I’m a Little Behind

Been a while since the last update, I know.  How have you been?  It’s been pretty busy around here, but that’s a good thing!  I’ve been pressing hard to finish up a manuscript that has a June 1st deadline.  Oops.  Not gonna make it, but everything will be okay.  In the words of the great Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines.  I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

You cannot rush the process of anything worth doing.  There are no shortcuts, no magic pills, no “get-rich-quick” schemes.  I’ve found that to be true for anything in life.  Things done well take time and hard work.  Repeat!  You can be more efficient about it, you can allot more time to it, but you can’t rush it.  That’s why you can’t cook a good steak in the microwave, why brewed coffee tastes better than instant, and why Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Turtle and the hare, man, turtle and the hare.

Point is, while the deadline has been looming ominously over my shoulder, rubbing its hands and going “Muh-ha-ha”, I don’t feel compelled to rush things.  The final product will suffer and it will be painfully obvious this thing needs to simmer on the stove a bit longer.  What would be the point, then?  Knowing it wasn’t ready but sending it in anyway?  Just wasting everyone’s time and pushing the completion date even further back.

Still, I have an obligation to finish my work and therefore other things fall by the wayside.  The stack of bills sitting on the corner of my desk, for example.  In spite of the fact that I refuse to water it, the pile keeps growing.  My hope was the laws of gravity would eventually catch up and topple the whole thing over – ideally right into the garbage can next to my desk, thus solving the problem – but as of yet, no such luck.

And the website, of course.  The idea behind the site was to give the little side things I write while working on bigger things a place to live.  Since all of my focus has been on the manuscript, there hasn’t been a lot of that going on.  Hence the lack of recent updates.

Fear not, my tens of followers!  I am rounding the bases and about to slide into home plate for the game winning run.  When I am discharged from the hospital after recovering from the injuries sustained during that slide, I will be back posting with a vengeance.  I’m too old for that running and sliding shit.

***

In this world there are leaders and there are followers.  You are a follower.  Start following.

Don’t Worry, That Banana Isn’t Loaded

I’ve been meaning to write about the first time I was interviewed for television.  This is probably a longer-than-usual read, but stick with it because you’ll get something out of it.  I promise.

Back in 2002, a gentleman named Manuel Andrade was murdered in the apartment complex where I lived.  He was a business owner, a husband, and a father.  I didn’t know him, but I found out later that he lived in the building right across the parking lot.  It happened on a Sunday, and I was spending my weekends in Boston back then.  So I didn’t find out about the murder until I got back home from work the next day.

As I was walking up to my apartment, I was approached by a young, well dressed lady who asked for a moment of my time.  She told me her name and said she was a news reporter.  Asked if I had heard what happened.  When I told her I did, she asked if I’d be willing to talk about it on camera.  When I agreed, the cameraman who had been sitting in the front seat of a car came out and started filming.

The thing that you should know about this particular apartment complex was that it was in a nice neighborhood in a small town in Massachusetts.  I joked with her that it was hard to get in the place even as a resident.  Which was true; the access doors to the building were solid, self-closers, and required a separate key from the ones to individual apartments.  On top of that, the apartments themselves were pretty close together.  If you knocked on my door, chances were pretty good a neighbor would answer their own thinking you’d knocked on theirs.  Thin walls, you know?  Don’t judge – I was young, dumb, and broke.

She asked me if I was afraid, knowing what had happened in the building across the street.  I said, “Not at all.  This is a very safe neighborhood.  It’s hard enough to get in the place if you live here and have a key, never mind someone randomly breaking in.  My guess is it was someone he knew.  I feel bad for the guy, but there’s nothing for anyone who lives here to worry about.”

She thanked me and told me I’d be on air during the evening newscast.  Damn right I tuned in – it was to be my television debut!

Ready for this? The only part of the interview they aired was when I said, “This is a very safe neighborhood.”

The rest, the part about how hard it was to get in the building, that it was probably someone he knew (turns out I was right about that), and there was nothing for the residents to worry about was cut out.  Right after airing my quote, they cut to another interview with two older residents who were panicking and extremely concerned.  Those were the folks who got the majority of air time.

