Thursday, December 20, 2012

Something Missing In My Writing

I've had no formal training in creative writing. I can tell when I sit to create that I'm missing something. I feel the knowledge gap as I type. I lack certain tools and knowledge on how to use them. I've decided what I need is a back-to-school moment.

I've order a highly recommended textbook on creative writing. It's used in a lot of creative writing classes at universities. I'll be spending my next couple of months self-educating and learning some aspects of the craft. It is something I know I need to do.

I heard it said that one can learn to bake. If you do it regularly your baking will improve. You learn from your own mistakes. But there's something to be said about learning tricks of the trade. Sure you may stumble on them yourself and your skills would develop. But there are tools and methods that cannot be stumbled upon. If you know you want to make muffins, you need a muffin pan. It's also good to know that spraying the pan with non-stick spray helps. That's what I'm missing. I don't have certain tools, nor do I know how to use them.

Currently, my writing is coming along slowly, but it's coming along. I need more self-discipline. I suffer from random distractions such as the election, football season, fantasy football, television. The world is screaming at me. Aside from time with my family, the instances where I feel like time wasn't wasted come after  a productive writing session.

I'm knee deep in what started as a short story. The plot thickened and it became a novelette. On my second run through it, I had to add a few more scenes. Now it's ballooned into a novella. There are some aspects of the plot which I need to tighten up. Ultimately, it's a side story to my bigger novel, which I hope to get back to when my writing improves.

One of my favorite distractions is making cover art for my stories. I would say this is wasted time, but it helps me visualize characters and settings. Here's a cover for the novella I'm currently working on. Let me know what you think. What works? What doesn't work? What does the cover say to you?

Meet Kolka (more about her later).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Finishing (Inspirational Wednesday?)

My inspiration for this month is FINISHING. I missed my own Inspirational Monday post. (Many thanks to BRIAN WILKERSON for throwing me a reminder via twitter). I was in a zone and didn't want to break my concentration.

I printed out and am in the process of fixing typos and minor errors for a 2500 word short story contest. It's from a periodical in my town. I plan on printing out the final draft and putting it in the mail tomorrow.

Last year they received over 500 entries from in and out of state. If you have an unpublished 2500 word short story sitting around, Why not enter? Stories just have to be postmarked by Monday the 10th of December.

I had fun reading some of the winners from prior years. Whether or not it gets past any hurdles in the competition, I'm happy with the story and I can tell I learned about writing and learned even more about the human condition. I may publish it on this blog on a later date.

I started my story about a week ago and have been working on it since then. I've found that my creativity comes in streaks. Streaks that are often sparked by deadlines. My goal for December is to do final edits on a 12,000 word novelette I finished in October. I did one quick edit in early November and then let sit for a month.

So here's to FINISHING.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's About Creation (Inspirational Monday)

It's the first Monday of the month. Every first Monday I like to blog about something that inspires me to write. In this case I saw some pictures this week that triggered some deeper thoughts for me.

Here is a sculpture created by  Adrián Villar Rojas in 2009. It's called "My Dead Grandfather."

I can't tell you what the author's perspective was, nor his intention. A message of warning perhaps? A sad scene of nature defeating nature? Humans after all are part of nature. If I had been there in person, different feelings would likely have sprung to the surface. 

These pictures remind me what IT's all about. When I see this, I think more about the massive undertaking of the artist. A behemoth constructed from clay, rocks, and wood, shaped from the world around us. 

To me, IT's about creation. It's about making something that was not there before and connecting it to personal experience. The realm of imagination crossing paths with the realm of reality. Each influencing the other. That's why I write.

What  do you see in these pictures?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Looks like my story "Randomness" for Spooktoberfest came in first place (as judged by Dani) and runnerup (as judged by Jackie). I can't overstate how excited that makes me. There were some really good entries and I have no idea how they were able to decide.

Huge, huge thanks to Dani at Entertaining Interests and Jackie at Bouquet of Books  for putting together such an entertaining blogfest. There were upwards of 40 entries. It was fun to read them and they really got me in the mood for the festivities tonight. The kids always have fun.

Be safe out there. Here are some safety guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services:

Friday, October 26, 2012


The laughter coming from outside brings with it great pain. The hard wooden rails of the chair dig into his spine. He rotates a miniature chocolate candy in his hand. The silver wrapper crackles as he looks for evidence of perforations. There are none. It’s impeccable. He drops it into the paper bag laying at his feet. There it joins the untainted. Randomness, pure randomness, just like life.

The tapping at the door brings him to his feet. He strides forward as his shoes make loud knocking noises on the hardwood floor. Once outside, he looks down at the monsters that stare back at him. Their eyes waiting for him to move.

“Trick or treat,” they yell. Among them are the quintessential ghost made with holy sheets, a witch carrying a cobweb filled cauldron, a dinosaur with razor sharp felt teeth, and a jack-o-lantern that waddles up behind them.
Counting them, he knows these are the last ghouls of the night.

