Talking dinosaur update 4: Serenity, with 9 days to go

An hour’s time stolen on a Saturday morning resulted in the extension of a vital scene in Act 3 of The Puzzle of the Talking Dinosaur, and a strong start to Act 4. I also diverted to begin an Author’s Note that will come as an afterward, which begins:

What you have here is Serenity.

The reference, of course, is to the 2005 film that attempted to tie up some of the loose ends of the Firefly ’verse, the story of Malcolm Reynolds and his motley crew of fellow travelers, a 2002 television series that was canceled long before its time – after a mere 14 episodes were made and only 11 aired on the Fox television network. The series had a small but fierce crowd of fans that grew and grew after the 14 episodes were released in a DVD set. The collection sold so well that creator Joss Whedon was able to convince The Powers That Be to greenlight a cinema sequel. And oh, what a film it is.

At this writing Myke Phoenix has a tremendously smaller, fierce crowd of fans, but it does have a creator who wanted to pick up the story years after it fizzled. I first imagined this as a monthly series not unlike the wonderful pulp heroes of the 1930s and ’40s, but in shorter stories to fit the needs of the modern comic book reader. I wrote brief synopses for (ironically enough) 14 of these adventures, but only fleshed out four of them into completed stories, where they sat on a Commodore 128 floppy disk, then a Macintosh, and finally the iMac with which I type these words, until I published them in The Adventures of Myke Phoenix in 2008.

Five years later, after Kindle revolutionized the publishing industry and ebooks began to flourish, I finally saw a way to bring new stories to the world on my limited budget. I moved the tale along by 18 years and started over again, beginning with The Song of the Serial Kisser. Here and there I dropped hints of the adventures Myke had during the interim, but there was one story from the original 14-episode list that still needed to be told, because it involved the revelation of Myke Phoenix’s arch-nemesis: Deinonychus.

The opening scene of The Puzzle of the Talking Dinosaur was written two decades ago. Morty Davis has been awaiting justice that long. What follows is my attempt to replicate the purpose of Serenity: To fill in the gaps, leaving a few mysteries in case of a sequel, of course, but to condense the action of what could have been quite a few stories into one blockbuster. Whedon has estimated the seminal events of Serenity might have occurred during the second-season finale of Firefly, so let’s say the climactic scene you’ve just read would have occurred somewhere around Myke Phoenix Adventures #24, had I stayed on course back then …

Objective: Release The Puzzle of the Talking Dinosaur on April 7
This morning’s output: 720 words, extending Act 3 and beginning Act 4.
  (Extra output: 500 words of an Author’s Note)
Session: Approximately 60 minutes.
Total words to date: 8,012 (goal 13,500) 


Talking dinosaur update 3 – and Countdown, Day 1

QUOTIDIAN WARNING: I got up a little after 4 a.m. because of deadline pressure at the day job and spent most of the next four hours doing homework. I’m proud to say I resisted the urge to skip this project for a day, and instead I spent 20 minutes banging out a key “intermission” scene that takes place between Acts 3 and 4. Beyond the extra act (You have noticed that Myke Phoenix stories are generally four acts, haven’t you?) there are a number of structural innovations in this story because of the important role it will play in the Myke Phoenix mythology, linking the early years to the present day.

COUNTDOWN, DAY 1: I have been making a habit of issuing a 10-day countdown to the release of each of these monthly adventures, and so I’m obliged to point out to eager readers (with no small trace of anxiety) that the next new Myke Phoenix adventure is due for release on April 7. Save your 99 pennies or their electronic equivalent!

Objective: Release The Puzzle of the Talking Dinosaur on April 7
This morning’s output: 636 words, ready to begin Act 4.
Session: Approximately 20 minutes.
Total words to date: 7,292 (goal 13,500) 

Talking dinosaur update 2

A breakthrough today: Act 3 finally finished, I sat down to map out the remaining three acts – only to discover Act 5 was fated to slow the action and drag down the story.

“Kill your darlings,” said William Faulkner, who knew a bit more about writing than I do. By proceeding straight from the horrifying climax of Act 4 into the astonishing climax of the entire tale, without meandering somewhat aimlessly through a fifth act, the story gains a punch that it didn’t quite have until now.

