Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Creative Writing Podcast - Episode 007

It's the start of the school year and in this week's episode we're going to talk about 


 (Back to school) 

 Welcome to HuntingTheMuse.com's Creative Writing Podcast. 

This week's podcast episode is about beginnings. Summer break has faded into the past and it's the start of the school year again.

As my children get settled into their new schedules and meet their new teachers, I'm reminded of those days when I was a child. New pencils and notebooks, new clothes, and a new chance to have some memorable adventures.

While we mourned the loss of our summer freedom, going back to school symbolized exciting times.

I often feel this way when I get excited about a new writing project. Don't you?

Not subscribed to the podcast? Get it now!

My Week

Hello, Muse Hunters! I hope you all had an excellent week and that you were able to get some good writing done since the last episode.

This last week for me was very interesting, and if you remember from the last episode, I ran into a huge slump and found myself trying to push through a lot of self-doubt. This lead to a lot of soul searching and revealed some great insight into the motivations of one of my antagonists.

Well, let me tell you, that discovery seemed to jostle a few more out of the woodwork and I began to examine how I've been approaching my writing. This has to be one of the greatest parts of doing this podcast so far. I'm really forced to examine my beliefs about writing and what I've told myself I'm capable of and that introspection has brought forth some very interesting fruit.

It's been a cooler, rainier August these last couple of weeks, breaking the streak of 100 degree (plus) days. It's much cooler than last year, that's for sure. The change has been nice, though all this extra water has encouraged the grass to grow double-time, so I guess I'll be out there with the lawnmower and some of my favorite podcasts this weekend!

It was time to go back to the VA hospital yesterday for my migraine shots, 32 of those little suckers, if you believe it. It sounds bad, but it's not quite as horrible as it sounds. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not pleasant, but when it saves you from some of the headaches, it all works out in the end. I'm not seeing a huge improvement yet, but this is just my second round and the doctors told me that a lot of patients see more benefit in the second or third batch. So I've got my fingers crossed.

Podcast News

I'm still trying to play around with my settings and the process I'm using to record these episodes. I'm still new at this, so if you've heard a few of my episodes so far or if this is your first one, please stick with me. If you have a suggestion for improvement, I'd love to hear from you!

Right now, there are no sponsors for this podcast. I'm doing my best to write and deliver helpful content, but it does take a lot of my time. I've made it a personal goal to do at least 52 weekly episodes. That means that if you're worried about whether you should invest your time in a new podcast, you can rest assured that I'll be sticking around for quite some time.

After that? Well, we'll have to see where this road takes us. If there's enough support and interest, this could definitely be an ongoing thing. I can honestly tell you, as a podcast listener, I know how sad it can be when you go to refresh that next episode on a podcast you've been enjoying, only to find an abrupt end.

Do you have suggestions for topics? Do you have comments about any of the episodes or want to say hello? Hit me up on Twitter, @BradyFrost, and I might read your comments on one of my future episodes!

Listener Shoutouts

Ben Marble (@BenMarble1) said, "Nothing wrong with a little passion in your work! I plan on listening on the way to work tomorrow. So far I've liked your cast"

Thanks, Ben. I really appreciate you saying so! Keep listening and let me know how I'm doing!
Ben currently has three short stories available on Amazon, all of which are available to read for free if you have KindleUnlimited. So if you're into short fiction with dark, horror/occult persuasion, and you'd like to support another Muse Hunter out there, give Ben a look.

Writing Updates

This week was pretty amazing for writing progress. First off, I'm learning not to compare my efforts and results with other authors, and that's a huge takeaway from the episodes leading up to this point. I know I still have to challenge myself to find out what I'm capable of,  but it's a journey.

While my word count wasn't massively impressive, I did make some great strides in piecing together more of the interwoven threads that make up Chlorophyllium 9. This novella is now sitting at around 23,000 words and won't need too much more work before I call it done and move on to the rest of the novel. Altogether, between Chlorophyllium 9 and what I have written for Final Hope, I'm about halfway to my full-length goal. I'm still aiming to be done before October!

For those of you who listened to the last episode, you might remember how I revealed a hurtful moment in my writing past and how I gave up on a novel I'd started over a decade ago. Well, I have some good news!

This fantasy novel, COMA: The Cataclysm, will take you to the magical and enchanting land of Velmoria, where the balance of power is kept in check by three Nethers, men and women who come from other worlds through portals opened by a being known only as the Catalyst.

I've decided to release this story for free, a chapter at a time, on my blog in a serialized format. But there's a catch. With everything I've got going on with my science fiction series, this podcast, and a bunch of short stories I'm writing for a collection I'll release sometime in the future, I need your support to make this project work.

I'm not asking for money. No. What would really help me out is page reads, comments, Facebook and Twitter shares if you enjoy it. I just need to know people are reading it, like it, and want more. If that seems to be the case, I'll post the next chapter, and so on. If you're interested, you can check it out at www.rbradyfrost.com/coma.

I also decided to participate in a writing project with the 20 Books to 50K crowd, where twenty authors each write a chapter of a novel (or novella, I'm not sure how long this thing will end up being when it's all done.) I chose chapter 2, thinking I would probably get tapped once I'd produced this episode and had a small break for the week.

Nope! Chapter 1 landed in my mailbox just before I got off work for the day and I only had 48 hours to get it written and turned back in. Talk about pressure! After reading what the first author, TJ Ryan, had written and set up in that first chapter, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

Okay, it wasn't that easy. I freaked out for a few minutes and stressed about how I was going to put together an engaging chapter. I wondered if I would be able to create a strong, memorable character the readers will care about. And I wasn't sure if I could give her a purpose while also leaving the chapter with a punch.

But I started. I began the journey and it was slow at first. I moved forward one word at a time. Before I knew it, things were starting to fall into place. After a while, I knew what was coming next. Then the end of the chapter hit me and it was awesome. I knew in that moment how I could wrap it up and tie it in with the first chapter, while also setting up the next author with a solid footing.

