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Deleting this Blog in 10 Days

June 21, 2012 5 comments

I have decided against using a pen name. I will delete this blog (and A. R. Travis facebook, twitter and youtube channel) I will lose a lot valued connections. If you wish to “friend” me or follow me under the name given me by my momma and daddy, be warned, you get the whole me, the very non-politically correct me blogging about all manner of things. If you wish to abuse yourself, you can follow me at www.aspeakinghuman.wordpress.com and on twitter @ASpeakingHuman (http://twitter.com/#!/aspeakinghuman) and at http://www.youtube.com/ASpeakingHuman.

I’m tired of being two people and wondering what I should and shouldn’t reveal about myself in one place or the other.

A. R. Travis (Alton Ray Travis on facebook) was going to be my alias for that day when I publish my epic heroic fantasy, which I’ve been crafting and creating for about 5 years. My real name is Allen Bagby (on facebook).

Self-delusion

December 11, 2011 Leave a comment

My sin came to me as a woman in my dreams before dawn this morning. The vision started in a diner. I was waiting for her next to the window in a booth. I was sipping my coffee. She approached and I offered her a seat across from me. She missed the facade that was me and I wanted what she would never be. We sat across from one another in bashful silence for a while, hearts thundering. I gazed on her beauty feeling the sweet stabs of hope and the real pain she had caused. Her familiar smile finally broke upon her face; the smile reminds me of a young Cher – before plastic. It was bitter sweet, one of regret and hope. She reached across to take my hand. She was warm and inviting. A million memories flashed through my mind. She knew things were ending.
I told her that I loved her, but that it was in all the wrong ways. She gave a knowing nod and rubbed my hand in sorrow. She got stuffy, tears brimming, eyes glistening …those beautiful amber eyes glowing like a hearth under a brunette roof. I had known her for many years; when she was young her face soft and innocent. Now her features had those angular turns of a maturing woman, her beauty different but not diminished. I wondered how she endured the life I gave her.
She told me that she loved me too. I could tell she meant it, or wanted to mean it. She said the words as if striking a wet match, hopeful yet un-ignited. I told her I was sorry for contributing to her problem, leading her on and on. I wanted to let go for so long. Being so committed, I had sustained her illusions of eternal life with me. I wanted to save her. She was my secret friend, the one I was ashamed of, in many ways a authentic friend. I told her I knew better than to ever get involved, that our mutual weaknesses had led us to self-destruction of the soul. But, that I had found a door out.
Her eyes got wide for a moment. She knew what I was talking about. I had been bringing it up a lot lately.
She looked out the window into the gray morning, while still gripping my hand, eyes dripping tears. She was even making me cry. She said as she blinked, “I’m a Christian too,” as if trying to flip on a dead light bulb, as if by magic it would suddenly come on, but the dismay returning anew, the sadness fresh in her heart.
“That is a nice lie Satan,” I said quietly. She broke up like a Picasso; the shards disappeared as smoke in the wind. My hand was cold. I looked around. Then I saw her reappear outside the window looking in, her palm against the glass. I put my hand to hers and she smiled that beautiful bittersweet smile. She mouthed goodbye. I said that I would forget her…every day of my life. Then she faded into the gray and gathering crowd to wander among the other ghosts of my soul; the cloaks, and passes I gave as cover to the darkness in me.
I turned to see the waitress staring at me. She asked, “What were you looking at?”
“I used to not know.”

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The day my dad and I nearly got killed

August 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Many years ago, my dad and I nearly were killed together.

My dad is a quiet and unassuming man. He speaks with an east Texas accent that’s so thick; to understand him you need to be from around here. He is not outspoken. He has never been fashion conscious. He worked hard all his life and retired from Kraft Foods. He doesn’t care what kind of car you drive. He rarely understands irony; everything is what it is. He is kind and courteous. He won’t even hang up on a telemarketer. He’ll patiently listen and politely say, “Nah, we ain’t inersted. Thank ya.” He is funny. He can say the most hilarious things…quietly. People will say, “Your dad is so quiet …and funny.” He is the master of the Art of Understatement. It’s natural. It’s not something he works on.

