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Friday, June 28, 2013

F3 Calling Mom

            Night had just rolled in. I had made all the preparations I could. All of the gear I dared take, much good it would do me, scattered across my desk in the office. I fast approached the point of no return. When I left, that would be it, I was committed.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


            Writing is a hard business. A lot of the time there is no guidance or direction on what to do to break into the business. The advice is generic most of the time such as “write a great story,” but that’s entirely subjective. Rejections are even less helpful with their language designed to cool writers out, and that’s just when we get them. More often than not, anymore, the only rejection we receive is no reply, which is completely unhelpful in every way.
            Still, I love writing. I want to be a writer. So I press on.

            I’m willing to take up alternate tactics. If I can’t do a surgical strike to break into the business, I’ll carpet bomb. A nicer way to say it is to say I’m diversifying. I’ll crank out many different stories until something makes it through the defensive lines.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Physical Stress

            The Spring semester was brutal in all respects (for reference it’s not just me, but every teacher I’ve spoken to at my own school and others). The worst of it came in the last few weeks when my back and hip began to act up again. At that moment, I knew I had to slow down and really take care. I even doubled up on seeing my chiropractor because I knew I didn’t want to strain my body any more than I had to.

            Since that time I’ve been able to get back on track, but I still worry. I hope to get in some good exercise over the summer in preparation for my vacation as I intend to do a lot of walking on my trip to the Northeast.

Friday, June 21, 2013

F3 Back on the Streets

            The old neighborhood looked pretty much the same as I remembered it. The market on the corner still sold fruits and vegetables as well as a few dry goods, though Prohibition had robbed the market of their wine. Neighborhood kids still played stickball in the streets. Everything about the town of Meridian was the same. Except for the name.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


            It happens after every semester. Teachers get hammered by all the students, all the grading, and we just need it all to end. We need the various breaks between semesters (and even in the middle of semesters) for necessary recharging.
            I have had no such break since the winter.
            My Spring Break was split between two campuses, each with a different schedule. The break after the the Spring semester evaporated into preparation for summer classes. And I feel like the lack of recharge is taking its toll on me.

            I’m not talking about teaching, though that is a factor, but my writing, what I want to focus on doing in my life has taken a backseat to the necessity of teaching. I need a recharge, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I know my writing can give me a spiritual recharge, presuming I have the mental component to get the writing done. There’s also the physical, which was a growing concern towards the end of the Spring semester.

Monday, June 17, 2013


            The publishing genres are tricky business. The standard genres aren’t so much of a problem. Romance, mystery, and science fiction aren’t that hard. It’s when we get into specific sub-genres and even cross-genres that it gets tricky. What’s the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal? Is an urban fantasy the same as a paranormal romance?  What about mystery and urban fantasy? Mystery and epic fantasy? Mystery and science fiction?
            Each genre comes with specific expectations of story, too, and what one person reads as one genre, another would say that it doesn’t belong in that genre.

            I have a couple of series that are clearly defined in their genres. But one, the one I believe to be my best, seems to be slipping through the definitions and can’t quite capture the right agent audience. I think, though, that it’s been my error, and I need to change my targeting towards a more specific genre, one that more correctly resonates with the heart of the story.

Friday, June 14, 2013

F3 Crossing

            The Whitmoor University pool had chunks of ice in it. It should being February before dawn. Students dressed in clothing barely adequate for the weather, as dictated by the assignment. They huddled together for warmth. Alex strode forth in white wig and tricorn hat.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Head Sink

            Along with the loss of time comes the loss of my headspace. Grading takes brain power and lots of it. After rounds of grading my brain cries out for a break. I need to be able to sit and down something that requires no thinking, usually in the form of mindless television. Guilty pleasure television at that consisting of sitcoms where I’m not required to really pay attention.

            The constant onslaught of grading makes it difficult to shift into a mode where I can write. With the errors and poor writing from students swimming in my head, I have little ability to write even though I have a desire—though diminished—to write. I’m hoping my new steps to speed up grading and keep my lessons prepared will alleviate the head sink.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Time Sink

            Ask any teacher what the hardest part of teaching is, and the answer that is most often number one is grading. It takes time. Loads of it. And for someone who teaches writing, there are no real shortcuts. I must read that essay and make comments on it. Computers can’t go it alone. It’s times like this that I wish to use a few choice colorful metaphors towards other departments for using Scantron tests that can be graded in the blink of an eye.
            The temptation is to knuckle under and simplify the grading structure to allow me to more rapidly mark a score. And it’s not like I can’t evaluate a piece of writing on the quick. I’m a fast enough and astute enough reader that I can quickly determine the grade an essay should get. It’s the explanations that take time. It’s pointing out the mistakes and how to correct them that eat up my time.

            There are definitely times where I would like to adopt the habit of literary agents to simply stop reading and reject what has been submitted to me with the same level of explanation that agents give. It would be so tempting to dash off a quick form letter to a student with the explanation that “I just didn’t fall in love with the essay.”

Friday, June 7, 2013

F3 Blood Seeds

            Seeds. They were tiny things, looking like stunted raisins more than anything else, but the botanist at DeGradi that looked at them had verified they were seeds of the Delphinium ajacis flower, with one exception. The seeds in front of me had a blood red hue to their outer coating.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Reclaiming Time

            Part of my efforts during the spring was spent developing quicker grading methods that didn’t sacrifice quality. I made real progress in that area, but can still tweak things a little more. I think, though, that these efforts will definitely pay off by allowing me more time to spend on projects outside of teaching, namely, writing.
            I’ve put writing off for too long, but now I feel a deep-seated need to get back into the swing of things. Here’s hoping I’ve reclaimed enough time to get it done.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer Underway

            Summer school has begun, and along with it comes an onslaught of new assignments to grade because the term takes 16 weeks of material and compresses it into 5 weeks. Anyone with the misconception that summer school is a cakewalk is sadly misinformed. The problem for me, of course, is that I’m already partially burned out from the regular semester. Two weeks of down time from the end of Spring to the beginning of summer is no break at all, really.
            I had to grade the previous semester’s work then begin preparations for the summer, which means I had no time at all for personal recovery. Sure, I get the occasional time to plunk myself in front of the TV and veg out, but it’s not enough. I feel mentally drained, or at least not refreshed to take on the next wave, and the only thing that will actually help with that is time.
            I’m also in the conundrum of not having done any serious writing in the past three months. My teaching took a lot out of me, forcing me to spend time creating content for classes instead of content for books. Fortunately, my summer classes already have all the content created. I don’t need to scramble to create new lessons, just give the ones I already have.

            But shifting back into a writing habit is not going to be easy. Those few times I’ve done it during the semester I’ve found myself somewhat refreshed, but I’m out of practice. I need to redevelop the habit so that I’m looking forward to the writing instead of treating it as something that must be done.
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