The only thing that remained was getting there. In total, I wrote 1,970 words. I completed my chapter and turned it in within just a few hours. I was so happy!

Then I had nightmares all night. In my fitful sleep, my chapter wasn't as good as I thought it was while I was still on that writer's high. I woke up with a heart full of doubt. But I sat up, shrugged it off as best I could, and told myself that I did well. Because I did. It might not be a perfect chapter, but I wrote it and I wrote it fast and I think I wrote it well. It was something I could be proud of.


It's that time of year. Summer is winding down and those of us with kids are sending our spawn off to school. Well, okay, we homeschool our children, but they do a lot of that stuff online and have to interact with their teachers and other kids. But play along with me here, let's not lose that mental image.

Butterflies are flapping their wings and flitting to and fro, the kids are decked out in their best new duds, and your Facebook feed is full of other people's children all dressed to impress in their first-day-of-school pictures. 

Don't have kids? Never went to school? Don't have a clue what I'm talking about? That's fine, I'm going somewhere here, I promise!

You see, the beginning of the school year reminds me of that sense of excitement I had as a kid. Sure, I knew there would be work involved and, depending on the teacher, some homework as well. But there were so many new social prospects and other things to look forward to.

The Beginnings of a Writing Project.

Okay, that's better.

Starting a writing project is fun and different parts of the startup process can be addicting for different reasons. I imagine I've probably spent thousands of dollars over the years in coffee drinks, chai, and writing books -- all in the act of preparing to write.

I've somehow managed to keep myself from buying a single pre-made cover because I know that once I slide down that slippery slope, there probably won't be any semblance of financial recovery for me.

Research can be fun. I love to consume information and random facts. I like to think it makes me smarter and better informed as a writer. When I started writing COMA: The Cataclysm, I just knew I needed a copy of Sigmund Freud's book, The Interpretation of Dreams. It's around here somewhere.

In fact, I have boxes of books on writing and subjects I thought would be interesting to incorporate into my writing.

Beginnings are fun, sometimes they taste delicious and give us that boost of caffeine we need before, you know, life calls and we've got to leave the cafe and get back to the grind. Yeah, they can be kind of expensive if you let them get out of hand.

Planning is Good.

You have that idea and before you start to run with it, you set a plan in motion. Maybe you get around to writing a scene or a chapter and you just want to tell someone how everything will fit together. You want to write the story, but it's got to be perfect.

You need a better plan. Maybe you didn't think this out well enough. What if this happens instead of that? What's the significance of a dream anyway? A lot of people don't like Freud and he did have some pretty weird ideas. Maybe I need to research more?

The danger with planning is getting stuck in the planning cycle. Do you see where I'm going with this? Each phase in the writing process has these little slots in the ground. Some people seem to sail right over them without a care in the world. Some can't help but fall in and lose their way. 

The important thing is to realize when you struggle with certain things and be wary of where your feet land. 

Telling the Secret.

One of my biggest story-killing pitfalls happens when I allow myself to tell the secret of how things turn out. After all that research and planning, I've got it all worked out in my head (and spread across random pages in four or five notebooks that end up here and there and everywhere in between).

Nothing relieves the pressure of needing to get the story out like blabbing the freaking story! Trust me. My awesome wife, Tara, has seen this happen far too many times. I've gotten better at it, and part of it is allowing myself to work through story elements with her as my trusty sounding board, while also stepping up my determination to write.

Something that helps me here is allowing a bit of discovery writing (pantsing) to find its way into my writing plan. I can find myself scrambling to catch up when one of my characters does something different than I had planned or a new character pops in to say hello.

Who is this person? I guess it's time to figure out how they fit in the whole plot!
Look, we do what we have to do, right?

Just Like Going Back to School!

The initial excitement wears off after a while. But unlike going to school as a kid, you have a choice. Maybe it would be better if you didn't, but you do. You have to decide whether you're going to stick it out and grind through the tough bits.

It doesn't mean you won't get excited about the project again. It doesn't mean that writing is all work. It is going to be hard sometimes. We're going to lose our motivation and question why we ever started in the first place. We might even doubt our abilities and feel the temptation to succumb to the negative energies in our life. But whenever we begin creating something, we are committing ourselves to an idea. It is our responsibility to see that idea to fruition.

It's okay if it isn't your best work. It's okay if you decide to put it on a shelf and never show a soul. The point is, you saw it through. You showed up and you did your job and before you know it, you'll get another idea. Only this time, you'll be even better equipped to tackle it.

Avoid Perfection.

I remember when I went to school as a kid, I had two habits that haunt me still and one of those habits was hunting perfection. Sometimes I would really get into an assignment and go overboard. I did this with my Master's degree too. Sometimes I would completely stall because I didn't see a way to create a perfect response with the way the assignment was designed. 

One thing I wish I'd learned sooner was that there are no bonus points for perfect, especially when you spend way too much time on one assignment and neglect the rest. The law of averages just isn't in your favor.

Now, don't get me wrong. It's always important to try your best. But if you're waiting to finish something until your best is as close to perfect as possible, it might be that you're not respecting the process. 

Perfect products never ship. They get stuck in research and development and cost money and people lose their jobs because revenue isn't being generated. If we had one perfect story, we wouldn't need any others. It would perfectly satisfy all of our human desires. It would instruct and entertain, and surely save us all from every ill fate or act of hubris. 


The other habit I wish I would have broken sooner is procrastinating. I do this a lot. I always felt like I performed my best when the pressure was on. This resulted in more overnighters that I could count and a few crappy grades.

Meanwhile, other kids were starting on their assignments when they were handed out. Even if they weren't due for another two weeks. They worked regularly and rewarded themselves when the work was done and they had extra time to goof off while chumps like me started thinking about getting started.

