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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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Story

So, I’ve rediscovered writing in long-hand…..

…..something I’d always done up until about seven years ago, when I switched entirely to writing my novels and scripts directly onto a Word or Final Draft document.  This was in large part due to a trauma that affected me in such a way that writing in long-hand felt too intimately connected to my brain.  It would take three novels and a stage script before I found my way back to using pen on lined paper again.

Imagine trying to implement corrections using a typewriter!

I think it would be fair to say that the project that drew me back to writing in long-hand was, perhaps, a little ironic.  The setting of the story is in the 1920s, decades before computers would replace the typewriter, a time when pencil or pen was also a more commonly used method to write down ideas, create poetry, stories and develop essays.  This particular story is about passion, sensuality and love between two people, a particularly intimate story that has presented many challenges.

Pen sketch; note the rather arrogant look in his eye.

And that’s how writing long-hand is to me – an act of pure intimacy between the mind and the page.  I love watching as the ink swirls across the page, forming words or shapes or quick sketches of horses.  It’s almost never planned, those words or images – I often allow myself to go into a kind of trance and allow my subconscious to go where it wills.  There’s something hypnotic about the way my pen feels in my hand, pressed against paper, as I try to keep up with the story playing out in my imagination.

Which is not always easy to do.

And which is always the challenge.

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So, in the fall of 2016…….

……while working on my first round of notes from my editor, I had the conscious thought that Novel Now Finished would be a life changer.  At the time, I thought it would center around picking up a book contract from a publisher (and it may well do).

Working on edits.

However, as I’m working on incorporating changes based on my editor’s note, I’ve been slowly coming around to the idea that there is a deeper meaning to my original thought.

One of my editor’s most constant notes to me is about giving my Narrator more agency in her own story.  To have her make smarter choices and decisions, to have a more active role in the events that surround her.  To not rely on someone else to get her out of a situation or give up her identity in the process.  In essence, I was being asked to give her the opportunity to own her life and see what happens.

Whether it’s moving home (Secrets & Howls), dealing with trauma (The Pike Horse) or even being open to true love (Much Ado Over Murder), I’ve noticed that I’m often working on stories that reflect what has happened or is currently occurring in my own life.  I often won’t recognize these elements until much later, but I’m not surprised that Novel Now Finished is following this trend.

I’ve described Novel Now Finished as being about a woman who comes out of the shadows and not only reclaims her power, but embraces it.

Guess what’s going on in my own life, right this minute?

So, I got hooked on Grey’s Anatomy a couple of months ago……

……. thanks to Lifetime Network and their habit of airing half a dozen episodes five days a week (it repeats to the first episode of season 1 after the last episode of season 10).  I’m surprised at how much I like it, considering that my memories of the show when it first aired were decidedly not impressed.  I’ve been wondering why it took me this long to get sucked into the daily life of Seattle-Grace turned Grey Sloane Hospital and my only conclusion thus far is that, like anything else in life, there is a timing for everything.

And seriously, what’s not to like about this show?  Women are allowed to be silly and strong and angry and loving and emotional on this show (and its spin-off, Private Practice, which I preferred over Grey’s at the time).  No one comments on it, except as a response – a woman getting pissed off is actually respected by the male characters as having a reason for being pissed off, not just dismissed as unimportant.

This is due to Shonda Rhimes’ vision and direction and she has chosen writers, producers and directors to further that vision.

There are characters I don’t really like (Karev, Arizona, George), despite their moments of pure generosity and humanity;  there are characters I really like because of their utter awkward goofiness (Lexie, April);  I like the friendship between Callie and Mark, who keep the lines and boundaries clear, regardless of where it goes;  I like Derek and Meredith’s faith in each other, despite the heartache and pitfalls;  and I absolutely love and admire the almost Victorian courtship of Owen Hunt and Christina Yang that didn’t entirely hide the raw passion between them.

