Time keeps on ticking

Time does not seem to be on my side at the moment.  And I apologize because I do not have much of a post today because I am in the midst of traveling across the US.  Though I am having the most amazing time of my life at the moment, my writing is suffering horrible.  I have not been able to abide by Phil Giunta’s time management tips from his guest post.

The launch of Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity went perfectly last Friday night.  And it was so much more than just a perfect night.  It was the most amazing experience of my life.  I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful it was seeing the interest in people’s faces as they picked up the physical copy of our anthology.  Seeing that was breathtaking.   Also, to spend the entire weekend among writer and talking non-stop about writing.  Pure heaven.

Can I also just point out my surprise in how many Sci-fi / Fantasy lovers are closet Horror junkies?  I was half prepared for people to think that I should be committed for my obsession with the macabre, but it was the exact opposite.  People were enamoured with my love for Horror and expressed their own love for the genre.  There was even this gentleman walking around like a Reaper with the name badge of ‘Evil’.  The man is a genius and I hate that I did not have enough time to talk to him more.  His philosophies on the balance of good and evil are extremely insightful.  Some of Evil’s thoughs will appear in a future post based off of a panel discussion in which I participated, the Villain’s Journey

Finally, as an update for Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity, for anyone who has been scouring Amazon, Smashwords, etc. for it… the anthology has unfortunately not yet been posted to any online site for purchase.  Though it officially launched yesterday, apparently a publication takes a few days to appear on online retailers.  The physical books should be available for purchase sometime this week.  I will make another post as soon as that is available.  The electronic copy may be available next week.  So keep tuned in to this blog or my Horror blog for updates.  My sincere apologies to anyone who spent hours on Amazon yesterday, refreshing their page every 5 minutes in a hopeless search to purchase Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity.

Susanna Reilly and Amanda Headlee at the launch of Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity (c) 2014, Evon Zundel

Susanna Reilly and Amanda Headlee at the launch of Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity (c) 2014, Evon Zundel

Time Management Ideas for Writers (Or If You Need More Hours in Your Day, Move to Venus)

This week's guest blogger: Phil Giunta

This week’s guest blogger: Phil Giunta

Here at The Sarcastic Muse, Saturdays are our guest blogger day!  Today’s guest blogger is Phil Giunta, author of two paranormal novels and a plethora of short stories.  If you are interested in becoming a guest blogger for The Sarcastic Muse, please email us at:  tthesarcasticmuse [at] gmail.com

When I consider time management for just about any pursuit in life, the first facet I examine is attitude. How badly do you want it and where does it fall in your priority list?

By way of example, I was in excellent physical condition straight through my late twenties, but something changed when I hit thirty.   The bouts of depression that I had been battling since age six seemed to occur more frequently. My intake of “comfort food” increased while my workouts became fewer and farther between.   Job stress and volatile family issues played no small role in this.

However, as time passed, my life improved. The family issues abated, I started publishing, and while job stress will always hagride me, I’ve learned ways to deal with that. I have a wonderful and supportive wife and the best friends and writing buddies I could ask for. I have found my place in life.

Finally, at the age of forty-two, it was time to tackle the weight issue. As I entered 2014, I decided that this was the year I would stick to the resolution that I’d failed so often in the past decade.   I made my health a priority. From January until the writing of this article in July, I’ve dropped 36 pounds and two clothing sizes, added two inches to my biceps, and—oh look—my muffin top is shrinking!

I drastically altered my eating habits and what began as thirty-minute workouts a few days a week quickly progressed to daily workouts of one to three hours.   The results were visible both in the mirror and on the scale, and I certainly didn’t mind the compliments either.   Once I saw the changes in my body—the success I was achieving—it inspired me to continue.

Now, I look forward to my workouts with enthusiasm, as I do my writing sessions.

My motto is “write or die”. I become agitated with anything (and anyone) that disrupts my writing time. While I cannot always follow the old axiom of “write every day”, I do my best to maintain a regular schedule.   After two novels, a novella, and several short stories so far in my burgeoning writing career, I must be doing something right.

The vehemence with which you pursue your writing depends on your attitude toward it. If you’re fairly new, do you view writing as a hobby? A potential second-job to supplement income? Your future full-time job? The answers to those questions will determine your level of devotion, dedication, and discipline.