This works the same way with our writing. Who is going to be that motivating force to tell you it's time to cram? If you're good under pressure, you've got to learn how to turn the pressure on. And hopefully, over time, you can learn how to even things out so you don't die of stress overload. 

That constant feeling like you're behind and you have to crank something out in the knick of time will kill you...

Find What Works...

As writers, we have to find the process that works best for us. That process will likely evolve over time as we gain skill and insight. We might see improvements by changing certain aspects which wouldn't have worked before when we were just starting out.

It's okay to make mistakes and have hangups, that's part of the learning process. The important thing is to keep moving forward and writing those stories.

The Sign-Off

Thank you for Hunting the Muse with me this week. I'll see you next week!
I've got some writing prompts coming up, so make sure you stay tuned through the transition. 

And now, for this week's writing prompts!

What you'll find below is a series of creative writing prompts to help get you through your week. There are no rules as to how you should use them, but I recommend taking your muse's hand; wherever she may lead you.

Whether you find yourself writing a descriptive scene or dialogue, a poem or prose, or anything else (even if it seems entirely unrelated to the prompt), you have won. Happy writing, and may you find success in hunting your muse this week. 

1. The Empty City

You are traveling with a few close friends on a spontaneous road trip across the country. Things started out great, but then a petty squabble erupted  into a full on argument, airing out some long-buried conflict. You decide to pull off the interstate at the next exit so everyone can take a breather, grab a bite to eat, and work things out.
As you pull into the main strip from the off ramp, you notice how empty everything looks and feels. A moment later, the argument hangs in the air as the rest of your crew feels the oppressive emptiness. Further investigation reveals that the modern-day ghost town really is as empty as it feels with life seemingly paused in what must have been an ordinary day. Cars still line the streets and the telltale signs of people are everywhere to be seen, though covered with thick layers of dust. 

2. Virtual World

Virtual Reality is making a resurgence, taking the tech world by storm after falling by the wayside for decades. New simulation programs allow gamers of all backgrounds, young and old, to experience life’s greatest adventures (real and imagined). But somewhere under the current of excitement lurks a dangerous secret.
A very small subset of users experience periods of displaced reality, succumbing to uncontrolled fits of paracosmic emersion, a sort of internalized, disconnected continuation of the VR simulations. 
After an amazing VR experience, you can’t help but feel haunted by the reality that never was. Are you just now waking from a dream, or are the events that have taken place since you disconnected the real reality? Who will you go to for answers and what dangers stand in your way?

3. The Fascination Machine

You’ve finally done it. After years of research and sacrifice, you’ve managed to invent the world’s first thought-activated neural-integrated circuit. With this tech, you can control remote devices with the power of your mind. A single thought can influence practically everything around you. 
This kind of technology will reshape the world, but before you officially release your invention, it’s time to have some fun. All in the name of science, of course.

4. Before the Sun Sets

It’s been three wonderful days since you were granted your last wish and now the payment for the genie’s services are due. You have until just before the sun sets to deliver, but one thing after another has set you back and it’s starting to look like you might not make it in time. 
What token of payment has the genie requested in exchange for your wishes, and what do you stand to loose if you don’t make it in time? Are the setbacks a coincidence, or has the genie set you up to fail? 

You best hurry. Time is running out.

5. The Spark Remembered

It’s been five years since you last saw your one-time secret crush. That’s long enough for the memory to have faded into the mist, but not long enough to prevent you from immediately recognizing them when they walk in the door of your small flower shop. Of course, they must be buying flowers for someone special.
After a few moments of catching up, you learn that they will be staying in the old town for a while and the flowers aren’t for a romantic interest. Their mother has been sick and likely doesn’t have long to live. Knowing how you felt when your father passed, you offer your sympathies.
Then you feel your heart race when they tell you how nice it was to catch up and admit they always liked you. Having been offered cupid’s unexpected arrow, will you pursue the opportunity or let them walk out the door forever?  

6. The Unwelcome Guests

A small rural town has seen a strange influx of travelers who all seem to be gathering for some unknown reason. At first, many of the residents were excited to see an upswing in the small economy, but now local resources are tapped. With no end to the migration in sight and large crowds camping out on the side of the streets, it’s clear that something must be done.
When the mayor and police chief approach the gathering, however, a leader from amongst the throng emerges. There is something strange about this character, something almost supernatural. The last anyone saw of the two town figureheads was when they stepped inside a large canvas tent to parlay with the visitor.

7. The Tumultuous Expedition

The year is 1883 and you are several days late on your unexpected ocean detour to Indonesia to witness and record details of volcanic activity rumbling within Krakatoa, the small, uninhabited island west of Sumatra. It was late May when you first heard the news, which spread like wildfire throughout the scientific community and was met with great fanfare by the indigenous peoples of Java and Sumatra. How could you resist the urge to be a part of such a momentous occasion? 
On August 26th, just as your navigator lands his sights on the northern shore of Sumatra in the distance and you’re certain that your voyage to the land of spices is coming to an end, a dark cloud billows up like a shadow in the southeastern sky. Early the next morning you hear the deafening explosion that tears the small island to pieces. Luckily, you had made it to port and the resulting tsunamis are largely absorbed by the land mass. 

Earth and ash rain down, coating everything in a soot-gray. What started out as a scientific adventure has turned into a rescue mission as you struggle to help those who were hit worst by the 120-foot waves. Tens of thousands have been lost forever to the angry depths, but there are still so many who need your help.

I hope you've enjoyed this week's episode and creative writing prompts.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Creative Writing Podcast - Episode 006

 Pushing Though 

 Welcome to HuntingTheMuse.com's Creative Writing Podcast. 

Today's podcast episode is about pushing through.

We all deal with emotional difficulties at different times with our writing. This episode will talk through that process and help you to overcome your self-doubt.
This week was tough, but despite all the roadblocks, the hiccups, and the distractions... I was Doing It!

