Book in hand!

I was quick to fall in love with e-readers from the very first time I read about this stuff called e-ink that had been developed and wouldn’t hit the market for two or more years. Then, the Sony Librie came out. It was so far outside of my price range, but then other devices started hitting the shelves. Some were color. Some boasted higher refresh rates, more variations of grey color, more memory. There was the Kindle and the Nook. It wasn’t until a few years after all these devices were on the market that I got my first one… the Nook (honestly because I could put any file I wanted on it and was not limited to just Kindle books). I read all of the Harry Potter books on it (I did not let a little thing like the fact that they weren’t available for purchase on the Nook stop me). Then I read all of the Anne Rice vampire novels. I kept reading my favorite series of books… one right after the other. Marathon sessions of reading to put even the most die-hard Netflix fan to shame consumed my life.

And then, I picked up a paper book. It was different after reading so many ebooks. I loved the smell of the book. I liked that people actually wanted to talk about my book, rather than the device I was reading it on.

Eventually, I bought Nooks for my sister and my dad. We all upgraded our Nooks once, and then twice. Now, I have a Kindle paperwhite that sits in the bottom of my purse. The battery lasts forever. I have more books on it than I have time to read.

I’m not strongly for ebooks or strongly for paper books. I think there’s a time and place for both. I passed up a powerful new desktop for a gadget-laden ultrabook. I’d rather lug around a 3-pound laptop than an 8-pound one. I’d rather laptop on the couch with the freedom to move to the kitchen than be stuck in one place. Sometimes, I’d rather not lug around a heavy book in my purse, and the Kindle is nice for that. Sometimes, though, I just really, really, really need to own the hard-cover, first edition, author-signed version of a book.

And so, even though I published the book I wrote for my nieces on Kindle, I also ordered paper copies. If there was a sense of accomplishment at finishing the book, actually publishing it for anyone to purchase (or ignore) eclipsed that sense of accomplishment. When I got home from work to see the slightly worn box by the front door, I talked to myself… “Oh! Those must be the books I ordered for the nieces! How exciting! I can’t wait to open it!” Then, I used the keys in my hand to immediately open the box. The books were covered in brown packing paper, and I tossed it out of the back onto the back of the couch. There! My book! My name on the cover. My silly title. My amateur clip-art illustration on the cover. But still mine. I opened the cover, careful not to crease the thick paper spine. And there… there were the words that I had written.

Initially, I thought I would only publish the books on Kindle… because all the nieces have iPads and Galaxy tablets. After holding the real thing in my hand, though… I am so glad I decided to get real copies published. It officially clutter in my home now. A little reminder that I come across on the coffee table, under the coffee table, on the bookshelf that 2014 was the first year that I published an entire story– beginning, middle, and end.

It’s got a terrible cover. It’s got typos. There are parts that need to be made clearer. The story needs work, still. But, for an idea that I had in late October and fully executed in time for Christmas, it’s just fine.

Ebooks are amazing little files that let me carry around books in the bottom of my purse… more books than I can read in a lifetime, but as an officially published author, even a completely amateur, self-published author, I have to say that there is something special about the printed, hard-copy book that you can hold in your hand.

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Published!

BookCover3If you’re reading these posts in order, then you’ll know that I was sitting at about 5,000 words in NaNoWriMo 2014 the last time I checked in.

Well, if you finished NaNoWriMo with at least 50,000 words, let me congratulate you with utmost sincerity and many cheers!

I did not finish NaNoWriMo with anywhere near 50,000 words… I actually got to about 10,000. However, the thing that I really took away from NaNoWriMo 2014 is this: this was the first year that I actually wrote a complete story during NaNoWriMo. It wasn’t a novel, and it wasn’t 50,000 words. Yet, I still feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

I took my little story– a story about 4 princesses, 4 fairies (who just happen to be monsters), a witch, and a dragon with a brief mention of a troupe of ogres, and I wrote the whole thing. I edited it. I illustrated a cover for the story. I submitted it all to CreateSpace, and I published the book for $12.99. I published it on Kindle for $1.99 (and free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers), and I ordered 5 printed copies of the book… one for each of the nieces, and one for me to mark up.

