Lessons Learned While Writing

Let me be real, writing a book is not an easy task. You don’t just sit down and write the story in your head. Sure that’s how you start but a lot happens in the midst of doing that. Your characters will teach you that what you thought about them was wrong.

Here are some other things I’ve learned while writing my first novel:
  • New characters are going to show up whether you invite them or not. And when they show up don’t try and shoo them away, you have to at least listen to what they have to offer.
  • Face it, you are going to write A LOT of words that are not going to make it into the finished book.
  • The above fact is something you have to accept and get over. Move on, don’t look back. Unless you’re like me and copy and paste some of that stuff into a different folder in hopes of using it in other works at a later date.
  • There are going to be too many days during which you can’t muster up the interest to even look at your story. You’re going to be frustrated and disappointed and even lost. Writing a book is not like butter; it doesn’t soften and get easier to spread if you just leave it out.
  • BUT despite the above bullet point, you have to continue your work. There are few parts of life that are only ever pleasant, but we push on. We persevere. Writers get over these humps and back to the story. I keep reminding myself that right now I just need to get the story out. One foot in front of the other; one word after the other.
  • What you start with is likely to change. Period.
  • Don’t get hung up on names. It’s okay to use a stand in name for a character so you can keep writing. The same goes for your title. Just get to writing and worry about such details later.
  • Be humble enough to admit you’re making excuses. Yes, sometimes I avoid writing because I don’t know what comes next. Sometimes I need a break. But, saying I just haven’t had time might be true sometimes but if I’m honest, I could make time to get it done. Be real with yourself about what you’re doing.
  • It is okay if your first draft is crummy. Keep writing.
  • Write your story, not what you think the market wants.
  • Remember that crafting a story takes many forms. Brainstorming, building character profiles, story-mapping, world-building, creating backgrounds, etc are all part of your writing. So give yourself credit for doing these things, they count. Don’t hesitate to do them if you’re not and you’re focused only on writing words.
  • Do Not expect to include all of the above in your story. Some of what you write is just for you and your work. Putting all the background you’ve gathered in your book is likely to exhaust your reader. Wouldn’t you say from your experience that this is true?
  • Write with your own voice but know that reading books is part of studying the craft. Learn how to read in a way that teaches you, benefits your writing, and builds your knowledge of the craft. This month I’ll be reading The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark. I thank fellow blogger Charli Mills at The Carrot Ranch Dynamic Literary Community for suggesting this book to me.

While this list is in no way exhaustive (I’m always learning more), these are some of the things I think important to keep in mind while writing.

If you are a writer and want to share some of the things you’ve learned from writing please do! I love comments! Thanks for reading.

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Here’s What’s Up: Life is Going On

Hey there folks, how are you doing today? What new things have you been able to embrace during this struggle to overcome the SARS-CoV2 virus and its threat of Covid-19? What can you embrace that you might be overlooking?

I am embracing the time to focus on changing some habits, like being better about getting dishes done sooner than later. I’m also trying to embrace less grocery shopping and healthier picks when I go. Since it’s better to reduce exposure I don’t just go to the store when I feel a craving and have the money (CHIPS CHIPS CHIPS!). I’m also more likely to eat what I have instead of focus on what else I might be able to have. For example, I might say sure I have bread and tuna fish and mayo, so I could make a tuna fish sandwich but I would really rather have some chips and hummus and a hot dog. Nope, I’m not going to the store for chips and hummus. The food that’s available in my house is still food whether it sounds great or not. And do you know what’s so beautiful about this? I discover that that thing I really didn’t think would be as good as a hot dog or Taco Bell mexi-melt, is actually pretty darn delicious! As I ate my dinner the other night – tuna fish sandwich, cashew carrot ginger almond soup (something like that) and a side of fresh yellow pepper I thought, that’s right, I can do this diet thing. That’s right, eating healthy is a beautiful thing (even if I still want some chips and hummus).

By the way, cutting up that pepper made me that much more excited to grow my own orange peppers this summer. I planted my seeds inside (late) and my seedlings have come into this world! Yeah! More on that later.

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This quaran-time (as I like to call it) has not been without its challenges, its down days, and fear. But I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on myself and life even more than usual.

Sometimes we have the option to choose which lens we wear. During this lockdown period I imagine a lot of us are donning lens of fear. Still others pick up those of anger and frustration. Some days maybe you don’t think you have a choice, you just feel what you feel. I know that feeling. I know that need.

Compulsion:

1) the action or state of forcing or being forced to do something; constraint.

2) an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes.

3) Psychology. a strong, usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one’s will.

Google search of the word compulsion

Perhaps you feel compelled to be upset, afraid, and/or sad. Perhaps you are focused on how much is out of your control. Perhaps you are compelled to resist a new way of living and seeing life. Perhaps the compulsion is your own, not the fault of another.

We do not have control over SARS-CoV2. We do not have control over the Covid-19 illness. But we have control over ourselves and how we view things. The actions we’ve been required to take, or stop, have been as a result of what is unknown in an effort to protect all of us for as long as possible. The best way to protect beings from a virus pandemic is to keep said beings away from each other. Unfortunately, we can not rely on everyone to do the right thing without being compelled to do so.

I’m getting beside myself here…

Let’s try something. At least once a week – if you don’t already – choose to wear a different lens. Now come on, don’t roll your eyes at me – kumbaya shit right? – let’s wear a lens that helps us see how life goes on. See what you don’t always see. See passed the veil of stop and go and into a life you do not know…

Today besides this little rant I bring to you a piece of short fiction. It is inspired by real life but fiction. It’s fiction because it is not an exact account of the truth but a representation of it. 😉 Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments.

