I’m gonna close my eyes and hold my nose…a Princess of Fire progress report

I’m at that point, it seems, with the first draft of Princess of Fire— the point at which I have begun to grasp what it will take to achieve a relatively coherent narrative– and it ain’t pretty. It’s also the point at which I have to just keep writing, no matter how much it nauseates me. That’s where the eyes and nose thingies come in.

Today I cleared 84,000 words on this novel. That probably sounds a lot more impressive than it is, because I have come to understand that this turkey has some serious problems.

When I originally conceived this story, I thought of it as basically a single-thread narrative revolving around Kathy as she faces a crisis. As I wrote the parts I already had in mind, however, it became clear that a single thread would not adequately support this story–

1. I needed to expand the narrative to include several viewpoint characters, particularly for events from which Kathy is far removed, but which powerfully affect her. This will involve tens of thousands of extra words, and the weaving together of multiple threads.

2. Many of the characters, both viewpoint and non-viewpoint, are not adequately fleshed out, and I need to revisit them and get to know them better.

3. There are major structural problems, particularly around a core timeline which needs to be the time-bomb ticking ever more loudly in the background. This timeline also involves some fairly technical material that might require some extensive (aagh!) exposition.

That’s a lot of issues with a novel that (estimating here) is about two-thirds drafted. To put it simply, I have a hell of a lot of work to do.

That’s the main reason I feel right now that I need to clap on a gas mask while writing Fire— I know full well I am putting down words that are going to have to be fixed later, and perhaps a little more than usual with a first draft. I do not want to stop and try and fix everything now, though– that is an invitation to picnic on quicksand.

It’s just the way it is– the easy stuff is over. Time to buckle down and slog.

Picture Prompt – Elf Wars IV

action-sceneelf

Whim Notes posted this picture prompt, asking for a description of the action, but I took off with it in a completely different direction. In the process I also dumped the 500 word limit. I have failed, but hopefully the story’s enjoyable.

Warning: this piece has some language, but since it involves the film industry, it’s probably toned down from reality.

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“Cut, cut, CUT!” the director yelled. His bullhorn shrieked with feedback on the last word. He grabbed his baseball cap and flung it down on the snow. “Goddamn it, people– first the spearmen charge, then the axe-men, then the fucking snow-tiger. Everybody back to their start positions– we’re going to do this bastard until we get it right!”

The AD came running over, galumphing in his snow-boots. “Boss, it’s noon.”

“So what?”

“Union rules say we gotta give them lunch…”

“Dammit!” the director said. “Goddamn union!” He stood with his hands on his hips. It looked for a moment as if he were going to argue; then his shoulders slumped in resignation. “Fuck– all right. Thirty minutes for lunch.”

“Thirty minutes, people!” the AD yelled.

The actors, talking among themselves, streamed away from the shooting area toward the catering trucks, parked off-camera. Colm fell in step with Padraic. “Thought he’d never call for a break,” Colm said.

Harold!” the director yelled. “Where’s my goddamn coffee?”

“I think he’s had more than enough already,” Padraic said. Colm suppressed a giggle.

As the actors clustered around the trucks, grips moved the tracked cameras back to their original positions. Cameramen, wearing caps with “Elf Wars IV” stitched on them, put their cameras on standby, to keep them from getting too cold. The animal wranglers leashed the snow-tiger and led it back to its holding pen. It snarled, ill-tempered.

“That cat’s going to eat somebody yet,” Colm said.

“Well, this guy said he wanted practical effects rather than CGI,” Padraic said. “If the beast does eat somebody, they’ll probably use the footage.”

Colm and Padraic elbowed their way into the press at the trucks. Both of them ladled minestrone soup into Styrofoam cups and grabbed breadsticks. After days of shooting on this Canadian glacier everyone wanted hot dishes and soup– the yogurt and fruit available went begging.

“I tell you,” another actor told someone, “this guy’s a real auteur. He’s gonna revive the franchise.”

“You mean the guy’s a real asshole,” Padraic muttered, as he and Colm walked away from the crowd, sipping their soup.

