Monday, December 21, 2020

Happy Hogswatch!

I want to use this winter solstice to shine some light on one of the greatest authors of all time and to explain why a moral message even matters in a story.

First of all, Blessed Yule to the Northern Hemisphere. A celebration of the sun standing still. A time when the nights are the longest for inhabitants in the northern half of our beautiful world. One of my favorite stories to enjoy this time of year is Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. I am very embarrassed to say that I have not read the book (yet) but have seen the film multiple times. I wanted to be thorough in my understanding of the book and its superb universe, so I decided before reading this particular book I needed to read the ones that came before. I asked a friend for advice because there was not enough time to read ALL of the books from Discworld, so he recommended I follow the subseries that focuses on Death. This was awesome advice, because these turned out to be my favorite. Unfortunately, I got stuck in Soul Music, the third in the Death Books. I don't know why, perhaps it was lack of time, but I never finished it. Ironically, if I every finish it and read Hogfather, the final book will be Thief of Time. I believe this is a story about my life and how it has been impacted by external forces that seek to control me. Just a theory...

I was watching Hogfather last night and Death looks down at his granddaughter, Susan, and issues the moral message. She is trying to determine why Death went through so much trouble to keep the Hogfather alive. Why was it so important that everyone believe he was real? How could a fat boar in a red fur suit who visits one night per year and exchanges free gifts for a glass of sherry and a pork pie be real?

Then Death tells her. If no one believed, then the sun would not come up tomorrow. Instead it would be a giant burning ball of gas. He explained that if we did not allow humans to believe the little lies, then we would not believe in the big important ones that come later. He was referring to justice, liberty, freedom, etc. The dialogue here is so important to the story. In my opinion, it gave the viewer (reader) a purpose for reading the book, besides entertainment. It makes readers think. Is he right? Are these things lies? Would the world still exist if we did not believe in them?

I have been chewing on these thoughts all night and day. I would say that justice is probably the biggest lie we tell ourselves in this country. But at the same time, if we did not believe it was possible, the alternative would be unimaginable. 

Terry Pratchett knew how to write the most humorous and enjoyable stories about a completely fantastic world. And he also knew how to hide the deepest philosophical thoughts inside them. Or perhaps he was not intending to hide them at all.

As a thief has once again stolen my time, maybe you know the answer to this question. Did Pratchett want his readers to know he did this? Have you read something about him? Tell me in the comments.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Image of a Plotter

I finally made a breakthrough today. I have been trying and trying to plot this... plot. Something had me stumped. The reader needs to experience the chain of events, the growth of the characters, and the feeling of a new galaxy all at the same time. This means completing an outline of character arcs, moral growth, and worldbuilding exposition. No one likes an info dump so important information should be spread throughout the novel. At the advice of my writing coach, I created a full picture of my story down to the moments when I will tell my readers the secrets of my universe.

To give you a better idea of what you are seeing, each of the boxes above represents a scene in the novel. Within each box is a summary of what happens and a card noting important information like character weaknesses or realizations. 

This is what success looks like to me today. It is not the final plot outline, but it is the closest I have come. I sense there will be a few additional scenes since a work in progress is never perfect. Regardless, I am happy with this. I am ecstatic and over the moon that I have managed to finally create the entire story as it will be written. 

The benefit of this is I will now have the freedom to draft and draft and draft all the way to the end. There will be less confusion and desire to edit while I write, due to the work being completed up front. (Never mind the fact that I have drafted the story three times without doing this. I am still counting this as up front since the plot has changed each time. Don't judge me.) 

Why is this important to me? Have you ever watched a really awesome Indie film, or "Budget" movie and fallen in love with the story, but not necessarily with the acting or the score? I love stories, and therefore I love movies. I watch all kinds of movies. On occasion I see one and think, "What a fantastic story, but I wish they had a better director or bigger budget." It somehow felt "cheap" or unpolished. It was hard to get lost in the story because either the acting or the writing was mediocre. This is my biggest fear. Obviously there will be criticism no matter what is produced, but I hate to create something that falls short of my own expectations for a well executed story. Going through these steps and working with a writing coach are my own ways to make my story the best it can be. There is no doubt that this is a phenomenal story. I just need to make sure the writing matches.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Support Local Bookshops!!

Tomorrow is the last day for priority shipping to arrive by Christmas!

Support local bookshops but order online!

If you have not visited the website, you should.

I love studying Icelandic culture. I even use the language to inspire my novel. They have a rich history and many wonderful traditions.

One of my favorites is called jolabokaflod. It translates to Yule Book Flood. Books are given as presents on Christmas Eve and the night is spent reading. I have shamelessly adopted this tradition for my family. This year I bought an illustrated copy of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. My family has always enjoyed the stories and it has been so long since I read the books, it seemed like a good pick even the kids could enjoy. I also sent books to family from Arkansas to South Africa. 

Be Inspired! Read! Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Premise I Presume

For whatever reason I have struggled more with composing a premise than any other step in developing my draft. Perhaps because I did not do it first.

Some of you have read my previous posts and know that I wrote an entire manuscript already. It was submitted and rejected, for good reason. When I first tried to create a new novel in the same universe, I made many adjustments. The truth is there was a forbidden relationship in the first version, and I wanted to eliminate it, or at least make it much more subtle. I have no idea why, but I absolutely HATE wedding scenes. Having one in my novel was not an option.

Unfortunately, once I removed this subplot from the story there was a lot to fill in. What is my book about? What is my main character's goal? Who is the villain? What are they fighting over? Things cannot just happen to the MC. She needs to be active. She needs plans and motivation.

Then there is the question of supernatural abilities. No villain would stand a chance against someone with limitless power. I knew this, but the only limitations I placed on my MC were her ignorance and inexperience. It worked, but I knew I could do better. 

