Friday, November 30, 2012

Home Alone Part 2

She's gone.

The thought blew through Damian's brain, spreading like wildfire on dry brush, igniting an inferno in the pit of his stomach. It was the mug that paid the ultimate price. With a wordless cry of pain and rage, Damian wound up and threw a strike, directly into the waiting mitt of the plaster catcher that masqueraded as an apartment wall.

Unfortunately, the mitt wasn't ready. It cracked under pressure, quite literally. The mug caught firmly in a pocket of plaster, but the handle ripped free and went cartwheeling through the air. The newly liberated piece of plastic tumbled to rest inside of the dusty rectangle that indicated the former location of an end table.

Ha ha! Inigo exulted.

Damian sighed. He didn't like letting his temper get the best of him. In younger years, he'd been known to punch things. Not people, mind you, but things. Like lockers. Or random cinder-block walls. It wasn't uncommon for Damian to return home from school with busted knuckles. He'd probably even broken them on occasion, though he never went to the hospital or anything. The pain was refreshing. It cleared his cloudy mind.

But Damian was an adult now. He had put aside childish things like unrestrained anger. Besides, bloody knuckles looked foolish on him. He was an engineer, not a bouncer. Were people to believe that he beat his spreadsheets into submission?

Shoulders slumped, the young man crossed the room as if approaching a funeral pyre. His steps were a dirge. His downcast eyes, a requiem. Death cut a livelier figure than this poor soul. Beneath it all, the rage smoldered.

The mug came free of the wall with a puff of white. Damian ignored the mess. He crossed the room to the kitchen and rinsed out the drinking implement. His eyes fixated on the water swirling down the drain, and his thoughts became a similar spiral. Coffee detritus and rage drowned with equal efficacy. White dust still clung to the mug when he set it aside.

Damian marched back across the floor and sank into the lone recliner. The footrest would no longer retract, so Damian had no choice but to prop his feet up. Scuffed loafers stared at the lone bulb burning above. Damian's green eyes found the spot where the TV had been. He stared at the wall.

This is quite the melancholy, Inigo noted. I believe you are even making me sad.

She's gone, Damian repeated. Finally, irrevocably… gone.

Of course she is. That is the way of women, my friend. They come and they go, eh? Might as well get used to it.

But... she was everything to me. Damian’s left thumb scratched at its associated ring finger, a nervous habit he’d developed lately. It found only a strip of slightly paler skin.

Inigo chuckled. Perhaps. However, I believe she did not share in your devotion.

A partially strangled snort escaped Damian’s mouth. Obviously. Damian wanted to cry, but the tears would not come. He simply felt hollow. He continued his loyal patronage of the wall channel.

Trust me when I say it is for the best, friend, Inigo said after a long moment. She was not right for you.

Damian wanted to argue, but couldn't. The relationship had been rocky at best. He had seen this end coming from miles away. It had always only been a matter of when.

I say we find a tavern and drink her away, Inigo suggested.

Solitude seemed dangerous right now. Damian stood up and walked to the front door. It was still open to the night. The keys were on the floor. He scooped them up.

I'll drive, Inigo offered.

Damian nodded. He let the voice take over. It was nice just to… drift.

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Damian Comes Home Part 2

Not much of an intro needed this week. I took Thanksgiving off, obviously, but wanted to get the next part out. Barely squeezed this in... it's been a hectic work week. Since this is simply a continuation from last week's piece, I'll let it do the talking. I cleaned things up a bit, but nothing huge. Anyway, here 'tis...
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Home Alone

The car chortled to a halt and Damian twisted the key to kill the engine. Gathering his trusty coffee mug, he opened the driver's side door. It squealed in protest, resisting until pushed past the rust. With a quick foot, Damian hooked the freed door before it could crash into the shiny BMW in the adjoining space.

You should have let it go, Inigo muttered in his brain.

Damian shrugged. Too obvious.

I believe these magnificent automobiles can be moved, no?

The rust would have given me away, Inigo.

Ah yes, the rust. Of course.

With a deep sigh, Damian twisted his way out of the small, two-door vehicle. Not for the first time, he reflected that he really should upgrade. With his lanky frame, the beater wasn't really optimal. He'd be much more comfortable in a larger sedan. A beamer even.

But he drove a beamer.

