well, i threatened to do it some time back, and i guess now i have.

enter Whitney Ballard into the pantheon of my world.

for some bizarre reason, while i was walking over half a mile to work in -4 degrees wondering why i'd forgotten my hat and how i could possibly make it to the library before death might overtake me, i was seized by the recollection of inventing this character and sudden realization of how i could use him to excellent effect within the existing story frame.

so this evening i threw down a quick sketch of the character (and one of his two dogs) and thought i would share it. sorry for the quality of the pict; this is literally scribbled on scratch paper.

i spent some time thinking about who Whitney Ballard is and came up with a few facts. he was born in 1836 in Louisiana (near as i can tell) to a poor family. his father was a bounty hunter before him (he learned the trade that way). his father was a mean drunk and knocked him around a little, but they were close. i think he has two little sisters, but i don't know what happened to them (they're living). his mother is dead (of course) and has been since he was a boy. he might have had a brother who's dead now as well. i'm not settled on the family particulars just yet.

Whit fell in love at 17 to a girl, Mattie, who was not much of a gatekeeper to her own virtue. he knocked her up and married her in '53, but she had bigger aspirations than living in the mud and eking out a pathetic living. after the baby was born (a girl named Violet), Mattie took to drinking and while Whitney was out trying to make a living for them, she neglected the child sorely. Violet was carried off by fever before her fifth birthday. this ticked Whit off and he went on his own after that, though he occasionally visits Mattie in the sticks now and then to see if she isn't dead yet. Whit's Pa finally kicked the bucket at the start of the war (some sort of horrible embolism, i think, after hearing the news of the election of the man in the funny hat).

Whit has a solid reputation for the job, though he is backward, disagreeable company for regular people. he was one of the posse who branded MishMash Morse with the S=S in '59. since Violet's death, he's gone increasingly misanthropic. some people consider him dangerous. he lives off the land, is an expert survivalist, has bad teeth, smokes cheroots, and rarely (if ever) bathes. he's likes music and is especially fond of his dogs (catahoula curs) who are well-trained in the business. he has never had any formal education, but can recognize his own name and a few other written words. he carries with him, at all times, his little daughter's doll (which he may or may not talk to ~ but not in a crazy way). he believes in a hellfire and damnation God (would follow whatever charismatic snake-wielding church may be the flavor of the week), that the African race is descended from Cain, that liquor is the devil's poison, and in the absolute righteousness of his occupation.

and that's Whitney Ballard.

how he figures into the story is wildly fun, but that's for another time.

: D

p.s. all of this character sketch is subject to change. i am well aware of my own tendency to go off the deep-end into dickensian stereotypes before i pull back and form a character's actual nature. so figure Whit's got some growing to do.
lookingland: (reconstruction)
( Nov. 7th, 2007 09:45 am)
this one is for [livejournal.com profile] cathellisen who requested a "prediction". it also turned out to be the set of panels from which i made the avatar for this project. i want to make some other avatars to have some variety, but i've been sorta swamped lately (which is also my excuse for not commenting on the f-list ~ sorry all!). things look bleak in the immediate future time-wise. i have allowed all my homework to pile up and it's got to the critical point.

more later about the state of the onion. today's my crazy day, so it's hard finding burps of time with which to post.

: o p
lookingland: (reconstruction)
( Nov. 5th, 2007 04:24 pm)
this one is for [livejournal.com profile] msmcguire who asked for a "...canopied four-poster?" interestingly, there's just one canopied four-poster that figures into this story, but it's significant because it's morse's bed and the bed that lewis will (the year after this scene) spend time recovering from gettysburg in (and ultimately lose his virginity in ~ eek! ~ which has nothing whatsoever to do with this scene, but i thought i would mention it). unfortunately, as usual, the word balloons sort of obscure some of the cool details about the drawing (like the ship above the mantel and the little footstool at the side of the bed) ~ but oh well.

p.s. my favorite thing about painting lewis's face is that he seems perpetually red-eyed/bloodshot and runny-nosed. he's been recovering from a bout of bronchitis in this one, which is why he's sick.

still drawing ~ if i haven't posted a prompt of yours, hang in there, i am getting to them, slowly!

