I Have Too Many Damn Words Inside Me


I’ve accepted it. I have too many damn words inside me.

Maybe the worst thing about having too many damn words: I’ll never be able to get them all out.

Maybe the best thing about having too many damn words: I get to curate which ones I set free.

(You know the worst thing about that best thing? It scares the hell out of me.)

I alone have the power to decide which words I let out. Like, nothing I say in real-life conversations or online or on paper gets through without me giving it permission. Every word in any form I ever communicate is my personal responsibility.

(I’m scaring myself again.)

But I should be scared. Because every word matters.

I want to remember that. Not occasionally, but at the exact moment I’m curating each of the too many damn words I’m going to set free.

These Laurels Are Soft And All But…

Crown and laurel

So, apparently I ~won~ NaNo a few days ago.


These laurels are soft and all, but there are still many words yet to be written.

Thus, I forge onward towards a new goal: a complete first draft by Thanksgiving.

My touchpoints & story pacing are on-track to land right around the 80k mark (give or take). I’ve slowed down the drafting a bit, taken pause to go back and weave in threads that are essential as the climax nears. Yes, it’s a first draft, but for me, it’s crucial to have the key elements woven in so they can all converge in one beautifully embroidered moment on the first go ’round.

There’ll be snipping and trimming, undoing seams and sewing them back together later. But I want this tapestry—at least from afar—to be thick, and warm, and loverly at the end of this initial stage. More than a wordcount goal, this is how I will measure my own ~win~.

And I hope you have your own, private measuring stick, too. Maybe it’s to write every day, or average 500 words per day over the course of the month, or to revise the sheol out of an existing novel. Whatever it is, strive for it as hard as you possibly can.

Your laurels will feel just as soft for you as mine do for me.

SIDENOTE: The first ink of my Phreak Show sleeve gets hammered in today. I’m more than just a little thrilled about that.

Phreak Show Ink – A Sleeve of Characters

Placement of Tera (misspelled by my assistant), Romeo, Niko & Phineas

Placement of Tera (misspelled by my assistant), Romeo dropping down from her banner, Niko – Prince of Torture perfectly place by the elbow (gonna suck!) & Phineas w/ his top hat

A funny cylops-blob for Jamie (on the fishbelly, of course) and Jules on the sensitive underside

Doug Doug the Dimwit high on my shoulder, Jules on the sensitive underside (ouch!) & a funny cylops-blob for Jamie (on the fishbelly, of course)

Mantis blob with Lil Diva propped on her hip (top),

Mantis blob with Lil Diva propped on her hip (top), Jules wrapping him/herself around, Mama Snow by my wrist

Twiggy on the outside forearm,

Twiggy on the outside forearm, a glimpse of Mana Snow beneath her

I had to take a pause in my NaNoWriMo drafting for Epistle of Doff this morning. Reason: to consult with my tattooist on the sleeve images for my completed novel, Phreak Show.

Joe has purchased skulls and such from my business & does amazing ink work. When the idea to immortalize my phreaky characters hit me, I decided to return Joe’s patronage. His earliest appointment was 7 months in the future. That future arrives next Saturday.

Since NaNo means slacking on the blog, I figured the email I sent to Joe this morning was a way to show it some love. So here it is, chock full of links and words. I’ll be chronicling the sleeve as it progresses, so y’all might as well get in at the planning stage.


