jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
There's not too much that's different, other than that it looks like they changed the fonts, updated and fixed all the outdated/faulty coding, and streamlined a few things. Everything's still there, it's just shinier. It's kind of a way, it's almost as if LJ finally let go of their bloated (yet fun) glory days look and scaled back into a much cleaner, sleeker blog site.

Anyhoo. A few things to report:

The Great Trilogy Revision Project is DONE! I've mentioned this at my Welcome to Bridgetown site, but just a few more personal things here. After just shy of two years of major revision work, it feels kind of weird not to be working on the trilogy, or even anything within the Mendaihu Universe for that matter. I'm finally at the point where I've completed everything I set out to do with this particular project (short of working on submission and possible agent-finding, of course). So technically, the current version of the story of Bridgetown which I started on 9 March 1997 finally came to an end on 14 May 2014.

So how does it feel to have a finished project? It feels very strange, to be honest. It feels different than when I finished Love Like Blood, as I'd finished a story and knew it still needed a crapton of work (I eventually trunked it, but that's another story entirely). And definitely different from my earlier works, because most of them were along the lines of "Yay! I wrote a novel/screenplay!" This is the first serious project I've had that I wanted to see through to completion and publication, the first one that I devoted years and emotions to. One that I'm extremely proud of.

Will I return to the Mendaihu Universe somewhere down the line? Of course I will! I've got a handful of ideas and story arcs I'd like to play with. It wasn't until the last few days that I realized I couldn't work on them yet, at least not until the Bridgetown Trilogy was fully put to rest, because there would be too much bleedover, too much repetition of ideas. The next few stories in this Universe need to transcend the original story arc, and I couldn't have done it then. But I can do it now, given the time and inclination.

So what am I writing now? As mentioned, I've been doing nightly work on Walk in Silence. It's mostly been doing outlining, and I'm almost done with the first run-through. There's more outlining I need to do, this time adding all the points I'd like to hit concerning the music. And once I'm happy with that, then I'll proceed with writing the book proper.

Will I be writing any fiction in the interim? Most likely, yes. I haven't written any new fiction in years, so I'm going to take my time with it, see what I want to work on. They'll be backburner and side projects, just things I'd like to putter around with that I could possibly expand on once the WiS project is done or at least at a point where I can balance it with something else. There's a good chance I may do what I did back in 1996, in which I open up a blank document and just start making stuff up off the top of my head and see what grabs me.

The WiS project has also let me look at my personal life with a different perspective as well. As you know, I've been big on the "starting from the beginning" mantra over the last few years, basically taking bits of my life that have become cluttered and directionless, rolling everything back and starting over from the beginning again, setting them off in the right direction now that they have an anchor. WiS has given me a base for how I see life, how I saw it then versus how I see it now, and how I react to it, and making adjustments when and where necessary. And I like how it's turned out so far.

So that's my weekend in a plans, other than heading to Q for brunch soon, maybe checking out the sidewalk sale up the road, and heading to the farmer's market on Sunday. It's the quiet life this time out. :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Okay, yes. What day is it? Tuesday? New album release day? Got it. Perhaps I shall do some mp3 shopping after I post this.

This past weekend I finally treated myself to having an actual weekend! That is, where I didn't head back into Spare Oom to work on stuff. Sure, I did a wee bit of TPoB revision, but other than that, it was a matter of just enjoying the day. Saturday we headed over to the de Young to check out the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit (Emm: "Come on, Georgia. You're not fooling anyone, you know."), as well as a neat mini-exhibit of photography and artwork based on the building of the Bay Bridge. They just opened another exhibit of abstract expressionism, but that'll be around for a bit longer so we'll check that out at a later time.

After the museum we headed over to Green Apple Books on Clement (who got a sweet write-up in Publisher's Weekly this past issue due to them winning PW's Best Indie Bookstore), where we spent mumbletymumble dollars on books for California Bookstore Day, including a really cool signed lithograph from Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret--a book, I should add, that I discovered in that very store. [Seriously, go buy the book. It's absolutely lovely, and well worthy of its Caldecott.] I'm so grateful we have such an excellent bookstore in our neighborhood...if any of you decide to come to San Francisco, let us know and we'll bring you there--you won't be let down, but you may leave with significantly less money in your pocket!

Also, Emm and I have started watching The Story of Film: An Odyssey on Netflix streaming the last few days. It's a phenomenal 15-part documentary by Irish film writer Mark Cousins, well worth checking out. In a way it feels like a sped-up overview of my years at Emerson as a film student, only better--it doesn't just hit on American or even UK cinema, but touches upon film in other countries--China, India, Brazil, Japan, and so on. Each episode is right about an hour long, so if you're into this sort of thing and like geeking out over creative filmmaking, it's well worth the time.

[Start Old Man Complaint Segment] In other news, my sciatica seems to have disappeared for the most part. A few muscles are a little sore for some reason, but other than that I'm no longer hobbling around like an ancient old man. Still taking it slower than usual, though, because I know it sneaks back at the most inopportune moments, especially when I think it's healed. [/End Old Man Complaint Segment]

And WRITING! Yay, I am full-blown WRITING again! Yes, I'm still working on the last couple dozen chapters of the TPoB revision on my tablet, but this past Tuesday I put my foot down and put Walk in Silence on the front burner. Over the past week I've been fashioning out a detailed outline of twenty or so chapters with all the points I want to hit. This is especially working out well, as a lot of this part of the book has been sort-of written already in the form of various LJ blog entries over the years. I'm doing it this way because in reading those blog entries, I keep finding moments I'd wanted to add to the entry after it's been posted, and building up this outline will assist to that. The music side of the book will come next, in which I'll add specific songs/albums/bands that I want to talk about and insert them almost-chronologically. [I say "almost" because the book actually starts in 1986, jumps back in time, and then moves forward again in a linear fashion.] I've hit a few thousand words over the course of the last week, which is small beans so far, but once I actually get the text going, the word count should rise accordingly.

