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!"