Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On the Go

What I'm finding is that I'm really enjoying my activity right now. 

Gardening, bicycle riding, grandchildren, quality time with my wife--so the oddity is that I realize that most of my writing work right now is going to be on my iPhone 6+! Funny thing, but working on my phone gives me the chance to write without sitting myself down during this beautiful May springtime.

The peonies and irises are blooming, and the bees are loving the comfrey. Small green peaches and cherries have set, the peaches a soft fuzzy green and the cherries like tiny electric-green tree ornaments. The peas are in blossom and pods maturing. We are eating fresh kale and chard, and our season of asparagus is finished. 

This morning Sandy and I rode our bikes on the Fairfield Loop Trail, through Jefferson County Park, and on local back roads. It was overcast and not too hot, and we meandered and enjoyed the exercise, the fresh air, and our time together. 

I am writing this to begin again, to remind myself that my life need not be an "either/or." I'm also sharing along with documenting, part of the journaling process. 

Life is good--always and at least at the moment. Good night, all. 

--posted from my iPhone 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Looking Back at Revision

For me, revision is an intuitive process. When I say that, though, I should add that I feel that intuition is mind working at a fine level of the intellect. Intellect and “feeling” work together, each augmenting the other.

The revision of tightening (deleting), expanding (adding), and polishing (substituting) works first on what feels right, but there is always the quiet voice of the intellect providing the reasons for the feeling.

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to write my beginnings many times before moving on. Those rewrites are where I emphasize tone and word flow. Once the words create the tone (once the tone feels right), then I move on to finishing the rough draft.

Below, I’ve provided two excerpts from my Wattpad page where the story “A Murmuration of Dragons” is posted as two parts, the first being the finished story (unless I change it), and the second being the first draft of the story (and by that, I mean the story after I’d established tone and then pushed through for the first time).

With this short story, I see the revision has focused the prose more on tone and immediate experience rather than backstory, even though I am filling in and establishing the reality of the story. I think the revision works more to move the story to its climax by establishing an emotional context.

Other readers might like the original, actually! This post is a closure for me. I’m looking forward to moving on to another project, another story--at least, for now. Read, enjoy, and maybe even read the other stories posted on Wattpad. They are the two shorter stories of the three short story ebook "Who Listened to Dragons."

Excerpt from the revised (completed) story

Garden lore says "weeds for the wildwood," that every vegetable patch should have a spot uncultivated, that "wholly wild is holy wild." Perhaps craft elders felt the same and left Dragon's Head untouched. Superstition runs deep, even when "as dead as magic" is the common wisdom nowadays, for who has seen magic? Yes, there are stories, but who has seen magic? Our mouths do not always speak our hearts, though, and words may veil rather than reveal. Perhaps that was the way of it on Half Street because Dragon's Head was let be, and the oddity of that neglect was somehow too strangely idle a thought for busy tradefolk.

Caul said that suited him fine, Caul who ate and drank the sky above Dragon's Head, either that or nothing. He certainly slept sky, all those nights up there alone, earth for his bed and stone for his pillow.

I wouldn't admit to be looking after him from my perch on Old Jin's roof, not me, of Fingers fame and all of twelve years. It didn't take much minding, anyway. Somehow I knew he was safe when he climbed those bare bones, riding his dragon, whinnies and all.

The need to survive can birth strange and wonderful alliances, and one of boy and stone was not exceedingly strange. Who has not played at being king on the mount? Seed planted wild must root deeply, and dreams dared in sunlight burn an invisible flame.

Excerpt from the unrevised (rough draft) story

Such had not happened, though, had apparently never occurred to some greedy guildsman or ambitious matron. Dragon's Head was just let be, and the oddity of that neglect was somehow too idle a thought for busy folk, which Cobb said suited him just fine. Sometimes Cobb would look at me as he rode the stones, but he never waved and I never thought to wave at him. Cobb was a strange one, one we looked after--or would have, if he had ever needed it. He didn't, though. I think Cobb ate and drank sky. He certainly slept it, all those nights alone on Dragon's Head.

My gut told me a lot about Cobb, or maybe it was my heart. I knew that when he climbed onto those bare bones of stone and rode the dragon he was safe. It wasn't that I knew he felt safe; somehow my gut told me he was safe.

I knew in my bones he was safe on Dragon's Head, knew that he knew in his bones he was safe. No children ever challenged him sitting there in plain sight. It was as if he were veiled by wings of forgetfulness. I saw him, though, and I'll never forget what I saw.

It was a strange alliance, boy and stone, but the need to survive can birth strange and wonderful alliances. Seed planted wild must need root deeply.

