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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Keep Calm and Write On

I've been getting back into my writing in a big way. I have a couple of ladies to critique with. I have been doing character bios and character interviews and filling a notebook full of important stuff! Very important stuff... but most importantly I've been writing.

Its a good feeling.

Lately, I've been pouring over old journals and old writing notebooks. Its crazy to see how far my writing has come in the last ten years, and insane to see how far (or not) I've come in my personal life. Its kinda disconcerting to see that I've been struggling with the same issues for most of my life, but encouraging to realize that I keep on ticking, and I'm constantly looking for and reaching for change. I never say ok, this is just the way it is, Its over for me.

But in regards to writing, its making me realize how much I love the art of the written word. When I first starting believing that I could be a writer, I took classes, I read books on how to write, and I devoured fiction. My notebooks are full of quotes, words and their definitions  that I had come across and didn't know.

I have page after page of timed writing to writing prompts that may never become anything. But they were so exploratory, so  "I'm going to just start and see where I end up."

Blind Faith.

Then there are passages of character descriptions, scenes, action. I believe at one time I even watched an episode of a television show and pinpointed each time I noticed a plot point, graphed the way they used Aristotle's incline. There are passages where I just examined dialogue, taking out every tagline and every description, just writing the dialogue.

I eavesdropped on people at restaurants, examining the way they moved, how they emphasized points, how they listened. Tried to write their expressions. Were they bored? happy? sad? angry? How did I know? And how could I describe it without saying, "This person was bored/ happy/ sad/angry.

I studied writing and bringing characters to life.

I loved how passionate I was about learning everything there was to know about writing. I'm still SO passionate about writing that I changed my career plan so that I could be around it as much as possible.

I wrote all that to segue into a passage that I found in my notebook. I think it impressed me so much because I'm doing so much character work. And if you're going to study other writers, you might as well study the greats.

This passage is from Nora Robert's Heaven and Earth.

Her body was as lean and toned as a young tigers. She took pride in it, in her control of it. As she bent from the waist, the ski cap that she'd tugged on fell to the floor and her hair, the color of varnished oak, tumbled free.

She wore it long because it didn't require regular trims and styling that way. It was just another type of control. Her eyes were a sharp bottle green. When she was in the mood she might fuss with mascara and eyeliner. After considerable debate she'd decided that her eyes were the best part of a face made up of mismatched features and angular lines.

She had a slight overbite because she'd despised her retainer, and she had the wide forehead and nearly horizontal dark eyebrows of the Ripley side of the family.

No one would have accused her of being pretty. It was too soft a word- and would have insulted her in any case. She preferred knowing it was a strong and sexy face, the kind that could attract men when she was in the mood for one.

I could go on. I think I took the time write down 4 other passages from that book alone. But there are so many things about this description that I love. Its not just a physical description, but give so much information about how she grew up (retainer), her daily routines: she doesn't fuss over hair and make-up unless she's in the mood, and she's not attractive but she's sexy! She owns it. I love how she subconsciously makes decisions about her men the way she decides to fuss with makeup. "I'll wear mascara if I want to. And when I'm "in the mood for a man" she'll go out and get one.

GENIUS.





Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My First Serious Book Review

I've posted book reviews before, but they have mostly been "Loved the book!", "Beautiful", "Hilarious"  kind of reviews and, well, that's not really helpful to anyone, is it?

I've wanted to do this for awhile now, because I love reading and when I'm recommending books, or discussing books with someone, I really get my nerd on and go into great detail about everything I loved and hated about the book.

As a writer, I understand the value of good reviews, and as a reader, I feel like its my responsibility, as well.

First I want to say that the cover art for Twisted Roads by Travis Erwin, is eye-catching and perfectly inviting . Everything a book cover should be. I love the guitar and her red high heels just jump off the cover.

Most of time, you can find Travis over at his blog, Bacon, Beer, and Books, where his writing has always struck me as more storytelling than writing. To me, his talent lies in the way he makes any story feel like a campfire tale-those stories that you repeat over and over, and one's you can't wait to hear again and again.

Usually, his stories are humorous. I've found myself more than once laughing out loud, or telling someone nearby, "You have got to read this!"

Twisted Roads shows a different side of Travis' writing. Where his blog posts, and even The Feedstore Chronicles give me the sense of oral tradition, Twisted Roads is more sophisticated, more grown up. More mature. More written.

The storyteller in  his writing is still apparent, though. He weaves his words as beautifully as he's woven the lives of his characters. He's woven them so tight, in fact, that one characters decision not only affects that character, but multiple characters throughout the story, so that by the end we, as readers, have realized that he's subtlely been changing our perceptions without us realizing it.

