2015…Don’t be a jerk

I did not make any New Year’s resolutions this year.  My fitness journey I’ve already started, my writing life is going well.  Since I’ve begun taking care of myself both physically and emotionally through creative work, I’ve learned how to love and laugh more and all that good stuff.  So this isn’t really about me.  It’s about this trend I’m seeing where it seems to now be okay to degrade people who do make resolutions.

Yes, i understand that no one actually needs a new year to make a resolution or goal.  If you want it or dream it, just go for it whenever you feel ready. But for some people, the new year does bring the promise of starting over. Personally for me 2014 was a relatively bad year (I say relatively because there were people that had it worse, much worse, than I did) so I get that when that new year rolls around it’s like a breath of fresh air to the struggling person.

As long as someone is serious about changing something in their lives, we as friends should be supportive. It’s hard because I know the gym is going to be packed with New year’s resolutioners. And yes, many will not make it past February 1 and that’s okay because some will. And maybe that will inspire those who dropped out to come back at some point and change themselves.

One other things that bothers me: people who say that you shouldn’t need to make resolutions because you should love yourself as you are.  Okay…but making a resolution or goal to change doesn’t mean that you don’t like yourself. All it means is that you want to enrich your life, become more, stretch yourself more. It doesn’t need to be such a negative thing. I can love myself but still have goals to make my life better. They’re not exclusively mutual concepts.

So, if you don’t have a goal or you’re already knee deep in change, remember that we’re all on this watery rock together. Be supportive, be graceful, be the kind of person that makes the world a better place for others who may be struggling.

There's never a bad time

There’s never a bad time

SJWG Annual Holiday Party

Here are a few pictures from the annual South Jersey Writers’ group annual party. Held this year at South Jersey local cafe, The Treehouse, one of our favorite places to hangout, write, and drink coffee, we definitely had a lot of fun mingling and recognizing the great writers we have in the group.

For more information about the SJWG and what we’re all about, please visit us at southjerseywriters.com.

Gregg presenting awards

Gregg Feistman, Board member, presenting awards

group shot 4 group shot 3

Cake brought by Christine Hardy

Cake brought by Christine Hardy

Christine Hardy with 2 anthologies she appeared in for 2014

Christine Hardy with 2 anthologies she appeared in for 2014

Na-nono-Wrimo? Or, AKA…December

It’s December. National No Novel Writing Month for me. Yes I am coming down off the high from my Nanowrimo win. A Stitch in Time clocked in at 50,001 words. Although not finished, I’m well on my way to completing it. But you will not see me writing 50,000 words in December.

As Lisen Minetti, pointed out in her blog post, What About December?, it’s a tough month for writing what with holiday shopping, decorating, and partying plus year-end work pressures. But, if you’re like me, you’re geared up creatively from the November rush and you’re looking forward to January with new goals and *gulp* resolutions.

I thought I’d take a page from Lisen and bullet out my December project wish list. Of course, I’d LOVE to get all this done in December and take 2015 by storm. But history tells me reality will be quite different. But here goes anyway:

  • Complete A Stitch in Time (looking at about another 10,000)
  • Revise Small Town Ghosts based on Jennifer M. Eaton‘s detailed feedback (and a big shout to Jennifer,whose book Fire in the Woods, is, well, on fire lol)
  • Revise The Whistling Man short story for entry in a competition due January
  • Resend out another short story which received rave comments from beta readers, but can’t seem to find a home
  • Write reviews for several books I’ve read over the past couple of months.

*whew* quite a list. No one could ever accuse me of not being ambitious. And of course with all this, I also need to prepare for Christmas and my son’s 8th birthday, which reminds me that I need to scroll through Pinterest for Minecraft cupcake ideas…

Yeah...I'll get right on that

Yeah…I’ll get right on that

Writing Retreat: November’s Getaway (and Nanowrimo!!)

I just realized i completely blew it.  I have a NaNoWriMo 2014 page set up on this blog and I totally forgot about it. There it sits all lonesome and not updated. Ah well…maybe it will be updated by November 30th, hmmm?

For those of you in the dark, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and the aim is to write a novel (or a good chunk of one) in 30 days (November) with the “winning” goal being at least 50,000 words. That’s 1,667 words a day for those good with math and consistency.

For others, like me, it’s more like this:

Day 1 – Hey I wrote 5,000 words!

Day 2 – hey I Wrote 4,000

Days 3,4,5 – Ok made it to 1,667 words each day, yay me

Day 6 – Well, I got 1,000 words in. I can make it up.

Days 7 through 21 – …

Day 22 – Crap, I need to write like 23,000 words this weekend!

