Once the true horror of the attacks of September 11, 2001 became clear, once the magnitude of the attack, of the hate, of the vengeance against the West, had awakened us all, a true and gripping sense of community poured out. We saw it in the American flags so many in the States wore on their lapels, hung from poles, or secured magnetically to their bumpers. We saw it in the silence that followed, in the acceptance and warmth of neighbor to neighbor. In the support for our first responders, who had so much to lose and lost even more.
Sadly, what brought out the best in us, also brought out the worst. The acceptance and warmth of neighbors turned to suspicion and violence for some. For too many. Rather than truly pull together, some among us chose to wage their own attacks on people they deemed responsible. That suspicion and rage lingers still, all these years later, most noticeably from the people who are supposed to lead us, to assure us, but who have, of late, chosen to divide us.
Of course we can never assume 9/11 was an anomaly, a catastrophe the likes of which will never happen again. But neither was that sense of community, of a shared experience. That’s part of what America is about–an awareness and appreciation of our diversity, commonality in our unique experiences. That’s what has always been the secret to America’s “greatness”.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum displays, in rich profound detail, the many faces of NYC and her neighbors. People who worked here, lived here, protected here, came here to help in any way possible. During a recent tour of the museum, I was struck by the varied accents heard on recordings captured that day–of voice messages left for loved ones, of first responders calling out to their units, of reporters and witnesses.
I live here in NYC. I hear a wide variety of languages and accents daily, so much so that I no longer notice them. But while there, in the museum, listening to one account after another in full-throated and brusque New York-ese, in broken English, in Spanish, in a New England drawl and other accents not so easily identifiable, I felt at home. One among many. Sharing the same memories, the same pain, the same hope for a better future.
Every year, on the anniversary of this heartbreaking day, we come together to remember those who perished. We remember their lives, their sacrifices and their humanity. In doing so, in standing together in remembrance, we’re reminded of the bond we have as citizens of this world. How I wish that understanding, that bond, held during our every-day existence and not just in times of tumult and pain.
Hedwig’s Theme, Opening Notes
On July 31st, 1991, Harry Potter turned 11. It was on that day, 27 years ago today, when Hagrid presented Harry with his Hogwarts’ letter. The same day Harry received his letter, his life – and the lives of nearly an entire generation of children – was forever changed.
I was introduced to the Harry Potter franchise when my daughter was in first grade. It was Halloween, and there was a parade at her elementary school. Children and teachers alike wore costumes – pirates, Power Puff Girls, Ninja Turtles, and more. Most memorable, however, was the school principal’s costume, which was a long black hooded robe, round glasses, a wand and a hand-drawn lightning-bolt scar on her forehead. I confess, I had to ask her who she was supposed to be. She looked at me, dumbfounded, and said, “Well…Harry Potter, of course!”
But of course.
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” ―Albus Dumbledore
Immediately after that, I introduced my daughter to the books, and then to the movies. And that was when we became a Harry Potter family. We watched in awe and wonder as Harry, Ron, Hermione – and all the rest – grew from wide-eyed wizards studying potions and wand-work, to young adults bravely fighting demons so fierce, so cruel, even the elders among them doubted their chance for success.
“The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” ―Sirius Black
As adults, we often teach our children that the world is not black and white, that our foes are sketched in as many shades of gray as our friends. Yet, I wonder whether we teach that lesson in word only, rather than by example. And I wonder, too, whether our children are wiser than we might expect and see those shades of gray all on their own.
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” ―Sirius Black
As we read the books and watched the movies, Harry, his friends, and even Draco, grew into young adults with a healthy skepticism of those around them. They had a keen awareness of a complacent media unwilling to address the first hints of danger. They also harbored a healthy rebelliousness against language and ideas that were divisive, bitter, and cruel, even when that language and those ideas came from authority figures.
We watched young Harry become a man as he learned that while those who chose to be Death Eaters were one form of evil, so too were those who willingly ignored the slow and steady rise of evil in favor of personal gain. We even watched as Draco came into his own as he learned, too late, that ‘otherness’, which was so passionately loathed by the elders he idolized, was not, in fact a “crime” at all, nor was it an offense worthy of death.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” ―Albus Dumbledore
I wish our kids the same fortitude displayed by Harry and the gang as they face the challenges this world presents. I wish them stamina, foresight, and trust in themselves – no matter what others say – to know they have the ability to change the world. To turn on the lights when times are dark. To see the value in friends, family, and strangers – both familiar and unique. And I wish them the wisdom to know that, while they each have those abilities within themselves, we are all so much stronger together.
