Category Archives: Uncategorized

Friday Dreaming

I dream a lot. I always have. And, when I’m not able to spend as much time writing as I l’d like, or apparently need to, my brain kicks the dreaming into complete overdrive.

I don’t usually mind it as I love where my sleeping mind takes me. I don’t try to analyze the dreams or figure out how they relate to my waking world. I don’t want them to have symbolic meaning, I just want to enjoy them. Heck, when I find foods or drinks that cause me even more vivid dreams (i.e. Doritos and apple juice – give it a shot) I don’t avoid them. Not at all…

There are stretches when I’ll dream a ton and be exhausted no matter how much sleep I get, but oh well… It’s a small price to pay. It’s worth it even if you can never explain the power of your dreams to another person. As soon as you try, they start to just sound silly.

I don’t know if it relates to dreaming or not, but the part of my mind that’s focused on writing – on storytelling- is usually kicked into high gear as well. And it seems to be on a fairly set timer too. Even though I’m still working on my second novel, my mind thinks I’ve had enough time to finish and has jumped ahead to another story. One that I’m excited about but can’t work on yet. So I’ll have to settle for scribbling down some notes about it and hold off. It happened like this with the first novel too. Apparently im supposed to take about 4 months less to write them.

What ever happened to the days when rich people were true patrons of the arts? When they would take some creative person and pay their way through life, allowing them to focus on their artistic endeavors? Did that die out? Or was that only for painters and sculptors anyway…? I’m just saying, I’ll wear a jacket with your name on it while I’m writing in the coffee shop, or a hat with your family crest if that’s what it takes…

But I just need to find more time to write, to go along with what counts as ‘real’ work. Because I have no worries at all about writer’s block. I’m more concerned about having time to get all of the stories out before I get too backed up.

Or maybe if I get too far behind, I’ll start to see the movie version in my dreams before the book even comes out. Shudder…

Shhh… Let’s Talk

Before saying anything else this morning, I want to say ‘Thank You!’.  In such a short amount of time, so many of you have come out to check out the site and read what I’ve been babbling about.  And I definitely appreciate it!

Today, as I’m typing this, we’re closing in on our 8000th view.  Wow…thank you.  It’s so much more fun to write when people are reading!

That said, you’re definitely a quiet bunch.  Considering that I read a few different blogs on a regular basis and have hardly ever commented, I’m not exactly one to talk.  But I’m curious…  Curious about what you like, what you don’t, what you want to read more about, and what different perspectives you’re bringing with you.

So even if you’d like to enter a note telling me where you’re from – VA, KY, PA, CA, etc – I’d be curious to know and see what different areas are being represented and are coming here to read.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.  Again, thank you for reading.  Its been fun to see you all show up and I really appreciate you taking the time.

Talk later!

The Life of a Novel

I’m old school.  I’ll admit it.

I like to read actual books, turning paper pages.  And I like to handwrite the rough drafts of my stories or novels.  There’s something that just feels more tangible about it that way.   I don’t think I’ll ever own a Kindle and I don’t think I’ll be found writing in a coffee shop on a laptop rather than a legal pad.   It’s just the way I am.

There’s also something intimate about loaning someone a book.  Handing off pages of printed words that made an impact on you in some way and believing that it will impact that other  individual as well.  Though loaning a book isn’t always loaning.  Taking it from your bookshelf and setting it into another pair of hands never comes with the expectation of receiving it back.  And that’s okay with me.  As long as it gets read and passed on to people who will appreciate the story and the passion that’s behind it, that’s all that really matters.

That being said, I once loaned a book to a friend, knowing that she would really enjoy it.  A few months later when I had a few people over for dinner, she slipped a book onto the shelf, telling me that she was returning what I’d loaned to her.  I didn’t think anything of it until I caught a glimpse of it on the shelf sometime later.

I joked about having never seen it before (because it was a different printing of the same book that I had loaned her), but she was insistent.  Enough so that I could tell how uncomfortable she felt about it, so I let it drop.  I wanted to tell her that she didn’t have to replace it if she’d lost it, that loaning a book is a potential gift in my mind, but instead I played dumb for the sake of her feelings and slid the brand new copy back onto the shelf,

What you do want back though is any copy of your own writing that you loan out.  Trusting another individual to read a rough draft of what you have in progress is a difficult thing – at least it is for me – and is something only for a very select few.  I once loaned a copy of what was my novel-in-progress to a girlfriend, letting her in to that extremely select and treasured group.  It was a hundred pages of computer paper printed single-spaced, put in plastic sleeves and held together in a white binder.  Yes, I remember it vividly.  It was quickly read and I received wonderful feedback – the kind you can only receive from someone who is passionate about reading your work and wants the best for it – wanting the warts removed and the story to sing.  And this copy stayed with her while I made all of the revisions on the computer.

