Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Fool's

Now Playing: SHERLOCK HOLMES by Hans Zimmer

It's April Fool's day, but no joke--I just finished a 10,000 word story that I started in March and worked on pretty vigorously between studying for pharmacology and regional anesthesia tests. I wrote on the weekends and on off days and in the evenings after coming home from clinical. I wrote in short bursts and long marathons. I got it done!

I'm proud of myself. It hasn't been easy to muster the energy to write new fiction during grad school. Class is demanding, but also more constrained by time. I mean, I can put off writing a story until later, but I can't put of studying for a test indefinitely. I have papers due and projects to complete and group meetings to attend. My days start early and end late, and somewhere in there I'm trying to squeeze in some fiction composition. I don't always succeed.

Like I said, though, I've changed my paradigm for this year, and since my amazing wife got me these awesome moleskin notebooks I can carry around, I've been able to take care of some story planning and draft outlines when I have breaks in class or downtime. I've still been adding to ideas in my notes app; there must be 200 budding stories saved in there, waiting to be written. I'm looking forward to finding out what they're all about.

But I doubt they'll all be done by graduation. :P

Monday, January 16, 2017

This Year's Paradigm

Now Playing: SAY THIS SOONER by The Almost
Just Finished: BREATH OF EARTH by Beth Cato--Great novel, very imaginative, fast-paced, and fun. Looking forward to more in this series.
Reading Now: READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline

Happy New Year! It's 2017, and with the changing of the calendar comes ambitions for the upcoming year. For me that means writing goals. Mine are simple. Read more, write more.

Accomplishing this may involve a shift in my writing paradigm; being in graduate school is a real art-limiter, you know? Major bummer.

Totally worth it, I believe, and I love being a graduate student. But I also love writing stories, and being a student doesn't allot much time for those kinds of hobbies/passions.

I'm going to make 2017 a bit of a work-around. Here's the plan: every day I'll do something related to writing, even if it doesn't include putting new words down on paper. Thinking up new titles to future stories, jotting ideas for stories in my notes app, editing old pieces, tweeting about writing, putting together some poetry, blogging, submitting or re-submitting stories, or actually writing new prose. Even reading short stories. I'll count it all as forward progress.

Then, when school is on break or if I have a long weekend with some free time, I'll try to dedicate those times to relaxation and writing, and maybe even reading some fiction. Nonfiction dominated the second half of 2016, and while I like reading about nurse anesthesia, I do miss novels terribly. I was glad to get back to reading during Christmas break! Maybe the local library will reopen and I can go checkout some books on CD to listen to during my commute . . . .

But, yeah, that's it. I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing: trying to juggle lots of things at once and do them the best I can. I'm excited about what stories will emerge in 2017! Let's get it rolling.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

November Nostalgia


It's textbooks galore here in graduate school, but I'm not complaining. I'm actually really enjoying school--the worst part is how the time requirement restricts my freedom to write, but I knew that going in. I'd say the lack of negative surprises is a win!

As November came to a close I found myself thinking a lot about November of 2013 with great nostalgia. That month, I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote a novel I've titled "Star Born." It's probably my favorite story that I've written so far. I wrote "The End" after 78,000 words or so. But it isn't finished. 

Good stories go like that sometimes, I think. When I ponder the story, I get a sense that there's more to tell, more detail to go into, other subplots I'm missing out on, further details to describe. Periodically, ideas to fill those gaps pop into my head, and I make a note on my iPhone to revisit later. 

"Star Born" will need more time and dedication to finish the way I want than I have to offer it now. Grad school does that. But like I said, I'm not complaining. I'm thinking about this period as a kind of training, because I want to be at my best when I finally do tackle and polish that manuscript. 

I have lots and lots of ideas for short stories that are begging to be written, and I'm hoping December and its winter break will allow for a few of them to be see the light of day. I've managed to keep up with my submissions, but new ideas far outnumber new stories written. I can tell it's been a while since I've written completely new things because my mind is crowded. Part of that, I think, is that November revs up my creativity because I'm subconsciously dwelling on how amazing that November three years ago was for my writing. My hope is that, one November in the future, I'll take part in NaNoWriMo again. Maybe to write "Star Born"'s sequel. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Both Feet

Now Playing: SHERLOCK HOLMES by Hans Zimmer

It's October! How miraculously fast time goes, right? It's Fall, y'all!

I've jumped into my first semester of graduate school with both feet, and so far I'm swimming sometimes, treading water sometimes, but otherwise keeping my head above water. Naturally, my writing output has dropped, but I'm not kicking myself for it. It hasn't been a complete desert, and working on anesthesia material has to be my top priority, and it has paid off.

Still, there's news. In my last blog post I mentioned that I received my second honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. Well, I recently received my THIRD! My story "Scouting Trip" won an honorable mention, and tonight I've been trying to read through it for further submission to other venues. I'm super excited about it! Two in a row! This definitely means my writing quality is improving. I already submitted another story to the WotF contest, so wish it luck!

As for new stuff, I wrote about 1000 words of a new story that I'd played around with some in the past but never actually put down. I was thinking it'd be a flash piece but it isn't close to being finished. Gonna shoot for the 2500-3000 range now, I think.

I've been doing a lot of reading, but all of it nonfiction. Which, like I said, is fine. I still have the same number of stories popping into my head, and when I do get some time to read some fiction, like today, it does wonders for my creativity. So, in short, I'm managing.


Friday, August 26, 2016


Now Playing: THE HOURS by Philip Glass
Just Read: OUTLANDER by Diana Gabalon--Very enjoyable. Parts of it felt a bit too slow-paced, but overall it was an engaging read, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Reading Now: T-E-X-T-B-O-O-K-S!

