Writing about relationships

Welcome to another edition of Writing Wednesday! Last week I discussed my trunk novel and how I was disassembling it and using bits and pieces of it, including the main plot, in my current work-in-progess (WIP).

The new story, a blossoming relationship between the main character and a faerie is coming along nicely. I’ve almost completed the first draft.

My biggest problem is I’ve never written about romances or relationships. Not as the main focus of the story anyway. 

Snoopy knows

Most of what I’ve written, thrillers, action adventures, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, the main focus in on the main character surviving whatever the story has thrown at him. If there is a romantic relationship, it’s usually a very minor subplot hidden away in the main story’s focus.
And to be honest, I’ve never read a romance (closest l came was to start but not finish “Bridges of Madison County”) and in most of the stories I read, the relationship is also secondary, more like fill for the downtime between the action sequences. Something to simply make the MC seem a little human and vulnerable.

Take the romantic development in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars,” for example. John Carter meets Dejah Thoris, the most beautiful woman on two worlds, falls in love without really getting to know her, and spends the rest of the novel trying to rescue her from one predicament after another.

And considering I’m the nerdy bashful type, I don’t have a lot of personal romantic experiences to draw upon in writing this either.

So, its probably natural that I’m finding it difficult creating a believable relationship, a budding romance between two characters. It’s especially tough when the novel takes place over the period of only one week. 

I’m tasked with making the romance believable to the reader without them being pulled out of the story, “No one falls in love that deeply that fast!”

Sure, there’s a bit of Burroughsian boy meets princess, boy loses princess, boy fights to win back princess in it, but I don’t want to depend upon that cliche.

I want it to develop naturally into a believable romance that tugs at the reader’s heart strings. 

As I said, it’s hard. But then, if it wasn’t hard everyone would be able to do it.

Right?

-30-

Weekly wrap up 

It’s Friday, so that means I’ve got a whole lot of random shit to throw at you. So, buckle up, buckaroo.

Short story released into the wild

I’m really excited to announce I have a short story appearing today in Stupifying Stories Showcase titled, “Without a Leg to Stand On.”

Linkie: http://stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com/?p=1450

Enjoy.

Speaking of writing

My current work-in-progress (WIP), the novel I mention I was writing in Wednesday’s blogpost is coming along nicely. I’m “in the zone,” so to speak and the words are just falling all over the place. Good words. Meaningful words. Words that have me excited for the first time in a very long time.

It’s one of those instances where if I’m not writing the story, I’m thinking about writing the story. Characters and scenes are bombarding my head continuously, probably making me a menace to other human beings as I bump into them because I’m in a creative trance.

So if you see me walking down the street, make way!

Weigh-in Friday

I lost some more weight. Now I’m just ounces — OUNCES — away from breaking the 200 pound barrier! The scale reports in at 200.4!

Huzzah!

New writing instrument

No, I didn’t pick up another fountain pen. Instead, after much research and soul searching and penny pinching, I bought one of those 2-in-1s. Is it a laptop with a detachable keyboard or a tablet with an attachable keyboard? It’s like the old Certs commercials. “It’s a breath mint. It’s a candy mint. It’s two! Two mints in one!”

Anyway, it’s an RCA Cambio 10.1″ 2-in-1. It’s replacing the horrible Samsung Tab 2 tablet I received several years ago when Verizon was having a penny sale on Fathers Day. Hated it almost from the start. No wonder they were giving them away.

I had bought a cheap, half-assed Bluetooth keyboard for the Samsung and that just barely made it tolerable. Just barely. I could write, but not proficiently because the keyboard was a little too small for touch typing and had a few keys, the :/; and “/’ keys for instance, on a different row and I’d hit Enter every time I meant to put in one of those symbols, so I’d have all these random line breaks all over the place.

But this RCA is nice. For one thing, it has a Windows operating system, not an Android, so I can write straight into Word and not have to mess around with apps that just simulate Word.

I’ve done more writing with it in the last two weeks than I’ve done in the months prior on that tablet, which is why I got it in the first place.

I’ve read some reviews that complain the keyboard has a “plastic” feel. Well, duh. It is plastic. What should it feel like? Stone? Leather? To me, it feels solid, sturdy, unlike some others I’ve picked up that seem rather flimsy.

Maybe I’ll review it sometime, except since I only use it for writing in laptop mode, the review would only be useful to someone who also only planned to use it that way as well. I don’t use it for the surfing the web or for email or games or anything else that would distract me from writing.

