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I Had No Idea

by Jonathan 0 Comments

DofossWe said goodbye to this little creature yesterday. Her name was Dandelion and she had our hearts.

I had no idea how much we would come to love her the day we brought her home for my daughter’s seventh birthday, almost three years ago. She was curious, social and sweet. We got to know her sounds and body language. Scratched between her shoulder blades and behind her ears. Handpicked her namesake greens from the yard and took great joy in watching her eat her “lettuces” and “deliciousnesses.”

One of the things we read when preparing for Dandelion’s arrival was that guinea pigs should be family pets. My wife and I took that to heart, caring for Dandelion day in and day out, trimming her nails, cleaning her cage, petting her cheeks, keeping her in hay and fresh fruits and veggies. That daily connection became straight up love.

You see, guinea pigs hide their illnesses as they are prey animals. Show any weakness and you’re a goner. By the time you see symptoms, it’s not unusual for it to be too late. We were way too late. First thing in the morning, my wife took her to the vet. By 4:30, Dandelion was gone. There was no time to get used to the idea of her dying.

It hit us like the proverbial ton of bricks, or freight train, or [insert heavy, fast moving object here]. Right in the feels, as it were. This morning was rough. When we make our daughter’s lunch is when we would set aside apple slices and carrots to bring to Dandelion. We’d go into the room and open the shade to let the sunlight in. Today there was no need.

We had fish for a while and, while I was distraught at each one of their passings (five in three years), they didn’t have that innocent, precarious trust that shows up in picture above. We joked that she didn’t know from day to day whether we were going to feed her or eat her. We like to think she was pleasantly surprised day after day that it was the former, kind of like Westley and the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride. This little cutie–we would remark how in certain profiles she resembled a “D” on its side, or a watermelon seed, or a drop of water–became a point of reference for so much of our daily language that today feels like there’s a big old hole in our lives.

Despite her size and the relatively short time she was with us, Dandelion’s death is every bit as painful as when our 14-year-old dog, Greta, and 14-year-old cat, Harriet, died in the last few years. I had no idea it would be like this. And I wouldn’t trade our time with her for anything.

I know the feeling will grow smaller in time, but maybe writing this post might help a little today. There’s still a hole to dig and a sweet little body to lay to rest.

We’ll miss you, Dandelion.

5 Ways To Clamp Jumper Cables on Your Gray Matter

by Jonathan 0 Comments


Some days the ideas feel stale. Sometimes you find yourself telling the same story you already told, just with different window dressing. All of that can lead to the “why-the-hell-do-I-even-bother” crisis.

Look up once in a while. Look out beyond writing and publishing and books and you’ll find inspiration (ideas, solutions to writer’s block, rejuvenation, whatever) in all sorts of places. Seriously. Inspirado? That shit is everywhere. Check it out, here’s some low-ass hanging fruit to send a jolt into your stagnant gray matter:

Music – If you haven’t dug into music as a way of setting mood, now is the time. Pull music from your the soundtrack of your favorite movie. Better yet, find a soundtrack to a movie you’ve never watched. Dig into electronica or classical or metal. Play it either super loud or low, but not right in that “I’m listening to music” volume range. Mix it up from time to time and listen to something you might not normally go for. That’ll get the synapses firing.

Visual Art – Man, between Google Images and Deviant Art, there are endless possibilities. Looking for a bleak cityscape, tippity-tap those terms in the ol’ Googlyzer and let the results wash over you like warm summer rain. Mess around with search terms on Deviant Art and belly up to the visual smorgasbord. You’ll have ideas popping up in your brain pan like mushrooms in that dark, moist corner of your crawlspace.

Nature – Do you ever look around when you go outside? Do you even go outside? You should do both. The outdoors has it all: texture, odor, colors, temps, sounds, fractals, whatever you need. Hell, sometimes you can even taste it. Get out there and get all up in nature.

Science – There are tons of great resources on science. For real. They’re out there. There is no shortage of noggin fodder, people. Go forth and slather science butter all over the nooks and crannies of your brain. Mmmm, mmmm.

ExerciseThis works. It may not take your mind exactly where you want it to go, but that’s the point, innit? Sometimes you need a break. In the immortal words of Chicago (80’s edition), even lovers need a holiday. Go out, burn a calorie, fire up some endorphins. Slap in some earbuds and go for a hike and you can get the inspirado trifecta: music, nature and exercise! Feels good, doesn’t it.



What Artistic Growth Looks Like

by Jonathan 0 Comments

Check out these two videos from Nathaniel Rateliff, one from 2010 and one from this year.

They’re both pretty damn good, right? That first one, though, Shroud, it’s pretty raw. Now, truth be told, I love music like this, but you can only get by on raw for so long. For an artist (writer, painter, musician) to endure, evolution is key otherwise the same old same old is just that. No matter how talented an artist might be, trotting out the same stuff year after year will eventually get stale.

