Thursday, March 31, 2011

Twas the Night Before A-Z Challenge...

Late post, I know, but I wanted to get a quick, standard post in before tomorrow. Over 800 people are signed up for the amazing A-Z Challenge happening throughout the month of April (most of you know this because most of YOU make up those astounding numbers!!!)

I've been to some of the challenger's blogs, and it's pretty encouraging to see the various ways people plan to approach the challenge. I've had several ideas, but I think I'm going to stick to something I've been posting about for the past few weeks: boldness. More specifically, being bold in the face of fear, adversity, self-doubt, worry. There are so many things that come at us, that try to discourage us and dissuade us from our calling.

Yes. This writing life IS a calling. No sane person would choose this vocation on their own. That makes us the lucky ones :D

The plan (for now) is to start each post with a word of affirmation that begins with the alphabet-appropriate-letter for the day. After that? Who knows? You guys know how things get around here.

There's always a little madness thrown in for good measure and a healthy dose of fun.

Strap on your writing shoes, kids, and let the countdown to daily posting chaos begin!

PS: I promised Tracy I'd post the recipe to the blueberry-mint muffins. Enjoy!

Recipe from "Summer Herbal Delights" by Noel Richardson

1 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1/2 cup finely chopped mint
1 cup sunflower seeds (I omitted these and they turned out fine)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (I had to add a whole cup to get the consistency right, FYI)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400*F. Grease a muffin tin. Mix together the blueberries, mint and sunflower seeds. In a larger bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and sugar. In another bowl, mix buttermilk, oil and egg together. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Fold the blueberry-mint mixture into the batter until just mixed. Spoon into muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool on a rack and enjoy :D

PPS: The original recipe uses blackberries. I had blueberries so I improvised! Cheers!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Baking I Will Do



Dudes and Dudettes (and any other -udes or -ettes who may read this blog)! I've neglected you. I know. For shame. And I haven't been writing. Well, at least not in the creative sense. More in the academic, arguing the evils of book banning and censorship sense. Fun, yes but alas, the novel is still unrefined, unedited, and, quite frankly, unfinished.

Still.

The past two days have found me in the kitchen, baking. Yes. Baking. Well, and there was that whole roast for dinner thing, but mostly baking. Bread. Muffins (blueberry mint muffins to be precise) and...wait for it...coconut bars.

1 14 oz package of sweetened coconut
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Spray a bit of oil on an 11" x 13" casserole dish
Mix the coconut and condensed milk together until thoroughly mushy (real technical recipe here...)
Spread into the dish
Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges and tops just start to turn brown. Let cool.

Behold! A pan of coconutty noms for your enjoyment. You know, while you write. Like I should be doing :D

Cheers!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Announcements, Thank Yous, and a Quote!

Good morning (or evening as it may be when you read this)! Hope you all had a lovely, fabulous weekend! It's a dreary, rainy Monday where I sit (yippee!!)and I'm just bursting with energy. It could be that I've got a slew of projects lined up and that's fear and trembling, not energy. OR it's the two cups of coffee and three sodas I had yesterday....

Regardless-

A big HELLO and WELCOME to my new followers. Wow! I'm busting at over 110!! Love it! I'm hoping to get my 8 page research paper written by tomorrow so hopefully (fingers crossed and mouth held in just the right position) I'll be wandering by your blogs to say hello come mid-week.

Real quick before I leave creative writer mode (boo) and switch into argumentative writer mode (huzzah):

The A-Z Writing Challenge starts THIS FRIDAY, 01 April! If you haven't signed up yet, I'm sure there's plenty of room. I think there's something like 500+ signed up. Could be more since I checked in. The idea is to post on your blog every day except Sundays throughout the month of April. Each post will be governed by the letter of the alphabet for that day (day 01-A, day 02-B and so on...). I'm toying with a few ideas of how to take on this challenge AND benefit my OTHER April-long project:

REVISIONFRENZY!!!
Ok, so that's not exactly an "official" challenge. I made it up :D Many of you know that April is ScriptFrenzy month(brought to you by the fabulous people who bring us 30 days of mayhem and chaos with NaNoWriMo every November). If you're a screenwriter, playwright or just fancy pulling out your hair and drinking copious amounts of coffee in the mad dash to a completed script by April 30, then sign up and take the plunge! I'll be spending those hours of hair pulling and coffee guzzling revising my novel. Yes, I have one. Yes, I've been terribly secret about it. Yes, it's the first book in a series. No, that series does not end with the three books I have written. Ugh. Why do I do this to myself?

