Howdy, howdy! It’s December again (didn’t we just do this?). Happy holidays and all that jazz! I don’t really have anything to talk about this week and I’ve been super slacking on the writing front (and at life in general), so I thought I would take a minute to make my goals for the month known. This way, you can heckle me until I succeed. I know these posts are pretty boring, so I try not to do them a lot. Apologies in advance. But here are my goals in no particular order!
1. Submit stuff 10 times (2 every Monday). I’ve consistently submitted two stories a week all year long. Granted, it wasn’t always on Mondays, but it got done even when I really didn’t feel like it. I’m super proud of that. Now, I just have to keep it up the rest of this month and do it all over again next year.
2. Revise more of LR. Revising has been beyond slow and I have no one and nothing to blame but myself. I love the story and I’m excited about it, but I can’t get into a good rhythm with the revisions. I get into it a few days then can’t bring myself to open the files for a while. It’s weird.
3. Read 2 books. Actually, I need to finish two books (at least) this month. I started them both last month. When I got the okay on The Razor, I stopped in the middle of European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman. There was just no way for me to finish both last month. And I decided to start this month’s review book before I finish European Travel. I somehow clumped too many long books together and it’s thrown my whole reading schedule off, but I’m past my goal for the year, so it’s okay.
4. Make time for people. It’s just really hard to talk to people when I like being a recluse so much. Luckily, around the holidays, I randomly text people to wish them well and usually end up chatting with a few of them. It’s the only time of year I’m not a completely shitty friend!
5. Decide on a couple of days to go through my files and tidy everything up. I seriously need to do this. I used to know exactly where every song, picture, and file was on my computer. Now, I can’t find half the stuff I go looking for. It’s a mess.
6. Start ripping old CDs to my computer. A few months ago, I got a new radio because my 60 disc player stopped working. Do you know how hard it is to find a new 60+ disc player that is it’s own stereo, not a component to a make-your-own stereo system? Impossible. In other words, I have a bunch of CDs that I need to transfer to my computer so I can play my old favorites and annoy the crap out of Dad.
7. Attack the slush pile. I’ve been sporadic with my first reader duties over at Pseudopod. I need to buckle down and help get through this period’s submissions. It’s always a fun experience.
Those are my goals. What about you? Do you have any stuff you want to focus on this month? Feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! It’s been kind of rainy and dreary here the last couple of days, which always makes me feel sleepy and blah. Productivity is the last thing I want to achieve. So, even though I’ve been adulting and all that good stuff, I’ve also been super lazy. That’s not going to change today! Instead of coming up with some random topic related to writing and rambling about that, I thought I would just give you a list of my five favorite ways to relax on rainy days. It’s all stuff you’ve seen before if you follow my blog regularly. Otherwise, enjoy reading about my laziness.
1. Netflix/TV binge-watching. This can be done solo or with Dad, depending on his level of productivity on a rainy day. Sometimes, we catch up on all the stuff we’ve recorded. Other times, we pick random movies or whatever on Netflix and watch them. If I’m on my own, I watch stuff Dad would have no interest in or I rewatch old shows (still usually stuff he has no interest in). The only bad part about binge-watching is that by the time it’s 11 at night, it feels like you’ve done nothing all day. Which you haven’t, but still. Where’d the day go?
2. Mindless games. Yes, I still play mindless games. They’re a decent way to waste time, but I do get bored after a while. It’s like I start playing and by the time I run out of lives, I’m sure it’s almost time for bed, but it’s only been like ten minutes. I guess I should start playing some new games that I’m not bored with yet. The only problem with that is that I don’t want to fall down the “new game” rabbit hole and get lost. Maybe I’m just super lazy, even too lazy for games.
3. Reading. I’ve been reading a lot for the book group and to review on here, but I haven’t really read anything lately just because. Because I want to. Because it’s fun. Because I thought the cover was pretty and bought it. Rainy days remind me that I have books I wanted to read before I started reading everything I was told I should read. They’re the kind of days that remind there are things I want to re-read. And it’s totally okay to read or re-read things for fun. I need to remember that on normal days as well.
