Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 14 - An Excerpt

Today, I finally realized that I had to stop and hammer out the nature of an important secondary character.  This character drives an awful lot of the story, and I realize I'm much better off if her motives are understood from the start.  No need to find proof, or go into explanations at the end, if we understand her better right away.

I can be slow like that.  It's a lesson I learn in every story.  Mysteries are about what we know more than they are about what we don't know.

So now I'm  heading into what Dean Wesley Smith calls "cycling."  I'm going back to the beginning and making a run through the story.  I call it a "type-through," because I don't pitch out the whole previous draft.  I have it there for reference, and sometimes even cut and paste from the old version.

So for my "Today's Progress" report, I'll give you an excerpt, the opening page of the story:




IN FLIGHT

Chapter 1 - The Past

In Flight cover concept
THAT NIGHT SO long ago, before she was Angela -- the night she became Angela -- she was awakened from sleep by her step-mother, June.

She liked to think of her step-mother as Mommy, because she didn't remember her own mother, and her father's new wife was so much fun that year that they all lived together in the big house.  But she wasn't supposed to call her Mommy.  She vaguely remembered that, though she didn't remember who objected.  She was supposed to call her "June."  June herself never objected.

Angela herself was then known as Lee Lee -- a childish version of Lily.  That was her name -- her real name; Lily VanWitt.

That night there was a storm.  Lee Lee loved storms and rain back then.  The sound was peaceful and constant.  She imagined an army of little mice -- for if she was a princess, then she should have an army of attendants -- drumming and pattering about.  That's what the rain sounded like to her; like a crowd of friends.  And in the distance the rumbles of thunder were grumpy bears, calling out instructions and orders to the kitchen staff.

Rainstorms were always the night before a grand birthday party.

But that one night, it was raining and she was sleeping, and her step mother work her up.

"I couldn't leave without saying good bye," she said.




Not sure I'm going to title the chapters in the end. If so, I'll have to come up with something better than "The Past."

In the meantime, I ate leftovers and didn't read or watch anything today.  Except Jon Stewart.  Going to read tonight.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 13 - Exploring a World

Not a lot of measurable progress today.  I did manage to make a long overdue eye-doctor appointment.  I think, though, that I might be cooking a silent migraine. I'm blind and groggy.

Today's Progress: Started the read-through and notes on In Flight.  A lot of what I've already written is Exploratory Writing.  Some people might call this "pantser" writing, but it isn't, because very often what comes out isn't the story. It's the background for a story, or variations on a theme.  I find out the hooks and interesting bits.  I get to know the characters and place.

I don't do it for every story (or at least not that much). When you're writing a short story, there isn't much difference between doing exploratory writing or writing by the seat of your pants.  You explore until you've got something and you're done.  But with a longer story, it's more about finding the stuff that makes the story interesting.  Finding the depth, the motives, the fun stuff.

And often you have to replace a lot of it.  You explore a world, you find all the boring parts.  So you have to delete them and take another path sometimes.  Other times you find the exact right great path to take.

Right now I find that the "flashback" to the tragedy in our heroine's past will work very well as the opening, rather than a flashback.  But the stuff that comes after, I need to recast it to get the right tone.  (I wrote it thinking it would be first and we wouldn't know the past.) And I really think that I could introduce Chef and Reef better, as well as the heroine's full work situation.  But I don't expect this to be difficult or long.

I'd like to do that rewrite now, though, because I think it sets up everything else.  (Now that I know what everything else is.)

Eating Reading Watching:  Today is Agents of SHIELD day.  For those who don't know, S.H.I.E.L.D. is the shadowy, government "men in black" support agency behind all the superheroes in the Marvel Universe.  They're the guys who clean up the mess and do the paperwork and make sure secrets are kept, etc.  Agent Coulson is a secondary character in most of the Avengers and Avengers-related movies. (He was originally created for the movies, but started gaining an underground fandom of his own.)
 