Damian pushed the thought from his mind. It would only serve to make him angry, and the day had been stressful enough.

What about a truck? Inigo offered.

Damian didn’t answer. He realized the futility of the suggestion even as it skittered across his mind. He was simply too cheap. He'd be stuck with the beater until it disintegrated around him, leaving him sitting in the threadbare captain's chair, skidding down the highway, sparks flying behind him like an Independence Day sparkler.

Such a destructive holiday, Inigo noted.

You don't celebrate the Fourth of July in Spain?

Inigo laughed at him. Silly American. No, where you celebrate your Declaration of Independence, we have Constitution Day in December. I would think it more logical to remember the establishment of one's Constitution, no?

Damian paused. I wonder when our Constitution Day is.

September 17. Though in 1952, your President Truman changed the name to Citizenship Day.

How do you know all this, Inigo?

Luck. I was aware of those dates. Also, I have been with you for several Septembers now.

Damian pondered that for a moment. He wasn't sure what to make of the voice in his head. When he was younger, his parents had taken him to doctors. They'd tried to get him to take pills, diagnosing him with Dissociative Identity Disorder. None of the treatments had ever worked. In fact, it seemed to Damian that the more chemicals they put in his body, the more voices spawned. Left alone, whatever afflicted Damian seemed to produce only Inigo.

It hadn’t taken Damian long to figure out that he’d rather just have the one voice to deal with. So, he’d lied. It was pretty easy to figure what his parents and all the doctors wanted to hear. He told them that he was better, that the voices were gone.

And so began my solitary hermitage, Inigo chimed in.

Is it really so bad in my head?

Inigo chuckled. I have been in worse.

In high school history courses, Inigo had even started earning his keep. The voice knew a surprising amount about ancient history, things that Damian was pretty sure he’d never learned anywhere. It was one of many reasons that led Damian to suspect that Inigo might not be as simple as a figment of his imagination. Problem was, Damian didn’t know what else Inigo could be.

I have told you, Inigo said. I am a friend.

Most friends have a distinctly physical component.

You wound me!

Damian rolled his eyes. The apartment door in front of him did not respond.

Juggling his mug and overloaded key-chain, Damian found the correct key and jimmied it into the lock. He twisted the knob and put his hip into the door, backing his way into the dark room. Key in mouth, Damian fumbled for the light switch. The click was followed immediately by the clatter of the key-chain hitting the floor. Damian looked down with a sigh that only deepened as he raised his eyes.

A single bare bulb burned above what passed for the living room. The other lamps that Damian had grown used to were gone. Where the couch used to be, only a dusty outline remained. There were similar silhouettes for the end tables and the TV stand. The bookcase had been left behind, but all of the pictures that had adorned its shelves were gone, leaving only the actual books. Nearby, Damian's ratty old recliner rounded out the sad lot of possessions. Damian didn't even need to lean his head into the adjoining bedroom to know that its occupants had been similarly culled.

The worst part? He still had the awful metallic taste of the key in his mouth as he nudged the door shut.
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Scene 2 - Damian Comes Home

I think I wrote this scene on Citizenship Day, hence the random history lesson in the middle. The side note adds a bit of character to Inigo, so I left it in. One of the things that I've noticed I like to do is find completely random things on Wikipedia and integrate them into a story. I have a naturally curious mind, so I'm always looking things up, for no good reason. When I can find character-based ways to weave some of that random knowledge into a story... it's like when you find that one puzzle piece that finally fits. Just makes me smile.

One of the changes I'm making this time around is that Damian isn't just coming to terms with the end of a relationship, but the end of "the" relationship. That is, it'll become apparent over time that Damian was married and on the wrong side of infidelity (obviously drawing a bit on my own recent experiences, for those that know). Apart from being cathartic, it really gives Damian the emotional wounds that I'd like to work with going forward. I deal with things just a bit differently than Damian, but Damian's character provides me a chance to explore the process from the outside.

Before I think I was afraid to go "there" (there being divorce). Gosh that's still seems such a shameful word to me. But it happens. It's part of life. Probably one of the most painful ones. When I sat down to start writing again, I was drawn to Damian's story, and dealing with divorce in his world is one of the big reasons why. Stories allow us to experience rough stuff with a degree of detachment that life generally does not afford us.

