Showing posts with label Craft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Craft. Show all posts

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ideas

Photo credit: @Renzo_Soprano

I think the above photo pretty much needs to have a short story written about it. Maybe a longer work, but it's one of those cool visuals that sometimes spark an idea or two. That's the beauty of inspiration, it's hard to know when it'll strike, but when it does, sometimes it's encompassing. 

I have a lot of ideas, some good and some that probably will never see the light of day. I used to write all my story ideas down in an app called Evernote. The intent was that I could capture the feeling and emotion of whatever the inspiration was at that moment. Sometimes it worked, I'd go back and read what I had put down days or weeks later, and be reminded of that initial spark. 

Other times, even though I had written down all the details I could think of so I'd remember it, the idea wouldn't hit me the same way again. Often times too I'd look at what I'd written and not be able to remember what I found so impactful about it. 

The ideas that stay with me are the ones that are tied into a raw emotion of a scene or character. If you've read my novella Ghost Box or read the chapter one excerpt that I put on my blog I can tell you that the first chapter I had in my head for awhile and it took a long time to execute that scene the way I wanted to. But the pull of it, the emotion of it, was what stayed in my head, long after other ideas faded away.

Maybe they weren't meant to be there anyway.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So, this is the New Year


What a year it has been. Personally, and professionally it's been a year of some stellar highs and some lows. I'll be glad to have 2014 in the rearview. I'm also excited to see what 2015 has in store. On a more positive note these past few weeks have been really fantastic in regards to my novella Ghost Box.

The early reviews have blown me away. It's truly humbling to have strangers showing such a strong connection to your work. It's more than I could have ever hoped for. On Christmas day I ran an experiment and made a thread to promote Ghost Box and to see if I could stir up some interest in it. I'm very happy to report that it was a huge success -- and not from the number of books sold, but that I met a lot of new readers and we chatted on Reddit for most of that morning and afternoon. The conversations ranged from great feedback on my novella, our favorite books, stories we like, giving books as gifts, etc. 


It's been really cool and very unexpected to be engaging with people who like what you're doing. I've also been blown away by just some of the in-depth conversations I've had around the craft of writing and even getting feedback from what readers look for and what draws them to download something. 

I had never considered Reddit as an outlet before, but I'll definitely be looking to use it again.


I have big plans for 2015. I'm presently working on a new project that I hope to tentatively have out in March/April. I'm excited for people to see it.

Also, I'd be remiss not to share likes to a couple interviews I've done for Ghost Box in the past week. First, I spoke with blogger Dawn Napier for her website to chat about my debut novella and writing. That can be found here

And then I sat down with a good friend and fellow writer, Kyle Rader, to talk about inspiration, early beginnings, and all things Ghost Box and writing. You can check out the interview here

I hope everyone has a good start to 2015. Thanks for reading as always and supporting this writing habit of mine.

Till next time...

-Derek-

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Casting Off


Hi there. It's me again. I hope you're doing well. I'm literally waiting for a pizza to arrive at my apartment and figured I'd work on something in the interim. Thanks for indulging me. So, as of late I've been hard at work on a new story. It's an idea I've had for a long time and it's seen many iterations over the years. For whatever reason I was never able to see the bread rise on any of the directions I took on it previously.

This happens to me from time to time. I try to figure out what it is I'm trying to say and what story the characters are trying to tell me. I wasn't able to crack the story until I was driving home one night and the solution just drifted into my head out of no where. I don't think there's anything better than when you finally solve a long standing problem you're having with a given story. 

Because I knew of how many issues I had in the past with this story I really wanted to change up how I worked on it. I wrote in new locations, listened to different music during editing, etc. The biggest change I made was deciding to cast the main characters. A process I had never attempted before, but decided to experiment with.

The idea behind this is to fully visualize who is playing each "role" by using actors to cast each of the parts.

I have to admit it was a lot of fun and definitely added a new energy to the project. It's not an approach I'm sure if I'll use again, but was a fun experiment to help work through some droughts of writer's block. If there's any interest perhaps I'll post my cast list at some point once the story is released. 

Shifting gears for a bit ... I'm part of an anthology that's just been released entitled STORIES ON THE GO and features 101 works of flash fiction from -- you guessed it -- 101 authors. All the stories are quick reads. I definitely recommend checking it out to support indie authors. Also, it's FREE. So there's no reason not to pick it up.

