Don’t Forget the Journals and Reviews

Today I spent several hours online researching online publications, and ‘small press’ literary journals. These journals and reviews fly under the radar of my new writers. It is a real shame to miss out on these because they are very important in the literary world, especially online. There have been several times that I have been sitting in a coffee shop enjoying an Americano, and as I look around the room I see some young person busily scratching down the address or e-mail of a publishing company found in a Bible-thick writing Market guide.

Let me tell you that there is nothing wrong with that, I have all of the Writers Markets sitting all of four feet from my desk. But many of these young writers have no clue about the vast expanse of literary reviews that he or she can find in seconds on their computer and send off their short story, essay, or poem in a matter of minutes. In fact, many of these online reviews have submission systems. You just type in your information and cut and paste or upload your Word Doc; click send and it’s off.

I have had more stories and poems published in these little reviews than sending off to a book publishing company.

So if you are a young writer and you are dying to get your short story, essay, poem, or even a portion of you novel, check out the literary reviews and small presses. On the ‘Writers Help’ page on my (soon to be complete) website, I have a pretty good list for you to check out. Just click on any of the links and it will take you right to their submissions guidelines. Check it out www.SamTheWriter.com

Have a good night.

SamTheWriter,

signing off.

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Prose – KEEP OUT: Writers Block

I stare onto a half empty worked piece of literary art. It is half worked, and half empty, lonely; a white lined dessert. I am at a loss. No inspiration cometh. My well is dry, my fountain dribbles bitter water.

It is in these times that I struggle for anything to help and find that the worlds O have been creating will not let me in – No Access Pass! The hundreds of characters that I have intimately inked hide themselves behind this mysterious door of my brain.

I look over the various stories I have passionately begun to write, the several novels I had started, some nearly finished. I know the outlines and try to move them along, yet they remain motionless. I am the Writer, yet my characters refuse to move; plot will not play out, conflict stands still, and characters avoid development.

Even tonight, a perfect night to stay awake all night and write – I am frozen, literally and literally. Creativity has given me ideas to build upon, but, at the same time, the door into my mental workshop stays tightly locked- keeping me out.

I am Blocked.

Writers Block. Why? Is my mind blocking my ability to write, or is creativity (as if it were a person) blocking my entering in to these worlds I need to enter into to finish these great stories.

It is as if the characters have locked the door. The created have conspired. Mutiny. The Created vs. Their Creator.

Or could it be that the stories have called to me, and knowing my present stress forbid me from telling their stories; they fearing mis-interpretation?

I will attempt to sleep and wake early. Maybe the quiet and darkness, the calmness and peacefulness of the early morning will bring to me the blessing of the Muse (or whatever creative spirit there is that sets artists aflame) which will help me to hear better.

Possibly then, I will fall asleep to the stresses of the busyness and wisdom of the world of selfish men and awaken into the realm of creative imagination, and then -only then, I will be given access into their worlds. Them: the characters, which live only in my sub conscience until their exodus to white, paper filled promised lands, will finally turn the key and open the door to me, knowing that I am finally fully listening.

http://www.samthewriter.com

A.T.M. Exercise : Wrong Alley

At This Moment exercise

9:06 am

Wrong Alley

My hands are warm, wet, not my own. My heart pounds, my breath is erratic. A blast of cold air hits my face. I am in an alley. The smell of maggot infested dumpsters makes my stomach turn.

Where am I? A flower pot smashes on the ground thirty feet away. I look up the side of the building. A shadowy head peers out from a window, four or five stories high. It vanishes. The sounds of angry traffic fills the small alley way. Looking down the long hallway of dumpsters, and darkly shadowed door entry ways I see the lights of a busy city street ahead.

The fear of going out into the busy street brings feelings of fear, but the feelings of fear are quickly eaten and digested with a overwhelming need to be far from here. I am hemmed in on all other sides by the alleys massive walls, lined with curious windows; like eyes, watching me, silently accusing me, waiting for the right moment to tell the dark doors to open up and swallow me inside.

