Writer’s Block? Try Writer’s Berlin Wall.

Writer’s Block? Try Writer’s Berlin Wall.

(Note: I am frustrated and venting.)

I don’t like the term ‘writer’s block.’ It’s an icky term. It gives us this mental image of a blob of half dry concrete perched on that handy-dandy box of ideas that roosts inside the creative center of our brains. While this might feel accurate, it is in no way helpful. It makes it seem like this very easy process of removal. Just pick up a sledgehammer, or a local martial artist, and give it a good whack.

japanese-girl-breaks-bricks-with-forehead

(I feel like this could be a useful skill during the apocalypse)

I know, I know. There are a lot of websites out there that tell you that writer’s block is a lie. That it’s something your brain just made up and it doesn’t actually exist. All you have to do is keep writing and you’ll be fine. Or my favorite “If writer’s block is staring you in the face, write about it.”

Yeah…no.

Let’s put some things in perspective first.

Three weeks ago my book came out. (Go check it out)  So far it’s done better than I expected for a first time publication. It hit #3 on the mystery and thriller genre, and #5 on the shapeshifter/paranormal tag. Overall, on Amazon at least, it rests at #7435. I was pleasantly surprised, even though I found a typo or two when I went back and re-read it.

efb5431c91d587f5a6bcc998994d86d7

(I hate commas.)

Yeah, that’s pretty accurate to how I feel since the work went through myself, a very talented editor, and several friends. I was fairly sure that it was free of errors. But hey, I can’t fix it now.

Then a very dear friend told me that I’ve been really hard to get a hold of lately. “You’ve been so focused on writing, I feel bad trying to get your attention.”

And then the spouse says, “Well, I can’t really ask you to do anything. You are always working.”

There was a hurricane. Flooding in the downstairs. And money demands from the IRS. My kitchen was a mess and my spouse kept trying to clean everything…which sounds great until I felt so guilty about not cleaning that I couldn’t concentrate on anything. This eventually turned into me getting into a snip fest with pretty much anything that walk into my line of sight.

Isn’t creativity grand?

7x5yy5g

(I assume each of these actors tried writing a screenplay before filming these scenes)

So let’s look at the list we have here.

  • Feelings of creative inadequacy
  • Guilt for alienating friends and family
  • Anxiety over household chores
  • Hurricane over which I had no control but felt like I should
  • Money issues
  • Household tension

 

Wow, those all sound like anxiety inducing events. Maybe there is some kind of correlation between anxiety and disassociating from your creativity, which may or may not feel like the literary equivalent of hair in the drain. So the nay-sayers who don’t think that writer’s block is real can sniff decade old draino and stop telling me that what I, and thousands of others feel, isn’t real.

Advertisements

Seriously though, horror

Seriously though, horror

I write naughty things. I find something glorious about describing the feel of satin hands sliding across sweaty skin. Or whispered promises and candlelit dinners. It’s fantastic. I’m not ashamed of it. At least I’m not till my conservative 80 year old grandfather looks me in the eye and asks me what my books are about.

That conversation went about as well as you can expect.

That being said, I have a deep and abiding passion for horror. I have a ridiculous collection of horror films (new, old, and remade), I have a slew of shelves devoted to the literary version of the genre, and I even wrote a screenplay based off of the mysterious case of Elisa Lam.

I think part of it is because I live in (almost) rural Virginia. We are very proud of our claim to be the ‘most haunted state in the US’. There is even a very lucrative series of books out there that collect all the local stories. So here I am, surrounded by the idea of ghosts, witches, and mysterious murders, what is a writer to do?

It’s a tad bit hard to cross the genre of romance and horror without it falling more into one than the other. Perhaps I ought to take another pen-name and devote that time and energy to the bump in the night stories.

Or not. Who knows?

Siblinghood of the World Blogger Award

 

First, let me apologize for my absence on this little bitty blog of mine. I’ve been focusing so much of my time on my work and my cookbook (Kitchen Witchery: a Food Magic Guide to the Dark Half of the Year; coming up in 27 days) that I haven’t had a lot of time to give all you amazing followers due attention. Please look for me to rectify this in the future.

