control issues and an obsession with mortality

I sat down at my desk with the mindset to do some character work. The plans were in place, and enough thoughts were bouncing around in my head that there was no question about the amount of material. I spent the whole weekend filling up my mental bucket. I had certainly lived life for a few days between all the hiking, gardening, family time, and mini-breakdowns. I put my fingers on the keys and wrote a generic, easily deletable first sentence then stared at a blinking cursor with a blank mind.

Instead of staying in the document and doing what needed to be done, I pulled up my browser and googled stomach issues and smoking cigarettes. I’ve been trying to quit smoking. I hit 13 days without one on Saturday. It was one of those long and trying days but the kind that’s completely on my shoulders and can’t be pointed in any other direction. I’ve been experiencing stomach issues (which seem to have gotten much better without dairy and excessive alcohol), and smoking isn’t helping.  But Saturday night after skipping lunch, freaking out about my inability to collect my plot-related thoughts, and throwing an adult-sized temper tantrum, I bought a pack of smokes and lit up. I’ve had four since.

I’m prone to anxiety, by prone I mean consumed by it a lot of the time. So smoking is a way I deal with that and have ever since I was twelve when my mother handed me a cigarette after the worst day of seventh grade ever. The monkey has been on my back ever since—one of the many things I can thank her for. I also hate not being allowed to do things. So telling myself, I can’t have one makes me want one even more. The kicker here is lately my anxiety has been focused around my health.

When it’s time to write or sleep or relax, my eyes fix on the mole on my arm or the gurgling in my stomach and think of all the horrible ailments I have. I’m not at my healthiest at the moment, my eating, sleeping, and drinking habits haven’t been great. I’m working on it. Smoking and panicking about health issues don’t go together. Yes, I could die at any minute. Some elements make the possibility of dying sooner and in more painful ways more likely, but this isn’t something I have control over.

I have no control over when I die. None of us do, and that scares the shit out of me. I think about it a lot. Death is a reoccurring theme in my writing. The loss of someone, the desire to live forever, how someone lives on if we come back, the afterlife. I read about it and write about it and am currently revising a world built on it. The fear of death isn’t my own. I know many share it, but it isn’t a fear I had for most of myself. I didn’t suddenly become terrified of dying the moment I got married of became a mother, or a mother of two. Almost two years ago I looked in the face of mortality as I watched life slowly leave one of my best friends. She was the kind of person that was so sweet and comforting that I could only feel like a bitter asshole because she was so naturally and genuinely sweet. Her smile was so bright. Lit up eyes in a sea of freckles, framed with red hair.

She was sick for roughly eight months with persistent pancreatitis and other aliments before we learned her cancer was back, everywhere, and untreatable. The moment she found out, she got to work on writing forty years of birthday cards to her children as well as other gifts for her loved ones, wrapped Christmas presents, and organized all her items and made labels for who they went to, so the grieving didn’t need to worry about it. I spent as much time as I could by her side in the last few months feeling humbled and broken. She’d call me her angel, and I only felt like a fraud, a useless cog in the wheel of life.
When she passed away, I wrapped a blindfold around my eyes, dove into one project after another and picked up drinking. Looking back at it I guess I could have handled it all better. I could have let myself really see my surroundings and how it felt. The writer part of my brain scolded me for running when I should have been inspecting. If I’m honest, I didn’t only grieve for the loss of one of my favorite people, I also mourned all the future deaths I couldn’t control, including my own.

Suddenly I was surrounded by the lack of control we all have in this big game. The rug can be pulled from us at any time and in an endless amount of ways. My death could be quick and unexpected, or it could be slow and painful and known. There is no way to know until we are there.

All the painful words and drugs and traumatic moments between my mother and I have helped me become the person I am today. Somedays I like that person better than others, but for the most part, I think I’m okay and know I’m lucky. I have my family, the one I built, and it’s beautiful.

I experienced a personal epiphany this weekend while I was hiding in the dark of my backyard behind the pine trees sneaking a cigarette like a troubled teenager. There were clues I had been ignoring but at that moment both disgusted and entranced by the act of smoking my first cigarette in thirteen days it hit me.

I have control issues, and it’s because I’m terrified of fucking up my life through a dormant chain of events I set in motion the way my parents did. I can flicker through my memories and see my house around age six, and everything seemed together. Maybe it never was Okay, but there was a point early on I thought it was. Every year things got worse. Disorangzation and house cleanliness were the first to go. It was addiction and misunderstood mental illness the moved the storm through my family, through the cookie-cutter house I grew up in that stood in line and looked like all the others. On the surface, we just looked messy, but no one really knew how bad things were on the inside. So between watching how things can fall apart so tremendously and how disfunction can pass as function messes with my head. I have trouble just living and going with the flow. I’ve been under this misconception that if I make enough lists and check off enough items that I’m in control, that I am not like them and my kids will let me be apart of their lives when they are grown up.

I do think there is some validity to that. Business needs to be tended to. Bills have to be paid, and meals must come together but being so wound up and terrified of losing it all isn’t a way to live. I don’t have to run and hide to avoid a verbal attack when a door slams but there is still a part of me that feels that need to squirrel away and protect myself.

Self-management and care are important. I think part of me is scared and the other part wants to chill and enjoy. So, maybe there is the halfway mark where I can build a tiny house and find some peace and balance.

That’s a good note to leave on. I’m going to eat some lunch and get back to character work instead of googling all the ways I could be dying. I have to remember the lesson that was so fresh in my mind while I was losing my friend to cancer or while my mother destroyed all my father was trying to hold up on his own. Life needs to be lived. There is no giving up. We will all die at some point and all the moments we missed worrying about all we can’t control will seem silly and a complete waste of time.

 

characters and their insides

Character, something we can have and what we are as individuals. Some more than others. The quirky, witty sidekick softens the hard front-runner. The insecure and flawed villain makes us do more than simply hate them. The smiling stranger somehow soothes the rush of grocery store anger. Creating a character that thinks and feels and bleeds and grows, is an exercise in sleepless obsession.

And so the frenetic spiral of passion and creating begins. The hero. The villain. The conflict. The quest. These early stages of story building are some of my most favorite aspects of the whole deal and the first for me to become familiar with on my writing journey. The spark of a personality, the lines of the face. Knowing what ideas to take further isn’t always clear, and if it becomes so, it is usually after sitting down and writing it at least once. Every word written is a lot like a pebble tossed into a pond. Ripples form, they glide into others and create something brand new. Words help find ideas. Anything can slip out if you just write.

This is hard for me. My brain likes to collect every possibility and burden and task item and try to think about it all it once. My chest tightens, and I am far from a creative place. I’m learning to get into a rhythm and when to listen to the change needed. Writing and living life as a writer is in itself a living organization. Something that changes and morphs and grows. Knowing this and accepting, helps everything.

Writing full-time isn’t how I imagined when I was a kid and proclaimed to be a great author someday. Some moments are dull and frustrating; some even feel pointless.

Scene:

Dogs huddle near my side asking for their walk. Laundry piles build walls, locking us into my home office. My fingers idle above the keys. Notebooks are open. Ideas aren’t coming, and I question all my life decisions up to that point.

A similar scene:

A great, long walk with the dogs. Laundry all folded and where it belongs. Ideas are flowing, slow and steady. I’m having fun.

The main difference between the two here is perspective. Perspective is powerful. It alters the story, the taste, the sheen.

Is anyone going to figure out what’s wrong with a character arc if all they are doing is telling themselves that they can’t? (Yes, I’m talking about myself last week.)

The answer is no.

I made a lot of missteps on this draft, and once they are pointed out, they scream. It took a minute for me to digest the issues, find them, and now I’m piecing together how to fix it. Word by word, I’m mending and tightening and all the good stuff.

There is no reason why this shouldn’t be fun. The fine-tuning of fantasy world can be like ripping your hair out with hot tweezers, or it can be like riding bareback on a unicorn through a forest of talking trees. Fun and wonder can be found everywhere. That’s why I love reading and writing.

I get caught up in cycles where I fret and worry too much about the outcome and clean floors and forget how to enjoy. I think focusing on the good is something we can all do more. Not just writers or artists, but people, us humans. Having our backs isn’t us fooling ourselves.

There is so much upheaval and reaction. Slowing down and take a whiff of our surroundings helps. I’m talking to myself and to you and possibly to the angry dude with the ignorant sign by the baseball stadium. Self-awareness is an important tool. We should all use it.

Perhaps I went off the path a bit, but I don’t think so. The character’s path isn’t a clear, straight shot. Remember that as a writer and as a human. I have to. Complexity and twists out of our control. Emotions and logic. These are natural occurrences and ones that generate conflict. A sum up of that I am saying?

Have fun writing characters and the world that they live in—both in the fictional world and the real one.

maybe try this…

I like to think of writing as a ‘gut’ business. Books are personal at the core, so emotional inspiration or interest is part of it—just a level, but still important. One slice of cheddar cheese makes all the difference in a ham sandwich. Following my gut is how I solve problems in the arcs, know when ideas or worth something, and on and on.

The problem is, the inner-critic sometimes gets in the way of gut listening. Something I am working on. I had some dancing with my demons while I reread my current work in progress and wrote a reverse outline to track plot lines and beats all while keeping other feedback in mind. I had multiple unhelpful voices coming in and telling me any shred of an idea I had was no good. I’m not sure if this is just the way it has to be. I have to feel desperate in order to have ideas. I don’t know, nor do I know where today went. It’s been a sea of notes and ideas and outlining and panic since around 9 am.

I am feeling confident that I’m on the right track. These issues are being solved just as they should be, one at a time. Putting a story together in a new world is a puzzle. Every piece adds up, but in this case, some of the pieces are never seen.

Sometimes it’s daunting to think of all the pieces at once. It isn’t helpful to try and swallow all of it—a dance that happens in steps. That speaks to a lot of phases in the process. I am still figuring all this out as I go and still trying to achieve my goals so I wouldn’t take this writing advice and theories to heart because I am just trying to figure it out. One thing I am damn certain of is words shake other words free. So I am dumping some thoughts out to find the words I need, and maybe my words will poke at some words or hope you need. Who knows?

It is all too easy to get caught up in the desperate need to create and share and publish when the focus at the moment should be the experience of creating. It really is an amazing thing, especially when it flows. The act of forming a spell or a creature is a thrill.

I guess I will end this rant by concluding with, savor the small moments and enjoy the ride.

blindfolded in a sea of notebooks

It’s been weird by me. To say I’m in a mood, or a weird phase sums it up mostly. Nothing really terrible is happening. My life is good. I’m lucky. I’ve been in a writing funk, that’s all.  Actually, a lot of good things are in the works. Maybe it’s waiting. I’m not sure. Being humbled is part of the writing gig. I’ve been humbled, but I’m on the trail while being humbled. The not thinking of something really gets under my skin.

Ideas are everything.

It has been eight days without a cigarette, and I’m knee-deep in revisions. Something I have trouble with is the “not writing’ part of the process. Dumping random thoughts into journals helps to discover clues and details. Not knowing how to fix issues gnaws at my feet. Slowly but surely I’m finding answers.

