Paul Auster; who writers are; their output, part two

In previous blog I quoted from Paul Auster’s novel Brooklyn Follies about who writers are and what writing is. Today I quote from same book regarding the output of writers. rather than quote from the conversation I will list writers and how much they wrote or how long it took to finish a book.

James Joyce wrote three novels

Balzac wrote ninety novels

Kafka wrote his first story in one night

Stendhal The Charterhouse of Parma in forty-nine days

Melville wrote Moby Dick in sixteen months

Flaubert spent five years on Madame Bovary

Musil worked for eighteen years on The Man Without Qualities and died before he could finish

Milton was blind

Cervantes had one arm

Marlow was stabbed to death in a bar room brawl before he was thirty

 

The point is it takes as long as it takes to finish your story so don’t go into a panic if you have trouble finishing because of other things going on in your life. Of course you don’t want to write for eighteen years and then die before you are finished, and nor do you want to die a bar room brawl with a knife going through your eye. But at least Marlowe finished his plays.

Do what you can when you can. Persistence can take you down the road to completion.

The best way tp predict your future is to create it-Abraham Lincoln.

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Author Paul Auster; what writing is and who writers are, part one

One of my favorite writers-and I have many-is Paul Auster and in his novel Brooklyn Follies the following passage considers what writing is and who writers are:

“Take a close look at the lives of poets and novelists, and what you wound up with was unalloyed chaos, an infinite jumble of exceptions. That was because writing was a disease, Tom continued, what you might call an infection or influenza of the spirit, and therefore it could strike anyone at any time. The young and old, the strong and the weak, the drunk and the sober, the sane and the insane. Scan the roster of the giants and semi-giants, and you would discover writers who embraced every sexual proclivity, every political bent, and every human attribute-from the loftiest idealism to the most insidious corruption. They were criminals and lawyers, spies and doctors, soldiers and spinsters, travelers and shut-ins. If no one could be excluded, and what prevented an almost sixty-year-old ex-life insurance agent from joining their ranks? What law declared that Nathan Glass had not been infected by the disease?”

Writing was always something I wanted to do, but early rejection dissuaded me. Later in life when the regrets of unfinished desires in life weighed heavily on my spirit, I became infected with a ravenous hunger to finish what I started.

I had doubts, I had fears, and like Nathan Glass, felt I was too old. The doubts and fears, however, were no match for the fear of not writing, of not moving forward, of having that monstrous ogre of life regrets go unquenched.

I have written two collection of horror/twilight zone type of e-short stories and three e-novels and a fourth to be published soon. Success does not matter, movie deals do not matter, for feeding this wonderful infection is life giving.

If you feel you are infected, do not wait. Start writing.

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Inspiration from breast cancer survivor in her 80’s

A woman friend of mine in her 80’s told me she had a mastectomy and breast implants 26 years ago due to cancer. Recently the cancer returned. She just finished radiation and she is upbeat, positive, and excited because, as she said, “I have a new lease on life. Now I can plan the rest of my life.”

Think about it a moment. She is in her 80’s and is thrilled to be making plans. No doubt her excitement comes from the relief of treatments being finished and her belief-though results are not final-that she has won the battle. Still, she is at an age when most people aren’t making life plans.

I have not hit my 80’s, not even my 70’s. I imagine there are many people like myself who feel there is still time to make plans, to take that trip, to reach those goals we set for ourselves years ago. You know, checking off those bucket list items.

In my case, as I segued from work to retirement, I took up writing. I have written three e-Books, all fiction, plus two collections of short stories. But I do not feel I am fully following through with what I should be doing. I should blog more frequently, should advertise on Amazon (again) or Facebook, should finish another collection of short stories, should join a writing group, and more importantly WRITE more often.

I still suffer from ‘I can do it tomorrow.’ I think part of my friend’s desire to make plans is that, whether she would say it or not, she does not know how many ‘tomorrows’ she has.

We are lulled into believing we will wake up tomorrow, we are lulled into thinking nothing drastic will happen to us tomorrow. Our life continues because it always has. We make plans to meet up with family and friends, we make all those little plans, but few make life changing plans, few keep chasing dreams because frustration with lack of progress not just dampens our enthusiasm like a spring rain, but crushes us like torrential rain, a hurricane blowing our house of dreams to ruin.

