Tag Archives: writing

Of Many Things

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Hello.

I have been without internet for roughly 500 years. Okay, since June but it feels like a very long, long time. I missed my blogaversary and the release of Romantic Ruckus which contains my story, “Lingering”. I also missed a great deal of your posts, and I intend to at least catch up on some of them, if not all. My inbox is ridiculous and intimidating, there’s enough in there to keep me busy reading for months.

Dreaming Blithely has turned a year old. It’s hard to believe I’ve been sharing my thoughts and fiction with you all for that long. It has passed by so quickly. And I’m happy to have found such a great community of bloggers. Thank you for making me feel at home.

Here are some interesting stats of the last year:

Top 3 Countries with the most views

US 616
United Kingdom 120
Canada 112

October was the busiest month at 216 views

Top 3 Posts

Home Page/ Archives 441
About 53
Love Stories Part 1: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy  41

Top 3 Search Terms

7 Nights of Darkness
Elizabeth Bennet stories
Love stories Severus and Lily Darcy Elizabeth Jane Eyre Rochester

Interesting Search terms

@moanarabella
osb nun love story

 

Back in late November/early December, I sent in a quirky little love story by the name of “Lingering” to Strange Musings Press. Much to my surprised delight, it was accepted for inclusion in their anthology, Romantic Ruckus, stories of love gone hilariously wrong. Since I couldn’t do much in the way of promoting the anthology when the Kickstarter campaign began and then after its initial release, I’d like to talk a little about it now.

The opening line came to me first, part of a conversation my MC, Gabe was having with her husband about her ability to talk to the dead. You see, Adam didn’t believe her gift was real until after his death. Haunted by Adam, Gabe didn’t feel the need to date until a charming customer enters her life. As she prepares to move on, Adam grows protective and a rather strange love triangle forms. If I may say so without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, “Lingering” is a funny and sweet story. It is one of my favorites, unlike anything I’ve written before.

If the anthology seems like something you’d be interested in, check it out. I think clicking the link to see the awesome and hilarious cover is worth it alone.

Again, I’d like to thank you all for spending time with me and stopping by my humble blog over the past year. It truly has been a joy to get to know you. 🙂

 

 

 

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Fiftieth Post Looming! Help!

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Dreaming Blithely

Okay, I like celebrating milestones. And I’m nearing my 50th post here, which is pretty exciting in my opinion. So, in preparation for the event, I thought it would be kind of fun to gather the opinions of all of you. What would you like to see to commemorate the occasion?

Categories

Non-fiction Folklore/Fairytales: This would be a post about creatures of folklore, perhaps about one that might be little known or a post on fairytales their impact on fiction, not only my own work but the work of others.

Book Review: I freaking LOVE books. I could talk about books for a very long, long time, lol.

Fiction/Short Story: I’ll write one that incorporates the number 50 in some way. That might be fun. 🙂

Movies: As those of you who have endured my horror movies posts back in October know, I love movies. I could do one on favorite genre movies. Fantasy, science fiction and action.

Non-fiction Writing/Genres: A post about genres in fiction, my favorite stories, writing influences and all that jazz.

Whichever topic is chosen, I promise to try to make it interesting. 🙂 And thank you all! I really appreciate the thoughtful comments you have made and interacting with you here.

Bittersweet Dreams – Eco-Horror

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I’d like to announce that my short story “Bittersweet Dreams” can be found in the eco-horror anthology Growing Concerns published by Chupa Cabra House and edited by Alex Hurst. It will be available to purchase January 15th.

As I stated above, the theme of this anthology is eco-horror, with a focus on plants. I had several ideas but in the end, one spoke louder than the others. My MC was very vocal, she talked me through her story and I wrote it in a day. Very rarely does that happen to me and when it does, it is bliss. Anyway, the idea was unlike the others I had because it didn’t involve an active malicious plant. It wasn’t a poisoned dryad or the tell-tale pumpkin plants I had been working on but it was about a 17-year-old girl babysitting her cousins and getting lost in the woods. She mistakenly ingests berries that she, at first thinks belongs to American highbush, a fruit that tastes a bit like cranberries from what I have read and are harmless. What she actually eats is a great big handful of bittersweet nightshade.

