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Impermanence

The idea occurred to me several times before, but I’d never had the courage. And honestly, this was the first time an opportunity presented itself when I was actually in a relationship, when any initials I carved wouldn’t have been and exercise in imagination. Cowardice disguised as confidence. One day, RSC hearts KEC or ABC or HIJ will mean something more than a long list of letters inferring a long list of never been lovers. 

Which is exactly as pathetic as it sounds.

But she was different. Or I was different around her, which might be saying the same thing.

She liked winter rains, the sort that iced your eyebrows and lashes, made walking dangerous, filled with ankle twisting, bottom bruising obstacles. And she preferred silence when given the choice, her feet up on the sofa, across my lap while I read a book, no words shared for hours.

I also liked the rain, but preferred the October variety. As for silence, well, I didn’t believe it existed. There was always some little noise, a scratching in the back of my brain, which I trusted, if only because it helped me feel substantial, genuinely present.

*

One warm afternoon late in September, we hiked into the woods along a favorite trail for almost an hour (autumn leaves scattered across the ground, reds, browns, and my favorite yellows piling up, begging to be stomped or kicked about), rarely speaking, until we came upon a massive oak, somehow left unmarked among the aspens and elms lining the path, all etched with layer after layer of scribbles that stood out like scars on skin.

We stood in front of the tree, marveling at its unlikeliness.

“I can’t help but think,” she started, then paused. “No, you’ll think I’m being silly.”

I shook my head, somehow stopping myself from adding phrases which would only detract from the moment. I adore words, but I often say the wrong ones at the wrong times.

“I feel like this tree appeared out of nowhere, in this moment, in this place, just for us.”

I pulled my knife from its leather sheath, then walked forward, keeping my eyes on the tree, convinced she was right and if I looked away for even a moment it would disappear. With my free hand, I touched the bark. Deep, rough grooves touched back, and for an instant I thought the tree quivered beneath my fingers. I pulled away, looking up at the branches far above my head, swaying gently in the light breeze. A pale blue sky seemed impossibly far away. I tightened my grip on the handle of the knife, turned my attention back to the trunk, and selected the location to make my first cut.

In my head, I imagined the task already complete. I could see each letter already formed, rising out from the wood, tangible evidence of our connection, hers and mine, our shared adoration and affection. I wanted to say one word out loud, shout it, but it came as a whisper- love- because I did love her, and I believed she loved me.

I imagined other outings we’d take, coming back to this tree, staring up at the crudely carved initials somehow meant to represent us, hoping our love would last as long as the tree itself. Someday, we would bring our children, spread a blanket on the ground, share a picnic lunch and stories about the inevitability of our meeting, the permanence of our devotion. Our timeless love.

I wanted to cling to this image, but before I could lock it away in my head, store it like a memory my heart sunk and I knew.

What a ludicrous notion. I suddenly wanted to be anywhere but here, in front of the magnificent tree.

Before I could compose my thoughts, she stepped up beside me and put her hand on my shoulder.

“I don’t want you to do it either,” she whispered.

I slid the knife back into the sheath, put both hands upon the oak and wished it well.

Without looking back, we headed down the trail together,  towards the parking lot where we’d left her car. A cooler in the back seat held cold water and some good chocolate.

Fifteen steps down the trail, she slid her hand into mine.

 

 

 

 

 

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Short Fictions

The query edit continues. I’ve found a few kind persons willing to aid in my efforts to create a solid bit of writing and I’m super thankful to them for their help. My hope is to have these paragraphs polished and ready by the middle of July. That would be swell.

Next on the agenda, getting the courage to submit short fictions. I’ve always struggled with knowing where to send stuff, what contests/publications to approach, and if paying an entrance fee is a good or bad thing.

And of course, the super hard part- feeling a story is polished, presentable enough to get attention. Like most writers, my confidence in a text varies from day to day, read to read. Today, most of what I’m editing feels right, feels good, and what I should do on days like this one is find someplace to send something right this moment.

