Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Yeah Write prompt

I'm trying my hand at getting back to creative writing. It's been far too long since I explored and utilized this creative part of me. Hope you enjoy this writing prompt from Yeah Write, a blog/tumblr I recently discovered.

Just Friends...

"We're more than that, you know." He scratched behind his ear - a nervous tic I'd always found adorable - as he said the words. I'd heard them before. So many times before. Frankly, I couldn't fathom why this wonderful man still bothered - with the words and with me.

"More than what?" Playing dumb when it came to relationships (or lack thereof) had always been my forte. As I buttoned my blouse, I smiled at what I knew would follow my retort: he'd call me on my bullshit, tell me how much he loved me - how much he'd always loved me -and how one of these days I was going to pull my head out of my ass and realize I needed him, too.

He said nothing, though, when I stood from the bed and reached for the rest of my discarded clothes. A quick check of my watch told me I had less than an hour to get home. When we were together like this, I always lost track of the time. I locked gazes with him - his bright blue to my own duller brown - making sure my mask of indifference displayed without faltering.

Damn his blue eyes, always trying to cut through my defenses.

He took a deep breath and opened his mouth, eyes wide and pleading. For a moment, I thought he'd challenge me, try to break down my walls, like he always did. I lived for those moments, loved them. They were oxygen to my love-starved brain, a balm for the fire of constant disappointment and hopelessness that raged. But I watched as the light in his eyes faded, and he set his full lips in a thin line, the muscles of his jaw working hard to keep his mouth shut.

This time, he said nothing.

And I knew.

I'd lost him.

Part of me should've rejoiced in the idiocy that had succinctly made my life that less complicated. Instead, tears stung my eyes as I smiled at him, trying to pretend my world hadn't just fallen apart, my cynicism the instrument of destruction. This was a dangerous game, the most perilous I could orchestrate in my sham of a life, and I'd thrown away a perfectly good heart. Mine had been ruined years ago - I imagined if I ripped it out, it would be shriveled, rotted at the core with black veins of disease spidering from the center.

"I'm sorry."

From my peripheral vision, I saw him start at my words, as if he never expected such sentiment. I tried to pretend that didn't hurt, either, as I sat to put on my shoes.

"You're sorry? For what, love?" How I'd miss the gentle roll of vowels and consonants over his tongue in that beautiful Irish lilt. No other man had ever called me that, and none ever would again. The very least I owed him was my honesty.

"I ruined your heart." There it was. My admission of my role as a relationship cancer - killer of all things good, and all things that could have been good.

He laughed, and I whipped my head to face him. My obvious confusion only made him chuckle harder.

"You did no such thing." He smiled at me and skimmed my jaw with his thumb, before leaning forward and kissing me. "It's perfectly safe." Something felt off. The kiss wasn't any less satisfying than before; on the contrary - I could now feel exactly how much he loved me, as if all of it had been poured into me at the contact.

My brain could not process his statement, or the feelings. "I-I don't understand."

"Let me enlighten you, then, love." He took my hands in his own, smoothing my knuckles with the rough pads of his thumbs. "You see, I've given you my heart."

"Okay, sure," I retorted, rolling my eyes at his expression. "I mean, I know how you feel about me, but-"

"It's not a metaphor, love, You quite literally now keep my heart with you - always."

A nervous chortle broke free from my lips, and I stood from the bed, needing some distance to assess him. As always, his blue eyes were clear, completely open and honest, and gauging my reaction to this bit of news.

"I told you before, love. You and I - we're more than just friends." I took a few deep breaths and put a palm over the center of my chest. Sure enough, my heart beat strong and steady beneath my fingers and skin, mocking my actions and validating his words.

"I am a part of you now," he said, a wicked, sexy grin spreading across his face. Fear was the only thing that kept me from tackling him and kissing the smile until we were both naked once more. Now, residing where only emptiness had been, was a warmth I'd never felt, enveloping my soul like an embrace. It filled me completely until I was sure he could see it spilling from my fingertips.

Perhaps he could - damn his eyes, always seeing through the veil. He stood and took my hand, brought it to his lips and kissed my fingers. My eyes burned again with tears, and this time they spilled onto my cheeks.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Cup Runneth Over...

My daughter is obsessed with "The Cup Song" from Pitch Perfect.

