Stand-up Paddle Boarding!

Don't I Look Positively Sporty? Keystone Lake, Colorado. Stand-up Paddle Boarding, July 25, 2015.

Don’t I Look Positively Sporty? Keystone Lake, Colorado. Stand-up Paddle Boarding, July 25, 2015.

I’ve heard of stand-up paddling boarding (SUP) for a while, but have never done it…until Saturday. My wife and I did an impromptu trip up to Silverthorne, Colorado, where we also visited Keystone and Keystone Lake (actually more of a pond). It was at this lake that I finally got my feet wet (and that was all—okay, my shins—that got wet!). We ate lunch at The Edgewater Café, then went over to the rentals, at the Adventure Center Ice Rink (the lake is an ice rink in the winter; we’ve skated there). A half hour costs $25 and an hour costs $40. All the “sport” boards were out, so I initially used the “extra floaty” one (my instructor said I could try the sportier model when I came back, if I wanted). It was more stable and less apt to spill me into the drink. My instructor, friendly and bright blue-shirted Patrick McNally, from Woodbury, Minnesota, showed me the ropes. As I stood up on the board—in water—for the first time, I was really unstable…but as I carefully tooled around for a few minutes I found, huh, this didn’t seem so bad! So me and the extra floaty board went out into deeper water. I took it out all over the pond. I found paddling to be like canoeing—but standing up—then, when I got home, I did a search and found these techniques—which, curiously, don’t mention canoeing at all. No matter, when I used the canoeing “J”-stroke, things went extremely well.

When I returned after the half hour, I asked if I could try one of the sportier models (yeah, I’m already getting cocky), and Patrick (big smile on his face) comes over and says sure, he was wanting to get me out on one, anyway, so we went over and snagged one. He gave me a little more instruction, which was slightly different, and this time when I went out he wished me luck in a way that seemed like more of a “sentence” then fun! Turns out these sportier boards are more responsive, but also go faster and are easier to tip. Yup, noticed that right off. You’re also lower in the water. But, after getting used to the differences, I took that one out for a spin, doing a quicker tour of the lake. Yes, it is faster, and yes, it is more responsive. Even my wife commented on how much faster it moved, though it didn’t really seem like that to me.

But…I never fell over!

Though, in all fairness, I must admit that by now my legs were getting a leettle tired (and as I write this, my calves are sore…), and I very nearly almost took a spill at one point. All the 3-D balancing of the board like that does eventually tire you out if you’re not used to it. I’m on my feet most of the day and work out, so I’m not weak down there…but, all that fine tuning and constant 3-D adjusting for about 50 minutes, well, started to get to me (the paddling didn’t). So, given I almost toppled, I called it a day and brought ‘er in.

But I’ve found a new way to play in the water! This is something I’d definitely want to do again!

To check out Keystone Lake SUP, stop by the Keystone Adventure Center, at Lakeside Village, 195 River Run Road, Keystone, CO 80435. Phone is 800-354-4386.

Tell Patrick I sent ya!

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A Trip Through Time

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Cover ©1977

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Cover ©1977

Schlachthof-fünf

Ho Hum

Siggie

Great Lakes

Ann-Tique Anny

Waterfalls

Cemeteries

Chateaugay

Corner Stone

Wild Walk

McCadam

So it goes

In no particular order, the above are elements of my upstate NY trip from last week. I left Colorado early in the morning on July 11th and arrived in Vermont early in the afternoon of the same day (that seems to have to be stated these days). Seeing the familiar greenery and terrain of the Northeast was like salve to my soul. My folks (dad and stepmom) picked me up and we headed to New York.  I spent a week there. I left New York and Vermont July 18th. And again, the day after that. Air travel was severely backed up on the 18th, which delayed lots of flights. My flight. I stayed at a crappy hotel run by nice people (the Ho-Hum Motel) with no air-conditioning. In the upper 80s, muggy. I stayed on the second floor in the building behind the pool. I stayed with one table fan, two dead and (half-inch-sized) unidentifiable bugs shaped like those kernels of candy corn, a disgustingly dirty mattress and pillow with unidentifiable stains and black hairs under the bed sheet, and one live (and Daddy-Longlegs large) spider that went off somewhere I know not where and is surely still having the run of the place. My flight out the next day was again delayed. Due to “a mechanical” (nose gear failure). We left about 45 minutes late. I got to O’Hare. The short story of my flight out of O’Hare went something like this: three gate changes, three plane changes, 2+ hours of a “quest for a plane.” Through all of this, I’d been re-reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. I began reading it in an airport in Colorado, and I finished reading it in the air over New York State, just minutes before crossing Lake Ontario. I was reading the 1977 paperback I’d read in high school. My Fight Attendant out of Vermont was a blonde German-sounding woman, named “Siggie.” But she could have been Norwegian.

So it goes.

I will write a handful of posts about my trip, whereupon I visited a couple of cemeteries, a waterfall, and took in a “wild walk” through the Adirondack woods. I also visited a bookstore (Corner Stone) and explored a small community (Chateaugay), which included a cheese factory (McCadam) and antique store (Ann-Tique Anny).

I’d decided to re-read Slaughterhouse Five because I loved that book and its cool time traveling shit and I wanted to see how Mr. Vonnegut handled writing about his funky time-traveling shit. See if I could employ any of his techniques. I think I can, said the train.

