Upcoming Projects and their Production Logs

Productionlogs-2015

Freshly-baptized notebooks mark this author’s upcoming project schedule.

I’m unsure of how many other authors do this, but maintaining “production logs” for major projects has been a habit I’ve kept for the last few years. This all started back in college, when I was dragging myself through the mud to finish the “final draft” of Master of Monsters.

In all likelihood, it’s pretty obvious to you what a production log is. The term is almost “cinematic” in a way, or at least, it is to me. And I like the way it sounds and how it rolls off my tongue. Makes me feel like a professional business artsy-fartsy-type instead of a deadbeat shmuck who mooches off her parents under the delusional pretense that stories about sealing monsters in glass orbs, talking animals who wield swords and magic, and homages to all things 1990s anime and Don Bluth era motion picture features will ever make her a dime in the Canadian YA literary market.

To me, a production log is, in all intents and purposes a diary related to all events, incidents, insecurities, triumphs, and failures that surround the subject of the project involved. Not so much writing about what I ate for breakfast that morning, or how much of a fucking two-timing slut that bitch Lindsay is (unless — of course — Lindsay stole my precious “baby” and changed all the names and published it under her own name, and just to twist the serrated blade, went and blackmailed my editor).

No, a production log serves a greater purpose. For example, when I was in the midst of bashing my brains against the computer monitor over MoMI started the production log so that I could track of events that happened in the novel, notes of affirmation and experiences related to publishing, writing, and marketing the project, as well as a fully drawn out history of how the story came into fruition way back in high school, who supported me through that time, and how the story and characters have changed over the years.

I do this for a couple of reasons. The most important is for mental health. No, really. Something that absolutely concerns me as I grow older is Alzheimer’s disease. Not that it really runs in the family (The only person I know who suffered from anything remotely similar was my Uncle Bill, who passed away due to dementia.) Honest to God, if my brain begins to rot, and I start to lose these powerful memories related to the most important creative experiences of my whole life, I want to be gat-dang sure I have a record of everything that I may look back on, or that my family can look back on, with great pleasure.

The second reason I do this is for the sake of marketing and publicity. Yeah, I know, it’s shallow as fuck and I totally admit this. But when it comes time to face the possible fact that I may be interviewed over one of my projects, I want to be sure as hell prepared as best as possible. Put me up against a wall: my brain goes blank and my tongue falls off. If there is an important aspect or theme of a book, I want know that it is recorded so that I can go back and explain to… Oh I don’t know, Ralph Hapschat of Denton TV … how Master of Monsters explores “deep” themes and constructs of homosexuality in a small town Catholic elementary school.

Finally, production logs are a great fallback, just in case stupid Lindsay does steal your work, and you need to provide proof in court that those million dollar rights to the Chris Columbus feature coming out next year (hahaha) are, in fact, entitled to you as well as whatever other copyright losses there are to your intellectual property. Remember, kids: Authorship is a legitimate business practice – not just some angst-ridden cry for attention from your family or Tumblr followers.

In any case, I think production logs simply make a lot of sense. From a personal perspective, I think they’re a lot of fun to not only write out, but to read back on. It’s actually pretty amazing the things you had forgotten that simply spill from the pen. If this is something you’re interested in pursuing, whether you’re an author, illustrator, or whatever – I’d say go for it.

The advice I’d give you is to not think too hard when you go to write it out. And for the love of God, don’t do it all at once. It’s an obvious truth but I know some of you reading this have just let out a long breath of relief. Let the memories flow back to you. The brain will naturally work itself in-tune with your pen. Don’t beat yourself up if you remember things out of chronological order. White Out is your friend in those situations. Or – even better, just go with it and slap together a “final draft” production log later. I’ve honestly blotted out whole paragraphs to include a year’s worth of forgotten material. Maybe that’s a little insane on my part – but I wouldn’t be an author if I wasn’t bat shit crazy.

To end off, production logs kick ass. I think as I continue working through the third draft of Quest for the Crystals, it would be a lot of fun to publish snippets of the log here on the site. That book has such a storied history that is just so personal to me. I’d love to share some excerpts with you all.

Until next time, keep writing.

