Just Passing Through

Outside of The Eagles’ classic song Take It Easy, most people know absolutely fuck-all about Winslow, Arizona. I’m fortunate to have actually spent a little time in the place. My aunt and uncle lived there for a while and we used to spend Christmas with them. Actually, they lived there twice. Once when I was fairly young, then they moved, then they moved back. Then they moved again.

At any rate, I’ve spent some time in Winslow. It’s a tiny, little wide spot on I-40 between Holbrook (also a wide spot) and Flagstaff (a cool wide spot and home to Northern Arizona University and Bookman’s). Winslow is your run-of-the-mill small Arizona town and aside from the fact that the Mormon church went out of business and someone bought the place and turned it into a giant house, there’s not much to say about Winslow.

Oh, it also has a place that serves the world’s worst Chinese food. My grandfather loved that place.

Now Winslow is dying the same slow, desperate death a lot of small towns are experiencing. The movie Cars made this sound like a tragedy, but aside from the fact that Winslow is a convenient place to get gas and a lot of people are going to lose their shirts when the town finally closes its doors, not much of importance will be lost. People will find new places to live and the world will move on just like it has when countless other places have rolled up the streets and called it a done day.

Anyway, enough about the sad and sordid history of Winslow, Arizona. The point of this post is just how much of an asshole I am that I can look at the slow death of a small town and see nothing more than a story idea.

Last week we took a trip up to Zion National Park in Utah to spend some time with friends and celebrate some birthdays. As we were passing through Winslow (at exactly the speed limit, I assure you),  we saw the remnants of some building or another. All that was left was a mostly empty dirt log, the rusted I-beams that made up the frame, and an old rail freight car.

A perfect place for a story with all kinds of high weirdness. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but driving (at exactly the speed limit) wasn’t conducive to getting a decent shot. But I saw the scene and immediately saw the end of the world had come and gone and there were still a couple people out there working on some strange tech hammered together with dreams, bailing wire, and bits of crashed UFOs. Around them were 50 gallon drums filled with flaming refuse and the endless brown desert. The stars filled the skies. They had one final shot at redemption in a world that died with a whimper.

Maybe it’s just me, but I saw a story in that old frame and dirt-bound freight car. Inspiration comes from all sorts of bizarre places.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Neither of my books have sold for beans.  It’s not entirely surprising; I’m an unknown author in a sea of people.  I wrote some fairly strange stuff.  It’s been called uncategorizable by more than a couple people.  People love categories; I find them kind of restricting.

I was pondering all this the other evening and wondering if I should change my style, make it fit a singular genre.  Maybe I could write a horror story where villains stalk virgins or a science fiction story where a valiant crew faces insurmountable odds, or a crashed spaceship on a world of magic leads to a clash of high technology and powerful magic.

Actually, that last one might be pretty cool.  I’m claiming that one.  No one else can write it.  And it doesn’t fit neatly into a category anyway and, as we’ve already established, uncategorizable is my category.  So there; it’s mine.

Anyway, as I was pondering all this I realized I had far too many ideas to just throw in the towel.  Besides, I’m not writing because I’m looking for fame or fortune (actually, fortune would be nice.  It’s hard to collect exotic cars on my salary), I’m writing because it’s fun and those ideas have to go somewhere, right?

So, your first book didn’t sell for squat?  Write another one.

Second one didn’t catch on, either?  Write another one.

Bottom line, just keep writing.

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I think everyone who writes a book somehow expects it will immediately become the next best seller and they’ll be showered with praise.  It can happen, but it often doesn’t.  That’s one of the things that I keep reminding myself of.  Well, that and I’m not really writing because I want to become the next big name; I write because I enjoy it and it’s nice to know at least a few people out there have enjoyed what I’ve written.  Consider it my good deed for the day; a half-assed atonement for all the things I’ve done wrong.

So that’s it.  It’s exactly as easy and hard as Neil Gaiman says.  There’s no magical formula, there’s no advice to give that will change your fate.  There’s no hidden secret out there that will suddenly make you a great writer.  I’m thinking writing is like anything else, the more you practice at it the better you’ll get at it.  The only way to practice it is to do it.  A lot.

That said, here’s some inspiration for you.  There’s a story in each and every one of these pictures, and that story is probably longer than a thousand words.

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Ancient-Chinese-dragon-Desktop-Wallpaper

Code-Monkey-Wallpaper

 

The-Fighter

Faked-Moon-Landing-Proof

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Armored-Woman-with-Sword

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Go forth and write a story.  Expect my next book, a collection of stories called The Clock Man sometime this summer.