Flash! Ahhhhhhhh!

(sorry – I couldn’t help myself on the title…)

I’ve recently been writing flash fiction, which is a little new to me. I’ve read plenty of it over the years, but always preferred to write longer form.

That said, when fellow horror writer Jack Wallen invited me to participate in a flash fiction project, I was all in. The project is called “Music Be The Food”, and all of the flash pieces are based upon pieces of music that Jack picks out for us. It started with a new song every two weeks, but Jack recently made it a monthly thing. There are some really great stories here, and I hope you check them out by visiting Jack’s site at http://monkeypantz.net/tag/music-be-the-food/.

I’ve really enjoyed writing these shorter pieces. Each one has been an exercise in jumping right into the action as well as faster character development.

Other authors on the project include: Jay Wilburn, Chad A. Clark, Todd Skaggs, Jaime Johnesee, Eden Royce, Leigh M. Lane, and, of course, Jack Wallen himself. Other writers have recently been added to the roster and I’m really looking forward to the project continuing and seeing what’s in store from everyone.

 

After the Con

I spent last weekend in the deep-end of the writer pool with friends at the 4th annual Imaginarium convention in Louisville, KY. It’s a decent con, albeit small, that attracts writers from a variety of genres and skill/experience levels. The best part is that the vast majority of the people there will make you feel welcome, understood, and appreciated. I’ve spoken before about the “tribe” and Imaginarium is a good example of a small island on which the tribe can gather briefly and no one gets voted off.

I was able to attend some interesting panels, and was fortunate enough to be a panelist for a few interesting discussions. One such panel focused on the mental health of creatives. I was honored to be on that panel with the likes of Gary Braunbeck and Lacy Marie. I also sat on a panel with Lucy Snyder and Monica Corwin in which we talked about the importance of first lines in our work.

The best moment of the con, however, wasn’t actually part of the con itself. I was given some sage advice from a friend who said, “Find the con within the con, and stick with those people.” So, that’s exactly what I did, and I wasn’t disappointed. I am part of a writing group that meets in North Central Ohio and they are a really wonderful bunch of people. The best moment was when this group of sixteen people went out to dinner on Saturday night and had great food and conversation as well as some big, big laughs. I can’t go in to what was said, because it was truly one of those “you had to be there” dinners.

It remains to be seen if I will attend the 2018 installment of Imaginarium – there are several other cons that I would like to get to at some point and my con budget doesn’t allow for much. Nevertheless, I came home from the weekend with a renewed energy to write, network with old and new friends, and do my part to contribute to the rising tide of creative energy of my chosen tribe.

Write on.

A Brief Update

I haven’t been very good about posting here lately. I’ve been quite busy with family, work, and life in general. I’ll try to be a little better about it moving forward.

I haven’t been completely lazy when it comes to getting words on the page, though. I’ve been a regular contributor to Jack Wallen‘s “Music Be the Food” series of music-inspired flash fiction. I’ve had the privilege of having my work appear with the likes of Jay WilburnJaime JohneseeTodd Skaggs – Author just to name a few. Visit Jack’s site here: http://monkeypantz.net/tag/music-be-the-food/ and look for my stories as well as the pieces by these other fantastic writers!

I’ll be heading to the Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, KY this weekend. I’ll be speaking on a few panels and will be enjoying time with other writerly tribe members.

Until next time…

Dealing

I’m a writer. This means, for me, that I put words on a screen or paper that tell a story. Some times that story is short and leaves the reader with more questions than they had at the beginning. Other times, the work is longer with the aim of completing a character arc. It’s not unlike how we interact with other people in our lives. Some people get to experience each other’s arcs, blending their stories. Most of our interactions, though, are brief and, by the end, leave us wanting to know more. Of course, that largely depends on who you’re hanging out with. You may very well end up with the question, “How do I avoid assholes like that again?”

Writers often put some of themselves into the work – a bit of their own physicality, or perhaps components of their emotional selves. That can be scary because it ends up being a little bit like therapy – you might uncover something about yourself that you don’t necessarily like. I have found this to be true in my own work. Artists, not just writers, are always advised to be honest. Tell the truth through the work. That statement only really makes sense when you start making your art and when you start to see yourself in the work. Writers see themselves in the words and actions of their characters. Photographers see themselves in the faces of their subjects. Painters see themselves in the shapes and colors of their landscapes. And so it goes.

Through the fiction (or rather, the lies) that I have written, I’ve faced my own demons. I’ve not liked what I have found, but have been slowly learning how to deal with it. The it in this case is something that many artists live with: depression. It neatly rounds out the acronym “F.E.D.” (Frustration, Exhaustion, and Depression), and it inhabits a lot more of my life than I would prefer.

