Gummy Snacks Fuel My Lit

 

That’s right, gummy snacks.

First, I’m going to pat myself on the back for a second. I have written, as of this moment, over 5,000 words of fiction! WHAT WHAT!?!!?!? *RAISE THE ROOF!!!!*

(do people still do that?)

(Fuck it, I’m doing it.)

(yeeeaaah, that’s the stuff…)

Anyhoo, yes, this post is about gummy snacks. Because I really could not have written those 5,000 words without them.

I didn’t always love gummy snacks–mostly because my mother had basically banned them from my childhood. Pure sugar, nothing of value, and she’s not a big “snack” person. If we were eating, we were eating. Something prepared, something made with love. Gummy snacks were not prepared. Neither were chips or popcorn (though we had that on Friday evenings) or any other traditional snack you can think of. Food was a meal, and snacks were not meals.

Ohhh, but when I went to college, the rules of my household (and my mother’s tyrannical grocery shopping) were gone from my life. My “Freshman 15” was actually a loss (because the food in the caf was, in a word, atrocious) but I did ignite a passion for one particular snack: Welches’ Fruit Snacks. I was a political science major, but Freshman year at a liberal arts college is all about core classes anyway. One of those core classes was a particularly well lead English lit course. I loved it. And the reading schedule was rigorous, but I didn’t care at all. Snacking and reading go hand in hand, and there have actually been studies that show that chewing something like gum while taking assessments or studying can help brain function and recall. Not interested in the various chips or super-sweet confections in the dorm vending machines, I chose fruity snacks on a whim one night. They’ve been my snack of choice for writing and reading ever since.

I certainly know that i love the flavor of fruity gummy snacks, but I also think that there is a texture element that I like, too. They are soft, so they don’t make an annoying crunchy sound. They eventually disintegrate, so you can swallow and make room for more. And they don’t run out of flavor instantly like gum does. You enjoy it till it’s gone. Since your mind is free from such worries as “eww, my fingers are sticky” or “eww, the flavoring on the chips is all over my fingers and I can’t type/turn the page” or “augh, I have to freaking spit out my gum” or “augh, there is chocolate all over the place” or even “I can’t put my chocolate bar down on [surface name here] because the chocolate will stain everything,” you get to concentrate solely on what you are consuming or creating.

My one vexation regarding gummy snacks?

They come in packages of, like, five.

Seriously! You can only seem to get the adult-sized gummy snacks at Costco and we only go there once a month, so I’ve been stuck buying the piece-meal packages that are targeted for children. Yeah, they come in interesting shark shapes that are fun to ponder. Yeah, they have weird and interesting flavors that are nice to savor. But why, for the love of God, do they come in packs of maybe 6?

and then you only get 10 little packets per box!!!

WHAT IN THE WHAT!?!?!?!!?

I feel like I’d be pissed about this even if I were 7 or 8.

So, when I was really getting down with writing the prequel for Before Her Time, (which I’ve tentatively named Accountability, and I’ll have an excerpt tomorrow) I’d be plowing through like three little packets! I was out of those suckers by Wednesday.

I didn’t panic. The words still flowed and the stories were still completed.

But the process didn’t have the same comfort that it would have had.

I know that I should probably consume less sugar when I’m writing. I feel like all writers have their vices. I can’t, however, claim that fruity snacks are any better than alcohol, as we know diabetes and obesity in this country have certainly ravaged this great country. I’m not morbidly obese, but I probably shouldn’t be eating a million pieces of fruity snacks.

But we all need fuel for our lit. And gummy snacks are my current fuel.

I’ll try to switch to water at some point. Maybe.

 

What fuels your lit? Is it a terrible vice or something healthy and wonderful?

Talk of the Muse: The Atlantic Ocean

 

Last week, I wrote about how much I love Westerns. CBS Sunday Morning did a feature on the upcoming Lone Ranger movie and I was glued to my television. I can’t. freaking. wait. And yes, I’m way too young to have seen the original series, and I don’t recall seeing too many in reruns (I was an 80’s baby and a 90’s kid), but I recall the “Hi-ho Silver!” and the mask and the hat and they make me happy. I’m super pumped.