I can’t remember how I got here. I was just home, sleeping in my bed, next to my wife, is Andrews Texas. Andrews has no hungry, accusing buildings, with staring windows.

I rub my hand through my hair. Wet, thick, sticky. I look at my hands, they are covered with dark syrup. As I examine them closer I feel the penetrating stare of the windows on me. I try to run, but stumble over something that sends me crashing to the ground.

Something large lies on the cold ground. I get on my knees and crawl over to inspect it. It is covered in the syrup-like… it is blood! It is a man! I push myself away from from him. Looking around the alley the windows seem to expand; wide-eyed and accusing me with a tangible silence.

I scurry to my feet. There is something shiny by my feet. A piece of metal: a knife. My hunting knife!

The silence is filled with chaos. The shadowy door ways start to creak, as if to open up, massive mouths ready to tear me apart and drag me into their basements.

The sounds of police sirens scream through the atmosphere. They are coming for me.

I could not have killed that man. I would have remembered. I don’t remember. Where am I? How did I get here? A metal door bursts open from behind me. I start running. Another door opens and darkness reaches out for me. I run as quickly as I can towards the traffic. Invisible pupils move, staying fix on me. I am an ant running from under the shadow of a fast shoe.

Red and blue lights ahead

Sirens blare.

“Here I am.” I scream. 100 yards, large slithering shadow tongues are on my heels. 70 yards, I wave my arms at the police car parked at the end of the alley. 50 yards, the windows turn into angry eyes with pointed brows, wrinkled brick forehead. All the doors fly open from around me, all the way to the street, like school lockers. 30 yards; I reach my hands out in front of me and gulp in the enough air to scream loud enough to wake the city.

The air is thick, like an invisible arm forcing its way down my throat. My head begins to spin. Am I falling? I twist around in slow motion. The windows seem to smile, brazenly.

The doors slam closed.

Two uniformed officers step into the alley and shine their flash lights.

The alley is lined with maggot infested dumpsters and shadowy entry ways. It is silent, almost too silent. The alleys massive walls are lined with curious windows; like eyes, sleeping now; fully satisfied.

The police officers turn and walk back to their patrol car. Wrong alley, they think.

A.T.M. Exercise : Lost In A Moment

A ‘This Moment’ Exercise

Saturday October 18, 2008

8:39pm

LOST IN A MOMENT

At this moment I am lying in a hot bubble bath. The leak in the faucet drips several drop a second. I left the door cracked so I can see my son, who is running a slight fever, watching Garfield on the TV. My Daughter sits on the floor coloring a princess in her Disney’s Princesses, coloring book.

Lying back in the tub, hot water and suds make an island beach around my stomach and chest, while tiny bubbles crackle around my bald head. I have to stretch my feet up the wall to submerge the upper half of my body. A compromise I willingly and consistently consider necessary.

My senses are becoming more alive; as if awaken by my quiet motionless rest in this liquid universe. I push my head down further into the tub; the water rises above my ears, filling my canals with thick hot warm, like warm honey. The heater kicks on; I feel the light vibration in the tiles of the wall.

A low, base sounding, mechanical humming confirms that the heat-breathing beast has awakened

from his slumber in the laundry room.

A tiny finger touches my forehead.

I open my eyes, my body flinches, cringes, and then becomes stiff, tightly contracting

in my icy wet crypt. I am submerged in freezing water. My daughter looks at me and giggles. “You’re taking forever.” She twirls back and forth, no longer in jeans and long sleeves, but in her pretty pink princess dress.

I suddenly remember. “Dang it!” Ray Bradbury and all the ink-scar characters that affliction the body of the Illustrated Man lay, frozen in time, in a watery grave on the bottom of my tub. I kick the drain release with my foot as I jump out of the cold water.

I grab the yellow towel hanging on the wall next to the sink and wrap it around my chicken-skinned nakedness. Yea, I know it’s the towel that Mom tells the kids not to use, but a towel for ‘looks’ is still a towel.