I’ve realized I’ve been reacting lately—the past year or two really. It’s almost the end of my youngest’s first-grade year. When he started kindergarten, I started writing full time without having a clue as to what to expect even though I thought I did. It is very different than part-time writing. Writing as the main gig is hard. I love it. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else if I’m being honest. Sure, there are moments where I imagine opening a bakery or being a dog trainer. But I always come to my words and my goals in the literary world. It’s a slow game, one that requires thick skin, obsession, and passion. Being stubborn helps too.

The same month we entered that different phase in our family, both kids in school and my full-time writing, my best friend died, and I plummeted myself into an emotional YA contemporary until I was done which happened 95,000 words or so later. This still sits in a drawer. Fantasy is more my bag, and that was a pile of mess and emotions and processing thoughts, that maybe one day I’ll dig up. Then my small publisher closed and my published book and my schedule to release one disappeared like vapor for a hot second. I’ve been hacking away since then, making minor successes and learning as I stumble and make mistakes. I am learning a whole heck of a lot and good news for me I’m stubborn as hell. I couldn’t do this without it. At some point I stopped bouncing from project to project and became obsessed with world building and this big huge concept. That is where I still am. I can’t blink my eyes and be onto the next step. This is where I am. Listening, hunting, finding, and fixing.

So that’s a long way of saying my current status is eight days without smokes and wandering the jungle path of revisions, tracking and solving problem by problem while I do my best to have fun with it all and remember I’m lucky. It’s too easy to get caught up in the harsher notes. Listening to the softer sound is a neater rhythm. I’m learning to deal with things as they arise, so they don’t build panic like wet sneakers grow mold in the back of my coat closet.

Today was one of my most productive writing days in over a month. I got a lot figured out and down on paper. Looking at all angles is hard but necessary.
Some days are chipping away at an iceberg with a fork, and others are like setting your fingers of fire, but instead of flame, it’s words.
Can’t have one without the other.

heroes and holes to different realms

I think about Alice in Wonderland a lot. Leather bound and aged. Aside from the story being one of the first I can point to for having opened the literary realms to me, the meaning of the story and feeling it gives me adds to my daily thoughts. Seeds and caterpillars. Dreams and age. Creatures and villains.

The hero’s story is one of change and purpose. An often grabbed trope in this arc is the loss of innocence. It is something we all go through. The journey through fallen dreams and life-hardened perspectives aren’t possible without it.

The manuscript that is being edited right now was a trip I enjoyed so much I decided it had to be a series. A world I want to stay in. The project out of my hands leaves a sour hole in my chest. Something I need to fill. I’m someone that has to have something to obsess over—ideas to hobble together. Drafting the second while the first one fed through the grinder didn’t seem like something I could do at the moment. Juggling fire on a tight rope blindfolded. At least one eye. But like ideas and gardens and stewing plots, I had projects and characters on the back burner. I pumped out three short stories. These were swirling around for a good while. They came right out. Cleaned up nicely and off they went.

“Okay,” I told myself. “It’s time to dive into the manuscript concept burning a whole in your back pocket.”

Because it has been trying to come out for years in different ways. I found the story and what the characters were doing. I sat down.

Nothing.

Some words.

Five different tries.

Feeling nothing. Oh wait, panic, that’s right.

I don’t know how you guys are with ideas. But, they feel like my air. When I can’t grab one I ask myself, “Was that it? Is that all I have? Am I tapped out?”

One thing that I am learning right now—something I should have probably known already but didn’t look at it as it stood in the corner pointing at me—writing sometimes means not writing.

Sometimes wandering and living and walking nowhere is how you write, how I write. Getting lost to find things. It’s hard for me not to work. I have yet to reach my career goals so most of the time it feels impossible to justify not working. But working means different things. I’ve been lucky the last nine months. I’ve been flush with ideas and energy to pump it out.
I spent four days not writing, it felt like torture, but now I have the format and voice I was looking for.
I’ve heard so many writers say, “The path to every book is different,” I can’t even count. Like so many sayings that are used too often, they lose their weight, but they exist for good reason. Every path is different. Each story has a rhythm, their own beat, and heart and blood.
So, yes, my mind is in a better spot right now. I’m getting into the groove with this book, but I’m not diving so deep in just yet. Edits for my other project will be dropping in any day. Then these ideas will wiggle and work stuff out in the background while I go through the edits.
Part of me is excited to get them back and eager to get my fingers in there and get dirty. But, I’m also nervous—before-you-get-on-a-really-loopy-rollercoaster nervous. I’m not sure what to expect. I have an idea, maybe. Guesses. The unknown is always intriguing to ponder.
The dance between liking and loathing lack of control.
I think that wraps this up, for now, I’ve gone on long enough. I’d like to sink my teeth into some drafting this strange, scary, and heartbreaking new project before my stomach and brain demands lunch.

Wednesday Morning

I like the idea of writing a blog post every day. I don’t do it. There is a good possibility it would help me keep a clearer head. Perhaps that isn’t pain I need to inflict on you fine readers….

Well, yes I’m writing a post which means, I am at my computer trying to draft, and it isn’t clicking. I don’t believe there is such thing as writer’s block. It’s a farce. A legend. In the way of the unicorn. But there are things that can hinder the flow.

Obscured vision: I have to ask myself, “Why are you writing this scene?”

Focus: Am I giving myself an opportunity to create or am I pacing back and forth thinking about all that I’m doing wrong?

Hunger: Self-care is important. Meals. Exercise. Breaks. It’s nuts, but I swear when I’m swamped those are the first things to go. *Writes “take shower” on list of things to do.*

I ate brownies at 11:30 last night as I stood over my computer staring at my story map. Not a great decision. My dreams were weird. This entire concept is hard and dark and a little twisted. I woke up grumpy and clogged. So I am trying to work it out so I can put a respectable count to my day.

There is something about starting this new project that has my bonnet wrapped in bees. This is a concept I’ve had on the back burner for eight months. The ideas and want are there. When I actually work in it, words comes out. I have a good sense of where it’s going and the tone. Part of my mind keeps wandering over to the manuscript that’s in editing and its future. What will the notes be when I get it back? How close was I? How far? But, I have to get better at blocking that out. Being a working writer means writing, a lot—acting like a professional. (Another skill I’m learning as I go.) So that’s what I’m doing. I’m building, and it will come. It is coming. There is so much on the horizon, but on this Wednesday morning, I do not love all of it. I’m angsty and grumpy and feel like there is an elephant I can’t see.

I am going on a walk with my dogs then I’m sitting my butt down without distractions and working. It’s a simple as that.

Wish me luck. I wish you luck, And, as always thanks for listening to me ramble, rant, and complain.

tools in the mind box

To control the mind’s path.

This means more than one thing to me. I juggle handling my mind, pretty much every day. Creating a story is a way to control the mind—willing a story into existence with a string of thoughts—to make something extraordinary out of nothing. Learning how to tap into the creative part of my brain is another method of control I attempt.

Focus comes easier some days than others. The thing I learned about how to keep focused, is that I need to be obsessed. If I am lukewarm about a project or idea, it doesn’t happen. I write because I have to and thus made into my career.

Self-doubt, worry—all that negative shit that creeps in, really is always there, can be useful. Whether I’m chasing down a plot or waiting to hear back. Controlling what I do with those feeling and thoughts is the decision of what I do with the negativity. Imperfections and insecurities can be wielded for good or bad.

I’m not so much thinking out loud to get my juices flowing, though I am doing that but for all those of you who create, you know, it get’s weird.

I love what I do. Wouldn’t do anything else. But, sometimes, like last week, I’m just wasn’t hitting the ground feeling it. I had to court myself, ease myself into a mood. Today I’m relaxed and happy all my wheels are going in the direction I want them. Peace should come from inside, but recognition of hard work done well helps too.

It feels good to be grinding away.

One thing I’m finding critical? Holding myself accountable to finish something. I was waist deep in partial short stories. I had some rough drafts, sketched ideas, and ones that are more than ready to be sent on their way. Last week was my first week without a large project in my hands, so it was high time to tackle the seedlings and submit them. I’m halfway through that list. Another manuscript that has been on hold for months while I worked on the high fantasy rewrite. I’m going to break ground on it some time this week. It will be helpful to have something large to obsess about while edits on the other project take its course.
It looks like I started using this post to organize my thoughts on the week’s work. Goals and ideas of directions make all the difference. It’s tomatoes or beef, you know?

Maybe my ridiculous rambling helps you shake a few thoughts loose. It is leaning into the abstract that often leads to finding the clear lines on which to draw.

-J

a pen in each hand

Putting down the first word is often the hardest. To make the jump in and start that sentence has me dancing in the space between creating and pulling my hair out some days. Others are like my fingers are on fire with all the thoughts running through my head.

The first day back to work is always like this for me—which is today. I get nervous to sit down and lose myself in my own head. There is always a way in through the nerves and first word. Remembering that words only need to be present in order to be be fixed, helps.

In early January, I learned that the dystopian I had bled over was close, but the manuscript wasn’t quite “sell-ready.” I received great feedback and ideas, but the taste of “almost” brewed something new in me. My hunger became like a newborn vampire’s thirst. (Twilight reference.)

I spent a few weeks not looking at it, knowing I would fix it but only when I knew how. After soaking my hair in red dye, reading a towering stack of Image comics, and revisiting my go-to writing books (pretty much every one written by Chuck Wendig), I was ready.

I put everything I could down (podcast, other projects, chores) and allowed myself to fall into the story and the characters. I knew I had stuff I could keep and I knew the arrangement was off. Finding the story is like climbing out of an onion. One of Wendig’s “List’s of 25” made the visual of climbing out of an onion really stick.

Ten colored pens and a five subject notebook were purchased. I reread the manuscript, didn’t touch a thing, and took a disgusting amount of notes both inside the document and on paper. Some notes were ideas of what could be better or where scenes should move. Others were meaner. Once I was through it, I put it away again.

I am stubborn and obsessive—two things I consider some of my most valuable tools for the trade. I wanted to be very purposeful with how I bulldogged this. While I was feeding the crows and thinking about a short story in the works, exactly what I needed to do hit me like the realization I ate too many Girl Scout cookies. You know that heavy, sinking gut clenching sensation under your belly button? Yeah, just like that.

My ideas caused the dystopian to transform into high fantasy, and third person would become first. So, part of me wanted to tell myself no. The small, shrill voice said, “You are way off.” “Crazy.” “Trying to sabotage yourself.”

But, I didn’t listen to the voices or the doubt. I started a new document and rewrote the whole damn thing, keeping only 35,000 of the 120,00 words. I worked harder in the last four months than I had ever before. Which, is saying a lot because hard work is my favorite hobby.

Research.

Notes.

Layering.

Foreshadowing.

All of it.

I kept listening to my gut and ignoring the less productive trains of thought. When I handed it over to my editor the Friday before last, I felt like I was delivering my best foot. Now, I wait to hear back. It’s a battle to not worry about it or think about what needs fixing.

My kids had spring break last week. All the adventuring and quality time took my head out of the fantasy world I created and put it back into my very pleasant reality. It was nice. Coming back to my chair and career wrangling made me nervous, but I’m happy to be back. If this were easy, I would have lost interest years ago.

