A success

Finished the backside of all the notecards yesterday! Every time I’d stop into the downstairs office, I’d pick up the pen and write a few notes on a card or two. Yesterday, I finished the last card.

I put all the cards into an order that made some kind of sense, numbered them all, and then shuffled them again. Now, if I’m stumped about something to write, I can pluck out a card and write a scene or two. If I’m motivated, and the words are flowing, then I can just write until my fingers bleed.

Along the way, I learned a few things. I learned that part of why Emily is coming so unwound is that she develops a bit of a drug habit trying to keep up with the Hollywood lifestyle. And Alistair? He’s flawed too… apparently he has to work really hard on his anger issues and PTSD type shit.

So the process has helped put some flesh on the story. It started out years and years ago as a fun little story about riding in an airplane, and now I can feel it starting to really take on a bit of shape. Yes, I still have a lot of writing to do. All my little games with colored cards won’t take away the amount of effort required to really write the story, but it has helped with a few things like continuity and answering some of the most important questions like, “What do a zeppelin, a bootlegger with fancy shoes, and the Mojave desert have in common?”

Next, I think I’m going to work on the characters a bit more. I need to draw up some sketches of them – write not draw – so that when I include the guy in a scene, I can make sure I write him in the proper character. Include some physical descriptions, some background stories, the character’s conflicts, etc. Make them more alive and realistic.

And, it will soon be time to dust off Long Chain Charlie and start posting it for comments and maybe some beta-reading. Yay!

One bite at a time

I’m a great fan of Roz Morris, whose blog you will find over on the right there under Nail Your Novel and also Kristen Lamb. It was from Roz’s book, “Nail Your Novel,” that I got the idea for the notecards.

Since Cancer Man has caused me to work two desks at a time, I keep my notecards downstairs in the dungeon. I don’t get many visitors down there, so it isn’t a problem to have non-work type work scattered amongst the work-type work on my desk. Up here in the glass house, however, I have to make things appear more professional.

So when I stop by the dungeon office, sometimes I take a few minutes to grab a card and write something on the back about that scene. A note about the character’s emotions, maybe some action they’ve taken, anything that pops to mind. I filled up the back of a few cards; others just have a couple words. There aren’t many cards left! I’m almost done!

So what comes next is to sit down and reassemble the cards – they are color coded according to character – and then see about writing some of the scenes. I’m enthusiastic about the process. This isn’t the first blush of writing either, this is the second (twelfth) wind. Marathon not sprint.

The time off has also helped me, as well as – I didn’t mention her just for the heck of it – many of Ms. Lamb’s and Ms. Reynolds’ posts about… gosh they write about all the stuff I need to know! Make characters more interesting, make plots better… make stories WORK.

I’ve also been studying more on the historical era and finished a couple of good books. One was about the Mary Astor “scandal” and another by a secretary who worked in the movie industry at the end of the silent era and into the beginning of the talkies. Those and the wonderful adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Last Tycoon on Amazon. I’d watch that just for the cars, but the story is good and the production is first rate.

So the novel moves forward…


Gosh, I haven’t had time to change my socks these last couple of weeks.  One of my co-workers – that’s my *day* job co-worker – had the unmitigated audacity to come down with cancer!  I mean, he couldn’t have picked a worse time because this is just so inconvenient for me.  And no, he doesn’t just have a mole that needs to be removed, he goes all-in and has Stage IV metastatic.  Thanks a lot, dude.  Now I’ve got to fool everybody into thinking I’m doing *your* job too!  Inconsiderate.

So, yeah, CancerMan kind of slowed things down a bit since I now have to work most of the time while I’m at work.  Even so, I’ve been poking away at TTS and the colored cards.  I even had a couple of flashes of insight about the story – help make the plot work a little better – maybe.