My daughter points at the puddle on the floor around my feet, I look at the puddle – it turns into a small pond feeding from the water accumulating on my body and running down in small streams. “Oooooo, Daddy, you did that on the floor.”

My son sleeps on the couch; Garfield has been replaced with a Japanese cartoon. I look at the atomic clock that hangs on the wall above my desk. It reads: 2:47am.

“You took for-ever, daddy.” My princess says again with a smile and sleepy eyes.

“Yep” I say, smiling back.

I slip my underwear on. Put the kids in their beds, kiss their soft foreheads, and go to my room. But I’m not tired.

My TV Ate My Homework

tvimagesam Today I had planned to write for a solid four hours. I pinned in my whole day last night:

1. 6am- Wake up, make coffee, take a shower, read Psalms 141 then, dissect The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot, and sip down the last cup of coffee while topping my morning off with a short story from In The Arms Of Angels, by Joan Wester Anderson.

2. 7:20am – Wake up my son and daughter, help my wife, Diane, get them fed, dressed, and dropped off at school by 8am

3. 8:30am – Go to the YMCA. 1 hour – cardio, 1 hour split between chest, abs, and upper back.

4. 11:00am – Lunch with wife

5. 11:30- 3:30pm – write, write, write

6. 3:45pm- Pick up children ……

The day was perfectly planned, al the way till 10:30pm, ending in bed with my wife.

Did it happen this way?

Nope

Why?

Two Words: Creativity Killer

I have talked about things that hinder our creative process, but I want to expose a vampire, or creativity leach, which longs to feed on the artists ability to create. It is the natural enemy to the Muse, and although it can be helpful, it’s in the misuse or abuse that makes it so harmful to your creative-self.

TELEVISION: It ate my schedule

There are always going to be a reasons to turn the TV on. Today I wanted turned it on right about before I got to number 3 on my list of morning goals. I had a moment to check the headline news, while my wife was getting her workout clothes together. While watching the news, there was a story about a man who hid 2 pipe bombs in his stepson’s girlfriend’s house. The story was crazy, and I was drawn in. Then there was another story about a man in California who killed himself, as a result of losing everything with his stocks. After that, they interviewed specialists in the area of suicide who said there have been several suicides over the last few weeks, directly linked to the economic crash.

Story after story, and I was sucked into it all.

At one point I went to comment to my wife about a story we were watching when I found that I was the only one watching. She was cuddled up with a throw pillow, sleeping. I looked at the atomic clock by my computer- 2:57pm. “Oh crap!” I heard myself say. I jumped up and was about to wake my wife when the thought came to me: “I can wake her now, but what good would it do when it comes to our work out, or regaining my writing time?” None. She had to work at the Birth Care Center (labor and delivery nurse) from 7pm till 7:30am. She needed the sleep; I just blew my morning away.

Learning opportunity for me in all of this:

There is something showing on the television at all times, for everyone. Although it can be nice to sit and enjoy a favorite program, a writer can not afford to sit in front of the tube too long. There have been many nights that I have had it in mind to write a certain number of words, an article, essay, short story, etc. and could not make my hand push that little red power button in a timely manner. Before I know it, it’s 2am, and I am too tired to write, and sucked dry of any creative juices.

A writer must write to survive. A writer must spend quality time, daily, with his or her pen and pad (or key board). The writers that Make It in the industry are the ones that Do It at home. I have mentioned before that someone once said, “80% of succeeding and getting the job done is showing up” To get your Work In Progress (WIP) published you first have to finish your WIP. To finished it you have to show up and write. The television is not the only monster out there, there are many things that can steal your creativity.

It is your job to see your writing as -well, just that – your job:

You have to show up.

You have to sit and work

Be mentally clocked in

Don’t mess around while your on the clock

Don’t milk that time.