They rise in the morning

They rise early in the morning, with little thought about whether or not they want to. The work has to be done. The work will be done. The work of life will do itself whether you care to participate or not.

Perhaps if they could wish it, they’d talk to their coffee pot. Could you make the perfect cup this morning please? I hear it’s going to be a cold one. These midwestern springs are beautiful, but they are often temperamental. Could you please help me start my day with a great cup of coffee.

Work clothes present and on, fashion step aside there’s work we must do. Clothes up, coffee down, shoes on, let’s go!

Out to the barn they head, the dog running in circles around them. He’s likely the most excited creature headed off to work. Perhaps they cross their fingers before they pass the threshold into the barn. Hopefully the night was good to its inhabitants.

They walk through the barn greeting all the mommas and mommas-to-be. Good morning girls. Are you doing alright? Hello momma, how are your babies? They look over every ewe and every lamb. Are their bellies full? Is she taking care of them? Are they strong and healthy? Those for whom the answers are no require action by the farmers and they oblige the responsibility. That one needs a bottle. Never go to the barn without a bottle. We might have to tube that one. These folks in the barn are not just two-legged creatures; they come in like rays of light through the large doors. They bring hay, corn, fresh water and help. They are protectors, without their farmers many of would not survive on their own. They bring soothing voices billowing up from hearts deep and rooted in what they do. They are not cruel. They are not uncaring wicked creatures. These are real farmers. These are real people. This is a farm, not a factory.

This is a way of life and living is what they do. Keep on with the living her sister used to say.

They spot a ewe at the back of the barn. She’s laying down, straining, her chin outstretched, like a dog getting a good scratch. Life is on its way. She eyes the farmers. She’s wary, but she knows them. They will keep an eye on her to make sure all is well.

They go about their business of chores. They each have their routines, their preferred methods of doing things. Sure they bicker some, but that’s how we get on isn’t it? This is life and they are living it. They are living it despite the deceptive sun that hides the fact of the cold wind. They are living it despite the fact that a lethal virus waits in the wings. It waits where we can not see it. It lingers around all that we do. It waits for us to go about as though nothing else is happening. It waits. It acts. It takes. It is a virus. It does what viruses do.

But the farm must go on, and these people aren’t about to stop. Not age, not pain, not even fear, they are their weathered barns, antique and golden. As long as their blood pumps red as the paint, they will endure. They will listen to the news on their coffee breaks, their lunch breaks, and their dinners. They will take the necessary precautions and heed the science, as they do with any illness. Not simply because they were told but because decades of experience has taught them. And heck, that’s just common sense isn’t it? They will protect themselves, each other, and their flock. They will get up every day. They will do all that they can.

It’s been too long. They’ve given her plenty of time. The ewe in the corner of the barn stands, she is uncomfortable. She still has not given birth. She and the baby could be in danger. The farmers do not panic. They get to work. He takes his coat off and lays it over a nearby fence. She approaches the nervous ewe slowly, cooing softly as she does. The ewe is afraid, it’s in her nature, she’s a prey animal. And yet she knows them. These are her people. They have come to help.

The farmer stops but a few feet away. He approaches from the side. They communicate with each other about what they’ll do. He’ll hold the ewe, keep her still, assuming she cooperates. She will assist in the delivery.

Closer now she can see the lamb’s feet, the tips of two tiny hooves. She knows exactly what she’s looking at. It’s a breach. Oh? Yup. Nothing more to say. She grabs hold of the two little feet and pulls down ever so gently. The ewe does not resist, she grunts. There’s a little resistance from the body but then the legs come free. The farmer pulls and the hind of the lamb is revealed. With a few more gentle pulls against the strength of the body it gives way and the lamb falls to the straw. They use some straw to wipe the newborn’s mouth and nose, to clear the mucous so it may breathe. One of them gently pats it to be sure it’s alive and well. And maybe to be sure it acknowledges its arrival, as much as one can expect.

The lamb sneezes, lifts its small wet head and shakes it. The farmers have removed some of the membrane from around its head but the rest is the work of the mother. Were she not to do her job – which sometimes happens – they would do it instead, albeit as humans do. But this is a good momma. She turns to her lamb and begins licking it clean. She clears it inch by inch, all the while bleating a song that she only sings to her newborn. Even an untrained assistant can hear the soft pitch is different from her normal sound. Its tone is something innate to them. This sound is a bond. This sound is a forging between mother and child. One would not doubt the lamb knows its mother.

The farmers smile. Job well done. Good looking lamb. It is, it’s beautiful. What a good momma. Perhaps if momma spoke the language of the two-legged hairless ones she’d thank them. Perhaps she’d say, I knew I was in trouble, I couldn’t have done it without you. But the farmers would not need that, they know. This is a thankless job but they know they’re needed. They’re needed by the ewes, the rams, the lambs, and the people that count on the harvest. Wouldn’t it be nice though, if everyone knew how much the farmers are needed?

Outside the sun tells the wind to take a break. Let me warm things a bit, it is spring after all.

Outside, somewhere out there among the humans, the virus travels. It is expelled from one to the next. Or maybe it flies, soars, or simply floats, but it carries on because after all, it is life. The farmers know its there but they are here and there is work to be done.

