Tagged: writing

Dinner Steak

Dinner steak – the third most important steak of the day.

Back when Team Fortress 2 came out, Valve made comics to go with them, and the hero was a mountain of a man Australian who crashes through the glass ceiling of his own home and is served breakfast steak – THE MOST IMPORTANT STEAK OF THE DAY! – by his butler.

Ever since I have quipped the importance of breakfast, lunch, and dinner steaks, in that order.

And so tonight is dinner steak. USDA Prime ribeye. Yes it’s cooked to perfection. Yes, I use Redmond Real Salt. And yes, I cover it in Kerrygold butter.

Why?

First, because I follow a strict nose-to-tail Carnivore Diet 95% of the time.

Second, to get those creative writing juices flowing!

Onward!

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When Ideas Strike

Today, Saturday, I had to work my full-time job. Such is the nature of the beast.

And while I was working, ideas for the latest book began to flow. Scenes, dialogue, effects of those scenes and dialogue.

As I worked I thought, “I’ll remember that.”

Morgan Freeman narrating my life: “He did not remember that.”

That’s over exaggerating. I remember some of the thoughts I had as I toiled away today. But not all of it. The vague memories of the ideas I had pale in comparison to when they leapt into my head. They were mighty bucks that strode into the clearing of my mind, only to be scared by the hunter who coveted them, and they dashed away.

So now I have a process to capture these ideas. A little notebook where I’ll jot scenes, feelings, colors, smells, dialogue, and background once the idea strikes. These great, fleeting stags, difficult to catch, will be mine for the taking.

What do you use to capture the ideas that flit through you mind?

The Hero’s Journey

We’ve all heard about the archetypal hero’s journey and the steps involved:

  • Ordinary world
  • Call to adventure
  • Refusal of the call
  • Meeting with the mentor
  • Crossing the first threshold
  • Tests, allies, and enemies
  • Approach the inmost cave
  • The ordeal
  • Reward
  • The road back
  • The resurrection
  • Return with the elixir

There are many iterations of this, but this is the one I’m most familiar with.

In August of this year (2019) I attended Paleo f(x), and had to opportunity to hear Aubrey Marcus, CEO of Onnit, talk about the hero’s journey as it applies to us and the mind.

And my mind was opened.

I don’t know why, but the hero’s journey had always been a physical thing to me. Luke Skywalker leaving Tattoine to fight the Empire. Beowulf fighting Grendal.

But Aubrey talked about the hero’s journey as it applies to the mind and personal self-improvement.

The ideas for stories blossomed in my head.

Of course, when given the chance to shake hands with Aubrey I blubbered like and idiot. “I like your gym and your supplements. . .”

IDIOT!

But the seed of an idea Aubrey offered is still planted in my mind, and it’s being applied to the two books I’m working on now. The second book I’m writing takes the largest influence from the Hero’s Journey for mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the characters. While the physical realm is important in stories, the mental or spiritual journeys have added a whole new dimension to my works.

How have you encountered the hero’s journey mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally in your life?

The Challenges of Writing

I am 16,500 words into my second novel. The next 60,000 words should be easier.

SHOULD be. . .

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to write with work and family?

I go to work for eight hours a day and my mental capacity is utilized for the job. I meet with people, work through problems, and coordinate activities. After eight hours of that in some sequence or another I’m mentally spent!

Then I commute home and pick up my children. They are the joy of my life, and like all children take their toll on mental capacity, too. They’ve had problems at school with friends and teachers and they are seeking guidance. Then they fight with their sibling, and I have to step in and provide correction and more guidance.

I wouldn’t give up my children for the world. I’d like to keep my current job, too.

But then I go to write – what has been my passion and joy for years – and the words refuse to flow. I stalk from my front room to my dining room, and up the stairs to my study, trying to work out scenes, conflict, reactions, and feelings in each chapter. Yet the words themselves resist my call to come forth.

Some authors talk about writing preparation, or warm-ups they do where they write about something other than their book. But when you’re a single father with a full time job and two high energy kiddos, sitting down at 8:30PM/9PM at night leaves little time to “warm-up” before bed and 5-7 hours later I’m up again getting ready for work before I have to wake up my kids.

But we strive on, right? For our passion? For our hope that we can provide our children a better future while doing something we absolutely love? To be published and, hopefully, have someone read our book and have it positively change their life in some way?

So, once more, into the breach!

Late Night Doodles

I am still working on my current novel set in the far future. More blog posts about that are forthcoming.

In the meantime I am jotting up ideas for new books. Here is one of my late night doodles: A Tribe of Mars. The idea is a group of colonists have to band together to survive Mars.

No his boots are not right, and I totally left the fingers out.

It’s a doodle.

What, you wanna fight about it!?

Enjoy!

ATribeOfMars

Until next time. . .

I Can’t Believe I Didn’t See That Coming

From the Writer’s Digest Weekly Writing Prompt “I Can’t Believe I Didn’t See That Coming.” 483 words altogether; 17 under the 500 word or under goal. Enjoy!