While I continue to struggle with the perfect premise statement, I feel that I am getting closer. I know more about my character than ever. I know more about the galaxy and about my villain as well. I certainly enjoy being a "pantser" and creating the story while I draft, but realistically there is much more value in having a clear picture. Although developing this clear picture is very difficult, I feel that the result will be a much better novel. At this point I have written well over 800 pages across multiple drafts. The end result will likely be less than half this amount, but the process is worth it. This is my education in being an author. It needs to be done.

My writing coach and writing group have already helped enormously with the entire process. My premise is still a work in progress, and my draft is a huge mess right now, but I know this mess is better than anything I have done alone.

I wanted to share a website I used today to rewrite my premise. Perhaps you will find it useful, or at least informative. Maybe next time I will start with this!

Fun activity, use this website to write a premise statement for your favorite story/book/movie. Post in the comments below.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Writing is the Tool of Passion

 I love to see how different writers use their power and their talent for different things. Last month I posted about the reasons for writing. I recently came across the most beautiful poem, and it really spoke to me. 

When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird's wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open spilling
streams of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drink
a holy wind of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother who never taught you
death was life's reward
but who believed in the earth 
and the sun
and a million, million light years
of being.
'Catachism for a Witch's Child' by J.L.Stanley

I went in search of the source and was disappointed to find there was no trace of a published work. I found evidence that it was published in 1986 but nothing more. I found myself wondering if the author wanted this poem to be free or if she/he intended it to be everywhere on the internet. There are a lot of writers who do create beautiful things for everyone to see. While searching for this poem I came across another site that was full of beautiful and interesting stories.

Even if you have no interest in folklore or magic, The Sacred Familiar has some fantastic writing. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

My Writer's Dilemma

 I like to consider myself a rather hardworking person. This being said, there are some things I simply want to be done with, and I may not put in the extra effort to complete them. Does all of the laundry really have to be folded tonight? Or can I just put all of these random pieces into this basket by the bed? Because why would I want to spend two minutes folding them, and putting them neatly in a drawer when I can spend thirty seconds scraping them into a basket and then at least two minutes each day digging in the same basket to find the one article I need?

What is this part of our brain? Seriously, what is its purpose? I really want to picture the application of this attitude in a society of foragers. Is it because if we stockpiled too much food and meat at one time we would get bored the next day and the food would eventually rot? Are we leaving something to occupy our time in case we run out of things to do while trying to stay alive? 

I know some of this is burnout. I read an article a few years ago about my generation having severe burnout to the point they cannot function in everyday tasks like paying bills, housekeeping, and self-care.

Perhaps it is my form of writer's block, and perhaps it is my brain telling me that I am doing too much. It could be a red flag that I need to slow down. It could be a product of my anxiety disorder. Perhaps I have mentioned this on my blog before, but I am mentioning it again because it has stuck with me so vividly. In my first year of teaching, I sat behind a desk piled high with papers to grade, the floor was a complete mess and I knew the janitor would be in any minute to complain about the state of the room. I was staring at the wall across from me when the director of instruction came in and just stared back. I told her I did not know what to do next, I was lost and the piles and messes were growing. Then she perfectly articulated what was going on in my subconscious. She said, "You are so worried you will not be able to do something perfectly, so you are not willing to do anything at all."

This woman knew me. She had seen me in action. She had seen me pour my passion for learning into the classroom for months and knew what I was capable of. She also knew I wanted everything to be perfect. 

So, this is where I am. I have been shown a really methodical way to approach my novel. I have broken down the elements and dug deeper than I ever imagined. I know what I am meant to do, but now I am frozen. 

I have written the beginning chapters over and over. I have four different prologues and just as many sequences. I have a list of exposition, conflicts, moral themes, etc. and all that remains is for me to plug them into a scene sequence. When I do this, the scenes seem to dissolve. Huge chunks of my work seem irrelevant. Now I am creating new scenes to match what is "needed" and I hate it.

I am certain this is all a result of my desire to get everything perfect and my unwillingness to create anything less. Perhaps now I have named my evil and I can face it. But if it cannot be perfect, let it at least not be total trash, which is truly my greatest fear.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

December - Insecure Writer's Support Group

 What in the world? How did I forget this month!!!

Real quick, it is my lunch break, here it goes...

The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming About Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre!

December 2 question - Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Not right now! That is the easy answer. I have had one load after another dropped, and I dare not complain because having a job in this time is a luxury many do not have. On the flip side, there is a shortage of people who want to work with me, so I am doing multiple jobs at once. Just yesterday, I cooked breakfast and lunch for sixty-odd kids, trained a teacher while monitoring a class of twenty,  then switched back to assistant director to close and disinfect the facility. By the time I get home these days, it has been dark for more than an hour, I've been away from my own kids for 11 hours, and I am exhausted.

Update on the novel:  I am pausing my draft for the moment to complete a final timeline that includes character conflict, moral themes, and world building. Once I have completed this, the draft will continue.

I literally wish I could just go without sleep at this point. I might actually accomplish something.

If you are interested in reading what others have to say about this question, please follow the link behind the badge below. You will find many, many blogs here, and can hop to any you please for interesting perspectives. 

Sorry for any typos, no time to edit...

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

November - Insecure Writers Support Group

 November 4 question - Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

So what insecurities do I have for you this month? Well, I once said, "I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up." I think it was last week sometime. Seriously, I hate the way this world works. For some reason, I grew up with the notion that I needed to picture the life I wanted, and then work whatever job I had to in order to keep it. And that is what I have done. I have always worked, sometimes two or three jobs, to make sure I could keep my house and my car and my artistic supplies addiction, all while trying to decide what to do with my bachelor of arts degree during a recession.

So when I lost my third job in a row due to merger/closure/recession in 2009 I looked for a job I would never lose. I became a teacher. Like most things I set my mind to, I was good at it. I picked up a masters degree, and went on my merry way (with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt).

