Happy Halloween!!!

It's Halloween and it's raining. The decorations outside are soaked. My daughter is going bonkers as a result, and writing is most certainly not an option today.

Here's something from funnyordie.com in honor of the holiday!


Writer's Blah and Catching Fire so far

Why is this taking so long? This Mythos chapter feels like the gestation period of an African elephant. *sighs* I'm able to get out 300-500 words at a clip, and sadly, I've hit that most hideous of writing walls. No, it's not the writers' block thing. It's called writer's blah, and it stems from being pooped from work every night. I want to lie in bed with the TV on in the background, while reading until my eyes threaten to leap from their sockets. Perhaps I just need to catch up on some sleep, or maybe brew some strong coffee? We suffer for our art, do we not? Okay, okay... What are you doing with your fingers? The worlds smallest violin, you say? Yeah, yeah. How original. *sticks out tongue*

On a separate note, I've got the unabridged CD set of Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins, and listen every moment of my mobile life - a.k.a. driving to and from work.  I usually have one book by my bedside and another playing in the car. Y'know, I was really looking forward to this book, but was worried about how I'd feel about revisiting Katniss and Peeta after the end of the last book. I'd read about Catching Fire and the forthcoming third book in the series, and I had this nagging feeling that I wasn't going to like what I read.

I'm happy to say I'm enjoying it so far. It is a bit slower - more like a slow boil compared to the rolling pace of the Hunger Games. But there's more about Katniss learning about herself so far - more character development here. I've got an opinion on her inability to choose right now between Peeta and Gale, but I'll reserve judgment until I get to the end. When I've finished reading/listening, you can be sure I'll post my mini-review of it right here. I'll also be sure to check out the Catching Fire discussion on The Spectacle.

I'm off to post a comment on Tamara's excellent Chasing Dreams blog, because she's commented on a few Catching Fire items I've noticed right away.


The Lost Symbol - Yeah, I liked it. So what?

I finished reading Dan Brown's, The Lost Symbol yesterday, and I have to say, I liked it more than I thought I would. Once I started, I couldn't stop, and given that I'm among the slowest of readers, this kept me up nights. It's got good old Robert Langdon from both Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Once again, there's a secret society -- the Masons this time. And there are historic locations to visit, although this time said locations are much newer than the aforementioned novels.  The story takes place in Washington D.C. You also have a well-funded and thoroughly cracked bad guy as well as the interesting science of Noetics.

There's a lot to like. The pacing was excellent. The whole thing takes place in a span of about 24 hours. And, despite Dan Brown's propensity to get into the minutia of history and locations, it's not over the top. The story takes place in the U.S. Capitol, and sheds an entirely new light (for me, at least) on familiar and less familiar landmarks.

Character-wise, it's hard not to root for Robert Langdon, although he plays quite the skeptic at different times in the book. He's a noble guy, thoroughly human, and mostly tries to do the right thing. There's one scene featuring Langdon later in the novel (no spoilers here) that had me biting my nails and debating if I needed to flip to the back of the book, something I never ever do.

Bad guy wise, it worked for me, in a Dan Brown kind of way. You have the, as I said, well funded whack-job bad guy, and it's clear he's ruthless enough to ... nah, no spoilers. But as in his other books, there are government agents involved, and you begin to wonder who is on whose side. The bad guy's interesting backstory is revealed over time right through the big twist near the end.  There are a few major supporting characters, and their sub plots are equally interesting. I cared about them, and wished all sorts of harm on Mr. Evil.

Dan Brown shifts point-of-view constantly in the book, and just about every character, no matter how major or minor, gets their say. Each point-of-view change either gets its own chapter -- there are a lot of small chapters, including a few one-pagers -- or a specific scene in a given chapter. None of this got in the way for me. Each person had something important to say to me, and provided "information" I might have not picked up from another character.

This isn't as good as The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons - it packed less of a punch for me - but it's way better than Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Of course they're making a movie out of it, but I find the books far more engaging. These books are so densely packed with interesting "stuff" that I don't think translates to a "pops-off-the-screen" film. But, I'm sure I'll go see it anyway.

