My SW:TOR Consular Sage: Gaella

I have had the opportunity over the past couple of days to squeeze in some play on Star Wars: The Old Republic. There’s a lot I have to say about this game, some good some bad. For the most part it is good. It is very story-Yvonne unexpected inspiration for my SWTOR character Gaella...oriented, which is what you expect from Bioware. As a writer I kind of like that part. Go figure.

I am still a little uncertain about the replayability of the game. World of Warcraft has more of a sandbox theme (it’s not really a sandbox by Eve Online definition, but those elements are there) than the linearity of SW:TOR but there are many little things about the new Star Wars game that I am finding enjoyable.

I will post a more exhaustive review later once I get deeper into the game, but so far I can say I am finding it enjoyable. I have been looking for a new MMO and I may have found one. I am only ever a casual player anyway, and this game seems to fit that general need.

As I was blogging about earlier I rolled a Jedi Consular and chose the advanced class of Sage. She’s sort of like a warlock from WOW, a mid- to long-range DPS class I enjoy playing. As I was making her she sort of came out to have the old Yvonne Craig look from a Star Trek episode, haha. Anyway, she’s pretty cute. Her name is Gaella:

My Jedi Consular Sage character Gaella. So far the game is pretty fun and entertaining, and what else can you ask from a PC game?


Thoughts on Publishing

Today I have to work at The Observatory, which is fine because I like that job a lot. But as for my personal life I will be glad when these holidays are over and I can get back on a regular schedule around home. I have let some things lapse because other people have needed my time. Which is fine, too, because it can’t be helped.

But I want to get back to the regular grind and catch up on a lot of little writing and publishing details that have slipped through my fingers of late.

One thing I have been thinking of, though. A friend asked me how I like being a publisher now. Truth? I don’t. What I mean is, given the choice I would rather not have to be a publisher. But I can’t change how the profession has morphed and if I want to be successful I have to keep up with those changes. So the bottom line is I simply do not have a choice in the matter, and whether I like or dislike the new role I have to assume means absolutely nothing at all in the long run. It has to be done. Period. Therefore, if I am going to do it (and I am doing it now) then I will do the very best I can.

But do I like it? No. I do not. I do not like green eggs and ham, Sam I Am.

However…once again that choice is no longer up to me if I want to continue writing. Oh, sure, I could pull an Emily Dickinson and throw all my stuff in trunk in the attic. Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. But, and here I have to be honest again, I do also want to be successful at writing. Since that is the case I will keep on learning what I have to learn, sacrifice what I have to sacrifice, and push where I need to push. There’s really no other way around it; not anymore.

Which brings me full circle to the beginning thoughts of this post. I really need for the holidays to be over so I can continue my regular schedule of writing/editing/researching/publishing/blogging/submitting/posting…yikes! Just thinking about all the work that is ahead of me gives me the crawlies. But I am behind on a lot of things. I need to publish the website for Argo Navis, the Twitter account for Argo Navis, update my personal website, blah blah blah. And that’s just the normal mundane stuff…that’s not counting the seven other stories I have lined up to be published, or the stories patiently waiting their turn behind those, or the other stories clamoring to be written. Haha, what a carousel, huh?  Still, what else can you do. It’s either ride the carousel or hop off. I’m going to ride.

Oh, and I’ve got a ton of reviews waiting to be written, too. Like I said…I’m way behind! 😛

Obsessing Over a Written Story: a Creative Dead End

One of the things that discombobulates me about the holidays are all the little problems and speed bumps that crop up and get in the way of my writing. I will be glad when all these holidays are over and we get into next week so I can concentrate on the mundane aspects of writing.

Now I will say this. I am very good at adaptation and working on the fly. I taught physics and chemistry for seven years. You can’t be a teacher and not learn some adaptive skills that can see you through rough spots.

One skill I have, and hope I never lose, is my ability to put a story behind me when I am finished with it. I never thought much about it until someone in my old Mississippi writing group asked about an old story of mine. I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. I had completely forgotten that story…because I was totally focused on a new story.

It happens to me all the time. When I am working on a story I am invested in everything about it. Then I send it off to be published or considered for publication and I forget all about it. I don’t remember it. I don’t obsess over it. I don’t sit around wringing my hands wondering if an editor will like it or is reading it or is rejecting it. Bottom line….I don’t give a tinker’s damn what happens to that story once I send it out because I have turned all my attention to the next story.