I’m not Maurice Sendak or Dr. Seuss, but I’m proud of this… my very first book. It’s a kid’s book for my nieces, and if it never sells a single copy, I will be okay with that!

I hired a woman from Reddit’s /r/forhire subreddit, and she negotiated prices with me… talked with about what the work would entail… and then she disappeared. I’d have happily paid her for her illustrations and her time, but I ended up illustrating the cover myself. I have no drawing abilities, and I don’t even have Adobe Photo Shop. I used Microsoft Publisher! It was easy enough to do with CreateSpace, but I am pretty sure I spent more time on the cover than I spent on writing the first draft of the story.

Now, I’m going to have all the nieces over, give them their copies of the book (along with their little stuffed fairy monsters), and maybe read the story to them. I hope it goes over well!

 

 

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NaNoWriMo– and what I’ve learned from my many failed attempts!

It’s National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. As of the end of the day yesterday, I was ahead of schedule with 5,731 words.

So I was thinking about all the times I’ve tried NaNoWriMo. The times that I’ve watched November 1 roll in and November 30 fly by without writing a single word. The times that I’ve convinced myself I shouldn’t even start because I was too busy to do well. Did I really I manage to convince myself that it wasn’t an endeavor I cared to undertake? What about the year I did the story with Tandy, Deja, and the goddess? The multiple years that I tried to write Dragons of the Sun? The time I tried to get out an exaggerated account of all the (already exaggerated) stories I heard from my dad as a kid? And I’ve wondered, what has gone wrong every year? All these questions led me to wonder what I could learn from my past mistakes to improve my chances of becoming a winner (which just means that I actually hit the 50,000 word target by November 30).


 

Alright. Well, I think that  this is mistake #1: Failing through abstinence
I want to be a writer, and I love the idea of a whole month devoted to being the sort of writer who clings, with crazed determination, to the outrageous workload on an anorexic deadline. Therefore, I do want to participate in the organized madness and the community that goes along with NaNoWriMo!


 

So, the next mistake is that I have ideas about what type of stories I want to write. I don’t want to write the next Harry Potter, but I do want to write stories with a message. I want to be a particular story to be something like fantasy or something like science fiction, but with concepts and plots that have never been told before in the history of man. Um… yeah. I don’t have that type of genius. I am quite certain that the reason my friends and family like my writing is for the exact opposite reason– they can relate to things I’ve written because it sounds like something that happened to them or someone they know.

We’ll call mistake #2: Failing, thanks to a puffed up ego
This means that I should let my ego go and write whatever comes from my finger tips. Just write. Let it all out, and then, when I’ve got something to work with… well, that’s when it’s time to get clever, fix plot holes, and try to tie the ending to the beginning so that the stuff that happens in the middle has an actual point.


 

The biggest mistake I have made is waiting for the timing to be right. I think I make this mistake nearly every day in a dozen different ways. For NaNoWriMo 2013, I was super stoked on October 1, but I prevented myself from writing a thing until November 1. I outlined my stories in a journal that I still carry around with me to this day! I did research. Come November 1, I was tired. I had a wedding to go to. I had shopping to do. I was too too full from too many big, thankful dinners. Had I just started on October 1, I might have gotten more done than I did. The point is not to write only when the stars align and the Celestial Choir sings… the point is to write more until we’re writing everything we’ve ever wanted to write.

So mistake #3: Failing to seize inspiration when it strikes
This year, I have a plan for what I want to write, but if I feel inspired to write something else, I’m going in that direction.

For instance, last night, I stared at the fairy story for my nieces for an hour. I reread chapter three a dozen times, and when I got to chapter four, I couldn’t think of a single thing to write. The whole time, I was thinking of another project I wanted to write, and so, I went to a new page in my 2014 NaNoWriMo document. In half an hour, I had nearly 2,000 words. Just like that.


