Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hate Letter

Yeah, yeah I know, I didn’t do Flash Fiction Friday this week. It was a doozy of a week, let me tell you and I’m ashamed to say it got the better of me. Inner Critic was just chomping at the bit for an opportunity to take me down, and she found one. Damn, did she work me over, too.
What happened? Let’s see, my boyfriend’s bestie in the entire universe came over for the weekend. He’s in the National Guard and had drill this weekend, so he was over from Thursday to Monday. He and a bunch of dirty stinky army boys were camped out on my couch for three days with their swearing and their camo and their dirty jokes.
I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have fun. I love our friends and I always have a good time with them. But it kinda side-tracked me from my writing. That was obstacle number one.
I also have three sick kids running around, one of whom eventually got me sick as well. So yay for germ-infested mini humans. So much fun. Obstacle two and three: check!
Between being sick, having company and generally just being a lazy shit, I got very little done last week. I wasn’t able to work out, failed to write anything and barely got my orders for TOPstitches completed. It was kind of a disaster, and it led to me losing my cool on a whole other level.
Breakdown ensued.
Yesterday was the pinnacle of it. I’d been irritated and grumpy all week (not realizing why) but I woke up Monday morning, really trying to be in a good mood. I was going to get my kids off to school with smiles on their faces even if it killed me.
Didn’t happen that way.
Long story short, the minions of darkness didn’t follow instructions and got me worked up with all manner of back-talk and sassery. (Yes, I made up that word, but come on, it’s excellent.) Kids were mad, I was mad, my boyfriend was mad because he got woken up early. I came home and our friend needed to be taken home because he didn’t have a car.
Great. I knew exactly who would get stuck with that joyous task. Long story short, it was me, and I had to take my 2-year old with me on an hour-long trip because my boyfriend didn’t feel like watching him. It was not fun. When I came back home, I felt like such a shithead for losing my cool on the kids and my boyfriend that I completely lost it. Crying fits, depression, emotional eating, you name it. I felt like the biggest jerk in the universe.
So at nap time, instead of staying up to work, I chose the sweet oblivion of sleep. I was sick after all, so I felt justified. But I didn’t awaken refreshed and ready to be the good mom I strive to be every day. Nope, still grumpy. Even worse, actually. And my Inner Critic was having a field day.
You’re a worthless, lazy, mean person and you’ll never get your shit together. Just give your kids to your ex-husband. He’d do a better job than you. Your kids will grow up hating you if you keep them. Spare them the therapy bills.
Yeah, she was in full swing, and I, in my weakened state, was eating up every word of it. I wrote something yesterday while she was assaulting me. It was a hate letter to myself. I did it as a way to both try and get to the bottom of what was making me so grumpy and to hopefully let it go – whatever it was.
I won’t post the letter because it’s very private and because it’s very dark. I re-read it once the depression cloud dissipated and yeah . . . I can get pretty dramatic sometimes, let’s just put it that way. In the letter I free-wrote everything I hated about my life. I hated the decisions I’d made in the past, hated that nothing had turned out the way I wanted. And as I wrote, that hate spilled over onto everything in my life – even the stuff I didn’t hate like my kids, my boyfriend, my writing, my business. I realized as I spilled my guts, unfettered, that I had begun to hate and resent everything. For no reason, really. If I had to give one, I’d say it was just because I was mad that nothing had turned out right.
And how silly does that sound?
I was pitching a grown-up hissy fit. A tantrum. Had I been a two-year-old, I’d have been on the floor, hands and feet drumming the tiles, screeching at the top of my lungs.
As an adult, I was just pissy and mean to everyone. Especially myself. Nothing had gone the way I wanted, so I was just going to sabotage myself with hate so nothing could ever go right again.
Once I realized what I was doing, I knew that it made no sense. Just because I made mistakes in the past didn’t mean there was no chance for the future. There is always a second, third, fourth chance for anyone who is willing to do the work to change.
I give my kids hundreds of chances to make good choices. I forgive my boyfriend when he screws up. I forgive my mother when she says hurtful things, my sister when she’s judgy. I forgive and forget with everyone in my life and give them endless chances to change their behavior.
But for myself?
Nah, I’d just thrown in the towel. I’d allowed my past mistakes to ruin my present – and my future. I wasn’t forgiving myself. Nor was I giving myself the second chance I desperately needed to make things right. I was phoning in my own life, rushing it through, hoping blindly that one day things would magically get better.
Unfortunately, I knew deep down that in order to have the life I wanted, in order to make those changes, I needed to get off my ass and WORK.
My boyfriend told me that, actually. After my cry-fest and my hate letter, I opened up to him about how angry and frustrated I was. I was probably looking for him to throw me some pity, but that’s not the kind of man he is. And thank God for that. Stop half-assing everything, Jen. Try. Try hard and put your heart into this, and you’ll succeed. I know you will, and you know it too. When you truly want something, you work until you get it. That’s how you published two books, started two small businesses and accomplished hundreds of other things.
He was right. And the things I thought were stopping me – like my kids and poverty, and my depression – were all in my head. The kids could be worked around, our money problems were generally under control, and I was depressed BECAUSE of the way I was acting.
I was depressing myself. Self-fulfilling prophecy to the max.
I had already worked through all of this a few times, but for some reason it wasn’t sticking. I was still angry and depressed. And I think I discovered a key: writing.
Whenever I start writing, I feel better. Doesn’t matter what it is, really, just so long as I put words to paper.
So I decided then and there that I would schedule writing time into my day. Every day. No matter what, I will write something. Whether it’s a journal, part of the blog, my new book, a short story, a fricking limerick, I will write something.
Because this is the only therapy that works. Exercise helps. Eating healthy helps. No alcohol helps. But nothing changes my mood quite like writing. And I have to cling to that if it works. I have to do it daily and hopefully, it’ll fix whatever broke inside me and made me this angry, mean person I’ve become.
Maybe I can find peace in my own words and stories. Maybe I can be happy again and lead the life I’ve been dreaming of.
Corny sounding, I know, but that’s what I truly want. I want the dream. I want a nice house with nice things inside it that I bought with my own money. I want my kids to have new clothes and toys not second-hand junk from Goodwill. I want them to join sports teams and go to college one day. I want my oldest daughter to get the (very expensive) medical treatment she needs. I want to not just be able to pay my bills, but be able to save money as well. I want to dedicate more money to my businesses and watch them succeed.
I want all of these things so badly it hurts. And the fact that I’m nearly thirty and no closer to those goals than I was when I was 19 . . . well it’s frustrating! It makes me mad!
But I have no one to blame but myself. I have been huddled up in a ball, scared and meek, terrified that if I move, I’ll just make things worse. What I didn’t realize until now is that by NOT moving, by staying where I am now, I am actually making things worse. Things will always be the way they are now if I don’t take action and try to make changes. Not just to myself, but to my whole life.
I have to try, and try with all my heart. No phoning it in. No half-assery. No pity parties.
I’m going to work hard and go to bed every night so exhausted I can scarcely move. . . but proud.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Little Boxes

