Tag Archives: novels

Hitting The Writer’s Block (And Breaking Right On Through It)

In all my nearly twenty years as a poet and writer, I’ve never believed in writer’s block.

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And this isn’t a piece expounding on how I suddenly found myself staring into the blank Microsoft Word document glowing back on my laptop, how my fingers froze, or how some unfelt before fear from the Great Beyond had turned on the faucet and I started sweating profusely.

No, I still don’t believe in writer’s block.

But it believes in me, and it almost hit me nonetheless. Hard.

As many of you probably know, since March of 2013, I’ve been writing a series of mystery novels under the auspices of “Hipster Noir” on the PATH train during my morning and evening commute to work. Three novels later, over 200,000 words, and one proposal to pitch them all to an agent or publisher, I’m still going strong with my fourth novel, The Curious Case of Tomorrow (Or, The Trouble with Time Travel).

But this fourth novel, which is a direct continuation of the third, the way Quantum of Solace is a continuation of Casino Royale, started making me second guess some things. I would still get on the PATH train from Grove Street in Jersey City to the World Trade Center stop on the other side of the Hudson, and my fingers would still go to work with my iPhone music library shuffling between Tom Waits and Gin Wigmore, with an occasional Lykke Li ballad or Pearl Jam anthem cutting in over the seven-minute or so ride.

This time, however, felt different.

I knew that I was really searching blindly for a spark. Now I can’t get too detailed here because I’d have to divulge what my fourth novel is all about, and I haven’t even published any of the first ones yet, but this was the first time over the course of almost thirty-six months that the writing was not yielding anything that I was getting truly excited about, the way the first three novels had done.

Nonetheless, I kept going. I kept writing every morning and evening, just like I’d done for nearly three years. The only difference was that instead of having my characters, story, and all its plot twists, McGuffins and organically sprout from within, I was actively searching for that spark, yet never thinking to admit that I may have finally found what no writer has ever actively searched for:

The Writer’s Block. And yes, I capitalize it like a proper noun ‘cause it deserves a proper level of respect. Anything that pushes us to become better writers does.

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The way I see it, we are the ones who create the Writer’s Block, by pouring out so much of who we are and what we are in our writing. At one point, we run out of things to write. But as Tom Waits sings, “you build it up, you wreck it down…” in a song appropriately titled “Hold On,” that’s exactly I did. I gave it form, shaped the shapeless into something that, in time, and once I found its weakness, I could hope to break right through.

Back to my Curious Case of Tomorrow. Amid my searching within not one, but two separate timelines that this new novel has split into; after figuring out that what I was writing this time around was no longer a mystery novel, but a science-fiction spaghetti western (if there’s even such a thing); when I finally surprised myself one day riding that iron horse through those morning and evening tunnels humming with the electricity of possibility, I knew I had finally blasted right through that ‘Block.

I had found my voice. Again.

Then I realized that it wasn’t the first time this ever happened, but it was the first time I became aware of it’s happening. And I dealt with it.

The Writer’s Block isn’t a stumbling block, it’s an uncarved block. It doesn’t necessarily have to stop your creativity. It’s not the blank page we stare blankly at, but the page that stares at us and pushes us to shut up our minds and write anything, which proves to be the most frightening thing for us writers –– to write without purpose. Without saying anything.

Writing for the sake of writing. Of calling ourselves writers.

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The Uncarved Block, or Pu, as Taoist abstract art.

But at least we’re writing, and in doing so, we’re showing that ‘Block whose boss.

Not enough of us do this. We hit the ‘Block and we wait for the right words. We complain about it on Facebook. We may go out with our friends to forget about that blank stare for a few hours. And each of these may actually work (or seem to work) to get you back on track.

