Words From the Waking World

Here’s some more poetry from days past.

I Was Wrong

There is the smell of terror here
And all the lights make shadow sounds
That shiver like a fire on my walls
And there, reflected, stands my crooked monster
Gun to temple, extension of my failure
Embodied in the flicker from the torches
That the fouled, senseless mob shakes
As they watch my great mistake from the distance
Of my eyes.

Spraying in a tick-tock rhythm, the splinters
From this wreckage, tossed by fire
From the holiest place, now desecrated, now deceased
Old gods, new territory, newer structure
To this cutting, to this monumental loss
They loose the great dammed confrontation
That’s been swelling in my rib cage,
That’s been feeding on my heart.

And the ceiling trembles with heat, with ruddy passions
Unkempt beneath the cages any longer
Rising like the sun only to die in angry colors
Intricate as sidewalk chalk to powder at my fingers
Erased now by the fires that twist their golden hinges
‘round my innocence, my charity to older institutions
And the smoke comes on in steady streams
And it tastes greasy in my lungs
When I inhale.

The Song Of Stars

Spinning on our filaments
Like candles in the void
Delicate like promises
Or love, still undestroyed

Blanketed in firmament
We dance within the night
And burn on everlasting
And our bodies are your light

The strong and sacred signal
Bids our voices now to still
You call across the distance
Dropping wishes at our sill

With heavy hopes we hold them
Never knowing what these are
Your wishes are a cold thing
In the soft hands of a star

Slowly stops our spinning
As your wishing weighs us down
And our thread begins to falter
And our light begins to drown

And our bodies, weak and broken
Fall like streamers through your sky
And you stand outside to watch us
As we breathe our last and die

I really like that last one… Feel free to let me know what you think.

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How I Found Flash Fiction, Part 2

(This is the second installment of How I Found Flash Fiction, the fascinating tale of a close friend of mine, Cory Bradley.)

Staggering from my foray into poetry, I now grasped for anything that would redeem for me the writing experience. Thankfully, despite his tragic flaw of being a poet, Mr. White, the instructor of the Creative Writing course, put as much emphasis on the validity of short stories as a literary art form and offered numerous opportunities for his students to spread our fictive wings. And spread our wings we did.

Among the many stories that resulted from the class were the nonsensical (a one-sided telephone conversation between a boy and his dead best friend), intriguing (four friends who believed they each embodied a separate aspect of one complete personality), dark (a suicidal man who manipulates his violent brother to end his life), bizarre (a murder mystery aboard a cruise ship of transvestite wizards), and utterly mundane (a lonely woman’s quiet night at home). Though I won’t admit which of these stories was my own contribution, I will offer a hint that none involved seafaring, cross-dressing warlocks.

Clearly, most of our submissions were thoroughly awful and, as such, subject to Mr. White’s harsh criticism. Of course I wasn’t exempt from his rebuke, nor immune to its sting, but I was nonetheless heartened by the fact that not once during his critique of our stories did he misinterpret what we were trying to say – although some of our inane and sophomoric thoughts may have benefited from some misinterpretation. So it was that by the end of term, though weary, humiliated and a little confused, I left with a notion of prose’s merit, a notion turned conviction after receiving an email from Mr. White some weeks after the course had ended.

Needless to say, I was dumbfounded to read that Mr. White didn’t believe that every story I had written during his course was complete garbage, specifically a story involving a man suffering from narcolepsy. In fact, he admitted that I was one of three students that had written a story not just worthy of commendation, but potentially worthy of publication, if only in the school’s literary journal. The email came with an invitation to polish my story under Mr. White’s tutelage with a view to submitting it for consideration in the journal’s next issue. By that time, my wounded pride had sufficiently healed enough to set aside my dislike of Mr. White and I accepted his help. As a result of our collaboration, I came to see the written word through the eyes of this stern, critical, and wholly unlikable man, and soon he became my cherished mentor. As a result, my love of the writing process blossomed: plot and pacing, characterization, narrative and dialogue, revision and proofreading; every phase was a wondrous step in the simple art of telling an uncomplicated story, a passion for which I retain to this day.

