steven luna

the double singularity

To the order
of things
he was
a quirk,
a kink
in the quantum
bending
the universe back
upon itself
like cosmic origami
that duplicated
his solitude
and doubled
his loneliness
in one
overlapping
point
of inescapable
chaos.

It felt
at times
as if
there might be
two of him,
and yet
none
of him
at all.

He was
what one might call
a “double singularity”
if one
had an
eye
for string theory
and a yen
for verbal
irony.

So
imagine then
how jarring,
how daunting
it was
for him
when he felt
the matter
of his being
tremble
from a
great
distance;
vibrate
with immodest
recognition
of a kindred;
resonate
with grand
and miniscule
magic
as the underlying
arrangement
of all-being
received
his solitude
and returned it
to him
as
belonging.

Imagine
the
incalculable
intimacy
of finding
a parallel
detachment,
the infinite
dilation
in the discovery
of a corresponding
isolation,
the interminable
sense of wonder
that arrived
as he
witnessed
his own universe
expanding
by a magnitude
of
one.

Of course,
she felt it
too
as hers
did the same.

She was
as much
a quirk
as he,
creased down
the center
in her
seclusion,
forced
to face
herself
at all
times.
She was,
indeed,
something
of a second
double
singularity,
as if
the universe
believed
that one alone
simply wouldn’t
be
enough.

And in one
negligible
moment
during which
she unfolded
and finally looked
beyond
her own
expiring
oblivion,
she saw
him
instead,
at the
exact same
negligible moment
that he
saw her.
He said
something
along the lines of
“You have
delicate
ears,
and I
like
that.”
It was
practically
nothing,
and yet to them
it was
the width
and breadth
and depth
of
entirely
everything.
From this
iota
of dual awareness,
this speck
of simultaneous
acknowledgment,
there exploded
another universe,
one
in which
irony was forbidden,
solitude was abolished,
and the idea
of singularity
had never
occurred.

copyright © 2016 steven luna

Wing and Claw and Hoof and Tail

We walk and we talk on the path growing slim through the trees through the trees with the sky going dim as the gold-gleaming sun gilds the limbs and the leaves and the reeds and the weeds on these mystical eves when the feathering heathering blossoms rush past and the thickets grow thicker to greet us at last and the shadows are rich in this mythical wood where nothing behaves like we’ve learned that it should as we wander and wonder how far we can pass through these snickers and flickers these shimmers like glass of the fairy lights gleaming or maybe they’re eyes and the penny-flutes whistle their beckoning cries through a swirling and curling mysterious mist that spreads an allure too alive to resist or maybe it’s breath from a menacing lung churning bittersweet smoke where the mosses are hung and maybe the scritching scritch-scratching we hear isn’t rabbits a-scamper or sheltering deer or fairies or pixies but something more queer something threatening beckoning lumbering near and our laughter goes silent our mirth chills to fear and it seems now this trek was a horrid idea ill-advised into such ever-darkening parts and the shadows swing low on our questioning hearts and the chittering-chaw of hoof and claw goes skittering-scattering our nerves chafed and raw and the leather of wings that clatter and flap and circle above as we enter the trap of the jaws and the maws that chatter and clack but the road’s disappeared and there’s no turning back so we walk but we walk ever-slower we go while our hearts cry out run! and our feet tell us no! and we try not to cry in our shivering skins with our quivering hands and the madness that spins in our heads in our souls in this spiraling gyre of terrors unseen that collude and conspire and lick at their lips and lash with their tongues and gnash all their teeth and heave with their lungs and they screech and they squeal and they squawk as they stalk pulses shudder and hammer we stumble and clamber as we walk and we walk and we

the chase

The Chase

Most creative folk, immediately upon revealing themselves to be, in fact, creative, will be asked: where does your inspiration come from? I like to imagine a storehouse somewhere, like a root cellar, where inspiration lies around in bundles and stacks, just waiting for me to wander down and grab a clump. Or a clandestine visitor wearing a trench coat and a fedora tilted over one eye, who coordinates late-night inspiration rendezvous in pools of streetlamp light…but only when he feels like it.

The truth is much simpler than this.

I have no idea where inspiration comes from. And neither does anyone else.

We’d love to tell you that we saw an indescribable face in a crowd and were inspired to write our magnum opus. But it’s just as likely that we see indescribable faces everywhere we look, and inspiration didn’t occur on 99.99 percent of those occasions. And besides, who wants to write about an indescribable face? That seems unnecessarily difficult. Better to write about the ones you actually can describe, since a fair amount of writing is dependent upon description…it’s sort of funny that way.

