Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Story Telling

Why story telling/writing is important to me:
I love and hate writing. I love writing because it entangles me into a new world. I get to explore the depths of someone else’s reality and escape from my own. I can dream, exist, float, and be anywhere in the whole world. This also applies to why I love reading so much.

I hate writing because it is hard. Sometimes I have grandiose ideas for scenes and descriptions, but somehow, between the synapses of my brain, they get lost on their way to my fingertips. They ball up underneath my veins and threaten to burst all my blood vessels. They tear at my body and clot my blood until I’m boiling alive. I hate writing because it, so far, has lead me to making a whole $10 (via advertisements on this blog – also, if you purchase through my amazon store, I make some commission fees. Wink, nudge).

Writing is very cathartic for me.  Words, phrases, stories had such an effect on me growing up. I realized a lot about myself, the world, and life. Honestly, some books led me back to the path of the living. There was a time in my life where I spent days on end staring endlessly into the darkness. It thrust out its fingers and caressed my skin, telling me it was okay to fall into the depths. But when I curled up with a few books, when I opened my eyes to a world full of ideas, it captivated me. Life didn’t have to be this bottomless pit, but it could have light. It could be both.  It didn’t matter if people made fun of me, because I could go home, curl up, and pretend to be somewhere else. I want to be able to do that for other people, teens especially – I want to be the person that inspires them..

Why only novels and flash fiction?
The only two successful short stories I have written is a D&D character background story (which really was just silliness to begin with), and I’ve written a small anthology of life lessons – a memoir of shorts. But those are just small, silly pieces. Every time I fall in love with a character, I end up making the story longer, thicker, juicier. Every time my characters fall flat, I end up cutting them off short, which usually leaves people liking the flash fiction. It has always been this way with me, though I can’t really explain why.

Why mostly Young Adult?
I’m attracted to the genre because I needed the most help when I was a YA. And I love writing it. The simplistic flow with endless amounts of action, dialogue, and description that tends to roll off my fingers. Reacting to life as an adult is hard - and I’m still a kid myself (okay, not really, but I still think I’m a kid, and that counts for something).

How often do you lie (aka "tell a story") in real life?
I’d like to think that I never lie, at least outright. I do find myself embellishing tales. My life isn’t extremely entertaining, but when I talk to other people, you might think that I slay dragons for a living (which I wouldn’t – if dragons existed, I would train them, not slay them - but you get the picture). My life is good, but it isn’t a blockbuster film. And sometimes, I feel like I make it sound like a blockbuster - or at least a lifetime movie.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Routine, Repetition, and Rote Memorization

Routine and Repetition
When I was younger, I used to hate routine. I would say to myself, “Why don’t you just sentence me to death instead? That would probably be more fun.” Yeah, I was a morbid little kid. But regardless, how I feel now is vastly different. There is a part of me that appreciates the kind of routine that I’ve developed, mostly because I have a full time job. But I still don’t like repetition.

That’s why the full time job that I have currently is fantastic. While there is a routine, every project that I do brings about a new challenge. I have to challenge myself to write things differently and to present them in a new, unique way. Everything is slightly different, so it doesn’t have the repetition, just the routine.

Rote Memorization
I used to be amazing at this, honestly. I used to be able to ingrain things into my brain for hours, days, weeks, and then forget it all over the summer/winter break. I learned some things permanently, but most of it was lost along the way. I tested fantastically, that doesn’t mean that rote memorization actually taught me anything.

Though, because of some of my papers, I could discuss novel into film on a deep level. I could tell you the surrealism and post-modernity that Scrubs and Family Guy utilize to make their comedy funny. I could tell you how outdated the Copyright Laws are. I could tell you the premise behind The Taste of Cherries and why Iranian cinema relies on realistic filming to portray their stories. I could tell you how What Dreams May Come differs from the novel and the film and why certain artistic choices were made. Pretty much everything I learned was things that I was interested in – which, in the real world of things – isn’t entirely useful.

However, when was the last time that someone told me to solve for “x?” Or to calculate a chemistry equation? Or the composition of a plant versus an animal cell? The more I think about it, the more school seems pretty useless. I crammed all this stuff into my brain only to have it fall out in weird pieces and flakes, leaving gaps, holes, and strange nonsensical things.

That’s why I am much more for “exploring what you want to learn” instead of rote memorization. Nothing we do should be rote or repetitious. It should always be new and exciting. It should always be different – and it should always be something we like. Life is too short to study things that you don’t like and will probably never use again (Pre-calculus, *shakes fist*).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quarantine

Another Excerpt from The Unanswerable.

“You can’t do this to us!”  Diane’s face got red.  The man was wearing a full hazmat suit and made no indication that he had heard her.  The rifle in his arms glared at us.  My son buried his face in the back of his mother’s knees.  I placed a hand on the back of his head.  He looked up at me and put on a smile, but then with the next shove of the crowd, buried his head again.

He was too young to even know that he was going to die here.  That this was the last attempt we were making to get out of the city.

Diane’s nostrils flared.  “I have a son, he’s three!  THREE!  And you are condemning all of us just because a few people are sick?”  Her voice pierced the air, but was drowned out quickly by the screams of all the other people in the crowd.

It wasn’t a few people.  A few people would indicate that it could be contained.  No, it was everyone.  And whatever it was had somehow only managed to manifest itself in the major cities.  Biological warfare, whatever you wanted to call it.  It didn’t matter what it was, or had been, what mattered now was the mass of people that were pushing against the two lines of soldiers.  If anyone got too riled up, a rifle would shoot them down.  So we stayed at the barrier, eyeing the men in the hazmat suits, wishing they would give us more hope than the blank stare.

