Tuesday, January 31, 2012

a tuesday post? what the what?!?!

Yeah, so, I felt like posting today. Mix things up a bit. Have some unscheduled fun! And I've been so lax in commenting back to you guys (see the comment section of the past TWO blogs if you commented recently) and reading blogs has fallen behind math problems of no eternal consequence.

Anywho, I had these bizarre dreams last night that I wanted to share. In the first one, I was on the set of the last Harry Potter movie. I don't know who I was playing, perhaps an unknown professor? Or maybe Charlie Weasley's secret girlfriend? Anyway, I was wandering through Hogwarts behind another professor when they stopped and said, "Oh no! Neville's dead!" I freaked out and started performing CPR on him and he started laughing. The director yelled, "CUT!!" and Neville and I sat in the floor, surrounded by the carnage of Voldemort's army, laughing. When I asked him why he was laughing, he said it was just really funny to have someone slapping him around, telling him to wake up when he wasn't really dead.

Yeah.

The next dream was interesting. It basically recreated the story of Sleeping Beauty. It was really enjoyable, considering in my mind the whole "happy-yippie-skippy-Disney" version was no where to be found. There were no songs, no dancing, and thank GOD no multi-colored fairy godmothers. In my mind, fairy tales should have been left to the Grimm Brothers. There was a handsome, scruffy, Aragorn-esque dude instead of a prince and Alan Rickman starred as the evil sorcerer. I woke up before I could see the end but I think it turned out to be pretty good.

In fact, I'm thinking of spending some time free-writing it to see where it goes.

This isn't the first time I've had a story come to me in a dream. Tell me, have YOU ever dreamed a story into being? And if so, did you drop all your other projects to work on it, or did you write it down and tuck it away for a rainy day. Am I the only person out there who is cast in Harry Potter movies in their dreams or who has Alan Rickman show up as villains? Just curious...

PS: The A-Z Blog Challenge sign up is up and running! There are over 300 entries so far! But don't let that deter you from some challenging fun this April. Wander on over and sign up! You'll be glad you did :D

Monday, January 30, 2012

mellow monday musings

Happy Monday!

This weekend was strange. I had nothing to do! Well, nothing required of me. Since November I've been swamped with school work and the usual holiday commitments. This school term has been so light in comparison to last term, I am finished with my work by Wednesday each week. Trust me when I say that is a wonderful surprise! Last term I was doing work until Sunday of every week!

Saturday was a nice daze. I worked on some jewelry making, something I haven't done in almost six months. Then I spent the evening making candles while watching The Discovery Channel. Something about a family in the Alaskan wilderness who herd cattle and hunt bears. Brrr! I needed an extra sweater after that. Of course, watching something like that while making candles makes your mind wander. I kept thinking, "What if I was making these because I HAD to and not because I WANTED to?" Don't take anything for granted, kids!

And yesterday I actually got some writing accomplished! I wasn't writing about writing as my school work has dictated. I sat down and sketched out a story. AND I wrote about five pages in an edit I'm working on. Ahhh. Accomplishment!

Now, it's back to the old grind, figuring out the classes I need to complete my degree, printing out math problems (bleck!) and deciding what to write my end of term paper on in my Linguistics class.

How was your weekend? Do anything fun? Out of the ordinary? Nothing at all?

Friday, January 27, 2012

write until your soul is raw (and then you're almost there)

Hello to all my new followers! I see you and I'm happy to do so. Thank you ever so much for joining me for this crazy ride we call the writing life. I'm grateful, truly.

We've been discussing some pretty heavy subjects here lately. I hope I'm not weighting anyone down. I'm just very passionate about telling stories the way they come to us, grit and all. Too many times I've sat down to write and I've jumped in front of the bus instead of going alone with it just for the sake of its final destination. Stories are meant to be told and it is our job, as writers, to tell them in the most real and raw way that we can.


I have this weird habit. I sit down to write and I start out with this amazing idea. It’s almost complete in my head and I know if I just spit it out onto the page it will en-flesh itself and become what I see in my imagination.

Then something happens. I’m not sure what it is. I just know that my passion fizzles and I start hem-hawing around the keyboard. I start typing things like “she sighed”, “he grimaced”, “the villain laughed maniacally”. Ugh.

