Comedy, Romance and Nightmares…..oh my!!!!

Scary

A while ago I wrote a piece on finding old stories in my computer files.

It was a situation I am sure many of you have experienced. It is amazing all of the things we find and those that survive.

The story that I found was supposed to be a scary old thing. At the time I was convinced I would be a horror writer.

I had just finished back to back Stephen King books – Salem’s Lot and IT. So it was natural in my thinking that I would follow his path.

 

An Unexpected Twist

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the genre picked me, not the other way around. I don’t know about you but having the genre do the choosing feels natural as if there’s no other way.

But something strange happened last year that puzzled me. I submitted a horror short story to my writer’s group that I wrote at the same time I was writing my romantic/comedy novel.

To my pleasant surprise it scared some of the members of my group. Come to think of it, it kind of scared me to. Especially after our meeting when I walked across a dark and lonely parking lot.

Scary 2

I was advised to enter it in contests, especially during the Halloween season. I finally did and I hope to enter it in a few more.

This leads me to a question: Why are all of my short stories horror driven while my novels are not?

 

Do I scare ‘em or not…..

Scary 1

I have given up trying to understand how we come up with our ideas. I have also given up why we pick the genres, or in my case, the genre picking me.

I could never write a horror novel. It might have to do with empathy towards the characters or maybe I hate to scare people. Especially in those empty parking lots.

But if you give me a short story something happens. My goal is to put a fright in you that’s so bad you’ll never dangle your feet over the bed again. I’ll guarantee every light in your house will be on.

But if you ask me to write a novel I’ll have you laughing and crying at the same time. My goal is to make you smile.

Does this apply to others? Can some of you turn a switch and immediately become a different writer? How many of us are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde via pen and paper?

 

Something Lurking behind the Screen Door

It’s becoming clear this path I took is a mysterious one. There will be places along that path where funny moments and happy endings welcome every step.

But if I turn a corner and take a sharp right I’ll be your worst nightmare.

A part of me says I should drop short stories but another suggests I continue with a different name. A secret identity if you will.

This Jekyll and Hyde thing is becoming more and more real.

Whatever happens I do know this: The creative mind is full of mysteries where many of the answers will never be found. And you know what? I’m glad.

Sometimes we don’t need to know everything.

Scary 3

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Cemetery

I don’t do cemeteries

A while ago when I was writing a post about Mr. French I made a comment that I don’t do cemeteries, I prefer the memories instead.

I was curious why I had such strong feelings and I’m pretty sure it dates back to my senior year in high-school when my great-aunt Dot died.

She was my grandmother’s older sister. Kind of mean to everyone but me. Truth, I swear. Accused everyone of thievery, except me and would only share her special vodka with one other person.

That would be me.

vodka 3

 

I don’t do open caskets

I’m not sure if it was my 18 year old self sipping vodka with his great-aunt or me being the only she liked. Whatever it was the day of her funeral when my grandmother reached inside the casket and placed her sister’s hand on mine my attitude towards cemeteries took a huge nose dive.

Not to mention it really creeped me out.

I grew up in a home where cemeteries were a big deal. All of my relatives bought plots long before they were sick.

tug o war

There would be battles over prime spots. A section near the oak tree, a spot near the little hill overlooking a beautiful meadow and anywhere far away from mean old Irv.

Trust me. The guy was a head case.

When I was little the arguments made sense. As far as I was concerned we didn’t actually die, we just lived underground.

But I grew a little older and a little wiser and it didn’t take long for me to realize that cemetery plot preparation just wasn’t my thing.

 

Money Well Spent

When I entered my 20’s and my debt increased I couldn’t believe my eyes when I discovered the cash I could receive if I sold my plot. In one swift move my plot was sold, my debt erased and my grandmother and I were not on speaking terms.

On rare occasions I will go to a cemetery. I will stand straight and listen to the good words spoken. If the occasion arises I will say a kind word or two and by no means will my shoes ever touch the stones.  

An old rule hammered down that I obey to this day.

My grandparents graves are far away but I know someday I will travel north and pay my respect. Even in heaven Grandma’s guilt speaks volumes.

As you can tell I prefer the memories. If given the choice of remembering my great-aunt Dot’s cold dead hand or her caring smile as I sip her special vodka, memories will win every time.

Now you know why I don’t do cemeteries.

vodka 4

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

Bad Writers vs. Great Writers

Before I start I want to explain something. I used two extreme words in this post – Great and Bad.

