Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sleep is overrated, anyway…

This thing is getting very real, very fast.

Warp Drive

Warp Drive (Photo credit: Out.of.Focus)

I hit another bump in the road with the project I am working on.  I think I may have overcome it but it took almost 2 weeks.   That may not sound like a long time, but when you’re shootin’ down the highway at warp speed toward a deadline that’s screaming in your face in a vehicle you are pretty sure is far too large for you to be attempting to steer on your own, it’s an eternity and yet goes by in the blink of an eye.

To put it simply, I am freaking out.  I organized my binder, which I felt would make the process easier and I’m sure it will.  As soon as I can manage to get back to work.

 Author Quest - organized binder

* Sidenote :  Is it wrong that the sight of this makes me squeal with glee?

I am a linear writer.  When I am formulating a story line, I typically start with a question – “What would happen if?” – and go from there.  Sometimes I have the beginning and the end of a story figured out pretty quickly.  I just have to wait and see how they manage to get from point A to point Z.

So when I find myself stuck, I can’t just skip that part and come back to it later.  Well, technically I can.  But I don’t.  There’s no point, when everything that comes after hinges on where the story decides to take me.  So I wait until I can clear the clutter and uncover the answer waiting beneath it all.

Sometimes all it takes is for me to walk away for a few minutes.  Other times, it haunts me for days – or in this case, weeks.  Panic sets in and I find myself losing sleep.  I’m not a great sleeper to begin with, so it doesn’t take much in the way of encouragement for insomnia to take over.  While I’m laying in bed not sleeping, my mind is working overtime.  I tell myself to just get up and go write.  But I have to work in the morning, so writing until the sun comes up is out of the question.  Besides, in this state of near-exhaustion I wouldn’t get much accomplished anyway.  

I think the only thing that’s saving my sanity at this point is the fact that I still have 6 days vacation time coming and have to use it by Dec 31.  Which, interestingly enough, is the deadline for this project.  So I will take a deep breath, collect my thoughts, do the research that I am pretty sure is going to get me past this detour and back on my merry little way.  

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Oona

Oona is one of the Faeries in the film, “Legend” starring Tim Curry, Tom Cruise, and Mia Sara.

With regard to the character (portrayed by Annabelle Lanyon), Oona is probably more true to form than any Faerie depicted on film.  Despite her gossamer wings, the glitter in her skin, and her tiny frame, she is temperamental and has little patience for humans.

“What care I for human hearts? Soft and spiritless as porridge! A faerie’s heart beats fierce and free!”

Oona

For reasons only known to her, Oona has a secret.  Keeping her true form hidden, she appears only as a tiny spark of light.  When they become imprisoned somewhere in the depths of Darkness’ castle, Jack suggests Oona fly out to find the key.  She insists he keep their secret.

“Our secret will keep forever in this grave if you don’t help us!”

Transforming to her true form, Gump responds with hissing.

“You willful Sprite!  How dare you keep such secrets!”

Oona brings some of the darker aspects of Faerie forward, that we may see their true nature.  It’s not all sugarplums and rainbows, after all.

*  The image is taken from a review in the French magazine “Mad Movies” from August, 1985.  I cannot find any other source for the image.  No copyright infringement is intended.  If this image belongs to you simply contact me and I will remove it.

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Transforming BPM to WPM

I listen to music while I write.  Lately, I find Pachelbel’s Canon especially helpful.  It’s a hugely popular piece, which is interesting considering that the Canon remained forgotten for hundreds of years and was only rediscovered in the 20th century.

As soon as I hit “play”, my mind immediately snaps back to whatever it is that I am working on.  The music allows me to remain where I need to be for however long it takes.

There is a scene in “Believe” that took me three days to write, which meant listening to the same song on repeat for three solid days.  That particular song was “Bard Dance” by Enya and at a whopping 1 minute and 23 seconds long, the “repeat” mode got a heck of a workout.