Maybe I should do that, end this post, seek out someplace to send that one story I’m really liking.

Am I brave enough?

IWSG-June 2018

It’s the first Wednesday in June. You know the drill-InsecureWritersSupportGroupBadge-300x295.

Check us out and sign up HERE.

It has been a crazy month! My twins decided it was worth the effort to graduate from high school. It was down to the very end for one boy in a few classes, but he figured things out and got the grades.

I have to admit, I was more emotional than I expected. I had a few tears, watching my (seemingly suddenly) almost adult children cross that stage and get their diplomas. Of course the hardest part was realizing how fast time really flies. I’ve only spent ten years with these two, but from this vantage point, the years have slipped by in a blink.

As one might expect, writing has been on the back burner, simmering, sometimes bubbling over the rim, scalding the burner. I have every intent to stir that concoction a little more this month.

The optional question for IWSG Wednesday is-

What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character name?

Honestly, they are both hard for me, but titles are likely harder. In my first book, I had the MC name pretty early on. His daughters name came pretty easy as well, but the rest of the characters took their sweet time getting named. A few altered midway thorough. That first novel has had three different titles, and I’m finally satisfied with the one on the first page.

Funny enough, in the second book, the title was super easy. Names weren’t particularly difficult either, but in this case, harder than deciding what the book would be called.

In the third novel, again the MC came pretty fast, but the other names hid away for a few pages, maybe 50. The title eluded me until the third draft. For almost a year, the document was called Novel Three, and the first page of the document said, “Insert clever title here…soon.”

I think any difficulty i encounter in naming characters comes from wanting the names to stand out, be memorable, but not appear too outlandish or too common. The wrong character name can really make the rest of the writing difficult. Many times when I’ve felt I needed to change a name, it is because writing it nevert feel right. Is that a strange thing to say? I hope so.

Titles on the other hand, need to say something interesting about your book. They are often the first thing a potential reader encounters and the wrong title might lead to a book being skipped over. I hate to admit this, but I used to (and maybe still do) want my titles to be super clever. I know that is why my first book was so hard to name. Calling the second book, “The Reset” was not all that clever, but made sense for the book.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to visit your blog as well.

Happy writing.

IWSG-March 2018

Welcome to the March installment of the monthly blog hop of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Check us out here then join in the fun. We really are the best of the best.

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The optional question for this month is- How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

I don’t recall ever celebrating the completion of  a story, but I do remember my emotions after finishing my first book.

For years I struggled to complete my first novel (a lovely work of literary fiction still waiting to find a home), getting close to breakthroughs but always coming up short. When after finally figuring out how to actually write a novel, and when I actually wrote the final words, a huge wave of relief washed over me. I may have cried (no may about it), sitting in my office, staring at the wall, then the computer screen, back to the wall, unsure about what I was supposed to do next.

I admit, I thought the hard part was over.

As for the celebration, I think I cracked open a beer, and I recall my wife being very happy for me, and asking me when she could read it. I also recall going out to dinner to celebrate (likely Thai food, or maybe Korean).

Finishing the next two books wasn’t nearly as emotional, but in some ways more rewarding. I really felt accomplished after finishing the second book, and instantly went out and bought myself a record or two. Having two complete works made me finally feel like a writer, which is pretty silly to say.

After the third book was complete, I took the family out for Mexican food. It may be time to think of something besides food for celebrating.

 

IWSG- February 2018

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You know the drill- Check us out and sign up here.

Remember to check out our awesome Twitter and Facebook pages as well. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is the best writers group out there.

I’ve had an interesting month on the writing front. As I mentioned before, the IWSG Twitter Pitch Party was very successful for me. Not only did it offer me a few agent/publisher opportunities, but it rekindled my hope for finding representation sooner than later. My query letter seems to hit the mark, and now I just play the waiting game.

