Summit

Four writing projects—that’s all I’ve ever finished. Self-imposed major projects with self-imposed deadlines for the sake of the right to call myself A WRITER.  The fourth being my first attempt at a novel. I finished.

In all honesty, I finished the major points of the story necessary to build the novel I had in mind. There are still line edits, plot polishing, and lord only knows what else to be done to actually make it THE NOVEL (it’s away with first readers right now). But the point in all this is to say, I finished what I set out to do. I am done with a lowercase d in a satisfactory amount of time. Not by the first self-imposed deadline, but within a time frame that I can live with.

If it sounds like I’m giving myself a lot of leeway here, it’s because I am. This is my eleventh draft of a story whose main character whispered her name to me 9 1/2 years ago. My first earnest attempt to turn a three-segment short story into a book started four years ago almost to this day. But frustrations pushed it back in a drawer. If I were to list those frustrations in a single post, I’d sound like a crazy person. So, I’ll spare us all that for now.

The image of that mountain with all the blue mist and mystery was taken by Stuart Bennett and shared on Unsplash. I nabbed it about two years ago and put it in a collection of images to stare at when thinking about the novel I was going to write … someday. If I ever figured out a title, and if I figured out what the main character really wanted, and if I was ever able to articulate what the story is about.

 … a story of grief, friendship, horror, love, home, and badassery, all told in Holly’s southern voice.

That’s a sentence I came up with yesterday. YESTERDAY. In an attempt to make a one-line pitch if ever asked what my story is about. People have asked—when I make mention that I’m writing a NOVEL, hey what’s it about—then I go on and embarrass myself by talking and waving my hands until those unfortunate people’s eyes glaze over.

In my collection of images I have one of an old mountain cabin that looks like it emerged from the land covered in age and ivy rather than being man made. There is also a big white Jeep Rubicon with fog lights and a wench and a lift kit. There is a man with broody brows, and the photograph of a Memphis office building with a mile-long view of the river.

There are maps of narrowing roads stretching across the state of Tennessee, of mountain passes in Afghanistan, and enough gun searches on Google to put me  on the ATF’s watch list. Not to mention a copper tipped brass cased forty-caliber S&W bullet in  my makeup bag—I’ve been carrying that around for a year now. Tangibles are important.

Writing a novel that contains people you adore is difficult. Like, spine crushingly heart wrenching, cold sweating difficult. And guess what I’ve discovered?

That’s not even the hard part.

 

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How To

How do you get over this? How do you go through the motions of being a responsible adult? Pay the bills, clean the kitchen … carry on as if you didn’t just create a living breathing multi-faceted heart racing story rich with blood and bones and human foibles. How do you step away from the page?

How do you stay with the page and fight off the creeping sensation that you are the only fan of this story? All that will ever be, because it won’t see the light of day. You’ll fail somehow. Fall on your face when an agent rejects it. Maybe never send it to an agent or a writerly reading friend, or anywhere at all.

The story full of fear and hope and shame and memory will sit in a doc file until doc files are obsolete, and you never really accomplished anything other than spending hours, weeks, a year of your life wanting. In between the day job days and the chores and hitting that submit button for yet another of all the online payments in your life, maybe what you really did was waste daylight and ink.

In between sporadic bouts of self-care and wish lists, and allergy attacks, you have handmade characters so real all there is to do is reach out and touch, say good morning. Good night. Sweet dreams until tomorrow. Everything will be okay, eventually. Tell me how to keep them alive.

Tell me how to get to the end. Not THE END. That’s just around the corner. But the end of the process, the culmination of imagination, inspiration, hard work. What’s next? What comes after the end?

Poetry Relaunch & New Fiction

Thanks to the help of a writerly friend I was able to relaunch my two poetry collections via Draft2Digital which makes the books available on several venues, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Amazon, and Scribd. In all formats the poetry collections view best on tablets/e-readers rather than smaller devices, but I can’t really fuss about the disappointments of this learning process because it’s all been too fun.