: D
lookingland: (reconstruction)
( Oct. 30th, 2007 03:25 pm)
and we're off! the inaugural panels are up and it makes the most sense that this bit comes out of From Slaughter Mountain, since the war is sort of the centerpiece of this epic drama. i don't want to get too much into a habit of commenting at any great length, but i am a chatty kathy after all, and since this is the maiden image, i thought it would be good to say that i'll be posting all of your prompts over the next few weeks and it's entirely possible that none of these will necessarily make any sense or have any sort of cohesion (this is a bit more fragmentary than i realized). but there you have it. feel free to make comments or ask questions and I will try to respond as best as I can without giving away too much or going on ad nauseum.

i will also say, about this particular picture, that contrary to the rest of the series it's uninked (i was so startled by the expression on Lewis's face in the middle panel (look, moo, he's almost smiling ~ and it's not because of his kids!), that i didn't want to risk screwing it up by trying to ink it.

this one is for [livejournal.com profile] gwyn_hwyfar who suggested "spiderwebs".

you can see this page where it actually lives at Reconstruction.

: D
today is Lewis Fletcher's b-day. today, he's 18 years old from inception (skeery thought: i was 18 years old when i created him). i actually created the character in august of 1989, but i've always said his b-day was september 18 (well, it is in the story, anyway), so there you have it.

Lewis began life as a strange composite mixture of Lewis Powell and Doc Holliday (except that in comparison to the former he is rescued from infamy before it's too late, and in the latter he goes from notorious gunman to mild-mannered dentist instead of the other way around). Over the years he's changed very little from this original concept (he's as muddle-headed, dogmatic, and violent-tempered as ever ~ he's also as well-mannered, faithful, and hard-working ~ to throw in his good qualities), and has proved a very steady character in a universe that otherwise seems to experience volcanic fluxes and floes every few years.

the first illustration below is the first one i ever drew (dated 1989). the others are bits and pieces along the progression over the years in various mediums. i was in a rush to collect these this morning before i dashed off to work, so i prolly could have chosen a broader sample of styles, but it was fun to aggregate them anyway.

: D
lookingland: (civil peace)
( Sep. 11th, 2007 09:10 am)
this morning i woke up to a cold breeze knocking all the paper off of my desk. then i made my first cup of hot tea for the season (yay!).

i was sort of feh feh on the whole drawing thing as i puttered around picking up the scattered papers, but managed to combat it by forcing myself to sit down and draw. i had for a long time imagined isaac's cdv to show him holding a carbine and was a bit unsure how i felt when i finally got his picture without one. but having drawn him, it seems refreshingly apropos that he's not holding a weapon. like morse, it should seem contrary to his character to carry a gun, and really, i think that's the source of lewis's initial trust with morse ~ that he reminds him of his cousin.

anyway, so i made some minor changes (like adding a bit of length to his hair and lengthening his face. this is just a pencil rough, so i have some further adjustments and refining to do.

the original picture sure shows a handsome fella (love the typical placement of the feet in his pose). the picture was taken in philadelphia, but other than that i have no information about it. whoever he was, i hope he had a good life and didn't die too young.

lookingland: (rouen)
( Sep. 9th, 2007 06:23 pm)
so i decided that rather than fight with the backgrounds, i'd just eliminate them (to some degree). i like this much better. it's softer and the characters don't get lost in a muddy palette (stage designer, i am not). it also plays to my strengths: i like coloring the people and doing shading. big areas of color, not so much. i meant to color nora's kerchief, but i can go back and do that later. the nice thing about all these digital geegaws is that you can fix mistakes and omissions so easily! i love that.

i had to completely redraw the page, which was a drag, though i made a few improvements. Some of the previous expressions i liked better, but i'm not going to nitpick. the fact that i managed to redraw the page at all after wrecking the original one is leaps and bounds ahead of my usual response to creative obstacles (which is to go watch tv and hope the problem will magically resolve itself).

anyway, i futzed with the settings a lot trying to flatten the tones, only to discover that a straight scan and no tweaking gives the best results (go figure!). i really wanted this to look more uniform (i only used 4 colors to paint this), but watercolor is very subtle and can generate all manner of shades ~ even when you don't want it to.

all in all, even though i basically just remade what i had done yesterday, i feel like i did good work today ~ and the evening is yet young!

