Writing is Worse than Puberty

When I hit middle school, my voice habitually creaked like a poorly-lubricated door (cliché simile). It was awful. I never had a problem getting taller or growing facial hair.  I never had to deal with acne. But my voice cracked pretty often. Chicks dug it (kidding).

Along with the physical effects came other things. I ate like an Ethiopian horse, housing two lunches a day and snacking like a fiend. My mind was out of whack. Seeing yourself morph from a smooth-faced child to a hairier, manlier, somewhat-adult-like thing is startling. Thankfully, I’ve stopped growing in that sort of way, being 19. But I’m faced with a new phase.

My ability to write has taken a dive (euphemism). Since January, I’ve been unable to write. Since January, guys. When there was snow on the ground. Here in Jersey, it’s just now starting to cool down again. At the beginning of this phase, I was so full of inspiration. The only issue I had was getting words down. Neither my vision nor my excitement wavered. But after sitting down quite literally every day with nothing but a paragraph at most to show for it by the day’s end day after day, I began to become discouraged. I didn’t initially see this as a problem because it didn’t feel like a problem. Progress was slim, but I came to the keyboard excited to write. I had the whole second act of the novel plotted out thoroughly, so it’s not like I didn’t know where I wanted to take it. I was only facing a nuisance. Surely it would get better.

It didn’t. My frustration grew. The excitement to sit and write wavered because I wasn’t making progress. I sought a solution. My best friend proposed that I step away from the page for a few weeks rather than force myself to write. I stepped away. I returned just as inspired, but just as stuck. My lovely girlfriend troubleshooted the potential root causes of the block with me time and time again. Again, my spirits were lifted, but the results did not change. My author-cousin recommended that I skip around in the story and fill in the gaps later. I wrote maybe five pages by his recommendation, then hit a block.

Recently, I spoke with a mentor of mine and he suggested that I pursue another project altogether to get the creative juices flowing (cliché). His advice pushed me into a project I had considered pursuing for a month or so. Now, I have a new document with a new outline and new notes. My original story was written in an elaborate, detail-heavy style. Frankly, that’s my writing voice. That’s how I write. (Take a look for yourself here, if you’re interested). This new pursuit has me writing more directly, with a snappier pace.

And that’s where I’m at. I wrote the first chapter in about a week. It’s been 2-3 weeks since then, and the second chapter isn’t coming along.

I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m just expressing my woes. I’m not. I’m letting you know what’s up, and if it sounds like it bothers me, it’s because it does. I’m at a loss. My ability to write this story disappeared over night. I don’t know how, but it did. And as I struggle to make progress on this new endeavor, I wonder if I’ve lost it all together.

Puberty was an inevitable phase. By the time I was done with it (or rather, by the time it was done with me), I was different person. At the end of this road, will creative writing be a thing of my past? Right now, it appears that this phase is something that’s out of my hands, as it’s been going strong since January.  What is this phase? Transition into adulthood? I don’t know. I became a man when I watched Braveheart for the first time, so it can’t be that.

I’m going to consider coming back to WordPress. It won’t be nearly in the same capacity as before because I am a student pursuing personal and professional endeavors, but I am going to consider it. I miss you lovely ladies and classy gents. I want to reconnect in a new way.

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

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Farewell for Now

Right now, WordPress is not where I am supposed to be.

*where are you supposed to be, J.J.?!*

That’s the part I’m working on, disembodied voice.

When I first started this blog, I would spend my days drafting posts and exploring WordPress for cool blogs and bloggers and tracking stats and reading up on how I could bolster my content. I was invested day-to-day. That’s not where I am. The heart of this blog is my writing, and my writing is suffering. Why? I’m not too sure, but I aim to work on the writing. Otherwise, this blog is just talk, and that’s not what I want it to be. I want it to be a chronicle of action. Right now, the action is stagnant. I want to fix that, but I need to get other things in order first.

Thank you for your support. If I return, whenever that may be, I don’t expect any of you to tune in again. After all, you can only dip out so many times before your friends (even internet friends!) have had enough. Even still, if some of you do catch me again, I would hope that you say hello. It’s been a wonderful ride and I am well aware that I’m bumming some people out, but I can assure you that however bummed some may be, they’re not as bummed as I am about this situation.

