Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recently in the Life of Jen Chandler

-Creative Writing class threw four (FOUR!!!) poem forms at her and demanded that she recreate each form before Sunday

-Said poem forms are being a pain in the butt

-Creative Writing class also demanding ONE short story, ONE collection of stream of consciousness writings, and ONE completed portfolio by next Friday

-Said class also demanding a 10 page term paper on E.A. Poe...by next Friday

-Christmas is looming and Jen braved traffic, crowds and staying up far too late to write poems and stories to purchase Christmas gifts

-Jen returned home unscathed

-Jen is now working on installing antivirus software, sipping Earl Grey tea with Irish cream creamer and trying to ignore the fact she has three more poems to write by Sunday


So. What have you guys been up to?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure?

Is it wrong to state that I know I can write? I'm no Rowling or Tolkien or Poe. (Though I've been told I'm related to Poe in some odd, round about way. That would explain the vast collection of ravens about the house.) I'm not insecure in my ability to write.

Perhaps I'm insecure in the future reception of my work? No...not really. I mean, I'm a bit nervous as to how it will be received by the agents and publishers of the world. But I feel there's a market for what I write. I'm not insecure about that.

What am I insecure about? Easy. I'm insecure in my butt-in-chair technique. Meaning: I have a vast storehouse of ideas -story ideas, novel ideas- that I love and really feel good about but they will never get written if I don't write them. What causes this ambivalence toward my writing desk? Why do I shudder when I see my computer? Why do I rush past it as it blinks at me, whispering tales of magical worlds, haunted train stations and possessed paintings?

Maybe I don't believe in the stories themselves. Or maybe, just maybe my insecurity lies in my ability to tell them as true and raw as possible. I know I can tell a story. I know I have good story ideas. But to tell a good story in such a way that the reader, heck, the author herself, is THERE, in the story, as a character, a chair, a rock, the path down which the villain stomps. Do I have that in me? Am I strong enough to write the bones and blood and skin and guts that are necessary to bring these Frankenstein monsters to life?

There. I found it. My insecurity. Can I write the truth?

___
This post is a part of Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. Find links to more inspiring posts HERE. Thanks again, Alex!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Lesson

I read something wonderfully inspiring in my Creative Writing textbook this afternoon.

"Creative writing isn't about the writer. It's about the reader, having an experience, being somewhere, seeing through someone else. You don't report your emotions and thoughts, you activate your reader's. Creative writing serves readers. It's not a stage for show-offs." (The Practice of Creative Writing by Heather Sellers)

Why, I'm not sure, but this really got me thinking about why I write, how I write, and what I write about. My professor told me last week I'm a "storehouse of ideas" which, until now, I always lamented because I seem to have more ideas than time (or discipline...shh!)to write. This term I've been trying out different story excerpts, different voices all to find out where I best fit. The upcoming weeks will be poetry (not my strong suit) and I'm going to attempt to play on one more story idea in the form of a poem.

But...

My thoughts of what story to work on, you know, when I have some spare moments, are shifting. There's that gosh-darn trilogy that I've written five times and that still needs help. There's a handful of other ideas I feel just as strongly about. And there's the idea that's been germinating in my head for about a year now, all gears and cogs and hissing. What to do?

It's easy really. What story can I put myself into, really submerge myself in? What story can I drown in and pull my reader under the waves with me? That's the really question. Not "what do I feel like writing" but "what would a reader want to read more?" Better yet, "what story is trying to get my attention?"

I know that answer to that one. It's just...well...no excuses. Looks like it's time to hunker down and write with my future readers in mind. Not write to markets and trends. To write to that girl, that boy, that woman or man who will be sitting on their couch/bed/hammock/secret hideout who will turn the first page of my book, get sucked in and think, "O my word! I've finally found my way home!"

Happy Monday evening to you all...and to all a good night!
Jen

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls, Madeleine L'Engle and Steampunk

Cinnamon Rolls. Yes, a most appropriate topic for this blog. Seriously: we writers need our nourishment. Where else am I going to get all this nutrition wrapped up in one handy-dandy, finger licking meal? Doubt me? Grain-check! The roll is made of bread. Dairy-check! The frosting has cream in it...and butter. Cinnamon can help indigestion and is an anti-inflamatory. The sugar...er...well...that feeds the soul :D Hooray! All excuses relevent...

My favorite book is turning 50! "A Wrinkle in Time" is a book that I first read when I was around 8 years old. I remember enjoying it, but nothing else stood out. Then, when I was around 18, I was rummaging through the children's section in the library and I came across this battered hard back with a strangly familiar cover. I read it and was changed. This story rushes at you from all angles and never lets go. At least, that's what it did for me. I honestly can't explain why this book (or the other books in L'Engle's "Time Quartet") move me so. They do. Tor is doing a reread of L'Engle's books. You can read about HERE. Oh, and if you want to read Wrinkle but don't have it, you can borrow one of my copies. I have...er...several...

Steampunk. Ah, just the word conjures up warm fuzzies about goggles and mad scientests and air pirates and clock parts and...sorry. I tend to get a bit giddy whenever steampunk is mentioned. Don't know what it is? Go HERE: it's a pretty good description of steampunk. Oh, and Tor.com have the Steampunk 101 collection. Check it out! And if you really want some eye-candy, Google images of Steampunk: clothes, jewelry, cakes, computers, anything! Seriously. Anything.

Aaaand speaking (continually) of steampunk, has anyone read Cherie Priest's "Boneshaker"? I have not (for shame) but I keep seeing it at the book store and it keeps begging me to take it home. It seems this here steampunk novel has got itself a movie deal. Please oh please, movie producers whoever you may be, please get steampunk RIGHT. If the hoards of steampunkers come out in their goggle wearing droves, the lines at the premiere alone should be worth going to.

That's about all the damage I can do this morning! Enjoy you Friday, don't work too hard, eat lots of cinnamon rolls, and stay warm! Oh, and if you're bored, you can always wander over to The Manor. Yep. I've started posting there again :)

Be awesome!
Jen

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Doth a Little Cold Enlighten

Good morning! It's December first. I've been up since 7:30 and outside since 8:50. A brisk walk does wonders for the soul. It also chaps the knuckles and sends a siren's call to my brain chanting "cocoa, cocoa, cocoa". With cocoa now in possession, I am stationed at my new laptop (YIPPEE!!) and ready to post!


With warm cream and vanilla added to the cocoa, The Norse AND The Force are strong with me this winter morning

In class we've been discussing the fine line distinction between nonfiction and fiction. I never thought much about it until now, how the lines between the two genres can be blurred and indistinct. To me, nonfiction is anything based on real life. To write nonfiction, the author must be true to themselves, true to their life as they see it. There are those in my class who would argue (and have) and one in particular who argued that as long as anything is written by human hands, there can be no nonfiction. I find that opinion negative but it is his and in a way I understand it.

Fiction. Ah, the freedom to create worlds and bring down kingdoms. To write fiction, the author has to be true to the story. What? Not to themselves, what they want? No. In fact, the most damaging thing an author can do is write a story the way THEY want. Madeleine L'Engle once wrote that the best thing she can do when a story comes to her is get out of the way and let the story write itself. I agree. Stories are wise, much wiser than we are. We'd do better if we'd shut up, sit down, and let the story flow through us, our fingers, and onto the page.

What are your thoughts? To you, where does that distinction begin and end. Obvious genre distinctions aside, for you, where does "truth" begin and "fiction" end? Think carefully. Mrs. L'Engle also once wrote, "What is real?" and that wise wizard Albus Dumbledore, when asked by Harry Potter "Is this real? Or is this all happening in my head" replied: "Of course it's all happening in your head. But why should that make it any less real?"

Go forth and dazzle!
Jen

PS: Oh, and if you're up for it, I'm back at The Manor, posting about life, slowing down, and the random, mysterious things that make life beautiful. Do join me for tea! Sagewood Manor

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Amazing how the busiest week of this term coincides with Thanksgiving. Oh, and finals week? That just happens to fall on the same week as Christmas. Perhaps there's a group of professors sitting around remembering when they were forced to work during the holidays and think everyone should do the same. You know, build character and all that. When I'm a professor, I'll make sure to give light loads during the holidays. Unless my students are punks. Then vengeance shall be sweet.