Now, look, of course I want the story to sell. Of course I want to get some money for it and I want people to like it. But I am a writer. And writing is all about what have you done lately. You don’t get far in this profession by looking back all the time. That’s my opinion, anyway. But let’s be fair here. What good does obsessing over sales figures or reviews or whatnot do you other than give you an ulcer? Forget about that story. You did your best, you poured all your creative energy into it and sent it out into the wild to sink or swim on its own. You gave it your best shot. Forget about it and go to work on your next story.

I don’t read reviews. I don’t care about sales. Which is not to say it’s not nice to get good reviews and good sales numbers. Of course it is. But that’s not why I write.  You ask a hundred different writers and they will give you a hundred different answers why they write. I have my own reasons and sitting around worried about reviews or sales figures ain’t one of ’em. Those things are nice. But they are a lagniappe compared to the real reason I write, and why I must write. And they will never be the most important thing to me. Not ever.

I want people to like my stories. I want people to buy my stories and look forward to the next one. And if they have a foundational problem with a story or a direction of the story (especially an editor) I definitely want to hear that. I am always about making the story better. I am never so wedded to any story I think it’s perfect and cannot be changed f0r the better. I know some writers think that about their work. Well, that works for them.

Write a good story. Then send it out and forget about it. Start on your next story. As a writer it’s always the next story you are going to write that is the most important one. That’s my philosophy about writing. I expect you have developed your own and it works well for you. That’s one thing I like about process. We all do this writing stuff differently but we all end up at the same place: a finished story. That creative process, and all the avenues and side paths we can take, fascinate me.

Keep writing!

“Alpenglow” – New Haxan Story Coming Soon. Woot!

My new Haxan story “Alpenglow” will be released soon from Argo Navis Publishing. This is a dark fantasy/horror story about the Old West. An ancient trapper named Cesar Coffin comes unannounced out of Taos into the grinding maelstrom of Haxan. He has fresh scalps…and an even darker secret hidden in the fragments of his soul.

Don’t miss it.

An old mountain trapper enters Haxan with one thing on his mind...kill the demon who rules there.


And, in case you missed it, my new SF/horror story “Fishing the Styx” is now live for the Kindle and Kindle Fire exclusively. Enjoy!


Horror and heroic rebellion in the infinity of Hell....


Fishing the Styx – Coming Soon From Argo Navis Publishing (Update: Published!)


by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Copyright 2011 by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Argo Navis Publishing

“Hell is truth seen too late.”  —Thomas Hobbes

1. The Leviathan

   Keep going, Sayeth the demon.

Past the iron shore where pale arms whip the water into black foam. Through the blast furnace radiating from the crying walls of Dis. Far beyond the soft, red glow emanating from Deep Hell.

Paddle until your shoulders ache, and your heart shatters, and you are underneath tortured green clouds scudding over what was once the horizon.

Here, and only here, the river water slackens and tires. Runs still, and deep, and darkest.

Lean over and you will see a glimmer of all that ever was.

You will see the stars.


A story of science fiction, horror, and heroic rebellion exclusive to your Kindle and Kindle Fire: Fishing the Styx:

EQMM February 2012 Cover and personal thoughts on writing….

Here is the cover of the February 2012 Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in which my new Haxan story appears. Of course, I don’t have the cover story, but this should help you locate the magazine on a newsstand or something if you go looking for it:

My new Haxan story appears in this issue!

I have been thinking about all the milestones we hit as writers. First story ever written, first story sold, first novel written, etc. There are a lot of goalposts and depending on the writer some are more important than others.

Every story I have ever sold or placed is important to me.  But once I do that I move on. What I mean is, I forget about that story and start thinking about the next story. I don’t  do this because I think the last story is unimportant or has become less in my eyes. I do this because as a writer I am only as good as my last story. Which means if I want to move ahead I have to write another and another and another….

It’s enough to make you freak out!

Writing is all about “what have you done lately?” when it comes to how we are judged. Sold a story to EQMM? Nice. What have you done lately?

