“One Life Between Earth and Sky” published by The Western Online!

Hooray! My new Haxan story “One Life Between Earth and Sky” has just been published by The Western Online.Writing is always a bit hazy. It took me over a year to find the crux of this story and bring it to light.

This story is only 1500-words long and it took me over a year to write. This dovetails perfectly with Stephe Thornton, another of my writing friends, who tweeted yesterday whether quality or quantity is more important. I said quality without a doubt, and she thanked me.

It’s not for me to speak to the quality of this particular story. It’s not “better” because it took over a year to write. It took me a year because the story wasn’t ready to be written when I started it. Writing is like that sometimes, at least for me.

Anyway, this is a nice way to start the long weekend. Here’s the link to the story, and I hope you like it.

 

ONE LIFE BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY

 

 

 

 

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Life in the Rear View Mirror

I guess there comes a point in your life when you are farther along past the middle, and closer to the end, than you are to the beginning.

I’ve been reflective of late. Not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it depression related. It’s just a point in my life when I am hearing about friends who are dying or going through bad things and of course that gets you to thinking.

But when I relate this to my writing I see there is a lot I want to do and accomplish. I have finished two new Haxan short stories and now I can start turning attention to a brand new novel.

This is happening, however, in the context of looking at my writing in a rear view mirror. I look at what I have done so far and, yes, I am happy with that. But I am not satisfied.

I think that is a positive thing. Because I am not satisfied there is still more I want to do and prove to myself as a writer.

I feel I am in a good position right now, as far as my writing goes. Of course, I have been doing this long enough to know the other shoe can drop at anytime and there’s nothing anyone can do. There are no guarantees in life, and ever fewer (as in zero) when it comes to writing.

But I’m going to keep doing it and see what happens.

There are no guarantees in writing. Thank goodness.

A week or so ago a friend joined our morning writing group. She mentioned she was having trouble with procrastination. I can relate. There are no guarantees in writing. That doesn't limit you. It liberates you!

I think we all can to one degree or another.

This got me to thinking. Always a dangerous proposition in itself. But there are no guarantees in writing. You can read all the “How To” books in the world. When you start that first story you are going in cold. And the only person who can defeat you at the outset….is yourself.

Procrastination is a problem. When asked what was the first thing he did before he started a story, Hemingway said, “I fix the refrigerator.”

It’s a hurdle you are going to have to learn to jump. But once you get past that, once you write the story, there still are no guarantees.

There are no guarantees because there is no correct way to write a story. Some writers work in the morning. Some at night. Some write with pen or pencil. Some use computers. Some drink gallons of coffee to get them through the day. Faulkner opened a whiskey bottle.

There is no protocol when it comes to writing. I think this is one of the biggest artistic strengths a writer has, actually. We all do it differently. What’s more, we all know there are no guarantees the story you wrote will ever see the light of day. Maybe the editor won’t like it. Maybe it’s unpublishable. Maybe, maybe.

Because there are no guarantees, I argue that frees a writer. It does not restrict you. It liberates you. It allows you to take chances and push boundaries you otherwise might not attempt.

After all, what have you got to lose?

Shotokan Self-Defense Demonstration by Hirokazu Kanazawa (Man, he is good!)

Absolutely wanted to share this video of a self-defense demonstration by Sensei Kanazawa. Of course, this is only a demonstration of Shotokan Karate, and therefore choreographed. But, yes, the moves are genuine and it gives you an insight into the spirit and control of martial arts.

I love this video and how it showcases Kanazawa’s form and control. The self-defense move at the 1:00 minute mark is stunning. Enjoy!

 

 

So You Wrote a Story. But, Does it Look Right on the Page?

Harlan Ellison once said how he wrote a script and handed it to a director. The director took one glance at the first page and said, “Not filmable.”

Ellison was taken aback. “What do you mean it’s not filmable? You haven’t read it.”

“I don’t have to read it,” the director said, handing it back. “It doesn’t look right on the page. That’s all I need to know to pass on this.”

This may seem kind of goofy to new writers, but there’s a lot of truth in it. Maybe that scares you. But you shouldn’t let it. How a story looks on the page reflects certain attitudes and facets of the story. Maybe it’s subliminal, I don’t know what’s at work here, but it does affect the reader.

It exists. It’s real. A story not only has to be well-written, it has to look “right” on the page.

