writing

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

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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.

october and the muse

I’ve noticed a pattern in my life over the last twenty-five years of tinkering with creative stuff, a cycle that I’ve come to ride instead of resisting, to run with instead of pushing against. We all know how it turns out when you move against the flow…everything gets tied up in knots, and nobody ends up happy. The minute you choose to go with it, it works like gangbusters.

In meteorological terms, I suppose it could be called the Creative Season.

It usually strikes around October-time, when nature comes back to its senses and finally pulls back on the oppression of summer. Suddenly, the muse – and no, I don’t call it that in conversation, but I like the idea of it, and even if we called it “the little creative voice in the back of our heads” it would still end up meaning the same thing – starts chattering away like a squirrel on amphetamines. “Okay, writer guy!” she says, in her far-too-cheery wake-up voice. “Let’s get cracking. There are literary worlds out there that aren’t getting any more created with you hanging around in flannel, drinking things that taste like pumpkin!”

She can be a little pushy.

But that’s of pure benefit to me.

It’s not as if she ever went completely silent. She was rattling off ideas all summer long, so many wonderful things I can hardly keep up most times. But the heat where I live is so inspiration-stifling that none of them could come to fruition. They feel the sizzle and go dormant like the rest of us, just hoping not to dry up and fly away. This year, though, June through August was more of a three-month brainstorming session, with all kinds of new possibilities showing up briefly before taking their leave. Much of this has shown up in the form of Dapper Press, which comes closer to a full-on launch every day. Most of the story ideas, though? Those hung around just long enough for note-taking before heading for shade or jumping in a pool somewhere. Some might consider this a frustrating period of non-productivity. All start and no finish. A bunch of “Once upon a time” with no “and they lived happily ever after.”

I call it Collecting the Possible.

I ended up with a notebook full of snips and scraps of things that will grow up to be full-on works – and not just novels, either; there’s a novella series, and a set of short tales, more Joe Vampire material, further development of a few already-in-progress works, and some stories for kids and teens and all-age readers.

Thanks to a summer full of half-begins and didn’t-quite-get-intos, I can spend October onward fleshing out a varied slew of new material.

My theory? Autumn lets the trees fall dormant and the temperatures drop so the creative folk can have a theater of wonder in which to spin their next wonderworks. It’s a little calm-down to say, “Back at it, kids…the muse is well-rested and ready to make some sweet magic!”

The first new thing past the finish line: A Joe Vampire short story celebrating Halloween. Joe used to love the holiday, but now that he’s a vampire in perpetuity? Well…October 31 has become a little irritating. An invitation to Bo’s Hallowaaane party brings it all to light. There’s another Joe short in the works…something about a suspicious new neighbor. And the holiday stories are coming right behind that.

And it’s not even October yet.

Three cheers for the autumn awakening.

Joe Vampire Halloweenie

 

 

 

 

hollywood’s new talent pool

More often than not, it seems like when Hollywood announces their next big blockbuster, it’s either rehash of a franchise that has long since run out of steam, or a reboot of a series that isn’t really called for, or a remake of a movie that nobody really liked the first time around, because chances are if you do it a second time, it’ll go over better…

For an industry that depends so heavily on storytelling, that’s a whole lot of “re.”

So where’s all the “neo” in this business? And I’m not talking about the Matrix…there should be no “re” where that series is concerned. I’m talking about the talent trust of the indie publishing world that isn’t being tapped in quite the manner it should be. We as authors and readers and lovers of story know the rich pool of story out there, from all publishing sources—indie, hybrid and traditional. Yet it seems to be some earth-shattering development when we hear that a book we love that hasn’t already been beaten into the ground a million times will be turned into brand-spankin’ new film. No naivete here: the Bottom Line is in the driver’s seat. If a book is a best-seller, it’s a no-brainer for the business heads in cinema that Lovers of Book will largely translate into Viewers of Film. And thank Universal that this potential exists, especially from the authorly side of things. Any opportunity we have to broaden our audience furthers our dream and validates our suspicions that the stories we concoct truly are worth diving into.

But there are tons of non-best-sellers that would make fantastic films as well.

And they can probably be had for a fraction of the cost of anything in the New York Times’ Top Ten.

Even with all of this available for consideration, we have this ever-present “re” situation. I read recently that there’s a new Amityville movie coming this fall. Amityville. Amity. Freaking. Ville. Has anyone really clung so desperately to the original thrill of that barn-shaped haunted house that they need another (read: the same ol’ ) story told about it again, with today’s hottest stars freaking out over Jody the red-eyed pig in the window instead of Margot Kidder and James Brolin? Haunted house stories are wonderful, but they’ve been done better than this franchise…and more contemporarily. And this, sadly, is representative of every rehash-reboot-remake situation. Meanwhile, a thousand-thousand new and well-told tales that don’t rely on a name established nearly forty years prior are just waiting for their turn to be acted out and screen-projected.