Of all the characters on the show, Christina Yang has emerged as one of my favorites.  She doesn’t have time for bullshit, she doesn’t have time for niceties, she just wants to work in surgery and be the best in order to save lives.  Sandra Oh brings that hard-edged, unapologetic character to life so fully, that it would be impossible to picture anyone else in that role.  Yang may not have the best bedside manner, but if she’s there to save your life, I rather think the latter is more important than the former.  I’d certainly want her as my doctor and surgeon because I know she’d fight like hell to keep me alive.

No spoilers on Seasons 11 through 13, please!!!

So, after six years with nothing but an idea…..

…….a time frame, and one chapter, I finally found the story to the sequel to Secrets & Howls.  If Novel Now Finished gave me insight to its own sequel (and it did), as well as the first couple of pages, then I feel confident that it also gave me a window into two characters that featured prominently in S&H.

And I’m excited about that, because I genuinely like these characters.  I’d like to get to know their story better, of how they met, how they became lovers and what led to their decision to have their relationship play out as it did.  The questions I have for them run deep and I suspect that more than one surprise will happen when I finally dig in.  Of course, there will be plot threads from S&H running throughout the sequel.  Those threads will be tying into different time-frames that I’d set up for the world of Wolf’s Head Bay.

Some threads will be tied into a neat and tidy knot, others will serve to create more questions to be answered in succeeding books.  As is my plan for my other series, I’m planning five books total for the village of Wolf’s Head Bay, with a few short stories thrown in.  I have an overview of how my supernaturally themed stories tie in to each other and I think that’s why I like them so much.  These stories have a kind of depth that is demanded of me, and so I throw everything into them, including the kitchen sink. [1]

I’m interested in seeing how this sequel turns out.  One scene meant for S&H is being utilized in this story, but with some minor differences.  I keep everything I write, in part because these cut bits are really good when I read them.  And they got cut because, as it evolved, these bits no longer served the story.  But I knew I could use them elsewhere.

And I did.  And now it’s time to find out what happens next.

What secrets lie hidden in this small, coastal village?

[1] Not really, but it feels like it.

So, I’ve begun a new notebook of ideas……

……for the sequel to Novel Now Finished.  This is new territory for me, because I’ve never actually written a true sequel before.  I’ve written many stories that developed into multiple novels (written or in summary form), but never upon completing a manuscript.  I know who’s returning, who’s new to the story and I even have a story to go with the idea.

I’d known from the start that this would be a five-book arc – I didn’t want to write more than that involving these characters.  Part of that is because of my own experiences in reading several different series – by the time I get to book six, I’m bored and wishing the whole thing had been wrapped up in the previous book.  This is not the fault of the writer – I’ve read many authors whose series spanned multiple titles and have always enjoyed them.  But lately, my attention span has petered out at book five and I’d rather leave my audience wanting more than losing their interest (this is also an old theater saying).

While writing Novel Now Finished, I had no idea of how I was going to carry this character into another book, let alone four more.  I don’t usually plan my stories out to the tiniest detail nor do I use an outline – I tried the outline once and found it to be more of a hindrance than in any way helpful.  [1]  I was a little worried about how I was going to stretch this character’s story out beyond this one novel, regardless of how much I enjoyed her world.

The idea came to me while I was rearranging a snippet in Novel Now Finished – a simple image of the character standing at the entrance of a seldom used road.  Suddenly, I had an idea of what the story would be, of what the mystery would entail and who was going to be involved.  I also knew that there would be some character dynamics at play that I hadn’t tried before, so I’m curious to see how that works out.

And a few days ago, I wrote the first page of what’s to eventually become the sequel to Novel Now finished.

The character showed me what’s going to happen next in her story.  Now all I have to do is pay attention and write it.

The Manuscript in Question.

[1] I’m not suggesting that outlining or planning out a story to the smallest detail is wrong in general, just wrong for me, specifically.  If it works for you, then by all means, keep doing it.

So, I’m revising my Ancient Greek Comedy…..

……where chaos reigns and ancient mythologies collide.  And that’s on a good day.

