Staggering Forward is Technically Progress

What in the blue hell just happened?

I was up at 6am, went and did 45 minutes of cardio, and came back home. It was somewhere around after that time that everything went to pot.

My goal was ten chapters. It was an intentionally lofty goal—eight or nine would have still been great, five would have been acceptable.

I did three.

Another side-goal of mine, since I can’t sit for hours on end staring at a computer screen, was to re-mulch the back area of my yard. (This is not a difficult project. It’s a small strip and I use oak leaves.)

I mean, I looked at the area.

The problem is, I can’t figure out for the life of me what happened.

I had one minor set-back; my FIL’s battery died at a nearby park, so I ran and gave him a ride home. But that accounts for, at best, thirty to forty minutes of my day. I went grocery shopping, but the list was small and I was in and out in record time. I got to see my toddler interact with her Early Steps counselor, which was a treat, but that was about one hour. So… I can account for roughly two hours out of a day where I got such little progress that it’s frightening.

It may only be Tuesday, but as I’m starting my new job on Monday (and it’s quite an intensive one, time and brainpower-wise) my aim is to have Capitalist Bacon ready to start querying by Saturday. Sitting partway on chapter nine, with sixteen to go, is not a great position to be in. (Not to mention a few other obligations this week, particularly on Thursday, aren’t going to allow ample opportunities for make-up time.)

About two months ago or so, I wrote a blog about how having a structured 9-5 in-office job had forced me to organize and prioritize my days, especially in terms of writing, and how I found a boost in productivity thanks to it. Looks like I’ll need to snatch that lightning in a bottle going forward. Because by Jove, I’m getting this novel ready to go by Saturday.

Wish me luck, y’all. And if you’re enjoying blog posts about a struggling wanna-be author, I suggest you check the top menu for ‘Published Here’. The Poetic Narrative awaits you, a tale of just how bad things can go for struggling creatives, both in terms of the story itself as well as the story’s quality. You were warned.

Till tomorrow!

The Beast is Slain

Happy Monday everyone. I hope you all had a productive start to your week and that the caffeine flowed freely.

Much hand-wringing and meditation and possibly a shot of rum later, The Problem Chapter of Capitalist Bacon is now just Chapter 3. This did slow down the pacing of my edits… I concluded today on chapter 5 (again, out of twenty-five). Which is a bit behind schedule, but it should be fine.

While I am sweating the financial situation of being jobless for a week, I can’t argue the pleasure of spending a Monday editing my novel, playing with my toddler, gardening and composting, and cooking a lovely set of lamb chops for dinner. A guilty pleasure to be sure, but those are the best kind, after all.

Lest something weird happen and this novel actually becomes a success, I don’t want it to sound like I’ve done all the work myself. I have had world-class beta readers, all great writers themselves, and they have given me some suggestions that I have shamelessly taken and applied with gusto. (And yes, I leaned on two of them to ensure that my perceived fix of The Problem Chapter worked.) Fellow writers, whatever you do, get yourself *quality* beta readers. I can’t emphasize that enough, nor emphasize my gratitude to mine enough.

Tomorrow shall be another glorious day of edits. Goal is to get through ten chapters. If you’ve written a novel, you’ve likely experienced how the quality increases as you move along, so hopefully that speeds the process up.

For now, rosemary and garlic basted lamb chops await. (Lemme know if y’all want the recipe, this isn’t a cooking blog but I’m willing to share.) As ever, wish me luck tomorrow y’all, and I’ll see you then.

Sunday Funday

I’m on chapter three.

This sounds like an issue because there are twenty-five chapters in Capitalist Bacon. But being at three out of twenty-five is not *actually* the issue. The issue is: chapter three is The Problem Chapter.

While there is work to be done throughout the novel, for the most part each chapter worked. They played their part in terms of character development, plot progression, etc. They featured all the requisite parts for a chapter to work–conflicts, turns, twists, hooks, etc. And the ones that fell somewhere short on these have relatively easy fixes. An earlier or later beginning/ending, a reverse of dialogue, trimming some fat, what-have-you.

Not this chapter. This is The Problem Chapter.

Chapter three is critical in introducing one of the three POV characters as well as fleshing out a major secondary character. It lays the groundwork for conflicts that reverberate throughout the rest of the novel. The first three chapters are the bedrock on which the novel sits, and yet this chapter… is The Problem Chapter.

I really can’t go into detail about what the issue is, aside from there is a lack of conflict, and no clear way to introduce conflict without throwing the rest of the chapter off-balance. There are a few other things that need to be tweaked, but those can all be handled relatively easily. One of my beta readers, an extremely talented author in his own right, called this chapter one of the most intriguing problems he’s ever seen (yay).