Can you tell I'm really looking forward to writing this book? :D
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Ah, sciatica. Thy name is PAIN IN THE ASS. (Almost literally.) I never know what's going to set it off. I could pick up heavy stuff, brazenly reach for things beyond my grasp, slouch like a slug at my desk for hours at a time, and nothing will hurt it. And then I attempt to crawl out of the back seat of my in-laws' rental car (it's not that there was no leg room--more like the door was relatively small and getting out was akin to climbing out of an Apollo Command Module), and I start feeling that telltale tweak in my lower back. And then the heavy stuff I pick up without thinking, the coffee I left dead center on the kitchen table, the tiring eight-hour slog of a busy workweek, not to mention my comedic and violent attempts at turning over in bed, that starts aggravating it.

Surprisingly, it stopped hurting during the two-hour performance at the Symphony last night. It could be the plush seats and the angle they were at, plus the fact that I wasn't slouching or settling in some weird position. Of course being the guy that I am, I had to prove something (I'm not sure what) by putting the heavy box of my new chair in the trunk of the car, putting the chair together myself, bringing the empty box down and breaking it up for the recycling bin, and doing three loads of laundry today. Somebody tell me that was a good idea? Y/N?

Aside from that...the rest of the week has been kind of quiet. We had a bit of a OMGWTFBBQ NEEDTHISDONENOW issue with a client, which we were able to do in record time--which meant me dropping everything else I was doing and screwing up the turnaround time on those other issues in the process. I made sure I made a bit of noise while doing it--basically saying "sure, we'll do it, but next time out, give us more than just 48 hours to do this huge thing, because you just screwed up the SLAs for everything else." Suffice it to say, my bosses were on my side on that, so that's good.

Writingwise...plugging along with the revision. Currently on Chapter 22 and hoping to get this thing finished soon enough. I know I'll need to go over The Process of Belief at least a few more times before an agent gets to see it, but at this point I think it's in a MUCH better place than it was just a few years ago when I finally finished it. The most it needs is some cleaning of prose and perhaps a few more minor scene rewrites. As said before, as soon as I'm done with this revision go-round, I'll be starting in hot and heavy with Walk in Silence, so expect to see a major uptick in music blog entries and retrospectives!
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
So I've been hearing all the noise about the latest Game of Thrones episode from the other night, and the fact that there was some major Ick Factor going on in one of the subplots. Well, we don't have cable and I'm not really that interested in the series (books or show--it just doesn't sound like something that would capture my interest is all), so I don't really have much to say about that. I'll just let y'all chat about that.

However, in my recent revision of The Process of Belief, I came upon a short linking scene. In short, two of the most important characters are polar opposite deities yet forever linked spiritually and emotionally, and they face of at a key moment in the trilogy's overall plot.

Here's the passage I came upon:

It's a bit long and problematic so it's behind this here cut )

So...yeah. The long and short of it is that her betrothed D'kami, under the guise of Saish the chaos deity, has just temporarily kidnapped Denysia (our spunky teen hero and the One of All Sacred, the balance deity), mainly to get her away from her well-meaning but overprotective older sister so he can explain their current situation without interruption or outside influence. The move is very typical of him--acting before thinking, and reacting to the first thing that comes his way. In this case, Denysia's harsh dismissal of their fate.

I came upon this scene a few days ago during revision, and for the life of me, I'm not entirely sure why I wrote some of it. The scene itself didn't bother me all that much...only those last two paragraphs at the end. It wasn't so much that it played out sort of like an abusive relationship rather than anything else, especially with Saish's reaction to her harsh words and her immediate apology afterwards. Why did I write that?

Why indeed. I thought about it some. I wrote the scene probably sometime around 2003 if I'm not mistaken, so if I was inspired or influenced by anything, perhaps it was the comic books I was picking up at the time, or maybe one of the movies or books I watched or read then. Eventually it dawned on me that the point here was shock value. I seem to remember that from the mid-90s to the early 00s I saw quite a bit of 'shock value as proving a point' thing. The 'let's see how far we can take this' thing. I don't know...back then I think there was a point to it, perhaps a reactionary point to the more conservative ideas popping up at the time. You know, going that far because the more popular stories wouldn't dare to.

I think the end of that scene was written exactly for that reason, but in hindsight I don't think it worked. It was supposed to show Denni rebelling when she really shouldn't be (not because of a preconceived gender role, but as her role as deity--the whole point of her character is to maintain physical and spiritual balance in the universe through peaceful means) and Saish calming her down the only way he knew how at the time. The end result sounds like he's being abusive, and hurts her when she steps out of line. Yeah, not my plan at all. Not in the least.

That said...the new version looks like this:

slightly shorter revised edit )

So yes...much better here. [Yeah, the prose still needs a little work, I know.] Denysia is still on the defensive, but she's not helpless. She's fighting back and making it hard for her captor, which is definitely more in character for her. Additionally, Saisshalé is not hurting her, intentionally or not, making him less 'chaotic' than he seems. In the end it also serves as a signpost of the overall plot at this point--the predestined fates of these two characters are breaking down, and they are both creating new future events in the process. The shock value is gone, but the tension is heightened in the process because it's hit both of the characters deeply and personally.

I think this was a good personal example of where writing to shock can really fall apart. It can of course be used, especially if one is writing in the kind of genre that expects it, or if the writer (say, like GRRM) is using it to show a larger point of corruption within specific systems. Or you're Chuck Palahniuk or JG Ballard. Either way, this whole exercise made me think a bit more about how I've treated a number of my characters. Is it really worth the shocking moment, if it's only for the shock value? Not really. There's got to be a reason behind it, and furthermore, that reason has to be clearly defined. Otherwise it not only fails its intended reaction, it can have unintended and unfortunate alternate meanings.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Boy oh boy does my TBR pile need some culling...! Well, that and my "already read" pile is a bit ridiculous as well. I'm deciding to invoke Jonc's Occasional Rules of Book Owning:

1. If I bought it, it's been a year or more and I still haven't read it, I either A) shift it to the READ THIS NEXT pile, or B) get rid of it.
2. If I did read a book and still own it, I either A) decide if I still want to keep it, or B)realize I'm probably not going to read it again and get rid of it.
3. If I did not yet read a book but it's in my TBR pile, I either A) keep it there if I know I'll be getting to it, or B) make a decision there and then if I'm going to get to it anytime soon.

Yeah, I know, it's harsh, but sometimes it needs to be done. I've already got a pile going, which A. will probably add to as well, and we'll drop them off at the SF Library store next time we're down near the Marina.

