Summer Break

Everyone needs a break, including, apparently, this author. I’ve been quite busy.

First, I went here:

Disney 1

The famous author and her husband.

I’m sure you can figure out where that picture is from. My husband and I spent our 15th Anniversary chasing kids around Disney. We also were able to enjoy it with my sister-in-law, her two kids, and my mother-in-law. Fun times! I’m a big goof, and I LOVE Disney. It is one of my most favorite places. Kids and adults have fun there. I also did it right, and we didn’t start going to Disney until my youngest daughter turned five. The food. The rides. I think it’s all great. If you haven’t been on the new Pandora ride, you need to drop everything, book a trip and go down. It was hands down my favorite. And walking through the line, the gardens were absolutely beautiful:

Disney 2

Then I came home, and I started concentrating on my short story. Okay, I’ve written about two sentences on it. I really started concentrating on eating better, running, and avoiding writing again. But, I decided I needed to start writing again today. I’d like to enter my short story into the Masters Review contest, but that’s due July 31st, and I’m not sure if I will have it finished and edited by then. I entered their flash contest, but winners will not be announced until September. The waiting game–it’s real, y’all.

I keep thinking there will be a time in life in which I will be able to just write. Or, you know, fit it into my schedule. I do a lot of procrastinating. I tend to have to set mini-goals or sprint to write. Once I start sprinting, I usually get on a roll and can keep going. So my goal this week is to sprint once a day and finish my short story by next Wednesday. If I can do that, I may possibly have enough time to edit and submit it.

I hope to continue sharing some of my short pieces with you all, and I plan on getting back to posting about once a week.

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Journey of Words

antique-black-and-white-business-209257

Yes, I’m a writer. I know, I know–I haven’t been writing as much. For awhile, I wasn’t writing at all. I’ve been thinking about ancient history a lot this week. You know, memories down the lane. I’ve been doing some soul-searching, but not in a nostalgic sad kind of way. More in a way that’s helping me come to terms with some of my decisions about the past. And of course, some of this is ending up in my writing, because you know that’s what writers do. For some reason, these thoughts and the books I’ve been reading: The Last Time We Met, Less, The Princess Diarist, heck even Born a Crime, made me think I needed to set my book in Buenos Aires.

And it’s strange. I feel like I’m traveling there again in my mind. I went to Buenos Aires in 1999. I had just turned 20. This was almost 20 years ago (I’m getting old, peeps). Their currency was still tied to the dollar. Everything was super expensive. I had a astrophysicist cabbie who couldn’t get a job because unemployment was through the roof. I walked by a Jewish synagogue frequently that had armed guards, because there’s so much antisemitism in Buenos Aires they were afraid the synagogue would be bombed. I saw a guy on a bike get hit by a car, and then the driver get out and yell at him in Spanish for being in the way, while the pedestrian writhed in pain on the sidewalk by my feet. My friend P’s host family called their Doberman Pincher gay, because he was such a nice dog (I wasn’t appalled by their use of this word as derogatory then, as I surely would be now). He would sit on your lap whenever you came into the apartment, because he thought he was a lap dog. I would watch game shows and Spanish soap operas with English subtitles to learn more Spanish with my “sisters” Sol and Paz (the daughters of my host mother).

I saw a country in love with Evita Peron still. A country suffering but beautiful. The colors of La Boca. The market square. The pigeons. Luna Park and Jamiroquai. The mothers of the disaparecidos protesting in the street, still looking for their loved ones. A country where you could sit in the park and have yerba mate then risk your life at the hands of a cab driver (why do they make lanes anyway)? I saw how much family meant to Argentineans. Young women stayed home until they married. Even my crazy host family had their extended family over once a week. They laughed, drank, ate, and loved. A city that awoke no earlier than 10 and when to bed no earlier than midnight!

I think, now, experiences like these are wasted on the young. How I love to travel. How I wish to go back to Buenos Aires and see how it’s changed. Is there still a little cafe/bar on the corner of Manual Ugarte and Cabildo where I sat and talked to a boy I’d later fall hopelessly (emphasis on the hopeless) in love with until 2 AM? Where I sat with friends and tipped the waiters so big they looked forward to our arrival every evening? Is that place still there? What about the laundromat that would pick up and wash my clothes, fold them, and return them to me? I swore they were shrinking my clothes, but I was really just gaining about 30 pounds on empanadas, alfajores, and full fat milk.

