Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wrapping Up the Year ... and a Few Other Things

Well, I haven’t managed to keep blogging as often as I’d hoped, but I’m sure you’ve read that on other blogs before. And you’ve probably read blog authors saying they plan to “do better” from here on out. Yes, that’s me. I am hoping to blog more often in 2016. BUT, I will note that, as an author, I will always choose my fiction work first. If I was a full-time author, maybe I could budget time more easily for fiction and blogging, but... 

Anyhow, I think blogging is worthwhile to do, so I will keep trying my best, and I hope my best means posting more consistently in the future. 

What got in the way? I got sort of a dream job. Well, my dream job is writing full time, and it’s not that. But it’s a good (and good-paying) paralegal job. Now, I already had a job, so the end of my year involved winding down at the old job and jumping in (with no break) at the new one. I have a lot to learn, and that’s kept me busy and frazzled for the past couple weeks. But I keep telling myself: IT WILL GET BETTER! 

It also means my fiction writing – mainly my rewriting/revision of my novel, Cosmic Ray: A Science-Fiction Mystery Adventure, has had to go on the back burner a lot. But I’ve been inching along on it, and will continue to do so until I have a second draft ready to be beta read.

I also signed up for a challenge – 85K in 90 days – which means I’ll be working on a new novel from January-March, trying to get approximately 85,000 words done on a first draft by March 31st. I CAN DO THIS! (Though I should note that I have a ghost story due, too, by January 15th, so I’ll be making that the first part of my 85K words.) 

So, with all that out of the way, a few last things for 2015:

1. Accomplishments this year: Big one is finishing the first draft of Cosmic Ray. I began it in mid-2013, but barely worked on it during the first half of 2014 (was in school full time). It’s 111K words now. I also completed first drafts of a few short stories, but they need some serious revision.

2. Irritating trend this year: People lecturing each other online. I hear people getting upset about a phenomenon they call “mansplaining” quite often (this is when a man feels he must explain a topic to a woman because, as a man, he knows more, and she needs help), but I’ve seen it go both ways this year (on Twitter and Facebook, mainly). Yes, this means women addressing posts to “men” and telling us things with the tone of a mother scolding a child because, you know, we are all big, stupid, sexist brutes. My point isn’t so much about the sexism part, but ... what makes people feel they ought to go online and lecture about this or that? I guess I probably have done it, too (maybe I’m doing it now?), but I am working to avoid doing it, AND to avoid reading it (or, my usual fatal mistake, arguing with the lecturer). I hope we, as a species, will outgrow this confrontational, belittling crap at some point.

3. Finally, I don’t think it makes one racist to express surprise and/or disappointment about there now being a black Hermione Granger in Harry Potter (or that her true appearance has been revealed, if you prefer). This is different from the ire that happens when one finds out a black actor has been cast as the Human Torch, I believe. I think the surprise, at least for me, comes from the fact that an actress who happens to be white – Emma Watson – played the character in eight films and made the role her own. I think she and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) both became the faces of those characters for a lot of people. I would be surprised to see another in the role of Harry as I am with Hermione. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, but, sure, it’s a bit jarring. Also, one wonders why Ms. Rowling never spoke up before. I had thought she’d had input into the films. I’ll admit, I’m not overly well-versed in this particular controversy, so if I missed something, feel free to educate (without lecturing, please) me.
I think that’s it for me for 2015. I may do a “looking back/looking forward” post on Facebook later, and I might copy/past that here. We’ll see.

I wish you all a healthy, happy, enthralling 2016!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shame on All of Us

Can nothing of worth come from someone who is racist, sexist, or homophobic? Should we reject any writer or artist – refuse to read/see/hear/acknowledge his or her works – because he or she holds views we find repellent? Should we have some sort of tolerance threshold, some level of flaws we’ll allow in a creative person before we say, “No more!” and refuse to consume any more of his or her products? And, in the age of social media, should we publicly call out these artists? Should we “shame” people for continuing to enjoy their art?

The question is often phrased this way: Can or should you separate the art from the artist? But I think it’s more complicated than that. There are so many other issues surrounding this central one.