American Highbush Cranberry or viburnum trilobum
American Highbush Cranberry or viburnum trilobum

Research here was tricky. I found only two recorded instances of bittersweet nightshade poisoning, both were children and were fine since they had a small amount. Bittersweet nightshade gets its name from the fact that the berries are very bitter and children won’t eat anymore of the berries after that first taste. Side effects varied and were never really confirmed, ranging from an upset tummy to death. And there was a lot of debate on the subject of bittersweet’s toxicity. Some claimed that it was extremely toxic, and everything on the plant was dangerous to encounter while others were singing the praises of the plant’s medicinal abilities. So it was hard to pinpoint exactly what would happen to my MC, Claire. And in the end, I did the writer thing and used creative license, drawing on the darker aspects of the plant.

Bittersweet nightshade or solanum dulcamara, it’s an invasive species here in my neck of the woods. And often found along roadsides and ditches, not to mention our garden and at the base of our willow in the back yard. I remember when we first moved to our house and we planted a row of ornamental corn. In the autumn, my sister and I were admiring the corn, the pretty shades of brown and russet when we spied a vine of pretty purple flowers, star-shaped and with bright yellow centers. We contemplated picking them and putting them in a vase but a part of me spoke up and I said that I was uncomfortable picking something I didn’t recognize. I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be bittersweet nightshade.

Nightshade Trivia

  • The members of the nightshade family include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers among others.
  • The stems of the bittersweet nightshade has been approved by the German Commission E for the external use of chronic eczema. I’m still not touching the plant, though.
  • Members of the family of solanaceae or nightshade can be found on every continent but Antarctica.

Bittersweet Nightshade Side Effects

  • Gastrointestinitis
  • Dermatitis
  • Phyto-photosensitivity
  • Asthenia
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Vision changes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Respiratory depression
  • Death

As you can see there are many to chose from, but most people were pretty adamant that death is the least likely to happen because of the taste of the berries being so unappealing and the most one could expect was diarrhea and vomiting. One person put it colorfully like this: “It’ll clean you out at both ends.”

So that’s it, the research behind the tale. And I think the best way to end this post is with the awesome book trailer provided by Alex Hurst to whet your appetite. I know I’m very excited to read the stories in this anthology and feel very proud to be among the authors. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Bad Fiction: Breaking Rules

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I found out that my story “A Wolf in Gentleman’s Clothing” has won me a runner up prize in Zizek Press’s Bad Fiction Competition. Some of you may remember back in October that I reblogged my entry, and I apologize to all those who read it. For those of you with morbid curiosity, you can find the story here.

zizekpress

Along with the other two entrants. Grandpa in a Box, the winning story was brilliantly awful and deserved in to win in my opinion.

Writing bad fiction is hard…but fun, at least the first draft was fun. I had a blast giving life to Sophia and her family because I felt that I could be as outrageous as I wanted to be. The story didn’t have to make sense, I could ignore all the rules of good writing I wanted to, and just let the idea flow. I didn’t have to worry about making the story better so the experience was freeing. However, then came time for revising. Yes, revising because it turned out that my story wasn’t crappy enough and that’s when things got hard. And painful.

Adverbs

Among writers there are bound to be some that think adverbs are horrible things that need to be eliminated from writing. And there are others who think that adverbs are useful creatures and writing without their help would be lackluster. But I think that many would agree that too many adverbs in writing is never a good idea.

So I abused the hell out adverb usage. I jammed them in every sentence, added them at the end of every “said” and in a couple of cases, I used them redundantly.

Repetition

Some writing advice I have found to be helpful is that a writer shouldn’t rehash what has already happened in a previous chapter or paragraph. Readers are smart, they can follow a storyline without a constant reminder of what had happened. When I first started writing again after a very long break, my stories were full of repetition. I wanted to hammer home the point…by repeating it as often as I could.

I returned to that practice writing my bad story. I repeated many things several times, mostly in dialogue.

And finally.

Redundancy

I have a habit of being a little redundant when I write. I will write a sentence and turn around and write the same sentence but with different words. And when I wrote “A Wolf in Gentleman’s Clothing” I consciously used that bad habit to my advantage.

 

These were the rules I had broken when I wrote my entry for Bad Fiction and I thought it would be fun…okay interesting, maybe, to share which rules I  had decided to break. The writing of “A Wolf in Gentleman’s Clothing” was a great exercise in the difference between “bad” writing and “good” writing, and made me aware of how much I have grown as a writer.