In addition to the poetry collections, I’ve added the short story Whiskey-Niner-Kilo and a peek at my upcoming novella, The Reaping. Follow the links below for modestly priced reading! I hope y’all enjoy.

Books available on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

The Road of Learning. And Learning.

In the way way back, back when LiveJournal was my schnizzel, there was a game that came around every year … June 2oth, I think. It went something like this: A commotion outside wakes you, so you take a peek out the window. It’s the Zombie Apocalypse! Oh no! Your mission is to journal throughout the entire day about what you see, what you do, how do you handle this dire set of circumstances OMG WHO IS GOING TO DIE NEXT.

Of course, I find out about this FUN game that first time a an hour before it ends because I was out all day running relatives to the airport, etc. That’s okay though because the game I totally missed gave me a great idea:

My name is Holly and I have a bizarre story to tell …

I diddled with the story here and there, then put it away because it needed to be a novel and I kept shouting at it you’re a short story, and it would say no, novel, and so on. Took it out of the drawer in 2015 thinking maybe I could actually write the novel, but I sucked at writing novels so back it went. Last month I decided to stop sucking at writing novels. Novels are now going to be my schnizzel.

And since the decision has been made, I downloaded Scrivener once Word began to drive me to murder, now Scrivener has me scared to death I’m going to click the wrong clicky, and if I dare veer off to write by hand I doze off.

Uh …

Tonight no dishes will get done, not one floor will get swept, not one plant watered, or hubby conversed with because I’ve got to go show Scrivener who’s boss.

Stacks of First Drafts Beneath an Undecided Sky

April has lost its mind, but there’s nothing I can do about that.

While the meteorological mood swings continue, I write. Saturday night I woke with an urge to get back in bed with the laptop, and a few hours later I had a satisfying reboot for a story I’ve struggled over since 2010. The words kept rolling on Sunday. This makes me happy.

Meanwhile, I’m stacking up poetry first drafts to play with in May. It’s actually difficult to keep my hands off them right now, but I am resolute. No editing! Promise.

Greed is the title of today’s poem, inspired by a prompt from Word Light Show.

See The Pretty Girl. The Pretty Girl Has Blue Eyes. The Pretty Girl Is Happy. See How She Smiles And Smiles.

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

They say that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. If the beholder is born into a world that has forcibly narrowed the definition of beauty down to a handful of irrefutable criteria, what then? Like all trends, the definition of beauty is set by societal powers that be. The rest of the population mindlessly follows the trend. These are the beholders. Few dare to make an open challenge.

In a moment of surprised admiration, the beholder forgets that handful of criteria and basks in a beauty never noticed. Just a moment passes, one fleeting moment of adoration warms the eyes, the cheeks, the heart, before the beholder realizes her sin against the norm. Shame is a sickening flood. Paranoia, self-loathing, bitterness grays the landscape and the beholder is repulsed. Shame and self-loathing turn to anger. The beheld must be punished.

In a moment of low-feelings, lack of accomplishment, and run of the mill worthlessness and dismay, a beholder has turned away from her own mirror chanting a silent mantra: Please don’t let anyone else notice. Please don’t let anyone notice. Please … The mantra screeches to a halt when someone else enters line of sight and the mouth of the beholder pulls tightly into an expression of mean relief, a mean laugh escapes loud enough for the beheld to notice. Oh, that one’s ugly. YOU’RE SO UGLY. I’m not nearly as ugly, thank god! No one will notice me now!

And what of the beheld, who had no hope, no choice, no noticeable voice. No hope of persuading others of her intelligence and self-worth, of her importance to even the tiniest sliver of the world? No choice in what features result from a random mishmash of DNA, no voice to speak the question of why people must hate that which is not fashionable in the moment, or the century. Hate can kill souls, murder bodies that don’t align with trending color, or tone, or shape. Who made hate fashionably acceptable? Why?

Toni Morrison believes that we all want to know why, but why can be too insurmountable, so here’s how. Here’s how a year of seasons and a small town of small-minded people honed down to baseness and despair all conspired to kill the soul of a child. To break the mind. To make suffer the ugly.

