Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Christopher Charman.
About Christopher Charman:
When he isn’t selling houses as a real estate broker or playing jazz, Christopher Charman is writing. His undergraduate degree in Egyptian Archeology from UC Berkeley led inevitably to a 20+ year career in technical support and information technology, but Chris returned to a state of grace and sanity by completing his MFA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University in 2013. He has black belts in two Japanese martial arts and is a founding practitioner of Nanatokan Aikijujutsu. Chris lives in Santa Cruz with his partner, two sons and dog, who is extremely expressive but unfortunately does not use words. Alex and Dog Go Hunting is his first published novel.
About Alex & Dog Go Hunting:
Alex doesn't have much to her name despite her knack for thieving and her passionate love of Veronica. When Alex is arrested and her relationship with Veronica shattered, she has only one way to clear her name and avoid life in prison.
Years later, and now an asset of the US government, Alex has been transformed into a Special Ops assassin, and she has the engineered genes to prove it. Fighting her way through every blacklisted mission possible, and loving every minute of it, it isn't until she's de-listed and on the streets that she meets David, a genetic whiz, who suspects there's a flaw hidden in her new and improved DNA - a flaw that may prove fatal.
Forging an uncanny relationship with Dog, a canine with incredible abilities, Alex learns that there are more dark rooms filled with government conspiracies than even she knew existed. As they dodge a desperate military, Alex realizes she'll have to face one of her worst battles yet: one of the heart.
Alex and Dog Go Hunting joins the ranks of such female-kicking-butt offerings as La Femme Nikita, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Wanted and adds a bit of Alias and Aeon Flux. It's Christopher Charman's debut novel.
GUEST POST: What's Your Process? by Christopher Charman
It sounds like the ultimate literary pick-up line, but it’s a real quandary when you’re sitting down in front of a blank page (or a blinking cursor). What are the actual mechanics of writing for you? What motivates you to put the words down? How do you structure your environment (and your practice) to get the most out of your time? While there are no universal truths – my methods may not work for you, and yours may not work for me – in all the many times the question have come up during discussions with fellow students, professors, and published authors, there do seem to be a few commonalities.
The Right Level of Distraction
I do most of my serious writing in public. It may sound cliché, but I do my best work in cafés: I need a certain level of noise and activity. I’m an introvert, but the stimulation of background music, random conversation, and the smell of coffee helps me focus. I want people around, but I can’t have anyone specifically needing my attention. According to his wife’s memoirs, Victor Hugo locked himself in a room with nothing but a bottle of ink and a sheaf of paper to force himself to write. For me, that level of distraction-free environment wouldn’t work. But you have to figure it out for yourself. If you sit down to write and find yourself checking Facebook, sending e-mails, checking Facebook, looking at cat memes, and checking Facebook, then turn off your WiFi and try again. If you find that suddenly your desk is in urgent need of rearranging, and those socks really need to be mended right now, perhaps a change of venue is in order.
The Right Level of Urgency
I tend to procrastinate. Lots of us do. There’s always something more urgent that needs taking care of. This is where accountability comes in. Writing is, particularly in its initial stages, a solitary act. But if it’s going to be anything more than an exercise in futility, you’ll need to show it to someone else. The best way to get to that stage of the process is a deadline, artificial or otherwise, particularly one that is externally imposed. Find your “first reader,” that person who is expecting you to hand over what you’ve written. The beauty of a writing program or a formal writing group is that you have a commitment to others – professors, fellow students, other writers – waiting for you to produce, and expecting you to do so on a specific timeline.
The Right Support
Writing is between the writer and the page. The act of pulling words out of your head and onto paper is something no one else can do for you. Once you’ve gotten the words out, you need to share your stories and work with a community. The first part of your community consists of the writers you read. Your writing is only as good as the last thing you read. The second part of your community are your fellow writers. Find a group of writers you like who can help you with your craft. The third part of your community are your readers. Cultivate a group of readers you trust (these people may or may not be fellow writers). These are the people who will tell you when you are being unclear or confusing. Your final support is your editor. As you write, re-write, and revise, you will no longer see your mistakes. Your editor is your savior before you set your work free in the world. Find someone you trust, and trust them implicitly (Ed. Note: You are welcome).
The Right Audience
I’m not going to disparage journaling – keeping a diary for yourself is fine – but if you want to be a writer (as opposed to a diarist), someone needs to be waiting to read what you’ve written. The audience can certainly change. When I started Alex and Dog Go Hunting, I was an MFA student at San Francisco State, writing from a prompt one of my professors gave me. I needed to produce a few hundred words, to be shared with my professor and the class. As the story grew, my professor asked me to send her a thousand words a week over the summer. Then things expanded, and other readers got involved, my “first reader” (my life-partner and editor, a select group of friends, eventually an acquiring editor at my publishing house). The story expanded along with the audience, until finally I was ready to release the fully-formed book out into the wild.
The Right Time
When is the right time to write? In theory, you should write daily. Sit down when your mind is fresh, maybe when the first caffeine hit of the day is coursing through your bloodstream. Or at night when everything is all buttoned up. Whatever works to get you the right level of distraction or concentration, the right level of urgency or peace. Writing is intense mental work. Write until you are no longer productive. For me, that’s about an hour and a half to two hours before my brain starts to twitch.
Of course, as Walter J. Savitch said in Pascal: An Introduction to the Art and Science of Programming (1984), “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” Write whenever you can, wherever you can. Give yourself a goal (one full page? a few paragraphs? one really beautiful sentence?), but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make it. When you’re in the first draft of a new story, just get it out. Don’t shoot for perfection on the first try. The perfect is the enemy of the good (and of the done).
So, What Is MY Process?
Alex and Dog Go Hunting was written in cafés. It was written in the back of a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon parked at the edge of Beer Can Beach. It was written on campus at San Francisco State University. It was written at my dining room table. It was written in various offices between work calls. It was picked apart and reorganized in a hot tub, and finally rearranged in bed, early in the morning, years later. It took as long as it took. This story has been percolating and growing for at least seven years. While most of the words have been there for quite some time.
My process is messy and convoluted and probably won’t work for you. What’s important is that it started with a blank page and an idea, and through determination, effort, and the support of a community of mentors, friends, and fellow writers, I was able to extract it from my imagination and present it to you, the reader. Get it out on the page, however you need to. Whatever your process, reach for something wonderful.