Guest Post by John Clifford


Finding a Voice

By John Clifford

johnc


This post is a departure from my norm. My wife and I have a parenting blog, in which we write about all of the ups and downs or parenting from both the mother’s and father’s perspectives. However, left to my own devices I would not write exclusively about parenting. I love my child, and my wife; they are the lungs and the soul that breathe purpose into my life- an unshakeable, unquestionable purpose. This post, though, is about everything that came before. Before purpose, before happiness, before peace.

I don’t mean to bore you, or begin this post in a pathetic voice. I am not lamenting anything, nor am I subtly imploring you for some sympathy and pity. I am just stating circumstances as they were, factual and without any shred of emotion (unless irreverence is an emotion). I’m just setting the stage, so to speak.

And so we begin about 27 years ago, give or take…

All of my happiest childhood memories were made when I was alone. To maintain my solitude I would ride my bicycle, faster than my little tag-along brother could possibly pedal, for hours on end. quotescover-JPG-11.jpg This was back in the day when child sex predators were not a staple of sensationalist news and fodder for hushed dinner conversations. They simply were not on our radar, and we were all the freer because of it. I would ride miles away from my house, equally through wild wooded lots, as well as across the paved streets and sidewalks of our little metro-DC shitsplat city. I had no destination in those days, and in some ways I wouldn’t know what it meant to have a destination until I was in my mid-twenties. But I was maybe seven at the time, give or take, and free as a bird.

In this regard, I grew to love my solitude. I was a withdrawn child, practically a mute. I was asked in equal measure “are you okay?” and “what are you thinking about?” People often remarked that I looked lost in deep thought. That was okay for a child, almost commendable. Adults were undoubtedly projecting promise onto me, hoping to have met a child that might someday achieve all that they had abandoned.quotescover-jpg-85 There’s just no way to be sure after so much time has passed. Nowadays, when I go blankly to someplace else in my head it draws criticism and judgement. Adults should be raising the next generation of thinkers, not ambling through adulthood pensively hoping to still become something. But that is neither here nor there.

I grew further withdrawn after my parents split. We were never well-off to begin with, but we fell hard and fast into poverty in short order. We spent some years in a cycle of evictions, about every three to six months we were forced to move, that were followed by one more sympathetic landlord who couldn’t bear to turn away a mother and her five children. My mother was great at plucking the heartstrings of suckers. She had no way to pay rent, but that didn’t stop the cycle, not for a while.

And then, one day, the cycle did stop. My mother ran out of suckers, and we got turned out with no home. We were homeless for a little while, staying in hotels until they got wise to the lack of money, and then staying in the basements of family friends. I will not drill down deeply into the details, since that is not at all what this post is about. It isn’t about how hard my childhood was, or how I managed to make a woeful few meaningful friendships in any of the five high schools I would end up attending; I’m still learning proper social skills, even now into in my thirties. This post is about how I was turned inside-out, or rather back outside-out, after years of turning inward and seeking refuge and escape in the limitless expanses of my mind.

It was, and is, a slow transition. To write that it was just a matter of “letting others in” is a gross oversimplification. I never had issues letting others in. Rather, I just had issues with sharing the words which reverberated between my ears. Hence, the mute.



quotescover-jpg-71I had no audience, and fittingly I let my words dissolve and fade. I had to get them out of my head, so I wrote as a way to quiet the noise. But once they were out, exposed and open, I relegated them to the trash can, or shredder, or to moldy notebooks. I had no audience, and didn’t care.

I have forgotten far more than I have ever saved.

This trend began its metamorphosis, practically overnight, during my time in Colorado. I initially moved to Colorado from Virginia when I was 21, chasing a business opportunity presented to me by my brother-in-law. He had a kiosk selling knock-off Nokia cell phone covers to tweens in a mall in Denver. His kiosk flopped in short order, and he and my sister moved back east to pursue newer knock-off sales opportunities while I stayed in Colorado.

quotescover-jpg-62I wasted a year or so in this manner, but for one thing- I found an audience, and I found writing for my audience very rewarding.

