Spontaneous Friday

Since creating this blog I have come in contact with some incredibly talented writers. Every week I get a chance to talk to someone with an amazing mind.

Zack St. Julien is one of them.

A few weeks ago Zack came up with a great idea. He asked if I would be interested in a question and answer session where each of us would appear on the others blog.

It was a lot fun and I hope you enjoy.

Zack, take it away.

 Hi Zack. How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always had the knack for English. It didn’t really occur to me that it was my best subject until my ELA teacher took interest in me and moved me into her honors course. I didn’t start writing until college, but I had been making stories in my head my entire life. When I was young I made comic books for my dad.

 

What are your Inspirations?

I’m one of those big sci-fi fans so obviously stuff like Star Wars and Blade Runner were big for me growing up. I like stories that different from reality, I think that’s why we write, to escape reality and make it what we want. That’s why Quintin Tarantino is a big inspiration to me and many other scriptwriters. His style of exaggerating reality and adding unneeded but interesting sound effects and his need to have overly dramatic dialogue and action sequences are what makes his movies so good.

 

What are your goals?

Right now, I’m focusing on finishing my education. Goal one: graduate. If everything goes well, that should be this summer. I also want to get my foot into scriptwriting professionally. I’ve taken interest in reading other scripts and commenting on them. I’ve done this for school courses, but there’s a career in judging scripts, giving feedback, and deciding whether they are good enough to be produced. Maybe move out to LA and be completely broke for a while trying to get recognized once I have more work to sell.

 

Favorite books, movies, TV series, anime?

As I said, if anything I’m a Star Wars and Tarantino fan, weird combo, but I could live off those alone. So, A New Hope, Pulp Fiction, and Marvel’s awesome too, so let’s put Thor Ragnarok on the list, I’m hoping the next step in the Marvel Movie Universe with Avengers: Infinity War will be great. I’m going to double up saying I really enjoy Game of Thrones as both a television series that follows their amazingly written books with an understandable amount of accuracy. Shows like The Walking Dead & Breaking Bad on top. Being an anime junkie I might as well mention I’m a fan of Attack on Titan & The Blue Exorcist.

 

What is your writing routine?

Although knowing the importance of a routine, especially for writing, I don’t have one very well planned out. I write whenever I can make time for it, which is rough working full time, going to school full time, and with a hobby that I’d like to one day make my career. I like to write at my desk after I shower in the late morning while listening to chill music. Mostly instrumentals Lofi Chill Hip Hop Music is my favorite on Youtube or Spotify.

 

What do you like to write about?

My genre is Sci-fi because I like to make spectacular worlds and impossible stories that couldn’t happen in real life. My usual story involves a dystopian future, because nothing is more interesting than the end of the world. Overall, I place my characters in unpredictable and difficult situations where they must use their strengths and the strengths of their friends to fulfill their goals.

 

What does being a writer mean to you?

Freedom. Being able to write about anything. It’s therapeutic, being able to write stories with characters who are who you want to be and can do such amazing things and bring you to interesting places. It can be a trip for your mind and fills you with pride to see what you have created

 

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Besides having the best hobby that can entertain me for hours daily, I think it’s made me a different person and see the world differently. I like focusing in on people trying to understand them and figure out their story. I’m also pretty damn good at scrabble now, so there’s a lot of good sides to being a writer.

 

Can you name your published works and give details on what it’s about?

Actual published work, no, I don’t have anything like that quite yet. I wrote a long story back in college that was fun and made me the writer I am today, so I’ve been going back to it, editing it, and publishing sections of the story weekly on my blog. But the story Eyes of my Enemies, is neither a script nor a novel. It was my fun mess around work that I made the mistake of basing of my own life, most writers know why that isn’t the best of ideas. I still take pride in what I’ve created. Eyes of my Enemies is about a teen who gets tossed into the supernatural world that’s always been around him. Forces from Hell come to Earth after a dimensional tear was ripped in our universe destroying the balance of all things.

 

Do you have upcoming works?