Their eyes and minds open up beyond the delivery. They watch the swallows dip and dive through the barn. They are everywhere and yet their grace enables them to stay in their own space, they bother no one. They carry on. The farmers hear the lambs bleat for their mothers, the mothers bleat for everything. Might they talk to each other? The farmer opens the door to allow the other ewes back inside the barn after tending to one of the herd, a sister or mother perhaps a cousin. Some rush in looking for fresh hay. Others approach the new mother in her pen, smelling what has happened. Still others watch the farmers, wary of what they’re doing as they finish checking the barn and all its inhabitants. The dog sits nearby waiting for a job or a pat on the head.

Well let’s get coffee then we’ll do some marking.

Inside they’ll hear the news that the numbers are still rising. They’ll hear about the angry people resisting the current situation. They know the threat is real. They know that were the world their barn they would have to do things differently. They would have to change their course of action to ensure survival of the herd, not comfort of the individual. They would adjust. They would adapt just as they do every spring.

The farmers know that life isn’t just about survival of the fittest. The farmers didn’t need school to teach them that the mechanism of evolution is adaptation. They survive because they do not stop, they adapt.

One last check of the barns after dinner then they’re off to bed. They will rise in the morning, again and again.

100 Words for 100th Day Flash Fiction Challenge – Greater than This

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(I so so love that gif!)

Hello everyone, that emergency hug is for any of you who need it. Things are heavy right now, even my diet feels that way (which means I feel that way). Every time I’m feeling this weight (not talking about the physical or the diet, that’s a different conversation that involves…you guessed it YOGA! LOL), something occurs that tells me to hold on and be strong.

My mother gave me this little statue some time ago. I apologize I do not have the artist’s name right now, but neither my mother nor I made it. That said I could have sworn I had her centered on that post and facing a different direction. I was in the bathroom and looked over to see her facing me right as I was feeling a little down. This stopped my thoughts. I was really sure this was not how I left her but whatever…it was perfect. This moment reminded me how I need to carry myself even amidst this struggle.

I have been learning a lot about the struggles of others as we all struggle together. It’s not that I didn’t know but I didn’t know how it feels to be so isolated and restricted. My significant other, among others, has been relaying to me that what we are all experiencing – this social distancing, being restricted from going and doing whatever we want – is what African-Americans and Native Americans, among others, have been living for a very long time. Think “whites only”.

For decades, African-Americans were not allowed to eat wherever they pleased. They couldn’t just visit the new restaurant in town because it sounded nice. A black man could not be seen with a white woman out on the town, enjoying themselves, never mind loving each other, without risking their lives. A black man could not look at a white woman without repercussions. If women were property, black women were less than that. Their work for the family and household, both their own and that of the slave master, was not respected nor noticed, never mind complemented or appreciated. Black people, families and individuals could not go about town as they pleased, smiling and waving at their neighbors – not their white neighbors – without fear or skepticism. White people forced social distancing on all the people of color. We were essentially, the virus, polluting the space we inhabited.

This discrimination has not ended. We are still witnessing the virus of hatred infect millions of people. We are still watching the virus of violence against “other” replicate again and again. Sadly, it is in some people’s DNA. Sadly, some people use their DNA to carry on the evil that is prejudice and racism. We have recently been told that the “other” communities are suffering even more from the virus as a result of decades of discrimination. Some go about like nothing bad is happening, while many suffer directly or indirectly. Sound familiar?

It sucks.

My parents always corrected us when we used that word: SUCKS. But I feel its crassness is necessary here because this sucks. And when I think about how this must feel for anyone or any people to have lived and live on a daily basis, their whole lives, my heart breaks. It is a shattering sensation. A feeling akin to breaking glass inside me. The pieces ricochet and as they do they cut everything around them. Inside I bleed for the inflicted pain.

But I am better for this.

I enter the room inside me and take in the wreckage. With my index finger I touch the blood on the walls. In its reflection I see not only my face as I am going through this trauma now but the faces of so many people I know not to even exist. I’m picking up the pieces of glass and they sparkle. Sparkles inspire me. They speak in a language that is light. They tell me to write. And so I do. I look ahead, searching for what has broken. What I find is that what’s broken was a barrier. On the other side of the barrier is more than me.

I welcome you to join me in this week’s flash fiction challenge. This challenge’s theme is barriers. Interpret it as you will but what you write must be 100 words, no more no less, to mark the 100th day of 2020. Here’s my piece.

more than me

I step forward. Suddenly there’s a wall. I look left, right, turn around. There was a wall here?

A whistle. I turn, there’s a man. He flickers, his brown skin deepens. His beard softens away. She smiles.

Another spark, her form shrinks. A small hand grabs mine. A jolt ruptures the shadows that blind me. We are living a shared experience.

Lightning, the form becomes three. They do not shun me. They bring me close. They sing:

Allow the song

of your soul

to rise above the pain

And bring you to your feet

For you are greater than this.

Six-Foot Form, Hexameter with D. Avery

Good Thursday evening to you all. How’s your life going? Keeping yourself busy? I am, I am. Looking forward to getting some organization done both in house and in story! Now if I could find that three-hole punch gadget I have…

Yesterday I was browsing some other blogs and their posts. In doing so I came across a nice challenge over at ShiftNShake: Home Brewed Prose & Poetry by D. Avery. The post was from a week ago. The name of the post is “To Hex With It” with Kid and Pal, the fictional ranch hands. They’re quite a pair of characters, accents and all. Do check them out. In this post readers were invited to leave a “six-foot comment, that is twelve syllables”, thus an Iambic Hexameter (at least another commenter called it that 😉 ). Now I don’t deal in poetic forms, nothing against them I just don’t. In fact I’ve been more fiction these days than poetry but when I do write it’s always free form. That said, why wouldn’t I want to try this out, right? Here’s what I came up with:

All well here, ah well I still worry my fingers.

