Showing posts with label Derek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Derek. Show all posts

Friday, September 14, 2012

On Writing

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to how non-writer's perceive people who are writers. If you're a writer, and I'm assuming some of you are if you're reading this, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Try explaining to any of your non-writer friends, co-workers, family or even strangers that you're a writer or a novelist and you get the usual responses:

1) What do you write? 2) Can I read it? 3) Oh, interesting, I'm reading this book by (insert author who has sold a billion books i.e Dan Brown/James Patterson).

I tend to find that those questions are the non-writer trying to rationalize what writers do. It's a valid response. Here's what else I found, when a non-writer asks you to read your work, they don't actually want to read it. It's like giving them a homework assignment. By asking for a copy of your work to read, they are simply being polite in that they think that's the common practice when someone tells them that they type up the stories they created in their head.

I don't say that in a callous way, again, this is the non-writer trying to understand how someone they assume who is mentally stable (for the most part) sits in a room by themselves and listens to the voices in their head and... wait for it... MAKES STUFF UP.

I spent about the last six or so years denying that this what I'm supposed to be doing. I think when you hit the twenty-five year old mark you start to see who has given up on their dreams and who has settled for complacency. I'm guilty of it. It's hard to not fall into the trap that not chasing your dreams showcases. It's a safer road. It's a road that says, "Hey, you might not be happy, but at least you might own some nice things."

I find myself thankful that I have a job that I don't have to take home with me. Once I leave I don't have to think about it. On that same token, there are days at work where I'm glad that my job isn't a career and one day I'll be writing full-time. That's my goal anyway, and I'm making progress every time I finish a new project.

It really got me thinking about why I write in the first place. I was listening to the news on NPR the other day and two things occurred to me. First, it seems that people always have to name drop that they listen to NPR like it's a badge of honor (does anyone ever say, "So I was watching the CW last night...?"). The second was that in the midst of listening to the story in question, I had finally figured out how to succinctly sum up why I write in the first place. It goes a little something like this --

So there's this seventy-year old woman named Constance who, after honking her horn repeatedly at the school bus idling in front of her, decides that she has much more important things to do and guns her Toyota Camry around the bus. Before she realizes that the bus was stopped for a very good reason indeed, Constance finds herself watching a freight train bear down on her and almost instantly, it smashes into the passenger side of the Camry and pushes it a good hundred feet before screeching to a stop. Forgoing all the gory details, Constance is pronounced dead at the local hospital and the attending doctor in the ER is tasked with notifying the next of kin. Turns out Constance's husband has been dead for decades, but she has a couple of sons and a daughter. The doctor calls one of her sons and his wife answers the phone. The son isn't home, but the wife offers to take a message. The notification ethics, however, forbid the hospital from telling anyone but the next of kin about Constance's death and so they ask when the son will be home so they can call back.

And the wife responds "He won't be back for two months." And the hospital says, "Well... do you have a number where we could reach him?" And the wife says no, she doesn't. And why not?-

Because he's in space.

As in outer space. As in orbit. As in one of a handful of human beings who have the unique distinction of not being on the planet!

The son, Jack, is working on the International Space Station doing repair work. And as he floats in Zero-G, he is blissfully unaware that his seventy-year old mother has just been flattened by a train.

And what does this family's personal tragedy have to do with why I write?

Because to me, this is an amazing story. And as soon as I hear it, my brain is already hammering out the scene where Constance's other kids debate as to whether or not to even tell Jack. The daughter, Caitlin, insists on telling him that mom died peacefully in her sleep and holding the grisly truth for when he's back on Earth. Jack's brother Aaron, however, demands that they tell Jack all the gory details. Why? Because it was Jack's fault she was driving at all. Her eyesight had been failing her and Aaron wanted to get her into assisted living for over five years now and if stupid Jack had just listened to him, she'd still be alive!

Fortunately, I think, the decision is not up to Jack's siblings. He is, after all, a member of the military, so this would be a NASA issue. And it turns out there's this thing called Dual Plume Protocol. The Dual Plume Protocol, or DPP, was officially incorporated into NASA's Psychological Charter this year. Let me back up --

In September of 2001, the space station was manned by three people - an American and two Russians. As they were orbiting over the Northeastern United States, the American called Mission Control to report that he could see (with his naked eye) two massive pillars of black smoke rising up through the atmosphere. When they answered back, explaining that the black smoke was all that remained of the Towers, the American took a long, sorrowful pause and responded - "I wish you hadn't told me that."

As a result of the DPP, NASA started actually asking the astronauts who are leaving the planet what their personal wishes are regarding notifications of earthbound tragedies. And this is like, a very detailed document because it covers everything from worldwide catastrophes (i.e Katrina or a Tsunami) down to things that would only affect the astronaut him or herself (i.e their mother's Camry getting pulverized by a freight train) and it must be signed and notarized before launch. Why? Because their emotional state and focus of these guys is critical. They're being sent up to perform missions on a space station and after spending millions to train them (Jack is one of three people alive who has the skill set to execute specific repairs) it costs BILLIONS just to get them up there to perform them and the last thing NASA need is for someone to go batshit with grief on the day they're supposed to fix the thruster converter thigamajob.

So I'm sitting there thinking how Jack may have filled out his DPP form...

And I realize there's no such thing.

I made it up.

Yeah, I remember hearing about the astronauts on the space station having seen the carnage over Manhattan from orbit, but that's got nothing to do with the story of Constance's death. In fact, I don't know how many kids she had or, for that matter, whether or not they can just send an email to Jack (can you get email in space?) and dispense with all the formality.

But where's the drama in that?

So that's why I write.

I write because I can't help but make things up.

I write because I like to tell stories.

I write because my imagination compels me to do so.

Oh, and because I'm still trying to make my mom proud of me.

But that's a story for another time.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Call of Lovecraft

​So a couple of weeks ago an anthology came out that included a short story I wrote called The Clearing. It was a ton of fun to write and pretty surreal seeing something I wrote in print.
My friend Greg's blog included a short piece that I contributed​ on the writing of the story. Lovecraft Promo.
You can pick up a copy of the book currently on amazon. It's also available for your tablet of choosing.  The Call of Lovecraft.