Monthly Archives: September 2014

Birthing Ideas

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For me, it starts with a thought that floats by when I can’t possibly write it down. I’ll be jogging, or driving, or more commonly, at a standstill but without a pen or my cell, much less a pad—the old fashioned method of capturing mental sperm and tethering them to an egg. Otherwise, I’ll be in company, obliged to listen, or at least balance the dialectic between mine and others’ minds. The few ideas that make it through this mesh and into print undergo a thin vetting, I’ll have to admit. They’ve worked hard to get there, I figure. Given the ongoing reaction (and sometimes lack of it) to my novels, Crystal From The Hills and The Situation, I glean that others’ filtering process might be more thorough. Or more drive-by. Take agents and publishers, for example: a cursory glance is surely all I’m getting from those deluged by submissions and supplications, waiting for that one idea, or that one expression of an idea, that will float their boat or stir visions of future dollar signs. Let me naively ask: are there agents out there struggling for work? I mean, struggling to find writers, or maybe just writers who will make them money, because maybe they don’t know what interests readers anymore than I do?

Among other things, my bi-novel opus concerns the matter of birthing ideas and then pitching them to an imagined, waiting audience. The characters’ process in bringing ideas to life is meant to parallel my own writing process as well as, uh, life, I guess. I’m serious, if diffidently so. I notice it works something like this: you get started, take in what you can, consciously and unconsciously, then later you turn it around and make sounds in the opposite direction. At some point, when ready, you let the world know what you got, hoping an unsuspecting public doesn’t gaze back, nonplussed and indifferent for a hot minute before turning away and moving on. Chris Leavitt, my first protagonist, took it in, all the data around him; in fact, he spent too much time taking it in. That is, he spent too much time in isolation, ruminating on things that didn’t make sense: the way people relate to one another, as in love, fight, and oppress one another in families, friendships, in workplace systems. By his mid-twenties he’d had enough of going forward, so quietly (as in secretly) he resolved to grow down and not up; to lie about his age, drop out of society in fits and starts. Despite himself, he still tries to live some semblance of an adult life: he gets a job, a fledgling career, even a girlfriend—sort of. He fucks it all up, of course, but he can’t stop the needs of his real self; the birthing of ideas.

In his mind, he births the idea of Shadows, his visions that foreshadow shadowy events, criminal happenings, and other important stuff. At least that idea isn’t rejected in so far as many others, including his friend Bryan “Weed” Tecco, share the fantasy, and it is a fantasy, albeit one that bonds many in collective alienation. On the other hand, Chris’ invention of a specialty diaper that purportedly detects urine versus feces, (a time and resource-saving notion for parents), is a non-starter, subject at best to the interest of a huckster lawyer, determined to steal Chris’ idea and sell it to more capable people. By the end of The Situation, the follow-up novel to CFTH, Chris’ invention, plus his whole not-so-fledgling career in medicine, seems dead in the water, recalled only in subtext, as an inside joke within a sinister kidnapping episode suffered by Weed. Chris buries his inspiration amid a swirl of insecurity and persecutory fear: will his inadequacies be exposed? Will malevolent forces, others more organized, confident, and skilled, seize upon his ideas and exploit them, and discard him?

Weed’s fragility is better defended. Introduced as a villain who has disappeared in CFTH, his image suffers in absentia. He is a slovenly rogue: a drug dealer, a vulgar egotist, and abuser of women; maybe a pimp. Who knows? He keeps to himself, mostly, fomenting these projections while thriving in the underground economy, relatively unconcerned by family or systems, a society whose rejection of him he grimly accepts. But he is not without ideas, and unlike Chris, he seems more fortunately endowed with talents: a “genius” at online video gaming; a suggestion of writing talent. Through his day job as a game tester for a corrupt telecommunications giant, Sahi corporation, he stumbles upon a game (dubbed ‘The Situation’) that utilizes the Shadows idea as shared by he and Chris, and—as it turns out—a secret society of Shadows seers, known as Cassandra’s Children. Foreseeing malfeasance within the corporate world, Weed becomes my serendipitous hero: a guy I’ve primed the reader to dislike, though he is poised for a redemptive mission. He steals the flash drives for the ‘The Situation’, makes a getaway with Chris and instructs his unwitting friend to stash his contraband. Then an accident occurs in which the friends’ getaway truck sinks into a lagoon, separating the two social misfits for most of the story. Anyway, this begins the action of both novels: the first, CFTH, a sprawling story of an itinerant and traumatized Chris Leavitt, follows his path back to reality and purpose. That’s Chris’ Leavitt’s drama, an unsexy allegory about living on the fringes. The second novel, The Situation, unfolds a more conventional tale of good, bad, winning and losing, yet it, too, pivots around the birthing of ideas.

