I attended the second session of VetsWrite yesterday. Although it has been lightly attended, I have enjoyed the company of fellow writers and the fresh perspective. The writing exercises have been truly helpful; I’m embarrassed to admit I really can’t remember the last time I conducted a free-write on my own. At the end of the session, Ashley and Brad suggested that we share some pages from our current projects and discuss them during the next session.
This presented me with a conundrum.
I’ve been working on two separate novels for the last few months. They are each stalled around 30% complete. One keeps distracting me from the other. I was beginning to worry that I would never finish either since they both were still missing so much.
So, which one do I share? I was about to flip a coin when I decided just to share an excerpt from each. Perhaps the group could point me in the right direction or provide some needed guidance. I opened the files and began reading. One, then the other, and then back again.
As I read, I slowly began to realize that what each one was missing was possibly contained in the other. In a moment of Zen-like clarity I decided they needed to be combined. They wanted to be combined. In fact, they were practically begging to be combined. I spent the rest of the day, most of the night, and virtually every waking moment since then trying to pull the pieces together in some comprehensible fashion.
I was frustrated last night when I put them away, but I woke up with a few ideas. After some effort this afternoon, I think I’ve made a breakthrough. The result may not quite be 60% of a completed story, but close. In the very least, I am excited to have made some headway and I was also able to easily identify the pages I need to share.
Other random musings from the weekend:
- Only 18 days until hockey returns. Go Pens!
- I am loving my new Motorola Moto Z.
- Comcast is irritating me by repeatedly pushing the addition of a land-line phone. Today they resorted to scare tactics: “How would you make a call in an emergency if your cell phone wasn’t available?” I guess they fail to realize my cell phone is never out of arm’s reach.
- I am certainly going to keep my promise from March and never again review an episode of The Walking Dead. In fact, I may not even watch the new season. I’m actually surprised that my disdain has not faded over the summer.
- I made some additions to the Writer Resources page.
I drink a lot of coffee. I can’t write without drinking coffee. Occasionally I even write about drinking coffee. I visit my local Starbucks at least once a day. The other day I noticed a flyer on the wall. I never look at flyers on the wall, but for some reason this one called to me. It was kismet. VetsWrite was the headline. It advertised a creative writing class for veterans at the public library. I snapped a photo and proceeded home to investigate further.
VetsWrite has a website and sponsorship from local businesses. The seven-week course is being offered by a fellow MFA and culminates in a public reading following Veteran’s day. Needless to say I emailed the organizer and indicated my intent to participate. It turns out she may need some help and asked if I would lead one of the sessions. Now I just need to decide which topic: conflict & plot, setting, POV & voice, or scene.
I believe all of this is undeniable proof that Starbucks is quintessential to my life.
Random musings for the weekend:
- My nephew broke his arm. He needed surgery to install a couple pins. Just a few hours after surgery, his mom mentioned that he’ll have to drop soccer and baseball for the fall. His response: “You don’t need hands for soccer.” He is 5. What a tough kid. I should also mention that this discussion took place outside of Starbucks.
- I watched The Martian again last night. Great movie.
- The Roadies season finale is tomorrow. I hope it gets renewed for another season.
I am afraid of horses, bees, and mean dogs. All of these fears are based on either a real or perceived threat to my life.
The reason I fear bees is simple. I have been stung a few times in my life, luckily without much impact. But as I have grown older, and my allergies have mounted, I have become more susceptible to reactions. I was stung at a picnic a few years ago and wound up in the emergency room. The doctor warned that my reactions would get worse. I don’t carry an EpiPen. Therefore, I never really know if the next sting will kill me.
I am afraid of mean dogs because they can be vicious without cause or provocation (much like bees in that regard). I’ve only had a few run-ins with mean dogs and I’ve always managed to escape without major injury, aside from the mental anguish.
Horses on the other hand have never harmed me or attempted to harm me. They seem gentle and friendly. I have fed them carrots and sugar cubes without incident. I have ridden them on a couple occasions and have suffered nothing more than sore legs and a few bites from horse flies. I did however observe a horse being broken. I was twelve. The experience scarred me for life. The farm hands that corralled her were the roughest and toughest men I had ever met. I watched in horror as this horse destroyed them. Tossed them in the air, charged them, bit them. There was blood. There were broken bones. There were hideous shrieks of horror coming from both the horse and the men who tempted to ride her. I would never feed a horse a sugar cube again. They can’t be trusted.
I came across the statistic that horses are the deadliest animal on the planet. Sharks kill one person a year on average. Horses kill around 100 people in the US every year. Why? Because they are too big and potentially dangerous to be pets. They kill people without even meaning to. They get spooked and flip people airborne, breaking spines and fracturing skulls. They step on people. They crush people against solid object like barn doors and corrals, and yes, occasionally they attack.
One of the most terrifying experiences I have ever had occurred on a family vacation when I was out-voted and it was determined that we would visit Assateague Island, an Island in Maryland that is populated with wild horses. It was like Jurassic Park for me. One literally approached the car I was driving and fogged the driver’s side window with its breath. Never again.
Random Musings from the week:
- The Kindle promotion for Once in a Blue Year ends 8/25.
- I’m thoroughly enjoying Roadies on Showtime.
- Why is handball a thing? Did we really need to combine hockey and basketball?
- How do they get the equestrian horses to the Olympics?
