Thursday, September 6, 2018

Getting Back To It

Now Playing: A JOURNEY IN THE DARK by Howard Shore
Just Read: CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff--Loved this book! Absolutely fantastic writing throughout; really on the best written books I've read in a long time. Really enjoyed the language and characterization of the supporting cast.
Reading Now: THE RUNAWAY JURY by John Grisham

Just wrote my first new words since finishing graduate school. It was a good feeling, but it wasn't much--a few hundred words that came to me (at the risk of sounding cliche) in the shower. I was thinking about how John Grisham always writes about law adventures because he's a lawyer--maybe I should write about anesthetics. So I did.

Getting back to it after a long absence is hard. I've done it before, always because of time constraints of one type or another. Each time requires a bit of a transitional period to get the metaphorical dust off. I usually start with some editing and lots of thinking, which I did today.

I was thinking about where to send stories I've already written but haven't had the time to shop around. My mom wanted me to clean out my old desk back home, and in it I found a Writers of the Future Honorable Mention certificate--that makes seven for me, which I consider to be good, but what I really want is a win. A few of those stories that earned Honorable Mentions haven't been to other magazines; today I was brainstorming where would be best, and doing some mild editing to that end.

In short, it's back to work. It is work, and I have to remember that and not sit around and wait for the fabled muse to bless me. I'm going to set a writing goal tomorrow, and see if I can meet it. Wish me luck. Or better yet--tell me to get to it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Onward!

Now Playing: SKYRIM by Jeremy Soule
Just Read: A WALK ACROSS THE SUN by Corban Addison--I wish some of these characters were a little more active (things kept happening TO them), but overall I enjoyed this book.
Reading Now: CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff

Well, it's been a long road, but grad school is over and I've successfully passed boards! I'm going to be a nurse anesthetist! The final six months of school flew by, and the last few weeks especially have been a whirlwind. But I'm finally on this side of it, and it feels so good.

At the beginning of school we had a talk about time-energy commitment. The idea is that some things require a lot of time to accomplish, while others take a lot of energy. An undertaking like anesthesia school takes both. And you only have a finite amount to give to the things you want to accomplish.

I was happy to agree to this commitment, but it came with certain sacrifices. Writing fiction was mine--I used to write one story per week. The glory days! That was in the Write1Sub1 era, maybe like 2012. I dropped down and pretty consistently wrote one story per month until school started, but my productivity kept decreasing as school went on and became more and more all-consuming.

But now it's done! And one thing that never stopped the whole time was the influx of ideas. I have a notes app on my phone with almost 400 new story ideas. That's a lot of writing ahead of me. Now that I've got some time, I'm hoping to tackle a few of them, maybe even in a rush over the next month. An explosion of pent-up fiction! Let's get started.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

New Places, New Ideas

Now Playing: TOLD YOU SO by Drowning Pool
Just Read: VORTEX by Robert Charles Wilson--Very entertaining read, but different from the other two books in the series. Spin was the best, Axis the worst, Vortex perhaps the most fun.
Reading Now: THE CUCKOO'S CALLING by Robert Galbraith

Grad school is coming to a head--six months left until graduation! In many ways this is awesome, but the workload only increases until the final day. I've got a large final project and paper, a summer of studying before boards, and classes with their own tests along the way until then.

I'm trying to find time to write, but the chances are few and far between. I had a talk with my cousin, who's a musician, about this kind of thing, and he encouraged me to not put too much pressure on myself. He said these kinds of life-centered road blocks happen, and that it's okay because they won't be around forever. He learned, in his case, to play a few chords here and there to stay in love with the craft, then to get back to it whenever life calmed down.

This week I flew out to Arizona for a nurse anesthesia conference, and while here I decided I wanted to get the next book by Beth Cato. She was a member of Write1Sub1 back in the day, and since then she's published a few novels, and I'm a big fan, and not just because we were both in the same online community of writers, which gives me hope that I could publish too, before long. She's really good!

I got to a local bookstore called The Poisoned Pen, and it turns out they were having a book signing by a science fiction writer named Tom Sweterlitsch. So I stayed, listened, talked with him, loved the premise of his book "The Gone World," and bought it. Of course I got it signed. He was great to listen to, and I'm looking forward to reading his book.

Then I got home and opened Beth Cato's book and found out that IT was signed as well! Woohoo!

Being in a strange place around new science fiction writers is inspiring to me. It energizes me and makes me want to think about new stories, and to write them. I have one in mind now that mixes space travel, villainy, and virtual reality. We'll see if I can get it on paper and edited before the March WotF deadline. That's the hope! Here's to trying.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Next Year's November

Now Playing: ROGUE ONE by Michael Giacchino
Just Read: SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson--Great book! Very cool pure science fiction story that really delves into societal sci-fi without getting too in the weeds. Kept the focus on the main characters. Love to write one like this some day!
Reading Now: AXIS by Robert Charles Wilson

This November, I'm gonna be swamped.

I'm juggling three or four school projects and a few extra papers and articles to write, conference calls, interviews for future anesthesia students, exams, and full-time clinical work. And building a house at the same time! Sadly little time for writing.

And I've got a decent story idea in mind. I think. I mean, you never know--this quarter I submitted a story that I thought was pretty good to the Writers of the Future contest after receiving my fifth honorable mention last quarter. But it was returned rejected this week. Oh well. In hindsight I can find a few problems with it, but it's so long (14,000 words) that re-working it seems daunting. I might end up taking a story from August and seeing how it will do this quarter, then working on this other story more slowly and submitting it after the first of the year.

