My writing process

 

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Recently, my friend Liz Fountain tagged me in a “blog hop” series where various writers answer questions about the way they write. Here are my answers.

 

1.) What am I working on?

At the moment, nothing. (Unfortunately.) Since my writing is a “glorified hobby” and not a major source of income, I have to do work that I’m not so passionate about during the day. Recently, I started a new job at a mill. In an effort to learn how to operate my pellet-spitting machine, I’ve decided to put my writing on hiatus and free up some space in my mind. Later, after I’ve conquered the machine and grown accustomed to my new job, I’ll start another book. (Or maybe just a short story. I haven’t decided yet.)

 

2.) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

So far, I’ve published two novels, Under the Electric Sun and Citizens of Purgatory, on Amazon. 

Under the Electric Sun is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, science fiction story set in a massive underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. While the “after-the-end-of-America-as-we-know-it” scenario is vaguely similar to Hunger Games and other dystopian novels, my book contains a lot of offbeat humor inspired by Douglas Adams. The main character in Under the Electric Sun is a cybernetic raccoon named Tristan, a government-issued tutor. Tristan and his dim-witted student, Jake Sheldon, throw sarcastic barbs at each other throughout the book. When Tristan and Jake climb a secret staircase and see the surface of the earth for the first time, they enter the ruins of an affluent gated community where the locals have turned swimming pools into gardens and golf courses into wheat fields.

Meanwhile, Citizens of Purgatory takes place in Alabama in 2003. I don’t really know which category to put this one in. I suppose you would call it a slapstick Southern gothic comedy. When I was writing it, my biggest inspirations were Garrison Keillor’s radio stories and Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

 

3.) Why do I write what I do?

I grew up with Doctor Who and Douglas Adams. I’m fascinated with science fiction, especially humorous science fiction. But I’m also madly in love with small town Americana, so I enjoy writing Southern gothic fiction too.

 

4.) How does my writing process work?

I start off with a vague idea of who the characters are and how the story will unfold. I write one chapter at a time, writing a rough draft of the chapter and fine-tuning it before I move on to the next chapter. Then I go back and overhaul all of them, moving through the manuscript one chapter at a time again. Sometimes I take brief vacations between chapters to avoid a nervous breakdown.

You can click here to order my books.

 

(The photo above is a paper typewriter made by Jennifer Collier. She’s a genius.)

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Citizens of Purgatory

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Citizens of Purgatory is a dark comedy about a young newspaper reporter who confronts a bad driver … who turns out to be a vicious murderer who only served a brief stint in prison. It’s now available in paperback on Amazon. You can click here to order a copy. (It’s also available on Kindle if you prefer e-books.)

Snowbound

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It snowed heavily today. Well, some people might not use the word “heavily,” but we rarely get snow in Georgia, so any amount of snow is a major event. Because the roads were icy and people had a hard time driving, there were traffic jams galore. A lot of people were stranded in their vehicles for hours. And many other people abandoned their vehicles and started walking.

I’m thankful I didn’t have to work today. I didn’t have to get out in it. I mostly stayed home and drew. At one point, I did walk over to the gas station on the corner to buy a phone card. On my way back, I saw people in trucks struggling to drive up the gentle slope in the road nearby. They weren’t able to make it. They kept sliding backwards. I was terrified for them. I helped one lady push her SUV into a ditch — since her tires kept spinning on the ice … and the ditch seemed to be the safest place.

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The other day, my friend Dan (who was my history teacher in high school) came over and brought me a kerosene heater. For some reason, this image (above) popped into my head after he left. This evening, while I was hanging around in my apartment with nothing to do, I sat down and put it on paper. (While watching the Andy Williams Christmas Special from 1967 on YouTube.)

It’s a dog … with Dan’s head … warming himself in front of a heater. I’m hoping to do a better version later, maybe tomorrow if I’m still snowed in.

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NOTE: My novel, Citizens of Purgatory, will be available in paperback soon. In the meantime, you can click here to download the electronic version to your Kindle. Citizens of Purgatory is a novel about the misadventures of Nick, a young sportswriter who doesn’t know anything about sports. Nick’s life turns into a nightmare when an ex-convict crashes into his car one morning.

The Clockwork series

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Here are some colored pencil drawings I did back in 2010. They tell the story of a person’s life from birth to death. In each picture, you see the same man in a different stage of life. You also see a robot, with a clock for a head, relentlessly stalking the man. The robot represents time. I originally did these pictures in 2003, when I was 23 and still learning about colored pencils … but I decided to do fresh, new versions of them in 2010. I’m currently selling them on posters and coffee mugs in my CafePress store.

You can click here to visit my store. I have other art there, too … and the other stuff isn’t nearly as depressing. You will find pictures of happy things like kittens and flowers. (Seriously. Go take a look.)

I haven’t used colored pencils in a long, long time. Colored pencils are tedious. For the past few years, I’ve just worked with graphite pencils. I’ve mainly done “head and shoulder” portraits this year. I plan to do bigger, more ambitious art in 2014.

