Conjunction Junction…

….what’s your function?

Well, in my case, it’s just a massive amount of being scatter-brained and every time I think I’m going to get any writing done…Something Happens. Having to deal with government paperwork. Yelling at the California EDD. Not trying to go crazy with my need to have human contact with people that aren’t in my immediate life.

So, it’s been a little frantic here…

But, I’ve gotten done some more note taking, writing stuff that I need to get done, and general “foundation prep” stuff for quite a few things. With some luck, I can turn all of that into faster progress on projects in the next few weeks.

The Winter Solist is getting close to the big dance number, and after that, I’ve got to start thinking about more details on A Roman Solist. But, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it is actual daylight.

Hopefully, no crazy things will happen this month.

Well, Facebook Is Down…

…and, it’s sounding like it’s going to be one of those “it wasn’t funny at the time” stories of sheer human error and hubris.

We’ve been running into a lot of human error and hubris the last few months, haven’t we?

If it’s down for a good, long time…I might have to have social interactions with the people that I live near and that’s a scary thing. Far too many of them make Chads and Karens looks good in comparison.

But, it might mean that I”ll get more writing done because I will have to do something with my time. Who knows?

The “Joys Of Job Hunting”

I’ve been told that it’s been a rough time for everyone looking for a job.

Let me tell you, it is rough all around. I swear, it’s either “get a job doing warehouse/delivery/Amazon work,” which I’ve already had the warning signs that I have my father’s (and uncle’s) joints and back. That kind of work would probably tear me several new ones in very short order. Or, employers are looking for “exactly perfect square pegs for the square holes we need, and if you’re the slightest bit off…”

Doesn’t mean that I’m not stopping looking for a job. Or writing.

On the writing front…

  • The Winter Solist-Making good, if slow, progress. Biggest issue is the bridging scene where Adelaide sets up what triggers the big dance number. I’m still trying to figure out a more organic way of pulling it off.
  • Untitled Urban Fantasy Novel-Slow going. Issues with plotting, and I might roll back and use the tools that I’m developing for…
  • Untitled Isekei Novel-I’m getting away from the original “science fiction RTS gameplay as real life” option and looking at two different stories. One is pure science-fiction, and the other is fantasy with a definite “giving Radio to the Romans” aspect to it. These two stories are going to be the stories that I use the new outlining tools for.
  • Short Story-I’m writing a short story in the The Last Solist universe, based upon the idea of “you can’t go home for the holidays.” It’s being a bit rougher than I expected, mostly because I’ve got to deal with the fact that a Solist doesn’t…quite get PTSD. Not like most people get it. But, more writing.

Hopefully, I’ll have more good news in the next few days. Fingers crossed.

Trying A New Tool

One of the things that any creative has to be careful about is trying out new tools. Let’s face it-90% of creative people have some form of neurosis and the remainder are able to hide it really well. And, one of these neurosis is about our tools. I’ve met people that have patched up, repaired, fixed, taped, epoxied, puttied, and eventually started to haunt estate sales and eBay because they had one particular kind of mechanical pencil that they used and “nothing else works right for me.”

Bit of Dumbo’s Magic Feather? Entirely possible and it’s also possible that it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. Entirely possible that the ergonomics of that pencil have always worked better for him-or just that he’s gotten so used to it that everything else feels off. And, “feeling off” is sometimes one of the things that really throws a creative person off of their game. Sometimes to the point of not going somewhere with a project because it would require them to learn how to use a new tool…and then the neurosis hits again.

(My particular neurosis is the “not good enough” one. Not quite the perfectionist, but this fear that the point of translation between my imagination and the page is missing something and I need to go back and add that one more thing. And, creating things in my head, whole backstories that nobody will probably ever see…a series bible for TV or streaming would be insane by most standards, each A- and B-list character would have a massive biography and books and references…)

But, there’s also that point where you hit a wall and realize that the current tools aren’t going to help you any. This is why I’m learning a tool early-outlining.

How I usually write is what I call “checkpoint plotting.” It works like this-my stories have a number of checkpoints that I want to hit when I’m writing my story. I have a general idea when and where I want to get to that checkpoint. Just, sometimes I get hit by a plot idea or concept that is just so pretty…and I wander off the beaten path. And, come back as quickly as I can…but sometimes I find interesting things when I go off the beaten path.

Or, I have to spray for ticks.

But, A Solist In Rome and this new idea that won’t let go in my head is going to require me to stay closer to the road. So, that means I’m breaking out a new tool-an outline.

