Monday, December 21, 2009


My reading has been thwwwwppppting out recently.  It's like all the air is releasing itself from my writerly sails and im just coasting through life.  I sit down to write and BAM! nothing -- whereas before, I'd sit down and it would feel like I couldn't write fast enough.  Damn this mid-story lag!  I know this is something that will haunt me throughout my career -- making people do things for logical reasons.  I want them to run around, explore, go through trials and tribulations that build to this exciting climax... but it has to make logical sense, and these equations are what is killing me at the moment. 

I wrote a page yesterday.  After I wrote it, I looked back at what I wrote and realized I sounded angry at the reader.  It sounded liek "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS, OKAY?  GET OVER IT BECAUSE IM NOT CHANGING IT."  Today I'm going to go back and change it.  I can be such a bitch.

What's with the title, you ask?  I don't know.  I guess I want to be able to pat myself on the back and say "Great job Ken, you really perserveired and wrote something worth while today..." but I can't.  Nothing is working right now, the train is off the tracks and I am getting nowhere.  It'll be okay though.  I'm still not bereft of optimism.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Very Short Prologue.

I have a theory on prologues: they shouldn't be too long.  They should, in fact, be short.  A prologue should be succinct and to the point.  In this vein, I have constructed one for my novel -- Southern Hospitality. So what we have here is the prologue to my WIP (Work In Progress).  I believe it accomplishes what any good prolouge is supposed to, which is to entice without giving much away.  It is a taste and a nice little bite-sized chunk of my novel.

Without further adeu, Southern Hospitality:

Old Tawnee Road was never very well known. It seemed like from the moment that it was laid (from anyone’s best guess it was around the time of the Van Buren administration) it was forgotten. The old road linked two major highways and could save travelers upwards of thirty minutes if they had spotted the street sign that hung slightly askew on a metal pole when it bisected with their path. It was unfortunate then, that the entrance to either side came at a particularly difficult intersection to navigate and so, for the most part, the road remained unchecked for the better part of a century. Traveling southeast along the byway, a traveler would have seen a distinct dichotomy between the two sides: on the driver’s side was untamed and unbridled forest – Georgia Pines, smothered with kudzu and a few bushes skirted along the underbrush; to the right, there were the scant signs that civilization had once prospered in the area – old and rotted clapboard plantations, white and periwinkle paint peeling from the shudders and tiles missing from the roofs. Old Tawnee Road stood as a barrier between the virulent wilderness and the long-forgotten memories of what was.

These skeletons of the past harkened back to a time when slavery was the norm and a house without a bustling team of Negros would be deemed inefficient and quaint. But with the Emancipation Proclamation came an unsustainable business model. The southern rural aristocratic society was born, raised, and died among the shackles of the slave ships that hailed from the shores of East Africa. The great families had long disappeared from the plantations and taken the crops with them. The fields that once bore black-eyed peas, corn, wheat, peaches, and cotton were now fallow, and surrounded the houses that were now mere husks of their former selves – the corpses of the extinct southern gentry

Despite the gentle beauty and glimpses into the past that one could have found on Old Tawnee Road, its ability to keep the forest from encroaching upon the plantation side of the road and the small amount of decay that had come to the structures lining it had created stories about that twenty-five mile stretch of largely uninhabited roadway. The locals spoke of ancient evils that lurked beneath the ground, and ghosts of slaves that lingered in the fields, waiting with scythe in-hand to lop off the heads of any white person dumb enough to walk into their domain. Other stories spoke of specific houses and the histories of their residents, and of murders and infidelities of those residents that branched out to other families and created a web of intrigue and malice that terrified its listeners to the point of taboo.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of those stories wasn’t the variation, but rather the constant. Despite the innumerable ghost sightings and ethereal experiences, there existed one unimpeachable and absolute fact that pervaded every story told: On some nights, at two o’clock in the morning, at 455 Old Tawnee Road in the upper left-hand window, there is a flicker of light where the silhouette of an old woman is seen in a rocking chair – slowly going back and forth, to and fro. After exactly four minutes the wavering, dancing light would extinguish with unnatural abruptness. If one had been unfortunate enough to see that rippling, fiery light through the window, they would not hear, but feel the grating sepulchral lament of that woman as she screamed and moaned in great convulsions of pain that mutilated their senses and coursed through their very being. It would be followed by a feeling that was so brief yet so intense one wondered if they had actually felt it: the cold edge of a steel knife piercing their breast and rending their still-beating heart.

