It's been a long time, hasn't it? I've been busy. I finished the first draft of a novella, started a novel, and wrote a handful of short stories since last we met. The short stories have been submitted for publisher approval, and the novella is being scrutinized by fellow authors for plot holes and structural errors. How about you? Have you been busy? Are you being scrutinized for structural errors?
One of my short stories has made the circuit of publishers that I submit to, and has been rejected by all. I'm sharing it here, but let the preceding sentence be a caveat. It was written while I was learning blindness skills, and started out as a whim and joke. It was written before I started studying how to write, so it's perfectly understandable that no publisher accepted it. I'm including it here because I still like the idea behind it, and it may give readers an insight into what kind of stories I tend to think up.
I plan on rewriting it sometime in the future, and trying to slip it into an anthology. For now, enjoy it if you can. It was fun to write! the_way_to_a_mans_heart.rtf
There's a lot going on. Not in society, since everything is closed down so that people can avoid catching a deadlier-than-usual cold that can apparently be warded off with copious amounts of toilet paper. But in my little world of writing, things are a-buzzin'! I'm pushing hard to get my debut novel's first draft completed. I'm finding it difficult due to some psychological shortcomings of my own. You see, I have this belief that finishing the book will lead to a change in my status quo. I'm not a huge fan of my status quo, but it is familiar. I'm probably wrong, and it won't really change much at all, but my brain has a mind of its own... which is a philosophical rabbit-hole that no one has time for.
Along with that, I've arranged to meet with a literary agent later this week to discuss the book. This is causing a great deal of anxiety because agent meetings are generally held after the book has been finished. As stated above, mine has not been completed. I would rather not anger an agent by wasting their time. However, I paid a nominal fee for this meeting, and I'd like to get the experience.
My first published short story was released last week, and I've been plastering the link everywhere I can think of... http://blackpetalsks.tripod.com/blackpetalsissue80/id12.html See?
While all of this is going on, my ex-wife and I are trying to finalize our divorce and arrange for us both to move out of our residence. She's taking our children to go live in another state. I'm not fighting it, because I think it'll be good for the kids, but it does force me to deal with feelings of guilt that I'm abandoning them, and that I'm essentially turning into a deadbeat dad.
It's a busy time for me. I haven't added anything to this blog in several weeks, always intending to return to it soon. Now, I'm coming right out and owning up to the fact that it will likely be several more weeks before I come back to it. In the meantime, enjoy the short story linked above, follow me on twitter and facebook, and look forward to my news that my novel is done and ready to be revised and totally re-written. Remember, don't go near anyone. Either for your own peace of mind, or for theirs.
It's been an insightful and challenging couple of weeks here at the story factory. I've made it a habit to do some learning, some homework, related to writing, every night. So far, that means watching a video on YouTube about how to pitch to literary agents, or Q & A sessions with successful authors -- Did you know that Lee Child doesn't have any more knowledge of the inner workings of the U.S. Military than anyone whose parent was in the military? He just makes it up! -- but lately, I've been watching a lecture series by a Sci-Fi/Fantasy author named Brandon Sanderson.
The first lecture I watched (but not the first in the series) dealt with 'world-building'. That's a vital lesson for SF/F writers, but not so much for the style of story that I write. I like to use settings that already exist. However, sometimes the setting I choose needs to be changed just a little. Or, perhaps I want to create a fictional town for my story (as I do for my next book --no title as of yet). Early on in his lecture, Sanderson talks about the three most important elements for a novel: Plot, or Story Arc, Character Development, and Setting... in that order. I've been working pretty hard on my book's story arc, and the settings are already real, so I started thinking about the character development aspect of my book - the second most important aspect!. My cast of nine main characters have their own voices, and their own personality quirks, but their motivations don't shine through. They have their own backstories, which give them their motivations, but none of it is in the writing I've done. What this means is that I'm going to have to go back through every scene, and look for opportunities to insert some explanations for why each character acts the way they do It was a depressing realization. This book needs a lot more work than I had thought. The good news is that I caught the error before an editor or agent had the chance to see it.
