Archive for January 1, 2020

© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

Once upon a time (about a week from this writing), I kept busy with a crossword puzzle (see post, eventually). At some other point, I’ll go into why crossword puzzles have been so good as distraction recently, where doing several fistfuls at the same time eats up two things the scream building inside and a lot of my blog related writing time. I trust you noticed the recent lack of give a damn on this blog?

Anyway, one puzzle stood out among all the others. And I turn it into a writing prompt to force myself to write prose on a day when holidays and the thing I’m dancing around not actually relating to you all conspired to make my chapter prose have as little give a damn as my blog posts. I see a clue that lands on Wolf in the vertical and dressmaker Vera Wang’s surname across the horizontal.

How do you put wolves and a dressmaker/designer with a niche doing wedding dresses in the same story? I’m sure those of you paying attention already have my answer…

A young dressmaker lets a mysterious gentleman with an exacting order for a surprise wedding dress get close enough for a kiss. Waking up afterwards brings the revelation of her status as Queen of the Werewolves with responsibilities and

And if I toss this setup into the Saga column, I just ended the post. I got an idea. I acted on it. And I told you where I got it so you get to replicate my nuttiness. Let’s get lunch.

But, I have other columns. Counterpoint for one, which exists for two reasons. The much delayed opera and that I sometimes hear theme music when I meet a new character. Frantic snippets of instrumentation that hide once I get a few sentences down on paper. Sometimes, it comes back a bar at a time…

Truthfully, the Power of Suggestion can sometimes guide my hearing the appropriate theme music. In this case, the proposed mugging of the real life wedding dress lady’s reputation by asserting she’s really a Werewolf Queen…in a society just stupid enough for one person to show up at her door with silver bullets. Obviously, a name change must happen sooner than later.

Of course, if Ms. Wang had honked me off in some way, I could keep her name in the text. Make use of the legal principle of ridiculousness as a partial work around for defamation. To wit, Werewolf Queens are reasonably not thought to exist and thus reasonable people wouldn’t believe that Vera Wang, appearing in an obviously fictional novel about werewolves, is one and thus she wouldn’t suffer damage. Just ask the proprietors of the D.C. area pizzeria named by Alex Jones how they like that strategy?

Anyway, the above paragraph comes to me by way of John Oliver and Last Week Tonight’s recent emergence from the gag order levied by a SLAPP-suit loving West Virginia coal baron. Mr. Oliver ended his season with an over the top musical number calling said douchebag all kinds of nasty otherwise actionable things. Ah, contempt and rage as a driver of culture. As for Ms. Wang, I’m not even married to bitch her out over an expensive wedding dress that I’m traditionally not on the hook for, anyway.

But, suddenly thinking about crazy musical numbers opens a switch in my head…my mostly dormant orchestration/arranging switch.

Her Hairy Majesty wakes up in her shop to see a mess. Chicken blood. Feathers everywhere. Hunks of stray cat due to her gentleman caller goofing and underestimating her hunger. Every dress on the floor except the one she thought she did for the man’s offscreen fiancé has been ripped in the struggle. He tells her she’ll live longer running away with him to Vegas…

I don’t know. Start off slow with a soft but insistent bell, maybe a D? Wait six bars, a harmonica builds the progression as she follows the line of gore to the carefully protected dress behind the point of sale station.

Will I actually do the above? It was only a few bars misheard after goofing on the necessity to avoid pissing off people who haven’t done anything to me and thinking in probably the single most conventional orchestration method. More importantly, I haven’t gone past this scene on the page. There will be other more discordant notes as we go along.

Anyway, I’ve adroitly turned a thinly disguised brag post about getting an idea that you didn’t into a sort of article about dramatic orchestration. Enjoy the nutty and I’ll be back when I actually know what the Werewolf Queen’s actual theme music is…

© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

In the spirit of Nelson Algren’s Three Rules for Life from A Walk on the Wild Side – Never play cards with a man named Doc – Never eat at a place called Mom’s – Never sleep with a woman whose troubles seem greater than your own – we sometimes expand the list to include fonts of wisdom like, never shoot pool at a place called Pop’s. And my personal favorite, never eat anything bigger than your head. Sounds like good advice…until you set out to do the musical equivalent.

My proposed opera series Tales of the Angel Association stalled about ten seconds after I changed my mind about not doing it. And the stall has little to do with the looming terror of knowing, except for free-styling on the mouth harp, that my last intelligible notes played from a score came from the woodwind section in sixth grade. Before I get there I have a huge writing problem…all kinds of epically large pieces written for other media that might not condense into an opera, movie, radio drama or book. A large steak, indeed.

The earliest pieces come from a novel that I leave unfinished because the circumstances of inspiration have changed. I changed comic book stores (the setting). And a certain woman, the direct sue me inspiration for a secondary villainess filling pretty much the same niche as Milady De Winter (go figure), disappeared back into the ether. But, there is a key element that I didn’t even know I was leading up to when I stopped the book. It must remain.