It's a magical cookie.
I am a huge fan of Agents of SHIELD.  I am a huge fan of Coulson -- because he is exactly the kind of character who punches my buttons.  He is like his hero, Captain America.  He is less colorful, less ego-centric than the lead characters.  A soft-spoken team leader and caretaker.  He is, in essence, a responsible grown up!  But he's also a geek.  He collects cool, esoteric stuff.  He gave his car a name, and he is as protective of that car as of his people, even though he seldom drives it.  ("Don't touch Lola," he says flatly to those who deign to caress the car's fender.)

We always make a dinner party of our Agents of SHIELD watching.  Sometimes I'll make SHIELD cookies (ultra chocolate cookies with the SHIELD logo impressed on them).  Or we'll drink Tahitian Treat pop (because Tahiti is "a magical place").  Today we decided to start our hunt for a new Thai restaurant.  Our favorite Thai cook went out of business a while back. And even though there are a number of places in town, it's really hard for any of them to match her cooking... and tonight's try didn't quite make it.  We shall persevere.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 12 - Shifting Gears

Another good day.  I started early, but I decided that, rather than go for record word count, I should start the overdue read-through this evening.

Today's Progress: 1800 words on In Flight.  I already had about 20k words on this, and I've added almost 10k more.  I have been on this tear without looking back at ANYTHING I wrote before.  I think it's time I did.  I'm going to do a little cutting and pasting to get the scenes in approximate order, and then start a read through.

That will likely take a couple of days.  I might write small bits to fill in as I go, or I might just work on some other project for the next few days.

Eating, Reading, Writing: Made a nice ribeye steak and popovers.  Also bread (though that was not for me or for today.)  Rendered a chunk of suet so I would have beef fat for the freezer. (You'd be amazed at what a tiny chunk of beef fat can do to the flavor of just about anything fried or sauteed.  It also is the very best thing for seasoning your cast iron.)

I listened to a couple of episodes of Garrison Keillor's News From Lake Woebegone from February, and watched a little public affairs TV.

This was not what I planned to do.  I think when I'm on a writing tear, it takes a lot of out of me -- especially when I'm wrestling with some major issues for the protagonist.  It's fine to play with impact characters but with a woman-in-jeopardy romantic suspense, you DO have to spend time inside the head of a struggling character -- and that's what I did today.  It can take a lot of recharge.  Still, I would have rather done some drawing while listening.  Instead I zoned out and played Spiderette.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 11 - Off and Running Again

Just a quick update.

Today's Progress: 1890 words on In Flight.  Angela talks to some of the women of the family.  I had been debating whether to have an imperious grandmother around and thought she would be a background character, but she kinda horned her way in and said this was HER scene.  Maybe a couple of more scenes too.  I was not going to keep this story short on her account!

So I have not yet gone back to the beginning and started knitting things together after all.  Soon, soon.

Eating, Reading, Watching: The re-released the first How to Train Your Dragon in advance of releasing the sequel, so we went to see that, and then had Vietnamese food.

I also ended up taking a break from writing by listening to the audiobook of Lieberman's Folly while playing solitaire.  (No, I didn't draw while I was listening. Bad me.)  I did note that the chapter with the particularly good omniscient voice is actually the second half of Chapter 2. (The first two chapters are LONG.)  The opening also has a good omniscient bit.  (Kind of a teaser prologue about an incident that the case will turn out to be about.)

Stuart Kaminsky was really a great weaver of tales.  He showed what authorial voice can do.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 10 - Doing a Late-Book Outline

After spending half the day prepping to deal with the bureaucratic blunder mentioned yesterday, I got a new letter, which said everything was done and completed and approved, and there was no need to do anything else. (It did this without acknowledging yesterday's letter, too.)

So now I am, apparently, free to return to my writing. 

But the mini-crisis more or less knocked me completely out of all the stories I was writing.  So, I decided that today it was time to do my "Late-Book Outline" for In Flight.


I don't write in chronological order. I write whatever is flaming in my head at the time, or if there are no flames, I start filling in the pieces between the flaming scenes.  I often start with a kind of rough outline, but usually, I have to redo this, here and there after I get a bunch of writing done.

And usually when I have anywhere from half to three quarters of the story done, I find myself bumping against a brick wall -- there's hole in my outline that I have to fill in. A decision I have to make, or pieces that just don't fit together any more.