Because November is gonna kick my butt. Next November, though--that's the dream. Done with school, working full-time and earning a paycheck again, and I'll have my own writing room to participate in NaNoWriMo again. If everything goes the way I want (HA!), I'll spend some time after graduation re-writing the novel I worked on for NaNoWriMo 2013, and then work on its sequel in November of 2018. That would just be awesome.

I get so jazzed for writing in November. Everyone is writing and tweeting about it, and the online writing community is so alive. There's just something in the air, too. Something magical about the season changing that makes me want to craft stories. This year, most of those ambitions will be on hold. But next year . . . .

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September Fruit

Now Playing: SHERLOCK HOLMES by Hans Zimmer
Just Read: PACKING FOR MARS by Mary Roach--A fun read! Lots of good science but also very funny. I love hearing the ridiculous stories of serious astronauts!
Reading Now: SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson

It's been a busy but fruitful September. In school we had some tough respiratory tests, then went to Seattle for a national conference and a student election, which I won! I'm the National Student Representative to the AANA Education Committee, and my first duties took me to Chicago for a weekend conference of committees. So needless to say, not a whole lot of writing time.

But, knowing everything that was coming, I spent Labor Day weekend writing a behemoth of a story--a 14,000-word old-school fantasy--that I edited here and there (literally, in Seattle and Chicago and at home in North Carolina) until I had a pretty decent final draft of 50 Microsoft Word pages. I just submitted it to Writers of the Future, right at the end of this quarter.

It's got some aspects that I think appeal to the WotF judges, but it's originality is questionable. It sounds like it wants to be a Game of Thrones style sword-and-sorcery type of tale, which is great, but I'm wondering if the judges will frown on it for being cliche. We'll see!

One thing I've been trying to do lately is edit my own stories better, to be a bit harder on myself and read them more honestly. I think the past two or three stories I've written have benefited. It helps me to print them out and let them sit for a week or so, then come at them with a pen and tear them up. Also, my wonderful wife got me some awesome moleskin notebooks for story planning, and they've been helping. So for October's story, I'm gonna try something a little less run-of-the-mill. Here goes!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Favorite Season

Now Playing: SLEEPWALKING by Bring Me The Horizon
Just Read: A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS by George R.R. Martin--Great fun! Exactly what I was hoping for. This is the kind of fiction I would love to write, and think I can.
Reading Now: PACKING FOR MARS by Mary Roach

Summer is definitely my favorite season. The others have lots of attractive aspects, but the whole package of summer is unbeatable to me. Unlike others (ie, my wife), I love the heat. I could go to the pool every day. I love that it's sunny early--give me energy right away. And I love how long the days are, because it makes me feel like I can work forever.

And, I write my best stuff in the summer. Autumn and winter put me in a particular mood, where I tend to write specific kinds of stories full of descriptions and details, but summer is the season where I'm able to sit down and actually DO the most.

That has definitely been the case this summer. Sure, I'm not in class every day like the other seasons, so I have more time off to spend writing. But I also have energy that I don't always have: I can drink a cup of coffee, write, go to the gym, write, sit by the pool, write, read on the back porch, write, watch baseball, write, and not feel burnt out by the end of the day. Just the opposite--I feel energized, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

This summer I've finished two longer pieces--one 10,000 words and one 6300 words--and submitted them both. I've also finished a flash piece that I'm planning on reviewing one last time and submitting tomorrow. Also, I've begun plotting for two more longer pieces that I think will be good Writers of the Future submissions.

Oh! That reminds me, big news--I won my fourth honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest with a story that I honestly didn't think would place. I didn't think it was as good as stories I've submitted previously. So I was very humbled and happy to hear that I had earned an honorable mention. After four, I feel like I might be getting the hang of this whole writing thing, that maybe I'm knocking on the door of actually winning!

Only one way to do that--keep writing! I'm off!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Crawling Forward

Now Playing: DESPAIR by Hans Zimmer
Just Read: READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline--Great book! This one was pretty inspirational for me, an interesting and intricate look at a possible future. Well plotted and fun!
Reading Now: MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL by John Berendt

The death of many would-be writers is stagnation. Time they could be writing is instead spent doing other things, and the writing just never happens. It's insidious and lethal, and I'm trying my hardest to avoid it.

The opportunity to put writing aside is so easy. I have clinical every day. I have graduate school assignments and tests and papers. I'm trying to buy a house. I love spending time with my wife watching our favorite TV shows. It's perfect weather for the pool. I want to make sure I get a workout in every day. For others it's work, kids, pets, vacations . . . endless reasons.

And none of these things are bad! They're all good--going to the gym on a day off isn't a bad habit, it's a great habit. But it's also time not spent writing. I can't look at any of these other taxes on my time and think, "Well, if i just cut down on the ____, I'll be a better writer for it." I'm not binge watching Game of Thrones instead of writing (yet).

That's why I changed my outlook this year, to make sure I stayed positive and moving the right direction. Moving AT ALL is the goal--stagnation is the enemy. I've got my notebooks in which to jot thoughts, Twitter to follow writers and editors and agents and keep up with some news, my notes app to plot story ideas, and, sometimes, when I can, my computer to write actual, real prose.

Today was one of those days. I hammered out--and it wasn't easy, wasn't without rust--about 1,000 words or so on a story that I think is ambitious but could be good, if I can pull it off. I'd love to finish it this week because I'm going away next weekend, and a magazine it might be good for has open submissions this week. Wish me luck! I'm going to get back to it, and see if I can write just a little bit more.