J. Franklin Evans's Blog, page 20

January 26, 2013

I think I'm making pretty decent progress on the first draft of The Sorcerer's Daughter. I'm much happier with what I have so far, as opposed to what I had on my previous couple of attempts at a novel.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this. One is my new focus on eating healthier and taking my exercise routine a bit more seriously. I honestly think this has helped me to maintain my focus when I sit down to write.

Another thing is my decision to learn how to draw. I got a couple of books with drawing lessons and I started one of them today--I drew a simple, three dimensional sphere that I'm absurdly proud of. And an apple that is, well, okay.

I mention the drawing in the context about my writing simply because I do think it helps. It's like working out---you don't work the same muscles over and over again. You have to hit each muscle group while allowing the others to rest.

That's kind of what I think I'm doing with the drawing--I'm using a part of my mind that hasn't been getting much work, waking it up, helping it to get stronger and provide more input into my creative process.

I'm not under any illusions about my skill as an artist. I doubt I'll ever be able to call myself a professional. That's not really the point. It's a way to focus my mind on something, concentrate on a task that is fun to me. When I return to the writing I feel more energized and creative. ready to rock, as it were.

I also think I've found a tone for this thing I'm comfortable with. That was an issue with my previous efforts--it just didn't sound like me when I re-read it. This one does sound like me--it flows a lot more naturally, more realistically. So far it's hitting all the right notes.

Anyways, what I'm saying is, so far, so good. Fingers crossed I can keep it up!

Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on January 26, 2013 09:31 • 37 views

January 21, 2013

This most tempting target for a muse is the mind of a writer who has decided not to write, at least for a while.

I mentioned previously that an old idea of mine had started to become interesting to me again, and that has only gotten stronger since I wrote that. Ideas are coming to me pretty quickly. I've even found a place in this thing to use an idea that came to me in a dream a couple of years ago that I've always wanted to use.

Dammit. I didn't want to write anymore, at least for now. I was getting incredibly frustrated with my attempts at telling a story that didn't suck.

But this thing won't go away. It's going to be complicated, because I've got a lot of background to develop and a pretty complex story--with subplots and subsubplots and metaplots and cemetary plots--to get straight and then keep straight.

So, I'm going to spend some time thinking about The Sorcerer's Daughter.  I guess I have no choice.

At least now I've got an excuse to spend some time thinking about monsters. I'm going to need a lot of monsters, and some of them are going to have to possess enormous power. Some are just going to be mindless animals but some are going to be quite intelligent--some are going to be alarmingly intelligent.

And our hero's job is going to be to protect us from them. But first, she has to learn about them, and how to fight them, or at least how to get them to go away and leave humanity alone.

In the course of all this she's also going to have to learn that, to protect humanity as a whole, she may have to sacrifice parts of it. It's the survival of the species of humanity that she's concerned with, not individual members of it. So, she has to learn to be somewhat cold-blooded and aloof.

All this means that I have my work cut out for me. If I can maintain my interest in this thing.

Stay tuned! Dammit . . .

Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on January 21, 2013 09:51 • 5 views

January 19, 2013

My attempts at drawing are a getting a little better.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that they are good--my initial efforts were bloody awful. I did manage to draw a coffee cup just now that kinda sorta looks like a coffee cup. For me, that's a minor triumph.

It's a long weekend for me--Monday is MLK Day, which is a holiday for us, and I'm taking the next day off, too, for a mental health day. I have some minor errands to run but other than that, no plans. I may watch the Inauguration on TV this Monday--I know at least one person who is actually going to be there to see it in person. She's promised to bring me a souvenir.

It's weird, now that I'm not trying to write anything ideas are coming to me again. Ideas I kind of feel excited about, that is. Today I've been thinking a lot about an idea for a fantasy novel that I may try to develop and see where it winds up.

For the record, I'm not a big fan of fantasy--I much prefer science fiction. But I think this is a pretty decent idea that would be worth going against my natural tendencies.

I'm calling it The Sorcerer's Daughter, and I've already attempted it once before and it sort of fizzled out. I didn't really work on developing it first that time, though--maybe now that I'm getting into it again I can come up with enough stuff to keep me interested in it.

And this may be the first of a series. I don't know yet.

