Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tommyknockers - What every writer wishes they had

Insomnia.

It creeps up on you and doesn't let you go. 

One minute you're so tired that you can't keep your eyes open, and the next minute your brain is on overdrive and you're still so tired that you can't keep your eyes open. 

So you lay there and let your brain run rampant. 

In my case, last night, it was on full overdrive. 

I did everything.  I rolled over.  I put a pillow over my head.  I got up and went to the bathroom.  I got a glass of water.  I even grabbed my phone and tweeted to whoever was awake and listening for insomnia to go away and tell my brain to shut up on the way out.

And then, it came to me...

Tommyknockers.

Not the movie - the book.

Have you ever read it? 

"Late last night and the night before,
Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers,
Knocking at the door..."

I'm no genius, but this book holds the solution.

Stephen King, when he wrote "Tommyknockers", was expressing an idea that writers all over the world wish they had the ability to take advantage of.  Never mind the fact that his main character took her faithful old dog, neighbors, and unsuspecting community members and turned them into organic batteries - she figured out how to rig a telepathic typewriter.

Meaning, she could be out doing something else and writing the next great American Novel at the same time, via a device that looked like a typewriter but was rigged up to a ream of dot matrix printer paper and typed out exactly what she thought as she thought it.

Let me tell you, last night hasn't been the first night I've ever wished for that horrible invention, and it won't be the last.  I don't care if I have to turn everyone around me into a dry cell battery in my tool shed.

Ever since I was a little girl, telling myself stories in my head is how I've gotten myself off to sleep. 

These days, my brain gives me lengthy "to do" lists, churns out blog entry ideas, and continues to chew on its latest bedtime story - a sci-fi thriller regarding the consequences of unregulated colonization of planets where the colonists agreed to carry on the genetic experiments begun before they even left the Milky Way galaxy.

If I had my hands on a Tommyknockers contraption, do you know how much writing I could have done right now? 

Seriously.

Dragon software pales in comparison.

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Library Love Affair (aka why I'm becoming a librarian)

Would you like to hear about the time I killed a man in cold blood and got away with it? Or, I could tell you about the time that someone killed me and I was trapped between this world and the afterlife for several hundred years. How about that one time – the time when I survived a zombie apocalypse? Have I told you that story yet?

I have done these things, and more, because of the library.

I have traveled aboard spaceships and taken exotic vacations to planets that don’t exist. I have stumbled into parallel realities through wardrobes, paintings, and hidden portals in the backyard shed. I have colonized worlds. I have lived on a moon base. I’ve been abducted by aliens and lived through a nuclear winter. I’ve actually survived several zombie apocalypses – not just the one.

The library was where I fell in love with dragons, unicorns, and elves, and then brought them home to play with in my imagination. I found monsters in the library, as well. They hid themselves in the pages between shadowy book covers with titles rendered in red, made to look like dripping blood. They disguised themselves as teenaged girls, classic cars, and the family pet. They kept me awake all night with the lights on and my head hidden underneath the covers.

I got to check out my first library book when I was six. The school librarian selected “Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears?” for me. I took it home. I read it. I read it again. I read it a third time. I returned it, and the next time, I got to choose my own book. This was the start of my life-long love affair with the library.

When I got a little older, my parents started taking me to the public library once a week. I would haul home stacks of books on Thursday night and have read them all by Sunday. Soon, we started going twice a week, because I couldn’t seem to get enough books to read.

Books were my escape. I learned to shut out the real world and live in worlds that I got to choose. I got to be whoever I wanted to be, and adventure in places that none of my friends had ever visited.

As I got even older, I discovered that the library was a place where I could also learn. I was attracted to the metaphysical, ESP, UFOs, aliens, and ghosts. I chose to blend my reality with the unknown and the unexplainable, like the stories that I had fallen in love with and cherished growing up.

Because of the library, I developed a rich imagination. I learned to seek out knowledge rather than sit in a classroom and let it come to me. I was able to look at ideas that seemed far-fetched and formulate a plan of action to discover for myself whether or not there was any truth to them.

My senior year in high school, I decided that I would write my term paper on whether or not Robin Hood and King Arthur really existed. I wanted to know. I was sure that they did – how could they not? Isn’t all fiction based in fact? I spent weeks in the library, poring over books and taking notes. I investigated histories, looked for parallels, and drew conclusions. I wrote my paper, and got an A plus.

Did King Arthur really exist? Did Robin Hood?

The answer is yes. They were real men who did noble deeds and were immortalized through fantastic legends, which grew even more fantastic as the centuries wore on. History has forgotten their real names, of course, but it is doubtful that they would be remembered at all, if it weren’t for the library.

I have loved the library ever since I was six years old and that school librarian placed my first library book in my hands. I have learned much there, and have had many great adventures. This is why I have chosen to be a librarian. I want to be able to help other people learn to love the library as I have. It is a magical place where anything is possible – even surviving a zombie apocalypse.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Killer Christmas Fudge

Heaven in a pan
At Crafty Bitch Headquarters, it wouldn't be Christmas without the fudge.  The awesome, killer, Hershey's chocolatey fudge that mom has made every year for as long as I can remember.  Sounds good, doesn't it?

This recipe was passed down from dad's side of the family to my mom by my grandmother.

I have no idea if I'm going to disappear for leaking it to the Internet, but it's just too good not to share!



Grandma Patchen's Killer Christmas Fudge

4 cups granulated sugar
1 large can Carnation evaporated milk

Set aside:
2 large (the HUGE ones, 8oz) Hershey's milk chocolate bars (broken apart)
1 pint or 2 cups marshmallow cream fluff (14-16oz jar)
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 12oz package chocolate chips
2 sticks oleo
2 teaspoons vanilla

Boil sugar and evaporated milk together, stirring constantly at a rolling boil for 6 minutes or until mixture reaches soft ball stage. (mixture forms a ball when dropped into cold water)

Pour hot mixture over candy mixture and beat like hell until smooth texture.

Pour into greased 9x13 pan, cool, and then refrigerate.

Once set, cut into squares and enjoy.  Keep refrigerated.

Mom only made a half batch, as you can see, but it turned out as killer as usual.  
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mynx’s Fabulously Simple Holiday Cheese Ball Recipe

Last Saturday, some fabulous bloggers brought you the 12 Blogs of Christmas. I've had a lot of requests for the recipe of the cheese ball that I shared at Amberr Meadow's 12 Blogs of Christmas: Tasty Traditions and so today, I've posted it here. 

It's been quite a few years now, but an old friend in Pennsylvania shared this recipe with me one Christmas, and it's quickly become one of my favorite holiday recipes, and traditions.  I make it instead of cookies for holiday goodie exchanges, and I also give it out to friends and family.  When the holidays roll around, I have plenty on hand for entertaining - it's always a hit. 

Mynx’s Fabulously Simple Holiday Cheese Ball Recipe

2 - 8oz packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 - 5oz jar Kraft Old English Spread (@room temperature)
1 - 5oz jar Kraft Roka Blue Spread (@room temperature)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar (or flavored vinegar – feel free to experiment)
2 tsp garlic salt (or garlic powder)
1 cup crushed nuts (suggestions include walnuts, pecans, or toasted almonds)

Set aside crushed nuts and combine the rest of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Cover and let set in the refrigerator until firm.  Take it out and form into a ball (or a log, or a wreath… get creative), coat with chopped nuts.  Serve with crackers.  Yum!

