Collaboration Celebration!

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There were times when we were sorely tested. Would we give up or follow through? Neither of us had ever been through the entire process necessary to publish a book. We had no idea. We thought we were too old, too tired, too broken, but we kept each other going even through our toughest times. There have been obstacles large and painful. We realize we haven’t mentioned our book for a while here on 2penthrupain. We’re happy that we finally get to share this news with you. It’s been a year and a half to go through the entire process of getting one book to press. We discover now, the week of release has arrived! This experience is surreal.

 

~*~

Synopsis: Sadie Myers is in a funk. Everyone who loves her seems to leave. No one remembered her fifteenth birthday—not even her parents. They have grown distant and moody ever since tragedy struck the family one year ago. Since that terrible day, Sadie’s life has become a dark brew of strange visions, unearthly messages, and vivid dreams in which a mysterious shadow man follows her every move. Are all these bizarre happenings real or figments of a troubled mind? When Sadie is pulled into a world so different from her own, everything she thinks she knows is turned upside down. Will she find the truth behind these unsettling episodes? Sadie will need to muster every ounce of courage and resilience she possesses in order to walk through the shadows, the fear of unknown evil, and—most important—get to the other side alive.

 

~*~

The ebook version of our first collaborative book, Ghost of a Shadow: Book One of the Sadie Myers Chronicles, is a Young Adult Dark Fantasy which will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and other online booksellers December 4th. The paperback version will be posted on that date for pre-order with availability on December 15th. The hardcover book will be out early next year.

 

Thank you for your being here with us.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tense Silence of Our Youth

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Instead of Hansel and Gretel, we have been Hannah and Gerta perhaps – two who find themselves lost in the great forest while the breadcrumbs meant to indicate a way home provide nourishment for ever watchful crows.

There have been times we both felt this way. Some of them have been simultaneous.

This state of being included some of our greatest obstacles, not only in writing but in day-to-day living. Hard to go forward when we’re looking back.

Struggles though these times have been keenly disheartening, but reminders from family and friends that everything is relative often sustains us.

Or turning around from running away to face the fear, the discomfort, the pain until it has nothing more to say, no more to deliver.

Like a string of pearls reversing into velvet black time, these difficulties have also formed a radiant calm and beauty, encouraging reflection.

Through all of this, we’ve managed to accomplish what once seemed impossible.

We’re still at it.

Objects Can Be Characters Too

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I remember the movies, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I remember the television series, My Mother, the Car. And of course there’s the TARDIS from the long-running British show, Dr. Who. Objects have been used as characters in these stories to great effect, often having their overlapping status create a built-in twist of some sort or another, difficult or impossible to pull off with mortal humans.

There are at least two things to think of here: one is the bridge between species of a sort (I guess we can include, Mr. Ed then) and two, there are the characteristics, the details that are necessary to bring the inanimate to life and other animals to human language and cognition.

Always, there are disagreements about how much detail is too much or not enough, but to bring a level of interaction bridging the divide takes a bit more detail, rather than less.

Lord of the Rings, an all-time favorite of mine, bestows many objects with special significance, each in their own way, whether it be its history of a sword’s deeds or the evil that the Ring speaks to its wearer.

Thinking about this today, I realize there are some objects we could take into the world of interaction and special detail in the second book of our series. Book One is nearly complete… in ‘final’ revisions, and we’re researching the best self-publisher for our needs as well as the launch date. Then we can more thoroughly attend to the threads we will want to pull through into the next book of the series. It’s an exciting time, and we’ll see what will happen.

If you should happen to have experiences with writing objects as sentient beings OR a great experience self-publishing and want to share, that would be lovely. Please leave a comment below.

 

 

The DNA of an Atomic Moment

Possibilities

 

Everything and anything exists in each single moment. It depends upon what questions we ask of it where it will lead us: in a circle, across a desert, into a candy store. Variations are endless: one part of the fun that takes any prompt and turns it into a story or other work of art.

 

If I see an old barn set back from the road, questions immediately spring to mind:

-Who might have lived there… and when did they leave?

-Why did they leave?

-What was the size of the original farm on which that barn sat at an angle to the road?

-How did transportation of the times affect choices they made?

-What was the size of their family through the time they lived there?

 

I don’t even have to see the barn in person. A picture or painting might elicit responses to other times where I can smell barn particles on the breeze.

 

Moments and snapshots and music trigger a plethora of questions and self-derived answers that can be shaped into a new story.

The artist contains the meeting place of voice, idea, theme… and then works to organize them fluently –this is one example of how tiny things contain the whole.

Other examples:

-The blueprint for life exists within every double helix strand of DNA in every cell in the body.

-There is enough energy within one single atom to set off a reaction that can either power homes or destroy them.

-This is one of my favorite themes to write about: the overall theme to life that within every tiny thing or perception is much more than we casually guess.

Possibilities. Ah.

Concocting an Inspiration Buffet

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A topic came up for us last week. We were discussing where our inspiration comes from when we begin a new writing project. Dozens of suggestions clamored to the surface and different ones tugged on each of our sleeves.
Primarily for Andrea, it’s her intuition. She tunes in, and the story calls to her.
For Leslie, it’s more visual. It can be a memory tangent or a photograph as the catalyst. It can be picturing the characters in action or conversation. Any piece of art can get her started.
Other times it’s a combination of those two, with additional spices added.
We stay alert to opportunities around us which leads to asking questions that draw out the story. This is about making a conscious decision to fly manually. We come out of autopilot and listen to the world around/inside of us.
It can be as simple walking down Main Street, seeing an always deserted restaurant full of people and wondering what led to this moment. Questions beget other questions, and soon a plot develops. Will it be a mystery? A comedy, drama, or something supernatural? Only time will tell.
We do know that it’s important to be open to inspiration everywhere we go. It could be our next story.
Where do you get your inspiration?

Whys and What Ifs?

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Questions lead places. They don’t stop like words do at the end of a sentence. They’re an invitation to go somewhere potentially new and bountiful.

 

I use powerful questions in my coaching practice, and I use a different set when I write. I ask myself ‘What if?’ and ‘Why?’ plus the rest of the ‘W & H’ questions to get deeper into plot and character development and motivating goals.

 

Let’s say I want to write a short story featuring a ham sandwich. Before or after doing some preliminary brainstorming, whether listing, mind-mapping, or stacking categories/subsets, I would develop tangents that might come from the food and ask:

 

Why is the sandwich important?

How did it enter the story?

When was it made?

What is its composition?

Who will eat it?

Where are they located: the eater and the food?

 

I might write out a few sets of those like reps at a gym, just for fun. Then I prioritize which questions are most central to the story I feel forming in my brain. After I do that, I begin with, ‘What ifs?’

 

What if it’s poisoned?

What if it was stolen from someone who struggles for food every day?

What if the bread is moldy?

What if it has a smell that brings back an important memory?

What if it’s the last food available?

What if it falls on the floor and/or gets stepped on?

What if there’s a paper inside that contains the password for an important account?

 

I could go on quite a while like this, but when I finish for the time being, again I prioritize them. I see which ones have the most potential and are of the most interest to me.

 

Do you use questions in your writing? Have you found any helpful ways to think about them that give you more mileage? We’d love to hear questions, snippets, topics, anything you’d like to share as an example of your questioning strategy.

A question may be simple, but it’s a powerful tool for life and creativity.

 

Sprint n’Splat

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How have you been?

As for us, here’s this month in collaboration:

These questions go through both of our minds, and we discuss them every time:

Does my sister condemn me?

Does she pass judgement or accuse me of slacking?

No, she never does. We’d like to get to the place where we can accept this as truth, rather than adding stress to our lives worrying what the other will think.

And to be honest, worrying over what each one of us thinks… of ourselves.

At its best, collaboration provides the way for us to keep up our dedication amid setbacks.

Having a partner oftentimes raises energy. Even when one is decidedly NOT up for anything, small tasks can be done by the other. We have to be okay with that.

We have the best intentions every day.

We had a good run for a couple of weeks at the beginning of June, revising our second draft, left, right, and center.

THEN, we tripped…. health-wise: our usual unwelcome, annoying, and intermittent experience turns around and bites us again.

No matter how many times we’ve been through the two steps forward/one step back thing, every time we have a good run, we forget that interruption could be lurking round the next bend… in this case, Chapter 28.

Patience, love, and compassion win the day in these situations, even if we can’t see it right away. What is most important after all?

As with location for putting up a successful business, communication is essential for collaboration.

How do you get through your rough patches? What are the tools you find most helpful when you doubt yourself?

We’d love to hear from you.

Justification

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When I think about characterization, I develop arcs based, in part, upon the philosophies each character holds in his, her, or its heart. I want to know this about the characters, even if that information never overtly appears in the pages of the book.

 

A spectrum I like to use is whether the character values ends or means more… and whether they move from one position at the start of the story and end somewhere else.

 

One of my favorite books is ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. I love this book as I have from my early teens. While it is in no way thoroughly representative of my interests as a reader, I find it an excellent glass through which to perceive various philosophical, existential, and organizational questions about life and writing.

 

First up, these two statements:

 

“The ends justify the means.”

-OR-

“The means justify the ends.”

 

An interesting exercise is to take some favorite characters of your own, or for this example, from Tolkien, and see where they would appear on this spectrum.

 

I’ll mention Gandalf ™ and Gollum™ because of the many people acquainted with these characters from either the volume(s) or the Peter Jackson movies which take the books as their source material.

 

It strikes me that Gandalf considers the means the more important aspect on which to hang his wizard’s hat most of the time. Means are the ‘now,’ the moment within his control, to the extent that he has any . If he takes an action, he thinks about it in advance, constantly revising, if need be, and relying on intuition as well as his other senses to know whether it is right. If something he does runs afoul of his personal integrity or wisdom, he knows that he is likely to see this wrinkle exaggerated in the end results.

 

He values the importance of each step he takes, and lets the end take care of itself thereby, quite possibly in the direction he’d like to see.

 

On the other hand, there’s Gollum, and all he wants is the Ring of Power ™. He will do anything, take any means to get it, even though we get a split sense of dimension what with the two sides of his personality occasionally bickering, cajoling, manipulating. As long as Gollum gets the ring in the end (don’t worry, no spoilers here), he is happy, for the most part, with whatever means he has taken.

 

Not surprisingly, it would seem that Gandalf and Gollum think about one another or at the least, figure into each other’s vision of the future and/or past:

 

Responding to Frodo who expresses outrage that Gollum was allowed to live after Gandalf’s last meeting with him, the latter speaks one of my favorite quotes (of many) from the book:

 

SPOILER WARNING:

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least. In any case we did not kill him: he is very old and very wretched. The Wood-elves have him in prison, but they treat him with such kindness as they can find in their wise hearts.”

OKAY – safe again

 

Admitting that one cannot see all ends may be the elixir that bestows a healthy dose of respect for means.

 ~*~

This is one axis to look at in the characters and the story, and it can be a fun one. If I cross this axis with a second, things can really heat up, debate-wise. This is why, for example, I mentioned ‘personal integrity’ rather than societal or relativistic. More on this later…

 

-Does this method of drawing out characters resonate with any that you love, hate, or both – that you’ve read, seen, or written?

 

-In this example, Gandalf is considered ‘good’ though he, like all wizards, is ‘subtle and quick to anger’ when meddled with, while Gollum is something quite different. Are there examples in stories that spring to mind where those polarities are reversed for protagonist and antagonist?

 

We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

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Awareness of the Cue

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A day we couldn’t work brought a new perspective.

 

We both carry a sense of guilt when we can’t do something we’d like to accomplish. No matter that it may stem from the fact that our bodies won’t comply or we’re too distracted by pain, fog, sensory overload, and/or the fear that it will continue to be ‘this way.’ The thing for us to remember is that these situations turn out, time and time again, to be a kind of soil from which grows meaningful writing, revision, or an entire reframing of that part of the story.

 

Every hesitation, need for self-care, change of plans, detour – every hiccup along the way – is an opportunity. The longer we dwell on potential negative impacts, like time lost, the more time we spend forgetting the benefits. These come from the cause and effects which are rarely within our sole conscious control.

 

We are learning – sometimes quickly, sometimes after repeated cueing experiences. Awareness of these cues can be a great help whether we are writing or revising. They try to tell us: “Do not be so hard on yourself. Take your speck of sand and make from it your pearl.”

 

For example, we lost the last nineteen chapters of the book. Sort of…

 

We recently finished the book and returned to the first chapter of the last nineteen (at that point it would’ve been Chapter 63) to do some revision work. We had the clever idea to do all of this work in one Word document which would later be added into Scrivener ™ in chapter-sized segments.

 

The story goes something like this…

 

Once upon a time, we had an extremely productive day. One of those in-the-flow, amazing days. Unfortunately, we had an issue which shut down Word ™ but didn’t save our document correctly. We lost the entire last day’s hours of writing and all of the revision, but in its place after a brief pity party, we came up with back story and another twist we wouldn’t have otherwise conceived.

 

One key was to begin writing again the instant we discovered – and accepted the reality – that this had actually occurred. Much of the work we’d done was still in our short term memory banks, though some things were irretrievably lost, which was okay.

 

When we’re in the midst of feeling unwell, we feel awful about what looks like waste. The minute we get back in the flow, we realize how much insight and creativity happened in the meanwhile.

 

Are there times when you are hard on yourself or times when you could see that an otherwise fallow time yielded fruit?

The Evocative Kernel of Rice

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I ate some rice tonight. It was long-grained Basmati, flavorful enough to bring back images and memories of a small rural village in the Maharashtra district at sundown.

Chanting can be heard over the hills off to the far left as new constellations (and a few old familiar ones) rise and set where there’s a marble Shiva temple on a distant hill. Small fires cook the evening meal in dots along roads of dust and iron grating.

Prompts are to be found anywhere and everywhere. I found tonight’s in my mouth when I suspected I wasn’t even thinking about writing.

This tells me two things.

  1. I think about writing far more often than I realize.
  2. All is food for the beginning, middle, or end of a piece, no matter how short or how long.

What prompts your writing? Think of a piece you wrote, whether you especially love it – or not, and see whether you can trace it back to the beginning… conception.

We’d love to hear any sparks that started an adventure in your writing.