Monday, August 18, 2014

The Pain of Writing

Writing is hard.

There are a million and one little ways to get distracted. Waiting for your computer to catch up. Checking out the latest notification on Facebook, or Gmail, or Yahoo. Reading Yahoo or MSN news. Watching trailers. Reading excerpts of upcoming books, or reviews of newly released ones. Stopping to research concepts or look up synonyms of words. Writing a line. Getting up to get a drink or stretch. Answering the phone or texts. Playing Words with Friends! Starting a blog and coming back months later when you remember it in-between all of your projects...

But, on the eve (okay, well, a few weeks away) from the release of my latest book, there's one other painful aspect of life as a writer that I'd like to address: my body.

That's right. As a writer, my body suffers more than anything else for my art. What? Why? How is that possible, you wonder? Well, I'm in the middle of my obsessive editing/rewriting phase (I wrote nearly 5,000 words in one day!), which requires not only a whole lot of typing (especially as I hop through websites doing research), but also a LOT of SITTING. That's right. Here it is, the essential truth: my back aches. It cramps and twists and throbs and knots and begs me to stretch and massage and soothe it, please, soon, just after the next line, the next paragraph, the next page, until at long last, hours later, I'm so stiff and tense that I force myself to halt and uncurl from wherever I'm sitting - couch, table, desk - massage my strained eyes and neck, and get up and move.

What can I do? I have deadlines, projects and somanystories trying to get out! The easiest, and honestly, the best, solution I have is to get up and go for a walk. Not a jog, not a full blown sprint, but a nice, long walk to both clear my head and let my back take a break from its very important job of supporting me as I work. Massages and swimming are also nice, but in a jiffy, a walk is usually how I make it through my day.

So for all you writers out there fighting back pain, give yourself a break and go for a walk. It will refresh you, head to toe, outside and In. In: that place our ideas gestate and fight to be born. Yes, writing is a pain in myriad ways, but the stories - oh cruel dictators, oh sweet lovers...

Okay. Enough! It's time for a walk...

Saturday, August 9, 2014

POVs Unite!

Ah, the book progresses quickly, and I find myself as ever in awe of how the story takes shape. My most recent challenge was combining a 1st person POV story into a 3rd person POV - the 1st person character becoming an integral part of the 3rd person storyline. Part of me wonders - is this done? Am I breaking some rule? Who will I anger or annoy in doing this?

Then I remember - my onus is to be true to the story. And this is how it wants to be told. 

After all, I'm living in the Land of Wonder... where every curiosity may be allowed.

So please, enjoy this rather humorous excerpt from my book, coming very soon!!!