Something about me, you may or may not know: I’m a huge crafter. I looooooove making stuff. I also sell the stuff I make, and earn decent money doing it. Nothing amazing, but my crafting obsession has saved me in a  financial tight spot more than once. I’ve sold hair bows, crocheted headbands, mini top hats (that’s my beautiful sister in the photo – the one who made the amazing Blood Crave trailer), I have also made and sold crocheted My Little Pony Hats and other yarny good things.

I have tried quilting, sewing, knitting, embroidery, textile design . . . basically name the craft and I’m sure I’ve tried it. Or at least pinned a bunch of stuff about it on Pinterest so when I inevitably decide I want a go, I’m prepared with tutorials and tips from the greats. I’m currently learning leather working, which has been great fun and I can’t wait to open my new shop and start (hopefully) making some real money.

Well what about writing, you ask?

You see, authoring doesn’t usually equal a steady income, especially if you’re not a bestseller of some sort or a writer with a huge following that sells lots of books, merchandise and get’s paid to do blogs and appearances and stuff.

I’m not one of those authors. I don’t even really want to be. I don’t like fame, attention, interviews where they ask the same stupid questions, or things of that sort. I don’t like the idea that money is the goal of my writing.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Best-selling authors up there like I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the art.

Yah. Okay. You go right ahead with that. Enjoy your movie rights advance.

It’s a bit different for me. I used to have dreams of making BOTM a major motion picture. I used to even create Pinterest boards with my ideal BOTM movie cast (no, I’m not showing it to you, omg the mortification), back when I thought the whole world would love my little book as much as I did.

I don’t want that stuff anymore. I don’t want BOTM t-shirts and Lucas Barbie dolls or anything like that.

I just want to say something with my writing. It doesn’t have to be something profound or deep, I just want people to be touched by what I write, changed in some small way. If I can do that for even one person out there, I know my writing will have been a success.

Fame and fortune not required.

Which brings me to my earlier point: authoring doesn’t equal a steady paycheck. I know that I will probably never achieve full-time writerly status, and that if I do, it won’t be for a very long time. I just have too much work to do on my writing chops to even hope for that right now.

But I’m a single mom now. And I need a steady income. I have three frickin kids here, people, and one of them is too young for me to hold a regular 9-5. I’d end up losing money if I worked, because I’d have to pay upward of a grand a month JUST to put him in daycare so I could work.

Silly, huh? Adulting is awesome.

That, kids, is why you don’t quit college. Never. Ever. No matter what. Stick with it till it’s done. Otherwise you end up working at Sephora or Barnes and Noble for $8 an hour like I did. (Actually, Sephora wasn’t so bad, I got LOTS of free makeup).

Thank God, I’m a crafty lady. As I said, I sell my crafts online, which has allowed me to support myself and my kids to some extent. When I got divorced, my online shops, TOPstitches and DHD, became more important than ever. They were now my sole source of income.

So, you may wonder why I’m talking about that stuff here, on my writing blog. Well, it’s because I’m tired of compartmentalizing my life. I’m tired of separating myself into neat little boxes for your viewing pleasure. I don’t want you to think I’m this two-dimensional person anymore. People who visit my TOPstitches blog (which is woefully empty) would believe all I do is crochet weird little hats. People here on my author blog would think: all she does is try to write stuff.

Well, I do both. And I do more than those two things. I am a three-dimensional person with many interests and passions and I’m tired of compartmentalizing them to please other people. From now on, this will be my main blog, where I will write about whatever tickles my fancy. As I said when I came back from my hiatus: things are going to change around here. But change is good. And this place is going to get more interesting, I promise you that.

Furthermore, it’s exhausting trying to have dedicated web platforms for each and every one of my interests. I’ve started and stopped SO MANY blogs, facebook pages and Etsy shops in an attempt to keep everything separate. It’s almost like I was hiding parts of myself from everyone, and I’m not sure why I was doing it.

Maybe it’s my OCD tendencies. I don’t like when food touches on my plate, when colors run on a pallette, or when things are mixed up in general. So maybe, I was attempting to keep my two worlds separated because it just seemed . . . simpler somehow. Cleaner.

But ultimately, it contributed to me losing myself there for a while. I’m not going to lie or sneak or omit parts of my life on MY blog just for the sake of conformity. Not anymore, anyway.

