More Dream Chasing

Last night I had a Cloud Atlas-level of complexity to my dream. It was amazing! So much so that I did not make the effort to try and remember it while I was sleeping (I'm a lucid dreamer) because I didn't want to miss anything. Actors I recognized were Liam Neeson, Nathan Fillion, Paul Dano, Morena Baccarin, and I think Charlize Theron. That last one is fuzzy.

It's not post-apocalyptic but post-societal collapse. Technology still exists but people can't create more and can't maintain it in the way it previously had been. I don't know why, if there was a power grid collapse or something along those lines. There were definitely electric lights, but on a smaller scale, like they were powered by localized hydroelectric power. It's almost a pantomime of modernity. Think the social construct of the Firefly universe mixed with the aesthetic of Bioshock--a '50s like faux-utopia/surviving on the frontier blend.

God I wish I could remember more! The final bit is freshest in my head (though Paul Dano's scene at a rickety tavern atop a waterfall was intense and Morena Baccarin flashing her breasts smacked of unnecessary Hollywood sensationalism). Liam Neeson's character was presumed dead, but he was actually a wanted criminal simply called the Arms Dealer. He'd lost one hand (no pun intended) and had an Aquaman-like harpoon prosthetic. Charlize Theron was his wife, who knew he was still alive, and was taking care of their kids. They lived under a bridge and it was intensely important that the kids know how to get in because the path was secret. I don't know what the danger was. I think Neeson was the "bad good-guy" trope.

I think I've already lost the rest of it. Ugh. I hope I dream this one again. I think it'll make a pretty intense story.

Dream Chasing

I was in the mood to overwrite something tonight. I had a glimmer of an idea during a drive to New Brunswick that I'm letting percolate in my brain. I thought I'd do a quick wind sprint and make it as thick and sappy as I could.

DREAM CHASING

Amid the darkness of sleep, dreams illuminate sight and sound, a match-strike of fantasy that fades as quickly as it burst into existence. Come dawn only smoke remains, a phantom of the light in which we played. It fades into oblivion with the first gentle breeze, and our memory of it fades with it. When our parents tell us to chase our dreams, they tell us to change the fleeting. By the time we catch it, we will no longer remember what it is. They tell us to chase our dreams so they can convince themselves they did the same, and what they caught was what they wanted.

The twist is, sometimes the light doesn't fade. Sometimes you you remember your dreams. That bright flash of fantasy burns onto your brain, and you chase it with every breath. And if you should be so fortunate to catch those dreams, they'll tell you those aren't the dreams you should have caught. Try again. Chase something more realistic, something more prestigious that will pay the bills or that you can tell your nuclear family about someday.

When our parents tell us to chase our dreams, they're full of shit. That's why I've stopped listening to them.

Reincarnate

So I'm working toward my Masters of Science in Instructional Design and Technology (how to make education better, basically) and I've found that I can't write a research paper every week, do my regular job, and write a novel all at the same time. However, I have a three-month break coming up, starting next week, and I'm anxious to start a new project. I had an idea a couple weeks ago for my very first literary fiction novel. I was itching to write tonight, so I popped off 250 words. Here's a taste.

 

Where do you begin? It's not an easy thing, when a person asks you “Where do you think it went wrong?” With thirty-plus years under your belt, how do you pick out a day, an hour, an instant and say, Yeah, this is where it went wrong. You could pick this fuck-up or that one, but rest assured there was a whole host of fuck-ups that preceded them. So you say, I don't know. It just happened, gradually, because that's the kind of sage-like cliché that resonates with people and they don't push.

And what's galling is that if I truly had to pick one moment where it all truly went wrong, it's not even my fuck-up that I'd pick. It's my twin brother, Danny's. We were fifteen when he got into his accident and I realized how quick it all can be taken away from you. I got a sense of my own mortality, or whatever. Live each day like it's your last because holy shit, it just might be.

They say no one should die a virgin. They said it, and I repeated it to my girlfriend, Emily, and she agreed with them and me. They also say it only takes one time, which turned out also to be true. So if you want to know where it all went wrong, blame Danny. What we he doing, skateboarding without a helmet? That was stupid.

Pregnant at fifteen, married at sixteen, sometimes I think Danny's the one that got off easy.