Enya (album)

Enya (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might be thinking “You must be so sick of that song!”, but the truth of the matter is that when I am writing I lose all concept of time.  I have to admit that it must seem like absolute torture to some.  Listening to the same song on repeat for three solid days, while frantically trying to keep up with all the characters that were coming forward and the stories they wanted to tell.  But when I read through that scene, I am always struck by how it came out exactly as I pictured it in my mind and how much I love the characters that were kind enough to join me on the journey.

In my humble opinion, when you look back on something you’ve written it should be with fondness.  All of the challenges and the frustration forgotten, you remember how much you loved researching it, how intriguing the characters were, the rush you had finally getting it all out of your head and down on paper (literally or figuratively).

I can’t speak for other authors, but I think it’s wonderful to have your own personal soundtrack for your work.  Even if you never share it with anyone else, choosing instead to keep it between you and the characters that the music helped bring to life.

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Getting Started

The first sentence is ALWAYS the hardest, in spite of the fact that I can go back later and edit/rewrite/scrap it altogether.  It’s only the first draft.  Stop freaking out over it and just START, already.

But I can’t.  I am paralyzed and out of sorts and can’t seem to remember how to write.  Maybe I’m a fraud.  Maybe I’m insane.  Maybe I just need a cup of tea and a biscuit.

It’s not like I was without a firm idea of what I was going to write.  My process is pretty basic.  I take copious notes, do the appropriate research, and make more notes.  Then the characters start to come forward, so I make a list and try to figure out what their part in the story will be.  I research names for all of them.  Names that have meaning.  Names that sound good not only when read them out loud but when I hear them inside my head where all the action is taking place.  Then it’s on to the plot and soon I have a basic storyline down on paper. 

On page 155 of “On Writing”, Stephen King offers some very solid advice to writers with regard where they choose to write.  “The space can be humble (probably should be, as I think I have already suggested)…”, he says.  I agree.  It should also start out clutter free, as you’ll collect plenty of clutter in the form of research material, teacups, pens, markers, blank paper, and if you’re like me – a binder/journal full of notes.  As a matter of fact, most of this clutter will probably show up by the end of the first day.

 The Gelfling Gathering - progress

He also recommends your office have a door, but mine does not.  My kitchen table serves as my desk because it works for me and also because I don’t have anyone else to contend with, thus no need to retreat behind a closed door.  My version of “closing the door” was cancelling my satellite TV subscription and unplugging the phone.  Yes, I still have a landline.  Call me old-fashioned.

So I sat at my new space, loving every bit of it and at the same time agonizing over the next step.  I farted around on Facebook, watched YouTube videos, and wrote a few Blog entries for future use.  But when I turned my attention to the task at hand, I couldn’t even bring myself to type the first word.

I was chatting with another writer online (yet another distraction) who naturally asked,

“How’s the project coming along?”

I was honest with her and she was kind enough to pass along some advice.

DETACH FROM THE OUTCOME.

It was that simple.  If you concentrate on the end result, you won’t get started.  If you worry too much about what’s waiting for you at the end of the journey you won’t be authentic.

I wrote those four words on a sheet of paper, taped it to the wall, and 15 minutes later I was off to the races.  Speaking of which, I promised myself I would get the third chapter written and the fourth chapter mapped out before the end of the weekend.  As per usual, I am a bit behind that goal ( and by “a bit”, I mean I’m not even halfway there ).  

        Getting Started Sept 2013

Thanks for stopping by.  Feel free to post your thoughts in the “comments” section below. 

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There cannot be light without Darkness

I wish I could remember the first time I saw “Legend”, but I am positive it was in a theatre.  I can’t imagine me missing the opportunity to see a film that included faeries and unicorns.  I am assuming it was a mind-blowing experience.  Perhaps that’s why I can’t remember it.  But I can honestly say that the novelty hasn’t worn off after all these years.  I still get goosebumps and tear up every time I watch it.

