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Under the Influence

Music has always been a very influential part of my life. It is hard for me to remember a day without the presence of some song or other. I’ve talked before about how music (and books) are sacred to me. Musicians are storytellers, and as a storyteller I feel a connection with them that goes beyond just enjoying their talents. Certain music has the ability to reconnect me with my past, transport me places, allow me the opportunity to experience old emotions, people. I’ve been moved to tears by music more times than I can count, and each time I’ve been grateful for the experience.

Music also fuels my writing.

There was a time when I needed silence to work, and any outside distraction was a detriment. I don’t know what changed, but now I cannot compose anything without some music playing. It influences the direction of my writing, the tone, the development. I know certain scenes in my first novel were created in direct response to what was on the stereo at the time I was writing them.

And I have so much  of it.

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Hundreds of vinyl records. Thousands of compact discs. A few lonely cassette tapes.

I’m always acquiring more as well. The more new stuff that I add to the collection, the more some albums get forgotten. Some albums have not been played in years, maybe decades.

In order to try and remember the lost ones, I determined to listen to each of my CD’s (in reverse alphabetical, reverse chronological order) over a two year period. I call it “The Great CD Listening Adventure. I started in the fall of 2016 and just moved through L and into the letter K this morning (L7 to Kylesa, in case you were wondering).

Because some albums have not aged well, I give myself some outs- I play everything, but if after three songs, I’m not feeling it, the disc gets yanked (set on the pile to take to my local record store where I can get store credit). I can skip live albums and greatest hits collections. Singles are also optional. Otherwise, it’s every album by every artist. It’s been so much fun. I’ve rediscovered some forgotten gems, and realized that I’ve lost interest in some bands completely.

My tastes have always been all over the place, ranging from bubblegum pop to Black Metal and most everything in between. I firmly believe that there is a gem in every genre, and that some of the best music ever made is being created right now. If you’re wondering, disagreeing, curious, I can give you a nice list of artists to consider.

What about you? What sort of role does music play in your life, your writing? When authors use music, does it have any affect on the way you perceive a scene?

Who are some of your favorite artists? Who are you listening to right now? Tell me all about your love of music, please.

 

Old Things

I’ve had a really good week as far as writing goes. A short story idea has been rolling around in my head for months, and I finally sat my rear end in the chair and attacked it. The first few pages came quickly, and for a while I was convinced it would only take three writing days before a draft was complete. I should have known better.

As soon as I’ve nailed down one aspect of the story, something else decides to be a problem. The strange part is, I’m excited that it is being difficult. I want to be pushed and stretched. None of this effort means the story will be any good, but it will be rewarding to finish.

The only real distraction is another idea that popped into my head while I was reading a book called “Slow Boat”, by Hideo Furukawa. I’d written a story more than a decade ago that shared similar elements to one chapter of “Slow Boat”. As soon as I finished the book (it’s wicked short), I went to my computer and opened the file. The story was still in very rough condition, and I remembered I’d only loosely edited it after finishing the first draft. Reading through, I liked the flow of the story, and thought it would only need a few tweaks to be ready for sharing. Four hours later I’d rewritten most of it, changed the overall tone, and given the story an entirely different ending. It was the most fun I’d had with writing in more than a year.

Finding life in one old idea got me thinking about other abandoned work, paragraphs, pages, two or three lines that had promise, but I either lost interest in or wasn’t skilled enough to write at the time. I’m making a list of texts that need attention, and it is a good long one. I’m certain many of them won’t become anything more than they already are, but there are likely three or four that have some serious potential. The prospect is keeping me up at night, pondering.

What about you fine people? Have you ever gone back to an old idea and found it had new life? How did you approach the project? Were you successful?

One other note-

The shelf I was using to display my vinyl was near capacity, and I was not excited about the prospect of using crates or boxes to store things. I dislike clutter. Over the weekend, we picked up this fine shelf from IKEA.

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I’ve triple the space now. You should all come over and we can have a listen party. You bring the drinks, I’ll provide the food and music.

 

 

 

 

IWSG-June

“The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.” Members post about their writing lives, their successes and failures, goals, achievements, and offer support and advice to others in the group. It is a time to lay our insecurities bare, because all writers are insecure writers at heart.