*          *          *

“You’ll never get me to tell you where the jewels are!” I exclaimed as I brandished my pistol.

I fired two shots into the woods in front of me.

Where once there was a masked, hooded man, now there was only darkness. I wheeled around, expecting him to be standing immediately behind me.

Nothing.

I looked back and forth, the last vestiges of twilight making it almost impossible to discern details in the thick vegetation of the forest. Even in that wane light, though, I could see I was alone.

Where did he go? I wondered.

I stood there a moment and waited. I expected him to leap from the blackness of the deep forest to attack me, but as the minutes stretched on no attack came.

I gave one more cursory glance around, and then sprinted away from there, towards the rocks where I knew I would be safe. As I leapt over dead fall and was tripped up by unseen roots in my path my heart raced faster, and a looming dread fell over me: my pursuer would catch me.

But, I knew that while my unidentified attacker may have had the drop on me in the forest, I would have the upper hand in the rocky caverns and foothills I called home for the last decade.

What seemed like a small eternity passed before I exploded from the thick, intertwined branches of the forest and into the boulder strewn hills to the North. My heart fluttered, and the impending doom that had enveloped me evaporated like dew under the hot Summer sun. Not far now, and I would be safe.

It was only when I reached the entrance to my hideout that something felt wrong – out of place.

Suddenly, the searing hot pain of a knife sliding into me flared in my lower back. I cried out as the blade was retracted and pierced me once more, then collapsed in pain.

I rolled over and was greeted by the emotionless, dead stare of my masked, hooded nemesis.

“What are you waiting for?” I exclaimed in rage and pain.

Then the man spoke, and it was as if ice rushed through my veins.

“I am enjoying the look on your face, Eduardo,” said the voice of my dead brother.

I couldn’t believe it. “Alejandro? But you’re dead!”

Alejandro removed his mask, and I was so shocked by the mass of mangled flesh and scar tissue that I almost forgot my own wounds.

Almost.

“But how are you alive?” I asked through my own burning pain.

“I survived the fire,” Alejandro said, pointing his blade at my throat. “I could have escaped and come back, but I allowed everyone to think I was dead so I could seek my revenge. Now, your bounty of jewels will help me.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming. . .”

A Tale of Two Editors – Part 2

In my last post on editors, I talked about the last editor I worked with, and my experience with her. There was a lot of criticism – some warranted, some crushing, and some that left me with more questions than answers received.

Now I’d like to discuss the latest editor I worked with, and the night-and-day different experience I had with her.

Networking Works

I met my most recent editor through a friend. My friend, we’ll call him MV, is part of a Catholic Young Professionals group in Omaha. There he met a woman who had self-published two books. Through their conversation MV learned that this woman had her sister edit her books, and through several emails they put the two of us in contact.

I was skeptical at first, but sister of this editor has done exceptionally well for herself and her books are still selling. It helped that her price was a fraction of what most editors charge as she was just getting her editing services off the ground. Jackpot!

The Process

Over a four week period my editor and I worked through my manuscript, first two copy-edits, and the finally an in-depth content edit looking at story structure, flow, identifying plot holes, and strengthening certain points such as one main character’s growth from meek to strong and the culture of the fictional people I am writing about.

My most recent editor was very thorough with grammar and punctuation. She was able to catch quite a bit of what the previous editor and I had missed. My editor was also able to go through and help make sentences and even paragraphs more clear and concise to better get the story across to my reader.

Through the in-depth content edit, my editor identified areas of confusion which need clarification, and areas where the story was weak and need additional dialogue and/or description.

Drawbacks

It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. While my story is now stronger, there were times I wasn’t sure about my most recent editor. In all edits, and especially the last, she gave me a lot of pumping up and “your story is great, you’re a great writer” type of compliments. While this is a stark contrast from my previous editor, I don’t think it’s what I need to hear. I needed a hard, critical perspective and many times it seemed I was being provided too much positive reinforcement in a place where it wasn’t warranted.

Sometimes too many compliments and the like can be debilitating to identifying problems and fixing them, in this case in my manuscript. It can lead us into believing we have a great story when, in fact, we don’t.

With my current editor I had to be even more critical of my work, and bring things up to her and try to have her look at them in different ways. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes she replied with, “I actually feel that’s really good and I don’t feel it needs to be changed.”

Regardless of whether it is actually good or not, she said things like that so often that my blood pressure spiked a little and, after our meetings, I would go back and comb through my manuscript more.

So maybe it was a good thing?

Conclusion

Most recently (within the last two years) I have had two very different editors. One was overwhelmingly critical and, after paying a hefty sum for a single edit, cut off her availability. The other was much cheaper, but the constant positive reinforcement on things I thought were wrong made me concerned about the quality of her edits. The result: I believe I have a completed, ready to publish manuscript. Unfortunately, these, and one other editor many many years ago, are the only benchmarks I have for what editors should be like.

After reading both posts, what are your thoughts on these two editors? What have been your experiences with editors? I’d also like to hear the thoughts of editors/agents in the business.

Until next time!. . .