 

I cringe thinking back to my Dragons of the Sun story, I realize that while inspiration may strike once in a while… often, I have no idea where a story will take me. I frequently sit down, happy with the things I’ve written, and wonder where in the heck this story is going. I like the way everything is in my story, and I am so invested in my own characters that I can’t bear to really mess things up for them.

So mistake #4: Failing to plan
This year, I have a plan for what I want to write, but in keeping with learning from mistake #3,  if I feel inspired to write something else, I’m going in that direction. This might seem like it’s in direct contradiction to what I’ve learned from mistake #2. It is. I’m an enigma.

My plan for this year is to write a story for my nieces. I started with a short bullet list that included a beginning, a middle, and an end. That has been expanded into 6 acts with 10 characters. I’ve even got a timeline for each of the main four characters that includes a reasonable subplot. Also, there is a war between cookies and cupcakes.

I don’t intend for the story for my nieces to be longer than 8,000 words, so after that, I want to work on a collection of short stories. Well, maybe three different collections of short stories. Whenever possible, I’ll use an outline and character sheets. I’ll work hard to only write the parts of the journey that I love… but when inspiration strikes, I won’t let lack of a plan keep me from writing.

 

 

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Spooks, Revelers, and Lovers

I love Halloween, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. I really go in for dressing up and putting on a show. I love the big parties and intoxicated kisses at midnight. I love the unabashed celebration of romance. But I like it to be classy and tasteful– not sultry or vulgar. Not overly sweet or insincere. Oh, and I love, love, looooo-ooo-oove FOOD– candy, desserts, and savory meats with carb-filled sides!

Halloween is just around the corner (Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!), and then before you know it there’s First* Thanksgiving, Second* Thanksgiving, (Third*) Actual Thanksgiving, First* Christmas, Second* Christmas, (Third*) Actual Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and our anniversary followed shortly thereafter by Valentine’s Day.

*The first, second, and third iterations of the food holidays are required due to integral parts of my family working “X weeks on, X weeks off” and missing the actual holidays. No one complains about the need for so many food holidays, though!

So, in a spirit of holiday cheer, I have been inspired to undertake a project for the four nieces between the ages of 5 and 7. I want to write a story for them, have it published, and give them a stuffed companion that goes along with the book. Last night (and the night before), my mom and I sat down and sewed four little fleece monsters with fairy wings. They turned out way nicer than I expected (considering that I free-handed the “pattern” and still haven’t mastered sewing a straight line). I used cheap fleece from Wal-Mart, and I had the stuffing from a project I failed to complete last February. I’m so proud of how these little monster fairies turned out!

Monster Fairies Full Size

To make them, I free-handed a monster shape on a piece of paper, which turned out terribly asymmetrical. So, then, I folded a sheet of paper in half and free-handed half a monster. When I cut the shape out, it was much more symmetrical. I just made little shapes for the extra pieces– hearts for the monster bums, circles for the eyes, triangles for teeth, and wings. I sewed the embellishments on first, and then sewed the monsters, wrong-sides together and flipped them inside out. Here’s what they looked like with the faces staged:

Monster Fairies Ready to Sew

I seriously can’t even sew a straight line yet, and this was super easy to do. The monsters are really forgiving if you have imperfections, and the fleece was stretchy enough to hide the many mistakes I made. I may never pay for stuffed animals again!

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Review: Ashmore Grief

Rating: 4 Stars (Read it and then share it with a friend!)

I recently entered a drawing for a book called Ashmore Grief by D. A. Cairns on goodreads. I honestly can’t remember how it ended up on my radar, but it made it onto my goodreads list, and so it needed to be read. I “won” the drawing, but the smashwords discount code didn’t work for me. I emailed the author to let him know that it didn’t work, and then I bought the book the old-fashioned way. Being unable to remember why it made my list and remembering absolutely nothing about the book, I went into the reading experience as blind as any new reader could be. I enjoyed the story, and I think you you should read it and share it with your friends.

