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!

The Anxiety of Non-Influence

cover life of clouds

I had this image in my head of a father telling his little girls stories to teach them lessons. The stories were about clouds and he sang them in an old fashioned, rhythmic way.

The little girls have images in their heads, familiar sounds from far away and long ago.

But Daddy’s not there. The songs are gone. And a piece of the girls got lost somewhere.

This is what I think of when I think of Life of Clouds.

But the story really has a lot to do with anxiety. So many of our young people experience anxiety and depression – and these girls are suffering.

There’s hope though. Somewhere, there’s always hope.

Family Secrets

girl with book that reads we all have secretsAll families have secrets. I think that’s why some of us become fiction writers. Maybe, much to our family’s horror.

Secrets released in fiction is like water under pressure – there’s a spurt which resembles something other than what it really is. So, mostly, our family is safe.

Some secrets come to us second hand – the things people told us, what we know of other families, friends, acquaintances. In all honesty, these are my favorites.

The Gold Tooth is an amalgamation of family secrets. These are separate things from the gold tooth cover.jpgdifferent people whispered to me at times, laughed about at other times, assumptions from other people – all mixed up in a writer’s brain to spurt out under the pressure of a story.

My grandmother told me a story in which a mother, in trying to teach her children biggest is not best, used to offer the children unmarked gifts in various sizes. Whoever choose based on the biggest gift didn’t necessarily received the best gift.

A friend told me she’d inherited teeth from an aunt.

Another friend provided details about an uneven and questionable disbursement of a will and trust.

They all mashed together to create this story of a mother who tried to teach her daughters a lesson, protect one, maybe both, by the terms of a her will.

Feel free to tell your secrets to a fiction writer. They’ll never tell the whole truth.

beautiful woman with wry smile.jpg

 

When they believe it’s about you….

cover of west endI’ve written so many stories from first person point of view. At first, I was nervous because people did ask – is that real? is that you? and even contacted me and said – I know that’s about you.

So, it does make a person nervous about what they write and publish.

But at some point, you’ve got to let people think what they want to think. None of it will affect you in the long run.

I had an editor refuse a fictional story because, he said, it’s memoir and ultimately we didn’t ask for your personal story.

I thought – it must be good if he thought it was me! But I didn’t bother to correct him. It was a fiction call and I’d submitted fiction. If the editor didn’t realize the “I” didn’t necessarily represent the author, but the character, he is probably not the editor I need to work with nor the journal I want to be published in.

I worried about this with West End – my first big publication. One of the big criticisms girl on train tracks.jpgfrom someone who believed they knew me thought it wasn’t a realistic portrayal of me. I had to tell him because the character was not me! While the same story convinced another person that I’d led a secret life prior to moving to California.

Possibly, one of the convincing elements of the story is the setting. The place, the west side of Cleveland, where I grew up, is real. You can trace the steps of my characters who walked the path passed the baseball field and lost themselves on the train tracks, or those who played in the abandoned buildings. The streets are still there, the houses still stand, except the one which burned to the ground – a vacant lot interrupts the landscape of the neighborhood.

West End was a passion project. It was for the kids who I’d known and those I didn’t who never made it out. But it wasn’t me. Maybe parts of me live there in the pages and parts of me live on those streets.

Ultimately, you can’t allow another person’s possible opinion of you affect your writing.