Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's in a name?

Ah, the name, the name the name the NAME! What's in a name!

Saul Goode. That's my online handle, has been for a while, don't google it, you might not like what you find.

But do you get the name? "It's all good."

Get it? See, I picked a name that meant something, something that inspired me, something that when I used it, I could become someone else, and become something that I could not otherwise have become.

Percy. Percival. King Arthur's most righteous knight, and the only one who saw the Holy Grail. What a great name, eh!

Mira. I used that on in Evander's Forge. Mira, in Spanish, means Look! Mira was Evander's foil, and she helped him see. Get it?

And Evander, what about that name? Look it up. It means Good Man. His last name was Gennesee, after the beer. His middle name was James, which is a biblical name, a name of God (at least to a Christian). Evander James Gennesee. A Good Man of God and Beer! How perfect is that!

Maybe I'll change my name, eh, Evander James Gennesee fits me perfectly.

I had one guy who's nickname was Spats. I didn't get it, but turns out, my subconscious was playing tricks on me. Everyone around Spats was spitting on him, metaphorically, and he was emotionally covered in sticky phlegm you could bottle and sell as wood glue.

Anyway, point is that you should pick good names. Give a dog a good name, that's something you always hear down south, and speaking of, we used to have dogs named Bandit, Lucky, Todd (which somehow meant he had a white spot on his chest, don't ask...), and this Beagle named Scotch.

Why Scotch?

Because that was my dad's favorite drink. ;)

Good names. Give em all a good name, and not only will your character spring to life, but they'll live forever in the reader's memory.

- Eric

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Everyone has an agenda

So I'm writing this story about a kid named Percy Freebottom, and I get 10k wds into it, wad up the story, chunk it, re-write from the beginning, I'm back to 10k wds, wad it up, chunk it, re-write from the beginning, and so on. I've done this several times, now, and I'm finally up to about 20k wds.

And I'm ready to wad it up and chunk it.

I keep trying to figure out what's ~wrong~ with the story. Something's wrong, I can feel something's wrong, but I don't know ~what~ is wrong.

The name's a good name -- I love Percy Freebottom.

The storyline's great. I dig the plot, rough though it is.

The setting's right -- rural East Texas. The time is right -- 1980. The age is right -- 10yo, pre-pubescent.

I have the dogs, the woods, a cast of characters, all lined up in their dressing rooms, waiting on me to hand them their lines and tell them where to stand and how to act and what to wear and how to look and what to think. Everyone already knows who lives, who dies, and who wishes they had one or the other.

It's all there.

But something's missing, and I don't have a fucking clue what it is. At least, until last night.

I watched a movie, and it clicked -- ~EVERYONE~ has an agenda. I mean, everyone. Every character, every clerk, every police officer, every taxi driver and teacher and well digger and horse wrangler. The all have an agenda.

And that's what I forgot. I have Percy, and he's integral to the plot, but really, Percy doesn't give one rat's ass about my plot. He's not interested in what I want, or what other people want. Percy's interested in what ~Percy~ wants, and he sure as hell doesn't want my story, or my plot, or all those other characters.

Nope. Percy has his own agenda. He has things he needs to do that do not involve me, Dear Author, or you, Dear Reader.

Funny, because this is my fourth book, and I have a ton of short stories. I looked back over the old books, and some shorts, and realized I'd instinctively given all my characters their own agenda.

This guy Steve, he's in San Antonio not to meet this girl I wanted him to meet -- he's in San Antonio on business, with his company, even had to call in the next day, after I roped him into my plot. Steve had his own agenda, see. So did this girl I wanted him to meet, Amanda.

Harold -- God bless Harold -- he's not interested in my plot, or the things I have lined up for him. Nope, he's more interested in feeling sorry for himself, trying to gain pity from his daughter and his ex-wife, and wishing ill-fortune on his ex-wife's new boyfriend. Again, my character has his own agenda, and it's Eric v. Harry in The Keeper. I have to bend Harold to my will, and it's like ripping off a hangnail every single morning.

As a writer, I've always instinctively followed the rules, until they stump me, I suppose, and I'm forced to quantify just what the hell stumped me.

And this one stumped me, even though I've said it a million times: Remember the back-story!

Remember the individuality. Remember that your characters are not interested in YOU, the writer, they are interested only in themselves, their own desires, and they all, every last one of them, have their own ~what~, I ask you, Dear Reader, they all have their own ~what~?