That is why we renew ourselves from time to time, like when a woman in her 80’s is excited to change her life, to make new plans, to get ‘a new lease on life.’ Perhaps the best we can do is to keep someone like her in our minds. I bet you know of someone like her. Someone who makes us realize there may not be a tomorrow, someone to inspire us to get a move on, not to just make our plans, but, more important, to follow through.

I have to get back to work. best of luck with your tomorrows.

What I did in my yesterdays

 

 

COOL: The Mysterious definition of cool.

I have always associated the word ‘cool’ with hip slang of the 1950’s and also with jazz. Imagine my surprise when reading Moonstone by Wilkie Collins published in 1868 when I came across the word ‘cool’ used thusly:

“She has been a guest of yours at this house,” I answered. “May I venture to suggest-if nothing was said about me beforehand-that I might see her here?”

“Cool!” said Mr. Bruff. With that one word of comment on the reply I had made to him, he took another turn up and down the room.

In other words, Bruff liked the idea. The usage seems contemporary as in ‘good idea’ not from a writer who was a friend of Charles Dickens. I had to explore the coolness of this find.

My Dictionary of American Slang has three columns on ‘cool.’ In the 1920’s cool was slang for killing someone, no doubt a gangster term. ‘Cool’ can  be ‘to postpone; to wait for; to be in control of one’s emotions; aloof, unconcerned; thrilling, groovy; satisfying, pleasant; crazy, gone, mad, wicked, far out, among other meanings.’ And yes, the weather can be cool.

None seemed to fit what Bruff meant. So I checked Online Etymology Dictionary and found the following: “calmly audacious” is from 1825. Now that is what fits for Bruff’s comment. Franklin Blake needs to talk with Rachel, a woman who refuses to see him. But it is imperative he talks with her to help unravel a mystery. So when Blake sets forth his idea, Bruff thinks it is an audacious plan. Cool!

Who knew?

Wilkie Collins was hip to use ‘cool,’ the perfect word for the reply. It reminded me to always search for the right word for the right reason in my writing.

Here are my cool e-Books, two fictional mysteries and a collection of short stories.

 

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What Did Picasso Mean About Inspiration

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

-Pablo Picasso

It seems on first reading that unless you sit down to work you will not find inspiration. There is something to that, for when you are involved in a creative endeavor the more focused you are on your work inspiration does occur, taking you in directions you had not thought of. That is one of the joys of creating.

My mind will be writing with a certain intent, but then inspiration swoops down, sneaks through my ear, seeps into my brain, where it whispers a strikingly singular thought that ignites a bursting light, giving me an ‘aha’ moment. Now I am heading into another direction. And I love it.

But . . .

Inspiration does not have to find you working. Inspiration can come through dreams. Many of my short stories have come to me through dreams, or just letting my mind wander where it chooses as I sit in a chair, TV and radio off, just me waiting for something to creep into my thoughts. It never fails (almost never). Or it can strike you as it did when I was walking in a cemetery, saw a well dressed old man, carrying a shovel among the graves with intent and purpose in his walk. I turned away and let inspiration strike me and it did. The result was Flowers for Martha Clemens.

I may be confusing inspiration with imagination. My Roget’s offers for inspiration: animate, invigorate, energize, vitalize, exhilarate, awaken, stir, thrill, and exalt, among other words. Imagination in my Roget’s says: dreaming, creative, visualize, idealize, vision, reflection, whim, fancy, among other words and phrases.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary I found this about inspiration: “The sense evolution seems to be from “breathe into” to “infuse animation or influence,” thus “affect, rouse, guide or control,” especially by divine influence. Inspire (v.) in Middle English also was used to mean “breath or put life or spirit into the human body; impart reason to a human soul.” Literal sense “act of inhaling” attested in English from 1560s. Meaning “one who inspires others” is attested by 1867.”

For imagine I found this: “mid-14c., “to form a mental image of,” from Old French imaginer “sculpt, carve, paint; decorate, embellish” (13c.), from Latin imaginari “to form a mental picture, picture to oneself, imagine” (also, in Late Latin imaginare “to form an image of, represent”), from imago “an image, a likeness” (see image (n.)). Sense of “suppose, assume” is first recorded late 14c. Related: Imagined; imagining.”

It seems that inspiration and imagination are connected in the creative process. When inspired something ‘breathes’ something into your soul and it infuses your imagination.

I don’t like that Picasso appears insistent that inspiration only finds you when working, because nobody likes to be working. I will take revelry, dreams, and lazing about. But I was inspired to imagine the following e-Books available on Amazon. And now back to work as my revelry is over. For now.

