Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dangerous Minds

I recently stumbled across the link, The four hidden dangers of writing groups I've been trying to absorb all writing resources like a nasty old kitchen sponge, so of course I read this ominous link. At the moment, I'm reading, The Elements of Style by William Strunk. Stephen King highly recommended it in his book On Writing. Good one Steve. I'm convinced Stephen King was playing a cruel joke on us writers when he recommended this tortuous mini tome. Actually, it's a very helpful book on punctuation and grammar. And heck, that's my achilles's heel. But can't you just picture Stephen King cackling with demonic flair as he added that resource to his book? I can. He has a devious mind. Of course, that's what I like about him too.

I thought I'd have a little fun. Here's what I think the 4 hidden dangers of writing groups are based on my experience. 

1) Those that can't, teach. There's always those people in the group that really sound like they know what they're talking about. Qualified? Hell yes. They sound like they went to writing school on a space ship culled with gifted humans. The little green martians with brains the size of watermelons beamed them up for class at 8 am earth time. They went to Celestial school for around 100 years. (The equivalent of 1 martian year) And then were let loose to wander among writers and us dumb folk. Well, these know it alls don't always know how to write! Go figure.

2) The player. This guy is a writer. Well, he's written something or other. That's all that can really be proven. It could be a shopping list or a note to self.  But he's really more interested in dating a writer. Or a woman that's breathing and can lend him a pencil. 

3) The absentee. They sign up for group with no intention of ever going. They might feel the pressure of a real life meet up will give them the kick in the ass they need to put pen to paper. But then they get a hot date. Or they decide to watch Homeland. Or they think their Schwan's frozen dinner will get cold. I don't know why they are no shows. But it's fun to imagine why.

4) The retired teacher. These people are bored. They may be able to write. I'll give them that. But their real purpose of attending group is they need to fix, teach or torture somebody. And with a blood red pen, they'll give you a critique alright. They'll skin you alive! They might even rewrite your whole piece. Just because boring is better. A note to creative challenged retired teachers of the world. Boring is for William Strunk books!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fear Follows

We watched the movie It Follows on Halloween.

Creepy, unsettling and intelligently bare bones, this horror gem from David Robert Mitchell will be the scariest thing you'll watch all year.
Sean O'Connell

It was the perfect choice. Scary shows can be well written. Just look at American Horror Story. I think it is masterpiece of a show. If my future book ever gets made into a movie, I want those guys to produce it. 

On October 31st, being scared is a right of passage. Some of us partake with graveyard gusto. Have you ever been to the Haunted Basement at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis? It's scary as Hell. They have a safe word. That's how bad it is. 

Fear is a fact of life. Most of us discover that at an early age when one of our friends startles us in the black of night. Usually on an innocent sleep over. It's all fun and games. And hopefully no one wets their pajamas. Later in life, dark tales around a camp fire put goose bumps on top of goose bumps. Because our ass is freezing while our feet are burning up! Suddenly, the crunch of a leaf does not emanate from the friendly footsteps of a raccoon. We know it's the son of Freddie Kruger. Or worse. It can always get worse.

Fear can rear its head in many forms... 

1) The fear of flying. If you're like me you're more afraid of a nasty virus lurking on the armrest. And don't even get me started on the recycled air. 

2) The fear of failure. Nuff said.

3) The fear of fire. That's mine.

4) The fear of water. Sharks are out there.  

I've been thinking a lot about fear lately. Ever since the Friday the 13th that we'll never forget. The massacre in Paris. If only it was just a movie. Why does real life have to be so much scarier than make believe? I'm scared now. And I bet you are too. I hate to say that I'm afraid because I don't want the wrong people to think they've won. But I wish I could just wake up and discover that terrorism was just a bad dream. I wish fear didn't have to follow.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Pilgrimage...

My friend Mary gave me a huge compliment last week. I still feel all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. She actually visited and READ this blog. Then, (insert angelic voices bursting through the rafters singing Hallelujah) she told me she loved this blog and was a new fan. Maybe she will read my book someday!

