Archive for Newbie

In The Thick of It

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/28/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

Ok. I’m going to get to the heart of the matter.

Life is weird. Life is hard. I don’t know why, but I’m going through a blue period.

It isn’t as though there’s any reason that I can discern for it. Life may be hard, but I am living my dreams. I am writing for the masses. I hope to make some money at it someday. My work is being read by more and more people. I am having fun losing myself in the universes that I create.

I also feel alone even when I am surrounded by others.

I somehow don’t know how to react to the taste of success. It could be seconds away from my fingertips, and I would have an attack of nerves. I’d get cold feet  if I had to give a speech in public. Maybe I should just read it in someone else’s voice!

I’ve gotten colder. I’m not going to lie. My inner warrior took over. My mind has been on nothing but self defense and survival for so long now, that I can’t seem to shut it off and just breathe. I can’t put down the sword.

How often does one receive an anonymous gift of flowers?

And how did I forget to breathe when I got that gift? It doesn’t seem right to me.

Plainly, I’ve more work to do in learning to accept friendship, gratitude, love, admiration, and respect. I somehow got the impression that I didn’t deserve any of those things. I’m not going to delve into my past. I’ve already been there and done that. It’s time to move on.

I made a video tonight with new free editing software. In truth, I’m not at all sure how I did it. I didn’t add any effects. I didn’t speed anything up or slow anything down. It just sort of came together and turned out pretty well. My writing is the same way.  I don’t know where the fuck the next sentence is going to come from, but I plunk down one and than another. Before I even realize what I’ve done, I’ve amassed more than a thousand words inside of an hour.

I feel like my life has been that way. I don’t have a plan. I just get up, suit up, show up and hope to goodness that something good comes from my efforts.

Life often fucks with me when I make too many plans. So I have to tread with some care, it seems.

I’m awfully tired lately. I have a short fuse. People who waste my time become nothing but irritants.

And I’m worrying everyone around me. Co workers shake their heads and wonder why I go silent. Friends ask me what the matter is. My parents cock their heads and furrow their brows.

I feel like telling them all to back off.

But I won’t. It isn’t anyone’s intention to get under my skin or to try to make me admit to things that I don’t want to talk about. But the only answer I have for such a question is “don’t give up on me.” I can’t speed this along. I’m obviously in it. I’ll figure my way out of it. I always do.

Though I wonder if I’ve spent my entire life living with such a pattern. Perhaps these mood swings are seasonal in nature. It might explain why I brood so much during the fall.

Then again, maybe I brood because I haven’t yet learned to recognize my own progress.

It’s a lesson we might all need to be reminded of. It pays to take stock, but to focus too narrowly on one single detail can be toxic.

I’ll hold onto my flowers. I’ll keep writing my stories. I’ll keep blogging, recording my voice and making my vids.

I’ll keep trucking. With some better rest along the way, even I might learn to see the bright side of life.

Until then, maybe it’s best if I just get through the obstacles in my way and move along until I give a damn again.

Anyways, enjoy the vid. I made this bad boy myself 😉

 

 

 

 

My Best Friend’s Visit ..

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/22/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

My best friend, J. Marie Ravenshaw came to visit me in New York. I made this video based on the pictures we took together during her stay.

And I love the song.

Hope you like the vid, J. 😉

-A.

There are many other projects in the works, but I was happy to take the time to do this. 😉

Enjoy!

 

 

Have At!

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/16/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

You want a video to indicate how I feel at the moment, have at this one ..

It’s Almost Here!

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/14/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

The ideas have been fine tuned. The words are in place. I have finished and edited the content of my book.

All it needs now are chapter names and a title worthy of its greatness.

It also needs a professional editor, of course. I just refuse to send mine utter crap.

Time to save massive amounts of money.

Time to celebrate. My succubus can’t wait to make your acquaintance .. really 😉

Have a video!!

 

Coming Back ..

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/14/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I’d like to start this blog by saying that I was on a hiatus for a bit. A friend of mine came into the city and I decided to show her a good time. There are pictures. No, not that kind, you sick perverts!

As a result of my mini “staycation,” I stayed away from most social media. I didn’t even e-mail more than once, and that was to confirm that I was continuing a writing project that I started many moons ago.

My writing is going very well, I think, despite all the challenges that life seems to throw at me. I’m one busy motherfucker. I have the cleaning project in this apartment that has all but consumed my life when I am not working. I’m taking a break from that messy business. It’s done great things for this house and for my own mental health, but the process of getting cleaned up around here has been slow, and at times, so fucking aggravating that I want to snap someone’s neck and call it a day. I’m glad I took some time.

But my mindset since I’ve gotten back from that hiatus has been one of purposeful relaxation. I don’t want to delve back into the rat race that quickly. I’ve got to catch up with myself. I’m a bit tired of putting the needs of others above my own. My balance has been off in that respect. It happens. Life hurls its many curve balls at me, I get busy, and I don’t take the time to take care of me. I get sick or I get sick and tired. Those are apparently very different states of being according to my mother.

Cue studio audience laughter.

Parents have a way of making their adult children think about the course of their own lives. My parents are no exception.

A friend of mine engaged me in a discussion this afternoon before work. Of course, it started when the word “denial” came up. The word “denial” immediately puts me on the defensive. I won’t make any bones about that. But my friend, as far as I could tell, was genuinely concerned that I don’t appear to know how to slow down. Our discussion took on several different dimensions of course, but this is the one that stuck with me all the way through work this afternoon. It’s the one thing that I kept thinking about as I hurled myself into my captains chair and tried with utter desperation to bring the fun in.

