Saturday, August 26, 2006

Off my head or out of my head? Is it me?

I've become a DorothyLer...avid, fanatical readers, librarians, pharmacists who read, a number of authors, and a lively group and it is refreshing to find a chat group that, for the most part, has a sense of huor and an open mind. Google it, try it out at www.DorothyL.com Nice bunch of folks, really. I may not be long for the list as I tend to get a bit passionate and long-winded when I see such as and I quote: "It's definitely easier to love animals than people. People can't help butdisappoint you since they are driven (like we all our) to look after their own needs over those of someone else, even a loved one."

This reverberated in my head like Grandma Soprano and I quote her here: "People will let you down...and I'm not naming any names, but you die in your own arms." This to her 12 year old grandson who just stares at her. By the way, she makes an attempt on her son, Tony's life. ' Soap'-ranos is like I Claudius brought up to date.

Hey folks, no one is denying it is easy to have a 'full blown relationship' with a dog or cat, or even a stuffed animal as many of our kids do...we humans are suckers for furry and fluffy...even a 'tribble'...but it's always going to be you doing all the work. See Calvin and Hobbs. A bit one-sided, especially those long conversations, and when's the last time you cooked a dinner and lit candles for a cat or a canine? It is more difficult and complex dealing with a lover or a wife or a daughter or a son. Love takes nourishing, far more so than filling a bowl with Kibbles. With pardons to Ol' Yeller, which will rip your heart out, or the Yearling for that matter, we humans ascribe a 'full-blown relationship' to a creature who would let you down if someone else chose to feed him or her. I know you don't want to hear this, but human relations require care and caring going two ways, such things as trust (which animals learn as in learn to trust your scent and that you will be home by 5) but I am referring to the multi-layered nuances of human trust. Hawthorn's best ever story bar none, Young Goodman Brown is about the loss of trust...suspicion and the consequences are as horrible as Elvis's song by the title Suspicon. I have a book on my shelf entitled Your Brain - A User's Manual. Humans have a range of emotions that have created whole cultures, cities, the 8 Wonders of the World, and the array of negative emotions as well. When Atticus Finch kills that mad dog in TKaM he does so because the animal is dangerous to his children. Atticus is so cool...if all people lived their lives as Atticus did his, we'd have a wonderful world. Even though his wife is not even in the novel, we feel the work he put into his relationship with her (still puts his arm around where she once sat on the porch swing), and we see throughout the story how hard he works to have a relationship with Scout and Jem. Love among people, that is work...hey, Love is Murder (www.loveismurder.net), I always say. The hardest work most of us do in life, harder by far than trying to keep a plant alive is the relationship. Harder to write a novel or sail a boat is keeping a relationship alive, especially one in which the other party has a complex brain, has a point of view, has emotions of a complex nature and are not going to give you 'unconditional' love for a pat on the head or a bowl of Whiskers or Friskies. I have a cat and a dog but God help me when I come to the conclusion I'd rather work at my relationship with Ben and Pebbles than my relationship with my wife or kids. Shhhhsssss..... this so reminds me of the Cabbage Patch dolls and how ga-ga people became over those items that required care, had birth certificates, could be sent to hospital (I'd suggested cemeteies for the hopeless C-Patch cases, but it didn't take)...and pet rocks, the baby alligator days of the 50s, goldfish, and such. Is it me or is it the rest of the world? People will let you down, but is that any reason to give up on 'em and like exchange 'em for animals? Once had a girlfriend who kept a spider monkey...our relationship suffered greatly as she routinely, routinely put Oscar's needs ahead of mine. Hey...a guy's a guy.

