Category Archives: Thoughts

Take On Me has been my journey. Now it’s your turn to take the next step…

I had originally set out to write a novel about gay werewolves in NYC. I had even written 50,000 words of a first draft during NaNoWriMo years ago. Then I put the book down and basically forgot about it, moving forward with other books while I left that one to marinate.

A couple years later the best cat ever died and I had to learn to be an adult without him. I was struggling and needed some way to process my grief beyond getting up in the morning and putting myself to bed without him there.

I started playing Dragon Age II, which helped (I’ll write that essay someday) and I read some fan fiction and that helped and I read a few books (High Fidelity, Love is a Mixtape) and watched a few films (Only Lovers Left Alive, RENT) and they also helped. I remembered that werewolf book. I remembered how much I liked those characters. I remembered one of them was grieving, too.

The story evolved. I yanked out all the fantasy, knowing I didn’t have the energy to world build. I moved it to a fictional East Coast town, knowing I didn’t have the energy to research NYC for accuracy. The revised setting let me write without worrying about magic or where the Empire State Building was in relation to my character’s homes.

I took “write what you know” to heart and stole characters from other places and layered in people I love and places and things and references to stuff I know like the back of my hand and the words started coming out.

The writing eased the grief, even when I cried while typing. I loved these characters and ached for them as much as I ached in my own heart.

Yet for all that it came from grief, this is a book full of hope. There is joy in it, there is fun, there is music and food and love and it’s more full of life than anything I’ve ever written.

And now it’s not just mine anymore, it’s yours, too. I give it to you to embrace and enjoy and take from it what you need. Wherever, however this book finds you, I hope it reminds you to treat yourself kindly and with patience and with love. From my heart to yours, this is my gift to you.

Learn more about it here, or on its own website, Buy a copy, if you can. I highly recommend the print edition, but the digital is good, too.

Spread the word when you’re done, if you’d like to support me and the book. Thank you.

there’s a difference between hope and happiness

Meltdown™ Comics Presents: #SUPERGODS an Evening with Grant Morrison & Gerard Way

happiness is awesome and you should ride it as long as it lasts. hope will keep you going, even when things really suck.

eureka moments often come when you least expect them. sometimes they come when you go looking for them, too. the last couple of days have been spent in the wake of one of those moments. more precisely, there were about 60 of them, taken in the form of the interview linked above (the embed was disabled).

after watching that, my head was aswim with ideas on the process of self-actualization, creativity, and what it means to be a human being in this world. the next time i sat down to write, i had to take a look at what i was working on and ask myself a couple of hard questions.

“is this worthy of the idea that i had when i started?”

“where did the energy, the dangerous edge, of my initial draft go?”

“is there a way to fix it, to bring it back from the dead without it feeling like a zombie?”

i came up with answers. some of them i didn’t want to acknowledge and some i accepted readily. no, it wasn’t worthy of the original idea and i knew quite well where the energy had gone. i had strapped it down and ripped out its soul when i tried to make it into a traditional narrative. plain and simple and easy to recognize and acknowledge.

it was fixable, too, but this was the part i didn’t want to face. it meant rewriting. again. but if i wanted to keep going, to finish it and see what it can become, i had to do it. so i started from the top, pulling chunks of the original first draft back in, making the ‘danger edition’. i know what the themes are underlying this story, but when i sit to write, i don’t think about them. you can’t or the story becomes heavy-handed and the theme becomes the story itself rather than what it’s about.

anyway, there’s work ahead of me and sometimes it will make me happy and sometimes i’ll just have to go on hope. that’s okay because i know i’m digging in deep and learning about myself, my voice, my ability to tell a story, and about the world and how the pieces all fit together. that makes it worth writing, even if it never sees the light of day.

right now, it’s a tame wolf.

“There are wolves in there, prowling behind the words. Sometimes they come out in the pages. Sometimes they wait until you close the book. The musky wolf-smell can sometimes be masked by the aromatic scent of rosemary. Understand, these are not today-wolves, slinking grayly in packs through deserted places. These are the dire-wolves of old, huge and solitary wolves that could stand their ground against grizzlies.” – Neil Gaiman on reading Gene Wolfe’s work.

my novel in progress is progressing, sometimes at a good rate, sometimes slowly. this particular first draft is interesting as i’m finally accepting that i’m a ‘discovery’ writer and not knowing what is going to happen is the key to keeping me motivated. i write to find out what happens next. (long hand, yellow legal pads, sharp pencil, btw)

second draft occurs when i transcribe the thing. as i type i edit, changing dialog, tweaking turns of phrase, embellishing to make things more cohesive, more descriptive, just ‘more better’, as it were.