If you aren’t already a member, check us out and join up HERE.

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You can also follow and participate on Facebook and Twitter.

The optional question for this month’s blog post is- Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

I’ve said I quit many times before, mostly when I was younger and more prone to extreme emotional responses to writing difficulty. I’ve torn poems and stories from notebooks, ripped them to shreds because someone I respected didn’t like them, the people the writing was about made me feel unimportant somehow, or I was having a bad stretch and was sure all my writing was crap.

These fits rarely lasted more than a day or two.

I can only recall one instance where I actually quit writing for any extended period of time. I’d just graduated from the University of Utah with a (super useful) degree in English. Applications for graduate school had been submitted (to MFA programs), and I was supremely confident that very soon I would be sorting through multiple acceptance offers. In fact, I can’t think of a time I had been more sure of my writing ability, more certain that success was waiting for me to grab it.

One by one, each of the schools to which I’d applied sent rejections. Each was painful to receive, but the letter from the University of Utah delivered a crushing blow. The application deadline was July 15th, and my rejection was dated June 25th. Yeah, rejected before all applicants were considered. Ouch.

Convinced I was the worst writer of all time, I completely abandoned the craft

I spent the next two years without composing a single poem or short story. I did a masterful job of deceiving myself that I didn’t miss it, but that sort of dishonesty is hard to maintain.

Poetry brought me back. I’d joined an online community for a band I really liked, and many of the others participants were creative types. They shared snippets of stories, lines of poetry, other art, some of it quite good, and somewhere inside of me, I felt a compulsion to participate.

Completing five or ten line poems took hours at first. I questioned every word, every phrase and image, often deleting everything and starting over. It was difficult for sure, but I think I need writing to be very hard for a while. I had to earn back the skills I’d selfishly cast away in a fit of self pity.

Writing fiction again took me another four years. It wasn’t until I was well into earning a Masters degree in Library Science that I could no longer ignore the need to tell prose stories again (poems are stories, right?). There wasn’t single catalyst or event to get the ball rolling. Multiple factors came into play, but at my core, I’ve always felt compelled to write fiction most, and finally that voice refused to remain silent.

What about you? Have you ever quit writing? Why did you stop, and what brought you back?

Some Changes

I’ve been playing about with this blog for almost 6 years. Originally, I planned to use this space as a showcase for writing ideas, flash fiction, poetry, other ramblings, and as a way to share those things with friends and family. I hoped that making myself accountable to something (committing to posting two or three times a week, sharing, sharing, sharing) that my writing voice would improve, and my work would become more accessible. I’ve had some successes and I am grateful for those who have stayed with me from the beginning.

Over the past year or so, I’ve tried to narrow the focus this blog, posting almost exclusively about writing and the things that inspire my creativity. I’ve stopped sharing bits of poetry and fiction (and in some cases, deleted old entries), not because I don’t want them out there, but because I felt that those posts were difficult for many to leave meaningful comments. What can you say beyond, “I like this” or “good job”? I’ll pretend no one ever wanted to type, “well that sucked.

Since implementing that change, I’ve seen an increase in readership and met some clever new friends.

I’ve tried building a reading base through social media as well.

From the beginning  I’ve shared the blog posts on my personal Facebook page, and that has been a very good thing. However, it has meant many great comments and ideas that could spark further conversation on the blog have been only seen by Facebook friends.

Twitter has been a different and strange friend, connecting me to some great people, but overall, so hit and miss that I’m not sure it has been as helpful as I’d like, at least the way I’ve been using it.

In order to change that, I’ve created a twitter account I will use exclusively to follow other writers and to eventually market my own work. If you are interested in that sort of thing (and who wouldn’t be interested in what I’m working on and thinking about, really), follow me HERE

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I’m hoping this new account will bring me some new readers and also offer me the chance to connect with  writers from all over the world. In the two days I’ve been using the account, I’m already having a great time. There are so, so many writers out there and most of them (wink wink) are creating amazing content. I’m excited to finally be participating in a more proactive and meaningful manner.

All of these tiny (but significant) changes are part of my grand plan (created in partnership with my wonderful spouse) to self publish and market a novella (I’ve been talking about recently), along with some accompanying short fiction (what stories and how many have yet to be finalized). I don’t have many concrete details, but once things start to take shape, I’ll certainly be posting about them on this blog and my other social media accounts (another swell reason to follow that new twitter account). For those of you who have self published, or published at all, expect lots of questions.