I’ve tried to read some late-model novels (car people say “late model,” so I thought I’d try it with books) over the past couple years, and across the whole I have to say I’ve been roundly disappointed. Sometimes it was the writing, sometimes the story. Many times both. I’d even tried to read some other science fiction novels I’d absolutely loved when I was a kid…and had again found myself severely disappointed. And these were great names, on the order of (because I don’t point fingers, I am giving the kinds of names these authors I’d read were, and am NOT saying these were authors whose work was terrible) Pohl or Zelazny. When I’d reread some of the above, I was positively stunned at how poorly written I’d found them to be as an adult and as a writer. Perhaps what I’d read was early in their careers. I hope so. But, wow, Slaughterhouse Five, which I’d read in high school, however, did not disappoint. In Slaughterhouse Five I’d found an incredibly well-written novel that eschewed traditional structure and incorporated “author intrusion” to its benefit. And Vonnegut’d employed “small words.” Amazingly so. Slaughterhouse Five impressed the shit out of me. Made me interested in reading fiction again. That’s why the classics are so-labeled, I guess. Maybe that’s what I should start [re]reading. The classics.

And so it goes.

I’d written the longhand draft of this post over Lake Ontario, Canada, Michigan, and Indiana, I imagine. If you get right down to it, over the clouds over these places, really. And I’m finishing it over the carpet in my writing office. As I’m currently inputting these inked words into the electronic, I feel curiously displaced, much like Billy Pilgrim. I feel myself still in the air…yet in my office. Tripping through time. I like flying. I like writing. I like tripping through time, Tralfamadorians be damned. I came out East (as I usually do) to visit my folks, my dad and stepmom, and another set of characters, the Adirondacks. I haven’t been to many places outside this country, but I have traveled up and down, left to right across this country, and the Adirondacks is where my heart is…perhaps to my Colorado wife’s dismay—though she does enjoy visiting with me. I went alone on this trip. Wife’s schedules. So it goes.

I was also a tad stressed when I left July 11th. From writing. Working on Voice and trying to meet my self-imposed deadline that was already shot because of other schedules…as well as some other, non-writing-related issues (as I wrote this section on the plane, we passed an interesting cumulus cloud that resembled a lamb lying upright…its head the shape of that alien monster from Alien; this singular cloud rode atop all the lower, horizontally lying clouds), like just trying to get a fare on a certain airline that “awards” frequent flyer mileage for loyalty…then gives out only the suckiest of pairings.

But…I got there…am here…was heading home.

There’s more to come.

I felt the plane descending into O’Hare.

So it goes.

Platform?

Now, This Platform Has Legs! (By Tu Foto [originally posted to Flickr as Acrylic Heels] [CC BY 2.0 {http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0}], via Wikimedia Commons)

Now, This Platform Has Legs! (By Tu Foto [originally posted to Flickr as Acrylic Heels] [CC BY 2.0 {http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0}], via Wikimedia Commons)

Wow, how things can change!

You know, when I first heard “platform,” it meant “something you stood for,” like fighting school bullying. Even for fiction writers. Fiction writers were also told they needed “their platform.” And “social media” was nowhere in any of the definitions I’d heard. In fact, it was specifically called out as not being a “platform.”

Now I hear, “platform” is your social media stance.

Wow, seriously? How did things change so drastically? If you look at the two links, you’ll see Jane Friedman’s definitions are from 2012, and Jann Alexander’s are from June 2015 (with her definition coming from Karlyn Hixson, Marketing Manager at St. Martin’s).

So…as you can plainly see from Jane’s first sentence, everyone defines it differently.

But, whether or not the definition did change (it very well might have)…this new version of a fiction author’s platform actually makes far more sense to me…and in today’s Electronic Age, one I can’t really argue with…at least for fiction writers. If you have some other method to your madness in getting your words out there, more power to you!

And, feel free to be picky—you don’t have to do everything.

Pick what you feel comfortable with and focus on those. If you don’t want a Google profile because Google requires an electronic DNA sample, fine, skip Google. I mess around a lot in Twitter and post blogs (obviously), have an Author page on Faceplace, and frequent Pinterest. I also have a Goodreads and LinkedIn presence, but don’t spend too much time there (it’s primarily a matter of time). I really tried to put out a newsletter, but I just do not have the time not only to write the danged thing, but to format and mess around with layouts (yes, I’m sure once you get the layout, you just keep it, but still…). And I simply don’t have enough info to put into a newsletter. I put that info into my blogs.

So, if “platforms” now mean social media, hooray for fiction writers, cause if just made life a smidge easier—but don’t feel like you have to do everything or be everywhere at once. Create those accounts you want and focus on those aspects of social media you’re really good at. In other words, do as much or as little as you see fit.

This is a definition of “platform” that has some legs for fiction writers!

#Platform

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Voice—What Is My Genre?

Hmmm..... (By Ion Chibzii from Chisinau. , Moldova. (

Hmmm…. (By Ion Chibzii from Chisinau. , Moldova. (“Problems, problems…” (70-ies).) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

I have a quandary.

Is my soon-to-be-released novel, Voice, erotica?

Is it mainstream?

Psychological?

Visionary fiction?

Or a paranormal romance?

Truth be told, it’s a little of all of the above. Which is fine…but doesn’t help marketing. You see, I have to pick a genre in order to release the book. You usually get a main and secondary descriptor you can pick. And the various platforms are slightly different, but I think what I’m going to have to do is make “erotica” one of the choices, because of some of the obvious content—and to properly alert readers—then select a sub descriptor, such as “Fiction” or “Psychological.” If “mainstream” is in there, and I can also get “erotica,” that is what I’ll do.

This is a novel that can truly have a greater reach than everything else I’ve previously written. It’s not hard paranormal as it is generally considered…and it’s not traditional romance. It is a psychological story to be sure. And as far as “visionary fiction”…well, there’s definitely some of that in there, too. But it’s a story about son’s failed relationship with his father…and how it has affected his life…and his relationships.

It’s a story about love.

