One Author to Another

This is an endorsement.

No, I don’t do these very often.

Yes, that should say something about my confidence in the fellow about to be described.

No, I was not paid for this.

Yes, it is in response to a similarly (snarky) pitch from this writer’s own page

Might I add, that is IN SPITE of the fact that he detests dragons, in any form, and I very much hope that one sits its fat little rump on his head and roasts him like a chestnut for it. THAT ASIDE…

JakeI would like to introduce Mr. Bryce David Salazar.

Bryce is the author of the forthcoming novel She Sees Metaphors (to be released summer/fall of 2015), which is contemporary/literary fiction that will bloody well set you reeling. Appropriately, he can string together a metaphor so elaborate you’ll lose yourself in an image within an image, and we’ll be forced to pull you out from perpetual loop at a later date. The man knows imagery and his dedication to character is inspiring. He may also be the reason the rum is always gone, and be a shoe-in for the cast of The Room 2, if all that is holy has no mercy upon us in such a way.

Keep your eye on this fellow, gentle readers. He will surprise.

Ghosts in the Cracks

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall by Captain Hubert C. Provand. First published in Countrylife magazine, 1936.

Lives twist through keyboard cracks

emptiness defined in empty pages,

howling wolves, the wide eyes

like saucer-pools drinking all

the hidden truth of prophecy

self-actualized, self-realized

to breathless fraying

of emotional rope by which

one and all, we hang

another fabric, another hope

before the grasping cry for voice

in the unseen void—

heat-sleeved arms reach

like ghosts from the computer screen.

Setting the Mood

The writer is an oddity in this world for a simple reason: he is more than the personality of self, but a soul that must be capable of tapping into a hundred different personalities as the pen may guide him. The writer, matched perhaps only by actors, artists, and spies, must have the capability to tap into the inner workings of the mind and breathe life into characters that are nevertheless nothing like him.

Vampire

Biting. Sparkling, drooling, or just plain snarling, it’s still not cool. (Photo credit: virginsuicide photography)

Remember that little detail the next time someone sneers and calls your labors child’s play. Also refrain from biting. People don’t like biting very much.

Yet the problem with this arrangement is that, often enough, we find ourselves at the whimsy of moods. Fickle things, really, but they can be the key difference between a well-written scene and a downright enthralling one. I would never council a writer not to write simply because he doesn’t feel quite into character—that’s the beauty of editing, of the multiple drafts we must insist upon our craft—but it can make things difficult. Some characters may be so inherently different—perhaps so dark, or so flamboyant—that our own minds cannot begin to connect with them on a regular basis. The mood—their mood—may strike us once in a month, once in a year, and if we do not throw ourselves at their scene in that time, we may never capture perfectly that essence for which we so strive.

I know, I know. You’re thinking: Chris, why are you making this sound almost spiritual? Are you high?

We are notoriously fickle people, us writers, and this is the reason. We have to be. Our moods roll with the wind, and our writing with it. Though we can train ourselves to perfect the skill of our pen, the creativity behind it ebbs and flows as the storm upon the sea—we never know quite when and to what means it will gather.

Fortunately, there are ways to help manipulate ourselves. To manipulate the moods and personalities we so crave. While nothing’s ever certain, they can help:

  1. Music . Why do you put the Barry White on when you know that special someone’s coming over? Because deep down everyone knows that music stirs the heart and moves the emotion to the beats. A sad song can drag us down to the deepest depths of mortal despair. A fast song can revitalize a weary body. A smooth song, peppered with those deep, low notes and reverberating bass well…be still those quivering legs. Probably also relevant to your Valentine’s Day interests.
  2. Travel. I don’t mean a road trip—although that might not hurt either. Simply, I mean get outside. Go to your favorite place. Climb a mountain. Sit down in the local coffee shop. Walk the lonely streets. Different places, different people—these things can strike a chord as sure as that picture of a sandy beach you stare every day at your work desk.
  3. Read. Watch. Listen. Tell me this is self-explanatory.
  4. Drink. Oh come now, surely you knew this was going to be here somewhere. While I’m not advising that you go out and get yourself royally bombed (be sure someone else has possession of both your keys and any Text Message-capable devices), there is something to be said for the mental tweak such beverages bring. They’re mood affecters—it’s what they are made to do. Have yourself a sip, let the liquid do its work. Don’t overdue it–just one or two. At worst, you relax (never a bad thing for a writer), at best you unlock the very best level of the creative flow. Just be sure to go back and edit extra carefully in the morning.
DSC_0043

A little trip can go a long way.

Realities of Writing

Depression

It can be blue, folks. (Photo credit: Hendrike, via Wikipedia)

The fact is: writing can seem at first a terribly depressing field. Believe me, I know—you tack a determination to write onto someone already struggling with depression, and you get someone already prone to the blues receiving a steady stream of disappointments. No one ever said we set ourselves up to be the steadiest sorts.

