The Grindstone February 12th 2018

Hello readers. Today is just a miniblog. I have been working harder on my writing lately and forgot last week’s blog post.

Tomorrow, my novel The Cleanway comes out. Both the new book and the first in the series are 99 cents right now.

I’ll be back with a bigger launch post tomorrow.

Here is a puppy.

Thanks for reading!

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Accountability for April 2017

Hey everyone. I plan to do weekly posts to keep me accountable for the work I’m doing.

This is the first of those, but I also want to look back at the year so far.

January and February I managed to write about 40,000 words and also edit Tenlyres into the complete version. I’m proud of Tenlyres, but I’m not proud of my slow word count.

In March I managed to start kicking it up a notch. I did almost 40,000 words in March, and that includes FINALLY finishing a draft of the sequel to Hunter and Seed, which now needs editing and beta comments before I release it.

April has been an up and down month for me, writing-wise. Big start, slow middle, decent finish. As of today, I have about the same number of words as March. So I’ve written just over 110,000 words so far this year. That may look or sound like a lot. I think its not enough for a third of a year.

So, here’s to a big push in May and June. I plan to increase the time I spend on writing again, moving to four hours on most days in May, then six hours in June.

Also, I am experimenting with writing sprints to increase my word count per minute for extended periods of time.

I have plans. Now its time to execute them.

Oh, and I want to get back here at least once a week for the near future. Thanks for reading.

Finally, happy post 800 to this blog!ac

Another Stage

I feel as though a long time has passed since I last posted here. In reality, it has been just over a week. However, I know several important things have changed in these past eight days.

First off, I finished a novel I had been working on for over a year.

That alone is an awesome experience, especially given the burst of enthusiasm I found I could put into the story in this final stretch of sixteen-thousand words or so.

The writing of that books’ ending was possible because for the past 10 days, except for this most recent Sunday, I sat down for a couple hours each day and worked. It is bizarre how easy things feel when one can rely on oneself to do the work. For the first time in quite a while, I experienced the sense that my work is important, but also not out of reach.

Aside from the writing?

I’m preparing more episodes of both the podcasts I run. Alive After Reading is still young, but I can tell starting it was a good idea. It’s a fun show and has put me in touch with more writers I always wanted to talk to about themselves and their craft.

That said, the writing is the most important part of the feeling I have right now. The feeling that I have advanced in some way, become a different creature, maybe even a better one.

Why? I’m not entirely certain how much this accounts for, but I definitely feel good about doing the work. I also think I’m more open than in the past, especially on the internet. Some of you blog readers may think I’ve often been pretty open in these posts. I think that’s true. However, lately, my connections to other people through this medium seem stronger because I reach out to them more frequently and more casually.

I enjoy it. And I don’t feel guilty for spending time on social media as long as I have my work in hand. So, this is my progress. It may not sound dramatic in cause. The result, however, feels completely distinct to me.

I hope you too may feel this way more than once in your life, if not as much as possible.

Now, I have work to do.

Thanks for reading.

Giveaway News

Hey everybody, just checking in with a little update this Monday afternoon.

I’ve really been hitting the writing over the last couple of days. It’s been awesome. Hopefully, it will prove sustainable over the long-term as I’m doing around 3000 words per day without pushing too hard.

So, as the title of this post suggests, there is some news on giveaways. Right now, Rem’s Dream is still free, but that will end on March 31st 2017. Here is the link to that if you are interested in the free book.

That won’t be the end of my giveaways. I’m planning a Maker Mythos giveaway in April. We’ll see which book I pick later. I have not decided between the first novel, Hunter and Seed, and the new prelude. I’m excited as book two of that series is almost done.

So, that’s it for me today. Hope you’re all well.

Thanks for reading.

Impractical

It’s been a few weeks. Bad blogger!

I return! Better late than never.

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what art means to me. Aside from sounding like the title of some kind of high school essay, What Art Means to Me, is a subject I think has the risk of sliding into massive pretension. Someone poke me with a stick if I get highfalutin’ here.

My first released novel, “Hunter and Seed,” and the sequel to it I am currently writing, were both inspired by the use of art as an integral part of the magic system. However, I think this makes the portrayal of art within the book a bit more practical in feel, compared to the way art is in our world. Art as a pragmatic product is definitely present in our world, but art as a tool for other tasks is something of a stretch, hence: a magic system.

