Split Ends and House Flies


They say you need to write every day. I don’t necessarily believe that—mainly because I can’t write every day.


untitled

Shut up Jean-Luc.

Like most aspiring authors, I have a day job. I have a (very) busy family life, errands to run, a house to maintain, and air to breathe. Writing every day just isn’t feasible at this stage of the game.

And, writing in summer? Impossible.

Taking two months off my WIP was a decision I made to ensure the hellions enjoyed their annual eight weeks of freedom. I’m glad I did. My oldest is eleven. In a few years, he might not want to spend his school vacation camping/beaching/laser-tagging with his parents. Now, he does. And I want to spend time with him, too.

All that said, I am fully aware that maintaining a consistent writing schedule is enormously beneficial to writers at every stage. Perhaps all-too-fully aware of it now, as I sit at my computer trying, trying, trying to get words to magically jump from my fingertips onto the computer screen. Getting back into a regular writing schedule after an extended period of time off is hard as hell. Like any skill, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely degrades without practice. Those who don’t write often risk a dramatic step-back in their very ability to work.


Boo-bloody-hoo.

Writing is hard. We all know it.


Life happens. We all have jobs. We all have bills, stress, and the very human desire to socialize every now and then. What separates an author from a wannabe is the ability to get back on the writing horse and stare at the blinking cursor until it starts to move.
Today, I tried to write for three hours AND NOTHING HAPPENED.

Well, that’s not true. A fly buzzed around me as if willfully trying to drive me insane for an hour and a half . . . until I finally killed it. Has-Only-1-Day-Of-Life-Spends-It-All-Trolling-You-Funny-Fly-MemeThen I ate lunch. Then I divided the splitting ends of my hair for fifteen minutes, thinking about Sean Spicer’s appearance on the Emmys last night.

I finally settled on attacking a blog post, because I didn’t really want to think about Sean Spicer anymore and it was obvious it just wasn’t an Old Souls kind of day.


But you know what? Tomorrow I’ll work on my book again.

One day soon I’ll get back into my writing groove.

A little while after that I’ll finish Old Souls.


And it all will have happened solely because I didn’t give up today.


Falling into Gear


The rain is falling outside my window, and for what seems like the first time in months, I can hear it.


Two hours ago I dropped the hellions off at school.  Today my sons head to grades six, five, and two. It’s been a busy eight weeks, filled with days of trampoline parks, camping, laser tag, mini-golf, water-gun fights, and theme parks.


I love summer. I’m not going to lie.


walkway-2030319_1920.jpgI love watching the hellions play soccer and baseball, seeing their hair turn bright blonde and their cheeks become freckled and tanned. I love heat, and Prince Edward Island beaches, and sprinklers on lawns, and the smell of freshly cut grass.

I love everything about summer. Even the storms. Especially the storms, even though they can be hard to hear over the gentle roar of every neighborhood kid in a ten block radius descending on my kitchen to raid the cupboards like a swarm of locusts attacking a crop.

But, I have to admit that fall isn’t so bad, either.

Near the end of every summer I get the same old itch. A creative current seems to electrify the air. And, even though I enjoy spending summer vacation with the boys, every night for the last two weeks I’ve been fantasizing about what life will be like when they head back to school. This morning I woke up up early to go for a run. The sun wasn’t up, so I promptly threw that idea out the window. (Maybe tomorrow?) I got the hellions ready for the day and out the door. Soon, I’ll take a shower, begrudgingly devote an hour to housework, and finally sit down to work on Old Souls.

The goal is four hours a day six days a week of writing, one hour a day five days a week on social media–including the work I put into Scribbles–and, at least a half hour every day of reading.


A couple exciting things are set to happen in the next two months.


I’ve contributed a story to an anthology, The Box Under the Bed, that will be released on Amazon October 1st. (It’s available for pre-order now, btw.) My submission, Cassie, will be featured alongside the spooky stories of twenty spectacular indie authors, just in time for black cat season. The anthology has been compiled and edited by best-selling Amazon author Dan Alatorre, who many of you will recognize as a regular here on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins.

