January, 2019 update

Happy belated New Year!  If the first two weeks of this year are any indication, 2019 is going to be as busy a year as 2018 was.  I hope everyone had a great holiday, and are already used to writing 2019 on their checks and other correspondence.

Looking back on my 2018 goals, I found that I didn’t accomplish most of them, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  I did get ahead on my Barnstormers story by writing the next stop for NaNoWriMo, and I’m really happy with the way that turned out.  The first chapter of Bridget and Kiki’s adventures in 1925 Chicago is attached below.

The Writers Group that I coordinate celebrated six years of monthly meetings with a featured reader spot at the THC Reading Series in October, and the story I wrote to the theme of the evening featured the characters from my Adventures Comics Comics Emporium series.  I figure I just need one short story with them and I would have enough to publish in book form.  You can read some of the stories on my Short Stories page.

I finally have a good idea for my next story in the Sleep Detectives universe, and since I’m far enough ahead on the Barnstormers piece, I feel I can take some time to write that.  I need to get back to those characters because I really like them.

And this year I am definitely going to submit a story or two for publication somewhere.  I have a few pieces that I thought were good enough, but when I went back to them, they seem to need more work.  This will be a priority this year.

The next THC Reading Series night will be on Saturday, January 19, but Stephie and I have another commitment and will not be going.  That doesn’t mean you can’t go and listen to some fine stories. There’s free parking, no admission, the tamales are excellent, and it’s BYOB.  They start at 7pm.  I do plan to be there for the February event, which will be on February 23.

I mentioned my Barnstormers story above, and if you’ve even considered joining my mailing list to read the full story as it comes out, now’s the perfect time to jump on, as the chapter I just sent begins with the ladies arriving in Chicago, where they have been hired to perform stunts over Riverview Amusement Park on the north side of the city.

I had done a lot of research for this story, because I want to make it as accurate as possible.  The story is fiction, but I’ve tried to make it as realistic as I could.  This is a bigger concern in this particular arc because I live in the Chicago area and many of my readers do as well, so the odds that someone would call me out on a factual inaccuracy are quite high.  I found a lot of interesting information while doing research for this chapter.  For instance:

  • The Checkerboard field where Kiki and Bridget keep their plane was located at the corner of First Avenue and Roosevelt Road in Maywood.  It was a major hub in the early days of air mail service, and one of the pilots who regularly landed at the field was Charles Lindbergh.
  • I wanted to have my characters drive down Cermak Ave, but discovered that it was called 22nd Street in 1925.  It was not known as Cermak until after the assassination of Mayor Anton Cermak in 1933.
  • Corruption in local government is nothing new, as I’m sure some still goes on today, but in the ’20s, it was not uncommon to lose your business license for refusing to have a mob-supplied jukebox or pinball machine, or to stock booze supplied by local organized crime figures, even though this was at the height of Prohibition..

I hope you enjoy reading Barnstormers: The Adventures of Kiki and Bridget as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

December, 2018 update

NaNoWriMo is over for 2018 and like the last four times I’d attempted it, I was up to the challenge!  Here’s the graph of my progress:

I found this year much tougher going than in previous attempts, and I think it had to do with the story.  I thought that I would coast through, because I already had established characters, I had picked out familiar surroundings for the action to occur (although I’d need to adjust for the time period), and I was excited because I hadn’t attempted the challenge in three years.  I even scheduled some vacation time during the month to give me a buffer of time to write.

What I hadn’t counted on was that I would feel the need to do more research on location, because my initial readers would have the same familiarity and I didn’t want to have any obvious gaffes.  I also found it much harder to focus on writing in the evenings, my current commute being more arduous than during previous attempts.

But I think the biggest problem I had was the story.  By nature, I’m not a plotter but a pantser.  I typically don’t plan very much ahead, if anything only one or two scenes.  In past years, I’ve described my writing process as watching a movie in my head and typing it out as it unspooled.  The Barnstormers story is an homage to the Saturday-afternoon serials of the ’30s and ’40s, in which each weekly chapter ended with a cliffhanger, and theatergoers would return the next week to see the resolution of the cliffhanger.  That framework meant that I was constantly watching my chapter word count, and forcing myself to come up with some danger that one or both of my protagonists would find themselves in.  I found that very easy when I was working on the earlier chapters of the story, before NaNoWriMo, but back then I was writing roughly a chapter every three weeks or so.  The constant watching for the upcoming end of the chapter placed added stress on my writing process that I really didn’t need.

