The Saga Ends…ish

So, I’ve finally finished Dark Moon. Again. For those of you unfamiliar with the story of me and this book, I’ll share. It started over a game when I was nine and evolved into a story idea too irresistable to ignore. I spent several years writing the first draft (if only I could find that original looseleaf!) that I finished when I was twelve. I still look back on that first effort, half plagiarized in the innocent and confused way of children, and cringe. Full of uninspired names, vomit-worthy plot “twists”, and every cliche I could pack into 58 pages, it was the masterpiece of someone delusional. But it was my first long work, and though I may cringe, I still feel a little pride to know that I wrote something then that has evolved into what I now call my first novel. From that first version from 2002 came the much more reasoned effort that was finished in 2004. Since then, seven more versions of the book have cluttered up my hard drive. The first was meant to be the last, the second a simple edit, the third a list of very important revisions, and then the game was on. Any writer plagued by perfectionism knows the peculiarly feverish joy of stamping out extra adverbs, cutting and pasting paragraphs, changing names ten times and then changing them back. Every time the nagging thought that “This isn’t good enough” would strike, up would be a new version. My friends and family would groan, but I would tell them only, “I had to. It was necessary.”

So you will forgive them their assured skepticism now, when I tell you that version 7–if I can curb my enthusiasm for reworking, the last version until it crosses the eyes of an editor–is complete. Oh, the random edit here and there may find its way onto the page, but I here vow not to open Darkmoon v8.

Unless it really, really needs it.

In the spirit of a happy conclusion, I give you an excerpt from what everyone I know (I’m sure) can only hope will be the final revision. Enjoy. Next stop: actually finishing those short stories…and finding a good literary magazine that accepts pieces with 8000+ words. Eep.

P.S. I also vow never to write a blog entry at 3:50 am again. Though =/= Thought. Excepts =/= Accepts. 3:50 am =/= the proper time for blog writing. Oh dear.

With exaggerated niceness, Lena drawled, “Oh yes, great Trent, please forgive my—what is that!” Her eyes popped. Behind Trent, standing stiffly next to her desk, was the man. The same stark coloring, the same electric eyes. With a cry, Lena clutched her hands to her head. A pang shot through it like someone had cracked a hammer between her eyes.

“What? Lena, what’s wrong?”

“There, behind you, idiot!”

Trent seemed to look directly at the man, but when he turned back around he was chewing his lip. “Lena,” he said lowly, “there’s nothing there. Is this what happened at school?”

“You kidding? There’s a—” She nearly choked. In the space of one blink, the man had vanished. The intense pounding in her head had dulled to a low throb. She breathed raggedly.

“Lena, once is an accident. Twice is something serious. Maybe we should call the doctor.”

“Says the boy who almost got himself killed ‘cause he didn’t tell anyone he was hurt ‘til his appendix almost blew up.”

“Are you taking something?”


“Lena, you’re—”

“Just tired,” she insisted. The last thing she needed was her parents thinking she was crazy.


Eyebrows knit, voice low, she growled, “You so much as hint to mom and dad and you’re dead.”

Trent stretched out across her bed and threw his head back with a loud scoff. “God, I’m not going to tell them. But you need to take it easy.” The scowl broke and he laughed quietly. “Yeah, little sis, you could definitely beat me up. Look at those muscles.” He poked a finger into one of her arms.

She scowled. “You’re such a loser. I don’t need muscles to punch you in the nose.”

“Yeah, yeah, just try.”

That dissolved into a very one-sided fight starting with Lena throwing a halfhearted punch at Trent’s shoulder and ending with Trent putting her into a headlock until she sighingly proclaimed that he was the coolest and most accomplished of the Angeleses. Still, when he left her room, Trent told her pointedly that if she started seeing invisible things again he was bringing her to the doctor, in a straightjacket if necessary. Lena grimaced, knowing that even though Trent would keep their talk to himself, he would not forget it. When she went to sleep that night her head still pulsed like a whole baseball team had used it for batting practice and for the first time in years, she pulled out her old night light and plugged it in, just in case she awoke in the night to a pair of soulless violet eyes.

