Writing and Toilet Paper

So I’m rereading Adjudication as a way to reimmerse myself in the Metatron’s Army world.

I’ve been away working on a number of projects.

I was reading the following section:

He poured a glass of Cirhce’s Dream.  It was a private label sourced by the owner of the warehouse bar in Perm as a way of thanking Cirhce for keeping business brisk.  The proprietor kept a limited supply and the recipe under wraps, which kept it in demand.  Ryal had access because he’d developed a new alcoholic beverage exclusively for the owner at Cirhce’s request.  It was based on something called Vicks Formula 44D which had come up in some context or other while she was talking to the bar owner.  So long as Ryal promised not to sell the stuff, he could have the wine free of charge.

Here’s a bit of that experience I sprinkle into my work.  The 44D scene at the Warehouse Bar in Perm is based on a real-life event that took place in Fort Collins, Colorado YEARS before I lived there.

I was a technical consultant and my team was taking a large supply chain customer consisting of a group of international travelers to the local labs as part of an effort to win their business.  As a way of rewarding the team for staying up til 3 am in the morning then getting up at 7 to work again, sales took us to a local brewery.  I was chatting with a colleague who encouraged me to try what he was drinking.  When I did, I winced and told him it tasted like Vick’s 44D!

I really thought it was awful!

He shrugged as if to say, “There’s no accounting for taste,” and we continued talking.  Some 12 years later it found its way into my novel in a scene between Dacan and Christine.

Having grown up on Earth of another dimension, Christine was the one to ID the culprit taste.

There were a number of memorable experiences during that particular trip.

Yes, we won the business.

Not all of them – in fact most – (n)ever make it into the writing.

Here is a fun one.  We were in a meeting – the vendor participants totally exhausted because of a last-minute  “Oh, did we forget to tell you we need this?” BS play by the customer.  We’re discussing international “follow the sun” practices.

I was the networking expert on the project.

The subject of bandwidth came up.  At that point – totally exhausted – the British sales rep and my American self looked at each other – he put on the posture of the “freeze frame” face that was common in those early days of Frame Relay and – if you were really lucky – a T1 line – and both of us burst out laughing.

Our check writing fairly low on the totem pole customer participant didn’t share our joie de vivre.

The American sales rep glared at me like “Have you lost your mind?” but the Brit smoothly recovered with his global finesse and willingness to take the “I’m from out of town” blame.

I later hugged him and thanked him – as he thanked me – we so needed the break from the – well – you can imagine.

So – as a follow on to that little fun story I have a few recommendations for those who are interested in finding a bit of humor in the current chaos at the grocery store.

Aka:  Where the hell is the toilet paper and they don’t seriously expect me to use Kleenex?!

Here are three great shows/snippets you can watch that will help you appreciate the madness.

MASH 1:  Episode Crisis.  The supply line is cut and there is a shortage of – you guessed it – toilet paper.

They break into the fortune cookies!

MASH 2:  Incubator.  They need a medical device but the guy is willing to deal on several thousand rolls of toilet paper he just happens to be sitting on!

I love the press conference scene after.  The last thing General Maynard M Mitchell wants to do is answer questions!

About Last Night:  There is a great scene where Demi Moore’c character is opening cupboards at Rob Lowe’s character’s apartment – to reveal no room for her stuff but lots of toilet paper – you know – in case there was ever an emergency?

Enjoy!

btw: Here are two discussions Aaron and I had about the current TP thing. He suggested kids from closed schools could sell toilet paper from said schools’ janitor supply – door to door – to fund the Internet for online learning – enterprising young men and women that they are – and I suggested anyone driving a big rig with Charmin on the side may want to worry…

And for those who look out the window at the abundance of trees? Read Stephen King’s On Writing first – a cautionary tale!

Posr Note: As we are watching “Crisis” Aaron reminded me – there is a great Fawlty Towers reference to TP. As an ode to the British sales rep – check out “Communication Problems!

