Towering Genius (& I will delete this blog site in 9 days)

June 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I was listening to the Bill Bennett show driving into work one day a while back. As usual, I was enlightened in that brief 45 minute traffic jam.

A woman called in and offered a wonderful insight. When she was in college a teacher she admired told her this: (I’m paraphrasing)

Quote:


What are the odds you’ll ever meet someone with a truly great mind, a genius of geniuses of humanity, a supernova in the sky of humanity, a bright shinning sun?


…minds like C. S. Lewis, John Adams, Shakespeare, Leonardo de Vinci, Aristotle, Dostoevsky, or King Solomon. Think of these huge towering figures, these undeniable greats of history. A mind that can play all the mentally creative notes like Itzhak plays violin. The sheer greatness of their talent makes us cry tears of joy at the beauty. And in a way induces more reverence for God’s creation: mankind. Your brothers and sister of humanity. I wish we could hear more about these than those of infamous types, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, or Hitler. (She went on. Again, I’m paraphrasing.)

Quote:


The odds are very very slim you’ll ever meet such a mind in person or even know of one in this life. Just look at how incredibly rare the four leave clover is. But, you can know them. That is why the great books by the great people should be read and taught. You can get a glimpse of those lucid, agile, brilliant minds in their writing. And by some miracle you get the privilege to spoon a little of their prodigious disciplined thoughts into your mind. Nector of the gods so to speak.


I’ve read a lot of dwarfs. While there are books that come from the Hall of Famers I’ve never touched. But I stand like a dwarf  the shoulders of giants and like the giants see, I see, because they have left their words behind. Many of us don’t even know where our feet are. As I age my eyes drift over my library and ever more they are drawn to the wholesale philosophers, the lovers of wisdom, the greatest of minds. 99.99% of everything else – while amusing us for bit – is retailed for the masses. I may never be considered among the very wise, but from these minds I’ve learned it is better to be worthy of being known than to be known.

__________________________________________

In other news…

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).

 

Categories: Book Progress

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).

Are You Published?

April 26, 2012 Leave a comment

The simple answer is no. When I’m asked this question I wonder what the person knows about the art and process of storytelling. As with any type of excellence in art, overnight success is not the norm. Could I be published? I’m 100% certain. It’s easy nowadays via Vanity press or ePublishing. Nothing stands in the way. So being published is not necessarily a sign of success or quality. It’s basically like a General Admission ticket. Anyone can get in. Almost like buying a degree. There’s a universe of white noise out there now.

I began writing the saga Creed of Kings, which has sprawled into a 300,000 word epic, right before the eBook revolution started to crank up. I made a decision to never publish through Vanity press. Why? Because if I ended up self-publishing it meant—not in all cases of course—that I sucked. Sorry for the technical language.  Vanity means what it means. Gratifying myself is not my aim, which is to rock the reader’s world. Vanity costs dearly and you end up with a bunch of books in your garage. My goal is for Creed of Kings to be published traditionally, in hardcover, on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and others. on black Friday. Even though I’ve tweaked it a bit due to the eBook revolution, the spirit of the goal has not changed, but that does not matter either.

What matters most is quality. One has to spin a yarn better than the people in one’s creative writing class do. College football is planet away from high school football, and pro football is a galaxy from college. You must never rest when it comes to creating the best characters, plot points, dialogue, set up, mood, structure etc. I must see myself joining the league of David Gemmell , George R. R. Martin, Terry Goodkind , Steven Pressfield  now, not someday. What I create must stand the light of day with no prequalification. I have to write at that level of quality. I have to stretch myself, sacrifice.

I’m not new to writing. I’ve always had the bug. I had an active blog life that started in 2004 on Xanga . Before that, I was a regular contributor to a message board started by the rock band Creed—where I relearned the importance of spelling! I’ve written a oodles of terrible poems and kept angst ridden journals. Before that, I wrote a short story in college for a humanities project. The professor thought I should try to publish it. I did not think it was good enough. It was not about self-image, it was about objectivity.

People have told me all my life that I have the gift. It’s rarely flying in formation though. Life’s storms and obligations must be handled and I have discovered it takes a lot of effort for me to keep that flame lit. Furthermore, I am human and I suffer those outrageous idiocies of us artsy fartsy types, such as bored easily, moodiness, brooding, attention whore, borderline ADD, impatience, and perfectionism.

