For a short work week with a vacation (that kinda wasn’t), it was a busy week last week that made me remember some reasons why I do what I do. I won’t even begin to touch on Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! this week. Because a promise I made a few weeks ago appeared. I told my friend, Crystal, I’d help a 5th Grader she knew with a school “passion project”. Apparently the kids were assigned to interview someone who does what they think they want to do when they grow up, this 5th Grader, we’ll call her K, wants to be a writer. So she came up with SIX good questions that her dad emailed me. After trying to do good answers – they solid, open-ended questions – I asked her if I could post the interview on the blog. She agreed (and I hope she gets a good grade). She did tell me in her thank you note that her dad typoed question #5 – it was supposed to be “did” not “do” – but answer is the same…
1. Who was your role model as a writer and why?
This is a harder question than you might know. I didn’t have just one role model as a writer, there were many who influenced me over the years. But, here we go… one of my biggest role models as a writer actually wrote and created television. His name was Gene Roddenberry and he created Star Trek way back in the day. I learned a lot about story structure and pacing from episodes of Star Trek. The show also had novels called media tie in books that kept the universe alive in book form.
As for books, some of my first memorable reading was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern and Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books. They led me into fantasy – as well as the Elfquest graphic novels by Richard and Wendy Pini. But some of the things I really loved from a young age were mystery series that were older than I was – Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. These were books written by SEVERAL women over the decades under one name – but it introduced me more to ensembles and how to keep characters consistent.
2. Did anyone tell you couldn’t be a writer? What did they say and what did you do?
No one told me flat out that I couldn’t be a writer, but they weren’t overly supportive about it – but let me clarify that none of those people were my parents. My mom and dad have always supported me and my writing. In fact, my mom’s a writer now that she’s retired. It was other family members and friends. They all had that “Oh, that’s nice…what’s your backup plan.” Or after I started published, they said, “Oh, you’re actually like GOOD at this.” Like they’d just been humoring me.
I even had a woman in college say (when I told her I wanted to write professionally), “Oh I hope you marry well.” Implying I would need someone to financially support me. That was uncool.
3. What first got you interested in writing?
I am an only child, and for a while we didn’t have a lot of neighbors. So I read a lot. Made up stories and scenarios for dolls and toys to act out because I didn’t have a lot of other people to play with. And one day I was a reading a book and thought to myself, “I can do this. I want to do this.”
4. Do you have any tips for a new writer?
The essential tip is to keep at it. Don’t stop. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. The other is a reminder that you don’t have to be perfect. In fact, most of what you write will be garbage, and that’s okay. In fact, if you don’t write the garbage? You never get to the good stuff, because the good stuff is what happens when you start revising and editing. Gemstones start out as dirty, ragged rocks that don’t shine until they’re cut and polished – writing is the same way. Also? Don’t think you have write epic tomes right away. Start small – short fiction or small amount of words every day just to get the muscle memory and habit going. Just go.
5. Do you ever think writing was not for you and what changed your mind?
Only about every six months. I’ll go through a dry spell where it’s just painful get a handful of words written in a day or I’ll haven’t had anything sell for a while and I think, “Yep, this is it. I’m done. They’ve all figured out that I have no talent or no story to tell. It’s over.”
Then you know what happens? A story sells, or a person at a convention – or another writer or artist – asks what I’m working on or when the next piece of a project is coming out. Or even a lovely student asks me to talk about what it’s like to be a writer. Then it all comes back.
6. What are some of the pros about being a writer?
Wow, another good question. Pros to being a writer:
The creative jolt of hanging out with other writers. We get each other – and it’s so important to not feel alone with the struggles.
Seeing a person holding your book and reading it when they don’t know you’re there – they do know you’re there and don’t care.
Tangible ones – selling books to complete strangers at conventions. You kind of know your friends and family will support you, but having people you never met buy a book is awesome. Both because it’s money, but also because you have the opportunity to change a person’s perspective for just a little while.
Seeing your name on a cover – book or magazine – is the biggest rush because it proves that you can do this thing you’ve loved for so long – and other people also see the value in it.
The money for selling a story or a book is nice – but it’s never going to be a lot unless you’re in the top 1%. But this is not something anyone does to get rich – no matter what TV and Movies say.
