Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Surfing Waves

Not literally, which is unfortunate.  Even growing up in Santa Cruz, California, I never quite got the knack of it.  Oh believe me, I tried.  I boogieboarded, bodysurfed and even skimboarded a bit.  On land, I made a valiant attempt over the course of about five or six years at skateboarding (even built my own), but to no avail.  I think my center of gravity is too high or something.  Never felt like I could balance properly.  It's just as well, anyway.  After a couple concussions in high school, my equilibrium is pretty much limping along.  Call me Captain Gaping Head Wound.

In any case, the title refers to the "mild bipolar" diagnosis I was given by a therapist about ten years ago.  Whatever you might think about words like "therapist" and "diagnosis", one thing is for sure: it gave me a name to put on the cycles I'd woven into my creative process.  The therapist even recommended against medication, saying that my cycles were not wildly out of the functional norms of the manic or depressive zones, and I'd already learned how to "ride the waves" to my advantage.  Tempering those waves would be a detriment to my creative vocation.  And we all know the majority of the best artists throughout history have been at least a little tweaked in the brainpan.

I can usually tell when a low cycle is coming on, because of the introspection and lower energy.  I'm not quite as outwardly bright or social.  I'm quiet and monosyllabic, and tend to have a corresponding period of lower self image.  And that's when I go into my head and do some of my most creative work.  I revel in the focus these low cycles bring, and can be much more prolific than when I'm in an up cycle.  Looking back, I can see that the year we moved to Seattle was spent in a low cycle like no other (or lots of them strung together), and it yielded three novels, four short stories and a screenplay.  Not bad.  On up cycles, I tend to be productive in more external ways: bill-paying, home projects, organizing, etc.  Maybe I'm just an overachiever, but I'll take it.

Although genetic and hormonal, it can be modified by outside influences, like the season, music, ambient chaos, and the emotional composition of my partner.  And with a lot of real life activity in the past year, the low cycles have been short-lived and few.  But now I find myself being extremely productive in the midst of some real personal and family-related challenges.  Go figure.

I guess I should be thankful I'm as functional as I am.  And I should, as they say, "make hay while the sun shines".  Or maybe something more like "make art while Bauhaus broods on your playlist because you're not a farmer and have no reason to make hay in an urban environment."

Speaking of urban non-farmers making art, we've locked in a date for the final Duo short.  I will get to work with some of my favorite people again.  Dan, Dan, Jessie, Eric, Devielle, Landon, and someone I've been looking forward to working with for awhile now: Wonder.

After years of just doing it, it's an amazingly empowering experience to actually see the patterns and appreciate them for the life skills they are.  These are my waves.  I've been surfing here all my life.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh, the Wackiness

Well well well, where does the time go?

It's been a week of challenges here at the Circle-D Ranch.  Challenges of the familial, personal, professional and emotional variety.  I got the results of my blood work, and aside from the bad cholesterol being just over the recommended limit (and which I'm lowering even now with my high-fiber/low-animal-fats diet) everything is in the green.  So that's nice.

The weekend was relatively leisurely, considering what we usually have going on.  A birthday party for Trish, movies, walks, a live show by ThorNton Creek (followed by hilarity and vinyl LPs at Kim & Tim's), a trip to the ballet for The Mrs., and some non-work-related online time for me. We capped off the long weekend with a screening of the classic '80s fantasy cheesefest The Beastmaster (featuring a shaved and oiled Marc Singer and a notably topless Tanya Roberts in a role that had a huge impact on my adolescence).  We muttered MST3K commentary at the screen.  I think The Mrs. enjoyed it.  I would say it's pretty much impossible to hate a movie that uses the word "phantasmagorical" in the trailer.

After several weeks of Tyler issues being on an upswing, we had a meltdown last night, which meant nobody got any sleep.  While trying to keep a semblance of calm, I received a text from Ron in the hospital.  Surprise appendectomy. And I've been dealing with a sinus infection/head cold on top of everything else.  So there's that.

Then today, Steve H. had to reschedule our Arrowflight art meeting for the third time this week due to car trouble.

Undaunted (or at least not particularly full of daunt), I set my sails and cruised the Sea of Productivity, giving a final once-over to the Arrowflight manuscript before sending it off to editor Mark Bruno in Chicago.  I also continued on the preliminary layout.  Playtesting should commence next week.

At this moment, The Mrs. and I are on our respective laptops, blogging in bed.  I'm sure that says something about us, but I'm not sure I want to know what.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I awoke this morning at 3:30 on the nose.  I was in the midst of a very uncomfortable and visceral dream wherein I could not interact, only observe, as a very "amplified" version of my son's birth played out.  All the mistakes, all the interventions I now know were unnecessary, the related periods of fetal distress, all the regret and guilt (and the repeated thought: Thank God we didn't cut him on top of everything else...).  The dream ended abruptly with a gush of blood as Sam hemorrhaged and my brain kicked into consciousness mode.  

I think much of it had to do with Tyler's official report from the UW Autism Center, which tells a pretty clear story of his issues and probable roots.  That has weighed significantly on the collective mind of the family recently.  I also think some of it has to do with the fact that Samantha would have turned 43 today.