He lowers himself holding the paper bag by the rolled down brim. He gives it one last shake, one last play with fate. He drops a chocolate in each bag as the children push them to the front. Past them he sees the smiling parents. One father kneels down and snaps photos of the pumpkin toddling towards a red wagon. The squeals of joy pierce his soul. They remind him of times long past, times removed by fortune.

He expects sirens, screaming, and crying. But all that follows is silence, cold dead silence, like the last three months. From his pocket, he pulls out one final chocolate. Slowly he removes the silver wrapper and pushes the bar into his mouth. He lays himself down on the porch. He closes his eyes. Now he waits.

Here are other 300 word stories:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Time Is On My Side

Happy Monday! It's a new month and I am reminded of how no matter what has happened in the past there is always a new beginning. That's why I like Inspirational Mondays. Where I blog about something that inspired me.

 I have a 10,000 short story that I am editing currently. It's screaming to be longer. I didn't intend for it to be more than a short story, but I can't do it justice otherwise. And that's where I'm stuck. The prospect of expanding that universe is so daunting that I would then have on my hands two incomplete novels.

From one story, come three and the ever expanding world that is blossoming in my brain is hard to pin down. It's a blooming universe.

Luckily, time is on my side, yes it is. I've gotten over the initial desire to put stuff out there quickly. What's the rush? There are thousands of people out there putting out millions of stories. I have no reason to rush and will continue to edit and revise, ten years if I have to. I'm inspired to know that I have more time. I just hope to know when I'm done.

Enjoy some Rolling Stones:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Failure is not an Option (Inspirational Monday)

There are two moments I can recall where I hit a wall in life. I recall them specifically because I was able to push through and persevere. These were moments where my life could have taken two very different paths.

It wasn't that I had a choice. It was that I was on a road to complete my chosen journey only to meet against resistance that threatened to push me off the track.

The first moment came in college. In the summer after my sophomore year, I received my first two failing grades. I saw my life coming off the rails. Would I flunk out? Would I have to move back in with my parents? Where was my life headed? I told myself "failure is not an option." I was the first in my family to go to a university. This was a moment of high anxiety, but I put my head down and pushed through. I didn't want to let my family down.

The second moment happened during my first year as a teacher. It was the spring of my first year and my classes were in a bad place. Students were disrespectful and I was having a terrible time setting limits in the classroom, mostly due to inexperience. I had made many professional friends, and every time I was with them I felt like a failure. I considered quitting, without knowing what would become of my life. I told myself "failure is not an option." I adjusted, I retooled and I pushed through. I didn't want to let my friends down. Now I have been teaching for over a decade.

For these two moments I had a lot to lose. My education, my career, my way of life. August was a difficult month for me as a writer. I have professional responsibilities as a teacher that absorb the vast majority of my time. Due to the demands of the job, writing just took a backseat. Now I see a wall in front of me. I have to push through, failure is not an option. I take inspiration from the idea that I will look back on this moment and see it as the third wall that I knocked down. I don't want to let myself down.

This month I will be looking to find a routine that will allow me to continue on this path. Have a great month!

Check out other inspirational posts: Jennifer at A Creative Exercise

What Inspires Your Writing? Join the List. Rules are: post on first Monday of every month; read and get inspired; and comment on other's posts.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Well Played, Sir. Well Played.

The first Monday of the month is Inpirational Monday. I blog about something that I find inspirational and keeps me writing. 

I believe that all facets of life hold analogous traits to other parts of life. So a lot of times I try to find how my observations of people, places, and events line up with my writing.

As a huge fan of sport, currently I am watching the Olympics (as most people are). There are plenty of inspiring stories in these Olympic games, like there are every four years. This year though, there was one story that was unique. I was quite  inspired by the story of Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. Some know him as The Blade Runner, the first athlete with prosthetic legs to compete in any Olympic sport.

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius runs during his men's 400m semi-final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 5, 2012.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (BRITAIN  - Tags: SPORT ATHLETICS OLYMPICS)
REUTERS - South Africa's Oscar Pistorius runs during his men's 400m semi-final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 5, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Here is a person who was born with no fibulae. An entire bone was missing from both his legs, leading to their amputation before the age of 1. This is a pretty bad hand to be dealt if your goal is become an Olympic athlete. 

I liken this to writing in that we all have certain creative abilities, and certain knowledge of craft. A lot of that is outside our control. Where you grew up, how you grew up, where you went to school, who your teachers and role models were. There are an innumerable amount of factors that have an affect on our abilities. I find myself frustrated at times by the limits of my mind, to the point of mental paralysis.

There is no doubt we are dealt a certain hand in life. But the great thing is that we get to decide how to play it. Having made the decision that I am a writer. I get to decide how I move forward. 

