Monthly Archives: February 2014

Friday Link Pack: 2/28/14

The last Friday in February – how time flies. I believe this will be my last Friday Link Pack to cover for K.M. Alexander, however I plan to continue doing this style of post more regularly. It has been a great experience in the sense that I have become more diligent in reading more blog posts and staying in tune with the writing community.

I owe a thank you to those who have tuned in and followed writebrainedramblings – I know a couple of you have become followers and I hope to offer you motivation, advice, and a place to read something of substance, if not tangential. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter at @wordrew.

Writing:

“I almost let him die.”

Victoria is a great writer to follow – her insights are always fantastic and tangible.  This article really hit home with me, as my most recent work (of which I posted a raw snippet) was something that I wrote on a warped mini notepad that I was using as a coaster on my nightstand. The opening of the story was a slurry of words that swirled and thickened in my mind as I drifted on the edge of deep sleep. Usually, when I am tired, I SLEEP – there is no drifting near anything. Just sleep.

Writing Excuses 9.6: The Experience of Time

This is a great episode in which relating real life experiences, and how the flow of time can change, in real life situations. Time can play such a powerful role in our writing – it can also wreak havoc if we are not careful.

The Biggest Lie Aspiring Writers Believe

I cannot tell you how hard this hit home with me. It is my biggest struggle. It always has been. I need to plug in a different response, pronto. Instead of ‘one more video game’ or ‘just a bit more research on new board games’. I need to listen to Patrick Rothfuss when he says:

RothfussPatrick

Random:

National Enquirer Forced to Fund New Playwriting Foundation in Honor of Phillip Seymour Hoffman

I have listened to both side of the argument about PSH’s death – that it is tragic and too early, or that we shouldn’t be praising an addict who chose drugs over family. This isn’t in any way taking a stance on that issue. This is a rose in the cracks – a seedling of something great born from a tragedy. Plus, screw the National Enquirer.

On why I accepted the apology and on the role of apologies in general

I love Mary Robinette Kowal, but I do not follow her enough to know what this post is really about – I imagine it has to do with SFWA and the trouble that community has been having as of late. None-the-less, this is a great article to read about what an apology actually is, and why we need to think about them before we give or accept them.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

-Albert Einstein

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Friday Link Pack: 02/21/14

This is the second week in which I will cover K.M. Alexander’s Link Packs whilst he is away playing with ‘roos and didgeridoos.

Writing:

8 Female Characters Who Deserve Their Own Books

Although I have not read all of these books, the arguments for each character seems valid. I would love to read a story focusing on Miss Havisham and how she came to be the bitter old bat that she was. I am sure if this list were expanded, we would find a female character from a Flannery O’Connor novel in here as well.

The Twitter tale of Jeffery the Housefly

I think that this is a fantastic idea, to be honest. Pullman is fantastic, and should have received much more attention pre-Harry Potter. I did not read through the entire story, but what I did read was as whimsical, odd, and random as the premise itself. I now follow Pullman on Twitter just for this reason.

Writing Class Videos and Updates

KM has an older post (found here) that shared a series of videos recorded in Brandon Sanderson’s Creative Writing class at BYU. This new post at Sanderson’s website showcase newer videos that also address writing – they are definitely worth a watch.

Why Being Creative is a Lot Less Difficult than You Think

I especially like what is said about drugs/alcohol and how each substance really had more to do with the time period than any actual effects that were experienced.  I am reading Stephen King’s On Writing currently, and he alludes to the fact that, during his college years, most of the writers were full of shit, praising their Muse and scoffing at anyone who didn’t understand what their writing meant. Perhaps Opium is a ‘free-er of the mind’ but I ain’t trying it, and it probably had more to do with the glamor of the drug at the time than anything else. Hemmingway and Fitzgerald drank a lot of Absinthe though. I do a bit, and I like where my head is at after a drink or two of that, but it hasn’t yet correlated with my Muse descending upon me with golden words.

Random:

Four Things We Can Learn from Embracing our Limitations

This a great post tied to a great TEDtalk that says ‘Its okay to have limitations”. I especially love the part about “showing up for the process” – I am definitely guilty of living too far in the future when it comes to my career as a writer, and I need to just show up and embrace the journey.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

Sometimes a stumble in life can lead to something pretty badass…. Keep your head up.