I had hoped to have the first draft done, and started looking for an agent, by this summer of 2020. Now, I think it may not happen until the Fall. It will still happen, though, and now, you'll all love (or hate) my characters as much as I do!
Can you believe I just gave my expert opinion out for free?! Here, I recount my experiences with werewolves on another writer's blog. In these days of killer flu viruses, let's be thankful that lycanthropy isn't a symptom. https://cmrosens.com/2020/03/12/lets-talk-about-wolves-2-whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-wolf/?fbclid=IwAR0zBTUlThXriteYitBfkgiZ5IesRQxKiGcaOOUKvhvjJeMDtOixq9oyt3w
The age-old question, Where do you get your ideas? ; it's been asked of every successful author, and even of myself. There is an easy answer, but it's not very satisfying to the reader. It's I don't know. For most writers, that's true, but I'm going to explore the question a little deeper.
For myself, I think ideas come from a pattern of thinking; a mindset under which a brain has been trained to operate. I live life, doing errands, fulfilling obligations and responsibilities, and I will occasionally ask myself, "What if...?". That's where my ideas come from. I need to train myself to ask that question more often, because when I do remember to ask it, an idea pops out of the ethereal realm, and begs for life. Not all ideas are suited for life in this world, though, and in this case, murder must be performed. I am a serial killer. I have casually killed countless ideas, usually with no compunction. It's a valuable skill, because the good ideas will often... come back. I honestly cannot think of a better feeling than the cold, bony grip on my shoulder from an idea that I had cheerfully murdered, in one grisly fashion or another, months or years before. I can feel the presence of one or three of these ghouls at all times. Even now, there's scratching at the cellar door in my mind.
One such idea features a werewolf. I had killed this idea several years ago because werewolves have overpopulated the literary ecosystem for decades. There's not much room for just another werewolf story, anymore. This is where my What if...? habit comes in. What if an unknowing child of a werewolf witnesses his or her lycanthropic parent turn and savagely devour the other parent? Of course, now that I've given this idea a voice, no matter how small, it will now require nourishment and nurturing... or a tremendous exertion of energy to kill it again. For the time being, my nurturing instincts are taking over, and one source of nourishment has been found on a colleague's blog. This week, she discusses her development of werewolf society in her book, Real Meat. In coming weeks, guest contributors may offer their thoughts about werewolves in fiction, including yours truly. So, please check out https://cmrosens.com/2020/03/05/lets-talk-about-wolves/
Next month (April, 2020), my short story, A Hole in the Somewhere, is scheduled to appear on BlackPetals.net. The idea for this story came from a classic rock song that I've long misheard one of the lyrics to. Abacab, by Genesis, has a lyric near the end of the song about waking up covered in cellophane. The next line is, there's a hole in there somewhere... Comparing the title of my story to this lyric, one might detect my error in understanding Phil Collins's singing. That's all it took. A misheard lyric, and a series of What if...? questions.
I encourage you all to ask "What if...?" more often in your own lives, even if you don't write. It expands your world, opens your imagination, and colors your reality with what can often be a very odd paintbrush.
Before I get going on this week's topic, I'd like to open this page up to you, the reader. What would you like me to write about here? What questions do you have for me, about writing, or for anyone, about anything? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and I will do what I can for you!
This week, however, I will talk about senses. One of the most oft-repeated phrases a new writer hears from critics, teachers, and especially editors, is "show, don't tell". Basically, this means to tap into the reader's memories so that the reader can experience what's happening, rather than just imagining it. For example, if a story you're reading was describing a scene at a county fair, it might go something like this: The midway was crowded with people, and littered with trash. Scott couldn't take two steps without bumping into someone or wading through empty food containers and soft drink cups. Several times, Scott glimpsed a rat tail disappearing under a garlic-fry paper boat, or into a discarded ice cream cone. Fairly descriptive, if I do say so myself, but consider this version: Scott's nose wrinkled involuntarily as the mingled aromas of stale hot dogs, cold popcorn, and half-digested chili burgers invaded his nostrils and ransacked his sinus cavities. His ears rang with the raucous shouts of children and screams of mothers as the roller coaster entered its final plunge. He watched as a young man tested his strength with the hammer, sending the block soaring towards the bell, along with a fine spray of nervous perspiration; a physiological response to the fear that he might disappoint his pretty, but infamously shallow, date. Scott wiped the foreign sweat from his face, but could feel it clinging to his hair, and back of his neck.. The rustle of paper drew Scott's attention, and he watched a plump rat crawl into the open hole of a red-rimmed Icee cup.
