I Saw You First

I saw you first. Young and beautiful with a smile that lit up the room, you walked into my life and right past me as I stood dumbfounded and curious with my mind fluttering in the wind. I watched you across room and sit at the other end of the long table.  I became impervious to the conversations around me. The room, filled with excited conversations, introductions, new friends, and old friends, hung in the balance around me, but I lost myself in your smile and the easy way you conversed with those next to you, the ebb and flow reminded me of the surreal ocean tides in the glare of a gorgeous sunset. I wanted to meet you, talk to you, and get to know you better, but that night was only a preview, a precursor of things to come. Great things.

I saw you again, later but not so late that my heart burst unfulfilled. I sat closer to you and we chatted briefly, amicably, two strangers trying to draw an outline of our connection. I felt it immediately. I hoped you did too. An electric moment that sparked and briefly illuminated the space between us. Would a fire burn or fade unable to catch on in the hurried pace of judgment, a million tiny decisions that left unchecked could have overwhelmed the possibility. The night passed and filled the bucket of hope, a million tiny drops bubbling with excitement.

I wanted to see you again. The moment came fast, two more-than-strangers roaming the bright city streets pulsing with the revival of spring, a reprieve from a long winter. That spark, that space between us, it lit up like a camp fire that finally takes after many false starts. It started burning steadily that night, strong enough to illuminate a version of us, one that would persist and glow ever brighter.

I had to see you again. You filled all the space in my thoughts, drenched them like a warm spring flowing gently over smooth rocks. We’d never been alone together; we were always in a crowd. I had to know you better, see you for who you were, dance in the bright light of your smile, relax in the warmth of your beauty. Once alone with you, I knew. Your touch, your embrace revealed a world of possibilities.

I saw you again and again, and each time my feelings for you grew stronger. Like breathing, our connection came easily, effortlessly. A truth exists when there’s no argument against it no matter that only two can interpret it this way. It only takes two.

I saw you first. I loved you from the beginning. At first I loved the idea of you and then the reality of you. In no one has the dream and the reality become so much the same. I love you until my last breath. The beginning and now are but a sign of things to come. Great things.

What I’ve Done

It’s been almost two years since I’ve committed myself to realizing my dream of writing and publishing a novel.  In that span of time, I’ve written a lot, which isn’t that much different than what I was doing before, but I’ve also learned a ton in my pursuit of publication.  When I first decided to write a novel, that’s all I did for a few months.  Every morning, I’d write 1,000 words or more and they’d add up.  In three months I had my first 80,000-word novel in draft form.  The moment I wrote the last sentence of my first novel remains one of the most satisfying experiences in my writing career.  Finally, I had finished a novel.  I printed the 300 pages for my wife to read (she’s always my beta reader), and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a stack of paper as I was at that moment.

Actually finishing a novel is only half of the process.  Next, comes the seemingly endless edits.  I like to let a story sit for a while and come back to it later for edits.  I usually move onto the next project before I do any serious editing on a just-finished novel.  This forces me to detach myself from the characters and the story and helps me edit more keenly.  Characters become like best friends after you spend several months with them, and the story is your baby.  No one wants to hurt their baby.  The distance of time helps.

In the time since I’ve started this process, I’ve completed three novels, and I’m almost done with a fourth.  I’m using the verb “completed” rather liberally because until they actually get published they’re not really complete.  Maybe I should redefine complete to mean they’re in a state of wholeness in the sense that the story is there, but it may need to be redefined to get to the publication stage.

One thing that has helped me get closer to publication is that I’ve been engaged with the writing community.  I’ve joined the local writer’s association, Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association (PNWA) and I’ve subscribed to Writer’s Digest along with many other websites that offer resources as well as communities for writers.  I’m learning as much as I can about the trade from professional resources as well as other writers.  This engagement has encouraged me to submit my writing for critiques and enter writing contests, both of which have provided invaluable feedback on my work.

I’ve also engaged agents.  I’ve reached out to them and received feedback on my work from them as well.  This has helped me determine what I need to do to better prepare my stories for publication.  It’s definitely a work in progress.  I’m not necessarily in a hurry, but I have my goals in mind.  I’d love to have a long career as a writer.  I don’t want it to become my day job, but I want to thrive in this creative outlet, which really is a sharp contrast to my day job.

The result is that I have four novels that are at various stops along the road to publication.  Below is a brief description of each novel as well as where I’m at with it.  As I progress on each of these, I continue to work on new things and push forward with new ideas.  It’s important to keep working and focusing on the craft while keeping an eye on the things I’ve “finished.”

The Vanishing – Ella Warfield is no stranger to personal tragedy, but when her husband of over thirty years slips into the void of a rare form of dementia at a relatively young age, she finds herself struggling to survive. Alone, depressed, and fearing that she has failed her husband yet again, Ella concocts a murder-suicide plan to put an end to their misery, but her courage and unexpected occurrences threaten to thwart her plan as she comes face-to-face with her own motivations. The Vanishing is a story of survival and finding hope and strength when the odds are against you.  This is my first novel.  I’ve received several critiques on this book and I’m currently going through significant revisions based on the feedback I’ve received.