It’s a brutal fact about this profession but one we have to meet head on and accept. Writing is not easy. It’s not cupcakes. It’s hard work. Which is fine. I never thought it was anything but hard work. I have never thought writing was easy. Oh, there are lots of things about it that are easier to me now than when I first started. That, too, is expected. I have been doing this a long time. Even a blind hog can root up an acorn now and then. Same for me. I have learned a lot, but I am under no illusion I know all there is to know when it comes to writing.

That’s one part about this job I do like. I am always learning. That, more than anything else, keeps me interested.

Hoo Boy, I Have A Lot To Do This Week

Yikes. I do have a lot to accomplish. But in front of all that is simple writing. I hope I can carve enough time out for that.

Sometimes it’s not just making yourself sit in front of the computer and working. Sometimes all kinds of other stuff gets in the way and holds you back. But I think I will be able to head to the coffee shop and find an hour or two to work on the novel.

I don’t let it get to me too much when I am unable to write. I know eventually things around me will settle down and I’ll be back to it. But when I am not writing the knowledge I should be writing is always there.

Either way, I do have some things lined up for the week that I hope to share. But even with that I want to actually work on the novel. As long as nothing else comes barreling over the horizon I think I will be able to accomplish that. Hope so! 🙂

New Story in EQMM, Theater 13 Radio and Health Update

My new Haxan story is out in the newly published February 2012 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. This is breaking news since I got the contributor copies a week or so ago. I think the magazine itself is out on the stands, however. If you pick up the magazine I hope you like the story when you read it.

I don’t have a file for the February 2012 magazine cover yet to help you find it on the newsstands, but when I do I will post it here. Last time I checked they only have the January cover image available. Meanwhile, I hope to have some really good news about upcoming Kindle stories from Argo Navis Publishing within the week. Again, I’ll post that information when it comes available. So keep watching the blog because that update is right around the corner.

Other that that it  has been a busy four or five days past. I’ve been working at The Observatory and we were pretty busy with late minute shoppers. I have also been fighting the downside of a head cold. The cold isn’t all that bad. I mean, I’ve had worse. But I’m dragging a bit right now and my sleep ;patterns are all out of whack. Not that they’ve ever been very solid to begin with. In the midst of all that our modem went out along with the router. So we upgraded and now we’re plugged back into the Matrix. More importantly, Theater 13 Radio was off the air for about a day which irked me, but we’ve got it back up now.

I bought Star Wars: The Old Republic and started playing. My character is a Jedi Consular named Gaella. So far I like the game a lot even though I am only at level 5. It is very story driven, and while you can’t escape comparisons to World of Warcraft there is enough different here to interest me. I also bought Skyrim but haven’t had time to install it and try it out. Skyrim is a single player game but with deep sandbox elements which is what I tend to prefer in a PC game. Once I get my feet wet in both games I’ll post reviews here.

I am still reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing. This is the second book in the Border Trilogy. I like it a lot so far, much better than the first book All the Pretty Horses. Yes, I am planning reviews of them, too. I know, I’m way behind, you don’t have to tell me! I’m running in place as fast as I can.  😀

Finally, we are running classic Christmas programming on Theater 13 Radio. These Old Time Radio programs include such classics as Jack Benny, Suspense, Gunsmoke, Lux Theater, Dragnet and a whole lot more. They all have a Christmas or holiday theme and we will run them through New Year’s Eve. We really hope you enjoy these old classic programs for the holiday.

Check out our special holiday programming!


Life is Full of Obstacles

Finding Which Way to Turn in Classical Guitar

Part of the problem I run into when teaching myself classical guitar is I will bounce from book to book. What I mean is, there are many good solo books out there to learn from. I have several. I lean toward Solo Guitar Playing by Noad and Classical Guitar by Hal Leonard. They are both good. But on top of all that are etudes by everyone and his brother you can work through, not to mention all the resources on YouTube.

Having an instructor would help but that is not an option available to me right now. Then again this is only a hobby for me and not a total commitment.

So in the interim I bounce back and forth between books. I’m not saying this scattershot approach is smart. I have never been accused of being smart. But for a dedicated hobby it works. I can work on one section in one book and match that up with a similar session in another. As long as I do that I feel I am making progress on some level.

Without a doubt having professional instruction would be beneficial. I don’t have the resources or the time for that. I do not even know if I would make the personal commitment if I did have the opportunity. I’m still a writer. I don’t think I am ready to push that aside so I can concentrate fully on classical guitar. I know I am not.

