Friday, November 13, 2009

Numbing Time and the Missing's Silent Discovery

If you have not noticed by now, I have a love of many things in the way of dark fiction. However, that affection, or perhaps I should call it a morbid curiosity, carries over into real life. I suppose that is to be expected. Still, those horrifying true stories intrigue me. Yes, I share the same desire to unravel the serial killer's brain and figure out why they were so depraved as to commit the acts that they did. However, there is another layer here that often goes unmentioned in the hollow shell of a short news clipping.

When you start getting in depth, you start to consider more than the two parties involved - the guilty and the victim. Yes, perhaps these two are at the epicenter. The guilty must bear the consequences of his or her actions while the victim remains in whatever state they were left in, be it scarred or dead. What about the others, who may only be briefly mentioned in the sea of black and white print?

For example, take the interesting tale of a real life 17th century cold case. The body of a teenage boy was discovered during an ongoing project to unearth long forgotten settlements in Annapolis, Maryland. Further investigation determines that the boy was murdered. His real name may never be known and the guilty party is long dead and currently dealing with whatever otherworldly punishment his or her god sees fit.

On first glance, it is easy to separate yourself. Aside from age and gender, it is difficult to identify with the deceased. Time creates an enormous gap. That can be traversed with a little imagination.

Consider who may have known this young man. Surely he had friends or family. Someone must have missed him. In their world he just one day up and disappeared, never to return. Did they suspect or were they completely blind to the fact foul play was involved? We can only speculate. Once you begin to consider this, it closes the gap slightly. It makes the murder a little more real and less padded by centuries.

I often wonder, when an unidentified body is found, what is the story behind that person's life? Who is missing them? Will they ever know the truth? There are a vast number of remains discovered in past decades that may never be identified and appear to go forgotten by the world.

A little change of perspective can really shift the emotional aspect of a story. Would you feel as concerned for this boy as you would for a boy of the same age and race discovered murdered within the last year or five years? Even ten? Most people would not. Justify it however you want, but on first glance, how would you react if both stories were in the newspaper side by side? My guess is, the modern tale would garner more concern.

Perspective can act like an emotional magnifying glass. It helps readers and writers see history and draw it a little closer. Although this may sound quite dark and depressing, it can be a useful tool in writing.

I am not drawing any conclusions regarding the social state of today or humankind in general. I am merely pointing out the importance of perspective in both fiction and non-fiction. A little creative thought, even in a real life story, can go a long way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Know When to Say "When"

I am getting married on October 10th of this year.
As a writer, it is driving me insane.

Why? Am I afraid of losing my personal identity by legally and spiritually weaving my life into that of another? Is it because of conflict due to the ceremony itself? Do I hate wedding cake and it is completely throwing off my writer's chi?

It is a simple matter of time.

Time was not so important when I was a child. As I grew into a teenager, it began to become a significant factor in life. I had to get to school, class, and work on time. It was different then though, living at home I had family to help.

I had my mom to run in to my room screaming about the bus coming in fifteen minutes. I also had fewer responsibilities so fewer things monopolized my time. Even as I neared the age of twenty, I thought I knew what older adults meant when they talked about not having any of the elusive commodity called time.

Today, I fully understand what they were talking about. It has become a strenuous task to balance work, personal life, and the household. It would not be quite so bad if it was not for the wedding planning thrown into the mix. Did I also mention just about everyone else I know is getting married as well? All summer, a weekend has not gone by without one shower or ceremony and reception to attend.

I suppose, in a way, my marital bliss is the reason my writing has been put on hold. This has brought me to a conclusion. Please feel free to disagree, I come to this as a result of my own experiences. If you have some magical or infallible way to make more time, by all means, please share.

I have come to the conclusion that sometimes, there is no way to balance it all. You simply cannot do it. Even if you wake up each morning at 5 or 6 am and plan out each day, there will be conflicts not to mention distracting stress. My solution to all this is to eliminate something. Not permanently of course, but it makes complete sense to me.

My wedding planning will be done, come hell or high water, on October 10th. I know this, it is a solid date and not far off. Much as I dislike the idea, it seems logical that my personal writing must be set aside for now until I can return to it with the time it deserves. It seems silly for me to put in a few minutes here or there, while my mind is elsewhere and the work will not be given the attention it should. Rather than trying to be miss perfect planner, I feel like I have to compromise with myself.

Go ahead, call me a slacker or failure or whatever you like. This just works best for me. Rather than tumbling through the next month pulling my hair out, I would rather simply put the personal work on hold. I will still be freelance writing (it is a must, after all, a wedding will not pay for itself) however my novel and other personal projects will simply have to wait.

