Arts and Crafts

               What month is it… August? Went by so fast I feel like I barely got a chance to get to know it. My focus sort of shifted this month, I didn’t really spend much time with writing but felt an old familiar draw from the sketch pads in the corner.

                I used to draw, in a long ago, bygone day. My friend Jeremy and I used to go to our local Denny’s and sit up well into the wee hours of the morning drawing and drinking coffee. I remember I’d sit there all night hammering away on the same project while Jeremy churned out sketch after sketch after sketch. I always admired not just his talent, but his seemingly bottomless well of ideas. I watched him struggle a few times with putting an idea down on paper, but never with coming up with an idea.

                I on the other hand, would spend so long thinking about what I was going to draw that once I had an idea I’d stick with it forever because who knew when the next one would come along. It’s a struggle I still deal with in storytelling. So often I’ll go long times between projects because I either don’t have any ideas, or I’m still tinkering with the same idea I’ve been tinkering with for the last six months.

                I don’t have anything new to share. Though I felt the pull to draw, I didn’t feel the spark of inspiration. Back in the day I drew a lot of dragons; I liked dragons. When I started to put pencil to paper earlier this month, it started coming out dragon. I didn’t want to draw another dragon. I mean, at a logical level it makes sense to pick up an old hobby where you left off just to see if you can still do it, but it felt… I don’t know… juvenile?

                Not that there’s anything inherently juvenile about dragons, per se, but more that it felt like a regression to my own younger days. More nostalgia. Another slip backward.

                So I asked a friend for an idea, he suggested a “turtle on a skateboard.” Thanks, Pete. So, anyway, I’m committed to a turtle on a skateboard in the nearish future.

                On top of feeling artsy, I also got a craftsy urge. For some reason I got to wondering exactly how difficult it would be to make a book from scratch. So, I started digging around on the internet to figure out how one goes about constructing a book. I really wanted build a book without glue. I don’t know why specifically I wanted to do it without glue, but I did.

                I found a few tutorials for how to make a modern case-bound hardcover book, but they all used glue. So I looked around for older methods, just so certain that there had to be one from way back in the day that didn’t utilize adhesives. Over the course of a couple of days I became absolutely enthralled the process of sewing and binding and covering books. I just had to try it, I had to make my own book just to say that I’d done it.

                I had paper at home already, and the tutorials suggested “waxed-thread,” I figured dental floss would do the trick (I was right). So I could sew the pages together right away. Which I did. In fact, I did it twice because as it turns out, the tutorial I was using should have been titled, “How to Sew a Shitty Book That Will Absolutely Fall Apart.” But! The second time around with a new tutorial went swimmingly and in a few hours I had a 160-page signature all bound together and ready for a cover.

               It felt really good to have created something with my hands and I was super proud of myself. But mostly, I just really liked the mindset of sitting down and concentrating on a project; the almost meditative aspect of sewing the pages and watching the pieces all come together into a recognizable form… and having it not suck. The following day (it was late when I finished and she’d long gone to bed) I showed my newly created pride and joy to my wife who would have raised a single perplexed eyebrow if she could do that trick. See, I had not discussed this spontaneous project with her before now.

               Now it was time to buy supplies. So the following weekend I dragged the wife to the craft store to buy materials for this completely random project I’d suddenly decided to try. I needed cover board and some cardstock. So I grabbed what I thought would be enough for two books. Also, glue. I was never able to find a recipe that didn’t use some manner of adhesive. In fact, I learned that way back in the Stone Age primitive man was using glue to adhere stone tips to wooden spears. So, glue has been in our collective repertoire of tools for a really long time, it’s no wonder that even super old book binding methods use it. So I caved and bought glue.

                Then it was off to the fabric store. I’ve never been to a fabric store before, not as an adult on a mission, so I wasn’t really sure how to handle it. There were all these rolls and spools and stuff and I’m looking at this giant store and thinking about my tiny little project and how those two things just do not add up. Anyway, I figure my first attempt would be given to my wife when I finished because, well, though I wanted to make a book I didn’t actually need a book. Let alone a book full of blank pages. My “office” is littered with old sketch books I never filled but also never threw away. I’ve got plenty of blank pages. So, seeing as how it was going to be hers I let her choose the color of burlap. I went with burlap because it was both super cheap, and I felt like it would feel good in the hands. Grippy. She went with a purple.

