Clarion West Write-a-Thon: Week 4 Update

Top Secret Code Name of Current Project: Fedoras and Trust Issues
Current Pitch: Hardboiled fairy tale noir!
Slightly More Detailed Pitch: In an alternate post-WWII America, a cranky, bisexual PI and his ace, teenage Girl Friday try to solve the disappearances and/or murders of three different women.

Number of Times I Had To Go Back And Edit A Previous Chapter: 3
Number of Times I Rewrote The Same Damn Scene: 6
Number of Expletives Spoken: 37, give or take

Song From Current Project Playlist: “Turn the Page” – Bob Seger

Goal Met: Surprisingly, yes

I only had to write one chapter this week, a short chapter even, and let me tell you: it was a monumental pain in the ass. Okay, maybe not monumental, but I was definitely grasping and clawing for every other word. Part of the problem, I’ve discovered, is very typical of my quote-unquote writing process: as I work on new material, I keep realizing how much needs to be added to an earlier section, or how a scene I wrote six chapters ago is completely wrong and needs to be entirely rewritten. In an effort to maintain a sense of forward momentum, I’m trying to curb that impulse by just keeping a list of all the stuff I need to fix so I can work on it after I finish this draft . . . but sometimes I just can’t fight that bone-deep need to rewrite the shit out of my previous work. One would assume, at least, that I’d produce better first drafts than other writers. Let me hasten to assure you this is not the case.

That all being said (or vented), I did get the chapter done. It almost entirely consists of one phone call between friends and sets up a meet that may or may not be a trap. It’s also the kind of chapter you write knowing that it won’t fully pay off until the end of the book, when All is Revealed. So, I can only assume that I’ll be frantically rewriting this scene 20 chapters from now too.

Finally, your Random Line of the Week:

Seemed like a good place to go to ground, if people were after you. Which by the way: why are people after you?

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The 4th (Probably 4th?) TV Quotes Challenge

So, I haven’t done a Quotes Challenge in a while. I mean, it’s practically a summer tradition, right? Don’t answer that. I’ve decided to go back to TV for today, but maybe I should try a book one sometime. Would anyone be interested in that?

If you’ve never played before, here are the rules: I’ve picked out ten TV shows and given you three quotes per show. Anytime you see the name BOB, it’s a stand-in for the character’s actual name. (Look, I can’t make it that easy.) Comment with your guesses and have fun! (If you play, Alyc, feel free to email me your guesses if the first three comments don’t succeed. I swear, I don’t know why my blog hates you so very much. I am working on it.)

Here we go!

1. “Nice try blending in, you handsome, thick-haired son of a bitch.”

“BOB doesn’t own a football, or anything else that might make him come outside.”
“That’s exactly what he said, only with less implied criticism.”

“Check this out. She said she started a new spin class, but really she’s having an affair with a guy named BOB.”
“No way.”
“Yeah. She accidentally linked her cell phone to my computer so I can see all of her texts. Today BOB copied and pasted all of the lyrics to Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover.” Which seems lazy and on the nose.”

2. “Okay, let’s just try it again. This time up the creep factor, like, a lot more, and make it a little more sincere, like you really love me but you’re going to have to kill me anyway.”

“Do you think your guns can stop God?”
“Why in the hell would God need to rob banks?”

“I’m so glad you’re back cause we’re about to die.”

3. “Well, I hope you like jagerbombs and homoerotic subtext.”

“Really? You’re gonna go with the Boy Named Sue defense, huh?”

“Well, I appreciate the pep talk, big fella, I really do, but I don’t think there’s an emoji that rightfully expresses my feelings about losing $50k a month, you know?”

4. “I tried to say ‘eff it’ today, and I blew up my whole life. I just wanted to say ‘eff this’, ‘eff you’, and I effed it, I effed it all up.”

“BOB. Gay friend.”
“Acting coach.”
“Oh, that’s . . . perfectly fine here.”
“Which one?”

“What’s wrong with your voice?”
“I have a cold.”
“Yeah, it’s one of those really bad ones that messes with your . . . syntax.”

5. “I already wrote his name in my revenge notebook.”

“You do or say anything to upset BOB and make it harder for me to keep him on the right path, I’m gonna put your head through a wall, any wall, you can pick the wall, but it’s gonna be a wall, okay?”

“What’s she like?”
“She jogs.”
“Enough said.”

6. “So, your explanation for having impossible grades is that you ‘O Captain, My Captain’-ed them?”

“I’m home. But before someone asks me to throw another shrimp on the barbie, just know I will punch you in the throat.”

“BOB, please do not fangirl over the arch-villain.”

7. “Everything’s going to change. Have a cluckity-cluck-cluck day, BOB.”

