Writing Mechanics

Brandon Sanderson: Writing Class – Introduction

I confess, I’ve never read any of Brandon Sanderson‘s work. That’s not to say, I wouldn’t be interested in reading any of his stuff, I just haven’t as of this post.

(Side note: After visiting Mr. Sanderson’s website I discovered that he offers some of his work for free. SWEET!)

However, when I saw he published his writing class lectures on YouTube, I was instantly intrigued. I’ve watched enough YouTube videos where people talk about his lecture series to want to watch them for myself.

The first one is an introduction:

And by introduction, it means he talks about the writing life. He talks about how he got started in writing and the number of years he toiled away before he was discovered and now he’s a best-selling author.

Every writer’s dream, am I right?

But he also said something really interesting – writing is what you make of it. For example, for me, writing is fun. I get satisfaction out of creating something out of nothing. I like my characters and I like putting them into various situations. I write because … I don’t know, I just feel like I NEED to, sometimes. Sure, I would love to be published at some point in my life but it’s not WHY I write. In fact, I would be, and perhaps I will someday, perfectly fine to post a serial story on my blog, just for kicks. I know other writers would be horrified at the thought of putting their work on the Internet because once you do that, it sort of  kills your chances of publishing it later. But I’m not really into writing with the goal of being published. Sure. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that the thought of being published and actually making money from my work wouldn’t be a dream come true, but it’s not my sole goal. I just want to write because I enjoy it. And perhaps, other people will enjoy reading it.

Brandon also talks about the importance of making time for “real” life outside your work. Relationships, friendships, engaging with the world as a whole. Because doing that not only gives you fodder for stories, but it makes your writing more relatable.

He talks about being disciplined in your writing schedule and figuring out what works best for you. I really appreciated the fact that he talked about writing advice and how one author will suggest you try this and another author will tell you that doing this will be better, but ultimately, you have to figure out what works best for YOU. We are all different and we all approach writing from various points of view, from life experiences. There is no right or wrong way to write. I also really appreciated the fact that he said if you write, then you’re a writer. You don’t have to be published, and/or make money, to be a writer.

Nothing annoys me more than to watch writers stick their noses up in the air and claim that to truly be a writer, you must be A. B. C. I disagree. If you write, journal, whatever, you’re a writer. Because creating something out of nothing is HARD.

He also talked about leaving brain space for writing. This is my current problem. I work in healthcare and that takes up A LOT of brain space. I have very little space, and energy, to be creative when I get home from work. So often, I don’t write a lot during the week. I’m one of those weekend writers that he mentions in the class. That is when I have the most, time, energy, and brain space to write something.

I count what I do on this blog as writing. Again, writing these blog posts takes creative energy. I would like to write more fiction, and I will try and do that, but I feel like I need to clear my brain space first and to do that, I need to dump all of my other thoughts and ideas into blog posts first. Once I’ve done that, I feel refreshed and ready to invite my creative muse in for a visit.

I appreciated how he didn’t discourage new writers but at the same time expressed realistic expectations. You can’t become a writer if you don’t write. It’s fun to TALK about wanting to be a writer, but to actually sit down and write something, is a whole new ballgame.

Discovery and architect writing. Meaning – discovery = pantser and architect = outliner. I feel like I fall closer to being a discovery writer than an architect, though I’m not opposed to outlining … a bit.

And writing groups … I’d like to become part of a writing group at some point. I think that’s why I really like the Word Nerds because I think it would be fun to belong to a group of people that are friendly, supportive and helpful when critiquing my work. My problem is, I have no idea where to find that online. Any suggestions?

Even though Brandon doesn’t really get into the nitty-gritty of writing in this lecture, I think it’s important to hear, all the same. He talks about the importance of getting to know YOU, the writer, your habits and why experimenting with different ways to write will help you learn what works and what doesn’t work for you.

Brandon is more focused on science fiction and fantasy and though I don’t write these genres, I’m not opposed to trying them at some point. But his writing advice can be applied to whatever genre that interests you. I’m looking forward to watching more.

Did you learn anything from this lecture? If so, what? What type of writer are you: discovery, architect, or, somewhere in between?

Writing Mechanics

Class – How to Write a Short Story

It’s no secret that I love short stories. I like reading them and writing them. I like writing them because they are quick and relatively easy for me. I also lose interest in my story after about 5,000 words and am ready to move on to something else.

So when I saw this online class on Brandon Sanderson’s channel, I couldn’t resist posting it here for those that may be interested in writing short stories. I learned a lot from this class, I hope you do, too.

If you want to do the exercise in the comment section, feel free!

Class cliffnotes:

These elements help you determine where a story/stops and the kind of conflict your characters face.

MICE

Milieu begins when your character enters a new space and ends when your character exits the space. Conflict is the middle that stops your character from reaching his/her goal. The moment the goal has been reached is the moment the story ends.

Inquiry stories are driven by questions. It begins with the question a character has and ends when the question has been answered.

Character stories are driven by angst. Simplest form, story begins when they are unhappy with themselves and end when they are happy. But really these stories begin with an identity shift, a shift in how the character self-defines and they end when the character’s self-definition solidifies, when they have a new understanding of self – Example: coming-of-age stories, romances.