This post has helped me get my fingers and mind moving, so I thank you for that. I’m going to tinker with a pile of short stories that I had going before the rewrite took my brain to places I didn’t know I was capable of going.

So, yeah. Here we are.

-J

Worlds, words, and more.

Photo by Shane Leonard.png I have one of my new favorite writers on the show today. Kat Howard is quite the wordsmith. I started reading her short stories which you definitely go check out. If you go to her site you can find them there. Her stories led me to her recent release Roses and Rot. Wow! I really love this book. It hits home in some ways but it also just mystified me. It’s one those stories where every line is tight and beautiful and the story stays with you after you read it.

Due to my inability to stop dissecting a character last night, horribly cliche dreams about being  hired to hunt myself, and my cat’s need to eat at 3 o’clock in the morning I did not sleep well. I’m making gradual strides to rid my zombie persona as the day carries on.

First off, I’m going to tell you all to go to the comic shop because there are awesome titles you should treat yourself to. I talked about Ladycastle last week. Delilah S. Dawson does an amazing job and it is officially out in stores out from Boom Studios. Vertigo/DC’s Lucifer is now in Richard Kadrey’s hands. Issue 14 is fun and dark and I love it. So it’s worth the grab for sure. Of course if you aren’t reading Monstress yet you should start. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda hit it through the moon. It’s dark and enchanting.

Next week I have Charlie Stross on the show. Then after that the show will be going on a hiatus for a bit while I bury myself in this massive rewrite. It was hard for me to decide to put the show on hold but my mind needs to be fully focused. I will for sure post dates and details when I have them. I appreciate all your support and patience.

Here are the links for Episode 49:

 

Talking to Myke Cole

e48mykecole
I have Myke Cole on Too Many Words talking about writing, process and his role on CBS’s new reality series Hunted. It was great talking to him. Passing television recommendations back and forth is always fun.
Before Myke comes on, I talk about my current challenges with writing and the awesomeness of Delilah S. Dawson‘s new comic LADYCASTLE.
Make it happen!
iTunes: https://goo.gl/EGp1e8
Stitcher: https://goo.gl/YmXHpf
Google Play: https://goo.gl/wqwiCr

This episode is sponsored by Turn the Page Editing and LuLaRoe Rebecca Clark VIP

A Day In Inertia, Suburbia

A young mother wakes to the nagging sound of her alarm. For privacy sake, we’ll call her Margret. The cat is asleep on her face. After a small battle with the semi-feral feline, she gets out of bed.

Coffee. Book. Then tiptoes to the sofa in hopes of some quiet before the chaos of a weekday morning unleashes itself on the untidy household. Something chunky and wet soaks her sock. The dog ate legos again.

***

Margret is standing in her kitchen wearing superhero pajamas. She makes lunch and breakfast while her children get dressed for the day.

Her seven-year-old son comes into the kitchen wearing six shirts and three pairs of pants.

Margret: Why are you wearing all your clean clothes?

Son: You told me to dress warm.

Margret: I meant no shorts or t-shirts.

Son: How was I suppose to know that?

***

The kids walk to their classrooms. Margret puts on her blinker in an attempt to escape the chaotic drop-off line while blasting Veruca Salt. A woman with shiny hair in a German luxury SUV, who is responsible for one the meaner kids in Margret’s child’s class, holds down on her horn and flips Margret off. She wonders if the angry mother spent less time perfecting her makeup if her child would be nicer.

***

Inside an overpriced grocery store for the over-privileged, the barely thirty-year-old Margret walks to the counter. Her hat is half on her head. She’s forgotten to wear socks.

Margret smiles at the checker, a woman nearing middle-age who we’ll call Abby.

Margret: Hey, how’s it going?

Abby: Oh you know. Life.

Marget nods: Yep. Can I trouble you for a pack of Marb lights?

Abby: Just one pack today?

Margret: Yep. Cutting down. Not quitting.

Abby: That’s something.

Margret: I think so. Monkeys on the back and all.

***

Home again. The house is a droning quiet with the kids at school. She remedies that by cranking her newest playlist. Then sits at her desk in the draftiest part of the house, her office. There is nothing now but the words she needs to write and her own insecurities.

Five hours pass. The same nagging alarm tells her it’s time to pick up the kids. Unsure of how she feels about any of the words she’s written, Margret closes the laptop and slips on her worn Chucks.

***

You see a school with a water view and false ivy-covered walls. Margret gets out of her insincere mini-van and makes her way to the classroom door and waits. She checks her social media notifications hoping to gain some validation for her work she hasn’t yet learned to give herself. A middle-aged man in a golf hat, by the name of Todd, approaches Margret.

Todd: I hear my kid got moved from your kid’s table.

Margret: Yep

She smiles.

Todd: I hear they didn’t see eye to eye.

Margret: By that do you mean anytime my kid asks yours to be quiet so she can focus, he pushes her and calls her names?

Todd: Yeah, man. It’s tough. He’s so strong willed. Can’t tell him nothing. He beats to his own drum.

Margret: It’s called parenting, son. It’s necessary.

Todd: Did you just call me son?

***

The day turns to night. Homework is done, dinner eaten. Margret feels satisfied with the day. She opens her third beer in an attempt to relax and get ready for the same thing tomorrow.

Adam Silvera and History Is All You Left Me

adam promo.png

First episode of 2017 starts with a bang. Adam Silvera is the New York Times bestselling author of MORE HAPPY THAN NOT. He is on the show talking about his brand new release HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME. Adam gets into the journey of creating it, hurtles he had to get through, and upcoming tour dates. Before Adam comes on, I talk 2017 and Apex Publication‘s recent anthology, UPSIDE DOWN.

This episode is sponsored by Turn The Page Editing and LuLaRoe Rebecca Clark VIP

Listen. Share. Subscribe.

iTunes: https://goo.gl/XOWMcE
Stitcher: https://goo.gl/3Ho6XG
Google Play: https://goo.gl/5Ho3zN

New Comic Review: LADYCASTLE

I have been a comic book lover since I was a kid. The glossy pages and the “new book” smell are the first steps to a world all its own. Comics are a special place to visit. As a writer, reading prose isn’t always an option, ladycastle-elsacoverbut comics are always there. There is something special about experiencing a story in panel form. My brain reacts to the story in a different way. That being said, I’m always looking for new, fresh comics. Something I haven’t seen yet.

I reviewed an early copy of the first issue of LADYCASTLE which is a gender-flipped Arthurian comic written by the fantastically talented Delilah S. Dawson. Ashley A. Woods is responsible for the gorgeous art.

I am being perfectly genuine when I say this is the comic I’ve been looking for, for years. Power. Wit. Action. Hope. It’s all there. This is a completely spoiler-free review, so I’m not going to get into specifics. You have to experience it for yourselves. I will, however, say this, there are at least eight times where I thought, “Yes! This is awesome!”

Dawson does a fantastic job weaving the beginning of this female-powered world I want more of. I can’t believe LADYCASTLE is her first comic. It reads liladycastle1coverke she’s been doing this her entire life. I really hope to see more comics from her. I’ve been trying to get myself amped up for this next phase in my career with music from some rocking women from the 90’s, so this couldn’t have come at a better time.

Woods’s gorgeous art creates a rich mid-evil aesthetic that complements Dawson’s words flawlessly. I can’t wait to read more LADYCASTLE, and you should start.

The official release date of the first issue is January 25th, but you can preorder here: Get me some LADYCASTLE

Anthology Review: Upside Down

upside-book-coverI received a review copy of Apex Publication’s newest anthology UPSIDE DOWN: INVERTED TROPES IN STORYTELLING. This anthology is a treasure for both readers and writers. Editorial super team Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli did a splendid job compiling stories, poems and essays of well-trodden fantasy and science fiction tropes turned on their heads.

Unlike novels, anthologies give you the option of jumping around and reading at all different places in the book. Sometimes I do that right from the get-go, and I did the second time through with this anthology. But, my first time through, I was glued to each page from the very first to the last. The index of tropes and the stories that tackle them encouraged me to go back. Twice. The introduction sets the stage by getting into the comfort of tropes and the importance of them. “We all love comfort food. We all love surprises. A well-executed story trope, like a favorite meal, is always there when you need it, eager to satisfy. A chosen one destined to save the world. A love interest ready to transform your dull life…” -Jerry Gordon

It’s true. There is comfort in tropes. As readers, they give us something to hang our hat on and as writers we need to wield them. There is a fabulous array of authors such as Delilah S. Dawson, Alyssa Wong,  Micheal Choi, Sunil Patel, and Micheal Matheson—to name a few—who take common tropes and do extraordinary things with them. Alex Shvartsman takes all that we count on when diving into an epic fantasy and riddles a satire native with “Nouns of Noun: A Mini Epic” that kept me chuckling. I was delighted by “Drafty as a Chainmail Bikini” by Kat Richardson, which comments of the absurdity of women’s armor in the fantasy genre.

Each story has its “WOW” moment. There are a few stories that stood out to me so strongly I had to go back and reread them and soak in the beauty again and again. That’s the thing about the written word. Stories can carry a certain weight or personal response that just clicks instantly. When that happens, it’s a beautiful thing.

In “The First Blood of Poppy Dupree” Delilah S. Dawson takes the trope of an unprepared preteen’s first period. She paints an incredible picture of a girl who knew it would come, adds some Greek and Southern Gothic mythology and writes a story I wish I could have read when I was a preteen. I was in Walmart wearing white terrycloth shorts when mine first came without a clue. Dawson took all the shame out of it and made getting your period truly badass, raw, and slightly terrifying.

“The White Dragon” by Alyssa Wong is one those stories that reels you in with every sentence and then when its ended, everything just washes over you. Wong built so much in so few words. She tackles the trope of Yellow Peril, which is the fear that Asia poses a dire threat to Western civilization. Wong’s characters are so deep and well conveyed. The layers of magic realism packs such a punch.  It’s truly amazing.

“Those who Leave” by Micheal Choi tore my heart out and convinced me once and for all magic is in the world. Choi took the trope of the cold and calculating Asian scientist and built a world with hope, magic, and the ever-complicated mother/daughter relationship. Just gorgeous from start to finish. I teared up a little.

After the string of awesome stories, the impact of the essays detailing some tropes such as “Into the Labyrinth: The Heroine’s Journey” by AC Wise and “I’m Pretty Sure I’ve read this Before” by Patrick Hester really ties it all together. Each essay detailing basic story concepts somehow made every story I read prior more powerful.

There is whimsy and underlining darkness, heartbreak and satire, that flows well throughout the anthology. UPSIDE DOWN is really worth the grab!

You can find copies here!

 

My Mother’s Whispers

We are over a week into the new year, and I’ve come to the same conclusion I come to every January. Life is life. Change is unavoidable but is gradual. Goals are important. Self-awareness is key to not being an asshat. There is no magic switch.

I’m not a huge adopter of New Year’s resolutions. I don’t like putting pressure on a day due the significance tangled up with the date. I used to be a crappy, angry kid and I’ve grown into a pretty okay adult (though I have trouble coming to terms that I am one). I’ve watched people change for the worse and the better and not at all. I wouldn’t say I’m jaded, but my expectations of people stays very aware that we are all animals with instincts. It’s not always pretty.

