Process…

Hello to all the people participating in NANOWRIMO this year!

Sorry I couldn’t join in the fun, but I have too many irons in the fire right now, and not enough asbestos gloves.

But you look good. Keep it up.

Thinking about the effort that goes into even coming close to completing National Novel Writing Month got me thinking about process.

I’ve spent more than 20 years now trying to figure out mine. I’m still working, although I’ve got it mostly nailed down. Now if it will only stop squirming…

Anyways…

There are plenty of people out there, writers and not, who give advice about process.

In fact, you can’t throw a pinch of salt over your shoulder without hitting a handful of writers who will each have a different way that, if you don’t follow it, you’re – dare I say it? –  not a real writer.

And they’re wrong.

All of them.

Truth is, if you write and keep writing, you’re a fekkin’ writer. And no one can say otherwise. (There is a difference between writer, published, and successful – that should be obvious based on their descriptors.)

But, besides the point of what makes someone a real writer, the more important thing to note is that we all have a different process for writing.

All of us.

Oh, yours, mine, and half the people we know might have similarities, but they’re not the same.

Some writers do well with structure. They perform better with the daily discipline of sitting down and hammering out words.

Some writers don’t.

Some writers, like me, really can only write everyday under certain special circumstances.

(I found out, last year, that NANOWRIMO wasn’t one of them. If it is for you, that’s awesome.)

Here’s the thing: it is impossible to compare two unlike things.

We can juxtapose. We can analyze the differences and similarities.

But when you’re comparing an apple to an orange, how do you judge? By what standard?

And thereby hangs a tale.

We can’t. All we can do is point out where methods intersect and diverge.

If you want a good rule for whether or not your process is working, or good, or whatever, I’ll offer this:

Does it let you get the work done?

If the answer is yes, then it’s working for you. Truth be told, that’s all that matters – if it works for you.

Maybe you write everyday and maybe you don’t.

(Personally, I don’t. But, like I said, lots of irons in the fire.)

Are you doing the writing? Are you finishing your projects?

That’s the metric you should gauge your process by. If it isn’t letting you do the work, and complete it, then maybe you want to examine your process and try out different methods.

Maybe not.

(Free advice is usually worth what you pay for it.)

Anyways, for all of you banging away at your NANOWRIMO word count goals, and all of you staring out into space thinking about what comes next, and everyone in between, I hope your writing goes well. I hope, fast or slow, steady or intermittent, you’re taking the time to enjoy this weird activity we can’t not do.

And since we can’t help ourselves but write, we might as well enjoy it while we do.

Until next time…

 

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A Friday Morning WTF…

So, I’m driving home from the gym this morning.

It is cold and raining. 50 degrees and dropping.

Near my house, kids – probably teenagers – wait for the bus to pick them up.

And here’s the WTF moment: I saw a girl standing in the cold and wet, wearing shorts.

Shorts.

(Yeah, she had an umbrella, but still – cold and rainy.)

And I actually said – out loud:

“Don’t you have parents?”

No, I didn’t say it to her. That would be creepy as fuck.

But come on, people. Where were any of her parental figures?

Did she have a legal guardian?

Was there anyone in the house who cared enough about this young woman to step up and say:

“Um, no. You’re not leaving the house in that.”

And don’t mistake me, it was not because she is a she. I have the exact same thought for boys.

But, come on, doesn’t she have parents that love her?

I know it was annoying as hell when I was a kid, but my mother telling me I’d get pneumonia if I went out dressed a certain way, probably kept me from getting pneumonia. It definitely kept me from going out in the cold and wet without proper protection.

I did not grow up in what one would call a stable household, but I had still parents that had enough sense not to let me go out in 40-50 degree pouring rain in fekkin’ shorts.

Come on, people!

Preparing your child to go safely out into the world is like the primary responsibility of a parent. If you do nothing else, that’s the one thing you have to pay attention to.

I’ll get off my old man soap box now, but seriously,

WTF?!

 

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Self-Publishing Updatery…

So, I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I’m self publishing one of my novels.