Someone asked me over the weekend what type of books I wrote, and I didn’t know what to say. None. Half-finished books? Books about love and loss and unrequited love and abuse and family and women’s fiction and southern literature and maybe literary fiction. We love to categorize everything, but I feel like I get into my writing the most when I just do it without thinking about what it actually is. When is springs forth from some burning internal question I’m trying to answer.

Writing is a lot like traveling to me. I can go back to Buenos Aires. I can picture myself there. Transporting my characters to worlds I’ve been but also to places I’ve never been. An exercise in empathy. A way to answer unanswerable questions or at least get closer to explaining them to myself. But mostly just cathartic. A journey to a better understanding of the human existence, this universe we call home.

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The Dark Half

I wrote this for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge again. The Challenge was to pick one of Stephen King’s titles and write a completely different story. I’ve never read The Dark Half by Stephen King, but the title spoke to me.

The Dark Half — 1,151 words

P-E-R-F-E-C-T. There’s no such thing. At least that’s what Carmen’s teachers always said. Nobody’s perfect. But Carmen knew better.

“Anything less than perfection is not acceptable.” Her father’s words reverberated in her head. As such, Carmen’s life was ruled by these words.

First an ivy league school, then an 80-hour-a-week job. Then the perfect husband,  then 2 perfect kids, and a golden retriever, living in the perfect neighborhood in the perfect town to complete her perfect life. Who could ask for anything more? And still she didn’t feel like she had her father’s approval. It was enough to drive anyone crazy.

On December 6, she woke up in a clapboard house on a mattress shoved up against a graffiti covered wall. A tattooed man slept next to her. His chest rose and fell as she shielded her eyes from the brightness of the sun streaming through the slats covering the windows.

Carmen had no idea how she had ended up in this halfway house or whatever the hell kinda place it was. And she had no idea who the man beside her could be. She pulled the sheet down and much to her surprise realized she was naked. But worse than that, he was naked too. She gasped in horror. And apparently this gasp was louder than the drum beat going on next door or upstairs or wherever the hell it was going on, because it woke up Tattoo man.

“Hey baby,” he said, moving his naked-as-a-mole-rat body toward her.

She scooted to the far edge of the mattress and pulled the sheet all the way up to her chin, trying to cover up and retain at least a little bit of her decency.

“Who the hell are you?”

“What do you mean, who the hell am I?”

Tattoo Man sat up and scooted closer to her, pulling the sheet down as he did. Carmen tried to scoot further from him and almost fell off the mattress onto the dirty black and white tile floor.

“I have no idea how I got here.”

He scoffed. Then he stood up and walked across the room, completely naked, with everything hanging out. Carmen averted her eyes.

He grabbed a cigarette and lit it.

“You want one?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“The hell you don’t.” He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and shook his head.

“I have to go.”

Carmen stood up, trying to shield her naked body from his wandering eyes. She didn’t succeed. She threw on the dress, one of her favorites, a blue button-down Ann Taylor dress. At least her clothes hadn’t changed. She slipped on her heels. Tattoo Man watched the whole scene with a look of amusement on his face.

She headed toward the door.

“See you tonight, Love,” he said and reached toward her. She avoided his outstretched arms and skirted out the door.

How the hell did she get there? She looked down at her watch. Christ, it was 8 AM.  Tom would be wondering where she was. Breakfast wouldn’t be made. The kids wouldn’t be driven to school. Tom would be late for work. She would be late for work.

Her car sat badly parallel parked in between two overflowing trashcans. She noted with alarm that she was in East Marlboro, an undesirable area, over the bridge and railroad track from Marlboro. She sped up, hitting 90 after merging onto the Interstate. She couldn’t imagine what Tom was thinking.

She pulled into her driveway. She stared at her beautifully manicured half acre yard. She took in the row of beautifully blooming pink azaleas. She looked at the windows with their perfect symmetry and the front porch, complete with a porch swing. She had worked so hard for the perfect life. She sighed a breath of relief.