Why? Because what I said didn’t fill their need.  Taken out of context, that isolated part of my quote about it being in a safe neighborhood screams, “See!  This even happens in safe neighborhoods.  It could happen to YOU!”  Had they played the entire interview, it’s not nearly as alarming and “newsworthy.”  So they just cut it out.

Talk about sensationalism.  Ever since, I’ve never watched or read the news without a fair amount of skepticism.  It showed me that you really cannot believe everything you’re told.  Even when you see it with your own eyes.  More important, it was proof that certain outlets will tailor a message in direct contrast to what someone actually said (aka – the facts) if it serves their purpose.

What’s my point in telling you this?  Hopefully that you’ll take what you see, hear, and read about in stride from now on.  (Yes, I am aware that applies to this post.  Awkward!)

We have so many more outlets than we did back then.  The internet is awesome, but it’s also a huge source of information.  And there is even less accountability for what is put out there than back in 2002.  Turns out things are not nearly as bad in the world as some will have you believe.  Alarmists have been pounding horrific things into our brains that really aren’t as widespread as they are made out to be.  It just seems that way because it’s everywhere, all the time.  The effect this practice has had on society is undeniable.  When’s the last time you saw kids playing out on the streets?

It makes me sad to think people aren’t relating anymore.  Everyone thinks something bad is about to happen to them at any second.  Lock your doors, don’t trust your neighbors, crime is everywhere!  Makes me wonder why we’re going in the wrong direction when we’re supposed to be evolving.  Then I think about what happened to me, and decide maybe there’s hope in spite of what I keep hearing.  Because the people I interact with in person aren’t so bad, after all.

In fact, turns out they’re pretty much just like me.

 

Want to be a millionaire?  Follow this blog!  It won’t help, but follow anyway. 

via Daily Prompt: Awkward

What Block? There Is No Block!

I’ve been lax about updating the website, but that’s a good thing because I’ve been busy making progress on a couple of other projects.  More about that below.

But first, a major announcement:  I have changed the header image of the website to better reflect the current season here in Florida.  I know, I know, I’m excited, too!

Weather-wise, this is a very cool time of the year around here.  Over the next few months we’ll have thunderstorms on a near daily basis.  Lots of rain, lots of lightning.  It’s beautiful and quite inspiring.  That pond you see in the header image is in my backyard, and it will be filled right up to the top in a couple of months.  Side-note:  yes, there are alligators in that pond.  We have an informal agreement – they don’t come up to the house, I don’t swim in the pond.  It works out well for everyone.

The downside of the storms is, of course, that you have to unplug everything just in case a lightning strike hits nearby.  It’s the main reason I buy laptops instead of desktops.  Chances are pretty low, but all it takes is one big jolt to fry your motherboard.  As such, I have to run the computer on battery for a good three hours a day in the summer.

While I eagerly await word on some completed projects, I have been working hard on the first draft of a new one.  I have the first ten-thousand words on paper.  A good start, as the first draft goal is 80,000.  (I typically over-write by about twenty-thousand words knowing I’ll thin out the herd during the editing phase.  That keeps me from editing as I create, a big no-no for me.)

Things were going quite nicely until this past weekend.  I should tell you that I do not believe there is such a thing as writer’s block.  Anyone can write, anytime.  When someone asks what to do about a block, I tell them it’s a sign they haven’t spent the time figuring out what they want to say yet.  That rule applies to me, too.  The good news is there is an easy solution!

Step one – realize writing isn’t something done solely behind the keyboard.  That’s the literal part of writing, a physical act of clicking keys.  But when I’m knocking out three or four thousand words a day, it means I’ve been doing a good job working away from the keyboard.  At night before I fall asleep, I’m working out a piece of dialogue in my head.  When I’m doing laundry (yuck!), I’m thinking about the next plot point.  When I’m in the shower, I write descriptions of a person, place, or thing.  Some of my best work was created sitting in traffic.  Those are the preparations made before I sit down to go through the actual physical process.