 

 

Dark Dreams

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Darkness falls, night blooms
All falls silent in the shadowy rooms
Remembrances twist and nightmares grow
Killing dreams of joy, replacing them with woe

Death and destruction, regrets and sorrow
Retreating with the morning’s sun tomorrow
Each vision a fresh, personal hell
All fears spring from the soul’s dark well
Making sleep a torturous ordeal
Scratching at wounds that had begun to heal

*This is a poem I wrote over a year ago for a themed contest. And after a very long break from writing poetry. Needless to say, it did not win. I’m not a very good poet, lol, but this poem does have a dark edge and I thought it was rather appropriate for an October blog post. 🙂

On Dolls, the Dark and Inspiration

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I have been honored this summer to have three short stories accepted for publication. And after a long string of rejections it was exciting to read after the “Thank you for submitting…” to see “we would like to accept your story”! There isn’t a feeling like that, to know that all the hard work, the hours of agonizing over grammar, sentence structure, characters and plot was worth it. It didn’t immediately dawn on me until some time later that the three stories all shared an element. They all featured dolls in one way or another.

So what is it about dolls that fascinates me on some subconscious level? That is something I have asked myself several times. It may be due to the innocence in appearance. Always the faces are joyful and cherubic, and what secrets could lie behind such a visage? What have those glass eyes witnessed and have held buried in their porcelain shells? Dolls can be unsettling, especially some of the antique dolls I have seen, with their frozen expressions and lifeless eyes. So, perhaps that came into play when I was writing. If, for a moment, you could envision yourself in a dark, dank house with shadows moving along the walls cast from the dancing boughs of a tree near the window and find yourself suddenly not alone, wouldn’t that be a bit disconcerting? For an instant, that doll may have looked like a child to your eyes. A person’s imagination can play all sorts of tricks on them if the atmosphere holds all the right elements.

I decided to submit to Cellar Door: Words of Beauty, Tales of Terror for two reasons, one pretty much led to the other. A very good friend of mine noticed that there was an open submission for an anthology she thought I might enjoy writing for and let me know about the opportunity. She had me at the words “cellar door”. So, I investigated and immediately ideas started to stir. It was the premise of what could be lurking behind a cellar door that really inspired me. Because for as long as I can remember that chamber beneath a house has always struck me as a place of fear.

The first home I lived in did not have a basement. I do remember going into my grandmother’s basement, though, and feeling a secret sort of darkness among the jars of preserves laced with cobwebs. It was an earthen floored room, redolent with the aroma of wet soil. I was both enchanted and frightened that such a place existed, a room that was often forgotten about unless there was the threat of a tornado approaching. When my family moved to a larger house, we discovered that we had a basement. It was large with several smaller rooms, one without electricity. The other  room was the only room with a door. Spying that old, white door, my imagination, which is responsible for proving me with all sorts of terrors, conjured a dark spectrum of scenarios and possibilities. What exactly lay beyond that door? What treasures did it contain? Was it a one time prison, holding a victim captive while life above went about as normal? With a combination of relief and disappointment, I found that it was a room for putting up canned goods. Somehow, the nether regions of a house still manages to incite goose bumps, no matter how mundane it appears. It’s always a game of “what if”.

The last atmospheric element fell naturally into place. What was a basement without a house? I love old houses and I have a seen my fair share of abandoned houses. Living in a rural county, there are bound to be those skeletons nestled in among rambling wild grapevines and slender saplings. They are sad creatures, once loved and cared for and now only shells that echo with the ghosts of happy memories, or maybe not so happy memories. And what would be left for others to find if the former occupant was to disappear or die and their relatives did not remove any belongings? What would those things say about them if found by strangers? On the surface, the story may appear simple. The books collected, the art admired, and the sentimental souvenirs that grace shelves all speak of personal preferences. But the reasons behind what is considered cherished is lost, having gone with the person who had collected them and deemed them important.

When it came time to write, the first story that came to mind fell apart. It happens and I had a brief moment of frustration before once more Lila (my female character from “Night Flowing Down”) was whispering eagerly in my ear. And soon, her boyfriend, Jordan, was there too. Their conversation at the story’s start played out in my head before anything else, well maybe not anything else. The end was there first, nebulous and shrouded in darkness. From there, a thought came to me. What if a woman had wanted a daughter above all else and could not have one? Wouldn’t it be natural, then, to collect dolls? Her own brood of beautiful daughters, forever young.