True, sometimes I’m just tired. I’ve been working since 8am on school work, posts, novels and short stories among other things and I’m burnt out. No worries. Take a tea break, come back, start over.

But most of the time that’s not the case. Confession time! MOST OF THE TIME I’M JUST PLAIN LAZY.

There. I said it. Don’t make me repeat myself.

It hurts to write from my guts all the time! It’s painful, it’s emotional, I end up in a heap on the floor crying when I have to kill one of my lovelies (and yes, Mom, sometimes you DO have to kill your characters). I get disoriented when I have to come back to the “real world”. I’m grumpy. I’m spent. I’m raw and the slightest glance from flesh and bone hurt terribly. Every nerve ending is on fire and I’m a walking time bomb. I don’t like this!

But THIS is where my most potent writing lives. This weird, bizarre realm between real and sugar coated. This twilight village of shadows that rent my hair out and drag me down thorny paths and through moss covered lakes. I’ll end up dirty and sweating and scratched. Bleeding and angry and in desperate need of a shower. Why can’t I just write clean and nice and proper?

It’s kind of like crying in public. I always wanted to be Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelley. Oh how they could cry! Delicate, demure, tears in doe eyes that tumble and make the leading man rush to their aid, swooning. Nope. Not me. I’m all snot and splotched skin. I don’t cry, I sob. I scream and rant and moan in agony (and no, I’m not just talking about the day I was told Firefly was cancelled or I came home from seeing Star Wars: Episode One). I’m just not an emotionally graceful person. It’s no surprise (or at least it shouldn’t be) that I’m not graceful when it comes to writing.

Writing IS emotion and we will handle it the same way we handle anything emotional in our lives. I’ve always admired those people who can remain calm and even-keeled in the face of traumatic news or injustice. They are able to speak out, to carry on, to do what needs to be done with a quiet resilience. Now, I’m all about keeping my snot in until I’m alone or at least when it’s just my husband around. But boy when the bomb falls it’s not just devastation it’s total nuclear fall-out. I’m talking the kind that creates zombies.

THIS is what happens when I write myself raw. It’s a scary place to be but I know, that I know, that I KNOW that when I write from this place what comes out is so far beyond anything I could have ever written. THIS is the place I tap into the great universal vein that we all strive for with everything we write.

I guess I’ll just have to buy more tissue, invest in Band-Aids and take more showers.

Are you like me? Do you write yourself raw just to know you’re there? That you’ve tapped into something greater than yourself? Or are you the opposite? When you're in the flow, is it painless and transcendent? Don’t worry-I won’t hate you…forever.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Guts, Part Two

Yes, I did have too much fun with that title :D

So, did you think about our last post? Did you forget what I even suggested? Were you AWOL for most of the last post? No worries. Click HERE, catch up, come back.

So here I am, sitting at my desk with a killer horror story (buh-dum-ching!) and the realization that everyone I know will hate it. They may even disown me for it. I did, after all, use the “s” word a couple of times.

I have two choices. I can go back, edit out everything that makes my story TRUE as in true to the story that came to me, make everyone I know happy and end up with a mediocre story at best. Or, and here’s where the guts come in, I can edit it the way it is, leaving in all the grit, all the grime, all the ... er… guts, and find some agents and editors and publications that like that sort of thing.

And I get published.

*confetti!*

And I let it slip that I’m published aaaaannnd those aforementioned people ask to read it.

Well, I’ll warn them. “You won’t like it. Trust me. It's dark. Reeeeal dark.” And that would pretty much stop them right there. Except my mom. She’d still read it because I wrote it (love you, Mom!) and she’d tell me it was good but she didn’t like it. Now then, what’s the worst thing that could happen? One of those kind souls reads it and is scared senseless and can’t sleep for six weeks, yells at me about it and promptly disowns me and my cat. Hey, I did say “worst case scenario”- run with it!

Guess what? It would hurt. I would be devastated. BUT-and this is a big but- it’s ok. They’ll simmer down. They’ll start sleeping without a night light. And I’ll see them again and talk to them and tell them, “I told you so.” They won’t be happy and they will never read anything I write again (even if I use a pen name and write inspirational comedy). It’s ok because I was true to the story. I allowed the story to speak through me and I sent it out into the world to FIND THE PEOPLE IT WOULD SPEAK TO.