I do not write this for any kind of reassurance. My decision is made regardless of what anyone else thinks. However, I write this for others who may have fallen into this trap as well. Life throws things at you, and sometimes you do not have enough hands to hold it all. Rather than letting things, like your sanity, fall on the floor and shatter, compromise. Everyone has a sturdy shelf, so take one or two of the things that can wait, and put them up there. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I promise I will not view you as less of a writer, or whatever you may be.

The most important part is to remember that it is alright to say you have been defeated by time. It is ok to put a few things aside, things that can wait and will still be there when you are ready for them, provided you remember to remember them. Know when to say when, but do not forget to pick them back up off the shelf when the time devouring-storm has weakened.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

The Longest Journey

The path to author-dom has proven to be a long and winding one. Although this does not come as a surprise, even the most cursory look into the world of publishing reveals long deadlines and grueling response times. Still, as a hopeful newcomer, no amount of preparation seems to be enough to fully grasp the intensity of these waiting periods.

Queries go out, rejections come in. I have received a few myself. However, today one glimmer of hope appeared. An agent requesting a partial manuscript. In the back of my mind, I know that this will quite possibly amount to another rejection. Yet, I also realize that this is the farthest I have traveled on the author road at this point. It is nearly invigorating. I have peaked someone's curiosity. Even if it only adds to my list of rejections, it means I have inched forward.

I am no expert...yet. However, I have found keeping busy helps pass the time, just be careful to not over do it. They say as soon as you begin querying for one novel, you should start writing the next. Otherwise, the waiting and agonizing could prove fatal to your perseverance, and later, your writing career. I believe this to be true, but I also want to issue a word of warning. Make sure you are setting aside enough time to follow up and continue sending queries every so often, or your project may stagnate.

For a while now, I have been building up my freelance writing career. I currently handle a number of projects for a variety of clients. These pay, and I am very happy to have the work. The problem is, my long term goal is to become a published novelist. For a few weeks now, I allowed my paying jobs to eclipse my dream. This is a mistake I do not plan to repeat. Sure, the time passed by quickly. I have felt rather overwhelmed by the amount of work. Focus is important, though, and for a little while I lost mine. Today, I adjusted my sight so that my focus is back on track.

Perhaps the request for a partial was fate giving me a little hint. I started querying again, and within an hour I had a response that I had not received before. Even if it ends in a polite "no", I have found my motivation, which I had no idea I lost until today.

Hopefully, I will come to follow this road over and over again in the future. At that point, it may become routine. For now, I will enjoy the new excitement of it all. Something akin to going on your first date or moving into your first apartment. Eventually you will move, or date other people, and in this case, possibly write other books. The first time is special, though. I hope that one day I can look back and fondly remember my first clumsy steps that eventually carried me to where I want to be.
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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Weight Of Words

As a writer, I have learned value of properly used words. You can state something with whatever tone you like based on the words you choose. A single meaning can be linked to multiple words, each with it's own nuance and level of severity.

For example, is my character mildly annoyed, angry, or is he enraged?

Each emotion varies by degrees and, when used properly, can paint a picture of your character's emotions and personality.

Each character can be seen with important points, that are varying distances from each other, depending on how each relates. These points of personality make up the characters values and morals. What connects them are the emotions and reactions in between.

Picture a connect-the-dots style puzzle, however instead of lines, a writer is using words. Misused words will weaken the strength and believability a character possesses. A generally jovial and pleasant character would not have an angry outburst at something for no reason, unless it plays up to one of those stronger personality points. Consistency is important, even if the character is irrational in their behaviors. They should not suddenly become rational without explanation. I stress the explanation part, because characters grow and change as real people do, but the overall shape of that character should reflect this. While that character may not stay jovial the entire way through, we should have some inkling as to why.

Another misconception I have discovered is that writers have the dictionary memorized. Maybe some do, but I certainly do not. Sure, reading and writing gives us a wider vocabulary to choose from, but we are not born with these words in our heads. We had to go out and learn them, just the same as the next potential writer.

In real life, no one is perfect and we do not always make the best word choices in daily conversation. As writer's though, time is on our side to some degree. We have the chance to rethink and reword, and explore other options. Just as long as we keep the flow of dialogue natural.

Words can be worth their weight, or perhaps their letters, in gold. Writers are given the gift of revision so that we may choose our words wisely. I plan to take full advantage of that gift. In the meantime, my speaking will probably remained flawed, but hopefully my character's speaking will not.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Inspirational Monsters Lurk Underground

The world is rife with inspiration. It covers all things like a sticky residue left behind from some convoluted awareness, just waiting for creative minds to see it. It is everywhere in every thing we do, even if it is hidden.

