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150 Years From Death

Okay, saying the Civil War is death is a bit drastic. It is one of the bloodiest wars, and one of the most significant events in American history, so that’s why I said today is 150 years from death- plus it sounds cool.

I knew the anniversary was coming up pretty soon, but I didn’t realize it was this soon! So I would’ve made up a different post, probably a study in the characters of some of that war’s generals, and my own opinion of them, but like I said, I forgot my days- or rather years. Anyway, a less pleasant (if that’s what you can call it at all) milestone will be coming up in about a week to mark the death of Abraham Lincoln, and maybe I’ll have something made up by then.

Today is actually an interesting day for me to look back on the strange mirroring of my life to the Civil War. 155 years ago, in 1861, the war began. 5 years later, America would be a different country. Similarly, 5 years ago I had barely any interest in the Civil War. We got a Times magazine and I remember not carrying very much about it. 5 years later, here I am- not an expert in the Civil War, but I wouldn’t mind being an expert some day. And I certainly hope I can get that Times magazine.

Now, sense I haven’t planned anything properly to commemorate this day (except a Civil War tea party tomorrow, completely accidentally planned to coincide with the war’s end) I’ll put up an excerpt from my Civil War trilogy, in partial celebration to life taking me in unexpected directions, so that I know what I do today of the Civil War.

A short synopsis of my story is that two men are sent to the past to observe a great battle in American history- Gettysburg. They’re not supposed to interfere or get involved, but of course Mark, the main character, can’t stand staying out.

I don’t generally write war or battle scenes (problematic for NaNoWriMo) but this scene is one of the bloodiest in my novel. But if you’re going to send your characters into the Gettysburg battle, they’d better come out with more than a scratch, and you’d better be ready to write it! So, here it is:

Mark listened to the sound of war awhile, for a time unmoving. But then he slowly started to come forward, his steps determined. He looked straight ahead, drawn to the battle by the captivating and forceful sounds.

Suddenly the explosions became greater around where they were. The loose dirt shook slightly with the strength of the rumbling, the edge of the hill, leading down to the main fighting, seemed to be taking a great deal of the explosions. One of the trees suddenly bent over, its roots hit by some debris. A rock went flying by, followed by several rocks, flying every which way.

Mark suddenly picked up his pace, almost going at a run, unaware of Jeremy calling to him to stop. He ran forward, trying to make it to the edge to see over and see what was happening. He wavered when some of the dirt suddenly flew up, showing the force of the hit.

The cries of men could be heard, either the cries of an attack or a retreat. Suddenly one voice could be heard above the others. It was coming nearer, suddenly very close.

Suddenly a man appeared over the ridge, running to get up the hill and away from the fighting. It was Harper, looking filthy, bloody and frightened. He had nearly made it to the top when there was another explosion- and the lower half of his body was suddenly gone.

Mark drew back violently, checked in his run. He stared in horror at the dead half of the man and then, quickly looking away, ran on in a slightly different direction.

But the enemy had apparently lifted their aim, so that Mark was immediately aware of explosions around him. Bullets, debris and huge things flew past him. He fell to the ground before he was aware that he needed to hide from the attack, and remained there, for a second too confused and frightened to do anything.

He looked around and, seeing a rock near the edge that would shield him, he quickly went for that. First he stood up, crouching low to the ground, then finding even that was a danger, as something whizzed past his ear, he crawled very low to the ground to his final destination.

Once he reached his goal there was no chance for him to relax. The guns continued to fire, hitting from all directions. It seemed that the enemy could attack from any position, and it seemed they were successfully destroying everything.

Below him Mark could see the battle raging as though it was being fought between hell-crazed demons, screaming and yelling men at each other’s throats, firing their weapons at anything that moved as quickly as they could. To Mark’s untrained, amazed eyes, the scene below looked impossibly, horribly confused. There was no telling what was happening, even the commanding officers; standing at various points did not look like they understood it completely. They went back and forth, shouting orders, watching the progress- or trying to sort it all out.

