A Dead Leaf in a Snowstorm

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I am on my couch, looking out my window. The snow comes down, sometimes hard, sometimes soft, like the sky and ground tumbling together in white sheets. Just outside the window stands a mammoth, gray, gnarled oak that wraps the smaller trees in its limbs. One dead leaf clings to a small branch.

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Too Many Cooks Spoil the Books

I’m I’m a serious bind with the sequel to The Watchmage of Old New York, “Cold Iron.” I was talking to my critique group last week and said that I wasn’t getting any useful feedback, or any at all, from them. It’s true. I bring in a chapter, and everyone just says that it’s great, and I know that it’s flawed.

This is going to sound really arrogant…

The problem is that I’m a veteran writer and writer’s coach of almost 20 years (it’s not skill that makes you a good writer as much as practice and experience), and except for one other person that rarely shows up, everyone else is a dabbler. I’ve been part of critique groups and workshops for 25 years. They’ve been part of 1 or 2. They don’t have the experience to see my work’s flaws. Instead of a give and take, I spend all of my energy coaching them through their writing and even giving mini classes–something I usually get paid for. I need to find a group of more experienced writers, but there are none in my area.

In a blatant attempt to get me to stay, the creator of the group edited the whole novel. Sounds great, but I already have an editor. Now I have 3 different edits for the book (from the group, from this guy, and eventually from my actual editor) and I can’t start revising until I have all three and can integrate their ideas.

Worse, the guy from the group thinks I should expand it (it’s already over 80k) when I want to reduce it. It’s very confusing and annoying. Having more than one person critiquing or editing your book at once is bad news. You end up with too many versions of the same piece. I want one editor per draft, and I was getting that. Now I’m getting a headache.

I hoped to get the book out this year, but I’ll be lucky to get it out next (the first Watchmage book came out in November of 2015). It’s only on the 5th draft, and I’d like to do 5 more. I would rather but out a quality book than a fast one, but I’m under a lot of pressure to get that book out. With a series, you need to keep the books coming at a regular basis, or readers will forget what happened in the previous book. As they say, the best promotion is another book.

I’m basically losing any momentum I had, and I didn’t have much to begin with.

I don’t know who’s more arrogant: me for complaining that I wasn’t getting quality feedback, or the guy that decided to edit my whole thing, suddenly thinking that he can give what I asked for when he couldn’t during group.

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The First Tattoo

I don’t usually write poetry. I’m a prose guy at heart. But this one has been bouncing around my head for a while. In light of the bomb threats to Jewish daycare centers and the desecration of graveyards, it had to come out.

The first tattoo I ever saw,
Was my aunt’s, a pretty songbird.
On her leg.
But first the one I remember

Was late september
And I was four.
On Rosh Hashanna,
On my friend’s father’s lap

Trying not to nap,
I looked to the side.
An old man, or old to me
White beard, yarmulke on head.

And he read
From the prayer book
His white shirt sleeve
Slipped.

And I crept
Closer to see
Green numbers
Six, maybe five

And I tried to ignore
To look away
I didn’t understand
But I knew

I knew I knew I knew
That it was something
Terrible
And I should never speak of it

Never think of it

Forget it

Again.

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Embracing the Dark Side

(A kinda funny, but mostly serious post…because they can’t all be doggos.)

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Ok, one doggo.

It’s very hard to admit this. I try to deny it, to rise above it or work around it, but I’m done lying to myself. I’m done lying to you.

I have succumbed to the Dark Side.

I am only productive when I am angry at something. I need something to focus my loathing, or some other negative trait, on something in order to get anything done. I wrote my first novel because I was pissed at the crap that was getting published by the major companies. I lost 140 pounds because someone said that I couldn’t. I succeed to prove others wrong.

I can’t write out of joy. I have to write out of hate. Only when my heart is full of grit and worms and hot garbage that smells like Manhattan in the middle of a mid-80’s summer can I create anything worthwhile. Otherwise I sit around and do nothing, or worse, have writer’s block.

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And I hate it.

And ironically (or fortunately) that hate of my process, or just regular self-loathing, is what keeps me going. I am never be calm, because writing makes me calm, but I have to be pissed to write. It’s a cycle or hate, satisfaction, and more hate.

But maybe if I embrace it instead of fighting it, maybe that will give me the control to turn it on and off. Instead of falling into the Dark Side, I can control it (oh, and if that isn’t a recipe for disaster cake). Maybe it’s like a football player putting on their game face. I can focus all of my rage into a hat, or maybe a jaunty scarf, and put it on when I need to.

Craig at MNF

(Yes, that is actually me. I’m a Jets fan. No wonder I’m so full of rage.)

A jaunty scarf would be nice.

So I find things and people to be mad at and about. I harp on my own weaknesses and frailties (of which I have many, though I’m apparently very good at hiding them because no one believes me when I say that I’m awful) to fire myself up. I bleed all over the keyboard.

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And I’m sure that I’m not the only one. No wonder so many artists are miserable.

There’s a quote that’s often attributed to Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain, or whoever made the meme feels like giving it to. It goes “write drunk, edit sober.”

I don’t write drunk, I write angry. As for editing, I’m usually calm when I start editing and ready to shoot myself afterwards. Or Force Choke myself.

Ah, the power of the Dark Side.

Wanna see the results of my self-loathing and rage? Check out The Watchmage of Old New York or Song of Simon, not to mention one of the many short stories anthologies or journals you’ll find me in (or old articles from back when I used to write non-fiction). But mostly, the books. Read the damn books. Or don’t, it’s okay. I know that you’re busy, and there’s a lot of great stuff on Netflix.

Look! I even made cute little ads:

The Watchmage Is Coming

SoS Practice Ad 1

 

Humble Brag

So the good news is that my blog broke 17,000 views the other day. I don’t know if that’s good or not, but it’s a few thousand more than last year. The bad news is that I was hoping to break 20,000, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to do that. Still, I’m happy.

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Less bragging:

I got my review for The Watchmage of Old New York back from the Writer’s Digest 24th Annual Self Published Book Awards. No, I didn’t win. I did score an average of 4 out of 5 though, but I feel that I could’ve done better. The full review pointed out some weaknesses, some i was aware of, some I was not. I’m considering posting the review. It’s brutally honest. My mood has been pretty shitty for some time now, and the review didn’t make me feel any better. I know that it’s a big contest and a 4/5 is pretty good considering that thousands enter. It just feeds into my insecurities that I’m not good enough. But hell, what good writer thinks they are? If you don’t think that your work is shit, you’ll never try to get better.

The constant rejection from agents has been hurting me too. I’ve pretty much given up.

Man, all of my stuff goes to dark places these days. I’m having trouble writing the 3rd Watchmage book. The second one is still in edit phase. My super secret romance project under a different name (shhhhh!) is almost ready, and the website going along with it is becoming something bigger than I expected. I don’t talk about sexuality here for good reason, but I’m human and it’s a big part of who I am. Like everyone else, I need to be loved…preferably as often and in as many different positions as possible. 😉

Ok, that’s why I don’t talk about it here.  Bad Craig! Naughty, evil Craig!

monty-python-zoot

Ok, I’m punching out. I’m freaking starvin.

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