“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” ―Albus Dumbledore
Happy Birthday, Harry… or perhaps I should say “Happee Birthdae, Harry”, as Hagrid did that magical day so long ago. And thank you.
My muse has been known to take wrong turns now and then, wandering as it does in a never-ending search for something dark and mysterious or sparkley and fun to play with. Because of that never-ending quest, it’s not uncommon for my wandering muse to wind up caught in some murky, quick-sandy bit of gray matter. How do I lure it out? Exercise, coffee, daydreaming… and writing prompts. Bits of story fodder lie everywhere but when the muse is otherwise occupied, they can be hard to find, or, once found, impossible to develop.
A story prompt sits right in front of your eyes, luring the muse from that darkened corner, tempting it with just what it’s been seeking. A dark and mysterious idea or a fun playful place in which to frolic.
Today, my muse has been lured by Jon Nathanial Corres and Willow Raven and my thanks go to them for providing a beautiful and magical writing prompt. You should see it full size – and can find it here – Willow Raven – BLUE SATIN SASHES.
Along with the prompt came a challenge which was, actually, posted in June even though I’ve just found it now. The challenge is to write a short piece inspired by the Blue Satin Sashes image… and, of course, a short piece has the potential to grow into a larger piece… unless the muse steps into quicksand again.
I’ve accepted the much-needed challenge, and I have titled my short piece: His Again. This was fun to write and I hope you find it fun to read.
Here’s a small version of Willow’s stunning visual prompt:
Snow filled the air like down from a pillow, softly floating in waves playful and billowy. White and innocent, it shimmered in the moonlight, unfazed by the cold and dark.
He held out his hand, palm up, to capture the beauty. It faded, wounded by his heat, writhing until only a single droplet remained. Cold, small. Gone.
A low rumble of hooves broke through the silence, and a golden light bobbed in the distance. Snow stirred from the ground as the carriage neared and falling flakes scattered as to clear a path far and wide.
With a small nod and a touch to the brim of his hat, he welcomed the bundled coachman. And then on he strode to the carriage door.
Through the small window, he saw her. Her white winter cloak, as innocent as snow. Her bonnet tied beneath her chin with a blue satin sash.
He met her gaze, and saw moisture there. It was from cold, he would believe, for despite the past, she had chosen to see him again.
She rose and he hesitated, not wishing to mar such exquisite beauty. She waited. Her eyes, blue as the satin, challenged.
He dared hold out his hand, palm up, to capture the beauty. And she laid her hand upon it. Cold. Small. It did not fade but remained. Solid and warming. His to hold once again.
What do you think? Did the image stir your muse? I loved writing this short and would love to read yours, too. If you write one, please let me know in the comments.
Every author needs to get characters talking… not just on the page, but to the author herself. And not just in every day niceties but in detail, with secret yearnings, quirks and private musings. I’m sharing a bit of that here today, Week 10 of the Character Interview Blog Hop – HEROES. My thanks to Patty Blount for passing the baton to me. Last week, Patty introduced you to Dan Ellison, the high school student and former bully from her Young Adult novel SEND. You can find her interview with Dan HERE on her blog.
Today you’ll meet my hero, small-town restaurant owner and handsome loner Jake Marlon. I met Jake ages ago and am now spit-shining his story so others can watch him reach his well-deserved and hard-fought happily-ever-after… and maybe even fall in love with him as I have.
I had asked to meet Jake before he started work for the day but he said he starts too early. Then I asked to meet after work, but he said he finishes much too late. And so, I’ve met him at The Grill, where he’s preparing for the lunch crowd, though he’s said “crowd” is not what he’d call it. I sit on the dining room side of the pass-through window, watching him in the kitchen. He’s an impressive man, over 6′, with messy black hair and dark bedroom eyes. He works methodically, moving about the space with ease, and I have an odd sense of watching an animal born in captivity, believing there’s little if anything beyond his small enclosure.
I can tell he’s not thrilled that I’m here. His broad back is to me as he dunks a second basket of onion rings into the deep fryer. It sizzles violently. He sets a timer.
I click my pen, ready to begin, but he doesn’t look at me. I wonder if he’s forgotten I’m here… but he’s already given me the go-ahead, so I begin.
He starts to turn when the timer buzzes for the first basket, drawing his attention. Going back, he hangs it to drain.
He picks up a huge knife and a glorious eggplant, and just looks at me, his dark gaze holding mine. Several emotions pass in his eyes and I find myself drawn in. I feel I should look away, allow him a private moment, but I can’t… In truth, I’m not sure I want to.
My greatest fear?
