Initiation- Flash Fiction

I’m so excited to announce that my first piece of flash fiction has been picked up for publication over at StrippedLit500, for their first issue of this online literary magazine.

I have always wanted to write about the really visceral experience I had when I first landed here in Napaskiak. This short science fiction piece grew out of that experience. (And a super thanks to Seraphima for her awesome name that I totally stole!)

Check it out! (Click the SOURCE link for the whole story)

By Elizabeth Bradley

Dust exploded all around Seraphima and she shielded her eyes as the shuttle winked out of sight. The silence that followed settled heavy on her ears. Seraphima scooped up her b…

Source: Initiation

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Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

camp nano

With April right around the corner, I find myself prepping for this year’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Last year’s camp project was a disaster. I started out with lots of hope and ambition; I wanted to reach a goal of 60,000 words. In the end I finished out the month with just over 7,000. Some would say that any words written were a success, and in that light they are right, but I was sad that I couldn’t meet my goals.

My pregnancy was a lot tougher than I had expected. Physically, it was pretty mild, I didn’t have too many complications other than my gallbladder, but emotionally I was a wreck. Anxiety would keep me awake for days, just staring at the clock, and then depression would hit and I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. I was still working at the school at the time as well, so between yo-yoing emotions and trying to put on a happy face and work, I was not focused on writing at all.

This year I’m in a much better place. I was really worried about post-postpartum depression, but things have been really positive. The first three months of being a mom were a blur, so I didn’t even attempt NaNoWriMo, but now I feel that I’m in a good groove with parenting, so I’m going to give Camp a go. Baby boy is by no means on a strict schedule, but he does nap several times a day, so I’m taking advantage of those times to get back into the swing of writing.

For this year’s Camp, I am going to be working on the sequel to my first Nano novel. After I finished that one, I realized that it served better as backstory for another character and his journey. At first I was really upset that I had written almost 300 pages of something that only scratched the surface of the story I really want to tell, but in actuality, I feel like I’m in a much better place to write this new story, because of all the work I did on the first.

I don’t have a title yet, but I do have a blurb written:

Hal, an orphaned young man lives in the restrictive confines of the American Resistance Compound. The world outside is a dangerous place; ravaged by war and disease after the North American Power Grid failed twenty years prior, the once free country fell to the oppressive power of the Chinese government.

Now with the ARC’s infrastructure failing and the appearance of a beautiful young Chinese scientist carrying a mysterious vial, the outside world is crashing in. People are getting sick from the plague they have battled to keep out for so long, and the only way to save them is a dangerous journey to a laboratory run by the Chinese that is rumored to have a cure.

Can Hal survive the outside world long enough to save the only family he has ever known? And can he trust his heart along the way?

 —

I’m really excited to get started! And with Camp’s more relaxed rules, I may just get writing a little early.

Are you participating in Camp this April? What are you writing? Let me know in the comments below!

2015 Reading Recap

Last year I took upon myself the challenge of reading 52 books (one a week) for Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge. How did I do? Well, I didn’t finish the challenge, but I accomplished a great deal of what I set out to do.

Overall I read 48 books, in more genres than I normally do. Sci-fi and YA are my personal favorites, and while a good deal of the books that I read fell into those categories, I found myself genuinely enjoying many books in other genres. A nonfiction book that I chose for the humor category A Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs stands out as one of my favorites. It not only made me laugh, but made me really think about how we pick and choose what rules to follow when it comes to religion, and what that says about who we are, and what kind of world we want to live in. This is not a book I would have picked up previously, but I’m so glad I did.

Being married to an English teacher, I’ve always felt pressure to read the classics. Don’t get me wrong- I love me some Shakespeare, and I’ve really enjoyed other classics like Dante’s Inferno, Jane Eyre, and The Great Gatsby, but I do find most of the classics really hard to get through. However, for the challenge I stepped up and finally read Frankenstein, and added Wuthering Heights to the list as well. Frankenstein was okay, but took me a real long time to get through. Wuthering Heights on the other hand bored me greatly. I started and finished three other books while trying to get interested in it. I find that the Victorian style of writing about someone’s life from start to finish is taxing on the reader. I’m much more used to (and fond of) the later point of attack that modern books tend to take. Not to mention that Wuthering Heights had multiple characters with the same name- I can’t stand that!

2015ReadingChallenge

Overall, I’m really happy with what I have accomplished. You can check out all the books I read and my ratings over on Goodreads.

I’m also excited to announce that this year I’m going to be attempting this again, along with starting an online book club with some friends. Popsugar’s list this year is only 40 books, but adding in the book club selections I’m up to 46. That gives me a totally achievable goal for this year.

20e491b890bb19b9_PS15_Love_2016ReadingChallenge_Pin_List

I’ve already checked one off the list- A book recommended to me by a family member: After the Cure by Deirdra Gould. I really enjoyed it, and it’s free for the Kindle!