For those struggling to make time to write, what are some ways to squeeze more time out of your day? Here are some quick tips:

Scheduling Time: Shut the world out and write!

  • Wake up an hour earlier, or stay up an hour later. Seize the time when everyone else in the house is (hopefully) asleep!
  • Lunch hours. 50% of my writing happens during this time.
  • Writing retreats. If you cannot find a retreat sponsored by a writers group or other organization, make one of your own.   Plan a long weekend away in solitude at a hotel. Set daily word count goals or resolve to finish that outline. See Maya Angelou’s quote at the end of this article.

Sacrifice: The Dreaded Word

  • Social engagements. I do not advocate becoming a complete recluse, but can you skip the occasional happy hour, movie night, or party? That all depends on your dedication and discipline—not to mention how supportive and understanding your friends and family are.
  • Time online.   Addicted to Facebook or Twitter? Love video games? You may need to limit your time with these activities in order to achieve your writing goals. The internet can steal your writing time as much as…
  • Television. In his 1970 collection of essays, veteran speculative fiction writer, Harlan Ellison, called television the Glass Teat, and five years later, released a follow up, The Other Glass Teat. For over sixty years, the “boob tube” still reigns as the time-draining champ!    Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on TV of the 80s and there are so many shows I adore, but my writing always takes precedence.   Most of my TV watching these days happens during my workouts.

Focus: What helps you concentrate on creative work beyond merely setting time aside each day?

  • Location
  1. Do you have a room at home where you can close the door and concentrate, such as a spare bedroom, office, basement, a loft?
  2. Do you need to get out of the house in order to find enough peace and quiet to write, such as your local library, a café, a hotel room? For the latter, see Maya Angelou’s quote at the end of this article.
  • Objects
  1.  Do you write longhand using—gasp!—pen and paper? I do! I then transcribe it into the computer at the end of my writing session, sometimes editing as I go.   I even have a favorite pen (called the Uniball. Hey, keep your lewd comments to yourself!).   Further, in an effort to be “green”, I actually write on a clipboard filled with scrap paper that would otherwise have been tossed away at work or home.
  2. Do you have a favorite computer or software? I have no preference, personally. I’ve been working in IT support for over two decades and I’m bi-partisan, so I like Windows and Macs.   Until recently, I typed up everything in boring old Word, but I recently downloaded a trial version of Scrivener and plan to start my next project with it. Looking forward to learning something new!
  • Music
  1. “Music to Write By” has been a topic of more than one discussion panel at the SF cons I attend as a writer guest.   What types of music put your mind in the “creative zone”? For me, it ranges from movie and TV soundtracks to alternative or classic rock, depending on the emotional tone of the scene or story I’m writing.

Alternate Uses of Creative Time

Writers often become caught up in the almighty “daily word count”.  That’s easy to do when your writing pals on Facebook are always bragging about the 2,000 words they popped out last night…and every night.   They could be lying, but you’ll never know.

Earlier, I mentioned setting word count goals, but you should not become disappointed in yourself if you fall short. You’re only human.   I’ve had writing sessions where I could barely rub two words together that made any damn sense.

So how else can you use your scheduled (or impromptu) writing time productively?

  • Researching facts for your story.
  • Editing the previous day’s (or week’s) work, which might get those clogged creative juices flowing.
  • Outlining a different story idea as a way of taking a break from the current one.
  • Writing prompts or exercises. The Internet is replete with them.

Finally, I leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou:

“I get up about five… I get in my car and drive off to a hotel room. I can’t write in my house, I take a hotel room and ask them to take everything off the walls so there’s me, the Bible, Roget’s Thesaurus, and some good, dry sherry and I’m at work by 6.30. I write on the bed lying down – one elbow is darker than the other, really black from leaning on it – and I write in longhand on yellow pads. Once into it, all disbelief is suspended, it’s beautiful…

“After dinner I re-read what I’ve written… if April is the cruelest month, then eight o’clock at night is the cruelest hour because that’s when I start to edit and all that pretty stuff I’ve written gets axed out.”