Watching the second video, there’s still that rawness, but there’s a whole lot more going on, there’s showmanship, a true stage presence that wasn’t there before. Rateliff owns the stage. He’s gone from singer songwriter to full on entertainer. The music itself is testament to that fact as well. The song’s a complete effort by the band. And it’s glorious.

The beauty of growth is that not everyone’s going to like it, but it’s critical for the artist to keep on keeping on. Think of the Beatles or Bob Dylan or U2. Love ’em or hate ’em, they kept the flame alive by exploring their medium. Look at Picasso or Van Gogh or Rothko over time and you’ll see their work changing on different scales.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Rothko:

The progression of a painter’s work…will be toward clarity; toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer…to achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.

Synopsis Writing Resources

by Jonathan 0 Comments

Thought I’d catalog some of the resources I’ve looked to for guidance on writing a synopsis, that much dreaded act of distilling your beloved work into an ounce of awesome.

Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis

How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel

How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis

How to Write a Synopsis: FAQ

Synopsis Examples and Resources From Writer’s Digest

Be warned, these articles may not always agree with each other.

There’s lots of good info here, but unfortunately you still have to write the beast.

Five reasons you can’t let your first novel go

by Jonathan 0 Comments

Moving on by z0h3 over at Deviant Art (click link to visit page)


You believe in your first novel. You know it’s the best it can be right now.

And yet it is still raw in a way that cannot be undone no matter how much you revise.

Maybe the premise is a bit off or has lost its luster.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not good enough.

And that’s fine.

You run it through the query process, get critiques, even get some feedback that it’s good, well-written, “market-ready.” And at last you send it out there and get little response other than form letters. You wonder if it’s the work itself, the query letter, the synopsis (all six versions of it), the agent or whoever is reading the query letters. You revisit all of it and try to make it better while worrying that you’re making it worse. You revise, identify the now-obvious boring parts, trim it down, make it leaner. And get ready send it out again.

And maybe this time should be the last. You’ve got other ideas, other word sculptures to make. So what’s holding you back?

Could be one of these:

  1. You’ve invested a ton of work into your novel and you can’t imagine it just sitting there on your hard drive unappreciated by anyone but you and the handful of people who’ve read it (well, some of them, anyway). 
    Think of it as writing pushups or squat thrusts or something. It’s not the endgame, but something you do to be better. It wasn’t a waste. It was inching up that learning curve. Do it enough and you’ll find it a little less steep.
  2. You are afraid you might not be able to get down that road again, build a novel from scratch and get it to the point where you actually like it. 
    You did it once, right? You’ve learned some stuff along the way. Hell, it might even go a little easier next time around. You’ll exercise writing muscles you forgot you had and you’ll get to re-experience the joy of everything coming together at last.
  3. You’re not sure you could go through writing another novel that may not see the light of day. Sure you love writing, but most of us do it with the intent of sharing the story, not to fill up a digital trunk.
    Hmmm, I see I’ve listed this twice. That’s probably because it’s the one that we (me) fear the most. Take note, see 1., above).
  4. You think maybe you’re not good enough. For Pete’s sake, have you been on Twitter? There must be a jillion authors out there. Who are getting new book deals. Who are landing agents. Seems like everyone but you.
    This might be true, but there’s only one way to be good enough and you already know what that is. Right? Right?? Look at your work with a critical eye. Be honest with yourself and find those places that can be better. If you can’t see it, find someone who can. Keep going, keep improving. Build a method of dealing with this feeling because this won’t be the last time you experience it.
  5. Giving up on your first novel feels a shit ton like failure. 
    Maybe it does, but if see 1., above again. Think of your first novel as a means to an end. Maybe this time around keep your progress and your aspirations on the down low. Keep your head down and get after novel number two, or a short story. Just finishing another work will ease your mind. Oh yeah, one more thing, if you can take the long view, there is no failure, only steps along the way. If other people are telling you that you’re a failure, move on from them, too.

No doubt there are stages of remorse for this sort of thing.

Ultimately, the decision is yours to make, but the question you must ask yourself most is, “How badly do I want this?”

If your answer is, “meh, too hard,” then roll over go back to sleep instead of getting up at Oh-Dark-Thirty to write. Watch Dynasty reruns instead of carving out an hour of cranking out a few hundred words. Hell, maybe Candy Crush Saga XIX is calling and you just can’t say no. That’s okay. The only thing that will die will be a little part of your soul.

It’s more about endurance and getting a little better with each page. It’s about understanding how your write and what drives you. Me, I’m going to keep on going and try my damnedest to tell a ripping good story and hope that somewhere down the line–my second, my fifth, my tenth novel–someone will say, “people will want to read the hell out this story.”