The Barrels of Your Skull

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WHY WE WRITE

We never have a problem coming up with ideas for our stories. As Taylor correctly points out in another post, sometimes we have too many ideas for our own good. Nevertheless, there’s never a shortage of imagination and inspiration. Writer’s block is non-existent around here. The main reason for this is we’re inspired by true masters of the pen. I’m not talking about Stephen King or Shakespeare, although I take nothing away from either.

We are always inspired by true lyrical masters. I’m talking about the artists, poets and writers of another medium.

Try this on for size: “He knows just where to touch you, honey, and how you like to be kissed. He’ll put both his arms around you; you can feel the tender touch of the beast.” These lines were written by Bob Dylan, one of the preeminent poets of the 20th century. The words are lyrics to the song, Man Of Peace from Dylan’s 1983 album, Infidels.

These words inspire the visual artist and the writer alike. People try to decipher a deeper meaning behind the lyrics of Dylan, but I say, why? Enjoy the picture he’s painted with his words and use the words to inspire and motivate yourself. Consider these:

“But all the while I was alone. The past was close behind.” Hmm, “The past was close behind.” Simple, but powerful lyrics from the song, Tangled Up In Blue on Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks album.

“…Shakespeare, he’s in the alley with his pointed shoes and his bells, speaking to some French girl, who says she knows me well.” Picture that. These lyrics come from a song with a provocative title, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, from Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde.

Some will suggest there are better examples of Dylan I could use. On this point, that doesn’t matter. Two people could argue Dylan for days. After all, it’s inspiration, nothing more complicated that that. Get your inspiration from wherever you want. Bob Dylan’s lyrics are sometimes deep, sometimes fun, but they still motivate and inspire.

So, what about more contemporary artists, you ask? They write good stuff, too, you say. First, I agree. I can (and probably will later) give you many examples of contemporary artists that inspire us. Second, you read this far because you’re learning stuff you didn’t know.

One last point, from Dylan’s Man of Peace: “Well, he can be fascinating, he can be dull; he can ride down Niagara Falls in the barrels of your skull.”

That’s badass.

Long Distance Loneliness

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WHY WE WRITE

“There’s a long-distance loneliness rolling out over the desert floor.” Credit prolific songwriter Jackson Browne in his song, The Fuse, from his album, The Pretender. With this painting of emotion, the pen becomes the brush, the mind is the canvas. With but one line, an emotion, a feeling is painted.

“A long-distance loneliness.” It’s beautiful, it’s immense, and it’s depressing all at once.

It’s a challenge when one attempts to resolve the dilemma of the greater of two artists – the one whose canvas is transformed with the brush, and the other, who uses words to stir the senses.

Pictures bring feelings. Sadness, romance, and elation. That magnificent painting of the waterfall with the calm pool beneath, takes you away. Put yourself into the picture, drenching yourself in the icy water, hiding behind the massive liquid sheet, falling asleep in the sunlit afternoon on the bank of the sandy shore by that waterfall.

Question to myself: Where can the visual artist take me that the writer cannot? Is it enough to paint the cave in the shadows? Does the visual artist take me into the cave, or does my own imagination? In the scene of the cabin in the woods, surrounded by a winter wonderland, do I feel the warmth of the fire because of the light I see in the window and the smoke emanating from the chimney? Does my mind take me there and supply the warmth?

Does the painting on the canvas move my psyche? Is it true that I need to have experienced warmth to imagine it? Do I need to know snow to feel the cold? Is it the viewer who brings the canvas to life, or the artist?

So to the visual artist, and I am one myself, I challenge you to paint the cold without showing me the snow. Paint the warmth of the cozy fire in the cabin without showing me the fire. Paint the wet of the waterfall and the depth of the valley and the height of the mountain. Yes, the visual artist can do these things and more.

This all begs the question: How does the visual artist paint the “long-distance loneliness rolling out over the desert floor?”

How indeed?

Trains, Aliens and Radar Guns

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Recently, we got stuck… we were discussing where to take a certain character in a certain scene, and one of us had a mind blowing idea. “What if we did this…!” Oh man, it was awesome! We started discussing twists, turns, and scenarios, talking over each other, each eager to share the newest thought. It was fun and energizing…for a while.

