Best laid plans

As the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray”.

So there I was, surrounded on all sides by the undead, a goblin army, and several editors, when suddenly…

Stuff happened.

Sure, I was dutifully plugging away at the novel and two scripts (when I needed to think about what was about to happen in the novel) and then I took an arrow to the knee.

No, that’s not quite right. It was a bite to the leg, but on the inside, a bit above the ankle, but nowhere really near the knee. It went unnoticed for 24-48 hours because I am nigh invulnerable and WTF is a tick?

Now I am on a superbly annoying medication that must be taken every 12 hours for TWO WEEKS. Most horrifying of all, is that it must be taken with FOOD or unfortunate things will happen. Given that I have been an intermittent faster for years now, and I typically fast for around 16 hours before eating, this is most vexing.

I was actually on a very focused training cycle that–had it remained uninterrupted–would have taken me nearly all the way to Rippedville, where I then could have undertaken a secondary Quest to get absolutely shredded and subsequently do A THING. I wasn’t even DRINKING for goodness sakes! If you can’t imagine what a sacrifice that is, …what are you even doing here?

But now…that quest must be abandoned. At least temporarily. Perhaps I can attempt it again once the leeches are done with me.

It’s a dark and dangerous world, Adventurer.

The smallest detail can unravel weeks and months of painstaking planning with random crap. The only way to deal with it is to plan more awesome stuff, and go on and do those dungeon crawls. Isn’t that what life is about? Risking life and limb in a dark and fearsome place to maybe get a halfway decent reward with enough hard work? I think so.

The random setbacks of the world just don’t know what kind of stabbity rogue they are dealing with. Yet.

The Ides of March

Oh, Hi.

It appears to be March. Not just March, but the most famous part of March. At this very moment, my Mom is in Vegas for March Madness, and millions of people around the world are observing the now annual traditions of posting amusing references to That One Guy that ignored omens left and right on his way to getting stabbed an unknown number of times.

Even with the aforementioned Holidaze, I had hoped to post an update almost any time prior to now. Yesterday, on the eve of the Ides, I entered a chapbook contest. This was one of my goals for the year, and that is now done. There are several other poems out on submission, four that will see the light of day next month in a magazine, and then there’s that pesky novel that is still being polished up. (Side note: I’ll be looking for a few more beta readers soon. Writers/Editors strongly preferred, but aficionados of crime fiction, detective stories and/or paranormal and urban fantasy novels would also help. If you fall into one of these categories, or know someone who does that may have time or interest in reading and critiquing that manuscript, let me know).

Once that is Finally. Freaking. Done. I have two short projects to work on as it goes through beta feedback and its own submission process. Those will be much more fun to work on since I get to do more than sit in a chair! That should make for a nice change of pace.

Have a safe and happy Ides of March, everyone. Please practice safe scrying and ensure no animals are harmed in any attempts to foretell your futures. Tea leaves are cool, maybe a good astrologer or tarot card reader if you know one. Or maybe you could just stay home and play it really safe.

 

Blackouts and backups

It never fails to fail.

Technology, that is. In 2016, I was writing on a laptop during and after the move, because until things were settled it had the most up to date files for several projects. At the time, I backed them up periodically, as progress was made. This became my practice after losing a large portion of a draft in a hard drive failure about eight years before. For the most part, I’ve kept up with this fairly consistently. There have been a couple of times recently where I failed to backup the most recent fits of progress at the worst possible moments. Murphy’s Law in action, I suppose.

The laptop became stuck in an update loop. It would power on, but the screen remained black. This went on for a while. At some point while trying to get it to come back to life, I realized that I might not have saved some of my work and checked my desktop computer, and my thumb drives, and my cloud storage. I found that several of my most recent poems and some other writing might have just vanished into the nether. One of the poems that will be published this spring was among them. It was still fresh in my mind, and I attempted to recreate it in case none of the original files were recoverable. Long story short, the original version of “Gathering Darkness” was recovered and that is what will be appearing in the magazine in a few months. It’s a good thing, too. My stab at recreating it after the moment of inspiration had passed came nowhere near the same quality.

