Wednesday, December 26, 2018

2018 nanowrimo refelctions of a creative challenge: Lovejoy hook and excerpt

The Hook:
Late one night, Sophie Duggard, gets shot going into an all night convenience store. During the several weeks of convalescence to follow the incident, Sophie becomes first increasingly alienated and then scattered as she starts to put things into perspective. She challenges her thoughts on love, drug use and her sexuality.
Set in Northwest Portland, Sophie meets the people in her neighborhood, those who she spends her time with, and those who save her. No matter where a person is in life, emotionally high, or emotionally bankrupt, there are always people to be with.

The Excerpt:
The air in Portland was perfect. It was perfect. The rain of the day had settled and now, there was just the lessening puddles on the pavement. The leave mash of the autumn was gone now, now in January, and in the quiet nooks of vacant lots, small patches of forests and in the derelict neighborhoods, spring was already beginning. Small blooms even at night were here and there, like the hints and nuances of dreams.

The Max whizzed to a stop on the tracks. The night outside the windows was dark despite the early hour. In winter, closer to the North Pole than not, and being in the western part of the timezone, the nights come early. Early darkness, and days that come to light later begin to fail directly after the solstice in January. Each day gets longer than the last, and this will always be noticeable because it happens by minutes.

The same thing happens in the summer too, only the days become darker sooner and the nights last longer. This was something that she had noticed when in Sacramento. This was something that she had tried to articulate to Greg, that the days didn't seem to change very rapidly in Sacramento. They did not change as quickly or as noticeably as they had in Oregon.

The windows on the inside of the light rail were mirrors, too much fluorescence inside and the dark, dark night outside. The vacant seats when she first sat down at the airport quickly filled at each stop. At the Lloyd Center, she pulled the small bag behind her legs and squeezed it to the seat, and she put the larger bag on her lap.

Across the river, the city was lit up and bustling. This was not the same sort of excitement and flush of activity Denver had been. Denver had seemed dizzying, lively yes, but dizzying. Denver seemed like it was on the go, even if the go was up and out like a 1950s military atomic bomb recording. Portland, although well lit, well appointed moved slower, more sluggish. People were not in fear of freezing on the street corners with the panhandlers and preachers. In Portland, there was plenty of time and plenty of pace to move slower, diligently.

At the Pioneer Square stop, almost everyone got off, and a whole new crop of everyone got on. As Sophie looked around the crowd, taking notice of them mostly by their reflections, she recognized no one. She was not a frequent user of Tri-met, the public transportation system and she was not generally out and about during this hour.

At the library stop, the very next one, she got off the train. She has a long walk of about a block up to streetcar stop. There would be a small circling ride through Northwest Portland under the freeway and by the hospital ultimately, home. The streetcar would go all the way up NW Lovejoy Street. At NW 23rd, she would get off and walk the last two blocks toward home.

The bags became heavier. There was this moment of wistfulness when she hoped she would not miss the contents of either bag and should she leave the bags, one or the other on the side of the street, and if she would miss them.

A small rain, a warm misting drizzle began as she waited at the streetcar stop. She thought about the taxi she should have taken. This was no way to spend the evening. She looked at the pavement at her feet. Be more present, she thought. Be here in this moment, she thought. Looking down seemed to make that sentiment more real. As she looked up into the buildings and passing cars and people, the future seemed more and more consuming.

When the streetcar came, she got on without ceremony. She stood nearest the door and looked through her reflection into the darkness making out the places on the night that were more brightly lighted than the interior of the car. The thing moved slowly and suddenly, she felt sick, like she should feel. There had not been any food, only alcohol since breakfast.

Breakfast had been in a dirty little Interstate mountain town in the middle of the country, a completely foreign place where she was unlikely to see or visit ever again. This was the sort of thing that might make a memory, and if nothing more, it might make a story she'd be loathed to tell.

The mountain towns of Colorado, at least the one she had just seen did not seem all that different than seaside towns. There were the same shops, the same restaurants, the same tourists, the same taffies. This town, this Idaho Springs had something worse, it had a crime scene which was now becoming more and more obvious to her.

She had not slept with Greg or any other reason than she was lonely and had been for some long.

The loneliness was something that came on in small waves than just kept growing and growing. It was like all of her childhood friends had either grown up or moved away during their college years and none of them seemed to want any friendship with her. Her work associates were not friends. Many of them, aging old men, had different ideas of what the world was like and they seemed very out of touch. She had a few neighbors in her building she was on good terms with, at least in the hallways and laundry room.

There were the few dates.

It was all a disaster.

And Greg? Well Greg was the same old son of a bitch that he had always been and as she suddenly realized it, she was the same old stupid easily manipulated bitch he always took advantage of. Things should change.

Getting off the streetcar, she heaved her bags up and began to walk up the hill, the last two blocks toward home. The lights of NW 23rd faded into the darkness of the neighborhood. At her apartment building, she unlocked the back door and walked up the back staircase toward her door. As she opened her door, she was grateful to release the bags. She was home.

The air inside the apartment was stale, just like the air in a non-lived in apartment might smell. The smell of her soap or her her coffee had made way for paint chipped radiators and dusty old carpet.

She walked the length of the hall from her door to the interior of the apartments and turned on lights as she went. In the kitchen, she looked into the refrigerator. The box was empty. It was generally empty, but more empty now that ever.

It was not a difficult decision. She had dined alone often enough. Somehow, tonight, it was not as tolerable a thought as it should have been. It was like she was back home, in the same old place and it would have been okay had she not had the last several meals with someone else. Now, she would be forced to eat alone again.

She went to Sammy's. This was not the sort of restaurant where she would ever go. It was certainly not the sort of restaurant where she would take guests, or go on dates or eat alone. This was the sort of restaurant where couples go on weeknights to find a little peace or a little drama in a relationship.