When I wrote last week’s post, I said that one of the things that attracts me to Western living is the idea of being land-locked. No ocean around. I’ve never lived more thank 200 miles away from the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic Ocean means “home” for me…

I was recently on a whale watch in Boston Harbor, and while seeing the freaking whale was inspiring enough, I couldn’t help but think about the beautiful  body of water around me. If you think for a moment about what the Atlantic Ocean has seen, the history that it has witnessed, it can simply be staggering. It is the Witness Ocean, the ocean of birth, the ocean that was created by great movement but also the carrier of great movement. It remains formidable and yet so very accessible, it gives so much to us and takes just the same amount. The Atlantic Ocean is instrumental in our past, present and future. It’s an amazing body of water, one that I feel very connected to.

I’ve never written anything in a beach or ocean setting–while I absolutely love fishing and love sailing, I’ve never found reason to write a story that centrally involves marine life. This could be because the Atlantic is a place of leisure and I don’t want to mix work and play? Maybe because I have reverence for the place? Maybe it’s because as much as I love to visit, I don’t know anything about the sea-side lifestyle.

Here is what I do know–I love that body of water the way that I love the God who made it. I fear it, I’m in awe of it, I could possibly be known to worship it. It moves me. It haunts me. I don’t necessarily need to use the body of water itself in my writing, but I do need to use the feelings that it gives me in my writing. The sinking feeling I get when I think I might be caught up in a rip tide. The goosebumps I get when I smell salt in the air when I’m approaching the coast. The knot in my stomach when I think about the ancestors lost of the seas. The tear in my eye when I think of the cruelty committed and endured by those who crossed it. The flutter in my heart when I think of the history and change that it has witnessed. The pride that I feel when thinking of the battles, won and lost, upon it. The satisfaction that I feel when I face the rising morning sun and know that I am also facing it. These are the things that must become settings, characters, scenes, chapters… These are the feelings that will propel my work. 

I know that talking about the Muse as if it is an embodied thing is quite overdone and can be a bit trite. But if I could point to an earthly manifestation, the Atlantic Ocean would surely be it.

And that being said, I’m going to use this rare quiet moment to bang out a few words for a short story.

What moves you? What stirs your soul? What is the one thing on Earth that you can rely on to give you a feeling, of any kind? How do you use it in your writing?

 

Talk of the Muse: I Flippin’ Love Westerns

I’ve been writing a lot of genre fiction for my weekly flash fiction challenges. When I started out on this crazy writing journey, I really thought that Lit Fic was going to be my region of choice. I love to read genre fiction, but I just don’t know if I’m up to writing genre fiction. I don’t necessarily love world/culture/language building. It doesn’t turn me on creatively.

But I was reminded this week about a genre that I really do love: Westerns. I love westerns.

Now, don’t freak out, I’m not saying that all of my books and short stories are going to be set on the dusty trail…I’m just saying that there is something about Westerns that make me happy, and I’ve been spending the day thinking about it.

The thing that is cool about the “Wild West” setting, for me, is the following:

1) The newness and potential of life. Every person in these little towns is contributing to a brand new society, with new rules and traditions, and that is very potent.

2) Trampling on something ancient: These towns were created on land that was traditionally used by tribes that had been there for eons. The encroachment and disrespect of the many, many newcomers is palpable, and makes for interesting conflict (and strange bedfellows)

3) The solitude of the cowboy is something I’m jealous of. Maybe it’s because I have two babies and I can’t even take a crap alone right now, but I love the idea of waking up alone (but for a horse, maybe) and going to bed alone and being pretty much alone in between.

4) The land is unspoiled. It’s dusty and bare, but it’s unspoiled. No pollution, no trash, not urban sprawl. It’s you, the sky, the land. That is beautiful, even sexy.

5) There is no ocean, either. I’ve never in my life lived more than 100 miles away from the Atlantic ocean. It is my anchor. It is a bit of a muse for me (next week’s post!). The thought of being landlocked, no water in sight, no roaring ocean nearby, is unsettling to me…and that feeling gets me creative.

6) Lawlessness is sexy. I love law and order. I was a political science major in college–policy and law are hobbies of mine (as I write this, I’m watching analysis on today’s SCOTUS rulings…). The thought of pieces of land where law, real law, has little influence is incredible to me. The Wild West is the State of Nature…and that is fun for me.