The fateful day occurred after I had car trouble about fifteen miles away from home. I called him to come get me. When he picked me up, we decided we’d fix the problem the next day…something to do with parts. That evening it snowed, a lot. Yeah, snowing in Texas. No big deal but the snow began to melt. The roads were slushy. Then an ice storm hit early the next morning. I can’t remember why but it was very important to get my car. My dad owned a faithful Nissan 200SX at the time, a feather light car. He cranked it, warmed it up, breath steaming out of our noses and mouths. We headed out on our date with destiny. The road looked like the glaze on a donut. It was well below freezing. Everything was crunchy, almost no traction. We had a few narrow escapes but dad adjusted. I was feeling pretty confident and so was he so we kept going. I don’t care where you’re from no one can drive well on ice if you don’t have chains on the tires. But we had to go.

As I said, dad is a quiet man. We didn’t say a thing to each other. That’s just the way he is. It has nothing to do with mood. Gloves on, tucked deep in our coats, eyes fixed on the road and oncoming cars, silent and determined to accomplish this now heroic mission. Then we saw it, a gigantic semi truck plowing down the road toward us. Ice and snow billowed out from under the tires, as it seemed to build speed. Then it happened, for no apparent reason the little Nissan suddenly went sideways in the road then swerved into the path of the oncoming bringer of death on eighteen wheels. I was in the passenger’s seat, and angled at the bazillion pounds of encroaching truck. I vaguely remember my dad fighting with the wheel on the periphery of my consciousness. I was completely helpless. The “MAC” emblem on the front of the truck grew. While this was happening I froze, you can’t move when death is coming that fast. Although pointless, I braced for impact. I always wondered if that truck driver saw me as I contemplated the doom, sheer terror on my face. If dad didn’t correct this situation that monster would T-Bone the 200SX. In a nanosecond, I would be splattered all over the radiator like a hopeless insect.

Just before impact, a hand seemed to reach down out of heaven and correct the careening Nissan. We suddenly went back into the correct lane as the eighteen-wheeler zoomed past, chunks of snow showering the car. I thought I would need a change of underwear and I began to hyperventilate, but angels were singing in my head. Dad never missed a beat. He just looked straight ahead. In case I missed it, he let me know as if he had avoided nothing more than a stray dog in the road and said, “I bet we had ‘at feller in ‘at truck purty sceerd.”

I said, “Yep.”

Follow me at my other blog http://aspeakinghuman.wordpress.com/ for more stuff like this and other off the beaten path cultural commentary.

Heroes

July 15, 2011 Leave a comment

‘There was this boy. He lived in fear. Not the tiny fears of manhood, but the awesomely powerful,living, breathing fear that only children can experience. He was different,this boy, from the other boys who lived in this bomb damaged London Street some few years after World War Two. He had no father.

Some of the other children had no father, but their lack was honorable. Dad died in the war, you know. He was a hero. This boy’s lack was the subject of sly whispers from the adults, and open jeering from his peers. This boy’s mother was – the boy heard so many times – a whore.

Happily the boy was only six, and had no real understanding of what the word meant. Anyway the word was less hurtful than the blows that would follow it. Most of the blows came from other children, but sometimes adults too would weigh in.

It was all baffling to the child. What he knew was that, before venturing out into the narrow streets and alleys, he had to peer from the windows of the small apartment to see if there were other children about. Only he didn’t think of them as children. They were enemies, and he was frightened. Fear was the ever present
companion. Fear was grafted to him. The journey to school was fraught with
peril. The dark of the night brought fearful dreams.

His mother read him stories about heroes, and tried to encourage him to stand up for himself. But stories were just words, and words could not stop the punches, the pinches and the slaps.

The boy never dreamed of heroes. Not until he met one.

It was a bright, cold morning and he was sitting on a wall. One of the boys who made his life miserable ran up, shouting and gesticulating. The boy – more in panic than courage – finally struck out, punching his enemy in the face. The other child ran off screaming. His father came running from the house. ‘You little
bastard!’ he shouted.

The boy took off as fast as he could, but no six year old can outrun a grown man. Within moments he grabbed the boy by the collar, swinging him from his feet.

Just then a huge shadow fell over the pair. The man – who had looked so threatening moments before – now looked small and insignificant against the looming newcomer. This colossus reached out and took hold of the man by the shirt, pushing him up against a wall.

In a low voice, chilling for its lack of passion, he asked. ‘Do you know who I am?’

The man was trembling. Even the boy could feel the dreadful fear emanating from him.

‘C.c.course I know who you are, Bill. Course I do.’

‘Did you know I was walking out with this boy’s mother?’

‘Jesus Christ… I swear I didn’t, Bill. On my mother’s life.’

‘Now you do.’