4. Music videos/eye candy. I haven’t sat around watching random music videos in a really long time (like so long I forgot certain bands existed). It’s one of those things I always say I’m going to do, but life gets in the way. Rainy days are a good chance to catch up on old bands’ newer music and looks (because visual kei is awesome, or it used to be. I don’t really know anymore). I should make time for that.
5. Anime/manga. No, it’s not the same as Netflix and reading. It’s its own thing and I’ve been slacking on it. I haven’t read any manga in about a year. And I don’t watch anime as much as I want because I always save it for after I’m productive, then I don’t have time for it. Rainy days when Dad is doing his own thing are the perfect time to catch up on anime at least.
What are your favorite things to do on rainy days? Are you a napper or do you like to catch up on fun things? Perhaps you’re more productive on gray days. Feel free to share your own list, comments, or questions here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! Welcome to another guest post. This time, we have my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, JosephCarro. He’s got some super helpful tips for working around writer’s block, which I struggle with a lot. So, read on!
On Writer’s Block
By Joseph Carro
Writing can be an extremely frustrating and hopelessly solitary artistic endeavor, and as writers we know and understand this when we choose it as our lifestyle. Yet it doesn’t make it any easier when we’re holed up in the basement, writing the next big thing on our minds. Whether you’re trying to write a blog post, a poem, a screenplay, or a novel – Writer’s Block afflicts us all. I know that personally, real life usually gets in the way and saps my creative juices with its constant demands, but to keep writing I have acquired several techniques which I use in order to get my brain jumpstarted again. My hope is to share a couple of my own techniques with you. I know that many of you have your own techniques, but as a writer – I usually appreciate any new ways in which I can defeat this annoying affliction. Feel free to chime in with your own methods below in the comments section.
WALK OR DRIVE: Walking, to me, is a lost pastime. And I’m not the only oneto think so. If you’re stuck on a certain spot in your manuscript or post or what have you, get OUT of that space for a little while. If you don’t like walking, then just sit outside or maybe take a drive. Anything to get yourself out of your stagnant state. Maybe you’ll see or experience something that will ignite that spark. You just have to step outside your comfort zone for a bit. Fresh air does wonders for the mind and the thought process needed for writing.
READ SOMETHING: As Stephen King once said; “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Writing is a skill in which you absorb technique and inspiration from reading other writers. To do so, you need to actually read. Sometimes, reading someone else’s work is the perfect way to jumpstart your own. In my case, I will sometimes put aside my writing for one day and try to finish the book I was already reading or start another one. By the time I’m through a few chapters, I’m usually chomping at the bit to get back into my writing project. Obviously, it’s “dangerous” to put aside the writing to do something else (because you can get too much into the habit of doing that), but in moderation I think it works. Just really pay attention to what the authors are doing; their prose, the construction of the novel or short story or poem or whatever, and the way in which the strongest parts of it make you feel as a reader. Try to infuse your writing with some of that magic, without trying to ape their style. Be you.
LISTEN TO MUSIC: This one is very divisive within the writing community. In one camp, you have people who absolutely cannot listen to music while writing. Or, they at least must listen to very quiet, ambient music rather than anything heady with lyrics. That’s okay, this technique may not be for you either. However – when I’m trying to write a certain scene or a certain tone to my short story or screenplay, I sometimes pick an appropriate piece of music. For a tone, I will generally choose a playlist I’ve created on Spotify or find a playlist on YouTube – for example, if I’m looking for a melancholy tone I will choose a playlist that’s labeled as “sad songs” or “bittersweet songs”. Generally, the mood conveyed through these songs, and the emotions they bring out enhance my writing. It’s all about knowing your tolerance for this kind of distraction while you’re trying to write. This also works if you just need to listen to a song or two BEFORE you write, rather than listening to entire tracks during your actual writing. Just make sure to fire up another song here and there to renew your creative juices and emotions, because sometimes sitting in a chair and writing prose does not automatically generate emotions until you really get into the meat of the story. Writing is both a technical skill and an art, and art comes from emotion. Sometimes, we wade too far into the technical aspects and lose the emotional momentum.
