More stupid things from Jill. Play with all your friends!
More stupid things from Jill. Play with all your friends!
Howdy, friends! I am sick and behind on my word count, so I’ll dispense with the pleasantries and vomit up this first chapter of my current project, Copper. Enjoy, and don’t catch plague!
Phoebe stared up at the single naked lightbulb in the room, suspended hiiiiigh out of reach from the ceiling. It flicked on every morning at six. It flicked off every night at eight. It was a tiny sun, beyond her control and beyond caring for someone like her.
It wasn’t a particularly strong bulb. The corners of her room were always in shadow. The darkness was under the bed; she would move the thing if it wasn’t bolted down, just to see what the floor looked like in relatively bright detail, rather than lying on her belly coughing on dust bunnies with her cheek to the cold concrete floor. Like every other inch of the floor and the walls as high as she could reach, she knew every bump and grain and gouge. Nearly every moment of the past five years had been spent in this room. She knew every inch of it by touch and sight and smell and even taste and the sound it made when she tapped it with a knuckle or slapped it with a palm or stomped it with a bare heel.
But on the days she was strapped onto the bed, sedated half out of her mind, bored out of the other half, she had nothing to do but stare up at that one dim bulb and think about how grand it would be to take it down and handle it and peer at its little insides. It was the one great mystery left in the room.
The room Phoebe had had before the electricity had been put in had had a window high up by the ceiling. She could trace its path along the wall and have a kind of clock. She missed that.
The room before that had been in a different facility entirely. It hadn’t seemed nice at the time, but Phoebe realized now that her grandmother had probably chosen the place with care, not realizing they would decide within months of her deployment that Phoebe was too dangerous to be kept there, and off she went to Bloomingdale. Phoebe used to wonder if knowing where she would end up would have changed her grandmother’s mind, but had decided it probably wouldn’t have. Her grandmother had never been one to be bothered by anything less than the needs of the whole world. The needs of one little girl just weren’t important enough.
She had promised Phoebe she would come back for her.
She never had.
The lightbulb overhead flicked out, plunging Phoebe into blackness. She closed her eyes, and then opened them again. It made no difference.
Mrs. Alice Mae Phillips stepped closer to the window, staring out over the manicured lawn of St. Anthony’s Home for Aged Exceptionals, its grass still slick with last night’s rain. She watched the abandoned grounds for a few moments, absently running her large-knuckled fingers through the plush fur of the Turkish Angora lounging in her windowsill. The cat arched her back appreciatively, a low purr rumbling in her throat.
“Well, Maggie,” the old woman murmured, tired already. “Time for the morning jailbreak.”
The old woman pocketed a small cube of copper, rolling her stooped shoulders, and then ambled toward the door. She paused in the frame, glancing back at the cat again, and gave her a conspirator’s nod as she said in a low voice, “Don’t forget the plan.”
To read the full chapter, click here!
Howdy folks! It is now April, and that means it’s Camp NaNo season! Wahoo! I really need this, because I have been super lazy about writing the last few months and particularly the last few days. (Holidays. Holidays WRECK my writing system.)
Speaking of writing systems, the reblog this week is from our friendly neighborhood Well-Storied, about daily writing habits- the good, the bad, and the augh-why-does-it-hurt. Read Kristen Keiffer’s take on daily writing and decide if it’s right for you! Enjoy, and happy writing!
“Real writers write every day.”
Unfortunately, that’s a sentiment you’ll often hear in the writing world, and for a time, I subscribed to it myself. And while I still maintain a daily writing routine, I regret the days I spent telling other writers they should to do the same.
Every writer’s process is unique, and what works for one—or even many—isn’t guaranteed to work for you. And that’s okay! The important thing is to find the writing techniques that work best with your time, your skills, and your stories. Unsure if a daily writing routine would be a good fit for your writing process?
Allow me to share the pros and cons of my own experience with a daily writing routine today!
I’m far more of a storyteller than a writer. I enjoy plotting, creating characters, world-building, and the like, but the actual process of writing the dang thing is often like pulling teeth for me. And because of that, I’m prone to procrastinating my work.
A few years ago, my writing life was a mess because of this procrastination. I wouldn’t write for weeks at a time, until I grew so frustrated with my lack of productivity that I’d practically hurl myself into the work. Obviously, working with such intensity wasn’t exactly sustainable, and I often exhausted all of my creativity energy and motivation during these times.
I wouldn’t write again for weeks, and so the cycle repeated.
I knew I needed to find a way to stop procrastinating my work, to instead spread my creative energy out throughout the week, but I didn’t know where to start. That’s when I found Faye Kirwin’s Write Chain Challenge, a 30-day course designed to help you build a daily writing routine.
The course itself runs off the principal of a daily minimum. Every day, you must meet your daily minimum writing goal in order to add a link to your Write Chain. Fail to earn your daily link, and you break your chain and must start over.
This challenge seemed like the perfect way to revolutionize my messy writing life, and in February 2015, I began adding links to my Write Chain. After nearly three years of daily writing, I hit my 1,000th daily link earlier this month. One thousand days!
Never in a million years would I have thought I could work on my writing for so many days in a row. But the practice wasn’t always easy, and it certainly wasn’t perfect…
To read the full article, click here!
I fully intended for this to be a stick figure comic, and then was all shocked and angry at myself when I realized three panels in that I was not drawing stick figures.
Every Tuesday morning and Thursday evening, I put my kids to bed and get on my computer and curse my internet connection and open Scrivener. I write every day, usually at night after having put my kids down to sleep, but Tuesday morning and Thursday evening are special because those are the times when I write with friends.
Mary has been my number one writer friend for years and years and is pretty much my soulmate. My number two is Anna- who shares with me an almighty kitchen quirk and who gave me a questionable bag of flour that I can’t get rid of because it was Anna’s questionable bag of flour and I’ll be darned if I throw it out before I figure out what it is- and, even though both of them have moved away from me, we still carve this time out to write together. I love this writing time, and it feeds my soul in a different way than just writing by myself does.
In our little group dynamic, I am and always have been The Nag. I’m constantly blowing up their phones if they forget what day it is, or talking smack when their word counts are low, or coming up with new and improved ways to extort their stories out of them. My latest scheme is our Chapter Pact of Doom. (I am the only one who calls it that.)
Every other Friday, we are each supposed to post a chapter of our current WIP to a Google doc that the others have access to. This is kind of new and terrifying for me because I once-shy-of-never show first draft material to people, and here I am posting it to the internet to peruse at their leisure. *faints* But this just goes to show you how far I will go to try and shoehorn forward writing progress out of myself and everyone around me, especially when it comes to first drafts.
I write rapidly. Feverishly. I squeeze first drafts out with the hurried frenzy of Peter Rabbit popping through Mr. McGregor’s fence.
But there is another end to this spectrum. As important as it is to get stories quickly to market, there is a Zen to writing as well that cannot be rushed.
No matter how quickly you can put words down, writing requires phenomenal patience. A book that takes me two months to write can also take me two years to edit. I’ve been querying literary agents with only glacial progress for years. Even if I signed tomorrow, it would in all likelihood be years longer before a book of mine ever hit a bookstore shelf.
So here are a few things that I’ve learned to be patient about over the years.
Editing As quickly as I draft, I am at least that slow in editing. Everything about this process is super slow and thoughtful. A passage that took me minutes to jot down can take months to tweak into its polished final state. Drafting is all about just getting ideas onto the page. Editing is a hundred things more- checking for spelling and grammar; clarifying; refining the voice; making sure the scene and each part of it move the story forward; putting emotion on the page; grounding the scene in sensory detail; ALL THE THINGS. And that takes time!
Submitting Even after all these years, it still burns us. Crafting submission materials (blurbs, queries, bios, etc) is only half the battle. Then you have to research the heck out of who you’re going to send all this material to- and then tailor each submission for just that person. This does not happen overnight. (Or if it does, you’re doing it wrong.) And even after you’ve finally gotten your materials perfect and sent them to the perfect people, you still have to wait for…
Responses So, waiting for responses is actually one of the things I’ve gotten decent at being patient for. When I first started submitting stuff (to anyone, really- friends, beta readers, agents, etc), I felt like I was sitting in a boiler room on a bed of broken glass. There were even a few times where anxiety got the better of me and I thought I was going to die of a heart attack or something before the whole ordeal was over. But these days, I’ve learned how to keep myself busy while waiting for responses. I have other projects I work on. I send things out in batches timed so that there’s always a few out and a few more to send. I read exciting books. I occasionally skip the country on vacations. You know, things like that.
Fame, Riches, and Glory I’m, uh… I’m still waiting on this one. Completely. And frankly, this is probably a thing I’ll be patiently waiting for until I die.
Writing is a lot of work- the kind of work that happens quickly, and the kind that happens slowly. If I worked very slowly at all of it, I would never have the body of prose that I’ve accumulated, nor gotten through the literal millions of words of practice that I have. But if I was a slave to speed in its every aspect, sure, maybe I’d have a lot of work, but none of it would have the kind of polished refine that it requires to garner any critical notice, whether that’s from agents or publishers or readers. A writer requires both. And that is something that took me a long time to learn.
So whether you’re pouring on the heat to try and muscle through a first draft in three weeks flat, or reining in the horses to make sure you really get this one line just right, take pride in knowing that you’re giving your work just what it needs- a push of productivity, and a pinch of patience, each in due course.
Yaaaay, another short story! This is the last one for the week, and it’s been a lovely week to have a blogiversary. We’re on spring break up here and, while I was a little sad that none of the kids in our school district had the opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights this week, it’s been very nice to have the week off. I literally spent the entire day yesterday in a bathrobe, packing my laptop around the house with me like a baby. It’s been a good week.
I did a lot of hemming and hawing trying to decide which short to end with this week. The one I settled on isn’t as silly as the first one, nor as academic as the last one. And unlike the other two, this one isn’t set in the real world either. And finally, it isn’t prose either- it’s a poem! Whee!