So here we sit. It is Sunday, and I am staring at The Problem Chapter. Fix this, and the novel should sing. Fail, and the whole thing will fall apart.

Wish me luck.

Random Friday Attack!

Can’t be late if I’m not even bothering to pay attention to my self-imposed schedule!

Great news—I found a new job. Quite the promotion, really. Plus it is WFH, which was a major thing I was looking for.

I begin Nov. 2nd, which means I have a week to myself. While I do have a variety of tasks I need to accomplish in that time frame—some car repairs, badly overdue yard projects (me? running behind? never!)—there is one primary goal to accomplish: finalize edits of my hopefully debut novel, Capitalist Bacon.

The beta readers not only gave some amazing feedback that will really turn this lump of carbon into a diamond (assuming I apply the feedback correctly), but also a great amount of encouragement.

If the title doesn’t give it away, yes, there is a strong political lean in this book. Sales can be one of the most capitalist environments out there, so it tends to be… fun… when a sales person is a socialist. Let’s just say few sales managers likely voted for Bernie. (To be clear, that doesn’t mean they are all necessarily pure MAGA, either.)

But to be clear, the story isn’t just an inverted Animal Farm. What I hope to have created is a story that just about everyone has faced: living in the world we want to live in, versus living in the world we do live in.

I’ve created a schedule for myself over the next week that should allow me to finish this last round of edits and be able to begin poking agents. Yes, I will first attempt traditional publishing. Since time can be scarce for me, I am hoping to receive some additional support in getting this out to the world.

Part of my new self-imposed schedule, which I shall surely follow to a T, is to have update posts here every evening detailing my progress. So stick around!

A Bit of a Pivot

Happy Friday, y’all. I’m officially over two weeks late for this.

Normally this is where, after the standard apology for my tardiness, I go on to talk about where I’m at in my writing journey. The open journal for me to look back upon and cringe and all that. And while there’s plenty going on in that front (Capitalist Bacon cleared beta readership, some more shorts are out, some more rejections are in), I decided instead to take a different route this week. (Er, last week? Not sure what to count this blog post as anymore.)

Currently, I work in a pro-MAGA, heavily live-to-work environment. This clashes with my personality, my beliefs, and my goals. Ergo, while I am grateful to at least have a job right now, I’m also still very much in the job hunt. I am, daily, perusing application platforms like ZipRecruiter, Indeed, etc. etc.

Capitalism in a deep recession isn’t a great experience, we already know and feel this (and it’s not the first time for us Millennials, either). But if you want proof of just how miserable it can be, go ahead and visit one of these platforms and search for sales jobs.

Overwhelming even the glut of life insurance positions (which are legitimate enough), you will see scores of listings promoting “work from home, make $100-250k”. Too good to be true, obviously… except many sales professionals worked those kinds of jobs in the before-times. (I completely understand if that makes you a lot less likely to feel sympathetic towards them, but I assure you that’s not really the point here.)

But yes, they are indeed too good to be true. They’re the fun new face of MLMs (multi-level marketing schemes, otherwise known as pyramid schemes).

Of course, they’re well-hidden. In fact, you’ll even find them falsely posting under completely different company names. It’s a fun feeling thinking ‘wow, so-and-so is a great company, let me definitely apply there!’ and immediately get blasted with emails and texts asking you to watch videos on how Symmetry Financial or whoever-the-hell-it-is-today will make you all the money.

Most of them, however, are posted under completely random names. Like: ‘The Williams Agency’ or ‘Robert’s Group’. The names may be similar to other, more legitimate companies, but a quick glance will show no relation—and it’s probably not even meant to be implied that there was. Because, remember, pyramid schemes work by ensnaring people and turning them into puppets for said scheme. So, ‘The Williams Agency’ is in fact some LLC set up by a person named William, the entire purpose of the business being to grab more victims.

Pyramid schemes aren’t new. You’ve heard of them, probably know someone who dabbled in it (or still does). Perhaps you’ve even been suckered into a meeting or whatever. Generally, only fools fell for them. (Sorry if that includes you, but hey, failure is a great teacher.)

Yet seeing the number of postings, this is different now. And it makes sense. People are desperate. They’re scared. They’re all the negative emotional states a person should be in order to fall victim to a scam.

And to see also the level of deceit being employed just to get you to ‘apply’… those who operate these schemes know it. They smell blood in the water.

