Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Good Neighbor: A Short Story

The Good Neighbor is available in the collection Under the Willow Tree and Other Stories.

Peter Hughes lathered the final corner panel on his ‘68 Camaro. Washing this car, his most prized possession, was his duty, which he did at least once a week. Besides his outdated house, with the peeling paint, warped window frames, and cracked and slanted sidewalks, the car was the only item of any importance that Peter had been able to keep in that painstakingly drawn-out divorce. He had asked for nothing else.
He swirled his sponge and wiped while soapsuds slid down his scrawny forearm, covering the small name that he’d had tattooed there a few years ago. Valerie, a name he intended to have removed by laser surgery whenever he could save up the money.
With the garden hose, he rinsed the foamy water and exposed the car’s shiny canary-yellow finish. Stepping back, he admired his baby as the last of the evening sun danced and paraded over the contours of its flawless body.
Perfection once again, he thought.
Soon after, his admiration for his car was interrupted when his neighbor, Guy Fickly, torqued the throttle on his new Harley-Davidson. From dual, chrome tail pipes black smoke bellowed, crossing the street and drifting toward Peter and his freshly washed car. The engine screamed and thundered throughout the usually quiet neighborhood.
Peter had enjoyed that rumbling engine for the first day or two. The sound had made his adrenaline rise, and he almost considered buying a bike for himself. He’d pictured cruising on the open road without a care in the world, enjoying the fresh country air and the freedom that he felt he sorely deserved.
But now, he scoffed every time he heard that blaring pain in the ass. He despised the noise more than he despised his cheating ex-wife. When Guy had bought the bike one week earlier, the roar of the engine could be heard at any time of the day or night. On most nights, Peter would lie in his bed and hopelessly clutch his pillow around his head trying to mute the chaos from across the street. Through his scarcely insulated walls, he heard wrenches clanking, Guy’s cussing, and the engine revving to its highest rpms.
Now, eyes puffed and dark from smoke and lack of sleep, Peter stood in his front yard, breathing in the black cloud, glaring in Guy’s direction. His first thought was to get his 12 gauge Remington from beneath his bed and put the mechanical monster out of its misery. He found much glory in this idea, but a more subtle approach would have to do for now. He dropped the sponge in the wash bucket and tossed the garden hose aside. He grabbed two Coors Lights from his ice chest, which sat on the cracked, slanted sidewalk, and took out across his yard and the road into Guy Fickly’s driveway.
Walking up, Peter noticed the countless cigarette butts discarded over the newly blacktopped driveway. A disgusting habit, he thought. When Guy saw Peter approaching, he cut the engine.
Guy was a shorter, stockier individual who had a rough-edged look. He had a buzzed haircut and scruffy beard and was probably a person you would want on your side if a barroom brawl broke out.
“How’s it goin’, neighbor?” said Guy.
“Going well,” said Peter, showing his cordial side even though he wanted to lash out. “Come to check out this new beast of yours.” He fought his way through the cloud of lingering black smoke.
“Yeah, always wanted one,” said Guy. “Thought, what the hell, I ain’t gettin’ any younger. So, I just went out and bought the son of a bitch.” Peter handed one of the beers to his neighbor. “Thanks, Pete.”
Peter nodded. He cracked open the tab and then took a drink while circling the machine to get a better look.
“Sure is a beauty. What year is it?” he said.
“Ninety-five,” said Guy. “She’ll get down the road screamin’ like a banshee. You wanna take ‘er for a spin?”
Peter thought on the matter, and was tempted, but instead said, “No, better not. Already had a few too many suds today.” He didn’t want to appear hypocritical, especially with what he was about to say.
“Yeah, better not then,” said Guy.
Peter swigged from his beer, cleared his throat, and said, “Hey, Guy, I hate to be the one to say this, but a lot of people are starting to complain about the noise you’re making with this thing.”
He had lied, but was sure the other neighbors had to find the noise as disturbing as he did. He assumed they were probably too intimidated by Guy’s burly swagger to bring up the issue directly. Although, he couldn’t blame them. Guy was a scary-looking sort whose bad side you probably didn’t want to be on.
Guy popped the top of his can, took a healthy drink, and squatted beside his motorcycle.
“Hell, Pete,” he said. “You know I don’t give a damn about what people think of me. Besides, I’m just tunin’ ‘er up. A man has to take care of his equipment. You know that better than anyone.” He set his beer on the driveway and grabbed a spark plug off an oily rag. He then grabbed the ratchet that was lying next to the bike’s front wheel.
Peter scratched his head. He wasn’t expecting Guy’s response to be so logical. He couldn’t rightfully argue with someone who was only trying to maintain his equipment.
“I wasn’t saying you shouldn’t take care of your bike, Guy. But you know how easily annoyed old man Baker becomes over everything.” With a nod of his head, Peter gestured to the house next door to Guy’s. “It’s probably just a matter of time before he starts complaining to Town Hall, or goes to some other extreme.”
Guy made the last turn of his ratchet, grabbed his beer, and stood.
“I’d like to see that old geezer try somethin’ stupid like that. Next time his damn cat comes over and confuses my flower bed for a litter box, I’ll send it home screamin’ with a pellet in its ass.”
Maybe mentioning old man Baker had been a bad idea. Peter didn’t want to start trouble. He was only trying to make life a little easier for himself. He took another drink from his beer.
“There’s something else,” he said.
“What’s that?” said Guy. “Ferguson runnin’ his mouth too?” He was clearly irritated, and now looking toward the house of his other neighbor, Clive Ferguson.
The thought of unintentionally starting a neighborhood civil war crossed Peter’s mind. “No-no, it’s not that,” he said almost in a panic. “It’s just…well…I’m having trouble sleeping at night with all that noise you’re making.”
Tensing, Peter waited for Guy’s response.
“Hell, Pete, why didn’t you say that in the first place? I don’t have a problem workin’ in the daytime.” Peter felt relieved by his answer, until Guy said, “Except it’s a hell of a lot cooler at night, you know.”
Damn it. He’s right again, thought Peter. The days had been blistering hot, and he couldn’t blame Guy for wanting to work in the cooler night air. He’d also remembered Guy’s mild stroke last summer. He thought a bit longer and took another pull from his beer.
“Well, you shouldn’t work in the heat, Guy. That could be dangerous.”
“Hell, I’m too ornery to die,” he said. “But I hear what you’re sayin’. I’ll try to cut the evenin’ a little shorter from now on.”
“That’d be great,” said Peter, surprised by Guy’s answer.
“But I’m only doin’ it for you. Not for that old bastard over there.” Guy pointed and emphasized with the end of his ratchet to old man Baker’s house. “Or Ferguson, either.”
“I sure do appreciate it, neighbor,” said Peter.
“Not a problem,” Guy replied. “Not a problem at all.”

