SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Sixteen 2

A Letter to My 16 Year Old Self

A few weeks ago my oldest girl turned 16. As with any parent I always hope that all is well.

16 can be a tough time. Our minds are constantly moving. The world is stuck in the fast forward mode with catastrophe waiting on every corner.

Overall my girl is a smart kid. She is confident and has a lot of friends. But of course I will worry and I’m sure my grandparents did the same.

When I was that age I seriously doubt I paid much attention to my grandparents concern. If anything I was probably way too consumed in myself and embarrassed to be seen with them.

What I do remember about my younger self were the annoying pimples and the endless pop-tarts. I think I just figured out where the pimples came from.

 

What would I say?

So I asked myself what would I do if I could go back and talk to that kid that looked and sounded a lot like me.

First off, let’s pretend he’ll listen and if he did what valuable piece of information could I deliver?

Before all of this was possible I’d have to fire up the Zippy-Way-Back Machine. Make a note: The crank is wearing out.

If I arrived during the summer of that 16th year I would find him in Southern California. It was a huge summer. For the first time in his life he traveled out of the state of Washington all the way to San Diego.

He was visiting his dad and staying at the hotel his father managed. He was amazed at the local Safeway and how much it resembled the one in his home town.

Aside from the Safeway experience and the pop-tart consumption what would I say?

I gave this some serious thought. Below are the things that came to mind:

  • Your small town is not the center of the universe. Find a way out. You can always come back.
  • Talk to people about your worries. You are not alone.
  • Sneaking a beer out of the refrigerator is NOT your greatest achievement.
  • Your world will not come to an end if the cute girl in algebra doesn’t say hi.
  • Please try to match your clothes. It’s a nice habit to get in to.
  • Comb your damn hair!
  • Speaking of hair – Enjoy it while it lasts.
  • The high-school football star is not a world celebrity.
  • The fears you have now will seem ridiculous five years from now.
  • Get a part-time job. The experience will pay off.
  • Hang out with the kids in the drama class instead of the people you think you should be with. Of course they’re weird but so are you. Plus, they understand you and that is what friendship is all about.
  • Owning a car isn’t everything. Bumming a ride is good for you.
  • Your uncle is right. Professional Wrestling is fake.
  • Lose the polyester shirt and the rainbow bell bottom pants. Please!
  • In the fall of your sophomore year someone will steal your favorite Washington Husky hat. You will never see it again. Keep it on your head or keep it at home.
  • And finally: Please listen to others. You do not have all the answers. Make it a habit to keep your ears open and your mouth shut. Think of this as my bonus to you.

Above all else, please save the Husky hat!!!!!!!!

Huskies

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

 

Is Pleasing the Market Still Relevant?

Relevant 1

I have a favorite blog written by a literary agent. He’s funny. He gets all worked up about things and he gives writer’s pretty good advice.

For the sake of honesty, my honesty that is, I’m not going to mention his name. If you’re curious drop me a line and I’ll send you his link.

The other day he spoke about the writer’s market. He brought up a decent topic concerning our books. Where does your book belong, he asked. Picture a bookstore and try to see what section of the store your book will be found.

I understood right away what he was getting at. A writer needs to sell. The agent needs to sell and the best way to sell is to understand the current market.

But something bothered me when I read this. I agree that the market will always have a strength in a certain category and later, that particular category will change and something else will take its place.

But does that mean we need to chase it?

Do we have to constantly tweak our stories to coincide with market conditions? And if we do are we sacrificing a part of our craft that we are really good at?

Do we really have to worry about that bookstore and where our books will be placed?

bookstore 2

All of us have a certain strength. We don’t know why, we just do. You might knock a description out of the park while I write the best dialog in town but that’s not what I’m getting at.

What if we do something that doesn’t exactly fit with the market?

Do we panic and create our own bookstore or do we stop what we’re good at in order to please the market?