So.

April.

A-Z Challenge.

RevisionFrenzy.

Question for YOU: Are you participating in either challenges next month? In the process of mad revisions? Have you posted excerpt from your WIP? Do you like it when people do? Am I being too overprotective of my story/characters/insanity by NOT posting excerpts? Tell me! I want to know what YOU want to read.

Oh yeah...the quote:

I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.
~Ernest Hemingway

and another:

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.
~Ernest Hemingway

Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/e/ernest_hemingway_2.html#ixzz1HuIKwtWp

Be BOLD, be FABULOUS, be YOU!
Ciao.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fear and the Art of Being BOLD

My blog seems to have adopted a theme. Over the past two weeks, "fear" and "being bold" have been cropping up in most of my posts. Oddly enough, I've been reading blog posts over this same time period dealing with the same issues. Hmmm, says I. It seems the universe has gifted me. But a theme? It seems so...cliche. So "thought out". So trite. So...

Themed.

O_o

And I like it. Fear is the worst enemy to life. Some would argue self-doubt is the worst enemy to art but what is self-doubt if it's not just another type of fear? Fear is my biggest bugbear. It has haunted me since I was small and has driven my decisions for years. More and more I find myself drawn to things that scare people: movies, books, stories, tales, themes (there's that word again) that most people I know shy away from because they're not safe or their frightening or they bring up some hidden, dark portion of their own lives call to me.

So I've joined the Dark Side. It was inevitable. I've loved Darth Vader since I was four. :D

In keeping with the theme (still not excited about that word) of boldness, I've decided to do something everyday that scares me. No, I will not be jumping out of 365 airplanes or swallowing live tarantulas (that's just insanity...the tarantula thing, not the jumping out of airplanes). Most of what I would find frightening you may find silly.

Example: Wednesday, I went to the new library to get research material for my paper on censorship and book banning. A library. But it was new, I'd never been there before, and quiet places where I need to ask a lot of questions intimidates me. I've always felt I should already know everything going into a new situation. Silly? Maybe, but it's true. And it has caused me much anguish.

And I did it, asked my questions, got my research material, even chatted with the librarian about buying rings downtown.

But why stop there? I mean, why not do something REALLY daring, REALLY bold. Totally unexpected.

Like going from this:



To THIS:



It's not Photoshop people. It's permanent. And I love it. My husband loves it!



He gives it "two thumbs up" or he would, if he wasn't taking the picture. So I did it for him :D

What does this have to do with writing? Nothing. Everything. Looks like I'll be talking more about fear and taking chances and being bold. Stepping out of your comfort zone. You know, boot camp stuff like that. I might even yell. I might even post some excerpts from my book. *gulp* Now THAT'S frightening!

Done anything bold or crazy lately? Anything you know you should do but find you're afraid? In life or in books, boldness is the key to being yourself. The key to being fabulous.

And let's face it, we were all created to be fabulous! Happy weekend.

Rock on!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"No trip is insignificant"

Hey to all my new followers! I may have already said that. Well, hey again! I'm very glad you're here :D

Can I TELL you how free I feel today? I finally caught up on all the amazing blog comments you guys have left me AND got around to some of your equally awesome blogs (if I haven't made it by yet, I shall. Promise. There's only so many hours in a day and I'm really shooting for an "A" in Argumentative Writing.)

All this talk of boldness. Yes, I've been paying attention to my blog posts *giggle* and those of others. I've stumbled upon several posts in the past week on fear and boldness. Hmmm, says I. Seems this theme is more than just a passing glance. Fear and the art of being bold. Now there's a theme if ever I saw one.

In regards to the post title, it's a quote from "The Way of the Traveler" by Joseph Dispenza. "No trip is insignificant," he writes. "...Every time we leave home and go to another place, we open up the possibility of having something wonderful happen to us."

Equate this to writing, says my muse. He's demanding like that. Dern snarky little so-in-so...