That night, Peter stared happily at the mirror while he brushed his teeth. He felt relieved knowing he was on the brink of getting a restful night’s sleep. Tonight, there would be no engines blaring, no clanking wrenches, and no loud, thoughtless cursing.
He spat, wiped his mouth, and proceeded to the soft pillow top mattress and sat on the edge of his bed. He longed for vivid dreams and restful slumber. He knew he wouldn’t meet the morning with contempt and despair as before. Instead, he would rise vigorously and full of joy.
He kicked off his house slippers, slid comfortably under his cover, and reached to push the switch on his reading lamp. There would be no reading tonight. Peter was prepared to reach that golden state of blissful rest and relaxation.
He lay peacefully, hearing only the soothing sounds of the chirping crickets outside his open window. A breeze slipped through the window screen, cooling his face, and he formed a gratified smile. He sank deeper into the mattress’ thick cushion, expecting his mind to drift away at any moment. Not long now, he knew, and off to sleep he would go.
While nestled in his blankets, Peter’s mind drifted away. But soon after, a violent stagger of kick-drums and distorted guitar-riffs penetrated the walls, causing his heart to bounce and skip. He rose, panting, grabbing his chest.
“Goddamn it!” he blasted. He stretched his arm and fumbled for the switch on his reading lamp. He slung off his cover, stood, and marched to the other bedroom window, pulling apart the blinds, and stared with crazy eyes toward Guy’s lighted garage.
“What’s wrong with these fucking people?” he said.
Guy’s son, Austin, and his garage band were playing their music again. The teenage boy and his band had intruded on Peter’s sleep on more than one occasion. Peter had talked to Guy about the blaring noise, and he thought they had come to a reasonable understanding.
“No problem, Pete,” he remembered Guy saying. “I’ll take care of it. Won’t happen again.”
Enraged, Peter spied through his blinds. And through the small rectangular window of Guy’s garage, he could see Guy’s greying, buzzed head keeping to the beat of the music.
Peter jerked his hand away causing the vinyl slats to slap back to their original position. He couldn’t understand why Guy would let this happen again. Maybe this was spiteful turn play for his request to stop the roaring motorcycle engine. No matter. It was late and Peter would have to deal with this another time.
The next morning Peter arose with heavy stubble on his face and chose to bypass his usual shower and shave. He ambled to the kitchen to make coffee, and then to the corner of the living room where his desk and laptop awaited. He didn’t feel very productive, but the deadline for his advice column loomed.
The keys of his laptop clacked as his article began to take shape. If anything could distract his mind, his writing could. Whether trying to steer some helpless soul out of depression or advise would-be college students on the importance of an education, this job was rewarding to Peter.
He typed away until a sequence of stern knocks on the door pulled him from his writing muse. He opened the front door and discovered a smiling, bright-eyed Guy Fickly staring back.
“Mornin’, Pete,” he said, puffing a cigarette.
“Good morning, Guy,” Peter half grumbled. Unlike him, Guy appeared fresh and lively.
“Wonderin’ if I could still borrow those posthole diggers?” he asked. “Goin’ to start on that fence in the back yard.”
With jaw clenched, Peter held onto his diminishing composure.
“Yeah–sure,” he said. “Meet me around by the side door.”
“Okay,” said Guy.
In the hot, unventilated garage, Peter shuffled around bags of aluminum cans he’d been saving, bypassed a garden tiller, and scooted aside a few totes that were full of his ex-wife’s belongings. Not only was his intrusive neighbor annoying him, but he also felt an old, unsettling rage stirring deep inside. He had phoned Valerie multiple times telling her to come and get her totes, and the rest of her stuff. He became infuriated every time he had to move the damn things to get to something he needed. And this time was no exception.
Eight more of Valerie’s totes were stacked in the corner. Behind the stacks were the posthole diggers that Guy needed for his new fencing project. One by one, Peter lifted the heavy totes from the stack and placed them on the garage floor. He grabbed another, but his hand, now sweaty, slipped from the handle and the container’s sharp, plastic lid scraped down his arm and the corner struck him in the chin. He went down, toppling over the other totes and onto the bags of aluminum cans.
Jutting his jaw, he checked its hinging motion, and when nothing seemed dislocated or broken, he scrambled back to his feet, cussing. Peter grabbed the posthole diggers, and a few moments later, he met Guy at the side door.
“Here,” said Peter while beads of sweat ran down his brow and into his eyes. Again, he opened and closed his jaw.
“Thanks, Pete. I really appreciate it. I’ll bring ‘em back as soon as I’m done.”
“No hurry,” said Peter, wiping the sweat from his eyes.
“You really are a good neighbor,” said Guy. “There ain’t too many people like you left in the world.”
“No big deal, really,” said Peter, still blinking the sweat away.
“What’s the matter? Get somethin’ in your eye?” asked Guy.
“Just a little sweat.”
Peter wiped his eyes again. He remembered the loud music that kept him up most of the night and early into the morning.