Shortly after the book’s release, I’m heading to Altamonte Springs to present two workshops at the Florida Writer’s Conference. (And hey, you can register for that here and find out more about my workshops here.)

But, even more exciting than that is while the boys take their hell-raising act to school, Old Souls will once again receive the attention it deserves. The characters will come back to life in my imagination, and soon, they’ll be living and breathing in the imagination of others, too.

Because the book is nearly ready to slip back into the trusted grip of my critique partners. And you know what happens after that?


Publication!


(JOKING.)being-a-writer-its-easy-its-like-riding-a-bike-men-s-t-shirt

There are still a few steps to go after that. But we’ll get there.

Until then, you can expect a more consistent posting schedule here. I’ll be uploading more short stories this year than in previous years. And, as Old Souls becomes tighter, I’ll be able to release a few more deleted scenes. I’m hoping to host quite a few guest blogs too, so: if you have a piece you’d like to share, shoot an email to me at scribblesoncocktailnapkins@gmail.com.

I’m excited to kick the upcoming writing year into full gear.


As always, thanks for coming along for the ride.


J. A.


Under Pressure


After an brief summer break from the blogging world I’m excited to share a fantastic piece written by Lari Burgos–who followers of the Sunday Scribble Challenge may better recognize under the name Larisanjou.

I’m sure you will enjoy the post as much as I did. And hey, don’t forget to check out her site today!


(More specifically this post, women–as a gentle reminder we should ALL be paying a bit more attention to our funbags.)


–J.A.


mokpoThere are unavoidable moments when ice-cold shock wakes us up from our complacency.  Our priorities become clearer and more urgent than ever.  When the impossible seems within reach, thanks to our desperate, unyielding hope.  It turns us upside-down, dispels the cobwebs and shines renewed clarity on our inner truth, the unshakeable purpose of our being, our raison d’être.

I’m one week out from greeting my thirty-first year of existence.


One year ago


I was in Spain with my F, laughing into the sky, and saying good-bye to my twenties. Turning 30, that mystical, perfectly round number.  That age, as it’s widely considered, to be the “end” of my prime.  When we’re supposed to have it all together, and to part the seas for the younger, more viable women, that moment when we reach our social expiration date.  One week before greeting my thirty-first year, I can say I’m just getting started.  Time flows, and I’m following it right along.


January, 2015


Stark text, black-and-white.  My father’s near-fatal car accident.  An ocean away, there was nothing to do but feel, go to work, and continue living. And he survived.


October, 2015


My mom’s first visit to France.  The energizing scent of travel hung around us as I joyously tugged her suitcase full of American goodies past that envelope by the door.  As an afterthought, I opened the banal envelope that contained a bombshell:  my deportation order.  Stomach turned to lead, heart rushed up to my throat.  My immediate thought:  Oh, hell no.  I’m not going anywhere. And I didn’t.  All thanks to an overwhelming support system, whose reach extended further than I realized at the time.


abstract tuned heart.jpgThere is always pressure.


The kind we artificially manufacture within ourselves, and the kind that is universal and ever-present, underlying everything we do in our “normal” lives.

My pressure emanates from within, a tactile reminder of my need to love, to express myself, to write.  The love for my dearest people, for all humanity, is frantic to escape from me, in the best way I know how.  I write.

The lump in my left breast compels me to release that love that desperately overflows from my heart, that my ego is often too afraid to reveal.  It inspires fear, and yet defiantly releases me from that same dread.

Fear is our torch in the darkness.  It’s our intimate friend, because it illuminates that which we treasure most.

Because behind the fear, there is nothing but love and acceptance.

I want to give joy and laughter to my loved ones.

I want to nourish people with my food.

I want to love my husband-to-be, my darling F, until the end of time.

Pressure boils within from this unwanted interloper, pushing my own raison d’être to the forefront.

Strip the fear away, and what does it mean?

To me, it means careful attention to each word, each gesture, each meal, each moment that becomes vibrant with urgency. Each moment I share with my students, my friends, my loves.  When words fail, it comes out in song, in a smile, in food prepared with intention, in carnal desire for my F.  Love finds any way it can to escape from my heart, despite my cowardly attempts to hold it back.  What will people think if I go around, writing, loving, and speaking all willy-nilly?  Normal people might find it strange.

