I have nothing but a short and sweet post this evening. Merry Christmas to all! And updates coming soon!
I started off today’s blog entry by spending nearly 10 minutes looking for silly memes about variety being the spice of life. I have major focus problems at times. I’m not sure if it’s because I woke up this morning at 6:45am and decided I needed to get a head start on my blogging, my coffee is kicking in, the homemade egg white and avocado sandwich I just ate has my tummy so full that I just want to veg in my computer chair and look at weird things on Google while I digest, or I’m just really that much of a procrastinator. It’s a flaw. It’s a mystery. It’s who I am. Either way, I finally got my word doc open and am hoping to deliver a thoughtful, well written and witty morning blog. One can hope.
It goes without saying that variety is essential to the life of a writer. One must always push one’s limits, try new methods, new perspectives, always keep honing one’s craft. When I was a teenager, I had the idea that once you started writing, you had to stick with the genre you began in. After all, when I looked at the writers who were popular during my teen years, book reviews and adverts were pretty clear that Stephen King was the master of horror, John Grisham was the master of lawyer suspense drama, Danielle Steel was the master of romance and Judy Blume was the master of children and young adult lit. They never really changed. At least, I didn’t perceive them as changing. And I was destined to be a master. By the time I was 18, I thought I understood what writers and the publishing world did. I was wrong. I had a typical teenage view of books and the personal repertoire of books I had read and books/authors I wanted to read was minute. Tiny. Pequeño. Yet, as I grew, as I read, as I approached my mid-twenties, I realized how naïve I really was when it came to writers. By the time I started working at Barnes & Noble, the real world of books exploded on me. I became familiar with more authors, more genres, fiction vs. non-fiction, biographies, humor, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, and literary fiction vs. everything else. And more shockingly than anything, I began to realize that authors crossed over. Stephen King actually wrote non-horror. Julie Garwood started writing contemporary. Anne Rice wrote about more than vampires? And she used a different name? Hold a tick, so did Stephen King? What is this craziness all about?
Pigeonholing an author is probably the worst thing one can do and is something I’ve often done. I don’t do it intentionally, but it happens sometimes. I don’t think it had anything to do with my favorite author stepping away from their comfort zone, but there were certain styles and genres that I liked and I stuck with them for quite a while. Fortunately, as a student of creative writing, I had to get out of that comfort zone and read stories I was unfamiliar with, genres I would have never picked up on a random day at Barnes & Noble, writing styles I would have thought of as foreign 10 years ago, and authors I might have ignored because the book cover was plain or didn’t “speak to me”. I held a lot of strange beliefs when I was younger about writers and what they were meant to do and I realize now it was a bit detrimental to my growth as an author.
I say all this because while in school, I not only stepped out of my reading comfort zone, but also my writing comfort zone. I experimented with styles. I experimented with genres. I shucked the shell of what my fellow students might have thought of as weird, taboo and not popular. I wrote the typical funny stories, I wrote characters that were young, college types, hip, rebellious, whatever I thought my fellow work shoppers might find good and cause them the least discomfort. That changed dramatically my last semester when I decided I wanted to push a personal envelope and write a story with an unusual POV (first person plural) and I went further in writing a story about religion. It came with its due amount of fear. One being, I hate people who proselytize to me because they perceive my religious beliefs as different from theirs. Granted, they probably are, but they are surprisingly similar. I was raised in the American south in a southern Baptist family. It’s not a far leap to guess what my religious upbringing was like and what beliefs and doctrines I still carry today. But they are still different and more than anything, personal. So I don’t proselytize to others. It’s a courtesy thing. So writing a religious story made me nervous. Having others read a religious story made me nervous, because the story isn’t so much based on proselytizing, it’s based on a speculative view of human nature. Its base was a human story about one of the most famous events in human history. I really wondered if my fellow student of differing religious upbringings (or lack thereof) could read it objectively and give me good feedback on the form, the craft, the new style of POV I was attempting and not get their panties in a bunch that I dared to write a religion story and present it to a state college classroom. It was tricky, but I did it. Not only did everyone give me good feedback, I didn’t have any students chastise me for “forcing” a religious piece on them. I hate that I live in a world where people are afraid to speak of religion. I’m fascinated by religion. It’s history, after all. And all I can say is if you don’t want to live your life based on religion, at least live your life based on what history has taught us. It comes back; sometimes with a vengeance.
