Tag Archive | Civil War

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.

Further Bloopers…

In case you’re wondering, the title of this post was given it because I had a post that was scheduled to come up on the 1st of December. For some reason it hasn’t shown up, much to my disappointment because it had some fun stuff on it.

The explanation of this post is that one often makes mistakes on one’s story- naturally- and now I can publish my bloopers! So here are the ones that aren’t missing (maybe it will show up next year)

Mark stopped strubbling…”

I wasn’t paying attention to the screen. (I’m pretty sure strubbling is walking through slush)

“… Throughing him to the ground…”

Same problem

“… without the air being sucked out of my lunch.”

It was supposed to be lungs.

Context: the scene is from Mark Kingston’s perspective: “But the only reason why he thought about this- the last thing he’d heard Mark say…

I’m wondering if Mark has a problem with split personality as well as PTSD!

… He wanted to slow or stop Shelby from making a movie he disagreed with.”

It was supposed to be move.

… That snot a solution.”

Originally it was supposed to be: That’s not a solution, but I’m apparently writing the 4 year old boy version here.

“… making everyone reacted…”

I wrote the sentence at two different times. Not a good idea!



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)

Further Preparations for NaNoWriMo

Well, November is slowly drawing closer. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! It’s actually pretty hard to believe- mainly because this year has been odd for my family, and also because, here in New Mexico, Autumn is just another word for: ‘a little cooler than last month’.

Sill, the autumn decorations are up, and that helps the mood feel a little more autumnal. It also cheers things up a bit.

Anyway, back to NaNoWriMo, I am still preparing for that great event. Among the important things for writing- especially during November, when you’re supposed to write a novel in a month- it helps to have a playlist, quick meals planned, and a document ready for you to just bring up and start writing (either that or journal to write by hand, if you want to do that, like my sister does).

We still have the meals to plan for, and I haven’t actually created a document (for some reason I like to do that last minute). I have, however, managed to create a playlist for my story- which I didn’t expect to happen, or possibly just a partial playlist.

Music is actually very important- in fact I have another blog (which I’ve sadly neglected) talking about how important music is. Here’s the link, in case you want to take a look: http://myuniversesitsinchocolate.blogspot.com/

Anyway, music is important because it helps you clarify your story. It can help tell the story- or sometimes a deeper story which you know about. For instance, in my story I wanted my character- who is going through a very difficult time- to come to a point where he must overcome the desire to simply stop, to give up, and he decides to go on. At least, that’s what I hope happens, but unfortunately it’s rather a difficult thing for me to manage to put in there and I’ve always been afraid it will fall out- partially for sounding very melodramatic and a little unlikely. However, I happened to see in my collection of music the score to the movie The Island (2005, I think) by Steve Jablonsky, the song title: I’m not Ready to Die and I suddenly realized that was the song. That’s what’s happening in my story- the simple declaration: “I’m not ready to die.”

And now that I have a song that actually applies to that moment, it seems possible that I can actually put it in my story. We’ll see if that really happens.

And of course it helps with atmosphere, it helps you concentrate, to have music. For me, it’s almost as important as the story itself.

Another good way to get in the mood for your story is to read the right books. Of course, for my time train stories set in an alternate universe there wasn’t really anything for me to read that would get me in the mood. But for my Civil War stories- ah! so many things!

(by the way, another good idea is to stay away from stories that will mess up your atmosphere or mood. For instance, it’s a bad idea for me to read Frank Peretti because he influences my writing style too much)

I need atmosphere for the place, that is the most important thing. It is the hardest for me to manage- and I have never yet managed to capture it. I’ve read Little Women and that helped me understand what the time is like, as only someone that’s lived there can write it. I’ve read the Red Badge of Courage and that, again, gave me a sketch of the past- a very different sketch. I read With Lee in Virginia, which was rather romanticized, but again deepened my understanding (and there was a summary of the Civil War that was very clear and helpful). I’ve even started to read Jefferson Davis’ and U.S. Grant’s books they wrote, both of which are a challenge but help me understand them, the way people thought, and yet another depth to that time.