Come Sweetly – Poem

What happens when you spend the better part of your day writing a paper on Alfred Lord Tennyson? You procrastinate by writing Tennyson-inspired poems, that’s what. Yet again, this is only a first draft.  It was a delightful procrastination tool, and I thought I’d share it here.  As with the others, newer versions will follow as I edit them.  Prepare yourselves for more of these.  We’re not out of the frying pan yet. 


Come sweetly, soft, and do tread lightly, dear.

Cruel thorns will tear your brow, your feet, your hair,

Sly rocks your ankles twist; no longer near

The sun, but frozen brambles, trees stripped bare,

Mud-choked the stream where even serpents fear

To sift.  Not e’en the frown of winter wear

The mountains’ mouths, but fleshless faces’ leer

O’er changeless plains, shaved of the seasons’ hair. 

These Nature’s bones, too long less hands to rear

Too-tender seeds, the phantom portraits bear

From careless youth, when dyads danced to hear

Spring’s feet approach out Hades’ new-shut lair. 

Lay down with me where late the stern frontier

By our hand smiled, ‘til absence wrought despair

To wilt our Eden, change our bed to bier. 

Our home we scorned to tend, your fate we share!

Our glass eyes other keepers bid beware,

That untilled soil can naught but tombs prepare. 

But let them know that we were happy here.

Inspiration 101

So, as you can see, I’ve been . . . how do you say it . . . M.I.A. for a few weeks. Yeah, sue me. No, really though, I’ve been meaning to write, but these past few weeks have been trying my nerves. Deciding to study in Rome was a huge decision and I wasn’t quite sure of it even at the moment I arrived (lack of sleep and sweltering heat might have helped with that). So, let’s just say that most of the energy I would have used for writing was being guzzled up by anxiety, terror, excitement, and various other emotions all bundled up into a little exploding ball of crazy.

Phew. So, that’s why the writing has been lacking. It’s hard to feel inspired when you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But, now that I’m in Rome, happy about it, and feeling much calmer, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite ways to get inspired and beat the evil beastie known as Writer’s Block.

  1. Listen to Music: By know, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, duh, I could have told you that.” But we’re not just talking any music here. The chicken dance is probably not going to inspire the next great novel. When you’re blocked, you need music that awakens strong emotions, because you can draw on these to write. So pick songs that make you feel electrically sad or happy or even scared. Pick songs that tell stories and think how they would translate into prose. Pick songs from your favorite movie soundtracks that have you thinking of plot. Then, listen to them and brainstorm. Just write down everything you think or feel. Something will catch.
  2. Take a Walk: Proven fact: exercise is good for your brain. All those endorphins will have you feeling happy and cut through any frustration clouding your brain. Plus, the scenery and sights you stumble upon along the way can spark great stories. Even something small may inspire you. So, pick a route that is scenic and interesting and just go wander for a while. Look carefully at what you pass. Look at people and what they’re doing and ask yourself, who are there? Where are they going? What are their life stories? Bring a pen with you in case you get a great idea!
  3. Look at a Plot: Pick one of your favorite books. Now, grab Wikipedia and your brain and go through the plot, looking at key events and turning points. Pick a major turning point and think to yourself, what would happen if this turning point happened in another way? What if Frodo and Sam never met Gollum? What if the poison Romeo bought was fake? Or look at characters. What if Harry Potter was more like Draco Malfoy, but with the same prophecy? What if Macbeth was a stupid brute? Looking at someo of these “What ifs” can inspire new story ideas.
  4. Write ahead: Already working on a story or novel? Let me guess. You hit a scene that’s just sort of filler or that you haven’t planned out and you have no interest in writing it, or you have no inspiration how. You want to work on the scene where the guy finally kisses the girl, or where the team of random adventurers encounters the nefarious villain, not your sultry heroine having a tough and plot-relevant day at the office or the adventurers getting stuck, yet again, in a bit of trouble. So, do it! Write the fun scenes! Sometimes, what you need to do to spike your interest in the rest of your plot is to get back into the story. Work on a scene that does inspire you, and then your creative powers will be activate and you can channel them into that tricky scene.
  5. Just write!: Nothing works? Still blocked? Then stop trying to pen perfect prose and just write. Something. Anything. Find a random writing prompt and write it out. Go to the last bit of your story and continue it. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect. It will probably be clunky, repetitive, and rough. That’s okay. You can edit later. But if you just muscle through it now, it will get your brain thinking about writing and, eventually, you’ll hit your stride and the words will come easily.

