Summer Writing & Smiles

I smiled today. It was nearly involuntary. It emanated like a ray of light piercing through a small hole. That smile was summer.

I’m finishing up my second year of living in Saudi Arabia and a whole two-month writing bonanza stares me in the face. Oh sure, there’ll be family and barbecues and fresh berries and cherries. There will be baseball games and fireworks and long bike rides through the forest. And there will be writing.

Summer is when I become a ‘full-time’ writer. It’s when my brain can focus for long periods of time on items I’ve been itching to get at for an indefinite amount of time.  It begins in five days.

I’ve accomplished a lot this past school year. I’ve produced two original shows which I wrote, and I’m very happy with how they turned out. I finished the editing and publishing process for book three of my trilogy. I’ve written four or five short plays. A couple of which have already been produced. A couple more will be part of next year shows. I’ve even made some series in-roads into my 9th novel — some 10,000+ words already on its way.

So as I sit on my back deck, sipping a cold beverage, with my laptop in front of me, I’m smiling at what I hope to be able to accomplish this summer.

Finish novel #9 – It’s my first novel set in Malaysia. It is also looking like my first YA novel with four of the five main characters being teenagers.  This novel premise wasn’t even on my radar until about 6 weeks ago when a curious phrase popped through my mind. That’s how novels germinate for me. Usually a phrase, followed by an image, which grows into an idea worthy of long-format writing.  Then I develop the characters and let the story loose to see where it will go. This one is flowing, so I hope a good month of steady writing will produce a solid first draft.  Maybe by mid-July? Let’s see.

Start novel #10 – Actually, I already have. This idea I’ve been playing with for over a year and a half. I even wrote the first chapter already and I know where it’s going. But it requires a little research, so it will take some more time. I hope to have a solid start to this novel by the end of August. How about half-written? Nice goal.

Play-writing – I never discount play-writing because that’s the form that comes the most naturally to me. I have a show I wrote last year called Crazy Love, but I want to add one or two more pieces to it, so when the muse strikes, I set aside my novels for the afternoon.

Excited for summer? I hope you are at least half-excited as I am, and if you are, you’re plenty excited.

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Looking for Story that’s a little Different?

As the reviews of THE FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY have started to come in, there has been a distinct trend. This book is unique. Take a look at a few snippets from reviews about this series:

“once in a great while I run across something so different, so moving, that I am left astonished”

“What a silly little book! So why is it so compelling”

“… odd yet interesting …”

“Not at all what I expected … can’t wait for the next one”

“This was a really odd story, but I loved it.”

“Unlike anything I’ve ever read before.”

“This is one of the strangest books I have ever read.”

“This unusual series blends magical realism into a high octane adventure. I guarantee you’ve never read a similar series. I know I haven’t!”

How about you? Ready to read something out of the ordinary? Give THE FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY a chance.

Book 1: A Man Too Old for a Place Too Far

Book 2: The African Connection

Book 3: A Parting in the Sky

Trilogy ALL COVER

 

 

 

When was the last time you … ?

Think. What do you love to do but haven’t done it for a long time?

I know. There are reasons why you haven’t done it. Everyone has excuses.

I’ve done something this past week that I haven’t done in about a year and it’s been real enjoyable: guitar playing and song composing.

I won’t go into all the ridiculous reasons that my guitar was packed away awaiting a move that never happened for a year, but I can attest that it really has been a year without playing it.  And I missed it.

And it struck me how that cliched comment about “it’s like riding a bike”  came to the forefront of my mind when I put the fretboard in my hand for the first time in 12 months. My brain and fingers remembered everything. It’s pretty remarkable. I forget stuff all the time, but all the chords and finger positionings came naturally like I never stopped playing.

I plucked out some chords to the melody I created that matched some lyrics I made which are related to a new novel I’m writing. Yeah, a bunch of strange connections there.

But the point it this: I enjoy playing guitar. I enjoy writing lyrics. I enjoy composing songs on the guitar, and it felt great to do it again.

What about you? What do you love to do that you haven’t done in a long time? Try it out again. It’s been far too long.

I’ll leave you with some of the lyrics to my untitled new song.

RANDOM UNTITLED SONG LYRICS

Part of me is reaching, to set upon the stars

To grasp a piece of heaven, to lunge to places far,

       Part of me is crying out, to reach inside your heart,

  But I hold no ill will.

           No, I hold no ill will.

Part of me is trying. To understand this world.

Untangle all the colors that blindness tends to swirl

And form the ground beneath our feet that heaven’s gate unfurls

But I hold no ill will.

Yes, I hold no ill will.

The past it paints its canvas black with speckled sparks of light,

Glimpses to remind me of where I’ve been,

 The future holds the promises of many well-fought fights,

But I’ll never turn away from where I’ve been.

                 Cause I’ve seen the poorest soul be trampled to the ground,

 And I cannot turn away from where I’ve been,

        And I’ve seen the lights of fame adorning all around

Yet even more, it grips my breast, and hold it tight onto my chest

               All the places, good or bad, I’ve ever been

(copyright 2019 Mark W Sasse)

How do you know if a story ends well?

How do you know if a story ends well?

Cross your fingers?

Hope that you’ve tied up all the necessary knots?

There is no way. Not really.

Okay, I’ve just finished – I mean minutes ago – the final edits on the end of my trilogy, and honestly I don’t know how I feel. I guess that’s the way it should be.

