Groovy Escher!

Welcome to the second installment of the launch jubilee for my surreal short story, MIXED MEDIA! You can read MIXED MEDIA for free (PDF), or purchase it on Amazon (5.0 out of 5 stars). If you enjoy the story, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

And now… the jubilee continues!


I was in college when I was introduced to Escher’s work. His mazelike, self-referential images expressed the way my dual studies in Physics and Philosophy intersected in my mind. One insight always fed into another, and often at unexpected angles. Mario Santa Maria, the protagonist of MIXED MEDIA is in a similar mental state as he learns to navigate his new ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer.

Mario and The Girl Who Wore Docs

 

Drawing Hands by M.C. Escher via Art.com

Drawing Hands by M.C. Escher via Art.com

An Excerpt from MIXED MEDIA:

A pair of women’s shoes appeared on the cracked pavement. They were heavy Doc Martins, the sort Darla would never wear. I drew myself upright and leaned against the cool Plexiglas of the bus stop.

“You good now?” she asked.

“Can I show you something?”

“God, not another perv! I will spray your dick with Mace.”

“That really won’t be necessary.”

“You’ve been warned.”

“I just want to show you a postcard.”

She raised an eyebrow. Her buzz-cut hair was glorious, Manic Panic pink. Cars flowed past us, more colors, but none as bright as her hair. I plunged my arm into the bag and retrieved a card. “Please, look.”

“I’ll probably regret this.” She turned only her eyes toward the postcard, paused, then swiveled her whole body towards it. “Groovy Escher!”

About MIXED MEDIA:

Mario Santa Maria is an artist who has lost his dreams – literally. Insomnia, unemployment, and a failing relationship are his lot. Things are going badly, and then things get strange. On a visit to the Vos Modern Art Museum, Mario discovers he has the ability to intercept the communication between art and a viewer. MIXED MEDIA is a surreal tale of masterpieces, Delphic sugar cubes, and the promise of new perspectives.

What’s hidden by what we see?


The image included in this post is courtesy of Art.com, where you can purchase prints of this work, and thousands of others. Want a chance to win $25 at Art.com? Click the Rafflecoptor button to enter the giveaway!

Click to enter!


 

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The MONTAUK MONSTER Is Here!

Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea

I’ve been a fan of Hunter Shea’s writing since the publication of his first novel, FOREST of SHADOWS. When Hunter asked me if I would like to help him promote his thriller, THE MONTAUK MONSTER,  I was ecstatic! Imagine being able to ask one of your favorite authors a question. Now imagine him answering – on your blog, no less! Well, that’s what’s happening for me here today.

Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea’s Official Website: http://huntershea.com/

Hunter Shea’s Twitter Handle: @HunterShea1

MONTAUK MONSTER on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/SheasMontaukMonaster

My Question:

Have you ever had a book that just felt stuck, or a time when you thought it might be “easier” to not be a writer?

(Okay, I really posed this question in about ten different ways in one breathless paragraph. I’ve abbreviated my intense fangirling it so you can get to the good stuff: Hunter’s answer!)

Hunter’s Answer:

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Not in the sense that you see in movies or read about where the world famous author just can’t come up with the next great novel. To me, writer’s block is a fancy way of saying a writer is either afraid (of rejection, success, criticism), tired or just plain lazy. By nature, writers have overactive imaginations. Truth be told, there isn’t enough time in a writer’s life to type out the ideas that float through our brains in a given month.

That in no way means writing is easy and consistent. It’s hard work, and sometimes, getting from start to end is a long, long slog. That spark of excitement you had at chapter one will most definitely begin to fizzle around chapter ten. Sooner or later, no matter how smoothly you think things are going, you’re going to get snagged by the mid-book-blues.

What happens during the mid-book-blues? For me, this is when the story takes on a life of its own, shaping itself into something I hadn’t quite anticipated. It’s at this moment when I realize I have written myself into some tight corners. It’s also usually when I start to lose faith in the entire endeavor.

