The Three Hundred and Seventy-Third Post: The One Where I Shout: “Insanity?! I’m Marinating in it!”

You’d think that some point, I would learn. I mean really learn.

I am aiming for literary fiction, and I have an idea that I’m cribbing a little from the book and the movie The Man Who Laughs. So, I thought I would read the source material and see how I can take a little bit from here and there, put it into the book as a way of giving thanks to the inspiration.

Here’s the problem I have with that.

The saying that fits is ‘eyes bigger than your stomach’. Coming on the heels of Thanksgiving, it’s an apt metaphor. Starting to read this book, I was making notes, getting little ideas which lead to more research topics – topics more grounded on the actual book, such as the daily life of an influencer and ASL poetry.

“When did you become an expert on Nautical superstitions?”
“Lunch time.”

The book isn’t boring, but there is a difference in 17th century French literature and 21st century American literary fiction. The first half of the book deals with the origins of the character unfolding very slowly. I’m not going to ditch it. As much as I espouse ‘reading outside one’s genre’, I’m really sticking with horror, biographies, and history. So, picking up something new and novel (ha-ha) is good for me.

This is how I tend to stumble through research. Start in a manic ‘learn all the things’ mode, then realized that this isn’t what I need and stumble into what I really needed to know while kicking myself on wasting time. Good thing that research-mania didn’t really seize to the point of trying to learn 17th century French. I mean, jeez…I barely passed 20th Century French in high school. How am I going to get a tutor without breaking out a Ouija board?

“You mean I didn’t have to learn the lifespan of dozens of sorts of data storage?” *sigh* “No…I’m fine…really.”

So, here’s what I am going to do.

Breathe. Let the mania wash over me. As I would counsel my little sister: get all the sillies out, first. I don’t have as many sillies as she had, so this will be fast.

After breathing, I’m going to really focus on the meat of the book. Work on the characters. Make them the best they can be. Get their backgrounds solid and research the needs about them first. After that, work on the themes and plot. Once all of that’s done, then I get to work. That’s what I am looking forward to doing. Gotta stay hyped. The best way to do that is focus on what’s important.

The Three Hundred and Seventy-Second Post: The One Where I Can’t Look Away at FX and I Kinda Hate Myself For It…

I have in my cubicle at work a quote from Werner Herzog: “I’m fascinated with trash T.V. The poet must not avert his eyes.” This is approach I am taking when it comes to writing. I mustn’t look away from the accident. I must take it all in. I must observe and record.

Saying that – I’ve watched the first episode of the glorious train-wreck that is FX’s A Teacher. This mini-series is based on the Mary Kay Letourneau case. I’ve linked a Wikipedia article to it in case you weren’t around for it.

What makes me want to close my eyes, or at least change the channels, is that we’re given a sympathetic view of the Mary Kay character. In the first episode, we see she shoplifts (because the poor dear is under stress), wants to get pregnant (when her husband seems to be around, which so far is not that often) and is in a new school environment. Do we blame her for wanting to hook up with a male teen who looks good, and is ambitious enough?

The show seems to be telling us ‘no’, and this is one of the problems I have. Even at the outset, we’re warned that there will be scenes of sexuality and ‘grooming’. For those of you who may not know – grooming is when a person gets the target of their affection to lower their guard enough to make a sexual advance. This is usually done by catering to their target’s whim – buying them gifts, inviting them over to hang out and other things. We even see it in the first episode when the teacher covers the meal of her intended target and his friends. The show ends with her tutoring him on poetry because he needs to raise up his SAT scores.

The teacher is played by Kate Mara – who is absolutely hot. Speaking as a former (very much so) sixteen-year-old boy, if I had an English teacher who looked like her – grooming wouldn’t be a problem beyond whispering to me ‘wanna screw?’. This is the truth.

Let’s have a little thought experiment: reverse the genders. Now the English teacher is a man, wanting to be a father, but his wife is usually out of town on business. He finds a girl in his class who needs help getting into a good school for pre-med. She’s athletic, smart but needs a leg up. Let’s even say that this teacher looks good – George Clooney-esque. Let’s even extrapolate based on the real story, that the girl wants to be a mother, but knows that her education comes first. Are we going to have the same feelings for this couple?

No. We decry the teacher as a predator, the girl as misguided and naïve, nay be bordering on troubled if we find out she was a little more aggressive about having that child. The teacher ends up in jail on a sex offender’s list, and the girl gets a book deal.

