Excerpt: Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions

From the short story,  Loon Lake:

With each move, she paused and thought. She clenched her hands together, held them near her mouth, thinking it all over. Her moves were deliberate and concise with her nature. But I was too much for her. I chased her queen around until finally, she conceded. I gave her my number.

“Do you like milkshakes?”

“Who doesn’t like milkshakes?” I said.

“The lactose intolerant actually.”

“Oh right. How could I forget?”

“You should buy me a milkshake.” She got up and moved for the door, “Good game.”

“Wish I could say the same for you!” I joked. She looked back as she floated away, her purse slung over her shoulder, her curves rocked from one side to the other—all of her silhouetted by the light coming through the shop window. She was gone, and I looked down at my winning move on the chess board.

“Where did she learn to walk like that?”

You can read Loon Lake along with my collection of short stories, Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions on Amazon.

Excerpt: Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions

From the short story, Break Up Letter:

The question hit me the wrong way. Suddenly I was back in that car, going one ten down M-60. Tracing her wet back with one set of my five fingers I grasped her behind and I closed my eyes. The wind hit my face. The steering wheel of my car began to vibrate and my hands held on tight. She pressed her chest into me and I lost control. Spinning and flipping, it was life or death. The pieces of the letter fell to the floor and the ache in my spine dissipated and she unzipped my pants. I entered her. She came with force and I was upside down coming to life and dying at the same time.

You can read Break Up Letter along with my collection of short stories, Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions on Amazon.

My new book: Girls, Cigarettes, & Illusions

For the past six months, instead of blogging like I had planned, I’ve been fine-tuning, editing, rewriting, and formatting my NEW book Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions. This project dates back years, and it’s finally ready!

Later this year, or even more maybe early 2020, my novel Girls I Know will be published and released in the traditional way through an actual publisher. So in the build-up to that, I decided I’d give the whole self-publishing a try.

Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions is described as such:

“Evocative and distinctly erotic, Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions is a collection of ten vignettes that trace the lives of modern-day couples and singles. We are transported to the turbulent depths of the romantic and the perverse, where our characters often succumb to their greater primitive desires. Among these provocative stories, a recently dumped entrepreneur battles with the reality that his ex-girlfriend may have committed murder; a couple travels into the wilderness to witness loons on a lake; a woman recalls the story of her best friend who went missing after she lost her virginity; a young salesman writes his girlfriend a break-up letter after falling for a co-worker; and a student is hired to watch his teacher’s cat only to get caught up in his own girlfriend’s dark erotic fantasies. A blend of literary fiction and erotica, these coming of age stories are riddled with ambiguity, irony, and human sexuality in a mysterious, seemingly magical world told from the first person.”

There are some graphic (sexy) descriptions in these short stories so I advise you don’t read them at work or around your grandparents. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t smut but instead a blend of literary fiction and erotica.

I have struggled with the idea of releasing these stories to the world for quite some time. There is a fear of judgment when you release any creative project. And with erotica, there is an even more of a fear of judgment. As a writer, you face these fears every day.  I’ve written about these fears over and over again in this very blog. I know I have to face them head-on. Get your work out there!

So, without further ado, I give you my collection of short stories: Girls, Cigarettes & Illusions.

CLICK HERE TO BUY IT NOW!

BACKFRONT

Onward and Upward

This weekend we finished post-production on a short film, No Time for Romance. It’s a fourteen minute short about a pregnant wife who must decide to stay with her live-in boyfriend or prepare for the end of the world. It’s really about much more than that though: the rising nuclear tensions and the effects it has on a relationship with differing views.

My producing partner and I shot the film earlier this year. It’s been a long time coming. The production didn’t go as planned and the audio was a mess. There were disagreements on the script (that never fully felt complete by the time of filming). In short, we learned a lot.

Upon finalizing and exporting the film, my partner expressed how much he liked it. How good it felt to be done. I felt the same way, but differently.

I replied, “No one will watch it and we’ll make more. Onward and upward.”

He agreed. This might sound complacent but it’s the opposite.

The film won’t win Oscar. And it most likely won’t launch our careers into quitting our jobs and becoming full-time moviemakers. We had a story and we wanted to tell it. Did it come out EXACTLY the way we wanted? No. But that’s okay. Few things do.

