Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Secret Hidden in Plain Sight

Poor Jenny! I should probably finish her story! I really have no idea where I'm taking her though, so this should be interesting... If you want to go back to the beginning and read her story, head on over to the story links page. You'll find links to the other posts there.

For three weeks Jenny studied the key. She turned it over and over searching for anything that could be a possible clue to its purpose. There was nothing. It was a key, but it was a key to nothing.
After three weeks of frustration she dropped the key into the drawer of her nightstand and swore she'd forget about it, and forget about the night in the cemetery. That wasn't a memory worth holding anyway.
But she couldn't forget about it. She went to bed and dreamed about it. It was the first thing she thought about in the morning. The cemetery and the key haunted her thoughts. The key and the cemetery. The cemetery and the key. With a flash of clarity, it clicked into the place. The cemetery and the key were two halves to a whole. She'd find the answer at the cemetery.
Jenny was too frightened to go at night, after her last experience at the cemetery, so she waited until the sun was high overhead, at its brightest point. Maybe, without the shadows, that overwhelming fear would stay away.
The cemetery in the sunlight was quiet. It didn't look like the same cemetery. Still, the moment Jenny stepped through the gate, she felt a shift, a change. Something wasn't right. She hovered just inside the gate, clutching the key in her pocket. Did she dare continue? Her mind screamed at her to run. Her heart told her if she did, she'd always regret it. Swallowing hard, she stepped away from the gate, making a beeline for Alex's headstone. Your answer lies with Alex... The words replayed in her mind. With Alex.
A minute later she stood in front of his headstone, gazing down at the smooth stone. "My answer lies with Alex." She said the words out loud, as if somehow hearing them would make it more real. She walked around the stone, searching for anything out of place. She ran her hand along the smooth surface, hoping to find a notch or a crevasse. Anything that could hide a secret. Nothing.
Just before she turned to go she saw it, the anomaly she was hoping for. The stone had the typical words engraved on it, words she'd told them to write. His name, date of birth, date of death, and the words... "I'll always love you" beneath them all. But barely visible beneath the "L" in love the stone was a different color, a darker shade then the rest. The reason she noticed was because the color was in the shape of a keyhole.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What I've Learned

When I started writing three years ago I had an idea of what I was doing, but I didn't know everything. I still don't know everything.
But I knew the basics. Here's what I did know:
1. I enjoyed it.
2. Writing was easy for me (I mean writing in general, coming up with a plot for a novel was a different story altogether).
3. I had a good grasp on grammar and spelling (English was always my strong point).
4. I knew what a book needed to have in order to be a good book. I'd known since I was ten (would you like to know? The best books I've ever read had four key elements: Drama, Suspense, Romance, and Action. If the author is really good he'll incorporate comedy as well, but that's not a necessary component).
So that's what I knew when I started. The basics. Now, three years later, I've learned a lot more. What have I learned to add to it? Here goes:
1. Romance is a necessary component for me. It isn't for men. They'd rather that be kept to a minimum. Drama, Suspense, and Action will still make a GREAT book.
2. A good book has a certain rhythm to it. It flows easily from one sentence to the next. Writing is as much about words as it is about cadence. A well-written book flows as smoothly as poetry.
3. All you have to do is start. Once you do, the creative juices will start flowing!
4. Writer's block is mean, mean, mean! It'll trip me up for months. I should follow my own advice (see number three).
5. Practice really does make perfect. My writing style when I started was influenced by the writing style of the book I was reading at the time. Now, I'm discovering my style. It took time, but it was worth it!
6. Perfection probably won't come the first time, but persistance leads to perfection.
7. Persistance is key. Just keep going! I don't care what goal you're working toward. Persistance is key!
8. It helps to have a cheering section, even if that cheering section is just you.
9. Everybody has advice. Do this. Do that. Don't do this. Don't break that rule. I'm glad the info is out there, but sometimes, rules are made to be broken.
10. I have a dark side, but it's not that dark. What does that mean? Well, I'll tell you. I can write about characters getting stabbed or hurt. I can write about murder and mayhem. But you won't get dirty details. I don't want to be in the mind of a murderer, so I don't write about what he's thinking. I find books like that very disturbing. That being said, I can go dark. I can. In my current novel I have a crazed murderer who really wants everybody dead. I have an obsessed boyfriend who just wants her, dead or alive, doesn't really matter. Maybe he'll just kill her. I can go there, but I won't go in the mind, and you probably won't get details so violent you end up wishing you'd never read it. I've read books like that. I don't like them. I want to feel good after I've finished a book, not like I need to go take a shower. A really good book doesn't need all those freaky details. Some, yeah. You want to know what's going on. But not excessive. Dan Brown is a good example. He gives enough freaky details that you know what's going on, but not so many that you're disturbed. Patricia Cornwell, on the other hand, is not afraid to go disturbing. And I've read worse than that from authors that I honestly hope never get that particular book published because the writing is so disturbing.
11. Last. If you want to write a good book, you're going to need to get emotionally invested. You have to, otherwise your characters can't come to life. They'll fall flat because they'll be lacking the emotional base. And that is why I don't like disturbing books. Because the author had to go there in his mind in order to get the disturbing detail and that thought always leaves me wondering what is really going on in their world and in their mind. I'm assuming I don't really want to know.

