The Morning Muse 6 | Don’t Stop Believin’

So, as reported in Workbook 3 the other day, I’ve not been a busy boy, at least not creatively.  Other than the reworking of a couple of guitar riffs for my band, there hasn’t really been any progress made on any of the current projects.  Listen, even before I went on vacation for a 4-day weekend, I was already having doubts about the prospects of novel writing given current conditions and lifestyle.

However, my writer buddy Nadine Darling (whose hilarious debut novel SHE CAME FROM BEYOND comes out on October 13th), said to me “You need to write this novel!” imploring that I not give up and use whatever tactics and maneuvers I can within my lifestyle to finally accomplish my goal of at least writing and publishing one novel –for fuck’s sake if nothing else.

But I’ll be honest, just last night I had such a serious bout of doubt about my prospects as a novelist — for various reasons — that I honestly considered simply throwing in the towel. The negative emotions even manifested themselves into what became Journal Juice 12.

Yet a half hour or so later that episode passed and I at the very least started to make a pass at revising my old short story “All Things Considered” that is part of Operation: Remember Me?  It’s one of those stories of mine that resonates with me so much because it’s about themes and sentiments that are so near and dear to me.  I’ve finally decided to updat it for modern times because it was written in 1997 and through the lens of that late 90s era, so I want to modernize it. Given what’s going on in American society right now, I’ve gotta say the story’s premise and themes are very timely. With any luck I’ll have it updated and spit-shined by the start of next week and uploaded to Smashwords for digital archiving and reading.

Trying my best to keep on keepin’ on.


The Morning Muse 5 | Warts and All

I generally hate my writing work immediately after it goes into beta reads, whether that be a writer friend, an editor, or call me neurotic, but especially when it is officially published for the general reading public.

I’ve been sharing my writing work publicly for nearly twenty years and I still get nervous about feedback and reviews.  Even when I know I’ve done a pretty darn good job, there is sometimes that unsure inner voice.  I’m guessing that it never fully goes away unless you’re a bestselling author with thousands or millions of adoring fans – and even then.  I’ve heard a number of those kinds of authors say they’re still inflicted with this particular disease, this writer’s psychosis or neurosis or whatever it is.  But, really, I mean, how could one not feel complete validation if that many approving minds were in agreement of the quality of their work?  I suppose it could come down to for whom does one create the work? We all say we do it for ourselves, but were that merely the case, why publish it for the general public?  Since I believe most writing to be a performance art, I write to entertain which means I presume there’s going to be an audience for it.  Naturally this also extends to my musical work as well.

At any rate, I’ll continue sharing my work here and wherever – warts and all – and take comfort in the fact that my best is yet to come, particularly in my novel work, which was my impetus for becoming a writer in the first, well, second place.

The Morning Muse 4 | A Brief Glance Backward

I remember my time in virtual writing workshops and communities years back, most notably in the Zoetrope Virtual Studio.  When I first joined Zoetrope in November 1998, I was quite the novice with maybe a dozen or two finished short stories and a bunch of false-start novels (that to this day are unfinished).  At the time Zoe (as we affectionately called it) was a distinctly literary place filled with MFA writers and Literati wannabes.  In a strange way, though, that’s exactly the crowd I needed to, at first oppose and then join, because the seriousness and attention to craft that crowd makes you adopt can be good for the wayward neophyte scribe, which I kind of was.  Tough skin (hell, Teflon) was required in many cases in that kind of arena.  I was a fairly good student of the craft and I’d like to think I benefitted from my association with that particular group.  Hell, within a year or so I even became a fiction editor (and later a mentor).

Yet, by 2002 I had burned out on writing fiction and decided to get back to playing music in bands, purposefully not writing any fiction for a couple years to decompress the pressure I’d put on myself to be a writer of some significance (this was, I suppose, a pre-age-30 crisis and all).

By 2004 when I did dabble again in writing and workshoping, it was mostly picking up where I’d left off with micro and flash fiction, and experimenting with screenplays.  Another break for performing music and starting a new family ensued between 2005- 2008.

When I came back to Zoe in the Fall of 2008 to start a novel chapters review group (a concept  many haughty writers scoffed at), I mostly fell in with a completely different crowd than what I’d left behind years before.  These scribes were genre writers, thankfully.  The SpecFic crowd was less judgmental which was exactly what I needed at that point because I was more accomplished, skilled, and confident in those days, and was less enamored with laboring on written word and more obsessed about storytelling and characterization.  Plot + Character equaled Story for me at that time.  Also, a hearty number of these cats were doing D-i-Y Small Press publishing with a “we’re all in this together” kind of spirit and mindset.  That certainly charmed this fella and lit a fire under me arse to actually pursue publishing more diligently.

Looking back, it seemed like with the literary crowd, at least in those days of the late 90s and early 2000s, it was more suspicious, like you were an interloper (or more pointedly, a stumbling, bumbling neophyte who’s likely a fraud).  In contrast, with the genre writing bunch a decade later, particularly the speculative fiction writers (horror, science fiction and fantasy) it was like a welcoming Outsiders Club.

