A History of Violence

(And here, on Old Poetry Monday, a selection from 2012…)

 

But it doesn’t end.
Nothing ever ends.
Those who plummet over the edge of darkness do not hit the bottom.
No false saviors can catch them with their parables and psalms.
They fall forever.
And for those of us who do not know what it feels like
to be the only one shaking as the shadow passes,
as the red-eyed rats stare hungrily from darkened alleys
at the proclaimed innocents
are we really just that lucky?
When we hear about the headline crimes,
and how justice yet again prevails,
we say, “Well, how convenient.”
Right place.
Right time.
Caught red-handed.
But the law cannot catch all,
nor can it see all.
Not the guilt-stoked hearts on fire.
And the signals in the sky
cannot shed light on the blood that covers
all of our hands.
Those who see,
and know,
but stay silent.
We are all guilty in a world
with a history of violence.
That will never end because
we do not allow it.
Because nothing ever ends.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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Writing Techniques: Feedback

There is one aspect of writing that I have always feared the most, and that is receiving feedback on my work. It’s a dangerous beast, one that can either make your spirit soar, or tear your heart out. Any time I send any piece of writing out for a fresh opinion, the butterfly factory never fails to start pumping in my stomach. And though it’s an integral part of the writing process, it also raises a relentless battalion of “What ifs?”

What if they don’t like it? What if they tell me I should change everything? What if they say I should just give up? 

Of course, the big one is the first one, and, well… maybe they won’t like it. So what? Not everyone is going to like what you write, that’s impossibly idealistic. And sure, a critique partner or editor or beta reader might tell you that there are things that don’t work, or things you should change, or things that need to be cut so others may be salvaged. But most of the time – if they’re truly trying to be helpful – they’re also going to tell you why they think that. They’re going to give you reasons to back up their criticism, whether you ultimately follow it or not, and it might help you realize flaws or recurring issues in your writing before it reaches a wider audience.

Basically, feedback – positive, negative, and the in-between – is vital, no matter how nervous it makes you to ask for it. And trust me, the very thought of someone else reading my unpolished writing makes my anxiety rocket through the ceiling, every single time, without fail. It’s natural – I’m certainly not the first to feel that way.  But without a handful of outside opinions to steer you in the right direction, can you really improve your writing, or recognize what can be changed for the better?

Though it’s not quite the same as a beta reader, I have worked on my current MS (YA fantasy) with a freelance editor who has been immensely helpful. I was terrified to do it – to have someone I don’t know look over my work – but once I received her feedback, I knew I’d made the right choice, and I’m so grateful she was willing to work with me. She pointed out inconsistencies, pinpointed areas that needed clarification, and advised me on certain tidbits that needed anything from a complete overhaul to some minor tweaking, and she did so in a professional way and had reasons to back up each point. Plus, she told me what did work, so it didn’t feel like a laundry list of errors being hurled at me. I didn’t feel torn down or attacked by her critiques, I felt inspired to fix what needed to be fixed, and I have much more confidence in the current, more focused version of my manuscript than the first one I sent her, all thanks to her valid guidance.

I also sent off my MS to be copy-edited my my godmother, who is a retired English teacher. She not only taught me the proper use of a semicolon, which has consistently eluded me, but sticky-noted and marked all of my errors and then explained them. Plus she gave me her overall opinion and impression at the end, so her feedback was doubly helpful! I’m super happy to have her in my corner, and her support means the world to me. Now, I can recognize recurring grammar pitfalls and tread around them instead of tumbling into them.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had any luck finding a writer’s group in my area (maybe I should start one?) that has fellow YA writers, so mostly, I deal with my writing solo. I haven’t had a solid “workshop” group since college, and even then it was mainly for class. I don’t like inconveniencing people by asking them to read my work, an issue I need to work on, and I’d like to reach out to fellow YA writers online and build or join some kind of writing circle. But, in an effort to grab some fresh opinions, I’ve recently asked for feedback on my query letter from two friends of mine from college, whose work I’ve admired and opinions I value. And it was so incredibly helpful to have their feedback I can’t believe I didn’t think of asking them sooner. I’ve even asked one of them to take a look at the first few chapters of the manuscript, and I look forward to hearing back from him.

As someone with a history of (extensive) dabbling in fanfiction, and who has released an independent book, I’m not a stranger to feedback, though I am still looking to broaden my horizons before any future projects are released. Some feedback will be helpful to writers, some won’t – but it’s worth it to glean fresh opinions, no matter how fearful you are of what they’ll say. It’s still difficult, at times, to put myself out there – a feeling I’m sure that many writers share, because not all feedback will be glowing praise of your work. Some folks will gladly kick your ass rather than kiss it. But I firmly believe that constructive criticism is a necessity if you want to improve your skills, and write the best story you can.

On a side note, if you’re a fellow YA writer looking to possibly connect with a freelance editor, please drop me a line and I’ll let you know how I went about it!

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Run, Birdy, Run!

