A Return to Writing

This isn’t the first time that I’ve taken an extended break from writing. From the early 1980s to mid-1990s, I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories because they could be completed in one sitting. Most of the stories were plot-driven or idea-driven stories of 3,000 words or less. I rarely wrote anything longer than that, and my production was intermittent. Once I started college, I continued to write poetry but more-or-less tabled my fiction because the methodical, analytical mindset that is conducive to success in academia doesn’t mesh very well with the spontaneous, creative mindset that is needed for writing fiction. However, the knowledge I gained from the courses I took provided the foundation for generating a lot of ideas, most of which found their way into the essays I wrote for college. But those essays weren’t enough, and by the time I started graduate school, the creative urge was screaming to be set free. Poetry wasn’t enough to satisfy it, so I revisited a question that had inspired several of the short stories I wrote in the late 1980s: Why would aliens visit earth? A number of short stories followed, and by the time I started my MA in creative writing, I was ready for it. I wrote quite a bit during the two years it took to complete my degree, but that ended when I started teaching. At that point, I devoted almost all of my time to developing the courses I taught, and I barely managed to squeeze out some poetry along the way. After eight years of teaching, my creativity was once again ready to explode, and since my courses were well-developed, I had the time to pursue writing again. Poetry and short stories came first, and a few of those stories evolved into my first novel (The Snodgrass Incident). The Tiger’s Eye was next, and several other novels followed in fairly quick succession. I finally took another break about a year or so ago, and now I’m ready for that break to end.

I’ll be working my way back into writing by revising the Angus the Mage series and the scenes I have ready for I Will Be King. I am approaching the two revisions differently, however, since my objective for the Angus the Mage series is to identify loose ends that still need to be tied up, to tighten up the style for The Tiger’s Eye (I’ve learned a lot about writing novels since I wrote it), and to integrate most of the Prelude of Angst into the earlier novels. Also, now that I know how the series ends, I am considering adding scenes to produce a better continuity of content. If I make these substantial changes, I will republish the series as a revised edition, discontinue Aftermath (its content will be combined with what remains of Angst after the Prelude has been removed), and create a blog post outlining the extent of the changes I have made. If I do not make these substantial changes, then I will simply upload the revisions to the existing series.

My objective for revising I Will Be King is to refamiliarize myself with the characters and plot developments so that it will flow more effectively once I start adding scenes to it. Although I know what the main plot twists are going to be, I generally let the events between them evolve as the characters want them to, and I need to be “in the characters’ minds” to let that happen. Right now, I’m a bit too detached and objective for that, and revising the existing scenes should reestablish my connection with their voices. Since I revisited my earlier writing to help end the previous breaks I’ve taken from writing, I am confident that doing these revisions will end this one.

My next update will be after my Spring classes have started (in about 2 weeks).

It’s Been Awhile….

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, and that’s mainly because I haven’t written anything of consequence for several months. I usually don’t write that much during the Fall semester, but this year has been completely non-productive where writing has been concerned. I’ve written few poems, and my fiction has been tabled for quite some time. I expect that to change after Christmas, but I’m not sure what I’ll be doing yet. I am still tinkering with the idea of revising my Angus series to tighten up the first book and clarify the sequence of events in the series, and I Will Be King is close to the end of the first section (it’s long enough to be its own book). I doubt I’ll write much poetry, though. so I’m going to add the few poems I wrote this year to what I compiled for the 2017 collection that I never got around to publishing (I should publish it in January), and that might be it for poetry for a few years. As for fiction, I’ll make up my mind about that after I get done with finals and the prep work for my Spring classes. Regardless, I expect to be a lot more active next spring than I was this year, so I should be posting updates soon.

In the meantime, here is a poem I wrote earlier this year after a tornado went through town. It wasn’t much more than an F-2, but it did quite a bit of damage to roofs and trees. My apartment was on the edge of the debris field, and there was damage to houses on the next street. It was a rather peculiar experience….

Funnel Vision

The gray-black finger of god
stretching down from the clouds
like a broken swizzle stick
stirring up a dry martini
or Aunt Millie’s playful tickle
stirring up a cloud of giggles
stirring up a cloud of debris
coming straight toward me
twirling, whirling, coming
straight at me, twisting,
turning, laughing,
raining, crying,
praying.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poems #11-13: “Nightcap,” “Wasted,” and “Whispers in the Night”

I know it’s been a couple of months since I posted anything, but there wasn’t any reason to give an update until now. Even so, this won’t be much of one. I spent the past few days proofreading what I had written for I Will Be King in the hopes that it will inspire me to write more. We’ll see if it works. I’ve written about a dozen poems since my last update, so I’m including a few of them in this post. I sorted through the poems I’ve written since 2014 in case I decide to publish second editions of my earlier collections, but I haven’t integrated them into those texts yet. There seems to be quite a bit up in the air at the moment, but at least I’m feeling like doing something again. Anyway, here are the poems:

Nightcap

Stay
or go?
Stay or go?
Stay? Go? Go? Stay?
A simple choice. Profound consequences.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Wasted

Time
saved in
a beer bottle
is lost

forever.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Whispers in the Night

When darkness falls hard and fast and deep,
I hear your muffled call slithering through my sleep
past the demons’ dreams etching scars upon my soul
to ease the wretched screams slipping past my firm control.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #10: “Returnee”

It’s been awhile since my last writing update, but there wasn’t anything to report. I wasn’t doing any writing (poetry or fiction), and the poems I had written earlier in the year had nearly run out. I wasn’t even thinking about writing until about two weeks ago, and even then, there were only brief moments and a few ideas. I tried to follow up on one of those ideas about a week or so ago, but it just didn’t work. The character’s voice felt artificial and the writing was forced. It didn’t feel natural, and the story petered out. I tried again a few days later, and the same thing happened. I still like the idea, so I will probably go back to it at some point, but the story wasn’t ready to be written and I wasn’t ready to write it. Then, a couple of nights ago, I woke up with another idea and jotted down a few notes about it. It ruminated, and this morning I wrote the short story inspired by that idea. What’s encouraging is that, even though it didn’t flow as easily as I would like, it didn’t feel forced. Writing it reminded me of how it felt when I was writing short stories in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Most of the stories I wrote back then were short, idea-driven stories that could be completed in a few hours, and this one is like that. I might post it in a few days, after I revise and proofread it, but for now, here’s the only poem I have left from the ones I wrote earlier in the year:

Returnee

A change of pace;
.     an old routine;
An open mind;
.     the same old scene;
A brand new world
.     rearranged;
A new beginning
.     with familiar friends.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Confirmation of the Fizzle….

An historic moment just happened in the NCAA tournament: a 16 seed beat a 1 seed for the first time in its history. What did CBS do? It kept it on the game it was broadcasting. In the past, they would have switched games for the last 2 minutes, but no more. I was even surprised when they showed part of the 16 vs 1 game during the halftime of the CBS game because they’ve done almost none of that recently. Well, except for the Auburn game because it’s Charles Barkley’s alma mater and they were razzing him about it being a close game. The halftime shows seem to be more about him than the games nowadays….

March Madness Is Fizzling Out

Okay, I still haven’t done anything significant with my writing. Eventually, I’ll break out of my funk and get back to it, but it is taking a lot longer than I thought it would. I seem to recall Theodore Sturgeon (or was it another famous author from that era?) taking 5 years off from writing at one point, but I don’t think it will be that long for me. Maybe when allergy season is over and I start walking again, I’ll get back into the writing mindset. We’ll find out in a few weeks.

In the meantime, “March Madness” is upon us, but it has fizzled out for me. Ever since CBS gave games to other networks, it has gotten less and less interesting. I don’t have cable, so it’s like watching a single game, usually one I don’t really care much about, and having commercial after commercial followed by the NBA commentators prattling on during halftime. They don’t even have the breakaways to other games like they used to have, and they don’t switch from a blowout to a game that is up for grabs because they are all on different networks. It used to be so exciting to watch the underdogs win, but now they don’t really even show in-game updates on them any more. There are more updates during regular season Saturday games than they have in the tournament, and that says a lot about how bad it’s getting. It’s all about the money, now, not the games, and it’s pretty much destroyed what used to be a very enjoyable sporting event. I remember watching the first week with anticipation, but now I’m not even paying much attention to it because they’ve taken away all the exciting parts. It’s not even really worth having on as background noise when the game that’s on doesn’t hold my interest.

Poem #4: “Discourteous”

I’m still sorting through things as I clean and rearrange my apartment, and one of the boxes contained printouts of some stories I wrote about 30 years ago. I’m going to go through them this weekend or next week to see if any are worth retyping or publishing. I also proofread my poetry collection, but I haven’t quite taken the next step of publishing it. I’m not sure why I haven’t, either, but every time I think about formatting it for the different e-book retailers, I get deflated and shy away from doing it. It’s a bit strange; I’m cleaning far more than I generally do and writing far less. Usually, I detest cleaning (which is why I generally don’t make messes). I have written a few poems, though, and three of them (brevettes) were published by Whispers as part of the January Activity. “Discourteous” is one of the others I’ve written this year.

Discourteous

Darkness before me,
behind me, to the left,
and to the right.

My car climbs the hill
like a snail on tranquilizers
trudging along, heedless
of the slimy trail it
leaves behind.

A dim funnel of light
spreads out before me
like a luminescent shadow
stretching into the night sky.

It fans out, forming
a diffuse canopy, and I
hit the dimmer switch
and wait for him
to do the same.

The pool of light
blossoms into a pair
of brilliant, piercing
haloes that stare me
down as if we are
playing chicken.

