On the backslide… (Clearing the Way)

There’s a point when the end becomes clear, and Nathalie decided to show me where the sequel to Clearing begins, thereby showing me where the first part ends.   Now, it’s just a matter of getting there, but with 60,000 words under my belt, it flips over from being an end shrouded in fog and hope and becomes a pretty much done deal.   With my first one, I thought that the end would be a momentous achievement, joy, harps and flutes.   What I know now is that the end is a let down, at least for me.   By the time I’ve  reached the end of any of the novel length efforts, I have purged, and I feel empty and drained.  Restless and unfocused.   Nathalie will be a little better, since it is bringing along a sequel, and since she’s already bothered to give me the first few pages of that, I’ll be going straight into that while turning over the first draft of Clearing to my hubby for review.   By now, the glaring holes in the beginning are becoming readily apparent, and the reality of the edits it needs have made themselves known.   Still need to figure out where it starts at… Chicago?  New York?  So there’s that research.   And since I don’t outline, the beginning of the book needs to be brought into agreement with the end.   Thankfully, Clearing didn’t stray too terribly much over its path, there’s just one big snag that needs to be smoothed down.

But I’ve found a band that gives me a new array of dance/trance (at a volume that stuns the cat) to bring Clearing the Way through to its end.   It will be one of my shorter works, but that’s good…I’ve been fighting the war of the doorstop for too long.  (I recently had a fan of my fanfiction describe one of my fanfics as ‘a relatively short side story’, although it comes in at a hefty 80 pages)   I’d like to see Clearing end at right around 325 pages.

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“The Emperor’s Finest” (1998-1999) or… How NOT to write a book.

In 1998, a new character walked into my life.   Her name was Arien, and the seed that came with her was a whole hell of a lot different than the sugar sweet that I had been trying to fold into a story.   It was like the door at the end of the hallway of my head had opened up, and a stranger walked out of it and introduced themselves.   She was a space marine, wearing an augmented battlesuit.  She wasn’t pretty, wasn’t a princess, and would not be painted as lounging on Fabio’s lap in any sort of cover art.  She came with a backpack full of problems, medical, drug related.   She cussed.  Drank.    Interesting, but not really where I felt I wanted to go, but that was okay, by then I knew how to kill a story line.  I would write it, it would hit 20-30 pages, and it would die, and I could go back to trying to write another high fantasy romance book.

Although it was not planned to be any sort of ‘romance’, the second character was male… Niel.   From the beginning, he was designed to be a sacrificial lamb… destined to die somewhere around page 30, right before I lost impetus.   I’m guessing I made him what he was to make him easy to kill off… arrogant, handsome, a real platinum spoon in the mouth sort of guy.  Not a guy I’d try to save, even as a written character.   He was going to be the kind of ass I always cheer when they die.

Basic core in place, I sat down and I began this purge of a storyline.   Page 30 came.  And went.  Niel refused to die.  Hell, the entire story was refusing to die, moving forward at its own stolid pace.   Page 40 came.  And went.  Still, Niel hung on to life, and the story did as well. 50.  60.  70.

At about 80 pages down, I sat back and took a long look.  This was now easily twice as long as I’d ever managed before, and it didn’t feel like it was a struggle.  It was like I wasn’t even there, mostly, I wasn’t writing this, I was transcribing it.   Arien and Niel were telling me where they were going, and I was along for the ride.   I made myself a promise then, if…IF…I could make it to a hundred pages, I would start to take this seriously.

And here’s when I show just how lost I was.   It hit 122 pages before I said, “Okay.  This one might just have legs.   I’m not sure where it’s going, but it’s not stopping.”  So I started to go to sites, and began to read the writer’s submission instructions.  And they all had formatting requirements.  Formatting?   Er… well… no…  it wasn’t formatted.   I should do that and see what it looked like, right?   So I sat down and I began formatting my 122 page, marginless and single spaced baby.     Suddenly it wasn’t 122 pages anymore,  it ballooned to more than twice that in less than thirty minutes.  I had gone from ‘maybe this could, one day, be long enough to be a book’ to ‘oh…my…. God, what do I do now?”  I had a three hundred page manuscript with no end in sight.   I had, in one fell swoop, gone from always too short to suddenly looking at way too damn long.   Never in all the years I’d been beating on this had I ever considered that to be an option.  Other people wrote books that were too big.   I didn’t.   I took a long breath, put my fingers on the keyboard, and kept going into the story.