Other cleaning: in other not-so-shocking news, I may need to move my mp3s to the newer external, as I seem to be running out of space! Which means I'll have to do a bit of creative maneuvering and re-adding the tracks to Media Monkey, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. I'll probably do that next weekend when I have more time.

Other cleaning: do I really need the paid version of AVG on my computer, and all the other bells and whistles? The PC works just fine with the free version, and the paid version's got some weird update that doesn't jive with my system (note: this same problem is happening with a number of other users, so it's not just me). I'll have to check and see if it's expiring soon and stop it. I've got a few other firewall and PC-cleaning things installed anyway, so we'll see.

Non-cleaning news:
Apparently, when I revise in bed using my tablet, I seem to be finishing the work a hell of a lot faster. Which tells me two things: I'm giving myself about an hour's extra revision time at night and reaching the end of my revision project that much quicker, and I may have to admit I've been distracting myself too much in Spare Oom! Will have to remedy that. The other downside being that I'm falling behind in my reading, but on the other hand, I'm already halfway through The Process of Belief with a little over twenty chapters more to go.

Other than that, it's been a busy weekend, as I've been hanging with the in-laws both here and in the North Bay. Lots of driving and sightseeing, so it's been fun!
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Really, there's not much to report here in terms of creativity...I've done little except revision work for The Process of Belief, which has been taking most of my focus. Chapter 4 was good plotwise, but extremely clunky when it came to the prose, so it need a lot of tough love. The 'Townies' experiment I was working on with 750Words (I'm calling it that for lack of a better reference for now) hasn't been touched but it's still in my mind, popping up now and again.

Admittedly, part of the sparse creative output has been due to spending most of my problem-solving time pulling double duty last week. One of my coworkers that works in tandem with me on specific things was originally supposed to be out only on Thursday and Friday, but ended up calling out sick on Tuesday and Wednesday as well. And of course we had the few fires to put out. As much as I did want to dedicate some time for things other than revision, I just didn't have the mental energy to do so. I'm hoping I can turn that around in the next few days.

I've also been thinking a lot about the output on my two WordPress sites. As you can obviously tell, I haven't been updating properly. If at all. I could just chalk it up to "oh well, I've been busy with other things", but to me that always feels like a cop-out. I know I can bang out a writing article or a music article in a day...I've done it countless times before. Even if I'm truly exhausted, mentally or physically, I can't help but think I'm just letting it slide, and that's not professional. And I'm not going to get any new readers if the blogs are stagnant.


Here's the plan.

It's time to make a schedule. Not the whiteboard guide, though I will continue to use that. An honest-to-goddess schedule, with deadlines. I will make a list of articles that I want to write. I will make a list of deadlines of when these need to be written, and when they should be posted. I will put this list on a clipboard that I will hang in front of me in Spare OOm so I don't f**king IGNORE IT. In fact, I have just nailed the damn thing to the wall, eye level, right next to this monitor. And I will adhere to this schedule to the best of my abilities.

And as for non-revision creative endeavors: It's time to create a backlog of prompts. I will buy some sort of container, some sort of Tupperware type jar. Any time I actually have a random scrap of an idea--even if it's just a phrase or an image--I will throw it in that jar. I will place this jar in a place where I will not forget about it. And I will make it a point to use at least one prompt a day, either for the 750 Words, or a poem, or something else.

And as for non-writing creative endeavors: I will make it a point to do some sort of drawing, even if it's a doodle. Do something at least once a day, even if it's a five-minute sketch to get rid of my work frustration. And I will use the Wacom tablet every weekend. And by year's end, I would like to at least start with some sort of small-scale painting. [I already noodle around on my guitars on a daily basis, even for a few minutes a day, so I'm good there. Later this year I will expand on that and maybe do a bit of recording--that's not a priority.]

Yes, I know. I know I said something in my previous LJ post about not forcing it if it doesn't want to come. I know. I have a disgusting habit of giving myself easy outs. Well--let's not be too hard on myself; that was more in reference to not forcing the story when it's not there, and not about forcing creativity. For some, creativity needs to be forced. Like me. I need to nudge myself out of complacency to get things done, or else I'm futzing around with my mp3 collection and watching YouTube videos. I'm always itching to write or draw or play music, but I make excuses not to, and that's not a good thing.

More on this as it unfolds.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
So yes, it looks like I'm going to be doing a weekly review here on the good ol' LJ, so I should probably mix up the subject lines now and again, shouldn't I? :)

February started off much better than January's finish. After a great start last month only to be derailed halfway through due to work issues, I figured it was a good a time as any to climb back on the horse and continue where I left off. I was able to find some spare minutes during the day where I can pick up my journal notebook to write what's on my mind. The 750 is working out well too--more on that in a moment--and though I'm still slogging through Chapter 2 of The Process of Belief, it is getting there.

We're also FINALLY getting rain here in these parts! So while that's a really good thing for California (we're in drought status at the moment), it's doing a number on my sinuses, and it seems to also be sending ants into various parts of our apartment. Neither are a high-level concern, more of an irritation and a fixable one at that. Unfortunately it's also turning us into hermits who don't want to venture outside lest we melt...that's our northern California winter, I guess.

So! What's been going on with the writing? An interesting and unexpected new idea came to me in the form of a random picture I saw on Facebook. It was of a woman who looked like a typical townie from the Pioneer Valley (that's midwestern Massachusetts following the Connecticut River, for those of you unfamiliar with that term). She reminded me of some of the women I used to work with at Yankee, and started thinking about what her untold story might be. For my daily 750 Words I started riffing on her backstory--who was she, really? She was a waitress at a restaurant and was seeing a truck driver, for starters, but there's MUCH more to her than people expect. She has a business degree and owns half of the restaurant, is a strong musician that makes extra money writing and selling songs, and is totally fine with not being a be-suited business careerist. She's someone who does her own thing, regardless of others' expectations. But she's still hiding something--she and her two older siblings share a secret she's been hinting at but won't reveal. I haven't quite decided what that secret might be yet, but it'll be the catalyst for whatever story comes out of this. I'm as curious as you are, believe me.

In other writing said, slogging through Chapter 2 of The Process of Belief. My worries were well-founded here: plotwise everything seems to be working okay...but the prose is absolute CRAP. Good lord, what was I thinking here? I think my downfall on that book was that I was focusing too much on achieving word count and getting the project done in a year, that the prose suffered from weak word choice and too much stage direction. I've been tidying up and revising where necessary, but like the first book, I'm pretty sure I'll need to do a bit more tightening on another go-round. Ah well, the price of being a writer...

