Shifting Gears

Hey there, everybody, glad to have you back. Apologies for last week, it was a rough one, and I was ready to collapse from exhaustion by the end of it. Literally – Friday afternoon I was having trouble holding it together and at one point just stared at my desk with my head in my hands, my head pounding, gut churning. Blame poor sleep. And this won’t be as long as my usual entry, either, as this week has been just as crazy and when I get home I just want to veg out, BUT I wasn’t about to leave this empty for another week, either. I am putting those days behind me.

And the events in the wider world have not helped. Not getting on the soapbox this week (I have Twitter and Facebook for that), but let’s just say I’m feeling particularly discouraged with where we’re headed. That’s all.-

Apologies if I repeat myself here, but I don’t have the time to go back and read my last complete post. I managed to power through a good portion of Elkmont last week, but also realized that it’s going to take some time to develop. I think there’s a kernel of something good there, but I’m going to have to reconfigure a lot in the outline drafting process. I’m not even through the treatment yet. It’s a more complex story than In the Pines or the other book that I’m working on, so I’m thinking of putting it on the backburner while I develop the next book. But we’ll get there. First, to talk about In the Pines.

I picked it up…well, TRIED to pick it up last Friday, but fate kind of intervened with too much work and exhaustion. So I let it sleep a few more days before getting back to it Monday. I think I’ve said before that the early chapters are pretty good as planned, so it’s just a matter of drafting. I was a little tentative going into the drafting portions, but it didn’t take long to get a feel for the characters and motivations and such. I’ve decided I’m not going to write this book in an entirely linear fashion, at least in the first draft; I am going to set a word quota for each chapter for each pass through, and pick bits and pieces of scenes to write the high-level draft. In other words, for one chapter I may write a portion of a confrontation in a gas station; for the next, I may write a quiet moment in the woods. What I’m trying to focus on is consistency of tone and theme between those portions that I write. There may be something important that comes up in that gas station confrontation that then comes back into play in the woods; rather than force myself to go back and remember what I was thinking, the idea is to follow the thread through the chapters. That can better inform the characters’ emotions and feelings, I think. I don’t know, it’s an experiment, but it feels better than my previous process so far.

I’m about six chapters in (out of seventeen), and the vast majority of what’s left will be revising the plot outline material. But I’ll also be writing little snippets of dialogue and narrative here and there so I have a thread to revisit during the next phase. Eventually I want to “kick away” the outline portions and leave just the narrative in place. I’ll post some examples of that when I get to that stage.

So moving on to the next bit: the Hauntworld sequel, which will not be known as such. I’m envisioning more of a series, with Zoe (this name seems to be sticking) at the center of the series and her mentor, Kevin Rook, working for her. Some things have changed since I wrote about this two weeks; Zoe is now multi-racial, the daughter of a white English seer who worked with Rook on the Imago case back in the late 90s (though Rook doesn’t know this until halfway through the interview) and a South African woman who serves as an ambassador to England. It’s introduced some great dynamics between Rook and Zoe, who have, in my opinion, fantastic chemistry and are a blast to write. And no, there’s not going to be any creepy relationship stuff between the two of them, nor is there any paternalistic factor to it, as Zoe’s father is quite alive and influential in her life. It’s a great opportunity to explore a pure mentorship relationship. They’re oil and water on social issues, but they develop a respect for one another as the story evolves. I’m having a lot of fun writing them and definitely see potential for that long-term series. I already have ideas for two more cases for Zoe to tackle after the first book, so at least a trilogy, but who knows how far it could go. The goal is to make the stories light-hearted and breezy, but with horror and supernatural elements. I really think it’s going to leapfrog Elkmont as the next book after In the Pines.

So that’s my report for this week. No really exciting photos to share at the moment, as I just don’t have the time for that; told you there’d be a sacrifice somewhere, and that’s going to have to be it. See you next week.

Dark Thanksgiving

Welcome back, dear reader, and first I’d like to say Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US who celebrate it. I have mixed feelings about the origins of the holiday, especially where it relates to colonial ties and what it represents for indigenous people, but I do like the idea of a time of year where people are prompted to reflect on what they have and understand that happiness is sometimes about what you have in hand, and not in the endless pursuit of something “more”. Gratitude is something that I practice daily for the sake of my own sanity, but anything that encourages more of it is a good thing, I think. Shame for the poor turkeys, but hey I’m an omnivore so I suppose I can’t say too much there.

That said, what a dark week it has been thus far. Warning: going to get up on my soap box a little here. Sorry if you don’t agree, but I also think that an artist’s political views are part and parcel of their output, whether it’s explicit in the works or not (and I prefer not to be overt in my fiction). Full confession, I am a “left leaning moonbat” who believes in equality of opportunity for all and the social contract – that we all benefit from our society and thus owe it to others to take care of them, beyond it just being the right thing to do. Don’t worry, it’s not going to become part of the weekly update or anything, I’m not trying to start a political blog here. This is still mostly about writing. I just can’t ignore what’s going on.