Perhaps, if we see how easily innocence can be murdered by mindlessness, we may recognize our own part in it and stop. Stop. Stop.

Set apart from the unflinching look at race, poverty, and the shame that gets ingrained in the genetics of those on the wrong side of either, the intensely rich language of The Bluest Eye is groundbreaking. The poetics of it, breathtaking. Without that choice and precise execution of gorgeous language skills, this story could not be consumed. We wouldn’t bear it.

It’s a brutal world poor Pecola suffers through. It’s a brutal world for all little girls, all little black girls whose parents don’t possess the personal tools, the personal pockets of hope to share with their little girls, that might reassure them. Here’s how to defend yourself, how to save your beautiful self.

Pecola’s story begins eight decades ago, The Bluest Eye was published nearly five decades ago. Has much changed in this world far out past olden timelines? Not a lot. Will reading Morrison’s first novel change the world? It just might change yours. Brace yourself.

Potential New TV Yum

HBO’s newest series features two of my faves from the way way back: Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins. And oh my god are they old! (This doesn’t exactly make me feel like a spring chicken.) But once I get over all that, I’m right back to reveling in just how much I love ’em.

The first episode introduced me to new favorites: Daniel Zovatto, Jerrika Hinton, Raymond Lee, and Sosie Bacon. I wasn’t sure why the baby sister character (Kristen) appealed to me so much until I saw her real name and realized WOW that’s Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon’s kid! No wonder. She definitely caught a great dose of the acting gene.

As for the other young members of the cast, I can’t claim any previous knowledge or recognition. No matter, I’m in love.

The premise of the show was irresistible—two eighties hippies chock full of grand ideals adopt children from around the world, perhaps in hopes of building a family that reflects the diversity and unity they believe the future holds.

Greg (Tim Robbins), has spent his life striving to bring positive change to the world … a world in which frequent mass shootings are now a thing and a reality TV president resides in the White House. Poor Greg, the philosopher, tends to throw up his hands a lot nowadays after yelling What’s The Fucking Point! Meanwhile, his lovely wife Audrey (Holly Hunter), the once free loving world changing hot coed who used to drop acid for enlightenment has become a middle-aged prudish control freak who can’t host a family get together without hiring an army of caterers. Neither of them realize just how much of a mess each of their kids are. Yet.

There’s Ramon, the gorgeous proud and out youngest son (and the show opener) who has possibly prophetic dreams and freaky hallucinations. Duc (pronounced Duke) a new-agey counselor and author plagued by memories of his early childhood prior to adoption that have left him pent up and confused. To say the least. Ashley, the eldest of the adopted children, who’s managed to acquire stylish dream job and perfect family but likes to stir up excitement on the side just for the hell of it. And last, but not least, the youngest of the family and the Bayer-Boatwright’s only biological child, Kristen who’s seventeen and outraged, or excited, about everything.

In the second episode we find out that Ramon has met the perfect guy which is awesome because he’s perfect, too; Greg and Duc are going off the deep end at separate ends of the pool, Kristen and Ashley are on the edge of major trouble. Meanwhile, Audrey is not giving up on trying to tell everyone what to do even though they never listen.

I can’t wait to see what happens next. I can’t wait to see if next time I can actually do this cast and their terrific show justice in a blog post. Are y’all watching tomorrow night?

 

 

Love, Death, and Sweetness

Did episode 4 kick you in the heart, or what?

Jamie finally gets to be a daddy, only to never admit so aloud, and eventually must leave his offspring  behind for the sake of appearances, family honor, and all that. I have to admit, though, even while sinking in all the precious sweetness, I definitely got kicked in the head with more of that deus ex machina. Jamie has that in spades.

Sure, he can’t take his kid back to Lallybroch and introduce him to the rest of the clan, but check it out — he has a son! How? Because a hot young heiress wanted him to be her first. And not once, but three times, he’s told oh yes we know you’re a dirty jacobite, but it’s cool. Hang around as long as you like, leave whenever you like, don’t worry about getting charged for murder, etc., etc. By the way, your good chess buddy, the socially acceptable Englishman, will gladly raise your son for  you. Phew! That worked out so well.

