Multiple Personality Order

Writers seldom choose as friends those self-contained characters who are never in trouble, never unhappy or ill, never make mistakes, and always count their change when it is handed to them.”

~ CATHERINE DRINKER BOWEN

1976 gave us Sybil, a film starring Sally Field in a tour de force as an unfortunate young woman who played host to thirteen personalities.  She won an Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of this confused and tragic figure, and it was richly deserved, but of course, I write here about the Craft of writing, and the writers who pursue it.  So, what can we take from this movie, and the disorder it portrayed?

As writers, we have multiple people living in our heads all the time, and far from being a problem for us, they are there by invitation.  As writers, we must be focused on the plot, the story arcs, the presentation of grammar, speech, and setting, and yet as writers, we also have to manipulate the characters.  Characters who come with quirks, foibles, agendas, and complete personalities.  Characters who exist only in our heads.

I am not Patience Hobbs.  I am neither a dirigible pilot, a graduate of finishing school, nor even a woman.  I never lived in the Victorian era, and when watching a show like Downton Abbey, I am constantly astonished by the rules, customs, and mores that these people not only put up with, but wholeheartedly embraced.  They claim to accept these things out of their sense of duty and honor, yet if someone spoke to me the way some of the junior servants are spoken to in this show, I’m afraid duty and honor would require me to punch them in the snout!

Yet I must “live” in this world to write in it, put aside my 20th-21st century sensibilities, and inhabit the lives of multiple Victorian personalities, male and female, because steampunk is at its core Victorian.  I don’t have multiple personality disorder (though I may be a bit bipolar), but I have to act like I do in order to breathe life into them.  And so do you.

How do you manage it?  Of course, character sheets are indispensable if you hope to keep any sort of continuity between a dozen characters or more, but what about the world?  I find Victorian slang and customs creeping into my daily life.  I talk with many people on the internet, and I nearly always address women as “Milady.” Beyond the Rails was set in Kenya, and many of the characters were fluent in Swahili.  I often greet people in person with jambo, and thank them with asante.  That’s the level of immersion I need to achieve to bring life to a world I’m working in.

How about you?  Does your writing bleed into your real life, and in what ways?  Do your friends think you a little “off,” or do they find the weirdness charming?  What impressions do your friends have of a person who goes out of their way to cultivate Multiple Personality Order?  Curious minds want to know!

View from the Blimp

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Now we’re officially into summer, and to welcome it in (though the welcome is nowhere near as warm as San Diego’s back country in the summertime), I thought I’d share a little photo essay.  Our kitchen window overlooks our driveway, and immediately beyond, a dirt hill where we have so far been unable to get anything to grow; it’s like the Romans came through here and salted that little patch of ground.  So our crafty daughter, to improve the view, made this pair of flower baskets and hung them on each side of the window.  The baskets are wire and the flowers are artificial; they’ve been there for years.

But they have been discovered by a dove.  I believe this is the third year now that she has made a nest in the top of one of the baskets and raised her brood there, usually two chicks.  It’s perfect.  Cats, squirrels, snakes, and other assorted villains can’t get up there, people can’t see into it looking up from the ground, and the hawks and crows that patrol the skies can’t see anything but the top of our carport, which also protects her from the direct sunlight.  She’s completely used to us, and while she won’t perch on a finger or anything like that, she doesn’t panic at our approach, and cocks her head to listen when we talk to her through the kitchen window.  To my way of thinking, that’s pretty cool…  About the only cool thing around here this time of year.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Look between the yellow and orange flowers at the top of the basket, and you’ll see two little gray-speckled bodies.  At 10:00 o’clock to the yellow flower, one of their heads can clearly be seen keeping an eye on the suspiciously-acting hairless ape.  Really fun to watch the generations come and go here.

As to writing, I have long been considered a freakishly detailed planner.  Even other planners have tended to look at me with suspicion.  I’m going to touch briefly on a “new” method that I stumbled onto (certainly didn’t invent!) after reading some blogs and experimenting with my Office program.  It involves maximizing the features of the Excel Worksheet.