Last weekend I also FINALLY updated the next-to-last Blogging the Beatles entry in the series, so that gives me one more to go. I'm hoping I can get it done this weekend, and of course will update everyone once it's finally up.

OH! And I wrote a guest music blog post for one of my online friends--you can find it here. Just a short and fun post about bass playing. :)

Other than that, it's been a busy but productive week with other personal and entertaining things going on, so I'm happy about that. Onward and upward!
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Not too bad of a start for 2014 so far.

--750 Words: Decided on the second day that I'm going to use my "morning words" as a playground for trying stuff out. Have a few days' worth of supershort dialogue-only stories and a day of me talking to my Spare Oom mascot (a blackbird finger puppet named Lon Dubh) as we debated what I should be writing about.

--Bridgetown Trilogy: Finished Chapter 41, started up on Chapter 42.

--Personal: Did a major e-recycling run to get rid of our old TV, my older external drives, and a boatload of wires and other bits and bobs. In the process moved a few things around in Spare Oom to open up more space. We're going through our books again to thin out the herd, so I was able to find more room for more of my music books. Lastly, picked up a new guitar riff that sounds a bit like Coldplay's "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" (one of my favorite tracks of theirs). Thinking I should probably plug in the PC mike and start recording some of these riffs as they come up. Will add them to my Drunken Owl folder of demos, see where they go. Alas, have not gone to the gym yet this year. Need to fix that.

On Tap:

--Hoping to work on the next Blogging the Beatles post some time today. This one should be relatively quick, as I'm only hitting two songs.

--Today's 750. Not sure where I'll go with it, we'll see.

--Boring errands: laundry, a bit of produce shopping around the corner. Also: FOOTBALL! Go Niners!
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Lots of writing-related stuff going on here in JoncWorld!

--My primary work these last few weeks, when not working on The Persistence of Memories revision, has been getting the submission package ready for Angry Robot's Open Door. The last few days have been spent working on a two-page synopsis. I probably could have approached this one a little better by creating one from scratch; instead, however, I took a previously created eleven-page outline and edited the hell out of it until it made the two page limit. [ [ profile] dancinghorse, you may remember this outline from a previous read. I've since learned my lesson in brevity. :) ] The lesson learned here is to shape the synopsis down to the barest of detail. The second lesson is to work from the ground up, not from the roof's probably a hell of a lot easier!

--Despite a few coding bumps in the road, I am now building what I'm calling my official author website. It's focused primarily on the trilogy and its universe (which I have now dubbed the Mendaihu Universe) and can be found here if you're curious. I'm currently having a few coding issues (on the WordPress side), but hopefully those should be ironed out soon.

--I'm attempting to do my daily 750 Words again, after not doing so for some time. I often do them during work hours, and Q4 has finally quieted down enough that I can squeeze it in over the course of the day. I'm hoping this will clean out the cobwebs and get some new creativity up and running again.

--It's December, and many music magazines have already posted their best-of-year posts, so I should probably start doing mine as well. Maybe start building the year-end compilation too.

--This also means that it's time for me to do a retrospective on what I've worked on writingwise this year, and my plans for next year as well. Let's just say future plans for 2014 are going to be quite productive, and hopefully fun and fruitful as well!
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
It's been one hell of a fourth quarter workwise, not to mention a busy personal schedule, so I haven't updated here in quite some time. I will try to update more this weekend, as I will actually have the time to do so! :)

Quick Facts and Figures in JoncWorld:

--On Chapter 34 of The Persistence of Memories revision, a little over halfway through the novel proper, and about the halfway point of the trilogy proper. Things are looking good.

--Due to frequent technical incompetence and end-of-rope frustration, we no longer have Dish Network. On the positive side, we have Netflix and a large collection of DVDs (not to mention my ridiculous mp3 collection) to keep us entertained visually and aurally. We may get some other cable or satellite at a later time, but for now we're just going to let it go for now.

--Why yes, I do plan on submitting the trilogy (well, A Division of Souls for starters) to Angry Robot's Open Door submission window, why do you ask? This weekend's writing project is to work on the Query Letter/Synopsis and first few chapters prepared, and the submission will hopefully come soon after.

--Over halfway done with Mark Lewisohn's Beatles tome Tune In...and recently bought the twice-as-long Extended Version as well. He's done quite the great's well worth checking out. And from a writer's perspective, I find he's written the book in the exact style I would want to write in for Walk In Silence, once I get to it.

Okay, back to revision! :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
So I've arrived at Chapter 24 of The Persistence of Memories, which I will need to completely rewrite. I don't know what I was thinking, other than that I had to get Matthew out of his cave somehow...he'd been hiding behind his computers for way too long, attempting to keep things under control. He had to be pulled away from the strings he was pulling.

The current chapter has him witnessing a horrifying yet purposely improbable car crash, which gets him out of his apartment, calling the PD to report it (because it's the right thing to do), and in the process of trying to assist or at least calm the victims, he comes face to face with Evil and Mysterious Antagonist Character. Said character does his antagonizing and evilling right up until he gets caught by the PD, who realize they've finally caught The City's Most Notorious Hacker. And the chapter ends soon after when he's subsequently released by none other than the Governor himself, whom he had helped keep the peace in Book 1.

So in short: a really horribly written, half-assed chapter written when I wasn't quite sure where I wanted the novel to go and did the "let's try this, see where it goes" bit. I've never liked the scene all that much...I always felt it was a kludge. It doesn't do anything, it distracts, and...really, it doesn't make sense within the context of the rest of the book.

Then it dawned on me the other day--I had totally the wrong character antagonizing Matthew.

Thankfully, this has to do with something I learned waaaaaaaaay back in the day at Emerson, had completely forgotten on a conscious level, and had been reminded of via a panel I attended at Worldcon (which I will go into in a later post). Long story short, it's my way of dealing with a multi-POV storyline--most every major character tends to have another character he or she is connected to somehow. Caren and Poe (partnered agents), The One of All Sacred and Saisshale (diametrically opposite deities), Governor Rieflin and Ampryss (community leaders), Matthew with Dolan (characters known for throwing wrenches in the works), and so on.