If past is prologue, this entire process may repeat. Now it’s the desktop that has gone into a coma after an update. So I’m working on an old PC that is still running Windows 7. Much like the time I lost the poems, this has led to about a chapter’s worth of setback. As before, I’ve reconstructed what was lost. In the case of the novel, it may have become better than it was. It wasn’t until I had written just past where I had left off that I remembered how I’d done it previously. If that other computer wakes up someday and the old version is recovered, I’m betting on the second scene being the best of the two.

Either way, even if there is a recovery, there is some time lost. The novel won’t be finished until after the new year. It is close, but no cigar. I’m focusing on the positive–that it will be done soon–& it will be one of two books submitted in 2018. Technical difficulties notwithstanding.

 

 

Holidaze

Happy Holidays!

There. Now that I have formally declared War on Christmas, we can proceed.

This time of year is very nearly non stop holidays for me. Birthday, Thanksgiving, another Birthday, Christmas then New Years Day all within ten to twenty days of each other. There will be a brief respite in January before the anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and then another Birthday come around in February. So I’m a little distracted.

There are a little more than a dozen scenes left to write in my current work in progress. Most of those will be short late breaking news style developments as it rolls towards the conflagration at the end. The final chapter I’ve had in mind since the story idea first hit me. I remarked at some point on Twitter, that if I had any plot holes in the WIP, I could fill them with bullets, and it would work, because it’s noir!  But I believe every question gets answered by the end. I am hopeful that it may be finished by the end of the year, but I don’t do deadlines. I mostly do touchy-feely “is this right for the story?” style check-ins with my muses. Crazy, I know.

Some more of my poems will be published this spring. When that magazine comes out, I’ll have more details. Other poems are out on submission and we’ll see what happens with those. With response times being what they are, I might not know until mid 2018. It is a goal of mine to have the collection submitted next year. There are a few presses I’ve looked into so far, but no decision has been made on that just yet. That too, will lead to more waiting. Everything always takes longer than I expect. Just the way it goes.

One fun thing we were able to do during this Holidaze season, was right after my favorite holiday (Halloween) we got to go to Tucson Comic Con, and it was on the same weekend as the Day of the Dead. So…comics and getting to see the All Souls Procession for the first time! It was the perfect weekend.

I love everything about ComicCon. The comics, the people who like them, the awesome artist’s booths that are always there, the cosplayers, you name it. The celebrity guests are cool too. This year I actually did a photo op for the first time, because it was Gates McFadden! of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In previous years, I’ve attended signings by some of my favorites like Ray Park and Nichelle Nichols, but had never taken part in one of the photo ops. So that was a bit of a different experience. She’s a nice lady. It was a much more brief interaction than the signings, once they verify that the image the photographer has taken is good, they have to move on to the next person in line. When I met Ray Park at the El Paso SciFiCon signing, we had time to chat about martial arts while he was signing my Snake Eyes print. While we were talking, I asked him about the Sleepy Hollow promotional posters he had at his table, and confessed that I had no idea he was in it. He confirmed that he was the Headless Horseman for the fight scenes, and signed one of those for me as well! Which was awesome and unexpected. He’s just a really nice guy. I mention this for a couple of reasons: one, I have been very fortunate in all the interactions I have had as a fan with actors, rock stars, and athletes. All of them have been very kind and approachable. Also, the other personal highlight of this comic con for me, related to fight scenes as well.

Just like that earlier convention, when I randomly one day picked up a copy of What’s Up magazine at a convenience store a few days before the event and the wind blew it open to the page where the first words I read were El Paso SciFi Convention, and the second thing I saw was the name Ray Park. Naturally, my first thought was Ray Park!? I. Am. There. The Force was with me. It knew I’d want to meet Ray, so it made sure that happened. I had the same feeling of serendipity when I saw this on the Tucson ComicCon schedule: The Fundamentals of Fight Scenes.  

