Dad Shines

“‘Dad Shining’ is a terrible name for a story.,” said a certain someone.

I replied, “The Chicago Tribune must have liked it. They’re going to publish it.”

I worked on “Dad Shining” for some time, not quite knowing what the ending needed. Then it struck me:

We grow up not really understanding our parents or why they do the things they do. When we become adults, if our maturity doesn’t lend itself to that understanding then it should lead us to empathy.dad-shining-cover

We can’t possibly know our parents challenges in the same way we comprehend our own. Therefore, we must let things go, forgive, and move on. (Whatever that forgiveness means to you. Don’t be tortured by the past)

My father passed four years ago this month. The story “Dad Shining” was published two months before he passed. (For which, I’m happy.)

It’s not a story of my father, nor of me. But it is a story of a child coming to some sort of peace with himself and extending compassion to the father he never quite understood.

 

(A little trivia for you – the cover was taken in Virginia where Poe’s mother is buried)

 

 

Summer Writing Goals

Businessman Writing the Word "Goals"Throughout the year, I set and reset goals. I feel it’s a waste of time and energy to wait until the first of the year of the 6 month point. I set them when I feel the need.

Last June, I set a goal to write six short stories for the month. I completed four, finished the rough draft on the fifth, and started the sixth. Not bad. Two of those stories were accepted within the next thirty days and all of them have been published by this June.

This June, however, I feel I must set other goals. I have multiple projects going and have been too distracted and busy – finals, family, travel – to get anything significant work done on them; therefore, by the end of this week, I’ve decided to set new goals for my summer writing.

I’m not sure yet what those will be. I have a novel that needs rewriting, a novella that needs editing, and some other projects begun. I need to set a schedule – again – and to focus on one project or another.

I don’t find a problem with enough time, to focus on multiple projects, but when other areas of my life have infringed on my writing schedule I do find it difficult to focus on so many.

What are your summer writing goals?

writing-goals

Presto, Chango, Story time….

Ron Terranova wrote, “we writers are fortunate in that we can take a traumatic event and, presto, there’s grist for a story…”

True!

Traumatic or not – it’s got to come out. twisted.jpg

Many writers share some commonality of a twisted sense of being.

Before you grab your pitchforks, people, let me explain.

Someone asked me quite recently if they would end up in one of my stories. I said, that’s not the way it works. I rarely pick up a whole person and plunk them into a story. It’s smaller than that. It’s the way they stand, their scent, the sideways slide of an eye. It’s an essence coupled with other impressions that becomes something in my novel.

Whether big or small, the event or person or tragedy goes in one way and will come out in a, sometimes, completely different form.

Ron was talking about my monkey bite, which many friends and family seemed to understand as more traumatic than I did or do. Not to downplay the incident, but life happens. Some people get into car accidents, I get bitten by a monkey.

In Alaska, at some strange and lonely crossroads, there was a reasonably nice hotel whose smallest rooms were rented regularly to truckers, and only the honeymoon suite remained available. The water came out boiling hot and we needed to wait for it to cool down unlike most places in the country where we need to wait for it to heat up. There stood a single but large restaurant, and a small video store run out of someone’s small home behind a gas station. Whom I was with and what we were doing there became lost in the haunting images of a lost crossroads; those images remained and found their way into West End when the heroine escapes her madness into this sort of waiting room between life and death.

Twisted.

 

 

Author Attacked by Ape!

I recently visited Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a UK territory attached to the south of Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is home to the Barbary Macaque Apes.

macaque ape.jpeg

I’m a person who likes a challenge; I crossed the highest, longest suspension bridge in North America, I swam with sharks. But, moreso, I like to explore; I saw a grisly bear in the Yukon, held a Koala in Australia, traversed the catacombs in Paris, etc.

So, I was there on the Rock of Gibraltar to get a peek at both Spain on one side and Africa on the other all the while standing in Europe. Pretty freaking cool.

The apes, which look more like monkeys (and are referred to as such), wander free there. They hang out on the patio of the visitor’s center, play in the trees and bushes, and hang out on the roads.

I did get close enough to one to have a photo. But I know better than to attempt to feed a wild animal. I did see four young women getting their picture taken by a park ranger while they fed one of the adult Macaque’s not far from the “Do Not Feed” sign.

