I haven’t posted here in way too long so let’s fix that.

2015 was a watershed year for me in many ways, particularly with writing.  That was when I rebooted.

For far too many years I’d let my favorite activity slip, so far that when I tried to return to it, writing seemed more chore than release.  I started looking through old saved material to recapture the spark, but as I noted in October of that year, so much of that handwritten work seemed so… juvenile.  I cringed while reading through notebook after notebook, finally acknowledging that it wasn’t really going to hurt to throw the bulk of it away.

But then I revisited a trilogy project I’d abandoned in the mid 2000s, and realized that I had actually gotten good at fiction.  For a while.

What happened?

Well, some of it was marriage-related.  I won’t burden you with that.  But there was also an unexpected contributor to my fiction writing decline:

Technical writing.

It dawned on me that the better I became at the technical stuff (a job necessity), the more stilted my fiction writing grew.  I would load up the first fifth or so with so much exposition every story sounded like a travel brochure, or worse, lab experiment.  Even when I got into the head of a character I quickly stumbled into overly-descriptive prose.  Ack.

It’s probably an ADD thing.  Those of you who also deal with it know that the creative brain tends to have two modes: unfocused and hyper-focused.  In my case, when I select a writing mode, I immerse myself in it.  Thus I improved career prospects at the cost of my true love.

In summer of 2015 I resolved to start experimenting.  The timing was perfect: I learned of a short story contest run by the Texas Observer and used that as my relaunch point.  I cobbled up four new stories, all varying in setting and in some cases style, and shot them off with one goal: achieve honorable mention on one story, and that was the indicator that I’d overcome the technical curse.

As it turns out, The Dolphin Riders earned honorable mention.

Three things about this:

  • It represented a drastic change in style, where I mentally nodded at Cormac McCarthy while composing (no, I’m nowhere near as good)
  • The story was one of the easiest I’ve written and I feel to be one of my best so far
  • It was the one, out of all four shots, I thought had a chance

So I think I’m onto something.

Although, the curse of heavy exposition did rear its ugly head again.  I submitted a story in the same world as Dolphin Riders, called The Sand and the Foam (after a haunting Dan Fogelberg song), to the World Weaver Press Sirens anthology.  Whereupon Canadian editor (I don’t hold either against her) Rhonda Parrish said she liked it but (cringe) it was a little heavy on description.  Sigh.

I performed some severe surgery on Sand and hopefully did the trick.  We’ll see!  I’m also working on a novel set in that flooded world, titled Dreams of Lesser Tides (for now).

Going forward I’ll take more cues from what worked with Dolphins.  My writing resolution for 2016 is to get funky, fluid and abstract as hell!  Back to being where I was in 2005, at least.  Shimmer Magazine, here I come!

I’d like to thank the following writers and editors for their recent help, inspiration and camaraderie (yes, I intentionally left the Oxford comma out):

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