And so, my husband and I have jumped aboard the bandwagon. We know the words, we sing the song, play it on the guitar, you name it. A regular ol' Swiss Family Robinson going on.

Watching my daughter sing along and strum the guitar with my husband the other night was one of those moments I wanted to freeze forever in time. It was a truly perfect moment - no screaming or tantrums, no attitude, no tears, no drama (my two-and-a-half-year-old is full of all of those things).

Even when it all went to hell (complete with my daughter scratching my husband's face in anger) the moment I told her it was time to go to bed, it was a magical thing. A beautiful thing.

Sure, she might have her toddler moments (see list above), but don't we all? I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've kept a calm facade, while inside I'm throwing stuff, crying, and stomping my feet. I'm willing to let those episodes slide. She's learning boundaries and rules and I get that.

And she says the most insanely hilarious, oddly adult things.

Aside from being able to clearly sing the Cup Song lyrics (mostly in-tune, too), she has often regurgitated much of what I say to her, and has delivered it with amazing accuracy. For instance:

This morning I was bringing her to Grammie's for the day. This CD of her "kid songs" plays in a loop, and there's this one I cannot stand, so I skipped ahead. The one about the Kookaburra - you KNOW it. Immediately, she asked me why I skipped the song. First I told her I wanted to hear "Skip to My Loo" instead, but you know she called my bluff on that.


"Well, I don't like the other one," I said.

"Why, Mommy?"

"I don't like the way it sounds."

"Why?" (I'm having Louis CK flashbacks about now.)

"Because that's my opinion - I don't like the music and that's what I think of it."

She repeated the word to herself, memorizing it, I'm sure. Then she promptly said, "Mommy's onion." She said it slowly, deliberately. Sarcastically. Then she laughed.

My daughter made a funny, and it cracked her up. How could I not laugh, too?

Another time we were in the car again, listening to the radio. As I flipped through stations, she told me she didn't like whatever song was playing, until I got to one I liked and told her we were keeping it on.
She replied with, "Nice try, but no."

Woah. When my mother asked where that phrase had come from, I raised my hand, guilty as charged. To have your words parroted back is one thing; to have them delivered to you and used correctly is another.

She loves arts and crafts, and recently I purchased a number of little goodies for her to create with, so now she asks me, "Shall we make some art, Mommy?"

My two-year-old says, "Shall we..."

My goodness.

My husband has taught her to respond to the question, "Who's your favorite Bruin?" with: "Bergeron!" But she's upping the ante. Now when he asks her, she'll answer, "Goalpin," the name, apparently, of her favorite imaginary player. Because she knows it makes him laugh.

Each day, I feel time whizzing past me, and I struggle to hold onto these little glimpses of the person she's becoming. I want to preserve them, but each day she says something new, hilarious and amazing, and older nuances and events slip away. So I'm going to write as many of them down as I can. Someday, we'll look back and tell her about these things she said and did, and how it made us laugh and love her even more.

Yes, my kiddo pronounces scissors like she's spent some time south of the border (say it with me - sEEsors). She loves to ice skate like Dora (or she tries, at least). She notices the little things, like the fact that fallen leaves might be now covered by the snow. I love the way her little mind works.

And I can't wait to see what she'll come up with next.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

For Better or Worse...

For better or worse, technology has changed the way we communicate - the way we reach out and touch someone.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with it, frankly, and now that I'm in my thirties, it's more hate than anything else. Facebook, for me, is an idiot-proof portal to the lives of lots of folks I don't get to see enough anymore, so I stick to that.

And it was because of Facebook that I learned last week that a long-time friend died in a hit-and-run.

Kerri was a year older than me, but it seems that our social circles - as much as you can call them that in elementary school - always intertwined. She grew up in my neighborhood, though she went to a different elementary school. We were in Girl Scouts together. In junior high, we sang in chorus (and where I come from, this was big - we competed nationally and internationally and won medals!) In high school, field hockey bonded and kept us in each other's company. And later, after college and years had passed, it was social media that brought her back into my life, if only virtually.

Even though she was only a year older than I (and by the calendar, only about nine months separated us), she always had this quiet, mothering way about her. Maybe she saw I needed the gentle guidance when we were younger. Maybe she was like that with a lot of us. She was probably just naturally nurturing, and so it leaked from every pore. She was always smiling, and her dimples only magnified the gesture. I know a lot of people always say this when someone they love has passed, but Kerri really was a ray of good ol' sunshine.

