Sunday, December 27, 2009

Letters Home

Huzzah, finally I have internet!

Been in Calgary for a few days now and have gotten online at last. Don’t know what it is with Calgarian Internet service but I wasn’t able to log on until late last night…after countless attempts…

I hate flying.

After eating Christmas dinner with family on Christmas day, my folks drove me to Pearson International for my 8:30 flight. It had started raining; not a good sign when you’re about to take to the skies, or if you’re a bad flyer like me. I kept remembering “Nightmare at 20,000 feet”, that old Twilight Zone episode…

I hate flying, but I hate takeoffs even more. I always feel the plane and its tonnage struggling to get up there. But once we were sky-bound I was fine; it was a smooth flight. My travel buddy, Alex, had his laptop on, watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, and offered to let me partake, but I begged off. I was busy studying every bump and change in the plane’s path. Through the nearest port hole I watched a bright star for a while; its fixed position rising and falling due to the plane’s movements. Half the time the Airbus’s turns would have gone unnoticed if not for that bright star’s vigil and unmoving essence…It made me feel a whole lot better for some reason. I fell asleep watching it.

When I woke up I was startled to see that the star was gone, but the flight attendant had goodies! Ginger Ale, Apple Juice (ugh to apple juice) and assorted free cookies and snacks. Normally my frugal nature (hah!) would demand I take as much free loot as possible, but this time I demurred; one pack of cookies and a Ginger Ale was enough for me.

Oh yeah, the girl.

She was a real Chatty Cathy (a reference so old, it voted for Lincoln) but extremely nice. Alex had chided me about her, telling me to go talk to her, so I did. We talked for hours, it seemed. She was on her way to Vancouver and parts unknown. Nothing like engaging in a conversation with a stranger on a Christmas Day flight…especially a cute one; she was utterly engaging and unfettered, and she had a great laugh; I imagine we entertained some people on board with our lively chatter. Ships in the night, though. We were heading in different paths, but she gave me her number anyway. Ah potential love, it comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it?

Currently I’m looking out the window at a clear blue sky. Deceptive; I know it’s cold enough to freeze my socks off out there. The cat, Jinxie, a stray that my friend Clair brought in from the cold a few days ago, is quietly mewing, looking for food or something. She is so malnourished that I can feel her bones, but she’s convalescing nicely (Must buy her some food later) Anyway, I’m fine as wine here; the others are asleep, and I felt words calling me, so here I am.

Don’t know what we got planned, but we got a car, we got our friendship, and we got time. The mountains, I want to see the mountains! Them old Rocky Mountains that I’ve only ever seen from 40,000 feet on a flight to Frisco…the land…the sights…

Day’s just beginning.

(More later…)

Love, David

Friday, December 25, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


MERRY CHRISTMAS, and thanks for following the Writer's Den...I wish you all a great 2010!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge: Roles and the Writing Process

by Betty S. Flowers


(Here's an interesting article on writing that I came across while leafing through the Harbrace College Handbook for Canadian Writers, and I thought I'd share it with you all - hope you like it.)


"What's the hardest part of writing?" I ask on the first day of class.

"Getting started," someone offers, groaning.

"No, it's not getting started," a voice in the back of the room corrects. "It's keeping on once you do get started. I can always write a sentence or two-but then I get stuck."

"Why?" I ask.

"I don't know. I am writing along, and all of a sudden I realize how awful it is, and I tear it up. Then I start over again, and after two sentences, the same thing happens."

"Let me suggest something which might help," I say. Turning to the board, I write four words: "madman," "architect," "carpenter," "judge."

Then I explain:

"What happens when you get stuck is that two competing energies are locked horn to horn, pushing against each other. One is the energy of what I'll call your 'madman.' He is full of ideas, writes crazily and perhaps rather sloppily, gets carried away by enthusiasm or anger, and if really let loose, could turn out ten pages an hour.

"The second is a kind of critical energy-what I'll call the 'judge.' He's been educated and knows a sentence fragment when he sees one. He peers over your shoulder and says, 'That's trash!' with such
authority that the madman loses his crazy confidence and shrivels up. You know the judge is right-after all, he speaks with the voice of your most imperious English teacher. But for all his sharpness of eye, he can't create anything.

"So you're stuck. Every time your madman starts to write, your judge pounces on him.

"Of course this is to over-dramatize the writing process-but not entirely. Writing is so complex, involves so many skills of heart, mind and eye, that sitting down to a fresh sheet of paper can sometime seem
like 'the hardest work among those not impossible,' as Yeats put it.

Whatever joy there is in the writing process can come only when the energies are flowing freely-when you're not stuck.

"And the trick to not getting stuck involves separating the energies. If you let the judge with his intimidating carping come too close to the madman and his playful, creative energies, the ideas which
form the basis for your writing will never have a chance to surface. But you can't simply throw out the judge. The subjective personal outpourings of your madman must be balanced by the objective, impersonal vision of the educated critic within you. Writing is not just self-expression; it is communication as well.

"So start by promising your judge that you'll get around to asking his opinion, but not now. And then let the madman energy flow. Find what interests you in the topic, the question or emotion that it raises in you, and respond as you might to a friend-or an enemy. Talk on paper, page after page, and don't stop to judge or correct sentences. Then, after a set amount of time, perhaps, stop and gather the paper up and wait a day.

"The next morning, ask your 'architect' to enter. She will read the wild scribblings saved from the night before and pick out maybe a tenth of the jottings as relevant or interesting. (You can see immediately
that the architect is not sentimental about what the madman wrote; she is not going to save every crumb for posterity.) Her job is simply to select large chunks of material and to arrange them in a pattern that might form an argument. The thinking here is large, organizational, paragraph level thinking-the architect doesn't worry about sentence structure.

"No, the sentence structure is left for the 'carpenter' who enters after the essay has been hewn into large chunks of related ideas. The carpenter nails these ideas together in a logical sequence, making sure each sentence is clearly written, contributes to the argument of the paragraph, and leads logically and gracefully to the next sentence. When the carpenter finishes, the essay should be smooth and watertight.

"And then the judge comes around to inspect. Punctuation, spelling, grammar, tone-all the details which result in a polished essay become important only in this last stage. These details are not the concern of the madman who's come up with them, or the architect who's organized them, or the carpenter who's nailed the ideas together, sentence by sentence. Save details for the judge.

Christmas!


Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I'm opening up the Campfire Pages for Christmas Stories. You can reach me on Twitter, at @TheWritersDen of course, and I'll get back to you.

This is my very favorite time of year and I hope we can have lots of holiday cheer. I won't put a word limit on submissions, because most of you know not to send 10,000 word dissertations!

So if you want to participate, let me know! Cheers!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Moving! Follow the New Page..



To all my followers: We have moved to a new page. You'll still get all the articles published on the new site, but I encourage you to re-follow...Thank you so much!

Merry Christmas!

Ten Editing Tips, for Your Fiction Mss.

As Posted by Margaret Atwood, at her wonderful site: The Year of the Flood

Speaking of writing, which we did a lot in Tofino: I put these together for a friend, but maybe someone out there could also use them…

TEN EDITING TIPS: FOR NOVELS, NON-“EXPERIMENTAL”


1.The beginning. This is the key signature of the book. Sets the tone, introduces the leitmotifs. Are the people in it main characters? If not, how much do the readers need to know about them?

2. Charles Dickens said, “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em wait.” He put “wait” at the end because it was crucial. (In any series of three, the third is the most important.) In terms I’ve picked up by playing with the boys: Drop the hankie early, but make ‘em wait for the opening of the kimono. Are you telling too much too soon? (Suspense: a good thing, if not done too obviously. Who is this guy? What happens next? Don’t signal too much, too far ahead.)

3. Verbs shall agree with subjects (singular, plural). That is, unless it’s dialogue or third-person inside-the-character point of view, and the author wishes to indicate that the character has a weak grasp of this principle.

4. Verb tenses. This is tricky. But in general: if something is always true, use the present tense. If it was always true once, use the past, or “would” plus past tense to indicate continuous action in the past. (“Every day, he’d go to the laundromat.”) . If it’s something happening before the time we’re in, use the past perfect (“He’d gone.”) Only the author knows the time flow – an editor can query, but the author must decide. If tenses are disjunct, there should be a very good reason. (Maybe the character is having a breakdown.) See also the use of the historical present. (“So, he goes, “What’re you doing?” and I go, “Butt out,” and he … etc.) Elmore Leonard is an expert at this kind of thing, and at informal dialogue in general.

5. The gerund mistake. A common one. “Walking along the beach, a pair of boots was seen.” Means that the boots were doing the walking, not the observer. Correct: “Walking along the beach, he saw a pair of boots.”

6. Readers are readers. They are good at reading. They are also post-film, and are used to swift cuts. They will fill in quite a lot. At any point, are you telling/filling in too much? The author needs to walk through the moves in his/her head – like practicing a dance or a military exercise – so that no actual tactical mistakes are made – the character doesn’t go out the door before he’s put his pants on, unless intended — but then the planning steps, the connect-the-dots steps, are pruned out so that what the reader gets is a graceful, fluid execution. We hope.

