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.

Death and the Doctor (Writing Prompt)

The link from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/68xdw5/wp_you_are_the_worlds_most_successful_doctor_upon/

On a dull afternoon and with little fanfare, he slipped away.

Dying met few of his expectations. In many ways, its simplicity made life itself and the fear of losing it a disappointment. Only a handful of memories flipped by in random order and of nothing particular: washing the car with the children on a Sunday, the one baseball game attended that went into extra innings when most of the stadium had trickled out to the parking lot in disappointment, snow in early May.

All of these passed by like billboard advertisements on a forgettable highway.

When he came to the place of consciousness, he did as we all do; he smiled. Not a joyous smile over a life lived or one of having avoided terrible damnation, but the smile one gives after being reminded of a struggle experienced, endured, and concluded.

“Hello, Bill,” Death said.

“Hello. I’m surprised to see you here.”

“Are you?”

Bill gazed. The dream of reality still dripped from his mind like water falling from fingers pulled from a fresh stream. “I guess so. I don’t know. Should I be?”

Death smiled, seeing Bill’s expression. “You’re still coming to. Give yourself a moment.”

Bill exhaled with relaxation and bathed in the warm glow of existence. “When do I have to go back?”

“There’s no set rule,” Death said. “Take as much time as you like. You’ll soon jump back in again. You always do.”

“I don’t feel like you normally meet with me in transition,” said Bill. “I was right the first time. This is surprising. Why are you here?”

Death extended his arms and allowed himself a slow spin in the beauty of being, a fleeting bit of freedom away from continual duty. “Your most recent life resulted in your achieving tremendous stature in your profession. Can you still remember?”

“Yes,” Bill said. “I was a surgeon.”

“You were indeed, one of the best.”

Bill smiled larger as the stream of life temporarily overflowed its banks and refreshed his memory. “It was wonderful,” said Bill. “Those looks of gratitude. I remember those the most.”

“As you should,” said Death, “as you should. You earned them, one and all. Tremendous work, Bill. I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you.”

“And I want to thank you,” continued Death.

“Oh?”

“Of course.” Death paused, knowing the fate of the world below, and relished the warmth around him for one moment more. “Your hand postponed my own from coming down. So often my character is misjudged. I find no pleasure in seeing despair in those eyes, but no one wants to admit to my having sympathy.”

“Wasn’t there a song about that?”

“I think the context was a little different,” said Death with a scoff.

“Why didn’t you visit me?” Bill asked. “After all I had heard during that life, in that line of work, they convinced me of your existence, despite my upbringing. When you never appeared, I wondered if perhaps you were mad.”

Death paused, knowing his own time was up. Those in pain now called. “I couldn’t bear it. When things are ugly, I despise removing beauty.”

Bill felt the twinge of sadness in his friend and felt it in himself too. “I know. I forgive you.”

“I must go now, but again, I thank you. Have you decided on your next life?”

“I have,” said Bill.

“What will it be?” asked Death.

“I’ll be a composer. A musician of some kind.” Bill smiled, seeing the memories of his future life already falling into the hands of destiny. “I’ll make music in a time where it will be forever preserved. It will be beautiful, and it will last well beyond my lifetime. It’ll be a beauty that can stay.”

Death smiled with sincerity. “It’s wonderful music, Bill. Truly. I’ll visit you this time.”

Bill filled with the warmth of being. “Yes, I know. I look forward to it.”

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

Image

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 🙂

Help From the Woods (Flash Fiction)

In the winter snows she walked; the cold, her only friend. Ice layered the twisting path through the park in a vain attempt to promote itself to stained-glass. Northern winds rushed through the birch trees. All color had been stripped from the limbs. All signs of life were hidden. She came to a stone stairway that gave treacherous way to the shoreline below. Dark water churned under a gray sky spitting snow.

She stared.

More and more, that body of water so filled with biting cold and engulfing dark called to her. She found herself in the park more often. Things were getting worse.

