Monday, April 6, 2020

Now is the time to make a habit!

I know, I know. We're stuck in our houses for the next 30 to however many days it takes to #flattenthe
curve. That's why this is the perfect time to create a new good habit. For instance... writing everyday or getting in at least 30 minutes of exorcise a day, eating healthier. Yeah, the last two are kind of ick so let's stick with writing habits.

That way we can eat all the junk we want and create something awesome. You can always have one of those peddle things under the desk. *wink

How do we build a habit? The experts say it takes 30 days to make an action or life change stick.

Step One: Get a piece of paper and make a list of what you really want to change in your life or what you want to add. Next prioritize it. Only make one change at a time. If you try to make too many changes at once it can get overwhelming or frustrating.

Step Two: Now that you have your new habit, we're going to turn it into a goal for the next 30 days.

Step Three: Allow failure. You aren't going to make that goal or every single day. We're human, life happens or there are days we just aren't up to dealing with it. That's okay. What you do next is what really matters. Yup, you get back on the horse the next day and keep going.

Take it one day at a time, take care of yourself and family while you create this new habit. Include them in it! If your goal is to write everyday ask your kids to write with you. Maybe younger kids can draw a picture to go with your writing. Make building a new habit a family event. Even if you're the only one that sticks to it.

There, now you have something to do while we're on Corona Time. :) 



Thursday, September 26, 2019

Kill your inner critic

The Inner Critic is that voice in your head that tells you something is worthy of appraisal or not.
Everyone has one; it just seems that writers tend to be the most tortured by this voice.

If we are not careful, that nasty little voice in our heads will become judge, jury, and executioner to our work. If we allow it that critic can shut a story down and keep us from submitting our work. By listening to that voice in our head saying things such as: “That’s not really good enough to send out.” “No one is going to want to read that.” “You’re no Stephen King, baby. Or we leave a manuscript unfinished because that voice convinced us it wasn’t what readers wanted.

When that voice begins to niggle… stuff a sock in it. Tell that inner critic to pack his/her bags and get on the next bus out of town. Put him/her in a bag and toss him in the river. Whatever it takes to silence that voice. 

Turning it off takes practice. Some ways to shut that thing up are:

-Turn up the music, if you listen to music when you write.

- Find three things you like about the piece you are working on. Even if you don't like the story there is something about the writing you like. A phrase, a certain word, line of dialog, the way you described something. Learn to see the positives in your work not just the mistakes.

-Remember what Hemingway said. "The first draft of anything is shit"

-Take a deep breath and know that with every page your skill and talent gets sharper. 

Writers have to stuff that voice down and get the job done. Tell those stories that are aching to be told. Just as we would with a rejection letter or a bad review, we write another page.  Write another and another until your work finds a home to adopt it. 

Don't allow those inner voices to stop you. Instead turn them into a tool. If your inner critic is harping on a certain thing often. Maybe you need to look at that sentence, word, or punctuation a bit closer. That doesn't mean you've done something wrong, but you might be able to make a piece more concise and improve it.

The inner critic will come back after a while, but, that doesn’t mean you have to let it beat you down. What does a voice in your head know anyways? When I was three he told me dirt might taste good… yeah what does he know.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Forgotten #atozchallenge

The old shed stood amongst the wild growth. The paint worn, siding rusted with time telling the world it has been
forgotten. What secrets are inside these simple four walls? Old tools, holiday decorations, toys now outgrown or boxes of memories. Or perhaps secrets better left forgotten.



Eve of Battle #atozchallenge

Ben rinsed his tin plate with the last sip of his coffee and stepped back inside. The ragged tent did little to keep out the winter winds. He longed for another hot cup of brew but his ration was low and the troop's supplies had not yet made it through the fighting. What he had left would better serve him in the morning.

His breath fogged the air in front of him as he searched his pack for his last sheet of precious paper. He carefully set out his ink and pen before lighting the nub of a candle he had left. In one hand, he held the pen, in the other his most prize possession a photograph of his wife and young son. He gazed at the images for a moment before he began to write.

My dearest Ellen,

I wish I could say the war goes well, but it just seems to go on. They say battles have been won but all I can see anymore are the bodies of men. Young and old scattered like torn paper across the fields.

It is cold here tonight. I am grateful for the bit of shelter the tent offers against the climate. Though I would much rather be resting in front of our fireplace watching you work your quilt.

He sighed softly as his thumb caressed the frame of the photo. That spot worn smooth by the times he'd sat and looked at the image of his wife and child, and reminisced of home. It was where he longed to be, teaching his son to keep his heels down as he rode his pony. If he survived tomorrow, he would be another day closer to home.

I am lonesome for home and my family. Perhaps soon this bloodshed will end and I can come home to you, my wife. I must end this letter and try to rest for tomorrow we take to arms again. It may be some time before I can write another note. Remind Henry to keep his heels down when he rides. Tell him his father is proud of him. Know that you and our son are ever in my thoughts and always in my heart.

Yours,

Ben

He glanced back at the noise of his men playing poker for matchsticks. Money had become more precious than it was a night years ago in New Mexico. He was young, full of whiskey and spit when he'd almost lost all he had to a gambler. Ben had been saved by pure luck that night. Watching the men play and jib his memory fell back on that night long ago.

He gazed at all his money piled in front of his opponent. Ben had to win it back or he would need the spade to dig his grave. Too much whiskey had expanded his ego into the belief he was good at poker.

His opponent had noticed Ben's distress or at least the sweat that rolled from his brow. The older man took a long drag off his cigar. It was one of the expensive kinds, which smelled of spice, softening the stout tobacco odors. He tapped his cards on the table, closed them, and then fanned them back open again.

With a curt nod, he pulled two cards from his hand and slid them face down over the green felt toward the dealer. The dealer lifted the cards and made note of them as if they held the key to Ben's fate.

With a practiced flick of thumb, the card sharp tossed out two cards. He inclined his head toward Ben. "Mr. Mason, your bet."

Ben glanced down at the cards in his hand. The edges were warn and yellowed from the many hands that had held them. They gave no help in the crucial decision he must now make. One card could make a difference in his pockets; if they would be filled richly or remaining empty.

He settled his hat further forward on his brow to keep the nervous sweat out of view of his competition. Ben felt in his gut that the man had a sure hand.

Ben knocked back his last shot of whiskey and pulled three cards from his set. He placed them face down next to the dealer. Too late did he realize he had given away one of his threes. The only pair he held, though it be a weak one, the same as his knees in that moment.

The dealer thumbed out his three replacements. Before Ben could pick them up and survey the damage, his opponent had an ego ruling moment of his own.

With a smirk at the corner of his handle-bar mustache, the man pushed all of the money he had taken from the young cattleman into the center of the table. "Winner takes all, rancher."

Ben pushed in the last of his wealth to join the pile of paper and coin. There was no reason to keep his concern hidden now. The gambler knew he had Ben in a tight spot.

His hand on the three cards, Ben exhaled and set them next to the others he held. He couldn't bear to look as the dealer called and bid them to show their cards.

A few of the saloon patrons had taken a leisurely interest in the game as players began to drop away from the high stakes table. Now the bystanders moved in closer for the reveal. Ben felt the heat of the room as his pulse beat in his ears.

The gambler laid out first, his cards fanned out as they left his fingers. The dealer examined them. "Pair of Queens."

Ben sighed sure his hand would have nothing of value after he fumbled and gave away half of his only pair. His eyes gazed at the gambler leaning back with a sated expression as he puffed on his spiced cigar. Ben had a moment of deep hate for the man as he placed his cards to the felt with much less flair.

The gambler's expression changed as he looked over. Ben turned his eyes down to the cards as the dealer spoke the verdict. "Two pair, Mr. Mason wins the pot."

Relief filled every cell in his body. Ben made a silent pact between him and God not to let 'o be joyful' get to his head like this again.

Luck had been at his side that night in his youth or his fate might have been different.

Since joining the war near the middle of 61', Ben had become more adept at the game. There wasn't much energy left the end of the day for more than a few hands of cards. It was a kind of escape for he and the men, a moment of normality amongst hours of bloodshed or tedious march.

Ben had joined some of his men after supper, earlier that night. He had been quite fortunate. His stack of matches had doubled from the night before. Just as he was about to offer a friendly jib about his card sharp skills, he looked down. Lady luck had seen fit to remind him of that one night long ago.

He felt his gut knot as his eyes gazed upon a king, two aces and two eights. The same hand as that one a decade ago, he took it as an omen. Omens were fickle. They would appear, but then wouldn't tell you what they meant or who for.

He sighed deeply and closed the cards to hide the dark ones behind the smiling king. "I fold, gentlemen. I owe my wife a long overdue letter."