Colm laughed. “Can’t complain too much, though– we’re both working.”

“True.”

They found a rocky outcropping free of ice. They sat down and ate their soup and bread. From here they could look out of over the valley of the Fraser River. Below the glacier evergreen-covered slopes ran down toward the river, a bright thread through the dark woods.

“This is beautiful,” Colm said.

“Yeah,” Padraic said. “You know, our folk used to roam through this whole country, before the Russians came.”

“I’d heard that. I can see why.”

Padraic sipped his soup. “I’m glad to be working, Colm, however much a jerk this director is. I haven’t told you, but– Debbie and I are back together.”

Colm looked at his friend in surprise. “Really? For good?”

“I think so,” Padraic said. “And I really want to make it work. It’s important.” He hesitated. “She’s pregnant.”

“Oh, man,” Colm breathed. “That puts a different spin on things. Have you told your family?”

“Not yet. I’ve been holding off. They’re so traditional.”

“Yeah, mixed marriages and all. But if there’s a grandchild– that’ll have to be a selling point, won’t it?”

“I think so,” Padraic said. “Anyway, I’m planning on telling them once this gig is done.”

“I’ll be praying for you,” Colm said, solemn.

Padraic laughed. “You do that. Jerk. At least I’ll have some money in the bank after this.”

“Yeah, it’s been a windfall for all of us,” Colm said.

Padraic snorted. “No kidding– we’re the biggest practical effect of all.”

“Well, you know what they say.” Colm stood, brushing his long hair away from his pointed ears. “Only elves can really play elves.”

J. K. Rowling, Lynn Shepherd, and the misuse of the Amazon review system

I just came across this little brouhaha (as usual I’m late to the party). I don’t really care to address Ms. Shepherd’s opinion– I think she’s wrong, but she’s entitled to an opinion, and more than enough people have already responded to her article to make anything I can say superfluous– but I want to say a brief word about the fact that some thoughtless people have been leaving one-star reviews on Amazon for Ms. Shepherd’s books in retaliation for her article.

This is wrong, people.

Petty, vindictive spite is not what the Amazon review system is for. Anybody who uses it in that manner is wrong. Doing so devalues reviews for everyone. Ms. Shepherd clearly has a right to ask Amazon to remove such reviews. And, while I can’t speak for Ms. Rowling, it seems antithetical to the whole spirit of Harry Potter in the first place.

Rethink your attitude, folks.

Sunday Photo Fiction- The devouring of the moon, as observed from Yggdrasil

Sunday Photo Fiction: February 23rd 2014

48-02-february-23rd-2014

The sun is gone
and the moon going
the sons of the Wolf
eat their fill.
three winters have we endured
and now the giants,
swelled with rage,
arm for battle
in darkness and in flame.
the gods go forth,
shining, to their doom
the Wolf breaks loose
the world shakes,
mountains fall, the sky
tears loose
the stars fail
that which was will be no more

But we two–
we small, forgotten two
life and life’s lover
hidden here
in the Tree–
we drink the morning dew
awaiting the passing away
of what was.
the fate of gods
is not our business
we live, that is our task.
to endure the fire
and the water
until the eagle soars once more
above the falls,
above the mountain,
and all that was
is again.

Flash fiction– Random Song Title– “Wait”

A flash-fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig— the title of a random song becomes the title of the flash-fiction. Length: 1000 words.

The title is from “Wait” by M83.

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WAIT

Finally, after a while, it didn’t hurt so much anymore. The roar of the fighting faded away. He wondered if the brothers had pushed the Kurlanders back to the river. He hoped they had. It would be good to know he died for something.

Being stabbed had been a shock. It caught him unawares. A fellow couldn’t watch every direction at once. Maybe he had been too long battering down that spearman. Perhaps this was the price of being thorough.

The pain returned if he breathed too deep. He tried to breathe shallow; then it wasn’t so bad. But it felt as if half his chest wasn’t working, so he had take one deeper breath for about four or five shallow, and then the pain hammered him.