Sometimes, it’s explained most unhelpfully as looking at a star, which appears much brighter when viewed from the periphery of your vision than it does when stared at dead-on. This is probably a very poetic way of saying, “I’m not exactly sure how it happens, but I love stargazing, and I have no new ideas for stories about them despite having stared at the sky for the past four hours, so…what were we talking about again?”

It can also be described as a bolt out of the blue, a sudden, sharp awareness that comes upon you in the subway or at dance class or in line at the grocer while you’re organizing your coupons. It sends you scrabbling for your phone or a scrap of paper and a pen before you lose your bolt and end up angering everyone in line behind you for no good reason. At moments like this, nobody cares to ask you about your stupid inspiration or your good-for-nothing bolt. They just want you to get your Tidy Cat and your triple-A batteries and your spearmint Tic-Tacs and move along before someone who is you gets hurt.

Ouch.

I’ve discovered that the longer I wait for inspiration, the less like it is to favor me. It’s wonderful when it happens, but it’s rare and fleeting and it comes laden with holes that have to be filled in by the inspired at some later moment. To quote the thesaurus, it’s too capricious. I prefer not to wait for inspiration anymore.

I’m in search of ideas instead.

And they’re everywhere.

Yes. Idea Seeking is the new Being Inspired.

I don’t wait for them quietly in a softly-lit room with violin concertos playing, either. Oh, no. I throw on my Idea Seeking boots and chase them down with a net and a little jug to put them in once they’ve been caught. Then I watch them fly around and bounce off the glass, and I choose from the ones I like. I let the others flit about and grow their wings until they make enough noise to be let free in their own good time.

(A side note: who here besides me loves metaphors? Anyone? Good! I really hoped I wasn’t alone.)

Waiting for inspiration is like expecting your waiter to know you need a refill and letting him come around when he’s good and ready. Chasing ideas is like flagging him as soon as your cup runs dry. There’s really no chance that he isn’t going to come to you with a full carafe then.

Works like a charm.

So to anyone out there waiting for the Next Big Idea to bubble up from the depths or materialize out of the ether: Maybe try chasing it down instead.

You’ll be surprised how far that goes.

#mywritingprocess

I was tagged by the awesome Clayton Smith to prattle on a bit on my writing process for the Never-Ending Blog Hop #MyWritingProcess (there is no flying dog in this one…I know; I’ve checked). Clayton is a phenomenal talent who writes brilliant whimsical magical realism; he expounds on his own writing process here.  I’ve spilled a little beanage below about how I do what I do.

Hold on to your wigs and keys. It’s about to get all right-brainy up in here.


WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON? There’s never just one project on the whiteboard of my authorly endeavors. Usually, it’s crowded with at least a dozen contenders, each of which takes its turn being front-runner at any given time. At the moment, I’m rolling out brand-new wordwork on my quirky magical realism dude-centric existential romance novel, Sleight of Handelman. It centers around an in-the-background guy who discovers at a young age that he has the illusionist tendencies, which leads him to become a magician…but his magic is real, and is highly attuned to his state of being at any given moment. Not in a Carrie-ish way, though. More like he’s tapped into reality on a quantum level, and the universe responds to his emotional state. That probably makes it sound way less magical than it really is. I’m hoping to make sense of it all and have it out on Valentine’s Day 2015. I’m also working on a new series for young readers, called The Godmother Chronicles; it’s a collection of one-off fairy tales wittily told from the point of view of the fairy godmother. In addition to those, I have an idea for a fourth Joe Vampire novel in the very early stages of idea-smithing, a finished manuscript for young readers called Starfire and the Miracle Tree, a psychodrama called Once the Lotus Opens, a superhero satire, a rock star memoir send-up, and a special something that will be written for National Novel Writing Month in November. Wow. I’d better get to work, huh?

HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE? I’ve found it difficult to identify a genre that my work fits into, cleanly or otherwise. I generalize it under the term “dude lit,” which means I write stories with the intention of appealing to contemporary male sensibilities. Works in this mode are usually found in other genres – horror or spy/military action or deep fantasy, in particular. Rather than aiming for any of those, I prefer to write from a largely real-world perspective, mixing a base of humor with deeper emotion and scattering elements of fantasy or magical realism via theme, rather than basing the stories squarely in a fantastical universe. And I always profile my main characters before deciding on the situations in which they find themselves. In this sense, readers will hopefully feel less like they’re reading a fantasy or sci-fi story, and more like they’re reading a story about characters whose situations just happen to be fantasy-based. The more I move into more realistic, drama-based storytelling, the more this mode shifts for me. Kind of exciting to see where it might go.