I feel strongly that my day is coming. The agonizing work has come up front. At the start it would have been arrogant to just whip out a manuscript, send it in, and wait for the book tour to begin. I never believed that. Therefore, I’ve clawed through 2 million raw words to eke out a few gold moments.

Nope, not published, yet. But, I have loved every second of this challenge. I will deliver a gift from my soul to many strangers in name but kindred in soul. If you don’t love the process, the nail biting, the blood sweating, fuggedaboutit. You’ll end up admiring your words in the vanity mirror.

March 29, 2012 2 comments

Mr. Bell’s books on the writing craft have made a huge difference in my learning curve. Long ago I discovered mood music for writing/imagining scenes. When I read his thoughts on this it was great to see the confirmation to what I was doing. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard original scores are my favorite soundtrack composers.

My Memories of a Future Life

‘This wonderful, startling alchemy when music meets the writer’s brain’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to tap into a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by bestselling suspense author and writing coach James Scott Bell @JamesScottBell

Soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann, Thomas Newman, Carter Burwell, Thomas Newman, Hugo Friedhofer, Mark Isham, Jerry Goldsmith, Alfred Newman, Steely Dan, Steve Miller Band

‘Of all noises,’ Samuel Johnson wrote, ‘I think music is the least disagreeable.’ I’ll go along with that. I like to write in public, mostly at Starbucks, with a little bit of ‘white noise’ around me. But when I have to get deep into a project or scene, I pop on the Bose headphones and fire up iTunes.

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Categories: Book Progress

The Hunger Games: A Quick Commentary on Cliché and Story Structure.

March 24, 2012 Leave a comment

 

The movie was full of cheesy teenager moments, but I loved it. The world creation had a bit of the Star Trek (The James T. Kirk Generation) papier-mâché look, too clean, too slick in some places. I think they tried to create the look of an authentic world, but the attire looked like something the people stepped into just before the camera rolled.

Even so, I did enjoy the movie. The female lead was a realistic protagonist. She wasn’t some bimbo hottie chick that stuns muscle bound men with a single karate chop of her petite hand (i.e. Angelina Jolie in SALT).

There was, however, a small dose of political correctness. I can usually tell you right away, who the bad guy is going to be in teenager movies. He will be tall, blond, and handsome…the ideal member of the Hitler youth. Remember, Hollywooders exchanged the Muslim terrorist for Neo-Nazis in Clancy’s Sum of All Fears? Hollywood and artsy fartsy types just can’t seem to rid themselves of this worn out stereotypical antagonist. It’s as common as the evil catholic priest. This is a cookie cutter bad guy that I’ve seen since Biff , in Back to the Future.  This antagonist has a rival cliché; it’s the tough hottie chick. So, I got one cliché character.

I try to look beyond all this. I go to movies first to enjoy. A close second is to analyze and see what I can learn. As a storyteller, I like to get under the hood of a movie and see why it runs so well. This movie ran well, which makes its clichés and cheese somewhat bearable.

The structure is perfect. Understanding story structure was the game-changer for me as a writer. At my core, I am an outliner – plan ahead, but I started my first book as a panster – just type by the seat of your pants and see what happens. Pantsing was out of character for me but I had believed all my life that stories were pure inspiration and a little perspiration. Imagine how I felt after two years of writing. Finally, I watched an interview with Larry Brooks . He wrote a book called, Story Engineering. He asserted that there are four distinct parts to a good story: Setup (25% of the story), Response (25%), Attack (25%), and Resolution (25%). If a movie doesn’t succeed at the box office, it’s usually because it lacks a pole that’s supposed to uphold the tent of story structure. The first tent pole comes between Setup up and Response – 1st Plot Point (A life altering decision). The second tent pole comes between Response and Attack – Mid Point / Context Shift (the bigger picture and commitment). The third tent pole is found between Attack and Resolution – The 2nd Plot Point (After the “all hope is lost moment” the protagonist is willing to die to achieve the goal).

I bought Story Engineering and studied it. It has made all the difference. Now I have six books outlined. The first is nearing completion. It’s not quite like coloring by numbers, but akin to it.

Structure provides focus, to not only the writer but also the audience, even if the audience has no idea about structure. The Hunger Games has this core requirement. If you see the movie take note, what I say here will prove to be true. Look for it.