For the most part I'm sticking to my new dietary restrictions, too--my glucose has either been right around 120 or so, or just a little high. Also lost some weight--I'm having trouble keeping my pants up. One of those errands I mentioned earlier is to get myself another belt.

Anyways, my life is rocking right along, I guess. Hopefully I'll be able to develop this idea into something I'll actually feel like working on.

Stay tuned!

Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on January 19, 2013 16:09 • 25 views

January 16, 2013

I'm at the point now where I am sick of violence. I know, that sounds pretentious, but it's true. I don't want to see it, in movies, or news, or whatever. I don't want to hear about it.

I watched the trailer for this new Stallone thing, Bullet to the Head,, and it made me extremely angry. I know, it's Stallone, so it's going to be formulaic, with plenty of gratutuious violence and wooden acting, but this time, after all that's happened recently, I thought it was appalling. Sly's not a bad person, from what I understand, and he's a lot smarter than many people think, but this is extraordinarily bad timing. The film where the hero barges in and starts shooting and tosses off the death of a human being--granted, a stock, one-dimensional human being who was Evil--with a semihumrous quip, is now dead. Or, if not dead, in a coma.

People want to see these things as a distraction. Unfortunately, recent events have made what makes many of them so distracting relevant to many of us. They are no longer distracting, they are alarming.

Over the past few weeks I've been in this place, emotionally, where I just couldn't feel much of anything. I finally realized I've felt this way since just before xmas, since Newtown.

The pain those people must feel is inconceivable. All-consuming. There are no words to describe what the victims of this terrible thing are going through. I know what I feel when I think about it is nothing compared to theirs, but it's still considerable, and difficult for me to deal with.

Now, there are these idiots who are saying that it never happened. They think the whole thing is an elaborate hoax to promote an anti-gun agenda--that the people we see on our TV, the survivors, the parents, the first responders, the spouses and brothers and sisters--are all actors, playing a role to help the President move forward with his evil plan to take all our guns and declare martial law.

These people are actually harassing the survivors of this horrible tragedy. So, on top of the horror and agony they are experiencing, they are being told by these people that the events that have changed their lives forever didn't actually occur. That the deaths of the school faculty and the children didn't happen.

I don't know how they feel about this. I can't bring myself to look into it. I can't watch the videos these people make to present their "evidence" that it was a conspiracy. Even thinking about this makes me almost incandescent with rage.

There is no place in the world for these people. They are a waste of any resources they consume.

I can't help anyone in Newtown deal with their grief and pain, though I wish I could. Arguing with the crazies isn't going to help anything, either--there is no way to talk them out of their delusions that doesn't also involve medication.

Still, I need to do something--I simply can't handle the grief and the rage. I can't let myself experience it, except in small doses. But this is making it impossible for me to write--it's been getting more and more difficult, and now it's completely shut off. I just can't bear the thought of terrible things happening to people, of drama, of violence happening . . . still, that's what it takes to make a story--any story. A story with no drama isn't a story. Nobody wants to read that. Not even me. Not even if I wrote it.

So, I went out and bought some art supplies--pencils, pens, sketch pads, stuff like that. Plus a calligraphy set. I haven't done any serious drawing since I was a kid--I was only moderately talented at it, then, and I doubt my efforts will produce anything I'll want to show anyone. I've never tried calligraphy.

The whole point of this is it gives me something to focus on, something that'll require a lot of concentration.. It'll be exercising that creative part of me in a new way. And, hopefully,, it'll help me get myself back on track, so I can start writing stuff that doesn't suck.

Sorry. I know I sort of rambled all over the place, but I hope this makes sense.Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on January 16, 2013 14:52 • 6 views

January 12, 2013

Right now, as I type this, Baltimore and Denver are tied at 28 with less than a minute in the third quarter. Just FYI.

It's been a good game so far, especially since I really don't care who wins it. The one I care about is tomorrow--Seattle vs. Atlanta. I'm expecting that to be a close game but I think the Falcons will win it. Though Seattle definitely has a chance.

This morning while I was having breakfast something occurred to me about an idea I've had for a film for couple of years now. It's an idea that I like but I've never really spent much time developing it--something just came out of the blue that sort of added the missing piece to it.

