Author Archives: KDAlex

In the Fight

I’m trained to never give up. There is no success in failure. I’ve been screamed at, stomped to the ground, kicked to the curb, and smoked sixteen dozen times until my arms wouldn’t bend and my legs wouldn’t move.

The only penalty for failure is death. And it’s not an option I’m willing to accept.

I’ve been shot at, damn near stabbed, been in more fights than I care to remember, and stared into the face of crazy itself. And yet I still persevere and go into work every day because that’s just what you do.

Then how come it’s so easy for me to give up? To just say screw it. Maybe another day, another time? How come it’s so easy for me to just walk away, to cave into that one little voice in the back of my head that loooves nothing more than to sit there and be an absolute smart-ass?

How come a blank page is so scary?

I work the line between abject poverty and extreme wealth. Every day I see the haves and have nots…and the prices people are willing to pay and the blood they so willingly shed.

It’s a depressing existence, fluttering between two worlds and being party to none.

I come home to a loving family who is not loved by my family. Again, I flutter between two worlds. Positive and negative spinning in a perfect synchronized dance.

How do I find inspiration in a world so bleak?

Despite the rain, the clouds, the permeating darkness — flowers will still bloom. The sun will shine. And each day is a new day.

My inspiration comes from all around me: The beaming smile of a two year old happy to have her daddy home, the struggling people doing the best they can in the circumstances they’ve been birthed to and the victims of circumstance…the sheer excitement from opening a new pack of Magic cards or starting a new book. Will it be everything I hope it will? The lazy wings of a butterfly as it flits from tree to flower, sky to grass. The true colors of autumn in South Florida as the blue jays and cardinals come to wait out the winters up north…the listless, lazy crashing of waves on shore…I could go on and on.

It’s really, truly beautiful.

Every time I consider giving up, forgetting my writing, moving on with another life, a different hobby, another time, another place — I just think of the millions of other people out there every day, doing what they love, making the best of what they got.

It’s one of those things that just makes me wonder. If they can make it, then so can I. There’s much more agonizing ways to spend my time (root canal comes to mind) than sitting in an air conditioned room with my butt firmly planted on a nice, comfy chair.

So, even if I’m a year behind my deadline – I can do it. I know I can.

I’m trained to not give in to my fear. To never give up.

I will fight the fight.

I will not back down from the blinking black cursor and the blinding white screen.

Never give in. Never give up.

 

True Story…

Here’s the story…of a man named David…

Who was writing up three lovely stories of his own…

Sometime around 1993, my dad came home one day with this really cool invention you’ve all probably never heard of it. It was called…a “computer”. And it had this nifty thing called “LotusWorks” built into it.

I had never seen or used a PC before. My computer lab had Apple IIgs and most of our classwork was spent watching my teacher draw devil horns on kids in the class. Occasionally we’d get a chance to play Mathblaster or Oregon Trail…or maybe Where in the World was Carmen Sandiego.

So, when we got our computer and I couldn’t find Carmen Sandiego or shoot little green aliens to the tune of 2+2, I needed to figure out something else to do with this crazy thing. Since we couldn’t afford AOL, I missed out on the gory days of the internet’s wild west.

Enter LotusWorks.

I found it quite by accident actually, it was one rainy day in mid-September and I sucked at Solitaire. MineSweeper was way too complicated for me. So, here comes this little window with an icon for Lotus…and being the mischievous little twerp that I was, I clicked the icon.

There was a splash screen…and then pure white. A blinking cursor made me crap my pants and I thought of a million and one excuses to tell my parents about how I broke their brand new computer.

After a mild freakout, I tried pushing buttons to make the cursor go away. Everyone knows the way to fix a broken computer is to mash as many buttons as possible. Beeps are good.

My first sentence was something like this:

xcufsdpofdjbklfdghs

It was the coolest thing ever.

Allow me a brief sidetrack for a moment here…

There was this paper mill up in Newark, NJ where my dad worked. He found out about it and started visiting the place about once a month, it was mostly a recycling center for old and unsold books, magazines, and comic books. He ended up being able to take like a box away a month. It was like a treasure chest brimming with amazing superhero stories and castoffs that nobody wanted anymore.

