Friday, December 7, 2012

A Great Big Hearty Thank You!

Good morning!

I just want to say how touched I am at all the amazing comments that my totally insecure post on Wednesday received. You guys are the best...seriously! I have found the most encouraging people in blog-dom and I'm thankful for each and every person who takes the time to stop by this little piece of cyber real estate to read my jumbled thoughts.

So there - Thank YOU.

Now let's get out there and conquer the world!

Happy weekend,
Jen

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Most Insecure Insecure Writer's Support Group Post Ever


Here we are again; another Insecure Writer's Support Group post hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Do join in! You'll be glad you did!

Ok, so I may have over done the title a bit but that is EXACTLY how I'm feeling this morning. It is how I've felt for the past few years. Though I'm in school focusing on writing, I have produced no writing in the past two years that I can honestly say is "up to par" with what I know I'm capable of. I've written papers, I've written discussion posts, I've written nonfiction stories that were more painful that getting another root canal. Yet I still call myself a "writer"; I still confess to going into student loan debt in order to get a degree in "writing".

Here's my insecurity: actually, my insecurities (yes, there is more than one!):
1. I simply cannot find my focus. My blog has faltered and is sputtering with its head just barely above water for lack of focus. It's not that I lack content ideas...it's the focus. I'm an ADD writer...
and, this one may be touching on something a bit more metaphysical than you're used to,
2. I'm afraid of the potential the gift of being a writer suggests, the responsibility, the awesome power of story.

Let me elaborate on that last one a bit. I've been re-reading Madeleine L'Engle's book Walking on Water. It's all about the struggle the artist, the writer has with the gift, the call, of their art. She goes into some pretty deep waters with this book and every time I read it (which is once a year), I walk away with a renewed awe of the writing profession. And a new desire to dive into the untapped waters of story. And a new fear that...

and here's the kicker...

my stories are far more frightening than I initially intended.

I'm not talking about horror frightening (though that's mostly what I write) but that the act of writing, the sheer sitting down and putting pen to paper, words on page, is far more than I can handle! And after I survive THAT, the words that have been set down (no fault of mine of course) are far MORE than I ever intended. Of course, this means I'm responsible for them. And for the repercussions that come from sending them out into the world.

My insecurity? Am I really ready for that?

The blog issue is something I've been battling for years. Since I left a job that chained me to a desk 8+ hours a day, I just haven't seemed to lasso the time to blog consistently. And maybe this issue stems from the other. The content I've considered scares me. It's not all rainbows and butterflies or three steps to getting your novel written. I tend to lean more into the grey areas of life, the "what ifs" and the "I wonders".

I apologize if this post is a downer. That's not my intent. I'm insecure. I'm searching. And I'm beyond tired of learning about the various theories one can read into every novel that is out there (thank you, Lit Theory 300, thank you).

So I ask you: Have you ever really thought about the weighty nature of this calling to write, to create? If so, how do you decide, once and for all, to jump into the storm-tossed seas and see where they take you? And in regards to blogging, how do you really lasso a theme and make it work? Ugh. Told you: the most insecure insecure writer's post yet!

At least for this writer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Thanksgiving Tree


This year we made a Thanksgiving Tree. Neither Jon nor I are very keen to spontaneously talk about personal things and inevitably someone will want to ask, "What are YOU thankful for?" This usually means a couple of seconds of mental scrambling only to come up with something lame...like grilled cheese or chocolate covered walnuts while other family members wax poetically about family and friends.

Our Thanksgiving Tree was an excellent way to get around the awkwardness. Not that there's anything wrong with being thankful for grilled cheese (I am...very thankful indeed!) but this tree gave us the opportunity to be honest without being embarrassed.

Besides - I'm a writer not a public speaker.

I took an old silver urn that Jon picked up from a previous job and filled it with florists' foam. I had some dried flowers from two old bouquets, cut them to size and jabbed into the foam around the edge of the urn. When we moved this past summer, there were dead bushes in front of our house. I pulled them up and left them in the back yard to use for kindling. One of them turned out to be a perfect tiny "tree" so into the middle of the urn that went. Burlap cut from an old coffee sack went around the base of the "tree" to cover the foam. Finally, we put out a stack of tags, string, and a pen and encouraged others to write their Thanksgiving thoughts down by hanging ours before the guests arrived.

BEHOLD!


That's the final product! It turned out so lovely I may take the tags off and just decorate the "tree" with Christmas ornaments.

And yes...those are real book pages hanging on the wall. That's what happens when I have a week off from school.

TELL ME: Did you do anything different this year for Thanksgiving? Have any "unbreakable" family traditions you're dying to change? Just curious...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving



May you all have your fill of good food and family.
Rest easy and enjoy the weekend.
See you next week!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hodgepodge

Good morning!

Just wanted to pop in and ramble a bit. I hope you're all having a wonderful week! Where I am, it's blissfully cold, wet, and grey. I am one happy writer :)

* Been reading David Lebovitz's EXCELLENT book The Sweet Life in Paris. Even if you've never had an infatuation with The City of Light (as I have), you'll get a kick out of his humor and his everyday situations in Paris. Not to mention the recipes are to die for!!

* I've been trying to get through Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter for about two months now. It's beautifully written but it is so...slow.... Seriously. I read five pages and feel like I should have read 30. Anyone else read this one? Honestly, is it worth finishing? (It goes back to the library Monday)

* Book Club just started reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I'm only a few pages in, but it is blissfully British. I'm really looking forward to this one.

*Last, for my Literary Theory class, I'm reading Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. This book, while not what I'd normally choose to read, is beautiful. It's very cyclical and takes a bit to get the feel of who it's talking about and when. It's written like a spiral, or a Celtic knot, in and out, weaving stories together to form a whole narrative. I've never read anything like it. Even if you're not a fan of literary fiction, I'd recommend it (PS to make it even harder to follow, there are no chapters)

So-I've been busy where reading is concerned. Also been writing a bit thanks to the gloomy weather. How is everyone doing? Sorry I haven't been around much this week. I started a volunteer program and have a paper due. Not to mention Thanksgiving is next week here in America. And guess who's hosting 22+ people at their house only 2 days before they host another 20+ people for a left-over party?

Yep. Me.

I am crazy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday is for planning...

Good morning! There have been several new faces in the comments and that always makes me excited! A big HELLO to all of your new readers and followers. I see your lovely faces on my sidebar. Welcome!

I still haven't made it through as many IWSG posts as I wanted to. WOW are there a lot of  bloggers on that list. It's a wonderful problem to have (as I'm sure Alex would agree with me).

Ever since I started back to school full time, Mondays haven't scared me so much. The last full time job I had was a terrible fit for me and Monday brought a sense of dread the likes of which I had not experienced in a long time. Don't get me wrong; I was thankful for the job and it came at the right time. But over time, it was painfully clear I did not belong in that environment.

Now, I look forward to Mondays. I see them as a clean slate, a fresh start, and an opportunity to plan a week that will leave me feeling as though I've actually accomplished something come Sunday night.

Ever get the feeling at the end of a week that you've just floated through, let your schedule control you? Oi I feel like that waaay too often.

