Damn, that feels good!

Pardon the unscheduled update for the blog.

A few weeks ago, I got a new story idea out of the blue. That idea was “Finding Mister Wright.” The synopsis I posted was only a rough outline of what I thought the story would be. Of course, somewhere in the writing, Marshall hijacked the story from my initial inklings and made it distinctly his own. The core is still there, but the overall story became something rather different, with new characters, new relationships, and a new ending. To spite what it does to my planning, I love it when that happens.

Thirteen days, fifteen chapters, and a tad over 20,000 words later, Marshall has a story. A kind of Christmas story, even. While this is “only” a first/rough draft, I feel pretty damn awesome to have brought his story to light. Or, at least, part of his story, since I’ve grown to like him a lot over the last almost-two weeks. What may be the best part, though, is that I set myself the goal of finishing this story before the end of this weekend, and, damn it, I actually did it.

I guess now it’s time to find out if those folks who said they’d read my stories actually do it, too.

What makes a good man?

(Mostly recycling from Tumblr again, because, after a long week spent helping care for my dad, who’s still going through chemo, I just don’t have the energy to put forth a completely new post.)

In a recent post over at Kourtney Heintz’s Journal, Kourtney brought up the idea of which actor might play which character from her book, Six Train to Wisconsin. While this is different from the idea of who or what may inspire a character, it did make me realize that many of the characters – notably the female ones – from my most recent story were actually based on specific looks and performances.

In “From Hell,” the main character’s appearance has already been determined for the reader, because he’s a borrowed likeness:

-Axton, the Commando-

-Axton, the Commando from “Borderlands 2”-

The story may be about Axton, but there’s a slew of women in the supporting cast whom I’ve just adored writing. Among them:

Cin, the charming and sensuous madam who runs the brothel “Cin’s Deadly Seven,” and who was based on gorgeous Adrienne Barbeau’s Ruthie from “Carnivale,” complete with slithering snake tattoos;

Ruthie, from Carnivale

-Carnivale publicity photo-

Red Widow, the cunning, discerning, and dangerous grifter who gives Axton a full-on run for his money in the sexuality and profanity departments (inspired by Gail Potocki’s beautiful and intimidating art below);

image

-by Gail Potocki: “Femme Fatale” Cella Gallery show press image-

Marshal Kotonou, who wears a duster and wields a shotgun as well as any man, for protection of her borderworld town (and to whom I’ve attempted to give a nod of attitude and beauty to Gina Torres’s Zoe from “Firefly);

image

-“Firefly” publicity photo-

Lucy, the practical and sassy prostitute who has better insight into the main character’s head than he does, himself (based on the luscious Patricia Arquette’s portrayal of Sally Wheet in “Boardwalk Empire”);

image

-screen capture: “Boardwalk Empire”-

and Sarah, the main character’s ex-wife from his military days, who provides some telling background about why he is the way he is (inspired by the many roles of lovely singer/actress Ana Brenda Contreras).

Photo by Valeriatroche (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Oh! And, of course, Gaige, the girl who starts the whole story rolling (head on over to Contagious Media for the full photoshoot)…
-Gaige cosplay by ContagiousMedia-

-Gaige cosplay by ContagiousMedia-

Stories about men tend to focus on just the men. Especially in the Western genre, where supporting women can fall into pretty predictable (and often hackneyed) categories. The women Axton encounters throughout the story might exist within those same categories, but I hope I’ve added some new dimensions to a few of them. They’re just so much more fun to write, that way. Hopefully, readers are enjoying the women in this story, too. Because, really, what’s a man without a good woman, whether she’s there to screw, fight, or be his conscience?

From where do you get your character inspirations? If you could cast anyone as one of your main characters, who would it be?

The Lucky Ones

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been away from blogging these last few weeks, both reading and writing. The writing was because my life’s been hectic, to say the least. I’d been trying to keep up with reading, though. While I occasionally glance at the WordPress Reader feed on my commute, I usually rely on email notifications, because I’m an old person like that.

Over the last couple of weeks, my email updates have been silent. It seemed a tad odd that everyone was taking a similar hiatus to mine, but didn’t think too much on it, because I was running around like a headless chicken getting stuff done making my office run smoothly busy.

The other day, I happened to be on F***book, and I noticed a new post from someone I know I follow. That new post did not show up in my email, though. So, I went back to my Reader preferences, to make sure I was supposed to get emails for all the lovely bloggers I make sure to follow religiously. Sure enough, their settings were all correct. But, no mail-mail. As Oliver Chamberlain might say, “WTF?”

It turns out, WordPress has been working on a software update recently, making behind-the-scenes changes as software developers are wont to do. I work in IT, so I know it’s a common occurrence. And, every time this happens, there are The Lucky Ones (sarcasm here) whose service gets a bit mucked up in the process. This time, I got to be one of The Lucky Ones.