The bottom line is this: we write for an audience even if we don’t know who that audience is. Even if we never meet half the people who read our work, we have an audience. If we’re lucky, it will contain people we know and love. If not, no worries. New friends will appear in the realm of your genre. New experiences will lead you to people who write what you write and understand where you’re coming from.

WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE. Have the GUTS to do that. You love Romance but everyone you know thinks it’s insignificant and shallow? Who cares? Write the best darn romance you can write and prove them wrong! Stand up for yourself and your dreams. Stay balanced, write from your gut, and you WILL succeed in the arena you’re meant to play in.

Write bold, write fearless!

I feel like I rambled there. Did I ramble? Eh…who cares. What do you think? Any more thoughts on the topic? Do you think I’m full of bunk and need my head examined? Let me know!

Monday, January 23, 2012

the outgoing guts to do it

There’s a quote on the sidebar of my blog. Scroll down a bit on the left and you’ll see it. Sylvia Plath wrote it and it sings to the tune of this:

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

This quote hit me between the eyes about a year ago when I first read it. Anything that puts down self-doubt and elevates guts to the literary has my attention. In light of our recent conversations, this seemed like a very appropriate quote to highlight.

It takes guts to write. We all know that. Even that almost cliched beginning of “Dear Diary” takes courage. You’re telling something to someone, even if it’s just yourself. To tell, to divulge, is to admit. To confess. We’re afraid of confession. Hence the sealed box and Seal of the Catholic confessional. The other side of this coin is that confession is cathartic. It’s healthy and it releases weight so we can take in more oxygen and experience more life.

I’m not advocating spilling your guts about everything you’ve ever done, unless of course you’re writing a gritty memoir and then, by all means, go for it! However, in this instance, I would suggest adopting a pen name and publishing under the guise of fiction.

Everything IS writable about. EVERYTHING. Even that gritty memoir stuff you did in high school. The key is not in vomiting up everything you ever did; the key is knowing your audience and telling the story in a way that will convey the truth to them in the best possible way.

And, lo, we come to the meat of this post:
Your audience is NOT everyone on the face of the planet. Your audience isn’t even everyone you have ever met, you know, or, most importantly, everyone you’re related to.

Your audience is who you choose to write to.

Huh?

Think about it this way. I write dark fantasy with a very heavy slant towards horror. I wake up one morning and decide I’m going to spit out a short story with the intention of publishing it. My first step is to spit that sucker out. Get out of the way and just write. Don’t think about who or what or when or how. Write. The story is written, eight pots of coffee are consumed and I’ve ran around the entire town of Hampton, GA sixteen times. Backwards.

Now then. Who do I submit this to?

Back up. First ask this: who did I write this for?

Myself? Maybe and that’s fine. After all, you should like what you write.

My mom? Nope. I value my mom’s opinion and I want her to be proud of me but I did not write the story for her. Why not? Quite simply, she does not like horror. At all. The only time she’ll even watch anything with a vampire in it is if the names Abbot and Costello are in the film title.

So how about my grandmother? BIG no. My mother in law? Uh-uh. My six year old niece in California? Nope. Nada. No way.

So I’ve pretty much negated anyone I’m related to. My friends fall into the half and half category: half love horror, the other half won’t touch it with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole.

So what do I do? Go back and change things so that my mom, niece, best friend since high school will all give me their approval?

Again. No. And here’s where the guts come in. YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED FOR THOSE CLOSEST TO YOU NOT TO LIKE WHAT YOU WRITE.

And you have to realize that it’s ok if they don’t.

Running a bit long here today, eh? I’ll leave it here for now. What do you think? Do you value your loved one’s opinions so much that you wouldn’t think of writing something they would hate? Curiouser and curiouser…

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

a quiet post

So.

I totally dropped the ball yesterday. I didn't get any comments or reading or writing or posting or, well, anything done other than school work and helping my mom out at her house. But, hey, sometimes you have to let life get in the way! After all, if we don't live, what on earth will we write about?

I have nothing to say today. Nothing profound to drop on you or incite your imaginations into an uproar.

I'll leave that to one who said it best, who trumps just about everyone I've ever read in the inspiration department.

Feast. Enjoy. And write on.

Lightly men talk of saying what they mean […] When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak openly, nor let us answer. Till that need can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?