                So I shoulder this huge bolt of burlap and head over toward the ribbon section to pick out a ribbon for the bookmark; because this was gonna be a classy, burlap, book… Sewn together with dental floss to keep it minty. So I pick up these two big rolls, cloth and ribbon, and head for the counter.

                Now, remember how I mentioned this place was big? It seems they are used to supplying larger projects as well because everything is priced by the yard. So I get to the counter and the guy asks my wife (sexist) how much she needs as he starts unfurling the big bolt of burlap. I slow his roll for him, and let him know that I need about 18” of cloth and the same amount of ribbon. He sort of stops and looks at me with this, “Are you sure?” look on his face and I explain, “I’m binding a book.”

                So, dude shrugs, cuts it, and begins to struggle with making the cash register account for how little I bought. Less than ten dollars later, I’m headed home with enough burlap to make at least three books, and a few other cloth bits my wife liked which will likely become covers at some point.

                So I get home and start working on my cover. Things go mostly well. I learned why I didn’t want glue. Glue gets everywhere. If you use too much glue, it soaks into the paper and makes a soggy mess of pages which stick together. Glue is the devil. A necessary evil which, the whole time I’m working with it, I’m contemplating how I can make it unnecessary (which I think I can with some practice).

                But I think the thing which bugged me most about using the glue is that it interrupts the process. Rather than just being able to sit down and sew for hours on end and just lose myself in the work, with glue you have to do a little, set it aside for thirty minutes, do a little more, set it aside for an hour, do a little bit, press it overnight… It just sucks. That zone of Zen, that meditation, it’s just gone. That part’s kind of a bummer.

               I woke up the next morning, took the book out of my makeshift book-press, spent about ten minutes gingerly separating the pages which were glued together and when all was said and done I had an actual honest to goodness hardcover book which I had built. And that was rad… and it -was- grippy.

Book

                So, of course I immediately wanted to start building another book. I looked at so many different ways to do it online when researching it that all I want to do it try some of the other ways. I want to do it again the way I’ve done it, only better. I want to improve I what I know. I want to graduate from burlap to leather, I want to try my experimental no-glue method… There are just so many things I want to do with this because it was so much fun. 

               But there’s one big thing I don’t have and that’s a reason to be making books. Unlike writing or drawing, when these are done, there’s going to be an actual physical product which can’t fit on a hard drive or slipped into a file. I don’t know what I’d do with all the books I want to make, nor do I know what to put in them. So, if anyone wants a blank book (with or without lines) or has ideas for what to put in a book, feel free to contact me and let me know. I really want to make some cheap books for practice before I invest in higher caliber materials; but I really need a place to offload these finished products. I can’t just have them lying around the house.

July Recap; Missing the Mark

                Not much to say about July. I didn’t make my 10,000 goal for the first time this year, though I could sort of see that one coming. The last few months I’ve been skating by on outlining and blog posts and such but no actual original fiction writing so I’m not super surprised that I ran out of steam.

                I blame the weather. It’s been hot… Well, not really hot so much as humid; just really gross, sticky, just-sit-and-sweat humid. I’ve complained before that getting my writing machine in motion takes some very precise parameters; it needs to be quiet, I need to be free of distractions, I need to know that I will have time to make a significant dent in my chosen project or I won’t even start and, finally (perhaps most importantly), I need to be comfortable. That’s why I like to write at night, after the rest of the world has gone to bed. I’m a cold-weather creature living in a hot place, the night time is the right time for comfort. But, with the new job making getting up earlier a necessity, I can’t stay up late on work nights, and the incessant mugginess lately has made even weekend evenings uncomfortably warm.

                Yeah, I’ve got all kinds of excuses.

                I think there’s a certain lack of desperation that allows me to ignore writing.  I watched this TED Talk recently regarding procrastination, it made a lot of sense. The fact that I have a fulltime job that pays the bills removes the sense of panic that might drive me if I depended on writing for my livelihood. That’s a good thing and a bad thing; bad in the sense that it allows me to kick all my projects and ideas own the road indefinitely and get to them eventually, good in the sense that I’m not confident that I -could- pay the bills with my writing just yet.  That is, I feel like I’ve the capability, but I certainly haven’t found my audience.

Quitting my job and taking up writing full time is not an experiment I’m likely to jump into any time soon is what I’m saying.

