My work so far….

I wanted to put into a single post the work others were kind enough to publish, just to have it all in one place…

Fiction/Poetry:

We Sing the Spring Song, published by The Storyteller’s Refrain (Issue 3, Winter 2023); Page 23

  • https://www.calameo.com/books/00696706597b161f57a8f

Time for a Cappuccino, published by Vocivia Magazine (Issue 2, Chronos);  Page 29

  • https://vocivia.com/3d-flip-book/issue-2-chronos

Crickets and Fungi, published by Barzakh Magazine (Summer 2022)

  • https://www.barzakhmag.net/summer-2022-in-nature-prose-2/2022/7/17/neal-sandin

No One Has Been Here Before, published by Zero Readers (Issue 3)

  • https://www.zeroreaders.com/2021/12/no-one-has-been-here-before-neal-sandin/
Non-Fiction
Artificial Intelligence Useful Tool That Must Be Tempered With Authentic Human Connection, published by Saratoga Business Journal, January 22, 2024
  • https://www.saratoga.com/saratogabusinessjournal/2024/01/artificial-intelligence-useful-tool-that-must-be-tempered-with-authentic-human-connection/
Thanks for taking a look!!

Time for a Cappuccino

The very nice people at Vocivia Magazine published my story, Time for a Cappuccino, earlier this month. You can find it here:

https://vocivia.com/3d-flip-book/issue-two-volume-2#issue-two-volume-2/31/

No One Has Been Here Before – Zero Readers

So, I was finally published. The kind people at Zero Readers put up a poem of mine which you can find here: https://www.zeroreaders.com/2021/12/no-one-has-been-here-before-neal-sandin/

Other poems in Issue 3 can be found here: https://www.zeroreaders.com/issues/issue-3/

I highly recommend submitting to them when next they are open to submissions. Each poem is given feedback that was both both insightful and helpful. I submitted two pieces, and the feedback left me inspired on how to fix and improve the rejected poem as well as the accepted one.

New Music: Mansur – Disciples

I am not sure why, but I really love this song by Mansur “Disciples.”

It is not my normal thing, and if I am being cynical, it sort of sounds like what a Hollywood film would play during an alien nightclub scene or something of the sort.

But it’s pretty great. Maybe it is because I cannot understand the singing (which is a strong constant in my favorite songs, should they have singing at all), but the voice is wonderful – powerful while not being indulgent, complimenting the music without overpowering it. And the instrumentation is so very interesting – immersive yet unpredictable.

A strong contender for the next Bandcamp Friday (where they forgo their cut of the sale)

Being an Ally: The Bare Minimum

There is currently a terrific amount of social debate and disruption, with marches and protests regarding Black Live Matter, systemic racism, climate justice, LGBTQIA+ rights, policy brutality/reform, and more. Tensions are justifiably high and perhaps even aggravated due to it being an election year in the US. That being said, I have been thinking on what it means to be an ally.

As a white, middle-class, suburban living, cis-gendered, married, male, privilege is thy name. So, while I support many of the current struggles for equal rights/access for marginalized voices, I also do not want to take attention away from the voices that most need to be heard. So, I have come up with two rules (not in any particular order) that I feel is the very least I can do, the bare minimum to being an ally:

  • Elevate marginalized voices
  • Get out of their way

Again, these rules do not need to be done in order. One does not necessarily require the other, and I try to engage with both constantly.

Marginalized voices are marginalized in part because they are not being heard. Elevating can take a myriad of forms, from buying a book to donating to a cause to retweeting on Twitter. An ally can help marginalized voices be heard.

If a marginalized voice is speaking, listen to them. Don’t interrupt. Don’t turn away. Their voice needs to be recognized and debated. They can and should speak for themselves and their community, on their own terms.

Of course, there is more that an ally can do, but in terms of a bare minimum, this might be a good place to start.

Neal’s Rules for Revising: Write it Twice (or Thrice)

It is obvious that sometimes you first draft is not your best. But even after revising and working that draft to shiny perfection, it still isn’t quite right. It doesn’t do whatever you want it to do, although you might not see where it is falling down on the job. Sometimes, it is better in the long run to rewrite it from the beginning.

Admittedly, this is easier to do with short stories. I recently found myself writing various different versions of the same story and finding each new one a strong improvement. This might be due to the fact that I do love novelty, but with each successive iteration, I have added some element that was lacking previously while pulling along the elements that made the story so compelling (at least for me).

This has also been done with longer novels. If I remember correctly, Andr√© Schwarz-Bart, author of The Last of the Just, wrote that novel five times before he felt it was complete. I know for my current novel that I am shopping around, I rewrote 2/3 of it (after doing what I considered to be revisions), then rewrote 1/3, then rewrote 1/4 before I finally reached a completed first draft was ready for actual revisions. I don’t know if it is good enough for publication, but it is certainly better than what I had.