Her dad read the interview and has been trying to get K to read Dragonriders of Pern for years, maybe now she will. And only a couple of days after I wrote this up, I met Wendy and Richard Pini at Spectrum, which is another part of the “interesting” week. Maybe I added them because I was thinking about Spectrum, but I did read the first graphic novels in either 8th or 9th grade when I was firming up what genre I wanted to write (I decided to be a writer when I was 10 – so about the same age as K.) Full circles, man. Full circles.
Serious, K? If you don’t get a good grade, it’s me not you. 😎
No pen blog today. Heading home from a wonderful weekend with artists. Will try to post something tomorrow.
This week’s strory…live from Spectrum Art Live!
Words: Halloween, refrigerator, pier, strength, voices, surprise, contribute, bird, iron, requirements
The last moment of childhood was right there, staring me down as I held open the refrigerator door. The voices in my head whispered that I’d been so good with my iron will. But now…but now that evil little bird voice told me to go ahead.
“Dig in. Try it,” it said. “It’s quality control. It’s practically requirement.”
I had to resist. I HAD TO. This…I knew it had been a mistake to attempt it, but I was supposed to contribute! It’s part of the deal to get invited to the Halloween Party. This was the party. But no one got in without bringing something…special. Something unique.
So with great resolve I removed my offering from the fridge and wrapped it for travel. Then donning the cloak to my costume to ward off the hill of the damp evening, I headed out into the night air.
I dodged families and roving bands of children on their endless quest for candy. They had no idea what else went on in the darkness. Before I knew it, I was at the pier. To my surprise, I paused uncertain if I wanted to take the last step across the threshold. I strengthened my resolve and moved into the crowd.
“She’s here! She’s here! Did she bring it?” The voices and whispers surrounded me.
I whipped the wrapping from the container. The elixir bubbled and glowed. The last moments would prolong ours. For at least another year.
Word Count: 244
I’m in the process of getting my mind back in the game after my hiatus week. Well…HAH. Last week was “hiatus” solely because all brain power was focused on the Day Job. We had an issue where I finally got to put some of my new Public Information Officer training into practice while putting the final prep on the department’s second largest (but higher profile) externally-facing event.
I was “Con Chair” for this Half Day, 2-track programming event. We had an “opening ceremony” (city leadership speakers and key note), two breakout sessions with three presenters each (6 panels), and “closing ceremony” which was a product demonstration. We had about 100 people who out rank me in so many ways (including my boss’s boss’s boss who was also one of my speakers). Everything had to go as smoothly as possible…SO NO STRESS THERE. Nope… and yeah, I totally checked my blood pressure that week (NOT). I took my meds, but I didn’t check the readings, don’t yell at me.
But everything is done now. I’m in “clean up” mode before hitting the road tomorrow for Spectrum Art Live! This is an artist/art convention. I have nothing to do there but be there. I’m not sure how to do that anymore – so like any good small press author (heck may also apply to big press authors) I will have a small box of books in the trunk of the car. Just in case someone asks, “Hey, where can I find your work.” And also… on Amazon in electronic format. Oh, and in just in case you were wondering, I can, indeed, take credit cards.
I’m totally treating Spectrum Art Live as the vacation it’s going to be. I might offer to spell artists who have booths/tables alone so they can have a break, but mostly I’m going to find a comfy chair in the (coffee) bar to talk to people, regroup, recharge, and write fiction. Because I need that. To be around other types of creatives will help recharge THIS creative and perhaps help me to relax – not that I know what that really means (just ask my yoga instructor and manicurist). And I’d really like to have that kind of energy back.
Until then, I are chore-like things that has to be done before hitting the road – like finishing the housecleaning for the dogsitter. Snuggling said dogs.
It’s a recovery week from a super busy week at the Day Job last week and prep for going to Spectrum Art Live on Thursday. So it seems like a good time for a novelty pen that I picked up…somewhere. I don’t even remember – maybe World Market. Maybe Party City. I think I found it around my birthday – so well outside the traditional Halloween realm.
This sucker is super heavy duty. It’s not your basic cheap plastic. It’s a solid polymer – maybe clay? It’s not stone, but has a heft like stone. The skull is molded with the barrel, so you’d break something (like a bone) if you broke it off. If you NEEDED a pen that also worked as a weapon, this one would do some damage as a sap.
