Pondering

Today is Saturday and I am up a little before everyone so I can write. The problem is, I have grown tired of trying to write. Sitting down in front of the same words I looked deeply through yesterday and trying to lay down on paper the beautiful tapestry of plot, character development, and uniqueness that exists only in my mind, has grown tedious.

I know I can’t be the only person who absolutely wants to do much more with my life, but can’t seem to find the energy or even the will to lift a pen to inscribe that one conversation that my characters have that will burst through the reader’s heart.

You know what I did last night? I sat on the floor of my bedroom and whittled away at dowel rod, making the most ridiculous looking “Harry Potter” wand. I called it the Two Wand (all my wands get names, don’t judge me) because it looked like two different styles of carving. So I stained it two different colors with an obvious split in the middle.

I compared it to the Falcon, which has a raven claw at the end of it, and the Viper, which is carved in such a way that the wand looks like it is slithering, and saw that my heart wasn’t in the Two Wand.

Then I completely realized, I’ve lost heart. Those moments that bring me joy feel grey and bland. My arms feel heavy and I feel like I could sleep the day away. If I was by myself, I probably would today. But, instead, when the kids get up, I’ll be there watching them dance, play games, tell jokes. I’ll be present-minded. But at the end of the day – it’ll be waiting on me. The grey.

If you are reading this and it sounds too familiar, I’m with you. I know the longing for something more, the ache of emptiness. So, I’ll make a deal with you, okay? I won’t completely give up if you don’t. I won’t lose heart if you don’t. And in the darkness, remember I’m out here struggling with you. We will see the sun rise again, if we just get through the night.

Thanks for your readership. Never give up. Scribe On!

Writer’s Block

The other morning I woke up feeling unemotional and distant. I didn’t feel connected to the world, my family, or even myself. I brewed a hot cup of coffee with way too much creamer in it and sat down at my keyboard. I opened up my google docs page to peruse my many manuscript projects and clicked on the one I thought I was ready to continue.

I reread my progress thus far, as is my custom before writing, then I stopped. I decided I wasn’t into this story. Closing it, I opened another. A few paragraphs in, I realized that I wasn’t too into this one, either. Two more projects opened, then unceremoniously closed. Then I realized, something was wrong.

Immediately, I contacted my author friends and told them what had happened. Over the phone I could tell they were listening as they kept adding “yeah,” or “mm-hmm” although I thought I heard the distinct sound of keys clacking in the background. Then one of them gave me some advice, “you should try something different.”

Excited I hung up the phone and tried something different. But coffee without creamer just isn’t good, at all. And there I was, staring at that screen again. I decided it was time to take things to the next step, watching tv. I laughed, I got upset, I cried. Then back to the keyboard. The blank white screen seemed to bleed a grayness into my soul. I tried reading, but it reminded me that I wanted to work on my own stories, so I sat in front of the white screen again, desperately trying not to click on social media.

It was time to consult a professional. I went downtown to the local library and talked for an hour about my projects and where I wanted to take them. The poor mother who had only brought her child in to get a new Dr. Seuss book smiled then left quickly when the librarian was ready to see me.

After spending the next hour talking about my projects to yet another person, she told me “Sounds like you have some interesting stories. I would like to read them. When can you get me a copy?” I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I was so inspired I ran home and began typing up the stories and published them all that afternoon. But I didn’t.

I went home inspired to write, but I let distractions keep me from going forward with little more than a few more notes for each story. I had to face the facts. I had writer’s block.

Writer’s block is a terrible thing. It’s like having this incredible desire to sing “The Sound of Music” only to find out you don’t have a mouth. It’s like preparing all the ingredients for a four course meal, but not having an oven. It’s like preparing to run in the Olympics and finding out it’s a swimming competition.

There is only one cure for writer’s block. That cure is a long grueling process that can sometimes take weeks to complete. It involves sitting in front of a blank white screen, then slowly darkening the pages with letters in coherent words and paragraphs. The only cure for writer’s block is writing.

So, here I sit in the parking lot while my daughter has her braces examined, writing a nonsensical story about how I can’t write anymore. Well, I guess it’s better than singing “The Sound of Music” surrounded by other parents eagerly awaiting their children to emerge from the building with tender teeth and gums.

So, my daily medication of writing is done for the day. I guess I need to take my own advice and Scribe On!