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NaNoWriMo and the Truth About Inspiration

It’s been a super long while. How’s it going, Internet? With National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) just around the corner, I figured it would be pertinent to touch on something many novice writers find themselves at combat arms with.

Inspiration.

It takes a lot of guts, courage, and time management in order to pound out a 50,000 word manuscript in as little as 30 days. But for many writers, they cannot help but eagerly face the opportunity. However, like winged ants in search to begin a fledgling colony of their own, many writers will rise to the occasion, but very, very, few will succeed to reach their goal.

In fact, even outside of NaNoWriMo, you’ll find many writers (perhaps there are those among my readers who can relate) who very rarely finish what literary ventures they start. We grow weary of our projects; they become a bore, or cumbersome, or we’ve written ourselves into a corner and don’t know how to find a guiding light. New, lustrous, ideas tempt us elsewhere, and some of us fall victim only to be left feeling just as unsatisfied in the long run.

It’s a vicious cycle. And that’s where “inspiration” comes into play.

Many writers (myself included for the longest time until only recently) swear by the creative muses. If we did not feel inspired to write that day, we did not write that day. If we did not enjoy a current project, we would set it aside, claiming “Oh, I’ll tackle this later when I feel more inspired.” Then weeks pass, then months, sometimes even years, and very little would ever get accomplished.

The bare bones truth is that very few novice writers finish what they start. Unforced creativity very rarely swims to our artistic senses. The fact of the matter is that you have to sit down and just do it. Just write. Write though the pain, and the agony, and the lack of inspiration. At the end of the day you’ll thank yourself, you’ll feel better, and each and every day you do this it will become easier and easier (for the most part).

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo, I want to leave you lovely creative types with the following, below. I want to see you succeed at your works. Not just your NaNoWriMo projects, but with all of your creative and non-creative ventures. If you are absolutely serious about being a novelist, or a journalist, or whatever else the writing field has to offer, I encourage you to take this advice on “inspiration” to heart:

Inspiration is a hoax. You want inspiration? Plant your butt and start typing. Type until you reach 1,000 words or more. Every day. I don’t care how hard it is to do that; I don’t care that you’re mentally exhausted after three sentences. I don’t even care if you’re bleeding out of your fuckin’ eye sockets. Whatever you do, don’t get up. Just write. Just do that. Inspiration? Romanticized bullshit. You want your inspiration? Paycheck. Advance. Royalties. There’s your inspiration. Now quit your bitching and get creating.

With much love,
E.E. Blake

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HERE ARE SOME RESOURCES TO HELP YOU BUCKLE DOWN AND GET SHIT DONE:

Write or Die (Online writing prompt that eats your words the longer you procrastinate – I found this very handy during my first NaNoWriMo venture.)
Focus Me (Blocks distracting programs for a set time, total customization. Free trial, full version is about 20 bucks — but totally worth it)
Cold Turkey (Handy social media blocker)

For more, read this Mashable article, “6 Apps That Block Online Distractions”.

Hard Candy: A Digital Monologue

I love movies that provide a means to empower and inspire certain sects of audiences. These films come to us, shining in the darkness, when the endless tidal wave of cinematic schlock rains upon us, trying to convince the mass society that “thinking” and “being challenged” are bad things; that we should only concern ourselves with disengaging mental-melts like Meet The Spartans, The Final Destination (Really? Really? the FINAL destination? What were the first three? Pit stops?), as well as any Eddie Murphy entry over the last decade.

I like to think that everybody can stumble upon something in the entertainment industry and become latched to the thing — can bond with it oh so well — almost as if the creator produced that whatever-it-is (be it a movie, a book, a video game, a song, etc) with “you” specifically in mind.

For me, it was a movie called Hard Candy.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees that red hoodie as an
allusion to the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

I’ve been exposed to a great number of films over the past number of years, but out of all of them, I felt the need to talk about this one, the most. Hard Candy was released in 2005, starring a pre-Juno Ellen Page and a pre-Watchmen Patrick Wilson (with post-Double Happiness and during-Grey’s Anatomy Sandra Oh).

