My Elevator Pitch for the New Haxan Novel “Quaternity” and Other Philosophical Arguments on Recursive Genre

*Press elevator stop button. Cage jerks to a halt.*

“I can sum the novel up pretty fast. Jorge Luis Borges said man will one day resign himself to new abominations, and that soon only bandits and soldiers will be left. Which is why I’m going to beat the living shit out of you right now.”

*   *   *

Thus, Quaternity.

But this crazy scenario does represent in a stark and frightening way what the novel is all about: the ever-present actuality of man’s violent nature and its necessary place in history. A nature, the book argues, which will never be ameliorated by man himself because it is not in man’s interest to do so, nor is it his fundamental nature to be able to do so, outliers like Gandhi, MLK, and the Prophet Jesus laid aside.

As I remarked before in this blog, Quaternity is unlike anything I have ever written before. I set the bar very high for this novel not only on a literary level but thematically. Of course I don’t go into these arguments within the novel’s context or as story. It would make the damn thing nigh unreadable and pretentious beyond human reason. And, quite frankly, we have enough epidemically overrated books in our midst to last us through the remainder of the decade, and quite possibly the century.

But if I were to say these elements were not present in the story I would also be lying, and I’m not going to do that. They are there if you want to find them. If not, they won’t impact the rest of the novel one bit.

Whether I reached the mark I aimed for remains for readers to decide. If it ever gets published, and if there ever are readers.

I don’t pull any punches in this novel. I am loyal to the historical record. This is who these ruthless people were, and not the sanitized and whitewashed (in all respects of that word) romantic history we have been spoon fed by John Ford and Owen Wister and others.*

I have said before I wanted this novel to stand as an anti-western. But now that I have distance from the story I think I can more specifically say,

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges

and with justification, it’s an anti-mythology western.

Not that I am dinging on westerns in particular. Like all other recursive literary genres westerns incorporate semiotic elements which make them immediately recognizable to the reading public. Science fiction has a long and storied history in this regard. This isn’t debilitative to a genre if it’s handled correctly, and if a writer has a natural respect for a genre’s history and its canonical themes and the foundations that were laid down  by other writers. Even science fiction, which by all accounts is at heart a subversive genre, adheres to some of these principles today, at least from time to time. Although, I guess we have to accept that many of them were lost during the New Wave Movement in SF. A movement that was necessary because SF themes had become so incestuous and moribund there had to be a spurt of literary growth or the entire genre would collapse into smoking slag.

But the old themes and cliches were never really lost to us, even though they had been put aside by writers with dangerous visions like Samuel R. Delany, Harlan Ellison, Joanna Russ, and John Brunner. Later, they were rediscovered, revived, and thrust again into public consciousness via the Star Wars trilogies.

Again, it doesn’t dilute the field if handled with respect. Which, to be fair, most writers do. I may not hold George Lucas’s writing talent in the highest regard, but I do recognize the fact he had a deep love and respect for science fiction’s past, hoary cliches and all.

I simply maintain there are other writers too lazy or too inept to see the difference which half an hour of homework and research would correct. Google exists today for a reason. But so did Encyclopedia Britannica twenty years ago. I know because I bought a set and I still have it.

Writers who reinvent the wheel and then put their work up as if it’s new and different, when really it’s nothing more than recursive cliches posing as plot devices, hurt growth. Genres, like people, are organic. They must grow and evolve, or wither and die. Writing the same thing over and over doesn’t do any good. Let’s make them grow.

So, all else aside, I obviously cannot use the elevator pitch I started this blog with. So what is the story about? Simply put, it’s about a ten thousand year old demon man who is trying to find himself in a world he cannot understand.

Sometimes, Occam’s razor is the best starting place after all. 🙂

 

*It is to their everlasting credit creative directors like Bud Boetticher, Clint Eastwood, and Sam Peckinpah, along with robust writers like Edward Gorman and Loren D. Estleman have worked to correct this fault.

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Long Week Finally Has a Good Ending

Yesterday I learned The Western Online accepted a short story of mine. This was a nice end to a pretty awful week and I needed some good news. I’m glad they liked it and I look forward to appearing in their magazine soon.

It’s a new Haxan story in which I tried to do something a little different. Apropos of my earlier post in which I talked about writing outside your comfort zone. Now I’ve got the weekend ahead of me and I’m going to be busy with personal stuff, but I will try to get back to this blog on Monday and post updated material.

