Today I Give You

A picture of a volcano pretending to be Gandalf.

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Checking In

After yesterday’s angry tirade (which I have since taken down) I had a conversation with my wife. Specifically, we talked about my writing and we did this because I’ve been feeling like an utter failure of late.

During the spring and summer of this year, I submitted a stack of short stories to a bunch of different markets. About 300 times, absolutely all of them came back negative. With not even a nibble I began to suspect that I might be doing something wrong.

This summer and fall, between the atmospheric funk caused by the West being on fire and the psychic funk of living in a dysfunctional country, my word count plummeted. I’m struggling to write anything that doesn’t immediately come off as “Angry White Man.”

All that lumped together means I’m feeling a lot of failures.

Okay, so one of the things a check-in is good for is that it can help a person figure out where they’re at. Done. Then it can be used as a place from which to plan.

Writing is important to me. First, because it’s been a significant part of my personal therapeutic regimen since the seizures started. Simply talking about the way I feel isn’t enough, when I write it down, however, I seem to be giving myself what I need to work through all those feelings and challenges. Second? Well, I’ve just got a lot of science fiction-ish ideas. I mean, that’s what my brain does when it has nothing else to do. I can go for a walk in the woods and come home with a novel idea for interstellar travel or fold a pile of laundry and walk away with an overland trekking idea on a distant world.

Apparently, my stories lack much in execution. I’m too wordy, not descriptive enough, lack tension, raise the stakes too high, can’t spell my way out of a paper sack, end sentences annoyingly, can’t start a sentence interestingly, use the wrong font, use the incorrect size of the right font, lack an author platform, am “that kind of writer,” am that other “sort of writer,” use too many curse words, drop the f-bomb, am too creative with my profanity, am not creative enough with my use of profanity, can’t write humor, my attempts to be serious or authoritative come off as doltishly funny, use too many adjectives, lack a wide vocabulary, ignominiously use too many ten-dollar words, and apparently any voice I might have manifested drown in the sea of voices of people all making exactly the same ineffectual attempts to write compelling and entertaining fiction. My failed attempts to write about anything are legion.

Tess’ advice to me was to get into some Clarion classes or maybe look for some other online programs. And truth be told I have virtually zero formal training in how to be a writer so this might be useful. I’ve also got another round of books on hold at the library, so there’s that.

Frankly, it’s possible I just need to stop worrying about publishing … anything … anyway … anytime. Turn this whole enterprise inside so I and my works are protected from the boilerplate criticisms I’ve subjected myself to in the past. I don’t know.

The sensation of failure is never enjoyable and I’ve been wallowing in it.

Thank You Tom Petty

Your words saw me through some tough times of my own. I’m sorry to see you go, sorry to see time caught up to you.

Square One

Had to find some higher ground
Had some feat to get around
You can’t say what you don’t know
Later on won’t work no more
Last time through I hid my tracks
So well I could not get back
Yeah my way was hard to find
Can’t sell your soul for peace of mind

Square one, my slate is clear
Rest your head on me my dear
It took a world of trouble, it took a world of tears
It took a long time to get back here

Try so hard to stand alone
Struggle to see past my nose
Always had more dogs than bones
I could never wear those clothes
It’s a dark victory
You won and you also lost
Told her you satisfied
But it never came across

Square one, my slate is clear
Rest your head on me my dear
It took a world of trouble, it took a world of tears
It took a long time to get back here

Story Mode

I can’t take a picture of my new writing rig because it’s also my camera. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been making use of my Nexus 6P combined with Google Docs and a cheapo Bluetooth keyboard to get my words down.

As long as everything stays charged the combination works well enough. Editing in this mode is far more difficult and considerably slower. Also, BT response times sometimes cause minor issues, but I am turning out stories once again so there’s that to be thankful for.

I’m currently sitting at the coffee shop watching my youngest play AD&D with a pair of brother’s who have occupied the community table. They keep walking around with the character manual and Star Wars men, jumping in and out of their collective narrative.

They’re loud and happy and working it out and that’s good.

I was writing until my phone, the device I was using to write with, rang. Incoming call from a Dodge dealership I visited yesterday. They had a 2009 Subaru (go figure) that I was interested in and they’re interested in my 2014 Prius V.

I picked up the call and talked with the sales person for a bit, then, eventually hung up with her. The leak I’d found on the ’09 has been repaired, would I like to continue with the trade. They’re really interested in my car. Questions and uncertainty swilling around in my head.

I put the phone back on the keyboard and tried to write. What was Merra doing again? I read the last few paragraphs recapturing her mood, drawing the thread of the story forward, but it’s very obvious, I’ve lost my place in the narrative.

I want to blame it all on my phone. On the call that came over the ether on what is essentially my magic story telling machine, but I know that’s not the problem.

I’ve got some real world problems to take care of, life decisions I need to sort out so I can keep stories threaded.

The Perfect Dream

I’m going to break the Primary Unspoken Rule of Writing right now. Why? Because I had this dream last night that woke me up. Instead of it being one of those cold sweat, terror induced exercises in heart stopping I was in fact awoken by self-induced paroxysms of joy. Seriously!

Retro Futuristic City by HTECORE

The dream, as best as I can recall, centered around the idea that I had started a gym. People would come to my gym to swing around like Tarzan or Spiderman. Sort of a city sized exercise in parkour in which no one ever missed a leap or came down hard in a fall. And I was the *best* at it.

The setting was rich, luxurious.  Somewhere between the vast darkness of Los Angles in Blade Runner and the vertical richness of The Fifth Element, and the whole time I was flipping around this place like a trapeze artist operating outside gravity.

Like I said, I awoke from this dream, and a huge grin was plastered on my mug. I felt elated and I spent the next hour or so contemplating all the “whys.” “Why was that dream so good?” “Why did I wake up from feeling so satisfied?” “Why can’t I do this on command in my waking life?” “Why don’t I have the words to describe this amazing experience inside my dumb skull on the page?”

 

Fire Weather

This is the view from the upper deck of my house, across the East Passage looking toward Mount Rainier right now. It’s cleared up considerably, can’t you tell?

In good weather, we’re usually able to look out over the rail and see the volcano some 40-ish miles away. Often, we can even see the Cascade Crest, situated well beyond the volcano, in the blue distance. So, when the air quality is this bad you know something is up.

What is up is a complex of fires burning in British Columbia. The whole area has been socked in since Monday varying amounts of smoke and ash. I’ve had a headache since about then, and my only relief is when that pain becomes punctuated with periodic lung sensitivity and shortness of breath. Who knew a 45-year-old man could develop asthma?

Well, apparently I did. Starting about two years ago I wrote the bones of a story called Fire Weather. It’s a spec-fic piece about an Air Quality Refugee who flees summer fire weather in Chi-town only to become entwined in a pirate fire-fighting effort working off the coast of … wait for it … British Columbia.

It’s got everything too — semi-autonomous wild fire-fighting robots, boats, heroes, anti-heroes, swine, disaster, and rescue — and there’s no reason (other than a keyboard failure) that I can’t find an editor and get this thing out there.

Look for it on Patreon first.