Serial Fiction

I thought I’d try an exercise in writing serial fiction.  My objective is to get an installment out on the last Sunday of every month.  This isn’t going to be novel length –  maybe four or five installments.  I thought it would be interesting to see how a narrative develops in this format.  So far, it looks like the story is leaning toward horror, or possibly Sci Fi, or maybe some combination of the two.  I’m not quite sure how this is going to go.  Questions and comments are always welcome.

-Hawkelson

bench-blue-sky-city-160934

 

It was not a dark and stormy night, and that was the scary part.  If it had been, Jeremy could have chalked it up to an overactive imagination brought on by watching one too many paranormal videos on Youtube.  As it turned out, it was a bright sunny day in mid autumn.  There was no doubting his senses.

He was sitting on a bench outside Hannah Hall waiting for his sort-of-girlfriend, Chloe, to finish her French exam.  He wasn’t sure if it was a date or not, but whatever it was, they were going to walk to the student union for a bite to eat.  It was hard to get a read on her.  She said she didn’t like to put labels on things, and Jeremy accepted that because she was very eccentric, and highly intelligent.  She was also smokin’ hot, so he decided to wait awhile longer to see how things would play out.

Chloe came walking out of the building at about a quarter ‘til two.  Jeremy realized she had finished her exam in fifteen minutes.  He wondered how she ended up at a mediocre state university when she clearly had Ivy League brains.  He wondered about a lot of things.  She told him her parents split up when she was a kid, and she was shuffled between grandparents, aunts, uncles, and foster homes until she was eighteen. She said she had lived just about everywhere in the country, but she didn’t think of any place as home.

Chloe descended the stone stairs, looking quite stunning.  She was tall and tan with dark hair, and blue eyes like glacial ice.  A lot of people thought she wore colored contact lenses, but that wasn’t the case.  It was just in her genes.  And in her jeans, Jeremy chuckled to himself.  He was an English major – always on the lookout for puns, especially bawdy ones.

He waved to her, and she waived back.  He had a cheesy line he was going to say to her in French: Ça t’a fait mal quand tu es tombée du ciel ? He had practiced the pronunciation for a solid half hour, and he felt like he had it down fairly well.  It translates to something like, Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven?  He thought she’d get a kick out of it, or at least appreciate the effort.  But what he saw next made him forget the line.  In fact, it made him forget about his notions of reality.

Chloe began to blink on and off, as if phasing out of existence.  Then, in mid-stride, she vanished completely.  Jeremy wanted to scream out for her, but terror had crystallized in him.  He was unable to move or think.  A diffuse fog appeared in the space she had occupied.  It collected in roughly human form, and drifted toward him.  The fog seemed to gain density and opaqueness as it closed the distance, becoming less like a vapor and more like a syrupy liquid, then like sand, and finally, Chloe was restored in her entirety.

She plopped down on the bench next to him and said dramatically, “I’m so glad that exam is over.  I think I got an A, or a high B at worst.”

Jeremy’s faculties were jolted back to life, and he stood abruptly and took a big step backward.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Chloe, what just happened?”

“I finished my exam, silly.  Now we’re gonna get lunch.”

“Tell me what just happened.”

“I’m sorry, Jeremy.  You weren’t supposed to see that.  There are glitches, sometimes.”

“Tell me what just happened.  Please.”

“Don’t pry,” she said.

“They have cameras all over campus.  I’ll get the surveillance video.”

“Go home, Jeremy.  Go out with your friends tonight. Forget about this.”

Writing a Novel

clockSo, you’ve come up with a riveting concept and several well developed characters that are going to land you a lucrative book deal.  Now, all you have to do is sit down and write the book.  It seems obvious, but this is where most writers utterly fail.  They talk about how they’re going to start writing the book.  They post their intentions on social media, and make appropriate adjustments to mood and status.  They go to coffee shops and get amped up on high octane java and outline everything they’ll need to do to start writing.  They hang opulent calendars and highlight critical dates with fluorescent markers that will keep them on schedule.  They do everything except write the damned book.

It takes a lot of work to transform those intriguing concepts and vibrant characters into what we recognize as language.  In previous posts, I’ve presented some tips and tricks on how to get in touch with your creative side.  Today, I’m going to give you my two cents on tackling the practical side.