A story ends because the writer ends it but will it resonate with the readers?

I took, what I felt, was a little bit of a writing gamble in the last book of my trilogy. I sidelined two of the main characters for a large chunk of the book. I had my reasons, and if you read it, hopefully you will understand why I did it. I received positive feedback from my beta readers about the move, but still, it was kind of scary to do.

Ultimately, a writer is bound not by the reader or by an editor but by the story and its characters. A writer has to go where the characters are leading him or her. There can be no other way. The voices giving suggestions can only be that – voices. Not to be ignored, for sure, but they can’t speak louder than the rhythm of the language and the journey of the protagonist. Sometimes you have to make the tough choices and then ask yourself a simple question: are you happy with it?

I am. I am quite pleased at how it turned out. Even quite surprised because I wasn’t sure if the plot was going to hold up through the crazy twists and turns. But it’s done.

I just sent the first review copies out to reviewers.

Now it’s out of my hands.

Will it end well? In my mind, it did. I need to be content with that and move on to the next project.

Goodbye Bee and Ash! Perhaps we’ll meet again.

aPartingFRONTNEW

Writing Collaborations: What’s the Goal?

This weekend, I’ve been collaborating on a short play writing project with one of my students. We have a finished draft on a fun and meaningful script which I plan on using in my new show coming up in April.

It’s been a while since I’ve collaborated with students on a creative writing piece. I used to do it all the time. In fact, these type of collaborations are what kick-started my writing career. I have many students to thank, because they helped me to just write and put my work out there.

This weekend, I’m writing with a student who has never written a play before. She came up with the idea for the play and I helped to formulate it into scenes. We each took different scenes to write and then there’s the process of combining them together, editing, adding new ideas, and the general non-stop revisions which are needed. I’m excited to see the final product of this script.

This endeavor got me thinking: what’s the goal of this type of writing collaboration? A new writer with an experienced writer.

Here’s how I approach it. I, first, want the idea to originate with the new writer. I wanted her to have ownership in the process because I know how I can be: I get an idea and I can’t stop until it’s done. This allows a new writer to catch-up to my overbearingness, so to speak.

The new writers are typically reluctant to edit my work. That’s understandable, but I want to make it clear that there is no hierarchy in this collaboration. There’s only one goal: write a quality piece. That’s it.

That means that I will edit the new writer’s scenes thoroughly. I’ll make additions. Suggestions. Give feedback. Get feedback. And, invariably, the new writer comes back with “yes, yes, yes, that’s so much better. yes.” I’m not a better writer than they are. I just have more experience. I’ve also produced 25 shows. I know visually how the dialogue will look on-stage.  I know what will work, what will sound authentic, and what won’t.

My goal is for the new writer to see my entire process and, hopefully, learn from it. Then they get their name as a co-writer in the playbill which is always fun. And, if they act, which they almost always do, I let them star in their own play if they so choose.

What’s important in the process, at least for me, is not to settle for less quality because a writer is new. I will push them, I will encourage them, I will ruthlessly edit their stuff in order to make the piece better. An okay piece will not be acceptable to me if it can be a great piece, because I’m putting my name on it as well.

I guess what I’m saying is: don’t dumb it down. Keep the standard high.

I had a past school principal who said that the lost practice of kids and parents eating supper together every night has hurt the kids’ development. They need to hear adult conversations. They need to be able to ask questions. Wonder what that word means. It’s one of the ways they grow and learn.

This is exactly how I view writing collaborations with students. I hope my intent is reached with this one.

This is going to be a good play. It’s entitled: “Why Leaves Change Color.”

A Year of Writing in Review

What writer doesn’t look back at the end of a year and to give oneself a writing grade?

Well, actually, I don’t hold a lot of stock in goals hit or missed because time lines are flexible and life happens. But it’s still fun to take stock in what transpired in the year of writing. Here are some of my highlights.

Play writing:

Watched my play “The Birth of Technicolor” in Brooklyn! It was awesome.

My play “The Last Bastion” won me the 2018 Greywood Arts Writing Residency in Ireland and I spent a blissful week in a charming old English house finishing off two full-length plays and other miscellaneous writings.

Short plays – I hit my stride again in short play writing, finishing off a complete new show entitled “Crazy Love” in the spring and then in the fall I cranked out four new additional short plays which will be part of a show of mine called “Stories, Vol. 1.”

On top of this, I produced three shows – “For All Generations” in Jan 2018, the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in April 2018 and the experimental piece “How to Build a Dictator” in December 2018.

Novel writing:

Summer saw the release of book 2 of the Forgotten Child Trilogy called “The African Connection.”

Summer also saw me writing frantically to finish book 3 – which I did – entitled “A Parting in the Sky.”  This explosive piece will end the trilogy and will be released within the first few months of 2019. Very excited about it!

Planning stages and early writing for my mysterious novel #9. I will say it is an alternate history related to the 1960s. It’s going to get wild!

Short Story:

I published a new Christmas story “Jolly Old St. Hick.”

I’m also formulating my book on baseball. I promised myself I would. It may be a collection of short stories or a more unified piece. More to come.

Yes, it’s been a busy and fruitful year. Here’s hoping more productivity in 2019! I’ll give you my writing prognosis for the year soon!

I appreciate your support.

Happy New Year!