I did something awesome

Today, I did something I truly enjoyed. I helped someone with a story.

It wasn’t a perfect experience. I was hyper and jumping all over the place in my mind. I asked questions and got answers. I offered advice and encouragement. I didn’t actually create something, but I helped someone else develop their own creation, at least helped someone begin the process of laying the foundation.

It was exhilarating.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been stuck for a long time with my own writing. There are a lot of reasons why, but the big one was a lack of passion. It was a sense of frazzled nerves and charred imagination. It was burn out, plain and simple.

And it was a lot of excuses.

But, in a simple act of devoting my time to helping someone else create. The simple joy of helping someone else build a foundation of their story, their world, I remembered how much fun it can be to create something new and different.

I didn’t feel like my brain was burned anymore. I felt like it was on fire.

You could probably argue that it was the six Monster Absolute Zeros I drank today (they are 3 for $5.50, so it makes sense to buy three, right?) You could argue that it was a new environment. Creatives do tend to feed on one another. You could argue that it was a lot of things.

But, I think it was the joy of awakening something in someone else. It was a simple truth that I have learned and continue to learn. I applied things I knew to a situation and it made sense and flowed.

One of the biggest emotional hurdles for a writer is the fear you’re not good enough for the next story.

One of my biggest emotional hurdles is the nagging suspicion that I am not as good at things as others think I am. I often doubt my own skills because I don’t think they are unique. I don’t think they are special. I don’t think they mean much in the grand scheme of things.

Today, I got to use skills and knowledge floating around inside my head to help someone else.

I got to do something great.

I also got to prove to myself that I do know these things. I have some skills. I have some abilities.

There is still a long journey ahead of me. I hope I will never stop growing and learning, but, I need to remind myself that I’ve come a long way. I have learned a lot. I know some things. I have some skills.

Maybe I am not where I think I should be, but I am I much farther down the road than I think I am. I am better than I think I am.

I bet you are as well.

Campfires

I have returned to the world of normalcy. Slightly battered. Slightly bruised. Exhausted in the best of ways.

It was a long, tiring drive crowned by a pair of days surrounded by friends and family, or rather, friends as family. It was one of those trips with a purpose and no purpose at the same time. The journey is more than just the adventure.

If I’m not making any sense, well, that is because I have not yet fully recovered from the driving. I love driving, and I managed to dictate several thousand words while driving. None of them are really any good. They definitely do not facilitate a story, but they are words… that is something.

My brain is still a little in the recovery mode. I’ve been silent and pensive (and heavily influenced by a Lovecraftian Public News Radio Show). I was given a lot to think about while in Springfield.

Epic poems have been penned about the revealing nature of fire. The light burning away the darkest and deepest shadows. Illumination on the dark corners you hide from.

I think those epic poems were all about campfires.

I didn’t realize how much I missed the time spent around a campfire. There is something about the combination of wood smoke and cool night skies that rips away inhibitions and self-denial and lets me be open and honest. It springs from the calm bonding of camaraderie and, perhaps, a little bit of alcohol.

Sitting around a fire well into the night and laying your soul open. It is a potent and heady release, and I recommend it to anyone. Especially those long lost in the denial of their own feelings and beliefs. Let your friends flay you open and expose the lies you tell yourself. They aren’t judging you. They aren’t condemning you.

You were doing that to yourself.

 

 

I could go on and on about the nature of the campfire, but I won’t. That is baggage I’m not willing to lay at the feet of the public world anywhere but in fiction. Still, if you ever find a chance to sit around a campfire with your closest friends, you may be surprised at what bubbles up to the surface, fleeing the shadowy corners of your psyche and crashing out into the safe light.

A Driving Experiment

If you’re reading this, hopefully, it means I’m well on my way across the country. 25 hours from Helena Montana to Springfield, Missouri. It’s a lot of open flat road and contemplative isolation. Just me, the highway, a few podcasts, and audiobooks, and as much dictation as I can force my voice to put out.

