Today, I Write

Well today I was going to write a nice, fat blog post. It ain’t gonna happen. X

I have a story burning a hole through me. And I have one chapter left. So, with only x hours to write today, I’m gonna spend that x the best way I know how: by writing fiction. So today, I write.

I will see you guys in a couple of weeks with a bigger post.

And if you’re a writer, I hope you’ll join me in writing today. Always remember: what separates writers from the rest is that writers write. 

Until Next Time,

Darius

Off for Some Vacation

Hey Everybody, time to hang up the fiction and blog writing for a bit and head out for some very late summer vacation.

North Woods

It’s true. I’m off to the North Woods again for some R&R, so I’ll see you next time here on the blog. I plan to be back Sept. 23 with a new post and some more news on how the writing is going.

Until then…

Keep Reading, Keep Writing,

Darius

PS…And take some vacation yourself, you deserve it!

Check Out My Post Over at Sobotka

Hey everybody, the folks over at Sobotka Literary Magazine were nice enough to let me borrow their blog last week for a short post on “Verses about Moscow” by Marina Marina_1914Tsvetaeva. The post is part of their “Wordsmith Wednesdays” series where they unpack the words/verses  in a poem or song. This week they’re covering a song by Nas’, a nice bookend to Tsvetaeva. 

Check out my post and let them know what you think.

I’ll be back two weeks from now with a new post. I hope   this tides you over until then!

See you around,

Darius

4 Years of My Blog

Writer writing

Wow. WordPress is telling me I’ve been writing this blog for four years. (It’s actually a bit longer than that since the blog started over on Goodreads). I can’t believe it. So, today, I want to do a quick look back and, more importantly, a look ahead.

First, here is the first post on my blog from July 20, 2012:


Well, here goes nothing

My first novel has just been published. It’s on the Amazon Kindle store here. It’s also on Goodreads.

Please take the time to leave a review. And a big thank you to all of you who have already got it and are reading it.

,D


My posts have come a long way since then. They even include pictures, which apparently is an unwritten rule on the Internet. So, to continue the look back: what have I done, in my writing life, over those past four years? Glad you asked. This is what:

  • Self-published a novella.
  • Got three of my stories traditionally published in magazines.
  • Wrote a fricking play. (Thanks, Fink!)
  • Wrote 171 blog posts. (Was it that many?)
  • Shared the blog with thousands of visitors.
  • Changed the frequency of the blog from weekly to biweekly.
  • Kept focused, kept disciplined, kept writing.

That last one is the most important to me. Constancy. I’ve written about that a lot here on the blog. But it’s one thing to write about something, and quite another to do it. To sit your butt down and write every weekend, when you could be doing other things. I’m really proud of that.

So, what’s next? Number one: keep writing fiction. I also want to re-christen the blog. It’s not going to be a “Writer Begins” anymore. If it needs a title, it’s going to be “A Writer Writes.” I think that fits just fine because that’s what I’m all about. And with three published stories, I feel a new chapter has begun. I’ve done a lot and learned a lot since I started this blog. There’s always more you can learn, of course. But that third story felt like some sort of milestone. One time could be lucky—a fluke. A second time, could be a coincidence. But getting published three times—There’s something to that. Three times is no accident. And with that comes an assurance you can do it again and again. Even before you put pen to paper.

As a consequence of that I feel the characters and the stories and the writing are all maturing. And improving. Now, the challenge is to keep going and build on that solid foundation.

And that’s what I intend to do. So, here’s to bloggers blogging and writers writing. Let’s keep this going.

Thanks for Tuning In,

DJ

My New Story Is Out in Sobotka Magazine

Great news! My new story “Barabanchik” is out now in Sobotka Literary Magazine. You can pick up Issue 4 of the magazine here. Sobotka Issue 4

I’m happy because it’s my first story published this year. I won’t say much more than that, but will include the start of the story here, in the hope that it gets you hooked:

A man looks at the world and sees phenomena, perhaps self-contradictory in nature, and goes about trying to explain them. In ancient times, these explanations took the form of myth. Why do the seasons change, why does the sun set, why are people born, and why do they die? All these could be explained with the presence of gods, angels and demons meddling in the world of men.

The modern age is no different. Man, when confronted with the numinous and unknown, still fumbles around for a deeper meaning behind the shifting shadows. But he no longer has recourse to the old, familiar cast of supernatural beings. In their place, he must find new explanations to the mundane absurdities and sudden horrors of this world.

The following story is a recollection of just such a phenomena. It happened not long ago in Moscow…

For the rest, you’ll have to buy the issue.

Thanks for all the support for my writing from my friends, my family and the extended “kin” I’ve met via the blog. And to Sobotka for picking up the story! I couldn’t do it without you guys.

Until next time,

Darius

Viva Cervantes! Why the Spanish Writer Matters More than Ever

[SPOILER ALERT: This post contains plot details from Don Quixote.]