This Monday is dark and dreary: just my style! A blanket of fog is covering the cow pasture behind our yard and the regiment of trees that line the fence are dressed out in orange, yellow and red. A troop of black birds just landed and are clamoring for worms and insects. And a writer is sitting at her computer, sipping tea and running through her mind all the things she needs to do and wants to do.

HOW do you balance the needs and the wants? HOW do you allocate time to get things accomplished while still maintaining hobbies? AND HOW do you actually write those stories that are begging to be put on paper and screen?

It comes down to this fact: I all my schedule to dictate what I do. In other words, I allow my day to set the tone for what I accomplish. All this means is I'm not taking responsibility for my time and that's no way to live. If we as writers, artists, human beings intend to accomplish anything in this life (being a great parent or spouse, getting the laundry washed, writing 50,000 words during the month of November) we must recognize that everything we do is important and time is a precious commodity.

We will never get the time we spend or waste back. SPEND IT WISELY.

Hopefully this post isn't too somber. Autumn is always a time for me to get my priorities straight, try to reign in things that I'm doing that aren't really getting anywhere. So I've set myself a new goal for the rest of 2012:

Don't let time get away from me.
Do what I can and don't stress over what I can't.
Do what I can do where I'm at.

As I put on my blog banner: Start where you are, write what you know, make do and mend, and grow, baby, grow!"

Time to live by my own advice :)

TELL ME: How do YOU reign in your time when you see it getting away from you? Any other NaNo writers feeling the inevitability that you won't win NaNo this year? What's so special about starting where you are and growing where you're planted?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Frivolities

Time for some pre-weekend fun! 
All pictures taken from Living to Read Fantasy.
Have a wonderful, safe, and creative weekend.
And if you're participating in NaNoWriMo - May the Force be with you!

<3 Jen











And one more...just because I think it's precious:


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy 165th Bram Stoker


I can still remember the first time I read Dracula. It was only a couple of years ago and I remember getting the distinct feeling as I cracked open the book for the first time that I was in the company of a genius.

Bram Stoker created a nightmare that has endured for decades. We still shudder to think of creatures of the night stalking our homes to drink our blood. Recent sparkling additions aside, people are still creating tales of horror with the ancient vampire. 

Interestingly, there are vampire legends in just about every culture. Check out this Wiki list of all the various vampires and vampire names throughout the world: List of Vampires in Folklore and Mythology.

Strange, isn't it? How something that we attribute to the over active imaginations of frightened children or the folktales of primitive cultures trying to explain the unexplained flourish the world over? I've often wondered where do our myths originate and if they are only stories, only nightmares, why do people on the opposite side of the globe recognize them? Consider this: every fairy tale has a counterpart to be found in most countries. Every country was once separated by great land masses and oceans that were impassable without the benefit of modern transportation.

So I ask you: Do you believe that vampires and gargoyles, dragons and fairies have their origins in fact? Or are they just spooky stories to tell by the light of a dying fire on a cold, dark night? Or maybe, possibly, a little bit of both...

PS: A great big THANK YOU to all the new visitors to my blog yesterday from the Insecure Writer's Support Group! I still plan to do a bit more blog hopping today! Great to meet all of you! Cheers :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Genre Woes


A bit late, but -whew!- still made it! I promise to stop by to read some of the other inspiring posts :). If you're not a member of the IWSG, go visit Ninja Captain Alex. He'll show you what to do!

What are my current writerly insecurities? Well, to be honest, I am always second guessing what I write. Not the stories themselves, but the general direction all my stories tend to go. The basic genre in which I write. Imagine if you will, you're at a party. Someone comes up to you - someone you've met before but don't really know well- and they ask, "So, how have you been?" "Good," you answer. "Staying busy, working, writing, the usual." "Oh?" Their left eyebrow goes up. "What do you write?"

I tend to answer this question with a hem and a haw and a look-anywhere-but-at-the-asker expression.

"Oh, I -ah- I write speculative fiction."

"Oh. What's that?"

"Um-ah...horror. I write horror."

There are three reactions. First, I get the, "Oh. Nice. Ah, excuse me." reaction. Then there's the, "Why?" which I actually love because you can scare them further. And every now and then you get, "Cool!" but nothing more.

My insecurity in this department stems from the fact that I have always cared waaaay too much of what people think of me. And I hate explaining myself to anyone. I don't think everyone needs an explanation but everyone usually demands one. Ugh. How do I get around this?

For starters, stop caring so much what people think. Easier said than done, but I have made tremendous progress over the past few years. I can surround myself with like-minded individuals which sounds great but is also easier said than done where I live. The best piece of advice I can give myself (and anyone else struggling with the genre woes) is this:

Write what you must, do it every day, become the best you can at it, and submit, submit, submit!

Getting a short story published or the coveted book contract may not cause people to like what you do any more or less. However, it does lend a bit more credibility TO YOURSELF. Even if you submit a short story to the local paper for no financial compensation, you are a published writer and no one can take that away from you.

Don't give up. Cliche, I know, but true. Just keep writing what's in your heart to write and you will be a success...

...whether anyone else likes it or not!

TELL ME: What do you enjoy writing? Have you ever experienced genre prejudice? Have you ever tried writing in a totally different genre than what you normally write in? Do you honestly NOT care what people think and if so, HOW did you get to that place in your life?!?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The morning was ghostly...

The mornings was ghostly with the soft cries of raindrops just outside my window. I can hear them clamoring against the chimney  trying to get in. The sky is deep grey, just like I like it. My tea has grown cold but my fingers itch to begin a tale...

Good morning!

How have you all fared through the crazy hurricane? I hope you're all well and your family and friends were well out of the path of Sandy. Until today, all we've seen is wind and more wind. This morning, however, woke me to one of my favorite sounds: rain.

The house is dark and a little chilly but nothing a good cup of tea and a robe can't fix! The only sounds are the clacking of this keyboard and the ticking of the two clocks -one on the shelf in the corner, one on the wall.

Gone are the Halloween decorations.What few non-Halloween decorations we have are now happily scattered throughout the house. I couldn't bear to take down the tattered cloth on the mantle, so it's now being used as a backdrop for autumn. Honestly, I like the way it looks: without the pumpkins and horror novels it looks less like mummy wrappings a bit more like an old shawl.

Soon this lovely bubble of rain induced peace will be broken. I've got to leap into my classwork since I spent most of yesterday running errands and trying to recheck out some library books! You know, you change bags, forget your library card, call to renew at home, and THEN find out that one of the books can't be renewed so you have to FIND the library card, get BACK in the car and drive down there anyway...

Good think I only live a mile away! HA!

As you can see from the little tab on my sidebar, I've only written a whopping 2100 words for NaNo so far. but I'm not stressed. I'll write as much as I can. At the very least, come December 01 I'll have more than I would have had if I'd not attempted! There. That's me being optimistic.