You can also mix the nuts into the spread itself while it's still soft and pack it into jars to give it away. Be sure to decorate the jar with a pretty label, ribbon, and a recipe card to share the love!

I hope everyone had a chance to visit all of the fabulous bloggers who participated in the 12 Blogs of Christmas.  We all had a lot of fun putting it together, and once again, thanks to Kelly Stone Gamble and Erica Lucke Dean for organizing it!  

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tweaking Blogger - Adding a StumbleUpon button

I'm going to preface this blog by saying that I think that the basic social media sharing options on Blogger are great, but they are a far cry from covering all of the options available for sharing your blog posts.

So, what do you do when you want to add more options?

The easy way is to look for plug-ins - those lines of code that someone else has already done all the work on, and you just have to click your mouse a few times to install it.  If you use Blogger as your blogging platform like I do, you no doubt get frustrated with the fact that the plug-ins are pretty basic, and it's hard finding ones that do what you want them to do.  You are also limited as to where you can place your plug-ins on the blog template.

For instance, I wanted to add a StumbleUpon button for readers to be able to use to share my blog posts.  Logically, I went to my "Design" tab on the blogger dashboard and tried to find the appropriate plug in.  I found a grand total of one and quickly discovered it wasn't what I was looking for.  I want people to be able to stumble individual posts, not the entire blog.

Realizing that this was going to be more difficult than I wanted it to be, I proceeded search the web for a tutorial.  Tutorials are one of my favorite things about the internet.  You can learn how to do anything with a good tutorial - I now know how to make a skeleton key for padlocks out of a soda can, find product key codes to activate my pirated software (theoretically - as I have no pirated software to activate), and download virus-laden music files via open source peer to peer network sharing programs.

Anyhoo....

All of the tutorials that I could find, including the one on the actual StumbleUpon website, had me placing my brand new StumbleUpon button directly beneath the body of my blog post - several lines above where all the rest of the sharing options are located.

I'm not a total neat freak, but I do like some structure and organization - sharing buttons should be grouped together for your reader's convenience, not hiding around your page like an Easter egg hunt. And so, I bring you Mynx's happy little tweak for adding a StumbleUpon button to your blog where it actually belongs - with its happy little friends at the bottom of your post.

This isn't as easy as clicking your mouse a few times to install a plug-in, but it is relatively easy and pain free, and best of all, someone else still did all the coding for you! (I apologize in advance for the hard to read pictures.  Maybe I should have taken time to find a tutorial that would have fixed that.)

Step 1 - Open a notepad file and then click here to select the StumbleUpon button you would like to add for your website.  Copy the code generated in the box on the right to your open notepad file.













Step 2 - In Blogger go to your dashboard and click on the "Design" tab.  On the following screen, click on the option to edit HTML.









Step 3 - At this point I urge you to back up your current template.  Disclaimer:  I won't be held responsible if you screw up your blog by not following directions and then have no way to get it back to its original, unscrewed state.  Sorry. 

Do this by clicking on the link to download the full template. Save it someplace where you won't lose it, like directly to your desktop, and then proceed to Step 4.  In the event that you have to restore your original template, you can upload the saved version on your desktop directly to Blogger and everything will be hunky dory again.

Step 4 - Check the box!







Step 5 - Make sure that your cursor is somewhere in the box with all of the coding and use "CTRL+F" to pull up your search box. Type the term "quickedit pencil" (minus the quotation marks) into the search box and your screen should pull up an area of the code resembling this:









Step 6 - Copy your line of code that you saved to your notepad file and place it directly below the entire section of coding pictured above.  Your code will now look like this (minus the arrows, which are for reference):

The highlighted area in blue is the code for your StumbleUpon button.  Make sure to leave space directly above and directly below your new line of code to make it easier to find later if you decide to change your social media sharing buttons again.




Step 7 - Now hit the "Preview" button and viola! There should be a brand new StumbleUpon button directly beneath the rest of your sharing buttons.  Click "Save Template", and that's it.  You've got a nifty new StumbleUpon button placed where it belongs, with its happy little social media sharing option friends.

Did this help you? Please be sure to click the button below and stumble it! :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hey! I'm a crafty bitch!

If you follow me on Twitter, you've no doubt seen me mention Craftapalooza and not much else on many a weekend lately.  The fact that I've been a mostly unemployed college student this year has afforded me the opportunity to revisit old hobbies and pastimes in the interest of being thrifty this holiday season.  (Translation: Y'inz are all getting handmade shit from me this Christmas and if you don't like it, too damn bad!)

The past several months have been especially busy at Crafty Bitch Headquarters (aka Mom's house), where we've been busier than Santa's elves on crack trying to get the presents and cards finished and ready to go out in time for Christmas.  Now, I'm in no way implying that we do crack at Crafty Bitch Headquarters.  Our speed is usually more along the lines of a nice glass of red wine, which is probably why it's now December 6th and we have a grand total of 11 Christmas cards crafted. 

The truth is, there are so many fabulous things that you can do to be crafty, we've developed Crafty Bitch ADD.  In fact, we've been working hard on everything BUT Christmas cards.  This is partially my fault.  I went looking for card making tutorials on YouTube and got distracted looking for tutorials on how to alter composition books.  Which is cool because it ultimately led to us making these sorts of things:

My new scrap-journal

There will be many more of these under the Christmas tree next year, because they are time consuming to make, but let it be known that if you are a crafty bitch, you can do just about anything with a composition book and some scrapbook paper.

In my spare time (ha!), I've also been working on these awesome crochet hats, which is really why I am posting this blog.  I sent one to a friend last month and she raved over it, not to mention the fact that she looks super cute in it.

Said awesome crochet hat

The one I'm in the process of making right now looks like this:

Green and orange yarn wasn't something I would have ordinarily tried, but it works.

This is such an easy pattern and it works up really fast.  From start to finish, you can crochet this hat in about 8 hours, which is more or less two nights spent catching up with everything you've got stashed on the DVR because you've been too busy to watch your favorite television shows.  Can you tell I'm speaking from experience?

Unfortunately, due to copyright infringement, I can't post the pattern on my blog, but I can give you a link to download it for yourself!


Happy Holidays to all of you Crafty Bitches out there!



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Greetings from NaNoWriMo - Surviving the first week successfully

Well, here we all are, for better or for worse, attempting to complete Day 3 of National Novel Writing Month.  If you are on schedule, you've got no less than 5,001 words completed, and you've even dug into tomorrow's word count quota. Or more.

It you aren't on schedule, no doubt you are gnashing your teeth, pulling your hair, and have even thrown in the towel already. (Or at least threatened to.)

Here's a thought:

Don't. Quit.


Don't. Give. Up.

Wanna know a secret?  I didn't write a single word for my NaNoWriMo project on November 1st.  That's right.  I didn't.  I meant to, but life got in the way.  I had to work.  I had to drive the two hours home from my mother's house.  I had school work to do.

Wanna know another secret? I still didn't have any idea what I was going to write for NaNoWriMo this year, even when I sat down to write my two day quota yesterday.

As a matter of fact, I didn't actually sign up for NaNoWriMo until November 5th the first year I signed up for it.

