The Fear of an Aspiring Author

For several weeks, I nursed the ideas of a certain story.  Considering traits of my heroine.  Aspects of the story.  And finally, it all came together as the potential for a solid piece.  In my excitement of the birth of this brain child, I divulged some of the details of the plot line and characters to help hash out the details in the infrastructure of the soon to be trilogy.  I then set out on the daunting task of the back story in my first ever short story (to be released in mid June).

I went to see a friend the other night who is one of few who is privy to details about the novel which I am intending to write.  She has read aspects of the short story and understands basics of how it’s going to play into the full novel later.  When we were chatting, she asked if I was still intending to write the novels, citing that she thought I had a really interesting story to tell.  She was eager to see how it all plays out.

That got me thinking today.  I’ve really been procrastinating when it comes to actually putting my thoughts down on the proverbial paper.  My story is safe in my mind.  Free from criticism.  Free to be.  I feel inadequate to write it down, feeling that it holds so much depth and promise.  What if I don’t have what it takes to tell the story with the rich detail it deserves?  In a way, I feel a responsibility to my characters and the whole world of Cherished.  A responsibility not to fail.  I’m undeserving of the role I have assumed as their creator.  Undeserving and incompetent.

But, in reality, if I don’t tell the story, who will?

As I was sitting here today, considering those first, hardest words, I realized that my tight clutch and fear are really, actually, very selfish of me.  Do I mean to say that I think Cherished is going to be the next Harry Potter?  Do I expect any true monetary success from my writing?  Not really.  Allow me a moment to explain my claim.

Even if I do prove incompetent to tell the story that’s been haunting my waking hours, at least it’s still told.  Edits, re-edits, and beta-readers can help me shape it into the story that I envision it to be.  But if the story is never told, then it’s never given a chance.  It’s never given a chance to be enjoyed by another reader.  Never given a chance to develop.

I am realistic in my expectations of Cherished’s final development.  I understand that I probably won’t be the next Amanda Hawking or Stephanie Meyers.  But as an aspiring author, my hope is that just one person read my story and truly enjoy it.  I mean, one person curls up on the couch; kindle in hand, wrapped in a warm blanket and just gets lost in the world.  And truth be told, that ideal reader, that one person that I so long to please, is myself!

How self-righteous, right?  But seriously, how can I fail at telling a story when my goal is to write a story that I, myself, would enjoy?  If other’s read Cherished and find joy, that’s an added bonus, and one that I hope may become true.  But not my goal.  So my selfishness in holding onto my story, never letting it take shape and life, afraid that it may not meet critic’s standards.  That selfishness, is nothing more than excuse.  An excuse not to try.  And an excuse behind which I will no longer hide.  I have spent too many hours making excuses rather than find reasons to write.  That ends!

The only way I can fail Cherished is to not write it.  And that’s not an option!

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Published in: on 06.11.2011 at 5:48 pm  Comments (8)  

Flash Fiction: Victoria Falls

Here is my first stab at a flash fiction. Not sure how I feel about it. Honest critiques are appreciated!

Victoria Falls

Simplicity.  Monotony.  Words that hold such negative connotation for most of America, but in Victoria Falls, they’re qualities we love.

Not much has changed here over the past several decades.  Our banks still have tellers and withdrawal slips.  Our grocery store still has Billy who bags our food.  Most people drive trucks older than me.  They don’t break down often when every man in the town knows how to fix them up right again.

It’s a quiet town.  Less than 500 of us. Nothing exciting.  Comfortable.  Reliable.

I walked through town as I did every Wednesday.  I needed to stop at the bank for mama, the grocery store for the bakery, and the library for me.  I said hello to the same friendly faces I saw each morning, answering questions about the latest good book I read or newest flavor of cupcakes in the bakery.

When I turned the corner, the sheriff would be drinking his lemonade.  His son was my age, and Sheriff Morgan was trying to marry him off. He’d tilt his hat and ask me to join him for dinner.  I would agree to think about it as I stepped over the loose cobblestone that would trip up the unexpecting traveler. But Victoria Falls didn’t accommodate many travelers.  The Inn only ever rented rooms to unfaithful husbands.  Maybe once a year, someone traveling through the state would stop at night.  But the barren town usually scared them away before breakfast.