The shout out to DID definitely draws on my experience with psychology. The field has always fascinated me. DID is what most would call "multiple personality disorder." DID is the more clinical name. There's a bit of social commentary in the post where Damian sort of flippantly remembers his childhood treatment. If you couldn't tell, I'm not exactly a huge fan of the tendency to medicate everything these days. Sometimes I think solid therapy, support, and listening would be far healthier than the latest chemical cocktail that a pharmaceutical company has dreamed up. (On the other hand, there are a lot of pretty awesome drugs out there. I'm not a zealot or anything... just a light jab at the medical world.)

We'll learn more about the nature of Inigo and Damian in future scenes, but when I started this story the idea of friendly, helpful voices in the head of the main character really interested me. I like to think that dialog is one of my strengths in writing, and voice-in-head provides a very convenient, omnipresent story-telling option. It allows me eliminate a lot of backstory and tell it via interaction, which I think is far more interesting.

This week is a "to be continued" scene. I'll try to edit the rest for next week. In the book I eventually plan to put together, these sorts of scenes will just flow into one another.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

Soul Searching

“Just… look,” Genny said.

Damian frowned, but did as he was told. As he turned back toward the mirror, something happened. A shimmer? A flash of light? He couldn’t honestly have said. His eyes seemed to squint at the same time they were being thrown wide. It felt as if the world around him suddenly got sharper, more vivid, and not the least bit… prickly.

That was the best description he could muster. Something about the air around him poked at him, prodded him, grated against him. Yet at the same time, it wasn’t altogether unpleasant. It was a pain that hovered on the verge of pleasure. A seductive tremor.

“What is…?” Damian trailed off.

He noticed his reflection in the mirror for the first time, and the image took his breath away. He’d expected, well, himself. The same boring visage that stared back any other time he made use of a mirror.

What he saw instead was a battled-hardened street tough. Oh, the shape was still his, but everything inside was not, like a coloring book where a child has used all the wrong colors. Orange grass, green sky, a purple sun.

The arms of the man in the mirror were corded with muscle, taunt and twisting beneath gray, heavily scarred skin. Tattoos wound around his wrists and crawled up under his shirt, except they weren't ink; they were furrows, intricate designs carved directly into the skin. The cloth covering his legs was ripped, as if he’d just gotten out of a particularly nasty fight, and his knuckles were raw and bleeding.

Still, it was not the grisly body that frightened him the most. Rather, it was his face. The designs on his arms snaked up the back of his neck and wrapped over the top of his bald head, tapering to seven points where his hairline should have been. His cheeks were sunken and severe, his mouth a grim line. It was still his basic bone-structure, but harder. More chiseled. Even the eyes staring back at him seemed full of stony chips, and deep in the heart of his irises, flames danced.

Damian stretched one gnarled hand outward, and then took and involuntary step back as his reflection did the same. “W-what? What is this?”

“It is a reflection of your soul, Damian,” Genny said, her voice sounding curiously metallic and resonant.

Damian tried to find her in the edges of the mirror, but one of the overhead lights seemed like it was amplified by the strange phenomenon. It was far too bright and stabbed at his forced open eyes. He held up an arm, trying to shield himself from the radiance, but it didn’t help.

Squinting, Damian turned to look for his friend, and the spell was broken. The room muted out. Genny stood nearby, arms folded and looking somewhat embarrassed.

What did she see? Damian wondered.
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Random Scene: Damian's Soul

I have a random scene for today. I totally meant to go edit the next logical scene in the series, but just never got around to it. Instead, I'm giving you a brand-spanking new scene today. Something that just popped out in the last few weeks.

This is one those scenes that will probably raise a lot of story questions. There are a lot of holes in the story before we get to this scene. The danger of sharing this is that I may need to go back and change parts of it to actually fit. Still, I said I was sort of winging this story and putting it all out there. This is part of that.

I'd been doing a lot of soul searching of my own in the last several months. The scene that popped in was a literal bit of soul searching by Damian. Genny is, shall we go with, not-completely-human. When I intro her, she is an obvious love interest, but I'm not sure I've given away that she is much, much more than that yet. Spoiler alert, I suppose. She's more than meets the eye. Like a Transformer (except, you know, she doesn't turn into a truck or anything).