The problem was that I had put Matthew and Saisshale together in this scene...which made no sense. They had absolutely no reason at that time to be working for or against each other at such a level. And Saisshale had already been poking at Caren (because she is the sister of the OoAS) and Poe (because...well, I can't reveal that just yet), and Matthew had already been poking at the Governor (because he had to show who was really in charge)...but neither of them had directly crossed paths at this time.

So yes--this means that I know EXACTLY who needs to antagonize Matthew in this scene.

Now for the hard part--figuring out what the hell to write for this scene. :p
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Eesh. I'd planned on writing a follow-up post to my previous one, but I keep running out of time! I guess that's what happens when you're too busy juggling a day job as well as churning out my morning 750 words, doing some heavy duty revision, catching up on reading, and writing a 5000+-word post on one of the most defining rock albums of the sixties. Oh, and watching some extremely silly anime. ;)

Anyhoo! Lots of different writerly things milling around my head.

--Still hammering away on the revision of The Persistence of Memories. No major revision here, not like ADoS, but I have run into a few passages here and there that need a bit of work. Most of the work on this one is on redeveloping some of the characters--not that they're flat, but now that I've reread the entire trilogy in one go (and am re-rereading, and will probably do so again another time or so until all three are completely revised), I'm seeing a few bland spots here and there, and I'm also taking the opportunity to throw in a bit of development that ends up completely unveiling itself later on.

--I've also been thinking (again) about the possibility of self-pubbing the series instead of going through the majors (so to speak). I'm still really up in the air about this, to be honest. On the one hand I would really love to see it released by a professional publisher, and I'm still going to submit it out into the wild until I get a bite. But in this day and age when there's a lot of good self-publishing going on, and I can honestly see myself going that route if it comes to it. Sure, I won't get the super-shiny art cover or wide recognition...but at the same time, the books aren't going to be seen by anyone if they're going to remain sitting on my computer, either. And who's to say the book wouldn't just sit there gathering dust on the bookstore shelf until it gets remaindered? The publishing field isn't what it used to be, that's for sure (and yes, I've read Judith Tarr's recent posts about's a sobering but quite interesting read). I've been doing a bit of homework on this end as well: possible cover pictures (and possible people to contact to take said pictures if it comes to it), possible editing services, and even which self-pubbing companies I can reach out to (I'm on the mailing list for a few of them already). If I'm gonna go that route, I'm gonna do it right.

--That said: A Division of Souls is currently in "please beta read me" phase, so if anyone is at all interested, let me know and I can float it your way. I have it in .doc and .mobi format and can probably change it to most other formats if need be. Thanks!

--In non-trilogy news, I was typing out my morning words yesterday (thanks to, and at the same time I was listening to my latest music obsession, KSCU (Santa Clara University's radio station--you've heard me going on about it in the past, and its playlist is VERY similar to the college radio back in the late 80s heyday...check it out here if you're interested). And with college radio comes thoughts of autumn...and with thoughts of autumn come my old trunked novel Dream Weaver. Trust me--the old version is pretty bad and not worth revisiting. However, just for the fun of it, and to get my morning words out, I thought I'd do a bit of brainstorming to see if I can create something new out of the old setting. In the process I came up with a lighthearted and fun storyline of alternate realities bumping up against each other. Equal parts Adam Christopher's Empire State universe, Studio Ghibli's character studies, anthropomorphic comics, growing up in woodsy New England, and my college rock obsession, I came up with what might promise to be either a YA or at least an interesting fantasy story. I'm not going into too much detail at the moment, but I may expand on this idea in my spare time as a possible future project. We'll see where this goes!

--The Blogging the Beatles posts seem to be going over well! That last one was pretty long and detailed, but I'd wanted to do that on purpose. The Beatles of 1962-66 are definitely different from the Beatles of 1967-70, not just with the Red and Blue Album compilations, and I wanted to focus a little on why and how they changed at that time. The next half of the discography is going to be pretty interesting work--the releases get stretched out a bit more, but in the process I also have to work my way through the White Album, which is going to be quite interesting in and of itself. And yes, I will be commenting on "Revolution 9"--there's a lot of fascinating stuff on that track if you have the tolerance and patience!

Okay, more about writing later...back to work and the other twelve things I'm doing! :p


May. 13th, 2013 09:15 am
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
As you may have noticed on my WordPress site, I haven't quite gotten around to posting the next Blogging the Beatles post, though I should hopefully get one up by next weekend. It just so happens that I finished up the major revision of A Division of Souls a bit earlier than expected, and all my creative time has been dedicated to getting the manuscript all nice and tidy for submission. Given that I've been working on this novel nigh on a decade (granted, there were a few years in there where I was working on something else and letting this one stew), I believe it's high time I get this one out and away, and I'd like to make sure I'm doing it right this time. So yeah...that novel takes precedence.

Still, I should have gone on that site and posted a "more posts coming soon" filler much sooner. Sorry about that.

On the plus side, I've been doing pretty good with making sure I find time for my other creative outlets. I've posted a couple of new poems over at the Dreamwidth site that are crossposting here (which btw, I don't think I've ever had someone *squee* at my poetry before, so thanks [ profile] anagramofbrat!) and making sure I get at least something new done each day. It helps that I put my poetry notebook, my journal and my Wacom under my monitor shelf as a way to remind myself to pick them up now and again. Feels good to do that again.

In the meantime, I've been listening to a lot of college radio again. I know..."When are you not listening to that stuff?" Heh. Well, considering that a lot of my desk listening has been either the now-sadly-departed AOL Spinner or my mp3 collection (and occasionally Save Alternative or Radio BDC), I figured it was high time to start branching out again. This time out I've been listening to a lot of KSCU out of Santa Clara University, their playlist is definitely up my alley--lots of indie rock, indietronica, and alt-folk, with a smidge of electronica thrown in there. Just the right level of indie that's not too outsider (like KALX in Berkeley), or trying too hard to cover every single possible music genre (which is another post entirely). In a very eerie way, its playlist is quite similar to WAMH's playlist back in the day--a good mixture of sort-of-well-known alternative, local, and obscure. This is definitely a station for listening. That is, it feels like a station for people like me, who are listeners and not necessarily partiers or hipsters. Well--I could go on about this, but I'm thinking I may have another WiS post in my brain instead. Either way--great station to listen to, well worth checking out.