There are thousands of mysteries – riddles with no easily discernible answers – that have plagued humanity for centuries. The origin of Stonehenge. The true identity of Jack the Ripper. How many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie-roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

But one of these conundrums has been on my mind for a while, and that is the eternal question of: Why do birds run?

Seriously. I find this absolutely mind-boggling. I wish I could communicate with birds, if only to ask them why they sprint across the street or through grass on their stick-thin, spindly little legs. First of all, they look absurd when they’re doing it. Second of all, THEY HAVE WINGS.

There are exceptions, of course. Ostriches. Emus. Sandpipers. Any bird that’s flightless. This question is predominantly aimed toward smaller strains and common species, birds that can be easily found in your backyard. Birds that terrorize cars with their poo – though that’s not really something they can help, since they lack muscularly functional sphincters.

Countless times, I have been driving down the road only to see a tiny bird, be it a robin or a finch or a sparrow, darting across the street instead of flying. Just this morning, I had to slow down to let a bird cross the road in my neighborhood, and it scuttled along the entire way… then, once across, it took flight and vanished into a copse of trees. A pigeon and a dove have (at separate times) smacked into my windshield, scaring the living daylights out of me and possibly suffering great injury, which could have been avoided if they used their wings and FLEW OUT OF THE WAY.

And to this, I have only one question: WHYYYY????? My mind is boggled. BOGGLED.

I don’t mean to shame birds for this, of course. I think birds are great, even if I don’t understand why they put themselves at risk by scurrying along pavement rather than lifting off with their wings.

I mean, maybe this phenomenon is because they have brains the size of peanuts, so their first instinct isn’t to fly. Or maybe they admire other animals, and want to emulate them, so they use their tiny legs instead of wings. Maybe they want to look for worms along the way, and that’s an activity that is easier to do  from the ground as opposed to the air. Maybe they’re training for a marathon. Maybe we will never have an answer to this enduring mystery. And maybe there is a lesson to be learned here, too.

Don’t let fear ground you. Why run, when you can fly?

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Favorite Words Vol. 1

*Definitions gleaned from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary*

Lament
Definition(s): To mourn aloud; wail.
To regret strongly.
To express sorrow, mourning, or regret.
Lament is one of those words that carries a greater weight and paints a clearer picture than most of its synonyms. “Cry” sounds so weak and pathetic compared to “lament,” and “lament” is a much more layered choice, and carries multiple meanings. It’s a word you can practically hear, as it seems to indicate a greater depth of sorrow or regret with an accompanying cold you can feel deep in your bones.

Sanguine
Definition(s): Bloodred.
Consisting of or relating to blood.
Confident or optimistic.
I like this word precisely because it has two very different meanings, and when you meld them together, it makes me think of a charismatic, yet deadly predator, like a snake. The unique connotation the word carries due to those two meanings make it fun to play around with. “Sanguine” is a solid word, and whenever I see it on paper or onscreen I think, “Oooh, good one!” I can’t say I get to use it often, but whenever I do, it’s a treat!

Traipse
Definition(s): To go on foot.
Tramp or walk.
Traipse is a word that I use whenever possible because for me, it has an accompanying visual. In my personal word world, “traipse” indicates a certain lightheartedness and innocence, akin to a good frolic, so I picture someone enjoying themselves as they set off on a journey, no matter how far. It’s a creative alternative when you want something a bit more descriptive and maybe a dash more fun than a bland ol’ “walk.”

Raze
Definition(s): To erase.
To scrape, cut, or shave off.
To destroy to the ground.
Why say “destroy” when you can say “raze?” Raze sounds so utterly complete. Definite. Like a doom that there is no returning from, a ruin that will never rise from the ashes. Of all the other options, I think raze is the most powerful, and the one that implies a more permanent result. Plus, who doesn’t love a word with a good “z” in it?

Whimsical 
Definition(s): Resulting from or characterized by whim or caprice; lightly fanciful.
Subject to erratic behavior or unpredictable change.
Full of, actuated by, or exhibiting whims.
This word makes me think of magic, of dreams and wishes, of happy things and fairytales. “Whimsical” seems like such a pleasant word, that implies a free-spirited recklessness and impulsiveness that does not result in any sort of bad ending. It indicates happiness, lightness, and makes me think of fantasy-like music with a cheerful undertone. We all need a little whimsy, now and again – so this word gets used whenever I find the space to fit it in.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

Book News!

My YA novel, I’m With You, is officially available on the Nook, and it’s only $1.99!

Here is the LINK to the Barnes&Noble website. Give it a read, and leave a review to help an indie author out.

book coverSynopsis: When fifteen-year-old Ciarán Morrigan eavesdrops on a conversation between his father and two mysterious strangers, his life–and the life of his little sister, Remiel–is changed forever. After their father makes a startling decision, the Morrigan siblings are forced to flee the only life they’ve ever known and embark on a dangerous adventure across the nation of Empirya. With the help of a disinherited vagabond, a cynical violinist, a fire-juggler with a fierce temper, an aspiring mechanic, and a cheerful librarian, Ciarán and Remiel must fight to escape those who have been hired to hunt them. But will Remiel’s dark secret prevent the Morrigan children from finding a place they can truly call home?