I didn’t make it to MidSouthCon this weekend even though I planned to attend. I wasn’t out any money but I had to make the decision whether I would go this year, and decided to stay home and take care of stuff. I never bought the preregistration in time anyway, so all I had to do was cancel a hotel reservation. I will pencil in this convention for next year, though. Meanwhile, I need to get registered for other SF/F conventions coming up this summer.

My “Working” Trip to Rio Frio

While staying at Rio Frio last week I began the final edit on the Haxan prequel novel, Quaternity. I began making notes for the novel when I was staying at Palo Duro two years ago. I might as well cap off the work while camping alongside a western river in Texas, right?

Meanwhile, I also took pictures.

These are a few from the first day I was there. Hope you like them.

Cabin

 

Inside Cabin

 

Water

 

I thought this tree provided an interesting contrast against the sky.

 

I thought this was a pretty reflectiona and tried to capture it.

The Old West: A Study in Black and White Photography

Some black and white photographs I took around Presidio, TX.  Black and white photography works best when you have good contrast between  light and shadow. That’s what I was working for here. Hope you like them! 🙂

Old Fence

Old Fence

Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock

Abandoned House

Abandoned House

White Church

White Church

Adobe Church Window

Adobe Church Window

I’ll post more pictures as I process them. The trip to Presidio via Rio Frio was a big success, and I have lots to share about it. 🙂

Chopping Out the Undergrowth of a Story and Revealing Gold

Today I will start the third (and I hope) final big edit of the new Haxan novel, Quaternity. I plan to read the novel out loud, as I mentioned before in this blog, and am eager to see (hear?) how it sounds.

I’ve been a little stuck on another short story I finished editing, though. After the initial big edit of this shorter piece (which I finished last year, Editing should be more than taking a hatchet to your story!that’s how long it has been sitting fallow) I saw it could again be edited one of two ways. I could change the whole meaning and structure of the story if I cut out some pieces. I don’t know if I want to do this. Yes, if I go that route I think I can probably find one or two magazines that would publish it, no problem. But if I leave those parts in (mostly heavy dark fantasy) then I might have to do a little homework to find a good place for it.

Which is fine, I have no problem doing that. What interests me most about this particular short story is how I can change it so dramatically by careful editing. Which, come to think of it, is probably always the case with any story I write. It’s just very blatant in this case. At least to me.

That is why I haven’t finished the final edit of this particular and as yet unamed short story about Magra Snowberry from Haxan. It could go either way. My philosophy about this has always stayed the same. I want to present the best story I can. That’s why I am on the fence as to which way to edit this thing. Even my instincts, which I always trust, says it could be a coin flip.

I think I am leaning toward keeping the very dark fantasy elements in it. The new Haxan novel Quaternity works variations on some of those familiar themes without the elements I use in the short story. So that is good.

I am probably over thinking this as I often do. But this is something I have to get past because it is hanging in the background like a flag demanding attention.

Thus, writing.

No Country for Old Men (book and novel review)

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy is a very good novel that, by all rights, should have been great.No Country for Old Men

It tells the story of a drug deal gone bad and how fate impacts different lives, and ends up shattering them. Written in a minimalist style with no quotation marks, commas or apostrophes, this literary quirk of McCarthy’s presents the story in raw and bold power. The violence of the novel isn’t symbolic or splatterpunk, it’s everyday real violence: unexpected and sudden and leaves you shivering and vulnerable.

The writing is laconic and powerful in its simplicity, as this passage relates:

“When he woke it was almost dark. He rose and went to the window and pushed back the old lace curtain. Lights in the street. Long reefs of dull red cloud racked over the darkening western horizon. Roofs in a low and squalid skyline. He put the pistol in his belt and pulled his shirt outside his trousers to cover it and went out and down the hallway in his sockfeet.”

I am a huge Cormac McCarthy fan. I think Blood Meridian is one of the best American novels out there. It’s easily in my top five.

I also like this novel a lot. There’sone thing that keeps me from giving it five stars, and it’s the thing that kept me from giving the film five stars. It has to do with the malevolent psychopath: Chigurh.

He is in effect little more than a Terminator, albeit in this case a biological one and not robot. He’s an unstoppable cipher (which is fine) but at the end of the novel he disappears leaving the reader with no resolution. This is done on purpose by McCarthy and therein lies the problem.