That's when I actually draft a more complete outline.  I have to stop, look at what I have, and nail down the details, and pin the scenes in place.  Figure out what's really going on here, and what incident really does inspire that other scene.  (Because the original idea won't work now that I've changed these other things over there....)

That's what I did today: I sat down, without reference to the old outline and without access to anything I had written, and hammered out an outline/synopsis from memory.  And when I got to the part where the story just vanishes into a tunnel of The Unknown, I hammered it out, and hammered it out again, and again, until I got it to work and make sense.

And the next step will be to go back, and start pinning all the existing material in place, and rewrite it to suit where I now know the story is going.  I'll finally be able to start working on pacing and foreshadowing and all that.  I'll be filling in all the little gaps and reconciling all the duplicated scenes. (Every duplicate, of course, has two mutually exclusive brilliant details I want to use.)


Eating, Reading, Watching:  Made a Chinese cabbage/celery salad to go with some Crispy Spicy Chicken from the freezer.  Watched Woman On The Run (1950, Fidelity/Universal), with Anne Sheridan and Dennis O'Keefe.  This was a prime B-movie noir -- once again, part women's pot-boiler, part crime story.  With Anne Sheridan playing the kind of brassy, smart-mouthed dame that Lucille Ball did before she transformed herself into the comedy great we all know.

The story is about a woman whose husband runs away after he witnesses a murder. (He doesn't want to be the next murdered, since the guy he saw killed was a prosecution witness.)  She dutifully heads out after him, even though it wasn't such a hot marriage.

The script snaps along nicely with sufficient clever lines and character turns to get past the fact that it's... well, a B-movie.  (From the plot I was able to identify a few more old tropes to add to the game.)  It also makes good use of old visual tropes in the climax, which takes place at a beach-side amusement park.  It's no Hitchcock scene, but they do a campy version of what might otherwise pass for art, in mix of dark and light, in the alleys under the boardwalk and roller coaster.  Also, there is a great mid-movie "reveal" or twist that works very nicely.  It's not as good, imho, as the Douglas Sirk B-thrillers such as Sleep My Love, but still fun enough to entertain.

It's in the public domain and you can find it all over the web.  However, as should be expected from a PD flick, the sound and picture can be pretty muddy. The version on Amazon Instant Video is pretty good. (I don't think you can stream it unless you are a Prime member though.)  There are several versions on YouTube, and at The Internet Archive.

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 9 - And Three Steps Back

Gaaahh!

Some of the bureaucratic kerfuffle from early in the week exploded today, taking my entire attention span with it. (I knew I knew I knew I knew I knew there was something wrong.  I knew it.  That's why I spent a day earlier in the week doing battle with the Evil Phone Tree.  Which is why it is both high-stress AND infuriating.)

It will take out at least a whole day next week as well.   And much of the weekend, in prepping for that day next week.
So what did I get done today?

Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.

Except I made some lovely popovers.  Those were tasty.

(UPDATE: got a second letter today, which totally overturned the first, saying all is good, no more action needed.  Apparently.)

I have a little time left this evening, and I am going to spend it considering my options for an important minor character in one of the WIPs:

1. Should she die (an event which would change the heroine's motive and tactics completely)?
2. Should she linger in unconsciousness until after the climax is over and then be there to explain things at the end?
3. Should she be conscious but uncooperative?
4. Should be be kidnaped from the hospital by the badguys to prevent her from speaking?
5. Should she escape the hospital and become a major complication when she shows up at the climax?
6. Should the good guys kidnap her from the hospital and throw all of my options to the wind?

The first option would be cleanest, the second would be safest (i.e. emotionally rewarding without really affecting the story at all), but the others provide more interesting opportunities -- and difficulties.

I may end up doing a random choice....
(Aaaaaaand... the random choice came back #6.  Crap.)

In the meantime, here is picture of cute cats from the interwebs.  Momcat and babycat kiss:



See you in the funny papers.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 9 - Cat Vaccinations

Visiting Vet came today.  Feral cat decided that maybe she is so still feral, but we managed to get her two boosters done.  My hand is only slightly shredded.  (Maude and Max took theirs like troopers.  Besides, they wanted to check out all the pockets in that doctor coat. Catnip resides there.  Also, treats.)

