Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dane F. Baylis the author

  Ends and Beginnings

So here we are! The end of another year. One in which we survived the worst speculation about the Mayan calendar's implications and suffered some of the most senseless acts that could be committed by one human being against another. The Middle East continues to roil like the Nile at flood stage, the Congress of the United States can't get out of its own way and in the middle of the winter there's no damned hockey. That last part really only tweaks you if you're from a colder part of the world where the sport is part of your genetic makeup.

In all of this turmoil and strife perhaps the most frightening part of the global picture is that, after a considerable hiatus, I've returned to writing. That there wasn't an asteroid strike to punctuate that decision can only be chalked up to the gods actually having a sense of humor. Accepting the continued movement of the stars, the rise and fall of the tides and a seemingly inextinguishable flow of printer ink as a good omen I braced myself for the New World and opened this blog. So far I have seen far more traffic in a period of a few months than I thought possible for an old duffer spouting off in the ether and I am grateful for everyone who has dropped by for a look.

Now that the New Year is almost upon us I am preparing for an even higher level of activity. The sheer volume of writing I have been turning out has been astounding and I can only credit it to getting over a very long lasting case of creative constipation. Projects are in all stages, raw ideas, first drafts, third or fourth rewrites, rough sketches, finished images, symbols to poems and everything between and beyond. My main goal for the first half of 2013 is the completion of a novel in the thriller genre and a continued presence in contests and on the web.

To fulfill the last point I have started and am maintaining this blog, I have opened up a Facebook page, established myself on Google + and am reaching out to the creative community. Some of this involves reaching back to people who I have known in the past such as the photographer and educator Randy Fugate and poet/writer Jackson Wheeler both of who have been enormous influences and friends. Some of it involves reaching forward to the likes of Rainy Kaye who is helping to change the face of publishing and the arts one day at a time.

In other ways I am banging away at the doors in an effort to get the gate keepers to open them just far enough to be able to slip my next manuscript through. In this regard I have sent off short fiction to both contests and literary magazines, the most recent being The Antioch Review. I realize this seems like shooting pretty high for someone out of the main as long as I have been but my theory is start at the top and you may not have to fall as far as you would have to climb. In terms of upcoming contests for poetry I am submitting to two in January that might warrant your own attention if that's your medium. First, with a deadline of 1/15/13 is one sponsored by the University of Missouri Kansas City, The John Ciardi Prize for Poetry which runs concurrent with the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. Second, which is accepting submissions between 1/1/13 and 1/31/13 is sponsored by the Iowa Review at the University of Iowa, The Iowa Review Awards.

All I can do is quote Gandhi, "Live as if there were no tomorrow. Learn as if you would live forever." Good luck, good writing and Happy New Year. Oh, and if you have a moment go to the comments window and drop me a line. Let me know what you think I'm doing right or wrong or just say hello. If you visit any of the individuals I mention let them know you saw them here (I am not beyond shameless plugs). There's a handy gadget for subscribing or becoming a follower and some of the links I like visiting. If you haven't been, check out my "My Work/My Love" page to see what I'm doing lately. Sometimes it is updated more frequently than the main blog!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The author, Dane F. Baylis
Here and Gone
 A moment to let you know that I've posted a few new pieces on the My Work, My Love page. Please have a look and see what you think. Actually have been fairly active there and I am always open to critique and comments. Have changed the formatting of my main pages (as you can see) to make it easier to add comments. I audit everything before it goes public so, if you change your mind, you can get back to me in a timely manner and I can keep it off the page if you prefer and answer privately. I will respond to most anything and, as I've said before, I have a fairly impervious nature so there is no need to be overly gentle. Really looking forward to hearing from visitors or fans!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The author, Dane Baylis
Finding the Time

More musing on the process, perhaps as much to clarify my own thoughts as to impart anything noteworthy. Mostly thinking about what it takes to maintain a day job and still stay focused and motivated. You probably are looking at my photograph at this point and thinking, "He should be used to all this by now." There are times when I think that myself. But the truth of the matter is their are occasions when, with the day to day of life and work, it just seems easier not to bother with one more thing.