I’m not entirely certain when I came up with the goal of writing a book while driving across country. I think it was sometime in my early 20s, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. The idea of just driving and writing has sat at the back of my mind during every conversation of what my dream of life would be like. Those are the two things I enjoy the most. I love to drive, and I love to write.

I probably have a long way to go before I can just dictate a novel off-the-cuff like Jubal Hershaw. I’d like to think that I have the creativity and drive to do it, and the raw animal magnetism necessary to attract a herald of women to take dictation, but I don’t think I have either. Of course, anyone familiar with stranger in a strange land knows that Jubal Hershaw was far from a sex symbol.

That’s not really the point of what I’m saying right now though.

I will focus on the goal. My goal is to write a novel using nothing but my voice, a Bluetooth headset, and a phone as I drive across country. Of course, there are some issues to work out. For starters, the Google voice typing keyboard on my phone does not like any punctuation besides the standard period, exclamation point, and question mark.

That means no quotations.
No brackets.
No em dashes or asides.

Still, I think I can do it. It might not be good, but I think I can produce what is technically known as a novel.

After all, what is a novel?

I think most definitions are 50,000 words to tell a story. Of course, if you read my books, you know that I don’t actually write 50,000 words. Most of my books fall into the 35-40,000-word range. Based on the speed with which I compose blog posts an email using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a roughly 150 words per minute, I should technically be capable of composing 450,000 words during the combined 50 hours of my drive time.

It’s unrealistic with my level of skill and creativity, but mathematically, that would be 10 of my books.

I’m hoping to be able to complete one draft of one.

I’m not even making on it being very good. I’m not planning for it to be anything I publish. It is merely an experiment of a dream. And not off my bucket list, if you will.

Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is exactly the way I need to be writing. Maybe I will compose the greatest piece of literary work ever composed.

I doubt it, but it’s possible.

For now, it’s just one dream. I’m hoping to realize.

I’ll see you next week when I can regale you with tales of getting my ass kicked by nerds with swords.

(Sorry LARPers, you guys be nerds.)

Empty Spaces Part 3

Once again, I find myself leaving behind the empty spaces. Each time I’ve done this in the past, he has felt like closing a chapter on my life. This time, however, instead of being forced to change paths by circumstance and misfortune, I am beginning the next chapter on my own terms.

For the last two years, I have been clawing my way back to respectability from the depths of desperation. Now, I am finally in a place where I once again feel that I can stand on my own 2 feet. It’s an amazing feeling to know you can support yourself. It took me longer than I thought it would to get back to this point, but I’m thankful for the support I’ve had to reach it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a long ways to go before I consider myself successful, but I feel like at this point I’m an adult again.

I signed a lease this week. If you are not familiar with the other two empty spaces, blog posts, basically what I lost my home. I wrote a blog post it when I moved to Montana to find work, I wrote a blog post.

This is the third time I’ve moved since starting the blog and the first time I’ve moved into a brighter future. Don’t get me wrong, I was never destitute, but only because of the amazing people in my life. There have definitely been times in which I could have easily ended up dead in the gutter. But, I’ve always had wonderful friends and family to support me.

I’m hoping that by taking this next step in maturing, I can prove their faith in me worthwhile.

I also feel like moving in my own space is a new chapter for me as a writer. For the first time ever I will have my own writing office. Separate entirely from where I sleep and play video games. It will eventually be sounded treated so I can record podcasts or dictation without worry about bothering someone else if it’s late at night or having someone else pop in and need to be edited out.

In general, I’m actually very excited about this move. It has been a very long time since I had a place that I considered my own and a much longer time. Still, since I lived alone. I’m a little bit of a hermit by nature, and there is a danger of me becoming a recluse wearing tissue paper sandals and never truly my toenails. But I like to think I’ve grown as a person in the last few years and I’m less inclined to hide from the world just to hide.

There are certain steps that I am taking in how I intend to interact with the world that I think will help decrease that natural tendency to disappear into myself. I have some plans that I’m not necessarily ready to give out to the world, but I think I will be able to combine my love of creating with a more social aspect.

