Resolving To Be Imperfect: An IWSG Post

Hello, my fellow writers.

It’s a rainy day here in Georgia. Usually a good time for writing. And being that it’s the first Wednesday of the month, it’s time for my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. I have to say that for this month, I had a hard time deciding on what to talk about. I thought about answering the optional question, but I had this feeling I needed to talk about something else. Continue reading “Resolving To Be Imperfect: An IWSG Post”

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Rainbow Soup

Hi there.

I was working out the details of my main short story when I read an email from Poets and Writers. Long story short, it was about soup. Kind of fitting because a lot of people have had bouts with the flu. There are a couple of different ways to write about soup. I thought I’d share my take on the prompt. Enjoy.

Quinton always knew that Mason would be a chef. Ever since he was eight, he devoured everything put on his plate. Didn’t matter if it was meatloaf or spinach or fish sticks. Continue reading “Rainbow Soup”

Down the Rabbit Hole

I was in a StoryDam chat this past Thursday on Twitter. I shared a little bit on how I was struggling to write a story. I told my fellow writers I was losing interest in the story because I was neither thrilled with the plot nor the character. And this is where things got interesting. Continue reading “Down the Rabbit Hole”

My Writing Christmas List

We’re thirty days away from Christmas. (Hard to believe.) And by this time, kids and adults are compiling their Christmas lists. So I am going to give you my list of things I want for Christmas. And if you didn’t guess by the title, everything will be writing-related. Now, this is only a wish list. I don’t expect to get any of these items. But if there’s anyone willing to gift me any of these items, “Thank You” will be in order.

In no particular order…

  • Apple iPhone X. Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. I debated, and still am, on whether it’s worth getting the iPhone X or the 8 Plus. Either will fulfill my wants for more memory and a bigger screen. And either will have multiple uses besides using them for my writing and note-taking. The biggest questions come to cost and use of features. Am I going to use all the features that the iPhone X is offering? Will I sacrifice having the latest, greatest phone for ease of use? And what about the price? Am I willing to sign my life away—not that I already am—to have a phone that will be good until the newest model is announced? On a couple of occasions, I thought I had a definitive answer. Not so much now. But I have some time before deciding.

  • Bluetooth headphones. I like listening to music when I’m writing or doing anything else like outdoor chores or working out at the gym. Wired earbuds are a pain and I don’t keep up with the cushions on wireless earbuds. So I think having headphones will be better for me. They’re more comfortable and most will allow you to answer phone calls. Beats are the go-to, but there are others that are as good and cost less. I’m open to anything.

  • Writing Craft Books. I’ll be the first to admit that I need help with the writing craft. I get that books can only get you so far, but any help is welcome. Now I can compose a list just on this item alone, but I’ll list the books that are the most sought after. On the top of my list is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Ever since I learned of its existence and reading about how it’s helped so many writers. I can’t imagine not benefiting me. Next is Stephen King’s On Writing. The quintessential guide to the creative process. I used to have this book, but I gave it away. I want it back.

  • Writing Prompt Books. Like the craft books, I can compile a list based on this item. I research a lot of prompts on Pinterest and subscribe to a newsletter that posts new prompts every week. But having a book will be a boon. Will I use them all? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will get me thinking outside the box.

  • Short Story Collections. I like reading short stories as much as I like writing them. And The Pushcart Prize and The Best American Short Stories are the best out there. There are others like the O. Henry anthology. And there are collections by various writers that are on my list. What makes these collections and anthologies so great is that while they cannot possess the depth of a novel due to its format, there’s the potential of reading memorable characters and awesome storytelling. And I want to learn from as many writers as possible so that I can create memorable stories of my own.

  • Subscriptions to Literary Magazines. It’s one thing to learn from the best writers in the world. It’s another to discover and read works from local writers, whether first-time or seasoned. Georgia has some great literary magazines, like New South and The Georgia Review. I want a subscription to either one and, like the nationwide anthologies, learn what makes their stories special.