Worry my mind too, but spending time sending love.

Do I put on gloves, not at the keyboard my love.

To hold a pen the same, my mind is different.

At least I still have them both to have and to hold.

Have, hold, write, send prayers to all around the world.

🙂

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I read it back a few times, posted my comment, read it a few more times and thought, that’s not too shabby Elpy, not too shabby. D. Avery liked it enough to share it at the Carrot Ranch Dynamic Literary Community’s Saloon! Pretty cool eh? I’m digging doing challenges as it challenges me digging in me mind!! 😉

So it seems very appropriate that I go ahead and share this with my own audience, a little timely piece I’m proud of. She provided the form and I the feeling because that’s how I felt sitting at my computer surrounded by all this intensity of the current situation.

If you’re interested in reading some of my other shared works, namely flash fiction pieces written for challenges go HERE. Thank you. Bye for now!

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March 19 Flash Fiction Challenge from Carrot Ranch

Hey guys, how you holding up? Are you in a place that’s under some kind of stay at home order? Today I feel a little more anxious about things but still hopeful. When I first started this post the states of California and New York were announcing statewide lock-downs. Since then Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey plus five others and many cities are under similar executive orders. India, as a whole apparently, is also on lockdown. Still I pray and pray for relief, a slow in the spread of the virus. I pray for everyone the world over.

That said, I read a beautiful post by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch Dynamic Literary Community. She opens with evidence of a rabbit on her roof. I encourage you to read her post. Charli talks about our new reality and looking back on March 2020. How will you look back on March 2020? For some of you the change in reality came in February, maybe even January. We will all look back on this with 2020 hindsight. Oh my, how we did not know when this year started the irony of 2020.

In her post Charli shares their last day before the change as well as she and her husband coming down with symptoms. She shares with us their experience trying to get tested. Trying. Luckily it sounds like they’re getting better.

What I want to reflect on about her post is the topic of writing fiction. Many years ago I stopped reading fiction for about five years. I got it in my head that doing so was not important, not productive and well, kind of useless. It wasn’t a huge deal, it’s not like I was reading a lot of fiction anyways. No I just didn’t bother to read any novels. Done. I also thought that if I was going to be doing anything with fiction, it should be writing my own novel. Wrong. Writing is like any other profession, practice, craft, exercise, you have to study it. However, you don’t have to go to school to study writing, you can read books, novels and more. (By the way, I wound up screwing my head back on straight and have long been back to reading novels. 😉 )

Charli raised the point that fiction writers are practicing the truth, and I most certainly agree. We take concepts, ideas, ideals, subjects and explore them. We are like scientists of art exploring our subject under different conditions and constraints. We’re experimenting and testing our characters with magic or new worlds. We put pressure on our characters like life puts pressure on us. Have you seen the movie Contagion? That is fiction and yet, here we are. (WAIT I am NOT suggesting what happened in that story is going to happen to us, but in some ways and some places it has.) Think about the Jetsons and how crazy their technology seemed to us back in the 90s. And yet, I’m listening to the news right now on my Echo Show, having told Alexa to play CNN, having told Alexa to turn the volume to nine so I can hear it over the noise of the shower my birds are undergoing. I check my touch screen phone for 2pm news updates, a 14-day weather forecast, instant messages between family and friends, and I think about video chats. When today will I listen to my current audio book, the Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, on whatever device I choose? Art imitates life and sometimes I think life manifests from art.

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During this time of isolation and orders to stay at home we artists have a lot we can do. If you don’t have a current WIP, maybe now is the time to start one. If you do, push yourself to make progress, I know I’m going to. And as much as all of this is inconvenient at best, scary to say the least, and life-threatening at its worst, we can pull stories from it. We can safely take bits of terror or large chunks of hope and build stories. We can stamp this history into our archives, portfolios and futures. Use your feelings, the things your reading, the world outside and create something. Express yourself. (Quick example: my father sent me audio of him scatting (from the context of jazz) with some music in the background, including some drumming I believe to be his own. Time well used pops!) Of course we will never forget these times, but thankfully we still have some power to shape the future both as we stay home and stay safe and as we put our art to work.

Without further ado, here is Charli’s 99-word flash fiction challenge from March 19:

In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a rabbit on the roof. Or many rabbits. Why are they there? Explain the unexpected, go into any genre. Go where the prompt leads!

https://carrotranch.com/2020/03/19/march-19-flash-fiction-challenge-3/

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Alice and Janice Save the World

Alice sat atop the roof waiting for Janice. This wasn’t like her. Alice squeezed tight against the gable.

There came a high shriek. She twisted her ear listening. She heard the call and hopped out.

Janice landed next to her.

“I’m sorry Alice. You alright?”

“I am. You?”

“Yes.”

“Should I worry?”

“No. It seems we’ve started a movement. Others want to know how we, prey and predator, have forged an alliance. They want to help. This is how we will prosper in these times now that humans have turned their backs on the world.”

“Well done my friend.”