Months went by and I didn’t get it back.  I didn’t give it any thought.   More months went by and…yep, you’ve probably already guessed…  We broke up.  Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, right?

I didn’t care about getting my shirts back, or CD’s or DVDs, or anything silly like that.  But the novel, my inner thoughts, two years of my blood put to paper…?  That was something that I didn’t want out there somewhere completely lost to me.  More months went by.  Awkward conversations occurred, then civil conversations occurred, but still the novel wasn’t returned.  Christmas came around and I hoped it might be returned as a present, but it didn’t find its way to my tree.  The months continued to pass and it was never able to find its way home.

In the spring we talked and she told me that she had thrown it out.  And, as much as that hurt, I wondered.  Wondered if it was true, wondered if that was something she was capable of doing, wondered if there was a part of her that might have valued it enough that she had wanted to keep it as a memento instead.

I’d like to think that it’s in a box under her bead, or packed away in her closet.  At best maybe it’s in a drawer in her bedside table, at worst maybe under boxes of tangled Christmas tree lights in her garage.

But if not, and it’s truly piled under tons of garbage in a trash heap somewhere, at least I can hold on to this…  The pages are all in plastic sheets, so that story will live on forever…..

Brought To You By The Letter 7

Maybe I’m being foolish, but I worry.  I’m usually a very easygoing guy (if anything ever happens where TV news crews roll out to interview my neighbors, they’ll say ‘He seemed so nice and quiet’.  Though they’ll probably add that ‘He did go on long walks with that cat though.  That seemed weird…’.  But, as usual, I digress.

I love finding new authors and original voices.  While I may occasionally find myself to be jealous of the commercial success of an author or two, I believe in supporting people who have the skills to bring stories to life with the written word.  I’m just afraid that we might find their numbers decreasing as less people grow up with childhoods that are interesting.  Or where they actually do anything at all.

Okay, I’ll admit that I have a cell phone.  And a tablet.  And a computer.  And cable television at home…  But I had none of those things growing up (unless you count a Tandy computer from Radio Shack without color or any redeeming qualities whatsoever so I definitely don’t).  Without those, I read (even going to the local library on a regular basis), and played baseball and football and soccer with my friends.

During the summer months we’d be dashing outside as soon as we woke up and barely saw the inside of a house during daylight hours.  We learned the hard way not to attack bee’s nests with an aerosol can.  I came millimeters away from shooting a bottle rocket up Lindsey’s nose when I was surprised to discover that the lighter we’d found actually did have a little bit of fluid left inside.  We launched walnuts that dropped out of the trees in our yards out into the rest of the neighborhood using tennis rackets.  We built dangerous forts with heavy, rusted and sharp-edged metal sheets that had been abandoned by a failed manufacturing company.  We may not have been the smartest in some of the things that we did, but we all have plenty of stories to tell.  One hour of watching cartoons on a Saturday morning followed up with a “get out of the house” decree ensured that we’d find our own entertainment.

Differences are great and no one has to have a childhood like mine.  But memorizing the broadcast schedule of every televised cartoon doesn’t make a kid a genius.  Being able to quote every episode of every Disney, Disney Jr. or Nick Jr. shows isn’t a sign of brilliance.  Being able to pull up brightly colored apps on electronic devices isn’t a learning game.  Not when these same little wonders are going to school at a later age than we used to, haven’t even started to read or write, and can’t tell a letter from a number.

I’m not trying to judge.  They’ll learn.  They’ll grow up and do whatever grown ups do.  But if they’re not kicked off their devices and kicked out the door to see what the real world is really like, they might not have much of anything interesting to say to the rest of us.  With very few crazy experiences and too little imagination to make any up, I can’t see them forming the next generation of writers.

But, lest you think I’m a complete book vs. TV snob, I’ll end with a quote from a TV character you might know…

“And that’s what really grinds my gears…”

 

 

 

“Pay attention to me,” she says.

