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Like A Lot Of Days…

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Like a lot of days here of late, waking up with nothing to do but wait for the clock to arrive at the appointed time, I’m alone. After shaving and taking a shower, I’ll bike off to work for a few hours to make a few dollar to pay rent, buy food and little else. My bet is a lot of you can relate. It would be a rut I’m in except I decided to get out of the that mire a couple of years ago, didn’t I?

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Overcoming, that is what we do in life. We prevail against our innocence about everything while learning the lessons of growing up. In the process we lose a lot of the magical aspects of being alive. Something every child knows instinctively is that life is to be lived to its fullest and enjoyed. And then reality sets in, oppressive and dominating.

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The world changes us, subtly at first but eventually we have to submit, yielding to the preponderance of depressing truth. If we are lucky, during our separate journeys through life we accumulate some friends, good ones not the fake, plastic kind that are as well as toys except that they treat us as their playthings. A couple of good friends is all anyone needs, though. Even with family there are a few dependable supporters and a lot of other well wishers who give lip service or what could be at best termed lukewarm encouragement.

Sobering facts – but it doesn’t need to be that way. The world is intended to be whatever we decide. We allow others to convince us to believe in their version of things, their warped illusions of what life is supposed to be about. Most people are miserable, so the world is recreated in their sorry, desperate image. They are the ones pointing fingers of blame, casting aspersions and doubt, offering disparaging commentary on everything and anything around them. They perceive all there is through a veil of negativity pulled over their eyes. We know better than to be around them. Still, we think they are our friends. We delude ourselves that their view of the muddled mess around us is accurate without understanding that on any given day it is our choice to see the daily rain as something evil or something good. It will dampen our spirits or give us life – if we let it.

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That’s where I’m at today in waking. It’s Sunday. I need the money so I work. Later on, when I come back to my rented refuge I’ll write something wonderful because that is what I want to do. Working is to allow me the space that I occupy while my mind takes a respite from the ordeal of surviving. There, on the inside, I can take a portion of the universe and bend it to suit my sensibilities and desires. I can populate it with characters and allow them to interact and tell me their story because that is what I’ve decided is my real purpose in life. By comparison. everything else I do amounts to nothing.

I understand that only a few are blessed to have their minds left connected to a childish point of view. We become the dreamers and artists, the musicians and entertainers, the comedians and inventors who dare to reshape the world with our words and music, art and ideas. We are the mistreated misfits who somehow persevere. We survive the taunting and jeers of others to emerge from the battle of conformity with some pretty radical ideas as our wild imaginations allow. We see through the fog. We know that the world is full of potential exists not he other side. If we will only believe in the possibilities, we can make anything real.

Like a lot of days the hope contained int his one is left up to me. I think I’ll choose to have some fun and maybe, in the process, I can turn someone else’s day around, pointing him or her in a better direction. If I can peel away the distortion, drawing back the curtains from their eyes, in some way I can let them know there is always two ways to look at things. Perhaps I can convince them to see things a different way.

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There is a reason most people dream with their eyes closed. The deception of what they think is their life around them is too pervasive for them to ignore. It is left to those of us who can dream with our eyes open to provide them with an alternative way to see.

#perspective #life #imagination #persevering #artists, #writing #creating

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Making Progress Despite…

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Whether writing is a gift or a curse depends on perspective…and mood I suppose. Having met a lot of writers over the years I have determined there are a lot of similarities, despite our different backgrounds and approaches. The most obvious thing we all do is write. Yet that tends to be the one thing we try our best to avoid doing. You see, we are best a productive procrastination.

Yeah, I know it’s an oxymoron. I’m not sure I actually coined the term although the first time I noticed anyone else using it was weeks later on social media. I think my kids may have been responsible for the term getting around.

The first time I used it was with my son while we were moving some pretty heavy furniture items which included a refrigerator, a freezer, a washer and a dryer and one very heavy piano. It’s a miracle either or both of us wasn’t killed moving that last thing. Anyway, after exerting maximum effort in getting a piano down a ramp from a moving truck and into the sunken living room – yeah the house we moved into was built when that sort of thing was popular – neither of us were very interested in continuing with the move. My son stood an watched me carry in things like pillows, individually, and other light articles. After I made a few trips back and forth he asked, “What are you doing?”

Of course, my answer was, “Productive procrastination.”

Simply put, it is the art of finding something else to do that makes some progress while avoiding something more productive but not quite as desirable.

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As much as writers love to write, there are times when the experience is painful. I would say that most times it’s painful, but there are moments when the words flow as of the levee has broken and everything that was trapanned inside pours out. That is a good writing experience.

Mostly, writing is a lot of hours doing something that seems to take a few minutes. We enter a trance-like state during which we are awake and moderately aware of what is going on around us though largely oblivious to it. This we refer to as ‘being in the zone’. There is is possible to compose several pages containing several thousand words of story without being directly cognizant of the normal passage of time. This state can last for from four to six or eight hours. During it everything else is put on hold except for normal autonomic bodily functions and the need to purge. The need for such breaks can break the connection, but most writers acquire the ability to temporally suspend the writing session to take care of things. At times these random break allow for a new idea to rise to the surface and grab our attention.