Today's Progress: 2076 words on In Flight.  In Flight seems to be on a tear right now, so I'm letting it run.  I think it doesn't want to be a novella.  I'm hoping it will at least be a short novel.  Chef and Mr. Reef -- our heroine's day job bosses -- have decided to intervene, and I decided to let them have more scenes in their point of view.  I'm thinking that they really just might want to turn the catering business into a catering and private investigations business.

Could this be a series? Possibly, but not a regular kind of series.  Back in the 1950's Frances and Richard Lockridge wrote several stand-alone suspense stories, featuring the same police background character -- Lt. Shapiro.  In those first couple stories, he really just lurked in the background, trying to catch up with the hero or heroine who was falling into deep trouble.

They were each stand-alone stories, of course, but Shapiro made them a kind of series.  He'd be schlepping around in the background always a little disturbed by the false trails he was given by the bad guys, until finally, he'd pull a Han Solo, and step in just at the right moment to help the hero or heroine defeat or escape the baddies.

So it is possible that these two will appear again.

Eating, Watching, Reading: Made "Mock-Potato Salad" today. It's basically a pasta salad made with my potato salad recipe.  I like it because the pasta soaks up any excess liquid.  Watched another early episode of Columbo (Ray Milland). And listened to a bit of The Writer's Almanac.  That's Garrison Keillor's 5 minute daily podcast where he talks about this day in intellectual history, and reads a poem.  I save them and listen to several in a row.

I'm still reading The Glass Key.  However, I'm going to start listening to an audiobook of Lieberman's Folly for my art listening when I start drawing again.  This week, I'm trying to deal with kerfuffle too much.  Lieberman (like Shapiro) is another elderly Jewish detective who has a tendency to come to the rescue, but his series is a more hard-boiled police procedural.

BTW. if you want to see omniscient voice handled really beautifully (outside of the Victorian "dear reader" tradition) you should check out the Lieberman books by Stuart Kaminsky.  He does this in his other police procedural series, which is set in Soviet Russia - the Porfiry Rostnikov series.  It seems to me, though, that the first Lieberman book -- Lieberman's Folly -- does a particularly good job of it, especially in a sequence three or four chapters in, where Lieberman's sidekick is sitting in a Chinese restaurant, trying to keep an eye on an endangered informant's apartment across the street, while picking up a waitress and trying to stay on the wagon.  It has been a while, but I remember being floored by his ability to keep us in omniscient through a pretty complicated sequence.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 8 - Getting on a Roll

Today was a pretty good day.  It wasn't seamless -- I got up late, and dealt with some family kerfuffle.  And I even screwed around, listening to TV and playing games for a bit.

Today's Progress: 1815 words, mostly on In Flight.  I also did a little on Man Who 2.  In Flight is one of the Romantic Suspense game stories.  I have been thinking about what I said about characters and crying and Dashiell Hammett the other day, and though some if it translates, there is one thing that Hammett does that you can't do in romantic suspense: he conveys no emotion at all.  It's really effective, but I think most romantic suspense readers would feel cheated.

So today I was writing a scene that creates an emotional shock for the heroine.  But I think it works because it's actually an emotional shock she is seeking.  She spend her whole life running from her past -- a past she barely remembers because she was a little girl at the time. Now she is seeking out the truth, and since the only thing she knows about the past is the very worst thing about it... well, it's not the kind of shock that a wilting heroine will suffer.

Eating, Reading Watching: Made mini-hamburgers and watched the rest of an episode of Columbo.  It was the one where his dog is first introduced.  I need to go back and look at it again, though.

Peter Falk was of the opinion that Columbo didn't actually have a wife.  That all that talk about Mrs. Columbo was a part of his act that he put on for the suspects and witnesses.  However, there are a couple of episodes where he is talking to his vet or other person in his personal life, and has no reason to lie.  And I think he did talk about his wife to the dog doctor in this one.  But I'm sure.  (If he didn't, though, I think he did talk to another vet about her in a later episode.)