I say all this to explain the fact that I have never really stopped to figure out what I wanted to actually spend my life doing. I knew I wanted a family, I knew I wanted to live comfortably, but for some reason I never considered that I would spend ten hours every day doing something I did not necessarily love in order to get those things.

Luckily my husband is a genius and he discovered this massive secret that rich people have been keeping about financial independence and early retirement. So I might get to enjoy sailing the world with my children in the next decade or two, instead of waiting for my sixties to be free to use my time for myself.

So how does this relate to my reason for writing?

I write because it feels like something I can do successfully* and enjoy doing.

*Keep in mind, successfully relates to last month's post. I consider myself successful if I have produced something I am proud of. I do intend to share what I produce, but I will not measure my success by whether or not it creates an income for me.

Every job or career I have ever pursued has brought success. I work my hardest no matter what I do. But writing is not a job for me. It also is not a hobby. I do not consider my writing to be like my other artistic talents. Somehow it is more serious, and it is definitely more structured. I never carved out time every day to paint or sew. I did share my gardening and beekeeping on a blog once upon a time, and kept a journal or two on my progress and research, but even that is different, because the garden does not come with me when I travel, and I was not able to bring it with me when I moved across the country. It no longer exists outside of my memories.

I write because it is a part of me that materializes into the real world. Even though it manifests outside of me, I can take it with me. I write because it feels like the closest I can get to my lifework.

So what do I write? I write about nature. The nature of our world, the nature of imaginary worlds, the nature of people and races known and unknown. 

As my current novel unfolds, I discover my own nature as well. I find it difficult to create conflict because I strive to avoid it at all costs in the real world. Learning about using moral messages and value clashes to create conflict between characters has been an interesting journey. I have also discovered just how great this novel can be. I see its scale becoming grand. I do not mean in word count, but in content. I want to create something amazing. I want to create a world that seems real, that makes readers want to go there, to fight alongside the characters, to protect the ones who cannot fight, and to experience their victories. 

I no longer want to just tell a story, I want to create a new reality.

Why do you do what you do?

The awesome co-hosts for the November 4 posting of the IWSG are Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria!

If you are interested in reading what others have to say about this question, please follow the link behind the badge below. You will find many, many blogs here, and can hop to any you please for interesting perspectives. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

IWSG - October - Another Year Older

Age is an interesting thing. It was not too long ago, maybe 10 or 15 years, that I asked my mom how old I would have to be before people just accepted who I was. Every family has that aunt who does things a little different, or that uncle who reacts a certain way to similar situations. Everyone has that friend at whom the others just shake their heads and say, "That's just so-and-so." I recognized a level of acceptance, and it seemed to only surround older people, not teenagers or twenty-somethings. So I had concluded that it must be something that comes with age, and I wanted to know when that was coming. At what age could I just be myself and others would say, "Well that is who she is," and not try to judge or shape me?

When I look back on the question, I wonder, does that mean that people have given up or stopped caring? It is an interesting thought and it roughly connects to this month's question.

Every year around my birthday I give myself a quick comparison. This year, I have two more years during which I could become a special agent in the FBI, a goal I only recently dropped, but I still use for perspective. A more recent comparison I use, is the first published date of famous authors. A study done a few years ago concluded that the average age of first publication among professional authors is 36. That's just 363 days away from today. Rowling was 32, Ursula K Le Guin was 37 if you look up first novel published, Octavia Butler was 29, Terry Brooks was 33, Stephen King was 27, etc. 

Don't worry, I am acutely aware that this is a form of judgement, and I am not placing it on myself or others. But it is a perspective with some use. It does not make me feel like I am inferior or behind. After all, I did not set out to become an author, it has simply been a dream in the back of my head that seemed about as likely as me becoming president. I also have a family and a full time job. Reading Stephen King's On Writing makes me certain that his wife should have received all of his early awards. This is also why I mainly like to read about the lives of the female authors mentioned above. No one needs to compare apples to oranges.

So does the fact that I have less than one year to meet the average first published date bother me? Not really. No more so than it did when I lost my first tooth at age seven while others did at age 5. But this does bring me to this month's question:

October 7 question - When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

Will I be published by my 36th birthday? Likely not. But can I consider myself a working writer? I think so. 

I am not sure what other working writers look like, but for me it is having "office hours" and measurable goals. I have a set time that I write on specific days of the week, just like any other job one might hold. I also have deadlines and projects that keep me moving in a positive direction. I would call this working. So long as I keep these routines and these intentions, I would consider myself a working writer, whether no other soul ever reads a word I write.

If you are interested in reading what others have to say about this question, please follow the link behind the badge below. You will find many, many blogs here, and can hop to any you please for interesting perspectives. 

Special thanks to the  awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG: Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!

Feedback:  I would love your feedback about the new colors and font on the blog. I was trying to match my style a little better, but still want it to be accessible to readers.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Sharing is Caring

 I feel like I do not get to share much of my work with anyone these days because I am so busy creating it! So I am taking some pieces from old drafts that will likely never make it to print and putting them here so they can at least create pictures in someone else's mind besides my own.

Today I am sharing a piece from attempt number two of my current work in progress (which is now in the third and final attempt to tell this damn story so I can move on with my life). ((Just kidding, I am enjoying the project and am working really hard to make it enjoyable for others too.)) (((But seriously, I would like to finish before the collapse of the USA.)))

Anyways...this piece is about one of my favorite characters. She has mysterious origins and only appears within the timeline of the story as a very old woman. Here is a glimpse of her childhood...

Helgi watched carefully as the moths flew in and out of the hive. They flapped and danced and zipped around, going out to collect nectar and pollen and coming back with pockets full of treasure for their queen. She waited for the right moment to push the suction comb into the bottom of the hive to extract the processed nectar called apina. The elders taught her how to extract it without getting a single sting. She hummed softly, raising and lowering her tone to match the coming and going of the moths. The comb had seventeen spikes on it that were hollow like straws and a carefully trained person could get a full jug from just one hive. She mindfully aimed the tips and pushed through the soft wax until she felt the cavity she was looking for. With her lips around the pointed end of the comb she pulled a gentle suction, stopping when the sweet liquid met her tongue. Quickly she placed the jug underneath and watched as the dark liquid poured in tiny swirls.

