Category: Writing

NaNoWriMo: Day Zero – She Comes Prepared

NaNoWriMo: Day Zero – She Comes Prepared

Here we are on day zero, A.K.A. the day before NaNoWriMo. For those unaware, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month: a month in which writers of the world enjoy an incredibly supportive and positive community as we all reach for that 50,000 words. That’s right, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in a month. If you reach that goal, you win.

Last year I won with my first ever novel Ravenscrag. Unfortunately, it is still being edited. I thought about making its second draft my project for Nano this year, but it didn’t seem like the right time for it, so here I am with a new idea and a new 50k to write.

I have a great feeling about this one. Last year Nano marked my return to writing fiction after a long absence. I was very much a “pantser” last year, which means I flew by the seat of my pants with no outline or real plan for my novel before starting. Now I have a year of writing short stories under my belt and a better understanding of writing fiction. I’m aiming for my second win in a row with a great cast of characters and a story that I really love and can’t wait to write. I have a very basic outline that I struggled much of this month to actually sit down and hammer out, but the basic story structure is there. Now I have a month to put meat on these bones.

Title: Suicide House
Genre: Psychological/Supernatural Horror
Synopsis: In Maple Hill, the suicide rate is 10 times the national average. After a young man takes his life, a group of friends vow to uncover the well-guarded history of the town.

Protagonists:

Brandon Fuller – Died by suicide.
Hailey Greene – Main character and girlfriend of Brandon. You don’t want to mess with her.
Julien Davis – Brandon’s asshole best friend with a heart of gold.
Connor Fitzgerald – The smart kid. He has a blog.
Molly  Westcott – So optimistic it’s disgusting. She’ll probably read your aura.

Antagonist:
Jack Harpe A.K.A. The Suicide Killer

Bring it on November! It’s going to be a challenge but I’m ready.

Another Novel Cometh

Another Novel Cometh

With my novel, Ravenscrag, still in the desperate throes of editing, this writer is in need of a fresh start; a new idea. National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner, and I’ve decided to set aside my work on Ravenscrag and start a new novel. I need a chance of literary scenery and this should do the trick nicely.

For those of you who aren’t aware, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is usually abbreviated, is an annual competition where the goal is to write a novel within the month of November. That’s 50,000 words minimum, which breaks down to 1,667 words per day. If you complete your 50,000 words on time, you win! It was during November of last year that I wrote Ravenscrag (why yes I have been really slow with the editing, thank you for noticing) and I had a blast doing it. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as getting to the end and realizing you wrote a book in a month.

I’m doing things a little differently this year. I am a “pantser” to my core, which means I tend to write without an outline and just see where the story takes me. This year, I am going to try my hand at this whole planning thing and see how it affects the coming together of my novel. Being new to planning my writing, I found a great online workshop with daily exercises and assignments that should help me get the skeleton of my story in shape, so that come November 1st, I can start throwing meat on the bones.

I’ll post more information on the novel I’ll be writing as I flesh it out my idea a little bit. All I can say for now is that it’s called Suicide House, and it will be a psychological/supernatural horror. Stay tuned for more Nano prep in the coming weeks.

My Journey Into Fountain Pens, Why I Use Them, and Why You Should Too

My Journey Into Fountain Pens, Why I Use Them, and Why You Should Too

When I was 15, my mother bought me a calligraphy pen set for Christmas. It came with the fountain pen, several different nibs, and ink cartridges in black, blue, and red. I followed the instructions to put the ink cartridge in and get it working. We lived below the poverty line so it was by no means a fancy or high quality pen, but at the time I didn’t really understand fountain pens so didn’t think it would make a difference. It was just a pen, right? When the pen didn’t work well, when it scratched through my paper and handled terribly, when it bled through anything I tried to write on, I let the stains of that ink colour my opinion on fountain pens from that point forward.

Fast forward a decade and I start experimenting with my penmanship. In the back of my mind, fountain pens were still “old, outdated pens that suck”, but I wanted to try something new for writing with. To be honest, I was tired of junky plastic disposable pens that gave me hand cramps when I used them. As much as I love writing, I wanted to make the experience a more enjoyable one for myself. I was pushing my son in a stroller around my local Chapters store one day when I found an old fashioned quill dip pen, packed beautifully in a box with a little bottle of black ink.  I bought it, some nice paper, and set for home to try it out.

I liked it! The methodical dipping of the pen and writing was quite meditative. I enjoyed the inconsistency of line–thinner here, thicker there. It felt simple. I wanted to write by the light of an oil lantern. The one thing missing was the convenience of portability. I couldn’t very well pull out my pen and a bottle of ink to sign something at the bank without holding everyone up.

Throughout my online searching I kept on finding myself surrounded by fountain pens. I resisted them for a while, but eventually caved and bought a Lamy Safari, a sort of mid-range fountain pen highly recommended for beginners. I paid about $50 CAD for it, which is a lot for a pen when you compare it to the disposables out there, but I’ll get to the savings later.