All this reminds me of a writing exercise, where one takes a prompt (e.g., “It was a dark and stormy night…”) and then writes ten different versions of what comes next. If nothing else, it teaches you how to look with fresh eyes at some of the tropes that exist, finding new ways to explore old situations/environments.

The upshot is that revising is not always simply changing words around or improving a description here or there. Sometimes a story needs to be told again and again until it comes out right.

Cooperative Writing Experiment

So, I just sent off an email with a few paragraphs of a story to my local writing group. This was inspired by a suggestion made a few weeks back about doing some cooperative writing. But due to life getting in the way, it was never getting started and so I (perhaps unwisely) volunteered to send something out on Sunday. Well, today is Monday but better than not at all, and maybe the ball will start rolling.

But if not, that is fine. It is not a bad story to be honest, a lot of different ways it could go and plenty of freedom to explore, etc. Still, even at this early stage, the hardest part was letting go. I was tempted (and successfully dissuaded by my wife) to give suggestions on how the plot could progress. In the end, I only said where I imagined the story was set, which hopefully isn’t too much.

Anyway, fingers crossed it moves forward. We have some excellent writers in the group, with very different styles/perspectives, which I think would make the story richer. And if it should ever rotate back to me, I think it will be a good sort of challenge to try to compliment their styles and perspectives as I add to the story in turn.

Just so you know, the rules we have set up for the cooperative writing are pretty straight forward. In fact, I think it might just be one rule: you have 30 min. No word counts or plot points. Just give it 30 min and then send it along. I should apply that to other areas in my life.

The Slow Music Movement – Women in the Ambient Music World

I found this article recently, and it has just so many amazing artists that I feel I ought to boost it in my own small way. It is a three part list, so I am pasting all three links below.

I spent the better part of my day going through these (and probably will again), discovering quite a few great albums that I will be buying on the next Bandcamp Friday (September 4th). So far, my personal favorite is Olga Wojciechowska (found in the first link – part 1).

https://www.theslowmusicmovement.org/blog/women-in-the-ambient-music-world-part-1

https://www.theslowmusicmovement.org/blog/women-in-the-ambient-music-world-part-2

https://www.theslowmusicmovement.org/blog/women-in-the-ambient-music-world-part-3

Anyway, hope you enjoy, and thanks to The Slow Music Movement for putting this list together.

Current Favorite Song

I will play this song for everyone. I think it is one of the best things to come out in ages. Yes, it is electronica, and yes, it has that heartbeat that might not be for everyone. It also doesn’t have any singing, although I am generally in favor of that (something I’ll likely write more about in the future).

It is just so immersive and, in my opinion, would only be improved if it could be played on an infinite loop (which I do when I am not on YouTube). I won’t go into the details about the composition and tonality – to be honest, I don’t really have the vocabulary to talk about those aspects effectively. Besides, there is something to be said with just enjoying something without analyzing it – if only to keep some of the magic and wonder.

This is not to say that this song, its structure, or palette are unique or unlike anything else. I just happen to love this one for whatever reason. There are plenty of songs that are similar, and fortunately, I tend to like those too. Here are two more for whoever is interested:

Neal’s Rules of Revising: Print It Out

So, I finally finished. I finished the first draft. Then the second and third, and I honestly and truly think that this fourth draft is the final one. And I learned a lot of very helpful things along the way so here is the first entry of “Neal’s Rules…,” a series that I’ll be returning to over the next few weeks, months, years, etc.

Of course, all rules can change. I expect after my next novel, I will have quite a few humbling corrections, but at least these rules will serve as a better (if shaky) foundation than what I had earlier, which was no foundation at all.

To get to the point, when revising, always print it out. I had spent a tremendous amount of time revising/editing earlier drafts, but when I finally printed out the draft and put pen to actual paper, I saw holes in the plot I didn’t notice earlier, annoying quirks or crutches that I have within my writing (e.g., repeating words, using the same facial expression, so much shrugging), seeing where the order of sections/chapters had to be changed to serve the plot, and so on.

Most crucially were the points where the plot felt “thin,” when the story was no longer immersive – instead of being inside my story, I was reading words on a page. While there are plenty of tools and techniques for correcting these moments, finding them in the text obviously must come first. On the screen, I would read past them, thinking all was well or wondering why I just could not get this scene right – but on paper, they jumped out.

To be honest, it was humbling. It is so easy to think you’re a horrible writer because you see some of your horrible writing. And the fixes weren’t always easy; it was rarely the case of adding more description or thinking of another word for “dark.” I had to dig deeper to find ways to engage the reader. I hope I succeeded. At the very least, it made me a better writer.

So, there it is, the first of Neal’s Rules for Editing: Print It Out (double-sided if possible so you save paper). More to come…