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A Faux Interview with F. P. Dorchak, author of VOICE

She Who Will Remain Nameless. (© 2015, Lon Kirschner and F. P. Dorchak)

She Who Will Remain Nameless. (© 2015, Lon Kirschner and F. P. Dorchak)

One of the characters in my upcoming novel, Voice, has been bugging me for years to not only publish the damned thing, but also to interview me. Well, I’ve finally given in…to both. Here is my exclusive interview with one of the main characters from my novel—who shall remain nameless. We get into everything from my childhood to a little metaphysics (the bulk of the actual metaphysical discussion I’ll be posting on my Reality Check site).

Voice: Well, it’s certainly nice to see you again, Frank. It’s been a while!

F. P.: Nice to see you again, too. I’ve missed you!

Voice: And I’ve missed you! Thanks for finally letting me out into the world. For those of you not yet acquainted with me—and not that you necessarily created me, Frank, so much as you relate my story in Voice—but, I am grateful for what you’ve done and have no regrets with the book’s outcome! It was a pleasure being “worked” by you! You did a fine job telling my story. I wondered when you’d get the hint!

F. P.: Well, it’s been quite the unique and intriguing experience—and a pleasure! I’m also really happy with the outcome, and greatly appreciate all who have helped—especially Amy, Mandy, Edie, Joseph, and of course, Lon! Lon kicked serious ass on your cover, didn’t he?

Voice: He did! He finally listened to my whispers!

F.P.: You are so sneaky….

Voice: Okay, let’s get into this, shall we? What caused you to write Voice? Where did you find your inspiration?

F. P.: Well, quite simply, we all have these little voices in our heads. I’d had this mental image where this guy has this “shadow” visit him at night (in bed), but when he turns on the lights, the shadow’s gone—but not the presence, her presence. She’s actually still there…just not visible in the light. I was also thinking…how can I write some sort of “ghost” story that is more in line with how I view ghosts…explain it through my life philosophy—

Voice: And what would that be, this “life philosophy” of yours?

F. P.: Well, it’s predicated upon simultaneous time and multidimensional souls…but what I was looking for was a way to explain ghosts using a nontraditional system of belief. Now, I’ve since done that with The Uninvited, but Voice was originally written before Uninvited. Anyway, I believe that there’s more to the world than meets the eye…that we do live other lives…and that the nonphysical world does intrude into our daily lives—on a regular basis. Voice is also inspired by two books by Jane Roberts, called, The World View of Paul Cézanne, and The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher.

Voice: How long have you been writing?

F. P.: My mother tells me I started at the age of six. In high school, one of my English teachers, Mr. Spence, actually read one of my pieces in front of the class. He was so taken by the atmosphere of it! It was quite exciting and cool to be so singled out (you know, in a good way) as a teenager in front of your peers. I’m not usually “that guy” who gets singled out in any class. I can still hear Mr. Spence’s voice—see the excitement on his face and hear it in his voice! That story was called “Crypt of Vampyres.” Thanks, Mr. Spence!

Voice: What was it about?

F. P.: Not surprisingly, it’s about a kid who finds a crypt of vampyres. Then goes down into it, of course. People don’t typically act very smart in horror stories.

Voice: Did you start out reading and writing horror?

F. P.: I did. I loved Stoker’s Dracula, and H. Warner Munn’s Werewolf of Ponkert. I grew up on science fiction and horror—with some fantasy, like Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, C.S. Lewis’s The Narnia Chronicles, and later, in college, Robert E. Howard’s Conan series. I loved weird, supernatural stuff. Anyway, yeah, I started with horror, wrote lots of short stories (in my teens and twenties), some of them pretty gruesome, but probably so was the writing! In my teens, it was tame stuff, like the aforementioned “Crypt of Vampyres.” In my twenties it got gruesome, but the older I grew I found I didn’t like all the nastiness that went with horror—dismemberment and all the evil deeds, not to mention I just don’t believe in an inherent evil or “the Devil”—but I believe in human-created evil and human-created devils.

So, a shift in my writing occurred.

Voice: What kind of shift?

F. P.: I’d changed the way I wrote. What and how I wrote.

It all started when I let my dad read one of my stories. I think it was “Attention Span.” About some multi-level marketing scheme that suckered people in, in some not-so-savory way involving a tentacled monster. Anyway, I’d come home from college, handed him one and he read it. Subdued, he asked why did I like writing about this stuff? Death, violence, dismemberment. All that. I really couldn’t answer him…but it got me thinking. My dad was an upstate New York Forest Ranger—no stranger to blood and death—he’d been out on many search-and-rescues for downed aircraft and whatever else needed to be pulled off wintry mountaintops at three in the morning. So his statement hit a mark in me. I later realized that what I really loved about writing the horror and supernatural was the surreal…the weirdness in it all. The atmosphere. The Twilight-Zonish aspects of weird/dark fiction. I also realized that when anyone writes something they have to so focus themselves on the content of their work that it becomes a mini obsession. You want to so get into the characters’ heads and motivations…you so want to make the writing transparent and have the readers become immersed that you need to write really, really well. I’m not just talking about the mechanics, I’m talking about the story. The atmosphere. Things like…rubbing your hand over a porch railing might very well have you become acquainted with a splinter. How would that feel and how would you handle/react to it? When you’re sitting in a fabric-covered chair in shorts—how would that feel? Would your skin stick to the seat as you got up, squirmed around in it? It’s the little things that give you the grand, gestalt experience—and the tricks of expressing all these micro and macro details so that it doesn’t look like you are. That your readers are actually in the world you’re sucking them into.

As Stephen King says, your writing should be transparent, but not your story.

