SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

If I were a character in a novel

Character

All of us are guilty of adding pieces of ourselves in our work. The hero, the villain or the weird guy in apartment C. I advise you to never knock on his door.

You’ve been warned.

Whatever flavor we choose there’s a little piece of us in every chapter. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem as long as it’s the right piece. Trust me, there are some pieces of us that don’t belong anywhere.

But one day I know I’ll have to write a novel that requires a troubled character. One that continues to make the same mistakes over and over. One that is certain each mistake will be his last and finally, one who ignores the pervious lessons and continues to repeat his previous mistakes resulting in the same mishap.

To find this particular character all I have to do is flip the page to a certain chapter titled – The decade of my 20’s.

It’s okay to be that guy

character 1

Note: The above picture is from the movie ‘The Sure Thing.’ One of the most honest young adult flicks ever made. Perfect writing and acting. If you have time check it out. 

Every movie or book has that one guy who is kind of a goof. He’s probably good at something but nobody knows what exactly that is.

He’s a little loud, pretty clueless and has an uncontrollable attraction to bad choices. But most of all he doesn’t seem to mind.

Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and relive those embarrassing moments. We have to examine that particular chapter of our former selves no matter how cringe worthy in order to write the perfect character.

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.

My 20’s were not exactly my favorite decade. Sure, I had lots of fun, but I didn’t have much of anything else. It was, shall I say, a time of missed opportunities.  

But instead of complaining I finally decided to put him to use.

 

Make him work

I’m not sure what the story will be when I use him, but whatever it is he will be easy to find. All I have to do is pick an age- 23, 24, 25……he’ll be there.

I use to think I completely screwed up that decade, little did I know I was creating an endless resource of stories to come.

One of these days I will have to reach out to that guy and thank him. I’ll make sure I catch him on an off day and remind him not to stop.

You’re doing just fine, I’ll say. Keep hitting that wall. Someday a different result will happen.

 Little does he know my compliments are for selfish reasons.

So if any of you have a time in your life you’d rather forget, don’t. Open that vault, dig in and scoop out that old you. Who knows, that old you may very well be the most fascinating character of any book you’ll ever write.

me 1

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!   

Why I write long hand and why I hate it

An innocent time

A long time ago I had a job where I worked four ten hour days. At the time it was great. I had every Tuesday off. It was pre-kids so I could sleep in a little, run some errands and enjoy the moment of having an entire work day all to myself.

Somewhere around this time I decided it was a time to try my hand at writing. It was something I knew I could do and Tuesday would be that day.

Suddenly a song by the Moody Blues comes to mind. Sorry, off topic.

This was my pre, pre, pre writing days, mind you. I use so many pre’s because I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. But regardless of all those pre’s that didn’t stop me from diving in.

I always wrote in the afternoon. I couldn’t be bothered with early morning writing. Who would do such a thing? In those days sleeping past nine, breakfast at my favorite greasy spoon and an hour or two of video games was clearly a priority.

Sadly the afternoon never got off the ground.

 

Something happened

Hand 5

Note: In case you’re wondering, the tiny words above say – I have no clue what I’m doing. That was me in a nutshell back in the day.

I would stare at my computer screen for most of the day. Sometimes I’d type a complete sentence but most of the time I didn’t. When the day ended it always ended with frustration.

Life went on and writing took a back seat but one day an idea came to mind that just wouldn’t go away.

I remember grabbing a notebook and a pen. It didn’t take long for a page to be written. Soon two pages, ten, fifty….you get the idea.

Hand

By the end of the week a giant chunk of my story was told and it all had to do with an old notebook and a favorite pen.

I remember staring at my lonely keyboard wondering what just happened. This isn’t right. A writer is supposed to sit up straight for hours at a time typing away. We’re not supposed to write long hand.

This is so grade school.

I forced myself back into the typing mode. I can do this, I promised. All the greats and not-so-greats do it. Typing is the only way!!!

Yes, I was shouting.

 

Discovering a system

Hand 3

But no matter how hard I tried I could feel the pull of the notebooks and pens. My stories came alive when I combined those two and fell flat as a pancake if I dare sit in front of my computer screen. 

Why?

It didn’t take long to give in. Who am I kidding, I told myself. Clearly I’m a little off. In order to tell my story I need pen and notebook and a whole lot of scribbles and dibbles. Ink stains on my hands and face. Whatever you say dear story, I give up. You’re the boss.

 

I hate typing

Hand 2

But on the flip side to this magical rainbow lies a dark side. For as much progress I make I still have the type the damn thing.

I still have to sit at my computer screen figuring out my scribbles and dribbles. I have to deal with the numerous red lines reminding me of my lousy spelling.