The process is scary more so to others around us than it is to the writers. Beyond the first time when it happens and causes us to question our sanity we decide it is cool. I believe all writers – at least those of us who do fiction – are functionally insane by any conventional definition. However writers perceive everyone else, ally he so called normal people int eh world – as being the strange ones.

After we have wrestled with the crazy part of writing, ‘being in the zone’ we look at all the pages of words I produced and mostly it makes sense! It is astounding and rewarding. That’s how we generally respond. In the process all the voices inside our heads that were clamoring for attention have settled and receded into the background so that for a few hours we can sleep without interruption or accomplish something int he outside world that might actually make us seem normal to others – like washing the car, mowing the lawn or taking the kids to the park.

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Why would a writer ever want to avoid the creative experience of slipping into the zone? Well, there are times when a story you’re working on becomes difficult to write. You know a character is heading for certain death and, really, you’ve grown quite fond of him or her. Yet, for the sake of working out the plot and resolving the conflict, you know he or she must go. You resist doing that. Maybe the story needs to take a turn. You throw in a plot twist or two to delay the inevitable. But eventually the most difficult passage demands to be played out.

Sometimes as a writer you work to a point of major crisis that, for the characters at least, is not life threatening, but it is just something you don’t want to write about. From experience those times tend to be the most interesting and relatable parts of a book for the reader. So if one is a serious writer, you forge ahead with it.

Other times you claim is writers block and find any number of other things to divert your attention away from what you know must be written. You let it simmer inside until it boils up and there is no other solution but to write it down. Those events are also some of the best parts of a book.

Writers are conduits – mouthpieces of the gods, you will. There are characters who live inside of our imaginary worlds and each of them have a story they need to tell so that they can exist in the minds of readers. To them that is how they choose to exist, to enjoy their lives over and over again.

The writer may choose to delay telling the story, setting it to paper or the digital equivalent, but I don’t think it can be prevented. You see, I don’t believe those characters exist solely in my mind. If I don’t write about them, they will make my life miserable for a while but eventually they will move on to the next writer. But for whatever time the characters live inside of me I’m the one best suited to tell their stories.IMG_0233

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Down Into The Details

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Some people are fastidious, working with precision. We need people like that to design the marvels of modern life. But I’m not really into microscopic analysis or working with numbers although, I suppose I have some of that in my nature. You see, as far as my writing is concerned, the details count. Selling fiction to a naturally skeptical reader requires that the story be believable. Suspension of the reader’s reality is required in creating good fiction that draws the reader into the story and involve their thoughts and emotions.

There is nothing else I’d rather do than write. It’s not a particularly lucrative profession, but it has its rewards – a sense of accomplishment that is never spent. Creating new worlds as a backdrop for characters conjured from the imagination is a lot of fun. They say that writing is a lonely profession. And I suppose at the outset it is. But turning an idea into a story that others will want to read is actually an involved process spanning months or years involving the skills of many other artists and professionals. When you get to that point with a story you have written, expect it to take a year or more for a book to be transformed from something that makes complete sense to you to a work that will engage the imaginations of others.

Not to diminish the accomplishment of writing a draft, but the actually composition of a story is the first part of the journey. As a would be author, one is never aware of where an idea will lead. At its inception, the story may seem to be something entirely different than it eventually becomes. For example, when I wrote the beginning pieces of The Wolfcat Chronicles it was a college creative writing assignment to develop a character profile in two pages or less. Since I fancied sci-fi as my favorite genre, I created a fantastic being of blended characteristics, a wolfcat – though I did not name it that at the time.

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Unfortunately, my writing instructor did not care for sci-fi and fantasy. And so he picked apart the profile. Some of his critique benefitted me in later development of the characters, but mainly receiving a ‘C’ on the assignment was a sobering experience. As I recall the instructor also spent an inordinate amount of class time explaining the tries and tribulations of submitting manuscripts only to have them rejected – based on his personal experience, of course. I’m not sure what the purpose of that was other than to perhaps dissuade us from ever competing with him for the attentions of a literary agent or publisher. For a true writer, no one discouragement morphs into part of the compulsion to write. I’m not saying we want to be rejected, but to survive as a writer one must learn to deal with the word ‘no’, even to the point of embracing it as meaning, ‘not yet’.  A true writer believes in his or her story enough to continue refining and revising it until it is ready to be published.

The next time I revisited the idea of wolfcats was in the summer of 2000, some twenty-three years later . My first novel, One Over X was in edits with a small publisher. I was working three part-time job to help keep the family going until I found something more permanent. For entertainment I chatted online with a group of people who used to plat Dungeons and Dragons – a game I knew a little about but had never played. We contrived a virtual wolf pack and had character names.

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One of the members of the chatroom called herself the wolfcat. I committed to writing a story about her. I figured a few pages would do the trick. Four hundred and thirteen of them later I had drafted the nucleus of the central story of the chronicles that now spans five 200-page books and draws into the story many of the character personas front he virtual wolf pack.

