NaNoWriMo, Here I Come

I was talking with my friend Rebecca a while ago, who was telling me about a challenge she had undertaken at her barre exercise class. “The goal is to complete 45 barre classes in 30 days,” she told me.

I was no mathematician, but those numbers gave me pause. “Wait. That means you’re gonna have to do at least two classes per day sometimes.”

“Yep,” she said. I could tell by her determined, terror-stricken grin that she had come to this revelation long before that moment. As someone who worked full-time (and oftentimes double-shifts), as well as–you know–having a social life in other endeavors, adding that type of commitment would definitely force her to make some adjustments to her daily routine.

“Yep,” she said again when I voiced this, but this time her expression softened into a serious resolution. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage it–but Ima manage it!”

To my glee and admiration (and her own initial shock), she did more than that. She completed her challenge well before the deadline, even giving up some of her favorite pastimes temporarily to make the challenge a legit priority.

I’ve repetively told her how proud I was of her. I hadn’t doubted that she could do it; she is someone who is quite resolute when she plans out activities. In fact, her dedication inspired me.

Despite writing more in general (primarily personal journals), I have not focused any time on actually writing a novel itself (there are other reasons for that, but anyway…). Perhaps I’ll have a day of delight and bust out a page or two, but by the next day, the inspiration is MIA.

Seeing what Becca did with her challenge reminded me that sometimes, the key to success is just deciding to do it–and then, just commiting to it. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

And I’m going to do it by adding a resource that I never have before. I’m using the aid of National Novel Writing Month–also affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?

Well, aside from being really fun to say (and debate its pronunciation among others: “Am I saying it right? Am I–am I saying it correctly?”), and residing in the best month evah (*ahem*Scorpios of the world unite*cough*). NaNoWriMo is a non-profit global organization that promotes the creative drive of novelists everywhere. What started as 21 writers in 1999 has since exploded into a resource with sponsors, education programs, word-tracking capabilities, and more. Beginning November 1, novelists will blaze into a flurry of writing with the goal of getting out at least 50,000 words–a solid start to any novel–by the end of November 30.

Despite my love of writing, I’ll confess that signing-up the word-tracking “required” for NaNoWriMo intimidated me. As a child, my writing was my private safe haven. The most publicly I ever shared my works were in college, both in my creative writing classes and my slew of WWE wrestler slash fanfiction that I posted on an online, members-only private forum.

(The Rock and Triple H. Mmmm, those were good times.)

Timidly, I clicked the link to the NaNoWriMo site. The image of a typewriter and a bagel (half-eaten) lured me into its embrace, while the “sign-up” button beckoned me closer.

Scrolling down further granted me an excerpt of NaNo’s vision statement:

NaNoWriMo believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

From NanNoWriMo.org. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION

…They said my favorite word.  “Creativity.”

…How have I denied my urges for so long??

But NaNoWriMo doesn’t just promote writing and creativity–it thoroughly enforces it. Apparently, over 900 volunteers will organize “communal writing sessions” throughout the world during November, giving its attendees both a place and a sense of support that has never been seen before 1999.

Weighing the Odds…as They Crush Me

I continued to peruse the site, building hope and promise that maybe–maybe this could help me get on track towards finally getting over my fears of writing.

Why do I think it will work? Apparently, several novels were penned with the help of the challenge.

  • Wool by Hugh Howey was a fun, freaky scifi series book that I utterly enjoyed when I found it on Amazon.
  • Water for Elephants is another. Heck, that one was turned into a movie starting Robert Pattison, Reese Witherspoon and Christopher Waltz.

Though my goal to write was not to become a famous, popular author, it was nice to know that NaNoWriMo had served as a solid foundation for serious writers who, perhaps, just needed that extra boost of accountability and community support to keep going.

I scrolled down further on the front page, my heart lightening with each line–and then clenched as two sets of numbers suddenly rolled into view.

  • 798,162 active novelists
  • 367,913 novels completed

Welllll, son of a mother. That’s…a lot of writers.

The Game Plan

If I do Nothing, Nothing will happen.  If I do Something, Something has no choice but to occur.

–Anonymous

Just looking at those stats alone was enough to make me sway and bring back some of my original fears to start writing again. Out of such a high number of novels completed, there is bound to be a notable percentage of those novels that are actually brilliant, witty, emotionally life-changing, literary masterpieces.

That being said, I appreciated about NaNoWriMo (aside from the heavy promotion of nurturing creativity) is that it is not a contest. In fact, they make a point to say that this is a community, a place to support each other as everyone works towards our same, singular goal: to complete our 50,000+ word works.

During a time when physical ability has been a heavy strain, writing is one tool that makes me feel sharp and alive. That–and I can’t say this enough–I love to write. At this stage in my life, I want to do more than leave my random scrawlings in a handwritten notebook.

I have good ideas for novels. I know I do. And I want to share them with others to evoke the joy and delight that my favorite novelists and writers have done for me since I was a child.

If the initial goal is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days, that averages to 1,667 words per day.

Is it possible? Well, sure. Many things are possible.

But there will be days when the desire to sit and type will wane. There will be days when the last thing I will want to do is stare at my dumb computer screen and paw through the slush that will be the first draft of this novel. There will be times when I’ll feel like I’ve written myself into a hole, and the hole seems a bottomless pit with no hope for landing.

And then, there will be those days when I just think: “This sucks, and I hate everything and what’s the point.” And then, I’m gonna run from my desk like Ron Swanson.

…But.

The very reason I’m joining this challenge is because…I have unofficially written for nearly 30 years, and I have yet to try and publish anything. My self-esteem and fear of producing boring, laughable crap has left me prone, stuck.

I have family and friends who have long since been writing and have successfully published. They were able to push past the inner fears and life struggles, bear down, and do what they needed to get their work to the masses.

I envy them. I admire them.

I want to grab them by the lapels and screech, “How did you do it?!”

But, more than anything…I want to join them. Maybe not in just publishing books, but also in the power of their desire.

I want to know their strength and their ability to commit to a project. I want to know what worked for them. I want to know what didn’t.

But…you know? I actually already kinda do.

I’ve talked with the family members, and I followed the blog of and occasionally chatted with an old friend as her books ranked higher and higher on Amazon.

I truly think I have all the tools I need. There is nothing left but the doing.

Final Thoughts

I don’t want live in excuses or fear anymore. I don’t want to procrastinate.

Committing to this challenge will allow me to hold myself publicly accountable for writing a novel for the first time. Honestly, I’m not even sure what the layout of the site is much beyond the sign-up button. Once I finish writing this post, though, I will find out.

If musicians can lock themselves in studios for 72 hours to get an album done, and my friend Rebecca can dole out multiple barre classes in a single day and still rush into work that same day, then I can sit, plug my ears, shove my insecurities aside, and freakin’ write.

…Wish me luck.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

Any other first-time NaNoWriMo novelists out there? I’d love to hear what’s driving you this year!

Reasons Why I Write

In my last major post, I discussed my fears to pursue my lifelong sleeping desire to be a novelist. I call it a sleeping desire because, although I have literally been writing, illustrating, and narrating stories since I was in the single digits, I didn’t have the confidence to believe that I deserved to be a published author until about five years ago.

Even now, as I sit on a “completed” novel that I still hold fondly (and securely) to my heart, I still struggle with believing that my work will be enjoyed by the mass public. But that internal struggle isn’t getting me anywhere–and it sure isn’t getting my novel anywhere closer to publication.

I lost my way in the fear.

Heck, I lost myself in my fear.

A few days after posting “I am Afraid to Write,” I was reminded of something very important, something that encouraged me to look beyond my fears. Not just beyond, but across the grander expanse in which my fear was not far-reaching enough to extend. For someone who has been writing nearly her entire life, I know that fear is not the reason nor the catalyst as to why I started writing in the first place.

So, then, what was? What is?

In summary–why do I write?

I write this post to reflect my own writing journey, but the questions that serve as headings below hopefully also serve as signposts for any writer who may have also lost their way in the landscape of fear and insecurity.

(On a side note…d’you see that extended metaphor up there?? D’you see it?? That’s some durn sexy metaphor work right chere! 🙌 I’m gettin’ my creative mojo back, baby!)

(Ahem…sorry.)

Why Do You Write?

Believe it or not, but in my 30-something years of writing fiction…I never really thought about why I do it. Throughout the M.o.B blog, I’ve sprinkled my enjoyment of writing in my lessons, analogies, and explanations.

A few notable posts:

I won’t reinvent the wheel in what I’ve already shared. However, the primary, easiest, and obvious answer is this:

I write because it’s a part of me.

When I move through extended periods of time without writing something, I begin to grow irritable and annoyed with…well, everything. When it first happened, I couldn’t understand why everything was suddenly ticking me off.

Then, I had a weekend to write in a novel I had put on hold for a few months. For the following week afterward, my productivity at work improved. I became more aware, intuitive, and even more spiritually in tune. The world made sense. I was content.

Then again, as the weeks passed without a chance to write, my irritability returned. And 2 and 2 made 4.

Writing is the most gentle, calmest way to release what’s bound up inside you. When you write your innermost self down, whether it’s in the form of a poem, a story, a blog post, or even stream of consciousness, no one can negate those words. They exist, and you watch them come to life as your pen scratches paper, or your fingertips tap keys.

I write because it’s an escape.

In the post “Writing Is…” I tell the story of the moment when I consciously began writing to free myself from the tyranny that was my parents’ attention and love. As I grew older and experienced the hills and valleys of life, I met each obstacle with varying amounts of success. By the time I reached college, bouts of depression were prevalent. I graduated, got a job, had a breakdown or two, moved to a new city, got another job, got fired, and juggled around until I ended up where I am today.

No matter what happened, though, even if I couldn’t physically will myself to leave my dorm room, my apartment, or my house, writing was always an option to get away from it all. The characters that I’ve developed over the years were fully formed. The worlds they inhabited were rich with problems, but they were problems that I’d manifested and therefore could also resolve.

I could write for hours and become pillowed in depths of imagination. There wasn’t a concern of good or bad writing; it was just writing. Here, not even depression could find me. For just a few hours (maybe more), I was safe. I was needed.

I was home.

I write better than I speak.

The other day, I was chatting with a friend about communication. I came to a revelation just as I was telling her my truth:

“I hate talking,” I said. “I feel like I’m always stumbling over my words; I miss a lot of the social cues of when to start talking and when to stop. And when I do talk, I feel like I’m being normal; but people just stare at me after I’m done. I feel like a freak!

“I would rather write, sing, dance, touch, eye contact, gesture, or pantomime to express myself than to talk,” I concluded. The irony that I was talking when I said this was not lost on me.

I feel like my innermost strengths lie more in expressing myself through my work than engaging in small talk. And it is no secret that verbal cues play a very small part in actually communicating with others.

Writing gives me a moment to collect my thoughts before I respond. As an introvert, I need time to process many of my thoughts, especially if the question reflected to me is multi-faceted. That’s not saying that I can’t talk; I just know that a truer form of myself is better replicated in the written word. Usually.

Or, you know what? Just cuddle me. That should work, too.

Additional “Why I Write” Questions

A few other questions came my way as I was contemplating the big WHY, and I thought I should share them here and at least touch on them for a moment.

What do you want to get out of writing your work?

Many authors and writing “experts” claim that, once you publish a book, you should detach from it, let it go. That way, any attention you receive (or don’t receive) won’t affect you as hard. I don’t agree with that philosophy.

A quote from one of my favorite movies said it best, I think:

Joe Fox:
It wasn’t… personal.

Kathleen Kelly:
What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?

Joe Fox:
Uh, nothing.

Kathleen Kelly:
Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

–You’ve Got Mail

After all, that’s why we read.

Isn’t it?

We read to find the personal. We read to be personal with someone–even if that someone is a fictional boy who avenges his wizard parents and defends his magical school and friends. Or that someone is a young woman who, despite her lack of dowry and poor upbringing, asserts her presence as an intellectual equal to that of a handsome, well-endowed, yet seemingly standoffish man. Or that someone is a little hobbit whom no one expected anything from, yet endured almost more than anyone.

The gifts that writers selflessly offer to the world, they give because it is the story that only they can tell. Though I’m sure all of them will have different answers, a story is told because it must be told.

In college, I took a specialized, one-on-one course with a professor while I developed a fantasy novella. Though I rushed a bit on the writing, I was quite proud of the story and submitted it for her scrutiny. I also gave a copy of the story to a counselor that I used to see but had become friends with.

When I met the professor for her unbiased feedback, she didn’t hold back. “It’s under-written and unrealized,” she told me, tossing my manuscript onto her desk. “It reads like something a child would write.” The feedback stunned me silent for so long and so hard that the notoriously hardened instructor finally amended that perhaps she’d “read it too fast.”

For weeks, I moved devastated throughout my days, unsure of how to proceed with other books that I’d had in my mind for years. Not only that, but English was the fourth major that I had switched to since being in college. If I, a lover of the written word and grammarphile since 5 years old couldn’t make it as a writer of any sort, what was I good for?

Then, as if by cue, I received an email from my counselor in the middle of her vacation. Apparently, she hadn’t been able to wait until she’d returned from her time off at the beach before she could tell me how much she’d loved my story. From the moment she’d finally begun reading, she’d taken my manuscript everywhere, breaking it open whenever she had a free moment.

So, what do I want to “get” from writing?

Nothing.

What I want, however, is to give others the same sense of pleasure and peace that I feel when I read a good book. Knowing that I helped contribute to someone else’s positive state of mind means that I shared an intimate piece of myself–and it was happily received. Perhaps even welcomed.

What do you expect to happen from writing and publishing your work(s)?

Honestly? Not a clue.

I hope that I can make enough income from published books to allow me more time, freedom, and security to write fiction and nonfiction on a full-time basis. This would also allow me more time to dedicate to other areas of my life. Tend to my family. Travel. Goodwill. Love. Life.

I could go on, but the focus for the sake of this post is writing.

The goal isn’t to be rich, but to have enough energy and time before I’m decrepit and senile to record all of the stories that have crossed my mind. And there are a lot of stories in my mind.

Since last year, I’m even realizing that some of my stories would do better in screenplay form. So I want to have enough time to see those to fruition on the big screen and the Netflix stream. I want creative control to see my vision in the format that I always envisioned it.

I’ve begun writing like I’m running out of time, because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Are you looking to see how your work is received or viewed by others (impact)? Are you looking for fame and fortune?

I’m not going to lie–would it be cool to win a Nobel Prize for Literature? A Pulitzer for Fiction? A Hugo Award? A Nebula Award?

Would I be ecstatic to disover that I’ve made the New York Times Best Seller list? #1 for more weeks than anyone ever?

Would I stare, speechless, from receiving an invitation to meet Oprah as she unveils me as her latest top addition to Oprah’s Book Club?

…Why yes. It would all be quite lovely.

But, that’s not why I write. If I wrote with that mindset all the time, I’d be scared excrement-less.

When I was in high school and my friends would peer at me as I bent over my journal, scratching away, I got a sick sense of superiority from my seemingly unique stance. There were not many kids that I knew who were writing at the “uber-cool” level that I was.

Them? They were doing generic teenager things like dating and going to parties with friends and shopping and…and hanging out n chilln.

Me? I was 15, listening to smooth jazz on a Friday night while burning sticks of sandalwood incense, scribbling pages upon pages of character profiles for my fantasy/science fiction magnum opus.

You couldn’t think of anyone cooler than me.

There have been times when I’ve shared my writing with people whose opinion I valued highly, only for them to come back and tell me, “Actually, I got a little bored, so I stopped.” The feedback was devastating, and I would throw the story at the bottom of the pile for it to collect its proverbial dust.

And yet…the stories never left me.

It’s only by writing this now, do I remember that

  1. One person’s opinion is one person’s opinion. Just because she/he didn’t like it doesn’t mean the rest of the world won’t.
  2. It’s not my place to determine the rest of the world’s likes and dislikes. Let them read and decide for themselves.

I don’t write to make masterpieces. I don’t write to prompt a room full of English majors to debate the significance of a green bottle in Chapter 3.

If I write for anyone, it’s for the readers who pick up my book to help them detach, relax, unwind, escape.

I’m writing for the introverted outcast who always feels like they are too “them” to belong anywhere.

I’m writing for the reader who is trying to find that one “perfect” novel that makes them laugh, cry, and scream at the same time.

Does that make me a writer who isn’t reaching high enough?

Who the flip cares.

This world has enough crap happening for people to not be able to just enjoy a good book.

I write to write. And I must write.

Because, at this stage in my life, to not write is to deny me of myself.

And I’ve wasted enough time doing that already.


Why do you write? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Writing Prompt: The Password

Writing Prompt:  As a kid, you made a “time travel password” as a joke if your future self ever tried to contact you.  You had forgotten all about it until today — when you received an email with it as the subject line.

😁 Enjoy!


Subject:  Suit juicer is another name for rabid rainbows

I can’t write your name.  You know who I am. You made this up 27 years ago.  We promised that if anything were to happen — and I mean THAT thing — this would be the code for you to believe.

I don’t have much time — and, neither do you.  You have ten minutes to get out of the house. Take only what you need.  Lock your front door. Turn on the security system. Leave your garage door open.  Get in your car and drive north on 75 for two hours, then off the exit at timestamp until you see a little town with a church with a yellow steeple.  Park behind the church, in front of the tree with the red circle on the trunk. Enter the back door and through the kitchen, into the pew. Sitting on the playing organ’s bench is someone who will be able to help you.

There is no guarantee that doing this will change the future.  But we have no other choice. We are more important than we could have ever realized.  Someone is coming to your house. If you are caught, they will kill you. And everyone and everything that you know will be gone.

Please, for all you know, LEAVE.  You have ten minutes.

When I was eight years old, I read my mother’s doctorate thesis on temporal causality, and how forcing the past to repeat itself could be achieved if the proper action was sent back in time.  In this case, the action was the future telling the past what to do to create that same, identical future.

Say that your future self was kidnapped.  Your abductors knew that you were important to the fate of the world, yet you were so brilliant, so cunning, or just so off the radar, they would never find you or capture you (or even know who you were in the first place) with their skillsets or technologies alone.  If they used violence to weed you out, they would waste too many resources and still be unsure of who they actually needed to obtain. They only have one option:

You would have to come to them.

How would they know that?

Because that’s what happened the first time.

Can a causality loop be stopped?  My mother’s thesis answered this question.

Yes.

What we see happening over and over again, she hypothesized, is not in fact a perfect loop.  It is, in fact, a spiral.

Each cut of the spiral is a parallel universe, each with a future you and a past you.  To keep the spiral going , the future you reaches out to the past you — but not behind itself to the past you in the same spiral cut.  Instead, it reaches forward into the spiral cut of the next universe–to the past you directly in front of it. The new past you follows through to become the future you of the same universe, then begins the cycle again.

My mother’s thesis went on to say that the spiral could go on through multiple universes.  In the case of my example above, if abductors tortured the future self that walked right into their camp, that future self might weaken enough to convince its past self to walk into the abductors’ trap by receiving a message that could have only been sent by her future self.

They would demand proof that the future self wasn’t warning herself.  How, then, does the past self know that the message was sent by a future self?

After I read my mother’s thesis, I made myself a promise.  I would never get caught in a causality loop. Even if I wouldn’t remember it or see any proof of such a catastrophe, I didn’t want myself or other universe me’s to repeat the same thing over and over again for the rest of time.  I–present me–would be the one to break the cycle. Somehow, I wouldn’t be the one to fail.

So, I created a password that only I knew.  I shared it with no one, not even my beloved Mr. Nekko-man, my stuffed rabbit.  I wrote it on a piece of paper, burned the note on the gas stove while chanting the phrase, sang it to myself, danced to its tune, mumbled it backward when the teacher called on me in class.  No one, not anyone, could ever get this password back to me — except myself.

Then, I turned 10.  I threw all the silliness of childhood out of my mind.  After all, I was an adult now.

Torture could be cruel.  It could make people say or do things nothing could ever make them do otherwise.  It could resort you back to the fun, harmless times of your childhood, make you go to the sweet, safe inner sanctum where you were truly happy and carefree.  It could make you remember things thrown away carelessly after a year or two of simple thinking.

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows

What if the abductors are telling you what to write?  What if they’re looking over your shoulder, making sure you’re transcribing exactly what they’re telling you?  What if they said, Write this, or we’ll kill you and everyone you love?

You tell them the password.  They watch you write it. They tell you exactly what to say to continue the loop.  You have no choice.

But what if the password wasn’t just a stamp for recognizing yourself?  What if it stood for something else, too?

What if you made more than one password?

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows

I loved rabbits.  Mr. Nekko-man was my best friend, even after I stopped being a child.  When I was sick, or sad, my mother would make Mr. Nekko-man talk and make me feel better.  I always listened to Mr. Nekko-man. He always loved me, always made me feel good about myself.  If he told me what I should or should not do, I would listen to him. Things always turned about better when he was near me.

One night, my father and some friends watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Fatal Attraction as part of a strange, surreal movie marathon.  I remember peeking around the corner into the living room and loathing how he cracked up at the rabbit scenes.  He laughed even harder when the Holy Hand Grenade blew the bunny into bits, or the camera just did a tight close-up on the rabbit in the boiling pot.  I had left Mr. Nekko-man on the couch, and one of my father’s friends grabbed it and chucked it at him. Mr. Nekko-man cracked my father in the head, but it was an accident.  He didn’t mean to, and I’m sure he would have explained himself if my mother had been around.

My father scowled at Mr. Nekko-man and threw him at the wall; I heard him hit the wooden paneling with a sickening thump.  Mr. Nekko-man never moved on his own, but this time, he moved even less.

My father was a hunter.  He thought he was the perfect marksman if he could nail a rabbit between its eyes.  He killed one once and laughed as he dangled it by one bloody, half-torn back leg right in my face.

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows

When my father laughed, foam would spittle down his mouth, frothy and putrid like from a wild dog.  Just hearing him would make me want to close my eyes and plug my ears and stay as far away from him as possible, just so I didn’t have to hear him laugh.  It made me want to erase him, stay away from him at all costs. He wasn’t fun, really, not to me or my mom.

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rabid rainbows

What captor would think that an 8-year-old would have not one, but two passwords to call out to their selves of the past?  Who would care when she’d said the password aloud? After all, they both sounded pretty much the same when you spoke them.

Suit juicer is another name for rabid rainbows

In one of the spiral cuts, the old future me finally got smart.  She knows the abductors have no idea where past self lives. So she can follow their instructions to the letter.  When they execute her–because that was always going to happen–they’ll lose their chance. Because now–finally–past self knows what happened in the future of the previous cut.  And she will know what to do to avoid it in her own.

Patting the matted head of Mr. Nekko-man, I archive the email, then rise from my desk and head downstairs for a cup of tea.

Fin.

Writing Prompt: City of God

It’s been a while since I dropped some fiction on my blog.  This year hasn’t been my best when it comes to writing and editing the work that I want to publish.  However, while I am trying to rebuild my internal creativity, I’ll continue using writing prompts to keep my mind clear of the cobwebs.

So, without further ado, here is my latest installments from the writing  prompt based simply on the featured image to this post.  Enjoy!


Buddy awoke to the sound of metal crashing above his head.  He jumped up, right into the wide-eyed embrace of Mr. Lewis.  Though his science teacher had been with him since the start of his journey, he was disoriented, and his head hurt.

“Buddy!”  Mr. Lewis scrambled to hold him still, pinning the hysterical boy’s arms to his sides.  “Buddy.” At last he stilled, panting and staring back into his eyes. They stayed that way for a second or two, until Mr. Lewis knew that the boy would finally comprehend what he was about to say.  “You did it.”

Buddy blinked.  He had been searching, traveling so long, struggling through so much, it was sometimes hard to remember what he had done that was good, or important, or real.

Mr. Lewis smiled.  He was one of those adults that 50 and 60-year adults would call young, but to Buddy he was an adult, and so he was old enough.  “You did it,” he said again, and looked over his own shoulder.

Buddy looked over his shoulder, too.  They were still in the alley that the horde of Goers had chased them into, but all of the demonic crones were now gone.  The darkness of the night was also gone. Instead, there was nothing but light–the warm, sweet light of the morning.

But the more Buddy focused, the more he realized that the light wasn’t from the morning.  Behind his own back, as he twisted to check, was the shadows of night. He could even see the headlights of cars as they honked their horns and maneuvered unforgivingly on the narrow downtown road beyond the alley in which he stood.  In front of him only, beyond Mr. Lewis, the alley broke into a large doorway of sunlight. Beyond that opening, down a steep slope and spreading across the landscape as far as the eye could see, were what seemed to be a new, grander town of strange, rural buildings.  Each dwelling was small but artistic and ran all the way into the distant horizons. Even further back, behind the city, majestic mountains framed the borders.

But it was what was in the center of the town and caught Buddy’s breath in his throat.  Standing proud, a column of pure golden light streaking from its peak into the sky and separating the clouds, was a pyramid.

A pyramid.  In the middle of Indiana.

Buddy’s eyes welled with tears that gushed down his cheeks without his needing to blink.  He tried to speak, failed, tried again, and only managed a pantomime of the words he wanted to say.  “House,” he squawked, and saw Mr. Lewis’s chin tremble. “The House of God.”

He could feel the spirit within the very center of the pyramid radiating to him, touching his mind and answering every question and thought before Buddy himself could let his wonders finish processing.  He felt his heart drain of all negativity–the anger of being abandoned, the hatred towards the Goers, the annoyance of being hungry after traveling for so long. None of it mattered anymore. Here, there was only truth, and love.

He was walking towards the city before he realized it and stopped at the mouth of the alleyway.  He felt the cool breeze on his back and turned suddenly, looking for his teacher. Mr. Lewis had remained where he had touched Buddy awake, smiling still but shaking his head.

“This is no longer my journey, Buddy Boy.” Mr. Lewis was the only other adult–aside from his father–that Buddy allowed to call him that.  He had fought it for a while, but after Mr. Lewis had saved his life five or eight times, Buddy had…given up the fight.

Mr. Lewis nodded at the pyramid.  “I think you know the way from here.”

But Buddy, who would be ten in a week and had pumped and paid for his dad’s gas since he was seven, hesitated.  When the Goers had learned what he had discovered and tried to take him in, he had been alone and unsure of who could help him–who would believe him.  He had run to his school, which had been locked and chained up tight for the summer season.  But then, the science classroom’s window had been open, and Buddy had seen Mr. Lewis at a lab table.  Then, Mr. Lewis had seen Buddy–and the Goers behind him.

He had not asked questions.

Now, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and looking more like an excited new country singer than an elementary teacher, Mr. Lewis urged him away.  “My job was to get you here, not walk you in. You’ll be fine.” He added, as a sort of joke, “I hear He’s nice.”

“But—”

Mr. Lewis’s eyes sparkled, just for a moment.  Buddy, from his distance in the light, didn’t see it.  “You think you’re the only one who had an impossible wish?”  He spoke low; maybe Buddy heard him, maybe not. “You don’t forfeit everything you know for a chance unless you really, really want it.”  In another lifetime, he would have punctuated that statement with a flap of his light, iridescent wings. But that was decades ago, worlds away. Now, he merely ran a thumb over the smooth, worn gold of the band on his left hand. A sweet memento of the life he’d lived for nearly 20 years, the one he would be returning to once Buddy was gone.

Buddy stood, unsure, frightened, and at last Mr. Lewis said the thing he knew would help Buddy make the choice.  “They’ll be proud of you, Buddy Boy!” he yelled.

The euphoria of a fantasy about to come true welled in Buddy’s chest.  He spun to face the city once more; it dazzled and beckoned to him, but it did not entrance.  To enter and remain in that city would always be a free choice.

Delicately, like a cat using his paw to test the depth of a puddle, Buddy called out into the dawn.  “Mom? Dad?” The words hung soft and promising in the air. “Jake? Dylan?”

And in that way, Mr. Lewis watched as Buddy, the first living human ever to cross over into Heaven, shuffled his way down the steep hill straight through the city to the massive pyramid where his family awaited him.

Writing Prompt 4 – The Flooded Basement

Welp, it’s another light week, which means it’s time for a nice, pleasant writing prompt.  This one is presented with only a photo of a flooded basement.  Enjoy!


I meet Cesca in the hallway as I shut the door to the basement.  Usually, she doesn’t care to stop when she sees me, but I guess I must have looked pretty harried this time.  She pauses in her pompous, perpetually Valley Girl way, chewing a wad of gum and waiting for me to explain my panic.

I choose ignorance.  “Sup.”

Her grip on my arm stings.  She must have just returned from the beauty salon, because her curly, unruly mess of hair is properly defined and highlighted; her eyebrows freshly drawn, her lips lined dark and filled nude, and her nails — her lovely, healthy, lacquered nails — have been filed to points.

“Do you want me to tell Dad you were in the basement again?” she sneers.  “I keep letting you off, only cuz I’m bored of watching you get punished.”

Yeah right, I think, but I wrench my arm free and rub it while I consider the consequences if — who am I kidding? when — I tell her the truth.  What’s happened has happened, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Scratch that.  They can run.

Cesca gets bored and reaches out behind me for the doorknob.  I’ve made my decision anyway, so I step aside to give her room.  She pauses, obviously thrown by how quickly I’ve yielded, but curiosity ultimately leads her to open the door.

The sound from within, Cesca slamming the door shut and locking it with a speed I’ve never seen before — all of it makes my throat dump into the core of my chest.  For some reason, it’s worse seeing the terror on someone else than feeling it myself. I’ve spent my entire life emulating the reactions of others, and I sometimes forget what should be my actual response in times of terror.  At least now, I know I was correct.

Cesca backs away from the door, her hands pressed to her mouth.  Her eyes, lined and mascara’d immaculately, are wide and glittering with unshed tears.  If we were true sisters — and not just the tragic stepsisters we were — I know one of my first instincts would be to embrace her.  Ah, woulda coulda shoulda.

Finally, she whispers under her palms.  “Is that—?”

I grit my teeth in a grimace.  It’s all I really can do—that and say, “Yeah.”

“But—”  Now that she’s spoken, she’s chattering in a sort of stutter.  “But–but, that’s a—”

“Oh, I know what it is.”

“But, how did it get there?  Why is it here?”

“I don’t know!  You think I went down there to ask it?”

“It’s got—its eyes.  It tried to—”

“Yeah.  They’ll do that.”

It’s one sass too far.  Fear drains from her face and instead floods with rage and suspicion as she glowers at me.  “You did it, didn’t you?”

“Did what?”

She points at me again, venom in her eyes.  “You did this. You know Dad just got the pool cleaned.  He is gonna kill you!”

I was in a state of disbelief.  “How do I even have the resources to that?  Dad took away my phone; I’m not allowed to leave the house after noon.  I’m not even allowed to open the front door to strangers!”

“Because of you pulling crap like this!”  With inhuman, sinister glee, she lunges for me, her manicured mandibles stretching for my arm again.  “Oh, he is gonna send you away for good now! This time, you won’t be able to talk your way back.”

It all happens faster than I can register.  The counter steps I take that throw her off-balance; my free hand twisting the basement door knob; Cesca’s face as she stumbles through the open threshold; her screams garbling and failing under its screams.  My own screams as I hold the door shut, struggling in vain until I remember that it has a push lock right under my sweating thumb.

When Dad comes home, he looks around.  “Where’s Cesca?”

I shrug.  If he wasn’t distracted, he probably would have gotten me for my sass.  I decide to play on the safe side and actually answer. “She said she was going to a friend’s house.  I don’t know how long, though.”

He sighs heavily.  “You could’ve gone with her.  At least I wouldn’t have to look at you.”

A hideous thought slithers into my mind.  I bite down on my lips.

“Cop an attitude again, you’ll end up like your mother.”  He pulls off his jacket and throws it towards the back of the couch but misses.  “You know what? I think I’ll go for a swim. I didn’t put your college money to good use for no reason.”

I bite down harder but muster enough control to simply utter, “Have fun.”  When he’s three steps beyond the threshold, I slink silently to my feet and wait for him to pass further into the darkness, before slamming and locking the door behind him.

Writing Prompt 3 – “We Shouldn’t Be Here”

Hello, all!  I’m keeping it light this week with another writing prompt!  Trying to keep the writing fresh while I edit my current novel.  I hope you enjoy!

The actual writing prompt?  The first two lines of dialogue start the fun.  🙂


“We shouldn’t be here.”

“No,  you shouldn’t be here.  I, on the other hand, have to.  That’s what happens when you give your life to serving the kingdom.”

Hershal’s uppity attitude irked me.  He always did this, leaned on the scales to make our roles as petty thieves and liars seem a noble necessity.  I’m mean, sure, he was bleeding through the bandages under his tunic from wounds he had received instead of the king, but that had not been from “giving his life.”  “Please keep in mind that I was there, too. And I helped.”

“Ah, but did you give your life?”

“You’re.  Not.  Dead,” I reminded him.  “You tripped off the wall above the king’s head and conveniently fell in front of him just as an assassin came at him with a poisoned dagger.”

He waved that off.  “Semantics mixed with a strong helping of divine intervention!  Perhaps I meant to trip.”

“You didn’t.  Trust me–you didn’t.”  Nor had I.  I’d landed right on the head of the dumbstruck would-be killer–a scrawny, young lad.  It apparently didn’t take much more than a full-bodied, confused interloper to knock him unconscious.  A touch amateur, I must admit, but a complete breakfast would allay such maladies.

Removing my attentions from my partner for the moment, I once more took a scan of our surroundings.  I had to say, we could have been in worse confinements within the castle. They had taken us to a spare bedroom in one of the main towers, a room with two luxurious beds, ceiling-to-floor curtains, golden intricacies, jewel-encrusted things, and polished wood stuff.  I felt like I was inside a fancy jewel box; all that was missing was the pithering gears of the built-in lullaby.

But a prison, I fear, was a prison.  The grand double doors leading in had been locked and bolted, and the windows were reinforced.  This was, I’d overheard as the guards had been gathering us from our “sacrifice,” the room that royal traitors were detained within until they were led to the guillotine.

So.  Not precisely honey and baubles just yet.

Sighing, I returned to Hershal.  He was bracing a hand against his shoulder, but his face glowed like that of a martyr as he gazed beyond the iron bars of the window.  “I wonder if they’ll hold a parade for me.”

I hated when he did that.  “We’re not out of the clear, you know.  Yes, we saved the king from death and harm. We were also caught red-handed with about half of his wife’s jewelry collection.  The crime of thievery on the streets is losing your hand. Do you even want to imagine what we’re set to lose in here?”

For a splash, Hershal dropped the pompous act.  Whipping his head about, he snapped, “Stop lumping us together.  I saved his majesty’s life!  I sacrificed myself for the kingdom.  You are just a clumsy oaf I’ve been forced to shack up with since I found you starving in the lower quarters!”

That stung–partially because it wasn’t fully exaggerated.

But Hershal continued before I could interject.  “I’ve done all I can for you. I’m sorry, dear friend, but these are the dividers that have been built.”  Taking in a deep breath, he rose to his full, erect, absolutely regular height. “If they had intended to kill me, they would not have extracted the poison from my wounds, nor tended to them so carefully.  My fate has been set, as has yours. Here, our paths diverge.” Thus said, he rose from the foot stool we’d been sitting on, strolled over to the chair that flanked a gorgeous writer’s desk, and lowered himself imperiously.

Indeed, I thought, watching him as the sound of heavy footsteps ascending stairs reached my ears.  Indeed–our paths, in many more ways than one, have fully diverged.

End


Thank you for reading!  If you have any favorite writing prompt or writing prompt sites that you frequent, please let me know!

Writing Is…

Writing is a lot of things.  Everyone has a different relationship with writing; I hardly hear a middle ground when the question of “Do you like to write?” pops up.

This blog post is an ode to writing and what it has meant to me throughout my life.

Writing Is…

Fun

When I was ten years old, I often fought with my parents.  After disputing something I’m sure was trivial that I was absolutely right about, I would run to my room, flop onto my bed, and think angrily, “If I had magic powers, I could just do whatever I wanted.”

After enough fights (and there were a lot), a revelation finally clicked in my head.  I may not have magic powers in reality, but I could write a story about what I could do if I did. In fact…I could write about anything.

The realization was intoxicating.  Here was something that couldn’t get me in trouble (erm, I was young and naive), and no one could take it away from me.  I could travel to different worlds, create my own, and be as important or as cool as I wanted. Over time, I pulled myself out of the story and made characters who stood without me, but it was still (and always would be) my private sanctuary.

Releasing

Depression.  Anxiety.  Despair.  Rage.  Hope.  Boredom.

Secrets.  Confessions.  Clarification.  Purging.  Reminders.

Bad work days.  Extraordinary personal days.  New loves. Love potentials.  Lost loves.  Unrequited loves.

Writing has been my confidante, my companion.  It has been my steady, my constant.  No matter what has come into my life or left me, I have always been able to turn to a journal and sketch out what I was feeling.  Even if I can’t directly push the words out of my mouth, there are other words that will speak for me on paper or screen, until I’m ready to say what I truly mean.

Hard

A few years ago, I worked as a website copywriter for a telecommunications company.  The company’s weekly quota was to complete advertisement copy for 10 standard small-business websites, or content for 5 deluxe websites.

There were about 30 writers on the team at the time.  Most of them were clever enough to start with reused text base, changing keywords to match the necessary industry.  Being one of excessively creative talent (/sarcasm), I tended to do things the hard way: writing each copy anew.  With this method, it was much more difficult to reach the quota each week.

I don’t know if it was my HSP or introvert tendencies to overthink every single word I recorded, but I am a slow writer.  Not only that, but the words that I want to use don’t often come to me immediately.

Then, of course, there is the proper intonation to consider.  Writing “no” to different parties must be formulated based on their background:

  • To a child: No.
  • To a boyfriend:  Nooooo! ;-P <3 <3
  • To a customer:  Unfortunately, we will not be able to accommodate you at this time.
  • To an executive:  While this is may require more looking into, we have other promising options.

Now, apply that principle to fiction.  To nonfiction. To manufacturing plant manuals.  To scientific journals. Add in research and organization and length and whether you want it to be funny, and…

And now my brain hurts.  Moving on.

“Not Writing”

“I’m going to write in my story,” my sister T said, and I looked up from typing on my own computer in time to see her recline in her lawn chair and cover her face with a woven pillow.

“I thought you said you were writing,” I said.

“I am,” she mumbled, and sighed a heavy sigh of contentment.

The great thing about writing?  You can do it any time, at all times.  It may seem to others that you’re doing nothing, but who cares?  You’ve finally figured out that plot hole that’s been nagging you for months as you cooked dinner.  Or you now have a name for your main character as you were commuting to work.

Even when a writer is not writing, they are certainly writing.

Me

Everyone has seen at least one of the “You’re Not Yourself” commercials from Snickers.  If you haven’t, here’s a classic example:

While lack of food will definitely turn me into a confrontational Golden Girl, not writing in any form produces the same effect.  Twenty-five years of using my imagination to develop fictional worlds, whether I’ve released them for public viewing or not, is a fully integrated part of me.  When I’m not writing (even “not writing” writing), I become irritable and listless. It’s like being apart from a dear friend.

Regardless of your relationship with writing, I will always be a proponent of re-exploring it every now and again.  It may not be your favorite activity, but at least it will help you know just what writing means for you.

What is the one word that describes writing for you?

The Return of Writer’s Block — and How I’m Dealing

Any writer’s who’s a real writer will feel the pain of sitting at their desk, their brain pumping and flowing with ideas — when suddenly, to their absolute horror, they don’t remember how to get any of it out on paper.  It is the dreaded writer’s block, the scourge of the Seven Pens (heh — just thought of that), the mortifying realization that you just.  Can’t.  Write.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  The desire is more than there.  You really, really want to.  It’s just…well…there’s that thing for work I need to work on, and the laundry to fold.  And oh, if I had children, they’d need dinner — so I guess I should get started on that…

Yeah.  It’s not pretty.

Today, I have the perfect reason to sit and do nothing but write:  the inability to walk, and doctor’s orders.  And yet, all I want to do is plop myself on the floor and sort through that office closet full of junk that I’ve been wanting to clean for the last six months.  But I’m not!  I’m here, typing viciously to get this out before what little inspiration and time I have tell me to stop.  I’m also here to tell you just how I am choosing to get through this year’s current bout of writer’s block.

 

1. Writing through the Pain (aka Denial)

Okay, so, I know I used to be able to write.  I know that I could at one time sit and write for hours.  I know that I felt so satisfied doing it.  So, how in the freak do I get back to that?

Simple.  I mentally grab myself by the collar and say, “Look.  We both know what this is really about.  You don’t have writer’s block.  You never had writer’s block.  You think that just because you’re tired and stressed from other things, that gives you the right to make excuses?

“Do you want to be an award-winning novelist?  Do you want to make your own schedule and type on those beaches of Hawaii in the middle of nowhere?  Well then, stop sulking and start scribing!”  And then I shove  myself into a chair, fold my arms, and wait until I’ve nervously loaded up my laptop.  Yeah — that’ll teach me.

 

2. Stream of Consciousness Writing on Steroids

I think my biggest fear in taking the time to write again is both building up the stamina to write like I used to (my longest session was 8 glorious hours) and giving myself permission to dedicate that time to it without feeling guilty or like I should be doing something “better” with my time.  You hear it all the time:  writing is a lonely sport, and it can be easy to feel like you’re wasting time.

Anyway, I’ve decided to set aside a minimum of 30 minutes a day to write pure stream of consciousness on anything, for anything.  The bottom line is, I can’t stop writing.  This is going to be time different from writing a blog entry or in an actual story.  Hopefully, this time will allow me to “purge” all the crappy content that is blocking the real flow of dialogue and scene-setting.

 

3. Eating a Weird Meal

Tonight, my dinner consists of two sardines, a raw bell pepper, a yogurt “cheesecake” tart and a navel orange.  First course — the pepper — was about an hour ago.  Time for the main course!

 

4. Listening to James Blake Radio

About a year ago, while morphing into a basket case under the weight of being picked for jury duty, I met a young lady who introduced me to James Blake via his song “Retrograde.”  I was immediately hooked and started listening to more music of his genre: folk, indie, Douglas Dare, Corinne Bailey Rae, Citizen Cope, with a little Seal and Michael Franks here and there.  I welcomed, needed, and enjoyed the music that was inoffensive, soft, real, and simple.  The kind of music that’s equivalent to sitting on the back porch in the summer, drinking tea and watching the moon rise among the choir of crickets and owls.

Ah, I can just hear the opening chords of Michael Franks’ “Lotus Blossom” now.

 

5. Editing Something Else

Believe it or not (I’m Robert Ripley!  No, just kidding), but I actually have 90% of a rough draft of a novel that I completed in April or so of last year.  It was a 300-page, hardcore labor of love, and I felt like singing when I finished that last sentence.

Then, three weeks after that, I read it again — and wanted to cry from my perceived sheer boredom of the content.

Fast-forward to about a month ago.  While sorting through ye ol’ closet o’ junk, I found the aforementioned manuscript, beat-up and losing a few corners.  Curious, I flipped through few pages and realized — huh.  Tweren’t half bad, it weren’t.  So, I’ve decided to resurrect the poor thing and see if there is a story yet to be salvaged within.  Maybe the new-found hope will spark my currently fizzled-out muse.

 

And that, friends, is my current curriculum for beating writer’s block.  I can only hope that I’ve given the next poor, unconventional soul some pearls of wisdom (or a grain of shrewd sand) to help them defeat this cruel, unbiased beast.

And now, I must close, because my head is feeling heavy, and it’s getting hot in this room, and my eyes are crossing, and I need to finish eating before my fat-burning window closes.  Until next time!

(Durn this lack of writing stamina.)