Archive for October, 2010

Andy’s to-do list as of Oct. 24

October 24th, 2010

Let’s open with a moment of excitement: Recently, I began my annual re-reading of Wilton Barnhardt’s “Gospel,” a book given to me in the early ’90s by the man who taught me how to write. (This copy isn’t that one, of course; I enthusiastically lend it to people every few years, and they steal it, and I buy a new one.) On a lark, I looked up Wilton Barnhardt on Facebook, and he actually accepted my request. And so, the kicker: I posted there once finished with my reading, and he wrote a nice comment back.

This sounds like nothing to the non-writer world — La nodded and made polite noises of encouragement at it all, despite adhering to an all-nonfiction reading regimen — but Mr. Barnhardt is someone whose words are so effortlessly conversational that I learned to listen to how people talk and write that way. If I ever get any of this stuff published, it’d be a dream come true to have him say he read and enjoyed it.

And speaking of the writing, it goes at a fast pace. I scratch out time where I can, talking to myself on the hour-long commute to and from work, transcribing the ideas when I arrive. I’m maybe 1/3 of the way through my second novel, something much different from Underneath It All. As for UIA, I put a halt to querying agents. Just no interest, and many indications the genre was facing a downturn. It’ll never go away, though, so I’ll resume trying to sell it eventually.

Okay, that makes me sound busy, and I have been, but still I managed to slack on my to-do list. In the hope that peer pressure will force me to complete it, here’s what’s on tap for the week of Oct. 24:

  • Vote
  • Sort old PC games, put them on eBay
  • Recycle boxes
  • Mow, edge, trim trees and hedges
  • Fix toilet flush  in master bathroom
  • Sell old, never-to-be-read again books
  • Kill crab grass in front yard
  • Switch sides and sprinkle organic bugkiller on tomatoes, peppers, basil, etc.
  • Get haircut
  • Clean grease spots from driveway
  • Check cleanairtexas site (or whatever) for trading in Blazer
  • Pick up dry cleaning
  • Merge bank accounts at Wells Fargo
  • Clean toilets

I should probably add “relax” to that — I still haven’t kicked the cold La’s mom brought with her a month ago, though to be fair I gave myself all of one day to do it (and spent that day repainting the living room). It’s gotten so I can’t sleep at night, so I may take another day (and actually relax) this week.

Is it okay to let things like “continue writing five pages per day” go unsaid? Good. I’m hoping that by eating at my desk and working out over lunch, I can leave the office at 5 consistently and have more time each evening to be creative. Oh, and to cross off items on this damn list.

Great Minds Think Alike?

October 8th, 2010

How many stories are there in the world? When I was a young writer, conventional wisdom was twelve. Twelve basic plots for every work of fiction — film, literature, radio, theater — in the world. The highest estimate I’ve ever seen is 36.

In or around 2006, I began work on a piece of fiction to — what else? — impress a woman. Said woman was the friend of a friend; he introduced us, we sparked, there was drama, we parted. (Boy meets girl — one of the oldest stories, and surely among that 12 I learned as a boy.) To impress her, I began putting together a work of longform fiction. And because this woman used the name Sekhmet on message boards we frequented, I decided to incorporate Sekhmet into the story.

But in a modern way, you know? Even better, I thought, would be to use an Egyptian bad guy as the antagonist. Ancient gods in the modern word? Brilliant! (Yeah, I was reading “American Gods” a lot back then.) And hey, a bit of quick research turned up Apep, a sort of Egyptian god of darkness — in the bad sense — and just the sort of baddie I needed.

I did a little work, wrote a bit of an outline, fleshed out some characters and promptly forgot the project for four years. Once I finished Underneath It All, I saw a pattern in the rejection letters: Sorry, most of the agents said, we’re focusing away from that sort of fiction for supernatural-tinged thrillers or dark urban fantasy. “How about that,” I thought. “I have a supernatural-tinged thriller idea!”

For a couple of months now, with some breaks, I’ve been actively writing the idea, using those Sekhmet and Apep concepts from before. I’ve been getting close to the characters, sussing out ideas for how they’d collide, basically falling in love. And then came yesterday: Oct. 7, 2010, when by chance I stumbled on a random note on about, yes, a thriller series following the reincarnation of Sekhmet who basically becomes a superhero to fight Apep in modern times.


I know: There are only 12 stories in the world. Ancient Egypt is not my exclusive domain to mine. For all I know, the guy’s ideas are radically different. The thing is, I won’t let myself read them. I cannot be even accidentally influenced. My idea is sufficiently different that I can continue on my path and, knowing what little I do about his series, nobody could ever cry plagiarism.

I can worry, but I’ll press on. I already love some of these characters (even if a few will meet unhappy fates) and I believe in my own writing skill. I can’t help but think, though: Why couldn’t that other guy do zombies and vampires like everyone else?