He looks around the place and it’s as if he’s looking at land from far off shore.
Losing this place.
Raw emotion thickens his voice and I realize this fear of his is real and deep.
It almost happened a few times.
He sets the eggplant on the counter, starts slicing it lengthwise. I’m amazed. Each piece appears to be of perfect ¼” thickness.
I managed to get it going again but… I might not always be so lucky.
His slow smile captivates me. It’s a bit condescending but strangely I don’t care. I smile in response.
The hours I put in here aren’t exactly secret. Do people know what your work means to you? Or do you have to tell them?
I almost answer his question, but then remember this is not about me. I want to know more about him. He’s not just a workaholic. He has secrets. I can see them in his gaze. As I study it, he lifts a dark brow and I can’t tell whether it’s in challenge or amusement.
His smile fades. That play of emotions is in his eyes again.
My life is here. My past. My… future. I’ve worked this place since I was a kid. Back then, my dad did everything I’m doing now. Almost. When he could. Out there…
He points through the pass-through, toward the dining room.
That belonged to my mom. She worked the room like a pro and people liked her. They tipped her good and she’d skim a bunch off the top so the old man wouldn’t get it. He’d’ve wasted it on booze, and she wanted new things for herself. And for me. She bought me a football once. With her tips.
Pissed off the old man. He wanted to know how she was able to afford it. I didn’t tell him, of course. That would’ve been ugly… He took it, you know. The football my mom bought for me. Said I’d get it back when I’d shown my worth, but I never saw it again. Not until after he died. Interesting bastard, my old man.
I want to comfort him but he’s guarded now. Clearly finished with that question, so I ask another.
Christopher Olivieri. He’s my… godson. Tony and Maria’s boy. He notices things and asks a lot of simple questions that are hard to answer. He’s a challenge but he’s a great kid. Happy. Innocent. I have issues with his parents sometimes, mostly Medusa… sorry, I mean… Maria… but they treat him good. Like a kid should be treated. And he comes here sometimes – his parents’ place is at the other corner. The fancy Italian restaurant… they do well down there…
He brushes the eggplant and other vegetables with olive oil and herbs, lays them on the grill, smiling as they sizzle.
Chris brings the ball and glove I got him for his birthday and we’ll play a game of catch in the lot. He says his father’s too busy to play with him, like mine was… for different reasons, though. I’m busy, too, but the kid has a way of getting me to do things I wouldn’t normally do.
Like… take a break from this place now and then. It’s just a few tosses, not a big commitment. And off the kid goes, happy as a kid should be.
He chuckles and it’s a soft warm sound I want to hear again.
Yeah, Christopher. He’s made a difference in my life… It’s hard to explain how an eight-year-old can do that, but he did.
He turns the vegetables. Brushes them lightly.
Used to be, I’d spend time alone here, cleaning up after closing. Then… well… I’ve had company lately. Not that I mind. Not much anyway. It’s Willy. Wilma Davis. She just started showing up here regularly around midnight. I’d be mopping the place, you know, closing up for the night. It annoyed me. Having her crashing my space like that, but… Have you met Willy? Nah, probably not, because if you did, you’d smile just from hearing her name. Or you’d go running from here, screaming.
She has that effect on people, Willy does. I follow her, you know. At night. After she leaves. She doesn’t know it. She thinks nothing of walking alone through the park in the dead of night in those heels and little skirts of hers. I watch her… I mean… I watch that she gets home okay since she lives right on the other side of the park. With her roommate. Cora.
He leans closer to me as though eager to share a secret, and I ready myself for a juicy bit of gossip.
Talk about wanting to run screaming from someone. If a bawdy redhead swings her hips your way, that’ll be Cora. Run. That’s it. Run.
There’s no down time with her around…
He transfers the fragrant, grill-seared vegetables to a chafing dish. Sits on a stool at the counter.
Sometimes, I’ll stay there, by the lake, after Willy gets home. Wait for the light to go on in her apartment… I’ll be thinking, not thinking… I’ve always done that. You know when you live above the store, you need a place to go and the lake is it…has been since I was a kid. Of course, the old man never knew about it. He’d just say I didn’t know about the cost of time.
Well, I don’t know if it’s a secret, really, but… I wonder how things would be if they’d turned out like I planned. I wanted to own a sweet little 5-star hotel somewhere, and be the head chef in its 5-star restaurant. Not too many people know about that dream. Really, only my mom and Maria knew about it – Maria, as in Christopher’s mother. Tony’s wife.
He gives his head a shake as if to bring himself back to the present.
That’s what I’d be doing if things had worked out differently.
