Almost Done Editing My Fiction Collection Crushes

This week, I’ve been really focused on getting my book edited for the paperback release. That’s why my blog posts have been short and simple this week. I’d say I’m sorry about it, but I’m actually not. I’m almost done with the book proofing I think. Just a little more to go, and little more waiting around with a copy to make sure I don’t notice anything else for a week or so.

Also, my strategy that I shared yesterday about getting the Audible copy of The Goldfinch has really paid off. I listened to the equivalent of around one hundred pages yesterday between my time in the office and at home, which is way more than I could’ve read. Having a fulltime job really drains the time away from reading and writing. I know this isn’t a groundbreaking realization. But, at least I can still get out on my lunch and get a nice latte every day.

Also, I was going to share some fiction on my blog that I had written, but everything I’ve written this week has been too long and not polished enough. What started out as weird semi-autobiographical-but-still-fiction has morphed into definitely-fiction. I’m still writing about those same characters, which again, is unusual for me.

This is a quick post again, but maybe not as quick a the last few. So, hopefully that’s better. I still like blogging every day, even if they’re not all the greatest things out there.

Anyway, leave me a comment below and let me know how your Friday is going.

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I Carry My Manuscripts Around With Me

I do this weird thing when I’m working on a book. I carry the manuscript around with me everywhere I go. Or, in the case of my fiction collection Crushes, I carry the paperback proof copy around with me everywhere I go. I can’t remember who gave this advice to me initially, or if I read about it somewhere, but I heard it and realized that I was doing it and so I just sort of kept on doing it.

Why I Carry My Manuscripts Everywhere

I like carrying my manuscripts and books around with me for a few reasons. Firstly, it helps me at least to think about the book while I’m doing other things. I’m very busy. I’m in grad school, I work full time at an office in Downtown Louisville, I’m editing a literary magazine again, and I blog on my personal website (this thing you’re reading right now) every day. Now there’s also this book that I’m working on, not to mention the other fiction I’m writing now as well.

If I just leave this book that I need to finish proofing on my desk, I might get to it one day. However, if I carry it with me throughout the day to the coffee shop or to the office, I’ll at least be thinking about it some. And, usually, I’ll open it up and look at it at least once a day, which is better than once a week or once a month. This also works with early drafts my manuscripts, before they are in book form.

The other reason I carry my manuscripts around with me is to initiate conversation. Yes, it’s fun to brag that I’m writing a book. In addition to it being fun, it’s also useful for me when people ask me about my work. When people ask me a question like “what’s your book about?” I usually have to answer them. And, when it’s a fiction collection, the answer can be tricky. I didn’t actually have a good title for the book at first. I didn’t until I realized through a conversation with someone that my short stories were all about sexuality and relationships. By the end of the conversation, I was saying, “So actually I guess it’s about crushes.” It also helped me with the description on the back of the book.

It Might Look Funny

I carried my manuscripts around with me in college during my undergrad years a lot, too. People looked at me funny, but it helped me stay creative and productive. I think people thought I was a little stuck-up or snobby because of it. Maybe I was, I don’t know. I was also a very strict workshopper in writing workshop groups. Not sorry. The point is, it worked. I ended up with enough short stories to publish a fiction collection.

I’m definitely not a pro at this book thing yet, but I do enjoy it and I’m learning a lot about it as I go. If you’re a writer, do you carry your manuscripts around with you everywhere? Do you think it’s embarrassing? Comment below. Does this also work with other forms of art? For instance, if you had a giant painting that you were working on and you wanted to carry it with you to coffee shop, would it help? If anyone tries it, let me know. If you’re not in a creative mood at the moment, what are you up to today?

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I carry my manuscripts and book-proofs around with me everywhere so that I increase the odds of opening them up and looking at them every day.
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Is There A Novel In Me?

Is there a novel in me? The answer might not exactly be yes, but I have been writing about the same characters for a hot minute. It makes me wonder how far I can take them. I’m at novellete length with them now. If I can cross over into novella length, maybe we’ll start talking novel.

As I’ve mentioned, I mostly stick with writing short stories instead of writing novels. I like writing about moments, and in that process, I explore characters. Usually, after I’ve worked on one story for a while and I get it good enough, I move on to other characters and start a new story. But, I never really considered what would happen if I kept writing short stories with the same characters in them. It seems that may be a good way to trick my brain into writing a novel. I guess that’s what’s going on now. This is all theoretical, and hasn’t been proven yet. Only time will tell.

I’m getting further along in edits for the paperback version of Crushes. It’s almost done, I promise.

Just a short blog post again today. Busy. Follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook.