HEART: a fantasy of organs

Excerpt from Part III: Queen of Hearts and Knave

"“Cheshire!”
His glowing eyes appeared almost immediately above the Queen, though the rest of his body remained hidden.
“You come quickly for once.”
His grin appeared, as wide and pointy as ever.
“Something in your voice hints at… mischief.”
The Queen almost laughed.
“Is that all that is necessary to create a timely creature out of you?”
The Cheshire licked one of his suddenly visible paws delicately before answering.
“Oh, certainly not. Games and puzzles and desserts work quite nicely, too.”
“Then you will quite enjoy what I have in mind.”
“Oh, this smacks of conspiracy,” he giggled, clapping his paws together in delight, his black-furred body floating upright in front of her. “My absolute favorite.”
“I wouldn’t call it conspiracy. Yet.”
His large body floating up and began to spin in circles around the Queen’s head.
“Oh, Queenie, tell me quickly. The waiting is so tiresome!”
The Queen reached out a calming hand. The Cheshire responded by butting his head impatiently against her fingers. She smiled slightly, remembering what it felt like to be amused.
“Very well. I propose, dear cat, to have a party.”
He froze for a moment in shock before resume his customary air of aplomb.
“That might be worth forgiving your incorrect feline reference.”
“Ah. Then you will help.”
The Cheshire’s ears perked up and his grin grew to equal the size of his large body.
“Help? Why Queenie, you must let me plan the entire affair!”
She nodded.
“Though I do want a specific guest list, Cheshire.”
He whirled in the air, landing lightly on her unadorned head.
“But of course! Your every wish will be fulfilled.”
He jumped off of her head to land on the arm of the throne. A scroll with a feather-tipped pen appeared in his paws as he reclined on his hind legs. The Queen looked at him and wanted to laugh, but it would have been hollow, empty. And she wanted to honor the truth between them. So she said nothing, instead pushing away the ever-present hunger.
“Now then, when would you like to throw this Grand Ball?”
The Queen closed her eyes, lost in thought.
“As soon as possible. I feel… it must be soon.”
“I see. Party… in… a hurry.” He muttered to himself, writing a subtitle under Grand Ball. “Yes, right then, that’s all in order. Two days, you said? Very good. Now tell me, who will be your Guest of Honor? The Knave, yes, I can see that.”
He scribbled hastily, adding unnecessary flourishes to the page. His every move showcased his delight.
Which is well-deserved, the Queen thought, as I have never thrown a party before.
“Now then, other special guests? Myself, well, quite obviously. Your Royal Blacksmith? His son? Tell me.”
He finally paused for breath and looked back at the Queen, his tail lashing behind him in quivering expectation.
“The Hatter. And-“
“The Angry Hatter? But- but- he’ll yell and scream the entire time. In fact, weren’t you supposed to eat his heart? Hmm, this might be your best opportunity.”
She broke into his reflections, repeating the words slowly.
“The Hatter. As a Special Guest.”
Her voice remained firm and even, a sure sign she would not change her mind. The Cheshire recognized this instantly and went back to writing out his list.
“Ah, very well. I shall just have to be, shall we say, a bit more creative with seating, though I supposed you will want his companions.”
“The March Rabbit and the Doormouse? Oh, I suppose. But I wanted the Hatter for another reason.”
“And that is?”
The Queen looked out over the cold vista spread below her, the ground covered in icy, sooty sleet. When she spoke, it was in a low, frozen voice that echoed the landscape.
“The Hatter is cursed by Time, remember?”
“Ah,” the Cheshire replied just as softly, momentarily distracted from his List by the longing in the Queen’s voice. “Yes. He offended Time.”
“And so it must always be Spring, wherever he goes.”
“And so it must,” the Cheshire echoed." 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Continuum

As I enter the final stages of the first draft of my next book, I find myself quite enjoying the MASH. That is, the mix of fantastical fairy tales, stories, and fables that I decided lived in the same book. As someone who's always enjoyed re-working fairy tales based on some variation of their origins, I've found it particularly satisfying to bring two very different worlds together in my most recent work. 

I suppose, in many ways, this will continue to be a theme in my writing. Zombies+comedy. Post-apocalyptic earth+mermaids. Logic-bound scholars+djinns. Robots+magic roads off-planet.

And now this. A blend of two (or three) well-known stories twisted to fit the parameters of this particular storyline. But I like to think of it as keeping the characters alive, changing, and growing, for surely that's better than letting them grow old, stagnant, and forgotten? Better for them to exist in a living continuum built of the collective cultural stories from our past and present, in which the reader can dive deep and emerge from the other side changed - hopefully for the better. 

As both a writer and a reader, I can think of no better homage to all the authors and readers who came before.

Please enjoy my next Excerpt from: 

