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Yeah, I’m Weird…But I’m a Writer, so That’s Normal!

Yesterday was…interesting. There’s a lot of upheaval where I live right now as my roomies finish the unpacking from something like 3 months ago, in preparation for a friend coming to visit…all the way from Belgium!

It’s interesting how this affected my writing yesterday. I’ve been plotting, planning and diagramming like crazy for about a week in a full-steam-ahead onslaught to starting “TAKERS II” (omg I need a better title), and finally yesterday I was ready to actually put words to page (fingers to keyboard) to start actually writing the thing.

And I thought, with all the noise going on out there, all the conversation I could hear from my roomies (some in the form of hollering across our rather large house) in spite of the fact that I’m in my own office with my door closed, how the heck am I going to be able to actually get inside this character of mine and write like I’m him? It’s no easy feat even on the best of days, I tell you.

But the most interesting thing happened. In spite of – nay, because of – the controlled chaos going on in the rest of the house, I actually completed not only the book’s first chapter, but its first two chapters!

Go figure.

I should thank my roomies for offering me this insight into how I work. Apparently when I feel like, “Holy crap, quick, I gotta write before they need my muscles to help move something else,” I write quickly and well. I was chatting with a friend on Twitter yesterday about that very thing. She said she also seems to write better when there’s all kinds of ‘stuff’ going on around her. She asked if it was weird.

Apparently not.

I need to do a poll, because I would love to know of all of you out there who are writers yourselves – whether you’re published or not is irrelevant to me, because if you tap something out on a keyboard or use a pen and a notebook, you’re a writer in my book – how do you write best?

I suspect the answers would be as individual as the people responding. I’ve read where some authors claim they need to stick to a very rigid schedule or they won’t write at all. Others can write under any circumstance and still others, like my Twitter friend, thrive on noise and chaos.

I do find that I write better when I have my ‘writing music’ blasting, whether through my ear buds or just from my iPhone sitting on the desk next to me. And my music tastes take the cake for defining the word ‘eclectic.’ I’ve got everything from Andrea Bocelli to ABBA to Ke$ha. Lady Gaga to Josh Groban to Eminem. I’ve got TV soundtracks (Hawaii Five-0), movie soundtracks (Feed, Mamma Mia!), Diddy, Elvis Presley and Hoobastank. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jessie J, Katy Perry and Colbie Caillat. Oh, and we mustn’t forget about Evanescence, Train, Pink, Nickelback, Dr. Hook, Led Zeppelin and Marilyn Manson. I mean, we’re talking serious variety.

What can I say? I’m not a genre girl. I like a song because I like a song, not because it’s ‘blues’ or ‘rock’ or ‘heavy metal’ or ‘pop.’

How many other writers listen to music while they write, I wonder. I’m going to go look for a poll widget…

And yet I find that I can also write in complete and total silence. I get up really early in the morning, usually before five a.m., and on weekends that is the best, because it guarantees me at least four hours of having the world to myself. Lots of times I’ll just sit in the peace of my office and get all sorts of stuff written. Other times, I can’t type the word ‘the’ to save my life.

I’m not sure what it is that ebbs and flows within me that allows me to write or says, “Nope, not today.” But in spite of all these people who say you must force yourself to write every day whether you feel like it or not, I find that if I force myself when I’m not inspired, the result is for shit. As in, it sucks. Badly, sometimes.

But when I’m inspired, it’s 94 words-per-minute, no-holds-barred, holy crap, she can write a novel in a week type of thing.

I just take my inspiration as it comes, and continue to marvel when I perform some new feat I didn’t think I’d be able to – like writing the first two chapters of a new novel with things as heavy as beds and boxes of books being dragged all over the place just outside my door. And calls of “We need Ox, Incorporated to help!”

(When I was younger, I was known as “The Ox” by my friends because for a female I had a ridiculously strong back – and was just strong all the way around. For example, I moved a love seat where both sides of it were recliners…we’re talking full-blown metal workings, everything…all by myself when my friend threw her back out and couldn’t help. That mother was heavy.)

So thanks, Roomies! Another thing to add to my list of “Yeah, I’m Weird…But I’m a Writer, so That’s Normal!”

