Why Do I Write: Challenge from Chuck Wendig

I’ve mentioned in other posts that I started writing at age seven, and that is completely true.  I wrote incessantly for years.

And then stopped.

I became a wife, a mother, an employee. I went to graduate school and learned how to think and write in an academic fashion. And the imagination and fearlessness that had fueled my writing before turned into a stultifying professionalism combined with anxiety, fear, and the feeling that I was never, ever going to be good enough.

I didn’t put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard in any meaningful way until last year.  Just to be clear…I’m 46 years old. It is about 24 years of not writing.

Landscapes & Nature
Love Clouds

My oldest child is now eighteen and headed to college.  It made me realize that I’d better start doing something for me, myself, and I, because my kids are growing up and leaving.  Six years from now my youngest heads to college.  Six years used to seem like a long time. Now, it seems like nothing.  My husband and I are already talking about selling the house.

The characters were still talking in my head. So many times I would go for a walk and some great scene would pop up.  I would think, “I need to write that down,” and then wouldn’t.  The voices decided not to continue to stay silent and the need for an outlet grew along with the need to just take care of me.

Eventually, I started writing again.  It took a bit.  I was terrible and hesitant at first. Hesitant writing is bad writing.

I got more brave. I started telling people I was a writer.  I started this blog. I spoke about my writing with my family, even my parents.  I spoke about my writing with other writers.

So now, I ask, why am I writing and why do I write? Because it is really hard and no one who doesn’t love it shouldn’t do it. You have to love it. It has to, at some deep level, make you happy.  And it does.

In the end, I write because it makes me happy to do so.

2nd part of the story with no title! comment–is this a happy tale or a sad one; any more thoughts on the title?

Flowers & Trees
Oak Tree Stock Photos 37735

Second part of the story with no title. Tyler is now age 13.

Reader participation needed…

Should this be a tragic tale? or a happy allegory? Post below. And we still need a title. What does this new chapter do to your original thoughts on the title? 

School wasn’t kind to Tyler.  He couldn’t control his crazy times and the middle school now insisted that he take a lot of medication and that he be in a special class with children who had a lot of trouble learning.  Tyler had no trouble learning, in fact, he was very smart, but the energy in his body would ratchet up and up and up until he had to let it out.  At school, he couldn’t simply go outside, so he sometimes hurt people and broke things.

His mom was on the phone, yet again, with the school. She was crying and begging them to take him back, but they said, no.  Unless he was medicated into a zombie, they could not take him back. He was simply too “disruptive.” He needed a special school or medication per a doctor’s order and the school’s evaluation.

It upset Tyler to hear his mother cry.  She worried about him all the time, and only went to work at the diner when he was in school. If he couldn’t go to school, she couldn’t work. That made him worry more, which made the creepy crawlies start back up and cause his skin to itch and hurt. His brain got confused and his legs needed to run and run and run.

He went outside to his safe place, rule 1, in the long grass in the back of the yard.  He ran around in circles for what felt like hours. He pulled grass and threw it in the sky and watched it rain down. He did this repeatedly, observing how the grass could get caught in the wind and blow away. When he was done, he was tired but instead of sleeping, he remembered rule 2, that he could be anything he wanted to be.

Right now, he wanted to be a tree.

He planted his feet in the earth, digging them into the dirt so it covered his sneakers.  He held his hands out wide and watched the bark encase his body, starting with his feet, rolling up his torso to his shoulders.  The bark stretched out over his arms and his fingers grew leaves. His face was encased in the wood and everything was still.

Birds rested on his shoulders. Squirrels climbed his branches. He was a quiet, strong tree in the long grass.

Story Needs A Title! Please Leave Yours in Comments

Animals & Wildlife
Yawning Tiger

Here’s the beginning of a story.  What is this story’s title?  Leave in comments, please!

Tyler knew his father had left him.  His dad also, in the leaving, left his mother, but it was Tyler he was avoiding. Even at age four, he knew this.  Ever since Tyler was born, Tyler had bouts of what his dad called crazy time.  He had tons of excess energy in his body and it needed to get out, so he would lose control and run around the house bumping into the furniture, shelving, dishes or other people.  Anything breakable had to be moved.  He trashed rooms and  emitted blood-curdling screams.

