Around the world


Finally back again, not just to the blog, but also from three weeks in Germany. It occurs to me I’ve been living like a rock star and not giving all the awesome things I’ve been able to do nearly enough credit.

Since we last talked: I’ve helped coach my kid’s soccer team, run in many 5K’s, walked up a mountain, visited castles, zoos, and an aquarium. Lived another language for three weeks and traveled the world. I also survived a particularly ruthless intercontinental flight. It’s just the highlights of my life, but it reads like an adventure.

So, here’s the plan. More adventures, more doing amazing things and slaying the dragons of self doubt, anxiety, and depression. Bring on 2016, I’m ready.

I shot an arrow into the mud, it rocked


Pictured: Not me

Archery is pretty hip right now. I’m basing this entirely off of the fact that characters who can shoot a bow in movies tend to be rather badass, (Legolas, Katiss, that one dude from Avengers who didn’t really have a superpower outside of hooking up with Black Widow).

I’d mentioned to husband that I was looking for a sport that didn’t require so much work from my injured ankle and that archery might just be the thing. After I promised not to use this as a way to get out of running, he got on board and got me a bow for Christmas. Today I got done work early so I finally got to try it out. In short, it was pretty awesome.

After stumbling through the initial setup, using YouTube videos to guide my way, I duct taped a Styrofoam cooler up and stepped out back to do some shooting. The ground was pretty mushy from a rainy previous week which I didn’t consider a problem until the first arrow disappeared.

Apparently the ground just sucked it under like a spaghetti noodle. I found this quite impressive the first time it happened. Less so the second and by the third time I was convinced I’d accidentally found a secret portal to Narnia in my backyard. After a few slightly more successful attempts with the remaining arrows I managed to snap the tip off one and shatter the nock on another when I planted it firmly into a wooden beam. Really I was just impressed by how well the blunt practice tips were able to penetrate. That arrow really had to work for it.

While it sounds as though my career as a professional archer is being called into question I’m still fairly optimistic about my first outing. It probably helps that I have another set of arrows to fall back on.

5 Important Questions That Will Help You Find The Story You Were Born To Write

Read and loved this. Tells you what to consider when you strip down your writing to it’s very heart.

Sandra Chmara Editing & Writing

Want to kill your chances of a writing career? Write inauthentically. Write generic dreck that anyone in the literate world could duplicate. Draw from a shallow pool teeming with small ideas. You may think that really memorable stories are pulled from the air, the same air you breathe, but they aren’t. They come from the very core of a writer’s being. Do yours?

So what’s the difference between writing stories and putting in writing the stories you were born to tell?

And remember, you are not trying to compete with Tolstoi or Tom Clancy. Your greatest competition comes from you – yesterday, ten years ago, or a minute ago. You are the bar you must surpass. Every day.

Here’s a way to find out what you already have inside you. Don’t worry about all the stories you ever want to write. Scrap everything you’ve already written. Just think…

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Attention creative types, writing competition this way!

mystery_write-620x350-290x166Of the handful of people who follow my blog I’ve noticed a surplus of wildly brilliant creative types. You guys clearly have great taste so I thought I’d pass some info along for any aspiring short-story writers to jump on. Hofstra Law, with Professor Alafair Burke, and Mulholland Books is hosting a Mystery Writing Competition .  The contest is being judged by some high profile crime novelists and the first place winner will be published online and promoted by Mulholland for added exposure, not to mention a pretty sweet cash prize as well.

There are a few guidelines mentioned on the flyer; the main character must be a lawyer, stories should be unpublished works of less than 3,500 words, and the whole thing should be submitted in a double-spaced 12 point font that Microsoft Word won’t object to opening.

I’m on the fence about trying to come up with something for this, I have plenty of work I’m already neglecting, but since there is a clear deadline I might give it a shot if inspiration strikes. Ah yes, the deadline is May 1st to email your story. Like I said, cash prize and some well earned online kudos sound pretty sweet. Let me know if you’re planning to send something in so I can shout encouragement while I contemplate my own procrastination.

Hit the link here to check out the competition flyer and submission guidelines.  The game is on!


It’s been awhile


Just in case anyone was wondering, I did not in fact drop off the face of the earth. I’ve actually been rather busy as of late making an honest effort at doing that whole novel writing thing. As you’ve probably surmised, last month was National Novel Writing Month and I was an active participant. It was stressful and frustrating, but in the end I managed to put down more words towards an original story than ever before so I’m counting it as a win. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I also managed to hit 50K by the skin of my teeth so my competitive nature was also rewarded.

Through the course of the month I read a lot of rumblings about how Novel Writing Month was a foolish endeavor, taken up by people who didn’t have the wherewithal to just sit down and write a novel on their own. While I’d be the first to admit that my 50K is little more than a glorified rough (very rough) draft, I do take some offense to the idea that only talentless hacks would bother to claim novel status for anything written for numbers rather than content.

Sure, there is some tremendous drek churned out in November, but statistically there must be some gems mixed in as well. I cannot fault anyone for chasing the dream of being a writer, or any dream at all come to it. If it takes a special month of feeling accountability to give them the push they need then so be it.

