Simpler Times

I’ve been neck-deep in the 1980s these last few weeks as I work through the plot structure of my third novel. I was born in the 70s but grew up in the 80s, listening to Bon Jovi and Wang Chung on the radio and watching plenty of quality television like “Growing Pains” and “Who’s the Boss”. (I watched way too much television.) Studying Iran-Contra and the Strategic Defense Initiative — SDI — takes me right back to those days.

What I’m looking for in my 80s political reading is anything interesting that I can stick a good story to. SDI by itself is a fairly interesting concept; the idea was that satellites could be used as spaced-based laser platforms to take out Soviet nukes. Pretty cool from an engineer’s point of view, even if the program never really went anywhere at the time. From a writer’s perspective, though, it’s only useful if I can anchor a plot to it. Since this is a Terwilliger novel I’m working on, the real question is where to find the conspiracies (or where I can invent them if they don’t exist). So I have to start reading between the lines to think of ways my villain, Elmer Nosgrove, might be secretly using the SDI program to further his aim of creating chaos. I’ll be tossing that around in my brain for the next few days to see what comes of it.

I never posted my reactions to the 4th episode of Twin Peaks, mainly because I was so put off by the awful Michael Cera guest spot. He can pull off a pretty impressive impression of Marlon Brando, but I found that whole scene to be just dreadful. (And how is it that Lucy, in 2017, still has no idea how the new Sheriff Truman can be talking to her from outside the station?) I very much hope Michael Cera rides off on that motorcycle and never comes back.

On the positive side, we did get to see Naomi Watts as the wife of Dougie. Ah, Naomi Watts. She’s so lovely. But why does she not seem at all concerned that her husband has come home lobotomized? And why on earth is their boy named Sonny Jim?

And there’s David Duchovny again as Dennis/Denise. I did not miss Denise at all.

There’s a bit more Tammy Preston in this episode, but only a bit. As an important (off-screen) character in the Secret History, I’m still hoping/expecting that she will do something interesting.

The scene that made the whole episode for me was the interrogation of Cooper/BOB. He seems a bit “off” when Gordon is talking to him, with that deep demonic voice of his, and Gordon notices that something is wrong with him. Gordon and Miguel Ferrer decide to seek out a person who knows Cooper well. “I don’t know where she lives,” says Albert, “but I know where she drinks.” I really hope it’s Diane they’re talking about. Diane, you’ll recall, was the person Agent Cooper recorded messages to back in 1990. We never saw her, but we knew she existed and was not just a figment of Dale’s imagination. Here’s hoping it’s Diane they’re talking about, and that Diane is played by Laura Dern.

“When you get there, you’ll already be there.”

This past Sunday was an important day… the return of Twin Peaks after 26 years off the air. For those of us who were watching back in 1991, when the second season ended with that horrifying cliffhanger, this has been a very long time coming. (I actually still have the notebook in which I jotted down my reactions to that final episode in real time, a sort of 1990s version of live-blogging except there was no audience to read it.)

Last night I caught up with the third episode of TP: The Return, which reminded me of why I got into David Lynch’s work in the first place. The new season is a truly Lynchian experience, closer in style to Eraserhead and Lost Highway than the original TV series. Frightening, graphic, disturbing, and fascinating all at once. These new episodes should come with an additional warning label telling people to go watch a whole lot of Lynch movies first, so they know what they’re getting into.

The following points are a few reactions and thoughts on where we are now, as of Episode 3.

  • This episode is where things start to get weird. For a show like TP, that’s really saying something. Agent Cooper has fallen out of the sky into an apartment by a purple sea, where an eyeless woman sits on a sofa. Someone is banging on the door, and whoever it is sounds most displeased. The blind woman leads Cooper up through a ladder, and they emerge on top of a metal box floating in outer space. The woman flips a switch (ELECTRICITY!) and gets sucked away into the void. I have no idea why this is happening, but it’s so very Eraserhead. And is that the giant, disembodied head of Garland Briggs floating by? Rest in peace, Don S. Davis. I’m glad we got to see your head one last time.
  • Now we know why “2:53” is such an important time. This is when Cooper is drawn back into the physical world, at the same moment when something very strange happens to Evil Cooper as he drives down the highway. Evil Cooper then vomits out a whole lot of something nasty (Garmonbozia?) after crashing his car. Yuck.
  • I find it a little unnerving that I’m able to watch the violent scenes with no trouble, such as Darya’s unfortunate final scene in episode 2, but I have to look away during the vomit scenes.
  • And now we have a THIRD Cooper in the mix. This one is a chubby lookalike who goes by the name Dougie and wears the Owl Ring. Is it a coincidence that he has the same first name as Dougie Milford from the original series? Of course not, there are no coincidences in the Lynchverse. And the hooker’s name is… Jade. Oh my goodness, we get to see a whole lot of Jade in this episode.
  • And there’s more vomit. Is this really necessary?
  • So apparently Cooper (the REAL Cooper) has left some part of his mind behind during his long trip to Las Vegas. He reminds me of Leo Johnson when Leo was in his “New Shoes” vegetative state. My favorite part of this whole episode is when Jade checks Cooper’s pockets and finds his key from the Great Northern.
  • What ever happened to Leo, anyway? Last we saw him, he was in a rather dire predicament involving a box of tarantulas, thanks to Windom Earle. Since Eric Da Re is not appearing in this new series, I’m assuming the spiders got him.
  • In this episode we get to see more of Hawk, Andy, and Lucy as they attempt to figure out what is missing with regard to Cooper’s disappearance. This is like a little taste of the old series, a visit with old friends.
  • We find ourselves back in Philadelphia, the home office of Gordon Cole and Albert Rosenfield. (Miguel Ferrer, yet another wonderful actor who left us too soon.) For me, the most important thing about this scene in the FBI field office is that we finally get to meet Tamara Preston, who was mentioned prominently in Mark Frost’s Secret History of Twin Peaks last year. We finally get to meet her, but don’t find out anything at all about her personality. She only gets about one line of dialogue so far. After reading the Secret History, I had wondered if Tammy would turn out to be a major character in this new series (maybe even the main character, a new agent to take on role of “newcomer/investigator” that Dale Cooper played in the original). Hopefully she has more to do in future episodes.
  • Finally we return to Dr. Jacoby, who is painting shovels. He paints shovels for a very long time and does a decent job, although I’m concerned that he may not get good coverage on the sides.
  • We close with some music by a couple of Millenial Everly Brothers, and we do not see any more of James or Shelly or Balthazar Getty. This makes me sad.
  • One last impression: I am finding this new series to be much more straightforward and easy to follow than many of Lynch’s later work. After watching Inland Empire and Mulholland Drive, both of which will tie your brain in knots as you try to figure out what’s real and what exists only inside people’s heads, this series is mostly linear in terms of time (other than a quick skip backward in time when Cooper arrives in the glass box) and the logical flow of events. Of course there are still 15 more episodes to go, and Lynch movies don’t usually go all topsy-turvy until about halfway through…