All that being said, I decided that for 2017 I have a true New Year’s resolution for the first time kinda ever. I’m gonna stop beating myself up with words my mother used when I was a kid.

Words are powerful. They hold different meaning to everyone who hears them and lingers in the shadows. They leave bruises no-one can see. They build worlds and heroes. Words don’t go away without being digested. The past is an odd, nagging element that is significant because we wouldn’t be who we are without it. I have written before on Feminine Collective about how part of excepting myself can’t be done without excepting the parts of me that are like my mother. Regardless of the whole mess of her storm, she was my mother. I learned from her. What to do. What not to do.

Habits are tricky little buggers, especially when they are bad ones. They are like vampires. Once you let them in, they suck your blood. Nasty habits can be dormant or active but are always waiting. I was verbally abused as a child as far back as I can remember. Anytime something good happened to me she’d turn it around. I can’t even count how many times my mother spent my birthday locked in her room crying. She let all her words and unhappiness fire at me. Just when I think I’ve shaken off the urge to think the things she used to say to me, it’s back, and I don’t even see it.

As you know, I’ve been busting my ass building a writing career. It’s part of the path. If it weren’t easy, it wouldn’t be worth it. I’m close, and I can feel it. I’m pitching. I’m making mistakes. I’m learning. I’m getting better at the craft. At this huge transitional period, the frequencies are high, and my vulnerability is maxed out. What I’m doing? I’m beating the crap out of myself with things she used to say, instead of building myself up. Anytime I have something positive to say to myself there is a small voice saying the opposite.

I don’t have a solid plan of attack except that I need to curb the habit. Being aware is the first step. I want to have my back. I want to say “Good job Jayme,” without feeling like I’m lying to myself. Like with anything, there are good days and bad. Making mistakes doesn’t make me a bad person or hopeless, it makes me human. Without mistakes, there are no learned lessons.

Notebook in hand, it’s a new year

Well, I’m back in my real life. Holiday break is over. I dropped the kids off this morning missing the preschool days where I was their main gig for the first time in a long time. This feels like a good thing. The first few days off I had trouble letting go of plots and pitch letters. In the final days of my time off, my anxiety about getting back to it started to build. I was scared of facing responses to what I’ve pitched (short and long works) and was terrified of what I’d write next.

I woke up this morning at six before the house started to stir, got my coffee, and grabbed The Lord of the Rings (a book I can’t even count how many times I’ve read. Sometimes I just have to dive in again and get lost.) I took my time this morning getting back to my chair in my office in the back corner of my basement. As soon as I stepped into the bird-covered walls, I made a playlist on Spotify of kick-ass female music while I wrote down my goals and deadlines for January.

Now my mind starts to fill with inspiration, and I gear up to edit a short story I wrote before the break. My dogs sleep by my feet. I’m feeling good. It’s nice to be back. I guess this is part of being a writer (especially earlier in the career), but sometimes I spend time trying to convince myself I’m not a writer. My inner critic tell me to do something else. But, here I am in my chair with fingers slamming against the keys of my Macbook and I feel like I’m exactly where I should be.

Life is weird. I feel strange about everything most of the time. But, I’m lucky to have an amazing family I helped build and to love what I do for a living, even if it makes me feel anxious, vulnerable, and sometimes terrible.

Happy New Year all!

-J

Life, it keeps going

The kids are at their last of school before holiday break. I have turkey broth simmering on the stove. I’m sitting in my quiet living room beside the Christmas tree, attempting to find peace. I want to enjoy the holidays and make the most of them, but I need to get my head right. In truth, lately, I’ve been feeling kinda lost.

As I wait to hear word from agents about the dystopian novel I spent the last six years obsessing over I’m trying to focus on other things mostly unsuccessfully. Not only am I pitching one book, but I have high hopes of selling the series. I really and truly feel like I’ve put my best foot forward. It’s been professionally edited. The query is tight and the agents I’ve reached out I really researched. Waiting is harder than I expected. I’m finding it hard to focus on much, but I’m making myself write because if I don’t, my mind will implode. I find myself unable to sleep after waking from stressful dreams about simultaneously getting rejection letters and being chased by zombies. They always catch me.

Short fiction is helping. I’ve been able to get a decent string of solid stories out as I spin about the future of my series and plan a stand alone  book. One night while I was staring at the wind-buckling trees I asked myself, “What do I do if this doesn’t work?” This is when my mind lets in the idea of becoming a certified dog trainer again, but then I tell myself, “No you are a writer, and you have made the decision to pursue a full-time career in storytelling.”

I feel like a fake adult.

If I shut my inner-doubt down and really pay attention, I can see and feel how close I am. It’s been an uphill battle of discipline and the feeling like I’m wasting my time, but I am close. There is this weird thing that happens anytime I send positive vibes my own way. A part of me always wants to swat the self-boost away.  I’m not sure what this is, but my inner-doubt is one of the hardest things I have to manage. I think about that scene in Erin Brockovich when Julie Roberts yells, “I’ve taken time away from my kids. If that’s not personal, I don’t know what is.” I spend about 8-10 hours a day writing, networking, and cobbling this career together. Somedays I feel like I’m awesome and others, well like I’m living in a dream world reaching for impossible goals.

Writing all this down helps, just I I thought it would. I’m not gonna hear anything until after the holidays. I need just to put it out of my mind and enjoy the holidays. There will be a lot of down time moments where I can work through the concepts I have for my next book because right now I only have annoying fragments of things that don’t make very much sense, but that’s how it all starts out doesn’t it?

Writing and The Vulnerable Mind

Episode 46 Promo.pngToday I have New York Times Best Selling Author, Richard Kadrey back on the show talking about the writing process, juggling projects, the importance of listening to instincts and learning to trust yourself. We get into the power of pen and paper, and leaning into the story’s flow. Richard talks about writing DC/Vertigo’s Lucifer and the upcoming Sandman Slim film. Richard and I also talk about the impact of finishing big projects and the vulnerable mind.
I had a great time talking to him! I hope you enjoy!
 
 
This episode is sponsored by LuLaRoe Rebecca Clark VIP. 

What I Thought About ‘Hearts Still Beating’ (Walking Dead Spoilers)

Well, here we are two days after the midseason finale of The Walking Dead. Everything is building before we take a break. February feels like a long time away. The premiers usually bring the payoff while the finale leaves us hanging. If you are not all caught up with The Walking Dead and care about spoilers, stop reading! Otherwise, you may continue.

I had to watch this episode twice before I could get my opinion together. A lot was thrown at us. I didn’t initially watch it with an open mind. I’ve been grumpy since “Swear.” I was frustrated through the first half of “Hearts Still Beating” waiting for payoff and the second half was awesome. The ending rocked. The second time through I was able to relax and just watch. Overall this episode was pretty great. I will admit that I am partial to the comic. I love it. It’s one of my favorites. So much in it is done right. I love the comic so much that my fandom makes me watch the show. Overall, I’d say it’s in my top three favorite television shows, but sometimes it’s just frustrating to wait and watch. The plot often feels clunkier to me then in the comic. Yes, I know the same story in different media has to have some changes, but still, the show doesn’t pack the punch the comic does. That’s all I’m saying.

Since my last several posts about the previous episodes have been mostly negative, I figured I’d start with what I loved.

Maggie is so cool! I love her raw, badass attitude. The scene where she takes Gregory’s apple and eats it rocked. The combination of her grief and dedication to her child growing inside her is a recipe for some serious character complexity. I would follow her before Rick any day of the week. I also really like that Edith, and Sasha is so committed to her. It’s similar to how Glen and Daryl had Rick’s back.

Yes, of course, I love Daryl. Part of this I think is that he isn’t in the comic so I have nothing to compare him to, and part of it is his kickass way of being loyal and morally correct. (Even though sometimes it get’s him into trouble… Hello, Dwight!?!) That being said, every scene Daryl was in this episode I loved. When he was rushing through the hallway, I was at the edge of my seat. I was relieved when he found food and clothes. Then he got discovered by a Savior. There was a pause, then the guy said he wouldn’t say anything and let him go. You can ask my husband, but I was shouting, “Kill him! Kill him!” Daryl did. He didn’t show mercy.

I said in my last post that Spencer needed to be zombie food. Well, Negan gutting him during a pool game for trying to usurp Rick was awesome! Thanks for the payoff. Man, Spencer was annoying.

I loved, loved the ending even though waiting for the rise will be painful. First Rick, Carl, and crew walk through the gates of Hilltop after Rick and Michonne have a heart to heart about fighting back. Then Jesus and Daryl show up. So good! So emotional! I crumbled into about a thousand pieces when Rick hugged Daryl.
Episodes 6 and 7 left me grumpy about the show, but I think if there was never an entire episode dedicated to Tara I would have made it through the whole first half happy as a clam. I still don’t see the point of that episode. Slamming on the breaks in the rapidly spiraling Negan storyline by going back in time two weeks to meet up with Tara and Heath after the satellite station slaying. Not only is this storyline before Glen and Abraham’s fall to Lucille, but it’s also before Dwight kills Denise with Darryl’s arrow. (Whew, that was a lot of D’s) That’s just bad structure. An entire episode dedicated to Tara and her discovery of all female society in the woods? No, not while Rick is defeated and others conspire against the Saviors. “Go Getter’s” leaves us in the back of a truck heading to Negan’s with Carl and Jesus. All” Swear” gives us is Tara? This storyline would have been much more digestible if it was shortened to fifteen minutes and worked into episode 14 of Season 6 “Twice as Far.” Imagine an episode where both characters of a relationship die simultaneously without ever finding out about each other. The show hasn’t done that yet. Instead of Tara coming back and finding out about Denise, she doesn’t come back. Rachel from Oceanside gets to kill her. Between the Sanctuary, The Hilltop, and the Kingdom the appearance of Oceanside was fatiguing more than interesting. As a foreshadowing to the power of Negan before Season’s 6’s gut-wrenching finale would have added even more terror to being surrounded by hundreds of Saviors in the dark woods.

Well, I’m looking forward to tuning back to TWD in February, which is also my birthday month.

What were your guys thoughts on the first half of the season?

Writer’s Block: The Way of the Unicorn

We’ve all heard those terrible two words entirely too often. Whether it’s a question or a string of unproductive thoughts, if you are a writer these two words may bug you as much as they bug me. Which is a lot, so realize what you are coming along for. I don’t hate these words because I fear them, I hate them because they simply aren’t true.

I’m gonna switch from saying “we” to “me” because I’m gonna say some weird stuff here.
My inner-doubt can transform into a dragon following me down the rabbit hole as it burns my toes with his fiery breath. I’ve gotten a lot better at managing my negative thoughts when it comes to my work and what the hell it is I’m doing but they are there, and a weight to manage. From the conversations I have had with other writers, this is a common theme. Inner-doubt is part of the gig. Saying I have writer’s block is one of the nasty tricks our minds pull and is an inaccurate way to put it.
Try this instead: “I have some more world building to do,” or “I need to dig deeper into my characters.”
That’s the truth.
I used to panic when I’d suddenly come to a halt or get hung up a detail that could quite easily be the first thing cut during edits. I think I’ve mentioned this on my podcast or right here, but writing questions to yourself is an amazing tool for unlocking your brain.