Another interesting development- The manuscript drawing all the attention only contained 38,000 words, and apparently no one wants to touch novellas. I’ve been pondering ways to increase the word count without losing what I thought was a very good flow to the narrative. In the past, multiple attempts to do so have failed. Miserably, I should add.

But this time I was determined (nibbles people. Actual publishing folk wanted to see this book) to push this story to novel length.

Getting to 80,000 was not in the realm of possible outcomes, but if I focused and worked smart, I could reach 50 or 55. The day after the twitter pitch party, I sat down and got writing. I found a place in the first three pages that begged to be fleshed out. Two pages later, I found another. I wish I could better express how frustrating previous attempts and adding content had been, and how rewarding it felt to finally be able to succeed. It sounds cliche’ but like a light suddenly switched on, I could see through the darkness, understand where I could stretch things out, add story, take risks.

I still had hours of frustration and days where nothing worked, but in the end, I added 14,000 words over the course of a week and a half. I’m sure some of it will have to be reworked, cut, replaced, but regardless, I have a completed manuscript that I am confident querying.

Now, if only I could find that confidence for the other two amazing novels I have waiting in my file folder for some wonderful agent or publisher to love.

IWSG-January 2018

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Welcome to the first IWSG blog hop of 2018. Check us out and sign up here.

We also have a great Facebook group and a very active Twitter feed, so do yourself a favor and join the fun.

I’ve always struggled with the concept of new year resolutions. Not because I don’t like setting goals or pondering what I’d like to accomplish over a given time period, but because of the arbitrary nature of selecting one particular day just because of when it occurs on the calendar. If I set a goal, it is because I want to achieve something, change something about myself, and while I would never begrudge someone for choosing to start some project, path, etc on New Year’s Day (seriously, good for anyone who works to improve themselves in any way regardless of when they decide to start), I get a bit put off by all the fuss.

Now, after writing that arrogant paragraph, I will follow up by saying that I have made all sorts of writing goals for myself in 2018 (my hypocrisy knows few bounds). Starting of, I will be participating in the IWSG Twitter Pitch party on January 18th. I am hopeful, but realistic once again. I don’t know anyone who has had much success with pitch parties, but I am always willing to participate. If you happen to have a grand story, please share it with me.

Sometime in the next few months, I also plan to self publish a novella titled “From Water”.  The process may take longer than I expect, so please don’t hold me to that few months deadline. Also, I have submission goals for the year as well (numbers and whatnot, but I think I’ll keep those to myself). I plan to query agents, submit stories, be as aggressive as possible.

The interesting part to me is I’ve made most of these goals before and not followed through. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I feel like this time around will be different. I have my wife fully in my corner, pushing me to get things going, and that means the world. I’ve wasted far too much time planning. It is time for some progress to be made.

As always, I’d love to hear what you’re doing, accomplishing, thinking, planning. Let me know.

Out From Under

Hey friends. I’m sorry to have missed last week’s blogging fun, but I have been a bit under the weather. I’m sure you don’t need the details.

The good news is I feel mostly better and am back into the swing of most things. I’ve not been around to comment on all of your lovely blogs, but I hope to use some time today to do so.

On the writing front, NaNo is off and running, and I have chosen to write a collection of unconnected short fiction. So far so good, and I am right on word count to this point. Some of the stories are rewrites of older (often shorter) works, so I’m unsure if this really qualifies as a pure NaNo WIP. Honestly, I couldn’t care less. If some project gets me writing and creating again, that makes me happy.

What surprises me is how different my writing style has become over the last five years, from the way I approach the story, to the overall tone and voice I’m writing with. I will let you know if this is a good or bad thing as the month progresses.

Any of you taking the plunge this year? I’d love to hear about your progress.

Some blah news- As my stories did not score enough points, I will not be continuing on in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest. I’m not surprised. I really didn’t write well for this competition, and was mostly unprepared for the way the assignments were structured. I’m not too discouraged and might even enter the contest again next go around. This is a learning experience, and gosh, I like learning.

As always, I’d love to read your comments and talk some about writing, yours and mine.