     Helgi wondered what ritual the elders would use this jug for. They only visited this hive for special times. It hung in a great tangle of thick, thorned bush that was taller than a man and wider than a house. They called this one the house of the spirits and told her the plant had great power. Helgi wasn’t sure she believed them. They were probably playing tricks on her and just never came here because it was uncomfortable to crawl through the tunnel of low branches to get to the center. They must have picked her because she was still small enough to get through. While she waited for the apina to stop dripping she licked a small scratch on her arm where a thorn had ripped her sleeve. She would have to mend that now.

     The elders found Helgi when she was just days old. Someone had abandoned her at the home of the Vessel halfway through the season of birth. She was an orphan, a truly rare occurrence. Most children had three parents, the likelihood of becoming orphaned was practically zero. But for some reason, that’s what she was. The Vessel said she was special and would one day be like him, she would be a Vessel, too. But she didn’t feel special and she was too full of anger to be full of light. She didn’t believe him.

     The dripping stopped and Helgi gently coaxed the comb out of the hive. She placed her shawl over the jug with the comb inside and started to crawl one handed out of the house of the spirits. Helgi felt a sudden pain in her palm and looked down to see a sharp, glassy stone. It was a deep red brown color like the apina and no bigger than her fingernail. When she turned it from side to side, it let out a faint glow. She put the stone in her belt sack and continued on her way home.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Non-Fiction Endeavors

I have been thinking about this over the past few months, and I think that perhaps working full time up to ten hour in the day, virtual/homeschooling a kid with special needs at night, and writing a fiction novel are not enough to keep me busy.

In fact, I have a number of side projects just gathering dust and I have come to the conclusion, that like forgotten cups of tea, these lost works can release bad energy into the world if left too long. Or maybe it is just that I can regain the good energy if I complete them...either way, I have a plan.

*Side note:  If you do not know me personally, please read the above information with humor in mind. I am not insane. The same goes for my About the Author page. My imagination is crazy, not my mind. For what comes below, I am serious.

I have been studying about the use of herbal remedies and wildcrafting for nearly as long as I have been studying yoga. While I do not have any formal education in this area, I have done a bit of self-study. Technically I do not have formal education in writing either, but here I am.

I think that when you choose to be your best self and help your body reach its full potential, that you look for natural ways to promote your own health. I am not saying allopathic medicine should be replaced by elderberry tincture, but I am saying that plants have properties that are useful to our bodies and can help us live healthier lives. I have often said that food is my medicine. What we put in our bodies is known to have an impact on us, whether it is as simple as getting energy from carbs, minerals from plants, or inflammation from sugar.

Some of the books too important to go into storage
during our transition to a new house.

For a number of years, I attended workshops, including the annual Herbal Workshop at the Ozark Folk Center in Arkansas. I greatly miss this hands-on experience and the face-to-face time with authors like Susan Belsinger and herbalist Tina Marie Wilcox. These two women are some of my heroes. They have been working together for decades to share their knowledge with others. 

One of the best experiences I had was being a member of a local community supported herbalism group. We met together each week and harvested, processed, and created. I learned so much about creating teas, tinctures, and body products in a welcoming atmosphere full of incredible people. I miss this community immensely and hope to one day create one where I live now.

For now, I would like to share what I have learned on my blog. I think this will be a good exercise for me to practice my nonfiction writing, and it will give me a place to keep my research. Eventually one day I might put it all together in a book. You get to benefit from my research too!

My goal is to share something I have learned about a specific herb that I have chosen to study each month. I would also like to dive into herbal lore and if I cannot find any, then I want to write it! This sounds like a good adventure to me. I hope you join me!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

September - IWSG

 If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

Happy September Everyone!
As always, the first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer's Support Group Blog Hop. We all get together, answer questions about writing, talk about our struggles and triumphs, then visit each other and show our support. If you are a reader visiting for the first time, feel free to click on the IWSG badge above and follow the link to a group of blogs you can explore.

I have put a lot of thought into this. I went through the list of big names that I love. Ursula K Le Guin and Frank Herbert are obviously some of my top inspirations, but when it comes to beta partners, I feel like my world-building is already somewhat strong and I would need someone to complement me, and fill in the parts I'm not so good at. I also love to read the action from S M Stirling and Terry Brooks. I could definitely use help to create the action that would hook my readers. But if I had to pick just one, I think that I would like to work with Neil Gaiman. 

I can't say that I know much about him, but I can say that I have enjoyed everything I have read with his name on it. Stardust is one of my all time favorite stories, and definitely my #1 favorite movie. I own an illustrated copy of his book that inspired the film. I also have a copy of his Norse Mythology book, and have thoroughly enjoyed the Good Omens (film) series, although I never got the chance to read them! Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' Stardust eBook: GAIMAN, NEIL,  VESS,CHARLES: Kindle Store

I think that over action, the thing that I would love to develop more is the humor and Gaiman would help with this for sure. The stories he creates and retells are perfectly planned out to have fantastic worlds and characters, and then there is the pure laughter that ensues at just the right moments to break tension and keep the story moving. His action would probably work better with my style as well. It flows smoothly and doesn't rely on battle scenes.

I really should pick up more books by him. Maybe I will get some more good inspiration!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

What does a writer read?

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

The quote above is from one of the many books I am currently in the process of reading. Yes, I have multiple unfinished books―more than I can even calculate at this moment. I will be doing a completely different post about types of readers, but for right now, know that I am one of those types.

Another book I am reading is the second in the Expanse series. I love to read books that inspired film. I do not wish to get into the debate about which is better, or which should be done first, but I can tell you it is much simpler to watch something first and determine if the story is worth my time, than to find a new book by random chance and commit to the weeks it would take for me to read it. I have watched this entire series, and the characters are absolutely fantastic. I had to read the book(s).