She ran into the house, listening to the beep of the alarm on the backdoor as she strode into the kitchen. Tom sat at the table, reading the newspaper.

He looked up at Carmen with surprise.

“God, you scared me. Your conference is already over?”

“What? Why are you home? It’s 8:45.”

“I just dropped the kids off. I’m going into the office later. You’re supposed to be gone another two days.”

“Oh, I, um. I just forgot something.”

“So you came all the way back?”

“From where?”

“Buffalo.” He looked at her like she had two heads.

“Buffalo?”

Why the hell would I be at a conference in Buffalo, Carmen thought. She sat down at the table next to Tom and glanced at the newspaper in his hand. December 8th. Pearl Harbor Day. She had lost two days somehow. How was that even possible? She knew with certainty it was December 6th. And Buffalo? Why would she tell Tom she was at a conference in Buffalo. Her head spun, a tension headache rising up on the back of her neck and making her feel hot. She fanned herself off and stared at Tom with her sickly sweet, perfect wife, mother, employee smile planted on her face.

“I just forgot the presentation.”

“I could have emailed that to you.”

“Yeah, but….Listen—I’m going to get it and drive back to Buffalo. I’ll see you on the—” She realized she had no idea when she was supposed to come back home.

“Tenth.”

“Yes of course.”

Carmen headed toward the door.

“Carmen, aren’t you forgetting the presentation…again?” Tom asked, looking up from the paper.

“Oh yeah.”

Carmen took the steps two at a time like she used to do as a kid. She walked into their perfect Master bedroom, with the perfect shade of gray on the wall, and the perfect comforter—not too warm for the summer months. She rummaged around in the drawers, pretending for Tom’s sake, to look for the presentation. She found a jump drive in the back of her underwear drawer. What the hell is this?

She drove back to the slums of East Marlboro. She took the steps two-at-a-time to apartment 208. Tattoo Man opened the door.

“Back already?”

“You have a computer?”

“Laptop. It’s a Chromebook. We bought it together, Carmen.”

“Yeah, whatever. Where is it?”

He pointed her to the table. She squeezed her temples trying to recall the last few days of her life. Carmen plugged the jump drive into the Chromebook’s USB port and a file labeled The Dark Half popped up.

She clicked it and several newspaper articles came up with the dates: January 4, 2017, February 26, 2017, April 10, 2017, April 14, 2017, July 8, 2017, September 26, 2017, October 3, 2017. She scanned the headlines on the articles. Grand Theft Auto. Bank Robbery. Attempted Murder.

One title in particular caught her eye: Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde Continue to Elude Cops.

She felt breath on her neck. She turned her head and looked into Tattoo Man’s eyes.

“You made a file,” Tattoo Man said, nodding affirmation.

“Are you Clyde?”

“Yeah. And you’re Bonnie.”


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Rules Are Made to Be Broken

I have a thirteen year old. I like to award him his privacy, and I rarely discuss my children on this blog. He missed an assignment in his Honors English class on haikus. I told my husband, and he said in honor of this day, we should only speak in haikus.

I sent him a haiku (three lines), and he replied back in haiku, of course:

The proper format
Haiku five seven five
Sorry about head

I have a headache today. But I must keep working through it.

Isn’t his haiku 5/6/5? The (1) proper (2) format (2) = 5. Haiku (2) five (1) seven (2) five (1) = 6. Sorry (2) about (2) head (1) = 5. I digress…

I find it funny Hubby is schooling me on correct haiku format. He gets irritated when I correct his grammar. How many times have I had to tell him which of these little words to use: you’re, your, their, there, and they’re?  I had to look up haikus, because, God forbid he be right.And he was right. Except that in the 17th Century, many poets broke away from the 5/7/5 form and just made a haiku a three lined poem. That’s because rules are made to be broken. But my husband likes it old school apparently. Not me. My motto has always been rules were made to be broken, or at least bent. I’m sure this made me a difficult teenager.

In honor of Hubby, I’ve written a couple of haikus that follow the 5/7/5 rule and a few that don’t. Enjoy. And hopefully Son Number One will complete his work, and I won’t have to give him a consequence.