They have their own agenda, you answer.

- Eric

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

An Honest Lie: The First Meeting

So last night, or July 20th, Monday, I met the folks at Open Heart Publishing who are about to make the An Honest Lie Anthology a reality.

See us here:

And here:

Our graphic artist carries batteries in her purse. I didn't ask, or maybe she didn't tell. Hell, maybe I don't want to know. Artists, eh. She can sing, too.

The girl in the yellow jacket, she's cute and all, looks like she's made out of vanilla icing with cherry-sprinkle freckles, but she drinks black-and-something beer, and her story involves a coffin and a guy who "is most-definitely still alive, his watch even has the right time," she says.

Our editors are a mother-daughter team. The Sr. Ed., she's evil. Not really, she's a sharp-witted editor, and it's her job to dissect the story and make it readable. I'm looking forward to letting her rip out and devour my soul. In the name of good reading, see.

Our Jr. Ed. is a sweet librarian who's also contributing a story to the Anthology. She'll probably eat what's left of my soul after her mom gets tired of chewing. What's left after that, she'll probably feed to her cat. Librarians, eh. She probably had batteries in her purse, too.

The guy to my right -- no, left, the Jr. Ed., the sweet librarian, she's on my right -- is a college guy who wrote a story of preposterous proportions about a giant jellyfish. He's a brave man to write such a big story. He's nineteen and published. How's that for success.

Then there's the self-help coach. Her story's got a hint of truth in it, and the publisher said that when he first read her story, he cried. He doesn't look like a crying-man -- self-help, pow, right in the kisser -- so she must've said something profound, eh.

Of course there's the publisher, a man who knows good pubs, and has an aggressive business model planned for 4Q09 and 1Q10. We'll be storming through Dallas, soon, keep an eye out.

Then there's me. I'm the guy at the end of the table in a pumpkin-colored polo. Me and that yellow-jacket girl sure lightened up the pub. Turn out the lights, and she and I would glow, we were both dressed so bright.

"So what's your story about?" they ask me.

"An apple tree, that's not an apple tree."

- Eric

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sample from "Evander's Forge"

Evander's Forge
Eric Trant
copyright 2009


When the end came--and it did, as promised, although not quite how he'd pictured it--Evander James Genesee simply opened his eyes and became what he had been forged to become.

People knew him as anything but Evander. His co-workers used to call him Brewsky. Some guy from New York said there was a beer up there called Genesee, but Evander never drank the beer, and in fact, he never met the guy from New York who knighted him with the name Brewsky.

Except for his parents, Evander's family called him Van, or Vanny. Mom and Pops called him Evan, formally, as if that had been Evander's intended name, as if the trailing "der" had been accidentally added, then quickly reneged and forgotten. His little sister, Gracie, when they were younger, found humor in calling him Der, especially after Mom and Pops would say, "Evan."

"Evan," Mom would say.

"Der," Gracie would say. Then she would run. Der meant a chase and a chest thump to Gracie.

His daughters called him Daddy. His wife called him Love.

Van. Vanny. Evan. Brewsky. Der. Daddy. Love. That's how the world knew him. Anything but Evander.

Evander James Genesee had no idea what to call himself. In his mind, he was a null and a void, hollow as a shucked and sucked oyster, nothing soft left inside, no pearl, no meat, no salty innards. Nothing remained of Evander but the tough outer shell of a man. Evander didn't feel tough. He didn't act tough. He didn't realize how rigid he'd become, or how scaly and sharp his edges had grown.

Then again, neither do oyster shells.

Down South, near the coast, they use oyster shells to pave their driveways.


"Get over here and get down!" the man said to Evander. The man motioned with the pistol where he wanted Evander, pointing the barrel downward, toward the floor. "Get down over here where I can see you, man, now!"

A red-striped hooded jacket concealed the man's head and face, but not the gun, which the man aimed toward Evander's chest. The man's hand wobbled as he yelled at Evander. So, in reality, the gun pointed in Evander's general direction, but more accurately would be described as pointing anywhere but Evander's chest.

Evander stared at the man.

"Mira, you okay?" Evander said.