The genesis of this post for me was the recent decision by the board of the World Fantasy Awards to change the look of the award statuette it bestows upon fantasy authors each year. Since its inception, the award has been a bust of the author H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft, though revered as a writer (mainly by horror fans, I believe), is what you’d called “problematic.” He held racist and xenophobic views. These were evident in his letters, which may not have been made public during his short lifetime, but were also painfully obvious in a few of his stories and poems. So one author started a petition to have the World Fantasy Award bust changed, possibly to a likeness of author Octavia Butler (Lovecraft is known mainly as a horror writer, Butler as a science fiction author, but that’s neither here nor there, I suppose). The petition was successful, and the bust will no longer be of Lovecraft. You can read more about the story here.

Now I love some of Lovecraft’s stories. I don’t usually write horror, but I would say that, by reading his works, I learned some things about the craft of writing, for which I am eternally grateful to him. I even based a recent short story of mine – “Polarity” – and one of his (“Polaris”). Yes, absolutely, when I read some of his racist words, my gut sank. It was disgusting, frankly. But somehow that didn’t – for me – taint all his writings.

Of course there have been times when a creative person’s public persona has made me feel unable to enjoy his/her output. When Charlton Heston became an enthusiastic booster of the NRA, and made his “cold, dead hands” speech, I’ll admit, my joy at watching “Planet of the Apes” or “Touch of Evil” was diminished. And sometimes it’s easy to “give up” a particular artist: if you’ve never been interested in Orson Scott Card’s books, for example, it’s not that difficult to boycott a big Hollywood production made from one of them (Ender’s Game).

What seems “newish” to me, though, is the many people who take to Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets to “call out” or “shame” anyone who continues to enjoy the work of one of these problematic creators. You need to be “schooled” in why it’s wrong, they say. “Continue to read so-and-so,” they offer, “but at least admit you’re supporting a racist/sexist/homophobe/etc.”

I suppose this sort of thing is a valid tool for change. Of course the shame merchants have the right to say what they do. And peer pressure can make people either change (at least publicly) or expose their darker natures. But some of it has this strange air of “I’m more pure than you.” You must meet the shame merchant’s standard or you are flat out bigoted and worthless.

So what’s “right” here? What is the right thing to do? I still read Lovecraft and admire his writing. What do I do? Do I admit I’m a racist? I don’t think I am. I am guessing most human beings have some racist aspects within their beings, whether they are conscious of them or not. But I don’t believe people are different/inferior/superior because of their skin color. So then am I supporting a racist? Well, I could point out that Lovecraft is long dead, so is getting none of my money. Would I read his works if he were alive and able to profit from them? I don’t know, truthfully. Should I be shamed for liking his writing (to be clear, that which does not contain racist themes)? If so, should I work to shame others for their likes as well? The argument could go round and round – someone criticizes me, I could find out what they like and why they are not as pure as they hold themselves out to be. “How can you slam me for liking Lovecraft, when you like [fill in a name here]?”

I’ll end by linking to some articles about some problematic authors. Are any of your favorites among them? Well, should you stop enjoying their work now, or what? Toss it into the dustbin of history? What would we gain and what would we lose?

And this is just Norman Mailer!

Monday, November 2, 2015

To Write to Market or Not To Write to Market ... That is the Question!

Writerly musings: Lately I’ve been dogged a lot by the question of whether to “write to market” – to try and write what will sell – or to “write what I love/feel/know.”

Of course it’s not entirely a choice. Maybe I can’t write a bestseller, even if I want and try to. Maybe I can only write what I love, which, who knows? Could turn out to be a bestseller in the end. Or maybe I’ll never have anything else published, no matter what I try.

But I guess it centers on what I want to try for. I’ve seen some of the popular works – maybe not the million-sellers, but series with followings, and which seem to have new volumes added just about every six months to a year – and I think, “I could maybe do that, couldn’t I?” And part of me wants to give it a go. Even if I want to keep writing my personal, idiosyncratic work, it might not hurt to learn how to write what sells, right? If I can, I mean?

What do you think, fellow writers and readers? Writers: do you wrestle with this at all? For you, is being a writer and a success synonymous with making sales and being famous? Or would you be happy writing what you love, no matter how weird, even if few people ever read it?

Readers: Do you take chances on obscure work, books and/or movies or TV shows you’ve not heard much about? Would you rather read books in extensive series, in established genres, by authors you’ve heard of, whom you might hear interviewed on NPR or something?


Writing news: We went to Rockport, Massachusetts, for the Halloween weekend, and the folks at Toad Hall Bookstore were nice enough to take a chance on a few copies of our books. So, if you happen to be there, or like to order from indie bookstores, AND you’d like to check out our books, consider Toad Hall. They don’t make too many like Toad Hall anymore!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Can You Admit When You Were Wrong?