Are you participating in a reading challenge this year? Have any suggestions for books I should check out? Let me know in the comments!

2015 Reading Challenge- Halfway There!

The two pieces of advice I have heard over and over again for people who wish to be better writers are as follows:

1. Write more

2. Read more

So, at the beginning of this year, I decided to really commit to reading more. And not just in terms of volume. I consume books at a really fast rate, but when I’m not thinking about it, I tend to gravitate towards the same types of books over and over again. Now, there is nothing wrong with reading in the same genre, especially because it gives me insight into what works and what doesn’t, but if I really want to push myself as a writer I would be dumb to ignore the plethora of other genres and authors out there. In the end we all have access to the same words right? It’s just about putting them in a different order.

I stumbled across this really diverse list of book suggestions from Popsugar over on Twitter and was interested at once. It had categories such as: “A book you were supposed to read in high school but didn’t” and “A book with antonyms in the title”. The categories seemed fun and not too specific, so I felt I was up for the challenge.

2015-reading-challenge

In actuality, you have to read 52 books as one of the categories is a trilogy, so that evens out to one book a week for the year. I had a friend on Facebook who was able to complete a 100 book challenge last year, so I thought ‘hey- this will be a cakewalk! I read really fast, and what is a book a week?’. As I have come to find out, it is really easy to fall behind, and my reading isn’t very consistent. I tend to go through binges where I will read three or four books in a week, but then I only read one book in the months of June and July because I was busy visiting family for the summer. (more on those adventures here!)

As of September 1st, I find myself having completed 25 books, marking the halfway point (kind of) of the challenge. Due to the large amount of variety in options, I haven’t really felt restricted in my book choices, and have been able to read pretty much whatever I wanted, worrying about fitting them to a category after turning the last page.

The complete challenge list, with the books I have read so far crossed off.

Things are getting a little more difficult now, as I am having to search harder for books that fit the categories. (Anyone have a suggestion for a book set in Camden, NY? My hometown is seriously small!) I’m still having fun though, and Goodreads is more and more helpful when searching for books with specific characteristics.

The following is a list of the books I have read so far. You can also check out my bookshelf on Goodreads dedicated to the challenge for my personal ratings on each. I hope you find some new reading material here! There are some real gems in this bunch!

1. A Book you were supposed to read in High School – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
2. A Funny Book – The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
3. A Banned book – Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
4. A Book published this year- The Heir by Kiera Cass
5. A Memoir- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
6. A book with more than 500 pages- The Firm by John Grisham
7. A book that became a movie- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
8. A book with nonhuman characters- The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
9. A book by a female author- Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand
10. A mystery or thriller- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
11. A book with a one-word title- Younger by Suzanne Munshower
12. A book set in a different country- Animal Farm by George Orwell
13. A book a friend recommended- Raven’s Gift by
14. A book based on a true story- Night by Elie Wiesel
15. A book that scares you- Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
16. A book you can finish in a day- Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm
17. A trilogy- The Selection by Kiera Cass
18. A trilogy- The Elite by Kiera Cass
19. A trilogy- The One by Kiera Cass
20. A book with a love triangle- The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons
21. A book set in high school- The Second Ship by Richard Phillips
22. A book with a color in the title- Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
23. A book that made you cry- The Gemini Effect by Chuck Grossart
24. A book with magic- The Einstein Prophecy by Robert Masello
25. A book by an author you’ve never read before- Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

The next book on the list for me? Geek Love- a book published the year I was born. It was re-released as a ‘vintage contemporary’ (1989 is vintage now???) but I’m counting the original release for the purpose of the challenge.

Are you doing any type of reading challenge? Let me know about it in the comments below!

Flash Fiction Contest: Consumed

flashfiction_title_0

A friend on facebook posted a link to a flash fiction contest that intrigued me. (For a quick look at what flash fiction is click here)

I have been lacking motivation lately when it comes to writing; I’m not sure if it’s because I’m so busy planning the move back to the Lower 48 for the summer, spring fever, pregnancy hormones, or whatever. Regardless, I figured this would be a good way for me to get back at it, so I’ve thrown my hat into the ring.

The guidelines were as follows:

-Write a flash fiction piece in the horror genre between 200-700 words based on the picture prompt below.

…oh and it’s due by 11:59 Central time…today. So I’m cutting it close, but I’ve made it. I can write something in a couple hours right? Right!

I’ve never written horror before, but I had fun playing with imagery and working on something new. Without any further ado, here is my entry:

india-tea-prompt

“Consumed”

Icy wind tore at her face like shards of glass flying high speed through the air, cutting her skin. Raven hair streamed behind her, cracking and slapping against her back as she ran. Weird skinny trees flashed by; their branchless trunks reaching up to the sky, dotting the landscape in manicured rows. The girl flowed down the row of trees straining towards the mountain thrusting out of the earth in front of her. But it seemed forever in the distance, regardless of how hard she ran.

