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.