Not subscribed to the podcast? Get it now!

My Week

As a military veteran, I deal with a lot of anxiety and depression, and I'm going to try to do my best to remove that filter from my personal weekly updates. But, if you asked me right out, I'd tell you I had a tough week. And that would be true. But there were also some really good moments, and I can't discount those.

I made some huge progress with lining up story components and defining the motivations of a particular character in Chlorophyllium 9 and subsequently Final Hope. That process often requires that your ego go through the crucible and it's a process that can be hard, but it can also be very worth it if you want to create the best story possible.

Work wasn't too bad, though I did get some stern words from an upper management member who, I feel, misunderstood a situation where I was trying to do the right thing. I won't go into any detail here, but my supervisor was pretty awesome and smoothed it out as best she could. It was great that she supported me and was on my side.

(Of course, insert emotional trigger here, though. Feeling like I was stuck and unable to defend myself took me back to a pretty bad situation I was in for a long time during my service. This probably helped fuel my bad feelings about my writing.)

Podcast News

I didn't get time to produce the shortened outros I talked about in the last episode. I think doing this would be an improvement, but it probably isn’t the highest priority at this time.

Installed the Patreon App on my phone and have been uploading some quick writing prompts: both audio and pictures. It's been a lot of fun and it doesn't take much time. Now, I've been trying to figure out how Patreon works and it seems like there are two types of posts you can do. One is the standard free-for-all, while the other is attached to a donation. So, for patrons who support you, you provide special content on a pre-arranged agreement (such as, no more than twice a month).

This raises the question, if in the future I do start getting patrons, what content should I create for my supporters?

I originally planned on providing up to two additional podcasts per month, but these things take a lot of time to produce and that might not be very feasible. So, what about posting stories based on some of the creative writing prompts posted that month?

You see, my goal with this podcast isn't necessarily to get better at podcasting, though that's naturally one of my concerns. I want to do well at whatever I'm doing. Producing extra episodes is taxing and coming up with seven writing prompts that are more than a single sentence can be tough. Furthermore, producing podcasts doesn't necessarily make me a better writer.

Writing stories based on the prompts and providing them to my patrons could be mutually beneficial, but are my podcast listeners here for their own creative writing endeavors, or are they interested in my writing. Is there a segment of listeners who are interested in both? Who enjoy what I do enough to offer their support in exchange for my writing?

My biggest concern is, what is the best thing for me to do to provide value for my patrons, while also increasing the skills that best align with my writing goals?

What do you think? I would love to hear from you!

Writing Updates

I started out the week feeling pretty good about the progress I had made. Then I started questioning the overarching motivations of one of my characters. This spilled into self-doubt about how I was handling narration versus dialogue.

Then I started to doubt my previous good feelings about character development and progression.

This led to a downward spiral that ended with a whole lot of not writing.

The task seemed insurmountable and I didn't feel like I was up to it. I felt like a hypocrite for podcasting and writing about the creative writing process. I embodied everything that I warned about in the last podcast episode, "Doing It."

I did not do it.

Pushing Through.

In this week's episode, we're going to get real about writing. The first thing you need to know is that EVERYONE STRUGGLES. (period.)

We each struggle with our own, unique demons and in our own way. But the key thing to understand is that many have gone down that road before you and many will travel it long after you are gone.

Some will think you've never seen the beaten path, never known its twists and turns or tripped on the jutting roots that creep out from beneath the surface.

You know, it's so easy to dismiss or discount what it takes to be a writer today. So many people have done it. It seems like we have more writers now than ever before. EVERYONE, it seems, is writing a book.

Sadly, only those who push though will make it.

You are not alone.

In those dark moments, when you think it's pointless to go on, remember why you wanted to write in the first place. Other writers have felt very much the same as you're feeling in your darkest hour.
  • Do you feel like a fraud?
  • Are you a faker? A chameleon who lacks a sense of individual talent?
  • Are you nothing more than an amalgamation of everything you've ever read?
  • Who would want to read this crap?
  • It's contrived, self-important, and utter nonsense.
Trust me, others have thought those exact same things. I know I have.
At least, that's what I thought... you know, that others felt this way too.

To prove, or disprove, the point, I decided to pose the question to a group of authors I've mentioned on the podcast before.

Let's see what they had to say...

"Don't mistake how you feel for a reason to stop. Let it buzz around in the background and just keep going. Getting through it each day, little by little, will do more for wearing away the doubt than backing off of a goal. Remember that the journey will not be what you expected, but it will happen anyway. That and keep in mind that external forces like writing a book, getting it published can't make you feel secure. That's an inside job."

"I struggle with this ALOT and it causes quite a bit of havoc on things like creative flow and motivation. The bad part is, you can get it from just about everything: unsupportive people... insecurities that have NOTHING to do with writing at all. It's a difficult thing for an author to put themselves out there to begin with. Like it or not, it's a piece of the bare soul going out for the world to see, but there are so many other contributing factors as well. It can be overwhelming."

But E. R. Starling pushes through...

"It's a very big struggle, but I've always been a fighter so I find it easier to push things aside and reach for what I want instead of what I'm afraid I'm going to get. Focusing on why I write also helps. It is a process, and a long one at that. Like Martha sais, it's an internal job. As long as you work with it, you see results."

"Self-doubt sucks and we all experience it. Even Stephen King. When I feel like throwing the towel in, I revisit some of my rejections, specifically and old note from a college professor who called my writing, 'outrageous, over the top and all around an unpublishable mess.' The book to which she was referring was the first one I published and has now sold a few hundred copies and received some glowing reviews. It's even nominated for some kind of Indie award right now, though I doubt I will walk away with a win. I let myself get mad all over again because getting mad makes me more determined to push on and prove her wrong. Other people's doubt of me is my fuel to go forward."

Then an anonymous writer from the group chimed in...

