Juggling my Balance

We hear about it all the time. We should have balance between work and play, business and pleasure, etc. Looking at my own life lately it’s not so much an issue of balance as it is juggling.

The balance has several dictionary definitions.

bal·ance

baləns/

noun

noun: balance; plural noun: balances

  1.  

an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

“slipping in the mud but keeping their balance

  1.  

a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

“overseas investments can add balance to an investment portfolio”

  1.  

an apparatus for weighing, especially one with a central pivot, beam, and a pair of scales.

  1.  

a counteracting weight or force.

  1.  

a predominating weight or amount; the majority.

the balance of opinion was that work was more important than leisure”

 

  1.  

a figure representing the difference between credits and debits in an account; the amount of money held in an account.

“he accumulated a healthy balance with the savings bank”

verb

verb: balance; 3rd person present: balances; past tense: balanced; past participle: balanced; gerund or present participle: balancing

  1.  

keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.

“a mug that she balanced on her knee”

  1.  

offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another.

“the cost of obtaining such information needs to be balanced against its benefits”

So, the definition I believe fits best is under the verb #2 definition

“offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another.”

This is much more descriptive of what I do. Look at deadlines. Sleep, adulting, spend time with my partner, activities solely for my pleasure. All of these must be weighed in what can I trade off for now versus what can I do later.

Really, it all comes down to scheduling proactively, think ahead and rearranging to meet all these pieces you need to make your life work.

Isn’t that juggling?

verb

gerund or present participle: juggling

 

  1. continuously toss into the air and catch (a number of objects) so as to keep at least one in the air while handling the others, typically for the entertainment of others.
    • cope with by adroitly balancing.

“she works full time, juggling her career with raising children”

  • organize (information or figures) in order to give a particular impression.

 

“defense chiefs juggled the figures on bomb tests”

So many pieces here seem to fit. All of these plates in the air at once. And ol’ Murphy always comes along to throw another plate, pin, or maybe a chainsaw into the mix.

Whatever Murphy tosses at me I try to stay calm with it. Getting upset or angry at unforeseen circumstance I always thought was a waste of energy. No the other piece of juggling my balance is adapting. Take time to prioritize the items on my to-do list. Do my best to make a plan. Try to follow the plan and wait to see what survives of it once the day begins.

Now if I just didn’t have to sleep…

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

 

Researching stories

Learning is a pleasure of mine, and researching stories is a portion of the fun writing them. So many things to learn and you know the hardest part for me? Knowing when I should stop. Researching is often a rabbit hole and forms a part of the problem for me of procrastination.

Research is an important part of writing but remember time spent researching is not time spent writing. Right now I am working on a weird jazz story. The story must have jazz at its core but an element of the weird or supernatural.

It is always good for research to be focused. Knowing Who, What, Where and Why of your story is a good start. But expanding on those ideas is important and to do that you have to know what pieces you need to research in order to expand your initial ideas into a story.

Several of my stories have had essential elements based in history or real locations. Ned Land vs. The Kraken Cult had a lot of research into the whaling industry and culture of whaling in the 19th century.  A burst of inspiration added a character midway suddenly needing research into children’s attire and customs. The Australian Gold rush was a topic in Birds of a Feather.

And because research can be fun, after this is not a term paper, one piece of information or topic always leads to another, and another and the rabbit hole of the internet can be bottomless.

  1. Common wisdom is performing your research first.
    1. I certainly perform a good deal of preliminary research but by no means all of it. Mainly because I cannot anticipate everything I may run into as I write, perhaps as I gain experience this will change. For now though, if I run into a question I sop and research it.
  2. Prioritize your research.
    1. You have the idea, but is it plausible? What do you need to get started? This is the overview research I begin with, my concept. For a recently completed historical fiction, Winter Tales, the concept is about the first journey of a Viking Merchant. There are plenty of stories about Viking raiders and plunderers but they were also merchants. I used archeology articles and historical documents. It was easy to confirm the concept.
  3. Visit the library.
    1. There is a lot of information there. It can do you some good to get out from behind your computer. I have found it is often easier to focus on one research topic doing this too.
  4. The internet these days puts almost anything within reach of a creative search.
    1. It is also my favorite rabbit hole. Since I have a hard time knowing when to stop I will often set an alarm. It usually works. A time limit helps me focus on the needed research and provides me a stopping point. Do I always listen? Well, not always.

Right now, as mentioned I’m writing a weird jazz short story. The research need I have now? How a jazz playing mystical guardian deals with physical threats. As the old D&D saying goes, the answer to any magic user is cold steel. But what about fangs?