It’s transparent. It’s so obviously literary gamemanship that we see right through it. Chigurh’s disappearance loses its full power and leaves the novel (and the film) feeling broken and unfinished.

On the other hand, in Blood Meridian, the ending again is similar. There is no neat little bow to tie things up, and in Meridian we are  abandoned. But McCarthy pulls it off with more aplomb and skill in that novel than he does with Country.

Don’t get me wrong. I still like this novel and I still like the film. I think McCarthy is damn amazing. It just does not reach the level of Blood Meridian.

Then again, no one should expect it to. No-Country-For-Old-Men-m01

My Story in The Best of Frontier Tales!

The Best of Frontier Tales, edited by Duke Pennell, has been out a while and I wanted to let you guys know about it. Every story was chosen by  readers as the best of that month. I have a Haxan story in there, but I really wanted you to check out the rest of the fiction as well.

Frontier Tales Magazine is a pretty good site that publishes not only Spur Award winners but lots of other cutting edge fiction in the western genre. The editor isn’t afraid to take on new voices and new ideas for his magazine, and this is what attracts me most, I think. Nor do I mean to imply it is the only western magazine out there doing this, because it is not. But this post is about Frontier Tales Magazine and I want to keep it concentrated on that for today.

So if you want a good collection of western fiction that isn’t wholly dependent on Saturday morning John Wayne cliches, check out The Best of Frontier Tales. And when you do, be sure to give ’em a review!

The Best of Frontier Tales

I Don’t Do Resolutions, Except When I Do Resolutions

I don’t do resolutions. I don’t like limiting myself in that way. But there are things I want to concentrate on this year. I would be a fool not to view them and see how they might affect my life in the coming year.

First, I will be taking classical guitar lessons starting next Monday. I am looking forward to this. I used to teach. I know the value of having structure and someone to show you the right way to do something. I am sure I have built up bad habits in my guitar playing over the last few years, and I want to correct them.

I think I am drawn to classical guitar the same reason I was drawn to this last novel. It presented a challenge. Classical guitar is that way for me. The fact the music is beautiful and skips and patters like moonlight on a pond is another nice benefit. But it is hard and I want that challenge.

I have taught myself to read music. But I want to learn more about this playing style and that’s where a good teacher comes in. We will see how it goes, and another good thing is it will motivate me to keep up with my guitar practice. I have fallen by the wayside too much lately when it comes to that. I am usually pretty good about it, but it’s easy to get in the habit of not practicing.

Next, writing. I know I need to do a better job talking about the stories and books I have out there and are coming out. I don’t like people spamming me about their stuff. A little of that goes a long way. But I know I err too much the other side, I rarely talk about my available work. I can do better and I need to do better.

I know some writers mention their available books and stories every day. I can’t do that. I can’t. It’s not my nature. But I need to mention things and relate my stories for sale to other events happening in my life if I can. I’m always afraid it will be too much, but as long as I feel that way then I probably won’t go too far and wear people out and turn them off?

As for writing new stuff, there are a couple of short stories buzzing around my head. But lately I have been drawn to longer projects. I’ve been toying with an idea that takes place with the itinerant workers of the Depression Era. The hobo culture interests me. I feel there is story potential here if I can find it.

So I kind of have a background, but having a background is not the same as a story. Ideas are not stories. I’ve read stories that are nothing more than ideas. They tend to be forgettable.

I like to idea of investigating this hobo idea and seeing if I can find potential in it. The research always interests me more than anything else in writing. I like learning new things. Someone told me during the Depression families were forced to turn children out and let them fend for themselves. That might be a starting place.

Anyway, there’s something there, an investigation of the violence and hardship that could open itself to a novel-length work. If I look hard enough. This is in very nascent stages right now. Nothing may come of it. But it’s what I am thinking about of late. I might pursue it.

I also need to get a few short stories out, probably some short Haxan stuff. Quaternity gave me an idea or two about that. I don’t see myself working on another Haxan novel this year. Not a new one. I’m not done with Haxan, but the Great American Hobo Novel is starting to swim to the surface of my consciousness.

We will see how it goes. But what about you guys? What have you planned for  this year?

Finished the First Edit of Quaternity

Today I finished the first edit for the Haxan prequel novel. The title of the novel is Quaternity. There is a sub-title The Sunset of Destruction, the Ashes of the West.