Event stories are driven by action. These begin when the status quo, or the sense of normal, is disrupted and they’re restored when there’s a new status quo. External threat.

Character event – internal conflict.
Event event – external conflict.

Milieu formula: <m> <i> </i> </m>
Start with milieu, incident, close incident, close milieu.

Wizard of Oz is a perfect example:

<c> character – Kansas girl
<e> event Tornado
<m>milieu Welcome to Oz
<i>inquiry Get back home
</i> close inquiry Go back home
</m> close milieu Dorothy leaves Oz
</e> close event Arrives back in Kansas
</c> close character Kansas girl didn’t need to look any further than my own backyard.

Honesty, this breakdown really helped me formulate the story structure in my head and I think it will prove really helpful in future stories.

Happy writing!

NaNoWriMo2020

Jax’s Pre-Story

(warning – language)

“Hey,” Jax said as he walked into the house.

“Hey,” Bethany answered without looking up from her phone.

Jax walked past his wife and shrugged out of his jacket tossing it across the back of his recliner. He peeled off his gun holster and walked into their bedroom to lock the gun in the safe. Even though guns were a big part of his life, he didn’t want his daughter to accidentally get a hold of them. Especially while she was young. He would teach her gun responsibility once she was old enough to understand and respect firearms and the importance of handling them correctly.

He washed his hands studying his reflection in the mirror. He looked tired. Light purple bags underscored his eyes and the fine lines around his mouth were more grooved. But that was to be expected, he supposed, having a three month old in the house that still wasn’t sleeping the whole night.

He peeked around the corner of the baby’s room. Gabriella was staring up at the mobile softly swinging above her. He smiled.

“Hey Gabi,” he said softly so as not to startle her. “I see you’re awake. Are you ready to join the land of the living?” He paused at the edge of her crib and gazed down at his beautiful daughter. She was his perfect angel. She had his dark hazel eyes and her mother’s heart-shaped mouth. She grinned up at him, a spit bubble popping near the corner of her mouth. He chuckled and reached down to scoop her up. Her small head fit his larger hand perfectly as he placed her against his chest. She snuggled against his shoulder and began rooting around.

“I see you’re hungry. Let’s go hunt mom down.” He carried her securely against him and walked back into the kitchen.

Bethany was busy tapping away on her phone. She was so engrossed in her conversation that she didn’t realize Jax was standing next to her until he cleared his throat.

“Who are you talking to?”

“Oh,” she squeaked out a nervous chuckle. “No one. Just responding to a Facebook post.”

“Bullshit.” He ground his teeth in irritation and narrowed his eyes. “You’re talking to HIM, aren’t you?”

She sighed and put her phone down while reaching for Gabi. “Don’t start, Jax. Jealously is not an attractive trait.”

He released his hold on Gabi and watched her carry their daughter to the sofa and settle down to breastfeed her.

“You could at least have the decency to not communicate with ‘your friend’ while I’m here,” he ground out and moved back to the kitchen. “And I could give a shit if you talk to him, just don’t do it in front of me.” He looked around the kitchen then opened the oven to peer inside. “What’s for dinner?”

“Whatever you’re making,” she responded while smiling down at her daughter who was now happily suckling away.

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Look Bethany. I don’t expect you to be Betty Crocker but you’re home all day, the least you could do is fix dinner.”

“I didn’t have time.”

“Time from what?”

She kissed her daughter’s forehead before looking toward him. “Why do we have to have this conversation every night? I have responsibilities, Jax. Social media may not be a traditional 9-to-5 ‘job’ to you, but trust me, it’s very time consuming and I’m starting to make money from my videos and Instagram posts so … get over it.”

“But it’s taking time away from our daughter. How long was she awake in her crib? And there are dried tears on her cheeks. How long was she crying? Did you even know she was crying?”

Bethany continued to gaze down at Gabi with a soft smile and in a sweet, baby voice, she said, “Fuck you, Jax.”

He sighed and opened the fridge to gauge the food inventory. They had half a gallon of milk, a container of cottage cheese and an onion. He walked over to the pantry and yanked open the door. Three cans of pinto beans, half a package of spaghetti noodles and soy sauce. He slammed the door which startled Gabi who disconnected from Bethany to let out a startled cry.

“Shh,” Bethany soothed and rubbed her cheek. “Daddy is in a pissy mood, as usual. Just ignore him.”

“Seriously. There is nothing to eat!” He pulled out his phone to look at eating apps.

“Don’t order pizza. My waistline can’t take much more bread.”

“Yeah. You wouldn’t want to get fat for your boyfriend.”

Bethany lifted Gabi and placed her on her shoulder and began patting her back. “Jax, we talked about this. Are you seriously jealous? I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m a social media influencer. I’m going to have to interact with my fans, I can’t just ignore them!”

He ran a hand down the scruff of his 5 o’clock shadow. “Maybe you need to find another job. It’s killing our marriage.”

“It’s only killing our marriage because you’re allowing it to. Stop being so insecure. Also, what marriage?” A deep-seated burp emitted from Gabi and Bethany stood up. “Good one, baby girl.” She walked over and handed Gabi to Jax. “Can you take her for a while? I need to answer some emails.”

