Survivor Stories

As the regular reader might know, I love to research.  I have been doing so since childhood, when I would spend hours amongst the stacks at my local library trying to figure out the mysteries of the universe.  Now, as a writer, one of my favorite parts of the process is the research part.  You get to find all these little puzzle pieces, and then you put it all together.  I like finding the pieces, it’s kind of like hunting for clues!

A common joke amongst writers is the Google search history.  We like to tell each other what crazy things we have recently researched that would make an FBI agent raise an eyebrow.  With my current WIP, I have Googled such things as “Bahamian police uniforms,” “the weight of a 9mm. gun,” and “what kills you faster, the belladonna leaves, or berries?”

Now, Google is a great place for information on places, items, time periods, and even plot points, but it has nothing when it comes to characters, in my opinion. For instance, my current WIP has to do with a cult, and those who have escaped it.  I can read every article and book, but that doesn’t show me the people themselves, and their emotions and thoughts in regards to the situation.  I would consume documentaries to find what I was looking for, but there are only about a dozen or so about cults.  Yes, I’ve seen everyone I can get my hands on, most recently a bit about the Turpin family, which wasn’t a cult but was absolutely crazy (do not click this link if you’re squeamish.) Then, one day, on a whim, I found TikTok.

I don’t follow many people on there, but there are two folks I have found that have inspired my writing.  One, Jilly, I found first.  She didn’t have a cult background, but she did have abuse in her past, specifically of the narcissistic variety.  As my antagonist is somewhat narcissistic, and most definitely abusive, my interest was piqued by her account.  I wanted to see how a survivor of such abuses could speak out and fight back, and I have been watching Jilly for weeks now, doing just that.  I was inspired by her bravery, and I poured a little of her courage into one of my MCs (main characters.)

Then I found Candid.  I don’t know if that’s her real name, but it’s what it says on her page, so it’s what we shall call her.  Candid grew up in a homeschool cult.  It wasn’t “organized” in the way the cult in my WIP is, but again, I’m not here for plot; I’m here for personality.  Her youth was somewhat similar to my characters, so seeing the way she has grown and changed since leaving home has inspired me to work harder on my two MCs development as they escape and discover the outside world.  I am also taking note of her trauma reaction posts, as it pretty much goes without saying that anyone who came out of a cult probably has complex PTSD (another thing I’ve been researching…that hasn’t been as fun, because it makes me confront my own traumas, and that’s just…well, it’s just for a different blog post, is all.)

Anyway, I am watching these two women who are survivors in the way my MCs are, and I am inspired by their journeys.  I think I learned more about the human condition in relation to my WIP since joining TikTok than anything else…except that Ludacris audio.  That’s in my head all damn day.  (If you’re on TikTok, you know what I’m talking about.  Luda…BACK AGAIN!)

I have included a graphic here with the national suicide hotline number.  I looked around for like a crisis service number or something, but those are only local.  If you need help, reach out!  Use this number, go Google your local CS, or call 911 if you are in a really bad spot.  Someone will help you; someone wants to help you.

In the meantime, I hope we all stay strong, together.  Everyone is a survivor of something.  Wear that like a badge of honor.

NaNo21: The Final Countdown, PM Edition

I did it. It is done. I am a winner.

After 29 days, during which I dealt with a week of sickness, I managed to pen over 50k for my novel. Now, I’m projecting another 20-25k until it’s done, so I will definitely keep you posted. However, can we just take a second to relax and celebrate what a huge accomplishment this is for me???

NaNo21: The Final Countdown

I will admit it was a slow week, what with Thanksgiving smack dab in the middle of it.  Last Tuesday I dropped a couple thousand words, and then on Wednesday I hit 45k.  This was a big moment, because it meant I was in the home stretch.  Ideally, I wanted to be done by today’s blog post, so I could celebrate here…alas, Thanksgiving.

See, I didn’t expect to write that day.  We went to my mother’s in the morning for breakfast and I watched the parade and then I showered and ran errands and got dressed and it was back to mom’s for dinner.  That night was the Bills game, and I thought maybe I could get a few words in then, but I fell asleep…damn tryptophan. 

The next day, I picked K up early to come over and help me decorate for Christmas.  Then, I had lunch with Sahar because she was in town for the holiday, and then Mark, K, and I decorated the tree.  The house was bumping all night with visitors, from Bern and Erin to Carey, so we were busy, and so…no words.

On Sunday I woke up early and dropped around 800 words, kicking off the last chapter of act 2. In the afternoon, I took K shopping and dropped her home, then managed a few more that night, but not much as I was so tired.  Carey was over a few times as well, since someone she was close to had passed over the weekend.  So mostly, I just stayed on my sofa on Sunday night.