----C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Monday, January 16, 2012

confessing the urge to scream (and other things)

Ever since my post last Wednesday about bones, I have been obsessed with this notion on structure. What is it? Why have I not really studied before? Where will this obsession lead me? Why am I so obsessed with it?

Our stories are cathedrals and our outlines, research and rough drafts are the blueprints by which they are built. Our scaffolding becomes the rib cages, fingers, toes of these tales. These bones are essence: they ARE the story but they are parts no one sees, from grammar and word choice to the month long backstory of the main character’s best friend that makes him come alive on page 14.

This essence is also what’s missing from my long put-off story. I have a story approaching its 11th birthday. No, I’ve not worked on it every day for eleven years, but it was born eleven years ago and I have been through three drafts and countless rewrites. Why didn’t it work? It’s a story I truly believe in but no matter what I did, what I tried it just didn’t work. And now I understand: my structure was all wrong and, therefore, the skin was too tight and uncomfortable.

But why I kept asking. WHY was the skin too tight? WHY were bones made of glass instead of iron? Simple.

I have been trying to tell this story instead of letting it come to me and be told.
I’m not sure if this makes much sense. I mean, aren’t we the writers the creators of worlds and builders of dreams? Aren’t we the knitters of flesh and blood, the architects of imagination? Well, yes, but –and here’s where things get a bit esoteric – we aren’t in control.

Before you run away, screaming, allow me to explain. We are given these visions as gifts. We can’t control when they come, if they come, and of what topic they carry when they arrive. All we can do is show up at our writing desk and hope the muse decides to perch on our shoulder. And when he or she or it does, blast off! Or, more importantly, get out of the way and write.

So. I’ve been in my own way. Actually, I’ve been in my character’s way. I’ve been forcing them in itchy wool turtlenecks that are two sizes too small. And they’re pissed and rightfully so.

What do I plan to do about it? Let out a good scream, that’s what. Over all the years and pages and ideas and edits and whatever else that I’ve poured into those 1500+ pages. I’ll scream again at my own resistance to truth telling because I’m afraid that I might offend someone (more on this in another post later this week).

And after the echoes subside, I’ll sit down with a pen, a piece of paper, and an empty mind and ask the story to kindly write itself. And I shall drink coffee, transcribe what I’m told, and stay out of the way.

Have you been guilty of wrestling a story to your own ideas? Is fear preventing you from telling the truth of your story? What about structure? How strong are your bones? Am I just obsessing over nothing? Talk to me!

Friday, January 13, 2012

live inspired

Hi there all you beautiful and talented people you :D I hope Friday is treating you well so far. I mean, come in, it's Friday! That's a relief in itself.

First a big fat thanks is in order to everyone who commented on Wednesdays post. Wow! I haven't had that many comments in, well, I don't know how long. Now, I understand that's mostly my fault, not blogging regularly and all, but seriously. Thank you! And a big hello to all my new followers. Yes, I did notice.

How inspired are you feeling right now. Let's take a quick inventory, shall we? I'd wager that most (if not all of us) are working, in school, mothering, fathering, baby sitting neighbor's cats and chickens and therefore have larger, more immediate issues than getting another essay written pressing against us at any given time. We don't all get to globe trot regularly or wake to scones and coffee served on silver trays (and if you do, let me know so I can loathe you personally ;)).

I live in a small, unassuming town in the middle of the state of Georgia. Not much going on. Heck, the most interesting thing to happen here in the past year was the night we showed up at the sushi restaurant and were treated to fresh sea urchin (but that's another story entirely). What I'm saying is it's boring here. Day in, day out, average, nothing. No exotic cafes; no independent bookstores; no alien abductions.

But there IS inspiration, if I'm willing to look for it. Like the palm trees that brush against my window at night and make me think of skeletal fingers clawing to get inside. Like the wind chimes that gong when the wind whips through the courtyard and sings and eerie, sad song that prompts me to remember a story idea I had and stuffed away about a year ago. A walk to the park and I see several old, large homes that could, any one, star in a short story about a haunted house, a murder mystery, or a novel about a recent widow who takes the life insurance money she just received and finally realizes her dream of owning a bed and breakfast.

See. Inspiration. Effort. Yes, I'd sometimes rather complain about our lack of ocean or fresh market within walking distance. But if I'm willing to dig deep and break a sweat, I CAN find story inducing nuggets in the soil.