Secondly, one of my all time favorite people, Shanon Noel Brady, nominated me for the Siblinghood of the World Blogger Award and since she is incredibly awesome I am going to answer her questions, then create more questions to pass on to some of you. Fun!

Also, she recently got a story published, go check it out!

Now, on to the questions!

  • What was the first story you ever wrote?
    • When I was in the fourth grade my teacher wanted us to understand how books were made. This was an eye opening experience because while I was an avid reader I never really thought about the person behind the pen. I realized that I could be one when I was done being a Magical Space Princess.

      The teacher gave us each a bound book to write and illustrate as we wanted to. Please note…I am a terrible artist. I did, however, manage to scrawl out some wobbly stick figures depicting a rainbow earth worm in search of a magical flower. His name was Henry.

  • What book have you read the most times?
    • The Alienist by Caleb Carr. A novel based in turn of the century New York about the first forensic team that profile and catch a serial killer. It is so wonderfully written, historically beautiful, and it just gets me every time. I love it. It’s strange to me that this is my favorite book. I tend to read things that have a fantastic or magical element but this story is realistic and I still adore it.
  • What are your favorite kinds of characters to write?
    • I love magical people living ordinary lives. The Orc who works the late shift at the gas station while he struggles to finish his first novel. The half elven college student studying magical chemistry. Mermaids with active tiwtter accounts and goblins in law enforcement. I love the idea of the fantastic and the ordinary coming together and studying the world they create.
  • How about your favorite kinds of scenes? (Action, steamy, tragic death, etc…)
    • Like my characters the normal that becomes paranormal. I have a scene where a woman dressed in punk clothes is working in a garden with a cat sunning beside her. She takes her clippings in and puts a pot on the stove as if to cook. But it becomes obvious as the scene progresses that she is casting a spell, the pot is her cauldron, the cat her familiar. All these almost normal things slowly become fantastic.
  • Describe what your writing space looks like?
    • In a word? Messy.
      There are multiple books I use for research piled haphazardly on every surface so long as it is mostly flat. I have several printed out manuscripts in various stages of editing. The topmost shelf is cluttered with figurines and statues of comic book characters and historical figures. Empty cans of Dr. Pepper and half drunk glasses of water roost in between bits of sewing projects that I work on when I get stuck on a scene or idea. There is usually a snack and a feline within arms reach.
  • What do you struggle with the most as a writer?
    • Finishing a project without getting sidetracked. I have about…80 projects spanning a multitude of notebooks and digital documents. During my work I often get ideas for other things and fear loosing it so I will jot down my thoughts…which sometimes leads to me wanting to work on another thing…so on and so forth. The hardest part for me is really focusing on something with enough tenacity to finish.
  • Any recommendations for good music to write to?
    • Okay, I cannot write to music. I know that SO many talented and amazing authors swear by it. But when music is on I wanna get up, clean, move around, dance, sing and play my air guitar. I tend to have a television show on when I write, something I’ve already seen that isn’t loud or distracting. Cooking shows, Star Trek: TNG, The X-Files, and similar to name a few.
  • What is the most age-worn, tattered and battered book on your shelf?
    • A thrift store copy of The Other Boelyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory. I dunno what happened to this poor book before I got a hold of it but there are stained pages, the cover is half gone, dog eared pages, and more.
  • What’s your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
    • The Fog by Stephen King. The story was a great look at what happens to a group of normal people in a very abnormal circumstance. How mob mentality responds to stress and the challenges of survival when your day job is an artist.

      I choose this one not because both the film and the story are amazing in their own rights but because it’s one of the few times where the author flat out admitted that the changes in the film improved upon the story. The movie gave us one of the best endings of all time and if you haven’t seen it…go watch it.

      A very close second would be Interview with the Vampire…but I say that in part because I find Rice’s stories hard to plod through.

  • Do you have a notes system for on-the-go ideas? If so, share with us the most random note you’ve jotted down, even if it only makes sense to you.
    • I do! My most random note that I can remember is: Real Trolls dislike comment sections.