But despite it all, in the face of fear, I have this undying urge.

What do you choose to do in these moments?


thon-e1362450105949.jpgLari is an ESOL teacher and avid traveler.  Writing, cooking, foreign languages, and art keep her mind active, and she’s guided through life by her sense of curiosity.  She blogs at larisanjou.com.


Big News


No, Old Souls isn’t finished. Because c’mon. It’s summer.

But THIS is pretty cool too.


One of my partners in googling things like:

Weird ways to die, how to get away with murder, what it feels like to stab people, how to get over the Canadian/American border without a passport, time travel . . .

chains-19176_960_720.jpg

Oh wait, can they send you to jail for googling that stuff?

*ahem*

One of my WRITING PARTNERS came up with a great idea a while ago. It’s an anthology. A compilation of short stories bound together with a theme. Now, this idea has been shelved a while, but it’s close to happening now.

This anthology will feature stories written by a select group of authors, and PUBLISHED by best-selling Amazon author Dan Alatorre.

And hey, receiving publishing help from a best-selling author is pretty cool.

The anthology could even be tied together with a Halloween theme and released before October 31st.

I’m definitely going to be a part of it.


But the best part? YOU could be a part of it too.


dan

Check out the benefits of participating in an anthology:

  • 20 or so authors all contributing to and helping market a short story anthology. That’s 20x the marketing you’d have to do yourself.
  • 20 authors posting about it on their blogs.
  • 20 authors asking for blog tours and interviews to promote a book YOU are in means 20 times the number of people discovering your work!

And oh by the way, for some of you that’ll be your first published work, so there’s that. Ammy fame awaits.


Do we have your attention now?

Check out Dan’s site for more information.


Hit that reblog button! Let’s give this project the best start we possibly can.


 

 

​Dum Scribo Spero – Guest Post by Sarah Clegg


Sarah Clegg is the final winner of this year’s series of weekly challenges to contribute a guest post to Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. She’s also a new blogger! Join me and check out her new site, “Stay at Home Socrates.”

–J. A. Allen 


untitled.pngAt the start of May I entered the unfamiliar world of blogging, and set-up “Stay at Home Socrates” on a whim. By the end of the month, I had won J. A. Allen’s Sunday Scribble Challenge to the prompt “Show a Mother’s Twisted Love.” A tad concerning for the mother of two young children. Nevertheless buzzing with the validation of online strangers, I sought undisturbed moments with my laptop like a drug, fingers racing over the keys in a word-fuelled binge. The rest of the time I tested out material in my head, sniggering at my own jokes and tweaking my creations, whilst I just about managed to hold monosyllabic conversations with my tiddlers. For the first time in a while there was a spring in my step.  I had a hobby.

Then as spontaneously as the blog had started, it juddered to an emergency halt.

My body betrayed me and all words, inspiration, puns, and footnotes, were ejected faster than the streams that poured forth in my first episode of gastroenteritis that month. Survival became my only pursuit as I navigated a constant cycle of toilet sprints, bleaching, languishing on the sofa, languishing on the floor and attending only to the most primitive of my children’s needs.


In a conscious act of desperation I send a futile message to my husband, knowing there was no way he’d even consider coming home from work, conscientious to the end.


Note how long it took to get a reply.
At one point I must have nodded off on the sofa, exhausted from wretching and googling ‘catabolysis’.  I came to with a start when the Small One (S1) whacked some Duplo in my face. I allowed her to continue, even when she upgraded to a phone charger as her weapon of choice, rather than face the task of sourcing another form of entertainment.  I then took a selfie to check whether I looked as bad as I felt  and was satisfied with the result.



A quick scan of the room revealed relative destruction.  The Big One (B1) had managed to unlock the iPad and was watching videos of plastic dolls doing pretend poos in potties.  S1 had spread soot from the fireplace throughout the vicinity.  It was at that moment that I knew what I had to do. Whatever it took, I had to summon the strength to deliver B1 to Preschool and get S1 to nap at the same time. The promise of solitary toilet trips and three hours of lying prostrate was too alluring not to at least attempt the gargantuan task ahead.