Over the years I’ve learned to trust my instincts.  When I have to muscle through the self-imposed daily word quota I’ve set, that’s a sign that I haven’t spent the necessary time preparing away from the computer.  I’ll hit the goal, but most of what comes out will have to be edited or cut outright later.  When I hit a “block” over the weekend, I knew right away the reason was because I hadn’t given the next scene a lot of thought.  Instead of angrily staring at the blinking cursor trying to figure out how to force the words out, I shut down Scrivener and went about my day.  But that doesn’t mean I stopped writing.

In this particular case, the task was to figure out a way to motivate a protagonist to perform a tasteless act without jeopardizing his relationship with the reader.  I knew the act had to happen to further the plot, but I hadn’t figured out the details yet.  And I don’t work well without preparation.  I ran the scenarios through my head over the next few hours and came up with a winner.  Right back on track.  The key was to work it out away from the keyboard.

I’m sharing this thought because I know a lot of people get frustrated by writer’s block.  There are thousands of tips out there about how to beat it.  What I just shared with you is the only one that’s ever worked for me.  Soon as you realize why it happens, you’ll understand why I don’t believe writer’s block exists at all.  It’s not a block, but the understanding that you need to write away from the keyboard more often.

I hope that helps someone out there.  Be sure and let me know if it does!

 

Fact:  People will like you more if you follow this blog.

 

These Robots Are Gonna Kill Us All

Well, here we are.  Boston Dynamics created a robot which can run through a park on its own.  Run through a park.  Check out the video because it’s pretty awesome.  This also means we are way ahead of the Star Wars and Terminator worlds because their bipedal robots were slow as hell.

I know a certain, tin-foil-hat-wearing part of the population will find this horrifying and a certain sign of the end of the human race, but what Boston Dynamics has done is an exciting step forward.  And an inevitable one.

Some people felt the same way back when automobiles hit the scene during a time when most were still on horseback.  The general consensus back then, by the way, was that a human being couldn’t survive any crash in a vehicle traveling over 40 MPH.  (That’s 64 KPH for my out of town friends.)  So much for that.

PSA:  If you are on Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook and the like, and come across a post where an innocent person recounts an outlandish event in which a “bad guy” says something horrific to them, is put in his place, and then everyone in the room claps, it didn’t happen.

Here’s the general outline:

ME PERSON:  *Minding my own business*

RUDE PERSON:  For absolutely no discernible reason, inappropriately and outlandishly describes something Me Person is doing/saying/wearing in an attacking way and in a public setting

ME PERSON: Long-winded, sometimes witty comeback putting Rude Person in their place.

RUDE PERSON: Shamed

EVERYONE ELSE:  Claps

Bonus points awarded if the restaurant/store manager pays for their coffee or meal, somebody gives them $100, or someone starts randomly crying.

If you’ve got a little time to kill and want to be entertained, check out That Happened for some fine examples.  I’m sure the boss won’t mind.

Video games today rely far more on reflexes and less on logic than they used to.  This is not a bad thing, as fast hands mean a fast mind.  I watched a short video of someone playing some new game and was blown away by all the things happening on the screen at the same time.  We’ve come a long way from interactive fiction.

Remember when the internet used to be a good place to get an honest opinion about a product you were thinking about buying?  Ten years ago I was trying to decide which ridiculously giant television to buy, JVC or Mitsubishi.  I went online, found some honest reviews by people who owned one or the other, and made an educated decision from there. (Got the JVC, if it matters.  Which it shouldn’t.)

Today’s online reviews are all stacked.  Supposedly independent, third-party reviewers are company sponsored.  (That’s why they send popular reviewers products for free.)  Star ratings are unethically trashed by the competition using fake Google accounts.  And the first three pages of search results are advertisements put up by whatever company is trying to sell whatever you’re searching for.

If you want an honest review, you gotta dig deep.  Leave it to our ingenious, big corporate marketers to screw up a good thing.

Speaking of marketing, my favorite description of self promotion is “it’s like rolling jell-o up a hill using chopsticks.”

It’s Friday.  Please go outside.  Take a hike in the forest.  Get some fresh air.

Studies show that people who follow this website are 27% more likely to have a higher-than-average IQ.  Your call.

via Daily Prompt: Forest

That’s Just How it is Sometimes

Work-wise, it’s just one of those days.