Yes, started a movie script and worked on it for a few of my courses in college, and I intend to finish it. Currently, I’m posting pieces of Eyes of my Enemies, so I’d like to continue that until I’ve completed my education. But I need to get back into scripts and complete that movie before I can pursue a career in scriptwriting. The script is called Or Die Trying and its about a survivor of the zombie apocalypse who loses his community due to a new threat. He joins a team of eccentric zombie killers that lead him across the nation in a dangerous quest traveling East. It’s a wacky but thrilling action comedy that I’d love to finish.

 

 What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Keeping up with a story and not giving up on yourself or switching off for another new idea. Also networking and getting your name out there can be pretty difficult.

How do you deal with negative feedback?

I try to put my ego away and take as much the feedback as a positive thing and use as much of it as I can to change my work. The best was having a professional at my school look and critique my stuff, I know how much of an expensive thing that can be looking elsewhere online. Some people can be difficult though. You may think that you’ve explained your story well enough, but your audience is left with a lot of questions than you might have some work left to do.

 

When did you consider yourself a writer?

It took a while I never understood why I didn’t take it up sooner when it seems my whole childhood lead up to that being my career, but that just never occurred to me.

 

What’s your current occupation, education, marital status, and hobbies?

I’m 23, single, a full time student at SNHU online, and I work full time at Riverview School. Riverview is this place on Cape Cod that specializes on kids with learning disabilities. It’s a boarding school so I work as a Dorm Staff and teach my group of High School boy’s life skills and take them throughout their day. The school homes nearly 200 kids with varying levels of cognitive ability and different learning disorders, autism, and Asperger. It’s a fun job, yes it’s rewarded but mostly I just enjoy myself conversing with the kids and doing so many activities.

 

If you didn’t want to be a writer, what would be your dream job?

I only like the strangest jobs, I’ve been a lifeguard and I work with autistic kids. I suppose I look for easy alternatives. Why make life difficult. I used to want to do big things like open a business or be a doctor. Nowadays I think being a state ranger for Yellowstone or any big park would be incredible. Or cameraman specifically for those nature documentaries meaning traveling to foreign lands. I also recently thought of being a voice actor, maybe I could still do that for something I wrote one day.

 

What type of obligations do you feel you have as a writer?

I just want to stay true to myself and continue to produce work that I like and stuff that I would want to watch. I don’t want to sell out and produce whatever some corporation wants me to.

 

If you were famous, what would you say to the world?

Everyone stop being so angry and hateful, the worlds a beautiful place and we can make it better. It’d be a lot easier though if you would all stop judging and putting yourselves first. Have gratitude, trust in science, don’t give teacher’s guns, and don’t hire celebrities for presidents. Use some common sense guys.

 

Where did you grow up?

I was born, raised, and currently reside in Wareham Massachusetts. It’s a nice place, only slightly tainted with drugs and violence, but it’s a nice place to live. We’ve got the small town feel but with a lot of people everyone seems to know each other, and there’s just enough to do around here to get by.

 

Favorite Authors?

I don’t read nearly as much as I should so I’m going to throw in names from various things like Quintin Tarantino, George R. Martin, Donald Glover, and the Duffer Brothers.

 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Another one of those daunting questions. Jeez should I be cocky saying I’m rich and famous with a lead TV show and laughing at everyone who said I couldn’t make it. Should I be depressing and say I had to go with a backup job and am going through my life, happy enough, maybe still writing on the side, but with not much success, maybe I’ll give myself a decent blog. Who knows what could happen. I could be somewhere out in LA after a failed attempt to become famous. Maybe I finally discovered that ever story I try to make really works better as an anime and I moved out to Japan. Who knows?

 

Thank you, Zack.

https://st-j.blog/

Zack

Novel Number Two

Writers and Rain 2

The other day I was reading an interesting post on my friend Tamara Drazic’s blog https://tamaradrazic.com/blog/.

She discussed her next book idea while putting aside her recently completed novel. She shared the closeness she felt with her characters as if they were real. It got me thinking about my own characters and the bond we created.