She sat at a booth near the window. She looked out on the street and ignored the interior of the place. She ordered a small steak and the waiter did not ask about any of the trimmings. It was hopefully going to be good enough. All that mattered now was having a full belly and a good night of sleep. This would be good enough if she was not going to be able to leave the past behind.

The salad came. Bland.

The entree came. Over-salted. She ate without relish.

The brandy at the end of the meal already tasted like bad memories. She looked out the window as the bill came. She had thought about the basic home economics that they had learned in Girl Scouts. There was no reason to eat extravagant meals like this when this one meal came to the same price as what a week of groceries would have come out to should she had eaten at home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

2018 nanowrimo reflections of a creative challenge: Lovejoy

This 2018 season of National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo, was very different from the last four creative challenges, at least for me. The biggest difference, I suppose is that I worked very quickly on the last few challenges. November 2017's The Second Door took 13 days. April 2018's Admiral fish and the Rainy Day Parade took 21 days. July 2018's The Chill of the Morning took 15 days and that photobook, Blue Red Gray took 8 days. I work fast.

This November that was not the case. This last November I worked on my story everyday, all thirty days of November. I did not finish the story until the very last day. I averaged just under 2000 words a day, everyday, all month.

Now, as I think about it, this is the proposed process: write everyday all month. It was not a difficult thing to do, far from it, but admitted by day 10, I was worried that I would not finish, or at the very least, not finish on time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 nanowrimo reflections of a creative challenge: My Prep


When it came to the writing of my November novel, Lovejoy, I did not make one single plan. I did not even think about it until the writing began. I had a character. I had one scene in mind, and that was it.

I had one character from another novel Undertakers of Rain. Undertakers of Rain was written in 2009, early 2010, maybe. It was published and had a five year run with my now defunct publisher. In this novel, I had a minor character named Sophie who had a brief fling with one of the main characters. But the main characters showed up in my 2017 nanowrimo manuscript, The Second Door. In short, I have a number of novels that take place in my imaginary northwest Portland neighborhood.

When I chose the Sophie character it was really because I knew I could rewrite the scene I had already written from her point of view. I also knew that Sophie had been through a bunch of life before she met John in Undertakers of Rain. In an essence, Lovejoy was my chance at writing her back story.

But that's all I had going into it. That was all I needed. I had my time, my locale, and my character. What more did I need?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

2018 nanowrimo reflections of a creative challenge: What I did and what I did it for


November has come and gone. Of course I participated in the National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo again this year. In fact since I participated in November of 2017, I have participated in several creative challenges including Camp NaNoWriMo in both April and July and then the SoFoBoMo in August. I don't think I thought about whether or not I was going to do nanowrimo again this year, it was just something that I was going to do.

In the last 13 months, starting on November 1, 2017, I have written more than I have in any other 13 month period, ever. I think much of that is in part to these creative challenges. Even thought I would not consider any of these manuscripts as being especially great or even inspired, they are complete drafts and a good show of work.

I also think that these creative challenges are perfect for anyone who wanted to learn the discipline that it takes in order to get something done, to see a project from the beginning straight to the end.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Golden Time

When I think of the golden time for me as a writer, I think of only one time. I know, when I think about things, there are so many good times, there are so many highlights. But there is one time in particular that really rings true.

This time rings true is only a highlight because of the feeling. It just comes down to the feeling. I did not write anything of real value. Well, that's now entirely true. I can think of two things I wrote in the golden time that really make me proud. The first is an epic poem called Winter Rapture. It had to be an epic poem because I was reading a lot of Romantic poets at that time. And the second one was another novel called Masqueras and Munecas. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Stolen US Map and Photograph Bag and Vancouver's Underbelly, Part 2

So, there I was. I was determined to take my revenge out on two things, my liver and the whole town of Portland, Oregon.

I had been struggling. I had been struggling and someone broke into my car and stole my notebook. How could they? I drank and I drank and when I was drunk, I would kick over paper boxes. For those of you who were not around in the beautiful analogue days, there were these things called newspapers, and they were sold in vending boxes. Those boxes were on every corner, that is until I arrived. Then they were in every gutter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Stolen US Map and Photograph Bag and Vancouver's Underbelly

It was one of those whirlwind times that I think all people get, or should get. I had spent a year without a home, first in Denver, then in San Francisco, then in the wilds of Elbert County, then in Lisbon then Mexico City. It was a long year. It was a long year not because there were more days than in normal years, I just lived more in that year.

It was my intention when the year started to live the total fuck-all year that I thought every writer should have. It was my intention to read a novel a day, write a novel a week and prospect experiences that would last a lifetime of fun barroom tales and countless short stories.

This did not really happen. It did not really happen because there were confines. I worked the summer in Elbert. I had been in San Francisco because of a sick family member. And although Lisbon was fun, I was there with little money and an even smaller amount of the Portuguese language.

By the time I got to Mexico City,  I had been through three small jobs and I was starting to think that I was going to have to find a "real" job just to save face with everyone including myself. But to get things very very clear, I did not want a real job, I did not want to fit into real life and I'm afraid that is still the case today.

But I did get the job. And that job took me away from DF and away from the Peter Pan life I wanted. I went to Portland, Oregon.

I struggled with many things in the early days of Portland. I mostly struggled with the fact that I wanted to be a writer, and I was unable to do so. I was working weird hours, and in the hours I wasn't working I was exhausted or drinking, either way, no words.

I had been writing a page at a time in one of my composition notebooks over a period of several months. I kept my notebook and my personal journal and a handful of letters--some read and some unread-- in a US Map and Photograph bag. I left the bag in the backseat of my car. That was my fault. When the car got broken into and the bag stolen, I was heartbroken. it was not just the burglary, it was the months of pain in the notebook that crushed me.

Then, I went to Vancouver, BC. That's where all the trouble occurred.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Antioch in the Spring

There are those defining moments, and I know you know what I mean.

