How Do You Choose?

Random writing, today.

I’m working on the fantasy series I want to write.  Unfortunately, the series I have in my mind is…well…it’s at least two different series.  Two different ones, but both do I want to write.  Both have characters I like, and stories I believe in.

How do you choose?

The worst torture the Romans could ever dish out was simple: line up the entire the family, then ask the father which child lived and which died.  The father always gave the Romans whatever they wanted.

So, for me, which story lives, and which dies?  Into which story do I plunge the dagger?

Okay, so no story every really dies…but putting one off for a couple of years (at the minimum) feels a whole lot like killing it…

Like that father, how do you choose?

No, really, how do you choose?

The story not of the young kid who wields a magic sword to become king, but rather the story of the sword so dedicated that he seeks out the last survivor of “his” family…

Or the story of the bitter immortal — the “angel” exiled for his part in the lost war in heaven — who wants nothing more than the grey numbness of oblivion…

I love Connor and Oz.  Err…well…Connor is a great character, and a great narrator, but it is Oz who I actually love.  It is Oz who is my favorite character.  But their time is coming to a close.  Once their third story is written, that’s it.

Hell, if I’m honest, there never should have been more than one.  Somewhere Peaceful to Die was written to have no sequel…but I couldn’t let those characters go.  The Silence That Never Comes and The Flicker of Ghosts came (are coming) because I couldn’t let go of those two characters.  But the time has come to finally let go…

So what fills the blank?  The stories of devotion and innocence that drove my youth?  My take on the Belgariad and the Chronicles of Amber and the Lord of the Rings?  Or…

Or…

Or, a more deeply personal tale?  A tale built on experience and reality?  A tale of a weary life lived among those far younger?  A tale of bitterness and loss amidst the joys and innocence of youth…?

It would help, of course, if one had a character that stood out more for me than the other…but both call to me:

Finntan’s hope, the innocence of his life, and the dedication of the magic items that dedicate themselves to him…

Versus the world weary insouciance of Runae…versus the concept of the once-great wanting nothing more than the forgetfulness of death…

How do you pick which child lives and which dies?

How do you choose between the hope and love that you wish the world was, and the bitter pain that you know the world actually is?

I tried conflating them, I really did.

Yeah, it was worse than you think it was.

Those two cannot be combined.  Not in any way.  I tell either Finntan’s story, or I tell Runae’s.  I can’t combine the two…not any more than I can plan out to a third series!

*sigh*

This is why, of course, writers get paid the…ahem…small bucks.

If I had wanted to get rich, I would’ve been a plumber.

Musical Note — the song below is one I love. It is a song that has not specifically been a part of anything I’ve conceived or written, but rather has elements that touch on everything I’ve written (not to mention having the best song line ever: “If you’ve never stared off into the distance / Then your life Is a shame”)…

Musical Addendum

A friend of mine just got on me to expand the repertoire of songs I use on these posts.

Oh, she understands the soundtrack I use when I’m writing, but she also knows my library is a whole hell of a lot larger than the videos I link here…

Fine. I’m still going to keep with the writing theme, however. In fact, the two additional songs I’m throwing on this post both come from the “soundtrack” for Connor and Oz.

One friendly reminder, by the way: I love dissonance. I love finding the parallels and truths in things that seemingly have nothing to do with each other. The two songs I am linking here are firmly in that dissonant camp of having nothing to do with each other. When you look deeper, however…

A song about being on the biggest stage of your life, about stepping up and putting everything into that one chance. {Edit — a friend once told me that when he stepped on the ice for the first shift of his NHL career, this song was going through his head}:

And, to be as dissonant as possible, the alternative soundtrack to the final scene of Somewhere Peaceful to Die (because, well, what could be more dissonant than innocent kids singing Oz into death?):

The Things Of A Life

It sounds stupid, but I’m struggling with what to write.

Oh, not just here on the blog, but in general.

It’s not that I’ve lost my vision or focus. Rather it’s that I’ve lost…well…habit.  Look, like most writers, I’m a creature of habit. I need a place to go have coffee…and to write.  I need a taproom to go drink beer…and to write.

Okay, let’s be honest: most writers have a strong relationship with obsession, and with the compulsiveness that so often rides shotgun with that.  For me, that means I need to get into a rhythm in order to really write.

What I don’t need is…what I have right now.  What I have right now ain’t workin’.

Over lunch a friend and I talked about this.  Now, I didn’t phrase my side to be bitching about writing in general, I phrased it as bitching about coming up with posts for this blog…

Err, sorry for using you as a dodge.

Anyway, my friend threw a suggestion at me.  Now, when I first considered his thought — and even in the hours after — I dismissed his suggestions.  “Nope, no one wants to read that.  I’ve tried shit like that, and the numbers of reads and likes went through the floor,” I replied.

“Wait…how much do you get paid from your blog?”

“Uhhh…”

“Exactly.  Fuck the reads and likes, and any of the other zero dollar metrics you talk about.  Just write what you want.”

Ahem.

I’m struggling with what to write — especially since you couldn’t bribe, threaten or otherwise cajole me into writing another freaking word about Trump and where he is taking this country.  Nope.  So, instead…my friend’s idea…

“You’ve travelled the world, right?  You’ve pretty much done everything?”

Err…yeah.  I have.

