Paris

I’m home again after spending eight days in Paris. It was a wonderful trip, one that I could write about for hours upon hours. If you’ve ever been on the fence about visiting, please consider my opinion of Paris to be a violent shove toward the side of going. It’s an amazing city with an unbelievable amount of things to see, and delicious food to boot. I typically hate cities as I feel too compressed, but Paris maintains a low skyline by law, so it’s a bit like being in a mini-Cooper with the top off and the windows down. It’s tight, but you can still breathe and feel the wind in your hair (or across your scalp in my case).

I don’t have photos of this particularly, but one of my favorite aspects of Paris was how many people seem to get out and enjoy the city, and that the city allows them to do so. My wife and I went to the River Seine multiple times to sit and watch the boats go by, each time doing so with wine or snacks (or both). We were among many. There are sections of the riverbank where visitors setup PA systems for live bands and dance the night away. Others bring full course meals and sit with their friends for hours. It was fantastic to see and a wonderful change of pace from what you typically experience in the parks and beaches around the US (no glass bottles, no alcohol, no loitering, no entrance after sundown, no talking, no fun, etc).

Go to Paris, please.

Now for a few photos.

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Our trip was a guided tour through Trafalgar (our second time using the company with zero regrets, and this trip particularly had an excellent tour director), and one of the many places we visited was Monet’s Gardens. It was serene in its beauty and very easy to understand Monet’s inspiration.

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The path leading to his home.

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We spent a full day walking among various sites of the Normandy invasion, but Omaha beach (above) stuck with me the most. There are two reasons. One, it’s nothing but a shooting alley, and the Germans took full advantage of that. Standing on that beach, one that is now populated with families and playing children (something our fallen soldiers can surely appreciate), it was impossible to not feel the weight of death that was so easily wrought there. The second reason is that all along this beach, several homes openly display the American flag beside their own French colors. 70 years later, and the people still remember and respect what happened there. It was moving to see such honor.

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The Palace of Versailles is amazing in its own right, but what impressed my wife and I even more were the grounds the palace sits upon, over 215,000 acres. This one photo is barely a glimpse of what they hold, but it does give you the general idea of the size.

I’ll stop here, as I don’t want to turn this into a travel blog, but I did want to share. I loved my trip, and I have every intention of going back, and hopefully soon. Expect some Flash Fiction that will obviously draw inspiration from this visit.

56k

June has come and gone, and my total word count now sits at just over 56k. I’m pretty happy about it. Per the timeline I created back in January, something to give myself both goals and deadlines, I should be at a total of 60k. I’ve never been so happy to come up short in reaching a goal. This steady, continuous progress has been so tremendous. Considering my primary goal with this book is to finish, I’m more than satisfied to see myself still on the path after five months of writing.

In other news, I’d like to produce more Flash Fiction as the end of the year approaches and my book nears completion. I’ve mentioned that desire before, but now there’s a bit more purpose behind it. To keep it simple, I hate advertising. I’d rather write stories than pump bullshit onto social media, so maybe I’ll get lucky by finding traction with some flash fiction and writing prompts off Reddit (though my expectations are not high).

If you enjoy something you see here, kindly pass the word (if you think of it). I’d much rather travel via word of mouth. And if you don’t, I’ll take that as a cue to write a little better 🙂

I’ve Committed My First Murder

In all honesty, it went better than I expected even though I didn’t know what to expect. I built him up. I followed his footsteps and learned about his life, his love, his loss. I found his strengths. I exposed his weaknesses.

Then, while his friends slept mere feet away, I took his life. I turned his own ego against him and snatched all that was left of his life, the pieces he’d managed to reassemble, in one immediate stroke. His friends saw the last of remnants of life leave his body. They clung to him and begged him to stay and wept, and I took his life away all the same.

I could have stopped it all, but I didn’t.

No, this isn’t Flash Fiction.

But it is the first character I’ve killed in my book 😉

I hope others come to enjoy it as much as I did. At the very least, they had better learn to enjoy it. Though first to fall, he won’t be the last. Something more powerful than fate has deemed it necessary—my outline!