He lay with his head on the legs of some other fellow, and his own legs pinned beneath somebody’s horse. The animal must have fallen on him after he’d been stabbed; he didn’t remember it. The horse and the man were both dead. The ground was muddy with blood. He smelled smoke and blood and dung.

He didn’t mind dying. He hadn’t lived that long, but he had more than his share of regrets. Parting with life was not an unmixed sorrow. Many lost opportunities…and Briana. Briana, above all.

He couldn’t see much around him. It hurt to raise his head. He could hear plenty, though– moans, weeping, cries for help, prayers. Somewhere nearby someone called, over and over, “Rigan…Rigan….” He wished whoever it was would shut up– it was evident Rigan wasn’t coming back.

Lying there, he spent most of his time staring up into the sky. There were no clouds– the day had started out beautiful and stayed that way. He had never realized how deep the sky was. It just went up and up and up.

He coughed. It made him scream in agony. It also brought up blood. It coated his chin and ran down the sides of his face. He wasn’t surprised. It wouldn’t be long now.

There she was. Briana stood to his left, just beyond the dead man’s feet. She wore the dress they had buried her in, but she was clean and healthy and smiling, though her eyes were pained.

This won’t be so bad— not if she were here to help him. “I hoped…I would see you.”

“Nathan,” she said, “beloved, what have they done to you? Men are so foolish.”

It was just like her to lecture him. “At the moment…I have to… agree with you.”

She came and knelt by his head. She was no apparition. She seemed as real and solid as any living person. Her bare feet touched the earth, although they seemed unmarked by dirt or blood. Then she reached down and touched his face, and her fingers were alive and warm.

“Is this death?” Nathan asked, bewildered.

“This is just the borderlands of the greater world,” she said. “I came because you can’t cross over. Not yet.”

If bewilderment were an ocean, he would be drowning. “What?”

“You must live,” Briana said. “There is much for you to do. You don’t understand yet, but you will. I was sent to tell you.”

“What do I need to do?” he said, perplexity lending him breath. “Briana, I’m ready. I want to go and be with you.”

“And you will…in the end. But the end is not yet.” Reaching, she untied his helmet and slipped it off his head. The wool clothing the dead man’s legs was scratchy. “Listen to me, love. This war is bigger than your quarrel with the Kurlanders. There are forces at work…but all I can tell you now is that you must live, and that you must wait.”

“Wait? For what?”

“For the woman who contains the fire,” she said. “The woman pale of face and black of hair. She will hate you at first, and then she will love you. Wait for her.”

He peered up at her. “You come…all the way from the land of the dead…to tell me to wait for another woman?”

A wry look. “Well, you know I was never the jealous type. This woman is living. She is what you need now.” She smiled again. “I must go. If you doubt, remember this.”

She bent down and kissed him on the forehead. He would rather she had kissed him on the lips, but then, there was all that blood. “Remember me when you see the mark,” she said. She laid his head down and stood. “I love you.” She turned away.

“Wait!” he said.

She stopped. He meant that she shouldn’t leave, but she said, “I do wait for you, love. And you must wait to join me. Soon enough, we’ll see each other.” She turned and walked away.

“Briana!” he croaked, raising a hand. She was gone.

Someone caught his hand. “He’s here!” a man’s voice shouted, a voice rough with shouting over the din of battle.

It was Caspan; the old soldier knelt by him, holding his hand, right where Briana had knelt. Caspan’s beard was matted with blood; his mail was bloody and rent, but he was very much alive. “Hold on, lad,” he said. Over his shoulder he shouted, “Masari, move your ass!”

“Did you see her?” Nathan asked.

“Just lay quiet, Nat,” Caspan said. “Let Masari strengthen you, and we’ll get you back to the healers.” Again over his shoulder, “Masari, get your pox-ridden ass over here!”

Nathan lay quiet. “Did we win?”

“Yes, lad– but the war ain’t over. That’s why you’re not skipping out on us just yet.” Caspan looked Nathan over, grimacing at the wound in his chest, then lingering on his forehead.

“What?” Nathan asked.

“Well, it’s a funny bruise,” Caspan said. “Right there above your brows. It’s fading, but– it almost looks like a kiss.”