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In other news, I’m still sticking with my new eating regimen. This week, I’ve been subsisting on Styrofoam discs (aka rice cakes) and steamed broccoli. But today is a special day. Today is “splurge” day. I’m about to visit this quaint little Mexican restaurant I recently discovered.

Have a lovely weekend and try to stay out of trouble.

(Also: you can click here if you’d like to download my new novel, Citizens of Purgatory. It’s a story about Nick Youngblood, a struggling sportswriter who doesn’t know anything about sports. One morning, as Nick drives to the newspaper office, a deranged ex-convict crashes into the back of his car. A nasty conflict ensues … and Nick’s life becomes very complicated.)

Violence against furniture

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Not long ago, I was digging through my apartment in search of loose change, hoping to buy a Coke from the vending machine down the road. I pillaged all the usual places: the drawers, the couch cushions, and the section of the bathroom floor that surrounds the laundry pile. It suddenly occurred to me that I had overlooked a potential gold mine. I had overlooked it many, many times during previous coin-hunts.

In the corner of my living room, there’s a chair that belonged to my dad when he lived with my great grandparents. It’s upholstered in golden vinyl and it probably dates back to the 1960s or 70s. When my great grandfather passed away in 1996, I claimed the chair. It’s been with me ever since. My friend Paul says I should burn it or hurl it in a dumpster, but I insist on keeping it.

I’ve always noticed that the chair makes a peculiar jingling noise when I move it or bump up against it. Starving for caffeine and desperate for coins, I decided to flip the chair upside down, thrust a steak knife into its soft underbelly, and slash it open. Next, I flipped it right-side-up and shook it violently. Panting and wheezing, I shoved the chair aside and surveyed the little pile of junk that had tumbled onto the carpet: a matchbook from Shoney’s, a box of “crayon” candles, a guitar pick, a hairpin, a small change purse, toenail clippers, and a receipt, among other doodads. The matches still work, but the flames always die quickly and leave behind a nauseating odor. (They’re probably thirty years old, I’m guessing.)

The chair also yielded a few coins, but they only added up to forty cents. I wasn’t able to get a Coke that day.

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Saturday afternoon doodling

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I hope you’re all having a great weekend and staying cool.

I just finished the first draft of my new novel and now I’m taking a break from writing. If I push forward and start on the second draft right now, I’ll just write a bunch of slop I’m not proud of. I need a siesta. I need to shove the whole thing out of my head for a little while and focus on something else.

I want to do some drawing. I promised my friend Belinda I would do a portrait of her. I’m also itching to draw Noemi of Pinay Flying High. She lives in Dubai but she doesn’t stay there very often. She hops all over the world, posting pictures of beautiful scenery and delicious food. I would really like to draw her with some kind of strange/exotic background. I think that would be a lot of fun.

But I’m out of practice right now. I haven’t drawn anything lately. So today I did this warm-up doodle, just to get things rolling again. I drew Patrick Stewart (a.k.a. Captain Picard of Star Trek: the Next Generation) with little people sprouting from the top of his head. The picture is vaguely inspired by my friend Theanne and her blog, Out Of My Mind Images. She’s been drawing people with various things on their heads lately. I enjoy her work.

Maybe I’ll post drawings of Belinda and Noemi next time.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Try not to melt.

Child on a haystack

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Lately, I’ve slipped into the habit of blogging on Sunday afternoons. I didn’t get around to it yesterday because I was busy working on the last chapter of my new novel. There’s not much left to write (I only have one scene left) but I’m staggering very slowly across the finish-line.

Rather than squeezing an essay out of my brain, I’m just going to present you with a colored pencil drawing. This is a little girl I go to church with. Her name is Abbi. I drew her back in January. The original photo was taken at a fall festival.

Moving right along

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I’ve been hammering away on my new book for about three months. On Thursday, I started the final chapter. I’m hoping it will be finished in a week or two. I’m really thrilled about wrapping up this chapter — not because the book will be done. It won’t be done. But I’m thrilled because the major, serious work will finally be out of the way.

Once I get this last chapter knocked out, I plan to step away from the whole thing for a week and let my brain cool off. (I might stretch out on the couch and read something by Douglas Adams during that time.) Then I want to go back over the entire manuscript, rejuvenated and full of energy, and polish all the rough spots. This part shouldn’t take too long because I edited the daylights out of each chapter as I finished writing it. I’m mainly going to spruce the book up and add some “poetic sparkles” here and there. (I’ve been scribbling ideas in a little notebook, as they come to me, about the bits and pieces I want to add throughout the novel.)

Writing a book is like building a house. Right now, the basic structure is nearly finished. The roof is there. All the walls are in place. It’s just about ready. But I still need to paint it and put on the decorations — but that part won’t be as hard as everything else. I don’t even think of it as work. Painting is the fun part. (I realize the advertisement at the top doesn’t exactly fit what I’m talking about. Nobody paints a house with a spray can. I know, I know. But I couldn’t resist this picture. It’s bizarre, whimsical, and somewhat troubling too. The spray paint man has arms and legs, but no face. What a sad existence. I’m sure he feels very isolated and confused.)