Category Archives: Writing

#WhyIWrite

Today, NaNoWriMo’s writing prompt was a simple one: why I write. Even though I’m not planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year, it seemed like the perfect topic for today’s post. 

Why do I write?

I write because I have to. Words flow through me, bidden or unbidden. Simple morning walks, people watching, the silence of waiting for students to finish a test — all transform into narration whispered in my mind.

I write to understand what I’m facing. When I’m afraid, struggling, unsure, my characters face those fears along with me, and we work through them together. Sometimes I invite the characters in so we can confide in one another. But many times, they come on their own, knowing when I need them the most. Together, we fight through and find the answers.

I write because I have something to say. My mouth doesn’t always know the right words, but they flow out of the pen effortlessly. It’s as natural as breathing. I don’t always know if they’re words that others need to see too, but they’re the words that I need to express.

I write because I love it. It makes me feel alive. It’s what I was born to do.

Why do you write?

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That Fantasy Element My Novel Is Missing

Years ago, when I thought my first novel was about done (hahahaha!), I gave it to the boy who would eventually become my brother-in-law. He is an avid reader of fantasy, so he seemed like a natural beta reader choice. What I didn’t realize is that he would eventually change some of my thoughts on my novel — though the major piece didn’t click until a couple weeks ago.

I’ll never forget how confused I was when he returned my manuscript, said it was good, and suggested that I read some of Brandon Sanderson’s work. Or at least hear a little about his philosophy on fantasy. I though to myself that I had learned from Tolkien, the lord of the genre. Why would I look to anyone else?

That Christmas, he introduced me to Brandon Sanderson. After a few reluctant pages, I started to get into it and I started to understand what he was saying. But what I didn’t realize at the time — what I haven’t realized for a few years — is that I was missing one of the things that he was sweetly and subtly trying to tell me: I needed some work on the magic in my world.

If you had asked me before, I would have told you there isn’t really any magic in the novel. There’s a supernatural element, but it’s not really magic. What I hadn’t realized, though, is that that supernatural element had slowly transformed from something that didn’t really affect the plot to a major piece, especially in the climax.

In the process of growing, it had taken on a magical role in the story. Certainly not to the degree of the different things that happen in Brandon Sanderson’s works, but it was very different from where I started.

It didn’t hit me until I was reading something — I can’t remember what now — that discussed Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic. (Read about those here.) For the first time, I realized that there is a type of magic flowing through my novel’s world, and I had basically used it like a deus ex machina in the climax. Finally, I get what my brother-in-law was trying to tell me all those years ago.

What does that mean for my novel? Well, instead of writing, there’s been a lot of thinking going on. It might mean some adjustments to my world’s history and structure, but I think the end product will be much better than what I have now. Maybe this is the final adjustment that my novel has been waiting for before it really is actually done.

Have you ever found yourself in the same place with writing advice? What’s the best advice you’ve gotten for writing in your genre?


How to Make Me Hate a Book in Five Words or Less

Even though my husband and I are adults, we still enjoy bedtime stories. Usually, he picks the book and I read it aloud… though this was the sneaky way that I finally introduced him to The Lord of the Rings in its original form.

Over the years, we’ve read quite a few books. Right now, we’re working on the Myst series, which are all based on the video game world of the same name. He played the part puzzle, part exploration games when he was a kid, and he told me enough about the world while we were growing up that I was familiar with it too.

So far, we’ve finished the first book (The Book of Ti’Anna) and now we’re on to the second (The Book of Atrus). While they’re not the next classics, they have been fun.

That is, until a few nights ago.

Continue reading


Re-Awoken

I love stumbling into places that awaken the imagination. Mine has felt so sleepy lately — caught up in everyday life and planning for the future.

One of those moments happened during a day trip over the weekend.

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At first, this place felt like it belonged in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. One of the statues should be here, waiting to reward my hard work with another heart or some stamina.

But then I wondered what it would be like in the world I’ve spent most of my life creating. What would those people do in a place that mixes the beauty of nature and architecture, like this?

The dormant itch to work on those stories has re-awoken. It’s about time.

What places have you visited that have inspired your stories or inspired you to restart work on a long-term project?


