Even Broken Things Are Useful

20180424_162852Well, that was another posting slump that put a stranglehold on my blog.  Truly, I’m sorry for being the missing-in-action, non-helpful, hermit writer.  It was caused by the same shit everyone else goes through, mostly things you would classify as “just life” when they happen to someone else, but are overwhelming when they are happening to you.  I’m not going to get into specifics, but lets say I have gone through too many endings in the past year.

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Cera, who will be missed.

The point is that even though I am still putting together the pieces of myself, I can still push forward.  A lot of creative energy was being used for just getting through each day.  I’m taking that lost energy back.  Here’s my new Every Week list:

  • Write
  • Study Writing
  • Draw
  • Study Graphic Novels
  • Blog
  • Poetry
  • Edit
  • Beta Read
  • Study People/Cultures
  • Review Books

Granted, several things on that list are things I should be doing Every Day, but I’m also trying to be forgiving of myself, and attempting to prevent a stress burn-out.  I’ll get there.  For instance, I never really stopped writing in notebooks, but putting daily work into digital manuscripts requires discipline.  I want that disciple BACK!

I could also narrow the list, but every time I do, something happens to make it obvious to me that these are the creative outlets (and community service jobs) I must give myself to feel complete.

And I’m trying to get back into posting once a week on the blog, but, frankly, if it’s a choice between this and another creative outlet, I may skip a week.  Neither of us will miss having one less post to read/write, and it wastes both of our time if it’s just filler.  I have no plans to monetize this blog; I’d rather put that energy into my fiction writing.  We are just here, connecting as artists, and I’m letting you see my tricks and secrets.  I’d love to see yours, too.

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One bright spot, during the three-month slump, was getting notification that one of my favorite short stories was accepted into an anthology.  I’m still stunned.  Granted, it’s just a “for exposure” gig, but someone thought my short story was something they could make money off of.  It’s a quirky little story I thought would never-ever-ever find a home, but if I can find a home for that, then maybe there is some hope.  It’s a tiny step, but that’s how all journeys start.

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When I consider how many time I have almost deleted all my media platforms, quietly, and just slipped back into being a reader with no plans to ever publish anything I accidentally wrote down…

It could still happen, and maybe it should, but for now I have some momentum to keep pushing myself forward.  If you are interested in the amazing horror anthology “The Big Book of Bootleg Horror, Volume 4” here is the link.  http://www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/bootleg4.html

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Another bright spot was the odd experience of going on a cruise ship with my daughter.  It was school/job experience related, and I was 100% there to support her, but I couldn’t help but to think about how I was experiencing life on a closed system, cut off from what I consider “normal” life for five days.  Probably the closest I’ll ever come to being on a space ship, and frankly, I fell a bit in love with the multi-national crew, sense of adventure, the open ocean, and the chance to see someplace completely new.  I came home and re-wrote a few scenes in my WIP, and there may be more changes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, if I ever announce that I’m running away to join a ship’s crew, be sure that it’s for “research” for my Sci-Fi-Romance/Erotica, and it will only add to the (eventual) story.

And even cruise ships have Wi-Fi, now.

Writers gotta write.  But, they also gotta observe.

Happy writing!

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Please, Excuse the Mess…

Whatever it takes.

That’s the writer’s motto.  The artist’s motto.  WHATEVER IT TAKES!

Whatever it takes to put the words on the paper.  What ever it takes to finish the rough draft.  Whatever it takes to pick it back up and wrestle with the characters, plot, descriptions, style, genera expectations, voice, and readability until you have a finished product.  Whatever it takes to get it published and into the hands of readers.

My stories are movies playing inside my head.  They morph and change as I delve deeper, but it’s still just a movie playing in my head.  I have to find the words to explain the story to you.  Have you ever had someone tell you ABOUT a movie IN DETAIL?  It’s usually terrible.  Have you ever listened to a good/professional storyteller?  There is a huge difference between those two experiences.

I think I’m getting a better grasp of the words, and how to make them go.  How to hold back what the reader wants, make them work for it, give just enough to keep them hooked.  And I can see the big picture hidden in the words.  Themes and morals, sometimes hidden even from me until the full rough draft is done.  But meshing the two, good-enough words and a big story, escapes me.

I’ve got a lot of rough drafts lying around.  I’ve chosen one to learn how to tell a story on.  It’s a robust story, with everything I love about the universe in it.   The Main Character is a side of me I can easily access, so she frequently tells me to pull my shit together and finish the fuckin’ book!  She’s a strong motivator.

I’ve tried to take it farther than just a rough draft, but I can’t seem to get my head around the seventeen pages…  Wait.  THIRTY-ONE PAGES of notes on changes, OR to apply the advice of the books I’ve read about storytelling.  Like everybody else, I have commitments, work, family, and anxieties to deal with.  And I deal with them, but then not a lot of energy for writing is left over.  So, another year has slipped away from me, unpublished.  Part of me wants to give up, and just write something new, something exciting, always rough drafts, and never bother to publish.