I would have thought I would have a rounded perception of this time, considering I’ve read things from the perspective of a lady, military, and a fellow writer or two like myself (who had the advantage of living nearer to the time). They are all very different, and yet give an underlying feel that coincides.

But why is it that I can write almost exactly the way some of the people talked in The Red Badge of Courage and yet it sounds completely ridiculous? It’s sad.

Well, I’ve started a Mark Twain and- ah!- it has exactly the atmosphere I want! His description of a neighborhood sounded almost exactly like a place I had in my last Civil War story, but somehow he managed to make it sound charming and not clichéd! So, I think what I’ve got to do it is read a lot of Mark Twain – which shouldn’t be hard- and just start writing!

And it’s taken me all day to write this post (because I got thoroughly distracted onto other things). So without further delay, I’m goin’ back to Pudd’nhead Wilson!     (ugh)

Disclaimer: there will soon be excerpts from some of these stories which exemplify the ‘dialect’ I wish to capture. I would love to just get the atmosphere and thinking style, but especially the ‘dialect’ would be nice!

New Beginnings and More Character Introductions

I recently posted something about Writer’s Digest Magazine saying it’s important to give your character a good introduction. I’ve already said I don’t really heed much to my character’s introductions (though I will try to in the future) because you can’t know enough of the character anyway until later on.

Well, interestingly enough Mark Kingston, my main character in my Civil War story has had several introductions, of several different kinds. I partially changed because I wasn’t very pleased with how I’d started the story originally. Then there came a point in my story which I found very hard to read, and therefore anyone else reading it might find it difficult to get through, so I thought it best to break it up in flashbacks. I think I am pretty pleased with the results (though the story is, annoyingly enough, still in the process of being edited). The final result is that Mark has technically had 3 introductions plus one that really didn’t work!

Here is the 1st version. I’ve reread it and find it’s a good reminder of why I wanted it changed. It’s mood is totally wrong, there’s peculiar sci-fi elements that don’t fit and the interpretation of Mark’s character is a little off because I immediately got the impression he was a bodybuilder, and that’s certainly never how I imagined him. Anyway, I’d better just put it down so you can read it for yourself:

Sunday mornings at the Fitness X-treme gym were always quiet, and this Sunday in late February was no different. There had been the usual rush of New Year Resolutioners but they had worn off by mid-February.

The usual popular, exciting music was going- the credit to that was due to Mark Kingston, the son of the gym’s manager, Julius Kingston.

Julius Kingston had started the gym in the midst of an earth in our distant future, when weight will still be a problem.

He had always been a big part of his project, a day never going by that he had made an appearance and encouraged his customers. However, as the years passed on, and his mission already partially accomplished with his neighbors becoming slimmer, he appeared less often at his gyms, but never less fit, and left it to his son, Mark, to help train the newcomers.

Mark, having lived in a world of vigorous health awareness, knew exactly what he was doing not only as a technique but more as a second nature. He had also received a text recommendation of pursuing a career as an M.D. and so he had studied that profession for a little while before dropping out. The time spent there had, however, given him some extra knowledge of fitness, so he looked completely comfortable and confident as he stood on a platform in the gym, looking around at the few people working out around and below him.

Overall, Mark did not stand out very much at that gym, except with the confidence showed on his face.

He had only stood there a few minutes when an employee from the swimming area came by, walking quickly and at the same time tying back her hair. She did not stop to speak to him.

“Mark, there’s someone wanting to speak to you on the phone, line 2,” She said, not waiting for a reply.

He glanced at her and then, changing his position slightly, apparently spoke to thin air, “Line 2.”

A small blue screen appeared, hovering in midair in front of Mark, the distorted, crisp image of a businesslike young man.

“Mark Kingston speaking,” he said, evidently about to continue along the lines of a customary greeting, but the appearance of the other seemed to cause him to hesitate. He then remained silent, waiting.

“Good morning, Mr. Kingston,” The other said, in a surprisingly comfortable voice, “My name is Zachary Black, I work with Dr. Derek Shelby, from the Goodwin University. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.”

Mark hesitated, nodding slightly.

“The name is familiar,” he said, looking slightly displeased, “But if this has to do with finishing my degree- I’m not interested. I haven’t taken a look at the Goodwin University for a while.”

