A writing dilemma: focus on what lies ahead or what is coming from behind?

When I finally decided to stop trying to write literature and embraced the trifecta genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, I realized something very important about myself. I’m a bit of an alarmist. It’s not something I’m proud of and I have spent inordinate amounts of energy trying to cover this up in polite company, but there it is. I’m nervous, high strung, a worrier. Not in a loud way, but in a quiet, constant yellow-alert sort of way.

Maybe others who have felt this way in the past have had more justification for saying this than I, but I think we are living in times that make this condition worse. It feels as though we have just gotten down from the trees, and run half-way across the savannah while more-or-less successfully avoiding lions. Now, on the horizon, a huge mother-ship of biological and environmental threats, political disintegration, and technological threats is hovering. Is it just me?  Continue reading

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Writing in the midst of the Trump crisis

One week of the Trump Administration and I feel as though I’m drinking from a fire hose. I’m fairly certain the experience will soon seem more like waterboarding. Not surprisingly, 1984 by George Orwell has already climbed back up into the bestsellers’ lists. How should writers respond? Write faster?

On one hand, I’m itching to fight the power, and I notice my prose has grown more vigorous, too. Pages are pouring out whenever I can pull myself away from the news. On the other hand, I’m trying to listen to those who don’t think as I do, and the more I do, the more apparent it is that the crack separating my vision of reality from theirs runs very, very deep. It frightens me and saps my energy. I have never worried over the unity of this country as I have in the last year.

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On the political end of the equation, here’s what’s happened. Every day, I send one email of protest to the White House, but Trump is not the only problem, and I do believe we have to be active locally as well as on the national front. Two days ago I wrote to all my local council members and the county executive about the executive’s wrongheaded veto of a bill to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour. Yesterday, I wrote my members of Congress and the Speaker of the House about this horrendous Muslim ban. Today I wrote my governor about his poor decision to veto a bill expanding state benchmarks for renewable energy because we all know that the only hope for action on climate change rests with state governments now. Ahead, I’ve already committed to writing members of Congress about Trump’s treatment of the press, the Dakota Pipeline and the necessity of ridding the White House of Steve Bannon. And don’t even ask me how many marches and protests I’ve been invited to.

This looks like a spray of birdshot aimed at a field of wolves. Or, more grandly, maybe I’m like Faramir in the retreat from the Pelennor Fields. Pick your favorite doomed defense. And, yes, I know I’m being played. This is good political strategy on the Trumpets’ part. Hit them with everything, and they won’t be able to unite or defend anything. Continue reading

A snippet from chapter 6 / Pasaje del capítulo 6

I wanted to write a post about voice, being impressed recently with Norman Partridge’s voice in Dark Harvest, a Stoker Award winner, but I finished it so long ago I’d have to go back and reread to tell you all the reasons why Partridge’s voice is so right for this fast-paced, noir-ish horror story. I don’t have time right now. I have taken up a new day job that is working me hard (I’ve lost three pounds in two weeks.), and I have not been reading or writing much of anything. Therefore, in an effort to get 2017 moving, I thought I would share a scene from chapter 6 of the WIP. The chapter still needs work, but I like this encounter. I hope you will, too. Continue reading

Lessons from the third draft

apsarae6edc5It’s been two years. People are beginning to ask, aren’t you nearly finished with your novel? You must be working on the final edits. And I have to correct them and explain that I’m actually writing a third draft. A tense silence falls, or there’s a lot of head nodding. Either convention will do to signal that we’ve got to move the conversation along. No need to dwell on the obvious problem.

Two years? C’mon? How can someone still be writing new scenes, heck even chapters, after two years? Dead novel writing, they suspect. Remember William Hurt in One True Thing? Yeah, like that.

But I am cool with it, pretty much. I’m learning something from round three, which is a mix of writing and editing. I hope it will be one heck of a cocktail in the end, filled with the right balance of syrups and bitters. One of the things that’s different this time is my lens. Instead of focusing on each chapter’s arc, I’m looking at three or four chapters together in a block and see if they hang together and make a working part.

Okay, I’ve only done this for the first four chapters so far, but here’s what I do know (shaking a finger and speaking with Bernie Sanders’ Brooklyn accent): Chapter four told me that chapter 1 was missing. I mean missing. The old chapter 1 had to become chapter 2 and chapter 2 had to move up to 3, etc. And the real chapter 1 was missing like a black hole. It was such a powerful hole that the whole novel was going to collapse if I didn’t write it. So I did.  Continue reading