                I got a review back from a prospective publisher a few weeks ago for “Empty Glass,” the story which was, only a day later, published at The Lamplit Underground. I read the review pretty thoroughly and showed it to a few of my peers over at AWR to confirm my suspicions that the reader had, basically, missed the point of the story. They asked for a number of things which, if I had added them, would have completely changed the tone of the piece. As my friend James noted; the story works because the protagonist is “not a good person” which seemed to be a sticking point with the reviewer in question.

                That’s not to belittle the publisher in question, of course. They have some certain criteria they’re searching for and I didn’t meet it. That’s fine, but it shows me that my concerns about my particular brand of storytelling might not be misplaced after all. I’ve known for a long time that the stories I write are a little different from what I usually read. I don’t spend a lot of time with intricate plots, detailed descriptions of environments or people, or even character development… In fact, (spoilers) the whole point of “Empty Glass” is that the character doesn’t develop; that, despite the events of the story, she remains the person she was at the beginning.

To me that’s realistic. In literature I know that characters tend to have an arc. They learn and grow from their experiences and in the end they’re different. But when I look at life, real life, I just see so many people who act and react the same way over and over and over despite how often it leads them down the wrong path or bites them in the ass. That’s what I was trying to capture, and I think I did so successfully, though admittedly, it doesn’t make for a character you can’t really root for.

Anyhow.

I read somewhere that if you tell people about your goals, you can accidentally trick your brain into believing you’ve, somehow, already accomplished them. So, in that vein; nothing more to report from July, no big plans moving into August.

Lamplit Underground

Big exciting day today. The good folks at Lamplit Underground have decided to publish my short story, Empty Glass.

That particular story has been a favorite among the few who’ve read my work for some time now and I find it quite appropriate that it is the first piece of short fiction to be picked up and published by an outside entity.

Big thanks to Janna at Lamplit Underground for finally giving me an excuse to create a “Publications” section here at Warning Signs.

You guys should check it out, there’s some other really good stuff over there as well.

Rejection, Regression, Diffusion: A June Recap!

I know, nothing for a whole month and then twice in one week; what is this madness?

It’s a product of where my brain has been lately, to be honest. Writing wise the month of June was… Scattered?  I dunno. I’m losing focus. I haven’t been able to really concentrate on any one project at a time so I’ve started a lot of different things which, ultimately, works out to a whole lot of nothing.

Aside from the odd blog post, I’ve started two short stories, and have begun outlining a work of fan-fiction. I know, fan-fic, blegh. Not the noblest of pursuits, but if it’s keeping the gears turning that’s all that matters, right? Just gotta make sure it doesn’t take over.

I haven’t written any (unprompted) fan-fiction since I joined the Recluse Forums six or seven years ago and diving back into it, despite relying on different source material than I was then, feels like regression… Or retreat.

I received three rejection letters in June from three different publishers. Perhaps that has something to do with it? Withdrawing from the world a bit and crawling back into the safe space. The place where, if what I produce is junk, I can always blame the source material. I stuck my little feelers out to see if it was safe, and someone stepped on them.

I’ve also grown increasingly annoyed at other stories; stories which the world has accepted. I find when I watch TV or read or even play video games, lately, I end up dissecting the experience and thinking, or saying out loud to whomever is listening, “I could have written that better.” It’s just another kind of fan-fiction, and worse, most of the time I’m lying. I don’t actually dislike what I’m seeing (all the time), but for some reason there’s this urge to pick it apart which, I’m sure, makes watching television with me an insufferable experience.

I’ve never handled rejection well, ever; but I find I tend to go the opposite way a lot of folks do. I don’t really get down on myself, rather, I pump myself up even higher. I place myself on an irrational pedestal and think, “How DARE they turn me down? Clearly the plebs cannot comprehend the opportunity they’ve been offered. Feh!” Of course, I know that’s not true and borders on pathological narcissism, I think it’s part of the same “You’re wrong!” reflex which I’m really, honestly, trying to get a handle on. In time I’ll calm down.  But until then, I just don’t really feel like sharing anything with anyone if it won’t be appreciated; that’s what I tell myself.

It’s a protective measure I’ve developed, I think, and it’s automatic. When I got the rejection emails, each was met with the same degree of apathy. I really, really want to get material accepted and published, it’s very much a motivator; but when I see:

Dear Adam,

Thank you for your interest in [REDACTED]. Our editorial staff has carefully reviewed your material, but unfortunately, it is not quite right for our magazines.

