Eclectic Ramblings From a Bike Riding, Sports Loving, Novel Writing Nerd.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What A Week!

Have you ever had one of those weeks that just felt like a dream.  A week where things just go right, where you just keep waiting for it to end but it just keeps going?

It's been one of those weeks.  Actually more like a week and a half.

Obviously if you're reading this you have at least some passing interest in my writing.  I took a gamble several days back and applied to be a contributor for a blog.  Nothing major, just a multi-contributor, non-paid pop culture site.  The appealing thing for me was access to editors and feedback for my writing.  Page views were an afterthought, an added bonus.  I figured there was no way I would get selected my first time out.  Yet, there I was last Saturday morning reading the email.  They had enjoyed my sample article and I was given login information and told to start writing.

Feeling emboldened I decided to throw a dart at the wall by sending an email to a literary hero of mine.  I told him I was just starting out with a serious attempt at my writing and asked if I could interview him. I figured there was no way but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

Notice a theme here?

Yeah, he replied within a couple of hours and I spent the last few days talking with a really cool guy who also happens to be an amazing author.  I put up the interview today and the next thing I knew my name was all over Twitter, Facebook and Google+.  I have you guys to thank for that.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of these first few weeks for me.  I did this as an experiment in what would happened if I tried.  Not in my wildest dreams did I think things would go as well as they have.  Even if it all crashes down tomorrow and no one reads another word I have had an absolute blast and I am more motivated than ever to keep at this.

I really hope I can figure out my voice and find some way to keep going though. I absolutely love writing, creating, sharing with anyone who wants to take part, even if its just a handful of good friends.

So thank you all again.  Thank you for sharing my articles.  Thank you for the words of support.  Thank you for the honest feedback and critiques.

More to come soon.

Ike Out.

"It's a shame for any great story to go without an audience.  If you enjoy writing and have something to add, take the chance on getting it out there." - Hugh Howey

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Mind Killer

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." - Frank Herbert, Dune

Why does fear stop us so often?  Fear talks us out of opportunities before we ever give them a try.  Fear drives us to give up before we've given ourselves a chance to succeed.  Fear keeps us from even trying.

I started this blog a few weeks ago as a way to kick start my writings.  I've let ideas bounce around in my head for years and I felt it was time to start getting them out onto the page.  Yet even after starting I'm finding myself terrified to keep going.

Last Friday I posted the first section of a short story.  The idea was commit to the story and get the idea out of my brain and onto the page.  I knew going into the project that I couldn't expect perfection, that it may very wall crash and burn but I wanted it to be an exercise in writing, in getting the story out of me.  Yet even knowing all of that I find myself frozen, the little demon in my head telling me to give up.

I've written three parts of what will likely be six or seven.  I'm happy with all three.  I'm even giving myself a weekly publishing schedule to allow time for editing and revisions.  Yet somehow, when I sat down to write tonight the voice in my head kept telling me it was pointless.  I opened Word ready to type but I was frozen.  My fingers wouldn't move, the words wouldn't come.  I was convincing myself it was a pointless venture.  No one would care.  Everyone would hate it.  

Why do we do this to ourselves?  

I'm not writing to get published.  I'm not trying to become rich and famous.  I just want to create something, to get these stories out of my head.  Maybe someone will find them interesting, maybe not.  What does it matter?  No one is going to think different of me if I post some garbage sci-story.  The worst thing that could happen is I create something that no one reads.  How is that a bad thing?  Yet a very large portion of my brain is actively trying to convince me it is.

So tonight, instead of working on part four I'm ranting here, attempting to exorcise the demons.  I will let the fear pass over me and through me and when it is gone, only I will remain.

Maybe then I can get back to work.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writer's Bloc

In the Writer's Bloc feature I will be posting some of my original fiction:  book chapters, short story excerpts and other similar writings.  Any and all feedback is welcome.  The idea is to put myself out there and learn as I go.  

Today's piece is the first chapter from the novel I started last year.  This chapter idea had been rattling around in my head for two or three years before I finally sat down and got it on the page. It is presented here pretty much exactly as I first typed it out, warts and all.