It’s a subject that I have not spoken about much outside of my immediate family and closest friends. But, it’s one that affects so many of my decisions and my day-to-day thinking that I would be remiss in not talking about out loud. Do I have A LOT of things to be happy about? You bet! An amazing wife, terrific kids, a solid day job with benefits, and so on. Ask anyone with a clinical-level depression and they (I) will tell you that none of that matters. The specter of depression doesn’t respect those things – doesn’t respect boundaries. It doesn’t care that I am desperately driven to create art – it only wants to disrupt my thoughts and actions. Depression often builds a wall that is impenetrable, and makes your decisions for you. It keeps you from enjoying time with the people you love. This is especially cruel because it can make you behave in such a way that people don’t want to spend time with you either, perpetuating the cycle. It makes work difficult. It makes cooking and eating difficult. It is especially frustrating when you are intellectually aware that your thoughts are being driven by your depression but you are unable to change those thoughts without a great deal of effort or medication. To be clear, I’m not breaking ground here – I’m just giving you a glimpse into my own experience. My familial history leads me to believe that I should probably be more open to a medication, but I am opting to do my best to fight the good fight.

While my depression keeps me from being as creative as I want to/can be, it also provides a motivation to work that much harder because it can be defeated – even if it’s only temporarily.

So, back to work. Back to creating. That means you, too! And if you find yourself struggling with depression, too, I recommend that you (at the minimum) find a therapist that you can work with for a positive outcome. Note that you may need to go through a therapist or two before striking a balance. There are also a number of services that can help you find help in your area – there are too many to list here, so Google is your friend in this instance.

If your struggle is serious enough, you may find it necessary to call for immediate help. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Their website is: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Don’t be too proud to call. Don’t let your fear get in the way.

Slow Progress is Still Progress

I’ve not been keeping the blog up to date as much as I expected I would when I started it. While there are several reasons behind this, the primary one is laziness. I typically find myself focused on going through my day-to-day activities (work, family, writing as much as I can when I can). It’s not really a matter of not having the time to sit down and write up a blog post – I have the time. But when I do have the time, I’m usually shagged out by the day and don’t have the mental strength to spit out an update. 

I’ll endeavor to keep the blog as updated as I can moving forward, but don’t expect to be anywhere near prolific in my posts until I manage to create more usable time for myself.

In the meantime, I’m slowly making progress on my projects and expect them both to be finished… When they’re done. I’m not under any deadline, so I don’t want to put any artificial pressure upon myself to get them wrapped up before they’re ready. The only pressure I’m putting myself under is to bear in mind, with each word I get down, that first drafts don’t have to be complete shit, but they don’t have to be completely polished either. Get it down, then go back and do the fun work.

A Brief Update

In my work as an IT project manager, I’m often asking team members for a “brief update.” I usually get more than I want or need, when all I’m after is the elevator speech. I ‘m always glad for the extra information, but some times it’s nice to just get a, “I’m on it and I’ll be done by the end of the day” sort of response.

So, I thought today I might give a brief update, since I haven’t posted much lately and I’ve had a lot going on. Here we go…

I have had a few pieces appear as part of the “If Music Be The Food” flash fiction event on Jack Wallen’s web site. I’ve had the privilege of having my words appear along side some really fantastic flash fiction by some very talented writers and I hope to have more work appear there as the experiment continues. If you haven’t had a chance to see any of it, here are my links: “Ossuary“, “The Cleansing“, and “Sunday Evening in New River Valley“.

I’m still working on establishing a daily work habit of writing, but my day job and family commitments make that difficult some times. I’m not mad about it, though – I just wish there were more hours in the day. In the meantime, I steal time as it comes up (lunch hours, and such).

I’ve managed to get out to a couple of movies: “Alien: Covenant” and “Wonder Woman”. I won’t spoil anything here, but will say that “Covenant” was really disappointing and “Wonder Woman” was really, really great. It easily rounds out my top three favorite super hero origin stories – #1 is “Doctor Strange” (I’m biased, though, as I read a lot of D.S. when I was a kid); #2 is the first “Iron Man”.

I also recently cut cable television out of my life and I’m not looking back. An HD antenna, Apple TV, Roku, Netflix and Hulu will do just fine.

As for reading, I’m rarely into only one book at a time. Right now my time is split between”Giant of the Senate” by Al Franken, “A Darker Shade of Magic” by V.E. Schwab, and “To Each Their Darkness” by Gary Braunbeck.

Well, there it is. That’s about all I have for an update right now. Now to get back to work and get words on the page!

Another Flash 

I was recently invited to participate in a sort of flash fiction project. A friend and author, Jack Wallen, asked a few writers to listen to a song and then write a flash piece inspired by the music. No rules, per se, just go where the music takes you.
Several writers have been included in the project and I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the second round. 

My second contribution is here: The Cleansing
Thanks to Jack for including me in on the fun!