I squint into the
blinding glare and
flash the brights.

I shield my eyes and
flash them again.

He is close, now,
so close I could see
the whites of his eyes,
but my vision has been
consumed by those
blazing orbs.

He passes, and I am
thrust back into darkness.

I feel the vibration
from the rumble of my
tires skirting the edge of
the shoulder, and I ease
my car back onto the road.

My eyes adjust
just in time to see
a funnel of light
piercing the sky
above the next hill.

I cringe.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #2: “With Age . . . “

I have been holding off publishing 2017: A Year of Poetry while I ponder what to do about the changes I mentioned last time. I should have it published by this time next week. I had some last minute prep work to do for one of my classes because I wasn’t sure it would have enough students to run, so I’ve already failed to live up to my resolution. However, I have been doing more writing-related activities this year than I did most of last year. Unfortunately, most of it hasn’t involved any actual writing but the kind of grunt work that goes on behind the scenes. So, aside from a few poems, there hasn’t been much wordage. Perhaps this week I’ll get back into writing fiction by proofreading and revising what I have for I Will Be King. At least I’m starting to think about that book, which is a positive sign.

With Age . . .

My age is not reflected in my years—
though they are many more than once they were—
but in the youthful eyes my students bring
into the classroom. They are so young!
And I? I am on the cusp of middle age—
and then some—with the downward slope tilting
toward the grave. I see it waiting, six
feet deep, the headstone chiseled—all except
the date. It could be years from now or to-
morrow. And them? What future will they know?
What will they see when they look back from here?
Will they blame us—their elders—for all their
problems? Will we be deserving of their wrath?
Or will we find the wisdom for a different path?

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #1: “Humanity”

So far, I have been keeping to the schedule of doing writing related activities for at least an hour a day, but there hasn’t been much actual writing. Mainly, I’ve been organizing and revising the poetry I wrote last year into this year’s collection. I have it ready for a final go-through and have the cover, so I plan to publish it as an e-book this weekend. I’ll update the other books I’ve published to include it in the list of the books I’ve written, which will take quite a bit of time despite being a simple addition of one title. If I decide to make Aftermath book 5 of the Angus the Mage Series instead of the first book of the Aftermath series, I will likely do it then to save time. It will delay the publication, though, since the cover for Aftermath and some of the other books will have to be changed.

Anyway, “Humanity” is the only poem I’ve written this year; it was inspired by “The Mice,” an episode of The Outer Limits (the original series, not the remake).

Humanity

the most
invasive
species

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Hopefully 2018 will be a more productive year for my writing than 2017. I finished 2017 with a lot less fiction than I had intended and fell short of my poetry goal by about 30 poems. I’m going to learn from that lesson and refrain from making specific commitments this year. Instead, I’m going to have a general writing goal of spending at least one hour a day on writing-related activities, whatever they might be. I think this will be more productive than not completing the things I say I will. If nothing else, I won’t feel as guilty about not finishing things.

When I was screening the comments in my blog’s spam folder, I came across one that might contain a legitimate question. Since I am not sure it is genuine, I decided not to post the comment; however, I am going to respond to it here. The question was: how do I “center [my]self and clear [my] head before writing?” The person who asked this question also writes, but struggles to be productive during the first 10-15 minutes of a session and would like some advice. So, here is my response:

  • I have obsessive compulsive tendencies, so I generally don’t have problems with focus while I’m writing, provided I have a general idea of what I want to do. In fact, I usually spend a lot of time thinking about what to write (consciously and subconsciously) before I start working on it, so much of the prewriting takes place in my mind instead of on the page. Also, I sometimes call my mom when I am toying with different ideas to see what she thinks about them, and those conversations have certainly helped to generate ideas and motivate me to continue with the novels I’ve written.
  • Usually, if I start to write, I don’t have any problems doing it; however, that doesn’t mean what I write is always good. I’ve deleted quite a bit over the years because it wasn’t salvageable.
  • One of the things I learned in graduate school is that it usually takes 15-20 minutes to become immersed in an activity. So, if you are struggling during those first 10-15 minutes, it’s pretty normal, since it takes that long for your brain to get in gear (so to speak). I have the same issue, but most of the time, it doesn’t take that long for me to get in sync with my writing. In addition to doing most of the prewriting in my head, I usually start a session by revising previous scenes in order to recapture the mental state I was in when I wrote it. Even though doing this helps a lot, there are still times when I start a story or scene half a dozen times before it feels right and I am able to finish it.
  • As for advice, don’t worry about the quality of the first draft; you’ll be revising it. The important thing is to get something down that is decent enough to work with. My first drafts are often about half as long as the final revision, since I focus a lot on dialogue and the plot sequence in first drafts. I add in descriptions and make changes as needed during the revisions. Revision generally doesn’t suffer from writer’s block the way that first drafts do, and making revisions can invigorate the creative juices (so to speak).