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  • Deni Skeens

And Then There Was A Universe


Ideas come from all sorts of places

I'm putting along, clickity-clacking my heart into Dead Air, pausing ever so often to add a few things I've thought of toward the Void rough, and then taking notes toward yet another work that I'm 'sort of' tooling around with.

It doesn't stop.

It never stops.

There's life interference, sure, because life happens and it happens hard and fast, and sometimes it requires your full attention for days and weeks and months, but the ideas, those little bastards never stop.

And that, that's a good thing, a great thing, the best mother-fucking thing of them all. I want this thing, to smear it all over my face and shove it in my ears and up my nose because if you're anything like me, you come alive when these little bastards nip at you.

I love constructing a story, but I love birthing the world, fleshing the bones of the characters more. Personalities drive the universe, in my reality. It's through these diverse, abstract and often tricky minds that we can weave the most complex and complicated tapestry and one that we are proud to hang on the wall.

It was right after Lorna was born, I was sitting in the living room, 3 a.m. mommy + baby feeding time, and I'm watching reruns of the X-files in the dark.

It was a very soothing moment, Lorna, me, Mulder and Scully, black and white stylized noir with a freak-show feel and so-much-fucking- Cher. The Post-Modern Prometheus, forever one of my favorite episodes.

Lorna was asleep by the time they ended up at the concert, which is the end of the ep. I turned the TV off, sat there, listening to her soft breathing, her little mews, and content sleep-gurgles. I was overwhelmed with my love for her, overwhelmed by how much I adored her and what I'd be willing to do for her, for all of my children. (mommy + freshly nursed baby = emotional revelation & introspective epiphany golden hour.)

That's when the idea spat right in my face.

After I lay Lorna in the crib, poked in on the other two and grabbed my laptop, I microwaved myself some instant coffee and took to jotting down the first idea for The Angries. (no- instant coffee is fucking nasty, and I don't recommend it ever.)

This first dump of words, it... wasn't anything. It was kind of an AA meeting, but for supers, not really supers, more like the people that had been victimized by them or lost loved ones to the heroics the supers are known for.

The more I wrote, the more excited I became for the prospect. Wayne, my hippie-kumbaya peddling group leader was there from the start, and after a few pages, I realized that it wasn't very interesting unless I made the players more diverse.

They were all human, unchanged, and it needed 'something,' so I added a few characters that had been marked, changed from the virus. They were lesser infected, which means that they didn't have special abilities... and why the hell wouldn't they need group?

Noah was born out of that meeting, though he's had several names and just as many personality adjustments. Noah, ultimately, is the character representation of my love for my infant, my toddler and my child, and the everything I'm willing to do for all of them. His actions are rooted in his compassion for humanity, and every move he makes is because of the love he has for his wife, Isla.

I worked tirelessly on the outline, hit a wall, Lorna started crawling, Arya wanted to sew, and Thane was interested in Rugby.

I got distracted, wrote an entire separate manuscript about something completely different, and then I shelved it because I was frustrated. I made costumes, really involved costumes, sanded and stained a mid-century dining table I'd bought on Craigslist and painted with the girls.

By this point, Lorna was walking, and Arya was in school.

I revisited my AA group-style meeting and wrote maybe half a book's worth of further telling, which I scrapped and then wrote the outline for the entire universe.

A universe parallel to our own full of genetically different humans, some with amazing powers and others less so or none at all. And these fuckers coexist with the normal fuckers like us. I created power sheets, practical abilities, impossible abilities (no flying, flying is fucking dumb) I decided that I wanted there to be 'duds' and 'why-fucking bother at all' abilities. I wanted variety, I wanted absurd, and I wanted characters that fit within our diverse world. I wanted people you loved, people you hated and people you loved to hate.

I worked for months on these lists, and then... I shelved it.

I wrote an entirely different book.

interlude. I wrote that son-of-a-bitch twice.

I didn't have a method, there was no process to my process. I had zero discipline, and I didn't commit myself to a schedule or timeline.