The first chapter of the book was a little technical with lots of boat-speak, but by the time I made it through the second chapter, I couldn’t read it fast enough. The author does a wonderful of explaining the details of each scene, and even though there were two main characters with names that started with the same letter (a well-known “don’t” to avoid confusing your reader), I was never confused about who I was reading about when discussing Mark and Matt. In fact, there was only one spot toward the end of the book that made me wonder if it was self-edited or professionally edited. I was easily able to discern what the author meant, and only made a brief note to let the author know that it was a little unclear.

This story deals with some really serious topics– immigration, sexual exploitation of very young women, politics, assassination, and so forth, and it happens to take place a few years in the future in Australia (one of the places I would love to visit one day). Despite all of the serious topics, it’s a feel good story. The author handled the story with tact, and I never felt like it needed a trigger warning, even though it could have easily crossed the line from serious to traumatic. I was surprised with how the story lines wound together, and I was reminded of George R. R. Martin’s talent at making me feel ashamed of the characters I love and pity for the characters I hate.

I loved the story–when I wasn’t reading it, I was constantly thinking about it. I read it on my Kindle, and I was glad for the “dictionary feature” because I didn’t know a few of the words. It wasn’t a difficult read though– just a man with a better vocabulary than me using words that concisely conveyed his intent for the scene.

I related to one specific part of the story a lot– where the woman needs to discuss something, and the man can’t sort his emotions out to explain it. He just wants to let the topic sit until it fades into insignificance without dealing with it directly. She pushes, and it all goes south for a while. Finding myself in love with a man who finds the option of letting things fade away until they are inconsequential, several parts of that scene hit home for me. It brought up old arguments and hurts, but I found empathy, too, for the man in the story who wanted to tread so carefully on a big topic that he couldn’t face it head on.

On the topic of immigration, especially illegal immigration, I find that a lot of people in my circle respond with a callous attitude. It’s not our problem. Send them back to their own country. You’ve probably heard the news and can come up with better examples than mine. This book was obviously well-researched before it was written, and I think it helps us remember that the people we label as “illegals” are actually people. The story fully acknowledges that illegal immigration is a problem, but the answer isn’t to cold-heartedly refuse people who are desperate. The story really demonstrates the struggles faced by the immigrants who know they have given up everything for a long-shot and even better (I think) the conflict felt by the military soldiers and police officers who do border patrol.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive e-read, I highly recommend Ashmore Grief by D. A. Cairns. You can get it on smashwords or Amazon. It’s a fun read!

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Reflections on work and my favorite authors

It’s no secret that Terry Pratchett is my favorite author since the day Evelyn Brown lent me a copy of Soul Music by Terry Pratchett in 1998– in Mr. Ross’s AP Calculus class, no less. This led me to a book– Good Omens, written by Sir Terry Pratchett  with an author I’d never heard of. That unknown-to-me author was Neil Gaiman, and though Mr. Pratchett has a very dear place in my heart, Mr. Gaiman is quite simply, followable. He’s active on twitter, facebook, tumblr, and his blog. He’s in the public often, alone and with his fabulously named wife Amanda Palmer. He’s on Ted Talks, YouTube, and in the news. Even if we aren’t the sort to go completely fangurl over a celebrity, he’s the sort of celebrity that seems to invite the attention. It’s as if he’s decided he’ll be a celebrity, and he’ll encourage the masses to be creative, wise, and kind.

Some time ago, I found myself feeling quite disappointed in my job. I thought I was trading my previous career as an accountant who was definitely under-compensated and over-worked for a new career as an auditor where I would be appropriately challenged and compensated. Unlike every reasonable person in the world, I did not look at my job title of “auditor” and think to myself, “How utterly boring!” I looked at my job and thought, “This sounds perfect– always something new and exciting and with complicated maths!” My excitement and glee was quickly shut down, then clamped down, nailed shut, submerged in wet concrete, seasoned, sacrificed, and drowned in a terrible and deep sea. I have two words for you: Data Entry. Auditors do tons of data entry.