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Thanks for coming by and reading my post. If you want to read more of my flash fiction please visit my page Flash Fiction and Short Fiction. I’m trying to make more of a habit of doing the Carrot Ranch challenge as well as posting a flash fiction challenge of my own. You’ll find stories I’ve done for both at the above link. And once again, I really encourage you to visit the Carrot Ranch Dynamic Literary Community.

If you like what you read don’t forget to hit the like button and maybe even subscribe to keep up to date with what I’m posting. In addition to flash fiction I like to post about books I’m reading, read, plan to read (TBR additions, lots of wishful thinking there), writing stuff, and some rants from time to time. Hopefully I’ll have some updates or at least things to tell you about my debut novel soon. 🙂

“Never Have I Ever” Writer Tag

Hello peoples out there in the world! I hope you’re doing well or at least more well than not. Every day I’m praying for the minds of the scientists and the physical and mental well-being of all healthcare professionals and frankly, everyone around the world. So I hope you’re feeling some random love coming your way.

Today’s post is totally different but super fun (so I think 😉 ). I found this tag thanks to the author C.G. Drews over at Paper Fury. C.G. is the author of A Thousand Perfect Notes and The Boy Who Steals Houses. I have not read either book but A Thousand Perfect Notes is on my TBR now. I’ve heard great things about this author and she has a cool blog!

I write a lot about reading and then write a lot on my own time so I am grateful for this method of sharing things about my writing with you guys. Here goes:

Never Have I Ever…

……Started a Novel that I Didn’t Finish…..

Nope sorry, more unfinished than finished. However I will say that my previous (couple) attempts were half-hearted, full of doubt. Whereas my current WIP is the first I’ve really dove into and committed. Heck yeah! It feels great!

……Written a story completely by hand……

I’ve most definitely written some short stories completely by hand, and then maybe typed it up. But I am not against writing by hand, in fact I do it with my WIP quite often. Only problem being then I have to go type it up.

……changed tenses midway through a story……

Oh man, done this, done this, did that.

……Not researched anything before starting a story……

I have definitely started more stories before researching than after. Honestly, I have to get the story going first. That said I can see doing research first but um no…

……changed my protagonist’s name halfway through a draft……

Geez, have I ever! I started to type maybe not my protagnonist then I really got thinking about some other stories I’ve written or at least started. Yup, changed her name. My WIP has endured quite a few name changes. For example, my MC’s two cousins used to be Lane and….hm, now I forgot the other’s old name…oh well, now they’re Mayne and Marshall. It was necessary and this is better. I don’t like to do name changes however quite often I just need a place holder. A name will come to mind and I won’t like it but I’ll use it for a time in order to keep moving the story forward. I know that as the story progresses I’ll discover more about my characters which will help influence name choices. I actually like picking names for my characters because there’s so many choices. It’s fun to get fancy, and heck just see what’s out there!

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……written a story in a month or less……

What are the parameters for this question? Does flash fiction count? I’ve written quite a bit of flash fiction in less than a month. When it comes to short stories I have written them in less than a month as well though there’s a lot I haven’t returned to to edit for some kind of publication.

……fallen asleep while writing……

I already said have I ever but I have to say it again. Have I ever let me tell you. I can’t count how many times I’ve fallen asleep while writing. I wake up with scribbles on the page. Although this bad habit isn’t as bad as say reading. I am so guilty of falling asleep while reading, man…

……corrected someone’s grammar in real life or online……

Oh I don’t want to answer this. Ugh, I’m a jerk. Yes I have corrected someone’s grammar in real life, but not a stranger. I have done so to people I care about in an effort to be helpful, not to be a jerk because they said something wrong. I know that I would appreciate knowing if I’m saying something incorrectly than keep saying it. I’m not a jerk about it, I’m kind. A minute ago I called myself a jerk only because I know some people really get offended by this idea even. Sorry, not sorry. 🙂

……yelled in all caps at myself in the middle of a novel……

Look my first real Never Have I Ever! I have not done this though I have talked to myself, actual speaking out loud, while writing. It’s very helpful sometimes.

……used “i’m writing” as an excuse……

Should I admit to this publicly? Who’s reading this? Lol. The thing is I always need to be writing so consider it a tool I use. Should I do X? No, I should be writing. Nope sorry, I’ll be doing some writing. There are worse things yeah? The problem comes in (in my conscience) if I wind up sidetracked and/or distracted and don’t actually get around to writing.

……killed a character that was based on someone i know in real life……

Nope, never. I don’t write characters “based” on someone I know in real life. I might make characters similar, have someone in mind that I want to fashion this character after in some way. But no one character is one person. Then again, one of my MCs in my WIP is named after someone in real life and I killed him off right away. But that’s because the story is in part about him as an angel.

……used pop culture references in a story……

Well this is just necessary. If I were writing a story set in another world then I think that would make sense. Then again, that other world would have some kind of pop culture. I hope I would be clever enough to include that. I don’t see the point in not using at least a little pop culture to help date your story and put it in context of the culture at large. That said I’m not pop culture hip so I gotta make sure I use it correctly!

……written between the hours of 1am and 6am……

Ha! All the time. I write late all the time, and I say late not early because I don’t wake up early to write. I stay up late and write. Really I write at any time of day, it all depends on the day.

……drank an entire pot of coffee while writing……

Correct! Even before my Keurig machine I never drank an entire pot. Really I prefer espresso based drinks like lattes, so regular coffee effects me differently and not in a great way. I think if I drank an entire pot it would negatively effect my writing, and my day. Probably I would be a mess and uncomfortably jittery.

