Update From the Cave

Hey all you cool cats and kittens … yes, like the rest of the planet I finally watched Tiger King … anyway, hey, it’s a blog post!

I’m still not as productive as I’d like to be, but I did finish the outline for my new book. I’ve put a pin in cranking out the three Altered Egos and spinoff books because I’m so unhappy with the sequel. So this story is something brand new. I don’t even know what I’m calling it yet.

The outline is finished, clocking in at 20 pages – that’s a lot for some people, not nearly enough for others – but sounds about right to me. I try and break the content down around story structure points and cut it up into what I think the chapters are going to look like. I’m not always accurate. I’m also terrible at judging the finished word count. I’d love if this was tight enough to be only 80 or 90 tops. I thought Land of Sky and Blood was going to be just over 100K and it came in at 167K so what do I know …

There are still a few spots in the outline that need attention. I don’t like to leave holes if I can help it. I’ll figure out a fight sequence when I get there, but if somebody has dirt to blackmail another character, say for instance, that’s kind of something I need to know up front.

While all that was getting fleshed out, I submitted a story to the Writers of the Future contest. I won’t give the name of what I wrote in case word gets out and a judge puts two and two together – it’s supposed to be a blind submission – so I don’t accidentally disqualify myself, but I’ll let you know how the whole thing turns out.

It did stoke my fires around short stories again, so that’s something. I’m not much of a short story writer. I have the hardest time coming up with a concept small enough for a short story, but rich enough to be interesting. That said, I think I’ve got another one cooking in the old brain pan. It needs more research. Particularly, YouTube research. I’m not above reading – I mean, come on – but it’s not like I can get a book from a library these days. OK, I can get an ebook I guess, but those rarely work for me because I’d rather read on my phone than a computer screen. I’m sure there’s a way to do it, but there are already too many extra steps now that the barrier of entry is getting pretty steep. So instead, I can read blog posts and articles, but I’ve found that a couple of YouTube videos helps with the background info so I know what questions I need to be asking later. It’s not like I can get a book about what life was like in a Shinto shrine. Or can I?

Hope you’re all happy and healthy!

What I’m Watching: Aside from Tiger King, my wife and I finally started watching the second season of Netflix’s Lost and Space reboot. It’s pretty great. We liked the first season a lot. Well the first third and the last third. The middle kind of dragged because they didn’t know what to do with Parker Posey’s character. They still kind of don’t, but this season has a larger story going on that’s pretty interesting. We’re really digging it so far. Something this show does really well in both seasons is throwing environmental problems at the characters. In fact, that’s most of what the show is and the answers are rarely straightforward. They can’t really kill anyone off because it’s a family show, but it’s still tense seeing what they’re going to put this poor family through next.

What I’m Reading: I just finished the Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. I liked it a lot in the beginning. It was an intriguing concept, was kind of literary, and celebrated stories. I mean, what’s not to like? But then … well, then it kind of kept going. Not a lot really happens. January gets angry and upset and scared a lot. By the time the character growth comes, I was pretty much done with the book. My biggest complaint is that early on we’re told that the magic comes with a price. January even says as much. Except, for her it doesn’t. She seems to be the only one who gets to break all the rules and doesn’t suffer a single consequence.

I just started the Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann. I’m only in chapter 3. I mean, I’m still reading the free preview so I can’t really say much about it, but I like the premise and I think I like the characters. I’m always looking for books to fill the Shogun-sized hole in my heart so we’ll see.

Social Distancing — Not so Isolated

I’m glad that others are making the best out of a bad situation and getting a lot of writing done. Seriously, I am. I’m also super jealous. With three small kids at home, my writing has ground pretty much to a halt. As you can imagine, they don’t quite get what Daddy does on his computer. But I’m not really complaining. I’m lamenting. There’s a difference. I may not be making a lot of headway, but I’ve been spending tons of time with my family which is pretty great too 🙂

In the past, I’ve tried to publish a post every Monday — and missed more than a few deadlines — but this is going to be hit or miss for a while. In the rare moments when I DO get a chance to write … like right now … I may choose work over blogging. Sorry blog-buddies! So don’t expect any kind of consistency from me on the ole website. Hey, don’t blame me. Blame the Coronavirus.

If we’re talking actual progress then I think I figured out the problems I had with the second half of my new book. I knew what the protagonists were doing, but not how the antagonist would respond. That’s solved. I hope.Now I just need time and space to get back to the outline to plug all that in.