Seriously try it.

What is Molly’s motivation?

She feels a moral responsibility to free all the magical rabbits from captivity.

What is the island’s power source?

Magic.

Why?

Because the island is inside a vortex in a hidden part of the ocean.

It’s fun and how I work out a lot of kinks. I’ve been talking a lot to other writers recently about the importance of trusting ourselves. It’s hard for me. I constantly suspect that I’m up to no good. If something is telling me it’s not right, or it’s awesome, I need to listen to it and not assume my mind is out to get me for some godforsaken reason. I have to write everything down on paper for that reason. My brain clicks in different ways with a pen to paper rather than fingers on keys.

Writer’s block isn’t real. Not being able to see what comes next just means you have more thinking to do. Take a walk. Do a headstand. Make a playlist. Walk away. I almost always get the best ideas while I’m vacuuming. Write down everything you think until you find something cool.

Writing and what it feels like

45-promo-image
Author, Oli Jacobs is back on the show talking about his new book, The Children of Little Thwopping. Oli and I get into inner-doubt, getting lost in words, the importance of literature, and the shear insanity of being a writer.
 
 
This episode is sponsored by LuLaRoe Rebecca Clark VIP. Enter code Too Many Words Pod to receive 20% off your next order!

My Thoughts on “Sing Me A Song” (Walking Dead Spoilers)

After last week’s frustratingly dull episode “Swear” I was really hoping this week’s episode would give me everything I love about the show. But after ninety minutes of a hodgepodge of shallow storylines, missed opportunities of serious badassery, and three too many useless scenes, I’m only more frustrated. I’m not convinced the writers know where they are taking the story and characters. Or, they are trying to milk as much out of the ideas they do have that they are willing to sacrifice the pace. From this point on there are serious spoilers, so if you aren’t caught up stop reading.

I’m really having trouble wrapping my head around why we needed to spend an entire episode solely with Tara last week only to rush from characters in Alexandria to the Sanctuary and on the road between. I was super interested at the beginning of the season. Negan gained control over Rick’s group with brutal force. We went to the Kingdom to find a tiger and a leader with an interesting backstory. Over at the Hilltop grieving, Maggie showed signs of being the leader everyone needs. My attention was in their grasp. After two kinda terrible episodes with only one more till the mid-season finale, my confidence in the storyline has dwindled tremulously. I had thought the first five episodes were pretty great (even the single focus on Daryl) but now it all feels like it’s going nowhere.

Spencer’s attitude towards Rick and every scene he was in really chewed my nerves. What was the point? I’m not sure where the writers are going with Spencer’s arc, but it’s hard to imagine any scenario that won’t be equally as frustrating. Is Spencer really gonna rise against Rick in a substantial way? Probably not. I don’t care about his character, maybe I’m alone there, I don’t know. He has shown nothing but over-privileged stupidity and has brought no value to the plot or crew. Can’t we just feed him to the zombies? Tara too, while we are at it.

There was too little Michonne. Watching her walk through a deserted country road while whistling was awesome and felt more like the real Michonne and not some watered down version. Her zombie barricade was cool! Side note: The whole let’s kill Negan thing would be cooler if a group worked together.

Carl shooting two Saviors was really cool, but everything after that felt forced and disillusioning. Is anyone else wondering why Negan has so many people willing to put up his cruelty? Yes, we have seen his numbers, and he kills people with a bat named after his deceased wife, but I’m not buying it. I want to. Negan’s prolonged smirk-wrapped words don’t bother me as much as some, but the storyline surrounding him doesn’t sit well. He tire-ironed some dude’s face for sleeping with one of his wives but doesn’t kill Carl? Throughout the episode, Carl tagged along while Negan went about his business which was weird. The scenes where Daryl and Carl made eye contact were definitely some of the better moments. After several uncomfortable interactions between Carl and Negan, they go back to Alexandria. I found it strange that Negan was enjoying the houses so much since he had already been to Alexandria. Was he too focused on the guns? The episode left us with the impression that Negan wants to take Judith. I guess? Either way Carl messed up. What started out as something cool with a lot of potential fizzled into something hard to follow. It would have been more believable all around if Negan killed Carl right away. Why doesn’t he want to? I don’t understand Negan’s motivation for keeping alive. Which I guess is what he was questioning himself at the end while he held the baby in his arms…
Surprisingly enough Dwight (who I can’t stand) and his x-wife were some of the most intriguing parts of this episode. It seems like one of them (probably the wife) slid the note under Daryl’s door, telling him to go. The conversation the between the couple on the stairwell was some of the best writing in the entire ninety minutes.
I don’t like feeling that the story is slowing down. It’s almost halfway through the season so it should be doing the opposite. Between “Swear” and “Sing me A Song” there were at least six times where I thought something cool was going to happen but then it didn’t.
Now that I’m sour about where the season has gone so far I find myself less impressed with the first few episodes. Pay off is important and there seems to be missed opportunities every four minutes. It doesn’t really feel like the viewers are being considered here. Believe me. I get the writer has to write. But the story arcs here are sloppy and disjointed. There is no impression that they are following the characters honestly since it’s impossible to get intimate with any of them.
So, yeah I guess I have mostly negative things to say about “Sing Me A Song.” I am curious where the mid-season finale is gonna leave us, and yes, I’m still a fan, just a frusterated one at the moment. Hopefully it’s fleeting.

Perfectly Imperfect People: Gilmore Girls Revival

It’s taken me a second to get my thoughts together on the four-part reunion of one of my favorite shows. Like many, I was counting down the days until Gilmore Girls “A Year in the Life” became available on Netflix. After waiting for a quiet evening, I lit candles, poured wine, and grabbed a box of doughnuts. Within the first five minutes, I was in pieces. I experienced so much emotion on a variety of scales at such fast rate I was forced to take breaks between scenes. Like, seriously there is a lot in these episodes. They are very dense. I was concerned that there would only be four. I wondered how they could pull it off. But, they did do that. I don’t think I realized how much so until after I had watched it through the first time. There are spoilers below so if you haven’t watched all of it yet, stop reading and come back.

Before I get into specifics that stood out to me, I’ll say this: As a whole, I thought it was incredible and everything a die-hard fan could wish for. The creators rode the perfect balance between giving us familiar nuggets to hold onto and the proper growth in these complicated characters over the last ten years. Just, truly gorgeous. Sure, I would have liked to have seen more Sookie and Jess, but I’m sure I’m not alone there. The moments they were present were incredible. I really felt like I was visiting old friends. Gilmore Girls first aired in 2000. I was a thirteen-year-old insecure, bookworm with big dreams.

Rory rocked my world.

Finally a character on TV I related to and not just aspire to be more like. And, Lorelei (oh, how I love her) I didn’t relate to her when I was originally watching because I was a teen. That being said, I would have taken her as my mother in a heartbeat. Even though their mother-daughter relationship demonstrated how the linked the two were, they still had their issues. As a fellow young and quirky mother (though not as young), it’s really refreshing to see it as empowering rather than shamed or mocked. The whole show holds this flawed heart that is so real. The strong-willed are capable of anything. I love that message. It’s an important one. I rewatched the entire series once I became a mother and enjoyed the show in a whole different way.

One of the best things about Gilmore Girls is hanging out in Stars Hollow with the characters. Starting the four episodes in the town square with both Lorelai and Rory was the perfect way to start off.

“I smell snow.” (Such a great line!)

How can you not love the very real blend of weird, heartbreaking, and determined? Both Lorelai and Rory have dreamed big since the very beginning. The fact that they are selfish, and sometimes self-sabotaging only makes them better, it makes them real.

Since the episodes were so chock full of emotion, references and everything that made us originally fall in love with Gilmore Girls and I didn’t want to comment on a stand alone episode. I have a lot to say, but I’m gonna just focus on my top three things about the Revival that I loved the most. Who knows, there may be more posts to come about this. Just, so good! Amy Sherman-Palladino and Danielle Palladino truly did an outstanding job. You can really tell their hearts were so in. I mean can you imagine creating Gilmore Girls? I bet those strong-willed women would get restless on the shelf.

First of all, without a doubt, my favorite part was Emily’s story arc. I mean, wow this was standing ovation worthy.  Losing someone you love is a pain unlike no other. The effects are life changing. I know first hand how the experience of great loss alters you forever. Emily’s life was completely centered around Richard. She chose the path of a career wife. When Richard is taken out of the life they built, it all no longer means anything to her. That’s such an accurate portrayal. Watching Emily deal with the loss of her husband and change while she grieved for him, simultaneously punched me in the gut and reached out with a warm hug that said: “I’ve been there too.”

Throughout the year, we watch Emily fall apart, go to therapy, sell her belongings, sleep in, get a boyfriend, and lash out very “Lorelai-style” at a DAR meeting. The best part of all? When Emily takes to the sea by moving to Nantucket. Gilmore Girls is known for their media references, but this takes the cake, partly because no one comes out and says it. Emily moves to a house on the water and volunteers at a whale museum in Nantucket. The scene where she is standing in front of whale art similar to art found on a Moby Dick cover blanketed me in chills. Another fantastic aspect to the Moby Dick reference is that Rory quoted it directly right before her Logan stole the boat at the end of Season 5. I’ve included the full quote below. It’s always been one of my favorites.

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.” -Ernest Hemingway

Another one of my favorite aspects of the show was how unraveled Rory was. I’ve read several reviews that rips the revival apart for how disheveled and weak Rory is. The same reviews bagged on her casual and expensive affair with Logan. I love these things. Let’s not forget Rory was never put together. She was a perfectionist. Yale and the first round of Logan spit her out for a good bit. As a writer, I’m very familiar with what a confidence battle it can be. Rory’s confidence was never that great. She put on this facade. Maybe to protect herself? Maybe to remove herself from her mother’s exact path? I think where we find Rory at 32 in a very realistic situation. I found it oddly comforting.

The genuine augments hit me each time. Blowouts between characters on the show has always been something we can count on. While the show was airing on CW (possibly WB back then) the fights were there, and sometimes heartbreaking but nothing quite like the raw and impactful arguments that took place in the revival. I’m not sure if it was the fact that it was on Netflix, or now that everyone is older and has been through so much the writers decided to leave out any lightness. There were hilarious moments then bam these arguments between Luke and Lorelai, Lorelai and Rory, Emily and Lorelai were so real. The characters just went there with what they said.

So, yeah, those were my favorite parts. I hope there is more to come. Considering how much they left in the air and the last line (which I loved), there is a good chance there will be.

Other Favorite parts:
Kirk has pig
Luke and Lorelei’s Alice and Wonderland Wedding
Rory’s Buffy reference
Rory writing a book about her relationship with her mother
Jess turned out to be a good guy (just like we knew he could be)

What were your favorite parts? Things you didn’t like? Share in the comments below!