We appreciate this opportunity to see your work, and hope that you will be successful in placing it elsewhere.

Sincerely,

The Editors

My first reaction is, “Meh. Their loss.” Which, I think, is both good and bad. Good because it keeps me from beating myself up and agonizing over it. Bad because it also keeps me from growing and improving. But at the same time, at least in these instances, what choice do I have. I can’t really turn around and ask, “Well, what didn’t you like? I can fix it!” Well… I can, but the chances of getting an answer are pretty slim. That’s not their job and it’s presumptuous of me to ask them.

I’m just irritated that writing which I feel is subpar (read: not the way I’d do it) is popular, and that I can’t seem to get in on it. I can write badly. I have written badly… It’s very possible I -am- writing badly; even though no one will tell me. Of course, I realize I’ve been at this for a total of sixth months and that it’s going to take longer than that. But still!

Enough of that, though.

June is over, time to tally the word count. Between the couple of blog posts, the fan-fiction outlines and two incomplete short stories, I’m totaling up to 10,121. Still keeps me over my 10,000 words per month goal, not by much though. July goals; refocus and actually finish some stuff. 

Once more into the breach.

Abject Failure?

What to say about May? May was frustrating.

Nearing the end of April, I finished a new story which I was pretty happy with. So the first week or so of May was spent editing and doing touch-ups. I had a few conversations with the good folks at A Writer’s Recluse who have been my “alpha readers” for years now and got some really good input there. More revisions.

Seeing as how this story was a little different than some of the others I’ve written, both in subject matter and intention, I chose to tap unfamiliar sources for beta readers. This is the first story I’ve written purely with the intent of having it published. So in order to facilitate that goal, I thought I’d get some opinions from people who aren’t familiar with my style; to see if it holds up outside of my safe space. I went to Facebook seeking “beta readers.” Some were more helpful that others, one pointed out a glaring error that neither I nor my alphas spotted (for shame AWR), which I was able to fix, and two never got back to me.  Ultimately, though I’d call that action a success.

Once I heard back from most of my readers I began the task of finding a home for this piece. I’ve been utilizing Duotrope. It’s a handy site with thousands of publishers all along the literary spectrum seeking submissions at varying compensation levels. To say it was overwhelming would be an understatement.

The biggest obstacle I encountered was the categories. Those who know me know that I’m no fan of labels or categories. I dislike using labels to describe creative things because labels create a prejudice. At the same time, I have a very difficult time attaching labels to my work. I’ve asked others where they feel most of my work fits and have never really gotten a good answer. If I had to put a label on it, I’ve decided I’d file most of them under Slip Stream; but only because that label is about as nebulous as the actual stories.

I know that while being ostensibly being surrealist fiction, Empty Glass is more of an existential drama. I know that while it bears the hallmarks of a Western, Coyote is more akin to folklore, and that Rorschach appears to be another angst-ridden teen story, it’s more of a psychological horror. I know that Tree Rings was originally written as a children’s story, but it grew up in editing; so I’ve no idea where it fits now. So when looking for a home for this new story which is Sci-Fi only in the sense that it utilizes a time machine to make the plot possible… Where do I put it?

After a while I found a few places, leaning toward publications which weren’t really specific about genre; matching grey to grey. But finding places to submit is easy compared to the next step, the cover letter.

What do you say in a cover letter? Most places say; tell us a little about yourself, and a little about your submission. That feels redundant to me. All of the stories are, in some sense, about me. Is that pretentious?

My gut says to write, “Just read it.” But my gut also craves Taco Bell on an all-to-regular basis and is not to be trusted.  All total, I’d say that by the middle-end of the month I’d written 2,500 to 3,000 words worth of various cover letters. Typically, the description of the story didn’t change between letters, but I tried to include a little bit of how I felt my work was relevant to their publication. I don’t know if that will matter, but it’s been a few weeks for some and so far no one has said, “No.”

Once done with the cover letters and finished with the submissions, I turned my attention to touching up and editing old material; the stuff here on this site (I haven’t posted any edits) with the intent to find homes for them as well.  A surprising number of publications don’t have any problem with submissions which have already been hosted elsewhere; so that was a cool discovery.