Maybe I'll just go out for a walk, or read, or vegetate in front of the...Naw, anything but that! But what about those first two? A walk is always a good way to clear my head and, being a trained photographer, it's just natural to pick up the camera bag and take it along. Amazing how many images come back that stir the mind and provide inspiration or detail to something on the burner or germinating in a notebook.

Speaking of which, what about that notebook? Jotting down an observation or two may not result in "War and Peace" but it might fill in a gap when I need it. Not to mention the number of poems that seem to be hiding in other people's conversations or the life in a city block. The momentary exercise of jotting this down can be the start of the next story or chapter. Everything percolates to the surface in its own good time but nothing happens until the mundane is shut off and the extraordinary is allowed.

Then there's that great waster of time reading. But it was Stephen King who said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." Reading with a writer's eye and mind can be a real horizon widening experience. Why those words? Why that sentence structure? Am I content with what I am being shown or is there room for my imagination to fill in the details? What are the feelings of the hand behind these characters?

Things that can be recorded in coffee and lunch breaks. Scenes that just assemble themselves around the next corner. The flip of a hand at the edge of a curl. The smell of rich roast coffee. The red of a car, the birdsong over there.

The words may not be something that I can devote an eight hour day to but once in a while, yet they are constantly there if I put in the extra effort to notice. Everything else comes in its time, and I am so grateful that, as my life has gone along, I have been afflicted with a need to write, as often and as well as I can.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The author: Dane F. Baylis

After the Lightning Strikes!

Recently I had a conversation with a younger writer who related that he much preferred the creative heat of the first draft to the work of editing. He was churning out upwards of 40,000 words a month but felt it was too much of a distraction to have to stem the creative tsunami in order to polish and tweak those words into the best presentation he was capable of. It brought to mind another conversation I had with him years ago when he told me that it should be up to the editors where he sent his manuscripts to handle the mechanics. Wasn't that what they were paid to do?

I will admit that I have been blessed along the way with editors who were willing to work with me but I never found one who wanted to work for me unless it was going to be in a professional relationship where I was paying for the privilege of not having to do my own heavy lifting. Those who had given me a chance did so because I was able to show them that I had indeed invested time in a product and that, when it came to what I was trying to interest them in, the time had been taken to familiarize myself with their needs. When I had done my share they could be most helpful in helping me better shape my craft and understand that it wasn't me I was writing for but their audience and readers.

Over time the work that ensued after the first surge of writing became something less onerous. Sure I could sit down and bang out an idea with a fair amount of speed and facility, but that was just the beginning. Once the romance of being some type of Kerouac knock off filling a roll of teletype paper with unpaginated, unpunctuated stream of consciousness had faded I realized that those earlier editors had done me a tremendous service, by showing me that the idea was rarely in the initial harvest. The story and an authentic voice to tell it in was the result of winnowing away the chaff. After I knew what it was my characters were going to do I had the honor of truly meeting with them and letting them tell their stories. I sat on the side and took down their words and ideas, I watched how they moved through the scenes, I saw where it was that their way of living could only be expressed by paring away the telling and recording the showing.

So, if you're thinking that it's your job to produce the art and  someone else's to shape the raw clay of an uncrafted work, you may discover the same thing my young friend has. There are a lot of rough manuscripts on writer's shelves that rarely get past the point of a second or third draft and never see publication. It's the job of the editor to assist you in refining what you have already taken the time to create, craft and cultivate, so that you, as a team, can best reach the reading audience.

Keep writing!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The author, Dane F. Baylis
Short and Sweet

Opened a new page today. All this talk about art and craft and resources and I haven't put anything of my own up here. Oooo, major faux pax, non? Anyway, decided that needed rectifying so I have created a new page entitled "My Work My Love" with a link to it on the upper right of my Home Page. As it evolves I will be posting my own work and excerpts from my work up there. Feel free to take a look and post your comments and impressions. I like to think that over the years I've developed a sufficiently impermeable hide to withstand most anything! LOL.

