A little Halloween Reading

With Halloween sneaking up on us in just a few days, my household has been entrenched in anything resembling spooky. My yard has been transformed into a haunted graveyard, with skeletons and spiders hanging from tree branches. Thankfully, this year the dog caught on quickly that these bones were not his chew toys. Unthankfully, I hate spiders and we have one huge brown one that just freaks me out anytime it catches my peripheral. Ghosts and jack o’lanterns are set about my living room, wreaking havoc on my cats. We made our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, where we brought home pumpkins that outweigh my youngest – oh how I am dreading the de-gutting of those. Costumes are ready and waiting to be worn and soiled.

Yes, we are ready for Halloween at the Prince residence.

Another part of our ritual is during the entire month of October, we collect books and stories from the library that revolve around goblins, ghosts, witches, and anything else that jumps in the night. Even the school has gotten on board with tying the fun of dressing up with reading. We have story book character day in our district where each child has can dress up, but must bring a book about that character. (I will be honest, I find this to be a good concept of an idea, but extremely annoyed at how they go about it.)

During this month, I tend to read more in the horror genre than I do at any other time of year. There are so many great books tagged as horror, that it was hard to really narrow one down. Last year I read a few horror books, but the classic Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein was the one that stuck out for me the most. So this year I decided to read Bram Stoker’s, Dracula.

And I chose well.

Books written around this time period generally are written in journal/diary format. This seems to be how the writers were able to jump point of views easily and tell a story in a way that felt natural to them. It is not my favorite form of literature, but it works well for this book. It’s like piecing a puzzle together, and I enjoy that aspect.

The story itself is creepy in a very simplistic way almost. It doesn’t slap you in the face with the horror of what is happening, which so many books do. Instead it’s a slow and subtle build up that gives you chills when you picture what is unfolding in front of you. Take the character Lucy for example. At first I thought Lucy was just a side character with very little importance, but as the story grows, so does her part in it, until she is no longer of any importance.

Stories now days tend to be more graphically descriptive than they used to be. This tends to be a good and a bad thing, in my opinion. But there are some great descriptors that are so simple but paint a vivid picture right in front of you. There is this scene where Dracula scales the side of the castle like a lizard, and you can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be able to do that!

So do your reading/writing habits change during the Holidays? What are you reading right now? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear what you have to say.

Till next time,

~AJP

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

As I’ve been working on my October NaNoPrep I’ve discovered I may be facing a tough break up. If I am going to be successful with a NaNoWriMo commitment, I’m going to have to stop spending so much time with my iPhone.

I admit to having a borderline unhealthy relationship with my phone. I wake up and check all my Twitter and Facebook notifications. I read any new text messages. I check my email. I read some favorite blogs.

Throughout the day when I have a free moment, I’m looking at my phone. When I wait in line at the grocery store, I check my phone. When I am at the doctor’s office, I check my phone. When I’m at football practice, I check my phone. When I get the kids to bed, I check my phone. When I’m cooking dinner and the kids are playing Xbox, I check my phone. My phone is a constant go to for info and entertainment to fill the free moments.

The problem with having that constant go to for any type of distraction is that those free moments are all suddenly filled. By filling my open moments away from work and family obligations with a phone in front of my face, I remove the opportunity to just be still and think.

If I can take a break from my iPhone addiction, at least for the month of November, I can use the time I might otherwise be drifting through Facebook with no real purpose to get in my word count for the day, or at least make a start on it. I can work out a difficult plot point while sitting in the doctor’s office instead of shopping around for stuff for the house on a favorite website.  I can think through how the next scene I’m writing may develop while I wait in the grocery line instead of poring through the latest pictures of a favorite actor on Twitter.

By removing, or severely limiting, the smart phone distractions, I can open myself up for a healthier relationship with my own creativity. After November’s writing challenge comes to an end, I may drift back into that relationship over time, but perhaps I’ll see how well I can do on my own.

For all the good the break may bring, I have to admit that breaking up will be hard to do. 🙂

What about you? Do you have a smart phone addiction? Do Twitter and Facebook notifications call for your attention? Are you perpetually connected to your phone? Do you think you, or someone you know, could do well with a break up? I’d be happy to hear about it the comments.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!

