Dining Out on Words

 

When dining out, a good meal isn’t all a writer can find on the menu. Such an outing can offer up a few hundred words for a main course, or a good chunk of an outline on the side, perhaps even some editing for desert. Even better, these tidbits come without calories. More and more, I’m finding that writing out rather than in my home office (my recliner) provides a welcome creative spark.

This isn’t a revelation. Writers have been working in coffee shops for untold millennia (I’m assured the Egyptians served a good latte), bars, and any other place with a comfy chair and good Wi-Fi (which the ancient Egyptians invented, of course). Often this is because the home is not a good work environment. Whether it’s because the house is occupied by rambunctious children and/or an unaccommodating spouse, has no comfortable place to write, or whatnot, many people have to get out to get work done. Some view the home as a place of rest and not work. Others simply feel too comfortable at home to write. Whatever the reason, there’s nothing new about writers writing outside the home. And, occasionally, a writer will have a snack or a meal while out and about and writing.

So why am I bothering to write about an already commonplace occurrence? Because I’ve come to enjoy the benefits of Shut Up & Write!. This organization brings writers together at local meetings across the country so they can get work done. The structure is simple: once a week you come together, chat for a short amount of time, then enjoy a complete hour of uninterrupted writing.

Sounds simple, and sounds like much ado about nothing, right? Well I (and Benedick) disagree. Oftentimes writers stall out not through block, but because they don’t dedicate time to write. Surely a person can find a measly hour a week to write, though, right? Well, when you have a busy schedule and add on the potential problems with writing at home, it’s easy for the week to slip by without managing a single word. Shut Up & Write! gives writers the opportunity to slip away from their daily grind and grant themselves a bit of writing time. What’s more, you’re not confined to just one hour a week. If there are multiple meetings in multiple locations around your area, you’re free to attend any and all of them. If you find your schedule simply won’t allow you to get away to a meeting in a given week, that’s no problem. Attendance is voluntary, after all.

For me, Shut Up & Write! isn’t what’s keeping me writing. I’m off on an injury disability, and so get loads of time (in my easy chair) to write to my heart’s content. Except sometimes it feels like a slog. It’s nice and quiet–too quiet; it’s nice and comfy–too comfy; it’s right in front of my TV–a simple distraction. My one hour a week at Shut Up & Write! is on a Thursday, a time of the week when I’m starting to flag. The meeting gives me a vital period of reinvigoration, which gets the old imagination churning again.

You might be wondering what Shut Up & Write! has to do with dining out. It just so happens that my group meets at a lovely Iraqi restaurant with a menu chock full of delectable items. Most groups meet in places with food options. While there, you can stick with water, you can come early and get a full meal plus desert, or you can do any and everything in between. The choice is yours. At Shut Up & Write! food may or may not be on the menu for you, but writing certainly is.

Halloween Nosh to be published in the Grivante Press anthology: MASHED: The Culinary Delights of Twisted Erotic Horror.

You can pre-order this delightful anthology at the following link:

Pre-order for MASHED

 

Through a Poisoned Stream I Flow Published

I am pleased to announce my story, “Through a Poisoned Stream I Flow,” has been published today at Perihelion Science Fiction.

The Grinning Cat Published

I am pleased to announce that my horror story, “The Grinning Cat”, has been published in Verto Publishing’s Gothic Tales of Terror.

Setting the Table: The Perfect Feminist Beginning to Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the best genre television series of all time, was an undeniable feminist vehicle. It boasted a bunch of strong and interesting female characters, even aside from its namesake, tackled adult feminine themes, and proved to the industry that a genre series can be led by a heroine. Sure, past genre shows had strong leading ladies at the helm, but they were so few and far between as to be negligible. And Whedon opened Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a succinct scene which represented what was to come.

When I began re-watching this series yesterday, I was struck by how simply and perfectly Joss Whedon set the table for this show’s feminist thrust in the opening scene. It’s nighttime, with crickets chirping, a dog barking in the background, and creepy music playing. We get a foreboding external shot of Sunnydale High School in the darkness. You know, standard horror fare. There’s more creepy music as the camera pans around the shadowy school interior, and WHAM! A window in the science lab is busted in. A young man and his date sneak inside.

Now, this is your prototypical horror couple. He’s brash, and she’s sweet. She asks if he’s sure it’s a good idea, and his cocky response is that it’s a great idea. Here Whedon has masterfully set the stereotypes in one short exchange–the bad boy and the good girl.

He tries to lure her to the top of the gym for some hanky panky, but she’s hesitant and doesn’t want to go up there. He assumes she’s too anxious, ready to do it then and there. She’s afraid of getting into trouble–oh, he promises they’ll get into trouble–and he goes in for the kiss.