"I'm pretty sure it's normal and a good sign. I was talking with a buddy the other day about this aspect of the creative process and even great writers like Stephen Kind have a history of this. King threw out his draft of Christine, but his wife pulled it from the trash. I think we all feel that our stuff is crap after pouring our hearts and energy into it and the folks out there with stars in their eyes and no talent are the ones who have no doubt. We're our worst critics..."

After probing a little deeper, the author, who wanted to remain anonymous, expressed a hurtful memory with a close family member. The laughter and the hurtful words still echo in their head, "You'll never make a living as a writer."

Hurtful Words

As it turns out, I have some of my own hurtful words I carry around. I remember one particular event very well. I was sitting in my grandmother's dining room on a warm, Sunday afternoon. I loved my grandma very much and we would visit and she would prepare a nice lunch every Sunday.

We were talking and I was going on about some of my goals. I was working on a manuscript that has long collected dust in the years gone by, but I remember saying that I was writing a book. My grandmother laughed.

"What are you going to write a book about," she asked.
"Well, it's fiction," I managed to say, hoping she was just dismissing my lack of supposed expertise in a non-fiction realm.

(Which would also have hurt, but I could just shrug that off as her not understanding my job or what I'd done in the military.)

Still, she laughed and repeated, "What are YOU going to write a book about?"

It hurt. A lot.

The Complex Issue of Self-Doubt

Kat Lind says, "The issue on self-doubt can be very complex, but if you boil them down to basics, they are simple. You have a message in your head that was set some time ago that disagrees with where you want to go or do. The argument is the expression of self-doubt

"The conflict is part of the reason that so many creative type people suffer from depression. The internal fight and the argument saps energy and you have bursts when you can overcome the issues and then fall into a depression when you run out of energy. 

"There are exercises that can be used to surface the nasty messages that hold you back, but sometimes you can just use the voices as a focus for defiance."

"I'm working hard to turn my own misgivings into the same. Whenever I think, "I can't," I try to immediately follow that with "But what if I can?" Confidence is all about how you talk to yourself... Say enough positive things and, hopefully, you start believing them and they'll start happening. That's my theory, anyway."
Michael Anderle was actually the first person to respond to my question. He said, "Figure out your strategy to deal with it early. I've told my fans that each time I hit release, I'm always chewing fingernails until the first reviews come in to see whether 'this one is the one that I screw up!' It doesn't matter if the previous book was a high seller... THIS book is the one that I worry about. I think I had less worries on book's 1, 2, and 3 than number 12. Don't know if it helps, but... well, there it is."

But I wanted to know more, so I asked the next logical question:
"If you had to pinpoint why your anxiety has gone up with subsequent releases, what would you think the reason for that would be? Is it a desire to not disappoint fans?"

Michael Anderle: "Yes, in the beginning there were NO expectations. I wasn't expecting a lot, and had nothing to compare my efforts to. The writing rather 'flowed'. Most books since number 3 or number 4 have been more and more complex, the writing harder and the exhaustion... bigger. Consequently, there are times I'm not sure about the book. (I think) I'm getting better at figuring it out, but I never 'know'."

How did I Push Through?

My wife was a good sounding board for my frustrations. She told me she believed in me.

And then my oldest daughter, Gizmo, told me that my writing efforts were inspiring her to pursue her desire to be a digital artist. When she thought about me putting so much time into my podcast and my writing on top of my full-time job and spending time with the family, she felt like her personal art goals were achievable.

Boy, did I feel silly.

(Here, the podcast includes an audio clip of Gizmo explaining her thoughts.)

So, What Came of My Struggle?

Somewhere along the line, I had a breakthrough. Maybe my gut was trying to tell me something. But why in such a hurtful way? Why did it have to bash my self-esteem and crush my belief that I could be a successful writer? I don't know...

After reforging my understanding of one of my primary antagonists, while going through the crucible of self-doubt, I uncovered a very interesting character thread that connected another disjointed element in the story. Suddenly, something that had been bothering me made perfect sense and I could understand the character motivation. It was both shocking and yet explainable in one deft blow.

This realization will inform my writing and further character development. And understanding the conflict the antagonist faced helps me understand who he is as a person and why he's been doing some of the horrible things he's done. We're all the hero of our own story, so it couldn't be simple ideology that fueled his reasoning. That would make him a stick-man and his emotional resonance with one particular mistake couldn't be explained with that logic. No, the ideology is nothing more than armor, because acknowledging what he sacrificed would crush him.

Tactics, Techniques, and Skills to Overcome Self-Doubt

Take a step back.
You have to realize that everyone struggles.

Sometimes our parent (critical) ego steps into the territory of our child (creative) ego. We need to understand that the creative side of ourselves has to feel safe in order to create.

Much of the advice we receive in life centers around the safe choices. (Get an education, get a job, work your way in the system toward the goal of eventual retirement.)

Putting yourself out there for the world isn't a safe choice, it's an artistic (read: risky) one.

The parent ego, in this case, represents our fears and our doubts. Kat Lind says that, "Most frequently, the voices associated with this ego get recorded in your brain when you are younger or very vulnerable. But you can neutralize it with logical and conscious thought.

The Sign-Off

I realize this episode was a bit on the heavy side, but thank you for sticking it out with me. Writers of all types usually encounter some form of self-doubt.
  • You are not alone.
  • You can do this.
  • You can push through and overcome!
I believe in you.

And now, for this week's writing prompts.

What you'll find below is a series of creative writing prompts to help get you through your week. There are no rules as to how you should use them, but I recommend taking your muse's hand; wherever she may lead you.

Whether you find yourself writing a descriptive scene or dialogue, a poem or prose, or anything else (even if it seems entirely unrelated to the prompt), you have won. Happy writing, and may you find success in hunting your muse this week. 