The ink is a fine point black ball point ink with a stainless steel point. The ink flows well and has a smooth action. The diameter of the barrel is minutely tapered and relatively comfortable if you’re okay with the overall weight. It’s about 6″ long, so it’s long enough to be comfortable. It’s a bit top heavy with the skull top.
If you want to make a statement? This pen will do just that. I picked it up to make sure I got one – and figuring if I didn’t I’d end up with four as gifts.
1. How does it work? – 1 – It’s better than I expected. The flow of ink is nice. The length and diameter are good, and it’s better balanced than expected
2. Look and feel – 0.5 – It’s not bad for a novelty pen. It’s top heavy. That can be tiring. There’s no cap, so take that into consideration
3. Material – 1 It’s a fun novelty pen. It’s a solid polymer. There’s no real breaking of this.
4. Overall Design – 1 – It’s an awesome skull pen that writes well and can be a makeshift weapon if needed.
5. Price Point – 0.5 – I don’t remember how much it was, but I want to say about $4. Which for a novelty is a bit much, but it’s not going to break. I will have to figure out if I can get the ink out and how to refill it.
4 out of 5 bronze pencils.
I am getting to this today. Everything that piled up to cause a hiatus week was done yesterday. Huzzah! You’ll notice a note at the bottom. This was my judgement on the story when I wrote it. Not all stories are going to be good or strong – and for anyone starting out, just know that it’s okay. There will be OH SO MANY words of crap to get through before the good ones. 😎
Here’s this week’s story:
Prompt: Wrapping Up a Business Trip
Words: bar, laptop, insect, Germany, baseball, nervous, embark, protest, swing, sentence
I was a bit nervous being in a bar in Germany on St. Patrick’s Day. I mean Germans take their beer even more seriously than the Irish. Besides it’s too dark to notice if they deigned to color it green. I took a swig and it didn’t matter. Besides, I’m not really Irish.
I opened my laptop to stream a baseball game before heading to the airport and home. I couldn’t wait to embark on that journey.
“Brother, can you spare a sentence?”
I blinked, coming back to the environment in which I sat and not the virtual world of sports. Surely my basic German had failed me. “Excuse me?”
Then I realized who was speaking. The guy was short, like really short, but like a Christmas elf. “Can you insect me a moment?”
“Do you speak another language? My German is…small.”
“Ack, yes!” the little dude switched to a thickly accented English. “I need a favor. You’re heading back close to my homeland. I would like you to swing me home.”
Something rang in my head. “I don’t know…” I protested weakly.
“Ack, there will be a pot of gold in it for you.”
Then I knew I was in trouble. Nothing good ever happened with those words.
Word Count: 209
Written: 3/17/17 and 3/19/17 (weak)
I’m just going to call this a hiatus week on the blogs. I might get a story up on Friday, but yeah. Not happening.
I’ve been planning an event for work that’s in 48 hours. Eek. And other stuff has happened that makes the day job even more…adventurous at the moment.
So… see y’all next week.
Prompt: A Day in the Life
Words: identical, pot roast, decorate, sign, abuse, library, amnesia, butcher, submit, sensation
“Have you had this experience before?”
Kayla blinked twice, slowly at the councilor. Did she really have to submit to such a stupid question? “Um, no. I’ve never before found myself in a butcher shop holding a pot roast next to a dead body with no recollection of how I got there or why.”
“You realize that true amnesia is rare.”
Kayla bit her lip and scanned the library-like room with shelves filled with books. The pain sensation kept her from blurting out something snide to the court-appointed councilor. If she were trying to make distrustful people comfortable, she’d likely decorate the same way.
“Okay,” she said slowly. “But there have been nearly identical reports of other instances like mine. Have any of them remembered?”
The councilor gave no sign of whether or not he heard – much less believed – her. Kayla wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt but her trust issues now had trust issues.
“Maybe you should spend your time with the profilers.” Kayla was on a roll now. “What kind of person inflicts this kind of abuse and shouldn’t you be looking for him?”
“Perhaps. Or we could just forget this ever happened and see what else we can accomplish?”
The room and Kayla’s consciousness went black.