Forgive the early morning rambling. I seriously only wanted to post a little blurb about the new story I have published today, “The Grace of None, Save One” featured in the October 2013 edition of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine. I was happy when this one got picked up, wondering for months if it would be unpublishable in typical literary markets. (the amount of rejections was staggering.) In the end, I submitted it to a religious based magazine and was happy when I was informed it was picked up, (with another publishing contract. Publishing contracts always make it feel more official). I hope everyone enjoys it as a well-crafted and thoughtful story. As my personal repertoire of readings has grown over the years, so does my list of publications. None can begrudge me of that.
I’ve decided to create a Facebook page to celebrate the October Wine & Write. The blog format which I envisioned for this is not quite working out. So in the meantime, feel free to check out the page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OctoberWineAndWrite
I hope to have new and exciting followers, and have fun in the spirit of writing and creativity.
The 5th of September is a personal favorite day of mine which very few people outside my close friends know the significance of. First off, it’s the birthday of Farrokh Bulsara, better known to the world as, Freddie Mercury. Secondly, like most cool things in the music and comedy world, it’s a day that is celebrated and really only recognized in the U.K. For this, I’m jealous. Like Live Aid, Red Nose Day, Bonfire Night and really any other reason they decide to give a bank holiday, the U.K., and more specifically The Mercury Phoenix Trust, came up with Freddie For a Day, a fundraising initiative to raise money supporting the fight against AIDS while celebrating Freddie’s birthday and legacy. First time I read about this I thought, “Where do I sign up??”
You see, if there is one thing people know about me after the fact that I love to write is that I love Queen. Let me say that again, I LOVE QUEEN! I clearly remember it started in high school. My friends took me to a little movie entitled Highlander 2. Having never seen the original Highlander movie, I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but if my friends recommended it, I was game. Now, let me say this: Highlander 2 is one of most horrible movies I’ve ever had to sit through. I couldn’t understand why my friends subjected me to such a monstrosity. Afterward, my friend Shelley convinced me the first one was by far better and I really needed to watch that one instead. So off to the video store we went and rented Highlander. Rushing home to meet curfew, I didn’t know what I was in for, but I held out hope. From the moment we pushed play and I heard the glorious choir of voices singing, “Here we are, born to be kings…..” I knew I was in for something special. That led me to buying the soundtrack CD, which led me to buy the greatest hits CDs, thus leading me to eventually buy every single album, compilation, double live album and video collection I could get my hands on. I loved Queen. And more than anything, I adored Freddie Mercury.
Many words have been used over the years to describe Freddie: ultimate showman, musical mastermind, groundbreaking songwriter, flamboyant front man, trendsetting troubadour, video pioneer, etc. My only regret is that I did not get into Queen’s music until after Freddie’s death. But I remember it clearly, sitting at my desk during 1st period Spanish when we watched a current events news channel one November morning. The big news was that the rock world lost one of its most dynamic pioneers: Freddie Mercury. I remember thinking it’s sad the world lost such a beautiful person. It wasn’t until later years as I made my way through his entire catalog of music that I realized how truly beautiful he was and what a true loss his life was to the music and entertainment world.
Sometimes I like being the only one in my circle of friends who is so enamored with this musician and his band of musical geniuses. It’s a love that is mine alone and it comforts me when I am sad, having a bad day, having a great day, needing answers or needing inspiration. As a writer, I have gained immense inspiration from Queen’s music. Many of my stories have tiny nuggets of their influence. It’s not obvious to anyone but me because it might only be one word, maybe an innocuous phrase which harkens back to a song or even a prop I saw in a video. Only I know it’s there and it some how makes me feel like the story is all the better for it. Sure, I’ve tried to convert friends over the years and I’ve succeeded with a few. But in the end, I know Freddie and the band are still mine, and I kinda like that feeling of knowing I got there first. The music is my world.