He’s staring me down, or trying to, but I’m on to him now. Those dark eyes of his are rich with secrets I wish I could pry from him, so I won’t let him off the hook.
Women love to ask about other women…
When I was a kid, most of my youth, in fact, until my early twenties… I thought Maria was the one. She took my heart, filled it up…too much. Then, BAM! She popped it like a balloon.
He chuckles. Tries to wipe the smile away.
He has her now.
We were very different back then. I was 17, she was 16. We were together for a year. She’d hang out here a lot. She’d even help out. I liked watching her work. She was one sweet sight.
We were going to go to school together. Business school – hotel/restaurant management. We talked about it like it’d really happen. Then I had more and more responsibilities here and… she… didn’t understand. One night… I was supposed to meet her, out there, by the lake. I asked… I actually begged…for an hour off so I could talk to her, but my dad kept giving me stuff to do. He must have made me tally the receipts four times that night. I got to her more than an hour late, and she was with Tony. They have three kids now. Christopher’s the oldest. You know… that night the old man wouldn’t let me meet her? That night I found her with Tony? That’s the night he died. Wrapped his truck around a tree. I kept thinking I should have taken the keys… but I didn’t.
He pushes off the counter, heads into the dining room with the grilled vegetables, and lights the final sterno.
Then there’s Jessie. Not long after the old man died, my cousin’s girlfriend – Jessie – experienced the same thing. Her father was a drunk, too. Died basically the same way. She didn’t handle it too well, and Steven, my cousin, asked me to talk to her. I did. And… things just went on from there.
He unlocks the front door, flips the closed sign to open.
She’s a great woman. She’s getting married soon. We just…ended things. It wasn’t a healthy relationship. We had a lot in common. Too much, I think. Same pain, same confusion. We didn’t really help each other, just complained mostly. But she’s funny, and she’s sensitive. We both knew nothing more would come of what we had, but…well…it went on for a long time. She did the right thing in saying yes to Carl’s proposal. She knew we’d never get married but she asked me anyway, just to be sure before she gave him her answer. And now she wants me to give her away.
His smile is small. It looks less than happy. He gives me a shrug, waves a hand toward the buffet.
Hungry? It’s all-you-can-eat. Just $9.95.
The bells on the front door ring. He gives it only a passing glance then turns away, heading for the kitchen. I gather my pen and notepad and duck my head under the pass-through to thank him for his time. And that’s when I see it. There, on a shelf next to the door leading into the parking lot, propped against a vintage Diner sign is an aged though unscuffed football.
Be sure to look for next week’s Character Interview when Elizabeth D. Spencer will introduce you to her hero, widow farmer, Jake Callen, from her Historical Romance, WHEN CUPID CAME TO TOWN. You can find that HERE on her blog.
Elizabeth D. Spencer lives on Long Island, New York with her husband, three children, and two energetic Sheltie puppies, Brinkley and Carson. (Named for the dog from You’ve Got Mail and Downton Abbey’s very own Carson, the butler.) She shares a love of history with her family and a love of books. Her days and nights are spent writing. When she is not writing Appellate briefs for the day job, she is busy writing historical romance novels. The greatest challenge has been learning to balance it all. Coffee has been a tremendous help!
Among the sites I visited in Salem Village this past fall, was the Rebecca Nurse Homestead. The grounds were open but since it was off-season, the house was sealed tight, docents were unavailable and I, along with my two friends, were the only visitors there.
I would have loved to tour the house. It has stood all these centuries. Was the place for sharing honest thoughts and deep emotions about the hysteria gripping the village… where that hysteria hit hard as Rebecca Nurse, herself an aged and pious woman most respected as a church member, was accused, arrested, thrown into jail, tried, convicted and eventually hung as a witch.
Her body was dumped unceremoniously with the others hung that day in 1692, since a witch could not receive a Christian burial. Yet, under the cover of night, her loving son and husband retrieved her body and buried her properly on the homestead grounds.
That property, the property of the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, pulsed with history when we visited. The energy was undeniable. We found it impossible to remain for long in two specific spots on the grounds. One was by a window at the back of the house, near the garden. I wanted to take a picture through the glass, but as I lifted my camera, I felt a sudden wave of extreme dread and danger. I was certain, if I turned, I would find someone behind me. I did turn, but no one was there.
I backed away quickly, still feeling uneasy, then turned to take a picture of where I had been. The first image here is the full shot I took, untouched except to size it for web-view. The second is an extreme close up of the windowpane on the door by the garden where I felt so uncomfortable.
Do you see what I see?
