Monday, April 27, 2015

Uncle Nick?

So, last weekend I saw my younger sister for the first time since October of last year.  Things have changed a little since then—the biggest being that she is doing a rather poor job of hiding a beach ball under her shirt. 

Yes.  My sister is pregnant with her first child.

This is important for my family.  My nephew-to-be is the first grandbaby for my parents.  Granted, it feels a little odd having my sister—who has followed behind me in every important step of our lives—suddenly leap ahead.  That’s just a point of view, but not an inaccurate assessment.  And I am happy for her, for her husband, and the entire family.  Hell, I’m excited as all get-out to have a baby to play with. 

But this momentous event has brought other things to the forefront of my mind.  First off, let me give you some background.  My wife and I both want kids.  As to when . . . well, that’s up in the air.  We’re not feeling any giant urge right now, and neither of us is exactly unhappy about being twenty-nine/thirty years old with no responsibilities, save for a very needy puppy.  The biological urge is there, but it’s just not a strong one.  Perhaps that will change with time, perhaps not; either way, there’s no rush.

Perhaps that’s why I am so caught up in my first nephew.  I’m unsure exactly why.  Yet, there’s one thing I do know for sure.  Just as I’m positive I’m excited about the little tyke, I have one thought running circles through my head:

I’m not mature enough to be an uncle.

Please notice I said mature enough, not old enough.  I’m well aware of biology and when I hit that puberty mark.  So I’m old enough to have kids, but mature enough?  That’s a whole different story.  We joked around about it last weekend.  There was a shirt I spotted on Facebook that summed everything up in a nice little package.  It read:
“I’m the crazy uncle your parents warned you about.”
Now, everyone in my family knows exactly how crazy I am—or not.  Fun loving?  Yes.  Prankster?  Yes.  Occasional buffoon?  More than I want to admit.  But crazy, I am not.  Still, it provided a laugh and a smile, and we all moved on.  It was true enough. 

There are some aspects of my psyche that are rebelling at the idea of growing up, of putting another person’s needs ahead of my own.  But then the rational part of my brain cracks its whip and points to my wife and screams, “You already have!”  And it’s true.  So what is the difference?  Maybe it’s that K is an adult and can fend for herself.  Maybe I am just too fond of being immature unless I’m forced to change.  I don’t know.  But it scares me at times.

I work with the public on a regular basis.  In fact, if it wasn’t for John Q. Public, there would be little need for my position.  But one of the questions I’m asked repeatedly during our many conversations is, “Do you and your wife have any children?”  Obviously, I say no.  And the most common response  I get has two parts:
1: How old are you?
2: Good.  Wait as long as you can.  I wish I had. 

Seriously, that phrasing itself almost never changes.  All these people from different walks of life say nearly exactly the same thing with nearly exactly the same wording.  It’s uncanny. 

But maybe my wife and I aren’t mature enough to handle kids.  I don’t know.  But it’s something that we accept as a possibility.  There may be some subconscious reason floating to the surface.  All I know is this joyride will be coming to an end soon enough.  It’s time to grow up.  Just a little bit, but not too much.

But then again, my sister doesn’t seem to be the least bit worried about having me around her son, so this all could be in my head.

A Side Note on a Few Things

So, I feel I am going to have a lot less free time in my life.  Maybe I just mishandle the time I have, but I’m trying to form better habits for the foreseeable future.  How does this affect you?  Primarily in two ways:

Starting next week, I plan on changing a couple things regarding this blog.  Before now, I’ve always tried to post something new every other week.  I’m trashing that schedule, and I am going to try to post a least a little something every week.  It may not be spectacular, but the goal is just to have something there for you to read.  I just hope it’s entertaining.  Also, I’m thinking about tossing in some reviews and opinions about things I’ve seen or read.  Feel free to disagree with me.  I’d love to have some conversations from different points of view.  Love seeing that stuff.

Secondly, this also will allow me to generate a better quality of work than what I am currently putting out.  Practice makes perfect and all that jazz.  More time focusing on my craft.  I know my novel will benefit from it.  Or any current writing project, really.  All I have to do now is just stop playing so many video games.  Put down the TV remote and pick up a book.  But you should see a growth here as well.  I need to push myself more, and it’s time to start. 

Well, that’s all for now.  See you next week.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

BlogBattle Silver

Rachael Ritchey just kept on like dog with a bone in its teeth, and has finally succeeded.  Short stories aren't my thing, but this week I actually tossed another story into the mix for her #BlogBattle.  This week's theme is "Silver".

His breath came heavy, his sight grew dim, but the end was in sight. Leg muscles burned with the effort, but he’d trained for this. It wasn’t just about endurance, but about the ability to ignore the pain, to push through it. To push beyond it and strive for greatness.
Now that greatness was within sight. A meer two hundred yards. Each pump of his legs brought him closer and closer. No one was in sight. The track ahead was all his. His mind drifted to all the races which had led him here.
One hundred yards. There was Tommy, the fastest kid at Harrison Elementary. Angie Landford, the girl who had bested everyone during her four years of track at Adams High School, his alma mater’s crosstown rivals. Then he’d beaten her. He’d been the most popular kid at school for weeks.
Fifty yards. Victory would taste so sweet. All the effort, all the sweat, blood, toil, and tears. The years of practice in college, the amature circuits, the professional circuits. Now this.
No one was there.
It was his!
No. No. No! No! That upstart from Canada. There was no way that some kid would take away hismoment of glory. He tried to press harder, but there was nothing left. The ribbon was right there, but he could do nothing about it.