Don’t forget, if you want to have a look at the first 3-1/2 chapters of my first published novel, “TAKERS,” you can click on the book cover over in my right sidebar here, or on the link in the Links section (also on the right sidebar). It’s currently only available on Amazon.com in Kindle format. My publisher’s battling through the flu to try and get it out on Smashwords so you’ll be able to download it to other types of readers and in PDF if you want.

…You Might Be a Project Manager (With Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy)

  • If you think someone asking, “When can you have this done by?” requires a Microsoft Project Schedule and a consultation with your online calendar before you can even begin to respond, you might be a project manager.
  • If your child asks you for extra help with their homework, and your answer is, “I’m sorry, but Mommy doesn’t have enough resources to cover scope creep,” you might be a project manager.
  • If the only way you can outline your next novel or screenplay is by creating a Microsoft Visio diagram, you might be a project manager. (That would be me.)
  • If your next family get-together requires a meeting invitation with a PowerPoint presentation attached, you might be a project manager.
  • If you handle finding out which movie your friends want to go see Friday night by sending out Microsoft Outlook voting emails with the choices Approve or Reject and a firm deadline for responding, you might be a project manager.
  • If you know more about how to manage scope, schedule, budget and resources than the contractor renovating your house, you might be a project manager.
  • If you can successfully implement a five million dollar project, but find the prospect of balancing your meager checkbook intimidating, you might be a project manager.

But here’s the most important one, and all kidding aside:

  • If you have ever had to do something that required even a two-step plan to accomplish, you ARE a project manager.

No, really, I’m not joking with that. Trust me, I’ve been a so-called “professional Project Manager” for over eight years now, and even have a Masters Degree of Project Management. No, really, I do! Colorado Technical University’s where it’s from. It means I get to put the letters MPM behind my name if I want to try and make myself seem more important than I really am.

Hence why you never see those letters behind my name. So why’d I get the degree? I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time (back in 2004/05).

I found it highly amusing last night when I was speaking with my publisher about the timeline for my next two novels (which will be “TAKERS II” and “TAKERS III”) and my next two feature-length screenplays, that I was automatically planning out the timeline in my head, including estimating how long tasks would take to complete, analyzing dependencies and constraints (my writing time vs. my two editors’ availability, desired release dates, etc.), determining whether any up-front costs would be required and the implementation plan for each of those deliverables.

There, I just used a whole bunch of project management buzz words. Now, let’s talk to each other like normal human beings.

At its simplest, project management is nothing more than trying to figure out how to do something with the best possible chance for success. I am probably pissing off a whole community of project managers because they tend to take themselves way too seriously as a whole, but I’m a no-nonsense sort of person, and here’s what my no-nonsense wants to tell you: it’s not rocket science.

I can prove it. Know how? I never cracked a textbook open during my Masters degree program, yet aced it, top o’ the heap. Why? Well, mostly because the principles of project management are intuitive for me, much like writing is. Do I know how to break apart a single sentence and identify precisely what word is which technical grammar term? Oh, dear Lord, no, nor do I ever care to, thanks much. Can I tell you what a noun is? Yeah, that I can do. Can I tell you the first thing about the origins of the word onomatopoeia or what that even means? Sure, if I look it up on Google.

What I can do well, is slap a whole bunch of words on a page that actually do stick together and sound fairly decent, most of the time. This reminds me of a quote from Hawaii Five-0 that makes me howl because it’s just priceless. I love the writers of that show. They crack me up. One of these days I have got to interview them.

This is from the Season 1, Episode 7 entitled “Ho’apono.” Starring Alex O’Loughlin as McGarrett and Scott Caan as Danno, for those who don’t know.

Danny “Danno” Williams: Okay… Let’s say I am you, and you are the bad guy here. I would know that all the ways onto the ship are visible somehow. So, how would you outsmart yourself and get yourself onto that ship without yourself seeing yourself?
Steve McGarrett: Okay, was that an actual question, or were you just throwing words together and hoping they made sense?

I’m with Steve on this one. As much as groups of people like to get together and try to make what they do for a living sound ever-so-important and ever-so-difficult and this-is-why-you-should-pay-me-the-big-bucks-because-I’m-smarter-than-you-are-with-my-jargon…well, that’s not me. I don’t throw words together just hoping they make sense (unlike Danny, apparently).

So when I say to you that you are probably just as much a project manager as I am, let me ask you some questions that will also serve as examples of how and why I think that’s the case.