~CJS

The 5W’s and a Pile of Poo

[Reblogged from Writer B Is Me] (Read this post recently from Beth Teliho, author of Order of Seven, and loved what she had to say, especially since NaNoWriMo is about to begin. Some language does ensue but we’re all adults here. Right?)

I thought this might be a timely post with Nanowrimo on the horizon, but also because I know quite a few talented writers who aspire to publish (you know who you are!) but they haven’t started yet because it’s scary as hell. Fear of not being perfect freezes them. They choke at their keyboards, unable to let the ideas sprinkle through their fingertips.

I know exactly what the voices in their heads are saying: What if I fail?

I know because I thought those same things. So I ask you, what is your definition of failure? And regardless of your definition, wouldn’t you automatically fail if you never tried?

fly

The most freeing thing I’ve ever heard in regards to writing is give yourself permission to suck.

You’re not going to have a first draft that’s gold and ready for print, whether you cranked it out for Nano or worked three years to get it done. It doesn’t work like that. All professional writers go through dozens of drafts with the skilled guidance of their editor(s) before they’re ready to publish.

When you first start to write out your ideas, it’ll be shit at best. And that’s perfect. That’s all it needs to be. That shit will be the compost for your beautiful garden.

You need it. You need all the shit.

My current work in progress is a steaming pile of ….you guessed it. To me, this is a sign of success. This is how I know I’m creating something. I know flowers are on the way because I’m preparing the soil.

When I first realized I was going to do this thing – this crazy writer thing, my immediate emotion was overwhelm. But I don’t know how to find an editor. I don’t know how to publish a book. WHAT’S A QUERY LETTER? I have to build a platform? WTF?! I don’t know the right title/cover/genre. Should I self-publish or go traditional? *breathes into paper bag* 

So I took baby steps. I figured I’d learn all the aspects when I NEEDED to know them, not before. First, I needed a full manuscript, which meant I needed to figure out the ending. Once I did that, I moved on to beta readers, and rewrites based on their feedback. Then the next step, and so on, and so on.

Bottom line: I stopped worrying about the tasks that weren’t due today.

One. Thing. At. A. Time.

Let’s talk about editing. The most difficult aspect of creating for me is writing without micromanaging. Turning my inner editor off is TOUGH. It takes practice (precisely why nanowrimo is so useful). But if I don’t do it, I spend too much time toiling over sentences that may not even make the final cut. Waste – of – time. You have to do a word pile – just get all your thoughts and ideas on the page. Don’t obsess over grammar, or perfect chapter titles, or loose plot lines, or fully developed characters, or what if my dad/aunt/mom/grandma reads this?!

Block the negative thoughts out and replace them with: I am going to write exactly what’s in my head, and it’s going to be utter crap that no one will ever lay eyes on.

Sounds crazy, right? Yep – just crazy and freeing enough to work, trust me. Get your story on paper. That’s all. Get a beginning, middle, and end. Write FREE. Be unapologetically Brazen. Cocky, even.

Be the stealth-badass-ninja-writer you were born to be.

leap 2

Another toxic-time-suck-sewer-ass-sludge-writer-slayer  unproductive behavior is comparison. But Stephen King writes 2,500 words a day, and cranks out at least a book a year. I heard Joe Schmo wrote a best seller in 6 months during his train commute to/from work. What about so-n-so, she wrote for years and never made a dime. BLAH BLAH BLAH

So What? Their writing journey is not yours. Their stories are not yours. YOU will have your own unique journey. YOU will write something no one else can, in a way only you can write it, and it will take as long as it takes. It will be a success for no other reason than because You Fucking Did It. You can’t write your way into your own journey if you’re obsessing on the journey of others.

RECAP of the 5 W’s:
1. Write that shitty first draft
2. Worry only about what’s due today
3. Write FREE of inner editors
4. Write with fearless-ninja-take-no-prisoners badassery
5. Weave your own writing story

#amwriting

I sincerely hope you are too. Can’t wait to see your beautiful garden.