7. Dialogue. How do people actually talk? Too much for prose fiction, as it turns out. Dialogue in a novel should: give the illusion of real speech; indicate character; not tell us stuff we can assume or don’t need to know, unless the point is that the character is boring; advance the plot; be funny if intended; not sound too wooden. Look at contractions: it’s, he’s, shouldn’t. Look at use of “that”—in speech, we rarely put it in. ‘The tree I saw,” not “The tree that I saw.”

8. Point of view. Whose eyes are we looking through? A character’s? The author’s? Is the author intruding too much on the character? Does it sound like Character Bob, or like Author Phil/Phyllis? We know characters in the following ways: What they say. What they think. What third-person narration says about them. What other characters say/think about them. What they do. What they say they do. What they see when they look in the mirror. The tone of the prose about/surrounding them.

9. The second person problem. Applies to letters and journals, for instance when one character is communicating to another or writing a diary or journal. If a letter, A shouldn’t tell B something we already know B knows. If a journal –who is it for? Is it to be found after the character’s death – “Look what a clever boy I was”? Or is it for her to enjoy in private in a gloating or meditative or My Secret Life sort of way? For a sampling of diaries/journals, see the excellent anthology, The Assassin’s Cloak.

10. The ending. Open or closed. Fitting in tone. Makes us say Wow, or I want more. Or it sums things up, or provides a coda. It is, in any case, the last word. For now. Ask: is this how you want to sign off?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Changes: A Winter’s Monologue

Up here in the Great White North it’s been anything but Great, or White. We’ve seen nary a breath of snow this season; a record for us Canucks who are used to being buried in the stuff by mid October. But as I sit here, the wind is blustering outside my 8th floor apartment...More at the New Writer's Den...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Critical Mass

Months ago I wrote a post called How To Lose Friends and Alienate People on Twitter, which was wildly popular, one of my most read pieces. It detailed the common annoyances Twitter followers had with each other. I thought I was being clever, and somewhere in the murky depths of my brain I knew I would piss someone off, even though I slapped disclaimers everywhere, and even the article itself is completely tongue-in-cheek in tone.

But I found out that some people not only DON’T have a sense of humor, but they’ll take direct aim at you and verbally spank you!

One such person did this, and un-followed me to boot.

This is the piece and the comment afterward:



How To Lose Friends and Alienate People On Twitter

There’s been a million blogs written about “Twitter Etiquette,” but I thought I would throw my three cents in on this topic as well. Disclaimer: This is all in fun, I may be completely wrong and you may be doing the opposite of everything in this list and STILL have twelve thousand followers; more power to you, friend. Here we go…


The Point Of Social Networking

The point of social networking is to be SOCIAL. If you’re going to tweet in a vacuum, Twitter is probably not the best place for you. Some people don’t really enjoy constant internal dialogue in their Tweet Stream; unless you’re Ashton Kutcher and can get away with tweeting what you had for breakfast, or have a very lively mind, you’d better start interacting with others.


The F-Bomb

Now I’m no prude by any stretch, but using the lovely F word in your tweets constantly might just offend someone. Not the word itself, but what it says about you. This is a very public place, and you reflect who you follow, and vice-versa. If I vouch for you and then you start dropping those F-Bombs in your tweets like a New York dock worker, then you need a bar of soap. (Mind you, I didn’t say NEVER curse, but the English language has billions of words to express yourself with, not just the word F__K! As fun and cathartic as that verbiage is.


Shameless Self-Promotion

I’m all for self-promoting and capitalism and all that jazz, but when you don’t even say hello and try to sell me something, you’re going down in a hail of un-follows! I even felt guilty when I started flogging my blog (Ah, see? Subversive and rude language, hidden in euphemistic terms…) The Writers Den by tweeting “Read my blog!” because it’s a rather crass method; and Auto DM’s? Ugh. You are treading on very dangerous follower toes by doing that. First, it’s impersonal, and second, it’s ANNOYING! Please stop this activity immediately. Also, if you have a book to sell, you’d do better to actually form RELATIONSHIPS with people, rather than constantly tweeting about your book, because not only is that NOT effective, it makes me want to go to the book store and walk right PAST your book without buying it, on purpose! Perhaps you should follow other self-promoters instead, and you can all sell things to each other and live happily ever after. Happy capitalism!


Erratic and Bizarre Behavior

I’m not saying I’m the sanest guy around, or that my head is screwed on any tighter then the next person, but again we are dealing with a public place here. When you emote and rant constantly, we may sympathize a little at first, but then our twitchy hand reaches for that block icon, reluctantly. I have problems too, so do the people who follow me. The only people who don’t have problems are dead people (although THAT may be construed as a problem too, in some circles.) This just isn’t the place for those kinds of discussions, unless you’re part of a Twitter Therapy group (insensitive of me I know, but a solution may be to use DM’s to express those feelings instead of tweeting stuff like “I’m losing followers! What did I say? I hate you all!!!) In the beginning I was guilty of this as well, but it can be cured!


Picking Fights and Being a Bully

I know from getting my ass kicked and being abused in grade school that bullies are very unpleasant. In the adult world it exists too, in the workplace and online. On Twitter it takes on a more subtle form; okay, you disagree with me once, twice, but all the time?? Come on! Or someone is making it clear that they don’t like something about my tweets, or my quotes, or my advice; why are you following me then?? F__K off! Some of these comments take on a very nasty tone, meant to embarrass people in public. If you want to embarrass me, do it in a DM, or else: BLOCK! I can take a tongue lashing, but not in public. You deserve a spanking for that.


If You Have 40 thousand Followers, but Confine Your Tweets to Three People

I don’t care who you talk to, or what you talk about, but you should acknowledge the existence of more than 3 people in your tweet stream. I have followers who still don’t know I exist. Why follow me then? Lord knows. But when it comes time to clean house, out they go…


Useless tweets

Recently some bonehead wrote that “40% of Tweets are useless” although I don’t know where he got those statistics. How can you qualify a useless tweet? If someone tweets about eating Bananas in their Corn Flakes, I may or may not find it interesting (or it may make me hungry) but I agree that there is such a thing as “Useless tweets”, I mean we all can’t orate like Norman Vincent Peale every second of the day, but something of value should be attached to the majority of your tweets. Entertain, enlighten, anger, incite; do any of these things. Don’t bore! (I’m one to talk; I’m surprised I’m not a mascot for Insomniacs Anonymous) One thing that will make me want to un-follow (not really, it’s just an annoyance): Too many one sided conversations; Like this:


@TheWritersDen ~ That’s great! I can’t believe it!


This will force me to go and hop back and forth to the other person to eavesdrop and get the rest of the story! (Although this is a weak argument) Once in a while it’s okay. Some do it constantly, (The theme of this post seems to be “do what you like, just don’t annoy me and do it too much…)


Indecipherable Tweeting

I consider myself well read and somewhat educated, but I don’t work for the NSA and I don’t do code-breaking. I’ve received tweets that are completely undecipherable, like this:


@The WritersDen ~ You Feel the Same? You me too HAHAAAA! U funny n can we talk? Prolly can Thx


Here’s a tip, try to be a little clearer in what you’re trying to say. I’m a very nice guy, and I’m quite tolerant, but tweets written in reverse Sanskrit or Zodiac code drive me batty. If I weren’t such a nice guy I would “UnFllow get it HAHA!”


Learn How to Spell

Okay, so I’m a grammatical stickler. Bt when you start usng lead speak 2 tweet, it gets annying! Come on! You can edit without omitting vowels! It’s easy, give it a try.


So that’s it for now. Remember, this is all in fun. Like I said, you may be doing the opposite of all the above and manage to have 3 billion followers, in which case I may eat my hat. Take care now.


Anonymous said...
Your post shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Twitter.

It isn't a "social networking" site. It's a communications tool, for people to communicate, or not, as they wish, in their absolute discretion.

Procedure:

1. You attach yourself like a limpet to the twitterers whose feed you want to receive.

2. You avoid - either by the BLOCK button or by Unfollowing - those twitterers whose feed you don't want to receive.

Simple.

Your post suggests there's a specific way other people should be twittering (the way you'd like, naturally) whereas the opposite is the case: everyone can do precisely as they like.

You don't like someone's twitters? Well have the brains to unfollow or block them, then. End of problem. Don't start ranting here about how other people choose to use the tool. No one is forcing their twitters upon you. Get it?
September 1, 2009 8:50 AM


Wow.

For a long time after this I was gun-shy, worried about putting words to page in fear of reprisal from some demanding reader, but then I realized that I did nothing wrong. Writers are apt to piss people off from time to time. But It got me thinking about the power of words, and the effect they may have on certain readers.