I’m typing the words, but what’s coming out is nothing to flaunt.  Every letter is a struggle.  The thoughts in my head (yes, there are some) are swirling around like a…well, I dunno.  Like a fast, windy, spinny thing.  How’s that?  Kind of makes my point.  You couldn’t get a creative, coherent, well constructed sentence out of me today with thumbscrews.

Exhibit A:  You’re reading it.

Well, fine.  I’m not going to lose sleep over it.  It’s a little after noon so that won’t happen until later tonight.

Got a review today:  “Although I found it a touch predictable, the author’s excellent observations on the effect of loss and understanding of human behavior are the real strengths of this piece. It certainly chimed with me. And this story is a great vehicle for delivering it.  4.5 stars.”  Great, right?  Not today.  All that resonates with me is the word “predictable.”

Upside?  As awful as I am today, I apparently have a few shining moments, too.  If you can relate to the struggle, you should keep that in mind, as well.  Like I said, just one of those days.  We all have ’em.

The good news is these kinds of issues are few and far between and usually pass quickly.  Sometimes the same day.  In the meantime, I’ve got a bit of catching up to do on other things.  Vacuum the sock drawer, shampoo the cat, and design the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.  Or maybe there are some interesting posts to catch up on my reader.  I could use a little diversion today.

The cat would certainly appreciate it.

***

Follow me if you must.  But if you do, whatever life decisions you’ve made to date that have misled you into thinking that is a bright idea could probably use a good going-over.

via Daily Prompt: Flaunt

In Case You Couldn’t Tell, I’m Starving

Had a really great day yesterday.  Found out one of my short stories is in the top ten (number 3, ahem) for a highly-competitive contest which shall, for the moment, remain nameless.  Anything finishing in the top ten is represented, so it’s a win no matter where the story ends up.  A good feeling, but the key to success is to enjoy the moment and immediately get busy again, so…

***

I’m still eagerly awaiting word from a few people on some old business.  I don’t much care about the payouts because these are shorts sent to some fledgling publishers that I admire.  It’s an honor to be involved in the early stages, so I’ll be proud to be represented in any of them.  Just wish they’d hurry the hell up.

***

Who the hell demands to speak to a manager at a fast food restaurant?

Lady: “I want three crispy wings.”

Employee:  “I’m sorry, we don’t have those.”

Lady: “Get me your manager!”

Ugh.  The kids behind the counter are working for next to nothing.  They don’t need that crap, too.  It’s hardly a career position so cut them a break, will you?  If you’re at a place where you can order an entire meal by number while sitting in your car, don’t expect Ruth’s Chris service.  I was embarrassed for her.

***

Speaking of Ruth’s Chris – it’s good but nothing special.  When guests insist on an expensive meal and suggest Ruth’s Chris, I accidentally drive us to Bern’s Steakhouse instead.  Or Morton’s if we’re out of town.

Before I forget: if you find yourself in Atlanta, head on over to Kevin Rathbun Steak and treat yourself to a nice New York Strip.  Start with a Crown Royal Manhattan (up, of course) if that’s your thing.  Tell them I sent you.  They won’t give a shit, but I like my name thrown around fancy places now and again.

While we’re on steaks, best prime rib place in the US?  Used to be Mitchell’s Steakhouse in Hyannis, Massachusetts.  I observed three days of mourning when that place shut down.  The new favorite is Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas.  Mostly because of the atmosphere.  They’ll spin your Caesar’s salad in a bowl of ice and everyone wears the “brown gown”, a tradition founded back in 1938.  Except Dallas.  Because Texas, you know?

***

Why doesn’t the hyperlink tool in the WordPress editor check the “Open link in a new tab/window” box by default?  It’s not like I want people navigating away mid-article and it’s a pain to have to double-check each one.  People smarter than me, feel free to answer.

***

I think it’s horseshit that an orgasm lasts for 10 seconds while a goddamn cold sticks around for two weeks.