They moved to a rural house without any close-by neighbors to witness the carnage. This improved things because he could go outside as his safe place, as his mom called it.  He could run there and not destroy any household items or hurt other people.  Once the crazy time was over, he would collapse and fall asleep wherever he was, exhausted, but the creepy-crawlies on his skin and the fire inside were gone.

At first these sessions happened once a week or so. Then, every day. This is when his father left. His mother stayed with him and helped him through the crazy times.  First rule, get somewhere safe.

She told him that the crazy times were his to manage and if abided by the first rule, he would  be able to achieve the second rule: He could be anyone he wanted to be.  She wanted to support him and make him understand that even with differences, he could be something special.

Right now, at age nine, he wanted to be a tiger. Not exactly what she meant, but it was what he wanted to be right then.

He was outside at their house, in the way back in the long grass.  He wanted to be a tiger, so he became one. He crouched down and lifted his paw. He stalked the robin, approaching slowly and carefully, using his nose and whiskers to keep track of the bird.  As he approached, the bird hopped away, sensing danger. But it didn’t matter, he was a tiger and tigers are patient and powerful. He got close to the bird, raised his paw, extended his claws, and pounced.  The bird flopped to the ground and the tiger used its right paw to rip its head completely off.  The tiger looked down at the dead bird and watched the organs and blood ooze from its neck.  They weren’t appetizing to him, but he knew that tigers always eat their prey, so he lifted his right paw, brought the bloody remains to his mouth, and sucked each finger clean, one-by-one.

Kevin Hearne is a seriously great writer, and I resent it

I absolutely love the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne, and I am not alone.  If you haven’t read the series, then start at the beginning and read them in order.  Staked, the next one is coming out soon-ish.  Here’s a link to Kevin’s page.  Go and buy his stuff.  http://kevinhearne.com/

I’m thinking of going to Phoenix next year for the con just to meet him and some of the other writers that go there…and hey!  Those writers have novellas in Three Slices, Delilah Dawson and Chuck Wendig.  What a coinky-dink.

I have not read Dawson or Wendig’s novellas yet, but I did just finish A Prelude to War, Hearne’s novella leading up to Staked, which is book 8.  And I am sad.  So sad.  Because I don’t know if I can ever, ever write dialogue as well as he does.  The dialogue between Atticus and his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon, is just soooooo good.  Here’s a snippet. Oberon’s part is in the little <> signs.  They are on the plains in Africa, being stalked by something.

< Oh yeah. The fortune-teller. I have a question about that. What if she wakes up at dawn and sees in her magic runes or whatever that she’s going to tell our fortune today except that we get eaten before we get there so that means her schedule is free and then her runes don’t know what to say except “Hey, how about those Broncos?” >

What? Oberon, that is the most bizarre hypothetical ever. She doesn’t even use runes.

< Well, you made me nervous. And you didn’t answer my question. >

The answer is divination doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t tell you that a certain future got canceled and it doesn’t make small talk. If it reveals anything, it reveals the most likely of futures, and that’s always up to interpretation. Even if you get the interpretation right, it can still change due to circumstances. You remember what Master Yoda said about the future?

< It’s always in motion. Difficult to see. >

That’s right. Come on, let’s keep moving, but keep an eye out and your nose in the wind.

< All right, but I still think you should cheat. I don’t want to be a part of the circle of life here. Hey, speaking of which, is this the stretch of Africa where meerkats hang out with warthogs and sing cheerful songs about stress-free living? >

Tell you what. If you see them, I’ll let you join in.

< Aces. >

This is what Hearne does best. He writes laugh-out-loud dialogue and keeps the story moving.  It is just so great…and so disheartening.

I even forgive him for coming to Cleveland, but only on the West Side.  East Side, Kevin, East!  We need visas and shots to go from one side of the city to the other.

(I have writer friends who know Kevin.  Please feel free to share…)

Hearne, Kevin; Dawson, Delilah S.; Wendig, Chuck (2015-05-05). Three Slices (Kindle Locations 170-184).  . Kindle Edition.