Both Damian and Genny possess a wide variety of special abilities that may or may not come in handy. This isn't magic, really, but we can call it magic for now. Faith-based magic, I guess. Genny is able to see and reveal the soul of humans (and other creatures).

The scene then, was very simply... if Damian could see his soul, what would it look like?

I think it's a pretty cool question to ask yourself. How do you imagine your soul? If someone were to try to describe it from a reflection in a mirror, how would they do that? What words and images would you use, and what would they mean?

This is the 1st draft of the scene. Feel free to point out jarring errors or inconsistencies. I'm not sure exactly how/where I'm going to fit it in yet...
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Friday, November 2, 2012

A Satisfactory Beginning


There he sat, shredding the air with his stare. Watching as the sausagey fingers of his sworn enemy hovered above a shared foe. This peaceable union would never last. It was a simple matter to slay the metaphorical Jabberwock between them and then go galumphing back to a meaningless and antagonistic coexistence.

With a smooth, practiced hand, the enemy of his enemy plunged that mightiest-of-all-weapons downward. Dry scratching filled the room as the wicked instrument of doom worked back and forth, grinding relentlessly until black blood stained in a pattern that was pleasing to the manipulator. Even so, the tragedy was not the sacrifice on the mahogany altar, but the tick, tick, ticking of the round observer on the wall, forever lost down the rabbit hole and funneled directly into Tick Storage Room A.

With a final snicker-snack, it was over.

"I've gone ahead and marked your performance as satisfactory for this quarter."

His boss spoke in a flat monotone. The man’s dry, ashen hair had all but deserted the apex of his head, growing ever thicker as one moved downward to where salt and pepper whisker battled with trembling jowl. Two chins rounded out a face schooled in multiples. Even the beady brown eyes seemed a copy of each other, as if only one had been faxed in by God with instructions for the Earth-bound souls to "go ahead and take care of that."

"Thank you, sir," Damian heard himself reply.

Now is your chance, Damian! Press onward!

He had named the voice in his head Inigo. Or perhaps the voice had named itself, he couldn't remember. It had been a constant companion of his since grade school. The name fit with the Spanish accent, so it had never occurred to Damian to call it anything else.

"Is there anything you'd like to add?" his boss asked.

Damian was pretty sure his boss had a name, too. He could dredge it up from his memory, but that would require effort, and he was loathe to give the man even that. It was rumored that, deciphered from its native Managerican, the name would roughly translate as Door Mat. In English, it was probably Bob. Weren't all bosses named Bob?

"No, sir. Thank you."

Bob nodded, pleased with the stability of the boat. "Back to work, then."

Damian felt himself return the gesture. He watched, detached, as his body rose and took one step toward his boss.

What am I doing?

For the briefest of moments, he entertained the notion that he might actually punch the man on the other side of the large desk. But that was silly. He couldn’t afford to lose his job. Could he?

Damian shuddered and pushed the thought from his mind. Hitting the man was not a smart idea, and Damian was not many things – not striking, or strong, or smooth – but he prided himself on being smart.

His body turned and exited the office. Hands balled into fists, Damian stalked away from the corner office. Feeling began to return to his extremities only when he’d made his way back to the forest of cubicles.

Once again, your cowardice shames me, Inigo said.

Damian frowned. It's not my fault, Inigo. There was nothing I could have done.

Lies! Inquiring about the raise you are due would surely have been an appropriate action.

At least I have a job. I should just be thankful. Besides, no one is getting raises, Inigo. And you heard his review. "Satisfactory" does not translate to "raise." Even in Spanish.

Damian, you and I both know that Benjamin just received an increase last week.

Shhh, Damian hissed in his head, we're not supposed to know that. He plodded between rows of desk, frustrated both with the voice in his head and with himself. Mostly with himself. Besides, Ben has been here longer than I have.

Inigo snorted. Yes, a paltry six months, and he does nothing whilst you work.

"You all right, Gardner?"

The voice startled Damian. It belonged to his cube-mate, Ben Windsor. Tall, dark, and handsome, Ben seemed to lead a semi-charmed life, riding the coattails of his suave demeanor and dashing looks to success. Damian was only slightly jealous.

Ben raised a dark eyebrow. Damian echoed his puzzlement at first, but then realized he'd been standing at the entrance to their desk area, mumbling to himself. Heat rose to his cheeks.