So there you go, Internet. That’s me. I write and I craft and I sell things and I talk about them ALL IN ONE PLACE. Here. In bloglandia.

This isn’t a marketing scheme, a plug for my businesses, or anything manipulative like that, I’m honestly just ready to show everyone me, and not feel ashamed or scared that you won’t like what you see. None of this is for you anyway. It’s for me, and I’m sharing with you.

Sharing is caring, people.

So it’s that time again, Flash Fiction Friday is coming up again and it’s time to start sifting through the interwebs for things to write about. As always, feel free to join me on Pinterest to add things to my Flash Fiction board. Just message me there (JenKcreates) and I’ll invite you to the board where you can pin things you’d like to see me write a short story about.

Join me, don't join me. It's a free country. Mostly. The choice is yours! I however, don't have a choice. I'll be there, hunting for story kernels, and I'll be back to share with you what I write.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fearing Fear the Reaper

I want to pull out Fear the Reaper and start working on it. I know it needs some major work, and I want to start on it. But there are things floating around in my brain, halting me.

For one, I’ll have to re-read everything I wrote years ago. This poses two problems. One: What if it sucks? If it sucks, I’ll be really discouraged because I wrote FTR when I was at the height of my creative abilities. Right now, I’m rusty. The metaphors are clunky, the imagery is stale and the plot ideas cliched. It won’t stay this way as long as I keep writing, since writing is a skill you can hone and improve much like a sport or art. I have some natural talent, but I can improve with hard work, research and practice. And I intend to do that work to get back to where I was a few years ago – and hell, I’d like to get even better than that!

But if I pick up Fear the Reaper and it sucks . . . well, I’ll have to face the fact that even when I was writing at my best, it wasn’t very good. Kind of a bummer.

Problem number two: I pick it up, start reading and it’s amazing. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I’m a genius. Author win. This doesn’t sound like it would be a problem, but it is. Because, as I said, I’m rusty. I am rusty and crusty and musty. I am old rain boots that got waterlogged, then sat in the sun for three years and started cracking and stinking of melted cancer-plastic.

That’s me right now. If FTR is good, if the bones are there and the story is even anywhere close to awesome, then I have to be THAT awesome before I can touch it. I’m not going to go in there all crusty and get my lame all over it. I’d have to start with something else, work on that for a while, hone my chops. And I don’t wanna. I want to work on FTR. I want to sell that book and have you all read it. Because I love it! It’s my favorite book ever!

I can’t decide which outcome is worse, but either way the road will be long and probably difficult. I’ll have to do battle with my inner critic and that chick is a grade-A cunt. Sorry. But she is.

My inner critic says the meanest things anyone has ever said to me. She beats me down, tells me I’m not good enough, makes fun of my prose, picks at my characters, shuts down my imagery with sniveling laughter.

She’s horrible.

And I live with her every day. Sometimes, I can shut her up and just do my thing. But when I’m writing, her nasally little voice in my ear is at it’s loudest.

You suck, Jen. Everything you do sucks. You suck at writing, you suck at drawing and crocheting, you suck at being a mother, you can’t even keep the dishes done in your kitchen, what makes you think you can write anther book? Look at that sentence. Forget the typos, what are you even saying here? What’s the point? You’re never going to be one of the greats. You think John Green would write a sentence like that? How dare you even think you could write a book. Who do you think you are? You have nothing to say, nothing to write, and you suck. You just suck. Quit now and spare everyone the pain of toiling through your recycled, hackneyed crap. Just go lay down and sleep. That’s about all you’re good for.

Like I said, she’s a cunt. And it took me a long time to realize she was wrong about me. And that I’m not the only one in the world who has this mean, evil voice in her head, trying to break her spirit. Many creative people deal with self-esteem issues. In fact, it’s common. But just imagine if JK Rowling listened to her inner critic. OMG, Daniel Radcliff might not be on a card in Cards Against Humanity. We wouldn’t have muggles and wizards, no Voldemort, no Dumbledore. The world would certainly be a darker place without Rowling’s magic.

I’m not saying I’m JK Rowling over here, but I sure would like to be half the writer she is.

Listening to that bitchy inner critic of mine certainly won’t help me get there. I’m just afraid that if I start writing again, especially if I start with FTR, she’ll get extra loud and mean and I won’t be able to drown her out.

Yep, that’s it people. I’m scared. TO. DEATH.

That’s all the inner critic is to begin with, after all. She’s fear. She’s the voice of our fears.

But she’s forgetting one thing, right? I’m a badass. And I refuse to give her opinion of my work anymore credence. She’s wrong. I know it. You know it. And listening to that crap will not get me closer to a career in writing. Listening to her won’t allow me to share my thoughts, opinions and views (which DO have value and worth) with anyone. I can’t create characters or stories or epic cliffhangers that make you want to tear your hair out.

(Gotta admit, I love a good cliffhanger. Especially when I’m the only one who knows what will happen in the end. I know. I’m evil.)

I just don’t want to slip into my old habits. I feel strong and confident right now, but what about a week from now? What setbacks will make my inner critic’s voice louder? Will I still be able to ignore her? Will I still think I’m worthy? A badass?

I hope so. I’m going to do battle with that brat, that’s for sure. And I really hope I win. Because if I do win, I’m betting you’ll be reading Fear the Reaper, Blood on the Moon 3 and many other books from me in the future. And I want that. I don’t want to let you all down again. Or, for that matter, myself.

So wish me luck, guys. I’m going to read that freaking manuscript. And I’m gonna slay it.



Friday, January 29, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday -- CAPSIZED

Okie dokie, I'm keeping to my word, and I have written you a Flash Fiction piece to enjoy this fine Friday. I saw this image on Pinterest and it struck me as the perfect inspiration for today.