Which leaves us at November 23. It is the annual South Jersey Writers Nano retreat at Nockamixon State Park, PA. I have written 17,000 since 6pm Friday night. Pretty much I have reached maximum word level vomit for a 48-hour period. I have also changed the trajectory of the story about three times, which I guess is ok for a first draft. I’m a pantser so my first 50,000 word draft is basically an outline. I had wondered if I should start over once I figured a few things out but I am moving on, just switching gears mid-story. That’s what my edited drafts are for.

Some people love Nano ( as we call it) and some people hate it. Probably for the same reason: you basically pour out 50,000 words of crap in one month. I think the people that hate it really miss the point. Words belong to everyone and everyone deserves to write their story if they choose. Of course, writing down your story does NOT make it publishable. That’s where a writer’s years of trial and error, experience, and hard work come in – the editing and rewriting process. (Warning analogy coming!)

Like singing, everyone has the right to sing. But, as American Idol tryouts prove, only those who have worked to train their voices and understand reading music and all that other stuff I don’t understand since I sound like a frog with laryngitis when I sing, deserve to head to the next round. You see what I did there? Singers use voice to sing, and writers use voice to illustrate their character…nevermind.

So, naysayers gonna naysay, but I’ll be a wearing my dragon t-shirt in December.

[Halloween fiction] Her Revenge

For over three hundred years I have waited, trapped, suffocated by spells and prayers in my grave as my body rotted around me. Three hundred years as the world passed me by, and I listened, plotting. Those who entombed me here were long dead, their prudish ideas waxing and waning, mostly waning as the centuries died and this new one was born. Ah, but their descendants still lived, breathed, and bred.

Now, I fly free, my spirit set free by the greedy land developers that uprooted the old cemetery, busted open the ancient coffins, and broke the seals on the spells enslaving me. I roam the bat-haunted skies, searching for one who can help me exact my revenge.

The city streets below my spirit are bright, unlike the cobblestone or mud-splattered streets of my youth, where darkness reigned complete once the sun went down. Now lights line every road, burn from many windows, and shine from cars speeding around like demonic vessels. Never in all my years as a living woman, or as an imprisoned soul, could I have imagined a world such as this. People strolling through the late-night streets, dancing in smoke-filled rooms to pounding music, or even just enjoying the night in their modern homes, so removed from nature and its attendant darkness, from the horrors that wait just beyond their sight.

Now, the forests and deep woods are gone for many of them. They know not the frenzied dances in the isolated clearings at midnight, the crazed circles forming around the bonfire, the shadowed shapes that would flit among us, the booming voices from The Other Side. Nor would they really know the wild animals that hunted in the dark forests, the sheer wildness of life before their revolutions, which tamed them. Tamed, and took something from them and from the night. They no longer fear the darkness the way they should.

Now I am the hunter. I am the one who was wronged all those centuries ago, hanged, and buried, while their little priests sought to forever banish my soul. Little did they know, something of me survived and waited. Now on this night of all nights, when the veil between the two worlds was at its thinnest was I, freed from my chains, able to reach across.

Now I see one that I could use. She walks alone, in these hours before midnight, going from party to party. I could almost smell her, if a bodiless spirit can smell. Either way, she burned for me. A descendant of one who laughed as my body swung. She turns up a side street, one relatively dark and close. Cobblestones still line this street and she wobbles from the alcohol.

I swoop down. She stops, swaying slightly. She rubs her hands up and down her arms, bared because she wants to show off her costume. A ridiculous thing of flimsy, cheap fabric, showing off more leg than a harlot on the prowl. Easy prey.

She continues on a few steps and I surround her. She stops again, swatting at something she cannot see but can feel. I close in.

“What’s going on,” she mutters. I take advantage and enter her mouth, heading toward her center, the heart that beats so quickly. In seconds I am filling her, expanding outward, crushing her soul out. She totters, grabs her throat. She cannot scream as she falls to the ground, kicking her high heels, strapped around delicate ankles. I chose well.

Instinctively, her soul fights back but I am ready. I have had centuries to prepare, to grow strong. Her hold on her body weakens, as she beats her fists against the stone but I know the feeling of victory. With one last push, she is gone, like dust scattered on the wind. Forever to drift, maybe eventually to dissipate. It doesn’t matter to me. I have what I want.

I stretch in my new body, even better than my old one. I am toned, muscled, sleek, made for hunting. I push up to my knees, then steady myself as I stand and open my eyes. Everything seems sharper, more focused now that I have a body.

A footstep behind me. “Are you okay?” a man asks.

I turn, trying on a smile. “Yes, I fell.”

He smiles back, perfect white teeth. He is not dressed in costume, but rather wears a modern suit and tie, his hair flawlessly groomed. I saunter up to him.