I mean, we shouldn’t walk on egg-shells when we write, or placate, or try to remain neutral, harmless, safe, bland! What good is that? I know it also flies in the face of the entire article above, where I wrote about the annoying things people on Twitter do. Aren’t Tweeters allowed to do pretty much as they want? It is a free country after all (Countries. I’m Canadian, you may be American) however, As I mentioned above, the entire article is laced with tongue - in- cheek references and self-deprecation. I KNEW that a lot of that stuff I listed was just plain funny, and not at all serious. I guess it didn’t come across that way to "Anonymous". Perhaps my wacky sense of humor and satire needed to be a little clearer.

So, take heart; when someone hammers you about a post you wrote, or verbally abuses you in the comment section of your blog, remember, it’s your role as a writer to provoke, anger, enlighten, educate, learn and just plain have fun while composing. And don’t wait for months before you get over a bad review like I did. Staring at that comment for the past while was like an itch just waiting to be scratched, and I guess I finally scratched it.

And boy it feels good!

Huzzah! ~ David Hunter

This Post Has Been Mentioned by Writery, at the blog From the Desk of a Writer : "Literature reviews, publishing links, writing rants, and soap box commentary." ~ Check it out!

Here's a related post on "acidgalore": The Things You Do on Twitter That I Hate

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writer’s Block: The Basterd Returns ...









" ... Mostly I’m writing this because I need to get my head out of my ass and write ..."




Writer’s Block.

I want to deny its existence.

The sad fact is, an inordinate amount of people complain and curse about it, so there is grounds for its standing in reality. Writer’s Block, the Basterd, or whatever we want to call it, rears its ugly head at the worst of times, for me;

When I’m tired.

When I’ve had a great run of words and stories and blog posts.

When I’m sick of hearing (or reading) my own voice.

When I start feeling like nobody gives a shit.

When I start thinking I’m Ernest Fucking Hemingway.

I suppose my recent lack of writing activity could be attributed to this affliction. I suppose I want to blame SOMETHING, so why not WB? (Henceforth known as the Basterd.) Today I had enough of this and literally (yes LITERALLY!) hauled my brain out of neutral and grabbed a pen/paper and began scribbling things; notes, sentences, phrases, inarticulate doodles, letters! Anything.

Immediately I had ideas for twelve posts.

Beside me on my desk are piles of crumpled post-it notes and folded bits of bond paper that I used to jot down various thoughts and ideas during my workday. Occasionally, I would root through these and make more notes. I discovered that shuffling through that sheaf of paper made me excited again; ink, pen, and the goddess of creativity were upon me. Huzzah!

I find that I don’t actually lack for ideas. My problem is when I stop writing for any length of time; I get rusty. The old finger/brain symbiosis dries up. I get afraid to put words down. I start feeling like I never wrote before.

Is this the Basterd at work?

Stephen King, that insanely prolific and crazy author we all know and love, wondered at various times in his career whether he had anything left to say. And after his horrific car accident he, for obvious reasons, could not write for a long time, months actually. Upon returning to his desk and writing again he also felt like he'd never written before; he was terrified.

Stephen King? Afraid to write? It’s true.

My little lesson learned: I may allow myself a break to re-charge once in a while, but I will not allow it to continue. The Basterd must not win. And if we imbue Writer’s Block with human traits and refer to him as the Basterd, perhaps it’ll help us hate him, and fight him off. Anthropomorphize the sonnuva bitch so we can kill him where he stands. Scratch that: hangin’s too good for him. He deserves a good vaporizing.

The Basterd of course comes in many different forms; musicians get it, so do artists and actors; even world class athletes are prone, but they call it a “slump” and it is just as crippling. So what causes this? If I knew I’d be a millionaire. How do you cure it? If I knew THAT I’d be a billionaire. Many have tried to decode the Basterds DNA; Philosophers, scientists, even Tony Robbins tried to help a hockey team get out of its horrendous slump (L.A. Kings?) and failed. Most come up empty. I’m coming up empty right now.

I guess we’ll have to live with it. And fight on.

Last night I had a revelation though; I started reading Edward Abbey’s the Journey Home. Besides the excitement I had about getting my grubby hands on such a rare out-of-print book, I marveled at the fact that he wrote that manuscript on a low-tech typewriter while sitting atop a Fire Lookout (Numa Ridge) in Glacier Park Montana, completely isolated; no phone, no internet (1975, hadn’t been invented), no ANYTHING! (Except bears, which he called G-bears, or more affectionately, GRIZ.) His sole companion was a citizens band radio and his own thoughts.

Imagine that? With all the technology and information and communication we have at our disposal…

It made me think. I have NO excuses for not writing. NONE. I imagine myself up there where Ed sat for three months, 3000 feet above sea level, isolated and alone with only a typewriter and nothing but the sound of his own brain knocking away! My hands get sweaty just thinking about it! No computer! No Information! I think I’d go starkers, and not in a good naked kind of way. Stark raving MAD.

Back to the point.

Mostly I’m writing this because I need to get my head out of my ass and write. And I suppose the best way to fight the Basterd is to write about it; get the fingers moving, get the blood pumping, circulating, and boiling. Get the old mind-cylinders a-firing. It’s the only way. There IS no other way. You only beat the Basterd by writing. You only beat the Basterd by writing.

You only beat the Basterd by writing.

And If I repeat that to myself, I'll probably start believing it, too.



David Hunter, The Writers Den ~

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Light and Dark With New Eyes

A guest post by Stella Darkely

In this largely isolated world that we live in -- in the lonely crevices of our mind, we search out the little things throughout our days and nights that catch our attentions and keep us from blinking. We look for, and anticipate, the hues of a rainbow as much as the wet, glistening rain. We hope that things will remain constant, even as they change with the seasons, and we search our surroundings for signs that "things are looking up".

Unfortunately, all of this we do with eyes that are predisposed to only seeing that which fits our schema of experience. We trick our minds into "shoulding, woulding, and coulding," while we never actually do that which we want. We wait for tomorrow in order to begin attaining the things we wanted yesterday, let alone today. We wait for the perfect moment to splurge on a vacation, a meal, a bottle of wine -- for the right mood and opportunity to tell someone we love them, even if we know they won't say it back. What we fail to see, over and over again, with our shielded eyes, is that tomorrow will never arrive for us because we are living all of our tomorrows, today, yet, never fully cognizant of the opportunities always lingering in full view.

Tonight, I am seeing with new eyes -- fully appreciative of the full scope of the worldview that I choose to adopt. Tonight, I am no longer gazing out at the world behind the restrictive glare of my eyeglasses. ... I allowed a surgeon to cut into my eyes recently -- entrusting him to reshape the defective cornea that were the cause of the hazy, milky, indecipherable "out there," that shaped my perception of my environment. Now I can see, unaided by any artificial prosthesis -- I see and hear, and feel my surroundings like never before -- appreciative of every hurdle and happiness in plain sight.

***

So, tonight, I probably "should have," finished reading an article that I need to have read in order to write a long overdue essay. Earlier today, I probably "should have," started my homework sooner, so that I would have time to do other things. I always tell myself: 'do the things that you must now so that you can do the things that you want to do later' but, as I near my 30s, my eyes increasingly widen to the fact that my idea of a perfect, uncluttered, responsibility-free "later," does not exist. I must create my future in the present.

If I want to be a writer...
if I want to be a filmmaker...
if I want to find a love...
if I want to make money...
if I want a better future...
a happy future...

I must do these things NOW, not later.

While I have no clear answers as to how I will navigate my way through school, work, and other responsibilities while, simultaneously, living in my newly created present, I can promise myself that: I will not put down my pen when inspired, just so that I can finish my overdue assignments; I will not ignore the occasional palpitations of my heart, signaling to me my loneliness; I will not put off for tomorrow the things that I could have done today to make me feel that I am one step closer to the happy future that I can now see clearly, on the horizon, with my freshly healed, eager, eyes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


You wouldn’t believe how I’ve been living lately; food has been a low priority. So has housekeeping; there are articles, magazines, newspaper clippings and related dementia strewn across my work area. Seems my books have been multiplying like rabbits too (although I have twelve thousand books, I still felt compelled to buy Stephen King’s Detective novel The Colorado Kid for two bucks at a yard sale) When I do eat I take impatient spoon-full’s of food, chew hastily and return to my computer; I’ve been subsisting on PB & J sandwiches and tea. The writing has taken over. I feel like a true bohemian lately.

It’s the book of course, isn’t it always? And the blogs, like this one. I think about them all day, then I come home and think about them some more, then whenever the synapses are firing correctly I dive in and try to get something down on the page before my famously wiggy short-term memory kicks in and wipes the slate clean. Sometimes I stew over an idea (usually at 5 AM or thereabouts) and get all excited and start wandering in circles, coffee in hand, searching for a pen or something to scribble a note on. Sometimes I get home and I have all these tiny slips of paper in my nap-sack, usually yellow post-it notes, filled with insane and inspired ideas. Some are good, some are shit. Most are shit. By the time I get home only the best notions are left in my head, but being on the move all day working, I fall victim to the usual human foibles; I need time for sleep, food, clothing (laundry) and to clean the apartment. Need to pay bills, run errands (Shopping! Haven’t done shopping all week!) and so the little amount of time I have, I dedicate to writing, but lately the time-balance has been skewed slightly; seems writing has taken up more and more of my time. I haven’t even watched TV since I got cable a month ago. And me, a movie buff, I have not once watched a film since I’ve moved in to this new place. This is definitely strange behavior for Senor Hunter, let me tell you.