Well, writers, there’s your plan. Now go and write! (Says the hypocrite, I know, I know. But don’t you follow my bad habits. (: )

More Bizarre Writing Prompts

Because six websites just aren’t enough, and because I’m supposed to be reading my Personality Psych textbook right now, I decided to scrawl down a few mind-bending prompts of my own. Take them, try them, and tell me how they went! And if you’re brave enough, send me a snippet. Seriously, I’m not that frightening.

Also, feel free to send me prompts of your own for my next compilation. I’ll be happy to include and credit you!

The Prompts

1. Write a story in which a rubber, water-filled, tomato-shaped ball is a key plot device.

2. Think of your favorite food. It just walked through that door and pulled a gun on you. What do you do?

3. The characters from your favorite novel decide to go on strike. What is their platform? Who is their leader? What are their demands?

4. A man turns into a fluffy pink bunny rabbit every time there’s a thunderstorm.

5. A millionnaire is dying and reveals to his daughter that he had a life long affair with the accountant, who is the daughter’s real mother. Write the death scene. Do not mention the millionnaire, the accountant, or the affair–and no one can speak.

6. End a story with this sentence: Even after everything he had done, she still wished that she could rub his toes just one more time.

7. A man throws himself off of the roof of his house. Write the story from the point of view of his twelve-year-old dachshund.

8. A flight attendant, twenty-five bottle rockets, fifty yards of silver chain, a Barry Manilow discography box set, a bag of superbounce balls, and a disgruntled garbage truck driver named Stacy. What’s going on here?

9. You are a superhero. Your sidekick is a painting of Elvis on black velvet. Your arch enemy just blew up the state building. How do you proceed?

10. Pick one of your favorite novels. Rewrite the plot as a rap song, a country song, a rock song, and a medieval-style ballad.

Happy writing!

Bizarre Writing Prompts

Let’s put it this way.  I’m sick of writing prompts that go along the lines of “Write a diary for your main character” or “He never realized she would come after him” or “Write a story that uses the words paper, copy machine, and lawyer.”  Seriously, people?  We’re writers.  Is that the best we can come up with?  All those cute prompts are fine if you’re blocked beyond hope, but if you’re like me, you take one look, think “Hm, that’s mildly interesting,” and twitch a little bit while your brain turns to mush.  Forget outside of the box.  I want outside the planet.  So, I scoured the web for something more unusual. Here are a few sites to stretch your brain.

1. Writing Companion // Rating: 3/5
This site is pretty hit or miss. Some of the prompts are pretty interesting, and others are just so-so. If you really need to get writing, however, they have good ideas for ways to pull great ideas from mundane sources. Type “Writing Prompt” into the search box and see if anything strikes you.

Sample Prompt: Collect random sentences from magazines, newspaper articles, stories, etc. Unify them into one story.

2. Story Spinner // Rating: 3/5
Click the wheel and you’ll get a setting, an opening line, and four words that you have to include. A little commonplace sometimes, but it’s a good way to get something started if you’re stuck, and some of the combinations are so ridiculous that you can’t fail to laugh . . . and then write all about it.

Sample Prompt: Setting for your story: During intermission / Starting phrase for your story: I remember spitting / Four words you must include in your story: Yard, Mush, Diagram, Drip

3. Easy Street Prompts // Rating: 4/5
A great list of hundreds of minimalist prompts. Some are short, evocative phrases and others are bizarre pictures (you know what they say about pictures and words) and videos. With the creepy black background that already has me thinking surreal, it’s a great place to find something that will spark an instant story in your head.

