Thoughts on Journals

Another one of my disclaimers: it’s 1:40AM right now, and I’m pretty out of it. Not sure if much of what is below makes sense. Forgive me for not editing it, but I’m exhausted.

I’ve been thinking about journaling lately. I’ve been keeping a journal pretty steadily for a while now – I don’t write often, but I keep the same notebook instead of jumping from one to the other, and whenever I write I feel very relieved. I love it. I wonder if I should start doing it regularly, as part of my routine – doing it first thing in the morning or right before I go to bed or else find some better time during the day. It’ll be hard to keep it up during school-time, though, so I need to consider this.

I’ve also been thinking about how so many bloggers manage to write about their personal, everyday lives in an interesting way. I’ve always had a problem with this, partly because I put such low significance to anything that happens to me. Let me clarify – I find whatever happens to me important, but that’s natural and expected; the problem is that I seem to think that nobody else could possibly find anything that happens to me engaging and worth hearing about. Only through therapy have I succeeded in forcing myself to share more of my everyday life with my friends. I used to expect them to yawn – inwardly, if not outwardly – and find me incredibly dull. I’m slowly learning to accept the fact that my friends love me for who I am and want to know what’s going on with me. They shouldn’t need to ply me with endless questions just to get me to tell them about the internships I’m applying to or how my current work-in-progress is going.

But then there’s the issue of the internet. Sure, my friends are interested in me. But why should random readers who stumble on my blog care about what I’m going through? I realize that I read many blogs where people share their personal, daily lives in a way that I find entertaining and I keep coming back to read more. How do they do it, though?

I’ve been thinking of experimenting with adding a new page on my blog, another one that I’ll post to every day, that will be more of a journal. Then this, the main page, would hold my fiction and thoughts on writing.

How about you guys? What are your thoughts on journaling? If you’re a regular, would you be interested in seeing me add a more journal-like page to my blog?

Dorms, Interviews, People, and Stuff

I haven’t posted in over a week – could it even be two weeks? – and I feel bad about that. No, correction, I specifically feel bad about not having written for so long, as well as about not having read all of your posts. I find this an encouraging sign that I will (hopefully) be able to keep up my blog posting over the next few months while I’m at school.

I’m currently in my dorm room, which I share with one other girl. She’s lovely, although I don’t know her very well yet, and I feel quite optimistic about us continuing to live in harmony – this is rare for me, as I’m often quite the pessimist. My aunt pointed out something interesting to me this week – I’d gotten some news, and I immediately began to talk about all the things that were going to go wrong and how things would fail – my aunt, as I was saying, pointed out that whenever something happens, the story-telling part of my brain starts formulating what’s going to happen almost at once. True, the predictions I make are usually dark, but I’m trying to be a bit brighter and better. For instance, I’m truly trying to be in the moment while I’m here at college and not think about the stress that will come later.

At my school, registering for classes is a complicated business involving lots of running around (in the rain) to sign up at different professors’ doors. The students interview the teachers about the classes they’re teaching and then base their decision on that. I’ll update you all what my classes are once I know them for sure, but suffice it to say for now that I really-really-really hope I get into the ones I want.

I’ve been meeting lots of old friends from last year, and they’ve all given me lovely and warm welcomes, which makes me feel both fantastic (because they remember me and thought fondly of me while I was gone) and ashamed (because I honestly felt that nobody really liked me when I left school a year ago).

I suppose the point of this whole scattered post is that I’m seriously glad to be back, despite a lot of things which could really easily ruin it for me.

Homeless with a Hamster

High Priest Jonas, son of Azekial, of the long-standing Levi line, looked exactly like any other homeless man wandering about the streets of the capital city. Unlike them, however, he carried in his heart the knowledge of his noble lineage.

He walked through the alleyways of stone and dirt every day, and watched the washing hung out to dry between the windows of the buildings on either side of him. He counted socks, shirts and pants and tried to figure out how many people lived in each apartment. Sometimes he sat under a washing line and let the water from badly wrung clothing drip onto his dirty green coat and his matted and tangled brown hair. He liked that, because it meant he walked around for the rest of the day with the smell of laundry detergent mixed in with the alcohol, body odor and bad breath that surrounded him.

He couldn’t clearly remember where he’d been before the street. He thought that there was a home, maybe a job and a family as well. He distinctly remembered there being a lot of wine. Much more wine than he was able to put his hands on these days.

The problem with Jonas, the other homeless agreed, was that he thought himself superior. None of the others were strangers to madness – they’d all had brushes with the crazies or else had gone through insane phases themselves, but none of them tried to pretend that they were better than anyone else. But Jonas turned his nose up at them. He’d tried, at first, to teach them, to collect followers, but once they told him to go away, using nasty vocabulary, he decided that they weren’t worth his time.

Jonas didn’t see things this way. In his opinion, the ones who shared the city-streets with him had hurt his pride and mocked him, and for that he would never forgive them. Maybe one day, if they would deign to apologize, he would acknowledge them and help them to salvation.

