When the Dogs Bark: Listen!

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Art sculpture is titled “Muddy Dog” and produced by a local artist that I’m rather fond of.

I started a new writing project last night. I know I had promised myself to stick it out with only one big story at a time—and not to hopscotch around, dividing my limited writing time. But, the pot of thoughts began boiling many days ago. I honestly tried to put a lid on it, ignoring the flashing of ideas. Yet before I realized it, my main character had a name and a face and a heart full of pain.

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So, when I sat down to declutter the ever-growing paper mess at my desk, my hand casually retrieved a legal pad from the floor. In an instant, I knew the only question was whether I’d use pencil or pen to start writing. The lid had popped off the pot, releasing the steam.

After I’d finished scribbling out the first entry (epistolary), the paper literally vibrated in my hands—holding me as much as I physically held it. I didn’t want to go to sleep, afraid I’d lose that connection. No worries! In fact, in spite of spending a rushed day running about, including work on a dental crown, the story is still strong. I garnered a nice collection of napkins, receipts, and Post-its scribbled with written material.

So, when the dogs are barking or the pot of water is boiling, pay attention. Listen, don’t suppress! Perhaps everything does have its own season and time. Maybe this is the very right moment in time to write this one particular story. I will listen and write!

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My first interview (kinda) . . .

Well, I was interviewed once by a very rural newspaper. I’d won first place in a national recipe contest. That was a cool experience, but my author Q & A interview with WOW! was surprisingly awesome. Feel free to check it out! There are some writing tips included, and perhaps more personal insights than I should’ve divulged. Here!

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The above books I ordered with some of the prize money!

The naming game . . .

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My writing has hit a wall! One made out of colorful Post-its, carefully pinned to the corkboard above my desk. I’m at that point in the story where it doesn’t feel right to continue calling the characters by generic names. That worked in the beginning for practicality and momentum. Not now.

This became painfully obvious when I introduced my lead character’s sidekick. Dialogue was stifled and lacking. Liveliness missing. He needed to be named, like all things created.

From this fantasy story’s conception, he’s been called simply, “Red Man.” It’s a literal observation. Similarly, other characters had/have temporary names, e.g. Yoda-like dude (short, wise, and speaks his mind). So, I pulled out the baby-naming books and my overflowing “naming” file—full of scraps scribbled with cool-ish names that I’ve come across. I find them everywhere: books, magazines, movies, the shoe boxes at Kohl’s, name tags of service workers, and even the yearly unclaimed money/property register. I do, however, draw the line at searching the obituaries. (That’s actually a story idea in the making, hmmm . . .)

But nada. Again, I’m at a standstill. I need the perfect name and it eludes me. A solid and strong name, perhaps one from long ago that can be resurrected and recycled.

I’d love to hear from other writers! What is your character-naming process? I’m especially curious how fantasy and/or other uncommon world genre writers come up with character names.

 

Difference Between a Hobby and a Calling

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For the longest time, my husband has considered my writing a hobby, and often refers to his enjoyment of fishing as a comparison. This infuriates me, because writing, to me, is so much more. I believe it to be my calling. Something I don’t necessarily want to do, but rather its nagging and berating calls me to respond. To act, to write.

Anyway, after considering the matter, I’ve realized that perhaps I was not fully understanding the comparison. Indignation aside, I had quite the epiphany. What if I was only applying my own assumptions/perceptions of what fishing meant to me? I failed to understand what fishing meant to hubby. So, I thought about it . . .

He loves throwing a line into stilled water, watching the undulating ripples, anxiously awaiting that pull from the other end. He calls this time his peace. Mind roaming, relaxed, and embracing nature. So, I get that now. Maybe that was the intended comparison. I was simply hung up on the word “hobby.” Maybe I expected a more elegant lexicon to acknowledge my efforts.

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I mean, writing is a very internal process, requiring lots of snapping synapses to flick just right. It is hard, frustrating sometimes, conjuring up new worlds, or characters that actually think and feel and act in all sorts of crazy, human-ish ways. It can be exhausting. Whereas, fishing is an external interaction in the living, tangible environment—outside of self. Yet, in the end, both can provide the same result: a feeling of unawareness to the walls of everyday life that otherwise enclose us.