Hopefully, you'll agree that the second example makes for better reading. If not, I should probably give up now. It's better because it involves the reader's senses, or more precisely, the reader's memories of the senses. The first passage tells the reader what is there, while the second encourages the reader to remember experiencing the smell of cold popcorn, the sound of screaming children, the feel of someone else's flying sweat. If I may toot my own horn a bit, it even suggests the feel of a plummeting roller coaster, and the taste of a cherry Icee. Not all of that may have come through for every reader - remember, I'm still new at this - but I feel confident that a lot more of it came through in the second passage than in the first.
This is what the writer that cares about his or her reader attempts to achieve. We want you to experience our stories, not just imagine them. Hopefully, you'll find that I care enough about your reading experience to not force you to rely on imagination.
Remember to leave a comment about what you'd like me to discuss on here in future weeks! And please share this if you know someone who might benefit from the content.
Here we are, my final memoir post. I'll post more entries about my writing journey, but this is my last memoir. It was the most emotional one for me, and even now, I'm hesitant to share it. Once again, it features my dad, but it's all about me, not him. Hopefully, it's almost my best memoir, since it was almost the last one I wrote. The holiday one was my last one, and in my impartial opinion, that one was my best. This one should be pretty close, though. I hope you can appreciate both the emotional effort it took, and the accumulation of skills that I theoretically acquired during my memoir-writing class. first_time_memoir.docx
Here we are, smack-dab in the middle of Black History Month. I have no stories to tell of Black history. I'm not black, and only a handful of my friends are black. However, when I think of what I know about the history of race-relations in the U.S., I am awestruck by the bravery shown by many African-Americans over the centuries. I've never had that kind of courage. I only remember once when I needed it. I give you that story now, along with a story of someone specific that I do admire for their courage... my son. courage_memoir.docx
Winter is a time when many people like to imagine warm and sunny vacation destinations. They long for warmth, relaxation, or maybe just some Vitamin D. Some folks imagine far-off, exotic locations they've never visited, while others recall places that hold great sentimental value for them. I do both. I dream of vacationing, or possibly even living in sunny Mexico, or one of the Caribbean Islands. When I feel nostalgic, though, I remember my favorite location. In this memoir, I attempt to describe it to what was my best ability. Hopefully, you will be able to picture it. I know some of the piece's flaws and shortcomings, such as leaving many of the reader's senses uninvolved. That's why I said it was to the best of my ability. Description is not easy for me, which seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? A writer does nothing but describe, one might think. Yeah, I agree. It's a challenge I have to overcome. Let me know how well you think this story does. favorite_place_memoir.docx
I've said that I write horror, right? So where's all the blood and gore, Rich? Where are the grisly deaths? So far, all I've read about is some childhood nostalgia and some health issues. Is that all you've got?! Well, thankfully, my life has been pretty blessed. Not very many traumatic events to either recount or bury in my subconscious. And, so far, all you've read is about my life. I have, however, experienced death, recently and close to home. My dad passed away a few months ago. You've met him briefly. He was the gruff personality around whom my childhood memories of Christmas revolved. That gruffness was a facade, though. There was a lot to him, and he was a major character in my life, so you'll have many chances to know him better as this blog develops. Here, I want to share a little about how he dealt with death, but it's actually more about how he dealt with parenting. This was written before he died, so some of the details are a little outdated, but the themes are still current. death_memoir.docx