***

Been behind this blessed monitor and keyboard all day.  Time to call it…

 

Got a better steak joint?  Comments below or on Twitter @paulkardos.  Oh and feel free to give a follow.  It won’t hurt nobody if you do. 

#steak #finedining #food #hangry

From Today On, I Will Include the Words “Multiple Award Winner” When Introducing Myself to Others.

Well, here’s something cool:  Wit and Wimsy nominated my site for a Sunshine Blogger Award!  That’s the second award I’ve had the privilege to be nominated for since I started this little site just over month or so ago.  It’s especially gratifying to be a recipient when you read what this award is all about:

“The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.”

That’s a pretty cool compliment.  Means a lot when someone associates my work with words like “creative”, “positive”, and “inspiring.”  (You don’t want to know what words people usually associate my work with.)

So thank you, Wit and Wimsy.  I’m a loyal follower of your blog and really appreciate you thinking of me when you made your nominations.  If you haven’t checked her site out yet, feel free to click on over and browse around.  Go on, I’ll wait here until you come back…

(Make sure you check out the bottom of this post for some really great websites that I’ve nominated for this award.  It’s a pleasure to ‘pass the torch’ to some really creative people.  In fact, you should probably skip over my Q&A and just get to the good stuff.)

The Rules

The guidelines for this award are straightforward.

  • Thank the blogger(s) that nominated you in the post and link back to their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you
  • Nominate 8-11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award Logo on your post and/or in your blog

 

The Dreaded Q&A

I think ya’ll nominate me for these things just so I have to answer questions about myself.  Which I just love to do.  In the spirit of spreading more sunshine across the net, here we go:

What is your favorite smell?  Easy.  Freshly cut grass.  Specifically, freshly cut grass in New England during the first month of spring.  After you spend five or six miserable months surviving a cold, wet, and grey northeastern winter, it is a most very welcome scent to smell.  And a sign of many good things to come.  Until the next cold, wet, and grey northeastern winter, of course.

What of your traits do you think define you?  Greatest compliment I have ever received was when my father told someone, “Paul never gives up.”  He was right.  I am not the most talented, smartest, or logical person I know.  But I am the hardest working.  That kind of trait is extremely useful, especially when applied universally.  Being persistent and my belief that ‘there is always a way’ has done me far more good then harm over the years.  I have no idea where I’d be without it.

In a parallel universe, what do you do for a living?  Contrary to what I just wrote about being hard-working, when I was younger I was a professional slacker.  I did just enough to get by and not an ounce more.  Consequently, I spent more time in college playing beach volleyball than studying.  Which is a shame because I could have accomplished so much more, so much earlier than I did.  So in a parallel universe, I’m guessing I’m either a doctor or an astrophysicist.  I love helping people and am fascinated by astronomy.  Coin-flip.

What makes you feel most confident?  When someone appreciates something I’ve done by either telling me outright or mimicking something I do.  It’s very flattering.  I’m highly self-critical, so when I get a nice review or pick up a new follower, it reminds me that I’m doing something worthwhile and am not the hack I sometimes convince myself I am.  That builds confidence, something everyone needs in order to do their best work.

What is your favorite story?  Don’t have one.  Cop-out answer?  Maybe.  I’ve heard and read so many stories that inspired and awed me, it’s impossible for me to pick just one.  I couldn’t easily list my top ten favorite stories, for that matter.  Don’t believe me, huh?  Fine.  In no particular order:  Hitchhiker’s Guide, The Stand, Strip Tease, Breakfast of Champions, Hit Man, The Store, A Fire Upon The Deep, Old Man’s War, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and Inca Gold.  See?  That wasn’t easy.  And there’s about thirty more which are at this very moment screaming “You should’ve picked me damnit!”  Saying any one of them is my “favorite” would be a lie.

Are you a reader or a viewer?  When it comes to entertainment, I’m a reader.  I’ll take a good book over a great movie any time.  I absolutely love live-theater too, but a book is more versatile and really gets my imagination flowing.  I don’t know what I’d do without reading.  When it comes to learning something, however, I think I’m more of a viewer.  It’s easier for me to fix the car by watching a DIY video than by reading a service manual.  Or, better yet, watch a mechanic fix it so I don’t completely destroy the engine.

