The Book Thief

I just finished this book. Amazing. I am half tempted to go through it again in hopes of discovering more content. For now I will just be happy that I took the time to read it in the first place. It has helped open my eyes to a new author (new to me) and his unique style of writing. Among the many lines, I found one more quote that really stuck with me.

“I witness the ones that are left behind, crumbled among the jigsaw puzzles of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.”

The realization that true suffering is not dying, but living with the death of another. A journey through life will always end in death. It is the nature of all things.  My fear is not in my own death, but that of the ones I love. The heartache of losing people close to us is something I believe we all wish to avoid. But, face it we must.

For inspirations sake, take time to live in each moment as it presents itself. Don’t worry about tomorrow until it gets here.

D.B. Flint

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Dreaming

Insomnia: What writers call sleep.

You know, that thing we do when the rest of the world is in bed, while visions of nightmares creep through your head. Then again…maybe that’s just me. I’m one of the lucky people who remembers a lot of my dreams. (Sarcasm: see notes below). I’ve been on a particularly mean streak of nightmares lately. Being chased, fighting, losing loved ones, suffocating, paralysis. Always violent, always real. While psychology professionals have spent years trying to explain dreams and their meanings, I spend sleepless nights trying to figure out the reasons of my own. It isn’t only nightmares that intrigue me. Dreams in general have always been something I have looked for meaning in. It is a popular belief that dreams are a natural way for our brains to cope with the stresses of everyday life. I am inclined to agree to a certain extent. Running from something is common. It would make sense that in your life, there is something you just don’t want to do so you are trying to find a way to avoid it. Okay, yeah, that sounds like a sure-fire way to explain a nightmare.5316089

But what about other dreams? The kinds that are a mess of random. How am I to interpret dreaming of an elementary crush, in a cabin that doubles as a motor home, that expands as the dream continues, involving layers of people in different stages of age, dress, and activity, that eventually turns into a barn, where I look for the keys to a car in a basement after picking vegetables in a garden out the back door where I am in a dirty suit “remembering when” with an old man while the babies grandma is trying to steal its pacifier only to realize the baby is gone where I am once again taken to a loft where I offer to make them breakfast?

It’s like comparing each thought to a granule of sugar that gets dumped in a cotton candy machine where it spins, melts, and meshes into something else entirely. Needless to say, I have written many short stories that have all, or partly been inspired by dreams. Most of it I choose to delete. My own way of getting rid of excess thought baggage. Much like the pensive in Harry Potter where one could pull out threads of consciousness in order to study or share them at a later date. However, I think I have decided I might like the idea of a dream journal. It’s another avenue to pull from when writing. Could be good for inspiration, or merely fill in the dead space of a scene. Either way, it is something I usually overlook or dismiss. Creative writing is nothing more than a dream. Whether awake or asleep, our minds our painting us a picture. Even if that picture resembles a Picasso, doesn’t mean you won’t find in significance in it.

What do your dreams tell you?

Sarcasm: Made you look!

 

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Stream of Consciousness

Ever have one of “Those” days? Well I have. Today as a matter of fact. Trying to get my head in the right direction I thought, why not? who doesn’t like to see what goes through people’s heads? Here goes:

It’s a day of few words. Me in my comfy chair that doubles as my office. I have my giant mug of diet Mt. Dew within arm’s reach. My faithful dogs lying at my feet. All the good juju that usually keeps me focused. Yet I find myself pensive. More so than other days. I cannot even say for sure why. A stream of consciousness seems to be my best outlet for the written word today. My dog is in the corner chewing his back toenails. I hate that noise. My other dog is snoring. I think that’s adorable. It’s quiet today. The only real noise is coming from the large swamp cooler, and the trickle of water from the fish tank six feet to my right. I need to cut my own nails. I hate the way it feels when they strike the keyboard. Maybe my dog will eat them.

A fly box with a ridged foam bottom sits on my desk. I tied those flies in an attempt to show off. No one saw them. Instead they just sit there without purpose. They look good. Maybe I will fish them one day. Maybe. A lot of maybe’s fill my home. Maybe one day I will pot that plant that I started the roots on last year. But it sits across more me, roots swirling round the bottom of a vase with no flowers. To the outside world, I am a portrait. A lone figure, lap top in hand, back lit by the summer rays filtered through swirling dust bunnies.

I was violent earlier. I killed without thought. I killed with no remorse. Wild plants. Weeds really. Trying to survive the heat of the desert. I wiped them out. I spread the toxins. Genocide. They started it. I was invaded. I had no choice. There are porcelain dolls on top of the curio cabinet. Gargoyles guarding a cathedral. They frighten me. They watch me. I try to catch them in the act. They are fast. Unseen, not quite forgotten, a china set carried on the lap of a mother across the ocean. Its final resting place, the dungeon of my cupboards.

A hope chest without hope. Maybe at one time. There is that word again. Not anymore. Too old for hope. Knick knacks. Clutter. Reminders of time. An unopened package longing for a purpose. Debris from the window. It leaks. I fix it. It still leaks.  I really wish he would stop biting his nails.

