Monday, June 27, 2011

A short story

First off, apologies for the long silence. I promise I'll try to do better. I've written a little story which I've entitled "Seventeen" and it may or may not be based on true events. I hope it brings you back to a time when you were seventeen. I hope you enjoy it.

The text message said, “Hey I’m headed up your way. Can I stop in and see you?” ;-)”

She had been crushing on him since she was only thirteen but they had never taken their friendship past the flirting stage. He was a couple years older. Worldly. Hot. The sexual tension was almost tangible as she tapped back: “You can’t. My parents are home.”

“Aren’t they asleep?”

She bit back another smile. “Yeah. They are.” She paused. Then in a desire to live boldly, she wrote, “I think I could sneak outside for a few minutes and see you if you wanted.”

“Be there in about five minutes.”

She urgently wrote, “Pull in across the street, not in our driveway. My parents will hear. And shut off your lights.”

Heart pounding, she popped a stick of gum in her mouth, chewed hard and swirled it across her teeth. Then she spit it out and checked her hair in the mirror. Not that he would be able to see in the darkness anyway. Then she turned off the light in her room and slowly opened the door and peered out. Nothing but silent darkness. 

Like a SWAT team member clearing a building, she crept down the hall and through the living room to the front door. She slowly opened the dead bolt. Still only silence. She turned the knob slowly, ears perked for any sound from her parents’ room. Suddenly her phone buzzed in her pocket. The sound seemed to echo off the walls. She jumped and pulled it out quickly. The screen lit up the dark room.

“I can’t wait to see you.”

Her grin nearly split her face in half. She turned the knob on the door again, more determined this time. Her heart seemed caught in her throat and her hands were trembling, but it was a good kind of nervous, she thought.

When the latch clicked open, she slowly pulled on the door. She was sure it had never creaked this loudly before. When it was open just enough that she thought she could go through, she turned sideways and slipped outside. A cricket chirped somewhere and she thought she heard the hoot of an owl.

She was finally outside. She dashed across the driveway. Suddenly a light came on in the living room. He stomach nearly ended up in her mouth as she stepped behind a tree, praying that no one had seen her. After a moment she peered out. Her mom was in the living room, looking out the window. She looked across the street. His truck was there and she saw his shadowy figure headed up the driveway towards her. In a moment, her mother would catch sight of him. She wondered if she could get to him before her dad got his shotgun. She suddenly had visions of throwing herself in front of the bullet to save him from her father’s wrath. Of her funeral, when everyone would appreciate her sacrifice. When the boy that came down the driveway now would plant a kiss on her cold, pale lips as she lay in the coffin.

But luckily, no sacrifice was needed. Her mother turned off the light and went back into the bedroom. She flew out from behind the tree and then nonchalantly approached him with a smile.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey.” He put his arms out and she gave him a hug as she had done hundreds of times before. The sharp smell of men’s deodorant and vaguely behind it, the slight musty smell of beer.

“Let’s go back across the street. I don’t want my parents to hear us.”

They hurried across the darkened road. A light rain began to fall.

“How you doing?” he asked.

“Better now.” Somehow that line sounded more seductive in the movies.

He held her close, and bend his head to her neck. She felt lips against the side of the cheek and her heart swelled against her chest. She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. Then, all at once, his mouth was on hers. She kissed him back, hard and passionately and the feeling of his lips made her knees feel like jelly.

They kissed for a few minutes and then she said,

“I have to go.” She was afraid that her parents would notice she was gone and spoil this beautiful night.

He stroked her cheek. “Alright. But you’ll text me, right?”

“Of course.” She smiled up at him and then turned to leave. He grabbed at her hand and pulled her back towards him. She spun around and, like two magnets that do not have to be aligned, their lips found each other again in a hard kiss. For a moment she worried she cut her lip on her teeth but she didn’t really care. Then she turned and waved goodbye and hurried back towards her house.

As she slowly crept back inside, repeating the motions she had done only a few minutes ago, her phone buzzed again.