If I had come for no other reason, it would have been perfect timing. That other project that I have sometimes mentioned in passing, will involve a lot of fight scenes. While I have (albeit around twenty years ago) taken acting classes, and even an acting for TV and Film class specifically, and I’ve been involved in numerous martial arts demonstrations over the years, both in Kung Fu and Capoeira–I had never actually worked on a choreographed fight sequence for stage or film. Sure, back when I was studying and teaching martial arts actively, we goofed off and recreated some of our favorite Kung Fu movie moments, or made up new ones to entertain ourselves–but that was just for fun.

As that workshop showed me, (it was much more of a workshop, than a panel) staging that kind of choreography to entertain other people–whether that is from the camera’s perspective, or that of where a live audience will be–is very different. There are distances and angles at which our depth perception fails us, and we will totally believe what we are seeing from our perspective. There is an art to it that is just as intricate and challenging as full contact sparring, but the distancing and timing are very different for obvious reasons. This panel answered some of the questions I was planning on asking some of my old Kung Fu and Wushu teachers about, and gave me a very good idea of how I need to be working on things as I develop this project.

After all that, the awesome comics I got (including some Snake Eyes, the Falcon mini series, a cool issue of Marvel team up with the Sons of the Tiger, and the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #19 featuring the very first appearance of the original White Tiger!), we walked down to see the All Souls Procession which was quite an experience. Even with the sullen teen and angsty tween pestering us to just go home already.

So…that was Nov. 3-5th. Meant to write about it earlier, but stuff keeps happening. Now I’m shopping for things for two weeks from now and two weeks after that, and then a month and a half after that. Oh, and everything else I have to do. If you don’t hear from me til oh…somewhere around February 27th or so, it’s the holidaze.

 

Happy Halloween

 

Writing over here gets done in between other tasks. Or after everyone else has gone to sleep. During this fall break, one of those times has been pushed back to late night hours. Progress is made. Slowly, but surely.

A few nights ago, I got word one of my poems will be appearing in the fall issue of Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine! I’m very happy with that, as that particular poem is one of my personal favorites. That may be the only one to find a home from that last round of submissions. Waiting on word from one last literary journal, and then it will be time to pick my next shots.

Those next shots will be a cross genre combination, because as soon as I’ve typed the last words into the novel’s second draft, it will be time to query on that. Once that process begins, I’m hoping to have the time to haul out novel number one, wheel it into the operating room and try to make that Frankenstein monster live. ‘Tis the season.

In one of my other projects, there are three scripts completed, and I am beginning to break down the next three for whenever there is time to start on those story drafts. If I’m lucky, sometime this fall or winter I’ll be able to have some of my mentors look the project over and give me some feedback on it. From there, we’ll get a much better idea of where to take it.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I’m now going to go do nothing but decorate, dress up and take selfies with seasonal filters on until it’s over!

Have wonderful Nightmares before Christmas, everyone.

 

 

 

Lost in the mail

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

At the end of July, I received a response from a magazine editor regarding some writing submitted to them last September. This came as a surprise, because I’d forgotten all about it. September 2016 was when I started submitting work more regularly, and many other pieces had gone out to various publications since then. Some responded within weeks, several within months, and one or two responded within days.

When the lag time between pressing send and receiving feedback is nearly a year, it can be a bit discouraging. If the publication you’re submitting to does not allow for simultaneous submissions, whatever you  choose to send them is off the table until such time as they accept or reject it, or you withdraw it from consideration. Most of the publishers I’ve considered–and all that I’ve submitted to–have wisely chosen to use electronic submission systems. This is as efficient as their process is going to get.

With such long response times being fairly commonplace, especially among the more well known publications, there is not much to be done about it, other than try to make your own process as efficient as you can. For my part, I’ve been rotating among some faster responding sites and periodicals when material becomes available while waiting on responses from one or two of those that take half a year or more.

Some of what I send out next is new writing, some pieces are reloaded and sent off to another prospective home. This varies, depending on what the writing is. Short stories go solo, poems go in groups of threes, fives, or whatever other number a particular editor is willing to accept per submission. Poetry is still a tough sell, as it probably always has been. But, whether it’s poetry or short fiction, there are any number of publications where a given piece of writing might find its place.