RCA Cambio 10.1″ 2-on-1

Syria

What the Hell? Trump launched a cruise missile attack? This is why you never elect a bully with small hands and a small dick. In his mind, the use of military force compensates for his feelings of inadequacy.

Can we now invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment?

-30-

Unpacking my trunk novel

I set aside a novel several years ago. Not because it was a bad story, on the contrary, I really liked it, specifically the Main Character (MC) and a few other secondary characters. Plus, the main plot, I thought, was interesting.

I still do. But I became disillusioned after receiving some 60+ rejections from literary agents.

During the revision process,  which happened after each rejection — “Maybe they didn’t like this.” or “I bet they wanted a different beginning.” despite not receiving any feedback indicating any of those changes were needed — I had the novel Beta-read by several writers and editors. 

They all liked it, except the last one who said it was a good story but it was so poorly constructed only a complete rewrite from scratch could possibly help it. Yes, instead of listening to the majority, I keyed in on that last critique. At the time, I couldn’t see how I could rewrite it without rewriting it exactly as it was already written.

So I trunked it. I gave up.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This was a novel, in the urban fantasy genre, that had started germinating in my mind back in 1993 or so, before I even knew there was an urban fantasy genre. It was the 90th anniversary of Harley-Davidson and Milwaukee was filled with the sound of rolling thunder. The excitement influenced my creation of a character, a sheriff, who rode a white pearlescent Harley. He became involved in a situation where demons were released into our dimension. I also created a secondary character, based heavily upon an old time radio character Chandu the Magician as well as the Marvel comicbook character Doctor Strange, a sorcerer who becomes involved and together the two characters join forces to battle the demons. The problem was, I couldn’t think of enough personal story to flesh out the sheriff to make him a three-dimensional MC and I had yet to create any backstory for the sorcerer to make him one. So I set it aside.

Years later, the story idea morphed into something closer to the novel I ended up subbing. Now the MC was the magician, both stage and real, who is called in by his friend on the Police force (no Harley) simply to identify occult symbols at a crime scene and everything took off from that point. 

It took me two years to write the novel and a couple more to edit and polish it to where I thought it was submission-worthy. 

I liked the MC and other cast of characters so much, I even wrote a complete sequel to the first novel, and started writing a third.

Over the next five or so years, I subbed the novel to agents, rewriting and editing after each rejection whether I got feedback or not, until that fateful critique when I trunked it for several more years out of frustration.

Recently, I started writing a new idea completely unrelated to the trunk novel about an ordinary guy who runs into (literally) a fairy, injuring her, and takes her home to nurse her back to health. It is a romance, of sorts, and the story has slowly taken shape in my head and on paper. Then one day, I had an epiphany. 

I could combine the two stories using the main plot from the trunk novel and this fairy story as a subplot. I could resurrect the MC from the trunk, making a few changes in his backstory, keep him a widower with a daughter, keep his Police friend, and get rid of the rest. The demon plot would provide the action and suspense while the fairy story would provide character development. 

So I’m writing that story. I’m writing most of it from scratch, too, except on occasion, I’m snatching snippets of dialog or scenes from the trunk novel and with minor edits fitting them seamlessly into my new work-in-progress.

And I’m excited again. Even more excited than I was when I first wrote the trunk novel, because the subplot is providing the missing piece of the puzzle that I think the trunk novel was lacking — the human interest part.

I am writing and I’m actually enjoying it.

Write, Ferret, Write!

-30-

What was once lost is found again

​It’s been a year since I’ve written anything, and longer than that since I wrote anything I actually liked. Call it writers block or what have you. I had given up and thought I’d finally come to terms that I just wasn’t a writer. I was a reader. No shame in that. Readers are an important part of the literary circle of life.

Recently I rediscovered Ray Bradbury. Last time I read him, “The Martian Chronicles,” I was far too young to appreciate the writing itself but those stories had an impact on my young psyche.

I reread “The Martian Chronicles,” Then read “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” followed by “Fahrenheit 451.” 

You don’t just read Bradbury, you become immersed in the language. There is poetry there. His sentences are like music for the eyes. His phrasing touches the soul and awakens the psyche.

It was while starting “Dandelion Wine” that I noticed it. A long dormant feeling. I tried to focus on his words, but I found myself growing more and more distracted. 

I’d read a sentence, a paragraph, but I couldn’t remember what I’d read. Instead, each word sparked a resonating echo in my mind. A reflection. 