As part of the process for Long Chain Charlie, I did an in depth search for novels of the same name, or about the same subject.  “Long Chain Charlie” is prison slang for the bus that takes you to prison, but that particular bit of slang seems to have been confined to the South.  I do have an old recording from the 1920s (?) called Long Chain Charlie Blues.  He mentions the bus a little bit, but mostly just whines about being in prison.  It’s not a bad little tune.  I thought it might make good opening music for the movie, once the novel breaks the record for weeks on the NYT bestseller list and they pay me billions to write the screenplay.

I also found another song, Long Chain Charlie and Moundsville.  Also a good song, a bit more modern, and also about going to prison.  So far so good.  More music for the movie score.

And then… egad… I found a book called Sir Long Chain Charles all about being in a chain gang in Virginia!  ACK!  I bought the book and checked it out.  It was entirely self-published – a nice slick job – and my copy cost $20.  The gentleman who wrote the story seemed quite authentic, which made me feel good since he corroborated many of the things my father had told me.  If the author is still alive, he’d be around 86 today.  Not an impossible age to achieve, but not common either.  I’d like to talk to him, just out of respect, but he may not be around to ask anymore.  His book isn’t very comparable to mine, except that it is about the same prison system at about the same time.  I couldn’t find any circulation numbers about the book, but he did use a well known self-publishing company that provides a number of services – for a nice little fee.  That tells me he probably didn’t sell a lot of copies, and I won’t get hundreds of thousands of angry letters telling me that my book is just like his.  Which it isn’t, anyway, it just has a similar title.  Working title.

Ain’t so easy, is it?

I’m glad I didn’t make a solemn vow to blog every single day.  I do try and hit the site at least once per day, but I’m still stuck at my day job until the next great novel is published anyway.  And my employer is so RUDE.  He actually expects me to do the work he pays me to do instead of writing all day.  The nerve.  I mean I usually show up on time and I’m often sober, so what else does he want from me?

I did make a little progress on the note cards for To The Skies.  Turns out that the quick bold sketch on the front was the easy part, which is how it was supposed to work.  When I decided to add stuff on the back, I made it tougher.  That’s cool, I guess.  The whole process is supposed to help me build an entire cohesive structure for the story.  The front of the card is sort of skeletal, and the back puts a little meat on it.

I just wrote down any thoughts that I had about a particular scene, or the characters, or something that I wanted to highlight… a mood, a plot point that connects later, anything.  And, I shuffled the cards up to make it harder, so that any inconsistencies would show up later when I tried to reassemble everything in sequence.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.

To The Skies is still my first novel, even if I’m writing it second, so I can still make lots of mistakes, and I’m working very hard at that!

I did get in touch with my long lost sister regarding Long Chain Charlie.  I mentioned that I’d written it, but did not ask her if she wanted to read it for me, and she did not volunteer.  She will.  In the meantime, it is still marinating.  I have a small digital voice recorder now, so when I get a flash of inspiration I just yammer into the little box and it saves my brilliant idea for later.  Like, for example, writing a short verse of Down In The Valley, to start each chapter.  My father included a couple verses, but he was barely even done with a first draft.  So I thought I’d see what I could come up with.  Kinda corny, but so was he.

My Grandpa’s Chair

Here I sit, in my Grandpa’s chair.  No. . . it’s my chair now.  The last time he and I sat in it together was right around my fifth birthday.  I hadn’t seen him for quite awhile, and didn’t realize how sick he was, or that he’d be gone forever in a few weeks.

I do remember coming into the house and being very happy to see him.  He was resting in this chair and I leaped up and sat on his lap.  He gave a sort of a grunt and I remember the shock on my Mother’s face.  She knew how ill he was and wanted me to get up.  My Grandpa wouldn’t hear of it and I remember him telling her it was okay.  I stayed in his lap.

He had a soft spoken but commanding air about him.  My Bubby (Yiddish for Grandma) ran the household with an iron fist, and he generally was happy with that arrangement.  On rare occasions, however, when he felt it was necessary, he would speak up and his word was final.  On this occasion, he said it was okay for me to sit in his lap, and that was that.  I don’t remember him all that well.  There are just little flashes of memory left, but the one of sitting with him in this chair is crystal clear.