And I decided I’m growing a quarantine beard. Is this a thing? I haven’t shaved since work told me to stay home and I’m getting pretty bristly.

What I’m Watching: Lots and LOTS of Paw Patrol. I’m usually the one who gets up first with the kids so my wife can sleep. I need less hours than she does and can typically go more sleep-deprived days than she can before a recharge. So the task of keeping the kids alive and quiet often falls to me. We don’t usually use a lot of TV but early morning is the exception. Whenever I need them to be quiet so Mommy can keep sleeping, I just yelp for help!

What I’m Reading: I finished The Sword of Kaigen and … I have mixed feelings. I like it, I think. I like the world but the author doesn’t do much to help ground the reader in it. There’s a specific term that gets used a lot that I have a problem with because I don’t think it fits the rules the author created. I mean, this is just my outside opinion here.

That’s only the start of it. Not to give away a major spoiler, there’s a big battle halfway through the book. The entire second half is dealing with the fallout from said battle. And this is where it completely kicked me out. Again, my opinion here, but I feel like the author set up some promises and then either ignored or broke them all during that latter half. The climax of the book isn’t what the climax of the book should have been about. Or if so, then there wasn’t enough ground work to get there. Don’t give me the ole dangling threads excuse either. I love a few open ended things as much as the next person, but I’m talking central conflict points here. They don’t need to be resolved, but there should be movement. I think I see what the author was trying to do and how it made sense in their head, but it just didn’t work for me. It’s a shame too because I was all on board and then felt like I didn’t fall off, but was pushed.

I’ve also just finished Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch, the fourth Rivers of London/Peter Grant book. It was pretty much what I expected. It was the old friend, the sure thing, I needed after the previous disappointment.

Outlines. Gotta Love ‘Em

Still plugging away at ye old outline. Outlines are funny things. Even us outliners have different definitions of what that term means. I know some people who use a single page and cram the whole thing on there in broad strokes. Another author has an eighty page document that he’ll keep expanding and basically rewrite until that thing is basically the novel itself. For me, mine are around 20 pages. I want those broad strokes, story beats, and memos of important set pieces and dialogue, but I can’t have any holes. I no longer trust myself to figure it out when I get there.

The current thing I’m struggling with is what my antagonist is doing the whole time. This is a heist novel. I’ve got my plucky crew stealing things to ultimately rip off the big bad. OK cool. So what’s Mr. BBEG up to while all that’s going on? He’s not just waiting to be stolen from. Well, I guess he could be, but I need more than that from him. This is another way to raise the stakes. He’s got to show the reader how much worse things are getting so we’re routing for him to get ripped off.

I think I’m cracking it. On the verge or a cusp at least. I’m examining and extrapolating some of the other conditions I’ve introduced in the book around civic unrest to tease out some natural responses that way it makes sense for both the character and the world.

In the mean time, I’ve finally gone back to finish a short story I started way back in August. So that’s pretty exciting.

Also, while getting sucked down a research rabbit hole on YouTube (I was going to hyperlink it but come on, it’s YouTube), I was recommended the following video by everyone’s favorite algorithm. I took one look at the speaker and immediately jumped to conclusions. He did not disappoint. His channel is pretty awesome and I just wanted to share this new gem with everyone. Enjoy!

What I’m Reading: I dropped Red Winter. Speaking of stakes, there weren’t any. To not become an embodiment of your god means your god has to wait another ten years to try again even though it’s been a hundred years since your god has walked the earth last time and we see no reason why this is either a good or a bad thing … OK. Do it. Don’t do it. I don’t care.

I ended up picking up The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang instead. I liked the sample so much I had to enroll in a free trial for Kindle Unlimited to keep reading. I actually did that! If that’s not an indication of praise, I don’t know what is. So far, I really like the book. My only hangup is the jargon. Yes, SFF has jargon, but this feels … superfluous, I guess.

What I’m Watching: Well, hope to be watching Altered Carbon. Season 2 dropped a couple of weeks ago and I’m hoping to sink my teeth into that real soon.

Montage

I’m breaking ground on the new outline. This one is a little more structurally complex, because I’m writing a heist novel! I’m super excited about it, hence the exclamation mark in the previous sentence. So of course, I immediately ran into a problem.