I had taken a few days in Antioch when I was a young man. I had come from Denver, which in March is so unbelievable winter burned that everything is brown. Sure, there are a few things trying to bloom, but the world is yet to become spring like. At the time of the story, Antioch was a welcomed green sight that I was instantly in love.

Of course at the time of this story, I was still thinking about becoming a botanist. In retrospect, it may have been at this visit that I was finally pushed over the side. The precipice, of course, in the spring of 1996: should I be a writer or a botanist?

I was staying with my grandparents. The beauty of this was that they were not very attentive and I was in my mid 20s. I got to do anything that I wanted with the days. I took a number of walks, which was nice. I got off to the grocery store one afternoon. I had gone to the store only to find a notebook, something to write in. I was having some ideas for short stories which I was able to construct on my long walks.

I was in college at the time. I worked mostly on a word processor. Anything that required me to write, I used recycled paper and I used recycled manila folders to keep my papers together.  I was not a notebook user.

I may not have been a notebook user, but I knew that I didn't like the spiral notebooks. I still don't. the spirals become out of shape and turning the pages becomes difficult. In that grocery store on that day, I bought my first composition notebook.

I have talked about the merits of these notebooks before. The pages are sewn, which gives it a very durable quality. The size, I found to be perfect too. The size is just under the standard 8.5 x 11. This means that they are more transportable too.

Now, so many years later, I have hundreds of these things. I have been carrying one since 1996. I fill, on average 1 to 2 per month. That's a lot of words.

But when I think about the time in Antioch, kin my youth, this is what I think: when you are a writer, you are never lonely and when you have a composition notebook and a pen, you are never bored.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Endgame of Annual Goals

For the last couple of years, I have tried my best to finish all the things I wanted to go for the year in the month of October. There are two reasons for this. The first, I suppose, is that I have never been a big fan of the month of October, so I should spend it doing all the things that I've always liked doing. And I think the other reason is that, at least in the last couple of years, I've participated in NaNoWriMo.

When spending the month of November in the mayhem of writing a single novel, as NaNoWriMo suggests, it's prudent to clear everything off the desk. In this way if everything is done before NaNoWriMo begins, then it should not be too difficult to complete the 50,000 novel in a calendar month. The three times I've participated in these creative challenges I've been able to do it because I have not had other distractions.

If I had decided to write a novel, ten short stories and 100 poems in a given year, there is no way I'd be able to write all of that in one month, the month of October. And I would hope I'd have started the whole process in January. Whatever is left of the annual goals by the first of October, I know I really have 90 days left in the year. I guess I'm saying that whatever the yearly goals are, a sprint in October will get one of two things done: perhaps total completion, or at least it will get a fair portion done and the momentum to carry on through the end of the year.

When goals are made, they must be made on a specific timeline. As working along the timeline, there has to be the planned endgame. What's yours?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Impossible Goals

It was many years ago, about a year after I finished college at good old Metro State, that I found myself far from home and far from myself. Perhaps not far from myself but certainly far from whom I thought I wanted to be. I was in a coffeehouse in Northwest Portland on a cool rainy day in February. At the time I was a suit and all I wanted to be was a Bohemian. The coffee tasted dark and burnt and afternoon rich.

I was not where I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be some miles off in one of three small towns southwest of Portland. I was still wearing my suit and tie at the time of this story. I was just in a quiet nook of the coffeehouse leaning over my notebook.

In my years working the “real” job, I learned a few things. I learned about budgeting my time and setting goals. These are skills that I think everyone should know, should employ and should perfect. Balancing my time, at least in this scenario meant that I needed to split my time between the long term tasks set against the small easily attainable parts. And the goals? Well, many of them were set for me. I had to perform or would not have work.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Call to Arms, 2018

I'm not going to lie, it takes all I have to get through the summers in Colorado. There are few things I like about the summers anyway. I like warm nights. Yeah, that's about it, I like warm nights. I'm afraid I have to put all of my energy into getting through the summer.

In a few ways, this last summer was different. I did a TELF/TESOL/TESL certification course in June, which was pretty cool. I participated in two creative challenges: Camp NaNoWriMo and SoFoBoMo which took my mind off of things like the heat and the crowds and the jackassery I deal with at work.

But traditionally speaking, I get nothing done in the summer accept sweat and booze and a shady places to hide.

However, the autumn is, at least generally speaking, a prolific time for me. I don't really know why. It could be a “for every season” sort of thing. It is a time of doing, who knows?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

SoFoBoMo: My Reflections

Red Blue Grey
I'm a hapless Gen-X fuck all. I'm grateful for both my identity and my world view which are both colored by, partly anyway, my generation. I believe there should be nothing but art. I believe that the pursuit of art is the only worthwhile endeavor a person should have. Art. Not money, not jobs, not god, not government, nothing, just art.

All that said, I think this SoFoBoMo program was a great thing for me to do. First, I got to think about a project as a whole, theme, tools, product. I got to learn, Open Office Draw and that in itself was worth the whole process.

I also think that I was completely unencumbered because of my lack of experience and my lack of education when it comes to photography and the whole process of putting a book together. I feel like this lack of experience made me more fearless. Sometimes it's the fearlessness that is so meaningful. Once we get more education and more experience, we become more afraid of making mistakes.

Even now, many weeks after finishing the project, I am still pleased with my results. If nothing more, the book is a tangible piece of my labor. Evidence of my work.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

SoFoBoMo: Choosing, Editing, Sequence.

Many years ago, I was talking with my Uncle Mark. I've always loved this man. We were discussing travel trailers. At the time I had a very small and very old travel trailer while he had a brand new one that was bigger than the house I had at the time. I had made some mention about my trailer being humble, nothing next to his. Then he said something that has stuck with me. He said, “It's not what you have, it's what you do with it.”

It's not what you have, but what you do with it. This statement is applicable to just about everything in life, I think. It's true. I feel this way about everything I do. I was once in a bar talking with someone who had a great idea for a screenplay but she was unable to write it because she didn't have a Mac. If it had been my idea for the screenplay I would have written it on beverage napkins. But that's who I am.