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Book List

As usual I spend a good amount of time reading. I recently picked up a copy of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I have to say, it is worthy of the praise it has received. I also HIGHLY recommend to any of you that desire to push the boundaries of traditional writing to grab a copy and crack it open. Not only is it well written with a compelling story, but it is written in such a way that makes it wholly unique. A haunting tale of life and death in Nazi Germany told through the eyes of Death as he follows the Book Thief, Liesel Meminger, as she journeys through the political upheaval, and harsh realities of life. There is a passage in the book that has stuck with me since I read it the other night. I think it really puts into perspective the cruel nature of war.

“You could argue that Liesel Meminger had it easy. She did have it easy compared to Max Vandenburg. Certainly, her brother had practically died in her arms. Her mother abandoned her. But anything was better than being a Jew.”

A very powerful statement of the hate and fear that consumed Germany during the war. For many of us, such hate is incomprehensible. We try to understand it through history. We listen to the stories passed down from those that lived through it. But the Best we can do is to honor the fallen by not repeating the mistakes of those that came before us.

I may write more on this book when I am finished eating up its pages. If anyone else out there is reading or has read The Book Thief, I would love to hear your impressions and thoughts on the book. #thebookthief

D.B. Flint.

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Writing to be Published

Is there anything more frustrating than getting turned down for a writing job? A polka band maybe. It’s even worse when you know you meet all qualifications. You can write, you can edit, you can research…so why aren’t people hiring you, or publishing your words? For many, making a good living as a writer is the exception, rather than the rule. Everyone else works day jobs, or night jobs, writing in the precious spare minutes at the end of the day. They all have one thing in common. They’re all hoping for that one big break they know is just around the corner. The thing about that one big break…is it is something that must be earned, not given. #CreativeWriting is a roller coaster of, writing, submitting, and rejection. Pick almost any writer, of any genre. Study them, learn from them. They aren’t lucky their writing was published. There is no giant lotto wheel that picks authors at random. No, they had to work hard to achieve success. Every writer has been knocked down. The good ones, get back up. The great ones learn new ways how not to fall. Rejection is just a matter of perspective.

Great writing is made of many components depending on its intended purpose. Great writers are a combination of skill, tenacity, and raw talent. The talent part, well, you either have it, or you don’t. There is no way to teach someone talent. Skill and tenacity however, those are things that can be improved upon.

Getting rejected by publishers is just one step of the process. It’s what you do after rejection that matters. Learn from it and move on, or sit on the couch with a gallon of your favorite ice cream. What you may not have realized, is that our failures are many times a product of our own ignorance. If you don’t like rejection, fix the problem. Do your homework. Before submitting any writing, whether a novel, or a pitch as a freelance writer, it’s a good idea to know if you’re what publishers are looking for. Scan through their websites, blogs, #published materials, and their audience. Is your writing similar in style and genre? Are you targeting the same audience? Thirty minutes of research can greatly improve your odds of submitting to the right publisher. If you get rejected, start over. Revamp your tag line and synopsis. Make sure it grabs the reader’s attention. Make sure the opening chapter draws the reader in. Most important, after you have re-worked your proposal, keep submitting.

In my experience, most people have the ability to write something. However, the fact that they wrote something does not grant them the right to be on the best seller list with a book signing tour. There is a lot of hard work to make it that far. Even then, most writers will never receive such esteemed honors. That doesn’t mean your words aren’t worthy of publication. It doesn’t mean that it is time to tuck tail and give up. It just means you have not reached that level of writing yet. Getting rejected can sometimes be your greatest tool for understanding where you went wrong, giving you areas you need to work on. Because you can’t know success, if you haven’t known failure.

D.B. Flint

 

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Writing Advice

I am a victim of my own good advice it seems. Maybe that makes it bad advice? Those of you who have read some of my previous posts know that I think a story must, at least in part, write itself. How can a story write itself? Because if we are in tune, and listen closely, there are times when a story will whisper what comes next. Call it inspiration, if you will. Perhaps there is even a touch of madness in thinking that our stories talk to us, but I swear, I’m not crazy (says every crazy person). That’s okay. It takes a certain sort of madness to sit in front of a keyboard day after day and still believe we are getting somewhere.

I started book four of a series with a specific direction I wanted to head, and a certain way it should end. Half way through I noticed I was beginning to veer off course. A problem? Not really. That’s why we have the revision process. Even though my head was telling me to push on and avoid the detours, the story was telling me something quite different. No biggie. I can fix that later. Or, at least that was the plan. It seems that I’ve went off course enough that I’m writing an entirely different book than I first imagined. Since I’m hardly through with the first draft, it is way too soon to start second guessing myself and start the revision process to get back on track.