In other news, we're hosting Thanksgiving at the Manor tomorrow. I've never hosted Thanksgiving but I've wanted to forever. This should be fun. We're having family and friends over, nice mix of personalities. Our town does a tree lighting on Main Street every year on Thanksgiving night so we'll all troop over to Ye Olde Tree Lighting Ceremony, sip hot chocolate and then mosey (Yes, in Hampton we mosey. Not walk, stroll, or canter. Mosey.) back to the Manor for turkey, dressing and all the other fabulous dishes that make up a Thanksgiving feast. It will definitely be writeable about.

I wish you all a fantabulous Thanksgiving. Blessings upon you and yours. May your homes and bellies be full and may you survive Black Friday shopping with little to no permanent scaring.

Gobble, gobble!
Jen

PS: Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to everyone who has continued reading my measly little posts. I'm really looking forward to my two week break next month. Perhaps then I can catch up on some much needed blog visiting!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Write Ugly

Don't hide behind your words, behind perfectly constructed sentences and polished prose.

Let it all out.

Scream if you have to.

Be real.

Face your fears.

Confront demons.

Be fallible.

Make mistakes.

Your readers will love you for it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No-NaNo-November and a bit o' fun!

I've officially dubbed this month "No-NaNo-November" *cue confetti*. Huzzah! Instead of writing frantically all month with the world cheering me on to victory, I'm writing frantically all month with only a professor cheering me on to victory. And I'm finding the encouragement from said professor far more moving than an entire world of NaNoers. That's saying something! If you've ever participated in the great NaNo, you know that having all those people behind you (even if it's just the knowledge that thousands of people are doing exactly what you're doing at the same time you're doing) is awe inspiring. It makes you want to write. It makes you want to finish.

But to have someone who is doing what I want to do (teach Creative Writing at a college level, making a living and a life with words) to tell me "WOW! You've got some great stuff here!" really urges me on to my desk even when my fingers are callused and the last thing I want to do is stare at the computer screen for one...more...day.

All you Nanoers out there, write on!! I'm cheering for you from my little nook in Georgia while I pound out my first ever writer's portfolio, write nonsense daily for a stream of consciousness exercise, research Poe's life in relation to the House of Usher falling and dredging up some shorts for my portfolio and a writer's competition at the school. What you're doing is amazing, astounding and I miss being in the thick of a 50,000 word mad dash with you this year!

As for that bit of fun, I bought one of those cinnamon brooms last night. I love cinnamon brooms. I think it must be some magic spell they cast on these spindly little witches implements that makes them smell like home for sixty two days or more. And speaking of witches and magic and spells and all that fun stuff (that by no means is put away in our house after Halloween) I give you this:


"Nimbus 2011 *holiday edition*"

Yes, friends, I bought that from Diagon Alley last night and I can't wait to take it for a spin.

Ok. So it was Ingles, but a girl can dream, can't she? Besides, it looks fun tacked to our random post in the middle of the floor:



Have a wonderful week, enjoy yourselves, rock that NaNo and remember to be fabulous!
Jen

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Writing from Life

Quick updates:
- NaNo is a no-go this year. My creative writing class has me blissfully writing everyday and, unless a collection of "stream of consciousness" writings count towards a 50,000 word novel, there will be no NaNo.
- I'm actually ok with not participating in NaNo this year. Really.
- I have a new addiction. Reuben sandwiches. I had my first one this weekend, which is odd considering my father LOVED them and my mom eats them every chance she gets. I think the whole sauerkraut thing scare me. Facing your fears can be tasty!

Something my creative writing professor said last week has really stuck with me. "Creative writers write from life". This goes back to that old, terribly over spoken phrase "Write what you know". I used to balk at this, thinking, "but I don't want to write about growing up in suburbia with a dog and a rabbit that attacked my cousin." I have learned through this class that this isn't exactly what that phrase means.

One of our exercises last week was to list at least five things about ourselves that was unique, that we could dive deeper into and write about. I found myself thinking about my ancestors, how they came from Ireland and settled in the south. I wondered about my grandfather's grandparents who came over the Appalachian mountains in a covered wagon to settle in north Georgia. The Appalachian region has been haunting me lately, which explains my sudden craving for bluegrass music and black eyed peas. I wonder where this could lead?

The point is not that I'm strange, but that we all have things in our past that make up a delicious soup of awesome. One we can all ladle up and write about. I've been thinking more and more about researching my family history to dig up some stories. Turn up that old soil and see what's there. We all have so much holding us up, so many people who have gone before us. What were their stories? How do their stories translate into our own lives?

What about you? What do you know? Where did you come from? How can you turn your past, maybe even a past you don't know, into stories that speak to the here and now?
Trust me when I tell you this exercise is very, very enlightening! Have fun! Be bold!

And be FABULOUS!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group



Am I insecure?

You betcha. Not in the actual writing. No, I love writing. It's the idea of showing anyone else what I'm writing. And this fear prevents me from writing at all. I am afraid of not measuring up. Measuring up to what? Someones idea of me? Their idea of what I should be? The more I contemplate this, the sillier it becomes.

Really. Think about it. We are writers. It's what we do. We didn't choose this vocation. Good Lord, why would ANYONE choose to be a writer? No, this calling came to us. And we accepted because to NOT accept would drive us crazier than accepting. Yes, writer's, you're doomed either way. But smile! Madness is contagious! We're all mad here.

So why AM I insecure about sending forth my writing into the great unknown? Judgement? Or the dreaded Rejection Letter? No. I think it's the fear of never making it. The thought of putting my whole life on hold in order to write, to study writing; to read the writing of others when I could be outside exploring. Or writing stories when I should be out there in the sunlight living stories instead. It is a fear of looking back in years to come and having nothing in terms of publication to show for it.

Is there a cure for this fear? Yes. Writing and submitting and letting go. The letting go is the hardest part. Write your hardest, actually send it out to those who could make your writing dreams come true, and let it go. It might get published. It might not. You might be the next JK Rowling. You may never ever see your work in print. So why keep writing? Why keep playing roulette? Because we have to. Because writing is supposed to be fun, expressive, and freeing.

I write because I have to. I write to explore what I'm afraid of. I write to be free of these fears. If that is all I accomplish in my life, shouldn't that be enough?

Yes. I think it should. What about you?

(Learn more about the Insecure Writer's Support Group and see all of the posts at Alex Cavanaugh's blog!)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dear NaNoWriMo,

So you're here already, huh? How did you sneak up on me. I had every intention of diving in, pounding out 50,000 words in a month's time. And then...school started back. More exactly, my next term started and shot me two classes that have, in two days, proved to be quite the handful. Not bad; just a handful.

Class number one: Info Technology. Yes, I have to spend 8 weeks "learning" what LAN, WAN and HTML stand for and how to properly format a Word document. Stuff I could have Googled on my own. Ah, the joys of college.

Class number two: Creative Writing. My first in an upcoming year and a half of creative writing and literature classes. Huzzah! Major classes at last. Do you know how long I've waited to hit MAJOR classes, IE: classes that actually lead to a degree in a specific major? Let's just say I've been in and out of school now for sixteen years. Yes. That long.

So.

NaNo.

Not so sure where you fit in. But I'll do my best to visit. I'm already having to spit out 5 story ideas this week on top of the stream of consciousness assignments for no less than three out of seven days. Maybe I'll use those. Stream of Consciousness every day for a month. Could I get 50,000 words out of it? Would they even make sense together if I did? No, but it would make for an interesting, Mad Hatter of an essay collection!

NaNo, we are going to have an interesting relationship this year. Go easy on me and I'll do my best to complete you!

Most sincerely yours,
Jen

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Scared and Loving It

Have you ever stopped to think-really think about-what you're scared of? I'm not talking about any deep soul searching (unless you're up for it). Just name the first thing you can think of.

Me? I'm afraid of forgetting to turn something in on time in my classes. I'm afraid of messing up so I usually talk myself out of trying new things. I'm afraid of responsibility and, as strange as it sounds, of greatness.

I'm also afraid of zombies and anything headless, but that's another story.

It's important to understand what you're afraid of? Why? I honestly believe that you can not know yourself until you know what you're afraid of and understand why you're afraid. This isn't philosophical. It's coming from someone who appreciates good, old fashioned horror.

You cringed, didn't you? Most people do. Or they look at me like something weird just crawled out of my mouth and onto my shoulder. Horror, as I see it, enjoy it, and write it, can be defined...well, I'll let the Horror Writers Association describe it for you: GO HERE. Don't worry, it's not a long read. I think you'll find it enlightening. Go on. I'll wait...

...