The Near Side’s uniforms were, generally, of a moss green sort, while the Far Side’s uniforms were a dark burnt gray- but mingled together there was no telling them apart. They had combined and were fighting back to back, one constant attack after another.

Somehow, in the confusion that slowly seemed to spread, Mark and Jeremy got involved. It started when one of the explosions finally managed to knock enough ground loose beneath Mark so that it crumbled beneath him. He found himself falling into the rage of the fighting and, before he understood what had happened he was responding to the immediate danger.

He picked himself up from the dirt and defended himself from a man that seemed so enraged by the appearance of the foe that he was attacking anyone that came in his way.

Mark had just received a hard knock against the head from the butt of the man’s rifle, and he had savagely struck back, when Jeremy suddenly appeared. He had seen Mark go over the side, into the depth of the battle, and rushed forward; taking the same risks Mark had to get to the edge.

The next few hours passed in a strange blur. Somehow, unwillingly, both the travelers got involved in the very thing they had been trying to avoid. They fought, but merely to save their own skins. They tried their best to stay out of the way, constantly trying to get away from the trouble but somehow never succeeding. Every time they would nearly make it back up the hill something would stop them, another, horrible explosion, a strong, angry hand, the glance over the shoulder.

And something else drew them away from safety. It was the excitement of the battle. They felt strength and adrenaline moving through their bodies, so that they were as unaware of the passing of time as they were unaware of what was really happening. They found that they could fight, very easily. Death was all around them, men lying in heaps, staring up at the sky with strange eyes, but they felt as though they couldn’t get hurt, not even by a bullet.

The sun moved across the sky, unheeded by the men fighting below. It was a hot day, still and dead. The air filled with the smell of gunfire, smoke and burning flesh, close and thick.

The hours flitted past, not showing any change in the fighting. Gradually, as the sun started to near the other side of the sky, the battle started to ebb- but it didn’t show any signs of stopping.

The shots and explosions continued ceaselessly and torturously, pushing the men on. But there were no longer any war cries. The wind had taken all such anger out of the men, only allowing them to fight on. Other cries, of despair and hopelessness rose in the air; oblivious of how dry and empty the air was of anything breathable.

Finally night started to come on, unnoticeable. The order went out to cease fighting, on both sides. But it went unnoticed for the most part, the men merely wanting to fight on until it was over.

Slowly, night settled, merely darkening the scene of the battle, so that the enemies fought on against each other in the darkness.

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Trying to Make it Work

So –  I was looking over my posts so far and I have a couple of drafts that I haven’t published. One was a post I was supposed to publish before NaNoWriMo, in preparation for it, and there’s this one. Here’s how I started it out: “Something interesting happened today. I was looking over a post I hadn’t published yet. Apparently it was from before I’d had a brainstorm of brilliance.”

First of all, apparently I have a problem with unpublished posts. Secondly, I wasn’t sure what I was talking about in the first paragraph of this post. I remember now, and now I have 2 options for the topic. I don’t want to just delete this post- waste not, I suppose, so I think I’ll just do both topics.

Topic 1, the idea I came up with upon rereading my paragraph and- for a moment- having no idea what it meant: In writing, one can easily leave off on a sentence that, upon returning to your work, will make absolutely no sense, as was my case when I read the unpublished post. What brilliant brainstorm was I talking about- and why in the world did I decide to stop writing after making a conceited comment like that? The answer to that question is that I simply lost interest, but that’s besides the point.

What do you do when you get back to whatever you’re reading, and the last thing you wrote doesn’t make any sense? The easy thing to do is to just get rid of it, but somehow that feels wrong. Waste not, I guess. The best thing to do, I think, is to simply go with whatever new topic comes up in your head and write about that instead, as I am doing in this case.

I’m pretty sure this is the ‘Panster’ way of writing, where you come up with a basic plot and then just write it and come up with things as you go. I’m starting to realize that I do this quite a lot! Half of the story I just finished writing this November was stuff I had no idea I’d be writing, and some of it I wrote simply because I felt like it. (technically I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but it’s fun) It’s very interesting, because sometimes it can take your story in a totally different direction with your characters doing totally different things than you ever thought possible!

