Flash Fiction – The Leaf

Carmine Carmichael smoked his last cigarette twenty minutes ago.  The sun rose above the row homes on Sutter Street as he sat down on the marble steps at the corner.  He hadn’t slept in three days, hadn’t eaten in two days and hallucinations had begun.  His four-week-old blue jeans felt crunchy as he ran his hands up his shins, to his knees and then his thighs.

A dead leaf blew down the sidewalk, past his battered sneakers and he thought of how peaceful the dead leaf must have felt. It was, after all, devoid of all feeling.  The leaf had lived its life on a tree somewhere as people passed it by without a thought.

Carmine knew exactly how that little leaf felt. Another leaf blew past and Carmine reached his filthy hand down and scooped it up with care. The weak stem felt dry in his fingers as he twirled it around, looking at the rips in the body of the little leaf.

“I’ll bet you were once so beautiful, little leaf, just like me.  I was a strong man once, little leaf.”

The little leaf stood lifeless in his fingers and Carmine felt his eyes well up as he clutched the leaf to his chest. Little leaf pieces fell to the ground as Carmine sobbed.

Footsteps echoed in the distance and Carmine put his filthy hands back on his thighs and watched the leaf blow away in a dozen pieces.  Carmine watched as shiny, pristine shoes stepped on and over the leaf.

Carmine knew just how that little leaf felt.

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Using (Real) Life to Tell Stories

 

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The Best Stories Come From Reality

As a kid, I loved the idea of telling stories and evoking emotions in people.  As I got older, my life had such crazy, insane, ‘did that really just f**king happen’ events, I didn’t need to delve deep into my childish imagination to dish out juicy prose.

Come on, clown pajamas for a Halloween costume, throwing up in my reading book (in front of the whole class), and milk in my Puff the Magic Dragon Thermos were so traumatic I thought there was no way I could continue. And all that was in second grade.

Had I known my life would be a major story every year, I would have kept a better diary.  I mean, all that and more happened before I turned eight years old.  What was next?

Fantasy monsters, spaceships, and candy eating aliens are cool (and could happen) but I love a real life story because I can relate.

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Right now I am writing a memoir and a novel based on events in my real life.  I have a friend who is a psychic who gave me a free reading after my husband tattooed her.  She told me my life would change after I told my story.  I swear, there were no animal feet or blood used in the reading.

So why am I dragging my feet like a kid in a dentist office?

Fear of success.

It is a thing.

I have written the first half of my memoir (the juicy good part with all my screw ups) and then I just stopped. WTF?! Yes, stopped and moved on to something else. I do this often.

But, I always come back. Always… I use real life in a lot of my writing. I think we all do, right?

I was talking to a co-worker the other day and he was telling me a story about how once he had to hand out church flyers when he was about eight years old. Of course, he had better things to do than hand out flyers… so how could he get rid of these pesky papers? Well, wouldn’t you know, he passed a farm every day and at the fence of the farm were goats.  He couldn’t believe it when he jokingly put a flyer in front of the goat that the goat started eating it!

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Handing Out Flyers problem: solved.

I used this story as a scene in my latest novel. It fit so well, I couldn’t pass it up.

Take a trip through your memory and pluck out those moments from yesteryear that you might think were no big deal, or maybe you thought you forgot about them. But you didn’t. Write about it.

…Then write about it from another point of view and embellish it a little. Or a lot.

How much real life is in your fiction?

The Character Sketch

 

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Sticks of Personality

I am doing the 2017 Book Reading Challenge hosted by GoodReads.  Feel free to go over to the site and hop in on the fun.  I was going to try for 100 books, but then I realized I have things to do like work and sleep and eat and maybe pet my cat once in a while, and oh yeah, write my own book, so I went with fifty books.

So far, I have read thirteen and am really proud that I picked an underachievers number to keep my self-esteem higher than that of an eel in a snakepit.

I digress.

So far, some of the titles I have read include ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’ and ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ along with some other swell reads.  I usually only read true crime.  However, as a writer trying to get her first book published this year, I have to read other genres.

I was reading Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches… but the main character yammered on too much and I got bored. I just put that one down and am now reading The Girl in the Ice which is listed as a gripping thriller. The writing is decent, and it is just now getting into some back story, but the POV is a flawed (it jumps back and forth in the same chapter at times). As far as the MC, she is screwed up which is good, because we’re all screwed up in some way. No one wants to read about a perfect person.

So my question is: Do you do a basic character sketch or a full detailed chart and backstory for them before you start bleeding at your desk writing? Or maybe you wing it and just feel them out as you go? I have always done a basic character sketch, but this time… this time I did sketches in more detail and it helps.

You can find blank sheets at Writer’s Digest.