But to find the right words, you’ve got to write down the words. It’s the Taoist principle of Pu –– the Uncarved Block. Though this particular tenet tells us we should let the world carve us into what it wants. From a writerly perspective, we simply need to start with a vague idea and the raw materials of what needs to be said and then hack out the words that don’t add to it. This way, all we’re left with are the ones that do work, and which will resonate and be remembered long after they’re read.

They’ll also be the ones that will remind us why we started writing in the first place.

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This is What a “Hipster Noir” Novel Will Look Like

So I’ve written a novel. So what?

The question that perturbs me day and night is this: Can I actually be writing a novel without being an avid reader of novels?

Well, the answer I’ve come up with is yes.

And so what?

As you’ve recently read, the inspiration for my Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse stems from diverse source materials ranging from novels like Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently series and comics like Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT to classic Hollywood and international films and the music of the 1930s to 1950s –– we’re talking Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, that sorta big band sound you hear in most film noir pictures.

Don’t get me wrong, though –– I’ve read enough fiction to last me a lifetime between college prep high school English to majoring in two writing degrees, each requiring an onslaught of the written word be conquered before etching the first letters of one’s own onto the pages of a master’s thesis.

But today, I’m unveiling the very first image for Hipster Noir. No, this isn’t a comic book –– for that, be sure to check out Siren’s Calling over on Facebook –– and it’s certainly not a children’s book. It’s simply a book with pictures.

I want The Muddled Mystery to be words and images. Think back to those times you read A. A. Milne’s Winnie-The-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. A few pages of words go by, and there’s a nice little image by E. H. Shepard and Exupéry to aid in your imagination a bit –– an image that adds a little something extra to the standard storytelling and plot.

And yes, although those are children’s books, technically (you know you still pick up Winnie-The-Pooh from time to time more than J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan), I want to give readers of my Muddled Mystery to enjoy a sense of harkening back to their childhood while reading a very adult supernatural murder mystery, and also get them to see the world of Sebastian Holden how I see it.

“Holden Onto Heartbreak” is Coming Soon

In the next month or so, I plan to release to you all the first short story introduction into the world of Sebastian Holden, P.I. in “Holden Onto Heartbreak,” one of this hipster detective’s earliest adventures. And it will feature a more fleshed-out version of the following image, sketched by my friend and very talented artist Narciso Espiritu, Jr.:

Hipster Noir

Again, this is just a simple sketch from Narciso to get you all excited about what’s to come. The story itself will be a draft that is in need of your feedback, because what’s the point of writing a novel (or series of novels at this point –– I’m nearly done with book two!) if the audience doesn’t care to read it, right?

The bigger question for now is will I need to write my name as “J. T. Trigonis” once all’s said and published…?

 

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What Exactly Is a “Hipster Noir,” You Ask?

Well, I’m happy to report that I’m finally able to tell you all what exactly a “hipster noir” is, now that I’ve finished the brief synopsis of my very first supernatural, metaphysical mystery novel.

What started out as a series of comic character sketches back in May of 2013 during my morning commute to work somehow took form and became my very first 60,000-word novel by January of 2014. I had been calling it Hipster Noir, mainly because my main character, a private eye named Sebastian Holden, was inspired by a noired-up fellow I saw while waiting for a table at Otto in NYC. He was dressed like an old school detective, complete with trench coat and matching hat. The only thing that struck me as off-kilter was his great bushy beard, straight out of a day trip to Williamsburg (or, these days, Jersey City).

If Fred McMurray here had a grizzly beard, he'd be a dead ringer for Sebastian Holden, P.I..

If m’man Fred McMurray here had a grizzly beard, he’d be a dead ringer for Sebastian Holden, P.I..

After a bit of crowdsourcing for a more proper subtitle for the actual story being told, I settled on a title that I think captures the mood, tone and quirky flare of Hipster Noir –– The Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse. Special thanks to my Twitter pals @ABOVEtheLine, @fuegopazzo, and @peacepumpkinpic for some amazing suggestions and brainstormings on Twitter.