And soon, with reluctance, I put the book down. I knew this feeling. It was like an old friend.

I wanted to write.

So I did.

The first day I write over 7,000 words. The next day I wrote some more.

I ran on my treadmill and don’t recall anything about the TV show I had on. Instead, my imagination freely flowed over the story idea I was working on, giving me more insights into the world and it’s characters. 

I was immersed in the music of my own writing and I was glad for it.

But more than that, not only does writing once again give me joy, a joy I thought I’d lost, even when I step away from writing to do everyday mundane tasks, I feel imbued with an elation, a euphoria if you will. 

It’s as though I had been stranded in the dark for years and a light has come to illuminate my path.

In other words, a part of me that I thought was lost has been found again. The childhood joy of writing has returned.

I feel whole again.

And I give thanks to Ray Bradbury.

-30-

Writing and the love of discovery

One of the things I like about writing is the discovery. I don’t mean the discovery of the story, or the world within the story, I mean the discovery of our world, our history.

As an example, I’m currently working on a weird western set in 1869. So far, I’ve been reading about the Transcontinental Railroad, when it finally met up (May 10, 1869), including the Pacific Railroad and how it cut through and over the Sierra Nevada mountains. I did research on cattle drives.

One thing in particular, my character is a newspaper man. I wanted him to be reading a novel. I thought maybe a Mark Twain novel would be nice. Everyone knows of Mark Twain and if he had a copy of Twain’s newest book, that might lead to some dialog about the book and about the characters.

Well, to my shame, I learned Twain didn’t publish his first novel, “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today,” until 1873 and his great novel, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” wasn’t published until 1884. So that blew any chance for conversations like, “Is that Twain’s latest? I love Twain!” Granted, Twain had published four short stories before 1869, and in 1869 he did publish his most popular work, “An Innocent Abroad,” which was a non-fiction travel book and his best-selling work, but unfortunately in 1869, I don’t think he had the name recognition I was looking for.

So I did a search for novels published in 1869. I wanted my character to be reading a soon-to-be-published work in order to do a critical review of it and the conversation would go from there. I mean, there were some great novels published in 1869, such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” which I haven’t read yet. Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” which I have no intention of reading. Also Louisa May Alcott wrote “Good Wives,” Horatio Alger wrote “Luck and Pluck.” “Lorna Doone” by R.D. Blackmore came out that year, as well as Ivan Goncharov’s best known work, “The Precipice.” Victor Hugo published “L’Homme Qui Rit” (The Man Who Laughs) and Sheridan Le Fenu (who wrote “Camilla,” an early vampire tale that, coincidentally, I used in a story I wrote a few years back featuring the same protagonist as this current WIP) wrote “The Wyvern Mystery.” Not to mention the author of “Madam Bovery,” Gustave Flaubert wrote “Sentimental Education.”

Anyone of those would have suited my purpose. Those are all recognizable authors or recognizable works.

But then, I saw it. The novel. The one that would fit perfectly within my own story. You see, one of the other characters in the story is a young man, eighteen or so, traveling with his older sister and he has aspirations to be a bad ass, looking up to a wanted gunslinger. He’s illiterate, which isn’t a surprise for that time, and my MC has the book. The kid is looking at it, struggling to read the title, and my MC says, “It’s ‘The Story of a Bad Boy.'”

Which the kid takes to be an insult directed at him. And we go from there.

So, now, before I can write any further, I’m reading Thomas Bailey Aldridge’s “The Story of a Bad Boy,” which, coincidentally, some consider a foundational story that inspired other “bad boy” stories, like Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” For my story, it works on many different levels.

Now I have to finish “The Story of a Bad Boy” because, honestly? It’s a really good book and I can’t put it down. And if I hadn’t been writing, I’d never have discovered it.

-30-

An evening of research

Last night I sat down to start the serious editing/rewrite phase of my pseudo weird western novella. It’s 28k words and after the first read through having just transcribed it from my notes, it comes up a little light in the descriptions and details.

I know a lot of writers who “write fat,” meaning they put in so much detail and information that most of their editing process involves deleting whole paragraphs and even pages of what, to them, is extraneous and unnecessary prose. Much of it just doesn’t advance the story. Maybe it’s info dumps or backstory that the writer put in there mostly for their own information about the characters and the story but isn’t needed for the reader to understand it.