“Sure.” He grinned softly at his daughter who was drunk on milk and she cooed at him. His heart melted and he kissed her cheek while tickling her ribs. She erupted in giggles and his grin morphed into a full-fledged smile. “Come on, princess, let’s go grab some grub, shall well?” He grabbed the diaper bag that was always packed and ready by the door and without a backward glance, he left the house.

They arrived at the store and Jax slipped on the baby carrier. He had never used it before but had put it on just to figure out how it worked. He unsnapped Gabi from her car seat and tried to slip her inside the carrier but she was kicking her chubby little legs so much he couldn’t get her in.

“Listen here you little squirmy monkey,” he laughed as he tried to navigate her into the carrier.

“Do you need some help?” an attractive 20-something woman said as she was walking past.

“Actually, yes, if you don’t mind. Could you hold the carrier open while I put her inside?”

“No problem,” she said and moved forward to grab hold of the carrier and open it wide enough for him to put Gabi inside.

Gabi settled in with a squirm and flashed him a toothless grin.

“Thank you. I’m not sure I could have made that work on my own,” Jax grinned at the woman and moved to grab the diaper bag and shut the door.

“Glad to help. I have a niece about her age and I know my sister has a hard time getting her settled sometimes.”

Jax could tell she was interested in him and he tried not appear rude as he started walking away.

“Is that your daughter?”

“Yes,” he said while grabbing a cart from an outside cart corral. “I’m just running in to grab some dinner for my wife.”

“Ah,” she said, getting the hint. “Lucky woman. Well, take care.”

“Yeah, you too,” he said and nearly laughed out loud. Lucky woman indeed. He was pretty sure she didn’t feel she was lucky in their relationship.

Or whatever it was they were doing. Co-habituating maybe?

He snorted in disgust and pushed the cart into the store. What the hell was he doing? Was this really how he wanted to live his life? They hadn’t had sex since Gabi was born though he knew that women had to wait a while after giving birth before they were cleared to have sex, he knew for a fact that Bethany’s doctor had cleared her a long time ago. But somehow, neither one of them wanted to instigate anything.

It wasn’t that he didn’t find her attractive. He wasn’t one of those guys that lost sexual interest once the woman had given birth, he just wasn’t … interested. They had both been very into one another before they got married, in fact, that’s why they had gotten married so quickly, because she had gotten pregnant with Gabi and he wanted to do the right thing. He didn’t regret Gabi, not one bit, but he certainly wished he and Bethany had gotten to know each other first and were more careful before becoming an instant family.

He absently placed items in the cart while thinking over his relationship. Gabi was content to look at the lights, the colors and listen to passing people in her carrier. She really was a good baby. He just hoped he would be a good enough dad to her.

But did he really want to raise her with Bethany? He could tell she was pulling away. In fact, if he was being honest, he got the impression she lost interest shortly before she announced she was pregnant with Gabi.

God. What a clusterfuck. He should have listened to his father and not jumped into the whole  marriage thing. Raising a child as a single parent wasn’t ideal, but was it any better to raise a child in a loveless marriage?

Jax was in line checking out when Gabi started to get restless. She began to whimper and the cashier worked hard to keep her entertained while Jax hurriedly placed his items on the belt so they could leave. By the time he got back to the car, Gabi was in full crisis mode, screaming loudly enough it caught the attention of several people. A woman gave him a sympathetic nod, while a few young girls shook their head in disgust. Jax unloaded the groceries into his car, his ears ringing from her screaming, and hurriedly lifted her out of the carrier, her legs pumping angrily and tangling in the carrier straps.

“Good God, girl, you have a powerful set of lungs on you,” he grimaced while rocking her back and forth in an attempt to quiet her. He reached into the diaper bag and plucked out her pacifier. He slid it across her lips to get her attention and she desperately latched on to it while sucking furiously. “There now, better?” Her huge dark eyes glistened with unshed tears as she looked up at him.

He waited a few moments to make sure she had calmed down before putting her into her car seat. He strapped her in, parked the cart on to a nearby grassy curb and got behind the wheel.

Gabi started to whimper but continued to suck on her pacifier. He sighed with relief. He started the car and they began the long drive back home. He switched on the radio for some background noise hoping Gabi would take a nap on the way home.

He checked the time, nearly 7:00 PM. Another wave of irritation tickled his throat and he clamped it down. Dinner should have been done by now. He should have been giving Gabi a bath and putting her to bed, something he looked forward to each night. Instead, he was buying groceries and anticipating cooking dinner because he couldn’t count on his partner to do her share of the work.

He could feel the tips of his ears heating up and knew he was close to his boiling point. It would be one thing if this happened once in a while, we all lose track of time and he knew that taking care of a baby was a full-time job – she was a time suck. A cute time suck, but one none the less. But this was happening more and more frequently with little to no remorse and now he just felt like Bethany was taking advantage of him.

Again, he wondered why he was putting up with it. Did he feel guilty? After all, Bethany didn’t get pregnant on her own, he was just as much to blame for the situation but he felt like he was the only one that was making a true effort to try and make it work.

