Monday, May 21, 2018

A Happy, Healthy Writer

"One of the reasons we become writers 
is to live a different kind of life, 
a more creative life, more fulfilling 
and hopefully, a healthier life." 
(Joanna Penn)


The quote above is from a fantastic post by Joanna Penn called Healthy Writer Tips: Managing Stress, Anxiety and Burnout.  I don't know about you, but I can use all the help I can get dealing with all three of those things. I recommend reading her entire post, so I'll just share some of my takeaways: 

* She talks about NOT separating her work from her life; it's all-encompassing, and how this can be wonderful AND exhausting. For me, writing is a huge part of who I am and always has been. I used to try to separate it, especially since so many people in my "real life" often ignored my writing, thus making me feel ignored and invisible. Now, I'm getting better at being my own person, doing my own thing. 

* Stress can be positive, when it pushes us to try something new, to step outside our comfort zone, whether in writing or in life. I'm working on a novella, trying to break into new-to-me magazines, and getting back into running. (Let the tears - of hysterical laughter and of pain - begin!)

* One of Penn's suggested Action Steps mentions digital fasting and cutting back on social media and news so we don't get overwhelmed by negativity and suffer from comparisonitis. I find this kind of thing helpful in quieting my mind, especially at night. I only check the news twice a day, and I have a cut-off time for myself when it comes to checking emails and texts. 

* In another Action Step, she recommends paying attention to the rhythms of your energy, your life, and allowing for shifts in how you approach everything, including writing projects. I struggle with this, often trying to force a project at that time, in this way. Sometimes it works, usually it doesn't.

"We all need to stop, take a step back and
think about what we want for our lives 
in a holistic sense. 
Burnout happens in the writer community 
when we forget why we're doing this in the first place. 
We bury the joy of creation in all the things
that have to be done . . . . "
(Joanna Penn)


How are you feeling about your writing health? Do you struggle with anxiety, burnout, stress or anything else along those lines? How do you manage it? 

Monday, May 14, 2018

What If? - The Sound of One Dog Yapping

It's been awhile since we had a What if? post, and since recent events sparked an idea, here we go!

The Scenario: Somewhere in the neighborhood lurks a dog with one of those yippy, yappy barks. The first time I heard it, I jumped out of my skin, thinking something was being strangled. Turns out - thankfully! - the only things being hurt were my ears. (And my sanity, such as it is.)

I don't know where this dog lives. I suspect its owner lets it hang out on the screened patio so it can get some fresh air and bark at every single thing that walks, crawls or flies by.

So, in an effort to not run screaming into the streets, I thought I'd let my imagination - and yours, if you'll join me - go screaming onto the paper/screen instead.

What if . . . the dog is trying to tell us all something, like aliens or zombies are on the way?

What if . . . we figure out where the dog lives and go over to talk - nicely! - to its owner, only to find the front door unlocked and no evidence any human lives/lived there at all? We follow the barking through the house, to the patio, only to find it empty, too. Do we just have the wrong house? Or could the place be haunted?

What if . . . we find out it's not a dog barking at all but some mutant creature never seen before? Is it from another planet? Is it the result of some lab accident or a science experiment gone wrong?

What if . . . we are the only ones who hear the barking? When we mention it to other people, they look at us like we're crazy. Are we losing our minds? Do we have super-amazing hearing? Are we hearing sounds from a parallel universe?


Your turn! Chime in on any of the above or come up with your own! Do you have any annoying critters in your neighborhood? How did you handle it?  Did they ever make an appearance in one of your stories or blog posts?

Monday, May 7, 2018

The More Creeped Out You Are

I am socially awkward at the best of times, but I usually manage to come up with a coherent and interesting (hopefully!) answer to the general question about what I write - something along the lines of short fiction, dark fiction, horror. Now, if you ask me specifically what my novel is about, you get this -


Doesn't that just sound deliciously creepy and like something you're dying to read? NOT! Napping tortoises are more interesting than that. (And definitely cuter.)  

Literary agent Janet Reid wrote an excellent post - What's Your Book About? - about her experience at a conference speaking with authors and what happened when she asked them about their work. I absolutely recommend heading over and reading the whole post, but here's the biggest takeaway for me:

"You simply MUST be prepared to tell people, in a compelling way, what your book is about. . . . First thing to remember is start NOW. No matter where you are in the publishing cycle: querying, sold, pubbed, you need to be able to say what your book is about."

I'm working on it!


And speaking of Ms. Reid, I entered her Writing Without Rules Flash Fiction Contest last month, and although my story didn't win, her comments on it (below, in blue) made my entire month.  

Gregory, old and gnarled, slumps on his porch. His lawn, overgrown with weeds and wild things, chokes the once neat path. At the gate, nettles cling, watch deserted streets. He calls out, can only hope for more survivors.

A man and woman appear, dirty, laden with packs.

"Please help! I fell."

They hesitate, the rules different now.

Gregory is desperate. "I have food, water. It's yours."
They nod, start toward him.

He watches the lawn shiver, the monsters within slither out to feed. He listens to the screams.

Gregory is spared. Again. He stands, stretches.
The rules are different now.

Honestly this creeped me out so much I could barely read it the second time.
Thank all deities foreign and domestic that I live in Brooklyn, a place with few lawns.
Of course, the more creeped out you are, the better the writing.


