Writing & Mood + Tunes

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The past couple of weeks had the potential to be much more sinister. Like a swimming pool of sinister. A ravine of sinister. An archipelago of sinister?

The depression returned from its prolonged vacation in fantasy land. It arrived without fanfare, without so much as a warm hello. I felt pretty decent the first quarter of the year, noticeably better than usual. There were a few issues antagonizing me from deep within, but I dealt with them moderately well. I stayed upright and positive. Did a lot of reframing and whatnot. I was doing okay, which is fine by me compared to what it used to be. Then, sans a courtesy text or email, the maniacal beast knocked on my soul, infiltrated my mind. It was as simple as waking up one day and feeling off. Heavy, gutted, exhausted.

Emotions on tilt.

A wasp nest in my head.

I won’t go into all the specifics of depression, I’ve talked about previously, but it had returned in all its debilitating glory, and I was so damn frustrated. I naively allowed myself to believe it might never come back. Delusional? Of course. But this had been a long stretch loosed from the depression. Maybe, just maybe, it would leave me alone for good. Meh, nope. It’s been said (written) that you can never go home again. Unfortunately, mental illness has a detailed map that leads right to your front door. Welcome home, black cloud!

But it hasn’t derailed me. More naps than usual, and the moodiness has revealed itself in various ways. Slipped easily into prolonged introspection and self-pitying sentimentality. But not the I am a worthless hunk of human garbage stuff I’d usually latch onto like an infant to her mother’s arms. And I know the reason why this is not a Level 5 depressive episode that it should be. That I can feel in my gut, that swirling corrosive mass. It’s there, I’m aware of its alluring presence. But here’s the hopeful part: the changes I’ve made this year are playing a role in keeping me afloat. The radically improved diet. The giving up cigarettes. The dedication to taking an antidepressant consistently. And the tools I learned in therapy that I’ve embraced and implemented. All of these have joined forces to help me manage the depression. I might feel down right now, but I’m not on the floor. And I’m writing this post, a good sign!

On the writing front, well, I’ve I actually penned three stories in the last two weeks. That is some serious productivity for a slow-mover like me. They might never get published, but that’s fine. I’m just glad to be putting thought and imagination to paper/screen again after a lengthy hiatus. A quick synopsis of the stories below. I was going to include the titles, but I changed my mind. Maybe bad juju. Or I’m just a weirdo.

* A love story built around the love/hate of certain geometric shapes. Weird as heck, but I had so much fun writing it.

* A tiny blue-collar father/son tale.

* A boy/man who is a bit obsessive about recovering lost things.

One last thing before some music. It might sound corny and whatnot, but if you’re out there suffering from depression, if you’re so sad that you can’t see the light, so sad that you’re spiraling far beneath the surface of ordinary life that you see no way back, hang on and seek help. Reach out to a friend or family member. Make an appointment with a therapist if possible. Read articles about enduring depression. Listen to music, write poetry, go for a walk. Be active, as difficult as that can be when submerged in darkness. Most of all, don’t quit, not on yourself, not on the future. I’ve been where you are right now. I know the hopelessness and self-loathing. You think not one person cares about you. That you are alone in the battle of attrition with depression. That you will always feel this horrible. That the ache will never subside. But it will. Improvement occurs at some point, the sun will rise. But you have to help yourself, you have to take the steps, no matter how small, to remedy your situation. Take responsibility for your pain. You think it owns you, but in truth, you own it, you can win the war if you stay focused and resolute. Stay strong. Believe. Get healthy. Find the beauty inside the struggle. It’s there, a splash of violet behind your eyes, or a burst of orange on window glass. You will never find what you refuse to see. Keep looking.


Love everything about this tune. The transition, the lyrics, it hits close to home.


A slick cover. Adds a layer of smoky desolation to the original.


Man, I really dig their energy and unique sound. Good stuff.

Sunday Prose 5

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I’ve spent more time than usual thinking about writing this week. Not my own writing, I sink into that dark, sloppy, porous ground often, but the prose of others. Or how writers can do things with plot, structure, word choice, cleverness etc… that I can’t. It would be easy to get discouraged when you read outstanding flash fiction. It would be easy to become jealous of other writers depth of skill and the success that follows. And when the depression is broiling in my mind, sometimes that negative junk fills the cranium. The lovely chant of I’m not good enough. I am a worthless hack. I write like a child. My ravishing face is an aphrodisiac to women, men, and the big cats of Africa. Oh, that last one occurs on the narcissistic days not the depressed ones. Oops.