The other nodded, saying, “It doesn’t really have anything to do with that. We received a text recommendation for you; the system matched you to Dr. Shelby’s project.”

A few things changed. I decided Mark shouldn’t have any M.D. training, and instead he did some paramedic training, which seemed to fit better. His dad- whose name, Julius, was provided by Orange Julius because I started writing this story in the mall next to an Orange Julius- completely disappeared. He certainly had nothing to do with starting a gym or whatever. In my revised version Mark simply ended up working at a gym because he could and it was available.

The only good thing about this original beginning (which is also the bad thing about it) is that I actually have a scene in Mark’s workplace. Never have I yet managed to set a scene there comfortably- partially because he became incredibly rich and didn’t need to work at a gym. This problem still irritates me, because I don’t like having things that you’ve never seen referred to or important.

So I wrote a new version, in which he gets to talk to Shelby. I wish I could remember the motivations for the setting and why I had to have them meet. It’s set in a fitness store, where’s he’s buying new shoes, and think I was hoping that would supplement for the gym. I think it helps but it still feels awkward to me. Here it is:

“Is that all you’ll be getting today?” The woman with the spikey hair behind the checkout counter asked, her eyes still set on the computer in front of her. It was a purely automatic question, said by millions of people before her. The answer was just as automatic.

“Yes, thanks,” Mark said, taking the new running shoes from the counter and turning to go.

He started heading straight to the exit, looking around him without much interest. His surroundings were like many stores. It was a ‘fitness’ place, with the newest equipment, a training area and a small cafeteria.

A man slowly got down from a stool and quickly stepped in front of him, saying, “Mr. Kingston?”

Mark stopped short, looking at him, rather surprised.

“I’m not interested in buying anything right now- I told you that last time I was here. You’d think that if you knew my name you’d remember that I’m not interested,” he said, irritated.

“I’m not selling anything, Mark. My name is Dr. Derek Shelby,” the man answered, putting out his hand. He had a normal voice and he spoke with an American accent.

Mark shook it, shoving the shoes he’d just bought under his arm. He asked, “Now they’re employing doctors to do the selling, or why did you want to talk with me?”

I think I will definitely keep this introduction (I apologize for the sudden end). It introduced Mark in a much better way than the original had, showing his rather defiant nature. the only problem is that he’s supposed to be a little joking in nature and I’m not sure if I’ve managed that without the original beginning.

Now, after I wrote this I decided to break up the ‘bleh’ section. What you just read is technically still his introduction, but I added this to the beginning:

The young man passed across several trees, getting further and further away from the terrible sounds of the battle, until it was only a distant booming that could have been mistaken for fireworks. Once he had made it far enough away he slowly sank to the ground, making no sound as though afraid to be seen. Sleep gradually came to him in a fitful, vague form, as he lay alone in the past.

He was not an ordinary man; or rather he was not ordinary to his surroundings. He did not belong to them, although there was nothing visibly different about him.

The only great difference, which seemed to be noticeable to animals, was that he was a time traveler, and he came from the far future.

His name was Mark Kingston. He had trained as a paramedic, then lost interest in that career after a couple years of studying for it. He acquired a job at a gym, got a girlfriend by the name of Fanny Carter and, at an age when one is usually set in their path, he seemed pretty well set.

But he was not satisfied with his life. He never said anything about his discontentedness, but it was evident to his friends.

He passed a couple of years at the gym, acquiring a reputation as someone you could trust and be friends with, both as an employee and as a person.

He seemed a different person now, where he lay in the past, in a forest- tense, exhausted and weary. His appearance was still very much the same, except for several scrapes, a bullet wound and his skin nearly the same color as the dirt he lay on.

But when he had first arrived in the past, and that seemed a long time ago for him, he had been a different person. Now, after a lot of things had occurred to make him change, it is nearly impossible for anyone to remain the same.

The change did not take place all at once. It took a long time for him to change, but it was only then that he was willing to show the difference. It started, in fact, when Mark decided he didn’t want to be a paramedic. The decision, although he never told anyone, even his parents, was a sudden one, but he was so definite about it, no one argued.