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I’m Still Trying To Finish The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

They say if you’re a writer, you should read a lot. I understand why people say that, and it’s good advice, but I think it’s important to also remember that you can’t read everything. Well, I can’t. There are also lots of dry periods where I don’t read anything. My reading habits are not consistent.

I read a lot as an undergrad.

When I was an undergrad, I read SO MUCH. It wasn’t that I was assigned a lot of reading (I mean, I was assigned a lot of reading) but I also wanted to read everything I could get my hands on. I even read further in texts than assigned if I found something interesting. I mostly focused on short fiction collections. I read a few novels but didn’t go crazy. Then I started a literary magazine and now I read a lot of poetry and short fiction submissions on a weekly basis.

However, I haven’t read a novel in a very long time. I don’t hate novels, but since I’m a minimalist writer and a short fiction lover, I find that most novels are way too long for me. I’ve tried to write a novel a few times and it hasn’t worked out because I can’t allow myself to linger too much. I have the same problem when I read. If I get bored, I stop. I’m not sorry about it.

But, that’s a “me” problem, I know. Novels are supposed to linger, I guess. If they didn’t they wouldn’t ever get anywhere. I mean, people linger. We linger a lot sometimes. If we didn’t we wouldn’t ever end up anywhere or have done much of anything. So, I’m working on my novel reading. What I need to try to remember when I get tired of lingering is that it’s a novel and it’s going something. If I really can’t stand it, maybe I can try skipping sections instead of stopping the book altogether.

I’m going to start with a book that I’ve been trying to finish since like 2016 or something like that. It’s The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

The Goldfinch Is A Long Book

I know there are shorter books to try to read, but I’ve been at this one for so long, you guys. I’m on page 230 and there are 771 pages. I’m not sure which chapter it is. Anyway, I figure if it took Donna Tartt ten years to write it, I can take a while to read it. Especially since I’m busy.

I know that there’s a movie or something on Amazon Prime now, but I’m not going to watch it because I want to finish the book first. Here’s the book on Amazon, even though I’m sure most everyone else has already read it because it’s a Pulitzer winner and those tend to get circulated quite a bit. Here is the book on Amazon. Just so you know, I’m a member of the Amazon Associates Program and I earn money from qualifying purchases with the ad below.

But, I mean, you all can watch it if you want. Here’s the movie on Amazon. For now, it’s included with Amazon Prime so if you’re a prime member you can watch it for free. Again, the below link is an ad and I’m a member of the Amazon Associates Program. I earn money from qualifying purchases from the ad below.

Have you read The Goldfinch yet? Seen the movie?

Obviously I haven’t finished The Goldfinch yet or seen the movie, so not spoilers please. But, definitely let me know if you liked the book or the movie in the comments below.

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Eric Shay Howard selfie reading The The Goldfinch

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How My Blog Works

The other day, I wrote a blog post about how my routine got interrupted and it made me question my blog posting schedule. I’ve been thinking about how my blog works. I’ve also been trying to figure out how it WILL work. I’m afraid to specify too detailed of a specific blog schedule. I’m always trying new things and tinkering with this and that. One day I’m complaining about my Grindr profile and the next day I’m mister literary give-me-a-break. However, I have ALMOST successfully written on my blog every day for 30 days in a row. I’ve decided that blogging every day is good for me. It keeps me writing and it gives me something to do. So, I will be posting every day, unless, you know, a hole to hell opens nearby or something. And even then, I dunno, I might have something to say.

How will my blog work in the future?

The question remains: what IS my blog about? What type of content should I really focus on? Me, of course, but, I should be a little more specific, right? Or maybe not? Let’s see.

I’m probably going to post some of my short stories and creative writing a little every week, because I’ve loved doing that! But, I think I’ve also bombarded you all with my short stories a little too back-to-back, so maybe I’ll take them down to one or two a week.

I suppose at least one day a week will end up being a life update post of some sort. I can share what’s been going on with my books, with my writing, with my dating life, with my friends, or whatever.

That leaves four more days to figure out. Hmmm. I mean, maybe I can come up with four interesting blog posts about SOMETHING every week? That doesn’t sound too hard. It probably is though. I’m sure I’ll have problems sometimes: bad dates, life frustrations, et cetera.

I’ll continue figuring it out as I go along, I suppose. Again, this needs to continue being a little loosey-goosey, or it will probably implode into itself.

How will my short story posts work?

I do kinda have this part figured out. When I post new short fiction or creative writing on my blog, they are usually early drafts. They’re stories that I’ve decided to not submit to literary journals and just keep here on my blog. Most literary journals require that submissions be previously unpublished, which means they also can’t be on a blog somewhere.

I don’t have a detailed or serious process for deciding which stories to post on my blog or save to submit to literary journals. It’s usually as simple as “I’m familiar with some literary journals that this MIGHT fit into and I’m going to save it to submit to them.” If I don’t feel that way, I’ll post it. I know, groundbreaking.

