Swinging at smoke…

Writing is hard.

It’s a very cyclical thing for me. It moves along in stages. What those stages are, how long they last, and whether or not I recognize them as they’re happening all vary on a case by case basis.

Right now I’m in the JFC everything is crap stage.

It happens.

I’ve spent a lot of time staring at my writing folder—like I do—trying to discern what I should be working on. Truth is, I really don’t know.

Once upon a time I went through and summarized all of my “active” projects. It was a lot more difficult than it should have been. And I’ve been trying to do an updated version of it with the current active list for…a long time. It’s an exercise in brevity and it’s incredibly difficult for someone like me who has a tendency to ramble incessantly, especially when it comes to talking about writing.

I want to write a brief summary of the plot, a few notes on where my brain is at on the given project, and a snippet of text from the actual story. Problem is I could go on for hours about each one when “summarizing” the plot. (I might need to lookup the actual definition of the word summarize, because clearly it doesn’t mean what I think it means.) As for where my brain is at with each one, a lot of it generally comes out as fuck if I know. And when it comes to pulling out a few lines of text…I want to take paragraphs.

And then I have a twenty-thousand word post.

Give or take.

I’ve considered doing an individual post on each one in a series. Then I could ramble all I want. But it’s supposed to be about brevity. And while that’s clearly not one of my strong suits, that’s what I want it to be.

So as it goes with everything in writing, I keep hacking and slashing until it resembles something I’m more or less okay with.

Or I shove it back in the drafts folder and forget about it for awhile.

Fair warning…this whole thing is five-thousand-some-odd words. (The last one I did was 3000+…so…)

So much for that whole brevity thing, I guess.

Hey—it’s fairly brief commentary for each story. But once you pile them all together…

Continue reading “Swinging at smoke…”

Been off that track…

It’s after six in the morning. I haven’t slept. The in-laws are supposed to be coming over right around the time Bob has to leave for work so his dad can beat Joel the Obstinate and Cursed Jetta (TM) into submission.

Or hook up his battery charger.

Whichever.

It’s Monday.

I’ve been working on a story project for the past few months that is a very slow slog. I am actually quite in-like with what I’ve written on it so far. One of the issues I’m running into with it (aside from the never-ending writer’s block in general) is where exactly I need to end it. My original plan had a pretty clear cutoff, but the farther I get into it, the less sure I am of where that cutoff should actually be.

Kate’s dad dies. (Yes, another Kate…shoosh.) Her Jewish-When-She-Needs-To-Be mother decides the family (five kids, plus spouses and offspring) needs to sit [unofficial] Shiva following the Catholic funeral. (There’s a reoccurring discussion of hypocrisy in the Baylor family house.) In the time they are together, things come to a head between Kate and her over-critical mother—and again with the even more overly critical grandparents. There is also the issue of the youngest sibling’s addiction problem resurfacing and the strain it’s causing on his marriage. And Kate’s ex-husband is suddenly back in the picture. She called him to tell him about her dad and now things are changing.

Things were supposed to end as life was starting to return to normal post-bereavement. Then the Kate and Ex-husband Marc aspect started to take up more importance. And for awhile I thought I knew where to cut off the story with that—entertaining the prospect of reconciliation. But the more I fill in the story, the more I realize, more needs to be said.

The big question being: how much more?

I could possibly condense it into a…lengthy…epilogue. I guess it would depend greatly on just how much conflict I want to dredge up between them in the process. Marc is the one who ended things and if he wants his wife back, he needs to regain her trust. Trust is something that Kate struggles with beyond measure for many reasons. It’s going to be a monumental feat on both sides of the table and clearly not something that is going to [realistically] happen overnight. But slogging through the everyday mundane aspects of life while that trust is rebuilt doesn’t really make for a very interesting story. I could go so far as to tell it all the way to them living together again, and possibly getting remarried, but aside from intermittent conflict…it would be kind of boring. (Not that the Cliff’s Notes is all that exciting as it stands, but I’d read it.)

I could also divide the story into parts that would make a significant time jump less jarring, but it’s really actually two separate stories. The plan as is, is about the death of her father and how the family copes in the early days. The reconciliation is basically a spinoff of that. The overarching story isn’t Kate and Marc. It’s Kate navigating around her mother, interactions with her brothers, and finding a (new?) place for her ex-husband, all while trying to come to terms with her dad being gone.

At this point I’m probably just over thinking everything and I should really just shut-up and WRITE.

“Mom, relax. Everything’s fine.”

Marc watched Kate as she walked out of the kitchen, phone pressed to her ear. He shook his head, turning to Darren sitting at the counter, finding him eyeing him critically.

“Gotta say, it’s kind of weird seeing you here. This is where she really picked up and started over—new house, new car, new dog. It was when she finally started showing signs of life again. Now suddenly…you’re back…and here.”