In the end, I completed the challenge, but I don’t have a sense of closure because the story is far from finished.  I had hoped to chronicle my characters’ adventures in the Chicago area, then move to St. Louis, to have them wind up in Texas (I hadn’t decided on what city yet) but at just over 50K words, I’ve only got as far as establishing them in St. Louis.  It’s a sense of accomplishment to have written so much in one month, but I have so much more to go, I just feel burned out.  I think I just need to take a few days to recover, then continue on.

 

July, 2018 Update

Hi, Everyone,

Summer’s here and the time is right … for sitting inside in the air conditioning and writing!  At least that’s how the song goes inside of my head.

I’d like to hope that I’m finally getting my act together to get back to writing.  This weekend, for instance, I’ve written a couple thousand words on a short story I’ve been planning for a while, I’ve finally finished the migration of our family site, stephanieandmatt.com, to a new hosting company, one who will hopefully notify me when I have a bill due, as opposed to relying on my noticing that the site has vanished from the ‘net because I didn’t pay my annual fee, which is how it was with the previous jokers I was hosting with.  Seriously, I owe you money.  Don’t you think you could at least send me an e-mail with that fact?

I’ve also sent out what I’ve been calling my monthly update but has actually been bi-monthly so far this year.  I’m caught up with all the correspondence regarding the writers group that I moderate, and I updated some software on Stephie’s PC.  Not bad for a weekend!  I just need to keep this momentum going.

Because of other commitments, the next THC Reading Series night I will be attending will be Saturday, September 15, and I will be reading chapter 10 of Barnstormers.  If you want to catch up on the story, you can read chapter 9 on my Barnstormers page,  but the best way to follow the story of Kiki and Bridget is to join my mailing list.  I send out an e-mail once a month with information about my writing and any literary events I might be at, and I include the next chapter of the Barnstormers story with each one.  I do post each chapter here after I read it, but subscribers to my e-mail list are already ahead of the game, as in May they will be reading chapter ten, which I won’t be reading at THC until maybe September.  And it’s all for free!  Join today!

Thanks for reading!

March, 2018 update

Hi, Everyone,

If you’re wondering what happened to February, so am I!  Extra stress at work plus a lingering head cold plus the strange weather we’ve been having all contributed to a mid-winter funk that was not really the best state for me to do much creative work.  I got some writing done, but other things like this e-mail slipped away from me.

The good news is that it’s a sunny March morning and I feel like I’m starting to get my creative drive back.  I’ve been struggling with a little writer’s block since the Christmas holidays, and while the writing is still not flowing like I would like, I have been writing, and I like what’s coming out.  I’m getting excited about the story again, and I hope it shows in the published results.

I have only a few items to pass along to you this month:

  • I’m well into chapter 10 of Barnstormers, and expect to have it done in the next day or two.  The jump in the story line seems to have thrown me a bit, plot-wise, but I feel I’m back on track.  You will see it in April if you’re on my mailing list.
  • The next THC Reading Series night will be on Saturday, March 17, and I’ll be reading an abbreviated version of chapter 7 of the Barnstormers story. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and listen to some interesting stories! There’s free parking, no admission, the tamales are excellent, and it’s BYOB.  We start at 7pm.
  • I finally have a hook for the next “Danny” story, and as crazy as it sounds considering the struggle I’ve been having making time to write, I’m thinking of trying to write it during April as part of the “Camp NaNoWriMo” challenge.  I always write best with a deadline, and the “Camp” part means that I can set my own word count goals, so I’ll shoot for a 10-15K novelette for the month.

Thanks for reading!

January, 2018 update

Happy New Year, everyone,

I hope everyone had as good a Christmas and New Year break as I had, and now I’m ready to get back to work.

Looking back on my writing output from last year, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t write as much as I had hoped. I’m very happy with the eight chapters of the Barnstormers story that I’ve completed, and I think The Lost Ticket is the strongest of the three “Danny” stories I’ve written so far, but I have so many other stories I’d like to tell, and I’ve not been making the time to do that.

So I’m working on some goals for the next calendar year. Not “New Year’s Resolutions”, but goals. I want to get ahead on the Barnstormers story so I’m not scrambling at the last minute when I need a chapter for a writer’s group or to send to my mailing list. I want to write at least one more “Danny” story before starting on my next Sleep Detectives novel.