An Out the Window Story

Jerry the Coke guy, the local soft drink delivery man, stepped out of his vehicle. With a sigh, he wiped his brow and walked mechanically to the lone drink vending machine at this stop. Fumbling with his key, he unlocked the worn-down machine to reveal a number of partially empty slots.

He quickly noted which types of drinks were needed and estimated a paltry twelve cases. He smiled at himself as he walked to the truck and unloaded twelve cases of different flavored drinks onto his cart, pulling them uphill through the gravel parking lot.

“I’ll get it right this time for sure,” he quietly mentioned to himself as he began opening the cases and filling the chambers. One case, two, three, four. The machine began filling up. “This will be close,” he thought to himself.

As the cases emptied, the machine filled. Then, to his disappointment, there was one can left over. A mild sadness washed over him. “It was nearly perfect. Just one can. Just one single can,” he lamented quietly to himself. He placed the can on top of the machine to close the door. When he did, he noticed one of the slots seemed different, strange even. He looked closer and saw that one of the cans at the bottom turned slightly, preventing the slot from filling completely.

Quickly, he wriggled the can loose until it fell into position, creating a cascading effect, making the cans adjust downward until there was room for a single can at the top. Excitedly, he placed the can into the slot and filled the slot perfectly. He smiled a wide beaming smile. “Perfect,” he said out loud.

He couldn’t stop smiling. He estimated this one and got it right. It was a perfect fill. With a spring in his step he began closing the machine. The latch seemed to catch on the final panel, so he bumped it to close the panel. When he did, the heard the distinct sound of cans sliding down the slot. Quickly he opened up the door panels again to reveal two slots were now short a few cans at the top.

With a deep sigh, Jerry closed the machine. Pulling his cart behind him, he trudged to his truck, loaded his cart and secured it, then sat in the cab. Making a few notes on his clipboard, he put on his seatbelt and pulled out of the parking lot, headed to his next stop.

Obi-Wan Was the Real Villian

This is not anything other than a stray thought I had that I needed to flesh out. We know that Star Wars is really the story of the very short Skywalker lineage as it begins genetically then progresses philosophically. But one main stand-out in the history of the Skywalker family is Obi-wan Kenobi, the Jedi Master and friend of both Anakin and Luke. So, here is a ridiculous and absurd take on the Skywalker story.

Our first introduction to Obi-wan is in Phantom Menace where he begins as a Padawan (Jedi in training) with his teacher Quigon Jinn. When they walk into a waiting room, Obi-wan mentions that he feels something elusive to which Quigon mentions “I don’t sense anything.” This is important. Later we see the Master and Padawan in front of the Jedi Council telling about Darth Maul and Master Samuel L. Jackson says he doesn’t believe the Sith could return without the Council knowing about it, to which Master Yoda says, “Hard to see, the Dark Side is.” This should be our first indication that Obi-wan is familiar with the Dark Side. He sensed it on the mission as a Padawan and even the Jedi Council was blind to it, including his Master who was more of a Grey Jedi (more concerned with the Force than the rules of the Jedi, even using mind control to get a transport earlier).

Later in this same installment, Quigon is killed, and Obi-wan uses his rage to confront Darth Maul in what is arguably one of the best duels in the franchise. He is faster, stronger, and more determined to kill Maul than capture him. Palpatine eyes him at the end, but also notes the boy with incredible potential.

The next time we see him, he is working with a more experienced Anakin, but constantly seems annoyed by him (another emotion that leads to anger/rage). He allows Anakin to spend time with Padme, possibly in hopes of using their connection for his own gain, even assigning him to her personal protection, as a way of “uncovering” the breadcrumb trail that he, himself, laid down so the clone army could be “discovered.”

In addition, he was “held captive” by the trade federation and interrogated by Darth Tyrannus (Count Dooku), a direct connection to Palpatine. It is unknown what information was “leaked” to the Sith, but his “capture” led to the acquisition and common use of the clone army, a necessity for the Sith to gain information on the Jedi and an operational presence in the galaxy. Later he confronts Dooku and is sidelined by a minor injury, as Dooku does not want to lose a valuable spy/asset.