I was thinking of trying to start a new tradition (if someone hasn't beaten me to this one). I’d call it “Make Amends Day,” or “Admit Your Mistakes Day.” Maybe it could even be observed monthly. The idea being that you would get to unburden yourself (seriously, it’s a good, helpful thing to do for yourself and others) by saying, essentially, “I’m sorry I screwed up.”

Some background: I felt I had to apologize to a fellow writer today for being overly critical of some of his work. I realized I was being harsh because of a personal issue. I don’t like the idea of “writing to market,” i.e. seeing what trends are “hot” and trying to craft a novel or piece of writing that will fit the trend and ride it to success. Think about how many imitators of Harry Potter, the Twilight novels, and Fifty Shades of Grey there were. There are certain “marks” a writer should “hit” to make a work more likely to be published under this philosophy. Whole categories have been created by marketers to excite the public into buying books: “paranormal romance” comes to mind. And the latest one I’ve heard: “new adult fiction.” According to Wikipedia, it’s designed to appeal to 18-30-year-old readers. I’d always thought those were simply “adult readers,” but what do I know? 

But that’s me – I realized that, just because I don’t like things, that doesn’t make them bad or wrong. So I felt I had to apologize to my fellow writer. Some of my criticism was at least tinged with my dislike for what he was doing: writing to market. I realized I should really focus on how he is writing, not what he is writing.

Beyond that, I am getting excited for the Local Author Fair I’ll be attending (as one of the guests) this Saturday. I don’t really know what to expect. I will have a table with some books to sell, but I hope people will want to chat, too. There’s been conflicting information on whether we (the authors) will be reading from our work, so I will prepare something just in case. And, to add a plea to readers her, I HOPE people will leave reviews of our work somewhere! Sure, authors are their own first audiences, but we do hope others will read and get something out of our works. Short of talking to an author in person, the best way to acknowledge you liked (or disliked, for that matter) their stories is by leaving reviews. Please do so, even if they are short or not grammatically perfect. It really is the thought that counts. 

With that, I’m off, back to revising my novel. If I can, I may read a bit from it at the Fair!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Circling the Task

Hello my writing and reading friends!

So it's Halloween month in Salem, MA, which means crazy times here. We've been through the madness uptown a few times - vendors, people in costumes, eerie music coming from everywhere, and the Terror Fantasies Art Show. Quite fun, and good exercise (getting in my "steps" quite a lot this month).

It also means things like this come back to haunt me - Photoshop projects from when I was in school for Publishing Arts from 2007-2009:


And finally:

These were all the result of collage, made by merging several photos. I could put images up of the individual photos if anyone's interested.

Anyhow, things have been slower on the novel-revising front. I've tackled it and been pushed back a few times. But I know it's just a matter of keeping at it. I even got some advice from my uncle who's a writer, Marshall Cook, that's been helpful.

Meantime, since I've found revising at work next to impossible, I'm working on a new story. No idea if it'll become a novel or what, but it plays with campy superhero tropes a la Batman (1960s TV show). More news as it becomes available.

Finally, getting ready to put up posters for the author event my wife, EC Hanlon, and I will be working at on October 24th. Excited and nervous!

And that's the news from sunny, autumn-chilled Salem!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Writing Book Recommendation: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

As I'm rereading and preparing to edit my current novel-in-progress (and getting towards the end of the reread), I'm thinking about facing the terrors I have over revision and rewriting. It's about making choices - what do I throw away? What do I add? Is the new stuff I'm writing better than the old stuff I'm replacing it with?

It's nearly enough to paralyze me!

A friend came through with a recommendation - a book to read to help me focus while revising on things to look for.

The book is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Sure, some of what they say I've heard before - "show don't tell," "use more active verbs," and so forth. But they give LOTS of examples and they show before-and-after bits, showing selections with "mistakes" and how they'd rewrite them.

I'm sure I won't remember every piece of advice when I get to the "dreaded task," but there are enough nuggets in my brain that I think it will help when I wade into it. It makes me a little more hopeful anyway!

Any fellow writers have advice on how to revise?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rollercoaster of Life

Back again ... a tad more than a week since last post, but I think I'm keeping up with the new schedule.

