The Curse of Chapter Fifty-Two

Hemingway

…or cursing Chapter Fifty-Two

I sit with my fingertips poised over the keyboard waiting for divine intervention.  It is not forthcoming.  Divine or any other type of intervention does not seem imminent.  It’s not writer’s block.  I know it is not the accursed writer’s block because I’m writing this.  Right?  Okay, it’s writers block.

I’m one chapter from finishing the first draft of my latest ‘great American novel’.  It’s not even the final chapter, I’ve already written the finale.  Tied up everything with a nice red bow except Chapter Fifty-Two.  I’m not gnashing teeth and shouting, “I can’t get it right.”  I’m shouting, “I can’t get it started.”  I’ll settle for getting it wrong.

Since divine intervention is not coming to my aid, maybe I should be working out a deal with the devil.  I read about someone doing that and if memory serves, it didn’t work out well for the author.  Do they have Voodoo priestesses near my little bit of heaven?

It has been a month or more since I first decided to skip over Chapter Fifty-Two and go ahead and write the end of my historical novel. My thought was, “I’ll just come back to it.  It will come.”  It hasn’t.  Blank pages from an even blanker mind.

The yarn is not exactly a western unless you consider the setting is in western Louisiana during the later days of Reconstruction.  It was a “wild and wooly” time in our history on the Texas-Louisiana border.  There needs to be gunplay but for some reason my stalwart hero, Allen Kell, is having problems dispatching the villainous Amory Hache.  Can I write it without killing off Hache?  I want to kill off Hache.

I’ve tried my normal go-to.  Getting slightly bleary-eyed with a couple of Jack Daniels.  Jack seems to soften and unfocus my mind leading to unexpected breakthroughs. Being unfocused can be a good thing unless you are out driving around. The idea, I become unfocused, write what I need to write, and then edit out all the useless meanderings the next day.  “Write drunk, edit sober” but wait until the hangover subsides.

After editing out all my useless meanderings in Chapter Fifty-Two, I’m left with a blank page except for the heading…Chapter Fifty-Two.  I even went back and deleted the heading but to no avail.  IT seems I have wasted a perfectly good buzz.

As April ended and May began, I decided to put my novel down and pick someone else’s novel up.  Maybe I can get a trigger from someone who is actually good at writing.  Twelve read novels later I’m still waiting for the firing “pen” to fall on something other than an empty cylinder.

This past Sunday I suspended all reading, writing, and drinking for a Scify series on Amazon matching a series of novels I had read during my month of May reading blitz.  Ten hours later my bride was checking to see if I had a pulse.  Like a silver-gray alien hand, the series had grabbed my attention.  Wow, was that as bad as it sounds in my head?  Maybe I should rethink writing anything.

I’m two episodes into the second season of The Expanse but I’m no closer to finishing…nay starting Chapter Fifty-Two.  The third episode of the second season of The Expanse is calling to me but so is the workweek.  Good thing I’m retired.

An idea?  I’ll skip Chapter Fifty-Two and make it Chapter Fifty-Three.  I’ll have to change the headings of the chapters that follow but I’ve got to rewrite anyway.  Or, under the heading Chapter Fifty-Two I’ll simply write something witty like, “Go to Chapter Fifty-Three because Chapter Fifty-Two is cursed”…or accursed.  That’s what I’ll do…right after I finish episode three of season two.

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A reminder.  May is ALS Awareness Month.  Proceeds from purchases and downloads will be matched and donated to ALS research.  Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3iBSWAqMGAmDe6L-iNMNwIituOo73IuMxudgo7jClvOl7dEjoqfcKEq50

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The cute Voodoo Doll is from Learning Religions https://www.learnreligions.com/breaking-curses-or-hexes-2562588

Image of Hemingway with famous quote from PrawfsBlawg https://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2018/03/write-drunk-edit-sober.html

 

“SOUTH WACKO-LAKI”

 

An early morning thunderstorm has jarred me out of a sound sleep.  Sleeping soundly is unusual for me lately.  My sleep seems pain-filled, both from arthritis making its presence know if I lay in one position too long and from the dreams tormenting my mind.  Don’t feel too much concern and it’s not the point of this post.  Compared to many of my friends and family my age, physically I’m doing quite well.