  • Have you ever had to get a 2-year old up in the morning, and get Her Royal Highness bathed, fed, dressed and safely to day care all before the time you have to be at work?
    • I will bet you a McDonald’s large coffee that fathers and mothers familiar with the ‘joy’ that this process can bring are nodding vigorously over the difficulties inherent in such a daunting undertaking. And they do it daily.
  • Have you ever had to take a trip somewhere by car, boat/ship, airplane, helicopter or any other means?
    • Where are you going? What’s the best method of transportation? How do you secure that transportation? Do you have to borrow or rent a car? Buy an airline ticket? Book passage on freighter? Wait, you have to book passage on a freighter? Call me next time, that sounds like fun.
    • Do you need to pack clothes? Toiletries? Food? Something to drink? Is anyone coming with you? What do they need to have brought with them? Do you need a book or two? Your Kindle? A magazine? Your laptop? Your iPad? iPhone? Blackberry? Android? (No, not Lt. Commander Data, ST:TNG fans.)
  • Have you ever written a story, book, script, screenplay, poem?
    • What’s your subject matter? What genre are you writing in? Who are your characters? What are their personalities? What is your story about? What do you want to happen? Where is it set? If it’s a poem, is it going to rhyme?
    • Indie filmmakers are kick-ass project managers, by the way. Especially if it’s a movie they wrote, they are producing, they are directing and, sometimes, they are even starring in. I cannot imagine what it takes to pull something like that off, and yet so many people do!

Let’s get back to something no quite so entertainment industry-related.

  • Have you got more than one child, and they all have to be at different fields on Saturday at the same time for different sports games/practices?
    • In this case, I would seriously consider looking into getting you and your family vehicle cloned.
  • Do you have two essays to complete, a mid-term to study for, five chapters in a textbook to get through and a documentary you have to watch all by Monday morning…and it’s Friday night?
    • Students everywhere, don’t despair…college isn’t nearly as hard as real life. Enjoy the pretend stress as much as you can before you get to the real stuff!

I could go on forever with examples, but I won’t because you’re probably already bored. Suffice it to say that while I will tell folks yes, I am a project manager, and yes, I have been a project manager for several years and have those silly letters that I can stick after my name to boot, the fact is that we are all project managers.

Just like we are all writers.

These days the term ‘writing’ is used much more loosely in that we’re technically ‘typing’ more often than we are actually sitting down with pen or pencil and writing. I get a cramp in my hand penning a single sentence fifteen times, so no, longhand and notebooks and I don’t get along too well.

But just like we can all manage projects on some level, so, too, can we all write on some level. Ever written a note in a Christmas card? Ever typed an email to a friend? Ever posted something to LiveJournal or Facebook? Ever left a comment on someone’s blog? (hint, hint)

Then you’re a writer.

Are you a novelist? Well, I don’t know, have you ever written a novel?

Are you a screenwriter? Not unless you’ve actually sat down and written a screenplay of some sort, whether good or bad.

Are you a poet? (Roses are red, violets are blue, this doesn’t count, but it’s writing, too.)

My point is that while I’ll happily sit here and give myself all sorts of names and titles like project manager, journalist, screenwriter and novelist, the fact is that I’m stuffing myself into predefined definitions because it’s the only way I can get taken seriously in any of those professions.

I’m not a snob because I’ve got a book published. I’m still just me. I will never become pretentious or unavailable to listen to what people who spend their precious time paying attention to anything I say or do want to tell me, good or bad. I may be busy as hell sometimes, and so it might take me a while to respond.

But no matter how busy I get, I will never forget that I’m just a normal Jane/Joe like the majority of the rest of the world’s human beings, and that I am a one-time cubicle dweller myself who’s had to work for Corporate America (and Corporate Canada, while we’re at it), too.

(Why do you think I want to make writing my full-time job??? Hello.)

I’ll leave you with one final thought:

If you think that because your job gives you the ability to:

  • tell other people where to go;
  • how to get there;
  • what to do when they get there, and
  • crack the whip when they don’t do what you told them to, then

you might be a project manager.

But consider this: while the fact is that the job description I just gave is definitely for a project manager, it’s also exactly the same for a mother, father or a BDSM dominatrix.

If you’re wondering how many risks I might be taking treating such serious subject matters with this much irreverence, then you’re either a project manager or you’ve been in the business too long, my friend.