Now, Monday morning, my projected finish date, and I’m not done.  Yes, I have until tomorrow at 11:59pm, but I’d like to not be writing down to the wire.  Right now, I have a little less than 3k to go, which I can do on a good day, no problem.

But is today a good day?  We’ve yet to see.  I have a big cup of coffee, and I took a pain med for my back which gets sore in my desk chair, so I am ready to try and conquer this bad boy.  Wish me luck, and happy Monday!

Happy 100.

Hi, guys.  It’s Saturday, and here I am, which is a rarity, but I could not let today go unnoticed.

When I was a small person, my grandma Lois lived with us.  Every morning, we would watch the Today show together as I ate my cereal and she drank her Sanka.  Our favorite part of the show was when Willard Scott announced the people who had turned 100 years old that day.  He put their face on a jelly jar.  Each day we waited patiently through the weather for Willard to tell us about the new centennials, compliments of the Smucker’s corporation.  Grammy made me promise that Willard Scott would announce her birthday when she turned 100, and I dutifully accepted this assignment.

Welp, Gram didn’t make it to 70.  And, in a twist of events, Willard Scott didn’t make it to her birthday, having passed earlier this year.  However, had they both lived, you would have tuned in to the Today show this morning and found Willard Scott introducing my Grammy on a jelly jar. 

So here I am, doing it for them.  Happy birthday Gram!

Drug of Choice

Sure, my experience with drugs is fairly limited.  I’ve smoked pot, so I know what that’s like.  And I’ve gotten copious amounts of morphine and dilaudid due to my stomach condition, so I know what a temporary rush those can be.  Somewhere along the line, I stumbled across an article telling me that most people who have been on SSRIs for a long time cannot get the chemical high associated with most uppers and psychedelics.  So, that wiped all other curiosities off the table with the rationalization that trying anything else would be a risky waste of time and money.

However, there is one dragon I will chase until the day I die, and that is the writer’s high.

You’ve heard of a runner high, I’m sure, and I assume this is similar, though I don’t know because I only run if something Is chasing me.  I know it has something to do with a release of endorphins to the brain, but I’m not sure what triggers it all of the time.  But me, I’ve been getting high every day for the past week.

It happens when I finish writing a scene, and I edit it really quick.  I don’t do extensive edits during the first draft because the goal is just to get the words on the paper, but I will read it back and clean it up a little.  When I’m done, and I save it, and input my count on the NaNo website, I feel a rush come at me and the next thing you know I am literally dancing around the office because I can’t sit still.

I asked Twitter when they experience this, and folks said it happens once in a while, or when they finally publish.  Now, I know the publishing high, too, but this is different.  The publishing high is great because you can tell your family and friends about it and they get really happy for you, but the writer’s high is a little more personal.  I can’t very well call Kevin every time I write a scene and ask him to celebrate with me.  Instead, I celebrate alone, in my own little happy ways.

I wrote two scenes so far today, and both left me feeling on top of the world.  They weren’t even what I would consider good, they are just words on the paper, but that is enough for a first draft.  I am currently 5k away from my goal, and roughly 25k from the end of the novel, and I am dying to find out what the “completion high” will feel like again, especially with such a large work this time. 

Anyways, I don’t know about you, but I’m off to watch a parade and stuff my face with turkey.  Happy Thanksgiving!

NaNo21, Week 3

Yay!  No illness!  Only progress!

On Tuesday last week, I finished the first part of my novel. I did a literal happy dance around the office, because I felt like the Flippin’ Queen of the World.  This inspired a blog post about the “writer’s high,” but I’m going to talk to you about that on Thursday, because today is, of course, NaNo update day.

So, after I passed my part one, I rolled on in to the start of part two. I wrote a few words on Wednesday to start the chapter, but also updated my book playlist with some new tunes to pump me up while I write.  On Thursday I managed to cram in three sessions, and realized I was becoming addicted to the story (again…more on this in Thursday’s blog.)  On Friday I thought I wouldn’t have time to write all weekend, but then somehow I was able to run right past 40k last night, leaving me 8 days to write 10k words.

Right now, I have about 10 chapters, each coming in around 4k. I’m almost halfway through part two, and then there will be the epilogue, and then it will be done.  The full first draft probably won’t be done by the end of the month, but I am fairly certain I’m going to get the 50k by the 30th, and that is the goal of NaNoWriMo.

Anyways, I am off to pen some more words for the novel I am craving.  Come back Thursday to hear about how writing is like drugs.  Happy Monday!