It seems like a writer's life is full of things that come between him or her and the actual putting down of words on paper. The "day-job" for example. For some people it's kids or family obligations. Frequently, the writer gets in his or her own way and doesn't write for reasons like "I don't know where the story's going!" or "I just can't relate to these characters." Might as well go see what else is on the TV.

I've faced a lot of obstacles so far in my amateur writing career, and I've written through them all with various successes. The thing about not having a deadline--or, not being a full-time writer who writes to pay the bills--is that I'm the only one who holds me accountable for not writing. I've blogged before about feeling guilty for not writing for long stretches, and that's always been true, but not usually around unavoidable circumstances like going to a family wedding or studying for exams during finals week.

These metaphorical hoops to jump through as an amateur writer, I'm sure, will always exist. Even with them I've written dozens and dozens of short stories and four novel manuscripts, so I think I'm doing okay. Last month I received my second honorable mention from the WotF contest; hopefully that means I'm heading generally upward.

The latest, though, is a doozy--a behemoth called graduate school. You may have noticed my latest update on what I'm reading now: textbooks. I'm in a two-year nurse anesthesia program at Wake Forest, and it's time consuming. There's a lot I have to learn and not a lot of time. We go through classes in just a few weeks and have tests that bear a lot of weight, so it's important to do well on them. My goal of writing and submitting one story per month has never faced such a monstrous obstacle.

Still, I accomplished August. I submitted a few recycled stories and wrote one new one before school really got too underway. Tomorrow I'm planning on doing some editing (as a study break) on the piece I want to submit for this quarter's WotF. Hopefully it turns out okay and doesn't need too much overhaul, because I'm not sure I have the time for it. Test Monday!

Anyway, enough blogging. Back to the books!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Really Great Times

Now Playing: SE MEG by Kate Havnevik
Just Read: WRITERS OF THE FUTURE vol. 28--Another good one. I'm a big fan of these anthologies and think they're making me a better writer.
Reading Now: OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon

Well it's been a heck of a July. I got married! I went on a honeymoon to the Caribbean! I got a story published in Perihelion Magazine (see new link to the left of the page)! I won an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest!

So yeah, I've been a pretty happy camper lately. I'm proud to see my story "Junkyard Dog" in print over at Perihelion--it went through several iterations, including a much longer, clunkier version in which I tried to change up the voice. I scrapped it and started over, eventually landing on the version that was accepted. Maybe one day I will be, but I'm just not very good at deviating from standard language. It's hard!

I basically sat on a beach for a week and read, and it was glorious. I finished the WOTF volume I was on and started OUTLANDER, which I'd been meaning to get to for a while. I first learned of it after catching the first two episodes of the Starz show, and what's nice is that (unlike Game of Thrones) the series is finished! I love discovering great new adventure series that have been completed by the time I start book one. Waiting is the worst!

And I'm very happy about winning an honorable mention in the WotF contest. It's a bit like having warning track power in baseball--solid contact, ultimately an out, but still an at bat to be proud of. It means I'm getting better, which is great, and hopefully that's a trend that will continue in the upcoming quarters.

One thing I haven't done this July is write much new stuff. I started a story but it puttered out, and I'm about to start it over. I meant it to be a kind of dark fantasy but when I got going it became more of a steampunk story. You never know! But the plan is to finish it this week for July's requirement, write another one next week for August's requirement, and then grad school begins!

Lots and lots of changes. Lots and lots of really great times.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What a Delight

Now Playing: I CAN FLY ANYTHING by John Williams
Just Read: THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS by Stephen King--Not as good as I hoped. Many stories didn't seem to have much a point, like they were only parts of stories. A few were good though.

I had a pretty cool experience last weekend. Last Friday I got to visit my future mother-in-law at her work. She's a middle school Earth Science and English teacher, and she hosts a writing club after school for interested students. She did me the great honor of asking if I would be a guest speaker.

There were about 10 sixth and seventh graders there, and surprisingly they were excited to see me and hear what I had to say about writing. They had lots of astute and familiar questions for me: How do you figure out the best ending? What do you do when the words won't come? How do you know if your writing is good or not? These were all questions I asked when I was eleven years old or so, too.

I answered them as honestly as I could. I wish I had more wisdom to impart, but the message I tried to hammer home was how nothing could substitute for practice. If these kids want to be great writers one day, they had better start writing, and writing a lot. The bad part about that is it means there's no short cuts--no magic formula--no way around the grind of hours at your keyboard (or paper) spilling out words and praying they adhere to each other meaningfully. But the good part is that becoming great is (largely) in their own hands. I felt pretty confident talking to them all that they each had a measure of natural talent, and the passion was obvious--these kids loved stories! All that remained was time and practice (or deliberate practice, if you ask Anders Ericsson).

One of the questions they asked me was: "Are you a writer?" Well I was there as a guest-speaker, wasn't I!?! But honestly it's a question I ask myself sometimes, too. Especially when I'm going through one of my periods of drought. These periods happen for me when my work and life schedules don't allow for much writing time, like when I work several nights in a row and then have to drive out of town on consecutive weekends for wedding errands or social gatherings. The ideas don't stop during those times, but fresh words-to-page production grinds to a halt.

But I told them I was a writer. It may not be what pays the bills, and it isn't even my next goal (that would be the purgatorial mountain that is grad school), yet (to put it poetically) the writer in me is the deep, hot part that's always burning, keeping my soul young and my  vivacious gears turning. It's what I love.

It was truly a delight to speak to those kids and meet them all. I hope I did some good there, and I hope they all go on to write the stories sprouting inside their own imaginations.