Anyway…back on track.

So, here I am staring at a cursor with xcufsdpofdjbklfdghs written on the screen. I hit the delete button. It vanishes. I type “See Spot run.” … over and over and over again. There’s fonts! Some look like the cool titles of the books in my room. I can change the color!

It was fascinating to me as a small child.

So, now that I learned how to do all this cool stuff, I amped it up a level. I started making sentences. Sentences turned to paragraphs, paragraphs to stories…

In the winter of 1993, I wrote my first story. It was eight pages in size 28 font. And it’s days like this where I wish I still had the printouts in my archives.

I wrote something about a superhero saving a cat. It was pure dreck, but my parents loved it.

Their encouragement led me to expand my series of Captain Superhero. My next “book” was 10 pages in size 18 font, I printed them out and stapled it together. I even drew my own cover of the stick figure superhero using Microsoft Paint, or whatever the program was called at the time.

Three books later I was in middle school and ready to really get serious about my writing. Over the course of six months, I penned my first novel and turned it into my teacher. She didn’t send me to the guidance counselor, so I guess I did okay.. 😉

I wrote 23 pages of 14 point font. It was complete with frilly medieval lettering and everything. Not just titles or first letters. The whole book. I had written something horribly derivative of the worst of the worst. All full of fantastic barbarians and damsels in distress..oh – and dragons.

There were always dragons.

I drew inspiration from the worst of the worst. If it had a pretty cover or a rousing blurb, it was in my hand and I was begging dad for it. We couldn’t go into the book store without spending $30. When books were like $5/paperback, that was a lot of money.. and a lot of books 😉

Times changed and the market crashed, stagnated, and resurrected again. I kept writing. Never intending on publishing anything for anyone except those who wanted to read what I want to write. I’ve always stood by the fact that I write what I want to read at that particular moment in time…and as my tastes have changed, so has my style.

I never thought or expected anyone would pay for my work or download it. It was more of a personal goal that I wanted to complete before I got too old or busy to take time out.

Last week I released my first two books on Smashwords. They were submitted and published ninja-style. I dropped them into the meat grinder at midnight, they were on the website by 2am. No Facebook posts, no text messages, nothing. I just clicked publish and went to bed.

When I woke up I had a combined total of ten downloads for my two samples and one sale.

As minuscule as the numbers are, they represented a profound sense of accomplishment for me. It was an unexpected surprise to celebrate nearly twenty years of writing for the sake of writing with a single, unsolicited sale.

Someone decided to take the chance and give up a cup of coffee for my book.

And for that, I say thank you to the mystery shopper.

So, that’s my story.

What’s yours?

 

Writing Between Naps

I’m probably a little bit late to the party, but I heard about a little thing called burst writing that I thought I’d share.

Burst writing is this wonderful technique: You set an alarm clock for everything from 15 minutes to like an hour. As soon as the countdown begins, you just start writing. Whatever, wherever, however. You can’t take your fingers off the keyboard until the clock says stop.

I’ve got a rambunctious 16 month old and two equally feisty cats that take up every waking moment of my personal time. So whatever time I have to spend writing is spent scooping poop, picking up cat hair, potty training, and following the kids around with a dust pan and broom as I clean up the wreckage from the tornado they inflict on my house in their daily life.

But I don’t need an alarm clock. You see, I have one that’s much louder and much more urgent. It’s called nap time is over.

Previously, I used to take that wonderful hour and bask in the solace of silence. It was daddy’s time to eat lunch and sit on the couch reflecting on everything we think about over the course of the day. It was a time I learned to finally shut up and appreciate.

If you can turn the white noise of your brain off and focus the waves to instead awake your inner creative, well, then that’s time well spent.

And it’s not time you didn’t have before. It’s always been there. I just wish I didn’t wait 10 months to figure it out.

It finally clicked in my head maybe two weeks ago. I’ve been spending the past few months living out the whole “woe is me” thing. There’s no room, there’s no time, there’s no yadayadayada…

The only recurring theme in there was the word “NO.”