This is where everybody suggests a writing tool of one sort or another. Right now…not going to go that far. It’s really just a simple outline in Word as a prototype. First level is chapter headers. Second level is the main points where I want to go with this chapter. And, third level is what I call my “fluff”-little additional details that I want to add and follow up on.

I spent most of yesterday writing it, and I’m about a quarter of the way through my first outline for this second series that I’m working on. Today or tomorrow, I might get started on the A Solist In Rome (because it’s going to primarily first person with several second person callouts), so I need to keep tight track of where the story is going.

Back to the writing mines I go…and, we’ll see if this new tool helps any.

Fun (Not), One Each

So, I’m trying to get more of The Winter Solist done, and every time I think I’m able to get more than a page or two written…

I become the Default Dad. And, I have my own honey-do list. This is a scary thing, terrifying.

Dealing with the State of California and all of it’s many inadequacies. Almost tempted to take EDD to Small Claims Court and see if they’ll just cut me a check to leave them alone.

And…my creative brain has thrown at me another story. One that I’m actually doing bullet points to get the plot organized. This has been an interesting experience.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have “fun” next weekend. We’ll see.

Paying Attention To The Changing World

It’s complicated, but it’s another sign of the whole theory I have that we’re seeing a rerun of the 1970’s, but with uglier women, worse drugs, and (hopefully) better porn.

Think about this for a moment-magazines.

We’re talking classic paper magazines, the ones you can still find in small amounts in every supermarket and Barnes and Noble out there. Glossy covers, pictures, that kind of thing.

Once upon a time, there were thousands and thousands of those things. Name a lifestyle choice and in the 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s, there were probably a dozen or so different magazines at least that covered that lifestyle choice. Any reasonably large town or small city had at least two or more shops that was full of magazines-and maybe sold some other stuff as well. Supermarkets, one side of an entire isle was magazines, at least. Just about every major hub for public transit had a newsstand of some kind.

And, I kid you not, it was not a question of IF there was a lifestyle choice magazine out there in that era. It was just a question of if the store would order it for you and you weren’t embarrassed to buy it. Esoteric (and hopefully legal) sexual fetish? Had magazines for those. Niche literature creation? Yep. Magazines put out by movie and TV companies as a lost-leader item to sell the current dreamy teen hearthtrob star to teenage girls? In several dozen different flavors. Conspiracy theories about how the lizard people were working with the Gnomes of Zurich, then look in the grubby corner for the mimeograph.

You had the magazine nerds and they were some of the most…interesting people out there. For a given value of “interesting” and sometimes even “people.”

But, as the product life cycle left “late majority” and maximum profits, we hit the “laggards” end…and magazines started to die. And the shops that sold them died with them. I can recall-in the ’90s and ’00s-nearly eight shops around the SF Bay Area that carried magazines of all sorts. One or two I went to every week and like comic book shops, had a pull list. They’d pull the magazines you wanted, and you would come and buy them, no fuss, no muss. And, I was fairly light, maybe a half dozen magazines. I could see people leaving with nearly thirty or forty magazines at one time, and this seemed to be a regular occurrence.

Then…the pull lists started to get lighter and lighter. Often without warning. The shops had to pull out racks for magazines to sell other things. Eventually, they started to close or had to move into smaller spaces. Sell other things (foreign magazines, chocolate, greeting cards, etc, etc, etc…) as well, to get customers in the door. Move away from their original purpose and try to make money other ways. Those eight shops? I checked and there’s only three of them left-and one of them is making all the signs from here that they’re looking to close out soon.

There’s a lot of things to blame. And, the Internet is one of them. So was the coming of digital cameras and digital desktop production systems. When you can replace a dozen staff people and six different pieces of layout hardware with two people, a Mac, and InDesign, there’s a definite change coming. One of my photography teachers was talking about when he was in the newsrooms when (Kodak?) came out with their first practical digital camera. He was telling people to start looking at different jobs and polishing their resumes. The newspaper laid off almost all of their photographers, and the journalists either had to do their own photos or hit a level of rank to get one of the few pool photographers in less than ten years.

None of these companies learned how to pivot. Not really. The few “magazines” that I can recall that did kept their mast-head, but used it to sell things online. I think that there is maybe only one or two of them that even publish anymore.

And, we’re seeing that in the legacy industries-most comic book stores don’t sell comic books anymore, or not as their primary method of making money. The two local comic book shops tend to also sell adult (not that kind of adult) toys, nerd items, gaming supplies, Magic:The Gathering cards and play space, that kind of thing. In fact, one of them has maybe only 15% of their floor space dedicated to comic books in general (both comics and trade paperbacks), and if the owner didn’t hate manga, I think his manga section would be bigger and better stocked.

