Is Redneck A Recessive Gene?

One of the things certified-smart-people tell you is that you should read out loud what you write.  Err, read out loud to yourself if you don’t want to experience the fun of soft walls and milk once a week…

I can’t argue with this advice…crap, I won’t argue with it.

The spoken word is very, very different from the written.  It is much easier to get a sense of the rhythm and pace of a passage – whether you wrote it or not – by speaking it than it is by reading.

Even better: run-on sentences and overly complex clauses & wordplay will become very quickly apparent as soon as you try to read aloud.  If you can’t do a sentence in a single breath, it is not only too long, it is way too long.

That isn’t why I’m writing this post.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, the above is good advice.  Shit, I wish it was my advice.  It isn’t.  I have undoubtedly heard/read it from many sources, but the one that really sticks with me is a literary agent named Janet Reid.

If you are not in search of an agent, you’ve likely never heard of her.

Fix that.

I love that woman to death, and she isn’t even my agent.  She is, however, brilliant…and one hell of a source of wisdom for new writers.

Please, just trust me on this: visit both of Janet’s blogs (her personal/agent-ish one and QueryShark). No, really…just do it.  She is the single best resource out there for a new writer.  I’m willing to be a whore for whoever will help me succeed, but Janet is…well…the elite.

Go Janet!

Okay, back to the point.

Reading out loud.

I do this.  It helps.

But, why, for the love of fuck and all that is holy, do I read my own stuff sounding like the narrator from Dukes of Hazard (the show, not the movie)?3c4adb98c271465997e9527b8f5f65c2

Christ-on-a-hockeystick, I’m not even from the goddamned South!

I’m from California!  I can surf, for fuck’s sake!

So just why the hell am I sitting here reading the scenes about Connor in jail and sounding like Waylon-freaking-Jennings?!?

On the other hand, I do have to admit, that (entirely fake) accent does force me to slow down and focus on the words and emphases in my sentences.

Shit, maybe it ain’t so bad after all…

Those Duke boys, they was only out to have themselves a good time…

A Slave To Research

img_0142Remember when I said music and mood (and my surroundings) influence heavily what I write in any particular session? Yeah…well…err…

That ain’t always a good thing. I tell myself to write what I feel at any given time, write the “correct” scene, but…

I never even listened to my mother, why the hell would I listen to myself?

I tried, for the last hour, to write something totally and completely at odds with my mood. Not just off, but way, way off.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so irritating! No, check that…it is pretty damn funny (at least to me).

I was trying to do an angry confrontation scene in prison…while I was feeling, err, less than serious.

Hard to capture that honest reality when you’re laughing while your protagonist is supposed to be enraged. As a practical note: I have to set myself certain goals and schedules when I write in order to avoid wandering off the tracks.

Those random squirrel moments are okay here on the blog, but in the actual story? I get enough shit from people for the language and darkness of the themes/settings, I don’t need to add random stream-of-consciousness shit to the fire, thank you very much!

Okay, so productivity was out. What did I do? Write the drink and music of the week sections for the next couple of weeks, of course!

Now, if I’m gonna write those sections, of course I have to research! And research extensively…and then research some more.

Do I really have to add that I love research?

As a writer there are a million frustrations to the life (money, isolation, money, editors, money, etc…) but there are perks.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go drink some more research.

Cry Havoc! And Let Slip The Snippets Of War!

I haven’t done a snippet for a while, so I guess it’s time. Maybe I’ll shoot for “predictable snippetage” (best part of writing? Making up your own damn words!). Once a month sounds good to me…

As ever, my standard warning very much holds true: these snippets are (extremely) rough drafts. They have not gone through anything resembling my normal editing process, so they are raw and unrefined. They also may or may not make the final manuscript of the story.

Oh yeah, mandatory nanny warning: if you’re sensitive, just know that Connor curses…a lot. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The door slid aside and the guard who had silently escorted Connor from Admin sent him inside with a peremptory wave. He had turned on his heel and was marching away before Connor had taken so much as a single step.

Shit…marching – the guy was literally marching. Connor could all but hear an imaginary band playing some old parade song. Terra Uber Alles, or some such bullshit.

A small laugh, then, cold and bitter, and he stepped through that door. The dirtsiders were even more nuts than the fucking takies.

From the quiet of the corridor, it was like stepping into a completely different universe; a universe of noise and chaos and stench to numb even the most jaded senses. Connor had grown up on the poorest and most crowded station in all of human space, but even Port Oblivion’s infamous dockside had little to rival an enclosed cell-block on a harsh frontier world.

