Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Write Time - Part I

We're an odd bunch. Writers, that is. We don't do what we do because of celebrity, fortune or expectation. After all, for the former two, there are much easier paths than writing. For every 50 Shades trilogy, Hunger Games, and Twi-hard novels there are millions of the rest of us, failing and banging the keyboard against the desk, screaming: "Why not me? Why not me? Mine is so much better."

Okay, perhaps that last part is just me.

And, while I know of many parents who expect their children to be doctors, lawyers, even scholars - not many parents bundle up their children before sending them off into the world, a pat on the head and an encouraging "Now here ya go, Johnny, it's time to slave away at the keyboard with the daunting reality that you're very unlikely to make it work."

In fact, it seems the polar opposite to be true. Parents, clad in sweater-vests and tennis shoes, walk into their child's bedroom and gasp at the Austen, Bradbury, and Orwell posters on the wall. The mother swoons and the father catches her. Their child ignores them both, fingers clacking away on the keyboard of their laptop as though a fevered fix has a hold on them. "We talked to her about drugs, sex, and drinking - but never thought she'd experiment with writing!" the mother exclaims. The daughter never looks up from her screen as she's overcome by the high of having complete control of this fictional world she's created.

So, that leaves the question: why do we do it? I can't speak for everyone. Well, I have letters at my disposal so I suppose I could. As a writer I could easily say that Molly Snuggins of Panama City declares this and Harold Juniper of Spokane, Washington says that.

For me, I think - and I'm using the term 'think' very loosely here - I write because I have something to say. Sounds crazy, right? Now, nine times out of ten I have no idea what that oh-so-interesting thing is, until, I don't know, let's say the work is finished and I've re-read it about eight times. Then, and usually only then, am I suddenly blindsided and say: "Oh, I get it now." I don't mean to call myself thick or dense. I'm actually quite brilliant, just ask my mom.

I have not the slightest idea when I first became interested in writing. I remember being young, though, and sitting in the backseat of our large SUV. I remember telling myself stories of people or animals as we drove along roads while my sister read books comfortably beside me.

Maybe, in hindsight, the curse became my gift. See, whereas my sister and I both adore reading, I cannot read in the car. I'm devastatingly prone to motion sickness. No lie, I have become carsick from sitting in a parked car. My sister and usual co-author, Kym, can read backwards upside down in 105 degree heat in a moving minivan packed with eight people and a wet dog and not so much as blink about the whole thing. So she read. And I occupied myself with stories.

To this day those roles haven't changed much.

I didn't make friends easily in grade school. I was always the chubby girl who was too smart for her own good and was a freak for getting along better with her teachers than her peers. I didn't like sports, except for field hockey when I dislocated a few people's fingers and broke one girl's toe, and I never had enough confidence to try out for the school play. Except that one time in fourth grade where everyone had to participate. It was called A Bug's Wife and I played a spider who danced to the Beatles' song "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."

My imagination never suffered though. In fact, the more of an outsider I felt the more vividly my stories became. I played outside a lot - and since what little girl doesn't love animals? - tree trunks became crocodiles and branches became horses. I was a spy a lot too - who rode a horse. And a crocodile.

I entertained myself at home too. While my sister was pretty good about playing with me, she is eight years older than me - my brother is eleven years older than me, so he was just useless - and didn't find the same fascination in Beanie Babies and Barbies that I did. But since my siblings were a lot older, I was also exposed to more complex story lines. Barbie had cheated on Ken with whatever that red-headed Barbie's name was. Ken was having orgies. The monkey Beanie Baby rode the horse, but also flew on the butterfly. And I'm pretty sure my brother's old GI Joe's were in there too. They might have had their own trysts with Ken.

But then I became just a little too old for toys and dolls and stuffed animals. I was supposed to be focusing on more important things, like who Jessica had a crush on and if Robbie and Samantha were really holding hands - how scandalous!

My imagination could have died. It could have been announced DOA right there at the floor of junior high. After all, how can imagination compete with training bras and braces and unchaperoned play dates?

But then, when all could have been lost, I read O Henry's The Gift of the Magi.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Technology and Writers

Currently Reading: Lover Unleashed by JR Ward
Currently Listening: Judas by Lady GaGa
Currently Listening: Rolling in the Deep by Adele
Currently Surfing: Smashwords
Currently Watching: Doctor Who

So here is why writers shouldn’t keep blogs. We’re just not a reliable people. Kym and I kept this blog going consistently what, two months? Pathetic.

My first mistake was buying an iPod Touch. And now my iPad is in the mail. A professor of mine summed it up the best: “Ashley, you deserve cool toys. They help you write.”

Sure, this is an excuse I’d love to employ (and often do – just ask anyone who knows me). But the truth is that I love writing because it doesn’t require anything. Okay, well the actual act of writing needs something – a utensil of sorts and something that said utensil will mark upon. Pen and paper, pencil and a wooden desk, blood and the wall…what? Sometimes a girl runs out of Post-It notes.

But the idea of writing doesn’t require a damn thing. I’ve written entire adventures, murders, romances, and the memoir or two (they usually put me to sleep) in forty-minute car rides.

