Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Resolution

Not cryptic at all, no...
And here it is, because I knew you all were waiting for it, my resolution to Make Lively Stories, Nurture Strengths And...

I don't mean to be cryptic. Here's a quick explanation.

This is based on the Six Word Story website. Go ahead and check it out. Back? Did you like the Hemingway story? There are so many possibilities in those six words, aren't there?  Okay, so back to why I do this.

The first half is pretty obvious -- "Make lively stories" applies to what I hope to write, but also to how I hope my year goes. I want to have some lively stories to tell or at least use in my fiction. This assumes I will be in the right place at the right time to gather or experience these stories, so we'll see how that goes. It's a resolution, anyway, to try to be there.

The second part, "nurture strengths" is a little more vague but a little more in my control. I can continue to be a better writer and a better manager at my day job. I can also continue to work hard at losing weight and that means eating less and exercising more. Both things I can do, and I consider them strengths. My weakness is that I can't continue either thing for an extended period so I end up in the roller coaster of loss and gain that most people experience. My goal for the year in this part of my resolution is to even out those peaks and valleys a little more. So by nurturing my strengths in general, I will be better overall.

Finally, the last word (with ellipsis) "and..." is meant to encompass everything else. It's mysterious enough to mean anything and that's what attracted me to using it this year. The mystery of the coming year is enticing, entrancing and enigmatic. What lies ahead? More of the same?

I don't know.

I based the design on the now famous "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster. The two stars superimposed over one another represent day and night, the sun and the stars. The dark blue field is the endless possibility of the sky at dusk, the white words are maybe clouds or the Milky Way if you prefer.

If you want to share your resolutions below in the comments, please do. If you don't do resolutions, tell me why.

So I wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year. I hope you have a great one. I know I'm going to try.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What a Year

So many good things happened this year that I am so thankful for. I met so many people who have been so supportive I am grateful beyond words. I have my health, my family is well and things are looking up for next year, too, on a couple of different fronts. It's just been a good year both personally and professionally. Hope yours has been, too.

For those of you who are interested, here is a link to download the entirety of The Long Range for free in DRM-free PDF format. It's good until 930 AM Central Time in the US for one week from today. If you download and read it, let me know what you think.

In the meantime, I'll be on vacation and will return after the first of the year. (Maybe a thing here and there, but nothing's planned so I never say 'never'.)

Wishing you and yours the best of holiday seasons, whichever holidays you celebrate. Happy New Year everyone!
Presents we can haz?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What I've Learned: December 2010

  • Being a husband and a dad is the best job in the world. Hands down.
  • I’ve been a visual artist, a musician and now a writer of fiction. I think I’m better suited to being a writer than anything else. I can come and go from it a little more easily.
  • I just got this criticism again recently that I put too much of myself into my work. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes it can be overwhelming for others.
  • I have no regrets about my life. Maybe I’ve done regrettable things, but I don’t think that, in the long run, I ever really hurt anyone.
  • I’ve ‘met’ a lot of people online, but there are probably only two or three that I’d consider friends. I hope I get to shake their hands and see the twinkle in their eyes when we meet. I hope their voices match what I have in my head, but it’s okay if they don’t.
  • A friend is someone who says, “You did this cool thing? Great,” and then treats you like it’s really no big deal.
  • Patience will get you a lot farther than being pissed off.
  • I have a lot of anger in me about all the stupidity that is so pervasive around the world. It all boils down to people being selfish and inattentive. How hard is it to hold a door for someone who’s three steps behind you? What does that cost?
  • Most people don’t care about the arts unless there’s some tangible ‘gain’ from it. I think we don’t put enough value on the joy that comes from seeing something beautiful or hearing something that stirs one’s feelings. Not that I want to get all touchy-feely, but if you can take a moment and identify with a piece of art or a story or a sound, do it. Your life is richer in feelings than you’ll ever be in money when you pay attention and it costs you a lot less than your monthly cable bill.
  • My grandfather was the best storyteller I’ve ever known and I’ll never be as good as him.
  • I know my limitations but I try not to let them limit me. They’re only obstacles that have to be overcome or surmounted in some way.
  • I say ‘yes’ way too much and I take on tasks that interest me. When deadlines for completing those things overwhelm me, I turn into a person I don’t much like.
  • “Done is the engine of more” really is true.
  • Waiting for notes from an editor can be nerve-wracking, so it's best to have another story to work on while you're waiting.
  • If you ask Who, What, Where, When and How and you still don't know all the answers then it's time to ask Why at least three times.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It Was Thirty Years Ago Yesterday...