I have some friends who create an odd mix. Their stories are a combination of comedy/folklore/chase thriller and a few other surprises that I can’t remember.

Their style may never find a place on a particular bookshelf but they are really good at what they do.

My point to my rambling is this: We could spend the majority of our time worrying about the market or we could get to work and do what we do best:

Perfect what we’re good at.

If we concentrate on the things we do best the market will come to us. Why not be the best at that one thing no matter how weird or whacky others may think.

There’s lots of competition in this craft we have chosen. All of us need some sort of separation, otherwise we’re all the same. So if you are the best folklore/comedy/chase thriller in town why not pick it up a notch and be the best they’ve ever seen.

The market is constantly changing and it can be exhausting chasing it. But instead of chasing it, own it.

That’s how you rock the world.

Relevant 2

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Night Stalker

hair

A long time ago I knew this girl. Unfortunately so did every other guy in town.

She was pretty. She wore nice clothes and for reasons I can’t explain I remember she walked really fast.

It was a boring Friday night. My grandparents were weekend warriors and doing their usual thing. All of my friends had dates or were out of town while I was settling in to an HBO classic, a bag of chips and the company of my cat.

As one movie ended and another began my plans for a nice boring evening were squashed by the fast walking girl.

 

Something Blue

She asked if I’d like to see a movie and if I did I had to be at her house in the next twenty minutes. Puzzled and pleased I did what every young boy my age would do:

I searched for the car keys.

I remember running to my room for a quick change of clothes. I remember changing out of my blue shirt and blue jeans in exchange for a fresher pair of blue shirt and blue jeans.

I had a plan. Trust me.

I arrived at her house in 15 minutes. Way ahead of schedule. My friends with dates and my weekend warring grandparents couldn’t light a candle to my current and exciting situation.

 

Little did I know

Mystery 2

It was a warm summer night when she jumped into my car wearing a black stocking cap and a matching black shirt. Figuring it was a new style she was experimenting with I drove on.

As I searched my brain for small talk she interrupted with an address. The movie will be fun, she promised, but we need to make a few stops along the way.

Happy to have my existence acknowledged I obliged.

Our first stop was a busy neighborhood full of cars on the street and driveways. People stood out in the road drinking and smoking. Clearly a party was happening and I wasn’t invited.

I asked who we were looking for and she quickly answered a friend. This was followed by a compliment of my blue shirt.

We drove through three neighborhoods until suddenly she ordered me to stop.

She sunk down low in her seat. Her black stocking cap barely peaking above the dashboard. Suddenly she yelled move as the sports car in her view sped away.

 

Dumpster Diving

We followed it to a local fast food hangout where we spied behind a dumpster. She rolled down her window and ordered me to pull ahead.

Four guys huddled around the sports car when suddenly they jumped in and sped away.

I had long given up on my movie as I did my best to keep up. We were five minutes from show time but what did I care? I was dying to see how this ended.

We drove across town to the county fair. I was amazed we made it. I had a Chevy Chevette, he had something with an actual engine.

I didn’t have time to breath as she dragged me out of my car and in to the direction of the four guys. In that moment I remembered missing my original plans of HBO, chips and my cat Morris.

He was probably eating my chips.

 

Farm Girls

I was shoved against a wall of hey and ordered to tell her what I saw. Not much, I tried to explain, as pieces of hey stuck in my eye.

She pulled me away and shoved me into the open space. In that moment I saw a girl around my age showing off her prized pig.

Did I mention it was the fairgrounds?

I remember questioning my intelligence as to why I never dated a farm girl. They were nice and pleasant and clearly had a thing for pigs.

What’s not to love?

I was suddenly pulled into the goat section where the previous scene began to play out. But this time was a little different. She didn’t need me to tell her what she saw.

In an instant I was left stranded with pieces of hey, a friendly goat and my former fast walking date beating up her ex-boyfriends new love.