Anyway, tomorrow, MY visiting vet comes to give the feral kitty her booster shots. (Cookie, btw, has mostly decided that she is no longer a feral cat. She is a tame cat.  She stays in the house where weather is good.  Except at midnight, when she wants to go out to the club with her pals. "Really, mom.  It's fine.  I'll be back by dawn."  She doesn't get her way, though.)

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 7 - Kerfuffle Day

I have decided that Tuesday should officially be Kerfuffle Day.  At least until Agents of SHIELD is done with the season.  (Agents of SHIELD is an Event around here.)  Also becuase Tuesday marks the end of each weak of this 175 Day Something-Or-Other I'm doing. And, of course, because it tends to be a good day for Kerfuffle.

The Kerfuffle Hunt

I define kerfuffle as all the messy annoying work of life.  Filling out forms, making appointments, straightening out problems, getting things fixed, dealing with minor (or even major) crises.  Interruptions.  Problems.  Annoyances.  Irregular chores.

Most of these sorts of things cannot be completely accomplished on weekends.  They often require phone calls to offices which are closed, or visits to the bank and such.  And always -- always always always -- when you think you'll be able to do it first thing on a Monday... you'll find that you must do this other thing first, which it's too late to do, so you have to put it all off until Tuesday.  (And as often as not, it spreads into Wednesday or Thursday, or Friday or next Monday -- but Tuesday seems to be a prime day for a lot of it.)

So, today was entirely eaten up by bureaucracy (not taxes - those were done a while ago).  And I had a moment of falling to the floor into fetal position after spending an hour trying to find the right phone number to accomplish X.  I found the website which had a link "How to accomplish X!"  I clicked on it. It popped up with the stunningly useful information "You can accomplish X by phone!"  There was no phone number listed.

I shall not go into how I found the number, or my adventures with phone trees.  (Even though the people, when I finally got to them, were nice, I got the distinct impression that the buttons I pushed in getting to them spelled out H-A-I-L H-Y-D-R-A.)

I was going to talk about goals today -- the stuff I'm looking forward to getting done in the next 175 days, but I am too tired.  I still got some Kerfuffle to deal with tomorrow.  (The good news is that some of that is steps toward releasing some money. Always nice when the kerfuffle is remunerative.)

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 6 - Should Characters Cry?

I knew my books were going to be distributed to Scribd -- a site which both sells ebooks, and also acts as a subscription lending library, something like Netflix -- but I only just now found out the books are all up and on line.  Check out my bookshelf at Scribd. 

In the meantime, today was a busy day.  I dealt with family kerfuffle, got a good writing session in, screwed around a LOT, and managed to get another good writing session in.

Today's Progress: around 1200+ words split between In Flight, and The Man Who Ran Away.  Yes, I skip around. I have too many projects. I work on whichever one is hottest.

Eating, Reading, Watching: Watched a little bit of season 2 of Columbo while eating leftovers.  But mainly I'm still reading The Glass Key.

Which brings me to some commentary:

Should Characters Cry?

There was an interesting moment in the middle of this book -- something Hammett does really well.  Hammett writes pretty emotionless prose.  In this book in particular, he keeps everything in objective voice.  You never know what characters are thinking.  It's like a movie camera, except you do get some sense details -- a few smells, textures, sounds. 

This works exceptionally well when he uses a first person narrator, such as in Red Harvest, where the nameless "Continental Op" writes the story as if giving a report.  It's full of the emotionless but vivid detail of the professional observer.  And The Glass Key is a third person version of this.  You feel as though, even though you are eves dropping on a guy who is unaware of your presence, he still keeps his thoughts and emotions to himself.

And in both Red Harvest and The Glass Key you have this incredibly powerful emotional mid-book event.  Both are enhanced by how much he holds back.  In Red Harvest, it's the death of a party girl, who is kind of like a Bond Girl, in her befriending of the Op, all the while being doomed.  In The Glass Key, though, it's direct, incredible suffering on the part of the hero.

And Hammett breaks one of the "rules" of writing emotion. His character cries. And it's a kind of stunning moment.