If I have to try that hard to bring the fun in, perhaps the vacation wasn’t long enough.

But this is not the first time that this has come up in discussion this week.

Another friend of mine expressed concern that I won’t let anyone into my heart.

A third friend of mine seems worried that I don’t talk much.

My co workers seem to think I’ve become withdrawn.

With all these concerns coming to the fore AFTER I’ve just had a vacation, I was forced to consider the very real possibility that people simply didn’t like that I was gone for as long as I was. Even today, people expressed concern that I was in the back of the store at work pretty much my entire shift. My job sort of requires that right now, so I have little choice. But even I have to admit, after so much public face time and customer contact, being stuck in a little alcove in front of an elevator processing returns all day long feels isolating.

I’m beginning to worry.

My parents have put their two cents in. For some reason, their interjections on this subject have made me angry.

My father tells me “kid, you look tired and you work too hard.” Never mind that virtually every other day after work, he makes plans for my time that involve even more home projects that I am getting rather sick of doing. I have to shake my head at chuckle when he does this and then tells me “relax, kid,” as though I’m the one who keeps coming up with all this shit.

On the other hand, this is what my typical week looks like.

I wake up at 6 am monday morning. I prepare for an early work day. I got to work at nine.

After work, I do a load or two of laundry. It takes hours.

After that, I edit my story and try to catch up with my friends.

Maybe, I get some sleep.

The next morning, I do MORE laundry before a closing shift at my job.

The third day is a morning at work. If I’m lucky, I can rest after work this day, except I almost always have errands to run concerning my family. Even better, I’ve got writing projects that I’ve been putting off for so long that I try to do some of them. But my brain is so shot and I’ve had such a tiring previous couple of days that I get very little done. I start to wonder where my discipline has gone.

And then, I do the social networking thing.

Oi.

Thursdays are my last day at work for the week. I want to say that this means I have some fun. I can do that most of the time. But then the drama begins at home. Someone at home always has to make a scene at the end of my work week. Drunken arguing ensues. I slam my door and try not to regret that I came home at all.

Friday and Saturday. These are supposed to be fun days. Of late, they are replete with a lot of work. My cleaning project is foremost on the list of chores. My autistic brother decides to intervene by making noise and complaining when I won’t let him play with my keys. I try to maintain good humor and patience through all of this, but the previous week has been stressful. I compromise on everything. I don’t even get to use my bathroom when I want to this day because my father is busy doing an hour and a half long asthma treatment two times a day in our only bathroom. I’m getting angrier, but I press on because I know that this will all be worth it, right?

Meanwhile, I have NO social life to speak of in this city. I don’t hang out with family. That may have something to do with the fact that they all seem to want to give me advice that I don’t ask for. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been gone from most of their lives for so long that they no longer can relate to me in any other way. Some of them scare me with their sheer ignorance. Others are just living their lives, and we’ve remained separate for long periods of time.

I was gone for ten years. I won’t deny that it hurt some people. But I won’t apologize either. That was my time to figure out some things I needed to know. I’ll ask those of you who bother to get to know me again to remember that.

But I’ll only ask once. I have no energy to repeat myself.

I worry that I’ve swung my katana too hard. I’ve scared people away with my intensity. I’ve intimidated them with my inability to slow down. I’ve elicited concern and, in some cases, alarm from my nearest and dearest.

And I won’t lie. I am tired. So tired.

But I can’t stop fighting. I have goals to meet. I’ve got a life to live. I’ve got dreams.

Are all of these things supposed to fade into nothingness again like they did before? Are all of my own aspirations supposed to take a back seat again because I grow so tired of trying to balance it all on my shoulders?

I can’t allow that. If my ten year absence taught me anything at all, it is that I cannot allow my dreams to fade. I will not allow anyone to tear me away from my writing and my art. I can’t bear the thought that I have to sacrifice those things again so that someone else will think I’m doing something “practical” with my life. FUCK PRACTICAL! Practical doesn’t make anyone smile when they wake up in the morning. Practical is what you reserve for balancing a budget or figuring out how to dress your kids for school while writing a grocery list.

It’s NOT the word you use when you talk of love for something, or someone.

.. I’m afraid I don’t always know what real love is.

That scares me more than anything in this world. All this hard work and all this running around, being fast and efficient means nothing. All this motion and repetition leaves me feeling cold on the weekends. It leaves me feeling rather irritated with most people.

Am I growing colder?

Is exhaustion taking away my humanity? Am I killing my own spirit with too much work and worry?

These are legitimate questions.

The calm of a weary warrior suffuses my being. It is the calm that comes before the storm.

Maybe as I wipe the blood from my sword in my private forest sanctuary, I’ll stick the blade in the soft earth, lean my head upon the hilt and just weep.

 

 

 

 

 

Know Yourself

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 08/18/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

Have fun with this latest post. I don’t have a bouncing ball for you to follow, so my words are below.

There isn’t much to tell.

A lot of good things come to those who get up in the morning, suit up and show up for life. Hard work and discipline help me to surmount the obstacles that stand in my way. I toil, I fix things when I break them, I put things back where I found them, and I try my best to leave the world a better place than it was when I found it.

But it appears that there is yet another lesson to be learned in all of this. Social networking, making new friends, and sharing the ups and downs of life with others have made something crystal clear for me in this past week.

I take on too much.

I’ve been forced to draw lines in the sand with people these last few months. Unneeded drama really does unsettle me. I don’t exercise patience with those who would choose to surround themselves with it. To embroil myself in the “he said, she said” arguments of others leaves me feeling confused, angry, and ultimately alone. I try my best to avoid it.

