Bare List on Blankness

As the icy rain poured down over the back porch I took a deep swig of my dark roast coffee, it’s steam warming my face against the chill of the early morning and thought “This is a day God made for writing.” I opened my latest project full of quiet excitement for what this scenic day would bring. Those words that raced from my fingers days ago, that sparked awe and admiration as I pondered them in the dreary morning hour, now lay lifeless on the page. Where do they want to go? How can they have paved a path so clearly and now I can’t sense their direction?

Call it what you will: writer’s block, creative impasse, brain strike. It’s all blankness. An inability to coerce the story you know needs to be told to come to life on the pages in front of you. Everyone who’s picked up a pen or sat down at a desk knows the pain, the panic of reaching inside yourself and coming up blank. It’s a harrowing experience to have all of the right materials and none of the words, but what can I do?

I can write. I can force my fingers across the keyboard pounding out ideas I have no intention on keeping until I stumble across something that clicks. I can trust that the movement of my fingers will eventually rattle awake my sleeping brain and my creative mind will swoop in and takeover where my fingers have failed me, and so I do.

I write in the hopes that today will be more than it seems right now. I write trusting that I can do this, no matter how dire the situation may seem. Does it work? Not always. There are days I struggle for hours only to destroy everything because I never found my way, but there are days that I persist long enough that something beautiful happens. There are days I see myself over the struggle and on those days I am more proud of myself, my stamina than on any day when the words flow easily and effortlessly. It is for those days I write. Because I have to. Because whatever well-meaning outsiders may tell you, you will not tear down that blockade by forgetting about it. You will not break through that wall by trying to pretend it does not exist. No, the only way to keep writing is to start writing.

For those reasons, today I write. Though my mind is blank and my inspiration is lacking, today I write, and so should you.

Bare List on Why NaNoWriMo

Halloween, Thanksgiving, hoodies, changing leaves, the sweet smell of autumn pies baking in the oven. These are a few of my favorite fall things, but at the top of that list is one of my favorite fall traditions: Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month. If you’re new to the writing world, you may not be familiar with the 501(c)3 charitable organization encouraging us all to novel out 50,000 words in 30 short days, but you should be…nay, you NEED to be. Even if you’re an experienced writer with a number of books on the shelf, NaNoWriMo is an excellent opportunity to reignite your writing process. Why is National Novel Writing Month how you need to be spending your November? I’m glad you asked because I’ve made a list:

You Can Do It, And You Deserve to Know That- If you’re new to the game, fifty-thousand words may sound like a lofty and even unrealistic goal, especially in thirty small days that include a busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend. But that’s only because it is an insanely lofty goal, but I promise you it is NOT unattainable. When the pressure is on, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you’re able to accomplish, especially with the wealth of inspiration and information provided by the organization and community. You deserve the pride in a job well done on November 30th and all you have to do to make that happen is get started. Once you’ve got that first 50 out of the way, you’ll have the confidence to take on any writing challenge.

It’s the Wrecking Ball of Writer’s Block- So, you’re an old pro at writing. You know you can write 50,000 words in 30 days. Hell, your publisher expects you to do it in 3. You’re past NaNoWriMo, right? Wrong. If you’re struggling with new material or having trouble finessing an arc with a current project, NaNoWriMo is perfect for you. Pounding through those words with the pressure of a time-constraint but freedom of WHATEVER YOU WANT is an amazing combination for spurring your creative brain into action.

Great Community of Avid Writers- Writing can be an isolating profession or hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. While you might not have many “real-world” friends that share your zeal for character development or unexpected plot twists, NaNoWriMo does. It’s a huge community of people of varying experience levels as passionate about writing as you. You can make friends, meet mentors, or encourage a new generation of writers.

Bragging Rights-  We can pretend that this is a totally philosophical endeavor for self-evolution and improvement (which it is) but come on, you WANT to tell people you did this. It’s an awesome accomplishment. But, it’s not bragging if you can back it up, right? And you can because NaNoWriMo will reward you with an exclusive Winner’s Package.

Great Experience for a Great Cause- There is an exhaustive list of reasons why this is an outstanding experience for writers. Seriously, this little barely even skims the surface, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about what a great mission the organization strives to achieve. NaNoWriMo and it’s various programs promote writing fluency creative writing education, promote communities to ensure the proliferation of the written word, provides free materials for libraries and community centers.