The sound of the lock sealing behind broke Connor’s miserable reverie and he moved forward with a snort. Yells and curses all around, fists banging on metal tables, a poor quality holo blaring some idiotic children’s show, the stench of several dozen men of doubtful hygiene confined and competing for everything.

Home sweet home.

A place he hated. A place he resented. A place he had earned. Three times over, he had earned it.

A wave from a table drew his eye. A table off to one side, under the stairs and isolated…as much as anyone or anything could be isolated in this place. Brian and Rahm. The closest thing he had to…acquaintances in here. Not friends, no. Never friends. Connor had a bad habit of getting his friends killed.

He waved back and moved at a jog to his cell on the second level. Cards and conversation could wait, he had something else to do. Something he did every day, without fail. Something he had avoided for much of his life, a lesson he had truly understood only once he’d entered Chapman Pen.

A quick change into another of the ubiquitous prison uniforms, this one ratty and worn. Blue, Connor’s were, noting him as an inmate considered non-violent and worthy of trust. New prisoners, still untested and unknown, wore orange. The longtime inmates with no particular standing were stuck with tan uniforms that looked as shitty as they smelled. And the red? The red were for the violent nutjobs, the cvok: those who raped and murdered, even in prison.

Pedaling a stationary bike, as fast and hard as he could. Lifting weights, also fast and hard. Stretching and movement, continuing to develop his impressive speed and agility. Connor had never wanted to workout as a kid, had relied on his charm and his brain. And had been sent to prison for five years. No, Oz had been right, as usual: Connor could never again be the skinny, out-of-shape kid he used to be.

The others in the cell-block’s small gym gave him space. Whispered comments, yes. Strange looks, yes. But plenty of space. Throwing an erojiji asshole over the second-level railing would do that for you.

“No, officer, he jumped, I swear…”

No one would disagree with Connor. Especially not after he had cracked the prison’s datanet to erase the automated holo-recordings.

Reputation and respect were life itself in prison. Just like dockside. Just like home.

He would never let this be home, not Connor. No more than he would let himself be a victim. Not again. Not ever again.

A shower, then, fast but thorough. Water wasn’t limited in Chapman Pen, but old habits died hard. Water was precious where Connor came from. Water was life itself. He’d seen people killed for less water than he used in his two-minute shower.

Work: done. Workout: done. Now it was time for school.

He dropped a small jar in the middle of the table as he sat. A grin, then, for the two old men at that table. Both had been inside Chapman Pen almost as long as Connor had been alive. Neither was likely to ever see again the world outside its walls.

It still took thought, and effort, but it was getting easier: the accents and words of dockside were erased from Connor’s tongue, replaced by the still-uncomfortable cadences and slang of Redux’s east side. The poor neighborhoods. The criminal neighborhoods. Connor’s natural habitat.

“Just pulled that shit from the fermenter,” he said with a wave at the plastic jar that once had held soy paste masquerading as peanut butter. It now held something very different: a liquid dark and thick and just slightly effervescent. “I used more fruit this time, so it should be a bit sweeter than the last crap.”

“It better be,” the shorter of the two said with a grimace. “That last batch about peeled the goddamned paint from the walls.”

Short and stout he was, but the fat did nothing to hide the size and strength that even age had not stripped from his frame. The knuckles of his hands were scarred and battered, as was his face. Brian had led a long life before Chapman Pen, a life as dark and dangerous as Connor’s own.

“Screw it, na zdravi!” the other laughed. A reach and a twist of the cap and he took a long gulp. Then he coughed. He coughed a great deal. “Kurva! Boy, is there anythin’ but booze in this? The fruit is about the only thing keepin’ me alive right now!”

Rahm was tall and spare, dark of skin and of eye. His white hair was the barest fringe, clinging desperately to his scalp like some frightened animal. Few teeth remained to him, but he still would never visit the prison’s doctor. “Fuck ’em,” he would answer whenever Connor asked, his voice always full of anger and resentment, “they wouldn’t do shit for me on the outside, why the fuck would they care now? Svine.”

The drink was called pruno, the men had taught Connor, and it was one of the most valuable things you could get your hands on in Chapman Pen. Men with nothing but time and grudges would pay almost anything for the escape of a stiff drink.