Every single posting was once a victim, and now a part of the problem. I do feel some sympathy, in a way. They’ve ‘invested’ money—probably a fair amount of it, all without a source of actual income—into whatever MLM lured them in. And they can’t just break even. They need to profit. This is replacing that missing source of income. The only way to crawl out of the pit they’re in is to grab more victims and climb out over their bodies.

Capitalism values greed. In dire times, this greed turns to cannibalism. We can’t celebrate the achievements that capitalism has brought, brag about the increased fervor in innovation, and ignore this side of it.

In prosperous times, pyramid schemes were just ways that nutrition shakes or cosmetic products or whatever shook down some suckers for a few bucks. In less-than-prosperous times, they’re complete and total scams intended to drain the desperate many for the fortune of a few.

You know, capitalism!

There’s a reason these practices aren’t illegal. There are laws and regulations surrounding them, but these are often easily loophole’d. At their core purpose, they are a few exploiting the hungry so that the top grows wealthy at the bottom’s expense. It would be a rich irony if a country that counts Jeff Bezos as a citizen did anything to stop that kind of activity.

And, perhaps in a delicious note of irony, those who fall victim to this are far more likely to lean capitalist over socialist. The entire marketing message is designed that way. (Told you the point of this isn’t to generate sympathy.)

When the economy eventually rebounds (ok, if…), a lot of these companies will fold, or restructure, or retreat to the shadows and continue operations on a scaled back level. And when the economy tanks again, they’ll be back in force. Because so long as we are a capitalist society, this is what you’re asking for, and this is what you’re going to get.

On a final note—if you are worried about these kinds of traps, or know someone in the job market and want to give them a heads up, Huffington Post recently published a great article explaining how to avoid them.

Y’all stay safe and healthy out there. Till next time.

(Oh, and don’t forget to go check out the Poetic Narrative. The second comes out soon!)

So, I Really Do Suck At Discipline, Huh

Last time I screamed into the empty, echoing tubes of the internet, I talked about how having an 8-5 in-office job had forced me into stronger writing discipline and focus.

Seems appropriate that this blog now starts with a complete breakdown of that, considering my self-imposed (and rarely met) schedule of a blog post every other Thursday having once again been missed.

Honest to G-d, I just straight up forgot. I have reminders on my phone and everything, and still somehow managed to fail.

Le sigh.

On the writing front, I haven’t done much new. Before drafting this I did receive a personal rejection for a story–but of course I can’t entirely understand what it was they didn’t like, so.

….le sigh.

Writing is a challenge. My saving grace is I love it. I may never be successful, but I will keep doing it, if for no other reason than the pleasure of putting words to paper (metaphorically, considering I use Word and Google Docs). Even if ultimately its just beta readers and/or friends and family who enjoy my work, that’s actually pleasure enough to continue.

I hope those of you out there reading this also find that same solace. I know we all want to be successful. After all, it would be weird if you didn’t want that. Who wants to write stuff that nobody likes?

Its good to have realistic goals. I’ve heard the stories of people who want to write a book ‘because it will give them financial freedom’ or some other dumb such. Please don’t be that person. Write because you love it. That’s the one thing you have full control over. Write for yourself, or for a few select others. Hope for the best after that, sure! But writing the next big thing for the sake of writing the next big thing is a bit like playing the lotto. Love it or hate it, Twilight was a smash hit, and definitely gave Stephenie Meyer financial freedom. And she initially wrote it as fan-fiction, really just for herself. You can debate for hours the quality of the work, and even the moral implications of her MC’s arc and decisions, but at the end of the day I would firmly state she wrote it for the right reasons: to give herself joy.

If writing is ‘work’, if it doesn’t bring you happiness just to do it, then don’t. Chances are it won’t work out.

Love your craft. Either the rest will come or it won’t, and while there are fantastic resources out there to help you turn it into a career, at the end of the day there’s only so much you can control when it comes to financial success. Maybe people will love your work. Maybe they won’t. But you can love it.

Sometimes it’s best to just write what you want, work your ass off to make it the best it can be, and then go with that.

Which is what I will now continue doing. Till next time, one person who reads this. Till next time.

It Is Blog Time, My People

Happy Thursday (Friday) evening to all. Well, to those in the Western Hemisphere anyways. Happy… whatever day/time it is for you, wherever you may be. (P.S., I meant

Writing takes a new life when your time is constricted. Between children, a wife who apparently enjoys my occasional company, a full time job, the various animals and my garden… le sigh, as the kids say (I’m kinda old so if the kids don’t actually say that anymore, just leave me to my blissful ignorance).