A lot of the reason stems from this particular blog, The National Affairs Desk, and my two partners in literary crime, Joseph Lane and Matt Byron. Two more dedicated guys I could never have met. We’ve formed a kind of un-spoken (ironic?) and un-holy bond with each other. I’m trying to do my part, because I love to do it. And now I’ve gone and started another blog which will require more attention, and more maintenance, and yes, more writing.

It’s been fun, though. Every day I search through the papers and news reports for interesting angles, and I find I have a lot to say about nearly everything. But If I write down everything I think about the universe it’d dwarf a phone book, so instead you get snippets. I’m also in search of my voice; when you’re part of a repertory company like the NAD, you need to discover your own voice. Joseph Lane is the sane one (for the most part) Matt is the crazy Dean Moriarty of Kerouac’s fabled beat generation, and both are Hunter S. Thompson lovers. So where do I fit in? I don’t know. I love Edward Abbey, an elitist nature writer who had a foul mouth and a penchant for burning bill-boards along America’s highways because he thought they ruined the landscape and it’s aesthetic, plus he wanted to be buried in the desert (“...Disregard all state burial laws”, he states in his will). I love music, jazz in particular. I love writing. Simple when put in those easy terms, but I have complexities too. I couldn’t tell you about my voice; either I haven’t discovered it yet, or I have laryngitis.

So where was I? Oh yes; the writing. I am completely immersed in it. Although I am not a prolific author (I am too perfectionist for that) I have written more in the past three months then I ever have. I’ve beaten back that bastard known as Writer’s Block a few times now, and I’m getting the hang of writing every day, although sometimes the words come hard, and slow. The long and short of it is this; I’m a fucking writer, and I love it, and this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. Hang the 9 to 5 job; I deny that’s the only way to live. Not for me anyway. This new dedication is a little scary to me; and friends, co-workers, they don’t understand. The term “Writer” is an abstraction to them. They probably envision a guy in a straight-jacket sitting behind an Underwood type-writer, ranting and drooling, but mostly they see the reality; bare cupboards and bare pockets. To this end they may be correct on both counts.

But GOD I love it so.


David Hunter, Over and Out.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Little Pink Bat



The day started out innocuously enough; the employees at our company started trickling in to Crooks Field for our annual company picnic and soft-ball game about 10:30 AM. When I got there some of the guys were already peppering the outfield with fly balls and line drives. Even at my advanced age (37) I still turn into a little kid at the sight of a ball field. I grab my glove and trot out to catch some warm up drives, grinning like a child. Fisher and Robert are just flaying that ball; it’s sailing out over my head even though I’m deep into right field. Oh no, I think, what have I gotten myself into here? These two guys are just lacing them. Memories of ball games past creep into my soul; I’m not the greatest player who ever trod the diamond; and I always ended up on the losing side! I anticipated a long day out in the field and not much at-bat time.

As balls are flying overhead I point my nose to the sky like an Irish Setter; I sniff the air, watch the clouds; there are calls for rain today, but so far signs of the advent are minimal. But it’s cool out; something in-climate is on its way. I can tell. Soon the BBQ appears, and the aroma of smoking hot dogs and hamburgers fills the air. Ken, from engineering, is at the helm of the grill. He’s not playing today; he doesn’t play baseball, but was recruited to cook. He seems to be enjoying it though. There’s also boxes of Tim Horton’s donuts everywhere; the kids are digging in to them and absconding with all the chocolate ones. We’re eating Red Hots and swatting Wasps. We’re laughing; nay, bonding?

It’s a small crowd; we barely have enough players per side. It’s good though; more at-bats for us. The two Captains Jay and Tony read out the rosters. True to form, the other team gets the real heavy hitters Fisher and Robert. We get George the Janitor. George is a little slow, tall and awkward. He can’t pitch, hit or throw. I get déjà vu; throughout the history of sandlot baseball there’s been a George on every team. I resist the urge to feel sorry for him, but he cuts such a pathetic figure. I try to encourage him however I can, but he looks nervous. Every second there appears panic in his eyes. He wants to belong, I can tell. I can also tell he’s scared out of his wits.

First inning goes well; each side scores three runs. I’m surprisingly good at soft ball; it’s the oversized medium; the ball itself comes at me like a large meat ball and is easy to hit. Not so easy to get it into the outfield though. I get to first. Tony, the company’s Director of Operations, is a short guy with a mustache, portly, but he’s adept on the base paths; I barely get to first before he tags me. Safe.

The next few innings go this way. In the third I ride an infield double to second base, when Winston in center field throws the ball over to second, right at me! I jump up to avoid, you know, smashed nads, and the thing hits my ankle bone. I go down like a heap, laughing actually. I feign hurt, and then I get up and run at Winston; play fight. Everyone’s laughing. George hits and bloops to first base. The inning is over, and I hobble to our dugout.

We’re keeping pace, but these guys keep scoring and getting ahead. We are playing catch-up constantly. Fisher gets up to bat; he’s an East-Coaster from Cape Breton, he’s bald, has no front teeth, and his face is red as a Beet. He has a large grin across his face. He’s pointing to me in right field! He intends to hit one out here to me. But his plan doesn’t work; he chokes and pops up. Next up is Robert. This guy is good. The outfield is chattering “heavy hitter! Heavy hitter!” and moving over to the left, because that’s the direction he hits, but he knocks one right to me. It’s a deep drive, up high; and like I said, the damn thing’s a giant meatball; I catch it with ease. Inning over. Robert trots over and says “good catch. I hate you!” He’s smiling, he still can’t believe it.

5th inning. My arm is getting sore, and my ankle is swelling. We’re fading; down by 7 runs. Dean says “screw it” and picks up the little pink bat that is lying around in the dug-out. It’s rather humorous because Dean is a large man with a slight paunch holding this thing. Everyone is laughing; it relaxes us. He swings, and piles one out deep into right field. Homer. We all cheer! Jay is next. He says screw it too, and picks up the pink bat. Wham! Pow! Line Drive. He’s on first. My turn. Wham, pow! I line it over third. I’ve confused the pitcher because I switch hit to my left, plus he’s laughing about the bat. We score again. Now everyone is picking up the pink bat. The chant “Think pink! Think Pink!” is rising from our ranks. The little pink bat has become our rallying point. We end the inning down by only 4.

7th inning; there is no stretch; we must finish the game at this point because it’s starting to drizzle. Two out’s already, and Robert, the heavy hitter, get’s up to bat for the other team. He’s looking right at me in right field. Pointing! He smashes one out towards me; it’s hanging up there, seemingly in the clouds, but the large ball is too easy to miss. I catch it and I yell in excitement! We’re up to bat. Robert has that look on his face again. I got your number, I say. He still can’t believe it. He thought he had a sure homer.

Think Pink; George gathers up our special bat. I tell him he’s hitting okay, but he’s not running fast enough to get to base. He listens. He manages to drive one off and he scampers to first. The little pink bat is at it again; we load the bases. Our man in Human Resources, Rocky, dressed in full 19th century baseball regalia, long stockings and all, steps up to the plate.

It’s a long drive to center field; it out distances all the outfielders. One, two,three, FOUR RUNS! We all celebrate, even though all we’ve managed to do is tie the game. The rain prevents any extra innings, so we all grab the trophy and huddle around for a picture, both teams. Someone grabs the little pink bat and hands it to Rocky, the game’s hero. He holds it, grinning like a fool.

It’s an amazing instance when the old axiom “anything can happen in baseball” really comes true; anything really can happen, if you believe. We were down and beat, 7 runs behind, and this little pink bat picked us up and hauled us to our feet to rally and tie the game. Looking at all the tired faces around me, I could see that something special happened. We all knew it; we didn’t have to say it.

It was that damn little pink bat.




Here's me at first; I have a maniacal look on my face because I'm trying to lead off and steal a base...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Importance of Being Bloggish

There are 8 million blogs in the naked universe; this is one of them.

No doubt there are tons of voices out there, approximately 5 billion personal websites, or “blogs” if you will, and when put in this context your little domain may seem rather insignificant and small, but that’s not the point. You need that blog, it’s your voice. I came to that realization slowly, and painfully.

At first I was terrified about starting a blog; what do I say? How do I say it? What if I run OUT of stuff to say? What if nobody LIKES what I say? These are fair questions, but you can’t concern yourself with that. In the beginning you just have to write for the sake of writing; even if no one is reading. Even if you think you suck.

A blog is your personal voice, your vehicle, your wheelhouse; this is your domain; it’s a place for you to go and write what you feel. It’s a place for people to come and get to know you better. Without it, you’re a whispering wind instead of a full force gale. And also, it’s a great motivator. Nothing gets the juices flowing like an audience waiting to read your words.