Snippet: Valentine’s Day

I decided to go ahead and post a small section of an unedited piece that I am currently working on. It will drop you into the middle of a dream I had about a surprise birthday party with an imaginary new girlfriend. I hope you enjoy…

This night was different though. She brought me to a bar. A new bar that desperately wanted to be an old bar. Repurposed, reclaimed, and resentful fixtures clung to the hope that the wooden paneled walls were antique looking enough. It was the sort of place where light bulbs hung exposed from single socket cords, naked orange filaments glowing within. It was the sort of place that smells more like privilege than the desperation of keno players. It sported vintage metal signs of Old Style for the sheer novelty of their running drink special called the Scottish Whelp – a bastardized boilermaker with an Old Style and a shot of Laphroaig 18 year single malt. There was a jukebox there too, but not one of the shitty internet kinds that grants instant gratification for drunk thirty-something’s who cannot get over New Kids on the Block. This one held real music, fat, stiff buttons proclaiming One through Zero and A through K. I knew and loved every song it held within.

I made it past the awkward, open-my-mouth-and-clutch-my-chest moment as I mimed having the heart attack that, inevitably, the burger I had for lunch would demand. I saw nothing but wide rows of white teeth, admiration, and love. Every one of them was my people. I hugged them for a while. I kissed her several times – some out of courtesy and some out of a kindling love. My people came and went like the breaking waters on the sand no more than thirty yards from the quaint bar.

She was everything I needed at that time. Carefree. Bubbly. Curiously insightful. Selfless. I was by no means a selfish bastard but, in reflection, perhaps I was. I could tell by the twinkle in her eye that she was mighty pleased with how things were going. She had done exceptionally well for only having known me those past four months.

We were lovers of the best sort – new lovers that is. Her lips were always damp and willing to find me. Her breath smelled as perfect as it tasted – of spearmint and laughter. Her hand seemed to glide from behind my head and down my chest as our kisses wandered apart. We had been eager for each other since our first date. Nothing we did felt common or obligated. She tasted fresh and sweet in every way.

The night found me the perfect amount of drunk. The I-feel-witty-and-sharp-and-the-life-of-the-party type of drunk. I was all of those things. It was magical. However, amidst the shimmering aura of enchantment, a smudge of reality sauntered in, dispelling the very foundation of my contentment. It, or she rather, was an unspoken incident-waiting-to-happen – the sagging weight of too many liquor bottles on ever weakening particle board shelves. She was who she was and cared little for what I or anyone else thought.

My quirky, party-planning girl’s smile bloomed into brilliance when the distraction walked in. They were friends from long ago and until forever. The positive proof that opposites attract and form covalent bonds of beauty. For every ounce that my girl was perky and vibrant, the friend was, in turn, cynical and mysterious. My gal wore a perfectly hemmed cocktail dress of a deep, rich, shimmery teal. Her friend wore tattoos of vintage pin-up models sporting tattoos. She too wore a dress and it spoke the same words of hope as the bar did – that it looked vintage and retro despite costing a ton and being newly made.

I was introduced with enthusiasm and I gave her a hug. Not a one-armed, socially permissible anywhere hug either. I gave her a trademark teddy bear squeeze that allowed me time to inhale her scent, a mixture of predatory instinct and citrus. There was a trace of whiskey too, which I embraced through the warm breaths on my neck as I rubbed on her back to finish my hug. I am a hugger, no doubt, and I have learned a lot about people by doing so.

Friday Link Pack 02/14/14

In K.M. Alexander’s stead, it’s time to share a few links that I stumbled upon throughout the week. I am going to start mentioning the articles that interest me via my Twitter account, so follow along there if you want.

This is the inaugural Friday Link Pack for me and Write-brained Ramblings. I found the time I spent researching articles (I have not been, historically, as proactive in reading articles as K.M. is) was entertaining and informative – I will be sure to dive deeper into the blogosphere and stay connected.

Let me take a few moments to introduce myself. My name is Drew Gerken and I am currently an aspiring writer, brewer, new father, and a pursuer of dreams and interests. I am also a collector of hobbies.  I love learning how to do things for myself, getting my hands dirty, and pursuing new experiences. The request for me to fill in has really helped motivate me to try and stay informed and share what I find as valuable as a writer, brewer, and human being.

Writing:

Are we growing out of Epic Fantasy?

This is a brief but great article that discusses a shift from praise-worthy heroes and grandiose story arcs to a more character-centric story with internal conflict as a more central theme. I write Fantasy, and my recent works have flopped a bit mainly due to, in retrospect, me trying to write Martin/Sanderson-esque epics when my heart and interests really want to focus on a character overcoming their flaws, adversity, and growing into something great.