(Source/credit unknown)

I get really excited about the idea of otherworlds and alternate universes where impossible things can happen, and that's what this image inspired within me. So enjoy the piece I have entitled:


CAPSIZED

When I was young, my father took me deep sea fishing. I remember the water was iron, reflecting the stony sky that threatened rain at any second. I was afraid, huddled on the vinyl seat in my Batman bathing suit and a life jacket, that the waves would capsize us. I feared being tossed into the fathomless pool below, prey to whatever lay waiting for me. I imagined sea monsters of every shape, great white sharks and electric eels igniting the water with bolts of lethal electricity. In my mind, they circled the boat, smacking their chops, biding time until they made me their lunch.

But sea monsters and barracudas were the least of my worries that day.

I didn’t know what really lay beneath the silken folds of salt water, but I would soon discover it.

I remember the coast guard sped up beside us, the double motor on their boat spraying me with frigid mist.

HEAD BACK IN MR. WALLACE.

My father, never one to yield to authority, calmly told them to mind their own business. He and his son had fish to catch.

I watched the orange and white people scan our shoddy boat dubiously, their faces grim. I didn’t dare question my father aloud, but I stared down one man with a mop of curly red hair. I remember him because of that color; it nearly matched his vest. But the red-headed man either didn’t see or didn’t care about my pleading gaze. He and his partner left in another whip of sea spray and I was alone with my father.

Please let’s go home. I’m frightened.

IT’S JUST A SQUALL. NOTHING I HAVEN’T BEEN THROUGH BEFORE. QUIT BEING SUCH A PANSY ASS.

Okay, dad.

Maybe if the stubborn old fart had listened that day, he wouldn’t have lost his son.

The storm clouds blotted out the sun and the winds churned the water into a thick froth. I imagined the sea creatures rocking in the waves below, dancing with the boat. Always the dreamer, I couldn’t even focus on the present when I was about to drown to death.

Not much stayed in my brain after that. I know I drowned. I know one smart smack of a wave to the starboard side of our glorified dingy sent me over the edge and into my nightmare.

Had I not been such a frail child, the life vest might have stayed on in the fray while my father held his fishing rod out to me, desperately yelling my name. I wish that I could remember what he was calling. I don’t like my new name at all, and I have a feeling the old one fit better.

I know my father’s name, though. It was Jeremy. Jeremy Wallace Jr.

Maybe I was a junior, too. I’ll probably never know, though.

I remember the vest slipping off and my father screaming my name. I even remember him abandoning the boat – his livelihood, his one valuable item in life – and spearing the water with his lithe body, searching for me.

I saw him from down below. His feet, still in those damn fish-smelling rain boots he dumped in the kitchen when he came home, kicking violently, his hands slapping the surface of the water, the muffled sound of my name.

What was it?

It’s just a sound to me now, a deep grumble in the recesses of my waterlogged brain.

He faded like a bad dream as I sunk. I knew how to swim, so I could have at least made it back to the surface. But I didn’t fight. Maybe it was fear or shock, or perhaps the frigid water simply paralyzed my muscles, but I don’t remember moving as I lost sight of my father, Jeremy Wallace Jr.

I remember waiting to drown. Surely, I would run out of oxygen soon. My lungs would burn white fire and my muscles would spasm, forcing me to choke down water, killing me.

But it never happened. I never drowned. At least that’s what Kira says.

She found me, floating down from the sky in a bundle of cloud.

I thought you were my angel, she always says. I used to pray every night for an angel to come for me. And you were it.

We both know now that I’m no angel. I’m only a boy, even more ordinary than anyone here.

You see, far below the surface of the sea where I lost my life, there is another world. And I live there now, neither dead nor alive. Part of me thinks everyone here is dead. I tell Kira all the time that this must be Davy Jones’ locker.

She has no idea what I mean.

I think we’re all dead here in this underwater world. And I think one day, I’ll see my father here with me. He always said he’d die at sea.

ONE DAY I WON’T COME BACK, SON. DON’T BE SCARED, he’d say. IT JUST MEANS I’M HOME.

That never made sense to me, but now I think I know what he meant. Though I suspect I’m dead, though I know I’ll never get back to the surface where I once lived, I know that I too am home. At long last, I am at peace.

And I pray, as Kira does, that my father will join me soon. Perhaps then, I’ll know my own name.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Back Again

For the first time in nearly a year, I’ve started writing. I don’t really want to get into all the deep, personal reasons why I haven’t written, but just know that I have them. I didn’t just drop off the face of the Earth without cause. I didn’t abandon my dreams, lose sight of my goals and shove you all (my readers) into a dark hole for years without a good reason.

Let’s call if my quarter-life crisis.

And man, did it suck. But at long last I’m finally feeling ready to start writing again. I don’t know if I’ll publish anymore books, but I’ll definitely be writing on a more frequent basis. I figured a good place to get my feet wet would be here on the blog.

I was speaking to a good friend last night and he asked me why I never updated it anymore. I had no good excuse for him, only the truth. He knew most of it already, as most good friends do, but I told him I would write again soon despite everything that has happened.

So here I am, holding true to my word. I’m going to reignite Flash Fiction Fridays and also do some writing of a more personal nature throughout the week.

There are some things that will change here. For one, the look of this blog. Back in the day, my agent and publisher told me this blog had to match the theme and tone of my book. Well, my book was a flop and this design never really matched it’s theme anyway, so get ready for a design overhaul. Don’t freak out. It’ll be okay. Change is good.

As I look at this blog now, I think it’ll be a good change. This place is like an abandoned mall, once awesome and full of expensive beautiful things, now darkened and broken,  probably full of hoodlums.

