Oasis, they call it ...

I got ahold of the edge of an idea the other day, and it's been knocking around in my head for a few days, and when I woke up this morning, I knew that I had to write a story about this person I've gotten to know (made up) who got dropped (literally) into an impossible situation.

Oasis, they call it

Prison without cells, without guards, without walls, without horizon or edge or end.

Water and food and shade, all free for the taking, enough for all, enough forever;
that's the trap, the anchor, the walls, the cell.

An endless sea of sun and sky and scalding sand,
stretching to horizon after horizon after horizon after horizon.

I'm here, with them, the others, the forgotten, his discards;
they wait, for nothing more or less than life, or time itself, to end.

I was dropped into Oasis a month ago.

You can't escape, because you're free to go.

I left twice, with all the food & water I could carry;
both times I defeated myself, caught myself, returned on my own ... on my knees.

It takes a horrible mind, a horrible man, a horrible power,
to make a man his own jailer.

My reality is this desert, this deserted life,
but I dream of the woods and waters and beasts of my home.

Dreams are strength and power, especially in this place;
I still dream of home, I still have power.

I will escape Oasis.


On writing and editing and sharing one's work

I think about this, and how true it is ... a lot.

Writing is hard and often thankless and stressful and frustrating work (I was going to specify and say for indies, but I think it's true for all writers, so ignored that impulse). 

Creating something from nothing, much less something worth reading, something worth writing and reading, is slogging uphill all day, every day. But sometimes we produce a story (or a part of a story) that says something interesting or beautiful in a way that hasn't been done before, and that makes the piles of waste-words littering the floor and you brain worth it.

I love writing. I love the way it feels, even on the bad days, to reach around inside my head and feel for ways to put words together to express a feeling or paint an emotional picture.

I like this quote, but think that Nabakov's metaphor extends beyond the main character to entire stories. We write stories and then put them up a tree and throw rocks at them with the help of our beta-readers and editors, trying to find the weak points and fix/strengthen them.

It's a scary business writing stories, sharing thoughts and dreams and imaginings with the world outside your head.

It's a scary business editing stories, letting other people kill and maim your darlings, and then trying to put them back together (hoping that your ideas still come through, even when the words conveying them have been altered by someone else).

It's a scary business sharing stories, giving strangers an invitation to the way you mind works, and asking them to love or hate or ignore the words and ideas.

All of this is scary, but writers keep writing because stories are powerful magic. A string of letters, then words, then paragraphs, then pages, can change the world, or make an entirely new one.

Once the storytelling bug has bitten you, it's in your blood for the rest of your life, and while for some people it may lay dormant, for most it grows and grows in strength and volume and production with each story told.

I love to share stories ... I'm almost done work on the my next novel, have just submitted a story for an anthology that will be out in the next week, am working on a twitter novel (fun and silly), and am pushing on the next installments of a piece of serial fiction I've been having dreams about for a while.

Lots of stories, and as fast as they come, I have desperate hordes behind pushing for primacy, rattling the bars of my brain for egress and attention and their moment on the stage.




Talking about Writing

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to present to a series of three English classes in the Middle/High School that I work in (day job) ... it was fantastic fun for me, and the children (60 eleven and twelve year olds) were interested and listened and asked great questions.

The best thing about the sessions, better than assuming my writer's mantle for a few hours was that I felt a spark ignite in more than a few of those kids ... some of them will give themselves permission to write.

I talked about the mechanics and process of writing/editing my novels and novellas, my favorite authors (when I was twelve and now), where ideas and characters and stories come from, how to push through difficult writing, and the general awesomeness of sharing stores with a worldwide audience.

One of the things that I was careful to stress (am always careful to stress when talking about writing) is that my methods work for me, but may not work for them. The only effective way to write that I know is mine, so that's what I talk about, but the truth is that I don't fully understand how I do what I do, and/or why it works for me.

The future writers in the audience looked at me and my books differently than did the other kids. They listened to me more intently, asked more nuanced questions (and often follow-ups).

I think the fact that they knew me as a teacher first, and only then met me as a writer was a benefit to me, and them, in my talks yesterday; it reinforced the idea that writer's aren't different than the rest of us ... they are us (I almost typed 'they walk among us', but thought it would be creepy and grandiose).

One kid raised his hand at the end and said, in a completely earnest voice, "You bein' a teacher and a writer ... it's like you have a secret identity."

I might have puffed up a bit when he said this, but was able to recover after a few moments lost contemplating costume options and plans for my lair ... I said, "I didn't become a writer after being bitten by a radioactive spider, I just made the decision to start writing, and did it."

I explained that everyone starts out writing stuff that's not as good as they wish it was, but that with practice it gets better, I got better, they'll get better. That the important thing is to start writing, and not stop ... to try new things, read as much as you can, take chances (in both reading and writing choices), and eventually find your path in writing.

I hope that my time in the classroom as a visiting author, inspires the kids, some kids, one kid ... I know it inspired and reinvigorated me.




Update on Current and Future Projects

At this time of year, about six months after writing the first draft of my summer novel, I start to get antsy ....

I'm ready for the new novel (this one is titled, "Between the Carries") to be done, out, published, but I know that the editing process is at least as important as writing the thing in the first place ... so I wait, and work, and write, and wait.

I've been working with my beta-reader and editors on the book since a few days after I finished the rough draft in July, adding and chopping and polishing what will be the third book in the Tyler Cunningham Adirondack Mystery series ... but it's not enough.

I need more writing stimuli in order to keep things rolling.

In the months since I finished the rough draft of BTC, I have worked on a variety of writing projects, and have been enjoying all of them immensely ... I love the feeling of having written something that nobody's ever seen/read before.

Each of these projects offers me another way to experience writing, to tell a story, and I can feel the pull of the words as I explore these different ways of writing.

I've been working on a piece of serial fiction, "Watcher in the Woods", that will likely be available in January.

I am still working on a short story for an anthology, it explores the concept of metafiction, along with a character/story the likes of which I've never tried to write (including, gulp, a sex scene), titled "Now is the Winter". The anthology should be available early in the new year.

I've been blogging more frequently than ever ... at least once, sometimes more, each week. I set a goal for myself, and find that forcing myself to blog, the pressure of a looming (if manufactured) deadline is good for my writing muscles.

I just began a #twitternovel, which is written in 140 (or less) character "chapters" ... it's fun, and supplies yet another challenge in writing in a new and different way.

All of these experiments in writing force me (inevitably/unstoppably) to grow, to change, to improve. The action of writing in all of these differing forms is stimulating/enervating/inspiring, and I constantly find new ideas for stories and characters coming to me (thank goodness for my iPhone's memo app).

I find that the toughest thing for me now, in my life as a writer, is finding the time to write all of the stories I have struggling for primacy in my brain ... they're all treading water, waiting for me to scoop them up and give them life on paper.

I have to be patient and fair, and give each one its turn/space/time on the stage of my brain and laptop.