I should note that, as of the date of this post, I’ve not had any pieces actually accepted anywhere. But, I still hold onto the pieces and keep submitting them for a while. If I’ve collected enough stories that haven’t been posted on my blog that keep getting rejected from journals, I will just self-publish them in a book after a year or two. (Or three. Again, very loosey-goosey.)

As for the stories that I post on my blog, again, they are usually first or second drafts. I usually edit them over time, and probably rewrite them a few times down the road. Eventually, maybe some of the stories included in my daily blog will get polished enough to graduate up into my “Free Stories” section of my blog. It definitely won’t be all the stories. It probably won’t even be three a year. I’m just guessing.

As for the speed in which it takes me to get things “polished”, which in my opinion means “done enough”, It took me three years to write and rewrite and polish the nine short stories that make up my first fiction collection, Crushes.

I think this is a good plan.

For the most part, this a good, doable, loosey-goosey enough plan for me. What do you all think? Are you into it? The goal of this blog is to mainly keep me writing. I don’t want to make too many self-imposed rules or anything. Maybe something cool will come out it one day. I’m sure there will be kinks to work out, bumps in the road, and blah-blah-blah. I suppose there’s also the fact that I’m paying money to have this domain name and web hosting, so I might as well put stuff on here.

To recap, I’ll post a few short stories, life updates, and random stuff every week. Eventually I might stop posting on the weekends? If it gets to be too much, I suppose. Or I could just post selfies on the weekends. Works for me. Hey, a blog post is a blog post.

Let me know what you think about this “plan” in the comments. I’m all for post ideas, too.

You can also follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook.

Eric Shay Howard in sun flare
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Remembering Miss French Press

I wrote a different short story last night, but it was actually kinda good so I decided to save it to rewrite it a hundred times and submit to literary journals. I wrote a different story for today. It’s called Remembering Miss French Press. Enjoy this first draft.

Fiction – Remembering Miss French Press

I dried my hands on my apron and clicked my pen a few times while I watched her come in. Her dress was brown. She wore a dark red sash around it that matched her lipstick. Her brown hair was not moving in the wind. I looked to Ronald. He turned his head away from me and grabbed the broom and dustpan. I sighed. She stood near the host counter.

“Good morning. Booth or table?” I asked. She pointed at a booth. When she sat down, I handed her a menu. She looked it over and then pointed to the coffee and then to the eggs and toast. I marked my ticket. I took my ticket to the kitchen counter. Fred watched his empty pans.

“Miss French Press?” Fred asked. He dribbled oil from a spoon over one of the cast iron skillets.

“Miss French Press?” I asked. Fred pointed to a small French press behind the coffee pot. It had molded coffee grounds in it. I banged them into the trash and washed it at the sink. I washed and sanitized the French press in the sinks. I washed my hands with soap and wiped them on my apron. I could still smell the mold. Fred called over Ronald. Ronald propped the broom up behind the wall to the prep area and stood by me. Fred showed us the French press. After dumping some coffee grounds inside, we filled it halfway with water, poured hot water in, and waited two minutes. Ronald watched with his hand over his mouth. After two minutes, we filled it with more water. Ronald watched me as I pressed the filter down. When I turned around, Miss French Press stared.

I smiled. I brought her some creams. She didn’t use them. Fred moved the French press back behind the coffee pot. Ronald took a father and son that had walked in. He sat them at a booth in the back. Fred handed me my eggs. I walked them over. I bumped Ronald. A small amount of coffee splashed into his apron. He touched his face. I walked around him. I set the eggs down. Ronald handed me a roll of silverware before taking his ticket to Fred. Miss French Press curled and her middle and index fingers on each hand and brought them together. She pointed behind the counter. Ronald stood by the coffee pot.

 “More coffee?” I asked. She pointed at the coffee pot, pulled her index and thumb away from her face, and then pointed at me. I brought the French press over and refilled her coffee. She ate. I cashed her out. She left her coffee and a three-dollar tip. Ronald stood behind me and watched her walk away. He cleaned my table for me.

Short Story Notes

If I like this one in a few months I’ll rewrite it and stuff. There are things I don’t like about it, but there were things I found useful from it. I like Miss French Press. I don’t like it for the title, but I like her. But it was all I could come up with for now. Also, needs more tension.

Thanks for reading and as always, comment below about whatever. Typo hunters welcome. Admiration of me is also encouraged. As always, thank you all for reading, and I hope you like my stories, or at least like watching me struggle with them. After a while, sometimes my stories graduate to my stories section of my website.

You can follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook.