There’s plenty of time to sign up and get your profile ready. I’ll be adding my bare list of 50k words to those of the thousands of other avid writers and I invite you to do the same. NaNo Newb? Share your questions or concerns. Nano Pro? Leave your experience in the comments.

 

 

Bare List on Release

Expectation, judgement, fear, social norms, doubt, shamers, haters, trolls, perfection. They are the confines through which this world can become a prison. We are constantly bombarded by unrealistic and unattainable expectations of what our lives are supposed to look like to the point that our own minds become our worst enemy. Society tells us we must have money, we must have the title, we must have the status or we are not successful. We are not productive. So we work and we slave away trying to find meaning in whatever job affords us the liberty of not getting “the look” when we tell someone what we do to make ends meet. Then, when we’ve gotten there. When we’ve found fulfillment and an acceptable salary, society stares down its nose again and asks us “At what cost? When were you with your friends? When did you last see your parents? Have you traveled the world? These are the things that truly matter.” So we change direction again and steer into the path of love, family, and adventure and we report our findings and happiness and society, unmoved and unaffected, looks us in the eye with it’s judgmental stare and calls us lazy.

So then, we chase the impossible dream of work-life balance and report back to the powers that be that we spend exactly 40 hours per week working and the rest is spent on us, with family, with our friends. Cooking meals, having adventures, pursuing hobbies that we once loved but now honestly barely have the energy to enjoy. To this society says “But when did you workout? You have to do that thirty minutes a day you know. And what meals are you cooking? Are they healthy/delicious/responsibly sourced/gluten, gmo, meat, dairy, and egg free? Are you eating enough? Are you eating too much? Are you having children? You have to but you won’t raise them right. You must practice self-care but when you do it you’re selfish. You must be involved with politics but you’re almost certainly on the wrong side. You have to give back through charitable work but the charity you’re donating your hard earned time and money to probably sucks. And despite all the duplicity and negativity you slave away anyway trying to be the best and most valuable member of society you can possibly be and you tell society, you tell yourself, that even though you’re only sleeping three hours every other night, you’ve done it all…to which society replies “you must get a full eight hours of sleep every night to truly be healthy.”

Then, you snap. Because you realize finally with bleeding knuckles and bags under you eyes (which how dare you, by the way, look tired?) that you cannot keep up. That no matter how much you do, how much of yourself you give, it will never be enough and there in that moment, that release…that’s where it all gets better. When you release yourself of the judgment of Internet trolls, fake friends, and well-meaning though utterly soul-crushing family members. You release yourself of the fear of not doing what you love because if you have to do it why can’t you love it? You release yourself of that little voice in the back of your mind that parrots all the societal/social/personal judgement you’ve accumulated over a life time and you just say “screw it” and live you’re you because society is going to hate it either way and it’s too much damn work to try to please it.

There’s no reason to wait. Don’t get to the end of your rope before you cut yourself free because there’s no reason to be hanging on when soaring is so exhilarating. And when that little voice voice tells you that you don’t have wings, that maybe you’ll grow them tomorrow but today you’re stuck right here in a prison of expectation’s making, you tell that voice that flying is just falling with style and let go.

via Daily Prompt: Release

Bare List on Why Bare List

“Bare lists of words are suggestive to the imaginative and excited mind.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve received some questions regarding the inspiration of the title of this blog. The simple answer is that I love this quote and I thought it’d make a kick-ass title/theme. While this may be the shorthanded assertion you receive if we’re making small talk on the train, it doesn’t do justice to the reality of it’s selection. I do love this quote, not because of its eloquence and simplicity, but because it encapsulates everything about why I write. Why we all do. Why we write, why we read, why we have a never ending thirst to continue to give meaning to arbitrary words on a page.

As writers, we toil through endless iterations and reincarnations of what, in its simplest form, is nothing more than bare lists of words on a page. We read each one hoping our love/hate/passion/distress is conveyed to our readers in a way that reaches past the page and into their minds and hearts. It’s an absurd task that we give ourselves over to in the hope that even just one person will connect with these bare words. And the even more absurd thing it works.

The magic of these bare lists of words is that to those imaginative and excited minds, to our imaginative and excited minds, they evoke powerful emotions and connections. Their essence becomes personalized to each individual who sets about the task of imbibing them. What is nothing to one reader is everything to another. We can give these bare lists of words to hundreds of readers and each one will come away with a different interpretation. We can set them to music and people will fill amphitheaters to hear them. We can read them again and again and take away a different meaning each time. We can see ourselves reflected in the characters of a stranger. It’s amazing what these simple bare lists of words can accomplish. They can be our hope when we are filled with despair, they can be our friend when we are alone, they tell our story when we’ve lost the strength to tell it ourselves.

