diner

Your Advice and My Stupidity

[This is an actual email I'm sending to another writer today. I'm removing their name, of course, to respect their privacy -- all you really need to know is they have sold a shit ton more books than me in the same genre, and I'm a moron for not listening to them.]

Good afternoon, XXXXX.

I’ve been intermittently agonizing over this email. You gave me some excellent advice and feedback on my novel The Riddle Box and went out of your way to assist me. Now I’m trying to come up with the best way to tell you I’m ignoring your advice even though I agree with it.
Of course, I just told you. But there are provisos and navel-inspections below. You are successful and busy, so if you don’t want to clog the mind-works, please stop reading here with my compliments, my thanks, and my undying respect.
Will it help if we imagine a more appropriate setting? Perhaps if we were sitting in leather chairs in front of a roaring fire as we sip tea? No, too patriarchal – how about at a deli counter in New York, enjoying bagels and coffee, trading different sections of the Sunday Newspaper. [Apparently this is set in 1987.] The jukebox is playing Elton John and the morning sun is slanting across the white tile and the rye bread.
First, your advice is completely correct. To make the book more marketable, to make it an easier access point for the reader, I should make the revisions that you suggested. I should forego the ‘joke’ , the ‘TV open’ and begin with the main characters. Asking the reader to slog through the prince’s monologue before the reveal, before the first murder, before even grounding the reader in a firm setting is stupid. Any editor worth their salt would tell me the same and be just as right. It demands patience from the audience — a fool’s gambit in any piece of writing — nowadays more so as there is so much media jousting for every bit of mental bandwidth we humans can muster. Not making these revisions is harming my chances of success in a quantifiable and significant way.
I take a bite of my bagel. Just to blunt the tension.
Second, I want you to know that I attempted to make the revision. I pulled that whole chapter apart, wrote a couple thousand words restructuring it, putting my main characters front and center. I got to write some new jokes, it even fixed some confusion in later chapters when I had to time-hop a bit to describe their arrival at the Manor. It was a good revision, it worked. And I hated it. I hated working on it, I hated making the changes. I hated you for being right, in a perfectly urbane, respectful way.
It’s just then that I realize I don’t have my wallet with me. I’m being rude to you professionally and I’m going to have to get you to spot me for lunch. I brush the crumbs off my chest in despair.
These kinds of revisions are a reality. They are necessary and good. If I want any chance of success in traditional publishing or even in the Wild West of self publishing, I need to get used to it. I need to accept it.
Now cue the Special Snowflake Defense. But my vision — but my art – but my blah blah blah.  I know it’s crap. You will never meet a greater cynic than I, not in any imaginary diner in the world.
Ah, but still. But still. From the Cavern of Idiocy it arises. Of course I’m different and special.
I have to be the writer I am. If I stop listening to my Muse, then there’s really not much point to this whole enterprise. At this point my success is not renown or anything remotely financial. My success is my mistakes, my success is the stupid, weird, wrong-thing I wrote that would never exist anywhere else, under any other auspice. What I like is writing my weird story. What I don’t like is chasing an incorporeal finish line.
Maybe it comes down to this: If I’m chasing money and success I’m clearly losing. If I’m chasing weird art I’m always winning. And just about the only true fringe benefit of self-publishing is I can make the mistakes I want as often as I want.
You are folding up the Comics section in a most displeased manner. I consider going to the bathroom and jumping out the window.
So, there it is. You are an exceptional human and you’ve done me a solid. And I’m going to ignore it and be stupid. I make no claims that I’m doing it for the right reasons, or that one day people will compare my oeuvre with the Grand Masters who began their novels with history lessons, minor character slaughter, or songs.
Thank you so much for taking the time to help. You have led me way up into the water and even passed me a straw.
And can you cover my bagel?
With completely unfeigned sincerity,
G. Derek Adams
spell-sword.com
http://rasberg.blogspot.com.es/

Geranium’s First Song

Watch all this wither

Watch as we gather

the leaves and grass

and broken things

threadbare heroes

and three-cross kings,

we sleep in the heart

we wait in the dark

until the cobblestones give way…

Watch all that glitters

Watch all that stains

the sun shines on the city

but tomorrow will rain

but tomorrow will rain

we dream in the earth

we dream of the sky

Green bone and promise

even blue dreams can die.