I continue to promise myself I will look into dictating software. I tried google and played around with memo on my phone but I have yet to find something that I like.  

But for all of my complaining that I do I really shouldn’t. My days of staring at the computer screen searching for an answer are over. I have a pretty good system so why bother messing with it.

But still….every now and then I wish I could be like Flash and stop worrying so much. If only I can figure out how to nap on that tiny chair maybe I could actually love typing.

Probably not.  

Hand 4

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

My $10 Bet

Last week I shared with you my moment of losing out on $10 due to a Swedish situation. But a few years later I made up for it in a surprising way.

Allow me to explain.

 

The Movie that put Oregon on the Map

Animal

How many of you have seen the movie Animal House?

It was a funny movie, not exactly earth shattering and not exactly the type of show one would use to study proper moral skills, but it stared John Belushi and had a hilarious supporting cast.

Another thing that stood out that some of you may not have known, most of the movie was filmed just down the road from where I sit. Right dab in the middle of the University of Oregon. The parade scene at the end was made in a little town just south, Cottage Grove.

 

Morals? What Morals?

Animal 1

From what I read every University in the country said no except for Oregon. True, we have no morals but we do recognize a funny movie.

I was a senior in high-school at the time when I was hanging out in my room with my high-school buddy. We were probably talking about girls as we watched Animal House on my little TV.

I remember making a comment as the movie wore on. A true story, I remember, where someone said that the movie originated from actual events.

My friend laughed and told me I either heard it wrong or was making it up. Attempting to explain I was merely the messenger I allowed my big mouth to get the best of me by placing a $10 bet that my statement was true.

I’ll never forget his smile when he accepted my bet and told me to prove it.

 

A Tiny Problem

I was in a jam. I was about to lose $10 but this time there would be no visual reward.

A few days later I remember walking through our hometown store. I happened to notice the magazine section and saw a title of one called National Lampoon.

Animal 2

Immediately I began to wonder. Wasn’t the movie called National lampoon’s Animal House? If so, could they help me?

With nothing to lose I bought a copy and found the name of one of the writers. His name was P.J. O’Rouke. I explained my situation and asked if the story was true.

I mailed the letter and hoped for the best.

 

The Ticking Clock

As I waited my classmate reminded me that time was running out. He wanted his $10.

On the day the letter arrived I was in big trouble. Not only did I not have the money, I would have to borrow from my anti-gambling/never throw your money away/I lived through the depression/what the hell were you thinking, Bryan/Grandfather.

Can you say, endless lectures and grounded for life?

 I can still remember seeing the letter marked National Lampoon with my name handwritten on the front. Inside was a single sheet of paper telling me I won the bet.

P.J. O’Rouke explained that the names were changed but yes, the stories came from a writer’s life in college.

Animal 3

He signed his name at the bottom and asked if we could split the winnings. A smiley face was scribbled next to it.

I wish I still had that letter. It would have been one of my most prized possessions.

My friend lived across the street. I made sure his parents and sister were home. Just after their dinner I made my arrival and read the letter aloud. His mother, father and sister laughed as my friend’s face grew red.

I walked away with $10 that night and a lesson: Keep my big mouth shut.

 

Happy Friday Everyone

Resurrecting a Novel

 

A Long Time Ago

Dead

It was the summer of 2007 when I sat down with an idea and decided to see what I could do.

As we all know the idea of writing a novel is much different than the actual work and when the time comes to turn a dream into a reality it can be a tad intimidating.

At first my little idea didn’t amount to much. A few lines here, a paragraph there. But soon those lines and paragraphs turned into pages.

Lots of pages.

 

What a Mess

death 1

As I look back most of it was a rambling mess but the experience taught me what it takes to sit down with an idea and put it to good use.

The thought of taking this particular novel serious never occurred to me. Not once did I fantasize of a book tour, New York City agents or armed body guards shooing away the groupies.

Did I just say shooing away the groupies?

I thought the opening of the novel was good and the ending decent but the middle slowed which explains the rambling mess.

As time went on and life got in the way the novel was forgotten. The kids were little, my wife was transferred and for a while things were hectic.

 

Dusting if off

Fast forward a few years later we returned to Eugene, Oregon. I entered my first writer’s conference, made my first connection with fellow writers and was invited to my first writers group.

In order to be accepted I had to submit a sample of my writing. Remembering the old novel I wrote I shook off the dust and submitted the first few chapters.

A week later I was accepted. In that group I met my future editor, Molly. Needing the practice she asked to read the entire novel. Say no more, I stated and proudly handed her my mess.

A mess it was we both agreed. She made suggestions and corrections. I wrote countless rewrites but no matter what we did something was missing.

 

Life Support

death 2

I came close to deleting it a few times but something told me no. Looking back I wonder if the characters were telling me to wait.

