Reflections on Busy Life and Excuses

Wow, it’s been over a week since I posted. Funny how things like this blog start with phrases like “No excuses” and grim determination. Yeah, last weekend was a busy one, with trips to take and family to care for. Final exams approach for my students, and I’ve been out to meetings and parties for American Thanksgiving. Lots of good excuses, huh?

Life will always be like that. I have to understand that – everyone has to. I won’t really be much less busy “later” than I am right now. Even if I am, sleep is something I have to be prepared to give up if my writing is to go anywhere.

Discipline is the drive to keep working, keep writing or whatever it is you like to do, no matter how messed up and busy life has become. Writing should be as much a part of life as driving to work, spending time with family, and exercising. It has to fit in with everything else – it can’t be something that immediately gets pushed to the side.

This is a huge problem for me – I still think of writing as something I can only do when “everything else is finished”. What I have to realize is that “everything else” will never ever be finished. One task done leads to another task that has to follow.

Readers, I’d like to know – how do you keep going with your side projects or hobbies that you hope to cultivate into greater works?

The PEST Method – reblogged from Alex Shvartman’s Speculative Fiction

As I work fervently on more short works to send to publishers, it becomes more important for me to know where to send them.

There are many, many options available on the internet, especially for Science Fiction and Fantasy. How is an author to choose?

The PEST Method is all about making that choice. Prestige, Exposure, Speed, and Terms – How well known is the venue? How many people read it? How quickly do they give you some kind of answer? What do they want to do with your story, and how long will they keep the rights to do that?

Alan Shvartsman goes over how he selects venues for his own work. It’s easy to understand and nicely written, so I recommend going over it.

I think I’ll take his advice and try my luck with speculative work with Science Fiction & Fantasy or the other Big Ones. I like that he recommended Every Day Fiction – that boosts my confidence in the piece of mine that’s sitting in slush there.

Today’s Author – Write Now Prompt for November 12

Today’s Author, todaysauthor.wordpress.com, has been featured on “Freshly Pressed”, and I really like the layout. They have a pretty big team of writiers, and they’ve gathered quite a following. Along with prompts, they’ve been giving out a lot of useful information, especially now, during NaNoWriMo season. I certainly be reading up on that, as I will indeed attempt NaNoWriMo a 3rd time (probably next year). Since I’m choosing to focus on flash & short fiction this year, it’s their prompts that I’m most interested in.

Here’s their prompt for November 12. I played loose with it, and this came out:

Joe, being who and what he is, sipped at ice cold milk while I heated up my heart with sweet caffeine.

“Storm’s a coming.” It wasn’t any question, but Joe nodded anyways.

“Should start Monday, right before dawn.”

“Won’t be all bad as the ice of ’97 or the snap in ’05, will it?”

He sighed. Edna popped over, topped up my cuppa, and I tossled her sweet grey curls, in that way only I can get away with.

“It’ll be a big one. I’ll need your help spreading the word.”

“I can get out all the old generators too, make sure all the big houses got one.”

Joe nodded. “Yeah. We’ll have to make sure Ol’ Saint Mary’s has at least three working. Going to need lots of beds too.”

“Sounds like ’97 all over again. Well, thanks to your warning, I reckon we got outta that a lot better than most.”

“Wish I could stop it. It’s all part of Mother’s cycle, you know that Miles?”

“You are what you are. I’ve known ya long enough to see that.”

“A very Old Man,” he said, getting up from his empty glass. Edna came over, and Joe put a fair wad of bills in her wrinkly old hand.

“Oh, Joe Snow!” She smiled, bless her heart, but she couldn’t hide the shiver that came with touching Joe. Joe looked at her sheepishly.

“It’s enough for all you’ll need to get through. Least I can do.”

Joe and I left Edna’s little place in town square behind, walking out in the middle of the street. This time of day, in our little old town, there ain’t no one who’s going to run you over or even complain.

We stood in the street, our grey hairs blowing about in the breeze building up. We looked out toward the low sun, away from the wind.

“I’d offer you a place to stay for the storm, but I reckon you don’t need it.”

“My home’s coming here. You’d best get to yours, Miles, and give your wonderful Delilah a good kiss. There’s time yet afterwards to get ready.”

“You do your best to tone down the winter, Old Man. Give my regards to your Mother – hell, give Her all of our regards.”

“I’ll shorten it, soften it as much as She’ll let me. Least I can do.”

