historybook

Every character has a past.

I’ve spent a lot of time on creating the history of my characters — some professionals might say too much time. I’d say my novel started through the eyes of a character.

Building backstory for your characters brings them to life.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++— A barf cliché that’s true

The person reading your book wants to be lost in the story you have written. When each character in the story has his or her own history, even if their history doesn’t have a single line in the book, that character’s authenticity will show and the book will be better. If the book is better, the reader will be lost in the world you have created. As a writer, this is the ultimate goal.

samll_bigTreeThe thing about backstory is that I can get lost in it while writing. What I have learned is that too much backstory takes the reader out of the story. That’s death for a novel. Once the reader is out the novelist has failed. I try to remember this and not think too much about it at the same time — Ugh. What I do is pepper in the backstory that is written somewhere else, maybe on a character file that I have created. Peppering, in my humble opinion, is using a line, a word, maybe some dialogue or nonverbal cue to get some of the backstory in. If done correctly the character has more depth and the story does too. No matter the role, every character in my novel has a past.

Let’s be clear, I haven’t published this novel, so I’m relating to you what I have learned from other writers, agents and publishers as well as my own experience. Some novelists write seamless back story into their novels. Maybe someday that will be me. For now, I’m sticking with the plan. Pepper in the back story, keep the gems and all the rest falls into the rhythm of a story I’d like to get lost in.

Rejection

A necessity that invites pain.

rejection_shakespearI need it, thrive off of it. It might be a sickness, but it works.

It’s fuel. With writing comes rejection. A friend of mine actually said something a couple of weeks ago that has stuck with me, “Managing expectations is important.” There are very few truer words.

It’s important to remember that with rejection comes acceptance. It make take one hundred rejections, but when that acceptance comes knocking there is no better feeling. I read the letter/email (only email really), dance the jig on top of my roof, smile and think nothing in life can go wrong. It’s Glorious. This lasts about a day, and then I fall into managing my expectations again.

cofeepotI expect to win, be successful and take the literary world by storm… someday. Right now, I manage my expectations, take rejection on the chin like a champ and push forward. Another friend called me a mensch. I’ll take it.

Rejection is just an obstacle on the course of life. I put it to writing because that is the path I have chosen, but whenever we put ourselves out there we are open to the demon of rejection. Either live with it and push forward or fear it and do nothing. In the end, you’ll know what worked for you and what didn’t.

Go out there and get rejected. You’ll survive and feel stronger for it.

This post is for a story I wrote called, Big Fish. You can read it here or just click on the picture below. It’s a peek into the world of two contract killers who decide to use an unconventional method for the disposal of a body — a big body.

I hope you enjoy the read.  If you do, please like, comment and share.  It helps tremendously. If you don’t like it, do the same thing!

Big-Fish

The Adult Bully

Authority makes this villain dangerous.shutterstock_515170831

shutterstock_632121335You know who I’m talking about. There is one in everybody’s life. For the most part, these people were bullied as kids. They are angry, sad people.  So, in part I feel bad for them — but that’s as far as it goes. I waste no calories with concern for their wellbeing.

Hating this person, attacking this person or trying to help this person is more than a waste of time, it will hurt you, take time from your precious day. This person is an emotional vampire who wants nothing more than to rule the roost. They make everyone who they interact with miserable and afraid.

f334bd67d6762f55955703d2f0a2a112They abuse authority, contribute nothing of importance to society and create struggle for everyone else. Life is already full of struggle, so the adult bully can go extinct for all I care. Which I think can happen. With the access to information we have now, I think that people will evolve out of being like this. Regardless, these are fools we must suffer sometimes. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. There are just awful people in the world. Maybe they just need a hug — I probably won’t be the one to give it to them.

