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Today I can have a pumpkin frapp, or latte…

IMG_8327Today is fall.  I know we all know this fact, except for those that can profit from the gratuitous and preemptive, pre-extension of holidays.   For the last many weeks, commercially, Halloween, fall and even Christmas have been figuratively pushed down my throat.  Stressed by the almost never-ending list of back-to-school requirements, requests and requisitions of my time:  my mind has mutated this premature “let’s-get-ready-for-the-holidays” mindset into a beast that waits, attempting to insert itself into my already hustled back-to-school month.

So, I vented my rebellious indignation against this unwanted pressure in the only way I could think of:  boycotting.   Did Starbucks notice that I had sworn to not order a pumpkin Frappuccino or latte until fall?  No.  And, a local department store did not take down their Christmas decorations because I openly gawked in incredulous dismay.  For goodness sake,  it was very early September and I was shopping for back-to-school socks!   And yeah, just days ago, that was me shaking my head as I entered the local grocery store–the door was flanked with pumpkins on one side and watermelons on the other.   I bought the watermelon.   After all, I was still wearing flip-flops and it was still technically summer.   My right to enjoy a season or event in its proper time frame is being taken away–it’s being taken away from everyone.

Sometimes it feels like I’m running a marathon, making it to the last mile of the race and the welcome banner is being taken down–and a new race has already started without me.  The week before school and for a few weeks after, days are packed with deadlines, never-ending packets of paperwork, new schedules and myriad of other changes or commitments or demands that need tending to ASAP.   I want to be present for that reality and not be distracted by the impending onslaught of the next busy race.   I mean really, photos of pumpkin “frapps” proudly posted around Facebook the day before my kids even started the school year.

You might be asking, “what the heck does any of this have to do with a writing blog?”  Because I have been struggling, that’s why.   I have not worked on my current novel in over a month.  There I said it.  I feel a mix of shame and regret to admit that, but it is true nonetheless.   I could produce a hugely long list of things I did complete, or have almost completed, but I won’t.  Perhaps venting against the commercial industry is merely a self-soothing way to lessen my guilt at allowing my writing to fall victim to a busy month–or maybe not.

So now it is IMG_8282officially fall.  I can sense a return of “normalcy”(if that even exists).  My kids’ schedules & my volunteering days are plotted, their afterschool events aligned and routine(mostly),  the long back-to-school nights have come and gone, almost all of the paperwork avalanche has been completed and returned to school.  Now, I can return to writing and hopefully get back into a fitness routine, and organize the unorganized  remnants of summer,  but first I must tackle the laundry(yes, this is what just a few days of falling behind looks like)!!!  Oh, and my writing space, yet that is another blog posting  all together!

 

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My first interview(kinda)…

Well, I was interviewed once, by a very rural newspaper when I won first place in a recipe contest.   That was cool, but my writing Q & A interview was a surprisingly awesome experience.   Feel free to check it out, there’s a lot of writing tips and ideas included, and perhaps more personal insights than I should have divulged.

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2013/09/shermie-rayne-second-place-winner-in.html

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

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The naming game…

weird

Last week my writing hit a wall!  That wall was made of colorful Post-its, pinned to the cork board above my writing desk.   I had come to the point in the story where I could no longer get by with general, generic names–those given out in the initial pursuit of practicality and momentum.

As I introduced my leading character’s sidekick, this became painfully obvious.   The words were stifled and lacking, because an element of liveliness was missing.  My character was ready to live and breathe–yet could not!  Hence, he needed to be named, like all things that are created.  (Actually, he still needs to be named.)

From this fantasy story’s earliest conception, he has been called simply: “Red man”.   (Rest assured that this is not an ethnic reference, more of a literal observation.)  Similarly, other characters had/have temporary pet names, take Yoda-like man for example(short, wise and speaks his mind).  So, I pulled out the baby-naming books and my overflowing “name” file, which holds scraps of papers scribbled with various names and words.  Those names are found(stolen) from books, magazines, movies, the shoe boxes at Kohl’s, name tags of workers and even the yearly unclaimed money/property register.  Names are truly everywhere–you just have to be open to receiving them.  I do, however draw the line at searching the obituaries!

Again, I’m at a standstill.  I need the name.  A solid and strong name, perhaps a name from long ago that can be resurrected and recycled.

I’d love to hear from other writers!  What is your character-naming process like?  I’m especially curious as to the naming process for fantasy and/or other uncommon world genres.

