Status Report: On Skulls and Disappearing Characters

Time for the bi-weekly status report! Work is coming along rather well; as I had hoped, I finally tied the ribbon on the fourth and final draft of Chapter 24 on Tuesday. Thank God. It’s a vitally important chapter (but then again aren’t they all), but it’s also the longest one, or perhaps that’s a result of its importance, I don’t know. Almost 20 pages double-spaced. It took 26 days of real time, or 14 hours of pure, concentrated writing and editing time. By far the longest and most complex of chapters in this iteration of the novel. Not sad to say goodbye, though I will certainly revisit it during the “critique” phase.

Currently in the early phase of the first draft of Chapter 25. This is where I dream up individual pieces and snippets from the planned chapter and write them out in pieces – a quote here, an action there. It usually takes two or three days to get to the point of stitching them together, but once I do, boom! First draft done. That’s scheduled to wrap up on the 4th, but it could be done more quickly, depending on the length of the chapter. Hard to say at this stage, and I don’t have a solid timeframe on how long the chapter will take, though my goal is Thanksgiving, which is somewhat aggressive given how busy my workload will be at the office. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m giving thought to characters and “subplots” that either don’t add anything or never went anywhere as the story evolved. At least two characters will no longer exist by the time this book releases, with a third mentioned in passing only. Just the nature of the beast.

Still, crazy to think that I’m working on the final first draft of Came to Believe. The next first draft will be in service of Lindsay’s novel, which remains unnamed at the moment. Probably some riff on the first one, like “Verb to Noun.” “Stopped to Relieve”.

Anyway, that’s where I am for this week…talk to you again soon and have a Happy Halloween.

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A Weighty Issue

Good morning/afternoon/evening, where-ever you are, readers, and good to see you again. Hope everyone had a pleasant day yesterday. Mine was…interesting, to say the least. I don’t plan to get super-confessional here, but I did, at last, receive an answer for a physical problem that’s bothered me most of my life and which I couldn’t quite understand.

truthYou see, I’ve been fat most of my life. At one point I would have shied away from the word, used “heavy” or “overweight”, but it’s important to own reality so that it has less power over you and so I’ll just tell the truth here. Of course, being fat brings with it the usual share of stereotypes. Lazy, ignorant, unmotivated, stupid, what have you.

I never fully believed in those stereotypes, though at my darkest moments I surely did think that my weight made me less of a person and I know that some people would be glad to tell me that’s the truth and I should be ashamed of myself, but really I’m not. Putting aside any political implications of the pressures to conform and mockery that fat people receive, it never felt quite right to me, this matter of being fat.

Don’t get me wrong, I have some bad habits and have gone through periods where I was most certainly the agent of weight gain and bad health habits in my life. I say this not as a justification for my existence or what-have-you, to be a “good” fatty or anything like that. Simply acknowledging reality.

stages-of-user-frustration-6But the thing is, I’ve also had periods of extreme good health, regular exercise, and watching what I eat. I was a high school athlete, for God’s sake, and even then I just couldn’t shed the weight. Oh, my muscle tone was better, but I was a fat kid even when I was in track and baseball and playing sports in the backyard every day. Couldn’t tell you how many times I blamed myself for the situation and figured I must be doing something wrong that everyone else was doing right, even as I dieted at age 12 and watched my friends eat whatever they want.

So recently, I’ve stepped up my game, have been walking daily and really watching what I eat once again and while I would experience some weight loss, it often came right back on within a week without me changing a thing. The experience unnerved me so greatly that I saw my doctor and, well, that led to yesterday’s appointment. Turns out that, all along, my body was not absorbing a certain signaling hormone and that impeded my ability to gain muscle mass and consequently shed fat (among other issues). This is typically a genetic condition and it does have a treatment, thank goodness, it’s just a shame that it took this long to find out what was going on.

I had initially decided to keep the subject private, and there’s a lot that I’m not telling, but it’s enough of a life-changer that I felt the need to discuss it here. Still debating about whether to share the journey as we try to correct the issue.

ShameAnyway, I guess that’s speaking truth to power or something. I’m sure I’m throwing open the gates to mockery or something, but I don’t care. There’s an element of emotional vindication here that’s too important to ignore.