 

So on to my ten questions:

  1. Where do you get your inspiration?
  2. What literary cliche do you secretly love?
  3. What deceased author would you love to speak with?
  4. What book/series does everyone love but you loathe?
  5. Was there a particular book that inspired you to write? If so, what was it?
  6. During what time of day is easiest for you to get creative and why?
  7. Have you ever written something that made you feel uncomfortable?
  8. Do you like to research for your work?
  9. What do you want out of your creative life?
  10. What do you think marks a great book?

 

So, now that this is done it comes to tagging…and I’m going to take the cheap way out and say absolutely anyone who reads this can consider themselves tagged because I am interested in seeing all of the answers. Cheating? Maybe a little…but I’m a tad greedy.

 

Black’s Book Review: The Paper Magician

Publishing Information: September 1st 2014 by 47North
Page Count:  224
Genre: Steampunk, YA, Magical Alternate History, Romance
Note: The First Book in the Paper Magician series, and debut novel of Charlie N. Holmberg

They say to never judge a book by its cover. In this instance I didn’t listen. I had been passing through my local Barns & Noble with the intent of buying basically nothing (fool that I am) and this was sitting on an endcap.

Magic?…Check
Victorian Era?….Check
Female Protagonist…Check

Triple threat, and I was done. There is something I enjoy about a setting that incorporates history and magic. So I decided to fork over the dollars and pick myself up some entertainment.

The story revolves around Ceony, a young magician girl who aspires to be a Smelter, a mage who works with metals. Her dreams are dashed, however, when her academy sets her up in an apprenticeship with (drumroll, please) a paper magician. It’s heartbreaking for the young lady. Paper magic is the weakest of magics, and good for nothing but entertainment.

The lady mage is taken to meet one Mg. Emery Thane who is (shockingly) attractive and relatively young. Without giving too much away Mg Thane has a bit of a secret to his history that will get him in the kind of trouble where he needs rescuing.

How awesome is it to have a story where the lady is rescuing the dude? Very.

The Paper Magician has some excellent strong points. It’s written in elegantly simple prose which make for a quick, albeit well crafted, read.I think I finished the book in about six hours altogether. It had some really beautiful lines too. “Remember you are much different now than you were an hour ago” and “One of his odd smiles, for it was all lip and no eye” and, my personal favorite, “Curse Emery Thane for being such a difficult man to rescue!”

The characters are easy to distinguish from one another. Ceony is young, nineteen during the course of this book, and you can hear that in her speech. Emery hides his uncertainty behind a smile and is a master of derailing questions about himself. It’s easy to feel like you know them from the beginning.

The magical theory is well thought out and easy to understand. Magic can only be created through man made items. Paper, Metals, Rubber, Glass. There is only one forbidden form of magic, Flesh, and it ends up being a big deal in this particular story.

The story is a nice mesh of being heartbreaking and lighthearted. There is a gentleness to the main character that saves her from being that ‘I’m badass because I have traditionally masculine traits’ kind of heroine, which I like. But there are some rather dark moments which are handled by the author and the characters beautifully.

It does have a few drawbacks, however. I was not a fan of the villain being your typical dark curvaceous beauty while the heroine is the waifish pale blonde. I feel that this continues the trope of ‘busty ladies are bad’ and I’ve slowly grown jaded to the trend. I happen to be both brunette and busty and a very nice person, generally speaking.

The romance, while handled well, hits me on a couple of squicky notes. I’m not a fan of a person in a place of power and a person who is in their care becoming romantically involved, even when it starts on the part of the person in care. This is a personal preference, I know, but an important one.

Ceony has no friends. This annoys me. There are reasons that she might draw away from closeness (for the sake of spoilers I wont say why) but these reasons don’t really stop her from developing an attachment for Mg. Thane. I really wish that she had a friend or two upon whom she could have called to help with her adventure. It would have made me feel a little more comfortable about the romance aspect.

