Update and a Story

Welcome back. So, things are going well, hit 30k words in my novel and I’m confident I’ll hit both my target date and word count. No more non-zero days has finally developed into a habit that I’m pleased with.

I recently joined up with a Discord group called Writer’s Block. I haven’t had a lot of time to get too involved with my fellow writers there, but I certainly would like to. I will probably try to start off more in the feedback and speculative fiction areas to share my knowledge and ideas, instead of starting off socially in the off-topic area. I think by doing this, I can help them grow as writers by providing reliable feedback and discussion, instead of getting sidetracked with random chatting. Just need more time to spend on there!

They do a weekly writing competition, and I wanted to post my submission. I don’t think it got a lot of votes, but I didn’t work super hard on it so I’m not surprised; first drafts are rarely good. I’ll post the prompt, then the story. It’s a bit melodramatic, but I’m positive I could dial it back in a revision. Feel free to comment if you like!

Here is the prompt:

PromptSmallTOwn

And here is the resulting flash story:

The Last One

She was the first person I had seen still alive. My car idled at the traffic light I somehow still stopped for, and the woman used the crosswalk as if it was still relevant. She glanced at me and nodded, but did not stop. I wanted to open the door and rush to her, hug her, squeeze her…just to affirm that she was real and that I was not alone.

But I stayed in the car.

The deeper part of my brain, the gut, whispered incessantly that I should keep driving, that I should go, leave, get out now. I trusted that voice, but the sight of another human still alive threatened to squash the tiny tickle of my instincts like ants. There weren’t many of those left, either.

The town itself was much like most others…quiet, empty. A fire burned down the street behind me, raging unchecked through the brick stores. Despite that, the power was still on, and the light in front of me cycled to green, then yellow, then back to red again.

Do I follow her? Call out to her? I wanted to so bad, but there was no way I could be sure I would survive. There must be a reason she was not dead like the others, and that reason could cost me my life.

I pulled through the red light and parked next to a red brick building, signs spread across the window and door top that told me the place was for rent if I happened to need an office. No one needed an office any more, and it saddened me more than it should have. This place would be for rent forever, empty until it burned down or crumbled.

The woman had not gone into any buildings, and she still walked as if she owned the place–which, I guess, she pretty much did now. She must have heard me park, but she did not turn to acknowledge me, did not run toward me, arms spread, elated at the joy of human life. Not that I expected that, but it would have made this much easier.

I got out of the car. I don’t know why. 

The acrid smell of burning rubber and wood was strong, and the air thick and heavy. I choked down what air I could. The sound of my coughing was enough for the woman to stop, and she turned to stare at me, silent. I waved, my other arm across my mouth to filter the air. She did not wave back.

As I approached her, slowly of course, she stepped back and I sensed apprehension–not fear, just a wary concern. She held up her hand, palm forward, as if to halt me, and I stopped. My eyes watered from the sting of smoke, but I brought my arm down and smiled at her.

As I opened my mouth to greet her, she pulled up the side of her dress and showed me her legs.

Aw, hell. The disease had already reached stage three, her thighs covered in pustulant sores that would burst in virulent spores if messed with. She was already dead.

And she knew it. I let the tears flow, telling myself that it was the air that did it, that it was the burning remnants of a small town that brought out my grief. Yeah, keep telling yourself that, bud.

I went back to the car, started it, and left.

##

That’s it, friends. See you next time.


The Non-Zero Lifestyle

Hello again. So, I’m up to 21 days continuous of writing daily, and I feel great. Usually about 9 PM rolls around and I start feeling antsy (if I haven’t already put words down), and I have to pretty much stop whatever I’m doing and head to the computer.

This is great!

Of course, some days my word count was abysmal (one day was 9 words? C’mon, dude…). However, that’s not that big a deal. I mean, yeah, it is a big deal…it’s going to take a long time to get to Disneyworld in Florida from Alaska driving at 5 MPH, to put it in perspective. What I mean is that it’s far more important for me to develop a routine at the moment then actual volumes. The way I see it is that the volumes will come when the routine is ironclad.

What’s helped is changing my philosophy a bit. After reading a post on Reddit about non-zero days (Check it out here), I’ve changed from feeling sorry for myself about not reaching a word count to congratulating myself for writing, even if it’s a single sentence. Rule #1 of non-zero days was simply “promise yourself that you will do one thing every day that takes you one step closer to your goal(s).”