Most of the characters are based on the Greek gods and goddesses, but as I revise the play, I’m paying more attention to other mythologies.  I make reference to a number of them within the dialogue, but I actually want to have the other ancient mythologies represented.  To do that, I’m looking to give them a voice and space.

Since the ancient gods and goddesses are archetypal (ex. Athena is an archetype of war and wisdom), I’ve tagged a couple of the speaking roles to change over to a different mythological god/dess.  It’ll be interesting to see how that works out, especially among mythologies that aren’t as readily identifiable, like the Greeks or Romans.  Archetypes are common throughout every culture and myth.  One of the reasons the ancient mythologies and plays resonate today is because we can still see ourselves and circumstances in those archetypes thousands of years after they were first staged.

There is, naturally, a Chorus, because what ancient play – Greek, Roman, Egyptian, (fill in the blank) – doesn’t have a Chorus, the impartial conscience and voice of the play itself?  Generally, the Chorus’s role in the ancient plays (particularly the Greek ones) served to comment on the action within the context of the play.  My Chorus sings about the action, what the situation is and offers back-up to Hera and Juno when they discover that their philandering husbands are one and the same (for my purposes, Zeus is Zeus and created his Roman counter-part, Jupiter because his ego determined that he can).

And what ancient play is complete without music?  This play was inspired by the music of the Eagles and music has always played a part in grounding my stories to a time and place and feeling.  I even created mini-soundtracks for my screenplays, each song triggering a scene or a moment that demanded to be put down on paper.

But, while writing this play, I encountered a significant problem – I’m not a musician and I don’t know how to write song lyrics.  How am I to incorporate music into this play, other than to use and pay royalty fees for previously recorded music?

Fortunately, I am blessed to know several local musicians who have become very dear friends over the last few years.  During a conversation about my play, I mentioned my concern over how to incorporate music.  Unanimously, they said, “We’ll do it, all you need to do is ask, and it’s done.”

So now I have music and possible lyrics.  I promised to have my song ideas for them upon completion of this current revision.  My goal now is to find the right places for the songs to go and carry the story forward.

I have the feeling, however, that Zeus will make every effort to make it all about him.  Because that’s his nature.

Title and cast list of Hotel Mt. Olympus.

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’m working on some posts for my Patreon page….

…..setting some of them up to go live at a later date.  I like setting up multiple posts this way, so that I’m sure my subscribers are getting fun things to look at.

“What? The waste basket was trash-talking me.”

One of my tiers features the thoughts and adventures of Henry the Gray (my cat) and Best Bud Mare (my horse).

Henry the Gray is very laid back in his approach to life, which I find admirable.  He’s also somewhat sarcastic and does not approve of changes in his schedule.

His favorite things include: having morning meetings at the kitchen table; early morning inspections of the back yard; late night inspections of the garage; treats.

His dislikes include: vacuums; the garbage truck; the gardeners; having his stomach touched.

 

“Don’t look now, but there’s an apple on the ground behind you. Look out!!!”

Best Bud Mare has come a long way since I met her three years ago, when she was a little bit spooky and not sure of her surroundings or what was expected of her.  Now she comes right up to the gate, to see what I’m doing and always wants to be a part of things.

Her favorite things include: getting her itches scratched with the blue curry comb; taking selfies; learning how to do new things, like having her feet handled by the farrier; eating carrots; having her mane brushed out so that there are no more tangles; hanging out with her human.

Her dislikes include: loud noises; backing into a sneaky fence; being left out of projects; not hanging out with her favorite human; not getting brushed with the blue curry comb; apples.

 

So, their stories and thoughts and observations will be found over at the Patreon page I’ve established.

I’ve left some posts unlocked, so that those who are not familiar with my writing style can have a sample of what I’m offering before they subscribe.  You can find the unlocked posts here, where you’ll also be able to learn about the different tiers and what they have to offer.

Feel free to take a look.

Best wishes.

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