I’ve made the first draft of this project available for those interested in reading (see details below).
My projects are my children, and when I finish one, there’s a sense of letdown which must resemble that following childbirth. Incidentally, such creative “labor”, as kindred spirits will agree, can in its own cerebral way be just as messy and painful.
Midnight Steps is done. The suspense novel set in the 1920s that I’ve worked on for three years. I didn’t say “finished” because it definitely is not. It has a long way to go before I will let it out of the laboratory. Already, since writing the denouement/final chapter, I see a ton of things that won’t work earlier in the book because they just don’t line up with the end result. Characters need to change and harden or at least act more suspiciously. And then there are outright asininities…for instance, the male lead, Ethan (oh, how he fought me to survive at the end! Did he win?), is supposedly hiding out in a secluded boardinghouse from underworld enemies. Then why does he wind up taking June, the female lead, out all the time in very public urban settings??? GAAAAAHHHH!!!! That’s the kind of thing that authors bang their heads over, and in this case, it’s my own fault. I didn’t know the characters as well as I thought I did before I started writing in 2016, nor was I as sure as I should have been about where the plot was headed. Another fault I admit to is not being well-read on or familiar with the “underworld”, present or past, i.e., exactly how it works. That’s not as big of a problem as it might have been, because I chose to keep the story’s focus more on the characters than what they do, with just an occasional glimpse of their shady activities. Is the thing salvageable? Of course! These minor quibbles aside, Midnight Steps is probably the best fiction I’ve ever written…personal, at times even profound, and most of all, alive. That doesn’t mean it’s good. It doesn’t even mean it’s worthy of selling. But it represents real progress as a writer, and so I unabashedly award myself a gold star for effort. By the way…I’ve probably said this before, if not here, then somewhere else, but…it is possible to fall in love with your own fictional character(s). I did. Think of it as a Pygmalion/Galatea-type thing. Or Pygmalion/statue-of-David, rather. I’m not sure David is Greek, but…whatever, the metaphor works.
As the title to this entry indicates, after a little research on past-perfect tense–the use of “had” to place an already past event further in the past–I’ve decided to revise The Horrible Hand! one last time to correct my blatant abuse of said grammatical tool. A lot of the book is told in flashbacks, and so I have a surfeit of sentences like “…He had had to do this”, or “She had met him…he had met her…they had then gotten married and had been miserable ever after…” yada, yada, yada. Yeah. ANNOY-ING. The red flag was when I was rereading a chapter and thought, This ‘had’ thing is really getting old. So, it’s going to get another pass with the literary lawnmower. Why? Who cares? I care. Even if no one ever buys a single copy, it still matters to me that when it’s languishing out there in cyberspace, it’s right. At least as right as I can get it without paying some ridiculously high fee for someone to tear it apart and cajole me into reconstructing it Their Way.
Well, I’m not very good at it, but I need to rest. The Horrible Hand! and Midnight Steps were both huge projects which took years to wrap up. I know that over the past year or so, I’ve often felt creatively tapped-out and just plain tired. Maybe I’m getting old. (No, I AM getting old.) In addition, maybe I’m not, after all, as creative or gifted as I was brought up to believe. Middle age can trigger cruel self-doubts. I never thought I would become a bestselling author, but it would be nice to know that people are taking in my point of view and acquainting with the characters and scenes I so loved creating. Still, when I reach the end of the road on a major work like these, and I find myself wondering who I did it for, my honest answer is usually, me. And those who inhabit the story. Even when others do read my work and compliment it, they’re only getting that topmost tip of the creative iceberg; same as audiences who view movies and plays and paintings. They see the finished result only, not the creative process which is the real attraction for the artists, and which is rarely shared with “consumers”, whose reaction to it frequently amounts to nothing more than the following exchange:
ME: So, did you ever finish reading that book of mine?
READER: Yeah. We liked it.
ME: It held your interest, then?
READER: Yeah. It was good.
One of the things writers and other storytellers deal with is the brutal reality that just because we were fascinated enough with our plots and characters to spend three years or so on them does not mean that anyone else will share our fascination. I used to give copies of my books as gifts now and then–never again, and neither should you. It is not fair to strong-arm your family and friends into reading your work when they may not be remotely interested. That is, as I’ve stated, the reason why artists would do well to admit that their true motivations are, fundamentally, as selfish as an only child. Which I happen to be.
That said, I’ll go on creating, if on a smaller scale for a while. Oh! Draconfyx is finished also, and not to blow my own bugle, but I don’t think it turned out too bad. It was only a six-month undertaking, text and art, yet it has a sharpness, urgency, and timeliness to it that make me half-seriously regard it as “the one they’ll like best”. That would be fine with me.
You can’t go wrong with Dracula, or even a spin-off, and a new slant on the drug war might actually be useful. Plus God’s in it! He’s been making cameos in a few different projects lately. I’m toying with the idea of publishing Draconfyx for a Halloween release, but I am not sure that it will be ready this year.
Back to what’s on the agenda. First, prewriting only for something new: writing a story/novelette in public–on Wattpad or even Facebook–while simultaneously writing it as a play…then illustrating it. I have this craving to get back to making art, in particular dioramic setups, as of old. More on that in a minute. Before that, I may look at illustrating Flickers and writing more on the old memoir, What a World... And/or, starting my own YouTube channel, which I’ve wanted to do anyway, and recording excerpts of WAW. So…nothing too big or complicated, just enough to keep me creatively satisfied and productive.
With that said…aren’t these the absolute limit? This is the kind of art I want to get back to doing, especially to photograph for illustrations. I have a whole closet full–two, actually–of toys like this. Miniatures have always intrigued me, and I’ve challenged myself to work as small as I can with this next collection.
And I’ll sign off with some random film images that have stayed with me over the years–some since childhood–and which represent recurring themes in my writing. An eclectic selection? You know it. Disturbing? Maybe. But I believe I was meant to tell certain stories, and in order to do that, I needed certain, often very dark inspiration very early on. And so I must have subconsciously absorbed these representative images and situations, then later incorporated them into my own personal brand of grim, ironic, yet redemptive tales. I will admit that my endings are usually somewhat more hopeful than those found in the fiction below. I guess that, too, is a kind of progress. Besides, there must be shadows if there is to be light…right?