I have often thought, given the large amount of science fiction I enjoy, that if we could just make it to the next step in our existence, then maybe humanity would be united. If we made first contact, or we all needed the same thing and worked toward it, or we just got smart enough, then we could be at peace with each other. I also often believe this to be completely fantasy. This series is perhaps a more realistic prediction. Although the humans in this version of the future are no longer judged by skin color or even gender, they have come up with a new way to divide themselves. You are from Earth, from Mars, or from the Belt.

This story was originally developed to be a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game―think World of Warcraft). James S A Corey is a pen name for two authors who work together on the series. One designed the game concept, the other realized the potential as a novel series, and they went with it. They take turns writing chapters that focus on specific characters using third person limited.

Beyond all of that, it is a really good read. There is a lot of action, which keeps the book moving quickly despite the fact that it is big enough to assist your toddler in reaching something she should not have. Each one is over 500 pages (most close to 600) and there are nine. Those are just the novels. There are short stories and novellas and of course the games and TV series. Let's just say this can keep you quite busy and you definitely won't get bored.

Back to the characters. If I had a circle of friends, I would want them to be like these folks. It kind of reminds me of Parks and Recreation a little. Everyone has their character flaws, but they fit together so nicely and they each know what to expect from the others. The hero―he will always do the right thing at the wrong time with the best intentions. The engineer will ground everyone and keep anyone from screwing up too much (unless she is the one screwing up). The mechanic sees the simplest―most blunt―answer, and he will almost always be right. The pilot is kind of the outsider, but he fits in just perfect, and is often a tie-breaker.

Then there are the politics. It is always interesting to me to read about the motivations behind the actions. Centralized power is fascinating and creates an internal struggle within individuals to follow their leader, or think for themselves. It is, after all, how leaders are created. This book has a very powerful leader, even if she is pulling the strings out of view. She is proper, wears brightly colored saris, is extremely intelligent, and drops the f bomb at a pleasing rate. If she ran from president, I would quit everything and go serve her. Hell, if she wanted to be queen, I'd fight in that army. Woman has style. (And she is written by two men...go figure.) The actress plays her beautifully in the series, I can't wait to find out how the character develops in this book.

I think I love these kinds of stories because they are like reading about history. The conflicts and the people seem so real, and so relatable, but they are supported by fantastic glimpses of an alternate timeline. As a writer, creating a new universe is the most enjoyable part. I hope my creations can bring this much joy to someone else.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Insecure Writers Support Group - August

Happy First Wednesday! It's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group Blog Hop. You can check out the blogs of many good writers by following the link behind this badge:

This month I am sharing the work of a fellow writer, Chrys Fey. You can read my story of depression and burnout, as well as how I am overcoming it below. You can also access a second blog hop by clicking on the cover image below:


 Catch the sparks you need to conquer writer’s block, depression, and burnout!


When Chrys Fey shared her story about depression and burnout, it struck a chord with other writers. That put into perspective for her how desperate writers are to hear they aren’t alone. Many creative types experience these challenges, battling to recover. Let Keep Writing with Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer's Block, Depression, and Burnout guide you through:


·        Writer's block

·        Depression

·        Writer's burnout

·        What a writer doesn’t need to succeed

·        Finding creativity boosts


With these sparks, you can begin your journey of rediscovering your creativity and get back to what you love - writing.





Amazon / Nook / iTunes / Kobo





Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series. Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for more tips on how to reverse writer’s burnout.


My Depression Story:

I have shared a little about this topic in earlier posts, but I think that it is an important discussion to have. The worst part about suffering from depression and burnout is the mental isolation. You can be in a room full of people, or surrounded by family and friends, and still think that you are completely alone, facing your demons with no help at all. 

I have struggled with this most of my life. I never quite fit in, and I never understood the people around me. I have very vivid memories of mistakes I made and moments of complete humiliation when I realized too late what I had said or done. Even at a young age I remember not getting invited to all of the sleepovers. When I was invited there were pranks, arguments, and mornings of discussing recipes and cooking techniques with moms. How many seven-year-olds teach their friends' moms how to make a sunny-side-up or how to cut the milk with water before making gravy? It was the least I could do after she politely showed me how to thaw my underwear in warm water before putting it in the dryer. Now that I think of it, that mom was a child psychologist and probably the reason why I was continually invited over. (I realize almost everyone has a prank story from a sleepover, but I had the same problems at Girl Scout camp, overnight school trips, Girls' State, college, and my foreign exchange time in France. Put me with a group of people and I would mess it up every time.)

If I'm honest, now that I have spent two years contemplating my sons diagnosis, I have become very suspicious of myself. The more I read, the more I realize it isn't a diagnosis, it is a state of being. Autistic people are not diseased, they are just people. Most adults who have been diagnosed with Asperger's, or High Functioning Autism, or whatever they have decided to call it this week, are accepting of themselves and want that acceptance from others. It turns out, women in particular 'suffer' from this identity because most of them don't know that they have spent their whole lives trying to fit in when the fact is they were born to stand out. Whether or not I am one of those women is an unknown, all I can do is tell you how I have made it thus far.

Maybe my identity crisis has been the main culprit, or maybe it was something else. My first suspicions and insecurities hit home when I was about to graduate college and I saw my flaws through the eyes of an ex-boyfriend and a college dean who upon reading some of my journal entries, approached me about suicidal thoughts. This wasn't the first time someone approached me with that concern, and it wasn't the last. It seemed that everyone else was telling me I was depressed, but I wasn't. I decided to make some changes. Maybe everyone else knew more about me than I did. But the worst part of my life came a few years after that with postpartum depression. That is what made it real to me. This is the only time in my life that I was suicidal, and ironically no one talked to me about it then. But I remembered all those people who had talked with me in the past, and I called for help. (*Side note:  If you know a person who you think is depressed/suicidal and they insist they are not, be aware, that if they ever actually reach the point of depression, you won't know it, because they will hide it very effectively, especially from people they do not want to disappoint. I called a hotline, not my loved ones.)