Have you ever been so moved by a feeling that you had to do something about it? Has something ever just struck you hard enough to shove you down into the depths of something more?

I recall sitting on a park bench outside of my previous place of employment during last fall. As I sat, at the end of a long day, listening to my MP3 player and staring vacantly, my mind wandered. And I let it. Even if I try to contain it, it always manages to jump the fence anyway. That dead "in between" time that we all experience throughout our day seemed like the best time to just let it roam.

My place of employment was situated high atop a hill. And, living where I do in Pennsylvania, the place is covered in hills. The geography here does not know the meaning of the word "flat".

So I sat..mesmerized by my music, staring off to the next scatter of PA dunes. Among my usually heavy and offensive playlist, the slightly calmer song, "Believe", by The Bravery, began to play. I had no idea that things were beginning to churn. People passed by without a glance, entering and exiting the sliding doors that opened into the vesitbule.
"The faces all around me,
they don't smile they just crack."
Some had blank stares. Others carried the days frustration out in the open. Rarely would I witness a smile.
"Waiting for our ships to come
but our ships not coming back."
Ah yes, he's late. I sometimes feel like he won't show up at all.
"We do our time like pennies in a jar,
what are we saving for?"
What the hell am I doing here. Why do I keep coming back?
The song played through more as I stared at the hills. The trees were beautiful but growing sparse this time of year as the leaves had been well into dropping. I could still see nature's beautifully changing colors, although I contemplated other things. I was not where I wanted to be. I was a writer! I had to create! Here I felt, empty and unfulfilled. The chorus sang directly to me.
"So give me something to believe,
cause I am living just to breath.
And I need something more,
to keep on breathing for.
So give me something to believe."
In my head I was pleading along with the lyrics. I saw people every day who were much older than myself, living this unhappy existence. Many did not want to be where they were. Yet at that point in their lives, they felt doomed to stay. I saw them and I felt for them. But they made their decisions and I know I must make mine while there is still time.
"Somethings always coming,
you can hear it in the ground.

It swells into the air
with the rising, rising sound..."
For a moment I noticed the gentle roll of the hills. I scanned the tree tops, some were still thick with red and gold leaves while others were dead reminders of their summer selves. They reached up with jagged arms to the clouds, pleading for someone to see.
"And never comes but shakes the boards,
and rattles all the doors.
What are we waiting for?"
I could feel it. I couldn't see it but I knew it was there. It had to be. My eyes traced the rise and fall of the closest hill. and I saw it, as my vision crested it's top. It was no hill but the hump of a giant, decaying monster, buried before time learned how to think. It asked, what the hell was I waiting for?
"I am hiding from some beast,
but the beast was always here.
Watching without eyes,
because the beast is just my fear."
It was true. I was afraid. Afraid of failing. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of trying! I knew in my mind I had made all these everyday trials into a massive beast blocking my path. It needed no eyes to watch my lack of progress, because it was all in my head.
"That I am just nothing,
now its just what I've become.
What am I waiting for,
it's already done."
I was done. I was here, I was nothing. This is not who or what I want to be. This is not what I want for myself and I was setting myself up to be the same as those I pitied. It was already done-I was already nothing. Now it was time for me to be something.

Each hill covered a giant monster. The trees and structures that cover the landscape are great arms, ears and horns, jutting up. They are dead and decaying, but they try to be seen. Places thick with vegetation may have been tangles of fur. And I could see them, they were huge. I knew I had to resurrect them. I could not let them decay any longer.

I did not immediately quit my job that day. But that was when things started. I used to write every free moment I got when I was in high school. But I had stopped. The ironic part was, I didn't have time. Being an "adult" means you no longer have time, or so I thought. You must work 9 to 5 at a job you hate and whatever time remains is mostly for sleeping.

But it was all wrong. I realized that if I wasn't going to have time, then I wasn't going to have time doing something that I wanted to do. Something that made me happy.

No, I am still not where I want to be, but I am much, much closer. And I have something I did not have before....Momentum. I was done begging the world for something to believe in . The reality is, I had it all along...
"So give me something to believe,
cause I am living just to breath.
And I need something more,
to keep on breathing for.
So give me something to believe."

The image above is a drawing I did after the Hill Monsters came into realization in my mind. He is unfinished, I plan to incorporate him into a larger painting. For now though, he always reminds me.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Twitter Me This!

Twitter...sounds like the beautiful call of birds on a dewy summer's morning. Or maybe another name for the babble of a toddler strengthening his vocabulary.

