Sunday, July 27, 2014

Writing for Real Now - No More Updates

Detcon had an effect on me that I'm not sure I can express without writing a dissertation on it.  But I will give you a shorter, if inexact version:

Detcon was a catalyst for all the threads in my life right now. 

It was partly what happened (giving me a glimpse of the kind of reader-writer culture I haven't seen in a while, a reminder of what all this is about) and partly when it happened (summer, when I'm usually shaking things up and hatching some changes).

The thing that was drumming in my head from the moment I walked into the con and felt the atmosphere was: Shut Up And Write.

Nobody at the con actually said that in my hearing.  It wasn't even a subtext of anything I heard or saw.  And, even more odd, the cool element in the con that made me think that phrase was not about shutting up and writing: it was about talking. About talking between readers and writers and fans.

It was a reminder of what was important, and that was the sharing of story between writer and reader.

I will talk about this in the near future, but right now I want to tell you what a week of thinking about this has changed -- which is my relationship with the internet.

No More Updates

The first big change is that I know what this blog has to be now.  And it ain't a place where I post word counts.  It's a place for serious, if informal, discussion of story.  That may involve talk about the writing life and business and personal issues -- but only in the service of talking about story.  Life begets stories, stories inform life.

The main thing is, though, that I consider this blog to be a part of my body of work.  When someone who knows nothing about me happens upon my blog, I want them to be presented with something of value.  Something worth their time.

Which means that, although I might want to post a funny story about getting lost in the Renaissance Center while at Detcon, it really can't involve things like, "!204 words today. Not bad.  I wanted to do better, but I made my goals...."

Not that there is anything wrong with posting that sort of thing on a blog, but for me, that stuff belongs on Twitter.  Twitter is ideal for the mundane hatchmarks of life that won't matter to me a week from now.  And one of the reasons why is because Twitter limits me to 140 characters.  Some people may be able to handle quick informal reporting -- I can't.  No matter what I vow to do, I end up fussing over it and spending three hours on it, then trashing it an writing it up anew.

I realize that this may be the explanation as to why self-discipline doesn't work for me... because I get all geeked out about the record keeping and go chasing after that rather than what I should be doing.

So... What Next?

Well, I'm dropping out of ROW80 except on Twitter and encouragement of other participants.  And that 175 Day Not-Really-Blogging experiment is, well, changed.  I'm not going to post any more junk posts -- and I may remove at least some of the update posts I did this summer -- but I may not post anything else until the end of that time either. 

Right now my instinct is to start posting again in September, and even then, post slowly.  I might post some of my reports from Detcon before then. 

In the meantime I'm continuing to work on the WIPs, and also write short fiction for the paying magazine market.  I am determined to break into Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  I'll be marking my progress on Twitter.  You can find me there at @camillelaguire.

And, as always...

I'll see you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 16(ish) - Back from Detcon

Got back from NASFIC (The North American Science Fiction Conference) which is the "world con substitute" held in any year the real World Con is held somewhere outside of North America.

This year it was held in Detroit, at the beautiful, but incredibly complex and not particularly handicapper accessable Renaissance Center.  It was a wonderful conference and I have loads of things to tell you about.  Lots of great inspiration and ideas.... and yet, I noticed, as the conference wore on, I took fewer and fewer notes, with a few exceptions.

What happened was that the verbal/social centers of my brain completely burned out.  Because I'm not shy, most people don't realize that I am an introvert, and just being in the proximity of this many people and this many conversations (fascinating conversations!) wears me out.

When the conference began, every conversation had my brain fired up with spinning words and ideas, and I couldn't wait to sit down and start writing up a con report and maybe some blog posts.  But usually by then it was very late and time to go to bed, so I took some notes for later.  By the end of the con, I was still conversing reasonably well, and could more or less think... but my ability to compose words had been reduced to a Frankenstein level.  "Errrrrrr.  Fire bad!  Errrrrrrr!"

Or, actually, more like dead silence.

Even after a night's sleep at home, I found that I had progressed only to writing shopping lists and maybe taking some notes.  I suspect the con report will come out as a series of posts this fall.  Or maybe I'll post bits, along with pictures, for updates over hte next few weeks.

All the same, I am energized on writing and art and everything.  I had a bunch of ideas for short stories, in particular. And in spite of the sprained verbal center of the brain (it can hobble and flex a little now, but not dance) I find myself moving back into the stories.