The earth groaned behind her and she whipped around. Her feet tangled around each other, thrown off by the sudden movement, and she tumbled down. Her arms flailed out, slicing through the air in vain. Pain seared across her back as it slammed against one of the trees. Instead of breaking her fall the tree was as unforgiving as a steel rod, sunk deep into concrete. A rotten smell wafted over her in a wave as she crumpled to the ground. Rain began to pelt her face. Large drops splattered her ragged green dress, staining the fabric with each drop. Her breath caught as she tried to rise. The mountain loomed in the distance, an unreachable goal. As unreachable as the sun, now hidden behind a thick and oppressive shadow.

A gasp escaped her throat as she looked down at the ground. The source of the rank air became apparent as a rotting hand, caked in grime, clawed through the mud and emerged from a crack in the ground. It reached to the sky, and stretched its emaciated digits as they soaked in the rain. Screams pierced the air as the bony hand was followed by another, and another. The skeletal limbs multiplied and shot up, breaking the ground, widening the crack towards their intended victim. One of the hands shot out and found purchase on the girl’s ankle, and she realized that the screams were her own.

But it wasn’t the hands that scared her. They were just instruments to bind her, as the real nightmare drew closer. An impenetrable shadow rumbled in the distance as it drew closer, swallowing more and more of the earth, destroying everything in its path. A path that lead to only one end.

A dark feeling had haunted her all her life, lingering in the shadows or on the edges of her vision. Always watching. Waiting for the right time. Threatening to consume her. Its time had finally come. Her heart drummed in her ribcage, threatening to break free from her chest, her sweat mixing with the rain that continued to pour down her face. She thrashed her limbs battering at the hands crawling all over her. Shrill notes pierced the air. A particularly bloody hand clamped suddenly over her mouth, stifling her cries.

The cloud of darkness was bearing down upon her, having crossed an unimaginable distance in the blink of an eye. The last thing she saw as it swallowed her was the sun breaking through the clouds over the mountain, forever unattainable.

(507 words)

Thanks for reading!

Camp NaNoWriMo Prepping Fun!

It’s been a while since my last writing update, and with only a day left before Camp NaNoWriMo begins it’s perfect timing for one. My goal was to write every day after November, figuring that I would have a really great habit going, but it didn’t work out. The holidays were a perfect distraction, but I am happy to say that I am writing more, it not every day. Actually writing down brainstorm ideas (keep a note going in your phone- it’s always with you anyway!) alone was a big step in the right direction- inspiration is everywhere. I also worked on a couple of shorter length pieces, and prepped for a couple new novel ideas.

Editing has proved to be tougher than I believed. I can see the problems with my novel, but it just seems so much more overwhelming than writing. It’s a slower process, and I may need a little more time away from it. The most frustrating thing is how illusive the right title is. I’ve been through about five at this point and it sounds like a little thing, but without a title I’m having clarity issues. I keep plodding through bit by bit, and plan on using it as a distraction when I want to work on something other than the current project.

Overall, I find I’m happier when I’m writing and accomplishing things, so I make sure to make time to sit down and actually put words on the page.

CAMP NANO PREP

Originally I was going to use the more flexible camp format to work on an Adult Sci-fi idea that I was developing. With an ensemble cast of 7 characters I was going to work on their backstories so I had a strong base to begin writing.

But things rarely go as planned right? Since finding out I am pregnant my sleeping patterns have totally changed. I have a harder time getting to sleep, and tend to sleep in, lingering in bed late, especially on weekends. On one such weekend, I woke with a great idea forming in my head. The setting was inspired by an article about overcrowding in New York City, and I had characters, a loose plot, and a great setting in mind. I grabbed my phone and typed it all in. I was so excited. Everything seemed to work and it was more solid than the idea I had been developing, so I made the choice to switch ideas.

My (much smaller this time) scene breakdown I printed for my Camp Novel.

My (much smaller this time) scene breakdown I printed for my Camp Novel.

Since the synopsis I wrote is available publicly on the Camp site I would share it here as well:

————

16 year-old Kaitlyn lives in a future NYC where the buildings have literally grown into every possible space, looming overhead; an interconnected conglomerate of brick and steel fire-escapes.

Suffocating in the middle of a brick tomb, Kaitlyn must get a job to help support her family when her mother becomes injured. She turns to the Runner’s Agency; a group that hires out fearless runners to navigate the city’s dangerous steel avenues to deliver goods to it’s citizens with enough money to stay safe inside their upper level homes.

Kaitlyn soon meets Archer, a top-level boy while running errands for his family. Sheltered by his family’s wealth he nurtures a love for history, art, and tales of the world beyond New York. He helps fuel Kaitlyn’s dreams of escaping the smog and everyday perils of the city. What she doesn’t know is that danger lurks in more places than just the hostile cityscape.

Kaitlyn’s determination to save enough money to leave causes her to rise through the runner ranks rapidly- upsetting those at the top of heap. And the consequences could be deadly.