Though I can't claim we were BFFs or even particularly close, her sudden death hit me like the worst gut sucker-punch. I've lost other school friends - good people who were most definitely taken from this earth before their work was done - but Kerri's death, for some reason, felt different. It took me a few days to realize why:

Death had not changed. It is still a whisper in everyday life and a scream within us. It is one of the few things that, in this day of instant gratification and hurry-hurry-go-go, still has the power to stop us in our tracks, to silence us.

But I had changed. And so had Kerri. Gone were the carefree days of school; gone were the childish fears of life in a bubble. We were grown, with spouses and children and knowledge.

Kerri left behind a husband who now has to figure out how to get up every morning and re-learn living without her. She left behind a young daughter who can't possibly yet grasp what it means. Kerri left behind a richness, a fullness of life that can only come from time, maturity and the things we didn't possess when we were younger.

So when I look at my own family, and I ponder the weight of life and death and the gravity of each moment of every day, I know this one's different - to me.

I'm thankful that I found Kerri again, and that we could stay connected by discussing the mundane and ridiculous. And though there are a lot of things I detest about social media, I'm grateful that, for better or worse, it led me back home. Home to my memories and my roots, and to what's really important.

For those of you wondering, that's me at the left looking like a lemon, and Kerri is smack in the middle wearing the white tee and jeans.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rainy days never get me down

Today is a perfect day to write - while buried under blankets and with a steaming cup of hot soup within arm's reach.

But that's not what I'm doing today. Unfortunately.

Heck, I'd be content if I cracked my laptop, got all snuggled in, and then promptly fell asleep. That's what rainy days are for, after all. But I can't even do that.

And so I am bitter.

(something like this, or some combination thereof, please)

It's not that I can't sit down and write later: after the kiddo is in bed, after the dishes are clean, after the laundry is folded and put in a pile in the corner of the bedroom -  I refuse to put it away immediately - and after I do Hip Hop Abs because I cling to the minuscule hope that it WILL transform my middle section and magically re-produce the abs I used to have. But then it's late, the rain has stopped, I'm tired...

You see where I'm going here?

The opportunity is lost. The moment is gone. It's like trying to decide if you want to get a Bomb Pop from the ice cream man and when you finally decide that Yes! you will, you run outside and end up choking on fumes from his truck as he rounds the corner in search of other little kids with their parents' money. Damn it!

Bomb Pops

There's no point in chasing him around the corner. You missed your chance. Besides, no one wants to see a kid running down the street after the ice cream man - it's just sad.

So, today, while I am thankful that I have a day job that keeps me from sitting in my PJs all day, I will look out the window longingly tonight, thinking of how good that soup might have tasted... and wondering what creative goodness I might have missed out on, too.

Do you like to write when it's rainy? Is there a certain type of weather that stirs YOUR creative juices?
Tell me about it!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Review - Bitten

Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, #1)Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Perhaps I've grown a bit tired of the mostly-exposition books out there, now that I know more about writing (and good writing at that). I cannot say how many times I skipped ahead to the action - forget that, even some dialogue would have sufficed - in this book because I lost count. It was one long-ass info dump as far as I'm concerned. Shame on the author for what I consider "phoning it in." And shame on the editors and agent for not demanding more from this book.
I found this book (and the other books of the series) in the comments of a blog post asking for people's favorite urban fantasy books. They're apparently pretty popular, though based on this first book, I can't really understand why. Maybe they get better as the series progresses, but I'm a believer in first impressions, and this one was a limp handshake at best. Let's review my pet peeves, shall we?
- mixed verb tenses (sometimes in the SAME SENTENCE!) - I really can't stand this one. It's frustrating to read and distracting enough to pull me out of the story to wonder what the hell the author thought was okay with mixing tenses. Example: "That sounds worse than I intended." And it's not a thought, or at least there's nothing to denote it as thought. This one's a gem (it immediately follows): "What I meant was that he was accustomed to following the plans of others." More narrative, neither is dialogue, and beside not lending anything to the story, if the author feels like her character needs to explain herself with FURTHER narrative after narrative, there's something wrong here, people. Oh, wait, there's more right after that: "He was an enthusiastic lieutenant and a loyal friend, but he wasn't exactly -- how do I put this nicely -- not exactly a deep thinker." Okay, last time I knew, the hyphen used like this should add another little nugget of information and the sentence around it should make sense if it's taken out. As you can see, this hot mess does not make sense. Again with the mixed tenses. Again with the further explanations that do nothing for the story. Based on these things alone, I'm really to poke my eyes out with my red pen.
But, because I'm a glutton for lit punishment, I continued.
Something else about this book and plot that bothers me is that Elena is like the sun here: her world and the characters in this book completely revolve around her, and are only in the story to serve her and provide her with muscle. I don't give two shits about any of them - not Elena or Clay or even Prince Charming, pansy-ass Jeremy - and again, there's something inherently wrong with that, people. I read the entire book, and all I felt at the end was relief that I didn't have to listen to Elena's annoying narrative in my head or wonder why the eff none of these "wolves" ever felt the need to assimilate. I mean, really. You LIVE in the human world, but being polite and celebrating christian holidays escape them? Oh, but it's okay - they're independently wealthy, live on this big-ass estate where no one bothers them, and no one in town has ever confronted them about their weirdness or asked them why they don't pay taxes or support the community at all, or even interact? Methinks no, author. Notsofastmyfriend. The author throws in some half-baked attempt at answering those questions, but it falls short.
Suspending my disbelief for additional, precious minutes, I'm also concerned for Elena. See, she's like Smurfette in the Smurf village: the only chick in a world of horny, leg-humping doggies (or Smurfs, if you're still following my little imaginary analogy). Wolves, whatever. Don't even TELL me they haven't ALL tried to hit that. And that somehow Clay's the only one who's gotten any bootie from her. And that they're not all scratching the shit out of her bedroom door trying to get in. Uh-uh. Not buying it for a second.
The one thing that IS missing from this info-dump (and it is the ONLY thing) is a glimpse into Elena's mind when it comes to Clay. Okay, she says she hates him but they share this bond, but it just doesn't explain the manic way in which she treats him. Elena literally smiles at Clay and then slams a door in his face. They fight and then they hump. I'm dizzy. And not all that interested. You gotta make the crazy compelling at least.
My biggest gripe with this book is that it read like a book report. Look, this is something I'm still trying to learn, but I'd like to think that by the time I get my own book published, I will have at least cracked the treasure chest that is great writing, and will know how to inject emotion - gut-wrenching, unadulterated, mind-blowing, life-altering - into my story. I want to read the kind of book that changes my view on things. I want to believe that the author had his or her own life-changing moment and how could it NOT spill out onto the pages? I know. It might be a bit silly, but I've read books like that, and I want that every time I begin a new one. I expect the same from my own writing. It's asking a lot.
But I don't care.

P.S. I suppose someone might read this review and notice most of my others are rather critical, too. It's true that the more negative ones come more easily than the reviews full of praise, but when the book's fantastic, it stands on its own. What can you say in that case other than, "I love it."

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When you outgrow your outline

When writing - whether it be a short story or an epic novel or series - do you outline or not?

Do you surrender yourself to the creative process, letting your mind take you wherever it desires, even if you get lost? Or do you like to take at least a general road map - a picture of how to get from Point A to Point B (or Z)?

I think I'm somewhere in between. Maybe you are, too. When I began my urban fantasy work I started with what I considered a detailed outline: chapters numbered and labeled, with a short synopsis of what I hoped to accomplish in each one. I created a different character list and summary, adding backstory, motivations, problems and character solutions for each person in my story. Hell, I even named their horses.

But now that I'm entering double-digits in my writing (this is a big deal to me, considering how long it took me to get here!!), I find myself going far beyond the confines of my little outline. As I've written according to my own rules, other events and motivations have taken shape in this story - things I never imagined possible in the world I created. And I'm happy about that. To think of the adventures, complications, miscommunications, snark, humor, tension and other fun my readers would have missed out on had I simply stuck to the outline!

So, to outline or not to outline.

There seem to be two distinct groups on this issue, one on each side of the argument.

At Daily Writing Tips, this is made clear, along with the pros and cons of creating and adhering to an outline. Some of the highlights of the pro-outline argument:

  • you won't get lost 
  • writing with a sense of flow 
  • knowing if the story is good or not 
  • freedom to stray if a better way presents itself 

Now, some of the anti-outline arguments:

  • it spoils all the fun 
  • the story idea wasn't as good as you thought 
  • doesn't fit with your writing style 

I'm sure you can guess what I'm going to say here, and it's what everyone else says, too: there is no right and wrong in writing. It just IS. So if you like to plan ahead and feel secure in your outline, go for it. If you like for your process to be completely free of restraints and welcome the infinite possibilities associated with free-styling it, you should do that.