I have a dark history where it comes to sexual abuse, having been on the receiving end more than once, and so the past few weeks, or hell, is it a month now, have been difficult at best. The Roy Moore thing, though…that’s been a real capper. To see people not only openly defending this predator but also state that it’s preferable to vote for him rather than someone who defended civil rights? Sad times for the United States. And of course Trump goes and tacitly endorses the guy for the purpose of destructive tax cuts, but then he’s already cut of similar cloth so I suppose that’s to be expected. Then we get Ajit Pai and the FCC promising to gut net neutrality at the same time that we’re opening a path to more media consolidation and one company controlling a vast majority of the media in this country (and it enrages me that any of this is political hay these days, once upon a time basic fairness was viewed as a natural American trait).

It’s a lot to take in when you’re supposed to be thinking of family, friends, and gratitude. Add in that I’m away from my family, truly far away, for Thanksgiving for the first time in ages, and I’m very reflective. The good news is that our own little family is still going strong, and we’re all celebrating together, even if two of us walk on four legs.

All right, enough of that. On to the usual stuff: writing! And what a lot there has been. First, I’m in the process of wrapping up the fourth version of the In the Pines outline. There will certainly be a fifth, as there are too many chapters that still need polish. A little disappointing, but I’d rather do it right the first time than rush and blah blah, you get the picture. Some of the chapters are very, very ready, though. It’s just going to be a matter of putting some meat on those bones. And I didn’t get any real curveballs during this part of the draft, so I think the fifth version should really wrap things up. I usually have some major revelations or changes to talk about here, but honestly it all kind of came together, and the one larger development is actually a huge spoiler that would ruin the ending, so I will remain quiet about that one.

Next week I return to the Elkmont story treatment and wrap up the third act. That’ll put me in a good place to break the story into an outline and really start massaging things. Just looking at where I’ve come since the story treatment for In the Pines I expect a lot of changes, all of them good. I’d like to have that finished before the 1st.

But in the meantime there’s something new on the horizon. I keep a list of story ideas in Google Keep, one that’s always growing and changing; for some time, I’ve thought that one or two of those ideas might be the one to follow Elkmont, but every now and then something comes out of seemingly nowhere to grab you. Back in 1998, I started on a little story that I called Hauntworld. All that really remains of it are the first two chapters, some fragments of character descriptions, and an old website, but something about the core of the idea has stuck with me all these years. The original was about a seasoned detective and his rookie partner who are investigating a series of murders and soon learn that the killer, who styles himself as “the Imago”, has origins in another world and kills via supernatural means. The original write-up is a little silly, but the story popped back up in my head the other morning, along with a “what if”: what if this was a private detective rather than a cop, and one that operated in a world where the paranormal was more of an open secret than something that he happens upon? And what if he were getting on in years and deciding to take on a partner that he would groom to take over the business? What if there were schools that taught people how to do this work, and in the process of interviewing, he somehow gets a top-notch candidate, but the one catch (for him – I think she’s a great character) is that she’s a young black woman, and he fears he can’t relate to her but covers it with bluster?

The dynamics could be very interesting, with him teaching her his investigative methods while she tries to bring him into that world’s version of the 21st century. All while chasing a relentless supernatural killer with inscrutable methods and motives – the Imago returned. It seems like a pretty damn good hook, and the foundation for a series where we end up following “Zoe”, as she’s currently known. I’m kind of thinking of the genre as Neo-Noir Horror, but there will definitely be some comedic elements as well. And I’m almost having to resist writing some of this already, as the ideas for scenes are flowing fast and furious. I want to make sure I have plenty of foundation laid for it, first, as there will be some twists and turns.

Anyway, this will be Hauntworld, for now, and it’s the third book in my queue. Expect me to talk about it more in the near future as I develop the idea.

All right, that said, time to wrap this thing up with the usual photography feature. Hope everyone has a great holiday, and I’ll see you next week.

My brother-in-law hit me with the black-and-white challenge on Facebook, so I accepted. Also dug out my bass for the first time since the move.

Say this for the Midwest: the sunsets are stunning. And this week in particular has shown colors I haven’t seen since childhood.

Saturday morning we went to The Shack in Chesterfield, MO. Great place for coffee and gluten-free options.

Warning: controversial contents.

After breakfast we roamed historic Route 66 and found Stsovall’s Grove Dance Hall and Saloon. The site dates back to the 1860s in one form or another, and the current place opened in the 1930s.

Yep, that sure is a horse out front.

Freezing cold Saturday night, so we got the fire place going.

See what I mean about these sunsets?

One last sunset picture. Couldn’t resist this one. Too ominous. And check out the colors in the clouds.

Last pic. Clear sign that the seasons are ready to turn that corner into winter. Get ready!