Author, NaNoWriMo, Writing

NaNoWriMo has begun

Hi, everyone!

For the third year in a row, I have committed to participating in National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known to authors everywhere as NaNoWriMo. The concept is for authors to commit to writing at least 50,000 words between November 1st through the 30th. They consider this arbitrary word count as a reasonable amount to accomplish in the 30-day time frame and their web site states that this should be enough to complete the first draft of an average size novel.

Note to NaNoWriMo folks: I write fantasy. They are usually a bit longer than that. And I tend to be very wordy on a first draft anyway, so I’m already set up to fail at the major point of this exercise — to complete a novel in 30 days.

This year, as I have done every time I’ve started this, I have tried to commit to getting focused and writing a certain number of words at least every day. In the past, though, while I usually started out really well, I have fallen far short of the goal because, well, November is a really busy month. In fact every year I ask the question, “Why November?”

I think it’s a reasonable question. In my family there are several birthdays in November, but the month is jammed with two long weekend holidays, not to mention preparations for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, setting up the Christmas decorations, writing my annual Christmas letter and getting cards ready to mail out. And then there’s this bizarre little thing I’ve been trying to do more of called a blog.

Now, I know I can’t be the only person out there with these issues in November, so again I ask, “Why November?” Who in the founding group was idiot enough to suggest November as the month that authors hide from the world (except from other NaNoWriMo participants and the website’s constant flow of challenges, social commiserations, atta-boy comment threads, and multiple group write-ins) to complete a messy, probably nothing but garbage first draft of a novel?

And who in their right mind joins the thousands of other writers across this country who absolutely know they have a novel in them somewhere in plunging themselves into the chaos and madness of trying to create something from nothing, knowing full well every other writer out there is looking over their shoulder at their word count?

Me. That’s who.

But that wasn’t good enough for me this year. This time around I’ve lassoed three writer friends to join me in this craziness. Misery loves company, right? Of course write…I mean, right!

See? It’s only November 2nd and already I’ve got “write” on the brain!
Anyway, in prior years, I’ve actually not taken advantage of the full breadth of the NaNoWriMo site. I’ve always written my WIP (work in progress), The Crystal Pool, in Word and simply recorded my word count on the site. This year, I am going to actually try to writing it on the site itself to see if somehow immersing my battered psyche in the site will somehow keep me more focused on the task. I mean, what writer doesn’t need a barrage of pop-ups telling them they’ve earned a badge for writing 1000 words, 1500 words, 2000 words….?

You get the gist.

Yeah, I’m totally nuts, but hey, it only happens once a year. Right?

Don’t even get me started on Camp NaNoWriMo!

By the way, If you’re interested in finding out more about NaNoWriMo, just check them out at https://nanowrimo.org/.

Oh, in addition, I am posting an excerpt from my WIP here today if you want to read it. I’ve already posted it on my Facebook page, but decided I should park it here as well. Please take a few minutes to read it, if you haven’t seen it on Facebook yet, and let me know what you think.

Excerpt:
Tamra moved more slowly this time, focusing on feeling the “fabric” of the world. Her eyes, while fixed on the crystal, saw nothing of the world through which her mind moved. Instead, she felt it.

Sebastian called the process “astral projection.” She’d heard the words before, of course, but always pictured someone lying on a bed, letting their mind wander in a dreamlike state. However, Sebastian told her, there were many methods of projecting one’s spirit in ethereal form. Using the crystal allowed for more control in how it was done and what could be done with it.

At the moment, she was letting her mind sense the way the world was made, recognizing what was normal and natural, searching for places that felt wrong or disturbed. She was unsure how she would be able to find the meeting place between her world and the one from which the demons came. According to Sebastian, there were certain places in the worlds that permanently connected each dimension to the next. These spots were static, unmovable. Elsewhere the demarcation between the worlds was more fluid and could be made to move from its natural place into the space of another, if the power of the one moving it was great enough.

