Back in the saddle

The first new post of 2012 affords me my favorite pastime before delving into the meat of today’s rambling, namely examining words and phrases.  In a manner familiar to my regular blog readers (all eight of you), I begin the post with an entirely unrelated digression.

So, the term “back in the saddle”.  I get a kick using phrases that have colloquially come into commonplace despite most users never having the experience or background for the phrase.

In this example, I have never ridden a horse, saddled or otherwise.  Part of the reason is simply that I can’t imagine the horse likes having a hairless ape weighing whatever (in my case let’s round to 150 lbs.) jamming his knees into his ribs and yanking on his face.  Apologies to all you horse owners and riders, but I just don’t see that as a nice thing to do.  Coming from a guy who actually catches ants in his house and puts them outside, perhaps that’s not such a surprising attitude.

But I still get to use the phrase.

So, saddle up with me and let’s go for a ride (end of strained metaphors).

What I’m “back” to is writing, not riding.  After an extended period of dormancy, I’m chugging away with Book 2 with every intention of releasing it during my birthday month (my present to myself).

Why the delay?  There were a confluence of factors that I believe went into it.  Let’s examine a few…

Bear with me

Despite some readers’ suspicions, Jeremy and I are not the same person.  For example, even though he is somewhat clueless when it comes to his potential girlfriend Natalie, he is still far more successful with girls than I was back then.

That’s not to say we don’t share some traits.  Most especially, our disaffection with cold.  In some respects, I think I go into hibernation when the temperatures dip.  Admittedly, a dip in South Florida means dropping under 70, but for me, that’s getting cold.  Seriously.

My reaction to “cold” is pretty consistent:  I slow down.  In the house, out of the house, wherever and whatever.  Creatively, that follows suit.  I would point out that the first book was pleasantly written during the spring/summer months at the beach.  Having missed that same window on Book 2 due to working on marketing Book 1 (released in December), I found myself trying to duplicate that warm and cuddly feeling without success.

Bored of the Rings

During my hibernation time, I picked up the Blu-Ray version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with all the extras.  As I was watching one of the documentaries on the 720 hours of discs (ok, ok, it only felt like there was that much material), I listened to some of the historians describing how Tolkien was so unsatisfied with part of his work that he “threw it away” and started over from scratch.  Hey, if it was good enough for Tolkien…(although, I should point out that all of these experts said it would never be a recommended action for any writer)

By the time I reached a creative impasse on Book 2, I was probably a third of the way through the book.  I came to the realization, though, that it wasn’t the book I wanted to write.  Not that it was a “bad” book, it just was changing the tenor of the series into something else, perhaps “aging” a bit to a more adult bent and getting more mystery oriented than adventure.  More serious and less fun (and funny).

As I said, not a bad book at all, but something felt not quite right.  I took out my dog-eared copy of “What If? and re-read the book.  I realized the flavor of Book 1 was missing from Book 2.  The characters were there and the overall plot was moving in the proper direction, but the tone was markedly different.

Having re-familiarized myself with the style I used in “What If?”, I decided to restart “What Next?”, focusing more on Jeremy’s adventures in the unique place he ends up (which should be a hoot for you to read).

Some authors like changing the tone and style of a series as a means of keeping the story and characters fresh; it’s a valid decision.  For me, the change wasn’t sparking me creatively and I ended up boxed in by what now felt like a different book than I intended when I plotted out the trilogy.  Thus, I needed to “reboot”.

‘Tis the season

Once October hits, I’m pretty much done with free time.  Between massive preparations for Halloween and eventual travels for the other holidays, my time and focus gets fractured.  Perhaps if I had done this for a living, over a long period of time, I would already have a built-in discipline to shut out “real life” long enough to get writing done, but alas, such is not my experience.

With an added treat of my extended road trip to Washington D.C., my activities other than writing were even more distracting (but enjoyable) than my usual lot.  I always “planned” to do some writing, but I couldn’t really devote the hours to the craft that had come so easily in my uninterrupted time while writing “What If?”  Ultimately, I got practically no writing done in the final months of the year.

Now, though, I’ve got my writing chops (and chaps) and I’m back in the saddle for a full gallop to the finish.

And, I guarantee, no horses will be harmed in the making of this book.

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