Since I have come to focus on the writing of themed novellas assembled into a book, I tend to outline them in the form of scenes, and the outlines have shrunk to a couple of sentences.  The worksheets allow me to use a line for a scene, and the columns, as well as holding the one- or two-sentence description of the action, can track who is in the scene, the time and date it takes place, and even the ongoing word count as the story comes together.  You can color-code for whether the viewpoint is hero, villain, or subplot, what scenes are finished, which need more polish, where a detail needs to be researched, which are action and which are passive “reaction” scenes, change scene order with a mouse click, and anything else your busy writer’s mind can think of.

This has been a profound discovery for me, and I plan to discuss it in detail in about two weeks.  That will give me a chance to solidify what is rapidly shaping up to be the most useful organizational tool I have ever encountered, and perhaps most importantly, to learn to post a screenshot of it here.  Believe me, I’ve tried index cards, loose-leaf notebooks, and have worked in spiral notebooks for years, and nothing I’ve ever tried can compare to this!

New Releases

EighthDwarf

The Eighth Dwarf.  Blacksmith Tiberius is dissatisfied with his lot in life.  Convinced he deserves more, he’s become resentful of the other dwarves.  He’s motivated by coin, and to a lesser extent women and power.  A chance encounter with a beautiful and mysterious witch, whose plans include the removal of the current queen, result in an unlikely partnership.  Soon he’s living the life he’d always dreamt of, whoring and drinking to his heart’s content, far away from the cramped cabin he’d shared with the other dwarves.  But after an unexpected connection with a young princess named Snow White, and as the witch’s demands become more extreme, Tiberius questions the strength of their friendship and wonders how far he’s willing to go for titles and riches.   $2.99 on Kindle.

Interesting Reads

BookofSchemes

The Book of Schemes.  Simply defined, a “scheme” is nothing more than a systematic plan of action.  Like snowflakes, no two of them are exactly alike. For example:  A grieving mother seeks revenge upon a family of werewolves.  What if you were getting a truly unique prom speech from a necromancer?  What if there was a college for super villains?  Within this 2nd Edition collection is a bizarre grouping of 25 short stories.  Each of them revolves around a scheme.  Some are brilliant.  Others are stupid.  A special few of them are utterly warped.  So kick back, leave your conscience outside of these pages, and step into the world  of the schemers.  $3.00 on Kindle.

Richard Schulte writes profound ultra-short stories that he loves to share, but doesn’t ask anyone to pay for; he posts them on his blog, Short Stories by Richard.  He posted another tiny masterpiece yesterday titled Skeleton Forgiveness.  It’s a five minute read that will have you thinking all day!

In Other News…

LuxembourgSteampunk

I have a few readers in Europe, and some of them may be interested in this:  Luxembourg is holding a steampunk convention to run September 29 – 30.  Hosted by Minett Park of Fond-de-Gras, it will be held at Industry and Railway Park, 6790 Petange.  There will be concerts, a market, exhibitions of steampunk creations, historic trains, and much more.  Further information may be gleaned here.

The Following Books Have Recently Been Reduced to 99¢ on Kindle:

Beyond the Rails

Bodacious Creed

From an Irradiated Crypt

Here’s the challenge, in this world where everything costs more and more and more every day, and all anyone seems to be interested in is harvesting the contents of your wallet:  Spend a dollar, and see if you don’t get a dollar’s worth of entertainment value in exchange.  Please note that some of these offers are for a limited time, so strike while the iron is hot!

And that’s 30 for today.  Join me next Tuesday when I’ll have a special announcement about my own book catalog, and most likely some more entertaining reading recommendations from other authors of my acquaintance.  Until then, read well, and write better!

What Are You Afraid Of?

“Fear makes men forget, and skill which cannot fight is useless”

~ PHORMIO OF ATHENS, 429 B.C.