As of this moment, I’m awaiting word on three submissions, putting together the next two, and planning where to go after those. Pieces are moving all the time. Keeping the process electronic makes things more efficient for me, and for editors on their end, but there is still the time between.

 


For more updates, follow my Facebook author page, or Twitter.

 

7/7/17

Today is an empty box on the calendar. It’s Friday, which is great, but nothing is scheduled to happen today.

Things that are in the process of happening:

Writing the first of the final chapters in novel #2.
The Nook release of Hidden Leaves will be soon.
Ten poems are out on submission, five are ‘in progress’ in Submittable.
Three scripts are complete in another project. (Story drafts)

My first beta reader has read through all of my current manuscript and pronounced it good. She reads a lot of mysteries, and her comments were encouraging. It’s important to me that it works as a mystery, leaving aside the elements of the story that are more urban fantasy or paranormal. There will be a few more beta readers added after the manuscript is complete.

That’s it!

Time for more coffee and typing.

I hope everyone has a great Friday and an even better weekend.

Writing through depression

Depression runs in my family. Over the years, I’ve had some pretty dark days.

During the time I’ve been working on The Ghosts of Autumn I have experienced a few depressive episodes. The important thing–to me–is that in rereading the manuscript, I can’t tell which days those were. The scenes in the novel are what they needed to be. The best that I could make them be at the time they were written. There isn’t a point in the book where I could clearly say “damn…things must have sucked on the day I wrote that” The dark scenes are dark, the funny scenes are fun, there are light moments in the serious scenes and some darker moments in scenes where the characters are not in any danger. The tone that I wanted to create is there throughout the whole of the story.

I’ve blogged about the depression itself over on my personal tumblr blog, which seems to have become only an annual event (every time I get an email wishing the blog a happy birthday, I remember it and sometimes post something).

I’m mentioning that for only two reasons. One, Tumblr is the only social media site that actually asked me important questions when I searched for a depression related hashtag. It gave me an info page with hotline numbers and asked if I was okay. Then it went on to suggest a few blogs to follow. No other site has done anything like that. It reminded me of an online game I used to play when my girls were very young. Guild Wars was the only game I can recall that did anything like that. It would give a chat message saying something like ‘you’ve been playing for four hours, please take a break‘. In reality, I had been parking my character in safe spots and getting up to go do things like laundry or dishes, checking on napping toddlers, etc. in between completing quests. So I hadn’t actually been playing that entire time, but I appreciated the thought behind it.

The other reason is that whenever I am dealing with a serious depressive episode–or even if I just need a little “me time” to recharge after dealing with too many people, I tend to vanish from social media. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed over the years. If I’ve withdrawn from posting, commenting, and/or even ‘liking’ things, or I just haven’t logged in at all on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram for a few days that’s when I’m not doing okay. If I’m online and interacting with any posts by friends or other accounts that I follow, it’s better than when I’m just not bothering to connect at all.

I might still be feeling down, but if I’m engaging in any way with something someone else has posted it can be a productive thing. Sometimes I am just reaffirming that I am not alone. It can be a way of confronting it and trying to work through it–especially if it is specifically depression related. Other times, I might just be looking for a distraction to help me feel better. Many times, that actually works. Like many creative people, my mind runs at a hundred miles an hour, and doesn’t always stop until I sleep. I’m constantly imagining things, questioning things, and recreating things in my mind. It’s an almost continuous flow. Montages of things real and imaginary, all the time. When stuck in a negative feedback loop, things can go downhill pretty fast. But when I am able to flip the script with a new thought that I like, or a positive emotion, it is possible to ride that right out of whatever funk I am in. Nothing works all the time, but this has happened with just random discoveries online. It’s all in how you use it.

It’s in times like these where staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen can lead to nothing at all, or an eruption of creativity that leaves me wondering why it can’t happen more often. The days where progress is made–or not made–in a less emotional manner don’t leave an impression on me. It’s those times where it’s been difficult to focus through the glitches in my stream of consciousness that have given me the most hope. Because slowly but surely, something that is its own thing has been created through consistent effort. It can be read like any other book I might pick up on a bad day, and the story holds my attention. That’s how I know. In the end, everything is going to be okay.

