Quote of the day

Van Gogh

“What am I in the eyes of most people – a nonentity, an eccentric or an unpleasant person – somebody who has no position in society and never will have, in short, the lowest of the low.

All right, then – even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.

Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest comers. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”

Vincent Van Gogh, in a letter to his brother

“If you’re a writer, declare yourself the best writer!”

Here’s an inspirational scene from one of my favorite movies, Midnight in Paris. Gil Pender, a young writer on vacation in Paris, climbs into a cab at the stroke of midnight, and when he gets out, he finds himself in 1920s Paris, where he encounters many literary and artistic legends. In the following clip, Gil gets to discuss writing with Ernest Hemingway. Gil can’t resist asking for a small favor:

Gil: Would you read it?

Ernest Hemingway: Your novel?

Gil: Yeah, it’s about 400 pages long, and I’m just looking for an opinion.

Ernest Hemingway: My opinion is I hate it.

Gil: Well you haven’t even read it yet.

Ernest Hemingway: If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing, and if it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.

Gil: You know what it is? I’m having a hard time getting somebody to evaluate it.

Ernest Hemingway: You’re too self-effacing; it’s not manly. If you’re a writer [slams table with his fist], declare yourself the best writer.

Ha! Yeah, that sounds like Ernie. And he’s right: It takes more than a little self-confidence to put your heart into a story and hit that “Send” key. You don’t know what the person judging your work is going to think. That’s scary — definitely not for the weak of heart.

Jami Gold recently addressed this in a great blog post titled “What Helps You BE a Writer?”:

Outside of any writing skill that we may or may not have, we also bring other aspects of ourselves to the writing-journey table. We might have personality traits that help us want to be a writer, such as a love of storytelling or a desire to entertain, educate, or inspire others.

Or we might have personality traits that help us stick with writing, even during the bad times. As Delilah mentioned in her post, stubbornness (tenacity, perseverance, determination, etc.) ranks high in many of the replies.

We might have enough of an ego that we think others are interested in what we have to say. Or we might have a desire to prove ourselves worthy of being listened to.

Jami and Ernie are on to something: If you’re going to write, go big. Go brazen. And keep going.

Suspense, Mystery, and Romance Make “Aztec Midnight” a Must-Read

Manhattan

The Manhattan with a twist blog offers readers “an all-encompassing perspective on living in New York City.” The site’s book review section, The Twisted Library, features this reaction to Aztec Midnight:

The novella follows Dr. Jon Barrett, an American archaeologist who was asked to come down to Mexico and retrieve an ancient, valuable (Aztec) weapon before the drug cartels get to it first. I found myself thinking, “well, this is fun to read” while reading, often, and, given the subject matter, that is a feat. Not many people would view a book that combines history, violence, criminals, and mystery as “fun,” but it truly was. Each page was like another step on an exciting journey, and, as a reader, I really did not have any idea where the story would turn next.

I also particularly enjoyed how the author throws in little romantic parts between the narrator and his wife. For example, when Jon returns home from a tiresome excursion, he walks in on his wife relaxing on the couch, and he takes a moment to simply admire the way she looks. He said it even temporarily alleviated him from the stressful thoughts and events that made up his day. This was a very nice touch, in my opinion. It reminds the readers that although there is a great deal taking place, and whole lot of drama, Dr. Barrett’s number one priority at the end of the day (literally and figuratively) is his wife and his love for her. This knowledge of his character plays an important role when, later, a few of his most prized possessions are put in jeopardy.

This novella is short, but filled to the brim with action and intrigue. Tuggle blends edge-of-your-seat scenarios with realistic and genuine dialogue. The characters are authentic and believable, while the story is unique and undoubtedly fascinating. No matter what your usual genre of books may be, “Aztec Midnight” is worth checking out.

Aztec Midnight is available in ebook and paperback. Check it out!

Best Fiction and Writing Blogs

MishimaOffice

The best fiction and writing blog posts from around the ‘net, with advice and inspiration guaranteed to make you a literary black belt. Compiled by yukio.

Cady VishniacSome Myths About Your Submissions
A. J. Humpage Focusing On Small Details
Marcy KennedyHow To Evoke Emotions In Readers
Elizabeth SvobodaHow Stories Change Our Brains
Ryan LanzWriting With Heart: Creating An Emotionally Engaging Character
Brett and Kate McKayWhy Every Man Should Study Classical Culture
Whitney CarterWorldBuilding: Crafting Magic
Yukio MishimaAbout Life And Writing

Black Ghost

Silver Blade

Silver Blade Magazine specializes in “Cutting-edge Science Fiction, Slipstream, and Fantasy.” The latest edition features my flash fiction piece “Black Ghost.”

The inspiration for this story came from a couple of things. My father, a veteran of World War II, was recently admitted to the “Memory Ward” at a nursing home. Seeing him alone in a wheelchair when I visit makes me wonder if people passing by have any idea what this quiet man, a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa, endured in that war. Short answer: They do not. Nor do most folks consider what they owe to that generation, a generation of heroes which slips away from us day by day.

The other spark for this story was a fascinating article in Ancient Origins about the once widespread practice of interring items in tombs the dead could use in the afterlife. These “parting gifts” weren’t cheap. Consider what archaeologists found in the tomb of Princess Ukok of Siberia:

Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, perhaps more likely a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman than an ice princess.

There, too, was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold. And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander.

Often, the living would supply the departed with the means to carry on their life’s work. The Ancient Origins article cited a study of tombs from pre-Roman Italy that revealed “indications of the commonality of military service since men’s tombs of the era routinely contained metal weaponry lying across or near the skeletal remains.”

That got me to thinking about the many deities and religions — not to mention nations — that have come and gone over the centuries, and how all of them arose because they met timeless human needs. The more I thought about it, the more intriguing the possibility a future society could adapt this ancient practice. Next thing I knew, I was outlining a story I’d already titled “Black Ghost.”

Stories provide much that religion offers. The tales we read, like the ones we encounter in worship, may not be factual but are nevertheless true and necessary. The cycles of nature, the challenge of growing up and leaving home, and one’s inevitable confrontation with life and death arouse fear and fascination within every human heart. Stories and myths have the power to startle, teach, and assure us on life’s journey. That’s why religion and storytelling have germinated in all cultures.

And whatever one’s views on religion, we can all appreciate the story’s secondary themes of the debt the living owe past generations, the heroism of ordinary people that make life possible, and the boundless potential — and petulance — within every 12-year-old. Enjoy.

Best Fiction and Writing Blogs

Hemingway Writing

The best fiction and writing blog posts from around the ‘net, with advice and inspiration guaranteed to make you a literary adventurer. Compiled by ernie.

Jeremy AnderbergThe Libraries of Famous Men: Ernest Hemingway
Krishan CouplandHow to Submit Your Writing
P. S. HoffmanHow I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Outline
J.C. Wolfe7 Ways I Find Writers’ Blogs
Jami GoldWhat Does Your Genre’s Theme Promise to Readers?
Cathleen TownsendEditor’s List of Common Mistakes
A. J. HumpageThe Art of Captivating First Lines