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The Gathering

Sweat plasters my hair down and cools the ridge along my spine. Two miles went by in 36 minutes but the sky's smoky haze has wormed into my throat again, turning it scratchy and causing sinus congestion. All worth it if wearying to begin my writing day.

I'm at the gathering stage of the writing moment. Walking down here, I've adopted my evolved methodology to begin writing in my head. "Okay, where am I?" I ask the muses, referring to the current novel in progress. It's still 'Everything in Black and White', BTW. The muses responded, "Talon is in the Marriott with the rescues. Cassidy is battling Death." Passages swim up. More small details of the rescue are to be added. Greater verisimilitude for the scene I'll begin today emerges. I take it from there.

The evolved methodology was demanded because of the longer walks. I'd walk and think about what I was writing. Conditioned to do this in so many minutes because I'd be at my coffee shop by then, I'd be ready to write. But with the current situation, I have another mile to go. Thoughts drift. I've redesigned the master bathroom and need to meet with an architect friend to go over the plans. I'm still ruminating about how to landscape the backyard. I'll hire professionals but I want a vision of what I want before I do. I'm hiring a small company for some small remodeling and repair projects and ordered parts to repair the central vac. Thoughts of family and friends arise. Two friends just lost their sons unexpectedly, 32 and 34 years old. Mom's fiance is going into open heart surgery for aortic valve replacement tomorrow. They recommend Belle live in the nursing home because she can't take care of herself any longer but she's resisting. Jeff's recovering from the stem cell process to treat his brain cancer but is now suffering Bell Palsy. I don't know what's going on with Jon. Our valley's smoke is wreaking havoc on Larry's COPD. That leads to Oregon's warning that we're maxed out on fighting wildfires. If another fire breaks out, we're in trouble. 

The new method takes me back into the writing mode. It works well, not just with walking but to squeeze some writing into the day. Sometimes, I don't have the time or place to walk. So the new model was needed. "Okay, where am I?" The muses always answer promptly and diligently, herding my inner writer to the words. As I write a project, I see more and more of it more completely, more fully. It's fascinating and beautiful.

This novel has grown from one to three books, yes, a trilogy. I wrote Talon, Cassidy and Mother Nature's scenes and story in parallel. A month ago, noticing the pattern, I recognized Cassidy and Talon's stories were intertwined and related but could be told separately. I didn't want to do anything hasty, though, and put it into the brain for contemplation. While at a writer conference learning about epublishing, the three panelists remarked that their experience shows it's easier to build sales of a series rather than stand alone novels. This was true for their genres of science fiction, fantasy, and historic fiction. They said the data holds for other genres, for everything except 'literature'. I still didn't split my novel into three. I've made heat of the excitement decisions before and regretted them. I wanted to ensure I thought it through before acting. 

The other piece of this is that my wife and I came up with our fictitious business name, the one to be used for my publishing efforts. I was mining my brain for an idea. Nothing uncovered spoke to me. Then my wife called and made a suggestion, mentioning that it had just suddenly come to her. Part of it was already in use so we needed a second part to differentiate it. That came to me a few days later so we've initiated the paperwork to make it ours. 'Dark Red' will be my first book. The current trilogy will be the next. I've begun interviewing copy editors.

Meanwhile, talking with friends about fiction is fascinating, especially with my wife's book club members. They're such intelligent readers, wide read among many genres and topics, with very specific likes and dislikes. I listen to their commentary and apply it to my approach. One confesses that she attempted to write a murder mystery and stopped, stymied about how to go on. She'd reached a point after 28,000 words where she had no idea what to do or where to go next. I cannot fathom that. How can you not know where to go? I always consider that a temporary issue. Ideas spring up. I shop and compare them. Then just begin writing from one. A whole other direction typically leaps up from that. 

But here I am, the gathering upon me, excited about where I'm at, what I'm doing, and what I'm writing. I share that excitement with no one else but this blog, these posts, keeping a pretty low profile about it, sharing a little with friends on Facebook and mentioning it in passing when others ask, yes, I'm self publishing, and things are in motion. But mostly, I go about it quietly, not wanting to jinx it, but excited about where I'm at as a writer. 

And terrified. The chance always exists that I can't tell a story well, that I'll fail at marketing or publishing, that my efforts will all come to nothing but the trickle of a dream slowly dying. That is life. You never know until you try.