Negatively inspired by Mark Millar’s Wanted, I set out to show that if superheroes are possible that there will always be superheroes even after the villains kill them all off. Waiting in secret, the spandex gene or curiously radioactive meteor will always strike Earth at fairly regular intervals, shorter than the time between planet-killer asteroids and much longer than the time between dentist visits. The villains can’t murder in their cribs all of the people who could become spandex heroes…can they?

I envisioned a regular guy with more than a little science and chemistry working at a thinly disguised version of my then current comic book store. While beset by the unwanted attentions of a female stalker (at the time non-fiction) who also happens to be the public face hatchet of the secret cabal of spandex villains that had long since killed off or driven into hiding all the spandex heroes in the world, the comic book store guy falls for a young lady that almost wanders into the store by mistake.

The hatchet lady for the Legion of Chaos attempts to kill her rival and a couple other women investigating a dead writer who happened to be a good friend of the comic book guy. The comic book guy finds the techno-magical solutions to save these ladies while they linger near death giving them superpowers in the process. This sparks a covert war between the comic book store superheroes and the villain bosses because there just aren’t any superheroes anymore, Ducky.

And with all good literary universes with too many characters many threads converge into one. The trio of fem-zombie heroines track the villains to a graveyard in Ohio or some such place where the official grave of a former spandex heroine awaits her reincarnation to come and take the spear. But, the villains know about the “wait twenty years and the next version will come” limitation on this particular hero and have set an ambush that caught the next three reincarnations.

But, the fem-zombie trio, the fourth reincarnation that needs the spear, her college roommate, the return of a character that just barely passes the Six Points of Dissimilarity standard concerning the Superman archetype and the actions of two spandex femmes that work to destroy the Legion of Chaos from within all mix it up among the gravestones. Enough force is brought to bear that the ten villain Legion (of which only two villains have been written) is driven from their perch astride ten-percent off the top of the whole world’s economy, global scale protection payments, only to return next week with a new plot on this same Bat-channel at this very Bat-time.

So that is one thread where this big ass fight in a forlorn cemetery among the barn owls and crickets that has to stay in the opera or at least be sung about as backstory in all kinds of arias and duets.

Next, we get to the other threads to the same hyper-dramatic story of a team of heroes that call Los Angeles home (so sick of how Marvel depicted Los Angeles). Working concurrently with the thread leading to the Excalibur moment among the dead, I also worked on a lighter moment where guided by information on Meetup the new set of heroes that should’ve been wiped out by the Legion including survivors of the graveyard rumble meet about a year later to pool resources and make a team.

This part of the overall mythos exists as an excuse to put six (later seven) spandex people into the same living room to tell their origin stories, drink punch and tap hands to form the Angel Association (they are more than one and they live in the City of Angels, you can only reinvent the wheel a few times per franchise). About four of the original characters exist on paper and for one character at least one attempt to put this same story into a screenplay.

But, there is something missing…a narrator or Doctor Watson. I envision a teenager the single contrast to everybody else either being middle twenties or ageless and just looks that young. Again because most times dealing with 80 years each of mythology and the Big Two comics publishers and you don’t reinvent the spandex wheel, she merges with another teenaged personality to just barely be different from Iron Man.

This character also serves to save the Angel Association from a previous mistake making certain characters be too close to real life. I needed a lawyer protecting the interests of the team and its members and the implosion of another novel (long story, already said too much) deprived the team of its first attorney. So the young lady in the armor-symbiote suit just needs a father who can be the lawyer and I absolutely need to go as far and as public domain as possible from the original mouthpiece as possible.

Marcus Tullius Cicero the Elder (of the Latin placeholder text among other contributions to civilization) is a good way to go, the real guy is safely dead over two thousand years. And, yes, this is the beauty of this kind of writing, explaining how he’s still alive to be a lawyer with a big house in Beverly Hills is sort of my metier – “Rumors of my gruesome assassination at the hands of Marc Antony are greatly exaggerated.”

Adding the daughter of Cicero to all of these extant pieces, the abandoned novel (which might’ve been too closely based on real people, I got lucky), the original stories written in third person and the daughter’s narration in first person, makes for an unwieldy set of books. At least, the latest version of the book has an easy out for the otherwise ugly shift between third and first person – “This next part was told to me by…”

Meanwhile through all of this and my other projects, I’m going back and forth with other media for the Angel Association. Will it be a radio drama? A partial script exists using the story beats from the Metal Goddess-narrated version of these stories. Will it be an opera? Initially, I said no (see post). Now, I say yes.

Why? This huge over the top and completely operatic story with dark villains and many concepts sure to scare kids has over the eight or nine years of sporadic development become my narrative barnacle or white whale. I can’t walk away. I think Michael Corleone would get it – “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in!”