From the visitors’ center, you can hike to other views, other places on the Rock and even all the way down. There’s another shop on the Rock where you can see a cave and buy trinkets, which is what I did. When I travel, I like to buy holiday ornaments for my tree as a remembrance.

I have the Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, a Santa Star Fish from Hawaii, and even a Santa Chili Pepper from New Mexico to name a few.

I hiked back up to the center to grab some water and lunch before taking the cable car back down to the city. ape.png

I’d been warned not to take a big back pack or food with me. The monkeys, they said, will jump on you. I heeded these warnings, had only a small pack/purse and no food.

But approaching the visitors’ center, one of the juveniles (juvenile delinquent!) jumped on my back. I raised my hands in surprise and she bit me. She then opened my bag, took the ornament, and hopped off. (This is the picture of the monkey as it tried to eat my ornament! Thank you, Geoff)

I’m okay. Maybe “attacked” is a strong word, perhaps assaulted is better?  She left a dental impression and some scrapes on my hand. Yes, a little blood, swelling, bruising. My doctor is a little vexed with me.

But what does this have to do with writing?

We must challenge ourselves, we must overcome, we must use incidents such as these as inspiration or fodder. I feel all of these adventures make me who I am and my writing what it has become over the years.

better an oh well than a what if.jpg

I’m not suggesting you put yourself in harm’s way! I am suggesting that once in awhile get out and face your fears, do something new, experiment, explore, learn something new – this will create fresh shifts in your writing (and in yourself)!

The whole incident has me thinking of a half a dozen stories!

Writing Advice

Anne Enright – Author of The Gathering, The Green Road, and winner of the Man Booker Prize. (reblogged from The Guardian online).

1 The first 12 years are the worst.anne enright.jpg

2 The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.

3 Only bad writers think that their work is really good.

4 Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.

5 Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn’t matter how “real” your story is, or how “made up”: what matters is its necessity.

6 Try to be accurate about stuff.

7 Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.

8 You can also do all that with whiskey.

9 Have fun.

10 Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ­counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.

Family Myths

grandmas last secret coverFamily myths are the richest to mine for stories. Family myths are things that a great aunt or uncle might have done, where they may have worked, lives they may – or may not – have lived.

It is rumored that one of my great grandmothers was Hoffa’s ex-girlfriend. Although when we tried to match up the timeline, it didn’t quite match; however, given a few corrections here and there – who knows?! It’s fun to think about.

Another family myth involves my grandfather – even telling the story here feels like I’m giving away secrets about my family, but my grandmother swore to her dying day that the tale was myth.

My grandfather was shot in the back by a police officer. A number of different stories are told as to why he was shot, but the officer stated he was aiming for his legs.

My grandfather was over 6 feet tall. The cop must have been the worst shot in the world if he was aiming at his legs.

My grandmother lived with people creating myths as to why he was shot. She would tell us stories about aunts and cousins who came to her asking for the truth, asking for money, asking for what they believed my grandmother had which caused his death. I was present for one such argument before my grandmother passed of a cousin asking her for the truth before she died. Grandma’s Last Secret is about one of those myths.

I love family myths so much, that I’m planning to write more stories about them. Maybe I’ll write “Hoffa’s Runaway Bride” someday.

newspaper about hoffa.jpg

The Sad Story of Those who Shall Remain Nameless.

Have you heard something like “don’t piss off a writer, they may kill you off in a book.”

the text reads still not famousI guess it’s a threat to make people not want to cross a writer, make them afraid they’ll be named. An odd thing is sometimes people think I put them in a book or poem even though they hadn’t occurred to me at all during the writing. Then there are those who want to be in a story.

I had a friend cancel plans on me at the very last moment. Not a problem, except this was at the long end of his excuses and bs, so I was done. The funny thing – he wasn’t. He sent me an unending barrage of drunken text messages:  it seems, in his liquid bravado, he admitted he’d wanted me to make him famous.

“wat wil u writ but me if u nvr gve me shce”

read one of this texts. A day later:

“I cuold be ur bes t s tory vr!”

A few years after that, someone asked me what chapter they would be.

I don’t take people wholly and insert them into a story. There are just little bits and parts, an essence, a scent, a glance. They are a single speckle of mortar in the building of a house. I guess, one might argue, they are then in a story, poem, book, but they’ll never actually be named.