Fear.  The most powerful of emotions.  It can strike you dumb and paralyzed, and make you forget a skill you’ve practiced for a lifetime.  It doesn’t matter what else you’re doing, figuring your taxes, driving your car, or making passionate love to your dearly beloved, the second fear strikes, everything else, and I mean everything, is put on hold until it is dealt with.

You’re alone in that lovely cabin by the picturesque lake that you rented for a fortnight to work on your novel.  You’ve had a productive day and a robust dinner, and turned in early, eager to make a full day of it tomorrow.

Cre-e-e-e-e-ak!

What was that?

You glance at the clock:  Two AM.  You listen to the sound of the wind in the treetops for a while, and finally convince yourself that it was the remnant of a dream, something that only happened inside your head.  Your eyes begin to drift closed.

Crack!

You ain’t sleepy now, are you?

Fear, then, is the greatest motivator in the human experience.  I’m postulating that as a given, and if you can prove me wrong, I would love to hear the argument.  People are afraid of different things.  Snakes, rats, falling in love again…  With me it’s spiders, flying, and rejection.  That fear causes me to react with sudden and extreme violence when I see an eight-legged freak scuttling around my work area, or God forbid, on my person!  Want to see get in a week’s worth of cardio?  Just let me walk through a web!  Flying?  Forget it!  The bravest thing I’ve ever seen anybody do is get on an airplane.  Fear of rejection has made me the sort of recluse who grows into a writer; gotta do something with all that solitary time, right?

Much has been made in recent years of the so-called Hierarchy of Needs, but there doesn’t seem to be a corresponding hierarchy of fears.  Most humans have a healthy fear of death.  It’s healthy because it keeps us from doing stupid things like trying to jump between two skyscrapers, swimming with piranhas, or getting into airplanes.  We try to avoid pain, though that may be classed as an aversion rather than a true fear.  But once we get past those, there’s a much more “cafeteria” approach to it.  Many people aren’t afraid of spiders, and snakes don’t bother me a bit.  And if you want to get an idea of how many people are in the air at any given time without a care in the world, feast your eyes on https://www.flightradar24.com/

So, as humans, we all carry all of these different fears with us, and like the song says, my funk ain’t your funk, and your funk ain’t mine.  How do you use it to shape your characters’ actions?  And let’s clear something up here:  A character who never feels, let alone shows any fear is about as one dimensional and uninteresting as anyone can get.  Someone who is truly and deeply afraid, and is able to shake it off, pull themselves together, and do what needs to be done are generally considered leaders, heroes, saviors and the like.  Those who can’t manage it join the ranks of the cowards who leave friends in the lurch, the damsels in distress that need to be saved, the ones who, in short, make heroes necessary.

In the course of writing this article, I have realized that I could do better at this.  Could you?  How have you used fear, and the reaction to it, to make your characters richer, deeper, more compelling?  Have any insights you might share with us?  Of course, if you’re a horror writer, fear is your stock in trade, but whatever knowledge you carry about this very primal subject, we’d love to hear it!

View from the Blimp

Not much here to expound on; I’m just chipping away at The Darklighters, though I do have room for a few more beta readers if anyone would like to get in on the ground floor, and obtain free signed copies of the finished work with your website highlighted on the acknowledgements page, not to mention getting to read new works before anybody else does.  But, hey, don’t let me influence you…  Drop me a line on the Contact page if I have, though!

On another subject, I’m toying with a new way of promoting new or fairly new works by my followers, and it can be seen below.  An occasional reciprocal promotion wouldn’t go amiss, by the way; we indies need to support each other!  Any thoughts?  Like it, or does it clutter up the blog?

In Other News…

aethertopia

Denizens of Tampa, Florida have a huge treat looming on the horizon.  Aethertopia, one of the major steampunk conventions (it actually bills itself as the greatest steampunk event in history), is coming to the Entertainment Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds on July 7th and 8th.  This looks to be primarily a makers’ fair, but writers, artists, and costumers will get their due, so if you’re anywhere in the vicinity, be sure this one is on your calendar!