Along his picaresque journey, Weed emerges (literally) from his disappearance and gradually reveals more of himself, largely by happenstance to Chris’ enmeshed girlfriend, Jill Evans, including ideas once captured in a video gaming book which—though completed and published—was badly edited and sold poorly. The backdrop of unrealized ambition becomes intertwined with the concurrent task, Weed’s seemingly vicarious goal of returning the ‘The Situation’ to its rightful owner and creator, a journalist/programmer named Jules Grotius, ala Julian Assange. Grotius is a man who births ideas but follows through: he is not fazed by inadequacy, or potential misunderstanding; the prospects of failure, or even persecution. The climax of The Situation, and thus of both novels, is the explication of a game containing an idea with—and I mean this—deep social implications. But to find out what that (my) idea is you’ll have to do more, much more than give this thing a cursory glance. I think you know what to do. I think you get the idea.

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New video: Graeme talkin’, not writin’, about The Situation

photo[1] (4)

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What’s In A Name?

What's In A Name?.

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What’s In A Name?

A sample bit of text from The Situation

As he walks up the hillside towards the avenue, Weed surveys the majestic rows of eucalyptus trees that frame the road, the forest of poplars through which the sun beams angelic rays of sunlight. He remembers how they helped the night before: the way they stood like tall shadows and sort of guard-railed Chris as he drove along the unlit roads in the dark. The lights against the distinctive trunks were all that marked the edges of the treacherous, winding highway with their steep ditches. Weed was raised among these wooded areas, within this sleepy village and its outlying spread of homes. The bucolic surroundings recall a time when he was better known as Bryan versus Weed. That was his first decade and a half, roughly. The nickname didn’t stick until his latter years of high school, for reasons that strike most people as obvious, though privately, Weed has always known that his nickname has layered meanings. After all, even Weed’s parents slip from time to time and use the term. They have no objection to marijuana, the presumed association—far from it. In fact, they’d once been modest growers of pot, as many are in West Marin. Regardless, Weed gathers that his parents took to the nickname not because of its drug connotations, but rather because they thought it fit him, as in naturally.

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Not Working

I’ve pressed buttons, slid my finger, spoken into the dimpled space and heard the HAL-like voice tell me it doesn’t understand. The device, like my head is frozen, zipping back and forth between applications, moving up and down like an icon in a video game. It fits neatly into my hand, feels smooth to the touch, and is vulnerable. I could easily skim it across rocks, watch it splinter and feel a brief victory over the machine. But within its death throes would be the backlog of relationships, all crying out, leaving me behind. I can replace this newfangled toy with the latest device, just weeks away now, I’m told. Everyone’s getting one. Everyone’s waiting in line, speaking the jargon of how to talk in the latest way. It’s as though talking has been re-invented and I feel as lonely as I ever have.

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DAMAGED DAM

a notable set of words

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No Place To Go

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There is no place to go, nothing to do, participate in, or witness, that will achieve the elusive state that exists in Bryan “Weed” Tecco’s head. Not that he doesn’t imagine: its glory and the path backwards through memory to the thing he really wants, the euphoric recall. But it’s in the subtext now, this longing. Even at the premature age of twenty seven he’s been coasting along, living with subdued disappointment and thwarted experience; a specimen of ennui and muted self-loathing. In the post-script of this missive, I’ll give him a break and call him by his real name.