So, on my dark writing days when the words on the page won’t work for me. When no matter how hard I try those words will take on no life or meaning, I remember that to those excited minds, that bare list of words can mean anything and I’m able to keep writing.

That’s why Bare List of Words. What’s your inspiration? What inspired your blog and what inspires you to keep writing?

Bare List of My Favorite Writers Right Now

Right now is a very literal term for me. While I know some people might read this headline and expect a dissertation regarding currently publishing authors, my brain doesn’t work that way. When I say “right now” I mean right this very second these are my choice authors and the list is subject to change next week, tomorrow, or thirty-six seconds after I hit publish. This functioning of my rapid-fire mind is an asset in ensuring a varied life but a great hindrance when filling out questionnaires or playing “What Would You Need on a Deserted Island”. Actually, that’s one’s pretty easy. It’s a cellphone guys. Always a cellphone. Even if I can’t call for help, I can look up all my notes on surviving on a deserted island. Yes, I have that. I also have recipes for cooking your way through the Zombie Apocalypse because success comes down to being prepared.

Daniel FriedmanFriedman is the author of Don’t Ever Get Old and Don’t Ever Look Back, a crime mystery series following Buck Shatz, a retired detective with a smart mouth and sharp attitude. Friedman also penned A Riot Most Uncouth: A Lord Byron Mystery which is possibly the most hilarious tale in historical mystery fiction I’ve ever read and I desperately hope there is a sequel in the making.

Friedman gives life to characters that are bizarre and complicated with a sardonic wit and embracing of the absurd that makes his work impossible to put down. Each one possesses a page turning plot that I can only stand to stop reading when I’m gut laughing at the uproarious dialogue.

Jefferson Bass – Yes, technically this is two authors: Dr. William (Bill) Bass and Jon Jefferson, but in my mind the collaborative efforts of the team have fused into one debonair wordsman who just happens to be a forensic anthropological genius.

Dr. Bass, world renowned forensics expert and founder of the Body Farm, lends his real-life criminal and anthropological cases to be fictionalized and aggrandized with the help of Jon Jefferson. The duo have created leading man Dr. Bill Brockton who spends his time outside of the classroom evading death and bringing criminals to justice by giving voice to the bones of their victims.  Brockton is honest and charming albeit flawed in balancing outwitting the underworld and navigating his personal life.

To date, there are 10 novels and 2 novellas in the Body Farm Series (not to be confused with Patricia Cornwell’s The Body Farm to which Dr. Bass lends his likeness as character Dr. Thomas Katz). I have read them all and will be purchasing the next one as soon as it hits shelves.

For fairness sake (bragging rights?) I should mention here that I have met Dr. Bass several times and he is even more of a character than his fictional alter-ego. His work literally spearheads all we know in forensic technology today and he has the humor and smile to make talking about femur markings and cranial cavities the most interesting conversation you will have all year. His non-fiction work details his actual cases (with assistance from Jefferson) and are as engaging as their fictional counterparts.

Jenny Lawson – Better known as the Bloggess, Lawson has opened up her world to her readers and created a die-hard community. In the beginning, I read her blog as a sort of “time-out” from my life. Her raw, hysterical monologues were an uplifting break in my tumultuous days, but that was it. Now, I’ve read both of her books and I have a new respect for the blessing she is to the literary world. She approaches the gravest of subjects (suicide, chronic illness, depression, self-doubt) with a comical tone that makes the topic approachable and conversational without taking away from the brevity and realities of these conditions. She’s given a voice to those that were afraid to speak up and given pride to showcasing your scars.

I know there are a lot of people that will read this and think “yeah, she’s a funny blogger with a surprisingly marketable affinity for taxidermy, but she’s no great author”. I get that, I understand it because I was that person. But, the talent it takes to navigate the depths of despair she’s willing to showcase while still giving others hope and laughter…that’s an amazing gift. That’s amazing writing.

So, that’s my list for now. Check back in 36 seconds for updates or add your own in the comments.

 

Bare Words on Birth and Karma [Excerpt]

The following is a removed portion of the forthcoming novel, Line of Law and Justice. For more behind-the-scenes looks at your favorite characters and updates on Line of Law and Justice, make sure to follow this blog.