At the time I had no idea what stalking was nor did I know I was in for a serious case of life’s lessons.

But I do know this: Being young and clueless makes for a great story.

Mystery 3

Happy Friday Everyone!

The Emotional World of Writers

Emotion

A writer lives in a world of emotion. We bounce around like a super ball full of highs and lows.

Our emotions hit hard and they always hit in different ways. Like the stories we write our emotions carry with them a story of their own.

When we write a perfect scene the high we feel takes us down a beautiful path that lasts until our dreams begin to fade. But the moment we receive a bit of bad news we find ourselves asking – What’s the point?

 

Clouds

We are constantly flying above the clouds or crashing down to earth. We strap ourselves in for a bumpy ride and are willing to pay the price.

Every now and then I put on the breaks and ask myself why? Rumor has it some of you have done the same.

Could I ever walk away from all of this? Could I wave goodbye to the stories and characters that are dancing in my head?

Could I wish them well as I travel over the hill to normal-land?

 

What if I did?

You and I are an interesting bunch. We create worlds, people, problems and success. We do what many call impossible or weird.

It takes a brave person to expose themselves but we do it every day and we don’t seem to mind.

But every now and then we get tired. Maybe a particular rejection hit to close to home or maybe an unfortunate circumstance crashed and burned that was out of our control.

It’s at that point we may catch ourselves asking – Is it worth it?

Emotion 2

Did we choose a path where the terrain is simply too rocky? To dangerous? To hard or too harsh?

The answer is yes. Writing is hard but walking away is harder.

 

What do we do? What should we do?

So what drives us? Why don’t we stop? Why can’t we settle down in normal-land and join the others?

I would love to sit down with all of you and listen to your answers. I have to say it would be fascinating. My answer will always be the same: A spoonful of curiosity and a handful of stubbornness.

I will always be curious how my ideas will turn out. Will they catch the bad guy? Will she find her way out of trouble? Will he ever grow up?

These questions and the excitement they create will always drive me. The process of the first draft and the real work when draft two rolls around.

If I were to walk away I’d leave behind not only my writing but a huge piece of me. I’m already small enough, why would I want to be smaller?

The truth is that’s not going to happen. I will keep searching for that perfect scene where that perfect character and their perfect world live.

I guess that’s where the stubbornness comes in.

We are a different bunch. Some say we are an unusual bunch. Whatever we are I could not imagine a finer group than you.

This crazy path is full of mystery. Sometimes it’s full of heart break and sometimes it’s above the clouds.

Whatever it is, it’s worth it and that’s all that really matters, isn’t it.    

Emotion 3

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

RATT 5

Ratt and Roll – A Review

Back in my younger days I was a fan of music known as heavy metal. Some called it glam rock while others called it trash. Whatever the definition I called it fun.

The music was loud, aggressive and perfect for my young mind.

For those of you who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, take a moment and go to YouTube. In the search area type – Ratt Round and Round.

Be sure to watch it all the way to the end and be sure to turn your volume up. Take your time. We’ll wait for your return.

You’re back!

Yes, that was Milton Berle in drag.

RATT 3

From 1983 to around 1990 this was Rock and Roll. No, Uncle Miltie wasn’t in all of the videos but the sound did attract big names.

RATT 4

There were lots of good bands and a handful of duds. No different than it is today. During the time I attended lots of concerts. Chances are I may have been in a video or two.

I do know one thing: I am still caring a few scars. Sometimes finding your seat was right up there with life and death.

I saw Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Ratt, Scorpions and Motley Crue, just to name a few. My only regret was the parking lot. At times the games that were being played were far more entertaining than the show.

The videos I could have collected.

Time passed and so did the music. Luckily the end didn’t hit me as hard as it did the others. Variety has always been my favorite spice and in those days had you glanced at my cassette collection you would have found Ratt, Madonna, The Sundays and Motley Crue.

Madonna

Interesting neighbors when you think about it.

