In to the Wilderness

Into the Wilderness

Onward!

As I mentioned before, I’ve been trying to get out into nature more often, see the lesser known parts of the island, to move around a little more and let the fresh air and physical exertion help me to clear my mind.

And so, with the help of the Alltrails app and my trusty sidekick, Matt the Dinosaur, we’re going blogging… about hiking… Which we’re also doing.

In the last eight weeks, we’ve have hiked seven different trails of varying lengths and varying degrees of quality and difficulty and as you might have guessed, I’ve started writing about those hikes.

Both hiking and writing serve a similar function for me; escape. In writing I can un-tether my mind from the day-to-day mundanity and/or insanity and drift off into alternate worlds. Hiking allows me much the same freedoms, only I can take my body along for the ride. So, considering the strong thematic link, in only makes sense that I host the “Trail Blog” alongside my fictional work. I’m also having a lot of fun with the formatting and stuff that comes with doing these.

In addition to pictures, I’ll also try to dig into any relevant history, or mythology, or just interesting local trivia whenever I can; so hopefully these will be more fun to read than a typical hiking blog. As always, feedback is welcome!

There’s a clicky thing right HERE which will take you to the Trail Head (see what I did there), or you can access individual trails from the drop-down on the menu bar. I’ve got three trails up there already and a few more written (pending formatting), and at least two more hiked but not written about by the time you’re reading this.

Going to try to update this thing about once a week, so click the “Follow” button that’s hiding around somewhere and you’ll be notified by email when I do.

Publication Update

Patchwork Raven

It’s hard for me to put a finger on, or express how I feel about this upcoming anthology. I cannot emphasize enough how cool it feels to not only know my work is to appear in print in the near future, but also to see my name listed alongside so many other authors.

On the other side of that coin, though, I wish it were a story more reflective of the body of my work.

“Eeny Meeny Miney Mo: Tales for Tiny Tikes” is an anthology of bedtime stories, so not exactly my comfort zone. A while back at AWR we had a friendly competition where one of the prompts was a children’s story. I wrote a draft for what would eventually become “Tree Rings” for that competition. I remember feeling like it was far outside of my wheelhouse at the time.

I’m never quite sure how to act around children, let alone write for them, but one thing I try not to do is dumb myself down. Sure, conversation tends to veer toward topics they enjoy, but if I’m asked a question I try to give actual, thoughtful feedback; to treat them like adults who just happen to like juvenile things. If they don’t understand my thoughts, I do my best to explain. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Right?

Probably the most annoying thing I remember from being a kid were the times where I was treated like a kid; the times I was treated like I didn’t know things, or that my thoughts were invalid, not because they were nonsensical, but because I was younger or the times I had to shout over the din of adults talking in order to be heard. So I try not to do it to them.

Admittedly, I’m generally only around my friends’ kids for short periods of time, so I’m sure such an approach would get tiresome if you had to do it 24/7. But I don’t, so I try, and I’m apparently pretty popular.

In writing “Tree Rings” I tried to keep a similar philosophy in mind; be thoughtful, be clear and concise, but don’t make them feel like children. I remember making a concentrated effort to keep the language simple but not simplistic, and the narrative straightforward, but also make it not-too-juvenile. I wanted it to be a “grown-up” story that a kid could understand and relate to and, in effect; something which elevates the child listening, and maybe brings the adult who’s reading back to childhood a bit. I wanted it to be a story that puts both reader and listener, as the case may be, on an even playing field and maybe even spurs a conversation.

I dunno, maybe that’s putting a little too much weight on these 1,500 words. I suppose that’ll be for you to decide when it finally lands in your hands.

Apanthropinization

An old word, appropriately unrecognized by spell check, which means to withdraw from human concerns and the problems of humanity; to place oneself outside the world and its problems. Or, more relevant to this post, to stay the hell off of Facebook.

I’ve been making an effort to reduce the amount of time I spend with social media. I found that the constant stream of mis-, dis-, and non-information which flows through it to have a corrosive effect on my psyche. Eroding away at the good and wholesome and creative bits exposing and emphasizing the angry, the frustrated and the unhappy.