The dreams…the dreams are due to my fragmented mind, torn asunder by depression and anxiety.  Some chemical in my brain has gone wacko, taking the rest of me with it.  I now reside in the state of “South Wacko-Laki” just across the river from “A-Kook-Among-Us.”

Could it have been triggered by diet; the sausage biscuits I should ‘never’ eat, the bee sting or a thousand other triggers that may or may not be the reason?  God how I hate asking, “Why?”  Maybe it’s just getting old.  Maybe there is no reason.  It is what it is…I hate ‘it is what it is’ too.

Anxiety is a new adversary while the depression an old enemy.  I have too much going on, too many things I need to be doing.  Plenty to be anxious about…but I’m retired, I have plenty of time to go forth and be productive…NOT.

My retirement has taught me one life lesson.  I am not a very good steward of my own time.  My lack of self-discipline explains why I’m failing in my early morning attempts at writing while simultaneously NOT really watching a rerun of Bobby Flay, staring at my computer screen wondering where my last thought came from or went to, all the while worrying about the lightning, thunder, and rain washing away my plans for the day.  What plans?

A checklist…that’s what I need.  Little square boxes to check as I complete small tasks.  I wonder how many trees would have to give their lives to create my checklist.  Okay, a few easy things to begin with like “Just get out of bed!”  Sometimes, even that is not easy.  “Walk three miles.”  Why has my walking become so much harder?  Not physically…MENTALLY!

A harder one, “Stay away from social media!”  Scrolling through Twitter or Facebook along with WordPress fits nicely with my fragmented mind…and probably contributes…not probably.  I can’t totally stay away because I use social platforms to advertise my books to people who are NOT buying them.  I must come up with a better plan.  Maybe write something people WANT to buy?  Purchase an advertising service? Quit entirely?

I have four stories I should be working on.  Should be an indication of how fragmented my dried up gourd of a head is.  If I shake my gourd does it rattle with dried seeds?  The seeds are not germinating, I can’t finish the stories.  I’ve reached a point in each…a barrier of some sort.  I can imagine the end but can’t quite find the rain-shrouded path to take me there.

Maybe a hiatus is in order.  Something to recharge my over-used but underutilized brain.  Go hide in a dark cave for a while…no, I’m already in a cave it seems, and the light from the computer screen doesn’t seem to be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Buffett’s lyrics echo in my fragmented head, “but I got to stop wishing, got to go fishing, down to rock bottom again.”  Could it be as simple?  Well, wishin’ sure ain’t gettin’ it done!  Fishing…maybe.  Probably should wait until the storms pass or maybe just embrace being at rock bottom in the state of “South Wacko-Laki.”

For a saner Don Miller, one should probably go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

If interested in “Mommy Porn” with a twist, you might also consider Lena Christenson at  https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

The image is from “Rule the Wasteland”  http://rulethewasteland.com/?page_id=28

 

My Writing Sucks….

 

I’m absolutely at war with myself.  The problem is I’ve been reading when I should be writing…or cutting grass or weeding the garden.  Actually, I’ve done them all.  Anything to avoid writing.  I did cut grass and weeded the garden and I’ve read Roy Blount Jr., Julia Reed, Rick Bragg, and James Lee Burke…it’s Burke’s fault…and Jeri Lynn Wolfe Cooper.

I didn’t know I had the desire to write until my former student, Jeri Lynn, put a bug in my ear…or up my butt.  A burr under my saddle.  A bee in my bonnet…any others?  After twenty-five years we reconnected through another bane of my existence, social media.  She was Lynn Wolfe thirty years ago…she’s Lynn Cooper now but I liked the way Jeri Lynn rolled off the tongue of my Southern brain back then.  Still, do.

Wouldn’t you know it?  She’s a writer.  Anyway, my bad writing career is her fault.  “You always told great stories…you should write them down.”  I did…and try to force you to read them.

I studied other people’s writings, Lynn’s included.  I say  “Lynn’s included” because Lynn writes hot, romantic tales, something my wife says I know nothing about.  “Honey, I’m just taking notes for later.”  She didn’t buy it…I don’t guess I bought it either. ..but I still buy Lynn’s books.