Even now, with time to reflect, I can’t say how I managed it, but somehow, head pounding, buttocks clamping, I stumbled out into the light of day, and deposited B1 at the hallowed gates. I can only recall key moments of that trip – the despair at having to make small talk with other parents, quickly followed by surprise that no one recoiled at the sight of my blood-stained sclera and emaciated body.


I said nothing about my predicament; had anyone inquired as to how I was, I’m certain my reply would have been a sunny ‘Good, thanks.’


However this approach came at my cost later, when having found slumberous respite , brazenly my phone rang out, re-alerting me of my mortal coil.  Seconds later, the inevitable message arrived with an unwelcome buzz – a child care request from another mum.  For a moment I almost considered accommodating the third child, worried that the confession to my true state would seem implausible; my performance at drop-off had been just too strong.  I bolted back to the toilet, improvising with B1’s Frozen step-up to allow relief of both ends simultaneously, knowing I had to come clean, even if it looked suspect.  The mere hint of germs was always sufficient to deter another parent from sending their child to your home.

It took about a week to recover fully from this episode and to start inspecting food without suspicion.  I even thought about the blog again and worried I had lost my momentum – could I write again, would my audience  have given up on me?  Then the unthinkable happened.  Three short weeks since the first digestive attack, I was struck again.  The injustice was almost as difficult to deal with as the physical symptoms.

Undeterred by my failed first attempt, once again I sent an SOS to my husband when things became too terrible to bear – I worried for the safety of myself and my offspring when I failed to even keep water down. Screenshot_2017-07-14-14-23-53I genuinely wasn’t certain my body, already malnourished from round 1, could survive another onslaught so soon.  He returned home triumphant at 5.30pm.  When S1 failed to sleep that evening, he flung her back to me and proceeded to work until midnight to make up the time lost by coming home early…

I’d like to say I took it with good grace when days later my husband, becoming afflicted with a mild version of the illness, retreated to bed for the foreseeable and indulged in a 100% bona fide ‘sick day’.  However the injustice smarted almost as much as the chilli-laden meals he cooked up following B1’s birth.  As my own bile and diarrhoea abated, pitiless prose started re-circulating in my shrivelled grey matter and I knew I was well on the road to recovery.


Dum scribo spero.


Sarah Brentyn – Guest Post


My life as an Introverted Writer


coffee-1848899_960_720.jpgI’m an introvert. Always have been.

I need time to recharge after major events. Hell, I need time to recharge after answering the door. (When I do. Sometimes I hide.)

I’m definitely not a people-person. It’s not that I don’t like people, just that I wish they wouldn’t come near me. Or talk to me. Or look at me.

Personal space, you know?

I’d say, instead of a social butterfly, I’m more of a social spider. Creeping away from commotion, scrunching into dark corners, hiding behind a web. (I completely just grossed myself out. I’m wicked arachnophobic and compared my people-skills to those nasty 8-legged critters. Now I’m itchy. I hope the analogy was worth it.)

When I was little, people used to be nice about my introverted nature and call me a “homebody.” Now it’s like, “Holy crap, woman. When’s the last time you left the house? You need to put your books down and GET OUT.” A bit rude but, alas, they’re not wrong.

Once upon a time, I had a friend who consistently told me how much happier I’d be if I went drinking and partying with her. I wouldn’t have been.

However, heading for a walk, strolling through a cemetery, watching the ocean…these things make me happy and I don’t indulge in them nearly enough.

So, we’ve established I’m a loner. And that’s okay. Really. It is.

But.

You knew there was a “but,” right?

Here’s where, as a writer, I get into trouble.

I can go from hermit to recluse in 60 seconds flat. I know. It’s impressive. One minute I’m an introspective introvert, the next I’m a shut-in.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. It lends itself to introversion.

I live in my head, constantly writing, narrating, and stowing away encounters for future plotlines or dialogue.

I can bounce ideas off other writers, get beta feedback, and network all I want but, in the end, it’s me and my laptop.desk-602975_960_720.jpg

Though my characters are hanging out here keeping me company, they never ask me to get a beer or tell me to go outside for some fresh air. Never suggest I leave the keyboard to see the sunset.