I did this on purpose.

There are great writers all around us. We read their work every day and sometimes we get to meet them but there is no such thing as a bad writer. You work your tail off, you have a goal and if you push yourself every day you are great in my book.

But somewhere along the way someone will call you bad. They will tell you to find another hobby, another dream and in the end they will call you a bad writer.

This post was created with the name callers in mind. Some think they’re doing us a favor by telling us to seek new dreams. What they’re really doing is pushing us hard to the goal we wish to achieve and for that I thank you.

Thank You

 

The things I noticed

The first group I ever belonged to was an on-line writer’s group. It was an interesting mix of young, old and a few in-betweens.

At first I did more reading than writing. I hadn’t figured out this critiquing thing, plus the stories were really cool and for a little while I was nothing more than a curios reader.

When I finally dove in it didn’t take long before I noticed two extremes: Great writers and Bad writers.

There were just as many average writers too but the great and the bad caught my eye.

 

Tickle the Imagination

Small Town

When it came to the great I was amazed at the beautiful pictures they drew in my mind. Their words took me to places I could touch and smell. In some cases I swore I could hear the church bells inside the towns they drew.

Their work was an amazing achievement and it puzzled me. Why were they submitting to an on-line critique board instead of an agent or publisher?

The bad writers were a jumbled mess. Their plots hurried, their characters empty. It was common to read a thousand words and be just as puzzled as if I had only read one.

 

The People I Meet

What I found fascinating was not the level of talent in their work, or lack thereof, what stood out was the person writing it.

The bad writer was an open book. They knew they were struggling. They asked questions. They searched for answers but most of all it was clear they had their sights set on a goal.

The great writer was a mystery and to this day they still are.

I was reminded of the movie Amadeus. Mozart was in his prime where the creation of beautiful music came as easy as trying on a new pair of shoes.

Were they bored? Did they have goals? Whatever they were they all had one thing in common: They were lousy communicators.

I’m not sure if lousy is the right word. Lazy might be a bit more accurate.

They spoke in half sentences or abbreviations. That is if they spoke at all. Eventually they would disappear, leaving their amazing work behind.

 

Bad is the new good

The bad writers were by far the best communicators. What they lacked in talent they made up with listening and applying what they learned.

The problem I saw with the talented writers was that there was nowhere to go but down. It appeared to be so easy. No cause for celebration. Did Mozart feel this way too?

The ones who struggled became friends of mine long after the work was complete. To this day we meet through twitter, facebook and sometimes in person.

I realized through this experience it’s good to struggle. We need to stumble and listen and learn. Maybe the recipe for success is just that.

I always wanted to be great at something but now I wonder if there’s a price to pay. Maybe a few bruises and scrapes are all I need. Whatever it is I’ll take a bad writer any day.

Since we’re all headed for the finish line I might as well be with those I like.

the end

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Explode 1

Watching my brain explode

About a year ago I was at a writer’s conference listening to one of my favorite teachers. He’s one of those teachers who will go off topic. He’s full of energy, easily distracted but most of all everyone in the class love’s the guy.

The man is full of wonderful stories and when his class is over we get more than our money’s worth.

It was during one of his talks where he touched upon a topic that fascinated me.

 

Recycling old arguments

He spoke of a time when he was driving through town having a make believe argument of an actual event from a long time ago. As usual he explained, he won the argument just like he had in real life.

I remember many of us smiling and nodding our heads. Been there, our smiles admitted.

But then he said something that I’ll never forget: The next time that happens I’ll change history and make myself lose and when I do that watch my brain explode.

 

Living in the Past

Past 2

I may be guilty of living in the past from time to time. I may also be guilty of reliving an ancient argument but changing it around and making myself lose when I actually won?

Are you kidding me?

I am the undefeated champ of recycled arguments. I am fantastic when it comes to adding another line, creating a new paragraph while adding to the riches of my winning day.

But losing on purpose when I actually won?

How is that possible?

 

Music and their games

Music has a habit of bringing back old arguments and on a certain day not too long ago it happened again.

The music played and a scene from long ago appeared. It might have been my fault. I might have said too much and yes, I was on the winning end of the ‘discussion’.

I also remember a door slamming in my face and a slight concern over a possible broken nose.

As the music entered the halfway mark and the memory grew roots I placed myself into the scene and did the unthinkable.

I changed history.

 

Same script different ending

script

I gently placed my hand on the door and looked her in the eye. I paused for a moment and told her she was right.