When all is said and done I am making some progress on learning how to play classical guitar. I would like to advance a little faster, that much is true. But it is what it is and I can’t change it right now.

Two Big Decisions on the New Haxan Novel

When you work on a novel, or any story, you always make constant decisions. I think this is normal in the creative process. At least that has been my experience.

One of the decisions I have come to about the new Haxan novel is I will not translate the Spanish dialog when it appears. I will, however, try to give context to what they are saying by showing action between the characters, and reaction. I suppose such a decision firmly puts this novel in the literary category. I’m not adverse to that but I have to be ready to accept whatever criticism it may engender.

I simply am not interested in writing the same-old kind of novel where everything is neatly laid out in perfect squares. Life isn’t like that so why should a story be that way as well? I have no intention of eschewing standard grammar and style choices for formatting the work. It’s not that kind of novel, either. But I have decided I will not translate the Spanish dialog that transpires between characters. It is that kind of novel.

I must admit this was not a difficult decision on my part. I was leaning toward it for quite some time now. In other stories I have always provided a translation if I used non-English dialog. I’m just not going to do it with this novel.

Does this decision make things even harder for me to write? Yes, it does. But the novel was difficult to begin with, given the subject matter and what I want it to accomplish, so moving the goal post a little farther doesn’t dissuade me one bit. This novel was always a challenge for me which is why I wanted to write it in the first place. So that’s what I’m going to do.

The second big decision I made was with the help of my Writing Buddy. I am planning a big trip along the Mexico-U.S. border in the spring because I need to research that area. I was wondering if I should hold off on writing the novel a little, take the trip, then finish the novel. My Writing Buddy said she thought I should go ahead and write as much of the novel as I can before I take the trip because I am in a groove now. To back away from that might be detrimental to the creative process. Also, researching the landscape and area isn’t going to change the basic story of the novel.

I mean, it doesn’t make or break the novel, it’s just an extra mile (literally many miles) I am willing to take for the sake of the story. That being the case, I agree with her. I will go ahead and keep writing the novel and when the trip comes along I can use or not use things I find and see in the story. But it would be foolish for me to put the novel aside now and wait for the trip before I go back to working on it.

I couldn’t see that for myself. Forest for the trees, and so forth. That’s why it is so helpful to have someone you trust and ask for guidance. The worst possible critic of a story is the writer himself. I firmly believe that. We are too close to the story. We do everything we can to see all available avenues and facets, but no matter what there is always something we miss. That’s why a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh perspective are so valuable.

Classical Guitar and Memorization

As I posted a day or so ago I am at present learning how to play Sor’s Opus 60 No 1. The reason I mention this is because I haven’t yet decided if I am going to commit this song to memory.

Playing a song from sheet music is one thing. Committing it to memory is another. I can play quite a few simple songs, but I don’t memorize all of them. It takes something special about the song before I go that extra step. Maybe it’s something to do with how I connect to it on some level.

I wish I could understand this more because I’d like to pin it down as to what makes me pull the trigger on something like this. Here are the songs I have learned to play without needing the music in front of me:

Gunsmoke Theme
Red River Valley
Streets of Laredo
Minute in G
Blood on the Saddle
Barbara Allen
Wayfaring Stranger
Ashokan Farewell

There are one or two others I can’t remember. When I look at this list there is an obvious western theme at work. Not surprising since I am currently so involved in working on that genre, I guess. But even so I would like to figure out what it is about a song that makes me move toward memorizing it. Not that I think it will help me play or anything, but knowledge is power, right? 😛

Conversation with Story: When to Keep Going, When to Quit

Story: Hello again.

Me: Oh, you’re back. That was quick. I submitted you to the magazine only two weeks ago. How are you doing?

Story: Boy, it’s brutal out there.

Me: I’m sorry. I keep sending you out and you keep getting rejected. You look kind of beat up.

Story: Yeah, that last editor was pretty critical, but he had some good points to make. I have to admit that. So. How are we standing so far? How many rejections does this make? Around twenty, I’ll bet.

Me: A little more than that. More like around thirty.

Story: Oh. I didn’t know it was that many.

Me: That’s okay, I still believe in you.

Story: I’m trying my best.

Me: I know you are. I put everything into you I could. The way I do with every story I write. If I didn’t believe in you I would not have sent you out to be considered for publication in the first place.