“That’s quite the band your son has,” he said.
“Thanks,” said Guy. “I really think they have a lot of potential.”
Yeah, the potential to drive someone bat shit crazy, Peter thought.
“The drummer, he’s a little subpar, but learnin’ fast,” Guy continued. “They didn’t keep you up last night, did they? I tried sound-proofin’ the garage.”
Peter said, “It was pretty loud.”
“Damn, Pete. Sorry about that. It’s just…well…they don’t have anywhere else to practice. They’re only tryin’ to get better. They could be out vandalizin’ shit or stealing cars—or somethin’ worse.”
“True,” said Peter. “But maybe they could turn down the volume some.”
“Sure thing, neighbor. And thanks again.” Guy headed back across the street, slinging the posthole diggers up and onto his shoulder.
Inside, Peter grabbed a paper towel from the kitchen and wiped his sweaty hands and face. He then settled in front of his laptop and tried to lose himself once again in the sheer joy of his craft. He stared at the screen, but couldn’t produce any words.
“You can do this,” he muttered. “Just concentrate.”
As his mind loosened and he forgot about his life’s frequent annoyances, the words flowed freely onto the screen. While Peter made the final changes to his article, a series of yells came from outside. He got up and pulled the curtain on the front window and saw Guy’s son, Austin, and a couple of his band mates riding skateboards up and down the road in front of his house.
In the middle of the street was a homemade ramp fashioned from a piece of ply board lying on a cement block. Each boy, one after the other, took the apparatus at full speed.
As he and his board landed perfectly on the street, Austin let out another ripping, celebratory scream and skated past Peter’s driveway where he then maneuvered a sharp U-turn to fall back in line behind the other boys.
Next, Peter watched another boy zoom down the road, picking up speed, going faster and faster. When his wheels hit the ramp at an awkward angle, the boy and the skateboard went air borne, flying in opposite directions. Peter watched the kid land awkwardly on his side on the street, and the skateboard torpedoed through the air in an arching motion.
When the board landed, it hit one of the elevated cracks on Peter’s slanted sidewalk where it toppled end over end until it smacked crudely against the passenger door of the mint ‘68 Camaro. Wasting little time, the boys gathered their skateboards and makeshift ramp and fled the scene.
Peter’s heart fluttered and his face paled. He came close to vomiting. He was past the point of no return. This on going aggravation, this stirring rage, he could no longer contain.
Maybe I really should go get my gun, just say fuck it, and blow these bastards away. He went to the kitchen, grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, and thought the matter over.
He chugged his beer while trying to form these vile thoughts into more rational views. He tried desperately to see reason in all the torment he’d endured from his neighbor. Maybe Guy wasn’t a peripheral thinker. Maybe he was unable to see the harm that he was doing.
Another burst of loud knocks lured Peter away from his soothing contemplation of an all-out neighborhood massacre. Repulsed, Peter’s first thought was that one of the boys had come to confess the terrible catastrophe that they had committed. But instead, when he opened the door, he found a cheery Guy Fickly staring back, holding the spade end of the posthole diggers in one hand and the broken handle in the other.
“Afraid I had a little mishap, Pete,” he said.
Peter flared. His eyes pierced and danced. “Is that so?”
“Startin’ a little early, aren’t we?” said Guy, noticing the beer in Peter’s hand.
He took another gulp and shot back. “Sure, why not?”
Guy shrugged and said, “Well, I started diggin’ and got down about a foot or so and the damn end snapped right off. Sorry, Pete. I’ll pay you for the damage of course.”
Peter didn’t respond. His mind fogged over and he peered joyfully up to the beautiful morning sky. He smelled the wonderful aroma of freshly cut grass and heard the humming of old man Baker’s riding lawn mower from across the street.
“You okay, Pete?” asked Guy.
Stripped away was his sanity. The long, restless nights were showing their ill effects on this once spirited and charismatic man. His engaging witticisms were no more and his striking handsome features had vanished as well. Peter had reached the end of the line.
“Sure, Guy. I’m fine,” he said. “No need to pay me. I bought it at a yard sale for five dollars.”
“Well, here, let me give you your five bucks back,” said Guy, setting the handle down and reaching for his wallet in his back pocket.
“No, it’s all right. Really.”
Guy hesitated and said, “Pete?”
“Can I say somethin’?”
“I don’t mean to sound like an ass, but maybe you should lay off the booze and try gettin’ a little more sleep at night. You’re lookin’ a little run-down.”
Peter snapped from his foggy realm. And just when he appeared to take offense, he cracked a smile. The smile broadened and morphed into a subtle snicker, and then a roaring laugh. Peter held up his beer and pointed to it, confirming Guy’s take on his early morning drinking habits. But that wasn’t the reason for his uncontrollable outburst. That wasn’t the reason at all. It had come from the misguidance of an ignorant neighbor, unaware of the unspoken rules of how to be a good neighbor.