Rustling wind moves leaves. (5)
On this clear first day of Spring, (7)
cold air tells the lie. (5)

Baby feet have grown (5)
too fast. Forgotten toys put (7)
away for electronics. (7)

Sweet sorrow of love (5)
that cannot be. Replaced by (7)
longing for the past. (5)

Sweat pours down my face. (5)
Running off the blueberry donut. (8)
The price of sugar. (5)

Apparently I’m not great at these. Maybe some of you masters of haiku can put a few in the comments. I plan to write a flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog at some point this week. I’ve been working on a novel (different from my almost completed piece), but mostly I’ve been spending time with family lately.

Don’t forget to leave
a comment below, so I
know you are reading.

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The Rambler

Welcome back. Oh wait, I mean, you’ve been here so I am really just welcoming myself back. Life happened, and I realized this AM I had not blogged in a month. The strange thing is, I’ve been writing–well, at least a little bit. I have been working on my novel again. Mainly, I need to finish and then edit. This is what I’m very bad at doing. Editing seems like the dregs to me, and where is the time? It takes me a good three hours to be invested in editing my work, and there are no three-hour time slots open any where in my life.

But life is good, mostly. Good but stressful. I’ve made some great friends lately, and I’ve put myself out there. This is good, because I was having a near constant desire to sit in the blue easy chair, drink a Truly or two or three, and watch Netflix. I find leaving the house is the hardest before you actually do it. Like, it takes a lot of motivation to get off my butt and actually go out and be with people, but once I do it I love it.

I wanted to write about the Parkland shooting, because it’s never too soon to talk about common sense gun control. Last week, I blogged about it in my head. But then I thought, this is never going to change anything. My goal is to become involved in Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. This, I know, is the right thing to do. I have three kids, and I don’t want their right to life to be trumped by someone else’s right to own an AR-15. I know not everyone agrees with me, but I think the high school students speaking up for themselves, staging walk-outs and protests, is truly amazing. Folks, this is how democracy works.

And mental health? Why can’t it be both? I want our country to take mental health issues more seriously. It’s hard to get adequate care in this country. But so many people need it. I can’t tell you how much I’ve paid out of pocket to see therapists in my lifetime. And you know what–it helped me! And there’s nothing shameful about that. Get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health. That would be a nice place to start. Our boys (because those are usually the perpetrators of these crimes) need to learn self-control and self-regulation. I don’t think every violent crime is done by someone with mental health problems. I think ANGER is a huge issue in our society. Anger leads to domestic violence situations, mass shootings, as well as homicides. I think our boys have a lot of anger because they’ve been taught their whole lives to swallow their feelings. Well, that’s not doing anyone any good. Anger management needed, yes! Therapy or someone to talk to needed, yes. Let’s change society for the better. What’s wrong with doing that?

I promise, I’ll blog more. I have finished Waking Up White and need to blog about some of the ideas from reading and pondering over that book. I also am planning on writing a flash fiction piece and getting it posted. Here’s to more words more often.

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What is Writing Without Readers?

I’ve been having a mini-crisis regarding my writing. And yes, this post is mostly to whine about the fact that I don’t have an audience. And I know some of that is my fault–probably most of it–I’m good at taking blame.

Sometimes I go back and look at old blog posts and flash fiction stories that seemed to get a lot of response and I wonder what appealed to the reader in this story? How can I recreate it? What do I do to get a bigger audience? Oh how wonderful it would be if the life of the writer was just to write.

When I was a kid I wrote because I loved it. Then I had a crisis of sorts, when I realized writing couldn’t pave my way to material success. I stopped writing altogether for a long time. But I knew something was missing. When I started writing again, I felt truly alive. But when I write and no one reads it’s like some sick desperation surges up inside of me. Like when you post something on Facebook hoping for 100 likes and only get 2. And it makes me wonder, do I write for attention? Is writing a form of self vindication for me? Am I really that self-absorbed that I expect people to be interested in the inner thoughts of my brain that come out in the form of stories? Or am I writing to share wisdom? Am I writing to share a story?