So, apply all this to horror and things can get pretty nasty! I didn’t like focusing on things-evil and found other ways to write. That is not to say I don’t shy away from occasional and necessary scenes like in The Uninvited, where I do get graphic. I just didn’t want the entire focus of my life to be centered around evil and violence. So, I kinda found myself writing more of what is being called metaphysical—or visionary—fiction. Speculative fiction.

Voice: You do get a bit graphic in Voice, though not in a violent way….

F. P.: Yesss…but we’re keeping this G-rated, right?

Voice: We are!

F. P.: But, yes, I do get a bit graphic in Voice…with the sex. It was just where the story went. How it played itself out. It wasn’t intentional on my part, in fact, I actively tried to severely edit those scenes, but the story just wouldn’t allow that!

Voice: I can be rather forceful, can’t I?

F. P.: You can, indeed!

Those scenes are an important part of Ben and Kendra’s lives. Amanda’s. Their struggles. To have edited them out would have done them a gross injustice…the story an eviscerating injustice. If we are so “forgiving” of violence in fiction why can we not also be as “forgiving” of sex in fiction? Rhetorical, because sex (and violence) both sell, but, that was my thought process. I don’t write erotica, but I have learned there is plenty of graphic detail in today’s works. As the writer, I was trying to do right (pardon the pun) by the story…by Kendra and Ben. As the writer I had to go where the story took me and I had to go there unflinchingly, and that was hard for me in Voice, because I had to address the sex. Had I removed or toned down their struggles, the rest of the story would have been far less impacting (as my beta readers so rightfully put it)…if there would even be one at that point. My characters’ struggle is not just theirs…it’s ours—the readers’. I couldn’t shy away from that…couldn’t water it down. There are all kinds of what can be considered humiliating acts done in the dark…away from prying eyes. Acts that can embarrass the most outwardly “upstanding.” But, it wasn’t just about the sex…it was about the emotion…the angst…the intensity of what was unfolding…and for the rest of the story to work, we had to go through what my characters went through.

Voice: Wow…is it warm in here or is it just me?

F. P.: Oh, it’s you….

Voice: You wax metaphysical in Voice. What are your thoughts on metaphysical/visionary fiction?

F. P.: I haven’t read much in the past few years, but in what I have read, I think it’s great as a movement—but it still needs to come a long way. I think there’s a definite need for it out there, but my problem with it has always been that it’s too—what I used to joke around with my mom as—“daisy power.”

Voice: “Daisy power?”

F. P.: Yeah…too flaccid…weak and lacking in any real conflict, character development, and/or complexity of storytelling. From what I’ve seen—and, again, I’m not all that well-read, here, and it’s been a few years since I’ve read any, let me just say that up front—is that it usually seems to paint too rosy of pictures. “Preach to the converted” as my ex-stepfather used to say. Weak on developed and complex character or conflict. I’m not saying all metaphysical fiction is this way, but the few I’ve read seems to be. Even some really well-known work. There’s usually a good idea…but telling it has been the problem, developing it into a more realistic, complex story. There are exceptions, but when I last read a couple of books a few years back I didn’t see this being done. I won’t quote any of the works I’m using as examples, but there’s one that has a really neat premise, neat backdrop, but it’s too rushed and “pat.” There’s no real conflict, no character development! It’s one of those “So-and-so did this and that and went there…and—surprisingly!—this happened, and everything just fell into our laps because “like” and “intent” attract goodness and neat stuff and everything just happens effortlessly….”

Now, I’m not saying I do all this stuff perfectly myself, but what I am saying is that whether or not life is easy, or should be easy, it ain’t—for any of a number of reasons. And no one (do you, really, readers?) wants to read about things that “just happen” with no real conflict nor emotional skin-in-the-game? Show us there really is something to lose, at stake here. Emotionally invest us into the story and the characters. Use those reasons for why life seems so hard in the stories. Make them toughened and three- or four-dimensional. Show all the hardships and conflicts we all deal with every damned day. Job stress, conflicting thoughts and impulses, fear, the selfish acts we all occasionally perform that don’t make us selfish in and of ourselves. The places in life where we stumble, stub our toes. But show us learning from our mistakes. Make the goals hard to obtain and put some damned conflict in there! They want to see those struggles and they want to see them overcome. We all want to feel that we are not alone in our journey through life…that we’re all not all that different from one another. Even those who feel they are different from everyone else want their own groups that they can identify with, and therefore also want to feel wanted…and like others like themselves. The “daisy power” comes from the “peace” movements and other philosophies that preach to be flaccid and unaggressive and I ask what’s wrong with proper aggression? Not in bullying and criminal acts, but in going after what one wants? Going after The Good. Dreams. Isn’t that also aggression? Action, rather than inaction? Life is action. It’s not meant to be stagnant. We are not meant to sit around and just have things come to us without any effort on our part.

Voice: What do you do when you’re not writing?

F. P.: I have many and varied interests…and I used to do all kinds of gnarly activity in my younger days, but current life finds me having to significantly scale back on all those activities—most them now cut out entirely, which is okay. I had my fun doing them but am now focusing on different areas of life. Currently I work out at the gym, take in some light hiking/walking as weather and activities allow, travel, reading. Meditation (again, when I can get to it!). Trying to be more family oriented. And I love yard work, being outside—clearing brush, pruning trees…mowing the lawn! I really like mowing the lawn. If I lived out in the woods, like I did growing up, I’d be constantly walking through the forest (again, like I did growing up). I love exercising the imagination…thinking. I’m also trying to learn to stop…and watch paint dry. Take a break from everything—but it’s so hard! There’s so much still to do!

Voice: Where’d you grow up?

