Time to Regroup, Or: Taking Matters Back Into Our Own Hands

My life has been in complete flux over the past couple of months. And when I say “flux,” try to imagine being tossed into a clothes dryer on the highest cycle, and then just as the cycle slows down and you think you’re about to be pulled out of the dryer, you get tossed back into the dryer. And it’s not like someone’s thrown a dryer sheet to keep you smelling fresh or keeping the static cling away, nothing like that, no sir.

Life was humming along nicely for my wife and I. Our jobs were treating us well – to be honest, mine better than hers, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The house we’re building was beginning to progress at the pace we wanted. I was writing daily, and with purpose, vigor, even. We were even seeing some very positive results from the Paleo diet we’d committed ourselves to. Funny how we felt so much better now that we managed to eliminate wheat from our diets entirely.

Then my wife’s employer, whom let’s say is a Fortune 100, no, a Fortune 10 company, decides to throw a monkey wrench at her. A giant, greasy monkey because they can. They love throwing monkey wrenches, in a we’re-gonna-challenge-you-because-we’re-assholes kind of way. The Human Resources organization she’s aligned with – she’s an HR Manager supporting nearly 1,000 employees in 49 states and 8 countries – is undergoing a restructuring, which means two things: one, my wife will be transitioning from her current assignment to a new assignment, and, two, her assignment will be in Cincinnati.

Neither of us want to relocate to Cincinnati.

That’s not the problem. The problem is we don’t know when the re-assignment will take place. That won’t be announced until before Memorial Day. Right around when we’re looking to close on the house we’re building. The re-assignment could take place this July. Or next July.

A few things could have happened here. My wife and I could have fought over this. Or we could have resigned ourselves to relocating to somewhere we have no desire of moving, even if that means a promotion. Or we could have taken matters into our own hands, and took back the decision-making regarding our professional and personal future.

We opted for the latter.

We’re moving forward with the home purchase. If all goes according to plan, we take ownership of our new home the first week of June. But if her employer comes back to her and tells her she’s being re-assigned come July, then they need to relocate us to Cincinnati, and assist in putting our home on our market and provide assistance for us to purchase in new home in a new city.

But we’re working on a contigency plan. Both of us feel as if the decision regarding our future has been taken off our hands, so we’re retaking this. Both my wife and I are looking for new jobs – she a new role, me a full-time role, since I’m a contract employee. I’m having some success with interviews here locally, with some employers interested, and a few interviews having taken place. But if we’re going to have to relocate, we’d rather relocate to somewhere we want to relocate. My wife has attracted interest with several employers outside of our current home location, and she’s slated to interview for an HR Manager role in a few weeks. It remains to be seen whether they’re interested in hiring her.

Look, nothing against Cincinnati, but both of us have been there, and it’s not a place we’ve ranked high on our list of places we’d want to live in. But if we have to relocate, we have to relocate there. So be it. The thing that’s made everything so in flux lately is how we’ve felt as if our fates are being decided by others, and not ourselves. That just doesn’t seem right. So we’re taking matters into our own hands.

Add to this the massive workload I’ve taken on with my current job. I’ve been working nearly 60-hour weeks for nearly 3 straight months. I’m grateful for the work, and very happy that I’ve been recognized by peers and management for my accomplishments well above and beyond my scope of requirements. But when all is said and done, I’m still a contract employee, and my contract ends in June, with a likely extension until September, and then I’m shown the door, because I will have completed an 18-month tenure.

If there is a plus, it’s that my wife and I have taken this challenge on with great clarity and maturity. If this would have happened in the past, we would have fought bitterly, and perhaps this would have ended our marriage. But we’ve grown stronger together these past few years, so much so that we’re now faced with a decision regarding our future that greatly impacts us for a long time, and we’re able to look at all our options clearly and calmly, and talk things through. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.