But even my best efforts can fall short.

I do try to be there for the people who matter most to me. I’ve made some beautiful friends. They all have varied personalities. But I have a tendency to want to look out for people who mean something to me. When I was younger, that manifested in a strong desire to rescue others who appeared “lost.” It even led to what I thought would be my ultimate life calling.

I wanted to be a therapist.

But life happened. Some people came and went. Others stayed. In the last decade of my life, I discovered some ugly realities about people and choices.

Fast forward to my life in New York City. I can count the close friends that I have on one hand. When I devote myself to someone, I remain loyal no matter the cost. But that means that I must watch myself in my dealings with others. I must chose my words carefully. I must not make promises that I know I can’t keep.

Now I’m here. I’ve realized something as I lick my wounds and prepare for the battles that lay ahead.

Among people there may be no such thing as unconditional love.

I’m here to propose that maybe that’s not always a bad thing.

Among my truest friends, there are varied talents, desires, and life goals. It can be quite the adventure to navigate through all of those to get to know these people better as time goes on. The ones who have stuck with me the longest are the ones who are willing to let me get to know them, and to get to know me in turn. These are the ones who listen to me as often as I listen to them. I can’t really say that any one of these friends has a drama free existence. Frankly, my life is replete with opportunity for melodramatic nonsense. But the realist in me wants to know that the people in my life can hold down the fort until I get to the scene of the carnage. The pragmatist in me needs my friends to exercise self awareness, to know when to put up and when to shut up. The warrior in me knows that I can’t be there for everyone all the time.

I’ve lost sight of that somehow, and it bothers me.

My inner samurai seems to have his sword drawn all the time now for someone else’s defense. What happens to a warrior that rescues all his comrades in arms? Does he ever see the enemy coming from the side if he’s busy smiting the pursuers of his friends?

If I am a friend, it’s until you find some way to make me deviate from my course. Those who know me  well are in no doubt of my sincerity or loyalty.

But I do make mistakes. I do, on occasion, open my mouth to switch feet. As eloquent as I can be, I have used the wrong words, and made the wrong impressions. I have hurt other people’s feelings. All I can do is apologize and move on. I can’t be perfect. Nature is as close to perfection as anything gets on this planet, and even it can get under my skin.

Only someone who knows themselves well will understand and pursue what makes them happiest in life. At some point in adult existence, people draw their own conclusions about life, love and the  universe. We all must move through this world on our own, and yet we can’t do it by ourselves.

It is one of the many ironies of my own existence that I’ve stopped trying to puzzle out.

If I meet you along the path of my own journey, the warrior in me simply hopes not to cross swords with you. The friend in me might stop and offer a greeting. As an older brother to someone vulnerable, I’m used to being a protector.

But I am no mind reader. I never was. I must make do with the information I am given.

I make no promises and I tell no lies. In the end, you can all think of me what you will.

I think I heard a movie quote once that sums it up rather nicely.

“Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun.”

The Journey Continues

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 08/04/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

Follow the bouncing wine glass. I’ve got some celebrating to do 🙂

Imagine this.

You take a journey with one man into a dark place.

He meets what he thinks is a woman, who then takes him to the darkest place there is.

He meets another woman who is worse for him than the first.

Time passes for the man, and he meets more and more strangers that help to elicit massive changes in his life.

By the end of trip, the man doesn’t recognize himself. He’s met so many strangers, immersed himself in so many experiences, good and bad, that he is not the same person that he was when it all began.

I’ve taken such a journey with such a man. The man is in my head. He’s a character in my first fictional  book. He has spoken to me of his travels. He has relayed to me his trials, his victories and his losses. He and everyone else he’s met along the way has had something to say about the world in which he is now immersed. His life has been forever changed, and I have had the pleasure of telling the story in a way that only I can.

I finished telling the tale of the first part of his trek last night. The last chapter was written. I saw it, and it was good .. or so I like to think.

The next step of my journey has yet to begin. I like to think I have a decent book in my possession, burning a hole in the memory banks of my computer, waiting to be read by millions. But there is reformatting to be done. And then comes the first round of edits by yours truly. Beta readers may need to peruse my work, and then I get to submit my piece to a professional editor and hope to goodness he or she likes my stuff enough to give it a chance.

Like my character, my journey is far from over. Also like my character, I had no idea that this experience would bring about such change.

Looking back at the rather vague summation of my book, it occurs to me that all people undergo such an adventure. Each day brings a new opportunity to travel roads yet unexplored. Each choice that we make brings about changes that even the sagest of us cannot always foresee. Not all of these changes are going to feel good, but they may all be for the better.

The only constant that I see in life itself is change.

And it is good.

As I read other books, I make my guesses as to how far along the authors are in their own personal travels. When I began to write again after a ten year absence, it almost felt clandestine. It was as though I was passing secret messages along to those who could decipher them. I was doing it in the hopes that someone out there would understand and support my efforts.

But as I began to find others along the same road, my voice became stronger. I rediscovered muscles that had long since fallen into disuse. Anyone who has begun physical training after a long absence can attest to the pain that this can cause, especially when they try to go too fast too soon.

Sometimes however, like a whirlwind romance, fast can be amazing.

It will be less than a year since I grasped my muse by the hand, pulled her to me and reclaimed her. Right now, she takes the form of a saucy succubus with luscious curves, including the horns on her head. She’s a bit like the Mystique character from X-Men, however. She assumes different shapes at various times. All of them inspire me.

And my voice is strong and loud. It is no longer a whisper. Just ask anyone who has heard my voice acting in recent months.