I have no clue what it was that I wrote, but I suppose that is irrelevant. At my bar, or the bar to which I referred as mine, I spent a great deal of time. It was my preferred watering hole, where I went to accomplish the second and third steps of my routine. Over time, and through over-tipping, I grew pretty close to the bartenders there.

One night, I left behind, quite apropos for this guest blog, some scribbles on a cocktail napkin. I left it there on the bar, assuming that it would get swept up by a bar rag or tossed in the trash. Instead, the bartender, Krissy, read and kept my scribbles. And then she asked me every subsequent night to write her something more. I did so in exchange for vodka and gin.

And that’s it. Just like that I found an audience. Just like that, I found some level of comfort in turning back outside-out. There was nothing profound about that moment, nothing out of the ordinary, it was nothing more than an accident. The atmosphere inside the bar that night was unremarkable. It was likely as empty as any other weeknight (I was often the sole denizen of the bar), and undoubtedly smelled of mildew, bar-funk, and loneliness. But not everything life-changing needs to arrive grandiosely in a flash of brilliance. quotescover-jpg-77

And from then I decided to write more often, to keep what I write, and to share it with whomever might respond to the content.  I hope one or two of you experience some kind of reaction, anything that upsets the inflectionless equilibrium state of a soul at rest, and feel something in the words you read.


You can find me at bothsidesofthebed.com, where my wife and I blog about haphazard parenting from two perspectives, and at jaclifford.com. The latter is barren at the moment, but I fully intend to contribute more writing in the future. Sending vodka and gin may help to speed up the process:)john


untitled.bmpThanks, John!

For those of you don’t know, this guest post is long overdue.

John won the right to blog on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins by winning one of my favorite Sunday Scribble Challenges . . . first posted all the way back in MAY!!

If you can’t remember that far back, take a second look at the prompt and his response:


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The summer had been particularly harsh this year; an immeasurably minute amount of rain had fallen, the tall grass had long ago turned brittle and sun-bleached, and the hot dry earth was scorched and broken along an infinite number of cracks and crevices. He ambled closer still to the last watering hole for miles, slowly, taking his time to conserve what little energy he had left in his tired muscles, and what little resolve he had left in his hunger-maddened head. The lion drew nearer still, and was met with a scent carried aloft on a fiery breeze: the nauseatingly metallic smell of sweat, cotton, and fear quickened his nerves and pulled taught his muscles, and he knew in that instant that he was one last pounce away from either death or survival in this harsh, unforgiving prairie.

–John Clifford


untitled.bmpAh-may-zing.

Please take a moment to congratulate John for a great submission AND an inspiring guest post in the comment section below.

He certainly deserves it!


Guest Post by Jennifer Shelby


055-002The best advice I’ve ever received about writing is just to write, and to read. The writing part’s up to you, but I’m happy to supply you with something to read, so here’s a fun experiment in throwing together a few characters who would never have met without a liberal twist in time…


Tapestry

by Jennifer Shelby


The door flew open as if by magic. The paper bag enclosing the take-out in her arms crinkled as Candace shifted. No one stood there. The smell of hot cassoulet mingled with the scent of steamed brown paper.

Candace rolled her eyes and readied herself for whatever creeper was waiting inside the squat, grey house.

As she stepped across the threshold it looked as though she’d entered another century. The walls were painted dark colours and swaths of dried plants and roots hung from the ceiling. Strange contraptions popped and smoked at random. One or two rough wooden chairs offered the only comfort Candace could see.

She glanced back at her Vespa parked in the driveway, as if to reassure herself she hadn’t left her century behind.

It was mid-afternoon but the room was dark, the windows covered by three moth eaten tapestries. The first showed a wizard stalking fairies in a moonlit glen with a glittering net. The second depicted a knight releasing a woman who appeared to be on fire from a dungeon. In the last, the dungeon burned while the wizard looked out from the bars. The knight and the fiery woman rode off on a horse.

“Hey, your food’s here.” Were they waiting for her to rob the place? She had to admit the tapestries would hide the holes in the walls of her crappy apartment. “Is there anyone here?”

A wizard whirled around and stared at her with some surprise. An actual wizard. He had a grey beard that grew past a swollen belly and he wore a dark blue velvet gown with white stars printed all over it. In his hands were two beakers; one empty, the other half-full with a bubbling blue liquid.