In the next installment, Obi-wan guides Anakin to the Chancellor’s ship in the middle of the space battle with the purpose of killing Darth Tyrannus in front of Palpatine to make his intentions to join the Sith clear, however, he fights valiantly only to have Palpatine give the honor to Anakin. Later Obi-wan ignores the emotional instability of his Jedi friend. Remember, the Jedi “stretch out” with their feelings to find information. And as close as Obi-wan and Anakin are as warriors, Obi-wan doesn’t confront him about his immense guilt for killing the entire band of men, women and children in the camp that held his mother captive, or even the execution of Tyrannus. Nor does he confront him about Anakin’s love for Padme. At least, not until it proves useful. He sets up Anakin to expect more from the Council and allows his friendship with Palpatine to grow, allowing the Sith Lord to twist Anakin’s mind, while Obi-wan “warns” him to be careful.

Once Anakin transitions to Darth Vader, Obi-wan realizes that his future as a Sith Lord is over, so he goes all in with the Jedi in order to exact revenge for losing his favored place at Palpatine’s side. In the final confrontation, it is anger and frustration that drive Obi-wan to fight Vader, not duty, even making up the ridiculous line, “Only Sith deal in absolutes,” as an excuse to push the fight forward. Then after winning the battle, severing limbs from his former Padawan, rather than killing him, Obi-wan leaves what’s left of Vader for Palpatine to see, believing that Palpatine will then beckon him to his side. He did not expect for Palpatine to go all-in on Vader, even creating a mechanical body to keep him around.

Out of revenge, Obi-wan takes Luke and deposits him with the same man that was careless enough to let Anakin’s mother die, believing that he would grow up to be a useless farmer. But when the droids show up again, his anger toward the emperor and Anakin rekindle and he feels the best way to get that revenge is by throwing Luke into the rebellion to either get killed, or miraculously, kill Vader himself. So he takes Luke to a place where “you’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy,” uses mind control, hires a worthless pilot, and begins Luke’s training to create a ripple in the Force that Palpatine would feel compelled to eliminate.

As he confronts Vader on the Death Star, he realizes that letting Luke die in the cargo bay would not get the attention of Palpatine. Seeing Luke, he purposely ghosts as Vader swings making Luke believe Vader killed him. Vader is distracted from the fight in the cargo bay, obviously confused, actually stepping on the robe of his former master to try to figure out what just happened. Luke, not realizing that sabers don’t vaporize people, takes the bait. Then as a ghost, Obi-wan continues to guide him toward vengeance, making Vader’s death his prime objective, and robbing Palpatine of his favorite apprentice in the process. Even going so far as to help him blow up the Death Star and getting trained by Yoda, himself.

National Conventions

I would imagine that, right now, both Democrat and Republican politicians are finding out what it feels like to be a self-published author. By that I simply mean they know there are people out there who support them, like them, and occasionally give them money, but when it comes to showing up and making a big presence, nothing but crickets and the sound of a proud mom in the back clapping.

So, I would like to take a moment and accept the Brett Galen Convention’s nomination for Author of the Year. Here is my speech in different styles.

AUTHOR: Thank you so much for your support and your interest in my stories. There have been some interesting bumps along the way, but I am still striving to provide new stories and, yes, I am working on that one sequel you have been expecting for far too long.

POLITICIAN: Thank you so much for your support and interest in me. I am not like the other authors that could come and take this stage and you recognize that. I pledge to work on more stories that are relevant, impactful, and meaningful to your reader lives.

BLOGGER: Wow! It has really been a long road to get to this point. Thank you for nominating me, even though my book sales don’t reflect your — (gets microphone turned off and pulled from the stage)

Evil Villain in a YA Novel: Greetings and Salutations. On this, the precipice of a new era, it is with great pleasure that I accept your nomination as Author of the Year. This is only the beginning of a grand plan I have for the world of writing. It is upon this day that writing will forever change and novels, and yes even novellas, will turn and adapt to my winning and brilliant strategy. Mwah ha ha ha ha ha. (Throws cloak across face and runs offstage cackling)

Hero in a YA Novel: (Doesn’t show because he/she is too conflicted between taking credit for a well done job and revealing his/her true identity to the world)

Thanks for stopping by. Have a wonderful week. And don’t forget to accept your own convention’s nomination for Author of the Year.

Scribe On!