“I don’t know if back is the right word,” Marc rubbed his chest absently, leaning against the counter behind him.

Darren sat up straight, “Are you saying this is only temporary?”

No,” Marc’s eyes widened and he shook his head, “God I hope not. I’m just…right now I’m letting her dictate how things go. I don’t want to force anything on her. If she tells me to get lost, then I will. I don’t want to, but I will. I can’t hurt her again.”

“Do you want her back?”

“More than anything.”

“Have you told her?”

“Sort of. I’m kind of afraid to. I don’t want to scare her off.”

“I don’t think you’re going to scare her off. She invited you into her house. She might not be ready to just pick up where you left off, but she’s opened the door to the possibility.”

“And how do you feel about all this?”

“Me? Why should my opinion matter?”

“Because it matters to her. If her brothers aren’t happy with it, it’s definitely going to influence her feelings on the matter.”

“Not as much as you think. But we’re all pretty much on the same page on this so far. If you’re over your selfish-prick-existential-crisis, then we’re cautiously optimistic something good can come from this. Something broke in her when you left. She’s gotten better over time, but she is not the same person she was with you. Since you’ve been around, there are definite changes in her. Signs of the old Katie we thought were long gone. If you break her heart again, we will kill you. But if you’re here to stay—in whatever capacity you both agree on—then welcome back. Believe it or not, we all missed you.”

Marc swallowed hard to dislodge the sudden knot in his throat, “I’ve missed you guys too. I didn’t realize just how much until I saw you all again. I really hate that it took losing your dad to make this happen.”

Darren sighed tiredly, nodding, “Dad really loved you. He was devastated when you left. But he was always a strong proponent of better late than never. He would have loved to see you and Katie be able to reconcile. But I think he’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you’re here to take care of her now that he can’t. She’s by no means helpless, but she doesn’t need to be so goddamn independent all the time. She could stand to give up control once in awhile.”

Marc snorted, shaking his head, “She never gave up control when we were married.”

“Fair point,” Darren shrugged, “But she could use a partner to share the load. Even better if it’s someone who knows how to take care of her properly when she really needs it. She’s tough as nails and a whole lot tougher than she gives herself credit for, but she deserves to be taken care of too.”

When I first starting working on this project, every time Kate and Marc were mentioned together (in the story, in my head, wherever) it sounded strange to me. It bugged me for a long time before I finally figured it out.

Kate and Marc are the “famed” Jenkins siblings producing music almost exclusively for Chance Records artists.

They are in…a lot…of different stories.

Seven…if I go through all my folders and find new, old, and stalled projects.

I’m so used to them being brother and sister, pairing two characters with the same names together in a romantic capacity just seems a little weird.

Doesn’t mean I have any plans to change those names.

But weird nonetheless.

Still unwritten…

I was looking for an old graphic file on my hard drive.

I ended up falling into a bottomless pit of some ridiculously bad graphics once designed for website pipe dreams gone by. I also found a metric fuckton of web pages, code, and whathaveyou for all of those long-dead website plans.

Ten-plus years ago I did not have one flipping clue what I was doing when it came to webdesign.

I probably still don’t know what the hell I’m doing here, but at least my poorly designed graphics are no longer all neon colors on a black background that will burn out your retinas in a single glance.

Amidst all the horrible quality JPEGs, non-animated gifs(!?), day-glo colors, barely functional java script, and framed page layouts, I found a pile of writing I’d forgotten I ever posted (or at least planned to post) on the internet. There was a slew of short stories, some I’d completely forgotten I’d ever written, all of which were truly terrible. And then I found some American Idol fanfiction. Which…subject matter aside…wasn’t actually as bad as I thought it would be. But still, go ahead and judge me on that one. AI Fanfic is…I don’t even know what that is. Inexcusable, probably.

In all my wading through ten-plus years of WTF IS THIS? archives, I stumbled across a title graphic for a story I had absolutely no recollection of ever writing. So I dove into my writing archives to find it and refresh my memory. It did ring a vaguely familiar bell when I found it. And then I started sifting through folder after folder of things I did not remember writing at all. Which I suppose is no great tragedy because the writing was terrible and majority of the plotlines are not worth salvaging. But there are six thousand-some files sitting in my writing directory and all I can say is…SIX THOUSAND FILES OF WHAT???. Though I’ve been writing on a computer for about fifteen years now and apparently that adds up. Imagine if I’d had a computer from day one. I’m sitting at approximately twenty years of writing here. If all those notebooks sitting in plastic bins in my living room were in digital format? I’m sure there’d be double the files in my writing directory.

And then I went and made myself feel really fucking OLD because I have been writing for TWENTY YEARS. I have been writing for roughly two-thirds of my life.

What.

The.

Hell?

Once upon a time I had an affinity for bright, neon colors on black backgrounds for all my graphics.

Also, illegible fonts.

I am NOT a graphic designer.