And yet, I’ve still managed to complete my third draft for my novel Capitalist Bacon, am working on a second draft for a 5K short story, and am happily beta-reading along with two other novels (which is really giving me an inferiority complex considering how damn good they are).

Finding time to structure writing into my day is a challenge, but I think it’s actually brought out the best in it. Something about having the time crunch of a lunch hour while at work and the frenzied focus of writing time I do manage to give myself on weeknights has birthed a great new focus.

Up until last month, I was unemployed for a bit. (Yay 2020!) I had time. Granted, I was also frantically looking for a new job, while also taking extra toddler duties, but I certainly had more time. Looking back, it was very random and unfocused time. Occasionally I found myself with three straight hours to write, or even more. And yet I would easily become distracted, or if I hit a snag in the writing, I could just get up and walk away for a bit–no rush, right?

In the daydreaming I do on my work commutes (because of course I went from a working-at-home job to an in-office job when the entire rest of the world pivoted the other direction), when I dare to imagine a life where I’m a full-time writer, I do wonder how I would still manage to harness that focus.

But while its fun to daydream, its probably not an issue I’m going to have to worry about. And if I am ever so lucky, well, that’s most likely so far off, no use to worry about it now. Yet, it is nice sometimes to see the bright side of things. Quality, not quantity, rules how I want to write, so even with the annoying time suck that is a job, in a weird way it’s been a blessing to my craft.

That’s all for now. Til next Thursday. Oh, and obligatory self-promo time! Check out The Poetic Narrative (under ‘Published Here’, if that’s not clear enough), a website exclusive*, and sign up for my newsletter for more inane ramblings and another exclusive story*!

*totally not exclusive here because there’s no way they would ever get published elsewhere

The Schedule Says Its Time for a Blog Post

So, uh, here’s a blog post!

Since I’ve been operating off of the idea that this will be a journal of what not to do and how not to do it, let’s review what’s new and why its all wrong.

On the good news, the second edit of my WIP is going swimmingly. I am quite behind self-imposed schedule, but a.) when you have ADHD like me, you tend to make ridiculously optimistic schedules regardless, and b.) considering I’m in week two of being finally back to work, time isn’t quite as luxurious as it once was. That said, I’m over halfway through, and really I think it will be ready for the next round of #PitMad, which is the ultimate goal anyhow.

On the bad–rejections abound. A story I really believed in was submitted some months ago to Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition. I got the email back this week that it didn’t place. Not as in first, second, or third. As in, not even ‘honorable mention’. Something particularly unpleasant when you think to yourself ‘this has a shot at the gold!’ and being told ‘no, actually, we’d rather not even mention it exists’.

Two other rejections rolled in as well, including one that had been held for quite some time at a well-esteemed magazine. Normally I keep my expectations low when submitting, but this one had dared to spark a kernel of hope in me, considering how long they kept it. So to not even get a personal rejection after that was another uppercut to the chin.

(At this point, you’re probably wondering to yourself… ‘self, I don’t think it sounds like he’s very good at writing, maybe I shouldn’t bother on his website anymore’. This is fair.)

But onwards and upwards. The beta reader feedback on my works has been growing increasingly positive–moving from structural issues like missing character arcs and other story-killers to more line edit nitpicking. (Some structural issues still arise. Let’s not kid ourselves here.) I did receive a personal rejection from one mag of esteem, my second from there, and trust me a personal rejection from a magazine that receives hundreds of submissions a week is honestly a win.

Eventually, this journey will start properly, and I’ll be telling you all to go read one of my stories in ‘Doc Smitherwick’s One Issue Magazine That Features A Story This Random Guy Emailed Us And We Didn’t Pay For’. And then, it’ll be smoooooth sailing, my friends.

Also, go read The Poetic Narrative, up now here as a website exclusive! Because I’m clearly such a good author, you definitely don’t want to not read that (maybe)(ish).

Till next time!

Screaming Into the Void

So my goal is every other Thursday, I’m throwing up a new blog post. Despite really having just launched this website, my original blog post was written two weeks ago, and in the interest of discipline I’m going to go ahead and post a new one now.

And in the interest of me being who I am, I’m already a day late with my own self-imposed schedule.

I figure that this blog would best serve as some sort of horrific timeline of a dude wanting to become a writer. A thing for me to, down the road, look back on and cringe. And extra cringe knowing I made it public. Well, sorta public I guess. Hi again, mom!

