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.

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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.

Back On the Rails

Derailing

So, if I’m honest with myself, I derailed last January. ConFusion 2017 was a great big ball of fun, and I came home inspired by all the excellent people I got to hang out with for three whole days of Sci-Fi enriched shenanigans, but I also came home with a raging case of pneumonia. By early February it had consolidated in my right lung to such an extent that the doctor I ended up seeing seriously tried to get me to go to a hospital.

I didn’t go to the hospital. Instead, I completed the prescribed levofloxacin followed by self-congratulations because of “how great I felt” in the aftermath of my affliction with the reduced price tag for the cure. “Yeah me!”

The March rolled over me with a second bought of walking-pneumonia.

#Derp

So yeah, I lost my writing discipline. Round about April I found myself doing anything but writing. Instead of getting up in the morning and laying down words, I did the dishes I should have done the night before.

And so it went, me letting crappy little things get in the way of my desires. For a while there I even considered the possibility that rejection (and there has been plenty of it since January) was a sign that perhaps Sci-Fi really wasn’t my calling.

I derped once and then couldn’t help but derp again.

Derp.

Derp.

Derp.

This morning I woke up, compelled to evaluate my current situation and my future prospects. An existential crisis fueled by OCD. While standing on the ledge just outside the window of my metaphorical 13th-floor apartment, I was lucky enough to have an interested friend to talk me back inside to chair in front of my writing desk. Also, “Yeah me!”

Re-Railing

My writing group continues to send me reminders that they’re meeting every Sunday. Writing friends have asked if I’d like to get together or why I’m almost never seen at the coffee shop banging out words. I’ve even gotten polite queries about when the next episode in a space opera series might be released. Ok, so there are people out there who a) like what I write and b) want me to write more of it.

There’s even this overlooked gem of a review for The Big Red Buckle which has me thinking I should engage Melanie S. as a blurb writer for future projects. 

Much of my distress and worry regarding my writing of late is tied to the notion that I’m not actually making anything close to a living from it. Classic cart-before-the-horse thinking I know, but still, there it is. Add to this that I’ve sent out a literal butt load of submissions since the start of the year and all of them have come back negative for a variety of reasons.

I expressed this to another friend recently at a chance island encounter, and his response was both pragmatic and worthy of my attention. “If you find someone to work with, do it on your own.” He’s entirely correct, but again that damnable compulsive voice in my head, there are days when I can’t stop obsessing about the rejection.

So, the outstanding question right now is “How?” How do I get myself back on the rails, headed down the tracks toward some yet-undefined-life-goal? Make some money from my words? Write the best novel ever written? Write a story I’m happy with?

How about, “Just continue to write?”

Summer

Summer is *not* the best time of the year for a stay-at-home Dad and writer to reinvent himself, this is a fact of my life of which I am critically aware. That said, I know that I can write 300 words a day without taking much time or it devouring much effort.

So we’re back to this simple goal and will build from there. Three-hundred words a day and down the tracks.

The Bad News

Yeah, so all has been quiet on this front for some time. The reason for this is pretty straightforward, I’ve been experiencing intermittent issues with the keyboard on my laptop which became catastrophically worse late last week. Look at yours right now. See all the letters between W and P? None of them on my laptop’s keyboard work any longer and most of them get used all the time to write simple sentences.

Today, after much hullabaloo on the phone with Apple, I drove to the mainland specifically to get it repaired. I’ve watched the surgery necessary on YouTube, and it’s pretty involved, so I sought help. Help, it turns out, cost considerably more than the laptop is worth.

“So there he is, banging away at this post,” you’d rightly point out. “How the hell is doing it?” Well, I bought a cheapo keyboard and turned my very expensive Macbook Pro into a desk potato. This may become my new mascot or something.

“What’s next?” you ask when informed of my clever and inexpensive workaround? Well, obviously a lot less portable computing. When I work away from my desk, I’ll necessarily be doing so on a tiny device like my phone. This is slower and considerably more prone to borkage, but possible.

Right now my big project is a Space Opera retelling of Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliet which I’m very glad to be working on once again. If I do anything to improve my workspace, it will be to add a bigger monitor to this potato setup. However, unless and until I’m able to sell some stories, this is going to remain an aspiration since it lacks funds.

Doomsday Giveaway

This is Matt. He’s got a pile of books he purchased last January that no one picked up. Matt is sad because books without readers are indeed a depressing fact of life. But there’s a silver lining to the cloud that hangs over Matt’s troubled head.

You can pick up one of these excellent reads. Doomsday Chronicles is an anthology of short stories that reads like a laundry list. That’s if your laundry is, in this case, some of our time’s best genre writers.

You can click on the picture of the book or here and pick up your free copy on Matt’s dime, while they last. All he asks for is a) that you follow him on Twitter and b) that you leave a review when you’ve finished reading the book.

Depression Kills Me

So, in case you were wondering, the answer is “yes.” I’ve been depressed quite a bit lately. Just stuck down in deep, dark old funk.

Also, “yes” my depression has a lot to do with the weather we’ve been seeing here in Puget Sound. That and the stupid string of sicknesses I’ve experienced since the start of the year. Oh, and we’d be judged remiss if we forgot to top that pile-o-poo with the joke-of-a-government we’ve been bequeathed.

I’ve been caged by my mortality and my awareness of that unrelenting, unavoidable limiting factor. A real pickle.

Today, I managed to pull out exactly enough of the stops to transport my family from my island home to the bustling, urban paradise of Seattle. Here we shall spend the next few days living it up and in the process breaking a couple of bars.

We visited the Japanese Gardens today and that was a lot like jumping into a well organized Caribbean bay or warm, salty water. Dimsum and so many bao that my belly felt like it might split, the most comfortable-discomfort I think a person can endure. Other than the relentless exuberance of our six-year-old, today was a really good day.

Right now I’m counting the time I’ve spent writing by sipping scotch in a bar on 1st Street. While I feel Jack London’s judgemental gaze from a lofty spot on the wall, I’m once again producing words. Slowly, sometimes laboriously, but they’re coming. I’m surrounded by intimate human dramas.

At the bar is a couple interviewing their third for tonight’s intimate indulgences, I’m left to wonder how fast that rocket will go off. A rude dude just rode a wheelie down the street on his LED ignited Hayabusa. There’s a lonely man brooding in the glass, glare and reflected light of the front window. If he breaks out a deck and starts to type madly he’s going to be the star of a hacking short story. I’m almost ready to give him mine.

For the first time in what feels like forever, I’m writing. Re-writing! Good golly the floodgates are open!