His lips part with barely contained lust. I reach out to stroke his arm. “Thank you. I’m on my way to a party. Want to join me?”

“Well, I, uh, just got off work…” he trails off, captivated by me.

“Come on,” I say, tugging him closer to me. I look up to him, lips puckered slightly. He hooks his arm around mine.

“Okay,” he says, staring at me.

I lean in as if to kiss his cheek. His breath comes quick and shallow. I strike.

I grab his head in both hands before he can react, plant my lips on his mouth. I suck, his soul, his essence, his being all mine. After a few moments, his struggles useless, I let go and he flops to the ground. I wipe my lips and walk away.

I still have time. Hours yet till the witching hour. I smile to myself. So many people to choose from. Those enjoying the festivities, those who don’t believe. Again it doesn’t matter to me. They all think they are protected by closed doors and their bright lights. Someone needs to teach them to once again fear the darkness.

-END-

Out now! Reading Glasses: Stories Through an Unpredictable Lens

This week has been quite exciting.  It’s the release of the long-awaited small-press anthology, Reading Glasses: Stories Through an Unpredictable Lens from Hypothetical Press. It’s available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.

Reading Glasses is a speculative fiction anthology that was funded through Kickstarter and sponsored by the South Jersey Writers’ Group.

Suspenseful and mysterious, with a touch of ironic humor, Reading Glasses will transport you to the very edge of reality.

Reading Glasses cover

Reading Glasses cover

Incapable of sleep and forced  to keep it secret, a young woman searches tirelessly for the truth about her past.

A man seeking escape from his mistakes happens upon a dried up bayside settlement with unfinished business of its own.

A spinster returns to her childhood home to teach a valuable lesson to family vultures descending on her final days.

In a dystopian future where reading and writing are illegal, a fringe dweller discovers a pair of glasses that proves the literary world is alive and well.

A boy hiding a secret from himself rescues a tiny turtle, and soon discovers that a hard exterior isn’t the solution.

Under the threat of international warfare, a woman coming to terms with the death of dear friends learns that their disappearance was not as permanent as it appeared.

A highborn priestess’ faith is tested when she learns that even those she trusts the most can betray everything she believes in.

An  old man with a terminal illness, who feels he got life all wrong, wants to make sure that at least he gets death right.

Escape to the lives of these curious characters, and lose yourself in thirteen original stories. From life on a space station to tales that orbit a little too close to home, Reading Glasses is a compelling, fantastical departure from the familiar.

50 of My Favorite Things

Back last winter, my friend Shveta and I were talking about writing and creativity as we normally do and she challenged me to list things, phrases, etc that inspire me and that I like. Having both the need to write a blog post and the inability to come up with a coherent topic, I thought this would be a good exercise. This list is not ranked, does not include the obvious things like my family or my favorite books/bands etc (ie. too much specificity), and is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure I will think of things tonight as I fall asleep. I decided on 50 because I would be writing this all day trying to think of things.

I challenge you to do the same and link back here to your blog page.  I want to see and read about you!pumpkin patch

  1. The moon
  2. candles
  3. pumpkins
  4. autumn
  5. the sky during a cold winter dawn
  6. hot apple cider
  7. mulled wine
  8. stonehenge
  9. Wales
  10. magic
  11. books/reading
  12. goth/industrial music
  13. ancient history
  14. the renaissance
  15. the dark ages
  16. coffee
  17. cafes
  18. sitting under a tree to read
  19. thunderstorms
  20. the ocean/the beach
  21. cats and lolcats
  22. the colors black, purple, silver
  23. ocean-inspired color palettes
  24. lighthouses
  25. velvet
  26. black lace
  27. capes
  28. world of warcraft
  29. halloween
  30. fantasy and scifi/specfic
  31. rockabilly fashions
  32. makeup
  33. long, full, swishy skirts
  34. stompy combat boots
  35. leopard print anything
  36. buying stationery/supplies
  37. learning new things/researching
  38. libraries
  39. the smell of books
  40. lifting weights
  41. wildly colored hair
  42. cemeteries
  43. art museums
  44. snuggling in with a good book on a rainy day/night
  45. cups of tea with honey
  46. taking walks on crisp, cool days
  47. the silhouette of bare trees against a full moon
  48. world of warcraft
    nailpolish
  49. aliens
  50. hello kitty

Small and Shiny Things – Magpie Tales by Neil Murton

Sometimes you come across something so perfect, so absolutely stunning you want to shout to the world what you’ve found. That’s the way I feel about British writer Neil Murton’s 100 word stories.  I’ve been following him on Facebook for a while, enjoying his postings of 100 words of absolute perfection. Sometimes they are random topics, sometimes they are inspired by prompts from friends and readers, sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes amusing but always enjoyable and thought provoking.