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Two exercises to tone up your novel writing

In order for your novel to flow smoothly, keeping your readers interest, there are two writing exercises to challenge yourself with to make the writing better.

One is to experiment with short stories, and I include flash fiction as well. Writing a short story  is like going on a diet. It forces you to take the fat out of a story, leaving you with lean writing. In a short story you can not pad with cake and ice cream, meandering through a landscape of unneeded calories as you struggle to build a word count acceptable for a novel. Short stories and flash fiction  mean getting to the climax quick with shorter wordplay, using fewer words, and less is more. It is about thinning your writing, compressing and condensing.

The second exercise is to write poetry. I confess my creative sense and sensibility does not lend itself to this discipline. If I could overcome this obstinate obstacle my novels would be better. But do as I say, not as I do. Challenge yourself. I do have a degree in English Literature and have read and studied poetry, so I have background to fall upon. What poetry does is force you to develop a better understanding of imagery and metaphor. And of course a rhythm.

Imagery are the sensory feelings and thoughts conveyed to the reader through words; so use the right words for the right image. For instance, take the cliché phrase ‘He has as much chance as a snowball in Hell.’ Blah. How about ‘He has as much chance as a Dracula does of getting a suntan.’ Two things here, a cliché has been eliminated and a more colorful imagery has been put in it’s place.

All writing, even a novel is an experiment, but through short stories and poetry, you are preparing yourself for a marathon called a novel and the better prepared you are the better you will do. When you compress your writing from exercising through short stories and mix in appropriate imagery you will be a lean, mean writing machine.

I could have written more, expanding on my theme here, but I am trying to cut down on words.

At Amazon my E-books, fat or thin, depending on your sense and sensibility.

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A short story about a magical book for you to read

My short story, The Book That Couldn’t be Put Down was published last year in Mason County Writes. I offer it here to read at your leisure.

The Book That Couldn’t Be Put Down 

It began so innocently.

Kellum Buchman, who frequented library sales, rummage sales, Goodwill, thrift stores, used book stores, any outlet for cheap books, was considered a bookworm by sneering lowbrows, considered a booklover by loving family, and  Kellum, who was browsing for books at a yard sale when it happened, considered himself, without snobbery, a bibliophile. Then it happened.

It was such a simple act. Picking up a book he noticed on a table full of well-worn books, old magazines and postcards, something he or anyone has done hundreds of times. It was an old book, one with a leather cover, thick with crisp pages; excellent condition really. Holding the book in his left hand he read the copyright page. A first edition from 1909 from a writer he had not heard of, not that it mattered to Kellum.

He decided to buy it and was switching the book from his left hand to his right, when he noticed something odd. He looked up to see if anyone noticed. The person in charge of the yard sale was sitting in her aluminum framed patio chair not looking at him, but chatting with another woman, both as old as most of the books and magazines on the table. Other bargain hunters were scanning flower pots, bowls, silverware, and other human detritus, once key components of a life, now either trash or collectibles depending on one’s sensibility.

Still looking around him, Kellum tried pulling the book off his left hand. It would not come free though his left hand was flat against the back cover. He turned around, his back to customers, and quickly put out his left arm, palm up; but the book did not drop, simply falling open like a spread out accordion.

Turning around he drew the book to his chest, trying his best to act nonchalant.  He intended to buy more books, but considered the inherent problem. What if another book he picked up with his right hand . . . no, it could not be chanced. He walked up to the woman in the aluminum chair and paid $2 for the book and hurried off.

Back in his apartment, bookcases on four walls surrounded a much faded, well-trod on Oriental rug. A green swiveling comfy chair, the arms of which were no longer green where the hand would rest, but stained brown from human contact over how many years sat in the epicenter of the rug with a 1950ish floor lamp placed near the chair for optimum reading. Standing near the lamp Kellum once again raised his left arm and tried to shake loose the book and once again it would not fall. He tried to pry up the book at the corners, peaking to see if there was some type of Super-Dooper gloopy glue that was causing this unnatural act. He found nothing to indicate why the book was stuck to his left palm.

He tried to think of what do to. Could smearing butter or grease break the hold? He didn’t see how as neither could get between his hand and the book cover. Hot water? Besides damaging the book he didn’t think it would work, after all how hot should the water be? Boiling? No, that was not the answer. Take a knife and slowly slide the blade between fingers and book to see if he could edge his fingers away.  He had a box cutter, but ruled that out as being too sharp and would no doubt cut away his skin. He got a pocket knife and tried to pry the book away by sliding the knife near the bottom of his hand, but though he could, with some trouble mind you, get the knife slightly between book and skin, going any further proved fruitless.

