Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Some Select Poems from the Secret Notebook

I write in a special Chinese notebook; it's not special because it is Chinese (that's the only brand of notebook we could find that had any decency), but because it houses some of my most precious literary creations.

That is, my poetry.

I'm mainly a novelist, but I must admit that I'm partial to a good poem.  Depending on my mood, there are times where I'd rather write poetry than prose.  (There are also times where I'd rather write theology than either.)

The poems have been accumulating lately, and I really don't know what I ought to do with them.  But writing is meant to be shared, and it cannot be shared unless it is read, and it cannot be read unless it is published.

So I'll park my poems here to ease my mind.  Take them or leave them; but if you do happen to read them, let me know what you think.


Don't Forget to Remember

I stood at the edge of an old mountain ledge
And the western wind tugged at my heart;
The sunset was red with dusky orange spread
And I wondered if I should depart.
But standing still there I felt in the air
A heaviness like saying goodbye;
I closed my eyes tight and around me the night
Drew the stars gently into the sky.

You'll find me there, you'll find me there,
Between reality, and memory
Trying to be what I could see
In everywhere, you'll find me there
In trying to meet what I had met
I remembered...that I forget.

I lay on the ground listening to the sound
Of the wind whispering in the trees;
There I was, at the brink, of a vast sea of ink
And from that sky came a chill midnight breeze.
I dug my hand in the dirt as cold clung to my shirt
It was that night in late December;
As I heard distant cars, I swore to the stars
I would never forget to remember.

You'll find me there, you'll find me there,
Between reality, and memory
Trying to be what I could see
In everywhere, you'll find me there
In trying to meet what I had met
I remembered...that I forget.

It was a night in late December;
As I heard distant cars, I swore to the stars
I would never forget to remember.


Pine Needles

I ran to the basement
And opened the door
And felt the pavement
Through linoleum floor
I fell to my knees
And crawled to the back
Behind Christmas trees
My reflection stared back.

The mirror was wide
And covered the wall
But as I looked inside
I saw something small
There was reflected
In the crook of the tree
Something unexpected—
You were waving at me.

I jumped to my feet
And stepped through the glass
And fell to a seat
Of knitted bluegrass
I blinked several times
And I looked around
The air smelled like limes
And wet earthy ground.

I stood and found you
In a huge Christmas tree
Ornaments around you
Far bigger than me
The wind swept you from
Your lofty green perch
And made my cheeks numb
The air white like a birch.

The wind came and brought
Me into the sky
The pine needles fought
Around me and I
Sailed above a wood
Of conifer and ash
And saw what I could
Through the pine needle mash.

I flew through a cloud
And the pine needles cleared
The wind whistled loud
Through a snowy white beard
And dropped me right through
The misty cloud floor
To a mountain all blue
With legend and lore.

You waited for me where
The water, cold and meek
Is tucked between the air
And craggy mountain peak
I saw my reflection
And looked from side to side
What greeted my inspection
Was home, and I sighed.

I'll move the mirror to
My room, and gaze inside
To stop and think of you
And me, side by side.
And sometimes in the night,
I'll hear the quiet sound
Of pine needles in flight
And dreams all around.  


Glassy Glory

The ocean is blue and clear as a bell
The waves are rising and crashing pell-mell
I look out for rocks, and since none can I find
I pick up from the sand a tiny sea-shell
It sinks through the waves and pays me no mind.

The white foam sparks on the surface of the sea
And floats and swirls on the waves around me
The high tide throws waves up over the shore
To empty in a lagoon the color of tea
And disturbs the crabs on the pond's sandy floor.

The underwater rocks are slick with slime
The submerged plants are covered in grime
I stand on the rock, look out at the banks
The sea's glassy glory as endless as time;
Life is too wonderful not to give thanks.


Daydream Sails

When the music soars in your ears
And the lyrics rise in your heart
When you're tired and ready for sleeping
But your mind won't let you start;

When the sea breeze like fog surrounds you
And the moon's face is veiled by clouds
When the ocean's call gives you grounds to
Take leave of the world's empty crowds;

When your heavy thoughts disturb the night
And your gaze moves beyond this world
When your weary eyes close and sight
The white sails of daydream unfurled;

Sail the moon across the star-strewn sky
Find me there, in almost-waking
Let the clouds go wandering by
While the stars are magic-making;

For there is a half-asleep realm
Far-flung across the briny blue
There, in the shade of a silver elm
I will close my eyes and wait for you.