I wrote this up (with editing help from my hubby and his parents) for a writing contest and, as it’s one of my less embarrassing attempts at poetry, I give you…
(this is obviously a working title, haha)
On storm-tossed coasts, a young girl lived,
Lost in misery.
It drove her to the water’s edge,
Bearing these items three:
A bud of rose, an egg of blue,
A spool of sewing thread.
She took a breath and took a step
And brine closed o’er her head.
The water folk, they found her fast,
Drawn by the rose’s scent.
She bartered it for passage safe,
And off her escort went.
They led her past the sandy coast,
Down where the kelp beds furl.
They took her to the castle deep
With halls of gold and pearl.
The gate keeper, he barred her path,
And would not let her in
For she was daughter of the drylands
And no aquatic kin.
She offered him the egg of blue,
Which thing he’d never seen
So he let her with such wonders
Within to meet the Queen.
The Ocean Queen with coral crown
Welcomed her to her court
But bade her leave the watery depths
Back to the humans’ port.
The girl gave her the spool of thread,
A tribute to the Queen,
But the royal mer just smiled
With kindly eyes of green.
“A bud of rose, an egg of blue,
A spool of sewing thread.
You offer us mementos of
The very world you’ve fled.
You won’t find what you look for here,
For all the world is bound:
Above, beneath, and in between,
Lives are built, not found.”
And so the girl returned again
To step upon the shore
She left her gifts within the sea
And sought for something more:
Instead of rose, a bloom of hope,
A bud’s blind reach for spring;
Instead of eggs, a new life gained,
With joy in each small thing;
Instead of thread, the ties that bind
People heart to heart.
And so she slowly learned the things
The Queen knew from the start-
The love she sought so far and wide
Was not beneath the waves
She only had to learn that one
Received just what one gave.
I hope you enjoyed this year’s blogiversary. We’ll get back to our normal schedule next Monday. Until then, happy writing!
The party continues! For today’s short story, I give you a piece of creative nonfiction about a murder that took place in Fairbanks Alaska (or at least a patch of wilderness that would later become absorbed in the then infant town of Fairbanks). It’s quite a bit more serious than Monday’s piece (which is unfathomably stupid), but is still kind of a work in progress as I continue digging around for more information and documentation. I’ll think I have everything settled, and then find something new! Sometimes I feel like I could write a whole book about this case, but I’d need a heck of a lot more sources than I’ve currently been able to scrounge up. Nevertheless, I think it’s an interesting story that you might enjoy, fine internetfolk. Cheers!
Dead Man’s Slough
Clouds rolled over the sun in a murky eclipse, and Mark Skorlich shivered in the sudden shadow, glaring up at the sky. It was dark enough in October without this.
Skorlich huddled down tighter in his sweater and trudged on to his friend’s cabin, four low walls with a sheet of canvas for a roof. He’d known Jacob Jaconi since the two of them came to the Klondike together, and been partners off and on in the four years since, hopping back and forth between Dawson and Fairbanks, between fishing and panning and river-poling. Both immigrants, both struggling to scrape a living from the unforgiving landscape, they took care of one another. Now, with Jaconi settled on the bank of the Noyse Slough four miles between Fairbanks and Chena for the winter, Skorlich popped in for a visit every few days with news from town. And this time, an invitation to join him hunting.
The noon whistle shrilled back in Fairbanks, and Skorlich trudged along the bank of the partially frozen Chena River, his boots squeaking in the snow. Three men on dog sleds swept down the opposite shore toward town, the dogs baying happily. They disappeared around the bend, but Skorlich could still hear the dogs.
It took him a moment to realize that the sound was coming from before him. And that instead of barking, the dogs were howling.
Skorlich caught the scent of smoke in the cold air and froze.
Something was wrong.
He ran up the river, turning onto the slough, and finally saw the cabin through the trees.
Smoke bled up into the clouds, the canvas burned away. The front of the cabin was merely scorched, the damage worse toward the back, and the dogs were scattered around the remains, mourning. Skorlich ran to the cabin, clutching his rifle, and stepped inside. The back wall was nearly gone, and a burnt hide was draped across the crumbling remains of the bunk, all of it still smoldering. He fell back a disbelieving step, staring around the home he had stayed in countless days and nights.
Jaconi might not even know yet.
Skorlich leaned his rifle against the blackened wall and ran back out into the woods, calling wildly, “Jacob! Jacob!” He paused, panting.
How much of the cabin could they possibly salvage at this point?
And how long had Jaconi been out that he hadn’t noticed? Where was he?
Heart pounding, Skorlich turned back to the cabin. Jaconi’s biggest dog watched him with mournful eyes as he returned on stiff legs.
Skorlich picked up a stick and stepped back into the smoldering cabin, his eyes locked on the bunk. He started slowly toward the scorched hide, and finally realized just what he was looking at.
To read the full story (or at least what I’ve dredged up about it so far), go here!