Sensing something amiss, yesterday, I sent this note to the WordPress.com Twitter:

twitterThis morning, in my Inbox were waiting more than a score of new updates, from the past two-and-a-half weeks. Needless to say, it’s going to take me some time to catch up with them, but I’m looking forward to it. Just from your post titles, you all sound like you’ve got great things to say.

As for me, I’ve continued to write, with a fresh freedom I haven’t felt in a long time. Nobody is reading this new stuff, but I honestly don’t care. Sure, attention is nice, but this writing has restored my passion for creating, molding, and expanding characters and situations. I take much more gratification in my own sense of accomplishment, in this case, whether it’s supported by the masses or not. The most fun part has been exploring more aspects of characterization and plot in this one: drama, adventure, action, romance (of a sort), adulthood and maturity (which don’t always go hand-in-hand), identity, relationships, death, wealth, drugs…a glorious mishmash of topics that have woven their way into my tale of two mercenaries.

I’ve also come up with a loose NaNo idea from all this free writing. Because, you know, I’m not busy enough.

I’m really looking forward to catching up with you all. I hope I can offer some entertainment for you, too!

Love and Marriage, for all

Overnight station shifts often meant solitude while he waited for a call to come in, a trial Scott considered a lonely necessity at its best and a nerve-wracking tedium at its worst. Some of the other men on the squad appreciated the quiet away from wives and children. Not Scott. Noise and commotion had become a part of his life these last seven months, but it was worth it for the blessing of little Emma.

Finchy wasn’t nearly as exciting to be around as his daughter (or his wife), but he was company to keep the silence and boredom at bay well enough. And, he seemed lonely, of late. He was also a more than passable cook, so his offer of bringing supper to the station to hang out was one Scott couldn’t refuse.

“That was great, mate,” Scott said as he eased back a bit from the duty desk. “Thanks.”

“Sure,” Finchy replied easily, and took a long swig from his water bottle.

Looking at his empty plate, Scott chuckled. “I love my wife, but I’m lucky she knows how to use a microwave. You’ll make some lady very happy, some day.”

Finchy blew a snort from around the mouth of his bottle. “I don’t think there’s any woman to satisfy me that much.”

“You just haven’t found the right one, yet.”

“Yeah,” Finchy muttered in a lazy drawl. “Rub my nose in it.”

“Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place,” Scott told him. “There’s a lot more than just this village, you know. I mean, I didn’t meet Venus here.”

“I know,” Finchy said. “I was there, too.”

Scott fell silent, reminded of that flashy, crowded club on the first night of Newquay’s Blue Surf competition almost three years past, where Finchy had spotted that Black beauty with the killer smile and unflappable attitude. Every member of their crew – save Neville – had tried to pull her, with no success. Of course, the next day, they’d found out she was a surfer in her own right: Vee, they called her, “for Victory,” though she’d introduced herself to Scott in particular as Venus Pritchard. Thinking back on it, now, his scores that comp had been shit…but he’d had a hell of a night in her bungalow to make up for it.

Lost in those memories a moment, he didn’t notice Niall swoop in from the outside and plant himself in the other seat across the desk until he opened his mouth:

“Did you know Nev is-” He dropped his voice. “-a poofter?”

Scott looked at him in mild surprise, while Finchy furrowed his brow and said, “Yeah, I know. And don’t call him that.”

“Whuh-!” Niall said, leaving his mouth hang open a second. “You knew? How long have you known?”

Finchy shrugged. “He told me, like, two years ago.”

Niall pointed at Scott. “Did you know?”

Scott nodded, feeling a bit lame. “Yeah. He told me and Venus a while ago, too.”

Niall fell back against his chair. “Did everybody know but me?” He turned to Finchy. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Why?” Finchy said, and raised his brow with sudden interest. “Are you gay, too?”

“No!”

“So, if you’re not interested in him, why should you care?”

Niall paused a second, his face gone blank; Scott figured he hadn’t thought that far. Of course, he didn’t usually think at all….

“Well,” Niall struggled out, now. “What if…What if he fancies me?”

“He doesn’t,” Finchy replied readily.

“How’d you know?”

“Because no self-respecting human – gay or straight – would ever fancy you.

“All right,” Scott muttered, extending one hand. “That was a little uncalled-for. We all have to work together.”

“That is exactly my point!” Niall said, pointing one finger around at them again, as he half-stood from his chair. “I-! I mean, we all are in…very close quarters…a lot, and…well, sometimes, I don’t wear anything under my suit, and what if, you know, when I take it off, that’s, like, too much a temptation for him? Or something?”

“Jesus!” Finchy said, scolding. “He’s not a rapist.”

Niall went from looking ill at ease to pained. “No, I’m not saying that, but-!”

“Listen,” Scott told him in a low voice, leaning across the desk. It felt a bit like speaking with a special needs child, but Niall did have some special need, at the moment. “Nev’s always been this way. You’ve known him for years, and it’s never bothered you before.”

“Well, I didn’t know before!”

“What difference should it make? He’s still Nev. He’s still ace on his board, and he’s still our mate! The way you feel about him shouldn’t change just because you suddenly found out he’s gay.”