Writing, worry, and focus

I’m sure that I’m in a dramatic state of mind when I say this, but, I’m all out of sorts. Like, really, really in a mood. I have been in one since Monday. It’s the first week back to work (after one off) since I submitted the dystopian to several carefully selected agents. I can’t seem to climb out of this funk and focus on anything for very long. I gotta say I wasn’t expecting this. Just like every other part of this project these feelings are new to me. My over anxious, fiction-swallowed brain wonders what this means. It’s not my lack of confidence in the work itself or how I presented it. I feel good about both of those things. So, what’s my problem?

Writing that down led me to this answer: I’m burned out.

I burned myself out, and I’m still recovering. Sure, the unknown of what’s ahead is certainly eating at my feet, but that’s not the only thing going on. I pulled something crazy off, and now I’m paying for it. I suppose that means I will be slowly getting back into the groove of things. Perhaps leaning into this rather than fighter it would allow me to unclench my shoulders. After writing solely one story for so long, spreading back into multiple projects (nonfiction work included) feels strange.

Creating a world and spending time not only inside of it but obsessing over each detail fitting into place was fun. If I’m being honest, some of the most fun I’ve had. What I experienced with the book I just finished is something I’ve always fantasized about. Perhaps some of what is going on is that I actually miss the world I created. Does that sound completely crazy? Maybe, but I run that risk every time I open my mouth.

I’ve been cleaning and organizing my house. I’m in no way naturally domestic. I’m just so damn anxious, and cleaning helps. Also baking.

Again, I know I’m being dramatic, but I feel lost this week. I have a pile of work, but I can’t stop vacuuming or putting things in themed baskets. Waiting is part of it. I’ve got to find a middle ground, perhaps have more patience with myself. It’s hard to feel like I’ve accomplished anything when nothing is final yet. Again, part of the gig, I know. I just have to suck it up. Christmas is around the corner, and I need to sell more articles, so I have to find a way to ease my mind where it needs to go. Maybe whisper to myself, “Don’t worry, it will happen.” Who knows?
So basically, I’m just whining here right now, feeling sorry for myself when nothing at all is going wrong. But, my mind does feel clearer so for that thank you.

Reality: new projects while waiting to hear

“Go for broke,” is one of my favorite sayings. One I keep close to the lip, a tool I use as I build my writing career. It’s Monday after Thanksgiving, after a week off, and I’m feeling more than a little strange. I started my time off completely zapped. I had never worked harder. The late summer well into November were so intense. I feel like a different person coming out of it. Finishing that book transformed into a rabid obsession that fueled all of me. The first two days off I still found myself drifting toward my computer trying to figure out different concepts (now it’s time to write another one) and ways to will my goals into a successful reality—which for some reason translates into checking Twitter too much. Once my family came into town, my mind left my work worries and remained in the warm present. It was a truly wonderful Thanksgiving that left an afterglow for the majority of the holiday weekend. As Sunday crept past my anxiety grew.

The project I’ve been referring to both here and on Too Many Words as my dystopian series has been consuming most of my brain. I had no idea how obsessed and wound tight I was until I stepped away. Funny how that works. Perception is the greatest of all powers to wield, I think. I sent out a bunch of pitches before the break, and now I’m off to start new projects I’ve lined up. I was in bed last night anxious about getting back to work and unable to get right to sleep. Not something I was anticipating. I just stared out the window at the wind-grappled trees trying to find a peaceful mindset to attack the next few weeks with, then eventually, I faded out. My dreams were a combination of rejection letters and zombie attacks. To want something so bad is a feat to hold all its own.

Monday morning started like most. My alarm went off at six. I sat on the sofa with coffee and a copy of Rune of the Apprentice by Jamison Stone. Then the mad dash of breakfast, packing lunches, and making sure my children are remotely put together enough to send out into the world for six hours. While I walked my dogs, I took the long route and strode as slowly as I could.

I sat down at my desk and opened my inbox for the first time in five days to find the first ‘pass’ from an agent on this project. It took some time to let that roll off my shoulders. “No’s” always come before “Yes’s” and I’m really confident in this project and in its ability to sell. I just have to hang in there and busy myself with my next projects. Gotta keep writing. Create. Pitch. Create. It goes on and on. This is the gig. After that I settled into an awesome planning session with Rebecca Clark about our next steps with the Shadow Bearers. Then before I could settle into anything real, I felt a need to vent, to think out loud. Sometimes to write one must clear out the junk first. So basically I just spent the last few hundred words thinking out loud about what I’m trying to process. Sharing my junk with you.

I’m in a new phase. My head needs to remain in the game. Now, I need to put a game face on and sell some articles.

Thanks for listening to my nonsense.

-J

Breaking Man and Building Heroes (Walking Dead Spoilers)

We are five episodes into the seventh season of The Walking Dead, and I’ve finally found my thoughts so far. I was counting down the days to the premier, soaking in every promo ad. Each character compilation of their journey from the beginning broke my heart. Hell, the release date was even on my calendar. And, here we are into the season, and I’ve been finding myself quiet. There are a mess of spoilers below, so if you are not totally current on the show stop reading, bookmark it, and come back if you want to.

As many of you are well aware of, I’m huge Walking Dead Fan. Comics. The show. The characters. I’m all in. So much so, I’m incredibly forgiving when it comes to oversights or devastating deaths. Last season left us with hearts in our hands, on the edge of our seats. For those who are also readers of the comic (myself included) had a pretty good idea Glen would face the fate of Lucille, but still, we weren’t sure. The Season 7 premiere “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” came and left many with a hollow feeling. I felt sick. Abraham’s and Glen’s death was gruesome and heart clenching. Oh man, when Maggie got ready to continue her way to The Hilltop despite the divesting loss of her husband destroyed me. The credits rolled, and I was speechless. I had planned to write something about the first episode, to take my fandom to the next level, and I couldn’t say a thing. Watching Negan break Rick down through the course of an hour closed any glimmer of hope, of a way out for them. The format of this episode added layers of emotion. Seeing their death’s through Rick’s memories, it killed me.

“The Well”  took us to the kingdom with the deliriously unstable Carol. Her quote “I don’t know what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way” will be among the classics for the show. The Kingdom’s involvement with Negan added depth to his reign that added gloom despite the cheery gloss of the episode. Plus, there’s a tiger with an owner filled to the brim with backstory.

Any hope I pulled from The Kingdom was crushed the following week while I watched “The Cell” through my fingers as Negan and Dwight (Dwight may be one my most hated characters) break down Daryl (my favorite) through repetitive and degrading torture. Daryl is an all time self-sacrificer. Despite his gruff exterior and incredible ranger-like abilities, he is all heart and oh so loyal. There is a whisper telling me Daryl will do something amazing. But a small part of me worries about his future. Daryl wasn’t in the comics, so there is nothing to pull from. The show often strays from the exact storyline in the comics, but there are always clues in the panels for an idea of what is to come in the show. I just don’t know what’s going to happen to him and it is making me crazy. I really, really hope he doesn’t go the way Beth did. There has to be good reason to break our hearts.

“Service” crushed me in an entirely different way. An hour and a half of Negan shaking down Alexandria. I felt the character’s feelings about Rick coming up short. As Rick transformed from instruction follower to a darker version of himself, something a littler closer to Negan, it was hard not to share the current disdain for Rick. He is the leader after all (or was) it was his responsibility to take care of everyone. Maggie trusted him…

But, here I am swallowing “Go Getters” and I feel hopeful. Wow, what an amazing episode. Maggie, Sasha, and Enid form a bond and a new alliance in the most heart-enriching way. There were several exchanges between Sasha and Maggie, Enid and Maggie, and all three of them, that left me screaming, “Yes!” The three clearly have a future with Jesus as they gain control over The Hilltop that I am really excited about. The Saviors showed up with a new crew. As the thugs took their share at The Hilltop, I didn’t feel sick the way I did while Negan pillaged Alexandria for their guns, pride, and mattresses because it was evident a new leader is emerging. Maggie, am I right? Wow, when she drove the tractor over the singing car and trespassing zombies. There was so much to take from this episode, that I finally found my voice. Right before the credits rolled Jesus and Carl crossed paths in the back of the truck heading to Negan’s!!!! Wow!

The Walking Dead has plenty of zombies, but it isn’t really about that. They are the setting. Life is the way it because of the zombie apocalypse, but it in earnest it’s about the people surviving, a continued comment on the harshness of humanity. The characters have been through so much, and have changed through it all. At the heart of it, The Walking Dead is relationships, fear, society, and the darkness in all of us. Humans are predators. Any storyline that really digs deep into the part of humanity really appeals to me, as it does with many. Apocalyptic worlds feel familiar. Nightmares are a manifestation of fears, stress, and trauma. The interest in a fallen society is a symptom of our current society (I am not just talking about the election). The time we are in is very intense, and uncertain seeming. There is a comfort I get when I watch or write a story about a broken world. The first time in Season 7, I can see ways our heroes can get out of it. Impossible odds, but they could do it. I believe in Maggie. There was something not right about Rick’s group and their merge with Alexandria. Seeing other factions split off really brings possibilities into play. There is a lot to hope for, as well as against. I’m really interested to see where all this goes on the show.

Lost in Fiction: writing months away

I’ve been lost in a hole. Not a dark, unforgiving one. Something more along the lines of a rabbit hole. I wasn’t in Wonderland. A dark, dystopian world of my creation has had me wandering around. I’ve lost a few months in the best kinda of way. Parts have been pieces I’ve been writing for years, that haven’t quite worked and parts are concepts I’ve always longed for when I reach for something in the dystopian genre. I’m really excited about it.

If you write or are plagued with a need to create in any way you might know what I mean when I say, “Ideas are priceless. The loss of them is terrifying.” There is nothing like getting a burst of inspiration. A clear picture. I love those random moments where I’m vacuuming or showering and an idea that feels like I’ve been waiting my whole life for appears. Crystal clear images. Pieces of me and pieces of something I’ve never known. There is a beauty in it that I love, something I crave. Perhaps even at times, my obsession with getting and growing concepts gets unhealthy. Maybe that fact that it’s something always on my mind, makes me impractical or selfish. Selfish, now I’ve hit on a note. I feel so selfish sometimes. One of my favorite things in the world to do is spend endless hours writing away while I listen to music too loud. It’s amazing, but it’s just for me. Sure, someday people will read it and hopefully get something from it, but I do it just for me. I do it because I have to.

Getting lost in a story is something I’ve always clung to, something that made it possible to survive my dysfunctional childhood. Magic friends in cupboards. The fountain of youth. A beautiful friendship with a sad ending. Magical creatures that teach very needed lessons. Antiheroes on the road to redemption. Heroes in books are something that has gotten me through so much. Creating them is something I must do, so I do. I’m so thankful for my partner in life and our child that support me as I chase my dreams, while I’m distracted, while I’m unworthy. They say they don’t see it, but it’s hard not to feel bad when I’ve done nothing for hours but create made up stories. It’s my job, it’s what I’m hanging my hat on, but it feels strange.

I’m so close to something I’ve been working so hard on for so long. I can’t wait and I can. I comb over lines searching for ways to make each word be the best it can. I feel sick and alive and hungry.

