Dog Ear
Backing away (Dog Ear) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 21 March 2013 00:00

If you are a writer, you'll need to learn to deal with defeat.

Right now I'm dealing with it, and its not about writing. There is a corporate 5K that I'm trying to train for, as mentioned in my general blog HERE. I'm really pissed about this. I've followed everyone's advice. I've stretched and paced and breathed and even eaten mustard. I went from being okay (and then hurting myself) to nearly getting back to where I started (and hurting myself). Two days ago, I barely knocked off a mile and my muscle behind my left calf started screaming. Tonight (after a day's rest, more advice) I barely got a quarter mile in before it started hurting again. I walked the whole mile.

I've done everything I could, followed ever scrap of advice, and yet my aging body is letting me down. I just went on a test bike ride (which I've given up for the duration) and I can't even ride - I can feel the tension and don't want to get in the middle of some urban wasteland and really pull it. So I'm stuck in a car for my commute with the rest of the cagers, trying to figure out what to do about the race that is coming up so fast that even if the leg was perfect and it was only a question of building wind, I don't think I'd be ready.

I'm totally disgusted with myself.

In the background, I happened across a small writing contest, more of an informal thing hosted by an artist. I submitted a sharp little piece. And I just found out I didn't win.

That's really the way life works. I'm really pissed at the all-around failures of my recent efforts. Nothing I've worked to achieve has come through.

I'm backing down on a lot of things, hosting my retreat, as A. Dumas would say. I'm going to let my leg heal and get back to biking. And I'm going to turn my back on that contest and focus on writing. In a way, this blog (posted up in prep for Thursday) is a therapeutic little bit of effort, a nice vent that's letting me work through the disappointment of pretty much everything.

Sure, maybe your aging body can't run anymore. And maybe you can't seem to get recognized for writing. But remember that writing is more than getting published. It's about our art and doing what we enjoy. In a way, it's a love letter to ourselves. So when the entire world turns against you, when everything is dismal and wrong, write anyway. Write even if you have the matches right next to the page, and you fully intend to set it alight the moment the last penstroke is done. Write it and fucking burn it.

But write it.

It's our art and our therapy.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 19:09
Jimmy Allen (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 14 March 2013 00:00

I've got a new passion.

The air adventures of Jimmy Allen...

Someone sent me a link to, a massive collection of just about everything. Here, I found old radio programs, zillions of them. Since a lot of what I do at work takes 4% of my brain, I found myself listening in. Jimmy Allen has become my addiction.

It's the story of a telegraph delivery boy who saves an airliner (how? don't know) from hijacking. For this, he is given a scholarship to flight school where he meets Speed Robertson, an ace pilot and solid mentor.

The stories are interesting. Millions of kids tuned in to hear what was going to happen next. And Robertson, in teaching Jimmy the basics of flight, taught them as well. I was fascinated (with my own pilot's license) to hear the same exercises I learned (i.e. circling a point) taught way back then.

But the most interesting thing is the storytelling. Sure, often Jimmy and Speed don't seem to see the most obvious of plots against them. But often I'd find myself slowing to a stop at work, riveted as Allen fought the control of a crippled ship or orbited above a fog-blanketed Chinese city, his fuel critically low.

The lesson here is that a story is not only visual. Like reading, we are deprived of the images of the action, but also like reading, the story can hold us solid. One must examine the limitations of this medium (that people had to describe to each other what they were seeing ("Look, here comes a car! Who's that in it? Is that...?")) to see how a story can be magnified by its medium. Here, ME-109s scream into the speakers, quivering fear truly quivers, and engines really pokitty-pock-pock when they stop.

Like radio plays, written stories are deprived of vision. However, we have a depth of storytelling (a character's thoughts, a word-choice to influence a mood) in spooling out our tale. Don't try to simply tell the audience what is to be seen. Go deeper than that. Take advantage of the magic of the written word.

BTW, if you are going to listen HERE, start with Episode 1039. It's cleaner, clearer, and more consecutive.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 17:59
The perfect place (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 07 March 2013 00:00

I used to write at home on my desktop. No distractions. Tuesday and Thursday nights were understood to be mine, with wife and cat silent. Wrote a couple of books like that, including the published Fire and Bronze.

Things change, however. I’ve got too many distractions at home. Also, many nights (now that I cycle to work) I’m rather tired. I’ve also got my best friend’s call on Tuesday nights. Too many interruptions.

But by then, I’d bought a laptop. That opened up a lot of possibilities. I could bring my computer in every day (except the one bike-in day). And I could generally find somewhere to write for an hour at lunch. In this, I surprised myself at learning to be creative in what is usually considered my mental-slow time. I’ve actually trained myself to be creative based on lunchtime. Besides, it beat the usual lunchtime activity, which was listening to coworkers bitch about work.

