400: This is not my beautiful house!


Welcome to post #400! While it’s great to reach a milestone, I also have to keep my wits about me. Shaggin the Muse is, surprisingly, not the longest-lived blog that I’ve ever created. It’s certainly getting up there, but I’ve had a few that lasted a year or so longer. That said, I didn’t have any doubt that it would reach this point; what, was I just going to give up on my writing? Hardly. Still, I can recognize my own happiness at having enough ideas to get this far. Ideas are always the toughest part of writing a blog, and so far I’ve had a few slow downs but no major roadblocks.

This has certainly been a strange journey, though, one that’s encompassed two novels (both of which received total rewrites), more than a dozen short stories, an anthology appearance, and even a novelette.  I’m saving some of the navel-gazing for post #500, assuming I get that far, but 400 is still a nice round number to look back and take stock.

Shaggin the Muse opened its doors on February 25, 2011, right around the time that I wrapped up the fourth draft of what would eventually become The Corridors of the Dead. At that time, I referred to it as the Torat series rather than Among the Dead, and the first book would be Torat: Initiation. The series still consisted of three books and had a similar game plan, but featured some key differences, which I’ll talk about in a bit.

This blog exists simply because I felt it had to, as a means of publicity and not much else. My rather unfortunate first post reflects my feelings on the process at the time:

Intend to turn this into an official blog for my works, however, I am currently head-down in trying to get this novel ready for submission to a contest. Will eventually update on progress and thoughts.

dat sum

That’s it. The entire substance of the post. The damned thing is that I had plenty of blog experience at that point. By my count, I’d had something like seven blogs prior to this site and have been blogging in one form or another since early 2005, so it’s not like my reticence had been borne of fear. Truth is, I had few ideas on what I wanted from this site  other than including updates on my works-in-progress, and even then I felt something of a grudging “requirement” to offer those updates.

You see, it’s always been easy  to talk about other people and their ideas, but not so easy to focus on myself and my ideas, especially when it came to writing. Oh, sure, I could blog about emotional issues in my life with very little trouble (at a base level fiction is already pretty much this), but writing about my actual works? Just way too personal, and running too much of a risk that no one cares. I know, I know. It makes little sense to me now, too. I can only surmise that the process of creating fiction showed even more of my soft underbelly than some of those deeply personal things that I talked about over the years.

Today I’m the exact opposite. I’ve gotten so used to sharing my fiction and baring that part of myself that it seems odd that it ever worried me. At the same time I’ve gone back and removed a good portion of those older blogs because they cut too close to the bone. My fiction is still highly personal and incorporates much of my emotional landscape (I think good fiction should do this), but it’s different now – overt talk about emotional issues just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Two years in the trenches of the publishing wars will do that to a person, that’s for sure. I certainly know that public appearances with my fiction felt unthinkable back then and here I am gearing up for public readings and sales with some anticipation.

Now, to talk about my relevant work on February 25th, 2011. Torat: Initiation would turn out to be a very different book from Corridors of the Dead. Oh, both books shared a majority of characters, save for an angel named Mora (AKA Uriel, the angel of death), a down-on-her-luck diner owner in Vegas. I miss her, but some of her lives on in the character of Omarosa, introduced in The Station and taking a much larger role in City of the Dead.

For comparison’s sake, here is the original opening of Torat: Initiation:

Working as the night porter for the motel really was the best and worst of both worlds. Matty loved having the extended alone time; the quiet time, the time when she could just sit with her charcoals and inks and do whatever came to mind. She hated that stretch between 3 and 6, when the entire world came to a dead stop and the spectre of sleep hung on her bones like a shroud, fended off with regular shots of Red Bull and Mountain Dew.

She dreaded it, but it also produced some of her more surreal works of art, and so she tried to be ready to seize that dragon and ride it all the way to some great art. This night she was working on a charcoal drawing of her lover, transforming her from a pretty blonde with curved, nordic features to a sneering warrior.