: D

okay, i'm gonna go make another page now.
i've been reading online comics, including cowboys and aliens (in a sort of car-wreck gawking way ~ and yet this is scheduled for movie production in 2008. it's just loopy enough that it might work, who knows). also, hero (great art, but sort of airy for my tastes). i should prolly also mention fungus grotto, which is likewise beautifully drawn, though the pacing doesn't do much for me. and SPQR blues, which is sort of addictive in its simplicity. finally, for those of you who love the belgian style of comics, rainbow orchid is fabulous (and can be added to your f-list feed via [livejournal.com profile] rainboworchid).

though i have posted here a handful of mostly gems, the real reason i've been browsing online comic art is to see what's confidently out there and not quite so great and boy is there tons of unabashed doodling and scribbling and scrawling, to all of which i have to give great respect in spite of its flaws because those people made commitments. they created something. they drew it. they posted it.

i spent the week away from In Pursuit of Said Conspiracy and away from writing for the most part. away from reading as well, as my head is quite full, thank you dr. mitchell, and i'd like a break. instead i have been drawing (yes, that was a cold breeze that passed through hell just now), and i've realized a couple of important things:
1.) my art doesn't "suck", i'm just supremely lazy. even after not doodling for six months since i officially "quit" trying i can see plainly that my work has improved by enormous leaps since 2005.

2.) moomsy is right (natch): this whole "comparing" business is just death on a stick (and not even the fun carny kind, just cobwebs and old bones). in the same way that i can't write like other people, i can't draw like other people. i'm just me and i have to find a way to get along with myself better.

3. you can't get anything done if you spend all your time planning to get it done and none of your time actually doing it.

4. i lack courage (always have).
some of these strike me as "obvious" lessons, but i've always been thick-headed in this department. i also know that i am happiest just "doing" (which is why planning is such a compulsion with me ~ it's always moving forward, but requires only a fragment of the energy of actually creating). planning is also "safe". so long as you are planning, then nothing is finished and nothing is susceptible to criticism. truth is, i can take all the critique in the world when it comes to writing, but one negative word about my art just slays me. this comes from having an artist for a brother, sure, but also from years and years of being asked "why do you waste your time with that?"

if i've wasted time, it was listening to comments like that.

so i drew today. and painted. and made all sort of glorious mistakes ~ in fact, the original piece of artwork from which these panels were generated got mostly destroyed at some point while i was experimenting with backgrounds on it. i feel iffy about the colors, but there you have it and there it is. and let's hear it for the power of digital salvage!

click me! )

my one disappointment with this is all the work i went through to draw a set of tea cups and saucers on the shelf and it got buried behind the text. how to make effective backgrounds is still a mystery to me.

anyway, so is everyone having a nice weekend?

: D
in writing: just noodling so you can prolly skip it. )

in reading: for the [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge:
no. 56 ~ A Diplomatic Adventure by s. weir mitchell. strictly an adventure story with some priceless amusements including a single case of mistaken identity that results in three duels (the character of Captain Merton is hilarious when he accepts the challenge even when he has no clue what's provoked it, and i love how he gives his enemies musketeer names). Merton's falling in love with a woman he's never seen is also wonderful, alongside his subsequent theft of a piece of ribbon (brilliant) that leads him to finally meet the mysterious spy (and marry her, of course). i love the fact that this romance happens entirely in Merton's head and then ultimately off-scene. the last chapter is throwaway recapitulation, but the rest of the book is highly entertaining. still not quite as good as New Samaria, which remains my favorite.
i started Far in the Forest last night and only read a chapter. i really ought to take a break and read something else, though.

in film: lastly, i watched Seraphim Falls last night.