Because of this craziness that’s taken place, both personally and professional, a lot of the things I’ve wanted to accomplish have taken a massive back burner. My writing has been completely non-existent. My blog has taken a hiatus. I’ve been so stressed that I’ve taken to emotional eating – I forgot how much I’ve love chocolate…ugh. I was running twice a week; my feet haven’t hit pavement in nearly 2 1/2 months.

Work has slowed down; I’m back to normal 40-hour weeks. My wife and I are pretty clear about what we want to do. So I’m going to regroup and start inching back to the things I enjoy doing again. I started writing again this past week; I wrote a pretty crap short story, but it’s a start. And then there’s this blog you’re reading. I’m returning to a normal blog schedule again. And, yes, I’m going to start running once more. I’m tired of feeling, well, tired.

I have some short stories I’m wanting to finish writing. Then jump-start my novel, which has been sitting there ignored for a few months. She needs a lot of attention, and she’s going to get a lot of it from me.

It’s also time to read The Goldfinch, which has been staring at me from my bookshelf, longing to be read, now that Donna Tartt has won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel.

Whatever the case, there are going to be some changes that are coming to our lives, so we readying ourselves to both face those changes and to make those changes. We realize there are worse scenarios to possibly be in right now, and I’m very much putting things into their proper perspective. Relocating to Cincinnati is definitely not like being deployed to Afghanistan, nor are we treating it like such. If we have to relocate, then we will; we’ll find the right school for our daughter, buy the home we want, and my wife will accept her promotion and bide her time until the next promotion comes, and she’ll have some more leveraging power as to where that next promotion location will be. And I’ll find the right job.

If we do stay here, then we’ll move into our home and I will continue in my current capacity and search for a full-time role in the meantime. And my wife will remain in her capacity.

As long as the decision regarding our fate remains firmly in our hands.

 

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

My Life Story, in Six Songs

The lovely folks over at Running On Sober have issued a challenge to their readers: tell your life story in six songs, and then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song. With each song, guest bloggers are encouraged to fill in the details as to what that song means in that particular point or aspect of their life.

The series runs every Monday, through September, and today’s edition features myself and another guest blogger by the name of Twindaddy, who blogs at Stuphblog. We were each given the opportunity to tell our life stories in six songs, plus a bonus, and share these stories with the Running on Sober readership. I thought I’d repost Twindaddy and mine here, but for you lazy few who just want to know what songs I came up with, without any context – sorry, but you’ll have to click on the link to read my story – here’s my list of seven songs:

  1.  “Star Wars – Main Titles/Rebel Blockade Runner” by John Williams
  2. Rock & Roll” by The Velvet Underground
  3. Cure for Pain” by Morphine
  4. (I’ve Got You) Under My Skin” by Frank Sinatra
  5. New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” by LCD Soundsystem
  6. This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case
  7. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone

So without further ado, here’s Life in 6 Songs, Vol. 7 – Twindaddy and Gus.

This series, and it’s an excellent series which I encourage you to check out past volumes of other shared stories, got me wondering: if you could choose one song, or several songs, what would that one song, or those several songs be?

Post the results in the comments below, along with a couple of sentences explaining why. You don’t have to go into too much depth – add as much or as little as you like – but some context would be appreciated. No prizes for originality, and I promise, no mocking if your song is “Wind Beneath My Wings” or “I Just Called to Say I Love You” or anything by Wilson Phillips.

Actually, I WILL mock you for “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” That song is the fucking worst.

Don’t be shy. Share your song or songs below, and let’s discuss!

Posted in guest blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Befriending Writers Should Bring Out the Competitor in You (Insecure Writer’s Support Group)

Author’s Note: Another first Wednesday of the month, another post for The Insecure
Writer’s Support Group
. Be sure to check out the many other writers participating in this blog hop. Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading the IWSG.

This Blogging Things Works Wonders! (Insecure Writer's Support Group)

 

Like me, many of you are no doubt friends with authors. Some of those friendships are mere acquaintances, perhaps, others closer than that. It seems obvious, of course, to be a writer and have friends that are also writers. I mean, why not surround yourself with those who understand why it is you delve deep into your prose, obsessing over the rhythms and cadence of every sentence?