I have spoken before of endurance, of perseverance, and I will confess the notions can come out as just so many words—a wisp in your ear that is gone by the time you turn around to greet them.

The reasons are plenty…

Reason the First

Though we talk the big game about passion and art and the need to write (all true, mind you), most writers are like the majority of people in the world: in some sense, we want to succeed. It’s not even that we need the big movie deals, or a fanatic cult (ala The Following—don’t watch it, it’s cheesy and terribly predictable), but we want to be able to point at something and say: You see this work? I wrote this, it touched someone beyond myself, and I am proud. Vindication, I suppose.

I know for all my protestations otherwise, I felt it when undertaking The Hollow March–whether I wanted it or not, the feeling lurked, just out of sight.

Especially in a world where the volume of writers has soared through the ceiling, as every Tom, Dick, and Transfalmadorian are able to turn to self-publishing to get a word out, is also a horrendously difficult field in which to get noticed. Slush piles are bigger than ever. As such, the opportunity for disappointment seems to grow, and while we can point to similar stories around the world, there is always that niggling little voice telling us: yes, but that’s not you, is it?

Reason the Second

Loneliness. You will hear many writers speak of it. Though some are capable of immersing themselves in sound, many must isolate themselves to work. The office cubicle may make you itchy, sure, but at least you know you can lean over the wall to talk to someone, or walk down the hall. With writing, we may spend hours in our own little world, and especially if reason the first is letting us down, that sense of isolation—isolation for seemingly no reason (so we tell ourselves) walks the dangerous line of feeling overwhelming.

Reason the Third

Too many hats. It began with a blog. Alright, manageable enough, right? You’re getting the hang of this. A blog post a week, perhaps, to connect with folks while you write. How about a Twitter? 140, alright, that’s not so bad. Have you considered a Facebook page? Well, I—Don’t forget to make two! One for you, and one for your book! Oh, and Tumblr, don’t forget about Tumblr…

ADD. It’s what you begin to feel like. Or being trapped in a bouncy castle. Writers are their own greatest advocates. At first it might seem glamorous—do what you want, when you want, how you want it—but it can wear at you quickly. Because it means you’re also out there without a lifeline. There are no promotions for good behavior. A writer can no longer be “just a writer.” He must also be a sales rep, a public relations whiz, and quite possibly, one of those fellows on the side of the road dancing around with business signs.

You are the alpha and the omega. It’s self-pub law, but even if you hit it big, the burden is increasingly being put on the writers themselves. There are no breaks, no real days off. If you’re self-conscious, or simply not sure what to say, or if the first two reasons have gotten you down, this can be (or feel) devastating, and you run the risk of a serious burn-out.

Epilogue

My, my, cheery today aren’t we Mr. Galford? Yes, I am, and I’ll tell you why: I have come to terms with these things, and what’s more, I know that everyone struggles with them equally.

Cease to abstract it. Can you point to examples of exceptions? Yes, but they are only that, the exceptions, and while you might feel surrounded to them, know that there are many of us in the same crowd, all feeling equally surrounded. You might say, “Chris, but I wrote a book and no one’s biting,” you must know that there are others around you looking at you with awe and wonder saying, “My god, I wish I could do that—you actually wrote a book? And published it even? You’re so brave.”

What you take as disappointment, other will take with jealousy. You may feel like the lowest end of the food chain, but I assure you that you are not, and there are many feeling the same way.

Take the disappointment—I’m not saying it won’t come. To look at the world as nothing but optimistic doesn’t get you anywhere either, but there’s a balance to be struck. Step outside yourself a moment. Don’t lock others out. If you’re struggling, I guarantee you there’s someone else willing to lend your hand.

Keep your fingers nimble, but keep your eyes open.

Writers’ Retreats

I imagine they’re like writers’ groups in general: a fabled creature, hovering on the tongues of the many and just out of reach for the majority—a sort of legend unto themselves that keep us forever guessing whether they are truly accessible, and just what we’re missing if we don’t actually bear witness to them.

Sort of like unicorns.

Gilt statue of a unicorn on the Council House,...

I’m looking at you, mythical horse-thing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every writer longs for the perfect writing set up. A place to go and relax and enjoy themselves, yet where they are able to truly cut themselves off from the world and focus on that all-important passion: writing. Which probably includes no internet. Or angry birds.

Distractions, after all, are the bane of all writers. Unless they’re the right kind of distractions. But then again, we don’t know they’re the right distractions until we’re distracted. It’s a problem.

English: Lord Clarences Log Cabin

Is it a cabin? Well, at least it’s no gazebo… (Image by: Wikipedia)

So we get things like the writers’ retreat. It’s not quite a workshop, not quite a critique session, mostly just writers writing in the same location, easily accessible so that if they do want they can turn to one another for opinions. I suppose the theory is that looking around you at all these other writers working, you too shall feel a certain amount of peer pressure to get your write on as well. Plus, a real opportunity for writers to have an actual water cooler environment!