Not having the talent to play an instrument or write music, I resign myself to being a fan, which I am perfectly content with. I have the music to inspire me, I have it to play, the videos to watch and more importantly, I have the amazing legacy Freddie Mercury left behind. And for that I am grateful. I celebrate his life every time I put in a Queen CD, rewatch a video or visit the Mercury Phoenix trust website to see the great works his charity has accomplished in the last 21 years since his death.
If there’s anything this blog is hoping to accomplish today, it’s this: find your passion and celebrate the passion of others. Art is many things, find one that you connect with and let its beauty bring the goodness out in you. Let it inspire you to create other beautiful things, whether it’s a song, a picture, a story, a poem, a kind word to a stranger, your child or your relationship. There is so much beauty in the world to not celebrate it. As the song, Who Wants To Live Forever, so elegantly states, “this world has only one sweet moment set aside for us.” Make your moment mean something.
Happy 5th of September, Happy Freddie For A Day. Celebrate life and celebrate beauty.
Happy birthday, Freddie Mercury.
A lot of people measure their self-worth by how much they get paid at their profession. As we all know, money obviously means you’re good at something. (I’m quite sure I learned that on Dynasty when I was a kid.) Once you establish your worth, rarely do you go below that. You’ve entered an echelon of either standards, wealth or reputation. You can be proud to wear your badge. Shine up your nameplate. Dust the cobwebs off that neon sign you’ve been waiting years to turn on. Hoist the flag you’ve been waiting years to raise, the one that’s emblazoned “I AM A SO-N-SO” I’m finally worth something!
So how much am I worth? Fifteen dollars. That’s $15. That’s the cost of a specialty roll, a spicy tuna roll and glass of water at my local sushi bar. And regrettably, I have to skip the miso soup to stay on budget.
After 15 months at this publishing game, I can finally claim to be a paid writer. It’s a small sum, but I don’t care. I was paid for a story. And ironically enough, it took me 24 hours to realize I was paid for it. I received the news last month as I was spending a long weekend in New Orleans with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I’m used to rejection letters. So much that I know they typically always come in on Sundays. So, that Sunday morning while discussing how we still needed to go check out a voodoo shop that evening, I received the email. Assuming it was another rejection letter, I casually opened it. First word: “Congratulations!” I thought to myself, okay, this is different. I read further, and it seems Allegory Online Magazine has accepted a piece entitled “Graveyard Love,” which is about a young woman’s visit to a voodoo shop to reverse a spell that went a little too well. I was so excited and proud of this, especially since I was currently on my first trip to New Orleans, and the story takes place in New Orleans. What are the chances? It wasn’t until the next day while I’m making my way back to Texas that I received an email about my contract. What? A contract? What in the hell do I get a contract for? After pulling my car over to a Starbucks (because all serious writers go to Starbucks to write and find inspiration), I read my contract and discover I will receive monetary compensation. I was happy!
A month later, I still am. It’s a small sum, but I’m not complaining. When I tell friends or family that I got paid for a story and I reveal the amount, I see that little glimmer in their eye as if they’re not sure if they should be happy or disappointed. I can tell they want to ask “Is that all?” without it coming out insulting. But I don’t care. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. It’s true, I could make more money doing online surveys in my spare time, but that’s not the point. Money is not the point at this stage in the game. My writing credits are. And now I have three!
I remember in a particularly funny episode of Will & Grace when Karen Walker referred to setting your self-worth as “It’s how you establish your quote.” Granted, she was referring to a woman’s first marriage and divorce, but the phrase always stuck with me. I guess I finally have my quote. It doesn’t mean a lot right now since I’m still submitting stories to mags and journals that can’t afford to pay. Being published is my quote right now. And I’m quite enjoying it.
So check out my newly published, first compensated story, “Graveyard Love” at Allegory Magazine while I change my flag from “UNPAID WRITER” to “PAID WRITER”. Support me with web hits and if you like the story, send a letter to the editor. Support is worth its weight in gold.
Why can’t we have both?