Today, I belong to no writing groups or workshops or community of that kind, virtual or otherwise.  There’s a communal part of me that’s bummed about that, but the loner wolf side of me is adamant that it’s not a necessary thing and likely just another distraction to my overall goal.  Can’t really argue with that.  Besides, there’s no way to recapture the novelty of what once was in the pioneering days of online social networking.  Like the loss of virginity, that particular innocence is gone forever.  And thus, this wolf will likely never belong to a pack again.

The Morning Muse 3 | Genre or Literary?

I am probably predominantly a genre writer and reader, if we’re going with labels and categories (and let’s face it, that’s what happens in publishing whether we like it or not).  Of course I’ve read and written literary fiction as well in my long years of doing this, and I appreciate a great deal of the literary stuff.  You could say that most of the micro & flash fiction I write and read is of a more literary nature, however, like I said earlier this week in The Morning Muse, I still usually require a strong sense of story, regardless of length or category.  When I was a fiction editor that was one of my major requirements of the pieces I considered for awarding the gift of publication, regardless of word count.  Still, for the majority of my fiction buying money and precious reading time, it’s genre fiction for me – crime, dark fantasy, horror, paranormal, science fiction, supernatural, suspense, thrillers, urban fantasy, a slew of sub-genres and more.  It’s just what I dig most.

I am reminded of what I once heard Stephen King say a few years back in a video interview (topic begins at the 7:20 mark). Essentially he said literary fiction (or “literature”) is often about extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances, and genre fiction (aka “popular fiction”) is generally about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

Breaking it down that way, I suppose my favorite of the two to read in long form is the normal Joe or Jane who struggles against abnormal situations, and terrible odds, and trials and tribulations that they must overcome just to try to get back to that normal life, rather than the exceptional (sometimes haughty) individual who stands out in the crowd of otherwise unremarkable people doing mundane things.  Unsurprisingly that extends to the long fiction I write as well.

I think I might touch upon this some more later in The Evening Muse.  In the meantime, check out this interview with Uncle Stevie from around the time Under the Dome was published (2009?).

The Morning Muse 2 | Write It Forward

I’ve been writing fiction off-and-on for the better part of 22 years and I keep EVERYTHING.  I think historically I’ve not deliberately trashed anything I’ve written, good, bad or ugly, and have only lost two serious pieces that I regret losing, likely after a PC upgrade a decade-and-a-half back.  I remember the names of the stories, “Ride” and “Scars”; the latter one thankfully re-manifested itself two years ago in the form of lyrics for a song.

That said, I’m happy to’ve written forward viable words for my novel, words that at the time  they were first typed up years ago did not seem to quite fit into the main narrative.  It was more like exercise writing or background material; non-chapter work that simply allowed me to brainstorm in free-form to explore the characters and the world they occupied, getting the chronology of past events straight in the overall timeline, making sure character motivations were solid, etc.

For this project I had written a “bible”, some 6000 words worth of reference and supplemental material to help me navigate the tricky science of this trans-human concept of vampires.  I worked tirelessly to strip away all the usual elements and played-out tropes of traditional vampire fiction, burning away the supernatural in favor of the biological and scientific.

Despite essentially starting from the beginning again, I have so much to play with all because I did a hefty amount of “pre-narrative” writing some years back, as well as actual narrative material that will be used for chapters in the loosely re-outlined Book One.  Although I’m not surprised that it pays to write it forward, I am certainly glad it does.

The Morning Muse 1 | Forsaking All Else

As I mentioned yesterday, I am writing a novelAnd that’s a kind of commitment that requires a great deal of discipline, focus and a whole lot of not having fun.  In other words there are plenty of activities and interests that I must forsake for the next several months.  In fact, I already have.  Yesterday I took back all the library books I had checked out (it was quite the stack too).  No time for reading a hearty stack o’ books, not even speed-reading them. I’ve cut back on buying comics and am reading less of them – the unread stack is maybe 5-6 inches thick now. My blogging on comics over at Comic Book Fetish has slowed to a bit of a trickle. I cut back on videogame activity a while back, much to my daughter’s dismay.  I rarely watch movies anymore, and in the summertime my TV time is almost non-existent (sorry TRUE DETECTIVE: Season Two – would’ve been better for me had you come on in the winter or spring as originally anticipated).  I know I should be playing guitar at home more frequently instead of just playing once a week at band practice.  Socially, I’m a bit of a homebody anyway, so I’ve been effectively (though not purposefully) shunning my friends and extended family on most days.  That’s what texting and social media is for, right?  Yeah, sounds like I’ve got it down , right?  Well, there is one more thing I need to do and that’s cut that aforementioned social media activity by about half.  With all of that in play, I should have no trouble staying on task of writing a novel for the next 6 to 9 months, right? Right?