Problem is, I want to be working on Feeders right now. I don't like taking on multiple projects--some people work like that, but I hate it.

However, this thing wants to come out, and my imagination will not let me think about anything else, so I'll yield to the temptation to at least start working on it.

While not giving away too many details, it's about a hit man who undergoes a psychotic break--he starts feeling guilt about all the people he's killed (one in particular) and it drives him nuts. It's going to be one of those weird things where a character is actually a personification of this guy's guilt. It'll be kinda of weird and, if done right, and if it gets produced, will be one of those films that critics will adore but the rest of us will go, huh?

Which is fine, and not unexpected, going into this thing.

I need to start plotting it out, creating characters, firming up some details. I've got the important stuff already worked out in my head, I just need to figure out some specifics.

I'm having to make some changes, lifestyle-wise. I really haven't been taking my diabetes diagnosis very seriously and it's starting to take a toll. So, I'm gonna keep a closer eye on what I eat, and be a bit more anal about going to the gym. It's an adjustment, and not an easy one, but it's one I've done before so I know it's possible.

I'm missing Atari tonight. Lately I've encountered a lot of dog-related stuff, on Facebook and in real life, and that's sort of reminded me of him. Next month will mark a year since I said goodbye to him. As I type that the pain wells up yet again, as strong as ever. It'll always be there, I know that now.

So, distract me--who are you picking in the NFL playoffs? Who is going to win? Who will be going on to the Superbowl? Give me your playoff picks here.

Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on January 12, 2013 16:31 • 24 views

January 5, 2013

So, I'm banging away on this horror novel now.

I love a good, scary story, but those are getting hard to find. One reason is the authors of these things feel the need to remove all of the mystery, the unknown, about their killer/monster/whatever. Once you know everything about the thing, even it is a truly awesome thing, we begin losing our fear of it.

Take the alien from my favorite film, Alien. What the hell is this thing? was my initial reaction to it. What does it do to the people it grabs? In the director's cut a little more of that gets answered but there is an air of a horrifying mystery that remains.

Contrast that to the later films, where, while still the scariest creature in cinematic history, it's not nearly as scary as it was in the original. Why? Because we know too much about it. In the last one it's even sort of played for laughs a couple of times--not a good sign for a horror movie franchise.

That's why I never dug the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, by the way--Freddy talks way too much. I'd find myself wishing he'd go ahead and kill me so I wouldn't have to listen to him any more.

Still, you have to show people something. The trick is to show people just enough and let their imaginations fill in the rest. Give their minds something to hook into and they'll create a monster that's much more terrifying than anything you could spend pages of text or several feet of film showing.

That's the art, the tricky part of what I'm trying to do. How much should I reveal?

I understand the temption--you work hard to create your villian/monster/whatever. You want to show it off. Resisting that temptation is difficult, but it's something you have to do.

On the other hand, there has to be some consistency--the problem when you opt not to show your creature too much is to make it where it doesn't have follow any sort of rules or stay within some clearly defined limits. That's dramatically unsatisfying, as well. You don't have to explain the rules but you do have to have them, and your creature has to abide by them. Even if nobody articulates it, your reader will sense that the creature has some sort of rules or limits it has to respect. That is much more satisfying.

Another thing is creating characters who are interesting, that people can identify with. A lot of horror stories are just morality plays, where characters are one-dimensional and meet a gruesome death because they violated the morality of the society where they exist. It's kind of hard to give a crap what happens to these people. If you don't care what happens to the characters, you won't care to actually read the book or watch the movie.

So, you want characters that your audience will like, for whatever reason. They don't want anything bad to happen to them. Of course, something bad is going to happen to them, at least some of them, or it'd be one helluva boring story. Read any book by Stephen King, who is a master of this, and examine how you feel about his characters. Chances are good you'll be able to identify with at least a few of them. Watch Rob Zombie's remakes of the Halloween movies, too--several characters in those are people I'd hang around with.

Sorry. I realize I'm preaching here, but I love a good horror story and it seems a lot of authors and filmmakers are ignoring what makes the genre so interesting to me. How long has it been since you've been scared reading a novel, or watching a film? I bet it's been a while.

Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on January 05, 2013 17:37 • 18 views

December 29, 2012

While I don't talk about it much it's no secret that I spent a significant amount of my life in therapy.