Story: I know that. But….

Me: What’s wrong?

Story: Been thinking.

Me: About what?

Story: Maybe it’s time to put me aside. Now before you get that look on your face hear me out. It’s not like we haven’t tried. Maybe the time just isn’t right for a story like me. There doesn’t appear to be a market interested in me right now. Maybe you need to put me aside and wait until an appropriate market opens up and then submit me there.

Me: I’m not ready to give up.

Story: I’m not ready to give up, either. But if we don’t maximize our potential, yours and mine, then we lose ground. That doesn’t help either one of us in the long run. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. I’m more than willing to go back out if you find a proper market. But in the meantime I think maybe I need to be trunked while you work on a new story.

Me: I don’t know how to break this to you, but I’ve written two new stories since I sent you out.

Story: I’m glad to hear that.

Me: Story.

Story: Yeah.

Me: I’m going to trunk you for a while. I think it’s time.

Story: No argument from me. I could use a vacation.

Me: If something opens up you’ll be the first to be sent out, right back into the thick of things.

Story: I’m always ready and willing to head into the front lines for you. But a little R&R sounds good right now.

Me: Sorry about how this turned out.

Story: What sorry? It’s the right thing to do. Sometimes you have to send a story down to the minors. Hey, I knew that much going in when you sent me out on my very first submission.

Me: All right. Well, you fought the good fight. I appreciate it.

Story: I could have been a champion. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.

Me: You got that from a story.

Story: Well, sure. It’s who I am. Nighty-night.

Me: Walk bravely, Old Soldier.

Story: Trust me, I’m going to enjoy the down time. Meanwhile….

Me: What?

Story: Get started on a new story.

Sometimes you have to wait for the right market before you can sell the story you have written. Have patience, and get to work on a new story in the interim.

Back On Classical Guitar: Sor’s Opus 60 No 1 and Spanish Study

I’ve changed the furniture layout in my room and one of the happy results is I sit a lot closer to where I keep my guitar. I say this is a happy result because I am by nature lazy. But now that I am closer to the guitar I have more reason to pick it up and practice and read some theory.

I’ve been practicing quite a lot in the last few weeks.

It’s a mindless activity to play scales or arpeggios when I am watching an old film on TV or the news or the odd sports broadcast. I just let my fingers do the walking across the fretboard and build up muscle memory. But I’ve also been more actively engaged in practicing technique and playing as well. So I am pretty happy about that. Right now I am learning how to play Sor’s Opus 60 No. 1 along with Spanish Study from Noad. I also play through my repertoire about every other day to keep those songs fresh in my mind.

Both songs, Opus 60 No. 1 and Spanish Study, are coming along well. I am getting the first half of each song down but the second halves are presenting a problem, especially the triplets in Spanish Study which may be beyond my current skill range. Even though I may learn to play a song I do not always do the extra mental gymnastics to commit the song to memory. I am inclined to do that with these two songs, however, because I like them. I don’t commit every song I learn to play to memory, just the ones I like. So there! 😛

Technique is important with any musical instrument, I guess. In classical guitar technique is everything. I am reminded back in the day when I used to play golf. Okay, I played a lot of golf. But I not only played a round I really did enjoy working around the practice green chipping and putting and hitting a bucket of balls on the driving range. I could fill up two hours with a bucket of balls on the driving range (I would take my time, check my setup, my swing, work through the clubs) and the putting green. I liked that as much, if not more, than playing an actual round.

I must say either I have gotten older (although I think I would still enjoy just practicing at the golf range and I have been wanting to get back to it, but I have no time because writing is a total time sink) or something because I don’t feel that way about the guitar. I was happy enough just practicing golf as opposed to playing. I would rather play the guitar than practice. I don’t know what it says about me or about the two different activities, but there you have it.

Either way, I am practicing and playing more classical guitar than I have been recently and for my money that can only be a good thing. I am not very good, of course, but I find it relaxing and enjoyable. Those are reasons enough for me to continue pursuing the music. I’ve included two links to YouTube of Sor’s Opus 60 No 1 and Spanish Study to give you an idea what the music is supposed to sound like…as opposed to what it sounds like when I play it currently.

But practice makes perfect! Or at the least drives you bonkers….