It’s also still available in ebook format on Amazon, and is still available for paperback on both Amazon and Barnes&Noble for $9.99.

Writing Techniques: Out of Order

It’s almost safe to say that no writer writes exactly the same way – it’s a unique process for most. Some folks must have absolute silence, some prefer total isolation, others can be productive in a busy coffee shop whilst other patrons are slurping lattes and chatting with friends. It’s all up to the writer.

And how a person writes vastly differs as well.

When I was writing I’m With You, I wrote the first draft entirely in order until around chapters 13-15 range (can’t remember the specific chapter), then I got stuck. I tried to slog through it, but couldn’t figure out exactly how to puzzle out that segment, so I just moved on to what became chapters 17-19. I had a better idea of where I wanted that portion of the store to go and what I hoped to achieve with it, since it’s a fairly contained section of the narrative. Thus, it was easier for me to draft.

I used to think I had to write in a strictly linear pattern – point A to point B to point C and so on – so when I hit a roadblock, I’d just… stop. Several bouts of frustration and stress later, I’d manage to get momentum going again, but it didn’t occur to me until around my college years that I could write out of order. I could go from point A to point J if I wanted. It doesn’t matter, so long as you can seamlessly link the parts together after they’re all done.

That realization – though simple for some, it was a groundbreaking revelation for me – actually first came to me while writing essays for college. English majors have to write a lot of essays. A crap ton, one might say. And the bane of many college writers is the intro paragraph, which contains the dreaded thesis statement. I used to sit and stare at my computer for ages, trying to think of a compelling intro with a powerful hook, as the cursor blinked mockingly at me from an empty document. To be fair, I’ve encountered many other students and writers who also thought that you had to do the intro first. How else would you know what to write, if you haven’t yet set it up?

I learned, by my senior year, that, as long as I had at least some idea of what I was going to write about, I could just skip the intro, write out the rest of my essay, and then hope motivation and momentum carry me enough to pump out an intro by the time the rest of it is done. Or, if sudden inspiration happened to strike, I could go back and write it out at any point. There are no rules dictating the order in which you write an essay, or a narrative, or any piece of creative work.

By my last couple of semesters, my drafts starting looking like this:

487009_4395092474564_234789100_n

For the record, I do still believe that intro paragraphs can die in a hole. As you can see, the start of this draft is ugly, my thesis ends with “something something something,” and I haven’t even got a title.

But here is the final version, which came together as I was writing the rest of the essay:

final scor.PNG

A bit wordy, but it gets the job done. Your thesis and intro can take shape during the development of the body paragraphs. A lot of the time, I would have no idea how to word my thesis, but I knew what I was trying to prove… and working through the meat of the essay helped me find the right words.

For my current MS, I got stuck on a particular chapter for months – but I didn’t dwell on it very long. I didn’t forget about it entirely, of course, but when I felt hopelessly stuck and had no idea what to write next, I just moved on and kept chugging away at the other sections of the story, the ones I did have a clear path for. Ultimately, I worked past the roadblock and got the chapter done. So, if your writing patterns and habits seem a little unorthodox, don’t let others tell you that your style is out of order. Sometimes, being out of order is exactly what a writer needs.

~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

The Kitty

A poem inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.”

Once upon a morning dismal, while I slumbered calm and blissful,
Dreaming of all the joyous things that make my spirits soar –
I was wrenched out from my sleep, well before the alarm clock’s beep,
As I heard the faintest cry come from behind my bedroom door,
“Not again,” I bemoaned, “Christ, it’s only half past four –
I can’t do this anymore…”

Warm blankets I did shed and heaved my body from my bed,
and braced myself to face the purring harbinger of doom.
With cold feet set upon the floor, I sighed and threw open the door,
And a slinky furry body crept at once into the room,
thus my rage began to bloom.

With her golden eyes so round, she uttered a meek and pleading sound,
And the dread fell upon me like a blanket of cold snow,
She flicked her tail against my leg as her whiny voice did beg,
“It’s too early,” I complained, and though I nudged her with my toe,
still, her meows echoed with woe.

I sighed and led her down the stairs, past the table and the chairs,
And like a queen she sprawled herself out upon the tile,
I fetched her early morning meal, and she released a happy squeal,
And thus began to gorge upon a tasty kibble pile,
Though the stuff smells rather vile…

I trudged back up to my bed, and put the warm pillow to my head,
and hoped the demon would cease to pester me until the morn,
My thoughts began to drift, and I slipped slowly into the rift,
Until I heard that telltale meow, so pitiful and so forlorn,
but piercing like a thorn.

Once again, I let her in, though it was much to my chagrin,
And she leapt upon my bed and made herself a little nest,
With a sigh I settled down, my face set firmly in a frown,
But she snuggled at my side, and I knew that though she is a pest,
kitty cuddles are the best.

~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon / Amazon UK. Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.