Mistakes Are In the Eye of the Beholder

So I’m in “final” edit with Cauldron of the Gods, first in the Dragon Core series which will be released at the end of this month.  As the past few weeks have been – to say the least – chaotic – I elected to go to a café to work.  

I needed to get out of my head.

I was chatting it up with a new employee – a lovely person – the kind who just makes you smile – and realized the good fortune in coming here.  Not only did I get to try a new dish, I got a reminder that mistakes are part of life.

Especially, grammatical mistakes.

To put it in context, I need to explain that throughout the years – perhaps centuries – the rules of grammar have changed.

Nowhere is this truer than in the publishing world.

I was explaining that I’ve been struggling with this particular manuscript – for whatever reason – with various aspects of grammar.

Having a teen who is learning “school grammar” doesn’t help because when I help with homework I have to remind myself the rules are different.

I explained that the rules of grammar are fluid – a concept difficult to explain to someone whose grades are dependent on a textbook rule that may or may not apply in life outside the classroom.

Not to mention there are an entirely different set of rules for writing doctoral dissertations. To the degree you have to buy a book just to learn them!

She shared a story with me about time working for an advertising firm in Boston.  Her boss, apparently unaware of the reality of fluid rules, called her out for writing “had had” in a sentence.

She told me she explained that it was a legitimate use of grammar.

It is. 

 I went on to share that I once worked for a woman who went ballistic because I did a typo on a presentation slide intended for automotive suppliers, writing India instead of Indiana.

Perhaps I was prognosticating a more global supply chain that has since come to pass?

She berated me for the mistake, taking great pains to tell me how I’d humiliated her.

Funny, I never heard about it from the sales rep or the customers.

I actually approached the sales rep to apologize.  He looked at me in confusion then said, “Oh, that.  Don’t worry about it.  No one noticed.”

I wouldn’t say no one.

But as I pointed out to the lady waiting on me this afternoon – it says more about them than us.

And it reminded me not to hold my shoulders up over my ears as I edit. Life, like grammar, is fluid.

In other words, Go With the Flow!

New Year New Perspective

Overhauling elizabethmaxim.com and doing groundwork for various upcoming projects these past weeks has given me a unique perspective of how enslaved we’ve become to the socio-cultural dictates of how we spend time and energy during the holidays.

There’s a thought-provoking lecture on time and its influence on man in Bishop Pair, 2nd in the Metatron’s Army series.

Knowing this was how I was going to spend a portion of my holiday break, I scheduled time with the team that supports me months ago.

My job was to provide them with a concise vision from which to work.  This meant we were able to maximize time spent.

I’m very proud of what we accomplished as a team and individuals and I am excited about upcoming projects.

And I’m a lot less stressed since all the legwork has been completed.

The experience – scheduling various team members’ time – brought to light just how integrated socially driven behavior has become in people’s lives.

Cultural norms and expectations drive behavior.

It was interesting to note just how dramatically Western holiday behavior (at least in the US) has changed over the past several decades.

When I was growing up nothing was open on Sundays or holidays.  That was family time.  You had to make sure you had gas in your car and food in your house before Saturday evening/Sunday morning.

Though holiday activities have been dictated by cultural norms for years, the timing of those activities has and continues to change.

I did a Black Friday thing once to get a deal on a 5-disc CD changer.  Never again.

The interesting part is that while the changes have drawn criticism, nowhere have I seen it pointed out that people are choosing to be herded in these directions.

They choose to leave a family event to go shopping.  They choose to stand in ridiculously long lines starting before dawn.  They choose to start Christmas shopping before Halloween.

It’s easy to see how we got to this point because as a society we are used to having our holiday time planned out for us.

  • When we’re kids our schedules are dictated by our culture.

Ho ho ho

  • When we’re in high school (in the US) our holiday schedules (students’ and teachers’) are dictated by the state governments

Everyone has the same time off which impacts businesses as parents and kids seek to manage time and activities, including babysitting/daycare.