When the cobblestones give way

When the cobblestones give way…

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Lunch with a Villain III

I saw him a few other times. I carefully averted my eyes or tucked my chin to my breastbone. He knew I was there of course, but gave no sign. His narrow shoulders square in his brown cloak, his grin cutting the light from traffic signs, from reflected glass, from the glow of smartphones. After my narrow escape at the pizza parlor, I figured we were done with each other. He leveled a small shoe-store with his might, Chuck Taylors screaming in agony – I was in no hurry to repeat that encounter.

But still. You can’t just ignore your creation, villain or no. So yesterday when he swaggered into Popeye’s and took the booth catty-corner to mine I wasn’t truly surprised.

I finished my mashed potatoes and gravy before I acknowledged him. I would need the energy if it came to battle and it gave me a moment to collect myself. Plus I really like mashed potatoes and gravy.

“What?” I laid my plastic fork on the table.

“Why does their have to be a what? Maybe I’m just here to dine,” the villain scratched his stubbled cheek.

“Bullshit, what do you want?”

The villain hissed through his teeth, sucking in air. He seemed uncomfortable, pressing his abdomen against the garish plastic table. Waves of malice began to radiate, and his grin forced itself wider.

I did my best to remain calm. I looked him in his no-color eyes. “What do you want, Izus Torossian?”

“What do I want, what do I want? Oh nothing, nothing.” he crooned. “Or at least nothing I’ll admit to, nothing you’ll ever really give me. But I have come to bend knee, like the Daemon following the good doctor on that ship in the ice. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“I…” A pang of sympathy and fear. “You…you want a new story, don’t you?”

The villain sprang to his feet, scattering napkins and packets of salt. His brown cloak coiled around him like a hungry thing. His grin was so bright and fierce it split the world in two. He did not respond, but the empty hunger in his eyes was answer enough.

“Uh..okay. I guess I can do that. A short story, a long story, a song? Cowboys, ninjas, corporate America? Where can I send you, Browncloak? What world can I lend you that you won’t break?” My forehead throbbed, but suddenly I knew. I heard the melody.

Izus leaned forward, the villain and fast food. We are close, he and I, he could see the road unspooling in my head. His curly hair crackled with eagerness.

“Okay, hear me out. You’re going to have to change a bit, of course. No magic where you’re going — and can you drive? How do you feel about vans…or station wagons? And I don’t think the cloak can come–“

“Cloak has to come,” the villain grunted.

“Okay, okay…we’ll work on that part. But, that’s not the really hard part.” I folded my hands with unease. “Izus, I think this time you may have to be the Hero.”

“Oh man,” he chuckled. “This is a terrible plan.”

-End-

Artist - Julia Starchenko

Gilead Excavation

[Some old words about Gilead - putting them here for easy research later.] 

The waters ripple, and Haskeer sees Gilead.

A gray city, made from simple stone. The towers and streets show signs of great age, and great wear. This is a place where it rains much, where the people must go to the walls to stand against an endless tide of dark. Yet in every eye, a fierce pride – a bright flame that burns against the dark. The people move about their day, and among them walk the men of the Legion. The Crusaders, the Swords of Iron – their cloaks white and blue. Their armor is brightly polished, but the paladin quickly sees the signs of steady use. Leather straps worn to fraying, dents in shields carefully beaten back to true, and burnished with care.

Pennants fly from the towers, each showing three swords bound in a circle, blue on a white field. In the streets Haskeer sees simple signs of nobility, peace and kindness. A young boy keeping his older brothers from harming a kitten, an old man doffing his cap for a passing milk maid, a portly baker giving barely stale bread to beggars in the church square. The quiet prayers at the temple of the Nameless God, the priests laying hands on their flock with the gentle touch of wise shepherds.