The other problem I have with this is that, as I mentioned earlier, the teacher is hot. I know, I know – Mary Kay wasn’t ugly, and no doubt that the show’s writer would mention this as a defense. Why not make this into a demonstration of abuse of power? Why not make the teacher look less like Kate Mara in a low-cut sweater and more like Danny DeVito in drag? Hell – let’s put Danny DeVito in drag and put him in the show. Let’s really crank up the uncomfortability on this show! Rather than showing us Kate Mara pleasuring herself to a fantasy of her chosen victim, and brow beating her husband into having sex with her (despite his protestations) – let’s see Danny DeVito in a doggy position moaning.

I’m not happy with FX reaching for the lowest of the low hanging fruit on this show. They had a chance to challenge our views of sexuality and power, but they went the predictable route.

The Three Hundred and Seventy-first Post: The One Where I Give You the Keys to Perfect Unproductivity!

I am trying to write something that’s literary, but I have no idea what it means to be literary or what qualifies as a literary novel.

Let me introduce you to my personal Lord and Savior:

Okay…my other Lord and Savior…, when you absolutely, positively want to spend a whole afternoon doing nothing productive.

I typed in literary fiction and got a bunch of useful references. What was even better – I got some ideas. I am trying to write something that is literary (or so I hope) and with that in mind, I am reading up on the source material – Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs. I think this explains it well enough:

…and it’s not like he’s around to sue me, right?

The main female character in the original books is blind, and it’s a cliché I want to avoid. It’s not that I can’t write blind people – under different circumstances, I’d revel in the chance to layer on descriptions without visuals cues. However, I need to stay true to some of the circumstances of the novel. The source novel has the main female lead, named Dea (“goddess”) is blind. She can’t see the main male lead’s disfiguring scars.

Wait ’til they get a load of me…

How do I change this? I want to keep the flavor – the FMC doesn’t see the scars, but the personality and falls in love with that.

This is one of the reasons why I love writing. Giving myself a problem and finding a solution.

Ladies and gentlemen – please allow me to introduce you to the wacky world of prosopagnosia. Also called “face blindness” (the word comes from the Greek words for ‘face’ and ‘no wisdom’), it is the inability of the person who suffers with this to recognize or even remember faces. I’m currently trying to find people who have this condition so I can get the finer points on it, but she gets to be “blind” and keep the gist of her story while I’m not hamstringing myself when writing her.

As I do research for this – reading Victor Hugo’s work, hunting down a copy of the movie and working on an outline in my head – I’m also working on Nanowrimo. I made air quotes when I typed ‘Nanowrimo’ because worked isn’t really the best word to use. I procrastinated over Nanowrimo. Yeah, that’s better. I’m a day behind on the word count, but we’re not even halfway through the month. I can make it up.

Stop laughing. All of you.

I can do this. I’m still enthralled with the story and the challenge of writing a sweet romance while not making the FMC too onerous or unlikeable. I’ll have it out before Christmas. The hardest part will be trying to find a place to make a couple of custom d20s for me on the cheap. I might have to hit up some friends.

Last, but not least – I was interviewed as part of a male writer’s panel last Saturday. It was on Facebook Live, so I don’t know if it will be hosted on a podcast, or site. When it is, I will let you all know.

Thank you for stopping by. If you’re interested in my writing, or the writing of good friends, check out the links on the left. I also accept donations. Hope y’all have a good day.

The Three Hundred and Seventieth Post: The One I Could Have Sworn I Just Did…?

Hello everyone! Sorry for the late posting, but with all the political stuff and Nanowrimo going on – I almost forgot to post this today. Because I’m doing this on my lunch break, I am going to have to keep it quick, and for that I must apologize.

I am doing well. No suicidal thought in three weeks (yay me!) and the Nanowrimo project continues on pace to be finished if not by November 30th, then definitely before. My diet is back on track and I hope to stick with it longer – maybe give myself the cheat day of Thanksgiving.

All in all – everything is turning good again. I hope everything does the same for you.

Next week, a longer post, I promise. I might discuss my really, really ambitions project!

The Three Hundred and Sixty-Ninth Post: Happy Birthday to Me!

Nothing major this time as I am trying to get the final round of edits finished. However, my wife has spoiled me for my birthday again

Pen organizers are nice (she didn’t get me the pens. Those are from my personal collection), but what gets me is Cycle of the Werewolf. This is a very little known book by Stephen King. When I read it growing up, I flipped through it listlessly just to get to the gory pictures. I can’t wait to read it now to really get down and appreciate the prose.

So — have a piece of cake for me. I’m heading to the Cheesecake Factory and gorge myself! Have fun y’all!

The Three Hundred and Sixty-Eighth Post: The One Where I Celebrate a Grim, But Upbeat Milestone!

