​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.


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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.


Guest Post by Allan G. Smorra


WUtdFyW3_400x400I entered J.A. Allen’s Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins contest and her prompt was to tell a story in just two paragraphs based on an unsettling confession during a blind date.
Thanks to everyone who voted for my story and a special thanks to J.A. for this opportunity to be a guest host on her blog.

You can find my blog at www.ohmsweetohm.me.


The Connection


It was a Friday afternoon and I was seated on a bench on the fantail of one the Golden Gate Ferry boats that run between San Francisco and Marin County, CA. In the waning light of an November evening it felt good to have open sky above me. I sat and drank my adult beverage while tourists and commuters loaded the boat for the 45 minute ride to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.

aThe year was 1983 and I had finished my workday at the new KGO-TV television studios on Front St.  For the last six months I had spent seven hours a day, 5 days a week, in a noisy dark basement and it was officially no longer fun. I was part of the Mole Crew, the gang of electricians who toiled all day in the dim-lit basement running power distribution conduits for the studios and offices in the building above us. We only saw the sun at lunchtime or when we were on a break.

Passengers filled the boat in a steady stream and one in particular caught my eye. He was standing at the transom of the boat and wore a hip-length brown leather jacket with large flap pockets sewn on the outside of the chest and waist, dark denim pants, and heavy brown leather hiking boots that were well oiled and buffed to a matte shine. A gray cloth military patrol cap covered his head and at his feet was a large square cloth bag with two loop handles. One end of a long baguette of bread stuck out of the top of the shopping bag and I could see the tops of several packages wrapped in white butcher’s paper.

I thought to myself, This could be a scene out of a foreign movie; Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. And now, the boy goes to any length to reunite with his One True Love. I took another sip of my beverage. Yeah, right. Like that happens in real life. At least not in front of me, so far.

The stranger reached into his bag and carefully opened packages of meat and cheese. He took out a small paring knife and began to slice them into bite-sized pieces which he ate along with pieces of the baguette. It struck me as a very European way to travel and I made a mental note to try it myself some afternoon.

The boat was now loaded and the deckhands prepared to raise the gangway and cast off the dock lines. I headed for the bar to get a refill.

The ferry was in the process of backing out of the slip as I returned to my seat. The stranger was busy taking in the sights as we turned North and pulled away from the San Francisco Ferry Terminal. The Bay Bridge grew smaller as our view of the Embarcadero waterfront slipped by at sea level on our port side. A million-dollar view for under three dollars.

The stranger was busy taking photos with a 35mm point-and-shoot film camera and making notes in a small notebook that he had removed from a side pocket of his jacket.

He’s detail oriented. I like that in a person.

The boat cleared Pier 39 and the Golden Gate Bridge came into view. I took out my 35mm Pentax SLR camera and walked over to the rail. I love taking photos of the bridge at sunset and today was promising. After snapping off a few photos I sat down in my seat and put my camera back in my bag. Our ferry was approaching Alcatraz and our view of the bridge would be blocked by the island.

I sipped my drink and the stranger took a few photos of The Rock. He looked puzzled, took out a guidebook from another jacket pocket, and began flipping through several pages. He closed the book and looked around.

He smiled when saw me looking at him, and I nodded and smiled back. He took four steps in my direction and pointed toward the Federal Penitentiary. “Excuse me, please. Ist that Ang-gel Island?” I was right, he is European.

“No, sir. That is actually Alcatraz, the old prison.” I turned to my right and pointed again. “That is Angel Island.”

He smiled, “Ahhhh, yah. Now it makes sense. Thank you very much.”

“You’re quite welcome.”pablo.png

“That’s Tiburon. Sausalito is beyond that—at the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge. We can’t see it from here.”

“Ahhhh, yah. I understand now.”

“Hey, my name’s, Al.” I reached out and we shook hands.

“I am Johannes. It ist nice to meet you, Al”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Johannes.” The seat next to me was unoccupied. “Why don’t you get your stuff and sit down here? Take a load off your feet.”

“Ahhhh, yah. Thank you, I will.”

Johannes picked up his bag and sat down on the bench. “This ist such a lovely way to ride, this boat.”

“I love it, man. On the water I can decompress from the day’s work and arrive home a new man.”

“Yah, ist good. Leave your worries at work, don’t take them home with you.”

“What brings you to the United States? Vacation? Work?”

“Vacation. I have always wanted to visit America.”

“Well, welcome to the U. S. of A.”

“Thank you. Ist a good feeling to be welcomed. Americans are very friendly.”

I smiled, “Thanks, man. It’s easy to be friendly to nice people such as yourself.”

Johannes smiled, “Would you like a snack? I have bread, cheese, salami, and ham.”

“I don’t mind if I do. Thanks.” We proceeded to enjoy slices of fresh sourdough bread, Columbus Salami, and Jarlsberg cheese.

My curiosity was getting the best of me. “If you don’t mind me asking, where are you from?”

“Germany. I live outside Munich.”

“Nice. I have never met someone from Munich before. What do you do for a living there?”

“I work at the BMW factory. I am electrician.”

“An electrician? No kidding? Man, I am an electrician!”