On that note...Monday beckons and I've got stuff to do these next few days, but hopefully I won't be as scarce as I have been. Hope everyone else has a spiffy week! :)
jon_chaisson: (Gendo from Evangelion)
A string of Tweets from me from a few days ago:

Writing thoughts 1: Knowing you need to get better = frustrating, but doable.
Writing thoughts 2: Knowing you need to do your best = frustrating, but doable.
Writing thoughts 3: Knowing the difference between "your best" and "THE best" = frustrating and hard as hell.

So why "toppu o nerae" (aim for the top) instead of "ganbatte" (do your best)? In this case, because I think I've been confusing the two for the longest time, at least in terms of my writing, and only recently have I really thought about the difference between the two mindsets I could possibly have in this case.

When I first thought about writing as a lifelong career rather than a hobby or "something to do" oh so many years ago, I of course understood that my first works were going to be far, far from being brilliant works of prose. I understood I'd have to learn the hard way, honing the craft as they say. It took a hell of a lot longer than planned, considering my penchant for being easily distracted and needing to do a lot of growing up by the time I left college, but by the mid-90s I knew I'd finally gotten past that phase and moved forward. I spent most of the late 90s and early 00s learning how to write a story and how to do it well. There were a lot of false starts, trunked ideas and dead ends, but there were a lot of good things--the trilogy, for example.

So here I am, having finally hit the first two writing thoughts I mentioned above.

What about number three, then?

The problem seems to be that, for the longest time, I confused writing MY best work with trying to write THE best work that would put my manuscript on top of everyone else's, spark an agent's interest, and get published. Or more to the wasn't so much confusion as seeing it in the wrong way. I've certainly accepted that I'm not a brilliant writer, so I'm not aiming for bestseller lists. I think most if not all writers think the same way (and musicians, come to think of it), which is probably why they're always a bit surprised and embarrassed when a fan goes all asquee over them if they happen to meet. They did their best, but it's always unexpected to hear someone else quantify it to a much higher level.

Which brings me back to my point--I've been aiming for the top of my game, and I'd like to think I'm much closer to that point than I was in the past. But that's the thing: I've been looking at it as a game, a race: trying to be better than my fellow writers, as if it was a competition. If I don't get the gold medal, I'll never be published. I could pigeonhole this viewpoint as a Good Ol' American Competition, that that's how I was brought up as a child of the 80s and overfed with the mass media of newly minted cable channels and Cold War movies where I MUST HAVE EVERYTHING NOW AND BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE, but that's too easy. It's not as if I was trying to outwrite my friends and favorite authors by 2002 when I wrote the novel I'm currently revising. It's more that I never got around to adjusting that mindset and my emotions just happened to fall into that default from time to time, if that makes sense.

Now that I've come this far, and especially now that I get why the past revisions of A Division of Souls weren't nearly as good as they should be, I think I've finally adjusted that mindset, and I'm seeing the results now.

I stopped trying to write better than everyone else; instead, I'm trying to write better, period.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
In the process of editing/revising A Division of Souls, I've been preparing a few chapters ahead of time so I can just pick up the next one when I get to it. The preparation has mainly been taking the last version (2011), shifting scenes if need be, and saving them as a new chapter for working on later. It works out well for me, as this is quite similar to how I wrote it in the first place (mapping out a few following scenes before I write them), and any shifting has already taken place. This way I can revise a chapter in a week or two. Added to this, I've been dedicating my weekday writing sessions solely to this project, so I've been getting quite a bit done. This dedication has worked so well that I even want to pick it up on the weekends when I should be working on other things (not that that's a bad thing...).

The other week while preparing the next batch, I suddenly noticed I only had nine chapters left to go and I'd be finished! WOO! Of course, once this is done, then I'd go through one more time specifically for grammar and flow (as well as some serious Find/Replace work on a couple of names). But the fact that it's only the end of February and I'm this close to being done with this round of rewriting/revision makes me extremely happy! This means two things: I get to jump in on revising The Persistence of Memories (probably my favorite in the trilogy), and more importantly, SUBMISSION TIME! I haven't submitted a manuscript anywhere for quite a few years, and I haven't submitted anything from the trilogy since probably 2004, so I'm very excited about this. Yes, even if it does get rejected! It's been WAY too long since I was at this point.

I have to say I've kicked my own ass repeatedly on this revision, and it was worth it. I did some serious overhaul of the first few chapters (as mentioned before, some of the passages hadn't changed much since the original 1999-2000ish versions), killed off quite a lot of deadwood and wrote a hell of a lot of improved sequences to take its place, and in my opinion, made this the best damn version it's ever been. And in the process I've learned a hell of a lot more about my own writing than I ever expected. That ain't bad at all.

All that said, if I keep up the speed I'm at, I think I should have everything done by the middle or end of March. Another month to do the cosmetic fixes, and I should have everything ready to go by May.

Here's to hoping... :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Whew! Been awhile since I've posted here. It's been quite the busy couple of weeks here in Joncworld, between work, writing, updating, doing outside stuff, and all sorts of things. I've been treating these few weeks as playtime online, where I've been letting myself goof off and watch stupid videos on YouTube, read comics, avoid politics, and generally relax. I've downloaded new and old music, started going to again, and thinking about what I want to do in 2013.

But I've also been putting deep focus on a lot of things too, such as the revision of A Division of Souls. I mean deep focus, trying to internally figure out exactly what I want to say with the book as well as the trilogy. It's all falling together quite nicely, actually. I figured out a few things that were on the periphery--well, more to the point, it's that I was paying attention this time to the thematic hints I'd peppered around, and can see where I start to stray and ramble off topic. That's why the first few chapters were such hell to revise but they're lightening up now. This just goes to prove that my first drafts tend to unfold like I don't have any freaking clue where the story's going, like I'm going in random directions to see what sticks. This revision is like I'm finally cleaning up those stray bits, getting rid of dead ends, strengthening the characters, and upgrading the prose. As mentioned in an earlier post, I'm also doing a bit of shuffling with the scenes to make them fit and flow better. So all in all, I like where this revision is going. We'll see how it ends up in a few months or so.

Not much else to report at the moment...I've got some Next Year Planning milling about in my head, which I'll probably post about later on this month. There's also the end-of-year music lists and compilations, of course. Can't pass those up!