Mira nodded. She stood behind the counter, frozen, with her hands out to her sides as she watched the man in front of her register. She wore her white cook's apron with her ponytail tucked into a white cook's hat, and had been frying up the morning taquitos for the truck stop restaurant last time Evander had checked on her. They were otherwise alone in the truck stop. Only the truckers outside, in the parking lot, idling in their sleeper cabs, might hear any shots that were fired.

"Muthafucker, get down, you better get down! Now!"

Evander looked down at his hands and realized he still held the paper towel from the restroom, wadded in his palm. Evander had just finished checking the men's and women's restrooms, and in another two hours, after he'd emptied the trash and made another sweep through the parking lot, and maybe bagged some ice for the ice machine, he'd be through with this shift, and he could sneak off to his Tahoe in the parking lot and sleep until noon.

Or, maybe not. Evander waited as the man shook the gun in his general direction. "I just mopped this floor, too," Evander said.

When the man didn't respond, Evander stepped to his booth, laid the napkin next to his coffee, picked up the cup, and sipped it. The coffee had grown tepid while he was cleaning the restrooms. "Hey, Mira, you think you can warm up my coffee?"

Two shots rang out in the truck stop restaurant. They were nervous shots from a shakey hand, and both bullets plunked into the wall behind Evander. The sound echoed through the restaurant and slammed into Evander's ears with nearly the same impact as a bullet. Evander popped his ears as he walked toward the hooded man.

A cloud of smoke hung over the gun as the hooded man yanked the trigger again and again without report. The man banged the gun on the counter and jabbed his finger into the gun's sliding bolt, trying to dislodge the uncleared casing, but instead, he ejected the gun's clip. The clip clanged to the floor at the man's feet.

Evander paused five feet from the man, leaned down, and peeked beneath the man's hood. The man had to be at least seven inches shorter than Evander, around Mira's height. Evander pointed a finger-gun at his own forehead and said, "Right here, between the eyes, one shot, pop." Evander clicked his thumb against his forefinger.

The hooded man stumbled backward, pointed the now unloaded pistol at Evander, yanked the trigger one last time, and then threw the pistol at Evander. The pistol flew over Evander's head and bounced beneath the neighboring booth.

The hooded man turned and sprinted into the entrance doors. The entrance doors opened inward, not outward, and the man slammed into the doorway head-down, stumbled backward, then grabbed the door and threw it open, turned left and ran down the sidewalk, around to the back of the store.

"You okay?" Evander said to Mira.

Mira began to cry, and Evander saw her shaking, but she nodded at Evander and said, "I'm okay."

Evander picked up the man's gun and looked it over. The weapon was an out-dated Taurus 9mm, and it looked like it had never been cleaned. He and Gracie had one like this, when they were kids. Their father bought it at Walmart, and no matter how much they cleaned and oiled the weapon, it never did fire well, and always seemed to disperse a cloud of discharge smoke from the back of the weapon, right into the face of the shooter. It was the cheapest gun their father could find.

Evander slid back the sliding bolt and picked out the bent casing jammed inside. Along with chunking smoke at the user, the gun also jammed frequently, and as the robber had discovered, the weapon was more effective when you threw it.

"I'm gonna check out back," Evander said. "Call the cops if you want, but I don't think he'll come back, and they won't catch him anyway." Evander slid his coffee across the counter to her. "Think you could warm this up?"

Mira picked up the coffee and nodded. "Oh, Vanny, I'm, um, I'm..."

"It's okay," Evander said. "Really. It's fine. He's gone, and he's not coming back, trust me. If he does, well..." Evander waved the pistol in his hand. "We'll be ready, I suppose. I can throw this at him."

Mira smiled a little at the joke, but Evander could tell she was still rattled. He rounded the counter, took the coffee out of her hand, and hugged her. Mira's head nestled just beneath Evander's chin. He held her for a dozen or so seconds, letting her shake it out, until the fry alarm began to go off in the back of the kitchen.

"Your taquitos are done," Evander said. "No sense ruining breakfast, now is there?"

Mira shook her head. She smiled a little bigger this time, and Evander had an almost over-powering urge to kiss her forehead.

Mira sucked in a breath and stepped away from Evander. She shook her hands by her side, turned and looked for something, and then pulled down a large butcher's knife from the magnetic knife rack next to the grill.

"I'm not so helpless," Mira said. She twisted the knife in her hand, and then stuck it beneath her apron string. "He comes back, he's gonna lose some appendages."