1. The Smoldering Ruin

You are a special investigator out on assignment. The scene of a crime across town requires the attention of someone of your… expertise. You’ve been tracking down a serial murderer for the last eighteen months, really getting inside his head, and the folks at the bureau seem to think he might have just made his first big mistake. All you know for sure is that you’re headed to the scene of a deadly arson. Which seems odd, given that fire never really was your guy’s MO.

2. The Package

You’ve been working hard finishing a project and, in a trance-like state of flow, you blow right through lunch. Hours later, you find yourself starving and running out of steam fast. So, you decide to step out for a quick bite to eat before getting back to the grindstone. When you return, a small and mysterious package has been left on your keyboard.

3. You Might Regret This

From the first instant you remember after waking up in the morning, you knew today was going to be rough. There was something in the air, something almost ethereal; like smelling ozone and knowing an electronic device somewhere has fried, or biting your cheek and tasting copper. The feeling was more instinct than anything else. And then your day went on and everything seemed fine. More than fine, in fact. You’ve just been offered a very big and very important promotion, but still that feeling remains. As you shake your boss’s hand, you can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more to this deal than you were told.

4. Stuck on the Bridge

Every week, you get up in the morning, get dressed and ready to impress, and then set out for work. You drive the lonely, dark streets until the rural capillaries turn to veins and you merge onto the artery that will take you into the heart of the city. You make your way through the traffic, watching for brake lights and avoiding the lane weavers, until you eventually arrive at your place of employment, snug within one of the buildings that make up the city skyline.

But today, on your way home, traffic comes to a standstill as you reach the midpoint of the long bridge that stretches across a large body of water halfway through your commute. With no end to the wait in sight, you notice a strange shift in the mood of the commuters around you. So you turn down your speakers, roll down your window, and listen. 
Think of something you do on the computer, your smartphone, or any other electronic device as a part of your normal day-to-day activities. Now take that action and make it magical by adding a touch of cyberpunk. How will you visualize traveling the information superhighway? Will you get entangled in the sticky web of Social Media? What is it like to encapsulate how very integrated into the system we’ve all become?

5. A Different Shade

You work in an obscure corporate research and development department of an innovative tech giant. A lot of what you do is smoke and mirrors, funneling money into technology that doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose, like paint that changes color to reflect the emotions of the person standing in front of it. 
Things were going well for a long time. Everyone you worked with felt like… family. As a team, you created some of the most wild and innovative gizmos and gadgets that most normal people would never hear about, let alone see first-hand. You pushed the barrier of discovery in ways you’d never imagined possible, but ever since the new technology director came on board, the ambience of the place has slowly shifted toward a structured, results-based initiative. First, the free sodas disappeared. Then it was the ping pong table. Of course, that was just the beginning.
Now you’re standing in front of a black emotion-sensing wall in the conference room and you’ve got to give your team the bad news. How will you help them see the light at the end of this tunnel?

6. The Stolen Files

You’ve been working on a special dataset for months, but just as you were about to reveal your findings, all your files were stolen. It’s a good thing you kept good backups because, while surely an inconvenience, you can recover what was lost in just a matter of hours. Yet, something bigger is troubling you. What purpose would someone have with stealing your research? Could they somehow put it to nefarious ends?

7. The Proposal

You’re walking in a crowded public space when you’re approached by a charming street performer. After some crowd-pleasing theatrics, they make a fine show of a marriage proposal. It all seems so innocent and fun, so after your initial refusal, met with several boos and groans of dismay, you oblige to please the onlookers. What happens when you come to realize that it wasn’t all just some act for a few coins and a handful of crumpled bills? Does the arrangement suit you, or are there… other… complications to consider?
What is the true nature of the proposal, and why did the performer choose you? If you must put an end to the whimsical arrangement, what consequences will you face?

I hope you've enjoyed this week's episode and creative writing prompts.

Please consider supporting this effort by signing up for my newsletter. 

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Creative Writing Podcast - Episode 005

 Doing It! 

 Welcome to HuntingTheMuse.com's Creative Writing Podcast. 

Today's podcast episode is about doing it!

  • Setting goals.
  • Following Through
  • Fighting for the dreams that are important to you.
This week was tough, but despite all the roadblocks, the hiccups, and the distractions... I was Doing It!

Not subscribed to the podcast? Get it now!

Writing Updates

Chlorophyllium 9 is coming along nicely. I've already written over 6,000 words in my expansion of the story since I unpublished it. The characters are starting to grow and I feel like they have a lot more dimension to them. 

I've been working in Scrivener and being able to select alternating chapters and read them back to back has been invaluable! I love that I can quickly see if my cliff hangers are paying out and if my pinches and pulls are doing their jobs. So far, I'm very satisfied with how everything is coming together.

Greg's thread (my primary MC) is almost done and then I will be moving to polish up Julia's thread. I'm really excited to see the story go back up on the market, but I've learned a lot of things on the road to where I am right now. 
  • I'm definitely going to be sticking with Kindle Unlimited for a while. I just don't have the following or enough of a mature series to support going wide. I think I really liked the idea of it, but seeing what that move did to my short story sales is enough to convince me that I need to build a strong foundation before branching out.
  • I will also definitely be waiting until Final Hope is complete before I release Chlorophyllium 9. I've already covered this to a degree in previous episodes, but it just makes sense to finalize the whole novel before I release the novella. I'm not going to make that mistake again.
  • I might even delay publishing Chlorophyllium 9, then Final Hope, until I have at least a strong foundation for the next novel in the series. This isn't a big stretch as I have that novel partially outlined already and I know what purpose it will serve in the overarching series.
  • I'll have to watch how things go as I get closer and modify my strategy accordingly.
    • That's one of the great things about the shifting Indie culture and weighing what is working vs. what isn't. There are so many great voices to listen to and get input from. It truly is an amazing community to be a part of.

