Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Pushing Through Misery


A lot has changed in 18 months. And I find myself coming back to blogging.

The pandemic was slowing down here in the states. The lowest amount of cases in June of 2021 was a remarkable 5,000 for the entire country. Now we have had 1.35 Million cases just yesterday. The Beta Variant is gone. The Delta Variant is dwindling. It seems that the majority of cases of Omicron are less severe and come with an antibody response.

Many of my fellow narrator friends, family members, and old friends have lost a loved one due to Covid19 or Cancer or another illness.

My own father passed away from Cancer. A form called Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST) on September 25th of 2021. (For more information on this rare disease, click here.)

We've lost heroes young and old. Quite recently we lost Betty White, Sidney Poitier and Bob Saget.

Here in Michigan, January has replaced December as an unforgiving month of bitter cold with temperatures in the single digits at night.

And while a lot has changed, you have to wonder: How does one power through trauma and misery in order to write another story?

Well, this blog is called Tales and Troubled Times of a Hungry Writer for a reason. 

I am no stranger to Trauma.

Writing has always been therapeutic for me. My mother and father always encouraged my voracious appetite for reading and when I finally started penning my own stories, they gave me tremendous support. When I decided to self-publish my first book, they provided me with money to do so. They kept copies of my books in their bedroom on a nightstand within reach. Every time I told them I had another idea cooking they were both impressed and astonished by my productivity. But they were the ones who fed the fire that continues to burn within me.

Yes, it is easy to get bogged down. To have downtimes. To not even want to glance at a blank page. To regard storytelling as a fool's gambit when you are in the throes of great depression. But the blank page is always waiting. It remains neutral. The blank pages listen to your woes and tries to help you figure them out one sentence at a time.

And while the world seems to be changing rapidly, through peaks and valleys, sometimes grim and sometimes hopeful, I remain convinced and encouraged that better days are just ahead.

At least, that would be my father's outlook. He was always a man with infectious optimism. And I'd like to carry on that tradition.

The last gift I gave my father was a gold pocket watch. These days I find myself wishing we had more time together.

The last gift he and my mother gave me was a FreeWrite Traveler.

Even with all the bad news and daily struggle of sadness, I have found time to finish some stories.

I recently finished what I called THE BIG SCI-FI BOOK, which has been long-gestating. It finally has a cover and is available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo now. I call it Skyways Of Tomorrow. I am currently halfway through recording the audiobook.

I have also finished a thriller Novella on the FreeWrite.

A story I am 90 percent finished with is a Christmas Novella that will hopefully be out soon. Maybe in February.

And, quite recently, I've decided to end every future story I publish with the words:

In Loving Memory Of
Carmelo Scarlato

Life moves. Friendships are rekindled. Stories are still told.

Our strength as humans is not just in our multiple ways of expressing ourselves but also in that much-needed yearn to express our grief and to be vulnerable. This helps us untangle the wires in our minds. It helps us relate to one another. But it is a feature that is distinctly human.

So continue to write. Write about Sorrow. Write about Joys and Triumphs. Write about whatever your heart desires. Pour out your humanity on the page and it will heal you in turn.

Then you will find that you're not just pushing through misery. You are creating something new and beautiful which will make your loved ones proud.

I'm still writing stories, Papa. These yarns are for you.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The 2 Year Drought

Well, here we are again. It is amazing how many times I’ve come back to the blank page, thinking that nothing would come of it. I am often dismayed by crafting a story that is already formed inside my head. I sometimes obsess over questions that plant seeds of doubt.

Will the story translate well to the page?

Will people be moved by it?

Will people find this story entertaining?

Will I ever be able to write something this good again?

I’ve discovered that, for the most part, this happens to all writers. John Grisham takes six months to write a book, and he always starts on January 1st. John Irving writes the ending of each story first and tries to build a novel around it. Dean Koontz makes several drafts of each page before he moves on to the next one.

What I’ve found is that every writer has a process. But it is weird that I hadn’t figured out mine until just a few short weeks ago.

My process for writing is as follows:

1.       Get an interesting “What If?” Idea.
2.       Let the characters and plotlines gradually unwind in the mind.
3.       Write 30 to 60 perfect pages.
4.       Abandon the story for a while.
5.       Come back to the story, re-read what I wrote before.
6.       Let the characters drive
7.       Write the last 50 pages in a glorious fury

I once thought that this process was clunky and erratic and didn’t make much sense. But then again, a story is like that in its rawest form. It needs to be shaped, polished, molded. I used to buck against these 7 steps I would take, thinking that I wasn’t taking the craft of writing seriously. But now I find that as jumbled as this process seems to be it is still uniquely my own.