As I began to take images for my Solo Photo Book Month creative challenge, I went with what I knew. I knew my little Casio camera. I knew my town. I also knew that was where my knowledge ended.

Taking inventory of what I had, I didn't have much. Everything that I have is old. The camera is old. My laptop is old. My laptop is so old that it does not have a mirco card reader. I also use Windows XP. I would have to figure out how I would work my images into a PDF.

I had never edited a digital image. I had never made a PDF for pictures either. As far as I could tell as the project began, I would have to learn some new applications to finish my project. I also would have to get creative with it too as I was using older technology and I am generally resistant to buying software.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

SoFoBoMo: My Concept. Ready Set and Shoot.

The first question before I began to do the Solo Photo Book Month, or SoFoBoMo, was what camera I was going to use. It is a good question because I have several camera: 2 Holga 120N, Holga 135BC, Pentax K1000, Casio Ex-10 and I have access to several more like the camera on my phone. To be sure, I spent several minutes deciding which camera to use. If I had ample time and ample money, I would use the Pentax. In fact of all the cameras I've ever had, and there have been dozens over the years, the Pentax is my favorite. And when you shoot on an old 35MM film camera nowadays, people think you're crazy.

Coming up with nothing, I decided to move on to the next question: what am I going to take pictures of? First of all, this challenge took place between July and August, so my time would be limited. I spent my summer days with my son, and the evenings took me to work. If I've learned anything about taking photos, it's best if done when alone.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

SoFoBoMo: Another Creative Challenge.

As Camp NaNoWriMo was coming to an end, I decided to figure out the next creative challenge to participate in. I mean, I had done NaNoWriMo last November to great success, and I did both Camps: April and July. The result was three manuscripts, not bad at all. The total amount of time for all three of these was somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 days. I know art cannot be tangible, and I know that there is no real way to gauge creative endeavors in a period of time. But I enjoyed the process all three occasions and if I could stretch those days on from 50 to 500, I would.

I don't know what it is about these creative challenges I like so well, if nothing more, it is a competition and I can work well with that. It could be that there is a built in deadline and that deadline is not only close, it gets closer with every moment.

So, there I was, finishing up Camp NaNoWriMo and researching other creative challenges.

They are many of these challenges. There are challenges for writers, filmmakers, musicians. They range in time periods from 24 hours to one month. I would love to get involved in the 24 or 48 hour film challenges, but alas, I would need a whole team of people for that.

When I found SoFoBoMo, I was sold. SoFoBoMo or Solo Photo Book Month, happens during any single 31 day period from July 1 through August 31. The concept is simple: take at least 35 images and put them into a PDF and your done.

Needless to say, I was up for the challenge.

I've been a shutterbug for most of my life. I've taken all sorts of photos and on all sorts of cameras. When I take pictures, it has always been a way to record a day, or in some cases, it has been a way to see a day. When you go out on a photo excursion, you purposefully take a closer look at the day: subjects, light, etc. And when this happens, you then record the day with the filter of feelings, longing, examinations

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Report from Camp NaNoWriMo: on day 13 I completed the Challenge

Winner 2018 - Facebook CoverThe Camp NaNoWriMo program spans the thirty days of April and the thirty one days of July. And of course, these are extensions of the original NaNoWriMo which takes place in November. There are thirty days in each month.

I absolutely love this creative challenge. I think the organization is well developed, helpful and the mission to get people to write is worthy and I wish more people joined up. I do not believe in all nonprofit organizations. I do not freely give money or time to many nonprofits either. NaNoWriMo, however, I believe in fully, and whereas I do not have any time to donate to the organization, I did donate money each time I've participated. I think every writer who participates, it's a good idea to give a little back.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Report from Camp NaNoWriMo: the excerpt

Winner 2018
From "One of Those Smoking Couples"

The soda burned my nose a little. I took half the bottle in one swallow anyway. “I want to see the glass blowers,” Jill said.
I pulled the soda bottle away from the face. “The air feels good here,” I said. The clouds over the ocean were rolling in with the tide. We'd been on a beached tree for a few minutes. I had needed the air and I'd hoped the soda would help my hangover.
Jill put her hand into my jacket pocket and took my box of cigarettes. She put one to her lips and took the book of matches from the cellophane.
She struck one match after another and each one went out in the wind.
“Watch,” I said. I reached for the cigarette in her lips. She let it go. I could not bare the thought of smoking one yet, because of the hangover.
I put her cigarette in my lips. I took the matchbook. I held the book to her. “We got one chance,” I said.
She looked at the book of matches in my hand. “There's three matches left,” she said. Her face remained blank.
“In this wind, we got one chance. One chance and one half at best,” I said.
“Half a chance,” she said. “That's funny.”
I held tightly to the soda bottle in one and I had the matches in the other. I juggled a moment with these things and finally handed the bottle to Jill.
“Watch,” I said. “Take out two matches. Stagger them like. Strike. By the time the wind blows out the first one, the second will be lit and if you suck hard enough, you'll get the cigarette lit.”
Without much trouble, it worked the way I thought it would. I got half her cigarette lit.
“Wow,” she said.
“Oh, God, I regret that puff,” I said. “I'm so sick already.”
“I don't want to be one of those smoking couples,” she said.
“Gotcha,” I said. It had been two days since we'd gotten to Seaside. We had made the decision to start smoking two days back in a bar. We made a very informed democratic decision to start smoking cigarettes.
We'd chained them since. Already on our third pack.
“Smoking couple,” I said after I had thought about it.
“You've see those people and they're both smoking,” she said.
“I come from the Midwest,” I said. “But you know, if one smokes so does the other, right?”
She took a small dainty sip from my soda and handed it back to me. I took a sip too, but it made me feel suddenly very ill. I was in a fragile state. “I won't smoke today,” I said. “Fuck I'm sick.”
“You won't smoke today?” she asked.
“Good God no,” I said. I held true to my convictions until two o'clock.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Report from Camp NaNoWriMo: the Chill of the Morning

"In Search of Doughnut Jockeys"
"One of Those Smoking Couples"
"Dishes" "Social Suicide"
"Family Mandate"
"Sudden Chill"
"Nihilistic Debauch"
"The Chill of the Morning"
"Poisoned by Dreams"
"Lipstick and Shoes"
"Bus Rides"

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Report from Camp NaNoWriMo: My Prep

FullAs July approached, I started to collect all the notes and scrapes of stories that I have been meaning to write this year. It is no surprise that I had a good few to write. I mean, I try to write short stories that amount to something of substance every year. In a way, I will write enough short stories to fill a manuscript, complete and sovereign.

