Category Archives: Uncategorized

Three Months Later

Aftersight

Thee months ago, in my blog entry “Writing and Staying Fit Simultaneously,” I chronicled what amounts to a new year’s resolution to get up early, work out and write every morning before work. 

It’s one thing to declare victory after a week’s success, it’s another to maintain a new habit long-term. Now, three months later, I wanted to provide an update on my progress.

First the plan: Get up every morning at five o’clock, do a half-hour of P90X3, shower, get dressed, and write for sixty to ninety minutes before leaving for work.

How have I done? Since I began, I’ve lost fifteen pounds (five percent of my body fat) and have an accumulated total of 27,000 words on my latest novel.

That’s not to say that it’s all gone smoothly. During those three months, I spent some time in Italy, which naturally meant I wasn’t working out or writing (other than blogs) much while I was away. There was also coming home and getting used to the nine-hour time difference between Tuscany and Seattle. Then, just when I was getting back into the old routine, Daylight Saving Time struck.

I got up and worked out every day, though admittedly sometimes a lot later than I’d hoped. And every day, even if it was only for a few minutes, I worked on my novel after my shower. Even if I was only reading over and tweaking what I’d written the night before, I always added at least one new line. At least one.

There is something about that momentum, that sense that I’m touching my work every day, that continues to drive me forward. Even on those mornings when the manuscript has loomed large and intimidating, when I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get from point A to B, working and reworking my scenes has left my satisfied that I’m headed in the right direction.

I’m here to tell you that you can do it, too. Even if working out is not your thing, you can still carve out time to put fingers to keyboard. How hard would it be to go to bed a half-hour earlier and wake just a half-hour earlier for a quick writing session? Try it. It might not be as difficult as you think.

Mastering Astral ProjectionBrian Mercer is the author of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body Experience (Llewellyn, 2004) and the Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, he is the webmaster of and occasional contributor to Author Magazine. When he’s not working as a programmer analyst or exploring alternate dimensions out of body, he can be found writing novels. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara.

Site: http://www.brianmercerbooks.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BriMercer

Twitter: @BriMercer

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Brian Mercer, The Writing Life, Uncategorized, Writing & Editing

Fortune and Men’s Eyes

Because You Have ToSo I’m striding toward the grocery store the other day when, a few paces from its front entrance, smack on the public walkway, I come upon an elderly man seated on a folding chair snugged up to a card table.

The table bears a tall stack of books, and a few pens.

As I pass, he stage-murmurs to me just under his breath, the way (in coarse cartoons) sellers of illegal goods say “Psst!”—briefly flashing their visible stashes in the interior pockets of their opened coats:

“Want to buy a book I wrote?” murmured the man.

I glanced, and saw that the book appeared to be a children’s book. I will make up a title for it here (since the actual book is listed online): The Messy Mongoose.

Embarrassed and momentarily undone, I shook my head quickly and hurried past—as if this poor old fellow made a sight too shocking to bear.

Afterward, I felt terrible for hastening past. Even though I didn’t want the book, maybe I should have bought one just to ease the old man’s life, his conviction, his need.

At the same time, of course, I was abashed to the roots of my hair, thinking: isn’t this the bottom-line of it!

            Isn’t this, in effect, what authors do! Or maybe rather, isn’t this simply a radically basic form of what we find we must do—what we find ourselves, much of the time, in the midst of doing?

I remember reading at a local book festival years ago, after which I went to hear others read. I watched an older gentleman, who’d written a book of local history, preface his reading with the remark that he often felt, at these gatherings, like a contender at an “elderberry jam” contest at a state fair.

“Buy my jam,” he quipped, in the persona of one contestant. “No, buy mine,” he added, in the voice of an imagined, competitive other.

When I told my husband about encountering the old fellow selling his Messy Mongoose, he smiled wryly.

“Now there’s a story for you!”

He was urging me to make a short story, sparked by that vision.

But I had no heart to make a story from the poignant image of the earnest old man, selling and signing his own books—except to tell it here, softly, this way. It was and is, finally, too close to home.