How are you all this fine, gloomy, rainy day? Is it raining in your neck of the woods? My husband chalks it up to one of my many quirks but I'm much more alive and alert on stormy days than sunny ones. Too much sun and I start getting depressed. No joke. Must be all those English/Irish ancestors jostling about in my DNA.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, dear readers!
Jen

TELL ME: What's your favorite type of weather? Dong NaNo this year? Got any Thanksgiving decor you just can't live without? What about Thanksgiving stories...there aren't that many of those are there? Hmmm...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Are you in?

Halloween is over for another year. I put up all the decorations this morning and pulled down the turkeys and "Give Thanks" banners. Almost Turkey Time BUT that's not what I'm pondering...

So far, this school term has been rather, dare I say, less stressful than the last few? Sure I have two projects due by Sunday, but all they require is a bit of writing. No sweat. But, nope, that's not what's on my mind.

Today is November 01.

And I KNOW you all know what THAT means...

NaNoWriMo is here again! And I am participating.

I've participated for the past three years, "won" in '09 and '10. Last year was bust but at least I tried. This year, I'm ready because I'm not stressing it.

Something happened between last school term and this one. I'd like to think it was just me becoming more mature and easy going but I honestly think it has to do with adrenal burnout and the fact I honestly can't handle any more stress. Whatever it is, it dawned on me that being stressed out, even about maintaining my current (really, really good) G.P.A. just isn't worth it.

I'm letting that attitude trickle on down to my participation in NaNo this year.

So, for the next hour, I'll be sipping tea, listening to bossa nova on Pandora, and chiseling down that 50K word count.

Are you in this year? If so, look me up in NaNo land. I'd love to cheer you on!

~Jen

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"You don't understand...he didn't have a head!"



"It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet." 
- Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Halloween is my second favorite holiday. I love the fact that for one day, without judgement, I can be anything I want to be*. No matter how bizarre, how garish, how strange or gruesome, this one day allows everyone the freedom to indulge in an alter ego...

...and in stories of things that go bump in the night.

Ghost stories have always fascinated me. I collect them: true, made up, doesn't matter. If there's something in a story that can't be explained, that sends a shiver through me or makes me look over my shoulder while I'm reading it, I'm in! And no story has ever quite affected me like Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".

"The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard."  - Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"


I grew up on the Disney version of the Headless Horseman but that made him no less terrifying. Every year I'd insist we watch it and every year I'd go to be with the light on and the sound of hoofs in my ears.  I just knew that "this year" he'd ride to my neighborhood. What would I do when he arrived? Did I expect him to knock? Honestly I don't know. I just know this headless specter on horseback terrified me!

It wasn't until Tim Burton gave us his vision of Sleepy Hollow that I became more enamored with the legend than frightened. Still, the idea of a guy walking around without a head is just so wrong to me. No arms, no fingers, no legs even, fine: but without a head-no thanks! To this day I get a bit creeped out when driving home at night by myself. The thought of having unexpected company riding up behind me on a dark horse with red glowing eyes freaks me out. Am I too old for this type of fear? Possibly. Should I stop indulging in stories that scare me? Probably.

It's foolish really to continue to indulge myself in tales of the strange and unusual. I can't tell you why I do it. Just as I can't tell you why, out of all the genres out there I've chosen horror as my home. It's a strange addiction, this need to write about the dark places of the world. Maybe I do it so that the horrors of reality seem less terrifying. Why write horror and enjoy horror? That question is a blog series in and of itself. I read a fascinating take on the answer at Roland Yeomans' blog yesterday. It's definitely worth the read if you're curious.

Also for the curious, check out the possible roots of the Headless Horseman: the Irish ghost called the Dullahan. And you thought Irving's ghost was scary?! If you ask me, he went easy on us...

And if for some reason you've gone through life without having actually READ "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" GO HERE NOW!! It's a short read but definitely worth the time. 

Oh, and speaking of creepy, I dare you to read Susan Hill's classic "The Woman in Black". You can read it and/or download it HERE for free. I started it several months ago and have not been able to finish it. Maybe I'm a weenie (and no I haven't seen the movie yet) but this story is seriously frightening! Enjoy! (PS: This link takes a moment to open as there are a lot of ads on the side but as far as I can see, the entire story is there without having to download anything.)

Have a wonderful, fun, and safe Halloween! If you're like us, you'll be hanging out at home, watching scary movies and giving out candy. But if you're out and about this evening, pay extra special attention to what could be approaching in your rear view mirror. If it's a headless rider on horseback, don't blame me...

...just drive faster.

"The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire."
- Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"


*Don't you wish every day could be this accommodating?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Location, Location

While in Ireland over a decade ago, I learned the phrase "soft morning". The Irish use it to describe a grey morning with just the slightest hint of rain. The rain floats down like snow flakes and everything is covered in a thin sheen of light. Even the streets are lovely. There is magic in an Irish rain. Somehow, under all those clouds, the sunlight seeps in through the mist, and the roses grow the size of dinner plates. It's like being lost in a Lewis Carroll novel. Did I mind it? Not at all.

Soft mornings are rare in the South. Usually our weather is all or nothing. The wind the past few days has been growling around the house, whipping the chimes into angry gongs. No whimsical breeze; no accompanying swirling mist.

My stories are all set in the South or in Ireland. Some of the Irish ones I'm trying to convert to Southern stories simply because that's where I'm at. I want my worlds to be as authentic as they can be (even if my characters are only using their home as a transition to another world). My struggle is constantly, do I write about what's outside my door or what's inside my head?

Write what you know. We've all been told that and I believe that there is infinite wisdom in that statement. If you don't know something, you can't write about it in a way that will make the setting solidify in your reader's minds. But, you see, I've been to those softly rolling green hills. I've walked in a soft morning mist, hiked several blocks to wander tombstones before the sleeping village (or my classmates) were awake. It may have been almost twelve years ago, but I can still see those places in my mind as if I was there yesterday. And, if ever I need a reference, I have a shopping bag full of photographs I can rummage through.

Write what you know or what your heart knows? I'm going to go with both. We need our worlds to be as real as they can be. I certainly don't want someone in Galway, Ireland to read a scene of mine and say, "No, that's not right at all!" Assimilation is the key to creating place. If your work is based firmly in an historical place and time, you should probably go there, or at least do so much research that a reader will think you've been there. If, however, you're creating a place that could be real, might be touchable, might be fantasy, then an amalgam of places will do.

I suppose that's why all my fantasy worlds are green and blushing with dinner plate sized roses. I write my fantasy worlds from the landscapes of my heart; I write my "real world" locations from where I'm currently planted.

What about you? Do you write from where you're from? Where you've been? Where you're going? Or do you pull everything together and create a world that can't be pinned down on a map? If so, do you draw those maps yourself?

Just curious...

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Blustery Day

Good morning dear readers,

How have you all been? I know I've neglected you for the past month and I want to know EVERYTHING! Ok, maybe not everything, but a reasonable amount to know what you've been up to and how life is treating you. I'll start:

- Finished up another term of excruciating school work! Learned that nonfiction writing aka reporter style journalism is NOT for me. I don't mind essays and vignettes (which I plan to write more of) but putting together a story for the sake of reporting an issue or interviewing a subject for newspaper or publication is not my cup of tea. I admire those who do this type of writing and do it well.

