As It Spreads

The disease of fear,
Bringing so many tears,
Coninues to spread,

Across the nation.
On every station.

Can it be blocked?
Is there something we can adopt,
As a culture to stop,
The contiued spread?

Across the nation.
On every station.

Behind every color is a man,
Whose fear pushes his hand,
If only we could understand.

Across the nation.
On every station.

But as a man lies dead,
All we can see is red,
The mistake was too great,
You cannot forgive in hate,
As the escalation spreads.

Across the nation.
On every station.

 

Inspired by the events in connection with the deaths of Alton Sterling (7/5/2016), Philando Castile (7/6/2016), and the 5 Police Officers shot in the Dallas Shooting (7/6/2016).

I Fear…

I fear the man in blue,
walking towards my door.

I fear the man whose black,
that I’ve never seen before.

The TV shows the violence,
The stereotypes fill my head,
Will this encounter,
End up with me dead?

I fear any resistence,
Will cost me my head.

I fear any weakness,
will have me shot instead.

The TV shows the violence,
The stereotypes fill my head,
Will this encounter,
End up with me dead?

I fear the words,
that I must lawfully say.

I fear the action,
that I must now outlay.

The TV shows the violence,
The stereotypes fill my head,
Will this encounter,
End up with me dead?

The gun is drawn,
Panic spawns,
Now a man is dead.

 

Inspired by the events in connection with the deaths of Alton Sterling (7/5/2016), Philando Castile (7/6/2016), and the 5 Police Officers shot in the Dallas Shooting (7/6/2016), in particular the video released by Mr. Castile’s finance after the shooting.

#ThrowdownThursday: GW2 “Tell Me a Story”

This week my guild did an event called “Tell Me a Story”, where you had to grab 10 grey drops or karma vendor items and then tell a story with them. My group ended up with these items:

  1. [Pirate Flask]
  2. [8 Broken Lockpicks]
  3. [Vial of Purified Ocean Water]
  4. [Hylek Green Hue Potion]
  5. [Talon]
  6. [Dull Claw]
  7. [Shell]
  8. [Smashed Inquest Capacitor]
  9. [Canon Fuse]
  10. [Dorsal Fin]

Our story (co-wrote by me) was this:

I returned a man his [Pirate Flask] which, in his drunken stupor, had dropped it when he tripped on a [Shell] and a [Dorsal Fin]. In gratitude, he told me a wondrous tale, which ended in where his treasure was. I went to find it, but the inquest attacked me before I reached the island he mentioned, and sunk my boat. I only managed to survive by using a [Smashed Inquest Capacitor] that I pulled off one of the attacker’s corpse. When I made land I had to fight creatures with sharp [Talons] and [Dull Claws] until I final came to the chest. It was then I realized I didn’t have a key. I ended up with [8 Broken Lockpicks] before giving up and searching nearby. I finally found set of cannons, and one still had a good [Cannon Fuse]. When I blew off the top, what did I find? A [Vial of Purified Ocean Water] and [Hylek Green Hue Potion]. When I confront the pirate about this he becomes excited. He said “NOW I CAN MAKE MORE BOOZE!” I realized everything had been a ruse…

Not my best work, but worked for the challenge. 🙂

#TipTuesday: Time Management

This week’s tip is about something I myself need to work on: Time Management.

If you have any hobbies and a full time job, it can be a bit hard to balance all those things and writing. 8 hours of work, plus the “lunch hour” that’s tacked on, and then an hour in traffic both ways eats a good portion of any day. It leaves precious few hours for yourself, and so you have to choose how to spend those hours wisely. Here are a few tips on how use those hours in a way that balance social life and side projects with your writing.

Schedule writing days. Set aside days during the week that you will dedicate to writing. It doesn’t have to be the whole evening, but it should consist of more than one hour, in order to give you time to ramp up and get some stuff done. Having a goal for this time can also help increase productivity.

Have a dedicated social day. Mine is typically Saturday, but if you’re more religious minded, make it the holy day, since most days of worship involve spending a number of hours with other people. Since you are already with them, you can just continue spending the day visiting. This helps maintain your social life by doing something every week, but keeps it from overwhelming you.

Schedule hobby days. Just like scheduling writing days, schedule a day where you can work on your other projects. Again, this doesn’t have to be a whole evening, but enough time to actually get something done, with a goal in mind for the evening.