I have a book to write.

Best regards,

J.J. Azar

Novel Excerpt #2: Campfires at Midnight

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents!

Earlier this week, I presented two options as to which excerpt from my novel-in-the-works you would be interested in taking a gander at. The competition was close, as it was last time, but the majority of you fine individuals selected Choice #1, pulled from a chapter titled, “Campfires at Midnight.” Thanks to all who voted! The excerpt’s summary is as follows:

Clarence and Kairi settle down by firelight to unwind after a long day’s travel. But the night is prolonged when Kairi pulls out a bottle of uju…

I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Any thoughts on the passage would be greatly appreciated.

Without further ado, here it is!

(Word count: 1190)

____

The flame ignited with a spectral moan.

Kairi’s pretty face appeared in the darkness and she lifted her eyes to look at Clarence. Her features glowed in the yellow firelight, blue eyes sultry as ever despite the faint circles that underlined them. The chill in the air was already melting away. The sight, the warmth, even the sound of the quiet crackling fire was a comfort to Clarence. And yet, he couldn’t help but pay mind to the tightness blooming in his chest like a thorny rose. He could be around fire with a sane mind; of that he was sure. He had spent countless nights beside campfires and countless days beside inn hearths since the accident without incident. Even still, the episode he suffered two nights ago instilled upon him new fear. A vision stroke, Bechamel had called it. Clarence hadn’t a reason to suspect that sitting beside a calm fire would trigger an inadvertent attack, but a caution lingered.

Kairi must have noticed, because she gasped a feminine gasp. Women had a habit of reading faces. “I forgot! Let me put it out.”

“I’m alright, I promise,” Clarence insisted with a raised hand. The heat felt nice pulsing against his skin.

Kairi tightened her brows at him. “Are you certain?” she asked, voice steady. “I do have the means of keeping you warm if we put it out.”

Clarence couldn’t help a wolfish grin from sprouting across his face. He raised a considering finger to his lips. “Do you?”

Kairi nodded, her rich blonde hair reflecting glints of gold radiating from the fire. Her grin was just as mischievous as his. Maybe moreso. The girl broke her crouch and settled her knees on the cavern floor so she could reach her bag which lay a couple of paces away. She grasped the sack and pulled it towards her, a feat that would have proven significantly more difficult had the bag been filled to its capacity as it was when the trio had departed two nights ago. Food went quicker than the wind, it seemed, but Kairi assured Clarence that there was plenty left. He had yet to lay eyes on the contents of the sack himself, of course. He didn’t believe that touching a woman’s bag was proper, really. That was just one of those rules about being a man.

The Gish stuck her hand into the leather bag and removed it after a short bout of clattering. Emerging in Kairi’s grasp was a green bottle large enough to sate a table’s thirst at dinner. Even through the green glass and the glare splayed upon the bottle by the steady fire, Clarence could determine with certainty that the liquid inside wasn’t soka. Soka sparkled like fireworks, and a proper Gish wouldn’t lift a bottle of soka for casual consumption. Not even a fiery spirit like Kairi. “What is it?” Clarence asked.

Kairi traced her finger around the bottle’s corked tip and, through a simmering smile, said, “Uju. Alcohol always makes me feel warm when I drink it.”

Clarence tsked. He pulled a knee to his chest, allowing his other leg to rest extended across the rocky ground. He smiled into Kairi’s face.

“Alcohol doesn’t do anything for me,” Clarence confessed.

“You mean you do not like it?” Kairi asked. The flesh around her eyes contracted ever so slightly. She still wore that melting smile, though. Was she challenging him?

“No,” Clarence replied. “I like it. I like Scotch, sometimes. I just…don’t believe in it.”

Kairi cocked her head sideways. Clarence cocked his head in turn. When had she moved so close to him? The warmth emanating from her skin was hotter than the heat fanning from the crackling fire. “You do not believe it is moral to drink alcohol?” she asked, digging into his eyes with her own.

Clarence hesitated. How could he explain this? Best to come right out and say it. It was midnight, after all. The moon softened hearts. Perhaps Kairi would be open to what he had to say. Fighting to keep his voice stoic, Clarence pronounced, “I don’t believe a man can get drunk the way everyone thinks.” Kairi only stared, her blue eyes locked onto his. Her smile filled her face to her forehead. “You are teasing me,” she determined.