45k

I did a total word count on my book to see where I am at the end of May, and I’m just a touch over 45k. Things are going well. Honestly, things are going very well. Story aside, I’m very happy with myself for sticking to this schedule of 3k words a week. Some weeks have been challenging, others not so much, but it has gotten easier as time goes on. Writing is normal. It’s something my brain needs to do, wants to do, not a drag or a chore. At this rate, it feels like the book will complete at around 90k, maybe shorter.

Onward.

Progress Report

I can tell it’s been awhile since I’ve posted because the WordPress page layout has changed. Anyway…

The book continues. I currently have just over 30k words written. That accounts for seven chapters. So far, so good. Those that are reading and providing feedback seem to be legitimately enjoying the story. That’s a nice feeling and helps to keep my momentum. If I were to guess, I’d say the book is at the 1/3rd point. Right in that neighborhood.

I’m still on track to finish by the end of the year, and now I disappear again 🙂

The standard line applies: bla bla bla, something about flash fiction if it strikes me.

Hesitation

Writing continues. An idea for flash fiction made a cameo in my mind but then disappeared in quite a hurry. Apparently it wasn’t worth the bother.

Something I’ve found to be peculiar about myself and writing this book—and specifically this book as this never happens with flash fiction—is that every session begins with climbing over a wall of hesitation.

Before I begin writing, I go through a ritual of finding any little thing I can to prevent myself from starting. It’s like a writer’s version of a dog that turns and turns and turns before laying down. I’ll grab a snack so I won’t feel peckish. Better get the bathroom break out of the way before hand. Grab a beverage. Oh, purge out the junk email. Quick stroll through Reddit. Make sure my phone is charging.

Anything.

It’s so prevalent that I’ll literally scold myself. “Sit down. Write. Start writing. Stop screwing around. Open the folder… good. Now double-click the file.”

I share this mostly because I find it funny, that writing transforms me into a new version of myself that must be managed like a child, but also in the hopes that maybe someone else will see this and realize they’re not alone.

Right? I’m not alone on this one?

Another aspect I find interesting is the feeling. Not only am I putting it off, but I can feel the hesitation within me. It’s an emotion I experience, enough to cause me to think on it further, to find a comparison, for I’ve felt this type of hesitation before.

It finally came to me the other day.

I used to ride motocross. My dad got me into dirt bikes in my teens, and it was amazing. Most of our riding was out in the Mojave desert where you can literally ride for hundreds of miles. There are races that run from Barstow to Vegas still.

One thing I enjoyed while riding was hill climbing. It’s exactly what it sounds like. You point your bike at a nasty mountain and see how far you can go. The intention is to make it to the top, but that doesn’t always happen. Either way, when you made it to the top or as far as you could go, that meant it was time to turn around and ride back down.

Going down was always a bit more nerve-racking than going up. Going down was the motivation for making it to the top. From the top, you could usually choose which trail you took back. If you didn’t make it… well, figure it out.

The hesitation I feel before writing is the same hesitation I felt back then, sitting on a dirt bike on the side of a hill looking down at rocks and ruts and cactus, knowing I’d being traveling over these things quicker than I wanted to with no no choice otherwise.

Strange.

Am I to assume there’s some physical harm waiting for me at the end of a session if I perform poorly? Does my mind care this much about the story? I don’t know, but I certainly find it interesting.

Anyway, just thought I’d share. Time to begin the ritual again. After all, this is yet another example of hesitation.

Checking In

It’s been a month. I figured I’d let those that randomly pass by know that I’m still alive and kicking. And writing, of course.

I’m currently glaring at Chapter 2 of my new project. It’s a bit of a mashup of genres, it mostly being a survival-horror story set in a fantasy/western type setting. I’m enjoying it quite a bit so far. It allows me a lot more freedom with language than my previous book did. While the decision to place the other project on hold was difficult, it was also the right one.