Time to write like crazy, one more time, for if nothing else, it's fun and rewarding. That's why I've always written, to satisfy the reader in me.

 

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Walking, Writing, Editing

The company's efforts to revise the personal rating system is being socialized for ideas and encouragement to accept the change so I read through posts this morning. One linked to a Harvard Business Review article about another company's like efforts. They determined that 2,000,000 man hours per year was spent on their rating systems yet barely half of their managers thought it brought positive results or engaged their employees. What amused me about the article was its passive voice. I copied and edited it to eliminate unnecessary words and 'make it active'. It's a bonus -- or drawback -- to writing, that the editor forever lurks just under the surface.

I read Dissolution, CJ Sansom's debut novel. Nowhere in it did I edit it although I looked up adumbrate and a few other words. I admired his deft character development, internal dialogue, plot structure and story arc. Sometimes as I read, I'd pause and wonder, did he write this passage first and then flesh out the remainder? Such is my own style so I wonder. I thoroughly enjoyed his novel and look forward to reading more of the series. My wife has them all. She has identified these books for hoarding. Should civilization fall and the zombies invade, she'll have enjoyable books to read.

Meanwhile, walking to my new coffee writing location, I discovered the extra mile to reach it affected my writing process. I'd developed the habits of venting, shedding my work and real world personalities and issues when I start walking. Then I open the door to release my writing team. They discuss where we were, what was last done and needs done next, what was next expected, etc. But the longer distance means I've completed that thinking at about a mile. My writing team sits back to wait. Thoughts escape the leash and meander to travel, work and house plans and other subjects, diluting what I'd just generated for writing. Reaching the coffee shop, my writing process was askew, the team scattered, requiring me to sit, refocus and recover. Once this issue was discovered, I worked on adjusting my process, basically catching thoughts as they get off the leash and keeping the team together and focused.

Writing time seems so constrained some days. The novel will have me enthralled and I'll be racing along only to discover time to break off, I'm running late for this or that. This or that seems like such irritation. Walking back brings an effort to restore sanity. Jill is a good friend and she's moving away so time socializing with her at lunch is well spent. The food bank needs our support so get to the pie social, support them and enjoy the pie and company. Other things need done. Another petty complaint, to be so jealous and possessive of my writing desires that I resent everything else. 

So here I am now. Such complaints are good reminders to focus and take advantage of the writing moments when they come. Time to write like crazy, one more time.

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The Light and Anchor

The Light and Anchor. It sounds like a lovely pub. My mind, being what it is, designed and envisioned the pub and its setting in a few minutes of idle distraction. It's a family owned business, started by two brothers decades ago, actually in the early fifties, a boring, functional cinder block building with one window and two doors - delivery and entrance - but rich with character and friendliness within. They'd planned to build a new building but tragedies and disappointments diverted plans, money and energy. Yet the bar is successful and profitable, even though it's an anachronism amidst the modern shopping centers, malls, apartment buildings and office parks built around it. It used to sit alone on the side of the two lane road, balancing the edge of orchards and the small town's original perimeters. It's not anywhere near a body of water but one brother liked lighthouses and erected a working lighthouse on top of the building. The other bought a large rusty anchor and planted it in the parking lot. Their accomplishments pleased them. One of the brothers died, stabbed to death in a road rage incident over a minor accident, after beating cancer. The other brother carries on but he feels suddenly old, like he's 83, like he is. He misses his brother. He survived his parents' passing and buried two wives and two sons and a grandchild and carried on, but his younger brother's death has blackened his energy. He feels lost. He feels mortal.

That exercise was a culmination of a series of thoughts, branching like lightning out of my muse, through me and into my writing, derived from thinking about a metaphorical light and anchor and the novel in progress, which is still "Everything in Black and White". I thought it would be done by now but it won't be hurried. Striding through the heat on the way to write like crazy, I considered the light. The light is the ending of the current novel in progress. I write organically with ideas of where I'm going, sort of like a spontaneous stroll with character friends. We take random paths to see where they'll take us. I have an idea of where we're heading. For example, I'll think, "Let's go down to the beach and look at the sea." And the characters will agree but without enthusiasm. Then they'll meet someone they used to know and realize understandings and epiphanies and follow a completely different path. Sometimes they'll still arrive at the beach but that doesn't always happen. 