Medical Update and Publishing News

I got through the medical procedure okay today. I’m just tired and not really interested in messing around on the Internet for a while. So I am going to unplug from the Matrix, relax, read, decompress, and practice my guitar because that relaxes me as well. But I will be back to regular posting in a day or two when I regain my strength. Promise.

I also hope to have some much anticipated updates as regards Argo Navis Publishing and some of my stories that will appear. We have finally gotten the covers back for the first ten stories and we are working to put them into the pipeline for immediate publication. We will also launch the Argo Navis website and twitter feed as well. So a lot is planned for the next week or so.

We will keep you up to date on all the changes coming.  🙂

Talking to Story: Rejection, and why it doesn’t matter

Story: What’s wrong, spanky? You have such a sad face today.

Me: I had a story rejected.

Story: Oh, I’m sorry. So what?

Me: What do you mean so what? I had a story rejected today by an editor. I’m supposed to celebrate that?

Story: No. But why do you care?

Me: What do you mean?

Story: Why do you care if a story got rejected? Do you think you’re the only writer to have a story rejected? Happens all the time to amateurs and professionals alike. It’s part of the process and part of the business.

Me: Yeah, but it was my story.

Story: Oh, I see. You are feeling sorry for yourself. Look, you are wrong about this and I’m going to tell you why. You just said it was your story. Not it’s not. It’s the reader’s story. No matter who that reader is, a beta, an editor, a friend. You name it. The story ceases to be yours and becomes theirs when they read it.

Me: I’m not following.

Story: And that wouldn’t be the first time. Listen, when a reader picks up a story something magical happens. He begins a synergistic relationship with that story. Reading is a private experience. What the reader experiences and feels and sees and understands as he reads your story belongs solely to him. Okay, you wrote the story. I am not arguing that point. And from a legal standpoint the story and its intellectual property belongs to you. But when the reader reads the story it takes on a completely different quality apart from those more mundane things. What the reader sees and feels you have no control over whatsoever.

Let’s say you wrote a science fiction story. But when the reader reads it he thinks it is a horror story. Who is right, the guy who wrote the story or the reader who reads the story?

Me: I’d have to say both.

Story: Maybe there’s hope for you after all. What you see in the story and what someone else sees in the story can be quite different, and yet both can be correct interpretations. Sometimes these viewpoints conflict, even down to a disagreement about the quality of the writing. It doesn’t mean one is correct and the other is incorrect. It simply means two different people view the same thing in an opposite light. And there’s no getting past that as long as you’re dealing with human beings.

Me: So you’re saying I shouldn’t care my story got rejected.

Story: I’m saying you should not live or die by rejections. Everyone gets rejected. Gone With the Wind got rejected. Bit whoop. It happens. Maybe the editor left a note or two about something he thought you could elaborate on. You don’t have to take that advice to heart, but you do have to note it. So my advice is learn what you can from it, and move on.

Me: Well, he did say he wanted to see any other stories I might have and to send them in.

Story: There, you see? He’s not rejecting you. He’s rejecting the story. It’s not personal on his part. And I don’t care what any other writer thinks, the story is not you. Once you send it off to be read it becomes the reader’s story to interpret and enjoy. You have no control over that. Absolutely none. So if you find someone who reads a story of yours and doesn’t like it, move on. Write another story. Maybe they will like that one. Who knows? The main thing is, don’t give up and don’t wallow in self-pity. Writing is hard enough without that malarkey.

Me: You are telling it like it is today, Story.

Story: Writers write for different reasons. Some write for themselves, some write for other people. The successful ones write for the story. Maybe it’s a subtle point, but once you understand it you realize what other people think is not as important as you first imagined. Write a good story. Believe in your work. Send it out. Then start the next story. Write for the story itself. Not the market, and not the editor. Do it for the story.

Me: Well, I still feel a little blue even though I understand what you are saying.

Story: That’s understandable. Tell you what, maybe a bowl of ice cream will make you feel better. Then we can get back to work on a brand new story that I bet the editor will like.

Me: I like the idea of a bowl of ice cream. Story, you always make me feel better.

Story: That’s why I’m here. Now, let’s stop the gabfest and grab that bowl of ice cream. I’m hungry, too. Got any whipped cream?

Rejection is hard, but it's not the be all and end all of your writing life. Learn what you can from it, and start your next story.