That’s right, this blog is full of hoodlums. Beware.

Anyway, I also wanted to answer some questions before I begin our regularly scheduled programming. I know you all have many of them (you guys email me a lot). First on the chopping block is Blood on the Moon. Yes, I know I haven’t given out any info on it for a long time.

You want brutal honesty as to why? I just didn’t care about BOTM. Or rather, I cared, but it was too painful to think about. It was like talking about my dead baby or something. I loved Blood on the Moon SO MUCH. Like, so much you guys. I worked my ass off on those books. I poured my soul into them. And they flopped. I never even made my advance back.

And it sucked to think about that. I already had so many terrible things happening in my life, thinking about BOTM was just too much to handle for a while. So I’m sorry beloved readers, for abandoning you, not answering comments here on the blog, not returning emails or Facebook messages. I’m sorry I put you all away in a hole and tried to forget about you. It was only for self preservation purposes, which I know is a shitty excuse.

To repay you for your patience, I want to give you the full, uncensored story on what’s happening with book three. I know you’re all jumping out of your skin to know when it’ll be released.

Just a warning: you may not be happy with the end of the story.

Okay, so I have about 40K words of BOTM 3 written. The story is plotted out, so I know what will happen, but I’ve yet to write the majority of it. About two years ago, I contacted my agent and I tried to get her to sell it to Running Press, my publisher. But, she also wanted to sell another book with it, make it a two-book deal. Cool, I was in. I wrote a book called Fear the Reaper and I loved it to death. My agent, however, thought it needed work. Cool. I worked on it, sent it back to her a month later, but she still thought it needed work.

Rinse and repeat. Six times. I worked on that book for nearly a year, to no end. It was never good enough, never right, never what she wanted. I was working so hard, wracking my brain, using every trick I knew to make this new book perfect. But it never happened. Eventually I gave up. Stopped trying. Figured, I wasn’t a good enough writer to sustain a career. I could write one or two half-decent books, but in the end I had nothing to say and no story to write.

I gave up.

So BOTM 3 was lost as well. Its fate had been tied to Fear the Reaper, and since that book never made it to sellable status, neither did BOTM 3.

Now, years later, it’s still in the exact same place. I haven’t spoken to my agent in months, havent written a word in even longer . . . and the truth is, I don’t know if the third book will ever be published. I don’t know if my agent wants anything to do with me anymore after I flaked so many times. I don’t know if I’m good enough to write professionally. I don’t know much at all, really.

But I do know that I have the writing bug again. It crept up on me one day out of nowhere and whispered: write something. You’ll feel better if you write.

See, I’ve been suffering through a huge depression for about a year now. And something in my brain told me that if I just started writing about my gnarled up emotions, I’d feel better. So I did. And I do feel better.

After talking to my dear friend last night, I know the next step in updating the blog. I have to cop to my mistakes and my failures in order to overcome them. I can’t slide things under the rug anymore and just hope that if I can’t see them, they won’t affect me. Things don’t stay hidden forever. Eventually, everything comes out.

So now it’s out. I’ve been a lame, lazy, lackadaisical loser. (How’s that for alliteration?) I thought I was going to be this way forever. I had started to give up on myself the way I had given up on writing. And then my friend reached through my phone and kicked me right in the ass in the best way possible. He said words I hadn’t heard in a very long time.

He said I am strong. And I can handle anything. And I’m a badass.

And the most important thing he said: “You already know that, you just have to believe it.”

At first, I didn’t believe it. But I was laying in bed afterward and it hit me suddenly and without preamble: I do know it. I am a badass. I am strong. And I can handle anything life throws at me. Because in addition to all of this, my friend forgot to mention that I am wicked smart, creative and sensitive. And that means I have no excuses. I’m totally capable of handling my shit. I don’t get to check out just because it’s hard.

So this is me, not checking out. I’m writing again, and it feels amazing. I feel like ME again, and it’s been a long, long time since I felt that way.

I guess, I have to face it. I can’t deny it anymore, not out of fear, disappointment or anything else. I admit it, people: I’m a writer.

I’m many other things as well, but down in my core, I’m a writer and a poet, a romantic, a lover of art and beauty and books. I’m someone who has to create, has to make things to express how I’m feeling. I have to have that release. And my favorite way, the only way I know how to do that is to write.

Without writing, I’m not me anymore. Without writing, I’m empty. And I never want to be empty again.

Tomorrow is Friday, which means I will be releasing a Flash Fiction story. So I have to get to work. I’ll be scouring Pinterest for story kernels to pop and burst into an epic tale. You can join me there, if you want, and pin stuff for me to write about. I’ll make a board for us all to pin on. Just message me on Pinterest and I’ll invite you. I’d love to see what you think I should write. JenKcreates is my handle and I’ll post a link to the board below.

Here it is, yo. Click it!

So here I go. Off to write things and create things and share them with the world. Hopefully, in some small way (or maybe even a big one) it’ll mean something.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Flash Fiction: Do Not Read

Alllrighty there loyal followers of this here blog. Are you ready to read? Hope so, because I wrote something. I'm working with a friend who is also a writer (a brilliant one, by the way) and we are challenging each other to write a short story each week. We've done three of them so far, and this is one that I like enough to share with you good people. I really want my friend to share his writing too, so maybe if we all encourage him enough he will agree to let me post something! Believe me, you won't be disappointed, the man is a genius.

Anyway, back to the flash fiction for this week. It was my turn to pick a prompt for our writing challenge and I saw this image on Pinterest:


I changed it a bit to "if found do not read." So I had to think about who would have a book such as this, and why they wouldn't want it read. Immediately my mind went to a journal, mostly because I was an avid journal-keeper in my youth and always had a fear of someone finding it and reading my private thoughts. Which, yes, did happen (ahem, MOM).