There. Now you know. I don't dig pointless gore and disgusting mess that modern America has dubbed "horror". For me, horror is more about the human condition, about people facing their fears and discovering what they're made of (or, on some occasions, what they're not made of). Once you've faced your fears, you feel invincible. You feel a lightness, an odd sense of being, as if you can do anything.

Until you come up against another fear. And then you have to go through the stages all over again. It's all about conquering self. Not the ghost, goblin, traffic cop or mother-in-law.

So. What ARE you afraid of?

Go on. Scare me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

my favorite halloween tale



The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. An oldie but a goodie. I have always loved this tale and it has always scared me senseless. Why? Could it be the fact that something could walk around and "think" for itself without a head? That's just disturbing to me. Missing limbs don't bother me, but remove a head (or just the eyes) and I'm totally creeped out! Seriously.

When I was little, I would watch the cartoon version on the Disney Channel. CARTOON. And I would have to sleep with the light on. Every unaccounted for noise was the Horseman coming for me. Why would he come after me? I don't know. My name has absolutely no similarities to Ichabod. And for that, I am most thankful.

But I kept watching it, kept scaring myself stupid.

And then I'd read it. Talk about atmospheric! Have you ever READ Irving's original short story? You must. And I won't even put a link to it online. No, this story needs to be savored with the crackle of the turning page for a soundtrack. Trust me on this one. Dig it up from the library. Read it. You'll be glad you did.

Then came Tim Burton. Let it be known: I have a huge crush on Tim Burton movies. Seriously. Just about anything he does I love. Slap his name on it and I'm there. When his version of the old Hessian came out, I went. Why? To get over a life long fear of all things headless. Did it work? No. I'm still terrified of the idea of anything walking around without a head. But I love it. And I watch it, as many versions as I can find, every year.



And I still have to sleep with the light on.

So. What's YOUR favorite Halloween tale?

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's Monday

Hey guys!

Thanks for commenting Friday! The wedding went well, I did get free cake (as well as some amazing BBQ!) and some great shots as well. I got to shoot the film camera which is way more my speed than digital. And I didn't have to hold a single reflector. Huzzah!! The bride and groom are both good friends of our so the entire weekend was enjoyable.

As for the elevator speech, it went great. According to my professor I'm a natural (What the what ?!?!) and I made a 100 on it. Yes, I am tooting my own horn. Go me.

Hooray.

Onward.

Sorry the posts haven't been about anything in particular lately. My focus is off. I feel as if I'm on the cusp of something. What the something is, I haven't the foggiest. Speaking of fog, that's about how my brain feels right now. Expect more rambling posts in the near future. As in this one.

Happy Monday! I hope your week is fabulous and, if like me, you're lacking some focus, things will come together soon.

Cheers!
Jen

Friday, October 14, 2011

Random Post!

See? At least I warned you. Don't worry, you'll thank me later.

This week has been crazy!! You'd think composing a speech that has to be less than two minutes long would be easy. Ha! I say. It's an elevator speech. Apparently everyone needs one. People compose them for businesses, causes, even book pitches. I thought about doing the last one, you know, considering I'm a writer. But honestly, I couldn't figure out the best way to describe my book! I've been working on the darn thing for over TEN YEARS and I can't figure out how to describe it to a total stranger in less than two minutes. Am I a wuss for not fighting through it? Maybe. I decided to do something a bit easier. It's a business idea I'm working on. It allows me to be sarcastic and witty. I wield those swords well so I decided to go with that.

This weekend some friends are getting married and my husband is the photographer. I usually assist him (read: carry equipment and hold reflectors when necessary). It will be fun, but tiring so I've spent the week doing school work so I wouldn't have to worry about it this weekend. Hence the "no blogging" zone this place has been. Double hence the "no visiting" blogger I've been. Oh well. Next week is another week, right?

Happy weekend to all! Get out there, be fabulous, write your hearts out! And remember to have fun :D

xo Jen

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

pausing for station identification...

Twelve hour power outage.

Public Speaking class requiring a speech a week.

Pain in the neck.

A gloriously gloomy day.

I'll be back soon, loves! Do take care.
~Jen

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pillows, yes, pillows.

First of all, I just noticed I have a couple of new followers. Hooray and welcome :D Tea and coffee are served all day and there's always something sweet in the kitchen. Make yourselves at home and feel free to rummage amongst the steamer trunks and bookshelves.

Oh, and that silly blog title. Yeah, see, remember that LIST I blogged about the other day? Well, I wanted to try an experiment. One that has me writing every day. It may not be on my novel, but I'm still putting words to paper and/or screen. These little essays are enjoyable romps through words and I thought, hey, why not post them here!

So, if you log on Monday and notice me talking about really random things like sheep, the Headless Horseman or pillows, you'll know that I've not gone crazy; I'm just following the yellow brick road of that ridiculously long list I've constructed. Which I'm still constructing! Seriously; this topic collecting is getting out of hand...maybe I can find a homeopathic remedy for it...

...in one of these trunks...

Happy weekend to all! Now go forth and be FABULOUS! And don't be afraid to write about whatever comes to mind. Even pillows.
Jen

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hello my name is Jen, and I'm an Insecure Writer

Maybe there are some writers who are born with an innate ability to not care what other people think about them. I, however, was not one of them. Every time I sit down to write, either creatively or academically, I am concerned with exactly how I sound to someone else's ear.

Was that phrase too archaic?
Did that word make sense?
Is my character insane and, if so, should I care?

I'm always second guessing my writing, heck, I've always second guessed my life.

Until recently.

I'm in the final year of pursuing a degree I started 16 years ago. A Bachelor's. According to "everyone" I should already have that, already have several degrees. But I don't. I stopped, I started, I stopped again. And here I am, thirty-something and still in pursuit of that first degree. And I'm ok with that. Really. I can see now that to finish what you start is really the goal. Once I achieve this educational goal, I can move forward to the others. It doesn't matter if people think I'm lazy or easily distracted because I wasn't able to settle for one program of study until now. I matters that I know where I'm headed and that I take the steps necessary to get there.

The same is with writing. I can't worry too much about what other people say, that I should already be finished with that darn novel I started ten years ago (yes, that novel does exist, on a shelf...somewhere). I shouldn't care that the story I'm working on now has nothing to which I can compare it. And I shouldn't care if people question me about my writing and I have no other answer than to show them a stack of red-marked papers and grin.

"It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write," Papa Hemingway said. "Let them think you were born that way."

I love to read Hemingway's quotes when I'm feeling down about my own writing, when I'm insecure in the path I've chosen. I'm sure he had his moments of doubt, but his strength is what shines because he wrote from a place deep within that we all, as writers, must go: the very heart of his passion. A passion for words and story.

Insecure or not, I must get to that place. That's where I must go. And it doesn't matter if those around me understand or agree. It matters that I see the vision to the end.

Now, go forth and be FABULOUS!
Jen

**This post was for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The List



I created a list a thousand years ago.

Or so it seems.

Can't really remember why. Something I read perhaps? A spark, an ember of an idea from some brilliant soul.

Whatever the reason, it started and grew and grew some more until the folder which it inhabits is bent and burgeoning with paper guts peaking out from all corners.
My Master List I call it. Snatches of ideas. Words. Phrases. Memories. Colors. Constellations of ideas there and waiting for my imagination to connect the dots, form the pictures.

Write every day, the experts admonish. A novel, a poem, a half remembered dream?
Matters not, they cry, so long as you write. And so I created a list, a thousand lines long.

Or so it seems.

And for a while, yes a long while, I have fodder enough.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Look Around



I look at myself in the mirror.

"I am uninspired," I say. "I cannot write."

My reflection stares back at me, quizzical. "Of course you can write! You've got two hands and a keyboard, fingers and a pen, right?"

I roll my eyes. "Fine. I have nothing to write about."

My reflection sighs, looks around. "You have everything to write about." Whispering, she leans closer, as if privy to some cosmic secret. "Look around."

The shifting light of an approaching storm.
The stark contrast of green leaf against grey sky.
Coffee-the taste, the smell, the feel.
The cup from which said coffee is enjoyed.
Another shift in light. Another movement of grey on grey.

Out of the window I see changing season and patterns in the wind.

Out the window.
My kitchen window.
Even that is a source of inspiration.

If only I open my eyes...

...and look around.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What does it mean, this "Writer"?




Do I simply scribe words to paper, ideas to computer screens? Is it a vocation, a choice, as one may choose to be a firefighter or a lawyer? Or-dare I even suggest-it is something more mystical. Cosmic. SUPER-natural?