F. P.: I grew up in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, in upstate New York. I had a great childhood! I lived in the hamlet of Lake Clear and went to school in the village of Saranac Lake. My dad had been in the Navy, so we lived between Whitefield, New Hampshire and Key West, Florida. Besides my mom being mainly a stay-at-home mom, she was also a writer, did some secretary work (it used to be so called), and also got into real estate administration.

Voice: Why did you feel you had such a great childhood?

F. P.: There was so much to do where I lived…swimming, walking through the woods, biking, stuff with my dad—and I loved it. It was—and still is—an absolutely beautiful area. When I look back on my childhood, I look back with great fondness. I really had a great time!

Where we finally settled down after my dad got out of the Navy and found a permanent job, we lived on wooded property directly across from a lake with a boathouse—all the locale stuff I described in Voice are for real, except the name of the lake and area. The novel’s hamlet of “Bedford Lake” I morphed from the Boy Scout Camp that exists up near Malone, NY, called Camp Bedford. We lived on a small “farm,” with three gardens (and, yes, rocks really did “grow” quite well there!), chickens, pigs, turkeys—a pony and rabbit for a spell. We always had dogs. As I mentioned, my dad was a Forest Ranger, so he knew all the neat spots to go see, and he occasionally took us canoeing, boating, cross-country skiing, hiking, and camping. He took me to work with him a couple times when I got older. In fact, I got my first paycheck (in the 70s) doing clean up work at the Panther Mountain forest fire that had just been put out—I sported an Indian tank (yes, that’s the name of them) and other fire-fighting tools, like a maddox, and dug around in the charred earth and under and around felled and burned-out trees making sure there were no more embers. I loved that! It truly was a wonderful life. We had our chores, obviously, being around all the animals and gardens, and had all the time in the world and all the beautiful northeast woods to play in! I love deciduous trees, love the sound of the leaves in the breeze. Love lakes. I just love the northeast. I love going back there every year. I also had great parents. My mom was into the esoteric stuff—at least she talked with me about it when I asked questions—and I learned about hard work, discipline, and responsibility from my dad. I remember…well, I, um, used to lie a little—

Voice: Oh, were you a naughty little boy?

F. P.: Well…”occasionally”…I used to do bad “little kid” things then tell my parents one of my brothers or sister did it—or the standard phrase: “I dunno….” My dad always kept telling me that I needed to learn to take responsibility for my actions. Well, one day it finally stuck. At that point, I also pretty much stopped breaking windows, climbing on roofs, and writing all over the outside of our house—

Voice: You wrote all over the outside of your house?

F. P.: It was in pencil, don’t worry. Yeaaah…I guess the writer in me just couldn’t be stilled—not even at that young age! At one point, I went around the outside of our house and drew and wrote a story on it! And don’t ask me about my kid-brain thought process—why do kids do anything? But the point is, I pretty much (in my mind) stopped doing the annoying shit that kept getting me spanked or sent to my room (yeah, like that was punishment? I read and wrote! Listened to music…).

Voice: What have you done since? What turns did your life take once you left home?

F. P.: While in high school I applied to several universities and was accepted into two. I went to Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, Arizona (the other university acceptance was in Tucson, Arizona). I majored in physics, with an emphasis in astronomy, and minored in German. When I graduated, I was one class shy of a double minor in philosophy. I keep kicking myself about that one, but I was taking so many courses I simply couldn’t fit in another. I had a great philosophy professor, Dr. William Nietmann (he published a book, The Unmaking of God, of which I have an autographed copy and really need to finish reading—thank you, again, Dr. Nietmann!). Having the double minor would have been nice for “closure,” considering the turns my life has since taken! And I really thank Dr. Nietmann for all he’s done—he was truly an outstanding professor and I do miss our in-and-out-of-class discussions!

I was also in Air Force ROTC, and after graduation, entered the Air Force and navigator training. Then some really weird things happened.

Voice: What kinds of things?

F. P.: Well, academically, I did well in navigator training. I had something like a 98 average, but when it came to mental math I wasn’t that great. I’m just not that good doing mental math. This lead to a lot of angst—like the old Clash song, should I stay or should I go—and I had two really weird, metaphysical experiences result.

Voice: Well, don’t wait for me to ask!

F. P.: While still on Mather AFB (where nav training was), I was driving to the mail room one fine day. I had collected my mail…gotten back into my car…when suddenly I felt like I wasn’t me any longer. It literally felt like another me had slipped into my body…like someone was trying to see what I was like—and I say this because when it came to driving, my limbs went all dumb and clumsy. Driving my car had suddenly and literally felt entirely alien to me! Think of it as, say, a person from ancient Egypt was suddenly in your body and soul while you were driving around…but you were aware of it all!  Shifting the car, though I obviously knew how to do it, was jerky—as was using the clutch, brake, and accelerator. Steering. I was curiously beside myself, you could say…watching how I was behaving. I got back to my quarters fine, but the rest of the day I felt slightly “off.”

And another strange instance at Mather occurred at night. I awoke in the middle of the night wide awake and lucid, and saw—I swear I saw this—two Vaudeville shadow characters dancing right alongside and past by my bed! With tuxes, top hats, and canes—then they just disappeared! Now, I know many would say that I was just still sleepyheaded or hypnogogic, but I swear I wasn’t. It doesn’t matter who believes me, I know what I saw and what I experienced—felt—and I felt an emanation of fun coming from these two! I felt that these two characters were trying to tell me that I needed to lighten up, enjoy life. Maybe “exit stage left” from what I was doing, where I was headed (curiously the door was to my left). Letting me know it was no big deal “punching out” of nav training. And this just gets better: when I awoke that morning…I found my officer quarters’ door to the outside parking lot wide open.

Gee, no message there, huh?

