BACK TO BASICS

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I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions…too much pressure. I always go into the New Year figuring this will be a turn-around time and sometimes it is. But it has nothing to do with resolutions. It’s simply playing the cards you’re dealt and making the best of the hand you’ve got. To quote Evan Morris, the lead character in White Wolf Moon:

“Back then it didn’t really matter where I was or what I was doing I’d find myself thinking that I’d rather be somewhere else. People are like that. We’re never satisfied with the cards we’re dealt. Still nestled in that deck hides that one card…that ace or king that will make us happier; that will make our life perfect. Over the years I’ve come to realize that there’s no such card. We have to play the hand we’ve got and if we do it right we’ll win more times than we lose or at least break even. That’s all we can hope for. That’s life.”

The reason this quote came to mind is that it was part of a piece that I wrote sometime back in the 1990s and it found its way into the book I published in 2012. It was written longhand in one of my daybooks. I used to carry those small and fairly beaten spiral-bound notepads wherever I went, especially when I took my camera into the hills. In these books I’d keep track of the camera settings for each shot but I’d also write down any thought that came to me as I was taking the photographs. These notes formed the text I would sometimes use to accompany the framed prints that I would eventually sell at art fairs and such. Some of my notes had nothing to do with the images. They were, like the card reference above, just wanderings that crossed my mind as I’d sit on a hillside or beside a lake or river…just musings.

I found some of those old notebooks a few weeks ago. I also found a binder of my writings from high school and throughout the sixties. It’s like reading someone else, especially the high school entries. But as I work my way through them I can see the progression. Most are just one or two lines, succinct in nature, bare bones. Others are amazingly poetic and insightful. I have already transferred quite a few of them to the White Wolf Moon sequel file I’m working on. They will be an important part of the new book although they will be credited as the writings of Evan Morris.

I compare these old hand-written notes with those in the ‘starter’ file on my computer and I realize that those in the notepads seem to be more thought out and mostly finished while the entries on my computer are simplistic and still require a good deal of work before they can be used for anything if they will be used at all. I’m now considering that the old way was the better way, at least for me, and if I was to believe in New Year’s resolutions mine would be to get back to basics; to find that sunny hillside and with pencil in hand and notepad on my lap just let the thoughts and words flow.

One of my sons gave me a pen/pencil set and a leather-bound notepad for Christmas. Other than a promotional set I received from a television station back in my advertising agency days I’ve never had a pen/pencil set so it was pretty special for me. More special is the notebook. Such a simple thing really but one that I hope will bring back the magic of those days before the computer. It was a time when everything written on that pulpy yellow paper meant something and every scratched out sentence or scribbled addition indicated the thought behind the writing. It was all about the words and the moment. Perhaps those younger writers who grew up with today’s technology can take their laptop or notepad computer into the wild and accomplish the same thing but for me I think it’s time to give getting back to basics a shot.

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CREATIVITY AND RAMBLIN’ AGAIN…

Storm

One of my creative writing chairpersons once told her group that not everyone is creative and insisted that we, as writers, were the special ones. She was partially right. We are special but so are all the painters, photographers, sculptors…anyone who can take an abstract and create a concrete that can be shared and appreciated by all those who might be interested is special. As far as not everyone having latent creativity within…bull residue. Is the cat burglar who invents a way to by-pass the latest electronic security system any less creative than a poet or a painter? I think not.

Where there is thought there is creativity.  Not everyone has the ability to express their creativity in an accepted form but that falls under the heading of ‘talent’ and talent can be taught. Creativity must be nurtured without restraint within these teachings. Creativity is an abstract. So too is talent. The result of the two is concrete. A photograph, painting, or poem that could not exist without both.

Now the ramblin’….