While I’m content with who I am and love what I do, this life can be isolating. Writing doesn’t force me to leave the comforts of home. So here I stay.

Writer. Introvert. Recluse.

With this combination, I need to be careful. It sucks. It literally sucks the life out of me and my writing. Because leaving the house not only helps your mental health but gives you fodder for stories. Both of which I need.

I have to work a little bit harder than my extroverted friends to get out of my world, into the one outside, have some adventures, and return a little richer in all the ways that matter. Like Bilbo Baggins: There and Back Again.


Author Bio:


sarahbrentyn profile picSarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi.

She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them.

When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies.

She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.
She is the author of Hinting at Shadows, a collection of short fiction.


Hinting at Shadows_COVERContact Information (blog, website, etc.):


Amazon: Author Page

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Blogs:

Lemon Shark

Lemon Shark Reef


Twitter, Google+, Website


Guest Post by Allison Maruska


The Biggest Killer of Creativity


First, I want to thank Jenny for hosting the Sunday Scribbles Challenge and for opening up her blog space for wee scribblers like me. I hope I can do this awesome blog justice.


The Late Show With Stephen Colbert GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Now, let’s talk about creativity – and specifically about what kills it (for the purposes of this post, creativity refers to both the act of literally creating something and to sharing our already-created work with the outside world). As creative types, we need to know what hazards lie ahead so we can avoid them.

Unfortunately, this killer isn’t something we can avoid entirely. In fact, it’s one we likely face on a daily basis.

I’ve recently started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. In it, she outlines qualities creative types must have in order to create, including enchantment, trust, and persistence. But the first quality she discusses is courage.

That means not being afraid, because as she says:


…when courage dies, creativity dies with it. We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.


She goes on to list 27 fears we face as we strive to live more creative lives, including fear of rejection, fear that we don’t have enough training, and fear that our work isn’t important enough to put out there. The easy advice would be to simply say everyone has fears so either suck it up and create anyway or go do something else.

Here’s the thing, though: Fears are real. They aren’t silly, irrational things we’re taught to ignore (for the most part). Fears keep us alive – we don’t run into traffic because of the fear of getting smashed by a MACK truck.


unnamed.jpg

Beep Beep!


But fear can also be paralyzing if we let it.

My bestselling novel was *this close* to being shoved under a mattress because of fear. After I got some bad feedback from a critique partner, I knew if I let anyone read it, one of two things would happen: 1. They would hate it and ridicule it mercilessly, or 2. No one would read it at all.

That’s right. I was afraid people would read it or not read it.

It took another, much wiser writing partner to talk me back off that ledge. I went on to self-publish the book and it sold twenty thousand copies in its first year.

And it wasn’t ridiculed mercilessly.

In her most recent flash fiction challenge post, Charli Mills says this (emphasis mine):


It’s not that fear itself is so bad. Fear is a warning — proceed with caution; be safe. Entrepreneurs and artists take calculated risks — they strategize to overcome doubt and fear to do or create something new. Fear is best acknowledged, not justified. It’s fear justified that skews thinking and actions.


Acknowledgement says, “Yes, this is a real fear that I have.” Justification says, “And because of it, I will or won’t do this.” Justification gives fear more credit and weight than it deserves.

I published my novel while carrying the fears that it would be poorly reviewed or not read. My wise writing partner even said, “Yes, those things could happen.” We acknowledged those fears and proceeded anyway. And you know what? Those things did happen! It got some bad reviews and I can’t get most of my own family to read it (among many others, I’m sure). But it also has lots of good reviews and fans anxiously waiting for the standalone sequel, which is now in revisions.

Fear is part of the creative process. Hell, it’s in every freaking step of it. If creativity is the Yin, fear is the Yang.

That doesn’t mean fear gets to kill our creativity. In fact, pressing on after acknowledging our fears makes having created and shared our work that much sweeter.


What fears do you face when creating? How do you overcome them?


0ec5e6b6a9fd960893ba80993bf75090.jpegAllison Maruska is the author of mystery, suspense, and YA novels, a humor blogger, former teacher, mom, wife, coffee and wine consumer, and owl enthusiast. Find her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.