Bryan the Writer’s Only Political Post

You have heard me say that I believe the job of the artist is to hold a mirror up to the rest of the world. I’ve been thinking a lot about this election and what reflection it would cast on the American people. As I thought through this little mind exercise I realized that in this election we are so far removed from anything we have seen before that I don’t really know what the mirror image would show.

20161030_085700
Mirror … mirror … on the desk

To give you some insight into the political life of Bryan the Writer I’ll tell you that on fiscal and foreign policy issues I trend towards the conservative, on social issues I trend left of center. Not too dissimilar to most of you, if the political analysts are reporting their findings accurately. To make it easier, I am basically an average American politically. Where I differ from my more liberal leaning friends is on the question of the size of the government. I am for a smaller federal government and think the states should have as much or as little federal involvement as they want or don’t want. Before anyone jumps down my throat, I am just providing this as background to the following.

Northern Virginia is a microcosm of the world. When things are going well, it’s like a party around here. When things aren’t going so great, buildings are shuttered and the For Sale/For Lease signs show up everywhere. But you are just as likely to find left leaning conservatives and right leaning liberals everywhere.

I remember the Romney/Obama campaign. I was a Romney supporter. Yes, I had a sign in my yard. Think about that … a sign in my yard. Literally there were thousands of signs spread across my neighborhood. Some yards had three or four signs. I actually saw one yard that had both a Romney and an Obama sign. Who knows … maybe a mixed marriage? I can just imagine the dinner conversations now.

Harry said, “Can you pass the ranch my sweet little socialist, bleeding heart, liberal freak.”

Sally smiled, “Of course you pig headed, war mongering, capitalist, jack-booted thug.”

“Thanks sweetie, good luck in the election. When you enslave the nation with your socialist ideologies, think well of me.”

She patted her husband’s hand. “Of course dear, and if you win, please remember to keep some fresh water set aside for me before you let your large corporations pollute the precious clean water we have.”

I tried to count the number of political signs in my neighborhood. It was easy … there are none. Literally you can drive the length of our neighborhood and you’ll see no signs at all. You see a few around town for the local congressional race, but even that election people seem to have had enough of.

I don’t think it’s that no one is interested in yard signs anymore. I think we are reaching a breaking point in the American political life where we are having a Clinton/Trump hangover. We thought it was a great idea when they were partying in the primaries, but when we woke up the next morning to them being actual candidates, we now have to do the walk of shame. Maybe our political underwear is hanging out of our back pockets, hair stuck to one side of our heads, only one left shoe because we can’t find the other one. We keep saying to ourselves, “What the hell happened?”

A lot has been made of what our allies across the world think of our election. I have to be honest, I don’t give a rats arse what they think. While we are wallowing in our own misery, we still have a modern and capable military, our country is awash in natural resources, and we have one of the world’s largest industrial capabilities. So screw em’, we’ll sort this out eventually and this isn’t prom where we need to worry about if the rest of the girls like our dress or not. This is America, and if we want to show up naked to the party with a bow hanging off our thingy, you’d better compliment us on our bow!

Back to us now. Yes, we are in a bit of a rough patch. But we kind of did it to ourselves and we came by it honestly. Yes, I’ll vote. And No, I won’t say who will get my vote. Just know that when I walk out of that voting booth I’ll feel sad for our nation and maybe a little ashamed of myself for having to settle on either a candidate who should be in prison for breaking the laws I took an oath to uphold, or for a misogynist pig who I am not sure I want anywhere near my daughter. *sigh*

-Your Humble Servant

Logo_red_transparent

Living Between the Peaks and Valleys of Life

Recently I sat in my church for a non-church related function. The physical feature of the sanctuary I love the most is the huge stained glass window. Here is a picture of it, in case you have never made it out to Community Lutheran Church in Sterling, Virginia. By the way, I invite you if you have never been.

clclogo

On that evening, there was no light outside the building so the bright colors were not illuminated. What was prominent on that night were the areas between the colored pieces of glass. These are the pieces of material that hold the glass together. Normally, you don’t notice it because the colored glass is illuminated.

You may think it would look uglier than when the sun is shining through; but, you’d be wrong. It looks like a photo negative of itself. The dark parts in between are suddenly prominent. The glass parts were muted, almost to the point of being black.

It’s a lot like life … and writing for that matter. In both, you tend to trumpet your achievements.