In most heist movies, we have an early montage where the characters are planning and prepping. It’s fun, shows off the world, and let’s time pass to the good stuff. I was wasting reams of digital paper trying to figure out how to translate this into prose. See, I thought it would be fun to have this central conversation and then cut away to some of the other little stuff. Like a montage, but not.

Here’s the thing, though, montages don’t work in prose. A book is already kind of like a montage as it picks and chooses what to show you, but it’s also slower than a montage because for every scene you have to get the reader into it and out of it again. The closest a montage can look in prose would be something like this:

  • The characters talk about the job.
  • Character A is soldering circuit boards.
  • Character B is throwing axes at a target.
  • The villain is locking the door on his vault.
  • Character C is trying on a silly costume with Character D and says “This’ll never work.”
  • Character A can’t get two wires together so she uses gum as a connector.
  • Etc.

That’s awful. No one would ever want to read that. It’s a list and takes you completely out of the story. Montages are visual tricks. More than that, they’re editing tricks, to show just enough information to allow the passage of time. In a book, you can just skip to the next scene.

Once I understood that, it didn’t fully solve the problem for me. I still have to have my characters plan and prep for the big score, but it needs to be interesting so the pace isn’t bogged down.

I know, who worries about pace in an outline. I do! Well, I try to. It’s one less thing to fix in post.

So that’s where I’m at. I think I’ve got a better handle of how to present the information. Now, it’s a matter of figuring out the sequence of events. Don’t worry, there will be definite skipping ahead. We don’t need to see how my one character uncovers a secret to exploit for leverage, we just need to know that he has it. But I can’t remove all that prep stuff because in a heist, that’s half the fun.

Oh and obligatory …

What I’m Reading: I finished The White Road and had a couple of false starts. Both The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo and To Break the Demon Gate by Richard Parks, I just couldn’t get into them. I wasn’t pulled in and interested by TNT and TBtDG did a poor job of setting place and scene. It was too lean to the point where I wasn’t engaged at all because I could barely visualize what was going on. Reading time is precious these days, so I can’t devote time and energy to something I don’t enjoy – Gasp! I know what agents must feel like! I did find something, though, Red Winter by Annette Marie about a girl who’ll become a god? An avatar of a god? I’m not sure, I’m only on page 45. I don’t love it. I’d say I’m mildly interested which could be a result of my desperation winning out so I’m settling, so we’ll see.

What I’m Watching: Star Trek: Picard. I initially wasn’t on board for this show. I thought there was no way they could do justice to a character who’ll live better in my nostalgia. Picard is my captain. So I was pleasantly surprised that I liked the first episode. Five episodes later and I realized Past Dan, Wary Dan, was right. This show isn’t about Picard at all. How could it be? Sir Patrick Stewart is 79 years old! You could honestly remove him from the show and things would happen exactly as they are in the same, gruelingly boring pace. The big reveal last episode, by the way, is something we’ve known since episode one … so yeah. There is no reason for Picard to even be in this series other than for member berries. He can’t be the only optimist left in the universe.

Phases of a Book

I’d say I’m just about done with the brainstorming phase of my new book. To give you some perspective, when I write a novel, it usually goes down something like this.

Brainstorming Phase: This is usually about a month. Sometimes longer. I’m always jotting random ideas down and doing the occasional research about something, but this phase is the hardcore focus of all my mental energy on something new. This is also where I do my more targeted researching.

Structure Phase: Once I’ve got a pretty good idea of the world and what I want to say, I make a one page document for pacing. This is really the narrative framework in which the entire thing hangs. I identify the plot points, the hook, changes in narrative phases, etc. It’s not super robust, but I need to know how the story unfolds and where I need to fill getting from A to B. This takes maybe a week or a week and a half. Often times, I go back and do some final fiddling with brainstorming and concurrent research as I build it out.

Outlining Phase: I then turn that one page document into a 16-20 page outline depending on the scope of the novel. I try and break it down into what I think will be the chapters with bullet points telling me what’s going to happen in each one. I also include notes to myself, lines of dialog I’ve already written, and all the must haves and put them where they need to go. It’ll take me maybe two to three weeks to get this whole thing together.

I try not to leave anything blank. I’ll be vague at times in a bullet like “hero gets in a fight and the villain gets away” and when I get there in the manuscript, I’ll have a better idea of what that fight will be, but I don’t like to have an entire protochapter look like:

  • They storm the base
  • big fight ensues
  • they’re about to catch the bad guy, but the tables are turned.