It was fully dark by the time he pulled into the driveway. The only light on in the house was the kitchen light though he could see a flickering, blue light coming from the second floor window on the left telling him that Bethany was still on her computer. Ever since her blog was showcased on the host’s webpage her views had gone way up and she felt compelled to produce more and more content to keep the momentum going. This lead to making an Instagram account and posting countless pictures of Gabi and then she started a YouTube channel to document her life as a new mom. He was glad she was working toward something that would potentially make them money but she was so consumed with making her online life perfect that she was neglecting her real life duties.

As soon as he turned off the engine, Gabi began to cry. He knew she was probably hungry again and it was past her bedtime so she was likely exhausted as well. He pulled her out of her seat and entered the house. He had assumed Bethany would hear him drive up and meet them at the door but she was no where to be seen.

“We’re home!” he yelled which only made Gabi cry harder. He recognized the cry. It was a warning cry and if we didn’t see to her needs in three minutes flat, she would begin screaming. “Bethany!” he yelled again and put Gabi in her playcrib. When Bethany still hadn’t made an appearance by the time he had settled Gabi and tried to give her another pacifier, which she promptly spit out when she realized it didn’t come with milk, he marched upstairs and barged into Bethany’s office. She had on headphones and was furiously typing in a chat room.

Seeing her so oblivious to the world, more specifically his and Gabi’s world, he briskly walked over to the wall and unplugged her computer.

“What the actual hell, Jax?” she yelled. She paused when she heard Gabi screaming. “What’s going on?”

“Get downstairs and feed your fucking daughter so I can unload the car,” he snarled. He turned on his heel and stomped out to the garage to grab the groceries. Gabi abruptly stopped screaming on his third trip into the house.

“Jesus, Jax, what is your problem?”

“My problem, Bethany? MY problem?” He slammed the fridge door after putting the milk away. “I work eight plus hours every day, even the weekends here lately with the election happening in a few weeks, only to come home to no dinner, no groceries and no help from you. It’s like you’ve checked out and would rather live in your virtual world than live your life. I’m sick of it!”

“It’s my job, Jax.”

“Oh, don’t give me that shit, Bethany. It’s your excuse to check out and pretend you’re anywhere else but here. Have you stopped to consider that I might hate my life as well? This sucks. This whole marriage sucks and you know it.”

“You’re the one that didn’t wear a condom,” she said quietly but not quietly enough that Jax didn’t hear her.

“It takes two to tangle, sweetheart,” he snapped back. He angrily grabbed food from the bags and began putting it away.

He watched Bethany breast feed Gabi while stroking her soft hair. “You’re right. I can’t do this anymore. I’ve met someone.” She paused, cleared her throat and said in a slighter stronger voice. “I want out.”

Jax froze on the spot, his hand lifted to put a box of spaghetti in the pantry. He could feel his blood pressure rising and he was breathing like he had just ran around the block. He closed his eyes briefly in an attempt to rein in his temper. He slammed the box down on the counter, breaking the box, dried noodles spilling out onto the floor.

“I knew it. I fucking knew it,” he said in a deceptively calm voice. “You know what?” He exited the kitchen and faced her. “I’m relieved, actually. Now you’ve given me permission to leave your sorry ass. This,” he gestured between the two of them, “hasn’t been working for a while now and I’m actually glad that you finally admitted it. Let’s get on with our lives.” He turned to go back to the kitchen.

“Where are you going?”

Continue reading “Jax’s Pre-Story”

NaNoWriMo2020

Caught on Film

It wasn’t as if she knew what she was doing.

Okay. She didn’t know what she was doing.

Whitney reached into her car and grabbed her camera bag. She unzipped it and pulled out her DLSR and lens. She hooked the strap around her neck and stuffed an extra battery into the pocket of her jacket. She was slipping her phone in her other jacket pocket when it dinged.

Where are you?

She stuck her car keys in the pocket of her jeans and locked the car before answering.

At Cricket Falls. Taking pictures for class. 

You’re still on the photography kick? 

You make it sound like a hobby.

Isn’t it?

Listen Seth, I have spent a lot of money on classes and I need to practice. I really want to make this into something. Why can’t you support me?

Because it’s stupid and a pipe dream. Stick with the bank. You have a future there.

Whitney sighed and rolled her eyes.

Why can’t you support me?? She typed furiously.

I’m trying to prevent you from making a mistake. 

Whitney was beginning to wonder if Seth was the mistake.

I can’t talk right now. I need to go before I lose the light. 

Fine.

She angrily tucked the phone into her other jeans pocket and briefly closed her eyes. She had been taking photography classes for nearly four months and she resented Seth for making her feel stupid. She wanted to enjoy the classes and he was making it impossible with his negativity and complaining.

Asshole, she thought.

She tugged a hairband in to push her curly black hair out of her eyes. She tested the door handle of her VW bug and set off toward the hiking trail. She hadn’t been to Cricket Falls in quite some time and she was looking forward to taking pictures at sunset.

She stopped just as she entered the tree line. She had forgotten her water bottle. She paused. She should probably go back and get it but it was already late afternoon and the sun would be setting in a little over two hours and it would take her nearly an hour to reach the falls.

She shrugged and continued down the path.