 

Forming a bond

It’s easy for writers to form a bond with their characters. We spend so much time with them they soon become part of our lives.

I’ll be honest, when I completed my novel the hardest thing to do was say goodbye.

With my first novel Dempsey’s Grill making the rounds of agents it made perfect sense to move on to book number 2. Several ideas came to mind when thinking what I wanted to write.

I had at least three solid ideas that I had considered. What I didn’t expect was the difficulties of moving past the characters I created.

The characters had become old friends. Family to be honest. And turning off that switch was harder than I thought it would be.

 

Finding the right story

But I knew I had to write again. I couldn’t sit around waiting for an agent to call. And when I made the choice of what I wanted to do next it was a book I had already written.

I came up with the idea while we were vacationing in San Diego a few years back. I kept seeing a little girl, a field of corn and a baseball game.

The story involved some sort of time travel with a man from today’s world accidentally ending up in a time long ago. I wasn’t sure where it was headed or if it would even work but I knew I had to write it.

When we came home from our trip I went to work. I completed the first draft in about a month but right away I could tell something was missing.

 

Knowing when to stop

I wrote as a pantser from start to finish but I didn’t mind. At least I got it down while it was fresh. Unfortunately the story had one giant flaw: The protagonist was all wrong.

I couldn’t put my finger on it. In fact I couldn’t figure the guy out. He was unmotivated, kind of sad and kind of boring. So I put the book away and forgot about it.

Luckily this was during the time my editor and I were putting the finishing touches on Dempsey’s Grill. We were busy with rewrites, plot holes and so on. Now, fast forward a year later and I am ready to start book two.

 

Starting Over

What pulled me back was the challenge I faced with fixing the protagonist. I knew the reader had to care and so I did the only thing possible: I started from scratch.

The original protagonist was a nice guy and nothing more. I knew that wasn’t good enough and so I made him bigger than life. A star.

I was watching the Super Bowl when the idea came. American Football is my favorite sport. I began to see him as a retired star searching for the glory days. A dimming spotlight. Somehow through all this he finds a connection with the little girl.

 

The Spark of ideas

It’s amazing how we come up with ideas. Just like my friend Tamera and the way she came up with hers. We all have our own way of finding a spark that ignites the avalanche of storytelling.  

I’ll keep you posted on book number 2. Hopefully it will go as smooth as Dempsey’s Grill. But writing is a mystery with each book that we write a little different than the last.

But that’s okay. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Until next time.

 

Thanks for stopping by!!!

 

Spontaneous Friday

A long time ago I broke my right knee.

It happened on a warm July evening of 1991. Bush Sr. was in the White House, the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA title, my 1984 Tempo was in reasonably good shape and my crumbled right knee was lying awkward on the floor.

I had such simple plans that night. Brush my teeth, watch the local news and go to bed. Unfortunately I took a detour on the way to my toothbrush.

The detour had a name: My Chin-up bar.

It was one of those fun, boyish and spur of the moment ideas that came out of nowhere. An act that everyone with a chin-up has done once or twice.

 I grabbed my chin-up bar, pulled myself to the ceiling and launched my body into the hallway.

A pretend Olympic moment you might say. I would nail the perfect landing while being surrounded by applause and endless endorsements.

As I launched myself into the hallway my chin-up bar decided to break free. Unprepared for such comedy I landed in an odd shape ruining my chances for gold.

Chin up bar

Multiple surgeries and endless rehab followed for the next two years but the knee responded and returned pretty close to form.

On the dark side of the coin we knew its life span was limited. None of us can live forever especially a shredded and shattered knee.

But it hung in there for 26 plus years and now, cue sad music, we may have to say goodbye.

Last December I had surgery on my knee in hopes of adding a few more years.

Like a faithful pet, my knee wouldn’t go down with a fight. But like a faithful pet whose time will someday pass, my knee may have consumed its final supper.

My good doctor and his assistance have poked and prodded and injected to the very end. We have bled the river dry and with nothing more but a tiny heartbeat it may be time to say goodbye.

