Daily Work, My writing, personal, The State of Writing Today

Growing As a Writer

I’ve been sporadic in writing the last couple of months. I took August off and didn’t write anything other than my devotionals for the whole month. One of the major reasons was that I seem to be encountering a lot of Repetitive Stress Injury problems with my wrists. The month off from other writing was beneficial. I still have to be careful, though, since I’ll be stressing my wrists out a lot come November and NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month has a goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.) As I’ve thought during this time, I’ve realized that I need to become more proficient in the business and the craft side of this industry if I’m ever going to make the money back that I’ve spent on writing, editing, marketing, etc. (I’m not even worried about making a profit, now!) And so, I’ve embarked on a plan that will take a while, but it’s designed to help me grow as a writer.

One of the first things I’ll keep doing is writing short stories. They help me learn get to the point quickly. Surprisingly to me, I’ve enjoyed writing short stories. I’ve written for William Mays and his two Corpus Christi Writers Anthologies. The release of this year’s anthology will be in November. The first anthology can be found in the link at the bottom of this article. I’ve also had the opportunity to have written for and included in two anthologies released by Fiction-Atlas Press run by C.L. Cannon. Cannon’s anthologies have a theme which make them a challenge to write for. The first one was a time travel anthology called Counterclockwise and the second one was a super hero anthology called Behind the Mask. (Again, links will be found at the bottom of this article.) I had fun with the first one, and the second one I wrote something that scared me to death, because I expected people to tell me that a man shouldn’t write that story. Seriously. I wondered why I had the right to write that one. Interestingly, in one of the reviews it was mentioned as being a good story. Because of Cannon’s themes, I tend to stretch myself and go beyond my limits. She has a new anthology coming out in October called “Unknown Realms” which is a portal anthology. My submission for this anthology created a lot of angst for me because the subject matter included slavery. I originally tried to write in a dialect that might have been used by slaves, but changed it because I wasn’t comfortable and was worried that people would think I was putting slaves down. I did more research to get names of places, family members, and slaves down exactly right. Well, to make a long story short, it wasn’t accepted for the anthology – and I’m comfortable with that. I learned a lot working on that story. I’m proud of it, and I’ll use it in other situations. But that also means I think this anthology will be pretty strong. Special kudos go to my South Texas writing buddy Devorah Fox for being included in the group.

When it comes to the business side of writing, I’m completely clueless. I don’t even have a mailing list. I’m making that my first priority for business, so I’m reading a book on mailing lists by Tammi LaBrecque who comes highly recommended by some people I respect. I’ll probably end up reading it again after I get the newsletter set up so that I cut down on the mistakes I’ll make. I’ll be looking for other ways to promote and market my work. If you have any suggestions on things I can do to learn this business or for newsletter companies, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

Finally, I’m studying and working on writing as a craft. I’ve started attending the workshops at The Writers Studio in Corpus Christi which are held monthly. I’ve also begun alternating my business study with craft study during the week. I’m not much of a video watcher, but I’ll stick it out for this. I’m also going to be looking at my writing craft books that I bought long ago and still haven’t made it past my TBR list. My ultimate goal is to improve my craft even at my advanced age. Please feel free to make suggestions by giving me ideas of books on writing, telling me what’s helped you, or critiquing my writing and posts.

Links:

Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology

Counterclockwise

Beyond the Mask (This is a charity anthology supporting Alex’s Lemonade Stand)

My writing, personal

One Last Performance

One of the things I’ve been able to do is pubish a few short stories. The one I’m about to post was my first. It was published in the Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology volume last year. I will have a longer story in the 2019 version. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with Fiction-Atlas Press in two different anthologies: Counterclockwise which is a Time Travel Anthology and Beyond the Mask which is a Superhero Anthology written to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Both of those stories are too long for one post here, but I may publish them in parts, now that my contracts allow that. Tonight I submitted a story for their next anthology. It’s a portal anthology, which needs to include some kind of doorway to another world. If the story is rejected, I’ll be able to tell you more about it then. If it’s accepted, I can tell you about it in the publicity things I’ll be doing to promote the anthology. But, as celebration of submitting, here’s my first short story ever published.