My point is, it's okay if you aren't keeping pace with the majority.  It's okay to do NaNoWriMo your own way.  If you want to skip a few days, it's perfectly alright to do so.  If you want to sit down and write ten thousand words at a stretch and then take a few days off, that's okay too.

What isn't okay is being paralyzed by fear and not attempting to make a start to begin with. 

"But Mynx, I don't have an outline yet!" 


"But Mynx, I don't have a clue what I want to write about!"


"But Mynx, my computer crashed and I broke my writing hand in a freak rollerblading accident yesterday!"

Bitch, please!  I'm going to give you all some tough love right about now.


Build a bridge and get over it.

You don't have an outline?  Good.  Here's an idea: try being a pantser this year.

You have no idea what you want to write about?  Good.  Here's another idea: try being a pantser this year.

Your computer crashed and you broke your writing hand in a freak rollerblading accident?  Here's an idea: invest in Dragon software and beat everyone to the NaNoWriMo finish line.

Now, wanna know how I'm getting my novel to write itself for me, despite having skipped the opening day of National Novel Writing Month?

Too bad.  I'm going to tell you anyway, because it's all about the tough love tonight.

I sat down in front of the computer and went to this website.  I generated a character name.  I generated a couple of plot scenarios.  I messed around with just about every generator I could find on this website.  I embraced the ridiculous.  I copy/pasted and rearranged the different stuff that it spit out at me.  And then, with little more than a character name and a time frame, I started writing.

I wrote for three hours straight and let my main character just tell her story.  I put my inner editor away, and I listened to her talk.  And she had a LOT to say.  For having not existed when I sat down at the computer around 7:30, by the time I closed my laptop up at 11:30, my character had given me 3,704 solid words, including an action scene.  She had revealed back story, and she had revealed supporting characters.  She had even revealed some motivations, and more importantly, she had shown me things that I needed to ask questions about and digger deeper for later on.

Most of all?

I had fun writing my quota.  The only reason that I stopped writing was because I was so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open. 

So, enough with the excuses already.

Get writing.

Are you on my NaNoWriMo buddies list?  Add me: EvilMynx

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plotter or Pantser? Discovering your NaNoWriMo style

It all boils down to one question - are you a plotter, or a pantser?

With just five more days until National Novel Writing Month begins, there is a lot of buzz going on about how people are preparing to face the challenge of writing a fifty-thousand word novel in thirty days.

Some people have detailed outlines and character sketches.

Some people have decided that they have Character A and Character B, and they are going to get thrown into Situations C and D, but they are going to let what happens write itself.

Still other people are tossing ideas around, but haven't really settled on the story they are going to write yet.

And finally, there are those NaNoWriMo purists who, having no idea what they are going to write, will sit down in front of their computer on November first and fly through the month, and their novel, by the seat of their pants.

I saw it mentioned somewhere recently that outlining fiction is a pointless effort, because the outline ends up becoming so detailed that you might as well just write the damned story already.

Do I agree with this?  Yes and no. 

My last attempt at NaNoWriMo failed in part because I tried to outline my story.  I went into the month knowing the basics of the story that I wanted to tell.  I had the characters formed in my head.  I knew the setting.  I had a general plot. 

I wrote my first 1667 words like a good little writer on November first, but I decided that I needed more discipline, and I took things further.  I cluster mapped.  I brainstormed.  I filled in character sketches and I filled in known plot holes.  I created a timeline.  I knew what my story was about and I knew what it was going to say when the month was over.  I had created my very first outline!

I was so proud of myself for being so... so.... professional about my writing for once.

And so I wrote.  I kept track of my daily word count on a spreadsheet and if I fell behind, I pushed to catch up. If I got ahead, I did everything in my power to stay there. I was doing this, by golly.  I was WINNING NaNo. 

Except that as I approached thirty thousand words, a strange thing happened.  My main character started to deviate from the storyline that I had set out for her.  She did things that were out of character, and she totally ignored my meticulously laid plans for her future.  The man that I had planned as her love interest wouldn't take the bait, and another man appeared instead.  I have no idea where he came from.  I didn't plan him.  He called her up on the phone one day when she was supposed to be doing something else.

Something that I had outlined for her to be doing at the precise moment this mystery character appeared and blew my outline to smithereens.

I was overjoyed and horrified all at the same time.  On one hand, I was thinking, "How awesome is this? My characters hijacked my story. I wonder what is going to happen next?" 

On the other hand, the Control Freak in me was totally freaking out.

My beautifully plotted and planned story was ruined.  Try as I might, I couldn't rein the characters in, and there was no way I was going to be able to finish the story in fifty thousand words.  In fact, I couldn't see it ending at a hundred thousand words at that point.  At least, not if I was going to regain control of the story and tell it like I had planned to tell it.

*sigh*

I was stalled at 37K words, and that was that.  I threw in the towel and congratulated myself for a valiant effort and then skipped NaNoWriMo entirely the next time it came along.

Here's the thing - once I created an outline, I was doomed.  I've never been a plotter.  Nothing against plotters.  I actually envy plotters.  My Control Freak envies plotters. They're so... put together.

But for me, the joy in writing has always been sitting down with some vague ideas and no apparent direction, and then letting the story tell itself. My characters shine brighter when they give birth to themselves.  My settings are more tangible.  My plots are more captivating.


They say it's not important whether you win or lose.  It's how you play the game.  I give myself credit for trying to be a plotter, but it didn't suit me, or my writing, so this year, I'm taking the NaNoWriMo challenge as a full throttle pantser. 

This year, I'm playing to win.

What is your NaNoWriMo style?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Writing a novel in 30 days (otherwise known as NaNoWriMo Madness)

For those of you in the know, the title of this post speaks for itself, and you are either laughing at me or nodding your head in sympathy because you are planning on spending the month of November much the same way I will be -- glued to your computer, gulping down coffee, and neglecting your family and friends until you have completed your goal of writing a fifty-thousand word novel.

For those of you who are new to NaNoWriMo Madness, don't let that first paragraph scare you away.  I didn't mean it.  Okay, so I did, but it's not as bad as it sounds.  Really, its a lot of fun, and your friends and family will be so proud of you when it's over that they won't hold a grudge about you neglecting them for thirty days straight.  (In theory, anyway.)

So, what exactly is this NaNoWriMo Madness of which I speak? 

Simply put, it is that festive event that takes place every year during the month of November where aspiring novelists test their resolve (and their sanity) by pledging to write a fifty-thousand word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30th. 

Now, some of you might say, "Fifty-thousand words, Mynx? Are you out of your freakin' mind?"

The answer to both of these questions is yes, but let's look at this from a different standpoint.  Yay, math!

50,000 words divided by 30 days = 1667 words per day.

1667 words per day.

That's it, but that's not all.

To write your daily word count in one hour, you only need to be able to type 28 words per minute.

1667 words divided by 60 minutes = 28 words per minute.

To put it into further perspective, you speak, on average, at 100 words per minute.

It doesn't sound nearly as crazy-making now, does it?  Actually, it sounds pretty easy, when you look at it that way.  And a lot less time consuming than I originally led you to believe.  Hell, hook up your voice recognition software and you can probably dictate your entire novel in oh, eight and a half hours from start to finish.

But wait!  There's even more!