I almost lost you, dear knee, in 1991. But you surprised us and hung around for a quarter century plus change.

You saw the rise and fall of political dynasties. Michael Jordon and his NBA dominance and the death of my 1984 Tempo.

You traveled with me on the day I got lost in an IKEA store – the kitchen display mind you – and you were there minutes later when my daughter rescued me.

We spent a day New York City where we walked six miles. You were also there when we got lost and had to walk five more.

You were with me in Boston when we had a beer at the world famous Cheers bar and you were there in Alabama where we climbed to the nose bleed section and witnessed a Crimson Tide win.

If this is truly the end I bid you a fond farewell. I wish I could bronze you and place you on my mantle.

Unfortunately the family may have issues with that idea. But fear not, I will continue to pester them hoping they’ll cave.

On the other hand I would not be surprised if you responded and prospered to the latest treatment.

You are an old dog who refuses to die. You are a cat with nine lives. You are Rocky refusing to call it quits.

I hope you decide to stay. We have shared a lot of memories and it would be nice to add a few more. But if you do decide to part it’s been a wonderful ride.

With that I bid you adieu.

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!!

You don’t have to write every day but you should.

Two Questions –

What is a Pantser: A pantser is a writer who flies by the seat of their pants. They do not plan a thing or they plan very little. 

Plotter

What is a Planner: A planner takes the slow approach. Drawing out everything from characters to scene until they get it right.

A few years back I had two completed novels.

My ego took off like a rocket. I saw my name in lights and I even had the actor picked out. The late great River Phoenix would have been perfect, I remember thinking.

I still hold true to that thought by the way.

But there was one tiny problem – both of my novels were complete disasters. Just ask my writer’s group, my beta readers, my so-called friends…..and me.

In an instant my name in lights crashed and burned. Along with my sorry ego and the manuscripts.

ego

Back then I was a Pantser. I sat down with a notebook, my favorite pen and went to work. It was the ultimate rush.

It felt like a road trip at night. No headlights, no map and no destination. It was dangerous and fun. A curved road next to an icy cliff.

And then I missed the curve.

So much for my Panster career.

Not all Pantser’s write bad novels. Stephen King is probably the greatest Pantser of all unfortunately I am not him which explains the mess I created.

But on the bright side I wrote every day. Every morning to be exact. Three hours, non-stop. It created a positive habit and I learned how to overcome mistakes.

So that leads me to a question – What do I mean when I say you should write every day?

For me, as you have already guessed, it doesn’t mean writing a novel. At least in the Pantser sort of say. But it does mean concentrating and working on your craft.

Last summer while attending the Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon I bought a book on writing a novel.

In the past I never saw the need for such things but after my two failed attempts I was desperate. Not to mention I liked the characters I had created and I felt bad for what I did to them.

I began to take notes. Soon I was taking my failed books apart like a giant puzzle. Some of the pieces were rearranged while others were tossed in the fire.

Was I writing? – Kind of and kind of not.

I wasn’t writing a novel but I was creating an outline and learning what the story was really about. I was preparing, determined to do it right and taking my time while at it.

I didn’t have the talent to be a Panster but I did have the talent the break the story apart and study the pieces I had created.

Pants

In the meantime to cure my writer’s itch I created my blog, I wrote short stories, I joined twitter and I found some excellent on-line writer groups.

There are many ways we can write every day. It doesn’t always have to be a novel, just as long as we write.

Think of the novel as the big prize. While everything else is practice and a wonderful practice it is.

So I guess that’s why I’m not too bummed with my two failed attempts. I was writing. I was learning and in the end I figured it out.

We are all blessed with an amazing gift. It would be a shame if we kept it to ourselves. So write every day.

It doesn’t matter if its social media or a text to a friend across town or in my case breaking down my two busted novels .  

Whatever you do find a way for people to hear your writer’s voice. That certain charm, that spark that you were blessed with is unlike anything anyone has ever heard.

People need to hear it and they need to hear you.