Cover of "Legend (Ultimate Edition)"

Cover of Legend (Ultimate Edition)

The film stars a young Tom Cruise who now, sadly does not seem to want to be associated with it for reasons that I cannot as yet determine.  Rosie O’Donnell mentioned it to him in an interview years ago and he seemed embarrassed by it, which is a shame as it’s an amazing work and remains one of my favorite films.

Director Ridley Scott created a world filled with magick and wonder the likes of which we’d not seen before.  Released in 1985, they did not have the technology that exists today and for that, hardcore fans are extremely grateful.  Many feel that the film simply would not have been the same, had it been created with the help of CGI rather than the elaborate makeup, costumes, lighting, and set design that made the movie so amazing.

There were 2 different versions of the film.  The Directors Cut and what has been dubbed the “US Version” ( or “Theatrical Version” ), which is 52 minutes shorter.  Some say that Ridley Scott was told by studio execs that “Americans will NEVER sit through a 2.5 hour film.”, a comment that sounds ridiculous when one considers that the theatrical release of “Lord of the Rings – the Fellowship of the Ring” runs 178 minutes.  However, the truth is that comments made by some of the audience members at one of the initial screenings caused Scott to second-guess himself and make drastic cuts to the film.

There are also 2 scores.  The original was done by Jerry Goldsmith.  The US Version contained the score by Tangerine Dream, which was completed in just three weeks.  Again, the original score was replaced after initial test screenings.  Interestingly enough, I prefer what Tangerine Dream brought to the film.  It has been said that if they could pair that score with the Directors Cut, they would have the perfect film.  I tend to agree.

Legend (Tangerine Dream soundtrack)

Legend (Tangerine Dream soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I was extremely thrilled to add the 2 disc special edition of “Legend” to my DVD collection.  It presents a world where Faeries and Humans live side by side, minus the “fluffy bunny, airy fairy” attitude.  Scott initially brought in Alan Lee as a visual consultant, which further explains the film’s appeal, at least to me.  Although Lee was eventually replaced, one look at Meg Mucklebones and you can’t help but acknowledge his influence. 

Nell even warns Lili about the Faeries as she’s leaving the cottage. 

“You stay clear of Spring Banshee’s my dear.  These woods be thick with ‘em.  Stay clear of toadstool rings, and willow trees, and old oaks.”

Lili, of course, skips off giggling and waves away her concerns.  Little does she know…

The biggest draw for me is that this story utilizes Celtic Faerie Folklore (intentional or otherwise) and thus the story is believable to those of us who Believe.  The characters seem to jump off the pages of the books in my library, taking me on a journey that is both intriguing and frightening. 

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The Dark Crystal Author Quest !

The date was June 23, 2013.  It started out like any other Sunday.  The plan was to get back to work on my next novel.  The story outline and character development complete, it was time to sit down and churn out the first draft.  Just as soon as I finished my cup of tea and caught up on Facebook.

I saw Brian Froud’s name in my newsfeed and read his post.

“The Henson Company is looking for the writer of a new novel set in the land of the Dark Crystal. Visit darkcrystal.com for details on the contest.”

The World of The Dark Crystal

The World of The Dark Crystal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had to read it a few times to be sure that I wasn’t mistaken.  I went to the website and still found it impossible to wrap my head around what was happening.  I was completely overwhelmed and cried for about an hour because I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  Then I read it a few more times, sure that there was some sort of mistake.  It HAD to be a mistake.  This sort of thing just didn’t happen.  Did it?

“From October 1st, 2013 to December 31st, 2013, The Jim Henson Company and Grosset & Dunlap of the Penguin Young Readers Group will be accepting writing submissions to find the author for a new novel set in the world of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. This author search is open to all professional and aspiring professional writers.”

Every bit of logic and reason took leave of me.  I found myself walking at a brisk pace from the living room to the kitchen, through the front entryway and back.  Again and again, I circled.  I was unable to completely process this revelation and yet the wheels had slowly started to turn.