————

I’m excited to take what I learned in November and apply it to this novel. Always looking for ways to improve and get better!

Are any of you going to Camp as well? What kind of projects are you working on? I would love to hear about it!

NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge: Crickets

So after the craziness of NaNoWriMo died down, I was looking for another community based writing event. I stumbled upon NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge through Twitter (I think!) and was intrigued. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the annual Challenge the rules are as follows: (paraphrased of course)

– There are three rounds. To advance you must be in the top 5 of your round
– Each round you will be assigned a genre, character and subject that must be included in your story.
– Timelines / word counts for each round vary. Round 1: 8 days, 2,500 words max. Round 2: 3 days, 2,000 words max. Round 3: 1 day, 1,000 words max.

I was excited to try writing in a new style as I am used to long-form story telling. I was assigned to Heat 10 in which we were given:

Genre: Romance
Character: A Single Mom
Subject: Gluten Free

And the following is the short story I came up with! Please enjoy!

CRICKETS

Hannah sat with a bump on the hard boards of the bench. The wind whipped through the three sided lean-to that served as the public bus stop. She pulled her jacket around her tighter and shoved her hands in her pockets. Her finger found a hole in the lining. It figures, she thought. When it rains it pours. Glancing at the posted bus schedule she tried to see when the next bus was scheduled to come by. She had never taken one in the middle of the day before. 1:36pm. She looked at her watch. Twenty minutes to go. Sliding back down onto the bench Hannah hung her head and braced herself against the wind. How would she explain this to her son? She had to find a new job and soon. The small amount of money that she had squirreled away wasn’t going to last forever.

It wasn’t as if it was her fault though. All it took was one rich, irate customer and as the waitress she took all the blame. Despite two years of busting her ass, she was tossed to the curb like garbage.
The wind picked up again, rustling papers tacked to the wooden trim of the lean-to. A neon yellow flyer broke free and flew into Hannah’s face. She grabbed at it and pulled the struggling paper in front of her.

Need Money Now?
Have a Great Idea or Invention?
We May Have a Deal for You! Come With Your Pitch to City Hall!

Hannah crumpled the paper and laughed bitterly. It was probably just a scheme to attract desperate people. She looked around for a trashcan but didn’t see any, so she shoved the paper into her pocket and continued to wait for the bus.

***

Standing in the small entryway to her apartment she could hear her son laughing in the other room. Calvin was the single ray of sunshine in her life. She may not have much, but he was enough.

“Ms. Roberts is that you?” Tina, the babysitter, called.

“Yes, I’m home a little early today.” Hannah shucked off her jacket and let it fall over the back of a chair. She walked into the living room and Calvin catapulted himself at her, and she caught him in a bone crushing hug.

“Tina and me were playing pirates!” Hannah laughed and looked at the joy radiating from her son’s face. His dark curly hair, which he had inherited from her, shook as he spoke and it made her smile.

“Well, Mr. Pirate, I’m sure all that sailing has made you hungry. How about some lunch? Mac and Cheese sound okay?” Calvin cheered and ran into the kitchen. He loved helping his mom cook. She turned to Tina. “Would you like to stay for lunch?”

“Thanks Ms. Roberts, but I’ll probably just head home. I’m on this gluten free diet now anyway, so pasta is off the menu.”

“Okay. Let me just grab your money, and you can be on your way.” Hannah went through the pockets of her coat. She pulled out the neon flyer from the bus stop and tossed it aside. Finally she found a bill and handed it to Tina.

“Is everything okay?” Tina asked taking the money.

“It will be… I’ve always figured things out. Thanks Tina.” She said closing the door behind her.

***

“Okay mommy, open your eyes!” Hannah’s son Calvin stood with his arms spread wide, and a huge smile plastered on his face.

“Oooo sweetie, this is beautiful.”

“I made cereal and toast!”

She laughed and sat down in the chair her son pulled out for her. He scrambled into his chair at the other end of the table and scooped a spoonful of Fruit Loops into his mouth. The LED candles flickered across the table, illuminating the chipped blue bowls that Hannah had picked up secondhand. Her first mouthful of cereal was soggy. Calvin looked at her expectantly and she smiled. He was trying so hard to make her happy. She was sure that he had been able to hear her tears earlier in the other room. He was only seven, but had always been so in tune with her after his father left.

“Thank you so much for dinner sweetie. I appreciate the help and you did a great job.” She could see the blush bloom on her son’s cheeks.

“But wait mom- you haven’t tried desert yet! And that’s the best part!” Calvin scrambled down from his chair and raced into the kitchen and out of sight. Hannah chewed her cereal as she listened to her son in the other room.
He came out clutching two pudding cups in his chubby little hands. He set one down at her place and then sat back down with his, hardly waiting to dig into the chocolate. She licked her spoon and pushed the cereal aside.