(Ok, I definitely mentioned it. You got me.)

It’s an interesting journey.

I’ve been learning what can only be described as a metric fuck-ton. It is, uh, enlightening.

And damn difficult.

So far the novel has been through beta readings and multiple revisions. It’s also been professionally edited.

I’ve nearly saved all I need for professional formatting and cover art. Maybe a month, month and a half, and I’ll be reaching out to a few companies to see what they can do.

I’m hoping by sometime in January to have a cover to reveal.

Of the many next steps, and the one you can help me with, is looking for book reviewers and book bloggers. I’ve done some research, and need to do more. But, I thought I’d ask you for input.

Do you have any book reviewers you like? Trust? Are you a book reviewer or book blogger, or Book-Tuber yourself?

Then I’m looking for you.

I know most reviewers have a backlog. Just about everyone I’ve researched so far has a three to four month lead time. Hence the reason I’m putting this out here so early.

In all likelihood, by the time I have hard copies and ARCs ready to go out, reviewers will be ready to begin considering them.

So, hit me up in the comments with suggestions or ideas.

Or, if you’re the book reviewer type yourself, let me know.

It also won’t be long before I’ll be looking to recruit a street team/ launch blitz team.

Before I get there, I have to finish my press kit.

Can’t have a promotion team without materials to promote.

Beyond that, good lord let me tell you, this is a nerve-wracking process.

Not the learning. That shit comes easy to me.

No, it’s the trying to talk to people thing. The “what if it doesn’t work?” thing. The “who the fuck do I think I’m kidding?” thing. All that and much more.

But I’ll tell you what: I’m doing it anyways.

Fall flat on my face. Still doing it.

Never make any money. Still doing it.

Embarrass myself in the public sphere.

Still. Fucking. Doing. It.

(Not that it would even come close to being the first time I’ve embarrassed myself in public. Not even in the top 10.)

I believe in this thing, and I’m doing it.

No matter what.

Maybe you’ve had the same kinds of doubts?

The same kinds of misgivings and second thoughts?

Apparently, it’s quite natural, if you’re not a psychopath.

You’re not a psychopath, are you? Good. Just checking.

We all are just a little bit afraid. (ok, maybe more than a little bit.)

But fear is just your body’s way of encouraging you to take notice. To pay close attention. That’s what being wary means.

It doesn’t mean you should stop pursuing your dream. It just means you should be careful and focused about it.

Watch your step and keep your eye on the path.

So, stay focused – sharp.

And keep working.

That’s what I’m doing.

And, all things being equal, and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be releasing my novel sometime in the first half of the coming year.

It’s a dark, funny, urban fantasy, detective story.

“Drawn to Flame” is the title.

It’s the first book in a series. The second book is already in the beta reader phase.

Look for more about it coming soon.

Until next time…

 

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Happy Halloween…

I love Halloween.

It is, bar none, my favorite holiday.

And I do think of it as a holiday, as in the original version of that word: Holy Day.

There has just always been something magical about the day, and the night, for me.

Maybe you’re in the same gear. Glad to have you along.

Beyond the spooks, thrills, and chills that are usually associated with October 31st, I also think of it as a new beginning.

Way back, when Halloween was still Samhain, (pronounced Sow-in), the day was celebrated as the changing of the year.

Just as in the old-time, when they held that the new day began at nightfall and lasted until the next nightfall, the year was considered to begin in dormancy – the dormancy of what we call Winter. Of course, in the northern climes where it was celebrated, Winter came a wee bit earlier than it does for those of us closer to the equator.

Life begins quietly, gestates, grows and emerges. Dormancy yielding to action. So too did they believe the yearly turning followed the same cycle.

Now, before I devolve into a history lesson that I’m certain to screw up, let me get back to why I find the holiday so captivating.

You could wait for January. Make a list. Probably ignore it because it’s too cold, too dark, or whatever.

Or, you could start now.

Think about what you want to become and what you’ll need to do to get there.

Let it gestate through the holiday season.

Let it grow inside you and begin to emerge when the days get longer and the frost lifts from the world.