But who can afford it?

I would imagine it’s a pricey endeavor, and writers don’t exactly tend to be rolling in the dough. The thought of renting out a cabin or part of a lodge for a weekend somewhere nice and reclusive, while dreamy, does tend to put a damper on the wallet—it is, after all, essentially a vacation. But is there perhaps a way around this unfortunate fact?

English: Camping by Barriere Lake, Barriere, ,...

Or maybe it’s more like camping… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously, the chance to be surrounded by others of your craft, discussing all the details the general world doesn’t much care about (literary ideas, inspirations, the state of publishing, research, and even what other writers you love or hate) is terribly appealing. If you’re in a writing slump, it could be just the push you need. Yet even more than the price, one had to admit it’s something of a gamble—it’s hard to hunt down a good one, and know it’s going to be the endeavor you were aspiring to.

So I figure the easiest place to start is to gather stories from others on the matter. Does anyone know of any such retreats to recommend? What have been your experiences with them? Any good stories to take away?

Novel Ideas: A Novel a Year?

It’s a sign of our time, to be sure, but one of the issues for writers that has risen especially with the advent of the self-published artist is the notion of how to stay visible. To that end, the rate at which one has to put out books—especially as a flighty public finds so many other media to catch their eyes—has increased dramatically. Where once a book was a very personal process, that allowed for time and dedication and that very personal touch, deadlines are getting ever so much crunchier, and every stage of the process is finding less time to devote to their field.

In point of fact, it’s often advised today for writers to get as much as a book a year out if they want to stay in the spotlight. Some people even go as low as six months—a concept, I have to say, that would even begin to label Stephen King as something of a slow writer, and that’s just sick to think about.

Personally, I think it’s a load of hogwash. Naturally, there is more pressure on indie and self-pubs to keep up the pace, as they have more to worry about in the fading spotlight than big names like George R.R. Martin or J.K. Rowling. It’s the tragic inverse of fame; as fame goes up, the demand may increase, but you can also afford to crack the knuckles and take a bit of lean-back time without fear. You know your readers will come back. Indies have no such job security—go too long, and your readers will simply move on to a dozen or more other indies, or so stands the theory.

George RR Martin at the Comicon

The Martin. Lord of Epic Fantasy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fact is, it’s madness to expect every writer to meet such a rigid standard. It’s not going to happen. Each of us writes at different paces, not to mention the fact that each writes to different styles, different genres, and certainly different lengths. A saucy romance writer is much more likely to meet such a deadline than an epic fantasy novelist.

The important piece of the puzzle is to get your book done and get it done right. Will some over-anxious folks peace out before you can get your next work out if you take your sweet time? Of course, but that’s the beauty of marketing—separate from the act of writing, its sole goal is to win people over. Focus on the writing when you’re writing. Focus on the marketing after. Don’t muddle the two, or both will get watered down in the process. Fans will be much more disappointed if your fear of abandonment causes you to toss out a half-baked novel at them.

The Great Matter: Rejection

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” 
~Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rejection, they say, is the path to any success. Somewhere in the trial, a trail is dug so deep, honed to such a true and sharpened progression, that no great winter or man could tear it back again.

Yet there is an issue with the process.

Writing, it is known, is the field built upon this trail–that is to say, that rejection is a natural piece of its process. All will face rejection in one form or another before they find their “in-road,” be it to great or little success. in its way, it makes sense. Rejection teaches us endurance. It teaches us to weather the bad weather until truth will find us out.

The problem: how do we know?

Much as children are told: oh, you can be anything you want to be when you grow up, there is a certain lie hidden in the equation. As most can attest, not everyone can write–just as not everyone can do quantum physics or fly a plane. You wouldn’t want them to. God help you if you do. If our entire industry is based on rejection and the light at the end of the tunnel, however, then what if that light never seems to come? When do we know it is just another rejection on that trail to something more, or simply rejection of inferior work?

In our system, rejection is supposed to strengthen us. Harden our determination. But what if it shouldn’t be hardened? Are we bad writers or merely struggling writers–the question we all must ask.

A pickle, if ever there was one. Try, try again whisper the mouths of the successful. Edit and review, your English teacher lectures. Do as we do, boast the self-help brigades. Do anything else, announced the rest of the world with a shrug.

But passion won’t allow such desertion, and frustration is the end result. All men, after all, have their breaking point.

The simplest answer, I know, remains: never give up. But I know as well there is more to the wisdom, a greater and more profound explanation this young mind–known often to failure but little, as yet, to success–has not the words to lend it. So, blogosphere, if you’re out there and you’re reading, I turn this post to you in the form of a question: what is your advice to the writers of the world? Because I’m not so silly as to think I have the answers.

“In a world flagrant with the failures of civilization, what is there particularly immortal about our own?” 
~G.K. Chesterton

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