Thursday, September 30, 2004

A fool and his money

This morning I went to K-Mart to buy earphones. Why you ask? Well, the only pair that I have have that broken wire thing going on where you have to hold your head at a very particular neck stiffening tilt to keep a proper stereo sound in both ears. But, Bryce, you say, you’re not such a consumer that something like this would cause you to spend money? Get out your duct tape, man!

Well, there’re two issues that led to this purchase. The first has to do with writer’s block. While I don’t think that I’ve actually had this problem, and I’m not even sure it exists, I do occasionally get stuck for the right word or where to go next with my story. I have two ways of solving this. The first is to skip that part and go on. Usually whatever has escaped me will come later, often in the shower. I have no idea why, but most of my best ideas come to me while I am showering. Admittedly, this solution has led to a lot of discarded writing. If the solution doesn’t fit what I wrote when I skipped it, then I just have to throw that whole bit away. At the time it feels like wasted effort but a larger view tells me that I am just massaging the story and playing with the characters until I get it right. My second solution for being stuck, and the one I most often use is to go somewhere else, physically, I mean. I find another venue. One of my favorites is a coffee shop here in Cape Girardeau called Grace’s Café. They serve all of the cappuccino type drinks as well as pastries in the mornings and sandwiches and soups the rest of the day. It’s a nice place and usually by the time I’ve ordered my coffee and found a seat and gotten started up, the ideas are flowing again. I wrote a great deal of the first draft of my novel in that store. Then The Mouth came. I’m not sure when he first showed up; he gradually crept into my consciousness. He’s a loud talker. There is nowhere to sit in Grace’s that is safe from his inane babble. And he now comes every morning. He and his friends, none of which I can hear talking, sit and chat every single morning of the week in there. He ruined the place for me. I thought the headphones, plugged into my lap top which has about five hours of George Winston loaded into it, might save me from his blather. We’ll see. The other reason that I bought these headphones is that I have got to start working out. There’s a new gym in town. It has these neat little computer screens at most machines. You sit at the machine, type in your id and it tells you where you had the seat, how much weight you used and how many reps you did the last time you used it. That’s pretty cool! But you have to go through an individual orientation process to use it. I had mine this morning. It turns out that that cardio machines all have earphone plugs. You can plug in and listen to one of the six tvs running on the wall. I’ve tried reading on those things and I just can’t do it. And they are boring so, having these headphones will allow me to workout and not be bored to tears. Maybe I will stick with it this time.

So, I bought headphones. But that’s not my point. I bought a pair for fifteen dollars that are actually earplugs that shove deep into the ears. The package said “maximum isolation,” see The Mouth above. I used my ATM card to pay for it and, at the same time, took $20. I went to my car, stopping on the way to throw away the bag they gave me. Usually I tell the cashier that I don’t need a bag but I didn’t today. Then I drove to Grace’s to get a cup of coffee - to go, see The Mouth above. I pulled into the parking lot behind the café and went to grab the $20 bill. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t in my wallet, my pocket, in the seat, under the seat, down the crack beside the seat. It wasn’t there. Even while I searched these places I knew where it was: in the trash can, with the bag. And it was an open trash can. Anybody walking by could see it and grab it if the wind didn’t take it. So, I got in my car and drove back to K Mart. By now it had been about 20 minutes since I’d left the store. But when I got there, there was my money, perched on top of the trash! I retrieved it and still had time to grab my coffee and make it to work exactly on time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

In the beginning...

... was the blog and the blog was good.

It seems an arrogant thing, to presume to post my thoughts and feelings in this public forum. But then it’s not really public, is it? People will have to seek me out and, being that I’m not much of a salesman, I doubt that many will find their way here.

Unless, that is, my book is a hit. At this point I can’t even imagine such a thing. I hope that someday I call this up and smile at the memory. But for now, being called an author is only something that I aspire to. It is a dream that is all consuming to me. Since I first had the idea of my book last December, I have done little else with my spare time.

My idea began with the line from Macbeth: “By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.” (By the way, if you haven’t read “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury, do yourself a favor and find a copy.) My thought was to build a story for the character, the Second Witch, who says this. And so I did. I spent a couple of months at the library researching Scotland of the period and reading Holinshed. That was completely fascinating and I still pick up H just for reading enjoyment. Those histories are just packed with fascinating stories. If the day comes that I can make a living writing novels, I will turn to this source when I’m looking for new ideas.

Anyway, I began writing in earnest in late February or March 2004. I frantically wrote the whole thing, beginning to end. I finished sometime in May, I think. During this first writing, I refused to let myself think about anything but the story. If a question of grammar or fact came up, I simply changed the text to red and made a note to myself to look it up later.

So, I got the story down. Then the rewrite began and that has proven to be the hardest and most time consuming part. To begin with, I decided that the first chapters moved rather slowly. It seems that’s a common thing. I read advice from a published author that said when you get done with your novel, whatever is happening with it, dump the first chapter. I dumped the first ten or so. This created huge holes in the character’s story that I’ve used to provided a sense of tension. She doesn’t know what’s come before but knowledge of her past is slowly revealed. This is the tension that leads to the climax of the book. Given all of that, the second draft became more than just a rewrite, it became a re-creation. I’m still in the midst of that stage but when I emerge, I will emerge with the completed book as I am not moving to the next chapters until I am satisfied with the current one. I’m working on Chapter 22 now and expect around 30.

Next, I have to find an agent and get it published. Not something I’m looking forward to. Honestly, what I most want to do is to get started on the next book. I have a few ideas clunking about in my head that I want to explore.

All the while I keep my full time job. I work for Spartech Plastics. My title is Credit Manager – Western region. My function is whipping boy for the accounting and sales department. There’s little of interest here so I won’t spend much time on the bills paying aspect of my life.