Bryan’s day job is that of a game-tester for a telecommunications giant called Sahi communications. Ten years ago the average reader of a book like The Situation might have asked if being a tester of video games was a real job, but these days, with e-sports an actuality, role-play video games more popular than film or music, the job in question might now be the ultimate career choice for the average teenage or tweenie male. Girls wouldn’t want this gift, except maybe those desperate to squeeze into the male world; one-time little sisters playing out the drama of not being left out. However, Bryan works his day job by taking it for granted, paying it little heed while using the languidly passing hours as a springboard for the evening’s moonlighting, his wax dealing side-gig. Though seemingly bright, creative, and possibly ingenious, he nurses an old wound that obstructs ambitions, his prospectively society-contributing lifestyle. In his world, whether that is Richmond, California, or the affluent, hippy back roads of West Marin, Bryan is a misfit: born without guidance or guidelines, though he is subject to hasty yet capable nurturing later on. He is destined to plunder his own path, revisit his original script of rejection more effortlessly than Chris “Crystal” Leavitt ever will. He will keep others at arm’s length, generating intrigue in some, contempt in most, but still assessing his limitations all along.

As a serendipitous adventurer, Bryan fits the bill for me, but not for Sahi, a corporate beast that doesn’t notice the special talents of its worker bees. A wildcard in their system, Bryan recognizes special elements in a game he’s been given to test; elements uncannily similar to the hallucinogenic visions (called ‘Shadows’) that he shares with his also wayward friend, Chris. Galvanized by an impulse not fully expressed to the reader, Bryan steals the files for the game, called ‘The Situation’, half-believing that he’s found a cause that will stoke a dormant heroism. In the novel’s predecessor, Crystal From The Hills, the notion of a situation is given some comic mileage as an inside joke between friends: a situation is a personified event with an attitude, and given a cosmic edge. A situation, as introduced in the first novel, is an umbrella term for an event with some manner of sentience at its core. A situation: it has opinions and feelings; it wants things, and like God, will fuck with people if it has to. It’s a signal that all things, happenings and beings that wander aimlessly, congeal in order to find meaning, reflecting the existence of an overseeing power.

The presumptions of a psychotherapist, which are perhaps similar to those of a dramatist, are that people care: they care about themselves, about their friends, their parents or siblings, their lovers. They care about their communities even, and given half the chance, lifelong frustrations or limitations notwithstanding, they’d seize the opportunity to make a difference, disrupt the presumed versus natural order of things and bring forth something like goodness. Bryan’s adversaries generally see him as an opportunist and a sociopath, and so they miss him. His doppelganger, Eric “fierce” Pierce, chases Weed across the landscape of California, pursuing him with all the righteous fervor of Javert, but also the collapsing delusion of a failing system. Pierce haplessly represents his employer, which thinks it can easily squash the individual, the fly in the ointment, “between the pincers of a superior being”, I write. But of course it isn’t superior, this corporate behemoth that is Sahi Telecommunications. It’s made up of individuals, after all: all lost in the mix. Like Bryan, it only acts as if it knows what it’s doing. Underneath the pretense, my protagonist acts as if he doesn’t stand a chance. That’s why he separates, as in separates from everything and everyone as often as he can. The backstory? Sorry (or not), this story’s not like CFTH; it’s locked into the present and future, not the past. It’s in the subtext also, Bryan’s quiet lack of self-worth.

Who he is lies somewhere in between the texts of the two novels, or else before either, out of sight of his author even, and hiding defiantly. It’s late now, a good several months since I finished The Situation, plus a year or two since I birthed Bryan “Weed” Tecco. I know he’s better than he thinks he is. I knew from the start that he’d be much more than the cardboard nasty I expose in CFTH. I thought he might be a good anti-hero, a curmudgeon with a tender heart, a bit like the John Milner character from American Graffiti: greased, beefy and sour, yet sweet enough to give a kid a break; kissing the thirteen year old girl on the cheek at the end of the night. If you read the dense yet worthwhile gem that is CFTH then you might have thought you’d seen the last of Weed, and thought good riddance (to Weed, and maybe the book, I guess). You didn’t know I had plans, ideas that were only half-thought through as I got started. I was playing it by ear, looking for redemption in a sequel, hope in ordinary guys—not even men—and believing in few things less than I do heroism, which is a problem for me, I admit. Really: the way heroism is sold in this life is a deadly lie. I prefer redemption as a concept. There’s more personal history, less of a script for others to steal, transform into something banal, there just for common consumption, or exploitation. Instead, there’s something musical, un-captured and pure. There’s even more syncopation in the sound of the word.

For e-book link for The Situation, click on the following:

http://www.amazon.com/Situation-Graeme-Daniels-ebook/dp/B00LDUP2NG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411079181&sr=1-1&keywords=Graeme+Daniels+The+Situation

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