Chapter 1

“This place fucking stinks!”
“You know Mullen, you say that every time we come through here.  Nothing’s changed in the last four years. ”
Mullen was right though.  As much as I hate his constant griping, Macon was the worst smelling towns I could remember.  Locals said the buildings were permanently saturated with the fumes of the old paper mills but those hadn’t been in operation since before the power went out.  Surely 114 years would cleanse the stench.  Right?
“Well I’m sorry Breccan, when something smells this damn bad I’ve got to say something.  I’m not one to keep my mouth shut.”
“Especially if there’s meat or a beer nearby.”
That was Cahill.  Pretty much attached at the hip with Mullen.  They were the military wing of our little group; the tank and the brain.  Mullen was all brute: fists, swords and blunt instruments.  Cahill was the strategist, the archer, the quiet one.  Quiet unless he was talking shit to Mullen, his favorite pastime.
We’d been walking for two days.  We left Perry on Tuesday.  Spent last night camped on the north end of an old Air Base.  The runways and buildings littered with what the Old Ones called “Jets”; flying instruments of war from the days before It happened.  From before when we had the electricity needed to power these steel beasts.  Now they sat stranded, hollow shells stripped of anything anyone found to be useful.  I’m sure the warriors of old would hardly recognize the husks that do little more than provide shelter from the rain these days.
Today we were making our way to Macon, the county seat and a vital resupply station in central Georgia.  The farmland around Macon was rich and the old highway ran through the center of town, providing a natural lifeline to Atlanta to the north and Tifton to the south.  This made the city a natural stopping point for anyone heading north, as we were.   It also provided a natural source of power and prestige for whoever controlled the city, as evidenced by the steady stream of warlords who changed places every few years.  The changes here were legendarily violent and bloody.  Luckily things were unusually calm around the city these days.
Or so we thought.
“Hey Ainsle, any chance of us sticking around for a few days after we re-supply?”
“C’mon Mullen, we’ve already been over this.  Macon is just a quick re-supply stop.  You’ll have all the time you want for whiskey and women when we get to Atlanta.”
“Damn it Ceara.  I wasn’t fucking talking to you.”
“Mullen, If you bother him again I will cut off your balls and make a nice pretty necklace out of them.”  She was only partly joking.
“Yes, ma’am.”  
Once, Ceara makes her point, Mullen and Cahill usually shut up.  There was no use arguing with her.  She was the enforcer of Ainsle’s will.  He was too soft spoken and kind to raise his voice to any of us.  So she did it for him.  And we all listened.   
Ainsle likely couldn’t hear the exchange anyway.  He was easily 200 yards ahead of us, taking point as always.  He liked being alone out front, lost in thought yet ever vigilant.  Only Cahill relieved him up front,  but even then only rarely.   
This strong, quiet man off in the distance was the reason we were all here.  Friends since childhood, Ainsle, Ceara and I went everywhere together for over 25 years.   Then he was exiled.  None of us knew why.  Even four years later not a word had been spoken about the whats and the whys.
Ainsle harbored a dark secret, dark enough to be forced to leave our tight knit community.  The first permanent exile noted in the hall of records for our childhood home of Dublin, about five days southeast of Atlanta.  
After the world went dark, when the power went out and the society fell apart people fled the big cities in droves.  Once they realized you couldn’t feed millions with rooftop gardens in the middle of a concrete jungle there was little point in staying.  They mostly settled in the small rural towns, like Dublin, and over the years created their own laws and identities.  As the national government lost its power, the states regained control.  Yet most of the power over daily life rested in the cities.  While many moved to the country, many more remained in the familiar comfort afforded by skyscrapers and neighborhoods.  The cities became centers for trade and were the seats of power for the surrounding areas.  Some were run by elected governments, some by warlords and gangsters.  Corruption reigned..  