He laughed hysterically at a worried-looking Guy who stood on the front porch step holding the broken digging apparatus. Peter swung the door closed and lurched across his living room, set his beer on the end table, and sank onto the sofa. His laugh then changed to a deep, sorrowful cry, and tears streamed down his face. He fell over, burying his head into the sofa’s cushion and cried until falling into a deep, delightful sleep, a sleep that he’d longed for, a sleep that had until now eluded him. He slept all day and night and didn’t wake until the next morning, unbothered by man, woman, or neighbor.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Realist Writer

There is something about the realist writer that appeals to me. I enjoy reading their stories and books and poems concerning the lives and struggles of genuine day-to-day people. The old drunk on the corner drinking his wine from a paper sack, the man who can’t get a girl to go on a date with him, and the single mom who’s at odds with her teenage, drug-addict daughter, these are the people and stories I want to read. These are the people to which I most relate—the real people.
I gain an immediate connection to these characters when they have the same goals, desires, and heartaches as I do. I want to know about the man working down at the local factory who is facing layoff. How does he cope? How will he provide for his family? What are his options? Take me into the mind of the school teacher turned prostitute. Make me interested in her thoughts and emotions. Make me sense her emotional pain as she lies down with a total stranger for the fifth time in one night. These are the stories I want to read.
I’ve always held the lives of the ordinary men and women in high regard. These “ordinary” people make for extraordinary stories. No magic, no science fiction, just realism. Solid, barebones, storytelling.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My Soul on the Page