Eric Shay Howard selfie
Me, my lunchtime latte, and my proof copy of my fiction collection, Crushes.
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On The Gym

Everything I currently know about how the gym works can be summed up in this short story I drafted last night. If you know more about how the gym works, please comment below.

On Gyms

Jack followed Ronald into the gym while I held the door. The receptionist welcomed us and asked if we were members. Ronald took out a card from his back jeans pocket.

“These two are my guests. It’s my mom’s account,” he said. He cleared his throat and pulled his shirt tail down over his belly. “I’m Ronald. I come in here all the time,” he said. He brushed his hair back. She looked the pass over and handed it back. We went further inside. Women in shorts ran on treadmills. I saw one blonde-haired guy running at the one in the back corner. There was an empty one next to his. I stopped there and looked at the buttons.

“No. That’s what you need,” Jack said. He pointed to the chest press machine. Between the treadmills and the chest press were yoga mats. Ronald stared at the girls on the floor.

We passed a pull-up bar and a leg press machine. I studied the muscles on the arms of the guys on the way through the room. Once we were at the chest press, Jack sat me down and adjusted the weights. He pulled the bands out with his skinny arms and reattached them.

“Lift,” he said. I pulled the arms in towards my chest and then pushed them back out.

“Was it hard?” Jack asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Ronald, sit,” Jack said. Ronald did a few sets. Jack adjusted the weights. Ronald did a few more sets.

“You should try this one,” Ronald said. I sat back down and pulled.

“It’s not hard,” I said.

“Do it again,” Jack said.

The second time was harder. I could only do five reps. I stopped midway through the sixth.

“Do 4 more,” Jack said. I let go of the handles.

“I can’t,” I said. When I stood, I nearly fell over. Jack sat down in the seat.

“You’re supposed to wipe it,” Ronald said. He went searching for a towel. Jack started his set. He did 7 reps quickly, then pushed through three more. He released the handles and breathed out.

“You think we’ll get as big some of the guys in there?” I asked. A muscular guy in green shorts over at the free weights had my attention.

“I think if we want girlfriends, we’re going to have to do something,” he said. He watched a blonde girl over on the pull-up bar.

“Better quit staring. You’re in athletic shorts,” I said. Jack punched my arm and laughed. “How many was that? ten?”

“I’m resting between sets,” he said. I nodded. “You’ve really never been in a gym before?”

“No.” Jack licked his lips and scratched his thigh. I looked at my feet. Jack worked on his other two sets of reps. I stared at guys for brief moments. When Jack was done, I did four more reps.

“Where’s Ronald?” Jack asked. We found him in the hall near the entrance. He was staring towards the front of the gym holding a towel. He turned around when we got closer to him. His face was red.

“The receptionist?” Jack said.

“Heh, yeah,” Ronald said. Jack pulled him away by the towel. We went to the free weight equipment. There were more women than men lifting. Jack watched them all for a moment. Ronald fixated on a bigger black-haired woman doing curls. Both of their faces were too red to do the free weights.

The doorway to the men’s locker room and showers was just before the free weights. We peaked around the corner inside and then ran back out.

“You guys ever?” I asked.

“No,” Ronald said. I looked to Jack. He shook his head. We walked back past the free weights, through the pull-up bars and the leg and chest presses, past the treadmills, and past the receptionist.  She thanked us. Ronald thanked her back, smiled, and giggled until we pulled him out by the towel in his hand.

Short Story Notes

I drafted the story last night. I didn’t worry about it too much. When writing, you have to just get it down first, right? I may rewrite it a few times. Reading it the next morning, I can already tell you that I need ramp up the tension in this story a lot. I’m not sure if I’ll post new versions or not. Maybe sometimes. However, I tend to just let things stay as they are on here, other than light touch ups every now and then. I’ll fix the typos eventually. I don’t usually care about typos that much with early drafts. I’d rather just move on to asking you how you figured out the gym?

How does exercise work?

I know exercise is important. I mean, I went to the gym a few times at the beginning of the year before the pandemic and everything closed. Recently, I checked out Krav Maga classes at another gym, but I’m not sure about it. It was okay, but it didn’t feel right.

When my gym opens back up, or when I find a new one, I think I’ll focus on the chest press for a while. I also need to work on my arms, abs, legs, and butt. However, I think I’d like my body more if I had a bigger chest. I already know how the chest press works because it was the one machine I used when I started my gym membership at the beginning of the year. Well, that and the treadmill.

How did you learn the gym? Did you teach yourself or id you learn in a class, like a high school with a weight-lifting class for instance? Did your friends or family show you? Comment below!

I’m probably going to have to end up getting a personal trainer or something to help me figure out the gym.

I may not be a gym goer, but I bike almost every day. At least that’s SOMETHING.

You can follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook. Seriously, let’s help each other figure out the gym.

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