Ned Beaumont, tough-guy gangster sidekick, makes a mistake and gets himself grabbed by the rival gang, and he gets the crap beat out of him, hour after hour, day after day.  And he never looses a drop of his moxie.  His face is so swollen, he can't see and can hardly speak, and they have to dump him in a tub of water to bring him around so the boss can talk to him, and then he basically tells the boss to FU.  Not a bit of hesitation, not a chance he'll crack.  They'll beat him until he's dead.

But when he's alone, he crawls into the bathroom and finds an old razor blade -- and he can't even muster the strength to slit his throat. And then, there on the floor of the bathroom, he sobs.

The old rule of thumb I learned about emotional moments like this is that you should never let your character cry. If you want the audience to cry, you need to take the character to the point of crying, but hold back, and then the audience will cry for him.

Hammett takes this same principle and flips it on its head:  He holds back all right, but he gives us an apparently impervious character. A character who does not want us to cry for him. He doesn't want to share anything whatsever of his emotions, and so when they slip out, that's really an effecting moment.  The fact that he holds back until he's alone, and in control of the situation, that just makes us admire him.  It isn't that he's impervious. It's that he has self-control.

And it's the same thing with the Continental Op in Red Harvest.  Even though I'm pretty sure he doesn't cry, the death of the party girl has a sudden brief humanizing effect on him.  We know that this job is costing him personally.

Maybe that's what's really behind the rule about not letting your characters cry: it's about character strength.  We want to see a character's strength.

Even in the fragile gothic maiden, fleeing the monster in her nightie, we don't want to see her cry and break.  We want to see her delve deep and use up every resource she has. We want to see her fight.  Even if her fighting is just running.  She'll run until she can run no more.  And then she'll crawl.  Crying is okay, actually, as long as she keeps going.  Like Ned Beaumont, who after he fails to slit his throat, finds another use for that razor blade.

Pathos isn't about how bad things are, but about how deep your character has dug in and emptied his/her reserves.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 5 - Baby Steps and Flouncy Ladies

Weekends are times when other people have the day off, so they end up booked up, Saturday for shopping, Sunday for Dim Sum and a Movie.  I try not to plan to do too much.  Sometime it works.


Today's Progress: Multiple small steps.  I generated the start of an idea for the next horse story.  Then I did a few hundred words on a flash story called "Something Rather Terrible," and I did the first rewrite pass on "No Regrets."

I also had an odd fantasy that could lead to an interesting Mick and Casey story:

I was taking a nap, and as I drifted off I had this image of the limp, wilting heroine being carried to safety by the manly hero, and my story-mind immediately started flipping through all my characters and rescue scenarios.  (It was sort of like the Marvel Studios logo -- the flip book going rapidly through a lot of images.)

And it stopped on Mick and Casey:  Some how this ultra-floofy young lady -- bedecked in ruffles and petticoats and ribbons and lace -- got herself into trouble with bad guys, who hitched her up by the jacket or belt and left her dangling from a hook in a barn. She is too ladylike and helpless to get herself unhooked.

And so there's Casey up above trying to get her unhooked, while poor Mick is trying to lift her up by her unmentionable regions, and getting smothered under flounces and pettiooats.  And of course, once Casey gets her unhooked, the lady falls right down on top of Mick, and much entanglement ensues, while Mick tries his best to remain a pure gentleman. (While Casey makes dry comments.)

The kicker that makes me want to write it, though, is that the hopeless little lady has no money to reward them with, or hire them to help her get her things back.  She has nothing to offer except her fancy lace parasol from Paris, France.  She offers it to Casey...

...and Casey accepts!

?!?!?

Did not see that coming. So I have to write it, if I can figure out what the lady's problem is.

So that's one more idea on the pile. (Not really a story yet.)


Eating, Watching, Reading: Dim Sum for lunch, then I baked bread, and made Tuna Casserole as per family request.  Watched The Incredible Hulk (Marvel, 2008) and was not particularly thrilled. It was reasonable entertainment, had a very funny cameo by Stan Lee (who has a cameo in all the Marvel Studios flicks) but totally underutilized Tim Roth.  This one didn't quite feel like a part of the new Marvel Universe -- with SHIELD and the Avengers and all -- but I guess I had to watch it if I wanted to be a completist.