“So, you wake up in the middle of the night, you grab your Jesus Stick, and you race off into the jungle. You don’t call? You don’t write?”

“What is that? Some kind of code?”
“No, BOB, unfortunately we don’t have a code for ‘there is a man in my closet with a gun to my daughter’s head,’ although we obviously should.”

8. “You’re the most beautiful broom in a broom closet of brooms.”

“Without the treatments, we die. What are we supposed to do?”

“Who we are and who we need to be to survive are two very different things.”

9. “As everyone knows, vomit is not an approved lubricant for engine systems.”

“She’s not my girlfriend! She’s just a rock I met and admire very much.”

“How’s your wound?”
“My wound’s great. It’s getting bigger all the time.”

10.”So, if the compartment was locked, how did you get in?”
“I hit the lock with me shoe.”
“Your shoe seems to have the ballistic capabilities of a .38 revolver.”

“No. I mean, yes! Yes, but no, I’m supposed to ask you.”
“Well, we could all die waiting for that to happen.”

“Oh, BOB’s gone on holiday again, sir.”
“Huh. Anyone dead yet?”
“Only one so far, sir.”

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Clarion West Write-a-Thon: Week 3 Update

Top Secret Code Name of Current Project: Fedoras and Trust Issues
Current Pitch: Hardboiled fairy tale noir!
Slightly More Detailed Pitch: In an alternate post-WWII America, a cranky, bisexual PI and his ace, teenage Girl Friday try to solve the disappearances and/or murders of three different women.

Number of Plot Relevant Breakfasts: 3
Number of Minor Plot Holes Caught This Week: 1
Number of Irritated and Slightly Shifty Coroners: 1

Song From Current Project Playlist: “This Devil’s Workday” – Modest Mouse

Goal Met: Not exactly

So, I’m a little behind this week on my two-chapter deadline. Luckily, I have the next two nights off and I’m pretty sure I can finish them before Sunday . . . well, before I go to bed Saturday night, anyway, which of course will technically be Sunday morning.

The writing itself is going okay, other than that nagging plot hole that I have to fix. (It’s not a huge plot hole, but it vexes me, and I don’t like any of my current solutions.) Right now I’m working on a chapter where our heroes are going over what they know before making a plan of action–a plan that our Girl Friday will secretly judge as dumb and disregard roughly five seconds after she agrees to it. The main challenge here has been shifting the POV; in the original story, we saw this scene through Prince’s eyes. Now we’re seeing it through Jack’s, and Jack and Prince both share a secret right now that they have different perspectives on. It’s kind of fun for me. Minus the goddamn plot hole.

After that, my next chapter has some Big Revelations: the why of the murder case, if not exactly the who. Also, some mildly gooey but also emotionally stilted relationship talk between Prince and his love interest. Is it wrong to hardcore ship your own characters? It’s wrong, isn’t it?

Here’s your sad confession for the day: I was daydreaming about adding big speculative elements, but realized it wouldn’t be right for this story, no matter how much fun it could be. So instead I started daydreaming about how I could add those spec elements in a fanfiction, a fanfiction for my own goddamn unpublished, unfinished novel.

Sigh. I will not do this thing. I will not. There have to be limits to my ridiculousness.

Finally, your Random Line of the Week:

You had to hope wildly, foolishly, recklessly . . . and then make as many contingency plans as possible when those hopes broke upon the shore.

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The 2016-2017 TV Superlatives

Okay, people! It’s that time again: I present the 2016-2017 TV Superlatives!

Rules are basically the same as they were last year. To be eligible for these super duper prestigious awards, a show must have begun its season sometime between June 1st, 2016 and June 1st, 2017. This means that shows like Killjoys and Dark Matter aren’t eligible for their current seasons, but are eligible for seasons that aired last summer. Meanwhile, Voltron: Legendary Defender managed to sneak in both its first and second seasons, while shows that would normally be eligible, like Game of Thrones and Orphan Black, won’t show up here today because they both postponed their premiere dates. And because my fiendish buddy Alyc got me into kdramas, I’ll also be including any Korean shows I watched that originally aired within that June-to-June timeframe. (So far as I can tell, it only includes a couple. Most of the shows I’ve checked out so far aired in 2015 or earlier.)

With that all settled, let’s get started.

Continue reading

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Clarion West Write-a-Thon: Week Two Update

Top Secret Code Name of Current Project: Fedoras and Trust Issues
Current Pitch: Hardboiled fairy tale noir!
Slightly More Detailed Pitch: In an alternate post-WWII America, a cranky, bisexual PI and his ace, teenage Girl Friday try to solve the disappearances and/or murders of three different women.

