2 March, 2003

Lot of writing done on The Etymology of Fire; however, I didn't get anywhere with String Finger Theatre. Don't know why. I guess I was just too exhausted from work to focus on both, which is okay with me since the prequel is more important than the comic. One or two nights this week, I tried to rest as soon as I got home, hoping it would help. Don't know if it did. I still didn't get started on the prequel on any given night until after 11:30 PM going on midnight. I hope the writing didn't suffer too much for the late hour.

I was really worried about the scene I was working on, too. I mean the writing was going pretty quick, which was good, but it was all over the place. They couldn't stay focused on any one line of discussion, and I was worried about how much to just let them ramble. I knew there was a point to the scene, and I knew there were three basic areas they had to cover. But, I was worried about how much they were lurching from topic to topic. Oh, well, they got through it.

I hope it isn't too stilted and formulaic and blocky. The worst thing I can do is hit point, point, point just as if I was painting by numbers. I always wonder a little bit about how naturally my characters talk, which is a silly thing to worry about because my guys don't talk naturally at all. Have you ever listened to people talk? People speechify. They pontificate. They jump from topic to topic without rhyme or reason, and they ramble on and on without ever reaching a point. These are all things I desperately try to avoid in my writing because it feels so unnatural to read, which is silly because this is exactly how people talk. So, the characters in my stories don't talk like real people at all.

So, the scene I just finished has the closest I've gotten in a long time to letting the cast and crew of misfits ponder and pontificate and speechify. It made me itchy to write. I don't like it when my characters go on like that. I want to whap them with a newspaper and tell them they are being naughty, so I think they rebelled. They teased each other. Alexander saying that something Tahrl had said sounded like a speech, and Tahrl answered that people speechify all the time as if they are reciting lines from a story. Ouch, that made me cringe. I don't like it when they wink at the camera.

I mean Drake from The Faire Folk of Gideon can get away with that kind of crap all of the time. The story is designed to allow for it. In fact, he once started shouting at me, which I thought was hysterically funny. Drake accused me of being sadistic and unimaginative. No, really, it happens while he is seeking dragon's breath. Go check it out if you don't believe me.

Anyway, I don't feel that winking at the audience is the kind of thing that Tahrl and the gang should be doing, but here is the problem. They weren't winking at the camera. It only looks like they are. Tahrl is in fact talking about people completely in the context of the story, which makes him a really sneaky bastard. He is doing it to torture me because I won't let him talk like a normal person. Here I am, freaking out because it reads like he is winking at the audience, but he isn't. I want to cut the dialogue, but I can't. There is no reason to cut it. He is making an observation about people. He doesn't know that he is in a story. So, on the one hand, I want to cut the dialogue; on the other, I don't want to censor him. It's bugging me because just about anybody who reads the story is going to figure I'm winking at the camera, which I am not.

So, I'm leaving the lines in. For now, anyway. Only time will tell if I chicken-out and censor him. The bastard is trying to make me suffer. Oh, well.

10 March, 2003

And now for today's sign that the apocalypse is just around the corner. I updated my Amazon Associates page. I haven't touched that page in months. I don't know why. I just hadn't gotten around to it. Besides, I really wasn't sure what to do with it. I mean it is just a list of books and movies and shit. How much can you do with it? So, I decided to go with the old reliable. I just listed a bunch of stuff that I've been reading, listening to, and watching recently. The list isn't even wholly accurate since it is almost impossible to find the classical music I listen to at Amazon. My recordings are so old that they've all gone out of print and some have been reissued as "classic recordings." What are you going to do about that?

Actually, I am reminded of something I learned when CDs first hit the shelf. They were touted as nigh invulnerable so a bunch of scientists or geeks or whatnot did some tests, and they decided that CDs actually have a life expectancy of about thirty years. Well, it has occurred to me that some of my CDs are getting close to twenty years old, and I can't help but wonder what is going to happen in another ten years.

I saw the movie Daredevil last weekend. I liked it. It did suffer from the same basic flaw as Spiderman. The first part of the movie was pretty good while the back half was as dumb a piece of stale cotton candy as you can get. I mean I still liked Daredevil, and I liked Spiderman. But, not as much.

The movie falls apart when Daredevil, Electra and Bullseye all show-up on the same roof. I mean how did they manage that? Was there a meeting? Did Daredevil send a memo? Maybe, they instant messaged each other on their cell phones. I mean they have all of New York to play with, and somehow, they all wind-up on the same roof. Long after the movie ended, it occurred to me that they could have all been there if it was Electra's apartment, but I don't recall anything to indicate that. They were simply there.

