Month: October 2011

*****
I GOT THIS REALLY CRAZY THEORY: We all live multiple lives. 

Every single one of us is totally walking around with multiple personas, which can be drawn out and utilized on a daily basis, put on like a business suit or a T-shirt and weather-worn blue jeans, when the need to face a different set of circumstances arises.  Each of these lives come with a different set of priorities, a different approach to challenges, a different way in which we see the world, and that makes all the difference.

For myself, in seconds I can easily glide from the professional life of a Naval Officer to the familiar, low-stress life of a doting father and faithful husband.  It’s as easy as changing my clothes.  This process is one of the ways we learn to cope at an early age, and it’s as natural and effortless as breathing.

For most people, their various lives are defined by external influences: jobs, families, friends, dreams.  But for fiction writers, it’s not so simple.

In my opinion, a fiction writer’s life is defined first and foremost by internal influences: imaginary worlds, compelling main characters, life-altering stories that move the writer to such a degree that he has no choice but to transmogrify the nothingness of an idea into concrete, palpable reality by getting words on the page.  In some sense, the fiction writer lives his own internal struggle, but he also spends hours, days, months–years even!–breathing, raging, crying, triumphing, failing, as he experiences the lives of the characters in his fiction.

If you’re like me, it’s a strange kind of worry that–more than anything–drives you to write: fear of the life unlived.

As a beginning fiction writer (just getting my feet wet really), the manifestation of that fear takes odd forms for me.  Not having lived the life of an Ishmael or a Robert Jordan or a Nick Carraway, I sometimes sell myself short or feel inadequate.  Sometimes I try to overcompensate and work on five projects at once.  Sometimes I catch myself in meetings (living one of my other lives) troubling over a certain turn of phrase or sticky fictional situation, only to emerge an hour later having forgotten everything I uncovered during those moments.

In short, I’m still finding my way in this fiction writer’s life, but there’s one thing I’ve learned: we can’t make it on our own.  That’s why signing up for this Pay It Forward Blogfest was a no brainer.  Picking three blogs to represent the legions of folks who’ve been a significant part of my writer’s journey was a big challenge, however.  So many people have lent their support, while they’ve asked for very little in return.  Such generosity of spirit really is quite humbling.

But if it had to be three, then these are them–and I hope you hop right on over and pay them a visit.  In no particular order:
  • Liza @ Middle Passages: Liza was one of the first writers and fellow bloggers who gave me a leg up.  She reposted a goofy post of mine where I intereviewed myself, and has been a stalwart supporter and friend of WSMG ever since.  Her own blog is full of wonderful prose and pictures, shared in a quiet, thoughtful way, and well worth a visit.
  • Lola @ Sharp Pen/Dull Sword: Lola is one of the grooviest folks around, and one I’ve been lucky enough to get to know outside of the blogosphere as well.  Her infectiously positive attitude, warmly supportive vibe and razor sharp writing and editing style have been a real influence on me, and she’s really helped shape my views as a budding fiction writer.  Go on over and join the Wolf Pack if you haven’t already!
  • Donna @ Donna Hole: Donna has been one of those long-time bloggers that you can tell really enjoys getting around and visiting everyone.  She’s one of the most frequent visitors here at WSMG, always taking the time to provide in-depth, well thought out comments, and she’s a unique, generous person who brightens your day every time you come in contact with her.  Hang around her blog for awhile and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean!

Anyway, thanks a million, ladies!  Thanks for helping me along on this writing journey and for being such a good friends! 

BTW, as a quick aside, I’d like to thank Matthew and Alex for setting this blogfest up.  It certainly is an inspired idea–and you should go visit everyone else too as I’m sure there’ll be plenty of fiction-related lauding and high-fives to go around.

Now I’m off to see who everyone else is recommending!

*****

Check back on Monday where I’m gonna talk some about the Kraken as part of October’s Monster Fest.  Get all the details here!

Hey gang!

Sorry, I’m a little slow out of the starting gates for this second in a four part series of posts for the Rule of Three Blogfest (#REN3 Blogfest for the Twitterati among you).  ๐Ÿ˜€  Turns out, though our trip to Paris was mostest spectacular and will breed a few future posts, we–meaning me and the family–contracted some strange illness on the plane ride home that has had us all down for the count.  Upper respiratory tract stuff mostly, but the kind of knotty-headed scourge that makes it hard to see straight.

And typing fiction stories, well that’s right out!  ๐Ÿ˜€

But alas, the fog of illness is finally clearing and I can get this part of the story finalized.  Good thing I wrote a good chunk of it before my departure.  I’m not usually so well organized, but in this case, this fluke of luck worked in my favor!