Because You Have ToJoan Frank is the author of five books of fiction, and a recent essay collection called Because You Have To: A Writing Lifejust nominated for the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in Nonfiction. Joan holds an MFA in creative fiction from Warren Wilson College, is a MacDowell Colony Fellow, Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in Short Fiction, Richard Sullivan Prize, Dana Award, and is the recipient of grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and Sonoma Arts Council. A two-time nominee for the Northern California Book Award in Fiction and San Francisco Library Literary Laureate, Joan has taught creative writing at San Francisco State University, and continues to teach and edit in private consultation. Joan also regularly reviews literary fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review. She lives in Northern California.

Site: http://www.joanfrank.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joan.frank.9?fref=ts

Leave a comment

Filed under Joan Frank, Self Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing & Editing

Friendship and Writing

Trust Your Life            As I’ve chosen to reduce socializing in favor of more writing time, and have chosen to keep up or reconnect with very few friends, I’ve realized an essential characteristic of friendship: time doesn’t matter. However lengthy the moments, weeks, or years between contacts, real friendship knows no steel-banded boundaries of time, distance, erratic mobile phone connections, or sporadic emails.

I recalled a friend of twenty years ago. I still cherished our many calls and visits. But then we both moved, our interests diverged, and contact ended.

Thinking about her, a few years ago, I phoned the office where her husband had worked. He’d left that position several years earlier. Only one secretary remembered him, and she couldn’t give me any information on his present location.

Then I went to the blessed Internet. A little ingenuity, some dogged clicks, a few more chases, and . . . in front of me stared my friend’s address and phone number!

Excited, I called and left my message as warmly and non-telemarketing-like as I could. A day later, she called back.

Hearing each other’s voices, we screamed like schoolgirls and talked for thirty minutes, filling in the years and exchanging the latest. We’ve been emailing ever since. No time had passed.

Sure, our life circumstances and activities changed, but our mutual warmth and affection, and even our voices, did not. In that recent call, we exchanged confidences as if we’d had coffee together yesterday, with no gap in mutual trust. Now, however long or short our silences, we confide our latest projects and dreams and goad each other, pearl-like, to greater growth. We report uncomfortable new realizations, share small mistakes and greater victories, and support each other in our goals. No time has passed.

Writing, I’ve discovered, is like friendship. If the desire to write knocks at us, and we haven’t for days, months, years, decades, the desire stays with us, like affection for old friends. If we want to write a novel at 20, Julia Cameron observes, we’ll still want to at 80 (The Artist’s Way: Meeting Your Creative Myths and Monsters, Sounds True Audiotape, 1993).

We can stubbornly ignore our writing urge, try to forget it, bury it under all kinds of other activities and pursuits. But eventually we must acknowledge that pull. And here’s the miracle: like true friends’ love, we can rediscover and reactivate our need, captivation, and talent the moment we choose. As if no time has passed.

I proved this a number of years ago. After a frozen spell of several years, I discovered Cameron’s morning pages—three handwritten pages daily, no matter what (see The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity). Skeptical, I was sure I’d lost all drive, motivation, and a little ability. Somehow, though, I made myself do the morning pages, and with their God-sent prodding heat, finally melted my massive writer’s glacier.

At first, though, all I could manage, like diary confessions, were sour complaints about my relatives, my work, my weight, my life, and the writing virus eating my insides. Gradually, all that grousing and cursing eventually wore out. Instead, from those three daily pages began to poke up succinct phrases, perfectly caught descriptions, natural alliterations, and wholly apt metaphors. Six years after producing almost nothing, and previously sure that any aptitude had vanished, I felt again the blissful and thrilling power of writing.

So, like true friendship, you never lose your connection with your writing. Time between contacts or drafts doesn’t dilute; recriminations, excuses, or apologies don’t need to be uttered.

