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.
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