Oh, and I also liked how Daredevil's injury only bothered him until it was too late to help Electra. I mean not an hour later he was jumping around a giant pipe organ as if he hadn't been stabbed through the shoulder. You know I think that kind of thing hurts. Getting stabbed through the shoulder, I mean.

Okay, I'll let it go. It is only a popcorn movie, after all. I did like it.

I wish I could say the same thing about Goldmember, which I rented last weekend. I really wanted to like that movie, and they certainly had fun making it. I just wish the movie had made sense. It was totally incoherent. If there was a plot, I could not find it. Having people stand around and talk about how they have to save the world from evil does not constitute a story. It's just an excuse for more gags that have absolutely nothing to do with anything else. Oh, well. I laughed a couple times. A couple of the jokes were funny. I liked the bit where Michael Cane was telling the guard that he didn't have a chance because he didn't even have a name or a nametag. Yeah, I liked that.

I've got nothing against goofy movies that serve no other purpose than to be fun. I think there was a line in The Spy who Shagged Me about how the audience should just put their brains on hold and enjoy. Oh, well, I wanted to like Goldmember.

17 March, 2003

Well, things are about to get very interesting again with The Etymology of Fire. For the last part of chapter three and the first part of chapter four, things have been very straightforward and more or less the same as all previous drafts of the prequel. I mean details are different, but the overall flow of the bit has been the same. Yes, there was a fight. Oh, whoopee, what a surprise. How original. But, the writing went along fairly well. Then came the series of scenes where they meet the dragons for the first time. Now, I will admit there was some small concern there. I knew I was going to do all new dialog, but I also had to make sure that I didn't contradict anything that was said in The Magic Flute. Well, once I got going, things went along splendidly. The story moved along. I won't say that I got a lot done on any given night. Most of the writing was done way past midnight. But, things went well. I suppose I could say that overall I knew where this turkey was going.

Well, that is it. Scene over. There went the last familiar signpost. Now, we are chugging off into wholly unexplored territory. I mean I know where things are going to go. It is just that it is quite different from how things went from previous drafts of this here story. This will take some getting used to. I mean I should be used to it. The beginning was quite different. Armada shows-up at the end of the very first scene of the first chapter. She had never appeared in previous drafts until the second or even third chapter. Now, she was in it from the beginning. That took getting used to. I was rather enamored of the little sparing matches that I was writing between Tahrl and Armada. So, I liked how things were going. So, it should be easy now, right?

Things are different from here on out. Things are going to be dramatically different. Maybe, I could accept the new beginning because of the freshness of it all and also the knowledge that I was going to strike familiar territory. Well, that is now over with. It's a brave new world.

This was all brought shockingly home to me while writing the scene that introduces Hector. Now, nobody knows that it is Hector from The Magic Flute. In fact, he hasn't even taken that name, yet. I've kind of forgotten what he was called way back when. His name was really only ever mentioned once in the previous drafts of the prequel, and I am not going to go look it up. I guess I'll just give him a new/old name. Anyway, I'm writing the scene that Hector refers to rather cryptically a couple of times in The Magic Flute, and I hit a point where I am just shocked.

I suppose it doesn't help that it is somewhere after midnight when I am working on this. In fact, it has slow gotten later and later each evening before I get started. The last couple of times I've gotten any writing done have been really late, and I wasn't going to start because I figured it was so late that I wouldn't be able to string sentences together. However, pure bloody-minded stubbornness and stupidity wouldn't let me trundle off to bed until I had at least jotted down a couple sentences. Well, that would quickly grow. I would sit down at half-past midnight because I wasn't going to let myself sleep until I had at least written something, and next thing I know it is two in the fucking morning.

Not my point.

I was working on this scene, and it really sproings wildly into the twilight zone. I'm just sitting there in a semi-awake daze reading as I type and just thinking holy hell! But, I won't stop. I go with it. We have left the past behind and are quickly stumbling into the future, and the scene is two parts scary to one part cool. I like where it is going. I like the writing. I've left grammar behind, and things are happening in sentence fragments. It also terrifies me because we have traveled way off into the ether. I remember what was supposed to happen. I remember how it all still has to hang together. After all, Clearlake comments on this very moment that I am madly rewriting when she has Tahrl and Sorcha cornered in The Magic Flute. Things are etched in stone. We all know how Tahrl reacts so I had better be damn careful how much things change.

See, if you've read The Magic Flute, then you already know the secret of The Etymology of Fire. Okay, it isn't really a secret, but I mean that you already know what Tahrl and the gang are trying to figure out. Okay, it only gets mentioned in passing in The Magic Flute, but still.