But folks...hey, we are the readers among our species; we're the ones holding up the standard of knowledge, wisdom, intellect, and literature is about life, death, and choices, and like Hamlet's reaction to murder and incest, and such fascinating obsessive characters as Ahab (and the Whale) throughout literature driven by vengeance, ulterior motive, greed, jealousy (Iago from Shakespeare), anger, fire, conflict. Good books have at their core how we humans live our lives. I'm sorry but Dolphins and Whales do not come near the complexity of the human mind and language; do you really think the White Whale was seeking out Ahab for a last shot at him? Watch a child learn language and just soak it up. As for doggie heroes, children's lit is filled with animals representing human characterisitcs and trust me The Grinch Stole Christimas is a rip off of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Folks...hear me....Even White Fang is about the foibles of the human characters (condition) as 'seen' from the oft abused dog's POV. Who's life is more important in fiction, the hero or his dog? When the kid who loves and cares for the dog goes through the ice, who'd you rather see DIE? The heroine or her Cockatoo (how do you spell Cockatoo -- I know I'm going to hear about the misspell). In a horror novel with a monster reeking havoc, even in Bram Stoker's Dracula, would you prefer that little Timmy become the first victim or his dog Dashell?

Hope this stirs some hairs on the back of your neck as I am want to do in my novels....a good novel in my estimation teaches us some things in the bargain, and whoever laid down the law that a book is purely for entertainment and meant to please the sensibilities rather than shock them into 'understanding' the complex nature of relationships and the human condition? Without such risks as George Clooney took with his film on Edward R. Muro, we're doomed to see the next witch hunt (perhaps already upon us?) and to not recognize it for what it is. We all know one thing, when a cop kicks a dog even if to save the integrity of the crime scene, he's labeled for life, and even in Beuwulf or Sir Garwain and the Green Knight what a character says and does equals who he is. In the case of the crime scene investigator who's upset with the dog, the integrity and chain of evidence is his 'obsession' or her 'passion' and is more important than the dog's feelings, or the feelings of those in the crowd who report the animal abuse to headquarters, thus putting our forensic guru 'on notice'.

In truth...in all my books...even when dealing with the vilest of the vile, I work hard to make you feel it, but I also work hard to not glorify violence for violence sake either toward animal or man. It gets graphic because you hear it, smell it, taste, touch, and see it. Because you have five senses, all of which any knowledgeable author is going to play on, you might FEEL for the victim. When a spear-chucker, baggage carrier, or red-shirted security guard in Star Trek is killed, we feel nothing as we have invested nothing in said character as he might as well be made of cardboard, but when you are made to feel and believe said character is real...the victim's death in fiction can be disturbing and powerful. Once again, if in a Koontz novel you have been asked to invest your emotions in his canine character, then you have a totally terrrific reason to care more about the dog's death than the kid's death or the mom's death, and so on. King, Koontz, myself included, we don't put the meat and potatoes of the crime on a covered tray or in another room. When I do an autopsy in a book, you will know it is an autopsy whether of a crocodile or a person.

By the way am contemplating two works of fiction simply from titles I have bouncing about in my head for some reason and conducting informal survey. Would you read this book? ....a werewolf tale in Louisiana aaah and New Orleans entitled Bayou Wolf
and a kid's book - maybe a pop-up as I like to scare kids too, and they like it...entitled The DaVinci Toad....kinda on the order of the Geico gekko but with plumed hat and a Merlin like wisdom able to solve kid mysteries. Whataya think? Bestseller within reach at last?

Rob the Rant King ps. see literacy links below (literacy war is on)

America's Literacy Directory A service of the National Institute for Literacy and Partners AmeriCorps*VISTA Programs ProLiteracy / Literacy Volunteers of America / Laubach Literacy National Jewish Coalition for Literacy United Way of America United Way of Canada BookPALS: Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools

Friday, August 11, 2006

TRANSFUSIONS

TRANSFUSIONS–Need to Tank Up on fun, interesting general observations by an author of over forty published novels, and spirals on any and everything that goes on, plus insights into publishing and writing? If so, you're gonna need TRANSFUSIONS....