“Damn you’re a good kisser.” was all it said.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


As you probably know, I currently have two tattoos ("Freedom is not Free" on my wrist and a tree on my ankle). I have long promised myself that when I published my first book, I would get a tattoo to represent my love of writing, which has been one of the only real constants in my life. So although I have not been published, I have been mulling over what design I wanted to get.

I'm leaning towards an old fashioned typewriter with a sheet of paper coming out of it. I want to get something written on the paper and I can't decide between "Once upon a time..." and "Nothing that happens to a writer, however happy, however tragic, is ever lost." The last one is probably too long though.

I also like tattoos that don't just stand alone but have some flowers around them or something like this picture. But I want to get some meaningful flowers, and I can't decide...I also like the placement of this one.

Any thoughts? Anyone have a writing tattoo already?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Short Stories and Organizing

So I'm still about halfway through "The Language of the Unheard" and while I'm wrapping that up, I've decided to try my hand at some short stories. I haven't written many short stories since high school, where I used to write them almost exclusively. I've heard they're a good way to get your foot in the door and if you get them published in a magazine, they might even make you a little cash!

So my first one is entitled "The Banks of Belronan" and it is a classic tragic romance about selkies, the mythical seal women of Ireland. I'm writing as a frame story with an old woman telling a tale she was told as a child. We'll see how it turns out.

I also finally organized all my little scribblings of story ideas and tidbits into Microsoft OneNote and I feel so much better now. I had to go through two notebooks, the notes section of my phone and countless random pieces of paper to find them all, but they're all sorted by type into the one program now. There's places for me to add more notes to them later on and pictures of things that inspired me etc. I am including an amazing picture of the Aurora Borialis that just keeps me in awe. Anyway, now I don't have to worry about losing things and when I want to find an idea for a story, I just have one place to look. In fact, the selkie story was one that I had thought of a while back and forgotten about until I did this.

Aaron is going camping with his brothers for a few days next week so I'll have to house to myself. I plan on eating lots of cheese-filled foods (he's lactose intolerant but I love cheese), doing a lot of writing, staying up ridiculously late, sleeping in, and watching plenty of chick flicks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A question...

I've been thinking a lot about a particular question lately. If you were the only person left alive in the world, and there was no chance that anyone would ever read your writing, would it change how or how much you write?

Of course the pressure is on as writers to answer no. To say that we only write for the love of it, the we do it all for ourselves. But I think that if I am being entirely honest with myself, I would have to say that it would change in someways. I do write for myself, and I would never stop writing entirely. But a big reason of why I write is to share my thoughts and stories with other people. If I knew I would never be published or never make any money from it, it wouldn't change the way I wrote at all. I could still share my writing free over the Internet, or give it to family and friends. But if no one would ever read it, I don't know if I would really write novels the way I do now. I think I would keep a journal still, because that helps me sort through my thoughts and I might write a novel occasionally, but part of the fun of writing for me is figuring out what other people like to read in addition to what I like to write. It's honing my craft in a way that make others enjoy it more. If I was writing only for myself, I think I would lose so much of that it might not even be very much fun.

What about you? If no one would EVER read your writing, and you could know this for sure, would you still write the same way you do now?

Friday, June 10, 2011

School and Writing Update

Well, I got some bad news regarding school. Summer classes at SCCC are completely full so there is not chance of me taking classes until fall. But I'm all registered for classes for fall so I have another three months of just looking for work each week and other than that, just sitting on my hands unless I get a job. I think I might try to do some volunteering work at one of the hospitals since I live on Capitol Hill, a mere blocks from all the major hospitals in Seattle. While the school thing is bad news for my nursing career, it's good news for my writing career. I decided to set some writing goals for myself.