A Tough Week

As I mentioned earlier, it was a tough week for me. You see, we moved to the country about 2 years ago and we don't have a few of the conveniences we were used to back in Utah. One of those conveniences we gave up was access to a public sewer system. That's right, we have a septic tank, and this weekend things came to a head when I heard the burbley-gurbelies bubbling up in the lawn. I guess the sprinklers stopped working and the last tank in the system had filled up with water that would normally be pumped out into the field. Yikes!

Afraid that we might get some back-flow into the house, I tried my best to get things working again. I attempted to siphon off water out of the tank, I tried messing with the electrical breaker. No dice. I really hoped it wasn't the septic pump.

Yeah, it was the pump... $475 later, we once again have a working septic system. But, as luck would have it, just a few hours after that issue was fixed, I got home and noticed that one side of the house was practically boiling. It seemed like one of the A/C units wasn't working.

I went outside to take a look and there were several bites in the thermostat control wire leading into the unit. What could possibly do such a thing? Bunnies... Yeah, those crazy North-Central Texas rabbits do some crazy stuff. So, determined to try to fix it myself and save some money, I headed to the hardware store for a spool of wire I could use to splice in. I picked up some electrical tape and some other doodads, (hey... I'm no electrician or plumber... what can I say?) and then got home and replaced the wiring. The unit tried to fire up, but it just wasn't turning the fan over. Sheesh! Defeated, I asked my wife to call an HVAC company to come out and take a look. $189 later, we once again have functioning A/C. I guess one of the capacitors had died and a second was on its way out. 

Can't a guy get a break?!

I can't help but think how those two expenses could be at least two professional-looking covers for books. Or maybe a round of edits. It's tough. But this is just part of owning a house and I'm not the only one to get slammed out of the blue with one issue after another... But, despite all the trouble and the frustration this last week brought, I still managed to meet my writing goal. That's huge! There was ample opportunity, from the moment I discovered the septic was having issues, to toss out an excuse and give up.

I've also been playing with the Mac Mini I bought a few months back when I saw a really good deal on eBay. I've used a Mac for work in the past and I never bothered to play with any of the creative features it included. I mean, it was a work machine and I worked the dickens out of it... But I've really been enjoying messing around with it and I even turned off my Windows tower for the entire weekend. That's why I've got new podcast intro and outro music tracks!

I also had the opportunity to work on a creative project with my wife, Tara, and it was an awesome experience. We've been dealing with a fair amount of stress for a while now. I'll be honest, this move has been tough on us at times. But sitting down and working on this project was amazing. We talked and laughed and worked together to create something. It's funny how things that take some effort can actually recharge your batteries far more than sitting and trying to relax after a long, hard day.

Podcast News

Of course, I mentioned the new Intro and Outro music tracks I created, but I'm already thinking the out track might be a little long and info-heavy. I tried to include information on how to contact me and interact with the podcast community as it grows. I know I don't have a big following yet, but I guess I was trying to anticipate a future need. 

I think it might be best to record several similar-sounding out-tracks and then alternate them from week to week. One week you might be encouraged to hit me up on Twitter, while another week might be a plug to join the Facebook group. It's just a thought for now, so let me know what you think.

I also set up the Patreon page I mentioned last week. I know, I know... I said I didn't have time. But then I thought about it and I wanted to make sure noone took patreon.com/huntingthemuse. Okay, yeah, that's probably silly... I just didn't want to be that guy. I honestly just put it out there for a part of the journey I'm hoping this podcast takes. I didn't mention the financial hardships we encountered this week in any way to garner sympathy or push supporting the podcast. I hope you believe me! Setting up the Patreon page was just something I did earlier in the week and I was rather proud of doing it.

There's still so much I don't know when it comes to Patreon. I mean, I need to figure out what kind of content, incentives, and bonuses I could create to reward the donation tiers. So, yeah, this isn't a push for you to donate money. (I know what the outtro says, but that was just me trying to create an episode feel that sounds the same now as it will in the future when I have several more episodes under my belt. Okay, I'll leave that dead horse alone for now.)

Doing It.

Are you doing it?

Turning dreams into reality is hard work.

Yes, it can be harder for some than it seems like it is for others, but we have to stop comparing. The truth is, we don't know the entire story. And even for those to whom success seems to come so easily, perhaps we don't see the agony they face when they try to duplicate that selfsame success.

It isn't about how easy or hard the journey is. It's about putting one foot in front of the other. It's about moving forward, even when you don't feel like it. It's about learning from your mistakes and redoubling your effort.

Goals vs. Dreams

I came across a great post written by Hugh Howey (a well-known Indie author) in 2014. It's all about the difference between goals and dreams and he does a bit of introspection with his own success. It's just the sort of navel-gazing post that I think a lot of writers would benefit from reading; because Hugh has been there and he's done it. It took a lot of hard work and sometimes you need to examine that road and keep a level head about it.

You see, goals require work, but they can help you achieve your dreams. Some dreams require more than just goal fulfillment, though. They require outside interaction.

For example, your goal might be to write 10 books in the next 10 years. Your dream might be that you will be able to retire rich, write when you want to, and have the love and adoration of fans worldwide. You can do the work, but realizing the dream requires many things that are out of your control.

  • How well do fans connect with your writing?
  • Despite your best efforts, are potential readers finding your books?
  • What market constraints are you up against?
An example for those of you who aren't interested in pursuing a writing career:
Are you wanting to capture your family's stories?

  • You might have a timeline requirement.
    • Aging family members.
    • It can be hard to track down old records, etc.
  • How do you take control of your desire to write?
    • What goals can you make to help you achieve the outcome you desire?
    • Do you make time for your writing hobby, or do you dream of writing... someday?
Do you only dream about finding the quiet and solitude you need in order to sit down and write?