“No!” Clarence resolved. “Think about it. How does a man seem when he drinks?”

“Stupid,” Kairi responded without pausing to find the thought.

“Exactly, he seems stupid. If you give a man an excuse to act stupid, he’ll seize the opportunity. That’s all alcohol is: an excuse. Does it touch the mind in a physical way? I don’t think so.”

Kairi studied him, searching his face for a tell. “You do not believe that.”

Clarence shook his head, expression stony. “I believe it.”

“Then you have never kissed a bottle.”

“I have,” Clarence assured her. “To no effect.”

“Are you drunk?” Kairi asked, black brows drawn down in a tight furrow. “This is how men talk when they are drunk. They speak boldly of things they know nothing about.”

He would show her bold. The green-eyed man released the knee he held to his chest and shifted himself so he was on his hands and knees, a wolf prowling. He leapt atop of Kairi, turning her from her side to her back. She laughed as he slipped his hands into hers. He held her pinned as she had held him, once. Looking down on the girl was a sight. The Gish’s golden hair lay splayed on the cave floor like a wave around her head. Her chest stirred up and down with her breath. Her blue eyes were fixed on his greens. Her smile touched her ears. Clarence leaned in so his nose was a touch away from hers and said, “Men speaking boldly of things they know nothing about? Kairi, you just described a sober man. You see? Alcohol doesn’t change a thing in your head.”

Kairi shrugged her mouth, good spirits pouring through the expression. “I have seen women drink themselves to where their minds tell them to climb atop men they have seldom spoken to. Is that not the work of alcohol?”

The girl’s breath smelled sweet. Like honey. Clarence cocked his head and scanned Kairi’s eyes without any apprehension about his exploration. Her smile told that she was open to being explored, and she seemed to be taking a good look at his eyes as well. Perhaps in a manner more brazen than bold, Clarence dared to say, “If I’m not mistaken, I think I remember a particular girl climbing on top of me with a perfectly sober mind.”

Kairi dropped her jaw. “I was subduing you, Clarence Cash! And it was you who played words with me. I did not make advances.”

Clarence allowed his green eyes to fill with gloating. He had the girl on the defensive, now.

Copyright 2017 J.J. Azar

Thank you for reading!

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

You Choose: Which Story Excerpt Should I Share? (#2)

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents!

Long ago, I posted a poll presenting you fine people with a choice as to which passage of my story-in-the-works you would like to read a sample of. The competition was heated, but the result prompted me to share this excerpt. To my surprise, it was overwhelming well received. You guys humbled me, and I still appreciate that you dedicated a few minutes to read the brief extract. Given that the last time I shared a chunk of my story was in December, I figure it’s time to give it a go once again. After all, this is the place where I share every aspect of my writing journey. This time around, both excerpts are about 1400 words long. So, if you would be so kind, please take a gander at the options below and vote as to which you would be most interested in reading. Or don’t! Low voter turnout never hurt anybody!

tenor.gif

Choice #1, pulled from a chapter titled, “Campfires at Midnight”

Clarence and Kairi settle down by firelight to unwind after a long day’s travel. But the night is prolonged when Kairi pulls out a bottle of uju...

Choice #2, pulled from a chapter titled, “For Cash, For Coin”

After months of labor, Kal is finally prepared to unveil the weapons he painstakingly crafted for Clarence. But what Clarence gets is not what he expected…

Here is the poll!

If you’d like some assistance in making a choice, I can help you out in the comments!

Thanks for voting!

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

The Circumstances

The eleventh chapter of my novel-in-the-works is titled, “The Circumstances.” In the chapter, Clarence Cash awakes after a brush with death to find himself scatterbrained and days behind in his pursuit of a smuggler. Before he mounts his horse to continue his hunt, he evaluates his situation. He evaluates his circumstances. Much the same, I’m assessing my own.

I have not been a present blogger. Worse, I have not been a productive writer. About two months ago, I was both. I was highly interactive with all of you. I was up to date with my Reader. I was cranking out substantial posts two times a week. On the writing side, I was writing every day. I was moving with forward momentum nearly every day.

