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.

Planting Trees in Correspondence

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Correspondence is one of my favorite forms of writing. It’s inspiring. It bleeds over into the way I ‘hear myself writing’ when I get into fiction.

I recently corresponded with a friend, in which she described the delight of a day of horseback riding. It prompted my own inner storyteller, and the following tree planting theme emerged. It’s a memory I cherished but hadn’t thought about in many years.

Me: When I first moved to Washington State from New Jersey, I stayed for a month on a hundred acre piece of land on Mount Hull in the Okanogan. I did many things while I was there, including apple-thinning and picking on vast irrigated farms. One thing I did and loved, when I was young and my back could take it, was planting MANY trees there, after a federal incentive so people could take employment in the wilderness area which had a mostly barter economy at that time. It was done because many mature trees had been clear-cut some time before (such a sad thing to see and walk in). If one was to encounter a clear cut wound in the wild, the best way to approach it would be with a baby tree in one’s hand. It made me think of Johnny Appleseed, though I don’t know much about how far west he got in his travels.

(I’ve since found out the following – courtesy of Wikipedia: John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples.” Interesting. Not all the way to Washington State, but apples are the crossover.)

… and after my friend’s response, my reply:

Me: I love your letter. Thanks for what you said about the trees. It’s a sweet reminder of one time of beauty and service… and I like the opportunity to remember it. Looking back again, I realize that it was only one time in my life when I did such a thing. When I lived in Cumberland on a few acres, we planted over 100 trees, and I used to dream about them at night. I’d be coming back over a hundred years later to visit them, amazed at how tall the cedar and redwoods had grown, how colorful the sugar maple was in fall, how graceful the cypress, how grand the weeping willow up high over the river. It was hard work, but at the end of the day, all that was left was happiness.

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.

A Year of ‘Spare’ Change

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A year of ch-ch-ch-changes  for us (thank you, Mr. Bowie).

Last year at this time this blog was only a twinkle in our left eyes. We would soon be on a family vacation where we decided to take time every other day to write side by side on our own ‘blog posts,’ for the future when we’d start one.

We had different concepts, and perhaps that comes through. Maybe not.

The book was in the beginning stages with an initial idea. We had no sense of the journey’s magnitude ahead or what it would be like to collaborate on a project this large.

We worked on a few little things together, such as a relative’s dating site profile (it worked!), a resume or two, and a few short stories by that time.

We didn’t know at the time of writing these smaller pieces that it would actually turn into, ‘Let’s write a book together.’

Now we’re here, one year later. So much has changed, but we can see that it has been on a consistent upward trajectory.

Where we’re at now – We have started this very blog. Our book is written and in its final drafting. Our cover is finished, and we are elated with it. We are researching the best way(s) to go about publishing it. We did have a period where we thought we knew, but further research revealed a lack of integrity from their partner company, so we’re back at the drawing board. We plan to create a rubric to evaluate different publishers. Any advice or experience anyone has to share is greatly appreciated.

Thank you for being with us. We appreciate your company.

 

 

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?

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.

Questions from Memories, a Story Makes

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One way I like to use memories to create a story is by asking questions.