“Write that, you fuckin’ moron.”

I thought about what that looks like.  Now, my experiences — the things I’ve seen and done — are freaking everywhere in the fiction I write.  I can’t be ME and not write about them…

—That night, at 2:00 am outside a convenience store in Arizona, when the hooker was on the pay phone while her two or three year old daughter clung to her leg…

—That roma woman who read my palm, then literally cursed me because I didn’t have any euros to give her…

—That time I almost got arrested because I’m an obsessive idiot…

—That time I got passed-out drunk on a Royal Navy destroyer…

—The thirty seconds I spent standing inside a gas chamber at Auschwitz…

—The time I watched a wolf pack spend twelve hours taking down a bison…

But none of that is what I should write about, I decided.  Nope.  Firstly, I’ve written about most of that on this blog before.  And secondly…none of that defines, well, me.

Oh, it shaped me…it meant a ton to me…but the heart and emotion of it?

Yeah, it is those experiences that I haven’t yet talked about that I need to use here.

This is going to be a series of posts, by the way.  I have to organize the damned thing somehow, and doing 2-3 posts makes the most sense to me.  So, here comes the first of those…

This first post is going to be the top memories my parents (and their generation) will hate.  Sorry, Mom and Dad.

Oh, wait…a rule!  Hit play on the song I have listed here.  Don’t worry about the video, just listen to the song as you read. It not only is one I absolutely love, it is what I am listening to as I write this):

5) Stevie Ray Vaughn in concert at Huntington Beach, CA — Sting and Phil Collins came on to play two songs with him.  I cried…it was that freaking magical.

4). Phish in concert at Loring Air Force Base — at the time, the base had been freshly closed.  Over the several days of the concert, it became the largest “city” in Maine.

3)  A nameless rave in Berlin — in some random warehouse set-up for an underground event, it marks the first time I ever tried ecstasy.  If you’ve read my story “A Night Like This”…well…yep, there you have the genesis…

2)  (Kinda) Breaking into St Peters Basilica — very literally, I ran over a priest while viewing the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  It turns out the priest was (a) American, and (b) newly working at the Vatican.  When I told him that I was lighting candles for my sister in every cathedral I came to, he let me into a side chapel in St freaking Peter’s freaking Basilica to light a candle.  I still miss you, Sally.

1)  (Really) Breaking into the Colosseum — staying in Rome for the first time in my life, I had toured everything,  Except the Colosseum.  That was closed because there was a concert that weekend.  Paul fucking McCartney had decided to make me wait to view the damned thing!  Nope. Along with a few others, I…uhh…toured the place “after hours”.  I was quite literally standing in the middle of that partial floor, trying to imagine what it felt like with everyone staring at you, when the flood lights kicked on and the cops started yelling.  I was faster, then.

The Perfect Evening

Well…I didn’t sink the boat.

I didn’t sink the boat and I got to spend a week on the water.   A week that was about three years too short…

As good — and as needed! — as it was, that wasn’t what I sat down to write about.

Nope.

I sat down to write a post about the death and destruction of our shared spaces.  About the lack of “commonality” that is one of the big things tearing at our society.

I sat down to write about that, but it is topic that is going to take a lot more thought and planning than I had done before I can really do a decent post on it.

But I still have the urge to write…still have the urge to put out something.

I’ve lived all over the US.  I’ve travelled all over the world.  I have — not to be an arrogant asshole — been places, and done things, that most people only dream about.  Aside from the images captured in my photography and my writing, I have the memories and experiences that are as real to me now as the hour I experienced them.*

*Yeah, yeah, it’s that “perfect” eidetic memory thing.  Welcome to my world.

I remember climbing a hill on an island off Croatia’s shore, only to stumble into a meadow with the most vibrant purple flowers I have ever seen…

I remember the oppressive weight of walking through a block of old-school Stalinist apartment blocks in Poland…

I remember standing in a gas chamber in Auschwitz…

I remember walking into Saint Peter’s Basilica for the first time and thinking, “Good God!”…

I remember the smells and sights of the souk in Marrakech, and of the spice market in Nice…

I remember the adrenaline — the chaotic mingling of fear and excitement — of my first face-to-face encounter with a 750 pound grizzly…

But do you know what sticks with me?  I mean what really stays in my mind…and in my soul?

65DA41BA-92C5-4FA8-84C8-81BA51576E3DI remember sitting on a hill not too far outside of Kyoto, an hour or two after sunset, and watching the fireflies.  The barking of a family of foxes in the distance…the stars coming out overhead, clear and bright…the humidity holding the heat for far too long…the fatigue in legs and mind from a day spent exploring a place in which — in spite of speaking the language and knowing the culture — I still felt more alien than I ever had before…and the, well, freaking magic of fireflies…

Look, I had seen plenty of the damned things in my life.  I went to (my second) college in Maine, for heaven’s sake, and we had no lack of the damned things up there…

I had seen them, but never before had I come close to the experience of that evening.  Never before had I experienced that kind of power, that kind of magic.  Never before had anything touched my soul like that evening.

It was perhaps the most perfect moment I have ever experienced.

For every shitty, miserable moment I have experienced, and have written — and there’ve certainly been enough of both — there are just as many of those special moments of power and memory to offset them.

Even more, there is the magic of the fireflies…