She took a scoop of the pudding and relished the chocolate. She paused as she felt something crunchy in the smooth pudding. It had an interesting savory flavor.

“Honey, did you put something extra in the pudding?”

“Yeah, it’s the secret ingredient!”

“What is it?”

“If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret anymore!” He squealed. Calvin dug back into his pudding, getting almost more of it on his face than his mouth she thought. Hannah looked back down at her pudding and took another spoonful. Nothing crunched this time. She probed the cup with her spoon. She landed on something, and pulled it up to examine it more closely.

“Sweetie… is this… a bug?” Calvin giggled. Her stomach turned.

“Mr. Cecil loves them! And I do too!” She put down her spoon.

“But Mr. Cecil is a lizard. He is supposed to eat bugs. We aren’t.”

“That’s not what Tina said. She said people have been eating bugs forever, and that crickets are the best because they are gluten free!” Hannah would have to speak to his babysitter. But as she watched her son practically lick his pudding cup clean, she thought maybe there was something to it. The neon flyer from earlier flashed in her mind. Perhaps this was just what she needed to happen.

***

Hannah looked down at her blazer and picked at a loose thread. She hoped that the lace tank top underneath wasn’t too unprofessional. Most of the other people in the waiting room were men in suits and crisp white shirts. She clutched the manila folder and tray of cookies in her hands. This is crazy. I can’t possibly go in there and ask for people’s money to make food out of crickets. They would laugh her out of the room.

“Hannah Roberts.” A short assistant called from the door. She stood and took a deep breath and smoothed out the wrinkles in her skirt the best she could.
A group of four people sat at the long desk at the bottom of the amphitheater. Hannah felt it took an eternity to traverse the space between them. She carefully picked her way down the stairs and took her place in front of the panel.

“Welcome Mrs. Roberts.”

“Ms.” She responded without thinking. The man on the end of the panel looked up from his notes for a minute, and she flushed. What did it matter if she was a Ms. or a Mrs.? She kicked herself mentally and tried to move on, hoping they would forget her faux pas. “Thank you all for taking the time to be here today.” She started. “I’m here seeking an initial investment in a line of gluten free products that are also packed with protein, vitamins and flavor. I have done some preliminary research to show that there is a strong and growing market for these products and with the right marketing my brand has unlimited potential.”

Hannah approached the desk and passed out the information packets she had put together. When she handed the final packet to the man on the end, she caught her breath. She hadn’t noticed from further away, but he had piercing blue eyes that seemed to cut right through her. He cleared his throat and she snapped out of it, turning to stand and address them all.

He was hovering there in her peripheral vision throughout her presentation. It gave her a nervous energy that excited her.

“In the end, if we can’t stand up for our health, let me ask you- what can you stand for?”

***

Walking down the hallway, headed for the door Hannah felt lighter than air. She could skip if it wasn’t for her high heels. The panel had responded positively to her idea, and wanted to fund it.

“Ms. Roberts!” she heard her name called from behind her. “Wait, please.” She turned to see the tall handsome man from the panel. Her breath caught. What was he doing? Weren’t there other people to see in the meetings? “You forgot your tray.” He said, extending it out to her.

“You didn’t have to run it out to me.”

“I know, but I wanted a chance to speak to you again.” He said. “I’m Titus.”

“I know who you are.” She had realized it halfway through her pitch. Titus Johnson was one of the biggest names in the city. He owned the newspaper and was on half a dozen boards or committees. Everyone knew who Titus Johnson was. What Hannah didn’t know was why he was still standing there, staring at her. His eyes were bright and his smile seemed to stretch to both his eyes.

“May I call you Hannah?” He asked. She nodded. “Well, Hannah” he said, as if testing out her name, “Your passion in there really struck a chord with me. It’s been a long time since I have met someone so on fire, and well… quite frankly so beautiful too.”

She felt her heartbeat quicken. She didn’t know how to take the compliment. She wasn’t sure of what she was doing- just that she would do anything for her and her son. Titus plowed ahead. “I wanted to see if I could see you again… maybe try some more of your cricket food?” He grinned at her and any walls she had came crashing down.

“Absolutely.” She said, as she took the tray from him and turned to go. Her face hurt from how much she was smiling.

***

Hannah was running around making last minute adjustments to the dinner, lighting candles and watching the clock. She hadn’t been this nervous since she was dating her ex-husband back in college. She felt giddy.

She hadn’t told him about her son yet. It would be obvious once he walked in the house, despite all her efforts to clean up his toys, she couldn’t erase the evidence. Not that she wanted to, but it was a difficult subject to broach.

Just as she ladled the final scoop of steaming tomato sauce over the pasta the doorbell rang. She threw off her apron, tossing it over a box of live crickets in the pantry, and hurried to the front door. She took a deep breath to calm herself, and checked her hair and makeup in the entryway mirror. Her hair was a little frizzy, but she couldn’t help it. Opening the door, she saw Titus standing on the step. Everything about him was perfection. A crisp green shirt complimented his dark tousled hair, and made his eyes seem to glow. He revealed a bouquet of flowers, and a grin.

