Friday, November 25, 2011

The Story That Became A Story

Previously I had written a fictional story and placed it here on my blog. Several people had read it and enjoyed it. In an effort to gain more readers for the blog I decided to submit the story to a blog of English speaking writers based in Peru. My thinking was that perhaps I could expose my writing to more people and gain some constructive criticism that would help improve the story. I did this on a whim and didn't really read the kind of stories that they wrote which would have helped me in the long run.

When I received the criticism from three of the writers I was stunned at what they said. As a matter of fact, I had trouble getting through the volumes of notes that they left because of how angry it made me. Then I had to sit back and think about why I was so angry when reading their comments. Was it just because it was criticism? Was that what I was bristling about? It was not, after all I was expecting some criticism, just not that massive volume that came. Was it because I thought that my story wasn't so good after all? Perhaps I didn't feel my story was good enough? No, none of those things were what I was feeling.

Ultimately I came to the conclusion that it was because not only did they not "get" where I was coming from but that they seemed to want me to write it the way that they would have. I know my writing style isn't very classical or even common but everybody has their own way of writing and mine is what it is. It's not my place to say if another person's style is good or not, after all it's theirs not mine. Their notes were laden with comments about what they would like in the story, more dialogue, less big words, more about the mother and basically at the end for me to wrap it all up in a nice neat package that explained everything to them.

What they missed was the idea that this was about a man remembering a time when he was young that totally changed what he thought he knew about his life. It was perhaps the very first time that he looked at what went on around him without blinders covering his vision. It was about him starting to realize that there was a lot bigger picture than he could ever have conceived. It was not supposed to answer all of the questions, instead it was supposed to make you question the assumptions you had made when reading the story. It was simply dropping the reader in the middle of a small piece of this persons life without giving a back story. The idea is to challenge the reader to keep up and come up with your own ideas for what had gone on in the boy/mans life.

In the future I'm going to have to do some research and make my choices better when sending anything I've written out to be criticized. After all, you wouldn't want a romance author telling you what's wrong with a sci-fi story would you? I also plan on sifting through the large amount of notes and eliminating the comments about how they wanted it and instead look for those that can actually improve my story. There are some in there and I just need to go through and draw them out. Then I'll bring the story back in it's new and (hopefully) improved state. It will have to be soon however because there is a writing competition coming up in about two months and I'd like to submit my story, if it's ready. That's a big if.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mortality Has Reared It's Ugly Head

This year I've been feeling my mortality for the first time, and not because I turned forty-seven yesterday. Earlier in the year my wife had a blood clot on her brain and it really made me look at life and assess where I am in my own life. Yes I did realize that I have more than likely already lived more than half of my allotted time and I haven't accomplished much of what I want to. What I learned is that the clock is ticking. Clearly most people end up frustrated in life, not doing the things they would most like to be able to do. We get stuck in jobs we really would rather not do just to pay our bills. After all, it costs (a lot) to pay for a mortgage and associated bills, vehicles and gas, phones, food, clothes....this list could keep on going. The trick is to find a way to pay those bills while doing something that you enjoy. I'm not there yet.

Years ago when I worked at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, WV my co-workers and I would laugh and joke about men (okay doctors) that would go through a mid-life crisis. These men always bought either a sports car or motorcycle and tried to look younger than they were. Now I feel that I understand them a lot better. Some of them clearly were trying to regain a part of their youth, a time when they were much happier, but they tried to do it by purchasing things instead of finding things that they like. That can only help superficially, smoothing the outside image that a person sends out without discovering what actually makes them happy. Also, it's usually at mid-life when you have the money to spend on these things, unless you're me. I've always been a late bloomer in life.

As for the others who were actually just trying to enjoy life more, well my experiences this year have made me think about what was really important in life. It isn't the things you accumulate, that you own. As a matter of fact those things usually end up owning you. You end up chasing the most recent, newest model or the coolest new gadget. I think it's much more important to be with people that you love and who enhance who and what you are. Basically, if you surround yourself with cool people you'll enjoy life more. Where you live, what you drive, your social status, none of those things are important to me. Making a huge sum of money while nice isn't that important either. What good does it do to make a million dollars a year if you work eighty hours a week and never get to see your family and friends? You never get to see your favorite band or go to the beach or see your child grow.