Now for the official disclaimer. Nobody asked me to write this fairly lame review. I bought the book myself, but don't have the receipt. I'm not receiving any compensation or reward for doing so. Frankly, Dan Brown doesn't need my help. However, I've been tweeting every now and then while I read the book that I am in fact doing my part to help Dan Brown save the publishing industry ... again.

Now I'm off to listen to Suzanne Collins', Catching Fire on unabridged CD while driving to and from work. I also picked up a sci-fi book - The Quiet War, by Paul McAuley.


Birth of a Novel - Part 4

This is the tenth entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

Yeesh. (Once in a while, start a blog post with Yeesh.)

This chapter took a while to get started. I made the mistake of thinking too much about the plot as I sat there staring at a blank page. My plot outline in Mythos is much lighter than it was for The Children of Midian. It's really driven by the characters, which is kind of fun. The problem was that my next major plot point could not possibly take place at the current point in the story.

I stared at that blank page for one heck of a long time before deciding to go back to my character notes and my trusty green sasquatch notebook. Lo and behold, I found this big 'ol pile of stuff about my characters I wanted to get on the page. There was also some back story I wanted to slip in. Off I went, excited as can be. I wrote one tiny little scene with Zydeco stopping by Blaine's place at night, only to find his slightly kookie grandmother, Ava, at the door, and Blaine not home. Cute scene, but a massive disappointment in terms of progress.

Fine, I said to myself. I'll make up for it next time. Oh, and while I'm at it, I thought, I'd best add some tension to this chapter. You can't just have people jabbering on about stuff forever, or you wind up with one of those chatty, but yawn-inducing "tea scenes", as Don Maass puts it. So, next time came and I jammed out this good scene outside Zydeco's apartment building with Mr. Patel, and my favorite character, Dr. Tension.

Good, good, I thought. Now, I wanted a scene upstairs with Zydeco and Magenta. And with me laying on Dr. Tension's couch, I began this crazy scene with Zydeco walking in on Magenta as she hacked away at something on the kitchen counter. There were rivers of blood flowing onto the linoleum, and Magenta looking around wild-eyed. You see, I thought it would be neat if, instead of buying from a butcher, she bought whole animals from a supplier and slaughtered them herself for the meat. I mean, she was a dragon and all. Dr. Tension was furiously taking notes from his chair while I typed away on his couch.

The scene began to spiral out of control and added all kinds of complications and unnecessary loose ends I was completely unready to deal with. Here's a lesson. Tension for tension's sake isn't a good idea. It was then I decided to bail for the night and go read The Lost Symbol. The next night, I tossed that entire scene and wrote a new one, that I'm genuinely pleased with. We have a bit of tension, and some chuckles courtesy of Magenta. Sometimes, she's Costello to Zydeco's Abbott. I also add some back story, revealing the name of the "world" from which all these mythological creatures came: Parable, and the world to which they thought they were headed: Fairway. I like those names. No idea why. Anyway, there's no blood flying through this scene, but there some pretty good cursing. Here's a sample:

Magenta shook me awake.

The lights were on and she stood over me with her hands on her hips. “What are you doing all slumped over on the wall? You’ve got a perfectly good bed, I thought.”

“Yeah, um….” Using the back of my hand, I mopped up the drool that ran from the corner of my mouth down my chin. I dragged myself to my feet. “How was the movie?”

She slid into her red wing chair. “Unbearable.”

I rubbed my eyes. “Why? What did you see?”

She sighed. “Eragon was playing at the second run theater. I had no idea. If that little bugger tried to climb on top of me, I would’ve eaten him, bones and all.”

I'd also been meaning to write Zydeco at Blaine's apartment with his family. Blaine is a gnome who lives with his family of gnomes, you see, and in my book, gnomes have an English accent. I have an eccentric grandmother, and the uptight cousin of Blaine's who she picks on mercilessly. I wrote that scene last night - long one, too. The entire time, bits of Fawlty Towers were playing in my head, but I don't think it really mattered. I actually kept thinking of Ron's Aunty Muriel in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. It was a brunch scene, and no tea was served. What do gnomes eat for breakfast? Omelettes, heavy on the mushrooms. A tiny sample (Aidan is Blaine's older cousin):

Aidan turned to me. “Didn’t you used to fly by the garden and snatch our Blaine up into the air?”