Meanwhile, however, he’d found himself a different companion. Bobo, a hamster in a green cage, was beside him day and night. He was a stalwart friend – his nose quivered in anticipation whenever Jonas gave him food and he would emit high-pitched squeaks of satisfaction when the man tickled his stomach. Jonas was pleased with him.

One evening in October, the High Priest took Bobo to one of his favorite haunts. It was one of the coffee-shop chains that filled the city streets, but unlike many others, there weren’t waiters. Instead, people ordered their coffee inside and then took their mugs to the outdoor seating area when the weather was nice or if they were smokers. The staff rarely came outside to collect the dirty dishes, so Jonas could sit at a table all evening without being shooed off the premises.

“Look, Bobo,” he grinned, broken teeth bared. “This is a nice table, right? A nice table.” He put the cage down and sat on a red plastic chair. His coat was bulky and uncomfortable and the table rocked as he hit it with his knee. Instinctively, he shot out an arm to hold the cage steady. Bobo sniffed his thanks, directing his tiny nose at Jonas’ hand.

He scoped out the area around him. There was a bar behind him, small and tucked into a crevice of the little complex. In front of him were other tables and chairs like his, with people sitting at them. He saw that none of his enemies were there and breathed a sigh of relief. He could work in peace. He crooned once at Bobo before taking out paper and a stubby bit of pencil.

He leaned forward and began to write. The people who sat around him watched him warily, like they watched all homeless men and women who came too close to their comfy worlds. Jonas didn’t mind – he knew that they watched him merely because they were drawn to his nobility. Even if they didn’t know it, they were dimly aware of the majesty that was in his tall, wide frame. He pretended not to notice their staring and continued writing, working as always on his lists and his plans.

“Mommy, mommy, there’s a homeless man with a hamster!” a little boy’s voice rang out.

“Shh!” the boy’s father picked him up and carried him away, glancing back fearfully to make sure that the boy’s yell hadn’t angered the man.

Jonas frowned sadly, but the boy’s father couldn’t see the expression through his wild, tangled beard.

“Yes, I have a hamster,” Jonas said quietly, looking down at Bobo. “He is my friend.”

 

Guest Post: J.W. Nicklaus, End of Virtual Book Tour

J.W. Nicklaus was kind enough to stop by on my humble blog for an interview, as promised a month or so ago, at the beginning of his tour! I hope you enjoy the following interview.

SI: First off, just to get things warmed up, I know you’ve answered this question multiple times over the course of your blog tour, but I’d like you to give a short explanation of what your book is about, in case there are readers of mine who have only recently joined me.

J.W.: There’s an old sales maxim that says you must “ask for the sale,” so here it goes: “Buy the book!”

I guess that’s more of a declarative statement than a question, huh? Never was much good at sales.

The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between is a collection of short stories which revolve around the dichotomous themes of Hope and Love. One of the really neat things about the blog tour was seeing how clearly the reviewers picked up on the underlying messages in the stories. Most of them had descriptions for the stories ranging from “love lost” and “destructive love,” to “wishing for love.” One of them hit the nail on the head when she stated the stories weren’t so much about “romantic love, but hopeful love.” So don’t think they’re all sappy love stories. As others are finding out, there’s quite a range between the front and back covers. ;^)

SI: How do you feel now, at the end of your first online book tour? Excited? Let down? Were the responses what you were hoping for?

J.W.: I had way oversimplified the task when it first began. All the writing is done before the tour actually begins, so I thought it would be a snap to simply check the stops and make comments when needed; commenting is one of the coolest parts of blogging, getting feedback on what you’ve put out there for public consumption.

But there’s a lot of other work involved if you stand any chance of having people drop in during the tour. There’s an old advertising campaign that simply states “Know what happens when you don’t advertise? Nothing.” So I had to put the tour schedule on my web site and then come up with some entertaining way to try and convince folks to visit the stops from my blog.

I’m here to tell ya, that takes some work. And I had the easy part. Dorothy Thompson (my tour coordinator) had 4 other authors touring at the same time I was.

I’m excited and intrigued by what the future holds for the book. The tour was a good way to get my name out on the internet. Try searching for “J.W. Nicklaus” and see what comes up. Having all that online exposure now makes it easier to use as a reference as I being exploring other promotional endeavors.

On the other hand, as much work as it was I’m also a little dismayed that it’s over because it was so interesting to see all the different comments and peoples’ takes on the subject at hand any given day. I got to interact with some really nice folks. Perhaps the most memorable responses came from my post at The Bookworm, regarding RIF, and one reviewers reaction to my story 10:18. Lots of people remembered the Reading Is Fundamental organization (they’re still around today!), and the reviewer was angered by 10:18, although she’d didn’t elaborate as to why. I also received a lot of feedback on my article regarding reading devices and the shift in publishing dynamics. I didn’t think that was going to get much readership at all, but it brought out lots of passionate responses. Suffice to say that it appears most readers are definitely attached to their physical books.

SI: You’ve mentioned a wish to finish that novel you’ve been working on. Is it already in the works or are you currently focusing on The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between‘s promotion?