And then, there it was, the second epiphany that came with this project.   Something I had never had before.   Locked in my head, the very LAST sentence.   I could see it.   Feel it.  Touch it.  I knew the ending.  There was one.  It wasn’t the happily ever after I’d always kind of seen my first book as being, in fact the end was dark and rather ugly.  The entire book had been dark and rather ugly.   But I knew where I was going, and yes, finally finished what was to be titled “The Emperor’s Finest”.   After more than ten years of 10 and 20 page attempts, I had done it.   I had a whole book, and I had written it.

I had expected to be beyond thrilled.  I was a writer.  I had written a book, damnit!   Hear me roar!

But what I actually got was entirely different.   I felt…empty.  Lost.  Drained.   And just like that, it felt like that was it.  I’d never write again.  In fact, rereading it felt like it wasn’t even mine.  Someone else had written it.   I had lost it.   There was no more companionship, no more riding along with those two as they did their thing that only I was lucky enough to be able to see.  They were my movie, and the movie was over.

It took time before I opened the file up and looked at it again.  It still felt like it wasn’t mine, but I could see where it would do with some trimming, and I launched into a major edit.   I cut about 80 pages, brought it back down from its cumbersome 500 pages to the 436 page/119k word manuscript that still lives on my computer.

Obviously, however, I had done the hard thing.   I had finished a book, the real work was over, and I’d sell it.   I’d be…a published author, damnit!   Now, I laugh, because while this manuscript has made its rounds, gotten some positive thoughts from publishers, it’s still… just mine and a couple of other peoples’.   Finished in 1999, it remains…unpublished, a victim of “Gee, I should work on that when I get a little time.”  But there never seems to be that time.

But Arien wasn’t done.  While the less than happy ending worked for “The Emperor’s Finest”, she and Niel refused to remain silent.   Although there was no publisher in sight for the first book, I relented to insanity and finished the unnamed sequel, which became the second “Wow!  I did it! I finished…another…book!”  And again, there was the silence.  The emptiness.   The drained loss.   Arien and Niel were actually done then, walked away from me.   And again, it felt like I would never write again.

Writing means…writing, right?

Obviously, the plan to become an author would mean I would have to figure out this whole ‘writing’ deal.   It sounded easy enough from the other side, after all, how hard was it to read books?  That worked until I faced a clean sheet of white paper and the realization that a book required about three hundred of them covered in typing.  That’s a lot of typing, but I was determined, and I hopped into the idea.  Except it’s really much harder than it seems… I started innumerable stories, and each of them died in birthing.   A great deal of the problem was that I was trying to use a typewriter (Don’t.  I know the great ones were handwritten, or typed.  I know that Stephen King has handwritten a full manuscript.   But honestly, it’s insane.  Really.  Give up and befriend a word processor.)   But a lot of it just was that the stories didn’t want to be.   The usual length was around 10 pages before I gave up.  The more stubborn approached 20, but at that point, I was not going to finish anything even closely resembling a novel.   I filled a box with the beginning ideas, but none stuck, and I gave up… there were no complaints when my mother tossed the box in a move and those stories vanished.  (No, really.  They were bad.  Really, really bad.)

I got married.  I had kids, and as a stay at home mom, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands.  And I picked up the habit again, this time pushed towards a computer and a word processor by my spouse.   His puzzled “You use a typewriter to do this?”  is still a joke brought up in the house, all these years later.   I started another, it made it to about 40 pages before it died, but that was easily twice as long as any I’d managed before.   But I was still struggling with the nuts and bolts of telling a full story, one with breadth and width, one that breathed and lived…

I started this blog way back in September last year, when I was at home after my stroke, lonely, bored and more than a little scared.   It wasn’t something I really shared, it was more of a way to try and wrap my mind around what was going on to me.   However, a couple of days ago, without knowledge that I had this page, hubby suggested I start up blogging on my life’s passion…writing.  So I intend to meld subjects here, discuss my writing and my post stroke journey.

I left the blog hanging, but to understand my writing and where I come from I feel I need to step back and give a lot more on the creation of a geek writer.