USE WRITING EXERCISES AND PROMPTS: This method is actually my favorite, and thanks to the internet, there are countless online sources for finding writing ideas. These aren’t necessarily meant to replace the project you’re working on, but are more for trying to write something in general when you’re stuck. However, if you need some distance from your novel, it’s okay to take a brief respite and write something else. A few of my favorite sources for writing prompts are from books I’ve found or have been given. My wife gifted me a sort of “activity book” called 400 Writing Prompts by PiccadillyInc and that one has given me quite a few ideas. A couple of other books I’ve found to be pretty useful are The Writer’s Book of Matches: 1,001 Prompts To Ignite Your Fiction from Writer’s Digest Books, What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, and The Pocket Muse: Ideas & Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood. There are also lots of online sources out there as I mentioned above, and some of my favorites are Writer’sDigest, Poets & Writers, tumblr, and even reddit. Various bloggers like myself also dedicate entire sections of their blog to writing prompts. My own blog, Away With Words, has just such a section that you can find HERE. I try to do at least one weekly prompt, but sometimes I do more.
These are just some tools for trying to get back into the swing of things, and my hope is that by using these techniques and resources, you can dig yourself out of whatever funk you’re in and get back to writing. Remember – try not to be too hard on yourself. Writing is hard work, it’s thirsty work, and your brain can quickly become parched when it’s dealing with the same tedious task over and over. Give it some variety and keep yourself from getting mired. Good luck!
My name is Joseph Carro, and I am a Maine-based freelance writer and editor trying to make it in the big world of letters and semi-colons. I work currently as a barista to (barely) pay the bills, and in the meantime, I’m working on a YA novel, currently untitled, as well as various other works like screenplays, comic scripts, short stories, and flash fiction. Heck, you may as well toss in some comic books with that, too.
I live in Portland, here in Maine – with my beautiful wife and our five-pound chihuahua, Brewtus.
Hello, hello! I have nothing writerly to talk about this week, so I thought I would share the (boring) story behind one of my weirder decorations. Hanging above my door, alongside my collection of drumsticks and guitar picks, is a crumpled up plastic water bottle. Whenever I’m hurting and need to lay back in the chair to shift my weight (or I get stuck on something while writing and just need a break), I usually end up staring at that bottle for a few minutes. It has this weird ability to make me smile, despite being a piece of junk to everyone else. I guess it’s because I get to think about that December night back 2011 when I got it.
That year was a year for concerts. Miyavi came around in November (pretty sure one of the drumsticks is from that one), which was a no-brainer for me. I was definitely going to that show. Then, I found out that Dir engrey was coming through that December. I admit that I struggled a bit with the decision to go to that show. I knew Dad wasn’t a fan (screamy Japanese metal just isn’t his thing, though I knew he wouldn’t say no if I asked to go) and it was a little expensive, but I had never seen them live before. And you never really know if Japanese bands are going to come back through Texas, so it’s best to catch them when you can. Ultimately, I decided to go.
Dad, the Minion (yes, I call my friend a minion, except I think he still had the title of Puppet back then), and I piled in the van and headed down to Trees in DeepEllum. It’s one of my favorite venues down there, though we haven’t been in a while. The owners were super nice. I heard they’ve reopened two other venues since the last time I went to a concert out there, which is neat. But I digress.
The concert was awesome. Sat by the stage, right in front of Toshiya, the bassist. At one point, Dad leaned over and said that he had just realized that that guy (Toshiya) was wearing a skirt. Given other bands I listen to, it wasn’t a surprise as much as an observation, but it was still funny. Then, when the concert was over and the band members were leaving the stage, Kyo (the singer) stopped and gave me his crumpled up water bottle. Still high on the live music buzz, it was the most awesome thing EVER! A little later, when asked what I planned on doing with his garbage, I vaguely remember a plan to harvest his DNA and clone him. That never came to fruition, but I did use it as a wall decoration.
And that’s how one man’s literal trash became my treasure. What’s something weird that you keep around? Do you have anything other people would look at and automatically think it’s trash? Share your story here or on my social media pages!
Hello, hello! On Monday, Dad surprised me with a trip out to Irving to see the Moody Blues. They’re a band that Dad and I both enjoy. I was raised on them. They played a lot of songs I knew and a few I didn’t. Of course, Dad sang along to all of them. We both had a lot of fun, though Dad couldn’t figure out how all the other fans had gotten so old while he stayed young. But I wanted to talk about the venue, the Toyota Music Factory, and our experience there.