A king with a golden crown, white hair spilling down his collar – his family drawn close around a fine table. A plan is laid out before them, a bridge that needs building — the family laughs and argues good naturedly over the plan.

“This is Gilead.” the lady said. “The anvil where the hammer falls again and again, but the steel does not break.”

The lady smiles, one tear coursing down her face.

“This is Gilead, Sir Knight. You asked to see it. No other place in this world will ever be Gilead again. If you wish to see the place that was once Gilead, then look.”

A gray city, made from simple stone. The streets are clean, not a speck of trash or debris. Repairs have been made to shore up sagging towers and crumbled buildings. The devils move through the streets with frenzied care, putting each plaza and wall into precise, scouring order. The windows burn with red and green light, strange shadows move in complex dances of pain and perversion. Armies march in a rictus of order, regiments of the damned.

Pennants fly from the towers, each showing three swords bound in a circle, blue on a white field. The fabric is stained and tattered – a mockery, pulled from rotting basement and dusty museum to dance on the wind and laugh in the face of the defeated dead. An imp slices red dripping meat into squares to sear on an open flame, a winged horror cavorts with a brace of bound creatures on the top of a broad wall – it’s face twisted with lust, an obese monstrosity hangs sluglike from underneath an archway cramming stones wrapped in grass and goat-cheese into it’s ever widening gob. Tall, angular creatures move amongst the devils wrapped in long red robes – they are treated with deference, and are quick to punish any that do not show the proper respect.

A king with a crown of glass, grass-green skin and bone laughs in a high-backed wooden throne. Behind him in a circle of steel is bound a man of average height and average features. He looks up, as if he is aware of being watched and winks.

The pool ripples and Haskeer can see no more.

Artist - seventypercentethanol

Song of the Road – The Riddle Box

Song of the road, road made of song.
Who knew I would travel so long?
Stories and wind, campfire and rain.
When will I ever see my home again?
When will I ever see my home again?
 
Triumph and travel, teapot and steel.
Won’t someone tell me what I’m supposed to feel?
Lovers and liars, heroes and pain,
When will I ever see my home again?
When will I ever see my home again?
 
[bridge]
I walk through the sunshine, but only see night.
Even in the valley I stand mountain height.
Summers and Winters and Springs made of Fall,
The world keeps on turning and I forget them all.
 
Quiet and quick, I walk alone.
Who knew the cold could marry my bones?
Mud in the gutters, shadow and flame
When will I ever see my home again?
Never, oh never see my home again.
Never, oh never see my home again.
sitar

The Riddle Box – Music

“You know a lot of things. I say it, so you can hear it. It is very important that we all know this about you, yes?  You know a lot of things. Things and springs and wheels and the click-clack of numbers falling in a row. But music?” Geranium tapped a staccato beat, two fingers on the pulse of his wrist. “It cannot be known. You can’t contain it, you can’t weigh it, you can’t put it safe on a shelf or bury it down in a hole. There is a reason that the Songs of the Lost still haunt us, that the simple melody in children’s games hum and burn in our temples as we clutch the pension-staff and stumble our way towards the grave. There is a reason that I walk penniless and proud down dark roads, with only my guitar as companion, as every true Bard of Gate City must.”

“What does –“

“Quiet now,” the bard raised two fingers to his lips. “Listen and remember. It binds as it breaks, it slips up the tallest castle walls and shivers its way into the darkest of hearts. It burns as bright as the sun, warm as an oven while I stand on the stage. I sing and every eye is mine and every heart is mine and every secret unfolds and the music drinks tears and shines and shines and shines. One song, the right song, one song for every heart. Even if they’ve never heard it, even if the song hasn’t been written yet, there it is, quarter notes and red blood on the parchment. And when the wind is at my back, I can see it. I can hear it.”

The bard’s eyes shut tight.

“And if I can sing your song, I can break your heart.”

Rime interrupted sourly, “Ridiculous.”