I’ve a compulsion, it seems, to attempt to correct the inaccuracies which I encounter online, and I’ve recently come to realize that despite how much people claim to want the truth of matters, in many respects offering said truth is unwelcome; even in the most benign of forms. Such efforts end up leading to phrases like, “Why are you so literal?” and “Some people like to be entertained.” All of which creates a feedback loop of frustration for me. First a frustration that people have chosen to believe and propagate misinformation, then additional frustration when it’s revealed to me that they prefer the fantasy over the (in many cases) really, really cool reality.

A phenomenon which strains my brain.

Colliding with such an impenetrable wall of willful ignorance a couple dozen times a day for months on end pushed said strain into breaking territory to the point where when I wasn’t actively arguing with someone on the internet, I was thinking about arguments I was going to have when I got back to the internet. It was a sad state of affairs which I’m a little ashamed to admit to publicly.

It’s just that…

Fantasy is a thing you resort to when the truth is dull. It’s a fictional spice on an otherwise bland reality. But things like the naturally occurring nuclear reactor at Oklo, or the Atlas V rocket launch, or the ruins at Gobekli Tepe are all really cool true stories. You don’t need aliens, or conspiracies, or lizard men or whatever to make them interesting. That actually makes them boring.

I’ll never understand the people who want to credit aliens with every interesting thing on this planet. Isn’t assuming that everything which seems out of place is caused by the exact same phenomenon (aliens) just super dull? What a boring, homogenous global world view you have there. Or the belief that the world is secretly controlled by a vast global conspiracy with (for some reason) nefarious goals… When the answer to every question is “Illuminati,” doesn’t that just get old?

Our planet, our cultures, our accomplishments, our people… They’re all incredibly cool if you actually look at them and not get distracted by whatever random bullshit you saw in a meme.

That’s how this whole thing started, after all; with memes. I’d see some meme online and think, “This issue must be more than two-sentences-complex.” And I’d hit the Googles. Then I’d locate the truth which the meme was typically bending, warping, or otherwise misrepresenting and attempt to clarify it to whomever posted the meme; because why wouldn’t you want the truth? And then the cycle begins…

But enough about that.

Now that I’m unchained from my memetic shackles, what have I been up to? Probably the biggest change is that I’ve been getting outside more often. Going hiking. Getting back to my roots. It’s one of those things I’ve been talking about doing ever since I moved to Hawaii over a decade ago; getting up in the hills and seeing the nature, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it.

In the last five weeks, I’ve hiked four separate trails which I’d never been on before. The wife and I making a very real effort to try to get dirt on our shoes at least once a week (interrupted briefly by visiting family).

I’ve talked before about how Hawaii is almost mystical. About how you get a sense of the mundane and the magical living side by side. Nowhere, I think, is this felt more strongly than when you go hiking here.

When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, if you wanted to go camping or hiking, you’d drive up into the mountains and there would be this slow fade of civilization being slowly overtaken by wilderness. Not here. Not in Hawaii. Hawaii is a land of hard borders. Adjacent kingdoms; one giving way to the next immediately and without compromise. The ocean hits the beach, the beach hits the city, the city hits the jungle, the jungle hits the mountains, the mountains hit the sky. There’s no fading, no blending.

When you go hiking here, in some cases you will literally stand with two feet in separate worlds; the change is that abrupt. Six feet into the jungle and the city you were in a moment ago is miles away. It’s jarring.

Anyway, point is, it’s been good. It’s been healing. Getting into the wilderness has helped me clear my head. I’m going to be writing more about that (and other things) in the very near future; might even start a separate trail blog. Haven’t decided yet.

Talking to Myself

“Where have the rants gone?”

“They are in hiding.”

“Are they hiding behind the drop down menu which reads, ‘Rants’?”

“Yes.”

“Seems like a shit hiding place.”

“It is. Rants are inherently bad hiders.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, thing is, they want to be seen. They want to be loud and obnoxious and preachy, but those things are not always welcome in the room. So, when they hide they advertise their location.”

“Seems silly.”

“Rants typically are.”

“So, you’re saying they felt unwelcome and went into hiding in hopes someone would find them?”

“Sort of. They were told they were unwelcome and that they should find a new place.”

“By whom?”

“Me.”

“Why?”

“Because they were making it negative and bullshitty around here, and that’s not what this place is for.”

“Really? Because that seems like what this place is for.”

“Yes, I know, that’s the problem. That’s not what this place was supposed to be for. It was supposed to be a place for me to share my writing hobby with friends and family and the internet at large.”