The Heart of a Hurricane

It took many long hours for the hurricane to make its trek over us. I’m thankful to say that we made it out unscathed (though we were without power for a while). Things are finally starting to return to normal, though it will still be a while for some. As the hours dragged, I wondered how I would capture this experience. As a writer, all that came to mind are words. So here are some snippets of what it was like in the heart of a hurricane. 

Hysteria reverberates through the air.
Shelves and gas pumps empty, fueling fear.
People grow desperate as the eye draws near.
My gas tank and pantry are full.
Should I be more worried?

Covered in a mix of sawdust and mud,
we bolt plywood to the windows
and hope for the best. Tapcons screech,
forcing themselves deep into strong concrete.
Even the baby inside me is restless.
The cat cowers under the bed.
Cold rain pours as we work.
The storm isn’t even here yet.

Darkness.
I reach for the safety of the lantern.
The light brings some comfort as wind
rattles boards and rain pummels exposed windows.
We listen to each gust, breathless. I search
for the cat beneath the table. I want to know
where he is, just in case. I remind
all of us that it’s going to be okay.
Another gust. How fast was that one?
How  many more hours before it passes?

Light finally breaks through the speeding clouds
and we venture outside. The world is surreal.
Leaves blown from bent plants, branches everywhere,
dark spots where shingles should have been,
a lost piece of gutter laying on the sidewalk.
A mangled tree whispers destruction, others lay
where the wind left them. But we are all safe,
and that is what really matters.

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At the DMV (An Observation)

She glances up at the clock as she retrieves yet another driver’s license. It’s 4:38pm. Will this day ever end?

She returns to the window where the annoyed man snatches the license and marches off in a huff. Whatever. She doesn’t really care. Her job, her life — it’s all boring and dissatisfying.

Reluctantly, she pushes the button to finalize the transaction. In 45 seconds, the next person will be at her window. Maybe it’ll take longer, if she’s lucky.

She picks at her grown out French tips as she waits. 5 o’clock can’t come fast enough. Of course, that means she has to go home to her messy house and rambunctious chihuahua puppy that her husband insisted they needed. Then comes an evening of chores. Dinner, a load of laundry while her husband takes the puppy for a walk, ironing… Sometimes she wonders if it would be more relaxing to just stay at the DMV.

The next person comes. Some lady who is all business but at least smiles. There aren’t many of those in the long lines and the piles of paperwork. Before she even asks, an old license and pile of documentation are on the counter. Everything is in order. That’s a surprise. Most people are missing something and ready to argue about it.

Small talk ensues, and it’s hard for her to keep her frustrations hidden. She doesn’t even know what to make for dinner tonight. “Maybe leftovers,” she says.

The lady nods. “Always a good choice. It’s easy. Or if you like salmon, you can always cover it with some barbecue sauce and bake it.”

At first, she shrugs off the suggestion. Then she starts to nod as well. Maybe that would be good. She’s never been much of a cook, but she always wanted to be. Like her grandmother. It sounds easy enough.

She snaps the picture and sends the lady away with a new license.

4:55. Maybe this is a good day to try something new.


Eclipse

Restless eyes glance at the sky
Scanning glowing clouds for the sun
And faithfully approaching moon.
Restlessly watch the clock;
Four hours and 100 miles to go.
Restless to finally stop and watch.

The faithful wait in a quiet park,
cameras and glasses at the ready.
Clouds continue to gather but we hope
that patch of blue sky overhead
will rest over us when the eclipse comes.

Billows of clouds rise between us
Thunder sends its warning
But we wait. 30 more minutes.
Maybe it will clear?

5 minutes to totality.
The clouds grow denser.
I cling to my umbrella.
My dreams are about to
wash away…

4 minutes to totality.
The sun tries to peek
through the thunderhead
but all I see is a glow
in the darkening sky.

3 minutes to totality.
I’m going to enjoy this.
Live with no regrets,
chase the eclipses,
even if it rains.

2 minutes to totality.
The darkness is not
from the clouds.
Crickets begin their song.
They know what’s to come.

1 minute to totality.
Anticipation builds.
The sun is hidden but
even the clouds can’t hide
what’s happening above.

Totality.
The world turns to twilight
Then darker. And darker.
Lost in the shadow,
everything falls quiet.
It takes my breath away.

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Just before our cloudy totality of the 2017 eclipse.