Sketches help because as I write, I know which character would stop to let a squirrel cross the road and which character would run it over. I have tons of character sketch worksheets at home, but mostly use Scrivener, and I use real people.

Not like that! I use real people I see every day.  I ate lunch at a grocery store today (they have a lunch area, which is nice) and there were two employees sitting and talking at another table as I ate my salad, and skimmed my WIP for the second time this week. I listened to their conversation and peeked over at the woman real quick to see how she set her table for her lunch, her mannerisms, etc. You can read all the books you want about character traits, but the best way to get the real dirt is to go be among the people.

How do you give your characters character? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outlines – Do You or Don’t You

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Bacon Saves Everything

I finished my second National Novel Writing Month project last November.  My first one was in 2011 and no, I have no idea why I waited five years to write another 50,000 words in thirty measly days. I did, however, write a lot of other stuff in those five years.

That first NaNoWriMo novel is still sitting on my laptop, slightly edited but otherwise untouched as a stark reminder of everything to NOT DO when writing a novel.  And some reminders of what TO DO.

One thing you really want to do is work with an outline.

Outlines are good because they keep you on track. You might be writing a gun fight scene and suddenly you are going off on the layout of a cemetery for four pages and then ten pages after that a horse is duking it out with the town mayor (who is also a cat) and your plot line is buried right along with the bodies in the cemetery.

Oh, snap.

So, to keep yourself on the path of ‘write-eousness’ outlines help.

My outline for “Pendulum Rose” (my working title for my current WIP) started out simple and as I went I added more detail. Starting simple just so you have a gist of where you are headed is a huge time saver.

Example:

Chapter One

  • Jane wakes up in a field of marshmallow bunnies
  • She meets a strange man
    • he lives on a stick in a cookie field
    • he is directionally challenged
  • They walk down a crunchy road
  • They meet a large frog who wants to eat them
    • the frog is deeply insecure
    • strange man pocketed some cookies while taking to the frog

This is just an idea of how I outline (subject material is only an example).  Jotting down ideas works because, if you are anything like me, your memory isn’t what it used to be (we don’t need to go into the why of it) and you’re lying to yourself if you think you are going to remember what you wanted to remember.

Outlines are different than character sketches because outlines are a briefly listed detail where character sketches are detailed write-ups of the beings in your story. And yes, writing up a character sketch in an outline format is perfectly acceptable.

The only thing I write without an outline is flash fiction.  Flash fiction is such a short, compact story that writing an outline for it would take more time than the actual writing of the story.

There are a few ways you can outline.  One way is hardcore pencil and paper because hey, that’s just how you roll.  Two is Microsoft Word or another word processing program.  Three is Scrivener. I bought Scrivener last year because I got a discount through the NaNoWriMo website and while I am still getting a handle on it, the handles I am grasping firmly, are amazing.

Scrivener makes things easy because you can have multiple projects and inside each project you can have tabs, post-it notes and chapters.  To make sure you aren’t committing to something you might not like or need, you can download and try it free for thirty days. Check it out here.

However you outline, I am interested.  Do you use details?  Bare Bones?

Don’t forget to sign up for updates and if you need inspiration, check out my free writing prompts download here.

Copy That

Alright… While I work on my novel, I made an executive decision to continue pursuing a writing career in other ways and help out other writers.

This brings me to BAD WRITING.

 

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Really, Snoopy?

Bad writing is all around us, my friends. Click on any content mill website and immerse yourself in the whimsical ways of writers who know not what they do (or maybe they know and don’t care) and get paid very little – if anything – to do it.

I am not good at selling or pimping myself (I am a writer after all) so my hopes of this self-petting not being painful are pretty vain.

I am already feeling uncomfortable and icky inside while I sit here trying to tell you why you need me in your life. *Excuse me while I bathe in bathroom wipes*

You need me because I am honest; I am reasonable; I won’t string you along. I won’t tell you it took two hours to do a job when it only took one.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

 

 

 

 

Realistic Goals for 2017 – Can You Dig It?

 

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You accomplish nothing when you aim at nothing.

 

Okay… we used to call them resolutions and that got us no freaking where.  Around 2012, I called them goals and I don’t know if I was the brainiac who thought it up or what, but it caught on and now people call them New Year Goals and hey… it works for me no matter who thought it up first.

Well, it works when I put in the effort.  Same goes for you.  I mean, I don’t know you, but if you are a writer, chances are you like the idea of things going as well as they went in Week One of Two of your project.  But then all hell breaks loose, the cat knocks your coffee over, the laundry is piled up and you aren’t sure if those are your kids or booger encrusted demons. You’ve got nothing accomplished save a pile of tissues inundated with your own tears instead of the tears of your enemies.