He looked her over a moment. “Are you the cook’s daughter, then?”

“No, I’m the deliverance engineer.” She held up the package. “Your lunch?”

“Marvelous! You must have ridden the swiftest steeds in the kingdom to have arrived so quickly!”

“Yeah. Sure. That’ll be twenty bucks, Gandalf.”

There was a time when Candace may have warmed to a wizard; back when she thought LARPing and cosplaying was fun. These days she didn’t have time for that sort of thing. Wizards were frauds, magic was dead, and she was tough as hell. She spent her free time striking a punching bag she hung in her closet. She dyed her hair black and spiked it when the occasion called for it. Spikes were good. Spikes were the jagged shards of her broken life. She dressed in dark colours and had enough piercings to horrify the majority of the people she saw from day to day.

“Will you accept a gold sovereign my lady?”

Candace shook her head, the chain running from her nose to the top of her ear kissing her cheek with a cold touch. “I don’t carry change. Do you have any plastic?”

“If you remain and return with this unusual trencher to your master after my feast, the change is yours. I know life can be hard for peasants.” The wizard handed her an uneven coin of golden colour.

Candace stared at it, unsure if it was real and unwilling to bite it in case it was the dorkiest roofi attempt ever known. She decided she didn’t care if it was real or not. It looked cool. She pocketed the coin and handed the wizard his lunch.

016 She looked around the room. The only light came from a lantern perched on a wooden pedestal carved with runes. The lantern was built of filigreed pewter and encased in a strange, uneven glass. It looked old and expensive, but what was inside was far more interesting.

A tiny woman bathed in flame looked back at Candace. The woman put her palms on the glass. “Help me!” The flames that engulfed her flickered with orange and red.

Candace squinted at the creature. Were those wings? “Do you have a fairy locked in this lantern?”

“Hmmm? Oh yes, of course. A fire fairy, they’re the best for long term lighting.” The wizard held up the Styrofoam and tucked into his meal with his fingers. Bits of duck dribbled down his beard.

“Isn’t her habitat rather empty? There’s nothing but her in there and it’s so tiny. She doesn’t look very stimulated.” Candace didn’t believe in fairies, but she didn’t condone inhumane treatment either.

“It’s a fairy. Who cares?” The wizard continued munching at his lunch.

Candace frowned. The fairy’s flame brightened and she stared at Candace. “He put a spell on the lantern so that I can never leave.”

“Why not break it? Aren’t fairies supposed to be magic?”

The fairy shook her head. “It’s too powerful! It is twice as strong as a person’s power and three times as strong as their magic!” Her flame dimmed. “I am doomed.”

The wizard laughed. “You’re mine, fairy. After so many centuries, you should be accustomed to it.”

“I’ll never be yours, you ridiculous buffoon.”

“What if someone had no power and didn’t believe in magic?” Candace asked.

The wizard and the fairy, engaged now in some strange sort of staring match, didn’t answer.

Candace opened the door to the lantern, reached in, and pulled the fairy out.

The fairy blinked, her mouth agape, as she stared at Candace. “What magic you have in nothing!”

“Yeah. Whatever.” Candace resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

The wizard jumped to his feet. His cassoulet splattered onto the floor and along the hem of his gown. “What have you done?”

The fairy clenched her fists, her flame changing from orange to a deep and simmering blue. Candace could feel a fierce heat emanating from the tiny creature.

The fairy turned to Candace. “You should wait outside. I’ve some vengeance to take care of.”  vespa

Candace nodded, and stepped outside. She closed the door behind her and looked around. Her Vespa waited in the driveway. She drove it over to a bus shelter on the sidewalk nearby. She parked it there, facing the house, and waited.

 

She heard a lot of strange curses raging within, several crashes, and the sound of a large flyswatter in use. A bit of smoke hung in the air. This went on for several minutes, the smell of smoke growing ever stronger. Twists of smoke began to escape beneath the front door and a few windows that were cracked open. Soon she spotted flames licking at the tapestries.

A few people stood and watched with her until their bus arrived and whisked them away.

The curses stopped and the flames began to gnaw at the roof. It wouldn’t be long before it collapsed.