There’s a noise in the bowels of the school which makes her really nervous. He promises her it’s nothing, then makes a creepy joke that maybe it’s something. The audience is immersed in horror vibes here. This is going to be a show about a vampire slayer, after all. What’s coming? A young couple preparing to engage in sexual promiscuity is a horror taboo. Surely they’re about to become a vampire snack.

Yet the girl’s unsure; she needs more reassurance. The boy tells her there’s nobody there. She asks if he’s sure, and he is. Okay, good, on with the nookie nookie, the audience figures. Right? Wrong. This girl, Darla, is the vampire, and since they’re alone, she slips on her vampire face and chows down on the poor boy, an unnamed character, the first victim of the series.

That’s right, Joss Whedon takes some tried and true horror tropes, stands them on their head, and opens the series off with a woman taking charge and getting stuff done. Granted, it’s a vampire, and she’s sucking a human dry, but hey, nobody’s perfect.

By using horror conventions to lull the audience into a comfort zone of what to expect, Whedon is able to pull a fast one. He sets the table for the audience to expect the unexpected, that this will not only be a new and different type of show, but a feminist show at that. He doesn’t wait to get into it, doesn’t allow it to trickle out to the audience slowly throughout the season. Whedon comes right out and shows the audience that this is how it’s going to be. Deal with it.

Well done, Joss. Well done.

Of Editing and Writing

Sitting down behind your computer, or at your table with a notepad and pencil, you’re ready to bang out a new yarn, as Robert E. Howard would put it. There’s nothing more exciting than taking a fresh idea, wrangling it into words, and forming a new story. The act of creation, bringing words to life, can be an intoxicating high.

And then there’s editing.

Don’t get me wrong. I often love the editing process. Setting aside a story for a time so I can get a fresh look at it, or having colleagues critique the story, often spurs me to new ideas, to either fix problems or to tweak good parts to make them great. Editing in itself isn’t at all a negative for me.

My editing problem has arisen from the fact that I have a significant body of writing, and some stories need editing. And I’m in the middle of a second draft of my first novel. Trying to get the novel draft finished is exhausting editing work. I can’t really justify editing short stories while the novel needs done. If I take any more short stories in to critique groups, I’ll invariably have to go back and do more editing.

Meanwhile, with so much editing work on my plate, when do I get the opportunity to write new words? To feel the excitement of starting (and finishing) that fresh new story? Ah, the pains of being a writer!

Stress and Writing

I’ve recently come face to face with one of the major challenges writers face: overwhelming stress killing the desire to write. I’ve been going through something in my life which has ratcheted up my stress levels quite a bit. It’s messed with my sleep a little even, these last few days. It’s also messed with my writing.

I’m in the middle of the second draft of my first novel. Despite some bumps and big revisions, I was making excellent progress. I’d just about reached the midpoint, a chapter I need to do some real revisions in. I had to set it aside for a few days, of necessity, and…I just haven’t picked it back up. I wanted to, but with all this stress lately, I just haven’t mustered enough motivation to do so. I’ve only managed to squeeze out some short poetry in the past three weeks plus.

Monday is a major end point, I hope, in my current stressful life-altering situation. I should be able to pick up and continue with the second draft shortly thereafter. That shouldn’t be an issue. The real issue is that I can’t let stress stop me from working on my major writing problems. I need to find a way to push through, to sit down behind the keyboard and bang out words on my current yarn. Hopefully I won’t have to face any situations this stressful for a long time, but when I do, I will do better trying to push through it.

Hopefully my ramblings on stress and writing help others who are facing similar challenges.

First Novel Update

The reason I have been lacking in providing updated posts here on my website, good readers, is because I have been working diligently on the second draft of my first novel, “Murky Rivers”. As those of you who have assisted with this story in my writers group will know, bringing this book to fruition has been a long process, made all the more so because I began it well before I should have been trying to write a novel. As such, I’ve gone through a lot of growing pains as a writer in working on this book. I felt my first draft was weak and lacking the oomph it truly needs and deserves.

Well, let me tell you, the second draft is really providing that oomph. I’m so very pleased with this draft thus far. I’m a third of the way through it. Yes, it’s proven to be one heck of a slog at points, because of the necessary rewrites and additional writing. Still, I don’t mind in the least. I’m going to wrap this draft up before too long, get it out to beta readers, and finish this book. And it’ll be a damn fine one, too.

So, this is why I haven’t been giving as many updates as I should. I hope to do better in this arena. Bear with me. Hopefully, before the year is out, this book is not only finished, but on the road to being published.

“The Fourth River” Published at Swords and Sorcery Magazine

Swords and Sorcery Magazine has published my short story “The Fourth River”. I’m pleased to note it is Story 1 in this particular issue.

“An Act of Consequence” Published at Every Day Fiction

My flash fiction piece, “An Act of Consequence”, has been published at Every Day Fiction. This is a story born of a writing exercise at a class at ConCarolinas 2014. I am pleased to see it placed on such a fine site.