I’m reminded of John Kennedy Toole who killed himself when his novel A Confederacy of Dunces kept being rejected. Posthumously his book became published, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. How did he feel when he was constantly rejected? He knew he had a great piece of literature, but without an audience he felt worthless. Why do people only care about what authors write after they’ve died?

This industry is the suck. It’s all for the people living in New York who know someone or another or who can get in with an agent somehow. Or who hit the jackpot somehow getting pulled out of the heap. But then even when they hit the jackpot, they have to continue to write, sometimes in the same genre even if they don’t want to. But at least they had this one moment of wonder where someone saw something in their writing and made it happen for them. We can’t all be Stephen King or James Patterson.

There are so many parts of writing I find exhausting. Mostly they have nothing to do with the actual writing part. Marketing tops the list. And we all know marketing is a huge part of writing these days. Without it you’d be lucky to sell a book (if you ever finish one again). I think writers work harder than so many people for such little payout. I mean, look at the freelancing gigs available–$15 for an article? Who can make a working wage off of that? When did we decide writing was a side job and novels could be read for free or $1.99 on Kindle. You can check mine out here by the way. I get about $0.30 off each sale. And I know, I should have had it professionally edited. Sorry for the typos. If I want to get serious about this writing thing, I should probably pull that off Amazon and cut my losses. But I’m not that kind of person. Plus, there’s a lot worse crap out on Amazon that sells anyway. More effort does equal a better chance of success. I should have realized that back in 2015, but I’ve had three years and I’m still learning from my mistakes.

So here we go again. In order to be a successful writer you have to have wealth or money. The ability to have your novel professionally edited, then you have to jackpot land an agent, and hopefully that agent is with the Big Five (do 5 even actually exist anymore) and not a hybrid company that will close down and your book will disappear from existence. And then, even if you do get picked up by the Big Five you still have to market the hell out of your piece by driving your friends and family nuts on social media. Posting blog posts that you try to make look original and creative when really you’re just pulling at straws to get a few words down so you’ve met your quota for the month. And then you pray like heck your book sells so you can go through the creation and the pain all over again. This is, of course, after your book has been rejected approximately 1,753,289 times.

Or you go the self-pub route and make $0.30 off each book. There is a breakeven point. It’s somewhere close to Pluto.

Maybe it would be different if I didn’t have a day job or if I felt like people really wanted to read what I write. Or if I felt like anyone actually wanted to read at all anyway. I mean, I have a few little people in my household and they’re only enamored with technology. My kids only read for school. When did people cease to find reading fun, relaxing, entertaining?

And even fewer people are interested in literary fiction these days and then dark literary fiction to top it off. I mean, I’d rather write about vampires and step-brother lust too, but that’s just not what comes out of me when I squeeze my creative juices. For some reason I have no control over what I actually write. It’s like it travels through my brain and onto the paper, and sometimes I say, “Shit, that’s actually good,” and sometimes I say, “Crap. this is just crap.” And it’s usually the crap that people want to read–Lord knows why.

Who the hell knows? I’d like to have more readers, but I guess I’ll just keep writing for my audience of one. Because despite all the heartache involved with writing, I love it. And I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t a writer.

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Seven Minutes in Heaven

So today, I decided to write something a little lighthearted. There has been a lot of bad news lately, and it takes a toll on me sometimes. I thought this morning, I’d get on here and blog about something serious. But this story of innocence came to mind, and I liked where it went. Sometimes we all need a break from the seriousness of life. Enjoy.  

The bottle spun on the wooden table. My stomach lurched as it came to a stop on Bennett. I’d never kissed a boy before, and here in this dark basement room, the other kids jeered and cheered.

“KISS HER!” they shouted.

“Holly and Bennett sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G–” Bracey Stacy said.

“Shut-up Stacy,” Bennett said.

He leaned over the table and placed his lips on mine. I hands felt sweaty and my heartbeat thundered in my ears.

“Tongue, do it,” Bracey Stacy said.

His lips felt warm, and I opened my mouth just a smidge. His tongue darted in, and it felt wet and slimy like one of those goldfish you win at the fair. I held my eyes shut as his tongue explored my mouth.  I ventured into his mouth with my tongue, feeling his molars, and tasting his breath. It felt like we kissed forever. And then I moaned, and the whole room burst out in laughter. My eyes flew open, and I could see every pore and pimple on Bennett’s face.