I think I'm gong to give myself all tomorrow to edit and plot.  However, I think I will leave you with an image. My photo doesn't do it justice -- but we began the week by visiting the Detroit Institute of Art, where there is a room -- a grand hall really -- with Diego Rivera's monumental tributes to Michigan industry.  I knew there was a Rivera mural there, I hadn't realized that it was a whole hall, and I had not realized that's the room we were stepping into when we walked in to see this.  It's one of those jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring moments.  And words just don't suffice.

This is one part of it -- the central figures of the main panel on one side of the room -- but there was a lot more to this image, and there were many more panels.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Oops - A Break for Detcon

I'll be going to Detcon, which is a NASFIC convention, which is what gets held in North America when World Con is held out of the region.  It's in Detroit which is not that far, and it is held at the lovely Renaissance Center.

It kinda crept up on me, as did a number of other things, so I realize this week is unlikely to see much (or any) progress on anything.  I may or may not post con reports during the convention, but if not, I'll likely post thigns afterward.

I think that what I might try to do is print out what I have of In Flight (which has lots of duplications and such) and mark it up in idle moments.  And also keep my deck of handy index cards to see if I can game out more of the nefarious plot behind The Man Who Ran Away.

That book, by the way, had a major break through after I posted the bit about casting the parts.  I realized that the Mary Wickes character might own the property next to the Country Club, the one where Karla used to ride her pony over to weekly Saddle Club shows.  Given that she is elderly and a former athlete, she probably sponsored that club, and would probably remember Karla....  I was thinking that property may be the MacGuffin, but now it's more.

Anyway, I may not be posting again until next Tuesday night.

(But if any of YOU are going to Detcon, drop me a comment or something.)

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 6 - Casting the Characters

I've been busy (made more bread, more creton for the elderly cat, ragout pour moi, found stashes of old books to read, plus typography work to be done, more health kerfuffle...) but things are going well.  Staying a little ahead of my goals

Here's my ROW80+ Goal Meter (my goals are listed here):

7124 / 87000 words. 8% done!

Wednesday: Day 3: 1220
Thursday, Day 4: 1113
Friday, Day 5: 1125
Saturday, Day 6: 1157

I've been hitting two sessions most days -- one mid-afternoon, one late.  I think that one of the down-sides of blogging is that I tend to lose the late session, especially on busy days.

These sessions have been making progress on both WIPs.

I've been spending some time catching up on reading around the internet -- in particular publishing issues.  It's entertaining, but I think I've had enough for a while.

But the most fun thing I've done this part of the week was go back to the Story Game.

The Casting Game

I am still playing around with too many options, and not enough of the right kind of detail in terms of the mystery.

If you remember, I played around with a variation on the Relationship Circle game to create a cast of characters for mystery, and I did one for The Man Who Ran Away, and found it fruitful.  It gave me the setting for the story, etc. But I just need....  more personality to it.  I keep getting hung up on choices.  I have so many good ones....

Well, I had this other version of that game. I called it the casting game.  I took a hundred half-size index cards, and wrote the name of an actor or famous personality on it.  I tried to make them relatively equal in males and females.

My idea was to use them for two purposes:

One is just to liven up any moment when my imagination isn't giving me anything interesting.  A faceless minor character enters the story -- just a functional character, like a gas station attendant who is a witness to something.  If my imagination doesn't hand me anything interesting for the scene, I draw a card and cast that character with that actor. 

The other was to liven up the Relationship Game.  Instead of drawing a sex/age of the 6-10 characters in the relationship circle, I'd draw a card for that part.  I haven't played with this yet.

But for this story, I was already happy with the relationships and such I'd already come up with.  I was dithering over a few things, but mostly I just wanted to goose my imagination.

So I drew ten cast cards and then figured out how they could fit in with my scenario.  I didn't think it would work that well, and I'm not sure I'll keep everything I came up with, but Wow, I did find it goosed my imagination

Here's what I came up wtih:

The Denizens of the Vue-Du-Lac Country Club

The Concierge - played by Clark Gregg
You know, Agent Coulson.  He's so ... contained.  So helpful.

The Golf Pro - played by Katherine Hepburn
A blueblooded American "princess" who always loved golf and decided to make a career of it, in spite of the male domination.

The Most Powerful Member - played by Chris Cooper
CC is so subtle, and manages to mix dangerous with buttoned-down with blue collar. I'm sure he's a self-made man.

Senior Member #1 - played by James Garner
Probably won't be as easy going as he seems.

