Category Archives: My journey to writerhood

Because SOME day, I will be an actual author who is recognized for writing stuff and these are the things that will get me there. I hope.

Promises, tears, and magic

Remember back when I won a book on Goodreads and it led to me accidentally working with an author?

On May 13th, that manuscript, the one I got to read and puzzle over and love – it was published.

Suzy (I call her that cuz we’re tight, remember?) and I probably shot pieces of this book back and forth over the course of four or five months? Let’s call it six because that makes it sound like we did half a year’s worth of hard work and let me tell you, writing is hard work. She’s a total hack-n-slasher; she’ll remove entire sections, if necessary, in order to make her story go the right way. It’s like she is all the forces of nature wreaking havoc upon her poor characters but the result is amazing. In turn, her early readers are like FEMA workers in that they have to see what the lay of the land looks like after the restructuring. We’re responsible for testing the new spots, making sure everything fits together, sometimes reading the same thing over and over again. It’s a lot of work and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed or taken as seriously any other project in my entire grown-up life.

Anyhow, when time was up and she had to relinquish her baby to the publishing house, she told me I’d been a big help. I don’t know how much I believed her – my opinions are only opinions, after all – but it was nice to hear nonetheless. She reaffirmed she was going to put me in the acknowledgements, something she’d said a million times already, but this time she said I would be first. Again, I don’t know that I fully believed her because I know I get overly-enthusiastic about stuff from time to time and make promises only to forget them later. She asked me how I wanted my name to appear and if I wanted her to say anything specific. I said I wanted my full name because I’m vain and no one would be able to doubt it was me she was acknowledging but, otherwise, she could say whatever she wanted. Then I promptly forgot about all of this. Well, not forgot but it sort of went to my background consciousness.

As the publication date drew closer, I started hyping the book to co-workers, friends, and family, using the “You should buy this book because I’ll be in the acknowledgements” line but even then, I don’t think I really knew what that meant until April 18th when Suzy announced on Facebook that the pre-order was live and that if you went to Amazon and did the “Look inside!” trick, you’d see the people she’d tagged in the acknowledgements. I did as instructed and then died.

Talk about making good on promises.

People, when you say you’re going to do something, do it big like Suzanne Palmieri. I cannot tell you what this did to me (but I’m going to anyway).

Here’s the book:

Go get this book. If this isn't your kind of story, buy it as a gift for someone else. Just go get it.

Go get this book. If this isn’t your kind of story, buy it as a gift for someone else. Just go get it.

And here’s the Acknowledgements page which is right at the beginning:

Yes. That's me. The very first acknowledgement, just as promised.

Yes. That’s me. The very first acknowledgement, just as promised.

Not only am I first, but I have my own sentence. Two of them, actually. If you read the book, you’ll appreciate the sweetness of “shine,” too.

When I saw this, I cried. Not pretty little tears trickling down my cheek at a beautiful pace. No, it was the out-n-out snotty nose, puffy eyes cry, the Ugly Cry. You would think ugly-crying would not be the proper response to finding out you were mentioned with gratitude in a book and got a place of honor surrounded by swirly, lovely words but the thing is, not only had I not been expecting something this big, this special, but about ten days earlier, I had found out my mom has cancer and I’d been in a bad place ever since. So seeing this was a gift, a hug, a bit of love on the wind coming to give me comfort during a turbulent bit of life. Yes, of course, part of my joy was centered around my vanity – who doesn’t want to see her name in print, right? But it was more than that, two things more, to be precise.

One: My mother was going to be able to see this before she dies. I owe her and her mother, ZZ, credit for my reading addiction. Because they showed me how to love words, my name gets to live with words. My mom always wanted to be a novelist but never got around to it. I think she has the same hope for me but even if I never make it, this is close. I loved seeing her smile when I gave her this book and she read those words. I can keep that with me forever.

Two: Praise is a wonderful thing but, for me, it’s what’s behind the praise that means the most. I know that I helped Suzy, that I gave her a piece of me and she was able to weave my thoughts and suggestions into her story, that she was able to take what we all gave her and she made something that was already good into something absolutely…well…magical.

I feel the shine. Can’t you?

The Witch of Belladonna Bay is available at Barnes & Noble, Target, Amazon, and other fine book retailers or you can order it through your local bookstore. Can’t buy it? Try the library!

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Filed under Adventures, My journey to writerhood, My Opinions on STUFF

Carrying the TOURCH in the #mywritingprocess blog hopchaintour

Funny story:
One day on October 4, 2012, I was perusing The Bloggess’ latest post and noticed the first commenter, a guy named Nic, had the word “garlic” in the bloglink under his amusing reply. I love garlic so I clicked over to his blog, found that it was quite enjoyable, and I left a comment. This is not an uncommon habit of mine – I like to spread myself over the internet like black mold invading a grimy bathroom. However, I took the extra step of stalking him (I started following his blog) which is rare because I typically only stalk people I’ve already met.

For months, I read his blog from the shadows and then one day, I just started commenting on posts as if we’d been friends our whole lives. My ruse, it worked. He accepted me into his tribe but I only just found out how much he had accepted me last week when he passed me the #mywritingprocess TOURCH (<–click that word to find out why I keep saying “TOURCH” and also to see Nic’s answers to the questions I am about to answer) and said really nice things about me! I was all, “Awwww!” and then I realized that he was just setting me up to do work. Then I was like, “DAMN YOU, NIC!” with my fist shoved angrily into the air.

So from what I can gather, this is a blog tour/hop/chain. It’s been done by both real, actual writers as well as play writers (like me) (no, I don’t mean I write plays, I mean I’m playing at writing. It’s what I do here on this blog) I don’t think there are any stated rules anywhere, but it looks like you answer the four questions (below), say something about it on Twitter with the hashtag (which you’ll automatically do if your posts send themselves to Twitter and you put the hashtag in your title. I think), and then tag some other bloggers you admire to do the same!

That sounds about right. Let’s move on now.

1. What am I working on?

Blog answer: I am currently working on three drafts and four scheduled posts. They’re in various stages of editing.

Non-blog answer: I am working on a YA horrordomesticfictionparanormalsomethingorother novel. It should take me about 10 years to complete at the rate I’m going. I am also working on some sort of friendship/chick-lit (though not really) piece but that’s all vague and hazy right now.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

It…doesn’t, actually. Blog-wise, I come from the same writing school as the admirable aforementioned Jenny Lawson as well as Tina Fey. It is sort of the Open Mouth, Words Come Out, Then You Listen to Them After You Realize What You Just Said school. Yes, yes, I understand both Lawson and Fey do lots of editing and don’t just go all willy-nilly but their art makes them look like they’re all willy-nilly and I always look that way because I am that way, so…see? Same/Same.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I don’t know what else to write. I think I’m a storyteller so I tell stories. I might not actually be a storyteller and am, rather, a hoarder of words which I then collect on a page and call it a blog post. I’m not really sure what I’m doing, actually.

I can tell you why I write YA horrordomesticfictionparanormalsomethingorother novels, though: It’s because I’m working through crap and this seems to be the most user friendly way for me to get it out of my system.

4. How does my writing process work?

Writing process? I’m supposed to have a process?

Oh, well, actually, with the blog, I am fairly organized. I think of things I want to write about or I remember stories I want to tell or Noelle says, “You should blog about that!” and so I jot notes on scraps of paper or, if I’m near my computer, I type sentences into a document. Then, when I’m in a super-writey mood, I compose all these stories and post them as drafts here on WordPress. I organize them according to when I want them to appear and then edit as needed. I like the editing part because I like making my jumbled writings more cohesive. I mean, you wouldn’t know any of my work is edited because it all seems so scattered but you should see it when it’s still in rough form. That said, I have a long way to go, obviously.

For the novels, though…I have to wait until my brain is ready to write. It comes and goes. If I force it, I just get crap. But if I wait until it tells me it has stuff for me, then I will sit for hours and pour words out of my fingers. When I’m not busy doing that, though, I edit. I really do like to edit. The YA horrordomesticfictionparanormalsomethingorother novel has actually become something I enjoy reading, too, and I keep getting frustrated that there’s not more done because I want to know what happens next. I think that’s a good sign, though I will obviously never know what happens next if I only ever work on the writing part six to eight weeks out of the year.

The End.

Those are my answers. I would have been more cheeky but I’m fresh out of cheek this week. Sorry.

And now, I would like to have the following published authors share their processes because I think that would be really interesting:

My beloved Internet Boyfriend: The Reverend Doctor (and his whimsical adventures)
Tyler is a fellow #Lawsbian (those who follow The Bloggess; we’re almost a cult, really, created the day she had a book chat on GoodReads, broke the site, moved the chat to Twitter, broke that, too, and we were all left in a heap of giggling and silliness afterward) and a published poet! He’s like the antithesis of me in that he’s kind and gentle, thoughtful and good-hearted, and impressively talented when it comes to crafting things such as hats, tiny taxidermied creatures, and words. Yet, somehow, we are so alike and I’m not sure why. I am sure, though, that I adore him. So, Tyler, it’s your turn to share your writing process!

Also, four-time published novelist and BEST. TWELLER. EVER: Suzanne Palmieri — Oh, look! She already did it. Here it is. She’s always one step ahead of the game because she is magical and one day, I will meet this amazing person. Go read her words because they are delightful, much like the author, herself. And then, you can go buy her books, especially the new one that was just released yesterday!

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Filed under My journey to writerhood

NaNoWriNO! (Not rhino) (maybe rhino, actually)

I’m writing a book

I know, who isn’t, right?

It’s a young adult novel about witches and stuff and I’ve come upon a…well, it’s not really a problem but it is an obstacle.

See, when I first started my work, now over a year ago, I checked out stories about witches, from compendiums to picture books. There’s a lot of witchery out there and yet it’s never really gone mainstream in the young adult (YA) fantasy world, despite the efforts of Harry Potter and his ilk. For some reason, vampires and werewolves still have the limelight while angels/demons and fae traipse right behind. I’m cool with that but I still wonder: Why not witches? It’s like they’re always the tagalong little sister.

So I started writing, declaring to myself, “I will bring witches to the forefront! Single-handedly! Because I am just that good” and then I stopped writing for a long time. I began again this past summer and found that during my hiatus,  a lot of people were able to get their witch stories out into the world. I’ve since read four different stories that have elements I had incorporated into mine or are, at least, similar. I have five chapters of Part I finished and three chapters of Part II and now I have to go through and change a lot of things because I don’t like thinking the few potential people to read this book of mine will be all, “Oh, she totally stole that from that OTHER book I read” and it will really look that way because everyone will be able to see, via Goodreads, that I read those books before publishing mine.

I’m going to dial back and ask a more broad question: What’s going on with this hive mind think thing? I see it all the time in entertainment but always figured some entertainment guru gives each medium an annual assignment. For instance, Entertainment Guru says to Movie Industry, “We want to see flicks about turn of the century magicians battling a newfound sense of disbelief and cynicism amongst their audiences which, in turn, turns the magicians murderous” and then three movies with that theme all pop up. Think “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist” (Right, that’s only two. I know that) They were out at the same time and about old time magicians. What are the chances? Well, probably pretty good if that’s the assignment the Entertainment Guru gave at the beginning of the year. This also happens with books, it happens with music, with video games. I’ll bet it happens with plays, photography, mixed media art, fashion, paintings, sculpture, and every other form of artistic expression. I’ve always just assumed that someone was putting the idea out there and everyone was picking it up and following but when I had my own ideas and kept them mainly to myself and then I saw them cropping up other places, well, I might have been wrong about the Guru giving out assignments. Maybe it’s a form of hive mind. Maybe we’re connected to others who think like we do, maybe we share a wavelength and the information travels between all of us even if we’ve never met, even if we don’t live in the same city, state, or even country. Maybe that’s why pieces of my story are showing up in other people’s books?

Another explanation of course, is that since I’m playing with witchcraft, magic is involved. When my book goes live, some new writer will read it and go, “Damnation. There goes my great idea. Back to the drawing board,” because that’s how magic works. According to me, at least.

I should wrap this up by saying that I’m NaNoWriMoing my book, that I’m going to spend this month creating a roughly-formed novel that I can then edit to my heart’s content over the next several months. Yeah, no. I’m not doing that. I don’t actually work on my writing for the last three months of the year because all my creativity is channeled elsewhere. When I’m a famous author, that will sound cool and well-rounded instead of like an excuse, as it does now.

But if you are NaNoWriMoing, GET ON IT! Get that idea out and on paper – virtual or literal. You can totally do this! Just, please, don’t take any more of my ideas. I won’t have anything left.

Rhino_5

And here’s a rhino.

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Filed under Adventures, My journey to writerhood, My Opinions on STUFF

Hangman, hangman, slack up your rope

All Hallows Eve, it is so close. I have shivers.

Let me share them with you.

Here is my last ghost story for the season and a song to keep you company as you read.

After our mother remarried, we all moved to a new house. I was a surly, hateful, bitter teenager and, as a result, I spent all my free hours locked in my bedroom, reading fantasy novels and staring at the mountains beyond my window.

There were times, however, when my west-facing room became too hot, too stifling, and I had to escape. I would run from the house, down the back slope, through the field and marsh, to the source of the spring. Two giant, old, whispery cottonwoods, one standing-but-hunched, the other lying down, stretched along the earth, grew in the meadow beside the water. I would climb into the boughs of these trees and stay for hours, reading, watching songbirds and deer, field mice and hawks, butterflies and mosquitoes. I would perch until the sun faded from the sky and the glow worms pulsed from stalks of summer grass. In the winter, the meadow was quiet, blanketed in snow, the spring frozen except for where it bubbled up at the center. On those cold, silent days, I could nestle into the hollows of the cottonwood roots, pretending to be the only soul in the world.

My family rarely explored the stream, the marsh, and the spring where the cottonwoods grew. Had I not been such a sullen, reclusive child, I probably would have known there was something they were all avoiding in our big backyard.

There were two ghosts that roamed those waterways, one hateful, the other peaceful.

Chris and Noelle had complained of hauntings, of scary things, feelings of terror, cold spots, voices, and other such occurances ever since we’d moved into the house. I complained of whiny siblings. They were scared to go near the cottonwoods. I hung out there all the time. My mom felt things, too. I rolled my eyes. I figured I had an ally in my stepdad, Jim, and I probably did until he met one of the ghosts.

Late one afternoon, on almost-summer day, my family went walking through the back fields. When they returned, it was with a story. Chris, Noelle, and Alex were freaked out, the latter on the verge of tears. Mom was obviously discomfited and even Jim was rattled. It took awhile before I could get their chain of events to go in order, to form a coherant tale. From what I could tell, it went something like this:

They’d been walking near the stream that ran through the field during the wet months and were headed for the cottonwoods, not for any particular reason, it’s just where their meandering was taking them. The closer they got, however, the stranger they felt. There was anxiousness then terror in the air. Mom felt anger and hatred. The kids were scared. Their fear fed whatever was running along the stream and it reflected it right back, coming at them in garbled sounds and hissing voices. Even Jim felt it. They fled the area but despite their haste to return to safety, Jim distinctly heard someone, a man, whisper in his ear. The man said, “Hancock” and that was all.

Of course, I’d missed the whole thing, having been shut away in my room at the time.

It doesn’t end there, though.

Jim saw Hancock once more while looking out toward the back field. His vision shifted and he saw an older man, Native American, standing by the back fence with a young boy. The man wore a hat, maybe a John Bull or gaucho, and a brown vest. Jim knew the man was Hancock. He also understood that Hancock had been hung by the neck until dead.

Native American

No, this isn’t Hancock. But he does have a hat.

When my mom began to ask some of the old timers about Hancock, one man, Native American, himself, said the name sounded familiar. As it happens, local legend has it that the two cottonwoods by the spring used to be hangin’ trees. Rustlers, horse thieves, and indians were strung from the branches, or so it’s told. Hancock may have been one of them. However, he was not vindictive; he was not the one who harassed my mom, Chris, Noelle, and Alex. He only made himself known to Jim, perhaps as one man of of the house to another?

No, the vengeful spirit flowed with the water. During spring runoff and summer rainstorms, the spirit was violent. It terrorized my family, scaring the kids and following my mom from home to work and back. It knocked things over, it yelled, it shot out bursts of fear so strong, its victims would be left rattled and scared. My mom worked across town in a plant nursery situated near some picturesque ponds, small bodies of water filled with ducks and muskrats and that were fed by the stream that ran through our back field. The angry creature would pester my mom when she’d be out feeding the chickens. Then she’d go to work and shortly after, the ghost would show up there, too, making a ruckus and being a nuisance, causing more trouble than it ever did at home.

The entity finally got so out of hand that Mom had to do something about it. After peace had been restored, however, it seemed Hancock was no longer needed because he has not been seen nor heard since.

Here’s what I suspect: While Hancock gave the impression of having been hanged, he didn’t seem angry. It was more like he was waiting. I think he may have been connected to the other ghost, the one who caused so much turmoil for my family. Maybe the other ghost was Hancock’s anger, having separated itself from him somehow. Maybe it was someone else who’d met their demise on the hangin’ tree. Whatever the case, Hancock stuck close to home; he kept to the field, to the cottonwoods, to our yard. He didn’t travel far and he didn’t threaten anyone. Maybe he’s the reason the other spirit couldn’t do much more than be a scary nuisance around the yard. Maybe he was watching out for my family.

We’ll never know. Both ghosts are gone, as is the field. It’s now a neighborhood. I don’t even know if the cottonwoods still live. I do know, however, that there will come a day when the field once again floods and those houses will have very wet basements. And perhaps an angry ghost.

Angry spirit

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My journey to writerhood

Only the creepers

We have a running joke in my family: Our women can attract any man they want…as long as he’s a weasel or creeper. In my mom’s case, he doesn’t even have to be alive.

When I told my mom I was posting ghost stories all month, she was interested. Why wouldn’t she be? She is a witch, after all, and she has seen a spirit or two (well, ok, a lot) in her day. I told her that I was short a scary tale so she gave me one I’d never heard before. It goes like this:

The yellow brick ranch-style house where my grandfather saw the ghost of a miner was quite haunted, it would seem. ZZ knew it, my aunt knew it, and my mother knew it. They all ran into spirits of one type or another during their years there. It was an evil spirit, though, that haunted my mom.

Mom is certainly not afraid of ghosts but she is aware of them and they do follow her around, bugging her, giving her icky feelings, creeping her out because that’s the type of energy she attracts. Similarly, questionable men have always been interested in her; same principle, just one set of jerks is alive and the other, dead. (I just called my dad, Jim, icky. Sorry about that! You’re totally not! Well, not anymore, at least)

My grandparents left the yellow rancher for something smaller and more manageable, handing the house over to my growing family. Noelle had just been born and our little cabin on Yampa Street was  too small to accommodate everyone. I was thrilled to move into ZZ & Poppop’s house; I loved that place. My mom, though, not so much. The malevolent spirit she’d felt when we’d lived there earlier was still there, still mad, still giving off bad vibes. And you know what really got it riled up? Noelle. After Noelle came along, my mom experienced more harassment from that malicious entity than ever before. I’m going to call it The Menace. You know, like The Phantom Menace, only far scarier.

When Noelle was brand new to this world,  ZZ & Poppop came to stay, to help out with the new baby, I assume. One afternoon, Mom was in her room folding laundry while tiny Noelle napped in her bassinet. Dad and Poppop were in the living room, watching a game, Chris and I were probably outside, and ZZ was downstairs in the guest room. Mom felt someone watching her and assumed it was a family member come to check on her but when she looked at the doorway, it was empty. She went back to folding but she knew someone was there, someone who was angry, someone who started breathing heavily. Her discomfort grew and became sharp, panicky, and then she heard a voice, a deep, growling voice, a voice completely unfamiliar and terrifying. She didn’t understand what it was saying nor did she wait to find out; instead, she ran from the room, horror-stricken, through the living room and down the stairs to her own mother. ZZ knew something was wrong immediately and when Mom told her what had happened, ZZ yelled, “YOU LEFT THE BABY ALONE WITH IT?” Both women raced back upstairs, full-tilt, expecting the worst. When they ran into the room, Noelle was sleeping soundly and The Menace, hovering in the room, winked out.

Dead

Perhaps this is what The Menace had planned?

It didn’t go away, though.

There was no shower in the upstairs bathroom, only a tub. There was, however,  a 3/4 bathroom in the basement so when someone wanted to shower, they went down there. Unfortunately, that bathroom was made of concrete, mold, and spiders. It was dark, dank, and creepy; even I hated it and I am rarely afraid of a room (unless it’s poorly decorated).

Bathroom

This bathroom is far less terrifying than the one in the basement.

So Mom went to the basement bathroom to have a quick shower one evening. Spiders skittered across the cement floor and a draft wafted through the already-cold room. She felt…something. Someone. Someone was in the bathroom with her, rustling around, making noise. She figured it was Dad though when she called out, no one answered. But someone was there. She showered faster, wanting to get back upstairs, back up to the light and warmth, back to her family. The room slowly filled with condensation, water slid down the walls, the smell of mildew rose from behind warped wood paneling, and something was standing just beyond the shower curtain, getting more and more angry. Mom was rinsing her hair when the shower curtain came rushing in at her face, as if it had been violently punched. She jumped, scared, and flung aside the curtain.

The bathroom was empty.

She turned off the water, grabbed her towel and ran upstairs. When she found my dad on the couch, she yelled at him, “Why did you DO that?” and he looked from the TV to her. “DO what?” He wasn’t winded like someone who had just dashed up the stairs would have been. He’d obviously been sitting there for awhile. And all the kids were already in bed. There was no one else in the house. No one but The Menace.

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Filed under For my short story collection, My Dearly Beloveds