And that is why you should write every day.

Thanks for stopping by. 

 

WRite Every Day

Spontaneous Friday

Searching for Characters

Searching for Characters

You and I are always finding ways to create. Story ideas enter our minds like a flash of lightening. We are never given a warning. We see something that catches our eye and presto…..instant story.

We are an interesting bunch with our interesting ways of gathering bits and pieces in order to entertain.

We take rocks, frogs and a rain socked leaf, give them a toss and a swirl and presto…..a romance made in heaven.

Trust me. I’ve seen it.

The other day I came up with an idea. Instead of waiting for the stories to come to me I would go to them and I would find them inside our local Cost-Co.

For those unfamiliar with Cost-Co think giant warehouse with endless everything at your fingertips.

Cost co

A perfect place for character shopping.

My plan was simple: Find characters for a story. Look for things that stood out. Find adventure even if I had to look deep.

 Here are the characters I found:

  • A young man working in the pharmacy flirting with his co-worker. She politely listened but it was clear her work was more important. Does she regret working with him?

 

  • Two people running the food sample section. One was a natural at convincing people to try a bite. The other wasn’t. I wondered if the quiet one regretted her job.

 

  • An exhausted mother attempting to shop with an infant and a toddler. Meanwhile the father busied himself with a giant book containing civil war photos. What is on her mind?

 

  • A little old man carefully analyzed the ingredients on a large can of tomato paste unaware he was blocking the only exist in the aisle. He wore a wedding ring but was all alone. Is his wife still alive?

 

  • Making my way around the bottleneck I spotted a red face man trapped inside the bottleneck, glancing nervously at his watch. He was clearly running late but to what?

 

  • I spotted the mother with the baby removing the book from the father’s hands and pointing to the runaway toddler escaping down the bread aisle. Will the father join him in a race?

 

  • As I circled past the pharmacy I noticed the young man gave up on his co-worker. On the other hand another co-worker found him interesting. I’m curious if he noticed.

 

  • I caught up with my wife and daughters at the checkout. I noticed the little man had passed on the tomato paste but decided on the large pasta. Why didn’t he buy both?

 

  • The bearded man stood impatient in line. Looking at his watch, credit card in hand. Will he make it on time?

 

  • The father held the squirming toddler along with the giant Civil war book. The mother quietly removed the items from the cart as a sleeping baby rested on her shoulder. Why was he so fascinated with the book?

 

So there you have it. A tiny slice of life captured at the local Cost-Co. Do you think a story is in the works and if so what would it be?

 

Happy Friday Everyone! 

Writing and Surviving

 

Be You

My crazy ‘20’s

I’ve always felt that the decade known as my 20’s was my classroom. That crazy decade where at times I felt like an out of place shoe.

My 20’s gave me a lot of things but there are three that I’ll remember most – Love, Loss and Death.

We all have that one moment in our lives where everything happens at once. I’ll bet mine was no different than yours.

It was as if I was on a non-stop emotional roller-coaster ride that never seemed to end.

 

Something was missing

My 20’s grounded me in many ways, forcing me to grow up. But at the same time I remember having a feeling that something was missing.

An odd sort of feeling in the pit of my stomach that I should be doing more. I felt restless, bored and lost and I didn’t know why.

 

Blinders

Looking back it’s easy to see why I was feeling these things. But many of us wear blinders at certain times in our life.

Caught up in the moment where life is traveling at the speed of sound and there’s no time to listen.

When I was 24 I went back to college. On a whim I signed up for a creative writing class. The teacher was Ms. Keil. She had a reputation for being strict and demanding and boy, was she ever.

 

A 1000 Words

But Ms. Keil and her demanding ways are not what I remember. What sticks out to me after all these years is a 1000 word short story she assigned on our first day.

We were told to write a silly story. Her words not mine. We were given 20 minutes and not a second longer.

I can still see her staring at the time on the clock and giving us all a long stare. A panic rose from within.

I hadn’t written in years and was worried her long stare would soon be aimed at me. But on that day something happened and I was never the same again.