So what became of my short story? I wasn’t to find out for another few months while backpacking around Ireland, which was just the next of many experiences that would eventually lead me to flash fiction.

More to come soon…

Cory has recently published several pieces of flash fiction, each taking place within the literary landscape of Auditorium, a city that holds a larger, overarching story. You can find his flash fiction here and here. Please let us know what you think.

Hey Everybody

It’s been a few days. You all must be missing me terribly… (sarcasm)

Thought I’d just make a couple of comments about progress on my book. Michelle at Mill City was kind enough to send me, for free, three books they’ve printed. One Print-On-Demand and two printed using an offset printer. Very professional move to include samples of print quality for free. They’re the only self-publisher I’ve talked to that offers that.

None of the three books sent to me were anything I would consider buying, but the quality of print and materials used were great.

In my efforts to figure out funding for this project, I’ve been going through my things, trying to find anything of value to sell. I have an old 50 cent piece that’s worth about $8.50, but that’s not gonna get me very far…

I was able to procure an antique Lachenal concertina several years ago from a family friend that was using it as decoration and had no idea of its value. It’s very old (probably 1921 or 1922) and should have pretty good value. So I’ve been working on finding someone to appraise its value and then I’ll try sell it. I should be able to get at least $1000 for it. But we’ll see. It could be worth far more or, more likely, a bit less.

The more time goes on, the more hungry I am for this project to be successful. Anybody want to buy a concertina?

Old Pantomime

Old-Pantomime

“Sexless, Old Pantomime was all your actions never taken. It’s swollen fingers, many-colored, smudged with makeup and with blood and sweat and semen, trembled at the sound of her arrival. One eye, wide and crying, swiveled then to watch her. The other, deep in dreaming, spun and shook beneath a bruised and battered eyelid. It’s mouth was endless smiling. And, in a voice barely a whisper, Old Pantomime spoke.”

Another update!!! This is Old Pantomime, the next character I’ll be introducing you to. That first paragraph gives a pretty strong visual, I think. And it’s one that the VERY talented Stephen Oakley has rendered very effectively in this sketch. I think the idea that this character exists in the same universe as the Willow King enriches the overall story. That was my hope. To make it real, even in its impossibility.

So, anyways, as that first sentence mentioned, Old Pantomime is all your actions never taken. All the things you didn’t do when you had the chance. That means that Old Pantomime is different to each person. It can only speak in the words you could have spoken, but never did. Therefore, it’s vocabulary is limited quite a bit, making each thing it says somewhat enigmatic and sometimes like a riddle.

I think you probably already see the metaphor here, as it’s pretty thinly veiled. Old Pantomime is that special kind of regret that sounds like ‘what if?’ It is monstrous with all the terrible things that could have happened to you, but never did. But it is also stuck in the duality of experiencing all the joys you never felt.

We don’t spend a lot of time with this character in the book, as by this time the story is nearing its end. But it is my hope that it’ll be at least a little unsettling and I feel really satisfied with the art in that regard.

Please let me know what you think.

“The Princess reached her slender fingers forth to thank Old Pantomime and as they touched it was like holding her own hand. She spoke once more before taking her leave from that polluted place. She said

“I thank you for your help, Sovereign Pantomime. I do not wish upon you all the terrors you will feel once those terrors have been stricken from my land. But I call you forth to Nowhere, nonetheless.”

And with those few cold words, she put her arms around herself as if to ward away the growing chill and stepped back through the gate into the nothing place.”

Musicality

So I think I’ve mentioned that a couple of the poems I’ve posted were songs. So I figured I’d share those with you, if that’s ok. Full disclosure: I’m slightly nervous to be sharing music with the world. So be gentle with me… 🙂

So there you have it… Musically, I go by the name burning the willow.