Sorry, Amityville, but you can’t possibly be the pinnacle of storytelling potential in today’s filmmaking market.

I’m not overlooking brand-name familiarity, here. I realize the marketing potential in such a phenomenon. But I also recognize the risk involved in spending millions upon millions of production and promotional dollars to recreate old material hoping that familiarity will breed commerce. And we’ve seen it fail miserably. Either the recreation can’t hold a candle to the original, or it’s just so badly done that the money would have been better spent making something new.

In fact…

Let’s bottom-line the Bottom Line here: sometimes there is so much money lost in the risk of remaking a property that sucks on toast and flops like a flounder that the wiser choice would have been to make three or four smaller, lower-risk films out of well-told stories using a batch of indie publishing and cinematic talent as well, thereby feeding the indie sides of both industries AND maximizing the profit margin. FOR EVERYONE. There’s a ton of material just ripe for the picking, if you’re looking in the right place for the right reasons. And the books will sell the movies as much as the movie will sell the books.

Everybody wins.

There’s a possibility for hybridization here that can benefit and vitalize both industries. Someone needs to start the trend. The facts that filmmakers have to become aware of are these: small is the new ginormous, and indie is the new reboot-less reboot.

Let’s call it “newbooting.”

Hey, Hollywood: Get all up in this 21st century scenario and make your audience some new magic. Maximize your margins, honor your audiences, and help the indies out a little while you’re at it.

We’re ready for you.

#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 vampire recovers

When I first wrote Joe Vampire, I saw him as an edgy alternative to the generally-accepted vampire novel tropes that abound in the world of contemporary literature. He’s not a traditional vampire story in the least…he’s really just a dude trying to find a way through a bad situation that happens to be Being a Vampire.

We’ve all been there. Except for the vampire part, maybe.

I’m just guessing.

For the version I published myself, I came up with a cover concept that portrayed the whole “I’m a hip, urban nerd who’s embarrassed to be undead and wish to remain anonymous” idea. It worked as an introductory image. When it was picked up by Booktrope and relaunched several months later, the office humor-slash-romance element was brought forward, and the Faceless Dude in a Hoodie concept was replaced by a photograph of friends who were kind enough to lend their real-world likenesses to Joe and Chloe. A similar approach was taken when the sequel Joe Vampire: The Afterlife was released, only this time instead of romance it portrayed Joe’s meeting with Lorelei, the hooker with a heart of feces. Another friend was good enough to join in the action (actually, she’s the younger sister of the girl on the cover of the first book…fun trivia!)

I love these images. Each represents a thread of the greater Joe mythos and gives a face to the various aspects of a vampire who doesn’t really want to be seen as such. Each is a step forward in the evolution of the series. What none of them capture, though, is the quirky absurdist humor of the stories—the very feature that I intended on setting Joe apart from the vampire pack. Or coven. Or posse.

I guess I don’t know what their little gangs are called these days.

So in gearing up for the third full-length title in the series—title: Joe Vampire: The New Paranormal—I went back to the drawing board and came up with something much more graphic, more colorful and more indicative of the dark, silly nature of Joe’s tale. In Joe Vampire (book one), it all comes down to the shades; they give him some degree of anonymity so he can slowly work his way back into the world at large. In The Afterlife (book two), much of Joe’s progress in dealing with his vampire situation revolves around music…but even that ends up tainted. A blood-spattered synthesizer keyboard captures that best, I think.

(Side note: To make it easier for new readers to catch up on both titles, Booktrope has awesomely thrown them together into one e-book file for Kindle; The Joe Vampire Collection features a version of the new cover, too.)

And for The New Paranormal? Well…the image for that gives away too much of one the story’s fun twists, so I’ll hold it back until we get closer to release time. But it absolutely follows the new pattern. Other works in the franchise will follow suit; Night Falls, a Joe short story, already extends the imagery (for everyone who knows what the title references, the bloodstained apple with a vampire bit missing from will make total sense). So will a little volume of Joe Vampire wisdom I have in the works.

And when Joe Vampire 4 comes along—and it will—it’ll do the same. The idea for both story and cover are already percolating in the ol’ think tank.

Funny how something like a cover reinvention can bring new vitality to a creative project…especially considering the franchise is about a character whose life only really begins after he dies.

But make no mistake: while the Dude Vampire may have a brand-new face, he still has the same old mouth.

On some things, there’s just no compromising.