If not hard to make, it was challenging to hide from the guards. The fermenting slop that was its base was fragrant, to say the least. These two old men had taught Connor the tricks to use for that even as they taught the recipe.

They had, in fact, taught him a great deal more: the language and culture of Redux’s slums, and of her underworld. It didn’t matter where you went in human space – didn’t matter how wealthy and powerful, how perfect, the world – there were always slums and criminals. Always people like Brian and Rahm…and Connor.

Nothing would mark Connor a stranger in those neighborhoods more than the mix of Japanese, Thai and English that was dockside’s everyday language. No, Redux’s poor spoke something very different, and Connor had to learn how to speak, and how to act, if he were to have any hope of survival on the outside.

Strong the drink might have been, but that was no sin. The cards were dealt and the game began, the jar making its own rounds among the three. Connor still had no idea just what were the rules of this particular game; he just played his cards and moved his little peg on the board when they told him how many points he’d scored. Winning wasn’t really the point, anyway.

He’d tried to live in his cell when he first arrived, in the isolation and loneliness of his own mind. Tried to read, and to learn the guitar. Peaceful and quiet, most would have thought. A reprieve from the colossal noise and crowding he had grown up with, a chance to mourn and to heal after the death of those few he loved.

It was anything but.

The constant screaming and cursing, the banging and fighting, the sheer idiocy of the other prisoners. At least three hundred people, a place this size would have housed back home. Here, on this planet, the sixty-four inside made it feel more crowded than even t-deck. And louder.

He’d been going slowly nuts, isolated and alone and searching desperately for silence, when the two had poked their way into his cell. There was no hesitation with these two, never any reticence or hesitation. Both were inside for the rest of their lives, so what the fuck did they have to lose, anyway? From his first words, Rahm had started making fun of Connor, laughing and mocking, while Brian asked questions.

Connor’s impatience and anger had not made things any better. They had, in fact, made things worse as the two pressed all the harder.

Connor had started to feel ridiculous, then, yelling at two men so impossibly old they looked ready to die at any second. Then the unlikeliest thing in the world had happened: he’d started to laugh. For the first time since Oz’s death, he laughed.

It made all the difference.

They weren’t friends, could never be friends, not to Connor, but they were a connection. Alone was worse…alone was always worse.

“You’re doin’ your time better, Connor,” Brian said as he gathered the cards for a new hand. “That job you weaseled in admin agrees with you. You play this right, you not only live more comfortable but you also maybe squeak a year off your time.”

Kecas,” Connor answered with a laugh that held only a tinge of his usual bitterness, “what in hell I do if I get out anyway? Sure as shit no one here needs a kid who ain’t never lived under a sky.”

A shake of Rahm’s head, both at Connor’s words and at the cards in his hand. “You get out, you go look up my boy. He didn’t follow his papa into the dark side of life. Was too smart for that, my boy. He runs a place in the Camp. Nothin’ special, but he knows plenty of folks.”

The old man’s look intensified and his voice turned from his habitual relaxed drawl to a tone sharp and intelligent, “I’ll tell him to give you a hand, but no favors. You take care of him in return, and you keep your ass out of this shithole, rozumis?”

Connor did understand. Nothing for nothing. No matter where you were in the universe, that never changed. Rahm’s humor and relaxed old-guy attitude were an act, just as much as was Connor’s play at naivety. He could never allow himself to forget this man had once run the biggest gang in the Haze. This was no soft old man, and definitely no fool.

He nodded, then, but deliberately did not match the other’s intensity. No, better to play it soft and easy, always let these two feel like they had the upper hand. Connor needed what they had to teach. “Crap, Rahm, I got four more years in this hole. What was it you told me back when? ‘Do your own time and live in the day.’ That’s me, jus’ doin’ my time.”

A joke from Brian, and the game continued. And Connor continued to lose. He could count on one hand the number of games he’d won in the eight months he’d been playing cards with these two.

The big door by the guard station opened and all eyes turned, as they always did when that door slid aside. It was a necessary habit in prison, a tool of survival that only the terrified new inmates – the fish, as they were called – or the crazies who had lost themselves, ignored.

All were expecting the dinner cart, pushed by blue-clad inmates. The younger, and stupider, prisoners were already lining up, eager to receive the shit-filled-trays the prison called food. Only the colors and textures on those trays changed, the taste never did.

But it was not the cart, not the blue-clad kitchen workers.

Instead in rushed a group of guards. A lot of guards. A godawful lot of guards.