Lots of multimedia/data resources for this sleeve. Take a breath, give your creativity a good whack to get it cranked up, and dive in.
Here’s a copy of the original facebook msg I sent you back in May, with my thoughts on the style.
I want to do a sleeve of tats over the next couple months consisting of the characters from my latest novel, Phreak Show. It’s a Young Adult Fantasy, set in a modern-day sideshow with some steampunk/Victorian & magical tendencies.So, the characters are basically sideshow performers/freaks. I’m envisioning a bit of New School flare in coloring and style, with some high-contrast black, fused with some elements of old sideshow banner art.I can, of course, totally dredge up base images and we can work on the designs from there. But, I’m thinking how cool it’d be for the artist to get a vibe for the characters through reading the book. So, yeah, let me know if you’re game.
Here’s a link to my Pinterest. There are a few boards with labels starting with “Phreak Show” which have my inspiration images for the characters, clothing, jewelry, etc for the book. http://www.pinterest.com/LucasMight/boards/
This one specifically has the cabinet cards I made up for each character http://www.pinterest.com/LucasMight/phreak-show-cast-steampunk/  It shows them in their “everyday” forms, but I want the tattoos to add the element of their transformations into their sideshow personas like: Twiggy the Blubber Girl, The Prince of Torture (a tatooist!), etc. The original, color images I used are here: http://www.pinterest.com/LucasMight/phreak-show-castoff-images/ and these may be more helpful for reference purposes.
I’m thinking just head & shoulders for each one, with a ribbon/sideshow banner beneath with their sideshow names.
We have 8 appointments scheduled, right? There are a total of 8 (or 10–depending on how they’re counted) separate character images. Plus the smoky, colorful ribbons of “aether” to fill the spaces in between. So, I guess we’ll have to see how to work those all in? Or schedule some future dates to finish? (If I don’t go broke first!)
I laid out the rough outlines/placement I have in mind. Pics of my (roughed in) sharpied left arm are attached.
Roughly, here’s the order of inking I’m thinking. Totally open to your input. Maybe we can squeeze multiple characters with close proximity in during a single session:
– Phineas – top of forearm http://www.pinterest.com/pin/354377064398218339/ (This image is pretty spot-on. Love the dark shadows, but would like deep colors mixed in so it’s not solid black. Def want his signature eyes to stand out–they’re milky-blue, covered in cataracts)
– Tera – outside of bicep http://www.pinterest.com/pin/354377064398272931/ In the story, she transforms to look like other people’s worst fears. So, not *exactly sure how to represent that…Also, she wears a heavy hood to conceal her face until the transfomrations are complete, so that might be an element to incorporate as long as her fiery red hair is still partially visible. (Romeo, a copper monkey may hang from her banner into the crook of my arm)
– Niko – perfectly placed for the Prince of Torture…near the elbow. A combo of this image http://www.pinterest.com/pin/354377064398218239/ along with shirtless Adam Levine http://www.pinterest.com/pin/354377064398218378/ (For the ink, half of his face ‘normal’, the other half tattooed and pierced
– Jamie – top half underside of my forearm (no image of him on any of the boards – he’s the Tera gets of her baby brother – only effed up into a cyclops baby)
Those are the first 4. I’m thinking we can decide the order of the rest and space them out as we go, using the sharpie template along with sizing as a guide for their placement.
I’ve also attached the manuscript. If you want to check it out, the main character, Tera, gets an effed up tat in chapter one, then enters the Phreak Show at the end of chapter 2. After that, the sideshow personas of the characters unfold over the following chapters. 
LAST LINK! lol – http://www.pinterest.com/LucasMight/tattoos-steampunk-otherwise/ This board will give you an idea of the types of tattoo styles/coloring/imagery I’m drawn to. I don’t want to dictate the style so much as I want you to interpret my ideas into your own Joe Crossman style. As long as the ink is helz-yeah-phenomenal, and consistent throughout the whole sleeve, I’m pretty open.
Thanks, man. Look forward to seeing what you come up with.



Joe doesn’t know it yet, but I plan on typing with my right hand in his shop next Saturday. NaNo is live & Doff wants out of me. There’s no reason [other than the pain of metallic, pissed-off wasps hammering into my flesh] I shouldn’t keep hacking away at the next novel while getting inked with characters from the previous one.

Whether Phreak Show ever gets traditionally published or not, I absolutely love the characters and their story. Will I regret immortalizing them in my skin forever? Absolutely not. As long as Joe doesn’t eff things up for me like Niko did for Tera. Or did Niko really mess up her tattoo of Jamie…?

Epistle of Doff – Main Characters

NaNo 2013 kicks off at midnight—a few short hours from now. Figured I ought to post a final entry before the wordcount on that little widget starts climbing. >>>>>

I’m a visual dude. I write pretty visually. Thus, I’m popping my central Epistle of Doff characters right here. For easy reference. Image collection can be fun, but also frustrating. A lot of times, you have to get as close as you can and still twist the image a bit in your mind.