The Bound God

My wife and I are big fans of the Starz original series, Black Sails. She's never read Treasure Island nor played Assassin's Creed: Black Flag (which we'll count as research for purposes of this show ;) ), so it's all new to her. But seeing Flint, Silver, and Billy Bones all together is wicked exciting. In addition to piratey goodness, the show has an amazing intro.

It's not just the music, even though the music is perfect. It's the iconography. I watch that and I see the story it's trying to tell, but in my mind, it's an entirely different story. It's my story. 

 

0:20 Aditi, mother of the gods
0:22 Lakshmi, Aditi's 1st granddaughter, plays the song of fate for prophets to decipher
0:24 Govinda, Aditi's 1st grandson, shepherd of the demi-gods and anointer of champions
0:38 Sumati, Aditi's 2nd granddaughter, patron of scientists and intellectuals
0:42 Mani, Aditi's 2nd grandson, patron of artists and lovers
0:46 Durga, Aditi's daughter, ruler of the Overworld
0:51 Dipaka, Bhima's son with a mortal, a warlord
0:52 Jaya, Aditi's son with a mortal, an adventure
0:55 Savitr, Sumati's son with a mortal, a politician
0:59 Bhima, Aditi's son, ruler of the Underworld
1:06 Mehesha, Devaraja's son with a mortal, a general
1:12 Lakshmana, Mani's son with a mortal, a prince

 

Here's the breakdown as it came to me after watching that intro a few times. Bhima falls in love with his sister, Durga. When she refuses to reciprocate, he kidnaps her and submerges her to the Underworld. Devaraja (not featured in the Black Sails intro) forbids the match. Enraged, Bhima kills his father. Mahesha rallies the forces of the world and captures Bhima, binding him so he can never escape.

 

Years later, without the Father or her children, Aditi falls into an endless slumber and the world begins to fall to ruin. Savitr, thinking Aditi will wake if the world is again threatened by her children, reveals to Dipaka the location of his father's prison. Dipaka attempts to free Bhima, and in so doing the dead begin to walk the earth. It falls to Jaya to stop him before the Overworld is dragged under and Bhima rules over a new land of the dead.
 

MY Battlestar Galactica

Like most geeks, I hopped on board the 2004 Battlestar Galactica sensation. Like fewer, I was still a stalwart fan of the original series. And perhaps on my own, I still prefer the original to the reboot. The original series was what it was and it did what it was very well. The reboot showed a whole bunch of promise early on and then puttered out before limping to a conclusion. I only made it a few episodes into season three and while I've tried repeatedly to finish the series--starting at the beginning, starting at season three, choosing those episodes people tell me are the best--it never holds my interest. It had great potential but that isn't enough, in my opinion.

Today I was rewatching some episodes of the original series while I worked and a thought popped into my head. In the original series, the cylons were not the folly of man but of a reptilian race that had died out and the cylons were now their own expansionistic empire, a more classic invading "other" like the Mongols. In the new series, the whole "sins of the father" premise features  heavily in the seasons I watched. I really liked that notion. It was one of the things that really drew me in early on. But at the same time, the longer the series went, the more the cylons came across as whiny (until the story diverged with the skinjobs and things go weird.)

A trip to Wikipedia to see the rest of the series that I never watched reveals that Earth was populated by a different cylon race thousands of years before that had created their own cylon servant class and the resulting war wiped out the planet. WTF? Man is destined to create cylons? Is that the theme we're going for here? Because how do planets separated by so much distance suffer the same fate?

This kind of bums me out because the purpose of this post began as my own notion of how I would do BSG, which now is too similar to the reboot to be worthwhile to pursue as fan fiction. In my version, the cylons are still the invading other, but they weren't created by a reptilian species, they were created by humans on Earth. Rather than Earth being the 13th colony, it is the origin of the human species and the 12 colonies are just that, 12 colonies. Through the confusion of time, Earth has become a lost colony rather than a homeworld and when the cylons discover and attack the humans, the refugees flee to the lost colony. But when they get there, they discover that it is the origin of not only their species, but of the cylons as well.

Because the reboot did something similar, I don't know if I'd have Earth be wiped out in the resultant war or maybe it would be the cylon homeworld. I won't develop it any further than this post, I think. I love BSG, and I love the potential of the world (fiction-wise) that it's created. I'd love to tell stories there, in my own way. Neither series fully realizes the setting as I'd like to see it. But as soon as you start talking about the final five, I will stop listening because I really don't care. Even so, how earth plays into the setting could be interesting. (Certainly better than a cast off of cylon vs cylon apocalypse or arriving at a planet in the early '80s and knowing all the customs and how to ride a motorcycle.)