[some spoilers in this review!]

liam neeson chases pierce brosnan down out of the mountains into an appalling desert, torturing him along the way. yeah, fun stuff! but i could watch either actor skin cats and prolly still be entertained. the ending got a wee convoluted and i don't know how i feel about the resolution, but i was still entertained. it's a pretty straightforward story about vengeance and forgiveness, but could have been helped with a wee better development of the characters. i kept wondering through most of the film: why does pierce brosnan's character keep running? what does he want to live for? that question never gets answered (in fact, it gets compounded when we find out that he lost both of his sons right before his eyes fighting at antietam).

so all in all i enjoyed it (especially the fact of so many horses dropping dead from the chase ~ not because the horses die, but because for once we get some realism: horses aren't machines; they need water and food and rest!), but overall, if it had been a book before being made into a film, the book woulda prolly been much better. the cause of animosity between the two men is obvious (i think) at the start, but when the flashback moment is revealed, it was still effectively chilling, brosnan's line: you said the house was empty! and the soldier answering: of rebs! ~ geh! quite horrifying, regardless of the cliché. and i love the impression the director gives of brosnan leaving the farm, taking off his sword, and basically walking out of the war and of that former life forever. i wish the symbol of the knife he carries ever afterward had been more clearly explained, however. i feel there was a missed opportunity there.

the usually suave pierce brosnan
takes quite a relentless beating in this one.
i'm not dead ~ just really busy as the semester winds down (projects, job stuff, etc.).

the [livejournal.com profile] writers_five question this week was about villains, but i've always said that i don't really have villains per se (antagonists, yes, but they're never primary "foes"). and someone there responded with the axiom that everyone is a hero in their own story. well, conversely in my world, everyone is a villain in their own story.

i wanted to ramble on some thoughts about the series Smallville (i just finished season two). this is a natural segueway from "villains" because the most interesting thing on the show is the villainous Lex Luthor. i really like lex in the series and i think his inner struggle is interesting (he outshines clark as a character of interest most of the time).

i've always been a big fan of Superman. i think the show tries to stay faithful to the icon, but the second season emphasis on "destiny" could bore tuber eyes to tears. it sorta robs the mythos of the whole American ideal (what the heck happened to free will?). and i'm really tired of people treating lex bad for no real reason at all (i hate to say it, but i'll be glad when jonathan kent bites the dust, he's obnoxious).

i was so happy and sad to see Christopher Reeve in his brightly shining cameo, but otherwise the show is getting lame. i'll try to press through season three, but between the continuity problems, the infuriating lack of character logic, and the current blah-arc, i feel like this one's days are numbered for me. it's unavoisable that lex and clark will become enemies, but i don't really feel the writers are strong enough to motivate this in a way that will be satisfying and maintain the compelling nature of lex, so i feel like when it happens, i'll prolly lose interest in the show altogether. tom wellington is well-cast as clark, even if he is dull.
lex is by far the more interesting of the two.

i had lots else to say, but eh ~ i'll spare you.

re: villainy online ~ here's a rant about some dumb thing on a message board that i've been thinking about for some time (cut for being obnoxiously long-winded) )

re: villains

so i tried to pick a "villain" to answer the questions, but as near as i could come to one would be Captain Kale Porter (all my "bad" guys have stupid names ~ it's the easiest way to recognize them in any story i write).

1 - What is your villain's main pet peeve?

social climbers, the whole ridiculous idea of "promotion by merit" and/or promotion by popularity (whichever one disagrees with him on a given day). every spiteful thing he does comes from this peeve.

2 - What is the most depraved thing your villain has ever done?

i think sending the protagonist to jail under deliberately misguided pretexts is pretty villainous, though i'm not sure he has any idea how depraved that decision will turn out (and in all fairness, James shares the blame on this one). i don't think porter's depraved, really. just snotty.

3 - What is a redeeming quality your villain has? (if any)

he's probably good at what he does, generally. if he wasn't, James would have gotten rid of him sooner than he does (sadly i have lost the draft in which they get him stinkin' drunk, shave him bald ~ save one large curl on his forehead ~ and send him back to his camp on a donkey wearing nothing but a diaper. rewriting that one's gonna be a doozy).