Jonathan Swift, Canada’s poster boy, won Olympic Gold that year in Men’s 500 Meter Sprint.

Monday, April 13, 2015

How I Write a Blog Post

After the serious tone of my last post, I felt it was perhaps best I take a lighter turn this week.  So, today I present to you how I write a blog post.

Step 1:  What day is it?

Monday:  Don’t think about it.
Tuesday:  Don’t think about it.
Wednesday:  Don’t think about it.
Thursday:  “Oh, I need to write a blog post to upload on Monday.”
Friday:  “What should I write about?”
Saturday:   Mad dash to throw down 1000 or so words and send it off to my editor.
Sunday:  Imagine my editor grumbling about my timing and pulling her hair out because of me.
Monday:  Fix and polish edited blog post before uploading it the same day.
Spend the next seven days not thinking about the new blog post due in two weeks.

Step 2:  Pick a topic.

I have to admit it.  Rarely do I have any clue about what my blog posts are going to be about until I start working on them.  Perhaps that’s because I’m lazy.  That’s what K would say.  My personal point of view on it relates back to the type of writer I am.

We all know and recognize the two main writing schools: outliners and discovery.  Outliners plot out the book, the characters, the action, whatever, in greater or lesser detail so they know in advance what will happen.  Discovery writers do just the opposite. They take the stories and run with whatever feels right.  Some writers combine the two schools.  Brandon Sanderson is one such person.  He outlines the novel, but writes the characters using the discovery method.  There is no right or wrong way to do this, no matter what Mrs. Harris, your 3rd grade teacher, said.

I am firmly in the camp of discovery writing.  If I plot out a single thing, my mind shuts down.  For example, in my current project, you get to meet Stephanie Hawthorne’s mother.  I only know a few things about her at this point:

1) You shall never hear me refer to her as Mom.  Too familiar.

2) She did a number on Stephanie and James when they were growing up.


3) You thought Stephanie could be a bitch?  Just wait. 

This will be fun.  I only just met the woman, and then only through a four-line letter, and I already dislike her as a person.  But she’ll be a blast to write. 

With that in mind, why should my blog posts be any different?  Most of the posts I’ve tried to plan out in advance have never been published, mainly because I never finished them.  And those that have been published aren’t my best work. 

Have I ever told you about Monty Python and how they did their scripts?  No?  Let me illuminate.  They, like so many shows, performed before test audiences.  The bad stuff?  It was pitched.  The good stuff?  That was where they differed from others.  If the skit performed too well, they threw it away as well.  So think about it like this: all the classic Monty Python we know and love—“Dead Parrot,” “The Spanish Inquisition,” “How Not to be Seen”—was actually mediocre Monty Python.  We’ve been laughing at their mediocre stuff.

Mind Blown.

Step 3: Writing

Self-explanatory.  Get computer.  Sit down.  Put fingers on keys and write.  Let the words flow, and don’t worry about where they’re leading.  The hardest thing you’ll ever do, but you wanna be a writer?  Just do it.

Step 4: Editing

Again, self-explanatory.  When writing, we don’t see the errors, but if we go back?  Like a baseball bat to the face. We’ve all been there.  Someday, I should post for you the first draft of some of the stuff I’ve written.  The final work looks much different from what is originally placed on the paper.  That is, by necessity, a good thing. 

I’ve heard stories about people—Rex Stout, to be precise—who never edited a single thing they wrote.  Somehow, I don’t believe that, but even if it’s not true, I’m not of his caliber.  There are those you look up to for inspiration, for education, as role models.  He’s one of mine. 

So I edit.  Go through.  Reword and rework phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.  You know what I mean.  Make sure it comes through clearly.  As the writer, that’s your responsibility. 

Do your job.

But here’s one of my little tidbits for you when it comes to my editing and writing.  Unless I am trying to prove a particular point, the same word never begins any sentence within the same paragraph more than once.  Look at this one.  No word begins the same sentence twice.  It makes things “work” better.  Also, if you can arrange it in the same pattern for your paragraphs, you’ll be in great shape.  I haven’t perfected that one yet.  

Step 5: Post it

Ok, I skipped a few substeps there.  Send it off to the editor.  Follow her suggestions.  Add pictures.  Tried that a few times.  Not sold on the practice.  Whatever those substeps are, do them as needed.  Me?  I just listen to my editor. 98% to 100% of the time, I agree with what she suggests. Then post.

The big thing is to be aware of what you’re saying.  You are ultimately responsible for your content.  Stand by it or don’t post it.  If I have concerns about something I’ve written, it is removed during the editing process.  I stand by what I’ve written, even if it isn’t pretty.

So that’s about it.  Maybe you’d call this fluff, but, hey, it’s what I got.  Welcome to my little world. Till next time.