What’s so special about THESE vampires?

It seems that vampires today are a dime a dozen.

Oh, to be sure, there are differences among the ones out there. From Twilight to The Vampire Diaries. From the pen of Anne Rice all the way back to the one who started it all, Bram Stoker. Search Amazon.com’s Kindle Store for the word “vampires” and you get 6,959 results (as of 6:38am Central Time in the U.S., anyway).

So why in the world would I foray into such a saturated marketplace? What makes me think anyone gives a crap about yet another vampire book, about yet another universe where beings with fangs like to suck blood out of us mere mortals?

Well, because my vampires are different. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. But really, they are! They’re not so much straight vampires, as they are Takers. Because blood isn’t all they take from humans.

My main character, Detective Kel Langston, finds this out the hard way when he not so much gets turned, as he does half-turned. Hence the fact that he and others like him are called Half-Turns! (Original, huh?)

Maybe the best thing is to let Kel himself explain it to you. An excerpt from my novel “TAKERS” ought to do the trick:

     The reason people do bad things is disturbingly simple, and it has nothing to do with all that scientific medical or psychological mumbo-jumbo. It’s because part of their soul’s been sucked away by a Taker.
     There you have it, exactly as I was told it. It’s uncomfortable, I know, to be confronted with the fact that if you suddenly have an impulse to shoplift or murder your ex-husband or start a house on fire or even abuse a dog, it might be a good idea to stop and think about whether you have any missing time in your life somewhere over the past week.
     The more of your soul the Taker takes, the worse kind of criminal behavior you exhibit. This is only true, though, if you had something bad hidden deep down inside to begin with. A quick taste usually leads to something minor like the sudden urge to park in a No Parking Zone. Or the urge to speed even though you can see that Highway Patrol car lurking on the freeway median. Someone like me, with half a soul gone, is likely to want to kick someone’s ass all the time, if not worse. Marta suggested I go to a boxing gym as a kind of anger management technique. I’ve destroyed two bags already on Big Matty, the split-eyebrowed guy who owns the place, and I feel bad about it. But those bags he keeps buying and hanging up are a big part of what’s keeping me from beating the living shit out of everyone I see.
     It’s scalable, all the way down to the ones who were intended to be full meals for a Taker. The ones who almost had their entire soul taken but for some reason the process was stopped before the finish line…maybe the Taker got interrupted and left just a little behind. These are your Hitlers and your Charlie Mansons and your Ted Bundys. Every other type of criminal behavior falls somewhere on the curve between the two extremes.
     Now this is really going to come across like LA New Age tinkle shit, but how a person responds depends on what kind of person they were before. Marta says that if the victim is one of those sickeningly sweet people, the kind that coaches their kid’s Little League team, saves stray kittens and always gives money to the homeless guys at intersections, they’ll die if a Taker drains too much of their soul. They can’t turn bad because there isn’t enough badness in them. The rest of the soul just leaves and kills the body, whether they’re completely drained of blood or not.
     Most of us aren’t those people. Most of us have a good bit of darkness in us…enough to survive an attack like that.
     Long and short of it is, and this is the thing that’s always got my mind in fits because it goes against all the training I’ve ever had as a cop, you become a criminal because you’ve Fed a Taker.

In essence, this is what makes my vampires different. Technically, the correct term for them isn’t vampires at all, but Takers. However, since they (and Half-Turns) do have fangs, and do drink blood, and do exhibit some of the same characteristics as vampires you are already familiar with (like being able to move ultra-fast, being able to leap onto rooftops, sunlight affecting them), they are – at least partway – vampires.

I encourage you to go take a look at my eBook “TAKERS” in Amazon’s Kindle Store, where you can get a good preview of the beginning of the book and see what you think. My publisher is currently working with Smashwords so those of you with other kinds of eBook Readers can get your hands on it. But even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle app for your iPhone or iPad, and you can also download Kindle for PC free of charge.

Yeah, my Takers are a new kind of vampire. As I’m fond of saying behind closed doors, they’re not your mama’s vampires. Because with Takers, your blood is only the beginning…

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    The book series "Takers," the screenplays contained on the "Screenplays" page and the screenplays discussed and contained on this website are copyright Chris Davis. Novels are published by Plotfish Press, and screenplays are registered with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) West.
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    Came Online: August 13, 2011

    Owned by: Chris Davis

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