Short Fiction: The True Believers

I thought this might be of interest for #TBT – a bit of original short fiction when I thought that was something I dug a lot…

This was way early from the past decade – a bit of shifting POV and philosophy about faith when I first started wondering about it. I wonder about it even more now, mainly because of those who call themselves people of faith.

Don’t know how much quality it is, but I’ll let you have a look anyway. If you want, leave some feedback in the comments.

Continue reading “Short Fiction: The True Believers”

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Writing Journal/Random Notes, 3.25.2018: First draft done, now deep into first revision

Since I like to have candles burning when I’m writing at home, I decided to have a candle pic for this entry. I’m a bit of a fan of the Better Homes & Gardens scented candles, myself.

To the stats for this week:

0+ words written.

Days writing: 0 out of 7.

Days revising: 7 out of 7 for 455 total minutes.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 6 out of 7 days.

So, it’s obvious that this was a heavy revision week. Actually, it might be the most time that I have ever revised during a week since I began tracking my word counts last year.

I actually wound up doing a quick proofreading revision of The Holy Fool and, as I promised last week, got started on the first revision of The American Nine. In the latter case, I know people often recommend that you let a book sit after you finish a first draft. However, I consider this to be a “rough revision,” not intended for me to consider any major changes or anything of that nature. The only item this will cover trying to eliminate needless words, reducing word count as much as possible, and tying up continuity.

So, a few Random Notes:

  • It is the middle of spring break for me, so I am hoping to do some more posting than normal. I had planned on posting a short story I’d done years back, but apparently scheduled it for this week rather than the last. I’m hoping for at least two midweek blog posts this week and another midweek post next week.
  • Today I’ll get posts set up for the Facebook and Twitter feeds and some more revising done.
  • As for publishing news, nothing on that front. Yet.

That’s it for now; I’ll write more later.

Writing Journal 3.18.2018: Success!

Oh, people, I report success to you.

pexels-photo-131616.jpeg

I’ve finished the first draft of my newest project, The American Nine. It is done and completed as of last night, and it was such a great feeling of succeeding, after so much planning, thought, and hard work. After 15 months, I have the thing in my hand.

Here are the final stats on my first draft.

Created: Dec. 27, 2016

Finished: March 17, 2018

Target length: 95,000-99,999 words.

Final first draft length: 97,179 words.

Target date of completion: March 30, 2018.

Actual date of completion: See above.

Oh and here are the weekly totals:

2,543+ words written.

Days writing: 4 out of 7.

Days revising: 2 out of 7 for 60 total minutes.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 3 out of 7 days.

Now, what next? These are the new writing plans:

  • I am immediately beginning a first revision on The American Nine. I think the first run through will be for two things.
    • Word diet. I’m happy that I hit my word count target, but I want to run through this and make sure I’m not repeating myself or using unnecessary words. I would love it if I could cut at least 5,000 words and have a little more room for some subplots that I thought were interesting but couldn’t get to.
    • Continuity editing. I mentioned in a previous post that I decided to change two of my main locations in the book to fictional worlds. As it turned out, I made those decisions right in the middle of my first draft. So, now I’ll have to go back and make sure my scenes and descriptions match with the new locations.
  •  I am going to now devote more concentration on publishing my book The Holy Fool. It’s my opinion that I am going to have this published whether by a traditional publisher or if I just put it on Amazon Direct. There are two reasons for this:
    • I think if I am going to call myself a writer and promote myself as such, it’s past time for me to have some product on the (Real? Virtual?) shelves.
    • It’s getting to the 10th anniversary of the events in the book, which I think would be an excellent promotional tagline and selling point for it.

As for today, I’m going to get some social media stuff taken care of, do a spot of things for work, and then get to revising. As always, feel free to comment or drop in online.

#TBT (Throw Back Thursday): Special edition – Roger Ebert

As I sort through odds and ends of previous writings, I’m trying to see if there’s anything of interest that I’ve written that could be shared on the site – odds and ends that might be worth a read. It was slightly depressing to realize that many of the items I used to blog about were self-indulgent stupidity, but I think I’ve shared a few interesting items since this writing blog got started.

In rooting around the old files, I found this… diary entry, I guess, that I wrote to myself on the event of film critic Roger Ebert’s death. Something I do for my Facebook writing page is #TBT (Throwback Thursday). I thought, why not have a special edition, featuring some of my reactions at the time? I loved his online writing, and his Great Movies series was a major influence on how I wrote from a nonfiction standpoint and how I saw film.

