One of the things I dislike most about “things” is just how many of them can descend upon us at the same time.

For the next few weeks, I will not be able to do the Chapter One Podcast – there are just too many things working against me at the moment.

I am going to return to the show as soon as possible, but for the coming weeks, I have to put it aside.

I hate that I have to deal with these circumstances in this way, but for now, this is really my only option.

I have been working right up to the edge since late last year, but recent events have seen me hit a tipping point and I have had to find a compromise somewhere.

(This has nothing to do with health or anything like that, it is just an unexpected, temporary, and dramatic increase in workload elsewhere.)

This break will be only for a short while and the show will return soon with the concluding episodes of Fugitive Prime followed by me jumping right into the next story.

I apologize that I have had to take this step, but sometimes things are forced on us and we are stuck with dealing with the realities that they bring.

This sucks, and I hate it, and I am very sorry to interrupt the show like this, but I promise it will be back soon.

Till next time,

Keep Reiding

Once I held a dream,
the same way you held that flower;
A dead thing made pretty
because you smiled.

The flower was yellow.
I remember that,
and you wore red.
It was not cold,
and though it was late
the sun was still up.

Summer.

People drank and made noise
on the patio behind you
unaware of the great drama
unfolding
on the street – mere feet away.
I remember your eyes,
bright reflections
of inner joy;
bright reflections
of a love that was easy to see.

I remember
how it all reminded me of my dream;

I remember
that he was shy,
sweetly unsure if you would take his gift.
His face was a a cartoon;
a sketchpad rendering of concern,
relief, happiness, desire, and hope,
sprinkled with panic.
It is a moment I have never forgotten.

I remember
that you smiled as you cried,
and you held the flower close.

I hope you do not mind
that I have kept the memory
of your tears and smile,
of his shyness and the flower
all these years;
there were not mine to keep,
but I hope you do not mind.

If we are both being honest,
you will admit that this
means more to me, now,
than it does to either of you.

Theatre is always like that,
even the theatre of real life;
the performers live the moment,
but the audience owns it.

You were both young,
too young to understand.

Sometimes when I need to smile,
I imagine that you broke up,
and went your separate ways.

This makes the memory mine alone.

But sometimes,
when I need to feel the tug of sadness,
I imagine that you stayed together,
married, had kids,
and shared a happiness
in which the moment
when he handed you the flower
is forgotten among a lifetime of experiences.

This makes the memory mine alone.

But I would have you know
that this is not cruelty;
for once, a long, long time ago
I held a dream
the same way you held that flower.

but there were no witnesses,
and so my dream is lost.

Hello again,

It’s been a little while (too long) since I have written a RBTL but it has not been an idle time. Life has been a thing, to put it mildly, and there have been a few personal and technical hiccoughs that have strewn felled trees across my path, but it has not all been challenging.

My absence from this page has also been caused by some seriously fun things, including something special I have been working on for the holidays.  But exactly what that is will have to remain a secret for the moment …

One of the coolest and best things that I have been up to is that

I have been reworking the podcast.

I was getting a lot of consistent listener feedback about the show, and it became clear what people wanted to hear. The feedback was all good, people were enjoying Chapter One, but they were asking for more, specifically they were saying that they wanted me to finish the stories.

Fair enough. So that is what I am now doing.

I chose Immortal Enemies to kick off the new look, and have just completed Part Four (look for it on December 6th). The change in direction required some adjustment on my part, primarily in terms of how I am going to approach writing these stories.

If I wrote Immortal Enemies as a novel, it would easily be in excess of 100,000 words in length. This would translate to something like thirty episodes. Not ideal for a podcast that wants to generate as many stories as possible. So I think, going forward, (and don’t quote me on this) each story will be around six to nine episodes long – give or take.

Part of the learning curve has been the necessary streamlining of my ideas, and I admit that it has been hard abandoning interesting concepts that would require too much time to flesh out and resolve. There is no doubt that as a novel Immortal Enemies would have evolved into a very different tale.

I don’t yet know which story I will tackle next

and I am not going to pick one until I have finished the final part of Immortal Enemies. I know that I will select the next one from one of the other episodes I have already done, but having said that, don’t be surprised if, down the road, I start one from scratch. 