She stepped around tree roots and over smooth, flat rocks. She took deep, cleansing breaths. There was nothing like fresh air to clear the week’s cobwebs. She knew Seth wanted her to stay with the bank but she was bored. She wanted a job where she could be creative and spontaneous. She had no idea if she would be able to make any money at photography but she certainly wanted to try. She loved learning about F-stops and angles, lighting and focus points in class. It was challenging to look at something and then set up the perfect shot in order to try and capture the mood she wanted to portray.

The day was quickly cooling down and she was thankful she had grabbed a jacket. The sun was playing peek-a-boo behind distended gray clouds and it looked like a storm front was heading in. She paused to check the weather on her phone. She had to walk up an incline in order to get a better signal. Weather was definitely coming in but she figured she had about three hours before it reached her, plenty of time to shoot some pictures and make it back to her car before it rained.

Her phone dinged. She sighed and continued walking. It was probably Seth and she wasn’t in the mood to deal with him at the moment. She just wanted to enjoy the time she had and to focus on her pictures as she was hoping to touch them up and present them at her next class for critique. She ignored the text and kept moving. She glanced up at the sky. There were now more clouds than sun and she was beginning to think maybe she should head back to her car as she didn’t want to risk getting her camera equipment wet.

She was lost in thought and seriously thinking about turning around when she rounded a bend and there, in all it’s glory, was Cricket Falls.

She paused to to fully absorb the sheer magnificence of the beautiful waterfall. The falls were not as swollen as she had seen them in the past but she knew it would only be a matter of minutes after the rain started to turn the relatively calm waters into a raging, angry flow.

She heard a crack of thunder and it made her jump into action. She lifted her camera, adjusted her settings and began taking pictures from various angles. She was actually glad the sun had disappeared behind the clouds as it provided her with better light and a somber atmosphere. After taking about twenty shots, she was placing her lens cap back on the camera when another round of thunder reverberated above. She nervously eyed the sky and turned around to head back. She paused at the fork in the path and decided to take another route back to her car. She didn’t know for sure if it was quicker, but had hiked that particular path before and felt like the way back was less rocky.

She was weaving through the trees, dodging and dunking under branches when she heard a sound.

After being in the woods for over an hour, she had gotten used to the shuffling of critters in the leaves and the wind rustling the tree branches. But this sound was different. It sounded like a soft hiss, or scrape, then as if something was being dropped onto soft earth.

She broke through some trees and her phone dinged again.

She paused and dug it out of her pocket.

Another girl has gone missing. I don’t like you being out there all alone. Come home.

Whitney sent a quick text back to Seth.

You worry too much. I got my shots and am heading back. 

He answered back immediately.

Good.

She dropped her phone back into her pocket and squelched her irritation.  He was trying. She needed to try as well.

She entered the next clump of trees, carefully picking her way through the path when she heard the strange noise again.

Hiss.

Scrape.

Plop.

What was that sound? It seemed so out-of-place in the woods and yet, she felt like she had heard that sound before.

She veered off the path and crept toward where she thought the sound was coming from. She reached out to move a low-hanging branch only for it to swing back and slap her in the face.

“Ow!” She clapped a hand over her cheek to try and quell the sting.

The sound abruptly stopped.

Whitney also stopped and stood still. She could feel her heartbeat quickening even though she forced her breathing to slow and quiet. Something felt wrong. Why did the sound stop? A flash of lightening pierced the darkening sky above her. She counted silently in her head … 1 … 2 …3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … Thunder rolled across the sky and Whitney glanced at the time on her phone. She estimated she had about thirty minutes before the rain reached her. Though she knew she needed to move, she couldn’t. It was too quiet. Though she didn’t know what the sound was, she suddenly wished it would start back up again. She instinctively knew the sound resuming was safer than not.

She continued to stay still and she silently urged the sound to continue so she could move. She didn’t know why it was so important for the sound to resume but she was spooked enough that she didn’t feel like she should move until it did.

Her phone dinged and the sound seemed to echo loudly.

“Shit,” she reached in to her pocket and quickly muted her phone. She could hear a rustling up ahead of her and she quietly moved closer to the trees, off the path and into the shadows. She felt ridiculous for playing chicken with the mysterious sound but the goosebumps on her arms was enough to give her pause.

After long minutes, the sound started back up again and she slowly released the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding.

Hiss.

Scrape.

Plop.

She cautiously moved forward, careful to avoid disturbing the leaves and rocks in her way. She crept into a small batch of trees and tried to peer through.

She saw a flash of blue.

Was that a person?

Continue reading “Caught on Film”

NaNoWriMo2020

Interview with Jax

Hello Blogfam and welcome. I’d like to introduce Jaxson Fuller. He goes by Jax. Is that right?

Jax: Yes.

Me: Very good. Jax is the male lead in the story and Maya’s potential love interest though I believe you don’t make an appearance in the story for quite a while, is that right, Jax?

Jax: Correct.

Me: Well, welcome to my blog. Thanks for being here.

Jax: *nods and gives a small smile*

Me: So, Jax. Tell us about yourself.

Jax: I hate when people say that. Can’t you just give me a question?

Me: Okay. Tell me about your life before Maya.

Jax: I was a First Lieutenant in the Army. I served three tours in the Middle East and about five(ish) years ago, my unit was attacked. I sustained an injury and had to rethink my career. It wasn’t fun.