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…the difference between a hobby and a calling?

fishsun

For the longest time my husband has considered my writing to be a hobby, and has often referred to his enjoyment of fishing as a comparison. This infuriates me, for I perceive it as so much more.  I believe it to be my calling–something I don’t necessarily want to do, but rather it calls out to me, constantly nagging and berating me into its devotion.

Anyway, after recently considering the matter, I’ve realized that perhaps I was the one not fully understanding the comparison.   I took the time to get over my own indignation, and had quite an epiphany. I realized that I was applying my own assumptions or perceptions of what fishing meant to me, yet I failed to understand what his perceptions might be.  So, I thought about it…

He loves the act of throwing a line into stilled water, watching the undulating ripple dissipate, while anxiously awaiting that pull of power from the unknown at the other end of the line. He calls this his time of peace–where the mind is free to roam and relax against the calm embrace of nature.  I get that now, that was the intended comparison.  I was simply hung up on that single word: hobby!  I wanted a more precise and elegant lexicon to acknowledge my efforts.

writing

Don’t get me wrong!  I do consider writing much more difficult than fishing, of course. I mean–writing is a very internal process, it requires lots of synapses to snap and flick just right, in an often frustrating attempt to conjure up new worlds, and characters that actually think and feel and act in all sorts of crazy ways. It is truly exhausting, and arduous and rarely easy. Whereas, fishing is an external interaction in a living, tangible environment. Yet, in the end, both could or should provide the same result: that Zen-like trance, that feeling of unawareness to all those walls that otherwise enclose us.

Sometimes, I think we all get so hung up on the words and their meanings, and our own (mis)perceptions, that we don’t stop to realize that not everyone shares the same definitions and interpretations.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung
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So, I won my first writing contest…

http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/57-FE1-Spring13Contest.html
Well, I should say that I won second place. However, it feels like I won the entire contest, because you see, the competition was within myself. I have been intermittently dabbling in writing for the last two years, unsure and uncertain, basically fearful to immerge myself completely. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I was wasting time that could be more productive elsewhere? Thankfully, the biggest “what if” held steadfast: what if I don’t try?

This spring, after months of abandoning my writing and mentally beating myself up for not writing, I had an honest discussion with myself, which boiled down to one statement: either commit yourself or quit. I could not accept the latter. I just couldn’t let it go(I’m a bit stubborn). I had heard the promised whisper of what should be, which had to come to me when I needed it most. Alas, I was neglecting that purpose–and ultimately me. That had to change. Banishing faithless comments and doubtful looks, both those personally contrived and received by others, to the farthest reaches of comprehension released my productivity.

I also made the dynamic decision to start with just 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 and dedicated. I have to say, this obvious method is working, much to my chagrin.

Anyway, it was also around this time that I was Googling “writing contest” and happened to stumble upon Women On Writing’s website and their quarterly contest. 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…it angered me. Not because atrocities of that nature didn’t happen, or don’t still happen, but because it had occurred so freely on American soil. I envisioned being a mother with a young daughter to protect, and from that place of desperation, Revolution was born. And, may in fact become a full novel someday.
57-LHS-FE1-Spring13Contest

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Human Trafficking…

I submitted the poem that I’ve recently been working on to the Library of Virginia’s “Dark Side” creative-writing contest. It’s titled “Shame” and is the seventh entry from the top. (Check it out!)
http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs/dark-side/2013/05/31/america-atlantic-ave-virginia-beach-oceanfront-2012/

A few months back, my book club’s theme for the month was: human trafficking. Of course, I’d been hearing of trafficking in news more lately, as most people have, I’m sure. It’s the latest crusade among many celebrities. However, I didn’t fully appreciate the depths of those words, “Human Trafficking” and what it could mean until I read several books on the topic, and then pursued further information. I was bereaved at what I came to know.

This insidious beast, some call it slavery, snatches up the youth, either in a literal kidnapping or beguiling its victim into servitude. The use of humans for the benefit of others is truly not a new concept, but perhaps we have evolved enough as beings to recognize the audacity in allowing it to continue. Without a doubt, it will not be an easy battle. However, awareness is the beginning, and that is happening!

My poem represents only one facet of many faces of trafficking. I wanted to show that what appears to be volition in choice, could actually be the tragedy of circumstance, and ironically–lack of choices. And, ultimately without the malicious need for bodies, there would not be the profiting of the precious supply. The shame is in the circumstances, the failure of a parent’s protection and the society that looks the other way when the equally culpable “Johns” purchase a young soul.