Ben tossed the cards into the center of the table and quickly moved into his tent. Where he now sat at the small table with the photo in hand as he wrote. His eyes fell to the still discarded omen as it lay next to his pile of matches.

He admitted those cards unnerved him. With the morning looming closer, it felt as though a bill was about to be called due. Before battle, perhaps he should see the good Reverend for one of those blessings he was so fond of dispensing.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Death to the inner critic! #atozchallenge

The Inner Critic is that voice in your head that talks to you telling you if something is worthy of appraisal or not. Everyone has one. It just seems that writers tend to be the most tortured by this voice.

That nasty little voice in our heads if we are not careful will become judge, jury, and executioner to our work.  If we allow it, that critic can shut a story down and keep us from submitting our work.  By listening to that voice in our head say things like. “That’s not really good enough to send out.” "Maybe you should rework that second chapter... again." “No one is going to want to read that.” “You’re no Stephen King, baby." "A fifth grader writes better dialog than you." Or we leave a manuscript unfinished because that voice convinced us it wasn’t what readers/publishers want.

When that voice begins to niggle… stuff a sock in it. Tell that inner critic to pack his/her/its bags and get on the next train out of town. Put him in a bag and toss him in the river. Do whatever it takes to silence that voice. 

Play loud music, take a walk and get some fresh air, stab your voodoo doll a few times. Be physical about it. Create a paper box write inner critic or something your inner critic said about your novel on another slip of paper. Put that slip inside your box and SMASH! Step on it, toss it in a boiling pot, destroy it in a manner that makes you giddy with the freedom of shutting that thing up. 

Writers have to stuff that voice down and get the job done. Tell those stories that are aching to be told. Just as we would with a rejection letter or a bad review, we write another page.  Write another and another until your work finds itself happily nestled in a reader's hands. 

The inner critic will come back after a while. That doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. What does a voice in your head know anyways? When I was three he told me dirt might taste good… yeah what does he know.


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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Cannon #AtoZChallenge

The wait, it was the worst part of war. Ben and his men had held their current position in the wood
since well before dawn.

Younger inexperienced soldiers were apt to get antsy, but it had been long enough in one spot the more experienced men had begun to shuffle feet. Ben dismounted his horse to walk among them.

One of the men moved his musket from left to right as he let out a nervous breath. Ben walked down the line and clasped the man’s shoulder. “Stay strong, the time is near.”

As if on que rider barreled through the wood to their position. “Lieutenant Benjamin Mason.” Ben stepped out of the ranks and nodded. The rider tipped his hat to him. “You have orders to support the 22nd, sir.”

Ben mounted his horse and gave the order. The wait was over they were to fight. The men fought to keep their lines as anticipation grew with each step. Ben’s hand slipped into his pocket one more time before they reached the field.

He pulled out the photo of his wife and son to look upon them. He hoped it would not be for the last time. With a breath to steady himself he pushed the photo back into his pocket.

A priest rode across the front line. He recited a prayer of absolution to prepare their souls in case they fell during the battle. Some of them crossed themselves others muttered personal prayers, or made promises of what they would do if God let them live through this day.

The sound of gunfire and men’s shouts began to fill air as the moved closer. Soon the sound of the wounded could be heard, the thump of some of them falling to the hard earth. One of the mounted officers near Ben took a shot in the throat.

Ben dismounted to blend with his men; officers were always the first picked off if Johnny Reb could manage it. His pistols in hand he ordered the men to take positions in the trenches and fire at will.

Several fell before they could get to the lower ground. They cried out as lead tore into their flesh. Ben felt something hot burn through his coat into his shoulder. Then his shirt being soaked with his life’s blood.

He pressed his bandanna to it as he continued to call orders down the line. He looked out into the wheat field in which they fought.

He could hear Confederate officers shout orders to their troops as they took more of the field. Ben could see them fully now they were in a greater number than when he had last met them. He waited for the volley to begin.

The twelve-pound Napoleon cannons would settle the odds in favor of the blue. The Federals were out of range for the Rebs artillery, one fact of the day Ben was more than thankful of.

The enemy still approached, but no volley had begun. Ben looked back, the two cannons were unmanned. His heart fell, he knew this battle would be over quickly if they couldn’t thin out that line. 

Ben turned to the trenches as Confederate fire began to rain down. “Charlie, Dawson with me.”