Sometimes I have a hard time reconciling the sweet young woman who used to sit in my sociology class with the writer who pens scorching, passionate fiction.  Really scorching, real quality.  Her writing would be good even if it wasn’t sizzling.  I can reconcile it after all.

It’s the way Lynn’s words flow and roll off the page, the way she creates vividly erotic scenes without being graphic,  it’s her deeply painted descriptions of characters…my characters look like stick figures.

My excuse is that my last English class was over forty-five years ago.  I’m having to learn on the run…jog…walk.  The only creative writing course I took was exactly fifty years ago.  I remember writing about the sex life of a door knob…it was the “free love” Sixties but a daunting task for an eighteen-year-old virgin.  It’s all I remember about the course.

My writing experience involved forty-five years of creating lesson and practice plans with the occasional grocery list thrown in for good measure.  So, I’m struggling, and the Thesaurus is not my friend.  I’m in the “my writing sucks” frame of mind as I attempt to hammer out a thousand words…words someone might want to read.  Hmmm, “If it doesn’t fit use a bigger hammer.”  I don’t think that will work.

Since we seemed to have skipped spring this year, I picked up James Lee Burke’s latest to avoid the heat of the midday sun.  I had finished my weeding, and my potatoes and tomatoes are doing quite well.  I’m not going to say anything about my squash, I’m sure the squash bugs are listening and waiting to pounce.

Maybe I can get an idea, maybe I can learn something…maybe I can just enjoy Burke’s writing.  I learned I can study a dictionary from now until death takes me and I’ll never ever have anything near James Lee Burke’s vocabulary.  Should have picked up a “Dick and Jane” book instead.  ”See Spot run….”

James Lee Burke writes about pain and he describes it in a way you feel the pain like an abscessed tooth.  He writes about people and doesn’t just describe them, you become them.  Their pain and suffering is your pain and suffering.  He writes about the good and evil in man…sometimes contained in the same flawed person.  He paints with a vivid brush.  Oh, how I wish.

Okay back to the next great American novel…or I can wash my car.  My car really needs washing…

If you are interested in hot, romantic short stories and novellas you might wish to drop by Lynn’s author’s page at  https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Cooper/e/B00LPX4HGO

If you are interested in nonfiction or historical fiction you might try Don Miller’s page at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in Don Miller writing romantic adventure as Lena Christenson, her page is at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19  My beloved still wonders what I might know about romance.  Well, I read books.

Image from https://allthatjazzblogdotcom.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/of-struggling-scribes-and-pain/

 

“Nom de Guerre” or “Nom de Plume”?  Whichever, it might have been a mistake.

 

Struggling writer…that’s me.  I really enjoy, metaphorically, taking pen in hand and putting my thoughts to paper.  Well, taking fingers to keyboard…I even have sounds imitating the old Royal I used in Mrs. Leopart’s typing class way back in the day.  Good thing I have a retirement to fall back on because while I am writing, I’m not selling…a thought, which caused my literary train to begin to run off my tracks.

A year or so ago, I decided I would use what had once been a fertile imagination to write historical fiction.  I wrote, I published, but I’m still not selling…much.  While I write for me, I WOULD like to sell occasionally just to know “There are people out there” and maybe that my writing ain’t that bad.  On a day I was feeling particularly vulnerable, I mentioned this to a friend and former student, Lynn Cooper.  She is also a writer…an author who began as a writer of children’s books and transitioned to erotic romance literature.

Erotic romance is not an easy subject to discuss with a former, female student…one I remember as a pretty, well put together brunette who sat in the front right of my classroom.  She was quite memorable.  I also haven’t seen her in twenty-five years so it’s all I have to go on.

I asked her, “You write quite well whatever your genre, but why the move to erotic literature?”

She answered simply, “I’m trying to make a living.”  Hum, it seems smut sells and hers is high-quality smut, well-written smut…it is actually well written, blazing hot romance literature. I admit  I have read her novellas…for educational value, wink, wink.

She suggested I might give it a try…writing romance.  “Maybe you should try to express your romantic side.”  I imagined her dark brown eyes, lashes fluttering…and a mocking grin on her face.