Disappointment vs Purpose

Here I sit on a lazy Saturday morning, feeling overwhelmed by everything I know I need to do today. I have a personality flaw that when things seem to pile up on me, I just can’t do anything. At least not until I break those chains of uselessness and do something minor, like writing my blog. See, just like in my non-writing life, I tend to flit from project to project. Even now, I have six book ideas that are currently in some stage of development, some even have covers! But I overwhelm myself with each story, sometimes preferring to start working on a new story rather than tackling the small problems I have with my existing stories.

This week has been a tough one and today, realizing that I need to go to the store to get some almond milk for my non-dairy milkshake, I feel like I am running a marathon backwards. Writing helps me when things feel insurmountable. I can create wonderful worlds and sweet situations that nearly any parent would love for their young teens to read. I can make up ideas that are challenging and adventurous.

But then, I face reality. I have no time to write. The house is always too noisy, dirty, or in need of some repair. Work needs more time and effort. Projects that are long overdue need to be done. My family needs time with me and I need them. So, writing falls away, back to the corner like a scolded child. The strange worlds creep back into the recesses of my mind.

And then the most terrible, horrible thought resurfaces. “No one reads your stories, anyway.”

Yes, I look at my sales regularly. Not the family and friend sales, the accidentally stumbled upon your book type of sales. Well, I say I look at them, what I mean is I look for them, ha ha ha. It is difficult knowing you’ve written the story of the century and no one has read it, right fellow writers?

I look at the books that I’ve written and I know I could improve them. Add a little here, clarify there, use more description there, there, and there. They aren’t up to Grisham standards. They aren’t descriptive like Rowling. They will never make the New York Times Best Seller list.

But then I stop and remember, I’m not writing stories for adults who spend their days talking about politics and the stock market. I’m not writing stories for middle-aged women who want steamy romance novels, nor for middle-aged men who want the tough, gritty battle-worn heroes with trashy language and bitter souls. I’m not writing to put agendas hidden behind the storylines. I’m not writing for things that society is angry about today.

Who am I writing for? (For whom? I know, I know Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Rimer) I am writing for parents who want their children to enjoy reading but are concerned about the content of Young Adult stories. I am writing for young teenagers who want to get involved with stories that spark their imaginations and make them fall in love with reading. I am writing for a group of people who would rather spend money on v-bucks or ro-bucks than spend money on books. I am writing for a generation who has not yet found the incredible joy of a well-written story that transports the reader to a whole new world and keeps their thoughts in that world long after the story ended.

So, I have come to terms with realizing that I will never be the author anyone really remembers. My books will not grace the shelves of prolific readers nor bookstores. But I look forward to one day being the author that sparked a new generation of readers to begin looking for their own stories.

Find your own stories today and Scribe On!

The Invitation (a short story Part One)

Hillary picked up her favorite doll and placed her gently at the small table in the middle of her bedroom. “You want a drink?” she asked the doll then pretended to fill the small pink plastic tea cup in front of her.

She pranced around her room bringing other stuffed animals and dolls to join the tea party, making certain to give each a sip from a tea cup. “You want cookies?” she asked the small group. Without waiting for an answer she began inserting pretend cookies into the mouths of her inanimate guests.

From her closet a small, quiet voice called out, “Hello?”

Startled, Hillary ran into the living room where her mother sat quietly reading a book. “Mommy, somebody’s in my closet.”

Alarmed, Hillary’s mother jumped from the couch and hurried into her daughter’s room. Flinging open the closet, she looked at the hanging clothes and shoes that littered the small walk-in. Breathing a sigh of relief, she picked up a small stuffed lion, looked at her daughter, then at the make-shift tea party. “Hillary, don’t scare me like that. When you are playing tea party, you have to let me know that you are pretending.” She placed the lion at the table then returned to her reading.

Hillary sat in the floor playing, talking to her dolls. “Hello?” came a voice from the closet.

Immediately, she got up from the floor and ran to her mother, “Mommy, the pu-tend is in my closet.”

Hillary’s mother sighed and looked up from her book. “Thank you. Now run along and play.”

Hillary returned to her bedroom and sat on her bed, her eyes fixed on the closed closet door.

“Hello?” the voice repeated. “Is anyone there?”

“I am.” Hillary responded.

“Oh, good. I need some help. I’m stuck. Could you help me?”

Hillary ran to her mother. “Mom, the pu-tend is stuck.”

Exasperated her mother lowered her book. “Hillary Kathleen Davison, I am trying to relax and read my book. Please, just play by yourself for a few minutes and let Mommy have some calm-down time.” Then she went back to reading her book.