  • “I’m done with my first draft!”
  • “I’ve signed with a publisher.”
  • “I won a major award and now Hollywood wants to write my life story.” Okay, that last one is a bit silly, but you get my meaning.
hallwread
Hallowread in Maryland

Yesterday, I was at Hallowread in Maryland. I found my sales to be a bit sluggish, but it didn’t matter. I was sitting next to a guy who I’d seen at other events and we got to talking. We had a nice chat and in between talking to potential fans, we learned more about one another. I also met an award-winning, best-selling author who, it turns out, lives in my own neighborhood. I also met another author who lives just down the road from me. In short, I made some new friends.

Once again, being an author taught me something that I forget all too often. The other side of writing, the human interaction with my fellow authors, is just as beautiful as those accomplishments I can post to Facebook. The joy of being a writer isn’t rooted in the pages or the cover art of the book. It’s knowing and working with other writers, editors, and publishers who love the written word as much as I do.

Life can beg you to lose focus. The newspaper routinely relegates stories of humans behaving kindly to the back pages. If you watch your local news, human interest stories are never the lead. They are always buried deeply into the newscast, usually just before the weather. We are subjected to the peaks and valleys of human existence, and forget that in-between human beings are affected. Maybe not newsworthy, but maybe more important than what candidate said what.

Advertisers want you to think you should buy their product to be smarter, faster, prettier, and cooler than the next guy or gal. “You need this to be better than all the others. If you are not the lead dog, then the scenery never changes.” I’d love to see an ad campaign featuring a celebration of teamwork. But you likely won’t. Teams normally don’t go to the store to buy the same deodorant, socks, or sports drink. Nope, they want you to think that you need this or that to propel yourself to the top of the heap.

Here’s a shocking revelation. I don’t want to be better than any of you! I want to be one of you. I want to be your friend. I’d love to be able to sell so many books that I can be a full-time writer. However, I’m not willing to step on others to get there. I don’t want to leave all my friends behind on this great journey we call life, I want to bring you all with me. Life at the top, with no one to share it with is a lonely existence indeed.

BTW, did you know that if you don’t read The Dramatic Dead, then your friends are way cooler than you are? Just kidding! But seriously, it is pretty awesome.

-Your Humble Servant,

cropped-logo_red_transparent.png

Helen Goes Home

Hey Everyone! Just a random short story I had written a while ago. Hope you like it. I did it just for fun.

Helen Goes Home

Helen Borowitz sat in the fellowship hall nursing a cup of coffee. She admired the newly painted walls. They were far more colorful than when the fellowship hall was new. Back then they were painted an industrial white. She remembered spending a weekend in this room painting. She was thirty years younger back then. Now, the walls were the color of autumn leaves. Helen liked it better this way. It reminded her less of a nursing home.

Today she was waiting for the arrival of her closest and dearest friend, Edith. Her second cousin, born on almost the same day, Helen and Edith were almost inseparable. They went to school together, lived one block away, and lived through WWII together as teenage girls. It was a hard life back in those days, made more bearable by being able to depend on each other.

The door connecting the fellowship hall with the sanctuary opened and two young women walked in. Behind them, a hunched, elderly woman snuck in. Helen smiled at her cousin. Edith seemed to be moving better than she had in years. Although close to ninety, she still looked good for her age. Helen knew of the cancer inside of her, but Edith didn’t let it slow her down.

“Hi Cousin,” Helen smiled at Edith, who took a chair on the other side of the table.

Edith smiled back. “Hi Sweetie, how are you feeling?”

Helen winced a little, “Oh, you know; It’s hell getting old. Do you want a coffee or anything?”

Edith smiled what she called her best million-dollar smile. “No thank you, sweetie. I don’t need anything. Have you given any more thought to what we talked about before?”

Although Edith was the closest thing Helen had to a sister, she could be a downright pest sometimes. Recently she had been hounding Helen about making sure her affairs were in order. Edith insisted that Helen really never knew the time or the date, but the end would come soon enough, and it would be better if her affairs were in order.

Helen let out an exasperated sigh. “I did. I talked to Karen about final arrangements and where things were in the house when the time comes. I made sure my will is up to date. But you know, it always makes me worried … thinking about that. Am I ready? I mean, am I really ready for the end of my life?”

