Casting Call–Miscellaneous Characters–the Old Man and the Young

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Martin Sheen as Nexus Wyrd’s blue-collar father, Lambert

Before I reveal my pick for the major male character of William Wyrd for my hypothetical film production of Clotho’s Loom, there remain a few minor characters that fill important supporting roles.  First is Nexus’ father, Lambert.  An uneducated but nevertheless sharp, liberal influence on the heroine, Lambert undergoes minor adventures of his own in the course of the novel, and provides it with a pure, moral voice.  Famous from his breakout role as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now, later as the president in The West Wing, Martin Sheen has shown such a flexibility throughout his career, and lately seems to be featured as a father so often (even onscreen to real-life sons Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez,) that I think we should get in on the privilege.

I know little of Days of Our Lives‘ Dylan Patton, and even though he’s now about twenty years old, he just looks like James, Nexus’ adolescent neighbor, and helper, to me.  His line, “Because I hate the bastards,” is one of my favorite in the novel.

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Dylan Patton as James

WHO Women Want—or, Will a Real Man Please Step Forward?

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A woman and child look for America’s future

With presidential candidates Obama and Romney alternating between courting and alienating women voters, that old, quintessentially male question, “What do women want?” rears its head again this October, with no less power than a coven of Wiccans.

I wrote a novel in which I took on the dubious task of sustaining a strong female protagonist, who shared the stage with males, proving better than most of them.  Unlike her husband, she had to do it without a BFG (“big fraggin’ gun”) and a 400–horsepower car. In creating this character, I put a lot of thought into this puzzle, because, as a middle-aged man, I have no direct access to women’s inner minds—except what I’m told, and what I can observe.  And I see and hear a lot about children.  And it makes sense: What woman would choose a leader for her country whom she wouldn’t trust near her own family?

I’m sure no expert–so everything I’m about to say may seem presumptuous–but it seems to me that long-term security for their children would be foremost on many women’s shopping list for a powerful man, whether for romantic-involvement, or otherwise.  They’d like a leader who can deliver an America in which those kids can still dare to dream, and moreover, have realistic opportunities to pursue those dreams: in short, they want sensible educational reform, affordable and equal access to higher education, market regulation, and more jobs in the future.

Now, don’t try that bunk about how we can have ALL that, AND everything else too.  Most women learn, sooner or later and as a practical necessity, how to budget money.  And one of the first things they learn is that it’s hard to have both a decent set of kitchen appliances, AND a Harley in the driveway, without going way into debt.  Some, a few, are certainly comfortable with debt—-but again, you’re eating into that future, aren’t you?

Of course, they want border security and military strength, the same way a dog about the house and a deadbolt are deterrents to burglars.  But if you look at how most adult women distribute their own spending—-regardless of social class—-I’m really not sure that the percentage-equivalent of buying a medieval moat, a solid iron drawbridge, not to mention a hundred catapults and a standing army to go out and make sure none of the other barons have their own catapults, is really how they would budget.

And speaking of job creation, how many mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, and grandmothers of a five-year old—-either boy or girl—forsee a career in the military for the little ones?

How about a man who is tough enough to need fewer guns, secure enough to love his children openly, responsible enough to show it in deed and not just word, and reliable enough to keep on truckin’, year after year?

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Sarah and John Connor of the Terminator mythology

Indie BookSpot Interviews Clotho’s Loom Author: “Once More Under the Weave, Dear Friends”

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Dr. Melfi takes counsel with Tony Soprano

 

http://indiebookspot.com/2012/10/24/interview-with-clothos-loom-author-shawn-stjean/

Ever wonder why anyone would give up–well, all this–to become a self-published writer?  Yeah, me neither.  But find out the answers anyway, as John Warner puts Shawn StJean under the hot lights.

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And while you’re over there, I highly recommend their “Opportunities” feed, if you are looking to publish and/or promote your own novel or other book.

Listen to Forthcoming Audiobook Sample, Read by Author Shawn StJean

Frank Sinatra in the Recording Studio–no resemblance or relation to Shawn StJean, unfortunately

The file is hosted on the Clotho’s Loom Tumblr blog.  Link:

Sample Audio from Clotho’s Loom Audiobook, forthcoming 2012, read by Author Shawn StJean

Also on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYBl889-Ukw&feature=plcp

This, however, is EXACTLY what Shawn StJean looks like as he records his novel, Clotho’s Loom

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For the lead female protagonist of Clotho’s Loom, Nexus Wyrd, my preference would be for veteran actor Elisabeth Shue, most familiar in her youth from the Back to the Future franchise and Adventures in Babysitting, and nowadays CSI on television.

Nexus is about 40 years old, yet carries and births her first child in the course of the novel.  She also experiences many flashbacks, ranging from her college days to the recent past.  Abandoned by her husband, she is left very much on her own, and experiences major changes that we usually associate with people in their twenties.