That, my friends, is some of what I've learned over the past three years. I'm sure over the next three I'll learn a lot more.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Passion: An Explanation

If you look up the word passion in the dictionary, you'll get a definition similar to this: any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as in love and hate. That will be the first definition. The other two definitions you'll see have to do with love and lust. When people think of passion, most of the time they equate it with love or lust, basically with relationships to people. I used to see it that way. In fact, if I remember correctly (it's been a while since my thought processes have changed), I used to view passion in a negative. The thought process I had went something like this: Passion = strong emotion = carnal desire or the carnal mind in control = wicked.
Here's how I view passion now. It can't be done in ='s however. More in lead to's. So here's my lead to ">". Passion > enthusiasm > goals > accomplishment > greater self-worth > loving the self > loving others > God. That may even be a loop because I believe God is the creator of true passion. So, looking at is as a loop it would look like this: God (loving God, serving God, trying to live for God... however you want to look at it) > passion > enthusiasm > goals > accomplishment > greater self-worth > loving the self > loving others > God.
God starts it, God ends it. Passion, when used to better yourself, which in turn betters the lives of others, is a positive. It's a good thing.
Like any good there's always the bad, so passion can be used for the negative. The passion of lust can destroy relationships, the passion of hate can destroy lives. But just because passion has a negative, doesn't mean it is wrong altogether. Everything has a negative. Everything has an opposite. Does that mean everything is wrong?
When you pursue a passion, chances are you're going to come to a point where you question what you're doing and whether or not you should be doing it. I know I questioned it... a lot. Maybe I wasn't supposed to be a writer. Maybe I'm just supposed to be a mom and wife and be okay with that. I've tried that path though, and I sink into depression because I don't feel like a person. I feel like "wife" and "mom", not me. I kinda like to be me.
So, when you start to question, pull back a bit and examine your passion. Ask yourself why. That's the best place to start. Why are you pursuing that particular passion? If the answer is only money, you might want to look deeper, because I personally don't believe that's enough. Money can be an off-shoot, but it's not the desire of a true passion. What do you really want? Why are you choosing that particular way to get it? I can only use myself as an example, but I will. What I really want is to better the lives of others, in any way that I can. I want to use the gifts I've been given to make the lives of other people better. That is my ultimate goal. Why did I choose writing to do this? Because I love it. Because when I write I feel something in me that wakes up and smiles. Because I love to use my mind and see the creative side come to life. Because words literally give me joy. Sounds crazy, I know, but they do. I love words. They make me happy. Like rainbows make other people happy, words make me happy. So I want to achieve my ultimate goal doing something that I absolutely love. If you pull back and examine your passion, chances are you'll feel something similar. You'll find the real reason you're pursuing that passion and the real reason you chose that particular passion. Man is that he might have joy. I believe passion has a role to play in bringing us joy, especially when we channel that passion into something that benefits others.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


So we all know I have goals. Lots of them. What I don't have are smaller goals that will help me achieve the bigger goals. I'm pretty sure everybody knows my goal is to be a published author. I'm pretty sure everybody knows I'm going to achieve that goal one way or another... well, maybe that's just me. Anyway, I have these huge goals, but I don't have a plan of action to achieve these goals. I'm working toward them, absolutely, but it's a piecemeal effort. I do a little here, a little there, and I hope that eventually I'll get where I'm going. So, to cite an example, I've been working on my novel for three years now. Three years. That's a long time. I actually finished it five months after I started it, but then the edits started, and then, when I had edited it to my liking, I began the querying and agent hunting. I was moving forward. But then I hit a brick wall. A big, fat brick wall. My life threw me a huge curve ball (and when I say huge, I do mean huge), and I ended up really questioning what I really wanted. I couldn't look at the book for a year. I couldn't write anything for myself for at least a year. I wrote articles that I sold, but those were challenging. Writing became a burden rather than the joy it had been. I didn't know if it was worth it anymore, not after what life had just handed me.
Eventually, I began to feel like I could do it again. Here's the part where the little goals that I should have come in. I re-read my novel and realized that it needed some serious work. It was too generic, too blase, too predicable, too everything. It needed some improvements! I decided to improve. That was months ago. I'm still improving. I know where I'm taking it, but the challenge to write is still there. I love it. The dream is back, but unfortunately the challenge that it became hasn't left yet. So I write a couple hundred words a week, or every two weeks. No wonder it's not going anywhere! If I were smart, I'd have weekly or daily goals of three to five hundred words. Those are small goals, tiny really, but they'd get me moving forward. They'd get the book finished. Small goals... kind of imperative. I haven't yet made the committment to do that, but I'd like to.
Anyway, this is a new lesson I'm learning in following your passion. You have to have smaller goals that will help you achieve the big goal, otherwise the big goals will take forever to come to fruition, if it comes to fruition at all. Get those small goals going. Put some value on your goals and yourself and see where it takes you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Road Blocks