“They’re beautiful. I can’t tell you the last time someone gave me roses.” She ushered him inside and took the flowers. “Let me find a vase for these. They would look wonderful on the table.”

“Speaking of wonderful, you look great tonight.” Titus said. “Not that I didn’t like the skirt suit, but this is definitely a more flattering look.” Hannah was happy that her back was turned as she thanked him. Blushing as much as she was couldn’t be a good thing on the first date. She had to try and keep it together.

“There. Perfect.” She said as she placed the crystal vase in the center of the table. It really did complete the spread. Titus pulled out her chair and she sat. Joining her, he placed his napkin on his lap and she followed suit. “I hope you brought your appetite, because I ended up making a whole lot. I’m still trying to get portion sizes right. You’re not afraid to eat more crickets are you?”

“I don’t see any crickets on the table.” Titus said, surveying the pasta and salad.

“That’s the beauty of it. They are combined with other ingredients in the pasta. You don’t see them, but all of the health benefits are there. And it’s all gluten free to boot.” Taking a bite of the pasta she could see Titus smile. “Taste good?”

“To be quite frank” he said, dabbing at his mouth with his napkin, “I tend to think most health foods are just shadows of the real thing. But this… this adds something great. It’s almost a bacon undertone.”

Hannah beamed. “I’m glad you like it.” They locked eyes for a moment and she felt an energy passing between them that had nothing to do with the food. A trace of sauce was left on his lips. She gestured to it, and he licked it off slowly. She had to look away. Raising her wine glass to her lips she tried to settle her breathing. What was it about him that made her come so easily undone? It had been a long time since anyone had made her feel this way.

“Hannah?” Titus said quietly, folding his napkin and placing it on the table.

“Yes?”

“Can I be frank with you? I came here tonight not interested in crickets, or gluten free food. Don’t get me wrong, you cook wonderfully, and I really think you have a great business plan, but… I don’t think that is all there is to you. From the moment you walked into that meeting with that nervous smile and unfailing determination… I was hooked.”

“Titus…” she protested. She didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t that she was upset with what he was saying; in fact it was quite the opposite. “I have a lot of baggage.”

“Don’t we all?” he said rising. He walked over to her and took her hand. “Please give me a chance. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I have a feeling that it will be worth it.” He took her hand and raised it to his lips, kissing it tenderly. The feeling sent shivers down Hannah’s spine.

“Yes.” She said with a smile breaking over her whole face. She stood and embraced him. His lips met hers and he pulled her in closer. The sound of crickets chirping enveloped them, and Hannah knew this was the beginning of something wonderful.

——————————
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share your thoughts and constructive criticism in the comments below. This was my first short story outside of school, and I had fun with it, but know I can still learn.

Post Mortem (NaNo Wrap-up)

Nano Post Mortem

post•mor•tem
pōstˈmôrdəm/

• An examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death.
• An analysis or discussion of an event held soon after it has occurred, especially in order to determine why it was a failure.

When I was attending college studying theatre, we would always hold a Post Mortem after each production. It was structured where we would ask three questions of ourselves and the department:

1. What worked?
2. What didn’t work?
3. What did I learn?

I think that this can be an excellent exercise for almost any project that you take on- whether you succeed or fail, it is important to be able to identify what things contributed to the outcome and learn from it.

My final word count as of 11/30 was: 60,577. I was a winner of NaNoWriMo, and met my personal goal of 60,000. I have not however, finished my first draft.

So, in this vein I will examine my first experience with NaNoWriMo:

1. What worked?

-Prep and Plotting
I did a lot of Prep (you can read about it in my previous blog posts) before NaNo started. I explored several different methods, and in the end, it paid off. I was able to sit and write without worrying about where my plot was going, or who the characters were. I had enough space to play and develop, but I had a roadmap as well. It also helped slow me down and not skip ahead to the next super exciting plot point. I have a good pace going where things are developing nicely.

-Writing in the morning
I have never been a morning person… but I can say, my best writing happened in the mornings. When I was in my routine and fully focused I could write and write. Not to say that I didn’t write at other times, but I had so many other distractions later in the day.

-NaNoWordSprints/Twitter
I turned to Twitter in the third and fourth week. Wordsprints and timed writing sessions were never about the high word count for me, but rather a focusing tool. I was being held accountable… sure no one would chastise me for not writing, but it was a little push I needed. I also followed a lot of different resources for writers, finding inspiration and great advice.

-Forums for Research
The Nano forums are a dangerous place… it is very easy to lose track of time reading there, but when I used them correctly they were great. Occasionally I would hit a place in my writing where I had a hole in my knowledge, and hadn’t researched. Usually it was something that a quick Google search couldn’t solve, so I would post to the forums and be able to breathe, go back to writing, and get some great responses.