So, thus, and without further ado, here is Part Two.  Make sure to get around and read all the other entries, as they are really quite charming, and I have been nothing but impressed at everyone’s ingenuity and daring-do.  Goes to show, a lot can be done with a blank page and a 600 word limit!

A brief note of thanks to the organizers who’ve done a bang up job, and to the authors and supporters who have donated prizes.  It takes a village, as they say, and, well, this one is called Renaissance.  ๐Ÿ˜€

*****
The Leopard’s Spots
by Jon Paul
(c) 2011

Character: Theodora Ravelstein
Wordcount: 597
Prompt: A relationship becomes complicated.
Link to Part One (Magnus McGrool, 596 words)

Part Two:

THEODORA RAVELSTEIN tucked a strand of crimson hair behind her right ear and frowned. “They just don’t get me, Lorna. You know?”

Lorna napkined her mouth, grinning. “I don’t get you either, Theo.”

“Stop kidding around. This is serious.”  Theodora slumped back from her half-eaten salad. Sure, Junior Photo Editors weren’t due a lot of respect, but her supervisor repeatedly rejected her hip, artistic photo-editing suggestions–and that bothered her. Most Barchadelli marketing campaigns looked as vanilla as Renaissance Geographic Magazine.

“That your boy?” Lorna nodded toward the end of the Employee Lunchroom. Calvin Rumpus, tray in hand, took a place in line. Within seconds, several associates shook his hand, struck up conversations, patted him on the back. Others said hello in passing. Calvin, entitled to eat in the Executive Lunchroom, often lunched down here instead, making him popular among rank and file employees. Plus he was just a nice guy.

A mischievous smile bloomed on Theodora’s lips. “When I bumped into him this weekend, he told me about an old trail above Heriot’s Pass where the views are amazing.”

“You ‘bumped’ into him? Girl, you’ll do anything for a good picture!”

“Well…let’s just say I know where he spends his Saturday mornings.”

“Shutterbugs of the world, unite?”

“Something like that…”  A year ago, at a Renaissance Museum exhibit featuring local photographers, shots of the ice-capped Roundeli Mountains had blown Theodora away. She soon identified the photographer: Calvin Rumpus, a Barchadelli employee and fellow shutterbug with an eye for landscapes.

Lorna folded her napkin. “Listen, gotta get upstairs, hon’. Catch you later?”

“Sure.”

After Lorna had gone, Theodora emptied her tray. Calvin sat eating at a far table, uncharacterist-ically alone. Theodora approached, gave him a little wave.

“Calvin! Fancy meeting you here!?”

At first, he hardly noticed her. Then he smiled sadly, a drawn, faraway look on his face. “Theodora. Hi. How are you?”

“Hi. I, uh, I won’t keep you. I just wanted to stop by and say I really enjoyed chatting this weekend.”

Uncertainty clouded Calvin’s brow. “This weekend?”

Theodora glanced around. A few bystanders were beginning to stare. “Uh, up at Heriot’s Pass? You know?”

Calvin cocked his head to the side, eyes tracing a pattern on the ceiling, trying to remember. Finally, nodding, he said: “Ah, yeah. OK.”

“Yeah. Anyway, if you’re going again this weekend, I was hoping you might show me that trail you talked about.”

Before Calvin could answer, an uneasy stillness swept the lunchroom.  Magnus McGrool materialized, hawk’s eyes searching the crowd. Calvin stood robotically, picked up his tray.

“Got to go.” Calvinโ€™s words were clipped and business-like.

“Calvin?”

He turned back, seeming to focus on her for the first time.

She tried to keep the sheepish tone out of her voice, but failed miserably. “Saturday. Ten o’clock. Ok?”

“Sure thing,” he said, his mouth hardening into a tight smile.

Theodora watched him go with a trace of confusion. That was weird.

The eyes of half the lunchroom were now on her. She scurried toward the exit, feeling suddenly stupid and confused. She could hear Lorna already: He’s one of the elite, the chosen. Ain’t no way heโ€™ll give you the time of day, not really.

And there was something Lorna didn’t know.  Theodoraโ€™s interest in Calvin had mushroomed, over the last several months, into something far beyond simple picture-taking.  This new inkling felt grounded, genuine. But when she caught sight of her own scruffy reflection in a window, a tide of uncertainty rolled in, until she was suddenly, inexplicably, not sure of anything at all.

~fin~

Thanks for stopping by!