According to their FAQ section, “Toyota Music Factory is an experience – with 25 restaurants and entertainment concepts, an Alamo Drafthouse Theater, and the Pavilion – an 8,000 capacity indoor/outdoor, state-of-the-art concert venue, Toyota Music Factory is the new soul of the DFW Metroplex. From power lunches to happy hours, date nights to show time, it’s sure to satisfy any taste in food, music, movies, and more.” But is it really?
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fabulous concept. Being able to arrive a couple of hours early and stop for dinner at one of the on-site restaurants is great, especially for people who don’t know the area well (like us). And since it’s not even a year old (it officially opened in September of 2017), minor problems are to be expected. Case in point, the security people on parking duty had absolutely no clue about handicap parking. Even the valet people seemed confused, but there was one cripple spot left up front, so they told us to go ahead and park there instead of in one of the garages. And that was once we were there. The signage to get to the place was absolutely horrible. But I don’t know if that’s a venue issue or a city of Irving issue.
The Pavilion (the music venue itself) was a nice place, but I wouldn’t call it state-of-the-art by any means. It was stark, all concrete and wood. It actually reminded me of some of the small venues I’ve been to, only ten times the size. There wasn’t an actual elevator. Instead, they have a “lift,” which is a base with a wall on either side, but the front and back are exposed to the concrete/doors of the shaft. So, while it’s moving, you better keep yourself away from the front and back. Then there was the seating. Handicap seating was fairly close (second section) with a barrier that didn’t obstruct the view. We were in the center. There was also some handicap seating up in the third section. But even though the floor seating was the same as the companion seats in the cripple sections, easily removed folding chairs (seemed kind of chintzy for “state-of-the-art”), there weren’t any handicap tickets available down there. It wasn’t a bad venue by any means, but it certainly wasn’t what they advertise it to be.
Overall, it’s a venue I wouldn’t mind going back to if a band worth seeing comes through. All of the staff were friendly and helpful, which goes a long way to balancing out the not-so-good aspects of the place. However, it’s definitely not going to be the “new soul” of DFW unless they make some significant improvements. Plus, it’s all the way over in Irving, so the bands will have to be really good to make me go back.
Hello, hello! As you can probably tell by the title, I’m having a hard time coming up with topics again. Suggestions are most welcome. Anyway, I decided to do an A to Z list (by song title) of songs that (usually) end up on my writing playlists. Granted, every story is different and requires different music, so this is in no way comprehensive. In fact, my current WIP has been written with little to no music. Sometimes, noise just gets in the way. But, when I do use music, you can be pretty sure the following songs will be playing.
A: “All of Me” by John Legend. In case I have to write one of those sappy love scenes. You know the ones.
B: “Battlefield” by Blind Guardian. Because power metal makes everything you write sound more epic. Even when you’re sure it sucks.
C: “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” by Yoko Takahashi. “A” and “The” don’t count. But this is the opening of Neon Genesis Evangelion, which reminds me of Shinji, who reminds me that it’s okay to write characters you know some people are going to hate. Because I love to hate Shinji.
D: “Did You Hear the Rain?” by George Ezra. It’s a new addition for my list, but it’s awesome and that’s enough of a reason.
E: “Eres Tu” by Kany Garcia. Because sometimes you just need a bouncy song when you’re slogging through the tedious parts of stories.
F: “Float On” by Modest Mouse. To remind me make everything worse before it gets better, but to have my characters take most of it in stride.
G: “Girl Anachronism” by the Dresden Dolls. The song is great, but anachronisms are bad in stories.
Z: “Zakuro” by Vaniru. It’s another one of those that I just like. I don’t know the words, so I can tune it out if I need to in order to write.
What are some of the songs that usually go into your writing or painting or whatever other creative outlets you pursue playlists? Feel free to share some links in the comments or on my social media pages. And don’t forget to suggest some blog topics or ask me some questions if you have any.
Howdy all! Last week, I asked for some suggestions on what to blog about, so Lew and Joe asked how I got into J-Pop/Rock. It’s not really that long or interesting of a story, but they wanted to know. So, please excuse me while I fangirl (get overly excited, squee, and babble on about a certain subject) over some of my favorite music and musicians while I relive those early days.