Jeb was thirty-five years-old the day Sophie was born, and terrified. Most of his life, he’d done his best to avoid becoming a parent. His first wife, Jillian, talked about starting a family relentlessly, but Jeb would bypass the subject with promises of being ready at some great future date. First it was when he retired from service, then when he got through undergrad, and finally after graduating law school. She’d gotten sick of his excuses and most other things about him before he ever had to prove that last one false, though. After a particularly nasty fight, he’d come home from a night with the boys to find his stuff neatly packed in two suitcases on the front lawn. He’d seen it coming. Hell, he’d asked for it. Despite his shortcomings, Jillian had tried to stand by her man just as Tammy Wynette had told her to, but in the end relented in letting him go.

He’d met Aubriella a couple of years after the divorce was finalized. Their relationship moved quickly and he found himself down on one knee after only a year of dating. He hadn’t even talked to his parents about the divorce, let alone introduced them to Aubrie. Aside from his brother, they hadn’t met any of each other’s families. They’d just lived in their own little bubble for three-hundred-and-fifty-two of the most glorious days of Jeb’s life. Aubrie rejected him flat out, laughing off his impetuousness as a poorly planned joke. Both of their mothers were extremely religious and certainly wouldn’t approve of what would seem a fast-paced courting season, especially given that Jeb was a divorcee. But, she couldn’t deny the romance of it all and agreed to move in with him until they had time to get their parents appropriately on board. It wouldn’t matter that they were living in sin if they both knew they were headed to the altar eventually, right?

Of course, God laughs when we make plans and Aubrie found out she was pregnant just six months after moving in. The ensuing months flew by. They’d thrown together an impromptu wedding, bought a new house, baby-proofed it, and rushed through a million wedding and baby showers. Before he’d had any time to think about this new life, he was becoming a father. When the big night arrived, Jeb had just settled in with his signature bourbon and Coke when Aubrie came red faced and sweating into the living room.

“We’ve got to go,” she huffed, nostrils flaring. “Like, now. Screw the bags. Call the doctor. It’s time. It’s past time. We are having this baby NOW.” Her loose-fitting top billowed beneath a visible contraction, her eyes narrowing on him at the same rate as her condensing stomach. The beach ball of a belly contrasted against her red-faced ire so humorously that by the time he was dressed and loading her in the car Jeb was too entertained by the sight to be concerned about the impending little life she was about to bring into the world.

That changed by the time they reached the hospital. Her contractions were less than three minutes apart and lasting what seemed like forever. She’d began shouting obscenities he wasn’t even familiar with about five miles away from the hospital and hadn’t let up since. They’d checked her in and immediately taken her back to Labor and Delivery. He almost felt sorry for the nurse holding her hand on the way back. Even as their forms faded down the hall, Jeb could see the woman’s hand turning white with the force of Aubrie’s grip.

A gaggle of desk attendants shoo’d Jeb into a small waiting room by the nursery. It was 1984, but in their smalltime hospital, the doctors still preferred expecting fathers to stay the hell out of their delivery rooms. Change comes slow to a small town. Shortly after he’d taken a seat, the doctor came in to speak to Jeb. Aubrie had been right. Their baby had tried to make a quick entrance into the world, and was crowning by the time the doctor got his first look. Unfortunately, what the child lacked in patience, it made up for in girth, and was completely stuck in the birth canal. They were going to have to do an emergency C-section.

This news didn’t surprise Jeb. Aubrie was a small woman, and you could tell from a mile away that she was carrying a hoss in her mid-section. She swore to him it was twins, but he knew it was just one big boy. Probably a football player like his old man. They’d decided to call him Jackson. It was his mother’s maiden name. Jeb wasn’t a huge fan of his mother at the time, but Aubrie suggested it would ease the tension with the family since he’d announced simultaneously that he and his high school sweetheart had divorced several years ago and that he was freshly remarried to a woman that would be giving him a child in a number of months that no matter how forgivingly you did the math, was obviously conceived out of wedlock.

Jeb nervously paced the waiting room as friends and family started poured in. Jeb and Aubrie’s parents arrived together, having decided to share a cab since they were all staying at the only decent hotel in town. He could only imagine the conversations. Her parents were the elite of the South. Her father owned a multi-million-dollar tobacco company and her mother was dedicated to any charity that would get her picture in the paper. Meanwhile, his father worked the mines and his mother was a nurse. They lived on a small working farm and sold tobacco to her father’s company for extra money in season. That was the only common ground they shared, outside of the impending grandchild.