I have boughten into this idea/advice from filmmakers like Mark Duplass (and others) whose motto of “just make movies.”

Every project is another lesson for the next one. We have other projects in the works, both together and separately, my producing partner and I. Writing is the same way. With every project you learn something, you get better, you home your voice, your practice.

And as much as we’d love the fame and attention for our projects, the likes and the shares and the views—we know it’s not about that. It can’t be. If it was, we would have quit a long time ago. It’s about the work, the process, the collaboration, the storytelling.

Just write. Just paint. Just workout. Just sew. Set your goals but know it can’t be about the outcome. It has to be about the work.

When facing that lurking feeling of creative self-doubt, born from resistance, waiting to devour all of your dreams and ambitions—Theo Roosevelt said it best:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Come join us in the arena.

This isn’t our first film and it won’t be our last. The next one will be better, and the next one better than that. Fail again. Fail better.

Check out the film here:  No Time For Romance

Thanks for reading. Always be writing.

 

-REH

Am I a writer yet?

The waitress who’s an actress. The Uber driver who’s a bodybuilder. The banker who’s a painter. The lawyer who’s a stand-up comedian.
In the past when people asked me what I do, I always conceded to my day job.

“I work in real estate.”

I’ve tried to tell people what I really do (where most of my time/energy goes).

“I’m a writer.”

Truth is, I’m not one hundred percent comfortable with that. It feels immodest. The next question is always, “What do you write? Have you ever had anything published?”

And when I go into the details of my mild successes, it feels contrived. Their faces are a little bit confused like they’re grappling to find a reason to validate me. They’re seeing right through me. I’m a fraud. I’m full of shit. I’m reminded of why I don’t say I’m a writer…

How much success do I need? How much money do I need to make? When will the phrase “I’m a writer” feel authentic?

I spend five to six hours a day working on my writing. That’s twice as much time I spend on the day job. I’m very lucky that I can prioritize my writing over everything and still pay my bills. AND now that I’m in grad school, I’m writing all the time. Saturday and Sunday afternoons are now spent writing. Or at least outlining, thinking, brainstorming, navigating stories or reading scripts and books.

So now, if someone would approach me and ask me what I do?

“I’m a grad student.”

I can show them the homework and feedback I got from my workshop. In two years I can show them the Master’s degree and the debt I’ve accumulated. That’s a result. That’s merchandisable. That’s a “viable product.” I can’t show them the countless unproduced screenplays or the short stories or even this blog. That’s not enough. The grad student fits into a box and makes sense. There’s an end game. No need to grapple with that.

ME: “I’m writing a screenplay. I’m a writer.”

SOME GUY: “Oh, so then what’s next?”

ME: “I have no fucking idea.”

I’ve been produced. I’ve sold a script. My novel is being published. I spend the majority of my weekly hours writing, so what has to happen? What would help me confidently answer this question: What do you do? What are you? What am I?

I don’t think there is a clear answer to my identity crisis. It’s hard to say if it’ll ever change. Maybe when I’m living in LA and making money writing screenplays full time… I long for this day. There is honor in it. A LABEL that I strive for.

I’m reminded that all I can do is write.  And to be a writer means to write.

Always be writing.

 

-REH

“Rabbitholing” — Let’s Brainstorm

Urban dictionary defines the term “Rabbitholing” as: “To get stuck on an endless internet search of no particular importance.”

If you’re sitting down and writing every day like I am, sometimes you start feeling like a robot. The work feels dry. The once awe-inspiring story sucks. And even when you’ve hit your daily writing quota, it’s as if you didn’t write anything at all.

This is what I do to cure that bottomless pit feeling…

Set aside a few hours (preferably late at night) when you don’t have to wake up early, when social media is boring, when there are fewer distractions to pull you away.

Go Rabbitholing.

What you will need:

  1. Computer with internet access
  2. A notepad and a writing utensil
  3. A glass of wine, scotch, a joint, or anything that will help you relax (this is optional, but I find it’s crucial to the process)

Rabbitholing is actually one big distraction.

Utilizing the internet and all its information, you will basically follow any and every inclination you have. You will follow all the distractions you want — when you want and however you want. This is your chance to let loose. To rid the pressure of distraction-free, concentrated work. Go buck-wild.