Now that you've wrapped your head around the numbers, it's time to look at what NaNoWriMo is really all about, and that is, it is about getting you to put your butt in chair, in front of keyboard, and get to writing that novel that you keep talking about writing "someday".  There is no more talk of writing during NaNoWriMo - there is just writing from day one to day thirty.  There is no "someday" during NaNoWriMo.  "Someday" becomes NOW. 

If ever you needed a kick in the kiester to get to writing that book you keep meaning to get around to writing, NaNoWriMo is that kick. 

And it starts a mere nine days from now, so what are you waiting for?  Go to the website and sign up!

And then come back here and leave me a comment with your user name so I can add you to my writing buddies list. 

Who's with me?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mirror, mirror - Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is part three of a three part vignette that is an account of my experiences. You can read part one by clicking here, and part two by clicking here



I do not recognize the woman in the mirror.

She is not me.

She is someone else.

She frightens me, the woman in the mirror.  Her eyes have no whites.  They are bright blood red, and she won’t meet my gaze with her swollen-lidded, empty stare.  She looks beyond me, seeking an escape route that I cannot offer her, and her fingers play at her throat, which bears the impression of two hands, rendered perfectly in blaring black and blue.

Choking me… can’t breathe… won’t stop… have to make him stop… oh God oh God oh God I can’t breathe why won’t he stop please make him stop… go limp… play dead… that will make him stop so I do I go limp I stop breathing hold my breath oh God please stop choking me I can’t… shhh… he’s letting go… don’t breathe yet… he’s letting go…don’t move yet… just breathe… no don’t move oh why did you move…

Hands around my throat choking slamming my head against the floor and it’s black can’t breathe and he isn’t stopping can’t breathe oh God oh God oh God please stop go limp again hurry don’t fight him he’ll let go don’t fight don’t fight he’ll let go…

She frightens me, the woman in the mirror.  She wears an ugly purple-green mask that disfigures her face, stretching the lines of her lips, nose, and chin.  Her cheeks are distended, marbled yellow, blue-black and lopsided.  Her flesh is pulpy.  Her hair is misplaced and dirty. 

Cornered… have to get around him have to get away let go of my hair no oh God that hurts stop punching me please I didn’t… I don’t… stop… oh God oh God just let me get around him that’s my hair on the sink he ripped it out of my head oh God oh fuck oh please…

She frightens me, and I do not recognize this woman in the mirror.

She is not me.

She is someone else.

End Part 3.

If you know someone who is being abused by their partner, or you are a victim of domestic violence, you can get help!  Visit this website:  National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 1-800-799-SAFE.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kyra's Gambit - A fantasy fiction short story

I wrote this short story when I was in high school, and later, after several revisions, submitted it for publication to several well known fantasy magazines.  Thus, I received my first ever rejection slips from the world of professional publication.

I'm proud of those rejection slips.  They are proof that I was brave enough to put myself out there.  They are proof that I took the first toddling steps towards reaching my goals as a writer, at the young age of 16.

No matter whether you are considering traditional publishing or self-publishing, it is important to remember that you are going to face rejection.  Not everyone is going to like your writing style.  Not everyone is going like your content or your subject matter.

However, someone out there is going to like your work.  It pays to network, to be persistent, and most of all, keep writing. 