Edith grabbed her cousin’s hand. “How’d she take it?”

“Oh, as well as can be expected I suppose. No one is ever comfortable talking about death. Look at us. At the end of our lives, having this conversation. Someday soon we’ll be in the afterlife together.”

Edith wore her best Sunday dress. It was off white and speckled with sequins. She had worn it every Sunday since Helen could remember. It was beautiful on her. It was dignified and appropriate for just about any occasion. “Helen, I’ve known you for all your life. Literally, we started out as friends before either one of us could even hold a baby bottle. I know all of your secrets. I know every dream, every disappointment. But most importantly, I know what’s in your heart. You’re ready.”

In the distance, people were talking and pointing at Helen. She ignored them. “Look at those people, they have no idea. I tried to tell them, but they don’t get it. They just tell me that I’m in good shape and I’ll live forever. They don’t understand. Kids today have no idea how hard it is to get old and they won’t until it sneaks up on them.”

Just then a hand grasped Helen’s shoulder, startling her a bit. She turned to face the man belonging to the hand. It was Juan Sanchez. “Helen, honey, do you need anything?”

“No, we’re just sitting here talking.” Helen gestured to Edith.

“I see.” He knelt down on the floor next to her so he could be at eye level. He looked concerned and stared out at the table for a moment. “Do you need anyone to take you home?”

“No, thank you. I’m just going to finish this coffee and we’ll be on our way. I have a visitor for lunch today. She has agreed to escort me home.” Helen smiled at Edith.

He chuckled. “Oh … okay. Helen, I have a question for you. Do you know what day it is?”

Helen shook her head at the man for a moment. She thought to herself that it was odd a man who was supposed to be a medical doctor would be so forgetful as to not remember the day. “Dr. Sanchez, you need to pay better attention. It is Sunday the 18th of September, 2016. It was printed in the bulletin. Maybe it’s you who needs help getting home today.”

He laughed at her reaction to the question. “Alright dear. Maybe I’ll give you a call later. You take care of yourself. I’ll see you next week. And, my offer stands, when you decide you no longer want to live by yourself you can come over to the retirement home. I’ll keep a spot open for you.”

“That’s sweet of you, but as long as I can clean my own home, I’ll stay there. My Stanley, gone fifteen years now, helped build that home after he helped build this church. My home is where I’d like to die, if possible.”

Edith looked at Helen and gave her a supportive nod.

“Well okay then. I guess I’ll get my family home.” He stood up and returned to the crowd of onlookers.

Edith put her hands on the table. “He’s such a nice man. And, he’s a good doctor. Remember when I stayed at the retirement home for a little while? He took good care of me. It was a huge relief when I finally went home though. Like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.”

Helen took a final drink of her coffee. “You look so much better these days. You got so gaunt for a while. Now, you positively radiate health.”

“I like to think of it as wholeness.” Edith stood up from the table. “Shall we go? It looks like your coffee is gone.”

Helen looked down at the cup. “So it is. Yes, let’s get going. It’s so nice of you to join me today. The walk home is lonely. Sometimes I think about Stanley. We probably made that walk a million times since it was so close. We even walked in the rain. Do you remember that? He loved the rain.”

Edith followed Helen through the doors of the fellowship hall and out into the sunlight of the warm summer day. “I do. Stanley is a good man.”

“Was,” Helen corrected her, “was a good man.”

“Still is. You don’t really think that people stop being good people because they are dead, do you? The soul lives on and they are still the people they were in life. Perhaps they are wiser.”

Helen put her hand to her chin. “You know; I never really gave it much thought. I suppose if you are good in life you would be good in death too.”

“You have a gorgeous house,” Edith said, as they turned up the driveway.

“I really do, don’t I? Stanley did a great job. He was such a great man. I get tired of missing him, though. He’s been gone for so long now that I would have thought the pain of losing him would’ve gone away. But it hasn’t.”

Helen fished her keys out of her handbag and opened the door. The house had essentially remained the same since Stanley died. It was maybe a little cleaner, he was not known for his house cleaning skills. The only thing Helen had added was a display of additional family members.

“How are the grandkids?” Edith asked, looking at the images on the wall.

“They are good, growing like weeds. Little Katie is now getting ready for her wedding. No longer little Katie, I guess. Bobby and his boyfriend are moving to upstate New York. They both love the outdoors and want to open an outdoor adventures company. He’s a good kid.”