Yet an ending will strike me, usually early in my process, and I'll write down the bones, fleshing it more as the entire novel develops. That becomes the light that guides me and the characters. Today, though, I concluded the light was now an anchor. I had three story lines to converge for the ending. The characters - or was it the book itself? sometimes I wonder - rejected the proposed paths. Too trite. Convoluted. Weak. Insipid. Boring. Unreal. Simplistic. Today, I finally said, okay. The ending that was a light toward which I moved had shapeshifted into an anchor keeping me from progressing. I will jettison it. What instead happens? 

The characters - or was it the book? - instantly provided a plethora of answers. I started writing like crazy but the outpouring of new and exciting directions, scenes, events and dialogues overwhelmed me while satisfying me. So beautiful to write like crazy and struggle to keep up with the emerging stories. I walk away energy depleted but exhilarated. It's weirdly, oddly, meditative and calming as well. These are the moments I envisioned when I imagined being a writer, creating a book and story, bringing something into being, introducing new twists on old ideas and embracing new concepts. 

This morning's alloted writing time is over. I need to race off to other commitments. But I know this feeling. These scenes will stay with me as I drive, walk, shop, work and socialize the day away, etching paths through my mind, inviting and urging me, come back. We're not done. Not yet.

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Blank

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It’s no secret that I haven’t been producing. My blogs have been frozen, waiting for prose or poetry, observations, wisdom, creative snippets, but all I’ve posted is news. Similarly, my twitter feed has been saturated with retweets of other people’s posts, artwork, photos, while my Facebook status—actual status—has been quiet.

It’s not because I’ve been idle. The past six months have been filled with activity: editing, practicing, reading, exercising.  But recently, I became aware of a sensation—an itch in cells I could no longer reach, and all attempts to scratch them satisfied nothing.  I turned on the computer, opened files of works-in-progress, stared at the screen, waited, and pffft, bupkis.

If I’d had nothing else going on in my life, that is, if I had not been engaged in other creative pursuits, I would have stressed and stewed about it, wondered what was wrong with me, how and I why I became so contentedly mute. And yet...and yet….

There were those bits of verse, scrawled spontaneously at bedtime on a lined pad.  There were those random thoughts, no, that’s wrong, those were ideas nudging, occasionally chiding me for not entertaining them properly, for dismissing them as common, trite, worthless.

Stupid nags. What could they know? The cells that could have given them life had obviously taken a hike, joined the witness protection program, or died of ennui.

So I moved on….

...shut off my computer.  Turned it on only once a day to check mail, see who was doing what, read interesting posts, and share the highlights with followers and friends.

Except a funny thing happened. One of those annoying little nags got me to open an old spiral-bound notebook, something I hadn’t done since buying my first laptop. Then it prodded me to pick up a pen, which I still remembered how to use (checks and greeting cards, you know…).

And an hour later I had pages filled with prose, and a rupture of cells kicking me in the head saying, “What the hell took you so long?”

I love technology. I do, really.  It was an easy transition from composing on paper for acoustic instruments to generating, modifying, and organizing sound in an electronic music studio. And I have no trouble composing with notation software. I’m very fond of being able to listen to the sounds as I write them. I have good relative pitch, but it’s not always 100%. The immediate feedback is nice...wonderful, in fact.

But I have never been able to craft a work of poetry or fiction on a computer, and I don’t know why I thought I could, or why I spent so many frustrated years attempting to convince myself I could. I think back and recall how I used to look at photos of writers at their typewriters and wonder how they were able to produce that way. Every time I sat down at a typewriter, my mind went blank.

I know there must be a glitch between the keyboard and me, some freak reflex that causes a sudden disconnect, short circuit in the process. I would try to figure it out, but I think in the end, the cause doesn’t matter.

So, I’ve stocked up on pads and pens. The computer, as a means of recording my literary ravings, will stay off until there’s a complete draft to transcribe. My sites may be quiet for awhile, and I will probably be visiting my social media haunts less frequently, certainly less frequently than is recommended for writers these days, but I won’t be completely absent. I’ll be around. And I’ll be heeding the chatter of little nags, now that I can. Happily. Thankfully.

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