It can be both, I believe. There are those who understand words, who construct prose with the precision of a brain surgeon's scalpel. Their work is good, flawless, to be envied.

But.

There are others who had no choice. Those who must write to let off some of the pressure that builds up inside their heads and their hearts. Without a pen, without their laptop, they are like a kettle of boiling water with no whistle: they self-destruct without release. These people are consumed. The fire of fiction, of poetry, courses through them white hot and dangerous.

They bleed ink into story.

Day in, day out. Like breathing. It is their breathing. Glowing steady, stars at true north, they point the way for those who would dare dance with that flame. It is risky, dangerous, all consuming.

But truer words cannot be written than by those willing to give themselves to the story rather than attempt to tame it. Ultimately, it is the story that speaks the truth. The writer is simply the conduit through which that truth flows.

Monday, September 26, 2011

an interesting topic approached me last night




It was certainly no stranger. Perhaps that is how it so easily was allowed in. A familiar, old friend. It had visited me before, at least one hundred times; another reason why-at the moment-I was unaffected by its appearance. Unaffected until it looked me directly in the eyes and spoke.

Words I had heard before. of course I had. As I mentioned, I had entertained this old friend before. This time, however, they weren't typed out, weren't written or read. They were spoken, eye to eye, my reflection to face:

"A Writer's Life for Me"

Like lightening I understood.To be a writer-at the very essence of the vocation-was to write. Not just poems or novels, short stories or plays. Not outlines, query letters, synopses or resumes. No. To write is to breathe. To put life to paper, tablet, screen. To enjoy the formation of a letter simply because it is.

Because I am.

Life has become under appreciated. Like classical arts in a modern, technological world, most humans scream through it, past it, on the way to the next event. The next check mark on the almighty TO DO. But life is. It is what we are. It is a verb. A state of being. A condition of utmost beauty. For good or ill, life is all we have. To live a writer's life is to take it all in. Put it all down. Translate, to the best of our ability, the ecstatic joys, the devastating tragedies; the unexplainable, incomprehensible mysteries. TO record the illiterate moments where there are no words. To sift through the mundane so others will read it and see Heaven in a copper pot, the Divine in taking out the trash.

To live a writer's life is dangerous. it is to live split open, your guts exposed for always. No thought, no interpretation private for life belongs to everyone. We writers are charged with the interpreting. All of us speak different languages, making available life for varying groups of people. To live a writer's life is to be swept along with the avalanche, to give into the pull of tides, to forget swimming and struggling for air.

It is the ultimate lesson in letter go, in trusting in something larger than you and infinitely unexplainable. Some may argue they are in control. That form and function and grammar are law. We are governed by form, by function. We are conduits of the stream. But we are no more in control than the river bed is of the rapids. We are merely the channel. The words will tumult as they may.

One question remains: am I brave enough to let them rage? To let life sweep me out of my carefully made raft? Destroy my meticulously constructed dam?

Am I brave enough to write?

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Week's Worth of Summarizing

Hello blog world! I've been AWOL all week and for good reason. Darn head cold after sitting outside at the baseball game last Friday night. The Braves may have lost, but I did get my picture made with Boba Fett!

Behold:



Then, of course, there's been the whole public speaking class. Blerg. I know, excuses, excuses. But they're good ones. Right? RIGHT?!?!

Thank you all for your comments on the question of eBook commenting. Honestly, the idea of being able to ask questions directly to the author is a bit tantalizing, but who would want to lose the momentum to stop, highlight a passage, ask a question, and continue on? That would just ruin the story for me.

As a writer, I like to throw in things that aren't always explainable at first glance. And I don't want people to come up and ask me about them unless they have first tried to figure them out for themselves. Seriously. Can you imagine how many messages JK Rowling would have had to field while trying to finish the Harry Potter series? Geez...too many to count! She would have to have hired someone to type "I am not at liberty to divulge" on her behalf!

And honestly, I don't want to know everything. I like a bit of mystery. I like the freedom of interpretation that comes from the personal experience of reading. Being enveloped in another world is, after all, why we read and write fiction. Who really wants everything explained away? To know everything would be to have the magic of living erased. Sometimes, I begrudge science books. They explain everything: how lightening forms, how flowers bloom, why rain splatters on the pavement, what a will-o-whisp really is. Mystery is over rated and I love to just watch a flower bloom, droop, and then being to evolve into a bell pepper and think, "Now, isn't that magic?!"

Thanks again to all who stopped by this past week. I'm getting this class in order (I think) and finally feeling more like myself. I hope to back to blogging next week. Regularly. Seriously! It IS an on-going goal of mine.

Happy weekend!
Jen

Friday, September 16, 2011

in which i sing the praises of Star Wars and posit an interesting question

Happy Friday to all!

I'm pretty stoked and not just because it's Friday (besides, when you work from home, Friday is pretty much just another day...). Anywho, WHY am I so super excited about this particular Friday?!? I'm glad you asked (you did ask, didn't you?). My husband, awesome, groovy fellow that he is, bought us last minute tickets to see the Atl. Braves (hopefully) destroy my least favorite baseball team of all time (*cough* the mets *cough*) and...AND...tonight, at Turner Field, is...wait for it...

STAR WARS NIGHT!!!! (*cue epic John Williams music NOW*)

I'll be getting my nerd on AND enjoying a baseball game in this lovely fall weather! I am now going to attempt to stop dancing around the room humming the Imperial March long enough to finish this post.

The Office of Letters and Light-those splendiferous people who go to painstaking and outlandish limits to bring us NaNoWriMo every November- posited a very interesting question on their blog the other day. It appears there is a new feature for the Kindle in beta-testing which will allow readers to highlight passages on their e-books and ask the author questions regarding that passage. Hmmm, says I. Sounds kind of neat. I could send Neil Gaiman (*swoon*) a message about Danse Macabre or J.K. Rowling a question about The Half Blood Prince.

However, and this is where the post gets interesting, the author of the blog asks: Will this feature take away from the reader's experience and, in her words, "demote (the readers) interpretation to a thing of lesser importance?" This got me thinking. We all read passages in books that leave us scratching our heads, making funny faces at the pages and staying up waaaay past midnight contemplating the deeper meaning of said passage. Would I want to be in the middle of a story, have one of those moments hit me and pause to send the author a message?

The connection factor between author and reader would skyrocket. But, and this is a big but, it seems to me it would not only detract from the experience of getting lost in a book, but it would take away the delicious mystery of reading. There will always be things we read in and put into our own novels that people aren't going to get. That's the joy of writing and reading. Mystery. Wonder. The joy of picking a book up after years of having read it and being able to contemplate something afresh, possibly entertaining a new angle.

What are you thoughts on this? I'm just curious. I can see the pros and the cons of it.

The author leaves us with this question to consider as well: what if we could ask questions of dead authors? I'll admit, THAT would be seriously cool and I'd totally jump on that bandwagon. I'd love to chat with Hemingway, L'Engle, Wilde and Poe. Which brings me to another, perhaps more profound question: are there e-books in the afterlife? Hmmm....

Happy Pondering!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Two Places at Once (and a lecture from a Literary Agent)

I can be such a dolt when it comes to the Internet. Something happens, I'm a part of something, and I start talking about it like it's the greatest thing since pumpkin spice lattes. That being said, yesterday, I was notified about a live broadcast of a talk being given on the campus of my university. I'm an online student, which makes my commute to New Hampshire (where said university is located) much faster. One of the writing professors had Melissa Flashman, a literary agent with Trident Media Group, come and speak to his class. He was kind enough to put it up online for anyone interested. (Thus, I was sitting outside of my loft in Georgia and watching a lecture in New Hampshire. Two places at once. My nerdy self proudly declared on Facebook that I had a new superpower :D Don't judge...it brought me joy.)

Most of what she had to say I've heard before, either from other agents or through reading blogs that deal with submissions and agents and all manner of important things. The major things I took away from her talk was her encouragement to writers and her insistence that "fiction is a matter of taste". In other words, if your query is turned down by an agent, don't despair: it is more than likely a case of the agent isn't interested in your topic.

Agents are people too (no really, they are!) and they are subject to the same likes and dislikes we as humble want-to-be-published-authors are. We read what we like and turn our noses up at what we don't. Guess what? So do they. Because your dream agent turned down your work doesn't mean it isn't good. It simply means they weren't interested in fairy zombie frogs at the moment. But here's the secret: someone else may be! The key to all this is finding the agent who is most likely to be interested in what you're writing about.