It’s been a grey, rainy day here today.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about that at all. Rain inspires me. There’s just something about having weather that’s a little bit ‘off’ to kick in the creative energy.  Especially during those times when you’re driving through it to go to work instead.  Then the ideas really start flowing.  Call it bad timing…

Today would have been a great day to be sitting at the desk cranking out a few chapters while watching the rain steadily run down the windows. Or maybe to be sitting in a coffee shop in a comfy, overstuffed chair listening to the people come in and go out, shaking off the water and placing their orders for hot drinks. Especially since one of my characters has been not so politely requesting my attention.

Right now, two of my main characters are trying to figure out just what they’re pursuing together. They may be starting a relationship but it’s still in that awkward stage that could go in any number of directions. And I haven’t had the time to get back to them in a while.  And Marla’s not happy about that at all…

[Editor’s Note:  ‘Marla’ is the current name being used in the working manuscript and may change – based on whatever this character tells the author her name is.  She’s strong-willed.  Also, this working name may or may not be based on the name of a girl the author used to know in high school. Creative liberties and all that you know…]

(I always wanted to do one of those notes…)

Part of what makes writing so exciting are those moments when the characters’ personalities come out and they really start telling their own stories.  And Marla isn’t the patient type so she’s done that to me numerous times through the process so far.  She’s the type to say what’s on her mind and to make decisions quickly.   So she hasn’t been very happy about me sitting around and taking a pause in picking up the next part of the story.  And she’s been popping up in my mind and making that extremely clear.

I don’t blame her though.  She’s right.  There’s a date that really needs to happen, and a late night conversation about the past needs to take place as well.  A misunderstanding or two have to be faced and conversations with friends to get outside opinions from people who don’t have the whole picture.  Fun stuff like that.  And much more.

Once I pick it back up, they’ll lead me through it and take a number of different turns that will surprise me and take me off guard.  Since it’s still the rough draft, it’s just writing, not editing, and there’s the enjoyment of being led along the story, finding out how far off I was with my original expectations and plans.

I don’t take it personally that she’s demanding my attention.  Her story’s time is now, before the next one starts pushing its way forward in my mind and the next novel starts taking over my thoughts.  And before that, she’s got a lot of living yet to do…

Sci-Fi That’s Not Sci-Fi, But It’s Sci-Fi

Back when I was young, I devoured all of the books I could get my hands on.  My mother taught me to read before I turned 3, figuring that since she was already teaching my four-year-old sister, she might as well take me along for the ride.  I’m not sure if it was the whole ‘2 birds, 1 stone’ approach or simply a way to keep me occupied and out of trouble, but it worked. Worked as in ‘I learned to read’, not worked as in ‘kept me out of trouble’. Reading opened my mind and fueled my imagination, guaranteeing that I’d actually get in more trouble in life.  But you know what…?  I’m okay with that.

As I grew up, I’d try reading almost anything – animal stories, Encyclopedia Brown investigations, old west tales, the entire Hardy Boys series…  And fantasy and sci-fi as well. Books had nothing to do with genres back then. It was all about the stories.

I’m usually an optimist about books, expecting the best, and planning to enjoy a good story with interesting characters when I pick one up.  And I shouldn’t be ashamed of reading ‘those types of books’, whatever they might be. Especially as good writing is good writing (and bad is bad) no matter the subject matter.

All of this leads to me reading The Martian by Andy Weir.  This is an example of realistic science fiction (in that it’s fiction and it deals with issues of science). It just doesn’t have aliens and space battles and the types of things that are expected from people who don’t really read sci-fi. The “Martian” in this book is astronaut Mark Watney, who is left for dead after an accident and finds himself stranded alone on Mars.  Plenty of science is involved in this fiction (see what I did there…?) as the main character attempts to survive for month upon month until rescue can arrive.  

The technical issues and descriptions actually work throughout the story, and work well.  What’s strange is how the book suffers when other characters are involved.  Dialogue is strained, people are two-dimensional, and yes…it seems like the author doesn’t really know any women.  That’s where I can see the issues women may have with the book.  And in that regard, it kind of reminds me of some of those sci-fi books I read as a kid, where characters – especially female characters – weren’t completely fleshed out (so to speak).

I’d actually give this book 8.25 out of 10 (I just can’t use a five-star guide because there’s just not enough range to play with), despite these issues.  It’s gripping to read from beginning to end and the main character is entertaining when he’s talking to himself on a planet he doesn’t share with another person.  As long as the story is a soliloquy, and every other character stays out of the way, it’s fun to read.  And that’s not a description I ever thought I’d use for a book is actually recommend.