A tiny whisper from the pages below that somehow caught my ear.

If that’s true I’m happy they did. One evening out of the blue their voices were heard.

About a year after I joined my group I was practicing my beta reading skills with another writer. We would meet every Friday night at a bookstore and share our notes.

At times her teenage son came along. He always sat in a corner far away from us. His headphones on, his laptop busy.

Thinking back he was as close to invisible as one could get.

One night his mom and I finished up early. We decided to join him and, as his mom put it, shake some conversation out of him.

 

A genius hidden in plain site

Small talk was not his thing but resurrecting my novel was.

I can’t remember how the subject came up. A passing comment, a mixture of hope or regret. Whatever it was my dying novel caught the young man’s ears and imagination.

He immediately saw what I was trying to do. But it was more than that, he also discovered the missing layer that I couldn’t find.

I wrote everything he said down. I remember grabbing pieces of scratch paper, napkins and discarded bookmarkers. I’m surprised I didn’t write on the palm of my hand.

When the evening ended I thanked him. My dying novel was not only brought back from the dead it was now on the track team.  

He returned my thanks with a boyhood blush and a quick return to his laptop and headphones.

So what does this all mean, you ask?

For one, never throw away a piece of work you view as garbage. And two, the genus in the room might very well be a skinny, shy kid in headphones.

coffeshop writer

My First Porn

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

sweden 1

In today’s world we talk to people all over the world. I can say hi to my friends in Africa, Australia, Ireland, you name it.

It is truly a great time to be alive. But there was a time when a person would have to go to great links to communicate with others so far away.

 

An Innocent Time

I was 15 years old living in small town USA. We were a year away from discovering HBO and ten years away from having more than a dozen channels to choose from.

One day at school a classmate of mine brought up the subject of pen pals. He told me about the ones he wrote to. Like the girl in Germany and the other girl in Paris and the super cool one in Japan.

He was big on Japan.

They taught him their language. They exchanged gifts during the holidays. Birthday cards were common and sometimes a gift for no reason.

Once he spoke to the German girl on the phone. Wow!

 

A Faraway Land

Excited by all this I asked how I could get a pen pal. He told me it would cost $10. The company would supply a list of names and from there I could choose to write to whoever I please.

He told me he had the address at home and all he needed from me was the money. I remember hurrying home that day and somehow found $10 scattered throughout my room.

The following day I gave him the money with a promise that he would submit my name and address and choices of countries.

As I waited for the list to arrive I dreamed of a day of leaning a new language. Letters upon letters containing adventures and history lessons beyond anything I could read from a drabby school book.

Maybe a phone call, I fantasized.

 

An Unplanned Arrival

I remember coming home from school the day the letter arrived. Oddly enough it wasn’t in an envelope but a plain brown wrapper shaped as a magazine.

Sweden

Curious, I settled into my after school routine consisting of a snack at the kitchen table and quickly opened the package displaying the mystery in front of me.

Never trust a 15 year old boy with your money. I say this not out of opinion but of fact.

Allow me to explain.

My classmate had no intention of supplying me information that I requested. He did however supply me with a year’s subscription, courtesy of his father’s collection, of Swedish Porn.

 

My Young Eyes

For a moment my eyes failed to register the gift in front of me. Thankfully my grandmother’s eyes failed the same as she passed by on her busy day.

As my young eyes came into focus my new Swedish friend and all her pals welcomed me into their world.

Clearly clothes were outlawed in their homeland as well as shyness to the opposite sex. The pictures were colorful and bright and detailed in ways I had never imagined.

I don’t remember how I raced into my room so fast without jarring attention but I do remember being locked inside for a very long time.

 

Laundry and Refunds

Sadly it was laundry day. Thankfully I came up with a brilliant plan of asking my grandmother to leave them by the door. Come to think of it my asking was more like an order.

I might have shouted.

I never asked for a refund and I never had pen pals the way I thought I would. On the other hand I don’t remember complaining a whole hell of a lot.

Give a 15 year old boy a year subscription of Swedish Porn and all is forgiven.

Trust me on this.

So there you have it. A little surprise in a little town otherwise known as –

My First Porn.

sweden 2

 

Happy Friday Everyone  

The dark side of our characters

dark 3

I always write with a comedy slant. It’s not something I try to do, it’s just my style.

I remember once I attempted to write a piece that was completely serious. I forced the story to walk a straight line. There would be no side stories or surprises.

This thing was top notch serious stuff with a heavy message and the reader was going to learn something, damnt!

When I finally got around to reading the thing it became clear I had just created a cheap Harlequin Romance low grade knockoff.

Good God!

 

So much for my ‘Let’s Get Serious’ moment.

