Nov
29

Last week, Gary Jonas tagged me to join into the Next Big Thing, a blog thread in which various writers discuss their latest projects. Gary was tagged by Simon McCaffery; Simon was tagged by Weston Ochse; Weston was tagged by Tim Lebbon.  This week you can also check out Brian Hodge.

Next week, I’ll pass the buck to Charles Schmidt and Melissa Yuan-Innes.

Since my latest project is a book of short stories (Control by CC Geddes), I mostly concentrated on my next project. Since Beach Bitches (by Cindie Geddes) is the “next project” that I had the most answers for, it’s the one I wrote about here. But don’t be fooled into thinking it will actually be my next project. It could just as likely by the desperately-needs-a-new-title The Fourth Day (by CC Geddes). It all depends on which book my publisher can wrangle out of my first.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Beach Bitches (it’s the first in a planned series)

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

A workshop (Master Class) with Kris Rusch and Dean Smith where I had to come up with a whole lot of ideas in a very short time. I was brainstorming takeoffs from 50s beach movies with my friend Jennifer Baumer, having written myself into a corner with a series idea. She came up with the title. I had less than ten minutes to write a synopsis to go with the title for the workshop, then came home and wrote a book to go with that synopsis. So I did the whole thing backwards.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Mystery

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Holly Hunter for my main character, Mere, even though she’s way too short, and I’d always had Michael Clarke Duncan in mind for Karl Wreizen. I’m still so sad about his passing I don’t even want to think about it. He was one of my favorite actors.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? (I reject the one-sentence synopsis. In my practice at breaking the rules, here’s the synopsis I want to include here instead:)

Every beach has them

Those girls. Those skinny, perky, young girls, in all shades and the one size.

In Vegas, the beaches are manmade and bow at the feet of giant casinos. Same with the girls. And forty-year-old Mere Unger, Manager of Beach Talent at the Oasis megahotel, is their boss.

For the past seven years, Mere has played den mother to a pack of skinny models with spray-on tans and push-up bras. But when one of the girls is found stuffed into the base of an all-you-can-eat buffet cart, Mere learns that while money may not make the world go round, it sure gives Las Vegas one hell of a spin.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be published by Lucky Bat Books, no agent representation.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Three months

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I hate comparisons because it feels so arrogant to compare my work to anyone I like. But I’d like to capture the world I’m exploring the way Harlan Coben does with his Myron Bolitair books; I’d like to have my series character Mere Unger be as complex and grow as much as Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole; and I’d like her to be as tough and cool as Des Zamorano’s Inez Leon.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Sleep deprivation, The Game, creative desperation, Kris Rusch, Dean Smith, Loren Coleman, Chris York, and the wildly unnerving support of everyone at that Master Class.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I thought I was making up the idea that women were paid to just be beautiful and lounge around pools. But after researching Vegas, it turns out I’m not as creative as I thought. Not on the basic premise of my Bitches, not on the particulars of high rollers or the beauty industry. Nothing I could make up turned out to be as far-fetched as really exists -– from underground villas for the camera-shy wealthy to women bleaching the whites of their eyes to keep themselves looking young.

Feb
06

Two more of my scary short stories have been added to ebook retailers under my alter ego CC Geddes. Published by Lucky Bat Books.

A Pleasing Shape is a depressing, dark little bit of nastiness that made sense when I wrote it. It obviously made sense to the magazine editor who published it way back when too. But now? I honestly have no idea what I had in mind. I remember thinking it was quite profound. If anyone can make sense of it, I’d like to hear it!

The Nerve is a scary look at perception vs reality and how those are shaped by the assumptions of people around us. I was particularly interested in how easily the perceptions of the very old and very young are dismissed. But mostly, what people seem to take away from this story is how awful a common desk-drawer implement can become in a moment of desperation. This story is not for the squeamish!

It’s nice to have my work going out in the world again! It’s been a long hiatus for my fiction, especially my dark fiction.

 

Oct
05

Burning uroboros Burning Man 2012

Rites of Passage

Last year the playa screamed, hungry for breath and skin, whipping flesh, smothering words, transforming all it touched unto wraiths dragging us to the default world.

Last year, the temple screamed, a lament of flame and sorrow, roaring over the assembled accolytes with embers and demands.

 

This year, the playa breathes, the soft contented breath of lovers in early morning, the sigh of a tired mother with empty breasts.

This year, the temple breathes, a consumption of sins, cleansed by flames and released in a grace of fiery wings.

The playa breathes, the temple sings and we go out into the default world, trailing wings and color and glory until the dust settles once again.

Apr
11

(I’ve been fighting with my own rewrite lately. I have too many scenes of people driving or sitting around and thinking. So I’ve been thinking about the subject. Lee here has some good advice, advice I can use on my own work, so here it is for you too!

PS: Lee’s new book, Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children is coming out soon. Isn’t that a great title? And isn’t that a great cover? Delirium Books is doing some beautiful dark stuff!)