In a way, this explained much to her about the reported “Ascension” of Jesus and those of other prophets who, according to Judaic, Christian and Islamic scripture, never felt the sting of death but rose into the air and disappeared before the eyes of their people. Not being a person of faith in anything except herself, Tamra had to force herself to believe she could find and touch something that had been an unseen border between this world and Heaven. Yet occurrences of people crossing this border had been ob- served and recorded.

If Judaic or Islamic writings were true, there were at least seven “heavens” between Man’s world and God’s. If that were true, were there other hells besides the one everyone referred to? She wondered if this particular partition led to one of them rather than to heaven. It made sense, since it was a Fallen Angel doing the manipulation of the border, but did it necessarily follow that the world she’d glimpsed in her mind was Hell? The only evil she had recognized in her brief plunge into the other world had emanated solely from the Fallen Angel and the demons that surrounded him. Did that mean they were in some other world besides Hell? Had they taken it over first, before making the attempt to enter earth? Had they already destroyed the good people of that world before attempting to take over this one?

Shaking off these bothersome questions for the moment, she moved her mind upward, amazed that she could smell the familiar scent of rain on the city streets mixed with the smoke the winged fiends left in their wake. She felt the cold freshness of the rain, despite the fact that she knew her face was really back in the crystal room, attached to the rest of her. Gusts of wind moved through her mind as if she weren’t there, yet she felt them as if they buffeted her body. The sounds of human voices raised in terror faded as her mind rose into the sky, replaced by the crazed screams of demons leaping through the openings that gave them unobstructed access to this dimension.

Then she felt it, a barrier, a rippling, invisible impediment that prevented her from going any further. She touched it with her mind and immediately felt wrongness in it.

She wasn’t sure what told her there was a problem, since she had no prior experience with this border between worlds, but she sensed it anyway.

Slowly, she began comparing the characteristics of each particle of the boundary, turning the connections between them over in her mind. Much of the construct eluded her. Her understanding of the strange tapestry of atoms and molecules definitely lacked at some level. The scientist in her explored it methodically, but after a short time she discovered she could not pull them apart and put them back together in the same pattern. If she didn’t understand how it was made, how could she possibly fix it?

Suddenly, she touched a structure that caused her to cringe. The atoms in this section moved in a manner completely unlike the others she had touched. It gave off such a strong sense of agony it seemed to cry out for relief. Tamra could feel a resonance vibrating through her body back in the crystal room, an electric reaction to the torment she felt. A pressure began to build in her body, a desire for battle that seemed to push against the back of her eyes demanding to be released against the invader.

*Do not allow your energy to flow yet,* Sebastian directed, startling her. She had all but forgotten him in her journey through the crystal. *This is a hole created a while ago. If you stop to repair it now, you will not have enough energy to stop its creator from making more.*

Tamra considered that for a moment, then moved closer to the opening. Steeling herself against the waves of pain that broadcast the sensation into her own mind and body, she took a look at the construction of the tear, noting each change in molecular structure. She might not understand how the original barrier was created or how it worked, but she might be able to duplicate it to fix the broken sections. Eventually, she began to extend her mind from that opening to the next, comparing the differences in cell structure. Before long, she’d opened and stretched her mind over all of the section where rends had already been made. In addition, she began to recognize what she could only liken to a heat signature, in that she could tell which tear had been created first and which last.

Oddly, she noticed there appeared to be a familiar pattern to the angel’s creation. When her initial impression made her start in recognition, she pulled back and opened her mind’s eye to see it clearly. The cuts in the sky did not quite touch each other, but if seen from a distance they almost appeared to form solid lines forming two interconnected triangles, each sharing a long side at the top, both standing — metaphorically — on the tips of the extended arms of their nether points. The longest legs held both aloft and were intersected either by a capital “V” or the Roman numeral five.