that’s when the skeleton wolf, the one that is tentative and a bit timid as i find my way through the narrative, gets to finally roam free, growing flesh and sinew and blood and becoming whole, revealing the power and flow within its potential. and possibly ripping my throat out in the process.

i know a lot of other writers detest the editing process, they fly, wings spread wide in the first draft, which is great if you can pull it off. for me, the poetry has to have a form to hang its skin on. story shapeshifting, in my world, is a bloody, messy process and without those bones to build on, it would all turn to dead meat on a slab instead of a living, breathing thing.

so right now, my wolf is docile as a puppy, sniffing my hand when i offer it, following along as we wander the paths of narrative. but he’s growing fast, and before i know it i’ll have to start watching out as the playful nips turn into serious bites.

i just can’t wait until his big boy teeth grow in.

This is a test, right?

I think I threw away a piece of writing and cannot get it back.

This is going to be a lesson for myself and anyone else who reads this. DO NOT throw away any of your writing. Just don’t do it. It will come back and bite you in the ass.

In today’s world of terabyte hard drives, there is no reason to ever delete a piece of writing. From now on, that is my mantra. Even if it’s on paper, that’s what they make file cabinets for, right?

See, this little thing I wrote, it sucked. Badly. So badly that I thought I would never ever use it and so I trashed it, emptied the trash can, and hoped I’d never hear from it again.

Now, months later, I realized that it is a missing piece in the puzzle of the story I’m going to start writing. now it is gone forever.

Yes, I remember what happened, in general, so the idea is still there. Yes, in rewriting it, it will inevitably come out better than it did the first time, now that I know what it’s going to be used for.

I’m just frustrated as it’s really background material and I don’t want to take the time to write it over again. I have a very difficult time writing something twice. It just doesn’t want to come back out of my brain a second time.

So now I have this naggling little itch at the back of my brain. There is a slim, slim chance that it’s somewhere lost on my hard drive or on some bit of paper somewhere in my files (I can’t clearly remember anymore if it was typed or hand-written), but I have to let it go.

So, I release you, bit of writing! I let you go, may you come back to me again sometime soon. I will be here, building on your foundation while I await your return.

Okay, now what?

What do you do with yourself once you’ve completed the biggest project you’ve ever tackled in your life? that’s the question I’ve been asking myself since Wednesday.

My first step is to just rest and breathe. I think it would be a bad idea to dive right into the next big project without taking a little time to compose myself, so I spent most of yesterday cleaning my room and studio, starting my second book since Wednesday, and generally chilling out. Chilling out here, btw, means surfing inspirational TED talks and other fun stuff on the internets.

Today I made sure Luna Station got put in order. I’m also going to transcribe some general real life notes and pull out a stack of ‘to read’ books.

When that’s all done, I think I know what my next steps are. I think a reassessment is in order and I’ve got the tools I need to do it.

First, going back to Ray Bradbury, I re-watched the talk he gave that started me on my path a year ago. In it, he talked about writing down the things you fear and the things you love. I also was flipping through my various writing resources and found my character bio questionnaires. I realized that between these two things, I’ve got the perfect tools for self-assessment.

The Bradbury lists will be the 10 things I love, hate, fear, and desire. This is meant as solid touchstones for story ideas and places to look to when I need a character to feel something strongly.

The character questionnaires will be useful for two reasons. First, by answering them, I will know myself better. Second, I realized as I was reading through the questions that if I could not know how to answer them myself, there’s no way I’ll be able to answer them for a character. It will also make it easier, once I’ve gone through the questions, to tell if a character is just coming out sounding like me with a different name.

When all that is done, I think I know what’s going to happen. I’ve got a ton of short stories to edit (a fair few of which are not actually completed). those will be great for follow through on the writing project and keep me writing while I worldbuild.

The second task will be a shorter-term worldbuilding project with the intent of using the result in a stand-alone novel. The idea has been bouncing around my head for a couple of years and the fairy tales I wrote this year have given me the particular voice I think I need to write this story.

And lastly, there’s the massive, epic worldbuilding project. I don’t actually expect anything to come of that for a quite some time. I want to let it germinate and stew, to really meld. there’s no quick and easy way to work on it with any speed, and that’s okay. I’ve got plenty to do in the meantime.

So there it is. Process. Intent. And now I have to supply the follow-through.