Don’t spend too much time in the break room

Remember, I am not saying that the TV is evil. All I am saying is keep your focus on your craft.

Don’t let re-runs of the X-Files or The Twilight Zone eat your sci-fi novel. Keep C.S.I. and Cold Case from killing your Mystery Novel. Get your essays, articles, and non-fiction pieces out of the mouth of the morning news.

When your Muse wakes you in the middle of the night asking to see what you did created with the tools she gave you, don’t be caught saying something stupid like, “Sorry my TV ate my homework.”

Write, Write, Write!

SamTheWriter,

signing off

FIGHT to WRITE

samwritefight

Sometimes the hardest thing about writing, is…well, writing.

I love to write. I think one of my biggest problems as a writer is that I have too many things that I am usually working on at one time.

Currently, my work in progress (WIP) is my sci-fi novel, but I am also working on a horror book, a nonfiction book based on myself and some struggles I came through as I child and adolescent, a mystery thriller called ‘Breaking In” (can’t talk about) and several short stories, which I am working on intertwining them into two novels in shorts.

But many writers out there that are like me, and love to write, and plan on it being their future careers, have some stumbling blocks to deal with. the biggest is TIME. For me, I could finish my WIP, and move on to finish other projects, if it were not for the restraints that time puts on me. For one, time only allows 24 hours to a day, and I am sleeping for 4 to 5 of those hours, at work 10 of those hours, eating, picking up the kids and taking the to basketball practice, bringing them home and getting homework done, baths, stories read, and them to bed for about another 4 to 5 hours, and occasionally my wife and I have the same nights off, and I have to make sure that I use that time wisely. My family comes first. Oh yeah, since I’m diabetic, I am supposed to be working out four to five times a week (which is working out great right now). But this leaves me with little time to write.

Working a job that is not at all set on a normal schedule makes it hard to set a daily schedule that I can get use to. At times I want to forget about my passion to write, because it seems like writing has become, for me a daily ritual of hunting down any spare time and filling it with writing. But about the time that I decide I’m going to forget it two things happen:

1. I get so much stuff inside, that I almost bust. I have to write, it is what I was made for.

2. I look at all the things that I need most – time. Time to spend with my family, time with my wife, time to be at all the games, time to take my wife on dates, time to write, time to sleep, and also the money it brings. If I complete my manuscript, get an agent, and let him self my manuscript while I start working on the next, a couple book contracts would give me the money to stop my full time job and get writing full time.

With these things in mind, I have no choice but fight to write. Fight to find time. Fight the temptation to watch tv when I could be pounding out a few thousand words. Fight the desire to sleep all day on my day off because I’m pooped and I want it real bad, when I could brew some dark roast coffee, take a cool shower and hit the keyboard.

I have to fight discouragement when I submit a manuscript and it comes back rejected, and have to remind myself that just as I’ve had them rejected, I’ve have a few accepted; sooner or later with consistence and persistence I’ll get the big manuscript sold instead of just shorts and articles here and there. When I read an editor’s note that says “Sorry, but we are currently not looking for this kind of manuscript.”Have have to follow it up and read through a few of the wonderful critiques that I’ve received on my writings from the writer’s sites I am apart of. (If you haven’t joined a writer’s site look them up there are some really good ones like critters, Author’s Den, or Faith writer’s)

I have had to look at my crazy schedule and and find time, by knocking out where ever I am using time in excess or using it for unimportant things, and put in writing blocks there. Example: I get an hour lunch every day, so I bring my lunch with me, and set up my laptop and write during lunch. If kids go to sleep, and my wife is at work and I do not have to get up too early, I will stay awake later -tv off- and write, or I’ll go to bed when I put the kids down and set my alarm to get up real early and start writing. I carry a pen and little pocket note pad with me all the time for ideas, new directions, character development, story change. And believe it or not, I carry around a little recorder, incase I am having a real busy day and no time to jot down ideas. This way if something good hits me at a bad time (which seems to be the Muse’s way of having fun) I pull the recorder out, walk around the corner and record my idea quickly and then listen to it later.