Hope it’s a good read.

 

Ebert’s dead, part 2: Reax

Friday, April 05, 2013

1:05 AM

Roger Ebert was a warrior poet, a newspaper man and writer first who loved film and was happy to make that his life’s work. Most of his writings were about life and how humans behaved toward each other, even when they were about film.

He was a Chicago boy who only wanted to be a newspaper man growing up, and he got that and a lot more. Ebert wanted to be Royko, but he became Ebert instead and hung out with Royko.

I never met him in person, but I met him through his words, first spoken through the television, and then through the words on the electronic screen. I grew up listening to this man speak of movies and I came to respect him. As a man I started to write what he wrote about movies and I began to truly hear his voice and get a feeling for his soul.

I got to know that things like foreign films and indies existed. Ebert’s the reason I started watching Werner Herzog movies. He’s the reason I think critically about movies.

I still think Ebert and Siskel’s idea that the critics should judge the Oscars on account of the fact that they actually watch the movies makes total sense. I agreed with most of the reviews he did, and I still think Hoop Dreams not only got robbed for Best Documentary but Best Picture as well.

I loved how he could turn a movie review into a philosophical exploration, or have big dumb fun with a big dumb movie.

His fight against cancer, though – that was the badass side of him. When cancer was finished kicking his ass in 2006, he’d lost half his face, in addition to the ability to eat, drink, and talk. Most fuckheads would have packed it in; pulled an hero at the most, and at least faded away from being anywhere around people. When he went out, though, you could tell that you could fill the Universe with the lack of fucks he had about the situation.

Most people would have given up writing, then. He did a lot of the best writing of his life after that, and just kept going. He wrote a cookbook when he couldn’t even eat – I mean, what the hell. I’m buying his memoir, which he wrote just two years ago. Two days before he kicked it, cancer raging back, broken hip and everything, he wrote that he was going to kick back a little, maybe semi-retire when he was dealing with a near-terminal disease. He treated extra time as if it was the first minute of the match. Shit.

There was a dude from Chicago a few years back by the name of Chris Farley who had a talent for making people laugh by being the fat guy. He could do more than that, but deep down he didn’t have the guts. He wanted to make his dad happy so he stayed fat for him. He wanted to be funny and crazy like his idol, John Belushi, also a Chicago boy. He lived high, drunk, and fat like Belushi, hated himself, and OD’d like Belushi when he was 33.

I was born a Chicagoland boy. My idol’s Ebert. I don’t drink like Ebert did at the start of his life, and I never got into smoking. He died at 70; I’m 40 now. So, maybe 35, 40 years if I’m lucky, maybe? Maybe I get some extra time, too.

The point is, I want to live and write like Ebert did. Maybe I’ll never become as famous or well-known as him, but I can live and write like him. If I do that, I’ll be more than OK with my life than I ever thought possible.

He had a good life, and a good death. I want to be like that. That’s my new promise to myself.

So, goodbye Roger. I might not ever see you, but maybe we’ll meet somewhere out there in a while. From one writer, one journalist, to another.

-30-

Writing Journal/Random Notes, 3.11.2018: A minor resurgence as I come closer to the finish

Random pic of Spider Jerusalem to celebrate journos everywhere:

spider

(I don’t know, maybe daylight savings time is making me loopy.)

And with that, let’s go to the totals to see:

+1,785 words written.

Days writing: 4 out of 7.

Days revising: N/A

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 1 out of 7 days.

All of these improvements over the past couple of weeks; or, at least, they are holding the line. A couple of items not on the above totals.

  1. I continued a dry spell of not writing for various reasons from last week (ran for about five days) but nipped that in the bud mid-week and have been writing steadily since then.
  2. This might have been one of the best writing weekends I’ve had to date.

The end of this project is well in sight. Some of the overall stats I am now looking at:

Current date: (3.11.2018)
Current word count (as of 12 p.m. 3.11.2018): 94,679 words.
Projected due date for first draft: 3.30.2018.
Projected final size for first draft: 95,000-99,999 words.
Projected word output to reach 99,999 words by 3.30.2018: 280 words per day.

A few Random Notes, somewhat related to the above.