At some point in the day, at least once, I will perpetually scroll through the internet whether that be Yahoo News, Facebook, Twitter. It’s inevitable. I’m simply procrastinating. I’m distracting myself from writing. But even as I’m procrastinating, I begin to procrastinate the procrastination. If I come across an article or link or anything that sounds mildly interesting, I don’t click it. I just save it and keep scrolling. It’s stupid, I know. But my mind doesn’t seem to want to really engage, it just wants to scroll.

So I made it a mission to rid my Facebook of shitty people and memes and fill it with news, inspirational articles, how-to’s, and cats — anything that will make me think a little harder, laugh a little harder and/or smile more.

After a few weeks, the saved articles/links begin to pile up. Facebook has a great feature for saving pages. I suggest you utilize this. I know people who just keep a bunch of tabs open — this is similar.

These pile-ups are great for Rabbitholing. Go to your tabs or saved links. Sip your Gin and Tonic. Sharpen that pencil and sit back. Let your mind wander into the world wide web.

Dive into it. Follow your gut. Click links. Tear down those walls. Follow curious instincts. Absorb it. Write down anything and everything. Be inspired purposely. If you have a question, Google it!

Tell yourself, I’m going to sit down and go Rabbitholing!

The wheels in the brain start turning. The hand moves that pen and suddenly you have threads of a new story, a painting, an invention, ways to get better work out, on and on and on…

Last night I was up until 2 a.m. — I found a news article of a shooting that took place in a drive-through at McDonald’s. The man who was shot was part of the mob. Before I knew it I was looking at the FBI’s Most Wanted list.  Reading stories I have never read before. I made notes. Stole from them. Suddenly I didn’t feel like such a robot.

Always be writing
-REH

Rejection Refines Us

“Rejection refines us. Those who fall prey to its enervating soul-sucking tentacles are doomed. Those who persist past it are survivors. Best ask yourself the question: what kind of writer are you? The kind who survives? Or the kind who gets asphyxiated by the tentacles of woe?” said writer Chuck Wendig.

This quote hangs above my computer and, to me, is the most useful quote I have. If you’re chasing dreams, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with rejection.

I drafted this post right after a twenty-four-hour span of rejection on three separate fronts. First from a publisher for my novel. Then a highly anticipated/competitive grad school. And then a “PASS” from a producer for my screenplay.

I’ve been rejected countless times. But I really felt these, which had life-alternating potential. I really felt those tentacles that Wendig speaks of.

It felt like a great deal of weight. All I wanted to do was go to sleep. Lie in bed and close my eyes and hope the feeling would slither away.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way and it never will.

I’ve known from the very start of chasing the elusive career as a working writer that rejections are inevitable. And after so many, I convinced myself that if I wasn’t getting rejected for something at least once a month, then I wasn’t trying hard enough. I wasn’t reaching high enough.

It takes a self-prescribed illusion of an idyllic future to continue to press forward. You have to brainwash yourself to show up every day and know it’s worth it. You have to ignore the reality of statistics that say you won’t make it. Rejection knocks you out of that illusion and tells you, despite all of your hard work and progress, you’re still untalented and you won’t make it.

Those tentacles come lashing, twisting and turning all around. Telling me and you to give up, to take the easy way out and go to business school.

But know this: These tentacles will soon slither back to where they came from. The rejection will refine you and you’ll keep writing or drawing or painting or recording and hopefully if you’re good enough—you’ll again face rejection head-on.

With every rejection, you’ll be refined with a new ability. With a new sense of self and a thicker hide to take it. Grad school rejection? Screenplay rejection? Novel rejection? I”m broken and mended back together with gold. Good as new.

I look at another quote on my wall by Steven Pressfield: “It’s better to be in the arena being stomped by the bull than it is to be in the bleachers or in the parking lot.”

Rejection will never define you. And neither will success. What defines you is how you get back up, how you get back to work and how you fight through the grip of rejection and doubt.

The tentacles will leave their lash marks and you’ll have a story to tell. I’d rather eat my own bullshit than someone else’s at the nine to five.

I’m now refined with a new order of success. I’ve replanted my feet and adjusted, and I’m preparing myself again for the next project, my next rejection, but very possibly the one that makes it all worth it.

Since drafting this post, and now posting it: I’ve found a publisher for my novel and was accepted into BU’s MFA Screenwriting program.

 

Always be writing

 

-Robert