That’s the plan, anyway.

All of that is still up in the air. Right now I have to finish packing, and moving across town. Then, of course, I have to unpack and sit around all day waiting for the cable guy to show up and turn on my Internet. The joys of being a property renter.

Oh, and as a giant step up from my last place, my new place has both a stove and a kitchen sink. Crown my head and called me the Emperor of Alpha Centauri.

Anyway, I better get back to work. These matchbox cars and bobble head dolls aren’t going to sort and pack themselves.

#ProfessionalAdult

The Price of Fish

The sun dropped below the horizon, leaving an empty orange glow behind the trees on the ridge above him. Terry huddled beneath the purloined tarp and flicked at the pile of sticks and branches with his lighter. The damp wood refused to ignite, mocking him as the chilly wind swept up from the lake.

Terry threw his lighter to the ground and slumped back beneath the tarp in disgust. It didn’t matter. He didn’t have anything to cook anyway. His fishing rod leaned against a tree a few feet away, mocking him with its bare hook. As if sensing his agitation, his stomach growled again. If he couldn’t find food soon, he would have to admit defeat and go crawling back with his tail between his legs. He wouldn’t do that. He couldn’t do that.  He was right, damn it.

Clenching his teeth, he leaned toward the bundle of kindling and held out his palm. He let a single guttural word slide past his lips, just enough to cause the wood to smoke and spark. The tiny flicker of power was enough to send his world spinning and his stomach roaring again, but the flames caught and he allowed himself to lean back into the makeshift tent. The warmth was a pleasant change from the cold damp of the last few days. Of course, it would only last until the park ranger showed up and made him put it out, but until then, he’d be warm.

“Y’ain’t very good at this, are ya?”

Terry looked up to see a pair of enormous black eyes flickering red and orange in the light of his fire. The glossy black orbs were set in a wide, flat face framed by thick waves of brown hair hanging down in strands like weeds.

As he stared, the fish creature came a little closer, letting the light slide over silvery scales. The body was mostly human, but the shapes were wrong. It was sagging skin and folded flaps of flesh. Terry knew what it was, but couldn’t bring himself to mouthed the words.

“Y’all can say it, I’m a river hag.” As Terry watched, the hag came fully into the firelight. She — and it was definitely a she in all of its nudity — stopped and put webbed, clawed hands on her hips. “Y’all act like y’aint never seen a woman before.”

Terry scrambled backward into his tarp, entangling himself fully before he even had a chance to get away. As he struggled with the tarp, the hag began to howl with the glee.

“Now that ain’t no way to greet a lady,” she said. “‘Specially one that came to bring you dinner.”

Terry managed to pull himself free of the tarp but was still having a hard time finding his voice. Spirits powerful enough to manifest in the world were always dangerous and he barely had enough strength left in him to light a fire. The fear gnawing at his mind took control of his tongue and he said the only thing he could think of.

“Are you going to eat me?”

The hag laughed again. The force of her guffaw sent rippling waves across the lake and a brilliant light shown in the corners of her eyes. “Eat you? Lord have mercy. Aren’t you just precious. I ain’t gonna eat you. If I was gonna eat ya, you’d done be ate.”

“So, what are you going to do with me?” Terry asked. Somehow, he managed to find his feet, but in his hunger and exhaustion, he was more wobbly than threatening.

“Feed ya. Boy, I been watching you for three days. You is the worst fisherman I ever saw. But Old Saddy, she gonna take pity on you.” The hag reached behind her back and pulled free a pair of large catfish. As soon as he saw them, Terry could see the resemblance.

He wanted to accept. He needed to accept. It was clear he was never going to catch a fish on his own.

“What’s it going to cost me?” Terry asked. He knew enough about spirits to know there was always a price.

“Shoot, you are brighter than you seem. Maybe they’s right about you.” The hag tossed the fish down on the ground next to his fire where they flopped and wriggled and gasped for breath. “I’ve seen some things. Can feel it in the water. Change is comin’ and Old Saddy plans on being ready. So tell me, mage boy, what you doing out here all alone?”