Long time followers of this blog will know that I am up front about my mental illness. I’m finding that this does help. As Marcus Parks says on Last Podcast on the Left: “Mental illness is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.” Saying that, I am taking responsibility – I’m in counseling, I’m taking drugs for the depression and I am trying to stay positive and busy.

What brings this up for me is this one, wonderful fact.

I have not had a suicidal thought for a week. I have not had an episode of deep depression in two weeks.

I really wish I could point to a single source, but I have no idea. I really didn’t realize it until it hit me yesterday. I’ve been following my diet a little more closely this week, I’ve been pretty busy as of late and I have a vacation coming up (yay!). During the vacation, I am finally going to finish editing the novel, might even get through another one before November and Nanowrimo begins. I’ll even get back to the gym – using vacation week to get the habit solidified.

What’s the take-away from all this? Do not despair. Do not give up hope. I know that platitudes are the last thing someone dealing with depression and suicide wants to hear – trust me, every time someone told me “just cheer up, dude!”, I wanted to kick them in the crotch. Telling me to cheer up, or to get over it just got on my nerves. You’d never tell a cancer patient to just get better.

What also helped was the fact that I have friends who understand what I’m going through and make offers to at least listen. Thank you all. I am getting better.

Enough of that!

As I mentioned earlier, I am going to finish editing Valentina’s Feast during vacation week and will have it out by the first half of November. I still have a good feeling about this one, and I am focused on getting it done. After that, I’m going to tinker a little on Resurrectionist’s Blues and try to finish that and Romance with Advantage. It’s a lot on my plate, but I can get a lot of it done with the free time I’m getting.

I know I’ve been a little flaky about the blog, but between this, overtime at work and other projects – I am tired. I will keep everyone posted about what’s going on, but today (Friday, October 23, 2020), I am going to go home and chill. Might even sit down and finally watch Parasite or The Shape of Water. Just me and a big bowl of popcorn for the evening.

Everyone – stay safe, have fun and I hope to see y’all soon.

The Three Hundred and Sixty-Seventh Post! The One Where YouTube Gives Me A Royalty Free Idea!

I’m sorry for missing the last post – it’s been a hectic couple of days here. We have a car that’s on the verge of requiring not so much a mechanic as more along the lines of a necromancer. Valentina’s Feast limps along – I’ve finished the party and since my Saturday Game was cancelled, I find myself with enough free time Saturday to maybe re-write the butchery scene. 

Spoilers for Valentina’s Feast Below 

I’m re-writing the butchery scene because the first iteration of it is just a guide to butchering the human carcass with some extra steps involved. Sure – one of the genres I’m touching on with this novel is splatterpunk, but I want this to be more. So, I’m going to rewrite the whole chapter, trying to condense it and make less about the how to field dress your dead boyfriend and more about Valentina’s emotions at that moment. Greg’s had all his sex scenes…now it’s Valentina’s turn. I’m also hoping in re-writing it, I can trim down the word count a little. I’m still sitting at 85K-90K, so I trim at least 10K from it. My editor suggested I take out some of the ‘step by step’ stuff (like the butchery scene) would help me get down to the ideal count. We’ll see. Tomorrow – lots of writing and coffee. 

Tonight – letter writing, streaming writing (Yes, I can do that with Discord and Scrivener! My Discord ID is R. K. Clark #3098. Come see me on Fridays 7-9 PM!) and maybe a movie when all is said and done. I just need to relax and try to get a full night’s sleep tonight. My wife’s schedule had her working mid-afternoons, so she would get home around the time I was trying to go to bed. Sadly, I am a very light sleeper. While she’s washing her dishes from work, I’m flip-flopping about and trying to get comfortable. Love her to pieces, though…but I really need more than five hours. 

Back to the writing front! Inspiration can come from the oddest places. I found myself in a YouTube hole and for some odd reason, a short documentary about the movie The Man Who Laughs came up – the movie that was the visual inspiration for The Joker — so, I settled in to watch it. 

First off – the actor Conrad Veidt needs to get his own damn movie. Anyone who gets personal death threats from Goebbels and Hitler is a man worth studying. 


As I was watching this short documentary, I realized the main theme of the movie could easily be transported here to modern times. Sadly – the man themes of being seen only as a disfigurement and how important appearances are still apropos to the 21st century as they were to the late 19th. The more I watched, the more the idea unfolded: a man who is only know by the hideous grin. No one bothers to see him for who he truly is – either from a morbid fascination, atavistic terror or calculating on what they can get out of him. 

I have a book now. 

This will also be my first attempt at the genre of literary fiction. It’s a lot to aim for but given our current pop culture climate…it’s a tale I think needs to be told.