Following your passion isn't a simple matter of making a choice and doing it. It is making a choice. But after you make the choice, you're going to come across a lot of road blocks. It's the nature of the beast.
That sounds really negative, but in the grand scheme of things, it's a blessing. Those road blocks are there for a lot of reasons. One, they help you decide whether or not the thing you're pursuing is really a passion and worth pursuing. Two, they help you truly define the goal because you learn through them what you really want and what it is you just think you want. And three, they teach you... a lot! They teach you what you need to know to remain constant while all of your dreams are being realized. For example: how many lottery winners are now broke? They achieved their dream (winning the lottery), but they didn't have the experiences before achieving the dream that would teach them how to handle the dream, so they lost it. You are who you are. Sometimes in order to achieve the goals you're seeking, you have to become a stronger, better you. These road blocks teach you how to do that. Just remember, a goal worth pursuing will change you for the better!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fear sets in

As soon as I discovered the joy of writing, I started to see myself achieving all these wonderful goals using the writing skills I'd recently uncovered. Most notably, I wanted to be a published author. I still want to be a published author. And I still intend to be a published author. But, wanting something and achieving something are two different things. You can want it all you want, but it doesn't just show up. You have to work toward it. You have to fight for it. You have to power through those days when you just want to give up. A goal worth achieving isn't a goal that just happens. It's a goal that you sweat over, fight over, and cry over because in the end, if you haven't really worked for what you want, than you're not going to recognize or appreciate the value of the dream.

I learned this lesson with my writing. Since my goal is to be a published author, I began researching everything I could about getting published. Oh my! What I learned was so intimidating it was tempting to just take the easy road and back out. Do my writing, write my novels, but not push the publishing thing. It sounded like a lot of scary stuff that I knew absolutely nothing about. Writing a synopsis. Querying an agent. Landing an agent. Making sure the agent wasn't scamming me. Not giving away the farm to a publisher by signing a contract that I don't understand. Those are all road blocks. Worse, everywhere you read everybody says the same thing. Your opening chapter has to be strong or else the agents and editors will never look past the first paragraph! Hook them with your opening line on the query! You have three hundred words to suck them in. Do it right! A synopsis can only be so long; sum your entire 250 page (or more) book into five pages! Write your author bio (I'm thinking, what author bio! I don't have one!!!), build yourself a platform! Don't get stuck in the slush pile!!!!!! And the worst... you know how many authors have tried and failed? Thousands.
Talk about a slap in the face. My reaction... AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Have I just decided to jump into the one occupation on earth that is nearly impossible to get into? Again, AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! Months into it, I'd bombarded myself with so much information I ended up gulping in fear and seriously rethinking my goals. Did I really want what I thought I wanted? And you know what, the answer was I don't know. I really, really don't know. I decided I'd keep going anyway. I knew I loved to write. I knew it made me happy. So, at the very least, I was going to write. I'd work for the other stuff when I came to it.
There were a few key factors that I took into consideration when I first faltered in my dream. First, my husband had become my cheering section. I'd told him what I wanted and he wanted to see me do it. This was both a good and a bad thing. It was good because I had his support. It was bad because my confidence in myself was so low, that I was afraid he'd see me as a failure if I never published anything. I realize now that he wouldn't, but at the time (three years ago), I couldn't see that. So I had this huge fear of failing... again... at something I'd tried (I'd tried to sell Mary Kay, and I'd taken some courses on medical transcription. I didn't do either of them well. Turns out, they weren't my passion). I couldn't stand to think that he saw me as a failure. So because of that I allowed the fear in, which seriously hindered me in my path. Fear is not a motivator; it kills motivation. And I had let it in. This was my own personal demon which I had to overcome. He had no part in it. He did his best to cheer me on, to build me up with visions of my own dreams. He did a great job. But that fear seriously slowed me down, though, in a strange way, it also kept me going. Fear is not a motivator, but I couldn't stop when my dream faltered because I couldn't stand to fail. So, it did keep me going, though probably not in the best way.
The second thing that kept me going was that I saw myself where I wanted to be. They say if you want something to see yourself there. To feel the emotions you'll experience when you get there. It'll cement the thing in your future and give you the drive to push for it. I had done this. It wasn't on purpose, it just happened. I could see myself (still can) achieving my dreams. I really could. So that helped keep me focused.
After a few months, when the fears began seeping in, I began to question what I really wanted. This would go on for a while.
But, it's all part of the process. I repeat: It's all part of the process!!!! Without the fears, how will you learn to overcome, how will you learn to appreciate what you have and gain, and how will you be strong enough to handle what you want when you get it?