As my novel enters the editing phase, I have a moment to look around at my surroundings. Halloween has passed. Thanksgiving and family will be here any minute. Add more explanation. Bring the emotion forward as I best I can. Being close to something can make the want of it so loud it’s deafening.

I must look away and just keep my head down. I’m almost there. Names in a line. Eyes waiting. I feel different this time. Writing this draft felt like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Maybe I sound like a naive, lovesick teenager. Perhaps, it’s just like that. Each one is a little better. A passion transforms into a solid concept and then, we have something worth it.

There is something about chance that ignites curiosity in me and sparks a crippling fear. Simultaneously these things come together and bring sharp, angled tracks to the ride that is building a writing career. Part of me wants just to be at a spot that I can feel like I’ve achieved what I’ve wanted to, but I am cynical and practical enough to know that once I get to that point, I will be focused on the next thing.

Ivy covered doors. A castle in the clouds. The rolling hills of The Shire. Simple recognition.

Worlds to find. Places to seek. Hearts to break. I’ve been lost in a world in a way I’ve never been. I listened to myself differently that I have in the past. I wasn’t concerned with creating a certain event or trying to find the killer angle. It was the characters that lead me and the world they lived in.

In all honesty, I haven’t done much in the last few months than writing this story. Reality didn’t get as much attention as it should of. Other projects were on hold. As you know, my blog collected dust. But, here I am peeking from the pile of notebooks and many versions of Pages documents. I feel different. A little strange. Ready to pitch. It’s time to close.

updates and high hopes

Hey, everyone!

I want to start by saying thank you so much to everyone who has pre-ordered a copy of The Shadow Bearers. Rebecca and I really appreciate it!

Today on my podcast, Too Many Words, I talk with Rebecca all about The Shadow Bearers. What inspired us, how much fun it is building a fantasy world with a friend, and quite a bit more. You’ll get to learn more about us as well.

Do it up!

iTunes: http://goo.gl/0yXoZN

Stitcher: http://goo.gl/GlYWRa

More exciting news is that original artwork of Athea, Tag, Mayhem, and the locketts is in the works! So definitely keep your eyes out for that.

We are having fun getting new chapters ready for you to read. Both Rebecca and I are having so much fun working together. We are excited but also anxious to get in the Top 10 soon. We are in September, which means The Shadow Bearers is now in the second month of the Geek & Sundry Fantasy contest. There are a lot of great books, and we are excited to be a part of it.

10 more pre-orders unlocks Chapter 5: Drawn to Darkness

25 more pre-orders unlocks Chapter 6: Evil Alliances

Please pre-order your copy and tell a friend!

https://www.inkshares.com/books/the-shadow-bearers

Thank you so much for all your support and continued support. We can’t do it without your help!

excited to share!

Chapter Three: Lost Locketts is now up! Really, really proud of this one folks! Tiny tunnels ran beneath the darkest of places. Narrow walkways bored through thick earth allowing access to all the lands. The scent of wet grass and mud filled the little holes. The creatures that lived there carried the same scent, leaving traces of it behind on pillows after turning through thoughts and gathering what they needed. Most of the time they went unnoticed in the rest of the realm. Occasionally a

Tiny tunnels ran beneath the darkest of places. Narrow walkways bored through thick earth allowing access to all the lands. The scent of wet grass and mud filled the little holes. The creatures that lived there carried the same scent, leaving traces of it behind on pillows after turning through thoughts and gathering what they needed. Most of the time they went unnoticed in the rest of the realm. Occasionally a lockett would slip up and get discovered. Those poor locketts didn’t usually get to return home.

The locketts lived like most Huditrain natives. They had places to eat and shop, families to care for, and their individual jobs and skills that kept the days full. Their customs, of course, different from most. The tiny bark-skinned creatures cared to wear worms for warmth and snack on the dampest of soil. The routine little roots they were, undoubtedly made the lockett’s work ethic more fierce than other beings.

For more visit Inkshares: https://www.inkshares.com/books/the-shadow-bearers

The Beginning

In my next attempt to lure you into preordering a copy of The Shadow Bearers and help my friend and I win the Geek & Sundry fantasy contest, you will find the first part of Chapter One below. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Chapter One:

Athea’s footsteps matched her wolf’s. Gangly trees framed the sky. The further she got into the dark wood the more her impending future faded into the midsts. She preferred hunting

Athea’s footsteps matched her wolf’s. Gangly trees framed the sky. The further she got into the dark wood the more her impending future faded into the midsts. She preferred hunting hairlings to receiving congratulations for an event that hadn’t happened yet. Wishing hail for what was expected enticed her to draw her weapons.

The walls of duty closed in around her. Night was near. The usual signs of the dimming sky was Athea’s favorite time to hunt despite the risks involved. She went further than advised. Dreams of what the dark lands looked like forced her awake when everyone else could sleep. Whispers of the dead tugged at her toes under the fur blanket. She wondered if it was a warning, but couldn’t be sure. Paranoia often blurred the lines of reality and illusions of fear. Now in the deep woods the idea faded. It would be a challenge to convince herself back to the village. The large mountains stood fierce behind the trees adding to how trapped she felt—living for a destiny she never wanted, something she would have never chosen for herself. Athea believed in a soul’s journey. Her father often asked her what she thought she was chosen for. Athea didn’t know what it was, just what it wasn’t. The power could have gone to any of her siblings, but it went to her. A curse.

A soft rustle brought Athea’s eyes to the sound’s source. A small gray hairling stood frozen between two hailberry bushes. She fanned out her hand signaling to her wolf. Mayhem stood dead his tracks. His wise eyes set on his master awaiting her cue. Athea pulled out her bow, then slid an arrow from her quiver. She nocked an arrow as she locked the prey in her sights. Her fingers tightened around the string. She arched her shoulder back as she pulled back the tension. Her eyes narrowed and focused. The fletching twisted in the wind as the arrow soared through a clearing in the brush. The moist soil soft under her hide boots. The cutting through the flesh was faint but a sound Athea would recognize anywhere.

“Mayhem, laana!” Athea extended her finger toward the rodent’s small carcass. “Gentle this time,” she warned.

Mayhem nodded before trotting into the wood. Athea slid her crossbow back into the gearpack. She leaned against a tree trunk. Her fingers danced across the dozen dead hairlings hanging from her belt. Dread of tomorrow’s ceremony whispered for her to run. She wouldn’t. Athea was stubborn and angry but she was always loyal. Something she called a fault but her father called a trait. The thought of her father brought a smile to her face. Lately the smile was tainted with sadness. He was ill. His time was ending. Fear and selfishness followed these thoughts. Her village’s safety would be up to her. Her father, Chief Meshvar, lead the Dagee, in The War From Nowhere, despite the loss of their allies the Nari. He fought them long enough to get his people to safety behind the great mountains. How could she follow that? Another war was certain, it was the when unclear. Mayhem sauntered back. His jaw loose around the tiny corpse.

Athea hung the limp hairling on her belt next to the others. A gust of wind rushed her way. The smell of smoke inescapable. It didn’t carry the scent of a campfire nor did it hold any resemblance of a spice or fat that indicated cooking. Her tribe had their faults but their survival skills wouldn’t lead any of them to cook past nightfall. Death loomed heavy in the air. She turned to her wolf, Mayhem. His gray eyes fixed on forces she could not see. Athea brought the tips of her fingers to her mouth.

She spoke the words, “Vine to vane. Ash to spine.”

Athea lay her fingers over the root-rich soil. Green and blue orbs hovered in the space between. All the energy kept coming back to her. There were no connections to receive her message. Usually, her community rushed in, roots connected all of them, but there was only silence. A desperate plea of panic rushed around in her gut. Mayhem whined. His eyes narrowed. He studied a distant cluster of sap weed trees.

“What is that?” Athena whispered to her wolf, both her hands grasped her rapiers—an extension of her after years of training.

Mayhem inched closer to the invisible threat. The bushes tousled. He growled and snapped his enormous jaw in warning. Athea pulled her weapons from their sheaths. Her words only audible inside her head. Broken twigs and crushed leaves sang in peril though there were no visible signs of anything.

Maybe conjurers, Athea wondered then dismissed thought. Conjurers wouldn’t be this far north. Her grasp around her weapons tightened.

A large part formed in the trees as a body collapsed from the underbrush. His large frame hit the dirt ground with a thud. A leather cord strung through a copper medal hung from his bloody hand. He was from her village. She raced toward him ignoring Mayhem’s warning.

Bent at the knees she turned the burned body to face her. The familiar glazed eyes of Kolton, the butcher, stared back at her. He held no acknowledgment that he knew Athea, the future chief, the one whose power skipped her first three siblings–a legend before she was born.

“What happened to you?”  

“It found us,” he muttered through gasps. Blood pooled at both corners of his mouth. His body fell limp in her arms. Mayhem howled. His eyes waiting for Athea’s cue.

Her mind came to no other options. Athea stood up. “Let’s head home,” she slapped her leg as she glanced once more at the still body. She would come back for the Kolton’s body once she understood the situation.

Athea and Mayhem trudged through the thicket, following the path they took to the hunting ground.

I sensed something before I geared up. I should have listened. I wouldn’t, she thought as she positioned her weapons to block her chest. I was too angry.

The smoke grew thicker the closer they got to camp. The dead hairlings thumped against her side as she ran closer. She ignored any fear warning her to slow down. Her eyes burned around the edges; her lungs struggling to work past the smoke. She cupped her hand over her eyes as one does to block the sun but the act served as no help, but her effort eased the panicked despair climbing her spine.

    Mayhem’s side brushed against her leather protected thigh. Wind rippled through her braids; the same breeze pushing soot-laden air into her face. The roar of the fire reached her ears now. Mayhem whined for their family. The stench of burnt flesh threatened to swallow them as the approaching flames grew near. Devastation flooded Athea. Charred bodies littered the cursed ground. Her village engulfed in angry flames. The fire that swallowed the council huts formed a distant circle. Silhouettes of the others staggered around the tortured corpses. A sense of dark magic lingered near the devastation. Athea collapsed to the ground. Pain goaded to eat her alive. Her father and everyone she knew, gone. Ruin ran rapid in her newly broken soul. An ominous fog stamped through the forsaken grounds. A force resembling nothing human. Dark shadows hastened around the bodies whose souls will never get the opportunity to grow properly with the earth.

Her daggers glowed green—an enchantment indicating dark magic only used by those consumed by hate.

We weren’t hidden well enough. It was foolish to think the great mountains would be adequate.

Athea’s emotion escalated in her, creating thousands of fissures.

She cursed herself.

All that time I wasted wishing my fate was anything but leading the village.

Athea never considered the idea of everything being taken from her. Her chosen legacy stripped away.

Her mind spiraled. Concrete thoughts were no longer coming together, only fragments of darkness and loss. Mayhem nuzzled her hand. His eyes set on the horizon past the village. He took two careful strides toward the cliff side. Her companion was right; the distance was the first step.

You can read the rest of Chapter One and Chapter Two on Inkshares: https://www.inkshares.com/books/the-shadow-bearers 

 

this is where I beg

I tweeted yesterday, “Riding a fine line between delusions of grandeur and crippling self-doubt is part of my process.” It’s so true. Especially recently. Making a big jump to make my dreams come true leaves me unsettled. Probably because it makes me vulnerable. As some of you may know fantasy author, Rebecca Clark and I have entered our novel ‘The Shadow Bearers’ into the Geek and Sundry contest. My stomach is in knots and my hopes are high.