“Shakedown!” the watch sergeant bellowed. “Into your cells! Move it!”

Connor wasn’t one of those screaming curses and abuse at the guards as all moved to their cells. No, he had bigger things to worry about…like where to hide a gallon of illegal prison wine.

Shit.

 

The Dangers of Music

Since I just recently made the changes to this blog to reflect my interest in music (yes, as well as booze), I decided I should do a post on music itself.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not a music blog. This is not going to be a music blog. Quite simply, I have neither the access nor the knowledge to pull off something like that.

Nope, this is still a blog about writing. Specifically, a place for me to (kinda-sorta) trace the process of writing a novel. One specific novel: The Silence That Never Comes.

But…

But music is important to me, and to my writing. It is a key part of the environment and atmosphere I need in order to write. Just as much as I need a place with life around me (coffee place, taproom, etc…), I need to have the right music playing (blaring) in my ears.

Now, to the point: there is danger in music. Great danger. {queue the Yoda-music}

At least for me.

There is always the danger of losing myself in the music I’m listening to. If I can’t lose myself in it, why the hell am I listening?

I’ve written stories in the past that were not based so completely on emotion…not based, to be honest, on characters and ideas that are so overwhelmingly emotional to me. Those stories sucked.

It took Connor and Oz – okay, let’s be honest, it took Oz! – to make me write stories that truly mattered to me, and truly reflected my own emotions and perceptions.

And that made everything better.

But…

But those stories have a lot of music at their heart. When I listen to songs and albums that are important to me, I have two real choices: I either write, or I sit in silent contemplation like some crazy freakin’ monk and let the music take me (and my mind) away.

A great deal of the time it is the second, by the way.

Especially if I’m drinking…sorry, but that’s just plain reality. I know, I know, I get in trouble for “glorifying” booze, but the simple fact is that it is a part of life.img_0139 Yes, Ben Franklin was right: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

The same lowering-of-inhibitions that makes me the most attractive human in the bar, however, also makes me throw myself into the emotion and meaning of the songs with which I have surrounded myself.

In the end, it comes down to a simple choice: focus on the music, or focus on the writing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat there, pen in hand and paper at the ready*, but my mind lost in the music…and in the imagery it brings.

*Remember, I use different ways to write for different things: hand-writing for background and supporting material, typing for the story itself (and for these posts).

When I am writing scenes this is, thankfully, less of a problem. I obsess about my characters, and about my stories. Very little has the power to pull me away from writing them. The other, supporting stuff however? That’s a different story.

God forbid I start talking (or thinking) about editing….

Talking about editing is, in my mind, like talking about burying the dead. It’s necessary – vital, even – but I really don’t want to do it myself.

I should probably point out: I am writing this particular post at this particular time because I was sitting there on the patio, enjoying the sun and trying to write, and I got too deep into the music…

Maybe 600 words I wrote. Even handwriting, I should do double or triple that in a single sitting. If I’m typing, it’s more like 3,000 words…

That’s the big challenge in my life*: using the music to help me write, but not letting it take control. If I ever figure out that balance, I’ll be fucking gold.

*Bills? Failed romances? Pshaw…child’s play! I can ignore those and pretend they don’t exist. Music, on the other hand, not so much…

The World, Darkly (thanks Star Trek!)

Things are kinda odd at the moment. Even though I’ve started writing scenes for Silence, I still haven’t finished some of the normal prep work. Oh, the big stuff is done, but I’ve still got a handful of character pieces hanging over my head.

The most important of those remaining are the major-character POV summaries. Basically, in addition to the other summaries/synopses I write, I also do a brief run through the story from the POV of each major character. It helps me to find holes, and to make sure I understand and take into account their motivations and needs.

Since the story itself is told solely from the POV of an eighteen-year-old, emotionally broken, alcoholic thief, it’s important that I understand and keep faith with these characters. But how do I express their positions and actions through Connor’s perceptions if even I don’t understand them? It is depressingly easy to lose sight of the needs and wants of secondary characters (no matter how important) when Connor’s voice and personality are so dominant in the story…and in my head.

With that being said, there is something rewarding – cathartic, even – in the piece I am currently writing. The character in question is hugely important to Connor, and has a correspondingly major role in the plot. He is also a douchebag of the first order, as well as being a borderline psychopath. Think Ted Bundy with a massive bank account and you begin to get a picture of this particular character… His perspective stands in such stark contrast to Connor’s that writing it is actually pretty refreshing.