But the circumstances are different today. My course load this semester has proven far more intense than that of the first. Where I didn’t work a job during my first semester in the interest of advancing my writing (and I did!), I’ve since returned to work. Thus, my time for writing and blogging has been reduced. Not reduced to nothing, but reduced enough to make this post.

Many take breaks from WordPress because they’ve become tired or overworked or uninspired. The case is the opposite for me. I am bursting with energy and posts. I want to rock 120%. The trouble is, academics take precedent, and it’s crucial that I stay diligent for another month and a half.

I’m not putting a hold on blogging. Rather, I’m putting a hold on the promise of a post a week. I won’t have a posting schedule for two months, maximum. I hate to do things this way, but this is how I can best balance college with blogging/writing at this time. I will be around to catch some of your posts, but I can’t say I’m going to check my Reader every day, because I won’t. I hope y’all understand. It’s worth noting that there are a host of bloggers who have stopped by with blogs I want to read and follow and explore, and I intend to do so as soon as possible! After this period, I can assure you that I’ll devise a system so I can be more consistent when life moves faster. I’ll leave you with the final line from Chapter 11: The Circumstances.

“I hope you’re ready for an adventure, because I see adventure on the horizon.”

~J.J. Azar

January Writing Update and My New Deadline

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents!

At the end of December, I laid out a game plan after I failed to meet my self-imposed first-draft deadline. Since then, I’ve done my best to make the changes pinpointed in the post. Let’s see how I fared.

A Writing Environment. Done. Despite not raising enough money to build a writing barn, I’ve located two ideal writing spots in my home. Both are comfortable. Both have outlets within range. All is well. (Thank you to the anonymous donor who contributed 18 cents to my writing barn. Maybe next year).

A Set Writing Time. Done. I’ve determined that it would serve me best to write at night, after the day’s obligations have been fulfilled. Thus, I no longer open my writing document when I know I won’t be able to write anything. It sounds like common sense, but I was previously in a rut of clicking the doc, scrolling, and abandoning it because I didn’t have a window of time during which I could work on it. This makes the time when I do open the document more precious.

Exercise. Done. I’ve been going to the gym Monday through Thursday and working out at home over the weekends. I’m committed. It’s good stuff.

Focus on Demand. NOT done. Won’t be done. Impossible. Sounds too close to drugs. I don’t do drugs.

YouTube. Kind of done. I’ve chilled out with the YouTube. With everybody losing their minds over the state of politics here in the US, I’ve withdrawn for my own sanity, cutting down on YouTube significantly. So that’s good.

BioShock. Done. I haven’t touched the thing. I can’t wait to return to it though!

Snapchat. Highly controlled. It isn’t consuming as much of my time as it once was. Trust me, I’m good 🙂

Blogging (while writing)Highly controlled. Something’s clicked in my head and I’ve applied more focus into the novel-in-the-works when it comes time to write.

Not bad, eh? Now, about the writing…

The month of January thrust an array of new things into my lap virtually all at once: a challenging semester, a triumphant return to work, a classy lady, etc. With that, I’ve adopted a disciplined mindset to adjust to all of these things. It’s the writing I’m still trying to figure out. As it stands, I’m at a crucial moment in my novel. I’m about to introduce Carmengrove, a town which serves as a major setting in this story and will serve as a major setting in stories to come. I want to ensure that I understand the town’s workings and populace before I put a word to paper. I need Carmengrove to live and breathe. And so, every time I open up the document, I find myself taking notes and building up the setting. This preparation may be stalling the writing progress as it’s measured by page count, but it’s a necessary part of the process, so I’m entirely fine with it. That’s the deal with my writing. I’m sliding back into it, and I’m more excited than ever!

Finally, I’ve locked down the new deadline for the first draft of my novel-in-the-works. The date is…

36b1d2ff2cd00f70958ecda72d0f7c56
Drum roll please!

JUNE 15, 2017.

It’s nowhere near as dynamic as the previous deadline of January 1st, 2017, but it’s my deadline! Why June 15th? Frankly, June 15th is one month after I finish my Spring semester of college. I don’t want to cram the deadline into the school year (because it worked so well last time 😉 ). I figure this date gives me plenty of time to finish up this first draft! I am being patient with myself, and I hope you’ll be patient with me.

That’s the January Writing Update for ya, folks! I hope the first month of the year treated you well.