Believe me, if I could pay my bills off and find a way to support my family on a smaller budget I'd move to Peru right now. The cost of living is lower and there are so many beautiful things to see. I have many ideas that I need to work on, perhaps one of them could be the one to allow me to get paid to do what I like. You can write a hundred movie scripts but if nobody is willing to buy one, well you can't pay your bills with that. It seems that we always need a little help in one form or another to make our dreams and ideas work. Of course you have to put in the effort first to be properly prepared and make it easy for someone to say yes to those ideas. There are untold masses out there who have talent so you have to come with more than that. Determination and a strong will are necessary and even then you aren't guaranteed to succeed. The hardest thing is to find that someone who can help make it happen especially when you don't have any contacts in that field.

All I can do is keep working and planning and doing my research. At least then I can say that I gave it my best effort no matter what the outcome is. You can try and succeed or fail, but if you don't try you can only fail. Besides, if you throw enough crap against the wall eventually some of it will stick. Anybody out there who wants to help show me the way?

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Nice, Easy Going Day For Once

Last Saturday turned out to be a pretty good day for me. First, a friend from another ward at church asked me if I wanted to help take the Boy Scouts to the Marshall University vs Tulsa University football game. Since I had lived in Huntington and volunteered at Marshall’s radio station (WMUL) I of course said yes. It turned out that the tickets were free for us and I only had to forego a little sleep because the game was at 11 AM. We ended up having more adults than scouts. I showed up wearing my Marshall t-shirt and my Tulsa hat but ended up keeping the shirt covered by my zip up hoodie due to (a) the extremely windy and cool conditions and (b) the fact that Marshall got the snot beat out of them. It was if they didn’t practice or even watch any game film. Still, it was the first time I’ve been to a football game in four or five years and it was nice to get out with friends.

We ended up leaving the game a little early, which normally I loathe to do, but it was clear that Marshall had no chance to come back and win and it was rather cool in the wind so I agreed. After I got home I took a short nap until my wife and son got home and they ended up falling asleep so I got on the computer with my headphones and watched the UFC preliminary fights on Facebook. It was the first time I have ever done this and it wasn’t a bad experience. During the breaks between fights I would do something else until the next fight started. Then it was time for the main event, the heavyweight title fight between the champion Cain Velasquez and the challenger Junior Dos Santos. This looked to be an exciting fight and was tabbed to be the only one shown on the inaugural UFC show live on Fox. In order to explain the sport to those who had never seen it before (this was the first time MMA was ever shown on free television in the U.S.) there was a lot of footage showing who the fighters are and where they came from. The diehard fans (like me) would of course preferred that they had shown more fights but hey, it was free so I won’t complain (too much).

Unfortunately I had run out of time. My brother Tommy and his son Chris came to pick me up and we went downtown to Joe Mammas Pizza. A band led by Tommy’s co-worker was playing and he wanted to go and show some support. Although the music style wasn’t what any of us would regularly listen to it was nice to go hang out, listen to live music, eat some pizza and soak up the atmosphere. As we get older things like this just don’t seem to happen enough which speaks loudly about how convoluted our lives have become. We spoke with Tommy’s co-worker between sets and stayed for a little while longer before calling it a night. I made it home while my wife and son were still awake and we spent some time together too. All in all it was a nice day. Not too hectic but not too slow paced either. I had no deadlines to meet or someplace that I had to speed to get to. It showed me how important it is to periodically get away from it all, relieve the stress and relax. Trust me, the way things have been going lately that is something that I sorely need. The trick now is to make it happen more frequently. By the way, Dos Santos beat Velasquez by technical knockout in one minute and four seconds. Just wished I could have stayed home a few minutes longer and seen it.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cleaning Up The Ipod

I've been cleaning up my Ipod lately, trying to determine what songs to keep and which ones to get rid of. I have a really bad habit of putting an entire album by an artist on there and forgetting about it. Since my Ipod is only 8 gigs and I also have many podcasts I listen to it doesn't take much to fill it up anymore. What I end up doing is making a list of the songs on the album and then I listen to and mark which ones to get rid of. Although this was easy for a lot of artists, there were a few that I have encountered which were very difficult to decide on. Some albums are so good from the first track to the last that I just can't hardly decide which songs to get rid of.