“Ah,” Nathan said.

Masari appeared. The adept stepped right over the horse, his fists blazing with blue fire, the light of life.

Stories I need to put away….

In some of my previous posts I’ve complained of a horde of story ideas jostling in the back of my head, trying to pull my attention away from whatever work-in-progress I’m currently writing. These ideas sometimes represent powerful temptations to stray off the beaten path, particularly if my WIP is giving me problems.

The problem is that writing a novel is, among other things, an exercise in daily discipline, and importuning, nagging projects that whisper in my ear, “C’mon, big boy– write me– I’m easy….” can severely undermine that discipline.

So I thought I would engage a little mental exercise here to try to clear the decks, in which I take the most unlikely ideas I have and put them in a box. Not a hermetically sealed container (you never know when something might re-spark an idea), but a place where I can say, “That’s in my PNW (Probably Not Writing) basket.”

Some of these ideas are just plain bad. Others are not particularly well-developed. Some were the amateur imaginings of my far-off youth. Some are in genres that are not my actual cup of tea, of which I would probably make a complete hash. Whatever they are, they are far, far down the list of projects I have in mind (or have the time) to write. Some of these stories exist in partial (or even complete) form, but for various reasons are un-publishable as they are, and would require too much work to revise. A “*” will indicate a story from which I have previously posted an abandoned fragment.

Oh, and by the way– if any of these ideas spark a story for you, have at it, with my blessings.

Starting more-or-less with the really wretched and going to the almost okay (some of these never had actual titles, or only working titles, so bear with me)–

1. Unnamed Roman romance novel– revolving around the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, I could never figure out how to keep this from sliding into a standard, rather insipid romance between the Christian protagonist and the high-born Roman lady he adores from afar. Too bad, because it has a real cast of characters– Nero, Peter, Paul– plus the inherent drama of a major catastrophe. Think Titanic with the chance of a weinie roast.

2. Unnamed 1910 romance novel– this idea popped into my head, almost complete, years ago when I had the opportunity to visit Ft. Flagler in here in Washington State. It is the closest thing I have ever conceived to a Hallmark movie– a young soldier has to chose between two forbidden loves– the beautiful Chinese girl across the bay in Port Townsend, or the young but unhappy wife of the post chaplain….no, I can’t go on. You get the picture. Fortunately, I came to my senses before actually committing words to page. Begone….

3. Working title– Seeker*– a young barbarian, cast out of his home, finds a new life in a foreign city, while exploring the meaning of life and faith. I got about thirty thousand words into this one before the energy to write it drained away– part of the problem was I realized I was re-writing the story of Socrates with a happier ending. I like the concept of a fantasy character whose chief reason for being is to understand the universe (as opposed to simply bashing the bad guys), but I need to find a different story in which to put them.

4. Working title– The Legations*– a historical novel about the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, I lost the impetus to write it when I couldn’t do a convincing Chinese character, and when I realized that the action chiefly consisted of the protagonist blazing away invincibly at hordes of Chinese soldiers in a display of Texas marksmanship. It still tugs at my sleeve every now and then because I love the period, but it’s just not really a practical idea at this point.

5. Unnamed World War II romance*– this was the WAAF officer meets US Army Air Force tech sergeant idea I had from which I posted a fragment. Upon reflection, it just seems like a really sappy idea. Buh-bye….

6. Working title– Soren and the Snotty Elf Princess— a fantasy in which a young, up-from-the ranks commander has to go on a quest to find where an Elf princess from a bygone age sleeps in suspended animation, to win her help in stemming an otherworldly invasion. The problem is, the princess really dislikes humans– if she had to choose between saving the human race and saving cockroaches, the roaches would probably get the nod– so convincing her to help humanity is an up-hill fight, at best. I come back every now and then to this one– it has some good bits, and some characters I really like, including an elderly priest-scholar who is far more interested in young, nubile girls than he is in cultivating holiness. But it doesn’t feel particularly special to me as something that could stand out from the crowd of fantasy novels, and its world not particularly well thought-out, so I think I need to, with regret, set this one aside. Might re-introduce the priest elsewhere, though– he’s just too much fun….