One thing is certain: this dude definitely gets a different soundtrack from Connor! More angry, “fuck you” music and less bitter, emotional stuff.

And yes, Connor pretty much wants to beat the crap out of him from the first minute they meet…

Squirrel!

most-interesting-squirrelOh good grief, I am in suit-hell. No, literally…I am surrounded by dudes (and a couple of ladies) in suits.

It gives me the creeps.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I did my time wearing a shirt & tie every day. Never liked it, but spent my share of time on that side of the professional fence.

Forget the wars in the middle east, Vietnam, Korea, WWII even…real PTSD* is flashing back to the neutral-colored hell of corporate America.

*Public Service Announcement for the Humor-Challenged: this is an intentionally hyperbolic, snarky joke.

So, back to this morning… There I was, sitting in a coffee place getting ready to write (which looks suspiciously like gulping gallons of coffee while browsing news websites, but is – of course – something far more artistic, intellectual and challenging) when in comes the Brooks Brothers mafia.

The entire place fills up and I start to squirm. There’s freakin’ khaki and pinstripes everywhere I look. Battered cargo shorts, a comfy old flannel shirt, flipflops and a scruffy beard are most assuredly not a good way to blend in.

I haven’t felt this out of place since I was fifteen…

That’s the bad news.

The good is that Connor gets a…err, we’ll just call it a “real job” for now and leave it at that. This feeling, the one I’ve got going even as I type this post, is pretty much exactly how he feels on his first day at work.

Except he’s better looking than I am…and pretty much robbing the assholes blind.

Yay, Connor!

A Trip To The Darkside

Alright, so I guess I kinda have to go down a road I generally avoid on this blog: sports.

The Super Bowl. The damned Super Bowl. Yep, even the nerd sci-fi writer is gonna go there…

I’ve hinted a couple of times, but I’ll say it flat out here: I am something of a sports nerd. Now, that nerdism is mostly in terms of hockey (the only sport that really matters in the Universe), but I can sit here and talk football – of both the American and the rest-of-the-world varieties – until the cows, err, flatulate on their way home. I definitely ain’t gonna sit here ’til they actually come home.

Cows are creepy.

Tasty…but creepy.

As a helpful public service reminder: please remember that I do not generally post these things the same day I write them. I am in fact, at this point, about a week ahead in terms of the number of posts I’ve got queued up. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ll go back and edit the damned things…that would just be silly. And annoying to me…far too much like work.

Nope, you still get my stream-of-consciousness stuff. Depending on my drinking habits that day, that may or may not be a good thing.

Crap…never mind. Back to sports.

Two of the guys in Super Bowl LI were villains. Actually, they’re on the edge of being img_0031super-villains. Let’s be honest: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are Palpatine and Vader. They are the two people that (most of) the US loves to hate. They make the Kardashians look like Mother Theresa, Ghandi and MLK all rolled into one.

Can’t you just see Belichick sitting there on his throne, hood up and eyes all-but glowing red, “Now witness the power of this fully armed and operational offense!”

That man comes across as simply a miserable human being. And Brady? Shit, if there is a more smug, arrogant, annoying piece of……err, sorry, got distracted for a second there.

That being said, the two are also the GOAT*s in their respective roles. No one touches Belichick as a coach. Crap, no one even comes close…he is a man amongst boys as a head coach.  I might not like the man, but I have to acknowledge that he is the perfect leader. From vision to definition to execution, no one can match that son of a…crap, sorry. Again.

*If you don’t know: GOAT = Greatest Of All Time. You’re welcome.

And Brady? I’ve thought my entire life that Joe Montana was the GOAT. That man simply won games. He could barely throw the ball past the damned tackles, but he somehow found a way to win. Every damn year. But Tom Brady? Shit. That assho…gentleman just willed his team to one of the best victories that I’ve seen in…never mind.

I’m not getting older, I’m dry-aging for more taste…

Even I can’t argue the case anymore. Brady wins. That’s it, he just wins. And that’s what a quarterback, and a leader, is supposed to do: win. Everything else is just numbers and contract negotiations.

No, he didn’t win as a “Fuck You” to the NFL. No, he didn’t win because he had a chip on his shoulder. He won because that’s what he does.

Now, how does that relate to writing?

Well, besides needing to find a couple stories to pay off my Vegas losses, those two start to make me think of antagonists…and of expectations and actions.

When is a bad guy not a bad guy?