What is your biggest bucket list item?  I’m lucky here in that I’ve had the opportunity to check a lot of those boxes over the years.  The one thing that really stands out is to visit Australia.  My great-grandfather was Australian and I’ve always felt drawn to it.  It’s the last of the “big ones” on my travel list.  (Super-extra-bonus fact:  My favorite city is Rome.  The history, people, and food is amazing.  Almost decided to stay when I was there last.)

What is your least favorite taste?  I can’t get the hang of dark chocolate.  It’s bitter and chalky and just yuck-o.  Some people love the stuff.  Not sure about those degenerates.

What is the happiest moment of 2018 thus far for you?  Last year was a very rewarding but also extremely difficult year for me.  So far, 2018 has been very good to me.  Like I was owed something.  I’m going to say New Years Day.  I’ve never been one of those “resolution” type people, but this time it actually did feel different.  And I think there are even better days ahead.

What is your favorite holiday and why?  Christmas.  Family, food, presents.  Oh, and eggnog.  What?  Do I really need to write more?  Move along.

Do people change or just circumstances?  People.  It’s people that make the circumstances.  And I’ve seen people change, many times for the better.  I love that people grow and evolve and yet are still somehow the same at the core.  But aside from that, circumstances are effected by the people that create or are involved with them.  Without people, there are no circumstances.

 

The Nominations!

Still here?  Good!  Because here are my nominations for The Sunshine Blogger Award.  These are some really cool sites that I am following.  And I don’t follow all willy-nilly.  So you should check them out and give them a follow, too:

Chaotic Shapes – Brandon is an extremely talented artist.  Definitely worth checking out his latest art project and other creative inspirations.

Finally Unchained – Whether she posts a short story, photograph, or reminder that children are awful, Pia’s site is always a lot of fun to read.

A Pianist’s Musings – Kathryn’s site caught my attention when she posted a great article about PDQ Bach.  That article warrants the award on its own.  Lot of other great music related posts there, too.

Terminally Single – Check out the headline:  “Walking alone, I walk free.”  Raw, interesting inspirational blogs for all.

The Nerdy Lion – This is my newest followed site, but I like what I’ve read so far.  Really great article about dealing with the loss of loved ones and friends just came out the other day.  Worth a read.

Strawberry Travels – Ella writes about…well, I’m still trying to piece it all together.  It’s a very entertaining site – definitely worth a look.

I know I’m supposed to nominate 8-11 others, but those six are really good and think they should stand on their own.  Problem?

My Questions For You Unfortunate Souls

I get to ask 11 questions of the people I’ve nominated.  Now we’re talking!

  1. Anarchist or conformist?  Explain.  Unless you’re an anarchist and won’t.
  2. What is one thing about blogging that you didn’t expect to find when you first started your site?
  3. What is your Lifetime Achievement Award-worthy accomplishment so far?
  4. Who has been the most influential or inspiring person in your life?
  5. What is the furthest distance you’ve traveled away from the place you call home?
  6. What is the one book I should read but probably haven’t yet?
  7. What’s the earliest memory of life you can recall?
  8. iOS or Android?
  9. Tell us about a hobby you have that few people know about.
  10. What’s your favorite band and why isn’t it Rush?
  11. Get on your soapbox and make a statement.  Anything goes.

Thanks for humoring me and my little intrusive questions.  I really do love your sites, each for a unique reason.  Looking forward to reading more from you all for a long time to come!

For the rest of you, thanks for coming by.  Oh, and feel free to follow.  You won’t hurt the “like” button by pressing it, either.  Go on, try it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Family is a Bunch of Liars

Been missing in action for about a week.  My son picked up the flu at school and decided to share it with Daddy.  Isn’t he a lamb?  Well, that’s just the type of person we’re trying to raise – a selfless giver who wants to share with others.  They say those are the things that start at home, so go us. 

The downside, of course, is that for the first three days I could barely get out of bed.  I don’t get sick often, but this thing just sucked the life out of me.  I’ll spare the details, you’ve been there.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I woke up one morning feeling better.  Gee, that was fast, I thought at the time.  Turns out it was merely the eye of the storm passing over the house.  Next four days, straight back to hell.