Resentment grew, and I found fault with everyone and everything at work. And then, New Year’s came, and I found something I had forgotten: Mr. Gaiman’s New Year’s wishes.

And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

I realized that I had not been wise, and I certainly wasn’t being kind to myself or to anyone else. So, I began reminding myself that I should always be kind, but if I must, I could be wise instead. I find it very difficult to do two things at once, so I figured that the universe would understand if I found it impossible to be both kind and wise. I began interrupting my monologues tirades with a simple explanation to whomever I had been speaking, “Sorry– I don’t have anything kind to say, and it would probably be wise if I just stopped talking.” This self-interruption continued for months, and it even got a few laughs. My friends even started asking me if I was being kind or wise when I put my opinion on display for the world.

And yet, even with my decision to be kind at the very least, and if not kind, then wise, I did not enjoy my job anymore than when I found fault at every turn. I found my answer and a profound sense of peace in the famous words of Sir Terry Pratchett’s dwarf-raised human watchman Carrot, “Personal isn’t the same as important.” Personally, I’d like my job to be the way I envisioned it, but the important part is that I am gainfully employed, treated well, and competent. I envisioned my life as a Venn Diagram, pictured below, and suddenly, it all made sense. The thing that was missing from my was not an intersect between the Work circle and the Things That I Enjoy circle– the Writing circle was completely absent from my life. I wasn’t writing and hadn’t written anything in ages.

This Venn is My Life

This Venn is My Life

Since my Venn Diagram epiphany, the writing circle is present in my life, and I have found that I am able to concentrate better at work. I get bored less easily, and I have even discovered ways to enjoy what I am working on. It’s as if the universe knew, way back in 1998, that I would need the influence of Sir Terry Pratchett and Mr. Gaiman to get through my job in 2013 and find a sense of peace in 2014.

And a big thank you to Ms. Evelyn Brown with your long, thick blonde hair and fantastic taste in literature, wherever you are!

 

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NaNoWriMo in T minus 24 days

National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo begins November 1. I usually do it. I’ve got one idea that I really like that started as a short story for my sister in the mid-2000’s. It’s been a NaNoWriMo for a couple of years since then, but it never gets finished. It gets to 18,000 or maybe 33,000 words, and then the story, tentatively titled Dragons of the Sun, fizzles.

But…

I was just reflecting on if I want to participate in NaNoWriMo 2014, and if so, how fully I want to participate. I realized that I do actually have a beginning, a middle, and an end in mind for Dragons of the Sun. That’s exceptionally rare for me. I even have a couple sub-plots in mind, which might be a first for me. And before anyone gets up in arms over breaking the rules, NaNoWriMo is totally okay with old projects as long as you only count the words you write for the current period.

I got my handy-dandy notebook out, and I penned my beginning, middle, and end (BME). Then, I penned the BME for my sub-plots (one of which is pictured below).

A beginning, middle, and end

My handy dandy notebook with my beginning, middle, end, and the key that ties it into my main plot.

And, so I have decided that I will participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m concerned about the level of committment. 50,000 words has eluded me every year, so I am inclined to abandon the literal goal of the project to embrace the spirit of the movement (and I think I can call it a movement when over 700,000 people participated last year). I have a few options in mind for this year’s NaNoWriMo– all of which can be modified so that I actually create something, even if said creation does not comprise 50,000 written words.

Option 1: Write Dragons of the Sun to 50,000 words, but have the stories, chapters, and characters outlined in advance. I say to write this story to 50,000 words because I’m quite certain it will require at least 100,000 to be told.

Option 2: Write a children’s book for my nieces with homemade stuffed animals to accompany the story.

Option 3: Write additional tall tales for my compilation of tall tales tenatively titled My Dad is Paul Bunyan.