Familiar dirt roads push me up on rocky arms
To touch the sky, to taste the wind with a taste like freedom
I spread my arms out like a cross—and open
My eyes to a rusty fan stirring the humid air
And the hanging white of my mosquito net. I sigh—
Look about me, at dust and dirty tile. I love
This place, dirt and all, but not like my home. My home
Stirs my heart like the Kansas wind in the pine needles
The arms of the bent old soldiers keeping vigil.
I love it. I miss it. My heart hurts for it.
The still small voice whispers, Was it worth this?
Yes, I say—if not in my heart, in my mind.
Would you do it again? Yes, with both heart and mind.
Will I follow still further? Yes, a million times yes,
Till my strength gives out, with my heart and soul and mind.
But I can't help but return, it still hurts. It was
Worth every illness and trial to follow—but it still aches.
The still small voice is quiet, and then I hear it like
The distant waves on a nearby shore, carried on the winds
Of my home; I know, my child. I hurt with you.
And I remain silent, and let the sea breeze carry me to
My bed, and my heart is satisfied. It is enough.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Great Writer's Dilemma: What Route Shall I Take?

So maybe I could say that I'm busy, but the fact that nobody outside of Facebook knows that I finished NaNoWriMo is my fault. Sorry, folks. Have a screenshot:

And okay, I'll admit it: every year, I promise myself that I won't flag after NaNoWriMo, and every year, I succumb to post-NaNoWriMo laziness.

So as of right now, I still haven't finished The King of Three, although I'm five to ten thousand words away from completion. But victory is near, and with the last week of school coming up, my schedule will be freed to finally wrap up the novel. All going well, I should have it done before January at the latest.

With the completion of The King of Three also comes the completion of the series as a whole. And Tornado C is finished, too. Having those two novels off my back will allow me to start on new projects, which is a huge amount of fun.

But here's the problem...I don't know where to start.

Right now, I have somewhere between five and six incubating ideas ranging from sci-fi to time travel to epic fantasy. And since my self-imposed rule is to never do more than one major project at a time, this means that I have to choose. Choosing is awful.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to lay out some of my ideas and have you choose—or, rather, advise me on what to choose.

Route #1: Publish ALL the stories!

Well, not really. But this is the more publishing-heavy idea of the three that I'm outlining here.

If I chose this route, my schedule would look like this:

As soon as I finish the King of Three, I return to my long-neglected Will Vullerman stories, revise the three remaining ones, polish all five, get them some spiffy covers, and publish them on Kindle for $0.99 each, and $2.99 collectively.

Then, after I finish that, I'll write the sequel to The War Horn, tentatively titled “The King's Coffin”. I'll probably take a break after finishing to fiddle with some other stories, but after a while I'll revise it like crazy and send it to pre-readers to critique. After that, I'll format, get a cover, and publish it on Kindle for $2.99.

Since that work will take up quite a bit of the year, by the time The King's Coffin is published, I'll probably start working on my massive Tornado C overhaul and see what I can do to find it an actual name. (I STILL don't have the foggiest what I'm going to name it. Titles have never been my forte.)

The main idea behind this one is twofold: first, to get my work out there so that when I have a “big” novel, one that I'll try to get traditionally published, I'll already have a reader base and some published works. Second, I have this crazy idea that my novels will become runaway bestsellers and I'll raise enough money to go to the 2014 OYAN Workshop.

The big drawback of this route is that raising enough money for an international plane ticket is improbable at best and impossible at worst. And if I knew for sure that I wasn't going, I probably wouldn't invest my time in publishing.

But there is this little thing of mine called hope...

Route #2: Become a publishing hermit!

That is to say, take the absolute opposite of my previous idea and publish nothing at all.

Under this route, I would mostly ignore my Will Vullerman stories (again) and focus on new projects, rather than working with old ones. First up would be a new novel completed with the OYAN supplement “Other Worlds”. It would be a sort-of sequel to Tornado C, but with less emphasis on “epic and dramatic” and more on “small and structured”.

Depending on how long that project takes, I'll either work on The King's Coffin (putting the publication date somewhere between Fall 2014 and Spring 2015) or go straight to Tornado C to start my revisions. (As you can see, I'm serious about getting my Tornado C revisions done.)

The main issue with this route is that Will Vullerman has been ruminating in my head for awhile. It would be nice to get it to the point where I can be done with it.

Route #3: The Great Compromise

My final route will take a middle road in between these two options, giving me a foot in both trenches. I'd start out with publishing Will Vullerman and then go on to work with my “Other Worlds” novel. After all this, I'd work on Tornado C revisions. This would put the writing of “The King's Coffin” somewhere between Fall 2014 and Spring 2015.