Kyra’s Gambit
            “You don’t have to kill to anybody to get the coins to get out of here, Kyra,” Stryker told me.  He disagreed with the way that I am earning the money.  “Go rob the Treasury. It’s safer.”
            Safety gets you nowhere.  Safety is a convenience to cowards.  If I were to have backed out of this mission, the Boss would have eliminated me.  The very fact that I told Stryker about the job is grounds for eradication; however, I know that Stryker won’t betray me.  I’d like to think that it’s out of friendship, but he knows that if he tells anyone else, I’ll kill him.  That is, if the Boss doesn’t get to him first.
            “What difference does it make to you?” I had argued.  “I’ve been here too long.  The stench doesn’t bother me anymore.”
I wouldn’t have stayed if I hadn’t been arrested by the city guard for thieving when I first got here.  I picked the wrong pocket and landed myself in jail for a few nights.  I didn’t know that the idiot was the head of Council.  He looked like everyone else in this place:  stupid, clumsy, and filthy rich.  When they finally let me go, they took what little of value I had and turned me to the streets again.  I had nowhere to go, no coins, and nothing but the clothes on my back to keep me warm.  Stryker found me and took me in.
I’ve learned much from Stryker.  He rescued me from the streets and introduced me to the Boss.  He also taught me about the corrupt legal system, and I take my revenge by corrupting it further in the Boss’s employ.  It brings me much satisfaction to see those who would carry out their polluted version of the law wallowing in their own ignorance.
“Just don’t go off and do something stupid,” Stryker advised me.  “They hire all sorts of fancy guards for those coots, and you aren’t a seasoned professional.” 
Stryker knows what he is talking about.  Sometimes he is one of those “fancy guards” for visiting rich folk.  The Boss has his hands in everything that is going on around here.
“Exactly why they won’t suspect me,” I had replied confidently. 
What bothered me about the conversation was the look on his face when I left.  He was looking confused and nervous.  Usually when we argue, he tells me how stupid I am and lets things go at that.  He tried to talk me out of it this time.  He’s never done that before.
            I can’t afford to dwell on it right now, because I’m on my way to the Square.  There’s a big hullabaloo going on today, and the Boss wants me to kill off a few foreign dignitaries.  He didn’t tell me why, and I didn’t ask.  As long as I get paid, I figure that the motives are none of my business.  The mission is the pay load, you see.  Succeed, and all of my problems are over.  I can finally leave this place and continue on my search for bigger, better things.                         
            I can hear the parade music up ahead, and I smell the crowd.  The streets before me will be filled with the usual crowd of arrogant on lookers; nothing but a mass of hot, stinking imbeciles who have nothing better to do with their time.  There will be street rats here and there, as well, dressed in rags and picking the pockets of the preoccupied spectators.  Normally, I would be joining them, but today, I have more grandiose intentions. 
Today, I wear the disguise of a street entertainer instead of the rags of a street rat.  No one would suspect the innocent young clown busy entertaining the children to have only moments ago shot down a well guarded foreigner.  And they shouldn’t.  I don’t look like an assassin in my bright purple stockings and embroidered yellow tunic.  I look like an innocent bystander.  I look like every other fool here trying to make a living. 
            I am approaching the outskirts of the crowd now.  The stench is worse, and the noise is deafening.  My targets are further down the street, making their way slowly to the place I have chosen to do my corrupt service.  I wade into the throngs of onlookers and pick a few pockets, anyway.  Everyone is so close together that they don’t even notice, and it’s an added bonus to my payoff.
            I reach the front of the crowd after much pushing, shoving, and pocket picking.  The former are necessary, the latter is going to get me arrested if I’m not careful.  It won’t do to get caught and end up in jail before I can even carry out my mission.  I will pass the time with a little entertaining, then.  It will keep me out of trouble.
            I pull out five heavily weighted balls and begin to juggle them.  If there is one thing that I’ve learned from my travels, it is that people thrive on entertainment, and if you know how to entertain, you will be better off for it.  I suppose I shouldn’t be using my chosen weapons as the focus of my act, but it’s either this or start dancing around like an idiot, which the crowds seem to like for some reason.  I can’t afford to call that much attention to myself. 
            No one is paying me any mind in the first place.  They are excitedly watching the approaching fanfare and buzzing amongst themselves like agitated stinger flies.  I highly doubt that anyone will notice when my five balls become four as one of them sails through the air and explodes upon contact with its target: a strutting, self-important dignitary.  There will be no evidence of the instrument of death left to decide my identity afterwards, and I dare say that not much of the foreigner will remain, either.
The dignitaries approach and no one notices as I turn and toss a small globe out into the street.  The explosion can barely be heard above the roaring crowd, but I know that I have hit my mark as the cheers and yells turn to screams.  The other four balls are put away and I am melting into the crowd again before anyone realizes what has really happened.  The procession will push on, despite the assassination, and so will I. 
            One down, two to go.
            I arrive ahead of the spectacle and begin my juggling act once more.  This time, a group gathers around me.  They are amazed, for I am now using twelve of the deadly little orbs, and a juggler of my dexterity is rare.  They, too, will not notice as I casually fling a ball out of the circle and pull another from my pocket at the same time.  The trick is complex, but I have been practicing.  Even if I miss, no one will suspect me.
            The procession arrives, and I pull my gambit.  So what if I miss the one I was actually aiming for, because I have eradicated the final dignitary on my list as a result of the slip.  Now the infamous guards are onto something, however, because they are moving in on the crowd and picking off innocent but suspicious looking bystanders.  That’s my cue to hightail it out of here.  If I can dispose of the final target in the process, it will be better for me in the long run, but the guards are much too close to risk it.  I push on ahead instead, away from the guards, away from the convoy, on to my final location.
            It goes badly.  Someone sees me throw my sphere of destruction and watches as it lands.  I’ve completed the mission, but I have to get away before the people around me realize that the bloke across the street is pointing at me.  I move sideways, behind a large man and shove my way through the horde.  If only I weren’t dressed so brightly, it would make it easier to remain inconspicuous.  I shed the yellow tunic only after considering the consequences of running half naked through the throng.  I am, after all, a woman.  I will do what I must to survive, however, and the tunic goes.  I pull the cloak off of another spectator to cover myself and am gone before he realizes that it is missing.
            As I reach an alley, panting from the effort of fighting the crowd, I stop and take stock.  No one appears to be following me, which is good, but I have lost my pick pocketing profits with the tunic.  Oh well.  I guess it’s some other street rat’s lucky day.
            The passageway winds through a bad part of this town, but I can handle it.  I’ve been in worse places with little else than a knife to defend myself.  I continue on with appropriate caution, still expecting to hear the shouts of angry guards behind me.  There is nothing but silence and my footsteps echoing on the cobbled alleyway as the sound of the crowd fades.
            I don’t like this.  Something isn’t right about it.  Even an alley isn’t entirely devoid of life.  A rat here, a cat there, something should be moving about and minding its own business, but there is nothing here.  No doors are open and the windows above are disturbing, vacant eyes looking down on me.
            I hear the footsteps that I thought were the echoes of my own too late.  Before I can turn to defend myself, a sickening thud invades my ears.  I lose myself to blackness, realizing that it was the sound of my head connecting with a very heavy weapon.
*****
It is dark and cold here.  I can hear water running somewhere, and voices.  There is something familiar about one of them, but I can’t place it.  The pain in my head is like a spike driving deep into my brain.  It takes precedence above my immediate surroundings.  Wherever I am, it can’t be the Boss’s hideout.  I wouldn’t be on the floor, and I wouldn’t be… chained?  I’m chained to the wall!  This definitely isn’t the Boss’s hideout, and I’m obviously in trouble.
Okay, so I deserve it.  I should have checked my back more often than I did.  I shouldn’t have pulled that stunt with the idiot across the street watching me.  I shouldn’t have even accepted the mission in the first place.  But I’m not the type to give up so easily, and so I’ll stay here and find out just where it is that I am.  Then, maybe, I can escape, get paid, and get out of this hole in the middle of nowhere and get on with my life.
I hear the sound of footsteps outside the heavy door to this cell.  My first chance to ask questions, and I won’t give it up easily.  The door is swinging open on creaking hinges.  So much for that escape route.  They could hear me for miles if I tried it; if only I can figure a way out of these chains.
There is a shadow in the door way.  The shape looks familiar, just like that voice that I heard earlier.  Maybe it’s one of the Boss’s men, come to negotiate for me and take me back.  The figure steps inside and shuts the door.
“Kyra?”
“Stryker?”  I can’t believe this.  Why is he here?  Isn’t this a jail cell?
“Kyra, I told you not to take the mission.  Why did you even tell me about it?  As soon as you told me, I had to tell the Boss.  I came to tell you that I’m sorry,” Stryker says.  He doesn’t sound remorseful.
“Betrayer,” I whisper in reply.  “I trusted you.  How could you do this?”
“Because you were stupid, Kyra,” he is angry.  His voice is quavering like it does when he gets frustrated, growing deeper and sharper with each syllable.  “I’ve told you not to trust anyone here.  I tried to make you see reason, but you took the Boss’s bait, and now you are going to die for it.”
.  “You treacherous fink!”  I am not defeated yet.  “I never trusted you, Stryker!  You conveniently showed up when I needed a helping hand, but I lied about the mission, and you’re the one who is going to die.”
 “What are you talking about, Kyra?  You are a fool and everyone here knows it.  The Boss had you framed.  He can’t afford to pay you off, so he’ll kill you instead.  You can’t be trusted.  You are expendable.  It’s really that simple,” Stryker takes a step back.  “I take my orders from the Boss, not you,”
 “Wrong, my dear,” I reply in my sweetest tone.  “I told you the plans to see if   you could be trusted – it’s quite obvious that you can’t be.  As soon as you report back to the Boss, he’s going to get rid of  you; then, I get out of this cell, get a hot meal in my stomach, and I’m leaving this place for good – with payment for my mission.  Unfortunately, you won’t be around to see it.” 
I watch now as the doubt grows.  I hope that I’m right about what is going on, because if I slip once on the wrong words, my web of deception will unravel, and then I won’t be around to see anything.  Gods, I hate this place!  I should have never come here to begin with.
“You’re mad, Kyra.  The Boss doesn’t work that way,” Stryker is no longer angry.  Is that fear that I hear in his voice?
“How would you know?” I ask.  “Are you one of his hit men?  The Boss is a snake and you’ve only been doing business with his tail end.  I do business with his fangs.”
This much I know is true.  Stryker is not a hit man and has never been involved in any of the Boss’s more violent crimes.  He isn’t capable of telling who has been feeding him the lies.
“You didn’t lie about the mission, Kyra.  You did it, as planned, the exact way that you said you were going to.  I watched,” he is matter-of-fact now, and his doubt is ebbing.
“I know that,” I reply steadily.  Easy does it.  I can see that I’m confusing him.  “You could have kept your mouth shut, but instead, you trusted the Boss.  The lie was your own doing.  You told me never to trust anyone.  You should have heeded your own advice.”
That did it.  I’m as good as sprung now.  He’ll get me out of here to cover his own tail, either way.  Yes, there is nothing like the survival instinct kicking in.
“I…” he looks defeated.  “Okay, Kyra, you win.  What do you want me to do?  What can I do?”
“Get me out of here so that I don’t have to wait around for one of the Boss’s idiots to come get me, and then get as far away as possible.  I’ll tell the Boss I got rid of you, and you’re free to go.  You never liked it here anyway,” I coax.  I hope he believes me.  After all of this talk about not trusting people, he might just run and leave me here to die.  So, I add, “you can trust me on this one Stryker.  I never meant to play a part in your murder.  You’re the closest thing that I’ve had to a friend in a long time.”
The sincerity is hard to fake, but perhaps I do so well because I am, in a manner, telling the truth.  In any case, he seems to believe me.  He leaves, and a moment later returns with a key ring and unlocks my chains. 
“I’ll leave the cell door open.  There isn’t anyone else about, they’ve all gone upstairs,” he is steady, but I know that inside he is petrified.  “I’m leaving now, and I won’t be around if the Boss sends anyone after me.  They won’t find me.”
I say nothing, but watch as he pauses in the doorway.
“Kyra?” he speaks, finally, his voice shaking.
“What, Stryker?” I’m going to play this out to the end, no matter what it takes.
“For what it’s worth, you’re the closest thing that I’ve had to a friend in a long time, too.”
I nod, and he is gone.  There is no time to celebrate my good fortune, or to ponder his farewell.  I have to get out of here, and I’m doing so right now.
*****
A week on the open road has left me full of the wanderlust that I had forgotten lay dormant within me.  I got out of that hole in the middle of nowhere as fast as I could.  I left without the coins that I thought I needed so desperately to get anywhere, and I’m doing fine without them.  It’s a shame that I didn’t realize that coins weren’t necessary to travel, or I would have gotten out of there as soon as they released me from that crummy jail.
Oh well.  I’ve learned my lesson in that department.  And maybe I’ve learned a few things in the people department, too.  Stryker was wrong.  He could have always trusted me – even when I had to deceive him to save my own neck.  If I meet up with him, maybe I’ll tell him so.  Then again, maybe I’ll think twice on it.