Keep a notebook and/or voice recorder handy. One way to keep writing, even when you don’t have much time for it, is to scribble things down in those moments you do have to yourself, even if it’s just a few minutes. These also come in handy when you have a sudden burst of inspiration and need to jot down or record an idea.

Write on your lunch hour, or simply daydream about the story. Any time you have to yourself can be used as an opportunity to write. Daydreaming about the story can be useful to work through problem areas, but make sure you have something to write down to final result, or you may forget later.

In the end, the important thing is to make time for writing, as well as your other hobbies. Look at your life, and find all those little moments that you can fill in, or simply organize your life to make space.

If even with all of this, you can’t find time to write, you may need to think about what your priorities are. It’s not a crime if writing isn’t one of them, there are more important things in life. However, if you want writing to be a priority, then you may need to cut something else out.

#TipTuesday: Constructive Criticism

“Your harshest critic is always going to be yourself. Don’t ignore that critic but don’t give it more attention than it deserves.”

– Michael Ian Black

One of the greatest skills any writer can have is being their own constructive critic. This is a skill acquired over a long period of time, however, as it’s hard to separate the constructive criticism from simple doubts. It can be even worse when coming from someone else, since outside voices often have more legitimacy than our own worries, or legitimize our inner  misgivings.

As such, today’s #TipTuesday will cover how to give good constructive criticism (to both yourself and others), and how to weed out what criticism needs to be ignored.

Good Constructive Criticism

The word constructive means “helping to develop or improve something” (Merriam-Webster). As such, constructive criticism is only useful if it helps improve the story or writer’s ability. To accomplish this, criticism needs to have the following qualities.

  • Brief and succinct, with a clear start and a finish; not endless. People can get confused if you carry on too long and become disoriented. If this happens, the criticism loses all value.
  • Relevant and to the point. If the criticism has nothing to do with the topic of discussion, then it simply becomes a distraction. It can pull people off-topic and then the matter that needed the criticism may never be examined again. Non-relevant criticism is also often received poorly or ignored, as the recipient is uninterested in criticism in that area.
  • Clear, specific and precise, not vague. Vague criticism helps no one. At best, it typically will frustrate the author and make them depressed since they don’t know what to work on. At worst the criticism is considered pure meanness or ignorance and discredits the critic.
  • Well-researched, not based on hear-say or speculative thought. Speculative thought only leads the author off into rabbit holes that ultimately fix nothing and wastes time.
  • Sincere and positively intended, not malicious. This should go without saying, but has been said anyways.
  • Articulate, persuasive and actionable, so that the recipient can both understand the criticism and be motivated to act on the message. “Actionable” often includes suggested solutions, or clues to finding solutions.

(Above items taken and edited from Wikipedia’s article on Criticism)

Constructive Criticism Template

The above rules can be hard to implement sometimes, however, and so having a good pattern to use when first working on being constructive with criticism helps. I recently read an article on Jane Friedman’s website about writing groups and giving good constructive criticism. In the article, Jane Friedman references Ed Catmull’s “Good Notes” principle:

Truly candid feedback is the only way to ensure excellence. When giving notes, be sure to include:

What is Wrong

What is Missing

What Isn’t Clear

What Doesn’t Make Sense

A good note is specific. A good note does not make demands. Most of all, a good note inspires.

These questions are a good baseline to use when trying to generate constructive criticism. If you are struggling to fill to answer a question, however, then don’t. While constructive criticism is helpful, it is only helpful when needed. If you have a hard time finding something to criticize, then the piece may not need it.

Bad Constructive Criticism

Even if your criticism meets the above criteria, it can still be considered detrimental if it falls into some of the following pitfalls.

  • Criticizes the writer, and not the work. No one needs or wants a personal attack, even if you truly think the problem is the person themselves. Instead, focus on the behavior that is causing the problem than the person. This will be generally better received.
  • Phrased poorly. If criticism is phrased in a way that it can be taken as a personal attack or simple insult to the work, it will be ignored. A good rule of thumb to avoid this is to try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
  • Happens to be inappropriate. Certain social circumstances may make the criticism inappropriate, such as in front of a large group when the author is trying to sell their book. Instead, in the example situation, it might be more appropriate to give the criticism in private away from the audience.