It’s so simple. And it works.

There are other rules, but I’ll leave that for you to read in the link above. For my writing lifestyle, the non-zero day strategy of always doing something has led to the completion of two chapters, some really solid world-building, and a juicy start into a new chapter. It’s always forward progress.

You should try it, even if it’s not for writing. Just think, want to get into shape? Well, it’s 11:59 PM and you haven’t exercised. Well, drop down and do 60 seconds worth of sit-ups or something. Anything. Even just one sit-up. Heck, 60 seconds of planks is amazing for your health.

Now you have an exercise non-zero day. Don’t worry about numbers, don’t worry about details. Just make sure that you do one thing that moves you closer to your goal every day, big or small.

Try it.

The next step for me, of course, is to ramp up productivity. I tried a 15 minute timer, to see what I could whip out. With some pauses for thinking, I did 350 words. That’s 1400 an hour, potentially. Doesn’t seem too bad, and I actually liked having a timer as a deadline.  So, I think after I spend a month or two on establishing a routine, I’ll work on hitting targets again; probably 250 words, which is over 91k words for a 365 days. I’ve hit that and higher the last couple weeks, certainly, but I’ve had low days too. Those numbers I’m sure are embarrassingly low as a professional, but the goal is not volume just yet, it’s unfailing discipline. Anything higher than 250 is icing…and in fact, my personal goal is 1000 words a day baseline consistently, which seems to me to be far more achievable than I had guessed. That’s like….three novels a year, or one big juicy one….wow!

I actually feel like a writer. Imagine that.

Oren


So, this social media thing…

In my last post, I commented on making changes to my social media and news input. Near the end of January, I had read somewhere about someone trying a 30-day social media detox. I’ll have to find the article for you, dear reader. Anyways, the writer had struggled at first with muscle memory and the habit of reaching for his phone constantly. However, he was able to reclaim some productivity, and when he plugged back in, he utilized those media resources in a leaner fashion, as he had stripped himself of his dependence on it.

Intrigued, I started to pay attention to myself and those around me, and how often they looked at their phones. It was disturbing how much I actually picked up my phone just to scroll for a bit, close the Facebook app, open Twitter and look around, then head to Reddit. Then, something would strike my interest in any of those feeds, and I’d go on a tangent, reading about whatever had struck my fancy. For several hours a day. And if I do it, I know others do…much more than I do. It’s scary how glued we are to getting notifications.

I didn’t want to do a detox, where I go back to Facebook after just 30 days. I felt that was just enticing me to jump back into the pool right after toweling off to dry. I didn’t want to cancel my accounts either, because eventually I’m going to need them to develop a platform and sell books. However, I certainly didn’t need the news, at least not at the quantity I was consuming it. So I removed all the news and social media apps from my phone on February 1st (I wrote my last post in Word in late January, it was a reallllllly delayed publish). I tried it out.

It sucked.

I felt lost. I kept picking up my phone, then just putting it down. I tried a few games, got bored, and put the phone away. For the first couple weeks of February, I felt lost. Not much held my interest, so I just worked harder at my job out of boredom.

Wait a second…

Yeah, that’s right. I bored myself into productivity. How jacked up is that? So, I decided to apply this energy to writing, as well. Lo and behold, guess what happened… yeah, I was so bored with all that free time, I actually got shit done. I made progress, REAL progress. I outlined, fleshed out a ton of worldbuilding, put in nearly 10k words in the last several days…

I don’t miss Facebook at all. I do hope on every other night or so just to see if I missed any messages or important notifications. Nope, nothing I would have needed immediately.

It is weird. For example, I have no idea what is going on in Washington (and yes, I may have been able to say that before the social media removal…har har). Besides the weather, I have no idea what’s going on in my state. I do think it’s important to be world-aware, but right now, after stagnating for so long in writing, I feel I can “hermit” it up a bit and do what I got to do to succeed. I’m pretty sure all the drama will still be there, but I’m busy doing my stuff now.

So, for all three of you that visit, I encourage you to try it out. Go for a day, maybe a week, or just turn it all off indefinitely and see what happens. I know my mood is better, and when combined with all this writing fun, well…who needs Facebook.