When Oscar Pistorius, decided that he wanted to run. He went for it. He didn't let a bad deal stop him. He played it well. 

I just read that he didn't qualify for the 400-m final, in fact he came 23rd out 24 in the semifinal races. But it does not matter, he lived his dream. He was a runner who ran in the Olympics. I am a writer and I write.

I had a Linky List going for Inspirational Mondays, but Linky Tools has started charging for their services. So it's gone.
There are plenty of other Linking Sites that are free so I am using Simply Linked For Now.

What Inspires Your Writing? Join the List. Rules are you read to get inspired and comment on other's posts.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inspirational Monday

The first Monday of the Month is Inspirational Monday.

I recently began following Neil Gaiman's tumblr. It is full of very good advice and interesting material. I highly recommend it. I find it very inspiring. Here it is.

He gets many questions from aspiring writers and he answers some of them.

Here's a question that was posted to Neil Gaiman in March. I love his response because he's right.

Question: I'm shockingly lazy and find it hard to get motivated to sit in front that computer and write. Help me!

Answer: Why? You being lazy and unmotivated and not writing allows another writer, who does sit down and write, to get published in your place. Magazines and publishers only have so many pages, so many annual publishing spots. You’re letting someone else who wants to do the work get published. Surely that’s a good thing…?

Original Link

I've been slowly building my twitter base and I've gotten up to 160 followers in a little over a month. It's mostly other writers, which I like because it reminds me that there are hundreds (probably thousands) of other writers out there working. Some are more talented, some are more skilled (probably most, but hey I just started).

It is those that work hardest, those that put forth the most effort, those that pour more of themselves into their work that will have the most success. Those things we want most in life never come free. Only through work and dedication will I become a better writer.

Happy Writing.

Following is a list of other writers and what they find inspiring. Join us if you like.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Blog Awards

I have been a terrible blogger. I have received a number of awards and I have yet to answer to them. This is my awards post. Two of these awards ask you to talk about yourself a bit. This is something I'm terrible at due to my introverted personality, but I'll accept the challenge.

First I want to thank the wonderful bloggers that took the time to visit and give me the honor of these awards. Here are the links to these wonderful people. They are people to follow if you don't already.

From farawayeyes at Far Away Series

From Jennifer at A Creative Exercise
From Andrea Teagan at The Enchanted Writer
From Paige Lollie at The Dream Words

From Jeff Hargett at Strands of Pattern
From the Versatile Blogger Award: 7 Random Things About Me
  • I'm a terrible golfer, but I'm better than those I play with, therefore I like it. I only play three or four times a year. 
  • I became a vegetarian four years ago because my wife and son were vegetarians. Now I am grossed out by the thought of eating flesh. I don't miss eating meat. 
  • I miss grilling meat in the backyard. Grilling vegetables or mushrooms does not satisfy my need to seer a steak or pork loin. That I do miss. 
  • I coached middle school football for 7 years. As of last year I've officially resigned. I'm kind of sad about it, but am looking forward to having fall afternoons back. 
  • I never played any kind of organized sports growing up, my mother would not allow it; she claimed I could get injured and was not worth the risk. 
  • When I was in 5th grade I really wanted to play the trumpet, but my parents said they couldn't afford the instrument. They then paid for four years of karate lessons, belts, tests, etc. for my younger brother. It took me a long time to get over that. Now I just strum the same four chords on my guitar over and over. I regret never having taken my own lessons later in life. 
  • I think kids are hilarious. I wish more adults were child like. 
From the Fabulous Blog Ribbon:5 of your most fabulous moments
  • When I married my wife: The whole night went so fast. The moment that sticks out from that night is when my wife and I left the reception hall to get some wine from the bar (which was outside). Everyone was inside and we were outside. It was nice to get away from the whirlwind that was the gathering of family and friends. It foreshadowed our honeymoon nicely. 
  • Our honeymoon in Costa Rica: The mountains, the waterfalls, the hotsprings, the beach, the whole week was amazing. My favorite moment was sitting at the pool that overlooked the pacific ocean and smoking a Cuban cigar as my wife swam in the pool. Never since have I felt such relaxation. 
  • The birth of my first son: You can read about it in my Father's Day post, but one moment I remember was from the room they took me and my son to in order to bathe him. I remember him holding my pinkie finger as he slept. I remember looking around at the other terrified fathers in the room, each of us knowing that feeling of wonderment. 
  • When my first son met my second son: I remember coming to get him from the waiting room. There he sat with his grandparents. He had a gift in his lap for his brother. I'm so glad I have a video of it. 
  • Finishing my Z story for the A to Z Challenge. I didn't know what to expect when I started my A story, but when I finished the Z story and published it, I was amazed that I did it. I now know that I am capable of much more creativity than I first thought. 
5 things I love:
  • my wife and sons 
  • free time 
  • staying up late 
  • sleeping in 
  • the smell of the beach 
5 things I hate:
  • mean and inconsiderate people. 
  • when things don't work the way they are supposed to 
  • when people think they are better than others 
  • constraints on life due to monetary matters 
  • the 24 hour day, it needs to be 36 hours long. 
With all of these awards I am supposed to post the rules then pass them along to other people (anywhere from 5 to 20 people). I can't do it. First, I would have to dig around to find out if certain bloggers have gotten these yet. I know, I'm a terrible person. Second, most of the blogs I visit already have these awards. I know the purpose is to link to knew blogs and get to know new people. I just prefer doing it in the context of reading comments on blogs I already follow, or withing blogfests or flash fiction contests.