I can summarize the plot of Hard Candy in as such: Hayley, a 14-year-old honour student gets lured over the Internet and into the arms of Jeff, a 32-year-old “photographer” — but when the two head back to Jeff’s place, the oh-so-familiar and traumatizing story of the owl hunting the mouse pulls a complete and unexpected 180:

The mouse hunts the owl.

I’m not sure if the screenwriter of this movie was himself affected by online predators, or if he knew someone pretty close who was — but as a victim of long-term chat room pedophilia, myself, at the very age that Ellen Page portrays in Hard Candy … well, I don’t think it was a coincidence that of my close friends just so happened to show me the movie on a whim, at a time when I was secretly only starting to come to terms with my own past.

“Happy birthday, Mister f*cking President.”

Anyway, I’d like to talk about the movie itself. It’s almost two hours, and a good 95% pure dialogue — another 75% taking place inside Jeff’s studio condo. And yeah, okay, you can say “95% dialogue” about most movies, but Hard Candy comes off very much as though it could have been an adaption of a one-set stage play.

There are only six characters in the entire film: Haley, Jeff, Sandra Oh’s character who appears briefly in two scenes (which is hilarious in my opinion, because she gets third billing on the DVD case), a girl from Jeff’s past (who you barely see at all), a cashier, and an uncredited extra who comes out of a diner bathroom.

Okay, technically, three characters, but the fact remains that it’s a very manageable cast of characters conveying an intense, brain-wringing plot through a scant two locations (three, if you include the roof and yard of Jeff’s condo). Hard Candy wasn’t written for the stage, but it is just as compelling. Honestly, the first time I watched it, I was expecting the screen to go black and the words “INTERMISSION” to appear in big blocky white letters around the mid-point of the film.

Nite Owl: Mild-mannered child molester by day,
crime-fighting manic depressant by night.

The acting in Hard Candy is absolutely phenomenal. It’s no surprise that Page and Wilson have secured themselves in their acting careers now. It’s actually pretty scary how well Ellen Page comes across as a dependent, dopey fourteen-year-old in the first act of the movie, only to turn on one heel and show us how effing vengeful and bat-shit insane her character really is. It also helps that she looks like a perpetual eighth-grader, which makes the whole thing feel even more terrifyingly authentic. Patrick Wilson is set up to be this smooth-talking, persuasive sort of person, and my God, does he play it well. Even past the point when it’s very evident what he is and what his intentions are, it’s somewhat difficult at times to not be sympathetic towards his character.

At around the time I first watched Hard Candy, I’m not sure it had much of a following, but I’m glad to see that over the years it is finally starting to get the recognition it so deserves. However, one thing that does strike me odd about this movie is that it’s filed under the Horror genre. If you ask me, it’s anything but a horror movie — in fact, it should be listed high up there with those other inspirational films like Forrest Gump and Pursuit of Happyness.

I mean, technically, I guess — Hard Candy could be a horror movie — if you’re a pedophile.

As terribly awkward and painful that position must be,
Ellen Page sure looks like she’s sleeping well enough.

For me, Hard Candy is basically To Catch a Predator tripped up a notch by a healthy dose of steroids and acid. I honestly can’t recommend this movie enough. Go watch it. The message of this film is a brilliant one not only to child predators, but to any idiot who thinks they have the right to step over illegal/unmoral boundaries: Don’t chew the hard candy, because you just might break a tooth.

Walk With Me, Judah Starling

From an unfinished anthology, The Book of the Abysmal:

The tail twists and curls, an unwound snake in the Desert of Calamity. The sand-spittle cakes every orifice as the wind of orange grain blinds all who can already see. You know not this rite, though not many do. We have begotten the begot, and now it is time to rue.

I know not where this path leads, except to the Way to the Edge of Insanity: a twisting, curling, purple road, thwarted by a bubbling poison swamp. Who walks along this accursed path, except for those who are inherently blind? Our feet sink with each mounting step.

Deeper and deeper, into the muck.

But who am I to walk alongside you? This is your own bastardized journey to the land of the all-seeing Eye, is it not? Look at each of my hands as you sink deeper and deeper, now up to your calves in the muck. Upon each digit is a person you love. Hollow little finger puppets, wriggling back and forth as I squeeze and clench your hateful aura.