Or if you're like me, having a little structure to start might help you determine if your plot baby has legs, if it has enough of the right stuff to become a great story or novel, or if you're going to run into a word-block after chapter five. I think outlining is helpful for those things: conceptualizing your book and getting ideas on the page starts those creative juices working. So when you open your doc or page, you don't just stare at it, wondering if you should just do some laundry. For me, writing the outline energized me and excited me. I had a beginning, a middle and an end and I couldn't wait to get started.

But recognize it's okay to stray from the outline. I certainly have - and thank goodness. And if your inner control freak is yanking on her (or his) hair and munching on pencils, add to your outline, even if it's after the fact. I've done that, too. Even though it's cheating a bit.

They're my rules, after all, so it's okay if I break them.

Happy writing! 

Tell me what YOU do - outline or no outline?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review - Sex and the Single Vampire

Sex and the Single Vampire (Dark Ones, #2)Sex and the Single Vampire by Katie MacAlister
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

What drew me to this book was the paranormal element - Summoner Allegra Telford is under the gun to produce a ghost for her boss... or she's out of a job. So the idea of introducing a vampire wasn't so far-fetched and I went with it. Apparently there's a first book that I missed in this series, but frankly, the info dumps led me to believe I didn't miss anything by skipping it.
Which unfortunately brings me to the substance of my review. This book was a hot mess. And not in a good way. Aside from the aforementioned (and numerous) info dumps throughout the book - and done in a way that was much too convenient for the lazy plot - the book just seemed to be all over the place. Like it didn't know what to do next, so it just did everything. Verb tenses changed A LOT - sometimes within the same sentence. And I'm sorry, but as a fellow writer (and an editor, I just cannot condone that. The dialogue was ridiculous in places, with characters talking over each other about completely unrelated things. Seriously, what purpose do Joy and Roxy serve except as really obvious comic relief? They are not integral to the plot AT ALL. Allie would have met Christian all on her own and she's a smart girl - she would have gotten a pretty quick read on his situation.
Let's take a moment and ponder names: I'm sorry, but since 50 Shades of Crap, I'm forever allergic to a name like Christian. And I must admit at times this book read like reworked fan fiction. So it made me wonder... And I looked up Love Spell online and found out it was defunct. It was also published by Harper Collins ebooks, but I have to wonder about the circumstances. I also found a number of silly typos (things like typing a z instead of an s). Not to mention so many awkwardly worded and way too long sentences that had me doing double and triple takes to see if I'd read them correctly.
Technical edits aside, I feel like this book could have benefited from a good developmental edit. Plot points seem to tumble out as after-thoughts, explained away via info dumps and long narratives. Magical "rules" in Allie's world are explained only when she's doing something and the reader doesn't know why or how. It's certainly a good lesson for other writers: get your world-building and lore down BEFORE you get working on the book. Talk about wasted opportunity. Also wasted is a potential glimpse into Christian's likely-sordid past. Nothing! Oh, Allie mentions as a side-note that somewhere along the way, he told her he was once a knight. Seriously? Just throw it in as explanation for his "heroic" qualities? I'm not buying it.
And regarding C.J. Dante's "charms" - seriously, people, when are we going to stop worshiping men who prefer to dominate and control their women? I do find it redeemable that Allie doesn't put up with his crap, but it's only because she was the victim of spousal abuse. Really?! Why does everyone have to have the sob story? Why can't women just be strong when they want to be, and men be flexible in relationships? Why do we romanticize these things? But I digress.
Another thing that kind of bugs me about this book is the title (and the cover design). Frankly, this book has little to do with sex. Or a single vampire. It has to do with the relationship and connection between a Dark One and his Beloved. Are there female Dark Ones, I wonder? Don't know. The book doesn't focus at all about Christian's world. I'm throwing in my vote for this book to be renamed to something like... Beloved? The Bloodsucker and the Ghost Hunter?
Thankfully, this book didn't take long to read. Now I'm going to check out Chuck Wendig's recommendations for good reads. I'm tired of stumbling around in the dark.

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