When he delivers more than the supposed “good guys”. When the results of his actions fuck with your expectations and prejudices.

As writers we always have to think about motivations and philosophies. It’s just part of the job description. But – and there’s always a ‘but’ – reality (in the form of existentialism, and Sartre) says there is no such thing as motivations. There are only choices, actions, and consequences.

Err, kinda like the barebones reality of a story’s plot…imagine that.

No matter the motivations of people like Bill Belichick or Tom Brady, their actions – and the consequences of those – will define them for all time. In this case, those actions happen to be winning football games. Who cares if Brady did it because he resented being drafted low? Or if Belichick is as good as he is because he sold his (tiny, worthless) soul* to the devil? It’s the consequences that matter.

*Sorry…resistance really is futile. If you haven’t guessed, I am NOT a Patriots fan. In spite of living for five years in New England, I still view them as….well, let’s just leave it at that, shall we?

In writing terms, something similar happens when you confront your protagonist with a choice between two antagonists/opponents that are both “evil”.

As a note, I do not write characters specifically to be “good guys” or “bad guys”. No one is purely one or the other. No one sets out to be that comic-book character who “does evil” just to “do evil”. Those characters don’t even make good comic book characters, let alone someone in a full-fledged novel.

Shit, just to offer a couple realworld examples: the one of the most reviled and villainous kings in British history, for good reason, is John (of Robin Hood fame). He very much earned that revulsion, and his reputation for villainy. He also did more to give access to the courts and justice to the lower classes than any British monarch for several centuries.

Other examples?

Richard III put a great deal of effort into ruling well. After assassinating his 11- and 9-year-old nephews to usurp the throne.

Queen Mary was incredibly pious and devout. She made major efforts to help the poor and smooth over the bumps and pitfalls of life for them. She also burned alive more Protestants in her short reign than the entirety of the Spanish Inquisition…there is, after all, a very good reason she was called Bloody Mary.

See, this is why I gave up on reality. I like living in my own mind. Somehow, it has turned out to be less fucked up than reality.

Oz & Connor may disagree.

Shit. Somewhere, there was a thread and a point to this post. I seem to have lost it somewhere between a pint of brown ale and a bourbon-barrel-aged sour.img_0032

That train of thought went off the tracks, hit a moose, launched into orbit and landed on a whole different planet.

Remember when I warned you about (potential) drunk bloggin’?

Yeah, me either.

What Are We Drinking Today?

Okay, so…food and booze.

Some day I want to write a story where those two are the main focus…

I am – to put it bluntly – a complete nerd (and whore) for good food and good booze. The good news is that I’m also a pretty good cook. The bad is that I couldn’t ferment, brew or distill if you held a gun to my head.

I have also travelled extensively, and know a decent bit about quite a few cultures/societies. In my world – and I am not alone in this – every society/culture is expressed best through its food and booze. A close second, I will add, is through a culture’s music.

I have had unforgettable meals with foods and peoples I never even imagined as a kid. In fact, I remember and know far more about those cultures where I ate and drank with regular folks than about those cultures I formally “studied” in college.

The good thing is that we have available almost anything you can imagine here in the US. The bad thing is that, unless you are in the right area, most of what we have is a pale imitation of the real thing.

Go buy yakisoba here in the US…if you are not in certain neighborhoods in LA or San Francisco, that dish will bear zero relationship to the yakisoba you get in Japan. God forbid we start talking about bibimbap or pho or even a real street taco.

Shit…this is why I love travel! And, yes, like pretty much everything else in my life, when I travel I turn the knob to eleven. There is no such thing as over-doing it, nor as going “too deep” into a culture…

Food and booze actually figure more heavily into my stories than the words themselves let on. Those two things are important factors in communicating the mood and temperament of my characters and the situations they face.

Beyond that, however, they also communicate a bit about me – communicate, even, what I am craving as I write. Connor once noted the smell of a yakisoba place as he walked through the crowded alleys of his res-hold. Yep, you guessed right – the writer was hungry as shit at that point.

Now, while the food might represent me to a degree, the booze is a bit more symbolic. Is it shitty shochu? Or decent beer? Or high-end scotch? Each of those carries a different connotation and meaning that communicates something about the character (and their circumstances) as they order/drink.

On a side-note: there is a standing inside-joke involving beer. I work into every single story I write the brewery my friends own (and, yes, the place where I do a lot of my writing). Every single story. It ain’t always easy to find, but it is always there.

