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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

So, I binged the first six episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)…..

…….and let me first just say one thing.

Holy Douglas fir trees, Agent Cooper!

There are so many details to marvel at, that I’m not even going to attempt to put them into words.  I will, however, wax rhapsodic over how the story evolved over these six episodes, going from disconnected, strange pieces to what appears to finally settle into some kind of pattern that I’m not entirely too sure of, yet.

There won’t be any spoilers in this post, mainly because instead of focusing on the show itself, I’d have been writing down what happened as it happened.  That’s not conducive to enjoying the show.  I expect that, when I have this season on Blu-Ray or DVD, I’ll be going over it again and again and again, to catch every little detail.  Because that’s what the Pause and Search buttons on the remote are for.

“I’ll see you again in 25 years.”

So said Laura Palmer Dale Cooper towards the end of Episode 29 of the original series (22, if you’re going by season).  It was worth the wait and I’m glad I was able to watch multiple episodes of Season Three.  It would have been nerve-wracking waiting for it each week, trying to keep up with the details and the symbolism and what it all means.

Laura Palmer still seems to be the main thread that runs through the entire story of Twin Peaks and Dale Cooper is still trying to unravel it – or reweave it into a new pattern.

In any case, I have to wait on seeing the next few episodes.  As nerve-wracking as that may be, I’m glad – being able to binge-watch several episodes actually helps keep the continuity flowing and I went from seeing multiple, seemingly unrelated episodes scatter different pieces around to watching as they started to coalesce into something concrete.

What that is, I’m not entirely certain.  But I’m looking forward to finding out.

What I call Gordon Cole’s The Blue Rose Missing Pieces Edition.
Because I can.

So, I’m getting close to writing ‘The End’ on my Novel In Progress….

……and I know this because I’m distracting myself every ten or fifteen minutes.

If it’s not a post on Facebook, or a handful of tweets, or even preparing a few entries for my Patreon page, it’s channel surfing. Or I’m surfing the internet, looking up articles for new story ideas.

I’m procrastinating, in other words.  Not an unusual thing, but a definite habit.  Because once it’s done, it’s done.  There’s no going back…..well, okay, that’s not true, because there’s editing and revising and moving whole chunks of narrative around or eliminating altogether.

The point is, writing ‘The End’ on a story means that I no longer have this project to go back to, in the manner that I’m used to.  Now, when I go back to my novel, it will be to murder my darlings (words, for the lay person) and tighten up the narrative.

I’m distracting myself right now, writing this blog post.  And in a few minutes, that distraction will carry itself over to errands that need doing in town.  Maybe even lunch.

And when all that is done and behind me, I will fire up this computer, open up that document and throw words at it until I have no more.  Take a deep breath, throw some more words in, move things around and I will keep doing that until I am forced to write the inevitable.

‘The End.’

The Manuscript in Question.

So, I had my first solo book reading a few days ago…..

……and I learned a few things from that experience.

  1. I could have had more material prepared to read. [1]
  2. Given that it was a hot day, I could have brought some refreshments. [2]
  3. It was suggested I stream it live on Facebook for others who weren’t able to attend to share in the experience. [3]
  4. I now have a better sense of timing it. [4]
  5. Confidence is key.

Those five things are my immediate takeaways from the experience.  I had a lovely crowd of 11 and I sold one book.  Successful turnout?  I’d say so.  This was, as I’ve indicated, my first solo book reading.  I’d been a part of a couple of book readings before, including one at a writers conference.  That event involved multiple authors – in both cases, the only ones in the audience to hear me read were the other authors. [5]

The biggest takeaway for me was being confident in my own work.  It’s easy to hide oneself in a crowd of like-minded and talented writers.  But here, I was exposed to the public, vulnerable, easily seen.  I couldn’t hide.

Still, I did it.  And that takes a bit of courage.

So now, for the next book reading I prepare, I have a better sense of what to do.

And that, you can be sure, I’m looking forward to. 🙂

[1] It took a combined total of maybe 10 minutes to read the two pieces I had selected.

[2] Lemonade and water would have been my first choice, obviously, but the location was in the conference room at the local library, so that’s a possibility I need to check on for next time.