I guess my mind went back to one of my favorite bands this morning. That band is Porcupine Tree. Their work covers a pretty wide swath, ranging from old-school psychedelic prog-rock (Like Pink Floyd) to progressive metal, to some of the darkest electronic punk music I have ever heard. One of the reasons I enjoy their work is the sense of variety. That-said, I gravitate toward their heavier albums. Yet, it is the moments on those albums where the quiet stands out that I really remember. Their album, “In Absentia,” is great as an example both of variety, and of contrast between loud and soft sounds.

All compliments to Porcupine Tree for their work.

Really it is no wonder, “in Absentia” is one of my favorite albums by this spiny tree.

Back to art, and the purpose of that which serves no practical purpose. At its heart, I think art is impractical. Impracticality can become an obstacle for the story, but I like to see it as an invitation. This invitation can promise different things, but often represents a kind of comfort. And how does one become comfortable with a piece of art?

Sometimes on savors it, immerses in it, lives with it over time.

The epic poems, so long as to take days to recite. From memory. A more recent epic, “The Faerie Queene,” by Spencer, which remains unfinished because of its sheer scale. Still more recently, the works of authors like Tolkien, Martin, and Sanderson fill this role. One could become lost in their vast stories without a firm guide.

And yet, investment in work do not happen solely because they are large. And this is hardly the only way to emphasize the impractical nature of art. The opposite is also true, as I am coming to learn.

Would you say it is impractical to try to communicate a lifetime in ten pages? I would. Or would you say, an entire human attitude, and everything they have lived for several years, could be incorporated into a five-minute song? That seems to me an ultimately difficult exercise.

For every massive epic, there are likely a dozen songs that encapsulate a tone of something far longer than they themselves.

Enter, Stan Rogers, a Canadian folk singer from the late middle of the 20th Century. I first heard Rogers’ most famous song, “The Mary Ellen Carter” a few years ago during a period of deep depression. A friend sent me a link to the youtube video to help cheer me up. I don’t remember if it worked at the time, but since then, I have fallen head over heels for the man’s music. Let me focus on one particular song. “Forty-Five Years.”

This song is one of Rogers’ love songs. But it is quite atypical as love songs go. The speaker for the song is clearly an older individual, as is the woman who attracts him. Most of the lines in this song encapsulate large spans of time or hint at events that, while not fully explored, provide context to the speaker’s feelings.

Take these lines from the chorus, especially the first one.

“You say you’ve been twice a wife
And you’re through with life
Ah, but honey what the Hell’s it for?”

These lines describe someone exhausted by the world, someone tired of loss. But that first line gives us the context of why this is the case. A character emerges, not fully formed, but greatly informed to us by a single line. And what is more, the song is less than four minutes long.

Stan Rogers captures more than the essence of the speaker’s feelings in this song. He presents a tone far different from most of the love songs I heard growing up in the 90s and 2000s. An attitude of hope, despite despair, and along with it, the source of despair. Human failure.

So, what does this have to do with the meaning of art?

A lot, as it turns out. We humans pursue all kinds of goals in our lives, and even if the results of these goals do not stand the test of time, they are important to us while we work for them.

Like the beautiful and transient mandalas crafted by Tibetans Buddhists, the world we build exists to be torn down. Ultimately, every action we perform could be considered futile because of its temporary nature. Yet, we strive anyway. Even the monks who believe in the ultimate impermanence of all things have goals. The Dalai Lama, if you believe in reincarnation, has the goal of returning to serve in every generation until all beings are free of their worldly shackles. And yet, impermanence is central to his belief system.

Like in the Book of Ecclesiastes, all is vanity and grasping after wind.

Like in the Heart Sutra, where one of the teachers recounts the hollow nature of all things.

Philosophies of this kind can be difficult for me to accept.

So many artists want to build something that will outlive them. Many have achieved this, at least for a time. I used to think this way.

My response to the Heart Sutra has changed over time. At first, I fought against the ideas, because they make life seem pointless, and make art seem yet more pointless. But what is the ultimate impracticality? To build a sandcastle where the tide will sweep it away. To write a story that will one day be forgotten.

Life is impractical, and art mirrors this fact in an obvious fashion. Even if, unlike the mandala, the destruction of your work is not intended, it is, after a fashion, inevitable. Somehow, this feels liberating to me at the moment. I don’t know if I am conveying this, but I love the moments, the brief flashes, of creation. We build sandcastles because the act of building is fun or satisfying, even though we know the waves are coming.

It is ultimate freedom to know that your mistakes will be forgotten with your successes. That is not to say nothing matters, but perhaps we can be emboldened by the temporary nature of our construction. Time will destroy our work, so what’s the worst that can happen?