I think it went pretty well. As I have mentioned this is not like anything I have ever written before. When I first thought of the story I knew it would be difficult to write and would be outside my comfort zone. Which is what drew me to the project in the first place.

This is no longer outside my comfort zone. This is my comfort zone.

I didn’t come across many places where I thought it was messed up beyond redemption. Most of the stuff I found were little things which needed attention. There were a handful of plot points I had to correct or shape up. There remains several more I have to go back and pay attention to anyway. But they are small and I saw no gigantic structural problem which stopped me in my tracks.

I can catch up on those little things later. A couple of characterization notes, not much else. Making sure I have the specific points of the history or culture in line. Given the kind of novel this is, I actually have a little running room in that regard. This is not a history book. It’s a novel.

It went pretty well. I started this rewrite on Christmas Day and finished it today. I will probably take a couple days off before I do a cold read through to see how it holds up in fresh light.

I am well within my timeline to get this finished by March. I am not worried about meeting that goal at all.

I am beyond the light at the end of the tunnel. I am standing at its terminus.

The Border Trip: Fort Davis Camping

Here are more pictures from what I have been calling my Border Trip. It’s the trip I took from Laredo to Nogales in preparation to writing the novel I have just completed.

090

091The buttes in the distance are fantastic.

092

093

096

Here is my campsite at Fort Davis. There was a lot of wildlife here, including javelinas and deer. I worked on the novel a little bit at this picnic table and felt I was making some progress. Little did I know the real writing would not take place until Thanksgiving of this year, and I would finish a 85,000 word novel in 19 days!

More Thoughts on the Completed Novel

I am trying to completely process what I was able to accomplish in 19 days. One of the things that strikes me about it is how fast this novel was written. Yet when you take into account all the notes, research, trips, preparation, it wasn’t so fast. Then again it was kind of fast, ha. Like I said, I continue to try and understand all this myself.

When I finished I decided to put it aside for two weeks before I start editing. That means I start the edits on Christmas Day. Well that’s two weeks so that is when I will start. I’m looking forward to it.

Not only do I feel a sense of relief in finally getting this done, I feel a real sense of accomplishment. I always do, when I finish a story. It’s more pronounced now because of all the trouble I had getting this started and understanding the novel.

I am very gratified I was able to do this. I knew it would be a difficult novel to write. It was. But I did it. I accomplished it, and I like the story and it turned out to be the story I wanted to write and had a vision for.

I can’t beat that. Hell, I will take it and run.

How I Wrote 85,000 words, from Laredo to Nogales, in 19 Days

I  finished the novel, and I am trying to process what it took, and what I went through.

I would wake up at 3am, have coffee, write. I worked through the day. I did research and made notes. Sometimes I would go to bed at midnight. Most of the time I was asleep by 9 pm, only to awaken at 3, 4, or 5 am again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

That’s how I wrote 85,000 words in 19 days.

I am still trying to process that. I have friends who say they were impressed, inspired, intimidated, happy, gob-smaked, etc. I don’t think it has hit me yet, even now, what I accomplished.

I had not worked on the novel since Thanksgiving of last year. One year to the day, I started work on Thanksgiving 2012. Nineteen days later I was finished.

This has been a long WIP. The final writing took two-and-a-half-weeks, but the project has been going on much longer. About a year and half. But in that year between holidays I wasn’t fallow. I went on research trips. I went to Colorado, Caprock Canyon, Palo Duro, and the trip along the Mexican border from Laredo, TX to Nogales, AZ. (Most of the novel takes place in 1868 along the border from Laredo to Nogales, with a side trip to Montana. I thought about the novel. I never stopped thinking about the novel. I studied and did homework on places, people, and things the main characters would encounter.

Even though I had visited these places myself, Google Earth helped  a lot, haha.

I had four or five false starts under my belt, some of them 130+ pages long. I was never happy with how the novel started. I had a difficult time finding the starting place for the novel. I knew some things about it, however. First, it was going to be very difficult to write, because I wanted to write it in a certain voice, style, tone. If I had written this like other Haxan stories, I could have finished it in three months. It was going to be a challenge. That’s what attracted me to it. I wanted to be tested. I wanted to see if I was good enough to tackle a work of this scope and mirror the vision I had for the thing.