 

Music…

I’m happy to announce that THE MUSIC OF THE MACHINE is now available in Kindle and print editions!

As the war drags on in Vietnam, a mysterious man named Elmer Nosgrove has worked his way deep into Nixon’s White House. Using the war as a distraction, Nosgrove has created a weapon that will enable him to overthrow the old order and rule over what’s left of the world. And now that weapon has been stolen by someone even worse than Nosgrove.

Ed Terwilliger, having narrowly escaped death on several occasions, would like nothing more than to settle down and forget his past. But his little group of followers, who call themselves Eddites, believe that it’s Ed’s destiny to lead them against the dark threat in Washington. As much as he’d like to avoid this fight, he knows that it’s up to him to do something.

To prevail, Ed will have to infiltrate Nixon’s closest henchmen—known as the Plumbers—and find Nosgrove’s lost weapon before its power is unleashed.

The Music of the Machine – Kindle Edition

Music of the Machine - Kindle Final.png

The Latest (Book 2 update)

This post is a good news / bad news sort of thing. The bad news is that my editing and rewriting process is painfully slow, so I’m slogging my way through 277 pages of manuscript and making very slow progress. The good news is that this process is making the book better and more consistent throughout, so it’s worthwhile.

Today I finished editing Chapter 24 out of 38. Every time I finish five chapters, I send the whole thing to my Trusted Beta Reader for review. Barring any major comments from the TBR (such as “this whole thing is crap”), the chapters I’ve finished are essentially done and ready for publication.

So hang in there, and thanks for your patience…

Update on the editing process…

Thanks once again to my [very small but vibrant] fan community for being patient.

I am working on a daily basis to get the final round of editing finished, with a plan to get the sequel to Forest released this summer. The process is slow because I am being very picky about every word, but I am making good progress. I have completed the editing on 10 chapters, which puts me about 25% of the way through, and I’ve been getting through about one chapter every three days. I am submitting chunks of manuscript to my Trusted Beta Reader as soon as I get through it, so the review and editing processes are running in parallel.

No one wants to get this book finished more than I do, so I am wasting no time. Please bear with me just a couple more months — I promise it will be worth the wait.

Book 2 – First draft is DONE.

In my last update, I mentioned that I was working on the final chapter of Book 2 in the Terwilliger trilogy. After months of pushing through it, that monster of a last chapter is finished. That one chapter turned out to be 20% of the total book, almost exactly 40,000 words. I’ll be splitting it up into at least 4 smaller chapters to make it more readable… but hopefully that explains why that one insanely complicated chapter took me so many months to get through.

With that, the first draft of the novel is complete. The next step is rewriting and editing, which (unfortunately) takes a long time. The good news is that this draft is relatively close to what I would consider presentable — as compared to the initial draft of FOREST, which I basically wrote a second time from the ground up because I was not satisfied with the original. Even so, it will probably take several months to get through the rewrite phase.

Thanks, as always, for being patient.

Getting closer…

A very kind reader reminded me recently that it’s been well over a year since I posted an update on the sequel to Forest. The writing has taken me much longer than I had anticipated, partly because the story has turned in directions that I did not expect. This has required me to retrace my steps a bit.

The good news is that I am currently writing the final chapter… but that chapter has proven to be a monster to write. There are 6 different character POVs that come together at the end of the novel, each one interconnected with the others in a way that makes the whole thing very tricky (and time-consuming) to keep track of.

I continue to make daily progress and estimate that I’m within about two weeks of being done with the first draft of the full manuscript. After that, there will be revision and edits — I have several hundred little notes to myself (continuity issues and minor fixes) that I need to go back and address. It will be a while before that’s done, and I appreciate your patience. Considering that the first book took me a full 8 years from concept to production, and the second one has only been in progress for about 19 months, this one is going much faster.

Thanks for your patience.

Book 2 Update

Since I haven’t posted in such a long time, I thought I’d provide an update on my progress on the sequel to Forest of the Mind.

As of today, I have just crossed the 30,000 word mark on Book 2. For comparison, Forest was a total of 157,000 words. Assuming a similar length, that puts me just under 20% of the way through. I am currently holding myself to a target of one new page (about 700 words) per day, hopefully most of them non-crappy words that I don’t have to re-do later. We’ll see how long that target stands up against the realities of life, but so far it’s been working out.