Thanks for reading,

Ernest

 

DEATH

This is a topic all writers handle in different ways. Writers are known for is killing characters. Some writers even seem to make a career of it, yes, I’m looking at you Mr. Martin. Death has certainly occurred in several of my stories and I have been threatened upon pain of death if I killed particular characters. In one my first stories published, “Birds of a Feather”, a teacher friend and my editor were both very pleased with the obvious depth of relationship between the main character and his mule. As far as we know the mule survived.

Sometimes, dying might have been a better option. In a gothic horror/romance, this was my most Lovecraftian story, a young lady was meant to be a sacrifice. My editor pleaded and cajoled for me to allow her to live. Yes, she survived. But sometimes, dying might have been preferable to her new quality of life. And yes after the re-write, my editor agreed, the young lady would have been better off dead.

As a writer, part of making the characters come alive for the reader is in making them relatable. For that to happen most of us turn to our own experiences. There have been deaths in my life, any of us who life very long on this Earth will have the experience of a pet, a friend, loved one, or other family member passing from this mortal coil. One death which struck me particularly hard was loss of a pet.

When we met, my partner had two cats. Both have died during the nine years we have been together. One was an older orange tabby named Scutter; the other a tiger-striped named Cheshire. Scutter and I bonded strongly over six years until her stroke. Her quality of life dropped instantly and within forty-eight hours we decided to euthanize her. It was my privilege for her to curl in my lap as two drugs were administered. The first was a muscle relaxant meant to slow her heart and ease any pain, its effect was unmistakable. Within a minute she relaxed in a way that way only a cat is able too. Being a part of my life daily, I knew she was getting older and had begun to endure physical ailments, yet in the daily progression of aging I had not realized how much had her physical being had deteriorated. It dawned upon me how long it had been since I heard her purr; my heart broke when she did. In those seconds of relaxation, I appreciated just how much of a struggle daily life had become for her. For the briefest of moments, in full selfishness, I did not want the second drug administered. The wonderful and caring veterinarian administered the second drug, the one to stop her heart. I caressed her until death came. It was as if one moment she was there, the next she wasn’t. I recall saying she was gone and the veterinarian saying it usually took longer. She listened for a heartbeat. There was none. My friend was gone.

I called the office and reported out sick. I cried. For two days I cried a lot. My partner and I both did. When we give to something with a lifespan shorter than ours, and it gives back to you unconditionally, losing that bond can be a devastating blow. Three years later we have our moments of  what has become known as a “small orange sad”.

That is one of the well springs I draw upon when I wrote about the death of a character. Feeling numb, maybe a bit of shock at the loss, and how I related to people and I try to imbue my characters with some of it.

Sometimes Death is handled by being a character. Death has been a favorite of mine since Ingmar Berman’s “The Seventh Seal”. Terry Pritchett’s character of Death is one I always enjoy. Truly trying to understand the poor mortals he so meticulously watches over. Really, Piers Anthony’s personification of Death from “On a Pale Horse”, a part of the Incarnations of Immortality series, where Death is a job, is probably my favorite. After reading it, I wanted his job.

Death, the character, allows the writer to create a little distance in the narrative. Perhaps it allows us to see or show a different, maybe more objective, perspective on a situation. Death can be many things in this way: a friend, a hunter, a businessman, travel agent, or teacher as needed for story. Often personifying Death gives the freedom for a narrator to be present, to alleviate or create a fear factor.

In one of his essays, H.P. Lovecraft wrote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”. What, pray tell, is more unknown than death? Religions, not touting any one over any other, all have an answer regarding death. Some people seek out a deity when it is believed death is imminent.

Whether a writer treats Death as part of a life cycle, a force of nature, a person, or an agent of fear one thing is certain. Death is now and will likely always be one of my favorite plot devices.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

P.S. One of my goals is to write everyday. I did begin this on 3/16/2017 though currently there is an illness in the house which cause unavoidable delays. Flash Friday will be posted later in the day.

Good night

Why do we tell stories?

In my anthropology classes I learned all cultures tell stories. Why were they everywhere? The earliest were probably teaching tools passing vital information which kept us alive. One example I recall a favorite professor gave during one of his lectures went something like this:

We do not know what kind of language early man had but think about one of our intrepid hunter-gatherer ancestors out in the forest, and Buddy comes along for the excursion. Buddy got hungry so he ate some pretty berries. Then Buddy got cramps, doubled up, made faces and noises, then Buddy died.

Our ancestor shares this information with other members of the tribe and shares the whole scene. That means he included all the noises and faces, that he could not do anything. By involving the effects, eliciting any emotions such as fear, our ancestor engaged his audience. Probably made a more lasting impact than, “Ugh, pretty berry bad.” Highly hypothetical and improbable but it’s a guess.