Are you prepared to talk about your novel? Or are you like me, still working on it? Do overgrown lawns creep you out? If you have a lawn, do you know what's lurking in it? 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

IWSG: The Cruelest Month

Well, I'm back from Camp NaNo

My Camp NaNo t-shirt and Minion pajama pants are covered in chocolate and peanut butter and marshmallow. I refused to use those creepy Camp showers so I smell like fear-sweat. And wine. (Oh, come on, of course I didn't use the showers! Where else would a serial killer/giant rat/super-flu lurk?) My huge flashlight has run out of juice and is battered and cracked.

Much like me and my WiP.

I have picked up and put down this story for years. I lugged it to this conference, shoved it at that critique group. I wept bitter, angry tears. I know in my gut the story is alive and breathing, buried somewhere in the muck of pacing problems and point-of-view issues. It's waiting for me to dig deeper, harder.

And I will.

Camp NaNo is over, but the year is not. I've got time - to get this done, to get this right. And so do you. If your creative plans didn't work out last month, don't give up. Let's go into May with a plan and a positive attitude.

My plan positively includes eating more s'mores. And writing, of course. Care to join me?


How was your April? Accomplish a goal? Make progress on a challenge? Have any big creative plans for the summer? Anyone going to Camp NaNo in July?


For more information . . . 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Time Off for Creative Behavior

It's time for the April session of Camp NaNo, and I am ready to go! I'm wearing my Camp NaNo t-shirt and my Minion pajama pants. I've packed all the necessary supplies - Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, wine, a giant flashlight that serves double duty - it's bright enough to illuminate all the dark corners of the woods (and of my mind) and it's heavy enough to thwack monsters, stunning them so I can run away screaming for help from either the tortoises or my husband.

And I've got a story draped over my imagination much like Spanish moss. It's been clinging to me for so long now that I've lost track of how many drafts it's gone through. But enough is enough. Writing this novella/novel is my fight of 2018, and April is the next round. Who - or what - will emerge at the end of this month?

"Because after all, 
isn't writing a novel 
a survival story of its own?" 
(Kathleen McCleary)

I'm pretty sure I'll make it - having gained a few pounds and lost a few more marbles. I think the story will survive - bloody and twisted. As for some of the characters, well, let's just say they really could've used that heavy duty flashlight to fight back against the baddies. Not that it would've done much good . . . .



Will you be going to Camp this month? Participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge? Undertaking some other creative project? Good luck to us all!


Since I'll be busy wandering around the deep, dark woods, weeping into my Reese's Peanut Butter Cups while wondering why I thought being a writer was a good idea, I'm taking a blogging break for April. I'll be popping in and out - as long as the flashlight works - but no new posts until May's IWSG. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

How the Magic Happens

I'm in the mood for some fun and Sarah McCoy's post - Magic Cloaks, Lucky Charms, and Other Writerly Superstitious Habits - over at Writer Unboxed provides that and then some. The following just totally cracked me up: 

" got me thinking about the superstitious patterns of our writer tribe. Some we admit. Many we keep secret. But Writer Unboxed is a safe space of honesty and acceptance, so I’ll crack open my nut first... I wear a cape when I write. Technically, it’s a red tartan robe that my mother gave me. My husband refers to it as the “get-off-my-lawn” old man robe." 

Ms. McCoy continues talking about other superstitions of our tribe. Here are some examples from her post - 

"Isabelle Allende begins all her novels on the same day: January 8th...While A.J. Jacobs walks on a treadmill and Dan Brown hangs upside down to cure his writer’s block. Poet Edith Sitwell gets inside a coffin to focus her mind...." 

She also asked about superstitions in a forum of contemporary writers -

"M.J. RoseI have to play Gregorian chants when I write each draft of the book. I have to buy one [lucky charm] for each book. 18 books – 18 lucky charms.  I have to sleep with the ARC under my pillow one night.
Elizabeth BellI like to burn a scented candle appropriate to the scene I’m writing. On a beach? Ocean-scented candle. In a rose garden? Rose-scented candle, etc.  I also like to wear something my characters are wearing, such as a Victorian-style chemise or a saint’s medal."
It got me thinking about my own writing rituals. At first I didn't think I had any, but then I realized they're so ingrained I don't notice them anymore. Like, I always write in my office. I'll daydream, brainstorm, jot notes, etc. other places but actual writing? My office, my desk, my laptop. I also have a certain mug and spoon - both gifts from my husband - that I use for my morning coffee. Etched into the spoon are the words "What will you create today?" Answering that question usually keeps me focused and on a good track for the day. And isn't that what good rituals and superstitions do?


How about you all? Any writing superstitions you want to share? Do you wear bunny slippers? Dance around to a special song? Eat a certain number of Cheerios or peanut M&Ms? Pet a tortoise or two? Do you plan on starting your own writing ritual?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Foot in Mouth - The Sirens Call

I am honored to once again be included in The Sirens Call eZine's Annual Women in Horror Month Issue - Issue #37.

My flash fiction piece, Foot in Mouth (p. 32), is a twisted little tale about how, when you say something you regret, you're not always able to take it back, to remove foot from mouth. No matter how hard you try.