Because obviously.

Apparently the original incarnation of Chance Records had a compound in Orlando. Unsurprising really, considering my phase of boy band obsession. The other five locations still exist. In my head at least. Though now that I think about it, much of the Chances Are story took place in Orlando, so, there you have it.

The Chances Are logo showcases what were my favorite colors to use in creating all my web graphics. Apparently ten-plus years ago my eyes were far less sensitive to blinding neon.

But hey—at least the story title graphic had a non-black background.

Marc Jenkins has been a long-running reoccurring character in the Chance Records universe. He’s Will Jenkins’ son after all. And Will Jenkins is everybody’s favorite CR executive. But while these days Marc (and sister Kate…the original “Kate”) is producing records for CR artists, apparently he originally managed many of the artists he now produces for. Either that or I just can’t keep my story straight.

And then I found a bunch of band logos I’d designed for other CR artists. Most of which I barely remember ever creating, nor do I remember what stories they were once a part of. But this one stuck out to me because Andrew Mason was the second-ever Chance Records artist. Chances Are opened a few shows for him back in the day.

Though the modern-day incarnation of Mr. Mason plays a completely different type of music. He also actually plays his own music on multiple instruments instead of just singing with a backing band. And his age has been adjusted to better fit the character. If this was the original AM he’d be pushing forty by now. In the CR universe he’s still in his mid-twenties. Because I created him. I can make him how ever old I damn well please.

And thus concludes yet another installment of “Things Only I Will Actually Understand But I Write About Anyway Because Nobody is Forcing Anybody Else to Read This Crap.”

Ahh…memories…

We make things way too clear…

Clear as mud, really.

When I open up a blank draft for a blog post, if I don’t already have a title in mind, I sit and focus on the lyrics of whatever song is playing until I hear something that could possibly represent what I had planned to write about. Sometimes I need to wait until the next song to find a fitting title. Though most of the time, regardless of what I end up using, it doesn’t actually make sense to anyone but me anyway.

I’m sure I don’t need to mention who is currently playing in iTunes right now. He shall remain nameless as the last SIX POSTS revolved around said name, and things are starting to get creepy and weird a bit excessive.

AT LEAST I ADMIT MY CRAZY.

ANYWAY.

I haven’t worked on either the Ben & Marina story or the Kate & Michael story in weeks. Things were dragging and sputtering as it was and I hadn’t put anything more than a handful of words down on the page in too long. Then I had a questionable dream that sparked a questionable writing idea that morphed into something completely different that I started cranking out dialogue for. (No, it wasn’t the Andy Grammer and a platypus dream…although…nevermind.) And then somehow that project reminded me of a character I created years ago and I had the brilliant idea to revive said character into a new storyline and now I’m sitting with two new projects that have been occupying my mind for a few weeks now.

Still writing. Just writing different things. Par for the course, I suppose. But frustrating nonetheless. I had made such significant progress on the Ben & Marina story and now…nothing.

When I wrote my “grand masterpieceChances Are…fourteen years ago…I created the Chance Records label. (And the Mountain Reel Pictures movie production company.) (Apparently there was once a real Chance Records label. But fourteen years ago I did not have internet access and had no way of Googling such things. ((Never mind that Google didn’t really exist then anyway…I suppose I could have Yahoo-ed it. But again…no internet.)) And I’m not about to change it when none of my writing will ever get published anyway.)

Where was I?

MY Chance Records.

Right.

I created the record label specifically for that story. When I was done with that project, the gears kept turning on the possibility of more CR artists. I know absolutely nothing about the music industry (as is glaringly obvious by anything I write about it) but writing about musicians fuels and feeds both my music obsession and my need to write, so it became a running theme through the past fourteen years of writing. There has been a lot of complete and utter crap produced, but there are a couple of projects that are still in the active pipeline.

In the Chances Are story, aside from the singing group named Chances Are, there was another CR artist that played a small but notable role in the timeline. Since its creation, I’ve kept a running list of CR artists and that one singer always stood out in my mind. Probably because he was the second ever CR artist. I don’t know that I ever really planned to revisit him as a potential story all on his own…but now he’s the focus of the latest Chance Records connected story, along with a few other reoccurring CR-related characters.

Sure it gets confusing as hell, but I like the idea of so many of my projects being interconnected like that.

Of course this particular project dredges up the problem with the Name Game all over again because one of the reoccurring CR-related characters is named KATE and…well…she has been Kate longer than any of the other Kates have been Kate so she gets to keep her name. For now. Unless I finally find something I like better. Which I don’t see happening.

But I won’t say never.

Yet.

I try to convince myself all of these Kates are okay because in each project Kate is short for something different. There are a lot of choices to derive the name Kate from. I could just start referring to all of them exclusively by their full name and eliminate any confusion between stories.

Or so I tell myself.

But I like to keep things as confusing as possible.

It’s what I do.