Personally, this attitude adjustment (As my father would call it) provides me with a kind of ecstatic bliss to practice more. The word “practice” is key. In the end, art is not so much about product, as it is about practice, at least for the artists, the writers, the musicians.

Every moment of practice may work toward a goal, but when we love what we do, those moments can be our purpose as much as any practical result.

I hope I illuminated some ideas for you in this post. Failing that, perhaps you will enjoy one or both of the songs shared here.

Thanks for reading.

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Shift 2017

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Happy New Year, everyone!

I am back after a good break for Christmas and New Years. I drank more than in any prior holiday season but kept sober most of the time. I had some fun with my siblings, and travel did not prove overly irksome. And on New Year’s Eve, my father turned 60, so I celebrated with the family and still got to bed on time.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. At the same time, I have also been thinking about my writing, especially the last part of Tenlyres, which is nearing its completion in rough draft. It seems strange to me that this series did not exist in prose form AT ALL last year at this time. It took most of my work time in 2016, but in 2017 I want to be more dedicated, because next up on my list in the second Maker Mythos novel, “Spurring the Beast.” I’m excited about that one, and I got some words in it done last year too, so it won’t be long.

The time has come to get back all the way to having fun while I write. For too long I have seen it as important to think things through as I go. Well, this year I have a new mantra to go with the ones my professor gave me on my trip to India six years ago.

Back then my mantras started with “I’m glad I don’t walk faster.” And, “I’m a very lucky person.”

I think both of those are still true. I’m going to add a third personal mantra as of today. “I have fun writing.”

This is not meant as an affirmation, necessarily, but as a reminder. Because it is absolutely true. Even when the writing gets tough, the work is satisfying. And that is a fact I swept under the rug years ago. Time to get it out again and dust it off for its rightful position on the mantelpiece of my mind.

I don’t have any resolutions for this year, but I want to keep getting better at the things I’ve been striving toward. Health, productivity, and independence.

Health is off to a good start, as I have already been walking quite a bit for two days. My food intake has been reasonable as well. I will do my best to cultivate a healthier mindset for publishing and working too.

Productivity goes with my new plan to make a habit of writing three sessions per day instead of just one bigger session. Wish me power to form that habit successfully over the next month especially, if you will.

Independence is another serious movement for me. This is not just making more money, but also forging a sense of doing things by myself and getting my driver’s license (I still don’t have one, obviously).

Those are my three prongs, but the first two take priority for the most part because they require the most time commitment (For productivity) and mental effort (Health). So, without further ado, I think it’s time for me to switch to writing fiction for the day.

Good luck, and happy new year.

Thanks for reading.

And while you’re at it, give the opening of “Hunter and Seed” a try!

Gray Skies and Withering Gardens

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It’s almost Halloween. October has brought a lot less light than I would have hoped, both figuratively, and literally.

Yes, the skies over the town where I live have been cloudy and combined with increasing cold, this has led to plants dying in the gardens around the house.

And that kind of describes how I’ve felt since mid-September. I’m still fighting with my depression. Writing has been slow, and I’ve missed or delayed blogging a few times. Generally, I still feel pretty down, but things are slowly getting better in that regard.

I’ve worked a bit on continuing the story of Tenlyres, but likely this will not return to serialization, though part one of the story will be free for the foreseeable future (On Amazon, B&N, and most other ebook outlets). You can find that HERE.

My problems come mostly from within. I guess that’s what makes the writing so difficult. I have to brave the nastier parts of my own mentality to get to the word-mines. Too bad I’m becoming afraid of that. And, if I don’t go through the dark forest to get to the mine, I can’t get the most valuable words.

If I think about it that way, what I really need is a lantern, because I know there aren’t wolves in the forest. I’m only jumping at shadows.

What will serve as my lantern?

I have some ideas.

Positive self-talk could be the spark, but it’s tough to say because I don’t have a lot of sizeable successes to inspire me further.

On the other hand, well… I don’t have a lot of hope if I talk myself out of any of the good stuff I’ve managed with writing. The truth is, I like a lot of my own work. The issue is I have not really finished a lot of work that makes me feel absolutely proud.

Time to take some time on working more to make the next release better. Let’s say, I have done one story that is partially self-contained that I do quite like. I mentioned it earlier. Tenlyeres I: Ilsa and Blue, is possibly the best thing I have released so far.

Too bad it has no reviews yet. Or maybe that’s a blessing.

It’s good to be back.

Thanks for reading.