I still jump in and out of stories at my own pace. I still have hundreds of pages of half-finished stories. And I’m always mind writing; thinking of another line or plot point or character to put in a book as I continue on with my life. It has become a daily habit to think of a story and continue to shape it without having to write a word.

So imagine my surprise when I looked at my list of published works and found out that I had not released a new work in over two years! By all accounts, it would seem that the well had run dry, that the fairies and sprites of inspiration and imagination had left me for greener pastures. That I am experiencing a writer’s drought. But that is not the case.

I still plan on revisiting the world of Olde Country in Ye Olde Idea Shoppe. There are a few characters who get solo adventures that are tied to Pickpocket Frankie. There’s still a second part to mysterious Mr. Dead Eyes and there are even a few surprises in between. I still have novellas that are over the halfway mark. I still have a memoir or two. I am even trying out a book of poems.

So even though nothing has seen the light of day, I have still been working on writing in some capacity.

While my process is not entirely predictable I have now come to own it and take pride in it and realize that, well, that’s just the way my brain works.

So, at least for now, I have to go back and tend to my crops. They need watering. But keep a sharp eye and you just may see the fruits of my labors.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Da Works

Well, it’s winding down to the end of the year and I could not let the new year pass without saying a few things about my journey of writing and what I’ve learned.
I meant what I said about writing novels now instead of novellas. And, like I always do, I am drifting between three separate novels. So here are my works in progress and my thinking behind them.

THE BIG SCI-FI BOOK – God, feels like this one has been going on forever and yet every time I come back to it, I am encouraged to time travel back to the 1940’s again and again. I’ve always wanted to write an immersive, exciting, mind-bender of a novel and I feel that this one is leaps and bounds better than what I’ve written in the past. I know its more ambitious because I’ve done a lot of research on it. But the main thread is to make the story enjoyable and not bogged down with facts. I’m trying to write it in such a way that once you’re done with the journey, you’ll want to read it again. (25,000 words in.)

WORKING WOES – This book is a memoir of my working life. The one I’ve always kept in the back of my mind and just now am I willing to brave the storm and write it. I say brave the storm because I’ve found that this is not just revisiting my work life from 2003-2014 but it has also become a poignant discovery of some extremely difficult times. I’m not very public with my feelings because I tend to be self-deprecating. I’m more willing to deal with depression or outright numbness through writing than to ask for help. Writing about my work life has become more therapeutic and cathartic than I ever imagined. It’s made me laugh at the fun times I had at jobs I liked and groan whenever I encountered an awkward situation or one of the many setbacks that were put in my way.  I find myself barreling through and breaking new ground and happy to say that this process has really given me closure. And if that inspires a person to tread carefully when entering the workforce, then I am grateful. (14,000 words in)

THE HOUSE – With each novel, I try to do something different. But I also like to set some of my stories in the past for nostalgic purposes. This one is set in the seventies. It’s kind of my take on the classic movie The Old Dark House. But it goes much deeper. There are twists and turns galore. I wanted to tap into a horror that was both psychological and suspenseful. I have no idea when this title will see the light of day. But I’m encouraged to write more because this is one of the few novels that I have fully mapped out in my head. And that’s really saying something. (4,000 words in.)

2018 was a heavy workload kind of year. I've narrated some wonderful works from Shirleen Davies, Mark Cisper, Jamie Davis, Morgan Cole, Washington Irving, Lao Tzu, Leslie North and Brian Knight. My daughter is growing up and she really loves reading! My business is growing and I'm learning new things every day. The house is still be fixed up but its almost finished. I'm excited to see who I will be narrating for next and what new stories I'll be able to conjure up.

New year means new goals.

So, for 2019, my new year's resolution will be to write a chapter a day.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Here it Goes: Novel or Nothing!

For the past few months, I’ve been really busy. It feels like two sides of me are organizing the year ahead when it comes to new projects. Writing has always been my go-to when finding inner peace or to unravel the concepts involved in life. While I am an avid consumer of entertainment, I strive to be a content creator. I’m here to entertain the masses.

But, as it turned out, I’ve really branched out when deciding to become a narrator. It gave me another outlet to express myself.

So that, understandably, has taken up a lot of my time. And I don’t mind. I love immersing myself in being a storyteller.

I now work for three companies: Acx, Bee Audio and Findaway Voices.

If all goes well, I should be quite busy this year when it comes to my full time job. But, my productivity has slowed significantly with writing.

So, for the new year, I’ve given myself a new goal. From this date forward, I am done working on Novellas and Short Stories.

There’s a couple of reasons why:

1.     Short stories and Novellas are quick to produce and I want to challenge myself more and not just take a quick dip in and out of worlds.
2.     For the rest of the year I want to work on ONLY Novels. So that’s anything over 50,000 words in length.
3.     I have a backlog of novels that are screaming to be written.
4.     And I want to get at least 3 full novels done this year.