  • Writing Space. This may sound like an odd item, but hear me out. I live in a small house that’s filled to the brim with family and it’s always busy. Even when I have the time to write, I’m writing in the kitchen most of the time. And I don’t have the privacy I want and frankly need to concentrate on writing. I just want an area that’s designated for me and my writing. Someplace where people know that when I’m there, I don’t want to be disturbed, even if it’s for thirty minutes. And I don’t care if it’s at a corner of the living room. I don’t care if it’s in the laundry room. I just want a space that’s mine where I can write in peace.

So, there you have it. My writing wish list. Will I get everything I want? Odds point to “no.” But a writer can dream.

What about you? What are you hoping for on your wish list? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

Weekend Coffee Share: Growing and Rehashing

Hi there.

Good to see you. I’m sorry if I haven’t been as active on these posts. Sometimes, there’s not a whole lot going on in my life that’s worth talking about. But I’m glad you’re here. Today is an apple cider kind of day. I just finished doing some yard work. And man, it was cold this morning, which is what it’s supposed to feel like in the fall. So I’m going to have my apple cider while you take in whatever you want. I also have some eggnog if you want a different kind of creamer. We also have coconut creamer. That’s Colleen’s new go-to creamer. We have to buy at least two a trip because she goes through it like she goes through unsweetened tea. 

Anyway, glad to see you here. We’ve been busy with the kids, especially Jaxon. Last week, he started school. It’s kind of scary. We were so used to carrying him around with us while running errands. Now that he’s attending special education, the house just doesn’t feel the same. Even when we took him to school, there was something so surreal about it. It was only yesterday that we let the bus pick him up. We met the driver upon meeting his teacher and seeing his classroom. I felt I was going to cry for a moment. It was difficult watching someone else strap him in. And then when he left, I stood there, hoping he would be okay. I thought he would cry when I left the bus. But he sat there, quiet. I was happy, and yet, sad because he was growing. 

It’s only been a week since he started special education, so it’s really unfair to measure progress. Reading the teacher’s reports, though. I get a sense of confidence. It seems like Jaxon is adapting well to the new routine. But even then, they don’t do the same thing every day. That’s good. I guess the one thing I’m trying to learn about having an autistic child is that the definition of progress and success is much different. There are a lot of things we take for granted that are a legitimate struggle for someone like Jaxon. Like following directions (which some people still struggle with), finding ways to communicate wants and needs, using the potty (though he’scoring around). Stuff like that. It’s normal to us, but we have to work extra hard to teach him, and even then, he won’t get it right away. So we have to be patient and adapt ourselves to a different “standard.”

I try not to listen to the news very much. As important as some of these stories are, I feel like the media wants to solely focus on the negative. I don’t know if it’s a ratings thing or what. But there is a direct correlation between what’s going on now and the shape of our country today and how it affects future generations. Take the stories of sexual misconduct that seem to be piling up. Victims have been speaking out more since the Weinstein story broke loose. And with every day that passes, someone new is accused of sexually inappropriate behavior. The thing that concerns me more that I don’t think is being addressed is the lessons we’re teaching our children, especially our young men. I’m concerned about the message we’re sending to them when it comes to women. As a father of two young children, I have a responsibility to teach them respect for themselves and for other people. I also have a responsibility to teach them to defend themselves and not be afraid to speak up against any kind of abuse. 

NaNo is in full swing. It’s been ten days, and I’ve read tweets and Facebook status updates on their progress. While I’m not participating in NaNo, I made it a point to write every day to build that habit. Sad to say, I failed in that goal. And I have no one to blame but me. I’ve let myself get distracted by other things and haven’t made writing a priority. There was one day where I was so stressed, I couldn’t bring myself to continue writing a story I started. And even now, I’m thinking about scrapping it. It might have been the stress talking, or it might have been because I put too much pressure on myself to write a story by a certain time, based on advice I sought out. That never works out for me. In the end, I end up more miserable and unwilling to write anything. That’s something I’m trying to change. So for now, the story I started is on the shelf. But I started thinking of a new story in its place. But i’m taking my time because I want to make sure it’s a story I want to write. And I may incorporate elements of the last story into this one. We’ll see. 