Through the journey of writing “Night Flowing Down” I found my answer to what lurks behind (or underneath in the case of my story) the cellar door. If you’re interested, Cellar Door: Words of Beauty, Tales of Terror can be found for sale on Amazon here http://www.amazon.com/Cellar-Door-Words-Beauty-Terror/dp/0615874975/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid+1379127249&sr=1-1#

 

Research: A Strange Journey

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As a writer, I find that I often need research in order to flesh out plots and characters. In the past, I have researched drug use, conspiracy theories involving government agencies, astral projection, physics, the Great Depression, Prohibition, Medieval life, knights, solar mega storms and radiation, religion, ghosts, mythology, folklore and other interesting topics that all seem to lodge partially in my brain.

There was a major solar storm in 1859 that was called the Carrington Event. It was so severe that telegraph operators reported their machines sparking and some had actually caught on fire. The Aurora Borealis could be seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. They were so vivid and bright that some people in the northern part of the U.S. claimed that they could read a newspaper by the lights.

Time travel? I once read that if a time machine was created, the traveler could only go as far back as the day the machine was completed. So much for walking with dinosaurs or dancing it up at a speakeasy. I’m a little disappointed with that one. But still the idea fascinates and ignites the creative juices.  And there is always the possibility that someone could figure out how to use wormholes to travel through time. So all hope is not lost.

Parallel universes. Another me somewhere is a prima ballerina or has a pet alligator, or loves tomatoes. Maybe she is an artist, a mother, a dictator of a small country that she has carved out of the United States (yeah, right) or maybe she is a farmer raising an army of rabbit/cat hybrids. I’d call them cabbits and I hope she’d have the good sense to do the same.

Black holes. Yikes! One sucked into a black hole would be stretched as thin as spaghetti and falling toward the event horizon would appear to take forever for anyone observing the poor victim.

I have read accounts of people’s experiences with astral projection. They were interesting. I learned the importance of making a psychic shield in order to remain safe as one travels the lower planes since demons often lurk there. Some say that a level of the astral plane resembles a city.

Resurrection. This was an interesting thing to stumble across. I have read both the religious and the scientific ideas concerning resurrection.  One theory stated by a physicist said that in the far future a society will figure out how to resurrect the dead through digital means.  If this interests you, search for Omega Point or Frank J. Tipler, a fascinating subject.

The Civilian Conservation Corp was a group devised by Franklin Roosevelt which combined his love of conservation and the belief that the youth of America should have something productive to do. The young men were responsible for building wildlife shelters, digging ditches and canals, stocking lakes and rivers with almost a billion fish and they also planted trees in areas ravaged by fires or on barren land caused by natural erosion or lumbering. The CCC planted millions of trees and were responsible for over half of the reforestation that has taken place in U.S. history. A regular stint in the CCC consisted of staying at a camp where they were taught discipline and respect for authority since the camps were operated under the army’s control. Camp commanders were to be addressed as “sir”. A regular stay at the camp lasted usually anywhere from six to twelve months. An unexpected side effect occurred due to the CCC. When the U.S. entered WWII, the army had experience in managing  large numbers of men and the paramilitary discipline the youths had gone through helped in preparation.

Soon I will be once more delving into research. Several ideas simmering in my brainpan require more seasoning to be just right. But I never know when the recipe will require unexpected ingredients and I am led on a search for the perfect spice. What new things will I find?

The Inner Critic

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I am a writer. I have been writing stories since I learned how to put a sentence together. As I have aged, my writing has evolved. From the first story I remember writing to the pieces I work on now, they have grown with me. My perspective has changed as I matured, and I like to believe that I have gotten better at telling a story but sometimes I wonder.

I always wrote for myself. My ideas managed to do the same thing reading provided, escapism. I wrote, following the adventures of my characters, their tangled lives, their triumphs and troubles. I created worlds and destroyed civilizations. It was bliss. I never really worried about what others thought. It wasn’t until I started taking submitting my stories seriously that a beast awoke within me. Or rather a cranky, bleak, little, squawking crow. The inner critic.

“What are doing?” She cried, ruffling her ebony feathers in indignation.

“Writing.”

“No one will want to read that,” she cawed.

or

“That’s a bit strange, not interesting really, but strange.”

or the dreaded,

“That’s not going to work, you know. They’ll see right through that.”

At first, I ignored her. I finished my story, gave it a read through, liked what I had written and submitted it. I waited eagerly for a reply, soaring high on the dream of receiving a acceptance but only a rejection came.