In my pre-blog days I just didn’t write as much as I do now. You see, when there’s no place to hang my hat, or publish my writing as it were, there just doesn’t exist the urgency to write anything, at least that’s the way it was for me. Think of it as a soft deadline; you don’t really have to post anything; no one’s going to come after you and give you detention or anything, no one’s going to rap you on the knuckles with a ruler, but you know it’s there, that deadline, especially when you start gathering followers. Followers will motivate me every time. If I haven’t posted in a while I start feeling that twinge of guilt (yes, writer’s remorse!) and so I get off my ass and write something, like I’m doing now. It’s like getting a gentle kick in the rear. Without this blog of mine, the urge just doesn’t exist (Let me amend that by saying the urge to write ALWAYS exists, it's just not as strong). I write for one reason: I want people to read me. Without a blog, I am a tree falling in the forest with nobody around to hear me, and that’s no good. What the hell is the point of that?

Recently a Twitter-friend of mine named Joseph Lane started a blog called The National Affairs desk. Prior to this I knew virtually nothing about him; but his blog has since become a place to get to know him better; I can see his full-fledged personality and talents as a writer and journalist, and now I look forward to his every post. It’s like shining a light on yourself. If you ever hope to become a writer, this is vital; without a blog or an emotional connection, people will gloss over you. I’m happy to say though, that I’ve managed to convince a lot of talented people to be brave and start a blog. I know it’s tough; a blog is kind of like pulling your pants down in a crowded auditorium and giving a speech, but believe me, it gets easier, sort of.

Like I mentioned before, it can be a scary thing. When I first wrote a post for the Writers Den, I sat and stared at it for a good long hour; my finger hovered over the mouse, the publish button stared back at me. I said “Hell with it” and published. You know what? It wasn’t so bad. People were generally nice and supportive; I felt good about it. Now, I regularly post, un-post, edit, re-edit, delete entire posts; it’s my blog, my words, so why not? Just like people say, OWN your life, OWN your job.

OWN your blog. It’s yours; your voice, your words. Show us what you got.


David Hunter, Over and Out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

David Hunter's Halloween Special

Brought to you by the Halloween Arts and Horror Association (HAHA)

I'm opening up the Campfire Pages in October to anyone who wants to share a scary story. Just leave a message here in the comments section, or DM me on Twitter, and I'll get back to you with contact information. I'd leave my email addy here, but I have many enemies! (I jest, of course)

Don't send attachments, just cut and paste the story into the message box. Oh, and keep it at 2000 words or less; and make it scary....so scary it'll make Stephen King's toes curl with fear!

Hoping to hear from you soon. I'm off to write some scary stuff....

Note: If it's a really great lengthy story, I'll consider posting it in parts.


Another Note: I shall return very soon to update The Writers Den...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 11th (VIA The National Affairs Desk)


From my humble writing space I stare out at the night sky; the twinkling lights, the glow of downtown Toronto, the CN Tower lit up against the dark of Lake Ontario. It’s comforting to know it’s there, the CN Tower, standing on the same ground it was built on 33 years ago. It’s a symbol of Toronto, Canada even, and although we Torontonians are sick of the thing, familiarity breeding contempt and all, deep down we are proud of it. We are proud of the men who built her; proud to know she was once the tallest free-standing structure in the world; proud to know she was built to last 300 years (plus one) and that we took offense when 16 terrorists threatened to blow her up, along with breaking into parliament and beheading our Prime Minister. These things we can’t abide; not in OUR house.

And so we come to September 11th. That damn ugly day we wish never happened.

I don’t wish to go into the details, we all know them. God, how can we not? Thanks to CNN and YouTube this thing will live forever. Remember Pearl Harbor? I suppose you don’t. 9/11 was our generation’s awakening, the destruction of our innocence, a defining moment; just like Pearl Harbor was for the WWII generation. I never knew such evil existed before that day. I still can’t believe it.



I was working as an assistant manager at a retail discount store that day. The night before I had been with my girlfriend and she told me she’d had a vision; she’d dreamt about a plane hitting a building, and how the people in the building were burning, jumping out windows, trying to escape being scorched to death. She was crying as she told me this, this I do solemnly swear is the truth. I, of course, paid no attention; it was only a dream. I don’t take much stock in these things. Matters, especially grey matters, tend to be subjective, but I was creeped out nonetheless.

Where was I? I was listening to Howard Stern broadcasting out of New York. I had my little ear buds on, radio tucked in my pocket. Howard was a new thing to us here; recently our local rock station Q107 had picked him up for their morning show, so I listened because I was curious. I think he was talking about his ass or something, giving some crass advice on how to wipe after you do a number two. He abruptly stopped, and then, in a serious tone not associated with Howard, said: “we’re getting reports that a plane has hit the World Trade tower…”

What followed was a rant about how stupid a pilot would have to be to hit an object as large and conspicuous as the Twin Towers. I was inclined to agree with him.

Then the second one hit. The pilot jokes stopped, and he announced almost immediately, “New York is under attack!”

Cue the terrorist’s rants. Howard then lamented the fact that he was talking about his balls a few moments before, apologetic, humbled, he proceeded to tell us that his act was entertainment, a shtick. You knew it was serious if Howard Stern was waxing philosophical.

And so I stood there at the front of the store, the employees gathered around me waiting for updates. After a few moments, we drifted off to try and get on with our day, somehow.

Then Howard started screaming that the South Tower had collapsed. Robin, his on-air side-kick, left immediately to go find her children, but found that her driver had abandoned her.

I stood there, my mouth agape. It’s difficult to describe; it was like someone punched me in the gut and told me my father died all at the same time. Some old lady was asking me something, something about shower curtains. I don’t remember. I told her that the World Trade Tower had been destroyed by terrorists, and how could she ask about something so stupid. She didn’t appear to understand.

When that North Tower fell, I was a nervous wreck. I could hardly finish the day. Our lovely boss saw no need in closing the store, or sending us home. I thought Toronto was next. I thought we were all doomed. Watching the images later on CNN, I was struck the unity of those New Yorkers. I fell in love with New York and its people that day. I wished I could have been there to help, or lend support, or something. I felt useless.



Band practice was cancelled that night. We all showed up at the rehearsal space, took one look at each other, and said forget it. We went to get coffee, and drove to the airport. We heard that all air traffic had been suspended, and we were not only incredulous, but curious. We sat there that night, talking quietly, looking up at the night sky over Pearson International Airport, where not a single plane flew that evening. That’s how we knew it was real, and not some abstract thing.



Putting these things into words is difficult; how you feel about something, sometimes, is not quantifiable. But those buildings; arrow straight, masculine rockets of glass and concrete shooting above the New York skyline; these things become indelible. The many people who died are an abstraction, not rightly I might add, because it’s those towers that get eulogized. They were so damn PRESENT, so THERE. I cried for the people of New York, for those who lost loved ones, for the guys who put their blood and sweat and life on the line to build those things. I cried for America.



Post-script

Tonight the CN Tower stands; I’ve been glancing at her through the balcony door. It’s a small comfort. For the 3000 people who died on September 11th, 2001, a small consolation. I need some way to deal with it, and that’s the only way I know how.

Rest in Peace.

David Hunter, Toronto, September 11th, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Out of Commission



Just a little note to everyone as to my whereabouts lately.

I recently moved into a new place, sans room-mates, and the silence is deafening; I can finally hear my own thoughts again. I don't have internet as of yet, so that's why I've been missing. I'm currently using someone's spotty internet connection which is keeping me from updating my Twitter account, and I've been going crazy not being online, talking, haggling, writing, scrapping and dusting it up with people. Internet withdrawal is an interesting thing, isn't it?

But I'm hanging in there, and I hope to be back soon. The picture above is the sight-line from my balcony; nice huh? Very apocalyptic and Blade Runner-ish. I go out and look at this every night before I go to sleep. It's calming, in a strange sort of way. And although you can't see them, there are stars all over the sky, and one particular one reminds me of something Edward Abbey wrote:

...One star,bright and alone, off in the velvet purple of the south-east; words come out of nowhere; It is a strange courage you give me, lonely star.


I have to go now; Keep writing, and keep dreaming. Until we meet again...


Friday, August 28, 2009

How To Lose Friends And Alienate People On Twitter


There’s been a million blogs written about “Twitter Etiquette,” but I thought I would throw my three cents in on this topic as well. Disclaimer: This is all in fun, I may be completely wrong and you may be doing the opposite of everything in this list and STILL have twelve thousand followers; more power to you, friend. Here we go…


The Point Of Social Networking

The point of social networking is to be SOCIAL. If you’re going to tweet in a vacuum, Twitter is probably not the best place for you. Some people don’t really enjoy constant internal dialogue in their Tweet Stream; unless you’re Ashton Kutcher and can get away with tweeting what you had for breakfast, or have a very lively mind, you’d better start interacting with others.