Reading over the past several days’ work, I’m often known to mutter, “Oh Jeez, this is crap. What the hell was I thinking? Why on earth would anyone want to read this?” Confidence waning, I look ahead, knowing I have another 45,000 words to go. Are you kidding me? That’s 45,000 words to add to something that I’m dead sure is utterly worthless. I could be watching the Mets lose in extra innings, out with the kids at Starbucks or teaching my cat to stop peeing in our bathtub.

Since the publication of my first book, Forest of Shadows, back in 2011, I’ve written 7 novels. That’s seven times I’ve doubted myself and wanted to throw in the towel or tear my idea down and start anew. As nice as starting from scratch might seem, I have deadlines that don’t allow for a massive re-start.

So what do I do? I remind myself to stick with the instincts that got me started writing in the first place. Somehow, they were sharp enough to get me multiple book deals. The worst thing I can do is stop writing and allow myself time to lament. Lament is like Miracle-Gro for doubt. If you let doubt take root, the book is done, and quite possibly, your writing aspirations along with it.

Sometimes, I’ll head to the classics for inspiration, re-reading The Sun Also Rises or I Am Legend (a book every horror writer should hold near and dear). Great writing makes me want to write. And if you read great writing, your own writing will improve.

Rewards help too. It could be as simple as, “If you get through this chapter, you can sit back with a cold beer.” Or, “Finish the next 5,000 words and you can binge watch Orange is the New Black with the better half.” Just remind yourself that you are a writer, and writers write, which implies finishing what you started.

When I started writing The Montauk Monster last year, I was supercharged. This was my first chance to write a thriller that would be out in paperback all over the country. I plowed through the first 20,000 words like it was nothing. Then, my father passed away. The family was devastated. I kept at the manuscript but my heart wasn’t in it. I suddenly didn’t think my crazy idea could get me to the finish line. Worse, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to get there.

I thought of my father and how proud he was that I had become a writer. The man was the biggest reader I ever met and I always secretly believed he wanted to be a writer – and would have been a hell of an author. That lit the fire under my ass and infused belief in what I was trying to create. I attacked that manuscript with the same ferocity as the maniacal creatures I had conjured. I almost didn’t want it to end.

Every book will come with its own struggles. It’s up to you, the writer, to find the strength to plow through them.

My Reaction:

This amazing writer is a human being! He has a cat! He has a bathtub and watches television and likes one of my favorite books (THE SUN ALSO RISES). Hes’s also written an astounding SEVEN (7!!!) novels in less than five years. That is a lofty achievement, made all the more impressive given that Hunter endured – and overcame – the virulent doubt that plagues writers. Here, though, here’s what really speaks to me:  Hunter completed MONTAUK MONSTER despite suffering an intensely personal loss. He didn’t give up, didn’t break under the weight of his grief or the resurgence of doubt. Instead, Hunter found the strength to finish his book. When I read MONTAUK MONSTER, it will be in honor of Hunter’s father, a reader who raised an amazing writer!

xoxo,

-aniko

Publisher’s Weekly Praises MONTAUK MONSTER!

Publisher’s Weekly named THE MONTAUK MONSTER one of the best summer books of 2014! Not only that, they gave it an awesome review. Here’s a snippet:

The urban mythologies of the Montauk Monster and the government labs on Plum Island unite to cause staggering levels of mayhem when mutant animals with toxic blood descend on a Long Island town. This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley. — PW

 

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Excuses are killing your joy.

Do you see through your own poor excuses?

Copyright 72soul via 123RF.com

I am an authority on the excuses a writer can use to avoid writing. Time constraints make for easy excuses. Obligations to family or job provide a slew of excuses. Exercise is another perfectly “legitimate” excuse. Lack of space, lack of quiet, and lack of inspiration look like valid excuses. These are top-self rationalizations masquerading as true limitations or honorable obligations. They are lies I told myself. Excuses killed my creative joy. Are they killing yours?