Still reading The Glass Key.  Need to do some drawing soon, though, so I may start listening to some P.G. Wodehouse audiobooks.

Meant to talk about my goals for the 175 Day effort, but the Mick and Casey story was more interesting.  So maybe Wednesday.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 4 - Writing and Shopping

Had a great session to start the day off, but then I had a marathon shopping session -- shopping for three people -- and then I decided that I didn't want leftovers again, so I cooked dinner and watched the good parts of Thor (the first one).  I then decided that I would read and get to bed on time tonight, rather than try to double my writing quotient.

Today's Progress: 1200 more words on "Dark Whisper."  Discovered that the real horse's name is Maven, and he seems to be a Thurcheron. (Thoroughbred/Percheron cross - Big, steady, good movers.  Sometimes don't notice the six-foot steel reinforced fence that's supposed to pen them in.  "Oh, there was a fence there? Oops!  Sorry, my bad." Not sure I'll use that detail in the story.)  Also, Horse Master Joe does a bit of detective work.

Eating, Watching, Reading: made Shrimp Cakes and Pan-Seared Aparagus with a lemony gravy, while watching the middle part of Thor because I like the parts that take place in New Mexico better than those that take place in Asgard. Also, we're reviewing most of the Marvel movies now that the Agents of SHIELD TV show is converging with the movies.  (We'll be watching Hulk tomorrow -- the only one we haven't seen, because it never interested us. However, given the "character-driven" nature of the new Marvel movies, and also how they seem to be building up to a big, on-going mystery pot-boiler, we figure we should see it.)

Yes, I don't write superhero stories, and don't do that much with fantasy, but I am blown away by what Marvel is doing. Also, I am a great fan of Joss Whedon.  (I mean, this is the guy who did Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog, AND also produced Much Ado About Nothing as a fun project on weekends in his own house!  He is my storytelling hero.)

So now, off to bed to continue reading The Glass Key

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 3 - Imaginary Equine Friends

Today went quite well. It started slow because I went to bed late last night and so got up late.  I got some kerfuffle done -- mainly packaging my pain-in-the-neck city taxes. (Everything else is done, and the refunds are already in my bank account.)

And I had an incredibly fruitful brainstorming session this afternoon....

Today's Progress: Started in on "Riding Dark Whisper," about 1200 words. This is the story idea I generated as an example when I wrote last night's blog post;  Title: Dark Whisper, Subject: First Riding Lesson.  While it does involve a first riding lesson by the end, the story is actually about overcoming fear of horses.  Also about doing a good job at things.  The heroine draws horses and really wants to be an artist.  She's just moved to a new house, and there is a riding academy back behind the new subdivision where she lives.

This afternoon I beat out a plot for a long novelette -- about the same length as The Ride To Save King -- and I'm suddenly very excited about it.  I know the genreal sweep of all four acts, and I have chapter breakdowns for the first two.  I'm not sure I'll get this written in one streak, though. I'll probably write about half of it and jump to something else for a while and come back.  Stories like this work that way for me.

"Dark Whisper" btw, is the name of her idealized imaginary horse, and maybe there is a horse that fits the bill at the academy.  I'm not sure that name is good for the title though. I'll have to think on whether I need to completely reframe the title.

Eating, Watching, Reading:  Made "Shrimp Roll-Ups" today while watching Humphrey Bogart in In A Lonely Place (Columbia, 1950, with Gloria Grahame).  A later Bogie flick, and one of his great performances.  It was also a great noir potboiler -- a temperamental screenwriter who may or may not be capable of murder, and the woman who falls for him and gives him an alibi, only to wonder if maybe she has put herself in danger.  (Funny how real, classic noir was very often a "women's picture" or "woman in jeopardy" type story, more than a hard-boiled detective story.)

In the meantime, I've put off watching any more versions of The Glass Key until I finish the book.  The movies are very much like each other, but they change just enough of the book to make the book confusing.  Hammett writes in "objective" voice here, character motives are completely opaque -- you literally don't know what anybody is thinking -- and you have to pay attention to when and how things happen.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day 2 - Flashes and Title Games

Second day of the New World Order.  I screwed around a little....