  • As of right now, I have only two major scenes to finish – a press conference scene, which I am halfway through, and the final scene of the book. If I get ambitious, I might even be able to wrap up the first of those scenes today. I’ve pictured what the scene will be like for a while, but I always want to leave that last scene for the end, an ice-cream treat for the end of the drafting process.
  • Then comes the revising process, which if you know me, will be pretty detailed. I already started this a couple of days ago, when I replaced the word for the real, existing club with the one for my fictional club. Find/replace is a pretty cool feature of Microsoft Word, I’ve found.
  • I think, looking at this book, it will likely be a three-cycle revising process, which would leave me with about four separate drafts by the time I get done. Although I believe that I’ll go into it in more detail as a continuation of what I want to be a series on revising.

Looking forward to the finish line.

 

 

Building Your Fictional World

Whether it’s done through intergalactic forces, Minecraft, or writing, building your own world can be a little tough.

The pictures here are of one of two main locations for my current work in progress – London, England. I’ve not yet set foot in this city. For that matter, I haven’t ever visited the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, which is the other main setting for my book.

There are usually two main situations that you find yourself in putting together a work of fiction regarding setting. You could find yourself creating a totally fictional world, just as with Lord of the Rings and A Song Of Ice And Fire. The immediate advantage to this situation is that you are able to start everything from scratch, without having to refer to existing locations and worlds. You are free to make your world pretty much anything that you want it to be.

Of course, as anyone who’s tried to build King’s Landing in Minecraft would tell you, that’s a lot of work. However, the cool thing about this is that you can take ingredients from the cultures and histories of our world and remix that in another world. The world of Westeros has echos of the histories, cultures, and myths of the Roman Empire, England during the War of the Roses, the Vikings, the Mongols of Genghis Khan’s time, Arabic Spain, and assorted medieval histories.

In my opinion, probably the most difficult world-building to do is putting a fictional location into (on top of? I’m not sure of the nomenclature) a real-life environment you aren’t familiar with. William Faulkner and Stephen King, among many others, have done with their fictional worlds, even though they look very similar to worlds they were familiar with. The advantage to this is that you have a world that may seem familiar to people, and yet different from the real locations. The latter can be an advantage since there can be all sorts of entanglements in using real places/people/entities/etc.

In the first two books I wrote, I set them in eastern Iowa, where I’ve lived for the vast majority of my life. My most recent book which I did and am in the process of finally revising, The Holy Fool, was set in Chicago during 2008. I was familiar with the city, having visited there frequently throughout my life, although I was never a resident except for a very brief time as a small child.

However, one of the difficulties with this technique is trying to make something seem as close to the real thing as possible without seeming too unreal, too unauthentic, according to the people who live in those areas the fictional world takes place in. You have to know something about the place that you are borrowing for your fiction.

In this new project, that is a difficulty for me. I only briefly lived in Texas when I was a boy (and in the Galveston area to boot), and I’ve never lived in or even visited London. How am I supposed to create a realistic world without spending five years trying to research things, like Tom Clancy did with Hunt For Red October?

Luckily, it’s a lot easier to research things than it was back in the days where my equivalent to Wikipedia was a massive encyclopedia set in my basement. Four items help with my research:

  1. Wikipedia – obviously. However, even if the main article doesn’t give you enough in-depth information, the references and external links to each article often lead you to that kind of information. It’s definitely my first stop when I’m looking into something new.
  2. Tourism guides – you would not believe how much information you can find out from these things. Guides to Chicago were one way that I determined what neighborhoods my characters would live in and where my fictional newspaper offices would be located. You don’t have to buy these – any local library has these in bulk. My favorites are Rough Guide and any “off the beaten path” themed ones.
  3. Talking with other people – I’ve signed up with a massive amount of writer’s groups on Facebooks. Every so often, I’ll ask them questions about certain items I’m interested in adding to my work. Regarding this fictional club, I was trying to think of names that would be similar but not identical to any placenames in London. I got some good feedback from people, especially some British residents, who helped me figure out what I might not exactly be doing right. I think I have a place name (and club name) that would fit the East London area, where I want to locate the club.
  4. Just reading a whole bunch. When I first got involved with soccer fandom during the 1994 World Cup, I had no background knowledge of the game whatsoever. The only reason why I’m feeling comfortable with this book is because I’ve read everything from popular soccer histories, news coverage about the sport, and scholarly books including Inverting the Pyramid and Soccernomics.

I have to admit, however, that I get a bit in-depth on other items with my stories. With The Holy Fool, I put together a timeline and family tree of the founding family of my fictional newspaper, the Chicago Journal (not to be confused with other defunct papers of that name). On the new project, I went so far as to design a club crest and kits for the team, as well as a rough history for the club.