This year, I want to try to write a one-act play. I heard a guest on a podcast who is working in television talk about how he’d been writing one-act plays, and he put them together as a free e-book on Kindle that he uses as a kind of a resume. I downloaded it and thought the stories were awful, but I’m intrigued by the format. I really enjoyed converting the Sleep Detectives chapters for multi-person reading at the book releases (which you can hear on my Audio page), and I think I’d like to try writing something specifically for that format, rather than adapting something existing.

Finally, I’m going to try to submit a short story for publication somewhere, either in a magazine or an on-line publication. I have a couple of stories that most people haven’t seen, because they’re too long for a reading night and because I’m not happy with the endings. Maybe I’ll try to fix the ending and send them out into the world. Or maybe I’ll write something new. Either way, my goal is not necessarily to be published (which would be great, but not something under my control) but simply to submit.

Whatever I do, I plan to share it with you, and I hope you are entertained by it. If you have any comments, on the Barnstormers story or anything, please let me know.

I do have a few specific items to pass along to you this month:

  • I’ve been invited by one of my THC Reading Series pals to participate in an Open Mic event in Northbrook. While that’s pretty far from home, it’s only ten minutes from work, so I’m planning to go. It will be Tuesday night, January 23 at the Book Bin Northbrook,1151 Church St in Northbrook. The event starts at 7pm, and I think I might read an excerpt from one of the “Danny” stories, possibly the bar scene from The Lost Girl. I don’t know what to expect there, but I’m sure I’ll have fun. If you’re in the Northbrook area, join me there. There are worse places you can spend a cold January evening than at a book store listening to writers reading their work.
  • The next THC Reading Series night will be on Saturday, January 20, and I’ll be reading an abbreviated version of chapter 6 of the Barnstormers story. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and listen to some interesting stories! There’s free parking, no admission, the tamales are excellent, and it’s BYOB. We start at 7pm.
  • I’m well into chapter 9 of Barnstormers, and expect to have it done soon

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great year!

November, 2018 update

The big news this month has nothing to do with my writing. My lovely and talented wife Stephanie is the next artist to display her work at the Tamale Hut Café.  Details are on my home page.

I do have a few writing-related items to pass along to you this month:

  • The story I read at the October reading series night is now posted on the Writing Group blog at https://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/. You can also read it on my web site on the Short Stories page.
  • Free time was at a premium in October, but with several major projects at work finishing in the next few weeks, I expect to have more writing time, so I will be back at the Barnstormers.  I plan to begin writing chapter 8 later today.

The next THC Reading Series night will be on Saturday, November 18, and I will be reading an abbreviated version of chapter 5 of the Barnstormers story. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and listen to some interesting stories! There’s free parking, no admission, the tamales are excellent, and it’s BYOB.  We start at 7pm.

Thanks for reading!

October, 2018 Update

This month started with my pals and I attending the annual Chicago Book Expo on Sunday, October 1st, and it hasn’t let up.  I’ve been working extra hours almost every day and have so far worked two of the Saturdays this month, with more extra work next weekend (all without the benefit of overtime.)  I don’t mean to complain, especially because I’m better off than I was a year ago, when my severance money was running out and few job offers were coming my way.  I only mention this as an explanation as to why this e-mail is so late, why I haven’t written much lately, and why I don’t have a Barnstormers chapter for you this month.
I do have a few writing-related items to pass along to you this month:

  • Next week, October 28, the members of the writers group I coordinate will be the featured readers at the Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series in North Riverside.  We’ve all written stories that start with the same sentence, and the stories veer off in all kinds of directions.  Details of the event can be found at the Reading Series web site at https://thcreadingseries.wordpress.com/.
  • I need to make a few changes to chapter 7 of Barnstormers this month, so I’m not including it in this message.  I promise to have it for you next month, and while I haven’t started writing chapter 8, I have been working through the plot in my head in the scant free time I’ve had.

As mentioned above, the next THC Reading Series night will be on Saturday, October 28, and I will be reading a short story I wrote for the project, something that is in a different style than what I usually write. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and listen to some entertaining stories, many with the same opening sentence! There’s free parking, no admission, the tamales are excellent, and it’s BYOB.  We start at 7pm.

Thanks for reading!