At any rate, except for that one day, I haven’t gotten much done since a week ago Sunday.  So there is a lot to catch up on.  I’ve got a Sunshine Award to talk about, a draft to edit, and another first draft to make progress on.  I’m finally feeling like my old self, so here we go…

Beta-Readers Are Wonderful, Awful People

There are no better lies than the ones told to us by loved ones.  Case in point – when I was a boy, I was a pudgy, Husky-jeans-wearing, socially awkward zero.  It was a hard way to grow up.  I should point out this was in the 70’s and 80’s, back when society viewed the treatment of outcasts a bit differently than today.

I have no idea why I was the way I was back then.  Today, I have nothing in common with that poor little guy.  The people who know me now don’t believe I was once that kid, but it’s true.   All that happened doesn’t bother me.  It actually made me a better person later on in life.  But I digress…

As painfully evident as it was that I was a round – a very round – peg trying to fit in the old square hole, my mother insisted on telling me how great I was.  How smart I was.  How handsome I was.  How the girls would flock.  What she said made her a supportive parent, but she couldn’t have been more wrong at the time.  And I damn well knew it.

But that’s what the people who love us do, right?  They find the good in us and focus on those qualities.  I loved her for it, but deep down I knew where it was coming from.  She overlooked the bad and focused on the good.  What a peach!

It all comes to this:  never listen to your loved ones when it comes to your writing.  (Or any other work you do, for that matter.)  They want to support you, especially if they realize you’re very passionate and enthusiastic about whatever you’re working on.  Pointing out the bad is honest, but it’s also hurtful.  And they have an investment in your relationship that goes far beyond whatever story you’ve asked them to read.  So don’t blame them for being biased.  But realize this means you usually can’t trust their feedback, either.

Best thing you can do is find beta-readers.  The angrier the better.  Write your story, do a few edits, and then put it in front of the most heinous, depraved, teeth-grinding people you can find.  They want to find problems with your work.  They want to hate it.  They want to tell you how it didn’t make sense, the writing is crap, and you should take up photography instead.  Or sewing.  For the love of God anything, just to keep you from writing another word.  When you find that gang, you’ve found what you’re looking for.

Because those are the very same people who are going to tell you when you’ve got a winner on your hands.  They aren’t biased in your favor, so when they say something is good, it means a lot.  The comments are sometimes astonishing, as people often take away something from your story you never intended.  Invaluable insight, there.

Takes a thick skin to listen to what doesn’t work, but those are your true opportunity areas so go back and fix them.  You should also focus on the things they said work well.  It affirms what you probably already know, which builds confidence to help silence the inner-critic.  Other times it brings to your attention something you’ve completely over-looked.

These are the things you want to find out about before you submit for publication.  Because chances are good the editor reviewing your work is even angrier than your beta-readers.  You would be, too, if your life was mired in the slush pile.

Did I sell you on the idea?  I hope so.  Now, where to find them?  Just so happens there is a great website for that very thing.  It’s called YouWriteOn.  No, I’m not affiliated with them whatsoever – being a shill is not my style.  I happened upon it a couple of months ago and the feedback has been tremendously helpful.  Figured I’d share it with you.

As an extra bonus, every year they have these competitions in which the top ten finishers have the opportunity for their work to be reviewed by a major publishing house.  I’m talking Random House and Orion, people!  You can check out the YouWriteOn site for details.  I’ve found it to be a priceless tool.

The sad thing is, the website has been around for a very long time but seems to be lacking in activity as of late.  I have no idea why.  Still, over the past 45 days a story I uploaded to the site was reviewed by ten different beta-readers.  The feedback – both good and bad – has been extremely beneficial.

There may also be writing and beta-reading groups in your area, as well.  I avoid those for the same reason I avoid feedback from my family.  Because people sometimes have a hard time being honest with someone they see face-to-face.  If there’s one thing the internet has shown us, it’s that people tend to be far more honest when they are anonymous.  I can take it.