Give the idea time to germinate.

Give yourself time to plan.

Time to be absorbed in the becoming.

Plant your seed now, and let it rest in the earth until time and purpose nudge it into sprouting.

At least, this is what I do. It seems a good place for it.

A good place for the beginning of plans, for the kindling of desire.

There is one ritual I recall reading about: a bonfire would be set, and burn all night. As it burned down, the embers would be used to start another bonfire. Symbolic of the turning of the year.

Maybe you feel your own fire has burned down.

If so, now is the perfect day to blow the coals to life and move them to where they can burn again.

A new fire for a new year.

A quiet beginning, waiting to burst into life.

Regardless if it’s new beginnings or just tons of candy you look forward to, I hope your Halloween is as happy, spooky, eerie, joyful, hopeful, thrilling and chilling as you wish it to be.

Today’s a good day for wishes.

Happy Halloween.

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Hypnagogia…

Can I talk to you about some weird shit for a minute?

Good.

(This post is probably of more interest to the creative types, but hey, we’re all creative in some way. So, keep reading.)

I’ve spent a lot of my life sleep deprived.

Like, a-fucking-lot.

It started with insomnia when I was about 10 years old. For the next 14 years or so, I never slept any way that one might consider regularly.

Some of it is depression and anxiety. Some of it was due to hyperthyroidism that went undiagnosed for more than half my life.

I sleep much better, and more regularly now. Thanks for asking.

Anyways, being an insomniac one tends to become obsessed with sleep. At least, I did.

Ways to get to sleep. Methods for staying asleep. Little tricks and tips to lure the Sandman into my twitchy trap.

I even learned to lucid dream. I was 11.

When you’re obsessed with something, you tend to notice it, in all its detail and variance; to notice even the smallest thing about it.

Which brings me to the title of this post.

Hypnagogia is that state between wakefulness and sleep.

You’ll feel it most either when you’re dozing off, or between vicious slaps af the snooze bar.

I used to call it the body buzz.

It’s amazingly relaxing, mainly because one is in an almost completely relaxed state when one experiences it.

(One might also experience atonia, which is where one’s muscles go slack. This is natural. Keeps us from acting out our dreams. Also leads to what is sometimes referred to as Night Terrors, that feeling of being frozen with something in the room, maybe sitting on your chest. The old, old term for that is Nightmare. Mare being an old word meaning Goblin, and night, well, you can figure that one out yourself.)

But I digress,

Hypnagogia is a feeling in the body. But it can have other effects.

There is something called Hypnagogic Hallucinations.

One version of this manifests as the previously mentioned night terrors. It’s when your brain starts the process of dreaming, even though you’re not quite fully asleep.

And it’s seriously fucking cool.

Besides anxiety-inducing visions of some dark creature come to suck out your soul, you can also get some really trippy consciousness effects.

Out of body experiences.

Seeing ghosts.

Hearing music.

Having whole conversations with the dead, or people you haven’t seen in years.

It’s all perfectly normal. That is to say, it’s not paranormal in origin. It’s just something your brain does, that you happen to be aware enough to notice at the time.

And here’s where it gets interesting for creative types:

Because you’re in a state of near perfect relaxation, and because you feel slightly euphoric, and because your subconscious can float to the surface and interact with your conscious mind on a visible level, you can, if you were so inclined, use this state to solve problems, to spool through various options, or to come up with something you’ve never thought of before.

If that doesn’t get your attention, I’ll say it again, because it seriously fucking should:

To come up with an idea you’ve never thought of before.

That’s like the Holy Grail filled to the brim with pure Peruvian flake cocaine, for us creative types.

An idea we’ve never had before?

Or an idea seen from an entirely different angle.

Shit. That’s Mardi Gras laced with Absinthe.

(not that I know anything about Absinthe, or pure Peruvian flake cocaine for that matter. Not me. I would never. Why are you looking at me like that?)

I’ll not get into arcane descriptions of my own experience with the phenomenon, because generally it’s difficult to put those experiences into words. They leave an impression, and you can milk that impression for inspiration, for generation, for cogitation, if you like.