Then I bought an iPod Touch and became addicted to Fruit Ninja, Bloons Tower Defense 4, and even the occasional word search so I’d at least feel like I wasn’t wasting my time. But I was.

And I once I sign for that iPad you may never hear from me again.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One Perfect World - Hold the "Perfect"

Listening: Uprising by Muse
Surfing: Amazon

Even if you’re not Bible-savvy, chances are you at least have a vague knowledge about the Garden of Eden as told in the book of Genesis.
Picture it: lush grass, plush shrubbery, trees with succulent fruits dripping from its branches, lions and tigers and bears are domestic pets, and the fashion statement of the era was letting it all hang out. It was the proverbial heaven on earth.
Ah yes.  A perfect world.
Except for that one tree.
And we have our heroine, Eve, who looks at that tree with the forbidden fruit and possibly thinks, “This is all great, but I’m bored and this creepy, talking serpent has a convincing argument.”
And two bites later, Eve and Adam are strapping on some fig leaves and being waved towards the Garden exit by the angel Gabriel and his flaming swords.
Thousands, possibly millions of years later the rest of us sit here amongst the pain, death, and suffering that plagues our world and can’t help but to shake a metaphorical first in fury at Adam and Eve and their robbing the rest of us of that perfect world we all so long to experience.
Yet, I highly doubt living in a perfect world would make any of us truly happy. If we all constantly lived in a blissful state of being, how would we even know we were happy? We would all be like automated robots going about our business, void of any emotion, lacking any real life experience. Because if you think about it, if there are no bad times, how would you know how to appreciate the good times?
If it wasn’t for pain and suffering there would be no literature, no art, no music; because what are these art forms, except a creative way for individuals to express, reflect, and deal with their personal and worldly demons?
I think it was said best by Steve Carell’s character, Frank, in Little Miss Sunshine, when he’s talking about the tortured writer Marcel Proust:  French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he's also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh... he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, 'cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn't learn a thing.”
I appreciated this quote when I watched the movie for the first time in 2006. Now, four years later and after almost four months of my own personal anguish, due to the fact that my sister and I have been defending the content of our book Do No Evil to extended family and our church, this quote strikes a very sensitive nerve. This idea that at the end of all this, I will walk away with a better understanding of myself and will have become a better person because of it.
So far the personal pain and suffering I have been enduring these past few months have provided me with a deeper sense of appreciation. For my family, for my friends, for my intelligence, for literature and my gift of writing, for all my other good and bad experiences that has brought me to where I am today and has equipped me to deal with conflict and uncomfortable situations.
But most of all, and ironically enough, over the past four months I have felt a stronger presence of God in my life than I ever have before.
Now, that’s perfection.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Death by Banana

Currently Reading: Crave by JR Ward
Currently Surfing: Sporcle
Currently Watching: Castle

Let's face it - us writers are just a little bit crazy. There's a good chance that if you are a writer and happen to be reading this, then you understand exactly what I mean. Especially us Mystery/Thriller writers. We make up ways for people to die - that's what we do in our spare time. We are the breed of people who think gunshot wounds are just a little bit boring and drowning is just a tad too overdone.

In our world, the more blood the better and Cannibalism is practically Christmas. Not to mention the random thoughts that take over our mind during the day. We could be standing at the kitchen counter, buttering a bagel, and see a banana on top of the bread box. Instantly, we think: "How do I kill someone with a banana?"

Consider the vast amounts of death on television now - and not just plain ol' die-in-your-sleep death, but murder. Hell, if it wasn't for the television show Criminal Minds, I'm fairly confident that those writers would be institutionalized somewhere. I mean, really, someone who places his victim's eyes in his taxidermy pets? That's not sane - but it is awesome.

Coming up with the C.O.D. (Cause of Death) in Do No Evil was a layered process. The state the bodies were in when found didn't necessarily kill them, but what the murderer did to his victims was more important than how he killed them - although even his murder "weapon" had meaning in the killer's life. That's the great thing about plotting murders (besides the stress release, obviously) - everything has symbolism.

I'm trying to convince Kym to have a murderer in our next book who uses household items to kill people. I bet that you're more than a little interested in how we'd off someone using a paper clip, a toilet paper roll, a hole puncher, a measuring cup...

Or, once again, a banana. But deciding how to kill someone with a banana isn't enough in the days of CSI where instead of corpses there are blue hologram bodies which spin and rotate at will. Let's say, for example, person A would kill person B by shoving a banana through their eye and into their brain. Sure, any sick psycho can come up with that...but writers have to consider so much more. For example:

-How much force does it take for the banana to go through the eye?
-How ripe would the banana have to be so it wouldn't mush in the process?
-Would a plantain work better than a banana?
-Would death of banana-through-eye be fatal and plausible?
-How do severe eye injuries lead to death?

And those are just the initial questions. Eventually one answer leads to five more questions until you spend thirty percent of an entire three-hundred page book describing the realistic events that occur when person A shoves that banana into person B's eye. And we enjoy it.

That, dear readers, is why us writers are just a tad bit crazy.