Venn Diagrams

I don't look forward to the day physicists figure out what dark energy is. Right now it's this "We know it's there, but we don't know what it is" thing, so writers can make it whatever they want and only "You can't do that with science" assholes will get upset. This must be like how it was when they had measurements proving microwaves existed but had no way to detect microwaves. Work progressed and we became able to measure them, but there was that gray area in between. I like playing around with dark energy because it's like a connect-the-dots drawing without any instructions telling you which dots connect to which.

I also like Venn diagrams. I can't really explain that one so much. Who doesn't like Venn diagrams? It gets a capital V and two Ns and that's just fun. Plus you can shade the overlapping areas in different ways. Different colors, combined colors, hatching, cross-hatching, who knows! Go crazy!

Then yesterday, looking at the platypus/keytar Venn diagram that pops up on Faceboom every now and again, I started thinking about dark energy. Because those things clearly go together. It's not the first time I've imagined dark energy being the energy of the infinite multiverse, the layers upon layers that are so close together as to appear singular but so far apart as to accommodate all the influential choices that a person might make. This time, I started imagining it visually rather than mathematically. If the universe is flat (which it is) and we looked at it as a horizontal plane and then zoomed WAY in so that all these levels of dark energy multiverses could be visible as parallel lines to our universe rather than a singular line, you would be able to see the gray haze of energy that connects them all.

The space between universes is effectively a Venn diagram, a mingled space of energy that can be colored or shaded or cross-hatched or whatever you want. And now imagine if things occasionally passed through that Venn diagram, slipping from one universe where it belonged to one universe where it didn't. It's a common thread in sci-fi (SyFy?) TV shows where you have an agency or secret organization that deals with the fantastical that doesn't belong.

But imagine if science had successfully measured and quantified the different universes (or at least some of them) and you had specialists dedicated to the oddities of each one. The government/secret organization has a building and each floor of that building is dedicated to a different universe. The secret isn't just keeping the truth from the public (X-files style), but keeping the truth from yourselves. The 6th floor doesn't fraternize with the 7th floor because the one deals with ghosts and the other deals with aliens. What happens when you go on a blind date only to discover the person you're with works on a different floor? What happens when you discover an outbreak from two floors at once? What happens when you discover a new universe that warrants a new floor?

This is as far as I got in the ruminating department, but it feels like it could be fun. I will explore it more in the future.

 

I Dreamed a Dream

I've been watching a lot of old episodes of A Show with Ze Frank on YouTube. As part of the show, an artist animates dreams submitted by viewers. Their experiences are SO different than how I dream. I dream stories like I'm watching a movie or sometimes living as one of the characters but always as part of a narrative arc.

Yesterday's dream involved a homicide detective investigating a series of infant deaths. Rather than a serial killer, it turns out to be part of a human trafficking ring. Apparently the adults had fled but those sending the abducted babies did not know, so they kept shipping them to the location. A young child lived there and she feed the babies the way she feed her stuffed dinosaur, with small candies that went down a hole in its mouth. The infants weren't murdered. They were starving to death.

Then my wife woke me up.

First Paragraph for One of the Good Days

I've been bumbling around a concept for a few weeks and while I was watching "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" (which you should totally watch, because it's awesome), a few lines popped into my head and I figured I should write them down before I go to bed. So here they are:

 

Victoria wasn't always like this. Once upon a time, she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. That's one of the problems with living so long, things don't last. They age. They whither. They get dirty. And the pricks at city hall throw you a rag and tell you to clean things up, but the rag they gave you is just as dirty. Victoria was the love of my life, but this city's gone to shit, and I don't think I can love her like I used to.

A Notion while Watching "Little Women"

Louisa Walker named her daughter Beth after Beth March of Little Women. Louisa May Alcott was her namesake and Beth the character that inspired her to play the piano, so it seemed only fitting that she should name her eldest after the character that meant so much to her. If only she knew the influence of names as much as she did the influence of books. Beth Walker proved much the same as her namesake, Beth March, both in musical talent and in health.

Click, Click, Snap!