I’ve done many things since my return. I’ve reviewed and judged the writing of others. I’ve helped others to edit their own work by lending my voice to their characters, adopting them and making them my own for the briefest of times. And I’ve written until my eyes crossed and my fingers cracked under the strain of repeated typing.

I’ve also founded a blog that I love, undertaken social networking, and made some friends that I know will stay with me on this beautiful and harrowing journey.

As of last night, I finished my first book, and I am proud as can be. I’m aware that my quest is far from over and there are many forks in the road. I think I’ll take a different path and explore short story writing again. I miss writing vignettes that inject fear into your veins and trap it in there like a rat locked in a wooden box.

It’s time to revisit Nox Arcana, turn off the lights, bolt the door, and scare myself to death.

Wanna go for ride?

When September Ends ..

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 07/20/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

Here is another post.  This one is somber. It has no swears words, but I sill don’t recommend it for kids.

Remember September 11th, 2001?

I do ..

 

 

I’m headed away from my favorite refuge in New York City.

The lake is to my left as I walk underneath a blazing sun. It should be setting soon, but summer days are always longer than I expect. I forget about things like summer solstice and the tilting of the earth as it spins on its axis. Who thinks of those things unless they’re astronomers, meteorologists or the like?

As usual, it feels as though I’m walking against a tide. People are walking further into the park during the evening, and I am walking toward the Columbus Circle exit. I’ve already had my meditative, transcendental moment. I’ve seen the ripples of the water underneath the sun, and I’ve let my being float as the visage takes over me. I’ve seen the expansion of the Universe.

I’ve seen it and I remember the 3000 plus people who died that day.

September the 11th 2001.

The day lives on in  my head, and I cannot let it go even after all this time.

I was here when first plane hit. My aunt called my apartment that morning. She called and told me what she’d seen and heard.  I woke up my parents at seven AM, wondering if my aunt was being fooled by some Hollywood stunt.

An airplane hit the Twin Towers in Downtown Manhattan. It had been flown into the building as though the pilot were on some Kamikaze mission to kill and to die in Pearl Harbor. It happened in one of the busiest, most famous cities in the country, and nobody could fathom the reality of the situation. I’ve spoken to other New Yorkers who were around at that time. Most were convinced that it was some sort of Hollywood stunt, as though some remake of King Kong were being made, but footage was being filmed without the CGI of some giant ape.

Three thousand people died in the twin towers. It was hard to fathom as the buildings collapsed on themselves like two houses of cards.  People were being mangled, maimed and killed before my eyes. It was impossible to fathom even when names were being shown on a television screen days later. I had no idea people were capable of such things.

The effect of such a day was far reaching for people.

I haven’t been ready to talk about it, to write about it until now, and it’s been more than a decade. I can tell you all what happened to me during and after the fateful event.

I can tell you all how it changed my life permanently.

The first thing that I can write with certainty is that I  was here. I had just gotten my second surgery for traumatic cataract formation. I had my real eye lenses removed and replaced with plastic ones. I was able to see clearly when the second plane hit.

I never got to see the first plane.

The second thing I can tell you all is that my mom and I had had a massive argument just days before and were not speaking with one another. I can’t tell you what the argument was about because I can’t remember. We both forgot all hostilities when the planes hit. We called a cease fire as we smoked our cigarettes together and stood glued to the television, wondering and afraid.

My father had to go retrieve my little brother from his school program in downtown Manhattan that morning. From what he tells me, people abandoned their cars and their homes to flee from the carnage. Hours later, people walked as though in a daze. They were zombies in the terrifying new world that would soon yield a War on Terror and thousands upon thousands of deaths in the Middle East.

An ex girlfriend of mine was the first of my friends from out of state to make contact with me. I was unable to call my partner at the time as she was living in Minnesota. None of the rest of my friends knew my whereabouts or what had become of me until I posted an update on Facebook.

It’s one of the only reasons I respect the website to this day.

The night after the attacks, I went to Ground Zero and volunteered my services. It was all that I could do not to scream at the massive Military Serviceman who turned me away. Sporting fatigues, a beret, and a rifle that would have scared even the most battle hardened of New Yorkers, he smiled as he told me my “services were not required.”

I’ll never forget the man.

I’ll never forget him because I met his brothers and sisters in arms as they guarded Kennedy Airport during my flight back to Minnesota.

And I’ll never be able to fly again without some sense of trepidation.

My flight back to Minnesota was one of the scariest days of my life. I learned what fear could really do to a person’s judgment. I called home to tell my parents I was terrified because there were Middle Eastern business men on my flight. What I didn’t realize until years later was that they were being closely guarded by U.S. Air Marshalls.

I don’t know who they were, and to this day I don’t much care. I landed in Minnesota in one piece. I got to spend time in my ex’s arms again. I got to live.

I lived while so many others did not.

I can’t forget that.

A flag with the names of the deceased sits in a plastic bag among my artifacts from that day. I still have a New York newspaper that chronicles the incident, and another newspaper that commemorates the one year anniversary of the attacks. I still can’t watch footage of those attacks without a sense of sheer panic.

I don’t smoke anymore.

And I know now that I have no excuse not to live life to the fullest, to hold fast to my dreams and to those whom I love.

This is just a taste of what the events of that day have done to change my entire being. Someday, I may write a more detailed account of the day’s events and their aftermath. But for now, I choose to remember what happened, the victims, their families,  and what life itself means to me. Different people will have different memories of September 11th, 2001. They can do what they did in light of Kennedy’s assassination. They can ask that question that I have grown to understand more fully as an adult in this world.