So assuming I don't get a job, which is possible, my goal is to:

  1. Find a reading club online, one where I can read other people's comments about various books, thus giving me the chance to understand what people are looking for in a book.
  2. Read at least three books that are currently on the NYT bestseller list, giving me an idea of what is selling right now.
  3. Finish writing "The Language of the Unheard"
  4. Go back and give my screenplay a read-through. I'm skeptical that there will really be even enough to salvage from it, but I want to at least read it.
  5. Figure out what I'm going to do with "Finding Innisburg." Currently I have stopped querying agents because I have become worried that the work is too short to be marketable. My grandma just finished reading it and she gave me a couple of places where she thought that I could add some in, so I might decide to do that. I don't want to query all the agents I can find if it is indeed too short in case I decide to change it.
As far as "The Language of the Unheard" goes, its coming along nicely. I've discovered something about myself in this process. If I have done a sufficient amount of planning and if the story is good and well-planned, I really enjoy the writing process. It's not a chore to crank out my word count every day. In fact, I'm enjoying this one so much that I haven't even had to make myself hit a required word count each day and I discovered with a shock last night that I have been averaging over 4000 words a day for the last five days. It currently stands at 20,445 and it's really flowing nicely. I haven't had any of those "I don't know what to say in this scene" scenes that I usually have; scenes that are integral to the story but no fun to write. Those scenes usually end up being the boring ones in the book when it's done and I am on scene seventeen without any of those sticky ones. I'm thinking of changing the title again, though, to "Zombie is a Bad Word." I think its more interesting and indicative of the subject matter. My only reservation about it, is it sounds like a comedy book, which it certainly is not supposed to be. It started out a little tongue-in-cheek but it's very serious now. I actually have forgotten at times that most of the time, zombies are bad. The zombies in my book are like children and only the people who hate them or are mean to them call them zombies. To everyone else, they are "residual humans" or RH's. So if you were browsing in a book store, would you be more likely to buy a book called "The Language of the Unheard" or "Zombie is a Bad Word"? The latter is more fun, but the former is more serious and the book is more serious. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Language of the Unheard

I more or less finished "North to the Klondike." It needs a bunch more work but the main story frame is out on paper. I started the 'zombie' story, "The Language of the Unheard" on Sunday and right now I am eight scenes and 10,000 words in. The extensive outlining that I did on notecards has really been helping me. I just went through and made one notecard for each scene and on that card I listed the plot points and details that needed to make it into each scene. Then as I go along, I'm still creating a lot of the story but I'm not missing anything important to the story. It's really helped me reveal my character's backstory (which is one of her main motivations for this story) a little at a time. And as I go into the five digit word counts, where I start to second guess myself, I know that I have a good plan ahead of me and if I just follow what I've laid out, the story will come together in the end. So far I feel really good about the story and if I can keep my words per scene up at this same level, I'll have the longest book I've ever written. I'm striving for at least 80,000 words but we'll see how that plays out. I have twenty more days until I start school for summer quarter so we'll see how far I can get by then. But even after school starts, I won't be working so I should still have some time to work on it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Inspiration strikes again!

OK, so when I was in school we were taught that all good essays had a theme sentence which summed up the rest of the essay. So here goes. In this blog post I will tell you about the new title I came up with for my book, one of my favorite websites for writers, and for a new contest I really want to enter.

First off, the title I came up with for my "zombie" novel is "The Language of the Unheard." It's a little long since studies show that most bestsellers are three words or less, but some of those words in the middle are nice and short so they almost don't count. Its perfect in so many ways, some of which I didn't even realize until after I picked it. It's from a Martin Luther King Jr. quote which says "A riot is the language of the unheard," and since my novel is partially about civil rights for zombies and about taking a stand for those who can't take a stand for themselves and about not judging someone until you've gotten to know them, it's perfect for that; not preachy, but it makes sense. But on the other level, which I didn't realize until later, its prefect because the "zombies" in my book are deaf-mutes so they are literally the unheard as well. So tell me, what do you think?

Now for one of my favorite websites. It is the Lulu Titlescorer. It is basically a computer program which determines if any title is going to be a bestseller. Of course, that is not an exact science and has a lot more to do with you writing abilities, but it was put together by a team of statisticians who based it off of fifty years worth of bestsellers and and is proven to be about 40 percent more accurate than just randomly guessing. I have found it very helpful when I have several titles that I can't decide between and if you play around with it long enough, you can kind of figure out what types of things make for good titles. And, if you're curious, my title above has a 26 percent chance of being a bestseller if I consider the title figuratively and a 10 percent chance if I take it literally. But for both Finding Innisburg and North to the Klondike, I used it to select which title I wanted to use. I'm going to ignore the results for this one, however, because it's too perfect.