That door had been locked the night before. I took all this to mean that it was time for me to move on—not just in the literal sense of navigator training, but in terms of personal growth. I was still somewhat reserved in personality, but intense, and decided I also needed to change myself more into a person I wanted to be. Not afraid of trying new things, not afraid of putting myself out into the world, and also to become more outgoing and fun. Lighthearted. And I think I’ve done a fair job of that.

Voice: I would agree.

F. P.: When I went to my 10-year high school reunion everyone said I had changed the most. Became more outgoing and friendly. So I guess it worked!

Voice: Let’s back up a second—to this “other me” concept you spoke of. Do you believe in other you’s?

F. P.: I believe in simultaneous time and multiple personalities of a person. Time is a mechanism, a byproduct (I feel) of physical existence. Outside of our physical life, I feel there is no time. I also feel that we live more than just one life (“reincarnation”). I feel our souls are way too huge and multifaceted to be confined to a single existence; c’mon, it makes no sense. I think we all have so much to accomplish, to learn, and it would be far too limiting, too ludicrous, to believe that we only get one shot at existence. Our souls have way too much energy! Way too much complexity! So, when you put simultaneous time and multiple personalities together, you get other yous exist “out there” at the same time!

Voice: Have you experienced any of these other lives?

F. P.: I feel I have! Beside the Mather incident, when I was a kid, I awoke from an intense dream with a terrible pain in my [I believe it was] right side, and I remembered dream images of a Civil War battle. Of being bayoneted. Some 20 years later one of my brothers told me he had exactly the same dream. Then, in 1990, while living in Alexandria, Virginia, my then-girlfriend and I visited the Manassas Battlefield. I had the oddest sensation the entire time we were there…that I had one foot in the present and one in the past! Très Twilight Zoneish! I couldn’t shake it! It was nothing like I could name names and maneuvers from some previous-life memory, but I knew—I felt—like I’d been there before, which, of course I hadn’t in this life. My girlfriend thought I was nuts, but went along with me. And I’d been to other battlefields before and since, and not felt that level of weirdness: Gettysburg, Antietam, Ball’s Bluff….

Voice: Have you experienced any other past lives?

F. P.: I feel I was on the Titanic…that I drowned in it. Maybe was one of the third-class passengers stuck behind the gated corridors, in steerage. I feel I was also in WWII, in a B-17 Flying Fortress as a tail gunner and was shot out of the sky. I wrote my short story, “Tail Gunner” based on that experieince.

Voice: Interesting!

F. P.: And here’s another interesting story: years ago, my wife and I were walking our dog, Mac, and way up ahead I spotted this lone guy, walking by himself. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t keep my mind or eyes off him. He was way up ahead, walking slowly. Eventually we caught up with him, and as I turned to him, an adult guy I’ve never ever met before, I knew—knew beyond a shadow of a doubt—that this guy was my brother. I almost said something about all this to him, it was that intense.

Voice: How neat!

F. P.: We exchanged a polite “hello” and I ended up saying nothing “metaphysical” to him, and my wife, Mac, and I made it home. But to this day, I know that that man and I were brothers in another life…and that sometimes we have these little encounters just to say “hi” with our nonphysical selves. To play. To remember where we’ve been and are going. We do it for the fun of it!

Voice: Wow, such exciting metaphysical experiences! Thanks for sharing them! What’s next for you and your writing?

F. P.: Well, I have a couple ideas I’m toying around with, all involving the paranormal and metaphysical, of course. All more “literary” in writing, I hope. Mainstream. One is about a writer who helps people as they die, another about a haunted lake. I’d even like to publish a collection of short stories. Once I get this novel out the door, I can then properly focus on which work I want to tackle next….

Voice: Well, I certainly have enjoyed our time together—and thank you for finally allowing me this interview after so many years!

F. P.: You’re most welcome! Sorry it took so long.

Voice: And where may readers purchase Voice?

F. P.: It may be pre-ordered at Amazon.com for 99 cents before it’s release date of August 7th. There will be both an e-book and trade paperback.

Voice: Thanks, again, Frank!

F. P.: You, too—and—

Voice: Yes?

F. P.: It was also a pleasure “working” you…in my novel!

Voice: Oh, Frank….

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Can Reading Make Us Happier?

Wow. Who Knew? (Deutsche Fotothek‎ [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Wow. Who Knew? (Deutsche Fotothek‎ [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

To be totally honest, when I read this long article, about how reading can make us happier, I thought two immediate things:

1) It’s the New Yorker, so they’re looking to fill issues. And they love long articles.

2) It’s another article making much to-do about nothing…yet trying to also pump up reasons to read.

Wow. To make this simpler…do you really need to be “preached to the converted” about how doing anything you like or interests you is going to make you feel happier? Improve your quality of life? To throw around such deep analytical considerations, such as how reading a book “splits us into two parts as we read,” or “the state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego,” while promising “perpetual union” with another mind….

To me this is what this article is really about: whether or not your “forcing” another to read for “medicinal” purposes or not, once you are reading, you’re going to continue reading something that interests you…otherwise—forced or not—you’re simply going to stop. I would. I am one of many.

Oh, and this “prescription” has a new name: “Bibliotherapy.”

I’m not saying there isn’t a lot of good in this article or all it talks about, and I get it that researchers love having things to research…what I am saying is that doing anything that interests you or that you like doing will improve your well-being, whether it’s reading, walking, or skydiving.

That’s all.

 

 

Canceled Voice Pre-Order

Need I Say More? (By Granny Enchanted [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Need I Say More? (By Granny Enchanted [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

I decided to cancel the Amazon pre-order of Voice, initially expected to be released August 7th. Turns out I only had one pre-order (and it’s a friend of mine and we’d already talked), I still have a lot to do, my proofer is still hard at work, and, well, I’m getting a bit burned out.