And how, pray tell, do we do that? She had some info into that as well. Her biggest tip on querying agents was to go through the books you enjoy reading, the books that are most like the story you just finished. See who the author thanks. Their agent is always there. If they aren't named in the book, look the author up online and you're bound to find their agent. Then, when your book is as polished as it's going to get from your hands, query those agents. Add a line in your query that states "I read THIS GREAT BOOK by THIS GREAT AUTHOR, whom you represent. My story is similar and I think you'll enjoy it." Something to that effect.

I don't know about you, but I found this very encouraging. Sometimes, it helps to hear things we may already know from the experts themselves. I had heard all this before, but hearing it from the mouth of an actual literary agent made me take a deep breath and realize that there really is hope for me, for you, for every published author hopeful out there.

Happy Thursday and dream on!
Jen

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

more fun than you can shake a lighsaber at!

Links are fun! They inform, they entertain, they give you great reason to put off doing the laundry! Whoops! Laundry! Be right back...

There. That's better. There are few things worse than moldy laundry...

Where was I. Links! Here are a few that I found over the weekend.

1. The 2012 Writer's Market is already out! I don't know why this surprised me. I mean, I haven't had corn candy yet and there are Christmas Trees up in some stores. Ugh.

2. Neil Gaiman is a hero to many. Myself included. He's what one may call a literary crush in some circles (*grin*). As if his brilliant storytelling wasn't enough, he has created a fabulous idea for Halloween, one that I am certain will become a new tradition: All Hallow's Read. Give books this Halloween. Scary books. You know that's way more fun than blow pops!

3. This next topic is near and dear to my heart. I've posted about villains before. I can not explain my fixation with great villains. My obsession with Darth Vader was enough to concern my mother when I was young and should have been playing house with the girls down the street. Instead, I was blasting away Storm Troopers on the play ground with my two best buds, "Han" and "Luke" respectively. And in case you were wondering, I was Princess Leia. That's girly...right?

"Characters We Love to Hate" was posted on TOR's website and summed up my love of a good villain in one phrase: they have something that makes them interesting. I hate flat characters of any ilk: hero, side kick, talking cat. Doesn't matter. I need to care about them and want to follow them into the mire of Mordor. But a flat villain? Ugh. Triple Ugh. Worse than Christmas Trees before Halloween ugh. Give me a villain that makes my skin crawl AND makes me want to secretly cheer them on and you've got yourself a winner!!

Your turn! Any interesting discoveries this weekend! Has fall finally made it's way to your neighborhood. Do you, like me, wish it was illegal to put up Christmas displays before Thanksgiving? Just curious.

~Jen

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Day in History!!

September 9th. I don't think it's on any ones calendar as a specifically momentous day. Unless it's your birthday which would make it a most momentous day indeed (and a happy birthday to you).

BUT...

Did you know that according to some calendars, today is Teddy Bear Day? I could not make this stuff up. Everything has it's own day. Also, September is Honey Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Fall Hat Month, and, my personal favorite, National Blueberry Popsicle Month. Again, I could not make this stuff up.

Check out Holiday Insights for some more bizarre and unusual holidays for the month of September :)

One of the most interesting things about fantasy and science fiction is that the authors often have to create holidays and occasions for their characters. Creating a magical world requires magical holidays. Even the crew of the Enterprise made mention of special occasions that aren't on any calendar you or I have hanging in our kitchens.

It is one of the small details that makes the genre so much fun to play in. You can give your characters anything, anything at all to celebrate.

What if you could use this power in your everyday life? What if you could create your own holiday or "month of"? What would it be? What would you celebrate? Me, I'd create a national "Take Time Off Work Day Because You Need to Breathe" Day. Or "Narwhal Appreciation Month". Better yet, how about, "Steampunk Day" where everyone was required to wear goggles and carry ray guns?!?! Of course, "National Beheading Day" did cross my mind, but it seems someone else beat me to it!

Happy Friday! Now, go be FABULOUS!!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

News, Nerds and Narwhals!

Good Morning!

It's five 'til noon so I can still, technically wish you a good morning! And for those of you wondering, yes, it's still fabulously fall-ish here.

SO! On to the important stuff:

NEWS (you can use):
* I've recently discovered two sites that challenge you to write micro fiction. This is easy for some, hard for others (namely me). At Six Sentences, the challenge is to write a story in six sentences. Pretty self explanatory. Smith Magazine has a page devoted to six word memoirs. Tell them about your life in just six words. I don't plan on posting mine, but it is a good challenge to keeping my ideas concise and avoid run-on sentences :)

* J.A. Konrath has a blog that helps writers stick to their writing guns. He has this to say in his "About Me" section: "There's a word for a writer who never gives up-published". He's pretty hard nosed in his opinions and I like that. Tell it like it is; don't sugar coat it for me. I can take it. Really.....*gulp*

* Love books? Of course you do. Want another reason to do ANYTHING except write YOUR book? Check out Book Reporter. It's packed with reviews of book from every genre. I just spent half an hour on it myself. See? Time suck!!

NERDS:

* I am one! But you all knew that.

* If you too are a nerd, you may find The Nerdist pretty funny. These guys blog about all things nerdy. And, if you're so inclined, they even have a podcast. It's funny, but make sure you listen when the small people of impressionable nature in your house are not in the room :)


NARWALS!!!!:

*Yes, the word "narwals" does require that many exclamation points. I'm addicted to this strange and wondrous creature. And it does exist! I've had to convince people that narwhals are real *cough*myhusband*cough

Here's a little something to show you how addicted I am to narwhals:



My Cell Phone Case!

I found the original pattern in Mollie Makes Magazine. Oh my heck, if you haven't seen this magazine, you must, MUST find it!! It's a British magazine (of course...ALL the magazines I read are British) and it's not found just anywhere but it's worth the hunt. Just in case you can't find it, here's the LINK. Yippee!!

Have a fabulous, fabulous day! Enjoy the linkage and please, don't blame me if you end up wandering through them instead of writing :D

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oh Frabjous Day!

When Alice defeats the Jabberwocky on Frabjous Day, the Hatter rejoices over the freedom of Wonderland by dancing a strange and hilarious dance he calls "fudderwacking". (Thank you Tim Burton and your marvelous retelling of Carroll's story!!) I may not be fudderwacking this morning (the caffeine hasn't hit me quite hard enough for that), but I am excited.

Why?

It actually feels like fall. In Georgia. The first week of September. I'll give you a few seconds to let that sink in.

...

...

Got it? Good. Now then, why am I so excited over this natural occurrence in the weather? Simple: weather has everything to do with my creativity. Strange, but I know I'm not alone. I know far too many creative people who tell me that they can't paint/write/draw/dye their hair when it's too hot/cold/wet/dry. Funny, isn't it? How these external forces we call weather can incite or take away from our creativity.

I've posted about weather and creativity before. Loads of people have. I'm one of those odd birds who gets depressed if there's too much sun. If the sun shines brightly for more than two days, I'm down in the dumps and praying for rain. Saturday, the clouds rolled in just in time for the annual book festival and I could have danced all the way to where it was held. I didn't. No one needs to see that!

So today it's cool, windy and over cast. Today I start back blogging on a regular schedule (hooray!). Today, my fall term begins and I get to learn how to be an effective public speaker *shudder*. Today is a Frabjous Day indeed!

How does your Today look? Got anything exciting planned? Any reasons to dance for joy? Any reason to shout? Let me have 'em!

~Jen xo

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cleaning House and Setting Up Shop

Don't mind me. I'm just rearranging the furniture and airing out the attic. You'd be amazed at what I'm finding up here! Cobwebs aside, there's all sorts of wondrous knick-knacks that need dusting and repairing; not so much to clean them up to make them presentable but so that I can tell what they are. So I can share them with you.

Stories and Odd Things.

I'll be making brief appearances here and there during the next week or so. All this dusting and tweaking takes time. Not to mention I start back to school next week after a delightful two week break.

Bear with me, dear souls, as you have so patiently this past year. One of the things I love about blogging is the flexibility the medium allows for creative expression. The other thing (and this is most important) that I love about the blog-sphere is how accommodating and understanding the readers and creators are! I've watched many new blog friends change their sites, their focus, their creative endeavors. Some have changed designs, others have changed direction. And I love it! I love seeing people grow and evolve. That's what we're here for after all. To discover who we really are and what our calling is on this earth.