What has helped me in general:  meditation, yoga, reading, and Buddhism. I do not consider myself a Buddhist, but I would say that I have learned the most about reality and myself through the teachings.

What did I read:  Radical Acceptance (Brach), When Things Fall Apart (Chodron), The Zen Path Through Depression (Martin) and some others I can't remember because I actually read them at least a decade ago. Reading these helped me recognize the moment when I needed to get help. 

What else helped (when it got real):  A therapist who told me I was a good mom. A mom who was an even better mom. A husband who went through marriage counseling with me. An awesome doctor who helped me find an anti-anxiety medication that didn't have side effects worse than the depression. Never giving up.

Where I am now:  Four years without medication. Two years without therapy. Ten years married. Thirty-four-ish years of living in my skin. I found a diet that makes me feel better. I am in shape and healthy enough to enjoy my youth. I still have anxiety attacks. I still make mistakes and dwell on them for days. I still feel low and dark and I know that is okay. I have successfully made relationships and zero enemies (that I know of) in my last two places of employment. I absolutely enjoy social distancing (just not the reason). Writing about my characters' lives in my stories helps me think about people, reality, and the world. 

The most important thing to me right now is the knowledge that I will likely have to watch one or both of my children go through this difficult path and I fully intend to shine for them when they get lost.

Good luck to each of you on your journey!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Déjà vu and Karma

In the wise words of Britney Spears, "I did it again."

I started the novel over...again. But I'm still not sure if I will be abandoning the 230 pages I have already written this year, or if I will be incorporating most of that in my new revision.

I swear it wasn't my fault. I decided to take a break from the novel since I was not 100% sure where I wanted to go next in the plot. While on that break I wrote a few short stories --one of which was a prequel to the novel. Now that I have read (written) what happens in the galaxy before my novel occurs, it changes everything! (Not everything, that was a little melodramatic.) But one of my major subplots no longer makes sense. 

The truth is, it needed to be done anyway. This is the difference between writing for my own pleasure and fully plotting a story for the pleasure of others. Face it, we all cut corners when no one is looking, and that is what I was doing. I was only writing the subplots that I enjoyed, the ones that made me feel happy and excited. But that is not life.

When I used to teach problem and solution in story telling, I always used Cinderella as an example. No one would care about Cinderella if her stepmother hadn't been such a cranky old bat with a royalty complex. When I look at my own original plot from four years ago, and the revised plot from this year, they both have plenty of conflict. But perhaps it is not the right kind of conflict, or the depth. Cinderella wasn't just a poor girl who had no shot at going to the ball, she was basically a house slave, who was tortured from childhood. The woman who was supposed to be her mother, was more like a prison warden. Her father died suddenly, and she was completely abandoned. When she finally thought she had a chance, it was crushed and shredded by her own family. It didn't stop there, she was pushed down, time and again. Every hope was extinguished. She worked hard and deserved to be rewarded. Why did all of this happen to her? We don't know. Did she deserve any of it? I think that good stories don't answer that question. That is what makes the characters relatable --they have to deal with reality just like us.

One of my very young coworkers asked me today if I believed in Karma. I quickly said, "Yes," without even thinking about it. But honestly, I haven't believed in Karma for a long time. I used to think that if I was a good person, good things would happen to me. But that is a very naive thing to believe, and I didn't have the heart to say it out loud. "I'm too old to believe in Karma," is what I should have said. 

If you have not read the book "The Lost Horse," by Ed Young, you should go look at it. It is a children's book that has been translated from an Ancient Chinese tale. To summarize, a man has a really awesome horse, that one day runs away. Everyone thinks it is so awful, except the man, who says, "It might not be a bad thing." Then the next week the horse returns with another horse, so now he has two. Everyone is excited, except the man who says, "It might not be a good thing." A few days later, the man's son falls off the new horse and breaks his arm. The story continues like this with everyone assuming an event is bad or good, and the man refusing to pick an adjective. I like the man in the story, and he is the reason Karma is not real to me. All events are just that --events. Nothing defines them as good or bad except our own perception. Although all events in our lives are connected, they are not necessarily directly linked by cause and effect, and certainly not by a tally of what is deserved.

It is time to give my characters some flaws and send them into a realistic world where they can't rely on Karma. 

Remind me some day to tell you the story about the time Buddha was our chef at a hibachi restaurant in Arkansas and convinced my husband and me to have a second child.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Determination is Everything

It finally hit me this morning as I was doing my hundred and twenty-seventh downward dog in the past two weeks. All those years of trying to meditate taught me that I was a writer.

Let me back up a little. My headaches had returned. The kind that you feel from your fingertips all the way to the temple. You can't turn your head, smells feel like they are tiny fighter jets that come in and use rapid fire to attack your brain stem, and even the most well meaning child becomes a creature to be feared. The room spins, the lights are hot, and no one else understands why you are angry all the time.

I've blamed gluten, sugar, stress, sitting, typing, you name it. There is generally some truth to all of this, but if I really wanted to cure the ailment at the source, I had to fix the muscles in my shoulders. That means the gluten and sugar need to stay at a minimum and the sitting and typing needs to be countered by a stretching routine. The stress...well there is not much I can do about that. I can't get rid of my job or my children. For whatever reason, our society frowns on that.

So the muscles. I'm not in a position to pay someone to fix them, and the world's best message therapist is a thousand miles away (miss you Jessica)! The only thing I could do was try to massage it myself. After more than a month of failed attempts, I decided I needed a yoga routine.