So.

I’m gonna take a break from my Voice redlines all of next week. I need to air my head out. Have a lot of things going on and there’s no real reason to [once again] force myself to meet some arbitrary deadline of my own making when there’s no real need. I just thought I’d try it. It’s a cool function.

Voice will get released when it’s ready. Apparently now’s not the time.

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Chicken Before The Egg

Reengineering The Past. (By Hephaystos (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Reengineering The Past. (By Hephaystos (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to be successful at anything. But as I reread some articles as I look for ways to promote Voice, I really had a good laugh from something I’d read from Seth Godin’s 2006 blog post about how book promotion should be done THREE YEARS IN ADVANCE of writing the actual book! These are rules #2 and #10.

Three years!

Now, I totally understand what’s being said, here, but it still made me chuckle!

Of course it makes total sense that if you wanna sell anything that you have to make yourself known so you have a [ready] market. Now, call me Retro or old fashioned, but I still can’t help believe that there’s something’s dreadfully backward about this whole process.

Get famous BEFORE writing your best seller?

Really, this is today’s world?

Am I the only one shaking my head in utter dismay at the paradox of it all (you know, short of being a celebrity)? For me it’s not even about being “famous”…I really don’t care about all that (I severely dislike all pomp and circumstance)…I just want my work to be read. Would love to be able to make a living of this novel writing biz. It’s just the distant-end part of being a writer. You write something…others read it.

Of course what Mr. Godin says should work…but I have four novels out and have been doing this for years and I’m still not reaping the aforementioned pots-of-gold benefits.

There’s also another rule that’s just as important, more so in my humble opinion: rule #17. This one is about marketing, sales, distribution, and risk. This is where I do fall painfully short. Getting my words out there. I am slowly but surely building a following…but it’s gut-wrenchingly slow. You’ve heard it all before, full-time jobs, life, writing. Nothing new here. The word of mouth, the “face time” I’m trying to generate just isn’t traveling at light speed…but it is traveling. Just the other week I was stopped in the street where I live by a neighbor that was reading The Uninvited.  He was so impressed with it and amazed that I had written it! Was surprised at how well I’d done my job…even wondered if I was as “rough mouthed” (can’t remember exactly how he’d put it…) in person as my writing was…though couldn’t fathom it, because we do interact off and on and have for years. I chuckled and told him what you see is how I am! But in my writing, yeah, I’m a little different! He really was beside himself that I had written this book, and it moved me. Thanks neighbor-who-shall-remain-nameless! BTW, this neighbor is also a writer and his work has been held in high esteem in his publishing circles, so he really appreciated it on an author level. Thank you, sir!

Anyway, back to this issue. Maybe when I release Voice things will pick up? It is a sexy thriller and sex sells. But it’s so much more than that…a story of relationships, love. Tragedy and redemption. It’s my most mainstream effort.

But, no matter how I analyze it, it all seems to be about word of mouth—for selling anything, and selling anything well. Timing. And, sure, anyone can pick anything apart, but come on, call it grass roots, blogging, interviews, whatever. It seems to me that it really doesn’t matter how much promotional and marketing platforms one has…how much of a “sure thing” one thinks they have…word of mouth and timing seem to be the torpedo or bouyancy that can sink or swim one’s efforts. And maybe I should go one step beyond and say just knowing about all this isn’t the magic bullet…but getting everyone else out there who hears about it to buy and like it is the magic bullet.

People telling people.

It’s the ground fire that sweeps beneath everything—no matter what’s going on on top—if there’s a ground fire beneath, it’ll burn, baby, burn. Ground fires are tougher to put out than surface fires.

In addition to all this is all this platform talk, which is great for nonfiction writers, but I kinda find it insane for the fiction writer. Curiously, Mr, Godin doesn’t specifically talk about that—which I like—but he does talk about building a following, etc. Yeah, we all have something we’re passionate about, but what if you just wanna write a great story—you just wanna entertain?

Platforms? Fiction writers don’t need no stinking platforms….

Yeah, right, say the opposition.

One of my brothers and I had this discussion a couple years ago. He asked some good questions. What do I stand for? What’s my selling point? If I were to be selling my work to someone like me…what would that a “me” want? Good stuff, everything. But nowadays in the traditional world it’s more than just having a good book and that book itself generating talk among people.

Can you sell a million out of the gate? That‘s the new deal.

And I’m not naive about any of this, already know about it, but it just kinda hit me from a different angle. “Defining myself” is a great way of attacking the situation, as much as I claim I want to hit as many readers as possible—because this is true (and, agents and publishers, what’s so wrong about that?). I do want my work read by more than just the SF/F/H or visionary/speculative fiction contingent. I want it read by everyone. Call my work “mainstream” or “fiction,” it doesn’t matter to me. Pick up a copy of Voice and see what you think.

One could get metaphysical about it all and propose that it’s not so much the Herculean physical effort that is needed…not the physical “time spent” that is needed…but the mindset…and I can’t argue that. And I have no answer as to why with all the mindset adjustments I’ve [thought I’ve] made over the years that more books aren’t selling from my hands (which typically isn’t exactly true: I find that in most situations when I’m actually handselling books, I do manage to sell a few! So the obvious inference is that I need to get out there…). Obviously, I’m not doing something right in getting my shit “out there.” But the one thing I am doing right is writing.

So, getting back to Seth Godin’s comments…apparently I need to:

Find more ways to promote myself three years ago.

Write more blogs three years ago.

Get on more radio three years ago.

Attend more conferences three years ago.

Devote all my waking hours to everything promotional and marketiering three years ago.

Basically, I need to change my past.

Well, I’m working on that….

What Kind of Writer are You?