I’ve studied and read some of the greatest writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. I’ve delved into Chekhov’s short stories, admiring them, falling in love with his style and storytelling. I’ve let myself fall into Neil Gaiman’s realm of magical realism. I’ve nodded in agreement, sneered, and shaken my head while reading the gritty tales and poems of Charles Bukowski. There are many writers to read and discover, yet not enough time in which to do it.
Most read to escape. I open a book to gain insight. I want to discover truth or a hidden door that leads me into a mindset that I’ve never ventured to before. I want to hammer away at the shell of ignorance and uncover a part of myself I never knew.
When I read it’s at night, in my bed, while my body and mind are at their most relaxed. I absorb the words on the page and only this time and space exist. Real work doesn’t exist. No coworkers. No bosses. The moment is guarded. Nothing else matters.
In these stories, I admire the heroes that make me laugh, that make me feel that I am marching alongside them. I admire the writer who makes me a part of her story whether I want to be or not. I admire the characters with real-life struggles and hardships. These are my people.
Reading the stories by these writers, I’ve learned many wonderful lessons, as a writer myself and as a human being. What I probably enjoy more than the story being told is the tone and style in which it is written. In my efforts of reading and studying these magnificent writers, I hope to grasp a little of what makes them who they are and redefine it as my own.
For any writer, to have her own style and tone for which she’s known is a gift, or prize. I want the woman who lies in her bed at night reading as I do to know that what she reads unmistakably belongs to me. I want the words to be my own. I want a little of my soul left on the page.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Under the Willow Tree enrolled in Kindle Matchbook Program

 Under the Willow Tree and Other Stories is now enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook Program. What does this mean? This means that when you buy the paperback you will receive a FREE ebook version also (regularly priced at $3.99). And, for those who purchased a paperback from Amazon before this announcement, never fear because you too are eligible for a FREE download. Just go back to the purchasing page and click the link. Lastly, if you purchased your paperback via some other means (like directly from me), I will gladly send you a FREE pdf copy of Under the Willow Tree. Just shoot me an email and I’ll get it to you as soon as possible.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