Once I embraced my writing style and opened up to who I was, I was able to relax and create the things that I do. But as I did something would always appear.

A darkness from the comical, clumsy characters always rose to the surface. Each one of them, it seemed, had another story to tell. A heartbreak or a struggle. Something it seemed that the characters hid deep within while using humor as a shield.

It was as if the characters relaxed. They trusted me and with that trust a secret was told.

I remember the first time it happened. It came out of nowhere and took me by surprise. I tried to fix it and when I did the story fell flat. I quickly learned and never tried that again.

As you and I know, once we go against the grain there’s always a price to pay.

 

A reflection of us

So what is it with the dark side that these characters have? Is it nothing more than inner demons rising to the surface or are they showing their true selves the way we all do?

Have they decided to hold nothing back so their story can be told?

For those of you who write novels it should come as no surprise once a character is complete that something magic happens. Unfortunately for me, being the creator means I feel their darkness too.

It doesn’t take long for their emotional journey to become mine as well.

It’s exhausting but I’ve learned it’s worth it. Their tears, their broken hearts and their laughter run deep through my veins.

So now I have a new story and with that I am seeing their comedy, their clumsiness and that all familiar darkness.

It is who they are in the same way it is who we are and I see no other way but to embrace it.

dark 4

 

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Ghosts and Goodies

ghost

The other day I was channel surfing when I came upon an old black and white movie. I have this sick game whenever I see a movie from the 1930’s or 40’s. I search for scenes consisting of adults who are middle age or older and when that happens I realize chances are pretty high they’re all dead.

In that moment I’m watching a ghost movie. Yes, a little twisted.

The movie was about a prisoner and his last meal. He was angry and he told the guards he was not eating. Since he believed he was innocent he would rather walk to the electric chair on an empty stomach.

I gave this a lot of that and I’m still trying to figure out the angle on that one.

Growing a little bored I moved on to the national news which consisted of the current state of my country. Realizing what I had done I quickly returned to the movie.

 A wise move. Trust me.

 

What’s for Dinner?

The plot had moved on to a popular female lead. Somehow she was connected with the angry prisoner and had just hatched a plan for his escape. But that didn’t interest me. Let’s face it, all of us can put together a prison escape with our eyes closed but choosing a last meal?

Now we’re talking a challenge and a challenge I’m not sure I am up for.

I’m the type of guy with a short list of favorite places. Usually five but no more. There’s usually three choices on the menu that I choose and depending on my mood I always work my way down the list.

How nice it would be if I could walk by every table and sample the new stuff I don’t have the guts to order.

And so lies the problem with my last meal. I would never have the courage to try something new and if I did, imagine the disappointment if it was nothing like the picture on the menu.

I seriously doubt the guards would give me a do over.

 

Decisions…decisions…

So there I was, back to my original question: It’s my last day in my cell and the choice is all mine.

What do I choose to eat?

ghosts

Do I go full healthy? Maybe a nice salad with a nice fruit dish on the side? Possibly a nice organic energy drink. I’m thinking hint of lemon.

The combination would create a much needed spring to my step as I skipped my way to the executioner.

But who needs that kind of spring?

So my mind took me back to a time when we had this really cool rotisserie grill. It was fun to watch the chicken turn, the meat sizzle and my stomach growling. On the negative side it took forever and I was starving for the longest time.

Who needs that kind of memory on my last day?

 

I am the kind of steak!!!!

ghosts 1

Yes, that’s Elvis. No, that’s not me. Glad we cleared that up.

Suddenly a great memory surfaced.

It was summer. I had graduated from kid to teenager and for reasons unclear I was placed in control of all things barbeque. Suddenly I was popular. Sunglasses, rock star looks and plenty of babes.

Sorry, way off topic.

The first choice of my last meal was decided: My steak on my grill made my way. Now I needed item two. Corn on the cob from our garden. The kind where you had to shuck it yourself. Easy choice.

The next item was just as easy. Green beans from the garden. Picked and cut the same day and boiled for hours in bacon.

I’m on a roll, folks.

Last but not least: My grandmother’s homemade bread. I swear I can still smell it.

 

Executioner, I’m ready!

Funny cartoon executioner with axe. Vector illustration.

Now that is what I call a kick-ass final meal. Bring on the gallows, baby!

On a side note: Since I’m running this fantasy show I’m not Bryan, I’m Andy Dufresne from the movie The Shawshank Redemption

Those familiar know the rest of the story. Wrongly accused. A daring prison escape living out a nice life in Mexico waiting for his buddy Morgan Freeman to catch up. We hang out. Work on boats, learn a little Spanish and make a mean avocado dip.

So there it is. My last meal and dab of fantasy all rolled in to one.

Hope you enjoyed.

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!