“Where were you when it happened?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown Samurai

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 07/06/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I wake up. Thoughts begin to tumble in my mind.

They come into focus when the rest of me does.

Cold water hits my face in the shower. I don’t flinch. I make it warm and go about washing myself. I remember to check myself for unusual lumps. There’s still pain in my arms from the last few days. I ignore it and move on.

I get out of the shower. I still look more or less clean shaven even though I’m not. My face looks chiseled because I’ve lost weight again. I eat more when I get to eat, but I don’t get to eat as often. My chest is broad, but not solid.  I will get that back very soon.

The family coffee gets made while I drink the rest of the old stuff. I’m grinding the beans that my best friend sent me. The smell of fresh beans almost makes up for the noise of the grinder. Fortunately, I am on autopilot. I can switch my mind off to the noise anytime I please.

Coffee is brewing in the kitchen while I run back to my room to set up the laundry. This sets up the second half of my day. It promises to be long.

I drink fresh coffee as I finish the task. Time moves faster than I expect.  I guess it really does fly whether or not you’re having fun.

I do a hundred push ups. The first two sets are clips of 25.  I do 50 more before I text my best friend on skype.  She worries.  I scoff, but in secret I worry too ..

I finish getting dressed and I make the mistake of sitting down.  I’m not sure I want to get up again, but I haven’t even put on my shoes yet. It’s minutes before work, and I don’t want to go.  I do what I must, and push on.

I don’t let on that there’s a pain in my right foot from the blister that popped. I don’t bother to mention that I barely got to eat breakfast.  I let it get cold.

I arrive at work. A co worker looks up and says “there he is.” Another co worker smiles. I smile back, but I can tell it’s a tired smile.

I move to the back room and punch in for the day after waiting for five minutes.  My brain is already going. My job is a minimum wage job.  It will do for now.

I make the mistake of believing that my body can move fast and that my brain will eventually catch up.  What else would three massive cups of coffee be good for?  I spend the first two hours screwing up book returns.  I accidentally process two books from the same publishing company in separate returns. I then proceed to lose the paperwork for one of those returns while I switch the forms for two others. By the time I realize my mistakes, my right eye begins to hurt. I slow down and take a breath. I remember that I saw Sherylin Kenyon’s book.  I also remember that I follow her on twitter now in the hopes that she’ll follow me back.  I’ve never even read what she’s written, but it’s still wild to have seen her book in my hands .. It’s even wilder to know that Jerry Seinfeld might have been here too, but I missed him.

I don’t follow him on twitter though.  I guess I don’t want to be a stand up comedian with a hit television show under my belt.

A full on headache ensues when the next obstacle appears in the form of a six legged menace. A cockroach appears and I stop dead. I’m something like 20 times its size, but I freeze. Childhood memories come flooding back and I want to scream. It’s not the roaches that frighten me, but what their associated with ..

And this makes me angrier than I expect.

My chest heaves when the creature appears again.  A young lady points it out to me, and I walk toward it. I try to step on the thing and it scampers, creepy antennae and all. I sigh.  I’ve missed my chance to reclaim my manhood.

Stupid emasculating bug.

The third time it manifests, it scuttles toward me. Goosebumps form on my legs as I drop the book I’m scanning. As soon as the book hits the ground, I clench my teeth and stomp after the thing.  It scampers away, making a mad dash for the bottom of a metal bookshelf.  I go to kick the thing.  I want to hear the chiten of its shell crunch underneath my black Lebron James shoes. I want the thing to quiver underneath my foot ..

The fourth time it appears, I am prepared.  I have grabbed a book from the “strip” list. The thing was going to get its cover torn off anyway.  What a waste. I use it for something much more worthy.  With a discuss throw, I hurl the book at the object of my childhood fear and rage. It connects. The book bounces off another bookshelf and sails across the room.

Now I have to clean the thing up.  I gather an empty box and a broom, but I still have the fight the shakes for 15 minutes before I get the corpse into the box. It’s severed clean in half.

I hope to God I put the other half in the box too.

Funny thing. As soon as I toss the thing into a trash bag and wrap it up tight, I feel a rush. I’ve done more than kill a stupid cockroach. My childhood fear has become less tangible, somehow. I don’t know if it’s gone, but we’ll call this a step in the right direction.

Work goes a bit more smoothly after that. It seems my brain has caught up with my body.  I tear through returns, and get them ready for shipping.  I rip through some more, and I get those ready too.

My day is over at 4pm after a last minute cock up. I punch out and head home only to remember I set up laundry. Damnit.

But I have to do it. Nobody else can.

God, why do I feel like Micheal Keaton in a batsuit?

I make the mistake of sitting in my captain’s chair and turning on my computer.  I tool around briefly on social media sites. It bores me, but I am addicted to them like I used to be to cigarettes.  I need my fix.

I like klout.  I miss my facebook friends sometimes.

But I heave the giant rolling bag full of laundry into the living room with little effort. It’s been done before. I’ve been doing this for a year now. The family laundry is the only rent I can pay while I live with my parents.  Even now, I don’t make much.  Just enough to feel like I have a job.

I heft the large bag downstairs and I begin to feel my body really hurt for the first time.  My chest is sore.  My back is in pain. My arms quiver.  But I can’t let this go.

I won’t spend my only day off between shifts washing clothes.

The laundromat is crowed. Perhaps I was foolish to try to come out here in the evening, but I don’t feel like I have a choice. If I want to rest tomorrow, I’ve got to get this out of the way.

Loading the machine should be easy, but it feels a lot like pulling circus clowns out of one of those old VW Bugs. It’s beginning to piss me off. My right eye hurts worse than before. I drank water at work, but the heat has robbed me of all hydration. The humidity is low, but I don’t quite feel the difference.