How bad is this? If any more experience bloggers out there know if this is like breaking one of the Ten Blogging Commandments (or like farting inside a blanket fort), please let me know and I'll do the due diligence and start excavating. If it's like not passing along a chain letter, and I should expect my pets to die, then I'm willing to take that chance.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

On this Father's Day, I remember the birth of my first son. An amazing moment that will forever be cemented in my mind, along with the strength and bravery of my wife (but that's another post). I'll also try to relate it to my growth as a writer.

After I was reminded by the nurse to take some photos. I cut the umbilical cord. It was much tougher to cut than expected. I looked at my son and back at my wife. This little bundle of flesh was completely and totally dependent on us as parents. I never imagined loving anything as much as I cared for this little human being. The feeling of love was immediate, intense, and overwhelming. It was a feeling that was incomprehensible before that point in time, and at the fear of being cliche, it's beyond words.

The nurse whisked him away and placed him on a scale. Again she reminded me to take pictures. He was screaming his little heart out. His eyes were open as his little arms and legs swam through the air. I imagine he was trying to make sense of this tidal change in the world as he knew it. For nine months he got used to a warm and quiet space that slowly became more cramped. All of a sudden he's in this new universe. His eyes opened to new colors, shapes and bright lights. His hearing no longer muffled by his mother's flesh and fluid. His skin was enveloped by the cold dry air of the hospital room. How anyone survives this traumatic event and goes on to live a productive life is beyond me.

The nurse placed him under a heater. I put my pinkie finger in his hand, which he closed by reflex. There he was naked and alone. Separated by this chasm of space between him and the woman that carried him for nine months. Between screams, his little lungs filled his chest cavity with the cold dry air. His mouth was open, his tongue and neck vibrated as he screamed louder than I had ever heard anyone scream. The nurse tags him and wraps him in a blanket. And takes him to his mother.

Though the nurse worked quickly, that moment took entirely too long. So long that I had enough time to contemplate the mixture of emotions that forced the tears that flowed down my face. I loved this child so much that I wanted to protect him from anything that could harm him. And yet, there he lay alone. He was scared, crying and cold, and I couldn't make it stop. As the nurse worked, I couldn't take his fear away and I couldn't change that which was the cause of his discomfort. It terrified me. I had never felt that  helpless, and no moment in my life since has come close to that feeling of sheer ineptitude. This boy would rely on us to guide him to adulthood and I couldn't help him in that specific moment in time.

That moment passed and it got better. I still cringe every time the cold mean world hurts him. Though no where near as intense, that moment returned when he fell down stairs and split the skin on his forehead open. He yelled from the pain as blood gushed down his face. It returned when I accidentally dropped my coffee and it squirted into his eye. "Daddy, my eye," he yelled. When at the playground, some inconsiderate child rips a toy from his hands, taking some of his joy with it. Yes, given time I can comfort him, fix his wounds, and in the end make it better, but there's this singular moment that exists where I am that helpless new father again.

That moment passes. These cruel world slaps to his face and ego are learning opportunities. Sheltering him would not be helping him. That's a lesson I had to learn, even as I still cringe when the cold hand of reality rears its ugly head at my child.

In my writing, I need to just let it out into the cold cruel world. I have to shut down my inner editor and just let the story and words flow. I can't help it in that moment in time. I need to let it cry, breathe, and experience existence. There is always time after that moment to make things better.

By the way, my second son hardly cried when he was born. One two to four seconds and he was done.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Training for the Novel Marathon

There was a stint in my life where I got into running to get fit. At my peak I was running five miles every other day. In the last five years, I've seen some very strong people around me that have taken to marathon and half-marathon training, and finished it. Just from my half-a-year stint in running around my neighborhood, I can honestly say that these people are amazing.

In May, I reached 40,000 words on my novel. It's not anywhere near the quality I expect it to be at. The tension, and characters, and the world are not fully fleshed out. That doesn't bother me, as they say writing is rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting. It is in it's early stages. But I realized something the other day. I was trying to run the equivalent of a literary marathon, without having trained for it. If I started running a marathon tomorrow, I would fail miserably at mile six, without a doubt. I could probably walk the rest of the way if my legs didn't fully give out.