Other than a nagging cough my cold is behind me…so too is Christmas. It was a good holiday season, family and all…good food and lots of fun with grandkids but there’s always that letdown on the 26th. It seems we build and build for Christmas Day then suddenly it’s gone. Devoid of the gifts that for weeks had promised surprise and excitement the tree now stands naked. The halls may still be decked but they’re quieter now and the turkey chills in the fridge promising a few more left-over dinners. Rather than buying each other gifts this year my wife and I decided we should treat ourselves to a new flat-screen television. The old analog is into its sixth or seventh year and it takes longer to warm up these days (as do I) so we elected to retire it to the basement. I was told by everyone that I’d spend a lot more time watching television with a new big screen but so far I can’t see many reasons why I would. The Big Bang Theory looks pretty much the same only bigger and other than Haven, the Voice and perhaps X-Factor (I’ve lost all interest in Idol), I don’t watch all that much actual television. I do like movies though and after watching one last night on the new Blue-Ray I am looking forward to seeing some of my Alien/Predator flicks on the bigger screen.

I’m now officially retired and learning to both relax and to discipline myself, in particular my time management. It’s too easy to check emails/facebook/blog in the morning then play on the computer or to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and read. I’m just getting into Jubilee Hitchhiker, the Life and Times of Richard Brautigan by William Hjortsberg. It’s an 852 page behemoth of about 9 point text so I’m figuring I’ll be at this one for a while. I think I may have to schedule an hour or so a day just for reading although I’m not one that welcomes schedules easily…thus my time management problem.

I’ve been away from the sequel to White Wolf Moon for a week or so and I think this is a good thing. I opened up the file this morning and re-read what I’d done with a little more critical distance and there are areas that I’m not quite as comfortable with as I first thought. As for the book itself, it’s been a good two weeks. I’ve sold a few more copies and picked up four ‘likes’ on the White Wolf Moon facebook page plus had some good comments. It’s also been recommended for two book reading clubs so the book part of my life is rolling steadily along.

All in all things are shaping up quite nicely for the year ahead.

Happy Holidays…

TYPE02…and to all a Good Night!

I’ve been laid up for a week or so with a nagging cold so I haven’t been able to post anything new but I just wanted to take a minute and wish everyone “Season’s Greetings” or:
Geseënde Kersfees en ‘n Voorspoedige Nuwe Jaar
I’d Miilad Said Oua Sana Saida
Felices Pasquas Y felices ano Nuevo
Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo
Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Glædelig Jul
Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar
Maligayang Pasko
Hyvaa joulua
Joyeux Noël
Froehliche Weihnachten
Shub Naya Baras
Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Buone Feste Natalizie
Shinnen omedeto, kurisumasu omedeto.
Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Merry Keshmish
God Jul
Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia
Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva s Novim Godom
Hristos se rodi
Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce
Nollaig chridheil huibh
Sretam Bozic. Vesela Nova Godina
Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok
Feliz Navidad
God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt År
Z Rizdvom Khrystovym !
Chuc Mung Giang Sinh
Cestitamo Bozic

NOT SURE….

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Sometimes I enjoy opening up my WIP folder and reading all the little thoughts and starters that never went any further. Sometimes I don’t. This is one of those I enjoyed:

I just made this story up so I don’t know if it’s true or not. It’s hard to believe I’d imagine something that wasn’t true though.

A young woman sits at the end of the counter atop a bar stool meant for someone much heavier. She is an extremely compact girl with flowing blonde hair and liquid amber eyes that catch the red and blue reflection of the neon sign over the bar. Her tight denim shorts and perfectly strained white T-shirt show off her comfort accessories the way a guy shows off his new sound system, only quieter. She’s there from 7:00 until 8:00 every night, on the same bar stool nurturing a rum and cola which she lifts to her lips but never drinks.

Men approach her and comment on her accessories. Disinterested she prefers to stare vacantly into the antique gold-veined mirror behind the bar and pretend to drink. She studies the incredibly beautiful etched flourishes at the corners of the massive piece of glass as a medical student would study cells and frog parts through a microscope.

Without checking the clock at precisely 8:00 she slips off the bar stool and walks quietly across the floor. She tosses one sly glance over her shoulder then steps out through the doorway to disappear into the encroaching darkness.