Oh, I've also tried migrating over to Google Plus+. As I've warned you all before though, I am very much a Joe Walsh follower and anything outside of my analog realm can be a bit daunting. I ask your patience, indulgence and help with anything blaringly stupid you might notice.

Remember, if you don't write it it won't get written!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The author, Dane F. Baylis

Plot Writers Workshop and Lessons

Hi there. Been very busy over the last few days. Sent off a short fiction manuscript entitled No Humans Involved to the Antioch Review. Yes, you heard right. I know, talk about lofty goals, but I figure if you start at the top you might not have to descend too far before you find your spot. Where as if you start at the bottom you just might end up settling way sooner than you really are capable of just because someone offers you publication or a paycheck.

Just finished the rough in for a really dark piece involving cyber-bullying and schizophrenia and have gotten most of the first typed draft completed. I have a tendency to write a lot like I approached photography. You start out by over lighting the living hell out of whatever your trying to illustrate then begin paring down. Removing a light at a time and allowing things to recede and leave room for the imagination. The hope is to get to the point where the spotlight shines on that amount of what you are presenting in such a way and with such intensity that to go above or below that is too much and detracts from the final product. Tentatively this one is entitled Vincent.

Lastly, I want to refocus some attention on the Plot Writing Month web site. I have been working my way through this program for just the last couple of days and I am already impressed. Whether you have a project in the works or just want to hone your craft I feel this is something that will really aid you. I have been applying it to a nascent thriller (Resist!) I have been developing for a couple of months and already can say that the materials being presented have helped sharpen my focus and clarify my vision. This site is one that offers its own content and links to other sites. Yes, like anyone else, the owner and developer has things to sell, but the amount of material being offered for free is quite impressive and worth a look. I am also adding a link to the site in Procrastination Lane, my link list for future reference. Remember what Yoda said, "Do or Do Not! There is no Try!"

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dane F. Baylis, the author

Just a Quick Note

Tomorrow, Saturday December 1st, kicks off the Fifth Annual Plot Writing Month (Who knew?)! So here's a link to the Plot Whisperer blog on the Blogger network. If you're anything like me you look for all the help you can. I figure a month of exercises involving the mechanics and art of plot writing is worth it. So, give it a look and use what you need, I know I'll probably be spending a good deal of my down time in there over the next 31 days. Let me know what you think if you decide to give it a try? I would really appreciate the chance to share impressions and ideas with anybody who has the time!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Knowing What You Write.

I was thinking about one of those cliches we all hear when we're starting out and so much about the art and craft of writing seems couched in the arcane.  Like when that first horrifying instance of writer's block creeps in and panic takes hold sending us running to a teacher, or friend, or a local writer's group to admit, "I just don't know what to write!" Frequently the answer we get back is, "Just write what you know."

But what does that mean? Surely no one in the science fiction genre knows what it's like to actually pilot a dimension hopping star cruiser or wield a light saber. Does a crime story author have any experience with 'whacking' one of his rivals? Or does someone inventing characters to populate medieval London really know what every day life there was about?

Of course not! But everyone of these people has been able, with a little (or a lot) of research and speculation, combined with some sincere soul searching, to understand the real essence of a well told story, the emotional makeup of the characters. Arriving at this destination is more a journey within than without.

We have all looked up and wondered what it would be like to traverse the galaxy and how awe inspiring it must be. Few of us have lived any time at all who haven't, at some point, found our selves consumed, if only for a moment, by an anger that has made us consider hurting someone, maybe only emotionally, but still, that can be an even more vicious hurt. What child has never pretended to be a king or princess or swashbuckling swordsman? Who among us has never loved and lost or loved in vain?