Sample Prompt: Phrase: fashionably excommunicated. Picture: a blurred out house about to be wrecking-balled.

4. Director’s Bureau // Rating: 4/5
The ultimate minimalist. The whole site is a javascript generator: three dials with random words. Click the button and the dials will spin around to give you a three-word phrase. Most of the combinations are pretty bizarre and can bring up some vivid mental images, but others fit together too well. Thankfully, generating new combos takes all of three seconds (as your time-wasting blogger knows all too well).

Sample Prompts: Do-it-yourself torture game; Inexpensive nuclear garden; Secret foam art

5. Leucrota Press // Rating: 5/5
The blog itself is a great resource for all things writing, and this short list of prompts has some of the most unusual I’ve ever seen. Though they may make you cringe, squirm, or say “What the hell?”, they’ll definitely test your imagination. But with a title like ‘Disturbing Writing Prompts,’ what would you expect?

Sample Prompt: You’re falling asleep at your desk when your nose starts itching. You sneeze, and an earthworm slips out.

6. McSweeney’s // Rating: 5/5
A little tamer than Leucrota, so you’re not as likely to screech or gag, but just as interesting. This short list ranges from the very unusual to the very tricky, forcing you to envision bizarre situations or to write about a scene without mentioning its key components.

Sample Prompt: A husband and wife are meeting in a restaurant to finalize the terms of their impending divorce. Write the scene from the point of view of a busboy snorting cocaine in the restroom.

Inspired yet? Then do what I’m supposed to be doing and go write!

P.S. Have another addition to this list? Post it here or shoot me a note. Cheers!

Bye Bye Blackbird

So, the birds have flown.  Two stories have been sent out to three literary magazines.  Well, okay, technically two literary magazines, but there will be a third tomorrow when I get off my slighty-less-than-motivated backside and mail it.  Perhaps a few more submissions will follow tonight or tomorrow, if I can find something that fits.  But as exciting as it is to hit that Send button or to seal it, stamp it, and ship it off, it’s also (read carefully) scary as hell. 

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve sent out queries.  In its various iterations, Dark Moon 1 has been queried probably half a dozen times, and sadly, no bites yet.  But as much as rejection letters make your stomach twist like spaghetti wound too tight, there’s nothing quite like the half-sick, half-stoked brain haze you get when you send the thing in.  You want to be optimistic and all that, but if you’re a happy cynic like me, your brain keeps poking all sorts of possible disasters into your little happy-bubble. 

Best case (okay, fine, best case after it being published and you becoming the next J. K. Rowling) it gets published and you realize, “Oh, wait, that’s actually absolute trash and now an obscene amount of people are going to see it.”  Take my poem that got into the Juggler.  I had a sneaking feeling that it would, because I had just found all sorts of bits to edit a few weeks after I submitted it.  But hey, Scenario 1 isn’t that bad.  You’re published.  P-u-b-l-i-s-h-e-d.  I’d take it any day. 

Think about it.  If you really are published, or just passed around the editor’s office, a small piece of your soul (yes, melodramatic as that sounds, your soul) is now floating around the world for the scrutinizing eyes of dozens.  Or hundreds.  Or thousands.  Doesn’t matter if you’re a suburban housewife with three kids and your book is about androgynous space aliens who speak in clicks.  You eke out of every word as sure as if you’d given them a detailed diary of your thoughts.  Anonymity is dead. 

But the truly scary part?  Sending that query is final.  It’s done.  The whole time before you send it, your future can be whatever you want to be.  Anything can happen with you and your book or your story until then, because until that moment, it’s all in your head.  But as soon as you send it, your life is on a path, on track for triumph or tragedy.  Once it’s done, you’re open to rejection. 

What keeps you hanging on to that hope is that maybe one of those little birds will land somewhere.