But also... life. Life was happening all around me. There were beach days, fuck, dude, we lived 20 minutes from Santa Cruz... every damn day was a beach day. There were art days, baking days, hike the trails and grab ice-cream days. I was involved, caught up in life and the maturation of my littles.

They are amazing, and I was amazed, wholly enchanted with them and loving every second.

I was volunteering and then working at the school, I was hiking 5 miles a day, I was discovering my love of lifting and I wanted to hone my body to keep up with my rapid-firing mind.

The ideas, they never fucking stopped. I had them, a flood of them, but I didn't know how to balance out my need to tell a story with my need to remain an actively involved mom.

I wrote on anything I could get my hands on in the absence of a laptop or my computer, and they were snippets, half-thoughts, and to-dos. There was very little to them, and they were not structured.

I wanted to do better. I wanted to embrace this part of myself, the part that I had struggled with my entire life.

I couldn't get that jumpstart. I needed a kick in the ass to get me going.

And it happened.

I was on an evening walk, listening to Muse and sweating like a mother-fucker. I decided to push myself, taking the hill (*google streets of San Francisco for reference on 'street hill') at a full sprint.

My chest constricted, my calves were on fire, for a good ten seconds I couldn't breathe. Everything burned, and my heart screamed like it was about to explode. On the way back down the hill, sort of drifting/floating not really having my feet on the ground for the descent, the entire story-re-write for Angries hit me like a lead weight.

I ran as fast as I could to get home. (about a mile) I was terrified I wouldn't remember it! I wrote everything down in bullet points, as much as I could recall.

The next morning, I set to work, determined and confident.

Two weeks after that, rolling forward on a manuscript that was nearly writing itself, we discovered that we were moving to Austin.

BOOM!

I lost it.

To be honest, my newfound courage was tenuous, at best.

I fucking lost it. My entire flow disintegrated. I bled until I was dry, and all I had were the words that I had written. A nothingness replaced my imagination, and with that, I was empty. I was unable to complete a thought, let alone a story.

It took a year to move forward from that jarring depletion, to recover from whatever homesick melancholy I had allowed to take root.

And so, after that year, I forced my ass into a chair, literally. I made myself write, word after word no matter how shitty I felt/knew that it was.

Within two weeks, I had birthed an entire re-write over 90K words for The Angries.

I could do it.

I had been standing in my own way, and I'd talked myself out of it. The moment I told myself to fuck off, I produced a solid rough to work with.

8 or so months passed between that rough draft and self-pub final.

Within that timeline, my knowledge on the process increased, and I discovered that I was enjoying every aspect of self-publishing, no matter how difficult or daunting it came across as, no matter how tedious it felt at times.

I'm reminding myself of this journey, from there to here, as I continue to expand my marked universe.

Eight years, from inception to completion.

There's still so much to be done, so many origin stories to create, so many characters to birth and destroy, a world to bring to the brink and emotions to tangle and set ablaze. All of these things written to showcase the unique characters and then brought together to embark on a shared journey.

Dead Air will likely release in late August. It's Polly's origin and narrative. I've enjoyed telling the trials of the Silent Speaker, and am eagerly primed for diving into The Resurrector's origin, post.

I've spent so much time convincing myself that it doesn't matter, that it's not worth it or that no one is going to give a fuck but me— but what I've come to understand is that it 'does' matter. To me.

I come alive, I'm entwined with the stories in my mind, and I need to get them out in order to clear my mind. They want to be heard, and I want to tell them. It is worth it.

Creating entertainment, creating a universe and world for people to escape to, it's worth it. If you can make something that inspires thought or lingers like a dream, it's worth it. And you know what... I'm okay if nobody gives a shit but me.

I'm not a writer for the publicity or the money, I'm not doing this with my mind clouded in get-rich-quick schemes; I'm doing this because I want to tell stories. I want to write books, I want to create universes and I want to explore the diversities and complications of character.

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