Constant Reader

WordPress recently informed me that my blog is getting a new follower practically every day, which is interesting.  I mean, this isn’t Twitter, where a few characters grab your attention and you hit that follow button.  You have to actually read my article to want to follow me, and most if not all of these followers are fellow bloggers.  I am starting to push the 350 mark, and these folks are from all over the globe, which I just think is so cool.  Like, I’ve had a reader in Malta for several years and I don’t know if it’s one person or a couple, but either way…Hello!!  I think about you all the time!

I do.  I think about my readers a lot.  And so…

Dear Constant Reader (as Steve would say,)

Hello again, friend.  I see you.  I see you each Monday and Thursday when my page views skyrocket and I get the little list of countries across the world that are reading my words.  I see you each week when I get my rundown report from WordPress, and it tells me how you found me or where you went, and if you liked what you saw.  I see you.  (But not like…in a creepy way.)

I have kept this blog for a few years now, maybe four I think, and I have been growing it in my head for so long, that it is beautiful to me that you would stop and give a portion of your day to my thoughts.  How selfless that is in its way, and how much it means to me. 

I can write books, and I can publish poems, and I can Facebook and tweet and TikTok, but I don’t get the love from there that I get from here.  I don’t have randoms stumbling across a post they connect with and then suddenly following me and devouring half my work in one sitting.  That only happens with my blogs, this one especially.  I have been keeping blogs for over 20 years now, and I have never seen the successes I have with this one.  That is because of you.

I write for you, in here.  Not for myself even, or any kind of notoriety at all, but because there is someone out there who likes what I have to say, or at the very least, wants to hear it; wants to listen.  I write conversationally here, because I feel I am conversing with you, doing this with you, not alone.  And I thank you for that.

Lately my posts are a little short, because I am going so hard on my novel right now, which is just swimming right along, but my blog is still the most important thing I write.  It is my soapbox that I pull out and stand on, it is my diary where I divulge my secrets, it is my old friend who knows me better than I know myself.  And you, constant reader…it would be nothing were it not for you.  So…thanks.

Always, Brigid

NaNo21, Week 2

This week only yielded 5000 words, which was disheartening.  I was quite sick, however, which was no surprise to me, because honestly, I budgeted for this.  Maybe not an entire week where I was in the ER every other day, but alas I went hard during week one because I knew it would happen.  I sensed it.  I just can’t sense it in time to turn it off, I guess.

Stomach issues aside, it was a very difficult 5k to pen.  It’s a matter of wrapping up the action of part one and moving on to the events in part two.  New characters are being introduced, and plot devices are being thrown around to get us from point A to point B.  I finished up a great deal of research for a couple of my characters, and there was much planning for the lead-in of part 2, so as far as thought-processes go, it was a good writing week.  The thinking bit I was able to do.  The part where I actually sit down at the computer and type is slightly more difficult.  Even as I write this blog, I feel my wrists ache and fingers grow tired.  I’m just not functioning at 100% yet, and that’s fine, but it makes me feel behind schedule, which I hate. 

One of my NaNo buddies won last night.  She crossed the finish line in two weeks.  I won’t compare myself, because I know she doesn’t have the things in her life that I have in mine to keep me from writing, but I am using her as a sort of reminder to keep going.  In 2019 I finished early, by almost a week, so I know how proud she must be of herself right now.  I know I will be equally proud, whether I finish by Thanksgiving or at 11:59pm on November 30th.  Either way, I will be bouncing off the walls.

So, last weeks pitiful work did bring me up to the halfway mark 2 days early.  That was something to be proud of.  Now, here I am with half a month left and half a book to write. 

So why am I wasting time with you guys?  J/K.  You know I love my blog readers most.

Weak and Flat

So, the other day I stumbled upon this tweet, and it got me thinking.  Specifically, about high school.

@brttnyblm

See, as a kid, I was fawned over by my English teachers.  I was hailed as a reading and writing prodigy.  I was told by my mother that I was deserving of awards.  When you tell a child things like that, they will believe it, because they have yet to meet the people of the world that will tell them otherwise.  Then, one day…they do.

Now, high school was no highlight of my lifetime.  I was an unmedicated mentally ill diabetic and I did not have control over my own mind or body by the time I was 16 and a Junior.  It was the worst year of my young life and I don’t like to talk about it much but I am today because something good did come out of that year, and that is spite, as a motivator. 