((To read my award-winning badassery, click this> Order of Seven.))

order of seven

Jenny, The Movie

When you’re writing fiction do you ever imagine who would play your characters in the movie version? What if I got a big movie deal? Oh Hell…I know it’s not gonna happen, but what if? What if Steven Spielberg wants to make a big epic film version of my novel, ‘Jenny?’

The casting department takes care of that, of course. But maybe they’ll ask for my input. As I’m thinking about it, right now, I’m suddenly realizing that I’m not up on my present day actors and actresses. I would have picked Brad Pitt as the hero. Perfect. But wait. The character is in his twenties. What’s Pitt now? Fifty!? Geez, I’m getting old.

And Jenny. I want Jennifer Connelly. When I saw her for the first time in the movie, ‘The Rocketeer,’ I thought, “Daaaaammmnn!” A dark haired beauty. But that was in 1991. I just checked and Jennifer Connelly will be forty- five in December. In my novel, Jenny is in her mid-twenties. Won’t work.

Okay, the casting people will have to work it out. I just hope that they don’t pick Lindsay Lohan to play Jenny. We can’t have the star of the film in a drug or alcohol induced stupor most of the time. We need to wrap this picture up, people!

Actually, imagining real people in the role of your characters isn’t so crazy. It helps you visualize the scenes and maybe even hear their voices. When I read I do it. In my head, I often see what’s going on in a book as I would see it in a film. So doing it when you write isn’t so much of a stretch.

It would be interesting to have a large group of people of various age groups read a novel and then ask all of them who they imagined as the characters. One would say Elizabeth Taylor while another will tell you Jennifer Lawrence. Hmmm…Jennifer Lawrence. Another Jennifer. Jenny, maybe?

Yeah, I’ll have to tell Spielberg that I want Jennifer Lawrence. Now we need somebody for my hero, George Price. Any suggestions? Let me know, I need to be ready when Spielberg calls.

 

You’re Not Alone

November is quickly approaching and for some brave souls that means NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days). Perhaps I will include myself in that group, if I can muster up a bit more bravery.

For many, October has therefore been all about NaNo Prep work. For those out there who are giving this a go and perhaps having a little trouble, I’ll tell you this much: you are not alone.

You are not alone if you have spent more time coming up with reasons why you can’t do NaNoWriMo than reasons why you can.

I fight off the instinct to list the many obstacles to actually getting 50,000 words written in the month of November. It is easy to see the difficulty of committing to such a significant word count goal. Sticking to a commitment to write with a specific goal in mind truly will be worth the difficulty however so I have to move past the excuses and keep looking at the reasons.

You are not alone if you’ve spent more time reading articles on the best way to prep for NaNoWriMo than actually prepping for NaNo.

Fortunately there are some excellent resources available, both through the NaNoWriMo site and through all sorts of other sites as well. However it is very easy to spend much more time reading about prepping than in actual prep work. I’ve begun limiting the exploration of ideas and just applying what I’ve already found.

You’re not alone if you struggle against the plotting nature of NaNo Prep since you tend to be a full time “pantser”.

I have never done an outline prior to writing, so this is a big step for me. I’ve played with completing character sketches that are much more detailed than I’ve tried in the past. I’ve also worked on a plot summary more detailed than previously done on work I let come freely (but a bit more haphazardly).

You’re not alone if you are not nearly as ready as you should be.

I am quite sure I could be doing more to get ready and if I do this again next year (heck if I make it through this year! Haha), I will definitely learn other things I coulda, shoulda, woulda done differently. Live and learn is, I suppose, the only way to handle it at this point.

How is your writing or writing prep (or thinking about writing or prepping for writing) going? Do you feel alone in your struggles sometimes? Does it help to know we all have our struggles? Feel free to share with me about NaNoPrep struggles/victories or any of your current challenges. I would guess whatever it is you may be struggling with (or succeeding at), you are not alone. 🙂

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

~CJS

 

Drawing Your Reader Into Your Story

I apologize for my extreme tardiness. I had an overly busy weekend that seems to have extended itself into today. So, this is going to be short.

Yesterday, in my Critique Group, we reviewed a short work that was an assignment the author (AJ) was given. She was given a choice of a picture, song, or poem, and told to write what she saw. It was a “show, don’t tell” assignment. AJ chose a picture which happened to be Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, and the story she wrote from that had me captivated and intrigued.

The main thought that kept circling in my head was how excellent an exercise this was for writers. Especially for beginners. One of the biggest problems I’ve had in my writing is the tendency to write exactly what I see in my head. Most of the time this is fine. However, I forget that I’m seeing a scene in my head that I’m trying to describe to an audience and I want to bring that audience into the scene with me. That means showing them by using descriptors and metaphors that put them there, not giving them stage directions, that will bore them and make them not want to know more. It’s not enough to know it’s raining; they need to feel the rain as well.

The exercise AJ had to do was such a great way to practice this technique. It forced her to bring her reader into the picture, which she did very well. Another way of accomplishing this would be to write for 30 minutes about where you are right this very moment. Are you sitting down at a desk like I am? Are you in a park? Describe in detail what is going on around you, such as the noises, the scents, etc. Use your five senses and bring me to where you are. Show me, don’t tell me.

This works for poetry as well. Last week for the poetry challenge I am doing I was supposed to write a poem about risk taking. Instead, I wrote about a dream I had the night before which continued to haunt me throughout the day. So, I wrote a poem about that instead. You tell me, did I bring you into my dream or not?

You Were Not There

By Jesi Scott

 

Last night, I had a dream about you,

But you were not there.

I know it was you I dreamed about because

I felt you all around…

But you were not there.

I walked the rooms you had walked in,

Placing my steps in the same places you did.

I sat in the chairs you sat in

Imagining you reading into the depths of the night.

I laid my body on the couch in just the same spot,

In just the same way, that you did

Only…

The cushions had forgotten your shape

And so, I could not feel your body next to mine.

The chairs were hard and cold,

And did not retain the memory of you in them.

The floors had erased your footprints.

You were not there.

Yet…

When I looked I noticed the relics of your presence:

Old, worn shoes left by the front door

Waiting for you to put them on again,

The book you turned upside down on the last page you had read

Waiting for the caress of your hand on its pages,

The cup you left by the sink, unrinsed,

Waiting for the softness of your lips pressed against its rim-

All of us waiting for your return.

Yet I could not wait forever so I turned away

and opened my eyes eager to see your face…

But you weren’t there.

 

And I am left,

Bereft.

 

Personally, I think it could use some editing. I could have described the couch more or maybe I could have mentioned the table that the book was lying on. What about adding a clock ticking somewhere? Or did I manage to pull you into the poem by not showing you everything? Showing can mean a little or a lot, and part of our job as a writer is to know when just enough is good enough. Too much can take away from the overall scene by being too descriptive, and too little can leave a reader trying to figure out what’s going on.

Try it for yourself. Find a picture that captures your interest and write to show, not tell, and bring your audience into it.

Have a great week!

Jesi

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up!

pilot

“Growing up is so overrated. Just be an author.” –British writer Neil Gaiman.

Yeah. When I read that I realized that’s one of the main reasons I enjoy writing. It’s like playing make believe when you were a kid. My friends and I used to run around with our plastic helmets and guns and be World War Two soldiers. Or shoot each other down with our toy planes while screaming loud airplane engine sounds and spitting as we made machine gun noises.

I remember that after we all went to see the movie, ‘The Lost World,’ we were soon hunting dinosaurs.

I don’t have any toy guns, anymore. Or toy airplanes. And I guess I’d look just a little ridiculous running around the house with a plastic helmet sitting on my head. Although, it probably wouldn’t surprise my wife. But I don’t have to run around the house doing it. I have a laptop and Microsoft Word. Those are my toys!

When I sit down and write I can be anything and anybody I want to be. I can put myself anywhere in the world and stick myself into any situation that I can think of. And I have. England in the late 1800’s when Jack the Ripper was terrorizing London. I’ve been a Sioux warrior at Custer’s Last Stand. I’ve been in dogfights over the trenches of World War One France. I’ve been an American soldier in North Africa in 1943 and I’ve been a 1920’s barnstorming aviator.

I can make-believe all I want and not look ridiculous. I can be a hero or a villain. Hell, I can even see what it feels like being a woman. Don’t worry. I’m not changing my name to Josephine or Caitlyn any time soon. But when I write, I can do it and not have to painfully remove any body parts.

I can also move my characters around as though they were toy people. Admittedly, they don’t like it sometimes and will argue with me. Sometimes they win.

And just like when I used to play with my toy soldiers, I get to decide who lives and who dies. Again, arguments. I’ve lost these, too, on occasion. At least my toys didn’t talk back to me.

But still, it’s fun. We used to create our own little worlds with plastic. Now I do it with words. So, yeah. He’s right. If you don’t want to grow up and you want to keep playing make-believe, then write!

Some old habits are hard to break, though. When I write those World War One dogfight scenes, I often find myself needing to wipe the spit from the machine gun sounds off of my laptop screen.

 

Dreams with Deadlines

“Goals are dreams with Deadlines” – Diana Scharf Hunt

Do you ever wonder what life would be without dreams or goals? Would we just float along aimlessly, with no real gumption to move forward in life? It sounds boring.

Goals can be mundane, for example, like planning to make it to a destination on time for once. Or they can be a major plotting point in your life, like becoming a successful author.

One of my major writing assignments, due today actually, for one of my classes was to write an essay on my Life Goals. This included a three year, five year, and a ten year goal that I had to set out for myself. These things could not be something like getting married (though, check), or having children (again, check), but more like goals that I could accomplish on my own by pushing myself to reach them and not relying on another individual to succeed.

This sounds easy enough, but it wasn’t. Writing is a big part of my future, and I share my goals for writing every time that I make it to a writer’s meeting. It was difficult for me to come up with three attainable but meaningful goals and then write a paper explaining how I plan on reaching these said goals.

Writing this paper was horrible, not because I couldn’t do it, but because it had me hanging my head in shame. I am so swamped with trying to keep my head afloat that I am not getting the one thing done needed to reach my ultimate goal. Write! I mean, I am writing, but I am not getting to really write the fun stuff right now. Oh, I write. Essay’s upon essay’s! (If I never have to analyze another topic again, I wont be saddened.)

I need to write for fun for any of this to be worth it. This being school, blogging, and meetings.

At the beginning of next month is the start of NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days), I know that Jesi and CJ are already signed up to do it and have been planning profusely. I keep telling myself that I don’t have the time, and I really don’t, but I need something fun to get me back in the swing of writing for pleasure and not just for a grade.

 I guess I just added another dream with a deadline to my list .

So what goals do you have set for yourself? How are you going to achieve them? Let us know down in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Till next time,
~AJP

A New Twilight?

This past week, Stephanie Meyer, the best-selling author of the teen vampire series, Twilight, upon which the blockbuster movies were based, made a big announcement.

With the 10 year anniversary of the first Twilight books’ publication, Meyer has announced a new Twilight book, Life and Death – A Twilight Re-Imagining sold in conjunction with the 10th anniversary edition . Well, it’s not really *new*, it’s a new version of the first book.

This release is not like her unreleased and incomplete version that was leaked and then given for free on her site at one point, Midnight Sun, which was told from Edward’s POV. The new re-telling is the same story with – wait for it- gender swapped characters! (Cue eye roll).

In this new book, Meyer now has the teenage vampire as a female character and the love struck human as a male. Instead of Bella, we have a Beau. Instead of Edward, we have Edythe. Other characters are also gender swapped, like Carlyle, but the story is the same.

Meyer has said that this “new book” is not really a new book and she views it as more like “bonus material”, however new book or not, it will get a lot of sales I would imagine, given the series success.

Here I will admit I enjoyed the Twilight books. I know, the writing wasn’t good. I know she totally ignored the vampire tropes and gave the world the sparkling vegatarian vampire. (Cringe) I know the female lead isn’t the strong character I prefer to read about and see portrayed in film. I know. But I enjoyed them. Yes, part of this had to do with liking the British actor who portrayed Edward in the movies. (I love the Brits okay?) It absolutely had to do with the fun of the first movie and the great soundtrack. For all of the books’ (and movies’) faults, I enjoyed them. Chalk it up to guilty pleasures if you must. I’m coming clean here. I liked Twilight. Judge me all you want. 😉

Having admitted to that, I can tell you I think it is absolutely ludicrous to re-tell the same story with changes. I’ve seen her defense that it’s a response to the harsh critisism she’s faced with her ‘damsel in distress’ main character. I think the flaws with Bella go beyond a simple gender swap to play with the weakness not being female. If she wants to respond to giving us a weak female character, she should write something entirely new with a kick-ass female lead.

If she wanted to capitalize on her well-loved existing series, she could take one of her other characters in the world she has already created and explore her story. Alice was a cool and capable character that she could make the heroine in a new series. It could still be in the same world people are already plugged into and could be either before Bella or after Bella.

She hasn’t done that with this new “book/bonus material”, so I have no interest in reading it. I hope for her that she gives her audience a better option in the future. Better yet, perhaps all the readers who fell in love with Twilight can continue enjoying all the great books that have been published since in the same young adult category that are really worth the read. Susanne Collins’ Hunger Games series is fantastic and has a kick-ass female lead. Marie Lu’s Legend series is a great read. Ally Condie’s Matched series is also great and her prose is beautiful. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices Series are both captivating. (The Infernal Devices series was my personal favorite between those two series, by far.) I also enjoyed the very popular Divergent series but didn’t like the writing as much as others. The YA audience has a wealth of strong options to choose from, so I would say, let’s just skip this “new” Twilight book and look nearby on the shelves for another instead. 😀

What do you think? (Amanda and AJ you don’t get to chide me for my Twilight guilty pleasure! 😉 ) Is a re-tooling of an existing story ever a good idea? Does her gender swap accomplish anything? Should successful series ever be re-visited? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. (No, Amanda, nothing about the Twi-Hatred you may have haha).

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!

~CJS

Rogue Muses or Overbearing Ones, We Got All Kinds Here

Last week Amanda talked about her rogue muse, Myrtle, and how Myrtle is driving her insane. (My word, not Amanda’s but I bet she’d agree with me.)

I don’t know if I’d rather have her muse or mine. Mine does not have a name because mine likes to change identities half the time. Mine is also being a little overbearing lately. And a workaholic. It isn’t enough that she’s got me participating in a poetry challenge, which I can handle just fine, but she also has me participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those who need to have it spelled out). And that means prepping for a long month of writing. Oh, and let’s top that off with agreeing to write a short story (5-10k words) for a murder mystery novella with a deadline of December 1st.

Yeah. She may have bitten off more than I can chew.

But that’s the fun/insane thing about being a writer. You never know what you’re going to find yourself getting into. Take for instance the poetry challenge I’m doing. Last year I joined thanks to CJ’s gentle nudging. (It really was-CJ is a subtle witch-she says “hey, you should do this” and then she begins writing some lovely words and I can’t resist.) I joined late but began writing two poems a day to catch up (because I could, not because I had to). By the time the challenge was coming to a close I was writing three poems a day. It was a lot of fun and I met new people and ended up with quite a bit of poetry in my repertoire.

Now take NaNo. I joined that last year as well, thanks to AJ. She’s not so subtle. She’s more like “you should do it because I’m doing it and you should do it.” Did I mention she was holding a sledgehammer at the time? (Okay, not really. She’s not that violent…or is she? 😉 ) During NaNo I began writing something I thought would be my first book. And I was doing well until midway through a bad head cold/infection cold-cocked me and took me out of the game for good. It was awful. You’d think that would put me off NaNo. But you’d be so wrong. I’m doing it again this year. What could possibly go wrong this time? (I know, I’ve just invoked the Writing Gods’ perverse sense of humor. What can I say? I like a good challenge.)

Amanda always asks us in group what our writing goals are. I may be one of the few that can look her in the eye without flinching, or fidgeting under her steely gaze, and give her an acceptable answer. I have more than enough goals and writing going on right now, and I think both Amanda, and my muse, should be happy with that.

And me, well, tune in next month to watch me become a sleep-deprived, raving lunatic.

Have a great week.

Jesi