“Damn, get a room guys,” Mitch said as Bennett pulled away.

I blinked, and put my hands on my lap, squeezing them together until my pale skin turned bright pink as I sat back in my seat.

Bennett’s blue eyes stared at me from across the table, and he gave me a half-grin.

“Okay, next,” Bracey Stacy said.

Silence descended as the bottle spun again. Bracey Stacy looked hopeful, but the bottle never landed on her. It landed on Bennett and me three more times.

“We should do Seven Minutes in Heaven,” Bennett said after the last spin.

Ridiculously, images of angels and gospel music filled my naïve thirteen-year-old mind. I could almost see the pulpit and Father Roy up there preaching to the ladies in their Sunday best.

“Okay,” I said.

He stood up and walked over to me. I stared up at him in wild adolescent wonder. This good-looking, blonde, 5’7”, fourteen-year-old liked little old me. He placed his hand in mine. Skin-on-skin, I could feel the calluses decorating the palms of his hand. My hands felt sweaty and I worried he would pull away. But he held on tight, and he led me to the closet. I looked back at the kids gathered around the table staring at us with looks of astonishment as we headed into uncharted territory.

Mitch and the other boys stood up and set the timer on the clock radio.

“Turn on the T.V.,” Bennett said.

“Why? You don’t want us to hear you go smoochy-smoochy?”  Mitch asked with a laugh.

Five minutes ago I hadn’t even kissed a boy.

The closet smelled of mothballs and sweaty old tennis shoes. I pushed toward the back as Bennett pulled the door close. Total darkness descended upon us.

“What are we doing in here?” I whispered.

“Where are you?”

“In the coats—like Narnia.”

“We only have seven minutes.”

I felt his hand on my waist, and he pulled me close to him. I could feel his breath on my cheeks and see the white of his eyes. I wasn’t sure I’d ever been this close to anyone before. I could see the self-assured smirk on his face. And then his mouth was on mine, salty but sweet. Our tongues explored each other’s mouths. Bennett’s hand gripped my shirt, and his fingernails dug a little into my tender skin. He pulled away for a second.

“Can I touch you here?” he asked. But I couldn’t see what he referred to and his hands were on my chest before I knew it.

“Yes,” I said—an affirmation or an afterthought–I wasn’t sure which.

“Have you done this before?” I asked.

The dark seemed to be crowding in on us. Hadn’t it been seven minutes? It felt more like twenty.

“Never. I like you, Holls,” he said.

His hand felt my cheek. My heart thumped in my chest. I could push my way around him and leave the closet. But still, I liked the attention. I liked him. And I had agreed to go in there with him. I felt electricity between us and a stirring inside I’d never felt before.

“Is this what it feels like?” I asked.

“What?” His face was so close to mine, I could see his teeth and they seemed to glow white in the dark small space.

“Heaven?”

“I hope so,” Bennett said. “Now where were we?”

************


So when was your first kiss? How old were you?

I’ll share–I was thirteen and at Destin with some friends. I kissed a guy in his car, so he was much older. I don’t even remember his name. My first important kiss was with my high school boyfriend, when I was 16. And probably the most memorable one.

 

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Thoughts on Writing

It’s been two weeks since I last posted a blog post. I started and stopped a short story this week. I’ve worked on my novel a little bit. Progress is slow, but steady.

Currently, I’m trying to figure out whether to resurrect and work on Little Birdhouses. I believe the story has potential. The ending sucks. Just saying. It needs work. And I started the daunting task of editing and stopped. I think I’ve edited the thing about 17 times, and something about the structure needs to change at this point. That’s not hard to do, it just takes time. And time is in short supply since school is back in, and activities, and church, and Christmas is coming—just to name a few time-sucks. Plus, structure changes usually mean a visual layout of the work (aka printing it and moving around the chapters on the floor).

But my mind has been back on writing and that is a plus. I stepped away, and when I did I didn’t miss it. I truly believe in order to be a good writer one has to live their life. Creativity ebbs and flows. Sometimes we need to experience and sometimes we need to write. Sometimes we do both. I wish I could write every day, but when I do I start to have a sense of burnout. I also tend to push others away and live in my imaginary world. I’m pretty sure that’s not a good place to be when you have a husband and three children depending on you!