Creating is scary. It is terrifying to bring something out of nothing. There is the anxiety of creative blocks, the specter of failure, the gut-wrenching realization that someone is going to hate your work. If you are persistent in honing your craft, if you share your art with others, you will experience all of these fears and more. The excuses act as a salve, a protective layer for the raw psyche. Excuses appear to give you a way out of the misery. There might even be brief moments where you believe your own justifications. At such times the panacea is perfected. Sometime between 3 AM and insomnia, you know the hollowness of your own weak rationalizations. Your horror is a night sweat soaking the sheets. A shower rinses your body clean, but the truth cannot be rinsed out of your mind. You are aware of your faulty reasoning and avoidance; you are hiding from your art. If you’re the sort of excuse-maker I was, it is at this point the despair arises. Problems loom. There is no time, there is no space! In some sense, you are right, because excuses are like cactii or goldfish, and will grow to the maximum extent of their enclosure. Your excuses might fill a house, invisible as carbon monoxide. They’re certainly cramping your soul.

Have you filled your time with pursuits unrelated to your art? Are television, drinking, and drama with your consorts supplanting your creativity? What about those intellectual all-nighters, on a balcony with your smokes? Oh, and if you say it’s the day job that’s stifling you, I’ve heard that one before, too. I used to bemoan that while I could cut out marathon sessions of DEXTER, I couldn’t cut out the day job. I remember feeling like work was an insurmountable block to my writing, and I resented the job. Never mind the fact that it’s the job that gave me the financial security to have a place to live, food to eat, and access to health care so that I could even begin to think about writing. I was not living in gratitude. I wasn’t even really living. Still, my “damn job” excuse was an excellent false justification; not many saw through it. I did, though, and now I know blaming a standard, forty-hour job is a cop-out. Maybe for you it’s not so much the time that’s an issue, it’s a lack of space, or the noisiness of your space. Maybe you have children, roommates, an apartment in NYC where your bed is your table is your ironing board. I have to call BS on that excuse, too. Imprisoned authors have managed to write novels. If a drunkard interred in a Nazi insane asylum can create, then you can certainly find some space. Sculpting and painting present more difficulty in this respect than writing, but writers, you have coffee shops, writer’s rooms, libraries… need I go on? Stop using excuses to barricade yourself away from the terror and uncertainty of TRYING. You are not here to generate excuses. You are here to generate art.

I’m  reading Annie Dillard’s THE WRITING LIFE. The cover blurb from the New York Times Book Review states that THE WRITING LIFE is “full of joys.” That blurb makes me wonder if I’ve read the book wrong. Joy isn’t the dominant theme I find in Annie’s discussion of writing. She honestly dissects the despair and impossibility of writing your true vision. She shows the disassociation of living in a world that exists only in your mind, and at first only in pieces. She doesn’t sugarcoat the sheer terror and difficulty of the endeavor, but neither does she countenance excuse. Annie discusses the interesting occurrence of people who want to be “poets” because they are in love with the idea of being a poet, not because they love poetry. In one vignette, Annie relays a conversation where a seeker after the writing life is told she can be a writer if she “loves sentences.” Annie goes on to extrapolate that there is joy in creating if you go one sentence at a time. Now, finally, there is joy in THE WRITING LIFE, but only when the writing is begun, and only when all of the other “stuff” (the excuses, the self-seeking) are abandoned. The difference between those who only want the title of “poet” and those who love sentences is that the latter will suffer more. Creating is the kind of suffering that brings freedom and joy, but only if you give yourself fully to it. That means you have to stop making excuses to avoid the hard work of doing your art.

I invite my Muse by setting aside time in my day for my writing. Monday through Friday, that amounts to two and a half hours. It is not a lot of time, but I make it count. I do not wait to be inspired: I sit at my desk and I write. I do not seek the perfect writing nook: I write standing up on the commuter train on the way to my day job. My commitment to writing is sacrosanct. It is not optional. In 99 of 100 days, any excuse I give to skip writing would be a lie, a willful rejection of who I am meant to be. There are days, though, dark days where I cannot write. I am human, and I’ve missed writing sessions due to illness, or the death of a loved one. I accept that I cannot control, plan, or prevent either of those circumstances. Neither do I use them as an excuse to continue to avoid my writing desk. I recover from illness, I go back to writing. I mourn, I go back to writing. It is how I am meant to live. This is only one aspect to my writing life; I have an entire code for how I do what I do, and how I avoid the pitfalls that life invariably throws at me. I’m calling it Bring Your Joy: A Code for Creatives. I’m still finalizing a PDF you can read, print, and share, but I hope it is helpful to you.

Xoxo,

-aniko

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