It was an interesting thought, one I almost immediately dismissed…almost dismissed.  Then I didn’t.  I wrote a contemporary romance with just a bit of…(gulp) eroticism.  A novella with not one but two sultry heroines, both of whom, I fell in love with.  A bit of adventure, a little of the paranormal and some  moments of “dirty mommy porn.”  Is that redundant? I was proud of my accomplishment…until my wife commented.  “What in the hell do you know about romance?”  I gotta do better on the home front.

Olivia sorta sold, a few here, a few there.  Some very good comments from those who read it until one reader pointed out, “An old, balding guy with a beard writing mommy porn?  Creepy.”  Was I creepy?  Please imagine a metallic rattle as my locomotive begins to derail.  I should have simply replied, “Creepy? You bought it.”

I will not be deterred!  If writing porn was good enough for Stephen King, it is good enough for me!  But I decided to create a nom de plume…nom de guerre…I don’t know which.  A pseudonym, an alter-ego.  BUT I HAD TO GO THE WHOLE HOG!  This was despite a suggestion of caution from my mentor, Lynn.  The rattles of my locomotive have been joined by bangs and clanks.

Why not create a whole new persona.?  One that is not creepy.  A young female, blond and beautiful.  A transplant from President Trump’s favorite country, Norway, now living somewhere on the Gulf Coast.  Lusty and sultry. herself, with cornsilk hair and sky blue eyes..its a completely fake author bio.  Maybe I am creepy.

I created social media pages…even an author’s page.  Remember, Don must devour the whole hog.  I  purchased the copyright for a picture of a sweet and pouty young woman to grace her different media sites and book covers.  I gave her a name.  Then I really went to work.  Rattle, rattle, bang, bang went the train.  I rewrote and rereleased Olivia under the name of Lena Christenson, my new pen name.   My new feminine side.

I HAVEN’T SOLD A COPY SINCE I DID IT!  “Hold her Newt, we’re headed for the pea patch.”

No, I haven’t sold a copy, but I have received three messages requesting “hook-ups” and today received a message from an Eastern European gentleman by the name of Yusif Tunar professing undying love and a proposal of matrimony…if I wire him airfare and traveling money.  The attached photograph shows he is quite dashing looking.  Dark and robust, six-pack abs covered in thick curly hair and Popeye forearms.  Biceps that can crack walnuts. What’s next? Penis pictures?  I don’t know whether to end the charade or “continue” to play them along.  Hum…If I play them along I may learn something.  Rattle, bang, crash!

If you are interested you can find Lena’s books at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

If you are really interested in good “mommy porn”, you can find Lynn’s books at https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-Cooper-Writes-Romances-386005534933638/

Oh, I almost forgot. Don Miller’s books may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM. They are downloadable or available in paperback.

[Photo Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images]

A Broken Kaleidoscope

One of the reasons I write is due to my depression…it helps give me relief…EXCEPT FOR RIGHT NOW!  Normally writing gives me insights into the broken kaleidoscope that is my mind.  For some reason, it ain’t happnin’.  I find myself in a conundrum?  I write to offset my effects of my depression, yet I’m unable to write or rather finish my writing, because of my depression.  Did I mention I’m tired of winter?  The days are lengthening.  Hey look, there is a spider on the window sill.  Is that Aretha playing…the Godmother of Soul?  I smell peanut butter.  Wow, it’s colder than owl sh!#.

See the problem?  I can’t hold a thought.  Its as if my thoughts are sliding down an iced-over driveway in flat bottom leather soled shoes.  It took twelve minutes to write twenty-seven words…and as I reread, not very good words.  That’s slightly more than two words a minute…correct?  My math skills have all ways been suspect…I did calculate last night’s tip in my head…sh!# I did it again!

I have three “novels” in the can…except I can’t finish them.  I guess that means there really not in the can…STOP IT!  If I were talking to you and I said that I had three novels, I would have probably used air quotes…”Novels.”  Writers go through stages.  I’m in the “Your writing sucks”  stage of being.  I don’t know if it’s because of my depression or is it because my writing “sucks”.  Last week I was thinking, one of these is going to be the breakthrough.  The great American novel.  What happened?

Occasionally I’m introduced as “the author.”  This is usually by caring family members who say it with misplaced pride or those who are attempting to make me feel worthwhile.  I always counter with, no I’m the writer because I think authors must actually sell their books to be considered an author.  I keep telling myself I’m not writing for the money, a good thing because I’m not making any. I’m not writing for the gratification I receive from the adulation of my adoring fans, also a good thing.  Why the f@#$ am I writing?  Look!  There’s a…STOP IT!