More One-Minute Writing, and a Friday Flash Fiction contest entry

Over at One-Minute Writer, a Friday Flash Fiction Contest came up, along with prompts for Saturday and Sunday.

I e-mailed in my entry for the Contest – I won’t share that just yet. I liked the prompt, “Conversation Piece”, and I think I got a nice 800(ish) word piece out of it. With a bit of polishing, I think I could get it published on one of my other favorite Flash Fiction sites if it doesn’t win this contest.

Saturday’s prompt was simply “I don’t know” – and since I tackled it just after waking up, you get this response:

Where do dreams come from? Those ephemeral visions that play out through my mind in the hours of subconsciousness. Often pieces of stories jumbled into nonsense, but sometimes with narrative strands complete with climaxes and resolutions.

If I can remember long enough, I can understand what waking events led to some elements. Most parts are a complete mystery, pieced together by some deeply hidden facet of my sleeping mind.

Alas, as the dreams fade with the creeping in of sunlight, “I don’t know” is all that remains.

Sunday’s prompt was “Book”, and challenged the writer to describe a favorite childhood book. I wrote:

A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me. What a great name for a book, and what wonderful flights of nonsense it bore for my childhood. I read that book far more than any other, almost from the moment I could read. I can still remember two bits from it.

The title poem, about some poor bloke minding his own business and poof, he’s a post for some brute’s horse. The other was a bit about the Slithergadee, a sea monster terrorizing a beach full of cartoon animals. One confident rabbit says, “No you won’t catch me, old Slithergadee. You may catch all the others but you wo-” Great way to end a poem for kids!

Shortly after writing this, I discovered that the above poem was from none other than Shel Silverstein! The book A Great Big Ugly Man … is no longer in print, sadly. Old copies of it circulate, and they are not cheap – especially not if I order from here in Korea. Still, I may break down and splurge on it for my kids. It is a really funny and memorable book!

A short reflection on writing and this blog

Just came out of a bad weekend – it’s just no fun with everyone sick. Our colds, and the chilly weather, kept us all inside. I think we all came down with cabin fever, and we definitely need to get out once we recover.

But hey, one of my tags at this here blog says “No Excuses”. It’s important to write every day – even if it is just for a few minutes. Once I realized that I really, deeply wanted to be a writer, it became all the more important to keep writing, no matter what.

One really great side-effect of constant writing for me was improved communication with my wife and my co-workers. Writing things out seems to defragment my mind and make it easier to speak my thoughts. I share some of that writing on this blog, even writing that I’ll readily admit isn’t that good, with the hope that readers will eventually see improvement in my skills, and realize that they can similarly improve theirs.

To any reading this – keep writing. Keep sharing. You’ll have a lot of writing that isn’t very good, sure, but you’ll occasionally hit on something brilliant. And yes, oh yes, it is definitely worth all those hours just to get a few precious gems.

Sunday Scribblings – Prompt #394, “Poem”

Sunday Scribblings looks like another place I’ll get prompts. Sleep isn’t finding me tonight, so here I go with another writing prompt today.

The latest prompt as of this post is Poem, “The word that strikes fear into the heart of many a writer.”

Here’s the bit of nonsense that came out of my fingers:

A poem to me is a strange thing
I’ve heard many but never wrote mine
If I wrote one, would it break the rules?
Would it rhyme, would it have any reason?
Not only rhyme, but poems have meter
Numbers, patterns of syllables, right?

I only know what high school taught me
Poems were things we studied in depth
My mind never saw on that level
Metaphor, simile, subtext? Ha!
My writing is subtle like a brick!

Anywho, check out Sunday Scribblings. Their prompts are simple, but quite effective judging by the community involvement.

One-Minute Prompt – Awareness

Here’s what I wrote for the latest One-Minute Writing prompt – Awareness

The Prompt: You’re given the opportunity to write a long-form magazine article that will get wide public exposure on any topic that you like. What would you write about? What do you wish more people knew about and were aware of?

I wrote:

I wish more people were aware of common urban legends. I flinch whenever somebody repeats information that has been widely disproven. My article would take ten commonly repeated urban legends of the time of publishing and compare them to the true stories. I would dispel the prevalent myths surrounding them, and try to show people how a little skepticism goes a long way.

I should note, however, that I’m far from adverse from using urban legends in fiction – after all, people believe them because they are intriguing stories!