This relentless BLOG may not please always, may not appease everyone, may not fool all the people all the time, but maybe some of the people some of the time and it will draw on others for support to keep a tight rein on me. A collaborator once thought I needed chains. Sometimes I will be controversial but most times just kidding...nothing too serious that we can't agree to disagree as in how much I truly, truly hated Night Whatshisname begins with an S–'s Signs, The Village, and The Lady in Water–none of which were intended as spoofs folks....no no no...but rather nods to previous great directors such as Alfred Hitchcock who would have fired NS in a heartbeat.

The man is a walking example of a one-film wonder. If I had a chair to kick right now, I'd kick it.

But of course, if you have a take on it that differs from mine, "bring it on!" However, I will more normally discuss books and in particular writing and the sculpting and creation and imagination topics...how writing demands our full psychology on many levels, and demands we keep EVERY plate in the air at once and not forget a single sense, prop, character, dog, cat, parrot, or other element we bring into our stories–we authors. I am hoping other authors will drop by and bog my blog and take issue and leave some scars and blood or take away some blood. After all, this is Transfusions...a place to replenish....

I'd like to begin by explaining WHY I wrote PSI BLUE...and next time WHY I wrote Shadows in White City, sequel to City for Ransom. In doing so...in detailing the purpose and reasoning behind selecting these projects over all those sitting yet in the 'hangar' hoping to one day 'take off' may be hopefully illuminating for yous guys outside this Chicagoan's head.

I once picked up Jerone Stern's Making Shapely Fiction, and I read it non-stop. Just a small paperback, 5 dollars, but within these pages, Stern somehow crawled into my author's brain and told ME how I do what I do, as it had all been up to that point learned response, intuition, guesswork, experiment, wonder at times at my own turn of phrase or at what (My God) I had wrought... Then I sat down and slowed down and read Making Shapely Fiction again. Now mind you, had already written some 22 novels, but I had not analyzed how I did it or how much psychology on the author's part was involved, and how much psychology must be deposited into the character's makeup, nor the shape of things. Stern's book was an eye-opener, and I then used it in all my creative writing classes ever since, but I've never known another author who'd read this book to have had the major, gigantic AHA experience with it that I did. On the one hand, we don't want to know how the 'magic' works, but on the other hand as usual 'knowing' is growing and knowledge is power. It truly felt like the man had really been in my head. Take a look at this out of print title if you intend to write. Wish I'd had it at the beginning of my career, as I wish there'd been the How Dunnit Series in my early days as I had to sift information from here, there, and everywhere in the medical field and CSI books I did over those years. One thing I did was read the 'memoirs' of every ME who ever sat down to write 'em up. Never found a female ME who did her memoirs, but perhaps that has changed and of course Anne Wingate has a PhD in something, I think Criminalistics? ANYONE out there can correct me on this? And please don't say Patricia Cornwell, as despite her sometimes being photographed in a lab coat, she is not an ME. I gotta get me a lab coat...all I have is my moth-eaten graduation gown occasionally put to use at a Halloween signing.

So WHY write PSI BLUE for Echelon Press? For one, the publisher loved the three-four line pitch I pitched her: PSI stands for psychic sensory investigator Aurelia Murphy Hiyakawa, half Japanese, half Celtic, and all woman. Her story is, while like TV's medium (on speed) unique as she has next to no family support and a house falling down around her even as she chases down a serial killer. That's why I finished the novel, because I engen-deared a publisher who loved the concept, showed enthusiasm, voiced an interest–all very rare to find. Truth be told, I'd been told that no one in the publishing industry in New York wanted ever to see the two words psychic and detective voiced together ever again as they'd HAD IT with this whole sub-genre, and this from my then agent who, as a result had NO enthusiasm for the project, suggesting it be 'shelved' and that I go onto and concentrate on some other project.

