Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Writing Doldrums -- a Lack of Go


Often you hear about authors suffering from Writer's Block. I consider myself lucky in that I never really had any lack of things to write, but occasionally I lack motivation to put the words down on paper. This past year has been extremely difficult. Between COVID, political upheaval and division, and the death of a friend as well as the passing of several people I greatly admired I have found it difficult to maintain any level of focus to finish the stories I have plotted out in my head.

She meant to smile, but rather than her lips curling up at the ends, she pulled them straight back giving her a sneer instead. I realized much later that the sneer was the most authentic thing about her. 

Before I ever put words on a page, I have, in my mind, thought out the basics of setting, the characters, and a premise to move that to where it is going. This doesn't mean I won't find various off-ramps more interesting than what I originally planned, or that I might not realize a particular character has different motivations; all it means is that I have a direction I'm heading and a sketched roadmap of how to get there from here.

After working with Spyder for the past few weeks, I realized that his style was basically to attack with a hammer and crowbar. Now, for the first time I was watching Rigor Mortis go to work. As the screen reacted to his typing on the keyboard, I watched the glowing green letters appear and begin to fill the void. As I read and understood each command he was entering, I knew I was watching a maestro at work not just a basic hacker trying to gain entry. Looking back, it would've been totally appropriate to expect him to throw the tails of his tuxedo back as he assumed his seat in front of the console. Then, a hush would fall across the room as each touch of his finger on the keyboard demonstrated the artistry hidden within his attack.

Having that information in my head, makes it hard when I sit down in front of the keyboard and can't find the motivation to type it out. I almost want to force myself forward, tapping in a few words here and there, combining plot lines together, hearing dialogue taking place in my mind between characters as I record the words being spoken. But I've tried that before. I end up with things usually delete or destroyed in edit.

“Oh baby, are you okay? I didn’t mean to scare you.” She reached out and caressed the growing lump on his forehead. “That may leave a mark. You better come up with something to explain it that doesn’t involve the car. You don’t want to have it taken away on your first day, do you?”

Lucas once again felt the disorienting dizziness he had experienced earlier. Who the hell is this?

While I wait for the slowness of the tide to push me beyond the doldrums, I continue to go to my office daily and sit staring at the screen while waiting for my muse to pounce me and bring it all back to life. I type a few lines here and there, that have to escape my mind before they are lost but beyond them, I find it difficult to push myself into a complete work. A work worthy of my past efforts. A work worthy of being read.

When the tone played on my phone telling me I had a new message from Godfrey, I hoped it was from him, but this text, like the one I received just three days prior, was written by his sister. I reread the message twice more and allowed its reality to sink in. My friend Godfrey Henries was gone. 

Today might not be the day either, but is too soon to tell. The hope that I have is too deep to give up this early. So, after I finish this essay, I’ll bring up a blank screen and let my imagination run wild. Before I'm done, I hope that the colors and brushstrokes I laid down form some kind of coherent picture and tell a story. After all, that is what all this is about? 

Take the reader for a ride some place they haven't been, or maybe to a place they know but never saw what opportunities lingered around them. Let them eavesdrop on those people who wandered by whispering. Expose the secret conspiracies that take place under the surface of the reality where the reader lives. Let them identify with the loss felt when a friend passes and allow them to find solace there in the emotion's commonality. Share with them the results of a questionable decision when a young man accidentally happens upon a demon looking to make a deal and he can only see the upside of what is being offered.

Hard to tell where I'm going, but don't worry. Eventually, I'll tell you about the journey and how it all turned out.


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

He Stubbed Out His Cigar, Packed Up His Wing-Wang, and Left

Today, a brilliant writer, PJ O'Rourke, passed away. I consider him of my teachers in a lifelong writing education. Even in his most serious essays, he included biting humor that forced even those who disagreed to smile and the man wrote the most interesting titles I have ever seen.

I wrote about him over ten years ago.

PJ O'Rourke Taught Me How to Drive Fast While Getting My Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill My Drink

Farewell, PJ.