[3] I hate to admit it, but I’m not sure how to work the streaming feature on Facebook, though I’m sure someone might have been able to figure that out. Next time!

[4] I had created an event page and blocked out two hours.  In reality, it took just under an hour. Now I know.

[5] The other authors read amazing excerpts from their works – the only negative was that none of us made any sales.  And we should have.

So, I’ve wrapped up my Twin Peaks re-watch…..

……and, as always, it was a fun trip, filled with secrets, damn fine coffee and people who are both familiar and strange.  It refreshed my memory of what happened to the characters before and after the mystery of Who Killed Laura Palmer.  It also raised new questions in light of the images that the new series has released from the new season.

I stopped trying to avoid spoilers or commentary about the season.  My reasoning for doing so is this – it’s David Lynch.  One could create an entire university in order to study his methods, his ideas and his philosophy and not get any closer to understanding than “He’s different; he creates thought-provoking material; I don’t get it, but I like it”.

Or not, as the case may be.

In any case, I’m looking forward to immersing myself into this unexpected and much-longed for third season of Twin Peaks.  It’ll be nice to see how the citizens of this fictional town have fared over the years, what they’ve been up to and how their stories will unfold.  I wonder if the owls are still not what they seem and if music is still playing in the air.

I’ve got my coffee brewed and my snacks allocated.  I can’t eat donuts or pie anymore (sugar gives me a headache), but I think Dale Cooper would approve.  The Good Dale, anyway.  I’m sure the Bad Dale would scarf down anything he chose to.

What I call Gordon Cole’s The Blue Rose Missing Pieces Edition.
Because I can.

So, lately, I’ve been feeling really angry…..

…..and it’s about nothing that I can put a finger on and say “Ha! I see this, it is making me angry and I will correct it and turn that feeling around to a more positive (if not happy) feeling!”

It’s more of a free-floating anger about life in general.  It’s a thought that hovers just outside my conscious thinking, present, but not the focus.  I’m not sure, really, why I’m feeling this anger, this hot brick of energy that sits squarely on my chest and in my mind.  I just know that it’s there, it’s wanting my attention and that I am going to have to address it in order for it to go away.

Or, at least, to put myself in control of my feelings, rather than let it (or any other feeling) have control of me.

This is where I know my art and my writing will help.  By putting my emotions on canvas, I’m acknowledging what’s going on inside my mind.  By writing it out, by creating a story with fully realized characters, I’m giving those emotions a voice.

This feeling of anger is not there without reason.  It’s not making itself present in my thoughts or my life just because it can.  Something in my subconscious really needs to be addressed and I need to pay attention to it.  Therapy can help, but I’m not in the mood for talking.  By talking about it, I end up feeling like I’m poisoning the air around me.

I don’t want to do that.  That’s exhausting for me.  I’d rather focus on things that make me feel good and happy.

So, art and writing it is.  Years ago, I wrote a thriller screenplay that was incredibly dark and creepy.  I’ve been toying with turning it into a novel and printed it out.  I’m making a bullet list of what I hope to accomplish within the story, how I want to format it.

That simple act is helpful for me.

This is something that I am doing for me.  If, however, you feel in need of outside help, please, by all means, seek it out.  There’s no shame in getting help, whether it’s to manage your feelings or your health or even improving your mindset.

Be creative and be active and be pro-active.

What are you creating today?

So, I’m catching up on Twin Peaks Seasons 1 & 2……

…….and the feature film (along with the missing pieces), in part because I love the show and it’s always good to pay a visit to the town with the best damn coffee (and hot!).   But also because Season 3 is now upon us.  And with the owls not being what they seem, I’m excited that it’s happening again.

Unfortunately, I have to wait another week or two before I can start watching the long-awaited third season, so you can imagine the minefield of spoilers I have to navigate.

That said – No Spoilers, please!!!

I’m having a hard enough time avoiding some of the images and some articles analyzing the new episodes.  Some of it is easy to avoid looking at and I’m saving them for later reading, after I’ve caught up with the first few episodes.