The fairy appeared and sat on Candace’s shoulder. She was breathing heavily, covered in soot and sweat.

“Done with the vengeance?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m Candace.”

The fairy held out a tiny hand to shake Candace’s. “Incendrance. Thanks for helping me, Candace.”

They stared at the fire a moment. “Too bad about those tapestries. They were kind of cool,” said Candace.

Incendrance grinned and they sat in comfortable silence a moment. From somewhere far off they heard sirens.

“Might be a good time to leave.” Candace sat on the Vespa and toyed with her helmet. “You got some place to go?”

“Not sure.

“You can stay with me if you want.”

“Thanks.” Incendrance’s wings fluttered a moment. “Wanna go on a quest or something?”

“Sure, but let’s take the Vespa. I’m not a horse person.”


END


Thanks for reading, and thanks for having me here J. A. Allen!

Want more? Follow Jennifer on facebook, https://www.facebook.com/writerJenniferShelby/, twitter @naturemummy, her blog, https://thedailystory.wordpress.com/, be45b193d1caa6824eae276c0ae9e17dand on her website, http://jennifershelby.ca/,  where you should definitely check out her book, The Incredibly Truthful Diary of Nature Girl, for the middle-graders in your life.


paintThanks for sharing this great story with everyone here at Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, Jennifer! 


DID YOU KNOW: Jennifer Shelby won the opportunity to share her work at Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins by winning one of our Weekly Scribble Challenges. YOU can win the chance to guest post here too! The Sunday Scribble Challenge picks up again in September. Participation is quick and easy, and a great way to procrastinate interact with your writing peers. So, see you back in in September! Unleash your writerly self.


 

“Confidence,” Guest Post by: A Momma’s View


It’s all about Confidence, isn’t it?

What do you write about when you win the chance to guest blog for an amazing blog like this? It’s one thing to come up with one post after another about my life and my thoughts if it is for my blog. It’s my place and I can pretty much do with it what I like, right? But this here is so different.

This here is so much more.

I usually don’t take part in writing challenges. I will tell you a little bit more about the why in a little moment. This time though, after reading Ah Dad’s guest post, I couldn’t help myself. I really wanted to participate and after reading what was the task it all started coming together in my head. I have moments like this, believe me!zzz

So in one of those moments, my kids actually left me alone to think for longer than 5 minutes (yes, it happens…), I did it. Just did it. Just wrote. And the words kept flowing. It’s a good feeling, you know.

It reminded me somehow of the day I started my blog, when I simply decided that I’m ready for the blogging adventure. I sat down and wrote. Wrote my very first post and didn’t stop then and there. It’s been a great journey so far. One that I enjoy so very much.

It’s not just the blogging and all the fantastic connections I’ve made over time with people from all over this world. It’s also the fact that my confidence grew and I managed to actually write two novels. They are sitting here, fully edited, with covers ready, waiting to be formatted and finally published.

Again my confidence, or better the lack of it, took over and I let them sit there rather than working on the formatting and getting it all done. And then the writing challenge happened. I got chosen as the winner and it gave me this huge boost. So rather than telling you all about my blogging journey or who I am in general I’d like to tell you this:

Writing has so much to do with confidence. Of course you need to have the ability to put your thoughts into words but honestly, I think we all do. I agree, you need to enjoy writing in general in order to sit down and put your ideas, your stories on paper (or on the screen). Some people simply don’t like doing it. Some people really don’t care about it. And that is totally fine. Not everyone wants to be a writer. There are many different outlets for the creativity that hides in each and every one of us.

I still owe you an explanation why I do not take part in writing challenges: I simply lack the confidence to do so. They make me nervous and I feel my English and writing is not good enough.

But where was I? Oh, yes, I remember, I was talking about confidence!zz

For those of us who do enjoy writing and play with the idea of creating stories it all comes down to confidence. We can type as fast as the wind, making no spelling or grammar mistakes (I wish…) and come up with the most amazing and mesmerizing stories ever, but unless we actually have the confidence to do something with it, the stories will just be our own.