- Went to the Country Living Fair at Stone Mountain Park. Wow! If I were to write down all the ideas I gathered from the past two days, I would overload blogger with fabulosity! It was nice to get away from my computer, from school deadlines, and from creating worlds and getting into a world that I have long loved: the world of creative living. (For that story and some photos for the frivolities, wander over to my other blog: Sagewood Manor. PS: I'll be posting some pictures here as well over the next few days.)

- It is COLD!!! The wind has been positively howling around the house since last night and I'm sitting here with a cup of warm chai and my space heater humming happily at 85 degrees. Yes, kids, it does get down below 55 degrees in Georgia! [yeah, yeah, I know: all you Northerners and Canadians think that's pathetic but think about it: when you're used to a constant 70's + nine months out of the year, think how YOU'D feel if the temperature suddenly dropped 20 degrees!]

This little blog has been through a lot in the past few years and I intend to chug it along for years to come. I did a little bit of soul searching when I was away and (as you can see) even changed the look. I'm a writer; I write and that's what I intend to do here. I'm not one of those fabulous bloggers who can spit out 15 ways to edit your manuscript or 9 things to do to get published tomorrow. I wish I was, seriously: I envy you guys who produce such marvels of technical and practical writing wonder. There is so much information I'm still processing from my writing classes and I do wish to share it here but...well...it's just going to have to trickle in.

I hope you don't mind my indulging in some personal writing for a while. Writing for school has left a gaping hole in my writing life and I'm desperate to just spit out some words for the sake of putting them together and seeing where they lead. SO, if you wander by and notice I'm just rambling, forgive this creativity-hungry author and her need to wax eloquent about the mundane (or the not so mundane...you should see what I've been researching lately!)

Have a fabulous Monday, an awesome rest of the week, and, seriously, tell me what YOU'VE been up to!

Cheers,
Jen

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control...

...our intrepid blogger has been detained by a horrendous amount of school work which has culminated in a 10 page term paper and a Powerpoint presentation. Do forgive her absence as she frantically tries to uphold her current g.p.a. while still maintaining the facade of a somewhat normal existence.

All should be repaired by next week.

Most sincerely yours,
B.G.
(Blog Ghost)

Monday, October 8, 2012

What's Your Story?


I love doing Google searches on topics I'm interested in. If I'm doing research for school, I try to be as specific as possible. If I'm doing research for my own interest, however, I like to be just the slightest bit vague. Why? Because you never know what you'll find that can seem irrelevant to your topic yet turn out to be spot on.

Storytelling is, of course, a passion of mine. As a writer and a Creative Writing major, I've chosen to build my life around stringing words together to form imaginary worlds what will tantalize a reader and, hopefully, get him or her thinking.

This morning, I found a great article on the importance of storytelling on a marketing website. It's an older article from adweek.com (July 2008), but I loved the information the author, Simon Kelly, gives. Though he's discussion creating a story for your company, I thought the information was sound for writers creating stories and novels.

In summary, Kelly states that in the growing online market, companies need to seriously think about what their story is: what are they trying to communicate to the consumer, what message are they trying to get across, what narrative does their product tell. In other words, how can your product or service grab the consumer and refuse to let go?

As writers, we face this question every time we sit down to write. What are we trying to communicate to our readers? Is there a deeper meaning behind our humor or horror? What message are we tying to get across? Most importantly, how can our words, our story, grab the reader and refuse to let go?

If you're having trouble finding your footing in your current WIP, ask yourself these questions. Uncover the WHY behind WHAT you're doing and you'll be better prepared to handle errant plots and uncooperative characters. If we the authors don't know what we're trying to say, it's going to be very hard for our readers to interpret our meaning. They'll get bored with us and probably refuse to pick up another of our stories. If, however, we can uncover the deeper message in our work, we are free to write about anything. Through the guise of fiction, we can ponder deep truths, tough issues, or terrifying possibilities. I'm not suggesting we preach; that's not what we're here for. I'm merely offering that we consider our stories, mine them for the wealth of deep content they all carry, and allow ourselves to fashion our stories around something deeper than just "once upon a time..."

After all, all fairy tales communicate some moral truth, even if it's disguised behind three little pigs, witches that cook up little children in a stew, or evil queens who eat the hearts of fair maidens.

Happy Columbus Day!
Jen

**Source Link (Author)ity: The Importance of Storytelling by Simon Kelly


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An unpopular subject

**rather long post ahead...forgive me in advance**

Censorship and book banning is not the most popular subject one can discuss. There are audiences more receptive to it than others. I'm pretty confident of who I can talk to about it and who I should leave alone concerning it. Some people like being challenged in how they think; others, and I'm sad to say I know many, would rather cling to a preconditioned set of ideals and never once consider something different.

I don't speak out against censorship to tell someone they're wrong. EVERYONE is entitled to their opinion. And THAT'S the key argument against censorship: whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, EVERYONE should be allowed their own opinion: the person writing/saying the challenged material AND the person challenging it.

Oftentimes, however, the person doing the challenging fails to see that what they are failing to do is grant the other part the same respect that they are demanding. "I don't like it!", "Stop saying that!", "That offends me!" are just other ways of saying, "Do it my way", "I don't care what you think", and "I'm right and you're wrong". It's simply not the case with books.

A book is written because the author had something to say. Many times, writers confront hard issues and deep truths through fiction. These issues and truths are rarely popular. I've never been a fan of fiction that left me feeling as if someone stuck a pacifier in my brain and left me to suck on it until I atrophied. I want fiction that challenges the way I think, challenges what I believe. Why? Simple: if you're never challenged at your core, you never really understand why you believe what you believe. It's one thing to say, "I believe the sky is blue because the weather man says it is"; it's quite another to say, "I believe the sky is blue because I've seen it with my own eyes!"

Call it serendipity or rather a subconscious act on my part, but I am busy writing a term paper this week on one of the world's most challenged books: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury said that his book was not about censorship but it was about the atrophy of human intelligence due to an increasing amount of technology. This I believe. But I also have to hand it to Bradbury: if he wasn't writing a book about the dangers of censorship, his subconscious did one heck of a job of getting that theme past him!

In doing my research, I found a wonderful article by Rodney A. Smolla from the Michigan Law Review, April 2009, entitled "The Life of the Mind and the Life of Meaning: Reflections on Fahrenheit 451".There's a link to the pdf HERE if you're interested. Though this article is reflecting on Bradbury's masterpiece, Smolla also writes compellingly about censorship and the danger of getting too caught up in the constant noise and distraction that technology offers us.

Frighteningly enough, Smolla reiterates the fact that, according to F451, censorship is rarely instigated by the government. It is often initiated by the people and the government follows suit. In F451, the people began to edit out of books anything that may offend anyone. Pretty soon, they were left with nothing but footnotes and it was then that books began being burned. People stopped reading, stopped challenging convention.

The scariest thing about censorship is this: even if someone wishes to ban a book that offends everyone, the banning of that book can cause nothing but harm. Who's to say that the next person who emerges with a challenge isn't challenging something less harsh? They win and the next person, a lesser issue, and so on and so forth and then suddenly anything printed is forbidden?