Right there is the essence of writing what you know and what your readers will know and relate to. That which kindles your fire or saddens your heart has the emotional possibility to touch your audience.

For a much better expression of this, from a novelist with a proven track record, click Nathan Englander, and remember that writing what you know is knowing what to write.

For other of my favorite links check out my Procrastination Lane list on the upper right of this page. Good advice, places to find ideas and, oh yeah, some of it is just for losing a little time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

You Probably Already Know This

Just started a digital subscription to Writer's Digest Magazine. If you've been in the writing community for a while then you're undoubtedly familiar with this publication. If you're new to the terrain I would highly suggest you become familiar with it. The savings over the news stand price when ordering it by snail mail or as a .pdf download is significant. The tips, resources and just plain morale boost you can get from a source like this is invaluable. Writer's Digest is a great place for keeping up with a constantly shifting industry, keeping you in touch with changes in publisher policies, personnel and needs. Couple that with an incredibly dedicated support staff that is willing to take time even for an analog intellect like mine and you have a stupendous combination.

Combine all of this with an upgraded subscription to Writer's Market and you have an even better deal. This is the digital version of the well known Writer's Market books that come out once a year. The advantage to this is they are constantly updating the information you find between the print covers. That and access to webinars and a ton of freebies and...well you can probably surmise, I am really enjoying this thing. Craft, markets, how-to's and some really easy to read and follow advice, check it out if you haven't.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Longhand Thing

The author, Dane F. Baylis
So, a couple of days until Thanksgiving. Looking forward to family and food and avoiding anything to do with Black Friday. Actually, because of the nature of my regular job I have a few days off and more than enough to do to fill them. Right at the top of the list is write. That involves a rewrite of an existing short story that's been laying in my files gathering dust and waiting for me to unclutter my mind, then there's the one I mentioned in an earlier post that just came out of rough draft into first typed draft and, finally, finding a conclusion for one that is still being put down in longhand.

I mentioned that I write my rough drafts in longhand before, remarking on how it was a method that slowed me down and made me listen to my characters speaking in their own dialect and syntax. It is also helpful for those messy moments when I'm just not sure which way a plot or character should evolve. Taking the time to commit to pen and ink means that I also have the space to try out different approaches and themes without worrying about sending something into digital limbo or just plain mislabeling an extension and having to plow through file after file until I find v1 or v2 or v infinitum (I am truly an analog mind in a digital world at times). I can make copious notes in margins, change colors, underline, bracket or cram tentative corrections and adjustments above and below existing lines while also having the terrain to change location, or time, or the color of eyes, shirts, hair, the heroine's sneakers and always be able to flip back and forth in short order to get a feel for these modifications.

As a rule I use one of three media for this. 8 1/2 X 11 inch yellow lined pads, the good old fashioned wide rule composition book or a buff covered, unlined notebook (this last I reserve for more general note taking, journalising and poetic composition). I try never to be without at least one of these and can actually be found carrying a mixed few with the addition of a small sketch pad and set of pencils. This last is because there are times when the words aren't there yet but a quick sketch of a scene, character or idea can keep it fresh and sometimes even trigger a line of thought I didn't realize was in my head.

So, if any of this seems like something useful to you then give it a try. Just having the freedom to continue a project without having to get back to your studio or worrying about battery life or plug-in stations can be a real liberation. You see or hear or feel something that you either know has an immediate use or that feeling of latent energy and out comes the pad and pen before it escapes. Snippets of conversation, that setting you were trying so hard to conceptualize or just the gentle fragrance of flowers or food on a momentary breeze, captured in a second and ready for use later.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jimmy Kelley Rides Again

Yes, this is me, although with slightly less facial hair!

So, just finished the first typed draft of a new short story. I say first typed because I am one of those who still longhand's my roughs on yellow pads. I can carry them with me pretty much where ever I go without worrying about them. As I still have a day job that can be pretty tough and dirty a laptop is just too expensive an item to risk. The other advantage is that it forces me to concentrate on the voices of the characters as I listen to how they speak in my thoughts. As most of what I do is driven by dialogue and character development the enforced focus is very beneficial.