-Writing goals were reasonable
2,000 words a day was a good goal for me. I picked it arbitrarily, but mostly because it was easier to do the math than with the standard 1,667. This goal kept me ahead of par, and I was able to take two days off this month for personal things, without falling behind and feeling guilty. Some days reaching two thousand words felt like scaling a mountain, but others it was so easy that I wrote above and beyond.

2. What didn’t work?

-Vague areas in my outline
I’m not sure how to fix this, but there were some places in my outline where I had ideas, but no actual scenes. I had written things like “Stuff happens here to show the disaster.” Great, but that doesn’t help when writing. I need to pay attention to where the characters are, and what the conflict is in each scene instead of just what it needs to accomplish. I had only some of the pieces and this made some parts extremely difficult.

-Microsoft Word?
I use Word for everything. I’m typing this blog post up in Word right now. I have used it when freelancing in the theatre, and school for forever. I utilized a lot of the cool tools available, and yet, this is the first project I’ve attempted on this scale. It is getting unwieldy, but I’m not sure about switching to Scrivner or some of the other programs out there. I may try the free trial for the planning of my next plot and see how I feel about it.

-Oversharing
I started the month sharing daily updates in several places- Facebook included. However it started to feel like a nuisance and I was worrying more about what people would say, etc than it was worth, so I ditched the overshare, and just kept it to my daily e-mails to my family.

-Procrastination
Procrastination is an ugly beast, and I don’t think it will ever leave me alone. Sometimes it is just hard to sit down, focus and write, even with the best intentions in the world. Does that make me a bad writer? No, I think it only makes me human. I will continue to strive to do better.

3. What did I learn?
First and foremost, I can do this. I can easily write 2,000 words most days and write well.

Even the best plans are not a complete thing. I thought my outline was as good as it was going to get and couldn’t be any more specific, but when I started working it was vague in a lot of areas- This showed me that I can’t plan everything out and it’s okay. Sometimes you have to slow down, and the plot will unfold. Stephen Kings talks about this in his book On Writing as the ‘excavation’ of the story.

I still like to write. I have something to say. This is exciting. I don’t want to throw it all out, or never type another word again.

I work very well with goals/pressure. I always did in theatre and school, and because I have a relatively open schedule nowadays, the daily writing goals were great motivators.

In conclusion…
NaNoWriMo was overwhelming at times. I thought I would breeze right through, and I didn’t. I did meet my goals and persevere however. It was a great jump start to my novel writing and I will be forever grateful.

You will find as many opinions of NaNoWriMo as you will find people on this planet. I won’t bother to list the myriad of articles and blogs that love or hate it. You can procrastinate on google for a good long time doing that (believe me.) I would recommend someone try NaNo if it sounded like a good idea to them, and something motivating rather than crushing, but it depends a lot on your own personal reasons for participating. It isn’t really a competition against other people, so if you want to use the month as motivation to help you write, you shouldn’t really worry about what other people are doing. Is a fanfic writer really going to ruin your literary fiction novel? No. The point is to write. And if you were going to write anyway- great! Other people writing (whether it is quality or not) doesn’t hurt what you do.

Finally, I have upped my personal goal to finish this thing before I arrive on the East Coast for Christmas. That gives me 10 more days. At my current rate I should reach about 80K before edits which is still within the recommended guidelines for my genre (New Adult). Hopefully I will have one final update when that is complete!

How did your NaNo go? What worked/didn’t work for you? What did you learn? Let me know in the comments below!

Fights and the Finish Line (NaNo Week Four)

Nano Progress Week 4

The final week of NaNo… The fights were literary AND real. I attacked my first fight scene in the novel with some trepidation. I also had to fight to sit down each day and write. As much as I love my story (still!) it is difficult to tune everything else out and get over that initial hurdle to write. There are officially two days left in the month and contest, but I am proud to report that this week, I crossed the imaginary finish line! I have a stretch goal of 60K for myself, but I made it to the NaNo winner’s circle, and it was a nice little boost, despite how far my story still has to go.

Total Word count: 56,878 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week: 
– I hit 50K!
– I managed to keep writing despite hitting 50K. This one was harder than I thought. It was exciting to reach the winners page and watch the fun cheering video, but then I stopped writing that night, short of my daily goal. I came back though and wrote a lot on the next day.
– My fight scene isn’t awful. It was weird to write, but I think I was psyching myself out too much beforehand. I took the time to outline it step by step on some scrap notes and was then able to just sit and write, having already thought of the necessary hits, injuries, etc.

Struggles this week:
– Sitting down to write after thanksgiving. I had planned on possibly writing something that day, because I wasn’t sure how long dinner and socializing would be here. This is our first year in Bush Alaska, and we celebrated with other teachers. Dinner was fantastic and the company was even better- we didn’t go to sleep until after midnight. Because of that, I slept late and as I have been normally taking mornings to write, I was thrown off. Habits are good, but sometimes they inhibit you as well.
– Writing when my husband is home is harder for me. I love to spend time with him, but he distracts me! Perhaps that was why writing in the mornings when he was at school was so much easier.