Day after day I spent my bus rides too, and from work with my red pen in hand drawing slash marks through things I’d worked really hard on in the past and the more red lines that I drew the more disheartened I became. Eventually, despite having lots of ideas for new material I had to set it aside and take a break.

All total I think I’ve spent more time on writing in the month of May than any month prior, even though the end result is that no new creative writing was completed. I did one blog post totaling about 1,300 words, the cover letters, some handwritten uncounted outlining for a few new stories, and a whole pile of red marks.

So, I didn’t make my 10,000 word goal for the month, but I’m hesitant to call it failure.

Supposedly, AWR will be getting a new competition going in the next few days and I’ll have some motivation to write for that. In the meantime, I’m taking a breather.

I did spot this today, though, while posting this blog entry.

Untitled

My story has been seen, and probably ignored, in South Africa! Thanks Google!
My ignorant ramblings could have offended someone half a world away. That’s exciting!

Pivotal Bonfires

I have this memory of a twilit beach. I’m sitting on a driftwood log with my back to the ocean.  There is a campfire burning low; little remains but coals and the occasional adventurous flame licking the evening air. I’m eighteen years old in this memory. Behind me, between myself and the crashing waves in the distance slowly consuming the sun, a pair of teenagers are tossing a Frisbee back and forth.  They are barefoot, dressed in denim pants and t-shirts. In front of me, beyond the fire, past the rolling bank of dunes patched with sparse beach grass, is a small ocean-side town.

I’m not alone at the fireside. There are six of us, boys and girls on the cusp of adulthood, staring into the flames each wrestling with our own version of what comes next; what comes after this night? We are not anxious. In fact, quite the opposite. We each watch the fire with calm anticipation. It’s silent, but for the crashing surf and the soft notes issuing forth from an acoustic guitar; “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam.

To this day any time I hear the opening notes of that song I’m immediately transported back to that beach, to that driftwood log, to that quiet reflection, to that moment of shared loneliness as the sun finally dipped below the horizon. It catches at the back of my throat and throws tingles down my spine.  There’s this release, a sudden relaxation and for an instant everything is right and I’m caught in this limbo between laughter and tears. It hits fast and it hits hard, and then it’s gone before I can react. The laughter never happens, the tears never come and then it passes and I’m back at my desk at work, daydreaming. Or, like this morning, on the bus staring through some uncomfortable stranger.

This memory is, without doubt, one of my strongest and most favorite recollections. Which makes it all-the-more strange that it never happened.

I’ve only sat at a handful of beach bonfires in my life, most of which took place long before I was old enough to recall any details. For the only one which occurred outside that period I was perhaps fifteen years old. My brother and I were on vacation in Seaside, Oregon with my grandparents and cousin. The three of us; myself, brother and cousin, joined a group of strangers around their fire for, maybe, ten or fifteen minutes because we wanted to talk to the girls that accompanied them.  That’s the entirely of that memory.

The people in my imagined memory are faceless and the town is nameless, and I only had two or three friends who played guitar growing up; none of whom ever played “Yellow Ledbetter” in my company, let alone on a beach. But for some reason, without fail, that song transports my back to a time and place that never was. Stranger still, it’s not the only phenomenon which has had this effect.

The cover art for Dinosaur Jr’s “Green Mind” album elicited the same laugh/cry reaction, the first few times I saw it, but that’s sine faded. I think because it never catches me by surprise. Typically, if I’m going to see that album cover it’s because I intend to listen to the album, which means I know it’s coming; the effect is diminished. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s something about that photo, that young girl maybe eleven or twelve years old, stringy wind-blown hair, cigarette hanging from her mouth; it reminds me of something. Maybe? I don’t know, I can’t possibly think of what, but it elicits this visceral reaction which I don’t understand.

One might think it’s simply because I associate the album with my youth, that I love the songs and, as seen above, music has the power to do weird things to the brain. But that doesn’t work for a few reasons.  First, “Green Mind” was released in 1991. In 1991 I was eleven years old and I had no identity of my own. I followed the crowd, did what the people around me did, liked what the people around me liked, and I most certainly didn’t listen to Dinosaur Jr.. I did become aware of the band at some point in my teenage years, though. I have a vague recollection of someone around me, not someone I knew well not a friend, who liked Dinosaur Jr. and I remember rejecting it outright. In fact, I didn’t really come to enjoy or appreciate the music until I re-encountered it about five years ago, and I didn’t purchase the “Green Mind” album until 2012.