Wow!  “The Rantings of a Fractured Mind?”  That might make a good title…I did it again…For those of you who think depression is being a little blue, it’s not even close.  I could stand being blue, it’s the broken kaleidoscope of my mind.  No matter how much I twist it, the patterns don’t quite fit together and there is nothing I can do except wait until it passes…if it passes.  The fear of it being permanent is always there.

Hey, sorry!  I’m Donnie Downer this morning.  As I hit “Publish” I hope my depression will fly off into cyberspace with it.  Have yourself a great day.

Image from Marion Paul Bruin, the Kaleidoscope King at https://www.pinterest.de/pin/118852877642184769/?lp=true

For some of my “more” lucid thoughts try my writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

HIATUS BUT NO VACATION

I MUST go on hiatus. I like that word…hiatus. It means a pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process. What it does not mean is A vacation. So, I AM NOT TAKING A VACATION from “Ravings of a Mad Southerner.” I am taking a pause or a gap from it. It is not that I want to pause but this will be my last blog post for a bit. What was that I heard? The gnashing of teeth and hearts breaking? NO! I just moved and my knees made crackling sounds. This is a busy time in my life and I can’t afford my self-imposed schedule of postings. Instead of being able to “Count all the bees in the hive” OR “Chase all the clouds from the sky,” AND my continued telling of stories, I have to take control of my life and actually act like a grown up. No I am not going to grow up but I’m not getting any younger and my “to do” list is not getting any shorter. Fear not, or in spite of your fear, “I’ll be back!” And, I will continue to write…just not post…not on a schedule…JUST WHEN SOMETHING BOTHERS ME SO!

I have no notion that I am a good writer. I think I have gotten better and “No I am not fishing for compliments.” I am a teller of stories who then writes them down, sometimes quite badly. Some memories, I am sure, are only important to me and many times I think “Gee, that sounded a lot better in my head” and I punch delete. I am also AWARE there were times when I should have made the same determination about other stories and didn’t. Sorry!

I find that I am addicted to writing. Like the analgesic I rub on my knees, writing is an anodyne, something to remove distress or pain. To quote Buffett, “He went to Paris looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.” I hate flying so I just went to writing.

I also write because deep down I am a narcissist. In the Afterword of “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…” I wrote, “A former student and friend, who is now an author in her own right, commented to me that she had succumbed to a bit of narcissism by including herself on the cover of one of her books.” I agreed with her because I believe all successful authors…and coaches are a little narcissistic. Being a bit narcissistic is probably not a bad thing… up to a point. We all want to win a championship or write the “great American novel” and we all want to hear and see our names put out there as long as it is positive and not something criminal or stupid. “And here he is Hall of Fame…whatever!” I really just want to sell more books than I give away and see that someone has viewed on my blog. Is that too narcissistic?

The key word in the previous quote is “Successful.” Success may be just being able to write better. I believe PATHWAYS was written better than the previous two books and when I look back on some of the stories I have written I shake my head and ask why did you say it that way? I hope my blog has been written better, again I am not fishing.

I worry I might lose my readership. I have built a bit of a following. Some people will read anything including a cereal box. Not just my former students and friends either but from people I don’t EVEN know. People from all parts of the world…and I hate to say I get nervous when people from SOME countries are reading me. I am such a terrible person. I appreciate when my former students and friends take the time to read my rantings. Actually I probably write for you as much as I write for me. Wow, did I just hear “Thanks for doing me no favors?” Somehow it keeps me connected to people who were and are important to me. I thank you all who are clicking on my WordPress.

So I shall bid you a SHORT and “fond adieu” along with my thanks. I’ll shall return in the fall when the garden is done, the roof has been replaced on the outhouse AND garage, the porch is cleaned, painted and some of the rails replace, the wood for winter has been cut, split and stacked, and when…hell freezes over I’ll be back?

If you just can’t live without me, please click on the following link and buy a book or click on a post that you haven’t read. I need the money and to feed my narcissism. Just remember I am a work in progress.

http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM