The First Step is Worth It

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I started this blog, I think, four years ago. It began as a way to practice writing, as a way to organize my thoughts. There are times I’m blogging weekly and times I go months without a post, and that’s fine. This is my own space to do with what I wish, but the joy I found in writing regularly is part of what led to me think I could publish a book in the first place.

Now, at the time, I had written a book that I was doing nothing with, other than occasional tweaks. But after my sister’s death in 2013, I had this overwhelming desire to see my work in print. Because death is a hard thing, and it often forces us to look at our own lives and what we are doing (or not doing) with them. In my case, it struck me hard that, Oh my God, I really could die without doing this thing I had wanted to do since junior high.

Write and publish a book.

And this desire gave me courage, and I put the things in motion that would help me get my book out there. My first book will never hit a bestsellers list. It is not The Greatest Book in the World. But it is a book, and people buy it and read it and like it, and if I had never taken that first plunge, I wouldn’t be on the brink of releasing my fourth book.

As far as publishing goes, there are a lot of things I have done wrong. I still have no website or newsletter. I don’t publish books on a regular schedule and I don’t write within one genre. My books are weird and not everyone likes that.

But that’s okay. They don’t have to, because I like them. I’m satisfied with the stories I write, and I know I don’t cave to expectation or do what’s considered the current trendy thing. Every book I write is true to the vision in my mind, and that is what is important to me.

And I have this little band of followers who buy my books and read and review them, and one who sends me fan art (which is awesome). There are people who send me messages to tell me they enjoyed what I’ve written.

The point here is, none of this would have been possible if I hadn’t taken the first step. If I had never started this blog, I don’t think I would have gained enough confidence to publish my words in a book. If I had never published my imperfect first book, I wouldn’t be getting ready to publish my fourth.

These dreams are inside us for a reason. We’re meant to take those first steps. Sure, we’ll stumble and sometimes fall along the way. We’ll end up with bruises and scrapes.  The first attempt won’t be easy or probably very pretty. But we need those first steps. We learn from them.

They give us the courage to keep walking.

My fourth book, In the Presence of Knowing, will be available this spring.

The Liebster Award

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Well ding dong diggity! I’m goshdarn excited, friends! My little blog has been nominated for the Liebster Award. I know the proper thing to say here is, “I don’t care if I win, I’m just so honored to have been nominated!”, but that’s a LIE. I WANT TO WIN! I WANT THAT TROPHY! I NEED IT! Valarie! Settle down! I wont. I can’t. You sound ridiculous, like some desperate, faded beauty queen who hasn’t yet figured out she’s no longer in the running. Why are you so mean to me? Besides, I’ve already had my hair done and my nails painted and my hand is resting, just so on my chest, fluttering with anticipation. Let’s be realistic. You’ve got zero shot at winning this thing. Yes I do so too have a shot! D. Wallace Peach at http://mythsofthemirror.com/ says so! You’re pitiful. Reasoning with you is exhausting. Yeah? Well, you’re mean and I think you should go buy me some ice cream for being such a weiniemeister. And then tell me I’m pretty.

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Oh! This ice cream is GOOD! Know what else is good? The Liebster Award! Know what else? Following the rules for The Liebster Award! WOOT! Let’s do this thang!

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Eleven random facts about me:

1. I feel much more sane if I’m surrounded by trees.

2. I’m a Renaissance Festival Junkie. I’m simply a happier person when I’m surrounded by freaks like me. Plus I’ve got this thing with tricorns. And frock coats.

3. I think in pictures.

4. My mind is often controlled by yarn skeins and crochet hooks. They haunt my dreams.

5. I’ve just finished college, 21 years after I finished high school.

6. I can’t stop reading, and if there is nothing else available to read, I will read cereal boxes and shampoo bottles.

7. I am absolutely addicted to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series. In a freakish way. Like I can recite long bits of dialogue. In character.

8. I love cooked tomatoes, but I can’t stand raw ones. I keep trying to like them, but I can’t handle the weird texture in my mouth. It makes me feel quite upset all over myself.

9. I find designing costumes to be a fun and relaxing way to unwind. It pleases my soul.

10. I’m a writer who doesn’t drink coffee. I know. I know! Terrible, isn’t it? My caffeine fix comes from Mountain Dew/Monster/Amps.

11. My favorite actress is Helena Bonham Carter.

Questions from D. Wallace:

1. What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m working on a paranormal short story, “Slither.” I’m enjoying writing it and creeping myself out all at the same time.

2. Where do you write and why?
Mostly, I write in my living room, as it’s our only desktop. This is difficult, because I have a family of six, so I often write with earbuds in and some Hello Dave or Hugh Laurie cranked up to eardrum-blowing volume. In a pinch, I write on my Kindle.

3. What’s the first creative piece you remember writing?
I don’t recall a single piece in particular, but I’d say melodramatic poetry writing started around seventh grade. When I was, you know, very melodramatic. With all the typical junior high melodrama. And lots and lots of heavy black eyeliner. You know, the kind you had to singe a little bit with a lighter to make it spread right.

4. Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. Nature, a scene in a book, the emotions that play across the faces of people I know, or even those I don’t know but have had the privilege to be near. I find inspiration in life, in the way people handle joys and traumas, in the decisions made in the heat of a stressful moment.

5. Was there a moment in time when you decided to become a writer? What happened?
In high school, I wanted to be a writer, and wrote often, just for fun. Then I grew up, got married, had four children in quick succession, and spent the next ten, twelve years or so making sure they were surviving from daylight to dusk and then collapsing into bed once they were all tucked in. Writing took a back seat. More like I shoved it in the trunk and locked it away. I always planned to do it later. But about five years ago began a series of deaths of people I loved dearly, and it hit me: In ten years, I could look back and say, “I wish I had done it”, or in ten years I could say, “I’m so glad I did it”, or in ten years I could be dead. We can’t always count on later. Three years ago I started writing my novel, a little over a year ago I started this blog, and began sending out pieces to magazines, several of which were accepted for publication.

6. What book(s) has most influenced you as a person?
Horton Hears a Who.

7. What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
This is hard to narrow down! The first that comes to mind is the “Suncatchers” series by Jamie Langston Turner. Sometimes, I remember bits of those books and have to stop and think a minute to recall if what I’m remembering was a book or a movie scene….her characters are that vivid. I would love to have that said about my books one day.

8. Why did you choose your genre?
I truly cannot express how much I hate this question. I’ve been asked this same thing several times, and I never know how to answer. I really don’t have a solid genre. My first book is considered chicklit/romance/drama fiction. The story I’m writing now is paranormal. Most of the articles I write for this blog or for magazines are creative non-fiction. I can’t pick just one. This may have something to do with the untreated ADHD oh hey look a squirrel!

9. Is there a book you would love to see in film?
Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger.

10. What are you currently reading?
The Fabulous Cornwall Sisters, by Teri Cross Chetwood.

11. In 2-3 sentences, give us your elevator pitch on something of yours you’d like us to read!

My novel, Just Hold On, is available for purchase on Amazon:

Determined to live out his life alone and free of the burden of love, Jake’s world is turned upside down when the grief of a woman he hardly knows calls him to step out of his comfort zone. After losing her home in a fire and numbed by yet another heartbreaking tragedy, Marnie is unable to communicate or even function on her own. Can Jake and Marnie overcome the obstacles before them and find love despite the odds?

The 11 blogs I am nominating are:
http://belleofthelibrary.com/
http://grimmreport.com/
http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/
http://maryluceaiello.wordpress.com/
http://ravingmotherfromhell.blogspot.com/
http://shellypicarella.wordpress.com/tag/michelle-anderson-picarella/
http://northmelbournemum.wordpress.com/
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/
http://invisibleillnessbattle.wordpress.com/
http://kellyinrepeat.com/
http://adventuresinjuggling.me/

And finally (Yes! Finally! I know you’ve been waiting, kiddies!), my eleven questions for my nominees:

1. What is your favorite genre to read?

2. Have you ever gotten so angry with a book you’ve read, you quit reading that author entirely? (I have.)

3. When is your favorite time to write?

4. Have you always wanted to write, or did you happen upon it accidentally?

5. Do you write more often when you are angry, or happy?

6. Give yourself a pirate name. What is it?

7. Does your family know about your blog? Why or why not?

8. Do you have a favorite author? Who is it?

9. Is there anything particular you consistently eat while reading or writing?

10. Have you ever dressed up as your favorite book character? Who was it?

11. Have you a horn to toot? Let us hear your song! Leave us your links!

This Is How Authors Play Tag.

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I was tagged in a blog post by a fellow author, Anton T. Russell. The challenge is to answer the following questions and then tag other authors. Because we can be quite the ornery sort, this is a vehicle to pull authors away from their imaginations and get them to tell the world about what is going on in their heads.

On one hand, this is one of the more interactive of our author games. On the elementary school playground, we failed at tag. We were the kids that were poked and banished to the “Out” sector of the field…because we’d been too busy daydreaming or writing story ideas on our forearms with the yellow ink of a dandelion. KIDS CAN BE SO MEAN. However, this author tag idea might be a more successful route for play, since it doesn’t involve leaving the house, talking to actual people, or getting out of pajamas. Other fun things we do include: passing puns back and forth, yelling Shakespearean quotes and identifying them (I only do that at Renaissance Festivals) , and shouting at one another through paper cup telephones while hiding in our respective writing caves.

Now, the other hand is usually backwards, if you know what I mean. I avoid that type of discourse as if it is the plague. Why we compete against one another is beyond my ability to understand. Readers read and they’re constantly searching for the next great imaginative escape. If your book ain’t the one for them, write another. In the time between, give them a recommendation to hold them until you can have that next one ready. It’s as simple as that. No real reason to bust someone else’s a … imagination because it doesn’t fit your own. (this paragraph stolen from Anton T. Russell, JUST BECAUSE I CAN.)

Honestly though, we shouldn’t knock one another’s vision of art. Another’s vision of art may not be yours, and that’s okay. Really, it is. You don’t have to like it. But respect for the vision, for the work, the time, the sleepless nights, the crying, the laughing…..respect for these things is appropriate. Just say, “Well done.” Just say, “Nice job.” Be nice. It’s nice to be nice. And it sets the right example for the next generation. Don’t we want them to be nice? Yes. Yes we do.

Anyway, here is my Q&A:

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I’m working on a short story, “M80s and Cherry Bombs”, and a collection of pieces I’ve been writing as I have learned (well, tried to learn) about struggling to move forward after losing my sister (and best friend) last summer.

How do your stories differ from others in its genre?

What sort of question is this? And how can I answer it when I barely have a grasp on the genre I’m writing? My book has been called women’s fiction, drama fiction, chick-lit, romance (not really my intention)…..and my creative non-fiction just tends to make people cry. Why can’t I just call my genre “life”? Life genre….now see, that, well, that’s something I could converse about.

Why do I write what I do?

I like to disassemble those little moments that make up life, those bits and pieces of the everyday. I want to stretch them out like the Silly Putty my children played with when they were little; that virus of stickiness that, when found ground into my carpet or glued to my furniture, made me curse beneath my breath. These moments, they pass us by or cause mild irritation or fluttering hearts or shattered pride and in the end, they were the bits of time that colored the great mural we were living in. And so I pull them apart and turn them inside out; I flick them and tickle them and stare at them under a magnifying glass; I write them and I love them and I’m terrified by them and sometimes, they make me curse beneath my breath.

How does the writing process work?

How does my writing process work? Hmmn. Sometimes, I see a moment in a movie or in a song or on a sidewalk in the little village I reside in, and I feel struck. My breath is caught for just a split second, and it begins; or I live through something heartbreaking or joyous or just plain ordinary and it strikes me the same way. Then the movie scene rolls to life in my mind; the characters begin as a blur and slowly separate – they come with names (which I sometimes dislike, but am helpless to change), looks and personalities of their own; backstories and entanglements and quirks that make them into people that seem so real to me, I sometimes have conversations with them out loud. And that’s just the fiction….but when I write creative non-fiction pieces, it happens much the same way. The difference, of course, being I am writing from my own perspective, my own experience. My own Silly Putty moments.

I have found that when my life is most upside-down, when grief covers me like a heavy blanket and I feel like I may suffocate; or when I’m overwhelmed with emotion, good or bad; when I’m filled to spilling over with feelings: anxiety, depression, contentedness, joy, relief – that is when I write the most, and the best, and I call that overflowing feeling “word vomit”. I spew and spew and spew and when it finally settles down to a slow heave, I can catch my breath and begin to edit and sometimes even sleep. I like sleep. I used to be good friends with it, and we would, you know, hang out all night. Chill. Eat nachos. You know. It was good times, man.

But then I became a writer.

I am tagging three of my favorites, and I can hardly wait to see their answers:

Teri Cross Chetwood, author of “The Girl in the Impossible Bottle”, which can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Girl-Impossible-Bottle-Volume/dp/1499288867/

Mary Luce Aiello, author of “Vigilante Justice: A Marty Wilson Mystery”, which can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Vigilante-Justice-Marty-Wilson-Mystery/dp/1491087730/ref=sr_1_14?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398807859&sr=1-14&keywords=vigilante+justice

And
Christian Fennell, author of “Urram Hill”, which can be found…..can be found…..um….Oh my God, Christian! Where can it be found? Crap. I think I’ve lost it. Please don’t kill me.

Word Shortage

I have heard there are people with a shortage of words. They open their mouths to speak, or sit down to write….and nothing comes out. I feel a little bit sorry for them.

Then again, I seem to have the opposite problem. And that isn’t always a picnic, either.

Sometimes (most times) I am afflicted with an over- abundance of words. They bounce around inside my brain – much like an over-achieving silver pinball, fired out of its slot by the trigger and determined to hit against every bit of space, every obstacle, collecting as many points as possible – and the words clamor so loudly to be heard, to be noticed, that I often cannot organize them into one single essay or bit of poetry.

These words fight for recognition; enticing me into developing new characters; yanking my brain through an entire story idea in just a few minutes; rhyming themselves willy-nilly and without permission in my mind.

My folders are stuffed and my flash drives are filled; spiral notebooks are no longer fitting into the drawers allotted to them.

I simply have too many words. I need someplace else to stick my overflow of verbage, so they don’t get lost or mishandled.

And so I have started a blog.