In April, I wrote 26 flash fiction pieces (500-1000 words each). That helped me greatly get my form down. It helped me see and fix technical errors in grammar, narration, point-of-view and scene making. Yet, I wouldn't go do a couple (or 26)  100 meter dashes and then expect to run a whole marathon. A novel is a different beast entirely. I like the world and cultures I am creating, and am amazed it's all coming from my imagination. But, like a runner training for a marathon, I have to hone my story telling and characterization before I can fully give my debut novel the proper treatment. Therefore I'm trying a new approach.

My current project is a couple of short stories to help me get my story telling chops in order and to fill in some background information for my planet. I doubt they will ever see the light of day. It really depends on the quality that comes out. And being my first true run outside the short sprints that were flash fiction, I expect this to be a great learning experience--much like the April A to Z challenge proved to be.

Monday, June 4, 2012

What Inspires You?

The first Monday of every month, I've decided (just now) will be Inspirational Monday. I will post something that inspires me to keep writing, or to try something new. A story, an image, a person, anything really that lifted my overall mood and spirit as a writer. Following is a quote from Ira Glass, the great NPR host and producer of This American Life. He wasn't speaking specifically about writing fiction when he said this, but I feel this applies to anyone who sticks with their creative endeavors. (This poster is from Amanda at the Audacity of Color.)

To be sure, I haven't paid my due diligence to the writing gods, but I have faith that if I put forth the effort, do the work, and above all never give up, I will "close the gap" as he says. And this is not blind faith. From my other creative profession (my day job), I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it took at least two years before I felt like I had any clue what I was doing.

What inspires me to keep going is faith that it will get better. So what inspires you to keep going?

The first Monday of every moth is Inspirational Monday, join me in posting something that inspires you to keep going.

Monday, May 21, 2012

God is a Place

Lightning flashed. He waited for the crash of thunder, but it never came. He walked among the miniature tombstones searching for his daughter, carrying a dozen red lilies.

“I don’t want to go this year," his son told him this morning.

It broke his heart. He always envisioned her as his son’s partnered angel. She existed, sight unseen, looking over him, watching, guiding, protecting. She, above all, loved him.

He found her tombstone: Infant Williams. He regretted not naming her. Alexis he decided, two years too late. He knelt down, slid his finger over the grooves in the granite, and brooded. She would have been six today.

Tears flowed as memories flooded his mind. He remembered her birth. She was light as a feather. Her lungs pulled in a single breath. Her eyes opened, flashing a sea of blue. A holy spectacle, which he thought would last forever, lasted only for him. In his dreams, she was alive and crying.

She sat across the tombstone from him. Her legs folded, her head resting in her hands, she sank her deep blue eyes into his soul.

Don’t cry for me, father.

“I want to hold you in my arms. I want to feel your face on my cheek. I want to see you play. I want to find you again.”

You will. God is a place. We'll wait for you there. She stood and turned, her wings folded against her spine. Don't worry about brother, I've talked to him. The wind howled, kicking up dead autumn leaves. She ran into the cold, damp air, and disappeared into the fading image of her mother.

He set down half the lilies and walked to the other side of the cemetery. Now he could hear the thunder.

(Inspired by the song Two Headed Boy Pt. 2 by Neutral Milk Hotel)
Many thanks to Cherie Reich for hosting this.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Use Archetypes To Build Three Dimensional Characters

I read the Hunger Games just before the movie came out--late to the party as usual. I wanted to experience the phenomenon. I was not disappointed. I still haven't read the other two (or watched the movie for that matter). I'm on it this summer. The first book was good, and I was trying to pinpoint the exact reason why. There were some twists in the plot that didn't sit well with me, and the future itself seemed bleak and hard to believe. No, what made the story great were the characters. Every person in that novel is well rounded and magnificently presented by Suzanne Collins.

There are three people in the story that really stand out for me: Katniss Everdeen, the heroine; Rue, her ally in the games; and Caesar Flickerman, the host of the show.

Especially Caesar, the way she brought him to life, in the few short scenes he was in, was brilliant. He's such a minor character, yet Collins makes him real and multi-dimensional. It's worth studying how she did it.

As I rewrite, I can see that my characterization needs help. I have started studying character archetypes. Every story has them, whether planned or not. Even in real life, people fall into personality types, so it only makes sense that characters in stories should fall into some type as well. These literature archetypes are tried and true characters found in almost all good tales told in all cultures around the world.

People's personalities are a mixture of several types. So it is with characters. That's what I'm working on right now. I have my 4 characters that drive my plot. As I rewrite I am looking at how they fit into character archetypes. Take any story--like the Hunger Games--and read through some of the mythic character archetypes. The characters naturally fall into them.