The F-Bomb

Now I’m no prude by any stretch, but using the lovely F word in your tweets constantly might just offend someone. Not the word itself, but what it says about you. This is a very public place, and you reflect who you follow, and vice-versa. If I vouch for you and then you start dropping those F-Bombs in your tweets like a New York dock worker, then you need a bar of soap. (Mind you, I didn’t say NEVER curse, but the English language has billions of words to express yourself with, not just the word F__K! As fun and cathartic as that verbiage is.


Shameless Self-Promotion

I’m all for self-promoting and capitalism and all that jazz, but when you don’t even say hello and try to sell me something, you’re going down in a hail of un-follows! I even felt guilty when I started flogging my blog (Ah, see? Subversive and rude language, hidden in euphemistic terms…) The Writers Den by tweeting “Read my blog!” because it’s a rather crass method; and Auto DM’s? Ugh. You are treading on very dangerous follower toes by doing that. First, it’s impersonal, and second, it’s ANNOYING! Please stop this activity immediately. Also, if you have a book to sell, you’d do better to actually form RELATIONSHIPS with people, rather than constantly tweeting about your book, because not only is that NOT effective, it makes me want to go to the book store and walk right PAST your book without buying it, on purpose! Perhaps you should follow other self-promoters instead, and you can all sell things to each other and live happily ever after. Happy capitalism!


Erratic and Bizarre Behavior

I’m not saying I’m the sanest guy around, or that my head is screwed on any tighter then the next person, but again we are dealing with a public place here. When you emote and rant constantly, we may sympathize a little at first, but then our twitchy hand reaches for that block icon, reluctantly. I have problems too, so do the people who follow me. The only people who don’t have problems are dead people (although THAT may be construed as a problem too, in some circles.) This just isn’t the place for those kinds of discussions, unless you’re part of a Twitter Therapy group (insensitive of me I know, but a solution may be to use DM’s to express those feelings instead of tweeting stuff like “I’m losing followers! What did I say? I hate you all!!!) In the beginning I was guilty of this as well, but it can be cured!


Picking Fights and Being a Bully

I know from getting my ass kicked and being abused in grade school that bullies are very unpleasant. In the adult world it exists too, in the workplace and online. On Twitter it takes on a more subtle form; okay, you disagree with me once, twice, but all the time?? Come on! Or someone is making it clear that they don’t like something about my tweets, or my quotes, or my advice; why are you following me then?? F__K off! Some of these comments take on a very nasty tone, meant to embarrass people in public. If you want to embarrass me, do it in a DM, or else: BLOCK! I can take a tongue lashing, but not in public. You deserve a spanking for that.


If You Have 40 thousand Followers, but Confine Your Tweets to Three People

I don’t care who you talk to, or what you talk about, but you should acknowledge the existence of more than 3 people in your tweet stream. I have followers who still don’t know I exist. Why follow me then? Lord knows. But when it comes time to clean house, out they go…


Useless tweets

Recently some bonehead wrote that “40% of Tweets are useless” although I don’t know where he got those statistics. How can you qualify a useless tweet? If someone tweets about eating Bananas in their Corn Flakes, I may or may not find it interesting (or it may make me hungry) but I agree that there is such a thing as “Useless tweets”, I mean we all can’t orate like Norman Vincent Peale every second of the day, but something of value should be attached to the majority of your tweets. Entertain, enlighten, anger, incite; do any of these things. Don’t bore! (I’m one to talk; I’m surprised I’m not a mascot for Insomniacs Anonymous) One thing that will make me want to un-follow (not really, it’s just an annoyance): Too many one sided conversations; Like this:


@TheWritersDen ~ That’s great! I can’t believe it!


This will force me to go and hop back and forth to the other person to eavesdrop and get the rest of the story! (Although this is a weak argument) Once in a while it’s okay. Some do it constantly, (The theme of this post seems to be “do what you like, just don’t annoy me and do it too much…)


Indecipherable Tweeting

I consider myself well read and somewhat educated, but I don’t work for the NSA and I don’t do code-breaking. I’ve received tweets that are completely undecipherable, like this:


@The WritersDen ~ You Feel the Same? You me too HAHAAAA! U funny n can we talk? Prolly can Thx


Here’s a tip, try to be a little clearer in what you’re trying to say. I’m a very nice guy, and I’m quite tolerant, but tweets written in reverse Sanskrit or Zodiac code drive me batty. If I weren’t such a nice guy I would “UnFllow get it HAHA!”


Learn How to Spell

Okay, so I’m a grammatical stickler. Bt when you start usng lead speak 2 tweet, it gets annying! Come on! You can edit without omitting vowels! It’s easy, give it a try.


So that’s it for now. Remember, this is all in fun. Like I said, you may be doing the opposite of all the above and manage to have 3 billion followers, in which case I may eat my hat. Take care now.


David Hunter, The Writers Den

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Writer's Remorse

Sometimes I sit in front of the computer and things come easily; inspiration, words, themes, ideas, visions, phrases, characters; all of it comes flooding out in a cataclysmic outpouring of emotion and prose.

Other times, like today, I develop the thousand mile stare. The blinking icon, the blank page; it is the bane of my writing existence.

There’s another thing, sometimes I get angry with myself when I feel I should be writing more, or writing better, or when I don’t write at all; I get down. I start to feel like I’m losing my grip on things. I feel like it’s all slipping away; the writing, the career, the manuscript, the book deal, everything.

Writer’s remorse.

Sometimes when I write something that I feel is a steaming pile of compost I start thinking that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer. Maybe I was meant to be a sanitary engineer, or a gas station attendant, (or as one wag called himself, a “petroleum distribution technician”) but a funny thing happens; someone tells you that a story you wrote six months ago inspired them to dust off their old notebooks and start writing again, because someone or something in the past destroyed that love of writing for them. Someone told them they couldn’t, or shouldn’t do it. Or they just gave up.

At these times, I feel blessed that I have these abilities, and then I get back on the computer and write like hell.

At this moment of course, each word and sentence I’m typing is causing me agony. I’m writing when I shouldn’t be, that is, when I usually don’t. An hour ago I was staring at the screen watching the MS Word icon blink away, the blank page behind it white as snow. When this happens I usually just get eye strain or switch back to that time-eater called Twitter. Or I go watch TV; anything but this.

But I decided to fight through it, and not get down on myself. I’m beginning to see the merit in it.

Writer’s remorse? Imagine feeling guilty because you didn’t write anything one particular day. Seems ridiculous, but it happens. Writing comes from the soul (usually) and the words come from the heart (usually), but those avenues fail me sometimes. Writing and I are close friends. I hate letting friends down, and I hate letting myself down even more.

I mean, it’s not like I forgot to feed the dog, or left someone waiting at a street corner for six hours because I forgot we were supposed to meet up. This is writing for crying out loud, and yet, the guilt.

I will suppose here that this guilt comes from the fact that I tell everyone I know that I’m a writer. I tell them that I’m working on a manuscript, that I’ll be published someday, all of that rhetoric. I want them to believe it, and to believe in me. And when I tell myself that I want to be a writer and that I want to be published someday, I want to believe it too. But its hard work, It tears your heart out! And sometimes when nothing’s getting written you start feeling like all you do is flap your gums and talk about writing instead of doing what you’re supposed to be doing, which is writing. People aren’t stupid, they see this too.

The point of writing is to write, and if you’re not writing, what’s the point? Stupid as that sounds, there’s a simplistic logic to that.

I am a writer, I write, or try to. And sometimes when I don’t write I feel bad. I shouldn’t. Writing isn’t like taking out the garbage or washing the dishes (it can be just as odious sometimes), it is a highly cognitive affair; the art of it, the feel and flow of it, stems from whatever the hell is dwelling in your soul at the moment, and if nothings dwelling, there’s nothing to be written. In this manner I may excuse myself. Who can write 24 hours a day and keep up a consistent pace and quality? Maybe God can, but I can’t.

Writer’s remorse? Forget it.

Some days it’s a fight, like today is for me. My head was jammed with stressful thoughts ranging from money, to work, to the new apartment I’m moving into next week. Then there’s the blog, a minor beast which needs to be fed. I finally put these headphones on, and now Beethoven is helping me get through this post. It’s a fight sometimes, but man, when you start winning it feels so good.

Writer’s remorse? Forget it!

I’m finished with feeling bad about not reaching my quota, or not getting any pages written, or writing a page full of dung; that’s me baby! Besides, you can edit anything and make it readable, even dung. So don’t feel bad that you didn’t reach 6000 words today, or that you have developed cataracts from staring at that blinking icon and that blank page, forget it! Go for a walk, take a day off, think about something else, forget writer’s remorse, forget it all for awhile and go recharge your brain-battery, you’re only human.

And when you come back to that page, be blessed that you have that gift of words in you. Someday you may change someone’s life with that gift.

Writer’s remorse? Forget it.


David Hunter

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully - in Ten Minutes || Stephen King











"... So here it is, with all the bark stripped off. It'll take ten minutes to read, and you can apply it right away ... if you listen ..."