  • When we’re in college it’s about getting ready for finals and graduations

Sorry mom, I can’t make it for Thanksgiving.  I’ve got finals to study for.

  • When we’re working it depends on the industry and any localized norms associated with the industry.

Medical personnel as well as police, firefighters, and others need to schedule coverage, potentially putting their holiday schedules out of sync with their communities.

  • When we live in communities where an industry is king, our holiday time is definitely impacted.

GM shuts down twice a year – in summer and winter.  While it’s logical GM employees and their families have to follow this schedule, the communities and businesses around the plants are likewise impacted.  

I was scheduled to do a software upgrade at the Flint GM plant during such a holiday break as majority of the production systems were going to be offline.

It’s typical for those working in IT to be at their busiest when the auto companies are on holiday because of the opportunity to do infrastructure upgrades and maintenance.

This holiday influenced scheduling resulted in one of the more memorable experiences of my early IT career I was about fifteen minutes into the software upgrade when the entire plant went suddenly completely dark.

Within a short time the emergency lights came on bathing the almost deserted plant in an eerie red glow that had us feeling as if we were in an apocalyptic horror movie.

When the power didn’t come back on one of the GM IT folks went to find out what was going on.

Brave soul wandered deeper into an almost pitch-black plant.

Turns out that the Flint power company had the same bright idea – take advantage of GM downtime to upgrade their infrastructure which necessitated shutting off the grid that the plant was on.

They didn’t inform GM or their vendors so we were all caught off guard.

The software upgrade was a bust and we ended up having to test the backup strategy as we restored the system to its pre-install chaos state.

It was successful.

They eventually got their upgrade but long after the break was over.

Hard to work when there is no power and difficult to schedule production server downtime.

In running my own business I appreciate the value of other people’s time and am very careful when asking others to work over holiday break – even as I know from experience sometimes that is the best time to get things done.

It’s interesting to see that some people really enjoy spending this time working as it gets them out of other obligations they weren’t too thrilled about.

As I enter the new year I can say I’m thrilled with how things turned out.

It takes a lot of work but even more planning to accomplish what my team and I did and I’m very proud of the work and their contributions.

It is not easy working around the socio-cultural dictated norms of holidays.

Being out of sync with local activities takes a lot of energy and no small amount of planning – like ensuring you have enough gas in the car and food in the house.

The Go Forward. I invite readers to see what’s new.

Pretty much everything in terms of look and feel.

I’ve added a couple of paranormal goodies at the bottom of The Psi Side and The Surreal pages.

I’ve provided information on upcoming projects and organized older projects alongside more current works.

All projects are tied to the theme Paranormal Journeys.

Cauldron of the Gods, first in the Dragon Core series is set for release at the end of February, 2020.

Stay tuned.

And last but not least – Happy New Year!

Fate or Free Will?

QUUHA6ZB3JFG3A4U7IYS43QM4UWhen I was in 9th grade we read Romeo and Juliet in my literature class, after which the teacher led a discussion on Fate versus Free Will..

The class was fairly evenly split, ironically enough and I have a feeling some went to one side or the other because of their argumentative nature rather than actually caring about the discussion..

Reboot.  I had an interesting run-in with this question this morning.  I approached the sofa with a double shot  espresso and as I was about to set it on the table I got a flash that the coffee would spill on a letter that was sitting on the table.

At this point I know to pay attention to these glimpses of the future.

I moved the letter, set the coffee in a place I felt was safe from disaster, sat down, and proceeded to browse a few news sites.

To make sure the Martians hadn’t landed.

Fate?  Within minutes my husband took a seat beside me.  I said hello then reached for the coffee only to find – to my horror truly – the coffee spilled and got the letter!

So – was it fate?  I could have taken additional steps to prevent it.

Aaron pointed out it could have been worse had I not taken the steps I did which raises a whole other level of Fate V Free Will and our role in it.