Second, it’s not by any means my favorite Dinosaur Jr. album, nor are any of the songs in my top ten.

And finally, there’s the picture itself. Though the album is quintessentially ‘90s, the photo, “Priscilla,” is by a gentleman named Joseph Szabo an was taken in 1969. So none of those dates line up.

For the last couple of weeks, my wife and I have been watching Madmen on Netflix. More interesting than the story itself are all the little details which place it so firmly in its time and place in history. We were discussing the other day how strange it is that, though we were both born in the 80’s, many of the outdated elements of the show are things we both remember from our pre-teen years. Little details which implanted themselves in our youth like vestigial remnants of a time we never experienced. Things which we can both remember seeing when we were very young that faded away with time and never made it into our teenage years.

Perhaps that’s where Priscilla fits in. Maybe she speaks to memories I don’t recall. I don’t know. Doubt I ever will. It’s from a photo collection called Almost Grown though, so, thematically at least there is some relation to my illusory beach memory.

I’d really like to understand the feeling that accompanies these things. I’ve always been interested in how people associate words with feelings and if we say something like “sadness” do we all mean the same thing when we say it? Perhaps “sadness” is a bad example. The major emotions; happy, sad, angry, we all seem to pretty much agree on those. I’m thinking of the more nuanced ones; ennui, depression, hate, joy, contentment…

What would I call what I feel? Nostalgia? Does everyone feel that release? Like they want to simultaneously laugh and cry and sneeze and just say, “Oh, shit” when they get nostalgic? And if it’s nostalgia, why do I feel it when something particularly awesome happens in a movie I’m watching? Something new, unrelated to my own personal experience; like the first time I heard Bill Pullman’s speech as the President in Independence Day. It’s a great speech in a goodish movie. I remember feeling it then, but it certainly wasn’t nostalgia. I was sixteen.  Or when the T-rex saved the day in the original Jurassic Park; I think I might have been twelve maybe thirteen at the time. What did I have to feel nostalgic about?

Regardless, those are one-time things. None of those three; Priscilla, Jurassic Park or Bill Pullman have the staying power or reliability to force the reaction like “Yellow Ledbetter” and I couldn’t begin to say why. They still give me goosebumps that play across the back of my head and temples, but they no longer make me want to choke. Perhaps it’s the memory, that association with a time that never happened…?

I guess if I really think about it, the beach bonfire could be a sort of amalgam of many experiences in my youth. A combination of many pivotal bonfires. Points in time where decisions were made and all points behind were set ablaze.

I remember throwing the Frisbee around with friends and relatives. I remember visiting Seaside beach fondly. The night I graduated I actually had a pivotal bonfire with friends where I literally burned everything inside my high school backpack; but it wasn’t on the beach, and there was no guitar. I can mentally drop lots of different people into the different roles and make it work, but that doesn’t make it any less fictional.

So why do I remember it so well? And why that song?

April Recap: What’s a Wattpad?

                I love it when a plan comes together… Rather, I love it when a plan fails to fall apart. April was, writing wise, largely uneventful. My fears about entropy became manifest and all the way up until the final five days I had written basically nothing. Not really the way to go approaching a 10,000 word per month goal.

                I was a little disillusioned overall this month, I think, because something was pointed out to me I wasn’t super jazzed about. Early in the month, shortly after my little post rebutting the Dalai Lama, I was told that I should be looking for someone who will pay me to have opinions because, when I sit down to write, opinionated rants tend to be the most readily available source of content. Which would be great, by the way; if anyone reading this wants to pay me to have opinions, let me know. I will reluctantly accept your money, thank you.

                Now, considering the source of the comment, I know that it was made in the most innocent and encouraging, if not complimentary, way possible. But it still struck a nerve. The blog has provided me with an easy place to put built up thoughts and allow others to read them, which is great, but it was beginning to overshadow what I’d rather be doing; creative writing. I never wanted to be a “blogger,” I want to be a fiction writer who occasionally blogs. Somehow I had allowed the model to reverse itself.

               So I took a step back from the blog and told myself that if I couldn’t write a story, one of the few on my “To Write” list, then I just wasn’t going to make my goal this month. No more blogging until a new story is written.

               Immediately I sat down and did… Well, I played video games, honestly. I played video games or watched TV or I basically anything and everything other than write that story right up until four days ago.