 

Review of Spell Blind (The Case Files of Justis Fearsson by David B. Coe)

SpellBlind200Spell Blind is a new book in a new series by David B. Coe.  I totally recommend it. I’ll be honest, it took me a bit to get hooked, so if you start it, stick with it.  You’ll get into it, I promise.  It takes Coe a little while to explain the characters and the magic system and that slowed things down. But once the story gets going, it gets going good.

Justis is a private investigator and a former cop. He’s also a weremyste, which is essentially a person with magical powers who is also affected by the moon’s phases. As with every magical system, there are rules and limits, pros and cons, and choices.  Justis, so far, chooses to continue to use his craft, and thus knows that in the future he could lose his mind.

The murder story is a great mix of traditional cop “who done it” and magical storytelling.  The Big Bad is indeed Big and Bad, which was one point that sort of worried me for a while.  The bad guy doesn’t show up in person for at least the first third of the story, and  I was concerned that when he finally did directly interact with our hero, he wouldn’t be all that scary.  No worries there, Coe is at his best when he is writing the evil guy.

Good read.  Waiting for the next one.  I bet it is even better.

Visit: http://www.davidbcoe.com

 

 

How Murder Came to the Sasquatch

Yetis, bigfoot, sasquatch in videogames

How Murder Came to the Sasquatch

The dead body settled into the river bed, barely disturbing the underwater plants or any of the river’s cold-blooded residents.  If they were of the mind to notice, they would note that they’ve seen this before. And for some, it simply represented food, a part of the chain to which they belonged as scavenger, predator, and prey.

If a human noticed, he or she might think that the body was mysterious and disgusting. Then they would call the authorities and the wheels of administration would churn.

But the body was found by a Sasquatch, part of a hidden race that still lived in the forests of the Mid-West United States, while struggling to stay hidden in the disappearing glades.

The Sasquatch was tall and hairy as the tales suggest, but not a galumphing Chewbacca like figure. This Sasquatch was female, with a decidedly female form, and wore clothes that approximated a dress, or maybe a sari.  Her eyes were beautiful, large and brown, and the hair on the body was fine and soft.  Her features were quite visible and more delicate than one might expect given the stereotypical descriptions of Big Foot. The hair on her head descended in a fighting queue, bound by leather.

Malilah, as she was known, came upon the body at dusk, while fishing in the river. She stood on the bank and noticed eddies swirling where fish concentrated. She became curious, investigated, and found a human foot, which then led to the rest of the human body. Withdrawing it from the water proved tricky, as some of it was already decomposed and preferred to stay with the fish rather than cling to the torso it came with.

Malilah examined the corpse and realized it was a human female. The body still had shreds of a T-shirt and shorts on it, but no shoes, which struck Malilah as odd since the soft-footed humans always wore shoes. Sneakers, she believed they were called, which struck her as funny because there was nothing sneaky about people.  Humans made a racket wherever they went and no manner of shoe could fix this.

This thought was followed immediately by the sound of  humans arriving. Malilah stepped away from the body and faded into the woods.  She stayed close enough to listen the chatter of the men.

“Look at this.  This must be her!” said Man With Hat.

“I was afraid of this.  I’ll contact control to tell them that we have her. They’ll need to prepare her mother for the news,” said Man With Radio.

“I don’t see any injury here. Nothing to indicate what killed her,” replied Man With Hat.

The other three men, Man With Stick, Man Who Smelled, and Man Who Was Still Boy lay a yellow tarp on the ground and gently moved the body onto it. They wrapped the body up, secured it with rope and discussed the best way to transport it to a pick-up site.

What they didn’t see, but Malilah sensed, was the other Sasquatch watching from the opposite side of the river. This Sasquatch was known to her and to all the tribe, as Outcast.  The Sasquatch were a gentle people, with strict rules about hunting.  Outcast violated their laws when he killed a deer for the pleasure of killing, not for food.  During the conclave to establish his punishment, he attacked the head of the tribe, was subdued, and cast out. No one had seen him since.