One Last Performance

Jason looked at himself in the mirror, using an eyeliner pencil to make the last adjustments to his makeup. He had to support his right hand with his left to quell the shaking. “That’ll work,” he said out loud, even though no one could hear him. He still had a private dressing room, in deference to his past greatness. He might not have the starring roles anymore. He might make more mistakes in his lines, but he still commanded the respect of audiences and directors because of his reputation and his perseverance in the face of Parkinson’s.

There was a knock on the door. “Ten minutes, Mr. Riordan,” the assistant to the assistant director called as he opened the door just a crack to deliver his message. He waited for Jason to acknowledge the call, and then left.

Jason smiled. His timing on getting his makeup done was still perfect. Ever since he’d started in theater, he had done his own makeup. “It helps me as I become my character,” he had told countless makeup artists. And now, his routine to get into character would continue. He stared at the mirror, inspecting his makeup one last time. Satisfied, he slowly closed his eyes and went over the play in his mind. This practice had served him well, as he had earned three Tony nominations. He muttered softly as he told himself where to make his entrances and recited his lines.

He wanted this last performance of his career to be perfect and got so wrapped up in his preparation that he realized he must have missed the underling’s five-minute call. As the first notes of the overture began sounding, he cursed silently. His routine called for him to be ready in the wings before the overture started playing. Now, he rushed to get to his place, so he could take his centering breaths a few seconds before his entrance. His first starring role ever was with this director as “George” in Our Town and now, knowing Jason’s condition, this same director had made a special accommodation to allow him to begin this version of Our Town, as the Stage Manager, with the freedom to look back on his career and give the audience a chance to acknowledge their appreciation for the retiring actor.

They had flocked to see the once-great Jason Riordan in his last performance. Those who had acted alongside him including the first Emily and Stage Manager were in the audience, actors who had worked with him in the performances that had earned him his Tony nominations, and various assorted fans who wanted to pay their respects to one who, even in his ongoing illness, showed grace and respect to his fans.

He got to his spot on the wing with a little over a minute to spare, and he took a couple of cool-down breaths. Then, he did that which he had never done before in his career, he pulled back the curtain and sneaked a peek at the audience. The stage lights kept him from seeing much of the audience, but the memories he had made with those people he saw and recognized overwhelmed him and left him with a slight case of stage fright.

He closed the curtain and took another deep breath, and then, he was on. From that first, special monologue to his final line, he was perfect. He didn’t suffer from the dropped lines or cues that had plagued him in recent years. His swan song performance was amazing, and the audience recognized it. Audience decorum was thrown to the winds as his fans screamed his name and he took bow after bow. The stage hands picked up flowers that were thrown in congratulations. He left the stage triumphantly after one of his finest performances ever. He walked back to his dressing room accepting handshakes, hugs, and pats on the backs from the cast and crew of his last show. He kept looking at the floor, lest they see his tears, and by doing this, missed seeing their tears as well. He arrived at his dressing room for the last time and sat down, laying his head on the makeup table to rest for a few minutes before taking his makeup off one, last time. He didn’t want to take it off just yet, because that would make his retirement final.

There was a knock on the door. “Five minutes, Mr. Riordan,” the assistant to the assistant director called as he opened the door just a crack to deliver his message. He waited for the customary acknowledgment. There was none. He knocked harder and called out louder. When he got no answer, he ran in and saw Jason slumped with his head down on the makeup table. He checked for a pulse. When he didn’t get a pulse, he ran out in the hall and looked for a stage hand. “Get the director!” he yelled.

“Sir, the director’s …” the stage hand began.

He cut him off. “Don’t argue with me. Get the director now.” When he saw him hesitate, he added, “This is a real emergency.”

The stage hand finally believed him, ran off and came back with the director. “Jones, I don’t know what this is about, but it better be a real emergency.”

He gestured for the director to follow him. When the director saw Jason, he stopped in his tracks. “That how you found him?” he asked.

He nodded.

The director walked over and tried to find a pulse also. He teared up a little when he realized that Riordan was gone. He walked behind the body to get to the other side and looked at his face. He wiped away his tears and smiled himself when he saw Riordan’s smile. It was that shy, after-performance smile that he used when he’d look at the director and ask how he’d done. “It would have been one, great, last performance,” he said as he closed Riordan’s eyes.

###