Although, that also being said – am I the only one noticing a similarity between Chet (Invitation to Love) and Dougie Jones/Alternate Cooper?

Don’t answer that!

What I call Gordon Cole’s The Blue Rose Missing Pieces Edition.
Because I can.

So, I get the question (a lot) of why do I write……

……and my answer is a variation on the same theme – because I can’t not write, because I have to, because I feel compelled to write down what these fictitious people are saying and doing and thinking.  But I always leave out the most important thing, because I find it really difficult to explain when put on the spot.

In addition to the reasons listed above, I write because I want to feel things.  I write because it seems that the only place I can legitimately express the desire for love and passion is in the words my characters express*.  I can say the things I want to say, without fear of rejection, by way of a character to an idealized fictional version of the type of man I find attractive.  I can be witty and pithy and strong and powerful in these scenarios, without losing my essential sense of who I am.  In these stories, I am writing to find the best version of myself.

I think, in all aspects of art and creative work, we are searching for ourselves, for that voice that seeks expression.  Having feelings, both negative and positive, are normal – how we deal with them is what makes us human.  The more I pour my feelings, both light and dark, into my art and my writing, the better I feel.

By removing it from my inner self and splattering it on a blank canvas or Word document, I am dragging it out into the light, taking away its power and giving it a voice.  It can sometimes feel like lancing a wound and letting the poison seep out, so that the wound can heal.  And it did, for me, when a traumatic experience worked its way into a story.  I had lanced that wound, that was slowly poisoning me for three years.  It was never meant to be in the story I had been working on at the time.  But whether I had meant it or not, my subconscious found similar elements in the story that had mirrored the circumstances surrounding my trauma.

I think, no, I believe, that is when I really began to heal.

Art is like that.  Being creative is like that.  Creativity gives us a way to express things in another form, if words fail us.  Don’t be afraid of feeling.  Express it in art and find your voice and your strength.  Find yourself, get support, have faith in who you are.

What 336 pages of manuscript (minus ending) looks like.

*It’s also a safe and productive place to express darker themes, but that’s another post for another time.

Review: The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova (2017)

From Amazon’s book description:

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi—and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by political oppression—and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.

I picked this book up about a week ago, primarily because I’d read Kostova’s The Historian years earlier and fell in love with the world she evoked.  Also, Vlad Tsepes (inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula and terrifying historical leader) was the driving focus of the story.  Kostova’s voice is rich, intelligent and literary, but she never talks down to her audience.  Rather, she invites us in with simple human concerns that we all share – letters, lost luggage, art. Upon accepting that invitation, we stumble into a world that is both familiar and alien.

The Shadow Land is another such invitation.  Set in Bulgaria, both during the aftermath of World War II and the (recent) present, I wasn’t sure what to expect, beyond the book description.  But I remembered The Historian and how much I loved that book, so I was more than willing to give this one a chance.

I.  Could.  Not.  Put.  It.  Down.

Every chance I could, when I wasn’t at work, or working on my own projects or learning French or being out with my horses or friends, I was curled up with this book.  I tuned out this world that I live in and poured myself into this story.  As a voracious reader with a habit of re-reading favorite titles, this one is definitely in for a re-read.  I’m sure there are details that I missed on the first go round.

That said, I do have a minor quibble – the romance between Alexandra Boyd and a character barely seen, but highly romanticized in daydreams by Alexandra, seems idealized.  It does not feel based on real feelings or real interactions – I actually found her relationship with Bobby, her taxi driver, to be far more interesting and intimate than what actually occurred.

Overall, however, it is a minor quibble, it is my quibble and I intend to push this book on anyone who will listen.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Shadow Land                        by Elizabeth Kostova

So, Novel in Progress is coming along……

……and I’m really excited about it.  I haven’t been this excited about a writing project in a really long time, so I’m doubly happy.

So far, it’s clocking in at just over 94,000 words, but the actual number is in doubt, since I’ve got a couple of scenes to write, as well as the ending. The word count is also fluctuating because words are being added or sacrificed – they’re definitely getting moved around – and, since that’s how a writer pens, it’s all good.

What projects are you working on?

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