Looking, listening, waiting

I would like to start by saying the book launch for Risk which was held on Friday was successful. By that, I mean there were bums in the seats. I’m grateful for the support and the interest. The folks who were in attendance were interested and had questions that indicated they were genuinely curious about what I had created.

From those questions, they caught a small glimpse of what makes me tick as a writer. As far as I could tell, they liked what I had to say despite the fact I also spoke in Spanish when I was reading one of the excerpts I read at the launch. The novel contains Spanish dialogue between the characters.

Yes, I have no problem with my characters speaking another language. In fact, I find it a lot of fun. Sure, it probably unsettles folks who only speak and read English but I don’t care to cater to an only-English-speaking audience or pretend everyone speaks English or pretend that the only sexuality that exists is heterosexuality.

If you ever get around to picking up a copy of Risk at McNally Robinson Booksellers (sorry their link isn’t live yet, or in ebook format) you will get a taste of where my personal politics lie. If you do pick up the book… I hope you enjoy it.

*****

Music is one of the last elements in the creative process. It can and hopefully should tie a bow around an artistic concept, how a story moves forward, the pace of that storytelling — Thomas Newman

Now that the book launch is done even though there are loose ends to tie up and ongoing things I need to do that are associated with the book, I can slip into one of my sweat pants and comfy sweaters and really start planning out my next writing projects.

I have mentioned in previous blogs that I have two ideas simmering and I want to see if I can work on them concurrently instead of working on then one right after the other.

So, this is it. I gotta start thinking about them. I gotta start doing a little research/information gathering before laying any sort of foundation. 

Conceivably, I could start on one of the projects as early as this week. But I’m still in decompress mode. Sometimes I wonder if I should just take six months and let my mind fall into the various rabbit holes in which I’m currently entertaining myself. Six months is too long, though. All that lost productivity. Yeah, I don’t think so.

So, I’ll make a concerted effort to lay out a plan for writing project #1 (WP1) soon and let my imagination stew over writing project #2 (WP2) for awhile.

WP2 is nowhere near being ready to map out as a story line. I only have three characters, and maybe a fourth one. I know who they are to each other and that’s it.

The problem is the visual aesthetic for the story. I have a few uniquely different settings that pique my interest as to where the story could or should take place. They all standout to me. The problem is figuring out where my characters would thrive best for the story they want me to tell on their behalf. I think they can thrive anywhere, to be honest. So, that’s a little problematic. All great settings but where do I go to be of greatest service for my characters.

It’s about them. It’s about the story. I am in service to (or is it ‘of’?) them. Not the other way around.

I figure the only way to get the gears grinding on WP2 is to listen to music. While I can see Newman’s point that music is one of the last elements in the creative process, I have to say that music is one of the first elements in my creative process.

Music has always been the driving force in bringing the elements together when it comes to telling a story. It was there for the first two books and there is no way it won’t be there for future stories.

Music is also a good way to clean the palette and clear the mind. It prepares you to be surprised when a piece of music comes along, knocks you on your ass and says “Hi. I believe you’ve waiting for me.”

Yeah, that’s when the light bulb goes on and you think to yourself ‘Jesus fucking Christ’ when your imagination is bombarded with images and an aesthetic that won’t leave you alone for one second.

Those moments are exhilarating, hard earned and precious. To be honest, I live for those moments. That’s maybe when I’m most hyperaware I’m being present.

Right now, I’m clearing my head by listening to ’70s music. You can blame that on the film The Iceman. There’s a scene where Chris Evans and Michael Shannon are walking and grooving to the music, as they make their way towards an unsuspecting victim inside a discotheque. Blondie’s Heart of Glass is playing the background.

Seriously, who knew Blondie and Chris Evans would make a good combo. Anyway, it reminded me of how much I love Blondie. And before the film, someone had mentioned the song Brandy by Looking Glass. The song title didn’t ring a bell but when I checked it out on iTunes —  bingo, I remembered listening to it on AM radio when I was a child.