In the beginning of One Pack there has been a devastating fire that has destroyed the forest and charred the plains forcing the wolf pack into a direct confrontation with an ancient enemy. When I wrote the story I spend a good part of each day commuting back and froth between the Suntree area of Melbourne, FL and the greater Orlando area. There were extensive wildfires I had to navigate in other to get to where I was going and at times the smoke was so thick that it was worse than driving through fog. That experience shape the story contained in the book.

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I’m not certain it’s a requirement for a writer mix elements of the real world around him or her with the fictional universe that makes it into words on a page, but I’m not sure how else one would make a fantasy seem real. In Fried Windows In A Light White Sauce, my current novel that is being published in a few days, the real world and the fantasy world converge as the main character, Brent Woods straddles the two parts of his universe. Fried Windows is another example of how a book starts off being something much less ambitious. Around St Patrick’s Day in 2012, I wrote a 5000 word short story. With the initial inspiration satisfied, I posted the story in a writers group to which I belonged and received a good deal of favorable feedback. Many suggested I continue the story, and so, I added pieces as discrete short stories involving the same characters – sixteen of them over the course of the next month or so.

Months later I added some connecting pieces to bridge the gaps in the storyline and create the framework of the novel. Not only did it become one of those quirky stories that that kind of wrote itself as it went, it also became the first story I composed almost entirely online, in installments, while receiving direct feedback from readers. By the end I had confidence that the story worked because a couple of down people had actually read the basic story line.

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There is no right or wrong way to write anything whether it is a story, a poem or a book. Like the inspiration it may some from the perfect sunrise on the beach even thought he story turns out to be about something very different. It could be a something someone says or a particularly odd use of a word that triggers the internal process of your creativity. What I know for certain it that there is only my way of doing it and  yours and I think that’s pretty much just how it needs to be. As writers we are not the ultimate judge of the value of our creations. The readers who hopefully will become our fans determine the degree of our successes and failures. And that is also how it needs to be.

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What’s Impossible Anymore?

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I recall that when I was a little guy my Mom had a whole lot of sayings that were largely rooted in her childhood. Some were about impossibilities and skepticism. One expressed the absurdity of men being on the moon. And then, the summer I was thirteen years old, she had to stop using that one.

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Today is my mother’s birthday. She’d have been 97 today. A lot of things changed in her lifetime, and a lot more since. I’m not sure things are better or worse – or even if I’d call it progress. It occurs to me that everything is according to balance, taking some bad with some good as we advance through time if not in the acquisition of wisdom. What I came to realize on July 20, 1969, was that what’s impossible in the here and now may not always be so in the future. A lot of that has to do with setting goals and being determined to achieve them.

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I’m pretty sure John F. Kennedy knew that. When he set the ambitious national goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely he had to know it was possible. He had expert advisors after all. Was it a stretch? Certainly it was. No one had ever done anything like it before. In theory it was possible. Working out the details was an expensive undertaking that pushed technology further in the span of one decade than ever before. Any number of things that are common place in our daily lives today came from those advancements – non-stick cooking surfaces, dehydrated foods and the microprocessor come immediately to mind.

Kennedy would be 97 on his birthday this year as well. I recall he and my mother shared the same birth year. They were certainly born under different circumstances, worlds apart in a way, and yet the America they shared was a land of lofty ambitions, golden opportunities and a bunch of innovative dreamers.

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I guess I’m thinking about all this because I decided to watch a movie yesterday called Gravity. In case you lived under the same rock I have been for the past few months and missed it. it won a lot of awards for it cinematic achievement. It’s about a disaster in orbit. It has a lot of the undercurrent themes about technology pushing the boundaries of reason, humans at the edge of their ability to cope and mankind’s penchant to self-destruct.

There is an accident in space. Apparently a spy satelite malfunctioned and a missile was sent to destroy it. But in space things like that can produce a pinball reaction on a cosmic scale. The debris started taking out other satellites, knocking out communications with the world and also destroying the means of returning home…and everyone else aboard a shuttle except for two astronauts.

What impressed me the most about the movie was how realistic things looked. It was easy to escape reality and feel immersed in the situation, sharing the struggle with Sandra Bullock. Afterward I wondered what can be imagined that somehow we can’t create at least in a movie if not in real life?

With the advent of the personal computer, which came from the investment in the technology to put men on the moon in the 1960’s, and the Internet, which came from the need for a communications network that could survive a nuclear war, we now have the ability to publish and distribute the products of our imaginations in ways no one would have believed possible only twenty or so years ago. If you can dream it and express it, then why can’t be become a reality – at least on the real or virtual pages of a book?

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Billions of people produce millions of artists inspired to capture and express their visions, sharing them with the rest of the world. Any of the billions who might care to see, hear, feel the dreams of those of us inspired to create, has instant access to art in its various forms. What a wonderful time to be alive as an artist. And yet, each of us still struggles as artists apparently must in order to sense and respond to what it is about the universe that makes us different.