Our brains have a capacity to generate imagined experiences. It’s why when Tolkien describes a Hobbit Hole, you generate an image. And you can generate more than images, you can generate emotions. Between images, emotions and experience we imagine based on an authors words Horror stories can scare you, adventures can have you on the edge of your seat, or you can laugh at some described bit of humor.

Our minds find ways to relate, to put the story, conscious or not, in a context to which we can relate. The author relates one way, I know what I meant when I wrote a poem or a passage in a story. As the reader/listener you may relate in a completely different manner.

Why? Our life experiences are different. Each of us brings our unique perspectives to the same story. The mind translates into ways allowing each of us to draw a meaning which fits where/when we are in our lives at the time we read it. A personal example would be reading Cather in the Rye by Salinger in High School. When I read it again about 10 years later, I found a very different message. Bet you are recalling a similar experience now.

Not too long ago as life happens, someone told me a piece I wrote spoke to them. The piece was “Daily Options”, a poem about my struggles with Depression I shared in “When the Shadow Sees the Sun: Creative Surviving Depression” a memorial to an author I got to know briefly. Their insight was not what I thought the piece was about, but that is okay. You see, they found a meaning in it based in their life. I was told it helped them make a decision, decide on an option. If I never receive another compliment, that’s the highest you can receive. That it was not what I thought the piece meant is great, that means to me the words were alive and relatable for them

Never worry about what Art and literature is supposed to say. It will speak to all us, if we listen. What Starry Night or Stanger in a Strange Land or Watership Downs says to each of us is a message from the art to us as individuals. I put words on a page, other friends of mine are amazing artists and authors, yet regardless of what we create, it is you, the beholder, who gives us and our work meaning.

Together we are the singers, we are the song, listen to the music and dream as only you can. You are the one who gives it all meaning.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

When the Shadow Sees the Sun: Creative Surviving Depression can be found on Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/When-Shadow-Sees-Sun-Depression/dp/1539868877/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489549733&sr=1-1&keywords=When+the+shadow+sees+the+sun

Getting started…

So often it happens, sit down, the idea or topic to write about is there, then you face the blank page. In an instant the cascade of words ready to launch from the well springs of your deepest imagination, abruptly reflects the page in front of you.

That is my current predicament. I had an idea, and really, it was a good one. By the time I had the page loaded, all such thoughts had fled as roaches when you turn on the lights. I could have taken the time honored tradition of writers by procrastinating.

Procrastination may be a topic for another day, but it is not this day. No, while I have multiple reasons for starting this blog, procrastination is not one of them.

Ah, the alert reader noticed something there, good job. In the introduction for this blog, I spoke about things you might expect to see. These are some of my thoughts.

Some of my goals for this blog, in no particular order, are:

  • Share my work
  • Find some fans along the way
  • Develop a relationship with potential readers
  • Develop a habit in myself of writing daily

And yes, I have twenty minutes remaining because I did procrastinate tonight. This is what happens when a writer does and has a deadline. It is not good word, certainly not my best, but it work. It appears another goal may be in order. Scheduling to avoid procrastination? Sounds like a good one.

So tonight, I am at least meeting one of goals. I am writing today and if I do so in the next Twenty-three minutes will have it posted and meet that goal.

One more thing, that topic about procrastination by writers, I’ll get right on it.

Thank you for reading and coming along for the ride.

Goodnight,

Ernest

Show… Don’t..ever…EVER…EVERRRRR just tell. Show.

This title was a Facebook post from my publisher earlier today. The main point never JUST tell.

Showing happens in the narrative. It is in the descriptions, dialogue and action.

Show, do not just tell good advice, something of an adjunct to Laurel K Hamilton’s, and others, but this particular quote is attributed to her, “One of my rules is never explain. A writer is a lot like a magician, if you explain how the trick works a lot of the magic turns mundane.”

Knowledge imparted through the narrative allows the reader to build the writers world in their own mind, this is a writers true magic. When we tell the reader and/or explain too much, we deconstruct the world they have built from our words. We do not explain or tell the reader everything, how the raygun works for example, it is sufficient to say our character shot his raygun at a target. We do not have to explain the physics of the weapon or the color of the ray. The reader provides it.

When we begin explaining the weapon and the color of the beam etc, we may well be taking away from the reader’s enjoyment of the action. That said, there are times and stories, where there is a need to occasionally tell to advance the story. A short story may not have the words to allow information to be completely narrative, so we must tell a little to aid the reader in creating a world from our words.  Advance the story without causing undue confusion. And one thing is certain to me, anytime, as a writer, when just telling is needed, it should be done to advance the narrative not replace it.