What about you? What inspiration surrounds you? Don't discount anything. That piece of junk mail may surprise you.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends and as always,
Write Fearless.

Jen xo

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

write down them bones

Good Wednesday to you!! First of all, allow me to toot my own horn for a moment:



This is my 100th post! I can't believe it! No, really. If you've been popping by for any amount of time, you know how sporadic my blogging has been. BUT, reaching this milestone proves to me that I can do this! And I want do, dear blog friends. I value each and every one of you (even those who are visiting for the first time). That may sound cliche for a blogger to say, but I mean it :D

Now then; about that title. Many of you have heard of and probably read Natalie Goldberg's amazing book Writing Down the Bones. If you haven't, hop aboard an air ship or harness up that narwhal and get thee to a bookstore NOW! Her books are mesmerizing and encouraging. They are raw and open and honest and remind me why I'm doing this day in, day out. Why I'm writing.

The title of this particular book of hers has always struck me. How does one write bones? Is she talking about a murder mystery? Or perhaps a remake of Frankenstein? If you ask me, it's more of an architectural manual. Bones are your support system. Without them, we'd inhabit a planet of jellyfish. While we'd all be more flexible and excel at Olympic level yoga, we'd have no support. No structure. No shape. There' be nothing there to keep our organs in the proper place or to keep our skin from running off during a particularly heavy rain storm.

The bones of your story are what makes it shape, shift, and merge into the story you see in your mind. We all see our completed story before it is completed. I can't tell you how many times I've envisioned my book, enfleshed, hard cover, my signature on the inside page, Tim Burton calling to make the film adaptation. Without the bones, however, there will never be a book. I love the skin, the make up, the stitching of eyes and ears and fingers and toes. The bones? Bah! No one sees those. You know what I'm taking about: the hours and years and reams of paper of research and backstory that no one will see until you've been dead fifty years and it all gets auctioned off to rabid fans for charity.

But those bones are necessary. They're what makes the skin weaving possible. While you're going about your day, getting those new year's goals all shiny and ready to go, think about the bones of your story. What is supporting your tale? What is allowing you to tell it? After I finish this *&#%$)(-ing math project, I'll be doing that myself!

Write fearless my friends!
Jen

PS: I almost forgot! I've decided to comment on comments (heh) in the comment section instead of email. I hope this doesn't inconvenience anyone. Feel free to email me if you want and of course I'll respond! But as for basic comments, they'll be responded to in the lovely comment section. xo

Monday, January 9, 2012

new year, new stories to tell

Good morning!
I've been out of school and offline for two weeks and boy is it good to be back! The break was much needed;last term was tough. This term proves to be interesting as I start my last (read: LAST EVER) math class along with my first linguistics course. Happy about one, happy to be rid of the other (guess which is which ;)).
How was your holiday? I hope Christmas was happy and the New Year rang in with the promise of a great 2012. And I'll be willing to bet that there were some writing resolutions made after that fifth glass of champagne.

Here's the thing: despite the name (resolution from the word resolve which means "to come to a definite, earnest decision about"), resolutions tend to get spoken with pomp and left to shrivel after the first week or two of the New Year. I prefer to set goals, give myself a step by step list to accomplish; a road map to follow throughout the next 365 days.

While you're vowing to run 16 miles a day, eat fewer chocolate cakes for breakfast and watch less than 10 hours of reality TV a week, think about your writing goals. What are they and why? What prompted you to choose your specific goals for this year? Do you need to write more and worry less? Do you need to finally submit that collection of short stories to you carefully refined list of "super agents"?

I love big goals and huge dreams. I'm a dreamer by nature so the bigger the ideal, the more passionate and excited I'm going to be about it. But here's something to think about while you're crafting your magnum opus: it's all about the story. Not YOUR story; THE story. The story that came to you, fair and trembling, nervous to whisper into your ear, afraid you may shoo it away. Yes. THAT one. Be gentle with it but firm. You are going to tell it this year. You and I both are going to get THAT story told. Perhaps even another will fall dutifully behind and we'll pound out several novels and shorts this 2012.

But for right now, focus on that one story. The one you've been dying to tell. The one that's been dying to be told. After all, without the story, our goals (or resolutions) are nothing but pipe dreams.

Write fearless my friends,
Jen