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An almost Wordless Wednesday writing prompt

Copyright 2011, Marie Patchen

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, 1915

Put yourself into the picture.

Where do these two paths lead? If you had a choice, which path would you take, and why?  Why are you standing here, having to make this decision? What events led you to be in this situation, where you must make the choice between the two?

What lies at the end of each path?  

You can choose to write this from your own point of view as a journal entry, or you might choose to use it as a character exploration for one of your fictional characters.  Or, make up your own story, with your own character(s).

Post it on your blog, and leave a link in the comments section below to share if you would like to, also.

Happy writing!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Beyond the looking glass - Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is part two of a three part vignette that is an account of my experiences. You can read part one by clicking here.


It is morning.  The light outside is sharp, knifing into my bloodied eyes relentlessly.  Fresh snow has fallen to cover the red stains on the icy driveway, but I know that they are there. 

“You don’t have to do this,”  he says, opening the truck door for me and helping me up into the seat.  Somehow, I manage to buckle my seat belt, gasping as my chest prickles in pain from being touched. 

“You don’t have to do this,”  he repeats.  “You don’t have to go back.  I’ll stay while you pack a bag and I’ll bring you back here.”

I hear what he says.  I comprehend.  He is offering me safety.  He is offering me freedom.  He is offering me peace of mind. 

“I don’t know,”  I whisper.  Everything looks different in the bright light of day.  And I wonder what I might be going back to. 

He looks at me for a long moment, his expression pained and pitying, and he backs the truck out of the driveway. 

It is a two-minute drive, and we are silent.  Or maybe we aren’t.  The sharp, winter light slices into my memory and I no longer recall if there were words exchanged at all.

The truck slows, sure-footed on the icy pavement, and he turns left onto my street.  He stops the truck in front of the house and shifts into park.  I am shivering, but not from the cold.

“Are you sure that you want to do this?”  he asks.  “You don’t have to.  You know that.”

I take a deep breath and look out the window.  There are fresh footprints in the snow, and I know that I will not be alone.  Someone else is inside.  With him.  I catch a glimpse of my face in the side view mirror as I turn away. 

I have not looked into a mirror yet.  I avert my eyes.

“I have to do this,”  I finally reply.  “I have to know why.”

End Part 2.

If you know someone who is being abused by their partner, or you are a victim of domestic violence, you can get help!  Visit this website:  National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 1-800-799-SAFE.

Stay tuned next Monday for Part 3 of my vignette: Mirror, Mirror.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Flexing your writing muscles

Like athletes, writers must train.  We all have tips, tricks, and resources to get our creativity flowing.

I have a few favorite resources that I like to go to to inspire me.  One is a book,  "Journal to the Soul" by Rose Offner, and it is filled with many inspiring exercises to get you writing, such as the following exercise:

The task? Write about your life or a piece of your life that you don't understand and would like to. Write it as a fairy tale or a short story. Include an obstacle that has yet to be overcome, an encounter that has significance, the gift you received, or the lesson learned, and how you came to triumph in the end.

The  following is my response, originally written long hand, in green ink, in a hard bound journal with unlined pages on September 7, 2002:

Once upon a time....

It was told that there was a little girl, who for various and mysterious reasons, became trapped within the body of a wicked and hideous witch. Now, this was no ordinary witch. This witch, in addition to being exceptionally wicked and hideous, was also horrendously lazy and fat. Her mind was incredibly dull and unimaginative for that of a witch. In short, this witch was a very undesirable person to be trapped inside of.

The poor little girl languished in darkness for months on end as the witch went about her business of making others miserable, casting spells and invoking ancient curses to fling upon unsuspecting loved ones and undeserving strangers. Only briefly would the witch allow the little girl a glimpse of the outside world, and then it was darkness again for what seemed an eternity. The little girl made up grand stories in her head to pass the time.

She had no concept of escape.

For years, the little girl endured imprisonment within the witch. She lived quietly, ignoring the witch and reminiscing about her last glimpse of the free world, until one day, the witch let her look outside again. The little girl, gazing upon the green grass and blue sky, was immediately filled with an aching desire to be free of the witch. She fought with all her might not to be pushed back into the darkness. But, kick and bite and scream as she might, the witch triumphed over the little girl, and once again pushed her back inside.

The little girl began to plot her escape.

It was what seemed like forever before the witch let her have a glimpse of freedom again. The little girl gazed out calmly upon a beautiful visage in the world outside and made no attempt to escape. Willingly, she sank back into the darkness when the witch said, "No more," and she continued to plot her escape. The witch, both dull and stupid, was ignorant of the little girl's plan.

In time, the witch grew gravely ill. Being wicked, hideous, lazy, and fat will take its toll on even the most evil and strong witches. Ever so slowly, the witch's strength began to disappear, as the toils of being evil caught up with her. The little girl, being inside of the witch, could feel the witch getting weaker.

She began to speak to the witch.

At first, the little girl tried to tell the wicked witch the grand and elaborate stories that she had made up. But the witch had no interest in her stories. She ignored the little girl and watched with malicious glee as misfortune visited on a passing acquaintance. So the little girl gave up telling stories, and instead began speaking in earnest. She talked about nothing in particular, and she did it all of the time. For hours she would speak, offering an opinion about this or that, a recollection, a thought, a memory. Eventually the witch, being rather too dull and unimaginative to have opinions of her own, and too weak to do little more than sit and observe the evils going on around her rather than cause them, began to listen to the ramblings of the little girl.