Senior Member #2 - played by Edward Everett Horton
Horton was originally drawn as the concierge, but I think that's a little bit too "on the nose."  So he's a member instead.  Garner needs a sidekick or rival. (I'm leaning toward sidekick.)

The Matron - played by Angelica Huston
She's Chis Cooper's wife, and is the uber-friendly 'hostess' who chats with everybody and tells them how marvelous they are.  Also a good source of gossip.  A little bit against type -- too fluffy -- but I think Angelica can pull it off.

Senior Woman Member - Mary Wicks
She was likely the one who broke down the barrier back when the club did not allow women.  She was likely Katherine Hepburn's mentor.  She might be married to one of the senior members.

The Restaurant Manager/Greeter - played by Joan Hickson
Sharp as a tack and maybe up to something.

Waitress - played by Frances MacDormand
A teenaged MacDormand -- not so sharp, but also maybe up to something.

Busboy - Macauly Culkin
Definitely up to something

And the bonus draw: I think the victim must be a semi-outsider, so I drew another card, and got...

Victim - Robin Williams.

Will these characters look like these people? Probably not.  It's more a body language and voice quality thing for me. (Things which tend not to be described very much in fiction.)  And a couple of these characters didn't really exist in the original scenario. (Mary Wicks and Katherine Hepburn).

We'll see how it goes.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 2 - Life Knows When You've Got Goals

My ROW80+ Goal Meter (my goals are listed here):

2509 / 87000 words. 3% done!

Wednesday Check-In Totals

  • Monday, Day 1: 0
  • Tuesday, Day 2: 681

It sure was a good thing I started early, so I'm not actually behind... yet.

On Monday, I woke up with what seemed to be a sinus infection.  I was walking through jello all day.  With the judicious application of caffeine and left-over Chinese food, I was able to put in a two hour session, and hammer out some sticking points in the villainous plot behind The Man Who Ran Away.  But didn't quite break through to the blank spot in the back story, but I did enough that the stuff I worked on this weekend won't have to be trashed -- they actually fit.  (I know this session happened because I wrote it all down. The rest of the day is a blur.)

Tuesday -- today -- was expected to be a busy day full of kerfuffle.  It turned out to be even kerfufflier than expected.  (It started with getting up early to accompany a family member to a doctor's appointment which had, apparently, never been put into the system by the office staff, as well as a long drive through the rain on bad roads, and a "treat" of bad donuts and watery coffee.  While the day didn't get any worse, it didn't get appreciably better -- right down to the newbie waitress at late dinner who kept forgetting things and doing minor things wrong.  Not enough to lose her tip, but enough to make me feel my life was in retrograde today.)

I didn't get started on writing until after midnight -- which was probably fortunate given the general kismet of the day.  I worked on a scene from In Flight -- a new scene I added in because I realized that Angela's reaction to being alone and on the run again wasn't right.  I realized that she had been doing this since she was a child, so she would have a routine for coping with the boredom and emptiness.  And being an artist, of course, she drew pictures.

Here's a clip -- completely raw stuff.  In Flight is about a woman who has been on the run with her step-mother ever since she was a small child, when she pushed her father off a cliff in defense of the step-mother.  Twenty years later, she had almost settled down into a job with a catering company (run by "Chef" who is already turning out to be the detective in this story, and his handsome sidekick, Reef).  But events have set her on the run again.

With every flight, she has to cut all ties, erasing or leaving behind all evidence of each past life. She can't keep pictures ....


SHE FILLED PAGES with scribbling images: streaks of highway flashing through leaves and clouds, fairies, faces, bears, eclairs.  The faces were hidden, disguised with pattern or fanciful costume, half turned away, half covered.  People she wanted to remember. People she couldn't keep pictures of. Chef, his mustache now long and curled, peeking slyly from a cloak, from behind a tree. In the bark of the tree were hidden other chefs, and the tree bore bakery fruit. 

And beneath the tree another face was clear, and light.  A contrasting shape to the tree and it's complications.  That face was serious, almost grim -- but not really grim, the eyes were bemused -- and his white hand parted the high grasses for him to look out directly at the viewer.

It was David Reef.

He looked as he did at dinner, too frank, too sweet, and yet trying too hard not to be either.  She was glad to capture that face, that look, even though she would likely destroy the whole picture later.  Even if she did destroy it, she thought he was not well enough disguised.  She should at least make him a knight, or....  She smiled as she recalled his story about saving the hotel magnate, and about how Chef had been wise enough to stand back.