Helen yawned against the day’s activities. “I hope you don’t think I’m being a rude cousin, but I have to take a little nap.”

“No, that’s not rude. You take a nap. I’ll just occupy myself with watching some television.”

Helen retired to her room. Sleep came easier than normal. Perhaps it was the wonder of having her cousin with her. She dreamed of Edith in her church dress. Such a beauty in her old age. She secretly admired her cousin for her ability to age so gracefully. She could see her lying there in that dress. She was so lovely, she carried a small bouquet of roses, her favorite flowers, mixed in with babies breath. Surrounded by a wonderful lining of white silk, she looked almost serene in her mahogany casket.

Helen woke with a start. How could it be? Her cousin had been dead and buried these two years. She remembered the day that beautiful casket was lowered into the ground. Deep down, into the forbidding earth.

Edith sat at the edge of her bed. She smiled at her cousin.

Helen grabbed Edith’s hand and looked at her wide eyed. “I remember your funeral. I laid that bouquet of flowers on you as you rested there. They lowered your body into the ground. I’m not crazy am I?”

Edith smiled at Helen and brushed a piece of wild hair out from her face. Still holding her hand, she helped her out of bed and they walked into the center of the room. She grabbed her other hand and looked into Helen’s eyes. “No cousin, you’re not crazy at all. It was a beautiful day. You wore a blue dress that looked smashing on you. You always were a smart dresser. I loved the flowers, by the way.”

Helen stammered, “But how … how can you be here?”

“I promised to take you home. I promised to help you arrive safely, didn’t I? I kept that promise. Now it’s time to go.” Edith pointed back towards the bed.

Helen turned towards what her cousin was pointing at. Lying there, perfectly still, was her own body. It looked far more fragile than she had ever remembered herself being. Floods of emotions converged on her all at once. She was scared and at the same time relieved. She thought about Stanley, her own mother and father, and all of those people she was scared she’d never see again.

“I told you,” Edith said, “I’m here to take you home.”

-Your Humble Servant,

Logo_red_transparent

 

Decisions can be hard to make

It’s funny how things can change at the drop of a hat. I’m reminded of some advice I got while I was taking a sailing class in Germany. You can be cruising along happily when a sudden gust of wind hits the sails and sends you over the side. The important thing is that you have to get the hull righted again.

This actually happened to me. I wasn’t on the helm when it happened, but a gust of wind hit our little craft and the sail was suddenly in the water and our starboard side was in the lake, filling with water. To put this in perspective, I was standing on the starboard (or right side) of the boat and holding onto the port (or left side) of the boat. Trying to push the port side back down. It sounds terrifying. For the person at the helm it was and she was so shaken that she gave up the helm and refused to take it again for the rest of the class. I was laughing because it was a beautiful day outside and none of us were ever really in danger. I could have swum to shore from there and probably back to the boat if I needed to. In short, no one was injured and we easily pulled out of it.

I’ll say this, it was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.

wannsee
Relaxing on the Water

Life can be that way. You’re cruising along, content in the knowledge you know how everything is going to play out, sure of your course, comfortable in how you read the wind. Suddenly something happens, good or bad, that you have to react to and make a decision. It is never easy making a decision, but ultimately have to. What can make these decisions scarier is that there is no life-vest in life. You could sink or swim based on your decision. Writing can be like that some times.

I made the decision to hold off self-publishing my next book. There are a couple of different reasons for this, but I think it’s the right decision at this time and ultimately, when it is released, it’ll be a step up from my previous work.

While I’m not going to give you any details right now, I’ll say that this decision is for all of the right reasons and I’m hopeful it will vault me to a new level of writing. I don’t know where this next adventure will lead me. But, I know one thing, it’s an interesting new twist in the story that is Bryan the Writer. I’ll update you when I know more.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep working on a couple of other ‘works in progress’ and maybe a few short stories to submit as the opportunities arise.

Your Humble Servant,

Logo_black_transparent

Answers to a Couple of Questions

I get questions sometimes from readers who happen by my table at shows and sometimes I get random questions from people who aren’t readers, but are just curious about my process. I try to make a mental note of them and answer them later on. Well, today is the day! So, without further ado, here are some of the answers to your most burning questions.

Do you do NaNoWriMo? (I get this one a lot.)

