A little distraction never hurt…

So last week I posted about Fall, Halloween, and how it’s a great time of year, but today I watched, like, fifteen minutes of Jeepers Creepers and now I’m so freaked out I don’t think I’m going to sleep well tonight. So screw you Fall! Screw you to hell!

Just kidding. I still love Fall.

And I still love the scary stories, too. But I need to watch something to calm me down, and guess what?! Empire Records is on Netflix!

For those of you that don’t know what Empire Records is, it’s a 90’s cult classic that combines all the best things I love about that decade. Music, comedy, love, angst–this movie has a little of everything.

It’s got Renée Zellweger and Liv Tyler before they found plastic surgery and went under the knife. There’s even a young Ethan Embry who plays a goofy skater that is just the right amount of weird. And it has Johnny Whitworth, who plays a Jordan Catalano look alike, who is completely in love with Liv Tyler’s character. The music is pretty cool too (“Plowed” by Sponge is one of my favorite songs, ever).

It even touches on some serious topics like drug use and attempted suicide, but even so, not too deeply, and all in all, the movie is fluff. Massive, massive fluff.

So it’s pretty much the perfect movie to watch after being scared the heck out of. And I know it was just fifteen minutes of a scary movie and hardly any time to get properly scared, but still! It was more than enough for this poor scaredy cat.

That time of year…

Fall is finally here, and I have to say, so far I’m loving it. Texas is hot. Like fry an egg on the sidewalk hot, and the cool weather of autumn is always welcome.

But with the nice weather also comes one of the best times of the year for readers and authors: Halloween. Now let me just say, I’m not super into Halloween. I don’t dress up, nor do I go to many parties. Some years the most I do is pass out candy in a mask, and do I end up eating most of the candy? Yes, but that’s beside the point! The point is it’s Halloween time, people! And you know what I love? The stories!

You see–I can be a scaredy cat. There are very few scary movies I can watch and to be honest, the ones I do watch I spend most of the time with my eyes covered. But I love a good scary story, especially when they’re told orally.

Growing up, this was the only way stories were told. No one wrote down their tales about La Llorona or the Chupacabra. Everyone just shared the ones they had, face to face from across the table. Or under a blanket fort with the lights off and a flashlight. I can tell you that everyone had an grandpa, uncle, aunt, or cousin that saw La Llorona when I was a kid. Was it real? Who knows. But it was fun hearing the tales. All different, yet similar.

One time, my grandma told me a story where she came face to face with La Lechusa, and you know what? I believed her. Was I able to sleep that night? Hell no. Do I still ask her to tell that story now years later? Of course! It’s my favorite scary story of hers.

The story where my grandma, the badass, survived an encounter with a monster. Talk about heroes right?!

So does this time of year have you guys excited too? I hope so.

I really, really do.

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Inspiration and when it strikes.

Inspiration is a funny thing–at least to me. The oddest things will inspire me to write. Sometimes its something mundane, like taking a walk outside. Something in the air will just put me in the mood to grab my laptop and type away.

Other times, it’s when I’m eavesdropping on conversations (Don’t judge me, but eavesdropping is one of my favorite things to do. And hey! If people don’t want to be overhead, then they should have their conversations somewhere private). Sometimes the dynamic people have–the camaraderie between good friends, that’s something that moves me to write as well. Because that’s actually something I try to capture with my characters. I want them to strike a chord with readers. I want my characters to feel real, and their conversations authentic.

When it comes to emotions–well this is going to sound basic, but I get that from real life. My life. I try to remember not only how I felt, but those around me in certain situations. Weddings, funerals, vigils. Church, holidays, get togethers. All the good, the bad–those are the kind of situations that I pull emotions from, and I try to transfer them into my characters.

For settings–well, it’s usually places I’ve been. I recently took a trip to DC and Virginia, and just being in Old Alexandria put me in the mood to write. If you’ve never been, it’s really beautiful. So beautiful I decided to write a novella that takes place in Virginia in a town a lot similar to Old Alexandria.