And that’s it. No further details. No reminder of what’s at stake or notes about development. I’ve found that I ALWAYS run into trouble when it’s that vague. Looking at you cough Partners in Crime cough. So I need to iron that out which is why it takes me extra time to get all of that in order.

Writing Phase: The meat and potatoes. It takes me anywhere from 4-5 months to write a first draft. I go through the ole outline and get my words in for the day. Rinse and Repeat. You know how this part works.

Waiting Phase: Another couple months where I distract myself with something else to let the dust settle and the ideas gel from the first draft.

Editing Phase: Another 4+ months of grueling fine tuning and rewriting to make that pile of words into something that someone would actually want to read.

So there you have it. I’m just about finished brainstorming so it’ll be soon onto the structure phase. I’ve written eight novels by now and this is the process I’ve developed for myself. I would like to do more works concurrently: edit one work while brainstorming another, etc. and I’ve done that to some extent, but seeing as I’m not a full time writer, I only have so much time to devote to a project so I’m going laser focused again. Onward to novel number nine!

What I’m Reading: (see, told you I’d bring these back …) Just finished Martha Wells’ novella All Systems Red about a, I suppose its technically a cyborg, who calls itself Murderbot and loves serialized media. It was just the right length for the writing style. A strong voice but also sparse on the details which makes sense since its in first person or first bot or whatever … which I imagine would get old for an entire novel. That said, I’m definitely going to read a followup in the near future.

As that was so short, I started John Connolly’s The White Road. For those of you who’ve been reading my blog, I’ve really come around on Connolly. I didn’t care for his first novel, but that last two were pretty great. And you want to talk about voice? They tell you as writer that you should read wide and look for lessons about craft in other peoples’ work. Whether its a duck flying over a salt marsh or the description of a crime scene, imagery in Connolly’s books is just awesome. I don’t mean super cool, I mean awe-inspiring. I’m definitely taking notes.

What I’m Watching: The Imagineering Story on Disney +. Love or loathe Disney, this documentary series is still incredible. To see how they pulled off some engineering marvels is just fascinating. It also serves as a great lesson for anyone interested in customer service and really the value of a product. You can see where they’ve designed a complete user experience and where they were just phoning it in. Each episode is only an hour, but my wife and I keep pausing it to comment and marvel so it takes us twice as long to get through them.

Like Me. Really Like Me.

I was listening to a podcast about authorial brand the other day and it got me thinking about myself and my own work. I suppose there’s a throughline of themes and ideas in a lot of my fiction — actually that’s what’s sparked the new and shiny novel I’m almost about ready to start outlining — but more than that, it got me thinking about myself and this blog.

For the most part, I write about my work and writing life, but what about me? What do I think is cool? I was always a little hesitant to just throw stuff out there because what if you, dear reader, are a movie buff but then I go off the deep end gushing about a video game and you decide, nah, video games are dumb. Shame on you! Or maybe you’re a gamer who doesn’t like my taste in television shows. I don’t know. So rather than keep all that out, I realized I can only be me.

Unless, it’s a critical deep dive into a work, I don’t like writing about entertainment pieces I don’t like. I don’t mind admitting when I didn’t care for something, but I don’t like bashing on stuff because I know how long and how hard it is to make said stuff! With all this in mind, I’ve updated my About Me page with my top favorite books and movies. I’ll put them below too …

Favorite Books:

(In no particular order …)

  • Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien … (see below …)
  • Embassytown by China Mieville
  • Shogun by James Clavell
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman
  • The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson

 

Favorite Movies:

  1. Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King (all extended editions of course) – Let’s be honest, they’re all really one movie right …
  2. Jurassic Park
  3. Spirited Away
  4. Ghostbusters
  5. The Last Samurai and Little Shop of Horrors (1986) – two way tie

Maybe we’re a fan of the same things. Oh come on, of course we are!

I also thought I’d update you on what I’m reading and what I’m watching.