I never thought I could not do it. I didn’t know if I could do it in the way the novel demanded. I never grew impatient. I knew I would find the key to the puzzle, I just couldn’t figure out where it was. Sounds goofy, I know. But that’s writing.

As Thanksgiving of this year approached I knew what I had to do. The novel had to be in 3rd POV. I had tried, failed many times to get the novel started in 3rd. I had switched gears finally and had about 140+ pages of 1st POV, but that wasn’t how I viewed the novel. I had a particular vision what this story was supposed to sound like. How it was supposed to be. I didn’t want to compromise that idea. I didn’t want the story to be less than my original vision called for. This is what made it so difficult, I think.

During this time I talked to other writers, sought their advice, vented, brainstormed. But I never thought I could not write this story, or I wasn’t good enough to write the story. For me, failure was never an option. I never reached a point where I thought the story wasn’t worth the trouble. I never felt that way here. Never.

I am very happy with the outcome. I have told the story I wanted to tell, in the way I wanted to tell it, without compromise. I don’t know if it will ever sell. I don’t know if anyone will like it. That’s not a decision for me to make. I see three rewrites on this. I will do the first, which will be correcting and tightening. Typical rewrite stuff,  with deep attention to structure, grammar, etc.  Second will be a complete read-through to see how it all hangs together. The third time I will read it out loud for the ear, and made corrections as needed.

For me this is the most important story I have ever written. That’s how I view it. For all the trouble, all the focused energy I used up in 19 days, the trouble and struggle I went through in a year and a half….I enjoyed writing this more than anything else in my life. It was hell. Make so mistake. But I never enjoyed working on a story more in my life.

In. My. Life.

That right there, tells me this story was worth it.

I will blog more later about the process and other things, for those who might find that interesting. As you might guess, I am still catching up on sleep. I also want to thank M.G. Ellington, Melissa Lenhardt, and Jennifer Brozek for their interest, suggestions, and belief I  could do this. That meant a lot to me.

Takes a writer to know a writer….

Just a quick update about the novel writing so far.

I have been working diligently every day. I plan on having this novel completed (first draft) by next week. If I do, I will have a lot to say about the process and what I went through to get it done.

Haven’t forgotten you guys or the blog. Just totally immersed in this work right now.

Other writers will understand.

The Value of Research. Or, riding the horse of serendipity until it bottoms out.

Heh. The value of research.

In my WIP I had the main characters visit Abilene before they went into Fort Griffin. Except, this novel takes place circa 1869 and Abilene wasn’t founded until 1881. Oops.

So I did a little digging and found out Buffalo Gap was a staging area for hunters during their winter camp. They kept their meat, hides and horns there before transporting it to Fort Griffin.

This works for me on a lot of different levels. I was of two minds about having these bandits and killers go into Abilene in the first place. They are somewhat avoiding population centers at this moment in the book. Well, because they are bandits and killers. Not a concern. I don’t mind changing my plot when it is necessary. I also began to feel I didn’t want them in Abilene because this is meant to be an anti-western.

But it all worked out because Buffalo Gap  is a much better setting since it has deeper trading ties with Fort Griffin. I like this a lot better. 🙂

You gotta love serendipity as a writer. Despite what some writers think, luck does play a part in this profession from time to time. The professional part on the writer’s behalf comes when you recognize that fact, and then jump all over it like a monkey on a football.

Avoiding a Cul-de-Sac in Writing

Only around 3K today, probably a little under.

Not superb, but while I was writing the scene led itself into another avenue I had not previously considered. Can’t complain about that. It’s one of the nicer things about writing when new stuff makes itself known within the work itself and you have to make a decision whether to include it or not.

I went ahead and wrote the new scene and it fit very well within the larger framework. I had to go slowly because I didn’t want to be wasting my time on something that wouldn’t work or I might throw away later. Well, I always might throw it away. That’s writing. Can’t complain about that, either. It’s the nature of the beast.

So I am of two minds about today’s word count. It should have been higher, but there was the added part of working with a new scene I hadn’t considered.

It’s not perfect. Nothing about the novel is perfect yet. But I feel it has a deep strength which can be improved with subsequent rewrites. I don’t mind moving ahead from a section that I know will need work later on. As long as it has an internal strength to it, something I know I will be able to shape and control in a later rewrite, I am okay. I don’t, however, move on from a scene when it is on life support. I don’t “write ahead” that way. I don’t write ahead period. But I certainly do not do that. I feel if I leave something so broken behind me in the story to that degree it actually hurts what comes afterward.