Do you see the frightening pattern? It is not because I don't take issue with some of what's being printed and published that I'm against censorship; it is the simple fact that I do not want someone telling me what I can and cannot write, can or cannot read.

Writing and reading is an intimate act. The person doing the writing or reading should be allowed the freedom to choose what words they want.

It's that simple.

(Thanks for indulging me in a rather long post this morning. Any thoughts you have on the censorship issue are welcome! I don't usually blog from a soapbox, but there are a couple of issues I feel quite passionate about. Censorship is one of them.)


Monday, October 1, 2012

October is HERE!

photo SOURCE

And you know what that means, right? Halloween is just around the corner. I love ghost stories any time of the year, but there's something about the autumn air that makes them just a bit more spooky. In honor of October and Halloween, I want to do a little shout out to the genre that I love writing most of all: HORROR. Yes, horror. Now, don't cringe too much. Horror literature is far more than just teen slashers and gruesome, deranged, inbred mass murderers. You can thank Hollywood for that misconception of all horror. Stay tuned for posts on horror literature, horror writers, writing in the genre, and a few more treats (and possibly tricks)!

Yesterday kicked off Banned Books Week. I am a HUGE supporter of this celebration of all books challenged and banned and I always enjoying passing the info along. The American Library Association does something special every year for BBW, which is the last week of September/first week of October yearly. Check out their website (HERE) as well as the Banned Books Week website for the current list of challenged titles and titles past. They have virtual read outs, resources for teachers and readers, and other fun stuff to show your support for reading and your disdain for censorship.

Oh, and do yourself a HUGE favor: go pick up a past (or current) banned or challenged title and read it. Educate yourself BEFORE you make a decision for or against censorship. In the past three weeks I've read two books on that list, one which is on the CURRENT list even though it's 30 + years old. If you haven't yet read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury TRUST me when I say READ THEM! You won't be disappointed. I'll be posting a bit more on Banned Books Week this week and I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts about the issue of book banning and censorship so feel free to comment and/or email me!

It's a stormy day here in metro Atlanta. I hope things are wonderful in your hometown. Have a wonderful Monday, a blissful October first, go pick up a pumpkin spice latte and read a banned book!

Cheers!
Jen

photo SOURCE

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cut yourself some slack!

photo found HERE

I think I've found myself in everyone of those pictures at least once (some more than once, but I'm not saying which). 

Funny how people interpret "WRITER" in so many different ways.

Some see us as the brooding, artsy, romantic types, living alone, sipping coffee and pounding out brilliant prose while the rest of the world sleeps. Others see us as delusional and wish we'd grow up and leave writing to the "professionals". There are days when I feel like a genius! There are other days I'd just rather grab a drink with friends and forget I have ten dozen stories vying for my attention. And, of course, there are days I stare blankly at the computer screen or notebook, growl in frustration, and give up for another round of solitaire.

What's good about all this is that every one of these moments gives us something to write about. Yes, even the blank stares and solitaire. If you feel the urge to write, if you try to NOT tell stories in some way, shape, form, or fashion, you are a WRITER. Yes, writers write. But they also think, dream, hang out, brood, goof off, shine brilliantly, and play just one more game of connect four on their phones.

YOU are a writer. Cut yourself some slack this week. If all else fails, choose a picture above and run with it all week. Well, except for the first one. Staring at a typewriter for a week could do damage to your eyes and your sanity...

Monday, September 17, 2012

a long time a'comin'

picture found HERE
[this is how I've looked the past two weeks, reading two novels and four short stories a week...:)]

Good morning! It seems I've let another long lapse of time collect between posts. Blerg. Sorry about that! Just when I think I have a handle on time management...

No worries! I've appreciated all of your wonderful comments! Thank you, thank you for continuing to read my babblings. The comments regarding my villain rant were wonderful. I got a good chuckle from most of them and they all gave me a good smile. I discovered I'm not alone in loving a good villain! I apologize for not commenting individually; please accept a collective "THANK YOU" instead.

Enough sob stories, on with the post!

- The writer's Facebook page at my university posted a link to the Writer's Guild Foundation "Scribble to Screen" exhibit. I have yet to peruse the entire exhibit, but from what I've seen, it is an amazing romp through the creative, handwritten minds of those who have given us some of the most iconic stories and movie moments. It really is worth taking a peek at (especially the Han/Leia conversation from The Empire Strikes Back).

- The October issue of The Writer Magazine has some wonderful inspiration articles. In"On finding stories that need to be told", author and teacher John Dufresne tells us that place is paramount to good writing. "Place," he says, "is character and character is destiny, and every story should only be able to happen in one specific place". I'm not sure if I agree that every story should ONLY happen in one place, but I understand what he's saying: even if you have multiple plot lines going, each story will have its most important development in one specific place. Agree or Disagree?

Dufresne also says:

"A book should offer hope. It should lift up the reader. It should give the reader a reason to live - should he need one. Life is not easy for any of us, and the pain of loneliness is often unbearable. The writer is saying, among other things, 'You are not alone'." 

I just submitted an article that touches on this subject of the author/reader connection and the need for the author to be real, raw and available. No one likes a perfect protagonist; a seemingly perfect writer, untouched by the world is just as disenchanting. My one war cry for this week: Don't be afraid to let your skeletons out of the closet. Invite them in for tea, see what they have to teach you. Release them upon your characters and see what happens. Exposing your own struggles and challenges, triumphs and victories (especially those that are hard won) create a bond between reader and writer. Even if the reader never understands that your characters' tales are loosely based on your own, they will see something of themselves in your words. Give your readers something to hold on to, relate to, and they will cheer you on!

Any other personal battle cries being discovered? How do you feel about letting your skeletons out to play with your characters? Would you rather relate to a scarred character/author or do you prefer the omniscient narrator of old? Personally, I think they both have a role to play in literature. Perhaps that's another topic for another post!

Cheers!
Happy week.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

random thoughts on rocking comments, a link, a small rant regarding villains, and an apology

You guys have been posting some rocking comments! Seriously! My last post overflowed with comments steeped in awesome and I thank you :) The Avengers' picture (You Should be Writing) seems to have been a big hit! I found that at random while searching for writing related pictures. Maybe someone should turn that into a poster!

If any of you are considering an MFA program in Creative Writing, Poet's and Writer's Magazine just released an e-book on the top MFA programs in the country as well as some in depth information about choosing and applying to a program. I downloaded it this morning and look forward to perusing it before I begin the all too important task of narrowing down the schools and sending out those application fees....geez! I tell you, colleges just keep eating at the check book, don't they?! Speak of which, did you know it costs to graduate? No joke. I have to PAY to APPLY to graduate! HA! Oh my, my....

And now, for a small rant. I've posted on villains before. It was a while ago and I'm sure no one remembers it. Heck, I vaguely do! Barring a repeat of my rant on "no respect for bad guys" I'll just say this: after finding the Avengers' picture and reading the lovely comments about said dudes, I thought it would be far funnier to have a poster of the villain from said film telling me to write. I mean, come on! A dude wearing massive horns and carrying a staff that shoots out lightening would definitely get me to work far faster than a couple of guys in spandex pointing angry fingers. No offense; I mean, if Hawkeye showed up at my door demanding I write, I wouldn't complain. Still...what about the bad guy? 