It started on parent-teacher night when my mother, a kind woman who finds the good in everyone, almost went apeshit on my 11th grade English teacher.  Said teacher pretty much told my mother that I had no talent and that my writing was weak.  She said my work was subpar and she didn’t think me capable of better and was curious why she had heard such good reviews from previous teachers.  Mind you, I had a blood sugar level of maybe 400 at the time, so no, I wasn’t turning out my best work…but as my mother rationalized, if you heard I did well before, wouldn’t you assume something was wrong?  All my other teachers were telling them something was wrong.  This teacher was just telling them I sucked.  My mother will probably go to her grave not liking my 11th grade English teacher and that’s just fine.  But that’s not the whole story.

Adding insult to injury, this teacher was also the drama club moderator, the only other thing I cared about in high school.  I tried out for the school play that year and she called my acting “flat.”  Here’s another thing everyone has always told me I was good at except for the person whose actual approval mattered at the time, who thought I was trash.  Ok.  Let’s regroup.

Teacher told us in the springtime that there would be a one-act play festival, and that anyone could submit a play for it.  So…I wrote a GD play.  It was called For My Mother but it should have been called For My 11th Grade English Teacher because that’s what it was really about, now that I’m grown and confident and no longer being graded on American Lit. 

And reader…she picked my play.  I cast it and directed it and it was performed for the festival.  And I did it while directing another professional show, and pulling up my abysmal Junior year grades.  I then took my little play, marched my C+ butt over the 12th grade English teacher, and begged to be let into her elective classes for the following year.  No, I didn’t have the grades, but I had my play, and I had improvement, and I was going to get into those classes, damnit!  Creative Writing and Drama!  I mean…c’mon!

And I did it.  She was impressed.  I’m sure she spoke to my other teacher and lord knows what she had to say about me, but in the end I got into the classes I wanted to and I passed the classes I was failing and so help me god I would never be weak or flat again.

Many years later I was at the Artie Awards, which is like the Tony’s but for Buffalo theater.  We’d just won something or other and we’re getting our drink on when they announced the “newcomers” to the stage, people who had performed in their first professional role that year. I, of course, did a spit take with my red bull and vodka when they announced “11th Grade English Teacher.”  She wasn’t there, I don’t think, but it was enough to call my evening to a close.  It’s not like I hold any ill will towards her; she was just doing her job.  Do I think she could have done it a little better?  Maybe, but whatever. The end result was pretty decent.  I got good English grades Senior year, enjoyed my electives…she even cast me in the Senior play.  She was a lot better to work with as a director than a teacher, I feel, and I’m glad she found a spot in theater because I kind of sensed her heart was more in performance.  Of course, I could be wrong and you should never make assumptions, but that’s not too bad of one to make. 

Truth is, I was at a terrible point in my life back then and if this teacher hadn’t of slapped me upside the head, maybe I would have given up.  Instead, I got mad, and I got motivated, and I wrote my heart out and have been doing so ever since. 

So, there you have it.  Spite as a motivator.

NaNo21, Week 1

I’m starting to write this on Friday afternoon and will likely finish it Monday morning, but here’s how things are going so far:  I just passed 20k.  Really hopeful to crank out that extra 5k before Monday, because then I would be halfway done in a week.  However, I’m hitting some snags…some parts I’m not sure how to work with.

Firstly, my characters are getting out of hand.  See, when I write, I often feel almost possessed by some spirit who does the typing for me.  I don’t know where my ideas come from, truly.  I just let my fingers do the walking, and then I read back these pieces and wonder who composed them.  My characters themselves are the biggest spirits…I don’t know how I create them, they are just there.  They simply exist, and tell me their stories, and I oblige. 

My cousin Erin says it kinda freaks her out.  Kinda freaks me out, if I’m honest.

Anyways, my characters have been making several changes to the script lately and have forced me to go hard into research mode.  However, this has led me to some wonderful interactions with some wonderful people, so that bit I do enjoy.

Hi, It’s Tuesday.  I’m still at 20k, and if you can guess why, then you must be a constant reader of this blog.  Today I feel like death, of course, but better than I had, and I am pleased that I got out the first 20k as fast as I did, because I knew deep down that there would be a hold up. 

I, of course, didn’t blog yesterday either, so here we are, one week and one day into National Novel Writing Month.  I didn’t hit halfway in a week like I planned, but I did get almost the first part done so that’s a win.  Only another chapter or so to go on this section and then I can move on to part two, where the action really picks up.  That should be an exciting challenge, because my last little book was so introspective that there wasn’t a lot of outside drama…meanwhile, this tale is filled with it.  It has made it so much fun to write, that even when I was sick yesterday I was still thinking about it and wishing I could get to the computer to type. 

I’m thinking about it now.

I might end this here.  Might drop a couple paragraphs before I run out of steam. 

Happy NaNo, my friends.