Thank you for reading.

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

A Missed Deadline, A Hard Look

I drafted this post one week ago. One week ago, I conceded that I would not be able to complete the first draft of my novel-in-the-works by January 1st. Originally, the tone of this post was somber and slow. I wrote it late at night and it read like a bummer. So I scrapped it entirely and rewrote it in light of reflection. Here’s what I’ve got.

____

I kicked ass this month. From December 1st to December 21st, I was getting 4-5 hours of sleep because I was writing into the early hours of the night. Through these 21 days, I was ill and amidst Finals season. Nonetheless, in face of the phlegm, the sleep deprivation, and the Latin (blast you, Latin!), I was happy, driven, and willing to work into the early hours. I made bounds. Picture an artist splattering paint onto a canvas with a stupid grin on his face. That kind of progress. “Oui oui. Zees is amour!” (Do I have any followers from France? I know I have Canadians and Aussies and Brits and Turks, but where are the Frenchmen at?!)

On December 22nd, I boarded a plane for California. (I don’t believe I’ve yet mentioned that I lived in the Golden State for four years. To quote Dave Matthews, “I got people here.”) This may sound familiar to you because I wrote a post the following day about how I wrote five hours on the plane.

Upon arriving, I gave my situation some thought. I hadn’t reached the home stretch of the story. I hadn’t set myself up for a knockout on January 1st. Thus, I decided that it would make the most sense to put the writing aside so I could fully enjoy my time with friends and family. I’ve made some writing progress in spare moments, but I’ve largely put the novel-in-the-works to the side for the duration of the trip. My efforts have been focused on one chapter, which begins, “It was a horse-faced lady wearing a housewife’s apron who pointed the boys to Carmengrove.” 

So I’m here in Cali for a couple more days before I fly back to Jersey (where we say cawfee and wahta). Once I return, I’ll be back into writing mode. But things need to change. I made a strong effort to write consistently for the better part of December, but I hadn’t exercised that level of resolve prior. I wrote, no doubt about it, but I didn’t make it a point to write every day with such ferocity. I’ve taken this week to reflect and evaluate what I can do moving forward to blaze the trails of ink. It’s taken a hearty dose of honesty to reach some of these determinations, but I’m a believer that honesty is better than any alternative. Here goes.

For the sake of organization, I’ve pinpointed changes that need to be made in terms of both addition and omission.

Addition

Let’s start with addition. I asked myself, what am I lacking that I need?

  • A Writing Environment

My buddy Aurelius has been a huge supporter of my writing journey. He’s given me a book on publishing, talked shop with me, and asked for updates as to my progress. When I recently told him I didn’t expect to meet my deadline, he presented me with the “environment over effort argument,” something articulated by James Clear. Aurelius summed it up as follows:

It’s this idea that personal willpower is an imperfect basis for important habits. It’s better to construct an environment that facilitates the habit and to immerse yourself in it. Stephen King writes in a barn that just has a desk and a window in it.

Aurelius has a point. I am driven. (Sure, I talk, but I talk because I’m sharing my journey with you. There’s work to show for the talk. You can see my progress updated weekly on my Projects page and I dedicate a post a month to my progress alone.)

Still, my drive is not infallible (My Latin grade is evidence of that. Blast you, Latin!). I need an environment which facilitates the drive. In other words, I need to make my life easier. When I return to Jersey, I’m going to scout my house and find the best area where I can write with minimal external distraction and maximum convenience. I’ll need an outlet nearby for my laptop charger and a nice chair. Of course, I can scrap all that if I build a writing barn. If anybody would like to loan me money for a writing barn, you can email me at jjazarauthor@gmail.com.

So that’s the first thing: I’ll need a writing spot. If floating around helped me to write, I would float around, but it doesn’t. Thanks, Aurelius.

  • A Set Writing Time

My status as a student prevents me from designating an hour-based time block to my writing. I can’t declare 8 PM a writing time because sudden assignments and due dates prevent me from operating that way. It just won’t happen. Still, I recognize that I need structure. I need a routine to facilitate and focus my drive.