This was the only fact in the lore of Old Tawnee Road. It was never questioned by any of the locals because, at one point or another, they had all had their very essence shaken by that old woman’s death rattle.

Probably still not in its final form, but I like what I have so far.  Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why I Will Never Be 'Artsy'

If there's one thing I have learned from my explorations of the "indie"/"artsy" literary world, it is that the scene is predominantly an intransigent party that exists for the single purpose of inserting one's genitalia into another's mouth. That, and party has also reached capacity.  The sentences I have written thus far are not "edgy" enough, they're not incredibly short or incredibly long, and not every word has some obscure rule of Capitalizing Every Word.  My writing is to tell stories and to show a scene and to show dialogue and allow the reader to be transported to the world of my characters.  It is, first and foremost, to entertain.  When people will read my book, it won't change their perception of the world or themselves.  There may be an epiphany, but I hope it doesn't change who they are.  I'm not nearly conceited enough to think that my writing, nor my worldview, is the correct or most morally valid one.  I'm not writing out of some need to project myself onto others' consciousness.  People who do that are known as evangelicals here in the South, and it isn't something I strive for.  I love all sorts of people in their mannerisms and quirks; in their loves and their hates; in their passions and their lethargies.  The purpose that the majority of the world will pick up a book isn't to be told that they are right or wrong -- it is to be entertained.  I don't want to lose sight of that.

I am constantly told through the enternits that I am not good enough, smart enough, deep enough to be a writer.  Readers are, as the enternits inform me, much like Remora, preoccupied with latching onto the nipple or taint of any "indie" reader who is not white and/or has hellacious sideburns (man or woman) and that it would be much better for the Starbucks latte sippers and beanie-wearing hipsters if I just give up my attempt at "art."  It would in the end provide much less angst for everyone involved -- from myself, to the four or five lamentable sets of eyes that had to flit across my pages.*

To me, there is nothing worse in this world than being part of that "misunderstood" orgy of "indie" writers.  Do I say this because, secretly, I want in?  I don't think so.  I think I have a natural inclination towards fineries such as nice watches, polo shirts, and pressed pairs of khakis.  I like my hair short and clean, and only a sprinkle of facial hair every once and a while.  My room is clean (mostly) and I speak clearly and don't do drugs.  I'm not a practicing Christian, but I'm not an Atheist either.  My ideal situation is in a monogamous relationship with a woman and a dog and two kids and a white picket fence where I would write in the front bay window and leave only to go get food, pick my children up from sports, or to the nearest polling place to vote for my favorite Republican candidate.  I will never be a part of their world because I choose to be different from them.  I choose to live a life of sanitation and of sunlight, and not of dingy holes-in-the-wall, greasy fedoras, and bong resin. 

With that being said, there is something I do appreciate about indie meanderings masquerading as contemplative thought: their writings will, every once and a while produce a diamond.  "The Human Condition" is a favorite topic of theirs, for which a wide variety of definitions has been slapped onto it.  The Human Condition is about as nebulous a term as you can have, but intrinsically it has something to do with our innate need to destroy.  I don't think that we would have this endless well of psuedo-prophetic rambling without the original inquiry of what is human?  The question is immediately vague and worthless, but I love it so much because it helped me get through college.  There, see?  It's not all bad.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some selling out to do.