Another Way to Deal with Procrastination

An article on the neuroscience of imagining your goal beyond something you love as a way to associate the happiness with the goal. I am definitely going to practice the exercise that Diane outlines, as procrastination is an art form that I have definitely mastered.

Writers Aren’t Insane, We’re “Disinhibited”

Setsu over at KatanaPen is a friend and writer peer who doesn’t waste anyone’s time with fluff or frills. She is a fantastic resource on writing, martial arts, and not putting up with bullshit. If you aren’t following her blog or on Twitter, you probably should be.

This article also talks about Neuroscience (two in one week is atypical for me, as I left my psychology interests behind in college) and how creativity and eccentric personalities are related.

Are You Still “Aspiring”? How to Level Up as a Writer.

This is a post by the fabulous Lauren Sapala. I know that K.M. has mentioned Lauren’s blog a few times in the past – I am here to reinforce the fact that you should be following her if you are not. Lauren has been a major inspiration for me, and is firmly entrenched as a cheerleader and motivator for my writing career.

This post is probably the most applicable to me as a writer right now – just refer back to my intro where I called myself an aspiring writer. My goal is to start scheduling writing sessions in the morning.

The Days When You Don’t Feel Like Writing

Check Wendig is typically NSFW, but the rawness of his voice strikes true to me. I enjoy his blog immensely, and this post is helping me break down some of my own writing barriers. Don’t let the writing guise fool you though, the heart of this post should be applied to most aspects of life.

Other Works:

Portraits

This is a fantastic piece that sketches various reader/writer personalities in a few lines. I can see myself in the first, third, and seventh portraits. How about you?

Random:

Beard Beer: Rogue Ales Creates Brew out of Yeast from Brewmaster John Maier’s Facial Hair

This is old, so don’t rush off and call Rogue to get your hands on a bottle – they are all sold out by this point. I find it fascinating though. I feel the urge to throw away my electric trimmer and razors as well, and start cultivating my own yeast strain. I told you I like to try new things, right?

Happy Valentine’s Day:

Torz Reynolds Slices Off Tattoo of Ex-Boyfriend…

Nothing says ‘true love’ like “Chopper’s Bitch”. Nothing says ‘we’re done’ like an envelope of withered facial flesh.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

Remember, if you bring your partner to a hotel for a romantic getaway this weekend, DON’T do this…

Liebster Nominated!

This is a very new and wonderful thing for me.  Setsu over at KatanaPen has nominated me for a Liebster Award! I have not heard of this before, simply because this is my first real attempt at blogging. The fact that such a powerful woman, writer, and friend thought of me is enough to constrict my throat a bit. I secretly think she is just trying to get some dirt on me though…

Rules:
1. Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them. (Done)
2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator. (See below)
3. Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers. (See below)
4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer. (down further below)
5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them. (Message delivered)

ONE. What’s the harshest piece of criticism you’ve grown from?

In college, I was fortunate enough to study under a couple of fantastic writers in my Creative Writing classes. One encouraged me to embrace flash fiction – to strip down my fluffy, clunky prose into something more powerful. The other challenged me to get my head out of my ass. It was this professor’s criticism that knocked me a down a peg or two from my illusory elevation, and back to reality. I was in a class that had talent, and I sat there thinking I was better than them. I can guarantee that others in that room had already published by then, and that they are definitely publishing now. I had not. I am not.

I flaked off that semester, wrote half-hearted garbage, and skipped class regularly. None of that bothered my professor. On the last day of class, when our final reading and submission of our writing portfolio was to take place, I laid in bed. About a half hour before class was to begin, I called my prof’s office and informed him that I wouldn’t be showing up. He asked if I could have someone drop my portfolio off. I told him no, and that it wasn’t complete, so why bother. He asked if I understood what I was choosing to do, and that if I could get him anything, it would significantly help my grade in the class. I was apathetic – that day more so than any other day of my life.

As we finished up our conversation, he asked me why I was doing this. I told him that I hadn’t done enough work to warrant a grade or his criticism. I told him that I just lost my inspiration. I felt his anger through the phone. A man with a grizzled beard and a riotous rave of graying hair on his head. I knew he was pissed. And the best piece of advice I received was what he finished our conversation with. He said, “Drew. You have wasted your time and money – I’m sure you already know that. What pisses me off is that you inhibited another writer, one of your peers, from the opportunity to improve their craft. Your seat in the class could have had meaning if someone else would have occupied it.”

