my mind only to realize I was once more dealing with a mental version of my old nemesis the Rubik's Cube. Only this time it was more intimidating than ever before...
I began to feel like I'd never solve this problem. Again and again I'd start thinking I had the solution, because I could see the goal in the distance. I'd even make good progress towards getting there, but then I'd find myself hitting another wall. It was like wandering through the most frustrating maze I'd ever encountered.
Then yesterday, the breakthrough finally hit me. I needed to work on the final battle FIRST and then let the rest of the story follow. I had to place every character I wanted into that scene and find out for myself what they could/would/and finally did in that climactic moment. Only then could I justify to myself as well as the reader, why they needed to be in this story in the first place.
Now normally I don't usually work this way. I've always used a loose outline, like in this case, and knew where I was going and led the characters to that moment. Plus, I still needed to see what that final confrontation was going to look like for myself.
Immediately, I looked back at my own works "The Bridge" and "The Ship" and re-read the final battle scenes for each of them. I quickly realized I had a tendency to go for some pretty impressive battles, that seemed almost impossible for any person to win. But that's always been my philosophy in writing. The more daunting the odds, the more impressive the heroes are for overcoming them.
I would have to go big for this third installment, but not just in size. I had to deliver something new and special for the readers. I'd given them glimpses into some of the Para-Earths where my previous antagonists came from. This time I needed to show the readers WHY some of these being needed to be kept out of our world!
At that moment, I knew what I needed to do... it was time to open "The Door" and let the nightmares from one of those other places come through. With a threat of this magnitude in mind, I now know exactly how important it will be to have "All hands on deck", as well as how to utilize each and every character in that scene.
So there you have it folks, once again I say "There is no one specific to write a story". We each may have our own special methods of writing, but sometimes even those techniques may not always be enough. There will be days when we need to discover and add new tools to our already impressive arsenal.
I'm very eager and excited to get back to the story now. I know that working that final confrontation is going to make how I continue to write certain characters in earlier sections of the book much easier. I already knew their motivations for the most part, but I suspect I'll have better insight into their personalities because I'll have a more clear idea of just how far their willing to go for their ultimate goals.
Remember everyone, stories can take many paths. But in the end its the writer to must choose or forge the right one that will best serve the purpose in the end.
Until next time, take care and keep writing.