I’m nervous and excited at all of this, and hope I can have your support going forward.

People over things, always…

 

Dermatology Wednesday

Lucky me! I just returned from the dermatologist, where I had a few unsightly blemishes frozen off of my face. Better to have them removed, even if it hurts and makes me all teary. An interesting part of aging is the sudden appearance of crazy skin issues. Couple that with the ongoing assault of random body hair, and my once youthful looks have been ravaged by time(a Jasper Beardly reference).

On the plus side, I’ve been having loads of fun writing daily paragraphs. I’ve yet to park my rear end in the chair for an extended amount of time, but the daily writings are coming nicely. I’m remembering not to force them, to enjoy the process. A few of them have potential to become longer works, and one will certainly be a fun story to write (and hopefully, read). I’m thrilled with the prospects, and excited about writing again.

Another exciting thing- My friend, J.H Moncrieff just released the first two books in her GhostWriters series. I’ve read City of Ghosts and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to reading The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts very soon. I recommend them for anyone who loves a good adventure, fun characters, a bit of a scare, and satisfying, shocking endings. Click HERE for more information, including where to get your own copy. All the smart people are doing it. You’re smart, right?

After a Small Detour

I think I’m ready to get back to writing. The unintentional, but apparently needed break from writing has gone on long enough. I’ve tried to pinpoint the day when the hiatus began, when I last wrote something other than this blog, or a few lines here and there while editing drafts, but as this notion of not writing for a bit was not something I consciously determined, I’m coming up empty.

All my good habits are broken, which means I need to rebuild them. In the past, writing Daily Paragraphs has worked. I give myself a bit of structure- I am only allowed to write three paragraphs (if the writing wants more, I copy and paste into a fresh document, continue). I don’t allow myself to edit at all, or place any restriction on what I can write about. It worked really well in the past. I hope it works again.

I am also hopeful other writers have ideas, things they have used (or still use) to practice, create good habits. I am open to almost any suggestion. Got one for me? IMG_8881

And because we all like images, here is one from Monday night, after a fine and fabulous thunderstorm blew on through the Salt Lake Valley.

IWSG-May

The first Wednesday of every month is the official Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. We gather together (figuratively, though maybe some of us actually do literally met up, maybe at a coffee shop or something, who knows) to talk about our successes, failures, struggles, and goals. So many great writers (published or otherwise) share advice, ideas, offer support. It really is the best writing group out there. Join us HERE.

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I have spent the last few months editing, rewriting small sections, reading over my (supposedly) completed novels. I know better than to think they will ever really be done, and each time I read through, I find several things that need fixing. With each reading, I wonder how I missed these mistakes the first fifty times through. New eyes see what old eyes miss. I am always grateful for new eyes.

A few weeks back, I asked for some help with the third book, wondering if it was too short to even be considered a novella, if I should add more, or cut something and make it feel more like a short story. The feedback I received was wonderful. Everyone seems to agree it doesn’t need new content and works well as a novella. I am so thankful for their efforts and willingness to take a look at my writing, I owe them each a favor.

As for any WIP, um…

Yeah, I need to do better. I’m not sure what the problem is, or if there is even a problem at all. Beyond the blog (which I’ve been quite faithful at posting to, thank you), I haven’t felt like writing much at all. I have ideas for stories, poems, even an inkling of how to push my failed NaNo projects forward, but when it comes to sitting at the computer and composing, I’m not feeling it. Since this doesn’t feel frustrating and it isn’t making me angry, I’m not sure I’d call it writers block. Then again, I don’t have any idea what to call this particular situation. An extended break, maybe?

I do know I’ve been reading like a crazy person, and have finished as many books in 2017 as I did in all of 2016. Finding a stronger passion for reading has been wonderful. It can only make my writing better.

Speaking of reading. A fantastic book is set for an August release date and I cannot recommend it enough. My Absolute Darling is the first novel by a fantastic new writer, Gabriel Tallent. This novel is among the most difficult, haunting, terrifying, rewarding and hopeful books I have ever read.

Read about it here

And read an excellent review here