Also, I realize that this is a novel geared towards the Young Adult generation but I really feel that the story could have been lengthened to allow me to get a little more invested in the setting. The author clearly has the literary skills to craft fantastic prose, but there were certain moments where I was hungry for more description and a few more scenes.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the story. I would definitely recommend, but the chances of me reading it more than once are slim. I will, however, be picking up the second book when I have the spare money. I would give it a 7.5/10

Black’s Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Publishing Information: Qurik Productions 2011 (reprint 2013)
Page Count: 356
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dark Fiction, Historical Horror
Note: First Book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, also the debut novel of Ransom Riggs

I am not a huge fan of the YA genre. Don’t mistake me, the genre is not without substantial merit. I have very fond memories of my sisters crowding into my bed and asking me to read about Harry and his magical school. I own all of Katniss’s adventures and they hold a special place in my heart as well. Heck, my very favorite series is The Lioness Quartet and I spent a good part of my adolescence in love with a particular fiction character from that setting.

But I also read Stephen King in the second grade, and Anne Rice while I was in middle school, and I found that my literate leanings were towards adult fiction rather than it’s younger cousin. But Riggs’ work came with a provoking cover and my very best friends’ promise that it was spectacular.

That being said it still sat on my To Be Read shelf for about a month before I picked it up this morning.

I was feeling icky. I don’t know if it was something I ate or if the sudden change in temperature was playing havoc with me, but I woke up this morning feeling like a snake was slithering around in my stomach. I managed to crawl to my favorite corner of the couch, my cat following in my inelegant wake, and plopped myself down with the book.

I figured that it, like most YA fiction, would be a simple read and would be just distracting enough to soothe the belly serpent. Next thing I knew it was 2 in the afternoon, the book was finished, and I had forgotten to eat lunch. Or, you know, breakfast for that matter.

To say the book pulled me in would be an exercise in the understatement.

The story is about a young boy of Jewish decent named Jacob who, like many of us, had the desire to have an adventure. This desire was fueled by his grandfathers wild stories about the orphanage that he grew up in and the strange children that lived there.

Of course, the stories are so wild and strange that no one believes him, aside from Jacob, and after a great deal of craziness Jacob discovers that (surprise, surprise) they are true.

I’m not going to say that this story is without its tropes. There is teen love and a little bit of angst, and uncaring parents who pretend to care too much. To be honest I’m okay with all of that because of how the story is written. The prose is flat out phenomenal and I was gripped from beginning to end.

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

Seriously…how awesome is that for an opening line? It was a line I could wholeheartedly and completely empathize with. I had shivers. I was worried, of course, that somewhere along the line I would end up hating the story but it didn’t happen. I grew to enjoy the main character, love some of the side characters, and fully believe in the romance. It was fantastic.

I could go on and analyze why I liked it and how it got to me and all that, but I wont. Instead I am going to tell you to go read it. Go fall in love with it. I did.

Vampires En Vogue

Over the past few years, thanks to the Twilight boom and a great many other YA books that ran along the same vein (pun!) vampires have seen a boom in popularity. This has made some of us jump for joy and some of us cringe.

If your like me you probably did a little bit of both.

It was a really weird for me to witness I was in my mid twenties when my younger sister shoved a novel in my hands and told me that I absolutely had to read it. She and I had exchanged novels before and I trusted her opinion. So that evening I cracked the book and gave it a little look.

I did, in fact, read the entire thing. When I got to the end of it I set the book aside and decided I probably wasn’t going to read the next book. The story just didn’t do anything for me. I understood that the author was trying to take a mythological creature and try to make it her own by making them shiny but it just seemed to fall flat in the character department and the story felt…really dysfunctional.

About six months later everyone was talking about it. Like, seriously…everyone. I was a little flabbergasted (isn’t that an awesome word?) and I didn’t really know what to do with it. I thought perhaps I might have judged the book to harshly and borrowed the rest from my proud Team Jacob, sister and read the rest of the series.

I still didn’t like it. There were parts of the book that made me legitimately uncomfortable. But what surprised me the most is how many people were frothingly protective of the series and how many were vehemently opposed. The most amusing battle of the two wars were a gaming buddy of mine who is a middle aged African American 6’4″ guy and weighing in somewhere near 400 pounds  going up against another friend of his who was tiny, redheaded, and befreckled. The dude was Pro-Twilight. She was not.