I’m very selective about the writers I like. For those who truly move me, I perform a special ritual in return. I visit their resting place. I can count on one hand the number writers’ graves I have visited (five in total). Cervantes is one of them. Why? Because after 400 years, his prose remains fresh, vital and vibrant. Don Quioxote 2

I mean think about it. What other writer resonates across 400 years like Cervantes???Oh! Right! That English guy…What’s his name? Will? Bill? That’s it! Bill Shakespeare! Now don’t get my wrong, the Bard is great. His plays still dominate theater. His turns of phrase have been adopted into modern English so deeply we don’t even notice them anymore. But, with all apologies, the plays and sonnets seem old. It’s not that the characters and action aren’t fresh, they are. But when I go to a night of Shakespeare, I have to mentally prepare myself for the archaic language, the ponderous soliloquies and so on and so forth. Not so with Cervantes. His pacing is slower than modern tastes like and some of the language is musty. But the ideas, themes and humor strike me as much more modern than those of the Bard.

It’s not just me. Don Quixote’s hold on writers, if anything, has only grown over the years:

Don Quixote would become perhaps the most published work of literature in history. Its influence on writers has been unparalleled. When the Nor­wegian Nobel Institute polled 100 leading authors in 2002 to name the single most important literary work, Don Quixote was a handsome winner; no other book came close.

I can’t really tell you exactly why that is, but below I have a few ideas on why Cervantes and his works continue to cast a spell.

1. His attitude toward fan fiction.
This is a rich vein to mine. First, you could say that Don Quixote itself is simply fan fiction. The character Don Quixote is motivated to go adventuring by reading too many chivalric adventures.

As Quixote is escorted home after his first ill-fated outing, his housekeeper cries at the top of her voice: “Woe is me! Now I know, and it’s true as the death I owe God, that those accursed books of chivalry he’s always reading have driven him crazy.”

And, no doubt, the author was motivated to write the piece by reading too many of the same books. He as much as hints in that in his preface.

And before Cervantes had a chance to complete this second part of his work, a certain Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda beat him to the punch and wrote his own version of part 2. Cervantes was upset, but instead of the modern remedy of litigation or the older method of restoring one’s honor through a duel, he simply decided to mock Avellaneda in introduction to part 2 of the real Don Quixote:

Thou wouldst have me call him ass, fool, and malapert, but I have no such intention; let his offence be his punishment, with his bread let him eat it, and there’s an end of it.

2. Comedy with a deeper purpose.
There’s something about the Quixote that is not comic. Like the best humor ever written, whether it’s Gogol or Monty Python or Leslie Jones, there’s a deeper point. The comic writer lulls you into a false sense of security, then they slip in a slight serious reference and a moment later it’s gone. But it makes you chuckle—and think.

Don Quixote is full of those moments. Don Quixote seems perpetually balanced between comedy and tragedy. At any given moment you don’t know which way it will head next. There’s no relief. He keeps you on a knife edge between tears and laughter.

There’s deep poignancy in the story: Don Quixote is, after all, insane. Right? But Cervantes takes a light tone with it, so it becomes comedic. Or does it? He meets others who decide to play along, not least his servant, Sancho. But they often seem to be doing so out of pity more than anything else. It becomes almost a general revolt against mundane reality. But there’s great humor too: from simple gags like fart jokes and ribald tales to more complex allegories like tilting at windmills. It’s an incredibly taut, controlled narrative in its way.

3. A master of stories and the novel.
It’s not easy to master the novel. And it’s even harder to master the short story. It’s damn near impossible to master both. But damn him, this guy did it.

You can look at Don Quixote, a very long novel, and he pulls it off. You can look at his Exemplary Tales, one of which I’ve discussed here, and he pulls that off as well. In fact, similar to medieval storytelling, Don Quixote can be seen as a string of shorter stories strung together in a larger narrative. It’s as if he’s writing stories within the longer narrative structure of a novel. And somehow, he makes it all work. Short stories, long novels, in prose Cervantes did it all.

4. The man who became myth.
I warned you about spoilers, so here it is. At the end of the novel, Don Quixote gives up chivalry, admits his madness, renounces knight errantry and dies. I’ll let you unpack what Cervantes meant by that on your own. But for me, it’s clear. Give up your dreams, your madness and you mine as well die. It’s a lovely way to end the book. [There’s that tragedy again.]

And it’s not so different from the life of the man, Cervantes. He lived life to the fullest. Was a soldier, a prisoner, a slave in Algiers, and an accountant. He did time in prison for fraud. He was always with the people, not in an academic or cloistered environment. He probably lived and heard more stories than almost any man. He wrote until the very end and when he ceased to write, to dream, just like his greatest creation, he passed away.

Over time he’s been memorialized by a literary prize, uncounted books, stories and poems. My favorite of these is by another master of the Spanish tongue, Borges. I quote it here because it’s so outstanding.

Defeated by reality, by Spain, Don Quixote died in his native village around 1614. He was survived only briefly by Miguel de Cervantes.

For both of them, for the dreamer and the dreamed, the tissue of that whole plot consisted in the contraposition of two worlds: the unreal world of the books of chivalry and the common everyday world of the seventeenth century.