So she made him a simple guard; dirt on his face and hands, hair spiky and mussed up, covered in chain mail.  And she added his other hand and arm, reaching through the grass to grasp the hand of someone who had fallen into the as yet empty space at the bottom of the picture. 

It was only as she found her fingers cramping up from gripping the pen so hard, that she realised that the dark outline of the hand Reef was grasping was the dark cut-out shape from her dream.

It was her father.

Keep drawing, she told herself.  Draw through it.


See you in the funny papers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 0 - On to the New Challenge

My ROW80+ Goal Meter (my goals are listed here):

1828 / 87000 words. 2% done!

It's Day 89 of my 175 Day Non-blogging Challenge (in which I resist blogging by only posting progress reports).  But since I'm starting the A Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge, and I'm even doing that a little differently than most, I figure I should simplify things and just start the count over again.

So, today is Day 0 of ROW80.  I usually start on Day 0 because I am obsessive compulsive, and it drives me nuts that ROW80 ends the day AFTER the last check in.  If you just start on Sunday, rather than Monday, you can post your results at the right time.

But this time I'm going on until the end of September -- beyond the end of ROW80 -- and so I figured I might as well start earlier, and I started yesterday.

First Progress Report:

  • Day -1: 901 words.
  • Day 0: 927 words.

All words so far are on The Man Who Ran Away, (the second book in my Starling and Marquette series, which began with The Man Who Did Too Much).  A visit to the country club restaurant, which was the scene of the suspicious behavior, and the place form which the missing $20 bill was kidnapped.

Some of this is incompatible with some of my ideas, so it may be cut or significantly changed, but for now, it'll do.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Day 88 - ROW80 Kick Off - The Goals

Goals Summary:

*1000 words a day from July 6 to September 30, inclusive.  That's 87,000 words, I think.

*To finish my two WIPs: In Flight, and The Man Who Ran Away.  (That second one may not be complete, as the first book in the series ran long -- but I want it at least mostly roughed in.)

I will be posting daily - which is a part of my 175 Day Non-blogging Challenge.  (In which I resist the urge to blog, by committing my blog to progress reports ONLY.)


For those who haven't been following my blog:

About nine months ago I looked back at my lifetime productivity and discovered that most of what I have actually done wasn't achieved by self-discipline, but rather by chasing enthusiasm.  (Here's the post if you want to know more about that.)

In the past nine months I've been playing with undisciplined chasing of enthusiasm to see if it could be an actual strategy to employ.  I was going to keep it up for a year, but I think I have my answer.  Which is; um, sorta, sorta not.

It works as a lifestyle.  It works if there are a whole lot of different things you want to do, and you enjoy doing them for their own sake.  It's very existentialist. Very zen.

But on the productivity front, the problem is that you produce a lot, but it is more scattered, less useful.  Over a very long time, that works out, but in the shorter term, it really doesn't feel like it works all that much better than anything else.

So I am going to embark on the next phase of this experiment: disciplined chasing enthusiasm.  Or perhaps just find some kind of mix of running wild and toeing the line.

Hence, the reason I am rejoining ROW80.

What I'm going to try to do is set the daily goal low, just to bring my attention back on the task at hand every day, and then chase enthusiasm the rest of the day.

I was thinking of setting the goal super low -- like 500 words a day -- but I also really do want to finish up my two works in progress.  So I'm going to make it the standard 1000 words a day.

That should be enough, all by itself, to finish In Flight, and get most of The Man Who Ran Away blocked in.  I'll talk about each of these projects on the upcoming check in days (Wednesdays and Sundays).

(Note: I've been posting every day, but ROW80 posts updates only on Wednesdays and Sundays.  I find posting every day to be motivational, but it does take time so.... not sure if I'll keep it up or not.  I can say, however, that I will start ROW80 for reasons I'll mention on Sunday, Day 0.)

See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Day 87 - Halfway-ish

Tomorrow I will post the goals for A Round of Words in 80 Days, which I will start Sunday (though everybody else starts on Monday) and which I will carry on for, I think, 87 days. (Until the end of September.)

Which I guess makes tomorrow the halfway point in my 175 Not-Really-Blogging Challenge.  But since you'll be reading this tomorrow, that makes this the halfway point marker.  I think.

Today I wrote about 4000 words of blogging, which may or may not show up later.  I was trying to get it out of my system.  One subject was probably a waste: I've been a little caught up in all the controversy in the publishing world about Amazon vs. Hachette.