Even if buried, hidden, turned away from for long moments, your writing drive and talent remain. Maybe they’re in the attic under old grimy blankets and outmoded assumptions of what life is for, or crowded into a dim corner with sorry past projects. But your desire still waits for you to clear away the debris, shake off those blankets, and lift it out.

So, blow off the dust with a decisive strong breath. Under all that grime and time, your writing is intact. Greet it like the friend it is. And, with no time passing, just resume.

Trust Your LifeAuthor, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne has published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Women on Writing, Funds for Writers, Children’s Book Insider, Transformation Magazine, and Unity Magazine. A story appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls (2013). With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has assisted doctoral candidates to complete their dissertations (finally). Based on her practice, she is completing a handbook for doctoral students to aid them practically, psychologically, and spiritually. In her 2011 book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books), Noelle draws on examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Her webinar about the book is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95EeqllONIQ&feature=youtu.be  Website: www.trustyourlifenow.com.

Site: http://trustyourlifenow.com/

Leave a comment

Filed under Inspirational, Noelle Sterne, Uncategorized

Nonna: My First Story Teller

Aftersight

As I travel through Italy, I think back on my first impressions of the country that I formed when I was a child, long before I had ever set foot on Italian soil. This was back in the days before the Internet and cellular technology shrunk the world, when air travel was a big event, something for which people dressed nicely, when phone calls to Italy were done in the wee hours of the morning, my nonna and nonno yelling into the phone so they could be heard half-way across the globe.

My nonna was sent on her own to America when she was sixteen years old, by boat to New York, then by train to Santa Barbara, there to live with friends of the family until her father saved enough money to join her in the United States. Her father—my great grandfather—died before that could happen. Except for letters (and eventually the rare phone call) my nonna remained isolated from family and her homeland for almost thirty years, until she eventually visited with her husband and teenage daughter (my mom).

When my brother and I were very small, Nonna would tell us bedtime stories about her early life in Italy. She was born in 1912 in the northern region of Veneto, where some of the harshest fighting of World War I took place in Italy (Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms was set in her hometown).

Nonna grew up on a small farm in a large family that rarely had enough to eat. She told my brother and me stories of her grandmother hiding food and giving it to my nonna and my nonna’s sister so they wouldn’t go hungry. She described windstorms with hail the size of golf balls. She explained what life was like without electricity and indoor plumbing, when stoves were heated with wood and horses and mules were the most common forms of transportation.

Nonna was the first person in my life who told me stories without an accompanying picture book. It forced me to form a picture in my head of what Italy was like, which over time took on mystical, almost Narnia-like proportions.

I first visited Italy with my brother and my cousin when I was in junior high school. It was dizzying to be in the place where all my nonna’s tales had been set. I had just started journaling, but it was there in Italy where I started writing fiction, inspired to write page after page without pause.

I owe incalculable debt to my nonna for giving me the gift of story. Who was the storyteller in your family? Please share with us in the comments below.

Mastering Astral ProjectionBrian Mercer is the author of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body Experience (Llewellyn, 2004) and the Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, he is the webmaster of and occasional contributor to Author Magazine. When he’s not working as a programmer analyst or exploring alternate dimensions out of body, he can be found writing novels. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara.

Site: http://www.brianmercerbooks.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BriMercer

Twitter: @BriMercer

Leave a comment

Filed under Brian Mercer, Uncategorized

Feathers

The NSA FilesI collect feathers when I see them lying on the ground. There is something about feathers that make me feel like I can fly. Who knows what it is. I dream of birds a lot—eagles, owls, hawks, crows—and often birds come to me when I’m daydreaming. Anyone who has followed some of my blog posts know that I’ve helped out a local bird rehabilitator from time to time. Holding an owl is something I just can’t describe. Holding a Peregrine Falcon is down right thrilling.

 

Years ago, I found a feather in the woods around Hudson, Ohio. I walked through the woods a lot while I was living there, and this one day I found what I now know to have been the wing feather of a Barred Owl. It was beautiful. At the time, I didn’t know what it was and I went to the park ranger station to enquire. He told me what it was, showed me a model, and quickly confiscated the feather.