She looked up when the door chimed and sat Kristy aside, stepping through the doorway to find a small, hunched old woman who greeted her with kind eyes. “Good to see someone’s still awake.”

Matty rubbed her eyes and smiled. “Yeah, kinda my job.”

“Still admirable. Could just as easily sleep back there, you know.”

Matty lifted an empty Red Bull can from beside the register and shook it. “The magic of caffeine.”

It’s a testament to my growth that I can read that and immediately see why the book struggled to place with an agent; I hadn’t done much real work done to build a connection with Matty. I don’t blame myself, though, as I had very little idea of how to do such a thing. Thankfully, that’s changed over the last two years, and I know that I could do a fairly effective job of connecting the reader with that incarnation.

But hey, how about the other protagonist? Yes, Torat: Initiation had two protagonists, the second of which would be Grabbe, the ever-lovable half-man half-angel:

The Jamaicans. I should see the Jamaicans. He lit another cigarette and realized he heard something approaching. A car. Thank the heavens, a car. He rose and dusted himself off once again, sticking his thumb out as a blue station wagon blew past him.

Cock, he thought, but immediately took it back as the car’s brake lights went on, and the car reversed.

The passenger side window rolled down, and a dumpy, middle aged guy with glasses smiled out at him. “Howdy, partner, where you headed?” the guy asked in a thick Minnesota accent.

“Vegas,” he replied in that weird, querulous voice. Really had to get that thing under control. “I’m not even sure what direction that is.”

The man smiled, starting to clean off his passenger seat. “Well, you’re in luck. It’s North of here, and I’m heading that way myself. I can take you as far as Goodsprings, if that’d help out.”

“Damn right it would,” he said, opening the door.

The man, stretched over the passenger seat, offered him his hand. “Nice to meet you. I’m Steve.”

“Name’s Grabbe.” He shook Steve’s hand.

Steve sat back in the drivers seat as Grabbe slid into the car. “Nice to meet you. Gonna have to stop off at Primm for some gas. You mind?”

Grabbe gave him a thumbs-up. “Works for me, my good man.”

Grabbe’s personality, appearance, and abilities bore little resemblance to the George Costanza-like character who showed up in Corridors of the Dead. This Grabbe (by the way, the name Grabbe, pronounced gray-b, is actually drawn from some mystical references to the Nephilim) could hop from body to body and had jumped into the body of a man who had died at his bachelor party and been dumped in the desert. Surprisingly, this idea re-appears in City of the Dead, albeit in a roundabout way.

Many things have changed since I started this blog. Two years and I feel like a different person and a very different writer. I can’t imagine where I might be two years hence, or when I hit 800 posts. So sales or not, I guess all this trouble has been worth somethingI have no idea what it might mean for my future, but as I’ve said before I’m on the 10-year plan here and we’re only really in year 2, so there’s still plenty of time left, right? It’s easy to be anxious for success, to dream about it and want it every moment. Just this morning, while contemplating the opening of the Geist novel, I thought that I’m trying to do something with my life and immediately corrected myself: I’m not trying, I’m doing something with my life. Isn’t that all that we can really ask for? The rest depends upon external factors. The journey is definitely the most important part when you’re an artist or craftsperson. The rest is just the cherry on top.

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  1. All writing is practice.

    I hope you’ve been straightened out on that Minnesota accent/speech pattern by now. Howdy, partner? (I grew up in a suburb of St. Paul…)

    • Haha, the funny thing is that his speech pattern and character is actually based on a Minnesota girl that I briefly dated in the 90s. She fancied herself something of a cowgirl, so you just have to imagine a St Paul native saying that 🙂

  2. Oh, I meant to add that you have grown amazingly through this post and your writing in general. I have no doubt you’ll hit post 800, and that it will be only a minor milestone in a long career. (I forgot to say that in the midst of trying to wrap my brain around the “Howdy” thing. Heh.)

  3. Congratulations on Post #400! I have no doubt that you will accomplish what you set out to do – you are one of the most motivated people I’ve ever known.

  4. Congrats!
    You are my blog inspiration 🙂

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