I am inspired by my writer friends. They too have embraced the self-publishing wave, opting to become their own imprint. From their footsteps, I was inspired to take my own leap into the self-publishing world. Many of my writer friends helped me along the way, and continue to do so.

But I confess to being envious. Envious of the plaudits they’ve received, and the attention they’ve garnered elsewhere. However, I am not a man who wallows in jealousy. It’s a stupid, pointless emotion that gets you nowhere. If I’m envious, it only fuels my competitive streak. So when a friend gets a great review on Goodreads, I am excited for them, but there’s a part of me that says, “C’mon, Gus, you can do better!”

That I can do better doesn’t mean I want to one-up my writer friends in the my-book-got-better-reviews-than-yours, or, “Hey, look, my short story got picked up by Glimmer Train, and yours didn’t, NYEAH NYEAH NYEAH NYEAH!!!” It means I have to work harder, and write better. That competitive streak has fueled me to crank out more than 10 short stories in the past couple of months, as well as plug forward with my work-in-progress.

My point is we should draw inspiration from our fellow writers, because we share the same trials and tribulations, as well as the triumphs. And it doesn’t hurt being competitive with one another, as long as that competitive nature fuels your creativity, not your jealousy.

Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Guest Post: “Writing Cramps” by Christina Hart

Hey everyone,

Busy, busy, busy, as the good people of Bokonon would say. Yeah, it’s been a hellacious busy time here at Out Where the Buses Don’t Run. Work (real work), writing, reading, life, things have been hectic, but in a good way. Unfortunately, my blog’s taken a hit. Hence the reason why there have been no new posts lately. Some new posts will be coming soon, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s a terrific guest post from Christina Hart. You may know her from her insightful and funny blog, Daily Rants with the Bitch Next Door. Christina’s been kind enough to share with us a guest post, entitled “Writing Cramps.” In her words, “it’s 463 words, and summarizes the joys and difficulties of the writing process. It explains how characters can lead you through the process, how you can teach them to stop bitching about the process, and vice versa.”

“Writing Cramps” is a great guest post, and I think all of us who are writers will take much from it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

About the author:

Christina Hart is a writer who has worked for several online women’s magazines and blogs, while running her own blog, Daily Rants With the Bitch Next Door. She has self-published three books, including a poetry collection, a novella and a short novel. She is currently trying to get a fantasy novel published and survive the ups and downs of life while writing her way through it all. 

So, without further ado…

_______________________________________________________________

Writing Cramps

By: Christina Hart

Daily Rants with the Bitch Next Door

 

While writing can be magical at times, it can also be almost crippling. The joy of finishing a novel, the despair of never finishing one. We all suffer from writing cramps at one point or another. So what’s the trick to enjoying it full time? Are there any tricks? Is there one trick that works for everyone?

No.

The trick is simply to love it; whether it loves you back full time or not. You need to be in a committed, long term relationship with your writing. You need to understand it’s like any other love: there are going to be good times and bad times. There are going to be days where you don’t want to get out of bed and write anything at all. There are going to be days where you feel like your work in progress is on a train to nowhere fast. You’re going to feel like that train dropped you off in the middle of nowhere when just yesterday you were in a place full of warmth and promise.

So what’s the trick?

The trick is getting back on that god damn train whether it stops for you or not. The trick is being dedicated enough to be willing to run for it, jump for it, or risk your life for it. Okay, maybe it’s not that intense. But it certainly feels like it sometimes.

The trick is to keep on running, despite the cramps. Run through them. Write through them. The rest will come; if you’re willing to put the work in. Finishing a novel is like running a god damn marathon alone. You only have your characters to get you through this. And if they’re not helping you, poke them until they do. Get them pissed off. Put them in a situation where they have to do something.