The other is that I've started to keep a "red herring" and "clue" diary as I read various mysteries.  Pausing as I read to note down the things going through my head as a reader of mystery fiction, and then thinking about how this helps me plant clues as a writer of same.

This might be an interesting series of posts in the end.

In the meantime, I'm going to bed.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Day 86 - Finishing up the cooking

(Whoops! Forgot to click "publish" on this....)

The weather is still cool, so I spent another day cooking.  More bread, as well as ragout for the freezer, which required some shopping.  Also "El Azteco Dip" -- a green onion, cheese and sour cream  concoction similar to a local restaurant's dip.  That wasn't to keep, because the ingredients don't freeze.  It was simply requested that while I was cooking that I make some.

You want a recipe, here it is: approximately equal amounts of sour cream, cottage cheese, your favorite shredded Mexican cheese and chopped green onions.  A little milk to make it easier to mix.  Some chopped jalapeno to taste (I like to use the pickled ones people use as a side or for nachos) or some of your favorite hot sauce.

It's good to make this in a very small batch at first (like, with heaping tablespoons instead of cups) because hitting the "to taste" factor among the dairy products is tricky.

Tomorrow is predicted to be another mild day. I doubt I will be doing so much cooking though.  I might make another batch of bread only because we seem to be eating up the first batch really fast.  However, my legs and feet are tired, and there is a possible day next week to do some additional baking.

I have decided, as you may have guessed, to put off any serious writing efforts until I start with the ROW80 on Sunday.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day 85 - More Cooking....

Man, I'm exhausted.

Bread making, cookie making, shopping, doctor's appointments, yogurt making, and other similar kerfuffle.  I just finished making some creton* for the elderly cat who needs to put on weight but will only eat certain things (most of which she is allergic to).

Making creton is laborious (even when you're short-cutting it for catfood) so I decided to screw it, and leave the making of dough for tomorrow's bread until tomorrow.  I stay up late anyway.

I am now going to give the boy cat some quality time with me, while I give myself some quality time with Detective Nathan Shapiro.

See you in the funny papers.


*Creton is a French Canadian pork paste.  However, when I make it for the cat, I leave out the onions and spices. (I suspect it might be onions that hurt her health in the first place, sigh.  She's loves 'em and is prone to steal a bite of things that have onions in it.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 84 - Cooking

Tomorrow it's supposed to be cool enough to bake.  Therefore this evening, instead of writing, I made two batches of bread dough.  I will make two more tomorrow, as I need to fill the freezer to get us through the excess heat of summer.  Friends and family have been living off store bought bread and bagels.  This is not acceptable.

I will also have to make cookies and maybe brownies for the freezer.

I always do this during cool weather, but unfortunately people raid the freezer while it's still cool and eat it up, rather than actually telling me "hey, we need bread."  Which means we run out of bread when the weather gets hot. I feel like I need to put "Don't use until..." labels on it.  Or maybe mark it as "haggis" and hope they don't see through the ruse.

I was going to tell you about the new "aggregation" blog idea today, but I would rather try to get a little writing done before bed, so I will leave that until tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm reading the Richard Lockridge book that was the transition of the Shapiro stories from the fluffier suspense stories I enjoy so much, to the police procedural whodunnits the series became after Frances Lockridge's death.

Murder Can't Wait is actually a book in the other main series the Lockridges wrote -- featuring Captain Heimrich of the New York State Police.  These were all little more straight puzzle mystery with the police procedural bent.  Not your modern gritty dark police procedurals, but just whodunnits that followed the police investigators around, and maybe threw in a little personal stuff from their lives.  While this series kicked off with an overlap with the Mr. and Mrs. North series, it has a less cutesy tone.  (Actually that first Heimrich appearance was in Murder Out Of Turn -- the second or third Mr. and Mrs. North novel -- which takes place "up north" at the North's vacation cabin.  I'll be reading that one next.  I vaguely remember it, and it seems to me that either Weigand or Heimrich meets his future wife in that story.)

I'm also reading a more current book -- Who In Hell is Wanda Fuca? by G. M. Ford, the first in the P. I. Leo Waterman series.  This was one of the series I discovered in the 1990s, only to see it disappear immediately after I got hooked on it.  I was happy to see the books are now back in print with Thomas and Mercer, and priced reasonably.  These are fun hard-boiled P.I. stories.   Takes place in Seattle, and the detective, who has his own colorful background, has even more colorful sidekicks. (In particular a team of drunks who assist him in his investigations.)

Links and real reviews later on. (Maybe to be posted in the new blog.)

See you in the funny papers.