And that’s not a nice word. Just ask my kid. She doesn’t like hearing it, but she lo-oves saying it.

And apparently so do I. It’s what I’ve been telling myself probably since November. So, I started giving in and working around my schedule. On the first night I gave it a shot, I popped out 1200 words in one sitting. That was 1200 more than I’ve had in so long. And you know what? It felt great.

So, today I one-upp’d myself. I finished a chapter.

Sure, I only had two scenes to write. But, still. I -finished- a chapter!

This is huge news for me. Because it woke something up inside that I thought I lost somewhere over the rainbow. It led me onto other writing related tasks that I’ve pretty much been putting off forever. Things like finishing my writing, working on my 3d modeling, redesigning covers, burning excerpts, so forth and so on..

And I’m doing it all in burst time.

Who’d have thought that this whole thing only required me to put her to bed.

On a good day, I get two bursts per day while the baby’s napping. On a really good day, I get two naps, early bed time, and then my bed time.

All I really needed to do was figure out how to manage my time better. Maybe that’s all it takes you.

Give yourself a time management exercise…

Take an hour out of your day. Not when you’re at work. You know, the time when you’re home waiting for dinner, or when the laundry is cycling.

Figure out what you do with that time.

It just might be that time could be applied to something else.

I’ll rest when I’m dead.

For now, I’ve got books to write and webpages to finish. =)

 

Life Block

You’ve heard it before. One of the wisest experts on craft first said it to me two years ago…

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block.”

He’s right. There’s not. It’s a little thing called life block. You know what it is, we’ve all been there. It’s that day where you wake up and you just don’t want to go to work. The alarm clock mocks you with modulated laughter, you glance toward your phone and groan.

And call in sick.

Sure, you feel fine. Your eyes aren’t watering, you’re not hacking up a lung or bleeding profusely. You’ve been running about a hundred miles an hour 24/7 for the past six months, your boss is overbearing, the bills are piling up…and you’re just… There.

Everyone has off days, it’s human nature, mood swings, and everything in between.

But it’s how you deal with those off days that really bears importance.

I’ve had one giant life block probably for the past four months. And I haven’t been dealing very well.

If you take an unscheduled vacation at work there’s a good chance that your boss is going to come calling. Or wondering why you’ve been sick for the past four months. What do you do when you’re your own boss though? Do you yell at yourself? Do you fire yourself?

You just might have to.

There was a time when I was as serious about my craft as my career. They were supposed to eventually become one and the same. I would write for hours on end and spent every off day locked in my office happily chugging along. NaNoWrImO wasn’t a challenge anymore and I enjoyed every moment of overwhelming productivity. I was happy at work, making decent money and living two dreams. I felt like a rock star.

Then the market crashed. And misery loves company, so I watched as one-by-one everything tumbled over and out of control. My employer had to tighten its belt, people were freaking and a happy productive place transformed overnight into a roiling swamp of discontent. When I wasn’t miserable at work, I was spending my off days being miserable about going back to work. Every time I sat down to try and find a spark of creativity, I couldn’t get the fire started. My off days just turned into a countdown of time I have until I get to go back to reality.

It was bad. I had spent so much time thinking at work and then thinking about work on my off days that I just shriveled up. I found solace in mindless television and video games. I forgot what books were, I forgot what everything I used to enjoy was.

And then it clicked. Literally, just last night. Turns out I figured personal time was a luxury that I just couldn’t afford anymore. So just like a bad habit, I quit.

But that’s the wrong way to think. Don’t ever forget who you are or what makes you happy. If you take pleasure in the craft, then don’t think guiltily of it. Be proud. There’s dozens of other bad habits out there and addictions that are ten times worse.

If life blocks you, don’t give up like I did. Take the next shot. And the next. Hell, take the one after that too. Who cares if you shoot .00010% or you’ve got the lowest batting average on your team. Because in the end, every shot you don’t take is another shot that you missed.

I exist in a world where every shot counts. Don’t do what Dave did.

Take your shot.