Ultimately, knowing there are über-talented writers out in digital world is a good thing. Not only do I get the opportunity to read a story that moves me at my core, that makes me stare at walls for hours in some kind of emotional trance, but I also get to learn from them. The best way to improve your writing is to read others who do it better. It’s that simple. Peel away the arrogance that all writers wear like a mink parka, and let more accomplished writers illuminate the path with their mastery of precision, thought, imagery, and word manipulation.

This week on Sunday Prose I’ve included six stories instead of the usual three because I’m going to switch these posts to once a month instead of once a week. My laziness is a brutal dictator.

Pour some sugar on me. Or in me. My new diet is killing me softly.

Let’s do this!

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* A Lesser Cement by Anna Lea Jancewicz (FLAPPERHOUSE)
A love story involving a hammer? Yes, please.

* Timeshare by Dolan Morgan (Third Point Press)
A lesson in restraint and brevity. Beautiful in a weird, poignant way. So good.

* The Jigsaw Puzzles by Rebecca Harrison (Cease, Cows)
The descriptions in this story are vivid and fantastic. Love every word of this emotional tale.

* Them Boys by Ron Gibson, Jr. (Spelk Fiction)
I actually commented at the time this was first published. Still resonates. Get your grit on, yo.

* The Raptor and the Boy by Len Kuntz (Jellyfish Review)
Dark and disturbing story with a side of comeuppance. My kind of flash.

* On the Way to the Killing Spree the Shooter Stops for Pizza by Tom McAllister (Sundog Lit)
This is more short story than flash but I had to include it. Remains one of my favorite pieces of writing. So detailed and profound. Imagery is off the charts. Phenomenal.

J ~ J = { }

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flies track scent
all of you
filleted skin
raw paper tongue
heart like a sewer

swat them with bones
pledge allegiance to
forged resilience
suture the Why

maneuver of pride
hides your wreckage
in breathless box
kiss of shadow

naive pale soldier
they will find you
in a polluted heap
chewing her name

#MoreThanMean

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This video has been circulating on social media today. Women are harassed online at levels I can’t even comprehend. And when it comes to sports, female reporters are routinely threatened, marginalized, belittled, and treated like an inferior human. The staff at Just Not Sports put this video together with the help of director Chad Cooper to shine a spotlight on this troubling issue. The comments in the video are real words used by men on Twitter, lobbed at Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain, two sports journalists. They asked other men to read these insults to the victims faces. It’s difficult to watch, and the poise and strength shown by both of them is admirable. A lesson in composure and resilience for everyone.

Men, we need to do better. Stop with the spewing of hatred at women online. Think before you type. Choose class over trash. And ask yourself if menacing women on the internet makes you feel good about your character, maturity, and growth as a human being.

As I mentioned, this video isn’t easy to watch. But it’s powerful and repulsive and needs to be seen by all men.

Sunday Prose 4: FlashDog Edition

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It’s easy to forget where it all began. Life happens, we change and move in different circles. Maybe things get stale and boring, and stifling yawns becomes our sole physical activity. Or our ego takes control and pulls us away from the familiar and safe. Maybe we slide into solitude and make love to the dark contour of a past love. Whatever the reason, the end result is that we tend to shun the birth and celebrate the growth. Or at least I do.

I’ve had some success with my writing. Some publications I’m extremely proud of, as well as contests I’ve fared well in. And without ever taking a writing class and only writing for a short time, well, it’s all pretty surreal. But I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without the FlashDogs. Their guidance and support have made a significant impression on me. My gratitude is immense.

The Flashdogs are an international cabal of talented writers. We’ve put out anthologies together, and competed against one another in various flash fiction contests. Members are always quick with a kind word or a digital pat on the back when you’re struggling with an issue of some sort. They read your stories and offer comments and feedback. And I know that if I ever had a question about writing or anything really, I could reach out to any of them and they wouldn’t mind. Heck, when my heart gave out last year, a charming bloke offered me a fresh one from one of his most recent victims. Thank you, Shakes! (Though my new heart makes me spell colour the weird way.)