Following Through

“I have made up my mind. I will strive to finish my novel and submit it to publishers or agents within the year. I must dedicate myself as I have never before - this means that I must ultimately face my many insecurities… It is true that my story may not succeed in being the Great American Novel, or even find itself on a single bestsellers list.” --R. Brady Frost, A journal entry August, 2003.

It's 2016. That journal entry was written 13 years ago... What happened?
I failed to follow through. Failing to follow through equates to empty dreams...

I was in the active duty military when I wrote that journal entry and I had a lot on my plate. While the military took its pound of flesh, I was also working my way through a full-time course load for my bachelor's degree. As time wore on, my passion for the project died.

I look back now and I see the project for what it was, a juvenile endeavor, and it probably wouldn't have done well, but finishing would have been a huge start. By not following through, I set myself on a downward spiral where I lost faith in my abilities and gave up on my passion.

The military was both very great and very hard on me in different ways. Things didn't necessarily get any easier for me when I got out of the service like I thought they would. In some ways, they got harder as I had to face things that I'd long pushed under the rug.

Excuses are the enemy of follow-through.

I'm not going to get overly deep into my personal hardships or distractions because there's only one thing you need to know. Excuses are the enemy of follow-through. Follow-through is required to meet your writing goals. It's very seldom that your dreams will come true if you don't have a healthy relationship between your goals and your ability to work towards them. 

Don't count on your fairy godmother. You have to fight for the dreams that are important. While things might not always be under your direct control, you usually do have a significant level of influence on how they turn out. You have to keep trying. Keep reaching for those dreams.

Hedging Your Expectations...

It also helps to keep your dreams somewhat realistic. You can dream of winning the lottery, but (generally) short of investing more money than you'll feasibly stand to gain, your odds are not very good. It's still fun to play sometimes, but your expectations have to be in line with reality.

In the end, what matters most is...
Are you DOING IT?
Are your day-to-day actions in line with your goals and dreams? If you need to make a change, what can you do to help reinforce your efforts?

When it comes to writing and creating art, there is very little use in guilt or shame in having failed in the past. Look, that journal entry from thirteen years ago is a constant reminder of my past failures, of how sure I was of being able to finish a project and latch onto a writing career. I knew that immediate success probably wasn't going to happen but, even knowing that, I failed to finish my project. I can't allow that to hold me down. I can't let a failure in the past dictate the rest of my journey.

It's important to get back on your feet and keep pressing forward. Keep creating. Keep telling the stories that only you can tell.

And now, for this week's writing prompts.

What you'll find below is a series of creative writing prompts to help get you through your week. There are no rules as to how you should use them, but I recommend taking your muse's hand; wherever she may lead you.

Whether you find yourself writing a descriptive scene or dialogue, a poem or prose, or anything else (even if it seems entirely unrelated to the prompt), you have won. Happy writing, and may you find success in hunting your muse this week. 

1. The Steamsmith's Apprentice

You’ve been working on your mechanical wings for months, but when your test flight doesn’t go as planned, you crash into an attractive bystander. You notice right away how kind their eyes look as they help you to your feet. When they proceed to gather the scattered parts of your contraption, doing more harm than good with their clumsy hands, you decide to let them help as best they can. After all, chances are you’ll have to start from scratch anyway.

2. Save the Child

On August 9th, 1945, the second of two atomic bombs strikes Japan. This time the target is set on Nagasaki, a ship-building town where an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 people will die at around 11:02 AM. In a horrifying race against the clock, you’ve been sent back in time to save just one of them, a small child who holds the genetic key that will unlock a cure to the disease that threatens to consume us all.

3. The Road to Nowhere

In Alaska there once existed plans to build a bridge. It was a very expensive bridge ($398 million by some estimates), one that would connect the town of Ketchikan to a small airport on the island of Gravina. When federal funds were shifted to natural disaster relief, the bridge project fell through. Or did it? With funds already allocated to road construction, crews worked to build the road. Now the Road to Nowhere ends where the bridge to Gravina would have once begun. Though, it is often said that if you stand at the edge of that vacant road in the dead of night and stare out into the fog and mist, you can hear the sounds of traffic.

4. Just a Touch of Cyberpunk

In his book, Neuromancer (1984), William Gibson coined the term, “cyberspace.” (Though he also used it, to lesser fanfare, in a 1982 short story, “Burning Chrome.”) Since then, the magic of computers and the notion of an interconnected grid has lost much of its luster. For many of us, it has become the expected norm.
Think of something you do on the computer, your smartphone, or any other electronic device as a part of your normal day-to-day activities. Now take that action and make it magical by adding a touch of cyberpunk. How will you visualize traveling the information superhighway? Will you get entangled in the sticky web of Social Media? What is it like to encapsulate how very integrated into the system we’ve all become?

5. A Modern Tribe

Take a look at the world from where you are in this moment. Do you see convenience and excess? Now imagine the infrastructure crumbling around you. Something has happened, be it natural disaster, man-made pandemic, meteorite impact, or something else. All you have is a group of your most trusted friends and family members. All you know is that you’ve got to get out of the city with your tribe as fast as you can. Take us through that tribulation.

6. The Magic Touch

Have you ever felt an unexpected spark of magic in a touch? After a man in a shabby trench coat stumbles into you on the street before disappearing into the crowd, you can’t help but feel… different. Now it seems that every time you make physical contact with someone, they instantly feel connected to you on some intimate, trusting level. How do you use this new power? Give us a try-fail cycle (An instance when your best intentions don’t work out the way you hoped they would.) on your way to mastering your new ability.

7. A Shoebox in the Attic

You’re cleaning out the clutter in your attic when you find an old shoebox. By the layers of dust, you imagine it’s been tucked into the shadows of the remote corner for decades. You carefully pull it into the light and open the cover. What you see surprises you.

I hope you've enjoyed this week's episode and creative writing prompts.

Please consider supporting this effort by signing up for my newsletter. 

Join my monthly newsletter for writers and get more helpful content, encouragement, and more!

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