People wonder why anyone is inclined to participate– why is it that NaNoWriMo is a blip on our radar in September? Why is it that NaNoWriMo is a decision that must be made before Halloween each year? Why on earth would we devote every moment of our spare time to writing what will probably just turn out to be not only a failed endeavor, but a poorly-written failed endeavor?  Well, simply put, there’s nothing that special about NaNoWriMo, on its own, and it is not enough to convince me that I should write or participate. It’s actually all of the community-type stuff that goes along with it. Neil Gaiman convinces me I should write. My friends and family who ask me why I’m an auditor and not a writer convince me to write. That girl with the 365 Poetry Project inspires me to write.

NaNoWriMo is about community. Sure, it churned out Water for Elephants, but that was a statisical anomoly. It’s not about writing the next great novel or making it big. It’s about creating something. We’ve got a set amount of time, and unlike life, we know that the time alloted to us is exactly 30 days. We give it everything we’ve got to spare, and at the end, we don’t get a million dollars or a publishing contract. We get satisfication that we did it. We created something– even if it is is poorly-written. Maybe we’ll make a friend or find that crazy, rabid fan we all dream of. Maybe we’ll walk away with one more item checked off our bucket list, and maybe we’ll finish still a mile shy of the finish line. Maybe we’ll try again next year.

My mind is already spinning to figure out how I can get this into my schedule. I could ask my boss if he minds if I come in two hours late every day in November. I could spend my entire lunch break writing. I could do it on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only– spending at least 8 hours per day on writing. I could take a week at Thanksgiving. I could start drinking energy drinks again and trade three hours of nightly sleep for writing and Red Bull.

So, if you’re inclined, join me for NaNoWriMo in 24 days! Get your plot lines simmering and start your character sheets! Let’s create something– even if it’s poorly-written and has a wandering plot that never really seems to end.

 

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What’s keeping us from being writers?

No one wants to hold down a regular, full-time job and be an auditor in their spare time as a hobby, but many people have regular, full-time jobs and are writers in their spare time.

Being a writer doesn’t require a certain level of education– just a certain level of skill. You might argue that you have to pass eighth grade grammar lessons to be a writer, but that’s not true. Some of the best story tellers I know can’t differentiate “site” from “sight.”

Being an unemployed writer who is searching for a job doesn’t mean polishing up your resume and dressing up in a nice suit for formal interviews. A lot of times, it just means writing more and emailing your written words to one person or another.

But once you’re an employed writer, what does your day-to-day routine look like? I mean you’ve got what is essentially a desk job, but it’s not always an office job.

I tried “living the dream” during two consecutive three-day weekends, and I have to say, it was a nice life. I got several short stories written– one of which I am really, really proud of. The first two days, I started out by going to a coffee shop on the other side of town. I ordered a large breve with sugar-free vanilla syrup, and I sat down. I started out by reading– The Long War by Terry Pratchett on day 1 and reddit on day 2. Then, after a period of time, I put on my headphones, put on my Ellie Goulding station on Pandora, and I began with a blank Word document. Time passed, and words appeared on the screen. On the first day, I intended only to stay for an hour or so, but it was 1 PM by the time I was ready to deal with other things. The second day, I invited a friend to join me for conversation and catching up. Minutes before she arrived, I found myself typing as fast I could because the thoughts were flowing nicely in my head. When I glimpsed her out of the corner of my eyes, the thoughts dried up and I began wondering what she had been up to recently.

On the third day, I decided to save my $5 coffee. I heated up some milk and frothed it before adding it to a sugar-free chai latte concentrate. Then, I sat down and did some reading on reddit. It took me two hours to get to the point that I was ready to write. And when I started writing, it only lasted an hour or so before the dishwasher shut off and the dryer dinged. I wrote a little more that evening, but mostly out of a feeling a guilt because I did not write very much that morning.

The following weekend, I didn’t write at all on the third day. I was tired from a long day of being out and about. The first two days of my weekend were at home, and they went about as well as the time I tried writing from home the weekend before.