This week has been filled with ups and downs on the writing front. To wit:

  • Continued rereading my novel, Cosmic Ray, in preparation to do the second draft.
  • Submitted a story to my writers' group for critique. The story is one for inclusion in our next ghost story anthology. The critique didn't go so well, I feel.
  • Got a poster and press release for a "Local Author Event" I'm part of (will try to attach the image below).

Up, down, up. High, low, high. Unfortunately, they didn't go exactly in that order!

So I'm wondering, if I may ask anyone reading: How do you bounce back from rejection? How do you hack it when things make you question whether you should go on?

I've had times when I've said, "I should just give up trying to be a writer." But I've found I couldn't. Yet I'm getting towards 50 now, and I've put in what I consider my best efforts yet. And still I'm feeling low about some of it. So how to keep getting up off the mat and back in the fight?

I got back to rereading Cosmic Ray today, and it helped a little. I think I'm going to have to do some pretty massive rewriting of the first five chapters, but it gets better around Chapters 7 and 8. So that gives me some hope.

What gives you hope?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Back to the Battle!

Been away from this blog for some time, but am hoping to get it going on a regular basis - at least once per week - again.

The good news is, I've been busy! A lot of it has been writing. I finished my novel, "Cosmic Ray." Well, I finished it as in "I got to the end of the story." It now needs a re-read and a lot of revision, but I've begun that process. Finding it daunting, though. I've done a lot of writing recently, but revision? Not so much. So shifting gears has proved a little tough. More on that in a moment ...

Also wrote two short stories for consideration in an anthology put out by the North Shore Writers' Group here in Salem, MA. I'm a member of the group, and my story, "An Ill Wind," about a (maybe) superhero whose alter-ego died, is in the first book, Ghost Writers. Now, I've picked one of the new stories to ... revise!

So, yes ... having some problems with revision. One issue is that I seem to need few distractions around me when I revise. When writing, I seem able to tune out the chatter of others around me, but not when revising. I have less time home alone (I used to stay up quite late, and did some work after everyone else went to bed, but not anymore), so it's been hard to get to. I've bought a book on how to "self-edit" for writers. I am going to get it done ... it's just NEVER as fast as I'd like it to be.

On the non-writing front, I finally got a full-time permanent job, so I am less stressed about that. I even have some time to write while at work. Plus!

Been reading some good sci-fi and other books. A friend turned me on to Ray Bradbury. My writing often has a certain "flowery/florid" quality, and my friend said Ray was expert at this. Boy was she right! I read Something Wicked This Way Comes, and was blown away by how he found new, poetic ways to say things. That's something I love doing.

Also finally reading early Flash Gordon strips in prep for my revising of "Cosmic Ray." It's a tribute to Flash Gordon-y stuff, so I want to steep myself in Flash and other Flash-like things as I approach the rewriting and finalizing.

Also checking out some "Legion of Super-Heroes" comics in prep for my next novel project, about which I'll say very little at this point.

I like to end with a (series of) question(s) ... this one's for the fellow writers out there: How do you manage your revisions? How do you manage to "kill your darlings" (i.e. get rid of some of the words you've so lovingly written)? And what do you do when you're not sure whether the "new stuff" is better or worse than the "old stuff" (that which you're removing/replacing)?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: Revelation Space

Been trying to get more reading done, and to read some of the most recommended books in my preferred genre. Here's the first.

Revelation Space (Revelation Space, #1)Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a pretty awesome book, mainly for the concepts, mood, plot, and characters. Just when I thought I'd figured out where Reynolds was headed, he went somewhere else. Lots of interesting, mind-stretching ideas, and the world building was top notch. The only downside? I found the writing a little cold. It might be by design, but Reynolds' world here is not a place with much love. Even anger is mostly muted. When he does dip into the romance/sexual pool, it's good. Again, maybe the chilliness of the characters was intended? I definitely want to read more in this series.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Random Thoughts

Been another month (well, a little more)! Sorry. Lots of reasons, but none of real import, I suspect.

Just to reiterate, this is my blog about writing - no politics or really personal stories here, unless they relate to my writing in some valid way. Also, these posts aren't going to be heavily edited ... I want to chat and share, but I'm saving my agonized-over writing for my fiction.

1. Perfect/Ideal Dream vs. Imperfect/Messy Reality

My wife and I have been re-watching one of my favorite shows - Carnivale - an HBO series from the early 2000s. Every time I re-watch it (I guess every couple of years), my mind reels, and I wonder where the show's creator would have taken it. You see, the show was canceled after two seasons. It had been planned to run six. So, of course, like a good little Information Age guy, I go scouting around online for info. With this show, there's a good bit of material online. It's really not quite satisfying, though. It gives you enough to speculate, but no firm answers.

