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Site Move!!

Hello everyone!

If you follow along, I have just launched my new website, http://www.drewgerken.com and relocated writebrainedramblings there! I am very excited about this transition to a more powerful and writing-centric platform that I personally created.

I would love nothing more than for you to head over to the new site and follow me there as well, as this will be my last post here. Thank you for being interested, and I hope you enjoy the new experience at http://www.drewgerken.com.

Keep on writing!

My Absence

Hey there.

I just wanted to give a brief update that I have not forgotten about my posting here. The past few weeks have been extremely turbulent, but I am past that now, so I should be able to resume regular posting in the next few days.

Nothing completely devastating has happened, but my parents did come and visit for eight days, so most of my time was spent with them. Also, it seems as though I need to start looking for the proverbial greener pastures in terms of a career, as my boss and company have shown their true colors very recently.

I have every intention to resume my (lesser) version of the Friday Link Pack, but I just haven’t had the time during the past two weeks.

My writing has halted a bit, but I hope to change that this week.

See you all real soon.

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.

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?

NaNoWriMo: Day 1 – Reflection & Snippet

Well, I sure thought that I was ready for today. I have been waiting for today for several months now, hoping to tear into my writing with resolve. I did. Sort of. My plan went pretty much according to what I had outlined in yesterday’s post sans the shower part. Preggers was getting ready for work and I wanted to get writing.

The first 561 words came quite easily – they were my longhand warm-up words and I had fun with them. I explored Doris, the elderly lady who helps in the kitchen of the bunker and teaches art to the children once a week. I also met a flirting eighty year old man named Sylvester. Remember, my warm-ups are not in the fantasy world that my real story is set. I am sort of sketching the next project during my warm-ups and using my real writing time for the fantasy story, Wake of Flames.

After my warm-up, things sort of fell apart. The wheels came off. The shit hit the fan.

I was slapped in the face by the fact that I have not outlined the story arc. Hell, I haven’t even thought about it really. I know what I want to happen, but I have no roadmap of how to get from A to B, or where in the shit B even is. I was left scrambling. I was left watching friends blow through a thousand words – then two thousand – then five thousand. One of my acquaintances hit over TWELVE THOUSAND WORDS….TODAY!

I could have given up there. Trust me, it would have been the easiest thing I would have done all day. I thought about it. Why not just chalk it up to another year lost because I didn’t get off on the right foot? I’ve done that in years past. Seriously. If the first few hours didn’t produce three or five thousand words, I wrote it off as failure. I didn’t continue.

That was during the period of my life when I liked to pretend to be a writer. I have talked about this in previous posts, so I won’t go into it again. Needless to say, the allusion that I am writer has been stronger than my commitment to the craft. Well, that changes this year. This blog has, to be completely honest, been nothing more than a ploy to get my ass writing. To commit to the act of writing in one form or another. I am not stopping here. The blog is now the secondary or tertiary act of writing for me. I build a platform. I continue to find my writer’s foundation – the tools, techniques, agenda, and voice that I have worked on amassing for the past several months.

So, today I rang in at 2,903 words. I told myself and my writing buddies, @AuthorClaudiaB @UtahRichie @AuthorLeeFrench that I was going to get to 3,000. I am close enough to be happy, especially since I am writing this post on top of the writing. I have the remainder of the weekend to get another 7,100 words and I will have hit my goal of 10k by the week’s end.

I have already posted this on my Snippets page, but I am going to include an excerpt from today’s writing here as well. It is, in the very nature of NaNoWriMo, unedited and very much a product of pantsing. I hope you enjoy.

November 1st
This was pure pantsing and it created an interesting dichotomy within one of my main characters. Parl is fire. He is fueled by passion and emotion. His twin brother is water. The fact that Parl has sought solace within the realm of water has piqued my interest. I am sure I will explore this more tomorrow.

Deep below, Parl imagined, something stirred. A great, slitherous body of scales and feelers undulating with the currents. He imagined that, had he simply slid off the dock, that the creature would come to greet him. That the creature would would embrace him in taut, wide fins. Parl hoped that the creature would have a jagged, cartilage spear sprouting from its head. He would be lanced, in the heart, and the fire within him would be flooded and extinguished. There would be no smoldering remains. There would be no heat of rage. There would be no burning jealousy. He would be free to live without fear. He might even live without remembering – all reminders of his past left impaled and drowned on the barbed harpoon of the thing under the water.

Further Reading

coulda woulda didnt – http://couldawouldadidnt.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/day-1-of-30-novels-and-role-models/

Lauren Sapala – http://laurensapala.com/?p=1177

Bulging Buttons – http://bulgingbuttons.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/more-nano-as-promised/

Further and Further Behind

Here is instance where my goals are a detriment to my success. I am right in the first week of CampNaNoWriMo and have decided to undertake it just as I would NaNoWriMo in November. 50,000 words. That’s right – fifty with a thousand attached. July is one of the slower months for my career, so I envisioned an ideal writing situation. Leave work, head to gym, home to shower and eat, then write for the remainder of the night. TheWife and I even cancelled our television to reduced distractions (and excessive bills). I thought it a pretty perfect opportunity. However, the truth is in the…well, I am not sure how that saying goes. I would say that the proof is in the pudding, but I cannot eat pudding as it goes against my nutrition and exercise plan. So for me, the facts are in the failure. I have written somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 words since July 1st, well off of the pace that I had set for myself. I need to average 1,800 words a day to near my goal and have been shooting for 2,000+ to ensure that I surpass it. That has obviously not happened. This weekend was a prime opportunity for me to make headway and get caught up on my lackadaisical efforts thus far. I failed. I have come full circle to where I started this blog – filled with the fear of writing. I have gone from a rough idea for a novel, to really fine-tuning my plot structure, to filling in some holes with new antagonists and arcs, to staring at my computer screen with nothing but dread to put fingers to keys. I have read other blogs like Lauren’s WriteCity which dole out useful advice and motivation. I read these posts, saying “Yes! That is it! That is what I need to do to get words on the page.” And yet, here I am. I read this article about writing by hand and how your brain works differently than if you were typing. The association for word choice is improved with longhand while with typing, your brain in simply recalling which key to press next. I think that there may be validity to that on some level, but I feel daunted by the thought that I would need to write my story by hand, and then transcribe it, and then edit it. Computers are meant to make these sorts of endeavors easier – I think that I am just looking for excuses. I do not know what to do really. Should I do warm up exercises to get garbled words out of my head – to give me some clarity and focus and set a pace for that day’s session? Should I try using something like DragonSpeak and see if dictating my story would be easier (after all, we are telling a story, so perhaps an oral approach would be beneficial)? I feel as though I have just entered a cornfield and no matter where I look, I am smack dab in the middle of a confusing and endless situation.