HEART 
a fantasy of organs

from Part II: Hunter


By the time I was sixteen, I had exhausted all possibilities my realm offered for finding the Piper. So I set out to the Borderland, ready to cross into the other Realms and conclude my Hunt. But the Realms were endless, one after another, and decades passed as I searched for clues to lead to the Piper. Each land I discovered let to one strange encounter after another, leading me down many unexpected paths. But for everyone I met, I never ceased my Hunt, never ceased asking: “Have you heard the music of the Piper?”
But there was never anyone who could answer. Not until one day, a harried-looking rabbit advised me to find the Worm.
I’d just cross from the Borderland into a strange world filled with odd machines and balloons that carried people across the sky. The path I was on led straight down into a huge city, hung about with clouds of webbing, scurrying creatures crossing above.
Suddenly, a rabbit nearly the size of a boy hopped past me. Something about his focus caught my attention, and I found myself running after him.
“Hey. Wait.”
“No time to wait! I’m running late, I’m running late!” he answered in a sing-song voice.
“Just a moment. That’s all I’ll take.”
The rabbit stopped abruptly and turned on me, his eyes wide with fury.
“Oh, sure, that’s what they all say. Just a moment. Next thing you know, they’ve grown into a giant and destroyed your house!”
His words made no sense to me, so I decided to let him move on.
“You’re right, of course. Do carry on.” I turned to go.
He spluttered behind me.
“Well. Well then. Someone with Sense. Finally.”
His watch suddenly started ringing, and within those tones I caught a familiar pattern.
“Oh no! I’m late!”
He turned to hop off but in a swift move, I caught his ears in one of my hands and raised him up. With the other, I gripped his neck.
“How dare you? How utterly shocking! You ingrate! I’m late, I’m late!”
I brought his furred face close to mine.
“Your watch. The alarm. Where did you hear that music?”
“What? My watch? Got it from the Worm! The Worm! Was singing it, wasn’t he? Took it from a Piper, he said. Let go, let go!”
I shook him once, hard.
“Where is this Worm?”
The rabbit started shaking as his watch rang another alarm.
“His home moves! I don’t know!”
I shook him again, harder.
“Where was the last place you saw him?”
“In the- the Borderlands. Or maybe the Land of Wonder. It’s hard to tell. The smoke! The smoke!”
I thought about killing the rabbit, but decided his Soul would be too small for me to enjoy. But before I set him down, I asked one final question.
“Tell me, what is your name?”
He squirmed in my grip, so I tightened my fingers until he started to go limp.
“My name, my name! It’s White Hare. White Hare! There, you see? I’m… late… I’m…”
His voice trailed off as he started to lose consciousness. Tired of the encounter, I let White Hare slide out of my hand.
“If you’re lying, or I do not find him, then I’ll come back and find you. You will not enjoy the consequences.”
White Hare continued lying on the ground, gasping for air and muttering to himself as I turned and strode away.
“I’m late… I’m late… so rude… as big… as a house…”
His nonsense words faded from my hearing as I turned back towards the Borderlands. I’d never heard of the Land of Wonder, though that wasn’t surprising, considering the thousands of realms I’d yet to visit. But the Borderlands – I’d wandered there many years. That was where I’d begin.
If I hadn’t had the motivation of my missing Soul, I might’ve been daunted by the sheer scope of the area I was to search. But my Great Hunt was my Purpose, so it never occurred to me to doubt.
And in time, sure enough, I found him.
The Worm.
Of the many strange manner of creatures I’ve come across along my Hunt, there was perhaps none as challenging as the Worm - though not in a manner I’d have ever expected.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Heart

Well, I'm back at it! More writing goals, daily word counts, and projects galore! So little time to do so much that I feel like any time I spend not writing, I am falling behind. The ideas are pouring out of me, but my hands cannot keep up...

I think this is a good thing.

As previously promised, I have some blogs coming up where I'd like to focus on several experiences I've had at conventions this year, promoting and marketing, diversifying, and of course, finishing that first book!

But before I write any of those, I'd like to share a new project that will be published in September titled HEART: A FANTASY ABOUT ORGANS. Look for the cover very soon, but in the meantime, here is my first excerpt. I hope you enjoy. And as always, any feedback is much appreciated.

