The Black of his Soul

From Goblins: Born in Blood available now. Get your copy and join the adventure today!

Mark Twain’s House

I had the opportunity today to visit Mark Twain’s home in Hartford Connecticut and it was such a blessing. He is one of my top three authors (Twain, Orwell, Steinbeck) and the House is beautiful. seeing the rooms where he wrote some of my favorite books and touching the banister that he touched was a magical experience for me. It felt like I could feel his creative spirit and imagine his mindset as he crafted brilliant words that spoke to me. He’s an inspiration and a hero to me and I am thrilled I got the experience.

Retreat

A few things need to come together for me to do my best work. Like anything I suppose, writing takes several elements in order for it to go well. It helps to feed myself, be well rested, limit distractions and have a plan. It helps if I am feeling good emotionally as well. Another important element is environmental.

When I committed myself to daily writing with ambitious goals, I began writing downstairs with the kids around so I could keep track of them. That was a huge mistake. They never stop talking to me and they continuously break my concentration. It’s frustrating. I love them and want to answer all their questions and love it when they show me the things they’re excited about, but I can’t look over every five minutes to see the Lego thing they build or listen to them explain every round of fortnite they played and stay in the zone in order to write. I had to make a change.

I moved upstairs into the spare room and now I can sit there and really crank out some words. I hit my optimal zone regularly now and get far more done than I was downstairs. Now they only come up when there is something really important to tell me, like they won the round of fortnite or they just wanted a hug and to tell me they love me. I can manage that.

It is also great to change up the environment to something a little more inspiring or relaxing. I personally love being a little closer to the natural world and a nice retreat away from things helps eliminate some of the worldly distractions that can get in my way. A couple weeks ago I took a trip for an entire weekend of playing dungeons and dragons (yes I’m that kind of nerd) and the house we rented was in the gold mining mountains of Northern California. I loved it. Even in the midst of drinking, laughing and gaming, I was able to do some writing in the calm mornings.

Now I’m in rural Connecticut surrounded by trees and my keyboard, notepad and iPad are all set ready for me to crank out a few thousand words. Something about being near the same trees that shaded Mark Twain have me feeling very nostalgic. So I highly recommend a retreat if your looking for inspiration or maybe even just some rest. It will be good for your spirit.

Here’s to great writing! Cheers!

Keep Sailing

“This is what you should teach me, how to be like Odysseus–how to love my country, wife, and father, and how, even after suffering shipwreck, I might keep sailing on course to those honorable ends.”

-Seneca, Moral Letters, 88.7b

In a time when everything seems to be on fire; when there are literal biblical events like war, pestilence and plague; the lesson from the Odyssey is to keep going. In one of the earliest and greatest Epics of all time, one of the main lessons was perseverance. I strive to write epics as fantastic as the one Homer penned and I strive to live life with the courage Odysseus showed.

Cheers!

Back at it

Perhaps you noticed but I’ve been busy writing lately. It feels great. I’m on my way back up to around 5000 words a day which represents my most productive level. It’s my goal. At that level of writing I can crank out all sorts of pieces. I have plenty of projects to work on and I am feeling better than ever about writing. What changed?

To begin with a pattern and a habit is key. I was laying in bed too late, being too lazy and lacking all motivation to do what I know I need to do. Now, I get up, have coffee outside with my girlfriend, listen to a ten minute motivational compilation and then get to writing. I hit the keyboard ready to go and I’ve been very productive.

Another thing I began doing recently, and this is huge, is avoiding social media and news in the morning. The world is on fire and there are a ton of things to be upset about but I am trying to ignore them because they cloud my thoughts and bring down my mood. I try to stay away from my phone in the mornings until I can get some work done. It has helped a ton.

I also decided to move my work space to our spare bedroom. I have many literal children and I love them more than anything but they also love to talk to me and ask my questions or show me the progress on their games or whatever it is they are doing and they distract me constantly. Now they have to come upstairs to distract me while I’m writing and this has proved an obstacle to their goals. I’m getting far more done.

A couple more minor things to add and I’ll be the best writer I can be. I am adding exercise because I firmly believe that a healthy body contributes to a productive mind. I am also getting back to tracking my daily productivity. If I have to be real with myself about how much I got done in a day then I can hold myself accountable. It isn’t necessarily fun to see that I was lazy and didn’t get much done in a day, but it is important.