Criticism to Ignore

Any criticism that doesn’t help often becomes detrimental. It can waste time and effort, or just give fuel to inner demons. If the criticism doesn’t help you identify and work on a problem, then it is usually safe to ignore it and move on with your writing. If you work consistently at your craft, and continue to strive to be better (and are open to good constructive criticism) then you will most likely overcome whatever problem the bad criticism was focusing on.

If the criticism really bugs you, then try to pin down exactly what the critic means. If you feel like you hit a dead end, however, don’t be afraid to ignore it even if that critic is yourself.

#PhotoPromptFriday: “The Moon” by Alphonse Mucha

evening-star

Alphonse Mucha is the creator of the art style “Art Nouveau”, and the painter of today’s #PhotoPromptFriday! This piece, titled “The Moon” really strikes me as mysterious, as if she’s hiding a secret, and makes me wonder what that secret is.

Do you know her secret?

Submit your story behind this wonderful piece of art before next Friday for a chance to be featured on my blog with the story at Submissions > #PhotoPromptFriday.

This art was found on wikiart.org and is in the public domain.

#PhotoPromptFriday: “Cimon and Pero” by Peter Paul Rubens

729px-Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Cimon_and_Pero_(Roman_Charity)_-_WGA20420

The above scene from last week’s #PhotoPromptFriday is titled “Cimon and Pero”, and it is such a bizarre story to be associated with what first looks like such a lewd image. However, this picture depicts something that is relevant even today: breastfeeding.

The specific narrative that Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) presents here is often called ‘Caritas Romana’. The classical story tells how Cimon, an old man, awaiting death penalty by starvation, is frequently visited in prison by his daughter Pero. She secretly breastfeeds him and thus saves her father’s life. One day, her actions are discovered by the authorities, but Pero’s altruism makes such an impression on them that her act is forgiven and in the end, Cimon is released.

http://rijksmuseumamsterdam.blogspot.com/2010/11/petrus-paulus-rubens-cimon-and-pero-ca.html

 

I haven’t had time to prepare a narrative to this story, but I promise to release one on Saturday. As such, if anyone else would still like to submit a story to go along with this painting, the deadline has been extended this week until Saturday at 8PM.

#ThrowdownThursday: The Prophet’s Prayer

From /r/WritingPrompts on Reddit, I present this week’s #ThrowdownThursday! While it’s not pulled straight from the top of the list, it was one that caught my eye this week. I hope you enjoy.

[WP] You start a religion as a scam, and your fake prophecies start coming true.

I stood before the podium with shaking hands. Exactly one million pairs of eyes stared up at me from the auditorium floor. There was no seating space, and so they all stood tightly packed against the stage trying to get as close to me as they could.

On the stage with me stood my beautiful blonde wife holding our triples, one of my first nonsense prophecies. The golden goddess will conceive with another woman, and bear the three saviors of our time. Now that they were here, and I loved them, I regretted the wording. Saviors were notorious for poor in endings, and I hadn’t written my religion with one any better than that of others.

I had shredded my holy book the night it had all become real.

A new copy stood on the podium before me.

I took a sip of water and cleared my voice to speak. I had rarely used it in the past few months for fear of its power. Now, I prayed to the Green Goddess, our holy mother whom I had never truly believed in during the church’s founding, that her curse would grant me a final blessing. It was the last hope I had.

“Brothers and sisters of Gaia,” I began, “I welcome you today, on the Day of Revelation, to celebrate the anniversary of our founding. It was two years ago today that I communed with our Great Green Mother and she warned me of the terrible days to come should we not change our ways. Climate change was upon us, and the world was in dire straits!

“Lo and behold, you have seen her miracles pass: the rise of Matriarch to power in the United States, the incarceration of those that harm our Dear Mother so, and the birth of her great saviors to name a few!” My heart clentched as I named the last one, but I made no outward move of pain. Instead, I took on a dramatic tone and continued.

“But still even more dire times were proclaimed to me! The three saviors shall face the dark ugliness in humanity as it continues to swell and engulf the world in chaos! At that time, our Mother Gaia shall welcome her children back into her arms and give share with us her Utopic Garden so that we may survive while the rest of our kind tears themselves apart!

“These things you know, because she revealed them to me on that dark night, and I recorded these revelations in our holy book, the Words of the Earth.” I forced myself to touch it’s cursed spine and hold it up to them. They all cheered, and I felt my stomach clench as tightly as my heart.