Hope everyone has a spiffy weekend!
jon_chaisson: (Default)
A much quieter and more fruitful sleep last night, it seems. Downstairs neighbor was quiet, and I took a decongestant and put on a snore strip so I wouldn't keep everyone else (including myself) up. We are now hanging out in the living room watching NFL GameDay Live and vegging out until it's time for us to head out to the Symphony.

Here's one of my favorite interpretations of what we're going to see:

Sort of Fantasia as made by Gerald Scarfe, no? ;)

Other things...


Happy Autumn! Emm and I took a nice long walk in the Presidio yesterday, and walked through the Presidio Heights/Pacific Heights area over to Fillmore, where we cut down to Japantown for lunch. As you can see, our autumn doesn't have the change of foliage colors like New England does. It's actually the warmest and nicest time of the year for us, and the fog clears up quicker than usual out our way. Looking forward to enjoying the weather while we have it!

Let's see...what else...the revision of Chapter 6 is slow going--just like Chapter 5 did, and I think I know why. Again, I like what the scene does, but it's not written the right way. I think one of the reasons is that the character isn't really himself. This scene is from Nehale's point of view, the same person who kicked off the trilogy with an intensely strong Awakening ritual, but he seems so powerless and unfocused here. This means that I'll have to do some major rewriting of the scene to make it work. It's a chore, but it's gotta be done, and I think I can do it.

Other than that...not much else to report! Hope everyone's been having a good weekend!
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Another week in which it feels like I kinda-sorta-but-not-quite got work done writingwise. On the one hand, I felt I wasted too much time goofing around on the internets...but on the other hand, I finally finished Chapter 5 to the point that it works a hell of a lot better...and in the process, moved a scene that was originally after that chapter back to Chapter 3 where it made more sense and had a lot more bite...and in the process did a little more editing to Chapter 5 (ultimately deleting about ten lines) so the scene move would make more sense...and finally getting to start in on Chapter 6.

This revision feels very strange in that I'm reading it with an extremely clinical eye. In this sense, I'm focusing more on how I told the story. This is where I think I got confused, and where a lot of starting writers stumble...when you're reading a story that is completely you--that is, when you're going over a story or a novel that is completely from your imagination, created solely by your brain creating scenes and your fingers dancing across the keyboard--it's kind of hard to distance yourself from that extremely personal relationship you have with those words. There's that fear that any clinical dissection of these words is a dissection and perhaps ultimately a disconnect in that relationship, making it seem less than what you want it to be.

I can't talk for anyone else here, but personally, I think I finally got over the fear of dissecting my words and exposing the cracks. I finally got over the fear that I would personally lose interest in my own words--a long-standing fear instilled in me in high school when I was taught to brutally dissect Lord of the Flies. [Aside: it's been over 25 years of me complaining about how much I loathed that book...I just picked up a used copy at Green Apple today to see if my feelings have changed any.] There's this common misconception as a beginning writer, where one thinks that in order to get to a professional level of writing, one has to give up words that you've slaved over, and writers HATE having to make that sacrifice. I still hate it, but it makes sense to sacrifice if you're going to replace your work with even better work. In the end, it's totally worth it.

But really, I've finally come to learn that storytelling isn't just about using words creatively and making up really neat scenes. It's a crapload of things, really...there's creating a plot that is never (or rarely) static; there's keeping some sort of essential logic, real or created; there's knowing when to expand and when to contract the scene; and with the point of this post, there's coming to terms with the reality that sometimes, the words you used or the scene you wrote may not quite work. There's a lot more of course, this is just a part of it. The trick is knowing when it's good and when it needs fixing...and it's different for each writer.

Personally, each level of writing a story has a distinct feeling for me:

When I'm writing new words and unfolding a scene for the first time, either straight from my head or using the sparsest of outlines, there's that thrill--that excitement of, for the lack of a better term, 'making shit up as you go along and getting away with it.' I absolutely love that feeling of the words spilling out as I'm writing them, because it's something I know I'm good at, and something that's truly from me and not somewhere else. I get the same feeling when I'm writing poetry, or drawing and sketching. In a weird way, I envision word count as getting a High Score on some old school videogame like Galaga or something...the higher it is, the prouder I am that I got some serious work done.

When I'm planning out a story, the excitement of creation is there as well, but it's different. It's not the thrill of getting words down; rather, it's the thrill of personally unfolding a story. Back in 2002-04 when I was working at Yankee Candle during the day and writing in the Belfry at night, at work I'd grab a blank piece of paper and plot out the next few scenes when the days were slow, and write them out when I got home. Given that this job was primarily physical, I'd save a lot of my mental gymnastics for the writing sessions. I don't get to do this nearly as much as I'd like to nowadays, but I'm slowly making the change so I can do taht again.

And now, for probably the first time, I'm finding out how it feels to revise. Not just reading the story for grammar and spelling, and not just to make sure the logic works, and not just to fix any plot holes. For the first time, I'm finding out how it feels to look at my own work clinically and unemotionally. I'm not letting myself get lost in the made world. I'm looking at the scene, paragraph, and sentence levels, parsing what works and what needs work, and editing and revising where it's needed.

So how does it feel?

It's strange, really. Like I said, there are days when I feel like I didn't get anything done and I'm still focusing on the same damn sentences I was staring at three days ago, and then I look at the end of week tally and find that I've revised a good fifteen to twenty pages over the course of a week. There's definitely progress, it's just less obvious. It's a hell of a lot different than trying to make wordcount--you're not creating new words or aiming for X number of words. If anything, my aim is to get it done and polished, period. I don't know how long it'll take, but it'll have been worth it by the end.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
My writing time was laughable last week, and I admit it was partly by choice. I hadn't planned on watching the DNC, but since Emm had it on I followed suit. And since most of this weekend was spent on the road or in various stores, nothing happened yesterday or today. I did sneak a few poems in during the week during work time, but other than that it's been slim pickins. I plan on fixing that later this week with actual heavy duty revision sessions.