Now for the contest. I had heard of the Three Day Novel Contest before but I ran across it again and I got to thinking how fun it would be. Usually I'm not a fan of entering contests with a fifty dollar entry fee, but I'm seriously considering this. A novel in three days. Sounds like a seriously crazy challenge and I love seriously crazy challenges. Especially when they involve writing! Also on a side note, I am a firm NaNoWriMo believer. I would never, ever be where I am today without that. I would still be three chapters into a daunting unfinished novel and instead, I have written four over the last three years. So anyway, I was on a writing website and this guy, whoever he was, went off on this tangent about how it takes at least two years to write a novel and "those write-a-novel-in-thirty-days programs are just scams and they are the equivalent of get-rich-quick schemes. No one ever wrote a novel in thirty days, at least one that got published anyway." I was soooo mad. I looked for a way to contact the guy but there wasn't an option on his site and I almost wanted to smash my computer. If it had been a book I had bought I would have burned it. He was sooo wrong and it pissed me off. Just to point out that several novels have been published out of NaNoWriMo including Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants" which was a New York Times Bestseller and is being made into a movie as we speak. But I was very angry that he would run NaNoWriMo into the dirt like that.

Anyway, in retaliation, here is my defence for NaNoWriMo (yes, I realize this was not in my theme sentence but I'm just annoyed again at that website so I need to vent). Many, many people in the world want to write a novel, or have started to write a novel. In fact, if you took a random poll, I am willing to bet that over half of people would agree that they have a good idea for a novel that they just haven't gotten around to writing. Part of the problem for this is that they think that writing a novel A. takes years and years to write even a rough draft of B. is something you can't do while you are working, raising kids, in school or just generally normal. They think that you have to take several bottles of scotch, rent an attic room somewhere, and not come out for twenty years while you pound out your masterpiece. But in reality, with only a one or two hours a day you can pound out a rough draft of a novel in a month or so. Is it going to be good right then? No. It's going to suck. But your rough draft is always going to suck even if you spend thirty years on it. In fact, I'm willing to bet that if you spent thirty years on it its going to suck even more because the flow and the pacing will be totally off since you are now thirty years distant from the first part of your story by the time you're done.

So NaNoWriMo liberates people to write, to get their ideas down without worrying about making them perfect the first time. Of course if you want to edit it until its ready to sell, then that will probably take you a year or more, but so many people never get past the first page and NaNoWriMo does something about that. I think one of the problems people have is they think, and rightly so, that becoming a good writer takes some practice. If you've never written anything in your life, you're probably not going to be much of a writer. But you're never going to be much of a writer if you don't start somewhere. And NaNoWriMo is often that somewhere. I love it, I wrote my first novel for NaNo and it was utterly terrible but it got me on the path that I am today. Writing a novel is no longer an intimidating idea for me, something I'm going to do when I retire or when I win the lottery and can move to a cabin in Alaska. It's something I can do here, now, in a month or two. So while it may not work for everyone, it certainly works for some people so don't knock it. It is not a scam by any stretch of the imagination.

Alright, I'm done ranting.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Antagonist love...

I am rather falling in love with my antagonist. Yes, I realize this is a bad thing as she is a murderer and therefore supposed to be unlikable. But it all started when I found an AWESOME picture of her, looking just like I pictured her and then from here, she blossomed. At first, she was all bad...if she were a man she would have had a long black twirly sort of mustache, but then she started explaining her reasons for the murder to me. She was going to get fired for something that was only sort of her fault and if she got fired, she'd be evicted, and if she was evicted she'd lose custody of her son.

And the poor girl was abused as a child and she's a little bold and outspoken which can get her into trouble and I kind of just feel sorry for her. I almost like her better than my protagonist, who is sweet and is going to get herself some gumption by the end of the book (finally!) but in the mean time she's kind of boring. Alright, what's a girl to do? How do I make my protagonist more likable than my antagonist. I'm worried if I feel this way, everyone else will too.

Anyway, I'm including my picture of her. Her name is Veronica "Ronnie" Bennett. Gotta love it.