4 - Does your villain think he's evil?

certainly not. he's the creme de la creme of berkley county!

5 - What is your villain's justification?

he's better than everybody else (his blood is bluer, he's got a pedigree, so he should have special privileges). and he's also an officer and knows everything about everything, so everyone should listen to him. if they'd just put him in charge of the army, he could win the war in a week.
today's scene is sorta half-baked, but i'll set the timer and let it keep cooking a while.

From Slaughter Mountain: take 187 (this scene: "Do Fathers Never Know").
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
4,000 / 10,000,000,000

scene synop: it's the 4th of july (a sunday in 1862 ~ edit: turns out i can't even read my own notes. this is not a sunday, it's a friday. oops) and Lewis and Morse are at Morse's house on furlough. Lewis has a strange run-in with Morse's father, a retired sea captain in his dotage who is not as senile as he appears.

darling: it needs some tightening, but i like Lewis's impression of Morse's bedroom best of all. the mysterious wardrobe reveals strange things about Morse much later on when Lewis does finally open it (one of the things i've always loved about this story is how "normal" Lewis thinks Morse is and how that appearance of normalcy crumbles throughout their relationship. Morse's strange bedroom and the way his father talks about him are early clues that something's "off" about him).
Lewis resisted the terrible urge to open the wardrobe and see what was inside. He wasn’t sure what he expected to find, but decided against it. Something about the austerity of the arrangement and the lack of personal affects unnerved him. Morse had always struck him as someone who might hold onto his childhood toys, so Lewis had built in his head a room full of fancy notions. Instead, it was starkly monastic: no fancy wallpapers, no tasseled drapes, no gaily bedecked rocking horse or painted puppets or a pair of lovingly preserved rolling skates set aside by the hearth. And for all of Morse’s learnedness there was not so much as a book of colored pictures. It was as though he had never really lived there at all.
mean things: Captain Morse says a lot of unflattering things about his son (even calls him "stupid"). the irony, of course, is that Captain Morse knows his son better than we think.

random fun fact: roller skates were invented around 1760ish by a belgian mechanical genius musician named john joseph merlin (just like the wizard!). the "petitbled" he patented in 1819 was a three-wheel inline contraption (see picture below) incapable of turning corners (that wouldn't come until 1863). merlin wore a pair of his new skates to a masquerade party in london and although he was great inventor, he was apparently a lousy skater. he couldn't control his speed or direction and crashed into a large mirror, injuring himself severely.

doesn't merlin look like a nice bright fella?
but i can't help it ~ it does.

: D

[livejournal.com profile] navicat always has such a nice little updater announcement and today i am feeling pretty good after the thoes of death on sunday night, so i thought i would copy the format for funsies.

this is From Slaughter Mountain: take 187 (this scene: "A Horse on the Road").
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
2,000 / 10,000,000,000
like my counter? (snark)

scene synop: immediately after the battle at Cedar Mountain, our intrepid D Company squad goes down the hill to see what there is to see before night falls.

darling: The man’s arm was hanging by shreds of skin, but he was in too much shock to realize it. When he moved, the fractured bone twirled so that the limb spun like a bloody wind chime.

mean things: see above. that and the subtitular dead horse and pretty much a whole bunch of other things like the barf in the ambulance (for which, i must add, i showed a great deal of restraint given my original impulse was to wax on about Sharp having holes in his shoes while having to stand in it).

random fun fact: an estimated one and a half million horses and mules died in service to the armies during the Civil War (that's more than two dead animals for every one dead man).
in the future, i'll really have to keep vigilant that all my darlings and mean things don't overlap all the time. of course, perhaps "mean things" is just redundant anyway, given the nature of this story.

national sporting library
Civil War horse memorial
middleberg, VA
lookingland: (doggy)
( Mar. 14th, 2007 10:07 am)
i thought i would be a sheeple today:

Turn to page 123 in your work-in-progress. Count down four sentences and then instead of just the fifth sentence, give us the whole paragraph.
Lewis opened the box with perfectly deft fingers. For all he had been through, not a nerve in his body seemed rattled. Inside the box was a hard little block of what looked like solidified molasses. He held it up to me, puzzled.
yeah, not too exciting. but that's what came up. the "solidified molasses" is bow rosin. they're going through the effects of the dead men in their company and this belonged to Ed Alexander, the fiddle player who Lewis shoots in the first chapter of the book.

rosin is pretty and smells goooood.