I guess I got into Japanese music the same way a lot of people do: anime. I grew up with the Americanized version of Sailor Moon, then Pokémon and Digimon and Cardcaptor Sakura and all of that came along. But it wasn’t until I was sixteen or seventeen (around the time I started looking to the Internet for friends instead of hanging out with my sister and her friends) when I began searching for fansubs and the original versions of the shows that I started my brief voyage into the world of J-Pop, then my descent into J-Rock.
It wasn’t just anime exposing me to the music, but also the friends I was making by hanging out in anime chatrooms. (Do you even remember those? The Yahoo chats? Oh how I miss those days.) It takes a lot for a theme song to entice me into looking it up, so I was a total n00b to the music compared to most of the people I met. So, I listened to every song people recommended. For example, one of the people I hung out with was a rabid fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion, so for a while, I knew every song (and every version) in that series because he would insist I listen to them. It wasn’t that I enjoyed everything I heard, but I was open to the possibility that I might like it.
Then, I got into YouTube. Back in the day, before Google and Vevo and all of the legal stuff, YouTube was a wonderland of obscure music. Plus, it was great about recommending things based (no matter how remotely) on whatever you were watching instead of just suggesting whatever happens to be popular that week, which is how I found my way into J-Rock and all its lovely subgenres. I had my first brush with bands like Dir en grey (awesome if you like metal), Buck-Tick (kind of an 80s vibe), Versailles (symphonic metal), and Miyavi (guitarist). From there, I just kind of dug around on my own to find things that I adore. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the beautiful women are actually men (a fangirl topic for another day).
It was just something that happened. There was no big plan involved. It was just a new obsession stemming from an old one, like a slow descent into madness. We all have these types of love, so tell me about yours. What’s your random obsession that makes people wonder how you got into it? And how’d it happen?
Hello, hello! Thanksgiving is over (though leftovers still remain), so it’s officially time to get into the holiday spirit. In fact, just this past Monday, my minion (he knows who he is) posted on Facebook that people were talking to him and smiling at his job (apparently this is unusual behavior). Our exchange went something like this:
Me: “It’s called the holiday spirit. You’re in for about a month of it.” Him: “Ack! Does it wash off???” Me: “No. And it’s highly contagious.“
Later that evening, he and his family were supposed to join Dad and I for SMU’s Celebration of Lights. The minion ended up having to work, so we kidnapped his kids and girlfriend and took them anyway. ^__^
The Celebration of Lights was one of very few events I actually enjoyed attending as a student (and still enjoy as an alumna). It takes place on the front steps of Dallas Hall. People gather in the quad and sing along to Christmas carols. President Turner reads the Christmas story (which I still think Linus does better). And they light up the tree for the first time. It’s just a really nice way to start off the season. The free cocoa and cookies are a bonus.
The performances all change a little each year. Students and student groups volunteer to sing different carols, so things rotate as people graduate and new people enroll. Some are better than others, but SMU has a decent music program, so everyone is (usually) pretty good.
However, I suppose my favorite part of the celebration is the fact that something always goes wrong. Little things. One year, the microphones kept cutting off. This year, they were supposed to the flip the lights on after the first verse of Silent Night (like usual), but apparently the switch flipper wasn’t paying attention or they had technical difficulties, because the lights didn’t come on until the song was almost over. Not to mention the fact that they always run just a couple of minutes late (it wouldn’t be SMU if things started on time).
Don’t get me wrong, all of that was entirely serious. I go to this thing knowing that there will be something worth laughing about each year. That’s why I enjoy it. That sounds kind of mean now that I think about it, but it’s true. The hiccups make it exciting, even though I’m sure all of the people who are “back stage,” so to speak, are freaking out about this stuff.
All in all, it’s a nice way to open the holiday season. Plus, the kids seem to have a good time. It’s open to the community, so if you’re in the Dallas area next year, consider checking it out (or drive by some time between now and January 3rd while you’re out oohing and ahhing at all the lights to get a look).
I hope the holiday cheer finds you soon, if it hasn’t already! See you next week.