Writers After Dark, the very informative page of Raymond Esposito and S.K. Anthony, will be down for a month, give or take, while they set up a new site; they’ve found their current one to have become a bit restrictive.  As they have over 12,000 followers, they expect this to be a project, but one well worth it.  I’ll announce their return here, as I suspect many other loyal followers will as well.

My favorite Irish wit, Tara Sparling, dear sweet child that she is, has put her finger on the pulse of what it means to be a writer.  If you’ve ever considered our calling as a career, feast your eyes on this; no one has ever said it better!

Interesting Reads

RawEgg

Raw Egg.  The problem with Gregor Planks as a fictional character is that he discovers he is trapped in a book.  Naive and arrogant, the adolescent Gregor abandons a home life where his literary ambitions are viewed as an excuse to avoid working.  He soon finds himself in the town of Riverside, where a story-stealing seductress sets him along a plot that forces him to take up residence in a dilapidated motel room.  In squalor, Gregor writes fiction on an old typewriter while attempting to support himself with menial jobs he believes no artist should have to endure.  Gregor’s assumption that he is in control of the fiction he writes is soon disrupted when a recurring character he created begins to talk to him.  Life quickly becomes a blend of fiction and reality for Gregor as he travels in and out of the stories he writes while attempting to win the love of Hannah, a gawky waitress who is immediately repulsed by Gregor’s disillusioned reality.  Not to be left without a proper antagonist, the bulky restaurant owner – known to Gregor only as the hairy man – has an unquenchable desire to keep the would-be writer away from Hannah by any means possible.  Blinded by his ego, Gregor overlooks the common threads of fiction that control his life and finds himself locked in a battle for his own existence.  $2.50 on Kindle.

SavageLandofJur

Savage Land of Jur.  This is the second book in the Jur series.  Trapped in the Jurassic period of Earth’s predawn, Ron and Odette search for the Ancient Ones in hope of finding a time portal that will return them to the twentieth century.  Their journey is fraught with terror, and when Odette is captured by an Ancient One, they are faced by even more danger in this savage world of Jur.  $2.99 on Kindle.

VigilanteIntotheDarkness

Vigilante:  Into the Darkness pulls no punches when it comes to the horrific details of a worldwide grid-down situation, from the effect on the food chain from ants to rats.  With so many dead, how do the survivors deal with rotting corpses, diseases, and villains?  Will good triumph over evil? Maybe…

Levi Levins retires from the Army and is off on vacation before starting his new job.  He suffers a horrendous loss accompanying “lights out” and must find a way to help humanity to keep his own sanity.  He has no bug out bag, no hidden weapons cache, no transportation.  What does he do, and how does he do it?  Levi will walk us through his path to survival.  Perhaps it may also be yours…

Vigilante: Into the Darkness takes us on a journey to try to stave off the New Dark Age brought on by a worldwide EMP apocalypse.  Can Government survive when no food is being trucked to the masses?  Can our military survive without the tons of food needed each and every meal?  The answers are here.  99¢ on Kindle.

NightShift

Night Shift.  In New Angeles, crime is part of the daily business of running the city.  But when an investigation of a dead body starts turning up more questions than answers, homicide detective Harold Peterson finds himself unraveling a decades-old conspiracy that leads him to the highest echelons of the city.  Free on Wattpad.

fear-is-in-the-air

Fear is in the Air is a mixture of facts and fictional stories about a sexy female stewardess named Ewa Lowe, that just also happens to be a serial killer with alien DNA.  This book also has a volume II that will be available in 2019 named “Ewa 51”.  It is available for free on the Apples iBooks store from 6th to 10th of each month in 2018, which this post unfortunately just missed, but mark your July calendars!  Regularly $4.99 on Kindle.

And that’s 30 for this edition.  Join me Thursday for more hilarious hijinx.  Until we meet again, read well, and write better!

The Language of Deceit

“…a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma…”

~ WINSTON CHURCHILL

Ever notice something funny?  How many people have you ever asked a question, only to have them ask another question in response?  Usually, they repeat yours back at you.

“Where were you at ten o’ clock last night?”
“Where was I at ten o’ clock?”