: D

p.s. happy "pi" day, all.
another post about random 19th century american rubbish.

i know, you can scarcely contain yourself, but please try.

first up is a reference picture for corona women's college in corinth, mississipi, which was used as a hospital (by those nuns i was looking for) after the battle of shiloh in 1862. there's not much information about this college online (and only one very grainy, very obscured photograph). it was burned by the yankees in 1864 and took an archeological dig just to ascertain where it actually once stood (the site was apparently contested for years).

i was waffling between the tishomingo hotel and corona college for my hospital site and decided on the latter because it seems to me (haven't done the research yet, but...) that common soldiers would have ended up at the hotel and officers would have been farmed out to private homes or perhaps "better" rooms at the college. they're all being evacuated so it doesn't really matter too much. i just want a visual to work with and there's something appealing about "corona" and the nuns, so we're going with that for now.

corona women's college circa 1862

the other tidbit is also my first book of the [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge:
no. 1 ~ Orthopaedic Injuries of the Civil War: An Atlas of Orthopaedic Injuries and Treatments During the Civil War by Julian E. Kuz and Bradley Bengtson. funny to make this my first book of the year after kvetching about it all december. it was almost everything i hoped for: great pictures, great case studies. it's amazing how much punishment the body can take and still recover. wounded soldiers often spent the remainders of their lives with chronic illness and depression. and then some got all shot up to hell and walked away in perfectly good health (albeit on prosthetic legs). short text and not nearly as graphic as i expected, though some good representational pictures overall. very interesting surgical procedure facts (with diagrams). overall, definitely something i want, but not worth spending a bazillion dollars on. if i can ever find a reasonable copy, i will get it.
learned a lot of interesting things from this book. like: knee injuries were some of the worst. surgeons didn't bother amputating at the knee because mortality was about 51%. so they usually chopped off at the thigh, where the odds were about 15-20% better (hip amputations were the most deadly with a scant 25% survial rate). i guess the knee thing surprises me, but also bolsters my excuse/justification for them not taking Lewis's leg off after Gettysburg (why bother? it's the worst kind of break and he's not going to live anyway).

i was also surprised at how technologically advanced the prosthetics industry got (and fast). most people could only afford a wooden leg or so, but there were some pretty fancy mechanical hands going around and a man who'd lost both legs could walk again if he had enough stump to stride. i was tempted, briefly, to go ahead and cut the leg off after all ~ but we'll keep it.

also, i got exactly the thing i was looking for, a picture of a leg brace from that era:

i think i just now realized that i may be a fetishist.

: o p
i haven't drawn anything since well before thanksgiving. lost confidence and fell out of the habit as usual. but i sat down the other night and did some doodling and remembered that i can sorta draw sometimes when i put my mind to it.

i have been trying for a while to do a sketch of Tamar, but have real problems with drawing ethnic characters because they always seem caricatures to me and i hate the thought of offending someone. Tamar seems especially tricky because i describe her as dull-faced, unpretty, and with a torch of nappy hair (the hair especially i absolutely can't draw, though i have tried a number of times). i have to give up on the hair, i think because no matter what i do she just ends up looking like Buckwheat (oy vey!). but as much as i would like for Tamar to be a beautiful little endearing child prodigy full of 21st century poise and notions, she's not. she's a dull, scrawny cast-off who probably picks her nose. that's life. i'm no less stingy with the intellectual gifts for any of the other characters. Cap himself is a sectarian (just a hair's breadth away from being a full-fledged bigot) who can scarcely write a legible sentence and hates books. he appreciates her because she is quiet and industrious. there's no shame in that for either of them.