Back to writing. See you next time.


It’s been awhile…

Good afternoon!

It’s certainly been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I’d like to say that it was due to overwhelming responsibilities and productivity, but it wasn’t. I’ve been lazy. After finishing up my degree, I wanted to take some time off from any type of “homework” in order to have fun and enjoy my new status as a post-graduate.

My mistake was that I didn’t even write for fun.

I didn’t write much fiction in 2015 because the classes were actually legitimately difficult; that is, in a tedious slog sort of difficult. Not that the classes didn’t work my brain…they most certainly did. Rather, it was simply a lot of work! I found that I had little spare time to focus on writing for myself.
Then there was 2016, the “Year of the Sloth” and a lot of wasted time. Who was it that said “it takes an awful lot of time to not write a book?” Oh yes, Douglas Adams. Yeah, he’s someone I should listen to.

I did do SOME writing. I wrote a science fiction story that did well in a minor contest at Writing.Com. I added some words to my novel, as well as making the conscious decision to shelve the novella I had been working on. I felt that if I was ever going to go anywhere with this whole writing thing, a novella is a terrible first choice to try to market. As an entry-level professional writer, I would never get any takers, no matter how good it was. At least, it would be a much steeper uphill battle than necessary. So, the novel is where it’s at. Fortunately, I really love what I have planned for this book. It’s an original concept with solid characters, a really solid plot, and my own twisted and dark outlook will make things decidedly difficult for the characters. See, I know how the world works…luck and happiness don’t just fall out of the sky. Bad things happen, bad things always happen and the real story is how we survive, overcome, and rise above those bad things to become something better. Sometimes those bad things are really bad…so bad that the world and our lives are changed permanently. I’ll be taking cues from Stephen King, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, and George R. R. Martin and creating a rough and gritty world where there are no clear winners or losers.

The problem with all this enthusiasm is that it hasn’t overshadowed my laziness and tendency to procrastinate. I enjoy having written something; I reread my finished works and I really dig some of the stuff I come up with…but I find getting it all down in a document to not be that much fun. The solution? Just do it. Discipline is what I need. It’s not fun because it isn’t part of my life where it becomes fun. It’s “work” because I’m currently lazy. I must set a time slot, put out the work. I don’t like to come to my job either, but I do it because I want that paycheck. I need to do the same thing for my writing: do the work for the reward that I want, which is to be a successful novelist. I don’t care about making money, I have a job for that. I just want a legacy, to get these stories out for someone to read and enjoy, and have a purpose.

So, get off your ass, Oren.

I am. I’ve removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone. I also removed those bookmarks in Chrome. If I want to look at Facebook, I now have to manually enter that site. I can also add it to a site blocker for writing times. I can’t cheat if it’s not on my phone. Later, I am planning on deactivating my personal Facebook account and leaving just a professional page. I will use Twitter as a platform at regular scheduled intervals instead of as a toy.

I also plan to avoid news and other negativity in order to ‘detox’ my mind from other people’s swill. CNN and similar news sites, as well as local news, spew negativity at an alarming rate, especially lately with politics. I do feel that keeping myself informed is important, but my goals and dreams are more imperative at the moment and it is crucial that I begin. I can add these things back later; they aren’t going anywhere.
The other issue is video games. Yes, I play them. I feel like a lot of my inspiration and interest in speculative fiction does stem from games that I have played growing up, and influenced me nearly as much as books have (yes, you, Final Fantasy). However, in order for me to be a successful novelist, I need to allocate that time in games to productivity until I feel I can spare some entertainment time. I don’t know if I can go cold turkey (same with social media), but if I can use discipline and set time schedules, then I can achieve a balance that will eventually ween me off the waste in my life.

I read somewhere that I should keep my direct goals to myself; by speaking of specific goals to a friend or family member, I’m allowing a portion of my consciousness to ‘check it off’ as complete, leading me more down the road of procrastination. So, I won’t speak of what my 2017 goals are, but hopefully by eliminating some waste and adding better time management through some reasonable adjustments I can further any progress towards my goals.

Thanks for listening! See you next time.


Nearing the End

Well, it’s been awhile. Isn’t it funny how one can make all sorts of goals (like promising to post on the blog more) and get sidetracked so easily?

