Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ideas, Anxiety, and Flukes

     I was a daydreamer long before I was writer. I didn't think I had what it would take to actually finish an entire novel, so I decided just to be content with letting my stories play out in my head. None of these story seeds ever fully solidified into something workable anyway, and most of them were heavily based on television shows and books, just all mixed up and jumbled together.

     When the idea for New Year's Revolution finally started coming together, I just had to write it. I only spent a few weeks being afraid that I wouldn't finish it. Once I started writing I couldn't stop, and it wasn't long before I realized it was going to be a trilogy. I went from "I'm never going to write a novel" to I'm going to write a trilogy.

     In the beginning I thought: this may be the only thing I ever write. I wasn't entirely sure where the idea came from or what made it different from the other seedlings that had been in my mind my entire life. At first I was okay with the Vampiric Vanguard Trilogy being the only thing I ever wrote, but the more I wrote the more I enjoyed it, and I realized I wanted to keep doing it, I just didn't know how to get more ideas.

     I think it was about a year after I started writing that the idea for Caribou Canyon came to me. I was at The Robin with my boyfriend at the time, talking about how my two best friends and I had lived in a haunted house. (Yes, I'm about 90% certain of this. For the record, I don't believe in vampires. But, ghosts? Definitely a possibility. No, I'm not willing to put money on it, mostly because I don't have any.) All of a sudden, there was Caribou Canyon: haunted town, three completely different teenage girls who become the best of friends, ghosts, corruption, curses. . . . The stuff that makes a great story. Hopefully. (I'm releasing it on a serial site in the next couple of months. I hope you're all as excited as I am. It's going to be epic, depending on your definition of the word.)

     I was still working on New Year's Revolution and at the time I was very strongly against starting a new project before finishing the old one. My thinking was: how will anything ever get finished this way? So I sat on the idea, but I'd think about it from time to time and new ideas for it would come to me. Lucky for me, I have some kind of alien uncanny memory (but only for certain things) and didn't need to write very much of these ideas down.

     As time passed I again began to worry if I was going to have any stories to write after I finished the New Year's Revolution (and the entire Vampire Vanguard Trilogy) and Caribou Canyon (which needs a more exciting title). Worrying is my thing.

     Two years after the lightbulb of Caribou Canyon lit up, the idea for my mystery novel formed during some morning bus rides while drinking coffee and listening to loud music. That idea was based on a really brief but powerful friendship during a really screwed up time in my life and also a separate weird and confusing experience during that same screwed up time in my life. These two experiences merged to make very interesting characters and an interesting (hopefully) story. I was STILL working on NYR, and next in line was CC so I knew it would be a while before I got to this story. But I was excited. I had another idea. There was hope for me after all.

     If you've been following my awesome, fun, and exciting blog then you know that all three of these stories have now been written and are in various stages of revisions or in-waiting. So guess what I've been worrying about while I'm working on revisions? Yep. I've been worried that I'm all out of ideas. Sure, I still have to finish NYR and write the two sequels, serialize CC and revise the mystery novel (still un-named) so it'll be a long time before I should think about starting something new, but still, because I'm me, I worry. What if this is it? What if there are no new ideas ever?

     Well, what I've learned is: you can't force ideas. They just come. They come at the most random times from the most random mix of things. It was through a variety of things, some of which I'm not even entirely sure of, that I've finally had my fourth idea. Yay! This one didn't come suddenly like the others. It percolated for a while and finally came together one night when I couldn't sleep. It will be another series, a paranormal/urban fantasy and it will take place over two separate periods of time that I'm going to weave together. That's all I'm saying. And there will be lots of creatures. So far I've kept my creatures segregated. Vampires in one story. Ghosts in another. This time I think I will be mixing them all up. Fun. Now, it's going to be a very, very long time before any of this gets written, but it's here in my head and its time will come. I started CC about two and a half to three years after I initially had the idea. It took around the same period of time before I started my mystery novel. So maybe two to three years is the magic gestation period for my ideas.

     So now that I've had four ideas for novels I think it's fairly safe to say that these are not flukes. I'm a writer. I'm still not entirely sure how these ideas are forming, but as long as they keep coming, I'm happy. It's time to stop worrying and just focus on the writing.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


     When I was in my late teens and early twenties I spent a lot of time at my best friend Charla's house, which meant I spent a lot of time around her dad, Alan. Alan passed away about six years ago. I've found myself thinking about him a lot recently. There's a reason for this, which I will get to later.

     Since I've been thinking about him, I figured it would be a good idea to share of these thoughts. Writing is my favorite way to process things. Go figure. I like to share thoughts on people I've lost on public forums because it keeps them alive. It lets other people who them know that their loved ones aren't forgotten. These are the things that make us immortal.

     Alan is on my list of most quirky, fun, unique,I'm-glad-to-have-had-the-pleasure-of-having-known people. This is not a tangible list with a finite number of people on it or anything. I suppose that would be weird. There are just people who I think of that fall into that category. Alan is one of them. He might even be at the top, but I suppose who is at the top changes based on what criteria I'm using at a certain time.

     Alan had an interesting life. To say the least. He liked to talk. A lot. That may have been in part because--at least when I knew him--he wasn't working and didn't always have someone to talk to, except for the pets. Sometimes I listened when he talked and sometimes I didn't. In retrospect I feel bad about this, but I was a teenager and selfish (to put it bluntly). He liked to read a lot--the good stuff, mostly science fiction. He had an imagination and was a lot smarter than he came across, especially when he got older because a lot of his issues made him seem more out of it than he actually was. And he liked coffee, which is something I appreciate. He smoked a lot, which I can't blame him for, because I used to do that too.

     He had lots of quirks, but the one I remember the most had to do with food. As he got older and got in more pain his appetite got more sporadic, so he went through phases where he liked only a few things at a time. One day Charla and I were at the store and we decided to buy a black forest cake--these are the chocolate ones with the cherry filling and some sort of vanilla cream frosting. Alan liked the cake but not the cherry part. He liked it so much that he had to order more. And more, and more. They only made the black forest, so he had to special order it without the cherry filling--I think he had them replace it with cream filling. He would get several at a time. Now, you would think it would be great to have cake in the house all the time, but it really wasn't. We couldn't just eat it whenever we wanted to, because the cake was all Alan was eating, so we had to make sure he had enough for every meal. There was so much of it that it was taking up space in the refrigerator and freezer (yeah, the freezer). If he was too tired to go to the store, we'd have to run out on a whim to pick up the cake. In retrospect though, taking the 5-10 minute drive to pick up a cake for a man who was giving me a roof over my head doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but did I mention that I was young and my life revolved around myself?

      The cake thing went on for several months. Either before or after the cake (I can't remember the order of these phases) came the grape cool-aid popsicles. Yep, that's right. At first he just liked to drink the grape kool-aid, but then he decided he liked it frozen better. I can't remember why, maybe it was summer? So he would make it and freeze it into water bottles. This isn't too weird, right? We all did this when we were kids. Except, just like the cake, he had to do it excessively. There were so many bottles in the freezer at one time that we'd open it and they'd come falling on our heads.

     The weirdest "food" phase was cherry fun dip powder. You all remember fun dip, right? The little packets of flavored sugar powder with the sticks? I loved that stuff. (My mom wouldn't let us eat it in the house.) Alan didn't want the dipping sticks or even the other flavors. Just the cherry powder. He found other brands too, like pixie sticks and stuff. I don't even know where he found this stuff. I think he just drove around to random gas stations to see what they had.

     Also in the food phases were corn flakes (probably the most normal) and Arby's roast beef sandwiches. And there might be some others in there that I just don't remember.

     The reason that Alan no longer worked when I knew him was because he'd hurt his back at work, had a surgery that went badly, and then wound up having six subsequent surgeries after that, which resulted in really horrible chronic back pain. I always knew it was bad, because he said it was bad, and it looked bad, and just the thought of back pain is bad. But I guess I didn't really know how bad it was, probably because I didn't have a whole lot of empathy in that time of my life and because that magnitude of pain is just simply hard to imagine. I do remember one particular day when he was talking about the monster. That's what he called it, at least sometimes. It was kind of terrifying, because it seemed to have such a hold on so many aspects of his life. I think he drew a picture, but I'm not sure if he actually drew a picture or if he just talked about it so vividly that I remember a picture. He talked about the monster of pain and how it was sitting on his back and taking over. I think it was black and red and very ugly and I think that was the only thing that let me know how real and how horrible it was. I remember thinking, "how does he deal with this?"

     So now I've come full circle. The chronic pain is one of the reasons why he's popping into my head a lot more lately, and also that particular memory about the monster--since I've been dealing with chronic pain myself (also from a work injury), which I don't really talk about, because who really wants to talk about this stuff? I still don't know what he was feeling, but I guess I can understand it more. It sucks to be in pain all the time. It's a strange coincidence and I find myself wondering what he would think if he knew my situation and I suppose the short answer is he would be sad about it. I now understand the monster picture, and I understand why he thought of his pain that way. I'm not going to think of my pain as a monster, though it's bad enough that it could be. It's a horrible burning crushing pain that doesn't really go away or change, but it isn't a monster because that would make it its own entity and that kind of thinking is dangerous. I think it leads to making our problems bigger than ourselves and therefore unmanageable and I can't go there, not that I blame Alan for going there.

     I wish I'd visited Alan more after I'd moved out. I only visited him a few times in about five years. I wish I'd thanked him for the things he did for me, but I never did. I can't change the past, but I can learn from my mistakes. I can do look at my life now and make choices about the people in it and think about what I may or may not regret and that is what I've done. I've learned and grown and I can honestly say that I'm not nearly as stupid or as selfish as I used to be. So that's something.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Finding Positives

     As I continue to plug away at edit number ten of my first novel I find that it's once again taking much longer than I'd hoped it would take. I began in December, 2015 and had planned to have it finished by the end of March. Well, I've outlined 43 chapters and I'm currently on chapter 10. So, yeah. That didn't happen. My new goal is to finish by the end of the year, but I have no idea if that's actually going to happen.

     The problem is, I'm too hard on myself. I'm always saying, "I wish it wouldn't take so long." And I'm always asking, "Do other people take this long?" I find myself thinking back to when I first started and thinking of all the things I could've done to learn faster, like read more writing books. Part of the reason I didn't do this was because it would've gotten in the way of the actual writing. Yeah, I've since seen the flaw in that kind of thinking. And then there was that horrible period when I stopped reading fiction because I thought writers weren't allowed to read because of accidental plagiarism. Those were dark, dark days.

     So as I'm brooding (yeah, women can brood too, it's not just for attractive male leads in YA novels), thinking I'll never, ever finish and worrying that my friends and family are all thinking, "She's rewriting it AGAIN?" I've decided it's time for a reversal in thinking. The other day I suddenly realized that I've been writing seriously for six years. Six years isn't actually all that long. At first it seemed like a really long time, but when I really think about it, it isn't. I (like many new writers, I imagine) had no idea what writing a novel actually involved. I thought I could have it completely finished in about 3-4 months, published in another 3-4, the movie would be out in another couple, and then I could quit my job. Yeah, that's kind of embarrassing now. But, like every new writer, I learned the harsh reality and found myself with a choice to make. I chose to continue. (The harsh realities are for another post.)

     Instead of going, "Wow I'm never going to get done" I'm going to look at what I have accomplished in these wonderful six years of writing . My 9ish edits have come quite a long way. This new rewrite is not just me being a perfectionist. Real, necessary changes are happening, and I'm glad that I've had this epiphany. I'm very excited to get to the finished product. I have learned a lot from those 9 drafts. I now have a really polished draft and a detailed outline (I swear it really exists) to work from. I have rough drafts of two other novels that have beginnings, middles, and ends (never overlook the importance of a beginning, middle, and an end.) I have a huge collection of poetry, a few short stories, and a blog that I've kept going for nearly a year. I have a collection of rejection letters from agents, publishers, and magazines. Yes, this is an accomplishment. I put myself out there, got my feet wet, and learned about the publishing world. I know more about the industry and have learned to accept (to the extent that one can) rejection. I've also met lots of other awesome writers and improved my own critiquing skills, which helps improve writing. So, positives.

     I'm not saying I'm always going to be positive. I will always wish things could go faster. I'll probably still get down on myself from time to time. I think we all have these moments, but I'm going to try and remind myself that six years is not a very long time. Plus, now I have a nice little list of my accomplishments. So, make your own list. Think of what you've done and be proud of it. All we can do is move forward, so rather than dwell on what we haven't accomplished or what we wish we'd done differently, let's congratulate ourselves for our accomplishments!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mashed potato brain, blog block, and all the many readings

     I think maybe the rumors are true, and I do have blog block. The diagnosis can be confirmed, seeing as how I'm supposed (says I) to be writing a post 2 or 3 times a week and I'm only hitting once a week. Why I am supposed to be posting 2 or 3 times a week: well, it just seems like a good number. It keeps the blog fresh and it ensures that my handful of faithful readers don't forget about me. That would be devastating.

      It's not as though I'm not writing. I'm working on my novel most weekdays and some weekends, which is the most important things, but I really want to stick with my blog, I'm just having a hard time doing that right now. For some reason, every time I think of blogging my brain gets mushy. It feels mushy right now in fact, even as I'm writing this. I don't actually like what I'm writing and there's a good chance I'll delete it, thought I'm really going to try not to. I'm hoping to get back into the swing of blogging and get all that mush out of my brain.

     Aside from the writing, I've been doing lots of writing related activities, like reading. My reading list is huge and a lot of it is research for the books I'm writing. I'm currently reading two grammar books and a book on trauma and PTSD for my mystery novel. I recently read two war memoirs, one by a reporter, and one by a Navy Seal. Those are also for my mystery novel. I recently realized that I'm not done prepping for my vampire novel (which is ridiculous considering how long I've been working on it) so the other war books are on hold while I read more apocalypse novels. I'm currently reading The Passage, which is awesome (I'm not sure how I haven't read this sooner). It's nearly 1000 pages long, which is also awesome, except I'm worried that I won't finish it before my library checkout period runs out, and that would suck. Although, other than that fact, I'm very excited that it's so long, it gives me hope for my books, and also for the world. I'm sad that people don't read long books the way they used to. So, to summarize: I'm reading grammar books, psychology books, war memoirs, and post-apocalyptic fiction. Let's hope I don't get that stuff mixed up because that would be bad. I suppose the war books could have some relevance with the apocalypse stuff, but still, one of my stories is fantasy and the other isn't, so I need to keep things separate. And you know, I'd hate to have a vampiric semi-colon attack a soldier who's supposed to be getting treated for his PTSD and is instead finding himself dealing with the end of the world. That just won't do.

     So, those are the things I'm doing while not blogging. Actually, those are just some of the things I'm doing while not blogging, but I'm going to try to squeeze some more blogging in there. Wish me luck.