This brought me back and I nodded. “Yep, it’s true. I did.”

“I kept thinking, here’s this griffin come to snatch my little cousin. He’s done for. But then a few hours later, there you’d be, descending from the sky, with little Blaine clinging to your back, laughing his bloomin’ head off.”

Blaine was smiling, his eyes distant. “Great fun, that was. Nearly fell off once or twice.”

I need to do a little more plotting on the next few chapters, and continue to work on Zydeco's voice so that he brings that "mythological creature" perspective to life as a human. Good thing I'm still writing the first draft!

On to the next chapter!!!!

To see what I thought about the last chapter, slide on back to the previous entry if you like.


How would a griffin see our world?

This is the question for the day. Say you have a novel about mythological creatures who journeys from the mythological world into our regular work-a-day world. When these creatures arrive, they assume a human form, and assimilate over a short period of time. They fully experience human emotion. They ultimately see the world through their human eyes. However, they also carry with them a few of their mythical characteristics.

Consider this. Zydeco Cashcan is my protagonist in Mythos. He was a griffin. In our world, he is a teenager. He feels and act like a teenager. A griffin is half lion, and he carries with him the strength and hearing of such a beast. These are his unnatural powers, and that's all well and good. He's also unafraid of anyone or anything in our world, but that's not unique to being a griffin. Humans can be that way as well. He remembers his life as a griffin, and specific events from that life directly impact his human behavior.

I had also added what I thought was an interesting detail, where Zydeco was a 112 year-old griffin, which translated to a 16 year-old human. It's the whole "dog years" deal. A 112 year-old griffin is a teenager! But the good folks helping me out reading Mythos have all asked why he's not acting old, or at least seeing things through an 116 year-old POV. This was a tad frustrating until I realized the solution was right there. Drop it. The age-as-a-griffin thing was just a minor point, one I thought was a nice, but unimportant detail. I'm removing it.

Here's the question, though, and it's the one I'm pondering based on some really helpful feedback from some writer friends of mine. Because Zydeco lived as a mythical creature in a very different world, how would this general experience color his view of our world?

As a human, he lives and attends high school in a city with all its trappings: lights, buses, cabs, subways, noise, roads, tall buildings, school, books, coffee shops, tourists, televisions, people - loads and loads of people, etc. None of this applied to him as a griffin. He lived outdoors, and certainly not with millions of people crammed into a small area. He didn't get his food from a refrigerator in his apartment or at the school cafeteria. He didn't drink coffee, take the subway, spend money or go to the library. 

Of course, he has assimilated so now all of the above is "somewhat" normal to him. But, still... The fact that he was a griffin has to color how he sees the world now, otherwise he would be a one-dimensional super-hero. Doesn't it? Or, does it. Hmm. I'm trying to wrap my muddled brain around this. The stinkin' Jets game kept me up very late last night and left me disappointed and completely without sleep.

I look to my maternal grandmother as an example. She traveled alone to the United States as a young teenager, escaping certain death in a Polish concentration camp. She assimilated, but it certainly gave her a unique perspective. I need to find my inner griffin and then jump ahead a few years to life as a teen. 


Prospecting for lunar tang

Friday morning, my kids and I sat in the kitchen watching the live news coverage of mankind's latest lunar adventure. "We're bombing the moon!" shouted my son. Yeah, we launched some kind of kinetic missile at one of the moon's poles to see if we could, y'know, blow it up some. Our hopes were high that the projectile would hit the the man in the moon smack dab in the eye, thus causing him to sneeze all kinds of lunar boogers. That's technical terminology for causing some kind of dust and rock plume.

It didn't happen, though, and Matt Lauer was disappointed.

The space program has given us many wonderful things over the years, like velcro, dippin' dots and of course, tang. I figured if this whole thing worked out, we could thank them for a whole new way of digging residential wells. Heck, we were prospecting for water, right?