Twisted Roads is a character driven story (my favorite kind of story), and I found myself wanting to befriend Angela and Lucas. I could really relate to Angela because I've lived in places like Grand. I've known what is it like to be on the outside of small town life.

Lucas's struggle with music, from trying to find the right words when writing lyrics, to trying to decide whether he should follow his dream or do the safe thing and stay where he is, is a struggle that any reader can relate to. 

Jake and Shelly were villianous in the most vile of ways, yet, by the end, I felt sorry for them because of the way their vulnerabilites were slowly unraveled throughout the novel.

I especially loved how the characters of Misty and Charlene were personifications of Shelly's inner conflict (At least to me). They seemed to be the Angel and Devil on Shelly's shoulder, and at the same time represented both the best and worst parts of living in small town Texas.

Travis' portrayal of Grand, Texas took me back to a childhood where I lived in Kress, Tx. (population 700-800).

I could go on. There are more characters. Important characters, but I think the joy of reading Twisted roads was traveling it on my own. I'll let you do the same.






P.S. how did I do?






Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I survived the 7 year Itch

Its kinda hard for me to write this post.

No, I mean literally. There is a one year old crying in the background. Two boys playing wii in the guest room and my oldest is watching cartoons in my room. Every 5 minutes or so one them has a meltdown, infinite crisis style, and I have to run in to save the day.

Plus, this is what my living room looks like at this very moment.



Glamorous, huh?

Sometimes it feels just like yesterday, and other times it feels like the longest eight years Of. My. Life.

See, when people compare marriage to war, its not really an exaggeration. Well maybe it is.

But war is a great metaphor for marriage. Take away the blood, guts, and dying, and there you have it.  (Unless you count that one time when I dropped the electric drill into my husbands calf. That was pretty bloody...He still has a cute little star shaped scar to prove it.)

Two very seperate, very different entities are trying to come to terms where both can live realitivly at peace with the other without giving up too much of themselves.

Sometimes you're hanging out back at camp, sometimes you're in the trenches.

I can honestly say that being married to James has definitely been more hanging out back at camp, and less geurilla warfare.

There have been some times when we were on the same page, and sometimes when terms had to be laid on the table.

I don't know about James, but this last 2-3 years have been the hardest for me. We seldom see each other. We kinda tag team each other on the way out the door. Between him getting off at fiveish to me going in at.. fivesh, we often don't have time for more than a peck on the cheek and an I love you, as my kids are screaming and crying for me not to leave them.

It's hard.

But this is happening because he is supporting a choice I made. He is sticking around and watching the kids, and keeping his mouth shut when the house looks the way it does.

He's holding me up, while I improve myself. He's not tearing me down. Or holding me back.

It may seem like a small thing. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of the big gestures just like every woman is, but marriage is made up of the small things. Its a battle every day, and the small things add up.

So tonight as we celebrate surviving the 7 year itch, we'll tag team again, Probably high five as hes pulling screaming toddlers off my leg. I'll forget that very vivid dream I had of  Manu Bennett I had last night, and remember how grateful I am that I have James.



I'm so blessed to have a loving husband who respects and supports my choices, who loves our children and is an amazing father to them, and who, despite how much I dont know how or why, still wants me with the fervor of a fifteen year old boy.


P.S. In the course of writing this post, I put a 3 year old in time out, then put the two youngest boys down for a nap, changed Steven's game in the wii and rocked the baby to sleep.

I'm a freaking rockstar.








Monday, April 15, 2013

The Red Robe

I actually wrote this a long time ago, but couldn't decide if I wanted to post it or now.

Too cheesy?