Topic 2, the original topic for this post (which I should’ve done first because now I don’t remember it again. In a second I will remember it again… it’s coming….):

Oh yes! I apparently mentioned that my storylines, the ‘present day’ in my story, and the part where they go the past, which is Civil War era, do not match. Everything’s a blur, so I don’t remember if I actually did say that here. To recap: at the beginning of my story the storyline that’s going on in ‘present’ day (which is actually some time in the future) is more fitting to the Revolutionary War, where a group of people are trying to break away from a tyrannical authority. In the past storyline, obviously it’s about two groups of people disagreeing over several various matters. It did bug me that they didn’t match, and so I couldn’t do parallels.

Well, in an interesting twist, it turned out they did match. And actually the two possible topics for this post also match up, because in this case, I was happily writing along in my usual I-don’t-technically-know-where-I’m-going/Panster way, when I discovered a way to make the two storylines coincide. It is amazing when this happens because it doesn’t seem possible (actually I think one’s subconscious brain is aware of the connections and that’s how you eventually get there. It’s the only thing that makes sense).

So, I’m not exactly sure where I was going to go with that topic, because it sort of seems to leave my readers in the middle of dull field with no way to get back. One should usually lead one’s readers back to somewhere interesting so they don’t have to leave the page feeling- odd, like they took two steps with their left foot. I guess, what I should say is that one should try writing Panster way, because often one actually does know where you’re going, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

At the same time, you really need to control your plot twists! I had so many there at the end that it was getting ridiculous, and it was all going to blow up anyway! I didn’t do one plot twists, but my story really needs to be cleaned up a bit.

(from this point onwards I digress because it’s been a long day and I’m tired, so don’t bother reading if you don’t like digression)

So, there you go. I’ve taken care of one unpublished post. I still haven’t figured out what happened to the first part of my bloopers (not that it’s important. For some reason my type of sense of humor delights in very strange mistakes, like bloopers). I need to figure out if it’s possible to create an actual page where I can talk about music, where you can add separate posts- or is that what the categories are for? I like things filed away properly (not that I’m organized at all) rather than all piled up together.

The Drifter — Reflections

Well, I am done with my Drifter trilogy, which, of course, is not technically of much significance to anyone but myself. If I had the 1st of the 3 stories published- that might be different. But no matter what, it was a huge step for me, because- in a way- this was the first story I took seriously. It’s the first story I imagined myself publishing, not because I think it’s good enough (for some reason I’m constantly finding problems with it, even if I can’t figure out precisely what those problems are) but because I just kind of aimed that direction more than usual.

I researched the Civil War for this story, I looked into a few different kinds of diseases, I read old stories I normally wouldn’t bother with, I studied PTSD (am still studying!) as well as numerous other, small things that have changed and affected my life more than normally.

Now, of course, I know about these things, I will have to put them into other stories. I may even go on with Mark Kingston’s story, if I can figure out enough reason to do that. In another story I’ve already invented a machine that helps retrieve memories, often helping in cases involving someone with PTSD- though I don’t know if that would actually help!

Anyway, yes I am done with the Drifter trilogy. Of course I’ll have to edit and probably change a lot of things (adding about 2 weeks to one story, due to a sickness that takes much longer to develop than I had them there!) but editing is just not the same as creating! I’ve already gone on the journey, now I have to look over the photos I’ve taken and choose what I want to remember from the journey, and what needs to go.

I had a misty forest as my background during the last of November and I would gaze for a long time into the distance of the forest, thinking about my story- and wondering why I was thinking about my story. I don’t have misty forests in my story, especially not this one- just smoky forests if anything. Then I finally figured out why I’d think about my story (and it very well may be the reason why I think about it, though it took me a moment to fix up the beautiful idea)

I was standing in the misty forest- a beautiful forest- and I was watching as my story was swallowed up by the distant mist, being shrouded behind all the other ideas that will come up in my head that will eventually form to become a new story. Other stories have sunk into that mist until I can’t see anything of them.