Okay, so there's pizza I have to eat and a movie to watch. 

Till next time ... 

Be excellent to each other.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Slush Pile (Part Two)


Welcome!

I hope you're enjoying the new look of the place. I thought since I was making more of a concentrated effort to be more active on here that I would change up the look a bit.

Any and all feedback welcome.

You might also notice a few other changes to the site as well. For starters, I've added a sign-up for my newsletter. I hope to use this more in the future once I'm generating content on a consistent basis to send subscribers free stories and some other cool things, like first looks into the stuff I'm working on.

To the right you'll also see that I added a word counter for the current story I'm working on for Camp NaNoWriMo (more on this in a moment). I figured this was another way to keep me honest in finishing up the project and getting it self-published.

Okay. Back to Camp NaNoWriMo. If you don't know what this is and you're a prospective writer I can't recommend this highly enough. Here's the deal, every year in November writers sign up for NaNoWriMo and try to complete a 50k word novel in a month. Each year I tell myself this is something I'm going to do, but get about a third of the way and just finally tap out. It requires a lot of discipline and a pretty rigorous schedule when it comes to getting your words in.

So, when a friend recommended giving Camp NaNoWriMo a shot I felt that it was a much easier undertaking. So far I've been right. The word count can be whatever you want it to be and the pressure to finish isn't as extreme. In addition, prior to the start of "camp" you can join writer cabins to keep everyone motivated. I think this has been my favorite part as everyone in my cabin is churning out a lot of words and inspiring me to work twice as hard.

The project I'm working on is called, "Ghost Box," a creepy tale about a guy named Boyd Dwyer who has made some bad decisions and hasn't ever really had to answer for them. I think a good ghost story is one where the past doesn't go away, it just bleeds into the present. I like characters who are forced to explore whether or not they can get away from the things they've done and who they were.

All right, that's about as much as I'm going to say on that. Hopefully look for it soon.

In my last blog post I talked about dedicating more time to writing and trying to be more disciplined with it. I can report that two months in things are going pretty well. Now, I've named both these posts "Slush Pile" for a reason. Part of my decision to be more focused with my writing came another decision to start self-publishing my own work.

I came to this decision from two different avenues. The first was I was visiting a friend in New York who is an assistant editor for a small publishing house. As we were getting ready to leave for lunch I noticed in her office that her ENTIRE desk, and the floor next to her desk, was covered in thick envelopes. Not to mention there were boxes filled to the brim with the same type of package.

I inquired about these and she told me they were manuscripts she needed to read for work. The kicker was that those were just ones that had come in over the last few months. She also mentioned that just about all of them would be rejected and maybe 5% would make it onto her boss.

I kept trying to wrap my head around this. 5% is pretty small compared to the number of manuscripts there. I thought about the work in the past that I've submitted for publication and I imagined my work sitting in a box with a thousand others that made up the slush pile.

The second avenue was I really started to do some research into the benefits of self-publishing. It is something that I've long been against. I think I fell into the common misconception that it wasn't legitimate, but after doing some research into it I discovered that it offers everything that traditional publishing doesn't.

What appealed to me the most was the chance to be in complete creative control of a project. Everything from choosing cover design, editor, and supplemental material. For someone like me who grew up listening to punk rock, I instantly fell in love with the DIY aspect of it. As a writer there's nothing I want more than to build a readership. I never got into writing for any monetary reasons, I just did it because I love it. I think self-publishing gives me a chance to do that.

I'll be exploring more of this in future blog posts as I'm sure the path will involve a lot of trial and error.

Till next time, have an A1 day!

Author's Note: Between writing this blog post I went to get some groceries. The cashier I had was griping about how she doesn't have A/C or a pool and is contemplating tying little fans under her armpits to keep her cool during the summer. No idea why or how she thinks this will work, but I figured I'd share all this with you. You're welcome.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Slush Pile (Part One)


Ok. It's time to revisit this place a bit and blow some of the dust off the furniture and open the windows and let some sunlight back in. So, what have I been up to? Sadly, nothing too exciting outside of working to the point of mental exhaustion. If that didn't just set the mood for you then I don't know what will, but anyway, that's part of the reason I'm revisiting my corner of the interwebs (or The Googles if you feel so inclined).

Sometimes you reach a point where you like what you're doing, but know that you're not doing what you want to be. What can be even more debilitating is when the thing you like doing starts to prevent you from that other thing you want to be doing and oh yeah, that thing you like doing is starting to become a real pain in the ass.

Confused? Let me try to explain. We all have a job we get up and go to and if you're really lucky it's bearable enough that you can pay the bills and not find yourself developing an ulcer. But sometimes you reach a point where you want more. I think this usually occurs around the time when you start seeing the days, months and even the years slipping by and all you're looking forward to is that next vacation or day off.

I have what you'd consider a "day job" that pays the bills, keeps a roof over my head, and allows me a very comfortable living. My real job is fighting for justice. I'm kidding. I had to throw that in there. My real job is being a writer or more importantly an independent author. I've been fortunate enough that I've had some small success that has made me realize what I've known all along: This is what I should be doing. This is what I need to be doing.

I wrote a post on here a while back about why I write and if you're feeling nostalgic you can find it in the archives. Don't forget to bring a flashlight and don't talk to anyone.

Anyway ...

The real purpose of this post is the decision to work on making writing my full-time (and only) job.

The benefit of working a "day job" like the one I have is that I don't take any of it home with me. When the day is done, it's done and I can move on and do other things. However, of late, that hasn't been the case and more of it has seeped into the time I'd rather spend writing or working on projects.

I definitely shoulder most of the blame as sometimes you just have to force yourself to disconnect, but it's also really easy to get into a pattern of, "Oh, I'll just write tomorrow" and before you know it three months have gone by and you haven't written two sentences and the project you're working on has lost momentum.

I've been aware for a while that I needed to make a change. If I kept on the path I was on my fear was that I would wake up and find myself older, grayer, and having written nothing of substance in a very long time. I certainly didn't want that. The real turning point I think was when I missed entering a story into an anthology I really wanted to be a part of. Again, totally my fault, I let myself get too distracted by other things and didn't have my focus in the right place.

But here's what I did to right the ship.

I started to set parameters for myself to keep myself focused. I set a timer for one hour and a half and I write for that long and when the timer goes off I wrap up what I'm doing. It's actually worked really well as sometimes I want to keep writing, but I've noticed the energy carries over to the next day.

I've also been forcing myself to read more. I won't let myself check email/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc or cue up Netflix until I've read at least forty pages in whatever book I'm in.

I have to be honest this has worked really well. I feel more clear headed the more I'm disengaged from technology. I don't feel the anxiousness to keep updating feeds or replying to comments.

If you take anything away from this post, take that, and give it a try.

I think I'm going to wrap up part one here and continue this later in the week. Next time I'll dive into why I'm calling this section of writing 'Slush Pile.'

I know, I know, cliffhanger.

::Author's note:: During the writing of this post I looked up and out the window and saw a woman staring in at me from outside. Turns out she wasn't looking at me, but the window above my apartment where she was arguing with her boyfriend about how he erased her shows on the DVR. This has no relevancy to the rest of the post, but consider it a DVD extra of sorts. Oh yeah, if you feel so inclined, sign up for my newsletter so I can send you cool stuff I'm working on or an autographed t-shirt signed by John Stamos. Okay, that's a lie. But still. You should sign up. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

On Writing

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to how non-writer's perceive people who are writers. If you're a writer, and I'm assuming some of you are if you're reading this, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Try explaining to any of your non-writer friends, co-workers, family or even strangers that you're a writer or a novelist and you get the usual responses:

1) What do you write? 2) Can I read it? 3) Oh, interesting, I'm reading this book by (insert author who has sold a billion books i.e Dan Brown/James Patterson).

I tend to find that those questions are the non-writer trying to rationalize what writers do. It's a valid response. Here's what else I found, when a non-writer asks you to read your work, they don't actually want to read it. It's like giving them a homework assignment. By asking for a copy of your work to read, they are simply being polite in that they think that's the common practice when someone tells them that they type up the stories they created in their head.

I don't say that in a callous way, again, this is the non-writer trying to understand how someone they assume who is mentally stable (for the most part) sits in a room by themselves and listens to the voices in their head and... wait for it... MAKES STUFF UP.

I spent about the last six or so years denying that this what I'm supposed to be doing. I think when you hit the twenty-five year old mark you start to see who has given up on their dreams and who has settled for complacency. I'm guilty of it. It's hard to not fall into the trap that not chasing your dreams showcases. It's a safer road. It's a road that says, "Hey, you might not be happy, but at least you might own some nice things."

I find myself thankful that I have a job that I don't have to take home with me. Once I leave I don't have to think about it. On that same token, there are days at work where I'm glad that my job isn't a career and one day I'll be writing full-time. That's my goal anyway, and I'm making progress every time I finish a new project.

It really got me thinking about why I write in the first place. I was listening to the news on NPR the other day and two things occurred to me. First, it seems that people always have to name drop that they listen to NPR like it's a badge of honor (does anyone ever say, "So I was watching the CW last night...?"). The second was that in the midst of listening to the story in question, I had finally figured out how to succinctly sum up why I write in the first place. It goes a little something like this --

So there's this seventy-year old woman named Constance who, after honking her horn repeatedly at the school bus idling in front of her, decides that she has much more important things to do and guns her Toyota Camry around the bus. Before she realizes that the bus was stopped for a very good reason indeed, Constance finds herself watching a freight train bear down on her and almost instantly, it smashes into the passenger side of the Camry and pushes it a good hundred feet before screeching to a stop. Forgoing all the gory details, Constance is pronounced dead at the local hospital and the attending doctor in the ER is tasked with notifying the next of kin. Turns out Constance's husband has been dead for decades, but she has a couple of sons and a daughter. The doctor calls one of her sons and his wife answers the phone. The son isn't home, but the wife offers to take a message. The notification ethics, however, forbid the hospital from telling anyone but the next of kin about Constance's death and so they ask when the son will be home so they can call back.

And the wife responds "He won't be back for two months." And the hospital says, "Well... do you have a number where we could reach him?" And the wife says no, she doesn't. And why not?-

Because he's in space.

As in outer space. As in orbit. As in one of a handful of human beings who have the unique distinction of not being on the planet!

The son, Jack, is working on the International Space Station doing repair work. And as he floats in Zero-G, he is blissfully unaware that his seventy-year old mother has just been flattened by a train.

And what does this family's personal tragedy have to do with why I write?

Because to me, this is an amazing story. And as soon as I hear it, my brain is already hammering out the scene where Constance's other kids debate as to whether or not to even tell Jack. The daughter, Caitlin, insists on telling him that mom died peacefully in her sleep and holding the grisly truth for when he's back on Earth. Jack's brother Aaron, however, demands that they tell Jack all the gory details. Why? Because it was Jack's fault she was driving at all. Her eyesight had been failing her and Aaron wanted to get her into assisted living for over five years now and if stupid Jack had just listened to him, she'd still be alive!

Fortunately, I think, the decision is not up to Jack's siblings. He is, after all, a member of the military, so this would be a NASA issue. And it turns out there's this thing called Dual Plume Protocol. The Dual Plume Protocol, or DPP, was officially incorporated into NASA's Psychological Charter this year. Let me back up --

In September of 2001, the space station was manned by three people - an American and two Russians. As they were orbiting over the Northeastern United States, the American called Mission Control to report that he could see (with his naked eye) two massive pillars of black smoke rising up through the atmosphere. When they answered back, explaining that the black smoke was all that remained of the Towers, the American took a long, sorrowful pause and responded - "I wish you hadn't told me that."

As a result of the DPP, NASA started actually asking the astronauts who are leaving the planet what their personal wishes are regarding notifications of earthbound tragedies. And this is like, a very detailed document because it covers everything from worldwide catastrophes (i.e Katrina or a Tsunami) down to things that would only affect the astronaut him or herself (i.e their mother's Camry getting pulverized by a freight train) and it must be signed and notarized before launch. Why? Because their emotional state and focus of these guys is critical. They're being sent up to perform missions on a space station and after spending millions to train them (Jack is one of three people alive who has the skill set to execute specific repairs) it costs BILLIONS just to get them up there to perform them and the last thing NASA need is for someone to go batshit with grief on the day they're supposed to fix the thruster converter thigamajob.

So I'm sitting there thinking how Jack may have filled out his DPP form...

And I realize there's no such thing.

I made it up.

Yeah, I remember hearing about the astronauts on the space station having seen the carnage over Manhattan from orbit, but that's got nothing to do with the story of Constance's death. In fact, I don't know how many kids she had or, for that matter, whether or not they can just send an email to Jack (can you get email in space?) and dispense with all the formality.

But where's the drama in that?

So that's why I write.

I write because I can't help but make things up.

I write because I like to tell stories.

I write because my imagination compels me to do so.

Oh, and because I'm still trying to make my mom proud of me.

But that's a story for another time.