……written down dreams to use in potential novels…….

I always want to use my dreams, either in a story or as inspiration for a story. Problem is I’m not very good about writing them down. In fact just the other night I had a wild dream, I couldn’t describe it well now if I wanted to, and I so wanted to remember it to see if it was story material. Too much time has now passed for me to be able to use it. Dreams are great material. Now in terms of my WIP, my novel, I can’t think of anything right now that has come from a dream…hmm….

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……published an unedited story on the internet/blog/or wattpad……

Nope. Even my flash fiction gets edited. I mean editing is how I get it to the correct word count! In fact, writing and editing flash fiction is an awesome writing exercise. It’s really helping me to see how many words aren’t necessary.

……forgotten to save my work/draft……

I don’t think I have ever forgotten. It feels strange to say never but I’m going to stick with no I haven’t. In this technological age it’s actually kind of difficult not to save because so much software automatically saves. I use Scrivener for my WIP as well as OneNote and both of those programs have an autosave feature. I will then manually save as well. On the other hand, I have forgotten to back things up as often as I should. 😉

……typed so long that my wrists hurt……

You know I don’t think I have, at least not my wrists. The backs of my legs don’t like me sitting for long. Writing by hand I absolutely wind up injuring myself, my hand cramps up fast. I do have carpel tunnel in my right hand (write hand). I mean heck maybe my wrists do get tired but I’m so focused I don’t notice it! Lol. My eyes do not like screens as long as my hands like typing.

……spilled a drink on my laptop while writing……

I have spilled some drink on my laptop but not a whole drink. Thank God, that sounds like a nightmare. I’ve spilled at least a little of something on notebooks, keyboards, screens (tablet), WIP printed pages…

……finished a novel……

Ah gee, this is true. Have no fear I will change this and finish this novel within a year!!!!! 😀

……laughed like an evil villain while writing a scene……

I’ve made noises and faces and sounds. I’ve also laughed while writing a scene but laughed like an evil villain, maybe not specifically. I do squirm and get excited sometimes!

……cried while writing a scene…..

Oh yes I have and I am proud of it. If I make myself cry because of what I’ve written then I did something right. When this book is finished I hope you cry too. It’s just true. I want my work to invoke and provoke and stir and spin emotions. In fact it’s super important to me that I write a story that moves my audience. So picture me in front of my piece clapping and hooting with tears on my face because I’m excited my scene was that emotional. Heck yeah!

……created maps of my fictional worlds……

Nope, sorry. This does not apply to me. Yet. One day, one day I might write something in a fictional world. When that day comes, we’ll see.

……research something shady for a novel……

Yes I have, although maybe not so shady. But I assume all writers have. I do wonder if people see my searches how I make sure they know it’s for my writing. 😀

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There you have it! That was fun. Do you want to know more about me and my writing, me as a writer? Let me know. Also let me know if you decide to answer these questions yourself. Do we have a lot in common based on our answers?

Thanks for stopping by and reading! Don’t forget to like and follow, please thanks! 😀

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge – Tapping

Please visit Carrot Ranch Literary Community and read Charli Mills’ beautiful post about the tap-tapping of spring coming forth in the Keweenaw Bay. It’s a beautiful lesson in gratitude even in precarious times. It’s true, that even as this pandemic crashes against us in waves of fear, spring is coming and it’s still beautiful.

My sister shared a post on social media in which the author of the post instructs us to go outside and breathe, plant your feet on the Earth. Ironically before I plunged into the rabbit hole that social media often is, I pet my dog and welcomed my birds to the new day. In doing so I thought about the fact that they – for the most part because no doubt they sense a shift in energy – aren’t aware of this pandemic. They don’t know and aren’t worried about its spread or how best they can practice social-distancing. This made me think about the world outside, nature. Nature always keeps going. It just keeps doing its thing.

Spring will not be cancelled. The birds will not stop singing. The flowers will not remain underground. The trees continue their energetic push to grow buds, flowers, seeds, and leaves. The wildness around us keeps on being wild. As I think about this, what my sister shared, and Charli Mills’ post and her friend in hospice making plans to see fireworks on the 4th of July, I think about keeping on. I think about how Charli’s right, there’s hope in plans. I will still make plans. I will breathe and take in the sun. I will plant my feet and salute the sun.

And I will try my hand at Carrot Ranch’s 99-word flash fiction challenge this week.

March 12, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes tapping. You can play with the sound, make it an action, or create something unexpected. Tap a story and go where the prompt leads!

https://carrotranch.com/2020/03/13/march-12-flash-fiction-challenge-2/

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Get Out of My Head

There was tapping around my house. I could not find it. Upstairs, downstairs, I looked in every room.

“What the hell!” One more sign I did not have control of my life. I collapsed in bed. There was movement behind the blinds. Tap-tap-tap.

I jumped up and twirled the wand, opening the blinds. Away went the red bird. It was vibrant, not the drab of winter. The sun glowed on my face. Green points poked up through the dirt. Birds whistled around my yard.

“Oh Little Cardinal, thank you for enlightening me with your tap-tap-tap.”

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Thanks for reading! If you’d like to participate in the Carrot Ranch Literary Community’s flash fiction challenge please click on the link at the top of this post. Inspired by Carrot Ranch to do more flash fiction work myself I’ve also started doing a weekly flash fiction challenge. Please click HERE to read what I’ve been working on. My challenges can be done at any time.