Dress for the Job:

Even if you’re working from home, it’s important to formalize the writing process by actually getting dressed.  I don’t put on a suit and tie, but I do put on pants, a shirt, and shoes.  Lounging on the sofa in my boxers does not make for a productive writing session.

The Writing Session:

I touched on this briefly in my last post.  I dedicate 90 minute blocks of time to writing.  I schedule these blocks throughout the week, and I take them very seriously.  Unless I have a severed artery, or there are mushroom clouds on the horizon, I write for an hour and a half.  I started with twenty-minute writing blocks, and gradually increased the sessions.  An hour and a half seems to be my max.  Any more, and I lose focus and efficiency.

I show up to my writing session with a very solid idea of what I’m going to be writing for the next hour and a half.  That means the creative process is largely completed – all my notes, scribblings, and sketches are on hand.  Refer to my previous posts if you’d like some insight into my creative process.

Finer Points:

I like to be comfortable, but not cozy.  I get more done in a cool room – somewhere around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  I don’t devour a huge meal before my writing session, but I do have a light snack.  I don’ drink any alcohol before or during my writing session.  Some people think chemicals enhance their writing ability, but I know for certain they don’t help me in the least.  Lastly, I have to be sitting upright in a sturdy chair at a desk to really get every last bit of productivity out of my writing session.

Of course, what works for me won’t apply to everybody.  It’s up to you to optimize your writing sessions.  The clock is ticking.  I suggest you get started.

 

Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.

-Hawkelson

 

When Your Muse is on Hiatus

It’s easy to write creatively when your muse shows up and fills your head with elegant verse and provocative prose.  But what do you do when your muse decides to call in sick, or worse, goes on a week-long booze cruise in Cancun?

A serious writer should try to keep a cache of ideas to survive these creative droughts.  I tend to be more creative at night, so I dedicate a half hour per night to brainstorming ideas.  I don’t have a specific time – it just has to be dark outside.  The ideas are usually very raw – sometimes just a single word, sometimes a phrase, sometimes a sentence complete with a subject and predicate.

I isolate the ideas that seem to have potential, and I expand them into content for this blog, or into poems, or short fiction.  I do this by dedicating 90 minute blocks of time to my actual writing, or as I call it, No B.S. Writing Sessions.  I schedule two or three of these writing sessions per week, and I try to sneak in another one or two on weekends.  Believe it or not, I wrote a 90,000 word Sci Fi manuscript in just under a year by sticking to my formula.  Of course, getting the manuscript to complete the metamorphosis into a full-fledged novel is a whole other thing.  If that ever happens, you’ll be sure to hear about it.

The point is this: The seconds, and minutes, and hours you need to be a productive writer are there for the taking.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s something I scribbled down while I was on hold with tech support –Time bleeds out of me into the thirsty sand.

Now, I was on hold for about three minutes, and I could have killed that time by playing Solitaire, or Candy Crush, or twiddling my thumbs, but I elected to brainstorm a little bit.

During my next 90 minute writing session, I looked at my cache of ideas and there it was: Time bleeds out of me into the thirsty sand.  I thought it sounded kind of poetic, so I elaborated on it.  Eventually, I completed the poem.

It’s about a guy who lost his Muse.  I kind of like it, and I feel like it’s good enough to share with you.  By the way, it was the inspiration for this week’s blog.  And to think, it all started while I was on hold with tech support.

 

Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.

 

-Hawkelson

db-316-desert-u-129-1410

 

 

 

Marrow

 

The blank page has swelled into some forsaken

wasteland where words cannot grow,

where morning never comes, but I can feel Time bleeding

out of me into the thirsty sand beneath my feet.

I have stumbled upon the skeleton of my Muse,

half buried in a windswept dune, still clutching her lyre.

I crack open the long bones and suck out the marrow;

these are all the words she had left in her.

 

 

 

 

 

The Benefits of Haiku

Several posts ago, my topic of the week was on the literary form of haibun.  Typically, a haibun piece consists of a prose narrative followed by a haiku that illuminates some aspect of the prose in a subtle, but meaningful way.  I am still quite the novice at this form, however, I felt that I knew enough to submit a work of my own to a journal called, Haibun Today.

A few weeks later I was contacted by the publication’s general editor, Ray Rasmussen.  He felt the prose portion of my submission was strong, but the haiku needed work.  A lot of work.  Under his patient guidance, I was able to revise the piece, and it was ultimately accepted for publication in the upcoming December 2017 edition.