Now, I'm about to go into a little more detail than I might otherwise do because these events are already known if you have bothered to read The Magic Flute, which I happen to know that most of you have not done. Oh, well. Events in The Etymology of Fire are triggered by a poison that has to be injected directly into the bloodstream in-order to work. Really nasty stuff. Now, I had always thought of this poison as really just a poison. Chemicals and drugs and whatnot tossed together. Any competent apothecary could throw it together. Oh, whoopee. Big deal.

Well, not anymore. This stuff is nasty. This stuff has a will of its own. Armada is dealing with this stuff, and it was never a big deal in the previous drafts. In fact, I had always kind of thought that it was somewhat lacking in its ability to threaten. It had always served the purpose of being a catalyst to Tahrl realizing that things weren't as nice and pretty as he always dreamed they were, but that wasn't necessary anymore. The thing didn't have to be just a thing. It could be a thing alive. This shit is really going to town, and Armada is fitting with it. She is not just analyzing and neutralizing a harmful agent. She is doing battle with this shit that is just fighting back like there is no tomorrow.

I am writing this scene, and I can't believe this is happening. It is just shocking. It is just blowing me away. Maybe, it is just really late at night, but still. I am writing this, and it fits. It fits everything I know. It fits into the greater scheme of things that travel around behind the scenes and never get mentioned at any point at all in either book, and I suddenly worry if that is a problem. I don't know if they can wander along barely aware of the background white noise, and I know that they have to.

So, I write this scene, and I know how different it is. Alexander is just laying there like he is dead, and they are ignoring him, treating him as if he is already dead. This just boggles me. I can't believe they are already disassociating as if they know he is dying and there is nothing they can do. Really, it is shocking. I mean shocking to me that they could be so callus. No, Alex doesn't die yet. He has to survive The Etymology of Fire so that he can go out in a really rather impressive blaze of glory at the very beginning of The Magic Flute.

So, I write the new scene, and I know what is going to happen next. It'll be different. It'll be interesting. I just hope I can get it done at a half-decent hour.

25 March, 2003

Well, I don't know what to say. I've been kicking around a couple things I have wanted to talk about here, but world events have been kind of distracting. I don't really want to get into that. It's almost impossible to get away from the news. I swear that the radio station they play at work breaks-in every fifteen minutes with updates from the front, and it's always the same. They don't actually have any news.

I don't really want to talk about it. I've noticed that there isn't a lot of middle ground. Even people at work are pretty polarized so we try not to talk about it. All I'll say about myself since I don't consider myself to be either polarity is that I've really liked Doonesbury recently.

So, not that much work has gotten done on The Etymology of Fire or String Finger Theatre over the past week. There has been one interesting development, and I think it is part of how I am dealing with everything. I think I am finally getting a good look at Armada's dark side. Oh, man, is she vicious. And, it is rubbing off on Tahrl. I couldn't believe how cruel they have been acting. I actually thought about changing it. I know I don't like to edit, revise or rewrite, but I have been known to do it.

I think I will leave it. I don't like my reasons for rewriting the bit. Tahrl and Armada's behavior disturbs me. The good guys should not act like this. They should be good. They shouldn't be mean, and they shouldn't be cruel. They are good. I want to hide the cruelty, which is a lousy reason to revise the work, and I know it. It's nagging at me so the cruelty stays. They behave in a less than heroic fashion, and I won't excise it. Because it bothers me, I will not remove it.

Strange but true.

Oh, and I've stumbled across an interesting way to maintain the continuity regarding Hector. I mentioned in previous posts that Hector's cryptic comments in The Magic Flute would finally make sense in The Etymology of Fire. The problem being that nobody calls him Hector in The Etymology of Fire. He had not yet taken the name. In all previous drafts of the prequel, there was this really hokey scene where Moonlight strips Hector of his old name and tells him that he must earn a new one.

Well, that was right out. Along with the other lousy scene where Moonlight gave everybody titles. Not that there is really any way to escape it. After all, at the beginning of The Magic Flute, Tahrl makes reference to the fact that the dragons name everything, frequently using rather daft names. Have you noticed the names of the dragons? Well, there is Moonlight and Graywing and Cloudbreaker and Clearlake and Riverstone and Skysailor and Sundancer. Oh, and Stormsdream. Let us not forget Stormsdream. She kicks butt.

What was I thinking when I decided to use these kinds of names? Oh, right, I remember. Aside from Smaug from The Hobbitt, dragons are usually given really daft and impossible to pronounce names. My dragon names are kind of a reaction against that.

So, Moonlight does not strip away Hector's old name, but he still sort of looses it in a very interesting way.

30 March, 2003

I've been thinking recently about my writing process, and I might as well. It isn't as if I've got much actual writing done in the past week. I think part of the reason I am really trying to update this journal every week is to make sure that I at least do some writing. Anyway, I've been thinking about my writing process off-and-on quite a bit, and I've been surprised by how much it has changed.

