Re-Start Your Fiction

Greetings all!

So it’s been a little over 2 months since I’ve posted anything; Probably 3 since I’ve written anything.  I had a lot of lies I told myself when I stopped and why I didn’t restart:

  1. Working on the blog has taken me away from what my true passion is: Writing that story.
  2. Challenge to myself:  I’m not going to do any more blogging UNTIL I get one short story finished.
  3. I’m transitioning from fiction into a non-fiction blog on leadership and career coaching.
  4. The premise of the blog isn’t good.  I’m not even a published author… How can I make judgments on what is good or bad?
  5. I’ve got a lot going on.

I told myself all of these things, but not even the last one is a good enough reason.

So where have I been?

A few things have been going on that have pulled me away:

  1. We started the year-end process at work, so it gets really busy for me as we start having performance and compensation conversations with everybody.
  2. My wife is getting towards the end of the pregnancy, and we have a million things to do at home to get ready for another baby.
  3. Kids started school back up, which cuts means I need to get to bed an hour earlier to get them ready in the morning.
  4. I started playing some video games again
  5. Frankly, I just lost motivation.

I’ve known through all this that writing is hard work, and books don’t write themselves, and blah blah blah… But man.  It really is tough work.  While I love the stories in my head, sometimes the act of getting them on paper is a siege.

That said, I’ve rekindled myself (literally; just bought my first kindle).  I tried the non-fiction thing, and while it’s a lot easier for me to write, it only inspired a deeper need within me to get my stories out there.  I’ve got renewed focus on making sure my book gets written.

This blog may take a different form… I intend to leverage it a bit more as a mental journal as I work on one story… Forgetting everything I’ve read about marketing, and building a following, and all that good stuff.  I’m not going to get fixated on my nightly schedule, or all the other things I’d like to participate in.  I just want need to get my books done.  It’s going to happen.  The blog posts may not be as consistent as they were, but they’ll do what I originally designed the blog for:  Chronicle my journey from writer to author as I start my first fiction… And get it done.

Hope you enjoy  the journey with me.

How do you stay motivated?

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Collaborative Storytelling

Has anybody tried collaborative story-telling?  I’ve heard about writing groups where people take turns writing chapters of a story, and was intrigued.

I have a problem.  I need to get over my incompletion hangup.  My first thought to do this would be to create a pressure to write by having somebody else depend on me.  This lead me to collaborative writing.  The more I thought about it, the more it appeals to me.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I play role-playing games, which essentially amounts to table-to collaborative storytelling.  People gather and talk, roll some dice to create random chance, but ultimately are gathered to tell a story.  I’ve frequently served in the role of Game Master, which means the core story, the villains, and all of the side characters are driven by me.  I’ve done this role for 20 years.  This gives me experience in I guess what I’d describe as the speed-chess of storytelling.

I think that makes me adept at quickly spinning out a yarn, and then being creative to try and tie it all together later if I put something out that didn’t quite fit.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the mistakes and “oops moments” often lead me to some of the most interesting and original content.

Taking ongoing stories where different authors try to take it different directions may be exactly what I need to get the pen going again.  (It also may be YET ANOTHER distraction that keeps me from actually finishing a single work, but hey, what can I say?).

I’ve found two.

http://www.storymash.com

http://www.storytimed.com

I’ve got one story started on storymash, and continued a few on both sites.

http://storymash.com/u/LordBrand/holuwutu/

Let me know what you think.

Also, do you know any other ways to get into collaborative writing?  Anybody have experience with it?  Thoughts?

Welcome Home

I’m woefully delayed on this post, but I figure better late than never. Made it back to the United States a few days ago, and Wow. What a trip. If you read my post earlier on how the voyage over went, I can tell you that this one went a lot smoother. No terrible illnesses. No deadly silent drivers taking me through some of the seediest places in India on my way to who-knows-where. Just a straight-up trip back. Watched some movies (Star Wars, Deadpool, Kung Fu Panda 3), avoided eating, and then got the great joy of hugging my wife and kids in the airport.