Finally something clicked and I was off to the races.  I jumped in the shower, convinced that I could not possibly start without a new binder, some paper, those divider things with the plastic tabs on the side, some paper, and a new pen.  No!  A BAG OF NEW PENS!  So I would head out to Staples, stock up and then get to work.

As it happens, I get a lot of my best ideas in the shower.  Some think that it’s because you are not distracted and can let your mind wander.  Others say that water cleanses not only the body but the mind.  Clears out the clutter so that all the good stuff can come through. 

Rushing out of the shower, my mind bursting, I wrapped myself in a robe and my dripping hair in a towel. Bolting down the hallway to my office, I was grateful that I took the time to organize it last fall ( yes, it was organized at one point ).  Although it’s untidy I can still find what I am looking for.  I don’t have time to go to Staples.  I need to start writing NOW.  I have a binder I am not using and look, it’s full of paper!  Pens pens pens penspenspenspenspens where are my pens?  Ah, yes.  There’s a mason jar full of pens on my desk. 

My desk!  Part of me wants to just clear everything off like they do in the movies, but in the movies they don’t have breakable gifts sitting on tables that they’re going to wipe clean with one sweeping motion of their arm.  At least, I don’t think they do.  I grab the binder and the pens, run back down the hall and into the kitchen.

No dice.  Too much clutter and I don’t have it within myself to spend the time tidying so that I can get to work.  My mind is going a mile a minute and if I don’t get everything written down RIGHT NOW, it’s going to disappear into the creative ether.  To the living room!  I grab a TV tray and a folding table, set them up in front of the couch.

NAMES!  The characters need names!  So it’s back to my office to grab the Rubbermaid tub labeled “Research material for character names”.  It contains 3 name books and several lists of Irish, Scottish, Celtic, Gaelic, and Welsh names collected from websites.  Several hours later, I had a basic story outline rattling around in my head and almost 2 dozen characters starting to form.   

The Gelfling Gathering 2 (1)

Fast forward 2 months and my new binder (yes, I went to Staples the next day and bought one specifically for this project) filled with over 60 pages of notes and counting.  This is turning into the most frightening, overwhelming, anxiety-inducing, exciting, joy-filled, tearful, squeal-worthy, and surreal thing I will ever be part of. Which tells me I am EXACTLY where I need to be.

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Another World, Another Time, In the Age of Wonder

The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Dark Crystal premiered on December 17, 1982.  I don’t remember the exact date that I saw it for the first time but if I had known how much that film was going to change my life, I definitely would have made note of it.

What I do remember is my dad asking me to take my younger sister and her friend when it came to the small theatre downtown.  I begrudgingly agreed, thinking this was a movie for little kids and I was going to be bored out of my mind.  I couldn’t have been more wrong and I don’t mind admitting it.

I sat, transfixed by what was in front of me.  It was as though someone had glimpsed what was going on inside my mind, understood it, and brought it to life on screen.  The story was different, of course and the characters new to me.  But the imagining of a world inhabited by strange and interesting creatures, each with their own story and an intertwined mythology was something I’d imagined but never seen before.  For the first time (but thankfully, not the last) I remained seated after the credits had rolled and the lights came up, not wanting it to end.

It would be 17 years before The Dark Crystal would be released on DVD, along with the deleted scenes and extras that would leave me once again forgetting to breathe.  I watched in awe as I witnessed the masters, people at the top of their game.  Brian Froud, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and their amazing crew of puppeteers, costume designers, and set designers all working to bring this amazing story from initial concept and storyboard to what we experience on the screen.  To learn the meaning behind the most minute details and the thought processes that went into the scenes was to this writer a creative process not unlike the first sip of water to someone dying of thirst in the desert.  It made me remember why I started on this journey.  The initial spark that ignited the moment I stepped into the theatre that afternoon so many years ago.

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