I know, I have this weird crush on Loki. Don't ask. It started with "Thor" and my husband finds it very funny. He even pointed out a Lego Loki and said, "Hey, there's your man!" Maybe I'm weird (don't answer that). What do you think? Do villains in movies and literature get the respect they deserve? I LOVE writing my villains. They are way more fun than my heroes! And I usually enjoy the villains of a film more than the good guys. They're more complicated, more fun to try and dissect.

OH! And I TOTALLY missed the Insecure Writer's Support Group yesterday. School started and I lost track of days. Labor Day didn't help things along. If you have time, do wander over to Alex's fabulous blog and check out some of the posts from those more attentive to dates than I!

Like I said, maybe I'm just weird. Ah well! Back to school!
Have a wonderful Thursday!

Cheers,
Jen, the Geeky Villain Lover

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

you should be writing

Should I?

I mean, every time I sit down at my computer or in that soft, comfy chair with a notebook I draw a blank! Then, the minute I stand up and start cleaning, an idea of brilliant strikes. I rush back to said chair and BLAM! I'm hit with the wall of white: that white page or screen that stares at you, taunts you, sneers at you.

image found HERE

Off to classes I go and I'm forced to write: short stories, memoirs, reviews, reports. They roll off my fingers and I'm actually proud of them. They're good enough to get A's which, right now, is all I can ask.

A few minutes of blissful nothing and I creep up on my notebook and start jotting. There! I'm caught! My mind shrivels up like a raisin and I'm left with gasping for the right word to at least end the paragraph so I'll be able to come back tomorrow (later?) and pick up where I left off.

You should be writing because it's what you eat, drink, breathe, live. Every waking moment of the day is consumed by story, YOUR story. It haunts your mind as you work, play, eat, sleep. And yet, when faced with the prospect of a blank page or hour with which there's nothing else to do but write, you're frightened away at the monumental task of creating a world.

You SHOULD be writing because that world is yours to create. Don't look at the novel as a whole but in sections. Take it a scene, a page, a word at a time. And don't beat yourself up if all you can eek out is one sentence. Let that one sentence come and trust that another will follow. And another. And another. A novel is evidence that the writer didn't quit. There is no one out there telling you it MUST be finished by such-and-such a time...unless of course you have an agent (or a professor) and in that case, chop-chop! Get the words out, the world on paper. Then, and only then, worry about form and function.

YOU should be WRITING. Why? Because it's who you are, what you are, what you want.

Besides, these guys say so:

image SOURCE

Don't make the Hulk angry.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

rainy day in georgia...

Good morning! A big hello to all my new readers! There were quite a few new "faces" when I checked my comments this morning. Never fear, I'll be responding soon! Slow start this morning. I think my brain was subconsciously protesting the start of another school term. Ah well! The freedom of the last two weeks is gone, but...BUT...I am officially in my last year of my undergraduate career. Considering I started my undergrad degree 17 years ago, that's something I had begun to believe I would never, ever see! And yet, here I am, a testament to the truth that if you just keep at something, you WILL achieve your goals :)

And speaking of goals, I like to look on fall as the start of a new "year". I know, January is when people usually  choose goals and resolutions. Any time of year is a good time to pin down those hopes and dreams and come up with concrete ways to make them happen. For me, fall ushers in a change in weather, a change in scenery. Here in the south, getting rid of all the heat and humidity is such a blessing! Granted, it's early in September and Georgia is notorious for granting you a few weeks respite and then slamming you with a hot streak from Hades in mid-October...but right now, it's raining, I'm sitting on my patio in a sweater, and Starbucks has released the Pumpkin Spice Latte. All is right with the world at the moment :)

Back to goals: writing. I'm finishing up a Creative Writing/English degree. I HAVE to write at least five days a week in order to get all my assigned work completed (and keep up those "A's"). However, I have fallen short of the personal writing goals. Thanks to these past two weeks, I've had a renewal of my writing commitments and am ready to take on some stories that appeared to me during my break. Please feel free to ask me who they're coming...I need all the accountability I can get!

image found HERE

And speaking of writing, in order to accomplish those goals, be they to compose a poem or finish a 60,000+ word novel, we MUST be committed to the entire project. We must be willing to see the story through to the end. More often than not, I find myself excited at the beginning and then, sometime around the lull between the first and second wave of conflict, I get bored. This could mean that I need to close that gap and chock that book full of conflict. It also could me I'm lazy and need to plow through until I reach the next part that excites me. What I MUST do (and what we all as writers must do) is KNOW our story and where it's going.

I'll admit it, I'm guilty of skipping ahead with my eyes to make sure a character is still there on the next page, that nothing blows up, or that the spies aren't caught. We have an innate need to know the end of a tale and we aren't ashamed to peak ahead just to give ourselves a bit of relief! What I really liked about this little picture, is that it reminded me that as a writer, I MUST know where my story is going. I need to constantly be "flitting across the page in my book" to gain momentum and get my characters to the next chapter, the next scene. That's where outlining and brainstorming come in handy.

So what do you do when the lazy times set in? When you just don't want to finish? Easy. You plow through. Don't worry about getting the conflict so tight that there isn't a lull to be found. Not yet. Get to "The End". Once there, you can sit back, breathe a bit, then come back and do the editing. That's where you'll tighten up those scenes and gouge out those lulls.

Know thy story! Give yourself permission to suck while you get to the finish line. Make your way to "The End" and then bask in the relief of having completed a novel. Editing will come easier. You'll know what path your characters and plot are taking. The stones and bumps in the road will be easier to see and much, much easier to remove!

Happy writing!
Jen

Friday, August 31, 2012

you're reading that again?

found HERE

That's what I hear every time I pick up "A Wrinkle in Time". Why it's my favorite book I couldn't tell you. Have I read other, fantastic books in my life? Yes, of course! But I am always going back to the familiar faces of Meg, Calvin, Charles Wallace, and the Mrs. W's. If you haven't read Madeleine L'Engle's Newberry Award winning book, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. You'll get to meet my very first crush! A handsome red-head named Calvin O'Keefe (might I be so bold to add that I actually MARRIED a handsome red-head? His name's not Calvin, but he's tall, skinny, and has tons of freckles which I find most charming. See girls? Dreams can come true!)

We all have books that speak to us. Stories that we carry with us our whole lives. I can't imagine NOT being surrounded by books and stories. People laugh at my piles of books; I joke about having an incurable disease or a serious addiction but the truth is, if I had to give up anything in this world, reading would NOT be the thing I sent packing. Reading is power. It gives you thoughts and ideas you may never have before considered. Story is powerful: it unites us. How many times have you started a conversation with a stranger and found common ground because you both read Harry Potter/The Hunger Games/Twilight/ Pride and Prejudice/The Lord of the Rings? Without those stories, the conversation would have ended at "Nice to meet you."