Kayleigh plans to bake a cake, and we'll probably sing Happy Birthday, laugh, cry and remember.  As it should be.

Don't get me wrong - I am incredibly happy and pretty darned satisfied with the turns my life has taken since those significant losses.  The children Sam gave birth to and nurtured through their early years are both amazing people in their own right.  I'm married to a wonderful, understanding woman, who realizes you don't just ignore two decades of history.  Each year it gets a little easier.  But there's no avoiding it.  A very special person in my life had her own cut short.  Avoiding talking about how sad that is doesn't make it any less sad.  So we observe, and grieve, and thank our lucky stars we have each other for as long as any of us have on this planet.

Happy Birthday, Samantha.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Novel, Let Me Show You It

A pillow conversation with The Mrs. a couple nights ago got me to dig up my first two novels, Senses and Visions, intended to be two-thirds of a modern horror trilogy, dating back to 1991-1992.  Totally unrelated to that conversation, my friend Hans mentioned the stories during a Champions Online session.  Thinking there must be something to it, I went hunting for the novels yesterday, found them, and in skimming them made the following observations:
  • The first book (Senses) is uncomfortably bad.  The prose is pedestrian and the plotting awkward.  I was 23 and hadn't found a writing "voice" yet.
  • What passed for "modern" technology in the early 1990s is hopelessly mundane or irrelevant now.  I find that both fascinating and amusing.
  • On the up-side, the characters and dialog are compelling.  It reads like a screenplay.  There could be something here to salvage.  I don't like throwing away a good idea.
  • The second book (Visions) is exponentially better.  A voice has been found, descriptions and prose are more dynamic, and the characters and dialog are now worthy of being read by a more general audience.  It flows well.  The action sequences are Steakley-esque, probably because I was reading Vampire$ on a monthly basis and absorbing John's flair for stream-of-consciousness-right-smack-in-the-middle-of-the-fucking-action style by literary osmosis.
  • Unfortunately, the story is only readable after the events of the first novel occur.
  • The second book ends on a cliffhanger and there is no third installment.  With a file drawer full of agent and publisher rejection letters, I think I felt I was spinning my wheels on the horror/action thing and moved over to urban sci-fi, which led to my third novel, an epic cyberpunk stew called Shihodo, being optioned by Time Warner Books.
  • The great characters and team/mission based action really lend themselves to a game or TV series type of product.  It was briefly on our slate of RPG products back in the early days of Deep7, and it also survives as a videogame design doc (probably from the days when every disgruntled employee of Boss Game Studios was plotting a side project and/or splinter company).
  • Might be worth an overhaul, to make a single novel.  Or just skip that and go directly to screenplay.  See where it goes.
  • After I've got Arrowflight Second Edition out.

Monday, February 1, 2010

P-Town and the Quasi-Mellow Weekend

One of the things The Mrs. brings to our relationship is a collection of pretty cool people, mostly musicians, from her past.  Add my own cool musician-type people and you've got a great weekend in Portland.  Actually, it was only an overnight, technically speaking.  But what we managed to cram into 24 hours!

I'm still exhausted.

We left early Friday afternoon, which made it possible to make the jaunt in exactly three hours.  The Mrs. surprised me by directing us, not to the Ramada by the airport, but to the Hotel deLuxe, where she'd scored a pretty awesome queen-plus-valet-parking-plus-restaurant-credit deal.  We were upgraded to a king room too.  Good thing too, because although the rooms are nicely appointed, they're teeny.

We cleaned up, changed and headed over to my friend Chris D.'s house for dinner.  Chris used to play keyboards for a Bay Area band called The Rise many years ago, at one point sharing the Epithet recording label with a fledgling dreampop project called And Tears Fell.  Chris and I have been in and out of communication for the last couple decades, but recently got caught up again and it was great to finally meet his wife, Laura, and kids (and introduce them to my new bride).  After some Italian takeout and some more catching up, we headed off to a great dive bar called Cactus Jack's.  SweetJuice started playing at 9PM and didn't stop until the proverbial doors had been blown off the joint.  We finally got out of there at a quarter of 1AM, but not before they'd invited a former bandmate up to play guitar, another friend to play sax, and The Mrs. herself to sing on one of their songs.  Adam had actually asked us both to come up and play one of our songs at the break, but by the time the second set started, I was exhausted.  It did give us impetus to get a few songs ready for public consumption, however.
It was a late night, and we were up by 0830 hours.  Breakfast with my Mozart Air Raid bandmate, Gordon, and his wife, Heather.  We followed that with a brief stop at Gordon's house before heading back home.

We were so sapped by the time we got home that we just changed into sweats and bummed around for the rest of the day.

Sunday came, and with it some guy time online with Ron & Hans, while The Mrs. went for a walk with Stephanie.  I got my walk in when it came time to grab some milk and eggs so that I could make red beans & rice with cornbread for dinner (one of our new faves) while The Mrs. went to get her hair cut.  We chilled out to some more Buffy episodes and were happy to flop into bed at 10PM.

So here we are, looking at another week, but with a semi-restful, semi-active and totally awesome weekend behind us.