“And thereon every child I met, who has been violated and abused I made sure the child understood that he/she is the one who is wronged and being a victim is not something one should be ashamed of.”
~Sunitha Krishnan http://sunithakrishnan.blogspot.com/

Below are the three books discussed during my book club that month. If pressed to choose one of the three to read, I’d recommend A Walk Across the Sun. It is fiction, threaded into a compelling, quick read that pulls you into the book and keeps you there, while exposing you to the various heartbreaking, real-life scenarios and aspects of trafficking.

walksunRAgirlsold

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Falling off the wagon…

Yes, I have fallen from the novel-writing wagon! It is not such a far fall, really–and is quite easy to accomplish. It only takes a proverbially small bump in the road or a tree blocking the way. I could list a zillion reasons: kids, my first dental crown (ugh!), keeping up with cooking, cleaning and household duties, launching this blog and a Facebook page, other commitments and kids (I know I said that twice). However, in the end these reasons are but glorified excuses.

So, for ten days or more, absolutely nothing has progressed in my novel, Faye. My characters are frozen in time, trapped and awaiting the keystroked words to come and 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.

Did I feel a pang of guilt last night when my nightly morsel of Dove dark chocolate was unwrapped to reveal the following message: “Keep the promises you make to yourself”? Yeah, a little, I have/had promised myself to write every single day. But then I have to allow myself to look at those myriad of excuses and realize that I did accomplish something. I even wrote a little poem that I feel a bit proud of, as it relates to an issue I feel strongly for (human trafficking). In the end, I suppose we all have to decide what to do with the time we are given. (Wow, I think I just re-worded my favorite Gandalf quote!)

Today is a new day, and I begin again!

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

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Adding 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, sort of a visual prompt to gaze upon over a bowl of morning cereal. Although, I was still reading aloud nightly to my children(and still do!), it wasn’t enough to combat the increasing infiltration of electronics that were insidiously creeping not only into our home, but the school as well. So, with a discarded, glass-less frame and a purchased roll of 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 adding meaningful quotes, mantras or Scripture in an attempt to foster kindness, empathy and other attributes amongst my children. (For a short time I added a Spanish word-of-the-week, but this didn’t go over so well.)Their level of philosophical contemplation and discussion is not mind-blowing, but it is often engaging and sometimes near the mark. Regardless, they are thinking!

Honestly, my kids seem indifferent to the board, but have come to expect it to be updated regularly, and do go along with me sporadically asking for an explanation to a word’s implication, or the underlining thought behind a quote. Of course, they do not recall the meaning of every word that has been presented(I don’t expect this), but many words, especially those words that we’ve made everyday connections with, have become part of their vocabulary. And that, makes it so worth it!

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

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Fighting the fear…

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

I took that sage advice today– I spent the morning and afternoon at a writer’s workshop. Although I had attended a similar event last summer and enjoyed myself greatly, I had mentally worked myself up into a great frenzy recently. So much so, I had to have ongoing debates with myself as to why I should take the class and not cancel—this seemed ridiculous to me, considering I had stayed up past midnight waiting for the moment online registration was active weeks ago.

I believe my angst was stemming from the workshop’s description: a writing workout to “tap into memories for inspiration.” That last bit subconsciously echoed in my thoughts all week, causing my heart to race and my belly to flutter. The fear of what disclosure would be required petrified me. I’m an introvert, peacefully quiet and shy. Reticent I am to reveal my own deep thoughts. How could I possibly open up in such an intimate way with a room full of strangers?

Thankfully, through affirmations of positive thoughts and fear- pulverizing quotes, I pushed through the week of dubious thoughts. I’m happy to report I even arrived for the workshop on time, with a full one minute to spare (Ha-ha). And, as is often the case, reality never measures up to disserving expectations.

I loved the writing workout! The teacher was excellent. The prompts were varied and didn’t necessarily need to originate from one’s own memory. Surprisingly though, I did tap into my own consciousness for several of the pieces. Best of all, there was no forced sharing or reading required. Perhaps, this is why I felt comfortable to read aloud a solid piece of flash fiction. When it was all said and done, I’d spent three of the four hours writing: my hand ached and my mind was numb as I drove home, but I was content. I had conquered the day.