Me: What sort of injury?

Jax: *points to his left leg* I was shot several times in the left leg. Banged me up pretty good. I was honorably discharged shortly after that. I spent a year in rehabilitation and I can walk on it now, but I am gimpy.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that.

Jax: *shrugs* Comes with the territory. After I finished rehab, I ran into a buddy of mine who works for the Secret Service. He pulled some strings and I was able to get a job.

Me: The Secret Service, eh? Sounds exciting.

Jax: It’s not really. But you do have to be super vigilant.

Me: I can imagine. Who was assigned to you. Would I have known that person?

Jax: Possibly. I would rather not say who I watched over.

Me: Of course. They don’t call it “Secret” service for no reason. *laughs*

Jax: *smiles – though clearly not as amused*

Me: How long have you been in the Secret Service?

Jax: It’s been nearly … three years now.

Me: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Jax: Definitely the people. I’m either watching someone who is totally paranoid about being attacked or someone who doesn’t take it seriously and takes all kinds of risks. It can be exhausting.

Me: Can you tell us about one of your more challenging clients?

Jax: *sits for a bit, then nods brusquely* Sure. It was about six months ago, actually. I was assigned to watch a Senator’s daughter and she took it upon herself to sneak out of her house and go to a party that none of us knew about and certainly didn’t approve she could go to. I spent nearly an hour looking for her before I had to swallow some pride and call in reinforcements. It took us nearly two hours to find her and by the time we did, she was very drunk and very loud.

Me: I take that to mean, she wasn’t happy to see you.

Jax: You could say that. Her father was also not very happy to see me.

Me: Did he punish you?

Jax: No. *he flexes his jaw in irritation* He campaigned to have me fired.

Me: But it wasn’t your fault!

Jax: Doesn’t matter. She was my responsibility and I lost track of her. If something had happened to her, I would have been prosecuted and likely charged with negligence.

Me: Wow. Why do you stay in the job if there is that much pressure?

Jax: Because I’m very good at my job. I had allowed myself to become distracted in that case. That will not happen again.

Me: What distracted you?

Jax: I’d rather not say.

Me: It was a woman, wasn’t it? Was it Maya?

Jax: *face flushes a light red*

Me: Are you married?

Jax: I was.

Me: What happened?

Jax: *sighs* We were bad for each other. We were polar opposites, which was great in some ways, it was never boring. *soft smile of remembrance* But after a while, the novelty wore off and we just got tired of trying, I suppose.

Me: Any children?

Jax: One. But she died from SARS when she was four months old. That was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

Me: *blinks – clears throat* I’m sorry.

Jax: …..

Me: So. Any love interest now?

Jax: *arches a brow* I think you know the answer to that one.

Me: *sly grin* Just seeing if you were still with me. How did you and Maya meet?

Jax: Her dad … talked me into being her bodyguard.

Me: You didn’t volunteer for the job?

Jax; Not exactly.

Me: Why would Maya need protection?

Jax: Unclear. Though her father is head of the Secret Service to the President and when you’re that close, you tend to make enemies.

Me: What is Maya like to guard?

Jax: She’s a pain in the ass.

Me: Really? I would have thought Dree would be the pain in the ass.

Jax: Dree is tough, but she’s street smart. Maya is clueless to what goes on in the world. Thank God her father had the foresight to make her take kickboxing.

Me: *chuckles* Forgive me. But after meeting Maya, … kickboxing? Really? It just doesn’t compute.

Jax: *shrugs* Yeah. She’s a bit of a princess and her form sucks, but she’s got determination, I’ll give her that. She will get better.

Me: What makes you so sure?

Jax: Because I’ll make sure she can defend herself. You never know what life will throw at you. You need to be prepared.

Me: Sounds like an army slogan. *chuckles*

Jax: Be all you can be.

Me: Now you’re making fun of me.

Jax: *smirks*

Me: Do your parents live here?

Jax: My dad is a Colonel in the Army. Mom is a typical Army wife, sponsors fundraisers and events to help boost the troops’ families. They are stationed in West Virginia right now.

Me: So fairly close. Do you ever get to see them?

Jax: Not as often as I would like.

Me: Any siblings?

Jax: I have a younger brother, Mark.

Me: And what does Mark do?

Jax: He’s special ops. I haven’t seen him in nearly … five years, I think.

Me: Your parents must be proud – both of you serving your country.

Jax: *frown* I guess.

Me: You don’t think so?

Jax: *rubs the scruff on his face absently* No comment.

Me: Well, that’s intriguing. So Jax ..

(*a loud pop sounds outside and causes Me to jump and squeal*)

Jax: Get down! *jumps out of his chair causing it crash to the floor and whips his Glock semi automatic pistol out of his waist band. He points is at the window.

Continue reading “Interview with Jax”

Life-condensed, Writing Mechanics

Tips for Writing a First Draft and Life Update

I was too tired this week to contribute to my word count so now I’m playing catch up. If you haven’t participated in word sprints, I would highly recommend that you do it. They are super fun and super productive. I’ve been hooked on the Word Nerds word sprints – they are doing a four-hour word sprint today that I fully intend to participate in. I’m figuring out what I want to write for that time period.