Reading is a gift; be proud of your books and pass the love along to others. This weekend is the annual Decatur Book Festival near my home town. I'll be out there all day Saturday with hundreds of other book lovers and nerds, soaking up some pages and swimming through stories as of yet undiscovered. If you're in the Atlanta area, you really should check it out! Otherwise, grab a favorite book, and spend your Labor Day weekend with some old friends.

Happy reading all! And happy Labor Day!
Cheers,
Jen

PS: 
found HERE.
*This goes for adults too!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

announcement, linkage, and sharing the excitement

FIRST the announcement:

I've decided to start posting responses to comments in the comments (terribly difficult decision, I know). Comments are like conversation to me and I want to keep the conversation going, between you and me and everyone else! Of course, if you ever want to email me, please do. Just know that my responses shall be in the comment area and NOT sent via email. I have several readers who don't allow email responses and I don't want to leave anyone out :D

SECOND the linkage:

Writer Karen Finnyfrock gives some advice on what to do and what not to do at a reading.

Who wouldn't want to write in Paris? NYU's low-res MFA program now takes 20 lucky writers to the City of Light for a MFA workshop!! Honey, if you're reading this, I think I've made my grad school decision :)

If you write Literary Fiction, you may be interested in these 40 new markets now accepting submissions. Thanks Poet's and Writer's Magazine!

FINALLY the AWESOME!!!!

Some of you may have heard me talk about the most AWESOME series of fantasy books out on the market today. James A. Owen. If you don't know him, go, NOW, and pick up the first book in his fantasy series "Here, There Be Dragons". DO NOT under any circumstances read the back of the book, especially if it's the paperback edition. Some moron decided to divulge something very, very important on the back cover. Seriously, I'll never understand that one. If you DO, it won't ruin the whole story, just the "holy crap" moment at the very last page.

But I digress....

This series is filled with allusions to fantasy literature. If you are a fan of past and present fantasy, you have GOT to read this series.

Now to the awesome: The SIXTH book in the Imaginarium Geographica IS HERE!!! Yes, I really am that excited about a book Sorry that you now have to read five books before you can enjoy the new one, but I assure you: your time will be well spent and you will not be disappointed! Dear Husband, if you're still reading this, I'll be leaving for the bookstore in about five minutes to pick up my copy of The Dragons of Winter.

**happy nerd dance**


Happy Reading/Writing/Nerd Dancing!!
Jen

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Worse things could happen...

found HERE

Do you wear glasses? Do you LIKE wearing glasses? Do you wear contacts to avoid the fact that you wear glasses?

Confession time: when I was a kid, I went to the eye doctor. He went through all the tests and told me that I did not need glasses. My eyes were fine.

I was devastated. 

No joke. I had always equated glasses with genius and now I had no excuse for being a nerd. You must understand, dear children, when I was in school, nerd was not another word for "hipster". Nerd meant what it really means: to be labelled a nerd was to be a close cousin to Sheldon Cooper an that was UNACCEPTABLE!

Now days, I'm older, wiser, and don't care so much what others think. I'm nerdy and proud to be. If someone confuses me with a cast member of The Big Bang Theory, I smile (unless it's Howard but that's another story...).

I finally got my glasses. They're actually pretty cool and I get compliments on them. Funny how times change, isn't it? My glasses help me read, do school work, work on the computer and even watch movies. They are tools, not who I am, but I like to wear them. They allow me to hide, in a way, from the rest of the world. I feel when I put on my glasses, as if I'm covering up a secret identity. They make me feel mysterious and, yes, smart.

How do you feel about glasses? Any loud and proud nerds out there? Who's with me in thinking Howard Wolowitz is one of the creepiest characters on television? Does reading make you feel smart? Or do you simply read to escape (there's nothing wrong with that!)

Have a wonderful Tuesday my fellow book nerds :). If you're in the path of Isaac, I pray for your safety and that of your family and friends. May the Force be with you all! And don't forget your hat.

~Jen

**OH! In other news, I have a notion to revive an old blog - Sagewood Manor. Wander over and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

good morning and good morning

I'm sitting here this morning watching a tiny sparrow eat a mound of bird seed. She's out there every morning, rain or shine. My mornings have been a bit hectic these past few months...OK, since January, but I've tried to sit outside for at least an hour, breathe in a new day, and ease my way into that new day with tea or coffee.

This morning is different.

THIS morning begins two and a half weeks of not having to worry about school work deadlines!

For eight months I've been committed to school work. Term papers, discussion boards, weekly papers (sometimes four a week!), research, etc. I enjoy it. I truly do. But...whew! Talk about a welcome break. And this, of course, is not to even mention the packing and moving and unpacking and trying to settle into a new home (which now requires yard work -blissful yard work!)

I've neglected you, dear readers, but you have been ever on my mind. Summer is always a busy time and I'm thankful that for the last two and a half weeks of it, I can revel in the lazy humidity, the sudden storms, and the early mornings when that tiny bird is standing next to a pile of bird food twice her size.

And I can do all of that without a term paper deadline looming over me! Look for me in your comments soon! Also, thank you all for continuing to read my sporadic posts. I feel I should have hung a sign over my posts that says, "Please mind the gap"! Those posts should get less sporadic and, hopefully, more focused. Plus, with September looming and my favorite time of year just around the corner, I'm sure there's a redecorating in order. The name of the blog shall remain the same of course, but I'm getting itchy fingers when I think of the design. You know me: any excuse to spruce things up and I'm there!

Huzzah for summer break!

Hey, better late than never :)

Cheers!
Jen

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

tomatoes for tuesday


Who knew there were so many ways to use fresh tomatoes? And here I was worrying how many more salads I was going to have to make! Don’t get me wrong; I love fresh tomatoes in salads, but there are only so many salads one can eat! Well, that I can eat at any rate. Seriously, though, have you ever gone all gung-ho on something in your garden only to have them take over? You’re landed with a trunk load of fresh produce –too much for your fridge and appetite but not enough to put a deposit on a booth at the local farmer’s market. Hmmm, says I? Do I pick them and let them rot on the counter? Maybe just leave them and let the birds have a feast? Yeah! I can say I’m recycling…

Then I start feeling guilty. You know, the whole “but plants are people too” argument. Ok, I’m not THAT crazy, but you get the picture. I went to the time and effort to plant these bad boys so I might as well respect the fact they went to all the trouble to actually grow. And guess what? My research paid off! Check out some of these recipes:
(disclaimer: all recipes found at allrecipes.com)


Garden Fresh Tomato Soup – basic, yes, but oh so good!

Queenie’s Killer Tomato Bagel Sandwich – I HAD to include this one. Not only does it look amazing, but the name is hilarious!

Watermelon Tomato Salsa – come on, you know you’re as curious as I am!

Insalata Caprese – Mmmm, one of my favorites!

Sundried Tomatoes – waaaay better than my idea of sitting them all out on a tray to dry in the sun. Trust me, in Georgia, in the summer, you do NOT want to do this. Unless, of course, you LIKE ants…

And of course, if you don’t feel much like cooking, you can always freeze them and use them this winter. This idea is looking more and more appealing..