All together this is a recipe for success and I’ve been very successful lately. If you are looking to improve in an area perhaps some of these things will help you as well. Cheers to being the best we can be!

Storytelling

Storytelling through writing is such an amazing process. I literally make up stories that I hope will entertain and even inspire the reader but I have to transfer them from my mind to page and then fix them up in a way that makes them the most appealing. This process is sometimes slow and painful but necessary.

Then, once all the work of putting to paper what I built in my mind is completed, I offer up the story to the reader and sit back and wait for the reader to let me know if they enjoyed the story.

It creates in me a deep anticipation because I want the reader to enjoy my work and I have no one to blame if the work is not good except myself. I am entirely responsible for the words on the page and the story they tell. I could have chosen any words to make any story but these are the ones I selected. They are entirely mine even more so than a child who begins to make things theirs very early in their development. No, my stories are entirely of my creation and a direct reflection on me as their creator. I formed them and breathed life into them.

Writing is a wonderful craft that invites people to see into your heart and soul and allows them to make a judgment.

Excerpt: Sureshot the King

Some of the new words I’ve put down for Sureshot the King…coming soon.

Meanwhile, Vorfar and Makler began making a plan to get into the city once more. This time it would be more difficult as there had just done so. The decided they would travel to the northern end of the city and attempt to gain entry posing as woodsmen helping to bring lumber and supplies into the city. It was the least trafficked area of the wall because there were no well traveled roads there, only a few trappers, loggers and miners entered that area. Besides, it was on the opposite side from their position and so less likely that any search parties would be looking for them there.

When they were satisfied with their plan, they wondered where the prince had gone.

“He is struggling,” Makler suggested.

“Aye, he is,” Vorfar agreed. “It isn’t an easy thing. He’s torn between his loyalty to his father and his friend. In those situations, one’s heart aches because it wants to hold both but you cannot hold both fire and ice in the same hand. He must drop one of them and he does not want to.”

“But I don’t believe Durbar killed his father,” Makler added.

“Perhaps not, but it does not matter. Either Durbar did so because Duke Orthan had to be killed, or someone else killed the Duke and is letting Durbar take the blame. Either way, the young prince is mourning. Not only for his father but for his friend. It is a lot of weight on him. Try to be patient. He does not necessarily mean what he says right now. It is the pain speaking through him.”

”But if Durbar didn’t kill the duke then who did?”

“I surely don’t know. But I do know that his family is cursed with treachery. Never were they fond of loyalty.”

“Are you saying it is possible that Warren killed his father?”

”Many things are possible. In the case of Orthan and his sons, suffice it to say that there is a history of such things. Betrayal runs in their blood.”

Makler looked towards the woods into which Rothan retreated, but he, like the truth, was hidden.

Review: Bird Box

Ok, Ok, so I don’t normally do this because reviewing things is not really my deal, but maybe it should be. It can be hilarious (I’m trying to translate my humor into writing) and useful for developing as a story teller. Besides, it’s also fun to see people react over someone else’s opinion. I’m not looking to be a professional troll or anything, just trying out something new.

So, Bird Box. Sandra Bullock was amazing. She always is so that isn’t a surprise. She was almost the only good thing about the movie. Yes some of the cinematography was good. Some of the other acting was good (I could watch John Malkovich all day). The main initiating conflict was very compelling. But after that, the story does not hold up and really just didn’t work. My biggest problems with the movie were that the character development was almost non existent except for Bullock’s character, the climax created more questions than provided answers and besides that they did not explain a lot of things along the way.

Before I spew hatred of the movie no doubt swelling from some deep wound I carry, let me say that the whole not naming the kids thing was kinda clever and her issue over whether to have a kid or not was interesting. I liked the juxtaposition of her considering giving up her own baby to now carrying for two children. Ok, now to being petty.

My first issue was the clear lack of character development. They literally introduced characters that just disappeared and no one said anything about it. We never knew who they were or what they were about and then they were gone. Even Bullock’s character could have been deeper. But her man? Who was he and what was his motivation besides sleeping with Bullock during an apocalyptic event. If you’re character is going to hit on a pregnant woman surrounded by chaos and death, you need to explain why. It was strange. Multiple characters just vanished. In a thriller it is probably more difficult than in other genres but it is still important. I literally recall watching From Dusk till Dawn and in the middle of an apocalyptic event we got background on characters who remained. The screen writers may have written those scenes in and perhaps they were cut but regardless of the excuse, there was a huge hole when it came to characters.