So I can’t say that I’m embarrassed to have read this one compared to those sci-fi books of my youth where the men (or male aliens) fought through the universe meeting females described only by their physical attributes rather than their strengths, weaknesses, background and flaws.  But then I can’t remember the male characters being that much better.

So does that mean that I don’t have to apologize on behalf of my gender for reading those?  Because I swear I’ve forgotten all about them them and they’ve yet to leave the moldy boxes stored away in my dad’s garage.  I’ve moved on to bigger and better things…

 

The Wonderful Whoopses In Life

We’ve all made decisions we regret in life. It’s part of the human condition. All of us have at some point turned left when we should have turned right, or said ‘yes’ when we should have said ‘no’. Or, what’s even worse is to look back and remember one of those crucial moments when we said ‘no’ and really should have said ‘yes’… Ouch.

I won’t go all Robert Frost on you. I think we’ve all heard plenty of times ‘and that has made all the difference’. Enough to know that decisions are important and how they take us down our paths in life, blah, blah,blah. It’s just that most of them aren’t as blatantly obvious as Mr. Frost’s lovely, slightly overgrown path. So we do the best with the limited knowledge we have to work with.

Some decisions we’re completely stuck with, while others we can change – or fix. Some decisions didn’t make the slightest difference in the long run and some simply had to be made. Some seem foolish in retrospect, and some we’d never undo, even if they caused us pain and heartache, simply because they contributed to creating the person we are today. They led us here.

In life, there has to be conflict. There has to be pain. There have to be mistakes and regrets and foolishness. Occasionally I’ll find myself wishing that life was like one of those old “choose you own ending” books. I used to get these from the library, or find one in my stocking on Christmas morning. I always kept a finger in place whenever I made a choice that wasn’t 100% certain about (and of course that was all of them). Then, by the end of the book, I’d have most all of my fingers trapped on different pages, in different places in the story, and could barely even turn the page. I don’t know how many times I went back and re-tried a decision, but it always seemed to be necessary because I always managed to find all of the endings that led to horrible, agonizing death.

But perfection, a clean conscience and a history of excellent decision making doesn’t make for a person you’d want to be friends with, let alone be. And so it is with the fictional characters. You need their wrong turns, the huge mistakes that can’t be recovered from completely. It’s drama. No matter how much you love the characters, you need their struggles and pain to make the story. This is what gives them the opportunity to grow and find new paths if they’re strong, or crushes them if they’re weak.

So no apologies to any of them as I put them through it all. Their reward for the tough times is that they’re more memorable, more flawed, more entertaining and more human, just like the rest of us. Even if they have to screw up over and over, every time someone reads their story through, it’s worth it in the end. Where’s the fun in us learning our lessons the first time anyway?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – So Here’s a Thousand Words

I need to take a moment to figure out how to attach pictures to posts here on the site. I’m sure it’s not at all complicated but, when I’m usually writing my posts by clicking away on my cell phone, I simply feel fortunate that my spelling and typing errors aren’t completely overwhelming.

You know, it’s interesting to think about all of the hours that high school students wasted in typing classes. And now the only actual typing on keyboards we seem to do is when we send out quick replies to emails at work – usually consisting of jargon and abbreviations that are incomprehensible to anyone from outside of the company – and to at least half of those from within as well. Then we’re ‘typing’ on tablets and phones both throughout the work day and again after we’ve escaped from work and are back to real life. And, on those devices, you can’t rest your fingertips in the ‘Q’ and ‘W’ keys with your left hand, and ‘P’ and ‘O’ with the right. Or whatever it was that you were supposed to do. I wouldn’t know the rules because I never took typing in high school. That’s because it was scheduled at the same time as jazz band. I was a dork of another color.

The things you experience in another area can definitely be described, but sometimes it’s good to get a little visual peak into that world as well. And that’s where a picture or two can come in very handy. Just to show a little piece of the area and some of the things that jump out. After all, the change of living here and trying to adapt can be like the difference between walking down a familiar street in any town you know in the world, and stepping inside of a Wal-Mart. Whether it’s the people walking around it what would appear to be costumes rather than actual wardrobe choices, or the marauding gangs of 4-9 year olds roving through the store unattended, it’s just a view that’s a little off from the expected. And from the usual.

I know… I need to stop picking on that place, don’t i? After all, we all have to go there sometime… And, if nothing else, it manages to be entertaining and good for a laugh too. Just like good ‘ol Fayette County.