All kinds of ideas started flying out of our heads and onto the computer screen. Antagonists in our story went from humans, to mutants, to actual aliens from a dying planet. We talked about radar guns, human fertility prisons, trains, you name it.

It seemed the more we added and changed our original vision, the more complex the story became. We had more questions than answers, and were having to come up with more twisted ideas to explain the curvy ones.

Ultimately, we figured out the best thing to do was go back to our original vision, our dream, our story. It worked. We came up with an easy explanation to a really not-so-difficult question. Long story short, we stopped trying to make our story and our characters something they weren’t. Maybe down the road we’ll rethink the trains, aliens and radar guns – not that they won’t be in there somewhere. Or maybe we’ll get even crazier.

Heavy Breathing and Panic Attacks

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The whole process of writing and publishing a book is hard. No, seriously. When someone says “I’m writing a book,” you might think, “Yeah, and?”

It’s not easy. It’s very fucking hard. Sure, anyone can write a book. You can, your mom can, your best friend can. Hell even the creepy neighbor next door can write a book. But then what?

Being this close to publication has really thrown us off a little. I mean, we’re this close! We’re super stoked, but at the same time wondering “now what?” Um, we go to publication. So when do we publish? Oh, the by the end of the year of course. Seems simple enough. We’ve still got two months. Wait…two months…? TWO MONTHS? Ok, we won’t panic. That’s not cool.

So heavy breathing and panic attacks aside, we’ll turn to our Handy, Dandy Google! (Admit it, you thought Notebook. Blue’s Clues really sticks with you.)

So for the next month, while one of us is editing, rewriting, and editing and rewriting some more, the other (me) will be researching. Asking questions like:

  • How to find the perfect book editor.
  • What’s an ISBN, and how do I get one of those?
  • What’s a book launch campaign?
  • Do I have to come up with the book cover?
  • Do we have any more 805 by Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, California?

You know, all the important stuff that needs to be answered. We’ve found some cool resources, guides, forums and mentors we’ll be telling you about in future posts. In the meantime, if you’ve got any tips, tricks or 805, let us know.

Remembering The Monkees

Puppies and Posting

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A litter of eight German Shepherd puppies has been keeping us busy for the last several weeks. They’re ever so cute, but boy are they full of shit. Literally. We haven’t been neglecting the Changers project, but we’ve neglected posting. This is a quick update.

Feedback from a few of our beta readers is trickling in. One of our readers was in the middle of another book, so she had to finish it before turning her attention to Changers.

A co-worker is anxious to get his hands on our latest manuscript. Knowing this guy, he’ll be an honest beta reader. Some of the feedback we’ve already received is prompting some re-thinking and editing. We’ll make a few changes before giving it to the new guy for feedback.

Still having fun, whatever is happening!

Reality Check Number 1

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reality check

We originally started this website to document our experiences in writing a book. It’s a way to share with anyone who wants to know, anyone who’s curious, and/or anyone who may be on the same journey. We also wanted to have a nice place to show off our talents, our personalities and a small part of our lives.

So it’s reality check time.We decided to send our – what turned out to be second-to-the-last – draft to some people that seemed genuinely interested in taking a look at our manuscript and giving us an outsider’s view of what we had created. We determined early on we wouldn’t bug these people with things like, “…so…what do you think…how far have you gotten…did you like the part where…what do you think about…”, etc. We delivered our book electronically to a few beta readers. After almost a month, we have heard not one word. From anyone. Not. One. Word.

Maybe it’s the book. Maybe it’s the story. We’ll keep looking for readers. A little better diligence and vetting next time around. We have to know what outsiders think about it.

In the meantime, editing continues.

 

 

Editing Babeesty

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babeesty2

Sometimes editing is a bitch. Damn! Even at this late stage in the game we’re finding issues with continuity and spelling.

About spelling: Watch out for ‘global search and replace’. I think we really did have all the spelling issues covered. We’re good spellers, so all the spelling errors we found were either fat-fingering or light-fingering. Then I just had to go and do a ‘global search and replace’ on a specific word I didn’t like. While reading through what I thought would be one of the last – if not the last – edits, I come across the word “babeesty”. So I’m going, What the heck did we mean by that? Never mind the details, it was irritating. It’s bad enough to catch accidental mishaps. But the self-inflicted errors are trying my patience.