I tried to write a 100 word story once (actually twice) with varying results. I will say one thing – it’s hard. I have nothing but admiration for Mr. Murton in that he is able to tell whole evocative stories in such a short space, stories which stay with the reader.

Lucky for me and for you, Mr. Murton has collected 175 pieces of flash fiction into a book, called Magpie Tales available here if you are in the United States and basically from most of your local Amazon sites if you are outside the US. What a wonderful book to have which you can savor in small nibbles maybe as you wait in line somewhere, or sneak a few stories in during your lunch break.  Something to read to your significant other, your child, your best friend in little bite-sized pieces.

Here is the description:

Some people say you can’t get much story into 100 words. This book’s here to prove them wrong. In these 175 stories, you’ll hear about the girl whose mother is the moon, you’ll meet the cuddly penguin with a protective streak, and you’ll understand why the Duelling Master of Zurich hates kitchenware. You’ll find unicorns and gods, love and monsters, sadness, circuses, romance and ambition. They’re Magpie Tales because this isn’t a collection with a theme. It’s a collection of shiny things. Some might make you cry. Some might make you laugh. But they’ll all try to make you think, and see how much you can really pack in to just 100 words.

Magpie Tales

Magpie Tales

Love this cover and can’t wait to add it to my book collection. If you’d like to connect with Mr. Murton, please visit his website. And I recommend that you do.

As an added bonus. Mr. Murton has given me permission to reproduce one of his stories here. To be honest, I had trouble picking just one but I liked the whimsy of this one (plus Benedict Cumberbatch is mentioned).

Perspective

Our couples’ therapist told us we should try to see things through each other’s eyes.

So we swapped.

I’m already noticing differences. The dark alley just before you reach our front door looks more unnerving. The crisps I eat at lunch taste of guilt. Benedict Cumberbatch seems… more.

I mean, damn.

But the biggest change is my own reflection. I look beautiful.

And it’s not just me. The first time she saw herself with my eyes, she blushed.

We swapped back, and we’re better. Turned out it didn’t matter how we saw everything else. Only how we saw each other.

 

 

Getaway: Why a writing retreat?

For those of us who, for various reasons, are not full-time writers, finding uninterrupted time to write is often a huge challenge. You might have a dayjob, family, household upkeep, social obligations and a thousand other things more “pressing” than finding time to write. Or, like me, getting up early to write isn’t always an option so you look forward to that time at night when you can squeeze an hour or two in, assuming that is, that you don’t fall asleep from sheer exhaustion.

 

Sign at Walden Pond

Sign at Walden Pond

And that’s why I advocate for time away at a writing retreat. Sure, it takes a little planning and some small investment (more on that) but you don’t need to spend a fortune just to get away. And the benefits of a writing retreat, even if just for a couple of days, can pay off in the long run.

  1. Most importantly, uninterrupted writing time. Basically you get to luxuriate in hours and hours of time just for your writing. I often get up early and start working when my mind is fresh. With a few breaks and some good food, I can usually go late into the night. On some retreats, I have managed upwards of 10,000 words!
  2. No worries about chores or feeding other people. Say you’re lucky enough to score a day where you can stay home and write. If you have a family, you still probably need to worry about meal times, laundry, dishes and assorted other every day things. It’s bound to happen when you’re at home. Getting away relieves you of these mundane worries – all you need to do is feed yourself. Again, with some planning, you can make ahead casseroles or crockpot dinners (or go even simpler with cold sandwiches), eat, then be back to writing in no time
  3. Breaks without guilt. Sounds counter-intuitive but you need a few breaks during your day. Go for a walk, stretch, read a passage of good writing or some writing advice. These breaks can refresh your mind and body and you can have them without getting caught up in household problems if you were at home. Just try and stay off the internet. That’s a black hole you need to avoid!

You may be thinking that you can’t afford a writing retreat. Sure, I’d like to spend a week on a Greek isle, or in Wales, but this isn’t always financially feasible (and having the time is another barrier). Get creative! Look into cabins at local state parks. Find a hotel that you can stay at with minimal expense. Do you have a friend with a seasonal home who would be willing to extend some time to you? Look into off-season stays at vacation spots – I live about an hour from the Jersey shore and there’s always a weekend deal to be had October through April. Plus, I love the beach just as much off-season as I do in the summer.

So, take the time you need as a writer, even if it’s a long weekend, to recharge and put your writing first. And don’t forget – you may be able to deduct the expense from your taxes! But that’s another post.

Walden State Park

Walden State Park

Shore in autumn