7) It’s freaking dirty, grimy, gross… dust everywhere, no one takes a regular bath, no one is really washing their clothes, there is barely any teeth brushing…I mean, come on…

8) It’s quite integrated: I mean, yeah, we know that there were a lot of White people in the west, but there were also Chinese immigrants, Black former slaves (and Buffalo Soldiers, and cowboys), immigrants from Germany and Ireland, Mexican citizens (who were technically still in their land until after the Mexican-American war), and other folks who wandered into that area (like some French folk…and others). What a rare mixing bowl! Must have made for interesting conversations over poker.

I could sit and watch a Western at any time. They are just entertaining to me. I don’t necessarily want to write westerns, but if I could distill these elements that make up westerns into something else, something in my voice, something in worlds that I create (in any genre…maybe even lit fic), then something powerful may come out of it.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to see if I can add one of these elements to my flash fic, due Friday. Be there or be square!

What genres do you love? Do you write them or do you use them for inspiration? If you could distill a genre that you love to read but don’t love to write, what elements would you get?

Thinking About Inspiration: Metaphorical Invisibility

 

Are you my reader? I’m looking for you. There are many things that I love to write about, and I especially love to write about the people who fade into our societal background.

What writer doesn’t love to people watch? One of the best part of living in a major metropolitan area is that I get to watch people all day long. I’m always looking for the unseen people, the people who sort of fade into the background. This is a very small amount of people: I’m not looking for the beautiful people, obviously, but I’m not looking for the obviously abnormal people, either.

I’m a person who fades into the background. I’m a well behaved Black person. When I pin my locs back and put on a conservative outfit, people don’t look at me twice in this city. I’m a “regular” person not worthy of anyone’s thought or look. I often only become “visible” when I’m misbehaving in some way–when I become the “angry” black woman that people expect me to become. Then, suddenly, people see me. This is also the case for when I do something extraordinary–end up in a room where I’m not “supposed” to be because the usual demographics are exclusive. Or if I open my mouth to speak and people hear something that they absolutely were not expecting. I’ve learned how to turn on and off my invisibility over the years. I’ve also learned where my invisibility works and doesn’t work.

I hate being invisible. When I look at other overlooked people, I sometimes see the same frustration. There are people out there who are trying to break their way through the invisibility that society has given them. Some work especially hard at it, making themselves ostentatious in appearance simply to get that glimpse of notice. Others simply speak up and out, looking beyond themselves and toward the people who have put them in the “unimportant” box.

Left, still, are the others. The people who don’t know that they’ve faded into obscurity and the people who want to be there. I think both of these groups are interesting. What do you do as an invisible person? What do you see? If you’ve accepted it, what power do you gain by being ignored by your peers and community? If you don’t know it, when is the tipping point when you realize that you’ve been walking the earth as little more than the dust under your community’s feet? What are your thoughts? Does a pathology grow?

I’m curious about the invisible because I think that some of the invisible people in our society have figured out ways to become visible in new and explosive ways. Why I don’t necessarily write those with specific mental illness, I think that quirky people are interesting and that those quirks should be explored.

What are the things that make human’s the same and yet different from their communities? When do communities silently part ways with the people within them, discarding them but never expelling them? Who are the people in our communities who are visible and who are the ones who are invisible? Why do people actively choose to hide in plain sight, and what are they doing behind the veil that we’ve put up?

These some of the questions that I explore in my writing. These are some of the questions that get me really going.

Are you my reader? I really hope you are! Stick around and see what I’m doing!

Thinking About Inspiration: Relationships

 

Are you my reader? I’m looking for you. There are so many things that I love to think about, and one of them is what connects people to one another.

One of my favorite book series when I was a pre-teen/teen was Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming Series, a series I read soon after I read Ender’s Game (and the rest of the Ender series), which was a life-changing, and indeed, life-building experience for me. Having attached to my first “favorite” author, I read the Homecoming series. While many of the major plot points and themes have now been lost to memory, I do remember one element of the series that I thought intriguing, something that I see in myself.