Four rusty trucks would be parked right outside the bank.  The only four parking spots on Main Street.  Three older ladies would be chattering away on the park bench they occupied across the street.  Gossiping.  Always the same stories.  Mr. Macky was cheating on his wife.  She didn’t know.  Had I heard?

I chuckled as I thought about the conversations I was about to have.  I turned the corner, stepping over the loose stone with ease.

“Morning, Sherriff.”

“Janelle,” He said as he tipped his hat.  “Will you be joining us for dinner on Friday?  I’m sure Matthew would be please to see you again.”

“Anything good planned for dinner?”

“Roast beef and potatoes.”  The same as every Friday night.

“Sounds delicious, Sherriff Morgan.  I’ll give it some thought.”  He winked, knowing we’d repeat our conversation again next week.

As I was approaching the bank, several people walked past, animate in conversation.  It was unusual.  The change was unnerving.  I didn’t like it.

A moment later, a truck passed on the road.  The green one that usually parked in the first space in front of the bank.  I stopped, looking around.  Few were on the streets as usual, but they all wore the same expression.  Something was different.

I came to the bank, and where the green truck should have been, sat a slick silver car with dark windows.  The wheels were black, the paint was perfect.  It was a city car, far, far from the city.  Across the street, sitting on the bench, was a man I had never seen before.  Behind him, three very angry older women glared, their expressions showing just how unwelcomed he was to occupy their bench.

The man didn’t notice.

Watching him over my shoulder, I turned into the bank.  The teller and manager were whispering to one another, heads together as they stared out the window.

“Do you know who he is,” the teller asked me.

“Never seen him before,” I responded.  Elsie knew how to handle my transaction without asking and did so while still watching the mystery man across the street.  I thanked her and continued on my way.

The thing about living in a town where nothing changed was the comfort in knowing nothing would change.  When it did, it made me anxious.  My path would take me past the bench with the stranger.  What would I do?  Should I talk to him?  I wasn’t sure.

As I crossed the street, I noticed his featured were distressed.  He wore perfectly pressed clothes of mundane ordinary styles too nice for Victoria Falls; khaki pants and a spotless white button up shirt.  The smudge of dirt across his cheek and a small spot of blood below his breast pocket marred his otherwise perfect appearance.

As I walked by, I tried to ignore him, but his broken spirit called to me.  “Are you alright, sir?”

“Just trying to hide.”

“Victoria Falls is a great place to hide from the world, but not from us.  You kinda stick out in this town.”

He looked up and noticed the appraising faces.  “I had no idea,” he said as he chuckled.  Extending his hand, he announced, “I’m Adam.”

“Janelle.  It’s nice to meet you.”  I said as he closed his hand around mine.  I lowered my voice, as to not be overheard by the older ladies, “You’ve stolen the perch of the town’s gossips, ya know?”

He looked at me tentatively, uncertain how to take my sarcasm.  Noticing my smile, he offered me one that made my heart melt.

“What’s there to do in this in the place other than occupy a bench and gossip all day?”  He asked in mock seriousness.

“Well, I was heading to the library.  You could join me if the bench is too crowded.”

He chucked again as he stood to his feet.  “Ladies,” he said as he turned to the hens cackling behind him.  Offering a deep bow, he said “My sincerest apologies.”

He smiled at me again and followed me down the street towards the library.

There was something about this stranger that comforted me.  And of course that made me anxious.  His perfect appearance and perfect car weren’t right for Victoria Falls, but his jocular attitude and nonchalant demeanor matched those of the towns’ patrons.

Conversation was easy, but I noticed that Adam carefully kept the topic away from him.  That made me curious.  People didn’t often choose Victoria Falls as a hiding place, though it made a good one.  Fit in here, and it will always be a welcoming home.  A safe place.  Upset the town, and it’s not longer friendly.