He did not entirely like working where he did, at the gym. But he seemed determined to go on there, hopefully rising in ranks until he could be the assistant manager or even manager. His choice- it could hardly be called a dream- was cut short, however.

It had all started with a phone call. And like any unsuspecting hero, he would never have expected a simple phone call to lead his life in an entirely different direction, especially where it led him now, laying alone in a world that was hardly his own.

And that is the introduction to Mark Kingston, leading into the second version I wrote. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much trouble introducing a character. It’s been very interesting.

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

I should probably give a quick explanation for what NaNoWriMo is. It’s short for National Novel Writing Month, takes places in the month of November, during which time you try to write a novel- which is about 50,000 words. That’s the quick explanation. You can do a lot of variations, because it’s a wonderfully relaxed challenge- though fortunately not so relaxed or bizarre (for me) that I forget about it. You can go on working on an old story, do poems instead, write several short stories and, of course, challenge yourself to a different goal.

I always look forward to November, or the last few Novembers, since finding out about NaNoWriMo. It’s actually the reason why I realized I wanted to write as a profession, because I was looking forward to it a great deal.

Obviously it takes a lot of preparation. You want to know what you’re going to write, know enough of the steps you want to take to get to 50,000 (or the end of the story), which could be anything from basic character developments and plot turns, to extensive and obsessively detailed outlines of everything from the plot, to characters to every scene.

I will be writing the third part of a trilogy about the Civil War and time traveling. It’s been a little more complicated because I have to know enough about history to be able to be comfortable (which is technically still an issue) among many other details.

This story was even harder because my main character develops Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a fascinating and complicated subject, but I wanted to know it well enough so that I didn’t have to look at my notes every single page, as well as- more importantly- being able to write it so it didn’t sound staged.

So, I started studying PTSD some time last year, hoping to be able to write this story last November. That didn’t happen, because I still didn’t know the subject well enough, and it’s taken me that long to feel comfortable with it and like I vaguely know what I’m talking about, which is much longer than it usually takes me to study a subject. (I’m actually sorry to admit that, sense it seems like I ought to be studying such things for years, all the time, as well as editing for months and months)

It’s been interesting working on it, actually. I’ve had to go back and change several things to fit with this final, unpleasant development. Here is a short example of what I had to change. My main character, Mark, is outside the battlefield of Gettysburg, it’s nighttime:

“The young man laid down against a tree. He covered his ears and tried to get some much needed sleep amidst the fighting.”

That was the original. Here is the revised version:

“The young man laid down against a tree. He tried to get some much needed sleep amidst the fighting.”

Leaving out the part about him covering his ears I think implies that he is mentally blocking out the trouble around him. He is in a state of mind where he’s been put into a situation he’s certainly never faced and isn’t used to dealing with, and he doesn’t want to fully deal with the idea of the magnitude of death, so, whether he realizes it or not, Mark is shutting off a part of his brain so that he can act and work in this situation. He doesn’t fully realize what’s happening.

Hopefully this makes sense according to the symptoms of PTSD. Of course, if any of you that read this know anything about PTSD or know someone that does, please let them see this and tell me what they think.

So, anyway, I think I know enough so I am going ahead and writing the ‘fun’ stuff next month. I encourage anyone that’s interested in NaNoWriMo to plan for it, even if you’re not writing a character that’s dealing with PTSD.

Now this next month is going to be even more interesting than usual. My Dad is out of a job. Enough said, I think. Basically, my fellow author sisters and I will, in addition to the usual craziness of writing a novel in a month and of course Thanksgiving, we will be dealing with the emotional and mental problems of unemployment. November’s going to be interesting, but I want to enjoy it.

I have only a few important things to say before I finish this post. First of all: to all those people with PTSD or who had PTSD or know someone that has it, especially veterans, I have a new understanding of it. I cannot express easily or quickly overall everything I feel about it. God bless you and I am praying for you.

And secondly, to anyone that’s experienced unemployment, basically I owe you an apology. For some reason I never thought I would have to go through it- it was one of those things that happened to other people. Now I know how hard and unpleasant it is, especially when there’s no end in sight. So sorry, and I pray, for those that are unemployed, that you will soon get a job.