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Category Archives: Other Strangeness

Dreams and goals

 

 

 

 

“When you give up on your dream, you die.”  – a quote from the character Nick in the movie Flashdance.

This was one of those quotes that hit me like a sledgehammer when I heard it the first time back in 1983. At the time, I had already given up on playing professional football. Although the open tryouts for the Denver Gold sure looked tempting.  Or, going back to school to become a doctor. I was already working in emergency medicine from the back of an ambulance. So, what was my dream?

Over the next several years I would write down some short-term and some long-term goals. It was fun to tick off the goals that I’d hit. And, I rarely got upset if I missed a long-term goal. Usually, I would simply reset the due date and keep going.

Then around 1994 I tried to read “The Sword of Shannara” for the third time and gave up on “The Two Towers” for the second time. I got bored with them. That’s right bored. Now before you Fantasy diehards go off on me or click to another blog, hear me out. I have since finished both works and their accompanying books and I agree they are masterful. But they would not be my first choices to reread anytime soon. The trouble was, I prefer to let my imagination create the scene. I don’t need twenty pages describing a mountain pass or pastoral field. Just give me the basics and I’ll paint the picture. I enjoyed stories that move along and don’t get bogged down with details.

I had been writing character sketches for D&D characters for years. Some of them were pretty good. I convinced myself that I could write a story that I would like to read. I fired up my IBM PS2 Model 50z, opened Word Perfect and started to write. I started with a D&D character I created but never played. I placed him in a setting and pantsed my way through. By the end of the summer of 1995, I had 32,000 words and a half-finished story. For some reason I don’t recall, I set it aside. It remains unfinished. But, I have pulled it out and reread it on many occasions.

No dream but, a splinter was implanted in my brain from this first attempt. During this same time, I had written several nature type vignettes. A friend read them and told me I should get serious about it. “Yeah, okay”. Time passes…a lot of time passes…

Okay, a decade.

Then for some reason, I decided to take a class in something. Not sure what. So, I started doing searches on various things that interested me. I stumbled on The Loft Literary Guild in Minneapolis, Minnesota which was offering an introductory class on writing fantasy fiction.

COOL!

I scraped the pennies together to cover tuition, obtained support from the domestic CEO, and registered. For the next eight weeks, twelve aspiring writers read various fantasy works and dissected them to see what worked. Some of us who were either brave, stupid, or crazy enough, submitted short pieces of our writing for the class to read and critique. I was shocked when my submission received positive comments from the class and the instructor.

Hmm, maybe I should try this writing thing.

I picked one storyline that interested me using another D&D character and started writing. The instructor told us about a writing group looking for more warm bodies. That was the spark that lit the fire to write something I could get published.

Uh oh, this sounds like a dream or at least a serious goal.  

Gasoline was poured on the fire when I was lucky enough to see my name on a byline for a non-fiction article I’d written. No, it was not the great fantasy novel I was also working on, but I was writing almost every day and I saw the possibilities. That was enough of a push to send me to the next level.

Finish the damn novel!

As you may recall from a previous post, I did, in fact, write “The End” on that novel. Okay, check that box off. Most established authors will tell you that just finishing the first draft of the first novel is the hardest part. Some polls indicate that only 5 to 10 percent of people who begin writing a novel, actually finish the first draft! Woof!

So, after a break to let the story settle, I started on revisions. The goal now becomes to turn that stack of words into something that resembles a readable story. This phase of the process, self-editing, is much harder than anyone can explain to you. It does not take long before you tell yourself,

I NEED HELP! But I’m not ready to die so,

New Interim goal – Get help!

more to follow…

 

 

 

 

 

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Devil in the Details

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Writing about a culture other than your own can provide more than a few complications. In a pure fantasy setting, the author has more control and, so long as he is consistent, can tweak things a bit and make it work. However, when we use a real culture to base our story on, and where a member of that culture may pick up and read your story, we had better get the details right. Unless…

My protagonist is half-Apache, a native american tribe that lives in the southwestern United States and into Mexico. His father was a tribal holy man and taught my protagonist the ways of spiritual medicine. During this instruction a ritual takes place to help my protagonist find a spiritual guide. The spirit guide helps an individual travel along life’s ever changing path. The spirit guide turns out to be “Snake”. This is where things get dicey.