The other spot oozing with energy, was the Meeting House. It’s a replica of the original Meeting House that would have been in the area, though it would not have been on the property as it is now.
I don’t know why I would feel anything strange about the structure itself since it is a reproduction not a building actually connected to the witch hysteria. I was not alone with those feelings, however. I had friends with me, and both felt the same. In fact, one believed she was being watched through the front window and so, from a distance, I took a picture of the building and that’s below.
Of course, if you look closely at the windows, you’ll see branches from the bare trees reflected in the glass. But do you see the window to the left of the front door? I zoomed in on it below. Look at it closely – if you have to – and you just might see what we saw so clearly in the window that brisk fall day in Salem Village.
I had a scary few hours before the “storm for the history books” was supposed to hit New York. I thought I should share it because, if you’re like me and sit a lot for work, you know this but tend to ignore it.
As a writer, sitting for long periods of time is part of the process. I probably sit more than many writers, though, because I have three jobs and each keeps me in front of the computer for hours (and hours) at a time.
I fidget, I get up for coffee, I let the cat/s lounge across my lap and shift them around when my legs go numb… but I don’t MOVE.
Last Wednesday, I wound up with pain in my leg and thought I’d somehow pulled a muscle (hamstring). I did all the things you should do for sore muscles without thinking further about it. Until Saturday night when I saw how red the back of my thigh was, and by Sunday morning when it was still red but also solid, aching, swollen and hot to the touch.
As I said, I have cats – one of them is 18 years old. I rarely notice pokes and scratches from them anymore. I figured, one of them must have scratched my leg at some point, and I now had a reaction to it, like cat scratch fever.
By Sunday night into Monday, the pain was unbearable and all sorts of thoughts for what it could be tortured my mind.
Monday morning, I made an urgent appointment with my doctor, who questioned me thoroughly about my daily habits. After hearing how I work at the computer all day, she wrote a script for a doppler ultrasound of my leg to check for a blood clot. Two very long hours later, I found out I wasn’t going to die from a clot that could have been in my leg and suddenly broke off to lodge in my lung.
I have cellulitis (so I might have been right about the cat-scratch), and the antibiotics I’m on should clear it up soon enough. They’re already helping.
BUT… once my doctor heard about my routine – of sitting for hours at a time, day after day, she knew my risk of clots was pretty high up there.
So is yours if you sit a lot, too.
Her advice to reduce the risk is to sit for shorter periods at a time and really move around. If you want to write for an hour straight without getting up, she said, then do it, but don’t sit in one position. Sit up straight if you tend to lean forward toward your keyboard, put your feet up on a rest under your desk. Lower them. Put your computer on the kitchen counter, and stand while you type. Don’t do your entire day’s workout in the morning and think you’re done. Break up your sitting/writing time with additional five minute workouts throughout the day – even if the time is spent simply going up and down the stairs.
And… don’t sit on the sofa or other soft cushion with your laptop on your lap. We tend to sit ‘folded’ that way, she said, and that causes other problems (I know, I have those too).
The pain I felt Sunday night and the fear I felt about possibly having to deal with a dangerous blood clot – with a blizzard on the way, no less – reminded me how quickly hours can go by when we’re writing, and how easily we can get caught up in the work while forgetting about taking care of ourselves.
Be safe, be smart, be active.
Have you ever noticed how much time you spend sitting in one position? For fun, or not, time yourself. A change of habit is probably in order for you, too.
I was using my treadmill during the day and “between jobs”, but then I stopped, having gotten caught up in the work. I’m bringing it back in and looking at other ways to make sure I don’t put myself at such high risk again.
What are your habits like? Do you have a way to break up hours of sitting?
For this Christmas holiday, I vacationed in Florida with my family. We visited the ever-amazing Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and spent nearly every waking moment traveling between Hogsmead and Diagon Alley via the Hogwart’s express. It was an awesome experience filled with magical moments of discovery.
But in addition to time in the world of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, we visited Disney’s World Showcase at Epcot Center. Talk about magical moments.
We strolled from Canada to the UK to France, Morocco… all around the world, taking in the sights, the sounds, the scents and flavors.
While in each country, we learned about their holiday traditions. I was, at first, impressed by how familiar so many of those traditions were, and how many of them overlap and compliment one another. We’re all separated by borders but share so many ideas, ideals and passions.
Despite the similarities and the exciting differences, one country’s traditions stood out the most for me. It was unique (to me) and made me smile as I considered implementing them myself. It was in Japan.