*Maybe a truly unfortunate soul had already lost an eye in a barroom brawl, pepper shaker incident, or warring with pirates.  This would, of course, put the "eye-count" down to a mere 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 sets.  However, there is something inherently "indie" about an eye patch, so it would perhaps raise my overall viewership closer to six -- two of which may even be terry-cloth headbanded teenagers who write angsty poems in their Moleskines while smoking marijuana.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Today is a Good Day.

It is a good day today. Writers are publishing, striving, and thriving. I am reading and writing at a break-neck clip (more on the Novel Blog to come shortly) and I had an entire weekend of a contemplative respite from the busy city and feel refreshed and focused on my craft... even when I'm at my soul-sucking day job. Today, three names are circling my brain: Therese Walsh, Stuart Neville, and Michael Chabon.

One of the first writing blogs I read was Writer Unboxed that is run by a gamut of people, but one of the founders of the site is Therese Walsh who's debut novel is out today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy is primarily for women and has been getting awesome reviews. I'm very happy for this new author and everything that she has gone through to get to where she is now. It's a big moment for any author, and one that is getting these kinds of reviews, well, good things are in store for sure! I think why so many people are actively rooting for Ms. Walsh is because yes, she is an author, but she is more than that. Through her site, she has become a friend to so many authors and readers alike. People will go to the book store today to pick up The Last Will because they like her. I don't know too much about the book (and what little I do know, I won't try to explain here) but I have this inkling that after work (around 4:30) I'm going to head to the Barnes and Noble across one of the busiest intersections in Atlanta, march my butt up to the counter and ask for a book who's genre is "Women's Fiction." I don't think that I would have ever picked this book up, no matter HOW much someone tried to goad me into it, because of that outlier of being "Women's Fiction," but for Ms. Walsh, (I'm going to call you Therese) I'll make an exception.

Stuart Neville's breakout novel - The Ghosts of Belfast - landed on U.S. soil a few weeks ago. I'm always interested in books with the connotation of being in the genre of 'horror'. It always seemed to me that I couldn't become scared by a book, but then I started reading some Stephen King and all of a sudden... I understood. I always thought terror to be something more visceral (if not low-brow) with slasher flicks like Saw and The Exorcist, I thought that to be scared by something, you had to see it, but these authors have taught me otherwise. James Ellroy, another very prominent (and very scary) author has already swathed Neville's first foray to the point of hyperbole, saying that it is the best first novel by an author he has ever read. (not verbatim) Really, really excited about this book, and I don't think it could get here fast enough.

Finally, I'm going through a really fun romp through the ever-growing life work of Michael Chabon. I picked up Gentlemen of the Road on my Kindle a few weeks back, and read through it rather quickly. Then I picked up his semi-auto-biography Manhood For Amatuers and I absolutely loved the glimpses into the mind of one of the best writers of prose alive today. Now I'm working my way through The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (Note: the link isn't to a current edition... I bought this one, it's the limited edition. I think I was lucky to find it.) which is another delightful display of prose from anything else I have read by him. I'm only about halfway through the relatively short book, but it is definitely dense enough to warrant a second reading. I found it interesting that he wrote this book so young, and it puts me in one of those "why-not-me?" mentalities. I enjoy these fires clear and unextinguishable passion for the craft that I practice that have been burning for a while now and don't seem to be going away. Michael Chabon has, better than any other author I have read, made me feel like I can do this too. I think it's his utter brilliance that he can make his writing come off with such ease (or, at least, it seems that way on the page) and can make the whole idea of writing so attainable because it almost seems like he is goading the reader, saying "See? Look how easy this is." I know that it's not easy. Even for him, but damn, those long, prophetic, sexy sentences and metaphores seem to flow almost too easily.

So what is it that these three have to do with eachother? They are all inspirations to me in their own ways. Therese makes me want to write blogs and get my name out there, Stuart makes me want to fight hard and expand my writing horizons and gives me hope, and Chabon is the master of letters that is capable of transporting me to the Pittsburgh of Art Bechenstein. These three have given me joy and prodded at the fires (however futile) of my own writing aspirations. Everyday I write harder and better because of people like this who have, at least to a certain extent "made it." I hope one day someone will mention me in their blog in this same way.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It was a Close Race, But...