Therapy with Story: How to deal with self-doubt and not freak out!

Me: Help me! I think I’m freaking out!

Story: So in other words it’s like every other day in your life? Okay, skippy, calm down and take a deep breath. What’s wrong now?

Me: I’m having trouble finding an entry point into this story. Grr! I’m starting to doubt myself and I can feel the doubt snowballing into a full-blown freak out.

Story: Doubt in this profession, or anything else you do in life, is insidious, I’ll give you that. But when you start to feel doubt about your ability to write, what you need to do is look back on your past and remember the successes you had and the other challenges you met and conquered. Don’t let the “now” dominate all the potential and talent you bring everyday to the writing table.

Me: But I’d rather freak out. I had a wonderful freak out planned.

Story: No, what you would rather do is feel sorry for yourself.

Me: Well. Yeah. But that still doesn’t help me get this story going.

Story: There are many solutions to your problem. Some writers start in the middle of the story and write out of sequence. In other words, they start with a portion of the story they feel more comfortable with and start from there. Perhaps you could try that.

Me: But that doesn’t work for me. Whenever I try and write a story out of sequence I lose the thread of the plot. It feels artificial to me.

Story: No problem. Every writer writes differently. Maybe you are not ready to write the story. Then again perhaps the story itself is not ready to be written. There are many different barriers you have to overcome when you write every story, even the stories that supposedly “write themselves.”

Me: So what do I do?

Story: Take it easy, first of all. Find that center of yourself where your confidence lies. You haven’t gotten this far on luck alone. There is talent and confidence there you have to tap into. So start the story slowly. If you hit a false start then start over. If you hit ten false starts then start over again. Writing is a creative process. There is no ABC protocol everyone follows to find the right path. Most of all don’t let the doubt overwhelm you. Writing is hard and doubt is part of the process in any artistic endeavor.

Me: Okay, I feel a little better now. I guess you’ve talked me off the ledge.

Story: Well, that’s a start.

Me: I am still feeling stuck, though.

Story: Why don’t you start the scene in the middle of an action sequence? That’s often a good way to get started.

Me: Hey…I hadn’t thought of that. Yes, that might work!

Story: See? I told you that you could do it if you just gave yourself a chance.

Me: You mean we could do it together. Thanks, story.

Story: My pleasure. Now get to writing.

Self doubt is often a problem for writers, but look to your past success and inner confidence to combat it.

I Could Write This Story All Day Long, But I Won’t

A stranger rides into Haxan. He badmouths Magra Snowberry. Marshal Marwood then meets him in the plaza.

I am here to tell you I could write this story all day long. I love this story. I could write it again and again, in different ways and perspectives, and be in clover. I would love it.

But the reader would hate it. Maybe not the first time, but probably by the second. Definitely the third. Because while I like the idea of the story, we have to be brutal and honest with ourselves: it’s crap.

It really is bad. Everything about that story is bad. It’s full of cliches, full of everything I despise about the current romanticized view of the genre. I mean, come on, like we haven’t seen this movie before, right? A bad guy rides into town. He does something bad to a nice girl. The lawman is incensed, things escalate, and they shoot it out.

Sounds like every Saturday morning western program we have ever watched. Not to say people don’t like reading that kind of thing. There’s a market for it. Lots of writers in the genre enjoy using tropes like “Spinster Schoolmarm” and “Laconic Cowboy” or what have you. Many more are successful at it. But as much as I like that stuff, too, at least on a pure atavistic level, I cannot write it. I mean, maybe I can do it once. But I can’t keep doing it. I would go nuts.

But back to my earlier comment. I love that story about Marwood and Magra. I like it because it’s so simple and I don’t have to think very hard. Everything is distilled down to its elemental qualities. But as much as I would like to write that story (and have written that story) I can’t in good conscience write it many times over.

Because if I did I would not be true to myself.  I would be writing something, and writing in a fashion, completely unknown to me. I wouldn’t be comfortable doing it, I guess is what I am trying to say. Even worse, I feel the reader would reach a point where he feels he is being short changed. I don’t want the reader to feel that way about any story I write.  Even this one.

Sometimes I joke with other writers and readers I will one day write a story where Marwood resolves his problems with balloon animals and party hats. It would have the benefit of never been tried in the world of Haxan, I’ll give it that. But that wasn’t what the west was like, either, and I’m not sure I could bring myself to write a joke story like that. Not because I view my work in such lofty and serious terms, but because I don’t think the story itself would work.