Then an idea struck him. He bent over, his left palm facing down, the book resting on the floor. He then placed each foot on either side of his palm, the feet resting on the edges of the book, and then pushed down with his feet while trying to straighten his back. Smart plan, but high hopes turned to frustration as the desired effect did not come close to success.

Kellum sat in his old green swivel chair, his head tilted back, stared at the ceiling. He just sat and stared, thinking of nothing, pretending what happened was not real, but a dream. He was using deniability as a method to calm his nerves, come to a peace in which the answer would come to him without thinking. No need to panic, no need to overthink. Relax and let the answer come to you.

An hour or so later he woke up. The book was still there. No dream and no answer. Having a book attached to your hand presents problems. He realized this when he had to use the bathroom. Now I will not tell you what he was doing as in either case you can imagine for yourself the problems he encountered. It was, of course, awkward. Not to mention time consuming.

And naturally making dinner or any meal was also problematic. He was for all intent and purpose a one armed man. But one who forgot that at times and tried to do something, but the book would knock off a glass onto the floor, shattering into small pieces, presenting yet another problem. At least a normal one armed man does not have the weight of a large 1909 leather-bound thick book pulling at you. It forced him many times to bring the book to his chest like a professor walking with his books to class, hugging them so they would not escape.

Showering was out of the question; bathing being a reasonable alternative, he was able to come clean without too much distress.

But these were the least of his problems. The larger one being he would have to call in sick tomorrow for how could he go to work and do his job as surgical tech, sterilizing medical instruments and assisting in surgery. And for how many days would he have to do it?

Naturally he thought of going to a doctor, he knew many of them. They of course called him a bookworm and other related indignities, though of course intellectually he knew bookworm was not an insult, but emotionally he felt the way his coworkers used the word, it seemed to be insulting. Going to them would make him the object of intense ridicule.

So he called in sick, again and again and again, until he was told not to come in any more. He never left his apartment except to take trash out and only in the middle of the night. He ordered home delivery of his groceries, telling the store to place them outside the door, knock, and then leave. He paid online and always tipped. He paid all bills online, declined to accept any invitations from family or what few friends he had to go anywhere. He had become a recluse.

Then things took a hopeful turn.

One night he took out the trash and a young girl noticed him struggling with the garbage bag, the book hugging the bag. He put the trash in the can and turned and saw the girl.

“You can’t put the book down, can you?” she said.

“What are you talking about?”

“No matter what you do, the book will not let go of you; the book is stuck on your hand.”

“How did you know? Have you been spying on me?”

“No. The same thing happened to me.”

“But you have no book now. What happened, I mean how did you get rid of the book?”

“Have you read the book?” she asked.

“No . . . I mean I . . . wait . . . your smiling. That’s it! You mean all I have to do is read the book and it will leave me.”

“It worked for me. Think about it. When you read a book you get involved with characters, their stories, it can consume you, staying with the story until it is over, then there is the come down after the reading when everything returns to normal, the story fades away as another story in another book takes its place. Read the book, finish the story, and life will return to normal. The story wants you, needs you as much as you need it, for a story needs readers as much as readers need a story, so the book is insisting on being read and you will be one with the book until it is finished.”

“It’s so simple,” he said. “The answer was obvious, it was in front of me all this time and I couldn’t see it. God, I feel stupid and me a reader. I guess I got mad at the book and blamed it or something. I read other books, not easy, as I’m sure you know, but . . . there the book was and I hadn’t even bothered to read it. Thank you. I’m glad I met you.” He looked at the book on his hand, smiled, and then looked up at the girl. She was gone. I didn’t get her name he thought. In fact he had never seen her before. Maybe she was a new tenant in the building.

Back in his apartment he started to read the book, got distracted thinking about the girl, about 19 or so, maybe older, her dark shoulder length hair, her suggestive smile-thought he thought that he might be projecting her smile as suggestive to flatter himself-but she did have cute dimples.

He shook off his memory of her and restarted his reading, getting involved in the characters and the story. The book was nearly 600 pages so could not be read in one night, or in two. As much as he wanted to finish the story, to let the book fall way, to get back to a normal life, he felt it could not be rushed. Each book, each story, had to be savored like a gourmet meal; letting the flavor come to you, slowly chewing it all, taking it all in bit by bit.

