The Three Hundred and Sixtieth Post: The One Where I Talk About One of my Most Hated Sayings!

There are certain words that make me grind my teeth (co-conspirator — there is no such thing. Either you’re in on it, or you’re looking over your shoulder. There is no in-between). There are certain phrases I have heard over and over again in an attempt to bolster my confidence, alleviate some personal misery or just to turn my mood around. While these are generally well-meaning people, I still want to shove them through a colander at times.

One of these inane phrases is: you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone, bro…

Let me tell you why I hate this phrase. It’s really simple.

I have been out of my comfort zone since ’93. Trust me, I would love to run screaming back into it if I could, but modern physics states I can’t right now. I’ve been way, way out of my comfort zone from 2006 to 2016. Luckily for me, things turned around a little bit, so I’m in a tolerable zone.

The reason why I am bringing this up is because this week (August 24th-28th) is a very bad week for me emotionally. I’m not going to go into particulars right now – those of you that know me will know the reasoning. Those of you who are casual readers of the blog might be able to suss out a reason if you go back far enough.

Well, I asked a writer friend of mine for some help to keep my mind occupied for this week. We are both good friends, but very disparate writers. I tend to be a little darker and more cynical when it comes to my genre fiction: splatterpunk, grimdark fantasy or sci-fi. Even my comedy tends to be of a snarky nature. I’m more of a world weary Bugs Bunny sort of person.

However, my friend commiserated with me, and then gave me an assignment that has not only put me out of my comfort zone as far as writing goes…but is going to challenge me:

Okay, a writing assignment… I would like to see how R. K. Clark does Hallmark. Small town. Guys in flannel shirts. Rival florists or bakers or wedding planners must work together for some reason. Or big city guy comes to town to take over the town’s biggest business. It doesn’t have to be a complete story—some scenes will be fine. But put your spin on it!

Well.

I’m not really a romance sort of person to be honest. The closest I’ve gotten to writing one thus far has been Valentina’s Feast…and that’s romantic for a ridiculously small part of the population. A part of the population that I would like to keep a safe distance from.

But even as I sat there, thinking about her assignment…that story popped into my head. I saw the opening scene, where our protagonist is looking at a sign for a developing condo/shopping center and sees an old flame’s name. He realizes that her development is going to take him and everyone else in this kitschy bohemian block out of business, if not get mowed over.

I’ve also been having issues with outlining Resurrectionist’s Blues. Maybe doing something completely different is what I need to get out of this funk I’ve had as of late.

Can’t hurt right? As long as I have three books in the hopper by early December, I’m chugging along.

Maybe this will be the one time I’ll be happy out of my comfort zone.

The Three Hundred and Fifty-ninth Post: The One Where I Talk About Something That I’m Interested In…

When I was in high school, I became fascinated with fountain pens. I bought them from office supply stores whenever I had the chance. They were messy, the ink didn’t dry fast enough for me (being left-handed) but I loved the scratching sound they made on the paper. I liked to look of the nib. The only things I didn’t like about them was: I could only find blue ink (I prefer black, and even then – the black they had never looked dark enough for me), and they only had the medium sized nib. I tend to write small, so a medium nib won’t make the letters legible. Soon after, I discovered Pilot G2 pens and the extra-fine point (.038) and I was off chasing the thin-lined dragon as it were.

Recently, I saw a friend of mine in my writing group using a fountain pen. I asked him where he got it, and he gave me the name of Goulet Pens (hmu guys for a sponsorship deal). Just out of curiosity, I went to the site later one and looked around. I bought two pens and a note pad for about $90. When I got everything, I admit I was skeptical. A fountain pen is a fountain pen, right? It’s not going to write as smooth as my Pilot.

I was joyously wrong! As soon as I dragged my new favorite pen across the paper:

pen

I want this for Christmas, and my Birthday, and Valentine’s Day…and Arbor Day.

All those old feeling of love of longhand writing came back. I’m writing a journal because I feel the need to grab one of the fourteen pens I own (I do not have a problem) and write with it. I tried the Diplomat Stealth blue pen and I wrote a quick note. It was wonderful! I’d even consider writing this blog in long hand and taking pictures of it to put on the site. I might even do that on a lark.

I went to the Internet to see if there were other retailers for inks. I found blogs, websites and message boards about fountain pens. Other pen and paper nerds like me carved spaces in the Web. I felt like I’ve found a new branch of my tribe. Through these wonderful people, I’e found other pens to sate my appetite, inks to use and papers suitable for writing. Not only have I come home, but I can now write nice looking letters to you.

Why am I writing about this? What does this have to do with writing? Tangentially, when I outline for novels I do it in longhand. Doing it with the fountain pen makes it easier, and I can do it much longer. There is another reason for this.

I spoke of passion. Passion can be taken and twisted and perverted. Unrestrained passion is maddening – I speak from experience on this – but passion aimed and properly bridled is a wonder to behold. I rediscovered my passion for long handwriting, and with it I am helping myself and my career.

Go out. Find your passion. Never let it go, never let others hijack it. Change the world with it.