Blogging helped me. It helped my confidence grow back to the point I felt good enough to take on NaNoWriMo and actually write many many words. It helped me get the confidence to actually decide that I want to turn these words into a novel. Actually two. Well, actually it’s meant to be a trilogy, but the third one is still a work in process. Writing blog posts on a daily base and all the comments and likes I received for them gave me the boost I needed to get my friend to create covers for the novel and other friends to actually read them to give me feedback. It gave me the confidence to pass it on to another friend of mine to edit them.

I never thought that blogging could have such a huge impact on my confidence. But it does. It’s my outlet, my way of connecting. Or better another way of connecting with people. I’m not shy. I socialize quite a bit. But this here, in the blogosphere is different. It’s inspiring, sometimes intimidating and for sure motivating.

Writing this guest post somehow sums it all up. It’s like my blogging journey. It’s intimidating, inspiring, motivating and it gives me an intense boost of confidence.

Now, I really forgot what I actually wanted to write about. Oh, it was about confidence , wasn’t it? Well, I hope I manage to bring across how much I believe blogging can boost your confidence. On so many levels.

Oops… I think my time is up. The kids are done with (home)school and my husband, who teaches them, needs to get back to work. As I’m in charge of being the entertainer for the rest of the day, I need to take over now. The dogs want to go for a walk, I should get my exercise done and then take my daughter to her dance class, then it will be time for dinner and I have actually no clue what to cook tonight. There are no left overs to cover it tonight. At one point I need to finish some stuff I have to do for the volunteer position I took on and it can’t wait for much longer. And there are those novels… waiting to be published and another post I should finish to be up on the blog later today…

zBut I’ll see you later, I know I will. Just keep up the writing and the reading, the liking and the commenting. You have a huge impact on someone else. You might not realize it at the moment, but you do. Your posts do, your likes do and your comments do. And always will…


paintThanks for sharing this motivational guest post with everyone here at Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, Momma!  Your journey into the world of a published writer is going to be fun to watch. Finding confidence while writing can be tough, and confidence while writing in a second language is nothing short of inspirational.

DID YOU KNOW: Momma won the opportunity to share her blog at Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins by winning one of our Weekly Scribble Challenges? YOU can win the chance to guest post here too! Just click #SSC on the toolbar above to check out the prompt for this week’s challenge. Participation is quick and easy, and a great way to procrastinate interact with your writing peers. 


These flash fiction challenges fuel creativity. They’re a relatively painless pool for writers who’ve never posted their work to wet those feet, OR for established authors/bloggers to pick up a few new readers.

So, what are YOU waiting for? This week’s challenge wraps up Saturday. Unleash your writerly self.


 

Why Blog?


bPhoto credit: Javier Domínguez Ferreiro via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA


I never thought too much about the blogosphere. I’d read some of my favorite author’s blogs now and again; I had a mom blog called, Amalah, that I adored reading, but I just never thought I would had enough to talk about.

When I began researching what it would take to become a professional author, the words, “Have a social media following” and “Have a platform” kept coming up.

What did that mean? A platform?

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Photo credit: Jason A. Howie via Foter.com / CC BY


I dug deeper. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were a few of the popular social media sites to be on. I was already on a few, but not as a writer. I went back to Facebook and created a Facebook Fan Page. I went to Twitter and started a new account there as well. I had already created an email meant to be used for all of my writing endeavors, so that is what I used when creating the social media accounts. My Instagram account, I switched over from being under my personal name to my author name, because I posted the same sorts of things before the switch that I planned to post after. I would just be adding more about literary things: books I’m reading, projects I’m writing, etc.

All of my social media sites were settled prior to participating in National Novel Writing Month 2015 (NanoWriMo). I posted each day throughout the month making sure to hashtag #nanowrimo, and acquired a great start to my follower base during that month alone. It was difficult to keep up with writing, social media, and a two-year-old, but I managed (see post on Finding Time to Write).

The next suggested step, was to start a blog.

Where would I begin? What would I have to write about that others would want to read?

A suggestion was made in one of the many hours I spent researching blogs, that I should write about something that was in my book. What I mean is, if my book included a lot about cooking because the protagonist was a chef, then I could start a cooking blog. No doubt, if I were writing about a chef, I would have had some knowledge or love of cooking myself. That was the reasoning behind such a statement. My character wasn’t a chef so a cooking blog was definitely out.

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Photo and art credit: J. H. Winter

My character, Adeline, is creative. She has an imagination that allows her to mend her hand-me-down dresses into beautiful albeit quirky creations, she can crochet with the best of them, sew, and knit, and always has a piece of parchment handy for the times when she needs to draw something. In a sense, she is an artist and creator, just like me.

 

I had been making up my own amigurumi patterns for years (see my Portfolio to take a look at my geeky creations), but I wanted to steer away from making other people’s dreamed up characters (from movies, anime, and video games), and begin making up my own. I wanted to write how to crochet amigurumi books and teach others how to crochet as well.

For non-fiction books, such as craft books, you must be able to prove that you are an expert of whatever it is you’re writing about. One of the best ways to do this, again, is to have an author platform.

A platform is a group of followers who love to read what you write, and follow you because of it. They will be your advocates when you get your book published. They will buy your books and tell their friends.

bbbbbIn February of this year (2016), I started writing my posts for my blog, Ink & Stitches – The Writerly and Creative Life of J.H. Winter. “Ink” was to represent the fact that I am a writer of books and an illustrator as well. “Stitches” stands for all of my creative endeavors: crocheting amigurumi, knitting, sewing, and crafting.

This “Artistic Variety” as I like to call it, became the theme for my blog. With all of my interests in mind, I felt I had enough to write about that I could really warrant having a place online to share my work. Other people might even want to listen and check back to see what I’m up to.

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Ink and Stitches logo photo credit: J. H. Winter

Since starting my blog, I’ve created an Ink & Stitches YouTube Channel where I have begun teaching lessons on how to crochet amigurumi; a logo to help with branding everything Ink & Stitches; an Etsy shop which I hope to have open for business soon (InkandStitchesArt); I’ve participated in the A to Z Challenge for bloggers during the month of April which was exhausting (26 posts in a month) but a lot of fun; I’ve begun creating patterns for characters from my story about Adeline; and now that things are quieting down a bit, I am getting back to editing my first two books.

 

Why do I blog?

jhwinter2-150x150In a nutshell, I’m creating an author platform. I’m proving that I’m an expert of amigurumi. I’m talking in the hopes that people will listen and get something out of my words.

Aside from all that, I’m blogging because I love to make connections with people. I have had so much fun getting and answering comments (and I always answer them); being able to strike up Twitter and Instagram conversations back and forth about fun topics with some amazing people; and feeling the camaraderie when sharing experiences with like-minded individuals.

I treat keeping up with social media as part of my workday, but I’ve never felt it to be work. Posting and conversing on social media is often the most fun part of my day! That is why I blog, and will continue to do so. To share ideas and thoughts and making virtual friendships because of it, is something you won’t get anywhere else.

Now I’m curious, why did you start blogging?

J.H. Winter http://www.jhwinter.com


paintThank you for another terrific guest post, J. H.!

Did you know YOU can win the chance to guest on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins too?? Just click #SSC on the toolbar above to check out the prompt for this week’s challenge. Participation is quick and easy, and a great way to procrastinate interact with your writing peers. 

These flash fiction challenges fuel creativity. They’re a relatively painless pool for writers who’ve never posted their work to wet those feet, OR for established authors/bloggers to pick up a few new readers.


So, what are YOU waiting for? This week’s challenge wraps up Saturday. Unleash your writerly self.


 

I’m Batman and This is Why I Write


“I’m Batman”, he said in the deepest voice he could muster, sounding more like a frog croaking to death.w

I’m sorry, I can’t imitate Christian Bale that well.

I’ve been suspected of being The Dark Knight by Jenny over here Scribbles on Napkins because she couldn’t find my true identity. I would have preferred Deadpool because I like to think I’m half as funny as he is. But I’ll take dark and broody. I’m easy… Not cheap! Just easy. Ask my Wife.

Back to the reason why Jenny is now my favourite person-whom-I’ve-never-met. I won an opportunity to write a guest post for her blog.

Being asked to write a guest blog is much more daunting than one would expect.  At least for me.  I can scribble any shenanigans on my own site, Ah Dad for those who were previously uninformed, and not be intimidated by the opinions of the literaty.  The literaty being any writer who has written a novel and got published and stuff.   I accepted the challenge, for I’m Batman. And this is where the shit got messy… I didn’t have the foggiest clue what to write about!