I try to remain up on internet trends and the general goings-on of this tangled world wide web, but once in a while things appear that make me stop and think.

According to Twitter's website, the goal of this networking service is to "answer one simple question: What Are you Doing?" Well I know damn well what I'm doing, but what I find curious is does everyone else really need, or want, to know?
My dog wonders,
has social networking gone to our heads?

I have no problem with the whole networking scene. I get it, it's trendy and fun. Just like any "new" thing it has pro's and con's. You hear the occasional heartwarming tale of a family reunited or a horror story of deciet and murder. Seems like after those especially nasty tales fingers start pointing at the site or service involved.

Well, I would like to state something very clear here. I believe it is up to individual people to use these services responsibly. I place no blame on the owners of these sites when bad things happen, even if I am not "for" that particular site.

We as adults need to know when something is risky or dangerous behavior. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves. And as parents this same concept applies. They are our children, it is our job-not the internet's-to educate our young and know what is going on in their lives

Besides, I certainly wouldn't leave it up to My Space or Facebook to teach me what a bad decision is. I would rather do my own research and use common sense.

What peaks my curiosity is, who wants everyone in the world to see exactly what they are doing at this very moment? And who really feels that what they are doing is so important that it needs an hourly update for all to see?

Maybe its just me, but I prefer to leave a little mystique. I would rather the world wonder if I am in the bathroom, walking my dogs or running to the grocery store, instead of being able to read up on it at the click of a button. You can call me dark and mysterious, because I am certainly not tall.

This is a place for the exchange of information, and I love to read a good article or opinion, however I wonder if we have taken this to a whole other level?

I am not denouncing Twitter or any of the popular networking sites floating out there. Hell, I use some of them, and who knows perhaps I will take a liking to Twitter in the future. As the world changes around us, I think our views begin to shift as well. We hold on to our core beliefs but certain limitations start to strain and either change or strengthen.

I would love to present two questions to any who are willing to answer. The first being, where do your limitations lie in regards to privacy and what you share when using these networking sites? And the second, how would you have honestly answered that question five years ago?

One last thing I ponder is what's next? How much farther can we take this concept? If we can update what we're doing to the minute, what could possibly follow? Will we start wearing a web cam on our bodies, displaying everywhere we go at all times? I think we may be running out of personal space to invade.

Well, all I can do is wait and see what emerges as the next "big thing". In the meantime, if the internet needs me, I will be sitting in front of my computer with a glass of water and my dog at my feet. There, that's the closest thing to a Twitter you will get out of me for now.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Word A Day Keeps Procrastination Away

"You mean you sit around and write all day? Is that even a real job?"

Wow misconceptions can be amusing, don't you agree?

For a while I avoided discussing what I did during the day with people. Some do not understand that writing is a real profession and requires real dedication. Even I had some idea of that when I decided to dive head first into the undertaking.

However I now am not sure I truly realized just how demanding of a job it can be. Do not get me wrong, I love it! But I have felt overwhelmed at times.

You have to really work at it to bring home any bacon when starting out. You are entering into a world of scrutiny and, at times, biased attitudes. It is very intimidating for someone "new," such as myself, who is trying to break in with little or no credit to their name. But I have found one tool extremely helpful.

What tool you ask? Is it some new software that writes for you? Some kind of editing program? Maybe a service that coaches you along? Nope.

My favorite tool is a schedule. However you decide to plan your days is up to you, jot notes down on a calendar, keep a day planner or simply make a "to do" list. No matter which you prefer, it is one of the most valuable tools at your disposal.

I admit I am still learning much but I have found that you can not achieve anything if you do not get things done. And I think we all know our faults. I am not among the rare few who can hop out of bed early each morning, alert and ready to work, who knows exactly what needs to be done and gets right to it.

I don't like to get out of bed early, I don't always feel like writing. My mind wanders and things distract me. Entertaining and easier tasks tend to be the most attractive and get done first while the harder more taxing ones get pushed to the side and accumulate. Scheduling prevents this.

If you ask me, just take it one day at a time. Every morning I write out my to do list. If I feel particularly overburdened I may also write one for the following day, jotting down my "overflow" tasks.

I try to break things up a bit too. Obviously items with a hard deadline are top priority. Other writing tasks or more mundane tasks I use as flexible space fillers. I still get them done, but I make sure the important items are not overlooked.

This does a lot more than make me feel productive. I find that I have learned a lot about time required to accomplish certain writing-related things. Such as roughly how long would it take me to write an article that is X number of words. Or how long does it take for me to do enough research necessary to obtain information on a topic. Yes, this always varies. Some projects are far more involved than others, however this gives me a starting point. And it makes my planning more efficient. I will know if an hour is not enough time or if three hours is way too much.

