Works In Progress

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Research Project

I picked up a zombie double-feature today at Freddy's: a shrinkwrapped two-fer of last years' Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead. The DotD disc is the "Extended Version TOO SCARY for theaters"; Shaun is billed as "A smash hit romantic comedy. With zombies."

I'll have to check with my sister Julia (CPA) and see if I can write them off next tax season.

Regardless, it's time to rustle up some hot buttered brains popcorn and dig in.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

New Writing Workstation

If you don't frequent my other blog you might have missed this post. And, even if you started reading that post, you might have given up before you got down to the part about my new computer workstation.

So, since I cross-posted about Dark Cloud Press on the regular blog, I'm posting the pertinent workstation info here.

* * * * *

[Phil and I went] to Fred Meyer for an hour of unsupervised playtime ... I mean an hour of Phil being supervised by someone other than myself, while I roam free tipping 20 oz. Diet Pepsi bottles to find the winning iTunes caps. I moseyed over to the furniture department where I've been speculating on the notion of an idea of buying a computer workstation for the past month or so. For the past month my laptop has been on a catch-all card table in the computer room. It's worked okay, except for the fact that everything got piled on the table and staking claim to two square feet of it was a daily chore. When the purpose of the table is to catch everything, you can hardly fault it for doing its job; still it wasn't a very good working relationship. That arrangement also meant that I had to do my proofreading over on the couch, balancing loose pages and notebooks in my lap, and then clear another square foot of space to key the changes in. So, in the spirit of new adventures, I bought the table and managed to set it up last night without expressing myself with colorful metaphors (although I'm going to be keeping an eye out for an allen-wrench attachment for my socket set).

Here are a couple pictures:As the second photo shows, the keyboard tray makes a handy space for the laptop when I'm dealing with paper. There are two small shelves on the outside of the the desk legs that are designed for CPU and printer storage, but I've got books and magazines on them. I'm thinking of rigging some hooks to the metal honeycomb grid on the legs and back of the desk store camera and PDA cables when they're not in use. The only disadvantages I've seen so far are that a) the glass desktop was not sprayed with a fingerprint/smudge resistant chemical before it left the warehouse (note to self: buy stock in Windex) and b) the optical mouse doesn't track on glass, so I'm using an old Dell mousepad which clashes with the Apple Powerbook. The glass does dissapate the heat generated by the laptop, so I suppose that's a good tradeoff.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Snarky Dialogue

One of the advantages to being snarky is that it's been easy for me to write snarky dialogue for my characters. Here are a couple examples:

Marci Duchamp, momentarily stymied by who to call and share what happened to Maya, decides to call saintly Lorraine "Ma" Carter.
    “Ma,” she said, “I know you disapprove of gossip, but this is a miracle.”

    “What’s so miraculous about gossip?” the elderly lady asked.

Later Maya's mother calls her ex when she finds out that he's been given a particularly wrong version of events. As they are adults, Richard and Geri use "adult" language -- beware!

    Almost as soon as he had hung up the phone and put the cover back on the Stihl, his phone rang.

    “What is it, you bastard?” Daniels answered, assuming it was Jackman, that he had been screening his calls.

    “Nice mouth, you ass. Remind me why I divorced you again?”

    “What the hell is it, Geri? Rubbing it in that I can’t protect my family?”

    “You are an ass, aren’t you? I called because I just got off the phone with Ted Torgenson who said he’d called you. I asked him what version of the story he’d told you, and when I found out I figured I’d better set you straight before you went and pulled some moronic stunt that would humiliate Maya.”

    “What the hell are you talking about?”

    Geri filled him in with the correct version of events, particularly on how Maya got hit: Not by a swerving Mercedes, but by riding her bike across the street in the middle of the block, forgetting that there was no longer a stop sign on Pine at Sixth St.

    “Well, that’s not what I heard.”

    “I know, you idiot. That’s why I called you, Dick.”

    “Well, I wasn’t going to do anything stupid, like you thought. I’m not as dumb as you like to think I am.”

    “Yeah, right.”

    “Is there anything else or are you done riding my butt?"

    “Yes, since your daughter is still alive, don’t be late with child support this month.”