7. Ranker, The Red Fort, A New Heaven and A New Earth*– the military alternate history series from which I’ve posted a couple of fragments. Three whole novels that are now, for various reasons, un-publishable, and from which I’ve moved on. I regret that this series didn’t work out, and I sometimes try to think how to reboot it, but it seems likely that moving on and letting go is the most productive thing I can do.

8. Unnamed science-fiction novel in the Divine Lotus series– a book that would have fallen between Princess of Fire and Princess of Stars, this would have focused, not on Kathy, but on another main character from the previous books, off dealing with a military disaster of his own on the planet Jauthur. I have pretty much decided not to write this story, as it would be something of a distraction from the main thread of the Divine Lotus series– but the events of the story will still form the back story of the character when he rejoins the main story line in Princess of Stars.

9. Tannimor, Nolokai, and Shokomari*– two complete and one partial novel from the epic fantasy I’ve described in previous posts, involving Mankin, my premier swordsman. This is the one that hurts, but ten or more years of revisiting it has not shown me a way to make it work, at least as I previously conceived it. If Mankin ever appears in published form, it will have to be in a very different story-line.

So, there– I think that clears my mind a bit. Some of these ideas can rest in peace; others have been properly staked and buried at a crossroads. This may appear to be a massacre, but I still have several ideas contending for my attention, quite aside from the Divine Lotus series. I do think the surviving concepts are stronger, in large measure because of the work I put in on all the projects that never saw the light of day.

Nothing you write is ever wasted.

Movies that inspire me– “The Day the Earth Stood Still”

The time: early 1970’s, midnight

The place: an ordinary living room in Oklahoma.

The scene: A young teenager crouches in front of the family TV set. He has draped a blanket over the front of the television to hide its glow from his sleeping parents. The volume of the TV is set so low that the youngster has to keep his ear close to the speaker to hear anything. He knows that if he’s caught staying up late, especially to watch a science-fiction movie guaranteed to “warp his brain”, as his father puts it, he will surely catch serious heckey-doodle.

He’s willing to risk it, though. The film is The Day the Earth Stood Still. The boy has never seen it before, and it will change him–

This movie is, in my opinion, with the possible exception of Korda’s Things to Come, the first great, modern science-fiction film. Destination Moon came out the previous year, but it is little more than a how-to manual on spaceflight, despite (or perhaps because of) the involvement of Robert Heinlein. The Day the Earth Stood Still, on the other hand, is a profound tale of humanity’s danger and possible fate.

Directed by Robert Wise (director of such little-known films as West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and The Andromeda Strain), it is a cautionary tale of an alien come to warn humanity, newly equipped with nuclear weapons and on the verge of space flight, that they must give up their warring ways, or face preemptive extermination by a galactic community that means humanity no harm, but cannot brook a deadly threat in their midst. In the process the alien (Michael Rennie) learns some things about human beings– not only our capacity for obstinate stupidity and parochialism, but also our capacity for love and generosity.

The film starred Michael Rennie, Hugh Marlowe, and a young Patricia Neal. Every one of them earned their salary. But it was Michael Rennie’s Klaatu who owned the film, with his wise but naive alien trying to comprehend these odd humans. In a way, his performance foreshadows another fish-out-of-water alien visitor, Jeff Bridges’ character in Starman (1984). Klaatu is wise, but he is not all-knowing, and his mission to warn humanity nearly fails, until he receives the aid of the Earth woman Helen (Neal).

In contrast to most other science-fiction films of the 1950’s, with their heavy-handed metaphors of the Cold War and Communism, The Day the Earth Stood Still is almost Zen-like in its approach. Almost all the violence in the film is committed by the US government against Klaatu (Gort, Klaatu’s robot companion, shows us just enough of his capabilities to prove he is, indeed, one bad mutha on a leash). The fuddled American authorities fumble and stumble in their handling of Klaatu, an early counter-cultural assertion of the principle that the Establishment is basically clueless.