That being said, my own personal prejudices also come into play. You could not, for instance, pay me to drink rum, so none of my characters do. You will know, in fact, if ever a character of mine does drink rum, that I hate and want to kill that particular person!

With the characters I care about, on the other hand, you see stuff closer to what I personally like. There’s a good reason why Oz is a whiskey drinker…

With all that in mind, I am going to make some changes to this blog over the next couple of weeks. This topic will gain a certain amount of space on the page: in addition to a small section for an “album/song of the week”, I am going to add a section for a “drink of the week”.

I did think about doing a “brewery of the week” as well (yes, I love beer!), but that would cut just a bit too close to a different sort of writing I do. So, while I will talk about individual beers, I nixed the idea of doing so for breweries themselves as I don’t want to cross the streams on this particular (pseudo-anonymous) blog.

One Song To Rule Them All

Son…of…a…bitch…

I found my song.

You know what I’m talking about: that one key song that captures the emotion and intent of a story. That one song that captures the focus and inspiration of the story, and of the most important character(s).

No?  Maybe it’s just me…

At any rate, for Wrath & Tears it was “Ghosts That We Knew”. Of course other songs were also important (I once mentioned a playlist I have of the 25(ish) songs that really mattered to Wrath), but that one rose above as the instigating, driving force.

Silence is already building a soundtrack that is floating around inside my head, but nothing that has really risen to hit that top mark.

Until now.

And, goddammitalltohell, wouldn’t you know it…Mumford & Sons did it to me again.

I might love Gaslight Anthem, and have a man-crush on Chuck Ragan, and play Eric Bibb until my ears go numb, but Mumford & Sons is still very much a go-to sound for me.

When their third album came out – Wilder Mind – I wasn’t initially sure what to think of it. To be honest, it sounded more like a lovechild between The Fray and X-Ambassadors than it did Mumford & Sons. But it grows on you.

Oh does it grow.

I listened. And I listened. And the volume kept going up and up (sorry, neighbors!).

Some good damn songs on that album. But one…one in particular…it echoes the themes Connor is wrestling with, and suffering from. It echoes where he is, and where he is going:

“Only Love”

Oh yeah.

Time to go write some more…

 

I Needed That

I was cruising around my town’s little(ish) downtown area, waiting for inspiration to strike as to where I wanted to have lunch – and yes, my life is made up of such important, momentous thoughts! – when I went left instead of right…

A couple of blocks of walking and I passed a coffee place I had seen a few times, but never entered. I’d wanted to try it a few times, but never quite got around to it. On some random impulse I decided to change that.  I went inside.

I’m glad I did.

I don’t do big chains for, well, much of anything (other than my currently-frustrated In-n-Out addiction). I much prefer to support small, local businesses. This new place is just that: a tiny, two-person local operation. It also had a crowd that was…eclectic, imageto say the least. It was definitely an interesting place to try.  I liked it.  Sadly, it was also a bit pricey for someone who drinks as much coffee as I do – no free or cheap refills makes me a sad panda.

It wasn’t the shop itself that convinced me to write this post, however. It was the people. It was one group in particular. I’m not sure if it was a halfway house, a social-worker thing, a church group, or some other beast, but…

But there it was: a group of three teen-age streetkids and a couple of adults.

I didn’t eavesdrop, I promise, but I couldn’t help but overhear a bit…it was a good group. That still isn’t what got me, however.

Connor was there.

No, really, I mean it. Connor, in the flesh, was right fucking there!

A kid who couldn’t have been more then sixteen or seventeen, hiding behind long, dirty-blond hair and slouching a bit to hide his height. Dirty secondhand clothes, a foul mouth he was trying (and failing) to control…

I felt like I knew him.

It’s weird what sets you off, or at least what sets me off. All of those other ghosts I mentioned a couple days ago? They took one look at ersatz-Connor and shut the fuck up.

From a morning that was, at best, only semi-productive, things turned around and I got three scenes planned and outlined. That actually is a good amount for me to do in one morning. A very good amount. Even better, as I write this I’m itching and impatient to head off (yes, to the taproom) to write at least one of those scenes.

Maybe it’s just me, but randomly running into a kid who could’ve been the real-life model for my main character was, while a bit weird, also pretty damn funny and very invigorating.

As a final thought: if I ever run into a “real-life” Oz*, I’ll be completely fucked.

*Yup, still my favorite character…and the only one who makes me feel guilty about doing “really bad things” to him as the writer.