(I wonder if I am allowed to use the word “shit” on another person’s blog? Forgive me Jenny, this is virgin territory for me, like my high school career.)

Then the universe shifted and I got an idea…

wwWhat better way to introduce Ah Dad… to her prolific, educated, beautiful and highly intelligent audience than to write about why I write.

Writing is like that scene from American History X where the poor dude gets his jaw broken by Edward Norton’s boot when he forces him to lie with a gaping mouth over the pavement. Get the picture? I’m sorry if you did. O-kay fine, it’s not exactly like that. Writing is more painful.

At least on some days.

Then on the diamond days, my mind is able to conjure a gazillion ideas and my thick, (but very manly) fingers can’t keep up with the creative juices spewing like lava from Vesuvius. Burning and flowing down the side of the mountain, destroying any self doubt I might have of not being a full-blown writer. Firing up ambition of one day becoming a published author with movie rights.  Or maybe even a trilogy. (If that chick who wrote Fifty Shades of Crap can do it, anybody can!)

Only to end up having days where your imagination evaporates like water on Mars. Leaving behind a red, desolate, barren, unforgiving and uninhabitable void, crushing any dreams of writing anything worth reading.  Never mind the movies. Like that jaw-on-pavement thing.

Still I push on.  I persevere. Like a stubborn donkey. Or a regenerating Superhero waiting for my limbs to grow back, simply because I crave the diamond days like a monkey on crack.  I cherish the days when the volcano rumbles and creates that exhilarating feeling of lava exploding from my soul onto a clear blue screen. It’s spectacular!

wwwAnd that is what writing does for me. It releases my inner beauty and its beast.

But writing takes time. Google tells you that forty words per minute is an average typing speed.  I’m certainly not average. I think I manage around twenty. And that excludes the time I take with the whole autocorrect management process. And the re-writes.  A piece of 1000 words can take anything from one to two/three/forty-seven thousand hours. But it’s hours of bliss. Hours where I’m tucked away in my own little world where everything else disappears. In that world it’s just me and the cursor, racing across the screen, on a quest to save a galaxy far, far away…

And I’ve learned so much through writing.  To be patient.  To exploit my imagination.  To listen. To observe.  To appreciate.  Writing is a journey of self-discovery.

I write stories of my attempts at parenting two teenage kids and about my lovely Wife and all my wonderful friends. I write about trying to win the battle of fat vs fit, about all the weird and wonderful places I’m fortunate to see and how I’m trying NOT to kill any of my colleagues. I guess I write about life and that’s like pulling on a string from a never-ending sweater.  Peeling away layer after layer of an infinite onion because life is anything but boring.12438949_10207473223285448_619001555974982951_n

People are much more than what we think we are.  We are greater than what others might tell us.  We have more potential than what we are made to believe.  And therefore everyone can achieve anything; it’s as simple as going out and getting it. As long as we have the guts, the passion, a constant attitude adjuster and the determination of a tantrum throwing toddler in a mall, we can be anything we want to be…

Even Batman.  Or Deadpool.


Thanks, Batman!

Hilarious blogger Deadpool (okay, okay, Pieter) WON the opportunity to blog here as the winner of one of our Sunday Scribble Challenges. I’m glad I got to share his blog with you, because it’s one of the FINEST collections of musings I have ever come across. You need to stop what you’re doing and GO READ IT NOW. Spend an hour and go through the posts. You won’t regret it, I promise.


 

Did you know YOU can win the chance to guest on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins too?? Just click #SSC on the toolbar above to check out the prompt for this week’s challenge. Participation is quick and easy, and a great way to procrastinate interact with your writing peers. 

These flash fiction challenges fuel creativity! They’re also a relatively painless pool for writers who’ve never posted their work to wet those feet, OR for established authors/bloggers to pick up a few new readers.


What are YOU waiting for? This week’s challenge wraps up Saturday. Unleash your writerly self.