Only two-thirds of the image had been created so far, but it was a very familiar one to her. She could not have mistaken it. In modern times it was perhaps the least familiar to most people, but it was by far the oldest, having been described in Enochian scripture as being used by King Solomon when he had built the first temple in Jerusalem. There were many symbolists who claimed it was far older, having been taught to Solomon by supposed witches from Babylon when they explained to him the practices and beliefs in gods and magic. These women were credited by many Jewish scholars with initially leading King Solomon away from the path of righteousness and into the practice of the mystical Kabbalah.

Before her last trip to Iraq, this image would not have even caused her to bat an eyelash. With all she’d learned over the past few weeks, the sight of this symbol made her hollow with fear.

This Fallen Angel was carving the barrier between his world and hers with the sigil of his Lord and Master — Lucifer!

If Tamra had felt the need to stop this creature from accomplishing his mission before, she was desperate to do so now. Although she’d never believed in magic or witchcraft, she knew that these sigils were supposedly used to call angels or demons from their normal dwelling places and bind them in such a way as to do the bidding of the witch without causing harm to them.

If this angel completed the sigil, would it call Lucifer? Would he be given entry into her world?

She pushed the fear to the back of her mind. She felt a demand throughout mind and body to put a stop to this. She could not allow this to happen if she were capable of doing something to prevent it. Sebastian seemed to have faith in her ability, at least, even if she did not. But she had to try.

Having recognized the sigil being formed, Tamra knew now exactly where the next door would be created. And having watched the process of its creation, she felt sure she knew the timing of the angel’s next strike. She quickly stretched her mental touch across every inch of fiery torment being incised on the fabric of the world by the angel’s staff. She tried to use thoughts of comfort and healing to reseal the cuts, but it didn’t seem to work. So she focused the greatest portion of her mind on the spot she knew the staff would hit next. There she pulled together water molecules with those of some of the particulate matter in the clouds. Instinctively, she used the energy within them and within herself to form those items into a swirling, shining disc of power. She held it below the clouds, keeping it away from the barrier until the very last second, letting the energy within her rush into a mirror of pure life force. Then . . .

She thrust upward with every bit of mental force she could muster and met the downward swing of the staff just as it started the cut. Tamra felt the angel’s power strike hers. She noticed a slight lessening of control as her own energy pushed his back, upwards into the staff.

He pulled the staff back from the unexpected obstacle. By his confused expression she knew she’d startled him, but it was not enough to stop him completely. A moment later he lifted the staff for another strike and again she prepared to meet it.

Sebastian let her know he was there to focus her power to a pinpoint and his presence strengthened her resolve. She almost believed she had enough force to destroy the staff until it struck again. This time the blow hit her with an even greater violence than the last and it sent her reeling.

As she started to crumple inward, she was unexpectedly filled with energy from a different source. It traveled through her like lightening, seeming to burn her from the center of her being, outward through her body and her mind. Yet the pain of it was fleeting. It was quickly replaced by a radiance that seemed to rival the sun, warming her, glorifying her from within and transforming her from the girl she had been into something else entirely. The last of the Druid’s restraining spells fell away from her mind like the chaff of winnowed grain.

Tamra was so overcome by this sensation that she barely noticed the shock of the explosion caused by the shattering of the Fallen Angel’s staff, or the inhuman howls that reverberated through both worlds as a result.

An instant later, she heard glass shatter. Sebastian cried out in pain and she was somehow flying through the air. Something amazingly hard stopped her trajectory, lancing her with sudden excruciating pain.

She fell into darkness.

Author, NaNoWriMo, Writing

Dream a little dream and Write it Down!

I have always had a vivid dream life and the ability to recall them in great detail long after I’ve awakened. This can be a good thing or bad, depending on whether the dream is a good on or a nightmare.

Even as a small child, I would regale my mother with the details of my dreams over the breakfast table in the morning. I still recall her wrapt attention as I told her about the silly and often bizarre stories my mind had spun in my sleep. She was amazed that I could not only remember so much of them, but that I was able to describe them so vividly. This was a sentiment often repeated throughout my life by the friends and family with whom I shared them.