Our characters are like our children. Or maybe we’re theirs. They either teach us what’s right or we’re going to have to put them in a corner until they learn it on their own. For me, I tend to let my characters lead the way once I’ve nurtured them to the point that I trust their decisions. Maybe it happens right away. Maybe I feel like they walked into my life and I already knew them. Maybe I have to invent them, only knowing them from their childhood. Maybe I don’t understand why they are the way they are until later in the story. Either way, it’s a process. And it can be a fun one or a troubling one. Either way, it’s an adventure.

Write the book you want to read. Introduce the characters you wish you knew, or maybe wish you were.

And don’t let that train stop even if everyone on board wants to get off.

Posted in guest blog posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Want to Write Better? Let Ernest Hemingway Help!

In my never-ending quest to learn valuable tricks of the trade, I stumbled upon the best app a writer can use to effectively help them understand how to write better. It’s called the Hemingway App, and it’s very simple to use. You cut and paste some random text, and let the Hemingway App analyze the text for the following:

  • Sentences that are hard to read
  • Sentences that are VERY hard to read
  • Adverbs – dreaded words that end in “-ly”, like “effortlessly“, “really” and “overly,” for example.
  • Words or phrases that can be simpler
  • Uses of passive voice
  • Readability (think grade level)

I recommend reading the text that appears on the app first, to get a better idea of how the app works, before you copy and paste your own text and let Hemingway App analyze how good a writer you are.

To show how this works, I took a screenshot of an analysis the app did on a short story I wrote a couple of years ago:

hemingway snap

Overall, the story possesses good readability. If anything, I was guilty of using too many adverbs. Then again, how many is too many adverbs? Some will say a few, others will say none at all. Regardless. the analysis left me with a great feeling about my writing, and it helps me to see where some strengths and weaknesses lie.

This app appeals greatly to me, for the simple reason that it’s got the name Hemingway associated with it. Hemingway was my first literary hero. I devoured The Complete Short Stories and The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories one summer during high school, and then moved on to his novels. From Hemingway, I learned the importance of choosing the right word, even if it means opting for a simpler, more direct method of prose than a more dynamic, floral prose often practiced by some of his contemporaries. He still remains one of my greatest literary heroes.

So if you’re looking for a tool to help your writing become more focuses, more leaner, more meaner even, you might want to give the Hemingway App a whirl. It’ll be fun, at the very least.

Posted in Writing Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

“Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming (Progressive Book Club)

(Author’s Note: This is the February entry for the Progressive Book Club I’ll be posting a review for a book I’m reading once a month for the PBC. If you’re interesting in taking part, head on over to the Guidelines and toss your hat into the ring.)

“Bond…James Bond.”

Published in 1953, Casino Royale marks the introduction of one of the most enduring pop culture characters of the past half-century (and, by the looks of it, this century as well), as well as the emergence of perhaps the finest author of the spy thriller, Ian Fleming.

Casino Royale takes us back to the height of the Cold War, when the counterintelligence agencies of Western and Soviet governments waged a nasty battle of one-upmanship against each other. Having been a survivor of the earliest skirmishes of the Cold War, Fleming does a masterful job of painting the scene, of parlaying the importance of giving the enemy false information, and being on a completely heightened state of awareness that danger always lurked around the corner. In creating James Bond, the Double O agent with a license to kill, Fleming sows the seeds of not just one of the great heroes of literature, but possibly one of its greatest anti-heroes: Bond is a charming sociopath, quick witted, refined, ruthless, callous, misogynistic, and ready to kill at a moment’s notice. It’s only when Bond survives the most gruesome torture that his hardened heart turns sentimental, and the callous misogynist learns to fall in love. Enter Vesper Lynd, of Section S, a gorgeous, raven-haired beauty sent by M to assist Bond in his mission to bring down “Le Chiffre,” a dangerous SMERSH (KGB counterintelligence) operative with a lust for violence and a weakness for gambling.

The novel centers around the ongoings at the title location, a ritzy hotel in Paris, where Le Chiffre holds court at Casino Royale, blowing millions of francs. MI6 (British Intelligence) and the CIA would love nothing more than to see Le Chiffre lose every penny, and have SMERSH put a bullet in him so as to spare them the embarrassment of a Soviet agent engaging in decadent excesses. James Bond, a master cardsharp at baccarat, is sent with a cache of millions to try his luck against Le Chiffre and bankrupt him.