Some closing thoughts:

1) We truly take for granted the luxuries we have in the United States, and we’ve somehow lost some qualities of compassion along the way. Example: I went out to eat with some of the co-workers… I had way too much food. It was delicious, but I was stuffed. I planned to pitch it. One of my co-workers grabbed it and had it boxed. He said he’d give it to somebody, and I thought he meant take it back to the office. Instead, he handed it to an elderly lady (either homeless or at least jobless) on the steps outside the restaurant. It really makes me think back to the “What We Throw Away” post I put up on the Perfect-The-Days blog. Over here, we’d pitch it to the trash. This is just one example, but there were so many more. Children digging through the endless piles of garbage along the streets. Even the idea of government assistance for those who cannot provide for themselves. The man who drove me around had a monthly salary of less than what it cost me to stay in my hotel for two days… And he was the primary income for his family. And yet, when I tried to tip him, he was embarrassed and a few days in started turning it down (truly insisting, even saying “Please, no more tip.”). I continued to offer each day, and he eventually accepted… But the difference is staggering.

So many luxuries that we don’t think about… I won’t say if it’s right or wrong, but I do think it’s important for us to think about them.

2) I did in fact find something to eat. I’ll have a whole post up later about food. But I surprisingly didn’t lose the kind of weight I thought I would. I guess enough rice and chicken to keep me “healthy.” More than just the food, the attitude towards eating. In the US, eating is often a chore we fit around other things. The idea of drive-thru’s came about because we are always hurrying from one place to the next, and it was convenient to grab and go. In Hyderabad, there were only two places with Drive-thru’s at all, and both were American restaurants.

The difference comes from how they perceive a meal. Some is immediately noticeable in the way the dinner menu works: You have soups. You have starters (which seemed pretty granted that you’d be getting). You have a main course. And you often don’t order each until you’ve finished the prior. This is because conversation is the most important part of every meal. You eat as a way to connect with your colleagues. Even breakfasts and lunches were communal gatherings where a dozen people from the office (and often mixings of different group members) gather and go off for a while together to eat.

Another difference here would be the hours people eat. In the US, breakfast is typically around 7-8, lunch somewhere inside 11-1, and dinner (supper) is almost always over by 7 except in weird “working late” situations. In India, the breakfast might start around 9/9:30, lunch didn’t usually start until 1, and supper isn’t until 8 or 9. Restaurants won’t even open until 7 in most cases. Bizarre!

3) Traffic. I mentioned this when I first arrived, but I wanted to add to it. A friend of mine in India told me that there’s one big difference between US drivers and Indian drivers. In the US, we drive watching to make sure we don’t hit anybody else. In India, you drive watching to make sure nothing else hits you. The difference sounds funny, but is a huge distinction. For example, in three weeks, I didn’t see a single accident. In the US, I often see 3-5 accidents a week, and I drive a lot less here than we did there. This is because in India, people are constantly aware of things going on around them. You never know, somebody could come burrowing up from the Earth, and as a driver, you want to watch for it (and check to see if this new tunnel gets you around the giant congestion just ahead). In the US, you can put the car on autopilot… Check your phone. Read your email. Text you girlfriend… Get into a wreck.

Additionally, the roads in India did not have the same kind of planning around them. Religious structures are protected, so roads often zigzag around structures declared to be a temple (for any number of the many faiths present in India). Drainage is a huge problem. Lakes formed on common roads because the water had nowhere to go. This certainly made drives interesting.

4) I had never truly felt homesick until this trip. I’m a home-body by nature. I don’t like going out. If you read my first India post, I’ve never had much interest in seeing the world. My home is my castle, etc, etc. I write this just to say that I’m almost always ready to go home as soon as I get out. But even with this being the truth, I had no idea what homesickness truly felt like. Everything I had felt before was just an annoyance. After around the two week mark, I learned this truth. True homesickness is when you can’t stand everything around you… from the smell of the laundry, to the view out your window, to the taste of the air. I was fed up with the politeness and courtesy. All of the meals had begun to taste exactly the same (which is really just not true!). I didn’t want to leave my hotel, and I hated staying in it. It was really bad.

Overall it was a great trip. Eye-opening and an exceptional opportunity that I wouldn’t trade.

And yes… It was hot.

Disney Challenge

I saw this on another blog and wanted to post the same questions on mine.  Timed well with my recent flash fiction White Snow.  I’m also including Pixars in this.

1. What Disney scene do you wish you could experience?
I wouldn’t mind riding on Microbots (Big Hero 6), or experiencing dinner with Lumiere at Beast’s Castle… or (I’ll admit it!) building an ice palace as Elsa.

2. An unforgettable experience you’ve had at the parks?
My most unforgettable experience was actually my first trip to the parks, and it wasn’t a great one. We had taken a Disney cruise, and one of the stops involved a shuttle to Disney World. I picked up a wheel-chair for my mother-in-law before riding the ferry into the Magic Kingdom.