I could see the confusion in her eyes. This isn’t supposed to happen, her eyes screamed. The door is supposed to shut an inch from breaking your nose.

You’re supposed to toss a parting shot and speed away. An ugly moment played out like a scratched record over and over just like the memory intended.

But something happened to this old memory. I changed it the same way my favorite teacher changed his.

I saw her standing in front of the door. She was confused. Not sure what to say next. A new script had been added and nobody had time to rehearse.

I could see the neighbors watching. They were angry. They didn’t want a new version. They wanted the old. We all knew the drill. Same old song same old memory.

But not today.

Suddenly I’m in my car speeding away but this time the memory is different and I’m the culprit who changed it.

I looked in the review mirror and saw her standing in the middle of the road. It’s clear I tossed a monkey wrench into an old memory and I was lucky to leave when I did.

The music ends and so does the memory. I’m not sure if that was such a good idea but I do know one thing –

It made my brain explode.

Girl 3

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

How to make the most of your goals

Ari Guest Blog

WEDNESDAY GUEST BLOGGER

 

As most of you know I believe the secret to success is to surround yourself with smart people. And when you do, you listen.

I have been listening to Ari Meghlen for a while now and I have no plans on stopping.

Ari, take it away.

 

 Before I begin, I would like to thank Bryan for welcoming me onto his blog and letting me share my thoughts with all his followers.

 Why you should make goals

I have always been a firm believer in goal settings.  Anyone who follows my blog will know I post new goals at the start of each month. 

As well as these short-term monthly goals, I also create long-term goals and have an ever-growing bucket list. 😊

A goal is the target of your effort, the desired result you are aiming for.  Goals help to solidify an idea and creates focus. 

 

Write it down

When you write something down it becomes a visual reminder.  If you want to make this goal a reality, you need to be reminded of it.

You can also create accountability by sharing your goals.  Nothing makes you more likely to succeed than the fear of having people ask you about a goal you’ve failed.  It is one of the reasons writing challenges like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and 85K90 are so popular.

People sign up and commit to writing 50,000 words in a month or 85,000 words in 3 months.  They track their progress on the relevant websites where everyone can see.  This creates accountability and that is a great driving force.

 

Create a Plan

However, having a goal and even writing it down is not enough. 

There is a popular quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that reads:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish”

This is one of the reasons why those who set New Year Resolutions often fail to keep them by the 2nd week.

People create random goals they want to attain…and that’s it.  They don’t usually follow them up with a plan of how to get there.

You need to create a roadmap of how you are going to reach that goal.  The best way is with steps.  Break down each action you need to take to reach your goal.

 

Overloading yourself

Another way to struggle with goals is to give yourself too many or try to do everything all at once.  Let’s take getting healthy as an example.

If my goal was to get healthy, I wouldn’t jump right in by chucking out all the unhealthy foods, refusing to drink anything but water and running 20k every morning.

If I did that, I’d be dead in my first week.  Not joking!

So, you make small, manageable steps. 

  • Reduce intake of sugary drinks in the first week
  • Drink an extra glass of water a day
  • Create a meal plan where 2 days a week eat a healthier option with more fresh vegetables
  • Walk 10 mins every other day.

You create a list of steps, as small as they need to be, to give you the best chance of reaching your goal.

We all have this worry that we need to do more.  The idea of doing 10mins walking every other day may seem silly. 

After all, I know I can walk more than that.  However, I know I will actually go out and do it if it’s only 10mins whereas if I gave myself 30mins or an hour then I might end up getting distracted or finding an excuse. 

The idea is to build a habit not do everything all at once.

Whether you say you want to write 500 words a week or for 10mins a day.  The size of the step doesn’t matter, the action itself matters.  Maybe you can easily write 1000 words a day.  Great, but some days you won’t have time to. 

However, if you say you’ll write for 10mins a day, then some days you can exceed that and other days you might only manage that.  But it’s still a step in the right direction and a completion of that mini goal.

 

 Set a deadline

Giving yourself a deadline is important.  We have a habit of letting things drag on if there is no end in sight. 

Remember, don’t give yourself too tight a deadline if that won’t work for you.  I have monthly goals because I work from home and have no children.  This means I have greater control over my time so I can plan my goals throughout the month.

If you have other obligations and responsibilities, then give yourself longer.  You are not trying to challenge yourself so much that failure is likely.  (Yes, it happens, and we should not get dragged down by any failures, but don’t set yourself up to fail).