Here are some resources:

45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt (I got this from my local library, a great resource)
Writer's Village University (detailed breakdown of popular archetypes and more)
Ageless Wisdom & the Hero's Journey (A website about mythic hero journeys)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Project Complete

My to A to Z experience was great. I feel like I actually produced something. As a result I have a web book, and an ebook, out in the ether. I don't expect much from it, perhaps some people may stumble upon it and find some enjoyment. Here it is:

I also made it into a kindle and nook book.

I will now put 90 percent of my writing efforts into my first novel (and 10 percent to my blog.)

Right now I'm trying to find a way to dive back into my novel, I think I'll do a rewrite from the top. The whole time I was writing this flash fiction, the story never left my mind. I have a lot of new ideas I have to incorporate. It is about a team of humans colonizing and discovering a new planet. I'll write more about it as it comes together. I'm shooting for an early 2013 release date, more about the story to come.

Thanks for all that visited and enjoyed the stories. Project complete.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Finalizing my to A to Z Project

I'm doing a final read through as I self-edit my collection of flash fiction.  I have deleted errors, polished sentences and changed a couple endings, but mostly the stories are the same.

I will be uploading my epub and mobi files to the Amazon and B&N sites on Thursday. Along with that I  will be publishing the stories on a website (I will link to it from here). It's been a busy first week of May.

Here's a preview:

I work exclusively on Ubuntu (as opposed to Windows or MacOS). Of course all the self publishing guides I come across on the web are for Microsoft Word and Windows. I used LibreOffice for editing my book, saved it as an HTML file and am using Calibre to do the conversions. I used Gimp to create the cover and images, getting all photos from the public domain.

It has been a learning process, and I love learning. Making the ebook hasn't been hard, it's mostly been figuring out the correct formatting on LibreOffice that would give me the best conversion from Calibre. In the following weeks I'll be posting the major things I had to do to get it right, for my own future reference really, and maybe others will find it useful.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A to Z Reflection & Next Steps

Wow. I feel like I can breath again. The A to Z challenge was hard. Coming up with 26 different stories in the span of 30 days was difficult. I do like what came out though. I am quite proud of them (most of them).

I came across the A to Z challenge in the last week of March and I could not be happier that I participated and survived (did you see my blog badge?). I consider it a major accomplishment. After a month's worth of daily writing and rewriting, I feel like I am much more aware of my own writing and hope it helps me as I dive back into my first novel, which I will get back to upon completion of this flash fiction project.

I'm currently rewriting some of the early ones and will be posting them on another site (I think it's looking great). It'll still be free and I will be linking to them from here. I'll probably be taking the ones on here back to draft mode.

I'm also making them into an e-book to go through the experience of making a full self published work. I don't know if that's the proper path, or even if the work warrants it, but I'm working to that end. I want the experience of going through it. Formatting, designing covers (you can see the one I made to the right), rewriting, editing, etc. I am in full edit mode right now.

For the blog, my next steps are still being hashed out. I enjoyed the flash fiction pieces so much that I do want to do one or two a month. I will be working out a calendar to put them out in monthly manner. I will also come up with a calendar for my own blog hopping. I plan to visit and comment on all the people that are following (thanks by the way),  that will be part of my monthly calendar.

Great things are ahead, I'm glad to say.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

A to Z

On the right you'll see that I've joined the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I'm going to use it as a way to increase my number of flash fiction stories. My goal will be to write a 500-1000 word flash fiction story as a way to expand ideas and write regularly.

I already have my A story finished.  It took me about an hour. These will all be first drafts and I can already imagine some of the crap that will be spewed out. Nonetheless, just from writing that first one I can see ideas expanding and my awareness of what is good writing is growing. If I survive, this will be a very rewarding process. I'll have a treasure trove of new ideas for future stories, and I can always come back and expand them in the future.

Someone somewhere said they felt like they were getting ready for a marathon. Now I've never ran a marathon, but my head is both excited and questioning whether I have it in me. If you are participating, best of luck.

Game on.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Childhood Moments and Writing

Last night I read Stephen King's On Writing. Well, half of it, and a bit of the second half.  It a good and quick read and the first half of the book is all about his life growing up. It goes into the people in his life that shaped his thinking and supported his writing at a very early age. I don't feel like I had the same support as a child.  His mother pushed and encouraged him to nurture his desire to write. I didn't have that. But it did get me thinking about my childhood and the moments that stick out in my mind.

I wrote, but never thought it was something I would be doing. I remember the first picture book I made at a very early age, I must have been 7 or 8. I remember the pictures I drew, very vividly. They were stick figures, but the man had a pick ax and he was digging his way to a disastrous end. On the other end, unbeknownst to him was a terrible monster. The reader knew, the reader knew what was going to happen. The interesting thing was seeing the man's reaction when he found out.

