Lost for Words

Now that the Makkarios series has been made available on the iBooks platform, I have turned my attention to the same for the Last Book of the Kings series. Several years have passed since I last revisited the first volume of this series, The Keeper House Unending — the first of all my novels, in fact. Now that I’m looking at it again, I’ve discovered that I have a problem.

[So embarrassing!] It is terribly obvious that a seventeen-year-old wrote this. I can hardly read it without flinching. Or squirming. Or both, to be honest, though I’m not sure how that actually works in physiological terms. It is almost as bad as the time I rediscovered the spiral notebooks of my actual first novel, which will never see daylight unless in those few moments while I try to get the match to ignite against the matchbook cover. Those I wrote when I was fifteen and, though technically they qualify as plain teen fiction, are far more of a fantasy than any speculative fiction I’ve written since then.

So I find myself wondering the following: does this mean that I have grown as a writer? Or have I just grown as a critical reader? One can recognize literary rubbish without being able to write good stories, after all, just as a music lover can detect bad pitch without being able to sing a note. And so the natural contemplative’s eternal process of self-examination goes on…

But in the meanwhile, for those of you who have an active life outside that of the mind, I have begun an experiment in nonfiction. It is called the One Word Devotions series and will consist of brief “exegetical” devotions, intended to instruct as well as to give fodder for the meditative processes. You may find it here on Amazon; it will not be made available in ebook format, because that defeats the purpose of the book.



Slowly I Turned: Distrait

Trouble, trouble, trouble: the famous Edna St Vincent Millay quote does come to mind. The same worries, the same distractions, the same outcome: a withering of creativity. I’m reading now, not for the enjoyment of reading as much as for the temporary escape it provides. Writing stories would be a better escape, if I could settle my mind on any of a number of projects in storage.

Instead, I have two nonfiction projects I promised myself I would complete, one for this week and one by the end of the month. Writing nonfiction has a peculiar effect on me, probably because I live inside my own head too much. When I’m engaged in a story, I live with it around the clock. The characters live around me, and my attention is always with them to a large degree, whatever else I might need to do during the day. By contrast, a nonfiction piece sits behind me, staring holes into the back of my head. Lying in bed at night, I argue with it. When I come to grips with the piece, I’m aware of nothing else for a time– but I can walk away from it as soon as the piece is done. Many a story I have regretted having to finish (the Makkarios series especially), but never a nonfiction effort. With those, I am more likely to regret beginning than ending.

Don’t mistake me: I do find enjoyment in the struggle a nonfiction article presents. It’s an intellectual challenge as well as a creative act. But it can be likened to taking a quick shower, whereas fiction is a long soak in a hot bath. The latter relaxes; the former invigorates. I’m beginning to wonder if I need the shower to wake me up and clear my mind, if I’m to regain my stride in my genre of choice.