We write and write and write. Sometimes we put down epic brilliance! Sometimes...er...not so much. More like epic suckatude (yes, that IS a word. I've seen it somewheres...). Most of the time, we sit back from what we've written and wonder just what the heck is going on? Who's the main character? What's going on between the clown and the flea circus? What on earth am I even talking about?! Do we crumple it up, toss it and start over? Do we file it away?

I say file it. Even if you stumble across it in a decade or three and it still stinks of ten day old Limburger, there's a lesson to be learned (such as take out the trash!!). Every thing we write has significance. There could be the gem of a story hidden in all those adjectives. A single word or phrase that sets us off in the path of our own Lord of the Rings. Or it could be the simple fact that we sat down and wrote when we didn't want to. When we would rather get lobotomized than face our fears and muses and screaming main characters and spoiled side kicks. The act of writing helps us channel the stories that surround us. Even if we never use them, the simple act of writing tells the world a very important truth:

We are writers.
Writers write.
So go on, suck with brilliance and scream from the roof tops: "I AM A WRITER!!!"

Just make sure you hide that story about the clown and the flea circus.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday's Child is full of Grace

Grace.

Such a small word and yet so powerful. And necessary.

Our foster dog's name is Grace. Little did we know we'd need a ton of it to deal with her. I'm beating myself up right now because I just failed to exhibit grace toward Grace when she jumped in the window and knocked off three picture frames and two works in progress.

Ugh.

Extending grace to ourselves is often much harder. We beat ourselves up for the tiniest mistakes. I have the nasty tendency to think I should be somewhere else along this time-line of life. Comparing oneself to another is not going to get you any further along. If anything, it will keep you stuck where you are, wallowing in self doubt.

Grace towards our characters is entirely different. How much do we allow them? Do we throw them to the lions and hand them a rope or do we fling them to the daleks and let them figure it out on their own? Do we allow someone, something to appear at just the right time to save their butts? Ah, then we tread the waters of Dues ex machina and no one likes an unexplained salvation.

Do we or don't we? Do we help them out or just pile on the crap and see how much they can take. During the month of April, I'm going to be doing intense revisions on my novel (part one of a trilogy). While rereading, I realized I'm far too nice to my characters. Sure, I give them hell, but I always shift the weight and let the good guys get out. Not unscathed, but almost too good to be true. Does this make sense? I hope so.

Dare I heave them into the darkness and let them find their own way out? We are the world-builders, the sub-creators (fans of Tolkien will get that), however, when we let ourselves go, when we let the story take over, things happen we could never have dreamed. And they are usually far better than anything we could have dreamed.

To paraphrase Paulo Coelho in the Alchemist, "When you step out in the direction of your dreams and fully commit to them, the universe itself will conspire to help you."

So step aside, let your characters take over. Trust them and in doing so, trust yourself.

Be bold; be fabulous.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Boldness

Good Monday to you! I'm shooting for a more active online week this week. What happened last week? Good question. Honestly, I think it has to do with adaptability and my severe lack of ability to go with the flow.

Funny, isn't it? We get what we prayed for and we don't know what to do with it. It's like being stranded on a deserted island and being handed a life raft, all bundled up. We don't pull the chord. We don't read the instructions. We just stand there, on the beach, holding our salvation in our arms.

For me, it's got something to do with the years of stress and burn out. Going from adrenal burn out to "your time is your own now" is tough. Tougher than I thought. Sure, I figured there would be a transition period. Two days, tops. Try more than a week.

And you know what? That's ok. You're trying, I tell myself. You've stepped out and you're on the right path. But I'm not making any progress, I argue. Aren't you? Progress doesn't have to be measured in steps or achievements. Sometimes, just getting out of bed is progress. Depends on what you're going through.

The heart of it is this: don't be so hard on yourself (yes, self, I'm talking to you). Ease up. Allow yourself to make mistakes. No, life isn't forever and yes, we only go around once, but sometimes the best lessons come when we're trying to get "in the swing of things" and fail. Miserably.

If you, like me, are having a hard time adjusting to a new situation (good or not so good), here's some encouragement from Goethe:

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

And one more from Oscar Wilde:

"Fortune favors the fearless."

So get out there. Forget the past, let the present wash over you, and dream big. You'll get there. You will.

I believe in you.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Excuse me, where did this week go?

AAAAAAAAACCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!!