So there you go. Just a small list of the things that inspire me to write. So what kind of things inspire you?

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The Marvel Universe

So like a lot of people out there, I really love the Marvel Universe movies. But recently I was speaking to someone and they mentioned how the movies are all the same, regardless of who the main characters are. So that got me thinking, is Marvel really cranking out the same plot with different characters and settings? Well let’s see.

Although Avengers: Infinity War is the most recent release–for this post–I’d like to focus on Black Panther. Personally, I love Black Panther. I loved Wakanda and the whole idea that there was this country that was covertly strong with high tech. Also that Wakanda seemed to have a thriving culture and a monarchy that was just and fair.

But lets take a closer look at T’Challa, the protagonist of Black Panther and King of Wakanda. When T’Challa’s father dies, he assumes the throne, as is his birthright. When Ulysses Klaue, a villain from the past pops up, it’s T’Challa’s responsibility to bring him in for Wakandan justice. Unfortunately, Erik Stevens, the “Killmonger” and T’Challa’s long lost cousin, brings Klaue back to Wakanda dead, and also to challenge T’Challa for the throne. Stevens wins, and brings chaos to Wakanda as there are some Wakandans that want to bring weapons of power to people of African descent around the world so that they may fight their oppressors, and then there are others that don’t. A huge battle ensues, and T’Challa is able to wrestle control back of the throne before the weapons are made available to the public.

So after that quick recap, I wonder, does this story bare any resemblance to other Marvel movies? A hero, a villain, the conflict? Hmm maybe Spider Man? A little bit of Iron Man, too? Maybe some Captain America and Doctor Strange as well?

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s the movie’s differences that set it apart, and make it great.

And besides. It’s Stan Lee’s story. They’re all Stan Lee’s stories. And if he likes to repeat motifs, then why not? It’s not like they don’t work.

Weighing writing…

Sometimes its hard to find time to read. I’ve been working on finishing book 8 of the Wheel of Time series for years. My brother gives me such shit about it, because I started reading the series before him, was even four books in, and he surpassed me and finished the whole thing. But the truth is, something had to give–there are only so many hours in the day, and so many things we can do with those hours. I choose to write.

Prioritizing your life is hard when you’re a writer and you have a full time job, family, and all the other things in life. But it has to be done. You need to chisel out time in your day to actually do some writing. It was hard for me (and still can be), because my life is so full, but I decided it had to be done. I needed to cut the fat from my life.

The things that I had to spend less time doing were binge watching TV and reading books. Those two things took huge chunks of my time, so they had to go. Not watching so much TV isn’t a bad thing. I hardly miss it. But my books! Oh, I miss them. I miss immersing myself in someone else’s world. It’s the best! Especially when the author does it so well. But with work and life and all those other things, I have to choose writing over reading my epics.

I’m sure there are other writers that have made the same decision, and cut certain things out of their life to make time for their writing. It’s a difficult thing to do, because lets face it, sometimes writing is hard. It’s easy to be distracted and do something else. But you know its gone too far when three months have gone by and you’ve done absolutely nothing. Nothing to move your story forward. At this point, you might as well be in quick sand, trying to pull yourself from being stuck, only to sink further. It happens–you lose interest in your story, and start putting it off, and before you know it, it’s shelved.

So this is the importance of prioritizing your time to write. So many bad things happen when you don’t. So make a plan and stick to it, and you’ll be a much better writer for it.

 

Jiu Jitsu and all its things…

So like most people that are of a “certain age” I decided I needed some type of exercise in my life, but I didn’t want to deal with the monotony of the gym. I wanted something else, something that was more of a challenge. And that’s when I came across a gym that focused on Mixed Martial Arts. I gave them a call and decided to give Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a try.

Changed my life.