Writer's Block 1

Serenity Now! (Photo credit: NathanGunter)

A couple of years ago I read a post from a well-known writer about the “two kinds” of writers that supposedly exist…and I couldn’t believe my eyes. What perhaps bothered me the most about the post was the OCD-like rehashing of all the points made in the beginning of the post…continually pummeled throughout the rest of it (yes, it was looong…). And it went beyond just defining a writer’s genre, but into the realm of how many books you have in you and the heavily implied analysis that being one way was outright better than the other way, and yada x 3….

Reading that post and revisiting a blog post I was going to write-up-about-it-then-but-forgot-about brought me back to all the writer conferences I’ve attended and all the discussions on this subject I’ve been a part of. It is a good question…what kind of a writer are you?

Are you a one-book writer…or in it for the long haul? And is one way better than the other? One genre better than another?

Agents and publishers want (and okay, need) to pigeonhole you, nail you to a wall with all these publishing metrics, because they have to figure out where to fit you into their business plans…their promotion and marketing of you. But once you get past all that…how do you define your writing? Your “authorness”?

And is it any reason to get hung up on said definitions?

Should it matter to you that you fit into someone elses description of who you are?

There are many out there not directly within your publishing food chain who like to slice and dice and nitpick and analyze and delineate to death whether someone has one or two or three books in them and whether one is in it for “the long haul.” Some people are just oriented that way (numbers and stats)…while some like to rack-and-stack their competition and see where we all fit in. Some use this information to feel superior about where they feel they are in their self-described (and oft lauded) hierarchy. You know the bit: I have sexier shoes…I look better in that outfit than you…I have more (and better defined) muscles…my car’s got more horsepower.

Don’t get caught up in that game.

Figure out your genre, then just write and don’t worry about your “label.” About where you fit into somebody else’s grand literary schema. If you want to publish—publish. You can Indie publish now, so you can define where you think you best fit. Publish one or two or a hundred books. It doesn’t matter.

What should matter is the quality of your work.

Starting A New Novel

Heading Back Into The Woods.... (By Anne LaBastille, 1938-, Photographer [NARA record: 1422473] [U.S. National Archives and Records Administration] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Heading Back Into The Woods…. (By Anne LaBastille, 1938-, Photographer [NARA record: 1422473] [U.S. National Archives and Records Administration] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

As I finish up Voice and consider which new novel to start, many thoughts run through my head. On the one hand, there’s the part of me that just chompin’ at the bit to get ready to start…then there’s this other voice that questions: can I do this again? Will it be as good as my previous efforts?

What do I want to spend the next two-three years of my life working on?

Yes, three years.

I write novels part-time, since I hold a day job. Now, I’ve managed to whittle a little off that over the years, so it’s more like two-and-a-half years, and I haven’t worked anything brand new start-to-finish since ERO, so, really, who knows how much more effective I’ve become. Voice, set to be released this summer, was originally written in 1997-1999. So, in the interests of readers like Mandy and Edie, I’m going to try something a little different…if it pans out. I’m going to try to do a little outlining. I’ve tried this before, and it failed. And by “failed” I mean I began just staring at blank screens and sheets of paper. It became too much like my tech writing life: work. So, I’d been blocking the outlining effort. Once I realized that and just organically began writing…just sitting down to the keyboard and writing whatever came to me…then it all worked.

So…I may try a hybrid approach and see how it goes…if it goes any faster. I know, technically, it shouldn’t be about getting things done faster…as long as the quality doesn’t suffer…but I really would like to get more efficient at putting books out! So, let’s look at it as being more efficient. When it’s all said and done, I figure were I to write full-time it would take me about a year to write what now takes me two-three. And, I really do like living the lives of most of my characters (not the bad guys/gals) and the story itself, so I’m really not in any huge hurry….

…in fact, as I write this…perhaps it’s become more of a habit than a necessity. After all, for most of my writing career the goal has always been to get a novel, any novel—just one—out there, for chrissakes. But, now, since I’ve gone full-monty Indie and have four-soon-to-be-five novels out, there is no urgency to hurry…to kill myself as it were…in getting these books out there.

And, if I (or my readers) really get antsy to release new work, I can always compile my better short stories and publish those…which is something I’ve considered over the years. That may very well happen, especially the more I think about it.

So, for now, I’m mulling over which project to start next. I think I know which one I’ll start…have actually begun looking back into it (it’s already partially begun, back in 2011, actually), but getting Voice out is still consuming my time and efforts (have to complete the back cover copy, incorporate Mandy comments, get the cover art done, format it for e-book and trade paperback—and keeping up with blog posts!). And, once I get it out there, I’m going to do my best in better promoting it and my other works. I know, all the traditionalists scream I should have already been doing all that months ago, but I never make things easy on myself and I hate being told what to do. I’m just me…trying to squeeze in writing and promotion into all the other things I have to do in a day…with little-to-no-real-budget. So, it is what it is, maaan. And the good thing about Indie publishing is that no matter what you do or don’t do, a book is not going out of print unless the world ends or the publishing arms goes under. So, new is new to readers who discover a book at the onset of its release…or years later. It really doesn’t matter. And I want to enjoy my life and significant other rather than burning the midnight oil and killing myself trying (like I used to) to complete a novel then hit every frigging promotional/marketing milestone dead on. I’ll get to it when I can physically get to it.

So, I guess I answered my own questions, huh?

Oh, by the way, I’ll be at the following events in Colorado Springs and Denver this year:

Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Library Publish Your Own eBook Panel, October 10, 2015

Denver’s MileHiCon47, October 23-25, 2015

I may be contacted at fpdorchak at fpdorchak dot com for review copies, interviews, speaking engagements, and whatnot. If you want some cover art.

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