One goal, however, is almost complete.

My final graduation date is November 16th. I have two remaining classes and then I will have completed my Bachelors of Art in Creative Writing.

I’ve looked back at some of my blog posts and I cringe at how spartan and lackluster everything has been. It was for a good reason: to concentrate on getting my work done as good as possible. It is such a relief, however, to be able to write a post like this and know that at least one of the dreams I’ve mentioned is coming true.

My future goals will be to begin establishing a platform and working on publication. Like many writers, it will be a tedious and difficult uphill road, but it is a road we all desire…and for some of us, it is the only road possible.

Thank you for taking the time to look at my inconsistent posts and following along, even if only for a little while. With hard work, and some luck, perhaps Oren’s Realm will grow into something bigger.


The Mist

Here is a short I wrote for a 15 minute timed bellringer in my writing group. I’d like to share a few of these for the occasional visitor. These are all unrevised, left as I wrote them for the group workshops.

On a side note, I’m almost done with my BA! Yay!

The Mist

I stood on the precipice, the sharp wind grabbing, pushing me, teasing me into embracing the long but deadly fall that would ensue if I stumbled. My destination was close, the tower near; I could barely see the sheen of its metal parapets over the dense fog that still held mastery over my land. To finish this, the fog must be traversed.

Did I fear it? Of course. Any sane man would never have made it this far. The end for all was still far enough away that a man could lead a relatively normal life, leaving the rotting land to his progeny.

I was not normal, nor sane, apparently.

I stepped back and followed the edge of the cliff, a path meandering ever so slightly downward. Still above the fog, the path was rough and nary-used, perhaps at one time a safe passage for the people that once lived in the valley. Since the fog had come, the valleys had died, leaving only the hills and mountains for refuge. My people sought the heavens and were given that opportunity by this phantom plague, and some even praised the death that clouded the land for that new life of heights. I doubted the benevolence of something that restrained life, but I learned a long time ago to keep my fool mouth shut.

The shifting tendrils of seeping gray wafted upwards, eerie ethereal fingers that caressed the gray ground before me, enticing me to come closer, ever closer. I had a habit of personifying the inanimate, which some considered unusual, but it helped in managing fear and stress. Curse your troubles, bless your luck, and all that. I was still alive, so it must work.

I paused, a scant stone throw from the edge of the mist. Was I really going to do this? I knew the answer, we all did when I was sent. No one else possessed the courage—or, better yet, foolishness—to find the tower, let alone brave the fog and enter it. The prophet had been even more of a fool, convincing them that only I had the “power,” the ability to supplant the master of the tower…that only I could enter the mist. Hollow words to soothe the vicious fear that could tear cities apart with panic, and I was just the fool, too, to do what was asked.

Ah, well. Death comes for us all, and who was I to disagree? I entered the mist.

The cool air was inviting, refreshing, a gentle caress of moistness. It smelled clean and even sweet, a faint lingering of lavender, perhaps. I walked forward, hoping it was straight, letting the enveloping grayness surround me. For such amount of death brought by this mist, I was almost disappointed at its mildness.

The thick obscurity could not guide me, and I hoped that I possessed some sort of guidance toward the tower. If I was the only one that could enter the misty fog, than surely the tower that exuded this plague was connected to me.

Time passed, or I assumed it did; I could not tell. I walked for ages, millennia, it seemed, counting my steps as I walked into the thousands. Still, even though the walk was interminable, there was an end.
There is always an end.

The wafting tendrils swirled and eddied away from me. The mist peeled back, curled away as if wilting before the deep heat of the summer some. The tower, alone, vast, mighty in its solitude, spanned upward. I gasped at its size, overwhelmed that such a structure existed, its dark stone wrapping around it in an even and orderly pattern. The fog billowed out of rectangular slits that ringed the upper portion of the tower in random order.

Here was where I could end the mist, banish the plague that kept my people so close to heaven. This was the end, my end. I focused my gaze, sighed, and then made my way toward it.

This journey was shorter, the tower not far. The soil was clean and gray, a granular mirror of the mist around the tower and I, a stark contrast to the lighter soil of the hills I had left. Who was the master of this place? Someone must be, the structure was clearly artificial. I had pondered this many times on my journey, and today I would meet this master. With luck, he would die and we would be saved.