Hillary stood there looking at her mother, then walked back to her bedroom. She went to the closet door and said, “Mommy said no.”

The voice in the closet repeated, “Please. I need your help.”

Give Away!

I am giving away up to 5 copies of The Mage Destinies AUDIOBOOK downloads Friday, July 31, 2020. Go to my facebook page at Brett Galen for details! Hurry. This will not last very long.

The Long Road (for a short story)

Exhausted, Patrick climbed into the back of his father’s car. The trip from Newark had been cramped and noisy, he looked forward to the peace and quiet of the long drive home. Six hours later they arrived. The end.

I know. That was terrible, wasn’t it? I have written a few short stories, some short reads of about 10k words, and the beginning of my series – about 65K words. When it comes to knowing what to describe the real question has always been “How much is enough?”

Answer this honestly, have you read a book that sounded like this: “Sweat began to form on his pale brow, the anticipation of stepping back in front of the same self-absorbed, narcissistic students that callously drove him to the breaking point caused his heart to crawl painfully into his throat as he turned the aged brass doorknob slightly to the right until its deafening click resounded throughout the classroom all but guaranteeing their dull, hateful eyes would be on him as he entered.”

Yeah, me too. I hate books like that. I love that the description puts you right into the character’s frame of mind, but it almost sounds like the author was given a 500 word essay and chose to do it in one sentence. Conversely, we would do the character a huge disservice if we simply said, “He nervously opened the door.”

So How Much Is Enough?

The easiest answer I can give is “Never let your descriptions get in the way of your story, but never let your lack of description prevent the telling of your story.” You must find a balance that helps the reader get lost in the sensations of your characters. For example, walking into a classroom, what needs to be described immediately? The smell of dry erase markers? The light shining through the windows at an uncomfortable angle? The hushed breathing of the students? The racing pulse of the teacher? Let the reader feel the scene, but only if it’s important. Let me give you two examples.

Example One: Teacher walking into her new classroom for the first time. “She opened the door and was greeted by an empty classroom. Her empty classroom. The desks were all pushed against the wall. The dry erase board was dirty, still marked from the end of last school year. Any other teacher would balk at a room in this condition, but she only saw opportunity. She twirled like a young girl, giddy at the raw euphoria she could barely contain. ‘Time to get to work,’ she said as she rolled up her sleeves.”

Example Two: Teacher walking through the teacher’s lounge on his way to his private locker. “He opened the door to the teacher’s lounge and swiftly began weaving between the haphazard chair placement as he made his way to his locker, ignoring the smell of the freshly-brewed coffee.”

In the first example, we want more description and emotion because it is important to the character. But, in the second, we don’t need to talk about the newspapers left on the tables, or the old coffee cups in the sink. It’s enough to show that he passed through it because it wasn’t important to the character at the time.

I have been accused of not giving enough description to my stories and I am guilty as charged. I am working on it, here and there. Just as you should be.

So, when you tell your story, make certain that your story shines through. Use your descriptions as tools to get your story where it should be. And, as always, Scribe On!

The Moods

Lately, I have had great difficulty writing. I came down with a severe case of The Moods.

During the summer, work always increases along with frustration and mental exhaustion. Where many people recharge during the summer days, I don’t. Lately, I’ve found myself staring at my screen reading and re-reading words that I wrote months ago, then leaving them with no additions or improvements.

My reasons are both real and valid. The TV was too loud. My coffee just didn’t taste right. People were talking. The house was too quiet. The cats made a mess. See? All very real and valid reasons not to write.

Truthfully, I haven’t written because…well, I stopped caring about my stories. I have gone through a whole “should I or shouldn’t I write” phase. I’ve looked at my dismal sales numbers. I’ve looked at my reviews. I’ve not been inspired to add even one more thing to my stories. So I stopped.

Instead, I attempted to nourish my soul by trying to learn ASL (American Sign Language) using Dr. Bill Vicars’s ASLU online videos. I have no idea what I am doing, but learning to communicate with people who have no one to communicate with, is inspiring.

I am currently on the way out of The Moods. I am re-examining Desiree’s Chance, The Stranded, Cafe of Dreams, and the Mage Destinies: Plight of the Eidolon. I promise that by Year’s End at least two of these will be finished and out for you.

But until then, banish The Moods, and Scribe On!