Jeb hadn’t realized how long Aubrie had been in surgery until the sudden surge of people found him nervously looking at the clock to avoid conversation. When he saw that he’d been pacing for going on an hour, a sudden pang of dread wrenched his stomach to the point he thought he might vomit. He knew this wasn’t the time or place for that, though, so he choked down the rising bile and tried to appear calm.

He met eyes with his mother. Her lips parted in a sympathetic smile that suggested she knew his guts were balled up in a knot so tight he may never fart again. Despite his best efforts, she always knew what he was thinking. It bugged the hell out of him.

“I checked with the nursing station on the way in,” she said in the same tone she used to calm anxious patients that came through her infirmary. “She’s fine. They’re just giving her some time with the baby before they wheel the little one out. You did it, kiddo. You’re a daddy. We couldn’t be more proud of you.”

Before he had time to react, she enveloped him in a fierce embrace. He wasn’t expecting the hug, nor the word “proud” to be coming out of her mouth in association with an unplanned baby. He wanted to tell her that he had known everything was OK. That he had never been worried because he was a grown man and now responsible for another human life and really he didn’t need his mommy to go running to the nurse’s station for him because he had two good legs. Instead, he hugged her hard as tears of relief for his wife and joy for his new child spilled down his cheeks.

Aubrie’s father, Emmett, reached out a hand of congratulations and offered a cigar, a slight hint of whiskey accompanying his breath. The sight of Emmett always made Jeb smile. He was a walking Southern stereotype standing six-foot-three-inches tall and decked to the nines for any occasion. Jeb imagined that when Emmett was a Navy man he was in good form, but wealth and booze had plumped his figure so the buttons on his custom-tailored shirts stood ready to pop. Today he’d chosen a white three-piece suit complete with matching ten-gallon hat and a black latigo tie with sterling silver accents. He looked like Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazard, so much so that when the show premiered, Jeb offered to sue for likeness. But the jovial demeanor and bright blue eyes of the Southern debutant outshined his showmanship.

If Emmett felt embarrassed by his daughter’s current situation, he showed no sign of it, a sharp contrast to his wife whom hadn’t stopped scowling since the moment she walked in the door, or presumably since she found out about the baby. Jeb wondered if she’d ever been seen not scowling. While Emmett had been none-to-thrilled to find out that Jeb had “compromised” his daughter’s integrity before taking her hand, he beamed with pride that it was only because Aubrie had denied Jeb’s initial proposal. Plus, he was thrilled to be receiving a grandchild, regardless of the circumstances. He thought himself from a fine line of men and was eager to welcome another boy to the brood.

Jeb had just inhaled his first puff of a fine Cuban when a young, plump nurse came into the waiting room smiling ridiculously. “We’re ready for you at the nursery room window,” she chirped. Everyone hustled to the front of the room where a large curtain drew back to reveal a single infant in the center. Behind the glass, wrapped in a tiny blanket and lying in the lone plastic crib was the most gigantic hunk of baby Jeb had ever laid eyes on. The name card at the bottom of the crib read simply “Baby Girl Tate.”.

“This can’t be right,” Jeb thought. He was supposed to have a honker of a boy to play football with and teach about girls. He’d come from a family of four boys and quite frankly didn’t know shit about raising girls. Not to mention he didn’t exactly have a reputation for treating his women well, save Aubrie. The thought of having a girl a horrible karma he couldn’t entertain. He convinced himself they’d mislabeled the child.

“She’s beautiful,” cried his mother, tears free flowing down her aging face.

“Well, of course you’d think so,” his mother-in-law replied bitterly. “She looks like your son spit her out of his mouth”.

“Guess that settles that,” Jeb thought as he looked at his baby girl.

The rest of the crowd echoed Aubrie’s mom’s sentiments, though they were all much kinder about it. Some even seemed pleased at how strongly the Tate genes exuded from this child. Jeb had to admit, she did have his eyes. Aubrie had said that babies were all born with blue eyes, but staring back at him were the darkest brown eyes he’d ever seen outside of a mirror.

“Eh, don’t worry about it son,” Emmett said, slapping his cigar-free hand on Jeb’s shoulder. “There’s a lot of strong men in the world, it could use another strong woman, and you don’t have to look any further than that little one’s momma to know she’s gonna be one strong ass little woman.”