“What are you doing in here?”
“What am I doing in here?”

Welcome to a more detailed look at using deceptive dialogue to give clues about a character.  I find it hard to believe that anyone who isn’t in managed care can hear a question like this and not understand what it means.  That leaves us to draw the conclusion that they have no good answer, and are stalling for time until they think of one.

I suspect that most writers wouldn’t write a piece of dialogue like the examples above, because they think that readers will see it as laziness in the author.  Certainly, they can if you overdo it, but all things in moderation, as I’ve read somewhere.

Consider the examples above:  The first is being asked by a detective of the character who he thinks might be the criminal.  The criminal doesn’t want to say, “I was murdering John Smith.”  Maybe he didn’t, but he also doesn’t want to say, “I was holding up the corner liquor store.”  Or maybe he was in bed with his partner’s wife.  He won’t want to say that, either, so he’s going to play for time while his mind frantically races to cook up a story that he can support later.

And who are the players in the second example?  Has a brother invaded his sister’s bedroom, perhaps looking for her diary?  Is he older and used to bullying her?  Maybe he’s younger, and she dominates him pretty badly.  Are they middle school-age?  High school?  College?  Maybe they’re adults, and live in separate houses, and she finds him in her personal space.  Why is he there?

Or maybe they’re both someplace they aren’t supposed to be, perhaps their parents’ bedroom.  Or maybe a detective has caught a uniformed officer poking around in the evidence room.  It could be a military situation, or two crooks before or after a job.  Where is this conversation going?  The possibilities are endless.

The point is that answering a question with a question is far from bad writing if you use it correctly and sparingly.  You can readily see how, using the above examples in a wide range of situations, you can speak volumes about a character just by having him repeat a question that he’s been asked.  The reader will immediately flag that character as someone suspicious, and watch him like a hawk from that point on.  You can lead said reader wherever you want from there, and he will eagerly follow, looking for the next breadcrumb.  That, my friends, is immersion at its finest, and you all know that immersion on the part of your reader is the holy grail of writing.

This will be a short post this week, and not because I can’t think of anything else to say.  There are some chestnuts that I want to drop clean for you to pick up and examine without a lot of background noise and clutter, and this is one of them.  Take this concept, think about it, modify it for your own use, and look for places to slip one in.  The effect on your readers will show up in your comments and reviews, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be amazed at the results.

View from the Blimp

Since we last met, I have become a freelance cartographer of sorts.  I shared the new map for the Port Reprieve anthology last week, and I am now working on a polished map of Railroad City for William Jackson’s series of the same name.  The map will be as detailed as a map can be for a Kindle display, and it is both time-consuming and pain-inducing, bringing on muscle fatigue and occasional cramps from fingertips to elbows.  In addition, time I spend on this map is time I would be spending on The Darklighters, although  I am plotting, planning, and making the occasional note as I work.  William is a very good friend, and I never want to say no to friends, but I’m going to have to limit this to one or two a year if these last two are any indication.

Speaking of The Darklighters, I still have slots for beta-readers.  I’m going to try to create something if not unique, at least unusual in the world of steampunk.  Read the completed story above, and if it holds your interest, join the team.  Free books and shout-outs are on the table.

In Other News…

If you happen to be in the New Orleans area this Friday, May 25th, you might want to include a visit to Boutique du Vampyre at 709 1/2 St. Ann Street to meet multi-faceted author David Lee Summers, and pick up your signed copy of one of his four vampire, New Orleans, or just generally creepy books, “creepy” referring specifically to The Astronomer’s Crypt, which I reviewed here.  Make it a visit to remember!

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Readers of recent posts will know that good friend and talented author Karen Carlisle has a book release party coming up next week.  I’ll be covering that in detail on Saturday’s blog, but while you’re waiting, catch her interview by Amanda Howard, true crime and crime fiction author.

And that’s 30 for this issue.  I’ll be back Saturday with another edition of Blimprider Times; who’ll be in the spotlight this week?  Until we meet again, sing your song so the back row can hear you!