Different strokes, right?  Whichever you choose, getting impartial feedback from a third party is really essential.  There’s nothing worse than finding problems after you’ve already clicked send on Submittable.

Thanks for reading.  Give a follow here or on twitter if you’re so inclined.  There’s something here for everyone…

via Daily Prompt: Astonish

Everything’s Gonna Be Something

There’s a magnet on our refrigerator which reads, “Make Today Better Than Yesterday”.   A nice but rather prosaic sentiment.  Yet it does bring up an interesting (to me) point about the way perception works.

The wondrous thing about perception lives in the fact that many different people giving consideration to the same object or idea will invariably produce a reaction or opinion disparate from the others.  Used properly, that can be a powerful tool.  “Kirsten had a beautiful face.”  Everyone has their own perception of what the word beautiful means to them.  That simple sentence lets me convey an idea which would otherwise require a far greater number of words, and avoids any risk that your perception of beauty is different than mine.

Perception is also what makes people truly unique, yet sometimes comes with a risk of embarrassment and unnecessary regret later on.  For an example of what I mean, there are many fine illustrations of regret in the pictures of any yearbook more than a decade old.  You know damn well what I mean.  I also highly recommend visiting a certain Reddit sub dedicated to the matter, if that’s your sort of thing.  Our perception made it all seem like a good idea at the time…

Read the wisdom revealed by the magnet again.  How did you interpret its meaning?  Does it mean yesterday was so great, yet today could be even better?  That’s a nice thought, isn’t it?  Yesterday was good, today is going to be fantastic, and the future looks bright because tomorrow will be even better.  In a few years, your heart will be all aflutter because the notion that every day is always better than the last is the type of interest that compounds.  I like it and your optimism!

Here’s the interesting part.  Those very same words can just as easily be interpreted as having a very different, darker meaning.  For some, it might serve as a reminder that today could be better because yesterday was so lousy.  To the person who reads it that way, it conveys a sense of consolation.  Don’t fret, there is potential to turn things around.  Life is awful, but it’s going to get better.

See what I mean?  Same words, an entirely different interpretation based on one’s perception.

Depression is the real deal, by the way.  I’m far from an expert on dealing with it personally, but I’ve had my bouts with being a loved one of someone afflicted by it.  As an outsider, it takes some getting used to because, auspicious kitchen magnets aside, everyone has a bad day from time to time.  When a person with clinical depression says they are having a bad day, it’s very easy to misread the gravity of what they mean.  Relating it to that day your car didn’t start and the boss gave you hell for being late again is a far cry from what they are dealing with.  Responding as such can sometimes have unintentional but grave consequences.  Same planet, very different worlds.

But this isn’t about depression, it’s about perception.  Or maybe that’s your perception and the reality is about me needing a short distraction to write about today and I happened upon a magnet in my kitchen.  Which is probably all it is.

Just depends on how you look at it.

If you like what you read here, why not give me a follow?  If you don’t, follow anyway.  Call it your good deed of the day.

via Daily Prompt: Fret

What Your Google Searches Say About You

(I hadn’t planned on writing anything for the website today, but I wanted to crank out a quick one before getting back to work.)

I had some very important research to do today and turned to my old friend, Google.  Here’s the list:

“How long do hard boiled eggs last in the refrigerator”

(Answer: 1 week.  What?!  I had no idea.)

“Ensure or insure”

(Answer: mostly both, sometimes neither)

“IRS”

(Answer: deadline tomorrow)

“Man who claimed he has never eaten an olive”

(Answer: never figured it out.  Just a bunch of crap about the Olive Garden and Tom Brady’s claim to have never eaten a strawberry.  Oh well, I’ll wing it like usual.)

“iphone do not disturb contact”

(Answer: under messenger, click ‘I’, enable “Hide Alerts”.  Please don’t ask.)

“Florida Lottery”

(Answer: better keep writing.)

Yes, I know.  I live an interesting and full life.  Got me to wondering, though, what a list like that says about a person.  Love to hear some of the ridiculous things you’ve been searching for lately.  If only so I no longer think I’m the only nut-job out there.

Comments, thoughts, or the answer to the olive thing below…

via Daily Prompt: Crank