We ended up getting separated at the Carousel, with my pregnant wife with her wheel-chair ridden mother on one side, and me and our 2 year old on the other side. The staff wouldn’t let me cross the rope and get to them… Even as they allowed other people (guests, not staff) to pass. Irked me a great deal while I walked the whole way around through the castle to reunite with my family and push the wheel chair. The evening didn’t end there though.

After fireworks, I went to return the wheelchair at a spot where there were a ton of other wheel chairs being dropped off… And I made the mistake of asking if I could leave mine. The man told me I had to return it where I got it. So my wife and mother-in-law went to go get on our bus back to the cruise ship, while I hopped on the ferry to take the wheelchair back. Beforehand, I checked to ensure the ferry would be running. I was told the ferry would run until 9:30.

I get over … and everything is closed. I take the wheelchair up to the building I got it… And nobody is there. Standing there a moment or two, somebody emerges from the door, trying to lock it behind her, and I catch her. She has no idea why I’m returning the wheel chair, and says I could have left it back at the castle. Fortunate, right?

So I get back to the ferry. They let everybody off, but don’t open the side to let me on. The boat goes back across without me. Meanwhile, the buses are preparing to leave for the cruise ship. I climbed the fence/gate so I could go stand directly on the pier. When the boat docked, they asked to back up, which I did… But I just lurked while everybody got off. Then I tried to just walk on. They refused me. They said they didn’t bring passengers back after 9:00. Sure it runs til 9:30… One way.

Meanwhile my wife has to stall the bus, which needs to depart so the cruise ship can leave on time. I walk right past the cast members on the boat and refuse to get off. They call security, and ultimately get confirmation that I can take the boat back.

Made it back to the cruise ship…Not a great first experience at Disneyworld. The cruise was incredible though!

3. What non-Disney song brings back memories of Disney?
I’m not sure, honestly. I guess if I hear “The Lion Sleeps tonight” I think of Lion King.

4. When was the first time you went to a Disney park?
2013. I was 31. See story above!

5. If you could choose any of the characters to be your best friend who would you choose?
Mickey for sure. He’s a super bestfriend, and knows everybody.

6. Who is your favorite Disney Princess?
Belle because she most values reading, or Tiana because she most values hard work.

7. Name a scene in a Disney movie that never fails to make you cry?
Don’t want a spoiler… But that scene in Inside Out on the rocket. Just thinking of that scene makes me tear up.

8. What is your favorite Disney movie?
Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Inside Out, Mulan, Big Hero Six.

9. Overrated Disney movie?
I can’t stand Sleeping Beauty. SO boring. Can’t blame it on being an early movie… I think Cinderella and Snow White are great. I don’t know how “The Good Dinosaur” did, but other than the amazing eye candy, that movie was TERRIBLE.

10. Underrated Disney?
I have to go with The Princess and the Frog. I think it came out in really close proximity with Tangled (which was also fantastic), but I don’t think the movie gets enough support.

11. Favorite Disney song?
So many good ones… Part of your World. Something there. Let it go (I said it, and you thought it was great the first 15-20 times you heard it). Almost all of the Reprises in the Disney Renaissance period (Mermaid through Tarzan).

12. Least Favorite Disney Movie?
Sleeping beauty. Can’t get through it.

13. Most Memorable Disney Villain?
Scar was pretty good. Mother Gothel. Stepmother from Cinderella. All so manipulative.

14. Favorite Classic/Favorite Modern Disney movie?
Classic -> Cinderella. I don’t like the plot, but I do like the evil stepmother.

Modern -> So technically the “modern” era for Disney was Aristocats through Oliver and Company… If that’s what we’re going with, I’ll say Robin Hood. If we mean modern as in recent, I’ll go with Inside Out.

15. Favorite Disney score?
The music backdrop in Lion King was amazing. When Simba climbs pride rock, I really feel it every time. I also like the icy tones of Frozen. I love the spectrum of emotion represented in Inside Out. The same tune can be both happy and sad at different tempos.

8 Differences between US and India

I’ve been here almost a week, and wanted to take a minute to talk about some big differences I’ve already noticed.

0) The Temperature.

This one’s obvious, so it warranted a 0 instead of a 1… But ugg. The heat! It’s really hot here.

1) Transportation.

Lots of things here. Multiple languages on the road signs. Additionally, I knew people drove on the left here, but I didn’t realize that philosophy extends to walking as well. In the US, we naturally (or maybe unnaturally) walk on the right side of the road.