Unfortunately, for all of my fans out there... I figured you should hear it straight from me: I am not the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature. It is, in fact, Herta Müller - a Romanian author who was selected because of her "concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed."

Now comes the all-to-common outcry of college-age beatniks who will immediately start shouting "OH, I totally went through a Müller phase in high school, good for her, winning that prize. It's about time she was recognized." Meanwhile, I'll sit here, where I always sit, and wonder who the fuck is Herta Müller? I don't think anyone really knows. She's scary as shit, though. She probably glared at the Swedes and they paid her with a medal and 1.4 USD's just to back down her hateful leer.

Really though, good for her. She should smile more though. I don't mean that in a chauvinistic "women should always be ____" sort of way... I just mean she just seems like a very pissed off person. Hopefully this award will bring some joy to her life and turn that frown upside down.

Now, back to being a F-List Writer!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One of those Typical "I'm Not Dead" Headlines.

No, I'm not dead. Quite to the contrary, I've been incredibly busy since the last time I posted here. With my outline done for my Novel, I am taking a step back from that project to work on three other stories that I'd like to get out in time for some contests. There's a lot of little things going on, so I'm going to write a series of paragraphs completely irrelated [sic] with one another. (except being about writing and me, of course)

Over the last seven days I have written a total of 5,000 words... I don't know if that's a lot, but I am trying to write even faster. I feel like I write EXCRUCIATINGLY slow to the point of tedium. To give an example, I had a paragraph that was already completed on my longest short story (It's going on 34 pages. It's a monster and I don't know if any contests would want it. It's good, but the length is pretty epic for a short story piece.) and I went back and edited that fucker for about an hour. I rewrote the entire thing probably four or five times until it was perfect. This would have been fine, I think, except it completely fucked over my groove. I had nothing after that. Revisions are a dangerous animal, especially when you're just trying to get your story on paper... they're somewhat like a Grizzly Bear, but instead of sharp, flesh-rending claws, they have... well... okay so revisions are nothing like a Grizzly... maybe an Aardvark or Kakapo. Yeah, Kakapo. Since it FUCKS your HEAD. (see: link)

I filled up a moleskine this weekend. I was pretty excited about that. I bought one of those three packs at Barnes & Noble, and when I purchased it, the lady behind the counter had the "oh-God-another-one-of-these-wannabes-again" look on her face. As I said in an earlier post, my intention is to constantly fight through the prevailing idiom of "that guy"-ism and beat all the tried and true stereotypes of people like me. So in that way, I was thrilled that I could fill one up. It's hanging on my cork board now... along with everything else I'm doing. It looks cluttered, but there is some method to my madness.

I don't know if it's because I am a massive tool bag, or what, but people with normal jobs like accountants and lawyers are depressing me now. When I see them I want to ask "Is this really what you want to do with your life? Are you really excited about reading that dull, sterile professional writing?" It just seems like they aren't really doing what they love. "Love what you do, and you'll never work a day in your life." That's kind of the mantra I'm going for I guess. Jesus, I am just a vestibule for horrible, life-affirming cliches.

I've found myself futzing around more literary websites recently. There are about five or six that now inhabit my Favorites list, and I read them primarily because they update nearly every day. It's nice to be able to sit down and read about writing even when you are seemingly stuck in Corporate Town, USA. I'm going to make a blog roll to the right of this post. Please visit the sites, I think that they're some of the best sources around for writers... unlike this one, which may become a black hole of creativity and happiness. I don't mean for it to, but you can't control these things. Black holes form with or without my consent. I think I'll blame this one on Blogger.