Well, that’s it for today. I got to get dressed for work. Let me know how your week has been in the comments. Contrary to the belief, I do read them. I may not comment on the comments, but I want you to know that you are not being ignored.

So long for now. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Short Visit

Good morning.

It’s nice when we get together for coffee and a quick bite. I’ve been trying to get back to a healthier diet. Having energy drinks doesn’t help, but I’ve felt it necessary because I’ve had to take my sister-in-law to work early in the morning. But I could do without and stick to making a cup of coffee to get me through the day. And eating foods that provide the protein I need for energy. Which is why I like these Jif To-Go packs. Makes for a quick snack, but like everything else, have to eat it sparingly. 

So, let’s talk. 

I really don’t know where to begin. There are a lot of things to complain about, but I’m trying to be grateful, especially with work. I must say that I’ve had issues with customers and their blatant disrespect for the associates and the goods we sell to them. I know I shouldn’t be so worked up over it. It happens all the time. But I can’t help but to feel—what’s the word? Upset—about it. We do all we can to make the store presentable to our customers, and they just wreck everything. It’s maddening. 

Ok. I’ve had my rant. Now to better things. 

My wife recently started a blog on our journey with our son who, as I mentioned before, has been diagnosed with autism. Some of the things she’s shared, I couldn’t agree more. There are a lot of assumptions made about parents of autistic children. She doesn’t shy away from addressing those issues. (Actually, she doesn’t shy away from a lot. That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with her.) I encourage you guys to have a peek at her blog and let her know what you think. Here’s the link.

As far as writing goes, it’s been pretty slow. I have a few ideas for stories, so I’ve been writing them out just so I can get them out of my head. I don’t really know what I will do with them. But I figure it’s best to do something to keep my writing brain in shape. And I have been journaling more to express my frustrations. But that only goes so far. At some point, I have to put myself out there. I have a slew of unfinished pieces waiting for the editing block. And if I’m going to be a better writer, I need to get some–you know what–and get these stories into the wild. Be prepared for the inevitable rejection. So, wish me luck. 

Well, that is all I have to say about this week. It’s been slow. Next week, though, I’ll share my time at my 20-year high school reunion. I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, feel free to share your week in the comments. 

Until next time, take care and watch your step. 

My Writing Rituals

Everyone has a set way of doing things. A certain process or procedure they follow deliberately and zealously. A ritual. Whether it be how you get the day started, the roads you take to work, the way you eat your lunch or dinner, how you wind down. Whatever you do, there’s a ritual. And certainly applies to writing. Some writers can be meticulous—borderlining on OCD—when it comes to their rituals. It’s like the stars have to be aligned just right—figuratively—in order to have a great writing session.

Over the last week or so, I watched YouTube videos on authors and their writing rituals. YA authors Kim Chance and Mandi Lynn started the tag and I’ve seen other videos by authors participating in the tag. Their answers are quite fascinating and they take pride in their rituals. As I listened, I found myself agreeing with some of these activities. More than I thought or imagined. So, even though I don’t have a YouTube channel, I thought I’d share my rituals with you, my blogging audience.
So, let’s get started.

1. When do you write? Day? Time? I don’t have a set day time to write. I work two jobs throughout the week, but when I have a break, which varies upon the schedule, that’s when I write. Evenings or weekends don’t work because I’m either working or spending time with the family.

2. How do you seclude yourself from the outside world? That’s hard for me to do. I steal time to write whenever I’m not with the wife and kids. I’ll put the phone on silent and will go somewhere else. Most of the time, my room. I’ll put on earbuds, turn on Spotify, and tune to a station that I know will help with my writing. I wear a Fitbit so I’ll get a notification when someone calls me. So unless it’s someone important, I won’t bother answering it. 