I’ve determined that I write best at night, when there are no longer any non-writing obligations for me to fulfill. Therefore, I will make it a point to work in the nighttime in my to-be-determined writing environment. Sometimes I’m beat by the time I take care of everything I have to do, but if I wrote 21 days straight in the early hours while sick and after preparing for finals, I think I can manage to implement this dynamic of a set time and place.

  • Exercise

For years, I’ve been on and off with working out. Recently, I’ve been off. I’m healthy, thank God, but I’m not where I want to be. Working out boosts the mood and keeps me sharp. If I want to write this first draft and beyond, I’m going to need to be in top shape.

The addition in this case is straightforward: my university has a decked-out gym. I’ve resolved to use it as soon as I return from break. This semester, I have classes four days a week. I will make it a point to go to the gym every day before I leave campus.

A healthy writer is a happy writer.

  • Focus on Demand

Writers know the joyous feeling of flow. Sometimes, we are able to reach a happy place and write without stopping, without hesitation. It’s a beautiful thing. When the ocean of bliss subsides, we notice the clock and sit dumbfounded. “I was writing for that long?” I want to reach that sweet spot as often as possible.

Tam al’Thor of the Wheel of Time series taught his son Rand al’Thor how to enter “the Void,” a state of extreme focus. I long for the Void, yet I don’t know how to grasp it. As of now, the Void falls into my lap whenever it pleases. I want the Void to fall into my lap whenever please. Well, the Void or a leggy lady. One of the two.

If anybody has any insight into focus and concentration methods, particularly as they pertain to writing, I would be delighted if you would share them.

Omission

I asked myself, what do I have which I do not need?

  • YouTube

80% of my YouTube consumption is related to politics (didn’t you hear that the U.S. is having quite an interesting time with politics and things?). I’ve always been one to keep informed, but YouTube is a time-drain.

Solution: My dad will keep me in the loop. He has a knack for picking out the truth through all of the smoke and mirrors. I’ll still be reading news for my Politics classes, but aside from that, I haven’t the time to bother with fiction peddled by the nightly news. I have fiction of my own to peddle.

  • BioShock

I know, I’m essentially broadcasting my age. I get it, I’m a young lad. But one cannot deny that BioShock Infinite is a freakin’ fantastic Xbox One game. To my credit, I haven’t touched the console this entire month, and I hardly play as it is. Still, it has to be declared: I cannot play BioShock Infinite until a more opportune time. The game is remarkable, but now is not the time.

  • Music Indecision

Before I settle into writing, I like to get music going. The problem is, it often takes me ages to search for the first song to play even though I have an extensive, nearly exclusively instrumental playlist. It needs to stop. This may sound like a small thing, but it’s a tiresome focus leech. I used to write to a loop of a couple of songs. Now I’m back to the basics!

  • Snapchat

My sisters give me crap for this on a daily basis. I just recently returned to Snapchat after a short, frankly pitiful stint years ago during which I actively bored myself using the app. The thing is, this time around, I’m having fun. Yeah, I raise the phone in front of my face to take stupid pictures that will be seen for 10 seconds or less. It’s stupid. I get it. It interrupts my writing. I get it. But keep in mind, I’m not conversing with the Snapchat ghost, I’m conversing with people. A couple of people, to be more specific. As I see it, that’s not a waste of time.

So, maybe I should excommunicate Snapshat from my life, but I’m not quite ready to do that. Depending on how the tides ebb and flow, I may or may not keep on with it. Time will tell.

  • Blogging

“*gasp* JJ, you’re leaving WordPress?!?!”

No, disembodied voice. I will do nothing of the sort. I’m here to stay.

“Darn.”

I appreciate that, disembodied voice. You always have my back.

I’m still going to post twice a week. I’m still going to read your blogs and respond to your comments. I’m still going to compulsively check my stats. The difference is, I won’t do any of this when it’s time to write. It’s always tempting to change tabs and check into the blog when writing gets tough, but I’m just going to have to fight it like how teenage indie-punk artists fight their parents: that is, with passionate angst.

___

In my first blog post, I acknowledged that there would be stumbles. I wrote, “As I brave the Road of Authorship, stumbling over every rock on the way, I invite you to walk alongside me so you can point and laugh and cheer as I fall on my ass and get back up again.”