But, I’m a stubborn person.  I WILL create a finished product.  I just need the right tools.

I think I’ve found a couple more tools in the last few months.  With ways to tinker, and lay out, and get more story off the page and into my hands.  I’m good with my hands.  I think with my hands, and I’m a visual person.  I didn’t realize there were tools for that kind of brain.  It’s kinda like outlining, kinda like story board, kinda like art.  Lets see if it will help my get a handle on my revisions.  Then I can begin the rewrite, choosing the right words to tell a story, instead of telling you about a story.

I’ll share the tools with you, once I have a firmer grip on them.  I can’t be the only writer with these kinds of problems.  For now, my writing is “Construction Zone! Please, Excuse the Mess!”  (Hint: The tools are more books, but that really shouldn’t surprise you at this point.)

Happy Writing, y’all!

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There is Still a Chance to Influence the Future!

Ok, I’m going to put myself into another uncomfortable spot.

I’ve carefully followed my Christmas budget, and I’ve laid out my plans to work extra hours the next two months, and I have wonderful family members who will help me out in a pinch, but…

I’m afraid some unforeseen bill or expense will ruin my chance to take my daughter on her class trip.

The OCP class has had some good donations, but final payment for the cabins is Jan. 10.  After that will be figuring out how to get us all down to embarkation (thirty-ish kids and adults).  Will we be pooling vehicles and drivers, or will we charter a bus for the group?  Will we drive all night, or be able to get a hotel?

The teachers have been encouraging smaller donations from friends and family, like Christmas or Happy New Year cards sent directly to the class with a donation enclosed.  (That was exciting to see.)  Allstate is offering $5 to the class for every name/address/phone/e-mail contact that agrees to go through an insurance quote, but the quote has to be completed before they donate.  (Personally, I’d rather just donate the $5 directly to the class.)  One of the other class parents,  Mr. Coggeshall, has set up a place to donate on his Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/donate/762484663944324/  (The link isn’t working, but you can find it on my FB page.  I’ll keep fiddling with it.)  The class is sponsoring a “Hat Day” in the school, where students get to wear a hat all day if they donate $1.  (I’ll post a picture if I can.)

Here is the local news report for the trip. http://www.wistv.com/story/37125565/midlands-students-to-get-job-experience-on-cruise-ship

So, rather than just corporate donations, we are pleased to accept any help at all, no matter how small.  The school address is River Bluff High School, 320 Corley Mill Road, Lexington, SC 29072, and make sure it’s marked Attn.: Occupational Credential Program Class Trip.  The teacher’s contact information are Benjamin Dangerfield at bdangerfield@lexington1.net and Karen Rozmus at krozmus@lexington1.net

Just so you know, I promised myself I’d never monetize my blog, or my exploratory writing in general.  Although I admire the people who have the self-confidence to follow that path, I won’t accept payment for my writing until I have proof-of-concept in the form of a finished product.  Anything I post here is purely to help other writers, even if it’s just to NOT make the same mistakes I have.  I had a “bootstrap” upbringing (for better or worse), and while I have been able to ignore it when it comes to the help other people NEED, I an unable to escape it in my own mind.  This plea is about as close as I can stand to asking for help, because it’s for her, and all the other kids with big dreams.

Happy New Year, y’all, and Happy Writing!

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A shy Kitsune girl displays a banner on two of her tails for the big cruise boat. (Kitsune is a Japanese fox spirit with multiple tails.  AJ brings me more mythology information each day.  I love it.)

On Rabbits and Religion

Religion is like a book.

(A writer is comparing something to a book!  Call the Simile Police! Dial 418! Hurry!)

Maybe we should have been talking about politics and religion all these years.  What if we could have avoided some of the problems we are currently having IF we had been a little more open to the exchange of ideas.  Or, maybe, I just like having a soapbox to stand on.  Please, just bear with me.

Religion is like a book.  You could read just one.  But, why?  You could follow just one.  But, why?

Consider rabbits.

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Two books with rabbits as central characters influenced me as a child.  What if one of them had been the holy writ of my heritage?  Would my Gods have blue coats with brass buttons, as told by of Beatrix Potter?  Or, would my Gods have existential dread, along with fierce loyalty, by way of Richard Adams?

Is the world working to destroy me, or just making it hard to get enough to eat?  Am I being controlled by parental favors, or nature and survival of the fittest?   Am I guided in how to live in simple parables, or complicated and counter-intuitive laws?  Are the rules for being clothed strictly enforced, or non-existent?  Would my punishment for transgressions be blood and violence in the dark, or chamomile tea before being sent to bed early?

Which rabbit gods are the Righteous Rabbit Gods?  Or should we completely stay away from stories of rabbits, altogether?