I’m glaring at Chapter 2 but not for any particular reason. Sometimes I must glare at stories. Sometimes stories glare back. The feeling is a bit mutual right now as I tackle a few paragraphs that need better wording. Fortunately for me, distractions are readily available 🙂

This project has one goal: Finish. To help meet that goal, I’ve given myself some tools and some requirements. First, I’m logging my daily progress. Words written each day are tracked, as are total words for the book. With that, I’ve required from myself that I will write a minimum of 1k words a day at least 3 days a week (my days off—I work shift work). If I hold to that requirement, I’ll write 12k words a month, putting me at 120k words in 10 months (November). Depending on the story, 120k words is roughly one book.

Finish the book by the end of November.

The only thing stopping me is me. Everything else is in place. One day at a time. One word at a time. Off I go then (work, work).

2017

I hate to center this post around what appears to be a New Year’s Resolution theme, but I don’t control timing, neither the events as they unfold in my head nor how the calendar turns. If I did—well… I don’t know if that’d change anything, but I can sure as hell pretend it would. Fiction has taught me to believe that.

So with resolving not to resolve, here’s as far as I can see down my own little path. Some of the twists and turns have straightened, and I can see a fair distance to the next bend.

To stop being esoteric, I’ll be posting less.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything, and the itch is returning once again; that’s always a nice thing. However, I want to change gears for myself. For the last few years I’ve done what I can to pressure myself into writing in a rather public way, posting stories that I’ve written whether I consider them to be good or not. It’s all been in the name of practice and the off-chance that I gain a reader base.

Now I want to focus on writing simply for the sake of writing, and writing in a more private manner allows me to experiment, practice and explore. This new book idea is coalescing in my mind, and I want to keep that process as free from restriction as possible. That means allowing myself to write in open-ended ways. No quip endings to wrap things up. No need to edit and keep things succinct. Just write. If something conjures itself into a readable story, I’ll be sure to share it, but that’s not my focus for the time being.

It’s a little exciting as it reminds me of my teenage days when I sat in a basement with a laptop and cool darkness and simply writing a story because I wanted to. There was no audience or even the imagination of one. Just words on a screen and enjoying it all the same.

In that vein, you may see some experimental postings as well. As I explore characters, it’s possible that my own writing sessions turn into their own storylines which may or may not be posted.

Anyway, yadda yadda. I hope all of you had an enjoyable Christmas and that the New Year treats you even better. If you have any lingering goals, chase those devious little things down. Even if they’re not obtained, the pursuit is equally important.

Cheers

Paintings

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I’ve been painting the last few weeks. Some have turned out well, some haven’t. All in all, it’s been a pretty good experience. Learning and all that. Plus, a change of pace is always nice.

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This one was nice and simple. I don’t think it even took 30 minutes from start to finish (canvas is 12×24).

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This is the same concept, but it doesn’t work as well with this color combo. (24×36)

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This one turned into a happy little surprise. (24×36)

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This one was like wrestling a bear. It originally started out well with a decent background, but then I ruined it by trying to overlay a tree onto it. Then I made it worse by doing who knows what. Then I shelved it for two months. I finally got over the sting of defeat and just treated it like a practice canvas. In the end, I feel it was somewhat salvaged. I at least learned from it. (36×48)

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This was the painting I feared the most. I knew what I wanted to do, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it. So I did the background work for it and let it sit for about six months. After having a decent run at painting, I finally decided to push on and go for it, good or bad. This is the before. (36×48)

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And the obvious after. The picture is a little glossy where it’s still wet, but I’m very happy with the end result. I’m keeping this one for myself 🙂

The Next Step

A few months back I Rambled about considering stoppage on my current novel to start from scratch and write something else. Shortly after, I realized how much work that is—starting from scratch—and immediately jumped back into the comfort and security of my novel that is roughly 60 percent complete.

As it always is in life, changes come.

In the last month I’ve found myself very resistant to working on that book. I assumed it was laziness, that I simply wasn’t spending enough time writing, but that’s not true. I’ve been writing. Not as much as I could, sure, but I’m still taking time to put words onto page in various forms. I often have the itch to write, and I often scratch it. Normally this would be a great opportunity for me to berate myself for not following through on a project or for being lazy or any other helping of self-guilt I could conjure. I’m changing my outlook though. Instead, I’ve figured out what’s happened to this novel.