What I’m reading:

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross. This book is awesome. Book 2 of The Laundry Files. While the government bureaucracy is so real its painful, it still doesn’t overshadow the eldritch horror crammed into these books. Anyone looking for a modern take on Lovecraft, this series is for you. I enjoy the plots and occult techno-babble as much as the next guy, but speaking of crammed, the amount of references (Lovecraftian, historical, and real world technology) stuffed into each book is amazing. You honestly don’t need to know what any of them mean, because anything important is always explained for the plot, but for someone like myself, it’s riddled with Easter eggs so I feel like each one is some inside joke only I’m privy to. When they say write what you know, this is totally what they mean. It just goes to show you that you don’t need one thing. If you’ve got a couple of passions, smush them all together and the beautiful mess you’ve made is going to be one great, original story.

What I’m watching:

I just wrapped up watching Altered Carbon on Netflix. I’m a little late to the party on this one, but oh man was that good! I thought they did a great job with the jargon. It felt like a real place and wasn’t just replacing current words with future words. Also the setup and payoff was really well done. You know it’s good when you have multiple actors playing the same character and I don’t even bat an eye. I’m looking at you episode 7. It’s mainly flashback, so it’s not the primary actor, but the guy I’m watching still always feels like Tak to me. It’s great and so well done.

From a production design, I can marvel at the nuts and bolts too. They clearly had money to build sets and render things in CGI, but they were super careful with their locations. The places feel big, but when I stop and think about it, there really aren’t that many places the characters go to. Even when they’re outside, it’s a section of a street or a storefront of something. There are plenty of extras and things in the background, but the show doesn’t blow its budget on needless filler.

I’m definitely excited for season 2.

So there you have it. A little bit more about me and what I like. Writing up the what I’m reading and watching was pretty fun. I don’t get a chance to gush about stuff so much anymore, but I think that’s going to be changing. I’ve a feeling that feature is definitely coming back.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

My posts have been pretty inconsistent lately. There’s been some illness in the family – I’m actually writing this sick in bed at the moment, lots of editing work that needed doing, and pressures from the day job all vying for attention so this ole blog is just getting the short end of the stick time after time. What that’s telling me is that I need to write these things in advance. I suppose that’s the smart thing to do, but now why would anybody do something responsible like that?

On to writing … I’ve been battling a mini internal crisis lately. See, I poured a lot of myself into Land of Sky and Blood. I learned new techniques, even took a class, and really tried to make that book as rich as I could make it. Then I went ahead and wrote Partners in Crime (well got about three quarters of the way through anyway) and I discovered that … let’s say LoSaB is hearty stew … it’s got a bunch of complementary flavors, some fresh ingredients, a few old favorites, and it’s all balanced so you’re getting the combined effect of the entire recipe. Well, if LoSaB is a stew, then Partners in Crime is just broth. It’s simple and felt like after everything I’d learned, I was actually taking a step backward in writing it.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t figured out the ending yet either, so that ground me to a halt, but still, I knew something was wrong for a while but pressed on anyway. I hate not having it finished. “Always finish what you start” was rule number 10 in my Tae Kwon Do studio growing up and all these years later, I still hear Master Gladwell and Master Kim’s gruff disapproval in me for not finishing that damned book. I need to get around to finishing it. I mean, I even finished Ghost Hunting and that book is a train wreck!

I don’t think I’ve ever talked about Ghost Hunting before. All writers have trunk novels, right? Well GH deserves to live in the trunk in a secret compartment so cleverly disguised you’ll never find it again. That book was just awful! It’s the only novel I’ve ever written that I’ve never even tried to edit before. It did teach me a few things like balancing character voices and not to dive into a story before doing all your research, though. The novel had an emphasis on sailing and let me tell you, I don’t know the first thing about boats. I was nowhere near ready to write that book, but the takeaway was that I finished it. Knowing Partners in Crime remains unfinished is like sleeping with sand in my bed. I hate it.

But I can’t give it my full attention just yet. I’ve since moved on to the new shiny thing. After living and breathing LoSaB for a year and a half, I’m ready to move onto the next project. It’s still in the brainstorming phase right now, but I’m getting a handle on the story. There are a lot more component parts to this one and it’s definitely more stew than broth. Maybe when I finally sit down to start that first draft, I can allow myself to knock out Partners in Crime at the same time as a brain break. But right now, I only have so much time to write and if I don’t feel like it’s a constructive use of my time.