The real challenge, however, is how to write so many short stories in such a small period of time. I had never done that before.

When I write short stories, and I have written hundreds of them, I do so very very slowly. On average, I write one short story a month. I've been doing this for almost thirty years. That's a lot of short stories.

Even in prolific times, I have not really been able to write more than a story a week. So, this as a challenge would be difficult.

It was only difficult because it was something I had not done before.

So, I decided that I would write a short story a day until I finished the project.

I had parts of ideas, up to partially written scenes. It was just a matter of doing the right thing by each story.

My prep was simple, I made an outlandish demand on myself and I kept my pile of notebooks at my side. I decided I would work for about three hours a day. I figured three hours would be enough time to write a story ranging in word count from 2,500 to 4,000.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Report from Camp NaNoWriMo: What I did and what I did it for

I figured July is as good a month as any to write a bunch of stort stories. I mean, why not, right? I also knew that the Camp NaNoWriMo was coming in again in July. I had had a good experience with the April program, I thought I'd give it another go.

There were a couple of things I had to think about as July approached. I suppose the first was that I needed a project to work on, and the second, simply, I had to complete the project I had been working on before July began.

About a month lapsed between the completion of Admiral Fish and the Rainy Day Parade which was my April  NaNoWriMo project and when I begun my poetry project for the year. Admittedly, it took a lot longer for me to write the poetry project than I would care to think about. But as that manuscript was winding down, I started to think about the next thing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Recorded, Analog Style, part 2

Oh dear, how many times have I brought up my pen and notebook over the years? At least once a year, if not more. Truth be told, it's a big part of my day and a big part of my life, this composition notebook and my fountain pen.

Yes, the merits are many, the pulp and ink. I suppose the merits are really this: the pen and notebook are readily and cheaply available and they do not need electricity to operate which means that will not run out of batteries.

For me, I get this feeling to write longhand and especially in cursive, the mind will stay intact longer. I feel like writing cursive is like eating organic vegetables, better for you now and in the long run.

A few days ago, while I was thinking about pens and paper, I decided to look on the web for others who might be in the composition notebook club, or cult. There are. I also looked up fountain pens.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Recorded, Analog Style

Several Sundays ago, I furnished each member of my family with a toy camera loaded up with film. I gave my wife one of my Holga 120N cameras complete with a roll of 120 film. She's not foreign to it, we've gone on Holga excursions before. My five year old son got 35MM Lynx camera. My son takes great pictures. He captures world from a shorter, five year old perspective. For my son, that's about 4'5''. Sure, he takes quite a few pictures of his feet, but I've know adults to do that too.

We headed off to the town of Eerie, Colorado. We headed there because none of us had been there before and we were looking for new memories.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A man walks into the Post Office, Part 2

The system is really quite simple. It's like this, I write all I need to say on 6” x 9” unlined paper which I fold into thirds and put in a letter sized envelope. Then I write who I am and where I live then I write someone else's name and where they live. I affix postage. On my walk to work, I drop the letter into the box in front of the old folks home. It makes me wonder why all old folks homes have mailboxes in front of them. And further, why I would know that there are mailboxes in front of old folks homes.

In some days, the letter will reach its destination, touched by all sorts of P.O. workers.

When I return from work and check my mail, there will oftentimes be a letter waiting for me.

It's a hell of a system.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A man walks into the Post Office...

I bought a book of post card stamps the other day. It was one of those beautiful mornings and the post office being between where I live and the small industrial, or post industrial abyss of my little town, made me decided on an entire course of the day rather than a mere errand. I decided, simply that I would bring my camera with me, and find some objects to study by way of my medium format Holga 120N.

So, already, before this anecdote goes too far, you know two things about me: 1) my intention was to buy postage stamps and 2) I had a film camera around my neck.

I waited my turn in line. I did not think anything of it, after all, I've been to the P.O. Before and I've always had to wait in line. And when my turn came up, I prefaced what I had to say with may I and I concluded it with please? It went something like this. May I have a book of postcard stamps, please?

The woman opened a drawer fill with stamps, all sorts of them. I asked: Are there all sorts of postcard stamps like there are first class stamps?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Camp NaNoWriMo reflections of a creative challenge: On day 20, I completed the challenge

Winner 2018 - Facebook Cover

The Camp NaNoWriMo program spans the thirty days of April. Camp resumes in the month of June too. And of course, these are extensions of the original NaNoWriMo which takes place in November. There are thirty days in each month.

I absolutely love this creative challenge. I think the organization is well developed, helpful and the mission to get people to write is worthy and I wish more people joined up. I do not believe in all nonprofit organizations. I do not freely give money or time to many nonprofits either. NaNoWriMo, however, I believe in fully, and whereas I do not have any time to donate to the organization, I did donate money each time I've participated. I think every writer who participates, it's a good idea to give a little back.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Camp NaNoWriMo reflections of a creative challenge: Admiral Fish and the Rainy Day Parade the hook and excerpt

With six drink abandon the residents of Riverside enjoy the last days of humanity.

Akana lived alone at the top of Water Street, right across the street from where the forest had taken over the northerly part of town. Occasionally, and for one reason only, Akana walked over the chipped sidewalks and through the undergrowth to see what he might see.