 

 

 

New Series Details

housekeeping-cleaning-bathroomI’m in the process of revamping  my online presence.

Simplifying to better serve readers.

I just finished adding pages that provide details on my new series and invite readers to check them out!

A Universal Change.  Though all my work will be organized through elizabethmaxim.com, I did choose to maintain metatronsarmy.com as a separate site that can be reached with a click.

I have decided to put the single title novels related to the original series on this site.

I also provide information on my style and my take on the paranormal.

Enjoy!

 

 

Bringing a Story to Life: Location Scouting

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Note:  This article is lengthy.

Having a location to visualize when writing a scene puts the writer on the stage with the characters. For me the process of selecting locations for my work is complex even as it’s fun.

The Why.  Choosing a setting for a novel is an important step in its creation.  It sets the tone for the reader so they can identify with the tale but it also provides the foundation for character behavior.  A number of factors encompass the location.

  • Time
  • Place
  • Locations within locations (i.e. business, residences, infrastructure, etc)

When Dragon Core began to take form as a viable idea for a story, the only location piece I had was a bar.

There is a historical element that factors into the plot but that was easily dealt with.  I simply needed to do a bit of research on historical events to get a feel for that environment/location.

Just prior to Christmas I came up with the name of the bar – Aesop’s Cove – but otherwise had no details on the location or setting.

Outside that it would be in an urban environment.

Urban Fantasy. For several months I considered whether to use a real urban environment or make one up.  In the end I decided on a hybrid.

The decision to use a hybrid came from the need and desire to pull elements from a variety of locations.

Considerations. Portland and New Orleans were both in the running for a long time but each presented unique challenges for my story.

New Orleans.  To represent the city with justice I would need to provide insider details that add vibrancy to the story, and I haven’t lived in New Orleans for decades.

There would also be elements I didn’t want to bring into the story, such as Cajun lifestyle, Mardi Gras, hurricanes, and the oil and gas industry.  These don’t fit into my storyline but would have to be dealt with if not included were I to choose this city.

Portland.  The layout of this city – that it is on a river as opposed to the coast – meant I would have to make alterations to the overall environment.  There are also cultural norms for this city that I didn’t want to use as a focus in my story.

Hybrid to the rescue. In spite of the challenges, these two cities definitely provided potential by way of locations within the location.

In other words, neighborhoods within the city at large that held elements conducive to scenes in the Dragon Core series.

These neighborhoods provided some of the vibe I was looking for.  They also contained businesses and/or architectural uniquenesses that I was happy to include in the location I was building.

Living within the location.  I decided the characters would not only work in an urban environment; they would live there. This led to the need to choose the type of living situation they were going to have.

  • Condo, loft, apartment, or house?
  • Roommates or not?
  • Walk to work, take public transportation, or drive a car?

These were some of the details I needed to work out.  Having lived in several urban environments throughout my life I was able to draw from my own experiences for these details.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit other urban environments throughout the years, traveling for work, so was able to pull details from those experiences as well.

Work within the location.  In this case, it helps to have an understanding of what any specific urban environment is known for.  Large metropolitan areas are often associated with a specific industry and the nuances that go along with the people, places, and businesses that feed that environment.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the industries and the communities that surround those industries.

  • Detroit/Midwest with its auto industry and union influences
  • New Orleans with its Voodoo culture, Mississippi River, and oil and gas industry
  • Los Angeles with its Hollywood and Bel-Air vibe along with being the land of dreams if not dreamers.
  • San Francisco/Silicon Valley with its tech and Gold Rush boom bust history

I pulled from a number of cities along the west coast when creating Dragon Core’s urban environment.

  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Portland
  • Seattle

I also pulled in from a specific neighborhood in New Orleans.

History within the location.  In addition to where the characters currently live, I needed to decide where they came from.