Now, Outcast stood on the opposite river bank, and Malilah wondered if he was the cause of the young woman’s death. She knew Outcast could see her so she didn’t try to hide. Once the men left with the body, she simply walked to a shallow place where she could cross and approached Outcast directly.

Outcast gestured her to follow and led her up to his camp on a high cliff overlooking the river. The scent of death was everywhere and Malilah recoiled at the stench. A carcass of some kind hung from every tree.  Deer bones littered the ground, interspersed with tinier bones of birds, squirrels and skunks.  On the largest tree, a human skeleton hung and clattered in the breeze like a macabre Halloween decoration, complete with a pair of pink Adidas running shoes.

Malilah’s stomach churned.  This was not the way of her people and she couldn’t believe that Outcast had gone this far.  Her people revered life, hunted only when needed, and made use of the animal inside and out, ensuring no waste.  This was an abomination that lay in front of her.

“What have you done?” she demanded.

“Taken what I wanted.  We have strength and size. Shouldn’t we take from those smaller and weaker?” Outcast taunted.

“No,” cried Malilah. “In addition to being offensive to our beliefs, you bring attention to us with the death of humans. You put our existence at-risk!”

“Let it be at-risk,” Outcast scoffed. “We live in hiding for what? So the soft humans can spread, destroy the forest and crowd us out of our living spaces?  I see no honor it that!”

“There is certainly no honor in this!”

Outcast sprang at her, giant arms outstretched, anger on his face and a need for violence etched into every sinew.  Malilah ducked, fell on her back, threw her feet in the air and connected with his body, shoving him over the cliff.  He fell directly onto the rocks, dead on impact.

Malilah looked down at his body, and let the truth of what she had done sink in.  Outcast, she whispered to herself.  I killed, and now it is I who is Outcast.  Her tears were carried on the wind to the rest of her clan. They mourned, but turned their backs on her as they wondered what this death would truly mean for their race.

When you send flowers, put a name on the card

Flowers & Trees
Fresh Pink Tulips, Colors, Flower, Flowers, Fresh, Natuer, Pink, Pink Fresh Petals, Rose

Lessons from the last two weeks:

1.  Editing happens.  You don’t have to like it, but you do have to respect it. If you write, you edit.  The first draft is basically vomit on paper.  The second draft removes obvious grammatical errors. The third draft will reveal crazy changes in tense, POV, or inconsistencies in the story. Then you get to the real work, telling the story the best you can. (see point 3)

2.  Filter words are real.  I didn’t even know this term until this week when I was told by a writer and friend that I really needed to research “filter words.”  A quick Google Search revealed exactly what they are, and an even quicker read of my story revealed exactly how prominent they are in my writing.  Lightbulb Time!

3.  Telling the story the best you can means that each and every sentence has to work. Each sentence has to make the reader want to read the next sentence.  I used to think of writing more holistically, but by the time you are on the fourth draft of something, you better be paying attention to sentences.  They are all part of your creation and each every one deserves attention. It could be a simple noun/verb but make sure it is the right noun and the right verb. He walks is a sentence. He sauntered is a lot more informative.  The fat man sauntered across the deserted street at midnight, is part of a story that I may want to read.

4. By draft four you get really excited when you write a good sentence. I wrote one today.  Here it is:  “A happy little whistle joins the humming in her head and the sound is a symphony that only she can hear.”  I know that you cannot tell that is a particularly good sentence without context, but I’m excited because my character has gone from mentally confused (and sympathetic) to completely batshit crazy by this time in the story and this sentence really ties that up in a bow.  She’s stealing babies, after all.

5.  If you need help, and are truly working on your craft, ask for help.  Don’t ask for help from random people, but from people who know you are putting in the effort and perhaps even like you.  You may hit pay dirt and learn something.  But you better as hell be putting in the effort. No one wants to help a lazy writer.  Writing is work.  It if was easy everyone would be doing it.

6.  When you send flowers to someone to say “thank you” for their help, make sure you put your name on the card with a short thank you message. Anonymous flowers to a single woman are creepy.

Because words are slippery little suckers