Tamar and Cap in the spring of '63

i've grown attached to Tamar since she came on board. makes me sorry to have no idea what becomes of her after Gettysburg. i've been thinking about it lately, but i have no real sense of her fate after she gets turned out of the Morse house in Richmond. it's a provocative little loose end ~

so i plan to doodle more this year (making 2007 resolutions even though i don't mean to!), and will be sharing bits and pieces here. i want to try to discipline myself about my sloppy anatomy and see if i can't learn better perspective. i've decided not to bother myself with color theory. the other two things are more important.

man, am i ever so glad that it's friday.

: D
lookingland: (tree)
( Aug. 6th, 2006 12:10 pm)
Last time I’s on a train with my father was the first time. I’s just-turned seven an’ sat like this next to my pa, him in the aisle seat readin’ the news an’ smokin’ his pipe, an’ me at the winder watchin’ the country go to autumn all the way from Birmin’ham to Balmer.
i actually started writing this morning. slow going, but at least it's started.

i think i've been so subconsciously intense about what i need to be working on that i've actually burned myself out on my own ideas. i sort of feel like i've done all the thinking i want to do ~ now i just want to sit back passively and have someone else come in and execute the plan.

so it's good to poke myself forward a little by putting some words down (1,552 for those who count). It's a little all over, but it's getting me back into the voice and making me realize a few things that I hadn't considered before (like just how long it takes to recover from rotted toes after frostbite).

i've started exploring the grim white witch world of margaret fletcher as well. i want her to be a positively glen close-ian character: cold, bitter, duplicitous, and capable of incredible horrors. so far so good.

my only concern is for the dickensian quality of lewis's childhood. when taken as a whole, you wonder how the kid survived long enough to get to the war (in fact the war seems the least of his traumas). but i think that's the point: how easily desensitized someone with a fractured sense of worth becomes in the face of conflict. how easy it is to become sociopathic if you never had a strong foundation for experiencing compassion to begin with (or a confusing one, at best).

"Figfield" will prove to be a pretty dark story. i'm thinking i need something to balance out the darkness, but i'm not sure what. my best bet is prolly to introduce the horse sooner (or as soon as possible) to alleviate some of the ickiness.

i think i need a new name for the horse. unless someone can think of a good reason why i should keep "Fiona". or unless i can somehow justify the choice.

~ * ~

quiet Sunday. i'm sure i have homework to do. i'll think about that tomorrow.

: D
lookingland: (Default)
( Aug. 3rd, 2006 11:32 am)
I've been writing a wee bit on "The View from the Back Porch" this morning and have decided that i'm undecided about how to spell Morse's brother's name.

[Poll #784923]

~ * ~

in other news, i think i will submit "The Hot Spot" to Zoetrope's 10th Annual Short Story Contest (thanks [livejournal.com profile] tiellan for the heads up!). it'll cost me $15, but i'm confident that it could compete (and with the prize being possible representation by william morris??? get outta town!)

it's just a matter of tightening it up. as is, the story runs about 2k over the guidelines. that's fine though since it can be trimmed a lot to make it a stand-alone. Just really have to sit down with it and make it work. my main concern is whether i should end it with the confession or just the intimation. it'll be fun to play with it a little.

: D
i'm doing my homework.

i thought it was going to be this huge difficult pain in the rear so i was putting it off, but it turns out it's a piece of cake (so now i'm goofing around in another way) ~ it's all good: two more pages of an essay and i'm done. cataloging is easy! but then i have a brain for minutiae.

~ * ~

i started writing this long post about "buddy stories" and the curse of homoeroticism, but i think that's kinda heavy for a holiday monday. i thought it might be good because it's memorial day and people would be all agreeable about what i was ranting about...oh well, maybe i'll post it tomorrow.

~ * ~

i'm so addled by the heat (what's with the record temps? didn't i move to minnesota to get away from this weather?), that i banged my head on the shelf in the kitchen when i leaned to fill thee dogfood bowl.

now i have a dehydration/concussion headache.