“I see. So how did the rants take over?”

“I got distracted.”

“By the state of the world in general?”

“Among other things, yes… But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about what we’re here for.”

“Writing?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, what about it?”

“. . .”

“Nothing?”

“Not really.”

“Why not?”

“Dunno… Not feelin’ it?”

“That’s bullshit, you know that right?”

“Yeah.”

“So what’s the real reason?”

“Civilization VI?”

“. . . You’ve had that game for a week. You haven’t written anything new since January.”

“So?”

“It’s March.”

“What?! Since when?”

“. . . Okay, you at least have to have some ideas, right? Something you’re working on, or should be working on?”

“Well, there’s Mauwale.”

“That’s the novella you started in 2015.”

“Yes.”

“And you think that counts as a work in progress?”

“It’s on my radar!”

“Fine, what else. You belong to a writing group right?”

“AWR”

“Okay, have they got anything going on you can work on?”

“Few things. . . I started something a while back but it stalled out. Guess I could try to get it going again.”

“Anything else.”

“I told Pete I wanted to do some world-building for him but I haven’t done anything.”

“Wait. . . You’ve basically completely stalled out on writing but you’re making writing based commitments to other people?”

“I thought having someone else expecting it would make me more inclined to do it.”

“Has that ever worked?”

“Sometimes. . . Pete was also a bad choice though. He regularly encourages me to play Civilization VI.”

“Hmm, yeah. . . Oh! What about that other thing?”

“What other thing?”

“The Facebook thing. The thing you were telling your brother about.”

“Oh! The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story?”

“Yeah. That seems like a great way to get back in the groove. Just doing a few hundred words every couple of days.”

“I don’t really have any ideas though.”

“You don’t need ideas; just a starting point.”

“Like what?”

“. . .”

“. . .”

“. . .”

“See, hard isn’t it.”

“. . . Wait! I got one.”

“Okay. Hit me.”

“You wake up, hung over, in the back of a carpeted van at a rest-stop alongside the interstate.”

“That’s a terrible first sentence.”

“It’s not the first sentence, it’s the starting scenario. Now go. Write it.”

Checking In

               Realized today that I haven’t contributed to the old brain dump since before Thanksgiving. Turns out refocusing and resetting are a little more difficult than I’d tricked myself into believing. I’ve been meaning to pop in here, I just haven’t really had anything to say short of pointless shouting into the void. There are few times in my life that I’ve felt less creative and less inspired than I have in the past month or so.

                But! With the new year upon us, I figure there’s no reason I can’t just check in and let everyone know how things tuned out writing-wise in 2016.

                I went into 2016 with a couple of goals, I wanted to flesh out a short story I’d been working on and complete my first novel; or at least a novella… No point pushing the length further than the story required. I didn’t do that.

                I wanted to complete a writing goal of at least 10,000 words per month for the whole year. I didn’t do that either. Also, I got a rejection letter from another publisher on New Year’s day. So, that’s… Inspiring? Whatever, it was for the same story I already got published once.

                What I did do, though, was write a hell of a lot more than I did in 2015. Though I didn’t reach my intended 120,000-word count for the year, the final count for 2016 was 100,028 words. Which is god damned great for me. Especially since I did next to nothing for the last two months.

                And I’m off on a good start this year as well as I’ve already completed one short story, and have ideas for a few others. I’m still not super motivated, but at least I’m not drawing from a dry well. I’ve also recently felt the itch to try drawing again. I haven’t done so, yet; but I’m considering it. If I make anything worth seeing, you’ll see it. Got a couple pieces from competitions I wrote up last year that’ll see some editing and hit the story section in the near future as well.

                I didn’t realize how invested I’d become in the Presidential election. While I’ve had lots of opinions about basically everything in the past, I’d always managed to remain largely apolitical as a result of disagreeing with everyone. This time, though, I got sucked into it. Not because I necessarily supported anyone, but rather because one candidate appeared so hand-wringingly evil I couldn’t stand on the sidelines and snark anymore.

                When comic-book villainy took the day, I felt… Deflated, really. I don’t really know how to express it, and I’m not going to try lest I get sucked back into it. But it left me drained, aimless, a little nihilistic and yearning for some manner of escape.