I now understand that me being lazy doesn’t just affect me. In fact, it may affect me least of all.

TWO. If you had to be without one of your five senses, which would it be and why?

I know that this is supposed to be a very taxing conundrum for people, but I have never felt that way. I would choose to be without Touch. It’s a matter of what I cannot imagine being without. Sight is the first – I am terrified of going blind. Hearing is next – how else could I know if my new baby girl was crying or not? How else could I hear her first words? Taste is my third necessary. As an avid baker, brewer, and amateur foodie, I could not imagine being without it. These are the essentials for me.

Smell and touch are sort of a toss-up. I am a big, hairy, and sometime smelly guy, so I could be in for Smell going away at times, but it does enhance the Taste sense, so I think it ultimately has to stay. I have worked in numbing conditions, where you cannot feel your hands or feet or face. I can say that I can do without the sense of Touch because I have been, in part without it.

THREE. What material is hard for you to write, and how do you tackle it (emotional rawness, erotica, gore, etc)?

As an emerging writer who has only recently returned to the craft, I have a hard time answering this question. I think I have to say Fantasy, which breaks my heart. I have always fancied myself a Fantasy writer, but I cannot get anything to stick that is worth a damn, when I write within that genre. I am tackling it by writing outside of the genre for now, getting my chops back, and gaining confidence. Once the dust is knocked off, I am sure I will be able to give it a proper go.

I would also say plot twists.

FOUR. What did you have in mind when you started blogging, and how did your blog deviate from your original idea?

I really wanted to establish a place of accountability for myself. I am inherently lazy with some things, and establishing a blog and knowing that there may be a few regular readers meant that other were ‘relying’ on me to post. The train of thought was that the more I posted, the better my writing would become, or the more insights I would glean about myself as a writer.

I think I am still on the mark with my intentions with writebrainedramblings. I write in a very raw, stream-of-consciousness manner. My posts rarely get an edit outside of the squiggly red underline issues. I wanted people to understand me and my thought process from a very real perspective, and I believe that I am doing just that.

FIVE. What’s the strangest compliment you’ve ever received?

“I’ve totally underestimated you.”

I’ve heard the same thing several times in my life. Sometimes it is a total backhanded compliment. Sometimes it is a direct insult. Other times, it catches me off guard for all the right reasons.

SIX. What question do you wish people would ask you, and how would you answer?  What will it take for you to pursue your dreams?

Most people who know me know that I dream big. I have a lot of ambitions in life, a lot of ventures that I would love to explore. Most of these are simply on hold for financial reasons – it’s a lame excuse, but it’s reality. Shit runs on money in our society. I want to open a brewery or brew pub – that is a couple million needed to start. I would love to run a food truck – that’s a couple hundred grand. I want to buy a cabin on Lake Michigan and write, and brew, and swim every day for the rest of my life – unfortunately, I have a lot of bills to pay, and a wife and child to consider.

So I think the next best thing that will allow me to pursue my dreams is motivation. If I could simply be one of those people who can set their mind to something and get it done, well, things would be significantly different for me these days – my life would be completely different.

SEVEN. How do you deal with an unhealthy obsession (if you don’t have obsessions, I suspect you’re fibbing — but go ahead and give advice for ‘your friend’ who does)?

I typically make fun of it. I am an over-eater, an indulger. I have a weight and blood pressure problem. I simply hide behind jokes to avoid addressing the issue.

EIGHT. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do, and what would be the first step toward accomplishing that goal?

I am doing it right now. I have always wanted to publish my work – this blog and the community of writers that I am fortunate enough to be a part of is helping me get there. My next step, at this point, is to explore my newest piece and write it into the full story that it wants to be.

NINE. What makes you a great friend?

That is hard for me to answer. I am the guy who is the best friend of numerous people. I like to think that I am compassionate, engaging, and attentive to my friends. Also, I am as loyal as you can get. My friends know that, no matter the circumstance, I will do anything for them. I would literally take a bullet for a friend.

TEN. What does your personal paradise look, sound, and smell like?

A log cabin nestled amongst Sugar Maples on the foredunes of Lake Michigan. The sort of place where my living room leads out to a huge deck, which leads out to the beautiful singing sands of Michigan’s western shoreline. The other side of the house would be surrounded by maple trees (some with sap taps and buckets hanging off of them) and lush forest to hike through. It would sound like my wife humming while she feeds our cooing baby girl. The breeze would hold the faint sound of laughter from a family gathering. It would smell like cherry pipe tobacco and Lake Michigan.