No, I think I was vaccinated against that as a child. Seriously though, I write at a rate of about 1.25 novels per year. I also write a couple of short stories when the spirit moves me and then blog posts. All of that takes time and stopping everything I’m doing to work on a novel that has to be written during the month of November is detrimental to my process. Besides that, I am a true “pantser” as we say. I write when the spirit moves me. I write every day, but it can be anywhere from 1,000 words to 4,000+. The only absolute is that I write every day. And by write I mean first draft, edit, or proofread. If I’m in an editing cycle (as I am right now), I don’t have time to simply work on a new first draft.

What do you have against NaNoWriMo, anyway?

Nothing! For some of you, it’s a kick in the butt and could help get you started on that great American novel you’re promising the world. Good on you. But, and remember this point, on September 1st, you need to keep going. NaNoWriMo is about establishing habits that should carry you on. There’s no such thing as “done” for a writer.

What is the hardest part about being a writer?

Balance! Like a lot of writers, I have a full time job as well. I’d love nothing more than to just write full time. Being a full time writer is my goal, but for right now the state says I must feed my children. So, off to work I go for forty hours a week.

Also, when I get home I want to write. I don’t want to make dinner, run to the store, go to the PTA meeting. This is hard to really justify when your wife comes home and she wants nothing to do with making dinner. Admittedly I am not very good at this one. But, balance is the key and something I’m constantly in search of.

fb_img_1471112120970
Look at me, looking all “Author-ish”

Where do you get your ideas from?

I get this one a lot. Really, they just come to me. Stephen King has joked that his ideas come from a used idea store in Utica. The answer is really that they just pop in my head. The idea will be overwhelming and I’ll borrow a piece of paper if I am at dinner or something and I’ll jot it down. I actually have the back sheet of a bulletin from church sitting next to me with a story idea I thought of during the final hymn one day. Yes, I had to write it down. It was a pretty great idea.

How do you know when a novel is done?

That’s easy … I type “The End”. Seriously though, the characters in the story line tell me when I’m done with the story. For example, in The Dramatic Dead I typed, “The End” and was immediately bothered by the character of Rigby. Why would he keep bugging me? Well, because his story was not done and he took personal offense at that. Hence, the Epilogue to The Dramatic Dead was born. There was a part of the story that was eluded to but never really discussed. Yes, I could have left it at the words “The End”, but that would have left Rigby’s story line unresolved.

In the book I am editing now, I write the final lines and then was immediately bothered by one of the characters. It was an unresolved string in the story line that I had to address or I would have been bothered by it. So, back to the keyboard I went and added a chapter. Interestingly enough, at the same time I was dealing with that, one of my beta readers noticed that I hadn’t really dealt with that issue either. So, it was not just me that time.

I hope you enjoyed my little impromptu question and answer session! I’d like to do more of these so if you have any questions you want answered, please post them here or e-mail me. You can go to my website to contact me.

www.bryannowak.com

-Your Humble Servant,

cropped-logo_red_transparent.png

“Gutted” is on my “Top Ten” books to read!

Gutted: Beautiful Horror StoriesGutted: Beautiful Horror Stories by Doug Murano

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a firm believer in the usefulness of horror. People who equate horror with gore completely miss the point. Horror can be gory, but it can be funny, intellectual, attractive, and it can communicate the depths of love that even a love story cannot truly reach. It is the depths of love where you’ll find the treasure that is, Gutted.

Gutted is a horror anthology of many different authors and edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward. My personal favorite stories were “The Morning After was Filled with Bone”, by Stephanie M. Wytovich and “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave”, by Brian Kirk. Both stories are horror stories in their own right, but also plunge the depths of love to an extend that I can’t even begin to describe.

What makes Gutted work is how the stories reach out and touch the reader. They don’t ask you to excuse the content of the message, just read and take it in. That’s why these stories touched me. They laid out before me, naked to the world and just let me read them without pretense. I got the chance to just accept the messages for what they are.

I normally like to try and write longer reviews, but I have nothing else to say besides, well done! Recently I was asked to list out my 13 top horror books of all time. Gutted made my list. Not because of the usual reasons, but because it really does take horror and turn it on its head. It proves that horror is at its best when it reflects a deeper meaning.

-Bryan the Writer

cropped-logo_red_transparent.png

View all my reviews