I had written about three-quarters of the story before I found out how Snake is viewed in the Apache culture. The Apache see Snake as a very negative spirit. Often seen as evil, the Apache people will distance themselves from anything related to Snake. Whether it is the real creature, an image, a vision, or a story, Snake is Very bad medicine.

When I first made this discovery, I began to panic. Thinking I would need to rewrite whole sections to either change the spirit guide to something else, or change his tribe to something that looked favorably on the Snake. Instead of jumping off a cliff, I decided to go ahead and finish the first draft without making huge changes. I tried very hard to not let this knowledge guide the story in any way.

After the required cooling off period once the first draft was finished, I did a quick read through and a second read through where I jotted down the more glaring issues and holes. During the second time through, it hit me that the main character was still a little flat.Along with this I was leaning toward changing his tribal lineage.

Then while I was discussing a similar topic with my brother, it dawned on me that the answer to my flat character was right there. The fact that an Apache shaman has Snake as a spirit guide would add several layers of conflict for the character.

So not counting the major conflicts he faces throughout the plot line, he has to deal with being a half-breed, an Apache with Snake as a guide, and his job makes him walk the line between the normal world and those who use magic.

Now I have a character with more than a little color. Yes, I have to add a few sections to exacerbate and the situation, but it will definitely make for a more memorable character.

This turned out to be one of those details that worked out in the end. However, I am more careful about performing research on areas that I am not 100% sure of.

 
 

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Wanderlust

“Not all who wander are lost.”

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Something that has always intrigued me, is why wanderlust only strikes a group of individuals and not everyone. Some travel the world, never staying in one place. Like a river , they may slow down for a time but never come to a full stop unless forced to. Others remain where they were are, never venturing beyond their home county or state borders. Seemingly afraid they might explode if they crossed some invisible border on a map.

I seem to fall in between. I tend to stay in one place for long periods of time, but I’ve never been afraid to drop everything and move the family across the country. Perhaps not having children makes moving easier, I ‘m not sure.

Stranger still is the fact that siblings raised in the same household can show signs from either end of the wanderlust spectrum. One can’t wait to get out of their home town and explore the world while another wants nothing more than to find a job and a spouse, buy a little house and could care less what the rest of the world is doing.

Is it DNA? Choices of the parents? What makes two siblings who, though are only a year or two apart in age, see the world so differently?

I have seen this first hand within my own family and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why it happens. One choice is no more valid or real than the other. It’s just different. When I ask them to try to explain how they feel, the response is the same, “I don’t know. it’s just the way I feel.”

I do understand the ones who go out into the world and explore for a while and then return to their roots. That makes sense to me as they have made a choice based on experience. The ones that baffle me are the ones who never leave and are not interested in ever travelling. Yes, it’s their choice but really? You never want to see other places? It’s hard for me to grasp that.

So, how about you? Are you consumed with the wanderlust? Or, are you a die-hard homebody? I really am interested to hear.

 

 

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Treasure Found!

First book

My First book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While cleaning out my father’s study, I came across a book that I had not seen in nearly thirty years.”Where Eagles Dare” by Alistair MacLean. It was the first book that I every read, cover to cover, on my own, without being forced to! And, I can honestly say that it is still one of the finest WWII spy novels ever written. *There, I went out on a limb on that comment.*

Seriously, if you like the spy thriller genre and you have not read this book, you are missing a real treat. Mr. MacLean spins a story web as well as any spider. He keeps you guessing until the very end. Since then, I have polished off many of his books and have never been disappointed. Many of his books were turned into movies which he wrote the screenplays. Hence most of the movies did the books justice. A rarity in the film industry.

Anyway, I’ve got my first book back and it has found an honored place among my “to read again” list…next up!

So, how about you? What was the first book you read? Do your still have it? Would you read it again?