The Day the Earth Stood Still was the first science-fiction film that really had an idea at its core, rather than whiz-bang futurism– the idea that humanity had to leave its childhood of war and division behind. And it was conveyed, in the main, with a light hand that focused on little details to carry its message– Klaatu’s reaction to a music-box remains one of my favorites. At the same time, it was painfully realistic in its portrayal of how human beings react, as officialdom, the press, and ordinary people, to the unknown, including the primitive, live “radio-television” newscasts and reporters who want to sensationalize the story.

Needless to say, I was the kid crouched under the blanket in front of the television. Seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still changed the way I viewed the genre of science-fiction, it changed my understanding of how a story is told, and it changed my standard for science-fiction movies– a standard that, sadly, few films since have met. The Day the Earth Stood Still is, quite simply, a classic that holds up even today (of course, Hollywood had to go remake it, in 2008. Don’t bother). The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of those essential films that define science-fiction cinema.

And the really great part is, I don’t have to hide under a blanket to watch it anymore.

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Future posts on films that inspire me– Aliens, Wizards, and, yes, Things to Come, among others.

Sunday Photo Fiction: February 15th 2014- The Raven’s Duty

Sunday Photo Fiction– up to 200 words based on a photo.

47-02-february-16th-2014

http://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/sunday-photo-fiction-february-15th-2014/

Note: my apologies for the attempt at a London accent– doubtless I am way off.

“The wogs begin at Calais” I think sums up this bird’s attitude….

*************************************************
…Read the sign, fool…that’s right, keep off the grass…betcha he can’t even read English, the frog…them French is the worst, unless’n you count the Germans…bloody daft buggers, just cause they make cars that never break down, think they own the bleedin’ world, they do…Hey! Can’tcha read, sweetheart? Yeah, that’s it, back on the walk, Jesu, the people they let in this place… Tower used to mean something, by God, used to strike fear in a bugger’s guts to be dragged in here. Execution Block, right over there, that’s where that prissy Annie Bullen got hers, by the Rood….OFF THE GRASS! Jesu, that one’s old enough to bloody well know better, with his stupid walker…if they started up chopping people again, maybe with the odd drawin’ an’ quarterin’ thrown in, then you’d see the buggers toe the line… IT SAYS KEEP OFF THE GRASS! Whaddah I have to do, caw right in your stupid hearing aid? Standards have gone downhill, and no mistake…getting so a raven can’t just uphold the sanctity of ole England, we gotta put up with this lot…no standards at all…OFF…THE…GRASS!!!! Oh, an American, doesn’t that make bloody sense, should have never granted them independence….

“American Hustle”– a reaction

My wife and I, in the interest of seeing as many Oscar-nominated films as possible before the awards, went to see American Hustle today–

SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS

Let me get some things out of the way first– this film was well written, well-produced, and the entire cast did an outstanding job with their characters. In particular, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were incredible. Everyone nominated for an Oscar for this film are deserving. In addition, I did enjoy the bits– especially the music– that helped recreate the atmosphere of the late-1970’s and gave me a few minutes of warm nostalgia.

Okay, that’s out of the way. On to my reaction.

I freaking hated this film.

Note: I am using the word “freaking” because my wife made me promise not to use the very special words I learned in the US Army. There may be children or sensitive people reading this blog. I am honoring that promise, but because of it, my language will not convey the full force and vigor of my repugnance for this movie.

American Hustle is a fictionalized account of the Abscam scandal, in which the FBI entrapped several politicians into taking bribes from a fake Arab sheikh to facilitate building a New Jersey casino. The focus is on Christian Bale and Amy Adams’ character, small-time grifters who are coerced into assisting the FBI.

Here’s the problem I have with this film– with the exception of one or two minor characters, every character is a con-artist or a criminal of one sort or another– even the FBI. I had no sympathy for or identification with anyone, except for Stoddard Thorsen (Louis C.K.), the immediate supervisor of off-the-wall FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Thorsen literally gets beat up in the film trying to rein in DiMaso, and to me seems to be the only sane person in the asylum. The problem is Thorsen is mainly just there as a foil for DiMaso’s lunacy.