The big man let the little man go. He slid part way down the wall, recovered and stumbled away. Then the giant leaned over the boy and held out a hand that seemed larger than a bunch of bananas. ‘Better be getting home, son,’ he said.

The world changed that day. Men like Bill do change the world. They are the havens, the safe harbours of childhood. They are the watch hounds who keep the wolves at bay. They have an instinctive understanding of the child that is denied to the wise.

Two years later, as my stepfather, he cured me of dreams of vampires coming to drink my blood. My mother had tried explaining to me they were just dreams. They weren’t real. It didn’t work. She took me to a child psychologist, who showed me pictures, told me stories, explained about the birth of myth and the way that fear created pictures in our night time thoughts. It was very interesting, but it did nothing for my nightmares.

One night I woke up screaming – to find Bill sitting by my bedside.

‘There’s a vampire, dad. Its trying to get me.’

‘I know, son,’ he said, softly. ‘I saw it.’

‘You saw it?’

‘Yeah. I broke its bloody neck. I won’t have no vampires in my house’

I never dreamt of vampires again.

Years later, when I wrote my first novel, I used Bill as the model for a character. His name was Druss the Legend. Bill re-appeared in many novels there after, in many guises.

Always flawed, but always heroic.

Three years ago, at the age of 82, Bill was mugged on the streets of London. Three muggers broke his jaw, his nose and two of his ribs. He still managed to ‘chin’ one of them and knock him to the ground. That was Bill.

Last April he died.

And I wrote Ravenheart, and gave Bill centre stage.

Jaim Grymauch, who strides the highlands like a giant, is my homage to Bill, and to all those world changing fathers who pass away without fanfare; who leave the world just a little brighter than it was.

Men who know how to deal with vampires.’

-David Gemmell

Reality vs. Relic

April 13, 2011 2 comments

You Can’t Keep Borrowing Essence

So much is phony in our world that we hardly notice. Ever drive through a neighborhood and see the fake animals, deer, pink flamingo, and lion statues out in the yard or at the gates? I think phoniness in our inner worlds is just as predominate, and harder to recognize. So, how the heck does this relate to story building?
     In Donald Maass’ book Writing the Breakout Novel, he says, “It is all too easy for an author to project into his novel more than is actually there.”
     Those words haunted me. Because I do project a lot of emotion and I imagine lots of subtext and subplots into any scene I write. I have that strength; it inspires me to fill up the emotional cup for the reader, so to speak, to the level I’m feeling inside. I also listen to epic original movie scores while writing, editing, and revising. I pretend it’s the soundtrack to the movie trailer: CREED OF KINGS. Projections and the emotion of the music add something for me that won’t be there for the eventual reader. Not saying it’s a bad thing that I do this, it’s just that those add-ons have been doing a lot of work for me. I just need to be less reliant, I figured out why I’ve been reliant. Not saying I will stop but it is borrowed. Ultimately, it is insufficient to get me where I’m going. I need more, of course.
     Hang with me because I have a point to which you might relate. I need to tell you something else first. I have another little trick. It’s helpful but only applies in the realm of imagery. I cast actors in the roles of my characters. Charlton Heston, Linda Harrison, Viggo Mortensen, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie. I cast landscapes and buildings, too. I see these actors and settings playing roles in my story. Like pink flamingos and lion statues. Again, borrowed.
Here’s the problem. I’ve been doing another kind of borrowing. It was doing a lot of work for me, very crucial work. But I should not, and really cannot, borrow in this area. This area is mine. I can’t compose music or make movies, but this story is mine. I did not realize the impact of this until a few days ago.
     For a story to really hum, it needs all the core elements fully realized: character, theme, structure, and concept.
Let me give you a quick example of concept and theme using the movie Gladiator. Concept: What if a roman general became a slave? And what if that slave became a gladiator? And, what if that slave challenged an emperor? Theme (could be more than one): Don’t mess with a dude’s family. Love and family reach beyond death.
     The crime against my creativity that I’ve committed is, I’ve been compensating for my half-imagined high concept (a what if?) and theme (what is this story saying?). I had a strong but indistinct concept in mind in the beginning. I believed it is worthy of fueling three books. I’m very close to having it crystallize in my mind. Writing seemed like the biggest mountain to climb when I started, just do it. So, I climbed Everest with my fingers. Now, I realize that I have projected what I’ve been lacking in concept and theme into my story by counterfeiting feelings borrowed from the emotional reservoir of power in my soul created and stored by me from the inspirational concepts of Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or Gladiator and others. With some self-trickery, I used the feeling from those concepts—not the actual concepts—mixed it with my fuzzy theme and concept. I was pretending to be afraid of a lion statue. I transported those forces of poignancy into my mind to fuel my writing because I thought in the beginning that a concept and a theme was something I could get to…eventually. I’ve felt like I had the concept and theme in the bag, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice when it came time, just tweak it, retrofit it for the story. Therefore, rather than doing the hard work to fully conjure and finishing designing my concept and theme…I borrowed. It’s phony, like a fake deer in the yard.
     Subconsciously I was trying to refine my concept and theme by forging ahead. I’ve been on an exploratory exercise in search of the rest of the story (apologies to Paul Harvey) for the missing pieces. I would have found it, perhaps 5 years from now! That’s really all you’re doing if you don’t have a concept and theme defined when you start writing.
It has haunted me but I didn’t realize the lack of my full attention to this foundational element was going to be a brick wall, nor did I realize or understand the cost of what turned out to be an exploratory exercise. Again, not all bad, just insufficient for my goal. There is loads of meaning in what I’ve written but I was sailing further and further from my original and authentic, yet underdeveloped, concept and theme. It’s all good, but I’m not shooting for good, I’m shooting for great. My concept and my theme are the real deal, the real lion. It’s past time for me to do the work.