When Procrastination Pays Off

March 15, 2012 2 comments

I was at my hangout working on the book. There’s no WIFI at the diner. So, I don’t dally on facebook. The drawback is I can’t save to my dropbox. I’ve stopped relying on a flashdrive. I had just finished making huge changes to the fifth rough draft. Driving home, I tell myself I need save to dropbox and my external hard drive. Don’t procrastinate!

At home, laptop plugged in, I go get a drink. Nagging thoughts of my adapter’s suspicious behavior bug me. ADD kicks in. I return. Laptop’s dead. The adapter went legs up. It hadn’t been charging the battery at the diner. All changes locked up on a powerless laptop.

So, gas is $35,000 a gallon and Best Buy is 20 miles away. Furthermore, I’m in a financial crunch (Did I say gas is $35K a gallon?). Best Buy has an adapter at $59. Amazon has it for $25.01. Need I explain? It’s headed to me overnight for $29 total.

That was yesterday. There I was with time and a fist-clinching drive to do more. I’m close to the end of writing the book. I’ve been putting off brainstorming about the next book. But, I was so angry with the situation I gave up and worked email, facebook, and twitter. Meanwhile the goal to have three books finished this year is slipping away.

I launched myself out of bed this morning, grabbed blank paper and pencil. Daddy O’s diner here I come.  Sipping coffee in back, breakfast ordered, I started scribbling a rough outline of the beginning of the next book. I summarized the prologue. I kept going until all the crucial events for story structure were present. The epic story was succinctly put before my eyes, front and back of formally blank piece of paper. I tucked it in my folder and left for my walk, where listen to soundtracks and brainstorm over the children of my mind.

While walking I check my email after I’ve started the tunes. Amazon notified me that UPS had some shipping issues. My adapter won’t be in today. Grrr! But wait! I’ve just outlined my next book. Rejoice! My luck has been great. I roll the dice again. With Hans Zimmer playing, I constructed the next book in my head while I walked. All the plot points in place!

Now, I have a solid outline for the next book on paper and a soon-to-be-written-down outline in my head of the one after that.

Procrastination can pay off.

Creed of Kings: Sample Chapter of Intense Action

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Creed of Kings by A. R. Travis

Kayna has planned to escape the temple where she is currently the Oracle. Her mother, Leyoi, has planned with her. A male co-conspirator named Ethem agreed to aid them. As Kayna and Ethem made their way to the rendezvous with Leyoi prior to this scene, they met an enormous man named Trute playing a cithara and singing outside a tavern. Trute takes a liking to Kayna and then fades into the background of the story to re-emerge later. We enter the sequence just after Ethem has been killed and Kayna is running for her life. Ethem had secretly planned to betray Kayna for a lot of money, but at the last moment changed his mind and ended up dying in a sword fight so she could escape.

Action…

________________

Kayna’s hopeless sprint was nearly over. A wooden fence blocked the alley. Driskin and his cohort were closing in, grasping. She knew the intersecting lanes much better, but alas, she could not turn corners fast enough or outrun these men without her horse. She hoped they would give up as she zigzagged through the alleys. She wished for an instant and then despaired as they kept coming. Her legs and lungs burned with fatigue.

One grabbed the tail of her flailing cloak, but she shrugged it off. It slowed her down, but they stumbled and it put some pointless distance between her and the pursuers for a moment. She came to the fence, spun, and put her back against the slats. She braced herself, clench-fisted, tears spilled. Then the plank at her back gave way and she fell through. She sprung to her feet stunned. The fence jolted as the pursuers slammed into the fence and cursed. Only the one plank was rotten. The break was too small for either of the men. They clawed at her and tried kicking through boards.

She blinked at the turn of fortune. Odor wrinkled her nose as she shuffled back ankle deep in something. The ground moved around her feet, a rat-infested pile of scraps. She gasped and slogged through reeking rubbish toward a door with glowing cracks, but collided with a drunk stumbling out. It was a tavern. She could run through back to the street. The man smiled, using her to hold himself up. He retched and regurgitated on her sandals. She fought to get around him as the pursuers broke through the fence. The drunkard saw them and summoned his inebriated courage. He nudged her aside, stood chest out with chin up, “For the Emperor! May he live forever!” He charged with an imaginary sword and a hiccup, but immediately collapsed forward face down into the pile of waste. The impact sent up a plume of filth.