Street scene in So. Boston. (Southie)

The latest short is another foray into what has been dubbed 'geezer noir' and involves a recurring character of mine, Jimmy Kelley. Jimmy is most definitely an anti-hero in the mold of George V. Higgins character, Eddie Coyle, though significantly less tragic. Jimmy is a product of the streets of South Boston and the Massachusetts correctional system. He's nobody's fool but at the same time he has an innate sense of fair and unfair that propels him into situations and scenes like an aging force of nature. Not to be underestimated as some kind of street corner tough, Jimmy rules his world with smarts and violence.

As always I am working on the next while polishing the last and always looking for homes for the lot. As things progress I'll keep this page updated with the successful and not so successful. It's all part of the learning and living!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Called On Account Of Rain





                         Chasing Inspiration

                                           Caravaggio, “The Taking of Christ”

Took the day, a wet, gloomy Saturday, and, in the company of the most wonderful M., escaped to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (aka, as everything else is these days, by its acronym LACMA). One of the best things we have done, for ourselves and as a small contribution to the wider community we share, has been to become members of this and a number of other museums and like organizations. The range of exhibitions can at first, as with any major metropolitan area, seem absolutely overwhelming but, by concentrating on featured artists, periods or media we have been able to really focus on and enjoy a number of fine shows.



                                              Stanley Kubrick, Self Portrait

Presently there is a double offering of Caravaggio and Kubrick being featured. Two men in two very different times, one portraying his faith and fall through painting, the other attempting to show us his take on the foibles and failures of his age through the motion picture. Caravaggio lived a dark and tormented life in his time, while Kubrick chronicled the very real threats and fears of his time. Both were rebels and at times outcasts but neither can be denied the visionary genius of their creativity and legacy.

In this atmosphere of discovery and amazement how do you not find something, even if only a latent kernel, to nurture or prod your muse? Looking at these so different media and styles and engaging in conversation with total strangers who share with you a commonality of their appreciation of the moment, how do you not compare your world, and how you perceive it, with theirs?

The next time the door to the store house of ideas and dreams seems barred to you, go to a museum. Stop worrying about how you’re going to finish that painting, or the next scene in that script, or whether or not the ending to that short story was the right one. Go and soak your heart and soul in the knowledge that each of us struggles, some of us mightily, but in the end it might be a bump start from the past that gets you moving toward your future again.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Troglodyte Returns!

Greetings from the Left Coast and here we go again,

Back from an extended sabbatical (sort of a literary walk-about). The entire landscape changed on the way and I am once again playing techie catch-up...when I left computers were just being touted as God's gift to the writer and marketing meant getting a lot of postal glue on your tongue. Now everything is the platform, FB, Twitter, Blogs, Linked-in and still finding time to sit down at this keyboard and translate my longhand scrawl into digitally stored and transmittable media.

Along the way I will make mistakes (one of the advantages of advancing years is being able to say oops and mean it!) but I invite you to bring them to my attention. As blues legend Buddy Guy says, "If you stop learning, roll it up and go home". I have never stopped, nor think I could, so it will be nice to see you along this road.

I have posted a couple of poems on FB and am fairly active there so if you wish I am always looking for interesting Friend requests. Other things going on right at the moment are a short story out for competition and also a sixty page poetry manuscript in the same temporary limbo. Several other pieces of short fiction in various stages of completion (are they ever, finally complete?). I tend towards gritty and at times downright dark. Dialogue is my strong point and I try for a believable range of characters in age, gender and personality. Anyway, this is the opening salvo as it were and I'm hoping to make of it something that will invite you back repeatedly.

Again, hello and thanks,

A good way to kill a little time at Montana de Oro In San Luis Obispo.
Dane F. Baylis