โ€œYet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall
My buried life, and Paris in the Spring,
I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world
To be wonderful and youthful, after all.โ€
                                                   ~~T. S. Eliot, “Portrait of a Lady”

Hiya folks.  How’s things?  I’m a little excited right about now.  Packing.  Big trip planned this weekend.  To Paris!  Yep, we’re pretty stoked.  This little break in the action has been planned for awhile–a chance to knock the dust of Sicily off our boots for a few days, do a little exploring, sightseeing, maybe even visit a cafe or two.

We visited Paris once before and it was a real nice time.  We stayed in a hotel adjacent to the Arc de’ Triomphe, which was beautiful in it’s own right, and also close to many of the best known sights.  There’s a kind of energy there that’s hard to describe.  Even during the winter, an effervescence hung in the air, and walking around the city was like touring a dreamscape.

We were lucky enough to stumble on a great restaurant or two, where the waiters were haughty and high-minded, but with a twinkle in their eye that told you it was all part of the show.  The view from the Eiffel Tower was amazing, and even with the cold wind blowing, it was almost like you could feel the heat of the city in the updrafts.

The Louvre is one of the Seven Wonders of The Modern World, IMHO.  You could wander there for days, go missing, lose oneself, and never cross back on your own path.  The art was amazing, and I still remember us sitting in a little cafe at the stop of a long marble staircase–Furnacegirl and I were not married yet–and thinking to myself: This is the stuff of legend.

I wasn’t really writing seriously back then, but I still felt inspired to jot notes in journal.  I even got to see in person a statue by Michelangelo–called The Bound Slave–that I had sketched from a picture years before.  It was one of those surreal experiences, and to walk up and put my fingers on the cool marble was a kind of revelation.  Here’s my primitive sketch.  Thanks for asking.  ๐Ÿ˜€

It really is true what they say: a unique magic inhabits the streets of Paris.  There’s a reason why writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Stein made it their second home.  Something hauntingly alive dwells in this place, and until you’ve been, it sounds too much like a fairy tale to be believed.  Who knows? Maybe on this visit, some of that writing magic will rub off on me.

Anyway, this time out, it’ll be a little more low key, more of a vacation and less of a tourist routine, relax, enjoy the sights–but that’s how we like it.  And I’ll bring back a few photos too, just for funzies.

A few quick admin notes before I sign off:

1) If you haven’t stopped by and checked out all the groovy posts for the Rule of Three Blogfest, get your butt over there!  Some really awesome writers turning out a ton of top-notch work.

2) If you stopped by to check out my story, see below, or click here.

3) I won’t probably have much of an online presence this weekend, back on Monday.  So you know the rules: You can have one cookies and milk before you go to bed, but lights out at ten o’clock, no excuses.  ๐Ÿ˜€

Hope you have an amazing weekend, and stay groovy while you’re at it!

VINCENT: …You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?

JULES: They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?

VINCENT: No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn’t know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.

JULES: What’d they call it?

VINCENT: Royale with Cheese.

JULES: Royale with Cheese. What’d they call a Big Mac?

VINCENT: Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.

JULES: What do they call a Whopper?

VINCENT: I dunno, I didn’t go into a Burger King.

๐Ÿ˜€

Hiya, all!  Today’s the day we’ve all been waiting for: The first post for the Rule of Three Blogfest!

Careful observers will also note that today is the day we are supposed to blog for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

For me, these blogfests actually dovetail quite nicely.  You see, one of the things I am the most insecure about is sharing my work.  I always have a feeling that a piece is not done, it needs to be polished further, or I simply feel nervous about whether it’s “good enough”.

So, as a way to get over this insecurity, I have been working on a set of writing rules for myself (more on that later), one of which is: “Be more willing to share your work, even when you’re not sure it’s perfect.” 

That’s where the #REN3 Blogfest comes in.  I’ve worked hard on this first post.  I feel it’s ready to go, but in my heart of hearts I know I wouldn’t have shared it without an event such as this blogfest pushing me toward the finish line.

Thanks to Alex for setting up the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which happens the first Wednesday of every month (check my sidebar if you want to sign up).  And thanks also to Damyanti, JC, Lisa and Stuart for setting up the Rule of Three Blogfest.   This’ll no doubt be tons of fun!

So here’s my first entry.  And be sure to go check out the other entries.  There’s plenty of fiction to go around today, so enjoy!

The Leopard’s Spots
by Jon Paul
(c) 2011

Character: Magnus McGrool
Wordcount: 596
Prompt: There is fear of impending misfortune

Part One:

CALVIN RUMPUS stood at the conference room door, ushering the Directors to their seats, trying to shake a feeling of nervousness. All morning, his boss, Magnus McGrool, Operations Director for Barchadelli Marketing, Inc., had been on a rampage.