I make eye contact with a young, Asian woman and she immediately smiles. I offer a grin, but it feels odd. I don’t know what to do with my face when a woman smiles at me anymore.

It shouldn’t make me angry though.

I turn my head to pretend to busy myself operating the machine I just loaded. I even stop the cycle and start it again just to be sure I “got it right.” She’s not staring anymore, and I feel a sense of relief. It isn’t like me to shrink from a woman’s attention. It bothers me. I must look the way I feel.

I walk to Time’s Square from the laundromat. I feel like a soldier marching to a steady cadence. My bearing feels like that of a warrior. My feet are already throbbing, but I ignore the pain. I just want to move.

As I get closer to Broadway, I realize my mistake. I need to thread my way through a massive crowd. I do what I’ve been doing lately. I push on, refusing to give in. I don’t want them to cut into my work out time. These people don’t have the same need I have to move fast and stay active. I’m thirty two years old. I am not as young as I once was. I feel it catching up with me in attitude more than anything else. I don’t want to waste time. I don’t wish to indulge others their whims. I don’t wish to become overweight and burned out like so many I once knew.

I certainly don’t feel like the asshole that just stepped on my new shoes is going to get a second reprieve.

But the stupid fuckers with their damned smart phones come out. They text when they should be crossing the street. They call people when they should be watching where they walk. Instead, I must watch where they go. That’s been happening too often of late. I shuck and dodge all sorts of arms and legs without batting an eyelash. Little kids whiz by my feet and I don’t miss a step. A cabbie runs a red light and I flip him off as he sails past my back.  I do all this without changing the expression on my face much. I’ve learned to duck elbows, canes, umbrellas from stupid pale women in the sun, and the naked cowboy.

Today, the naked cowboy has a naked cowgirl counterpart that looks old enough to be his grandmother. There’s also a naked Indian

Great, so all we need is a naked construction worker and a naked cop and we have the Naked Village People.

Swell.

Today, I’m fucking impatient.

I call one guy a dickhead before I run past him to cross the street before the light changes. He just stands there texting his life away, unaware of the amazing redhead in the blue dress that just passed him.

Fuckufaizu!!!!!

I begin to treat the crowd like schools of fish. I am a shark that must dart through them all unseen, eyes scanning the area. I thread through them as though I’m trying to create a wormhole with New Yorker Ninjitsu. I used to think of myself as a linebacker when I was larger. But I’m thinner now. People don’t get out of my way as readily when they see my scowl. I don’t care as long as I can get past them. They all seem like pestilential weeds. I want to cut them down with a samurai weapon and toss them behind me. I’ll move on to the next series of targets and deal with them accordingly.

I go through the next twenty blocks feeling this way. I walk back along fifth avenue with the same alacrity. I am getting stared at again. I don’t know what to do. People look at me as though they should recognize me. It’s creeping me the fuck out.

I go back to the laundromat and throw my clothes in the drier. Then it’s off to Central Park to visit my duck pond.

Only  when I get there, it’s kind of crowded and I can’t sit at my favorite Gazebo overlooking the pond. People and their stupid babies want to take pictures by the water. I almost want the kids to drown as they chase the turtle heads that poke out and form golden ripples under the sun.

I sit on a rock by the edge of the pond and try to phase everyone out as I look at the water.

It doesn’t work, but I start to doze off anyway. So much for mind over matter.

I spend fifteen minutes sitting and getting distracted by wandering people and their dogs. When I finally get up, my feet are sending signals to my brain to sit the fuck back down, but I hit the override button in my head and press on. the chafing of my upper thighs begins to burn. My thighs always were a bit too thick, but in this heat, I feel like my skin will be rubbed raw. I bite my lower lip and walk through the pain. I push my limits. I’ve a massive headache and a sudden urge to scream. I’m so tired that everything I see pulsates with the violent waves of a stormy ocean.

I march back to the laundromat feeling like a lonely, unknown soldier. I pass the pain threshold for my feet 10 blocks from the place, but I don’t stop. I am thirsty, but I won’t stop and drink. I must get this done.

It takes too long to fold the clothes that are dry.  I am there for an hour folding my father’s button down shirts. I know he’ll ask the same question he always does when I get home.

“Was it crowded?”

I wonder what I’ll tell him.

I trudge back home, watching the light fade from the sky. I’ve got one more mile to go before I sleep. The pain has stretched from my feet to my knees. Each step makes me want to wince, but I don’t bother. What’s the point of acknowledging pain at this point in the mission? I’m almost home free.

A cold beer and a bowl of food sounds just about perfect. So does a foot rub followed by sex. I’ll only get two of the four tonight. I’m sure you can all guess which two.

I have a full blown headache now. I’ve been on my feet for almost fourteen hours. I want desperately to flirt with the women with the short shorts, but I can’t even muster the strength for a sardonic smile. I settle for a grimace. I get gas pains from hunger. I’m almost home though. I’ll make it all better.

I’ll make it alright again.

I’ll rub my own feet and drink a beer.

I’ll celebrate my productive day. I’ll have another one in a couple of days.

I hope my body doesn’t scream at me then the way it is now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewing the Writing of Others…

Posted in The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/25/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

As some of you already know by now, I have rediscovered my love of writing.  I really didn’t begin to write horror stories until sometime within the last few months, but I can tell you right now that the journey has already been replete with excitement and challenges.  The honing of one’s skill within their own craft, no matter what it may be, is always going to be this way.