Yes, you can come up with a lot of writers like Faulkner and McCarthy who have long dense passages in their novels, even at the beginning of the novel. Well, my response to that is “You’re not Faulkner or McCarthy. And neither am I.”

Believe it or not a good editor can tell right away from a glance at the manuscript whether or not the story she has in her hands is worth Oh, good grief, one more thing I have to worry about when it comes to writing!pursuing. I’m not talking about formatting errors here, although they are important as well. No, I mean what emotion or ‘sense of being’ does the story portray to the reader by how it looks on the page?

I’ve seen this very thing happen a lot and it’s happened to me, too.  It still happens to me, especially during first drafts. But I look back at some of my earlier stories and notice right away they’re just shaped all wrong.

The story itself is all right. They just look all wrong on the page.

Writing isn’t rocket science. You don’t need talent to be a good writer, though it helps, I think.* But this is one more facet you need to be aware of. Maybe not consciously. This doesn’t have to occupy the higher tiers of your brain and creative process when you are transferring the story initially from your brain to the page.

But after you finish the story, and the dust settles, and you come back to it fresh in two or three days, take a look at how it appears on the page.

Editors and publishers and agents all want that one story that will stand out over the others in their inbox. Because they receive literally hundreds (if not more) submissions a month, they aren’t first looking for a reason to buy your story…they’re looking for a reason to reject it.

Don’t give them this one excuse. It’s way too easy to fix. 🙂

*I do believe you need talent to elevate writing into a higher art form. But I freely admit that may also be a silly conceit.

Writing What Makes You Uncomfortable

About a week ago I was emailing a writing friend of mine who was having trouble generating story ideas. That got me to thinking about something I wrote on this topic a while back, and I want to revisit it because I think it’s one of the strongest things any writer can do.

This conversation we had puts me in mind of a story I toyed with years and years ago but was never able to make it come together. I was attending a pool party one weekend and the host and hostess (who were both over 50) had a baby. One of my friends said, “I don’t think that’s their baby” but I knew it was and they laughed and said, yes, “God played a trick on us.”

But as a writer I got to thinking. Where’s the story potential in something like this? On the face of it this is a yawner. They had a young daughter, maybe she was 14 or 15, I can’t remember. But what if that baby was HER baby and thy parents were pretending it was theirs to protect her, or whatever….especially if she had been raped by someone maybe…especially if the father of her baby was HER father.

So there you have it. An innocent and happy experience I had at a pool party degenerated into something dark and depraved. Hooray!  I was a happy writer with a brand new idea.

So, how to write the story?

I thought about this father being a government official and he takes in a spy who is resting up after a tough mission and the reader the spy’s eyes,Dig deep into your imagination to find the best stories. discover the secret. Then I thought it could also be written from the daughter’s POV, which would be better, with her taking care of what is ostensibly the parents’ baby while the party is going on.

The theme of the story would be how we all wear masks to hide our true selves from others.

I tried several starts at this story. It never came together. So I moved on to other ideas and other stories.

But this conversation I had with my writer friend also got me to thinking about how sometimes I scare myself with my own imagination. Sometimes my own imagination is my own worst enemy.

There have been times I have imagined something happening to people I know that just scares me so much it feels like I am on an abyss. Now, I know intellectually these things aren’t going to happen. But that doesn’t mean my imagination takes a holiday.

So, not to make this all about me, but my point being with is when you think of one idea it can lead to something else, which leads to something else, etc.

I can’t tell you how often  meet people who want to write say they have a story idea and they tell it to me and there’s nothing else to go on. It’s just one idea.

You may not think that’s much to quibble about, but I’m telling you as a professional seeing how you can take one idea, and elaborate on it and use that to generate something else, trust me on this…that’s a pretty important tool in your toolbox.

Find what makes you uncomfortable. Always. Discover what you want to say about that idea and how you need to tell the story.

Use your imagination. Scare yourself.

You can thank me later. Or blame me. For writers, this is also a win-win. 🙂

Shotokan Karate in the Old Takudai Dojo – 1946 Part II

Here is Part II of Kanazawa, Nakayama, Enoeda and many other karateka practicing in a rebuilt dojo after the original was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid.

Great historical stuff here. Part I was posted yesterday if you are interested in seeing that.

 

 

 

 

 

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