I’ve often thought this compulsion to remember and share my dreams was the beginning of my storytelling career. I’ve written more of them down than I can now recall, but most of them have disappeared as things are wont to do over the course of a lifetime unless we are careful with them. Yet, there was more to it than just enjoying the ability to hold my listeners’ attention. There was always a strong need to understand what these strange imaginings meant.

As a teenager, I read dozens of books on dreams and their supposed meaning. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that those authors who claimed to have some secret knowledge of what the dreams meant really had no more of an idea what they meant than you or I.

Still, it has bothered me over the years. Why are my dreams so much clearer and easier to recall, though no less confusing, than anyone else’s? I suspect I’ll never know.

I had a girlfriend in high school with whom I often spent the night. She also had quite vivid dreams. They were so vivid they often woke her up at night. At the time she would say to herself, “I’ve got to tell Cheri that dream.” But then she would go back to sleep and the dream would drift away like smoke. At one point, I suggested that she keep a writing tablet and pencil next to her bed so that she could write down the things that she could remember as she woke up. And not long afterward she actually used the tablet, so I followed her home to get a chance to look at it. She handed the tablet to me with an inscrutable expression. I read the few words on the page and then erupted into fits of giggles. We both fell onto her bed, laughing until we couldn’t breathe and had tears in our eyes. What had she written?

“Write it down!”

So, okay. That plan doesn’t work for everyone.

Medical specialists are as in the dark about what dreams are as anyone. They have no conclusive explanations as to why we dream or why we dream what we do. Dr. Sigmund Freud seemed to think dreams were the mind’s way of looking at events and emotions in our daily life that would be offensive to others. Others say our mind uses dreams to process emotions and resolve problems. But no one can say why one person can easily recall their dreams while others cannot.

Yet there is also an innate mystery surrounding dreams.They have been used throughout history to predict the outcome of battles, and the deaths and/or reigns of monarchs. Their interpretations have often been the harbingers of great political changes and upheavals in the world. But are they true predictions of things to come? Or are they merely the thoughts and ruminations of the subconscious mind, which influence our actions in the light of day to bring about the predicted change?

Are we simply picking up the events of the day and turning them round and round as we examine them in our unconscious minds, before filing them away in an area for things not important enough to remember? Are we trying to understand the emotions we’ve been avoiding every day? Are we “remembering” things that haven’t happened yet. Who knows?

My dreams have often become the skeletons of stories I’ve written or plan to write. Often they run in my mind like a movie reel, almost complete in their storyline. Most of the time, though, they come in snippets, the backstory felt more than seen, but the sense of them is enough to set my mind into creative motion. Before long, I have the basic story written in a kind of synopsis. If only I could write every dream into a full blown story!

Authors, do your dreams influence your writing? I’d love to hear about your experience with transforming a dream into a story. Or, for that matter, any reader’s experience with dreams that have somehow changed their lives, whether in a small way or large.

One such dream of mine turned into the short story I have listed on Amazon.com, entitled, The Choice. The story involves a young woman, Kyndal McAlister, who fights for her life after a tragic traffic accident nearly kills her. As she hovers near death, praying for release from the horrific pain of her injuries, Kyndal discovers the affect her death could have on the people she loves, both the living and the dead.

This story is a short one, a tale of a sudden change in a young woman’s life after a near death experience. However, it has started a seed growing in my mind for future installments of her story.

The Choice will be on sale for free on Amazon for five days only starting Sunday, April 10th. Feel free to download the story and then let me know what you think. Please leave a review on Amazon for my story. Reviews really do help sales.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle reading app for whatever device you wish to use to read it, including Apple and android phones, tablets, as well as Windows computers and MACs. The app itself is free and a link to the various forms of the app appears on each Kindle ebook page.

Have a fantastic rest of the day, everyone!