This post isn’t about me patting myself on the back.  Well, it is a little bit because it means a lot to have my work appear in a journal that I hold dear to my heart.  But besides that, this post is meant to reinforce a theme I touched on two months ago.  It was titled, “On Rejection.”

In that post, I emphasized how valuable an editor’s constructive criticism can be for a writer.  It’s rare when an editor takes the time to do this for an unsolicited submission. Seize the opportunity when it happens.  Chances are you’re going to learn something about the craft of writing.

And that’s exactly what happened to me.  I learned something about writing haiku – and I can apply that lesson to every facet of my writing.  Haiku forces a writer to focus a concept into a literary laser beam.  A lot has to happen in seventeen syllables or less, and if it’s done well, the reader’s brain will vaporize from the impact your haiku just made.  There is a ton of helpful articles out there on the subject – Ray Rasmussen gave me this link to get me started, and I highly recommend it to you: http://www.haiku.org.uk/two-image.htm

I’m not claiming to be a haiku expert, but I am claiming that studying the haiku form can help a writer eliminate a lot of the mental clutter that tends to bog them down.  When you’re writing in English, you can express a concept in a multitude of ways.  A given word could have dozens of synonyms that ever so slightly change the tone of a phrase or sentence.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Reading and writing haiku for a half hour or so seems to prime my brain to think more concisely.  My mind feels more focused and agile, and my writing session is noticeably more productive.  If I was independently wealthy, I’d commission a team of cognitive scientists to figure out why this happens to me.  But, unless I hit the Mega Millions, you’re just gonna have to take my word for it.  And see if it works for you.  It certainly won’t hurt.

I’ll leave you with a haiku I finished a few nights ago.  Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.

 

-Hawkelson

sunrise-in-savanna_f1ibGZDu_L

 

pastel sky

lazy shadows spill

from the still trees

 

 

 

 

 

Entropy Scissors: An Exercise in Dadaism

Dada, or Dadaism, was an anti-art movement initiated by artists back in 1916.  If that sounds counter intuitive, good, it’s supposed to.  It was a reaction to the carnage of World War I – a rejection of the dogma that lead vast numbers of young men to their deaths in the hellish trenches that scarred Europe’s landscape. It was also a slap in the face to the elitists who controlled the art community  – smelling salts intended to wake them from their complacent catnap.  The Dada artists took the idiocy and brashness that had contaminated the world and used them to express their own outrage.  Bizarre sculptures, gibberish poetry, and noise symphonies were some of the forms they employed to provoke people into assessing their own moral values.

The state of global politics today is terrifying to me.  Sometimes my tendency is to insulate myself with layers and layers of apathy.  Of course, that is the absolute worst thing we can do as informed citizens of the world.  To remind myself (and others) that it’s not O.K. to bury my head in the sand, I have made my own Dada poem according to the instructions of one of Dada’s pioneers – Tristan Tzara.  It’s simple really: Take a newspaper article, cut out each word, and place the individual words in a bag.  Shake vigorously.  Reach into the bag and blindly pick out a word.  Write that word down.   Continue the process until there are no more words left in the bag.  There’s your poem.

I printed out an article from apnews dot com.  It was titled, “UN Condemns North Korea’s ‘Highly Provocative’ Missile Test.”  I didn’t have the time or patience to cut out every single word, so I only used words from the first three paragraphs.  I also limited the poem to 50 words.  Even though this was an abridged effort, I still think the point came across splendidly.  The poem is the degeneration of a highly ordered state into one of disorder.  I read it out loud, and it sounds absolutely horrible.  The author’s original intent is lost entirely, and there was no cadence, besides the cadence I might use when reading through a grocery list.  Let this be a lesson: If the citizens of the world allow their governments to lead them down a destructive path, society will devolve into chaos, and poetry will utterly suck.  If I had to title this monstrosity, I would call it, Entropy Scissors.

nuclear-weapons-test-nuclear-weapon-weapons-test-explosion-73909

mainland from Friday longest immediately northern condemned ocean the on the when in missile highly North Korea’s Pacific advance technological to landed it U.S. early and deep denuclearlizing hurtling peninsula actions test Pyongyang the over test security Korean of After Japan demonstrate council perfected provocative and ballistic commitment outrageous Friday

###

Be good citizens, be good people, and keep writing.

