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.



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.

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.

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.

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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Sunday, March 31, 2019

A Gallant Night #AtoZChallenge

Lucinda stood in the gallery and sipped her wine as she gazed at the veduta. The landscape was
timely, done in earthy oils. The artist expressed great elocution in his work. As she moved on through the gallery, to another painting. This one seemed so real, as if the man standing at the parapet could tumble out of the work.

Applause erupted as the artist raised his glass in a toast to critic Phillip Glazer. Pronounced fee-leep glass-a-er. The schmuck probably wasn’t even French. Lucinda had a premonition that all the artist’s efforts to impress the great critic were all a fallacy.

In her mind’s eye she could picture the review in which uppity Fee-leep would eviscerate the young artisan. At the very least sever an artery.

With a sigh, she moved into the exhibits. Lucinda couldn’t help a quiet laugh as she passed a couple. The gentleman was trying to impress his lady friend, badly. He stood back from the painting with a distant expression. Then proclaimed that the artist was ocular. Oh yes, the young man had a vision alright. A vision of getting that petite blonde between the sheets.

Next was a classic view of the medieval hero Robin Hood. The outlaw stood in disguise lined up with the other archers. Arrow knocked ready to fly true and win the legendary contest. With a grin, she entertained the notion of being able to step into the painting and blow in his ear as he let fly. Let’s see him make that shot.

An odd coupling by the same artist the next painting held a limo in the Nevada desert. A man dressed forties gangster style stood against the side of the car. He might have been attractive but for the horrendous scar down the side of his face. Something caught her eye and she started to laugh at the artist’s morbid sense of humor. A man’s shoe lay just under the edge of the limo’s trunk. The scared man wasn’t alone in the desert after all.

The next piece was a collage of calendars. It was quite impressive how he managed to encapsulate so much history into the piece. There was a calendar from the year JFK was assassinated the date circled in red. Little pictures of historical events speckling many of the dates.

Lucinda actually liked the Florida landscape. The beach with its white sands that seemed to stretch on forever. Palm trees bent to shade a group of sunbathers as the waves licked at their feet. A dog with a Frisbee in his mouth ran along the shore, which made her a smile.

Hanging next was a peep inside a brothel. Ladies enticed men with their unmentionables and pretty smiles. They hoped to make a few dollars that night. Some danced, others drank, a few couples locked in romantic endeavors but all laughing and gay. All but one. At the corner window seat a woman with long golden locks stared at the moon. Her sapphire eyes held a longing, perhaps of dreams lost. 

Lucinda sighed as someone behind her made loud comments. She had lost patience with the crowd growing in number and noise. The wine no longer able to quench her thirst she poured it into the potted tree. Lucinda glanced around as she slipped the flute with its gallery charm that dangled from the stem into her purse. On her way out, she over heard Fee-leep tell another patron an artist should have stuck to flipping burgers.

The valet brought her car and Lucinda tipped him before she drove away. On the way home, she listened to Mozart drift through the speakers. Once inside her apartment the illusion was shattered.

She toed off her shoes then walked to the wall by her dining table. Lucinda pulled the flute from her purse and set the glass on a shelf turning the charm to dangle from the front.

She stepped back and looked at her collection. There was a glass from almost every gallery in New York and LA. Since the move to California, Lucinda had found the Beverly Hills posh galleries a lot of fun. It was her little escape from her mundane life as a post office clerk.

Once a month she would dress to the nines walking among the beautiful people. Experiencing the world in their eyes for a couple of hours, tasting fine wines, foods she would never be able to afford. Walking to her bedroom Lucinda took off her dress she’d saved for six months to buy it. There were three fine gowns in her closet just for her little trips.

As she slipped on the less glamorous cotton pajamas with coffee and kittens imprinted, Lucinda thought about the gallery and all she had seen tonight. She rested her head on, her pillow Lucinda made note to check the listings for next month so she could plan her next gallant night.  

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Readers, we need YOU!

Can Readers Participate in Blogs?

Absolutely! Readers, we need YOU!

Authors Rose Kelly and Elise VanCise will be penning a continuing series together as part of the A to Z Challenge that begins on April 1st 2019.

Written by Rose Kelly in 2012 and originally titled "Torn Paper", the short, standalone piece received positive feedback and requests for the story to be continued. Rose and Elise will continue the story, now titled “Then He Was Gone”, as a series for the A to Z Challenge and each chapter will be inspired by a letter in the alphabet.