For the last several years I felt the impending disappointment in myself as each autumn rolled around and knowing that November meant National Novel Writing Month, or as some affectionately know it as, NANO. The basic idea behind NANO is to write a novel in a month. When I first heard of this concept back in 2006, I though surely someone got into the wrong bag of mushrooms. How can a person actually write a well thought out, well plotted, well written and publish ready novel in 30 days? Back then I was working full-time, going to college full-time and devoting time to my very needy pet geese. Writing was still a hobby. My mind couldn’t wrap around the concept of NANO. It wasn’t until my friend, (and published author) Lisa, told me that for her it wasn’t so much about writing a publish ready novel, it was about getting yourself into the habit of writing and having a community of writers encourage you to keep writing. Yes, the material you produce will have problems: your plot may not flow well, your characters might be shallow, your dialogue lacking, your arc and climax weak. It’s okay. The point is you wrote it and after November 30th you can go back and fix all those issues.
I finally understood. And I heard the angels sing on high.
And then it drizzled into a flailing French horn under the tire of an eighteen wheeler. I had a bigger problem than just sitting down and attempting to write a novel in the month of November. I had commitments that in no way I could back out of, mainly the Texas Renaissance Festival. If you’re there at any point during November, you’ll see me in all of my corseted up, thigh high pirate boots, boobies sticking out, two swords and dagger wielding, camping, drinking, turkey leg toting, roasting weenies on a stick and motor boating my friends glory. Yes, I am busy. Yes, too busy to write.
After lamenting this predicament for a couple of years, the answer finally came to me. If I couldn’t commit time to writing in November, that didn’t make me less of a writer. It made me somebody who needed an alternative. I needed to write in a month I knew I could commit, that was adjacent to NANO and still feel in the spirit of the other writers out there and I needed a gimmick to go along with it. So, what do I love as much as writing? That would be wine. Thus, in 2011 I stopped whining about it and launched the October Wine & Write. The concept was very basic. Write every day in October, whether it’s a sentence, a thousand words or an entire chapter. The point was to write and get further along than you were on Sept. 30th. And the gimmick? Simple. Drink while you’re doing it. Have a glass of wine. Have two. Have a beer, have a Cuba Libre. If there was anything that I learned from Papa Hemingway is that you could never drink enough and write. His legend spawned drink recipes, hunting adventures, love and war, writing and more writing. Hell, his favorite seat while writing was a bar stool. If you don’t drink for personal reasons, have a cuppa tea or coffee. The point is, WRITE and have a sip of something that you enjoy.
This idea became popular with my friends and Facebook peeps and a few also joined my writing adventure. Another friend, Lysa, started making graphics to go along with the Wine & Write. It brought us together for the sheer adventure of writing and gave us a little accountability. It made me sit down each night after work, take out my notebook and pen and write without the worry that I needed to edit, sculpt my plot just so or worry if my dialogue was flowing smoothly. I just wrote and usually had several chapters written by the end of it. At the end of the day, I reported my progress or congratulated friends on their progress as well. Suffice it to say, the concept was a success.
The reason I decided to blog about this today is because I just realized we’re only 5 weeks away from October 1st. And although my friends and FB friends are aware of this new tradition, I’ve acquired a few followers over the last few weeks who are also writers. I’d like to share this madness of writing. Whether you’re a NANO-ite or not, or just someone who needs another excuse to write and feel community support, please join us on October 1st with your notebook, pen, laptop or whatever you write on, your favorite beverage and write. You won’t regret it.
In closing, I’ll share one of Hemingway’s famous cocktails. I’ve personally never tried it. Absinthe is $45 a bottle in Texas and I’m on the verge of only affording Boone’s Farm these days. But like all of Hemingway’s other endeavors, it has an awesome title and will probably kick you in the balls.
Cheers and Sláinte!
Death in The Afternoon
Mix together in a Champaign flute. Drink. Write a masterpiece or spear a swordfish. Repeat.
That brief moment of 14-year-old humor was brought to you in reverence to my sisters known as the Slapahos. Why are we called Slapahos? I’ll tell you when you’re older.