And so here we are, I’m going to work on the basis for what will be more than one epic scale interlinked opera (at least doing the librettos, ask me in the Composer’s Counterpoint column about the actual music) for a long time. I have very nearly 200 pages of material from all these other sources causing the current problem of shaping the story. Opera aficionados have the same inability to sit still more than three hours at a time, as anyone else.

Clearly, I’ve cut off a steak currently bigger than my head. Now, once I procure the right steak knife and right oven with which to keep the plate warm, I can move slowly and eat well for a long time. More later. Get back to writing, you fellow definitions of personified laziness!

© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

Sometimes, I don’t get to sleep quickly. The mask to deal with the blinky lights on the surge strips and morning sunlight through the window goes on and I’m still awake. I switched over to decaf except when I hunt other people’s coffee out of the house. I exercise when I remember. So most days, I’ve eliminated the usual suspects and still…

Well, to cut through the build up, I think a lot on those nights when it may take a few extra hours to nod off. About story material. Or my own halting attempts at music, which lands these thoughts here in this music column instead of the Scribbler’s Saga. The most recent skull session screaming behind my eyes that kept me awake involved my most recent eschewing of my superhero/spandex characters as the subject for the opera that I have so famously claimed in this column give me ten years, Ducky (see post).

As you may recall, I didn’t want to do The Tales of the Angel Association as an opera, despite really wanting to see someone do Batman in the style of Siegfried or something. I fretted about the stagecraft required to put a soprano as the girl in the iron suit and a mezzo as the actual suit on the same flying rig. Dark litigious nightmares referencing the ill-fated Spider-man musical froze me in the door. All you need to know is that these fully conscious spitball sessions that happen between Lights Out and Get Up It’s Almost Brunch simply don’t give a shit.

Of course there are trigger cues for spending an unknown number of hours going over and over with what your children will do when you immortalize them in ink. I was at my regular writers group with a couple guys talking about music, including what we like, the resources available and how we learned. I’m pretty much slowly on track to learn the rock star way; pick up a guitar and go.

In the conversation, I mentioned Thomas Adès and Tom Cairns’ opera The Exterminating Angel mentioning and exaggerated the A over High C hit by the second female lead on the Met Stage as a G over High C. One of the guys said something like, “really, and she still has her throat?” And there was an inevitable reference to Spinal Tap that even in the opera world – “Ours goes up to eleven!”

So I get home after the session and I get to thinking about how I need the time asserted in the previous post to make sure I use all my music tools to do the notes up nice. But, Just Another Drunken Dwarf, which at the moment is just a title from story dice, is either going to be an opera or just another goofy idea in my list of ideas. I prefer the former so I get myself asking – “what’s my first step?” The word LIBRETTO promptly flashes before my eyes in red neon.

Ah, right, the same advice I give myself when contemplating a huge in scope screenplay or novel…write the pig and let the producers figure it out. I was just going to start Dwarf with the libretto, easy-peasy, lemon squeezy. But, I haven’t actually seen a libretto. Yes, Google is my friend; I find a PDF online where someone posted instructions for kids probably at music camp or something. I save it as a place to start and go to bed.

And you heard the part about how the night time story session doesn’t always give a shit? I roll to the right. I roll to the left. Am I composing/creating the drinking song that, by definition, defines the main theme of Just Another Drunken Dwarf? Without hitting too much of the obviousness of The Student Prince? Absolutely not. Characters that speak to you in the dead of night don’t take turns or wait in line.

Still, I roll right. And back over to the left. What I see on the screen made by my sleep mask isn’t fantasy dwarves raising steins and slaying orcs. I kept seeing my spandex people. I heard the blended part of Metal Goddess flying around stage; their duet admittedly still running towards the goofy like Kill the Wabbit (it’s early, I have time to shake off Wagner as interpreted by Bugs Bunny, or not).

I straighten out my posture sleeping on top the bed (Southern California during a scorching August, Ducky). I roll over yet again. I see an interesting duet for the secondary characters of Metal Goddess’ parents, a man that used to be Cicero and a woman that used to be Athena’s body. This is a marriage that has lasted a long time and somehow what I’m seeing is a tandem hug and something like Leo Delibes’ Flower Duet (again it’s early, we’ll see).

Finally, I sleep and get to enjoy the regular old and typically forgettable three-reel movies we call dreams. I don’t know how long the session went; I can’t tell time with my eyes closed and my watch on the table. It felt like it could have been hours. I woke up at the same time I would’ve had my spandex characters not shouted at me. I didn’t feel any obvious sleep deprivation. It could just have easily been forty-five minutes on a hot evening fighting for just a little more breeze.

So what does this mean? Did I just cave to the voices and agree to put Tales of the Angel Association on paper as the superhero opera the world seems to cry out for? I don’t know. I do all kinds of strange shit. But, in looking over the PDF for the libretto I realize that I could just write the libretto just in case I never do get my shit together to do the notes properly…

As always, we’ll see when we see.