The Hustle

I’ve been a little lax on the ole blog here, so sorry about that. First I was busy and then got sick. Every time I wasn’t wrapped up with something, I was doing the final read through which turned out was followed by a second FINAL final read through of Land of Sky and Blood. So my eyes were pretty much spent every day and couldn’t stare at a computer screen anymore. I’ve poured so much time and attention into finishing the manuscript that I actually broke my own rule and abandoned Partners in Crime. I’m maybe 20K words away from finished that novel, but haven’t touched it since December. It’s weird. I’ve never just stopped a work like that before. I do plan to finish it. And soon. I hope. But hey, I’m done. Land of Sky and Blood is done!

Now comes the pitching …

I told myself that I was going to take my time with this one and I think I did for the most part. My usual schedule has been to both write a book and query a book within the same year. That’s just the way my pacing has seemed to be going. While I’m querying the last work, I’m simultaneously working on the new one. When the new one is query ready, the old one cycles out and I start the next manuscript. That’s what I’ve been doing for seven years more or less.

That all stopped in 2019. Land of Sky and Blood was too large and just wasn’t ready. So instead of rushing, I wanted to take my time and I like to think that it paid off. I ended up with the most ambitious thing I’ve ever written. But now its time to make the rounds.

Just like I’ve been more deliberate with my writing choices, I’m more deliberate with who I’m contacting in the publishing industry this time. I’m really only approaching those who I think would enjoy the work rather than throw spaghetti at the wall to see what’ll stick.

But it’s still nerve wracking, right? Rejection is never fun. Whether its from an agent or an editor or a bad review. As an author, you’ve poured your heart and soul into a project you believe in, so it hurts when someone else doesn’t share your same vision. It’s counter intuitive if you think about it. The best authors are probably sensitive, creative people. You’d have to be to dig into the art part of writing and really form a connection with your reader. Yet these are the same people who are also supposed to have thick skin and just shrug off rejection. It takes time and is definitely a learned skill.

Like I said, I’ve been writing now for over seven years. There were times when I’d see rejection in my inbox on a weekly basis. And rightly so, I might add. Some of those manuscripts weren’t actually all that good. So how do you handle something like that?

During the low times, I try and remind myself why I’m passionate about the work in the first place. Often, I wrote the novel because an idea was just burning in my brain. It was something I wanted to read but it didn’t exist so in a way, I was the first fan. Just because somebody else didn’t connect with the material doesn’t mean that no one will. It’s already got a fan, remember? Me. So I tell myself not to lose heart. In a planet of seven billion people, I can’t be the only one who would like it either. That’s just simple probability. There’s got to be others out there who’d feel the same way. Maybe they won’t see it. Maybe the vehicle I chose was wrong. Who knows? Maybe the work will stall and get shuffled aside as I try and sell my next shiny obsession. It doesn’t mean the story isn’t worth reading.

Just remember, if something doesn’t sell, it doesn’t mean you have to throw it out. Yeah, we all have trunk novels, but there might be a couple of gems in there too. Maybe you can sell it later. Or maybe you can rewrite it or reuse an idea for a future project. Nobody knows you’re stealing from yourself. I’ve reused character names, plot points, and thematic elements.

At the end of the day, I see every novel as a learning experience at the very least. I’ve learned or practiced something new with each one. There was no way I could have written Land of Sky and Blood without writing all of those other novels before it. I hadn’t leveled up as a writer yet.

So I’m going to start querying and hustling and pitching and everything that entails, but the book already has a fan. I’m proud to have written it and thankful for the experience regardless of what happens. My sights are already set on the future.

Well, maybe after I go back and knock the abandoned Partners in Crime first …

Frozen Too

We saw Frozen II with our kids over the weekend so our house has been a little more “Into the Unknown” than usual. Don’t get me wrong, like most little girls, I imagine, my daughter loves Elsa. Adores her. You can joke about just about anything with my daughter but Elsa is off limits. So anyway, seeing the movie has sparked a conversation between my wife and myself about musicals, their purpose, and how awesome they are.

You can totally see which side of the fence I’m on here by the way. Don’t worry. My wife is over here with us too…

You can find plenty of articles praising Frozen II as a more “mature” movie and pointing Disney in a new direction. You can read that on your own time. All I wanted to bring up was that for this movie, to me, the music was not just more mature but it was also, well more musical. As in theatre musical. More than a few times throughout the film, as stuff was obviously happening on screen, I was watching a second stage show in my head and could clearly imagine what the cast and characters would be doing with each song in real life. So I agree to a maturity to the music as it’s about more mature themes, but I’d go even farther and say it’s just more complex than not just the last movie, but most Disney movies in general, putting it more in line with, well, a musical.