And now for the twists:

Two Blogs
Rose and Elise will each be writing from the POV of our two lead characters. On “Gladiator’s Pen”, you’ll read the story from the perspective of our female character as written by Elise VanCise. For our male character’s perspective, you’ll find him on “Rose Writes” as written by Rose Kelly.

Reader Votes
We thought it would be a fun writing experiment to include aspects of the story that have been voted for by our readers. We’re starting with the poll below that will ask readers to vote for the main character’s names and the state where the story will be set.

This won’t be the only choice we will ask you to make! Periodically, we will be posting polls and getting your input for the story. Links for Gladiator’s PenRoseWrites, and the polls will be included with all posts.

You’ll have to read the blogs to find out if your vote appears in the story! This poll will end on March 29th, 2019. So, what are you waiting for! Vote below!

Then He Was Gone
After realizing the mistakes that caused her relationship to fail, a woman travels across continents in search of a second chance with the love she lost. 
Oh I hope she finds him! Nice evocative piece.” -Helen Howell 
Very nicely crafted. The story elicits sadness and a sense of loss, yet at the same time has the underlying sense of hope, and feelings of things that may be repaired and put right…The story just begs to be given closure.” -Steve Green 
I have been swept away in your world and really want to know more! Great emotional feeling within this piece!” -C.M.Brown

Continuing story series for the A to Z Challenge
Written by Rose Kelly & Elise VanCise
Coming in April 2019

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Does your novel need to go on a diet?

Everyone likes big books, you can't lie... yeah, I went there. Seriously though, an author tends to write on the 'meaty' side of things during the first draft phase. We write with a ton of adverbs, repetitive nouns, prepositions, verbs, its, and and, the list goes on.

All that makes for a chubby novel. One that needs a hand to cut those extras from it's diet and trim down to a sexier sized manuscript. Yes, I know your novel isn't going to sport an itty bitty yellow polka dot bikini at the beach, but, it is going to go to publishers, editors, and readers hands.

Why should your care if your writing is a little on the husky side? Just like bon bons too much of a good thing can be damaging to your figure, or in this case it can muddle the picture you want to create for your reader. Over description can be boring, too many adverbs or pronouns can get confusing and mess with tenses.

Too many of those little connector words such as  and, it, that, this, like, or as (or is one too!) can clutter your sentences. You want your writing be create a clear and concise.

Don't worry you don't have to squeeze your novel into those skinny jeans hanging in your closet. Here are a few tips to help tip the scale in your favor.

Channel Mark Twain, he is one of my favorites and gave great writing advice. He once said, "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should."

It really is a good idea. The first step is to determine which words you tend to over use. Once your bad habit words are determined substitute damn in its place or just dashes. When edit read the segment in question without the habit word and with it.

Doing this will help you decide if  you actually need to use the habit words and where you can drop them from your diet. Just like eating less carbs or Heaven forbid cutting out chocolate in your real diet.

How do you determine what words your novel tends to over eat? There are tools in Word or most word processing programs have the option to search and count a certain word throughout the book. Yeah, that can be a lot of work and you can miss leg day (a habit word) and end up with thunder thighs in chapter six.

The easy way to do the deed is to use an editing aid such as Grammarly, Ginger. These products have free options as well as paid subscriptions to their services and tons of features and tools to make your novel strut the runway with it's fit and trim body. My personal favorite is to take a trip over to The Writer's Diet webpage.

The Writer's Diet is also a fabulous book by Helen Sword that helps you trim your writing without sending it to the Biggest Looser. You can even test your writing fitness level right on the site under the Test tab. Just copy paste no more than one thousand words and click Run the Test.

You will get a rainbow colored page that highlights your habit words and shows if you need to put that book on the treadmill. It will also tell you if you're dieting too much. (Your book, not you. Put down that cookie!) Now, this is just a feedback tool. It won't tell you if your writing is good, bad or needs cheese.... everything is better with a little cheese on top. It will help you determine those high calorie words that possibly need to be nixed.

Play with it and try different samples of your writing, if nothing else it's like that cake over there; pretty to look at just like that big slice of cake with the pretty piped rose on top.... 

*takes a bite of cake and sighs happily.... Oh well, so much for that New Year's resolution. Maybe my novel will look good in those skinny jeans.