Usually, my goals are: save money, lose ten pounds, build a race car, travel to another dimension, communicate telepathically with my cat…blah blah blah… you know, realistic goals.  But one thing always gets in the way: ME.

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How I do things:

  1. make outrageous, unattainable goal.
  2. fail to reach said goal.
  3. hate myself and commence drowning in a pool of chocolate, self-loathing and my own damn tears.

This year I do have some goals… mostly REALISTIC ONES but a few ridiculous ones at the end… you know, just in case.

One of my goals is to get published.  Yes!  Published as in an actual book with actual pages with actual words on them.

So this is how I set my goals THIS YEAR (and the last few years):

  • GET PUBLISHED
    • write a book
    • edit book
    • rewrite until a finished, polished work is complete.
    • research agents and publishers
    • submit queries
  • GET IN SHAPE
    • Commit to gym 5 days a week
    • 30 minutes minimum cardio 7 days a week
    • strength training 5 days a week
    • eat good foods/drink a lot of water (100 oz daily)
  • STAY ORGANIZED
    • if it doesn’t have a place it is dead to me.
    • throw out all junk mail/mail/inserts/coupons 
    • magazines: throw out all old issues (or donate somewhere)
    • clothes: throw out anything I haven’t worn in a year.
  • GET FINANCES STRAIGHT
    • Pay down all debt by paying $20 extra a month on payments
    • DO NOT use credit cards
    • Set up automatic payments on all bills (I am almost at 100% with this)
    • Keep separate checking accounts and STOP transferring money!
  • READ 100 BOOKS in 2017
    • No need for bullet points on this one, really.  My goal is to read 100 books this year no matter what.  All kinds of books: thriller/suspense (my fave!); memoirs (my other fave!); self-help; horror; romances (not really my thing, but I’ll give it a shot).
  • Also, win the lottery, buy a nice cabin in the woods and never have to work a regular job again.

I have faith in myself that I can do all this. The ones in boldface are the ones I really need to stay diligent with.  The one in blood red, bold, italic, underline is my MAIN NUMBER ONE GOAL FOR THE F**KING YEAR.  If I am not stressed about money and bills, I can focus on other important things.

Have you given any thought to goals for 2017?  How do you list your goals? 

Is Space Important?

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To space or not to space? That is the question.

And no, I don’t mean one or two spaces between sentences in your manuscript (this is a real dilemma, honestly). I am talking about your space.  Your spot away from the hustle and bustle of families, pets, coworkers, and idiots with whom we share the road (nice turn signal, jerk!).  Yes, sometimes we want to crawl under our desk, or maybe into the linen closet (maybe with some NyQuil – it’s not really booze, right?) and just die forever and ever sleep until we wake up and all the stress is gone and we feel refreshed and fuzzy and… wait.

Everything is exactly as it was before I went into my NyQuil induced coma.  Only now the kids and cat are covered in flour and feces.

Mother*&*$*^!

Ok.  Since NyQuil induced comas (and binge drinking our problems away) are frowned upon (and make things sh*tty – sometimes literally), the next best thing is to find a place to escape.  However, if you can’t hop on a plane or a cruise ship to a desert island or a mountain retreat after giving your co-workers and family the one finger salute, the next best thing is to create your own personal resort at home.

How?

Well, after you duct tape and/or hogtie everyone, throw them in the basement for at least ten minutes of silence (until they start screaming from below – clearly unaware of the rules of detention!) and emerge from your NyQuil fog, here are some tips:

  1. Find a spot, preferably with a door that closes… if not, just make sure you let the demon spawn and others in the domicile know that closed door means no engagement (unless the house is on fire – then, maybe).
  2. If you have hobbies or are working on a project (book, art, music, human dissection) this is the place to set up.  A nice desk, table or slab is perfect for the elements of your future braingasms to spill out into creation.
  3. Make it your own!  Do you like flowers?  How about music? Retro band posters (I have a giant Slayer poster on my wall) are awesome.  Or maybe posters of roadkill… it really is all up to personal preference.

Once you figure out what your needs are, how to get a spot (even if it is a corner in the kitchen or basement) and make your personal boundaries clear to others, your creative muse will thank you. I believe space is important to most.  It is important to me and if you grew up having to share a room with a sibling (or a future serial killer) it is probably important to you! 🙂

As an introvert and borderline recluse, I enjoy having my own space to retire and unwind from the hustle, bustle and breathing of others. There are only so many grocery lines, coffee shops and parking lots I can handle on a given day.

Below are some pictures of my creaticave.

Good luck to you! And for Pete’s sake, remember to untie your family (duct tape removal optional) so they can eat (through a straw) or use the bathroom.

Blessed Be.