-Hawkelson

Comments Section

Sometimes I can’t help but lose faith in our species when I scroll through the comments section of a youtube video.  The ignorance, and the hate, and fear I see makes me think we’re still a bunch of wild animals.  Language is our greatest invention, and we use it for all the wrong reasons too many times.  Here’s a poem I wrote in response to all the hate.  Feel free to cut and paste it to the comments section of a youtube video whenever people start acting like idiots.

man-couple-people-woman

 

The comments are loose like rabid beasts. Half blind,

gut shot, bleeding out, crashing mindlessly

toward anything that moves.

-Hawkelson Rainier

Creative Nonfiction

This week I’d like to take a look at the craft of creative nonfiction.  Sebastian Junger’s acclaimed book, The Perfect Storm, is an example of creative nonfiction at its best.  It’s journalism with a soul – both heartbreaking and hopeful.  It’s one of my all-time favorite books.

Of course, the scope of creative nonfiction is not limited to literary journalism, as is the case with, The Perfect Storm.  Personal essays would certainly qualify for this category.  So would memoirs.  As long as facts are presented in a personalized way, you’ve got yourself some creative nonfiction.

Admittedly, I don’t write much of it.  There’s a knack to making a completely factual narrative sound interesting to an audience, and I certainly could use a lot of practice.  So, that’s the challenge I’ve issued to myself this week – to write a compelling piece of creative nonfiction.

As always, constructive criticism is encouraged.  I’d love to hear from you.  And, by all means, let me know if you have a piece of creative nonfiction you’d like to share.

Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.

 

-Hawkelson

 

bush-cricket-1594641_1280A Sort of Biblical Swarm

 

Being from Northeast Ohio, I had plenty of experience driving in bad weather.  So, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why my car was hydroplaning on a dry, sunny summer day in Louisiana.  I fought the impulse to stomp on the brake, and I steered into the skid, regaining control.  I realized there was some kind of substance on the road, but I wasn’t sure what it was so I cautiously turned into a gas station.

The parking lot appeared to be wiggling, and I turned the radio off, as if the sound was somehow interfering with my vision.  Nope – the parking lot was still wiggling.  Then my brain finally accepted what my eyes had been seeing the whole time – grasshoppers.  There were grasshoppers everywhere.  Truckloads of them.  I could hear them crunching beneath my tires.

I parked, and tried to tiptoe inside the gas station to minimize the amount of casualties I was inflicting, but there was no helping it.  I could feel them squishing under my shoes, and  they were slippery as hell.  When I got inside I announced to the girl behind the cash register, “There’s grasshoppers all over the place.”

“Crickets,” she said quite matter-of-factly.

“Okay, crickets” I conceded.  “They’re everywhere.”

Another employee chimed in from the snack food isle, “I reckon they’re a might worse than I’ve seen in a while.”  He had a broom, and he was busy trying to corral some rogue crickets into a mop bucket.

“How bad are they, typically?” I asked.

“Sometimes bad.  Sometimes not so bad,” the guy informed me.

“Where ya from?” the girl behind the register asked.  “You sure do have an accent.”

“Ohio,” I said.

“What’s a Yankee boy doin’ way down here in Shreveport, Louisiana?” she said.  The word came out like, Lose-y-anna.  It sounded very exotic to me, and I suddenly realized how attractive she was.  I guessed she was around my age – early twenties, tall and tan with long dark hair and blue eyes like glacial ice.

“I thought I’d brave the biblical swarm of locusts so I could ask you out for a drink,” I said with as much confidence as I could muster.

“It ain’t no biblical swarm neither.  It’s just a might worse than usual. And I done told you it’s crickets.”

“Oh,” I said, dejected.  “Well, I’ll see ya,” I said as I turned to leave.

“My shift’s up in about forty-five minutes,” she said.  “There’s a little bar up the road.  If you want, I’ll meet you there for a drink.  It’s called, Scuddy’s.”

“Yeah, I know where that is.  I’d love to meet you for a drink.”

“It’s just one drink now, and it’s just us talkin’.  Don’t get no ideas.”

“Scout’s honor,” I said, and I raised my right hand to show how virtuous I was.

“And I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts you was never no damned boy scout.”

She was right about that, too.

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