I remember telling the family after he was gone that the chair was my chair now.  They humored me and called it my chair, but they must have finally taken me seriously because when my Bubby passed away many years later, I did indeed finally come into possession of *my* chair.

I didn’t really have a good place for it for quite awhile and it sat in my “Man Room” doing duty as a clothes horse and all around stuff holder.  I sat in it a few times, before it got those duties, but it was just not in a good location or in the right room.

Now, however, when I set up the “Man Room” in the new house, I decided to use the chair as a chair for the first time in many years.  It’s a great old chair.  It can be a bit uncomfortable in some positions.  Old chairs are like that sometimes, I guess.  The upholstery is in great shape.  My Bubby had it re-upholstered years ago and it has held up well.

I’m now old enough to be a Grandpa myself, although my children haven’t seen fit to place me in that category yet.  They’ve just barely cracked into their twenties, so there’s still plenty of time.

Someday I’ll be famous, you’ll see!

My last post got me a couple more followers, YAY!  I’m on my way to fame and fortune and you can all say, “S. Earl?  Gosh, I’ve been reading his stuff for years!”

Still nothing huge to talk about, but this is part of the whole Build Your Brand process that they talk about.  Reaching out to all (33 at last count) of my followers to include you in my process.

And, speaking of process, I sat down yesterday with a deck of multi-colored 3×5 cards.  pinkish for Emily, bluish for Alistair, and orangey for everybody else.  I could have used plain cards, but the colored ones seemed more fun.  Then, I just wrote down in a simple sentence or two some action that the character would take.  Alistair plays piano while Emily sings, to use the example from yesterday.

I’ve got a nice sized deck of cards now and today I think I’ll shuffle them all up and then deal them out, one at a time.  On the back of each card, I’ll make some notes if I can think of them, like what the character might be feeling at this time, or other notes about continuity… anything that pops into my head when I read the front of the card.

So that’s To The Skies news for today.  I did a bit of research into the whole self-publishing thing for Long Chain Charlie.  I was hoping I could just dash off a couple of first drafts and then sit back while the royalty checks filled my mailbox.  Apparently, that isn’t the way this whole writing thing usually works.  I wish they’d have told me how much effort this was going to take before I started!

Self-publishing, or even any kind at all, is pretty far in the future.  I may actually take a shot at a traditional publishing house, just to see if I can collect a few rejection letters like any good writer.  But all of that is quite far in the future, and I need to concentrate on some of the nearer alligators.  So I will stick with the plan for now, let Long Chain Charley mature for a while on the shelf, and work on To The Skies.  I will need to give LCC a good hard rewrite before it is anywhere close to submission standards, but it is a good feeling to know I’ve at least got a complete first draft.

No Particular Thing to Say

Just a bit of a blog post with nothing in particular to talk about.  Part of the “blog every day” routine.  I’d have written something Friday, but I took a bit of time to go over the site and freshen it up just a little.  Nothing noticeable other than the banner.  Took out the picture of some fat old guy leaning against the DC-3, and put in a bunch of photos that relate to To The Skies.

There’s a zeppelin there, a few cars, a couple of buildings that show up in the story; that sort of thing.  Pizzazz it up a bit.

So speaking of To The Skies, which, if you’ve all been following along, is my first novel second.  I’ve been checking out a lot of Roz Morris’ writing about writing, and this week I’m going to try writing a bunch of stuff down on 3×5 cards.

I’m going to try and concentrate on writing down things, using a big marker on a little card so I force myself to be brief, that my characters DO.

Not how they feel, or what they’re thinking, or why something is happening… just what they do… actions.  “Emily drives by the Waldor-Astoria” or “Alistair plays the piano.”  We’ll see how that goes, but it’s worth a shot.  I’ve been doing it all wrong so far; or rather, I’ve been making all the usual mistakes.  Right of passage, perhaps.

I also looked into copyright registration for my second novel first, Long Chain Charlie, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do on that one, and I promised myself to put it on the shelf for three months while I give To The Skies my full effort.  Onward!