There was a character in the series named Hushidh, who was the older sister to Luet, who just happened to be the love interest of the series’ main character, Nafai. Luet was a waterseer, a person connected to God (the Oversoul) through prophetic visions. I thought that Luet was incredibly interesting, and, being of a certain impressionable age, I wanted to take on a lot of characteristics: her wisdom, her grace, her virtue. I decided I’d name my first daughter Luet, because I decided that the name was beautiful. Basically, I was an idiot when I was 14. My step-father, who also read the series, thought that I should pay more attention to Hushidh, an important, but relatively minor, character. He thought that she and I had a lot in common. Being 14 and wanted to be the star of every show, it would be inconceivable that I should have something in common with the minor and less important sister.

I was an idiot back then.

Hushidh stuck with me because she and I do share a few things. Her character has always been something that I’ve found intriguing, and that allure is something that I think about when I create my characters and, more importantly, when I start writing dialogue.

Let me explain:

In the world that Orson built, Hushidh was considered a “raveler.” A Raveler could see the connections between all of the people in her world through visions of threads between them. She could see which threads were strong, which threads were weak, and she knew how to use words and actions could weaken or “break” those threads as the group needed. She could strengthen them, too, with words and actions. This seemed like such a minor thing at the time I was reading the books. There is nothing sexy about knowing how people can interact or to know that some bonds between people were unbreakable.  Who wants that in comparison with her sister, who could freaking interfact with God.  But Hushidh’s ability was exceptionally helpful and important in many key parts of the series. Indeed, the power to read people, to discern relationships between people, to pinpoint just the right thing to say is an incredible ability.  So many of the powerful people in the world we live in are not the ones who we see on TV. The people in the background, the advisers and the confidants, the thinkers and the knowers, the ones who are the keepers of information, those are the most powerful people on Earth. Hushidh was one of those people. She was the one who could see what people couldn’t see, know what people couldn’t possibly know, and she was able to distribute that knowledge when and how she saw fit. Indeed, Hushidh was the more powerful sister. In the world of power and powers, sexy isn’t always best.

As an adult, I have built  a fairly good relationship with words. Whether I’m speaking, reading, writing, or even listening, I have a great relationship with words and their power. I learned at an early age that words have power, with a lot of potential to help or hurt, and as an adult, knowing that has been powerfully important. Judicious use of words is a skill, one that must be garnered over time. While I’ve yet to be able to talk my way out a traffic ticket, I’ve been able to write my way into some pretty exclusive places and I’ve managed to talk my way into influential ears.  Hushidh’s threads exist here on Earth, and they can be very visible if you know how to find them.

Relationships between people are fascinating to me. From the strangest stranger to the strongest lover, I love to watch people interact. I wonder about their thoughts and scrutinize their actions. People watching is an art in and of itself, and can take up large swaths of down time when in waiting situations. Living in a major metropolitan area like Boston, every character and relationship imaginable is often on display in the most random of places. Thank God for my trusty Moleskine or, in a pinch, my smartphone, or else I’d miss wonderful nuggets!

How deep can a relationship go? Is life or death the only measure of devotion? Can the briefest kiss convey an entire lifetime of emotion? Can a look ignite a war? Can a yawn set off a firestorm? These are some of things that I explore in my writing. If the threads that bind us together interests you, if they make you wonder, even dream…if they keep you staring overly long at the couple in the corner arguing over the fortune cookie, or the child tugging at his mother on a Friday night subway train…then I hope you’ll stick around and read my stories. These things excite me, too.

Are you my reader? I hope you are! Stick with me and check back here to see what I’m doing.

Inspiration from two places today

 

After I put the boys down for a nap, I got real cozy with my laptop, left over muffins from breakfast and a glass of water. It was go time: Time to re-write Never a Day, the story that I decided that I was going to rewrite from scratch.

I opened up a Gchat window with my sister, who is an artist (like, a real one, with a real degree from a real art school. She’s amazing). My line was pretty easy ” ’bout to start this rewrite.”

“Good luck and Godspeed.” She wrote back in encouragement.

I wrote two sentences and went back to chat. “How has your week been?”

“Pretty good. I’m working on some master classes. Watching the Xbox reveal right now.”

Now, I’m a gamer girl. I’ve been all my life. Next Gen consoles have been in my peripheral, but not really because I know that they are crazy out of our price range right now (We’re about to slap down major money for a house and then a preschool for my son. $500 consoles is not currently in the budget). Nonetheless, I’m a gamer girl, so I needed a link immediately to watch.