 

Even when one absolutely adores what they do, they may still be faced with the choice of expanding the influence that their work has on this world; a chance to leave a mark on the fabric of the universe.  Never let anyone tell you that it’s easy to show someone else your artwork, your writing, martial arts, or anything else that you can do.  Shows like American Idol and “The X factor” seem to make light of the fact that people have to swallow back a lot of nervous energy to show off their skills to the rest of the world.  Does anyone really believe that Kelli Clarkson, Phillip Phillips, or any other vocalist hasn’t had a bout with stage fright?

 

And should we really believe that it’s okay to make fun of William Hung and countless other wannabe singers because nobody had the balls to tell them that they’re just not good enough to elicit more than the ridicule of their audiences?

 

 

 

The same thing happens within the realm of writing.  When I first joined http://www.writing.com, I had virtually no interest in showing my work to anyone.  Part of that was fear, pure and simple.  I hadn’t written anything for almost a decade, and I was not certain that my skills would hold up.  That’s changed, in part, because I took a leap of faith and began to enter a certain horror writing contest called the Daily Slice.  For anyone who wants a taste of what it’s like to write horror in a thousand words or less and to have it scrutinized by me or by any of the other capable writers and judges of such a contest, I recommend trying it once.  It will open your eyes to one universal truth.

 

Putting yourself out there is kind of like walking naked down the street.  You don’t want people to see all your flaws, but if you’re like me, you don’t mind the possibility that SOMEONE might find SOMETHING beautiful about you.

 

So what happens when you begin to do reviews for the written work of others?

 

As someone who writes almost every day, I have to tell you that one of the greatest of learning experiences for me has been the reading and the reviewing of other people’s work.  The reason why I say this is very simple.  No matter what anyone tells you about style, finesse, technique, etc, the power of the written word is that it can be taken and utilized in so many different ways to elicit so many different kinds of emotions, that it’s potential is virtually limitless.  The judges of Horror Inc. (the group that I joined after a few months on http://www.writing.com) all read, write, and explore the inner workings of horror among other things.  But no two of us will ever be said to write the same subject in the same way.  All the work that I have read and reviewed has been different.  No two writers have ever written something identically, even when they write about the exact same topic.  The varying styles and techniques have made me aware of the quirks and stylistic elements that I bring to my own writing, and in that way, I’ve begun to understand the individuality of my own voice.  I’ve been reviewed as well, and not always with the favor that I would like for my work.  But I believe that I’ve grown in terms of being able handle such criticisms, to pick and chose which ones seem valid, and to move forward, learning from my mistakes as well as my triumphs.  Nobody is perfect.  J.K. Rowling has made millions with her work, but I can’t see her telling me that she always KNEW she would be a rousing success.

 

The power of reviewing such works as a writer can only really manifest, however, with pure and simple honesty.  There is nothing more annoying to me as a writer than receiving a review that reads like this:

 

“Wow.  You’re good.  I want to read more!”

 

I don’t dislike the compliment, but I want to know WHY you think I’m good, just like I would want to know WHAT about my work disappointed, confused, or otherwise did not please you in some way.  If I’m going to be an exhibitionist with my writing, I’m going to want to know how I can possibly improve my work.  It isn’t enough now for someone to say “awesome writing.”  Nobody is perfect.  I’ll be the first to say that I am not.  But I am always willing to work hard and improve my technique.  It is, I believe, the difference between one who masters a craft, like martial arts, and one who simply practices the moves that they love over and over again because they KNOW they can do it already.  How does one grow as a human being without going outside their comfort zones?

 

A review that I am likely to give someone who’s asked me for some feedback will read a little something like this one that I wrote for a contest entrant not too long ago:

 

‘Hola! Thank you for entering the Daily Slice!

I will start by saying that I can tell that you have a vivid imagination, and this is one of the foundations of writing a solid short story for horror. I was anticipating what the nature of this deal was for this character. I was intrigued at the fact that you started your piece with invisible creatures with paws that wander past the character into a strange cabin. This makes for the potential setup for a great story.

But I would be remiss as both a reviewer and a judge if I did not tell you what did not work for me in this piece.

The first thing that didn’t work for me was a visual formatting issue. On this website, authors do their audiences a huge favor when they separate paragraphs as they are writing or editing their work. When I first started to write for WDC, I had to learn that formatting differences definitely existed between MS Word on my computer and the way the text would appear on the WDC site. Please remember to separate paragraphs and quoted statements from one another in the future as this will give your narrative a smoother and easier visual flow, and your audience will appreciate it very much.

The second place where your piece gets a little confusing for me has to do with an area of your story where you switch the tense of your writing. You start your writing off in present tense, taking the audience with you as though events are unfolding this very second. But as I read the following, I could hear the screaming of car tires (and then I remembered I live in the middle of New York City):

Are they out there?” Her hair is wet, and her clothes are covered in dirt. “I don’t know… I can’t see them.” I take my jacket off and put it on her shoulders. “Of course not. Their hellhounds. No one can see them!” She starts crying then. I swallow hard, just to think that could have been me if I had finished the deal. “Did you try to make a…deal?” I asked her.
“Yes! I didn’t think that they would come for me! I mean I thought I had longer. But once they chase you there’s no way to escape them.”
“Then how come they haven’t gotten into the cabin yet?”
“I don’t know!” A howl wrenched through the stillness of the basement. The walls shook as they threw themselves against the walls.

I was with you up until the part that’s bold in this passage. It was confusing to me that you went from the present tense to the past tense, and then switched back to the present tense with the following sentences:

We start walking, then I notice that there following us. Side by side. I pretend like I don’t see and continue. The car comes into view, I don’t know what’s going to happen but I have a feeling that there not going to let us escape. So close….