 

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2016 in Other Strangeness

 

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Out with the old, in with the new

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As I’ve gotten older, I try not to wish away any days, months or years. I have a finite number left. That said, I am certainly glad to see the past three and a half months behind me. Family members continue to heal up and there is finally time for me to get back to the things I want to do. Like updating this blog.

2015 has been a very tough year for me. The universe was (un)kind enough to show me a few of my limitations. The good news is, that I have been intelligent enough to realize the opportunities to change for the better. Now, I just hope I’m intelligent enough and strong enough to act on those changes.

I don’t believe in making year-end resolutions. The typical failure rate is something like 93% by the end of March. So, I won’t make any here. However, I have started to make some changes. Some have been geared toward freeing up time. Some have focused on my health.

For those of you who have stuck with me and not given up the faith, you will begin to see more posts here. Writing and Archery will be the main focus with a healthy dose of psychological, philosophy thrown in just for fun. You will also have to put up with my visiting your blogs and making comments that may or may not be full of wit and wisdom.

So, out with the old and in with the new. I’m looking forward to 2016 and spending some of it with you. I wish you all the best!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Other Strangeness

 

Reality

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How do we respond when reality happens?

Most of our lives we go about chasing what we call our dreams. Professional athlete wannabes. Rock star wannabes. NYTBS wannabes.

We work to make money to afford the luxuries we call necessities. That pair of Jimmy Choo’s. That new computer or tablet. That 4,000 square foot house.

We try new things to keep our lives interesting. Take up gourmet cooking. Skydive. Run a marathon. We live vicariously though our children, hoping they will make it big where we failed, so they can support us in our old age.

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.” He hit the nail on the head, I think. But there are times when Life decides to autocorrect. When we think our lives are stressful and actually we are on cruise-control. Suddenly, the phone rings or the police car pulls up in front of your house…

“I’m sorry sir, but there’s been an accident…” You can fill in the blank with your own worst nightmare.

Life is no longer a passive thing that we just experience. It has just slapped us across the face with a cold wet fish and said “WAKE-UP! It’s time for a dose of reality.” The switch has been thrown, our train is heading down a new track, and our lives will never be the same!

What we say and do in response, helps to define what we have learned in life up to that point and our character is carved out a little more. It might be only one test that we face. Or, it might come at you in waves that seem to never end. Almost before the last news has fully sunk in, the phone rings again… And, three days later, the phone rings again…

It has been said that “God will not give you more to bear than you can handle.” That leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In whose opinion is it too much to handle? I have seen first hand what can happen when someone breaks. It is a frightening thing to witness.

One factor that can make a huge difference in our response, is the size and form of support system that surrounds us. Don’t kid yourself, you still need to deal with reality individually. However, having others to talk to, ask advice from, and sometimes just sit quietly with, can be the difference between making it through your ordeal and not. Support can come from the strangest places so don’t be surprised when a near-stranger stops by and offers a hand up.

The truth is, we will each handle the news differently. There is no right or wrong. You will do the best you can and only you know when you’ve reached your limit. Expect to be stretched beyond where you thought possible. It will happen.

Best advice for this situation: “Take it one day at a time. Do what you have to do to get through today. Worry about tomorrow when it becomes today.”

“This to shall pass.”

 

 

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Mistakes Happen.

Speak no evil

 

 

 

 

Well. it finally happened. It took a few years but I finally put something on the web that wish I hadn’t. I will not say what, when, or where as it doesn’t really matter at this point. Just that I said something without all of the facts and without considering the context in which it would be taken by other readers. unfortunately I cannot take it back or remove it. Looking back on it, I should have just kept my mouth shut and let others, who also did not have all the facts, spew forth their opinions. This was not my finest hour. However, it did reinforce my decision to not use this blog to stand on a soapbox. Don’t get me wrong, I have opinions on most topics. And a few of those opinions are based on experience and first hand knowledge. It’s simply not what I want for this blog. I hope those who read my comment, won’t hold it against me.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if the everyone followed one simple rule: If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all? The silence would be deafening.

Uh, oh. Caught myself trying to step up on that soapbox.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Other Strangeness

 

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