The little girl rambled on. Her favorite color, food, toy, and numerous other things about herself paraded out of her mouth and across the witch's mind. For the witch, the little girl had become a nonstop babble of useless but entertaining nonsense. She became weaker by the day, and still, the little girl prattled. By now, the little girl knew that the witch was getting too weak to hold her prisoner.

She grew bolder.

She began to tell the witch what she would do if she could be free. She spoke of strange ideas that required imagination and initiative. The witch lacked these qualities herself and could not understand because of this. She lost more strength trying to puzzle out the ideas of motivation and creativity. The little girl felt the strength leaving the witch, and rambled on.

She told the witch how she had plotted her escape, knowing that the witch could not understand the complex thinking that went on as she was creating it. The witch was, after a fashion, spell bound. Having no capabilities to think on her own, the wicked witch was mesmerized. The little girl felt the bars on her prison begin to waver, then disappear. She had hypnotized the witch into setting her free!

With a happy heart, she jumped up and leapt from the witch...

And found that she had not escaped.

The little girl looked around and rubbed her eyes. Once again, she leaped, and fell back within the witch. The witch opened one eye, chuckled, and then closed it again.

"When will you see that you were never my prisoner?" She questioned in a whisper. "When will you be the wise woman who understands?"

And with that, the witch became silent. In fact, she never spoke again. The little girl watched as the witch faded away, not grasping the truth of the witch's demise, until one day, she woke up on a strange morning of revelation.

The little girl and the wicked witch were one in the same person, and the little girl had imprisoned herself within a miserable facade to protect the fact that she was scared of the outside world.

The little girl had become the wicked witch out of the fierce need to protect her innocence. The wicked witch had remained a little girl. The little girl grew up within the witch and became a woman.

It was when the little girl finally understood this truth that she was truly and ultimately set free of the wicked witch. She finally understood.

She had never been a prisoner at all....

The End

What are some of your favorite resources for getting your creativity flowing?

Monday, October 3, 2011

And then there are things that I would rather not remember....

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  This is part one of a three part vignette that is an account of my experiences.

It is bitter cold and dark, and I am running.
I have to get away.
I have to get away.
I have to get away.
One foot in front of the other and I have to get away.

He is going to kill me if I don’t get away.

A car turns onto the street in front of me.

One foot in front of the other…

The headlights catch me off guard.

I have to get away.

One foot in front of the other, and I slip on the ice and fall.

The impact of my knee against the pavement brings me to my senses. It is dark. I have to get out of the way of the oncoming car. I roll to one side, sobbing hysterically. The pain is unbearable.

The car slows. I try to sit up. The car door opens and I hear a voice without comprehending who is speaking.

“Jesus Fucking Christ! What the FUCK?”

I don’t have the answer. My mouth moves, but my throat chokes on silent shrieks. I can taste fresh blood on my tongue, hot and bitter.

I don’t have the answer. I collapse against the frozen pavement. I don’t have the strength to sit up.

“Oh my God, Marie! I’m so sorry. I never should have left. Oh my God. Marie, I’m so sorry…”

He kneels down beside me on the icy street, and gingerly pulls me into his embrace. I can feel him trembling.

“Are you okay? Please tell me you’re okay? I need to know that you are okay!” His voice is broken. His sobs keep time with my own.

“I don’t know. I have to get away. Mike, get me away. Please, take me away,” My lips pulsate painfully around the words. My tongue is swollen and sluggish in my mouth. Each ragged gasp for breath is agonizing, and I can no longer breathe through my nose. “I have to get away.”

“I’m going to get you away. I’m going to take you away right now. But you have to tell me first, are you okay? Marie, I need to know because I don’t want to kill him. I could kill him right now, do you understand?”

My brain fractures. I cannot focus. I do not grasp the meaning of his terms, but I understand the urgency in his voice.

It occurs to me that I am not okay.

I haven’t been okay for a long, long time.


I studied psychology in high school, and again briefly in college. I say briefly, because I attended the first two classes and ultimately decided that it was too difficult to drag my lazy rear end out of bed at 8 in the morning to attend lecture. Therefore, I know virtually nothing about the book learning behind the psychology of domestic abuse. That being said, I also have an uncanny ability to seek out and become skilled at what I need to learn the hard way.

Someone once said that those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Truer words were never spoken. I bear witness to that fact every day.

You see, this wasn’t the first time that this had happened, and yet, it still wasn’t enough to make me leave.

Love isn’t blind. Human beings are.

But we can be taught to see.


End Part 1.

If you know someone who is being abused by their partner, or you are a victim of domestic violence, you can get help!  Visit this website:  National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 1-800-799-SAFE.

Stay tuned next Monday for Part 2 of my vignette: Beyond the Looking Glass.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I remember...

One thing about being a writer -- the greatest advice that we all have received is simple enough.

Write what you know.

How easy this seems at first.

Sit down. Start vomiting words onto the page or onto the computer. Eventually, you will have a work of genius, because, as the saying goes, if you give x number of monkeys typewriters and x number of years to pound away on them, they will produce the collected works of Shakespeare.

Right?

Maybe....

Me, myself, am a firm believer in the writer within, so when faced with as simple a writing exercise as the one that inspired my previous blog post, I went with it.

The mission? Write for ten minutes, non-stop, using the phrase "I remember". Keyword? NON-STOP.

If you get hung up, start over. Keep going until you've exhausted all avenues. I don't care if you remember what color t-shirt your 4th grade bus driver was wearing. Write it all down. The point of this exercise is to get your thoughts moving. It doesn't matter what you remember, so long as you remember. It's food for the writer's soul.

What's more, I'm discovering it's fuel for the memory, period.

Some things that I've done to "jog" my "I remember" sessions:

  1. Music - any and every album I listened to during a particular time period I'm interested in writing about. This works especially when I haven't heard the music since the time period in question. Try it. You'll be amazed at the results. Listen to the music while you work this exercise, starting with the phrase: "I remember".
  2. Cluster mapping - pick something and build on it. Put an idea on the center of a blank page. Circle it. Branch out. Follow your thoughts. Build on them. Don't stop until you have several solid ideas that will lead you to solid pieces as a writer. Never underestimate the value of a cluster map when given a valuable brainstorming idea such as "I remember".
  3. Lists - "I remember" combined with lists as a writing technique is a powerful prompt in and of itself. How many ideas can you come up with in ten minutes just by creating a list of sentences that start with the phrase: "I remember"?
This is the time of year that I find myself nesting in, looking for topics, and falling prey to the instinct of the writer within me.

What do you do to sustain the writer within? What writing prompts do you rely on to keep you creative and focused on your craft?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bleeding purple ink

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived an enchanted girl who liked to talk to herself on paper.  She spent hours, days, months, and years chronicling the angst-filled dramas of her adolescence.  

With a candy cane shaped pen that wrote in red, peppermint-scented ink, she filled page after page of a pink, hard bound journal.  She most certainly wrote about crushes and divulged her innermost secrets on those pages, but the distance in space and time between then and now has made her memory of what secrets those pages wore... fuzzy.

Of course, the peppermint-scented red ink ran out, and the pages of the pink journal soon filled up.  So, on she went to another journal, this one bound in blue floral fabric.  