From the looks Adam received throughout the day, I wondered how long his presence would be accepted.  I heard others speak of him the way they would speak of a rodent in their pantry.  Even when checking in at the Inn, Adam faced hostility.  The people of Victoria Falls were making their opinion known.  Adam was not a welcomed occupant.

The following morning, I continued my routine as I did most Thursday morning.  No trip to the bank today, but the library and the bakery were daily adventures.  The town maintained an ominous feel, one I recognized as a warning that Adam was still a visitor.  It was no surprise when I arrived at the bakery and he was there waiting for me.

He jumped to his feet brandishing a cup of coffee.  A giggle escaped as I accepted his offering.  Venturing, I questioned, “Rough night?”

“I’m not sure I’m welcomed in this town,” he said.

“You’re new.  Give them time.”  It was all I could offer, though I knew the town’s opinion was unlikely to change.

The day progressed as it normally would, save I had fewer customers than normal.  Some people would glance in the front window and scurry away once seeing Adam, but most of my normal customers were nowhere to be seen.  Adam seemed to notice my uneasiness and purchased more muffins than I would normally sell in two days.  It wasn’t my sales that concerned me, though.  It was his alienation and my inability to understand it.

But that didn’t last long.

As I walked Adam back toward the Inn, trying to extend the hospitality I felt the town was lacking, we were accosted by a thick, chilling fog.  My breath instantly turned to ice hanging in the air.  Supernatural ire wafted around us, forcing tears to my eyes.  The fog broke around the shadow of a caped man.  His bare chest seemed unaffected by the cold that cripple me.  He eyes burned into mine, calling me forward.  My muscles responded as my mind shrieked its protest.  No sound parted my lips.

He welcomed my approach with a smile, revealing two sharp fangs.  The sight excited me, quickening my pace to his welcoming arms.  I was entranced by the demon of the night, unaware of anything else.    The screaming in my mind began to fade as I lost all realization of danger.  My mind was numb, my body longing for the mystery of the Vampire’s Kiss.

I brushed my hair over my shoulder, revealing the tender flesh of my neck.  Tilting my head in submission to an unspoken command, I took the final step into the vampire’s embrace.  His arms held me too tightly for comfort as he lowered his mouth to my offering.

The vampire’s breath on my neck melted the numbness that had clouded my thought; panic rose in its place.  My attempts at freedom were useless against the strength of the dark creature and I was seized with terror.  I clenched my eyes together and braced for the pain of the vampire’s bite.

But it never came.

Instead came Adam’s grip around my waist and he pulled me from the clutches of the demon.  Keeping himself between me and the vampire, Adam protected me from the attack.  The two men fought as the fog thickened around us, and again I was left alone and freezing.

A wail shattered the silence and the fog dissipated.  Adam’s voice reached my ears, “Return to them, those who sent you, and tell them Victoria Falls will fight back. The Vampire Assassin will fight with them.”

Published in: on 06.07.2011 at 9:34 pm  Comments (4)  

Samantha’s Prayer

The shower favors I made with the first poem I've written since high school.

A wonderful friend of mine celebrated her pregnancy at her baby shower this past weekend. I was in charge of favors and I had this great idea to make vanilla sugar as a favor. I wanted to find a cute poem that I could include but nothing seemed just right. I found one poem that was okay so I decided to tweak it just a bit. After all was said and done, not a single word was from the original poem.

I don’t write much poetry. This is way outside of my realm. But I’m proud of it, so I thought I would share.

Samantha’s Prayer

Samantha is a miracle blessed to Brad and Kate.
A life to cherish and to love; a life we celebrate.
Lord, we pray you keep her safe, her soul so pure and sweet.
May her heart know Your love with each and every beat.
May her two tiny feet, with her tiny toes,
Lead her life to the path so You’re the God she knows.
May her little hands, and her little fingers, too,
Bring about Your will to others, so they know You’re true.
You’re the King of kings, Lord of lords, highest of the ranks,
We praise Your name, oh Lord, and for this girl give thanks.