So at any given time, I have a number of stories forming in my brain and existing at different stages of doneness. The most immediate story is the one I'm querying at the moment. After that is the one I'm actively writing. Third comes the one in the "hopper," the one that shows the most potential to be written and completed after my current story is finished. The story in my hopper right now is titled SAVASANA (CORPSE POSE). I really like the idea of it, but I struggle at how it will differentiate itself from my other stories. And then, today, while I was at Old Sturbridge Village, I realized a mistake I had been making. Changing that mistake caused a number of other pieces to fall into place, and while I'm standing outside the Townes' house, the first paragraph pops into my head.

I was told that the smell of old books was pleasing. Tanned leather mixed with iron gall to offer an olfactory testament to the passage of time. Due to the unfortunate circumstances of my birth, I had no sense of smell. Even so, the books of the Sofia athenaeum were something to behold. Shelves lined the walls from floor to ceiling, laden with vellum, parchment, and leather-bound tomes. Tables stretched the length of the room to sit twenty. Desks filled alcoves, large enough only for one. Boys lurked in the shadows, jumping at a raised hand to appear with fresh pens or a cross-referenced volume. Girls floated on cotton slippers, armed with rags and feather dusters. Wherever we men of learning abandoned a room, they came to erase the memory of our passing.

I love that moment when things just fall into place. I have a much greater sense of the setting and how the characters are going to interact within it. This'll be an interesting one when the time comes.

John Leguizamo's Ghetto Klown

I just finished watching John Leguizamo's HBO special, Ghetto Klown. It's pretty awesome, especially if you like auto-biographies. What I liked most was his characterization of his father. Well, I liked a lot of it, but what I found most inspiration from a creative sense was his characterization of his grandfather. A Colombian communist who continues to prepare for the revolution through his elderly years. He's not actually being a communist revolutionary. He's just living in Queens, but that's always his agenda. He has to get ready.

And I LOVED it! I want that character in a story. I want a character who is wholly committed to a revolution that is never going to come, but is harmless enough that everyone lets him continue to be what he is. I want the old man who doesn't have time for the main character's shenanigans. He has to get ready for the revolution!

And then, five books in when the series is about to come to an end, everything that's been built up and won and accomplished by all the characters you've come to love will get wiped off the map when the revolution comes and the old guy was right the entire time. Because I'm an asshole like that. ;)

The (Very) Basics of Roller Derby

As I've been mentioning for the last year or so, I'm an official with New Hampshire Roller Derby. Despite it being the fastest growing sport in the country (and possibly the world), it's still an amateur sport that most people don't know has made a resurgence (or if they do, they presume it's much like the derby of the '70s). Cue iconic picture:

Modern roller derby started as an alternative sport (think elbows and punk rock, a la Whip It) but has evolved to genuine, amateur status (amateur meaning professional without getting paid). The game has dedicated officials, a lengthy set of rules, and is a sport no matter how many sexist newspaper writers fixate on the fact that it's predominantly played by women. (And Jesus do they fixate on that. Look, they have boobs, it can't be a sport! Fuck off, skeezer.)

So here's the short of it. Each team is comprised of 14 skaters. The game (or more lovingly, the bout) is played in two halves of thirty minutes. Each half is segmented into "jams". Each team fields four blockers and one jammer per jam. The jammer wears a star on her helmet to signify that she is the point scorer. (In effect, she is the ball or the puck, but she's human and she's only wearing pads on her knees, elbows, and wrists.) The blockers comprise "the pack". At the jam starting whistle, the jammers must work their way through the pack to be eligible to score. Once they've finished this initial pass, each successive time they pass blockers, they score points (but no more than one point per blocker per lap). They can even score a point by lapping the opposing jammer if she is slow or stuck in the pack.

Where it can get difficult for spectators is that the pack is this nebulous assortment of players from both teams. They're simultaneously playing offense and defense. Sometimes this means stopping and forming odd-shaped walls. Sometimes it means sprinting like crazy. There are lots of hits (blocks) with shoulders, hips, and asses, but no clotheslines or elbows like you see on TV or in the movies (those will earn you a penalty or even get you expelled). There are still fishnets and the occasional tutu, but not as much as you saw five years ago. Now it's mostly jerseys and compression shorts. Yeah you get pink hair, piercings, and tattoos, but just because they're a little rough and tumble doesn't make them less athletic.