And now, here’s the official “Story in Brief” lifted from the proposal I’ve been putting together:

Blending nuances of noir with geek subculture in a supernatural, metaphysical mystery, Hipster Noir introduces us to the queerest holistic detective since Dirk Gently –– Sebastian Holden, P.I., a Jersey City hipster whose host of fine-honed skills helps him crack even the most cryptic of cases, like “The Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse.” When muse for hire Annie Hathaway is murdered, the fuzz quickly pins the rap on her spoken word-spouting boyfriend in Williamsburg. But Sebastian’s trusty gut instinct tells him there’s more to this mystery than meets even his third eye, and he thrusts himself head-first into a bizarre Universe teeming with vampire cabals, orange-blooded androids from tomorrow, and a haunted beach house that holds a dark secret, which just might be the key to solving Sebastian’s most perplexing case yet.

With a sundry cast of unconventional champions and supernatural scoundrels that includes a suicidal vampire, a world-jumping monkey-spanker, Death, and The Devil himself, plus boatloads of Bogartian banter and enough esoteric references to superheroes, indie flicks, and Castlevania to sink your battleship, The Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse will prove a hell of a whodunit that will scramble minds, steal hearts, and leave its readers eagerly anticipating further misadventures of the strangest P.I. this or any Universe has probably never heard of.

What do you think? Sound like something you’d be interested in reading?

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The Iron Horse Novelist: Write Your First Novel Ten Minutes at a Time

If you’d have asked me a few months ago, “Trig, what is Hipster Noir?” I’d have replied with all sincerity I don’t know.

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What I can tell you is that Hipster Noir (working title) is a extranatural mystery story I’ve been working on since May of this year about a Dirk Gently-inspired private eye named Sebastian Holden and his case to find the killer of a poet’s muse. But perhaps the how I’ve been writing what seems to be my first novel may be more interesting at this stage than the what it is about.

I draft up two chapters a day, each in only ten minutes.

Ever since I joined the frontlines of the working class, the only time I really have to write is during the PATH train ride that shuttles me into Manhattan from Jersey City. The other reason is because the only time I’m not connected to the Internet is when I’m riding the underground rails.

The first few chapters began as simple character sketches for a slew of weirdly wonderful folks –– from an unemployed muse and a suicidal vampire (borrowing a few concepts from my feature-length screenplay A Beautiful Unlife) to a trio of sexed up assassin sisters (borrowed from another feature-lengther called Caput) to the development of our main protagonist of the story. Then from these character sketches, Hipster Noir started to organically turn into a detective story, no doubt inspired by two-year long stint watching solely film noir titles and soaking up the Hitchhiker’s Guide and Dirk Gently novels of Douglas Adams, which has bestowed on Hipster Noir a darkly comedic element to it what I’m writing, though at times, it doesn’t feel like.

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Write What You Know: Hipster Noir has also proven to be an excellent journaling exercise, as I’ve started to include a great deal of my own life stories (fictionalized, of course) and other ideas into it. It’s certainly helped me to cope with my silent internal conflict of going from a full- to part-time writer; but what shades of color that transition’s added to Hipster Noir’s naturally grey undertones; this first volume is aptly titled “The Case of the Murdered Muse.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of this is that most times I really don’t feel like I’m writing Hipster Noir, but rather it’s writing itself (or it’s writing me, if you wanna get all metaphysical about it). I know that sounds like a crock of Kerouacian hogwash, but when I began this project, I had no idea where it was going to go. I thought I was writing a poem, but it came out as if it were a narrative written for Philip Marlowe, and it flowed like an episode of Magnum, P.I. with a hint of Bored to Death.

The best part? I still don’t know exactly where it’s going. But it’s going.

I never once thought I could ever begin a novel, let alone get 60 pages into it. The lesson is simple –– use what you know and just write that novel. And give yourself milestones and commit to hitting them. For some it’s 5,000 words per week. For me, twenty minutes a day is all I need.

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