My pen came with a couple of blue cartridges, and something called a converter. Converters are cool, because with them you can use ANY fountain pen bottled ink in your pen. Anything. You would not believe the variety of inks available to you until you look. I was overwhelmed and mesmerized by choices, and quickly ordered a few samples. There’s waterproof ink, quick drying ink, archival ink, and in any colour you can imagine. Some inks have shimmer, some are fluorescent, some even look different colours depending on how the light hits it.

I quickly fell head over heels for my new pen. It was clipped indefinitely to the front of my shirt at work (many a pen thief around here) and in my purse any other time. It soon became the only pen I used. I started poring over the selection at The Goulet Pen Co. (I can’t recommend them enough. They’re great people and have a fantastic selection.) and ordering various inks to try. 

I wanted something with a wider nib, so bought a Lamy Vista, which is like the Safari only with a clear plastic body so you can see the ink inside. This became and continues to be my everyday pen, my favorite, my writing companion. It’s filled many journals.

When hanging around in fountain pen communities, it doesn’t take long to become enamored with the pens available. You soon find your Holy Grail pen, which you lust after. That pen for me was the Sailor Imperial Black. It was gorgeous in photos. Matte black body, titanium ion darkened metal details, and a 24k gold nib, also darkened to a gorgeous black finish. This is the kind of pen you use to sign your child’s birth certificate, or your marriage certificate. It made my little goth heart happy, and it also came at a hefty cost, but I’ll tell you more about that journey when I write up my review on the pen in the coming weeks.

I’ve been using fountain pens solidly for 3 years now and I can confidently say I’ll never go back. There have been days where I forget my pen at home when I go to work, and using the regular ballpoint disposables practically ruins my day. There is a certain pleasure in writing with a smooth-flowing pen that you’ve grown to know quite well. You take it apart to clean it, you refill it with new and exciting inks, you carry it with you everywhere and you notice your penmanship improve greatly.

Now let’s talk about paper. When you start using one of these pens, you will learn that certain types of paper doesn’t play well with fountain pens. The ink might bleed through, or it might feather really badly. This honestly depends a lot on the ink you are using as well. There are inks that write well on cheaper paper, and honestly it’s not a huge deal if you write on standard paper with a fountain pen. For the best experience, there are types of paper that are quite cheap that work extremely well with fountain pens. I really like Apica notebooks. They’re cheap and great with any kind of ink I’ve tried.

Considering a fountain pen? Here’s the good and the bad:

Pros:

  • You will never have to buy another pen again.
  • You refill the same pen infinite times, so you don’t need to throw it away.
  • With less waste, it’s a better choice for the environment.
  • Ink flows smoothly and effortlessly.
  • No hand cramps, even when writing for a long time because you don’t need to use much pressure to write.
  • Thousands of choices for ink so you can find one that is perfect for you.
  • Fountain pens range from very cheap (<$10) to very expensive (>$1,000) so there is an option for any budget.
  • Huge online community on Reddit for when you have questions or are looking for recommendations.
  • It’s a lot more personal. It’s not just A pen, it’s YOUR pen.

Cons:

  • Losing an expensive pen sucks.
  • Cleaning your pen can be somewhat messy (but some of us like that).
  • If someone borrows (read: steals) your pen to jot something down quickly, they can ruin it by using too much pressure if they aren’t used to fountain pens.
  • Not all paper is fountain pen friendly.

I was wrong about fountain pens in the beginning. I thought they were scratchy, bleedy, inky messes that you’d spend more time fighting with than writing with. Now that I’ve been using them for a few years I can’t say enough good things about them. They’re the perfect tool for any writer who enjoys penmanship, any business person who does a lot of writing in a day, or anybody who simply enjoys pens. 

 

Words Will Save Her – A Brief History of My Writing

Words Will Save Her – A Brief History of My Writing

CHILDHOOD

I started writing poetry when I was 9 years old. Nobody ever told me to do it, I simply felt compelled to create a tangible representation of what went on in my young head. As a kid suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I had a lot of emotions flowing through me: anger and fear being major players. I spent a lot of time alone, and I spent a lot of time writing. I filled notebook after coil-bound notebook with these little poems that just sort of poured out of me. I kept them all hidden away in a drawer.

As I got older, my body changed and puberty began. My confusion and developing feelings towards boys were spelled out in my poem books and journals. When I finally got my own room in our unfinished basement when I was 12, a new hiding spot was found for my growing collection of notebooks up on top of some metal vents near the ceiling.

HIGH SCHOOL

A few years later, high school began and my increased level of emotional intensity was matched by an increase in both the frequency and severity of content in my poems. I branched out into writing stories at this time as well. I was an angry girl who acted out, had a problem with authority, and spent every moment possible working on artistic endeavors or spending time with some of the first friends I ever had who I felt understood me. It was in high school where I developed a taste for controversy, which was reflected in my assignments for a creative writing class which were never marked because they were “too disturbing” for the teacher to stomach. I was proud of this fact. Hell, I still am. Isn’t the purpose of writing to make someone feel something?