And when you get right down to it that’s what writers are all about: the story. Does it work? If not, why? Can you fix it? Will it be better? What does the story demand? Do I have the talent to bring that across to the reader?

Stories are like that, sometimes. At least I think they are. We may want to write the same story over and over because it would be easy and fun. But if we did we would not be true to the story, even the story we want to write over and over. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this would be hard for me to pull off.

But, yes, I love the idea of a stranger riding into Haxan, badmouthing Magra, and having to meet Marwood. All these things have happened at one time or another in the series. I think one or two stories have even presented them in that sequence, if not that specific structure. But as much as I love the idea, I have to watch myself because I would not be fair to the story or the reader if I kept writing that same story again and again.

No matter how much I love it, what I love doesn’t matter. The story dictates those terms. I think good writers respond to that.

On the Banks of the Clear Fork

This is the middle of the Clear Fork of the Brazos. This was the main water supply for The Flat and Fort Griffin. As you can see the water level is very low due to the drought. I’ve never stood in the middle of a river before. Now I can say I have.

This is a view of the Clear Fork from a higher elevation. When The Flat was here I am thinking all these trees were gone and the river banks were denuded for building material and firewood. Many of the trees that grew along the banks at the time were cottonwood trees, not mesquite. People used cottonwood to put up buildings, but it is a poor wood for that. It’s soft and doesn’t last long. It wasn’t until people “civilized” the country when the mesquite took over.

This was a pretty little sun drenched glade on the banks of the Clear Fork. Again you can see it is dominated by mesquite trees, though. I was surprised to see how green everything was, though, given the parched look of the rest of the landscape.

As you might guess water was very important in the west. Water is important wherever people live. There is no way the Clear Fork can support 5000 people on The Flat now, but it did at one time, and it really brings home how much water is being used up river for other things, and the price of the drought that is parching all the southwest right now.

Les Miserables: “Hunger comes with love.”

I finished reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo for the second time some years back.  The first time I read it was in high school.  I liked it then, I love it now, even after all this time.

I guess everyone knows about Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread and being pursued by Javert.  But, my God, does this book ever deserve its title. Everyone is wretched, in one way or another. How can we ever forget the grinding poverty and dehumanization of Fantine?  And how Cosette, her little girl, must live as a slave under the monstrous Thenardier family?

There are enduring images which have survived over the centuries.  Fantine selling her front teeth so Cosette has enough to eat,  the fight on the barricade, the flight through the sewers.  This is a huge book in more ways than one.  The writing is fantastic and there are little “Hugoisms” sprinkled throughout that make you put the book down and marvel either at the turn of phrase or the beauty of the writing itself.  Like these:

“Gravediggers die.  By dint of digging graves for others, they open their own.”

“There is a moment when girls bloom out in a twinkling and become roses all at once.  Yesterday we left them children, to-day we find them dangerous.”

“Hunger comes with love.”

“Humanity is identity.  All men are the same clay.”

“Women play with their beauty as children do with their knives.  They wound themselves with it.”

“When we are at the end of life, to die means to go away; when we are at the beginning, to go away means to die.”

“Then he heard his soul, again ba truly stunning and magnificent workecome terrible, give a sullen roar in the darkness.”

“Certain flames can only come from certain souls; the eye, that window of the thought, blazes with it; spectacles hide nothing; you might as well put a glass over hell.”

“Robber, assassin….these words fell upon him like  a shower of ice.”

One of the main ingredients of this novel is the depth of human emotion.  It’s never overdone, which is an easy thing for a writer to do.  We are often moved, such as the scene when Cosette marries and Jean Valjean must disappear from her life to protect her from his past.  He goes home, takes out the little dress she used to wear as a child, and pressing it against his face sobs uncontrollably.  And I challenge anyone to read Valjean’s monologue at the end of the novel and not get a little weepy.  Strong stuff.  Memorable.

This is a great book.  I’m glad I reread it and as I think about it more maybe I will read it a third time.  It might be one of those books I read again every twenty years or so.  But even if I do not I’m a better person for reading it in the first place, that’s for sure.

If you haven’t read this novel, you should.  If you have, do so again.  It’s great.

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