Check out Parts 1-3 of immortal Enemies on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You’ll find the show by searching for: Novelooks Chapter One Podcast.

Or you can listen on this website here Chapter One

 (If you check out Immortal Enemies on the website you’ll see one of the technical hiccoughs I referred to earlier – the order of the first and second episode are reversed. No reason, no rhyme, just are. And they have resisted all efforts to undo. Just one of those things. They are perfectly fine on Apple Podcasts etc.)

I am really excited about the new  direction for Chapter One, and doubly so because the change was driven by listener engagement. It gave the whole process a real collaborative feel.

I hope you enjoy where I am taking Immortal Enemies, and where the next stories go, and don’t worry, I will get to your favourite of the original episodes … in time … maybe … if you ask nicely …

Till next time,

Keep Reiding.

We have a 21 month old black Lab, Ridley. She is a complex mix of simple needs which run the gamut from play with me, feed me, and let me sleep, right up to and including play-with-me-some-more-play-with-me-again-play-with-me-keep-playing-with-me-let-me-sleep-play-with-me-feed-me-again, and of course play-with-me-feed-me-play-more-and-let-me-sleep.

There were a number of reasons behind our decision to get her, not the least of which was a series of brazen daylight break-ins in our (now former) neighbourhood.

The idea of having a dog around as a deterrent,

even a big, goofy, love-everyone-Lab,

became really attractive.

Ridley is a fairly large dog, incredibly protective of the kids, and, on the rare occasions that she uses it, has a bark that is primordial. But security is just one of the benefits of having brought her into our lives.

To name but a few others, she                                                          

  • inspires laughter – often unintentionally
  • instigates play – often unpredictably
  • gets me up and active and out of the house in all types of weather – often when I’m unwilling
  • steals food – often unsuccessfully, occasionally unnoticed, but always unashamedly
  • loves us all unreservedly

I have of course heard that dogs can alleviate stress, anxiety, loneliness and all manner of other concerns, but it has been a revelation to experience this first-hand.

I’m the type of person who is always at war with life. Emotionally, financially, spiritually, socially, politically, intellectually, I always seem to be up against it, whatever it is. And recently, the ‘it’ that has been my most consistent foe has been my health.

Chronic pain is exhausting. I will always recognise that others have far worse issues, but

pain takes a heavy toll.

Pain wears away at the bedrock of a person; it erodes confidence, happiness, focus, enthusiasm, you name it.

I often write late into the night, well past the point when everyone else is in bed. And there are nights when, during the dark quiet between finishing work and heading upstairs to bed, my thoughts become complicated and sombre.

It’s only natural, I suppose, and I am sure that everyone has times when the transition from the waking day to sleep is delayed by the stresses and anxieties of life. The discord that pain brings to the party simply adds another thick layer to the worry-cake.

I can go hours without realising that I am in pain. It becomes a kind of physical white noise, and though it affects my mood, I am not necessarily aware of it. This is particularly true if I have been concentrating on my work. But once I stop working, the barriers come down.

That’s when I turn to pills or ice-packs or hot water bottles, or some combination of all three, to try and alleviate the discomfort. But by then the pain has done its insidious work on my emotional well-being and set the stage for feelings of emptiness and sadness to strut their stuff. 

And then along comes Ridley.

There are nights when she seeks me out, and (sleepily) nudges and paws at me until I follow her to the sofa. When I sit down, she jumps up beside me and curls up to sleep, often with her head on my lap.  

It is amazing how quickly my thoughts settle and the pain recedes as I pet her and stroke her ears. It’s a powerful form of meditation, and I always feel better for it; though I do occasionally find myself waking up on the sofa, and then have to groggily make my way up to bed at some ungodly hour.

The cynical part of me argues that she has simply learned to recognize the signs that I am done with work for the night – the shutting down of the computer, the putting away of the bric-a-brac of notebooks, pens, books, headphones, water, et al. that I have around me as I work, but the romantic part of me started to wonder if there wasn’t more to it than that.

So I started to keep track, casually anyway, of the times she came over to me. To be honest, I would invariably forget all about keeping track until she was actually nuzzling my hand, but a pattern did emerge. With few exceptions, she only came over to me on nights when I felt most weighed down. Most of the rest of the time, she just slept.