Anyway, that's essentially it. For all the work I've been doing for the past two weeks, there is very little to show for it. I'm excited right now because even though what I am doing right now is more than likely drivel, I can look back at my previous work and see that my drivel has at least become better. Writing is not easy, but seeing improvement has been a source of joy and inspiration for me for, Jesus, over a year now! I never really celebrated my one-year-anniversary with my love of writing. Just kind of passed that one up. Oh well, there's nothing to be mentioned about my work yet. Still not even published in a magazine or website yet (besides the blog that I edit and contribute to - ) but it will all come in time. When it does, you'll be the first to know. Yeah, you. Talking to you now. You have a little something hanging from your nose... might want to get that off. No, no... the other side. There. Good. Yay!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Furthermore, on the Subject of Names...

I have already had two instances of naming characters that are names of people that have already had a varied degree of fame a few decades ago. For example: I wanted to use the name 'Slim Pickens' as nickname at one point, not knowing about Dr. Strangelove. The name just sounded perfect for the character, so I went out and google'd it (something I do with all my names now... just because I don't want to be called out for libel) and I found my guy riding a cotton-pickin' atom bomb. Damnit.

What are the common rules to name-usage? Can you use names as long as they are obvioulsy different? Do you just avoid these names at all costs?


Novel Blog (II) - Outline Done!

I think I move faster than most when it comes to writing. I can't say that's a particularly bad thing to say. In fact, I would go so far as to say I'm pretty psyched about being able to say that. Two days ago, I found an excellent guide that I discussed in my last entry. Through the use of the oh-so-easy to use Freemind software, I have a 12 chapter novel laid out along with major and minor characters and scenes. I. Just. Destroyed it. I haven't even written the story yet, but the elements came together without hardly any stopping them. One element led to another, and another, and so on.

It scares me to a certain extent, because surely it can't be as easy as it just ended up being. Sure, I spent almost the entirety of the last two days working on my map, but it still didn't seem like enough time to spend. I think the hardest part for me will be contriving all the minutiae that will be found in the book. More subplots (ergo, more chapters) will inevitably find its way into the text, and I will struggle with the actual act of writing more than I did just telling the story.

It's good to have this problem, I think. I don't think I am the level of writer that makes this sort of thing easy yet. I have a great story (at least I think so) but I am a little worried that my grasp on the English language won't be able to bring the story to life as well as I expect it to. But that's fine. First drafts are always a little wonky (or so I've been led to believe) and I'm not particularly worried about it. I'm looking forward to the creation process, but I actually fell in love with mapping out how the story is going to take place as well... something I have read as being tedious, I found to be exhilarating.

Using Freemind was a great little process that created the elements for the novel that I didn't know existed. I discovered characters that are quintessential to the plot that makes the whole thing come together, I discovered drug addictions that were hitherto unknown, I found little scraps of notes that ended up being a phone number to a dark, mysterious figure that was foreshadowed to early on in the first chapter that I am now attempting to rewrite completely.

Perhaps I need to be more fastidious. I'm flying through this stuff and I'm enjoying the heck out of it. I know there's holes to fill and problems will arise, but right now the words are falling onto the page with an easy alacrity that makes me both wary and very, very excited.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How To's

So I just found some great how-to's over at Simon Hayes' blog. These are great! Love, love, love them. In fact, I went so far as to send him an e-mail (something I never do) about how much they are, in fact, the shit.

That's all I got for now. I've decided that Tuesdays are the black hole for creative thought. Mondays you can pull from your anger that another weekend has died at the hands of the dreaded Work Week, Wednesdays are full of hope that you may actually make it through, Thursdays are 'light at the end of the tunnel', and Fridays... well I'm drunk on Fridays. Saturday and Sunday are always amazing.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Novel Blog (1)

So I'm trying something new now. I have been mulling over the story for a while, and I have tons of notes, bits of dialogue and a plot outline. What I want to do is talk about my experience in writing my first novel and all the heartache and torture that will inevitably come with it. I don't think I'm going to give too much of the story itself away...maybe a quick outline, but I would like to keep the final product so I can (hopefully, haha) get it published. So, let's try to explain the story that has been making me lose sleep for the past month or so.