But I’ll have to start showing you some of the things that jump out or that set this place apart from any other area that I’ve lived in before. And that way I’ll also have some visual reminders myself for when I want to add some of those things into my future novels…

So for now I’m short of the thousand words. And we’ll have to settle for 488.  But you can put it on my tab. Because I’ll be back to spend plenty more words soon. And maybe they’ll even come with a visual or two…

Rough Draft People Are The Best Kind Of People

Anyone who’s ever even thought about writing has heard the phrase “Write about what you know”.  And, as a general rule I’d agree with that. But, the issue that scares me more is what is so easy to do – write about who you know.

I imagine someday in the future sitting at a book signing for my latest novel (a boy can dream, right?) and seeing a face that looks familiar. And then having that person lean forward and say – “Hi.  It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?  The character Audra in this book was based on me, wasn’t she?”

I’ve moved around many times and met more than my share of interesting people.  And of course there are many memories attached to these people that are complete stories in themselves. Whether it’s the woman I went out with for a 2nd(!) date who proceeded to take me to a dive bar after dinner, have far too much to drink and start introducing me to all of her many bar friends as her husband.  And then, as I’m driving her home, to have her start punching me in the face as I’m driving 70 down the highway, and all the while she’s screaming and calling me Steve.

Or how about the friend from years back who bought and old AMC Gremlin for $50, painted over all of the rust with black and yellow paint to make it look like a yellow-jacket, and never bothered to replace the missing seat belts or floor boards.  And then he always insisted on driving wherever we went.

Or maybe the ex-girlfriend who…  Or the college roommate that…  Or the mentally unstable football coach, the distant cousin, the co-worker, the French tutor…

There are so many people who have been a part of my life in one way or another.  Many who were incredibly ‘unique’ and many who were parts of crazy/unforgettable/life-altering moments in my life.  All of these people (and there are plenty of others that I’ve temporarily forgotten who pop up in my mind occasionally) have had major impacts on my life in one way or another, making me the way I am today.  And I’m not even going to take the time to figure out which ones should receive credit for that and which ones deserve blame…

These are the best people and experiences to draw from when creating the worlds within my novels.  Just not the exact, real them.  Versions of them, adaptations, compilations instead.  That way nobody surprises me at the signing table someday after finding themself within those pages.

But, just to protect me from such embarrassments, this will be printed in the front of the book:

“This is a work of fiction.  Any similarities to anyone living or dead is purely a coincidence, and really should have been corrected from how they were written in the rough draft.  So get over yourself!”

 

That Work Intrusion

Work is work.

I’m not going to bash it because it pays the bills. And I work with some pretty good people too, so what is there to really complain about, right?  The only problem is that it’s just not the same as waking up inspired with all kinds of ideas and having the time to type them into the Great American Novel.  Thinking of which… What would currently be considered to be the great American novel?  Moby Dick?  Definitely incredibly overrated. The Great Gatsby?  I wouldn’t argue with that choice. The Grapes of Wrath?  Wow…I’ve got a story from 10th grade about that one that still makes me shudder when I think about Steinbeck. How about anything by Mark Twain?  You can’t go wrong there, can you?  What do you think?  Any thoughts?  I’ve got to work on getting my novels on that list, but work just seems to have a way of getting in the way…

I actually changed jobs recently.  And that’s a definite positive since my last boss had the same managerial style as the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island – expect someone else to do all the work, smack ’em over the head every day and hope it knocks something loose and keeps them down, all so that they don’t realize that she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing. I mean, do you really think it was Gilligan’s idea to take that little ship out on the ocean when there was a hurricane on the radar?

But writing is far better than the cubicle life. Creating characters is more rewarding than sitting through meetings.  Developing character conflict in fiction is a fun, positive experience, while keeping co-workers from bickering, back-stabbing and generally acting like a bunch of 3-year-olds is emotionally draining.  And, when you’re at work and find out about a deadline that no one had told you about and a regular day turns into a 12-hour mess, time to be creative is taken away.  So, as a result, it’s easy to get a bit detached from the story that you’ve been working on.  After all, I love the characters in my current novel, but I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and talk to them in a while.  Who knows how bored they’re getting as they just hang around waiting for something to do.  And, on top of that, I’m sure there are other interesting characters just waiting to be met.  But where does the time go?

Yet here I am, eating lunch at my desk, getting away from reports and spreadsheets, doing some blogging and taking some time to think about those characters and their half-finished stories.  So I guess there really is time for everything if we just work to fit it in.

But that’s for later.  Right now it’s time to go back to work…