There was a time when hope pressed against those darker feelings. There was a time when she felt there was still a way. But things changed, or more accurately, things stayed terribly the same. So it was the park, alone in the dead of winter. It was nervous glances at her stepfather’s straight-razor next to the sink. It was long gazes at the tops of skyscrapers watching birds spread their wings and watching the wind carry them away and wondering if she should do the same.

Fingers of cold slipped in through small gaps in her clothes. She shivered, and then felt quite peculiar.

Anna turned to look back at the park and blinked at the specks of snow landing on her eyelashes. Empty swings shifted in the breeze. Snow drifts huddled around picnic tables. The streets beyond a small stone wall were empty, yet she couldn’t shake the feeling.

Someone was there with her. Someone was watching.

Anna walked back through the snow, avoiding the icy path. Her dark hair tossed, and she tucked it behind her ear with a gloved hand. The cold stung her nose. She stood and waited. The peculiar feeling continued to the point of tingling.

A calm voice spoke out from in front of her. It was melodic and slow. “Strange ponderings for a woman so young.”

Anna looked on. The peculiar feeling inside her was matched by something equally odd—an absence of fear. A gust of wind brushed snow from the tree limbs. Flakes stuck and melted on her cheek.

“Is there no one to listen?” the voice asked. “No one who cares to hear your pains?”

“Where are you?” asked Anna.

The birch trees shivered in the wind; their long trunks and snowy backdrop blurred together like zebras. Something moved. Anna squinted, feeling victim to an optical illusion. A trunk shimmered in front of her as a small creature crawled up the side. It took hold of a limb and stood just above her.

An imp looked upon Anna, and Anna looked back. The gusting wind settled. From behind, the waves of the lake continued churning.

The imp wound its small tail around the branch and shielded its back to the wind. Its skin appeared hard like bark and matched the color of the tree. If real or illusion, Anna couldn’t say. Its eyes burned red.

“What are you?” Anna asked.

The imp looked on, frozen like a gargoyle.

Anna scanned the park for other persons. There was no one. She stepped forward, and the burning eyes followed her movement. “What do you want?”

The imp looked down his crooked nose. “There are solutions, you know,” the imp said, his voice still beautiful and calm. “I could assist thee.” His spiked tail flicked and punctuated the offer.

Anna stared and barely noticed the snow falling against her face. The branch above her swayed, and the perfectly still little demon swayed with it, as if part of the tree. Neither his fragile wings nor long ears stirred with the wind. Anna thought of a hundred questions, all of them obvious in their foolishness. In time, she found the only one that mattered.

“What will it cost me?”

The burning eyes, like golden embers at the base of a raging fire, stayed locked upon hers. The mouth of the imp stayed closed while the voice softly spoke out. “Only the consequences of your decision.” The words were like warm velvet, like melting butter soaking into a toasted muffin.

The imp scrambled out along the branch like a small monkey, agile and confident, and wrapped its tail around the waning end. With a simple flick, the wood snapped, and the imp flung it to the ground. The snow hissed with steam where the makeshift wand landed. Anna walked and found the melted spot. The bark was charred with the tail’s imprint. Anna held the small stick in her hand, and it gave the faintest glow. Through her glove, she could feel its warmth on her hand.

“What is this?” she asked, looking back to the branch.

But the creature was gone. Her eyes darted from trunk to trunk and limb to limb, but the imp was nowhere to be found. Gone as well, the peculiar feeling of a hidden observer.

In the winter snows, Anna stood alone. Now with the cold, fear had become her friend.

Old Generals (Flash Fiction)

Two generals sat opposed to one another in silence. Before them, their armies stood in formation, proud and silent and ready to execute commands given. Nature stood around them, birch trees framing hedges and a rolling meadow, all uncaring in its awareness to the acts of man. The scene had played out before. It would inevitably play out again. No words need be spoken for what is there to say when it’s come to war? The window for words had closed.

The soldiers advanced.

“Yer move,” Bruce said with a smile.