About continuity: A character is last heard from at a particular location. Two chapters later, the same player appears 370 miles away with no mention of how she got there. It would have been optional rather than mandatory, to just have the player in the new location, because that kind of thing happens all the time. The reason we thought this might be an issue is because the events in the three chapters at issue were taking place concurrently. We had to insert a short scene to justify this player’s presence elsewhere within the three-to-four-hour timespan. It actually worked out neatly. We like the addition.

I read a critique online where a reader said, “Gosh, didn’t you even edit this?” We don’t want to come off with, “Thank you for reading our book with typos and continuity errors. We’re hoping you don’t notice, because we didn’t.”

So back to work. You know what they say about babeesty!

Relating To The Players

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kid stuff 1

When I was a kid, I always thought when I became an adult, I would be this all-knowing, mature, cool person. I imagined all the asshole-ness of my childhood would be gone because I would be mature. I thought the ‘underdog me’ and the ‘cool kids’ would finally be on the same playing field.

Adults are just big kids. We’ve learned from our mistakes. I think people learn to suppress past portions of their lives they’d rather not remember. So much suppression is going on in most adults, they actually cause themselves to forget where they came from. They forget the hurt. They forget the feelings of youthful rejection. They forget the innocence and the playfulness. There’s a line in a song by Bob Seger that says, “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” The kid inside never really goes away – people just don’t know the kid any more.

Writing YA is a natural for this team because we remember what it’s like to be a kid. We remember the good, the bad, the hurt, the simple joy. We remember where we came from.

Creating and developing the players in Changers comes from remembering, from never letting go of the kid inside.

 

 

The Book Was Better

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books to movies

“The book was better.” HA!

It seems like there’s an over-abundance of prequels, sequels, and remakes coming out of Hollywood these days. (Can you believe they’re remaking Dirty Dancing?). In the last 20 years or so, Hollywood has been buying the rights to YA (young adult) books in hopes of bringing the characters to life. And really, who wouldn’t want to see their favorite book on the big screen?

I read this about book-to-movie adaptations: it’s not easy to fit a 300-400 page book into a 2 hour movie. As much as we may hate it, there will likely be cuts. I always hope the author will have enough input with the screenplay to minimize cuts that might compromise the story.

I read The Maze Runner series by James Dashner before it was announced they were making it into a movie. Once that news was out, I kept abreast of details like casting. When Dylan O’Brien was cast as Thomas I was skeptical, so I started watching Teen Wolf on TV. In Teen Wolf, O’Brien plays a main character. Ultimately, I fell in love with the show and his acting.

Another detail that concerned me is that in the Maze Runner books, Thomas and Teresa are telepathic, although only with each other. When I heard the telepathic angle was omitted from the movie, I wasn’t happy about it – at first. Director Wes Ball said he cut the mind-reading to make the movie more realistic. I ended up loving the movie and I’m actually glad they took out the mind-reading aspect.

There are some movies that stick to the books and end up creating the perfect adaptation. I had read the back of the book If I Stay by Gayle Forman. When I heard it was going to be a movie, I wanted to read it. I love the premise because it’s different: A family gets into a car accident and the teenage daughter is in a coma. The book is about her being ‘out-of-body’ in the hospital. While out-of-body, she sees the people there to support her. She recalls significant memories but she’s faced with a choice: let herself go or stay. In the book, there’s a scene where her grandpa is talking to her while she’s in her coma. He tells her that if she needs to go, he’ll understand. I cried (I tend to get emotionally invested) and when they recreated the scene in the movie, I cried even more. To me, that’s one sign of a good adaptation.

I recently read a list of books that are being adapted for the big screen. I found my favorite series, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken has been written into a screenplay! I am beyond excited to see if it really does become a movie. Here are a few up-and-coming book-to-movie adaptations that I can’t wait to see because I loved the books:

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I can tell from the trailer there have been some big changes but I still think it’ll be a really cool movie
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
The Death Cure by James Dashner

So is it true that “the book is better”? I’ll answer it like this: The book is the raw, hardcore original, and nothing can take that away. But many times, bringing the book to life enhances an already awesome story.