And that is what makes it perfect.

What do I mean? Well, you can't really be unhappy with how he (the show's creator) ended it, 'cause he never did. Yes, you can be upset with how it actually ended (inconclusively) on TV or DVD, but, since we never got to see the finale as he would have done it ...

Instead, we can only think, "Wow - just imagine! Maybe he would have gone here?" And because there are so many possibilities in our own heads, and because nothing was set down on tape (or film, or paper, or whatever), we can't quibble with the mistakes made, the poor choices, the opportunities blown, etc. Maybe if Carnivale had ended ... if the creator had been allowed to complete his six seasons, it wouldn't be one of my favorite shows? But I'll never know.

I think sometimes it's like this when writing my own work, too. It's so perfect and pristine in my head. I haven't messed up yet. I haven't put down any awkward sentences yet. I haven't gone down any avenues with my plot that I later regretted and said, "Crap, now I have to go back and rewrite that whole section!" Really, my only regret before I've written something is that I don't yet have it down on paper (or screen, or whatever) for myself and others to read.

But you have to take the plunge, at least if you ever want to share your work with others. Sure, many might dislike it, might "diss" the choices you made or the actual turns of phrase you've set down, but ... also? Some ... even just a few ... might really like it.

And then you can call it "done" and move on to the next thing.

2. Exciting Points

Had a couple super-cool-groovy things happen to me with my novel-in-progress recently.

First, a scene that I'd had in my head for a long time, maybe not since I started the book, but certainly pretty early on ... well, I came to that scene in the book. So exciting to see this thing that's been in my head for so long, and that is pivotal to the story, come to fruition. It's not like getting to the ending of the book, but it's a bit like that - like reaching a finish line, or something striven for.

Also, I was doing something ... showering, I think ... when I was suddenly able to visualize in my head the basic plot for the rest of the book. Now, I don't tend to write outlines for my book ahead of time. I have basic ideas, some of which I write down, others that I don't, but I don't really tend to have things broken down into chapters, etc.

But this had happened with my first book, Falling Into Fate, too: I came to a point at which I just suddenly could visualize what had to happen all the way through to the end of the book. I hurriedly wrote it all down, and, from that point, it felt like I was riding a waterfall comfortably to the end of my first draft. I am hoping that's what will happen this time, too. But it felt good to get the ideas down on paper (well, the screen).

That's it for now! Do you folks find similar things with your works?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What Makes a Hero? My Take ...

Sorry for the delay between posts - been a rough month!

So my question for consideration today is: What makes a hero? For you? What kinds of heroes do you like to write or read about?

It seems the idea of what makes a good hero changes over time. Yes, of course there are some constants, and, as people like Joseph Campbell will tell you, there are some basic types of stories that are told and re-told. But I think the kinds of guys we like to follow as main characters in our genre fiction do tend to morph over the decades.

What do I mean? Well ...

I've realized I like to write and read about a type of hero (by the way, not intending to slight heroines here ... I have written from a female point-of-view at times, and hope to again, but, being a man, I'll admit I slip more easily into the male viewpoint when writing) that's kind of out of vogue. My kind of hero was more popular in the 1970s. Which is really no surprise, since my formative years were in that decade. These were the sorts of heroes I read about and watched back then:

They tended to be flawed. They tended to be sensitive and/or vulnerable - not really "larger than life," but approachable. They weren't flawless of body or face. But they were also Good guys, trying to do the right thing by everyone, even when they got dumped on by their friends for doing so.

Some examples?

Luke Skywalker, I think, is one. Han Solo was the more traditional hero in "Star Wars" - confident, handsome, skilled, and "badass." Luke was wide-eyed, hopeful, nervous ... but also pure, willing to believe, and easy to hurt. He won me over. Yes, by "Return of the Jedi," he'd become confident and powerful, but he still seemed to have that real Good about him, a sensitivity.

Of course there's Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I realize he came out of the 1960s, but I started reading his adventures in the '70s, and I really related to him. Again, he took as much crap from his friends as from his enemies, but he always tried to do the good and right thing, sure that it was worth doing, even if he failed and was laughed at.

Been re-watching "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," and, while Buck (played by Gil Gerard) is a pretty confident ladies man type, he's not the heroic ideal of today ... the actor was kind of pudgy and imperfect looking ... he got by on charm and sincerity a lot.