Twenty-three hours from now she will be back.

No matter how crowded the room will be at 6:55 tomorrow night that bar stool will be vacated. Even if someone famous were occupying it, which almost never happens, they will look at the clock then move to the darkened booth beneath the moose head.

At 6:57 the barkeep will place a rum and cola on a white napkin to the right of the stool between the beer nuts and piggy-puffs but away from the ashtray, a red or green clear plastic swizzle stick balanced across the rim of the glass. No ice.

WHERE ART THOU #60?

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I’ve lost a friend.

Actually I should say that the White Wolf Moon facebook page has lost a friend. Most “fan” pages have thousands of followers so I would imagine they may not notice when they lose one or two but I had only 60, now I have 59. I suppose this shouldn’t concern me but it does. I’m still relatively new to the whole concept of on-line networking so losing one follower feels like I’ve somehow failed or let this person down. I’m told this isn’t a big deal…there could be many reasons why someone would stop following and I’m to stop over-thinking it. While I’ve never been accused of over-thinking anything perhaps I should this time.

This blog is another example.

I read the blogs of people that follow me and I’ve taken note of what they do. I find the whole thing fascinating. The variety of subject matter covered within each of these blogs is incredible from writing tips to recipes. I’ve tried different approaches with my posts in an effort to try and figure out what direction I should take in order to tap into the interests of the people who follow White Wolf Moon. I have studied all my site stats to ascertain which posts garnered the most interest and while I have an interesting assortment of numbers I’m really no further ahead. It seems different things appeal to different people (duh).

But then I thought about my “likes” on other blogs.

I’ve read a lot of the “How to Build a Blog Audience” sites and there’s one underlying theme that bothers me. It’s the suggestion that you “like” and “follow” as many blogs as possible and they will do the same for you.

I tend to agree with the “follow” part. I will always check out anyone who “like”s something I’ve posted and if they have a post that I find interesting, informative or just plain fun (which is usually the case) I will hit “like” then follow their blog. This doesn’t mean I will hit “like” every time they post but I do go through them all when they come up on the Reader and will certainly “like” any individual posts that catch my fancy. I believe that a “like” should truly mean something and the fact that I am continually following them is a far more important stat. But maybe I’m wrong.

I also check out other bloggers that are following someone that I’m following. I’m amazed at how many pages I’ve found that will catch my interest even though we were not directly linked but then, as I said, I’m still new to all of this.

The primary purpose of this blog is to help promote White Wolf Moon. The most reader reaction by a short-shot comes when I write about the book or writing in general so I suppose it’s fulfilling this purpose.

Speaking of the book…it’s plodding along nicely. Both downloaded and hard-copy sales have slowed a little but it is still moving and the sequel is well underway. I’m settling into this retired life. I’m also managing to discipline myself time-wise as far as my writing efforts are concerned so generally all would be right with my world…if I could only figure out what happened to #60.

http://www.facebook.com/mikegrantwwm?ref=stream

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

It’s an interesting term, “politically correct”.

Basically it means you must say the right things to the right people at the right time in the right place…the theory being that four rights can’t possibly make a wrong. Personally I’d rather be forthright than first wrong so I tend to not say anything to anybody at any time in any place. Needless to say I lead a pretty quiet existence.

I would probably be the poster boy for the politically incorrect because I can never remember what country we’re mad at any given time, what fruits we’re not supposed to eat because we’re mad at the country that profits from them, and what writer I’m not supposed to read because he comes from the country that exports the fruit we’re not supposed to eat.

It seems the only way one can be assured of not offending anyone at a gathering is to never discuss race, religion, politics, sexual preferences, sports involving animals, unions, management, alcoholic beverages and tobacco, endangered species, foreign policy, equal rights, environmental issues, salmon, interest rates, atomic generators and submarines, strip mining, pet shops, red meat, 50 Shades of Grey, cosmetic surgery, art, education, m’ladys dainties or the detergent in which they are washed. That leaves oatmeal…unless we’re mad at Scotland for some bizarre reason.