Allison slipped the red robe off of her shoulders. It seemed prophetic somehow, against the white tiles of her bathroom. She turned the water in the shower as hot as it would go, slowly taking an inventory of the damage. Her shoulder was slightly sore, but the inside of her thigh was black from the kicks she’d taken.
She wiped the steam from the mirror, cringing as the muscles tightened. A gash over one eye and a split lip.
It could’ve been worse.
She slipped the band from her braided hair and shook it out. She’d been so exhausted that she hadn’t bothered to take it down last night, and now the normally soft and flowing locks looked like a rats nest. She pulled a brush through it, making sure to remove the tangles and stepped into the shower. She couldn’t do anything but stand there, letting the water wash over her, remembering the fight she’d had with Owen last night. She didn’t know what had hurt her more, the bruises or the words he’d said. Still, she couldn’t imagine life without him. It had been so good in the beginning.
Maybe he was right. Maybe she wasn’t good enough.
Maybe she was crazy for thinking she could do something more with her life, for thinking that she could be something more…something better.
When she finished, she slipped the robe back on and shuffled to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.
For a long moment, she focused on the steam rising up from her cup of coffee, until the doorbell rang.
She knew it would be him and wasn’t sure she should open the door.
But of course she did.
As he stood there, she tried to decide how she should defend herself. Would she finally give him an ultimatum, or would she still be too afraid to lose him?
He pushed his way through the door, grabbing her by the shoulders. His face contorted in pain as he took in the gash over her eye. “I’m so sorry,” he said.
“I’m fine.”
“Hey,” he said, gently taking her chin and turning it for inspection. “It’s over. You don’t have to pretend to be strong anymore. I’m still here.”
She desperately wanted not to cry. But she felt the pressure in her chest building, and when she felt the first tear sliding down her cheek, she leaned into him and let him comfort her.
He whispered things in her ear, things that were easy to believe, only because he was the one saying them.
He walked her to the couch, slipping off his shoes and allowing her to sit with her head on his shoulder. His arm was heavy across her sore shoulders but she didn’t mind. For a long time, they just sat together.
Finally, she said. “Owen, I’m not pretending. I am strong.”
He tugged her a little closer, a supportive squeeze on her arm, but he didn’t say anything.
“I want to do this, Owen. It makes me feel alive. I’ve never felt so alive as when I’m fighting. I’m going to do this, with or without you. I need your support, and if I can’t have that, I can’t be with you anymore.”
“Last year, you would never have said that to me.”
“I know.”
He looked down at her, his fingers skimming along the gash over her eye. “I didn’t understand why in the hell you’d want to take a chance on ruining that beautiful face of yours.”
He kissed her temple, his thumb brushing tentatively over her split lip. “But I’m starting to get it. I couldn’t stand not being there last night, so I went. I watched, and you’re right. I’ve never seen you so alive. Plus, you looked incredibly hot in those little shorts.”
She punched him playfully in the ribs.
“Allison, I love you. And I’ll always be in your corner.”
“Really?”
“Really,” He said with a smile.
“Good. Because I have to be at the gym in an hour, and I need a sparring partner.”
“That’s not funny.”
Allison laughed, taking his hand, thankful they had an hour before practice.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Idiot Jed, Glutton for Punishment


Spiders don’t scare me. Snakes can slither around my arm and I wouldn’t flinch, Home alone in the dark… no problem. But there are a few things that terrify me. Clowns, for instance.  

I watched Poltergeist as a kid, and sure, the stuffed clown grinning madly, rocking away in his rocking chair as “his kid” was tormented by an unseen force gave me the wiggins… Tim curry dressed in clown makeup telling cute little Georgie “we all float down here” from a storm drain still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, but it wasn’t until middle school when I started researching serial killers that I was absolutely done with clowns. John Wayne Gacy was real, people… Not just the figment of someone’s delightfully disturbed mind. Now every time I see a clown, I turn into a 5 year old: cringing, whimpering, and sometimes crying. I hide behind a blanket, cover my eyes, sink down in my seat, as if is any of these are valid survival tactics. 

Last year at the haunted house, full of clowns, it took me longer than it should have to get through because I was either cowering in the corner, or shoving my brother in law (who was deliberately going slower just to torment me ) out of the way so I could run.  


This was still less terrifying than public speaking. Just the thought of standing in front of a room full of people where I have to be the center of attention makes me nauseas. And a little sweaty.  

But speaking??? I’d rather be forced to go back through that haunted house every day for a year than stand up and talk for an hour. And hour, hell, I’d rather go back through that haunted house every day for a year than speak for 10 minutes! 

So naturally, teaching is an appropriate career plan, right? 

I’ve been fine with that choice so far. Sitting behind my computer at 5 in the morning, or midnight depending on which night you find me… was fine. Theories and methods, writing about teaching, talking about teaching hasn’t bothered me in the least. But, last week I turned in my application for student teaching, which means Shit just got real! 

I’ve been nauseas since I turned it in. I’ll probably spend the next 3 months in a constant state of panic. Right now, I’m wondering what the hell I was thinking.  

Just call me Idiot Jed, glutton for punishment (random buffy reference) 

But I chose this path because I’m tired of being afraid. I’ve wasted so many years saying I can’t do this because:  

So, I’m going to start doing things because I can. Because deep down, under this gut wrenching fear of failure, I know… I really do… that I ‘m pretty kickass.  

I believe that I’ll be a great teacher, that I can genuinely help students be better readers, better writers. I know that fear can only be conquered when it is faced. I know that eventually getting up in front of people will be a cake walk. Eventually, public speaking and I will be good friends. I’m going to be ok with it.  

But I will never be ok with clowns.