How? Well, I’m a tiny person. Like real tiny. And maybe because of my small stature, I sort of shied away from full contact sports. But this! Jiu jitsu, was all up in my face. It took a little bit of an adjustment, having people sweat all over me. And I’m not going to lie, there were times when I got other people’s sweat in my eye and mouth. Thoroughly disgusting. But in the end, it was an experience. A growing experience that helped me learn what its like to be in bad positions, and how to get out of them. And between all the arm bars, triangles, and Americanas I learned I wasn’t as frail as I thought.

The second thing I learned in this sport, was that as crazy as it seems to those looking in, it is not as dangerous as one might think. Oh yes, there is a chance you’ll get hurt, but it’s the same as any other sport, maybe even less. Because when you’re training jiu jitsu, you’re training with a partner, and no one–no one–wants to hurt their training partner. So while rolling (training), you match intensity with your partner, and there’s hardly anyone that trains more than 85%. The only time one goes the full 100% is while competing. So what I learned, is there is a respect between teammates and an awareness and desire for their well being.

The last thing I learned about jiu jitsu is: It’s just fun. There’s nothing like it. Training–wrestling with a partner, trying to get out of certain positions, or trying for a submission. Failing, and getting submitted yourself, just to dust yourself off, and roll again. Then, finally, submitting someone for the first time. It’s awesome. It’s fun. It’s jiu jitsu, and really, there’s nothing like it.

The need for “otherness”

The other day I sent a friend a copy of a rough draft of a novella that I’m working on. When she was done reading it, the first thing she said to me was, “You really work in those gays whenever you can.”

Yes. Yes, I do.

I do this with people of color, too. Because really, there isn’t enough representation out there for gay people, or Latinos, or any other ethnic group that is not white. But, I’m not going to sit here and complain about it. I’d rather change it, and encourage other writers to change it as well.

Try to make your writing colorful and full of all types of people from all types of backgrounds. I believe it’ll make your writing more rich and deep. And more in tuned with what we see everyday outside our windows.

I know I can get some push back, obviously my friend felt the need to voice the fact that I write in gay people at every opportunity, but I’m not going to let that deter me from writing about them.

But I also don’t want you to get the wrong idea about my friend. She’s supportive of the LGBT community and minorities, but she’s an older woman who’s old school. She isn’t used to reading stories that have diverse characters. Which is the point of this post. I think it’d be great if we can get to a point where not just novels but also movies and TV shows, are more representative of the diversity we see in this country.

I mean really, wouldn’t that be grand?

 

Writer’s block?

So it took me a long time to finish writing the first draft of my novel. Like, years. Why did it take me so long? Well, some of it was life. Things happened and pulled me in a direction where I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to write. And we all need to be in the right frame of mind to write. Otherwise, it’s probably going to be crap.

But there were other times where I had legit writer’s block. Where I was stuck and couldn’t write a word for months. I’m glad I had these moments as I learned how to manage my blocks and how to get past them.

I’ll be honest, I have bad habits. I don’t outline. I don’t brain storm very much. What I do is let the characters live in my head for a few years, and when I feel like I have a good idea of who they are, what their purpose is, who their adversaries are, what the climax of my story will be, and how my story will end–that is when I start writing. I don’t have diagrams or flo-charts or any of that stuff. Maybe some notes I’ve written here and there, but they’re flimsy, because I’m probably the laziest writer you’ll ever meet.

But I do have three parts to my story. A: the beginning, B: the climax, and C: the resolution. And the block comes in when I’ve written myself into a corner, and I can’t see how I’m going to get to from point A to B, or B to C. This is when I have legit writer’s block. The first few times it happened, I let weeks go by as I tried to figure out how I was going to proceed. After awhile, I realized that the best thing to do was to cut. Cut those last few paragraphs or pages and write something else, take my story in a different direction–because it doesn’t matter how I get to point B, as long as I get there.

And that’s something I recommend writers doing if they ever find themselves with writer’s block. Try putting the car in reverse and taking a different road to your destination. And enjoy the ride. I know I do.

 

Fantasy Football – it’s coming…

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I’m a middle child. I have two brothers, one older and one younger. We’re all pretty close, and the one thing we need to participate in every year is fantasy football.