One of their traditions involved the Daruma Doll. It is a small hollow “head” with blank white circles for eyes. The idea is to consider and plan your goals for the coming year and then to color in one of the doll’s eyes. The doll will sit on a shelf, untouched, until you have reached your goal or goals. At that time, you may color in the other eye.
I love that idea so much I bought tiny Daruma dolls for my family so we might each strive to reach our personal goals with this doll as a reminder to do so.
Another Japanese tradition associated with the coming of each new year, involved refreshing the home so you have a new start with the new year.
I doubt this means anything as extreme as remodeling, but rather a change of window treatments, new slipcovers, or, perhaps, a fresh coat of paint. I can see myself doing that. I can also see myself altering my furniture layout so my rooms feel new even though they are not.
I don’t know about you, but I often find myself falling into a rut. When I came home from our holiday getaway, I noticed a drop in my energy and enthusiasm. While away, we were up at the crack of dawn and out well after midnight. Those couple of sleep hours were enough to propel us into each next day of adventure. While at home, if I tried to stay up that late and rise that early, I’d be dragging myself through the day and would be grouchy to boot.
Not that I intend to deprive myself of sleep every day, but the idea of a fresh start to the new year, with new draperies or shades, with new colors on the walls or even a simple rearrangement of furniture intrigues me. I can imagine wanting to spend time in this ‘new’ space and feeling good about the environment, because, I would assume, if I’ll be shifting stuff around then some of that ‘stuff’ will be left at the curb.
When it comes to living space, there is little I can do that’s more satisfying than purging. I think of how often I open my closet door, just to peak inside, after I’ve reorganized it. Admit it, you’ve done that, too. 😉
So, this year, for 2015, I will start a new tradition in my little home and freshen my space. Papers will get tossed, clothes we do not wear (or can no longer fit into) will be donated, the fridge will be cleaned, the cupboards stocked with healthy choices, the throw rugs and pillows replaced and the furniture shifted about. I will rediscover my home and be happy here. Maybe you’ll try this to? You just might find a way to bring adventure into your own home. Or do you already do something like this? What are some of your holiday traditions?
Akemashite Omedetō Gozaimasu – Happy New Year.
May 2015 bring smiles to your face, health to you and your loved ones, peace to your home, and fulfillment to your heart.
I’ll be honest from the start – I am a slow writer. For that reason, I’ve resisted participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as it rolls around each year. The goal of NaNo is a great one – spend time prepping yourself for a writing marathon then enter the marathon and come out of it with more words on the page than you would have had otherwise. More specifically, the goal is to complete a 50,000-word novel in one month by writing 1667 words per day, every day for 30 days.
It sounds incredibly daunting and it is. However, there is logic within this madness.
I think of it like Christmas, which to me is the greatest time of year. I start planning early – like in the summer. By September I’ve prepared my gift-giving list and might have even started shopping. By October, I’ve planned the menu for Christmas day. By Thanksgiving, the day after actually, my house is decorated inside and out and during that following week, my family holiday picture is taken – kitties included. By the time Christmas day comes around, all that’s on my list is cooking and celebrating. The day itself is a marathon but I love it because all of the nitty-gritty has been tended to prior to the day.
So it is with NaNo. Plot your story early. Do your character charts or interviews, if you normally do those. Create your storyboard or dictate your notes into a digital recorder… whatever you do to prepare yourself before writing a new story is what you should do in the months or weeks before NaNo.
Then, shop. Stock the fridge and even consider prepping meals you can freeze so that during NaNo, you won’t have to worry about meal planning. Clean the house if a tidy house helps you focus on the story. Warn your friends and family that November will be a very busy month for you and you won’t be taking calls or receiving visitors during that month’s writing hours.
Ditch the excuses and the inner editor at the door and give your muse permission to play. When November 1st arrives, you start. No looking back. No revisions, no self doubt, no research. Just forward motion. If you need to look into something further before you add it to your story, add a note saying you need to look into that further but don’t stop to do it now. Do it in December.
Write. Every day. You’d be surprised how, even if you were unsure where your story would go because of some unexpected blip, by staying in the story day after day, by immersing yourself in your characters’ lives, in their setting, in the action and emotion, each day’s writing will get easier. You’ll just know where to go with each new writing session because for this month you, too, will inhabit the world you’ve created.
It sounds wonderful. I so wish I could work this way. I wish I could complete even 1,000 words per day. However, knowing I have to, knowing that is what’s expected of me, stifles my muse. Performance anxiety, I suppose.
Even though the draft written during NaNo is for no one to see but me, I can’t bring myself to just write – or to leave “to be researched” notes in the text. I have to know NOW. I write linearly. (except for when I jump from Chapter 3 to write the final scene, then jump back to Chapter 4). What I write in one paragraph directly affects the next in a way that will not allow me to skip over details in favor of words on the page.