I owe a lot to blogging in this respect. It has allowed me the physical expression of all these ideas and evolutions. I'm able to actually see what's going on inside my brain and agree (or disagree) with the shifts and changes.

So, here's to change and risk taking.

And going forth and being fabulous.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Inspiration = Perspiration = Success

What inspires you? Me, all it takes is a good thunderstorm or a gloomy, rainy day that sends most people running for the door, grumbling about mud on their shoes and frizzy hair. Sadly, most summers in the south are dry and hot. Until I can conjure up a rain storm whenever and wherever I like, the next best thing to get the creative juices flowing is a simple walk down the street.

I'm fortunate enough to live two blocks from a city park with an exercise circuit. I walk to the park, do a few upper body exercises, walk home sore making mental note that if I did this every day I wouldn't be so sore, now would I? By the time I get home, the blood is flowing and I'm overflowing with inspiration and motivation.

Without pausing to sit and rest those darn sore muscles, I start working. Usually it's getting the wrinkled laundry out of the dryer or turning the dish washer on so we can actually eat out of plates instead of off paper towels (again). Then, and only then, do I sit down. But it isn't to relax. Nope, I'm in front of the computer, either doing school work, research, or writing.

Others have said that physical activity helps to get them motivate, inspires them to plunge ahead into the writing realm. Why is this? A simple matter of inertia, that strange principle that if you don't feel like running a mile but go outside anyway and just jog a bit, you'll end up running that mile and feeling better for it.

How many times have you told yourself "Nah, not today. I don't feel like running that mile/writing that book report/editing that novel"? We want too. Truly. We know running will keep us healthy, the book report is due tomorrow and once the novel is edited we can throw ourselves a party and start researching agents.

In her book, "Book in a Month", Victoria Lynn Schmidt explains that everyone has issues that prevent us from fulfilling our goals, whatever our goals may be. "Any big undertaking," she writes, "will bring those issues to the surface in the form of resistance. Resistance is the way your subconscious tries to protect you from taking risks."

That laziness you feel every time you look at the disheveled papers on your desk, perhaps it's not laziness at all but your inner "guardian" trying to prevent you from taking a risk. Risk equates sacrifice and usually comes with a healthy dose of not knowing. We as a species hate this. But, catch-22, we'll never know if we don't try.

Feeling that inspiration yet? Then get up and go do whatever it is that inspires you. If yes, then start working on that project. Don't let a little fear keep you from achieving your writing goals. Nothing worth doing was ever accomplished without a little fear and perspiration :).

Go forth and be fabulous!
Jen

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Power of Memory


How could I resist a writing book with a nod to Lewis Carroll on the cover?

Dinty W. Moore has written a fabulous book called "Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction". Granted, I've only just begun reading it, but the exercises I've completed so far really get the juices flowing.

Moore talks about how we're conditioned (thanks to well meaning school teachers) to think that essays are to be dry and indigestible. His book is a refreshing debunk of this theory. He really gets to the meat and potatoes of writing personal reflections. And what, if anything, is a blog but a collection of personal reflections?

If you, like I, have ever wondered how to make your writing more YOU, you might like what Moore has to say. Like I said, I've only just started reading it, but so far, I've written three essays that I actually feel good about and I'm eager to learn more!!

Happy Monday! Now, go do something fabulous!!!
~Jen

Thursday, August 18, 2011

You Can Do It!

Sounds like a motivational speech title, doesn't it. Well, maybe it is. Sometimes, I need to hear someone tell me I can do it, whatever it is. My final exam in my religion class is today. It has been nice hearing my husband tell me, "I know you can do it!" throughout this school journey. Considering my next class is speech (bleck!) I'll really need to hear it some more!

When I sit down to write, there's usually no one around to cheer me on. Sure, there are all of you fabulous bloggers who are toiling right alongside me. There are books and newsletters. But no physical presence to shout "Go, Fight, WIN!" when I start pounding out the vision. And I'd wager that there's not too many of us writers who have our own personal cheering section occupying half of our living room.

So here's to you, tenacious writers who get up day after day and clatter about the keys, putting face to vision. Here's to your dreams and goals and ideas. Here's to those 100+ words you'll type out this hour. Here's to the 15 you struggle through that make you cry with frustration. Hey, it's 15 more words than you had last night. Here's to those who will type the coveted "The End" this afternoon, and to those who will sit down with a pristine file opened and type "Once upon a time", beginning, perhaps, for the first time.

Here's to YOU! You can do it!! Whatever it is you have to do today, no matter what, you can!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

O Happy Day

Don't you just love surprises? It seems I've got me an award and it was a lovely surprise when I logged on this afternoon!! Laura over at Daily Dodo passed along this award:



From what I've read, this award has to do with friendship and having less than 200 followers. SO. If you are reading this and have less than 200 followers (as I do) please consider this award yours :). I know, cheap way to pass it along, but there's just so many great blogs out there who aren't being followed and if I were to list them all here, well, you'd get tired of scrolling through them all! That, and I'm studying for a final exam and have precious little time to do so. Please don't think badly of me!

In other news, my mom came down this morning and taught me how to make jelly. We have this huge grapevine that grows over the brick wall of our courtyard and no one does anything with the HUGE bunches of grapes that grow on it. I casually mentioned I'd like to learn how to make jelly, so down comes my mom and we make jelly. What do you think?



Forgive the lack of posts. Been a bit busy with school work! BUT, I have two weeks off starting Thursday so I hope to be a bit more of a presence around here, at least until my next class starts!!

Happy Tuesday!
Jen

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Weather Report

It's so hot here I can barely stand it. We've had some thunder storms the past few afternoons but it's done very little to quell the heat. Georgia in August...I always know it will be miserable. It does, however, make me crave fall even more than I already do and when the first crisp morning hits, it's as if I've been reborn. I pine for those days.

You hear that when writing, you should keep weather to a minimum. Then again, a good weather description can become a supporting cast member, giving the scene just the right flavor to help capture the imagination. Being from the balmy south, I find myself writing a lot about fall and winter. I crave those times because the majority of the year finds me under a blanket of humidity to think you have to practically swim to get around! Then again, writing what I know, I have written a few shorts that deal with the characteristically hot, dry, dusty deep south I know and (dare I admit it) love so well.

Do you find yourself gravitating to a particular season in your writing? Or does your plot dictate what time of year it is? Perhaps it just happens, you find your MC in a violent thunderstorm and it sets the mood for the next act.

An odd post, I know, but I'm just curious. Dare you give weather a role in your story or leave the forecasting to The Weather Channel?

Ciao!
Jen

Monday, August 8, 2011

Creativity and the Everyday


(from my own back yard)

There are seemingly countless ways to find inspiration for our work. A sunrise; birds perched on our window sill; the stillness just as the house settles down for the night.

Normal. Average. Everyday.

I've fallen victim to feeling as if there was nothing in my everyday that could inspire. I kept looking to far off lands, places I've visited or lived in the past, instead of what was right in front of me.

Last week, I went for my morning walk and suddenly it hit me. Right here, right now was the inspiration I was seeking for the setting for my story. Not a city I once lived in. The city I now lived in. It's not perfect, and I'll have to do a bit of tweaking to make it the coastal town of my character's everyday existence, but it was right there. All I had to do was open my eyes and see it

What about you? What can you take from your everyday and put into your stories, your art? Have you been looking further and further away from home for inspiration? There's nothing wrong with that. However, whether writing fantasy or murder mysteries, sometimes the best place to start is your own back yard.

Happy Monday to you all.
~Jen

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Research or Are We Having Fun Yet?



Good morning!

I hope this post finds you well. I just got in from my morning stroll and it's already hot and humid...and it's only 9am! Ah...balmy summers in the South. Is it October yet?

Been doing a bit of research. Ok, so a lot more than just a bit. That's why I've been AWOL the past two days. Got an idea that requires some world building. World building of the real world kind. Which is not as much fun as, say, Narnia or Middle Earth, but enjoyable. Thing is, on the surface, you'd think real world building would be easier. I use the term "real world building" to mean a place invented and yet fully set here and now, in the real world. No alternate dimensions, no corresponding realities. I'll admit, this is a jump for me, but one I'm enjoying with abandon.

The thing is, real world building is harder than fantasy world building. Why? Because if you base a story around a real destination, or a destination that could exist, it has to be perfect. Meaning: if I base a tale in Savannah, GA and I say that Tybee Island is 5 miles off I-95, every reader from the state of Georgia would be writing to tell me I'm a blooming idiot. (Incidentally, you'll find Tybee Island down US-80 East, which is locally known as Butler Avenue as soon as you hit that charming little curve in the road and you get your first real glimpse of the mighty Atlantic.)