Anthems

Hey guys. Thought I’d share some completely unrelated stuff… Over the years (as I’m sure many of you have) I’ve compiled songs that seemed to have deeper meaning to me, usually based on what I was going through at the time. I call them anthems, but a more accurate description would be ‘if my life were a movie, this would be the soundtrack’. Luckily, my life will never be anything but my life, but I thought I’d share the songs nonetheless.

Words For Empty Autumn

Yours Forever, Breathlessly

If I could give you all the voices
Making noises in my head…
If I could change the tides and choices
I’d be yours, eternally

If I could calm the quiet earthquakes
Shaking down your inner sky…
If I could make the sound your heart makes
I’d be yours forever

Yours forever, breathlessly
In wave on wave of innocence
And all the stars would envy at our love

If I could show you hope beyond this
Break away your misery…
If I could find the nerve for one kiss
Maybe you would love me

If I could cure the ills inside me
Grow beyond my ignorance…
If I could tame the fire beside me
Maybe I’d be yours

Yours forever, breathlessly
In wave on wave of innocence
And all the stars would envy at our love

If I could steady this thin paper frame
If I could pull the clouds from angry skies
If I was quick enough to slow your falling
If I wasn’t afraid of looking you in the eyes
I would be…

 

You might have guessed that these are mostly lyrics… This one has music too.

I Could Never Catch The Rain

Chasing the delicate rain for a feeling
A feeling I’d lost between caring and pain
And somewhere inside all the lies and the stealing
There’s a place the rain pours and its here I remain

I ran for you
I always do…

You fall so far away from me
I can only hold my hands up high
But I could never catch you
I could never catch the rain

Collecting the sputtering storm as it falls
Willing you down with my prayers for your solace
All my windows are open and soft the rain crawls
Like a dream on my eyes, falling gentle and flawless

I run for you
You follow through…

You fall so far to rain on me
I can only hold my hands up high
To feel you kiss my fingers
And know that you will stay

How I Found Flash Fiction, Part 1

(This is the first installment of a series I hope you’ll enjoy. Each Friday I plan on hosting a guest post here that will, in some way, reflect back to writing. Tonight’s installment is from a close friend of mine, Cory Bradley.)

Unlike my dear friend Jordan, I am not a poet. My first genuine attempt to write poetry was at 11 years old. In 6th grade I wrote what I thought to be a masterful haiku starting with the words “The ocean wind blows…” (note the 5-syllable count). I distinctly remember the opening line because my elementary school nemesis sought to sabotage my masterpiece, so that at the time of publication my poem was no longer a piece about the sea breeze but the male genitalia. Hurt and confused, but with a fresh understanding that vulnerability was subject to cruel criticism and penile references, my taste of poetry soured.

As far as I recall, I did not try to write another poem for the remainder of my time in middle or high school. In fact, it was not until 8 years later that I again tried my hand at the craft, once more with disillusioning results. In college, in a creative writing course, I overcame my distaste to fulfill a dreaded assignment. At the suggestion to first find a subject, my mind turned to a girl that I was infatuated with at the time. She was mostly deaf and I wondered at the idea that if ever we were to have children, how would she know if they were crying in the middle of the night. The result was a simple poem…or so I thought. The instructor, however, a published poet, granted my words a deep meaning that I certainly didn’t intend. “What I understand this to mean is that the child is dead, and for that reason the mother is deaf to her baby’s cries.” Uh…no. “The mother’s hearing loss is a manifestation of her guilt for abandoning her child.” Wrong again. I refuted several more of my professor’s attempts to infuse profound meaning into my poem, which left us both disappointed. He was disgusted that any poem should be so shallow and I learned once again the harsh truth that poetry was simply an invitation for humiliation.