If I was confused, it is very likely that your audience will be as well. Switching tenses alters the time frame in which a set of actions can take place. Sticking with one tense allows a reader to read through a narrative without having to stop and redraw the action map that they started in their brains.

The third factor that takes away from the potential of your piece has to do with my sense that it is incomplete, which ultimately depletes its scare factor. I would love to know, for instance, how the main character seems to know that she is dealing with hell hounds. You’ve established that she has somehow made a deal with a malevolent force or spirit, but this alone does not lend itself to the notion that she has “dealt with” hell hounds or any other denizens of hell before now. Just as importantly, revealing what the creatures are with a sentence sort of takes away from their frightening mystery, and that can be a setback for your fright factor as well.

To complete the effect of a short story like this one, a writer needs to show their audience what they are afraid of rather than simply tell us. The better horror stories, in my opinion, are those that evoke emotion with the use of the five senses. There are a couple of sentences that you’ve written here that could be expanded upon with this idea in mind :

We start walking, then I notice that there following us. Side by side. I pretend like I don’t see and continue. The car comes into view, I don’t know what’s going to happen but I have a feeling that there not going to let us escape. So close….

Leaving aside a few minor grammatical errors, the more important problem with this set of sentences to ME is that they are ultimately telling us rather than showing us the meaning of fear. When “I notice that they’re following us,” that might not seem as frightening to an audience as something like “The snarls and growls of unseen creatures pursued us as we ran pell-mell through the snags and tangles of the woods, the jagged bark of branches lashing into us as we ran for our lives.” I only wrote that last part as just one example of a myriad of ways that your first sentence could have expanded into an actual part of a vignette. That vignette should lead your audience on a sensory journey that will potentially give them goose flesh. That is part of the essence of writing good horror.

The car comes into view, I don’t know what’s going to happen but I have a feeling that there not going to let us escape. So close…. can be rewritten like this:

The car came into view just a short distance away. As invisible claws slashed at our bodies and unseen, ferocious jaws snapped at our feet, my hope for escape threatened to hurl itself out through my open mouth with one final scream. The source of our escape loomed so close. Yet the distance between us and the vehicle seemed to elongate. Our final moments closed in upon us like the creatures that surrounded us and sought to rend the flesh from our bones with jagged teeth.

I will not sit here and say that these are the only words that could have been chosen, but using YOUR own words, you should seek to have your audience essentially take the horrifying ride with your characters. Grab your reader by his or her hand and have them run with you as you make a mad dash for freedom, surrounded by invisible creatures that seek to destroy you, knowing that any moment in time could be your last. With a snap of the fingers, one of you could be dead! Your potential to live and be a part of this world is snuffed out in the blink of an eye. THAT is another part of the essence of true horror, especially with a piece that is written from a first-person perspective such as yours.

It is difficult for me to read a piece like yours, knowing the potential that existed with the set up and not offer some helpful hints as to what could turn an okay piece into a potentially magnificent work of horror fiction. A thousand words really isn’t much to work with, but in this case, you’ve got much more wiggle room to bring your piece to a satisfying sense of completion. Consistency with the tense of your sentences will also smooth out your narrative, which will ultimately make the journey that much more enjoyable. Be careful of grammatical errors, and make sure your formatting does not make your readers go cross-eyed. The bottom line is audiences want to enjoy your work. We’re cheering for every author we read in this contest because we want to be scared. Don’t be afraid to go for the gusto when you write for us at Horror Inc. I, for one, feel that you can do much better. So show us. I dare you!’

 

I’m not going to sit here and say that I know all the answers.  But reviews such as these are painful to write (some can take as much as four hours to come up with), and yet the writers on http://www.writing.com all seem to covet them.  I don’t hold back when I review someone’s work, and I would hope to goodness that someone who looked at my work didn’t hold back with me.  True improvement can only come with the honesty that someone like me would offer a potential author.

 

Reviews as a judge for a horror writing contest kill me sometimes.  I have watched several of the writers that I’ve repeatedly reviewed on writing.com grow and change.  They’ve honed their craft so well that they have won the contest I judge.  That is truly gratifying to me. Other times, I’ve hit the same author five times running with the same advice and critiques.  I’ve held their hands and even rewritten portions of their story for them in order to demonstrate what I mean by something like “SHOW US THE SCARY, DON’T TELL US WHAT TO BE AFRAID OF,” and other such advice.

 

But more than one of my fellow judges has told me that I have the potential to be a “dream killer.” I say, “fine.”

 

The dream for the other writer only dies if they let my critiques and opinions kill it.  I am not going to start pulling my punches and shortening my own strides in order to pretend that someone is better than they are.  Aikido has taught me that much.  The idea behind Aikido as a martial art is to essentially “honor the direction that someone else is taking in their lives.”  If their momentum is leading them somewhere, I may simply be assisting them on that journey.  A life path can be viewed in the same way, and so can the effort that one puts into their own writing.  If I don’t tell you as a writer what I think is wrong with your piece, than I have not honored your life direction.  If I am asked to respect someone’s wish to become an author, I will not dishonor that person’s efforts by blowing sunshine up their ass.  And I would expect the same courtesy.

 

So if you’re a friend of mine and you’re asking for me to review your work, be warned.  I won’t be softening my critiques just to appease what our friendship offers me.  In fact, if you truly respect me as a writer, a reviewer and as your friend, you will at least take my advice into consideration.  I am no guru, but I’m not going to piss on your leg and tell you it’s raining.

 

 

 

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