Then I fell into a rabbit hole of searching out ’70s music. I’m more of an ’80s/’90s brat, though. But definitely a good way to clear the mind. At some point, I’m going to wander through the ’80s and ’90s. 

I’ve compiled a preliminary playlist for WP2 and I’m sure it’s going to grow as I muddle through this music rabbit hole I’ve found myself in. Once I figure out the aesthetic for WP2, the playlist is going to morph again. And probably quite radically as I’m prone to do sometimes.

Time to look forward and take the first steps towards a new adventure. Not sure how long it will take before things start to coalesce but I’m hoping not too long. Trudging along is better than being at a stand still.

Just looking, listening and waiting for that ‘Jesus fucking Christ’ moment.

Contemplating

Writing is more than a gift. It is a struggle that blesses those who see it through to the end — Nona Mae King

Even though I’ve finished writing the manuscript for my second novel and all the moving parts needed to turn it into a book are in play, I still don’t see myself as an author/novelist.

I’m fine with the word ‘writer.’ But ‘author’ and ‘novelist’ seem to carry a bit more weight and I hesitate to think of myself as having earned the right to describe myself as such.

I probably should wear the mantle of ‘author’ or ‘novelist’ more readily and without complaint considering I did complete two novels. To imagine the number of folks out there who have started writing a novel/story but never got around to finishing it for a variety of reasons, I should be proud of my achievements.

And I am proud of what I’ve done so far. As a storyteller, the second book will show the progression I’ve made from the first novel. My writing mentor has told me that my growth as a writer has been huge. I’m grateful for his comments especially when everything about the second book has been guided by research and instincts. I challenged myself on a number of levels. I’ll elaborate more on that later when the book comes out. But it’s always been my intent to push myself as a storyteller and the only way to do that is to challenge myself with the kinds of stories I want to write.

I have heard that once you write one book, the others that follow become easier. That may be correct in terms of knowing what needs to be done once the story is written. You know, all the post-production stuff (excuse the use of terminology that is more common with filmmaking) — the editing, determining the design of the book cover, where the book will be printed, etc. I’m speaking as a person who has done nothing but self-publish. Publishing houses and literary agents are foreign concepts I have not encountered yet. 

But when it comes to the actual writing of the novel or story, you do develop a better or more defined sense of how you want to map out and plan the story arc and the story arcs of your characters for the next book. But it doesn’t make telling the story any easier.

It’s kinda like when you workout. As you get stronger, the exercises and movements don’t get easier. They get harder because you know what you’re doing, you have your technique and you expect higher standards for yourself. You automatically set new goals for yourself.

The differences in approach between my first and second novels are not quite night and day but they sure as hell look that way. The story dictated my approach to each novel. Different stories, different needs, different approaches. I already know my approach for the third novel will be some sort of hybrid of the previous two with some options thrown in.

Yeah, I’m already thinking about a third novel when the second one hasn’t quite made its transition to book form. To be honest, the idea of laying the groundwork (let’s call it pre-production) for a third novel so quickly is a little surprising to me.

I dawdled and dicked around for almost two years before the premise of the second novel hit me full-throttle a over two years ago. Four years between books. I guess that’s normal for some folks. I don’t remember what I was doing exactly for two years after the first book came out. Again I was probably dicking around. But I know I was trying to figure out what the fuck I was going to write as my second book.

And it seems I won’t be dicking around for another couple years before the right story idea pops into my head. I’m quite pleased that I can gradually start working on the third book idea and then really start tackling the pre-production once the second book comes out.

I did have a story idea I was trying to develop before my boys charged into my psyche and demanded they be the second book. They were awfully persuasive. How could I resist.

That story idea is still on the board. I have a feeling it’s going to morph into something else but I haven’t figured what that will be. And no, this idea is not what I’m contemplating for the third novel. The set of characters are entirely different.