Yeah, I fell on my ass, but much to my surprise, I haven’t disappointed myself. Rather, I’m optimistic. I have a sober plan and method ready to be implemented. I hope I haven’t disappointed any of you. Your encouragement, advice, and immensely kind words fueled me through this entire month. I cannot express my thanks adequately enough. Thank you. I hope you decide to stick with me as I continue this grand, exciting journey.

I promise to share a new, reasonable deadline by the end of this month.

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

 

I Am Writing

The following is what I expect my WordPress experience to be every time I post something.

*walks on stage to a silent crowd*

“So…ah…”
mag7coburnmcqueen.gif

END

To my surprise, my expectations have been wildly exceeded. Thanks for that.

Since day one, I’ve made a conscious effort to keep from putting out any “throw away” posts. I understand the utility of such posts, but I’ve elected to keep things real so that when you lovely ladies and classy gents click on a post of mine, you can always expect something substantial (The Jesting Parables have not quite met my standard of substance, but they are remnants of me attempting to find my footing blog-wise. You won’t catch me posting another).

With that, I figure it’s perfectly fair to say I’m holding off on sharing another planned post in the interest of working on my novel. Given that this is my blog, everything is fair by definition, but you know how I feel about technicality (see last week’s hummus analogy in my post about Violence) [<—probably the last time I will ever use those words in that order].

My point is I’m writing. I’m writing hard. I wrote 5 hours on a plane yesterday. If I could have, I would have written 5 hours on a train too, and 5 hours more in Spain, and 5 more in the rain, and 5 more still in a crane (the construction device, not the bird. That would be weird). I’m enjoying myself immensely. It’s challenging, but it’s a joy. With the holidays here, I figure y’all are busy regardless. I’ll spare you a cerebral post and leave it at that: I am writing.

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

(‘featured image’ Magnificent Seven art by Renato Casaro)

A Brief Excerpt From My Novel-in-the-Works

Hello, lovely ladies and classy gents! Though the competition was close, I can confidently declare a winner following this week’s earlier poll. Based upon the results as of today, Choice #1, pulled from a chapter titled, “To Wrestle With a Starved Bull,” has emerged the victor. Thanks to all who voted! However you cast your vote, I hope you enjoy this brief look at what I’ve been working on. Do keep in mind that the novel is in its first draft, so plenty is subject to change. Regardless, I am proud of what I’ve done with this particular passage. If you have a thought about it, you are welcome to leave a comment. This marks the first time I have shared anything longer than a paragraph or two on the blog, and I am entirely comfortable doing so thanks to the positive interaction I’ve had with you ladies and gents over these last few months.

The only context I will provide for the excerpt is as follows: Clarence is 23. Kairi is about the same age, and she is a member of the Gish tribe.

Without further ado, here it is.

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Clarence saw nothing but lone rocks and tumbling weeds for leagues ahead. Perhaps now, a time free of distraction, was the proper time for he and Kairi to have a rest and talk the situation over. Arjuna had held her pace at a gallop for far too long besides. Intent on slowing the horse, Clarence prodded her with his bootheels, but the creature practically froze in her steps. “Woah!” Unprepared, Clarence was flung forward by the invisible hand of momentum. His legs reached to arc over his head. In the disorienting moment, a sinking sensation commanded his muscles to action. He reached for the leather sword belt around his waist and jerked it enough that it unraveled and fell away from him. Then, as his legs ascended in their damning arc, he reached for Arjuna’s neck and tugged tightly as he could. Gravity pulled him back down to the earth and his groin slammed against the horse’s back. Clarence spilled off of her side with a breathless grunt and toppled into the dirt with a thud.

Clarence pressed his palms against the pit of his belly where excruciating, hollow pain wrenched and twisted like a hot knife. He groaned despite knowing full well that Kairi was watching. Clarence hardly paid a care to the sounds of her scrambling off of the horse. He just lay in the dirt, face twisted in agony and burning scarlet as he rode the wave of pain that only a man could know. The bulging vein throbbing at his temple seemed ready to rupture on top of it all. Blast the horse! In the fiercest grunt he could muster, Clarence rasped, “Arjuna!” The exclamation attached to the name was more implied than anything. His attempt to scold the beast was pitiful.