 

J. L. Phillips/ Thoughts on Writing


1A quick word from J. A.–

Esteemed Author J. L. Phillips WON the opportunity to blog here, at Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, as the winner of our very FIRST Sunday Scribble Challenge. It’s a great pleasure to share this inspiring post about writing “rules” with you! Did you know YOU can win the chance to guest post too? Just click #SSC on the toolbar above to check out the prompt for this week’s challenge. Participation is quick and easy, and a great way to procrastinate interact with your writing peers. 

These flash fiction challenges fuel creativity! They’re also a relatively painless pool for writers who’ve never posted their work to wet those feet, OR for established authors/bloggers to pick up a few new readers.


What are YOU waiting for? This week’s challenge wraps up Saturday. Unleash your writerly self.


jackie3My Thoughts on Writing

You notice my title says, ‘My thoughts’, not advice, as I have none. These are just some thoughts that I had swirling in my head as I finished my edits on A Case of Deceit last year.

When I first starting seriously writing my first book, The Canine Caper and getting it ready to publish I made the mistake of reading all the posts I could find on how to write. It really was a mistake, as it scared the crap out of me! It not only scared me, it made me doubt I could write, it made me question if I should write. It also confused the hell out of me.

There was/is so much conflicting advice out there by so-called “experts”. There was advice from authors, publishers, agents, all sorts of people. There was advice from people who only wrote books on how to write. They never wrote an actual novel, or memoir, or autobiography. Just books on how to write…books. You can see why I was so confused.


An expert by definition is;
ex·pert
ˈekˌspərt/
noun
1. 1.
a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.
“experts in child development”
synonyms: specialist, authority, pundit; More

adjective
1. 1.
having or involving authoritative knowledge.
“he had received expert academic advice”
synonyms: skillful, skilled, adept, accomplished, talented, fine;


One day in the future I hope to become an expert on writing books. Because I would have lots of books that I have actually written and sold, and not just because I want to give out advice. quotescover-JPG-56

I’ve written over seven hundred posts on my blog, To Write is to Breath. That might make me an expert on blog posts, but not necessarily writing. Just because you have done a lot of something doesn’t mean you’ve done it well, or right. Then that puts another question out there…what IS the right way to write a book? Or is there even a right and wrong way? I mean, what’s right for one author may not be a suitable fit for another.

I have my own way of writing books. Another author has their way…etc. I don’t think you will find two people who write books the same exact way. There are going to be differences. It just makes sense as no two people are exactly alike. But does that make one person wrong and the other right? No, of course not. They do what works for them, just as I do.

book20review_65263741.jpgNow I understand that there are certain rules for grammar, spelling, sentence structure and so forth. That to me is totally different from writing a story. A story is made up of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. There must be some structure guidelines for doing that or it would just be chaos and make no sense whatsoever. I get that part.

It’s the story itself that I’m talking about. The story as a whole. I know that a story should have a beginning, middle and an end. A book should have an interesting beginning, a middle that has some kind of conflict, an end that resolves that conflict to the readers satisfaction. I get that, as I was a reader long before I was a writer.

I have read numerous articles on how to write books that drum that into you. Ok, I get it. They also stress on HOW to do it. You should do A, B, C….the problem is I don’t always do it that way. Sometimes I do C, B, A, instead. But, it works for me. These articles made me doubt that I should even be trying to write and that’s sad. There are so many good writers out there that truly have talent and read these rules and get scared off.

I’ve always been a rule breaker. I like to break rules. It makes life interesting. Some people give up before they even try because the rules scare them so much.

JackieWhy are there so many rules for writing? Who makes up these rules? Where did they first show up? And why do some people think they are set in stone and find fault in others that don’t follow the rules?

My friend Maddie Cochere, after I wrote her and told her I was scared to write anymore because of all these rules I was reading about, told me to stop reading the articles! She was quite firm in that directive too. She was also right. So I stopped. She encouraged me to just keep writing. So I did. I finished two books and have a third in the works. Maddie is one smart woman. I stopped reading those articles and never read another one.

So, maybe I do have one piece of advice for anyone who wants to write a book….
Just sit your butt down and do it!

Jackie2And don’t read about all the rules….

You can find my books on Amazon under JL Phillips:

The Canine Caper

A Case of Deceit