Now, more than ever, we need that.

The Three Hundred and Fifty-eighth Post: The One Where I Talk About A Soviet Era Film…

I just finished watching Come and See. This movie was made in the mid ‘80s, is a very good example of Soviet cinema and should be touted as a must-see by any serious movie buff, or even part-time movie buffs like myself.

Holy Cow.

This movie is absolute terror. As gritty and realistic as Saving Private Ryan but with almost no gore. This is a film that portrays what really happens in war. There is no glory. There are no heroes. There is only the cold math of survival.

We watch the main character Flyora get stripped of everything in the course of the film. It’s hard to believe that the smiling, happy boy in the beginning of the film is the same one at the end of the film swallowed up by the group of partisans, more than likely going off to his death.

The atmosphere is as bleak and oppressive as any location in Providence. Soldiers creeping out of the fog are like hungry wraiths. The cinematography does a very good job of expressing the utter loss of hope. We see the character’s faces right in front of the camera when we first interact with them, we see their freshness and in Flyora’s case, simplicity and ignorance of the reality of the world around him. it is through these shots — easy elemental framed pictures — we see the real face of war. The fear. The pain and worst of all, the banality. The moments of hate are almost a relief, but the protagonist – and by extension, the audience – rarely gets that luxury.

Death comes here often, and there is no ceremony to it. No dying words. One minute he’s talking, the next minute he’s dead. Nothing is spared. Even the animals are killed senselessly. We are reduced to powerless observers. The moment of catharsis is a release of sanity, rather than a release of emotion. Even at the very end of the film, we know that the cycle is going to continue. An almost perpetual meat grinder indifferent to everything. The final scene, watching the partisans through the trees amid funeral music, only reinforces the dread. We are left with the sight of more ghosts trying to find their final rest.

The performances are — especially of Aleksey Kravchenko — are powerful. We watch him age at almost inhuman speed. Glasha undergoes a similar transformation. Like Flyora, she comes into the movie with innocence that is tragically crushed. The small blessing is that we never see it happen, but the aftermath is enough. The fear on Aleksey’s face is real. Every shot fired was a live round of ammunition. The actor described round coming so close to him, he could hear them. The next time some Hollywood fluff says he’s sacrificed for his art, ask him if anyone’s shot at him with live fire. If he says no, then light a cigarette, take a long drag and put it out on his nose and tell him to do some real work.

If you ever get the chance to see this work – go and see it. This is a film that deserves to be sitting next to Saving Private Ryan, Downfall and Letters from Iwo Jima. It is a vital piece of work that the whole world must see.

 

 

The Three Hundred and Fifty-seventh Post: The One Where I Have Good News For A Change…

I have found an editor for Valentina’s Feast! What’s even better? She’s local…well…if by local you mean thirty minutes away, then she’s very local! I’m really happy about this. If things work out well between us, then I will certainly give her much more work than she can handle. If it doesn’t, then I’m out about $300 and a month of time. While I have three people reading it for me, and one of them is a professional editor doing for me as a friendly favor–I really want someone who does it for a living to look it over. I want this book to be the best it can be. I want it to be an enchanting and very, very disturbing book.

The other piece of good news I have is that I completed the other interview I volunteered for. This one was interesting in that what the moderator of the podcast does is takes two writers, gets their books from them and swaps them with each other and then asks questions to the writers about the other’s work. I read her fantasy novel, and she read The Dreaded Day Job. It’s nice when someone who has a following says “I loved this book”. It’s a good feeling–the validation of all that hard work.

Don’t get me wrong. The money’s nice, too.

I am working on the sequel to The Dreaded Day Job called The Agonizing Alibi Day. Without giving away too much, this one deals more with what goes on behind the scenes with the company. After this one, it’s going to be on to The Resurrectionist’s  Blues: One and Done. I have to admit, as I am doing the pre-writing for this one, I am having fun building the religion here. I am learning a lot about early Christianity. Did you know at one point, the Christian Doctrine accepted reincarnation? Yeah! That is wild! You’d usually think that reincarnation wouldn’t have made it to the Middle East, but there it was. I’m trying to do a little more digging to get some more information. I have a feeling by the time this is over, I’ll have a Ph.D in Religious Studies.

Other than all that, there is not a lot really going on. This is going to be a bit of a hectic week for me. Had a counseling session, so I had to work over to get my leaving early balanced out. Got an appointment with my hopefully-soon-to-be editor Thursday, so I’ve got to work over tomorrow, which is laundry day. I’m not going to be very productive this week, but I’m hoping to make it all up Sunday with a nice big writing session. I might even take tomorrow to not do any serious writing, rather continue planning The Resurrectionist’s  Blues: One and Done since I want that one done and ready to go in October.

Well, it look like this entry will get out there on time, for a change. I promised a movie review, and I will get it done for next week. I am still committed to watching Come and See, and I will sit down this Friday and watch it. I’m looking forward to it because the Soviets were pioneers in cinema, and I do have a bit of a weakness for foreign film.

That’s all for now. Have a good day and I look forward to seeing you later.