It also keeps me writing. By following my list I am forcing myself to exercise my mind and my words per minute, because inevitably I must do what is on my list. It is also a stress reliever, knowing that any tasks containing deadlines get done right away. I no longer have the anxiety that comes with procrastination.

Everyone's situation is different. In my case, I am planning a wedding and taking care of my household while honing my writing skills and searching for freelance jobs. Oh and working on editing and querying my novel as well. I still feel overwhelmed at times, but it's minimal and easy to deal with since I began using "to do" lists. It does not have to be anything fancy either, I just jot down a list on a scrap paper, mark the priority items and cross them off as I complete them.

So for the time being I feel I have beaten another deadly foe in the game of writing.
Bring it on Procrastination!
Do your worst

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Concept Reservoir:
Jump in, the Water's Fine!

The idea of writing conjures up images of a studious individual slouched over their desk, glasses on as their fist rabidly scribbles on a page or paws at a keyboard.

Surely every writer merely sits before their workspace and lets the ideas pour in like lemon aid from a pitcher. The paper is the glass and the words the lemony sweet liquid we so thirstily gulp down.

If there is one thing I have learned it is that this is not always the case. A writer is constantly thinking. They comb the world before them for inspiration even after they have stepped away from the desk.

We must go out and find our idea wells. Our "concept reservoir" that provides us with our richest, strongest plots. Without new sights and sounds, the well would run dry. The writer who stays only at their desk will surely suffer a drought eventually.

I don't think a writer becomes such the same way a plumber or programmer takes up their trades. I think that to become a true writer, at least a fiction writer, you have to live the career. Your mind becomes a machine, extracting all the world presents then pushing it through the refining cogs of perception and emotion. Sometimes many parts must be pushed through for a coherent idea to emerge.

So where does this happen? Everywhere and anywhere. If there is motivation there will be a writer with a revelation.

Jerry Seinfeld jots down an idea he can not read in the morning.

Oddly enough I have found that the shower seems to be my thinking ground. I can not explain why. Is it the primal nakedness? The cleansing water washing down? Is it the tomb-like walls that surround as barriers from the world, allowing my mind to flourish? Maybe it is the pure lack of distraction?

Whatever it is, I have had some of my strongest concepts hit me as I bathed.

However there is a process here. I can feel the thoughts budding, a flash of an image that reappears consistently in my mind. Or the hint of a word or sentence that builds on itself.

I suppose the lesson I am taking away from this is always have a pen handy for when those overpowering ideas hit. Also, take many showers, because idea's seem to love the water!
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

To Blog Or Not To Blog....Is That The Question?

Hello internet. Let us partake of a collective hi-five!

In this metaphoric meat grinder I have chiseled out a little space for my thoughts. I am still not sure why but it will come to me. In the meantime it creates the perfect topic for my first entry, don't you think?

What has happened in this time of extremely fast-paced information transfer and trends that spread then burn out like wildfire, that we feel our innermost thoughts are worth the time of others? Is it simply the next step in our technological evolution? Is it really a bad thing?

This virtual world allows us to recreate ourselves in a way that we can not in real life. It gives us the opportunity to control first impressions to faceless strangers. What an odd concept?

If any of us walks into a gathering place of judgment, be it a job interview or a singles bar, before we open our mouths we are being assessed. Our clothes, our hair, our body type, everything conveys an image. In some cases, our ideas and thoughts become a moot point as assumptions have already been made.

However on the internet we can choose to be nothing more than bodiless lines of text. We can withhold appearances and even hide some of our individual speech "ticks," presenting only thoughts and ideas.

What a concept!

What an ... inaccurate concept.

It is proven time and time again.When given such an opportunity many of us choose to misuse it. Even to the point of death, as in the sad case of Kevin Whitrick. I suppose there is a double edged sword here. While we can build ourselves into whoever we want to be, there is also a numbness that comes with anonymity. We forget that there are real people behind these words and images. Real people and real consequences.

Perhaps I should take a few steps back here. I love the internet. I love all it has to offer. The possibilities are endless! It allows us the chance to make connections that may not have otherwise been made.

However the questions still remain. People got along just fine prior to the World Wide Web. So why do we need it as much as we seem to? And what does this need say about us?

As I sit back and admire this churning beast I see no answers to most of these questions. If they come, well then they come. And if not, then I am ok with that.

For now I will pick up my textual brush and begin to paint a self portrait with my first brush stroke being this blog.

Maybe one day I will look back and be able to say I connected with myself for the first time on the internet.
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