I think this is due to the fact I write in sequence. I don’t skip around the book writing a chapter here, coming back to write an early scene, skipping ahead to the end. I can’t write that way. I have tried. It doesn’t work for me. It works for other writers, but not me.

We all have to find our own avenues in writing. I think the key is making sure your avenue doesn’t become a cul-de-sac.

 

Late Afternoon Thoughts on a Novel in Progress

It's all just scribbling in the end! I am not using italics for the Spanish translations in the Haxan prequel novel. I want to show stylistically the Spanish and English is all one part of the same culture. Now whether or not I am ultimately successful in this is open to debate. But that’s my philosophy why I am not underlining Spanish words, etc. I feel it is a correct one, so far.

Because I am not italicizing Spanish words and phrases I thought about not using quotation marks at all. I will write the novel in such a way as to convey who is speaking. There is dialog, but do so without the use of quotation marks? My writing buddy said that would require a deep rewrite of the 170 pages I have so far, and I agree. It would require a deep rewrite. But then I could go ahead and finish the novel in that vein. Hey, it could be worse. I could have a finished novel on my hand and then be faced with a 400+ page rewrite.

Well, no one ever said writing was easy.

Here’s the structural problem, as I see it. You can’t just pull quotation marks out and expect the story to flow. My writing buddy suggested I write the next scene and see what it looks like on paper. It will answer for me whether the story calls for that, plus it’s easier to add quotation marks in a scene for dialog, than to take them away and expect the prose to make any qualitative sense.

I have read novels before without quotation marks. I’m just wondering if the story calls for it. I won’t do it for any other reason than the story, because any other reason is an affectation on my part. I’m not going to risk the story for that reason alone.

Nothing I have mentioned here is consuming me. The story is consuming me. But these are questions that raise themselves every time you write something. I feel it is always important to look deep into the story and see what else it needs, rather than concentrate on smoke and mirrors to get the job done. I am toying with these ideas as the story unfolds. I am trying to see ways to elevate the story without it becoming more than itself. Or, what I mean, I guess, is drawing attention to the story that do not elevate or enhance other aspects of the novel.

This is all stuff I am thinking of as I work. I always viewed this novel as an anti-western from the first day of conception. Non-traditional ways of structure might help convey that sense while keeping the story congruent.

I have been waking up around 3:30 am and ready to write. I have done this profession a long time. This is the nice part. Strike while the iron is hot, because later when that energy flags you still have to write, and it just becomes work, work, work.

Another thing I am concerned about is  how it looks on the page. A lot of writers don’t consider that, but it’s important. It’s one of those almost nonexistent things you don’t necessarily think about or consider, but they operate on subconscious levels and readers definitely respond to them.

It’s looking like this will be around 100K words or so. Not  too bad. I want to keep it around there. 125K tops. It doesn’t feel like a bigger book than that, and if it were bigger a primary character’s role would be diminished. That would be totally wrong because the entire novel is about Marwood’s relationship to him. You subsume the antagonist to that degree and the novel would collapse. I don’t want that, obviously.

There’s always something to keep in mind when writing. It’s not just transcribing the story from your mind into print.

It’s the subtleties that kill you, and keep you up at night.

Violence in Haxan

While attending Chicon 7 I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussing violence in fantasy and how much was too much. Or if there was such a thing as too much.

The usual things you expect to be said on such a topic were said.

But I was surprised, genuinely surprised, no one seemed to really get it. I mean they kept saying things like “Violence is terrible and we don’t know why humans are so excited by it. It must say something fundamental about the human experience.”

I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand then and I don’t understand now. Violence is human. It’s who we are. It does define us. We can pretend otherwise, but the fact remains we are a violent species. All you have to do is open a history book of you don’t believe me. We respect and elevate and revere people like Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King. But they are the outliers. The norm is much more base, more cruel, than that.

This is important because I feel as writers what we do is we write about the human condition. There is violence in my stories, especially the Haxan stories. I don’t describe every splatter of blood and drop of gore. That’s not violence. That’s torture porn. Violence is cold and brutal and fast and hard and often unexpected. It’s over in a flash and it leaves a cold empty place in your gut. In Haxan, which I use to reflect not only western mores but human ones as well, that’s how violence is presented. It’s real and it’s part of us and it’s not going away.