               It’s easy to become complacent. Especially when you talk about all the things you’re going to do. I read somewhere that if you have goals you should keep them secret, because telling people about them tricks your brain into believing you’ve already achieved them, or at least part of them.  Assuming that’s true, the fact that I had told people I intended to write 10,000 words per month all year, somehow made it easier to put off. Is that a good excuse? Can I use that? I’m not lazy! I was tricked! But when April 25th rolled around and I had nothing to show for it, well, that wasn’t going to fly.

               So I made time to write and I actually wrote. Four days and 8,300 words later, I’ve got a new short story which I’m really happy with. I’m sure it’s not perfect, and I’ll get some beta-readers to tell me why, but for now, it feels good to have it out of my head and onto paper. Once the beta-readers get done with it and I make my final re-writes and tweaks, I’m definitely going to pursue getting it published.

               In all honesty, it’s the first completely unprompted story I’ve written in probably ten years.  Prior to this, while my work was purely recreational, the entirety of my completed work was written for some alternate purpose; mostly competitions at A Writer’s Recluse. But not this one. This one I wrote just to write it, which means I was able to ignore a lot of the factors which typically influence how I write. I didn’t have to concern myself with competition parameters. I didn’t have to worry about who the judges are or what kind of story they would like. I didn’t have to limit, or pad my word count; I was able to allow the story to move and grow on its own and it was really wonderful to see it happen.

               I’m a little disappointed that I can’t post it here, but if I’m going to shop it around it’s better that it doesn’t exist on the internet prior to my doing so.

                Which brings me to part two of this update.

                While cruising the Twitters, a very nice man named Brian Rathbone gave me a word of advice when I was publicly lamenting that no one was actually clicking on any of the stories I’ve posted (it wasn’t one of my most dignified moments). Buy his books, by the way, read them; I haven’t but if you like dragons, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them. They have really good reviews. Anyway, he said, paraphrased, “If the readers won’t come to you; go to where the readers are.” Which is such a stupidly obvious suggestion that I’m not at all surprised I never thought of it.

                Anyhow, he suggested this place thing called Wattpad. Wattpad is a website/app which allows readers and writers to interact. Writers can write stories and Wattpad will host them, free of charge. These stories will then be available to Wattpad users, again, free of charge. Readers can add comments, reviews, rate the stories, suggest them to friends and follow the author to stay up to date on future posts.

                I did a little research and it appears Wattpad has millions of registered users. The experience reviews from a few authors that I read were mixed. But they were mostly writing from the perspective of using the site to drive sales of their material. That’s not, at all, my goal I don’t have anything to sell. Right now, I’m just interested in attracting and interacting with readers. Admittedly, it looks like there’s a lot of trashy fan-fiction and supernatural romance up there, but there’s goo stuff to, you just gotta dig a little.

                The egoist in me hates to admit that outside validation is a valuable motivator, but the artist, the writer, in me needs to know that what he’s doing is at least being seen and enjoyed. Otherwise, he’ll just keep it to himself. Why have stories if not to tell them?

                Point is, Wattpad sounds like a really solid platform to help me meet my goals right now. So I figure, what the hell. But, of course, any step forward seems to meet yet another obstacle. All the reviews, an Wattpad itself recommend a couple of things I don’t have.

                1. A picture of yourself to accompany your work.

                2. Cover art.

                The first isn’t super difficult. Someone just needs to follow me around with a camera and snap a photo of me where I’m not smiling like a goon. Based on past research, candid photography is the only way to make that happen. Then I just run it through some filters, Photoshop the horns out, and BAM!, done. Hmm… Also have to learn Photoshop.

                The second is more challenging and I haven’t figured it out yet. The minimalist in me feels like a white page with black lettering should do the trick, but I know that would get exactly one click and it’d be me checking to make sure the formatting is right. I’m not expecting to make any profit on this particular exercise, and I don’t have a lot in the way of burnable money (I’m still kicking that Duotrope membership down the road) so it looks like I’m either going to have to become an artist fairly quickly, or sweet talk someone else into a mutually beneficial arrangement where we both gain exposure for our work but also zero dollars. If anyone else has any ideas, let me know.

               Anyway, this blog entry puts me over the 10,000-word mark for April and with the vast majority of it being non-blog content, I feel good; Mission Accomplished. So, with that behind me and a whole pile of new challenges ahead, I stumble into May.