Some writers suffer from “purple prose” and tend to describe things in too intimate a detail. The reader doesn’t need to know, for instance, that the brass lamp on the end table with the blue silk shade and little dangling white beads was purchased on an overcast day in June of 1993 by the character’s great aunt Eunice at a rummage-o-Rama in this quaint little town in Northern Wisconsin near the border to the Upper Peninsula for $7.25 from a gap-toothed, stooped old man with a foreign accent. Unless, maybe, it was stolen after Aunt Eunice’s brutal murder and later we find out the lamp was used to smuggle something people were willing to kill to retrieve.

But I don’t write fat or over write. I “write thin.” I’m an under writer. Since I don’t outline, my first draft could be considered an outline. I write minimally, without very much detail or description. I just want to get the basic story out and later I come back to flesh things out.

That’s when I add detail, describe the characters and their surroundings, and add subplots and so on.

This is what I’m starting to do with my pseudo weird western.

My character has arrived in New Orleans in 1875 by train. He goes back to watch as they “led my horse out of the livestock car.”

So I’m thinking. Horse. Horse. But what kind of horse? I start doing Internet searches. What do I know from horse breeds? What was Mr. Ed (real name Bamboo Harvester. I bet you didn’t know that)? A palomino? What the hell is that? Turns out it’s a color, golden body with a white mane and tail. Trigger was one also. But it is not necessarily a breed. So I’m looking and reading. Thoroughbred is primarily race horses. Appaloosa? It’s known for its spotted coat, but wasn’t what I was looking for. American Quarter Horse? It excels at sprinting short distances. I need stamina for my story. I need intelligence. Trainability. And it needs to be able to fight off zombie with a well-placed front hoof to the skull.

I’m thinking hot-blooded rather than warm-blooded or cold-blooded (and if you really want to know the differences, look it up like I did, but basically hot-blooded have a “hot” temperament, can be higher strung, and are more athletic while cold blooded are the bigger, heavier draft horses. Warm bloods fall somewhere in between.) Finally, after reading breed description after breed description, I settled on Arabian.

Then to be sure I didn’t offend any horse history experts, I had to figure out how readily available they were in the U.S. in 1875. As it turns out, they weren’t. There was a purebred Arabian breeder but his entire stock was wiped out during the Civil War. General Ulysses S Grant was given a couple in 1877 by the Shah of the Ottoman Empire. So if my character had a purebred Arabian, I would have to create a backstory of how he obtained it — as a gift from the man who bred them for Alexander II, the Emperor of Russia, for a favor rendered.

I went back to my manuscript and replaced “horse” with “grey Arabian stallion.” I looked at the clock. FOUR hours had passed! It was past 10pm and I was tired. I closed my laptop and relaxed with a beer, satisfied with a job well done.

Now I need to research the city of New Orleans and its surroundings as it stood in 1875. Any bets on if it’ll take more or less than four hours?

-30-

Writing, editing, and the frustrations of being a writer with a smartphone

I had purchased an iPhone back in December 2011 to replace the Samsung Galaxy S that was giving me all sorts of problems — irreconcilable differences, so to speak. It was a 32 Gig 4s. I figured I’d be able to do all sorts of writing and editing and stuff like that there on it.

Well, over a year later and I still haven’t found a decent word processing app that is compatible with Libreoffice (or the defunct OpenOffice) .odt files, which is what I use on my laptop.

I’ve tried several programs. Dropbox is just for storage. It doesn’t recognize the .odt format when I try to open it. An app called Documents will download the file from Dropbox but it doesn’t open it. So basically, Documents turned out to be worthless.

I’ve tried to use Google Docs (now Google Drive) with Google’s Chrome browser. I can access the documents and do rudimentary editing, but its extremely slow and difficult to navigate around the document with just your finger. Sometimes it just has a mind of it’s own and goes back to the beginning and if its a long document, scrolling back to the place you were editing using tiny finger flicks on the tiny doc screen that shows above the keyboard is very frustrating and time consuming.

Then Google introduced a Google Drive app. Less twitchy than using Chrome to access my documents, but the screen won’t rotate so you’re stuck editing in a vertical position on a narrow 1-7/8ths inch keyboard. It is annoying as hell and this is also my biggest gripe about the Facebook app. FIX THE ROTATION, DICKHEADS! (That sudden outburst applies to Google Drive and Facebook, by the way.)

I just downloaded a pay app called Open Word that sounded promising, because it can do .odt files and it can also access Google Doc files, but it’s just as twitchy when working with G-Docs as Chrome is and actually appears to be the exact same interface.