                I turned to drugs… Well, I turned to video games, which is very similar. I got my hands on a Nintendo 3DS XL and the newest Monster Hunter game. Man, I love Monster Hunter. No game feels as punishing but also so incredibly rewarding as Monster Hunter.  I love the aesthetic, probably more so than any other game I’ve played… The look of the game is so wonderfully fantastic, and inventive but also incredibly grounded and practical. It’s fantasy in a very believable way.

                Best of all, though, is it’s inspiring. It makes me want to write. I’ll probably write Monster Hunter fan fiction at some point in the next 365 days. So look out for that! I don’t typically set New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve no intention of breaking that trend; however, I’m maintaining my intention to write more. More, in this context, is “more than last year.” So the target is 100,029 words.

                Ultimately, the point of all this is… I’m good. I got really down in the dumps for a bit, but I’m picking myself up, dusting myself off, and getting back into the swing of things. I want to do things. I just have to convince myself they’re worth doing.

                …And I need to spend a little less time on the interwebs.

Refocus, Reset

November was supposed to be NaNoWriMo; National Novel Writing Month. I had plans. I was gonna do it this year. I was gonna cheat, but I was gonna do it. See, I’ve already got something along the lines of 30,000 words worth of rough draft and notes to work from, an a fairly sizable catalog of ideas floating around which haven’t been written anywhere. The goal for NaNo is 50,000… So I was already three-fifths of the way there before I even started.

Then something happened, right around the eighth of November that… Let’s just say I got distracted.

It’s the 17th now. I think most of the shock has worn off, though waves of looming dread still wash over me occasionally. But the bulk of the despair has been replaced with resigned sighs and fits of nihilistic laughter.

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I’m in a good place, is what I’m saying, so I think I can refocus. Reset. Get back to a place similar to where I was in October. Excited and energized and ready to write.

There’s 30 days in November, which makes us 53% of the way through as of last night; but I’m already about 60% of the way to the word count goal… Because I’m a dirty cheater. But that’s alright. Morality tied a cinderblock around its own neck and jumped into a lake, dragging principles down with it; that’s what November has taught me.

So, hope is not lost, math is on my side. The world is broken, but at least now I can break the rules with a clear conscience!

So, refocus, Adam. Reset.

Back in the Saddle

               Feels good to be back on track… Nearly. September was the first month in the last three where I actually accomplished my 10,000-word goal for the month, owing in no small part to the competition at A Writer’s Recluse. I started out this year with the goal of writing 10,000 words per month for a final yearly total of 120,000. Even though I failed to meet that goal in July and August, if I total up my actual word count for the year so far I’m actually sitting at a little over 88,000 out of the 90,000 required to keep me on schedule through September. So actually doing pretty good.

                Last month I took some time to go into detail regarding my Round One submission for the AWR Cup competition. I had intended to something similar for each entry but just never really found the time until now.  Last night the Round 7 prompt was posted so we’ll just do a quick summary here of Round Two through Six.

                Round Two; The Picture Prompt: I like picture prompts. Looking at image and trying to put a story to it is always interesting. The picture I was given for Round Two was not exactly what I had expected though.

                The judges said before this competition even started that part of the objective was to takecanary writers out of their comfort zone and force them to explore some new territory. This just wasn’t territory I had expected; but I actually had a lot of fun writing.

                Looking at the picture, with its bright colors and family-friendly vibe, I was immediately put into the mindset of a number of old animated movies and cartoons I enjoyed as a kid. It invoked elements of The Secret of Nimh, David the Gnome, and Fern Gully and, drawing on these inspirations, I wanted to cobble together something fun and fast-paced and, hopefully, infused with a bit of humor.

                The picture showed a miniature humanoid riding on the back of a little yellow bird. It brought to mind the saffron finches I see all over here in Hawaii. One of the most notable characteristics about the saffron finches, aside from their coloration, is that they’re almost always seen in pairs. I got to thinking about the relationship between this bird and its companion-rider, the familiarity and closeness there. I wanted the two to be best friends. I also thought about how these little birds moved, flitting about from place to place, fast and agile. I wanted the story to reflect that movement. To not spend too much time in any one location. An adventure played out at a quick clip.