What I gots so far...
Mark Menkowitz is a 38 year old Jewish newspaper editor who has just lost his wife to a car crash. When something this horrible happens, there is always a certain grieving period, but Mark's could have been so short that it may have been completely absent. My story revolves around Mark's life post-Sheila (his late wife) and how he remembers through her absence what was and why they had fallen in love in the first place. When he goes back to the house they moved into as newlyweds, he begins to remember the wife that he had loved so much.

While he is going through a prolonged and increasingly belabored grieving process, he also has to deal with the realization that the future of his newspaper (the largest in his city) is hemorraging dollars and is in danger of collapse. Through the continued sadness Mark is faced with, he will go on a journey that will lead him through guilty pleasures and pitfalls, happiness and moments of relfection, love and agony.

I think that's enough for now. I find myself writing a screenplay with the novel, and I don't really know which one will take priority yet. I have the first scene of the script done, and it was the first thing I did to explain it (Thank you goes out to those very fine folks over at Celtx for making deliciously awesome free script and novel editing software! You are my heroes) but without any scripting experience, I am horribly anxious about the prospect of putting so much creative effort into something that may fail miserably. (Or, as Mark would say, "I just ain't gonna sit in a pool of shit if there's a hot tub next to me.")


Some things that piss me off...

I was reading some stories on blogs today... stuff that read "First Two Chapters! Enjoy!" and it kind of made me realize where the bridge between good and bad writing is. I think I made a breakthrough in dregging through the literary offal found on the internets.

1. People who write stories about someone writing a story. It's dumb and convoluded. The best story like this was The Secret Window and that was written by Stephen King... the guy can pull off any over-used, horribly cliche plot he wants. The majority of us, however, cannot. So, if you ever feel like your character has to write... think about it again. Is there any other way you can give your character some ambiance of creativity? Think about it. Stay the fuck away from cliches - especially this one.

2. Dumbass page-long narratives of two people staring at eachother in silence. This seems pretty self-explanatory. If your male protagonist looks out into the park and sees a beautiful girl, don't give me a page about her fucking hair. It's dumb and boring and not realistic. As a guy, I can say, without equivocation, that when I see a woman I don't break out into sonnet. Neither should your dude. If your just trying to boost your word count, then you're a poser... if you're trying to show off flowery language, you're a loser... if you're trying to show how emotionally touched your guy is, you're lying.

3. Having one long paragraph that should be broken up into two. Reading devolves into scanning when confronted with a wall of text. When you have a paragraph that doesn't seem to end, find a good place to break it up. There's always a spot out there. Find it. Rule of thumb: if you have more than one central subject going on in a paragraph, you're doing it wrong.

4. Don't be a cocky prick. People notice your douchebaggery. A simple rule of thumb exists here. If you think very highly of yourself, it will come through in your writing and it will no longer be sincere. Self-flaggelation and a good sense of humor are paramount in writing, and without the ability to laugh at yourself, your writing looks contrived and brings up images of Patrick Bateman flexing in the mirror while banging a chick in American Psycho. If you want to write, get over yourself. Write for the love of the story, not for the love of yourself. Prick.

5. Don't make wild claims about how other people write when you're not even published yet. Yeah, and hypocrites. I hate hypocrites.

That's it. Enjoy your crushed egos.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Cheek on Desk

It's 11:45 p.m. here in Macon, Georgia. Even though the sun is long gone, it maintains a temperature just above broiling, but definitely resting at a constant simmer. I'm moving in two days to Atlanta and I haven't packed anything.

What am I doing? I have my cheek on the desk. I'm hunched over with my body leaning to the right as to avoid my laptop and my left cheek is resting on the flat surface. I must look awkward typing like this. Thank God I close my door when I'm attempting to wax creative. It doesn't actually matter now that I think about it... everyone else has already moved out. I'm in a huge, 5-bedroom apartment and no one else is even here. The internet was turned off earlier so now I'm nicking it from my neighbors.

Soon the power will be gone and I'll be in the dark. I should sleep.