Granted, it's not Chaucer and it could use some non-dialogue-oriented narration, but I like the snippiness of it all.

No More New Friends

Well, I toughed it out and worked on the "Grapevine" chapter this morning. As with everything else, this chapter -- occuring immediately after Maya Daniels is brought back to life and showing the mutation of the facts as the "story" gets further and further away from eye-witnesses -- needs significant work. It's written from an omniscient viewpoint with intrusive narration. The idea of the chapter is good, it just needs reworking, including possibly being divided into three much shorter chapters.

It also marks what I think will be last case where new characters are introduced. We get a lot of new names here, 17, some of which will never be heard of again, but a few that will play significant roles in future events -- Maya's dad, Richard, for instance. We'll meet the spouse of one of the characters introduced here at the end of the next section, but he's basically just a prop and later zombie fodder. We haven't met Mrs. Olson, Jacob's mother, in the flesh yet, either, but we know she exists. Gantt's roustabouts are shown prior to this, just not named. I need to find a way to introduce the Calculus teacher, Mr. Prentiss, before this point; he's the last of the new characters that get introduced.

It's kind of an infodump of names, but the variations in The Saga of Maya Daniels should keep folks reading (I hope!).

Where I Been?

For the past several days I've been fighting a cold, well not fighting so much as succumbing. Lack of sleep leaves me tired in the morning, the cold leaves me exhausted by mid-afternoon. Come evening, I'm pretty much incoherent.

Consequently, Revival has sat pretty much untouched for the past two or three days. With Phil off to preschool for the next couple hours, I might take a stab at reviewing another chapter this morning.

I did do a little work on the Prologue yesterday afternoon. I've posted it over at the faith*in*fiction message board on a thread devoted to (primarily) opening scenes. It's down toward the bottom of the page (do a find/search for "revival" and it should get you there).

If I don't pop a couple Vitamin C's and go back to bed, I'll hopefully have something to post here later on today.

Wait and see.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Home for My Baby?

I received an e-mail today from a writer friend who knows about this project.

It said, "Here's something you don't see everyday: A publisher seeking 'horror, dark crime & psychological thrillers' written from a biblical worldview ..."

With a link to: Dark Cloud Press.

He excerpted some of the details from the page.


Dark Cloud Press seeks to publish fiction with biblical values for the secular market. The name of the company comes from 2 Chronicles 6:1: "The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud."

The mission of Dark Cloud Press is to entertain readers by publishing meaningful and decent high quality trade paperback fiction in the genres of horror, dark crime, and the psychological thriller.


Dark Cloud Press cleaves to these values in fulfilling its mission:
  • To publish fiction, although dark, of moral meaning and decency that stands in contrast to the rest of the market.

  • To pave a way in the publishing industry for work marginalized or ignored by mainstream publishing, whether secular or Christian.

  • To publish and promote the work of talented new and existing writers who are committed to the values of Dark Cloud Press in all their writing.

  • To publish powerful stories that are both entertaining and thought-provoking. Manuscripts will be selected and books published based on these values toward the fulfilling of Dark Cloud's mission.

I'll let you check out the rest at the website.

I e-mailed him back with the comment that now I'll have to finish the thing ... and send it in.


In other "sending it in" news, I sent "Gift of the Mad Guys" off to this publisher over the weekend (should it be accepted it'd be included in the book at the bottom of the page).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Writing Close to Home

Tonight I reviewed a chapter that, as far as I recall, is the first instance where I used a real-life incident as the basis of a scene in the novel. The chapter opens with good-veterinarian/bad-mayor Ed Jackman putting Abby Kamarsky's pet cat Bootsie to sleep. The writing's fairly shallow, but I tried to remember the basics of what happened almost five years ago when Dina and I had to put Mandy, our Sheltie, to sleep. Ms. Kamarsky goes a bit hysterical after Jackman leaves the room; that happened, although we didn't sob "Boooooooot-seeee-eeeee-eeeee," (or "Maaaaaaaan-deeee-eeeee-eeeee") as she does in the novel. Still, tears and snot did flow freely for quite awhile.