I used to be really sure of how it worked, and I think I once described some of the process here. What I've come to realize is that I was really describing the writing process for The Magic Flute. For the most part, I would write a scene by first scribbling out the dialog using pen and paper. It was almost as if I was a stenographer hiding in the corner of the room or listening to a recording of what had happened. After finishing the dialog, I would then go to my computer and type it all up. As I did this, I would make minor revisions and add the scene dressing. I would pose the actors, and occasionally, I would add what they were thinking or whatnot. Actually, I think I threw in way too much window dressing, but who cares. The dialog for any given scene was usually done in one or two scribbling sessions. I would then spend another day puttering around and typing it all into the computer. A week or more might then pass before I would start on the next scene.

Of course, long descriptive passages were another matter all together. I really started to dread any scene staring Armada because I would agonize over the words so much. Have you read chapter eight? Oh, boy, was that hard to write. Chapter eight, parts of nine, and ten were written at the agonizingly slow rate of a single paragraph a night. It was hell. It was really truly hell. I mean I really liked the finished chapter. It was just that the process was so agonizingly slow.

And, if I wasn't writing, I was reading. It was amazing. I was constantly rereading The Magic Flute as I wrote it. I felt like I was saturated with it. I could think about any given moment in the story and know everything about it and everything that was going on around it. It was really quite exhilarating.

So, I've come to realize that this process simply isn't holding true for the prequel. The first two chapters were written dialog first but not pure dialog. The third and fourth chapters have been wholly through composed. I start at the beginning of a scene and work through dialog and window dressing at the same time. I think part of the reason for this is because I have been using a lot less window dressing. The dialog should be strong enough to fend for itself, and there are some long passages in which it has to do exactly that. I think this has come about at least in part because of my work on The Faire Folk of Gideon where dialog would spring out of the text only when it was needed, and conversations tended to last only two or three exchanges. No, really, go take a look at The Faire Folk of Gideon, and you will find very few extended conversations.

Another reason for the switch to through-composed writing is because I have been doing the work in shorter bursts. Unlike The Magic Flute or The Faire Folk of Gideon, I have not been rereading the prequel. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I sat down with it and read anything. It is almost as if I cannot stand the thought of looking at the words. This worries me greatly. I mean, on the one hand, this is not a problem. On the other, it could mean that the work is shit. I haven't decided which. I really think my reluctance to look back over the work has to do with all the years I have spent with it. I'm really tired of going back over the old ground, and I only want to press ahead.

So, I'm not saturated by the work in the same way I was with both The Magic Flute and The Faire Folk of Gideon. I'm not sure if this is good, but I know it means the work proceeds very differently. Okay, I've thought about this for a second, and I think it is a good thing. At any given moment, I never have a problem remembering how things are going in a scene. Even when it is way past midnight and I am finally sitting down to write some letters, I have not had any problem picking-up a scene exactly where I left it more than a week before. Maybe, I do not need to constantly reread The Etymology of Fire because I am already supersaturated by the work. After all, I only started seriously working on it when I was sixteen years old.

The fact that I can only tolerate the work in short bursts worries me. It shows that I have very little energy to devote to it. I cannot focus or concentrate. It amazes me that I can maintain any continuity at all. I blame my day job, of course. It isn't the fact that I work days that is the problem. It is the sucky job. After all, I had a fulltime job the whole last year I was working on The Magic Flute. I can only remember that I actually enjoyed that job. Sure, it was a lot of hard work. Sure, it occasionally had long hours. It was low paying. My coworkers could be very depressing, but the job was a blast. I would get home jazzed. I was eager to work on The Magic Flute. My current job sucks. I mean literally. It just sucks the life right out of me. Oh, well, this just means that it is harder to find the energy to work on the things that matter. Fucking day job.

I think working on The Faire Folk of Gideon really helped prepare me for the current environment. The Faire Folk was supposed to be totally improvised. I didn't want to plan. I didn't want to think about it. I just wanted it to happen. Of course, what did happen was this whole involved story sprang into existence, and I couldn't just make it up as I went along. However, I did try to improvise as much of the day to day writing as I could. I would just sit down and start writing. Even if I didn't know what I was going to do, I would write. It didn't matter if I had boxed myself into a corner. I would just have to keep writing until I had found an exit.

So, I think the just-keep-going approach to The Faire Folk of Gideon has really helped for The Etymology of Fire. It is almost as if it doesn't matter if I know what is going on. It doesn't matter if I can retain continuity. It doesn't matter how much time has passed since I last reread anything. I just have to keep going. It'll all work out. It worked for The Faire Folk of Gideon.

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