I am a military brat, born to one mathematical genius (my father) and one sci-fi/fantasy/rabid reader (my mother).   One of the first things you learn when you’re a military brat is that you don’t get friends.  You get acquaintances that you change out every three years, like rugs and dishware.   Some military children handle this well, they hit a new place running, fall into place like they’d been there their entire lives.  Others turn introspective, decide that the wash, rinse and repeat is just too heartbreaking and tedious, and refuse to play anymore.  I was very much the latter, and I became very closely attached to the person in my life who was always there, my mother.   By the time I was three, my continued requests (demands?  whines?) for yet another story read to me had worn her down, and she sat me down and taught me to read.  By the time I went into first grade, was thrown in with other children, I was a voracious reader, reading at a level well beyond my grade level.   No matter what happened, where we went, I had books, and I loved them.  They were the friends I could take with me when I left.

As a child, my first career choice was paleontologist, because I loved digging and dinosaurs.  I went through the varying degrees of archaeologist (because I loved digging and Raiders of the Lost Ark) and geologist (because I loved digging and rocks).  There was some consideration of vet (but my mathematical abilities are non existent…that gift apparently jumps a generation) and I flirted with joining the military… but somewhere in the beginning, a seed was planted.  I wanted to be an author.   I would write historical romances with Fabio on the cover, the titles embossed in foil.   I would live in a Victorian house, in Oregon or Washington, on a windswept cliff overlooking a beach.   I would do so alone except for a couple of cats, a dog, and maybe a horse or four, because I just didn’t get along with the males of my own species.   (Yes, I do see the irony of writing romances with that mindset, now.)

10/4/10

Returned to work, under the wary gaze of the same provider who had diagnosed me and admitted me.  Still not up to snuff, found myself puzzling over the simplest of tasks.  Where before I would set up a procedure with a “Okay, lesion removal needs this, this, this and this…”  Now found myself walking through the steps of the procedure, visualizating everything as it would happen, to make certain I had everything.  Took me about twice as long, but still managed to adequately do my job.   Spoke to my supervisor and one of the partners of the practice and was relieved by how well they took the news.  Have been taken off of phlebotomy status (lack of delicate touch sensation on my left makes finding small veins an impossibility) for at least a few weeks until we have a better idea of how this plays out 

MRI report back, and I must admit on some level I was expecting another perfectly normal test.  The sheet of paper denied that wholeheartedly,  There, in black and white, was the proof that this wasn’t just a fuss over nothing, and I settled down to wait for my neurology appointment.

9/28/2010

Tuesday morning. 

Ended my 24 hour telemetry, and brought me a happy soul from Wisconsin Heart to do my EKG and Echo cardiogram.  Still felt just not quite myself, fuzzy, distant, slurry and sleepy; but it was pretty interesting to watch the echo images of my heart, even though I had no real idea what I was watching.  And I was released from the hospital, sent home with a new aspirin regimen and the stern warning to return if any new  symptoms popped up.  MRI scheduled for the next day, since my local hospital doesn’t have one, it comes down weekly on a semitractor trailer rig from Madison.  An appointment with a neurologist, also an outreach from another facility, set, and I went home with no answers, no medications, and no real clue. 

9/29/2010

Back to the hospital for my MRI.  Not exactly the most comforting experience…loud, dark and claustrophobic, but overall not too terrible.   Still feel a little bizarre, and find it even more bizarre that people don’t notice it more than they do.  Hand is still numb, and I catch myself often clenching the hand closed.  Face still numb, feels like I’ve recently had dental work.  Still hear myself slurring, and by the occasional glance from Hubby, know that he notices it as well. 

9/30- 10/4. 

Gradual lessening of symptoms, but I still am not myself.  The cognitive defects start to show up more than the physical, losing words, entire topics of conversations.  The never ending flow of storylines that have kept me company and amused for the greater part of my life are silent, and for the first time I start to get worried.  These are so much of me that I don’t know what to do without them, and the thought that they may be gone…permanently… hit harder than any of it had so far.

Who am I?

Like many gamers and fantasy enamored folks, I go by a myriad of names.  There’s my SCA name…Hrodny.  My IRC name… Mikhaela. My ICQ name… Stone_Alpha.  My World of Warcraft name…Damaris.  And my forum and fanfiction name… Semiiramiis.  All of this means I spend an inordinate amount of time being something I’m really not.  I spend a lot of time in worlds that don’t exist, spending time with people who aren’t real.  It’s just who I am…and who I’m not.

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