HEART
a fantasy about organs

Excerpt 1 from PART I: RED QUEEN


The two boys played skip-splash in the puddles outside the great doors of the castle, seemingly unaware of the tension that filled their elders. With nary a worry, their game continued moving – hop-splash! Hop-splash! – leading them inexorably away from the growing knot of concerned citizens, their parents among the crowd. But the two boys weren’t called back as more people arrived, the crowd growing along with a murmuring dissension that filled the courtyard enough to drown out the boys’ conversation when they grew tired of their game.
“Why do we have to wait outside?” asked Jeriff, the youngest of the two by nearly three years.
Karill, glad to display his greater knowledge at the grand age of ten, puffed out his chest with his perceived self-importance.
“We’re here to see the Red Queen. Our ma’s and pa’s got sum big things they gotta ask.”
“What big things?”
Karill hadn’t expected that question, so he searched his mind quickly for an answer.
“Important stuff. Like…” Kerill paused again, trying to remember what his parents had been arguing about. “… like higher levies.”
Kerill didn’t know what levies were, but he knew they must be very important for his ma and pa to dress in their finest festival clothes and shut down their little shop for the day as they made their long trek from the outer edges of the city to the castle gates. He hoped Jeriff wouldn’t ask what they were, because then he might have to admit he didn’t know. But when Jeriff next spoke, it was with a completely unexpected question.
“Why do they call her the Red Queen?”
Happy at the change in subject, Kerill considered the question, reviewing the gossip he'd heard in the streets.
“Janet, the baker’s oldest son, told me they call her the Red Queen 'cause she always dresses in red.”
Red was an exotic color, reserved only for the nobility and merchants who could afford the exorbitant price of the dye.
“Everything?” asked Jeriff, astounded at the idea. “Even her cloak?”
“Cloak, gown, crown, rubies, jewels, rings, hair. All of it. They say she even paints her hands 'n face red, 'n her castle is full of endless rooms of red silk n' painted glass 'cause she can’t stand any other color.
“Wow,” breathed Jeriff, his imagination caught with wonder. “I wanna see her, all in red! The Red Queen!” he suddenly shouted, entranced by the idea, spontaneously spinning in a circle and hopping back into a small puddle.
“Do you know, her hair isn’t really red,” a new voice broke in, deep and low, but unmistakably feminine.
Instantly, both boys whirled around to see a cloaked figure standing in a nearby alcove.
Jeriff knew immediately that something was wrong. Fear stole through him as he realized he and Kerill had wandered too far away from their parents to cry out for help. But despite his premonition, the figure did not move, did not threaten the boys in any way.
And Kerill, in his innocence and newfound wonder, did not miss a beat.
“No red hair? But what about rubies and a castle full of red rooms.”
The figure stirred.
“Truth is as multi-faceted as the best-cut gem.”
“What does that mean?”
“I mean there is some truth in what you say, young man. Sometimes, that is all that is needed.”
The murmuring crowd behind them suddenly spiked in volume.
“Let us in!”
“It’s our right!”
“Hear us, Queen!”
“Hear us!”
The cry was taken up by many, chanting voices multiplied by the echoing courtyard.
“Yet other times, it is only harsher truths that will quiet dissent.”
The woman’s voice, though no louder, had increased in intensity, somehow cutting through the tumult to reach the ears of both boys clearly.
They looked up simultaneously, to find the shrouded form suddenly standing between them.
“Watch, then, and learn why she is called the Red Queen.”
A wash of apprehension fluttered through the boys as the cloaked figure moved away, sliding effortlessly between the growing and gesticulating mob.
Their game of skip-splash suddenly felt meaningless as the boys realized there was a deeper game swirling around them, vibrating in the forgotten puddles reflecting a desolate gray sky. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Hello all!

It's been a bit over two months since I've been on here, and I've been promising a blog for a while, so finally - FINALLY - let's catch up.

Most of the past two months has been spent working on a screenplay writing project. That is, I accepted a contract to write THREE 90-PAGE SCRIPTS in about 6 weeks...

Whew! It has been crazy! In between that, I've had my classes and been attending lots of events promoting my books. I've met a lot of wonderful people and gotten some truly lovely feedback from my wonderful readers. I truly appreciate all the emails and reviews!

Also, because of the rapid nature of my recent contract, I have only slightly worked on my personal projects - my sci-fi mashup, EVRISKON, and my play, CLUTCHING AT MY CLOTHES. I did start  a few short stories, including one that will be turned into a script for yet another project.

Over the summer, I'll be appearing at Sci-Fest, Texas Comicon, MonsterCon, and Alamo City Comicon! In addition, "Figuratively Speaking," the first episode from my movie, SANITARIUM, will be released as a comic on July 30th, and I will be signing copies at a local comic store.

There's also more big news, but I'll talk about that soon...

Finally, I am happy to report that over the past year, I've had over 4,100 visitors to my website and nearly 6,000 page views. SO, as a big THANK YOU for the one-year anniversary of www.cmbratton.com,  I am offering DISCOUNTS on two of my books through Kindle. Feel free to copy the codes below!!

PSYCH 101: ZOMBIE: enter code PNFDFPFB at checkout to get 35% OFF

(and this is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Psych-101-Zombie-CM-Bratton-ebook/dp/B00I9282WY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1401638637&sr=1-1&keywords=psych+101%3A+zombie)

VIBRANTLY COLORED: enter code J7P5U8BK at checkout to get 50% OFF

(and this is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Vibrantly-Colored-C-M-Bratton-ebook/dp/B00IFB2O2S/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1401638108)

I've got some wonderful writing experiences to share as well, so look out for the next blog, coming very soon.

cheers all!