Being married to a writer must be tough. I know I’m not the easiest person to live with. I am introspective. I think a lot. But, unlike a lot of other writers, I’m outgoing. I do withdrawal into my own cave and own little world sometimes. I like to have my alone time, and I’m perfectly content being by myself in most cases. When I’m not, I want meaningful conversations not just small talk. My husband is great about letting me be creative, or letting me be by myself when I need to. In that respect, we’re a perfect match.

I have been thinking a lot about my characters in relation to myself lately. All writers put a little (or a lot) of themselves in their books. I read Full Dark No Stars by Stephen King a few years back, and one of my biggest take away from that book was that King must be scared to death of rats. Recently I watched 1922, which I’d read, and seeing the rats on screen was quite disturbing.

Writers write out their fears, their dreams, and pieces of their lives. They bleed part of their soul onto paper and hope their readers will gain some kind of meaning from it, some kind of oneness. Because, after all, the point in writing is connection. Giving a sense of part of your world to others and hoping they find meaning in it, or even just entertainment.

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Another Time, Another Place?

For a long time I felt like I had been born in the wrong time period. When I was a kid, I had imaginary friends named Jonathan and Thomas. They were my brothers who time-traveled to me from the Civil War era. I knew where our house was: under a large mountain, a log cabin, where I lived with my brothers and my mom while my dad was away fighting. I kid you not.

I played with Jonathan and Thomas next to the blue hydrangea bush in my backyard on scorching hot summer days. I felt like they were real, maybe even ghosts, but probably they were just the result of my already overactive imagination. I loved anything Civil War when I was a kid. I had an obsession with Abraham Lincoln. I used to dream I was married to him, because after all I’d be a better spouse than Mary Todd. Then I told people, I thought I had been Abraham Lincoln in a previous life. I read anything about Lincoln I could get my hands on. My favorite poem, read on the lap of my dad, was O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether or not my writing would sell if I had been born in a different time period. Like, what if I had been a contemporary of Jonathan and Thomas instead of just their sister who lived in the rocking 1980’s future with big hair, jams, and all! Maybe I’d be a famous 1860’s writer, writing about the trials and tribulations of the Civil War. Because right now it’s damn hard to get published.

Here is a list of what it takes to get published in the year 2017:

  • Living in New York – I read once where an agent said New York City is the only place to live if you want to be a serious writer — No thank you.
  • Devoting every dollar you ever make to marketing your book and then some
  • Not having a working wage
  • Somehow acquiring an agent even though you have no writing contacts – it’s all in who you know, people, and I know noone
  • A finished and polished manuscript
  • Your first born child
  • Your tortured soul for all of eternity

No, but seriously, it’s hard to get published. I used to dream I was one of the Bronte sisters. Or Jane Austen. Some of my favorite authors are long dead. Katherine Mansfield—totally awesome. George Eliot—God, if only something like Middlemarch would sell these days. I’m in the wrong field. You know how some people say God is dead, well I think literary fiction is dead. Or at least I have no fucking clue how to market it to an agent and get it sold. Maybe I should start writing young adult vampire books. Or cat books.* There seems to be a great market for those.

Jane_Austen

Jane Austen

So I made a list of pros and cons for living and writing in the 1700s or 1800s.

Pros

  • Not much competition – a lot of people did not know how to read or write. Basic literacy could make you a success!
  • A lot of time – with no electronics there was a lot of spare time if you weren’t birthing babies.
  • There wasn’t technology to aid in procrastinating or distracting you.
  • Love has it all – romance sells, people! Who doesn’t want to hear about someone looking for the love of their life.
  • Epic novels with seemingly no plot, romance thrown in, a little bit about how the fields were doing, and what dresses people were wearing were all the rage.
  • Tragedy was an everyday part of life so people liked to read about it, and we know I love to write about tragedy and darkness!