I bring all of this up because over the holidays, my wife and I got in a discussion with my brother about music in kids’ movies. He’s a big fan of Trolls. And I mean a BIG fan. My wife was trying to explain to him that regardless of the concept, when a studio takes recycled pop music as a soundtrack — even if the tracks are rearranged and the characters are singing them — it’s not the same as original numbers. I agree.

It took me some time to think about it and here’s what I’ve come up with. Musicals are about more than just the plot or the characters. When done right, a musical gives you both the broader, thematic picture, but also a more intimate one as well because it invites you into the headspace of the person(s) singing. It’s really hard not to empathize with someone really belting it out, wearing their heart on their sleeve. And if the song is good on its own, well then, it stays with you, and helps keep you in that same headspace making the movie even more personal.

And by original song, I mean a song written solely for the experience being portrayed on stage/film. Not something for the radio that just debuts in the movie. I like Can’t Stop the Feeling as much as the next person, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with Branch. Know what I mean?

So while my daughter is skipping and bouncing with new memories about her favorite character’s emotional adventure, my wife and I are pontificating about the nature of musicals in general. Complex, I guess.

The other thought I had when leaving the movie theater is that I know exactly what Frozen III is going to be. I don’t mean, oh wouldn’t it be cool if … No. The cynical movie goer in me knows exactly what Hollywood is going to do. Here’s my pitch …

Nothing will happen for like 20 years. I’m talking IRL here. Then, in the world of reboots, nostalgia, and franchises, we’ll get Froz3n or whatever. The same amount of time will have passed for them too, so Elsa and Anna are much older. Something has happened to Elsa — spirit corruption or she’s just mad — but she’s invaded the land as the true Snow Queen. A creature to be feared. Anna tries to reason with her and fails. Elsa can’t/won’t kill Anna so she imprisons her in ice or whatever like Carbonite.

The story then shifts to Anna and Kristof’s teenage children — I’m thinking a boy and a girl — who have to go on an adventure to rescue their mother, save the land, and talk some sense back into their aunt. It’s a soft reboot of everything Frozen stood for and completely undermines the growth and sacrifices of the original characters like any franchise milking reboot should. Looking at you Star Wars. Sure the original voice cast will be mad about it, but maybe we’ll get little cameos anyway.

That’s my prognostication for the future. You can tell me I’m right in 20 years. So what do you think?

New Year New Problems

Long time no see!

It’s been a while as you can clearly tell.

I was pretty swamped with both writing and work deadlines for the first two weeks of December and then we were traveling the last two weeks of the month, so this is the first time I’ve been able to sit down at the old website and see what’s what. I had to blow off a layer of dust to even write this post.

Writing for Partners in Crime has stalled for the final edits of Land of Sky and Blood. I know I said I was going to work on them simultaneously and that worked for a while, but I’ve only got so many soccer balls to kick. My enthusiasm for LoSaB is completely overshadowing all other projects right now. And with two weeks away from writing, I’m not just champing at the bit, I’m a slavering, chewing, frenzied beast ready for the gate to open, the bridle to snap, or both! I’m so excited to get going again.

How were your holidays? Any New Years resolutions?

I don’t make far fetched promises and never end up seeing them through. Not anymore. There usually isn’t an end goal for me, more like a continued, enhanced state of being. A couple years ago it was to take my writing seriously. Last year it was to be a good dad. As both of those years are, of course, over, my positions on those goals hasn’t changed. I still take my writing seriously and I’m always trying to be a good dad. Even when I fail. So for me, the resolutions are more like an additive effect. I think for this year it’s going to be write something that’ll be published.

Granted, I wrote an article back in December for a local magazine that should be coming out in a week or so which means that goal is pretty much already met. But instead of an end state, I’m taking this new task like a mantra to continue writing serious enough and good enough that my work ends up in a printed, published format whether I’m the one who does said publishing or someone else.

I think the spoiler alert here is that these are all resolutions I was going to do anyway, I just like to solidify something in my mind, I guess.

Now that I’m back in the saddle, you’ll be seeing regular posts from me again. Wait. I was the horse before. Now I’m the rider? … Whatever. You get it.