What he might see, as anyone who walks through these places knows, is nothing. There is nothing there. There are old houses which have been pilfered long ago for anything that may be of any value. Anything that could be removed like stoves, or stained glass or wiring or pipes had made its way to Admiral Fish's place long long ago. Anything that was useful or pretty like a pan or plate or wall hanging had been distributed all over the remain houses at the bottom of the peninsula.

The old parts of town do not hold secrets and they do not hold curiosities. They do not hold dangers.

These old places are places that the forest has reacquired, because these places were on loan from the forest to begin with. These places only hold shadows, and no questions. There are birds and small forest creatures inhabiting the quiet nooks now. Only very occasionally would Akana find it worth the trek into the forest. These were only times when the summer weather grew warm enough to seek out shade. These times have happened less and less over the years. And from his house, Akana can see the forest, the slow moving creature filled with millions of little parts, consuming the world.

Unlike most of his neighbors, Akana did not keep much in his house. He did not choose to live alone, and at various points he has had others living with him. But now, after Weird Howard, there has not been cause or reason to have a roommate.

Most of the houses are opulent now, furnished with the finest things. Akana, however, chose to keep little in the way of furnishings or personal affects. This was not a design, not one that had been conscious. It happened gradually. It happened because of a book he had read. The book had suggested that those with big castellated homes filled with things will rarely get out into the community and meet neighbors or have any close or lasting relationships.

Despite best efforts, Akana did not have many close friendships. He had a few folks who would gladly share a meal with him, but no one wanted to linger on in his house afterward. He avoided the larger pow-wows. Only the annual Cider Fest captured his imagination. And that was only probably due to the six drink abandon which happened at the same time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Camp NaNoWriMo reflections of a creative challenge: Admiral Fish and the Rainy Day Parade

Once I started to write, I do my best to tell a story and think of nothing else. It's one of those things, in this world of constant distraction and outlandish claims most people make about multitasking, when I work, I do nothing else but work. I do not let the outside world bother me. I do not open tons of windows on the computer, I do not have my phone near by. I'll listen to music, and even that I have at a low, low volume. And to take it one step further, I do not let my mind get in the way. I can easily shut the noise of life off while I work.

Admiral Fish, as a character, became a large personage but ultimately a minor player in the book which bears his name. I tried to avoid making him a charlatan, or the wise man of the village. Ultimately, what I was trying to play with in the story was this: all the silly, outlandish or downright stupid conspiracy theories and what-ifs rolled into one narrative. And I thought Admiral Fish could be that old man crackpot we all know (and if you don't know him, then he's you) and place him at the epicenter of the end of days.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Camp NaNoWriMo reflections of a creative challenge: My Prep

I did even less prep for this novel than I did for the last two. I had a few characters, a few conflicts and a beginning and an end. I let the characters moved through the middle as they would.

I drew maps of my town, Riverside. I had streets and the river and the place looked pretty much the way Astoria, Oregon looked in my memory. I did not look at a map of Astoria for fear that it would be too impossible to recreate the place for a novel which takes place in the near future after the AI soldiers have taken over the world.

In my town there was no electricity or electronic gadgets. There were apples trees that made cider and later apple brandy. I had to make these poor characters drink, become drunk or become hungover every time I came to a stand still. If there is anything to that advice: write what you know, it is that I know how to be drunk and hungover.

The whole point of my story was that there were only the people of Riverside left, the whole rest of humanity was already gone before the onset of my book. The people of Riverside were living of borrowed time. They had an electromagnetic pulse emitter running on an atomic battery that kept the AI soldiers away. In the story, the battery is failing and the end is near.

I also wanted my characters to treat the end of days with grace, compassion and booze.

As with the first creative challenge last November, I planned my writing hours, stuck to them, and stayed very focused.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Camp NaNoWriMo reflections of a creative challenge: What I did and what I did it for

I figured April is as good a month as any to write a novel. I mean, why not, right? I also knew that the Camp NaNoWriMo was coming in April. I had had a good experience with the November program, I thought I'd give it another go.

There were a couple of things I had to think about as April approached. I suppose the first was that I needed a project to work on, and the second, simply, I had to complete the project I had been working on before April began.

About a month lapsed between the completion of The Second Door which was my November NaNoWriMo project and when I begun Wabi Sabi. Admittedly, it took a lot longer for me to write Wabi Sabi than I would care to think about. But as that manuscript was winding down, I started to think about the next novel.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wabi Sabi: My Process

When I began Wabi Sabi, I had just finished participating in the November NaNoWriMo. I loved the creative challenge, of course. The story I had written in November I wrote very quickly. After all, the NaNoWriMo program goes on for 30 days, the month of November. I've written first drafts of novels very quickly in the past, but not that fast. The NaNoWriMo novel I wrote in 13 days. So when I decided to write Wabi Sabi I knew I wanted more time than 13 days, but that I wanted to do it in less that 3 months.

My prep for the project wasn't very much. I wanted to write I-80 from Salt Lake to Reno and that's not much more than about 520 miles. I picked up a map. I looked at a few of my old journals. I wrote down all that I remembered from my trips.

I also thought about what my characters would be like. I had only two characters. I wanted them to be both resourceful and resilient, but in different ways.

And I knew that since they were both strangers at the onset of the story, the road as well as life would have to make them grow together very, very quickly.

When I began writing I did not know these characters anymore than they knew each other. All I knew was the road. And the road was what changed them. I just said a great deal and said nothing at the same time, do you notice that?

I think there are times to plan a novel or a story and stick to the plan. Then there are times to just let the story go where it will go and as a writer, you just have to record it. This story, my Wabi Sabi knew where it was going to go from where it began: Reno from Salt Lake City.