As far as opening .odt docs through Dropbox, when I do it offers a few navigational tools that I didn’t get from Chrome or Google Drive, such as arrows to move the cursor up, down, left or right within the text in addition to the standard finger swipe. The main problem with this app is SEEING your text. There is a standard menu bar on top, like you’d get if you were using a Windows or iOS program, complete with “File,” “Edit,” “View,” “Insert,” “Format,” “Table,” and “Tools.” (I haven’t fully explored these yet.) The issue comes in when you click on the Keyboard icon and the keyboard appears for editing — you can’t SEE the text any more! It’s hidden because of the File Menu on top and the keyboard on the bottom, leaving only about three lines of text visible. WTF? Who can do any serious editing that way?

So, as far as being a valuable tool in my writing repertoire, the iPhone fails big time. At least in regards to the apps I’ve so far found and tried.

The main issue here is the size of the screen, which I don’t think any app, no matter how marvelous, can ever overcome. The iPhone’s screen is just too small for serious writing and editing. Sure, the iPhone 5 is slightly taller, but I doubt that will help any. My problems with the screen are two-fold. One, my eyes start burning from the strain of staring at the little itty-bitty screen and two, typing is a frustrating bitch — a complete aggravating pain in the ass. My thumbs are just too big and I’m constantly touching the wrong keys, most notably when I try to space and I end up with periods or Ns or what have you. And if you’re trying to type in the Open Word app I spoke of, and the text is hidden by the keyboard, you have no idea of the mess you’ve just caused.

That’s one point for my old Galaxy S. My typing mistakes are extreme on the iPhone 4S. And since I’m a writer, typing is very important to me. So for that reason alone I’m thinking of switching phones, however, now I hear Apple talking about releasing new iPhones, maybe even several different models for the first time ever — each with different qualities, such as a larger screen. I haven’t looked into this so don’t quote me, I only caught a blurb on the news. But if that’s the case, it could be just the thing Apple needs in light of all the big screen smartphones out there.

The things I like about the iPhone? It’s the very things many people hate about Apple — their propensity toward making everything proprietary — the fact that they control nearly every aspect of their product from the hardware to the software. Why do I like that? Because if you buy an Apple product you know it’ll work all the time. When you download apps that they vigorously tested, you know it’ll work all the time. When you buy an Apple accessory, when you hook it up, you know it’ll work all the time.

With my Samsung, I ran into so many problems with apps not functioning properly. And if I took it in, the Verizon people would say there was nothing they could do except refresh it back to factory standards. They had no way of knowing which app it was that was causing the problems so I’d have to blow everything away, then load each app, one at a time, to make sure each worked properly until I loaded the next. Except this didn’t guarantee anything because as soon as an app upgraded, the upgrade could cause problems and again — there was no way of knowing which one it was!

I can’t tell you how many times I had to refresh that stupid Galaxy S and start from scratch. I have NEVER had to do that with my iPhone.

And my iPhone is a much better PHONE than the Samsung ever was. Reception was fair with the Samsung, but it just didn’t get loud enough for me. When I was talking to someone, I couldn’t turn it up enough to hear them in crowded situations. The iPhone gets plenty loud and even better than that, I can turn it up with physical mechanical buttons that work! The Samsung didn’t have mechanical buttons, it used software, which always seemed glitchy. I’d have to hold the phone just right at this angle where it was perpendicular to the ground, while waiting for the phone’s touchpad to appear, and then, if the moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars, I’d be able to raise the volume.

But still not enough to hear anything!

But those are all design flaws that maybe, just maybe, Samsung has addressed.

Because, as I said, I need a bigger screen. and I’m liking the looks of the larger Samsungs and that giant LG, although I heard that one performs like crap. I want something I can write on. I don’t take my laptop with me anywhere. And if I got a tablet, it would only have WiFi, not 3G or 4G or whatever G is there when I get around to buying one and I need connectivity to do my writing and I’m not always in a WiFi spot. Nor would I always have my table with me.

I always have my phone with me.

So now the research begins, to see who gets my business: Apple, Android, Windows 8, or … Blackberry. OK, you’re right. I couldn’t keep a straight face when I said that, but if I had said Palm, you’d have known for sure I was kidding. Blackberry at least still almost sounds reasonable.

Here’s hoping I find something I’ll be happy with longer than one year, which is how long I had the Galaxy S before getting so frustrated I got the iPhone and how long I’ve had the iPhone.

Anyone have any ideas of a good writer’s phone?

-30-