I've found it an interesting process to publish a rough draft and then another, polished version of the story side by side. I don't know if I'll do this again. Probably not, but doing so has given me the opportunity to reflect some on how I create as a writer. I doubt if how I write and revise is unique, but self-reflection isn't such a bad thing.

Until the next post, good reading!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Art of Talking to Strangers

Having ridden across America on Amtrak now quite a few times, I’ve had the chance to sit next to, to break bread with, and to share life experiences with total strangers, people I will meet one time and quite possibly never again. 

This experience has been an education--both on the content level of learning about others’ lives, and on the process level of the dynamics of interacting with strangers. I don’t think I have anything new to share, nor have I learned anything new. My interactions have, however, reinforced and made me more consciously aware of some basic fundamentals of communication. 

Listen before sharing. 

Listening sends a positive message to those I am interacting with, that I am interested in more than my needs and my options. It also provides me with information, which allows me to more artfully chose what I say. It's pretty hard, really, to offend others by listening to them talk. 

Find common interests. 

We actually have quite a lot in common with other people. Entering a conversation with the intent to enjoy that which we have in common creates a unifying experience. Amtrak seats strangers together at the dining table, and sitting down with the intent to have a pleasant meal and conversation--and then acting on that intent--has effected many pleasant shared meals. And it wasn't hard. It was mostly monitoring my conversation to be inclusive and not excluding. Self-monitoring one’s conversation is a skill that gets better with practice, I can tell you. 

It's not necessary for others to agree with you. 

There is no need for indignation if someone has a different point of view, not in a social situation, anyway. One can deflect or move on rather than debate or argue. Even if the person across the table is a dumb ass, there's no need to point that out. You wouldn't be believed, anyway. 

There are some communication situations that aren't just random meals with a stranger. This election year is a good example. I’d say then to 1) self-monitor, 2) maintain a rule of politeness, 3) stick to ideas and facts, and 4) be ready to stop. Remembering to listen is probably a good idea, too. 

Avoid (or tread lightly) when traveling rocky trails. 

My dad always said the best way to have a nice chat was to avoid the topics of politics, religion, and sex. Anyone following the recent presidential debates can see what happens when one places these three topics in a bag and shakes while on national TV. With a stranger, it's best to focus on parting on cordial terms. For someone we know, it's best to focus on parting on cordial terms. Hard words create hard hearts, both in speaker and listener. 

The best way to change our environment is to change ourselves. That is where we have the most influence. Better to part with a good feeling on both sides, better to find common ground. If the person across from us ain't that kinda person, then it's best to remember who we are rather than who they aren't. 

It's always best to fall back on what my momma taught me: “There's no excuse for bad manners.” Time to bite my tongue. If it hurts, serves me right. 

(Written on Amtrak, nose to my iPhone 6+)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Marketing with the iPhone

I have issues with sitting down in front of my computer to market my books. Honestly, I’d rather be working on a story or a blog post. 

Marketing, or at least some aspects of marketing, are easier on my iPhone 6+.

Finding and posting articles of interest to my Facebook page can be done on the fly, especially by utilizing Google News focused search topics and then scheduling posts for FB. 
The same can be done with book memes that can be scheduled, sandwiched within daily article posts. 
Checking in on Facebook and LinkedIn groups and their ilk to comment and respond is less onerous if squeaked in during down time. It even can feel more “social” than blasting the sites for a set time. 

I’ve found that creating visuals is tougher with a “phablet” than with a laptop. The mobile apps are usually more limited--at least that has been my experience. As I use the phone as my office, I imagine I’ll gain more skill. 

Creative writing and blog posts are also possible on my 6+ iPhone. In fact, that’s the main reason I went for the larger phone. Whether I’m bicycle camping or traveling on Amtrak (as I am now as I write this), Google Docs offline and the Blogger app give me the freedom to write while carrying very little hardware. 

Breaking marketing into smaller “stolen moment” parcels seems to be working for me, at least for now. I plan to post these thoughts and then to spend some time on a new short story. 

Of course, I have to finish this piece before losing connectivity in the Sierra Nevadas. Gee, if that happens, I may just have to kick back and enjoy the ride!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Revising on Amtrak

brought my short story, “A Murmuration of Dragons,” with me on my train trip from Iowa to California, and I have to say what a wonderful experience to revise while riding the rails!

Using both my iPhone 6+ (Google Docs offline) and a hard copy of the story, I read and revise, look out the window at the Rockies, snack a bit--but mostly just rock with my story. I find a rhythm, and if that rhythm matches the rumbling of the tracks, no harm in that. 

There’s no urgent rush. As I write these words, I’ve still got about twenty-four hours of travel. I can sit back and listen to the words sing, albeit off key or not. This is a new kind of moving forward. Even if the surgery is unsuccessful, progress is made!

Add, remove, substitute--I think I can, I think I can . . .