F is for Fourteen

When I planned for this week, I originally thought I might do F is for Focus. Focus (with a capital F) is that name I use to describe a synergy of factors that help me be productive.

Then I looked at the calendar and realized there was a far more important thing to mention this morning. Today is my youngest child’s 14th birthday.

Being the youngest of three, you’d think I was used to this feeling of another year slipping by, watching one of our kids turning a year older. This is, after all, the third 14th birthday we’ve had. What could be different? The short answer is, it’s the last 14th birthday we will have. Our kids are well on their way to being grown-ups (ok, ok, one of them already is, and that puts grey hairs in my beard). Time, which seems to drag and ebb more than it flows at times, is suddenly accelerating past us exponentially.

The kids, of course, roll their eyes at me. Dad is overly sentimental, prone to waxing about years past. But in a year that just keeps on giving, 2020 has at least a few good days in it, and today is one of them.

And if you happen to stumble onto this page, Happy Birthday!!

A quick side note. I’m reconsidering when these posts go up – maybe first thing on a Saturday morning isn’t as reasonable as I originally thought. Coming weeks will see me shifting these posts around while I find the right time slot. I’m currently leaning towards either Sunday mornings, or first thing Monday’s (giving me the weekend to actually write something).

E is for Erratic

A month ago, I set out to blog once a week. By accident, I set out with a theme of titling each blog with the next letter of the alphabet, and this week is no different. Picking what the word for E was going to be, that was the hard part.

My first choice was e-reader. Earlier this year, when my Kindle started growing long in the tooth, I decided it was time to finish my separation from an Amazon centric world and bought a Kobo. Of the Kobo, let me say, I love it. I like the independence from the Amazon ecosystem, but more so, the builtin integration to browse both my local library and my Pocket collection. There are some rough bits around the edges, but all in all I like the device.

The problem with that theme is that I’ve been slipping back into physical books of late. It seemed disingenuous to talk about e-readers when the last three books I’ve read, and the book I’m currently reading, are all paper books.

To say e-book was out goes without say.

So I floundered, looking for a topic for this week. I was late at the start – through a series of (unusual for me) circumstances, I woke up extremely late yesterday (Saturday) morning. So late that I had already missed my self imposed deadline for having a new blog post.

I did what any self respecting writer with a themed topic would do, especially when that theme was simply titling each post with the next letter of the alphabet.

I turned to the dictionary.

But not at first. First I turned to the thesaurus, sure that it would have an appropriate synonym for words like procrastinate or delayed or even just put off. Luck was not with me, or my yellowed Rogett’s was just too geared for younger students. So I turned to my two volume, 1976 dictionary set, and started paging through the E listing. I knew e-books and e-readers, and anything e-centric, wouldn’t do. I had a few contenders, fingers holding my place as I leafed, when I realized what the root of the problem was.

I haven’t been blogging consistently the last year or so. I have my rational, and I’ve talked about it before, but I am trying to make up for that. Writers write, as they say, and how can I be a writer if I never write? And while the blog isn’t fiction, and isn’t even decent small town editorial quality, it is something I can point at. But of late, I’d become rather erratic in my posting.

And that’s how we got here today, folks, with E is for Erratic. I can’t promise it won’t happen again – it might even happen next week. But if it does, I’ll just point at this post with an apologetic smile and point out that I admitted early on these were going to be erratic at times.

D is for Doubt

Let’s face it, at the time of this writing, I’m an unsuccessful writer. If you are reading this blog, chances are good it’s because we know each other in some way. Maybe tangibly – you’re a friend, a coworker, or someone who’s been stuck talking to me. Maybe we just know each other online (I’m intermittently extroverted when I’m not busy clamming up and shutting down). I’ve written a few books, even self-published a few of them, but I can tell you straight up, I have had no secret success as a writer.

And yet, I continue to write. I write for the simplest reason of all – I enjoy trying to tell a story. Now sometimes, I tell a story and others enjoy it. Sometimes, I tell a story and everyone looks at me with a vague, glazed over stare that tells me that the story missed its mark somewhere.

I used to think that when I finished writing a novel, that was it, send it out. Why hold onto it at that point? I think it was that mentality that led me to self-publishing my books, and it was waking up from that mentality that put a pause on publishing.

Take my most recent novel (you’ll need to take my word on it). Titled A King’s Lament, it’s the story of a king who is haunted by the ghost of his lost love. So much so that he forsakes crown and kingdom to track down where she fled to 20 years ago, even though his country is just recovering from a war with the republic that invaded and subjugated the neighboring kingdom. Oh, and his brother is out to get him too, but he doesn’t know that at the start of the story.

Sounds great, right? Wait till you get to the midpoint climax and learn X and Y and realize Z. Then there’s the mad dash to try and avert more war and disaster with the dawning realization that he was set up to fail. And some of the things we thought we understood about the world? Just a misdirection we should have caught on to before.

Don’t worry about that being spoilerly. Even if I were to buckle and publish/submit it someday, that’s the back cover blurb material and doesn’t tell you much about the story.

When I finished the first draft a few months ago, I set it aside. Its something I’m struggling with but accept the value of. Set the story aside for a while, let it fester and ripen, then look at it again. And when I did that, what I found was a bland story. I’d tried to write it in the first person, but what came across was just a boring, haughty king traipsing around. I spent some time lamenting that myself, then decided I’d rewrite it in the third person.

But yeah, that’s when the first doubt started to creep in.

Undeterred, I set off and wrote the first 30k of the revised novel, a third of it new material. Things were going great, or at least, progressing, until the day I needed to take a break. When I came back after a day off, I look at what I had written and despaired. Doubt with a capital and bold D was settling in.

The problem is that the story is still….bland. Luthor isn’t particularly engaging, and what I’ve written feels more like a spicy travelogue than a novel. I find myself doubting this work altogether. This is my second attempt (well….something like my fifth, really, but who’s actually keeping track of all those draft versions besides me and dropbox…) and it still feels…meh.

A past me might have transitioned from Doubt to Despair at this point, but this is a new me. I see where the story is failing. I acknowledge that for whatever reason, now is not my time for telling this story. I have a few other stories incubating at the moment, departures from the kind of story I’ve been telling which in a lot of ways makes them all the more appealing. It’s supposed to be in the 100’s F this weekend- sounds like a great time to catch up on some Harrow County, read some books, and tinker with some ideas while avoiding the inferno outside.