Published in: on 06.06.2011 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Aint Nothing To It…

What a writing weekend. It’s been so amazing. School is finished (doing celebration dance as I type) and I was able to really focus on my short story writing. It didn’t come easily after so many weeks of not writing. I struggled with my words and sentence structures. My characters have such a great story to tell, but it was locked in my brain unwilling to come out as eloquently as they desired. (Any hear the quote about writing being a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia?  I’m starting to understand that!)  After many typed and deleted sentences, I finally decided that the best thing to do is write it down. Whatever it was, get it onto the proverbial paper and call it a rough rough draft. So that’s what I did. And (another victory dance) I have finished my first rough draft of my novella.

What a great personal accomplish.  What a great experience.  It has taught me a great lesson about the craft.  It’s an easy one.  As Aj say, “There ain’t nothing to it but to do it.”  While I was wrapping up school, I made a ton of excuses as to why I couldn’t write.  I needed to work on school (valid as it was), I only had a few minutes I should use to relax.  As the weeks past by, my hesitation to write was less based in excuses and more founded in fears.  What if I forgot my characters?  What if they wouldn’t tell their story any longer?  I had spent so much time getting to know them in the first place, and the less time that I spent with them, the harder it was to come back to them.

But when I finally did sit down to write again, I found the story was still there. There perfect words were not.  They are still trapped inside a vault in the back of the my mind waiting to be rediscovered, but my characters could still tell their story, and quite well, I just let them.

Like any craft, writing takes continual practice.  Without it, my writing muscle in the brain atrophied and my vocabulary was elementary, my descriptions weak and cliche.  I didn’t like much of what I wrote.  But I still like the story.  I found it in my slab of marble, my sculpture to be discovered.  It has taken a rough shape with blunt tools.  Now, I will let it rest as I practice the finer skills of writing to return to it later.  Add the detail it deserves and polish for others to enjoy.

I can’t wait!

Published in: on 05.30.2011 at 5:27 pm  Comments (6)  

Destructive Punishments

As a student teacher there are several things that I see in the parents of today that really bother me. Without having any children of my own, though, there isn’t much that I’m qualified to judge. But there is one issue that I see repeated that really gets under my skin.

From what I can gather, it is to be expected that children will make mistakes, make messes and get into trouble. That’s part of being a kid, and it’s part of parenting to apply appropriate consequence. My question, then, is this.

Why do so many parents punish their children by making them read books?

Allow me a moment to remove any enjoyable factor from reading, and let’s just look at it purely from the academic standpoint.  If you make reading a punishment, then aren’t you just teaching your students that learning is also a punishment?  That school is a punishment?  What if you want to bake a cake?  You have to read the directions there.  So isn’t that also a punishment by extension?

Beyond the academics, though, there is world of wizards, wimpy kids, and cats in hats.  A world of far away lands, and some closer by.  Dinosaurs, fish, and I spy.  Books hold so many joys and excitement.  Thrills, danger, and laughter.  There is so much to explore and experience in books.  So much that I want to give to my children, all made possible by the shelves and shelves of beautifully bound colorful pages holding wonders of the world.

But when I have a student who cries when I hand him a book, or another who asks me why I’m mad at him if I ask him to read, my heart breaks for all the experiences lost to those children.  They see books as an evil created to punish them for mouthing off, hitting their sister, or doing nothing.  Book have lost all their excitement to these children.  They hold no wonder, nothing enjoyable.  Just punishment.

What a painful and destructive punishment.

I am trying to wrap my mind around this.  Why would a parent choose reading as a punishment?  Do they see it as a way to impart academics in down time?  I mean, I guess I can make sense of this logic, except that punishment is not a time to learn about wizards, vampires, and one fish, two fish.  Punishment is a time to reflect on poor choices and bad behaviors.  For me, punishment as a child meant the bathtub.  No water.  No toys.  Nothing to do.  But think.  Think about why I shouldn’t bite the babysitter or tell lies.  It destroyed my good times.  Destroyed my afternoons.  But it did not destroy my passion of discovery of new worlds, new ideas, and exciting rides.

The long term effects of using something so academically, socially, and imaginatively beneficial for children as a punishment is devastating.  I just can’t comprehend it.  If I’m missing something, please, let me know!

Published in: on 05.08.2011 at 7:46 pm  Leave a Comment