It’s officially been 7 months since I stopped working. Back in January I made the scary and difficult decision to quit my job for several different reasons. I know what you’re thinking: why would anyone willingly volunteer to stop getting a paycheck? But in return, I was able to focus on my health, my sanity and my overall happiness. I made a personal oath to myself that I would use my time wisely. I would wake up without fuss each morning, see my fiancé off to his job, tidy the house and spend the next several hours writing and/or working on story submissions until it was time to make dinner. Did that happen?
What my typical routine morphed into was that of waking up an hour or two after my fiancé left for work, stumble around the kitchen to find my tea or coffee, listen to talk radio while I read email and Facebook, do the dishes/laundry if I’m particularly motivated enough, play on Facebook some more, read cold case stories or odd news articles, start working on dinner when Robert gets home, then after dinner, and only then I sit down for my perceived last hour of the day to work on writing. My goal and dream of being a full-time writer producing legitimate literary material did not pan out as it should have. I was not conducting myself as a “serious” writer. Even now as I write this, I got distracted and checked out Facebook. This “serious” writer needs a serious intervention.
This morning I changed up my routine a bit. The fact that I’m writing a blog entry is proof of that. As a writer, I had a great night last night. And the night before as well. For the new novel, I have a habit of writing several chapters over a month-long basis, (that’s handwritten, pen and paper and all), then I spend the next month typing and editing. Some think I’m crazy for that, but it really does help me keep on track with the story and not get too many plot points or details mixed or missed. So, the last two nights I finished edits on one chapter and moved on to the next. Let me stop for a moment and explain something. My chapters are monsters. I am not a light writer. My chapters are rarely less than 4000 words. Some of my best chapters reach up to 9000 words. I think that’s a habit I picked up in college because my prof always cut me off at 4000 words. All of my chapters can pretty much work as short stories. So to say it takes me several days (sometimes weeks) to edit a chapter is not a sign of laziness, but it’s to let you know my chapters are long. They are detailed. They are monsters.
Getting back to my point, the last two nights I got roughly 6000 words edited: well written, well thought out, metaphored, symbolized, alliterated, obliterated, moving-plot-forward type of words. I was ecstatic. Getting a chapter just right and completed sends me into a state of euphoria I simply can’t explain. Other writers and artists understand where I’m coming from on this one. It’s like being in love. And as cliché as it sounds, it’s better than sex. It’s my drug and I have no shame in abusing it.
But the morning after is when I feel the drop. The feeling is gone and I wonder why it doesn’t last. But I know all I need to do is get back to writing to feel it again. (Just as soon as I spend 2 hours fucking around on Facebook.)
I wonder sometimes if I became conditioned over the course of my life to only write at night. Thinking back, in high school I wrote when I got home. As a working adult, I saved my writing for when I got home. As a college student, I broke it up a bit and wrote while at school, but then I was a creative writing student. Back to work, back to writing at night, although I built up a routine to reserve 30 minutes during my lunch break to writing. During some weeks, it was the ONLY time I wrote. After looking at all this, what is it about night writing? Up until recently, writing was defined as my “hobby”. And you don’t do your hobby during the day. Because prior, I spent all my time on improving my mind or winning the bread. I felt like if I was writing during the day, then something more “serious” was getting missed, like my job (that thing I got a paycheck for), house work or my dedication to my family or friends, or looking for work because I would like a paycheck again someday. Something in my life was going to get missed and in the back of my mind I thought I couldn’t let that happen.
Changing my views and thoughts about writing shouldn’t be this hard. I thought it would be a more natural transition. Being a writer is not hard for me. After all, I love it. But finding a writer’s routine is a part of this love affair I’m having difficulty with. What can I do to stop myself from feeling guilty about writing in the morning? Or writing eight hours a day? If I was a “serious” writer, I would stop making excuses. That’s what all multi-published, well paid writers will tell you.
Maybe my blog will help. Maybe I’ll spend the next several hours writing like I really want to. I have a 6000 word chapter to finish editing so I can get back to the handwriting. I won’t ignore the dishes, but I’ll ignore the laundry on the couch….at least for a few hours.
I will edit. I will write. I will breathe and let the euphoria wash over me. It’s my first love, after all, and one I should never take for granted.