Anyway, I also recently went through something life-changing and was left with a lot of unresolved feelings. Okay, I got my heart broken. And when you get your heart broken, a lot of times you're left feeling kind of stupid. Stupid for not seeing the truth of the situation because you were blinded by love goggles (which are a lot like beer goggles, but much more dangerous).

So I wanted to play with the idea that we sometimes ignore the reality of certain situations because we only see what we want to see, not what is actually happening. The end result was a kind of creepy story that I really like! I like it so much, I'm considering expanding on it. Let me know what you think of it! I love to read your comments.

DO NOT READ
 
        It’s one of those rushing kind of rainstorms that comes out of nowhere. Like the sky has suffered some mortal wound and is now pouring itself all over the earth in one swift gush. The sky groans and screams above me as white hot tendrils of electricity lash at us mortals, like maybe we’re the ones who did this to it and now it wants revenge.
        I scamper down the street, nervous that my boots with the metal laces are going to draw this angry sky’s attention and it will choose me to zap out of existence. The campus is deserted, save a few other stragglers that got caught in the downpour. Jesus, what I’d do for an umbrella.
        Breaking into a jog as I close in on the Science Building, I make the gigantic mistake of leaving the sidewalk to cut across the lawn. The grass is thick and glossy, and my fancy metal boots have little traction apparently. I go down hard, my head smacking against the cement sidewalk. Those damn boots were destined to get me after all, just not in the way I’d feared.
        Cursing to myself, I lay there for a moment, too dizzy to get up. The rain is almost painful on my skin, giant pellets that feel as though they’re being hurled at me rather than gently dropped from the clouds. The sky growls again, and lightning slaps me awake. Inside. Must get inside.
        Pushing myself into a soggy sit, I look down at the ground to scowl at the slippery grass and see a small book lodged underneath my boot. So the grass wasn’t my downfall after all, nor was it my now-ruined boots.
        You bastard, I think irrationally as I pick the little leather book up. It’s soaked through and I figure I should just leave it since it made me fall and hit my head and doesn’t deserve rescue. But the thunder positively roars at me and I all but shriek, quickly shoving the book in my coat. I sprint for the building’s main doors and get inside.
        A girl with dreadlocks asks me if I’m okay and I nod, flushing. Of course someone had to see me eat it. Wanting to escape any further questioning, I head down the hall without destination. I’ve got an hour before I have to be at my class and the sky doesn’t seem like it wants to stop pouting any time soon.
        Camping out next to a tall skinny window with an armchair beside it, I decide I am the luckiest person alive to have scored such a cozy spot when so many people are caged in the building. I plop down and begin shedding my outer layers. Hat, gloves, (ruined) boots, coat . . .
        The book falls out onto my lap with a fwop and I pick it up again.
        Turning it to the front, I see that someone has written something on it in what appears to be white-out: IF FOUND DO NOT READ.
       Oh God, I think to myself. What utter torture.
        It has to be a journal. Someone’s most private and intimate thoughts. And if I read it, I am scum. If I don’t, I will forever be tormented by unquenchable curiosity.
        My fingers itch to pry the sopping book open.
        I wonder if this is some kind of prank. Is something vile going to spill from the pages when I pull them apart? Or is the writer of this sadistic wad of paper watching me from around the corner to see if I disobey her directions? Maybe this is someone’s experiment on human ethics or some shit.
        Glancing around the hall, I see a few other students huddled against the walls with earbuds in or books propped on their knees. Nobody’s watching me. Nobody furtively taking notes on my reactions, or even recording me with their phone for later observation (or to upload on YouTube should something horrid happen when I open it).
        When I open it.
        Oh God, I’m a bad person. I have already decided that I will read it, even though it’s a gross violation of some stranger’s privacy.
          IF FOUND DO NOT READ
        Humanity is doomed. I’m opening the book.
        With fingers that actually shake – whether from nerves or the chill of the rain I can’t say – I pull apart the first page of the book. There’s a name written in tight script:
        Jon.
         Don’t hate me, Jon.
         I separate the first page from the second the way one peels the skin from an onion, slowly and delicately so as not to rip the layers and make the job more difficult.
         Words are written in black ink that has frayed from the rainwater and obscured some of the words. I don’t read anything at first. Instead I continue to peel the pages apart and scan them, picking out odd words and names. I’m still dancing with the idea that I’m not reading it, so I’m not breaking any rules. I only opened it and am . . . airing it out. So it doesn’t get ruined. So I can return it.
        Then I reach a spot amidst the pages and I catch my name.
        My name.
        My full name, not just a first or last, which could belong to someone else. Alice Amelia Hall.
        It’s an unusual name so I doubt it’s a coincidence. Alice Amelia Hall is my name and nobody else’s, probably on this entire campus.
        So now I have to break the rules.
 