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I wrote my first novel at 17, re-wrote it entirely at 19, and wrote a second novel around 20-21. (They’re both garbage. You probably guessed that.) My first ‘published’ story was for some forum that was offering $25 for short stories. I think I was 16-17. I don’t even recall if I actually edited it, or if I literally banged it out and hit ‘send’. They posted it and mailed me the check.

That was a cruel first sense of standard to receive about my writing. Because that story was probably garbage too. But at the time, I took it as validation.

I did get away from writing in my mid 20’s through early 30’s. I banged out a few ideas for novels, did some scenes and chapters here and there, stuff like that. Goofy shorts for my friends. But around 32 or so, I decided I wanted to take it seriously. It began with me pulling the idea of a Western I’d worked on previously and getting it together. I got about a third of the way through when I realized ‘yikes, I don’t think I was as good at this as I previously thought’.

So it was time to, you know, work on that. I scoured the internet for writing activities and tips. Starting reading Writer’s Digest, and went down the rabbit hole of #WritingTwitter.

Just as I was about gassed out on that second part, realizing that, uh, Following Spree! and No Impostor Syndrome Here! were less useful than a tomato sauce soaked paper towel at a cleaning party, I randomly stumbled across the mention of a writing group, namely The Inkubator.

Holy hell. It was like when Bruce Banner went into the gamma chamber and lived happily ever after (I think that’s what happened, I’m a bit hazy on the details). I came across writers of astounding ability and infinite patience who were more than willing to absolutely trash my work, shred every word, take the last bare threads of my dignity and light them in a gasoline-soaked pyre.

It was amazing.

See, I don’t actually like cheerleading. That’s not a knock on the practice, nor on those who do take something from it. But for me, it does nothing. I don’t want to be told I’m good. I want to be told what I’m bad at, and ergo what I need to fix to become great. (To be clear, when I joined the group, I wasn’t ‘good’. At all.)

So let’s fast forward this rambling, meandering, and otherwise adjective filled fiasco to the now. About a year into this writing group, and after a previous year or so of trying to hone my craft on the solo, I now have the confidence to submit shorts to magazines, and am halfway through my editing rounds with a new novel. We’ll see where it all goes.

My confidence is back, so it’s a matter of getting the wind knocked out again.

Onward and forward!

Obligatory First Blog Post

What in the actual hell do I write about here? The year is 2020. Even if the sweet merciful release of death comes to us all, we know that in this cursed epoch of a year said release would neither be sweet nor merciful. No, the murder hornets would be a Chekhov’s gun that finally goes off, and with much blood splatter.

Ahem. But that’s not what this post is supposed to be about. I’m supposed to be introducing myself to those following me here (so, hi mom!). Who am I?

I’m a gardener and a cook (nothing like cooking fresh veggies you just picked yourself). I’m a father and a husband. With the amount of animals we have, I think I also classify as a zookeeper. But not like one of those creepy tiger guys.

And I’m a writer. A good one? No. Working on it? Yes!

I love writing. Always have. I love the craft of it–all of the different styles, techniques, methods. Understanding what each and every word means, beyond just the dictionary definition. The flow of words and how they impart comedy in the banal, or dread in the calm. I’m even starting to love the process of editing (but not entirely).

About two years ago I started to take it seriously. Before that it was just some things written here and there, with little thought beyond the joy that crafting gave me. I’ve now drafted dozens of shorts, a few novellas, and am in the second round of editing a novel (not technically my first, but the others were written when I was in my late teens/early twenties and they are not really worth mentioning). Most importantly, I joined an incredible writer’s group filled with individuals who talents are not only lightyears beyond my own, but who are imbued with the patience to share that talent and help me grow. And dear G-d above does that require monumental patience.

So now I’m roughly at the area where my confidence has grown just enough that I am willing to put my words out there. I’ve got some short stories pending with pro-level mags, entered some contests of esteem, made a Twitter account. Also, this website.

Why the website? Well, if I ever get to the point that people like my writing, I very arrogantly want to point them to all the places they can find it. It’ll also feature some exclusive works here! Plus the random blog updates. About what? Who knows. Maybe my killer (and easy!) grilled white eggplant recipe. Stick around and find out. We can be surprised together.

Also—in the interest of full disclosure, I am a cisgendered, heterosexual white male. Does that matter? Yes and no. It matters in the sense that, if someone feels that there are certain topics in my works that should be dissected with that consideration, then it should be an open fact. And I myself am open to that dissecting. Call me out. Tell me where I’m wrong. A very good writer friend of mine did so not that long ago and I feel I’ve grown from the experience. Just like my writing, I am a work in progress, and I’m also committed to putting the same effort into that as I am putting into my words.