In other close-to-home writing news, as I was nearing home tonight after Wednesday church activities, I came up with a new opening line for Chapter One. There was a piece of paper towel on the passenger seat (don't ask why), so I grabbed it, positioned it in the center of the steering wheel and, as I drove along at 55mph, wrote: "David Graham was a man possessed." Not brilliant, I know (especially as I was approaching a hairpin turn), but it immediately follows the Prologue which covers a demonic plot of some sort (it's intentionally vague). I'd like it to not be immediately clear who the agent of the demon N'Vonecz is, though it'll probably be spoiled by the back-cover synopsis. If nothing else, it'll help me set the pace and tone as Graham tears around Graphite looking for a newspaper. If I lose the line later, that's fine, as long as the pace and tone get established properly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Shifting the Sheriff - Again

Poor Sheriff Woo. It looks like he's going back to Day Three again. I reread the chapter completely tonight and there are several plot threads that would have to be cut or severely diminished if the incident occurs on Day Two.

The main benefit I had seen earlier in the month for moving the scene had to do with Jacob appearing ambivalent around Graham - Jacob can't figure out whether to trust Graham or whether Graham is some kind of child molester (why else would an out-of-town grown-up want to hang with a 15-year-old boy?). I think I can work Jacob into the scene where Graham interviews the high school principal at the beginning of Day Two. I can beef up Day Two with Graham doing some photography stuff if necessary, depending on what else I come up with that Graham needs to express to the reader thematically or about the town to make writing such a scene pay off.

For the record, the benefits (as I see them now) to the sheriff scene coming on Day Three include: discussion of using "community service" to pay off fees and fines, the possible con artistry of Gantt, and the scene ultimately segues into Graham going to interview Gantt with a chip on his (Graham's) shoulder. None of these is the primary reason for the chapter - to find out a) what happened to Jacob's dad and b) to prompt Woo to find Gantt's backstory and c) to further the subtheme of "stereotype and identity" - but they help camoflauge that material.

It also gives Jacob a reason why he can't say goodbye to Maya before she leaves for the hospital in Pendleton, an issue that pops up on Day Four and begins the action for the zombirific finale.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Character Development

This morning I was reading Sol Stein's On Writing*, the chapter on revision. Among the paragraphs I read was one that talked about showing that your protagonist had undergone change in his life over the course of the novel. Thankfully, I had already done some of that: Graham deals with the death of his mother and, to some extent, his rejection of God.

But Stein reminded me of another thought that had been meandering through my noodle the last week or so: a reporter's objectivity. Granted, Graham's a feature writer and not a straight reporter, but he still needs to maintain some objective edge in his work. As I reread the chapters I was working on last week, I noticed that edge was growing dull. Rather than eliminate his laxity altogether, I think I'll just have him be concerned about it, redouble his will to keep himself an observer rather than a participant, and then shoot it all to heck in the zombie attack. If nothing else, it's a thread that can get carried along in the story's narrative.

This idea - neutral objectivity - also popped into my weekend mystery. My protagonist, reporter Henry Seger, doesn't get along with his boss, managing editor Jonathan Prynce. Prynce assigns Seger to a story Seger doesn't have time for.

Seger resists, Prynce insists. (I doubt there will be any rhyming in the actual novel.)

It turns out that the story involves the apparent suicide of his friend and co-worker, Walter Damson. Seger is convinced, as mystery protagonists often are, that Damson's death wasn't as simple as it appears. Prynce tries to stop Seger from wasting time on it, but Seger is eventually proved right. At that point Prynce yanks the story away and gives it to another reporter because Seger is "involved" in the story, which, of course, he is. Prynce is right in taking such action - the fact it torks Seger off is a nice bonus, though.

The fact that Seger keeps working the story after hours surprises no one. This, of course, torks off Prynce - and so the circle of life is made complete.

*I picked up my copy at the Book Warehouse store in Gilroy, California's outlet mall for a whopping $5. Good deal, me.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Late Night Revelations

As I was drifting off to sleep last night a couple thoughts hit me.

First, how to have Sheriff Woo appear on Day 1 (Woo's the only major secondary character not to make an appearance on Tuesday): David Graham eats dinner at a local restaurant named Cabron's (Spanish for "Goat" - oooh, Satanic imagery). A few days ago I realized something needs to happen while he's eating there. Enter Sheriff Woo.