Source: Time Management for Creative People by Mark McGuinnes


About the Phil

A Pennsylvania resident, Phil Giunta graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and continues to work in the IT industry. His first novel, a paranormal mystery called Testing the Prisoner, debuted in 2010 from Firebringer Press. His second novel in the same genre, By Your Side, was released in 2013. Phil has also narrated the audio version, available in podcast episodes at Prometheus Radio Theatre: http://prometheusradiotheatre.com/

In August 2012, he was among an exclusive group of authors selected to participate in Crazy 8 Press’s new venture, ReDeus, a collection of anthologies depicting the return of all the world’s mythological gods. The series was created and edited by veteran authors Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, and Paul Kupperberg. Phil’s short story about the Celtic gods, “There Be In Dreams No War”, was featured in the premiere anthology, ReDeus: Divine Tales. He followed up with “Root for the Undergods”, a tale about the gods of the Gaul Empire in ReDeus: Beyond Borders.

Phil has recently finished editing an anthology titled Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity for Firebringer Press to be released in August 2014 and is currently finishing a paranormal thriller.

Visit Phil’s website: http://www.philgiunta.com

Shaping the Story

Parallax, even though it is only a short 7800-word story, has been a labor of tears and love.  It began to take shape in 2005 as an assignment to write a 2000-word story based off of a settings exercise depicted in our class text.  Karen Blomain, my professor, gave a week for the assignment to be completed.  There was just another student and I in the class, which was about how to write short fiction.  As luck would have it, the class quickly turned into one-on-one lessons between Professor Blomain and I after the other student dropped the class.

I can honestly say, the short fiction class was the most impactful class that I have ever experienced.  My entire life was completely shaken up by it.  I had always enjoyed writing, but after that Spring of 2005 semester was over, I fell in love with writing.  Professor Blomain taught me how to write what is in my heart.  And through her teachings, she became my mentor, whose wisdom I reflect upon each and every day.

When Parallax first began, it was dripping with the macabre.  I was horrified that I could write something so dark.  I was afraid that readers would think of me as some kind of malicious sociopath who needed to be locked up.   The entire night I tossed and turned in bed with worry that people would fear me.

The next morning, I drove slowly to campus and walked even slower to Lytle hall.  As I made my way into her office, Professor Blomain turned to me with a dazzling smile.  “I have been anticipating this all day,” she said. “Let me see it.”

I pulled the printed story from the folder clutched in my left hand and handed it to her.  “I am sorry, “ I said quietly.

She gave me a quizzical look and then went straight to reading the assignment.  I quietly sat down on the chair she had set up for me next to her desk.  Her eyes flickered across the page and she inhaled sharply a few times.   Her perfectly manicured hands gripped the pages, leaving slight crinkles.  My hands began to sweat and I wiped them on my jeans.  I looked out the window behind her and urged time to move faster.  I wanted this to be over. I wanted to leave.

The shuffle of the papers broke me out of the trance.  I looked at her.  Her eyes were wide.  She dropped her hands and the pages heavily in her lap and just looked at me.  As she locked her eyes onto mine she said in a breathy, yet steady tone, “You have a gift.  I have not felt this terrified from reading a story in a very long time.”  She then smiled and leaned towards me, “Horror is your calling.”

“You don’t think I am crazy?” I asked.

“Amanda, no.  I would think you crazy to not write more of this.”

And there was the approval and acceptance I sought.  Here was the first person telling me that it was okay to write like this.  It was okay to have my genre to be seeded in dark fiction.

From that point I grew more daring.  The horror aspect gave me inspiration to find that courage.  It was the dichotomy of courage and fear that I was lured to.  And I wanted to express that in my writing.  Horror was my vessel to provide the fear and to enhance the courage of characters that sought to over come that fear.

Parallax took on this symbiotic relationship of fear/courage.  The story became larger, more horrific and suspenseful.  It grew a climax, an epiphany, and a well-deserved ending.  The hero of the story found his courage.

Countless times the story was edited, revised, torn to pieces, and again rewritten.  Then finally, one day Parallax made its first submission.  Within three weeks it was rejected.  So it made another submission and was again rejected.  Over and over again the process continued.  Over and over again, I was told that horror was not a good market and I should find something else.  But I stood tenacious.  I just kept repeating the words that Professor Blomain told me, “I would think you crazy to not write more of this”.