Some insight on how to deal.

shutterstock_445496152

One must fail to succeed. I’ve been told this ad nauseum. It keeps me from quitting, because success hasn’t happened yet. I wouldn’t say I’ve failed necessarily, but the climb can be excruciating. I can’t help but to us the Mt. Everest or K2 metaphor, both difficult, if not seemingly impossible, mountains to climb where death is a real possibility. Clearly, death isn’t possible while sitting at a desk and making shit up, but the death of my soul when I get rejected or find a massive hole in my plot is real, and it hurts. What I’ve come to realize is that my ego is getting pummeled.

shutterstock_595617548Ego is the sense of self, self-importance, personal identity.  Well, mine is wrapped up in writing and succeeding at doing so. I’m 44. I have kids. They ask when I’m going to be done with my book. “About three more years or so,” I say. My ego cringes. They look at me like I’m nuts and my daughter says, “I’ll be thirteen?” I die a little inside and say, “Yep. That sounds about right.” She makes a sound of exasperation and gets on with her day while I try not to reel on the fact that when this book is finally done it will have taken me eight years — I don’t try to explain that I have finished the book twice but the rewrites are where the real magic happens. I didn’t start this endeavor with any notion that it would be easy, I started because on my death bed I didn’t want to regret not doing it; so, it’s a long game, a slow burn and hopefully people will like the what I write.

Okay. What If I finish this thing and its wildly successful? Hell if I know, but I’ve been told it’s a one-in-a-million chance and it’s no good for the ego because I’ll always be chasing the dragon of success. I wonder if maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, but in my heart of hearts I know it would most likely not be a good thing — at least that’s what I tell myself.

 

Inspiration

A honey trap.

renderedIt’s helpful, wild and wonderful when the sparks of inspiration fly. Creativity and motivation move through you with elegant perfection. The feeling can be transcendent. Lean back, absorb the endorphin rush and hopefully be inspired again.

shutterstock_417467353What about after the dust settles and the haze of inspiration is gone? The work still needs to happen. Whether it’s a creative endeavor, exercise or a work project, if you don’t do the work the inspiration that got you there means nothing. Inspiration comes when it comes. You can’t depend on it.

I used to depend on it, until I got serious. I’d like to say I can push through the tough times without wishing for inspiration, but I’m not there yet. I missed a blog post last week, I didn’t work on my novel and no short stories were submitted. Life got complicated and I let it get in the way of what I love to do. What happened my mind and my spirit was interesting, maybe even inspirational. I got depressed. Not severely, but life had no vigor, greens were less green and reds were less red. If I’m sticking with the color metaphor, I was blue.

Creativity needs inspiration, but can’t live on such a fleeting concept. Work is the purveyor, and part of what work means is getting through the many uninspired moments. It’s bleak, I know, but it’s reality. I try to recognize inspiration and ration it, use small amounts until it wears off. For example, after a writer’s retreat or conference, I used to come home and blast off with wild abandon; but the rush of being inspired wore off quick.  Now, I try to recognize the inspiration and use the tools I have acquired to control the drip. I know it’s nuts, but that’s how I view it.

 

 

Resistance

“That voice in our heads is not us. It is Resistance.”          

                                                        –Steven Pressfield

shutterstock_407496973Blind faith in my creative process gets me through the rough patches. Sometimes my fingers feel like anvils, and each attempt at a keystroke is mentally excruciating. I look at the words on the page, my characters, the story, and I hate it. A not so quiet voice in my head tells me its crap, it’ll take too long, I won’t succeed, blah, blah. It’s noise — a construction zone of chaos in my dome, looking for excuses to stop working, get angry and quit.

I’m too persistent. I don’t know how to quit. If this were easy I wouldn’t be doing it, so I relax, step back and see the big picture.

To say a novel is difficult to write is silly because, to me, it’s seemingly impossible. If the novel were a mountain and the process were the climb, then I’ve been climbing for years without seeing the top. I just have to believe the top is there. It’s that simple and that difficult. I might be nuts, yeah, I know.  But, so what. We are all nuts in some way. If you think you aren’t nuts then you are probably crazier than most, and that’s okay too.