Right now it looks like Graham will have parked his Escort (no imagery in the car name that I'm aware of) on a slight incline and neglected to set the parking break or curb his tires, and the car rolled backwards and stopped in front of a fire hydrant. Seems this sort of thing happens all the time, so Woo comes in to the restaurant rather than ticketing the car. It gives me a chance to briefly show something about Woo and maybe have him comment on Mayor Jackman (who has blocked motions to have "please set parking break" signs placed around town where this sort of thing occurs; Jackman'd rather have Woo write tickets and generate some income - Woo isn't that kind of cop). It also sets up the notion that "appearances can be deceiving."

That message is also borne out in the final chapter of Part 1, Gantt's dream. In the rough draft I just detailed the dream, but didn't shoot for an eerie or scary effect. As I jotted down notes last night on how to fix the chapter, that was one of the obvious things to hit in the rewrite.

The second thing that hit me at bedtime last night was that Gantt has had this dream twice before (once before each of the previous revival meetings which didn't end in zombie attacks). So this time Gantt's not just apprehensive about what's happening, he's downright resistant ... but he gets dragged along anyway. I think that'll help build tension and not have the dream just be sightseeing with symbolism.

I should go to bed more often - maybe five or six times a day.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I Shift the Sheriff

The section of the story where David Graham meets Sheriff Woo has returned to its original location on Wednesday. Not that I'm anywhere near working on Thursday - or Wednesday. I just finished with Tuesday this evening and realized that the chapter needed to move back to where it started in the outline.

I originally moved it to Thursday so it would give Graham something to do in the late afternoon and he could talk to the sheriff more specifically about Gantt and his possible intentions for the town. But those are lame reasons to delay meeting Graphite's Top Cop for another day (I'd like him to at least have a walk-on role on Tuesday, but where and when I don't know yet).

The advantages to a Wednesday interview include the opportunity for Jacob to appear sullen around Graham, which gets set up on Tuesday night. Also, Wednesday was looking pretty thin, so this'll bulk that section of the book up a bit. Plus Graham asks Woo to look into Gantt's past and this'll give him an opportunity to do that without dropping everything to handle an out-of-town writer's request.

All-in-all, I think it makes the story better.

Then again Woo didn't start unpacking after I relocated his chapter, so maybe he knows something I don't.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Naming Names II

As I'm going through my manuscript, I'm noting the names I've used for characters. Mainly I'm doing this so I don't repeat names or use too many similar names (I named two different secretaries "Shirley," so this'll help me catch problems like that).

A couple nights ago, the daughter of Brooke Adams (owner/operator of a local bar, The Point) was mentioned. In the rough draft the girl was named Ashleigh. Now I don't know the names of a lot of the teen-agers in our rural community, but there is (at least) one Ashleigh. As far as I know, beyond the mention Ashleigh never appears in the book, but Brooke, her mom, plays quite a big role. So, to avoid speculation that book-Ashleigh's mom is based on real-Ashleigh's mom (she isn't), I needed to change her name.

Initially I changed the name to Mandy. Dina and I had a Sheltie named Mandy and as far as I know that's the only Mandy I've ever known (Amandas excepted). So that was safe.

And while it was safe, it didn't really make a difference in the story. Mandy Adams could be left out completely. And if Brooke Adams' daughter is never mentioned, then key information about Brooke herself never gets delivered. So how to make a non-existent character significant?

Later, in the Maya Daniels story arc, we have a mother (Geri Aguilar) feuding with her ex-husband (Richard Daniels). When Geri takes Maya to the hospital in Pendleton, she checks Maya in under Aguilar (her maiden name, which she went back to after divorcing Dick). Richard, who has anger management issues, gets steamed about that and takes out his rage on the revival preacher (big mistake).

So, could that conflict be pre-reflected in the case of the Adamses?

Last night I decided to change Brooke's daughter's name to Brandi. Brooke runs a bar, and the notion of a bartender's daughter being named Brandi struck me as twisted and wrong. Something a spiteful soon-to-be-ex might name a girl while her mother was recovering from a C-section, for instance.

It's a small point and gets dealt with quickly, but ideally it'll resonate later on.