Currently, I’ve been taking my written works and have put them up on Audible. Three of the titles (Right Outta My Mouth, Village Americana, Pickpocket Frankie) are narrated by me. But the majority are narrated by other very talented people. The reason for this is two-fold.

First, I know I don’t have time to narrate everything I have written. Besides, there are some stories I’ve written where I have convinced myself that I am just not the right voice for it. Second, since I started narrating in 2014, Audible Acx has had a swell of new narrators. Thousands more people have gotten into this field. A lot of them are looking for their first book to narrate. I remember when I was looking for that chance to become the voice of somebody’s story, so now I’m offering that to people who are trying to break into the industry.

Also, I’ll be moving to a different house. Which will be a big change for me and my family. And since this seems like the year for big change I figured why not have big goals.

But, dear reader, there are more titles to come in the future.

I’m putting the final touches on two novellas.

One is called The Digital Novelist and the other is called The Loop. They’re both what I’ve come to know as Sci-Fi Horror.

And they are the final two stories I’m going to include in my newest collection titled Night of Novellas. (6 novellas in all with introductions, extras and behind the story segments)

The last novella I’ll be working on before I jump headfirst into novels will be a title I call The Transcriptionists. It’s a crime thriller that came to me one day.

But, after all that, it’s Novel or Nothing, folks.

I still have a list of titles that have been percolating long enough.

THE BIG SCI- FI BOOK is the one I’m most anxious to return to, as it also ties into another title I’ve written called Thief of The Gods: An Area 51 Confession.

I’d also like to return to Mr. Dead Eyes 2. Because the audio book for the first book is in production now and it sounds great. It’s giving me new ideas of what I can put in the second installment.

I also have two spinoff sequels to Pickpocket Frankie. These two books don’t have the titular character Frankie in them. These are more focused on two big characters mentioned in the book. And those are both crime thrillers.

I also have another novel planned for the private investigator Thomas Wilker. But this will be set way before the events of Mr. Dead Eyes.

Add to that a behemoth novel I have planned that is in the genre of literary fiction. I don’t know how long it will be, but it will definitely have a large cast of characters.

So, yeah, it’s clear to me that the novels in my head are screaming for attention. And all I have to do is open the door. Why wait, right?

Remember, always set new goals for yourself every year.

And, as always, keep writing.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

When the Devil On Your Tail is Called Obscurity

Why do we write?

Y'know, I've asked that question a few times. An author friend of mine asked this of me. I can only tell you that when I first started writing it was harder than it needed to be. I wrote on a desktop computer handed down to me by my aunt. I used to play games on it whenever I visited her house. When it got turned over to me it was pretty much on its last leg. The thing would freeze up, become slow or would suddenly shut down. But I didn't let that stop me.

I became driven to write the one story I had, the one that kept nagging me.

Looking back, I see the mistakes I've made and have learned a lot since then.

For me, writing is a way of tapping into the human soul, the human condition.

It helps me release anxieties, keeps me sharp and puts me in a mode of relaxation.

My first book took me a few years to write.

Now it takes me a few months.

For the past year I've been on a mission, a mission to make my mark. All told I have 16 titles available on kindle. I'm expanding to other markets such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBook.

Nobody ever told me, "Hey you, get writing."

I just decided to do it one day.

And that's what it comes down to.

Writing is a decision. Whether you pursue that decision is entirely up to you.

For instance, I take writing very seriously. Whenever I start a project, I need to know if it will stir something up inside a person before I even write it. Anger, hate, joy, envy, sadness, fear: these are the emotions I want to pull out of a person. In order to do that, I let the story cook for a while inside my head. In my daily life, I fill in the blanks. Whether I'm doing dishes, taking a walk with my daughter or even if I'm picking up groceries, I'm always writing inside my own head.

Once I have the beginning, middle and end, I pull out my laptop and start tapping the keys.

From there I share it with my wife and a few other people.

After some polish and an added detail here and there, I upload it and offer free copies for honest reviews.

I've even given myself deadlines to help move the inspiration along. It helps to give yourself a schedule.

I've been writing for close to two decades and I'm not stopping anytime soon.

Because another little thing they don't tell you is that when you've put out your first book, you become encouraged to write more. Becuase there is always a little devil nipping at your heels. And that devil is called obscurity.

I'd rather have written 100 books and know that I wrote that much and be broke than to have never written a word and wonder what might have been. I don't care if the whole world became illiterate overnight, I'd still write. I've got more than enough stories to write and I have something to say.

If that's the case with you then, well, what are you doing reading this blog. You could've pounded out a short story in the time it took you to read this blog post.

As always, keep writing.

Oh, and don't let that pesky devil catch up to you.

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