... that I was a teenager who'd fallen asleep watching the Patriots and Dolphins on Monday Night Football when I woke to hear Howard Cosell announce that John Lennon had been shot and killed. I turned off the TV, rolled over and went back to sleep. (The owner of this video's disabled embedding

It was thirty years ago today that I woke up and told my mom that I'd had a terrible dream that John had been killed. She told me it wasn't a dream and I was devastated. I'd been to see Beatlemania in October that year, I think, and was totally enamored of the music. All of it. The Beatles, Wings, Plastic Ono Band, George's solo work, even Ringo's stuff. It was John who affected me the most, though.

I loved his new album. The music was great, the words were easy to understand. What I'd been able to read about John and had seen on TV had informed me that he was perhaps the Beatle I was most like. (I harbor no such illusions now, though. This was back in the day when there was no internet and we had to rely on things like network TV, newspapers and Rolling Stone for information about music, arts and everything else. I know what John probably was as a man and an artist because there's so much more accessible information now, but I digress...)

I was morose. I went to school wearing my Beatlemania shirt and a lot of my friends didn't understand why I was so sad. It was just some old dude who made some old music. I didn't bother to explain, we were all in seventh grade and I just didn't have the energy. I accepted that I was the weird guy who was sad about a celebrity death. The whole thing, as it unfolded in the papers, was insane and I won't spend any time on the murderer here. I've never read Catcher in the Rye, though, largely because of Mark David Chapman.

Despite all the negative sides to John (and there were a fair few that even he would admit to), he was an artist who I respected and still respect. I was sad a little yesterday when I heard people remembering him. I'm sad today thinking about how I felt all those years ago. I'm older than John got to be now, and I still miss the possibilities of what he could have been as an artist. I've admired that he was obviously head over heels in love with Yoko, and I think that's the best part of him that I may be most like. (If that makes sense.)

I'm head over heels in love, I made it through my 30s just fine and came out on the other side more an artist than I was when I went into them. John's not been a role model, exactly (how could he be?), but I've tried to live with love in my heart and offering peace where I can, though I'm human and that means that I haven't always been successful. That he affected me in that way is perhaps his legacy to a boy from Kansas who grew up listening to the message in songs on the radio.

I miss him. I have the music and a wealth of books and movies about him and his music. I heard the message, I tried to rephrase it for others. It's up to them to hear it, too, right?

I've never written this down before and only told the story a handful of times. In the comments, if you want to share something about John that affected you, please do. I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Post-NaNoWriMo Thoughts

I've won NaNoWriMo for the third time in three tries. All this means is that I've written 50,000 words or more in 30 days or less. My first two years I wrote complete stories (51,000 words in 2008 and a little over 59,000 in 2009). This year I wrote less than I did in both years and my story's not complete.

That's okay.

I like my story. I'm going to turn it into a novel and hope to have a draft of it done by the end of March. It's about four amnesiacs battling the aggressive and mysterious Sovereignty Board for the fate of our Earth. That's all I'll say about it for now except that I love some of the character names a lot. I was highly influenced by Lev Grossman's THE MAGICIANS (which you should read if you haven't; it's not a Harry Potter clone, not by a longshot) even though I had no idea that book had had any effect on me prior to starting. I also felt the influence of Ray Bradbury as I was writing, too.

This doesn't mean that the book's anything like those two authors' works. I don't know what it's like. Only that I felt them both looking over my shoulder as I was banging out words day after day.

My daily pace was less than last year and the year before, and I finished on the 27th, like I did last year. The important difference from 2008 and 2009 is that I did not exercise during November and I gained weight. I spent so much time just sitting at the computer writing that I didn't take care of my body the way I should have.  I vowed that this year would be different.

Not only did I not gain weight (and with Thanksgiving in the month that's a major accomplishment!) I actually lost a pound. I feel very proud.

So even though I didn't write as many words and I didn't finish my story like I had the previous two years, I feel like I did even better than I had previously. If, once I've finished the manuscript, I feel like the book is still good I'll keep going with it. I'll let you know at the end of March on that.

I'm curious how many of you tried NaNo, and if you did -- what was your experience this year? If you haven't, why not? There's a terrific amount of support from your local NaNo group and from the Office of Letter & Light, too. Plus there are cool opportunities and goodies at the end if you win (a free proof copy of your novel from CreateSpace, great deals on writing software, etc...) and the sense of having done something you've always wanted to do, too. It's not too early to begin thinking about next year...