I suppose it is testimony to our times that we are even concerned about this type of correctness. I remember anything going as long as it didn’t hurt another person. Do Unto Others and the like…but the times they have a’changed.

I have a couple of characters in White Wolf Moon that try to maintain a certain level of PC (sometimes without success) but they are also from an era when the word “respect” had a certain meaning. These guys may not agree with your arguments or beliefs but they will allow you the floor asking only for equal time in return.

What started this post was a clip on the news this morning.

santa

Remember “the stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”? A British Columbia author has updated the classic bed-time Christmas Eve poem to exclude any mention of Santa’s bad habit. Really people? After careening around the world in one short night behind eight tiny reindeer the old boy deserves at least a puff or two don’t you think? (We won’t even mention that Santa wears (gasp) fur!!!)

Maybe I’m being silly but why didn’t the author go that one step further and eliminate the word “Christmas” from the title?  School concerts have dropped it because, well, some folks don’t celebrate it the same way that I do, if at all…and that’s fine. That’s their choice or their faith and far be it from me to censure those beliefs…all I ask is that they offer me the same courtesy.

We are not all alike. That’s one of the beautiful things about the human race but we have to respect what each of us brings to this planet. We can learn from each other’s beliefs and cultures but we must, as was the standing order in Star Trek, observe and not interfere.

Yes we will always have ideological differences. However, as Evan Morris states in White Wolf Moon, “…the realization of differences can create barriers but accepting those differences can just as easily tear them down.”

Merry Christmas to all….

WOLF-DOG RESEARCH

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A few weeks ago, just after the release of White Wolf Moon, I received some comments from a friend of a friend regarding the book. Most were favorable and familiar. She liked the humor, philosophy, characters, and dialogue but took me to task for my depiction of Ginn the white wolf-dog. Apparently I made her too tame and cuddly…creating the wrong impression of the wildness of the wolf-dog. She sent a couple of links that went into great detail about these animals and so, after the fact, I did some research.

I spent a week sifting through the information (which generally paints a rather bleak picture) and writing a follow-up explanation for the sequel to WWM that would make it clear that Ginn was an exception (exceptions are mentioned on these sites) and that Evan perhaps wouldn’t have taken her home had he researched the animal first. I have gone into great detail about the cautionary care of the “pet” wolf-dog but after all of this there is a part of me that wonders if I really need to explain myself.

Here’s my dilemma.

Ginn is based on an actual white wolf-dog I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago. I was a parent supervisor for a school field trip to a local lake and I’d managed to sneak away for a few minutes. I was sitting on a path at the edge of the lake when this massive white dog came out of the trees and stood staring at the sandwich I was about to devour. She looked wolf, no question, and I admit to being quite concerned for my safety. Her owner came up behind her and told me she was quite tame and spent most of her days playing with the kittens at the cabin or giving the young grand-kids rides around the yard. I scratched behind her ears and she sat beside me while he told me her story. As he talked she lay down and ate part of my lunch, licked my hand…generally giving the same cuddly and tame impression that I later bestowed upon Ginn. I have met two other wolf-dogs since that time, most recently at the closing of At Second Glance Books in Kamloops. She’s the companion of a talented young musician who volunteered to help us pack books and entertain us by playing a guitar or fiddle while we worked. This wolf-dog is even more of a softie than the first one I met. If I took a break and sat down for a while she’d come sit beside me wanting attention. Scritch behind her ears and she rolls over and wants her tummy rubbed and apparently she spends a lot of time with a ferret crawling all over her.

All three of these animals I’ve met have been incredibly gentle and peaceful souls, a far cry from the generic description on the wolf-dog sites I’ve visited. I find myself wondering if all the research was worth it.

Should my findings be addressed in the sequel which could perhaps cast a different impression of Ginn or should I stick with what I’ve personally experienced?