As always Thank You Carrot Ranch for sharing your great post and really cool challenge!

Mental Wellness and 71-Word Challenge

Hello everyone, how are you? I hope you and your loved ones are well and safe. Things are kind of scary right now for us all. My state just announced their first case of COVID-19 and it makes me want to bury my head in the sand. But freaking out isn’t going to do me any good. I think this is a good time to reach out (by phone or internet, not physically!) to people you know around the (your) nation and world, especially those in heavily affected areas, to see how they are. I did this the other night, messaging family members whose contacts I have. I know some people might think me awfully dramatic (guilty as charged) but my spirit compelled me! I have family in Washington and when I thought about them I wondered how they were, so I asked.

I think it’s especially important to reach out to the people you know who are at higher risk for contracting the virus as well as people you know who have mental illness. I suffer from anxiety and I have a particularly difficult time worrying about matters of health. Some people call me a hypochondriac. Based on the definition, “a person who is abnormally anxious about their health”, I most certainly am. I’m not proud of this fact and I know it’s irrational but when my mind gets to whirring those thoughts around about what these constant headaches, chest pains, sparkles in my vision are it is extremely difficult to just shut them off. My best bet is to ask myself some questions:

  • Is this an emergency, as in I need urgent care? If not then,
  • Is there anything I can and should do about this now? In other words, if my doctor’s office is open, can I schedule an appointment? If not, then calm down, leave it alone, call when you can.
  • Can I simply monitor this myself, thereby taking a strong stand as my own advocate?

If an appointment is necessary and scheduled, then I need to distract my thoughts away from the worry while I wait for my the day. This all seems pretty common sense but it can be really stressful. What’s my point? During this pandemic people like myself are probably experiencing even more than our usual every day anxiety. It wouldn’t hurt to check in with a text or e-mail or phone call and see how people are doing. I’m alright. I’m keeping myself up to date with the latest news. I’m washing my hands when available to me and using hand sanitizer or wipes when I can’t wash. I cancelled travel plans and plan to avoid people as best I can. This means my trip to the store yesterday afternoon will turn into late night or early morning trips to avoid large crowds, all the while being safe about my surroundings. I’ll gather some food supplies to avoid having to go out more and be prepared should I need to hunker down. I am not freaking out, I’m being cautious. Freaking out would disable me, making me more dysfunctional than not. I’ll also see what I can do to get another month of medications. I have extra pet food as well.

We all have to do what we can to stay healthy and keep those around us healthy. Not all my worries are irrational or extra but staying healthy means I also have to look out for my mental health. Keep exercising, continue yoga, and probably make some time to meditate or whatever to calm my mind. Let’s all make sure to remember it’s important we care for our mental health as well.

In case you’re wondering, and in case it would help to share, here’s an example of a mild hypochondriac panic attack:

Almost two weeks ago (maybe?) I was at a big box grocery store. It was really busy. We didn’t have any cases in my state yet so I was less nervous but still concerned. As I made my way to the dairy section to get some cottage cheese I noticed a woman cough into a tissue balled up in her hand (not covering her mouth with it or her hand, but balled up uselessly in the middle of her hand). She was with another woman by the yogurt. Instantly my heart rate increased. I thought oh my God why is she in the store! Okay, calm down, she might have allergies or some kind of breathing or lung matter. Maybe she’s not sick.

Regardless, I decided I’d leave my cart where I was at and quickly walk over to the cottage cheese, grab a container and hustle back to my cart. That’s what I did. Then as I turned around I saw them walking towards me. Heart rate, up, more. Oh God, oh God, oh God she’s coughing! Hold my breath, hold my breath. Do you know how difficult it is to hold your breath while you’re anxious? I went back to my cart holding my breath until I couldn’t and was far enough away to believe I was safe. But the fear did not leave me. The incident did not leave me.

I bought my groceries and left the store. I used my sanitizer then just sat in my car replaying the situation over and over. Little evil butterflies flew rampantly in my gut. I decided then that what I should have done was walked in the opposite direction and went all the way around the next aisle to get back to my cart. Over and over I thought this. I pictured myself doing it. I imagined how I wouldn’t have come close to them had I done that. I worried that I had made a critical mistake. Then I thought, no you just should have ditched the cottage cheese all together as soon as you saw that woman cough. She probably doesn’t have the coronavirus but what if! All the way home I thought about this. At home I thought about it. And still I remember it. That incident for me was distressing to say the least. Once it was over, I then also had to imagine what if I were to contract it and then visit my elderly aunt?

I’m sharing this to give you a snap shot. Like I said, I’m fine but having anxiety means I’m a greater risk to mishandle real fear and make things more difficult than I need to. So maybe see how the people you know are doing (not in person), you never know when your compassion could help ease another person’s soul.

With that I’m going to issue a 71-Word writing prompt challenge. The theme is looking passed fear.

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What should I do?

“You know what this means don’t you?”

I stared.

“Transformation. Metamorphosis. Change! You could be change.”

“But… what if -“

“You can’t hide forever. Your wings will show them there is hope in our future. When you finally fly you will be filled with their magic and it will fill your voice. Your voice must be heard.”

I flexed my double set of wings. They shivered. The thin butterfly wings changed colors.