 

It’s illegal to own the feather of a bird that’s on the endangered list. But I didn’t care about that. I had found the feather and felt that I should have been able to keep it. It broke my heart to have to leave the feather behind. I vowed never to ask a park ranger about anything ever again. I promised myself that I’d do the research on my own. I’ve since become more relaxed concerning that promise.

 

Recently, barred owls were taken off the endangered species list. In fact, in some states, they are allowing hunters to shoot these beautiful birds. The owls are infiltrating other owl territories and forcing other owl species out, or killing them off. Barred owls are aggressive, and they’re taking the land for themselves. And, now, we’re killing them.

 

This all sounds so much like what our country (and other countries) do all the time. We infiltrate someone else’s land and take what we want. We shove aside or kill off whoever gets in our way (remember the Indians). There is something wrong about fiddling with nature, yet we do it every day, each and every one of us. For as much as some of us believe we’re saving one species, we’re killing off another. We edge our houses into bear country and then kill the bears that come into our yards to steal food. We clear large portions of land to build housing developments, and then kill off the snakes when they live under our porch because they have nowhere else to go.

 

I’m not saying any of this is good or bad, just noticing how things are, and how humans have double standards, and how a found feather one time is confiscated, and how years later, I can buy a license to kill the same bird and keep all its feathers. I wish I still had that feather. Sometimes I just want to fly away.

Ten Months In WonderlandTerry Persun writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy. He is a Pushcart nominee. His latest poetry collection is “And Now This”. His novels, “Wolf’s Rite” and “Cathedral of Dreams” were ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalists in the science fiction category, and his novel “Sweet Song” won a Silver IPPY Award. His latest science fiction space opera is, “Hear No Evil”, his latest fantasy is “Doublesight”, his latest mainstream/literary novel is “Ten Months in Wonderland”.

Site: http://www.TerryPersun.wix.com/terrypersun

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TerryPersun?ref=tn_tnmn

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tpersun

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/terrypersun/boards/

Leave a comment

Filed under Terry Persun, Uncategorized

Feeling Isolated

The NSA FilesI am not an immigrant, and neither were my parents. I am not a minority in either race or religion. I simply grew up in the country with few neighbors. But certain things were present or happened to me when I was young that made me feel isolated. I can name some of them: my overwhelming shyness, my dark skin, the age difference between me and my older brother, how I was treated by my dad – and there are others things I can guess at: I had no friends to speak of, I had a different way of looking at the world, I feared doing things wrong even after learning them a particular way. All this affected me as a child; they all had their particular side effects.

 

What feeling isolated did to me was push me further into myself, which only exacerbated my situation. My mom suffered from migraines, so my brother had to watch me while she was in bed. Rather than try to keep me from misbehaving, he would teach me whatever he was learning in school at the time (and what he enjoyed most). So, even though I could hardly read, I could do long division before I entered first grade. I could do complex algebra in the fourth grade. Later, when he entered college, I learned to love poetry based on a class he took. We talked about everything.

 

Once I learned to read, I read science fiction novels, my brother’s favorite and most readily available, and parapsychology books, my uncle’s favorite — he used to bring boxes of books to our house after he’d read them, and my parents allowed us to read whatever we liked. By reading in both these fields, my belief system grew from being in the middle of these two, highly separate, ways at looking at the world. This caused me to be even weirder to my “normal” classmates. I started to run with the wild kids, the kids my teachers at the time called “the hoodlums.” Lucky for me, I had no fear of physical danger. I’d do anything.

 

Eventually, my parents interfered and I was asked not to hang out with the hoodlums while at school. So, my isolation grew. I was an outcast at all levels. Even today, I talk about (and believe) as much about the parapsychological world of mystics and mysticism as I do the more practical world of math and physics. I noticed early on, though, that most of the time if I were with the parapsychological group and mentioned some correlation to natural physics, eyes would roll. Equally, if I were with a bunch of math and physics majors and brought up a mystical understanding, their eyes would roll.