Our community welcomes the gregarious and the bashful. Those comfortable under the spotlight and those who hide beneath shadows. Writing is exposing yourself to the masses. Our delirious mind is ripped apart and spilled across the page. It takes a certain amount of courage to share our stories, to send our work to journals knowing that we will probably be rejected. Self-doubt takes root. We cringe at every sentence. But we keep plugging away, resolute against a deluge of insecurities. And we help one another by being selfless and kind, by caring about words that spring from England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, a little town populated by handsome sociopaths called Hamilton, and so many other places across the globe. This is our community.

This week on Sunday Prose you will see various stories from the Flashdogs. I didn’t want to link to contest stories, or anything that had a fee attached. The whole point is to just click on a title and read away. But that made it difficult and I couldn’t pick the exact stories that I wanted to in every case. And I truly hate leaving folks out. Eventually I’ll do another edition and include the writers not mentioned below. What started out as three stories grew to more than a dozen. That being said, I won’t be offering my thoughts. I just wanted to get my friends words out there in the blogosphere. Please take a moment and read their work.

*****

Dinner With a Side of Everlasting Happiness by Grace Black (Sick Lit)

Feeder by Mark King (Maudlin House)

Vapor Trails by Voima Oy (Visual Verse)

Bruised by Elaine McKay (100 Word Story)

Silhouette by Jacki Donnellan (FlashFlood Journal)

Jump by Steph Ellis (Visual Verse)

Appearances and Disappearances by Catherine Connolly (Paper Swans)

The Human Factor by Bart Van Goethem (Flash Fiction Magazine)

Death Smells Like Bananas by Carlos Orozco (Molotov Cocktail)

The Rising by Karl Russell (Synaesthesia Magazine)

Silence by Liz Hedgecock (The Journal of the Compressed Creative Arts)

Footprints by Sal Page (FlashFlood Journal)

Unheard Frequencies by F.E. Clark (Visual Verse)

He Lies In Oak by Avalina Kreska (Visual Verse)

Witch Pegs by David Shakes (Wattpad)

Apocalypsia by Tamara Rogers (Flash Fiction Magazine)

Sunday Prose 3

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Do you ever wake up hating yourself? Not the self-pitying, I’m worthless kind of thing, that sad dope we sling to friends and family in search of sympathy and validation. There’s a place for that woe-is-me junk, I use it often, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Yesterday I wrote a post that was going to be this post. I worked on it off and on between baseball games, cleaning, and thoughts of abandoned love. You know, when folks don’t walk away from a relationship, they run like Carl Lewis straight to the Witness Protection Program. They leave behind a wounded bird. I’m veering into that woe-is-me territory rather quickly. Focus!

Anyway, yesterday I was going for a humorous post. I set it up with a pretty solid opening paragraph. It worked. Some dry humor, a dose of self-deprecation. There was potential there. Until I carpet-bombed everything with a ridiculously stupid scene. A stranger knocks on the door, I answer. We engage in a weird conversation. I really thought I nailed it at first. It read funny to me. I was like I am a WordPress God! I knew that digital pink carnations would be tossed at me like I was the lead singer of Winger. I would win back the girl, solve world poverty, and sail a yacht to Greece with Victor, my pet Red-Tailed Hawk. My post would win a Grammy. Maybe a Golden Globe. A Purple Heart.

Until I read it this morning with fresh eyes.

My goodness. It was an abomination. I literally cringed as I read it. Even my coffee cringed. It was a horror show of amateurish humor and juvenile writing. I deleted every word within minutes of waking up. And I wrote this version instead. Wait, what if this post is just as awful as the first attempt? Welp, back to thoughts of abandoned love…

*******

Welcome to Sunday Prose 3. As always, I’ll provide links to three stories that I find to be outstanding and worthy of sharing. The first few weeks I’ll most likely link flash that I’ve shared on social media at some point in the past. But I’ve never posted them on the blog.

As Shakespeare once sang: “If my rhyme was a drug, I’d sell it by the gram. Keep my composure when it’s time to get loose. Magnetized by the mic while I kick my juice.”

 

We eat with our eyes. Fill your plate below.

 

Tiger Blood by Bud Smith (Hobart)
Give me weird flash with a heart all day long. Phenomenal writing.

 

What There Is To Be Done With This Silence by Janet Frishberg (WhiskeyPaper)
Loss and art are truly compatible. This one landed in my throat.

 

Life by Donald Ray Pollock (PEN America)
I’m cheating with Pollock, as he’s pretty well-known and I’m a huge fan of his style. This is just a taste of his genius, but his bleak world draws me in every time.