Since November 1st, I’ve written 4,000 words. My personal goal was 1300 words per day. By now I should be up to 18,200 words. I’m writing a novella so that would put me at the midway point. How wonderful that would be – which is why it was my goal.
The reality is very different for me. My process is different. I simply cannot write this way and trying to rework my process to fit the mold has only frustrated me. I value NaNo’s intention. I admire those who attempt it and stick with it – whether they meet the daily goal or not. But for me, it’s not an enjoyable or productive process and so I’ll be sticking to my agonize-over-every-word method of writing, wave at the NaNo marathoners as they zip past me and continue in my own way, at my own pace, and for my own pleasure. I know I’ll be among the last to cross the finish line but I don’t mind because I will cross it.
Embrace your process. Whatever that may be. You should never be afraid to try something new, but neither should you be afraid to say that something new is not for you.
What has your experience been with NaNo? Thrilling? Daunting? Did your experience with it alter your ‘normal’ writing habits or did you revert back to your own process without looking back?
For the past few months, I’ve been working on my erotic novella trilogy. I released Book 1 on May 27th, 2014. Book 2 should be released at the end of this month and then, for the next couple of months, I’ll be working on the release of Book 3. Hopefully, that will be in the fall. The beauty, for me, of writing these stories is that I’m writing them for myself. I had a goal. A tale I wanted to tell in a way I wanted to tell it. And that’s what I’m doing – with input from dear and wise beta readers, and a brilliant copy-editor. I’ve hired an awesome designer for my covers and formatting, and I’m promoting the trilogy myself with the help of some wonderful friends and dedicated readers.
It has been an awesome ride.
I explain all of this because I’m probably like a lot of authors who never expected to have their work out there via self-publishing.
I had always imagined taking the traditional route. I hoped I would query agents, have one see potential in my work, take me on as a client and then shop it around to publishers who would do the whole thing – copy-editing, book doctoring, marketing, cover design, printing and distribution – the way it had been done for ages.
Instead, for this series – which I’ve written under my pen name since it’s erotic fiction and I wanted to distinguish it from my romantic suspense – I chose to take a different route. Yes, I started the traditional way by sending out queries. The responses, however, were requests for me to revise and then resubmit. The requested revision had to do with turning my gritty erotic tale into erotic romance with a happily ever after ending. “Romance” and “Happily Ever After”, are the last words I think about when I consider my trilogy, so that was not a request I felt comfortable fulfilling.
I’ll admit, the decision to keep the trilogy as is and publish it myself was an easy one because self-publishing and erotica seemed, to me at least, to go hand in hand.
Does that mean I’m against traditional publishing? Absolutely not. Though, sad as it is, some rather intelligent people seem to think so. There’s a petty battle being waged between some in the self-publishing corner and some in the traditional publishing corner. Because of that petty battle, any mention of one method over the other is often met with defensive comments and accusations.
I don’t speak for every author, I speak for myself, and I will say this – I admire anyone who puts their work out there for public consumption, no matter the publishing path they take.
This is not a business for the faint of heart. Reviewers – professional and otherwise – can be as wonderful as they can be brutal. You have to trust yourself and your work enough to ignore the random insults while absorbing constructive criticisms and acknowledging that maybe the work isn’t as brilliant as you originally thought. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be out there. It means everyone has a different opinion. And whether you’re self- or traditionally published, a newbie or Nora – you’re going to get great and not-so-great feedback. Success is not determined by the route you take but by timing, luck and the effort put into the project.
I self-published my current work and people seem to be enjoying it. I don’t care that some people look down on self-publishing. I’m not a threat to traditionally published authors, though some react as if I (meaning the entire self-published community) am indeed a threat, a peon, a person who couldn’t get work past the guardians, and decided to enter the market through some dark and dirty tunnel instead.
There’s not a shred of fact in that assumption. I said above that, in my mind, erotic fiction and self-publishing seem to go hand-in-hand. That’s why I chose this route for this series. Would I choose the same route for my romantic suspense? I don’t know. I believe I would query agents as usual. I believe I would hold the same hope I originally held for this story – that they’d see the potential in the work and want to take it on. I also know now that if they decide not to, other quality options are available to me.