Below is an example of a memory and following it, some questions I might use to write a developed piece of fiction.
The more questions I have, the better, because then I can choose the story’s path clearly. Not only that, but some of my questions will be silly if I’ve allowed myself to be open and imaginative. Who knows but that it might be the most helpful question of all.
*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*
My boyfriend and I were in New York City for hijinks back in 1976 or thereabouts…. It was when I was at my first university.
We had gone to the vicinity to see the Hayden Planetarium’s star-filled trip through time, but it was closed for repairs. That’ll show us. It’s best to do research BEFORE going to the city.
At least in our disappointment we were soothed by the nice day it turned into, sunning ourselves on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History. It was the large building next to the planets.
We were sitting there, trying to make stone stairs into a cushy recliner and endlessly debating our possible infinity of next step choices, when this Well-Dressed Man came running down to us from the top stair.
“Have any time to take in a show? It’s not for a while yet.”
“Er… huh?”
“Well, you see, I have these members-only tickets for the Pompeii Exhibit tonight after they ‘close’ the regular museum, but something’s come up and I need to leave. It’d be a shame to waste ’em as it’s been sold out for some time.”
“Yeah…. sure. We’ll take them,” I said.
I think my favorite parts of the exhibit were the overall feeling of being in a bustling town from a long time gone. That, and the everyday quality that showed up in things like the graffiti, the paving stones and mosaics, and the shop signage that incorporated the gods of Roman mythology in a rather human way.
Mercury’s fish mart is a bit odd, though, as a) he was not associated with water, but air… and b) all these years later there’s an abundance of mercury in our fish.
It was extremely moving to see a whole city transported with such care for details – excavated from volcanic earth. It was especially the last exhibit, though – the contorted shapes of three people and a dog… hoping, trying with all their might to flee the molten river quickly approaching.
I don’t want to do these beings any disservice by making assumptions about their experiences in the last moments of their lives. They could be back right now, reading this blog for all I know about the ticking of our or any other universe.
What I will say is that my heart ached for three days thinking about that dog. Of course I cared about the people too. I think it was too close to home for me to dwell on them. Maybe that was all I could handle or relate to at the time, try as I do to put myself in others’ situations.
All in all, it turned out to be a lively, educational exhibit, ending on a bit of a sad note, because after all facts are facts. Things arise from and go back to ground to seed for another season, perhaps.
Interestingly, the most dramatic personal note of the evening was my trip toward the ladies’ room. As the Well-Dressed Man told us, the museum was closed. It was only ticketed members and employees who would be in the museum for the exhibit, which took up the entire first floor.
So, I asked one of our friendly red-uniformed attendants where might the ladies’ room be?
“Oh, that would be on floor 3, Miss. You can use stairs or elevator right over there.”
As I started climbing up, I immediately noticed it darkening once I left the well-lit first floor. By the time I got to floor two, it was dark except for some emergency lighting rationed about the stair opening.
As I started to advance on the 3rd floor, my head passed floor level and I was in for quite a shock. To the right, just inside a VERY high-ceilinged arc was the barest hint of the immense skeletal jaw of a full-grown Tyrannosaurus Rex.
I stepped back one or two stairs.
Yeah, I knew they weren’t alive… but I could feel their presence. For heaven’s sake, they were bones… and yet something reptilian or early mammalian in my brain reacted with great fear.
Finally, I climbed to the full landing of the 3rd floor – having long forgotten about the loo… and stared to the right: at the vast hall of gigantically terrifying and truly fascinating creatures left behind in time.
I made up my mind, right there in the dark, that I would walk the long length of the room, slowly, and back up the other side. Perhaps with the regular museum-goers and full lighting, it would have been a less frightening experience, but here on this night, it was all I could do not to run. My heart raced, and it was a little difficult to take a full breath.
I dared myself. I absolutely had to in order to do this thing I wanted to experience alone. I started walking… and the fear began in my lower rib cage, communicating with my feet, which were moving very slowly. I stared up in awe at these creatures to whom I would’ve been an ant, or at least a mouse, and trembled a bit. I looked at each one, wishing I had enough light to read the signs, but THEM themselves: their bones glowed eerily white and were easy to see clearly.
All these decades later, it is a bright spot in my memories of that time. Connecting with the ancient from two distinct periods leaves a deep impression of the through-line of life.
Alone like that, my personal perspective was clarified by existing completely in the moment. I had the rare opportunity of being with extraordinary relics under those circumstances. It’s a gift that continues for a lifetime.
*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*
Oftentimes the best fiction has a seed in real life. If I wanted to create a longer and perhaps fictional account including this night, one way I might get there is by going over each paragraph and asking myself questions. I could also have someone else read and ask the questions.
Some questions I can think of when reading this piece are:
– Who was that Well-Dressed Man really?
– Was there anyone lurking on the third floor, waiting for me?
– If so, how did he know I would be there?
– Did I notice any movement in either of the exhibits that no one else seemed to see?
– Who were the dinosaurs individually on display? Had I known one of them before?
– Why did I have such an intense reaction on the 3rd floor? Was there some underlying cause?
– Were there any strange and potentially foreshadowing occurrences on my way into the city?
– Was I now tied to a debt by accepting those tickets?
– Was my boyfriend still there when I went back? If not, why? Had he been taken?

It’s Still Summertime Here, Evidence to the Contrary.