WHY DO YOU WRITE? Primarily, I do it because I have a story—many, actually— in my head that I’d like to see told from beginning to end. That sounds supremely self-centered, and in a way I guess it is; if I didn’t feel this way, I wouldn’t bother writing at all. But beyond wanting to read the story, I want to prove to myself that I can actually TELL the story. This is true for everything I write; I always have something to prove to myself as a storyteller. And once I see that it holds together the way I’d hoped it would (after hundreds of hours of work, of course), there’s a second level of validation that comes from having someone else read it and understand it—and even appreciate it, on the occasions that they like what I’ve written. Also: I like to talk. A LOT. Writing is just another form of expressing myself in words. So there’s that, too…

HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK? The ideas arrive as single sentences, usually; Joe Vampire, for instance, came about in the form of “What if vampires were just ordinary people with a condition they didn’t want to have?” Once I latch onto that, I’ll profile the main character—nothing overly distinct; just a framework to begin with. From there, anything goes. I’ll start imagining scenes and descriptions and dialogue, and I’ll notate everything on a Word document—or on sticky notes, or on napkins…sometimes I even use a notebook J. At some point, when the free flow comes to a slow-down, I’ll make an overview of the main events I want to include. I’ll focus on those for a while, letting whatever happens, happen. There is no order to it whatsoever. This can take a few weeks. Once I’ve come to the point where the majority of information has been captured from it—it almost always seems to happen after I have fifty pages or so of notes—I’ll begin the formal writing process. I’ll force myself to write a beginning chapter, and usually an ending chapter, just so I have coordinates to guide the rest of the story. And then, I make my best attempt to write my way from Chapter Two to The End, though the chapters don’t always come in order. I used to consider this a messy way of doing things, but I’ve learned that the more order I impose on the process, the less I get done. So I just roll with it. Seems to work okay so far.


Mystery solved…or mystery deepened? It’s a close call.

Next up on the blog hop: the crazy-talented Jonathan Charles Bruce. He’s written the superhero-redefining novel Project Northwoods, which you can snag at Amazon. He also writes a fantastically entertaining website, on which he’ll post his own writing process. Eager to see what goes into his work.

 

 

the glorious disorganized

I spend a lot of time wondering why I start so many projects at the same time. Or, rather, staggered one after the other. One—or seven—tend to arrive on the heels of another, and they bring their little brothers and sisters with them, cluttering the thoughtspace until there’s no room for grocery lists or yardwork. They just keep a-coming. And it’s not only storytelling-writing-verbalism sorts of things. Visual stuff is thrown into the mix, and auditory stuff. Films and industrial design and architecture. Even ideas for sculpture…and I don’t sculpt. It doesn’t seem to matter. The diversity of idea-smithing holds no boundaries.

I hear I’m not alone in this.

I’ve taken a little time to obsess about it, and I’ve come to a largely-uneducated—and possibly unfounded—conclusion about why the creative mind works in such unpatterned patterns. I haven’t taken the time to Google about it yet, though…maybe science will back me up this time. Or maybe science doesn’t give a hang what I think and has theories of its own to explore and disprove.

Maybe science has no idea I even play in its sandbox.

At any rate…

My idea is this: left-brain function governs math and analysis and reasoning-based activities, right? And right-brain function governs intuition and imagination and creativity, yes? So it follows (in the Lunaverse, anyway) that the manner in which the hemispheres conduct their respective functions is reflective of the very functions they conduct. With a dotted-line crossback between the two, of course.

What the hell am I talking about? he asked himself at this point in the post.

Mathematics is a stepwise performance, from point A to point B to point C; the mode in which this type of thinking performs best is stepwise as well, by necessity. Calculational thought is the decryption (or encryption) of the universe out of (or into) numeric representation. To oversimplify it: in left-brain thinking,  it makes total sense that the train carries the red freight in the red boxcar.

There is order in order.