All Things Certain – Matt and Brad were the best of friends growing up but had fallen out of touch once Brad moved away for college.  Now that Brad has returned to his hometown and reconnected with his old friend, Matt is eager to resume the great friendship they once shared a decade ago, but Brad has changed in ways that are unfathomable to him.  Nothing embodies who Brad really is more than his friend Trevor, whom Matt summarily dismisses based on his own biased view of the world.  The resulting conflict severs their friendship until a tragic event forces Matt to reconsider all that he once thought was certain.  The topic of this novel is decidedly controversial but timely.  I’ve received some feedback on it, and I need to make some adjustments.  I’m getting additional critiques on this one before I send it out to more agents.

That Which Binds Us – By all accounts, Susan Baker’s youngest son, Tommy, has never been an easy child.  Temperamental and under-developed mentally, he often withdrew from the world around him save for his mother, who became his best friend and confidante as he grew into a young man, but nothing prepared her for the violent crime that leaves him convicted of murder and facing life in prison.  Believing he was wrongfully accused and convicted by a community hell-bent on blaming someone for the heinous crime, Susan puts her faith in a pedantic lawyer to get her son a new trial and overturn his conviction.  Despite being estranged from her family for her support of her youngest son, Susan attempts to enlist them to support Tommy at his sentencing hearing, but the family dynamic proves too volatile resulting in a desperate act that changes all of their lives forever.  I’ve entered this novel into the annual PNWA writing competition.  The value of entering competitions is not just the potential to get recognition but also the critiques that you receive.  I’ve also submitted this novel to a few agents and I’m awaiting their feedback.

The Weight of Regret – John Lambert left behind an unfortunate legacy when he surreptitiously abandoned his family over thirty years ago, but a near-fatal crash in a remote canyon in northern Arizona leaves him with a few precious moments to give his wife and three children some answers for his unsolved disappearance on a bitterly cold day in January 1980.  As he scribbles out letters to each of them, he reflects on what he left behind and the reasons for his selfish behavior.  Unbeknownst to him, the lives of his loved ones have played out differently in the intervening years, sometimes tragically, but the impact of his abandonment is never far-removed their thoughts even after three decades.  As John clings to life, he resolves to make things right if given the chance to see his family again.  This is the current novel I’m working on and it’s still in the rough draft phase.  I hope to have the draft complete by the end of April and begin editing it after my beta readers take a look at it.  Once I feel it’s in reasonable shape, I’ll submit for critiques.

 

Run. Write. Repeat.

I never know when writing ideas will strike.  They seem to come at me at the most inopportune moments like when I’m in the shower, on a walk far away from pen and paper or my laptop, or in those fleeting moments before I fall asleep and I’m too tired to get up and write.  Sometimes, I capture the idea and record it in my virtual notebook on my computer where it will sit idly by waiting for me to flesh it out.  I have a long list of ideas in my notebook, enough to keep me busy for years, but so far only four of those ideas have been turned into novels. and a few short stories.

Despite the slow pace of turning these ideas into viable stories, I’m always searching for new ones, whether it’s a concept for an entire novel, a scene for a novel I’m working on, or just a character that just doesn’t seem to work or come to life for me.  Like many things creative, I can’t just make them happen.  In fact, many times when I sit down to write, the words flow from my fingertips like they’re possessed by some unseen creative demon.  I get “in the zone” like an athlete competing in the Olympics and the words just come out.  When I’m done, I’m often relieved like getting it out was a strenuous exercise or an arduous task of some kind; although, I’m aware that anyone catching me in the act of writing while reclined in my favorite chair would think it is anything but grueling.

While I’ve never been able to capture this genie in a bottle, there are some reliably predictable situations where creativity seems to flow in a symbiotic way that feeds my mind.  I’m sure many writers have their methods, but for me, running is that elixir that produces the right volatile mix of exertion and ideas that seem to intermingle in the ether and fuel new ideas, characters, or scenes that help me work through the latest challenge in my stories.  My wife often asks me to take my young son outdoors so that he can play and get his “ya-yas” out.  Well, running is a way for me to get my creative “ya-yas” out, so to speak.

I usually write in the early mornings before I run.  On some mornings, the words just flow like honey from a jar.  On others, the blank page and blinking cursor taunt me like an implacable infant while my words stutter and stumble across the page like a drunken sailor.  No matter which condition afflicts me, a good run will work it all out.  Running after a particularly good writing session just fuels more ideas as if I am writing on the trail with my feet.  Running after a challenging session seems to help me work out the kinks and get back on track.  There’s something to be said about the seemingly mindless act of exerting oneself physically.  It frees the mind to wander and investigate those areas that one may be reluctant to peruse in a more conscious state.  In my case, it helps me through the challenge of writing.  It’s the only thing that works consistently time and again.

After a good run, I’m clear-eyed and alert.  My mind is keenly focused.  I feel like I can conquer any story or overcome any writer’s block that may lurk on that dastardly blank page.  If I’m so inclined, I’ll run and then return and write even if it’s just a scribble on a few pages or hastily typed in my virtual notebook.  A run-fueled surge of ideas is often the perfect cure for all that ails my writing, a nice reset that puts me back on the path to my journey as an author.