Doff’s story is set in an alternate present. All the world religions are woven into a syncretist faith known as Kamiism, which thrums with ritual and magic. The world is split in two—those who practice Kamiism, and those who do not. But even within those two halves, there are factions, individuals belief systems, those who embrace the magic in the world, and those who do not. Zealots & Squelchers. The faithful & the rebellious. Those who follow the established rules & those who blow them to bits.

Another aspect of this alternate present is that individual races no longer exist. Because of the longstanding interweaving of belief systems, there is little distinction in the color of the world’s inhabitants’ skin. They are all within a small range of nearly indistinguishable, lovely warm mid-tone. Race is not an issue in this world, but the characters have found plenty of other means to distinguish, judge, and rank one another.

Thus, I have to correct these source images in my mind, and paint them all in that beautiful tone.

Best - DoffBest - Athan


Best - Isca Best - Lazni Best - Matine Best - Ramsey Best - Tio

There they are: the central cast members. I have Pinterest boards for the other players, as well as the Iconography, Mythology, Settings, etc. The pitch for Epistle of Doff is here: https://johnlucashargis.wordpress.com/epistle-of-doff-the-most-blasphemous-monker/ [Subject to change, but I doubt by much. Because: far-thinking plotter.]

It’s almost go time! Breathe, my lovelies, breathe.

Epistle of Doff – Hands On Research #LucasArmKnitExperience

Athan - Knitting - Illustration

So an odd/fun/random/spur-of-the-moment thing happened.

It started with my NaNoWriMo project. The love interest is a trainhopping, attachment-free, badass. So, I decided he needs a hobby—something completely unexpected for that persona. And it needs to be something he can do to pass the time while catching out [i.e. riding the rails; hopping trains.] Something “soft”, traditionally “non-masculine”. I rolled through a few possibilities before settling on knitting.


Knitting is reportedly therapeutic. It’s a practical skill; need a blanket while on the road? Gank some yarn and make one. But I ended up with a slight problem there since the process can take a while…

Yesterday, while searching for images to represent this aspect of my character, Athan, I initially had a HARD time finding images of guys knitting. I was getting quite frustrated. Then Twitter folk helped my search. And one link led to another to another until I ended up creating an entire Pinterest board: Men + Yarn

In the process, I discovered Arm Knitting. That’s a thing??? Yes. A cool thing. Knitting using your arms instead of needles. And, using heavyweight yarn, the process goes quickly. Aha! A quick, no-tools-needed way for Athan to pass the time trapped in a rattling freight car. And since the world has an ingrained magic system where the purpose of an object [and thus it’s color, texture, density] can be warped, Athan has access to a limitless supply of “yarn”. He simply needs to transform tiny sections of the metal forming the train car.

As icing on the cake, this idea of weaving two separate skeins together is a perfect symbol of the central conflict my MC is facing. It’s also gloriously symbolic of the romance subplot. Perfection, I say.

Athan is highly gifted at warping & knitting. During long train rides, there is the obvious opportunity for him to teach that skill to my MC, Doff. Oh.the.moments. The symbolism. The ways Athan can playfully take advantage of Doff while his hands are bound in yarn cuffs.

But before I can write that into their story, I need to know how to Arm Knit, what it feels like. So, with the help of a YouTube vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqvC1xlm86U&feature=youtu.be, I learned. Today. For the hell of it, kinda accidentally, I ended up live-Tweeting my learning process & the emotions that went along with it. If you’re so inclined to check it out, I used the hashtag #LucasArmKnitExperience.

Quickly, folks tapped into my virgin arm knitting experience & turned it into a beautiful, fun conversation.

After the highs & lows, the successes & failures, photos became a necessity. So, obviously, an impromptu photo shoot  showing the end results of my first arm knitting attempt was required.

The whole live-action-learn-a-new-thing experiment was fun. Not only did I learn a new skill I can teach my characters, I also experienced the feeling arc of curiosity/frustration/peacefulness/accomplishment/celebration. Doff will feel that same progression. On top of all that, other folks decided to catch out with me. And, perhaps, I can recreate that excitement & willingness with Doff & Athan’s story.

I just need to write it first. NaNo, here I come.