 

I still live rather isolated from most people. I work from home, from a small office, where the closest I get to anyone is over the phone. My family is more bothered by my interest in being alone than I am. In all honesty, I don’t mind my isolation – it provides me time to think and write. I’m comfortable with the way I can join the two sides of myself, and have found that I’m not the only one with such disparate belief systems. There are more people like me than I thought while growing up. My friendship base is expanding, but I still appreciate my isolation.

Ten Months In WonderlandTerry Persun writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy. He is a Pushcart nominee. His latest poetry collection is “And Now This”. His novels, “Wolf’s Rite” and “Cathedral of Dreams” were ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalists in the science fiction category, and his novel “Sweet Song” won a Silver IPPY Award. His latest science fiction space opera is, “Hear No Evil”, his latest fantasy is “Doublesight”, his latest mainstream/literary novel is “Ten Months in Wonderland”.

Site: http://www.TerryPersun.wix.com/terrypersun

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TerryPersun?ref=tn_tnmn

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tpersun

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/terrypersun/boards/

Leave a comment

Filed under Terry Persun, Uncategorized

Got Cartridge?

Because You Have To            I just arrived home from Office Depot, where I spent a horrifying amount of money.

On what, you ask?

On an expletive-deleted toner cartridge, among other things.

Surely, this is a fixed racket. Surely the Mob controls the printer cartridge industry, starting with its prices. I mean, are they filled with gold bullion?

Here’s the other miserable inevitability: A writer is forced to consider the work that requires these tools, while she stands in line to pay for the unaesthetic plastic box with carcinogenic filling, and to wonder: What does this mean?

Is the reality an act of folk heroism, to be clucked over by future generations? Brave artist! She stood in line dozens of times to buy expensive, carcinogenic plastic boxes!

            No matter (she tells herself, grimly): other writers have to do this, too.

At least, no author I know admits to sending a Personal Shopper on these rounds.

I bring up the subject precisely because it is so unpleasant, so expensive, and so No Exit—unless you take everything to a copy-and-print center, which will cost you an even bigger fortune.

And the kicker, first and last, is that acquiring this stuff feels so utterly divorced from what the stuff serves: Enduring Art, and other big-deal concepts.

(Don’t tubes of paint or blocks of clay or wood or marble seem more fitted to a Vision, than charcoal-dust-leaking cartridges?)

The items we’re talking about generally come from big box stores, staffed mostly by people I will not invite legal retribution by describing. They (the items) also happen to be necessary to any office, including those of all the day jobs I’ve worked over the past many years while making new writing.

That group of jobs was diverse. But they all needed printer cartridges, paper, binders, clips, staplers, sheet protectors, pens and pencils, markers, those colored sticky things—it was one of the few reasons I liked working in those places.

In reality, I truly love office supplies. But these days, no longer buttressed by a day job’s paycheck, that love sours when time comes to pay for the high-ticket items. And lately, they’re all high-ticket.

Odder still: all this gritty physicality, given that the world’s going electronic.

Bottom line, nonetheless? To keep working, you need your tools. Simple as that.

Even if the whole experience feels like getting treated for a recurring illness.

Which when you think about it, may not be the most inaccurate analogy around.

Because You Have ToJoan Frank is the author of five books of fiction, and a recent essay collection called Because You Have To: A Writing Lifejust nominated for the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in Nonfiction. Joan holds an MFA in creative fiction from Warren Wilson College, is a MacDowell Colony Fellow, Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in Short Fiction, Richard Sullivan Prize, Dana Award, and is the recipient of grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and Sonoma Arts Council. A two-time nominee for the Northern California Book Award in Fiction and San Francisco Library Literary Laureate, Joan has taught creative writing at San Francisco State University, and continues to teach and edit in private consultation. Joan also regularly reviews literary fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review. She lives in Northern California.

Site: http://www.joanfrank.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joan.frank.9?fref=ts

Leave a comment

Filed under Joan Frank, Self Help, Uncategorized