The world I'm building is based on the coastal towns of Georgia. It's invented, so I have a bit more freedom, however, it has to be believable. In other words, I can't make it snow in September, capisce?

Anywho, are any of you guys doing any world building, real or otherwise? Which would you or do you prefer? Do you find it harder to write about real places or places based around actual locales? Or do those stories come to you easily, wrapping around you like humidity in August in Atlanta?

Just curious.
Ciao!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting Past Our Demons



Encouraging picture, yes? Greek Sphinx, legendary eater of men unable to answer her clever riddles. Guardians, usually of roads the hero desperately needed to traverse.

We are the heroes of our stories. No, we may not be in the stories we tell by name, but we're there. We push pens and get blisters typing. We stay up until the wee hours of dawn getting in just a few more words.

Sometimes, however, we arrive at an impasse. A road block. Writer's block, some call it. Or fear. Or our own, self-defeating subconscious.

Perhaps it's more than that, though. Perhaps it's our inner Guardian sent to purify the story that needs to be told.

There she is. Looming, sitting defiant in the middle of the road, licking one paw, razor sharp talons flexed and waiting. She knows we're coming, knows we have no choice but to approach her. When we get there, she'll ask us the riddle and we'll have no choice but to answer.

What if we get the answer wrong?

What if indeed.

So it's wrong. So she eats us alive. We're wounded beyond recognition and limp back to our starting point, back to "Once upon a time" when "Happily Ever After" was so close.

And we start again. Yes. It's that simple. Sometimes, what we write isn't right. Right as in not true to who we are, who we need to be. Sometimes we tell a tale simply because it's what is "hot" or "now" or "what best-selling-so-in-so" is writing. The Sphinx knows. We fail to answer her riddle and we must die to self. It can take a long time before we resurrect and find our voice, but rise me must.

Sometimes, we're on the right track, have the right story, but the words are coming out all wrong. We try to sound like "you-know-who" or "our-favorite-author". It's forced, contrived and the Sphinx knows. And she flings forth her riddle and we hem and haw and stutter and she slashes at us with those razor-wire claws and we scurry away to lick our wounds and whimper.

But we know she's right. We know what we said was all muddled and disjointed. It's not until we let our own blood splatter the blank page that we can write what it true. We cannot be afraid to die to what we "want" to say or what we "think" will impress an editor or agent. Nor can we fear exposing ourselves to the elements, opening up our veins and letter the truth pour out freely with not thought of our own health; only the health and life of the story matters.

Then we can approach the Guardian with confidence. Then can we step up to the plate, look her square in the eye and ask her a riddle. Why? Because now we know the story. Now we know the truth.

And now, she lets us pass.

Friday, July 29, 2011

You gotta let yourself go

"Nothing will work unless you do." ~Maya Angelou

Creativity is a fickle beast. Be it writing or painting, sculpting out of metal or gluing magazine pictures to a piece of canvas, who knows where the muse will strike, why, or when. We, as writers and creative souls, try so very hard to dictate when and where the Muse will appear. We give her candles and incense. We shower her with music and meditation. We bribe her with wine and chocolate. Yet, all the while, Muse sits back and waits.

Waiting.

Greater artists than I have said it countless times: if you want inspiration to strike, you better get in there and work. Inspiration doesn't come when we're lounging on the sofa (though I've had it hit me while laying by the sea). It comes when we're working, when we're lost in some project, even a half-hearted project we started "just because".

We have to be willing to do our part if we except the bolt from the blue to hit us.

1) Show up!
Writing nook, work table, or corner of kitchen table; wherever you create, be there, regularly.

2) Work. Hard.
Yep; pick up that pen, clatter about on those keys regularly. It doesn't matter if you write "I can't think of a bloody thing to write about" five hundred and sixty two times. You're writing. And trust me, the words that need to be said will come.

3) Rinse and Repeat.
Simple? In theory. Hard as heck? You betcha. Why? Because it's important. Because it matters. If it didn't, we wouldn't bemoan the fact we're stuck on page 210 with our protagonist pacing a trench in the living room floor for lack of something to do.

I suppose that sums it up: it matters. And if it matters, it must MATTER. It must come from the aether, from the Muse, and become something tangible. A book. A painting. A bar of soap.

And that's only going to happen if you make it happen.

Happy weekend,
Jen

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Birthdays, Courtyards, and PICTURES!

Yesterday was my birthday. I'm 34 years old. I'm not ashamed of it and I don't try hiding it either. As I tell my mother, there's only one alternative to getting older and I'm not quite ready to play that card yet :).

I'm also probably the only woman in the world who got super excited (and a tad bit emotional) when she opened her gifts and found an Atlanta Braves Baseball jersey. With John Smoltz's name and number 29 on the back. Yes, I'm a woman. I love diamonds. Baseball diamonds!



The other two items in the picture are a hilarious Star Wars mock up poster (have I mentioned I'm a Star Wars geek?) and my favorite movie, How to Train Your Dragon. Yep. A kid at heart. Guess that's what keeps me young, lol!

Remember those pictures I promised? Well, here they are! Feast your eyes on our marvelous Mediterranean-esque loft of magnificence!!


This is part of the courtyard and the gate that separates our little peaceful area from the rest of the lofts.


Yes, I'm hopelessly addicted to books. Oh, and see all that marvelous light (something we were in severe shortage of at the other loft)? That's coming from one of the two skylights.


Here is the reason we went through all that headache and chaos of moving 100 feet down from our loft of the giant map encrusted wall: the arched doorway to the kitchen!


One more: the coffee bar. Built in, as is the bench underneath the window in the kitchen and the other, gorgeous shelf you can't see on the wall to the left of the photograph. The shelf with all the mugs hanging from it, my husband built that. He's groovy.

I won't bore you with any more pictures. And, yes, I'll get back to writing about writing. Just easing myself back in the waters and enjoying showing a bit of our new life with you all.

Here's to life!
Be fabulous.
~Jen

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blatherings and Scented Oils

I stayed up until midnight thirty last night putting some finishing touches on some book ideas that have been bubbling over in the back of my mind. It's as if my brain was suddenly transformed into a lovely little Aga with a multitude of pots simmering and squeaking over warm flames. Then, wouldn't you know it, the back two burst and sauce went everywhere! It took me until almost one o'clock to get it all tidied up again.

We'll see where they go. A bit of a foray into a land I've not really touched upon. Just when you think you write one way, in one genre, those pots bubble over. You know the ones; the ones you tried to ignore but put on the stove just in case they held something of interest for the ones you forced to the front. Yeah. Those.




In other news, I decided to make some scented oils. I have an addiction to fragrance oils and I have a tendency to log onto Brambleberry Soap Making Supplies and order multitudes of samples of delicious fragrances with names like "Mahogany", "Sweetgrass" and "Mandarin and Myrrh". I add them to a beeswax/base oil blend and create solid perfumes and lip balms. I've sold a few in the past and, once I perfect the base blend, may start selling them again.

Today, however, the scents come not from a bottle of fragrance oils or even essential oils. I took some leaves from some plants I grew as well as some that have grown wild around the lofts: plantain, mint, pineapple sage and rose geranium. The plantain is the leaf of that little "weed" we used to wrap around itself and shoot our friends with when we were kids. Sort of like miniature cattail. The mint was self seeded from who knows how long ago and grow rampantly outside our courtyard gate. The pineapple sage and rose geranium were bought for me by my mother and have thrived throughout spring and summer (which is more than I can say for the beans and cucumbers...).

The plantain I left plain and poured copious amounts of olive oil, sweet almond oil, vitamin E oil and grapefruit seed extract over. The rose geranium, the same. The mint and pineapple sage, however, got the royal treatment with some green tea, mint tea and earl grey added for fun and flavor. I think that oil blend will make a delicious lip balm. Stretch some plastic wrap over the top and secure with a rubber band, label and put in a dark, cool place for about a month. Viola! Come the end of August, I'll have some delicious oils for some more solid perfumes and lip balms.




Anything new and exciting in your neck of the woods?

~Jen xo

Monday, July 25, 2011

Well...I'm Back


Isn't this gorgeous?!? Sadly, it remained at the garden center, but it reminded me of a taffeta ball gown. A hyacinth I believe.