—————————————–

I am not sure if I know 10 bloggers who this pertains to, but I will send this out where I can. I am assuming that I cannot send back to my nominator…

So, Claudia, Lauren, Margit, Amanda, Happy Mitten Games, Erin, Sam, Caroline, Lee – I have 10 questions for you to answer!

1. What is your biggest passion?

2. What is your best piece of advice for pursuing your dreams?

3. What were your goals when starting your blog? Are you achieving them? Have they changed?

4. What is your favorite cereal?

5. What is your favorite game? (Sure, it can be sports or board games or games of the mind persuasion)

6. What color is the new Black?

7. What is your favorite meal to COOK?

8. What is your favorite quote? What does it mean to you?

9. What actor plays the best villain?

10. Who is your favorite author(s)? Why? What is their best work?

Discovering Your Voice & Not Knowing How to Use It

Wow. It has been a while since posting anything and I feel as though each day without an update is alienating me from my writing peers – something I never want to do.

I have had a few letdowns and a few breakthroughs since NaNoWriMo destroyed my writer’s confidence. I would not have felt so defeated had I not felt so prepared before the month began. I had an outline, character sketches, a writing strategy, and a dedicated space to do it in. I also had an amazing support group. It just wasn’t meant to be in 2013.

In December I had a dream. A week later I discovered my voice through a whimsical short story. I was writing outside of my preferred genre and it felt great. The beginning paragraph formed in my head while I was trying to sleep – I could not stop thinking about it, turning it over and over in my head until I reached over to my nightstand and grabbed a mangy little notebook that was warped from being used as a coaster. It didn’t matter. None of the things that I thought of as ‘tools’ mattered. The Evernote Moleskine notebook wasn’t needed. Neither were the eight different colors of the new Sharpie pens, for which I had a color assigned to each character. I realized later that perhaps they are all distractions. When the lightning flashes, you will use anything to write with. The instrument is nothing more than a conduit- be it a pen, iPad, eyeliner, crayon, or keyboard. It also didn’t matter that I was exhausted, writing into the early morning. I even fell asleep writing in mid-sentence once.

Since then, however, I have struggled – floundered even. This post discusses what I believe to be the underlying issue.

Discovering Your Voice & Not Knowing How to Use It

To be enamored with your own writing style is a special thing. I am not sure how many writers feel the same way, but when you finally write your way through a piece you feel is worth a damn and come out on the other side feeling excited about it…that is special. I was writing fantasy before this breakthrough. I have always loved the idea of being a fantasy writer. It stems from being an avid role-player for the past twenty-plus years. It stems from loving to read in that genre. It stems from being a total worldbuilder junkie.

What I did for this story was completely different though. I was transcribing a dream and adding little elements that were either hazy in my recollections, or that made sense to me on a purely subconscious level within the dream. I didn’t have to think about anything. I just wrote what I saw and felt and tasted. It came out snarky and whimsical. I feel like, if pressed to put it in a genre, it would fit in Urban Magical Romance. Sort of.

I woke the next morning and sped to work, wanting to share the breakthrough with my writing friends there. I transferred the story onto my computer and sent it to a few friends. Once that was done, I was energized to write more. I needed to cling to the crackling energy that was dissipating. I must have destroyed a dozen pages of my notebook trying to let that voice ooze out of me. Nothing happened.

So this is where I find myself today, more than a month after my breakthrough. I have a work that I believe, with a few rounds of editing and the dawning of realization that I figure out exactly what it is, could be worth sending out. I have the knowledge that I have a voice worth reading – I even hear that voice echoing somewhere deep within. I also have the stare-at-the-screen, deer-in-the-headlights, drool-on-the-notepad paralysis. I have no idea where to start or how to begin.

Perhaps finding a way to bridge this new voice with my beloved Fantasy genre is where I need to experiment next? Perhaps I need to find inspiration in the ridiculous things around me? Perhaps I need to shut the hell up and just write?

I know that other writers struggle with this. I know this because Lauren has a great post about How to Hunt your Writing Voice, and she knows lots of spectacular things about writers. I know this because my peers talk about this regularly – even the ones who are publishing.

I want to know about your struggles with voice. I want to know how you are working to overcome those struggles. I want to know that you overcame them.