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Basement Couture: The Tin Foil Hat

Every dream I've had for the last two weeks has featured the Santana song Black Magic Woman in its soundtrack. It never fits into the narrative of the dream but always seems to be playing in the background. An Ear Worm? Too persistent. After the first few times, I sought the lyrics out and studied them for a clue but found nada. There isn't even a life event that I can pair it to. But I do like Carlos' guitar riffs and solos in the song.  

Then this morning I was listening to American Top 40 from the 70s on SiriusXM and Casey plays a special bonus song — I held my breath and then listened as those familiar notes began this song.

I am sitting in my basement now, sporting the same hat Joaquin Phoenix wore in Signs. Obviously, the aliens have tuned into my wavelength and the only solution is an aluminum foil hat.  

Oh, and they just announced Santana’s concert lineup for the next few months–of course, two are nearby. 

Almost scared to get tickets. Damn aliens, ruining my concert bucket list.


Tuesday, February 1, 2022

It's All Happening at The Zoo


I like to think everyone has a collection like this. This is The Zoo, and it takes up a corner on my desk.  The first figure added was the Warthog (about midway back in the center). I got him when I was working in a reserve unit that flew A10s, aka Warthog. Aside from him being first, I can't tell you how or when most of the other members came to join my conglomeration.

The villagers with torches and pitchforks were a full set of figures I bought when I was in Kuwait to use as stand-ins when I was trying to keep track of characters in a story I was writing. I also used a set of plastic Roman warrior figures and some green army men, but they didn't make it into The Zoo.

I do have stories that go with some figures in the set, for example all astronaut figures and rockets came from the gift shop at Space Camp—yes, it is an actual place. The Templar Knight on the right, under the Dragon.  I picked him up in Garmisch, Germany.  

Other members of The Zoo include:

Saul, Jesse, Walter (Heisenberg) and Gus from Breaking Bad were picked up from a sale bin at a bookstore.

Among the heroes Capt America, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Ironman, Star Lord, Spider-Man, Nick Fury, Rocket Raccoon. The Villans displayed include: Penguin, Thanos & Harley Quinn. Finally, those who claim not to be heroes: Dead Pool & Loki.

Another large category is SciFi in movies and on TV: Star Wars (BB8, Han,  & Rey), Farscape (Crichton, Aeryn, Ciana & D'Argo), Star Trek (Worf, Spock), Firefly (Mal) and from Lost in Space (Robot Model B-9, also the largest figure in The Zoo).

Both iZombie and The Walking Dead are represented by Liv (best character name ever for a zombie) and Michonne. Game of Thrones Viserion guards The Zoo from overhead while Arya Stark uses Needle to defend Forbidden Planet's Robbie the Robot.

In the general animated realm, The Zoo features Bender from Futurama plus Homer and Bart from The Simpsons. Semianimated: The Mask guy from The Mask.

Special categories:

In The Zoo, for no other reason than I like Dan Aykroyd, is Ghostbuster Ray Stantz

The most out of the box figure?  That's easy: Jeff Dunham's Achmed.

Only real-life human being and not a character: Stan The Man Lee

The Zoo has lighting provided by two classic and one bullet lava lamp and also features a chrome rocket.

Now you know the what, as for the why – – I really have no idea. Things like this come to you over time, sometimes through gifts sometimes two things you pick up because you have a particular interest at a particular time.  Most people keep them around for a little while and then get rid of them. 

For me, I'm still a fan of the shows, movies, and stories that these characters came from. Why would I not hold onto them? Better yet, why not put them in an unused corner of my desk where I see and enjoy them every single day along with a puppy paw print provided by MacBeth?

I guess the most revealing facet of The Zoo is that is not done yet. As long as there are good movies with excellent characters, someone will turn them into action figures. If they are worthy, they end up in The Zoo.

The Zoo Trivia: Only two characters are featured twice:  Batman -- Classic and Armored and Nancy from Sin City (one color, one black and white). Neither duplicate was obtained by design, just by chance.