Good morning, world. How are you? I hope you're feeling fine. It has been far too long since I've sat at my own computer and written about life. Yes. MY computer. After much hoop-la and foo-foo-ra, we have the Internet. At home. I no longer have to pack up everything and launch myself out into the large corporate chain coffee shops in order to do school work and communicate with the world at large. It has been a breath of fresh air, this "working" from home. And now, now, I can blog again.

I never meant to be gone for so long. Is it really almost August? The last time I wrote it was May. I'd quite my job a month prior and yet chaos still reigned in my mind. I was confused, I was battered, and I was exhausted. No rest for the weary, though they say; I was off on a rampage of school reports and engulfed in a literature class that took every ounce of time I wasn't already devoting to a statistics class that threatened to steal my soul. Perhaps you find that an exaggeration. Perhaps you're good at math. I'm an English Major. 'Nuf said.

I made herbal salves and solid perfumes, ate shrimp and grits for the first time and spent a week on Tybee Island. We found foster-dog Grace a new home and my mind cleared out enough rabble to focus on a story or two.

Then, yes, THEN, we moved. Didn't see that one coming, did you? Neither did we. A family moved from a loft 100 feet or so down from ours. We'd never seen it before. It has a courtyard. It's walled in with grape vines growing up one side of the wall, a long neglected picnic table tucked behind ivy vines, and two poorly soiled plots of land that will, with some love and lots of hail Marys may just produce some flowers next Spring. We walked into the loft, turned to the left and saw the kitchen. A brick arch separates it from the living room. It is gorgeous with stone floors and a wide, open eat-in corner under a window complete with built in coffee bar and bench. We had to have it. We signed another year's lease. We moved.

And so, a new adventure begins. We left the wall map of the world for a very Mediterranean courtyard, small, European style loft with a quintessentially Italian-esque kitchen. It isn't perfect (what's perfect?). But it's home. It has separate rooms, not sprawling space with 16 foot ceilings which were, for a time, nice. But the need for cozy begged for something different and here we are. There's creativity here, friends, and I long to tap into it.

I'm back. I've missed each of you. I long to catch up on your lives, your worlds. I have much to learn about new changes in the writing industry, but I'm confident, in time, I'll find myself back up to speed. What speed is that, you may ask? Well, it's a bit slower than before. A little more "stroll" as opposed to "run" or even "jog". A good pace, for sure.

And just as soon as I figure out how this gosh darn new phone uploads pictures, I'll post some of the new place.

Now, your turn. How have you been?

Hugs and chocolate drops,
Jen

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Breathe...

Just breathe.

You're busy. BELIEVE me, I know. I'm swamped over here and will be for at least another two years (possibly longer, depending on how much this degree program dissuades me from graduate school).

Listen. Do you hear it? That's life. Yep. YOUR life. Sometimes it sounds like a breeze on a warm afternoon or the patter of rain on the roof. Right now, mine sounds like the baby birds nesting outside my work-room window (the atelier as I like to call it...all French-like and lovely!)

Take a deep breath...hold it...

Now exhale slowly letting the stress, the tension, the confounded math problems, manuscript edits, crying child or dirty house wash away in the sound of life.

Do you hear it? That's your breath. It's calmer now. You're calmer. And you can face ANYTHING.

Go get 'em, you warrior, you!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

well, how da do?

I miss writing! And blogging. And YOU! But as they say, life goes on, sometimes dragging us along for the ride. I've become a full-time resident in bean-town (also known as coffee city and caffeine cottage). Our Internet is kaput and I've taken up residence at the coffee house. I've not completely forsaken tea, but I'm taking a math class this term.

Math.

I'm a writer and an English major.

I don't DO math *shudder*. I think maybe Voldemort created math. Just saying...

Without further ado, I give you:

RANDOM POST OF RANDOMNESS!!!

* My math class looks as if it's going to take 5 out of 7 days a week to get through. I considered dropping it but I'd just have to retake it later. Besides, if I get through this one (and the one for next term), I'll NEVER HAVE TO TAKE MATH AGAIN!

* Today is the first day in about an eon I've sat down to write for pure pleasure's sake. In other words, I'm not working on a 10 page term paper at the moment.

* My world lit class is amazing! We're studying ancient writing this week and I've decided to write about the ancient Celts and Ogham. Yeah, I never have been one for dull, boring ancient languages.

*A tornado blew through the town just south of us last night. We were up until 2am waiting to hear if we needed to dig a ditch and climb in (or, more likely, grab the video cameras and go storm chasing...woohoo!)

What's up with you? Seriously, I want to know. I feel as though I've been banished from blogdom and am sneaking in through the hedges to get an update :). I plan on posting again regularly, just far, far less often than...well, I was going to say before but ANY posting is more often than what I've been doing! HA!

Thursdays are my writing days. It looks as if I'll be able to secure most of that day for writing (school can take a backseat for a day or two, don't you think?) That being said, I'll be blog posting Thursdays and (hopefully) blog visiting on Thursdays and/or Fridays. I may even take to responding to comments here (seeing as a lot of people don't have their blogs connected to their emails. No problem with that! I just hate to miss responding to a brilliant quote).

So. Thursdays. Blogging. Responding to brilliant comments in the comments.

Done and done.

Your- number-crunching, coffee-guzzling, cursing-the-day-the-inventor-of-math-was-born writer friend-
Jen

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"G" and "H" Gone Missing...

...and so have "I"!

This month has proven to be a bug-bear of epic proportions. Yes. Epic.

This week in particular has me borrowing Internet connections, producing term papers at lightening speed and ordering text books (again) at the last minute. This, of course, is on top of Everything Else. Yes. That DOES require capital letters :)

So.

I'm out for a bit.

Thank you all for stopping by from the A-Z Challenge. Sorry I couldn't keep up with all you mad, daily bloggers out there. You rock. Seriously! Keep it up and I'll be around as soon as things calm down (or at least when I can tame the wild beast that has become my life!)

Take care, be fabulous, and write on!
Jen

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"F" is for...

...

Mind holding that thought a sec? I didn't think so :D A couple of weeks ago, I was awarded a fabulous award and I have been unable to post about it (or post the award) until now. I wanted to take a moment to thank Deirdra over at A Storybook World for the Powerful Woman Writer Award:



I'm feeling kind of powerful right now :D Thanks Deirdra!! Wander on over to her site. She's got one of the prettiest banners I've ever seen!

****

A huge hello and freely distributed hugs to my new followers!! I've been AWOL, I know. Thank the ever fickle Internet gods for that. It seems I've displeased them and they now require I go fifteen minutes from home to surf the aether. Not a huge problem (I get to spend my mornings at a book store) BUT they KNOW I have papers due in two weeks!! It'd be so much easier to have the Internet up all day and be able to come to it as I see fit. Ah well...rant over.

****

On to the Challenge! Will I visit other sites? Yes. When? It's a surprise!! For everyone...including myself ;) I know, I know, I've apologized already. Forgive my over-indulgence of the phrase "I'm sorry" but I mean it. Truly.

"F" is for...

FORGIVENESS

What's that got to do with writing? Everything. We all make mistakes. We spend too much time on a book and not enough time on school work. Beds go unmade and laundry piles up along with dishes. The dog is bouncing, legs crossed, in front of the door and the cat's litter box hasn't been cleaned out in a week.

OR

Life swoops in and carries us off. We're riding the currents of recitals and baseball games, term papers and grocery shopping. A parent needs help, a child falls ill. Vacation. Volunteering. A really, really good book.

And we fail to write.

Guess what? It's ok. Life happens and it should. Forgive yourself today. Forgive yourself for your word count. Forgive yourself for your lack of discipline. Forgive yourself for slaying real life dragons and letting your characters fend for themselves.

Forgive yourself for not blogging. Not writing. Not revising. Not querying. Not doing all those things you said you'd do in the month of April.

It's ok.
Take a deep breath.
And live.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for...


EXCITEMENT!!!

Without it, we can't do anything. Seriously. Ever try writing something you were less than thrilled about? You know...like a term paper (hence the absence from the blogverse this week). In order to get through things, in order to plow through the tedious portions that come with every task, you have to be excited about what you're doing.

Nothing's perfect. Even when we're all best selling authors, having tea with J.K. and lunch with Stephen and Neil, without an all consuming passionate excitement about our next project, we'll fizzle. Falter. Fall.

Whatever it takes to stay excited about your project, do it. Visit a museum, watch a documentary on your topic, listen to music, take a walk, take surf lessons. Go skydiving! Just stay excited!

Life's too short for anything else.