Sometimes, I think we all get hung up on the precise meaning of words, adding in our own (mis)perceptions too. We don’t stop to realize that not everyone shares the same experiences and interpretations.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung

So, I won my first writing contest…

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Well, I won second place. However, it feels like I won it all, because, the true competition was within myself. See, I’ve been dabbling in writing for the last year and half, or so, unsure and uncertain—basically fearful of immerging myself completely. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I was wasting time that could be more productively spent elsewhere? Thankfully, the biggest “what if” unwavered: What if I don’t try?

This spring, after months of abandoning my writing, and then mentally beating myself up for not writing, I had an honest discussion between my heart and head. It boiled down to one statement: Either commit yourself to writing, or quit. I could not accept the latter. I just couldn’t let it go (I’m a bit stubborn). I’d heard the promised whisper of what should be, coming to me when I needed it most. Writing helped me through a very difficult time. And there I was, neglecting it and its purpose—and ultimately, myself. That had to change. I needed to banish the doubtful, self-contrived comments to the farthest reaches of my comprehension.

I also made the decision to re-start one of my several stories (all in various stages of development) and stick with it until the very end. No more daydreaming between various characters and worlds (unless something just happens to pop in my head). I’d be resolute, dedicated. I have to say, this obvious method is working, much to my chagrin.

Anyway, late one evening, while goofing off, I googled “writing contest.” I just happened to stumble upon Women On Writing! (WOW!) and saw that they had a quarterly flash fiction contest ending soon. From nowhere, a vision played out, a flash. Immediately, I wrote it down.

My inspiration: “The fair nymphs of this isle are in wonderful tribulation…” ~Francis, Lord Rawdon. I had recently heard/read of that famous British Army quote, from the Revolutionary War. It bothered me, or more precisely the story behind the quote’s meaning did. It angered me. Not because atrocities of that nature didn’t happen, or still don’t, but because it had occurred so freely on American soil. So, I envisioned being a mother with a young daughter to protect, and from that place of desperation, “Revolution” was born. And, in fact, it may become a full novel someday. 😉 Revolution
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Falling off the Wagon

Yes, I have fallen from that bumpy, rickety novel-writing wagon! It’s not such a far fall, really. It’s quite easy to accomplish when you’re not holding on. Just a small bump in the road or a tree blocking the way, that’ll do it. I could list a zillion real-life reasons: kids, my first dental crown (ugh!), keeping up with cooking, cleaning, and household duties, this blog/social media, kids, and kids. However, the reasons are but glorified excuses. I should’ve been holding on, keeping at least a pencil in my hand or a finger on the keyboard.

So, for ten days or more, absolutely nothing has progressed in my current novel. My characters are frozen in time, trapped, awaiting the keystroked words to come save them, carry them forward. Thankfully, I’ve developed the awesome habit of outlining, and with the help of many, many Post-it notes, their story is safe and ready for the telling.

I felt a pang of guilt last night when unwrapping my nightly morsel of Dove dark chocolate. It revealed the following message: “Keep the promises you make to yourself.” Yeah, I had promised to write every single day. But then, I have to allow myself some softness. Because looking at the myriad of excuses, I did accomplish a lot of somethings—just not writing. Although, I did write a little poem. In the end, I suppose we all have to decide what to do with the time we are given. (I think I just re-worded my favorite Gandalf quote!) 😉

Today is a new day, and I will begin again!

“Man starts over again every day, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows.” ― Emil Cioran

Add words into your child’s daily life . . .

A couple of years back, I decided to add a “word board” to our already cluttered kitchen wall. A nice visual to gaze upon over a bowl of morning cereal, reminding the kids of school. Although, I still read aloud nightly to my children, it’s not enough to combat the increasing infiltration of electronics insidiously creeping into our home—and the school as well. So, with a discarded, glass-less frame and some purchased dry-erase backing, I made the board you see here for less than five bucks.

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I began by adding, or updating, two or three words weekly. It wasn’t long before I was scribbling meaningful quotes, mantras, or scripture as well. I want to foster kindness, empathy and other attributes amongst my children, and I believe words have the power to do that. (For a short time, I added a Spanish word-of-the-week, but this didn’t go over so well.) While the weekly “word board” talk about philosophical meaning and/or the definition discussion isn’t mind-blowing, it is often engaging and usually near the mark. Regardless, they are thinking!

Honestly, my kids now seem acceptingly indifferent to the board, and have come to expect it to be updated regularly. Of course, they don’t recall the meaning of every word that’s been presented, but many words, especially those that we’ve made everyday connections to, have become part of their vocabulary. And that, makes it so worth it!

What’s their all-time favorite word? Insolent: it is heard quite often here 😉