I. The First Introduction

THAT'S RIGHT. I know it sounds like an ad for some sleazy writers' school, but I really am going to tell you everything you need to pursue a successful and financially rewarding career writing fiction, and I really am going to do it in ten minutes, which is exactly how long it took me to learn. It will actually take you twenty minutes or so to read this essay, however, because I have to tell you a story, and then I have to write a second introduction. But these, I argue, should not count in the ten minutes.

II. The Story, or, How Stephen King Learned to Write

When I was a sophomore in high school, I did a sophomoric thing which got me in a pot of fairly hot water, as sophomoric didoes often do. I wrote and published a small satiric newspaper called The Village Vomit. In this little paper I lampooned a number of teachers at Lisbon (Maine) High School, where I was under instruction. These were not very gentle lampoons; they ranged from the scatological to the downright cruel.

Eventually, a copy of this little newspaper found its way into the hands of a faculty member, and since I had been unwise enough to put my name on it (a fault, some critics argue, of which I have still not been entirely cured), I was brought into the office. The sophisticated satirist had by that time reverted to what he really was: a fourteen-year-old kid who was shaking in his boots and wondering if he was going to get a suspension ... what we called "a three-day vacation" in those dim days of 1964.

I wasn't suspended. I was forced to make a number of apologies - they were warranted, but they still tasted like dog-dirt in my mouth - and spent a week in detention hall. And the guidance counselor arranged what he no doubt thought of as a more constructive channel for my talents. This was a job - contingent upon the editor's approval - writing sports for the Lisbon Enterprise, a twelve-page weekly of the sort with which any small-town resident will be familiar. This editor was the man who taught me everything I know about writing in ten minutes. His name was John Gould - not the famed New England humorist or the novelist who wrote The Greenleaf Fires, but a relative of both, I believe.

He told me he needed a sports writer and we could "try each other out" if I wanted.
I told him I knew more about advanced algebra than I did sports.
Gould nodded and said, "You'll learn."

I said I would at least try to learn. Gould gave me a huge roll of yellow paper and promised me a wage of 1/2¢ per word. The first two pieces I wrote had to do with a high school basketball game in which a member of my school team broke the Lisbon High scoring record. One of these pieces was straight reportage. The second was a feature article.

I brought them to Gould the day after the game, so he'd have them for the paper, which came out Fridays. He read the straight piece, made two minor corrections, and spiked it. Then he started in on the feature piece with a large black pen and taught me all I ever needed to know about my craft. I wish I still had the piece - it deserves to be framed, editorial corrections and all - but I can remember pretty well how it looked when he had finished with it. Here's an example:

(note: this is before the edit marks indicated on King's original copy)

Last night, in the well-loved gymnasium of Lisbon High School, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom, known as "Bullet" Bob for both his size and accuracy, scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed ... and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his knight-like quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon thinclads since 1953....

(after edit marks)

Last night, in the Lisbon High School gymnasium, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed ... and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon's basketball team since 1953....

When Gould finished marking up my copy in the manner I have indicated above, he looked up and must have seen something on my face. I think he must have thought it was horror, but it was not: it was revelation.

"I only took out the bad parts, you know," he said. "Most of it's pretty good."
"I know," I said, meaning both things: yes, most of it was good, and yes, he had only taken out the bad parts. "I won't do it again."

"If that's true," he said, "you'll never have to work again. You can do this for a living." Then he threw back his head and laughed.
And he was right; I am doing this for a living, and as long as I can keep on, I don't expect ever to have to work again.

III. The Second Introduction

All of what follows has been said before. If you are interested enough in writing to be a purchaser of this magazine, you will have either heard or read all (or almost all) of it before. Thousands of writing courses are taught across the United States each year; seminars are convened; guest lecturers talk, then answer questions, then drink as many gin and tonics as their expense-fees will allow, and it all boils down to what follows.

I am going to tell you these things again because often people will only listen - really listen - to someone who makes a lot of money doing the thing he's talking about. This is sad but true. And I told you the story above not to make myself sound like a character out of a Horatio Alger novel but to make a point: I saw, I listened, and I learned. Until that day in John Gould's little office, I had been writing first drafts of stories which might run 2,500 words. The second drafts were apt to run 3,300 words. Following that day, my 2,500-word first drafts became 2,200-word second drafts. And two years after that, I sold the first one.

So here it is, with all the bark stripped off. It'll take ten minutes to read, and you can apply it right away ... if you listen.

IV. Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully

1. Be talented

This, of course, is the killer. What is talent? I can hear someone shouting, and here we are, ready to get into a discussion right up there with "what is the meaning of life?" for weighty pronouncements and total uselessness. For the purposes of the beginning writer, talent may as well be defined as eventual success - publication and money. If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.

Now some of you are really hollering. Some of you are calling me one crass money-fixated creep. And some of you are calling me bad names. Are you calling Harold Robbins talented? someone in one of the Great English Departments of America is screeching. V.C. Andrews? Theodore Dreiser? Or what about you, you dyslexic moron?

Nonsense. Worse than nonsense, off the subject. We're not talking about good or bad here. I'm interested in telling you how to get your stuff published, not in critical judgments of who's good or bad. As a rule the critical judgments come after the check's been spent, anyway. I have my own opinions, but most times I keep them to myself. People who are published steadily and are paid for what they are writing may be either saints or trollops, but they are clearly reaching a great many someones who want what they have. Ergo, they are communicating. Ergo, they are talented. The biggest part of writing successfully is being talented, and in the context of marketing, the only bad writer is one who doesn't get paid. If you're not talented, you won't succeed. And if you're not succeeding, you should know when to quit.
When is that? I don't know. It's different for each writer. Not after six rejection slips, certainly, nor after sixty. But after six hundred? Maybe. After six thousand? My friend, after six thousand pinks, it's time you tried painting or computer programming.

Further, almost every aspiring writer knows when he is getting warmer - you start getting little jotted notes on your rejection slips, or personal letters . . . maybe a commiserating phone call. It's lonely out there in the cold, but there are encouraging voices ... unless there is nothing in your words which warrants encouragement. I think you owe it to yourself to skip as much of the self-illusion as possible. If your eyes are open, you'll know which way to go ... or when to turn back.

2. Be neat

Type. Double-space. Use a nice heavy white paper, never that erasable onion-skin stuff. If you've marked up your manuscript a lot, do another draft.

3. Be self-critical

If you haven't marked up your manuscript a lot, you did a lazy job. Only God gets things right the first time. Don't be a slob.

4. Remove every extraneous word

You want to get up on a soapbox and preach? Fine. Get one and try your local park. You want to write for money? Get to the point. And if you remove all the excess garbage and discover you can't find the point, tear up what you wrote and start all over again . . . or try something new.

5. Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft

You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right - and breaking your train of thought and the writer's trance in the bargain - or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don't have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it ... but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don't do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.

6. Know the markets

Only a dimwit would send a story about giant vampire bats surrounding a high school to McCall's. Only a dimwit would send a tender story about a mother and daughter making up their differences on Christmas Eve to Playboy ... but people do it all the time. I'm not exaggerating; I have seen such stories in the slush piles of the actual magazines. If you write a good story, why send it out in an ignorant fashion? Would you send your kid out in a snowstorm dressed in Bermuda shorts and a tank top? If you like science fiction, read the magazines. If you want to write confession stories, read the magazines. And so on. It isn't just a matter of knowing what's right for the present story; you can begin to catch on, after awhile, to overall rhythms, editorial likes and dislikes, a magazine's entire slant. Sometimes your reading can influence the next story, and create a sale.

7. Write to entertain

Does this mean you can't write "serious fiction"? It does not. Somewhere along the line pernicious critics have invested the American reading and writing public with the idea that entertaining fiction and serious ideas do not overlap. This would have surprised Charles Dickens, not to mention Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Bernard Malamud, and hundreds of others. But your serious ideas must always serve your story, not the other way around. I repeat: if you want to preach, get a soapbox.

8. Ask yourself frequently, "Am I having fun?"

The answer needn't always be yes. But if it's always no, it's time for a new project or a new career.

9. How to evaluate criticism

Show your piece to a number of people - ten, let us say. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Smile and nod a lot. Then review what was said very carefully. If your critics are all telling you the same thing about some facet of your story - a plot twist that doesn't work, a character who rings false, stilted narrative, or half a dozen other possibles - change that facet. It doesn't matter if you really liked that twist of that character; if a lot of people are telling you something is wrong with you piece, it is. If seven or eight of them are hitting on that same thing, I'd still suggest changing it. But if everyone - or even most everyone - is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of them say.

10. Observe all rules for proper submission
Return postage, self-addressed envelope, all of that.

11. An agent? Forget it. For now

Agents get 10% of monies earned by their clients. 10% of nothing is nothing. Agents also have to pay the rent. Beginning writers do not contribute to that or any other necessity of life. Flog your stories around yourself. If you've done a novel, send around query letters to publishers, one by one, and follow up with sample chapters and/or the manuscript complete. And remember Stephen King's First Rule of Writers and Agents, learned by bitter personal experience: You don't need one until you're making enough for someone to steal ... and if you're making that much, you'll be able to take your pick of good agents.