I was in bad shape, too. More than one psychologist told me he'd be amazed if I were still alive in five years. That's because I was drinking pretty heavily and was deeply suicidal, to boot.

Part of my problem was self-loathing. Imagine living with someone you absolutely can't stand. You can just leave, right? But when that person is you, leaving is not an option. So, you're only options are:

kill yourself
change yourself

Obviously, since I'm still here, I chose the second option. I spent a lot of time considering my life and made some decisions and decided on some resolutions one New Year's Eve, several years ago. This wasn't easy--I didn't just arrive at some revelation, snap my fingers, and was suddenly okay. This was the hardest thing I've ever done. However, given the state I was in, I had no choice.

First of all, read this article. While I didn't write it, this is all stuff I realized myself during this time, and this is an excellent, helpful, if somewhat brutally honest, article that sums up what I figured out.

After coming to some of the realizations in the above article, I performed a little exercise. I made a list of five things that would completely and totally make me happy, make me feel like life is worth living, make me like myself, even a little bit. Then I re-read the list, and decided that the stuff I had little if any control over would be crossed off of it.

For example, my number one issue was I was crazy in love with this girl who didn't return my affections. I decided, during this exercise, that I had done everything I could do to get her to give me that shot--everything else was up to her and that was something I couldn't control. So, that got crossed off the list and I quit worrying about it.

I'm not saying that was easy. It was incredibly hard. But when I found myself thinking about her I'd divert my thinking towards something else. It took discipline, constant vigilance, and slowly got easier and easier until it was something I could deal with. It took a while, but I got there.

When I looked back at the list I saw that most of the stuff on it was stuff like that--I had zero control over it, yet it was running and ruining my life.

So, I decided to make myself into someone I could admire. This was something I could control. Completely. It was all up to me. Again, not an easy thing to do. Even more difficult than the above. But I did it. It took a long time and a lot of hard work, but I got there. Again, it took discipline, hard work, and constant vigilance, but I got there.

I'm still there. And every year, on New Year's Eve, I remind myself what those days were like. And I resolve just to keep doing what I've been doing.

And I don't forget. I'll never let myself forget. It's all that I need to do to keep myself moving forward.Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on December 29, 2012 16:16 • 8 views
Okay, here are my thoughts about the year that is about to come to an end. C'mon, you knew this was coming!

While I was not surprised to see Obama win re-election I still breathed a sigh of relief when the election was called for him by all the networks. A GOP win would have created a nightmare that would not end for decades. So, I slept easier that night. Now, to retake the House . . .
I didn't record a single song all year. I've devoted most of my creative energy towards prose and screenplay writing. I have attempted a few musical projects but my heart just wasn't in it.
I said goodbye to my dog, Atari. I inherited him from my best friend, who couldn't keep him anymore. It had been years since I'd had a pet of any kind, even longer since I'd had a dog (I'd always had cats before) and having him in my life changed everything. He was more than my dog--he was my best friend, my child, my constant and loving companion. I still don't know how I made it though the months following his death. Even now I still feel the pain. Atari--I miss you so much, my big silly mutt.
I also said goodbye to Savannah, after almost 25 years, when the company I work for closed the office there, and opened a new one in Douglasville. I'd always said I'd never live around Atlanta and now, here I am, living around Atlanta. Never say what you'll never do . . .
My beautiful, perfect, and talented goddaughter, Talyan, continues to add to her acting resume, after establishing a recurring character on the TV show Two and a Half Men (Ava), appearing in a Samsung commercial that got pretty heavy airtime, and now in a play, Land of the Astronauts, in LA. Nothing to do with me, actually, but I'm very proud of her.
I've started to write and eventually shelved two novels this year. While that sounds like failure it's a learning experience, and I'll eventually resume working on them.
I started reading fiction again, after sticking strictly to nonfiction for years.
I wrote a screenplay I'm pretty happy with--Seer II--which is, of course, a sequel to another screenplay I wrote a while back that I'm also happy with, Seer. Seer II is not officially done--I'm waiting on some notes on it from a friend of mine, and there are a couple of things I may change during a rewrite, but the major work on it has been done.
I turned 50 just a few days ago. Half a frelling century. Where did it go? And what did I do with it?
While life isn't great, it's not bad, at the moment, anyway. I miss seeing my goddaughter (though Skype is a reasonable substitute to physical proximity, I guess), and I miss seeing her mom, who is my best friend, though I do expect they'll be making a trip in this direction at some point in the coming year. I'm still getting used to this new city, this bizarre mix of the metropolitan and the rural. I'm still learning, cultivating, considering, and banging away. I guess that's a Good Thing.