 

20 Minutes

I wrote a silly little story about a used car and all the people who owned it. The protagonist was the car.

He explained to the reader the owners who came and went and how they treated him.

When I finished I had the strangest feeling. I was no longer restless or bored or lost. It was as if the floodgates pushed away all the bad stuff I could never seem to shake.

And it all happened in 20 minutes.

 

Writing and Reading

In that moment a domino effect occurred. I wrote more and I read more. I began to understand a need that I had ignored.

I had no idea that creativity was a huge part of who I am.

 

Be You

In the coming months my anxiety lowered and my ability to branch out and meet new people increased. Some might say it was all a part of growing up but I knew better.

Does writing a short story really change your life?

Yes.

 

Be Weird

Never be afraid to create even if you’re the only one who does. Be the weird one, the oddball or any other name you may hear. It’s okay to be all those.

All you’re being is you.  

 

Be Weird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spontaneous Friday

When my daughter was 18 months old she threw up on me. Now I’m not talking about a tiny little spittle on a shirt sleeve, I’m talking a full blown Linda Blair ala The Exorcist.

On the bright side my daughter wasn’t cursed by a demon. It was just one of those stomach-throw up issues every 18 month old gets. On the other hand one can never be one hundred percent certain when it comes to Linda Blair head twirling thingy’s. On the bright side not once did I find her floating north of her bed.

What does all this have to do with my current installment of Spontaneous Friday? Absolutely nothing. The memory simply floated to the surface of my memory bank causing an incredible need to share. You’re welcome.

On the plus side of this throwing up story, if you’re a parent chances are you’ve been there. On the other hand if you’re not a parent but you’re seriously considering it I may have changed your mind into believing wine, solitude and bookstores are the best way to live.

Tsunami Books

Speaking of bookstores, the other day I was walking through my favorite store when I noticed a little boy standing near a row of books. His eyes were as big as saucers, his mouth curled into a grin. If his thoughts were to suddenly appear like subtitles in a movie I have no doubt they would have read – I’m in the greatest place ever!

When I was little we didn’t have a bookstore. We had a mall. I remember one of the stores had a row of books and magazines. I also remember they were located near the records. I was allowed to pick one and sometimes the choice between a song and a book was close to impossible.

On the day I became a dad I already had a day in her future planned. There she was, less than an hour old and I knew one day her and I would share a day in a bookstore.

What I love about bookstores is the feeling I get the moment I walk inside. I love the smell, the creaking floors and the sound of the rain. Sometimes the owner will open the door allowing the sound and sight of be seen and heard. If I could bottle it up I would take it home.

Rain

Luckily our town is blessed with several bookstores. You can go to every corner of our town and find one nearby. Google Eugene, Oregon bookstores and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s one of the few experiences in life where I’m a child again. I’m a little boy with eyes as big as saucers. My imagination runs wild. A little too wild to be honest. Once I caught myself pretending the characters were standing in the aisle talking to one another.

I just gave you an idea for a story. Use it!!!

I can still remember the first time my daughter stepped inside a bookstore. She gently touched every book she saw and carefully moved on to the next. In her young mind I wondered if she understood everything she touched was a piece of magic. I remember her big blue eyes looking up at me and in that moment I knew she did.

Stairs

When you think about it nobody has ever created what we do. Our characters are unlike any character anyone will ever read.

The stories we discover in bookstores and the ones you and I write are one of a kind. They are a part of us. They are bits and pieces unlike anything anyone has ever seen. We create magic every day and someday our magic will find its way in a little bookstore with creaky floors and dusty carpets.

 So if you’re having a day where your ideas are stuck, the words all wrong, your imagination on hold, try to imagine if you will a small child or a big child like me holding the magic that you created.

Bookstores are not only a place full of stories they are full of dreams that come true. Not only for the writer but the reader as well.

Black and White Books

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bookstores I need to visit. It’s a nice rainy day and a perfect day for magic.

Rainy

 

Enjoy your Friday, everyone. Thank you for stopping by.