So it’s reality vs. relic. Which would you rather have?

Tron Legacy

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I write with epic music playing on Windows Media Player. It’s great for imagining scenes in the book. I downloaded the exclusive Amazon Tron Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk (23 songs) for 7.99. There are moments of true greatness here. Solid mood music for writing and reading over material I’ve written. This is non-cheesy heroic sounding stuff. Definitely worth the price. I like them all but the disco sounding ones, thankfully there are only three like that. There is one with talking in it, which is distracting, so I don’t need that one. 19 good to great songs out of 23 isn’t bad for my purposes. That’s a better than usual percentage when I download epic soundtracks.

Favs (at this point) are: The Game Has Changed, Solar Sailor, Arrival, Flynn Lives, Finale. Noteworthy is the digital growl/scream in the track Fall. Awesome!
Seems Amazon and YouTube are cool with their symbiosis. I hate it that I can only sample 25 seconds of music on Amazon, so I go to YouTube, find the whole song, and listen. They both must be benefiting from this. Free enterprise rules.

Death and A Moment of Greatness

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

(I put the video up for the music. WordPress won’t allow me to simply upload the music file without prohibitive finger wagging.)

Click it and read as you listen. I tried to time it just right. 😉

What if you died today? Perhaps this afternoon… What goes through the mind in that moment, the tire blows, your car careens into the other lane, head on with a bus? You’re gone. The world hiccups and goes on to its destiny.

A writer’s ego is gargantuan. We think our stories and characters are so important that we want as many people as possible to read them, know them. So, naturally, when I thought of my untimely death, I realized my book wouldn’t be finished. Why? According to Murphy’s Law, my book must have been destined to sell twice as much as Harry Potter.

I kept the thought experiment going.

After my funeral, I imagined my friends putting their lives on hold to delve into my laptop and word docs. They sit around drinking coffee and reading deep into twilight, deciphering all my confusing, brilliant, detailed, and scattered notes and thus, being astounded by its greatness, shout in unison. “It would be a crime against humanity not to complete this epic story!” They toast and begin the daunting task. There would be progress and things would look great. Then they find that my notes are lacking in the most important part of the book. “He must’ve never had a chance to jot down his great thoughts on his part.” “Or, the notes were lost in the inferno.” Then they turn to the most creative person in the group. He buries his face in hands. “I can’t do it!” He protests. “A. R. Travis was just too great. It would be blasphemy to assume I could even come close!” They implore, “You must do it. He would want you to!”

He does it. The book is a blockbuster, eclipsing even the Da Vinci Code. Sony buys the movie rights, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and Ridley Scott fight for the opportunity to direct it.

At the Academy Awards, the director and screenwriter dedicate their Oscars to me. All the Oscar-winning actors join them on stage, holding back tears. There’s a moment of silence. Then, on the big screen behind them, as the original award winning score by Hans Zimmer plays, there’s an extraordinarily handsome picture of me smiling in the sun on the beach, with a ball cap on, petting my dog.

…and not a dry eye in the house.

To read and watch CREED OF KINGS becomes a rite of passage for a generation and any serious lover of books and movies.

No ego here.

Categories: Uncategorized
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