While important for cultural influences such a location isn’t as detail dependent as the current location/setting.  In fact, it was more important to elaborate on personal experiences than environmental details as they have more impact on my character development.

The stage within location.  I use the term stage to refer to a scene setting within an overall environment. In the case of Dragon Core there are a few main stages.

  • Aesop’s Cove
  • Clare’s office
  • Warehouse Square

Each of these stages requires a location and setup of their own.  I drew from personal experience when creating them.

Warehouse Square.  For this location setting I drew from Washington and Jackson Squares in San Francisco, the area in and around Portland’s Chinatown as well as the area near Voodoo Donut, and Pioneer Square in Seattle.

Clare’s Office.  For this setting I visualized the building I worked in my senior year in high school as well as the area around one of the police stations in San Francisco.

Aesop’s Cove.  This was a toughie.  For whatever reason I felt I had to really be able to “wear” this location when writing.

In order to get into the vibe of the interactions with the characters as well as the mood of the place and the people within that place as it changes throughout the story.

I visited a couple of prospects for locations that would fit the vibe I was looking for.

I visited new locations as well as bringing to mind various pubs or bars I’ve been in over the years.

Goldilocks would be proud.  There is a scene in Cauldron of the Gods where I have the character – Clare Edwards – reflecting on the fact her friend described Aesop’s Cove as gritty sophistication.

She tells him she doesn’t want to go to a dive bar to which he replies “Have you ever been in a dive bar that could be described as sophisticated?

To be in the vibe when writing scenes taking place in Aesop’s Cove, I needed a bar that was “just right” (aka gritty sophistication).  It was more difficult to find than I thought it would be.

  • Some bars were too gritty.

gritty = dive.

  • Some bars were too sophisticated.

Sophistication = yuppy and/or beautiful people and/or trust fund babies

With a little imagination I was able to find one that worked though it had enough differences that I needed to meld it with a different location in my mind to get it just right.  The result is Aesop’s Cove, a combination of a place in Pioneer Square in Seattle and a brewery in San Diego.

I’m not going to disclose names only because I don’t want to leave anyone with the wrong impression since Aesop’s Cove, while inspired by real locations, is made up.  It doesn’t exist.

Synchronicities.  I did have a pretty cool experience visiting the bar that serves as the primary inspiration for Aesop’s Cove.  One of the distinctive features of the character who owns Aesop’s Cove – Lage McAskell – is the color of his eyes.  When visiting a very cool bar in a historical part of Pioneer Square, I explained to the lady behind the bar what I was doing and would it be okay if I took a few photos of the place.

I’d also taken photos of the area that I can reference when trying to pull up an image for a scene in the story

She had no issue with it and after I placed an order for food and wine, she gave me her name, Amber.

Amber is the distinctive feature for the main character, the color of his eyes.

I do so love synchronicities.

It’s like life giving you a thumb’s up.

Bringing a Story to Life: Alien Romance

1920x1080_px_abstract_angel_artwork_demon_fantasy_Art-774620.jpg!d-2Just listening to the playlist I created for the upcoming Dragon Core series and finishing final edits on Analysis:  Book 12 in the Metatron’s Army Series.

I need to remind myself I have upcoming projects as I wind down this series.  It’s been with me so long I occasionally feel a twinge of anxiety about it ending.

As I wind down the series, two elements have taken center stage.

  • Reveals
  • Relationships

Reveals. In coming along on a journey that traversed thirteen installments, readers of the series have put their trust in me.

The nature of the story necessitated this format where each book in the series is like a chapter in the life of the main character, who was born in one universe, raised in another before returning to her home universe to fulfill her destiny.

To end a century’s old war and save a race of energy beings which are not always complimentary objectives.

My focus in these final books is to ensure I share various secrets and individual and collective character motivations that reveal the numerous plots within the plot in a way that honors that trust while not revealing too much at one time.

I need to keep the reader entertained – and guessing.