"Yeah, we're fine," he replied casually, cursing himself as he noticed the slip in personal pronoun. It had been a rough day. He was losing his focus.

Ben shrugged and shoved an ear bud back in. "Whatever, dude."

The young man spun around in his chair to return his attentions to the glowing screen. Over one of Ben's muscular shoulders, Damian could see a clearly non-work-related video playing. It looked like one of the gentlemen in the clip was about too... yep. Gratuitous nut shot. Ben let out a guffaw, oblivious to the various shades of work going on around him.

Inigo piped up. See?
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Damian Scene 1 Intro

Generally, I try to spread out my posts, but for this whole "live construction" thing, I'm going to do something a little different. I'd like to introduce the scene, maybe place it in context, etc, so I'll make a "scene intro" post prior to the actual fiction post. I think that'll make it a bit easier to follow. That does mean two posts in one day... egads!

Today is what I'm pretty sure will be the opening scene of the story. As such, it doesn't need a whole lot of intro. I cleaned it up a bit from the original posting, both in terms of typos and the hooks I'm leaving myself.

One thing that is interesting about this story is that it's going to delve pretty deeply into my own ideas about faith and Christianity. I've not talked about such things on here much. When creating your own fantasy worlds, I'm sure it rubs off, but it's rarely so obvious. And I'm not a preachy type of person. Still, something I've always wanted to do is make use of my Catholic upbringing to lay the foundations for some world lore. In particular, I've wanted to explore the nature of Angels, Demons, and creatures of that nature. How does one do that without your own faith-bias leeching in? I don't believe you can, or at least not an preserve the characters.

I guess my whole point is that Damian is a very strong reflection of myself and my faith is going to shine through him a bit. I'm cool with it, but religion can be a touchy subject. I wanted to be clear that these are reflections of my faith journey. I'm not pretending to be a biblical scholar here or a preacher or anyone other than a run-of-the-mill, born-and-raised Catholic Christian. I may get some things wrong. Some things may seem skewed to others. That's fine. I'm happy to discuss them. It's one of my favorite things, actually. Just don't expect it to change the story. The reflections are further skewed by the fact that I'm going to make them true to the character, and not necessarily to me. I think that makes sense, especially since the goal is to tell a good story. If you pick up something of what I think of faith in the process, all the better.

Anyway, there's not a whole lot of that in this scene (thought it is introduced). I'd just written a few other scenes recently where I discovered a whole lot about Damian that I'm not sure was even part of the plan... but I think is freaking awesome. That's all I'll say for now. :-)

Scene incoming in the next post!

(I really need to come up with a better title.)
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sporadic Scenes

I've been working on this post for about five days now. I keep writing a sentence, then getting distracted and telling myself "I'll get to it later," and then never getting to it. I have been working though! My muse caught up to me last night and held me hostage for a couple thousand words. I also gathered all the Damian posts and compiled them into a Word document. I do most of my writing in Word. I'm a pro at using styles.

I was surprised when the total at the bottom read 10440 words. I'm shooting for 50k for these books. That means I'm already 1/5th of the way there. Pretty cool.

I simply labelled them all "scenes" for now, and write at the end whatever I feel like writing that day. If I'm having trouble mustering the energy to write, I try editing for a bit. I'm going to start by re-sharing the edited scenes on here first, reintroducing the story in the process. Then, I'll try to fill some things in. Maybe I'll share a couple scenes out of order. I don't know. We'll see how it goes. I'll at least try to make it clear where I think the scene is going to fall in the story. If you don't want to be spoiled, you can skip later scenes for now. I'm not sure that's an issue though, because I don't think this plot is super twisty or anything. I guess some of the tension will be spoiled by early reveals, but it may balance out since it's more about the journey anyway, right?

I'm going to try to share or re-share one chunk each week. If I get stuck, I may just lay the situation out there and ask for help/advice. Feel free to point out typos or consistency errors. This is sort of like... live novel construction. My creative process isn't all that scary, promise.

When it's all done, I'll wrap it all up and produce an e-book. Anyone that helped along the way will be welcome to a free copy (via Smashwords code that I'll figure out how to send to you). Sounds like fun, doesn't it! Here's hoping....
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