I wrote this story long handed. I wrote with my fountain pen in my composition notebook and then did a second draft into the word processor. It took about 13 weeks.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wabi Sabi: The Road Story

I love road stories. “Kneller's Happy Campers” always comes to mind first. Of course I still hold The Grapes of Wrath in high regard. On the Road seems to be the obvious one. If it is, then tell me do the prettiest girls in the world really come Des Moines? I loathed Cormac McCarthy's The Road despite being fascinated with the notion that the father thought his son was the messiah. Road stories are great. They just are.

This is my impression of the road story. These are the elements that I think are important: there is a change of scenery and a destination. The surprising part of this is the notion that the destination is somehow different that expected, usually fails to or far exceeds expectation. Thing about the final scene in Barton Fink when the Barton finally lands up on the Southern Californian beach and the whole experience has somehow left him empty and befuddled the audience. In many ways, in a road story, the road itself becomes alive and as a living entity, it has become a character than both drives the plot, enhances character development and creates all the tension we need as readers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wabi Sabi: the backstory part two: tending robots

I first met Dani and Ryan in the fall of 2014 right when I moved to Longmont, Colorado and started working a restaurant where they both worked. I wouldn't say that the three of us hit it off instantly, because it's difficult, if not impossible, to hit it off with me either instantly or gradually.

This particular restaurant has a very small staff. This particular town is small too. When I met these two, Dani lived a few blocks from me, but Ryan lived in a different town entirely. We worked so few hours at this place too. The restaurant was open only five days a week and we never seemed to work more than about twenty hours a week. As far as restaurant gigs went, this one was a tough one for bonding with coworkers. Anyone who has worked in a restaurant will tell you, bonding with coworkers is very, very important.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Wabi Sabi: the backstory part one: the road trip

I blamed all of my worries and woes, all of my future disasters and successes on one moment. The moment was sometime in September 1998. If age isn't a beautiful thing, I don't know what is, after all, you can have perspective with time and time equals age. This one moment happened at SFO. I had told the girlfriend that I was going to return to Denver. I have no idea what compelled me to return to Denver. The morning it all went down, she borrowed a car, drove me to the airport, parked, went in and walked me to the gate. The moment I blamed for everything was the moment that she walked away from the gate, I watched her walk away and despite my inclination to drop my ticket and run after her, I did not. I returned to Denver and followed a different destiny.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

On Living Your Life and Fortune Cookies: A Lesson in Perseverance.

I have never liked eating in restaurants. I don't care for the way restaurants smell and I've never really cared for the way restaurant food tastes. I've never cared for servers, truth be told, they somewhat freak me out. The real dichotomy in this declaration is that I've spent most of my life working in restaurants, most of my working years cooking, cleaning or serving food. Even during the years I did other work, I still never cared to eat in restaurants.

At this point of my life, I realize that I may owe a great deal of my physical health and well being on the fact that I've eaten almost all of my meals at home from fresh and whole ingredients.

When I first got back to Denver, in the early 1990s, I was a poor college student. I worked. I went to class. I paid my way the best I could with the money I had. I lived a great life and I enjoyed being a poor college student. Denver in those days was a great place to live and work and study for the future.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Never Let Them Take Your Concentration

By the spring of 2006, I was well into my retirement. I had retired from smoking weed some time during the year prior. The year prior, sometime, in April I think, I was in Corpus Christi, Texas, JP 2 had just died and I was with my ex-wife and a local woman who had been a fishing boat captain turned waitress. We were at the house of the latter, smoking joint after joint when her teen-aged came home and thrashed us all to hell. This perhaps is another story for another time. And although I'm sure I smoked weed after this incident, I don't remember doing it. Yes, by the spring of 2005, weed was out and booze was in.

So, fast forward to the spring of 2006, about a year into my weed retirement. I was on a break from my restaurant gig. It was the middle of the afternoon, 16th Street Mall, sunny Denver, Colorado. I was approached by a clipboard welding douche bag. Now, not all clipboard people are douchy but this dude was. He said, “Hey man, wanna legalize weed?”

Oh, god.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Beware of Screens Part II

I haven't seen the “Kill your television” bumper sticker/t-shirt in a long time. I haven't seen the “Theater is life, film is art, TV is furniture” in a long time either. Perhaps TV is passe. Who knows? The two things I do know are that there are more TVs than I can count in every bar and restaurant I go in and I see at least two to three old TVs on the street or sidewalk or alley every day.

Those statements like “Kill your TV” or “TV is furniture” for some reason don't seem to apply anymore. Maybe it's because they were a Gen-X thing when Gen-X was still in rebellion. Of course, in our youth Gen-X wanted to kill TV because TV was never for us, but for the generation before us, The Baby Boomers, who I suspect made the TV as big as it was in both size and importance.

You don't need me to tell you that TV is bad, but does it still need to be so invasive?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Element of Location in Fiction: Beware of Screens

For those of you who know me, either personally, or from my work, you know how important location or setting is to my fiction. It is so important to me that when I begin writing something, I have to ask myself, “Where?” before anything else.

I've been thinking about the point of “Where?” since mid-December when I reflected on my NANOWRIMO experience: The Second Door. During that reflection it seemed like I picked a familiar place and started my story because I knew the place intimately or I had an emotional connection with it. Yet for some reason, that rationale is just not good enough for me.

I mean, why pick a place at all? Why not put your characters in a vacuum and let them go through their battles and dramas and conflict in an open space devoid a pinpointable location?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Lens Part 3: Those Jobs

I work with a fella who claims to have worked in 47 restaurants. I mean, what? Really? Wow! You'd think that one might get the idea after half of that amount of restaurant gigs, that maybe, it would be time to do something else.

I work a restaurant job. I do not work very hard, nor do I work very many hours. Sometimes I wish I could have one of those 'regular' jobs, the 9 to 5 and all that, but I doubt I'll ever get over the nonsense that goes along with the working world.