I just finished a short story which I will post tomorrow. It’s a long one – over 3000 words. It’s amazing to me how I can look at a prompt, close my eyes and my imagination just takes over and before long, I feel compelled to write. Then I go into a writing trance and it’s almost like a high – I am transported to a world of my making. It’s a pretty powerful feeling, not gonna lie. Anyway, if you’re stuck or you need some support I would highly recommend you type in word sprints into YouTube and you’ll find a bunch of fun sprints to take part in.

I spent the first half of yesterday getting my hair done. I’m determined that I will NOT go gray any time soon. I feel like coloring my hair takes ten years off my appearance and I will continue to color my hair as long as it doesn’t look stupid – i.e. I’m trying too hard and people look at me and say, “wow. Look at that old woman trying to look young” then I’ll stop.

But I’m not there yet.

Anyway. I went to my salon and we’re chit-chatting and I ask her how things are going for her. They were shut down for six(ish) weeks during our lockdown in .. April (I think it was April) and that really took a toll on them. I had an appointment with them in May and they were just beaten down. It nearly destroyed them and they were working hard to play catch up. I tipped her $20 bucks back then just to try and help her in any way I could.

Fast forward to today. When I asked her how they were doing, she said not very good – they were closing their doors on December 16th. I was sick to my stomach for her. It breaks my heart that their business, and so many other small businesses, simply couldn’t sustain the insane reaction we had to this damn virus. It’s unfair and criminal, in my opinion, to strip someone’s livelihood away from them like that.

I asked her what she planned on doing next. Both her and her business partner (they have been best friends for 10 + years) had already gotten jobs in phlebotomy. I have no idea what drew them to that field but they both got a job at clinics with different medical facilities. One of them is actually going to be working for the same hospital that I work at. I told her that she should think of becoming a medical assistant. She said she had thought of that and is interested but she didn’t want to go to school for it. I told her that it wasn’t necessary to go to school for it, though of course the hospital would prefer that you did. However, we have hired several people who have not gone to school for it and have been trained on the job so she should definitely keep her eyes out for openings and apply. She asked if I was certified, which I am, and I told her that if she gets a job as a medical assistant, she has to work for one year before she can take the test. The hospital pays a bonus and you get a significant raise if you become certified because it looks good for the hospital to have CMA’s on staff. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for her and let her know if anything becomes available. With her phlebotomy experience she will be a strong candidate even without formal training.

She said she went into phlebotomy because she was tired of working in an industry that didn’t offer any security. It’s too stressful to always wonder if today will be the day she doesn’t have a job. And I can’t blame her. That’s the biggest reason I went into the medical field – because that’s a field that will ALWAYS need people and I figured the insurance would be decent. (The benefits are … fine – not that great – but not that bad, either).

It makes me wonder how many other people out there have had to rethink their professional careers because of this damn virus. And now there’s talk of shutting down again. I heard through the grapevine that my hospital is working very hard thinking of ways NOT to shut elective surgeries down again. It’s true that we have a lot of COVID cases in the hospital and that a lot of employees have been tested for COVID and that entire departments have been shut down because there hasn’t been anyone to work them, but what’s the alternative? Go into hiding and go through this again and again every time cases go up? It’s like Ground Hog day. When does it stop? No. We can’t continue to hide from this thing – we have to grit our teeth and get through this. We need to urge the groups of people that are vulnerable to COVID to stay home while the healthy get out there and live their lives. I know herd immunity is sort of a dirty phrase right now, but that is exactly what we must do to get back to normal.

And any COVID cases overflow? Let’s designate large facilities and turn them into a MASH unit and take care of them that way. That has to be a better alternative than shutting everything down further destroying the economy. We can’t sustain this insane pattern. At some point, cases WILL go down, they have to. We just have to ride this high.

The vaccine is available but thank God the hospital is not going to make us get it. I would rather continue wearing a mask than get the vaccine. You just don’t know what sorts of poisons are being injected into your body and I would rather not have any unknown long-term effects, thank you very much. No job is worth my health. Period.

Moving on to a different topic ..

I bought a new Christmas tree. We have literally had our Christmas tree for over 25 years and I noticed, for the first time last year, when I took a picture of it how ragged it looked. It’s been losing more and more needles every year and now it just looks like a six foot Charlie Brown tree. I stumbled across a Black Friday deal on the Target website and bought a 7.5 foot tree for $100. We just got it last night and I’m excited to put it up after recording our podcast. It comes in three pieces – I’m looking forward to spending a fraction of the time setting it up. Our old tree was the kind where you had to put every single branch on and then fluff. It took forever.

Not sure what we’re doing for Thanksgiving this year. I know one of Kevin’s sisters will not be joining us as her children don’t feet comfortable getting together because COVID. They only want a get together of just their immediate family. I know it’s disappointing but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Since we’re short staffed at work, management has approved over time. I will DEFINITELY be taking advantage of that these upcoming weeks. Of course, it would be happen during NaNoWriMo but that’s okay – I’ll just get less sleep. I can sleep in December, right?