                How successful I was in those goals was, unfortunately, over shadowed by some pacing problems. In my efforts to keep things moving, I neglected few places where I should have slowed down to establish a few things and allow specific developments to sink in. It was sloppy and rushed and cost me the Round, but overall I enjoyed writing about Mixie and Orly and very well may revisit those characters later on.

                Round Three; Title Prompt: Title prompts are pretty self-explanatory; you’re given a title and tasked with writing a story to fit. I was given “The Bookbinder and the Thief.”

                “What if everyone had a book?” I asked myself. A book in which your whole story was already written; not just your past, but your future as well. What if you could get your hands on this book? “The Bookbinder and the Thief” is a story about Silas, a young man struggling to catch the eye of a local woman with whom he’s become enamored. At his wits end and on the verge of giving up, Silas breaks into the Library where the books of fate are stored to flip through her future to see if his efforts will ever be rewarded. Dismayed with his discoveries, Silas purloins both her book and his own, bringing them to a local bookbinder and bidding him to bring them together into a single volume.

                The forcible merging of two fates was a fun idea to play with and, admittedly, I ran into a few logistical issues I waved away; but this story will absolutely be reworked, touched up and brought to Warning Signs in the future.

                Round Four; Fantasy Flash Fiction: I’m not a big fan of flash fiction. For those who might be unfamiliar, flash fiction is basically just very short stories; typically, less than 1,000 words. For this prompt we were limited to 750. That’s tough for a genre like fantasy because, generally, if you want to do anything unique with fantasy you need to spend some time world building and establishing context… Which flash fiction doesn’t allow. So, instead you, kind of, have to rely on tropes; things which have been done before, concepts which your reader already understands. Elves, dwarves, dragons, knights, princesses, etc. It’s something I was reluctant to do.

maxresdefault                Instead, I dipped my toes back into waters I’d explored in a previous AWR competition; a low-fantasy world-building exercise that I knew the judges were familiar with. I toyed with two or three different ideas but couldn’t bring any of them in under the world limit, and so, in the last few hours before the hard deadline, I cranked out about 250 words which could have been better and, arguably, might not have even qualified as fantasy.

                My competition handled it much better and deserved the win.

                Round Five; The Blurb: Round Five turned out to be a frustrating forfeit. In this round, each pair of competitors were given a blurb, like from the back of a novel, and tasked with writing the story it described. Mine took place immediately following World War 1, at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles; the character was a con-artist who had forged up documents for a country that didn’t exist with the end goal of becoming very rich from wartime reparations.

                I had a lot of really good story elements to work with, including creating a deeper character than I think either of the judges cared about; but I couldn’t come up with an ending. Usually, when I write, I need to have an ending in mind before I start because, though I may not know how to get there, I at least need to know where I’m going.

                Ultimately, though, I think I let the historical aspect of the story intimidate me. I spent days researching WWI and the Versailles Treaty in hopes that an ending would come to me based on historical circumstance. But ultimately the actual history just kept creating bigger and bigger roadblocks to a narrative which, as I apparently forgot, was supposed to be fiction.

                I never actually got any word on paper.

                Round Six; Dialogue: Coming off of Round Five’s frustrations, Round Six was a welcome reprieve. The prompt was dialogue only. No tags, no narrative exposition, just dialogue… on the subject of sex.

                I like dialogue. In life I love talking to people, especially new people. I don’t think that’s often effectively communicated because I dislike small talk, but if we can get past that, I absolutely love a good conversation and/or debate. Similarly, I like writing conversations; I like the nuance of word choice, the sloppy punctuation, the pacing and pausing… All of it.

                In fact, think in most of my stories the narrative prose tends to work as a framework to support the critical dialogue which actually drives the story. Getting to do away with all that framework and get right to the meat of things was great.

                The trick, though, when writing dialogue without being able to use tags to designate who is talking and when, is to make sure all parties have a unique voice. Choice words they use, or punctuation patterns. I challenged myself by trying to make the conversation three-way, using subtle context clues to denote who is talking and when. I played with some retro-active context which, hopefully, works out for the reader… I just posted the finished product last night and haven’t received judgement on it, so we’ll see.

                Anyway, my current record is 2 Wins, 3 Losses… Thanks to sloppy pacing, being lazy, and being intimidated by the subject. Hopefully Round Six will bring me to 3 – 3, and Round Seven up to 4 – 3. My chances of winning this thing are gone, but over all, it feels good to be actually getting some writing done again.