I would have fit in, people, if it weren’t for the cons…

Cons

  • It’s hard to get published unless you pretend you’re a man – take George Eliot. I mean, I thought she was a man until one of my high school English teachers set me straight.
  • You’re probably going to die young of tuberculosis or some equally horrible disease.**
    • Katherine Mansfield died of tuberculosis on January 9, 1923
    • Jane Austen died of Addison’s disease on July 18, 1817
    • Charlotte and Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis on March 31, 1855 and December 19, 1848 respectivefully.
    • Virginia Woolf committed suicide — authors still do this in amazing abundance, because a large majority of them are tortured souls – do you know that?
    • George Eliot lived to the ripe age of 60 and succumbed to kidney disease.
  • There wasn’t technology to help you research.
  • Word-processing didn’t exist. Talk about hand cramps. And if you had dysgraphia, forget it! You’d never become a published writer.
  • Bad eyes – writing by candle light and reading all those books in the dark. Atrocious. I already have bad eyes, I’d probably be blind by now if I lived back then.
  • Men – they cramped women’s style by not wanting them to do anything but care for the kids that they were continually popping out. Plus they had an advantage by just being born with a penis. Heck, they still have that advantage today, but it’s gotten a little bit better. At least I don’t have to pretend to be a man to get published.

So maybe being born back in the good ole days wouldn’t be so great. I guess I’ll keep trucking along. As long as I have one reader then I qualify as a writer. Because to me, the most important thing is my audience.

Do you think you were born at the wrong time?

*I love young adult books, vampire books, and even books that feature cats as main characters. Cats are awesome, solitary, independent creatures. 

**All information was found on Google & Wikipedia. 

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Disclaimer

You know the disclaimer you see at the beginning of books:

This story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this novel are entirely fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, or things should be inferred.

It’s bullshit.

If you show up in my books, I’m sorry. But I’m pretty sure most writers make use of people, places, and things from their own life. When I write, my characters are filled with parts of me, parts of my husband, parts of other people I know. So one character might have some of my husband’s characteristics or several characters might be an amalgamation of him.

A lot of writers walk around with little notebooks to jot down funny little incidents they see taking place in their lives. They might write down the way the sunset on the lake makes them feel. Or they might write down how some lady sitting next to them at their son’s ballgame was using numerology to plan birthday parties—random things like that. Those scenes make it into books. We are, after all, part of the human experience. In order to make characters seem like actual human beings, writers sprinkle them with characteristics of people we may know or the stranger who did something shocking, funny, or weird.

When I wrote my first book, No Turning Back, which is still on Amazon I wrote about my past. I wrote about a relationship that hurt me and continues to plague me today. People who are/were close to me who read the book probably knew that. My sisters figured it out anyway. They say an author’s first book is always about herself. I’d say that most authors’ books are probably about themselves, the things they’ve seen or felt, or the people we know. Authors write for various reasons.

Here are the reasons I write:

  1. To Try to Answer Existential Questions
  2. To Deal with a Dilemma I’m currently facing
  3. To Deal with a Trauma or Pain from the Past
  4. To Deal with Depression – put the pain on the characters or have them solve the problems.
  5. To Try to Describe my Human Experience
  6. To Connect with Other People in a Meaningful, Deliberate Way

The more I get to know other writers, the more I think this is what writers do. They use their characters to deal with their life. It’s no wonder that writers often get described as tortured souls. The very thing that drives them can be torturous. The very thing that nurtures their creativity often threatens to suffocate them or pull them down into the darkness, the depression, the alcoholism—whatever the vice.

I find in myself, and you can see it in my pattern of writing, that I am driven by my restlessness. I write better and more often when I’m searching for an answer, when I feel unfulfilled, when I feel like the whole world might come crashing down at any moment. But at the same time, that work starts to provide meaning. It starts to provide a light. It starts to create hopefulness inside of me. It shows me my purpose, and aren’t we all striving for purpose in our lives? Ironically, the very thing that makes me feel better, creativity, often disappears once it has done its job. The plight of a writer.

Perhaps the hardest part of being a writer is feeling misunderstood. I’ve lived my whole life thinking too much, and writing eases that to a certain extent. All writers want their work to resonate with people. When the writing comes from a place of emotion, the characters often reflect that. And sometimes those characters come from real life, no matter what the disclaimer at the beginning of the book says.

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