Okay, I screwed around a lot.

I spent too much time on social media and then watched TV while paying Risk USA on my iPad.  I realize that the early part of the day just doesn't work for getting much done.  Tomorrow I'm going to try swapping excessive social media with Kerfuffle Management.  (Which I will explain when I actually succeed at doing it. One hopes this will be tomorrow.)

Today's Progress:  Finished "No Regrets" which is now 1400 words, half of which are new.  I probably destroyed 500 anti-words in the process.  And when final editing is done it may be shorter. I'm hoping to polish it on Sunday or Monday, and maybe submit to EQMM, though because it has a supernatural element (a battle with the devil story) I might send it to Asimov's first.  I think, though, that it has a "crime" sensibility.

Story Game:  More Title Games. I want to write a lot of short stories.  And though I'm concentrating on writing crime fiction, I'd like to add more children's fiction and especially horse stories, to follow up other stories I've got.  One of the problems I'm having with the children's horse stories, though, is that my mind wants to slip into cliches and tropes.  I need a "mixer" element to get me out of a rut.

So I decided to expand on the idea I'm using for the 26 Story Challenge.  I'm collecting a huge list of titles from all different sources. I'm also creating game wheels of options for various genres -- things I want to write about. I'll select titles from it, and then spin the wheel to see what I'm going to write about.  I've got a couple of variations in mind in case the elements don't match up.  But you never know.  Even an unlikely pair could lead to an interesting story.  (Title "The Dark Whisper" Genre Element: "First Riding Lesson."  that's not going to lead to your usual "Hands and heels down, head and heart high" story.)

And yeah, I just made up those two elements on the spot, but I think I'll keep them.

Meanwhile:

Eating, Watching, Reading: Leftovers, no reading today (other than nonfiction -- mostly political wonks), and I watched a little more of the George Raft version of The Glass Key.

I also watched a little bit of a strange little movie titled This I My Affair (Fox 1937).  Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Brian Donlevy and John Carradine.  It's like a madcap romantic comedy crossed with a crime thriller.  I kinda half expect to see Robert Preston show up in it, though he's not in the credits.  (I'm thinking Brian Donlevy is going to have that role of the romantic rival/crook.)

Anyway, onward and upward.  I need to get to sleep on time tonight so that I can get on with the kerfuffle hunt early, which should settle me down to work properly.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 1 - A Little Flash In the Pan

Okay, here we go, starting 175 days of progress reports.

I spent much of the day, and yesterday, trying to figure out what change I needed to make in the blog. Should I shut it down?  Should I stay the course?  Those of you who read the previous post know the answer: I decided to return the blog to its origins for a while, and make it a writer's journal.

Today's Progress: Most of a flash story called "No Regrets." It's about 1250 words long, but some of the words were already sketched in. I hope to finish it tomorrow.

Eating, Watching, Reading:  I also made bread, and watched 1/3 of Mrs. Miniver while eating a splendid dinner of leftover pot roast.

Classic movies are very important to the main work in progress (The Man Who Ran Away). Karla lives in a world of movies, and is a natural lateral thinker -- so throughout the story she will draw connections between life and movies.  (But never quite in the way people expect.)  I don't really do this all that consciously.  I just have to watch things and see what crops up when Karla sees the situation.

Nothing in particular clicked with Miniver, but I'm thinking that the subplot with the rose might actually match up later on.  Also the air raid warden and his salesmanship.  There are elements of rivalries and sneaky sidekicks involved here.

Which is why I think Dashiell Hammett may be the most important influence.  I'm reading The Glass Key, but I don't know that it will fit as well as Red  Harvest.  (Note to self, get a copy of Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars, which were both inspired by Red Harvest.  I was led astray by critics who apparently can't tell the difference between Red Harvest and Glass Key.  Oh, also, add Miller's Crossing to the list.)

In the meantime, I already have a North by Northwest reference.  Karla decides that George's money was mistaken for a spy.

See you in the funny papers.