Friday, November 27, 2015

Pop Art Coffee Table Books and Other Pretentious Garbage

Over the course of the past year, I have been compiling the series of blogs that I wrote through grad school so that I could publish them as the first release of my still as of yet unnamed publishing company.

That's right, you read that correctly. It probably won't come as a shock to many, but I figured that I need to up my game another level if I am going to build an audience, and in order to do that I have to do as legitimate publishers do--but in my own special way that will hopefully make me stand out.

Anyways, since this "first official release," Out in the Fringes: Musings, Witticisms, and Random Insanity, is mean to represent everything this blog has been about over the years, it should be fun to read; and, since grad school was a strange period in my life, it will also be interesting to see how my thought process shifted over that time.

While it will be a little edited (in the context of putting together a compilation and wanting to fix grammar and typos and what not) my goal is to produce the text relatively as-is, and put out a sort-of coffee table book that is pretty to look at and intended to be read in short sporadic bursts. Kind of a pop-art conversation piece.

In general, my goal is to publish more frequently and more in-tune with what I want to accomplish as a writer rather than what other people think or are doing.

Since I am doing it as a hobby, it opens the door for more creativity. I see it as an opportunity to stretch my boundaries using what means I have available, to experiment like I don't have anything to lose.

Really, I don't, since I gain so much from the process. For me, that's what it's all about, for better or worse, which is why I am leaving you with "Destroyer." Failure, while painful at the time, can make for great art and entertainment.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Stroking My Ego: A Retrospective

So, I wrote this story in a fiction writing class like four or five years ago.  At the time, I was going to college and studying literature, and falling in love with just everything that I was reading and everything that I was experiencing in my life. My then-fiance and I had just settled into a shabby little house on a hill. We were planning our wedding and really basking in the glow of our recent romantic adventures. A funny thing happens when you are feeling what you interpret as success: you start to get all nostalgic, you start living in your own history and constantly stroking your own ego. You develop your own mythology.

This story, in particular, was also none other than the story where I figured out how I wanted to write. Originally titled, "Drowning," I of course thought highly of it, even at the beginning, even though, you know, it wasn't perfect.

It started with a different ending than it has today--one that didn't really work--but then someone in my workshop suggested that I change it and, kind of, you know, make it the natural result of everything that happens in the story. While that might seem obvious, as it probably did to that person, it was a revelation to me. Prior to that, I had been coming from a more Absurdist school of thought. "The Sign," as it is called now, was my first real venture into any kind of realism.

While it is in the first person and past tense, and I now tend to write more in the third person and often in the present tense, it is a retrospect of a time in my life, and very honest, and the ending, now, kind of, makes it. While I really love the original version, after reading stories like "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver, where the characters have conflicts through the whole story but then find solutions in revelations, I knew I had to change it. It had to happen another way. It took a while to take shape, but it was, I think, worth the effort.

The last aspect that I focused on was the language, which is really what took so long. My goal was to perfect my grammar and streamline the prose, and also make the imagery as vivid as possible to give the reader a more complete experience.

Now that I am finished, my goal is to get it published in a literary magazine. I believe, if I search hard and keep trying, I will find its home. That is just going take patience, and some research.

In the meantime, enjoy this song by the Kinks:

Each New Novel is A Second Chance

The great thing about starting a new book is a similar feeling to what it must be like to go and relive your teenage years with the knowledge you have gained since.

You know all the things to avoid and plan for the second time around, and where you can just hit the accelerator and go hard in that direction.

This time, I thoroughly planned out the story and the plot before I started. It is not as romantic as just sitting at the keyboard and going where inspiration takes you, but I did it that way for eleven years on my first novel, and I am pretty much all burned out on that, and this way helps to keep me focused and the logic cohesive.

Where I am really trying to express my creativity is in  honing  my style and telling the story that I want to tell.

The biggest mistake I made the first time around is that I started to care too much about what other people thought, which made me make some questionable choices at times. I am more or less happy with the result, but I don't want to keep going back to that same novel over and over again.

This time around, I am making my choices more confidently, and I am not going to let myself second-guess them more than a reasonable amount, which is something that I have learned to identify along the way (I hope).

Or maybe I am more of a work in progress. Either way, I am looking forward, and not looking back too often, and hopefully never losing sight of my goal.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Gettin' Hairy in November

With Movember, Muffvember, Novembeard, and National Novel Writing Month all happening simultanously, things are getting very hairy out here in the Fringes.

My (2013) short story collection, Tales from the Fringes, is getting a makeover. I am in the process of reformatting and re-editing a new edition, which will be available in early 2016 (stay tuned for a specific date).

The biggest changes are to the design. When I published it the first time, I didn't have a full grasp on publishing design standards. Now the paragraphs are justified, and the punctuation marks are all formalized. The divides between the sections are also clearer and more consistent, and the page numbers and headers are more functional. Most of this will also carry over to the eBook design.

I have also eliminated the three weakest stories ("Wrist Cramps," "Reggie's Tale," and "The Other Side of Greed"). "Wrist Cramps" was one of the first stories I ever wrote, and, while it has its strong points, its weak points are more noticeable, and really not fixable. "Reggie's Tale" is just not worth updating, either, and "The Other Side of Greed" is really more of a fictionalized personal essay and a bit redundant.

Additionally, I have put the stories in a slightly new order (switching "Greasy" and "A Hipster Confession" around being the most noticeable change), and I have renamed a couple ("The Marriage Bed" is now "Flowers" and "Survival" is now "People These Days"). These are all small details that make a strong impact.

Finally, I am making relatively few edits. My biggest concerns are grammatical; however, I also want to eliminate anything unnecessary and maximize the quality and the descriptiveness of the language.

It's important to me to get this right, as people seem to like my short fiction, and this collection, in particular. I have gotten some good constructive feedback, and I have also learned a lot since I first put it out. It's definitely worth polishing, and I believe I will be able to use it to build a bigger audience.

In that regard, I am also working on new fiction: a novel (or two, actually) and multiple new stories that I hope to get published in journals and put out as a collection (eventually).

I am not technically doing National Novel Writing Month, since I already had about 6,000 words before the month began, but because I am technically writing a novel, I can relate to those people who are officially participating. So there! On that note, Happy #NaNoWriMo!