Creativity, however, can be engaged from point C to point banana peel to point 99. It has virtually limitless possibilities for structure. Therefore, it exists thought-wise in something more of an exploding universe model, in which any place is a great place to start, and any direction is the right one to work in, as long as The Idea is arrived at. And in this structureless structure, the ideas tend to overlap. To overcomplicate it: in right-brain thinking, it makes total sense that the train carries the red freight in both the red and blue and yellow boxcars, because you never know when you might be in the mood for red or purple or orange. It can also be carried in the shoe boxcar, and the apple boxcar, and the I Just Thought of Another Story! boxcar. And you can jump into any of those at any time and end up with something completely valuable, and maybe unexpected, but equally valid as the thing you originally went in looking for. Single-sentencing it: creativity is all potentials, all at the same time.

There is also order in disorder.

Because of this phenomenon, disorganization actually IS our organization. It simply has an order so subtle that it stretches the limit of that word’s definition until it almost can’t be detected. We’re doing things in the way that our neural pathways have discovered works best, in both subject matter and expression.

Don’t hate on us because we seem all over the place; understand that this is the key to our essence. And what we end up with on the pedestal at the end of the day will be worth all the back-and-forthing our little brains had to do in order to bring our ideas to life.

I forget where I was going with this…

Oh yeah! Being disorganized.

Back on it now.

And so it is that I go looking for one simple idea—ONE—for a blog post, and end up with a new character who doesn’t fit into anything, and visions of new painted images, and the notion that I should add yet another novel to my growing list of works in progress…and about seventeen other ideas, all stuck to the shoes of the single idea I was looking for.

So typical. And rightly so.

Because imaginative thought can have any structure that works at the moment, it ends up having zero structure at all sometimes. Which is why we Creatives should be indebted to the left hemisphere for imposing some sort of order on it all when we finally move past the I Have an Idea! phase and move into the Now How the Hell Do I Make This Work? phase.

Science: catch up on this.

Unless you already have, and I’m just repeating something that I read in a journal or on a website or in a really nerd-centric bathroom stall somewhere.

In which case, I have a few more ideas I’d like to discuss with you.

That’s just how my homies and I do things.

aiming for the middle

There’s a term that describes the literary practice of beginning a story in the center of the action: in media res, which translates from Latin to “in the middle of things.” Stories such as this presume the reader knows something of what they’re getting right from the jump. The author doesn’t coddle or pander; they throw the reader into the ocean and slowly lead them ashore as the story unfolds. If it’s a war story, the author doesn’t necessarily start by describing an army barracks and leading to the action; he starts with the battle and works his way forward (or sideways or backward) from there. It’s theatrical and cinematic, and it works fantastically as a device to start a story at a quicker clip than it would if it started at a quiet, uneventful moment.

I love this mode of storytelling.

I use it as a model for what I write… only I take a slightly different approach. I tend to begin my stories as something I call in media animus: in the middle of the soul. My characters are already fully-formed when you meet them. They absolutely have growth coming, and regression is more than likely as well. Evolution and personal development and descent into circumstance. But they’ve already undergone some quantity of the circumstance that prompted the story. I find the most interesting way to tell their tales is to introduce them to the reader at a pivotal and potentially uncomfortable or disorienting moment in their development. It gives a solid sense of the gravity of their situations. Joe Vampire did that; his first post doesn’t begin before he’s bitten, and it doesn’t tell you anything about who he was prior to this incident that has made his story worth telling. There’s some detail fill-in on that down the line, for sure. But his blog opens when he’s already three months into the vampire trip – up to his knees in bloodthirsting, he is. He’s jaded to it by then, and somewhat bitter. He’s still descending and has little knowledge of what’s coming for him. But he’s holding his own. This is what prompts him to tell his story in the first place. And the impact of his circumstance is apparent from the get-go.

In other words, the story begins in media animus.

 

Oregon-coast-black-and-white-520x347

We’re not at the shore…we’re aaaaaaall the way out there, in the middle of my metaphor.

Same with Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing. When it opens, Tyler is six months past the death of his mother. He’s stewing in his own pain and anger, venting it at his father and sabotaging his own future while trying not to be overtaken by everything that’s happened…and, quite honestly, he’s a little bit unlikable at that point. He may have a solid reason to be angst-ridden, but whether his behavior is justified isn’t really evident at that point. At the risk of alienating readers who want to like their main characters from page one, I take the chance that readers will judge them several times through the story. In storytelling as in life, first impressions end up being more about impact than likability. You may not like the characters in my stories from the very beginning – or by the end, either. And you don’t have to.

All you have to do is be interested in hearing more of what they have to say.

And there’s a reason for me doing things this way.