To cope, many communities at least partially rejected the old “American” way of life and re-embraced whatever heritage they had begun to forget before the lights turned off.   Dublin was a longtime stronghold of Scotch-Irish families so naturally we embraced many of the celtic traits of our forefathers.  Traits that were of course bastardized by centuries of “Americanization”, or so said the Old Ones.
So Dublin became a uniquely Scotch-Irish community.  Clans became the norm, more close knit communities than actual families.  If you were accepted into the clan they became your people, and you theirs.  You did not go against the family, and on a greater scale, you did want to run afoul of the elders wishes.  
And yet this is what Ainsle, the most fiercely loyal of all of us, somehow did.  He so angered the elders that they cast him out forever.  Half of Dublin was enraged by the decision, for Ainsle was one of the most beloved members of our close knit community.  As is always the case in Dublin, his crimes were not made public, only the punishment.  No one believed he could have done something to warrant exile.  Yet there he was, on the courthouse steps, announcing to all assembled that he deserved and accepted his punishment.  
Before I knew exactly what was happening, Ceara and I were standing on the courthouse steps too, ready to accompany him as always.  We knew full well it meant that morning’s breakfast would be the last we shared with our families.  Yet we went willingly.
“Something’s wrong” Ceara quietly intoned.  Lost in reflection I had not even realized she had wandered up next to me.
“He’s slowing down, letting us catch up.”
She was right.  Ainsle was noticeably closer.  Ten minutes ago he had been a foggy presence at the far front end of our column.  Suddenly  we had closed the distance to where we would catch him within the next minute or so at our current pace.  
“I’ll go check” I said as I jogged away from Cera, catching Ainsle within a few seconds.
“What’s up big guy.  See something?”
“More like smelled.  The mill stench can only cover up so much.  At least seven of them probably more like ten or eleven.  They’re behind those two houses at the end of the street.  Either side of the road waiting for us pass.”
His heightened senses still amazed me.  He saw, heard, smelled everything light years before the rest of us.  And none of us were slouches when it came to tracking.  Ainsle was just in a league of his own.  It was a recurring theme with him.
The rest of the group sidled up alongside.
“We know you’re there, no use hiding anymore.”  Somehow Ainsle’s voice always sounded quietest when he boomed out commands.
A solitary figure emerged from the porch of the house on the right.  As soon as he exited the building the breeze caught his stench.  The smell of filth, body odor and swamp muck drifted  towards us.  He looked as he smelled: filthy, full of booze, miserable.
“We’ll be taking your food there travelers.  And any coinage or valuables you have as well.”
He was emaciated, clearly underfed.  It was no wonder food was his first demand.
“My ass!”  Mullen bellowed.  “You ain’t getting none of our shit.”
“Quiet Mullen.”  Ainsle’s voice was as a whisper.
The figure reached behind his back and pulled a 6 inch blade from his waistband.  The remaining eight bandits quickly emerged from behind the houses, each carrying a knife, pipe or other instrument of pain.  Within seconds they lined both yards and the road, blocking our entry to the city.
Ainsle remained calm as ever.  “There is no need for violence friend.  We have several days rations and you are welcome to as much as you need.  We are on our way to the town center for resupply and are happy to share.”
The bandit winced noticeably, clearly not accustomed to charitable offers.  “Now see, I’m thinkin if you   got goods to give away, you got plenty more you ain’t tellin me about.  And I want it all.”
The bandits began a methodical march down the road.  Murder clearly in their eyes.
Cahill’s bow came up, sighted on the bandit leader.  Mullen unsheathed the enormous blade he kept strapped to his back, reached for the handle secured in his waistband at the small of his back.  
“Guns boss?  We don’t have time for this shit.”
Cries and shrieks began to pore from the mouths of the ambush party.  They inched closer, eyeing us cautiously but intent on taking our wares.
Ceara and I reached for our weapons as well, steadying ourselves the battle to come.
The bandits were almost on top of us.  We had naturally assembled in a half moon defensive position, eyes open to either flank.  The bandits’ war cries filled our ears as they marched closer, malice and murder in their eyes.

“No Mullen.  No weapons.  Put them away.”

Monday, July 1, 2013