Even Indiana Jones ... yes, he was skilled and heroic, but his plans blew up in his face a lot, and he had to improvise. He could be hurt by women and by cutting remarks from his father.

Okay, so how do these compare with later heroes? You get into the '80s, and you get musclebound guys like Schwarzenegger and Stallone, and you get seemingly indestructible ones, too. Even later, you've got guys who are downright mean, dark, anti-heroes, really ... look at the differences between the 1970s Superman and the more recent one. You might consider Chris Pratt's Starlord from last year's "Guardians of the Galaxy" to be a throwback, and he was, in some ways, but even he had to "buff up" for the role. No more doughy, soft guys in heroic roles!

So I'll admit it ... my heroes in my stories tend to the nerdy, the flabby (at least at first), the friendly, the messed up ... can I succeed writing stories like that? Will people accept these "dinosaurs," or has the time of those sorts of characters passed?

What types of heroes do you like?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Excerpt Time!

One of the things I'd hoped to do with this blog is share my writing. So, today, I bring you the first of, I hope, many excerpts.

This is from my published novel, "Falling Into Fate." It's from an early chapter, and it really starts in motion the mission my little band of characters undertakes. Any questions, feel free to ask!

I'd love comments and/or followers!

From Chapter Three ...

The town, West Serra Land, had been decimated by a band of marauders. I’d read in history books about the raping and pillaging that was supposed to have gone on in medieval times, but I’d never imagined I’d end up seeing what the results looked like firsthand. Flames chewed up rickety wooden structures, and bloodied bodies, some with weeping relatives crouched around them, darkened the landscape. Up to this point I can tell you I’d been somewhat nonchalant about my transformation and adventure—I wasn’t sure yet whether to believe it was really happening or that it was some sort of psychotic episode, but somehow it hadn’t turned me into a quivering jellyfish. Now, as I saw what looked, smelled, and felt like real death for the first time, I began to truly know fear.

The others moved about in the ashes, turning over body after body and swearing. Domitrus was administering some sort of liquid to a wounded man, who convulsed, wracked with pain, and spit it up. Orlacc and Therra began questioning the cowering locals about the identity of the invaders and the whereabouts of the Sage. Parkel, like me, stood and surveyed the carnage with a look of uncertainty wafting with the smoke across his boyish face. His frustration over Therra and Orlacc had been momentarily forgotten. After a while, Orlacc beckoned us together.

“My friends, fear not,” he said. “We shall avenge this good village of the deeds perpetrated by those bastards my stepfather sent. But in the meantime, we have been given the location of the Sage’s den. I suggest we find him immediately.”

We all agreed to that pretty quickly! Anything had to be better than standing around, surrounded by the dead and dying. We followed Orlacc down a few of the village’s dirt roads, and soon we arrived at a stone hut. Water dripped from the thatched roof, and tiny trails of smoke from the recently extinguished fires rose into the air. The wooden door had been battered in, and it was half off its hinges. We all looked at each other, and, seeing nothing better to do, we pushed the door open and entered. It was pitch dark inside the hut, and I couldn’t make out any people or furniture.

“Maybe he left?” I asked.

“Quiet, Morrela—!”

Suddenly, from out of the darkness, someone leapt on Orlacc’s back before he could finish yelling at me. A silver knife blade caught the light. There were sounds of scuffling, and then, apparently, Orlacc pinned his attacker.

“Unhand me! Unhand me!” a shrill voice cried. “Haven’t you monsters done enough damage for one day?”

Orlacc’s voice growled out of the blackness. “Listen, you little old pip-squeak! We’ve come for your help—not to harm you!”

All at once, a sizzling ball of luminescence appeared in the middle of the room, flooding it with a watery green light. Orlacc was on the floor on top of a little old Chinese guy in a robe. The skin of the man’s face, hands, and feet was spotted with brown and folded into hundreds of intricate wrinkles, and his long ponytail was the color of rock salt, but even with these cues, I was hard-pressed to guess his age—he could have been 65 or 99. His features seemed to shift a bit in the unearthly light.

The rest of us were arrayed about the room. A bloodied dagger lay on the ground.

“Well then,” the little old man started, “let me up and tell me who you are.”