Guys, I've totally geeked out on you this week and I'm so sorry!! Here I thought coming home and devoting myself to school and writing and the fine art of dancing with brooms would allow me more time to blog (not to mention visit YOUR blogs...yes, yours. And especially YOURS, you fearless St. Patrick's Fest blogger, you.) It seems in my over-zealousness, I seemed to have forgotten one, tiny detail: life.

Yes, life showed up this week and suddenly, it's Friday night and I've been AWOL from blogger. My sincere apologies. Do forgive! I guess it's going to take more getting used to this new-fangled freedom than I thought!

Seems I'm going to really get my discipline on and starting Monday, that's exactly what I'm going to do! Have a fabulous weekend, don't give up on me, and I'll see YOU on Monday!

Cheers!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Luck o' the Irish SPD Blogfest!!!


I found this picture years ago online. Sadly, I did not take it.

Ah, St. Patrick's Day. The day when I can be as Irish as I like and no one looks at me like I'm a freak...every other day, well, that's another story...

Colene Murphy is hosting this brilliant fest! Mozy on over to her place and check out the other entries. I'll be reading as the day goes by (and probably into tomorrow...my Internet is being LAZY!) Enjoy! And drink some Guinness...it's good for you :D

***

It hasn't always been this way. Once upon a time, people welcomed death. Now, they fear it. Every year they shirk the cemeteries, rush past without even a glance at those who rest. "Cast a cold eye on life," Yeats said. Seems to me they're doing just fine in that respect.

Life, death, it's all the same to them. They hover about their jobs, rushing home to sit in front of the telly, drink a pint, get lost in their problems. They think if they don't contemplate it, they can escape it. But they can't. No one can. Death comes for them all.

I should know. One year ago, he came for me, a rider dressed in black. He called my name and I, not knowing the old stories, followed him to the lonely hill on which I now sit. It was St. Patrick's Day, I remember it well. I'd been partying with friends, having a few laughs, tossing coins off the Haypenny Bridge. I'd never really been a part of the crowd, but they tolerated me, enjoyed my company and I there's.

After the party was over and the pints were dry, I walked home but for some reason, I left the road and went up through the fields. A light rain began to fall and I found myself being led by a horseman to a low, moonlit hill. That's when I heard her, the wailing of the ban sidhe. That's when I realized it wasn't that she called you to die, she called you to another type of life.

Now here I wait, wait for another on this St. Patrick's Day to be lead by the horseman, always on his hunt. And when they arrive, I'll cry for them, I'll wail and I'll sing them into eternity.

Slainte!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pondering the Bad Guys



I love a good villain. Great villains make me cringe, make me hate them, make me believe they really, truly would sacrifice their own first born to further their conquest of the galaxy. Villains frighten and embody everything we fear and/or hate. They are the shadows we avoid, the things we tell our children not to become.

They can also be mirrors into the darkest corners of our souls.

We all carry a little villain in us. If we didn't, how could we create such terrible creatures? If there's not a little darkness, how can we ever come to appreciate the light?

Sometimes, villains are obvious. No one's going to mistake Voldemort for the hero. Sometimes -and these are my favorite- the villains aren't so obvious. If you read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix before seeing the movie, you KNEW the soft spoken, Cheshire Cat grinning lady in pink was the devil incarnate. However, at first glance to the uninformed, she probably seemed like a harmless, misguided employee at the Ministry of Magic. Oh how looks can deceive.

Tell me, what kind of villains make you shiver? Do you like your villains straight up, dressed in black and slimy? Or do you like them a little more subtle, villains that leave you wondering from one chapter to the next what they're up to and what their motives are?

Better yet, ever run across a villain who wasn't really the villian at all? A red herring villain. Now THERE'S a challenge...

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm BAAAAAACK!!

Howdy and how are you?

Sorry for the unplanned absence but I see that I have some new followers! Excellent!! Thanks so much for stopping by and saying hi. I'll make my way around to all of your fabulous blogs soon, I promise!

I'm officially not employed at The Job anymore. I'll pause while you all shout and dance happily for me...

***

Don't you feel better?

That being said, I'm not just sitting at home eating brownies and watching Star Wars (although that would make for a splendid day...). School is taking up most of my mornings and then afternoons will be divided between writing and all the things that make life, life: errands, house work, jogging, keeping the dog from jumping out the window. You know, normal things.

