Jun 30

Respite

My wife and I ate our supper outside on the deck this evening. This is quite remarkable when you consider that this is June 3O in the Deep South. This is literally Mid-Summer down here.

We sure won’t complain, The relief from day after day after day of temperatures in the mid- to high-nineties, even into the low hundreds, and sixty-plus percent humidity is welcome. I wish it would last, but it won’t. We have plenty more heat before things turn around for good. Small reliefs make life richer.

At the same time we tried out out our new Vivitar binoculars/digital camera. Very cool. They only cost about $30US, and are definitely not high-end anything, but they give us a leg up on our amateur birdwatching. Since we can now get pictures (we hope!), that will help make identification easier.

All in all, today was a good day. I like good days.

Jun 28

What’s in a Name?

One of the things I like best about my AlphaSmart Neo is that I can work on a document without naming it. There is real power in a name. Naming something gives it a concrete reality in my mind, gives it a form of life. Not having to name a document means that I am free to change it or kill it on a whim. This is a peculiarity of mine that often works against me. Named documents acquire an air of sacredness that sometimes hinders my attempts to do the necessary things to turn a story into something publishable.

Names do indeed have power. Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?* Would a character named James Sweet have the same personality as one named Harville Scumpit? Of course not. And everyone knows the power of a story’s title. The associations between words and ideas in our minds is real and unavoidable.

Paradoxically, my stories are sometimes inspired by a title. When that happens, the title becomes an integral part of the story and informs the plot and characters to a large extent. Other times, I have to struggle to find a title that fits the story. Sometimes I never do.

Character names give me fits. Finding a name that refelcts something about the character, that has meaning within the story, is often a major battle. I often despair of my creativity at those times.

Names have meaning. Names have power. Names matter. Sometimes it helps to remain nameless.

*Please pardon the allusions. We caught the last 3 acts of Franco Zefirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey) on television a couple of nights ago. Damn that’s a good movie!

Jun 20

The Countdown Begins

I received my 97th rejection letter today. I am officially starting the countdown to 100. I anticipate reaching that goal around the end of the month.

100 rejections is a true milestone. Everybody who is anybody has amassed triple-digit rejections. Three I know of off the top of my head are Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and Harlan Ellison. High cotton indeed.

I am looking at this as a time to reflect on the value of persistence and as evidence of my commitment to writing. A celebration will be in order when the big day comes. Maybe I’ll break down and eat a piece of chocolate cake.

Jun 10

Sometimes I Hate Writing

I’ve been getting feedback on one of my current favorite stories from my crit-group partners, and I have come to a painful realization. One of my favorite scenes has to die. It’s beautifully written and emotionally wrenching, but…

but.

It does not advance the story. It’s a tea party in a graveyard, a wonderful set-piece vignette that goes nowhere and does nothing. I hate this. I love this scene (or whatever it is), and sending it to the Elephant’s Graveyard is killing me. I know the story will be better without it. I know that. It still hurts.

Damn.

Jun 03

Washed in the Blood Redux, Redux, redux, etc….

I purposely refrained from working on Washed in the Blood for a couple of months now. I really felt I had to let it get out of my mind for a little while so I could think clearly about it. That turns out to have been a really good idea.

The real problem is that opening scene. Still. But I now know how to fix it, in general. the specifics are still driving me to distraction. I have not been able to get a firm grasp on a good, story-driven scene that will grab a reader’s attention and raise the story questions that I need to raise up front.

I am taking my annual mini-retreat the weekend of June 20, and that is Number One on my list of things to work on. I am optimistic that I can get this worked out to my satisfaction and start moving forward on the revision.

I still love this story and believe in it, in spite of all the horrors it has inflicted upon my psyche. I think it’s a story that needs telling, not just told by me but told for the rest of the world. That may be the kiss of death: the proverbial Book of the Heart that brings shudders to the soul and tears to the eyes of every agent and editor. We’ll see. Even if it winds up in my desk drawer, it will at least have been writtten.