The two men, didn’t hesitate to move away from the trench. Ben ran with them to the artillery wagon. He pulled the sack of primers and attached it to his belt as he gave orders. “Charlie, you’re on the nose. Dawson you run munitions. Do not pause, gentlemen. I want as constant a fire as we can get.”

Both men nod. Charlie ran up with the first ball. He set it into the tube then shoved it back with the rammer. Ben punctured the powder bag through the vent before he dropped in the friction primer.  

Charlie watched Ben hold his shoulder as he set the sight in place and take aim. “Lieutenant, are you hit?”

Ben moved back cord in hand. “I’m fine.” He let go of a deep breath as he nodded to the men. “Ready! Fire!”

He pulled the cord. There was a hiss as the powder ignited. A second later came the blast, sulfur and smoke filling the air. The ground shook under their feet. Ben shook his head to combat the ring in his ears from the explosion.

With in seconds they were rewarded with screams and calls of the wounded. Ben called out. “Reload!”

They readied again, and again, they caught an easy rhythm as if they were a full crew. Smoke billowed through the wheat field, made it hard to visualize targets. Ben focused on the light of the enemy’s muzzles and the sound of gunfire.

The battle felt as though it had gone on for days, instead of hours. The day had faded into dusk when they heard the Confederate officers recall their men. When they were out of sight, the men cheered. More for the joy that they still took breath than for the victory.

Ben surveyed the damage. He was thankful the cannon had dulled his hearing. This night he would get a reprieve from the cries of those fatally wounded, as they called out for someone to take their final words home.

Ben took count of his men as they began to slowly emerge from the trenches. Their number appeared reduced, but most were still with him. He could see many had been wounded. It brought memory of his own injury and the pain back to his conscience mind.

He attempted to push it back as he joined them, though loss of blood made him unsteady. He swallowed hard as his eyes landed on a fallen rebel. A deck of cards had fallen from his pack and been scattered through the blooded wheat around him by the fighting. Next to the dead man’s hand lay two aces and two eights.

Ben’s omen, he knew it was a taunt. He turned toward the surgeon’s tent and spoke to the omen, fate or whom ever was listening. “I owe nothing, I carve my own fate.”


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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Blast Writer's Block

There is only one way to actually break writier's block. Write. Take an active role in getting past whatever is blocking your prose. Instead of binging on Netflix and chips try one of these ideas to get wake up your muse.

Snoop
We all have looked in someone else’s medicine cabinet, so why not your main character?  Write about what they find in there. It could be mundane everyday stuff, something tawdry, or a hidden secret.

It doesn’t have to be a medicine cabinet. He/she can look in a drawer or the glove box in a car. Just open something up and take a long gander at what’s inside. You’ll be quite surprised at what he or another character is keeping stashed away. Somewhere hidden in the back of the junk drawer of your character’s boss’ desk is what will get you back on track with your manuscript.

Loser
A lost object is another way to trick the muse into walking around that block. While searching for lost keys, phone, cigar clipper, or the hamster that escaped his cage you can find all sorts of things to fluff your plot. Use it to explore a bit more of your character’s personality, or, that of another character helping in the search.

Disasters
All else fails have disaster strike. It’s amazing how much a lightning strike or freak tornado ripping across the front lawn can get the creative juices flowing again.  In real life these things can come out of no where so why not use a cyclone to drop a house on your block.

New View
Open a new document and pick any character but your hero/heroine. A background character such as the guy in the parking garage, the waitress with the great smile, someone who is mentioned but really isn’t a player in your story.

Now take that person and write a page about them. What where they doing before meeting your MC? Do they have a cat or is she slinging hash until she’s discovered as the next Marilyn Monroe? Once you’ve gotten a few paragraphs or a page you can go back to your WIP, you’ll find your muse is now ready to take off again.

Writer’s block can feel as though a huge wall in front of our muse. Looking up, it seems impossible to get over that wall. Put your fingers on the keyboard and write until that wall crumbles.  When it does the sun will shine, the forest animals will surround your desk in song…. Okay, not really but you will be celebrating with your muse as the story picks up speed again.

Do you have any tips or tricks to break a writer's block? Share it in the comments section below!

This blog was written during April during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. The challenge is to post a blog daily, Monday through Saturday. Each post begins with a letter of the alphabet. Want to know more click on the logo below and find other great blogs to read/follow!

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