One other time in early eighth or ninth grade I remember writing an essay about the greatest football game ever. I had spent the weeks prior at the town library reading about the history of the NFL. I truly enjoyed reading about it. My essay was about how the 1932 NFL Playoff Game between the Chicago bears and the Portsmouth Spartans was the greatest football game ever played. It's arguable to me know whether or not it was the greatest game. Regardless there are two reasons why this paper sticks out in my head. I vaguely remember the first line in the paper.  My aunt had given me a typewriter and I was eager to use it. I was proud that I was turning in a typed piece to my teacher. The first paragraph ended by talking about how the greatest games are those that "unearth unexpected heroes and forever legends of the game." I went on to describe what criteria I had for deciding what the greatest game was. It was a well written essay and I was really proud of it.

I showed it to my uncle (husband of a different aunt) and he read it. He was one of the few people in my home life who spoke and read English. He gave me a look and then looked back at the paper and asked "did you write this?"

I said "yes". But I could see he was skeptical. He said it was good. Even though I don't think he wholly believed I wrote it myself.  It was a good feeling. I knew it was good and someone agreed.

I turned it in to my English teacher and didn't hear about it for a week or so. I hated English. I hated the teacher. A week or so later, she made copies of my paper for the entire class and used it as the stellar example of what a good essay is. She read from it out loud and pointed out how I had a great command of the language and paragraph structure. It was great. I felt really good. I wish I had used that as a springboard to cultivate my skill more. I didn't and I regret it now.

I have so much to make up for at a time in my life when I have very little time to work with. I will persevere.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Eat My Shorts" -- Bart Simpson

I've decided to publish my first short story here on my blog. I can't help but think it's quite terrible. It's my first story and I know that over time my writing will improve. I keep going back to it and finding little errors or thinking I can rewrite certain passages and maybe add some more things here or there. I'm finalizing it now so I can let it go. The only thing I'll fix are grammatical errors and nothing more. It's on the sidebar under "Shorts." I have a couple more stories that may end up there too. They are flash fiction really.

I'll be focusing on my novels over the next few weeks. I've been structuring a second one but haven't started writing a thing yet. I have to say though that writing short stories really helped me when I was just starting my novel. Only because it focused my attention and helped me see the glaring flaws in my control of  basic point of view and dialogue. As you can see from the story it didn't fix anything,  but at least it made me more aware of them. Oy. I used reddit to help with reviewing it, they were great, I'm so glad to be part of that community, it's been an endless source of inspiration and resources.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Scenes Have It

As this process moves along I see that things are much more fluid than I expected.  I was focused too much on getting a word count of 80000.  I thought that was the proper length for a novel.  I have since lowered my expectation for the first draft.  It seems better to me to think more in terms of scenes.  I can then focus on world building and character development through the scene.

I lowered my final word count expectation to 70000, I may lower it even more later.  I can see just based on the last scene I wrote that there is a lot of room for expansion of the setting and the characters.  The scene itself was only about 800 words, definitely not long enough.  Yet, the major events that needed to happen did transpire.  I can see now that when I come back to rewrite the scene it will expand.

These characters are just revealing themselves to me.  It seems only fair to leave out the details at the moment and come back and nail it down once I know more about them.

Having lowered the word count, I am now about to hit 50 percent.  This is exciting.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Time Time Time

Time is so elusive.  The only thing that can fix its fleetingness is habit and ritual.  I had a break from my day job and it messed up my routine.  I did have pretty ambitious undertakings though.  With limited time I had planned to be done with the first draft by mid May.  February to May, I don't even know how to quantify this, is this fast? I really don't know.  I think it's pretty fast.

The vacation was fun, family is fun, perhaps being away from writing was what I needed. I just sat and spat out quite a bit in the last hour and twenty minutes.  Time, there is so much of it but it's never enough.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Inching Along

I have to be better about updating the blog.  I'll try to make it a Friday thing, to record my progress.

There is just so much information out there about writing, so many things to keep track of.  It reminds me of learning to play golf.  I would swing the club at first and the damn ball wouldn't move.  Now I write but the story is not what I want it to be.  I assume that it's normal for a writer to be unhappy with their writing.  Even the greatest golf players never are satisfied with their swings.

Yet that's the point to which I want to get.  I want to be able to create a scene the way a golfer swings a club.  It appears effortless, but in reality it comes from many many years of training one's muscles to correctly guide the club.  There are very distinct elements to a scene in a story that can be quantified.  The chapter is like a hole and the novel is like a round of golf.

The immense focus necessary to accomplish a good novel, or a good round of golf is unbelievably hard.  I am not stupid enough to think it will come naturally.  However, there is one thing of which I'm sure and that is that whenever asked I can't wait to go out to the golf course.

The problem is a game of golf takes 4 hours--to say nothing of the prep time to get to and from the course.    So it is with writing, time is fleeting and sometimes non-existent.

I'm about to hit 30,000 words written.  The story has taken shape and the theme is one of fate and inevitability.  Things happen the only way they can happen.