All of the above is true and two weeks after being told what NYC does not want, Medium debuted on TV, and a year into it the show wins an Emmy, and now psychic detectives are popping up all over the tube and in films. The wave...once again missed? I don't feel that way. I feel my partnership with a committed publisher willing to trust her authors a refreshing change, a publisher who suspects when an author is excited about his work that there is something worthwhile going on in there....

However, all that said, I wrote PSI BLUE because I got 'Rae' in my head and she wouldn't leave me the hell alone. She insisted her story by told. Call it what you will, but once an author sketches or sculpts ac character said character may go away like a weak puppy, or said character might leap out at the author and begin to make demands–principally the demand to life. "I wanna live! I can do this! I can make people sit up and take notice if YOU do your job, Walker. A little effort please, a little research...won't take much...something on Kanji's maybe, Buddhism, a little Irish history and mythology? Come on...give me a complete, layered being, a gestalt, but be warned my mind is as layered as any of your previous 'intelligent' cops. I'm no push-over."

OK...in an early time and place, say 1692 Massachusetts, I'd've been put away, excommunicated, and hung for the 'voices' in my head. Thank God we've learned that all artists are nuts and that it's Okay...Look how it worked for Picasso.

Other reasons I wanted to do PSI BLUE happen to go to the root of my psychology as an author. No I am not a woman in a man's body...I just happen to like women and to believe I can 'sculpt' them well, far more so than many another author, male or female as I use the psych edge. I BECOME the character and I live as her for the duration of the book the same as many an actor lives the character during filming, which can really screw with relationships. "I know you are seeing another woman! I can smell her on you!" Nahhh, nahhh, nahhh...that's 'cause I am Aurelia Murphy Hyakawa while the play is running. If I am having an affair, it is with my character." This revelation can scare a loved one into another state as quick or more quickly than a real-world affair. Finally, here is the truth of the matter as Aurelia had a precursor...a character who popped up from time to time in the Instinct and the Edge books, criss-crossing as she was that rare detective who was also a psychic who worked for the FBI and not a psychic sub-contractor. Her name was Kim Desinor and she weaseled her way into the Instinct books about half way through the series, and Double-Edge, second of the Edge Series.

Kim...Kim I loved and I suggested a spin-off series with her, but my then publisher would have none of it. I let the idea go. Years later Kim kept nagging at my mind, back of the brain, back burner, percolating. Kim had been a reformed Catholic Cajun woman and home base was New Orleans. She first appeared in Pure Instinct. New Orleans way before the flood. I was left bereft about Kim, left feeling I had never had the opportunity to truly explore all her layers, all her fears and goals, all her gift.

This had happened with characters before such as Abraham Stroud in my BloodScreams Series (now e-books on FictionWise). After 3 books, I felt bereft, left with no way to further explore this great character, so I created the Edge Series hero Cherokee detective Lucas Stonecoat, and he took up the standard so I might continue to explore this 'type' of psychology, this gestalt I'd first named Abe Stroud, archeologist turned Vampire slayer.

Lucas had a shadowy precursor in Abe, and now Rae Hyakawa grew out of Kim Desinor. Kim meet Rae. I believe that my Inspector Alastair Ransom (who rambled without SHAPE or clear form for years in the back of my head) could not have come to full-blown 'life' in City for Ransom had I not written the forty some odd books before settling on gaslight era Chicago and a man like Lucas Stonecoat and like Jessica Coran and yet unique in himself, and getting critical acclaim wherever he goes. In fact City for Ransom and PSI Blue are both populated with characters who've come out of characters who've come out of characters.

Building a new novel is like building a house. You go to the next building project with allllllll that you have learned, good, bad, and ugly from the house before.

Soooo I do hope TRANSFUSIONS as a blog 'works' for you. In future, I will announce a contest or two...keeping it simple, but wouldn't you like your favorite charity mentioned in a book, your own business, your kid's name or your own? I think this could be arranged. Done it before.

Thanks for dropping in and please let me have your comments!
Rob Walker