My big lesson on editing came not too long ago when Delirium Books accepted my novel IRON BUTTERFLIES RUST (August 2011). I had to cut a 1/3 of the story out to hit the top of the novella line. Yikes! I didn’t know how I could do it. I write pretty lean, and it’d already been through the hands of my two buddies (Shaun Ryan and Kevin Wallis) who read all of my work. I’m up for a challenge though and the worst I could do was fail. I took a few deep breaths. I did a jumping jack or two. I figured the best ways I might attack the challenge. (I’ll use some examples from Iron Butterflies Rust):

***A chapter outline (this after the book was finished and polished). The goal was to figure out the “True Essence” of each scene and find ways to condense or cut. I ended up finding four scenes (about 15,000 words) that I loved but could be cut down to about 10 pages (about 3,000 words for me.)***

***I had to find ways to introduce backstory and not make it lame, where it could be poetic, have zing, emotion and movement to it. I didn’t want any of it to be static. So I went through the manuscript looking for ways to cut backstory down to “Defining Moments” because I think they slice to the heart of every character. An example of the revised backstory, on what’s shaped Jennifer Gibson’s view of men, and how Frank Gunn has disrupted what she’s come to believe as something universal:

Frank closed his eyes and stroked her hair, remembering her tearing a comic book to bits like some frustrated teenager, amazed at the waves people rode when they felt overwhelmed and powerless, and how easily they let themselves walk straight into the devil’s mouth. He shivered. She whispered, her breath hot across his chest, “When I was a little girl, all of the boys watched me grow up. It made me sick to see their stares change as I got older, and how the light flickered inside them. Even my own dad backed away and would get close and back away again because he didn’t trust himself. I thought all men were the same because when I was 14, Bobby Decker held me down out by the railroad tracks and ripped my clothes off. He had an old knife. I wanted to fight back and stop him…” She sighed. “But he was too strong, and it was dangerous. And all the men after him have treated me like he did, only they didn’t have the same knife, they used words and money, promises and everything else, but they only wanted me to get off on. I don’t think one of them ever cared to know me. Not one.” Her tears wet his chest and he tightened his arm around her. She said, “You’re the only one who doesn’t seem disgusted or reptilian now that it’s over. I don’t get it.”

***To combine movement and description. They don’t have to be separate, and actually take up more space if they each have their own paragraphs. Here’s an example of connecting them:

The front door squeaked and Frank glanced that way, expecting to see Tanya’s mother, but James walked toward him, hands stuffed in his pants pockets, brow scrunched and eyes red-rimmed like he’d already written off the woman they both loved as dead. James’s mouth worked as he closed the distance, as if he were praying and unable to stop, even if the entire world thought he was crazy. Frank started toward him. He felt rain pelt his skin though the sky burned royal blue and the clouds were thin and a million miles off. Tanya’s dad stayed rooted in his place. He looked at the road.

***Description and scene setting are nice. But you’re killing the reader’s participation if you’re going into too much detail. Here’s a quick example of getting the point across without slowing the story down:

They pulled into Ruby Tuesdays on Hall Road, ready to meet James’ contact from the prison. Inside, James approached the booth that Frank had sat in the day before with Jennifer. A sense of loss, of loneliness and longing clambered through Frank. They sat, the clatter of plates spilling through a swinging door in the back, a few chatty business men laughing obnoxiously at the bar in the center of the room, a helpless looking twenty-year-old bored out of her mind, listening to the suits, while she chewed on her fingernail.

***Telling isn’t ‘bad.’ If you have five pages of characters sitting around or driving somewhere, doing nothing that serves the plot, you’ve just wasted a lot of your reader’s time because you love the sound of your voice. Look for places where this is happening. Highlight suspect passages on a read-through. Then you can tell (in a paragraph or two) what you had used multiple pages to ‘show.’ Showing works, but only when it’s engaging. Example of telling something that I had shown (and really wasted pages on) before:

After they’d searched him and taken his pistol, they’d made him sit on the ground as a uniform took his statement. He knew that Whittle was trained to ask questions that had already been answered, it part of his nature to drill away until he heard someone’s story change and then subtly go for the throat, make a man eat his words like the dirt he’d started burying himself in because sometimes people dug graves inside themselves.

Yeah, that’s what worked for me. 1. Outlining after the book was finished to see what was truly essential to the story; 2. Finding ways to make backstory emotional and active; 3. Combining movement and description; 4. Combining brisk details in scene setting so my characters can get to the story; 5. ‘Telling’ to dramatically shorten what really didn’t need shown to begin with.

Not only did these changes improve pacing, they also improved clarity—making the story more vivid in the reader’s mind and demanding a bit of them, too, which is good.

Thanks for reading! And thanks, Cindie, for having me!

–Lee Thompson

http://alongthispathsodarkly.blogspot.com

Category: writing  4 Comments
Jan
24

January 24: This afternoon I got to help judge the country finals for Poetry Out Loud. Since I don’t feel like any kind of expert on poetry, I was the accuracy judge. No opinion, no pressure, just follow the poem on a piece of paper and make sure the speaker didn’t miss any words or get them wrong or anything. This was well within my comfort zone.

Until a girl missed three lines.

Now, no one in the audience unfamiliar with the poem would’ve known. Even those familiar with it but who hadn’t memorized it probably wouldn’t even notice it. She didn’t skip a beat!

This girl took this poem and dove into it. It was a long poem, complex, and I was impressed she’d even picked it. And as I was listening, I was thinking, “Damn, this girl’s got the goods.” Then the skip. And right back in with the passion. No change in tone or anything. I checked the scoring sheet. Double-checked, looked for a loop hole, checked with the organizer, but there was no way around it. I had to mark down her accuracy score. Which cost her placing in the top three. Cost her $50.

There was nothing in my accuracy role that allowed me say, “Yeah, she missed those three lines, but the way she handled it was so impressive, she could get extra points.” The other judges could take that sort of thing into account. I couldn’t.

I tried to find her after the judging, just in case she didn’t know she rocked that poem anyway, but she’d already left. I don’t even know if she realized she skipped the lines. I hope she does. Otherwise, she must be thinking that was truly unfair judging.

Next year I want to be one of the other judges.

I said yes to being a judge as one of my nicenesses. But because I wouldn’t step out of my comfort zone, it kinda didn’t work for me. Just a reminder of the importance of getting outside my comfort zone, I suppose. A lesson I keep having to learn again and again.

And to Dezzi, you rocked Solitude. I hope you know that.

Cindie Geddes

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