Over the next couple of days as he got further into the story he noticed a change. It was not any loosening of the book, but a change in his skin. It started that first night, the night he met the girl when taking out his garbage. His skin color was yellowing ever so slightly and it got progressively yellower and dryer each day. Naturally it worried him, interfered with his concentration of the story, as he continually went to the bathroom mirror to check his skin. He also noticed it was not just his arms, but his legs, his face, his chest, in fact his entire body color was changing the more he read.

On the third day looking at his skin while sitting in his green comfy chair on the faded oriental rug he realized what the skin looked like, realized as he rubbed his right arm over his left arm above the book. His skin was like parchment, in both color and feel. Was the book poisoned or something? The girl never told me about this? Did it happen to her? He never noticed as she stood mostly in shadow near the trash cans. In fact, he thought, I didn’t get a good look at her at all.

Then he could no longer read, feeling that, in fact, reading was making things worse, that the more he read the more his skin was turning into parchment. But that was not the case as going without reading for a day his color did not change. In fact, after not reading, his hair was turning to what can best be described as papyrus. And his eyes; his eyes, once hazel, now looked like white pulp.

Then things got worse.

On the fourth or fifth day, he could not remember which, as he could not sleep and lost track of time, he noticed writing on the parchment of his skin. In sentences winding around his arm beginning at the wrist and moving upward, he saw the words appear as if someone were writing on his skin. He looked at his legs and saw the same, sentences being written as he watched. His chest the same. He hugged the book to his chest and tried running to the bathroom to check his face, but he could not run as the front of his body was changing. The shirt was becoming a hard cardboard like material, the same on his back. He could not make it to the bathroom. The book was not done with him. It was not that the book could not be put down; the book would not let him go. They were becoming as one.

A week later a young girl with shoulder length dark hair walked into Kellum’s apartment. She looked in very room and did not see him. She saw a large book on the floor between a large green comfy chair with worn down arm rests stained from years of human contact and the bathroom. She squatted down and looked at the large leather bound book and smiled. She did not touch it.

Other weird stories by your host are found in these two E- books on Amazon

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Are you beautiful or lovely-the difference

The definitions I am using from the 1959 Webster’s New World Dictionary come from a blog I subscribe to by CS Perryess. On should give credit where credit is due. He loves words and old dictionaries. These definitions are great for writers because writers need to be specific; the right word for the right reason.

I will compare words from the 1959 Webster’s New World Dictionary that Perryess cited to my 2000 American Heritage Dictionary.

Beautiful: 59 Webster says, “applied to that which gives the highest degree of pleasure to the senses or to the mind and suggests to the object of delight one’s conception of an ideal.” My 2000 Heritage says, “having beauty.” I think Webster wins here, though the Heritage definition of ‘beauty’ closely resembles the 59 Webster definition of ‘beautiful,’, but not with the succinct clarity of Webster.

Lovely: 59 Webster says, “applies to that which delights by inspiring affection or warm admiration.” My 2000 Heritage says, “Having pleasing or attractive qualities; beautiful.” Once again Webster has a more beautiful definition.

I pause here to say that I have the American Heritage Dictionary because-and I forget who-recommended this dictionary for writers. I am having second thoughts.

Moving on to . . .

Pretty: “implies a dainty, delicate or graceful quality in that which pleases and carries connotations of femininity or diminutiveness.” My 2000 heritage says, “Delightfully pretty or dainty.” Webster now up 3-0.

Comely: “applies to persons only and suggests a wholesome attractiveness of form and features rather than a high degree of beauty.” My Heritage says, “Pleasing in appearance; attractive.” I must say here is where Heritage, to be blunt, really sucks. Their definition is generic, non-specific, lacking any ‘definition’ in the definition. It is is blah. 4-0.

Fair: “suggests beauty that is fresh, bright or flawless and, when applied to persons, is used especially of complexion and features.” My Heritage says, “beautiful; lovely.”  Really? That’s it. That’s all you’ve got? Webster’s 5-0.

Yuck to American Heritage. I looked up ‘yuck’ in my Heritage Dictionary. It says, ” Used to express rejection or strong disgust.” Well they got one right.

What I find in the 59 Webster’s is clarity in language, a defined definition. What I find in my 200 Heritage is blandness, unimaginative language, lack of clarity.

I used my Heritage from time to time on my e-novels on Amazon.

But I will be buying a new dictionary today.

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