Still, I wanted to ride more and didn’t want to risk carrying that large laptop with me. But now tinytops (little computers engineered for web surfing, made extinct in short order by tablets) became available. I picked one up, something small enough to ride in the saddle bag, cheap enough that a crash and crush wouldn’t leave me financially crying, yet with a keyboard 90% standard size. I went over to a box store to QuickBrownFox it and found it perfect for my needs.

So now lunch is the creative hour of the day, seated on the Nature’s Table patio, overlooking a lake in the shade of spreading trees. I get out there early enough so the gabbing lawyers we share the building with don’t poach my seat (honestly, it should be reserved, I’m such a fixture). In winter, it can get a might cold. In summer, it could be a bit warm. But it doesn’t matter – as soon as I’m writing, I’m in ancient Assyria or flying through sunny skies with a bevy of crows. It's five hours I can cut each week from the demanding world to work on my next Great American.

Look around for your own spot, a little corner or sunny spot overlooked in your usual routine. You might need to drill yourself to make your creative juices flow on demand, but creativity is somewhat Pavlovian – you can make it work if you try.

And remember, when someone comes out and asks if you are writing, look up from your writing tool, lean back, smile warmly and say “Buzz off.”

Works for me.


Last Updated on Thursday, 07 March 2013 08:01
Ten Questions (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 February 2013 00:00

This is the follow-up edition to Thomas Lucas' blog hop. He proposed ten questions to help curious readers get to know me. Also, he asked to provide links to five authors' blogs that I know. Since I am a recluse in the finest Hemingway tradition, I could come up with two. They will follow the important things (which are about me).

So here are my answers to these questions ten: 

1: What is the working title of your book?  Indigo

2: Where did the idea come from for the book? The story is an adventure tale of crows. One day I was sitting in my office, looking out the window on the 14th floor, and saw a line of crows sitting on the ledge. One crow made a heart-stopping leap into space, like a forlorn lover committing suicide. Suddenly he came floating up, riding the upblast of wind blowing up the side of the building. He went up about thirty feet, tipped out of it, dropped back to the ledge where he'd started. Then he cawed as if in approval, a mocking laugh of a thing, and leapt again. And that's when I realized he was doing it just for fun. It struck me then that crows could have human characteristics yet dwell in a much more interesting environment (mainly that they can fly and eat dead things).

3: What genre does your book come under? It's a combination of coming-of-age and an animal story. My hero starts out young and makes all the mistakes of youth.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I think, when it comes that dark, edgy air I gave Tuft (the hero), I'd have to go with John Cusack. Of course, unless the makeup is brilliant, it would have to be animated, I suppose.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Jonathan Livingston Seagull meets Top Gun.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? I think this book stands well enough on its hoary claws that it should be represented by an agency. I've self-published and was not really happy with the rewards/effort ratio. My birds deserve more than this.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? It took about six months to finish. I write pretty much every day for an hour at lunch. When people try to sit with me and tell me about their lives, I glare at them until they go away.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Watership Down was the epic that inspired this book (and sadly one largely forgotten today). If you don't think you can write a 'blood and thunder' epic about rabbits, you haven't read this. The battle in the end, down in the warren tunnels, gave me chills.

 9: Who or what inspired you to write this book? In a self-serving way, inspired this book. I've had romantic relationships that failed just like Tuft's. I've had my love rejected (as have most of us). And I've shot my mouth off when silence would have been the wise choice. I've done many of the things in this book, outside of fighting for my life inside a hurricane at night.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? If nothing I've said here has piqued your interest, I'm trying to rouse the dead :) . Still, I might add that one of my more youthful tomfooleries was building a ultralight aircraft in the 80's and flying it around the Central Florida skies that my crows later inhabited. Nothing gets you closer to flying than feeling every bump and thump of air beneath your wings. And once you get over being scared to death, once the sky opens up around you, only then do you start  to see life as crows see it.

...And that's my ten questions. Hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to read the first chapter, it's HERE. If you are an agent, please contact me (Please! Please! Please!). And if you'd like to read some of my other works, you can find them HERE, both my published effort and my self-published sci-fi yarn.

And now, my writing friends. The first is Alan Kierstead, who doesn't have a blog himself but I provided him space (at a very reasonable rate). Alan is a great guy, a bear of a man so out of place in our corporate environment. Check out his words HERE.

The second is my sister, Doctor Pat Raymond, with who I co-wrote Don't Jettison Medicine (available at the bottom of HERE). If you are a doctor and need coping exercises to get you through your hectic day, turn around - you just missed the link. It's one of the funniest self help books you can read. Otherwise, you can check out her site HERE.

And that's it. Thanks for stopping in and letting me pour you an eyeful!


Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 February 2013 19:38

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