Whether it will be convincing for Londoners and/or fans of football is another issue. I hope it is, or, at least, it’s authentic enough not to make them laugh. However, I guess if Toto can write a song about Africa without visiting the place that impresses Africans, I figure that I can manage this.

 

Writing Journal 3.4.2018: Oh, hahaha (Life and silliness interferes with writing)

 

OK, here’s the totals –  I’ll explain below:

+687 words written.

Days writing: 3 out of 7.

Days revising: 1 out of 7 for 60 total minutes.

Daily writing goals met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 1 out of 7 days.

OK, so it’s better than last week. Not the highest of hurdles to clear, but it is cleared, for what it’s worth. However, two main things interfered with my writing this week.

First, as I mentioned previously, my realization that I have to use a different, fictional club rather than a real Premier League club. (Spoiler alert – I was considering Arsenal FC.) After consultations on the Internet in a few different writing group pages on Facebook, I came to that conclusion pretty quickly.

To be frank, I’ve spent much of my time thinking of what this club will look like, be located, named, and its history. I am betting that 95 percent of what I came up with will not be used in the main draft, but I sincerely believe that being able to have that background, that world-building, is important enough to devote time to. I think my next mid-week post might be about that.

The second reason was more pedestrian – I’ve been dealing with some sort of cold/infection for the past three days. Yesterday, I was barely able to do anything except sit in front of the television and watch Premier League most of the day. Now, I think I can at least think, but this totally stuffed nose can disappear at any time. It is far tougher to get any sleep when you have your nose stuffed up than anything else.

So, with a relatively short work week, better mental and physical stamina, I should be able to pick up production. However, I think that it’s hard at this stage of the writing process. Like a sculptor, I’m no longer taking huge swings with the mallet and big chisel, but chipping away with the smaller tools to get everything looking just right. My plan is to have a sub-99,999-word finished manuscript in my hand by my birthday, March 30. With spring break coming up, more time away from work, and maybe one or two lucky breaks, I’m pretty sure that is achievable.

So, you’ll have another blog post Wednesday and I’ll be setting up some more content for the FB and Twitter pages to see out the week. Hope everyone has a great week, and welcome to all of the new visitors.

The Green Field (Poetry selection)

This was another one of my stabs at poetry a while back. It was one of my first literary stabs at trying to explain how much I’d gotten obsessed with soccer (and still am). So, for your interest (or lack of it), here’s that poem.

The Green Field (August-September 2011; Muscatine, Iowa)

 

In the long Saturday morning when the weekend seems to stretch so gloriously long,

I wander into the living room, coffee cup in hand,

steaming bean juice inside.

It’s the end of a long week, and I’m looking for peace.

The couch waits for me as I adjust myself into the optimal position.

The cup is right within reach on the table designed for it.

With a click and a hum,

I transport myself into another place.

The pitch stretches out on the television, rolling out as it limbers up

for the morning’s (afternoon’s?) activities.

The players file out onto the field,

hand in hand with the little boys in their too real to be costume uniforms.

It’s not like actually being there, but I still capture some of the scene.

The songs reach out to me, the songs that sound like bass sirens rolling out over the green field.

There’s shots of the fans and their chants, their scarves held high and proud;

from the ecstasy on their faces I can tell they are in a different world than their normal one.

They’re taking a ride on their fellow fans’ emotional wave.

That bass siren call rolls and splashes over the green field.

Waves of humanity are rolling across the stands, supporting sheets of banners, badges, and slogans.

Colored lights and smoke, horns and drums crashing, escape from the stand

Where the ultras hold court.

All of it adds joy to my soul.

But it’s right after they shake hands and we see the tactical lineups when the real show starts.

The boys in their kits space out onto the field.

One red shirt gives the tiniest of nudges with the side of his foot

to a comrade

and the game is on.

It’s there that the green field and the players on it

truly begin to soothe my mind.

The ball flows between players and teams,

flying through the air as the boys jump to join it

and change vectors.

Math, improvisation, and efforts dominate the play –

who is forcing the ball to the right angle to the perpendicular rectangles,

who is there to intercept and deflect,

can the goalie close the angle and stop the flight paths?

It’s the back and forth of the flow of people across the green field

that mesmerizes me.

It relaxes me, reminds me that I have to let life flow around me,

that I have to improvise as much as I plan, nutmeg as much as I play set pieces.

I want my soul to be that green field.