Rolling in defeat, Clarence tossed from side to back to allow his air-deprived face to siphon what it could from the pink sky. He almost found calm in the view until Kairi’s face interrupted it. Couldn’t she let him suffer alone for a moment? But she was a woman, so she was bound to hover over him and bathe him in nurturing and light touches and assurances until she deemed his color healthy and fed him chicken soup to boot.

“Clarence Cash, you clodhopper! How do you manage to hurt yourself at every step like you are still a toddling child? Pick yourself up from the ground! Look, you are crying! I should have brought a boy from camp to guide the horse!”

The girl was right about the crying. There were tears tracing jagged trails down Clarence’s cheeks. But they were not tears of pain. Well, not all of them. Most were tears of delight. Kairi, the blue-eyed girl who had a presence like a crashing ocean wave, had taken that “chicken soup to boot,” stuffed it in the boot, and sent the shoe bobbing down a river. Why should he be surprised? A man could have better luck predicting the tides, the winds, and the clouds a particular day a year into the future than predicting what a woman might do in a minute.

“I’m not crying,” Clarence laughed as he brushed away tears with a dusty finger. He didn’t feel the slightest bit insulted by Kairi’s scolding. The rosy sky outlined her honey-blonde hair with a glow that dulled much of the edge which had sharpened her words. Surrounded by an easy aura projected by the sky, the girl seemed just that: a girl. And a pretty one, too.

Kairi gathered the space between her dark brows into a tight knot. She needn’t say a word for Clarence to know she demanded an explanation for his rude laughter. A flash of perception flickered in Kairi’s glass eyes and Clarence suddenly knew that he needn’t give an answer. She already knew he was laughing at her. “Clarence Cash, you are worse than a toddling child! You are an infant who needs his mother. Why are you laughing at my face?”

Clarence couldn’t help the laughter rolling from his belly. Perhaps the euphoric relief of recuperating from a knock to the testicles had roused something inside of him, though the thing roused couldn’t have been his brain. After all, any wise man would sooner wrestle with a starved bull than laugh in the face of an angry woman. But Kairi could not actually be angry. Could she?

Clarence sat himself up and wiped away a final tear. Dirt was smudged across his face, painting him filthier than he already was. He was long due for a bath. Long due. As for why he was laughing…“Don’t worry about it,” he assured Kairi through a boyish grin.

The Gish girl, perched at a squat, eyed him with her lips pressed in defiance. Clarence eyed her in turn, wearing his grin as a mask. The girl didn’t budge. She just stared with her vast eyes, stared as if the cool blue of her irises was an elemental force. But Clarence did not intend to sit there until he was buried under the avalanche. Or swallowed by the hurricane. Whichever happened to emerge from those formidable eyes, Clarence had no desire to be in its path. Not now, not ever. A starved bull before an angry woman any day.

Copyright 2016 J.J. Azar

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From there, things escalate, but as is implied by the nature of an excerpt, that’s all I have for you today 😉

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar

You Choose: Which Story Excerpt Should I Share?

Ahoy, lovely ladies and classy gents! I hope all is well. If you’ve read my November Writing Update, you know that I’m working on my novel at full-capacity. Because I’m in story-writing mode, I figure there is no better time to share with you a piece of what I’m working on. On Friday, I will extend to you a short (2-3 page) excerpt from my novel-in-the-works so you could get a taste of what I’ve been up to! Here’s the catch! 

You (yes, you!) get to decide which excerpt I will feature. There is a poll below where you can vote for either snippet. Before you make your choice, you may want to take a gander at the info below, as it may help you to identify the excerpt you might be more interested in reading.

Choice #1, pulled from a chapter titled, “To Wrestle With a Starved Bull”

Clarence receives a knock to the family jewels due to his horse’s abrupt stop. Much to his dismay, Clarence can do nothing but writhe in pain in front of his new companion, Kairi. An exchange ensues.

Choice #2, pulled from a chapter titled, “For Cash, For Coin”

Kal, who was featured last week in a Character Tag, is caught in the middle of a lab accident. He is severely wounded. The description of his injury is graphic in nature, so this excerpt isn’t ideal for those who are squeamish.

Here’s the poll! 

(for WordPress users, you can vote without having to follow a link if you view this post outside of Reader).

If you voted, thanks for voting! If you didn’t…why didn’t you? It’s free. I’ll see you on Friday!

As always, stay classy.

~J.J. Azar