Kayna pushed through the door into the tavern packed with burly men, mead dripping from their beards. Slack-jawed, they gaped at her. Pressing on, she excused herself politely at first weaving through the celebrants, but halfway in, they realized this was no regular tavern wench and called out, taunting and fondling her, threads ripping on her rough-spun dress. She bit a grubby finger and kicked free. The carousers did not seem to be complete miscreants. They laughed when she cleared the last table and went back to their goblets.

Driskin came through the back entrance, hazy in the thick pipe smoke. The celebrants re-engaged in revelry unwittingly walled off her pursuers. She shot through the open doors into the night. Momentum carried her into the empty street.

The cloak gone, dress flapping at the knees, sandals slapping down the path, she saw the temple glowing on the hill. I’ll make it.

The last bridge. Three more men rushed into the street, cutting her off. She halted and gasped for air, eyes darting around. Two more appeared on her left and crouched stalking toward her. She darted down an alley to her right before they closed the gap. It was the darkest alley she had been down during the exhausting chase. She knew it dead-ended with a drop-off into a swift stream, but there was no choice. The men hesitated, calling out signals. They knew they had her.

It was too late to stop when she glimpsed the mountainous deeper shade amidst the darkness of the alley. She slammed into it and landed on her rump. Supported by her palms, she stared up dazed, trying to comprehend what had happened.

Huge firm hands pulled her up. “No!” She tried to squirm free, impossible.

“Friend run fast.” The voice had a smile in it.

Lips quivering, she whispered, “Please, don’t be with them.”

“Go.” He nudged her lightly, but so firm was his hand, it nearly knocked her down again.

At the end of the alley, she nearly fell down the slope that dropped into the swift deep branch of the river. She picked her way down, fists were smacking with cries of pain behind her. Her foot slipped in a gap, but momentum carried. She jerked the ankle out, but from the pain, she knew it was wrenched. She tumbled down the bank landing in the frigid water.

She gasped from the shock of the cold, the current tugging as she clung to an algae slick rock. Movement on the bank made her shrink back. She wiped wet hair away and risked a glance. It was Driskin, his frame barely outlined in the city’s collective torchlight. His eyes bore down on her. “You ain’t gettin’ away.” He laughed and scampered down but a silhouette rose from behind, engulfing his smaller body. Choking, flailing, and then a grunt, sent Driskin’s body flying overhead to crash in the stream. She glimpsed Driskin’s feeble effort to stay afloat, but he went under gurgling.

The huge figure approached. Her ankle throbbed, teeth chattered. She recognized his face and reached up but lost her grip on the rock. She clawed at the slippery bank but the rushing current dragged her down. She tried to swim, but with one useless ankle, she floundered.

It only took Trute a few enormous strides to bound downstream to the small bridge she would have traversed had the men not forced her down the alley. She reached, desperate. He leaned over the rails and plucked her from the waters. As he hauled her up by the wrist, Driskin lunged from one of the bridge’s support beams and grabbed her around the waist. She thought her shoulder would give way. As Trute lifted, the man slid down her body and seized her sprained ankle. She cried out and let go of Trute’s wrist, but he held on to hers. Still in the water up to his chest, the current dragged Driskin under the bridge but he clung to Kayna as if her foot was the last knot in a rope. Her ribs were grinding against the floor planks of the bridge. Trute could have easily pulled her up, but he did not. Instead, he was feeling along the wooden rail with his free hand. The weight of the man was going to tear off her foot. “Please,” she groaned. Trute broke off a piece of wooden railing just the right size, leaned, and whacked the clinger’s head. Driskin dropped like a corpse, into the racing stream.

Her soaked dress rained on the planks. Trute lowered her and she sat in a puddle shivering. Tears blended with water streaming from her hair. She looked up as she rubbed her ankle, “Did you see my friend?

Trute nodded sadly.

“Is he…?” She could not finish the question.

Trute nodded. He eased her up and cradled her in his massive arms. In the fortress of his muscle, she wondered if he felt the weight of her heavy heart. The morbid dread of the emperor’s visit clutched her as she saw the soft glow of the temple in Trute’s eyes. She rested her head against his chest. He carried her uphill to bitter sanctuary.

#

Leyoi caressed the image on the necklace’s sliver of antler. An Alyndrean should never cherish such things. Forgive me goddess. She had come to Iddissium with a baby girl at her breast. She held the necklace in secret when worrying about Kayna. She had hoped to give up the burden tonight. I ought not to fret. She is a woman now. I will confess everything…on the other side of the river. That hope had changed suddenly…

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