Writing, though, that’s what we’re here to discuss, right? I have to confess, dear readers, that your “presence” over my shoulder has actually made me a more diligent writer. Oh, I harbored some concern over whether this blog might distract me from writing, and I definitely worried that writing about progress and my life might turn off readers, but I certainly did not expect these newer entries to keep me honest. I could have sat down after dinner last night and vegged out, but a little voice in the back of my head kept telling me that I could not return to you empty-handed after promising the end of Chapter 23 two days in a row. I forced myself to sit down at my computer and knock out that last page before doing anything else. So thanks for keeping me honest!

In-universe, I wrapped up the funeral scenes and am about to edit Chapter 24, one of the trickiest chapters in the whole damned book. You see, in these chapters we witness the evolution of the threesome that destroys Dean’s life, as well as the act itself, almost a footnote to the build-up and drama that follows. I’ve said before that this book is an intensely personal one, and this chapter is no exception. The events didn’t quite transpire in the same fashion as in the novel, but there are some common elements.

My past is kind of screwy.

Anyway, diving into that today. No promises on how long 24 might take, as it’s a long one, but I did commit to editing at least four pages today. We’ll see how that goes. I’ll share some more details about the scene tomorrow. See you then.

Novel Status Update for the Week

Did some writing in the “spaces in between” today and knocked out Chapter Twenty-Two. This is one of the key chapters to the novel and may eventually become Chapter One or Two, as it perfectly captures the themes of the novel. In fact, I am thinking of completely reordering the chapters. The current version of the novel flows through both past and present at the same time; one chapter will be in the present day, with the next in the past, with several subplots wending their way to conclusion through each timeline.

Here’s the problem, though: the approach creates mystery that doesn’t necessarily go with the story. This is really meant to be a slice-of-life piece and not a whodunit. The parallel tales approach is necessary because the actual beginning of the tale is not that gripping. It’s important, and the story could not exist without it, but it’s not the real beginning.

Thus, time is the enemy. It occurred to me earlier that plenty of writers have gotten around this problem by nonlinear storytelling, some of them quite successfully. I’m still formulating how the plotlines would come together, but could be an interesting approach. More soon on that.

Today’s pages were particularly difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I got through them, but it was based on some of my my personal experiences, an abstract of a very dark scenario in which I was once ensnared. The good news is that it granted me new insight into my experience and allows me to name something that had previously remained nameless and blocked from memory. That’s what matters. If someone else would gain from it as well, then…that would just be icing on the cake.

Anyway, again, have a great weekend.

Hey Guess What!

I’m still out here. No real excuses for the lack of updates of late. I realize it’s almost been a month since the last blog post and I think things might be ready to ramp up soon.

You see, I’ve been busy writing a book. Imagine that! Okay, well, the book is written, but I’ve been honing the shit out of it with the critique group and my front-line editor. I’m giving a wild-ass guess of mid-to-late October release for Pathways of the Dead, but that could slip a few weeks depending on how quickly my beta readers and the editor get things back to me. I’m about 70% through with my self-edit pass at the moment, after which the beta readers get unleashed to feast upon the words, along with the front line editor. Mix and match their suggestions and changes with a few more of my own changes and ship it off to my final editor. Can we get that all done in 8-10 weeks? I guess we’ll see, but I’m not going to rush it.

For those handful who care, I actually think it’s a decent book and I’m my own harshest critic when it comes to these things. As with any book, there will be issues in the final version, no doubt, but for the first time I feel like I have a command view of what’s going on and how to steer it correctly. I guess I could still steer things into an iceberg, but I’m not about to sit here worrying over it.

Along with all of this loveliness I’m also wrapping up the revisions for a Corridors of the Dead re-release that fixes some of the most egregious problems with the prose. That’s right, I’ll admit it, two years on and I’m not satisfied with the book. I love it for what it represents, but it needs some TLC to get the rest of the way there. That one should be around the first week of September, and it includes the first chapter of Pathways along with a new forward to entice you into taking the plunge. For those folks who purchased the original edition on Kindle, I’m going to ping Amazon about sending the updates, but rest assured that nothing too major has changed. I’ll have a more detailed post ready to go about those changes as we approach launch.

Last, I just want to say that I appreciate the folks who have stuck with me for the last few months. This book has been nowhere near as difficult as Room 3, but it’s had its challenges. That’s why I’ve been MIA for so long.

I’m going to try my best to keep you guys updated. At the very least, a book is surely coming.

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