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It’s my cousin’s 50th birthday today, and I wish her much joy and health!

What does that have to do with writing? I feel that working on this book and sticking with it bears some similarity to that milestone. We are more than halfway. We can feel the story’s growing heft and what that means for our writing.

At the moment, we’re sitting in the screen room attached to the house that our family rents for a week each summer. The rhododendrons are at their peak bloom, with some displaying the darker, richer pink of the soon-to-bloom. That’s us. We are blooming every time we sit down to write, both in the story and with each other.

Beyond the blooms are the dark green leathery leaves. My eye doesn’t see more than a foot and a half deep before it looks like impenetrable, primitive forest. That’s also us. We know what we know, yet how it all comes together, which chapter comes before another, and how that background character eventually says enough to get his S.A.G. card? Those are mysteries right now… They tantalize us at every turn.

The sun and foliage cast wavering shadows across the furniture and floor, as well as the screens that surround us on two sides. There’s such a pleasant breeze. Much better than in the house at this hour where the air stifles everything it touches.

We, too, dabble in moving shapes of light and dark. It’s at the heart of our trade, our art. They’re woven together, the good and the bad, if such things truly exist: the mistakes made and the noble deeds done. There’s growth, meaning, and plenty of messes to clean up after.

Today, we love what we do so much that we are sitting side by side in the middle of the screen room so we can easily access each other’s computers and also have the beautiful view I describe.

Minds alert. Bodies relaxed and upright. Senses reaching out, minds remembering things that might be used.

The world is every writer’s fodder…. in the best of all possible ways.

 ~*~

The above was written earlier this summer when the season was still brand new.

It feels good to look back at what we’ve accomplished since then. We know our beginning and our ending, having drafted both. We figured out the first four chapters’ order and revised them as best we could in three or four passes. Then we sent our wee ones out to a professional editor for overall impressions and in-line suggestions. We received our feedback last night, and it’s incredibly helpful, broken down into pertinent categories for us in the overview.

It’s exciting because our editor’s notations led us to the conclusion that she wanted to read on. You may be thinking, ‘Of course she does as she will get paid for more,’ but the evidence in the details gave us a deep knowing – her interest in particular characters and plot points was well documented. Either way we find it inspiring, but that’s our perception, of course.

I heartily recommend the company that helped us take our text to the next level.  First Page, Last Page is a great resource for a variety of services, and editing is found under the ‘Our Feedback’ tab. Depending on your choice, you get quite a bit of help from their careful readings.

This is the first time I’ve written this way, but I have to admit it’s encouraging. Usually, I write the whole first draft as quickly as I possibly can, usually in November during (Inter)National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, with my inner editor tucked firmly away until Later, which is so far yet to happen. That is, at least, with the four novels I’ve so far “finished,” (50,000 words to ‘win’ the month) partially… or wholly, with a beginning, middle, and end.

There are many lists to help you get ‘Revision Ready’ at The Writer’s Block Blog, and this link will take you to one of them, from which you can navigate to others if you like. If you’re at that stage of the process where you’ve finished your first draft of whatever form of writing you’re working on, these can be helpful.

To end today’s post, I’ve included my own list of 6 actions around different points along writing’s way.

Six Suggestions for Start and Finish:

  • Open up your senses and take it all in. The world is a direct and often metaphorical treasure trove of inspiration.
  • Let your memory wash over you like a gentle wave, ebbing and flowing with ideas and analogies.
  • Write down your dreams as close to waking as possible and in as much detail as you can recall. Better yet, use a digital voice recorder.
  • Review what you’ve recently written to see if you can continue that flow or launch into a new direction or chapter.
  • Leave notes for yourself about your intentions at the end of what that session’s writing produced. Any thoughts about where you want to head next are especially helpful.
  • Close your eyes (or leave them open!) and let the last scene unfold on your inner movie screen. Any details that might be worth adding?

As for the evidence that summer’s drawing to a close: the fluttering yellow locust leaves heading downward like a gentle rain, the temperature dipping below 70 degrees during the daytime, and the children back to school one step up from last year may seem to suffice. I choose to believe it’s summer still, at least for another twelve days or so.

Happy dreaming, mind-mapping, drafting, revising, editing… you know: Writing!

(Best wishes, Leslie)