Fast forward. I have been doing yoga every morning as soon as I wake up. I started with just laying on my back and lifting my arms over my head and back down to my side. Do that a few dozen times and things start to pop and loosen. Each day I've slowly added more and more. It isn't perfect. There are cats and children constantly interrupting. Have you ever tried to yell while in child's pose? It definitely helps you understand how your neck muscles turn into lumps of concrete. And this morning I got stuck in "thread the needle" because a toddler was standing on my hair and giggling. But the shoulders feel more like joints now, instead of giant knots.

Back to that downward dog. My feet were pressed back, my hips pushing up, and my head was hanging between my shoulders. I felt my chest and shoulders opening. I reached back through the past decade of meditation and yoga practice and realized that the same determination I have put into ridding my body of the constant pain, is the same determination I have been putting into my writing. It is what drove me to join the writing support group, what drove me to seek social media groups for writers, and what allowed me to discover my new beta reading group (a small group of a dozen teachers who have been invaluable in helping me polish my recent short stories). I know that if I stop my practice, everything will eventually fall back. The muscles will tighten and harden, my posture will suffer, and my headaches will return. If I stop following these groups, and writing my blog then the writing will stop too. This sounds depressing, but it is life. If we stop doing, we stop being. For real, stop breathing, eating, drinking, and see what happens. But there is something even deeper than this.

When I first started meditating (almost twelve years ago now) I remember learning about the "monkey mind." The goal is to focus on the breath and let all thoughts drift out of the mind. The "monkey mind" is the string of thoughts that tries to push our minds into a game of hopscotch from one thought to the next. It creates stories that distract us from the present moment. But what an incredible thing! That constant battle with my inner stories is a gift! While it makes meditation an utter challenge, it shows me who I truly am. I am a storyteller. I will never turn it off, not in my deepest moments of mindfulness. I can let them drift through me, but they will never be gone. And that is okay. 

I have finally found that peace I was looking for. The stories are allowed to flow and drift, I just need my fingers to catch them and give them form on the screen. What better way to empty a vessel than to find another one to catch the contents? 

Thank you for being my vessel! Namaste 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Insecure Writers Support Group - July

The first Wednesday comes fast this month, so for the first time, I'm not prepared the week before! Life has been kind of crazy in my world. May and June are full for my little family with two birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and our wedding anniversary. In addition there is Summer Solstice and plenty of other things to celebrate and it is all quickly followed by Independence Day. Lots of grilling, package deliveries, and baking. 

This month, the theme for our blog hop is regarding the industry. I am to discuss the changes I would like to see in the next decade. As I know minimal about the industry, I am not even sure what I would want to change. As always if you want to visit the blogs of other writers, please click on the badge at the top of this post for a list of links.

Since I am not very knowledgeable, I want to use this post to mention a few ignorant questions and/or desires in hopes that some of my more knowledgeable IWSG friends can guide me. 

My first question is about writing coaches. If you have used one, tell me the best and worst part of your experience. Did the coach help you navigate the industry, or just help you stay on routine and answer personalized questions about writing?

Question two, if you write short stories, how did you market them? Did you use an agent, send them to online venues, or self-publish?

Third, it would be awesome if there was a professional reader site. A person would request an account and review a set of standard works. Their reviews would be critiqued before allowing them to have an account. Once the person is accepted as a reader, they can choose from a database of "pre-published" works and leave feedback for the author. The author can then leave a rating for the reader to ensure that the feedback is valuable. Does this exist, or did I just come up with my own business idea? 

Lastly, the industry would issue small time control devices to working writers so they could split their days and spend one timeline sleeping at night, then directly after that, travel back to bedtime and spend the night writing without interruption. This really would be the best improvement upon the industry in my humble opinion.

It's 6:40. The husband left for work, the kids are still asleep, by some small miracle, and I have an hour and a half before I leave for work. It is time for my cup of tea! Have a great day!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Happy Father's Day

Our favorite family pastime since moving to our new home is visiting the beach. I love it because there is roughly 90 minutes one way in the car for me to think. Although I am unable to read in the car without becoming terribly ill, I have discovered I can write. Most of the time, the kids are quiet or asleep and my husband and I can just talk. I get to share some new ideas I have, he gets to help me develop them, and I get some much needed time to process without anyone needing anything from me!

The good thing about working on a short story, is I got to print it out and bring it with today! Check out my desk.

Don't worry, I didn't spend the entire time working. I just gave the kids some extra father time and took a few minutes to read through the last few pages. I am approaching the end and I want to make sure the premise is strong and that I have good promises that are fulfilled.

Fathers are interesting characters to create. In my mind, fathers are human manifestations of a guide book. They are full of useful information and an occasional perspective. I have many vivid memories of learning things from my dad. He taught me some very useful OCD habits like how to fold and pack a tent and roll a sleeping bag. I remember him teaching me how to see shapes in objects I want to draw and I watched with wonder as a page full of tiny triangles quickly became a detailed drawing of my mother's philodendron. I carefully observed for many winters before I was allowed to neatly roll a half-dozen pages of newspapers and fold them underneath a perfectly stacked trio of logs in the wood burning stove. He taught me how to draw floor plans and find studs in a wall. I learned how to identify and use any tool you could find in a typical garage or workshop. I know how to pull a well pump, fix faucets and toilets, install flooring, and keep the couch from hitting the ceiling. I know a great many elephant and dead baby jokes. He even taught me how to understand and accept my best friend after he came out to me in middle school. That's what dads do. And if you can learn what a dad knows, you can learn anything.

Whenever I write a scene involving a father and child, I try to infuse it with this natural flow of knowledge. I enjoy including a lesson in the character arc, and hopefully a followup scene involving the father's pride for the child's success. It is like a miniature master and apprentice plot that fits into any larger story.

What is your favorite father story? Father figure? Father joke?

I'll leave you with one from my PawPaw...
What did the dog say when his tail got caught in the lawn mower?

Lucky to have my Dad!