People like to fixate on the names (mine is Charles Dickins, in case you were curious). It's a constant conversation within the community. A lot of people are starting to give up derby names in an effort to gain respect and to be taken seriously. Others don't want to give up their names and there are myriad reasons for it. Some use it as a shield, something to allow them to have the confidence they're not allowed to have in their real lives (because they have boobs and we don't want boobs to be confident); others use it to hide from work because no one wants their kindergarten teacher showing up with a black eye after taking a stray elbow to the face); and still others keep theirs because it was part of the fun and whimsy that drew them to the sport to begin with. Again, if you think that real sports don't use pseudonyms, I direct you to Pistol Pete Maravich, Magic Johnson, his Airness, and King James and politely ask you to shut the fuck up.

Last thing in this brief lesson. There is a second helmet cover on the track. One of the blockers may be designated as a pivot. The pivot is a blocker with special privileges. The jammer may, if she chooses, remove her star helmet cover and pass it to the pivot. This causes the pivot to become the jammer. She may do this because of injury, equipment malfunction, or getting stuck in the pack. For first timers, it can add a level of "what the fuck is going on" to an already chaotic pack, but once you've seen a few bouts, the strategy starts to become more clear.

So, with that growth and maturity of the sport, the iconic picture of the '70s has now become more like this:

Well That Was Stupid

So here's what not to do. You remember those posts from the beginning of the year? If not, scroll down the page and take a gander. I haven't posted much this year so they're still easy to find. To summarize, I was all enthused about my novel FAMILY JEWELS. It turned out great, it showed wonderful progress in my own skill as a writer and was receiving positive attention from agents. I insisted, even if this one didn't work out, I was on my way. I would not be defeated.

And then I did something stupid.

I bought into the attention. The attention was strong and it was quick, and it was from people whom I wanted to receive attention. You know those lists you're not supposed to talk about where you have your favorite agents (pieced together from their clients' works, their online presence, and perhaps meeting them at conventions despite the fact they may not be the best fit for you). Yeah, we all have that list. Well the top of my list jumped on my query. Multiple full requests, private messages over Twitter, the whole thing. It's the kind of story published authors tell later. "I thought my early work was so awesome but it was shit. But I kept working and working and when it really was ready, it all happened overnight." And it certainly did feel like it was happening overnight. Two days after my first round of queries, I had multiple full requests. Holy shit, ride that roller coaster! And they were from people on my top five. Including the agent I've wanted to work with most since before she became an acquiring agent and was still an agency assistant. This is IT! Woo hoo!

So I did something stupid.

I waited for my happy ending. I stopped querying other agents, because I was about to get my happy ending. Why would I want to dangle my genius in front of them only to yank it away to work with the person that as about to ask for a call at any moment. I waited. I started my next book. Actually, briefly, I started a sequel to FAMILY JEWELS, but I'm superstitious about that kind of thing, so I started a new novel. And then I waited.

Then I focused on the beginning of the roller derby season and I did a LOT of roller derby. Also, I waited. Then I followed up because it had been a couple months now and I hadn't heard anything, which was odd given how so many people were interested at the beginning and that all of them should suddenly fall silent at the same time. Did the internet break? I didn't get the memo. That's all right. I have this new novel and I have roller derby.

And then I did more derby. And I did less new novel. And I did MORE derby. And I did less new novel. And then I stopped writing.

Because I'm stupid.

Four months of silence from people who showed an interest in my work more effectively killed my creativity than five years of rejections. If this is how the people who like your work treat you, what's the point? Of course, that's just my brain pouting. People have reasons. They get busy. Their actual clients need attention. They change jobs. Who knows, but it's wrong to think it's malicious. (And less wrong to think they brought it on themselves, but we all have obligations, so I don't hand wave that away as easily. I allow a grace period where "overworked" becomes "unprofessional" and I'm still trying to figure out where that line is.)

Either way, I started writing again yesterday. I started by deleting 250 words and then writing 500 or so. They weren't very good. They weren't very bad. But they were more than I had written in the weeks before. Last year, I was hip deep into my second draft. In years before, I was usually on my second novel. This year, though, I'm still on a first draft, and for all my inability to ever give up writing, my enthusiasm for professional publication has been smothered by months of silence.

I'd say I almost prefer rejection, but that's stupid. There's still that chance I'll get an email saying, "Sorry about not responding for forever and a day, my hamster had cancer and things have been hectic here. I loved what I read. Is it still available?" and I'll be able to answer, "Strangely enough, it is."