 

will

I want it so bad. The thing I am realizing is producing good content I can do, but selling units I have a lot to learn. It’s all part of it. I got so close with several agents with the YA contemporary I have been shopping. They have all come back and said contemporary isn’t selling the way it was. People want to see more fantasy. I’m glad I love writing and consuming fantasy but the realization Not Without Sunshine is farther from finding a home is difficult to swallow. Part of my makeup in romanticizing and dreaming big. Sometimes it is hard not to bend, to feel frustrated.
gg
I feel weird asking people to support my work, but it’s something I have to do to help my dreams come true.
We need a hand. Geek & Sundry pick the top three books and publish them, distribute them to bookstores, and shop the book around for other media possibilities as well.
We are making a big push to get 50 pre-orders by 50 new readers by the weekend. That puts us in the top ten, on the front page of the contest, and is a great way to reach our goals.
Here is the link to The Shadow Bearer Page https://www.inkshares.com/books/the-shadow-bearers
Rebecca and I are having a blast writing this together. Thank you for your help!
thank you
 
 
I included the prologue of The Shadow Bearers. I’d love to hear what you think. Chapter one and two are on Inkshares and Chapter three and four will be posted next week.
Athea brought the tips of her fingers to her mouth. She spoke the words, -Vine to vane. Ash to spine.- 1.jpg
Prologue

Chrysthe swallowed the urge to cry out as she dropped to her knees. The bodies of their tribe members’ lifeless spirits were strewn throughout the center of the village. “The darkness took it all while we were hunting, Emon. We need to run!” The urgency in her voice surprised her. They knew this day was coming why now the attempt at salvation?

Neilos wanted more power. Needed more power. Neilos’s hunger to be a legend led him into the arms of Kala, The Goddess of the Cipher Land. When he abandoned his people the Dagee, he sacrificed their lives. His thirst to rule all Hudtira far outweighed what he had right in front of him. His followers one of the many costs. His own sister, Chrysthe, left to fend for herself.

Emon pulled Chrysthe off the ground and cradled her face between his warm hands. “Unfortunately, my love, there is nowhere we can go. The Darkness will find us. We were all warned years ago.” Emon sighed heavily with the realization this could have been avoided.

“I don’t want to give up Emon.” Chrysthe pulled away from his grasp. She headed for the trail leading to the mountain’s summit. Emon knew she might find comfort in a place they’ve cherished through the years. The only place they could truly be together. Pine needle covered branches reached out to them as they hurried away from the settlement. A hollow sensation followed close behind. An emptiness so vast they could almost smell the cipher edging closer.

Both were silent as they tread up the mountain one last time. The undeniable realization sunk into Chrysthe’s gut as they ascended. Nothing could spare their lives.  Blood dripped from her balled up fists. She realized she was digging her nails into her palms soft skin as they reached the trail’s end. Defeat encased her bones.

Chrysthe leaned against the mountain’s vertical slate peak admiring the view of the land. Her head turned toward the river. She joined her fingertips. A blueish hue glowed in the space between her hands, “Vine to vane. Ash to spine.”

“I wasn’t aware that you cared enough about the Nari to protect them,” Emon stated. “After all they’re half the reason we’ve lost our tribe.”

“Yes, but our tribe is the other half of the reason. We started this too.” Chrysthe let out an exaggerated sigh. “No one should have to lose everything. It may be too late but any help I can grant is better than nothing.” Chrysthe’s cheeks burned as her palms tingled. The chant cast.

Emon paced back and forth debating what to do next. “I don’t foresee a way out of this, do you?”

“No. Not now. It’s not time.”

A flash of movement appeared in the corner of her eye.

“It’s too late for us, Emon.”

The Darkness hurtled toward them on the mountain top. Nowhere left to go.

“I love you with all of me, Chrysthe.” A single tear rolled down his face.

“Me, too.” Emon pulled Chrysthe toward him and held her.

This was their end.

They both knew it was pointless to fight the shadows, no one was ready for the change necessary to restore the peace. Without a sound the Darkness rolled in. When the shadows subsided both Emon and Chrysthe were gone.

Beneath the fallen dominion of the Dagee, Neilos stood in his chambers. His stretched hands folded at the waist.  Ferena, once a vibrant and prosperous nation is nothing but crumbled buildings cast in the purple clouds. The perimeter of the enchantment guarded by shadows—a benefit of following Kala’s orders. Bulging veins the color of wild violets weaved up his neck like vines strangling a green giant. A deep shadow resembling a human stood beside him—something only few could see. Neilos focused his stare on the mist rising from a stone pillar standing in the center of his rock-walled cavern. The only light source was the glow from his powers and a candle resting on the bone alter.

“Pascentium vitia, spiritus et carbones,” Neilos spoke in a melodic song. His long

chestnut hair shaved to the skin. An outline of a spider reached to each ear, then trailed down his neck. He hasn’t yet earned the right to mark his back.

“Send them back, not further,” an icy gust thrashed past his drawn face.

“They aren’t finished,” he snapped before reconsidering his audience. “They should do more before returning to their hosts.”

“What took thousands of years to build costs more than a week’s work,” the voice sounded closer to a woman’s. The blurry outlines grew more defined. The tip of a pointed nose quickly followed her flushed cheeks. He waited for more details of her to reveal themselves though Neilios never saw her lips. Her brief clarity faded back to an obscurity.  

“More can be done.” His voice rushed and frustrated.

“You need rest. Creatures will always have fear and hate. There is no concern of loss here.”  Each word the shadow spoke grew louder. Then just like a breeze past the flame of a candle, the voice went out. Nelios now stood alone in his tomb of worship. He nodded at the carved stone reaching from the ground to the curved planchement.

He pressed his fingertips together. “Quaerere nihil magis, sequor domum.”  

The purple light coursed from his hands surrounding the stone. His eyes rolled back into his head leaving only vast white orbs framing his nose. The small room’s air grew thinner. Neilos lungs gasped before the air became thin again. Silence filled his mind. He extinguished the candle’s flame with one heavy breath.

Everything grew quiet.

The whispers of failure nagged at the corners of his desperate mind. He chose to focus on the smell of muck permeating from the slop between the stone walls. His mind slowed as he began to pick at each detail of the smell. The lands he stole weighed heavier in the quiet.

Fun and music

e30 promo.jpgI have an extra fun episode to share today. Chris Ballew is on the show. He talks about his journey in The Presidents and how it led to Caspar Babypants. We get into how Seattle is the best city, his new album Away We Go and so much more! Between song origins and silly phone conversations we have some good fun.
Awesome guy. Great Story. Do it up! Let me know what you think below!

iTunes: http://goo.gl/bc47mv
Google Play: http://goo.gl/GNrXfC
Stitcher: http://goo.gl/Y2wRoq

chasing dreams

Hey, guys!

I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like to. I tried the before bedtime and I only stuck to it for a week. I have so many deadlines and honestly, I couldn’t be more excited about it. I love to write, building my career is challenging but rewarding. Following dreams can be terrifying but I believe it’s necessary. Things have just been super busy. Most of my nights have been me bent over my computer writing until I’m close to passed out. I’m hoping once the fall comes I’ll have some more time to blog.

I’ve been working a lot behind the scenes, getting things set up and being heads down and creating. One of the things taking up my time has been co-writing a fantasy novel with the wonderful author, Rebecca Clark. It originally started as a short story and became so much more. Rebecca and I just entered our fantasy project in an Inkshares contest with Geek & Sundry. I’m really excited and nervous.

The more preorders the project receives and better chance it has to win. Winning would be amazing and help me get so much closer to my dreams.  Below you’ll find the blurb and cover. I’d love to know your thoughts. You can comment below if you have any questions. Shares and preorders would be so appreciated. It makes me nervous to put myself out there like this but we are super proud of this story and would love the chance to share the entire version with the world.

ShadowBearerseBook.jpgView the book on Inkshares

Countless Huditra villages demolished by a darkness spreading throughout the lands. Thousands slain by the falling shadows. Hate looms over the forgotten lands like heavy fog stifling the little life that’s left. Over the years the Nafarat have been casting their magic, destroying all that’s natural. The War From Nowhere forced those who’ve survived the initial attacks into hiding. Nothing alive was safe. Both Tag, the leader of the Nari, river, people and Athea, the future chief of Dagee, the tribe behind the mountains, are all that’s left standing of their kind. With their home grounds no longer safe Tag and Athea hit the traveler’s road, each with individual missions. When their paths cross, they reluctantly team up to seek the answers that will lead them to free the land of shadows.

A new month.

I’m writing this before I pass out. It’s been a long, busy day. Today is my official first day back from nine days off. I was nervous about taking the time but I organized myself and made it work. I had no idea how badly I needed the time off until I took it. My sister-in-law who rocks and my almost seventeen -year-old nephew whom I adore were in town. My husband and I both took off the entire time. This was the first time ever in the history of our marriage we both took that much time off at the same time. Crazy right? It was great spending time with family and unwinding. As much I love the hustle it’s nice to cool down the jets and just drink a crazy amount of wine and go on adventures. Good stuff.

It’s funny how often it’s overlooked (at least in my case) but spending time with myself without goals and crazy schedules really helps me to learn about myself. I got to know myself just as a person over the last few days in a different way. Which fortunately for me means that I have unlocked some pretty killers ideas that I had been searching for over the last few weeks. Score.

Now that I can clearly see my month of August I am really glad I took the time because I am going to be crazy (and I mean crazy) busy. I’m excited about all the projects I have on the docket. Starting at the end of the week stay tuned for updates. A lot is happening and changing. I’m a littler nervous about a couple of things. I continue to wait to hear about final decisions regarding the YA contemporary I’ve been shopping around though I’m a lot closer to where I want to be with it.

There is something unsettling about starting new projects. I would compare it similarly to getting on a roller coaster. The fact I’m strapping in for a series of intensities is clear but what it’s going to feel like isn’t. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I think it does. There is a fine line between excited and nervous. I ride it often. Honestly, I think I enjoy it. Part of the fun is the hustle.

I have a fun show lined up this week. I will have both Kate Hackett and Rebecca Weimer on this week’s episode of Too Many Words. It’s fun. Look forward to it.

That’s it for now. I’m tired and my eyes are starting to glaze over important words. Time to unwind.

-J

Zombies Please

E28 promo.jpgI haven’t blogged in over a week. This is my first week off in over a year. August 8th I’ll be back to work, and I’m super excited about my upcoming projects. Until then you can listen to my newest episode of Too Many Words!

Today Kendall Ashley – Distracted Blogger is on the show talking about writing for Nerdist and Geek & Sundry. We get into how we can’t get enough Marvel, Zombies, and Harry Potter. I had a super fun time talking to Kendall. Awesome person! Good times! Check it out!
iTunes: https://goo.gl/070Onu
Stitcher: http://goo.gl/iu84Ex
Google Play: https://goo.gl/qE6A7X