 

Enjoy the journey

Creating goals allows us to focus on where we want to be, what we want to have done but that doesn’t mean we should not enjoy the small victories. 

Maybe you have a goal to write 80,000 words in 3 months and you don’t make it.  You instead managed 50,000 words.  That is great!  Enjoy that achievement too and appreciate what you have done.

It’s like when we fail or make mistakes, use them, learn from them, they are part of the journey towards success and should be treated as such. 

 

Check your goals regularly

If you set goals, make sure you check them regularly.  I have a page on my blog where I list my goals so I can check on them every week.  I also update their status to show if I’ve started them and how far along I am.  This tracking is for my benefit only and it keeps the goals forefront of my mind. 

 

Don’t be afraid to change things

Never stick with a method that isn’t working.  Do you have monthly goals?  Are you struggling to meet them?  Then change to quarterly goals or bi-annual goals.  Or maybe set yourself fewer goals each month until you find what works for you.

I’ve seen people create a goal system modelled of someone else.  That’s great if it works, but if not, don’t stick with it just because it worked for someone else.

Yes, goals are meant to challenge you, to push you a little.  But they should be achievable, enjoyable and inspire you to keep going.

If you are struggling or feeling overwhelmed, let some go, focus on as few as you need.  Change what doesn’t work for you. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this article, I hope you found it useful and I’d love to know if you are a goal setter and what is your best piece of advice for others who may be considering creating goals.

Ari Guest Blog 2

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

The life and times of a restaurant employee

waiter

The other day we were in a busy restaurant. The employees were full of energy. Many of them laughing at inside jokes. It reminded me of a day when I too was a restaurant employee and as usual it brought back a handful of memories.

Working in a restaurant is unlike any other job. Maybe it’s the close quarters. Having to always bump into one another. No personal space.

Hearing every little detail of everyone’s business.

Or maybe it all comes down to the fact that in every restaurant someone will hook up with a co-worker and eventually break up.

That’s when things get interesting.

 

All I wanted was piece and quiet

My memory took me back to a week following my 21st birthday. I was broke. In dire need of a job…any job mind you and when this nice little restaurant took pity on me I figured I was in for a peaceful and quiet time.

I was a little wrong.

It was border line insane. It was loud and back breaking hard. It was also some of the best times of my young life.

Little things became major details. For example: The super long telephone extension cord. I learned the hard way to stay out of the manager’s way whenever it was in use.

If you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time you would be trapped like a juicy bug in a Venus fly trap.

Venus

Yes, a tad dramatic but now you see the picture.

 

The Front and the Back

There were two faces in the restaurant world. The front was pure theater where we entertained the customers with smiles and happy suggested servings while the back was nothing short of back stabbing dress rehearsal.

Months after I arrived the pressure of the restaurant caused our manager to have a nervous breakdown. To give you an idea of his mental state check out an episode of Scrubs and seek out the hospital lawyer.

Scrubs

I remember a barrel near the dumpsters. It was a grease barrel full of all the disgusting day’s events. It was also the perfect location for our dishwasher to get ‘just a little high’.

His words not mine.

 

Religion and Hook-ups

Religious and atheist arguments were an on-going battle. Thankfully the arguments were rather friendly and a winner never declared.   

When the restaurant closed for the night it gave birth to a different world. The doors were locked creating an eerie silence as the smell of grease and a ringing phone every twenty minutes.

I remember my first attempt to answer it only to have the closing crew scream for me to stop.

The manager, the one whose future consisted of a nervous breakdown, would call to see if we were done. He could purposely add inexperienced employees to the closing hour in hopes one would fall for his trick.

I just thought it was cool the extension cord was so long.

Phone Cord

Aside from the exhaustion, closing time was my favorite. The conversations and debates centering on politics, religion and who was hooking up with who created endless entertainment.

It did not take long before I learned the love affairs of every employee.

 

The Perfect Job if you’re a Writer

Looking back, restaurant work was more than just a job, it was a really weird and exciting experience. The memories of those days have allowed me to create characters I never could have had I worked somewhere else.

I truly believe it is a young person’s job. If you are this particular young person it makes for a good experience.

But if you’re a writer in search of storylines and characters to fill those stories, restaurant work may well be the world’s most perfect job.

waitress

Happy Friday Everyone!!!   