And I have a music playlist for the third novel already. Yeah, I know. What the fuck, right? There’s a certain aesthetic that’s been running around in my head for awhile since I finished the manuscript for the second novel and it’s reflected in the playlist.

The biggest question I need to answer is, can the aesthetic, that has been crawling around in the nook and crannies of my imagination, work in the story or do I borrow bits from it and create something new or different to suit the story and its characters? It’s a big-ass question that needs to be answered before any more pre-production can be done and before any writing can be done.

I think I know what the answer might be but it’s something I’ll need to bounce off my mentor. Maybe hash out a few ideas. He’s always good for that.

It should be interesting.

Disequilibrium

Disequilibrium can be a gift. Great art doesn’t come from comfort Delilah S. Dawson

For a writer or an artist, disequilibrium can definitely be gift.

I think about the ways I’ve challenged myself as a writer in regards to the some of the themes/subject matter in my next novel.

The challenge was not so much in dealing with the topics themselves. The challenge for me was not to allow anybody to negatively affect the story I wanted to tell. The minute I allow anyone to hold me back from being faithful to my characters’ stories, I have done a disservice to them. I would not have been faithful to them.

So far, I’ve been fortunate in not having to wrestle heavily with anybody’s concern about the language (i.e. swearing) that I use in my writing. When I started figuring out and exercising my literary voice, I had the odd person express their discomfort in how freely I used coarse language.

All that tells me is they have a limit to what they’ll tolerate in their reading material. I’m fine with that. But let’s be clear – I’m not changing a fucking thing just to make my writing more palatable for one person or anyone who has a ‘delicate constitution.’

So, either let your toleration levels limit you or gird yourself and see what else I have to offer as a storyteller aside from turning the book pages a beautiful jewel-toned shade of blue.

Reining in or dialling back my creativity means reining in or dialling back who I am. If you want milquetoast, you’re not getting it from me. You’re more likely to get nothing but murderous silence from me. And that’s not a good thing.

If my unbridled creative tendencies to have my characters swear like a mad motherfucker (among other things) turns your stomach, I would like to say thanks for trying to read my writing, and have a nice life.

Disequilibrium can be a good thing for the reader. As a reader, I like to be sucked in and challenged by the author. I’m saying “Bring it on. Do your best to wreck me.” I have mentioned I have masochistic tendencies in previous posts, right? Well, I bounce between masochist and sadist, to be honest.

So as a result of the kinds of stories I’d like to and want to tell, I can’t help but inevitably make life interesting for anyone who is willing to read my stories.

When I decided I wanted to try my hand at fiction writing, I didn’t set out with the intention to make people uncomfortable with my storytelling. I just wanted to figure out how to tell a good, if not great, story.

But it’s starting to look like I’m comfortable with the uncomfortable. I seem to have a tendency to want to explore things that some folks might have set specific boundaries regarding anything uncomfortable. My willingness to ‘go there’ with certain topics probably makes some folks nervous. But as an artist, the uncomfortable is interesting, exciting, probably unnerving and makes my imagination gleefully unruly and chaotic.

To be honest, an unruly, chaotic but focussed imagination is my happy place. That’s what it’s been like for me and my characters since I started writing the second novel. My happy place is untouchable. And yeah, life’s bumpy roads have tried to pry me away from my happy place in the past. That’s when disequilibrium had become too much, too heavy, and threatens my happy place. That’s when I get unruly and maybe a little too feisty to handle. At that point, I’m pretty much ready to fight anyone who gets between me and my happy place. Actually, I would do more than just fight.

I’ll just leave that thought right there.

Great art doesn’t exist solely to make the viewer or the reader feel good about themselves and about the world around them. Great art will also ask the tough questions. Great art will make the grotesque beautiful. Great art will make you think and ask questions. And great art will challenge you.

Through words or through images, those are some of the reasons I embrace disequilibrium and push myself to create.