In times like this, I tell myself to settle down, take a step back and appreciate other things. Family, the sun, the ocean.  Awareness of the simple things helps me reset. I like to look at life in the present and let the good soak in, but it ain’t easy.

 

A persistent villain.

shutterstock_337825361When it comes to writing, I’ve been called a grinder. Talent lurks in the shadows, but mainly I work my ass off. I’m persistent, I take criticism on the chin and push forward. I’m teachable and determined to succeed. This hasn’t come easy. I’m not known for self-discipline.

I learned late in life that I can’t just snowboard, surf, party, go to work and all will be right with the world. I didn’t party so much, but man did I get good at surfing and snowboarding. To this day I stave off the adolescent who wants to stay up late, eat cheesecake, binge watch an awesome show, leave my dishes in the sink and still have life be awesome. It’s sad but true. Now, I self-parent.

I work from home. No one is putting me on a deadline, telling me what to do or checking in on my progress. It’s all me. I’m getting better at it, but I know I can get good at it. When I keep that in mind, I persist. Small accompliments, like publishing a short story, are victories — a positive feedback loop telling my subconscious that the discipline I have self inflicted is working.

Waking up every day to grind out a story, not knowing where it will lead, is Sisyphean. Although Sisyphus’s chore was a punishment from The Gods, it fits in the metaphor of what I do every day. Wake up, feed kids, get kids to school, come home, write, exercise (sometimes), pick up from school, make dinner, go to bed, repeat. At the end of the day I can say that life is pretty good, discipline is just a part of it.

 

shutterstock_321889343

Story

I’m in the Gutter.

arabian-horse-1

I finally got a story published. It’s short. Real short. In less than one thousand words, I tell a story about a Marshal with a heart condition and a gambling problem who shows up to collect on an Arabian horse he won in a card game. Unfortunately for him, the horse resides on the property of a villain.

Have a read. If you like it,comment on it and share it. This really helps with readership and my future success as a crime fiction writer. If you don’t like it, comment on it and share it —  all of it still helps!  Above all, enjoy it.

There’s Just No Figuringairmen-rightside-full_FPO

Pain

A villain we all know.

backpainpuzzle

I’ve been in regular physical therapy sessions for about two years and I still get debilitating back spasms. Three weeks ago, I had to use a cane to get my kids to school. They thought it was cool. It’s not.

One doctor told me a bone spur in my neck was the cause. Another told me it was a twisted 4th Lumbar Vertebrae pulling at my ribs. I’ve been to chiropractors, General Practitioners, Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Massage Therapists and Surgeons. It boils down to pain management and discipline. I do the exercises and stretches and someday I’ll be strong again.

I hate waiting for it to be “fixed.” I hate the exercises and the stretches.  I want to be lazy, forget about my body and do other stuff — that won’t work. My son wants to wrestle, but “daddy has back pain.” My daughter wants to race, roller skate, play lacrosse, but “daddy has back pain.” I’m determined to beat the pain, win the battle and be the father my kids want and need.

81DM8wwvrUL._UX385_
My friend, Joe Clifford has this shirt. I love it!

It’s not easy. Self-reflection, discipline; I must rest, eat right, exercise with proper form, fix the household items that are safe to fix. I stay off ladders — for the most part — I don’t do my gutters anymore and I’m careful when I lift heavy shit. I’m not going to be the perfect father, the guy who fixes everything with a smile, can lift fifty bags of concrete and still wrestle, but I can try.

 

Many of us live with pain. Maybe our sedentary desk jobs caused the problem, maybe an old injury from our youth — most of my injuries are due to snowboarding, surfing, working as an EMT or landscaping. I was never nice to my back and it’s pissed. I know people who are living with pain from trampoline accidents, motorcycle accidents, car accidents, pool accidents, and stress. With age comes pain, at least in my world.