Thursday, November 10, 2011

INKBLOTS - one of those nights that particularly reminds us why we're doing this

INKBLOTS – 11/10/11
Cold, clear November evening, full moon, crackling fire, five men, bottle of Domaine Boudau, Cuvee Henri Boudau Cotes du Roussillon Villages, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (no kidding?) 2009, John’s French son-in-law’s father’s work mate’s wife’s vineyard (got that?). Making wine, I think, must be something like writing: art, to be sure, but heaps of back-breaking labor.

I told the gang about Ian Thompson joining us for a special Inkblots, week from Saturday, November 19, 2011, 7 pm at the Bond’s house (3010 N Proctor, Tacoma). Bring along your favorite wine or cheese or bread or crackers or dark chocolate. This is open to writers who might be interested but we would appreciate an rsvp if you are not a regular (

How to research for future projects? How to plan ahead for what to write next. We talked about Tarawa and the horrible casualties there and at Iwo Jima, D-Day, so many others.

John S reads a new short chapter to his contemporary fiction work. Based on Rick’s episode with his college entrance exam being cancelled and good for him because he was anything but ready. John’s tale is a fine effort to show the evils of abortion and of racism. Emma is pregnant with an African American boyfriend’s baby and her dad despises AA. Now Emma needed to pass her exams or else no college. Near despair, she awoke. “Death warmed over,” is a cliché and we ought to avoid them like the plague. “Dead meat,” “Wits End”… kill ‘em. Create something fresh for imaginative comparisons. Good job showing her reluctance to pray and then her giving in, feeling stupid, but praying anyway. Show broken and defeated; how does her imploring God look in body language. What does her test anxiety look like? Looking at clock. What are some of the questions like? Does she try to cheat but can’t? Drops her pencil, several times in a row. Specific questions about human biology (so it ties in with the larger thematic issues in the story). Show her being confused, racking brain but not much to dig up. Bite fingernails that long ago ceased to be there. Movie reference? Don’t use film’s name, refer to episode.

David McCullough as non-fiction writer who for considerable time now wields sufficient weight to tell his publisher not to change so much as a semi-colon. I next read chapter 17 of my 8th century Anglo-Saxon tale, the heavy-duty chapter that I think is so important to what I want to communicate but that is heavy none-the-less. Doug Mc suggested having Cynwulf think about the implications of Pelagianism. Show in Godwine’s facial expression and posture his distaste for Pelagius’s error. Which I take to mean that it needs more human life, body language, showing nuances of reaction to what is being said.  

Dave talked about his stall on his healer tale, which we all were enjoying. He thinks he’s going to go back to a sequel to his futuristic political thriller. Dave is going with Winepress (self)publishing on his book that Writer’s Edge thought had publishable potential. 

We talked about writer’s block. Does it really exist? Yep, sort of. My method is to solve the gnarly problem of not knowing what to write next, or thinking that what I have just written is not fit to be the fine print on a box of tater tots—my solution? Keep writing. And sometimes stop and read a favorite passage from a favorite author (Lewis, Chesterton, Sayers…). But always, keep writing.
Marines talking trash about not getting a second shot at the bad guy. Short riff that is designed to connect to the ending of the last tale. 

Jim read his Sci-Fi tale, The Voyage, chapter one, The Awakening. Joachim is the protagonist. Gradually reviving mind: can you show what that feels like? Use a simile, what his mind feels like compared to what a it looks like a lump of raw dough must feel like when it is being punched and thumped into shape for a pizza… Something like that. Golf-ball-size: is there a way to create a metaphor that connects more to the sci-fi context. Joachim seems oddly non-plused by the death of his crew member. Is it a flash back to his wedding? You lost me a bit there. Okay, I think I’m seeing his flashback. He sees the death of his fellow crew member and it reminded him of the death of his friend’s wife on their wedding day? Did I follow? Unless he is supposed to be Spock, he would have more emotion at the death of his best friend. Kirk… should you use this given how every sci-fi aficionado will think of Star Trek and Captain Kirk. Though I am not a sci-fi guy: I would leave the room when my dad and sister wanted to watch an episode of Star Trek when I was a kid. I know this will sound like cardinal sinning to a sci-fi initiate, but there it is. Please take this into account when you read these comments: I am not fit to comment on the genre, if the truth were told.

The theory behind Inkblots is that we all gain by bringing together our various interests, areas of expertise, and genre we’re writing. True confession: I’m sci-fi challenged—okay, I’ve said it. I love Lewis’s writing but have never been able to get through his space trilogy (sorry Ransom). Nevertheless, I gain from hearing what Jim is writing in his interest and genre. I’m excited that we have a serious sci-fi guy joining ‘Blots. 

Doug Mc’s turn. Kid from Texas joins army, friend killed, in Italy, at a battle at Monte Casino, trying to cross the Repeto River. He is a victim of blast-lung from blast coming out of a mud hole that really messes up lungs. He is evacuated. Allies call a cease-fire and wounded and in a Catholic hospital where he meets a RC family and he likes their daughter. In hospital and feeling better and hoping to go visit the family that has befriended him. French employed Muslim troops who abused the Italians. That’s context. He is recovering and feeling better, out of action. He’s interested in Maria, her legs, her curves, God forgive me. Algerian soldiers pounding on Maria’s door. They’d been drinking. He knew what was on their mind. I’m instantly gripped in rage… can you give this in more emotion. He shoots the guy who is on Maria. Luigi’s manner confuses me. Does he not like your protagonist? Another thought comes to my mind 3x over. Need to further legitimize the killing of the Algerian soldiers: one has a knife at the mother’s throat, another pulls his sidearm on John—ramp it up so that even the most vein-bulging pacifist will agree that these were legit killings to defend the innocent. Some explanation of the sound of the shooting not really causing a stir in the community, so war-hardened, “All pity choked with custom of fell deeds.”   

Doug has sent materials to Steve Laube, literary agent. Greenleaf Literary Services is a great website for preparing a manuscript for submission to a publisher. Doug’s done lots of research on submission: complete manuscript if it’s fiction; approach without saying that the Spirit gave you this book in a vision; have website, blog, facebook, and willingness to promote your book.     

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