Creating Flavors

Back before the world got sick, I forced myself to attend an open mic poetry reading at a local bookstore.  Then, that ended because of the pandemic, and I retreated back into my little anxiety shell and didn’t come out for a year and a half.  Then, last week I saw an ad in the paper for a writing workshop.  There were only a few slots available, but I figured what the heck and threw my name into the hat.  Two days later I received an email saying I was registered.  Turns out, it was also a free event, so I was even more pumped because in case you were wondering, poetry collections are not best sellers. 

But then, as it does, my stomach came out to play on Friday and sent me into a tizzy.  Saturday, the day of the workshop, I felt better physically, but terrible mentally.  Firstly, I did not take my meds the night before because I was fearful of throwing up again.  Secondly, they pumped me full of the strong stuff at the ER and it was still wearing away come Saturday afternoon.

At 3pm, I was near tears, scared to go, unprepared, rushed…all the feelings of anxiety that like to stop me in my tracks.  I was even a little sick to my stomach, which made me all the more worried.  Mark did what he always does, and that is get me through it.  He remined me how excited I as when I got the registration email.  He reminded me how badly I wanted to get out into the world again, and he reassured me of my talents, as he does every day.  So, I got dressed and drank some coffee and got in the car and went.

Awkward at first, as always, I was maybe the second person to arrive.  I settled in and we got a box full of goodies (photo below) with a notebook and a journal in it, along with supplies for making tea bags.  First, Julio (whom I met once before at that bookstore, so it was a little easing to see a face I knew in the room,) gave a talk about the histories of tea and the cultural and religious significances, and then discussed the tea flavors we had and what they symbolized, which was very interesting.  I jotted down my combinations I wanted to try: hibiscus mint for mom, lemongrass mint for Bernie, and lavender chamomile for me.

After our selections, we took to writing about our flavors.  I didn’t get anything very good, because I was writing longhand which is just TORTURE in my opinion.  But I of course typed it up and then cleaned it a little, so you can find it below.  Everyone else shared their pieces, and they were lovely.  I like open mic style things because everyone’s flow is so different.  You have free form, traditionalists, rhymers, alliteraters, slam poets…so much variety.

After the journaling and sharing, we put our tea in the bags and decorated tea boxes.  Then, Bianca, who seemed to be the one in charge, gave everyone a personalized cup (and you just know I love stuff with my name on it.)  We had a little open mic, where you could share whatever, and I read Sick Since Sixteen because it was the first poem that came up on my phone.  It was a good choice though, because I received both snaps and “mmmh’s” which is like a standing ovation in the poetry world. Then everything broke up and most people started heading over to The Gypsy Parlor across the street for an iced tea tasting, and that’s when my brain screamed “NO.  GO HOME.”

So, I gathered my things and thanked my hosts and left, dejected.

See, the mingling bit was the part I was looking forward to the most.  I barely know any local writers, and it is so hard for me to get out of my shell and find actual humans.  And my stupid brain said no, then triggered my stomach to agree with it, causing me to gag on the corner of Grant and Potomac.  Sometimes I feel like that stupid brain-gut connection is truly ruining everything good and exciting in my life.

Anyway, I went home.  I made my tea, and it was delicious.  Soothing chamomile and destressing lavender.  Very helpful.  Then I typed up what I wrote in my journal, and texted Sahar to tell her of my woes.  She suggested I try to network virtually, which I don’t know if I would be better at.  I decided to follow the hosts of the events fb pages.  Hopefully that will keep me on the radar for upcoming things.

Julio is having an ugly Christmas sweater open mic, which seems pretty cool, but who knows if anxiety will let me attend.  I will try, though.  I will always keep trying.  In the meantime, I shall sip my tea and write in my journal and hope to make a new friend that I can talk about the business of words with.  Someday…

4pm
Gram was British, 
so 4pm meant tea time.
Our cups, 
filled with cream and sugar, 
(honey and lemon if you were sick.) 
Biscuits were a necessity, 
though mother would say 
“It’s too close to dinnertime!”  
“She’s already overweight!”  
No mind paid by Gram, 
tea and cookies at 4pm.
Rose Red tea, 
so I could collect the porcelain figurines, 
and terrible shortbread 
from a blue metal tin,  
She would have been one-hundred on Saturday, 
but I lost her when I was eight, 
her body as cold 
as the cup of leftover tea 
on her nightstand.
my goodies.

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!

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!

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.

NaNoWriMo 2021

I don’t intend to write much here today because…well, it’s November.  Which means NaNoWriMo, which means hours in front of my computer, deep in my novel.  On Thursday, I will be updating with my progress reports that I do to hold myself accountable while I attempt to finish this challenge.  Today I am writing about it simply because it is 930am on November 1st, and I haven’t even opened my notes yet. 

I’m going to take a second to teach you some NaNo terminology.  There are pantsters and there are planners.  Planners have outlines and character development and notes and dialogue and concepts all on paper before they write a word.  Pantsers pretty much just say screw it, and sit down to write…flying by the seat of their pants, if you will.  I, however, am what is referred to as a plantser, meaning I have everything planned out way ahead of time but don’t really know what’s going to happen until I sit down to write. 

During my first NaNo attempt I wrote a novella called The Second Before.  It ended up vastly different on November 30th than it was on November 1st.  It was a surprise to me, and really made me think about my writing process.  Sometimes I get so caught up in my story it just falls out of my fingers and I wonder who wrote it in the first place. 

I recently published a short story on my Patreon called The Lucky Virgin, and the few who read it adored it.  This is one of those pieces that I honestly don’t remember writing…it’s as if some spirit took over my keyboard. I read some of it back to myself and thought “damn that’s good.”  God…I love that feeling.

Anyways, my fingers are already kind of tired and I have damn near 2k words to write today, so I bid you adieu.  I hope this month brings you joy and hard work, like it will for me.  (And maybe this year, no broken fingers.)