“None of your business,” Terry said. His eyes stayed with the fish, wondering what the best way to cook them would be.

“Maybe y’all consider that my price,” the hag said. “Y’all tell me what you doing, and y’all can have the fish.”

“There’s only one of me,” Terry said. “You said so yourself. I’m alone.”

“Boy, I been ‘round as long as water flowed in the Mississippi. I know you ain’t never alone. Not in the way you think you is.” The hag took a step back and sat down on the far side of the fire. Even sitting, her eyes met Terry’s. “Now, cook your fish and tell me what’s troubling you.”

Terry weighed his options. He could starve to death, admit defeat, or put an ounce of trust in a spirit he didn’t know. He decided to go with the least painful option.

“All right. I can’t go home. If I do, they’ll know what I’ve done. My grandfather will be pissed. There are a lot of rules, but I managed to break all of them.” Terry gestured down at the fish. “Is that a good enough answer?”

“I dunno, does it feel like a good enough answer?”

Terry sighed. “No, I guess it doesn’t.” Still, he squatted down beside the fire, pulled out his pocketknife, and began to clean the fish. “He didn’t want me to go to the Academy. He knew what they were planning. But I went. I became their weapon. He taught me how to fight, but he also taught me when the fight. I didn’t listen to his lessons. I listened to the Order. How can I go home? How can I face him with him knowing what I’ve done?”

The river hag made a clicking noise in her throat and shook her head. “Way I reckon it, a grandpappy loves his grandson. A good grandpappy will love his grandson no matter what the fool boy did. But, what do I know? I don’t have any sons or grandsons. Daughters all the way down.”

Terry shook his head, not sure how to answer. He stayed silent while he finished cleaning the fish and laying them across the fire. Once they were sizzling and popping and the smell was growing pleasant, he leaned back on his heels and looked up at the river hag again.

“What did you mean about change?”

She made the clicking noise again. “You don’t see it. Do you? Balances are shifting. Tides getting broken. You can feel it in the water. But you don’t much care for water do you?” She leaned back on her long flabby arms, webbed feet toward the fire. “I sold you two fish in exchange for your answer. What are you going to pay me for mine?”

Terry pulled the fish free from the fire. He tore off flaky pieces and shoving them in his mouth. The taste was amazing and his stomach gurgled in satisfaction as he ate. He didn’t have anything. The only meal he’d had for days, she’d provided. He wouldn’t even know what to offer a river hag.

“I’ve got nothing you need.”

“Oh, but maybe you got something I want. Tell me, mageling, are you familiar with Altoids?”

“You mean the mints?” Terry asked. Was she being serious? He couldn’t tell.

“I do. Spearmint. Can’t get enough of them, can’t go into town to buy myself. Let’s make a deal. I will answer any question you ask in exchange for a full tin of spearmint Altoids.”

“That’s only an awfully good deal,” Terry said. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any Altoids right now.”

“Well, maybe there is something else,” the hag said. She leaned forward, eyes sparkling red and orange from the firelight. Her face and narrowed and hardened. “The time will come when I’m going to need a way out of this lake. You promise right now to carry me out when I say it’s time, and I’ll let the spearmint slide, just this once.”

“What’s that mean? Carry you out?” Terry asked.

“It means this old spirit gonna piggyback on your soul. I don’t think you’ll mind. I won’t be the first, will I?”

“No. No, you won’t.” Terry took another bite of the fish giving himself a chance to think it over. She couldn’t force him, even if he made the deal. He had to accept the spirit in. There was absolutely no danger in making the promise. “Okay, it’s a deal. When the time comes, and not tonight, I will carry you from the lake to the destination of your choice.”

Saddy nodded. “Yes, yes you will. So you want to know what change is comin’.” She leaned farther forward, letting the light cast strange shadows across her scales. “I’ll tell you. The time has come. The seventh has been born. And me and you, boy, we got roles to play.”