*Most* self-published authors are people who believe in their work. People who have poured their passion into it. Who have a dream of seeing their name on a book. Who feel this giddy rush of pleasure when others buy the work, and an even greater rush when they receive a nice review. Most self-published authors aren’t looking to take over the publishing world. Nor are most looking to somehow belittle the accomplishments of traditionally published authors. They’re just creative people who have a story to tell. And if it’s riddled with typos? If the prose drags on or is incomprehensible? Does that mean every self-published book is the same? If you pick up a book from one of the big-five publishing houses and find it to be a wall-banger – and there have been plenty of wall-bangers over the years – is that a sign that standards for the entire industry have plummeted? Or does it mean you bought a book you didn’t like? Or a book that should have received more attention from an editor?
Is there arrogance in some self-published authors? Is there indignation? Of course there is. And it’s exactly the same for the traditionally published community. We’re all part of the same. We’re all authors. We all have stories to tell. Some of us tell them in a more commercially-acceptable way than others. Some of us have the business and common sense to take it slow, to check and recheck before putting it out there. Some of us are still learning, and some of us don’t give a shit. It all shows in the work – whether that work came to life via self- or traditional publishers.
It’s not about the path you take – or about the path someone else chooses to take. It’s about the story you tell.
And now for a shameless plug…
History is revised in this erotic tale of choice removed as the duty to submit wars with the desire to resist. Abigail Prescott, a 17th Century woman accused of witchcraft, seeks to prove herself unmarked by Satan. She willingly submits to her governor’s thorough examination but is ill-prepared for his shameful grueling probe, as it permits him to see and test her every inch and every hollow.
“The Governor is one hell of a Dom.” – award-winning author, Bianca D’Arc
“I defy you not to squirm and moan right along with Abigail as you read The Mark. Rejoice, erotic-fiction fans. Arla Dahl has arrived!”-best-selling author, Pam McKenna
“The Mark, a beautifully written and captivating novella, kept me on the edge of my seat and completely spellbound.” –Smart Mouth Smut
From the Author:
THE MARK, Book 1 in the Immoral Virtue Trilogy is a highly erotic, non-romantic tale of sexual awakening and abandon, of the duty to submit vs. the desire to resist. Due to its explicit sexual nature, with elements of BDSM and dubious consent, THE MARK is intended for audiences 18 and over.
Twenty six years ago today, I made the move to adopt my first pet. I wanted a puppy. From a shelter. My mom happened to call a local shelter after she learned I planned to drive more than an hour to one of the more popular places. Well, at the local shelter, she learned about a shih-tzu who had been there for one day short of two months. The dog was five years old.
I reminded her that I wanted a puppy, not a five year old. Thing is, when the shelter told her this dog had already been in their care for one day short of two months, they also told her dogs who are not adopted by the two-month period are put down. Healthy, young, happy or otherwise. This was not a no-kill shelter.
The five year old shih-tzu had only hours left to live unless someone got over there and signed her out.
My mom, my sister, my grandmother and I piled into the car and hightailed it over. High-tailed was the shih-tzu the moment she saw us. It was as if she knew we were there to rescue her from imminent death.
The shelter didn’t know anything about her except her age and that she seemed like a purebred shih-tzu. They said she was found wandering the streets and, from her appearance, had been out and about for at least several weeks. This was March 20th. That means this little one had suffered the worst winter weather with few chances to find food or even water instead of ice. But she survived and happily came home with me where I immediately gave her a bath and a haircut.
She must have been treated well with her family, with baths and other pampering, because she lifted her chin, turned this way and that, closed her eyes and seemed to bask in her day at the spa.
Her name was Tiffy. She became my constant companion, my sounding board, my cuddle queen, my full heart.
I knew nothing about dogs before her because I’d never been able to have a pet – allergies, partly. House rules, mostly.
But Tiffy taught me what I needed to know. She was patient and understanding. Never seeming to forget what nearly happened to her and never – ever – letting me forget that she was not only grateful but more than worth the effort.
Tiffy lived to the ripe old dog age of 117, which is only 16 human years. I had her for 11 of those years and my life was enriched because of that time with her. Because of her. I’ll never forget that precious beauty. I’ll never forget her prima donna stubbornness nor her unconditional adoration. I’ll never forget how she waited to have her hat and coat put on before we went for a walk, nor how she’d run and bark at dangers in her sleep. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me with love when I carried her out of that shelter, nor how she looked at me with bittersweet thanks, years later, when I helped put an end to the suffering of her cancer-riddled body.
I’ve rescued other animals since then. I’ve adopted, fostered and adopted out kittens and cats. I have six cats now in my house, and I love each of them more than I can ever express. But there will never be another to fill my heart and soul like Tiffy.
Tell me about your first pet. Who was he or she? What do you remember most, what made you smile, what melted your heart?