The biggest issue with this one is that, if I was to give my foolish hope a chance, I would want to go all in, rather than just publish some short stories in hopes that I'll get thousands of downloads.

And Route #4 is to ditch school to write and publish all of the above. Needless to say, route four is not an option, as much as I'd like it to be.

So there you have it! It's a choice between lots of publication, some publication, and no publication; little chance for the Workshop, even less chance for the Workshop, and no chance for the Workshop.

What do you think? I admit that I'm a little tied up about it. Spare me some wisdom!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why I Write

There is always something that fuels a person's writing. If I had no reason for writing, I would not be writing at all.

I've written a lot about a lot of things. There have been multiple times where I have set forth the reason why I write—the source of my writing, the point of my writing, and so on. Sometimes I feel that I have to rediscover the “why” of writing, and the resulting posts are similar in many ways and different in other ways, like different sides of the same cube.

And so I'd like to clarify what I mean by “why” I write. I'm expanding on what I've already written on this subject. The source of my writing is, as always, Christ and what he has done for me. The ultimate point of my writing is to portray the truth that God has revealed. Those are the several “sides” of this cube.

So let me make it clear, lest I am misunderstood, that in this post I am not replacing God in “why” I write, but giving a different take on it. I'm turning the cube over to look at a different side. This side is, seemingly, more “secular”. (Really, there is nothing in this world that is truly secular, since my faith affects everything I do—even the things that don't appear to be spiritual.)

With that disclaimer, let me begin.

In a nutshell, I write to let other people feel what I feel.

When I feel something, when I learn something, when I see something, when I believe something, I want to share it with other people so much that I feel like I could burst. When I am moved, I want to move other people; when my moods are deep and thoughtful, I want to write in such a way that makes other people feel introspective. I coined a term specifically for the sort of poetry I love—if it's a good piece of poetry, it gives me “deep feelings”, that sort of good ache in your chest that makes you let out a deep breath and think of stars and moonlight and the secrets of the universe.

I'm a very, very intellectual type of person. I tend to process everything through my sense of logic and order, analyzing and organizing my thoughts. Debate is my forte, geometry is the only kind of math I like, and a good argument is my brain candy.

That means that “feeling” is not usually something that happens to me. Maybe my brain overcompensates, then, because what I do feel, I feel in a way that is almost violent. When something affects me, it affects me so much that it has to have an overflow, some way that it can escape.

Except I don't talk. And I don't let many of my moods escape to my appearance—they stay hidden beneath a normal face.

That makes it so that my only overflow, then, is in what I write. I am not emotional; but when I have an emotion, it overflows. I write. My moods spawn poetry, my beliefs are born onto paper. Feelings become words, thoughts become poems, struggles become novels.

This isn't just restricted to the emotional side of things, however. This sort of thing happens to me intellectually too. When I learn something and it “clicks”, I want to share it with other people so that it can “click” for them too. When I understand something, I want to write so that other people understand it too. What I know, I want to articulate.

Obviously, the most common outlet for my “intellectual” side is nonfiction. This is why I enjoy debates, why I write articles, why I take notes. But this also makes it into my novels—The Voice of God is a good example. While my main themes were a mix of ideas, there was one theme in particular that was very intellectual. I wanted to show what the reality of hell looks like with people who had never heard of Christ. The dilemma revolved around how fair it was to condemn people for not believing in something they had never heard.

Of course, I didn't treat it like I would treat a debate, and I certainly didn't pause the novel to give a theological treatise. I did, however, embed it in the fabric of the story so that it came out organically. Faceless “people who had never heard” became actual characters who actually did die, leaving someone who thought he believed to struggle with the idea of them going to hell. What he chose to do and say was crucial with how the story would go and how it would resolve.

The main point of that example is how a concept can become easier to understand in the context of a story. Stories are how I show other people what I feel and see and learn. An actual character is easier to picture than a vague description of “those people”. It is one of the many tools I use to have the reader feel how I felt—by feeling how the character felt.

That is why I write: I use what I write to help people understand what I understand, and to feel what I feel.

Articulating the inarticulate is the job of the writer, and it's not an exact science. “Inarticulate”, by definition, means that you can't put it into words. But that doesn't stop us from trying. The test of good writing is how close you get to saying what you wanted to say—how close the reader gets to feeling what you wanted them to feel.

And that's why I keep writing, and perhaps why all writers keep writing.

We have felt the indescribable...and we want to describe it.