Though it took some time for me to draw the conclusion, this experience was the catalyst for the realization that my poetry was misleading. I do not believe that I am a deep well of unrequited emotion that needs to be obliquely expressed, my true feelings disguised by graceful verse. I am nothing more than what is on the page, and I don’t wish to be misrepresented because the reader believes there is some hidden message in my superficial words. That isn’t to say, however, that I don’t have something inside that I want, need, to say. I simply don’t wish for my meaning to be veiled and risk misinterpretation. No, when I write I want to be sure anyone who reads my words knows what they are meant to say. This desire, though unknown at the time, was the reason that in that same creative writing class I was first drawn to prose. And, in particular, the form of the short story.

But more on that later.

 Cory has recently published several pieces of flash fiction, each taking place within the literary landscape of Auditorium, a city that holds a larger, overarching story. You can find his flash fiction here and here. Cory will be back next week (hopefully) with part 2. Please let us know what you think.

In Regards To Earlier Posts

So this is in reference to the last post… (And it becomes clear to me that my book project related posts are the least liked, but I keep thinking this information might be helpful to somebody.)

I talked to Michelle from MillCity Press again yesterday and she set a few things straight. She says:

“When it comes to comparing print on demand digital printing services to offset printing services, the biggest advantage to using an offset printer is that an offset printer provides a much more expansive array of printing options to choose from, which can impact the printing quality of the book. Offset printers provide the option for authors to use higher grades of paper and binding for their printing runs, as well as more specialized lamination choices for the cover.”

That agrees with the other research I’ve done. So my goal remains Offset printing. Now comes the tricky part…

And HEY EVERYBODY! Starting tomorrow, I’m planning on having a guest post on here every Friday. This one comes from an author friend, and I think you’re going to like it. So please check back in tomorrow. And goodnight.

Sometimes It Makes A Difference

So today I talked to Adam from AuthorHouse. They’re another self-publishing firm (why do I keep calling them ‘firms’? They’re just a regular company, right? It just sounds better to me for some reason…) that offers print-on-demand services. I’m not looking for print-on-demand because, from all the research I’ve done, it’s not high quality enough for illustrations. But my research is wrong, according to Adam.

He wanted me to understand that their parent company is Random House, so any lapse in quality would be very bad for both them and their parent company, so I had better believe him that print-on-demand is high quality enough! Adam seemed very much like he’d never heard of offset printing before today…

Needless to say, he did not instill much confidence in me. He seemed impatient on the phone (especially for a phone salesman…) and he informed me that they don’t allow authors to do their own formatting, as it might mean some extra work for them. He had never heard of MillCity Press, the other self-publishing firm (there’s that word again!) I’ve been in contact with, which doesn’t bode well for a convincing pitch. Needless to say, I wasn’t too impressed with what I’ve heard so far from AuthorHouse.

There ARE a couple positives. Their package fees are a fair bit less expensive than MillCity and their prices to add images to the manuscript are far less. (Theirs are $5 per image beyond the 10 free they include, whereas MillCity I believe was $50 beyond the 10). They include phone conversation with a marketing professional as part of their packages, though marketing services themselves are separate.

Price is super important as far as I’m concerned, as the smaller the price is the more likely I am to reach my crowdfunding goals. Marketing is super important too, as I don’t want to end up paying for a product no one will ever know exists.

Still, I feel like the negatives outweigh the positives with AuthorHouse. The worst part was comparing the way Michelle from MillCity spoke with me compared to how Adam from AuthorHouse did. He didn’t believe in me or my project. He wasn’t interested in learning more about my manuscript or why I wrote it or what audience I was trying to reach. He was a nice enough guy, but he didn’t seem to care. I’ve worked in sales for a few years now. I know what it sounds like when a salesman doesn’t believe in what they’re selling. Maybe Adam is just terrible on the phone? Sometimes salesmanship makes a difference. So far, it’s moving me to give up on AuthorHouse.

Anyways, I hope this stuff is interesting to somebody out there. I know the self-publishing landscape can be overwhelming and complicated and hopefully, by sharing what we experience, we can help each other be successful authors!