Hello again! It’s already been a week since my last post? I suppose time flies when you’re having fun. Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older. I swear I don’t remember the days going by so fast when I was a kid. Anyway, enough rambling. A new week means another chance to share more things I’m grateful for! As I said last time, feel free to join me.
1. The Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing. If you’ve perused previous posts, you’ve probably noticed my affection for this program. I mean, come on. It’s the first academic setting where I actually felt like I belonged instead of it simply being a stepping stone to my next life goal. Of course I’m thankful for it and all of the people associated with it. I highly suggest applying if you’re a writer.
2. Pretty Asian males. If you know me at all, you knew this was coming sooner or later! I’m entirely comfortable admitting that I like eye candy, preferably Japanese and in a dress (but not always in one). If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Most of the males I stalk are musicians, so they are also ear candy. A couple of samples:
3. Music in general. If there’s one thing in life that has kept me (relatively) sane, it’s music. Yeah, as a kid, I went with the flow (aka listened to the things my friends were listening to), but I eventually came into my own. I still remember flipping through radio stations once when I was bored and coming across Zip-Lockby Lit. That was the beginning of my punk days. The first time I broke away from what everyone else in my world was listening to. It was so freeing. My tastes have fluctuated a lot since then, so I now listen to an eclectic selection. It keeps me going, so who cares what everyone else is doing?
4. Technology. Without it, I’d not only be confined to one spot all the time, I’d also probably be dead. When you require help for something as simple as breathing, you learn to appreciate the machines that help you out. Wheelchairs, ventilators, patient lifts, and all of that delightful stuff is what I’m talking about. Sure, TVs and cars and radios and all that are fan-freaking-tastic, but right now I mean all of the stuff that helps to make life more or less normal for folks like me.
5. Stuffed animals. I know it’s weird for a nearly 30-year-old to admit her love of plushies, but I adore them. They’re soft and cuddly and cute. Their beady eyes are next-level creepy, like they’re staring into your soul and getting ready to eat it. You should know by now that I’m strange. Don’t act so surprised. But yes, stuffed animals rock!
Hey all! What kind of sounds do you enjoy in your creative environments? It’s a weird question, I know, but it’s an interesting one. A lot of people I’ve talked to about this can’t work in noisy places. They go so far as to carry around those noise-cancelling headphones if they decide to write outside of their usual area. It’s a neat idea, since it’s not only dampening noise, but also giving people a visual sign that you don’t want to be bothered. However, I couldn’t do that. I like to work when there’re sounds all around (preferably music). So, I thought I’d share some of the music I write by.
Honestly, I don’t really have much in the way of criteria when it comes to the music I listen to while writing. I basically just hit shuffle on my iTunes and I’m ready to go. I usually try to start with a song in a language I don’t speak much of, because it’s easier to not get distracted when you can’t sing along. Any language will do, really, but I’m partial to Japanese. Though my music ranges from English to Japanese to German to Spanish to French to Thai to… well, you get the idea.
Buck-Tick is one of my go-tos for writing.
Anyway, on the rare occasion that I do more than hit shuffle, I’m usually looking for a song that sets a certain mood. Take the song above, if I’m looking to write something epic (like fantasy epic, not epic for the sake of epic), that would be on the list. My writing tends to lean more towards horror a lot of the time, so you can bet I have a ton of rage music. Dir en grey, Rammstein, basically all your screamers and growlers go on the rage list. Then there’s the happy rage (see below, but beware of foul language) which is really helpful when writing certain characters. You know the ones I mean. We all have them.
I suppose I have to admit that I also have a number of sappy songs. I blame a certain male I used to know for that. These are the types of songs I never used to own. Ah well. I suppose we all need a reason for a little sap. Admittedly, it’s actually helpful to have musicians like James Blunt and Lifehouse and others in my collection. I find more and more romance seeping into my writing, so it’s good to have that kind of playlist. Plus, you know, the music is really good.
So yeah, my writing music spans pretty much everything. Also, it runs the gamut of the years. I mostly mentioned 90’s and later here, but I have classical and oldies and everything in between.
As I was asking in the beginning, are you more of a quiet worker or noisy? What kind of noise? Nature or music? What kind of music? I’m curious to know how my method differs from yours, so drop me a line on here or Facebook or Twitter or Google+!