And boy was I mystified. I was late to the Xbox bandwagon. I’ve never lived in a house without a Nintendo in it, and indeed, we have every Nintendo console in this apartment. For our “core” games, we’re more Playstation people. But from time to time, the Xbox 360 gets turned on for this or that. I pay more attention when Sony starts talking mostly because my favorite franchises happen to be on that system…but today, today, I was really impressed by Xbox One.

But this post isn’t really about Xbox One as a console. This post is about the idea of XBox One. This notion that this little box is going to be the new filter between me and media content. That filter is going to monitor everything that I do while I consume media–be it gaming, watching a sitcom, watching breaking news unfold…this box is going to know.

and that got me thinking about Sci Fi. Is this the beginning of that centralized Vid box in just about ever sci fi novel/movie in the universe? The sole source of all entertainment?

And what about happen if the box really did listen to us while we watch television? What if it watched us? What if it fed back that data to companies in real time? What if it fed it back to government?

My mind is racing with an awesome short story idea: What would happen if a Katrina-like event happened, and a device like this new Xbox monitored the national reaction to it on an individual level? What if government actually made decisions (like if certain parts of an effected city would get aid) based on that reaction? What would that look like?

I’m going to find out by writing it on Saturday. I’m so freaking pumped. I don’t necessarily know if the disaster will be a hurricane (that’s a bit obvious) but the confluence of race/class/government/media really interest me, and I’m going to play with them in this context. Can’t wait! Will post an excerpt this weekend!

My second source of inspiration came from Never a Day, the short story that I sat down to write in the first place. Victor, the character who has survived all of the re-writes of this thing, found himself sitting in the principal’s office reading his class assignment in Animal Farm. I loved it when my students started reading Animal Farm in their reading class. I taught history, but the reading teacher and I were close friends, so I often popped into her classroom when she was reading Animal Farm with the kids. I went for my copy of it to find an appropriate quote to put in this short story. And I started reading. Ohhh the parallels between urban charter schools and Animal Farm. Ohhh the new possibilities for this little short story that I keep trying to write. And what a short little book! I’m going to breeze through this in an evening.

There are good things happening here. The mind is working over time. It is so nice to feel good after a week of significant setbacks. I hope to have an excerpt of my newest edition of Never a Day during this weekend as well.

 

What is inspiring you lately? What makes your Muse whisper to you?

 

An accomplished Week!

 

Happy Friday fellow writers and potential readers! How did you fare this week? I’m feeling pretty accomplished this week! Let’s observe the task list:

 

  1. 3 blog posts this week

Alright, this was a cheat. Clearly I’m going to write three posts a week. Won’t put this on my task lists anymore. 🙂 It feels good to cross one off, though!

  1. Finish a first draft of Escort Mission and post excerpts by Friday.

Ok, only half crossing off this one. I really like this story and I’m about half-way through. There is a lot of potential here, but I’m noooottt quuuiiiittteee finished. I have posted an excerpt on my here, so I’m partially done, but I can’t totally take this one off of the list.

  1. Work on my second character for A Terrible Thing to Waste:. Post excerpt of first-person interview by Friday.

I done the work for my character this week, but I’ve decided that I have is a little too raw for publishing on the internet. So I’m going to write a publishable “Character Introduction” for him to post on the web. Something to entice without giving stuff away! Hope to have this done by the end of the weekend.

  1. Seek feedback for current edit-in-progress project, Never a Day Quiet. Post small excerpt (I’m polishing this for submission, so I don’t want to publish too much here).

Feedback sought but not received. Hopefully I’ll get the notes that i need next week. I DID, however, post an excerpt here.

  1. Find some inspiration for this week’s Short Story Saturday (a sequel to Escort Missionperhaps?) Post teaser/inspiration sentence by Friday.

I THOUGHT that I was going to draw inspiration from Escort Mission, and while I’m inspired, I am not fully inspired to write a sequel for it yet (because it’s not finished! Duh!!). The Good news is that Chuck Wendig, on his fantastic blog, has posted a Flash Fiction challenge that looks awesome. The sentence that I’m choosing: “When does the family document the thunder?” 

 

Another week is done, and many words have been written. I’ve taken a few more steps toward my goals and I’m feeling really great about it!

I hope that you, too, are feeling accomplished and hopeful on this Friday! I look forward to starting another week with you again on Monday!