Well I just put my daughter down for a nap with my wife, and I have to head off to work to meet with two district managers that have flown in to talk about cafe changes. Got to go, guess I’ll be writing at lunch again.

SamTheWriter,

Signing Out

When Your Creativity Calls You In Several Directions

picsofmebigger

So right now, as I am taking the time to pour over the first draft of my CWIP (Current Work In Progress), I am finding that anytime I take a break – go pick up my kids from school, go to one of their games, lay in bed at night, or just get a few minutes to sit on my couch in the quiet of night – I am pulled into creative thoughts about some of the other stories and articles I have worked on in the past. It’s like the different masks of creativity the muse has given me to wear while in character for different writings, are all trying to wear me at the same time.

I know that the most important thing for me right now is to finish this novel so I can send it off and start working on another one, but images and scenes for other works start playing out so clear in my mind that I have to grab a note pad and start writing.

Is this wrong? Is it some mind trap, keeping me from completing my CWIP and a paycheck? Well to be honest, I don’t know. What I do know is that some of these little creative ideas have opened doors for me and led to other publishing opportunities.

I Guess that my dilemma here is more an issue of when I will finish this project. After all it is this project that is most important for me. Because of this I have to look at it as just as much a job as it is a work of passion. As it is with all my writings, they start as a work of passion; something that I seem to give birth to. I can’t just push these stories out pre-maturely, and I have a problem sometimes pushing them out at all. Sometimes the are so over due that they finally just force themselves at, no matter where I’m at:

  • The Switch: Pushed it self out at 4am on a Sunday morning and kept me up till 8am, and I had to be at Church at 10 am – leaving me about an hour of sleep, with a very full day ahead of me.
  • Arbor Day: Forced its way out as quickly as I sat down at work to place a coffee order. I sat down and opened up my Outlook e-mail and WHAMMO, it hit me and I had to grab a close note pad and write.
  • SHE: (a poem about my wife) came to me as I was driving down the high way from Doge City, to Wichita. My wife was in the car ahead of me with her cousin Traci, and I had the kids with me following behind. They had not seen each other for a while and I thought it would be nice for them to ride together. As I listened to Maroon 5, the kids slept, and I could see my wife in the car ahead, this poem just started to pour out like a broken fountain, and I reached into the glove compartment for my recorder, but the batteries were dead. So I grabbed a pen, and started writing – where else; my arm.

This has happened to me several times. But just as it has happened that quick, forceful, and fluid, I have also suffered from the CWIP’s taking forever to come out. I was reading an article in The Writer’s Digest, about working out your current projects, even though your creativity seems dry. The article gave great, but tough, advise. The truth is, you must finish your WIP if you intend to get paid. Sometimes creativity forces you to pick up your pen and flow with the raging rivers of the Muse’s current. Other times you have to pull out your WIP and say, I am not leaving my seat until I have worked it out. WORKED it out.

WORK IT OUT! That is the key. I am a writer. You are a writer. A writer writes, he/she does not think about writing, consider writing, read all the books out there about writing, but WRITES. The truth is, most of the time a writer has to WORK at his craft. Sometimes I sit for long periods of time, some times I walk back and forth talking to myself, interviewing characters, write out my problem and then start several ‘What if’ questions and write out the possible outcomes. Sometimes I sweat, strain my brain. Many times, WRITING is WORK.

When creativity speaks, I listen, I write it down. But then I file it and keep plunging forward into my CWIP. Let the many faces and masks of creativity wear you. Let them give you ideas, take you on short trips, vacation on strange planets, but don’t forget that to be a writer – full time, you have to complete that which is most important. To be full time, you have to get paid to be full time.

Sometimes the Muse will make you work, under an almost drunken state, and it is beautiful. Others times, you need to pound on her door when you she doesn’t want to come out, and make her work for you.

That’s it for today.

SamTheWriter,

Signing out.