I have had a number of jobs in my life. I have had those office jobs, the suit and tie jobs, the executive positions, the salaries, the teaching gigs, the manufacturing jobs, retail gigs and I once spent a year framing pictures and another year changing light bulbs. As I think about all the jobs, the 'regular' jobs, the salaried executive jobs brought the most amount of pain and misery. I have to admit that some of my office jobs, like my time with both Colorado Department of Health and Standard Insurance were both good jobs because I spent most of my day at my desk writing in my notebooks. It's always nice to get paid to write.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Lens Part 2: A Question of Space

Surprisingly, I do not write about fire. I don't write about starting fires, running from fires, the fear or joy that fires bring. Truth is, there has been so much fire in my life, it is amazing that I have not tried to exorcise it from my mind. California was on fire much of my youth. The Middle East was on fire during my time there. In 1995, February 10, I crawled out of a burning building with my friend Heather. That last one was the fire of fires.

The apartment house fire left me homeless for about eight months.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What Happened When I Finally Got Around To It

She had been a voracious reader in those days. I have no reason to believe that she is any different now. The two of us have not seen each other for more than sixteen years. There is no reason for us to see each other now, nor has there been since the day it ended.

She was a voracious reader, have I mentioned that? She was also the loudest page turner (SWOSH-t-FISHT) I have ever known. She would sit in the other room, on the bed, legs propped up in a 90 degree angle with one leg crossed over the other. The look on her face (SWOSH-t-FISHT) when she read was the look of sheer joy, fascination, amazement.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Lens: A Question of Geography

It is erroneous to say that there was not place better to live than in Denver. It's erroneous to say this because at the time of the story, there was NO other place to live than Denver. And if there were, why the fuck would you want to live there?

There was something in the dirt, the dust, the crusted over granite dusted road plowed snow or in the blue summer lightning storms that made it clear, and I mean clear, that this was Denver and outside of her borders there was nothing else. Nothing.

The traffic along Broadway once it left downtown heading south went into a second, or third reality that was every bit as real, as real as Englewood or Littleton might be. During afternoons, all three lanes were packed, RTD buses and cars and that was that. There were traffic lights on every block. After crossing over 6th Ave, the bookstores/porn shops/gun shops began. Crossing over Alameda it was the antique shops. Post WWII was everywhere in post commercial despair. To the west, a distance away, the mighty mighty Rocky Mountains, but at the time of the story, they were just a backdrop. To the east, the entire world sloping forever down to the Mississippi, a place where you'd never see—unless your built a raft and escaped the homeless encampments along the South Platte river.

LSD was everywhere.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Land of Laughs

I was hardly able to focus. The slow-slow start, oh the S-L-O-W start. It took until page 99 for anything to happen.

The question remains, why wait for page 99? Or why read to page 99 in a 250 page book without shelving it?

Land of Laughs was gifted to me. The book was gifted to me by a good friend and lifelong penpal, Freesia. She also reads a great deal and I trust her taste in books. So, I kept reading.

Once the kid eating the pistachio ice cream cone at eight in the morning walked out into the street and got run over, well, the story got interesting.

What became interesting was not the narrator who is a high school English teacher turned biographer. Nor s it the two girlfriends the narrator begins to juggle.

What I found interesting was how the psychosis develops. How the comical turned the surreal then turned to horror.

The story ultimately became eerie.

Carroll, Jonathan. The Land of Laughs. Tom Doherty Associates, New York: 1980.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The 2018 Process part three a few notes on scheduling

Like most people, I have a family and a job and obligations. Unlike most people, I don't have a job that takes up too much of my time or energy. I sometimes hate to tell people that I work about 25 hours a week and I have worked about 25 hours a week for most of my life. I don't like telling people this because I get one or two responses. The first is—good for you. This can be condescending, but more often it has the patina of envy. The second response is the where do you get off working so little when the rest of us... why do you do so little?

I figured out, long ago, it doesn't matter how much you work, you are always trading your time for money. My time has always been more important to me. I may not have much, but what I have is mine, I don't owe anyone anything, and I have plenty of time.

I realize that not everyone has the amount of time that I have. But the time that we all have can almost always be better spent. If you consider how many hours get wasted each week staring into a screen, it's staggering. If you have social media accounts and a TV believe me, you have the time for creative endeavors. It's just a matter of making them a priority.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The 2018 Process part two Setting goals and creating deadlines

This process of setting goals and creating deadlines is something that I visit again and again. I visit it at the onset of my chosen time limit, a year, and I analyze it quarterly, monthly and weekly.

A year is not a long period of time. I feel like it's just long enough to manage and to stay fresh. Quarterly, at least for me, is easily divided up not by seasons but by UFM issues (the 15th of March, June, September and December). I prefer to have quarterly goals more than anything because ninety days is a good sprint.

Weekly goals get a little more intense. I think a week can be planned well in a matter of minutes, and life's schedule is easy to juggle in seven day increments.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The 2018 Process: part one

As I look back over the last year, I'm very grateful for the work I did and those things I got to accomplish. It's a pleasant feeling knowing that a whole year's expectations were well exceeded. I don't get many years like that despite my best efforts.

I got to write a great deal last year. I completed two novels, manuscripts of novels really. They were two opposite processes which I find interesting. I completed Coppertown which took over four years to write. I also completed The Second Door that took 13 days during NANOWRIMO.

I wrote several short stories and several poems, these were all good studies for the larger works, but were healthy nonetheless. I got to complete weekly blogposts which hadn't happened for a few years.

I suppose the biggest feat of 2017 was the number of publications I got. There is no greater thrill for a creative writer than to see a publication with your name on it.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Winter Reading List

It's the start of a new year. If you needed me to say as much, oh brother, I feel terrible for saying as much. As new years go, it is the custom to make all sorts of resolutions; these things have always seemed like the same things that people say and do at Lent, if they're Catholic.

I don't make new year's resolutions. I never have. Statistically speaking, any resolution that gets made on January one is destined to fail. I've never been able to deal with such failure, such disaster.

Rather, I generally make a really big to do list. And my big to do list may officially kick off on January first, but I compose the list in November.