Earlier this year a friend mentioned a biography written by former lead singer and the founder of Ratt, Stephen Pearcy.

At the time I passed. I had a hard time believing an old rock and roller could write and those that could usually wrote depressing material. Even if it was well written I wasn’t in the mood for a 300 page downer.

Weeks passed. One day my friend stopped by and loaned me his copy. Realizing there’d be a pop quiz when he came back to retrieve it I took a deep breath and dived in.

The day after I finished I bought my own copy.

When heavy metal was born most of the musicians were young. Some were still in high-school. Only a handful succeeded but most of them were blessed with one key ingredient:  Determination. You and I know a thing or two about that.

Ratt

After reading the book I was surprised by two things: Humor and the quality of writing.

I wrongly assumed Pearcy’s biography would be a poorly written mess.

The opening was brutally honest and funny. Pearcy described his rehab of drugs and alcohol. His conversation with his therapist. There are no excuses. No sugar coating. The first ten pages are honest, funny and real.

I loved how he poked fun at himself.

From there his story goes back to the beginning where we follow an average kid from Southern California. We see the struggles that he faced with music and bands that he tried to create.

My favorite part came during their prime in the mid ‘80’s. This is when I saw them. This was the time they were bigger than life.

I always had a feeling that they worked themselves to exhaustion. With over a hundred shows a year. Millions of dollars to be had. Woman, drugs and no boundaries, bands like Ratt were a money machine.

Place that lifestyle into anyone young and adventurous, chances are bad news will follow.

I read how the band broke apart and by 1991 the music scene was changing. Heavy metal had taken a backseat to a new sound.

RATT 6

Through all of this the book was surprisingly touching. The experience of watching his daughter grow and how she changed his life reminded me of my own experience. There are some things that cannot be created and his words came straight from the heart.    

I read about the death of a bandmate and how much he loved his mom. I actually found myself studying his writing style and using it as reference.

I am a stickler for honesty and have a weakness for humor and if a writer can blend those two they an audience.

He certainly had me.

I’m surprised I’m doing this review. This isn’t the kind of book I read and I’m not a fan of pushing books on to others, especially those who read my blog. But I’m doing this for one reason: Top notch writing.

We say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Here’s another thought:

Don’t judge a book by the performer.

RATT 2

 

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!!!

Prologue – Use it or lose it?

The Greatest……not really

Prologue 1

A couple of years ago I wrote the world’s greatest prologue. It was an amazing piece of art. Trust me, why would I lie? Yes, you may doubt me all you want but I knocked this baby out of the park.

All twenty pages.

My world’s greatest prologue was woven into a maze of intrigue, adventure and suspense.

In a nutshell it was freaking wonderful.

 

Trouble on the Horizon

Not long after I wrote this epic piece I focused my attention to my on-line writers group. There were eleven in that group and at the time I was certain their positive replies were a mere formality.

It took about a day for their feedback to trickle in and as they trickled the foundation to my world’s greatest prologue slowly chipped away.

All of them were confused. All of them said no. And in the end all of them questioned my sanity for writing such a piece.

 

But….it’s great….I know it is…

Convinced they all had issues….what are the odds…I took my masterpiece across town to a writer’s group looking for a new member.

Prologue 4

The group consisted of seven writers looking to add one more to their group. They had the choices narrowed down to three. It was an excellent group. Full of well-respected writers from the valley. They had a wonderful eye for detail. One was a published author and none of them, I was certain, were dealing with issues from my silly on-line group.

By the end of the evening all seven passed calling my prologue an unnecessary piece. They also passed on me.

 

So there I sat

The world’s greatest prologue went to bat 18 times and struck out every time. For those of you good at math one thing is certain: Numbers don’t lie.

Prologue 2

The following day the prologue was cut. I still have it and I still love it but someday it may be turned into a short story.

The entire experience led me to a question: Do prologues work?