I hope you've all had a fabulous March so far! There are some awesome blog fests coming up and I'm excited to be participating in a couple of them. I also have a little something of my own I've been working on and will introduce in April (so stay tuned!) Speaking of April, if any of you do NaNo, the wonder people at the Office of Letter and Light put on ScriptFrenzy this time of year. If you have an idea for a play, a television show or a movie, get out those pens and Screenwriting for Dummy's books and have at it!

Me? I'll be using April as my Revision Ninja Month! Don't know what a Revision Ninja is? Hop on over HERE and find out :)

Ok kids, I'm off to finish up an essay and then it's off to dance around the house with a mop!

Seriously.

Ciao!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Everything Changes

If I just put a rather ridiculous song from the 80s in your head with that title, I'm sorry. If not, good. I'll suffer alone :)

My last day has been pushed back to Friday. Tomorrow. The countdown's for real this time.

Promise.

Thanks for being patient with me! I promise I'll be back and ready to roll on Monday!!

Have a fabulous rest of the week :)

Ciao!
Jen

Monday, March 7, 2011

Holy buckets of busy, Batman!

I wanted to dash off a message really quick. This is my last week at the job (can I get a HALLELUJAH!?) so things are super busy, not to mention I'm swamped with research papers (mmm...research...*nerd moment*).

Didn't want you guys to think I'd died or anything. I'll be back to "normal" THURSDAY!! Yes, Thursday, the Holy Grail of Days (at least this week).

Have a fabulous week! Write reams and reams!
Jen

Thursday, March 3, 2011

in which I run away to find myself

Ever had the urge to run away? Leave it all behind, visit a new place, meet new people.

Destroy evil empires.
Save a princess.
Kidnap a prince.

Of course. We all have. That's why we read.

But have you ever considered running away in your OWN writing? Getting lost amid the story that chose you? Hmmm, says I. This sounds like a challenge. A frightening one.

Frightening? Why? It's just a story, right? An all consuming, never ending, nagging story that wakes you in the middle of the night, tortures you at work, chants incessantly "write me, tell me, write me, tell me" until you want to claw the words out of your veins and let them trail in whatever pattern seems fit.

I'm not advocating self mutilation.

Just sacrifice.

It's a brave thing to trust your story so much that you lose yourself to it. Lock the doors, batten down the hatches, weld the pen and go forth to conquer unknown lands. It's a courage we all need, a fear we must all face.

So go ahead. Pack your suitcase and run away. Stare that story down until it consumes you and you have no choice but to tell it. Let it all out. Get lost and in the process, find the essence of your story, your characters.

Yourself.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In which I quote Eleanor Roosevelt and say "gracias"

You people are fabulous. Truly, I mean it. Go on, give yourselves a hand. I'll wait.

......

All the comments from yesterday's post really encouraged me and inspired me and I can't thank you enough :D

It's March! Newsflash, I know. How was February? Any goals for the shiny, new month? I love the first day of a new month. Almost like a mini-new year. Just think! You could have 12 celebrations every year, 12 new goals and 12 excuses to stay up until midnight drinking champagne and shooting off fireworks! Unless of course it's illegal to shoot off fireworks where you are. In that case, have another glass of champagne :)

March holds a lot of promise for me, most of all, the promise of hard work. Work that I'm more than willing to take on, tackle with all the elbow grease I can muster. I'm ready to get this story edited, get it polished and out to some readers. I've been working on this story (in various forms) for over ten years. On again, off again. It's now at a place where I recognize it. It came to me disheveled but I knew it's spirit. Now it's here and I know all I have to do is stay out of the way and let it plow through.

Next week I get to do just that! Plow through words, plant dreams and till the dirt of opportunity. School, writing, and the art I so love and yet have had to let go for far, far too long.

And I've got something nifty planned for April *hint hint, wink wink* Well, I think it's nifty at any rate.

What about YOU? Any new plans for the shiny new month? Any new goals, visions, dreams within dreams?

I'm sorry if this post seems a bit off. I'm both frustrated and excited and anxious and ... mixed up. Yeah. That's the phrase.

Here, have some inspiration:

" Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't."~Eleanor Roosevelt

Go forth and be FEARLESS!