Have any of YOU grown any veggies over the summer? Did any of them survive or did they end up like my bell peppers and grow upside down and rot before I could pick them? But that's another story for another day…

Monday, August 6, 2012

a bit of manorsteading


weekends are made for relaxing...

unless you live at the manor. our weekends tend to start out relaxing: coffee on the patio, watching the cows chew cud, avoiding the highway of ants that seems to always been rushing past our feet anywhere outside. then, we get a little itch that just has to be scratched with a lawn mower, a shovel, a bag of garden soil.

the inside of the new manor is coming along. we're in desperate need of book shelves (thanks to my slight addiction to bound paper) and we're still in debate as to where to hang the remaining art work. the outside, however, is where our hearts are. finally we have a yard! and yes, we actually do enjoy yard work.

off we went to the home improvement store and we returned with newly adopted plants, some bags of soil, a shovel and a hand tiller. oh yeah, and twenty feet of metal fencing! i had spent the past week chopping down the spindly bushes in front of the chimney and was tired of looking at bush stubs and tendril roots reaching out of the dirt like zombie fingers. instead of an extra in an adams' family episode, the front of our house now looks like this:


don't judge them too harshly; they're still babies! the area is now scented with rosemary, russian sage, and a gardenia bush that is filled with buds i am begging to open.

you may remember my stone planter with the green man faces on it? i've posted it before. well, it's found a new home on the front porch with a gnome. we've named the moss "morris" and if you watch the "i.t. crowd", you'll understand why (wait for it...it will hit you soon!):


finally i feel as if i can display this welcome mat with pride:


aaahhhh...the closer we get to "done" the closer i feel we're getting to "home". sorry about the huge gap in posts this summer! i hope you all have had wonderful adventures and are enjoying this last month of summer freedom (or, if you're like me, the idea of summer freedom!).

have a marvelous week! i've got two more until my summer break! woohoo! now, to get that term paper written!

cheers!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Insecure Writers Gather Here


Well hello there! Long time no post, eh? Yeah, well...

Today is the Insecure Writer's Support Group meeting. We meet the first Wednesday of every month, hosted by our fearless leader Alex Cavanaugh. Check out all the post HERE!

I'll just go ahead and spell it out: I'm feeling VERY insecure in the writing department. I am eight months away from FINALLY graduating college. The next step is graduate school. Last week, I read something that shook those plans just a wee bit. It appears that genre fiction is highly frowned upon in graduate school. I emailed my professor. She confirmed this. I emailed the director of the MFA program at one of the schools I'm interested in: another confirmation.

I write genre fiction.
I have always written genre fiction.
What do I do?

I see two options:
1) I decide that an MFA isn't for me, that my life long dream of becoming a college professor is out of reach, and I should just concentrate on writing and tutoring.
2) I can suck it up, hone my craft, work my butt off to create character driven fiction (which, by the way, can have genre elements...it just has to be character driven and not plot or magic driven which -according to the powers that be- most sci-fi/fantasy is driven by magic, technology or plot), get through this goal and go on to teach what I love: the art of creating story.

Insecure? You betcha.
Literary fiction? It has a wee bit of a reputation of being a bit...snobbish.
Can a young adult, dark fantasy/middle grade ghost story writing gal from the Deep South actually write something that a panel of academics find acceptable enough to get me that much closer to my goal?

There's only one way to find out.

I think I'll go with option 2.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Synopsis

the tomatoes are overloaded with fruit. i am amazed at what we've been able to grow from seeds this year!

The boxes are almost unpacked but a few remnants of moving still remain. Like the pile of dishes on the breakfast table. We got spoiled in the lofts with all that storage space! The plan is to build some shelves and all will be remedied. Now, if we could only find the time to build those shelves!

The cat is in love with the house. He can dig his claws into the carpet and take off like a bullet, down the hall, squealing to the left then right, right into my writing room. Yes. My writing room. Technically it's the spare bedroom (or Spare 'Oom for all you Narnia fans :)) but I've parked my little writing desk in front of the window and it's perfect for writing, school work, and just randomly watching neighbors do yard work. Ooops! Did I say that?!?

The ants have taken over a hornet's nest. Oddly enough, I don't mind because the hornet's nest is in the side of the house. They are now congregating around the ant bait I just oozed onto the siding. There are perks to being a bug man's wife!

I wrote my first ever REAL synopsis last night. It's for my Fiction Workshop but still: it was an amazing lesson in brevity. We were allowed a space of 250 words in which to describe our story, a story we were to take from a character we invented and developed last week. So I cheated and used a character I've been developing over the past two years. You wouldn't believe how much difference 2 hours will make! Not only did I develop the character (whose past was being very difficult to divine) but I also wrote a 5 page outline of the story, the plot, the conflict AND I know who the killer is. What? Of course I'm not going to tell you!

Five pages to 203 words and, aside from the nitty gritty details, it's all there. As I said, a lesson in brevity.

QUESTIONS:
Have you ever written a synopsis? Ever taken a writing workshop?
Have you ever written five pages just to get to the meat of a story? Just to know where you were coming from, where you were going?
How can you kill every ant within a ten mile radius of your home without resorting to Napalm or a small, nuclear warhead?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ordinary Holiness

my view from here

I'm reading another Anne Lamott book. Plan B. Chapter one is as wonderful as I remember Traveling Mercies being. I'm struck by her honesty, clarity, and ability to translate the ordinary into the holy. Or maybe she just can see the holy that is the ordinary.

Ordinary holiness.

What would extraordinary holiness look like?

(Green tea, back patio, chirping birds - I wonder if they know we put out bird food yesterday?)

Lamott wrote about taking care of people around you. Alleviating local suffering especially when you feel powerless to save the world. I recall what I struggled with last week: the thought that I am seriously slacking in the area of giving back, of using talents, of sharing gifts. How I feel I'm skimping on the calling.

A song popped in my head. Don't laugh; it's nothing spiritual, at least not at first blush. It's the song played during the end credits of How to Train Your Dragon and the only line I can possibly extract from all that pop-soda cheer is -

"Let yourself go..."

Hmmm. Serendipitous. One week and the message is still the same.

Let yourself go...

TELL ME:
What's one thing you could do to alleviate someone's suffering?
What would it take for you to let yourself go?
What, to you, does letting yourself go even mean?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Emptying the Well

Two things:

We are officially moving this weekend AND the forecast is for 104* temps. Really?!?! Every other time I've moved it's rained. I guess I shouldn't complain so much about the rain, huh?

During my writing class, the professor posted something very profound and I wanted to share it with you. We've been discussion freewriting and one lady said that she always thinks about writing but puts it off. When she thought about this fiction writing class, she said, "Oh, it starts soon. I'll hold off on the writing and save up my energy for the class."

Waiting for something better. For a more opportune time.

And my professor said this:

"Writing is about emptying the well, all the time, every day, all of it, not holding anything back, not saving anything for later. The well fills up from within."

If you never empty the well, the water grows stagnant. Nothing can drink from it and the waters eventually dry up. It can never be refilled with fresh water. The old water just sits there, breeds mosquitoes and fades away.

Think about it.

Happy weekend!
Jen