Not much actual writing today, but better: I gained an improved plan, and the fog has lifted over the final leg of the journey.

Objective: Release The Puzzle of the Talking Dinosaur on April 7
This morning’s output: 107 words, finished with Act 3 of 5.
Session: Approximately 40 minutes.
Total words to date: 6,656 (goal 13,500)

1 reason why this little ebook must be finished on time

This is the most exciting part of the creative life: When the going gets tough.

I made a goal to write 10 new Myke Phoenix stories in 2014, for a total of 12 in the latest series. That’s one a month through October. My sub-goal was to have the next month’s story finished when I released this month’s. That means The Puzzle of the Talking Dinosaur was supposed to be finished by March 3, when I released Duck Man Walking.

I should have May’s story almost finished by now, but less than two weeks before the release date of April 7, I’m halfway through the dinosaur story. This is the exciting part.

Anyone who’s followed my creative journey – I think there are four or five of you – knows that I am pretty good at setting goals and getting started. The problem comes with the arrival of what Seth Godin calls The Dip and Steven Pressfield calls The Resistance. This is when, if I don’t watch out (and I usually don’t), the quotidian of daily life interferes and the project gets set aside. My office and the Internet are filled with partially finished Bluhm projects.

It would be easy to shift the deadline – sure, I could finish this story by May and just move everything back, because at this stage almost no one is paying attention – but that’s a slippery slope. Nope, I have to have this story done by April 7, and the May story not long after that, so that by June I’m a month ahead again.

Why? Why press forward to meet a deadline that only I, of 6 billion people on the planet, care about?

Because the alternative is to let inertia take over, to yield to the Resistance. And I prefer to keep pressing forward.

So: Ready or not, something called The Puzzle of the Talking Dinosaur will be released to the ether on April 7. I’m terrified. And excited.

55 images to a sweet spot

The Budwesier commercial titled “Puppy Love” is one of the most amazing pieces of storytelling I have ever seen. I dare you to watch it and not be touched.

The ad, directed by Jake Scott and starring Don Jeanes, Melissa Keller, eight 10-week-old puppies and 17 Clydesdale horses (playing one puppy and five horses, respectively), was prepared to run during Sunday’s big game. But it was released last week on YouTube, and by game time it had been viewed more than 33 million times. I was about a dozen of those views.

Using 55 shots in 58 seconds (not counting the two-second Budweiser slide at the end), the ad tells the story of a puppy and a horse that form a friendship so strong that the Clydesdales prevent her from being adopted.

I was so charmed by the ad that I sat down and catalogued all 55 shots to see how it was that I was turned into teary-eyed mush.

It’s interesting to see how much information was packed into each shot – and how much the viewers retains even though you can’t possibly see everything in every flash. Here it is, shot by shot:

1. Once upon a time there was a place called Warm Springs Puppy Adoption.
2. We meet Melissa, the puppy breeder, who is holding a big puppy while a prospective buyer pets its head.
3. The puppies are in a circular pen, and two pups are watching something outside of the pen.
4. It’s a little puppy escaping!
5. The escapee digs under the fence and …
6. … emerges on the other side, then …
7. runs across the field to an adjacent horse farm.
8. The little pup nudges open the horse barn door and peeks inside,
9. sits in front of a stall as a Clydesdale looks down.
10. We see the puppy close up as she paws at the big horse.
11. And the horse leans down toward the pup.
12. We see the puppy and horse nose to nose.
13. The camera has pulled back so we can see the horse’s whole head as they nuzzle.
14. Don the horse breeder is taking something from the barn to load into his truck and looks over.
15. The puppy is dancing in circles in front of the horse, which is nodding.
16. Don puts his stuff down and walks toward us.
17. He reaches down and picks up the pup as the horse watches.
18. As the camera pulls back, the horse is watching with ears straight up.
19. The puppy is draped over Don’s shoulder, looking back with sad eyes.
20. From inside Don’s truck, we see him returning the puppy as Melissa walks up shaking her head as if to say, “Yeah, this one likes to run away.”
21. Don hands the puppy to Melissa.
22. We see Don’s face as he delivers the pup.
23. We see her face as she accepts the pup and smiles.
24. Don is back in his barn, working in front of his workbench. It’s raining outside.
25. From puppy-eye level, we see the little dog trot past him from outside. The camera pans up to his face.
26. Melissa opens the door to her house to find Don holding a wet puppy.
27. It’s the same angle as shot No. 5, except this time Melissa catches the puppy before she gets under the fence.
28. She walks the pup up to a man in sunglasses who is leaning against his car checking the messages on his smartphone.
29. He has taken the pup from Melissa, who brushes her hair back.
30. The door closes on the puppy in the man’s back seat. She’s being adopted!
31. As the door slams, out in the fenced-in field, the Clydesdale looks up in alarm.
32. The car goes up the driveway, kicking up dust as it speeds between the wooden horse fences.
33. The puppy gets up in the window, scrapes at the glass, barks and whimpers.
34. We see a shot from inside the car as the horse gallops along.
35. The puppy clambors up and looks out the back window – the car is outpacing the Clydesdale.
36-37. In a flash front shot and a full side shot, we see the horse leap over a fence as it gallops.
38. The puppy barks behind the receding back window.
39. A group of four other Clydesdale looks up and begins to move.
40. We see that the first horse is now in the driveway chasing the car.
41. The man in the sunglasses squints at his rear-view mirror.
42. He and we see the horse in the mirror!
43. He looks forward again, leans back and slams on the brakes.
44. … because the four other Clydesdales are running toward the front of the car as he brakes.
45. Four horses in front, one in back, surround the now-stopped car.
46. Back at the ranch, Don is pulling a haybale off a pile.
47. In a closer shot, he turns and looks over our shoulder to see …
48. A wide shot of the puppy leading five Clydesdale horses up the driveway.
49. We see a closeup of the pup marching toward us with horsey feet behind.
50. Don has a “Well, I’ll be” expression on his face and exhales what could be a joyful sob (to cue the audience).
51. He kneels down and the puppy runs into his arms.
52. He stands and picks up the wriggling puppy.
53. A closeup of smiling Don as the wriggly pup licks his face.
54. The puppy is in the grass looking up; she barks and begins to dance in circles.
55. In a wide shot, we see the Clydesdale standing over the dancing puppy. Melissa and Don are leaning on the fence watching the scene as the camera pulls back.

And they all lived happily ever after!

A vacation ends

Princess Dejah, age 5 months, learns the joy of vacationing.

And so attention begins to turn back to those tasks that I perform in exchange for enough income to feed the pets and keep us all under this roof. It has been a week of cooking meals and dog treats, cleaning and fussing about, reading and writing, reflecting and occasionally acting, planning and thinking about plans.

At this time last year I made goals to reduce/eliminate my personal debt, increase the quantity (and sales) of my books and stories, exercise more and lose some weight, read more, and produce more of my own food through gardening and the like.

As with all assessment of goals, I have had mixed success, and any lack of progress can be attributed to the fact that I did not exactly follow good advice about how to set goals.

Procrastination and a lack of persistence seem to be my biggest personal foes. For the second year in a row, I set a goal of producing a monthly, 10,000-word adventure about the superheroic Myke Phoenix. The goal was met not at all in 2012 but accomplished for the first two months of 2013. I have reset that goal for the third time, which means the true test of success may be when I release the third new story in March. Ultimately, of course, that 12th tale in December will be the moment of complete success on that front.

The week away from the quotidian did serve its purpose; the mind is cleared and more or less ready to return to the grind, and some good thoughts have been thought. Sometimes all of the order in my mind is undone before noon on the first day back on routine duty; let’s hope this time around I can fend off the disorder a while longer.

One of my foremost goals is not to neglect this little corner of my universe as much as I have been wont to. Here, I hope to wax on life in these interesting times, my various personal projects, and pop culture in general – the stuff I expose my fragile mind to for recreational purposes (TV, music, movies …) – and I do value your thoughts, too, so please let me know in the comments when I’ve piqued your interest, made you think, and/or bored you to tears.

For now I see I have a few emails to answer, some meetings to plan, and some issues to address as the day job resumes – once more unto the breach, dear friends – and so it goes.