I have seen her become tense and watchful when the kids are clambering over a play structure or are (to her mind) running too far ahead when we go for a walk, and I know that she would never allow someone to burgle our house in peace. But to realize that she won’t even allow despondent thoughts to break into my mind unchallenged has been a surprise.

I still walk down the dark alleyways of my overactive thoughts,

past the fears and worries that lurk in shadowy doorways, grinning like Dickensian thugs cleaning their fingernails with daggers, I suppose we all do. It’s a part of the price we pay for being human, but it has been life-changing to discover that when I do I let myself be drawn too far into one of these alleys, Ridley will lead me out.

Her way, perhaps, of making up for the stolen birthday cupcakes. 

 

Keep Reiding

One of the more interesting and happy consequences of starting a podcast is the feedback that comes from listeners.  I am pleased (relieved?) to say that it has been predominantly positive, to this point.

This week, I received a question about my use of “powers beyond human understanding”, and specifically about why I did not have a Sci-Fi or fantasy slant in Episode 7 – Profit.

The listener, JS from Toronto, was curious because “all of the stories so far have had supernatural elements,” and he was expecting them to continue to do so, and asked if they will in future?

This is a really good question, and especially because it was not something I had previously thought about.

The short (equivocal) answer is that I like stories that have weird and wonderful elements to them, but I also like stories that don’t. I think that the fact that the majority of the stories I am writing for the podcast are leaning to the supernatural is a product of the way that I am writing the show.

For context:

Pantsing: this is when a writer lets the story and the characters emerge organically as they write. This is a free flowing approach that allows the writer to discover as they go, trusting that they will be able to tie up all the loose threads and plot lines that they uncover. In other words, writing by the seat of their pants.

Plotting: this is when a writer takes great pains to plan out every aspect of the book and characters before beginning to write. They then work to connect the dots within clear guidelines and guardrails to achieve a known end goal.

I have always been a hybrid of both of these approaches to writing, though I do lean more to the plotting side of the spectrum.

For larger projects, such as Gate Crasher, or The Valley (the novel that I am writing for podcast members ), though I may not plan every last detail, I always map out the main beats that I want to hit; establishing significant markers for both the story and my characters.

When I was writing Gate Crasher, I started by identifying all of the critical moments that I wanted Justin to experience, on both tracks of the novel, and then I played within and around these moments to flesh out the story.

Getting a comedic piece ready for stage is similar. I choose what kind of emotional reaction I want to get from an audience, deciding if the piece will be silly or uncomfortable, and then I write to create that response.

One essential factor in all of my Plotted writing is that I edit heavily, reworking and reshaping and rewriting until I get the connections and the moments just right. Knowing what the end goal is, for me, makes it easier to edit and hone the story.

The Chapter One Podcast, however, is a new, different, and evolving animal.

The pace of the writing and the recording limits my ability to plan too much, and has tipped the scales far to the Pantsing side of the writing equation. The schedule has also restricted my ability to rework and edit. Once I have finished writing an episode, depending on how long it has taken me to write, I may have a chance to go through the story once or possibly twice. I only have time to look for high-level discrepancies such as the misnaming of a character or incidents of repetition, before 

I have to move on and start writing the next episode.

This is as exhilarating as it is intimidating, and it demands a strict focus on a chosen through line, but it has also proven to be very freeing – there can be no second guessing. It is the closest thing I have done to improvising, in many years.

To get back to JS’s query, I believe that going forward I am going to write more and more Sci-Fi and fantasy based stories for the podcast. They are fun and exciting stories to write, and they allow for big things to happen quickly, a factor that I think suits the format of the show. And now that I have done some thinking about it, and it  

appears that a unifying theme has emerged for the podcast

it will be hard to ignore.

In many ways the demands of writing the podcast may actually be revealing the genre that I most want to work in, even though I myself wasn’t fully aware of this. Many of my other projects feature more mundane subject matter.

When I wrote Gate Crasher, I had a great deal of fun reconstructing the origins of some very well-known mythologies, and it seems that the podcast is telling me that I am not done playing within those environments.

The eerie and the fanciful may become a surrogate for Plotting by providing me some direction at the beginning of each new piece.

Whatever happens, and whatever stories are born of this project, I hope that listeners will get as much enjoyment out of hearing them as I am getting from writing them.

 

Keep Reiding