I don’t know if this story will fall back into the formless gray- until even the outline is indiscernible. I never do know what will happen to my stories, either the good or the bad, the favorite or the much-avoided. In a way, it’s much the same as the last scene in my story- where my main characters are in a burning building, having accomplished their task, they think they’re going to die, and actually I don’t know if they do or not.

So there I was, listening to the playlist for my story on the second to the last day of NaNoWriMo, when I suddenly realized that I’d come to the end of the Drifter’s story. I wondered about all sorts of things- mostly: why did I call it Drifter when I almost never refer to that name in my stories? I think it’s actually more of a state of mind that I’m talking about, rather than I title.

But I did start to wonder if this story would sink to the background as many have done before- even when I thought they were so important I would never even come up with a new story (yeah right). As usual I wondered how I could possibly forget about this story- as I’ve done several times before.

Fortunately I don’t think that will happen. After all, I have to use what I know about the Civil War and PTSD. That’s not quite the same as the storyline itself, but I don’t think I can forget this easily.

And then there are the things that you don’t expect to change you. Like Mark Kingston. He’s a pretty normal guy that I don’t even like that much, and yet I think he’s the type of character I can’t get away from easily. It will be a while before I can let him fade in the mist, which may prove problematic for my other characters!

Yes, the Drifter’s story is done for now, except for editing, and I don’t know what’s ahead for me in the forest. I admit it, it’s scary. I’m a hopeful person and I can almost always say in this sort of situation that there’s still more ahead, which is true- the adventure is still coming- but sometimes I just need to stop and know that what’s behind me is something I’ve been working on for several years, something that was a part of my life for a long time- and still will be. It’s behind me, I can’t go back- the Drifter’s story is done.

Thanksgiving

Well, it’s Thanksgiving! (There are also only a few days left of NaNoWriMo so this will be a short post)

Thanksgiving is a little more significant for me, especially sense writing my Civil War story, because of course it was first introduced during the Civil War by Lincoln. His Declaration of Thanksgiving is very interesting, one of my favorite documents of the Civil War, and I recommend taking a look at it. It certainly adds some depth to this holiday to not only remember the Pilgrims and the very beginning of the USA, but also to consider the Civil War and it’s affect on the people of America.

Thanksgiving has already been an important holiday for me, especially after I researched the Civil War, and especially after Thanksgiving has been forgotten more and more. I won’t complain about it or rant, because it’s a holiday (a bit late) and I don’t want to waste people’s time by reading unpleasant things about something that’s supposed to be enjoyable.

But I will say this; the meaning of Thanksgiving Day can be unspecific. Obviously you’re supposed to stop and be thankful for what you have. That’s a little like finding a blade of grass in a haystack- but only if you’re looking in everyone else’s haystack.

What I mean is, you’re living your own life with your own individual, unique problems, and being thankful for your food and home is- generic. Find the things in your life that maybe no one else knows about or they don’t always understand, find the things that seem tiny and insignificant. That’s one reason why I like Lincoln’s Declaration of Independence, because it helped me understand Thanksgiving and what it means, that it’s not just a holiday- a time when you can enjoy pumpkin pie and turkey- but something that you do.

So, because I didn’t get to this until very late, I guess this applies for next Thanksgiving- except that one can always remember the blessings in your life. I think it’s best if we don’t forget Thanksgiving, in fact make it something bigger- bigger than a parade, a turkey and a football game, because it is much bigger than that. It’s a simple holiday, and I’m sure you’ve heard it lots of times: ‘It’s a time to be thankful for what you have’, until you’re tired of it. And I wish I had a better way of saying exactly that, because obviously that’s what Thanksgiving is for, (just imagine some fantastic Shakespearian actor saying it) but that’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, because it takes a while to stop and consider all the things in your life that you can be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! (even if it is a bit late)