Don't get me wrong. I love NASA. My dad was one of the Grumman engineers who designed the lunar rover - his signature is up there on the rover even now. He also had a great sense of humor, and I think he'd laugh like hell at this video on FunnyOrDie.com.


Writin' on a Sunny Day

It's been a long bunch of days since I finished the last Mythos chapter. I spent one night at my son's high school helping the freshmen decorate their hall for spirit week. I did this until I realized I wasn't needed and then wound up going home and working (the actual stuff I get paid for) until I had to pick him up again. On Friday, my wife set off with some friends to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Giants Stadium. That was kind of last minute, so the kids and I were on our own. This, of course, calls for dinner at Friendly's. Friendly's service being what it is, we were there for a couple of hours.

I finally got around to starting the next chapter somewhere around 10pm. Although Friday tends to be one of my more prolific writing nights, I'd almost fallen asleep in front of the TV during my time with the little kids. Coffee was in order. A mug of steaming Flavia later, I set out to write. I fired up MS Word, grabbed my character notes and Sasquatch notebook, which has all my plot ideas, and gazed up at the screen.

I believe I tweeted the word, "crap" at that point, because I came to the realization that my outline had a massive gap between the end of the last chapter and the next major plot development. After a change in musical accompaniment on VH1 radio, I began scratching out some ideas in the ol' green Sasquatch. Eventually, I buckled down and managed to scratch out 800 words. Not bad, considering I didn't think I had two paragraphs in me.

Saturday morning, I realized all I'd written belonged at the end of the prior chapter.  Phooey.  Okay, that chapter had been a little short.  Still, I've got some good stuff for the next chapter or two. There's another Zydeco/Magenta scene coming - really needed to build up their relationship some more. And then there'll be a funny scene with Zydeco and Blaine and Blaine's pad. Blaine lives with a family of former gnomes. I'm aiming for Monty Python. We'll see how it goes.

But wait, there's more. And it's not writing related. Well, maybe it is. I  joined my wife at the next Springsteen concert Saturday night. Since they're taking a wrecking ball to Giants Stadium when the football season is over this year (huge stadium next door being built for Giants/Jets), Bruce is playing the last set of concerts (5) at the stadium. Some highlights for you....

When there's an enormous (an 80,000 seat) edifice in the middle of what used to be primary parking for a football stadium, parking basically sucks. It took us 20-30 minutes driving at 3 mph through the parking roads until they got us into a lot. The tailgating was as good as any football game though. I only wish I'd had seats like these for the last Jets game I went to. 45 yard line, 30th row lower level. Dang. The music was, of course, awesome. This was the night to perform the entire Born in the U.S.A. album, and I got into Bobby Jean and No Surrender.

People watching - okay, there appeared to have been more beer consumed at the concert than at many a pre-season football game. At $8/8.50 a beer, people were drinking 4 - 8 per person. Jeez. We had a group of four couples behind and next to us (in their early 50's I'm guessing) who were royally toasted, and this one woman was dancing in front of her husband, basically dry humping him for about an hour and a half until they disappeared somewhere.  Actually, 3 of the 4 couples left, and only 2 of the women came back. One appeared as if she'd consumed and/or smoked something not fit for conscious beings. She swayed slowly with her eyes closed and a goofy smile on her face, nearly falling down once or twice.  Oh, and speaking of falling down...

A guy rolled/tumbled down the steps next to us. I'd say he fell about eight steps and took out somebody in the next aisle before stopping and getting to his feet. It took him a minute, but he seemed to get hold of himself and climb back up the stairs. No idea what happened to him.

Let's see. Oh, yes. They had these boom cameras scanning the crowd and projecting on these enormous screens on either side of the stage. There was a group moment of zen as a woman lifted her shirt and flashed her sizable pair for Bruce and 50,000 fans to see.

What else? Bruce brought a ten-year-old girl up on stage to sing a bit of Waitin' on a Sunny day with him. She sang right into the microphone, got a couple hugs and a picture with him. The girl is from our town - and is a friend of my daughter's. Heck, I even coached her in softball. This is like two or three degrees of separation, right? LOL.  Anyway, way to go Sarah! You done great!