I just wanted to tell you about it.

Maybe you’ll investigate on your own.

I hope you do.

It can be a marvelous experience.

One caveat: it can also be terrifying.

It’s much like a psychedelic experience that way. Your experience depends largely on set and setting.

That is to say: you need to be in a setting where you feel safe and comforted. And you need to go into it with a mindset that is open to whatever happens.

Seriously. Whatever. Happens.

If you meet a monster, recognize that it comes from inside you. Ask it to tell you its story. But don’t run from it. It’s like trying to run from your own shadow. It has something to tell you. Let it.

Don’t be afraid. And don’t worry if it doesn’t come easily to you at first. It might take a while of trying, but you’ll get there.

(There is some suggestion that bumping up your acetylcholine levels will aid in achieving the state, as well as lucid dreaming. If you have pills available, good for you – they’re usually not distributed outside of medical testing. If not, eat a dinner with lots of eggs. Eggs contain a ton of choline, which is an acetylcholine precursor. Tree nuts as well. If you’re a cigarette smoker, smoke one before bed. Like you don’t anyways? Nicotine binds to the same receptors as acetylcholine in the brain, which will leave more of it floating around inside your noggin. Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. You knew that, right?)

So, there’s your introduction to Hypnagogia, if you hadn’t heard of it before.

Good luck,

And sweet almost-dreams.

Until next time…

 

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Something About Writing…

So, it’s been a minute since I wrote anything about writing.

(Feel free to untangle that linguistic knot at your leisure.)

Truth is, I haven’t felt much like writing, lately.

I’ve wanted to, just like I’ve wanted to go to the gym, and fold my nearly week old clean laundry – which my wife will remind me is utterly wrinkled by now and should be thrown in the dryer for another ten minutes before the afore-mentioned act of folding, but I haven’t been able to muster the energy or motivation for any of that.

This week has felt like a slog.

Right now I’m trying to make sure the weekend doesn’t drag through my heart in a similar manner.

Oh, I’ve had ideas. I’ve written notes. Even some dialogue.

(Dialogue is one of the easiest ways I know to get in a character’s head. Start talking like him/ her, and usually I can assume the ghost of the character’s personality. His/ her reactions to certain things, at the very least.)

Depression’s like that. Some moments you fly. Some you drown. But most of the time it’s a squelchy trek through a sinking bog.

So, here’s the point where I decide whether or not I’m going to give you an update on my various projects, or go off on a tangent related to a post a friend of mine wrote the other day about writer’s block.

Maybe I’ll do both.

So, updatery first:

I’ve stalled out on my WIP; mainly because I have ideas, but I’m not sure I know where it’s going well enough to steer it in any particular direction. Part of that is knowing the characters better. So, most of my notes lately have been about the main characters and their antagonists.

But then, a different voice came to me. From a completely different story, in a different universe totally unrelated.

New notebook. More notes.

I had thoughts of writing a spooky Halloween story, and submitting to an anthology. Some interesting starts on that, but it isn’t cooking. So, it gets moved to a back burner to simmer. It’ll probably get written in October, when the first crisp day hits, but that’ll be well past the anthology’s deadline. Sometimes it comes on time, and sometimes the conductor’s been drinking rot-gut whiskey and the train slows to a grinding halt several miles outside of the station.

I’m learning as much as I can about marketing for self publishing, and wondering if I’ll ever be able to save up enough cash to finally light the fuse on that rocket.

Little by little, I’m getting there. I think?

Trying to keep this blog humming – if two days a week makes any kind of tune.

I need to find more Beta Readers, and maybe a steady Critique Partner or two. The search continues.

What was the other thing?

Oh yeah, Writer’s Block.

Lot’s of people have written interesting things about it. Namely my friend, author, Brad C. Hodson. You should check him out when you get a chance. His site’s here.

It’s distinctly possible that we, as writers, write about the dreaded malady as a way of end-running around the damn situation – just to get the words moving, even if they aren’t the ones we originally wanted commit to print.