Let me try to explain this, although I may not be able to do so in a completely rational manner. I am not, for example, in some sort of moralistic high-dudgeon “this is a terrible example and they should be presenting uplifting moral messages’, blah, blah, blah. Okay, the world’s filled with crooks, I get it. Portraying that is valid. And I am not someone who needs a saccharine/Disney happy ending on every film (see my post on A Man for All Seasons). Instead, it all has much more to do with a personal quirk.

I have long known that for me to enjoy a book or a movie, I usually need to connect to some character I find sympathetic. Luke Skywalker, Ellen Ripley, Witt (Jim Caviezel) in The Thin Red Line, somebody. If I am forced to watch a film in which I find no one sympathetic, no one I can root for, I often react with repulsion, especially if the fictional world is also injected with cynicism. If I try to read a book without sympathetic characters, I generally throw it against the wall well before the end.

I found none of the major characters in this film sympathetic, nor did I see anyone I wanted to emerge triumphant. As a result, for me watching this movie was quite painful. If I had been alone, I would have walked out well before the mid-point. I was surly, angry and muttering in resentment when I came out of the theater. It left me depressed; I felt as if I could kick puppies and crush butterflies. I lost two hours and nine minutes of my life I will never get back; the only plus-sides were the The Wind Rises trailer in front of the film and the fact that we got into the movie on gift passes.

I have had this kind of reaction to other films, most particularly Chicago (I have sworn eternal hatred for everything Bob Fosse). For me American Hustle has that same sense of sleazy cynicism, unredeemed by any character I give a damn about.

I know this personal quirk probably indicates a flaw in my creative make-up, most likely that I lack depth in both my appreciation of, and my ability to create, a work of art. If so, so be it– this quirk doubtless is the visible sign of some inward, well-seated personality trait. At my advanced age I have no desire to try to change it, nor to fit my writing into a box it doesn’t fit. Besides, I would hate being nauseous all the time.

So you can just chalk this all up to the limitations and prejudices of an old codger set in his ways. For my part, now that I’ve got this out of my system, I still have the sense that I need to clear my palate. I thought of Man of Steel; but our local PBS channel is showing Aliens, which should just about do the job.

Aliens— now there’s a freaking film.

Where has all the mojo gone?

Some of you may have noticed (or not) that in my last few posts I haven’t really mentioned much about my current work-in-progress, Princess of Fire. Partly I’ve been spending some of my time trying out flash-fiction, which is kind of a new thing for me. Mainly, however, it’s because I seem to be having serious mojo problems.

Mojonoun: that which allows you to do what you need to do when you need to do it.

(If that definition seems kinda redundant, at least it avoids any sexual connotations. Not going there….)

Since completing my taxes it seems as if the wind that originally filled my sails with Fire (that was actually an accidental double meaning, but I’ll go with it) has dwindled down to a fitful whisper. I’m doing a few hundred words a day, as opposed to about a thousand a day before. I’m above 75,000 words, but it took me about a week or so to get there from 72,000.

It may be that I have exhausted most of the pre-imagined material that has carried me this far. I may also be slowing because I’m facing more difficult core sections. I also am not wholly pleased with a lot of the material I’ve laid down.

On top of all this, there has been some serious chaos in the personal space for the last three weeks, quite aside from the continuing unemployment thingie. The details would bore everyone, and spewing on about them here wouldn’t solve anything. But it’s a banal truth that it is hard to write when you don’t have a certain level of peace and quiet.

At this point I am not sure how to get the mojo back, or even if it’s get-backable. I may have to revert to the level of production I saw while drafting Princess of Shadows. If I have about 40,000 words left (a total guess at this point) that would mean approximately eighty days of first draft still ahead of me. That would mean completing the first draft sometime in May, and about a year between the publication of Shadows and Fire. I could live with that.

And who knows– things might calm down, I might get a job, and maybe Alfonso Cuaron will show up at my front door with an offer to film my novels for a lot of money.

Well, everybody needs a dream….