Me Write Good One Day

One of my favorite pastimes is watching bad sci-fi/monster movies. “Bad” usually means something from Japan featuring rubber monsters duking it out in downtown Tokyo, but another sure source of unintentional humor is something from Italy. The Italians have made some incredibly awful movies. I’m not talking Fellini or Visconti, but badly dubbed/badly translated garbage like the one I watched the other night, The Wild, Wild Planet

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Two Hearts

Wicked, double heart!
Heavy, hard, sharp, and helpless.
What tool will cleave you;
what torrent erode you?
Arid years of standing still,
have left you a monument to apathetic fear.
Will you beat again?

Happy single heart!
Gentle, supple, sincere.
Cleft by love unbounded,
worn smooth by fearless acceptance.
Yielding and tender, moved by compassion
but unmoved by time.
Sacred Heart strong and stable,
carry my heaviness.
Surround me with calm.
Overcome my fear!

This Post is Brought to You by the Letter “C”

Contrarian critics casually cause chaos in careful constructions by contending for control of content in cascading clashes of caustic contact and corrosive condescension. Considering the catastrophic conclusion consequent to such conduct, confirms a cruel and cold-blooded character calculatingly concentrated on crushing confidence while cavalierly capering on the carcass of conscientiously crafted creations. Such callous cross-grained cads call for condemnation for their complete…er…uh, crapulence!

Those with the ears to hear, let them hear…

That Thing You Do

It seems that my conversations with others provoke most of my blog posts, and this one will be no exception. This time, the conversation was one of those you generally have over a beer. It begins by posing a theoretical question that invites pontificating. I frequently resort to this ploy in social settings in order to engage the other person in something other than small talk. And since pontificating is one of the things I do best, I really enjoy these discussions.

The question for debate on this occasion was, “What are the three most important factors in [blank]?” Where [blank] is your particular profession/art form. It’s always fascinating to hear what people say in response to this question because very often, nobody ever asks them. Most people just go about doing [blank], and the consumer(s) of their work product are either satisfied, or dissatisfied. The consumer rarely gives a happy rat’s ass about the process involved, which is a shame because a basic understanding of the process always adds value to the final product. Or at the very least, provides a context for the result.

Let me give you an example…

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Child, Please!

I’ve received some comments that the blog has been too heavy with videos of late. Sorry. I thought they were apropos of the events of the day. Besides, they make a nice break from my droning, witless observations day in, day out. Nevertheless, I aim to please, so in a craven attempt to placate those critics, I offer this instead:

The subject of one’s space as a conduit for creativity came up recently. There are many theories on how one can best optimize their work environment, so as to enhance the creative flow. Paint the walls blue, have plants in strategic locations (supposedly to increase oxygen levels and thereby increase brain function), orient the space with the pole star, play soothing music in the background, have interesting things on your desk to play with when you can’t think, work in a pyramid, a circle, a hyperbaric chamber, or a tree house.

Yeah, OK.

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Run Away!

The picture above is Illarion Pryanishnikov’s famous painting of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. Miserable story, miserable war. But that’s not why I posted it. When you say “retreat,” this is what most people think of. Well, I’m on retreat this week. No, I’m not fleeing the Russians, but in a way, I am fleeing something, or more accurately, I am fleeing to something.

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Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?

A friend asked me the other day how the new book was coming along which, as usual, sent me off on another tangent of thought. You see, the new novel is a work of historical fiction, which requires a great deal of research. That’s no big deal for me because I’ve always enjoyed reading about history. The usual response when I say that is, “Ugh. All those names and dates. How boring!”

Well, if all you look at are names and dates, then yeah, that’s weapons-grade boring. But that’s not what history is, not really. History is the story of people and their interactions with each other. For human beings, nothing is quite so fascinating to us as we are ourselves. Properly applied, history shows us what we have done before so as to give us insight into what we might do again. But how can that be? People in the past were so different than us.


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The Plot Thickens

For those who are interested, I thought I’d update you on the new book. As soon as The Good Thief was put to bed–Heh. I’m learning that that never really happens–I started right in on the next novel. This one is historical fiction and takes place in Czechoslovakia at the outset of WWII. As with my first novel, there is a biblical analog underlying the action, which in this case is the book of Jeremiah. Without giving away the plot, the story centers around the main character, Fr. Jeremiáš Láska, a Czechoslovak priest, who is drawn into the counsels of the powerful as his country fights for its very survival.

Research is mostly complete, as is the initial plotting. Actual writing is well underway. It’s a funny thing, but I never realized just how much work is involved before a single word is written. It’s also funny how a single sentence can take an hour to write. You writers in the audience know what I mean.

I don’t know about you, but my biggest challenge in the whole writing process is continuity. By continuity, I don’t mean continuing to write, I mean continuity of story, plot, and characters. Supposedly, the Simpson’s World episode guide was created largely to help the show’s writers with this very problem. After more than 20 years on TV, they had to have a way to make sure they weren’t stepping on something they had done before. It’s a real drag to stop in the middle of chapter 20 to find out what you did in chapter 5. What’s the old saying? Measure twice, cut once?

So I’m being much stricter with the writing process in order to avoid such problems. This is a challenge because my style is more–how shall I say it?–free range. The Good Thief was a story that lived in my head for a long time. I could literally see it, and that saved me some work, but for this book I’m being more methodical. Hopefully that will produce the result I’m looking for: a tight, engaging, thought-provoking story, written in a minimum of time. As one friend always reminds me, “You have to minimize your time to market.” That’s also very important, because as my fellow-writers know, payday comes very slowwwly.