Another problem was the number of unanswered questions along the way. We never really got a sense of what the hell they saw except that there was some sort of hallucination or something that caused people to harm themselves. Who were “they?” You could get away with leaving that a mystery as sometimes the unknown is more frightening but why were there people who weren’t affected exactly? They were crazy? But why would that matter? And why would they serve “them?” And where were the other blind people the whole time? Blind people don’t all live in one remote location away from everyone else. They could have been super helpful the entire time. Where was Daredevil when you need him!?!?

The climax. I’m not sure if the end of Bird Box is anything like faking an orgasm just to end the event but it sure felt unsatisfying. They are safe? But how? It appeared that “they” were still there but somehow the blind people helped the non blind people not get tricked into looking? And how are they sustaining the entire compound? And everyone knows that in an apocalyptic event it will get very violent and the search for supplies will become life and death, but a community of mostly blind people are guarding all their supplies from predatory survivors? It’s a stretch. And why the hell would someone build a blind school in the middle of no-where accessible only by traversing rapids? Did the blind people row down the rapids to get there? It just didn’t add up and I was personally left with a ton of questions (obviously).

So the movie was a bit weak. I’m curious why it is crushing it so hard on Netflix. Maybe it is the Furby effect or something and the hype is generating the popularity in the first place because I was personally disappointed and based on memes and other posts I’ve seen I wasn’t the only one.

Again, Sandra Bullock was great but she was basically carrying the movie alone. That said, I’m really glad they made this movie because the meme’s have been fantastic and since that basically all we (myself included) value in 2019, it was basically a masterpiece for that reason alone.

Other things about the movie that bothered me:

Bullocks hair looked great in the apocalypse.

Her man was still in fantastic shape five years after the collapse of the world.

How did you keep infants from looking? Did you keep a bag over their heads the whole time from ages 0-5?

Why didn’t John Malcovich manage to break out of the room he was locked in?

The other pregnant chick was super annoying.

Machine Gun Kelly was in it but said basically the same line over and over, smashed then disappeared.

How did she row a boat for 2 days? It’s exhausting.

How were those crazy fools surviving? They didn’t seem to do anything except chase non crazy people, even in the middle of a river.

Never mind…I have to stop, I’m getting mad all over again. I’m going to watch Bio Dome, a real cinematic work of art and go to bed. Goodnight.

Older, Wiser, Writing

When I was in my 20s I was really set on being a writing after completing my first novel length manuscript. It was quite an accomplishment and I felt wonderful about it. I was convinced that writing was absolutely for me and that I was going to be successful at it. That was quite a while ago now.

I gave up on the dream for a long time after the first contract and publisher didn’t materialize into anything substantial. I figured that some combination of me not being good enough, not having enough time to focus on writing and the market being difficult to break into was responsible and besides, I had kids and a teaching career by then to focus on.

I always knew I was a good storyteller though. I figured that even if I never made it as a commercial writer that I could still write and tell stories because I love it. So I kept writing. A little here and a little there I kept going. A few poems, a few short stories and even occasionally writing something longer kept my toes in the water. Slowly I was getting a little better at the craft. A friend of mine gave me a couple books about writing and I continued to wonder if I should spend more time putting stories together. Then I did.

I rediscovered the passion I had for writing and storytelling and I have been putting in legitimate effort into it since. That was about a year ago now and I know that I will not likely stop. I am telling better stories than ever and writing better than ever. And I love every minute of it.

It had me wondering. Is there a reason I’m a better storyteller now? Absolutely! Besides the obvious answer with regards to time and practice to get better, I believe that I know more now or have more wisdom if you like than I did when I was young. This may seem self evident of course but when I was young I had no idea. I was grappling with issues and life in a way that was unrefined and I failed to understand a great number of things that I now do with more age and experience. I’m sure this is true of most writers and honestly, many were not successful until they were much older.

I’m inching my way towards 40 and I am confident that as I continue to grow wiser and better at the craft, my writing will become even better. Maybe I will even be commercially successful at some point. Even if I do not, I will always love writing and will continue to do it for the sake of doing so.