The traffic is unbelievable. It feels like we’re constantly a moment from death as the cars ignore all lines drawn on the street as well as all traffic signs. A week of being here, and I haven’t seen a single accident, so I’m left with the feeling that Indian drivers must be the best in the world because the way they drive is intimidating and incredible at the same time. The awareness is profound.

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Another interesting thing: The maintenance vehicles have interesting colors of sparkling lights on them. Greens, and blues, and purples.

In the rare times you are stopped at a light (most lights seem to be ignored), there are children or other people who come to your car looking for change. Occasionally, someone will bear a rag to wipe your hood, but they aren’t shy about pounding on the window for a good solid 30 seconds.

2) Drinks

All restaurants I’ve eaten at you pay for each drink rather than have “unlimited” refills. Maybe it’s just my choice of restaurants since I’ve been here. Also interesting, when ordering water, you often get the option of “sparkling or still.” And you always get the choice of ice. Very different. In the US, still water and ice are a given.

3) Power Outlets

The power outlets initially freaked me out. They are very different than the ones we have in the US. Turns out the US adapters will work in them, but I was very intimidated (since they look nothing alike).

4) Email

This is a work specific one, and also is obvious when I think about it. During the work day here, I had very few emails. I typically get 200-300 emails per day for my job. I had maybe 20. The problem is, as I get ready for bed tonight, I’m suddenly inundated with hundreds of email. It is night here, and feels like night… Yet the reality is that on the other side of the world everybody is waking up and getting to work. Makes it hard to get to bed.

5) Security

Everywhere required the car be checked for bombs, and I had to walk through a metal detector to enter. I heard this is a more or less recently development as the new government is trying to build a lot of security. I’ve also heard he’s done a lot to reduce corruption among the police force, so that’s very inspiring!

6) Housekeeping.

In every hotel I’ve stay in within the US, toiletries (shampoo, soap, etc) are over-provided. IE: If I unwrap the bar soap and leave it in the dish, there will be a newly wrapped version nearby when I return to the hotel. No regard for whether I should finish using the existing or not. Here, no new toiletries were provided. Which is actually fine. I didn’t need more and wouldn’t have used them anyways. Hopefully I’ll see new ones when I run out.

The second thing is a little more unnerving. Housekeeping feels obligated to touch my stuff. I’m curious how much of me being bothered is an American thing versus a me thing versus just a personal space thing. Clothes that I had left stacked (more or less) neatly on the couch had all been picked up and folded. My shoes (which weren’t in the way) were moved to a cozy position near the bed. My papers, spread about on my desk had all been pulled together and stacked in a neat pile. Even my dirty socks had been pulled from my planned pile and stacked. I would have been fine with no service at all, and at most, making the bed. This bothered me because I felt there was no need to touch my stuff. Housekeeping being nosy, or is this a way to illustrate that service is being provided? I don’t know… But it’s my stuff, and I’m not sure how I feel about it being bothered.

Additionally, turn-down service comes in the evening as well as morning. That’s different.

7) Intermissions

Went to go see the Jungle Book in the theater. Great movie. Right at one of the intense moments, the screen froze and went dark. I thought something had gone wrong… But nope. Intermission. I’m familiar with this in stage plays, but never had that experience in cinema.

8) The People

The people are incredible. I’m from the southern United States, and in the South, we take pride in our hospitality. We’ve got nothing on India. Everybody I’ve met is warm and friendly, good-natured, and open. Initially, I held this to just my co-workers, but even at the movies, the people sitting next to me were genuinely interested in me, what I was here for (and strangely wanted to take a picture with me). At lunch, people offer up their food to each other. “Want to try this?” It wasn’t just a thing done for me to let the American taste… They frequently offered to each other. I’ve been overwhelmed by the hospitality.

Recapping a Year of Blogging

I’ve officially had this blog for a year.  It seems almost shocking that I “Started My Fiction” a year ago (technically 3 years ago, but I’m measuring in terms of when I started the blog).

To be fair, I only did the blog for a month and a half before I let it go, and didn’t pick it up again until six months later, but I’m still feeling sentimental and wanted to post on it.

I’ve compiled some lists, and thought I would share.  Before I do, I would like to thank each and every one of you that has been part of this blog for however long you’ve been part of it.  It wouldn’t be where it is today without all of you!

Top 3 Non-Fiction Posts

Scrivener vs yWriter5: Edging out just ahead of the competition, this post discusses pros and cons of Scrivener vs yWriter.  I still have them both, but I’m currently using Scrivener.