“What you do not know, my brothers and sisters,” I announced to break up their excitement, “is that these dark times were not the only path humanity might take.” As the words left my mouth, I could feel the agitation in the room. It was nothing, however, to the sudden drain I felt when whatever power I held to control fate began to course through me. A sort of divine echo began to vibrate through my words, and every word seemed to linger in the air like light.

“All mankind can be saved, if but one million true believers of the words of our Mother can be converted before the third Day of Revelation.” The power strained at my deadline, blurring my vision for my carefulness. “These one million believe will flow like water into the world, healing the darkness of humanity with their kindness and love of our Mother. The Saviors shall lead them, revered men and women that will teach the world to love and be happy, as they are loved and are happy.”

I could feel the extra cost of that last part as my heart began to stutter. It wasn’t just drain anymore. My consciousness was fizzling, and my insides clenched as if something had been ripped from them. I didn’t have much time before the prophecy took it’s complete payment, so I pressed on quickly.

“I s-stand before exactly one m-million believers today, as had been rev-vealed to me I would just last w-week, a small encouragement from our M-Mother that we w-will prevail. We will h-heal the h-hate in the w-wor-rld. We n-need not ah-aban-bandon-don i–” My tongue felt heavy and hard to move. My breath was labored and short.

“Do-do not ah-aband-don this w-worrrlllllld!” I screamed in desperation. “E-ev-ven-en as…..I go….to our-er Mother….do not….do not…” I couldn’t think any more. The rest of the speech I had prepared slipped from my mind as I fell to my knees. My wife rushed to my side, and one final thought washed over me as I stared up into her tear-streaked eyes. With my last breath I exhaled, “Bless me.” Her lips on my forehead was the last sensation I ever felt on that earthly plane. The power given to me in such a mysterious way dragged me from my body and away, and I could only hope that my gamble had worked.

For the sake of my children, I prayed it worked.

#TipTuesday: Pacing

“Pacing is not the sort of thing you can plan out beforehand, but you’re always aware of it as you write, because you need to make constant decisions.”

Jean Hanff Korelitz

One of the most important aspects of writing to me is pacing. However, I feel like it’s one of those topics that doesn’t get covered enough. As such, some people may not be familiar with the term.

Pacing, in regards to writing, is how quickly events occur to the reader. While changing how quickly things occur to the character can alter the pace, that’s only because the reader is seeing things through the eyes of the character. If things are happening to characters off-screen the pace isn’t affect nearly as much.

The pacing is challenging to balance because if you move too slow, a reader will most likely get bored, but going too quickly can lead to overwhelming the reader, who can’t process everything thing that has happened, or becomes emotionally drained from all the ups and downs with no rest.

A prime example of a pace that is too fast, for me at least, is Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I’m typically a binge reader, but after three of Jim Butcher’s fast-pace magical detective novels, I was too tired to continue with the series. Don’t get me wrong, they have a wonderful plot and are a top seller for a reason, but they wear me out.

On the other hand, people may complain that Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has too slow of a pace. The events in the book happen so leisurely since the reader has to sift through a lot of conversations, setup, and just plain words. This causes most readers to drop the book before making it past a few chapters because they are utterly bored. (I happen to not be one of them as I love Pride and Prejudice.)

Pacing isn’t just about keeping the reader’s interest, however. Pacing is also about setting a mood. In my short story Beneath the Moonlight, I purposely start the pace slow in order to create a deeper feeling of foreboding and sadness. Then when one of the other characters jumps, I speed the pace up in order to create a feeling of panic (admittedly it’s a subtle increase, since I’m still trying to maintain the sober tragedy of the piece).

How to Change the Pace

Changing the pace can be done in a number of ways.

  1. Words. More words or bigger words that take longer to read can slow the pace, as the reader takes more time to take in the event. Conversely, less words or shorter words can speed the pace up.
  2. Timeline. You can simply have events occur in rapid succession inside the timeline of the story, or space events out. Giving the character downtime will give the reader downtime too in order to recuperate.
  3. Dialogue. Typically, dialogue will slow the pace down, but if you do it right it can also speed up the pace by rapidly changing the character focus.

There are a bunch of different other ways to manipulate pace, but these are my basic go-to’s.