Speaking of which, I'm currently going over Chapter 5 of A Division of Souls (in which Poe meets up with Akaina and Ashyntoya) for a THIRD time, because, as I'd said to Emm during one of our walks, I like the beginning and ending of the chapter but the middle is OH GOD HORRIBLE. Okay, maybe not that bad, but it could still use a hell of a lot of work. The problem is that a lot of the important action isn't typical; it takes place in a sort-of-other-reality that Poe experiences through the other two characters. It doesn't quite take place in his head, but it doesn't quite take place in his normal reality, either. The plot itself is okay, but I'm having a hell of a time trying to get the description right. I had the same problem with Chapters 1 and 3 (I apparently alternate between good and bad chapters!), in which the plot is good but the telling is in dire need of an overhaul. I've got my writing work cut out for me this week. Hopefully the third time's the charm.

Also trilogy related, all the talk about cultural appropriation in SF/F that I've been reading on the internets over the last few months has got me thinking about some of the things I've used in the trilogy. I've mentioned quite often that the Eden Cycle was partially inspired and influenced by anime (specifically the Gall Force series), so there's definitely a few traces of things Japanese in there. All done appropriately of course. However, it got me thinking about the Mihari and the Misuteru--the yin and yang of spiritual power in the Eden Cycle world. The Mihari are hands-off and protect through vigilance, constantly watching, while the Misuteru are hands-on and want to enforce change to ensure peace.

The names are Japanese words (mihari = watch, misuteru = abandon) that I grabbed from a Japanese pocket dictionary I owned. At the time I didn't even think twice about snagging a different language's words because it wasn't a malicious intent; in fact, it was more to the point that I was fascinated by the naming convention in the animes I watched. At the time (the late 90s, when the trilogy was still The Phoenix Effect), the names also tied in with the history of these Meraladians--the Mihari were the proactive aliens watching the future and the past and leaving the homeworld first, and the Misuteru were the ones who wanted to stay behind, and thus felt abandoned by their counterparts.

All this said...even though I've written a complete trilogy that took me pretty much ten years to write, and the Mihari/Misuteru names date back even further (Mihari from around 1994 and Misuteru soon after), I think it's time that I come up with newer names. There's two reasons for this:

1) Logic. I mostly did away with the "abandoned Meraladian" backstory quite a few drafts ago, so "Misuteru" doesn't fit anymore. "Mihari" does fit somewhat, but at this point it feels out of place, like I tried shoehorning it into the story when it no longer quite fits. The Mihari at this point are more active within the storyline so calling them "watchers" is sort of a misnomer.

2) Language. "Mihari" and "Misuteru" are the only two specific real-life words left in the story, as many of the other names have been changed to fit the Anjshe conlang I'd created around 2001. Even the alien race name is officially "Meraladhza" (lit. "people from Meraladh") and "Meraladian" is the "Terranized" corruption of the name. I only kept Mihari and Misuteru because the two sides are so central to the story. More to the point, however, the names themselves are not central, but could be (this would make even more sense, as words have lingual and spiritual meanings in this alien world).

SO! That being said, over the course of the next few weeks or so I will be creating new names for them, and will need to do some serious Find/Replace editing (for three separate novels I should add) to get everything changed over. It's worth it, though. I don't think I'm doing this to avoid real-life cultural appropriation as I am realizing that the appropriating that did take place in the past no longer fits, and needs an update.

Since these two names are going to be extremely important to the story, I'll have to do some serious thinking about it. The good thing is that Anjshe is a very organic language, in which I use specific syllables to mean certain things which I would then combine and perhaps tweak to form more words [for example, mehra (spiritual state) + dea (to be at rest) = mehridhea (peace)]. My plan is to start making a list of names and choose what sounds best and fits best.

This by far has to be the most intensive change in the trilogy that I've ever made, and I'm sure I'll still refer to them by their old names after the fact, but it's a change that needs doing.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
So what have I been doing lately, in terms of my writing? Well, this time out it's a major revision of A Division of Souls. I know, I know...I've tooted that horn quite a few times over the last few years, only to get to a certain point and have it fall apart. Why should this be any different?

I think the difference this time is a confluence of a number of things, of which I'll probably go into in a later post. For now, I'll just say that it's a combination of winding myself up doing the 750 Words, ramping up my reading, focusing on only one fiction project, [ profile] dancinghorse's words of wisdom in the margins, and basically having found that personal sweet spot where I'm in a good writing groove. Or maybe it's just that I'm finally "getting it" in terms of what's good prose and what's half-assed or just plain bad.

Of course, I know that this sweet spot is fleeting. What's perfect for one book might not be for another. I know that the writing for Walk in Silence has been completely different, considering it's nonfic. Then there's the distractions that can take it away or change it without us noticing right off.

Then there's also the method of how I'm reading ADoS. The first draft was definitely an excited freeform of scenes, knowing what was coming next and writing it, but not really "crafting" how it was written. Which is par for the course for me. The next few drafts improve on this freeform, making the story sound better and giving it more logic. Eventually I'll be happy enough with that part of it. [Side note: in the past, this was where I mistakenly thought I was done and started sending a few submissions out. Bad idea.] The trick was to move in the other direction--not so much disassociate myself from the novel, but to see it from a different point of view. But that's not the only thing; revision is a LOT of things other than polishing and making it sound better. You have to figure out HOW you're going to do that.

And to do that, you have to figure out what's wrong in the first place. For me, it was too much internal dialogue and not enough physical action, a few too many in-jokes and Hollywood visuals that served little purpose, a handful of dead-end ideas, and a lot of worldbuilding without much explanation as to why it was there in the first place. There was also a somewhat limited command of the prose...too many weasel words and overused phrases. That's fine during an early draft, considering my main aim is unfurl the story, not create a work of art right out of the gate.

So how am I doing this differently now?

Well, that's a good question, and I'm not sure how I can adequately describe it aside from having hit that "sweet spot" where I know what the hell I'm doing and can innately see what needs fixing or polishing up, and am detached enough from the story where I can let certain passages go without being annoyed by it. I doubt it will be a perfect revision, but I can at least believe that I'm improving on each successive runthrough. I know there's also the fact that my trilogy is ridiculously long (the books average about 115k each, if I'm not mistaken), so I've got quite a long way to go before they're finished. The level of revision will vary as well...I know some of The Process of Belief will need a complete rewrite, but there will also be some passages that need merely a tweak of a sentence or two.

At this point, I'm not on a schedule, other than "work on it every day." And as long as I follow that, I'll be getting ever closer to my goal.


jon_chaisson: (Default)

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