Now fantasy football is one of those things that you either understand or you don’t. I’ve met so many people that are in love with it, that their need to play is as strong as my own. And yet, I meet others that believe it’s a colossal waste of time. Well I’m here to tell those people: It is a waste of time–a delightful waste of time. I mean, what are you going to do on a Sunday and Monday anyway? And Thursday is a throw-away day too. It’s not like it’s a Friday.

Now I only play NFL Fantasy Football. Some folks play NCAA Fantasy Football too. That’s some hardcore stuff, because the games are held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So if you are married to someone who plays fantasy for both the NFL and NCAA, well, I’m sorry for you. Go with God. He will hear your prayers about your absent spouse.

But to be fair, if you’re playing fantasy football you don’t have to watch the games your players are playing in. But you will. Oh yes, you will.

You will be flipping the channels back and forth between CBS, Fox, and the NFL channel trying to stay current with all your players that are playing simultaneously, annoying everyone watching TV with you until the remote control is forced out of your hand. You will be relegated to trying to watch the games on your phone or eyeballing the live update on you ESPN Fantasy app. Wanting, praying, desiring your players to score. And when they do, it’s pure elation. The purest.

So that brings me to last aspect of fantasy football. It’s addicting. Winning is addicting. Blowing out your opponent on a Sunday so much you know they have no chance of winning even though they have two players playing on Monday. Or bragging to the losers after winning a prop bet. Going to work or the gym the day after and tormenting your league-mates with your winning score–all of it, it’s addicting. It will make you crazy. Crazy for football.

I hope some of you join me in the craziness. Let’s have fun and enjoy ourselves. Cause fantasy football is coming. As a matter of fact, it’s almost here.

How much is too much?

As a writer, a question that I’m always asking myself is: How much information is too much?

Especially with a genre like fantasy, I think writers like to give the reader a lot of info. It makes sense, because a lot of the time we’re world building, and it takes a lot of text to introduce a new world to the reader. Personally, I want a reader to be able to imagine my world as I see it. What I’ve realized is that a lot of the time that is not the case. It’s not a bad thing. If anything, I’m pleasantly surprised when someone reads my fiction and has imagined my settings in a larger scale than I intended. Because really, sometimes bigger is better.

But there are other situations, like the motives of a character or even the plot of a story, where I’ve had readers that understand what is happening and one that doesn’t. In this situation, I’m always a little confused as to what to do. Obviously my writing isn’t so confusing that the plot can’t be followed because some readers were able to do so without question. But what about the reader that didn’t? Why are they struggling? The only thing I can think of is that some people prefer to read stories that have an abundant amount of information and want the instant gratification of their questions answered in one sitting.

Personally speaking, I’m not a reader that needs to have everything given to them at one time. I like to be spoon fed small amounts throughout a story. The best thing is finding subtle little clues that end up being major factors in the future. It keeps me hooked wanting to know if the story is going to work out the way I think it will. And when it does, the feeling is so satisfying.

At the moment, the story that has most of us in its clutches is A Song of Ice and Fire. Does it make me crazy that the show has surpassed the novels? Yes it does. Do I wish that I didn’t know that Daenerys is going to lead the Dothraki back to Meereen? Well, I’m kinda leaning that way since Game of Thrones has already portrayed it. But one plot point that wasn’t portrayed in the show is Victarion Greyjoy and his magic dragon horn. Is anyone else predicting him presenting the horn to Daenerys whereas she uses it to control her dragons to train for battle? After ordering Drogon to eat Victarion of course, squashing his intentions to marry. Permanently.

Yes, yes, it can happen. I’m looking forward to see if it does. I’ll even wait another five years for Martin to publish The Winds of Winter just to see if I’m right.

And that’s what I want for my writing. For people to read and get hooked. I want to keep them interested for years to come.

So, sorry to the one beta reader that didn’t like my story, I’m not changing the plot. Not drastically at least. You’ll just have to wait along with everyone else to get your questions answered. Or not. It’s completely up to you.