She’s in my Art History class and she sits two rows in front of me in the same seat every day. She reminds me of Meagan and maybe that’s why she draws my attention. It’s not really her appearance, Meagan was more beautiful, and she smiled more honestly, without all the teeth and the squinted eyes. It’s more Alice’s manner. She doesn’t speak to me, but I listen to her talk to the guy who sits next to her. She flirts with him, jutting out her chest when she’s wearing something low-cut the way Meagan did with me in the beginning. Is this something all girls are taught to do to attract guys’ attention? Why don’t they just talk and leave their boobs out of it? I told that to Meagan one time and she laughed so long she started to snort.
God, I miss her.
I can’t stop watching Alice Amelia Hall as she shifts in her seat and her long dark hair spills over the curve of her shoulder. I watch her check her phone every few minutes, then sigh as if disappointed. Is she missing someone, too?
I like the way she chews on the top of her pen and taps her foot against the seat in front of her while the professor goes off on a tangent. I’m bored, too –
 
“Still pretty bored,” says a voice in my ear and I scream. I actually let out a horror movie-worthy shriek and the journal jumps out of my hands as if I’ve frightened it. It lands in a heap on my feet.
            Whipping around, I see Jon.
            It must be Jon. He looks familiar in that vague way you recognize someone you haven’t met, but have seen around day after day. He’s dripping wet too, and I suppose he got stuck in the downpour as well. He bends to pick up his journal and remains on his knees beside me, his fingers kneading the soft leather of the book.
            “I’m much less bored now, however,” he says with a wry grin.
            Words fall in and out of my mouth, but nothing makes sense. I think I say sorry somewhere in there. I think I beg the lightning to just take me out for good. Reach in through the glass and zap me out of this, please.
            “Relax,” he says and puts his warm hand on my still soaking knee. “I’m not angry Alice Amelia Hall.”
            “I found it on the ground outside,” I sputter. “I wanted to find out whose it was so I could –”
            “Don’t lie about it,” he says. “You wanted to read it.”
            A nod jitters down my spine.
            He chuckles low in his throat. “I’m not angry,” he says again and the gentle curve to his dark brown eyes calms me slightly, making me believe him this time.
            “I didn’t read much. Just the part . . .”
            “About you.”
            Nod.
            “And now you’re wondering who Meagan is,” he says.
            “She was your ex?”
            “Something like that. It was fucked up.”
            “You don’t have to tell me,” I say. Abruptly I realize he hasn’t taken his hand off my knee.
            “I’ll tell you. In time.” He smiles and says, “I’m not embarrassed. And I thought I would be if anyone ever read my words.”
            “I would die if someone read something like that.” My face burns hot both from his hand on my leg and the personal assault I’ve just committed against this stranger. I would punch someone if I’d caught them doing what I’d just done.
            “You wouldn’t die,” Jon says with a playful roll of his eyes. “You might be happy.”
            “Happy?”
            He nods slowly. “Yes, you might be happy you dropped a precious book in the mud and a beautiful girl fell on it.”
            I groan and slap my hand to my forehead. He saw the whole thing. Everything.
            “So you watched me this whole time?” I ask between my fingers.
            He takes my hand away from my mouth. “Didn’t you read my words? I’ve watched you this whole time.”
           “That’s stalker-y,” I mumble.
           “Can you blame a guy for being more interested in the pretty girl sitting in front of him than the Art History lecture a crumbly old man is giving?”
           I snicker, and shake my head. “I guess not.”
          He stands and presses the journal back into my hands. I look up at him and frown questioningly.
          “Read it all, Alice Amelia Hall,” he says softly. “And when you’ve finished, come find me. If you still want to.”
          With one last crinkle of his eyes, he turns and goes, leaving me holding his words, wondering what on earth they might say.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flash Fiction: Reap 7

Okay, okay this is nuts. Two posts in one day after a year of silence. It's too much, I can't handle it!

Well deal with it, people because it's happening.

Really, I just felt bad that the last post was so preachy and whiny, and I wanted to share something fun that I wrote recently. Honestly, this is probably horrible to admit, but I haven't written anything of consequence in months. Many months. And I'm just now starting to get out of my slump. So what I'm saying is I'm rusty. And the writing isn't coming as easily as it used to.

Good news: It's getting easier all the time. And I actually wrote some Flash Fiction that I don't hate.

Now, in case you're new and don't know the FF rules, they go something like this: I find a quote, image, song, etc. that inspires me and I write a short story about it. Sometimes it's 100 words sometimes it's 3,000. This time it's somewhere in the middle.

And also I cheated a little bit. Usually, I find the inspirational image/song/whatever first and develop a story around it. This time, I already had an image in my mind. And it was so, so clear that I didn't need any aids. In my mind it was night, and I saw a girl staring out her bedroom window across a wide desert, and on the horizon is a huge building all lit up from the inside. All I knew about the image was that there was something wrong with whoever or whatever was housed in the building. I've had this strange image in my head for a long, long time and so I finally decided to give her a story.

I call it Reap 7 and you'll read why in a moment.

Also, I couldn't find an image to match the one in my head, so I found one of what I imagine Gene, the main character, looks like as she stares out the window. Kind of grungy and haunted, with something somber, yet curious in her gaze. I love the grainy quality of the image, and her
outfit. I thought the image fits the story pretty well.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy!


 
It almost looks like a birthday cake sitting on a table in the dark. I wait for someone to blow out the candles and disappear it, but those light never extinguish. Never, not once in ten years have those lights turned off. And, I suppose, they never will.

From my window, as I look out upon the cold expanse of desert, I can almost count the lights on the massive building. Each one is a window. And behind each window is a room. Within those rooms, live people. People just like me, only they’re sick.

The Haven is where you go if you contract the deadly virus known as R-7, or as some like to call it, Reap 7. See, when the virus first attacked, many thought it was some kind of biblical plague, a reaping of sorts to rid the world of evil. The media distorted the deaths of millions, claiming those people were sinners and that was why they’d died.

That went on for a while, until some truly good people started dying. The pope, for one, was enough to rock the world and shut the religious folks up for good. This was no reaping. This was cold, indiscriminate death. And we were all vulnerable.

I was young when R-7 killed off about five percent of the population within a year. I was six, actually, so I don’t remember the panic or the fear that infected the earth, just as surely as Reap 7 did. In fact, my only true memory of that time is Alex. He was my best friend. And he was taken away on a Tuesday, ripped straight from my side by men in white suits and face masks.

Alex and my parents had both died within weeks of each other, leaving him alone, and me in the charge of my brother, who was just thirteen at the time. When Alex’s parents went, days after ours, he stayed with us. I remember us curled around each other in my bed like kittens, our shoulders trembling with silent, choking tears.

In those days, nobody left their homes; nobody talked to each other or touched. If you had to be around others, you wore a mask and you averted your eyes, like just looking at someone infected was all it took to contract it, too. We hoarded food and supplies, and camped out in our basements, hiding like rats. We rationed stale crackers and cold cans of soup like they were precious white truffles, and went out at night to raid the already picked-over supermarkets.

We were lucky to have Jon, my brother. Some kids were worse off. Some from our neighborhood, even younger than me, were on their own – left to fend for themselves. In the beginning, they would come by our home and knock on the door, shivering and crying, begging to be let inside. But in those days, you couldn’t chance it. There was no way to discern who had Reap 7 and who didn’t just by looking at them. And once you breathed the air of someone infected, you were done for.

We turned them away.

Night after night, they came, crying for food, until one day they stopped coming. When I was little, I wondered where they’d gone, though I was secretly glad not to hear their wails every night, singing me to sleep like some macabre lullaby. Now I realize they likely starved to death.

One time I put food out for them. I left a bowl of Campbell’s chunky beef stew outside on the porch like you would for a stray cat. That night there were no keening howls, no raps on the door. I was happy. Alex had told me I was kind, but Jon wouldn’t like it.

He was right.

It was the one and only time Jon had ever laid a hand on me in anger. A whole fucking can, Gene are you crazy? Jesus, you think I want to let them starve? They’re babies, I hate this! But I have to make us the priority, you get it? Mom and dad wouldn’t forgive me if I let you starve. Maybe it was just my baby brain distorting the memories, but I always saw his face cast in red when I think of him back then, red and lined like an old man. He always seemed so old back then, but he was younger than I am now.

And he kept us alive.

Well, he kept the two of us alive. I had no idea what had happened to Alex. When the men in white suits took him, it was because he tested positive for Reap 7. After a few years, the government – what was left of it anyway – figured out how to test you with a simple blood sample and determine whether you were infected. So the men in white stormed each house, each basement and hovel, yanking arms from under ragged blankets and stabbing needles into them. There was no refusing the test, of course. We had no choice. Freedom had long since abandoned America. You let the men in white put their silver needle in your arm or you were taken away.

Sometimes you were taken away, anyway.

But they never killed you; that would be going too far. They simply tossed you, screaming with tears and snot running down your face, into the back of a black van and you never came back.

Jon told me after Alex was taken that he was going to a camp. It’s like a hospital, he said, his warm hands kneading my back as it twitched, one day they’ll find a cure and they’ll make him better. You’ll see him again.

We both knew it was lies.

I would never see Alex again.

But as I look out over the desert at The Haven, where the infected live, apart from us, I can’t squash that last stubborn shred of hope that he somehow lived this long. And that they will find a cure. And they’ll empty The Haven of all its suffering souls. I imagine the gates whipping open wide and the tenants scrambling out of the double doors, escaping like ants from a trampled ant hill. He would find me and I would scream at the shock of seeing him again.

I wonder, not for the first time, if I would even recognize him. I have no pictures of him to aid my tattered memory. When I think back hard enough, I have a vague impression of a sharp nose and angled eyes, black hair and bony arms. And a navy blue shirt with the word RIOT splashed across it in faded white letters. He could walk past me in the street tomorrow and I might not know him.

Warm desert wind creeps across my face, tugging hair from behind my ears and pulling it out the window. I let it fly and count the windows of The Haven again, imagining that the one in the dead center is Alex’s room. I pretend that he’s sitting at his window too, maybe reading quietly, or staring out across the sea of sand too, thinking of me.

Does he even remember me?

Without warning one of the lights blinks at me.

I sit up straight, blood rushing in my ears, unable to believe what I think I’ve just seen. I flip a look at the clock. It’s nearly midnight, much past my usual bedtime. I must be seeing things. My imagination running away with me again, as Jon always scoffs whenever I get too excited.

Those lights never flicker, never extinguish.

Never.

I can’t stop my legs from pitching me across the room to the light switch. With my gaze transfixed on The Haven and that tiny window straight in the center that blinked at me, I flip my light off. I count to five slowly. He has to see it. And then I flip it back on.

I wait, frozen with my fingers on the light switch, my breath clogged up in my throat.

Minutes go by. Hope fades and my arm drops, a balloon losing helium. I am a crazy, stupid girl.

My feet shuffle back to the window, dragging the rest of me along with them like a ball and chain. Numb arms push my window closed and turn the lock. I cast one more look at The Haven and send a silent prayer that even though I hadn’t seen it blink again, that the light in that room so far away had gone off. That it meant something – anything. That maybe, against all odds, it was Alex over there in that center window, sending me a silent hello. A hopeless promise that we would see each other once again.

Hopeless promise, I remind myself. Hopeless.

Then I flop into my bed and cover myself with the ratty blanket my mother crocheted, the one that doesn’t keep my body warm, but heats my soul to the core. It is a hideous shade of rotten oranges and I’ve picked too many holes in it from nerves and nightmares over the years. But she once touched it. And I’m under it now. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to my mother again.

From my bed, I can still see The Haven, the right half of it anyway, and it seems to glare at me now, almost smugly. Probably, that’s just my imagination again. But I can’t shake the ominous feeling I get whenever I look over there, especially now. Usually I sleep facing the other direction.

I start to turn around to escape the multitude of ceaselessly staring eyes, when—

One winks.

The center window.

I sit up in bed and one word alone passes my lips, unbidden: “Alex.”
There was an error in this gadget