Human beings are very violent animals. And that’s the key, I think. We are still animals despite all our laws and culture and architecture and mathematics and striped toothpaste. Do I wish it were otherwise? Of course I do. But I also recognize we don’t live in a sane world because we ourselves are not sane. We never have been, and sometimes I think we never will be. Then again maybe we are as sane as our natural violent tendencies allow us to be.

Either way, as a writer I will continue to shine a light upon all the facets of the human diamond. So. Everything considered, why is this important?

Because I have no respect for the “safe” story. I guess when you get down to it I never have. I like stories that push the edge of the envelope. I want stories that question ourselves and how we look at others and why we do the things we do. That doesn’t necessarily mean a story has to have violence or violent words in it….but it has to be true to the human condition and the human experience. Not a reflection of how we want the world to be, but a reflection of how the world is.

Like I said, I will let others write those stories. They will do a much better job than I ever could. Nor do I argue stories like that have no place in the genre. But that’s not what I write.

I probably read too much Nietzsche. I plead guilty. But I think he sees deeper into the human heart than many other people have the stomach to endure. I don’t care for blow by blow descriptions of violence in stories and I don’t write those scenes. But I don’t go around pretending humans beings are warm happy puppies living in sunshine, either.

The truth, just like real life, is much more cruel and cold and distant….and violent. That’s what I try to do with the violence in Haxan. That’s how I try to portray it.

 

Edit: This got me to thinking about writing dangerous stories as opposed to safe ones. Maybe someday I will blog about that, too, but I think most of the points I could make about it are also covered here, even if they don’t rely on violence per se.

Chicon7: Last Update Post Thing Before I Leave for Dallas

Started a new Haxan short story last night and got about ten pages done. I always do this at a WorldCon, start a new story or poem or whatever. Good to see the streak has continued.

This story is a dark fantasy and features Magra Snowberry, one of the principal characters of Haxan.

Don’t know if I will be able to do more work on it today before I leave for Dallas, but we will see. I’ve just had breakfast. Headed to the convention hall later this morning to pick up my bookmarks and make one last turn through the dealers’ room and see if any sales are going on.

All in all it was a good convention for me. I got some networking done which is surprising for my introvert self and squeezed in some writing. (For me the latter is always more important.) I would have liked to do more at the convention, but I’ve learned from the past I can overdo things quite easily and then I get nothing done at all.

After I finish this short story I will get back to the main novel.

So far the new start on the novel appears okay….fingers still crossed

So far the change to 1st person POV appears to be working. It might be a little too soon to render final judgment. I might not be able to do that if and until the manuscript is completely written.

But so far so good, I think. The three chapters I have done so far appear strong and I think they are, but who ever really knows? I also want to thank everyone who gave me well wishes when I started this new POV. Your support is invaluable.

Over the next week or so I will be busy headed to a wedding so I won’t be around. But I hope to have some new posts for you when I return. Thanks!

Writing from the Heart

Writing from the heart is something I believe writers always attempt. Writing is a very organic and visceral process with real, and all too often challenging, mental exercises thrown in for good measure. When you add on top of that writing from the heart then you have a lot to deal with.

Part of the problem I am having with this nove is I cannot find a way to write it from the heart. I have the entire story in my head. I know every character and every motivation. But I cannot find a way to express that. No matter how hard I try I keep failing. Is it because I know the story too well and there doesn’t appear to be room for experimentation? I don’t believe it. I’ve been writing long enough to know better.

When I look at what I have written it seems dense to me. What I mean is, not necessarily overwritten, but not able to free flow. I know there’s a key to this. I also know maybe I am not ready to write this story. Maybe I will never be.

I have to find a way to write this from the heart. As it reads now it’s stilted and cold. Something like that not only will never be published, it doesn’t deserve to be published.

It’s like every other western story out there. And we’ve seen enough of those. Let someone else write that story. Not me.

There’s a key in there somewhere. I am determined to find it. Maybe I need to throw it all away and start completely over. Not use any of what I have written so far (100 pages) and start completely over. I am beginning to move in that direction. I’ve tried everything else. Kind of scary because of all the work I’ve done so far and then if I try this what if I fail again?

I mean…again? Let’s face something else here. I’m obviously trying too hard. Nothing but frustration will come of that.

All I have now are shadows. I want the heart.

 

Sometimes writing from the heart has all the substance as shadows....

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