“I can see it’s my move, ya knit-wit. Ya let go, didn’t ya? Everyday it’s the same thing, ‘yer move, yer move’ as if I ain’t never played.” James plopped his chin into an open palm and blew raspberries.

Bruce’s smile grew sinister with tease. “I figure I have to remind ya since you take so long. Yer mind don’t spin on all its gears no more. You’re forgetful, which is why you keep playing.” Bruce waited for his bait to be struck. No such luck. “You forget how often I beat ya!” He leaned over the concrete table and gave a raspy laugh.

James grumbled and advanced another pawn, his third. It was a weak opening and he knew it. So did Bruce. “Just move yer damn horse so I can trade ya for it.”

“How’s that?” snapped Bruce, cutting his laugh mid-guffaw. “What makes you think I wanna trade ya?”

“Ohhhh-ho-ho!” snided James. “What’s that yer saying ‘bout being forgetful then? How could it be if I remember how much you love to trade your first horse away?”

Bruce’s eyes narrowed to slits of wrinkled old skin. Through wispy cataracts, he peered with disdain. He advanced his queen, and it stood like a monolith amongst the pawns, dark and slender and full of disruptive potential.

James averted his eyes in attempt to hide his failing poker face. His ploy had worked. The advancing knight was stayed and his weak opening given a small hope at recovery. He slid his rook behind his pawns, and the rook looked out over the board like a nosey neighbor peeking over a fence line.

“Foolish,” quipped Bruce. “If yer not taking the game serious, why bother?” His second knight came into play. “I’ll never understand why—“

James moved his own knight without hesitation.

The display of confidence had a rattling effect. Bruce slid his hand, knuckles swollen from a lifetime of work, under his plaid newsboy cap. Calloused fingers rubbed at smooth, bald scalp. Wanting to see what would unfold, he moved a cautious pawn.

James chuckled in relief. His flawed opening was spared. “Always the cock of the walk, ain’t yeah? But ya sure do pipe down when someone else puffs up their feathers.” Both of his knights were now in play and eyeing the opposing queen with ill intent.

Bruce slapped his hat onto the table and pointed a crooked finger. “If you wanna go toe to toe, buckaroo, you go right ahead!” He moved and captured the rook and left his knight open for trade.

James obliged with ease. “Told ya. Always lookin’ to trade. You should at least get fair value.”

Bruce grumbled and moved to support his queen. The next few moves went in a flurry as each tried to assert dominance through a display of speed and nothing more. The result was equally baffling for the two parties. Somehow, both sides were worse for the wear.

“This has got to be the worst amount of play I’ve ever seen,” said Bruce. “And I do mean ever. My great-grandson still drooling from the side of his mouth plays better than you.”

James advanced on the daring queen. “Drools from the mouth, eh? I can see where he gets it.”

Bruce wiped his mouth in panic and dismayed over the saliva found on the back of his hand. He forgot about his queen and the game. “I don’t drool!”

James moved again, the queen’s supposed royalty now being openly disrespected. “Ohhh,” droned James, “I suppose it’s the rain then? Falling from these lovely blue skies?”

Bruce gaped. A string of saliva stretched from the corner of his mouth. “I was drinking water earlier, ya know.”

“You were drinkin’ something,” agreed James. He reached for another piece.

“It’s my turn, ya cheatin’ rat-bastard!” Bruce empowered his queen and crushed a threatening knight. In his haste, he failed to see a waiting pawn.

James tilted his head in sarcastic remorse, landed a single fingertip on the waiting pawn, and slid it in a diagonal direction. Her Majesty fell. “Long live the queen,” he said with a smile.

Bruce swiped the board with his arm and sent the pieces flying, stood, and raised his finger to James. “Ya never did respect women, ya mizer!” Grunting, he placed his cap back onto his bald head and slid his ailing body away from the concrete bench.

James, overjoyed, wheezed with laughter.

Bob and Brian stood in silence off to the side and waited for the two men to clear. “What is that now,” Bob asked, “three weeks we’ve been coming here and those two still haven’t finished a game?” Brian nodded, and they set out to collect the scattered pieces.

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.