J.W.: Currently I’m steeped in promotional efforts for Ember Between, and likely will be so at least through the end of this year, and most likely for the foreseeable future. I already have one event scheduled for November with another author.

In the meantime, when time permits, I’ll dabble with the novel here and there, I’m sure. There’s another short story I really want to finish, too. But I’ll tell you what . . . if you and your readers hang around a while I’ll post a chapter or two of Eden when I feel it’s ready. That’ll be waaaaaay in advance of any manuscript submission. So you may get to see it in its raw form. I would really love to have it ready for submittal within two years, but there’s a lot of life to take care of every day, and only a precious small slice of it to dedicate to writing. I will get to it though, I promise you that.

And now, some lighter fare . . .

SI: Do you prefer writing by hand or with a keyboard?

J.W.: My penmanship leaves much to be desired. Does that answer your question? LOL!

When there’s no keyboard handy (I don’t tote around a laptop) I will resort to using old school technology?pen and paper. Here’s a little something for those still paying attention: The last piece in my book is titled In the Name Of Love. It’s a piece about love for one’s country. I wrote that all by hand after walking around Washington D.C. all day. Wrote it upon the banister of the north stairs leading to Capitol Hill. Of course I later typed it, but its initial incarnation was done the classical way ;^)

SI: Do you like to write at home or outside somewhere?

J.W.: At home I have all the comforts and distractions you could possibly ask for. Food or drink is never far from reach, nor is music. The surroundings are (obviously) very familiar, so it’s comfortable. I think I tend to be more focused and contemplative when writing away from here. I’ve traveled with a laptop a couple times and found it very interesting to sit in a hotel lobby and write while immersed in foreign surroundings. I’ve even sat in two different Business Centers and wrote. Simply being up and about stimulates creativity for me, so I think that plays into my external writing focus.

SI: Where would you travel to right now, if you could?

J.W.: I would love to go pretty much anywhere that would have me in for a book reading/signing. I’m  far more inclined to be attracted to areas of greenery, though, and of course, large bodies of water. I wouldn’t mind traveling to Minnesota, or New York, or even Texas (I could visit my brother). I think it would be a blast to travel to Boston and visit Fenway with my son. We’re not Red Sox fans, but it’s a classic ballpark . . . Wrigley would do nicely, too!

And finally, a couple questions about your perspective on writing . . .

SI: Writers are a self-criticizing bunch, just like other artists. Were there times during the writing process when you couldn’t stand something you wrote? Were you pleased with the final outcome of each of your stories?

J.W.: I think all of us are our harshest critics. I’ll give you a concrete example: There are a couple of stories in the book that I think are a little weak, but I also think they’re entertaining, so I’m willing to overlook my critical perceptions of them. In both cases I did some re-writing, and they are stronger for it. I could have spent months doing continuous revisions, but there comes a point when I have to step back and ask “will the reader enjoy this, or is my nit picking getting in the way of what may be a good story?”

And no, I won’t reveal which stories they are . . . evil, huh!

If ever I write something I really can’t stand, I just don’t return to it. I won’t finish a story that I think isn’t working or isn’t up to my standards. No point in it. As for the collection as a whole, I am truly proud of them. For me there is no denying that, at a minimum, this book will be one tangible thing I leave behind which will give people an idea of the kind of person I truly am. To that extent, I have to temper my desire for perfection with the acceptance that nothing in this world is perfect . . . and I’m genuinely at peace with that.

SI: Finally, has the long and grueling process of writing and putting together this book had a negative effect on your daily life, or are you ready to jump back into the fray and keep on writing?

J.W.: It’s been the furthest thing from negative. It has assuredly kept me busy, and sometimes up past my bedtime (I enjoy my sleep!), but the rewards have been worth all the effort. It’s a whole different kind of scary when you put your words and ideas out for all to see and consider?but to see people really embrace the book and enjoy it, man, is that one heck of a payback.

There really isn’t any way for me to not write on a daily basis, whether e-mails or blogging. On those occasions when I don’t write, I am always reading. Most times that means I’m reading your blog, or Joy’s, GBU’s, Laurie K’s, etc. There’s also a group I belong to that shoots stuff back and forth every day, so there’s always something interesting going on.

I once remarked to Joy that I read her blog more often than I comment, and she told me to go ahead and leave a small comment, just so she knows I was there. She adores getting comments, and she has the readership to prove it. The one thing I didn’t tell her is that I don’t comment if I don’t feel I have anything of value or interest to say. It doesn’t mean I don’t like this post or that, but I just wasn’t feeling like I had an opinion worth sharing. And that doesn’t hold for just her blog, but all blogs or sites I visit. I don’t know how some of these folks keep up with their blogrolls!

Ms. Slightly, thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to guest post and do this interview with you. Both were a lot of fun, and I hope your readers will enjoy it (and I hope my book!). I know that some day I will get to return the favor. Those who may not read my blog can find a link to it at the right in your blogroll, or they can also visit my site, http://www.avomnia.com to learn a little more about me or get a signed copy of the book!

Thank you, J.W., it was a pleasure having you!