But Bond’s enemies are on to him – Le Chiffre’s two goons have made him – and 007 survives a bomb blast by mere seconds. Worse yet, his luck at baccarat may be running out. Can Bond draw the right cards to bankrupt Le Chiffre, or lose millions and bankroll Le Chiffre’s counterintelligence activities?

The bulk of the novel takes place during the baccarat game, and while it’s not important to know how the card game is played, Fleming keeps the pace going at a brisk tempo with the right blend of exposition (he explains the rules of baccarat without slowing the story down) and tension (there’s an attempt made on 007′s life during the game that’s pulse-pounding).

At less that 200 pages, Casino Royale moves along very quickly, even when the novel falls into sentimentality, when Bond loses his hardened edge and falls madly for the vexing Vesper Lynd. The action is fast and furious, and while Casino Royale doesn’t contain a lot of the brutish violence that would later become a trademark of the Bond novels and films, there’s still enough action to satisfy the action junkie in everyone.

The triumph of Casino Royale is Ian Fleming’s prose, taut, yet sprinkled with passages that are both flowery and prosaic. Fleming balances the two worlds Bond lives in, the refined, elegant world of Bentleys and expensive champagne and Beluga caviar, and the gritty, savage world of being a government assassin with a possible short life span. Fleming’s Bond at first isn’t as assured as we’d come to expect, but the final page, when we begin to see Bond not as James Bond but as 007, suggests a man becoming comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, with the brutal nature of his nasty industry.

Posted in progressive book club | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Call For Submissions – Uno Kudo, Vol. 4

 

Many of you are likely aware that I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with the art & literary collective known as Uno Kudo. My short stories “That New Car Smell” and “Room 505″ have appeared in both Uno Kudo, Vol. 1 and Uno Kudo Vol. 2, respectively

Here I am holding my copy of Uno Kudo, Vol. 1. It's a beauty.

Here I am holding my copy of Uno Kudo, Vol. 1. It’s a beauty.

The good people at Uno Kudo are pleased to announce they’re currently accepting submissions for Vol. 4. But don’t just take my word; here’s Bud Smith, one of the editors, with all the details about how to submit, and what you should submit, for Uno Kudo Vol. 4.:

——————————————————————————————-

Hello writers and artists!

Submissions are OPEN for Uno Kudo volume 4!

send your work, now: Feb. 7th-May1st 2014.

SUBMIT: unokudo@gmail.com

Writers: Uno Kudo is looking for your most vivid work: short stories, poems, creative non-fiction, to be matched up side by side with artwork that will knock your socks off.

Artists: Please send art as a 300 dpi Jpeg 12″ high. Also send links to your websites. In this edition we will be using more stand alone art but we will still be matching up art to some of the stories and poems so it would be really awesome to see the expanse of your work.

Please send writing as a .doc file. No word limit. No theme. No holds barred.
In the subject line, please write either:

ATTN: Fiction/Title and author
Or
ATTN: poetry/Title and author

That’s a big help for the editors/readers who will select your work.

Poetry: send up to six poems (separate Word docs are fine).
short stories: send one, no word limit. No holds barred.
flash fiction: max 500 words each, send up to three (separate Word docs are fine).

Submissions are now open for our yearly print anthology that combines art and writing in wild ways. All profits from the sales of Uno Kudo 4 will again be donated to PEN International, a charity that fights for the rights of oppressed artists worldwide. Uno Kudo will be published in book form, available through Amazon, and available as a digital download.

We’d like to see something that has not been published elsewhere. We’d like to see something that is not sim. sub. We’d like to buy you a beer. All those things.

Thank you!

——————————————————————————————-

So what are you waiting for? Get your pens, your paintbrushes, your cameras ready! Uno Kudo needs your art and your words!

Posted in Uno Kudo | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments