Showing posts with label story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label story. Show all posts

Monday, July 25, 2016

Writing Prompt Monday: No Matter How Hard I Try

The writing prompt: You are a teenager trying to rebel, but no matter what you do, your parents aren't getting upset.

I took a deep breath before turning the knob and pushing through the front door. There was going to be hell to pay, no doubt about it. But I really didn’t care. In fact, I welcomed it. I was as excited for the backlash as a starving man for a cheeseburger.
It’s not so much that I was looking forward to getting yelled at or punished, I was just eager for some sort of reaction. My whole childhood had been spent trying to get their attention by doing good things, positive things, and my efforts had always been met with disappointment or criticism. Nothing I did was ever right. No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t trying hard enough. No matter how good I was, I wasn’t good enough. So screw it. I knew it was immature and totally predictable from a psychology standpoint, but I didn’t care. If they were going to treat me like a rotten kid, I might as well just be a rotten kid. Maybe then they’d wake up from their dream world and see that I’m actually a really good person.
Mother was in the kitchen, literally pulling a tray of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. Put her in a poofy dress and a pair of heels, and she’d be a regular June Cleaver. Mrs. Mary Housewife, that was my mother. She was so perfect, it was borderline insane. People weren’t really supposed to be like her. Never a hair out of place or a smudge of lipstick on her teeth. Always gorgeous. Always smiling. Always pushing me to do and be better. God, I resented her.
“Hey, Susan!” Mother’s name sounded foreign in my mouth.
Mother set the cookies down on the cooling rack and turned to look at me, Barbie smile glued to her face. “Hello, dear. How was your sleepover?”
She didn’t even glance twice at my hair. What was going on?
“It was good. Leslie and I had a great time doing each other’s hair.” Maybe baiting her was immature, but how could she ignore the fact that my once long, strawberry blonde hair was now short and Smurf blue?
“I see. Well, perhaps Leslie can come over here next time. Maybe she can help you study for your biology final.” She put another tray of cookies into the oven busied herself removing the finished cookies from the pan. “Would you like a cookie, honey? They’re still hot and gooey.”
“I’m not hungry,” I mumbled as I left the kitchen and went to my room.
The next day at school, Leslie and I stood at our shared locker. Kids shouted and shoved each other around us and locker doors slammed shut in the symphony of high school.
“Hey, Regina, nice hair!” Greg was the hottest guy at school, and though his locker was just three down from ours, he’d never said a word to me.
“Thanks.” I felt heat rising to up my neck to my cheeks, and I brought my hand up to my head. I really did love it, even if it was totally different. Leslie smiled like a dope and busied herself pretending to look for something in the locker.
“Why the sudden change?” Greg slammed his locker and sauntered toward ours. He reached out his hand and stopped just short of touching my hair. Electric currents ran from his fingertips to my head. When he pulled his hand away, disappointment gnawed at my heart.
Be cool, Geena, be cool! I cautioned myself. But how the hell was I supposed to be cool when Greg Owens was talking to me?
“I just got tired of my usual look, thought it was time for a change.” I pulled books out of my locker and hugged them to my chest. “I also thought it’d tick my parents off, but it didn’t.”
“You’re kidding, right? Regina Cabot, honor student, yearbook editor, and student council president actually wanted to piss off her parents? How’d that work out for you.”
Shame swirled in my belly like an angry serpent. He listed my accomplishments as a matter of fact, but to hear them out loud like that made me realize how much energy I had always put into pleasing my parents instead of living my own life and finding my own path.
“I thought they’d flip their lid, but neither one of them mentioned it all weekend. Not one single word. Even when I left blue stains on the shower floor.” Oh, God! Did I really just talk about taking a shower in front of the most gorgeous guy in the world?
“Why were you trying to upset them?”  He leaned on the locker next to mine and bent in toward me a little, as if he had been my best friend for years instead of a hot guy who completely ignored me. Is there a word for feeling flattered and uncomfortable at the same time? Unflattable maybe?
“It’s dumb,” I hesitated, but he waited patiently. “Nothing I ever do is good enough for them, and I’m just sick of it. It’s like they see me as some major screw-up, and if that’s what they think, then I might as well show them what that looks like. I mean, I’ll get in trouble either way, so what do I have to lose?” The words rushed out like a flood before I could moderate or weigh them.
“Maybe I can help. If you go out with me, you’re sure to piss them off.” A crooked smile raised one corner of his lips and his green eyes danced with mischief. It was true. Going out with Greg would definitely drive them up the wall. Greg with the attitude. Greg with the leather jacket and motorcycle. Greg with the 80’s rocker hair that was so retro but absolutely perfect on him.
“Yeah,” I tried to sound casual, “I think that might help.” The bell rang but neither of us moved.
“We’re going to be late, Geen.” Leslie slammed our locker.
“I’ll catch up,” I said without looking at her. She sighed and sprinted down the hall, leaving me and Greg almost alone in the nearly deserted hallway.
“So, I’ll pick you up at seven?” His hand came back up, and this time he ran his fingers through my short hair. I tried not to shiver when his finger brushed against my ear.
“Yeah. Seven is great.” The bell rang. For the first time in my life, I was late for class, and I didn’t care.
At ten after seven, Greg rumbled his motorcycle up my driveway. I had spent the last thirty minutes watching for him from my bedroom window. I hadn’t told Mother or Daddy that I was going out. I wasn’t allowed to date because they thought boys would distract me from my studies. If I had said I was going out with Greg, I’m sure I would have been met with the expected lecture about rules and responsibility, but the expected lecture was not what I was after. No, I wanted full-on World War III.
My reflection smiled at me. I looked fabulous! Since I knew I’d be riding on the back of Greg’s motorcycle, I decided against a skirt and went with a pair of black skinny jeans and a fitted hot pink tank top. The pink shirt contrasted sharply with my Smurf hair and the whole outfit made me feel powerful. My parents would hate it.
I ran down the hallway and past the living room where my parents sat reading the paper. No joke, my parents still subscribed to and actually read the town newspaper like it was 1965 or something.
“I’ll be back later!” I shouted as I neared the front door.
“Just a minute, young lady.” Daddy’s voice was stern. “Come in here.”
I rolled my eyes and went to the living room, ready for a fight.
“Where are you going?” Mother didn’t even bother to look up from her paper.
“Out.”  I looked Daddy in the eyes and searched for some reaction, but there was nothing.
“With whom,” he asked.
“Greg. He’s outside waiting for me, can I please go now?”
He pressed his lips into a thin, white line and I braced myself for the incoming nuclear attack. Outside, Greg revved his engine and honked his horn. Oh, that was sure to get my parents. Anytime we watched a movie with a guy picking up a girl by just honking the horn, I was always lectured about how they would never allow such a disrespectful punk to take me out.
“It’s a school night, you know,” said Daddy.
“I know.” I put a hand on my hip and sighed deeply
“Okay then. Have fun.”
“You’re going to let me go?” As excited as I was about the idea of riding off into the sunset on the back of Greg’s bike, I never expected to actually get to go. I thought for sure this would freak them out enough to lock me in my room until I was twenty.
Mother turned the page of the newspaper and remained quiet.
“You look lovely. Have fun.” Daddy picked up his newspaper and continued reading.
“Okay. Good night, then. I don’t know when I’ll be back.” It was a last ditch effort to rile them up.
“Then you better take your key with you.” Mother laid the newspaper in her lap and smiled at me in a way I hadn’t seen in about a million years. “Your dad’s right. You look lovely, dear. Now, don’t keep your young biker friend waiting.”
Without another word, I turned and left the house. Tears burned my eyes and I blinked them back. What was I upset about anyway? Wasn’t this exactly what I had always wanted? Mousey Regina Cabot was going out, on a school night, with the most gorgeous guy in school. And my parents didn’t even give me a curfew. It was more than amazing. It was a miracle. And it was scary as hell. Did they not love me anymore? Had I done something to disappoint them so much that they decided the best thing they could do was write me off? I hated them for trying to ruin my night like this.
“Wow! You look amazing, Regina!” Greg held a helmet out to me. I considered turning it down, but I wasn’t stupid. I slipped it over my head and climbed on to the back of his bike. The vibrations rumbled up my belly and into my head.
Greg backed down the driveway and as we roared past my house, I took a final look to see if my parents were peeking from a window or the front door. They weren’t.
I held onto Greg’s waist more tightly than I needed to and rested my head against his back. I don’t know why my parents suddenly stopped caring about what I did or how I did it, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. I was in charge of my own life. I could make my own decisions. And maybe, if I didn’t have to worry about getting yelled at for a bunch of stupid crap, I would have more energy to do the things I really enjoyed.
Greg pulled into a parking spot and helped me off the bike. I took off my helmet and handed it to him so I could try and fluff up my plastered down hair.
“Don’t worry about it. You look great.” He tilted my chin up and kissed me lightly on the lips. My first kiss.
My heart raced so hard I thought for sure it would break my ribcage.
“You hungry?”
“Yeah.” My reply came out a breathless whisper.
“This place has the best burgers. Let’s eat and figure out what to do with the rest of the night.” Greg pulled me to his side and wrapped his arm around my waist as though it was the most natural thing in the world.
I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to skip the burger, get back on his bike and leave everything behind. I wanted to see the world with him. I wanted to kiss under the stars. I wanted to be wild and reckless. But that’s not what I was going to do.
“I have a Lit. test tomorrow, and I really need to review. Could you take me home after this?” We were settled into a booth in the cafe.
“You serious? I thought you wanted to freak your parents out.”
“I do. Or I did. I don’t know anymore. But yeah, I’m serious. I want to make sure I do well on my test for me, not for them. So, even though it makes me sound like a hopeless nerd, I do want to go home after we eat.”
He smiled and took my hand from across the table. “If that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do. But maybe we can eat slowly?”
“My parents always complain that I’m a terribly slow eater,” I replied.
“I figured this was too good to be true, anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you serious,” he asked. “Regina, you have to know you’re like the most beautiful girl in school. I’ve been wanting to find a way to talk to you since I moved here, but I figured you wouldn’t give me the time of day. I didn’t even think you knew my name.”
“Wait, what?” I bit my lower lip and stared at him, trying to find a crack in his lie. Only, he didn’t seem to be lying. He was sweet and nervous and sincere. “You didn’t think I’d go out with you? Why in the world not?”
“Because you’re so...you. So smart and busy and, well, sort of perfect. And look at me. You have to admit, I’m not the preppy kind of guy I figured you’d go for. But when you changed your hair, I realized that maybe there’s a side to you that I didn’t know before.”
“This is so weird.” I took a long drink of water and tried to think of the best way to say what I was thinking.
“What is? Me?”
“No. This whole situation. I’ve been crushing on you like a fan-girl for months now! But you never so much as looked at me and I figured you were just way out of my league.” I blushed. “I can’t believe I just told you that.”
“Scoot over.” He came around the table and slid into the booth next to me.
“This is a weirdly poetic situation, isn’t it? We could have been coming here, together, for months if either one of us had just gotten past our fear and said something to the other.” His arm was heavy and comforting around my shoulder. Heat radiated off his neck.
“It’s weird alright. But good.”
“So, even though your parents aren’t mad about you seeing me, you want to go out again?”
I looked into his green eyes and my heart soared. “Yes. Definitely.” This time, I lifted my face to his and kissed him. My second kiss.
Our food came and we ate slowly, nibbling and laughing our way through the night, until we both agreed it was time to go.
“You’re gonna rock your Lit test tomorrow,” Greg said, helping me off the bike. “Let me know how it goes.”
“Thank you for understanding.” I hugged him tightly.
“Nothing to understand. You have to do what you have to do. I’d be a jerk not to support you.” He hugged me tighter and I felt safe and warm encircled in his arms. I didn’t want him to let go. But eventually, I had to.
“I had fun. Thank you for dinner.”
“See you in the morning!” He swung his leg over the seat and the engine rumbled to life. “I’m not leaving until I see you’re safely in the house. I’m a gentleman like that.”
In the house, I leaned against the door and listened to him ride away until I couldn’t hear him anymore. The television was on in the living room. My mother was lying with her head in my father’s lap as they watched some crime drama.
“Did you have fun?” Mother asked.
“Yeah. A lot.” My lips still tingled from our parting kiss.
“You’re home earlier than I thought.”
“I have a test in the morning I need to study for.”
“Well, goodnight, dear.”
“Night.”
I never figured out what made my parents let go of the reins so suddenly, but I’m glad they did. I aced that Lit test, by the way, along with all the rest of my finals. And the best part is, I did it for myself, not to try and please them. Greg and I have been going strong for nearly a year now, and sometimes he still looks at me like he can’t believe I picked him. I know exactly how he feels.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Writing Prompt Monday: Home For Christmas

I'm going to try something new. Every Monday, I'm going to post a writing prompt and the resulting short story. This week's prompt came from Reedsy Prompts. The story is actually a mash-up of two prompts because fiction is slippery and even when you think you know what you're going to write about, the story has other plans.

The Prompts:
1. You find a stack of Missing Persons news clippings under your parents’ bed. All with your photo.
2. You decided to read a book about hypnosis. After reading the book, you realize your spouse/parents have been using hypnosis on you for years.

Home for Christmas

I waited for the garage door to clang shut before peeking through the living room curtains to watch my parents pull out of the driveway. It hadn’t been easy to convince them to let me stay home alone, even though I was twelve and was, like, the most boring kid I knew. They were just so protective of me.

The heater kicked on and a gust of wind rattled the windows. The blizzard hadn’t hit yet, but it was supposed to blow in by six o’clock. The clock in the living room read three thirty-seven. They said they’d be home by five, but the way my dad drove, I could easily cut half an hour off of that time. I had to hurry to make sure I covered all my tracks.

Christmas was a week away, and I was on a quest to find my gift. I don’t know what possessed me to lie to my parents so I could go snooping around, but now that they left me alone for the first time, I sure as heck didn’t want to spoil the opportunity. Who knew when I might get this chance again? Santa Claus is Coming to Town was playing on the home audio system my dad bought for himself last Christmas. A small pang of guilt hit my heart like an icicle, but I shrugged it off and made my way to the den.

The den seemed like a stupid place to hide a gift since I was in there all the time, but then again, my parents often said that the best place to hide something was in plain sight, so who knows. Maybe something would be hidden in there after all. The book I had just finished reading, The Barking Dentist: How to Hypnotize Anyone, was still on my favorite reading chair. My parents tried to make me return the book without reading it because they said it was nothing more than pseudo science.

“Woo,” my mother had said. “Pure, ridiculous woo. Just like auras and palm reading. You’re too smart to waste your time with such nonsense.” But I held my ground and they eventually gave up, though every time they saw me reading it, they made snarky comments.

I searched the top of the bookshelves, inside the family desk that was used mostly for paying bills and writing thank you cards, and in the antiques hutch. Nothing. No sign of a gift anywhere. Okay, so much for the “in plain sight” theory. Next stop: my parents’ room.

The song on the streamed radio station changed to I’ll Be Home for Christmas. I don’t know why, but that song always made me sad. I blinked back my tears and pushed my parent’s bedroom door open. The room was huge, and there had to be about a zillion places to hide presents. If I had been smart, I would have come here first instead of wasting time in the den. The clock on the night stand warned me that it was ten to four. I had to pick up the pace. My best bet would probably be to work from the back of the room to the front.

Their bathroom had a ginormous walk-in closet that they both shared. Seriously, that closet was bigger than my bedroom. Not only did that seem like a great place to hide a new laptop or karaoke machine, but it was in the very back of the room. If they came home while I was in there, I might not hear them in time to get out. Then they wouldn’t trust me to stay home alone again until I was thirty.

The built-in drawers reminded me of a dozen pale mouths refusing to open up and share their secrets. They were easy enough to open, though, and in the end they had no secrets to reveal. The shelves were as dull as the drawers. After ten minutes, I had to admit that the closet contained absolutely nothing of interest to me. My parents were so boring!

Back in the main part of the bedroom, I felt myself pulled toward the four poster bed. Like everything else in the house, the bed was huge. From nowhere, a memory of when I was about six hit me. My mother had strung rope between the posts and then hung sheets from the rope, which made a cozy fort out of the bed. I used to pretend I was in the Captain's cabin on a pirate ship. Every now and then Mom would knock on the wood footboard and ask if the Capt’n was ready for a snack. I’d shout “Aye!” and she’d pass crackers and juice to me. She was so different, so fun, then. Now all she did was volunteer to every committee under the sun. And she totally flipped her lid if I even took a single step out of the kitchen with a snack. Food in bed was like the biggest sin I could commit as far as she was concerned.

I got down on my knees and peeked under the bed. Two long, shallow storage containers rested like little coffins in the dark. I pulled them both out. My heart raced. This was it. One of the two containers had something for me. The green clasps on the first opened easily. I pulled the lid off and cast it to the side. Shorts, tank tops, bathing suits. Nothing but summer clothes. I straightened out the clothes, so it looked like I hadn’t been rifling through them, and slid the little coffin back into the mausoleum.

After the continued disappointments of the afternoon, I didn’t hold out much hope for the second box, but I had to check. My heart thundered in my ears as I removed the lid. More summer clothes. Darn. I carefully moved the clothes around, and my hand brushed against something papery. A manila folder. My throat went Sahara dry and I licked my lips. My hands trembled as I pulled the folder out of its hiding spot. This was no present. It was also none of my business. I should just put it back. I looked from mysterious file to the clock. If my dad drove as fast as he usually did, they’d be home within ten or fifteen minutes. I really should put everything back the way it was and settle myself into a book before the garage opened. But I couldn’t will myself to tuck the folder back into its resting place.

I opened the file and gasped when I saw my own face staring up at me from a newspaper clipping. I dropped the folder and dozens of articles and fliers, all with my face, fell to the floor. I picked up the nearest one and stared, stunned thoughtless. It took a moment for my brain to decipher the words on the paper, but when it finally did, something in my mind clicked and I understood.

MISSING CHILD
Name: Marcie Snow
Age: 9
Sex: Female
Last Seen: December 20, 2013

Oh my God. It was me. It was a younger me, with a different name, but it was me. There was no denying it. “Marcie Snow,” I whispered to my younger self. “Not Emily Whitmore.” Tears burned trails down my cheeks as I gathered the articles and fliers. I shoved them all back into the folder and carried them to the den.  I picked up my hypnosis book and hugged it and the folder, to my chest. No wonder they had pitched such a fit about me reading that book. They were afraid I’d find out the truth, but they couldn’t forbid me to read it because they never forbade me to read anything, even Stephen King. But why wouldn’t they just hypnotize my desire to learn hypnosis out of me? They were clearly skilled. They had me convinced I was theirs. They implanted all sorts of false memories, like the pirate ship bed. I didn't have an answer, but I did know I only had moments to decide what to do. Should I put everything back and try to act normal? Just carry on with my life like nothing was wrong? Should I confront them? Something else entirely? I wished for some sort of sign. And then I got one.

Sometimes, with streamed radio stations, different versions of the same song played within a few songs of each other. My dad hated it when that happened, but I liked being able to compare the styles. After Santa Baby ended, I’ll Be Home for Christmas came on again. Without thinking twice, I put on my snow boots, coat, and scarf. I took one of the missing person fliers and set it on the desk and walked out the front door. I didn’t bother to lock it. I gripped the folder in my gloved hands and walked as quickly as I could toward the next street. I had to get off of this street before they drove by.  It was dark, and the roads were all mostly deserted. It shouldn’t take me long to get to the library. From there, I could get help.
The wind almost tore the folder from my hands, but I managed to hold on to it.

“I’m coming home, Mom and Dad!” I hoped the wind would find their ears. “I’ll be home for Christmas!”


Friday, November 29, 2013

Average Simon by Dannie M Olguin

Simon Hall doesn’t care about being a football star or an actor or a famous musician. All he wants is to keep his head down and avoid being noticed by the bullies who follow him home from school.

When tragedy strikes and Simon moves to a strange small town, he decides that he will do whatever it takes to transform himself from a bullied “freak-boy” to an ordinary, everyday, average kid. Unfortunately, that’s exactly when his super powers decide to show up. It doesn’t take him long to realize that reinventing himself will be impossible if things keep blowing up every time he claps his hands, so he does the only thing he can: he ignores them and hopes they’ll go away. But the more he ignores his powers, the more unpredictable they become. They need his attention, and he needs to learn how to rein them in if he’s ever going to fit in. With the annoying guidance of his new best friend, Simon starts on the path of learning to control and master his special abilities for the sole purpose of never using them. That is, until a mysterious stranger shows up and threatens everything Simon holds dear.

The only way he can save himself and everyone he loves is to embrace who he is and to accept that when you’re extraordinary, being average just isn’t an option.


Middle Grade Fiction


Lives in Plano, Texas with her husband, son, and bevy of pets.  Average Simon, her debut novel, was inspired by her extraordinary son.
972-802-5678

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Starting is the Hardest Part

I love writing. I love learning about my characters and where they live. I love following along as they go on adventures and deal with problems. I love the way they can infuriate me or make me laugh out loud. As a writer, I get to experience my stories in a way that nobody else ever can, and I love the private journey I take with my characters.

But as much as I love writing, I dislike starting a new project. Sure, I'm full of anticipation and hope, but at the same time, I'm filled with doubt and a touch of dread. Am I really up for the task of doing it all over again? Am I up for monopolizing lunchtime conversations with chatter about who said what to whom and how she deserved it? Am I prepared to feel the oscillating emotions that go along with writing a novel: The joy, the excitement, the ambivalence and the despair?

When I'm about to start a new project, I question both my sanity and my choice to become a writer. I could have been anything. I could have been a competitive skydiver, an accountant, a bounty hunter, a cake decorator. I could have been a chef, a gymnast, a surgeon, a dog trainer. There are so many things I could have chosen that wouldn't have been so emotionally and physically draining, and I'm sure I could have been happy enough doing any one of them. Why in the world didn't I choose a different path?

Easy. I don't love anything the way I love writing. I can't go anywhere without making up stories about everyone around me. I am prone to sudden fits of laughter in the grocery store because I had a vivid and absolutely hilarious (to me, anyway) scenario flit through my head. Notice how I didn't call them hallucinations? That's because I don't need medication, I need words. Or maybe words are my medication. I think about them all the time. I feel most myself when I'm putting them in nice little rows, building one upon another. Without that, I feel displaced, depressed, and just not right. I could have been a bounty hunter, but I don't think hunting down bad guys would make me feel as whole as writing about bad guys.

And so I come back to the place I started: putting off starting. That first word of a new book is so hard to write, but the first sentence is damn near impossible. What I know, though, is that if I can power through the first few sentences, I get pulled into the story and writing becomes easier. Adrenaline kicks in, and the words begin to flow from my fingertips with an ease that is almost disconcerting. Almost, but not quite. The relief and wonder overtake the fear, and I know that I'm doing exactly what I am meant to do.

Starting is the hardest part, but it's also the easiest to get over. Just one word. Then one more and one more. Just one sentence, followed by another and then another, and I'll be well on my way. I've had a good break, but now it's time to stop procrastinating and get back to work.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writer's Block Is No Excuse

I have writer's block and a cold. My throat hurts, my head hurts, I can't stop sneezing. My brain is foggy and I can't string together two coherent thoughts for anything. I also have several writing projects that I'm working on and I've attempted all of them today, just hoping to find my groove. Unfortunately, my groove must have packed up and gone to Disney World for a vacation, because I can't find it anywhere.

So what is a writer to do when writer's block strikes? My initial reaction was to power through it and write anyway. After all, the editing process is there for a reason.  But sitting and staring at my manuscript for forty minutes only served to make me feel like a failure. My next reaction was to throw up my hands and say, "Fine then! I'm taking the day off!" But hiding under the covers and reading Stephen King isn't going to get me any closer to finishing my book.

I realize that the words aren't going to flow from my fingertips today, but that's okay. Today I give myself permission to lay the story aside, but not to take the day off. Instead, I'll work on other things that will help me achieve my end result:
  • Write a blog post about what to do if you have writer's block
  • Browse through The Writer's Market, online and book forms, and read helpful articles
  • Use The Writer's Market to identify potential agents to query
  • Actively participate in social media to engage in discussions with other writers, offer love and support
  • Curate a list of blogs I'd like to follow and possibly guest blog on
  • Curate a list of bloggers I'd like to invite to guest blog here
What do you do when the words just won't come?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Confessions Of A NaNoWriMo Dropout

It's November. The leaves are turning, and in some cases, falling from the trees here in the high desert. The days are still warm but the nights are cool, and the smell of fireplace smoke tickles my nostrils every time I take a walk with my dog. November, time for pie and turkey and way too much dairy. Time to put away the Halloween decorations and pull out the sweaters.

It's also time for NaNoWriMo. Huh? NaNoWriMo. It's a crazy, fun, intense, caffeine and Cheetos filled whirlwind of a month that is dedicated to writing a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. This strange name is short for National Novel Writing Month. It's a time to give yourself permission to lock yourself up in your room or hide in a coffee shop and just indulge in your wildest literary fantasies. It's insane. It's fun. It's free. And best of all, there is a ton of support and wacky goings on. I love Nano and I sign up every year.

And every year I drop out.

Like all writers, I have an entire Rolodex full of excuses not to write (though my husband has recently launched a campaign to get me to dump the Rolodex and use Google Spreadsheets instead), and they are all so reasonable: The baseboards need scrubbing, the cat needs brushing, I have to try on every piece of clothing I own so I can send a bag to Goodwill. I'm sure you get the idea and don't need me to list all four thousand eight-hundred seventy-two reasons.

I always start out fully intending to write fifty--no, seventy thousand words! No, wait! In my best Dr. Evil voice, I burst into the living room and declare that I will easily write  "One hundred thousand words! Bwwahahahaha!" My husband usually just looks up at me and offers a supportive "Wow. That's great, Dannie. How much have you written so far?" My answer to that is typically of the I haven't actually started yet. I have to make a crust for that potpie we're having for dinner, so I'll start pounding out the words tonight variety. 

At some point, I always do sit down and write, but by the time I find my writing groove, I am so far behind my daily word count goal to reach 50k words, that I start to feel panicky and resentful. Resentful of myself for having a hard time. Resentful of all the household duties that are distracting me, resentful of all the amazing, beautiful, talented writers who can easily blow right past their goal and actually succeed in finishing NaNo. So I pour myself a glass of three dollar wine and hope that loosens me up enough to be productive. Unfortunately, it only distracts me and I end up wasting an inordinate amount of time on Facebook. Most years, I just give up entirely around the third week of November, feeling guilt and shame over my pathetic 4,000 words.

So this year, I didn't sign up. This year, I am aware that it's National Novel Writing Month, and I'm genuinely happy for all those writers out there who are participating in the write-ins and camaraderie, but I'm just not playing. Instead, I'm plugging away, every day, on my novel. I have a reasonable word count goal, but I don't have a hard and fast deadline. This year, I'm giving myself permission to lock myself in my office and write, but I'm also giving myself permission to watch Mythbusters with my kid or to work on a blog post or short story if I'm not feeling the novel love during any particular writing session.

I think the main difference is that this year, I've officially given myself permission to be a writer full time, not just for a month. I don't feel like I have to pound out 2,000 words every day. Some days I do and some days I barely hit 700. But that's okay. For me, writing isn't a race, it's a way of life. The story will ebb and flow, the hours in the day will work with me or against me, and sometimes things will pop up. And that's okay.

The first draft of my novel is far, far, far from where I want it to be. I wish I had three times as many words written as I do, but I'm not stressing out about that. It's coming along day by day. And this year, as NaNoWriMo happens all around me, I feel proud of myself for accomplishing what I have. On the days where I'm not a productive as I hoped to be, I gently remind myself that there is always tomorrow.

When it comes to writing, what do you have to confess?

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Write When Your Characters Won't Cooperate

It's been a busy few days and I've hardly gotten any writing done. Sometimes it's hard to find the time, even with a supportive husband to pick up more than his fair share of household responsibilities. Sometimes (okay a lot of the time) I have plenty of time, I just find it hard to make myself get the words out of my head and onto my screen. This whole gonna write a novel adventure has reminded me of something I've always known: writing is damn hard.

When I'm in my zone, the words flow like liquid gold from my brain to my fingertips. My characters are active, vibrant and complex, my dialogue is snappy and intelligent, and all I really have to do to hit my word count goal is close my eyes and type what's going on in my imagination. It's like I don't even have to try all that hard to come up with the actions, my characters just take on a life of their own and do what they need to do.

Unfortunately, sometimes what they need to do is hide in a dark closet and pretend they're not home when I knock on the door. Sometimes what they need to do is eat cookies when I tell them they need to go paint the tree house. And most infuriating of all, sometimes they need to tie me up to the tree house tree and dance around me like little Lord of the Flies heathens while blowing into their conch shells and throwing sticks at me. Even the adults. Needless to say, it's danged near impossible to type what I see when I'm tied up to a tree in the middle of a forest.

Sigh.

So what's an author to do?

If you're this author, you do one of several things:

1. You try to rationalize with your characters and assure them that you have their best interests at heart and that you'd never, ever  kill one of them off, even if you fully intend to.

2. You start to cry like an overstimulated two-year-old and hope they take pity on you.

3. You write their stubborn rears into terrifying situations that only you can save them from. I've found that dangling them over a steep cliff with a stormy sea below brings about an amazing change in attitude. The same can be said of locking them in a dark room with a bunch of hungry rats. Really, the struggling author is only limited by his or her own imagination. And since the characters are fictional, you don't even have to worry about jail time!

4. You try to write them in the way you think they should be written but end up failing miserably and falling back to option #2.

5. You just throw your hands up and shout "FINE! If that's how you want it, you just go ahead and goof off forever in your little world and nobody will ever hear about you and your amazing adventures. I'm going to go read a book that's filled with good characters who behave and do what they're told." Of course, this option does have the inherent danger of the actual living people who are near you thinking your a mad woman (or man), so I would suggest  not taking this track if you are writing at a coffee shop or the public library.

6. Last but not least is one of my favorite options. Write a bunch of smack about what to do if your characters won't listen to you, make yourself a drink and settle in on the couch for an evening of The Muppet Show.

What do you do when your characters won't cooperate?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Story of a Story

Hi, there!

My name is Dannie and I'd like to thank your for visiting my site.

A little bit about myself: I am an author, a lover of Halloween, a chocoholic, a voracious reader, and a mom to one human child, two canine kids, two feline kids and two fish. Okay, I don't really consider the fish to be like family just yet. Maybe if they survive more than fourteen minutes I'll start to feel attached to them.

It was my son (the human one, not the doggie one) who was my inspiration for Average Simon,  my first children's novel. The idea came about one day when he was about nine. We were having a conversation about life and he looked at me in all seriousness and informed me that all he wants is to be an average guy. Not famous, not necessarily rich, just a normal guy.

It's interesting how inspiration can come from a simple conversation. My brain got to whirring and purring and I thought:
What if there was a boy who just wanted to be average, but the more average he tries to be, the more extraordinary he discovers he is? How would he feel about that? What would he do? Would he be able to accept his talents? Would he try to hide them for the sake of not standing out? What would be the result of never allowing your true self to be seen by anyone, including yourself?
A seed was planted. I knew that this was an idea I needed to develop and nurture, but I shoved the idea into the very back of a deep and dark closet under some dusty stairs in my mind. Every now and then, I'd mentally pass the old closet door and I felt like there was something important inside, waiting for me to shine a flashlight on it, dust it off and bring it into the warm sunshine. But I was always too busy to bother with a dusty old seed of an idea, so I just kept on passing that door and ignoring the feeling that I was neglecting something. I couldn't even remember what it was that I had been ignoring anymore.

Until one day not too long ago. My kiddo asked me a simple question:
Hey mom. You always promised you'd write a novel for me. When are  you going to start it?
 Oh yeah. I did promise him I'd write him a book...Well, okay. This seems like as good a time as any.
How about I start it this month?
The grin that spread across his face was bright enough to reach under the dark closet door and shine, just a little, on that long neglected and forgotten idea. He asked me what it would be about, and without even having to think about it, without a sense of panic or fear, I strode confidently into that closet, pulled that seed of an idea out and showed it to my boy.

And now here I am, on a journey that I always  knew I was  going to make. No, it's more than that. I'm on a journey that I was born to make. A piece of me wishes I had started this trip a long time ago, but ultimately, I'm excited to finally be on my way.

Thank you for joining me on this trip of a lifetime.