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There you have it, my 71-word flash fiction piece. I encourage you to participate and try your hand at flash fiction, no more no less than 71 words. Post your story in the comments or a link to your page with your story. Please link back to me here. If you’re interested in my other flash fiction challenges as well as those I participated in over at Carrot Ranch, please follow the links below. Carrot Ranch Literary Community run by Charli Mills is who I have to thank for my doing these flash fiction challenges. I’m so grateful for the inspiration provided thanks to her 99-word challenges. This is a great thing for my writing practice.

Carrot Ranch 99-word writing challenge:

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67-Word Writing Prompt

Hey guys how ya been? Sorry it took me so long to post again, I mean it feels like a long time. That’s life though right? Right. Okay today I will be short and sweet. By my calculations it’s the 67th day of the year. Tomorrow begins Daylight savings, 2am tomorrow. Should we start a betting pool of how long it’ll take before we scrap this concept? More and more I hear people asking the question: why? I’ve been wondering that my whole life, even as I’ve heard it explained again and again it never clicks. It’s weird, we’ll see. But daylight will be our theme today. However you translate that in your story go with it.

Write 67 words, no more no less, using the theme, topic, idea, whatever of daylight. Please title your piece. Post it in the comments below or post the link to your post (if applicable) and be sure to post back here on your site. Below my piece I’ve included some links to my other word challenges as well as my entries for Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch word challenges. It’s thanks to Carrot Ranch – A Dynamic Literary Community that I do these challenges. I keep trying to get back to hers then miss the mark. But check her out, it’s a great community.

The Shimmer

They would shimmer. I didn’t dare step out and be seen. First a watcher would see me. They know the shimmer. Next, a call will go out to sentinels who notify the alphas. By then the watcher will see my second set. I don’t know what happens then.

But I would love to step into the rising light and stretch my wings, let them finish their growth.

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Alright, your turn! In case you’re wondering or it matters, I do my flash fiction piece (the above) on the fly. I don’t write it in advance. This is all on the fly. But have at it!

Below are the links to my other flash fiction pieces. You might notice that my own prompt responses (as in not my pieces for Carrot Ranch) are related…

My Flash Fiction Pieces

My Carrot Ranch Challenge Responses

I hope you’re all well and in a safe place. May we keep on in good humor and faith even in these trying times.

60-Word Writing Prompt

Today is the last day of February and the 60th day of the year (by my count 😉 ). March brings with it so many possibilities as well as responsibilities that winter simply does not. Maybe I won’t be mowing the lawn in March but outside jobs are that much more in your face. It’s the possibilities that are exciting. Outdoor activities, not just jobs, will slowly but surely become available. What I especially love are the birds, their voices and songs, their migrations, and their overall presence. Add to that we’ll soon have flowers poking their little way through the cold soil to greet the sun with the rest of us. I do love spring.

As the weather warms that also usually means I won’t be reading as much and yet, audio books are helping to change that. Besides, I would really love to get some sun, which goes hand in hand with reading. Even more than sun and birds, flowers and warmth a new season alerts me to just where my novel is and isn’t. Where it is is a little stuck, which means it isn’t finished. But okay, I see that and I will act on that.

I’ve had some really great brainstorming sessions as of late. As well I’ve had a few tiny breakthroughs in terms of character and plot details. So far in my progress I’ve only really had to kill one of my darlings, that weren’t already dead. 😉 It wasn’t all that difficult for me. However what I discovered recently is that I have a character I’ve long considered bad, but now the waters are muddying. In other cases a bad character simply became good. In this case however I cannot undo what they’ve done. So it’s not that I’m struggling with having to kill a darling it’s more so the balance or rather juggle of roles this character takes on. In real life we aren’t always good or bad. We’re usually a mix of the two. Even then good people go bad and vice versa.

At first I thought that maybe I would need to change something, maybe this character isn’t all that bad. It would be much easier to know how to judge them than balance their bad against their good throughout the story. Then what? But I recognized my error; in writing as in many arts and things we do in life, the simplest answer isn’t always the best answer. I’ve read/listened to many stories with gray characters. It didn’t stress me out or frustrate me, it was kind of refreshing. It was more like real life, more dynamic. I know that this will not be easy but I’m not trying to write an easy story. Instead I will embrace this new direction as I am spring and all that comes with it.

The theme for today’s 60-Word Writing Prompt Challenge is new. I’m going to keep it just that simple, go with it where you may just make sure it’s in 60 words, no more no less. Please title your tale, post it in the comments or a link to your page with a subsequent link back here to me.

Feel free to revisit my other flash fiction prompts as well as the pieces I wrote for The Carrot Ranch’s Writing Prompt Challenges. You’ll find links to all of these at the end of this post.

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Things Discovered, Things New

It wasn’t a surprise my wings were feathered, but an interesting development. The composition of your wings is an indicator of your position, at least in part.

Feathers meant watchers, messengers, spies, and hunters to name the basics. I could live with that. But I was shocked to find I had a second set of wings. They were not feathered.

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Voila! Your turn. 😀

For more of my Writing Prompt challenges follow the links below:

The following links are the pieces I wrote for The Carrot Ranch’s 99-Word Writing Prompt Challenge. She writes some really great posts I highly recommend you check them out, especially if you’re a writer. The Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community for sure!

As always, thank you so much for visiting and sharing. I do encourage healthy discussion. If you like what you’ve seen follow me to stay tuned in to what’s going on here. This week I’ll share another flash fiction piece for Carrot Ranch’s latest challenge as well as new additions to my TBR for January and February. That last one might come in the form of two posts, we’ll see.

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