Magnus kept his cards close to his chest, so even Calvin didn’t know why the staff meeting had been called, but an anxious buzz infected the office. Falling stock prices. Rumors of layoffs. Trouble on the horizon. With the recent economic downturn in Renaissance, companies were tightening their belts. Perhaps it was time for Barchadelli to do the same. Or maybe something else was going on.

Chit-chat came to a standstill when Magnus strode into the room and took his seat at the head of the table. Calvin followed him in, steno pad in hand, careful not to meet anyone’s gaze. He was not a favorite with senior management because Magnus’ iron-fisted management style irritated most Directors. That resentment no doubt colored the way they viewed Calvin.

Magnus surveyed the other Directors with hawk’s eyes. “For those of you who returned my calls this morning, I thank you. We are entering a critical period. It is essential we stick together.”

This conciliatory language relaxed the group. Attendees stopped squirming in their seats. A few even dared to glance in Magnus’ direction.

Magnus went on. “But we are only as strong as our weakest link. I was on the phone with the CEO this morning. Earnings are down. Our stock price is falling steadily. Now Gauche Mining wants to cancel their contract.”

A buzz rippled through the room. As Barchadelli’s biggest client, Gauche’s departure might spark a mass exodus if other customers acted on the same fears.

“We’re too fat,” Magnus continued. “Too many people, not enough productivity.” At this comment, Carl Sturmfels stiffened, put his coffee cup on the table. The Human Resources Director was widely considered the most considerate of the senior managers. Calvin liked him, but that sentiment was not shared by Magnus, who thought the man was an idiot.

“Somebody’s to blame. But who?”

The question hung in the air like an accusation.

“Whose fault is it?”

Calvin bit his lip, waiting. What was Magnus playing at?

At the other end of the table, Carl searched the far wall. The other Directors inched their chairs imperceptibly away, like a herd scattering, offering up the weakest among them just before the lion pounces.

“What do you have to say for yourself, Carl?”

Carl looked up. Unblinking placid blue eyes calmly met Magnus’ withering gaze, but he remained silent.

Magnus chuckled. “Tight-lipped to the end, eh Carl? You should have more common sense, man. Even Calvin here has more common sense than that.”

At the mention of his name, Calvin snapped to attention in his chair.

“Well, no point in beating about the bush,” Magnus said, proffering a half-smile as if sharing a friendly anecdote. “Effective immediately, consider yourself on unpaid leave, Carl, until we sort things out.”

Calvin sat glued to his seat, thunderstruck. The misgivings he had stifled until that moment bloomed into full-fledged alarm. Magnus was using the crisis as a pretense to get rid of Carl.

“In the meantime,” Magnus said, “Calvin Rumpus will be the interim Human Resources Director. That is, until we find a suitable replacement.”

Calvin froze. All eyes were on him. Animosity swept the group’s faces. Even Carl gave him a quizzical look, like Calvin was somehow to blame. An abrupt, unbidden stillness permeated the air, and Calvin, suddenly unable to breathe, wondered how on earth he was going to get out of this one.

 ~fin~

Thanks for stopping by!  ๐Ÿ˜€

Just a quick drive-by post, as I have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment, many of them related to writing (and this last bit makes me happy :D).

I’ve been working feverishly on my Rule of Three Blogpost entry–going up Wednesday–and if you haven’t signed up yet, you’re still in luck.  Check the link on my sidebar.  Submissions close at the end of the evening, so go on over and check it out.  I think it promises to be a nice event, and I’m certainly looking forward to it–not only because we’ll get to read a ton of great stories, but also because I’m using it as a kind of writing exercise to get my feet wet, get my sea-legs back under me.

Also, I’ve also just learned that the Literary Lab is featuring its 3rd Annual Writing Contest and Anthology, which I am likely to enter also.  Submissions are due by December 31st, 2011, if I’m not mistaken. 

I am thoroughly enjoying stepping back into the world of a fiction writer–spent this weekend getting more organized, in fact–but I had forgotten how quick the pace of time can go when one is so busy.  Not to worry: I am loving every minute!

And I am starting to go through a lot of my old writing, re-reading, evaluating.  We recently combined files from several different computers into one master file, and I can now review a number of different pieces I’ve written, some very old.  I am looking for strengths and weaknesses, trying to understand where I still need to grow as a writer.  And trust me, there’s plenty of room for growth!

Just one day at a time, right?  What about you?  How are things in your world?