Currently, I’ve stepped back from my first draft to give the novel time to settle so that when I go back to edit I can come at it with a fresh perspective. Large portions will have to be cut, even more will have to be rewritten entirely. That’s fine though, that’s what I expected going into this and I’m actually looking forward to watching my story grow and mature with every draft until it’s ready to flutter off to a proper editor and someday perchance an actual agent.

In the meanwhile, I have some other projects that I’ve been neglecting and a mountain of reading to catch up on. I’m planning to pick up with a more defined writing schedule after the holidays. Hopefully this will include adding more to this blog in addition to some of the other places where I share work.

Gaming aside, I think I most missed having time to just read during the hectic whirlwind that was my November. Gotta admit, it’s nice to be able to have other hobbies again now that I’m not desperately struggling to make word count every night.

An end to the waste

Thus I decided to become a writer. Despite it being my dream job for as long as I could remember I had never really given it serious credibility. After all, I’d also wanted to be a vet when I was a kid and that never went anywhere either. I guess after all this time it had just become something that I’d pushed to the back of my mind and forgotten about. Yet another casualty of youth. An unachievable dream that served no further purpose than to be just that, a dream something that I could pretend I wanted when I really had no idea what I wanted.

Yet, here I sit with nothing left to lose. For the past four years I’ve been regulated to the uninspiring position of stay-at-home mommy. I love my son, funny how parents always feel the need to point that out before complaining, but I’ve always wanted more for myself than just my connection to another person. I want to be special in my own right. Maybe not world famous, although it couldn’t hurt, but at least known. Not anonymous in my mediocrity.

I saw a movie once, not even the whole movie as I cannot recall the title, but at one point one character says to another something to the effect that the worst thing in the world is wasted potential. Well, I guess that’s my life in a nutshell, wasted potential.

I was always a smart kid, but looking back I could have been smarter, could have tried harder, applied myself, found a direction and followed through. It seems like most of the time I just went along with what other people thought I should be doing just to keep the peace, but putting as little effort as possible into it just to show them that I was still in control.

My journalism degree came about much this way. I was constantly told I was a good writer in high school and basically conned into joining the school newspaper staff my sophomore year. I didn’t like the pressure, only the accolades. I tried to drop out, but my teacher fought with me to keep using my gift and I wanted so badly to believe that there was a gift there, something uniquely mine and special that I stayed.

Later when I got to college it was time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and having no better ideas of my own I went along with journalism because that’s what I’d always been told I was good at. I did add advertising because it seemed exotic and like the kind of thing a grownup would do, but mostly because I thought it would keep me off a newspaper staff and therefore free from the pressure and stress of the deadlines that came with it.

I did try writing for my college paper over the summer semester once, it didn’t go well. They weren’t as forgiving of my idiosyncrasies as my high school teacher had been. They didn’t feel the need to praise my efforts and before long I realized that I was entirely out of my league there. I didn’t even complete my last assignment as staff reporter. The semester was ending and I had no intention of staying on for the next one so I figured I had nothing to lose. Aside from the respect of my peers I guess I had been right.

After college I made a few half-ass attempts at getting into advertising only to realize that I had taken such a generalized approach to my education and required internship that I wasn’t actually qualified for anything. So rather than work harder or fight for what should have been my dream I let it go and just continued working at my retail job. It paid bills and I seemed to be good enough at it and good enough was all that I asked of myself.

When I became pregnant with my son and my husband and I made the decision that he would continue to work and I would stay home with the baby I naively thought I’d finally have a chance to leave retail once and for all and find out what I really wanted to do with myself. Funny how things rarely work out as planned. Instead I discovered what other, more successful mothers have known for many years, kids are a lot of work. As my son grew, what small measure of motivation I’d had in me to make something of myself dissipated.

Now as I stand on the brink of having to return to work, my son finally old enough to crave the social interactions of daycare, I no longer have anything to fall back on. For the first time ever I’m having to really try to get what I want and having no idea what it is that I want isn’t making it any easier.

As I lay in bed last night, my mind wandering over all the thoughts that fill my mind and keep me from sleep, I remembered my old dream of being a writer. I’ve tried to write stories before, oftentimes grand novels with casts of amazing characters that people would love to read. I’ve never made it more than a few pages of actual story and mostly just unimportant notes and research, busy work.

Anything I suppose that would delay the actual work of writing. Somewhere in my mind I had decided that I couldn’t fail if I never really tried. If I didn’t fail then I could always have that dream somewhere in the back of my mind, the last thing I had of who I used to be, of who I could maybe someday be again.

I don’t know where this will go, maybe nowhere. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time I thought I was going to make an attempt at actually setting a goal for myself and forcing myself to want something more. At this point though, I really have nothing else left to fall back on, nobody else who can make the choice for me and point me in the right direction.

Over the past four years I’ve watched my career prospects slip away, seen my personality shift and change and felt more isolated from society than I ever have. Going back to work might help get me out into the world again, but I’m not going to be the same person I once was. It would certainly be easier, just fall back into old patterns of following directions and only working as hard as absolutely necessary, but as each day brings me closer to 30 I can’t help but feel like I need to act now or risk losing myself entirely.

Somewhere inside of me there is still a glimmer of hope that I do have something special to offer. A gift all my own that will leave the world a better place. I know it sounds sappy, but at this point I really need one sure thing to hold on to. The only thing I can think of is that I was always told I was a good writer, I used to dream of being an author. If that is the potential I have, it would be a shame to waste it.