Relationships.  Relationships between a variety of characters definitely take center stage in these final books for the simple reason I need to answer the question Then what?

Through much of the series, the characters have worked together for a variety of common goals that included

  • training to do the jobs they need to do
  • doing those jobs to the best of their ability while continuing to grow as individuals
  • protecting each other and themselves while keeping their eye on the overall objective.

Having something in common does not equal compatibility though I have created characters who not only respect each other, they generally get along well, even as they often work at cross purposes.

Alien V. Culture. Most of the characters have grown up in a universe where different species are akin to what humans would consider a different culture.

It’s just no big deal to have different physiology or physical characteristics that make you stand out.

That doesn’t mean the different species trust each other, even as they work together for a common purpose.  Focusing on how those relationships evolve and transform throughout the series has been fun and something I only had an overarching understanding of.

I knew the overall goal but not what any specific character(s) would do to fulfill that goal. 

I’ve had the joy of allowing characters to evolve in such a way as to transform from being a minor background character to a main character that contributes significantly to the plot and the saga.

I didn’t plan for these changes, they just happened as the story progressed and I got to know certain characters better.

I also need to deal with interdimensional relationships as I’ve brought people from Earth to the Vetria system.

From Analysis:

“Look, can we file this under the Light Beings don’t understand humans category and move on to the reason you are in my apartment?”

“For the moment.”

Fuck.  He so did not want to get roped into the help the Light Beings understand the subtle nuances of intimate relations.

There is also the necessity of addressing how characters move from one type of a relationship to another.

  • From being team players to individual leaders as their careers transform
  • From reporting to someone to becoming a peer as the roles evolve
  • From colleagues to lovers
  • From culturally different species to lovers

On the path to love. Those last two points have been surprisingly less challenging than the two above.  It’s not only been a joy to take various characters from soldiers to lovers, it’s been relatively easy.

The key has been to think – really think – about the challenges they would face.

  • As an individual
  • A couple
  • A team
  • A community

Individual.  When dealing with different species I needed to take into account individual expectations based on social customs as well as individual likes, dislikes, expectations.

There’s Two.  I had to address the challenges of being a couple.

Emotion isn’t a switch to be turned on so imagine being involved with a species for who emotion was forbidden for centuries, for example.

Team Player.  I had to consider how the characters would view themselves in terms of their professional roles, as well as how their teammates would view any changes in relationships.

How do you go from soldiers who fight side by side to lovers? 

Who’s coming for dinner?!  Imagine bringing someone considered the enemy into a community with the implicit expectation that he would be entering into a romantic relationship with a member of that community.

Assuming the individual would have them to being with.

In this situation the relationship is under a microscope as every member of the community takes note of every move.

Which actually happens with multiple characters who enter into romantic liaisons.  As Christine puts it, the universe is watching.

To facilitate the process, I simply looked at each relationship through those four filters.

But wait!  The challenge has been to pace the development of the relationships relative to upcoming plot developments and the reality that such relationships typically evolve over a period of time.

As Christine says at one point, loving someone isn’t the same as being in love with them.

I have to think ahead to what the characters will be facing and make sure that their feelings and thoughts about the relationship are in line with where they are in the progression of the story.

There’s more!  And of course, there’s the whole physical side to the relationships.  That has been a lot of fun to deal with as I’ve had the challenge of incorporating different cultural and personal views on sexuality.

And stopped to think what would each character be worried or excited about in taking that step with the one they love.

This last was a central focus of multiple characters in Promotion: Book 11 in the series.

Front and Back. As I wrap this article before going back to Analysis, I will add that another facet of relationship development is the need to shift the romance from front and center to back burner out of necessity as characters remain true to their roles.

There’s still a war and they are still soldiers, even if some of them are now “closer.”

It has been fun even as it has been, in spite of the implication of emotion, an intellectual exercise.

Analysis will be available August 1, 2019.

Note:  This article is cross-posted to metatronsarmy.com.