5 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction: I love flash fiction.  This is a list of a few things I think can be used to make it great.

Outlining your Story – Plot:  Pretty self-explanatory.  Part of my Outlining your story series, focusing in on Plot.

Top 5 Liked Fiction

What I Always Wanted: This one still comes in head and shoulders above the rest.  Probably in my top 3 favorite stories to write.  It was my second attempt at a photo prompt, and when I read it, I still have to smile.  I was pretty mean to this poor kid.

Runner: Also in my personal favorites.  Wanted to get into the head of this kid and do convey enough meaning to show why he’s running.

Harriett:  First stab at a horror story.  How to build emotion and dread in so few words?

Fifth Period: I really loved this one.  I wanted to write something with strong descriptive language, and I enjoyed the humorous twist at the end.

Condemned: A little surprised on this one.  I had no idea what to do with the prompt, and let myself go.

Top Interview

This interview with Matt Kilby.  He wrote a great piece of horror, and had lots of good tips for new writers.

Top Book Review

Magic Bites.  Ironically, of the books I’ve reviewed, this was both my first and my least favorite.  Maybe it has a closer cult following, maybe other people reading it just felt the same as I did.  Maybe the timing was great or the tagging clever.

 

Welcome to India

I’ve now been in India a day. I really would like to share a bit of this journey. Skyline

Skyline from view from 25th floor lounge

I promise some of the later blogs will have more pictures of things, but I wanted to get this post out. Today’s post will focus on my trip.  First things first:

Business Class Rocks.

My company is paying for my trip so they sent me Business class, and I’m not going to lie… It’s awesome. Lots of leg space. Roomy seat. Personal movies programmed into the TV in front of me, fully reclining seats (turn into beds). Table-cloth treatment at meal times. Lots of overhead bin space. A care package. Real white glove treatment.

That was one of the only two highlights of the trip. Everything else about the trip ranks in the bottom 10 experiences of my life.

Back to the trip. It begins where life got complicated because of a friend of mine in India wanted me to bring a toy for his boy’s birthday. It was purchasable on Amazon in the US, but he couldn’t get it in India. I agreed to transport. I didn’t realize the luggage allowance for an international flight was lower. US Standard linear size is 62 inches… International flights (at least Emirates) cuts that to 59. That means my large luggage is oversized, and work isn’t going to pay the $175 (each way) for the oversize. So I had to take two smaller suitcases, one of which contained only the toy for my friend.

Next problem came with my luggage locks. Something weird happened and the combinations changed after I locked them (I promise I didn’t just forget them!). I had to get two cut off at the airport, in a miserable wait at security because I couldn’t get my laptop out of the bag.  Even after getting here, I had to go through one combination at a time until I found the right one (Only took 185 tries… Literally). Annoying, but bearable.

Got on the flight, and it had all the amazing-ness above. That was a 16 hour flight from Chicago to Dubai, which brings me to the second highlight. Dubai has an amazing airport. I think it’s the largest airport in the world, and it really is incredible. It’s like a mall… more than a mall inside an airport. Amazing.

Everything went downhill from there.

I wanted to eat in Dubai, but my work was covering via American Express, and none of the shops accepted it. So I’m stuck eating a bag of snacks I bought in Chicago. Miserable dinner. And things got worse.

I think I must have gotten food poisoning from the airplane food… I was worried about food/water problems (brought Pepto bismul tablets and immodium), but I expected that to start after I got to Hyderabad. This hit me right after Dubai… So about 16 hours into my journey. Nausea overwhelmed me, cold sweat, dizziness. Horrible Diarrhea. I won’t disgust you with the details, but if you can imagine it, I probably dealt with it. Terrible.

Got into Hyderabad at 2:45 in the morning. After some quality time in the bathroom, the trip through security had turned into enormous lines. Got through those, and found out I need to fill out a form. Filled that out, and then had to go through again.

Oi. Got out of the airport, reclaimed my bags, and then went to find my driver. After ignoring the throngs of people trying to sell trinkets or services, I made it to the exit, where a dude with a piece of paper with (I think) my name on it was waiting. I wave him, he wadded up the paper and shook my hand. Then he grabbed my bag and ran. Not in a thieving way… Just set a wicked pace. With each step, I worried whether or not I had the right guy.

Even worse, as he begins to drive, we take some of the seediest, darkest roads in India (I extrapolate this; I don’t have those facts… But man it looked pretty scary). Got to the hotel. Next post: I’ll share my first five impressions of the differences I’m seeing.

What’s the worst trip you’ve taken?