When my mother bought a family computer when I was 15, it wasn’t long before I became quite quick at typing and moved my previously handwritten hobby into a digital one. I’d type out poetry and short stories into Notepad files and save them to floppy disks rather than continuing with my spiral-bound notebooks, which by that time seemed slow and clumsy in comparison. Thematically, my work remained dark and focused on love, death, and depression.

 

EARLY ADULTHOOD

My writing stopped rather abruptly when I was in my early twenties. I was working full time with people I loved. I was in a long-term relationship. I had friends I loved spending time with. I didn’t have time for those silly writing projects anymore. After 6 months or so without writing much of anything, my chronic depression had spiraled down to a point where I could barely get out of bed most days. At the time, with all the good going on in my life this didn’t make sense to me. My self-harming had gotten quite bad again and suicide was never far from my mind. Nearing complete hopelessness, I went to see my doctor who prescribed an antidepressant for my depression, anxiety and OCD symptoms, as well as a twice-a-week appointment with a psychologist.

I saw the psychologist at the scheduled times for about 4 months. Things had gotten bad between my boyfriend at the time and myself because he wasn’t able to give me the space I needed to heal and so we broke up. A year later I still hadn’t written anything. The meds I was on had taken away the bad feelings, but they’d also taken away any good feelings. I was essentially an emotional zombie, losing my ability to create anything with colour or with words. I made the conscious decision to go off my meds and start creating again as a way to handle my mental health issues and fulfill my desire to create.

I started writing again. I started drawing and painting again. It took a year to safely wean myself off the medication I’d been on, and it was difficult. When I look back now, I realize that I was trying to use medication to accomplish what I’d normally been able to accomplish using my creative outlets. I’ve always been more fulfilled when I’m creating, and when I stop for too long, my head tends to get out of control.

 

NOW

I’ve noticed, more recently than ever before, just how necessary it is for me to write. I’ve always thought of myself as a visual artist. I never really claimed the title “writer” in the same way until this last year. The things is, I’ve always been happiest when I’m actively writing. In the last month or so, since I’ve resumed blogging regularly, I’ve found myself reaching a state of inner calm. I’m forced to remember why I stopped writing in the first place, and once again it was because life got busy with work and motherhood and trying to be a responsible adult. I stopped giving writing any priority in my daily life.

Without writing, I become this sort of wound up ball of string. Every day that goes by without writing becomes another length wrapped tightly around my middle until the very center of who I am becomes so compressed that I lose myself. Every time I sit down at my computer and start typing away into the night, I unravel a little bit. This built up emotional fog I have to such excess gets released in little spurts and I start to see more clearly.

I write to figure things out. I don’t usually know how a blog post will begin or end until I’m in the desperate throes of its creation. It starts with a single inspired thought and as I type out word after word, sentence after sentence, it evolves. I whisper to myself each line and furiously type it out until it feels somehow complete. Many posts get published on the blog, and many don’t. When it really comes down to it, I write for me. Sometimes I get messages or emails or comments from people who say that a post of mine helped them, and that is a really great feeling.

When I deny the writer in me, it’s a poison in my life. The built up emotion or ideas end up coming out negatively if I don’t give them their own space. This is something I’ve learned and re-learned the hard way a number of times. I need to write. Writing is the one thing that’s always been able to save me.

 

From a Second Floor Bathtub

From a Second Floor Bathtub

As I lower myself through hot steam, I’m transported to a place without measurable time. It’s just me and this water, in this room. This is nice. I feel relaxed. Water ripples at my temples while I close my eyes and sink deeper. Soon only my nose and knees are above the waterline and I imagine I’m a submarine, hidden deep and safe in the warm water. I smell lavender and palm leaves rising all around me, scenting the air. Through the water, the old-timey swing music of Glenn Miller playing just a few feet from me sounds much farther away. I imagine I’m listening secretly through a closed door, hearing the muffled trumpets and trombones play their lively tune.

Here in the water, my body is amplified. I hear every heartbeat; every breath, as if it were right next to my ear. Each thought is magnified until my mind swims in static. I try to clear it all away; to think of nothing; to relax, but my mind keeps falling around him. I smile against the water and let my thoughts drift to conversations we’ve had about the way our minds are broken in some of the same places and that despite the cracks, his looks so beautiful to me. I think of the way his eyes remind me of some of my favorite paintings and that even though we might just be tourists in each other’s lives, he’s a song I want to keep listening to.

When at last I emerge, the cooler air of the room refreshes the skin of my face, my breasts, my back, and my arms. The music gets louder as my little underwater world fades to black until I am once again in the present time. The colour in this room has been enhanced while the stresses of daily life have somehow disappeared. I’m rejuvenated, but the water couldn’t clean off the smile he painted on my face.