The stone sections were cold and clammy, much like the mist. I followed the wall only a short while before there was an opening, a simple archway that led inside. No point in faltering now. I went in.

Inside was open and broad, radiating a warm light that not only illuminated the vast chamber but also gradually dried my sticky and dank clothes. The space was so extensive that I could barely make out the far wall. A light flickered to my left, and I turned to see a large oval structure that was shaped vaguely throne-like. The master’s throne, perhaps. One he would return to, perhaps. As it was the only identifiable object in the expansive room, I made my way toward it.

A deep groan came from behind me and I turned quickly to see the dark stone shift together as if it were a curtain, cutting off the only exit that I could tell existed. No matter, this was the end, I knew I would not be going home.

I turned back toward the throne and began again toward it. There was no sound here, much like the mist, yet this silence was loud, almost deafening, the sense of being wholly and fully alone almost overwhelming. The throne grew smaller and smaller as I came near, its initial size never made for a human. Whatever power could manage such a feat was boggling. I could make out the details in it as I approached, the intricate runes and patterns becoming ever more complex.

When I arrived, I expected there to be some sort of culmination, a finish to my journey, the master showing himself to begin the epic battle for the salvation of my people. But there was no one. There was nothing here.

At the time, I did not understand why I did what I did next, but there was no urge or compulsion. Not really much conscious thought to my next actions. I walked up the wide and steep steps to the stone throne and, without any thought at all of the consequences, sat down upon the throne. It fit me as if I belonged in it. What better way to greet the master of the tower than from his own throne?

Then it hit me. Hit me hard with such mental force that I knew it killed me, my body alive, my mind alive, but my world changed. Yes, this was the end. There was a master, one that lived here, controlled the misty plague that rotted my land, one that must be defeated.

Yes, there was a master. And, he was home. I was home. I smiled.


Just do it.

Just do it.

It really is that simple. Nike sure scored with that one.

I think we all suffer from issues that prevent us from accomplishing something we want to do. I’m certainly guilty of procrastination; I get terribly distracted, especially on my computer, the lure of Facebook, CNN, or a myriad number of online sources that suck away productivity.

Family, too, tend to interfere with the promises we set. I know that it’s hard to say no to my sweet little girl; she’s fully capable of entertaining herself, but how can I resist her charms? Or maybe, it’s that spouse, that one that doesn’t quite understand what you do, but is sympathetic (or not), that still needs you to take care of that one last little thing.

How about that job? I bet that little bugger sucks away a lot of your productivity; after a long day of staring at an LCD screen, that one at home sure doesn’t seem quite so inviting…

These are mainly from my viewpoint, but they’re still common enough to hit home with a lot of you, especially you writers. I’ve reached a point now where I feel I need to make changes to accommodate my writing goals.

And that brings me back to the topic: just do it.

A lesson I learned in my current English class is that the platform development, the subject of the course, is hard work, like really hard work. We were asked to do a case study on a particular author’s platform. One of the authors I wrote about, Gina Holmes (novelrocket.com) speaks about how the most successful authors are the ones that do everything to the best of their ability, despite any inclinations otherwise. It takes effort.

It’s simply discipline. Just do it.

Discipline is necessary in all career paths, in all goals. You have to exercise and eat right to lose weight, right? Stick to it, be disciplined about it, and you’ll drop fat right off. We all know this, but it’s still hard.

So what. Just do it. I tell myself this now, inspired by Ms. Holmes and her efforts. I don’t particularly want to sit in front of a screen and pound out words that I think are horrendous, but I do anyways. I’ll be honest: I don’t want to build up my author’s platform on Twitter and Facebook because it requires time and effort…I’d rather write about swords and fireballs.

So what. Just do it, Oren.

Discipline is what will achieve results. Block off that time. Set a schedule for the things you want to do. Organize. Plan. Stay consistent with those plans. I am blocking off time for my personal writing, and I will write something during that time, no matter what my mood or inclination is. I will get that exercise, and so will you. When I’m ready to implement my platform, I’ll block off time for that too.

Being successful isn’t just being talented. It’s also being willing to work hard for what you want, to do what’s necessary and do it well, no matter how un-fun it is.

Just do it.