3. How do you review what you wrote the previous day? It depends on the stage that I’m at in my story. Overall, I don’t go in depth on what I wrote the previous day. I’ll skim over it and mark on my outline the section I completed. If I get a new idea for my story, I’ll revise my outline, then start fresh on a clean page in my notebook if it’s the first draft. On later drafts, I’ll start a new paragraph.

4. What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired? I listen to a few stations on Spotify, and it will usually depend on what I’m writing at the time. For everyday writer’s block, I listen to Lindsey Stirling and the like. Recently, I found an artist on YouTube I really liked named Taylor Davis. She does violin covers of popular anime and gaming tracks. So I subscribed to her station recently. I have a “writing music” station I listen to when writing Contemporary Fiction. I love listening to music scores and Hans Zimmer and Steve Jablonsky are two of my favorite composers. And lastly, a band called Two Steps From Hell. Kim mentioned this band in her Writing Tag video. If you’ve watched any action film trailer in the last several years, you might recognize their work, or something similar from artists like E. S. Posthumus. I’m trying to branch out to different genres like science fiction and fantasy, and those songs get me pumped, especially when writing an action scene. 

5. What do you do when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block? I do a few things. Instinctively, I’ll turn to YouTube and watch videos from different authors. I recently subscribed to Kim’s channel. But I watch videos from Kristen Martin and Jenna Moreci. I also watch TV show clip compilations or Internet-based shows. I subscribe to ScrewAttack, a gaming channel. The channel does Top 10 lists and a show called Death Battle. If you want a good laugh watching characters from gaming and anime fight to the death, it’s worth watching. I also write in my journal. I write to vent my frustrations about a story or whatever is going on throughout the day. I have a journaling app on my phone called One Day I use mostly. I also have a hardbound journal, but I fear losing it when I’m at work. 

6. What tools do you use when you’re writing? I have several tools depending on the stage of my projects. For brainstorming, I use Evernote on my phone. I have a notebook for writing notes. Then one for each project. They usually compose of character sketches and plot outlines. When writing first drafts, I use a pen and composition book so as to force myself to get the story out on the page. I don’t really bother with separate notebooks for my stories, unless they’re for a series of stories.  For later drafts, I have WordPerfect on my laptop. I recently bought the software so I’m still getting a feel for it. I also use Google Docs when I don’t have my laptop on hand. And finally, I have a 4-in-1 pen I use mostly for editing. I use red ink for striking out words and sentences, the green for adding words, and the blue for highlighting questions on certain sections of a story.

7. What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session? I have a couple of things, but since I have to choose one, it would be my 4-in-1 writing pen. It’s my go-to pen. I love how the smoothness when I’m writing with it. It’s wide enough to where I don’t have to worry about my hands cramping during a writing session. And most importantly, I love the convenience. I don’t have to fumble around my laptop bag or my pencil case to find the right pen for whatever task I need accomplished. And it’s useful for not just for writing stories, but pretty much anything where I apply pen to paper.

8. How do you fuel yourself during a writing session? Just about any beverage except tea. I used to not be a coffee drinker, but my wife turned me on to it. I don’t have a preferred flavor mostly because I use flavored creamer and whatever sweetener is available to offset the bitterness. Sometimes, it’s sugar; sometimes, agave nectar. If I’m at Starbucks, depending on the season, I’ll order either a Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino or a Caramel Apple Spice. Anywhere else, it’s a toss-up. I won’t order food because I worry about leaving my grease prints on the paper. 

And finally…

9. How do you know when you’re done writing? I really don’t have a way of knowing when a story’s done. When I feel like I’m dragging a story along, that’s when I know it’s time to end it. Now, if it’s a lengthy piece, I’ll refer back to my outline, noting specific plot points. When I feel like I reached a good stopping point, I’ll call it a session. I don’t go by time or word count because–again–I try to write whenever the opportunity presents itself. 

So, there you have it. My writing rituals. In the videos, Kim and Mandi tagged certain authors, but that’s optional. I’m not going to tag anyone on this blog, but I am interested in what everyone’s writing rituals are. If you want to participate, go right ahead. And if you have any questions or comments about my rituals, let me know. 

Until next time…