For such a dynamic character, I needed someone who could play both naive and vulnerable, and tough enough later on to rebuild her shattered life, brick by brick, and defend her child from every peril.  A woman who could convincingly wield a 12 pound sledgehammer (no mean feat).  Also, attractive enough to draw the attentions of the main villain, Dr. M–.   The growing strength of my heroine needs to show in the athleticism of her body, but more, in the experience on her brow.

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Casting Call: Main Characters–Heroine

Audiobook Production Video for Self-Published Authors (Clotho’s Loom), Part 1

Shawn StJean in his finest, non-rustling attire, laying down the raw tracks for the forthcoming Clotho’s Loom audiobook.  Note that there are three different videos on YouTube, this one and Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI0lNzFCy5U&feature=g-upl (about 22 minutes together,) OR I’m uploading just a short, 4-minute version with some of the comical pitfalls of such a do-it-yourself project.

While you’re there, check out the CL teaser trailer!  Full cinematic version coming soon! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QJfiL262Hw&feature=g-upl

Reading and Writing “Unsafe” Fiction

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These days, grown men wear bicycle helmets. No one old enough to leave the house goes without a cell phone, and “insurance” can come with every item you purchase.  When someone wants to criticize you, they most often do it through two firewalls, three levels of encryption, and under a pseudonym. And whether it’s within the walls of a school where “bully” is a more feared word than “gun,” or 9,000 miles outside our borders, where our government spends billions to protect us from threats that may or may not even exist, things in 2012 have gotten pretty safe. It’s the inevitable cultural backlash from September 11, 2001 anxiety.

For creators and consumers of fiction, at least, things may be a little too safe. There was a time, only 200 years ago, when this was not at all the case–you wouldn’t dare admit, in decent company, to reading novels. They were’t good for you, because they weren’t true. But in 2012, all true, all plausible, nothing harmful. Like organic vegetables. Watch TV tonight: if someone is murdered, don’t worry. A dozen geniuses in bulletproof labcoats will expend every last resource of technology to ensure the killer spontaneously reveals himself before that 9th commercial break. So don’t worry–go buy something, tomorrow–and meanwhile, eat something.

There’s a lot of advice, in the new era of self-publishing, about writing what’s marketable (talk about fearsome words.) In sifting through the dozens and dozens of articles, one often encounters the encouragement to “create a backlist”–the idea being that, once readers trust you, know what they’re getting, they’ll likely return to draw from the well of your other works. As if the writing of several books could–or should– be done on a production-line basis. And yet, seminars even exist about how to author and self-publish an e-book in a month, a week, even a weekend.

Obviously, the kind of work produced under such severe time- and motive-constraints will have several quantifiable features: gimmicky (at best,) formulaic, cliche-ridden, dialogue as padding rather than in support of a tenable plot or serious character development. In a word, SAFE. Like the latest adolescent horror movie: no real surprises, but enough tricks (the “boo” shot, the flip-ending) and treats (naked breasts, or gratuitous gore, whichever you like) to keep you from asking for a refund.

Sure, literary history is full of examples of legitimate authors resorting to hack writing to keep body and soul together. Louisa May Alcott is a favorite example of mine, churning out much “sensational” fiction to support a large family, because her father couldn’t or wouldn’t, and in the end working herself literally to death. So I won’t go so far as to say there’s anything fundamentally wrong with mainstream fiction, television, and movies. They make money, and we all enjoy them at the odd time.

However, for those of us seeking to consume something better–moreover, seeking to create something better–can any of us be spared to write unsafely? What do I even mean by that?

Here are a few criteria. The unsafe fiction:

–attempts to use a vocabulary of more than 8,000 discrete words, including strong verbs and less-familiar synonyms

–employs sentence variety, and departs from the standard subject-verb-object (who did what to whom?) construction regularly, which requires more reader concentration

–does not overly rely on dialogue when narrative is called for

–invents a premise that is neither post-apocalyptic nor involves vampires (or similarly outworn devices)
–eschews the exploitation of human fears and perversity that defines 90% of American television programs (the culture of cop shows and freak shows)

–bothers to develop plausible backstories and motivations for its characters

–pays attention to relevant details while resisting the inclusion of irrelevant ones

–does not overtly or covertly support the culture’s dominant ideologies (consumer capitalism, cuthroat competition, uncritical jingoism, and adolescent individualism)–in addition to practicing casual and active sexism, which is very popular, or paying mere lip service against racism and homophobia–also very trendy right now

–occasionally experiments with its prose or concepts (to the extent that nothing is really new, what I mean here is that the author tries something unfamiliar to them, and which actually could fail)

–does not attempt to be all things to all people–that is, some readers might actually hate it. Ah, commercial volatility. Now we’re getting somewhere!

But don’t take my word for it. Come up with your own criteria.

C’mon, writers, teachers, bloggers–it’s October. What’s really scary? (If you think the answer is “wasting your time,” don’t forget what’s also looming, and that’s reading season). Try something that is not a sure thing. Knock on the old, crazy lady’s door. It’s not as if there’s a very fine line between what’s sensible and what’s utterly reckless, though our cultural parents would love us to believe that. There’s a whole, long limb on that tree outside your window. The wind may have picked up, and the clouds threaten rain. But winter is not here, yet.

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