Enough with the life updates, let’s get back to writing. I thought you all might enjoy Jenna’s tips on writing a first draft. I like her style – she’s informative but funny and doesn’t take herself too seriously. I have watched A LOT of writing videos and some of these writers are so snooty I can’t even stomach it. We all have different styles and ways we approach our writing – there is no wrong or right way of doing it. It takes trial and error before you find your groove. I’m finding my groove. I’m starting to understand how my brain works and what my creativity needs to be coaxed out of the recesses of my mind. I’m being a NaNoWriMo rebel this year and I’m really enjoying myself. My rule is there are no rules. I write when I want and what I want because ultimately, I’m writing and that’s all I care about, no matter what that looks like.

(warning if you’re sensitive: language)

Video Summary:

1. Accept it will be bad
2. Outlines save lives
3. Don’t read it
4. Don’t edit
5. Edit if you can’t stop thinking about editing
6. Habit over motivation
7. Set goals
8. Understand your distractions
9. List your weaknesses
10. Calm down – refer to #1

My thoughts:

  1. I think this is a very important point. It’s true. Your first draft will be bad. You will re-read it and think, “wow – I suck.” But that’s normal. You can’t edit and revise something that doesn’t exist so just write it. Give it a few days before you read it and then work on making it “pretty.” I post my short stories without editing them – and I know they are not my best work, but every time I write a short story, an angel sings. At least, in my head. lol And it becomes easier for me to write the next one, then the next one. I have to exercise my writing muscles and I can’t do that unless I WRITE.
  2. Yes / no. It all depends on how you approach your writing. Remember – there is no one size fits all when it comes to writing styles and preferences. For me, I like outlining to a point, write it, then re-assess my story and where I need to go depending on where my characters took me to begin with. Then I will outline a bit more, write those bits, and so on. This works for me because it gives me just enough material to write but it doesn’t feel stale and boring.
  3. I 100% agree with this. I write it, then don’t read it again for quite some time. Then when I go back and read it, I think, “hhmm, this is not half bad.” I need some distance from my creativity – she can be an all-consuming bitch. Not to mention, people who write, then go back and edit .. I could never do that. To me, that’s like taking one step forward and two steps back – ugh, just no.
  4. I’ve never really gotten to this point because I’ve never stuck to a project long enough TO edit it. So I guess this tip doesn’t apply to me … yet.
  5. N/A
  6. This is me, hands down. I rarely have motivation to write, unless it’s NaNoWriMo and only then it’s because there are thousands of other people in the same boat and I love rewarding myself. I am working hard to make writing a habit and I hope to have that habit firmly in place in 2021.
    1. By the way – my weekly writing rewards to myself are: 1. new glasses 2. new Christmas tree 3. Rhodia bullet journal (because I’m about halfway through my first one – yes, I’m still journaling!) and 4. wireless earbuds – because my earphone jack on my phone is on the bottom and it’s super annoying trying not to yank my earbuds from my ears whenever I’m walking)
  7. Long-term goals, like quarterly goals, do not excite me. It excites me to see a daily blog post go up so that is my goal for this upcoming year – to write daily, or nearly daily, blog posts. But how many times have I said THAT in the past. (Hint: a lot).
  8. Jenna likes noise when she writes, I’m the complete opposite – it has be absolutely dead quiet when I write. I have honed my skills to always be aware of my surroundings with my job so focusing on one thing with something going around me completely derails me. I know my distractions – YouTube. But, I also think YouTube helps me because I get a lot of ideas and inspiration by watching YouTube. I love YouTube because it’s real people with real thoughts and real problems as opposed to paid actors that like to lecture me. No thanks.
  9. I know for me, writing descriptive prose is a weakness. I’m great with dialogue, not so great at describing the setting. I really need to work on that. And when I do describe a setting, I absolutely have to have a picture, or some sort of visual aid, to help me write it. Knowing this, I know that when I go back to edit, I will have to pad the story with description in order to give the reader a sense of where my characters are interacting. I hate to write setting, but it’s a necessary evil. Otherwise, my characters are in a green screen and that’s not fun to read, I’m sure.
  10. Your first draft will suck. Refer to point one.

It’s the saggy middle, ya’ll, pull your pants up and keep writing!

Writing Mechanics

How to Outline a Short Story

Uncle.

I have to admit to the world something I’ve been denying for years.

I’m a short story writer. *GASP*

I know, I KNOW. I’m not exactly ashamed of this admission, but it’s a bitter/sweet pill to swallow. I love writing short stories. I love writing scenes. I do not, however, like writing longer pieces. I think I’m going to have to accept that I may NEVER write an entire novel – I just get too bored with the same story line. Maybe I should focus more on writing short story anthologies. That is why I like writing several things at once – maybe I have attention deficit disorder when it comes to fiction. I can’t tell you the number of times I think of a story idea while reading something or even writing something entirely different. I’ve come to accept that is how my brain works. I supposed it’s time to stop fighting it.

So when I watched this video, a lightbulb went on over my head. Her ideas ignited my dying embers. (How is that for sounding dramatic).

Maybe I’ll focus more on honing my short story skills.

Or maybe not.

You never know with me.

At any rate, enjoy the video. Maybe it’ll ignite your smoldering fire. (I feel like that sounds dirty …)

Discuss among yourselves. I need to go to work.