So my homemade chai latte costs less than $1, but I get so little writing done. I’m distracted by the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming, and the many other domestic tasks that make my house a comfortable, inviting home. Getting out to the coffee shop takes me away from all of those things, costs several dollars in coffee and gas money, and I find it so much easier to focus and stay on-task. The seats are uncomfortable, and there are so many people and children coming in and out. It’s like my mind is set on filtering out all the activity going on around me, and I’m able to really focus on what I’m writing… even if the story is turning into a drama that I really don’t enjoy.

I wish I could figure out what it is that makes the coffee shop a great place to write and bring that to my home. I wish I could take it to my work as an auditor. So many days, I show up at work, and I have all these plans for what I will accomplish that day. But then 11:30 rolls around and I’ve been at work for 4 hours… it’s lunch time already, and I still haven’t actually gotten anything finished.

So what is it that keeps us from being writers? I think the most obvious answer is just “life” in a very general term. Many forms of entertainment (including reading and TV) are designed to put information into our minds, but writing forces us to take information from our minds and put it elsewhere. For me, I’m easily distracted, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to my family, my home, and my friends. I have to find that perfect balance– where there’s enough going on that I’m forced to focus (just slightly) on writing to the exclusion of all else.

I’ve got competing hobbies, as well! Sewing, biking, reading, camping, cabin-building (or dreaming of it at least), cooking, and sooooo many more! Has anyone started getting excited for November? It’s National Novel Writing Month!

 

 

 

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Review: Holly Lisle’s Writing Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck (Week 3)

Rating: 4 Stars (Definitely read this and share with your writer friends!)

I made two other posts after I finished each week’s course (Week 1, Week 2), and now I’m done with Week 3! I have three good short stories completed.

Overall Review

If you’re a writer who is struggling to actually write, then I highly recommend Holly Lisle’s Writing Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck course. I don’t consider myself a particularly creative person, and I know that my story telling skills are at a novice level at best. The How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck course helped me get new ideas out of my head and onto the screen. That’s right– new ideas! These aren’t the stories that are still rattling around in my head at night. These aren’t things I thought of years ago or something I saw in someone else’s writing that I wanted to spin differently. I had 15 entirely new and original ideas for short stories. I haven’t completed all 15 short stories yet, but I will. I have already submitted one to a science fiction magazine, and I hope they consider it a worthy post for their publication. If not, I’ll be happy to share it on my blog, and I’ll write something better for my next submission.

Week 3 Course Review

True to form, the third week of How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck is really, really basic, and yet, it works exceptionally well. Now, Holly’s course explains that you should be writing 500-word short stories, but my stories have needed twice as many words to get there. Using the course, the first short story I wrote is called Leaving, which is a story about a battered woman who needs to get her children and herself to a safe place. This is nothing like anything I would ever sit down and *want* to write, but I did sit down and write it. It’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end. The ending was really hard for me, and I hacked over 1,000 words off the ending before I was finished with the story.

So my opinion of Week 3 is this: I have thoroughly embraced the basics of writing stories over the course of my month-long trial of Holly Lisle’s program. I am really tempted to buy some of her other courses just because this free thing worked so well. However, I’m going to hold off until I have the other short stories that I started completed.

 

Oh, and I shared this with my work friend, and she’s on vacation now. She printed all the courses and took them with her on vacation. I can’t wait to see her stories when she gets home!

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Leaving

Leaving

My eyes scanned the room, searching for gloves and hats for my sleeping twins. Thankfully, my children didn’t stir throughout the entire ordeal of dressing them in bulky snowsuits. Their dad, who was passed out and still holding his precious whiskey glass, was completely unaware that his life was changing as he slept. I looked from my husband to my children, smiling at the little tufts of brown hair curling out from under their hats. Moose watched me and whined in anticipation of going for a ride. The bullmastiff weighs almost twice as much as I do, but I couldn’t leave him. Gabe’s rage knows no reason, and poor Moose would have cowered until the beating stopped.

I tilted my hips to better balance a child on each side and squeezed my babies tightly as I tugged the diaper bags and my purse onto my shoulders. Clicking my tongue at Moose was just as good as if I had said, “Let’s go for a ride, boy.” For a moment, Gabe looked peaceful and loving, but then the soreness in my arm and the fatness of my lip reminded me of the truth.