With that in mind I decided to start writing down those that proved to be a challenge and so far the list below is what I've come up with. It is by no means a final list as I am sure I will find more later (I'm only halfway through the alphabet so far) but here it is for your consideration in no particular order:

Alejandro Escovedo - A Man Under The Influence I was first able to see Al in 2001 at The Mountain Stage and bought this cd at the merch table. Every song is outstanding. His lyrics are amazing and I find his songs very personal.

The Skoidats - The Times When I started doing my ska and reggae radio show at WMUL this cd found it's way to me and I immediately took to it. Thankfully I was able to see them play live before they broke up. Rollicking OI/Ska from Montana.

Jim Carroll Band - Catholic Boy I knew about the song People Who Died from the tv show Fridays but never was able to find the complete album back in the day and then kind of forgot about Jim Carroll. Until about five or six years ago that is. Unbelievable.

Jason & The Scorchers - Lost And Found I bought this cowpunkrock gem on cassette while in college and it still holds up for me after all these years. There's something about this sound that I identify with.

Rush - Moving Pictures My favorite album by one of my top three favorite music acts of all time. It only has seven songs but man, those songs are great. I've seen them seven times in concert and they keep getting better. Intricate music partnered with intelligent lyrics.

Bad Religion - Recipe For Hate Brilliant punk from intelligent people who don't want to just rehash their old stuff. This album is chock full of songs that stay in your head.

Joey Kneiser - The All-Night Bedroom Revival This was a free download and these songs are very sparse, serious acoustic guitar (mainly) alt country.

Helmet - Meantime What a heavy album. Just loud guitars, throbbing bass and pounding drums. They played in D.C. at the 9:30 Club when I didn't know who they were and I couldn't get in because it was sold out. But years later I did see them in Huntington, WV. I played this one loud and often in the early to mid 90s.

The Dropkick Murphys Do Or Die I was able to see the Murphys with original singer Mike McColgan when they were on tour with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and they blew me away. Fierce, anthemic songs about Irish people, drinking and unions. After McGolgan left it wasn't the same for me.

So there it is. The first list of this sort from me. I'm sure there will be more because I'm always finding new (or old) music.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The First New Lyrics of November

I've taken a little time off from the blog but it hasn't been because I lack ideas to write about. Quite the opposite, I have many ideas but not much time to use on them. Also, I've had this feeling, I want to write but when the chance comes I can't bring myself to do it. It's not writers block, more like I allow myself to distract myself and end up running out of time without having accomplished anything. Perhaps that will change with this sudden surge of song lyrics that came pouring out of me last night at work.

I had already clocked out when they broke through and forced themselves onto my consciousness to the point that I couldn't deny them the time. The first came about in a few moments fueled by emotions held barely in check. The second came with an idea for the chorus first then followed by the song. Neither one of them took long (as you can tell) and both are very raw. We'll see what will happen to them in the future, which direction they take. Already I've started writing another song so more than likely parts of them will end up merged together to build one stronger, better song. I hope. That's usually the way it goes.

A Life Like This

The only words I hear you say
Are filled with negativity
The only sounds you make
Express misplaced anger
If that’s all you want to do
Then I’m done with this
I’ve got better things to do
It’s time to walk away
(Was it worth it?)

I don’t want to live
A life like this
I don’t need to live
A life like this

No problem is your problem
No need for made up drama
But there you go again
Making something from nothing
Now I’m sitting here with
My stomach tied in knots
You’re sitting there with
Your high priced excitement
(Was it worth it?)

Where do we go from here
As if there’s someplace to go
My patience it at its end
My head is about to explode
Don’t beat around the bush
Or hint about what you say
I won’t beat around the bush
Let the truth come out
(Is it worth it?)

You Don’t Love Me

Your anger bites sharply
Spit in its venomous zeal
Lashing out at the only one
You know can really feel

You don’t love me
(Do you love me)
You don’t love me
(Do you love me)
You don’t love me
Unless you love me

Will this storm blow over
Like a thousand times before
What does the future hold
I don’t really know anymore

You don’t like me
(Do you like me)
You don’t like me
(Do you like me)
You don’t like me
Unless you like me

If I run away to the hills
Until the wrath and fury are gone
Will you give up the search
Before I finish this song

You don’t know me
(Do you know me)
You don’t know me)
(Do you know me)
You don’t know me
Unless you know me

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.