Author, Writing

How I became a writer

I have read many writers who have said that they became writers only after learning the craft, i.e. the skills that were needed to impart an idea on the page. Others have said that writers pop out of the womb fully fledged and write every chance they get from day one. I think there is something of value in both these ideas. My own experience, I feel, tends toward the latter first and the first followed it.

I was born with a creative gene, and spent my early life learning how to sing, how to color, and how to act out with my few friends the many stories that rumbled round my brain begging for expression. Many of these I told to my early friends as we sat together at recess, or after school, or around the campfire at scouting camps.

My very first piece of fictional writing was a Nancy Drew fan fiction novella when I was in the fifth grade. I was an early reader and at the time I was a huge Nancy Drew fan. I had about thirty of those novels , all inherited from one of my older cousins. But I was also reading more adult novels as well. When I’d read through every Nancy Drew book I had at least twice, I grew bored.

So I began secretly borrowing the books on my father’s bookshelf. I made sure to only take the ones I knew he’d finished. I squirreled myself away in my room with the book and a dictionary. If I found the words to difficult or the concepts too complicated for my youthful mind to comprehend, I would put the book back and save it for later, knowing that my own understanding would eventually grow and make sense of it all as I grew older. Some things I learned far too young, but I think it opened my mind to a somewhat more complicated adult view of life and what drove people to do the things they did.

If I was drawn into a story, I would read the book through and make a list of all the words I didn’t understand to research later. I kept a heavy dictionary beside my bed. My dad would have skinned me alive had he known, but he either tacitly approved of my actions or had no clue what I was doing. I preferred to believe that latter as it gave a certain piquancy to the read.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Milam, was determined to open our imaginations to reading and writing and she set aside an hour of the day, during which she read stories to us by authors such as Charles Dickens, C. S. Lewis and others. She read the story of Robinson Crusoe, The Wizard of Oz and, my very favorite, The Secret Garden. It was, of course, my favorite hour of the day.

During the spring of my fifth grade year, Mrs. Milam gave our class a writing assignment. We were to write a story of our own. I was somewhat taken aback. It had never dawned on me until that moment that I could write something too.

She spent a lot of time on the details she wanted us to adhere to, but my mind was all ready off and running as I began to write my first mystery story in my head. I stopped listening to much of the other lessons that day. Instead, I wrote. I wrote during the reading lesson and through recess. By the time it was time to go home, I had already written the required six pages!

At home I wrote feverishly as the story seemed to appear in my mind completely formed. It took me the entirety of the time limit she given to us — a very short two weeks — as well as another whole week to finish it. I turned it in late, but I just knew it was “A” work.

A week later I got my story back along with the other students, and she had a few students, the ones whose work had been graded with an A, read theirs to the class. I simply stared at my own story in mute horror.

She’d given me a “B–”!

I was devastated. Red marks slashed through my story like a bleeding trail of wounds made by a broadsword. Words misspelled, incorrect grammar, repetitious sentences I hadn’t needed to put in the story at all. Across the front page she’d written:

“Marvelous story, great organization of the plot, but it needs some work to be readable. Come see me after school today to discuss this. If the story had been completed and turned in on time, I would have given it an A+.” 

Then on the left margin, she’d written in bold red letters:

“THE ASSIGNMENT WAS FOR AT LEAST 6 PAGES, NOT 142!”

Shades of Ralphie’s experience with theme writing in A Christmas Story. Well, I gathered from that movie, when it came out during my own children’s youth, that at least Jean Shepard knew how I’d felt. At the time, though, it crushed me! I went home that afternoon with tears in my eyes, miserable despite the praise with which Mrs. Milam had regaled me after school was out that day. All I could see was the number of red marks on the pages and that hideous B+.

But it didn’t stop me from writing at all.

I had been bitten hard by the writing bug, and I wrote and wrote and wrote. I’d be writing on one story when another idea popped into my head. Then I’d stop working on the first to get the second one down on paper. It became a vicious cycle with very few finished pieces. But I couldn’t seem to stop writing. This was the medium my mind had been waiting for all the years prior.

I had become a writer.