Little did they suspect that the years would end by wearing away the disharmony. Little did they suspect that La Mancha and Montiel and the knight’s frail figure would be, for the future, no less poetic than Sinbad’s haunts or Ariosto’s vast geographies.

For myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.

The myth of Cervantes has only begun and will continue for a very long time. Viva Cervantes!

See you next time,

Darius

Off for Some Vacation

I hate to write and run again, but alas, I must.

It’s almost July 4 over here and I’m far, far behind in procuring the necessary fireworks for our nation’s annual festivities as mandated by several county ordinances. I also have to go to an out-of-state wedding. So, you can imagine the state I’m in. [Forgive my pun.]Sobotka Mag Cover_Issue 4

The good thing is that Sobotka Magazine (see cover nearby) is about to launch a new issue with my story “Barabanhik” in it. It will be the second time seeing my name in print and the first time in a literary magazine. It’s also the first of my stories set in Russia. A place, and a theme, I’m sure to return to. If I may paraphrase Sobotka, some places stick in your bones. Russia is one of them.

Other than that, I’m noticing it’s taking longer for editors to get back to me on my stories…Which may be a sign of the growing quality of the pieces or of summer doldrums in editorial offices across the country. I’ll let you decide which.

Most of all, I’ve been lax on sticking to my writing schedule. Hopefully, when things settle down a bit in this thing called life, I’ll get right back to it. There are a couple of short stories (or more correctly, characters in those stories) which are being particularly impatient right now (“Pick me! Pick me!). I’ve got to sit down in front of the screen and start banging those out, sentence by sentence.

Overall, it’s an exciting time to be hanging around this old Earth and writing a bit. I can’t wait to get back to the café, order a good brew and start tapping the keyboard again. It’s just around the corner…I can almost smell that first cup.

Darius

Moving House—and Books

Hey everybody, just checking in. Moving house this weekend. As part of that, I’m taking 10 boxes of books with me. If fact, when I move, it feels like it’s mostly books. Anyway, not much time to talk/write today, but wanted to let you know I’m still out there writing and creating. Moving house

So, here’s a quick update on the writing. Getting admissions and rejections back from publishers and will send my play to the proofer soon. Next weekend, I plan to get back to writing drafts in earnest. Looking forward to that. It’s time to get back into the mix and to start “getting black on white” again. Now that this house-moving thing  is about over, it’s high time I get back to it.

More soon,

Darius

Gone to Denver

By the time you read this, I will be safely away. Away from work, from writing, from the big city. maroonlakecolorado2

I imagine right about now I should be out in Colorado, the Denver area, to be somewhat precise. I’m probably on some hike, coming around a ridge and looking out on a scene just like that one right here. And maybe there’s a bald eagle out in the distance or an elk or a mountain goat looking right back at me, as if to say, “What’s up?”

I’ll probably be breathing fresh air with a hit of pine resin in it, or sage brush if I’m out on some plateau. I probably won’t be hearing anything, nothing. Except maybe the wind whipping through the pines, or the cry of an eagle or the rush of a mountain stream tumbling down or hell just nothing…nothing at all, just the silence of God’s great universe.

And everything will be alright. Yep, that’s what I’m up to RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

What are you guys doing?

See you next time,

Darius

Free Form

Need to feed the blog beast, need to feed the blog beast… Need to feed…the…

I’ve had a lot of good ideas for blog posts lately, stuff about Cervantes, aikido, Poe… But I’m not motivated to write any of them today. Feeling bleh and blah. And the rain outside, in about its 40th day, isn’t helping. Free Form

So…What to write? What to say? Nothing much. So, no theme or topic comes to mind. Might I just free-form? Ron Burgundy style? No. Instead, I will tell you where my writing is at. How about that? Here it is, broken down piece-by-piece.

Sludge Ship Chronicles
Got this beast done. Plays…What a strange medium! Take the strict plotting from short stories, the length and scope of a novella and the oral elements of poetry—Mash them all together and there you have it: a play. I have to say my wonder at this medium has only grown after writing one.

Anyhow, starting to submit this to local playhouses and looking for festivals or other venues to submit too as well. This is a very chancy, risky business, but I’ll let you know where it all nets out. Wish me luck.

Pacha-Mama
Still submitting this piece. Still believe in it. Still think it’s good. Lots of bites, but no editor has really chomped down on it yet, so that I can reel them in. Time to cast again.

Breakpoint
This science-fiction story is still with consideration with a magazine, still waiting to hear.

So You Found Me
Decided on a market for this flash piece, will be submitting it soon.

…For My Next Trick
Have a good grip on a new short story, even did some good pre-writing on it. I’m fired up to write it, but have to take vacation first. Hope to get to this in the middle of June and bang it out. Its bones are good, now I just have to put some flesh on it.


That’s it. Another quick, dirty blog post. Putting the writing and submitting first. Which is important to me. I hope to be back in a couple of weeks with another post.

See you then,

Darius