So, we torture Jamie within an inch of his life, then give him everything, then torture him some more. Is this going to go on forever? Meanwhile, I’m nuts about Brianna and that McKenzie lad.

Wasn’t it sweet that after years of cold shoulder, Brianna called Claire Mama! For me, that was more than sweet, it was an actual advancement in the 20th century segment of the story. Brianna feels closer to her mom now, finally seeing her as a complicated woman, rather than a cold-hearted task master, which allows us to see her in a better light. And, since she’s a history geek and young McKenzie is such an adorable history geek, their attraction and affection bring a bit of … I don’t know, maybe it’s plausible normalcy … to the story.

Which leaves me curious: Are these characters well developed in the books? Is their story followed while Jamie is still lonely in the 18th century?

One thing that I expected to see this season was an exploration of that little hint given way back in episode one of the first season. Remember, Claire’s in the quaint Inverness inn and Frank has gone off somewhere. Down on the street is the shadowy form of a fella in obvious highlander garb, peering longingly up at Claire’s window as she brushes her hair. Frank spots the peeper on his way back up and remains so suspicious that once Claire goes missing, he has sketches distributed all over town … sketches that resemble the Dun Bonnet. Jamie went through those damn stones, I just know it! But landed a wee bit too early and feared ruining his reunion with Claire?

I need to see this played out, or at least have it explained.

This episode satisfied me with some much needed story advancements. Now I’m looking forward to the next, instead of sitting here sour-faced hating on Claire.

 

 

How do you say Deus Ex Machina in Gaelic?

Boy howdy! Does Jamie get saved by the hair of that fine, fine chin an awful lot! Sure, he’s suffered terrible treatment over the years, treatment meant to torture the life out of him … but that God in the Machine just keeps on churning out the salvation. (Warning: there are spoilers for Outlander’s Season 3 ahead.)

Last week’s episode was emotional, but I’m not sure it evoked the intended emotions. Fairly certain I hate Claire with a much bigger hate now. But I keep checking that, questioning myself. Trying to (and this may seem a bit beyond the point) see her as a real person, trying to step into her shoes, rather than feeling around the screenwriter’s page for insight. Ok, so let’s think in terms of real life for a moment. It’s true people can over-complicate their situations out of sheer stubbornness, narrow mindedness, emotional pain, etc. True.

Is that what happened with Claire? Why she couldn’t articulate to Frank, hey, I’ve always loved you. When I was stuck in 18th century Scotland that first few months I was utterly miserable and desperate to get back to you, I swear! She’s so perfect in everything except dealing with what’s happening right in front of her face, am I wrong? So there’s poor old Frank dead from drunk driving AND NOW SHE APOLOGIZES? NOW SHE FEELS REMORSE FOR TREATING HIM LIKE SHIT AFTER MAKING AN IMPOSSIBLE BARGAIN?

At this point I can just imagine her going through the stones and reuniting with Jamie only to bitch at him for not coming to find her, or for getting some inlander strange once or twice over the past two decades. Yeah, she’s totally going to find a way to screw that up.

Meanwhile, Jamie’s getting into one near-fatal scrape after another and all the gay boys find him impossibly irresistible. At least the warden wasn’t a sadist. At least. Poor Jamie’s major flaw seems to be his charm. Will it be the death of him before Claire can get there to needlessly over-complicate his life some more?

It seems to me that these characters’ path is twisty enough without the author (or the screenwriters?) creating more perils for them to wrestle out of. Yes, I do prefer a bit of plausibility in my fiction.

Maybe tonight’s episode will convince be, once and for all, if I should succumb to the screenwriters or go ahead and get the books to find out, once and for all, if Claire stupidity and deus ex machina reigned so hard throughout the original pages.

Brigit’s Flame Updates!

Entries are due for the first annual Artists & Writers Mini-Contest by 11 p.m. EST, tomorrow.

Watch your news feed tomorrow afternoon for the April Week One Topic Post, and get ready for another month of competition! Meanwhile, check out the community About Page. We’re always looking forward to meeting new members and friends!