(I may or may not be doing that presently. I can neither confirm nor deny…)

For me, the Creative-Condition-that-Shall-Henceforth-not-be-Named usually occurs only as a result of depression and too much stress.

When I performed poetry, and coincidentally hung out with more poets, I ran into many of the “I can’t create unless I’m miserable” types.

I was never one of those.

Whatever emotion I was feeling at the time tended to dictate what I wrote.

But hey, that’s art.

Depression and misery, on the other hand, sit my ass in the chair and demand I stare off into space, a thousand yards and counting.

Pretty sure, given the frequency of my condition, all of my friends have seen that faraway look in my glassy eyes, at some point or other.

“Tess is searching the middle distance again.”

“OK, what’s new? Just make sure no one tips him over, this time.”

I’m sure, if I had been all there, I’d have heard the rest of that conversation.

Depression, for me at least, is one of those things where your body takes over and says, “Nope, don’t care what you want. Pay attention to this thing. Right now!”

It’s kind of like getting knocked out. Your organism knows it needs to focus on protecting itself, and does not give a single, blessed fuck what your conscious mind had planned.

That’s when I can’t really write.

It’s not that I feel uninspired. I write through that shit constantly.

Inspiration is a peak experience. And without the aid of chemical intervention, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as you’d like to believe. It’s rare, and wonderful, and that’s why we creative types talk about it all the time; trying to savor some of the remaining glow I guess.

The biggest problem with my experience of depression is, you remember that thing I said about focusing, yeah, that. It doesn’t want me to focus on my writing, or my physical health, or my job, or my hygiene, or pretty much anything else.

And if you’ve been depressed – not sad, but properly depressed – you’ll know that running away from that feeling as hard and fast as you can is the only other thing you can really think about.

And those two impulses: to run and to twist in on yourself, are in constant, shifting tension.

I call it The War in my Head.

Maybe you’ve felt the same way?

So, when I’m firing on all cylinders, when I’m not depressed, I don’t experience that thing we agreed not to mention again.

I might have to switch to a different project for a bit, but that’s about it.

I’ve been writing, fairly steadily, for about 20 years now.

If I’m not sunk, neck-deep in my own sucking mind-hole, I write and keep writing.

I don’t imagine that my experience is indicative of anything that might be called an average, or norm. I hope to [insert favorite deity here] that it isn’t.

The hardest thing for me to do, when I run face first into the concrete abutment of my emotional damage, is to tell myself it’s okay.

I can let it sit for a while.

(Sometimes I’ve let it sit for a long-damn-while. My last two completed novels each took about three years or so to complete. That’s chronological accounting. In working hours, they took maybe three months a piece, total. And the last one was 110,000 words. Once I knock the rust off, the skills tend to return with alacrity.)

Sometimes I struggle to remind myself that it’s okay to sit and stare holes in the nothingness beyond.

And some days I beat myself up for it.

No one’s perfect.

Anyways, I’ve probably rambled enough for one post.

If you made it this far, thanks.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

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A Saturday Morning Rant…

What kind of President of the United States doesn’t know that the FBI aren’t the ones you call to investigate a sexual assault?

How did we put an idiot of this caliber into the highest elected office in our land?

And what kind of maliciously ignorant, grotesquely prideful, and inhumanly bloodless thumb-up-their-bum-and-grinning assholes continue to not only support, but praise the callous and destructive actions of this toadstool Schmuck-in-Chief?

As an addendum to the issue raised by Ms. Ford, re: the senate confirmation hearings:

Who the fuck are we if we don’t stand with the victim against to powerful and privileged?

We sure as shit aren’t Americans anymore.

I don’t give a fuck how many flags you’re flying or when you stand for a song, if you’re not siding with the underdog in this case, you don’t get to call yourself a patriot.

We’re a nation created by the underdogs, the ones without the power and privilege.

We used to remember that.

We used to value that.

(Ok, that’s a subject for a whole other rant, so I’ll end this here.)

So, that’s my rage filled morning.

How’s yours going?

 

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