WEP: Valentine’s Challenge

Valentine BadgeThis challenge is hosted by Denise and Yolanda as part of the Write . . . Edit . . . Publish series of writing challenges. Learn more (and join!) by clicking here.

And for this particular challenge, the question to be answered in 1000 words or fewer is: What does Valentine’s Day mean to you?

I know for a lot of people it’s hearts and flowers and chocolate and romance. Or the lack thereof. And I’ll admit that I’ve had my share of sad, lonely, self-pitying Valentine’s Days. You know, the kind where you feel utterly unattractive and unloved. You can’t help but hope someone will suddenly speak up and admit they have a crush on you, even though you know to hope is to set yourself up for disappointment. And as the day draws to a close and you’ve received nothing (or worse, your parents sent you something), that disappointment comes crashing over you like a wall of frigid water. Yeah, I’ve had that. A lot.

BUT.

I’m lucky in that I don’t have to focus on that aspect of the holiday. For me Valentine’s Day is actually more about friends. Because for whatever reason I have many, many friends whose birthdays are on or near February 14. I don’t know if it’s an astrological thing, where my chart just jives with those of people born at that time? But there you have it. So for me, Valentine’s Day is about the love of friendship rather than romantic love. And I prefer it that way. I’d rather devote time and energy toward that than some romantic gesture or gift that is only given out of a sense of obligation rather than any real feeling. To me, romance is best when spontaneous. Meanwhile, I’m happy to spend the day celebrating the existence of people I am truly glad to have in my life. In turn, this helps me remember that I’m not alone and unloved after all.

What about you? I know Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but what (if anything) does it mean to you? Answers and general feedback welcome in the comments.

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Want to show me some love? Check out my latest novel, The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller, available in various e-formats from Tirgearr Publishing.

Insecure Writers Support Group

I’ve never done one of these. I don’t know if I’m supposed to officially sign up somewhere or what. But I feel like it’s fair for me, as a writer, to voice things that make me anxious or nervous about my work.

Like choosing the next project. I get emails from readers every now and then (and I love that!) asking whether I’ll be writing [fill in the blank]. And then I feel all excited that someone wants (a) a K-Pro sequel, (b) another Sherlock Holmes story (especially one explaining Lord Llewellyn), (c) to know where the hell Peter Stoller is and when they can read about him again (A: look at the countdown on the sidebar), (d) more “Hamlette,” (e) something else entirely, possibly that I’ve never even heard of, but will I please write it anyway.

Um . . .

So I keep a list on my desk of potential projects and when I hear enough rumblings from people, I push this or that one to the top of the list. But it IS anxiety inducing because I do want to please my readers, but it’s a lot of pressure! And then I also have directors wanting screenplays and that kind of thing, too.

So, yeah, I worry that I can’t do it all, or at least not quickly enough.

I guess, however, I should look at it from the positive side and be grateful I’m in demand.

But then I get nervous that, if and when I do write these things, the readers won’t like them. I mean, I love Peter (as much as I can be in love with an imaginary gay man), and I’m happy with his story and excited to share it with everyone, but what if they all hate it? *gulp*

So, yeah. That’s what I get insecure about as a writer.

Thanks for listening.

Spectacular Settings

Victoria Street, London, April 2012
Victoria Street, London, April 2012

The above is one of my favorite photos. It’s pretty mundane, I suppose, but it’s the wallpaper on my iPhone. I love London, and I was just walking down this street one day with the idea of going on the Eye, and couldn’t stop myself snapping this shot.

Today I’m participating in the WEP Challenge of “Spectacular Settings”. I think London is a spectacular setting. It’s where The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller is largely set (though, being in the 60s, there is no London Eye).

I love this photo because you get the London cabs and the red buses. You get the red phone box, too. It reminds me that what is exotic to a traveler is everyday for a slew of people. When I’m in London, for some people I’m the most interesting thing that happens in their day. (And that’s not me being self-important; I’ve actually been told that several times.) That’s weird to think about, considering I find all of London so very interesting. And of course, to myself I’m mundane.

This all relates to Peter in that he can’t live a regular life, much as he might want to. He’s a spy. What’s normal for him doesn’t translate to the every day. So when he falls in love with a cab driver, trying to straddle those worlds . . . It’s kind of a mess.

Anyway, this picture inspires me because it forces me to see things differently. It gives me perspective. It makes me think from a different direction, which is an exercise I enjoy. “Stranger in a strange land?” Well, it’s not so strange to the people who live there! Stranger in . . . a land. Though the more often I go, the less of a stranger I become.

Bloghop: Writer Mama

I was sort of late in finding out about this one, but thanks Sharon Bayliss for the inspiration.

This bloghop is about writers who are parents. It’s funny because I get two reactions when people realize I’m both a writer and a mother of three. Reaction #1: “Oh, well it must be easy then since you get to stay home.” Reaction #2: “How do you find time to write on top of having three kids?!?”

Reaction #1 is usually from people without children. Reaction #2 is usually from people who do have kids.

I’ve always been a writer, since long before I was a parent. But what’s interesting to me is that it took having kids for me to devote myself fully to writing. Prior to children, I was working in publishing as an editor. When I had my first baby and was hit with the sticker shock of daycare prices, I realized it would make more sense for me to quit working and stay home with the baby. Once the exhaustion and postpartum depression began to dissipate, I began writing again during nap times. First it was fan fiction, and I was high off all the great comments and reviews I was getting. That feedback encouraged me to move on to original work.

It’s been bumpy. Three kids don’t make it easy to find quiet, uninterrupted time. Well, now they are all in school for a few hours each day, so that helps! Except when I have errands to run and appointments to keep . . . In truth, writing is something you have to schedule time for. You have to make it sacrosanct. It requires discipline.

I’m lucky in that I have a home office with doors I keep shut while I’m working. The kids have been trained to knock first and to try and keep interruptions to a minimum. There’s nothing scarier than Mom when she’s trying to write and can’t! So they’ve developed a healthy respect for my work.

In fact, my youngest writes books of his own now. And we’ve developed a dinnertime storytelling game, too, that’s been a big hit. One person is the Storyteller. Everyone else gets to give the Storyteller one thing he or she wants the story to have. Then the Storyteller must tell a story using all those things. The kids ask for this game every night; they love it!

I don’t know if any of my kids will become writers themselves. But they are all avid readers and they all love stories. I’m glad to have given them that much at least.

It’s my birthday.

And Liz Blocker has me doing a 777. That means I go to my WIP (which is Changers, if you didn’t already know), go to the 7th page, find the 7th line, and share the next 7 lines or so.

Here goes:

Sutter reached out and gave one of Marcus’s dark curls a tug. “Getting long again, Doyle.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Don’t let it get past your collar.”

“No, sir, I won’t.”

Cee watched the coach move away, maroon polo shirt tucked into khaki trousers, which looked somewhat ridiculous but gave more than a hint of the man’s muscular physique. “He teaches your Gender Studies class, doesn’t he?” Cee asked.

Abruptly, Marcus stood and grabbed his tray. He mumbled something that Cee took to be, “I’m not hungry,” and hurried away, leaving Cee aghast—she had never in ten years of knowing him seen Marcus Doyle blush.

Please keep in mind this is a first draft, unedited.

And I did also get in a short walk this morning:

1. “The Road and the Sky” by Jackson Browne
2. “The Energy Never Dies” by The Script
3. “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” by Elton John
4. “Heaven” by O.A.R.
5. “Counterclockwise” by Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers
6. “Our Song” by Matchbox Twenty

I think my iPod started with Jackson Browne to remind me that I’m old.

And I have to say, I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by the latest Script album, but I do really like “The Energy Never Dies.”

Now I’m off to do . . . birthday things . . . Don’t wait up.

Seven Deadly Sins

Which I grabbed off M.J. Fifield’s blog. I’m supposed to be writing, but . . .

Greed
What’s your most expensive book?

I feel like I should have a handy answer to this, and my guess is it’s one of these Sherlock Holmes books, or maybe one of my various special editions, but I really have no idea.

Your most inexpensive?

Cheap paperbacks from Half Price Books and free e-books.

Wrath
With which author do you have a love/hate relationship?

I’m not sure what is meant by this question. I loved the first few books of Herbert’s Dune series but couldn’t get through them all because it sort of went off the rails. Is that what is meant? I love much of Stephen King’s work, but not all of it. No one can really be expected to love everything by an author, though, can they? I really abhor the kinds of fans that lack discernment and the ability to say, “No, I love you and your work, but this is shite.” Maybe I have a love/hate with Koontz and Crichton. There was a while there (around 5th grade or so) when I devoured all their books like candy, but looking back I realize it was all empty calories.

Gluttony

Speaking of devouring . . .

What book have you devoured over and over again without shame?

I’ve read Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Pandora and Merrick several times over, even though there were other, newer books I knew I could have been reading. I’ve also re-read many a Victoria Holt novel. Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Watership Down. And pretty much anything by Shakespeare. Conan Doyle. Also, I re-read favorite childhood books fairly often.

Sloth

Which book have you neglected reading out of laziness?

There are many books friends have said they were required to read in school that I somehow managed to sidestep. (But then again, I was in a special program, so our curriculum was quite different.) I’ve never read any Ernest Hemingway . . . And I seem unlikely to do so. I haven’t read Lord of the Flies. I also haven’t read most popular fiction (Hunger Games, Fifty Shades, etc.).

Pride

What books do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

If I do this, I am unaware of it. I simply talk about books I like, or don’t like. And because I have a degree in media studies, and another in literature, I feel capable of talking about pretty much anything intellectually. But I don’t aim to “sound intellectual.” I aim to have a good and interesting conversation. There, my friends, is my pride.

Lust

What attributes do you find attractive in a male or female character?

Ha! I write the men I find attractive: tall and slim, with messy hair and green or blue eyes. (I think some part of me never got over Nicholas Rowe in Young Sherlock Holmes.) For women, if I must, a petite redhead with a fun personality. Which is to say, a better version of me.

Envy

What book would you most like to receive for a gift?

How is this envy? Because someone else has the book and I don’t? Um, well, I’d like a folio of Shakespeare. And I’m always up for difficult-to-find Sherlock Holmes books. I’ve got some other, easier to locate books on my Amazon wish list, too. And a birthday coming up . . .

No, I’m not tagging anyone. If you want to do this, feel free to lift and carry to your own blog or site.

Peter and Charles’s Travel Scrapbook

For those of you eagerly awaiting The Fall and Rise, here is a little bit of a throwback (yes, I know it’s not Thursday) to tide you over: The A to Z of their travels, as from the April Challenge in 2013, now collected for easy reading. Remember the entries are alphabetical not chronological! Grab the PDF here.

7/7

I borrowed this from Suzi over at Literary Engineer. The “game” is to take your current or most recently finished WIP, go to page 7 or 77, go to the 7th line and reproduce the next 7 lines. I’m using The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller. This is from page 77:

The room seemed suddenly too big without Gamby there to take up most of the space. Peter envisaged himself and Charles as two planets separated by a vast expanse of airlessness; in Peter’s mental picture they rotated slowly, each moving in its orbit, with not enough gravity between them to pull them together. But what did they orbit? What was their sun?

“You can’t go back.”

Peter tightened his grip on the plate he’d been drying, not out of anger but because the sudden sound of Charles’s voice had startled him. But Peter saw how Charles’s keen blue eyes found the white knuckles, watched the conclusion being arrived at in Charles’s mind.

I went with 7 sentences rather than actual lines since it would have been weird (I think) to stop mid-sentence.

Write Club

It’s going on now!

Visit DL Hammons’ blog for the first round.

If you’re wondering, Write Club is when two anonymous writers (the writers use pen names) have short pieces (500 words or less) pitted against each other. Each piece is presented and the winner is determined through the comments. You have one week to comment, so go over and read and vote! New pieces are posted every Monday and Thursday. So the first round is up now and the second will go up tomorrow.

Write Club is a fun way to ingest a couple short pieces of writing. I have to say, even in the first round it was tough for me to pick one. I look forward to reading more over the next few weeks.

Finding the Write Path

I’m participating in this blog thingy in which I will give my younger self advice about writing (in 800 words or less).

Here goes:

Keep writing.

That’s really all I can say. Even when you’re stumped, even when it’s not perfect—hell, even when it’s shit and you know it’s shit—don’t stop producing work. Because some of it won’t suck. Some of it will be worth salvaging. Some of it, many months or even years down the line, will be worth polishing and fashioning into a shiny new bit of story or screenplay.

And don’t get hung up on perfection. I know you, remember? I know you grind to a halt when you don’t think the words are right, if they’re not perfect on the first try. You only like it when it comes easy, but more often than not it won’t be easy and you’ll want to give up. Don’t. Write every day, even if it’s junk. Even if it’s only a paragraph. Write something.

Then submit. Even when the rejection has you moping for days on end, don’t stop sending your work out. It only takes one yes, one editor or agent who sees the potential in your work. And even if only one person loves it—even if only you love it—your words and your work are as worthy as anyone’s.

But don’t get cocky, kid. You have talent but talent needs honing and the best authors never stop learning. Be sure to go to conferences. Mingle. Network. Talk to other writers. Don’t hide. You like to hole up, I know, but poke your head out every now and then and get some fresh air. New experiences make for new springboards from which to jump off and write. You never know who or what will inspire you, so get out there and cultivate those experiences.

And then write. And keep writing. It’s like mining; you never know when you might strike gold or unearth a gem. But you know it won’t happen if you don’t dig or pan or whatever it is miners do. Chip away at those rocks. Sift through the dirt and the mud. Trust it will be worth it in the end.

[credit] M Pepper Langlinais, screenwriter and author of the K-Pro and Peter Stoller series. Find her at PepperWords.com.

I give permission for this post to be used in the e-book compilation.