Even though it failed I still liked what I was trying to do. My goal was to give the reader a bit of a flashback of the protagonist’s life long before the story was told.

But the reader said no and that is who we listen to.

 

What do we do?

Even though mine failed does that mean prologues fail? Does the reader need it?

Does it make the story better?

At first I thought a 20 piece prologue was way too long but after a looking at it a little closer 1 page would have been too much.

Some stories just don’t need it which is a bummer because they’re fun. I know, as a reader I like to be in on a few things before I dive in. Kind of like being prepped before meeting the girlfriend’s parents.

So maybe it comes down to the story or in my case it all comes down to the writing. As you can see I still haven’t figured this prologue thing out yet.

Someday I’ll get it right but when I do it’ll be because the reader and the story wants it. I’m beginning to see how closely tied those two are.

It is a mystery I’m sure I’ll never solve. How is it possible I went 0 for 18? You would have thought one would have liked it but writing groups are important and this here is the best example.

prologue 3

Lesson learned.

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

A few weeks ago my good friend at The Stubborn Australian – https://thestubbornaustralian.wordpress.com/  – posted a really cool question and answer thingy on his blog.

I have no doubt he was dying to take credit but the true source of this fun little gem came from Claudia Blood – https://claudiablood.com/

I don’t know Claudia but I do know her blog. I suggest you check it out.

Speaking of Claudia I plan of using her name in my future books. It’s one of those names that stands out in a crowd. Unless she can claim ownership, I plan on stealing it.

Anyway, on with the show.

You may notice a list of questions below. I will do my best to answer each one. I will try to be as honest as I can and of course, express as little humor as possible.

Laughter is over-rated. Correct?

 

Would you rather be beautiful, an astronaut or able to walk up, any surface (ie up walls and along the ceiling)? Why?

Beautiful is probably nice but I have witnessed the disadvantages of this gift. Who needs endless free drinks and free backstage passes at rock n roll concerts?

I’m sure an astronaut leads a fantastic life but the image of Earth moving away at a rapid speed is not my thing. Nor this whole anti-gravity bit. I’m a feet on the ground kind of guy.

That leads to walking on walls or ceilings. As mentioned in my previous post, my fear of spiders, who have a habit of walking on our ceilings appear to be quite good at it. If I can’t beat them I might as well join them.

 

Would you rather physically age, mentally age or visibly age?

I am big on youth. Mental youth that is. I’m the one who’s always giggling at things at the wrong place and time. Curiosity, jokes and wearing bizarre shirts that have no place in the world are my thing. Take away the physical and visible stuff but leave my mind alone.

 

You get a time machine watch that can only go up to an hour into the past or future. What would you use it for?

 Super Bowl Sunday. One hour past the end of the game. Las Vegas betting line on speed dial. Need I say more?

 

What small something would you change right now?

Portland, Oregon’s Willamette Writer’s Conference. I will never forgive what you did.

 

What are your plans for getting older?

Happy and curious but most all I will embrace the change.

 

How do you want to spend your time when/if you stop working? Where do you want to be?

Working is writing. I will have a pen in my hand on the day I take my final breath. Where do I want to be? Oh, that’s easy. Surrounded by those who matter the most.

 

You find out (probably from a magic floating wizard or by text or something) that nothing you do today will have consequences. What’s your itinerary for the day?

I will eat sushi for the first time just to see what the big deal is. While I’m eating this strange stuff I will be wearing a really bright skin tight lavender yoga outfit. I will do all of this in my driveway on a busy summer day surrounded by neighborhood garage sales.

 

When you die your ghost will be trapped in the place of your death, where do you want to die?

Now that I know this will happen I might as well have some fun with it. There’s a cool looking house here in Eugene that has all the makings of a haunted house. When the big one strikes I will have them rush my barely alive body to the floors of this magnificent place. Oh, the fun I will have.

 

That concludes my question and answer portion. Hope you had as much fun as I did.

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

Haunted House