The round of golf ends and then you can start another one some other day.  The 1st write ends but then you have to go back and fix all the problems.  And there's the difference.  In a golf game, I am quick to forget those swings that didn't work because every swing is different, every hole is different, every round is different.  You can always wait for the next great swing and take joy from it.

In writing a novel, the scenes are never forgotten and usually affect the other scenes.  They have to be good all the way through.  The advantage I have though is that I can go back and change the scenes in the rewriting process.  Perhaps that's what makes this better.

I have added a spreadsheet to help me keep track of my writing.  I planned for about 6000 words a week. I am hoping my upcoming spring break will open some time but I doubt it will.

Monday, February 20, 2012

She Took Over

That moment is great.  That moment where one of your character takes control, it amazed me today.  It happened at around 20,000 words.  She wanted to do it, I had to let her and what transpired was perfect.  It moved the plot opened up another world of possibilities for the story and made it organic.  This is my first novel, and if this happens quite often I can see myself doing this forever. It was exhilarating and very satisfying.

I just calculated my time frame for finishing the first draft.  I averaged about 5000 words every 6 days.  I can probably speed that up, but I've been writing short stories and flash fiction on the side so that slows me down a bit. I'm okay with that. I feel doing the shorts has helped me with my dialogue and beats and has helped me orchestrate better scenes in the novel.  At this rate I should finish the first draft by the middle of May.  Much longer than I had anticipated, but I guess that's the way it goes.

Friday, February 17, 2012

We'll See

First rejection letter for a short story, re-reading it I can now understand why.  Though I still like the story it still needs work.  I resubmitted it as is to other magazines, perhaps I should have rewritten, but we'll see.

I have one flash fiction story that I really like that I might try to submit elsewhere.  Again we'll see.

The novel is coming along greatly.  I add approximately 1000 words a night for five out of seven nights.  It's gotten to the point where the characters are leading me.  I need to strike a balance between the two main characters.  My original protagonist is now following a strong powerful female lead.  We'll see.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Doubts Creep

 Yesterday I finished a 1000 word short story that I then submitted to  The site says I will get a response within 3 weeks of yay or nay.  Anyway it was somewhat satisfying to finish my first real story.  I had one other story in the same vein that I submitted to The story was the same topic but from different perspectives.  Anyway I can see that my writing got better over the weeks.  Nothing may come of it, but I just wanted to log my current happenings with my new venture.  The story was of an old man who was seeking euthanasia but only because it would help him live forever.

The novel is coming along, I have 6 chapters now.  I am struggling with keeping the strands of the story together.  The doubts of wellness are creeping in.  Is the story any good?  My protagonist is in a world from which I want to be able to get him out, yet it needs to be believable.  He's settled into his new world but I need now to get him out to find the rest of his troop.  The villain of the story is taking shape but at the same time I have to find him something he wants or rather doesn't want to lose.  I guess the obvious thing would be power.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Process

I have currently two chapters mostly finished. I am writing a new planetary adventure.  I fear that there is no market for this but who knows.  I am struggling with life on the planet.

I'm not sure what the best process for writing is.  I keep going back to the first chapter and revising it.  I've also outlined my plot and structure.  I know the major doors and the disturbances that my characters will be going through. Right now I am focused on character development.  I've been reading many books and articles in the web concerning the creative writing method and as far as I can tell everyone has a different take.  Some say just write and don't worry about revising.  I can't do that mostly because I want to develop the characters as I go, it also helps me stay consistent as I agonize over every little word.

I've been trying to use reddit for reviews with no luck.  I'm not ready to show the chapter to my wife, she's busy.  I'm venturing through this alone.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To New Heights

I recently decided to become a writer (within the last month). There were two triggers that made this decision for me.

Trigger 1:  I was asked recently, "If you could be famous for any reason, what would you want to be famous for?"  I remembered reading the Hobbit and Dune and getting sucked into the Star Wars universe.  I realized that I would ultimately want to be famous for creating a universe from scratch.  I always had a desire to write, it was buried.

Thinking back now I can recall writing a graphic novel when I was 6 or 7.  This was of a miner who dug so deep that he encountered monsters.  I was always drawing up planets with continents and figuring out where civilization started. I would name the continents countries and come up with my own histories and explorer paths.

Trigger 2: I woke from a dream at 2 a.m. one weekend and I had to find a pencil and paper.  The dream was so vivid, complex and self consistent.  It involved life and living forever within two realms.  There was confusion at the start of it but things became clear and as I moved through the dream it was mysterious objects and people became less mysterious.  I began to understand as several realizations came to be.  By the end of the dream everything was revealed and a wonderful sense of peace came over me.

This led to me knowing that ideas are in me, that dream came from my mind and exists from ideas that my mind was able to piece together.  I knew then that the ideas would come, I simply lack the technical skills.  However this is something I believe that can be learned.

I am a big believer in what Galileo stated centuries ago, "You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him discover it within himself."  I have it, we all have it, it can be released.

To New Heights