- End Excerpt -

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wordcount vs. Waiting for Inspiration

The Year of Our Lad (as some folks here in the Boston, MA, area might pronounce it) 2015 has been a toughie for this writer so far. It's been tough getting going after the daze of Xmas/New Year's/etc. I had been turning out (or turning in?) some words on my novel most days, but, so far this year, I've only really had one productive day. So I got a bit mopey about it on Facebook, and ...

Most of my writer friends understand the battle. You want to get into a routine. You want to produce every day (of course you want what you produce to be great, but you also just want to Get Stuff Done). If it ain't great, you can always revise it to be so at some point down the road.

But others - even a few writers - will say "only do it (write) when you're inspired." "You don't want to turn out half-hearted crap."

And they've got a point. I don't.

So how to strike a balance? How to keep momentum going ... keep in practice ... while not turning writing into a chore or "necessary evil," like exercise can be?

I'm not sure I've got an answer. In fact, I'd love suggestions. I will say that I've sometimes made progress by just doing it and not really paying attention to whether I'm making progress or not. And then I look back and see that, yeah, I've made some progress. It's been like that the past few months. NaNoWriMo came along for November, and, while I knew I wouldn't be able to really participate, I decided to TRY and turn out some words every day. I didn't, but I did it most days. And, in the process, I put down about 10,000 words in November. That's not an astounding amount, but it definitely blew away what I usually did. And I did a lot in December, too.

And then I hit January, and ... thud. Hardly anything. What gives?

Anyhow ... I've been in this game long enough to know I'll figure it out, at least I'll figure some of it out. I'll be writing again and getting some great words down. It's just a matter of when and how. But there are some "blocks" I have in general that I'd love to defeat ... perfectionism being the biggest. Anyone else have problems like these? What do you do?

I'll close this entry with a couple of requests: If you like this blog, consider following, please, so I know you're interested. Also, if you've read either my book or short story, which are both available on Amazon, please, please, please leave at least a short review ... even one sentence.

A writer likes to know someone is reading. Sure, we dream up/live these stories for ourselves, but the main reason to write them down is to share them with others!


Friday, January 2, 2015

Frustrations and Blown Days

So it's not all good news. Being a writer, whether full- or part-time, definitely has it's ups and downs. Inevitably you get Those Days, ones during which it's hard or even impossible to make headway, to write.

Today was and is one of Those Days. I figured I'd try to write about what its like, and do it while I'm still immersed in the frustration.

Why can't I write today? Well, there are lots of reasons, but none of them are really things that have to keep me from doing it. But here are some of them:

  • I've got a headache.
  • The kids are around, being loud, fighting, being distracting.
  • I'm not feeling good about myself in general.
  • I had other, paying, legal writing to do today, and it burned up a lot of my energy.
  • My wife has to go in for a medical procedure tomorrow morning, and we have to leave very early.
  • And it's late now ... I just sat down to write at 10 pm or so, which is kind of late to begin.
  • My novel's at a critical scene, and I *really* want the scene and the writing to be GOOD; it is "of consequence.
  • Etc.

I don't know ... I could probably come up with at least five more. Suffice it to say, I felt like I lost the battle tonight. I sat down, re-read the last part of my chapter, said to myself, "Okay, it'll need revision eventually, but it's going well," and then ...

I decided to pack it in (yes, this is me packing it in, I guess!). Have to get up @ 6 am tomorrow, and it's 11:20 pm. I just don't have it in me to get started now. Not even a paragraph or two. I'm going to just read a book for 15-20 minutes until I'm ready to sleep.

No big deal, you think? It shouldn't be, but then these thoughts start creeping in: What if I die before I finish my story? What if I keep putting the writing off, and then I'm old and it's too late to become a Real Writer? What if I forget what I was going to write? What if people read or see that I didn't get serious writing done ... won't they judge me?

And it's noise, noise, noise ... the brain won't quiet.

I haven't got an answer for this battle yet. I think I'm telling myself that I don't have much choice tonight - I need to be awake to take care of what I have to take care of in the morning, and I am just too tired and headache-y now. I have begun mulling how to pull this scene off in my head, so maybe it needs to gestate for a while before I start getting it down on "paper." I don't know, but I have been doing this long enough to know I will feel good about my writing again, soon. I don't know how well or when this book will come together and be Ready for Public Consumption, but I'm determined to not give up.

So I'm shutting it down this time. The battle ended the way it did, and will be joined anew again tomorrow. I will beat the obstacles and ride the joy again. But for now, I sleep, and my mind recharges (I hope).

How do you handle these situations, my fellow authors and humans?