12. If it's bad, kill it

When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.

That's everything you need to know. And if you listened, you can write everything and anything you want. Now I believe I will wish you a pleasant day and sign off.
My ten minutes are up.
(The above article is copyright Stephen King, 1988)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009



TO A POET A THOUSAND YEARS HENCE
by: James Elroy Flecker


I Who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Mæonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.


'To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence' is reprinted from An Anthology of Modern Verse. Ed. A. Methuen. London: Methuen & Co., 1921.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Vonnegut's Eight Rules of Writing Fiction

Vonnegut's Eight Rules of Writing Fiction, from Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999), p. 9-10:


1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages. -- Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Letter to Brian

I’m not black, I’m white.

Those words jar me. I don’t think in terms of color when the issue of humanity comes up, only when the issue of race does. This vision is thrust upon me, like an unwanted, smelly relative.

Race issues do only one thing for me; remind me that I’m white. Otherwise I walk through life not even thinking about the color of my skin, or anyone else’s for that matter. I suppose it’s easy for me, being Caucasian. But I also never thought of black folks as anything other than people. The Race issue, it’s like a bomb; no one notices it until it gets armed, or goes off. As a kid growing up in Toronto, I never thought much about these things. I loved everyone, black, white or green.

But the culture forced it on me.

One of my best friends growing up was a kid named Brian. He was the only black boy in a neighborhood full of Canadians and Italians, and he got his share of razzing. They used to call him “nigger-jigger” and all sorts of other nasty things. I may have said it a couple of times too, but when I saw the look on Brian’s face when I said it, I regretted the act immediately. He wasn’t a gangster, he wasn’t a punk, or a thief, or a drug dealer, or a trouble maker. He was just sweet old Brian, who always came calling on me to play, and inviting me to his house to eat mayonnaise and toast. He was a human being, and I hurt him. It hurts me now to write this.

To his mother’s credit, Brian never lashed out, never called us “white trash” or “honkies” or anything else. He never said a word. She taught him to face things with dignity, and to not lower himself in response to such cruel taunting. To be fair, as a kid I had no idea what that “N” word meant. I mean it; I was that innocent. I only knew that the kids thought it was funny, it was something to chant, something to bug Brian about. At the time we were fairly isolated from a lot of things, because there was no internet, no cell phones, no 24-hour news cycles, no swearing on television. No anything. We learned from the streets. And there was a lot of ignorance.

Kids used to treat Brian roughly, like he was some kind of second class citizen. I used to stick up for him, protect him. Sometimes I wasn’t around to do that though. The Italian kids would never share candy with him. They’d beat him up, leave him out of games, and taunt him. This was in the early 80’s. Only a few years removed from Martin Luther King’s assassination. Oh, how far we didn’t come.

One day, Brian and I were walking down the street. It was a beautiful summer day, the sky was azure blue, and the air was thick and hot. I had a bag of candy and was sharing it with him (Jelly Beans, Gummi Worms, sugar, etc…) when, down the street, a large German Sheppard had spotted us, and we started running towards Collins house (This made the dog chase us, of course) This kid Collin had the only house on the street with a large wooden fence around the front yard, and we got there panting and yelling for him to let us in. He did, but when I ran through the gate Collin suddenly slammed the door shut, locking it, and leaving Brian out there. There was screaming and yelling, and I fought Collin to open that gate, because I could hear Brian out there screaming that the dog was attacking him, biting his leg. By the time I forced Collin aside and opened the door, the dog’s owner had captured his beast and re-leashed him, but Brian was lying on the sidewalk, bleeding and crying. I looked at Collin, amazed, and almost as if I had asked the question out loud instead of in my head, he answered me.

“My father doesn’t allow blacks in the yard.” He said.

To be fair, he was young, and he was taking his cues from his father, who grew up in a much more racist culture, but it still doesn’t excuse it. Black or white, Brian was a human being, a human being, not a color, not a thing. He needed rabies shots after that. Can you imagine?

But Brian, sweet and soft spoken Brian, always came back out to play. He even forgave Collin, quietly. I’m sure he rankled with anger and emotion, but he never showed it.

He earned my eternal respect that day.

That was a long time ago, and a lot has happened since then, but I still think about Brian, and how I once called him that nasty word, and how he got locked out of a yard and bitten by a dog because his skin happened to be a different color. I think about him all the time when the race thing comes up, and that’s what it is, a thing. I will lend no credence to racism because it shouldn’t exist. I suppose this is my apology to him, for everything he went through and for his dignity in the face of it all. I always felt I should have done more to protect him, but I was only 11 years old. There was only so much I could do. Those kinds of things were just beyond me then.

But I know one thing now; Racism is the product of ignorance, and ignorance is the product of its culture, and I believe racism and ignorance are learned behaviors. But what can be learned can be un-learned, can’t it?



Brian, if you ever read this, I am so sorry.





(This post is in response to "Fun is Not Fun When You Spell It: Exploring Race Issues with Our Youth" by g.g. spirit ~ http://ggspiritwrites.blogspot.com/ )

Monday, July 27, 2009





Beachcomber; One who scavenges along beaches or in wharf areas, a seaside vacationer.

I stand on the beach strewn with rocks and shells and crazy collages of human refuse; old bottles, faded shoes, sunglasses, a pair of worn Levi’s; a real sandy junk yard. Everything looks old, but it’s just the sun having beaten down on them for so long. I feel old too, but it’s just the quiet that does it to me; I am still relatively young, it’s just my mind that ages here.

Georgian Bay, on the southern shore of Lake Huron, is flat limestone plain and cedar marshes. The Anishinaabeg First Nations peoples to the North and Huron-Petun (Wyandot) to the south own this land, in spirit anyway. I feel I own it too, in some primordial way. When I walk this beach, one of the longest stretches of beach in North America by the way, 8.7 miles of it, I become lost in time. I walk with the ancients, and their ghosts. I could discover the meaning of life here, given enough time.

The meaning of life; I feel ill-equipped to tackle the often heavy subject, but the surf and sand and distant seagulls point my soul in that direction anyway. I’ve often left my friends there on the beach to wander down the road, so to speak, usually late in the day when the sun is low across the water and the skies are turning dusky blue and rusty pink. This beach has another perk; you can walk out almost a quarter mile into the water and stare north to the horizon where there is nothing but sky and water, infinity, and aloneness. It’s like staring into a beautiful abyss.

Walking; further down the beach there are crags and rocks, where most of the best stuff is found. I find beautiful pieces of ornate sea-wood, which I keep for whittling by the fire. There are stones and rocks older then Moses here, and storm glass; Mother Nature takes old broken wine and beer bottle shards and buffs and sands them for years in the tides. When they return from this process they are smooth and round and lovely; I collect them by the handful. Sometimes I find old bones, seagulls, and fish. That’s okay, this is their place, and they are entitled to die here. I can find no more peaceful memorial ground then this. But the sky is growing long, and purple clouds are sailing across the darkening blue and I don’t want to leave this. I turn to look down the beach and see that my friends are packing things up, getting ready to leave, so I guess I must go. I scan the ground for another souvenir, a stone to take with me as a memento. I see a lovely buffed pink one and I pick it up, but suddenly I feel guilty. I should leave it, because it belongs here, and I have no right to take it. I put it back, and head for the crowd. They are far off in the distance, growing misty in the dusk, so I have plenty of time for thought.

I think about Jesse.

Did I ever tell you about Jesse? He’s a Dutch dwarf bunny, 8 years old now, pretty good for a rabbit. We got him Christmas Eve at a pet store for my girlfriend Clair in 2001. She took to him immediately, whenever she stopped crying for joy of course. Jesse is a spirited little cuss, and he makes a funny honking noise when he’s riled up. I was surprised at how cat-like he was; he’d sit on your lap and let you pet him for hours, he’d use a litter-box. He’d grunt his displeasure at you too. His fur is a winter white color, and he has sparkling blue eyes; the better to stare into our souls with. He’s been a great pet and a great companion for the past eight years.

We just found out he may have cancer.

Thinking of this as I walk the beach, I wonder about the meaning of things, and why people exist, and then die. Certainly not a new question and I’m certainly not the first to wonder about it, but at times when I’m faced with unpleasant things, I begin to wonder. I wonder about all the people who have ever lived and died and who have looked upon the same sun, sky and moon, who have walked the same Earth, sand, and beach, and I wonder what it all means.

This essay will not answer these questions.

So, when we finish our trip, leave Georgian Bay and head back into reality, we have to make a decision about Jesse. It’s one I don’t wish to make.

Leave no business unfinished, leave no stone unturned, and leave no person unloved. The meaning of life could be that simple.

I’ve reached my friends, and the closer I get, the further my existential thoughts are drifting away. They are young; I am young too, perhaps too young to be wrestling with these questions.

But it’s the beach, and the beachcomber in me. I search for answers in life as I do on the beach. It’s just my questing nature I guess.

The meaning of life will have to wait for another day.

~The Writers Den on Twitter~

~The Writers Den on Twitter~
Tap This!