Don't worry, 2012, you haven't heard the last of me yet! Some unsolicited advice will be coming up in the official year-end wrap up post, out as soon as I finish thinking it over!Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on December 29, 2012 08:37 • 28 views

December 28, 2012

I know it's been said, but what is it with people these days? Why are there so many people out there who as so damned desperate for attention that they'll do anything--anything at all--to get their faces on TV?

There was a time when, if you did something really stupid or embarrassing, you did everything you could to hide it. If you were on TV you wanted it to be because you've done something exceptional--performed CPR on a nun, or won a Grammy, or at least got married or something. Now people are perfectly happy when the picture the news uses of them is a mug shot and they're on TV because they were caught having sex with turtles, or because they tried to hot wire a police car or tried to steal an angus bull by riding it like a horse.

I used to have a girlfriend who was an ER nurse, back during the days when Lorena Bobbit was in the news, and she told me once that a guy had come into the ER one night, incredibly drunk, and announced that he had tried to amputate his own penis and the media was to be alerted. (I told her that, since he obviously wasn't successful, the media wouldn't be interested. But I think I may have underestimated them.) Anyways, that was a while back, and it's gotten much worse since then.

Trust me--if you are watching the news and see a story about some idiot who had done something unbelievably stupid, soon you'll see a good half dozen others who tried to do the same frelling thing.

It's worse, though, when what they did is dangerous to other people who have nothing whatsoever to do with them. Like the guys who set their own houses on fire and call the fire department and then shoot at the firefighters when they get there.

Yes, after that dumbass in New York did that, another dumbass in Hoover, Alabama, did the same thing--though fortunately that moron didn't hurt anybody. He did get his face on the news, though, which I think was the point. Of course he's going to prison for attempted murder, but, dude, it was worth it!

Gods. Just when I thought we couldn't get any more pathetic. And by we I mean Americans. I can't iimagine this being something that goes on in other places in the world. Does it? I mean, stupid people are everywhere, but do so many of them want to get on the tube in other countries like they do here?

I've been developing this new idea a little more--one of my viewpoint characters is a very crooked public official. Seeing things from his point-of-view has been a bit of an eye-opener. I'm enjoying creating the character--let's hope I can make the actual heroes as interesting as this guy is going to be!

More details as they come together.Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on December 28, 2012 16:51 • 9 views

December 24, 2012

I've been thinking about my current project, The Harvester of Faces, a lot lately. Not so much where it should go but if I should keep working on it.

It's just not working. There's a piece missing and I don't know what it is.

Here's what I'm thinking: putting this on the back burner, to resume working on it at a later date. I still believe in the story--I think it's a good one, and one that people will want to read.

In the mean time I'm going to develop this new idea that just came to me while I was visiting family for the holiday. It's pretty much a straight horror story, in a way a sequel to my short story "Cabin Fever" (published in Warped Words 2010 by JournalStone, FYI.). I'm hoping it'll scare the pants off of anyone who reads it. Ain't nothing I like better than pantsless readers!

Anyways, right now I'm calling it Feeders and that's pretty much what it's about. I can't give any more details because . . . well, I don't have any, just yet. I will say it sort of came to me when I pulled off of I-75 on my way to visit dad--I urgently needed a bathroom break and wound up in this little town where the restroom at the gas station was not working . . . Yes, I did find a place where I could take a piss, and I also had this idea come to me.

About the only thing I can say about it at this point is that it's a monster story.

I'll share a few more details when they sort of firm up, but the more I think about it the more it speaks to me. I'll probably start plotting it out today, and hopefully I will be able to start the first draft before New Year's.

What do you think, gentle reader? Should I abandon--for now--the new project that isn't working and start on this new one? And, are you wearing any pants?

Check out my tunes at www.myspace.com/jfranklinevans.
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Published on December 24, 2012 11:07 • 25 views