Won't be long now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

New Short Story Project

I've been working on a new short story. I am hoping to enter it into a contest this September, so I won't get to share any of it here. But it is inspired by the novel I'm working on, and somewhat of a prequel. I thought I would share some of the challenges with this new format.

One challenge is that I am trying a new point of view. Until I watched Brian Sanderson's lectures, I didn't even know it had a name. Epistolary is a story told through a series of letters (or other forms of documentation/correspondences). I have read a number of these in anthologies over the past few years, and I really enjoy them. It creates a sense of mystery and makes reading more interactive. The reader must piece together multiple perspectives, and read between the lines.

In my short story, there are two sources for the correspondences. These are from two main characters. The third main character is telling another point of view in standard first person. So far I think it is coming together. I have a little over 4000 words and the contest requires 4500 - 6000 total. I feel like I'm around two-thirds of the way through my plot, so this lines up nicely.

Another challenge is working with voice. I was a little concerned at first, because one of the characters is a male scientist, which I obviously am not. I will definitely get some readers to help me make sure the text is realistic in terms of character voice. Other than this, the project has been a fun one. I was lucky to receive some advice from a writing coach about a good method for planning, and I tried it out on this story. I feel more confident now that I have a little more structure to my planning process (sort of). I plan to hire a coach full-time after this contest is complete so that I can focus better on finishing my novel.

I want to elaborate on the "sort of" from the previous paragraph. Through writing, I have discovered much about my own mind. Although a test in high school told me that I was categorized as Abstract-Random, I see it now more than ever. My mind is like a crystal, casting light in every direction. But if I can angle it just right, if I can rotate it and capture my thoughts in the proper way, I can create a beautiful rainbow. The trick is getting all that scattered light to focus at the right points. I almost felt like having the plan made the writing harder, but if I look at it like a way to focus, then I can look forward to seeing all the colors line up nicely.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Flash Fiction Activity

I have written some flash fiction and I'm excited to share it with you!

This story came from a cool activity that was on the lecture series I've been watching. Here is a link to the video if you want to give it a try. The guest lecturer walks you through the steps to writing a 250 word story. It was fun.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Insecure Writers Support Group - June

It is time once again to express those doubts and concerns and discuss my struggles and triumphs. The writer's question is a little tricky this month, but I shall try.

Doubts & Concerns:
I have spent this month seeking knowledge. I have browsed online sources, skimmed a few books about writing, read a few fiction samples, watched a creative writing lecture series, and talked to other writers. In this quest for knowledge I have been gifted with multiple perspectives and plenty to consider. As I contemplate my path forward, I find I am concerned that there is too much to do. I doubt that I will ever get the time to accomplish what must be done in order to successfully finish my current novel. A recent promotion at work means I am now expected to do my old job, and my new one (at least until I am fully replaced), and home life is as chaotic as ever. I haven't let these things weigh on me and the intensity is honestly quite low. I am packing away these doubts and concerns as there is nothing to be done about them. But I am aware that they exist, and I think it is only fair to be open and honest with others that they exist. Maybe others will find comfort in knowing they are not alone in their doubts? (Misery loves company?)

Struggles & Triumphs:
My current struggle is my plot structure. I have decided it would be most beneficial to create an outline for my plot structure. Having reached more than 200 pages in the manuscript, I felt that I needed a concrete guide to help me finish. I have filled pages of notebooks with ideas, plot archetypes, plot structures, character arcs, etc. I have found the ending to the book and scribbled it during a quiet moment in a campsite while my in-laws had my kids on a walk and my husband was fetching dinner. In those 15 minutes I accomplished more than I have accomplished in the two weeks prior (see doubts and concerns). My struggle, however, is that I like holding this knowledge snugly in my mind and fear writing it down. Why? Maybe I am afraid it will not be as good on paper? Maybe I am afraid of the effort of creating an outline, which to me seems like extra work? It is that frozen feeling that I can't accomplish what I want to accomplish, so I refuse to accomplish anything. But at the same time, I did accomplish something. It is a triumph, too! I have an ending, I have a very basic sketch with arrows in every direction, I have the first half(ish) of the manuscript drafted. This is definitely a triumph! As my dad always says, "All I lack is finishing up." (Applicable no matter how much you have accomplished. If you have taken the first step, all you have to do is finish.)

The Question:  Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

Honestly, most of my secrets could be known from my work better than they could be known from my person. And it isn't that I have secrets, it is simply that I choose to not share things with people whom I feel cannot handle reality. 

The best secret I suppose that would not be clear in my writing is that I used to hate writing. I've always written poetry, even as a young kid. It is in my blood. But when it came to school, I hated everything about English Language Arts. I was even in a remedial class in junior high because I couldn't pass the vocabulary tests the previous year. I had terrible spelling and couldn't finish the books I was assigned to read. In ninth grade I shadowed at a college prep school (based on my math scores), and when the English teacher noticed I wasn't particularly excited to sit through her presentation, she questioned me. I told her I hated English class. My friend, who also attended the recruitment day, took it upon herself to blurt out that every time she saw me I had my nose in a book. The teacher then asked what I was reading at the moment, and I replied, "Dune." She told me that she took an entire course on Dune when she went to college. The following year, Ms. Tyler became the first English teacher to make me enjoy the subject. (It all went south my junior year again, but for one year there was this glimmer of hope, this one time when I had a teacher who loved Science Fiction as much as I did. I remember every book we had to read that year, and whether I liked them or not, I finished every single one.) During high school, I tested out of all the college core classes and never took another English class again.

The second secret is connected to the first. I was a math and physics nerd. I actually started college in architecture school, and was one of a dozen out of more than eighty who actually had an A for the first semester. But I transferred. It is strange how things change. There are two things I truly hated in grade school:  English and Biology. And now, I am a writer and my other loves include gardening and beekeeping and my horticulture books are only outnumbered by all the philosophy books I kept from my college days. Maybe my secret is that my past self is my own worst enemy? Honestly she thwarted me at every turn...