Writer’s Tag

Writers Tag

As some of you may have noticed I enjoy sharing stories from my past. It’s fun to find ways to link those crazy times into the stories I write today. On the other hand there are some things I’m not too crazy about which brings me to the topic of today:

I hate asking questions about myself. Yes, I need to work on it.

 

But because two of my favorite people, Lorraine Ambers and Ari Meghlen, created Writer’s Tag there is no way I could say no. See how special you two are.  

 

If either of you two had annoyed me in any way I would not be forced to answer these questions. Unfortunately you have flooded me with kindness, laughter and amazing posts on your incredible blogs.

 

Why couldn’t you be mean to me just once…..groan.

 

This is for Lorraine and Ari.

 

Here I go:

 

Name one novel that inspired you to write.

A long time ago I was recovering from two broken knees. My girlfriend (who is now my wife) brought over a huge book and suggested I read it. I recognized the name, some guy name Stephen King, but I had no clue what this huge book was about.

Since I had nothing else to do, I opened this weird huge book called IT and read chapter one.

When I finished I felt like I knew these people. I begin to ask myself, how did he do that? How did he make such a connection between the characters he created and me? And so began my journey.

 

What’s your favorite genre to write and read?

When it comes to reading I’m open to anything. I’m constantly searching for excellent writing and storytelling. It doesn’t matter the genre.

When I write its comedy/romance. I don’t know why, it just is. My mind will find the funny side of things and find a connection between two people. I use to fight it, now I embrace it.

 

Do you prefer to write stand-alone or series?

Always stand-alone. When I’m done I have to say goodbye.

 

Use 3 words to describe yourself.

Oh no, this is tough…..give me a minute….okay, here I go:

Stubborn

Curious

Laugh-a-holic (that is a word – I looked it up – trust me)

 

Reveal your WIP aesthetics or an image that represents your MC or setting.

I was trying to figure my protagonist out for the longest time. It became so frustrating that I had put the story away. The side characters were solid. The story I liked. But the protagonist was a huge challenge. Who is this guy?

Last February I’m watching the Super Bowl. The following morning I’m reading a sports Blog and I see this picture. His name is Rob Gronkowski and his team, New England Patriots, were on the losing end of the game.

Because of copy right I cannot submit a picture but you get the idea.

For some reason this photo started working in this crazy brain of mine. By the end of the day I realized that my mystery protagonist was an NFL player and a troubled one at that.

 

How long did your first MS take to draft?

From beginning to end? I came up with the idea in 2013. Two editors and tons of drafts later the finished product came out last year, 2017. It was an amazing journey that this little story of mine took.

 

Who is your author idol?

Having one idol is hard for me. There are so many people and so many categories. But I will say this: I admire everyone who writes a story that is special to them and puts it out there for others to read. That takes so much courage and I love courage. So I guess all of you who do this are my idols.

 

Share a writing memory that made you determined to carry on.

I was trying to get into this writers group and we had to submit a piece of our work. The decision took about a week and when I received it I was informed that I was not accepted. I was also informed that the members reading my work agreed I should find something else to do.

 

Tell us something surprising or unique about yourself.

I believe it was January, 1987. Wow, I’m really dating myself here, aren’t I? I worked at a seafood restaurant called Skippers. It was popular in Oregon, Washington, California and a few other states.

 They had an award ceremony in Seattle and I was informed I was going to receive a nice little plack with my name on it. Nothing major but it was Seattle.

A bunch of us employees were invited and we all got to spend the night in a big fancy hotel for free.

Long story short: I win the big prize – National Employee of the Year.

I shook hands with the CEO, who drove a DeLorean by the way, and danced the night away. I don’t think I danced with the CEO? He was dressed in a safari outfit. Did I mention they had an open bar? Oh boy…..

 

Share the hardest part about being a writer and how you overcame it.

Did I lose my writer’s voice? Every time I start something new that is my biggest fear.

 What’s your favorite social media and why? Share your link.

I’m really surprised I’m enjoying Twitter as much as I do. I think the main reason I enjoy it so much is the crowd that I chose. Facebook was a free for all. That was a bad idea. I have an author’s page on Facebook but the crowd on Twitter is a lot of fun. There’s just something special at it. @Bryanauthor62

 

Share some uplifting wisdom in six words or less.

No regrets.

 

Last but not least

My WordPress crashed every time I tried to submit a link which is a bummer. I had six nominations all lined up.

So…it’s getting late….I really need to get to bed….how about this: All of you reading this are my nominations. 

Everybody is a Winner!!!!!