Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Never Good Enough

   My earliest childhood memories are plagued with thoughts of, "You're a failure, and will never be good enough. You will always be second rate." I was the skinny kid with glasses no one wanted to pick to be on their team. I wasn't good at relationships because I didn't think anyone would want to be my friend. So of course, I didn't have many.
   I studied hard in school, thinking I might find a subject I could be really good at. I passed, but it never felt good enough. I tried working on TVs and radios when I was ten because my dad was an electrical engineer. After nearly killing myself with the high voltage in those old tube type circuits, I became interested in cars. I rebuilt my first engine at thirteen, a flat-head six. It ran, but not good enough.
   I eventually found a girl who would have me, got married, and joined the Navy. Maybe a career in the armed forces was where I could succeed. That didn't last either. We never had much money, so instead of trying to pay someone else, I learned everything I could about construction and built our own home. There are very few pieces of heavy equipment I can't operate. I can work concrete, frame a building, plumb it, run the electrical, hang sheet-rock; you name it, I've probably done it. Just not good enough.
   I am the poster boy for the phrase, "Jack of all trades, master of none." I've spent my whole life looking for that one thing I might be able to master. It soon turned into a cycle of changing jobs or focus every five years. It felt like after that period of time, I would lose interest because I could no longer improve.
   When I entered the last season of my life, about four years ago, I started writing. I really couldn't do much else since my health had deteriorated, and construction was no longer an option. I laughed at first when my kids convinced me to enter a writing contest, (I received an Honorable Mention), and a local small publisher I met at the library told me I had great potential and wanted to put me under contract. I never took her up on her offer. I didn't feel I was good enough.
   I started sharing scenes I'd written on social media, and kept a folder full of all the positive comments I received from others. Comments such as, "You are a master story-teller", and "Your writing lifts me up and transports me to another world," gave me hope I might have finally found something I could master.
   If there was a market for books filled with awesome scenes and nothing else, I'd be a best seller. As usual, I just can't seem to find that final piece of the puzzle to put it all together. As I work on my third book, I continue to get praise for my scenes which is hard for me to accept. I can't help but think that when it's all done, it'll receive three star reviews just like the other two.
   I'm afraid there will always be this voice in the back of my head saying, "You'll never be good enough."

   Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Life's Story

   Yesterday we hosted a birthday party for one of my granddaughters who just turned thirteen. That leaves only on grandchild who isn't a teenager or older. I love watching them grow up, but I hate the fact it means I 'm getting older at the same time. I was going to try and get a blog post written, but her birthday took precedence.
   Even though they all have the latest I-Pads and Kindle Fires, the kids love coming over to grandpa's house because I have all the cool old board and card games. Giggles and laughter ring out when they gather around the dining room table with the game of Life set up. Or the sound of dice rattling across the table fills the air when Yahtzee is in play. It only gets quiet when the cake and ice cream is handed out.
   It seems lately that whenever the family gets together, the same question always comes up. "Grandpa, when are you going to write your life's story?" OK, I give! Although I never really considered my life to be very interesting, being a Baby-Boomer had me growing up during some interesting times.
   The question is, where do I start? Should I go back to the little boy living in an abandoned chicken coup in the deep south where returning GI's with a Nazi war bride were treated worse than blacks? Or maybe I should jump forward as a young teenage boy trying to find his identity while watching his mother die of cancer, and believing for some reason that it's his fault. Then there is always Vietnam.
   I wonder sometimes how many folks would actually believe any of these stories who hadn't actually experienced it for themselves? I doubt I'll ever share these publicly, but at the rate my memory is fading, maybe the kids are right and I need to put my life down on paper.
   Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

What is Fantasy?

   The answer to that seems simple, right? Depends on who you ask.
   According to the dictionary: Fantasy = hallucination, a creation of the imaginative faculty whether expressed or merely conceived, or the power or process of creating expressly unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need.
   Wow, makes me sound like a hallucinating psycho. If that isn't bad enough, wait till you get in the middle of a discussion as part of a fantasy writers group. There are just as many opinions on what constitutes true fantasy as there are people participating.
   I'm amazed at how adamant some folks are over whether or not dragons, elves, orcs, etc. belong in fantasy. Of course, fantasy has to have magic, doesn't it? Not according to certain members. Others felt that a fantasy had to be set on another world besides our own. What if your story has none of these things? Is it still considered a fantasy?
   As far as I'm concerned, the sky's the limit when it comes to fantasy. Like the dictionary says, whatever you can create in your imagination is fantasy. It could include all of the things listed above, or none. I once had a judge for a short story contest mark me down because he couldn't place which country or time period my story occurred in. I was tempted to write him back and tell him I didn't know either. It only existed somewhere in the depths of my mind.
   If you can imagine it, write it. Who knows what fantasy worlds are lurking in the infinite universe of our imagination.
   Gotta go! I feel a hallucination coming on.

   Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

My Memories

   First of all, I'd like to apologize for not posting yesterday as I normally try to do. Life and family got in the way, and I didn't have the time or energy to write.
   Foremost among all the ideas floating around in my head that I mentioned last week is the idea telling me I need to write down what memories are still there before I forget them all. While I'm not that old in the overall scheme of things, I will hit seventy in a couple years. Childhood memories seem to be the most pressing since I'm the only one left alive who remembers them.
   I've lost a large number of memories already because of medical reasons, and it feels like I lose more every day. Chronicling the ones I still have left will be a daunting task. I've been all over the U.S., and visited many parts of Europe and Asia. Some of those places were experienced through the eyes of a tourist, and some as a young military man.
   Will these memories make it into print? I don't know yet. If it would do any good to dispel some of the misconceptions of life back in the fifties and sixties, I would consider it. Unfortunately, most of the young folks I try to talk to don't believe me. Many are convinced baby-boomers are the cause of all their problems. I've even had a few tell me everyone over 65 should be denied medical care so we'll die and no longer be a burden on society. This scares me.
   I also know that some of my memories would not be well received by some. Oh well, they are what they are, good or bad. Every one of them have a special meaning for me, and I don't need the approval of others to write them down or share if I want.
   I will continue to work on my fantasy stories, but memories will take precedence when they show up.
   As always, thanks for reading.

Picture is me, either first or second grade. I don't remember for sure.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I'm Drowning In A Flood Of Story Ideas

   Normally, I would think of a multitude of ideas as a good thing, but right now, they're preventing me from focusing on the story I need to finish. There are too many stories floating around in my head right now, and every one of them wants to be written now. It's like a bunch of kids all shouting, "Me... Me... Me!"
   I tried starting a couple of them hoping to appease the voices, but that just made the others yell louder. I want to concentrate on the next story in the series I've already started, and they are driving me nuts! Every time I try to visualize the next scene in my WIP, scenes from other stories muscle in and take me down roads I don't want to travel right now.
   This is what I get for ignoring my muse for over six months. All that time she was trying to be helpful and coming up with new ideas I could work on in the little time I had. I know you don't have time for the main story, but how about this short story, or a children's book, or maybe a western. All great ideas, but if I don't put out book two pretty soon, folks will have forgotten there was ever a book one.
   I've probably been driving my critique group crazy as they never knew what kind of a story I'd be submitting month to month. Now I'm hearing the questions, "What happened to the last story? When are you going to finish the story from two months ago? I really want to know what happens next." It helps that most of them enjoy my writing and give me the encouragement I need to continue.
   Well, gotta go, my muse is calling. "What? You've got an idea for a Christmas Romance. Nooo!"
   Thanks for reading.

P.S. Apparently my attempt at satire didn't go over very well last week, so I won't be doing that again.

Picture is first book. It's been so long, even I need to re-read it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Is Writing A Mental Illness?

   This is the question that plagues me every time I sit down to write. Who in their right mind would follow a path that leads to constant rejection, unending criticism, and mountains of self-doubt? Why do I continue to gallop through the vastness of my imagination attempting to save the world from evil windmills? I don't know.
   It certainly isn't about the money. I would earn more flipping burgers. Is it about gaining fame? I'd have a better chance at that by auditioning for the lead in a block-buster movie. Is it a desire to be unique and accomplish what others can't? Considering the thousands of people who self publish a book every day. It's no longer unique to be a writer in this day and age.
   Maybe it's about making friends and influencing enemies. I must admit I've made a number of friends online and in real life that I never would have otherwise as we have nothing else in common. I don't talk to my enemies and they don't talk to me, so nothing has changed there.
   Only a mentally deranged people pleaser like myself would write in the hopes of engaging readers who are the hardest group of people to connect with I've ever met. That's not healthy you say. No it isn't, anymore than being bi-polar, but that's the way I've always been and I'm too old to change now.
   Writing is all I have left, so I must continue. Someone has to venture forth and defeat the windmills of our illusions. I raise my pen in salute to all the other crazies out there!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I've Lost My Way

   I really don't know where this blog post is going anymore than I know where my stories are going. I've always enjoyed character driven stories so much that the story itself wasn't all that important. I can remember characters I fell in love with, but I couldn't tell you what the story was about. So when I started writing, naturally I followed the same pattern and concentrated on my characters. Apparently that's not good enough.
   I've attempted to make sure all my characters are distinct individuals with solid personalities. Some are moody and introspective, some are innocent and naive, and some are just plain fun. My secondary characters usually stay the same to provide a stable environment for the MCs who are forced to change and grow as they navigate life.
   When I first started writing, it was fun and exciting as characters continually appeared and clamored to be part of the story. It was a challenge sometimes to make sure they all had an important part to play in the overall story line. Now that the first book in the series is complete, the characters are well established and I'm not sure there is room to add others. I've already been told there are too many characters as it is. The thrill of meeting new characters is no longer there.
   I write every scene with a specific purpose in mind and not just to fill space. The characters are there and say what they say for a reason. I try to describe the scene with just enough detail to make it easy for most readers to accurately form a vision in their mind. Based on the abundant and wonderful praise I've received over the years for individual scenes shared to various groups, I assumed I had succeeded. Unfortunately, I've had a number of folks who loved my scenes and characters, but were sorely disappointed after reading the completed story.
   I'm at a total loss on how to proceed. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I've received several wonderful 4 &5 star reviews on Amazon, but a two year old could count the number of books I've sold there. Only one person, who I respect as a successful writer, has offered suggestions. They made it about a quarter of the way through and then sent me a nice e-mail attempting to explain why they didn't like it. The problem is I didn't understand most of what they said. I am not a student of literature. I didn't start writing until my sixties, and write from the heart not the head. My heart is no longer in it.
   As I struggle to write the next book, the only thing that keeps me going is that my critique group seems to think I still write rich and compelling scenes with solid characters. I can't help the constant nagging doubt whether the second book will be any better than the first.
   My only hope is that someday I'll find my way again.
   Thanks for reading.

Picture is my little buddy who looks as lost as I am.