“See, I told you,” she said, sounding too pleased with herself. I tried harder. I read more, I researched subjects to get a better understanding of what I wanted to write, and started revising. I began submitting again. Another rejection arrived, and another. Each letter proof that I was still not good enough.

I pushed myself harder. Focusing on other people’s opinions of what makes a good story, what they expected to read and I listened to that inner critic telling me that I could never hold a candle to everyone else’s talent. She pecked at me, her sharp beak poking holes in my confidence. Soon, I noticed that I was growing frustrated. Nothing was working, all my ideas ended abruptly and I couldn’t even think my way out a wet paper bag. I could no longer concentrate as well as I used to and my stories, although (if I may say so) having streaks of solid writing, suffered. They were like a rotted floor in an old house. Step on the wrong board and you would fall through. I found myself blocked, creatively. I was too concerned with other’s opinions and I restricted myself to what I thought I “should” write. Strangled and bound while rejection after rejection fell into my inbox, I seriously considered giving writing up, or at least submitting anything ever again.

I think, and for me personally this has been true, as writers we grow. I am constantly learning, and I like being enlightened. And I am learning to cope with the inner critic as well because she won’t be leaving me any time soon, though I try not to listen when she crows, spewing negativity because she is only an echo of my own doubts. And we have come to an understanding. She stays quiet while I write the first draft and I will allow her to have reign over the revisions. That seems to appease her. When a rejection comes,  I pick myself, dust myself off and I get right back up on that horse.

I’ll get to my point. There is a time when it is okay to doubt. But there is also a time when you need believe in your work. The key is to not let the doubts overwhelm you.  If they do, try to remember why you started writing. I write because there is nothing out there like it. I have to write, I love to write. Despite her dark predictions and naysaying, my inner critic did help. She pushed me to be better and she set this space cadet’s feet on the ground. I learned the importance of revision, research, and how to take a rejection. But I also learned that I should write for myself first. I’ll have the chance to go back through the story and fix it later.

Thank you and please feel free to add your experiences with your own inner critic.

November Sky

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November Sky

Summer is here, bringing with it a sultry heat that can be stifling. Sometimes the air is stagnant and it feels like trudging through soup. Or it can be blistering and each gust of wind is a blast from an oven.  It is at times like this that I find myself dreaming of fall, and my writing often reflects that yearning. I sit, somewhat content, in a chair near the air conditioner and lose myself in imagining autumn. Not all the way content, since they sky outside my window is a burning shade of blue and the sun still beats down, scorching the grass to a crisp brown, but content enough and that will do.

And the same happens when winter’s frost patterns the window with frigid, crystalline branches. I huddle, nestled in my layers of clothing as the wind howls and rages outside. Cup after cup of steaming coffee is needed, both to warm me and to stir the creative juices of my frozen mind. I write of summer then, the sapphire waters kissing white sand beaches, of family barbeques, and drowsy days under sprawling shade trees. I can almost taste lemon iced tea and sunshine during those moments.

Spring arrives and the world melts, shedding her mantle of ice and snow. Everything is fresh, green, and growing and at these times, I find myself renewed. I love the wind, cool and fragrant, of March, the thunderstorms of April, and the splashes of color that comes in May when spring flowers are in bloom. I am distracted in spring and my writing suffers. I want to be outside, walking under the fledgling canopies of the trees or tending to the flower garden. So much needs to be done, too. Fallen branches from the inevitable storms of January and February need to be picked up out of the yard and leaves of the willow need to be raked. It is the time that projects are started, the lawn ornaments emerge from dusty hibernation and return to their homes among the flowers or on stumps. Windows are opened to dispel the last ghosts of winter, and the heavy sweaters are packed away.

Fall. My heart belongs in autumn. It takes wing and soars through the crisp, spicy air and up into the slate colored sky. Pumpkins are orange moons, cradled in clouds of trailing green in the fields and apples are blushing, sweet and tart to the taste. Dead leaves scuttle across asphalt with a rattling, ticking sound that is music to my ears. My thoughts and writing turn to the darker aspects of fiction. Haunted houses, sinister, grinning masks and dancing skeletons. October, especially, inspires me with the Halloween decorations and once more I am a kid, eagerly awaiting candy and scary movies. All the while I type away, writing of ghosts and monsters.

Always a season flavors my writing, in one way or another. By subtle strokes or broad sweeps, it helps me paint the background of my story, and sets the stage for my characters to play.