She was no longer discerning as to the color of ink that she wrote in as she continued to puzzle out the questions of her existence within the journal's blank lined pages.  She continued to chronicle her awkward adolescence as if her words would someday matter to her --

And then, one day, for reasons that I no longer remember, I stopped.  I took every journal that I'd painstakingly kept for all of those awkward adolescent days, and I got rid of them.  I can't even remember exactly what I did with them.  I might have put them out with the trash, my imaginative young mind romanticizing the idea of those writings being buried in the local landfill for centuries, only to be uncovered by some future archaeologist and studied.

In truth, I probably burned them in sheer embarrassment at my naivety, both in life and in writing skills.

After I gave up my teenaged journals to the fire gods and/or the local landfill, I gave up on keeping a journal for a long time.  I pseudo-journaled, keeping random notebooks full of thoughts, poetry, and lists.  And then, one day, towards the end of my failing pseudo-marriage, I turned to keeping a journal again.  It was a little spiral bound thing with blank unlined pages that fit neatly into my purse, and I carried it with me everywhere.

I wrote in my new journal with every color of ink I could find -- my favorite being the sparkly purple inked pen that someone had given me -- and I chronicled the death of my marriage.  There are pages and pages of painful things in that pretty little book.  Pages of pain bled out in cheerful colored ink staining the page.

When the marriage ended, I set that journal aside, and I picked up a new one.  It was a gift from a friend, a hard bound, cutesy thing, colored bright yellow, with pictures of kittens on the front.  That same friend gave me a pink gel ink pen to write in the journal with.  And so, I bled out still more pain in pink gel ink all over its blank lined pages as I rediscovered who I was and where I was going next in life.

These days, my ink color of choice is purple.  Yes, in a pinch I will write with another color, but only if I don't have a purple pen within reach.  I even went so far as to hunt down refill cartridges online and shamelessly buy them in bulk so that I won't ever have to go without purple ink again.

These days, I bleed purple ink onto pages filled with things besides pain and angst.  I have a new journal, where I still divulge my innermost secrets and school girl crushes (no, I'm not sharing those).  But, I also have notebooks full of shiny new ideas for stories that I haven't told yet.  I have notes for characters, plots, and worlds that I haven't visited.

In truth, it wouldn't really matter what color ink I'm bleeding out onto the page, as long as I am still writing.

Writers bleed ink, and my blood is purple.

What color is yours?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dear potential employer....

Earlier today in a moment of what I thought was rather clever snark, I felt the need to tweet this into cyberspace:
Dear potential employer. Congrats on finding my Twitter feed. Your prize is a zombie unicorn. Call me to claim it and schedule an interview.
Yes, that's me making light of the fact that I do, in fact, have profiles on various social networking sites and I am completely aware of the fact that potential employers now use said profiles to determine whether or not candidates for job openings might be a good fit for their company.  (And yes, I am aware that someone reading this at any given point in time might be doing so for exactly that reason.)

The last time I was in the market for a new job, the social network of choice was MySpace, and I had made an effort to keep everything about my profile there disassociated from my real name.  You see, I knew that people had been fired and also denied jobs because of what could be found on their MySpace page.  Not that anything I had posted on my profile was necessarily bad.  That is to say, there were no pictures of me doing naked keg stands, no politically incorrect statements of opinion, and I wasn't selling porn on my blog.  I wasn't all that worried about what potential employers might find.  (For the record, I joined MySpace before MySpace was cool, so please keep your laughing to a minimum. Not only do I gift out my zombie unicorns, I also train them to attack people who laugh at me for having a MySpace page.) 

Fast forward to present day.

I am once again in the job market.  You can still find my all but abandoned MySpace page.  You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, digg, last.fm, StumbleUpon, deviantArt, LiveJournal, Amazon.com, LinkedIn, and now here on Blogger.  I'm sure I am missing a few sites, and that's okay.  I'm not on these sites because I'm looking to impress potential employers (with the exception of LinkedIn, of course).  I'm on these sites because I like to write, I hope to make a living doing so someday, and I like to connect with like-minded people.

And I'm not worried about what potential employers might find on any of these websites for two simple reasons. 

I have a rock solid work ethic AND a great sense of humor.


Ask any of my former co-workers.  They want me back.  They begged me not to go.  My boss wrote me a letter of recommendation suitable for framing.  You probably have it in my application package. 

Dear potential employer... congratulations on finding my blog. Your prize is a zombie unicorn. Please call me to claim it and schedule an interview, so that we can discuss mutual interests and how your organization would benefit from hiring me.

You won't be sorry!

Technorati ref. # - WNXWP8G4K9QK

Monday, September 5, 2011

Better late than never

I like to think that with any luck, I will manage to be late for my own funeral.  That's not to say that I'm not a punctual person.  No indeed!  I pride myself for being on time.  If I set a time and say, "I'll be there!", come rain, nor snow, nor dark of... oh, wait.... I'm not a letter carrier.

Anyhoo.

My name is Marie, and I have a procrastination problem.  I doubt very much that a twelve step program can save me anymore, because I'm getting too old and set in my ways.  And so, I've resigned myself to my fate.  I will forever be stressing over deadlines, whether they be outside sources or self-imposed.  My favorite thing to do when I have said deadline looming is to jump on the information highway and surf teh shiny interwebz until my eyes fall out research my chosen topics, but I tend to get distracted. 

Often.

Which in Mynx time, is something like every seven minutes, give or take.

And so, my day goes something like this:

  • Wake up and go directly to the coffee pot.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.
  • Log into classes.  Peruse discussion boards.  Get bored.
  • Log into Twitter.  Peruse tweets. @reply and retweet the more interesting tweets.  Get bored.
  • Log into Facebook.  Peruse news feed.  Get bored.
  • Return to classes.  Check for discussion posts.  Write down upcoming assignments that are due.  Get bored.
  • Check for blog subscription updates.  Read updated blogs.  Consider posting a new blog.  Get stage fright.
  • Check Twitter.
  • Check Facebook.
  • Read a lecture for class.
  • Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Now, it might sound like I've got ADHD or something similar, and maybe I do.  (Note to self: see doctor as soon as you have medical insurance or when hell freezes over, whichever comes first.) 

Lack of self-discipline?  Oh yes, but it goes deeper than that.

Fear of failure?

DING DING DING DING!

We have a winner!

What would you do if you knew you COULD NOT FAIL? 

Have you ever seriously thought about the answer to that question? 

Well, I have, and for starters I'd buy a winning lottery ticket.  If I knew I could not fail, every lottery ticket that I bought would be a winner, right?  Right!  Immediately upon collecting my winnings, I would start a chain of coffee houses to rival Starbucks in both their commercialism and their price gouging ways.  I would then proceed to travel the world and blog about it, becoming a viral sensation on YouTube overnight.  I would write a best selling novel based on my experiences, star in the blockbuster movie based on my life story, and finally retire to my own private island to live out the rest of my life in peace, doing what I really wanted to do in the first place, which is die happy buried underneath a pile of my favorite books that I have read and re-read until they have literally fallen apart.

*sigh*

A girl can dream, right?

My point being, we all have reasons for procrastinating, but until we really understand the reasons behind why we procrastinate, we are doomed to an ever-repeating cycle of non-productivty and stress.


So, what would you do if you knew you could not fail?


Me, I think I'll finish school, post the occasional blog, and finally get around to writing that book I keep talking about.