KATE’S FUNERAL (excerpt)

Kate sat calm and pleasantly content in the front row in one of the provided folding chairs. And even though she was attending her own funeral, she seemed unbothered by this small detail of not being alive. Instead, she looked around the large funeral parlor with the curiosity and fascination of a small child, one that has gone outside to discover nature for the first time. Except, this wasn’t nature. This was death. This was Kate’s death. The end of her physical being.
The old building, which had served for years as the town’s funeral home, quickly filled with grievers of many kinds. Some of the people Kate hadn’t seen since her early childhood. Some were former primary schoolmates; some were family members, high school friends, teachers, and other acquaintances. Through the crowded room, there was one face that she had yet to see, and for Kate, it was the face of an angel—her David. She carefully observed the parlor, looking all around, but again, she didn’t see her love. She knew, though, it wouldn’t be long, and he too would arrive to bid her a bittersweet farewell. She knew that for sure.
Two years before this day, the day of her funeral, Kate Longley met David Bennington when she was a freshman and he was a junior in high school. David played guitar in a garage band and was popular at their school. Kate loved music, and she also knew of David, but not on a personal level. That changed when they began sharing study hall together. It was then their relationship blossomed. Upon their first conversation, Kate had expressed to David her fascination for the arts—especially for the indie music scene.
“Indies are revolutionizing the industry,” Kate had said, while sitting at her cramped desk, riddled with artwork of yesteryear’s students. Smeared, inked images of rainbows, peace signs, and pot leaves graced the Formica surface.
“I totally agree,” said David. He scribbled into a spiraled notebook. “It’s like these big-wig record producers turn their noses up whenever someone mentions the words independent artist. I really don’t get it. They need to open their eyes. This is the wave of the future.”
“Absolutely,” said Kate.
She stared into David’s hazel eyes and thought he had the face of an angel. His artistic intellect also impressed her. The two carried on with their conversation a while longer, sharing their deep musical passions. David, after finding the nerve, asked Kate the question he had wanted to ask since their conversation had started.
Still nervously scribbling in his notebook, he said, “You know, if you’re not too busy, maybe you could come by and watch us jam sometime?”
This had been what Kate was hoping for: a chance to hang out, a chance to get to know this person, who seemed to be more like her with each passing moment of their conversation.
“Sure. I would like that,” she said, trying to contain a huge smile, but failing.
“Great,” said David, grinning back. “You can come by tonight, if you want. We usually get started around six. I can give you directions.”
“I know where it’s at,” said Kate. “I’ll be there.”
It had been the beginning of something wonderful. Thereafter, their love and devotion for each other grew as the young couple was together every waking moment. They would go to the library to read books, usually about art and literature or music and philosophy. Sometimes they would go to the classic movie theatre to see some of their favorite films from the golden age of cinema.
Several months passed and their relationship finally reached a level that assured Kate she would indeed spend the rest of her life with David, that she would someday marry him, someday become his wife. She couldn’t wait for the day she would become Mrs. David Bennington.
As she reflected on those happier times among the living, reality struck Kate. I’m dead, she thought. It was then she realized that she would never get the chance to become David’s happy bride.
Kate looked around the funeral parlor. She hadn’t realized how much of an impact she had made on some of these people, the ones that loomed in the corner, chatting of how sad it was that a beautiful girl had died at such a young age, the ones that lingered in and out of the catering room eating the free mini sandwiches and drinking lemonade and iced tea. She had forgotten many of their faces over the course of her young life. Many wept as they walked by her open casket, and she almost became embarrassed the longer she watched them blubber over her chilled corpse.
“Quit crying, for God’s sake,” she said as another walked past her body. But the living couldn’t hear the young and beautiful Kate Longley, and wouldn’t hear her ever again.
Most did came to grieve for her, but there were some who came only to play witness to the almighty hand of death, which many thought sent one to the realm of the unknown. For Kate, death wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t a big deal, really. And now that she was deceased, she couldn’t understand why the living had always made a big fuss over it.
From across the room, through the scattering of people, Kate noticed a man staring at her. She rose from the folding chair and turned in the man’s direction. He stood casually, wearing a grey trench coat, hands in his pockets. Combed straight back, tight against his head, was his black, greasy hair.
Is he really looking at me? Kate thought.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Do you have a story idea I can borrow, please?