There is no room for self-doubt in creative writing. I have decided to listen to the story and let it take me down whichever path it chooses. I am now just along for the ride. Will it be a good ride? No way to tell yet. Will I end up where I wanted too? Possibly. The important thing, is that I am taking the journey. If you want to be a good writer, you must trust your instincts. Your rational brain has all the necessary tools to write a story. It’s your irrational brain that brings the story to life. Creative writing is thinking outside the box, trusting yourself that however your story turns out, is the way it was meant to be. Trust your gut, follow your instincts, you know what the story needs, it whispers it to you. You may be surprised where you find yourself at the end, but at least you will know how, and why, you got there.

Keep writing friends. Have faith in your ability.

D.B. Flint

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A Picture Worth a Thousand Words.

We have all heard the saying, and I am assuming when I say that we all understand its meaning. For today’s writing prompt I decided to do exactly that. One picture that I took, and one thousand words that I write. Here goes.20170630_202000

When I was on a recent trip to Idaho, we stayed on a family owned ranch along the Salmon River near Clayton. The area itself is full of history. As with many small towns scattered across the west, there is gold in them thar hills. Silver and gold to be more precise. Prospectors and miners panned the stream beds and tunneled deep underground in search of precious metals. While I was out fishing, I came upon an old settler’s cabin. The sun was resting just above the horizon, sharing its last bit of warmth of the day. The cabin lay nestled in a grove of trees. A small pond stretched between the cabin and myself like the moat of a castle.

With amphibians croaking, insects taking flight, I took a minute to really look at what was in front of me. It wasn’t just an old historic cabin. This was once somebody’s home. The more I looked, the story of once was, became apparent. I could clearly see the faint rise of smoke drifting from the chimney as mother was finishing up supper for her soon to be home husband. To keep them from getting underfoot, the children had been sent outside to chase emerging fireflies in the late afternoon air. Minutes pass before a man, worn and dirty could be seen walking the lane towards home. The labor of the day was evident in his weary stride. It was father. A man still young in years, but aged beyond from the harsh conditions of the twelve-hour workdays in the mine.

He stops by the edge of the small pond to wash. Near to him, tied between a giant oak tree and a smaller sapling, there is a freshly laundered shirt and a threadbare towel that have been hung to dry above the fragrant sage brush and wild flowers. The children wait eagerly to welcome him home, yet they remain at a distant.  A routine they are familiar with. They watch in quiet respect as he eases of his suspenders and removes his shirt. The oldest child, a young girl of eleven steps forward handing her dad a wooden pail then retreats. The father nods his appreciation then goes about his washing. He leans over the bank and splashes great handfuls of water on his grizzled face. The grime of the days works soon peels off in small rivulets dripping from his ears and nose. He fills the bucket twice scrubbing his fingers through his matted scalp. He shakes his head, much the same as a dog, drops of water flinging from his head and beard cause the kids to giggle as they are struck. He towels dry and dons his clean shirt. This is what the children have been waiting for. Gone is that man with the hunched shoulders, washed away with the filthy water. The man now stands tall and proud as he welcomes his children to him, hugging each of them in turn and listening to a blather of stories as they all talk at once.

A boy of eight retrieves his father’s dirty shirt, carrying it with one hand like it was full of the plague. The eldest girl fetches the bucket. Together they walk to the small cottage. Mother can be seen standing on the small veranda. Hands clasped together in front. A welcoming smile brightens her face. Small in stature, she does her best to block the door, shooing the children towards the wash basin before entering the house. She takes her husband’s hat, placing it on a rusty nail set out from the wall. A warm embrace follows. Daily small talk ensues as she begins pulling out table settings and linens. A loaf of bread, still warm from the oven is placed in the center of the table by a small pot of stew. Heads bowed, hands together they say grace. A special thanks for the bounty before them, and the safe return of their father.

The evening air is cool. Outside on the porch, mother is adding patches to father’s breaches, while the children settle around for a story. Father takes a pipe from the sill of the window. Taking his time, he stuffs it with tobacco, little pinches at a time. The striking match illuminates their faces. Soon a small puffing noise could be heard matching the orange glow of his pipe. The trailing smoke had a sweet fragrance to it. He puffs on the pipe, rocking back and forth in an old rocker he had built with his own hands. His deep voice cuts through the night as he tells them the story of Vehria The Greenthumb. A goddess with the power of nature. He told his children how Vehria had taken one seed, and with it created the plants of the world, including the forests that they lived in. The children listen with awed faces. He concludes his story and silence ensues. The crickets serenade them while the younger ones try to wipe the sleep away from their eyes. Father pics up the youngest, a four-year-old daughter, brown hair and eyes, just like her mother. He continues to rock in his chair, stars beginning to push through the dark. He shares a mile with mother as his daughter nuzzles in close.

No I didn’t write this on the spot. I was however thinking of something similar. I was supposed to be fishing, with on a normal day usually takes precedence. But not on that day. That day as I looked at the old cabin, I wondered about the stories that remain locked away inside. It was at this time I snapped this picture. And as I first stated, a picture is worth a thousand words. To the hundreds of thousands of people who pass by that very same cabin every year, I wonder how many of them see the story hidden beneath its weathered roof.  Look for the story. It is there waiting, if only you dig deep enough.

D.B. Flint

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