- I did not know stylometry was a thing. Neither does Microsoft Word because it keeps underlining it with a squiggly red warning. Stylometry is a method of studying literary style and development by means of statistical analysis. Sounds fascinating. And boring.
Read 10 little-known facts about Metallica’s self-titled breakthrough LP, released 25 years ago.
Source: Metallica’s Black Album: 10 Things You Didn’t Know
I saw Gun N’ Roses in concert this week. I wasn’t sure what to expect when they walked onto the stage. To be honest, I was a little worried. I expected Slash to kick ass, but I worried Axl’s voice had waned. I was worried the arrangement of the band would be sloppy and unpracticed. I was worried that the show would rely heavily on unnecessary theatrics.
I was pleasantly surprised that none of these fears came true. Axl kicked ass. The band kicked ass. The show was carefully orchestrated to near perfection. Even the set list was astonishing. And yes, Slash kicked some serious ass.
I think it was quite fitting that they opened with “It’s so easy.” They certainly made it look easy. As the evening progressed, they seemed to keep getting better. I honestly believe Axl’s voice was strongest as they closed the encore with “Paradise City.”
I have seen over 175 live shows (not counting local bands). I have seen shows in at least 11 different states. I have seen small club shows, amphitheater shows, stadium shows, and quite a few festivals. I have seen shows by arguably some of the greatest bands ever: Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Van Halen (with each of the three singers), Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews, Metallica, U2. Even Third Eye Blind, Hurt, Sick Puppies, Matt Nathanson, and Staind have impressed me in smaller venues. The list goes on. I consider these as some of the best shows ever.
Guns N’ Roses somehow managed to surpass them all. Seriously. They were that good.
Random musings from this week:
- I am too old to function properly on only three hours sleep.
- I like the scratch of my new fountain pen. It’s like I am carving the words into the page.
- I am seriously behind on my reading and writing goals for the summer.
- Golf still sucks.
It has been a week since the Penguins clinched the Stanley Cup. I certainly enjoyed the excitement of the game, and I have enjoyed the highlights and the interviews ever since. But now I feel as though I am going through withdrawal. There is a void. For the past several months, my schedule has revolved around Penguin games. Games I attended. Games I watched. Games I taped and watched later. Rarely did three days pass without having a fix. I am now on day seven and I feel like I need to check myself into rehab. With the Pirates in a slump, baseball hasn’t helped much. I even tried watching golf yesterday. Golf! I am more than a little worried I will be forced to watch the basketball finals tonight. I hate basketball. I am from Pittsburgh, so I am programmed from birth to dislike anything from Cleveland. I don’t think I can endure seeing Cleveland celebrate a victory.
Random musings from this weekend:
- Only two episodes of Game of Thrones remain. The wait is so long, and the series goes so fast.
- It is the season for car wash fundraisers. A note to parents: please do not let your children meander through traffic on a four lane highway to collect donations and wave signs. I know the light is red, but it turns green before you know it and trucks speed by at 50 MPH.
- I have been mildly productive at writing this weekend. Almost two thousand words. Some of them are even good.
I spent all day Saturday in a pool hall. Pool tournaments make great places to watch very different people interacting with each other. College students with retirees, farmers with mechanical engineers, rappers with metal heads, volunteer firefighters with soccer moms, writers with, well, everyone. It was cultural chaos. That, and I have never heard such an eclectic slurry of music on the juke box: country, dance, hip-hop, pop, puke rock (as my wife calls bands such as Nickelback), metal, thrash, punk, reggae…
Of course I took a lot of notes. That’s just what writers do. I have been desperately trying to finish no less than two novels and three short stories. I had hoped to make that final push on at least one of them this weekend. Unfortunately, the stories did not cooperate. As I compiled my notes at 3 A.M., instead of putting finishing touches on final scenes, I found myself writing an entirely different story, one in stark contrast with the others, almost like those sordid characters in the pool hall. The new story kept me up most of the night pondering the endless possibilities and feverishly typing notes for scenes and themes.
In the end, my team lost the tournament and I didn’t play particularly well. But at least I met some new characters and I am enjoying piecing their story together.
Other random musings from this weekend:
- I consumed 13 shots of espresso on Friday. That might be a personal record.
- The Penguins better win tonight. And yes, I will be missing Game of Thrones to watch, so don’t spoil anything for me tomorrow.
This afternoon I was struggling to read a highly-praised novel that I was hating. I thought it was just me, that I was failing as a reader, so I kept trudging along, page after terrible page. I had promised myself to read today, and read I would. After about thirty minutes I realized I had finished several chapters. I didn’t hate it anymore. But I wasn’t really reading it either. I was actually just ignoring it. I could not remember anything I had read. I even clicked back a few pages only to discover the words were entirely foreign to me. I finally accepted defeat and closed the book forever.
Despite all of that I still wanted to read. After I deleted the daydream-inducing novel, I searched through the other titles I had available. I finally noticed the icon for Neil Gaiman’s new collection of short stories. I don’t know why I waited so long to start reading Trigger Warning. It has been on my Kindle for months, unopened. It is opened now, and it is delightful.
Random musings from this week.
- I finished watching Sherpa this weekend. I can’t resist the allure of Mt. Everest.
- I really really wanted the Penguins to close out the series against the Capitals tonight.
- I feel inspired to finish that collection of short stories I’ve been working on for years.
- I have already grown weary of all the election coverage.
- The final season of Banshee is great so far.