Number of Dead Bodies On the Page Thus Far: 3
Number of Surreal Nightmare Scenes Just Because I Could: 2
Number of Secrets Our Heroes Are Keeping From One Another: LOTS

Song From Current Project Playlist: “Life in A Glass House” – Radiohead

Goal Met: Yes

This week’s chapter is a short one. It’s 1/3 plot advancement, 1/3 secret nighttime confessions, and 1/3, er, morning-time confessions. (An aside: why is nighttime a word but morningtime isn’t? In news shocking no one, the English language continues to make no sense.) Fair amount of Feels in this chap. That’s been an interesting challenge of the book so far, actually, trying to determine if my Plot to Feels ratio is working. I have a lot of characters and relationships to juggle. Since I’m basically obsessed with character dynamics, I obviously want to do justice to said dynamics. I also don’t want readers to think, “Jesus Christ, can we get back to the mystery yet?”

I’m a little worried about the word count, even though it’s kinda early for that. I don’t even have a completed draft yet, much less an edited down draft. Still, the nature of the story makes me uneasy about the length: mysteries tend to run shorter than SF/F because SF/F novels almost always have a lot more world-building and magic systems and shit to describe. My book might not have magic systems, but it is an alternate history with a quarantined city shaped by corruption and disease. I’m actually expanding the world-building quite a bit from the original stories, and while that’s kind of exciting for me, it’s also been something of a roadblock. I don’t come to world-building quite as naturally as I come to character work, I’m afraid.

Finally, your Random Line of the Week:

That’s life in Spindle, dear. If you can’t make the hard calls when you need to, well. You’ll never make it out at all.

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“I Seek Righteousness, As Should We All. But I’ll Take Revenge.”

Lately, Mek and I haven’t had much luck with our Netflix picks, at least, not the DVD ones. Even my silly Batman/Superman cartoon was kind of disappointing. We’d hoped that Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven might finally break the curse.

Alas. We were to be disappointed once again.

Continue reading

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Clarion West Write-A-Thon 2017: Week One Update

Top Secret Code Name of Current Project: Fedoras and Trust Issues
Current Pitch: Hardboiled fairy tale noir!
Slightly More Detailed Pitch: In an alternate post-WWII America, a cranky, bisexual PI and his ace, teenage Girl Friday try to solve the disappearances and/or murders of three different women.

Number of POV characters: 2
Number of important supporting characters: 80 billion
Number of supporting characters who are also assassins: 5

Song From Current Project Playlist: “Lady Sings The Blues” – Billie Holiday

Goal Met: Almost

Well, the first week of the Write-a-Thon is nearly over, and I’m close to completing my goal of two chapters! Considering I do the majority of my writing at night when everyone else is asleep, and I have the next two nights off, I’m not super worried about meeting my deadline.

I have discovered, however, multiple challenges when it comes to turning a trilogy of short stories into a novel. First you have to decide how you want to approach it: are you rewriting each scene into your novel, primarily focusing on expansion and development? Are you mixing up the timeline of your stories so that their plots run concurrently instead of sequentially? Or are you taking inspiration from the original stories but mostly writing a whole new thing?

Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages, but–probably not to the shock of anyone who knows me–I’m mostly going with the first approach. One of the advantages of that is having a good chunk of my work done for me ahead of time (though less than you might think, which I’m sure we’ll get to in a later write-up). One of the disadvantages, however, is having to face The Scene From Hell again.

The Scene From Hell is a scene from “The Price You Pay Is Red,” which is the second story in the trilogy. In it, our heroes, Jimmy Prince and Jack, share an uncomfortable dinner with four other characters, most of whom are involved in some kind of illegal activity. Nearly everyone has some kind of secret they’re keeping from someone else at the table, and five of them are keeping something from the one dude who suspects nothing at all. I was very happy with the scene conceptually: I really enjoyed the idea of a dinner conversation where everyone has information they need to hear or say but can only use coded messages to do so. Writing the actual scene in question, however, took freaking years off my life. I must have rewritten that scene, like, twelve times before I got it right. I despised it from the very essence of my being. It took months. Literal months.

I’m not gonna lie: when I realized I’d have to rewrite this scene yet again, I very much wanted to curl into a ball and weep.

I’m happy to report, however, that I enjoyed it much more this time around, possibly because so much of it survived the transition from novelette to novel. I worked too hard on that bastard to totally start fresh. Now I’m working on the second chapter, which is all new material from Jack’s POV. In the original stories, Jack didn’t have a point of view, but adding it has reshaped this tale so much. Jack knows things that Prince doesn’t, and that knowledge changes the context of so many scenes. More on that, I’m sure, in future updates.

If you’re interested in donating to the Write-a-Thon and haven’t gotten around to it yet, here’s a link where you can do so.

Finally, your Random Line of the Week:

Hearts aren’t owned, Jack. Shared, sometimes, but you can’t own a person and love them too.

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