storytelling

Writin’ Update (No Turkeys Required)

So, November 30 has come and (almost gone) and I did not reach the 50,000-word mark to win the #NaNoWriMo challenge. However, I have nearly 40,000 words of a first draft that I will turn into a fully formed book someday soon, something of which I can be proud. The first draft of “Exit Oasis” will be finished before New Year’s Eve and, hopefully, a real book will be done by early Spring.

On another note, several months ago I was asked to submit a short story to an anthology assembled by a friend of a friend and he liked it. That book, “Losing the Map” by Jim Corrigan, Editor, is now ready for purchase/download. Jim put a great amount of work into this during some difficult times, and the fruit of his labor is outstanding. I’m proud to be a part of it. My small contribution was fun to write. It’s a fun piece inspired by a crazy diner conversation about two years ago. Someday, it will appear in a novel in a different form, but the story stands on its own for now. The theme of “Losing the Map,” was, loosely, travel, and since I never take the easy or most direct path… well, my story comes from the fringe.

I encourage you to check it out, whether by ordering the printed form or the E-book, not only to ready my insane ravings but also to read some pretty good stuff by a good group of writers.

Here are the links:

Booklocker — http://booklocker.com/books/7792.html

Barnes and Noble — http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/losing-the-map-jim-corrigan/1120832500?ean=9781632635952

Amazon — http://www.amazon.com/Losing-Map-Jim-Corrigan/dp/163263595X/

If you do read “Losing the Map,” please let me know what you think and, if you like, spread the word.

Cool. You can get back to your life now.

 

Fun with Fiction: Behind the Cheese

He was upset and she knew it.

Life was slow and boring and he couldn’t take it anymore. She never really knew what to say to him when he was like this, so she stopped herself before speaking. Maybe he would snap out of it. Maybe he would smile and let the so-called problems roll off his back like the rain.

He kicked a clump of dry dirt away. There was no escaping it now.

“I am sick of this place.”

She held her tongue a little longer, hoping, praying, that he would come around.

“Wish I was never born,” he whined. “The boredom of modern life is too much. I don’t do anything. I don’t have any say in what goes on. Nothing much is expected of me. I have no skills. No function, really. It’s like I am part of the background. The color. Wallpaper.”

He looked at her with disdain and she knew what was coming next.

“At least you can do something,” he said and she nodded. “Dairy products. You make cheese. At least that’s something to hang your hat on. I just loll around, make a few new kids once in a while with you or that scene queen, Darla, and that’s the extent of it.”

He kicked a little more dirt around and sighed.

“Otherwise, I have no life.”

That was enough. Betty thought there was something wrong with him, but she’d heard this song before. Many times.

“Look, Billy, I’m sick of hearing you bitch about your life, day after day,” she said. “Year after year. If you hate it so much, get out. Leave. You know where the door is. Do it. Live on your own, but you won’t find it any easier out there, past the gates. You’ll be alone. Out in the cold. Chased by wild animals. Eating whatever scraps of food and who knows what else you’ll find on the ground. Tin cans! You’ll be back.”

Betty was right. He did say the same things and complain all the time. It was so easy for her. She had a career. A function in life. He didn’t and it was time for a change. He knew it. Maybe he was just trying to find the courage to do something new and take control of his life. Couldn’t she understand that?

“Betty, I’m scared,” he said. “I’m not happy with myself and I don’t know what to do. I would love a new life, but I’m too afraid to leave the farm and strike out on my own. I don’t know what I would do somewhere else. I mean, there’s gotta be more to life out there in the world, but what would I be? Who would I be?”

She thought about that for a bit, ate a little salad, and spoke.

“You’d still be Billy,” she told him. That clanged Billy’s bell. He kicked over pail of old rainwater with his hoof and chuckled. The bell around his neck clanged again. Betty smiled.

“Hah! I’d still be Billy with no life, no job, no home and no clue. What good is that? I’d rather be Billy the One and Only, so’s I can drop my seed all over this farm, so’s that we can have more milkers like you, so’s that Hank and Emily can make more cheese and sell it to that snazzy gourmet shop down in Topeka for who knows how much than be Billy With Nothing.”

Betty was happy. She’d seen this conversation with Billy wrap up the same way countless times. Even down to the “drop my seed all over this farm” part. He was over it, she reckoned, for another few days or so. She thought he might be getting horny again. A good sign, and after a few minutes, conception. Betty wasn’t that impressed, but was glad she was able to help Billy out.

Soon after they were done, one of the farm hands came over and filled the trough. There was a scream and he went running over to the sty. Later, Billy and Betty heard that Dottie, that whiny little twerp who sang all the time out by the tractor had fallen off the fence and into the pig pen. Justice served. Of course, someone pulled that vapid simpleton out of there eventually. She was still singing about somewhere over the rain cloud or rain bucket or something as her auntie wiped the pig shit out of her hair.

Then the dog ran away.

A couple days later, a big tornado came and tore the place up. Dottie got knocked out and was in bed for a while. The guys drew a mustache on her face while she was sleeping. Her Uncle Hank was in there a little too long one night with her and Aunt Emily gave him hell the next morning.

Billy thought that it was all very funny, but Betty was too busy feeding the kids to notice. After a few weeks, one of the pigs came around talking revolution.

Billy was up for it.

Finally, there would be something to do.

Are writers crazy… or courageous?

Are those of us who write — with the purpose of being published and read by strangers — out of our minds?

I ask this of myself many times, since writing, fiction or not,  is hard enough. Unless you’re already under contract, your the one who gets to decide when the project is ready for public consumption. You have to put the word out, market yourself, tell everyone and anyone about your book or store. Brag.

Lunacy or abject bravery?

You write a book and bark out, “Look at me! I made this! I wrote a book!”

You’ve never heard the sound of crickets laughing?

“Well, I know you don’t know me, but I promise it’s good! I mean, hey, it’s on Kindle so it has to be good!”

Well, that’s way too many exclamation points, someone said.

Piss off!

Then someone reads what you have done — wife, father, friend, complete stranger — and you realize that you just exposed yourself and your precious creativity to the outside world. That you want the reader to like the book is an understatement. You want the reader to love it, almost as much as you want that person not to hate it, because if they do and they’re part of your inner circle, you’ll get an awkward but polite smile and a halfhearted pat on the head. If your reader is a stranger…look out.

Many believe that the hardest part of writing is the re-writing, the editing. I say it’s the promotion. The selling. It feels so good during the writing process (at least it does for me), why ruin things by having to get out there and grind away at trying get other people to read your most personal work? What are we, a public service? Who cares if anyone sees it? Is it all about money? Ego?

No.

Whether it’s romance, pulp, sci-fi, fantasy, chick lit, satire, literary fiction, sports, current events, SEO-heavy web content, biography, articles, blogs or even advertising copy, there is still one common thread, one reason for it all to exist: Telling a story.

We as living, thinking creatures have told stories since cavemen drew on walls, since writers and painters worked under the weight of poverty and never finding fame until their bones had turned to dust. Storytelling is an effort to relate or elicit emotional responses, to find out that we’re not alone in our thoughts or fears and that there is something connecting each of us.

I plan to continue telling stories to anyone within earshot until I turn to dust, crazy or not.