What amused me most were the people who thought that this fandom was going to last forever. I tried to explain, so many times, that this was normal and that it wasn’t even the first time I had seen the vampire craze come and go.

Vampires were HUGE in the Victorian Era. I mean, they were the thing. I don’t know if you are aware but the oldest lore about the creature we call vampire revolves around a recently dead becoming possessed, they were more like really quick mildly fresh zombies. They smelled and were gross. It wasn’t until the publication of the (weirdly named) Varney the Vampire that they took on a more aristocratic ideal.

And it became a craze. The serialized publication became a BFD for the era. It would go on to inspire the story Dracula. Then there was Carmilla (Oh my god go read Carmilla) Which inspired…well you see how this went.

Sometime in the late 80’s to early 90’s Anne Rice’s books became a really huge deal. I don’t know if it was the publication of the White Wolf gaming books Vampire: The Masquerade (and the 90’s drama of the same name) or what. But everyone I knew was reading whatever vampire stories they could get their hands on. A while later they were declared “Like, so last year.”

Unless you were me. I continued to be pretty obsessive about the monsters of the Victorian Era.

The difference, I think, was the era that Twilight was born into. The Era of Social Media has a large impact on what’s cool and what isn’t. But it seems to me every couple of generations the bloodsuckers pop up…because they just wont stay dead.

Why is this so important to me? Because I love writing about vampires and werewolves and witches (oh my!) and the fact that people are beginning to get like, seriously upset about this subject confuses me.

“Why are there all these stories about vampires falling in love with human. I don’t fall in love with a cheeseburger” Then dude, I hate to tell you this, but you are totally eating the wrong cheeseburgers. But joking aside…I do not understand why people are STILL so angry about this.

Are you angry that women are swooning over vampire dudes? Then go write about the perfect vampire lady. It would be awesome to read that. I guess what it comes down to is I think there are far more pressing things in this world to be upset about than vampire people and their mortal love interests.

The Sticking Point

I’m so close I can taste it. It is the honey on the back of my tongue, the fuel in my belly. I am left with an ache of wanting more.

Okay, that may have been a tad dramatic, but I think you get the point. I’ve been a little on the quiet side here on my blog and to my beloved followers I am sorry for that. But I have a good reason. Promise! I am nearly finished with my first draft of my first real novel.

It’s not the first thing that I’ve written, nor is it even the first thing that I will publish. I have several poems and one (very) short story taking roost in a couple literary magazines. Those, however, were written out of prompts and at the guidance of a creative writing professor. This story, is all me.

I’m excited. It’s just a first draft, filled to the brim with purple prose and run-on sentences. It will be flayed apart with a red pen and stitched back together with hope…and probably flayed again. Exciting, right?

So here’s the thing. I started my novel on the first of August. I have given myself the deadline of September 3oth. That’s eight weeks to write a rough draft, start to finish. A pretty hefty task, but it’s what I set down for myself.

Then, on the Indie Writers FB page I follow, I get a load of this article. To say I was livid does not begin to express my feelings on the matter. I filed this right up there with word count demands.

So the issue, for me, is this. One year I might write four novels in a year. The next year I may write only one. The fact of the matter is I will take as long as I need to write a book. If I am slapped with inspiration and write a story in six weeks, does that make it automatically bad?

I dunno, let’s go look at The Clockwork Orange, or As I Lay Dying, or Casino Royal. These were all stories heralded for their genius and written in six weeks (or less)

Yes, there have been novels that took YEARS to finish. Gone with the Wind took ten years. The Lord of the Rings came out sixteen years after The Hobbit did. The Goldfinch, The Hounds of Morrigan, even The Time Travelers wife (ironically) took forever to get from imagination to publication.

Both are okay!

I guess what I am trying to impart on you is that writing is hard. It’s full of long days and sleepless nights of thinking about the actions of imaginary characters. But, they are written at your speed. If you need to take years to do it, take years. If you can sit down and hammer it out in a month and a half…DO IT. Don’t let some trumped up journalist tell you how long it should take you, how many words you should use, or what you should ignore.

Get down with your bad book self.