My cold hands found the car seat buckles troublesome. I gently closed the Jeep doors, but it sounded like the doors slammed shut to my ears. The engine struggled to start in the cold, and I stared at the front door, expecting Gabe to ruin yet another attempt to leave. I reached for the headlights and then thought better of it… better not chance the lights shining into the living room or being seen by the neighbors.

When I finally got to the last road in our suburban neighborhood, I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until the air rushed out of my lungs. For several seconds after the light turned green, I gulped the cool air. I turned on my headlights, and as I made my way to the highway, I relished that my children would never have a fat lip from their dad. My happiness was tinged with grief because of all the good things my children will miss out on without a father.

My Jeep felt sluggish in the growing layer of snow on the highway. My eyes stung from straining to see through the falling snow, and I decided that it would be best to check for a severe storm warning. I slipped my fingers into the front pocket of my purse to grab my cell phone. I didn’t find it right away, so I tugged my purse into my lap. It made me nervous to take make my eyes off the road, so I counted two seconds of looking in my purse, five seconds of watching the road, two seconds of looking in my purse… My phone was not in my purse.

I smacked my hand to my forehead, recalling how I carefully placed my phone on the changing table so I wouldn’t forget it. I could hear my husband’s insulting tirade just then, “What a half-baked gesture leaving was!” I didn’t have what it takes to raise kids on my own—I couldn’t even get them to Wisconsin without driving into a snow storm.  How would they learn good common sense without a dad? My pulse thundered in my ears and tears squished out of my eyes.

I wiped tears from cheeks, and I steered the Jeep out of the exit-only lane, not that lines in the road really mattered under 8 inches of snow. The slight angle made the Jeep fishtail. The feeling of losing control of the Jeep strangled all of my self-doubt and left only the resolve to take this snowstorm one highway mile at a time. I glanced back at the sleeping twins and smiled at Moose in the rear view mirror. The whole Jeep rattled as it bounced over pot hole in the middle of the road, and I felt the backend of the Jeep spin around. I steered into the turn, but I was already sliding backwards into the median. So much for four-wheel drive and studded tires. Time slowed as the median gave way to a steep riverbank. I gripped the steering wheel uselessly as the Jeep tilted backwards, and Moose yelped as the flipping vehicle tossed him around with all the unsecured items. I hung upside down as the Jeep came to rest. The twins cried softly, looking like little puppets hanging from their car seats.

Slowly, my ears picked up on the sound of rushing water all around. In that moment, I knew we were dead. I had committed us all to a wet, freezing death, and no one would find us until spring. My eyes darted to the window to see how high the water was, and I realized that we must have landed upside down on top of a frozen section of river. The water was harmlessly flowing under and around the ice. Moose licked at the twins and whimpered as he moved toward me. I saw headlights on the road, and my gratitude for my life and the lives of my children was destroyed. Gabe had followed me, and now he would drag us back.

A man kneeled down next to my window and I saw only Gabe’s drunken face, contorted in rage. My throat burned with a scream of raw terror, and my children gave up great cries of their own.  After a moment, reality filtered through. It wasn’t my husband… It was the kind, ruddy-cheeked face of my neighbor, Jack. Jack, who had so often been my supporter, who had provided ice packs and bandages for falls down the stairs, who was now my rescuer.

I pushed on the door, and Jack said through the glass, “Sorry to frighten you. I saw you sneaking away with no headlights, and I was worried. I’m not sorry I followed you now. Let’s get you guys out of here.”

“Oh Jack! I’ve never been happier to see you!”

It seemed to take an eternity to get clear of the Jeep, but after a while of sitting on the side of the highway in Jack’s truck with the heater cranked, Jack asked, “Well, I don’t know what gave you the courage to leave, but I’d like to know if I can drive you somewhere? You sure picked a heck of a night for a getaway.” My parents were expecting me in Wisconsin the following day, and I fell into an exhausted sleep as Jack continued driving north.

 

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