If there’s something I value more highly than anything else in storytelling – more than a twisty, compelling plot, more than a satisfying emotional track, more than witty dialogue and snazzy descriptive passages — it’s characters who live and breathe. Authors aren’t writing stories about setting or timeframe; we’re writing about people, what they do and what happens to them as a result of their choices. Their virtues and their vitriol; their deeds and their downfalls. Of course, we’ve invented these people and their situations in our heads. But so has everyone else who has ever interacted with anyone in the physical world. We don’t know the stories of ninety-nine percent of the people we meet, but for just a moment in our interactions, we ascribe them a soul: motivation for what they do, as evidenced by their kindness toward us (or lack thereof), their interactions with others, their mannerisms and behavioral tendencies. It’s the same when we meet a character in a story for the first time. If you were to meet Tyler Mills in real life, he’d be the kid with his chest puffed up and a chip the size of a Buick teetering on his shoulder. You wouldn’t know why necessarily, or understand his path. And you wouldn’t need to. You’d simply recognize the signs, register his behavior and possibly wonder what happened to make him so. You might even want to know a little more about him…maybe.

A big maybe, perhaps. But still. It’s there.

And that’s the hook.

To purposely mis-quote Paul Simon, “Maybe’s the entrance I’m looking for.”

It’s my job to turn the Maybe into an Absolutely, and ultimately leave the reader with a sense of I’m Sure Glad I Did. I don’t know if I hit the mark every time, but I know I feel much better about what I’ve written when I give my characters that sort of treatment. Whether they’re kind or crooked, noble or abhorrent, my characters wear their psychology from the moment the cover opens, in hopes of compelling the reader to step in and try it on for size.

And that’s why there are no slow-rolling beach entries for me and mine. From minute one, we’re out in the water — in the middle of our messy souls — paddling or sinking or barely holding our heads up. We’ll flail a little…or a lot. We’ll probably struggle more than we swim. But we’ll work our way through, for better or for worse.

It sure beats wading around at the shoreline waiting for the tide to rise.

self-d’illusional

A few years ago, I got caught up in Mindfreak, the Criss Angel show with with all the impressive street magic a dork like me could ever hope for. As a fan of things that don’t easily fit into the everyday world, I flipped out. Every next illusion was more brilliant than the last – even the little ones.

Especially those, actually.

When a magician requires a fully-constructed stage and theater lights and pyrotechnics and a small crew of technicians running the show to turn a tiger into a woman under a silk sheet in front of an audience who blew their grocery money for the week on a set of tickets, there’s obviously something more to the illusion than simple sleight of hand. But when a magician can pass a rolled-up dollar bill through a solid pane of glass at a storefront window on a busy street in plain view of anyone walking by who didn’t pay anything to see it happen?

To me, that is truly magical.

And so it was that Mindfreak was a most brilliant illusionist experience, even though it was captured on video and broadcast over cable (another set of technicalities, but I couldn’t make it to Vegas to see it happening live, so…). My wife would remind me repeatedly: he’s not *really* levitating (or catching on fire, or disappearing, or pulling a woman into two pieces).

Um, yeah. I knew that part.

What captivated me was the absolute showmanship and consummate proficiency with which the illusions were executed – largely in 360 degree view-range of those watching on. I watched for camera trickery, and to be fair, there was some of that, though it was mostly for the larger pieces. It was the smaller illusions that won me over most.

Anyone can fool me by levitating between buildings with some well-executed though imperceptible mechanical assistance.

It takes honest-to-goodness magic to blow my mind by shoving tube-shaped money through a solid pane of glass with an audience two feet away.

The mundane made magnificent: that’s how I see it.

For me, that’s where the real magic lies.

Recently, I’ve been researching street-style magicians while creating an antagonist to trouble Sid Handelman in the new book. Criss Angel is a bit too theatrical for what I’m thinking. No offense to him at all; he’s a genius at what he does, and I’m always floored by what he comes up with. And David Blaine sitting in plexiglass while not eating for two weeks is a different type of magic altogether. It makes an appearance in the story, too…hopefully in a hilarious way, if I execute that section correctly. But this guy, while not at all cocky, captures the easy-going essence of small-yet-grand magic that I think this character needs. His name is Justin Flom, and he’s contemporary street magic all the way. Check out his Starbucks coffee refill trick, and then dig around and watch some of his other crafty illusions using commonplace materials. He’s the un-flashy reboot of the classic sleight-of-hand illusionist.

Sid Handelman should take a lesson.