We both laughed and shook hands again, brother-to-brother. “What do you do at the BMW plant?”

“We take care of maintaining the entire facility and install new equipment on the Assembly lines. What do you do?”

“I work construction and right now we are building television studios and offices for a local TV station.” I laughed, “What are the odds that we would run into each other on a boat in San Francisco Bay?”

Johannes chuckled, “Yah, ist a slim chance at best.”

“Hey, I’m going to get one more. Lemme get you something. What would you like?”

“A white wine?”

“Coming right up.” I got our drinks and sat down with Johannes. We toasted each other, sat, sipped and watched the world go by. Over the course of the next half hour we talked about our lives, families, and our chosen field of work.

It turned out that my new friend was in the last week of a 4-week vacation. He got six weeks a year off and this trip to the USA would zero out his vacation account. Part of his benefits at work was access to discounted travel. He got a corporate lodging & travel rate, plus a discounted rail pass on Amtrak for travel within the US. Johannes had visited New York City, Denver and San Francisco thus far. The final leg of his journey would be to Seattle where he would visit friends and then fly back to Munich.

On this particular day he was going to visit former neighbors who were living not far from the Ferry Terminal in Greenbrae. The next morning they would take him to the East Bay where he would catch an Amtrak train to Seattle. This vacation was one of those life-adventures that he would never forget.pablo

“I have no idea.”

“People find out I am electrician and they say, ‘You have easy job. All day long you twist little wires together. You don’t have to work hard.’ It makes me crazy!”

I leaned back and let out a howl. “Yes! Yes, I agree. I hear the same thing, ‘You twist wires together all day.’ It’s maddening.”

“Who do they think runs conduits for wire? Plumbers? Who pulls the wire? Trained horses? Twisting wires together ist at end of job, not entire job.”

“Johannes, we are more alike than we ever thought.”

“Yah, ist amazing, no?”

We exchanged addresses and sent each other a copy of the best photo that we took that day. For the next several years we exchanged cards and photos at Christmas. As time went on we lost touch with each other and eventually cards went unanswered.

I think about Joannes from time to time whenever I see a BMW on the road. Out here we call them Basic Marin Wheels, although the Tesla S sedans are quietly taking over that position.

What hasn’t changed over time is The Connection, the feeling that I experienced for a brief moment of time that November afternoon. I don’t know if we connected through our shared German heritage, or our chosen field of endeavor, but the time we spent talking on the ferry felt like it was time spent with a long-lost brother. We not only bonded as tradesmen, we connected like wires that were “twisted together.”


aCongrats again, Allan, on winning the 14th Sunday Scribble Challenge. And, thanks for accepting the invitation to guest post!


 

Unofficial Playlist/Old Souls


0ec5e6b6a9fd960893ba80993bf75090.jpegBefore we delve into this musical post a big congrats goes out to Allison Maruska, winner of the 15th Scribble Challenge! Allison is the author of the runaway hit, The Fourth Descendant, YA novel, Drake and the Fliers, and the Project Renovatio Trilogy. Her entry to the last challenge of the season accrued the most votes ANY Scribble Challenge has ever received.


Check out her website, AllisonMaruska.com, for great flash fiction and writing tips. We’re all looking forward to your guest post here on Scribbles, Allison!


turntable-1337986_960_720.jpg


The hellions are finished school for the summer.


It’s great, because I can see them more often, and not great, because: writing.

There was a time I needed complete and utter silence to concentrate on my WIP. It was a BASTARD of a handicap. Life is loud. If ye authorly type-layers wait for optimal conditions to get anything done, the pace of ye work will inevitably suffer. That’s an old English proverb. Probably.

I had to train myself to write in a madhouse. My trick? Grabbing a set of headphones and subjecting the old eardrums to blaring music. As I tap away at my computer now, I’m happily listening to the Arctic Monkeys scream I Wanna be Yours while thirteen thousand of the hellions’ friends raid my cupboards for (crack) sugary snacks.

Over the years, the tracks I’ve listened to repeatedly while working on Old Souls have evolved into a playlist. While many budding authors dream of big-screen grandeur, it’s my hope that the story is developed into a Game of Thrones style television series one day, following the lives of my immortal characters back and forth through time.

For your listening pleasure, here are a few songs from the Old Souls soundtrack:

Lucien burns down The Gate:


Dreaming of Layla:


Doubts of sanity:

(Also the song I would use in my book trailer, if the world was a perfect place.)


Khai arrives at the hospital:


Layla talks about her time on Devon Island:


Rhiannon dies:


Lucien and Layla on the Carrier Pigeon:


The Stones attack Silas’ Ending Ceremony:


Lucien remembers pieces of his past:


Layla suffers in the Trogue Lair:


Layla is captured:


The Anunna leave Nigeria:


Morrigan kisses Lucien:


Lucien leaves for Ellis Fort:


The attack on Devon Island:


Morrigan’s revenge:


Catching up with Doctor Brauen:


End:


As I mentioned: The list is incomplete, but Wordpress doesn’t love all these YouTube links. It’s possible a more complete list will be posted when the book comes out.

For those who have been wondering, Old Souls edits are going well! Stay tuned to Scribbles for summer updates.