When it comes down to it, I believe these stories tell us far less about rabbits and much more about humans.  I feel the same about religion.  You can really understand a person when you see how they practice their religion, or lack of one.  Do your gods wield hammers and lightning, or shame and guilt?  Is the religion of your lineage the Right Way, or just the most comfortable and familiar?  Did you read a different book at some point in your life, and decide to follow other gods?  Or did you decide such things were only for children?

Books shape us, both the religious and the secular.  Even the books we don’t read shape us, because they shape other people, and those people shape the world we live in.  This is why I read books about many kinds of rabbits, and many kinds of religions. To learn about rabbits and religions, of course, but mostly to learn about humans.

Humans see everything as a reflection of ourselves, and then we write stories about what we see.  A continuous loop, of learning and life. Like a reader becoming a writer, and a writer who reads even more.

I may have to amend my first statement.  Life is like a book.   Or, perhaps writers are like a book.  SOMETHING is like a book.

BOOKS ARE LIKE A BOOK!

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Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 5 Fear is the Mind-Killer

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Anywriter who spends any time thinking about showing their work to another person has likely felt fear.  Unfortunately, that never goes away, according to the professionals who share tips.

I have already given my thoughts and book suggestions for getting the story written, but, obviously, there is more to learn.  There is a deep connection between the fear of writing and good writing.  Honestly, there should be a copy of “The Courage to Write” by Ralph Keyes (Henry Holt and Company, New York 1995) in the starter pack of every writer.  You didn’t get the starter pack?  Neither did I, but I did find the book at my local library.  (And just in time.)

The book is at first a warm hand holding yours, telling you all is well, your fears are perfectly normal, and–more importantly–useful, then there are a ton of examples of writers finagling their way around their fears to produce words of worth.  (And writers are pretty creative when it comes to finding a comfortable way to write.  Prepare to be shocked and amazed!)  If you find you are lacking the courage to put your work out there, please seek out this book before giving up on yourself.

“Trying to deny, avoid, numb, or eradicate the fear of writing is neither possible nor desirable.  Anxiety is not only an inevitable part of the writing process but a necessary part.  If you’re not scared, you’re not writing.  No message in this book is more important.  A state of anxiety is the writer’s natural habitat.”

Ralph Keyes

While we are on the subject of fear, there is a book that is incredibly useful in detailing the physical manifestations of fear, and when and why you should listen to your body/brain warnings.  “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker (Originally published by Little, Brown and Company in 1997, now updated and published by the author through Amazon 2010.) is also useful in lots of other ways to writers and other persons just trying to navigate the world in unsafe times, and nearly as important as a reminder for trusting your intuition.  (Intuition is sister to Inspiration.  Ignore either of them at your peril, for sisters do gossip.)

“‘No’ is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who choses to not hear it is trying to control you.”

Gavin de Becker

 

Here are the other posts in this series:

  1. Butt in Chair
  2. The Monster in My Manuscript
  3. Take over the Literary World!
  4. When the Manuscript Goes Into the Garbage
  5. Fear is the Mind-Killer
  6. Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!

The Purpose of Art…

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That’s it.  All thirty-one pieces of art from Inktober.  I framed them and put them above my desk.

It feels a bit weird, like I’m betraying my humble, working class heritage.  We don’t go  for vanity, or tootling your own horn, or any such drawing attention to yourself.  I mean, they aren’t that good, and some of them a really bad.  Nobody would buy them, and art is a waste of time, and you have to work hard to feed your family.  I mean, you could put one or two of the best up, but not where anyone would see, except maybe family, who will love you anyway.  You don’t want to get above yourself.

Fuck that.

I turn fifty in a couple of months.  My country is a dumpster fire.  Human rights and social safety nets are being lost and cut like they’re made of tissue paper.  (The really cheap stuff, from the dollar store.)  Profit is God, and people are dying on it’s altar.  Everybody I know is struggling to keep it together, sometimes just day-by-day.  Including me.

I’m going to make Art.  I’m going to draw and write my feelings.  I spent thirty-one dollars at the dollar store for frames.  I went to the library for books on graphic novel and comic book techniques.  I’ve written three novels, have the notes for six more, and I’m going to keep working on them until they are ready to publish.  I’m going to submit short stories to anthologies, and keep writing my blog, and…  Keep screaming my words to the wind.

I don’t really know what else to do.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”  Pablo Picasso

Inktober Countdown!

Scan_20171030 (3)I’m completely fried, but wanted to check in.  Thank you for all of the support and patience with me this month.  I will try to get the useful posts up in November and December, along with pics of the costume I was working on.

Apparently, I’ve just added a graphic novel/comic series to next year’s agenda, because I didn’t have enough projects going on.  Nice.  It’s scripted, but I’ll be doing layout and pencils.  Then I’ll have to ink, color and letter it, unless I hook an artist by the imagination or suddenly get rich enough to hire one.  Yikes!

Happy writing, especially all of you NaNoWriMo participants!  I’ll be cheering you from the sidelines!