Games Workshop is trying to pivot to the “wider general audience,” because they don’t make their money on the rules for their games. They make their money on the miniatures and the secondary IP products and the speed and quality of 3D printing hasn’t so much taken off as exploded. Which is probably why they hired people from Hasbro and similar companies, to try and make this pivot. So far, if the controversies about Warhammer+ are to be believed, they aren’t doing very well.

I feel like this has gone on for long enough, so I’m going to close it off here. We’re having a shakeup in legacy industries. Some are going to survive because they can pivot. Some of them are not going to make it. And often, it’s the industry you think that will survive the most that falls the hardest.

I’m not saying you should chase trends or try to twist your writing to hit the New Best Thing. So many companies have tried that and failed horribly (coughNew Cokecough). It does mean that you have to pay attention to the market and how market trends are going. Keep working on your current series, absolutely. But, what are people looking at now, in the “early adopter” phase of your market? And, do you know how to ride that trend somewhere? If not, how do you get from there to here?

Eyes open, it’s going be a crazy time for all of us.

Dealing With “Says”

One of the things I hate when reading other authors is how often they use the word “says.”

This is where you roll your eyeballs and go, “okay, have you got your black turtleneck sweater and round-rimmed glasses, because you’ve just turned into a literary hipster.” Don’t, because there’s a reason for this.

“Says” is easy, but it also doesn’t give you a chance to let your characters breathe and develop more personality and express more of the story. For example, maybe one of your characters is one of those kinds of people that talks with their hands as much as their words. And, you read every time he talks, the dialog comes out something like this-

“This new pizza place,” Willy grinned, fingers drumming along the top of the table, “best pizza I’ve had in years.”

-and now, if you didn’t have that additional description, Willy would be a little less fleshed out. He doesn’t smile, he grins. His fingers drum on the table-top and that means he’s always sort of moving, not quite sitting still. It adds flavor to the character, gives him a bit more characterization.

When I was writing Solist At Large and The Winter Solist, one of the things I always tried to keep track of-and put in the story-was how characters spoke. Adelaide likes to talk, and there’s a lot of emotion in her words. Sayuri is dry and laconic, but when she gets interested in something…she gets interested. Charles is every David Tennant character…and, yes, all of them. Ian is the classic mid-rank British Army officer of the Victorian era and is pomp and circumstance.

And so on.

This also matters, because it primes you. You start to hear these characters’ cadence, their patterns of speaking, almost as if you were hearing them in person. Then, when they stop talking that way…something has changed.

So, what changed?

That’s where the storytelling becomes interesting.

Writing And Academic Progress

It’s hard to write when all of your job interviews seem to get you two to three interviews, then “we’re looking for someone else, thank you for applying.”

Or variations on that theme. It’s made my dreams at night very surreal in a bad way and that hasn’t helped my mood any.

I’m looking at going back for my full, formal, four year degree. I didn’t realize just how many classes were online in the California State University system and if they can keep that going for Spring and Fall in 2022…I can finally finish up my degree program and get that sheepskin with a four year degree on it. It took me a while, but better late than never.

Actually managed to get past one of the first writer’s blocks moments on The Winter Solist and that’s been good.

And…looking at some kind of screen or divider so that I have a visual barrier between me and the family room. That way, I’m not watching Anderson Cooper pretend to be human when he comes on CNN.

Fingers crossed that the latest run of fires and disasters calm down soon. But, I’m still chugging away, one writing project at a time.

Hey, I Can See Some Light Here!

Short version-I’ve managed to get some writing done.

LONG version-in between dealing with the State of California, despising the whole process of interviewing for jobs (seriously, four interviews for a company and not getting the job?), general frustration with a world that seems to be run by idiots, and coming up on my birthday in about a month…

…the floodgates of my writing mojo have come back. This worries me-I don’t want to be Tim Bisly, who’s muses are angst and anger and frustration.

But, I have gotten at least two more chapters of The Winter Solist done, getting close to the big mystery and the final dance number. In fact…I’ve actually written part of the epilogue, so I can get a few events synchronized. And, I’m doing the “go through my previous chapters and start looking for issues” thing. I’m definitely going to call that progress. Once I finish with that, pull down a copy of Daz3D, build my cover, put the novel together and get it published. I will probably miss the one year anniversary for Solist At Large, but that I have a second novel done is a good thing.

Then, I start writing A Solist In Rome, where I might have my main character get PNG-ed from Italy.

Hopefully more good news coming soon. I’m looking into a moving screen so I won’t have to see the TV in the other room…and not go insane watching CNN. That would be a good thing.