Word Count: 212
Written: 3/14 – 15/2017
It’s been tough week so far. Really tough. I’ve got a major stressor at work that will be over one way or another next week – and went beyond what I thought the stresses of that were going to be. Compounded with that there were about 24 hours of super crappy (because according to Michael Stevens of VSauce there’s no such thing as suck) that involved losing TWO people who’ve played big parts in my life.
Saturday evening I saw a post by Alan Balthrop that said, “I say ye, Casey Sledge.” My brain freaked out. I couldn’t finish my thought – because I blurted – in order to explain to Jimmy while I searched for more details. Jimmy hadn’t learned – like I did in 2016 – that “I say ye…” is Alan-speak for someone is dead. And this was sudden and unexpected.
I can’t tell you when Casey became part of my life. I think it was early 2000s likely at one of Teresa Patterson’s House Pegasus Holiday parties when I was part of her writers’ group. He was also part of the conventions I was part of, and then I was really aware of him when I started working with Jimmy at Scarborough Renaissance Festival in 2006. He took over the music track of FenCon a few years back, so we’d see him at FenCon meetings. In fact, I went to the last meeting when I didn’t have to (my role has changed there) just a couple of weeks ago – and now I’m glad I did because that was the last time I saw Casey.
Casey was quick (and thorough) with the hugs. They didn’t call him Bearhugger for nothing. He was known far and wide as a “gentle giant” – for he was both a gentle, tender dude but also a towering one. He had his struggles over the last few years with employment and other things – like so many of us. And he loved Scarborough (and belly dancers or any dancers). He was fiercely loyal to the royalty of Scarborough and didn’t care for a recent change. He sang for Shannon Hopps a song of his own writing when she retired. He railed when news came down that Richard Patterson would no longer be playing King Henry. Because no matter what – he was loyal and brave (he served our country in the past) and will be terribly missed.
Then on Monday I heard word that Rita Keir, one of the strongest women I’ve ever known, finally lost the struggle with a rare lung condition that most medical professionals thought should’ve killed her decades ago. I met her in the late 1980s when I started going to McKinney Bible Church in Fort Worth. She and Chuck, her husband, worked with the college kids and the singles ministries. I knew their kids, Rich and Sharon. She was a mighty prayer warrior, a surrogate mother, a mentor, and a friend.
There would be itchy moments in my life when things wouldn’t be comfortable, and hard times that had a wash of peace. Those were the moments when I knew (or was told later) that Rita had been praying for me. She developed the prayer closet at MMBC. She’s prayed for us all – especially the missionaries. She guided so many women in their walks with the Lord.
Heaven is richer for having these two in their midst, and our earthly world is a little dimmer.
This is going to be a completely ridiculous post because it’s been a rough weekend and challenging day thus far. We lost a good friend unexpectedly on Saturday. The world seems a bit dimmer without Casey Sledge in it. So, to try to return a bit of a smile and light – I give you the Tokyo Pen Shop Hedgehog Pencil Sharpener.
Seriously? Except for the potential rudeness of where you put the pencil, how adorable is this? These sweet sharpeners have a dual sharpener – one for the slightly smaller (probably hex) wooden pencils, the other is the slightly wider round pencils. The blades are sharp, giving a good point without twisting the lead or breaking it off immediately. I also started with a brand new pencil and felt it pointed the lead quickly and easily. I’ve used some that feel like they take a third of the pencil to get to a point – this doesn’t do that. Nor did it over twist or break the lead.
The body of the hedgehog holds the shavings. It’s easy but not too easy to open the reservoir (can’t say break open the hedgehog) to empty the shavings, but the pieces are also secure. And it’s just so freakin’ cute! It comes in an array of colors and styles and is available across the internet.
These sharpeners run $2 on Tokyo Pen Shop – which is a decent price for a functional novelty that makes me smile every time I look at it.
1. How does it work? – 1 It’s one of those things that if you love wooden pencils and functionally adorable things you have to have
2. Grip and feel – 0.5 – The body is wide and it has lumps to simulate hedgehog spines, but it’s not awkward to use.
3. Material – 1 It’s strong quality plastic with decent metal-bladed sharpeners that seats securely.
4. Overall Design – 1 – It’s super cute and functions amazingly well.
5. Price Point – – It’s not outrageous. It’s $2 on Tokyo Pen Shop. That’s cool. Nothing to break the bank over if you also like cute. But it’s still a good price, and available elsewhere on the internet.