PS The codes may take another day or two to get into the system.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Updates and Observations

So many wonderful things have been going on that I've fallen behind updating my media outlets lately. Thus, I'd like to begin this blog by sharing several updates.

As of my last blog, I'd just finished publishing two books in one week (what? my mind still hurts to think about it) and was getting ready to participate in a slew of events promoting and selling my books. Well, I am still in the midst of attending events, though after this week, I'll have a few weeks off before the next round. I've also organized my calendar for events for the rest of the year AND planned out my goals in terms of specific word counts for the rest of the year. Here's what I found out - I have enough project already started to take me through the end of next year! I am currently working on a play and a novel - both such separate genres and mediums that the switching back and forth has actually been rather refreshing. I am hoping by September to start working on another book, which I'd like to finish next year along with yet another book. In addition, I have two other books started that I want to work on and possibly get first drafts of finished by end of next year. Not to mention a few short stories here and there. Whoa!

I recently had a Book Signing Event in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Why there? Because my cover designer and models for my zom-com books live there. It was insanely fun to hang out with the models AND have them sign books right alongside me. What did I forget? To have them sign a book for me! Ah, I'm learning.

Another incredible part of the trip includes the five in-studio radio interviews I had. Though I've been interviewed before, it's either been on the phone or as part of a different event. These interviews were purely about my books (and a little about my movie) and they were all extremely different. I had an amazing time and am grateful for the new friends I've made.

At an event just last week, someone said, "Oh! I want to be a writer, too." And if there's anything that's really been part of defining the past month, it's the increase in how many people tell me that. All of them - every single one - have said they don't have either the time or the focus to finish what they write. All I can do is encourage them, for they're right. You need to have self-discipline and carve out time every day to write. You need to stay focused and motivated to finish anything - whether it be a complicated recipe, work-out program, performance, or college course. It is the same with writing. 

Write. Write. Keep writing. Don't stop. Finish. Get it all down. Give yourself something to look at, something to edit, something to revise. Something to throw away and tell yourself what's not working. But please, please, if I can tell you anything, it's this: just write.

Stay motivated, dedicated, disciplined, focused, and just write.

I want to read your stories, too.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Two Books, Seven Days

Having recently ventured into self-publishing, I have been both motivated and stressed in dealing with finishing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd drafts, editing, more editing, copy editing, formatting, cover artwork, pricing, marketing, and hey, more editing!

All of which meant that somehow, I published two very different books within a week of each other.

After which I crawled onto my couch and did nothing for many blissful hours.

When I originally planned out the writing projects I hoped to complete this year, I had thought to get PSYCH 101: ZOMBIE (P1Z) out the third week of January and VIBRANTLY COLORED (VB) out late March. Then I decided I wanted to have VC ready for an event, so I pushed that publishing date to the end of February - after all, I'm self-publishing. I can do that. But then there was a delay with my cover art for P1Z and I ended up needing to push back my Book Release Party.

That's when it hit me - if I worked intensely enough, I could have BOTH books for the same release party. Because of shipping times (and there are not many options when you buy directly from the distributor), I knew that meant I had very little time to finish VB - maybe two weeks to finish editing and formatting. Fortunately, I'd already gotten someone to do the cover art a few months earlier, so I wasn't too worried about that (it was my dad, and I felt okay to bug him about getting it done on time). 

I buried myself in editing - both for VB and any last minute edits for P1Z. When the artwork came in for P1Z, I took a break from VB to upload and finish the final steps before publishing. As soon as I was done, I jumped back to VB and kept going, finishing up in the afternoon and receiving the artwork that same evening (my dad got a litle stressed out after all!). Again, I followed all the steps and happily pushing the button that gave permission to publish.

Then I went and collapsed, but just for a few minutes. After all, I had to go teach writing shortly after.

But the next morning, while looking at the release dates on Amazon for my books, it hit me - I had somehow published two books within SEVEN DAYS of each other - what?!!? No wonder I was exhausted.

But apparently not that exhausted, because now my brain can't stop thinking about other projects I get to return to and future events, such as my renamed 'Book(s) Release Party'. The year is really rolling now.

During this process, I've learned you can not only change your deadlines to suit your needs, you can also push yourself to meet them, even if the deadlines are all mental. Doing what I love is worth the extra time. It takes focus, dedication, and willpower, but anything worth having should.

It's only February, but I've been told I've done so much.

Ah, but all these stories in my head tell me - there's so much more to do.