Mary is preparing for a pilgrimage. Have you seen the movie The Way? It is a delightful film starring Martin Sheen, written and produced by his son Emilio. Martin Sheen's character Thomas walks the Camino_de_Santiago with his son's ashes. The film introduces us to interesting characters as Thomas walks through Spain on his pilgrimage of sorrow. A pilgrimage that Mary hopes to take as well.

After Mary made my day, I took a little pilgrimage of my own. A dark and frightening one. In my dreams. The human brain is so exasperatingly complicated.

1) Mary gives me a generous compliment.

2) I enter R.E.M. later that night.

3) I take a pilgrimage on the Merino de Sharon. Trust me. Danger ahead.

Here's what happened...

I was climbing a vertical stairway that hugged a sheer rock face. I was amidst a motley group of pilgrims, headed for the ficticious Merino Trail. It was an arduous climb. But I don't remember feeling tired. Hmmm. That's not like me. But that's the way it is with dreams. You're not really yourself. You are everyone and no one in particular. When my group of purgatory recruits reached the precipice, we started scaling the edge of the sheer cliff face. Horizontally. It was like we were stranded on psychotic, horizontal monkey bars. Just hand over fist to the left. Over and over. Hanging there. Falling was a real possibility. And it was a vertigo inducing 1-2,000 foot drop to our deaths. The scariest part was the bathrooms. Yes, they were there. Have you seen the tent that rock climbers attach to the cliff face when they need to catch some Zzzz's? That was what they were like. The hard part was the struggle to get in while gravity tugged at your legs. But I did. And the toilet was the size of a pear. That's when I looked down for the first time. Oh my God. It was like infinity. I did feel a modicum of safety on the platform. But it was a killer exit. I wasn't done. Not yet.

I don't recall the exhilaration of finishing the pilgrimage. But I or we did. The devil outfitters at the finish were filling an Olympic sized, blow up hot tub for us to revel in. So I guess it was a happy ending. Even the elderly lady made it. I think.

You might be wondering how I remembered my dream so vividly. Well, that's where my writing tip comes in. I keep a journal by my bedside for nocturnal inspiration. And you should too. There's also another tip I gathered from my nightmare. Wear a tether. In writing a tether might be reading as many books as you can, research and writing groups. Anything that will ground you and give you inspiration. 

Like dreams.

Lastly, you might want to take a pilgrimage over to Springtime in Magnolia for an A-Z book review.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Power of Patience

I don't know why I suddenly decided to write a book.  Maybe after turning the oven to 350 degrees, then baking myself for 30 odd years, the buzzer finally went off and ding, I was fully cooked. Hopefully I'm cooked. I could turn out to be medium rare, under-baked, pink in the middle and full of salmonella. Yuck. I sound gross!  Unfortunately, it could turn out to be that kind of temporary insanity. Although, I'm rooting for divine intervention.  What I do know for sure, is that after reading the page turning Gone Girl and temporarily hiring The Help, I decided to write a book. Literal Period. 

I guess those two books either inspired me or it was just a coincidence. So what happens when I'm done writing? Do you know what happened to Kathryn Stockett? Lots of rejections happened. Sixty rejections happened. Or, at least that's what it says on the internet. I can only imagine the frustration. Give me a year. Then I'll know. To think you can write an awesome book like Kathryn and then have the mailman break your heart sixty times. What a jerk! Well, Kathryn might not have blamed the mailman, but I'm not as nice as she is. Actually, I have no idea if she is naughty or nice. But I'm sure we'll be best buds after my book is published. Obviously. Duh.

 But then Kathryn sends out manuscript number sixty-one. Now The Help is a world wide best seller and one of my favorite books. I'll never look at an innocent chocolate cream pie with out at least a little anxiety. I loved it. It was way better than the movie.

Do I have the patience to send out my novel 60 times? What if 60 publishers tell me to go back to my day job of wrangling cats. I guess I'll have to do what T.V. evangelist Mac Hammond say to do. Have patience. He says patience provides the time to grow. 

You might not instantly blossom. A seed (a cute little seed like you and me) takes time to grow. I like that

Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.

If you have enough patience, head over to Springtime in Magnolia for my book review on The Birds of Pandemonium.