After graduation at the end 2005, I still continued submission attempts and Parallax continued to fail.  Other stories of the macabre came and went.  They were darker, some more gruesome, and like Parallax, were never accepted either.

I kept in contact with Professor Blomain for a couple of years after graduation.  I always informed her on how the “horror” writing was proceeding, she would tell me of her travels and what current projects she had in the pipeline.

Sometime in 2008, we sort of stopped communicating.  I like to think it was because we had both had become so busy with our lives.

In 2011, I was approached by Phil Giunta to have Parallax be apart of a Sci-fi, Fantasy, and Paranormal anthology that he wanted to put together.  I had left him read the story one day out of the blue and he just loved it.  To prepare for publication, Parallax went through another round of being torn to pieces and sewn back together. My writing style had changed drastically since its conception in 2005.  My voice had become darker, my tone was sharper, and I found a knack for terrorizing my protagonists past her or her limits – testing the strength of his or her courage.

The official word came in late 2011 / early 2012 that the Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity anthology was going to be produced, and I then had my first hand experience of what goes into the publishing process.   At around the same time that the organizing of the anthology was beginning, I had stumbled across Professor Blomain’s professional website.  There, she had events listed where she would be speaking and workshops that she would be hosting.  One such event that grabbed my attention was her workshop at the writer’s retreat, Anam Cara, in Beara, county Cork, Ireland for the Spring of 2013.

I was elated.  There was a chance that the anthology would release in 2013.  What better way to celebrate my first published story than with the person who was there from the tale’s beginning and in the country in which the story is set!

I sent a quick email letting her know the exciting news about Parallax, asking her about her successful novel publications and screenplay, and that I was looking to attend her upcoming writing workshop at Anam Cara.

She never sent a reply and I just chalked it up that she was extremely busy.  She was traveling the world, giving seminars, and working on the final novel in her trilogy.  I knew at some point I would speak with her.

Over time I became immersed in writing other stories, work, and just overall daily life.  However, the trip to Anam Cara and getting the chance to tell Professor Blomain in person how much she had inspired me was always on my mind.  The trip could not come soon enough.

On August 29, 2012, I had saved up enough money for the trip and the workshop. It would be a day that I will never forget.  I went to her website to book the trip.

The words on her website’s home page are forever seared in my brain.

A banner appeared on the top of the home page, something that I have never seen before.  At first the words did not register.  I think I read the banner 10 times before the realization of what was being said hit me.  The banner indicated that Karen Blomain had passed away on August 15th.

It was like the world was ripped out from underneath me. My mentor was gone.  I would never be able to tell her how much of an impact she had on my life.   That I kept writing because she told me to.  She was the first person to ever take interest in my written word and the first person ever to tell me that I had a gift.

Her words of  “I would think you crazy to not write more of this” are only just memories that resided only in my mind now.

This upcoming April with the release of the Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity anthology, which will contain Parallax, will be bittersweet. It is with pure, raw excitement that I can announce that my laborious tale of tears and terror is finally being published.  But I cannot hide the fact that there is a great hole in my heart because I will not be able to share this joy with the one person who first believed in me as an author.

I am so very lucky to have had her in my life.

The news I have been dying to share…

It is with great pleasure that I announce the launch of the Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity anthology, which will debut at the Shore Leave 36 Science Fiction convention (August 1-3, 2014 in Hunt Valley, MD).   The anthology is the brainchild of a dear author friend of mine, Phil Giunta.  I am deeply honored that he asked that I submit one of my oldest short stories, Parallax, to be a part of the anthology.

Check out this Firebringer Press publication that spans across the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal (with a hint of horror).  The anthology contains works from notable authors such as Steven H. Wilson, Phil Giunta, Lance Woods, Stuart Roth, Susanna Reilly, Michael Critzer, and Daniel Patrick Corcoran.  The anthology also features beautifully hand-drawn art work by Michael Riehl.

Be sure to read next Wednesday’s post on my struggles of writing Parallax, the story that changed my life.

Click here for Shore Leave 36 convention information

Click here for the Author Guest List