Inspirations and Surprises:
While on the forums this week I was connecting with others who have hit 50K and are still writing… now I big conflict a lot of people seem to have is the whole quality vs. quantity debate. I however, felt that while I was writing a lot, and staying above the daily goals, was not writing crap. I don’t see the point- If what I write is bad, why write it in the first place. Now, I know it isn’t perfect, but it is the best I can produce the first time around, and I think it is good. So when I came across this ‘Overachiever’ Pep Talk by Catherynne Valente I was stoked. This is what I needed. She says:

“You can be good and fast at the same time.

Though it is important not to put too much pressure on yourself, it is also important to know that quality and speed have absolutely nothing to do with one another. You can write something heart-catchingly brilliant in 30 days. You can do it in 10. There is no reason on this green earth not to try for glory. You’re going to spend these 30 days at the computer anyway. You might as well be mindful while you’re there.”

YES.

-Also for the week, I really forgot how much I love Twitter. The sprints motivate me, and I also love the wealth of information that some of the editors and publishers out there share. It keeps that long term goal in my mind, and jumpstarts me to writing, and finishing my draft!

-Weird confession… I have been looking up agents who would be good to submit to (a loooong time from now when my novel is shiny and polished and the best it can be) when I am feeling down. I did something similar to this when I worked in theatre, where I would apply for the next freelance job and it made me feel better. I don’t know what it is about it, but I now have added a couple of their headshots to my (secret) Pintrest board for my book. It sounds a little creepy when I say it like that…

Anyway, thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the fourth week? Did you enter the winner’s circle?? Let’s continue the conversation below!

Wrestling, Words and the Z.W.D. (NaNo Week Three)

Nano Progress Week 3

This week was an enlightening one for me- I feel like I’m learning a lot from my NaNo journey. As someone who grew up and ended up working in the Arts, I am prone to self-evaluation, and for the most part I think that has helped me grow. So, even though I am sitting here today, not having yet written my words for today, I decided that it was important to reflect on this week, and how it has unfolded. My writing is chugging along, and if I get in my words today I will be exactly on target for my personal goal, and still ahead of the NaNo goal. While I may not be one of the people validating my 50K just yet, I’m still on a roll. So here’s where I stand:

Total Word count: 42,037 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week:
I have managed to stay ahead of the word counts, while still writing what I think are quality scenes. I am also hitting some of the more touchy subject matter in the story, and I believe that I have handled it with care. I’m trying to write a book that is about all the types of beautiful and diverse people that I’ve met- and although my protagonist may be a white girl from small town USA, I’m trying to show that when she leaves her small town, there is a world of people different from her- and they aren’t alien. But rather, human and real. It’s something I’ve personally experienced, and I think it is important to write about- sometimes a book can open someone’s mind and heart, if they haven’t been able to go out into the world themselves.

Struggles this week:
This week I hit a part of my outline that was pretty vague… essentially it said: “Discovery of The Sister” and then, “Introduction of ‘this character'” followed by, “Introduction of ‘this other character'”. Brilliant.

Although I knew what had to happen, I hadn’t decided HOW to show this to my audience. So instead of being able to focus on writing the scenes and making them strong, I was worried about where we were and what we were doing. This made the writing so. dang. slow.

So finally, after a day of agonizing writing that was like wading through molasses to get from word to word, I made myself a cup of tea, and sat on the couch with my husband. I started to talk it through. What did my characters want? What would they be doing to get that? What was it like where they were? By asking these questions, and with the occasional comment from the husband (who was pretty wrapped up playing Skyrim to be honest) I figured out where I was going with the outline. So then I sat down and typed up the basic idea for about the next 5 or 6 scenes that I had to write.

The next morning, I was back in the groove. I could picture the scene and live in it, so that I was just writing what I saw happen. It was wonderful.

Inspirations and Surprises:
I think the most important thing that I’ve learned this week is that sometimes it’s okay to take a break. I’ve always been an overachiever and someone who would literally push myself to the breaking point (and end up sick) to achieve a goal. This week started out difficult, but I took a day off to travel with the school’s wrestling team to a tournament in Bethel (I will blog about this after November!) and -gasp- didn’t write a SINGLE WORD on Friday. The dreaded NaNoWriMo Z.W.D. (Zero Word Day) And Surprise; It didn’t kill me. I’m not drowning in good old Catholic guilt. I am sitting down today, and I’m going to write, with a clearer mind, and excited again about my project. Like everything, persistence is important but you can overtax yourself- taking a break is okay- as long as you make sure you get back to work!

Thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the third week? Did you hit the goal yet?? Let’s continue the conversation below!