Of course I know the Way to the Edge of Insanity, but my own fun is in the sum of how many pockets of poison will form and then burst against your knees and eventually hips as you struggle onward with each harrowed slosh.

I said look at them, Judah. I said look at these puppets upon my gnarled digits. They dance and clap for your success, but what have you given to them in return? In Life, what of your sanity have you broken off and shared with your Apostles?

I have heard the throaty whisper of the Weaving-master. He spins and spins each thread round, and round, and round his knot-covered wooden frame. He spins and spins until there is nothing but a thick, white, emptiness that not even bayonets can slash, nor can Ithacas blast.

He calls for you, Judah – the Weaving-master weaves his web for you, spindling with his long and sharp fingers, which tick and twitch like those of a bulbous cellar spider, overfed by the tides of hot summer’s hungry harvest.

You ask who I am, but what of you, Judah? What is your name? What in fuck’s sake is your name, Judah, do tell me! Slip and slosh in your manic compliance to the World, as those you let down twist with fret and regret upon my wretched fingertips.

The mouths of those before you agape and cease, like brainless trout. In the muck around you, their cracked, black lips pop and smack together, wordlessly warning you of what is yet to come. Do you hear them, Judah? Do you hear your brethren?

The rose-blood devil sings and salutes to you from afar, upon the black shadow tips of the moonlit cliffs. He prances upon a path made of rose petals, the scuttle of his hooves dashing up clouds of Greed and Malice among and around the flowerbeds of Rationality. He sings your name, Judah; he sings and sings, happy that he will soon finally meet you flesh to flesh.

The tail twists and curls, Judah, remember that. The tail twists and curls, or rather is it merely a tongue? A meaty, slippery, muscle of invocation – for without it, would we consider its clarity? Without it, would we realize how thick the black smoke of the World’s fallen grace billows into the glazed horizon? Is our brashness in our tongue, Judah, or is our tongue just an instrument of our brashness? A trumpet in the night? A sword in mortal combat?

I know not what I say to you, except for the fact that I know the Way to the Edge of Insanity. You put the words into my gullet, Judah, and I reverberate what I’ve been ushered to vomit.

I would like to feast upon the portly grotesque. Will you dine with me, Judah, at the end of your trek?

Finality is a Fate worse than Life, and yet here we are together, bound in a glass crystal ball of nothingness, of kindred Finality that only those before you have come to fear. How does it taste now, the harsh and bitter gin?

Your wilting strength inspires me, Judah – all right, I’ll play nice for once. I am a corpse of a cockroach; the long-since mummified cadaver of a cellar spider, hidden and long-forgotten in the shadowy nook of Victorian rafters with my far-reaching and now crumbly legs curled up, like two grasping hands meeting at the wrists, forever ensnared in the cluster of my own dusty cobwebs.

I am like you, Judah, but no more are we aligned. It was you who brought us here, but it was Finality who decided it. That’s right. There is no will-bound circle that They teach you so much about. There is only here, and now, and forever, and the end – and we are at the end already – here and now, forever here, at the end.

Push forward through the muck, for there is no other choice except to stand, and sink, and drown. But there is always the chance that this poison swamp will swallow you up in any case, like it swallowed up all those around you. Your brethren.

I have said this to you before, but it bears re-mentioning as you struggle, up to your shoulders now, as we continue on our path to the Way to the Edge of Insanity. Are you listening, Judah?

When the Gun of Fate is drawn, Cowards run and fall; but it is Heroes who stand and face their Bullets of Tragedy. Remember these words, Judah, as the Darkness that seeks to consume you looms over the edge of a purple haze.

The tail twists and curls, an unwound snake in the Desert of Calamity. The sand-spittle cakes every orifice as the wind of orange grain blinds all who can already see. I know of this rite, though not many do. You have begotten the begot, and now it is time to rue.

I know not where this path leads, except to the Way to the Edge of Insanity: a twisting, curling, purple road, thwarted by a bubbling poison swamp. Who walks along this accursed path, except for those who are inherently blind? Your feet sink with each mounting step.

Deeper and deeper, into the muck.

For Will. I love you, my friend.