Character counts

During my last read through of the manuscript for Ghosts of Autumn, I counted character names. Not just any character with a name, but those that are key to the story. They are not all “main” characters, but each moves the story forward in some crucial way.

There are of course many other characters named in the book. Some are in scenes with the primary characters that have the most dialogue, others are named but have no lines or never appear in a scene, and there has even been a couple that were given lines but were not given names. Those were crowded scenes.

As of this post, the story is about 85-90% complete, and there are 45 characters that have large parts in it, or whose parts moved the story forward in various ways.

Those are the characters that advance the plot through their words and actions consistently. At times, some of them have changed the entire trajectory of a scene because a character moment occurred that I didn’t see coming until I got there. That time Lieutenant Blanco quoted my protagonist, Detective Vincent Salvati, as saying “you can’t spell Deacon without OCD.” comes to mind. It seems an offhand comment in the scene, but it was an important character moment for all three of them. Salvati never says this in the book, he is only quoted as “always” saying it. The scene was going somewhere else up to that point, but that was too good to pass up. It has Salvati’s sarcasm, Blanco’s bluntness, and tells the reader something they might not have noticed about Detective Deacon up to that point. All in one line.

There are a lot of moments like that where scenes turned on a character’s personality. I like this cast of characters a great deal. Even when they don’t do what I tell them.

Contrast

A stately procession

of perfect silhouettes

cast in proper fashion

of shadow play etiquette

dissembling (i

t

s

da

mna

b

ly

gninedaed

Projected princes, princesses

Kings, Queens and combatants

a pantomime of yesterdays

successors and advancements

we are

tahw

we

yldetaeper

d

o,

dearie

os t’nod eb a teppup

–turn things on their heads!

–nrut sdaeh no rieht sgniht!

Why not?

© 2016 Peter Newland


Ideas. Where do they come from, anyway?

This poem is one that isn’t going to be submitted again. (It was part of one submission last year as a counterbalance to the more structured poems that I was trying to sell at the time, but no dice). It’s one of those that doesn’t fit anywhere. It may be in the collection I put out whenever there is enough of them to call it a collection. It is interesting, but was just a weird little experiment in styling with some e.e. cummings influenced word play and formatting fun.

It could have gone on, with the same contrasting verses style, but it would have been just more of the same. It’s the rare poem that holds my attention and genuine interest beyond a page length. Once you’ve got the idea across (whatever it is) it is done. Poems are odd things anyway. Even poets don’t always like poetry. I’ve written songs, stories, poems and essays, and every other form of writing is easier to access, understand and comment upon.

It depends as much on mood in the moment of reading as it does on anything else, really. In putting together recent submissions, one day I might feel a verse truly missed the mark, and on another might not see anything else that could have been done with it to convey that idea. So I can understand how someone might look at the above and think “WTF is this crap?” I have myself. At other times, it seems okay. It is just a sort of short hand Socratic dialogue in verse form. “Contrast” is point-counterpoint, call and response structured and non in the same poem.

It is just discussing the pretense we engage in when we structure expression along certain lines, which can be done beautifully, but is a contrivance. So the imagery of pomp and circumstance in some measured, precise lines and then the Jester says “yeah… screw that.

It was fun.

Some of the other poems I’ve struggled with recently are more structured. Some seem to write themselves and the expression of the idea is not terribly difficult to fit into the form I’ve selected. Other times, it’s just brutal. Yes, if we keep working at it, we can always craft the verses into something workable. If we do it well enough, we may even find a way to keep the meaning we intended clear. It’s only when we somehow surpass even that stage that our meaning might be conveyed to a reader  without too much pondering on their part. Writing evocatively becomes more challenging when you are restricted to fewer words. Everyone should try writing poetry and songs, even if that isn’t really their thing. Just making the effort can teach us a great deal.