The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Obama-Clinton and other thoughts

So…according to the Rasmussan Reports poll, Obama is now neck and neck with Clinton. I’m still waiting for the debates, but he has a definite edge with me on Iraq: he railed against it from the beginning. Now, it might be suggested that, had he been a senator at the time, he would have backed the war. Valid speculation, but that’s all it is.
John McCain, for whom I have felt a certain degree of respect and affection, sang “Bomb-bomb-Iran” at a Veteran’s gathering. That sinks it for me. That is not the President I would wish in the White House. I hope that everything he has said and done is in alignment with his actual values. If not, he is a whore.
There was a question about how I wrote “The Invisible Imam” in three months. Wait: it gets worse. I also moved houses during that period. Oh, and I was traveling back and forth to Santa Monica to work at the Moonview Clinic. And writing a horror script, and doing NPR talks. Talk about stress!
The process began with Marco Palmieri at Pocket Books calling my agent, Eleanor Wood, and saying that they wanted me for a series of three books set in the 12th Century during the 3rd Crusade. Something I knew nothing about. I initially rejected the idea, but then realized that I was kind of intrigued by the idea of
1) Creating a book set in a video game world.
2) Having an excuse to write balls-out kickass action scenes, what I call “2 1/2 dimensional reality” where my characters can slightly bend the laws of physics. Aubry, I miss you.
So my initial concern was research. What kind of research would I need? What visual references? Was there anyone I knew who could help?
Well, my old friend Mushtaq, who had been invaluable during Lion’s Blood with Sufi stuff, knew Islam and the Middle East. If he would be available for conversations, that would make things easier. Then I found an audio course on the Crusades put out by the Teaching Company, which I trust completely. Their courses are GREAT. (
The next concern was the daily page count that would be necessary to pull this off. I decided to obtain a Dana laptop/keyboard/PDA, which gets like 50 hours on a charge, and handles Word files pretty well. Additional research books were identified, websites marked, and the film “Kingdom of Heaven” obtained as visual reference.
All right then, I decided. Let’s do this.
I had to create about 2000 words per work day to pull this off. Any day that I failed to create that much caused a little dark cloud of panic to hover on the horizon. I definitely divided work days into “Rough Draft” and “Polish” sections. Clearly dividing makes it possible to create a lot more text in a reduced time frame. But it also demands that I trust my subconscious self more than my ego likes to admit. When I write at that pace, I don’t have time to edit: it’s just go, go, go. Then, later, I can go back and polish.
What I discovered years ago is that if I write like this, I get results just as good as if I hunt and peck. It’s scarier, though.
Also during this period, I had to be very certain to get my daily word input. I didn’t have much time for pleasure reading, that’s for sure. It was all research. So I trusted my daily reading of “one scene of Shakespeare aloud per day.” (By the way: I just ended “The Life of King Henry the Fifth” and am beginning “The Life of King Henry the Eighth.” I think I’m going to complete my first full reading of Shakespeare by the end of the year! It will have taken me about…3 1/2 years, overall.)
Anyway, that’s the first chunk about “The Invisible Imam.” Now I’m doing my final re-write, after getting notes. I’ll do that on paper, with a printed version. Then input the notes, and then do a final read-through…
And send it off to Marco. Meanwhile, I have to produce 1000 words a day on “Shadow Valley”, the sequel to “Great Sky Woman” at the same time. Don’t want to fall behind…

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