~ * ~

writer's workshop today yielded no rotten fruit thrown in my general direction, so i feel mildly okay with the new start for the book. mildly. it feels heavy on the exposition and history junk. i like my description of General Winder getting blown up, but the rest of it feels dry to me. it could be that i'm just saturated to the gills with having spent the week reading official battle reports. i'll let it sit and move forward.

this poor handsome devil
is the first croaker named in my book.
happy memorial day to you,
General Charles Sidney Winder, CSA (1829-1862).
He was class of 1850 at West Point.
KIA, Battle of Cedar Run (Slaughter Mountain).
32 years old.

and it begins to rain! relief! thank you God!

: D
i'm having posting diarrhea today apparently.

but just to get this out of the way, i thought i had better offset my last ranting by saying that i'm not a rabid secesh and that i do, in fact, own a Joshua Chamberlain doll (oh man, i'm admitting this), and i'm a huge freak for the 54th massachusetts and the irish brigades and boy did the blues have it way worse in rebel prisons at the end of the day.

and even some of the bad yankees at least had good taste ~ check out brigadier general rufus ingalls with his carriage dog (it's got its head in the girl's lap at his feet).

: D

dalmatians in the civil war, man.
way cool.

~ * ~

but about those "strugglies" ~

i'm forming an idea in my head for the shape of this book (yes, vaguely rectangular, buti'm not talking about the literal here). this nebulous mass, however, still hasn't managed to translate into anything like words. the day's writing generated an overwrought philosophical lament on the definition of "hero" which i immediately scrapped. boring, yuck, drek.

so i sat down and watched The Thin Red Line ~ well, stopped and started it a lot ~ i get overwhelmed by it so it's not something i watch all in one sitting, generally.

the guiding rule of poetry is that the objective is to focus on what is concrete: images. not ideas, not abstracts, philosophies, themes, etc.


the opening chapter of maxence fermine's Snow:
Yuko Akita had two passions.
And Snow.

A Haiku is a Japanese poem. It has three lines.
And only seventeen syllables. No more, no less.

Snow is a poem. A poem that falls from the
clouds in delicate white flakes.

A poem that comes from the sky.

It has a name. A name of dazzling whiteness.


the opening chapter of alessandro baricco's Silk:
Although his father had pictured for him a brilliant future in the army, Hervé Joncour had ended up earning his crust in an unusual career which, by a singular piece of irony, was not unconnected with a carming side that bestowed on it a vaguely feminine intonation.

Hervé Joncour bought and sold silkworms for a living.

The year was 1861. Flaubert was writing Salammbo, electric light remained hypothetical, and Abraham Lincoln, beyond the Ocean, was fighting a war of which he was not to see the finish.

Hervé Joncour was thirty-two.

He bought and sold.


(and yes, those are complete chapters).

what i love about them is that they are spare, yes, but they are also very specific. they introduce you to the characters in a way that is immediate without describing anything, really, except their passions. by focusing on that one thing, the whole person emerges. we know that Yuko Akita is hyper-focused on the art of Haiku, and more specifically snow as Haiku. we know that Hervé Joncour, a disappointment perhaps to his father, is engaged in a trade of a sensual commodity despite a life of banal sort of orderliness (suggested by the ordering of the era, reducing it to its momentous highlights).

we don't need, in either case, pages of background and details and descriptions and conversations to make a very specific and compelling impression. it isn't that kind of immersive reading experience. it's immersive in another way: occupying the senses and disconnecting the brain from the necessity of a narrative crutch so that it can free-fall in pictures painted with words.

that's the sort of poetry i'm looking for. that's what the film of The Thin Red Line does. it tells you: experience this story you've heard a thousand times, but experience it in a new way, from a different facet of that old shape you thought was so predictable. of course, it's literally got pictures. the question is how to translate that to text. ron hansen could do it. alan lightman could do it. fermine, baricco, and ondaatje coudl do it.

i need to get some ducks lined up so i can take some practice stabs at this sort of thing and see if i can do it.

maybe if i am successful i will share some results later this week.

: D