So why not this novel? I’ve outgrown it.

While that may sound bad, it’s actually good because the novel has achieved its purpose even in its unfinished state.

The book I’ve been working on is very simple. A frugal man buys a home that is haunted, and through various circumstances he cannot leave. On top of that, he finds himself involved in a budding relationship that further drives him to find a way to make the house livable.

The story itself is fine. It’s solid and stands on its own. It works as a novel and has parts that legitimately give me chills. When I started this project, I gave myself guardrails to help me along the way. I’ve never written a book before. Previously, all I had finished were a few short stories and a novella (the novella sits as it does not meet my personal expectations for self-publishing). Going into this, I knew I didn’t know what I was doing, so I wanted the process to be as clean as possible in order to focus on the fundamentals—move the plot, develop the characters, build tension, create hooks and appropriate pacing, etc.

In exchange, I chose a story and setting that was as straightforward as possible. There are only five characters. The setting is current day in an average town. There are only a few locations where events unfold. The language is vanilla. The whole thing is simple, basic.

In essence, I gave myself training wheels. And for twenty-three chapters, over sixty thousand words, those training wheels paid off. Without having to worry about a complex story in an exotic setting that uses a variety of language and character desires, I’ve been able to focus on the fundamentals I was concerned about. I’ve been able to recognize my weaknesses when it comes to developing a novel, as well as my strengths.

Now it’s time for the training wheels to come off. I’m ready to try balancing on my own. That also means stopping the novel.

I know that goes against one of the biggest rules in writing; finish what you write. A few weeks ago, I was holding that standard with an iron fist. But I’m shifting my approach toward writing. I’m removing the habits and ideas that don’t work for me. One of those ideas is that I must publish/post everything. That idea, while with its own merits, has created a situation where I no longer write for play, for myself. I take all writing seriously, too seriously at times, and that’s a problem. No more.

The second idea is that everything must be finished. While I still very much agree that you should finish what you write, I no longer feel that’s a blanket statement. All writing is good writing in the simple terms of it advances someone in their craft. Whether you’re cranking out two lines or two pages, you’re writing, and that writing will accumulate toward an ultimate style and ability that you can call your own. If someone wishes to improve their physical habits, do you yell at them for jogging one block instead of one mile? Of course not. Progress is progress. It all counts.

But why not finish? If I’ve come this far, why not grind the rest out?

I don’t enjoy it. These training wheels I created to prop myself up are now the same elements holding me back. Mostly, a lot of it stems from the language and setting I’ve chosen. Since the dialogue is common and the setting normal, I find myself writing with a restriction in my voice. I feel rigid when I write this story, awkward. I can’t jump off the page and write in fun and challenging ways as it won’t make sense in the story. Plainness is the setting. To deviate from that is to deviate from the core of the book itself. Anything beyond this basic framework I’ve created will feel out of place.

So I’m moving on. To what, we’ll see. I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there that’ll say I’m making a mistake, that I should finish and then move on. Maybe they’re right.

If they are, they’re right for them.

The most important part of this process for me is figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Everyone has their own way, and I feel that in challenging some of my own views—views that were adopted from reading the opinions of others—I’m learning what works for me. Being so early in my writing, that’s far more important than one measly novel being self-published. I need to create a foundation that will last through decades, not a few more months.

And why Ramble on about this for so long? After all, practically no one reads any of this (and to those handful of people subscribed, I sincerely thank you). I don’t know. I’ve written and deleted this last paragraph about seven times now. Maybe to share. Maybe to vent. Maybe to romanticize over the idea that my decision could relate to someone else’s. It’s normal to struggle. It’s okay to change directions when finding your way. I think it’s important for people to hear that. So often in our culture we’re only shown the results of one’s work and never the efforts that created it. So often we’re told to keep going, keep going. Never stop. Realize your dreams! (and various other catchphrases)

I guess this is all to say that it’s okay to pause now and then to make sure you’re on the right path to begin with.