Niall paused, as though thoughtful. Scott couldn’t easily tell; the look of contemplation on his face was so foreign.

“Yeah,” Finchy said then. “You’re an idiot, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about you.”

Shooting him a guarded look, Niall murmured cautiously, “How do you feel about me?”

“You’re an idiot,” Finchy repeated, making Scott snort a chuckle under his breath. Then, sitting up from his lackadaisical lean, he added, “And another thing: Whenever you go straight skins under your suit, you don’t take that off in front of any of us. Nobody wants to see that!”

Alianca braille

By Luistravasso (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week, news came of the passage into law in England and Wales the ability for same-sex couples to marry. Some stipulations still apply, of course, because government doesn’t make anything easy, these days. But, it’s a step forward toward the equality that should have existed for couples of all variations years ago. Here in the US, the status of a person in general – including marriage – is determined by the individual states, so it creates a much more divided issue, depending where you happen to live.

I won’t get into any controversy of marriage – or laws associated with it – here. The news did prompt me to scribble down this bit of free writing, though, which I always appreciate, no matter what the impetus.

I’ve always seen Scott as “the dad” of the crew. Because he is one, but I also thought his perspective – coming from being in an interracial relationship – gives him an extra insight into other less traditional romances. And, I like the idea of hearing from some of the supporting characters in the story.

As for Niall…. Poor Niall. At heart, he’s a good guy. He’s just…not terribly quick. I hope his struggle with his own articulations, here, paints a picture of someone who’s just a little confused, not truly bigoted, especially against a friend.

Now, it’s stiflingly hot, here, so I’m going to grab my own wetsuit and head for the beach. And maybe I’ll go skins, too.

How do love and marriage figure in your stories, if at all?

An Open Letter to an Almost-Stranger

Craig,

It was such a pleasure to sit next to you on my flight from Memphis to Washington, DC. I’m certain none of us expected to have had our 6:00 A.M. flight rescheduled to 8:45 A.M. Nor did any of us expect to have to sit on the tarmac at Reagan National, waiting for a bus to take us to the terminal. But, I’ve absolutely never had the enjoyable experience of sitting beside a heretofore complete stranger who would, as it turned out, share my passion for writing fiction.

As I said during those two hours, I have a deep and unbreakable love for my family and friends…but none of them truly understand what it’s like to look up and see a piece of sky or to slow down beside an overheard conversation and have a lightning bolt of inspiration strike. These moments occur unexpectedly, and at often inopportune times. That’s why we carry that always-handy notebook, and praise the noise-canceling feature on our Bose headphones.

It’s also why I hope you find the success in your story of the little boy, his Elvis hero, and the Moon over Memphis, the same way I hope to find my own success in my story of those two young lovers arguing on a West Country beach.

Even if you never read this, and we never cross paths again, I wish you a safe, happy journey full of the same love and support you feel now, and more. Your brief interaction made me remember why I do what I do, and why I love it so.

All the best from a fellow traveler,
Mayumi

It’s going to be an exciting day.

A few weeks ago, I helped produce the broadcast and webcast of our university’s commencement ceremonies. Our speaker this year was Vice President Joseph Biden, which made for an…interesting production day, to say the least. Just feeling the motorcade approach was rather exciting. Yes, I said “feel” – the rumble of cycle and car motors was like a small earthquake!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5LaYKUJ_w8?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

I won’t go into Vice President Biden’s speech, which you can listen to yourself, if you’re so inclined. He was very self-effacing and easygoing, though his security was something of a different story.

Usually, we don’t have to deal with magnetometers when we set up at the production control truck. This year, though, we were warned that safety measures would be similar to an airport security queue.

For those of you who have not traveled through an airport recently, they scan everything, from electronic devices like phones and laptops, to the change in your pockets, to your shoes. I fly fairly regularly – three or four roundtrips per year, on average – so I know what these security queues are like. That said, I don’t know why I didn’t check my work backpack before I left the house that morning. Maybe because I had to get up at four a.m. to be at the truck by six, or maybe because I hadn’t had the opportunity to get in my morning workout routine, or maybe because I didn’t have any peanut butter with my toast. Whatever the reason, I slung my pack over my shoulder and headed to the production field, without giving what was in my bag a second thought.

Until I got into that security queue.

The walkthrough metal detector was for people only. Each backpack, handbag, laptop case, and purse had to go through a manual search. And they didn’t just search. They pulled out everything. Now, Mom always told me to be prepared. So, I make certain to keep preparedness supplies in my bag at all times:

security-check

The crap I carry around in my backpack on any given day.

I think it was the string of condoms – or maybe the packet of spare underpants – that made the security guy look at me a little funny. What else could I say, but, “It’s going to be an exciting day.” I suppose I should consider myself lucky he just snickered, put everything back in my pack, and let me on my way.

This has nothing to do with writing. Except, perhaps, to say, always be prepared, for whatever might come at you. And, always be willing to laugh at yourself a little.