It was three days ago.  The word quarantine sent the city into a panic.  My wife and I huddled on the couch with our son and flipped to another channel.  His eyes lit up as some Disney show came on the screen. 

“What are we going to do?”

They had already walled up the borders.  There was no way out.  “We wait a day, then go.  Too many people will be headed out tonight.”  As if on signal, screaming and horns sounded from the street below.  Our son was too zoned in on the television to realize what was happening.  It was just another day in New York City to him.

I grabbed Diane’s hand and heaved my son onto my shoulder.  We edged our way through the crowd, away from the hazmats, away from the border, away from hope. 

“What are we going to do?”  She asked me again after we had taken shelter in a basement.  People, women, children all huddled together like scared rats.  The condition for staying in his house:  If you sneezed, you were sent away.  That was the first sign.  Sneezing. 

We hadn’t met any more sick people after the first three days, but the media said it was spreading.  We watched the screen, it cast a dim glow around the room.  It was our only light source, and the only link we had to the outside world and mayhem.  And that’s when we heard the announcement.

Stayed tuned for “Zones” on Z is for Zones for the next installment!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Peter Pan

I have read two versions of Peter Pan's story. It is interesting to me to see how much the same legends can be changed and twisted with a new set of hands writing them.

My favorite so far has been Brom's rendition of Peter Pan in The Child Thief, where Peter is a little bit of a menace and doesn't really consider the emotions of the children that he whisks away into Neverland. In fact, he takes them away from the real world and forces them into fighting the war with him. He has no emotional attachment to the people that he brings back, he only wants to win the war. Nick, the main character, goes through a lot of twists and turns during the length of the novel, which creates an interesting dynamic in its own way.

The other version was the classic children's tale. Most of us know how that goes. Peter does run away from responsibility, but it is his innocence that keeps him good. While he does encourage some kids to run away with them, it is always up to the kids whether or not they want to stay. There is nothing dark or sadistic with the classic tale.

I think it is interesting that artists can take the same concept and idea and completely reinvent it. I have a massive respect for people that can do this, and do it well. Brom's story is definitely worth the read. His writing style was paced so well and the description was spot on without being heavy-handed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Olives

This is an excerpt from my novel Kingdom of Obsession.  It is unfinished and is still a WIP.  But now that I've gotten a bit more patience with my writing, I might go back and start it again.  This is a memory that Olive is having:

Seven years ago, Eddie, Dennis, and Gloria and I were in Vegas doing a couple’s weekend. We mostly just went because I had never been. I wish I had more memories from that weekend, but you see, Gloria and I were still in our early twenties and got free drinks most everywhere we went. Her and I ditched the boys for a little bit and took a long walk down the strip. When we came back to the hotel later, they looked at us and wanted what we had.

But the one clear, distinct memory I had was when we were in a small club in the heart of downtown. The music was blaring, and we could barely hear each other. But we ordered martini after martini. Eddie and Gloria were happy then, hands all over each other. Such a different picture from today. Anyway, Dennis and I were making fun of them as usual.

But when Dennis got another martini in front of him, I plucked the olive from the bottom of his drink. Not very gracefully, I might add, as some of the martini sloshed out of the glass. “Hey, Olive, stop it!” I sucked the olive down and licked my fingers, arching one of my eyebrows. Dennis wasn’t really upset.

“Olivia’s an Olive now?” Eddie slurred.

“She will be!” Gloria asked.

I held my glass up in a toast, “You are what you eat, after all.”

“Olivia, you can eat anything from the bottom of my drink whenever you want.” I grinned at Dennis, but the grin faded as I saw the look on his face. It was a mixture of pure joy and panic. I couldn’t place that look. Then he knelt down on one knee, “But only if you, Olive, do me the honor of marrying me?” His voice shook as it got caught in his throat.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for No

This has been on my mind recently. I find myself wondering about the power of no – and also the power of negativity. I think “No” can mean a lot of things, but mostly, it is used for rejection.

However, sometimes it can be used to draw a line in the sand. “No, I can’t do that for you right now.” Some people take it so personally, while others brush it off and say “Okay, she’s busy, no big deal.”

So what makes someone take a “No” personally? When usually, when I use it, it is nothing against the other person and has everything to do with my own boundaries and capabilities. I cannot be this ultra-super-human-being, because I’m not. If I know that something isn’t healthy for me, or if I’m too stressed, you will probably get a no at some point.

And when I receive a “No” or a “No response” from an agent or writing contest? Sure, I spend a little time moping. But after a few minutes, I pull myself back together, stick my nose up, and march further down the road.

I have three novels. Just because someone says no to one doesn’t mean they will reject all of them. Just because someone says no doesn’t mean they are rejecting me or my writing. The last rejection from an agent I got was, “I love the premise, but it isn’t for me.” Now “it” leaves a lot to interpretation. “It” could be my writing style, “it” could be my characters, “it” could be my character’s voice, or “it” could be lack of (or too much) description.

But, it still gives me a thumbs-up on my premise. So now I just need to find someone that loves my style. And while that may take awhile, I certainly won’t let a “no” hold me back from trying.

Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations goes to entry number #115 -

Lauren M!

I will be in touch via e-mail to get your address to send you the book, which I think you wanted Everything is Illuminated.

Everyone who didn't win - don't fret!  I am going to be doing one giveaway a month for this whole year!  It was one of my new year's resolutions to attempt to get rid of some old books (dusty books make me sad). 

If you haven't read any of my A to Z challenge posts, I've been doing a lot of excerpts from my pieces.  The Unanswerable is one of my brand new works, and there will be excerpts from it all month long.  It's so new, that it's not even done yet ;)