Where do your story ideas come from? How do you decide on what it is you’re going to write about? These are questions that writers and authors are frequently asked. For myself, I have no true rhyme or reason for the conception of any particular story. Many times my stories start out as nothing more than a few scribbles of rambling words in a notebook. Ah, there’s an idea, I may think and then jot it down. Or, ooh, I like that concept, and make note of it on scrap paper, or on whatever is available at that time.

The real answer to these questions is that story ideas linger everywhere. You just have to look around you. And there is no systematic plan for acquiring them. I, for one, cannot go anywhere without the possibility of a potential story jumping out at me. I literally cannot close my mind’s creative eye. I’m always inconspicuously observing people and their actions, mannerisms, dialogue, and so on. Whether standing in line at the movie theatre, or sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, I’m constantly taking mental notes of my surroundings and looking at what it might have to offer, artistically.

Many times ideas filter into my brain at such a rapid rate that I sometimes become overwhelmed. So, what do I do about this creative overload? How do I rifle through all these characters and plot lines? It’s simple, really: I pick out the ones that fascinate me the most. I try to work on the stories that often stick out in my mind; the ones that constantly yell out: What are you waiting on? Write me, damn it!

Other times stories simply originate from a writer’s own life experiences. Maybe last year’s family trip sparks an interest for you to write a post-apocalyptic thriller about a family’s vacation to Miami. While there, they discover flesh-eating zombies that haphazardly lurch along vile-ridden streets of chaos and destruction. Or if that is not your cup of tea, maybe you’d rather pen a happier tale about that first hunting trip you and your dad took together when you were only nine-years-old? It could be the groundwork for a classic coming of age story. Or maybe the beginning to a nifty fairy tale about a young hunter who goes into the forest, only to discover that the woodland creatures talk back to him. The possibilities are endless. It’s your world, your vision. Only you can decide how the story is told.

If you are an aspiring fiction writer – who is not sure what to write about – merely think of your own interests and passions. Think of the stories and books that you yourself enjoy reading the most. Cultivate a story line or an engaging character from these personal fascinations and go with it. Don’t hold back. Turn off your inner critic and write freely, letting your ideas spew onto your notebook or your computer screen. Save the self-critiquing for your rewriting session/s. As long as you hold a passion for storytelling and a desire to create art, there will always be stories to write.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Learning and Loving the Trade

A few weeks ago I passed my one-year anniversary for having stepped into the independent publishing field. I have to confess: I’ve learned a vast amount about this business in the passing year. Some lessons were learned the hard way, some came a little easier. Most importantly, though, I learned, and I’m still being taught day in and day out.

In my first year I produced 14 products, 9 original short stories in total, some of which dip into the western genre, kids’ fiction, and the coming of age spectrum. Basically, it’s been whatever I’ve felt the urge to write. It’s that simple and I love this business for that reason.

I love the freedom that comes with independent publishing. Never being tied down to a specific genre is great. When I feel a period of burnout syndrome I can easily switch over to an entirely new topic to write and can publish it just the same.

I’m not sure what it is that lures me to writing fiction. I guess it’s the power to create any world I wish to, one that I could make at any given moment. The power of imagination has a lot to do with my writing motivation, I guess. I adore pushing my imagination to its max, seeking out the unknown caverns in my mind, pulling from those deep, dark holes new characters, conflicts, protagonists, and antagonists. To create art is indeed the best feeling.

I have many planned projects I want to unveil in 2013. I hope that everything I’ve learned in my first year will help expand my readership to an entirely new level. We shall wait and see. It’s been a wonderful first year and I have no complaints. After all, how could anyone ever complain about getting to do what they absolutely love to do the most? For me, the thought is just not fathomable.

With that said, I want to wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year.