Reference images for these two train kids & the rest of the cast of Epistle of Doff:

Developing A Raw Idea Into a Premise


It’s time for the next novel. Like many other psychopaths, I’ll participate in NanoWrimo [again] this November. Some writerly friends are also joining in the mass hysteria. What’s scary for me—on their behalf—is that many still have no idea what story they’ll be writing. Hell, I outline short stories & flash fic, so I can’t imagine beginning a novel without a SOLID, well-defined premise worthy of investing thousands of words and hours into.

That investment is too damn crucial to be left to chance.

It’s like settling for cheap fishsticks when melt-in-your-mouth sashimi is available at the other end of the table.

Constant waves of ideas batter the shores of my mind, bringing the little fishies close. Some get caught in the riptide, or flow right back out to sea. A few actually launch themselves on the beach and flop around until I toss them back in. Most don’t have the sacred combination of  freshness, strength, deep-diving ability, beauty, and tenderness needed to nourish an entire novel.

So how do I decide whether a concept is an idea-fishstick or premise-sashimi?

If an idea wants to swim near the surface for a while, I let it. It will either develop, morph, and flash silver in the sunlight, or it will sink out of sight. A few keep on bobbing. They tread water and refuse to go away.

When a concept lingers, I lob rocks at it. Does it have enough inherent conflict? Is it determined and feisty? Is it really a novel-length idea—something I want to spend months and months chewing on and living with? Is the concept unique? Is it weird enough to plumb & entertain my imagination? Does it sparkle? Does it burn? Is there at least one character begging me to tell his/her story? Is there gut emotional appeal at the heart of it? Does it break through the static of all my other thoughts? Am I kinda obsessing over it?

If a stubborn concept has stuck around this long, it deserves a chance. I haul it onto the sand and slice it open. I pick it apart and look at its innards, sample its freshness—its rawness. This filleting is done at my desk with pencil and paper, while driving, in the shower, upon waking, while clipping my fingernails, during meals. Few make it to this stage. Even then, about one in three concepts survive and move on to next level. And for me to haul it home, the concept has to be a big, juicy, tasty, gnarly Great White of a story.

Now I decide if this thing is truly edible. A lot of the testing has already taken place, but this is where I make sure. This is my (fish-analogy-free) development process:

How far-reaching does this concept go? How deep can I make it? Who is my MC? What does s/he want? What is stopping him/her from obtaining that? What is the core conflict? What subplots can feed into that central component? Can I interlace internal and external conflicts so they ride on parallel rails?  Who is the antagonist? For all characters: what is each one’s role and purpose, motivation(s), strengths and (especially) faults? What is the world like? What are its rules? How can I make this idea stand out from the millions of others out there? What are the settings? What do I already know about the topics involved? What do I need to learn? What emotions will this story elicit? What strings inside the reader will it twang? Can I tie ALL these things together in one gorgeous, beautiful whole?

Mic Check
This might seem out of place, but I draft the first scene at this point. Even before I know the nuances of the story, I know how it begins. Before I invest any more time in this concept, I need the assurance that there is a fresh voice waiting to breathe on the pages. This is all about style, and word choice, and what the character has to say in his/her own words. This might take a few iterations—like asking a ouija board the same question a few times—but the character should come alive on the page. Once I’m confident I can channel this character’s story and give him/her a voice, I keep developing.

By this point I have a haphazard pile of scribbled post-it notes, notebook pages, sharpied napkins, a OneNote file full of details. Which is cool and all, but do I have a solid premise? My way of testing this critical aspect is to write the pitch as though crafting a query letter. This takes a lot of work. Like, a lot, a lot. But, if the core of the concept is strong, the basic structure and details quickly fall into place. I don’t worry about “voice” at this early stage of pitch crafting. This won’t produce the final pitch, but this version should clearly show the premise, MC, conflict, and stakes. A second part of this process is then boiling the pitch down to a single sentence. If it feels close-enough-to-solid, I’m golden and move on to outlining.

At this point, I’m absolutely sure my premise is as solid as it can be. I still have months of writing & revision ahead of me, but I’m confident that I have sashimi. In such a subjective industry, I have no idea how the premise itself will be received by agents, editors, or readers. I can’t change another person’s tastebuds any more than I can change the type of stories which swim and splash in my imagination. What I can do is lay a firm foundation on which to build those stories. And if I continue that same level of purposeful development until I have a polished manuscript, there won’t be a fishstick in sight.


See the where this process led me in prep for NaNoWriMo: