Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Steering by the Stars

The Little Black Book of Writers' Wisdom
Edited by Steven D. Price
I got a lovely gift from my sister for my birthday last year. It's a small black book titled "The Little Black Book of Writers' Wisdom," edited by Steven D. Price, 2013.

For a few months it sat on my bedside table collecting dust. But one day, perhaps seeking inspiration to crank up the gears of my rusty writing, I opened the volume and began to read.

I love books like this. It's made up of short quotes, all of them meaty and packed with resonance. I found myself reading a quote and then thinking on it for a time - about whether I found it true for me and how the idea may have played out in my writing life.

Then I got the brain burst to share them with you and ask you to comment on them as well. Thus was born the idea for a new segment for Writer Wednesday on my blog.

There are so many pearls of wisdom in this book that we can mine it for months. I pondered where to begin? I decided to let the fates choose. I opened the book, closed my eyes, and pointed my finger.

Here then is the quote that fate chose for us this week:

"There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion." - E.B. WHITE

I love that last bit - "disturbingly in motion."

The more I write, the more I feel that this quote is true. When I first began writing, I approached it much the way I approached learning the law back in law school. I tracked down books about it, read blog posts and articles, and sought out writers with more experience than me to teach me the "rules" of the game.

To be sure, there are "rules" when it comes to writing. Pick up an unedited manuscript filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors and you quickly see why rules matter.

But grammarians rarely (if ever) make for good writers. And a child can win the national spelling bee but have nary a glimmer of creative genius.

Then there are the "you should never do this" rules and the "always do that" rules that, for me anyway, seem to beg me to break them. I see "rules" on writer blogs and hear them in workshops all the time. There are so many "rules" for how to write a first paragraph that if I began to worry over them I suspect I'd never writer another paragraph again.

The more I write, the more I find the stars in motion. The more I put pen to page, the less sure I am of the course I'm taking. In fact, I'm not sure I'm steering by stars at all. At times it feels more like I'm on a tiny raft in the middle of the ocean on a moonless night, the stars invisible behind a thick blanket of clouds.

Oh, and it's storming.

What about you? Do you relate to this quote? Do you ever feel lost at sea in your writing? Or do you disagree with E.B. White? Do you think there are infallible rules that when followed, you produce writing worth reading?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Writer Wednesday Welcomes Author Stephanie Albright

You're riding down the road thinking you're on a one-way path straight ahead and into the future. But something from your past comes around the corner and you realize you're not on one long linear path but a weird, wonderful tangle of twists and turns and that anything can happen.

Me meeting up again with a childhood pal, Stephanie is one of those odd turns of the wheel that I didn't see coming. Who knew that by publishing my books that I'd not only meet up again with long-lost chums, but that my act of wild, uppity-woman, literary abandon would inspire another to do the same?

I'm so pleased to welcome my friend, Stephanie Albright, to Writer Wednesday. We played imaginary games together in elementary school and now we're sharing our imaginary games with the world through our writing. How cool is that?

Kudos to you, Stephanie, for allowing your heart to bleed onto the page and bring forth your words into the world for all to enjoy.

Stephanie's current release is The End. Here's the setup:

We all have it. That feeling that something bad is about to happen, something really bad. We don't like to think about it and we never talk about it, but still, we worry about it. Sometimes we can almost feel the Earth holding its breath and waiting. We are all preparing in our own ways. Some have built bunkers and gathered supplies, some have a contingency plan on paper or maybe just in their head but nothing concrete. Then there are those of us who are in the middle, we don’t have a well supplied bunker but we have a stash of things we might need when that day comes and a sort of plan to go with it. We think about how much we will miss things like chocolate bars, wine and coffee and brainstorm about ways to preserve the things we will miss the most. We decide where to go, if leaving is possible and consider the pros and cons of each possible location. The more pessimistic at heart are checking things off their bucket lists before it’s too late and maybe even devising an exit strategy. When Lucy and her sons wake up to a living nightmare on the last morning of their weekend camping trip, they must make the most of the people and resources surrounding them to endure, The End.

Sounds like the sort of Apocalyptic story where people find out what matter most to them kind of story that I like. Stephanie was kind enough to share an excerpt too. Check it:


  As I walk down the beach on the last day of the Columbus Day weekend, I wonder if I am the only one who feels it. Maybe I’m just crazy, but then I see the fear in the eyes of those I pass. Even if they are smiling, it is there, the fear. We all feel it, every person on this planet, but if we don’t talk about it maybe it will just go away. Who would want to be the first to mention it?  People would call you crazy, even if in their hearts they know you are right. So we all just keep working and going on as if nothing is wrong, but waiting for it to begin and wondering what will happen when it does.

     We are all preparing in our own ways. Some have built bunkers and gathered supplies, some have a contingency plan on paper or maybe just in their head but nothing concrete. Then there are those of us who are in the middle, we don’t have a well supplied bunker but we have a…..stash of things we might need when that day comes and a sort of plan to go with it. We think about how much we will miss things like chocolate bars, wine and coffee and brainstorm about ways to preserve the things we will miss the most. We decide where to go, if leaving is possible and consider the pros and cons of each possible location and what to take with us and what to leave behind. The more pessimistic at heart are checking things off their bucket lists before it’s too late and maybe even devising an exit strategy.

     It’s sad really, this thing that should be uniting us is not. It is driving us more and more inward, making us keep secrets even from those we have rarely kept them before. We tell ourselves that our fear is irrational, but we know it is not. When the lights blink, we wonder has it begun. Every storm, or drought or sinkhole or earthquake could be the tipping point, so we silently go over our plans and gather those we love around us under the guise of movie night or dinner or painting the den. Whatever it takes to have those we want with us near, just in case.

     Some days, I am so tired of my job and my life that I wish for it to begin, most Mondays as a matter of fact. Maybe it will be a good thing, a time to hit reset. A chance to make things better. Sometimes out of the rubble something beautiful emerges, something wonderful. But, then again, it could just be a slow painful death.

     We can’t stop it. The signs are there to see if we only look, but we don’t like to look. There are too many of us living too well for the Earth to sustain and the Earth seeks balance. It will come one way or another, the Earth will get her way and we are powerless to stop her. She’s done it before and she will do it again, the black plague, the ice age, tsunamis, floods and droughts. Which tool will she choose this time?

     Everyone scoffed about the ending of the Mayan calendar and made fun of those who were ready for the end that day, but we were secretly relieved when that day came and went without incident. We patted ourselves on the back for not holing up in a shelter, or stockpiling food, water and ammo while at the same time, we knew we had dodged a bullet.

     There will likely be no warning. It will probably begin innocently enough. Some people will get sick and we will think that the epidemic is contained but it won’t be, or a drought will make our already overtaxed water supply insufficient. We will be encouraged to conserve and told it will be okay, but it won’t. Things that we thought we had conquered will return to exact revenge, things like cholera, dysentery, smallpox and the plague. Or maybe it will be a large catastrophic event that will change everything in a moment.

     I didn’t realize how long I had been walking, as I turned to head back I saw the sun was just about to set. I stood still and watched until that magical moment when dusk began, then I hurried back up the beach before it got dark. Tomorrow I was going back and it made me sad because I felt more at peace somehow at the beach, more alive.


****************

I'm so glad that I got to connect with the old friend through our love of reading and writing. I hope that you'll check out Stephanie's new book. I'm off to buy my copy now. Buy links are after the author bio.

Stephanie Albright grew up in Amanda, Ohio. She moved to West Point, Mississippi in 1986 and graduated from Mississippi university for Women in 1989. She now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and four sons, where she is a reading specialist. Stephanie loves Georgetown, South Carolina and much of her work is set in and around Georgetown county.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Manic Monday: What's Up Natalie?

I'm not sure if I actually have any regular faithful readers of this blog who read what I post here. Or if the thousands of "hits" each month are bots.  But I'm writing this post in faith that there are some actual human beings who read what I write here.

So if you are a human being reading this and if you have read my blog for a while, you may have noticed that over the past year or so (*scratches head and says "Has it really been that long?"*) I have been inconsistent in posting. Yeah, I've posted Writer Wednesday spotlights of other writers. Sure, there have been some Sci Fi Friday posts. And yes, there have been posts about my most recent release (Emily's Heart).

But when is the last time I wrote a Manic Monday post? I can't remember.

Anyway, I have reasons (numerous) that I've been lax in my blogging. Some are lame, like feeling like since no one comments much on my blog that I may in fact be visited solely by Internet bots rather than real people so what's the point in writing? Or that I was busy - blah, blah, blah.

But mainly I've been lax with my blogging because I've been dealing with some heavy shit in my life.

"What kind of heavy shit?" you ask.

First, there was my retirement from the practice of law in June of last year. You may be thinking that such an event should have freed up time for me to blog my brains out. And that's logical.  But in truth, saying good-bye to my profession was a major life-change event which I'd wanted for sooooo long and was glad for but when it actually happened sort of took me by surprise at being sad about it. In recent years I had worked (very) part-time at being a lawyer and had stopped taking litigation cases so I wasn't in court. It had become a small part of my life taking third seat to being a mom (always first) and my writing. But still, it had been a major part of my life - and my identity - for over twenty years (saying that makes me feel fucking old).

My very wise husband who knows me sometimes too well warned me. "Give yourself six months, Natalie." I rolled my eyes and let his words of wisdom go in one ear and out the other (as I do too frequently). "Whatever," I thought. 

Guess what happened? He was right. (Don't you hate it when your mate is right?) It indeed took me about six months to fully release the old job and identity and to get into a new routine and be okay with the whole thing. It was like for the second half of last year, I'd get up and get my kid off to school then sit at my desk and play at being a writer, all the while feeling guilty that I wasn't really "working" or having anxiety that somehow I was neglecting some serious shit that needed done, and then feeling worse because I was feeling down about retiring to write full-time when so many writers I know don't have the opportunity to do that though they want to, so get over yourself all ready and be fucking happy! I wasn't happy and then felt guilty about not being happy.

But wait, there was more. And this is the heavy stuff that as I writer I feel I should be writing about and talking about but mainly I want to just ignore it and hope it goes away. At the end of the summer last year, my mom was diagnosed with cancer.

For the fifth time.

And it's bad. Really bad. Like the oncologist using the word "palliative chemo" kind of bad.

As if that weren't heavy enough, on the heels of us finding out about my mom's cancer, my dad had a stroke. He has been in and out (mostly in) a nursing home ever since. He's alive, but extremely diminished.

My mom is only 73. My dad 76.

They aren't that old. And I've had to face the fact over the past six months that it is more likely than not that neither of my parents will make it to the age of 80. In fact, it is quite possible that one of them will be gone before the end of the year.

I just typed that without crying. For months I could not have.

The story of my mom's cancer is actually one of hope and of sort-of miracles and of human strength and endurance. It's a story of pain and relationships and love and family. It's a story that could educate others with the BRCA1 gene (my mom is BRCA1 positive). It's a story that many may relate to and find interest in.

But I'm not able to write it. At least not now.

When I first found out my mom's dire diagnosis, my writer friends said "write about it." It was good advice. And I tried.

Some people can wrest poetry from pain. I'm not one of them.

Grief shuts me down. Sorrow makes me withdraw to the within. And try as I might to exorcise it through words, it does not work.

I was able to complete my third novel and maybe I did channel some of my pain into the prose. Emily's Heart is, after all, an Apocalyptic story that tends to the darker side of things. But *spoiler alert* the end is a happy one and I was stuck for months last year, unable to wrest that happy ending out of myself because I did not feel happy. The fact that it finally came out of me at all is a sort of small miracle that I can't explain.

Over the past nine months or so, my writing was filled mainly with anger and angst, heartache and unhappiness.

So I spared you all of that and kept my blog a cancer and sickness-free zone. 

The good news is that as this year progresses, I'm feeling more and more able to write without it being filled with misery. The shadowy veil of sad feelings is lifting and I'm more focused on the here and now - on the living - than on things past.

I'm in the mood to celebrate. I wrote three books!! Can I hear a woot, woot?! I completed a whole series (The Akasha Chronicles). *Does happy dance*

I am an incredibly blessed person to be able to devote my working hours full-time to doing what I love to do. I get to write the stories that fill my head. And I get to go out to book events and meet readers and chat story with them (one of my absolute favorite pastimes).

I have a wonderful daughter, husband and three furry critters that I share my house and life with. And I am alive, and this is no small miracle.

So as I move with more hope and optimism than I've had in a while into the middle of this year, here is what's coming on my blog and in my writing:

Natalie Wright, Manic Monday
1. Manic Monday will return! I don't promise that I'll have a Manic Monday post every week, but I am feeling the itch to speak my *manic* mind so stay tuned for my rants, ravings, musings and Monday weirdness.

2. Writer Wednesday is here to stay. In the past, I have devoted Wednesdays to featuring other writers and occasionally to posting writing tips. Both of those things will continue to happen on Wednesdays. (If you are a writer and would like to be featured on my Writer Wednesday, please shoot me an e-mail to NatWritesYA (at) gmail (dot) com and we'll speak of it).

But I also have a new feature that I'll add to Writer Wednesday in upcoming weeks that will appeal to writers of all makes, models and types - and will get the writerly conversation going.

3. Sci Fi Friday continues. For any of you paying attention, you may have noticed my new Friday feature, Sci Fi Friday. These posts are about scientific discoveries that I come across that strike me as having science fiction implications. I also reserve that time to review science fiction books or movies, OR generally to post anything science of science fiction related.

H.A.L.F., by
Natalie Wright
Arrives Spring, 2015
I'll continue to devote Fridays to all things science and sci fi as I gear up to release the first book of my next series, H.A.L.F., a young adult science fiction series. While my last series was (mainly) fantasy, I'll be writing science fiction (mostly) for the foreseeable future AND science stuff fascinates me. So if you, too, enjoy hearing about science fact that seems more like science fiction, then make sure you hang out with me on Fridays to discuss new technology and scientific discoveries. 

So that's what's up with Natalie. What's up with you? Drop me a line in the comments below or you can reach me by e-mail at NatWritesYA (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thank you for reading to the end :-)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sci Fi Friday: Our God Complex Gone Wild: Man-Made DNA

Human beings seem hard-wired to tinker with the natural world in an attempt to mold it to our will. We domesticated animals. We hybridized plants. We mine the Earth and in the process tear down mountains and create a new terrain.

The genetic code may be the final frontier of man's exploration of, and manipulation of, the Earth's biology. It may also be the scariest frontier.

Whether you believe that an almighty, all-knowing god created us, or that human life is a beautiful accident of millions of years of evolution, the genetic code that makes it all possible is design perfection. Just four chemicals bond into two pairs that form the basis for all life on this planet. 

So why do we feel the need to tinker with it? Maybe the answer is this: because we can.

Geneticists have been dicing and splicing DNA for quite a while now. But the idea of creating artificial DNA? Many scientists said it could not be done.

But it has been done. On May 7, 2014, The Wall Street Journal ran a story with this headline: "Artificial DNA Breakthrough Could Lead to New Treatments." The report stated that, "Researchers for the first time created microbes containing artificial DNA, expanding the universal genetic code that guides life." The scientists created two additions to the normal genetic code and prompted bacteria to incorporate the new man-made DNA with "few ill effects."

The story contained this graphic:


Is it just my fiction-wired writer brain or does this technology scare anyone else? I mean GMOs are frightening enough and clones are creepy. But this is the kind of stuff that fuels a sci fi writer's wet dreams of freaky, dystopian, futuristic fiction. Imagine the implications for these bionic bacteria to find their way out of the lab and into the wider world. Or maybe the technology advances to the point that scientists tinker with human DNA and create a new species, one that is perhaps stronger, smarter and better than us in every way. 

Does this freak anyone else out? What implications do you see in this technology? 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Writer Wednesday with Jessica Tornese

I'm pleased to welcome author Jessica Tornese to my blog today. Jessica is the author of a fabulous time-travel series, Linked Through Time. Check out these great blurbs:

Join Kate Christenson as she
 battles a past that was never
 meant to be her own.

Linked Through Time-

Fifteen year old Kate Christenson is pretty sure she’s about to experience the worst possible summer at her grandparent’s farm in rural Baudette, Minnesota. Without cable, cell phones, or computers, Kate is headed for total isolation and six tedious weeks of boredom. Until the storm.
            A freak lightning accident has Kate waking up in 1960. But she is not herself. She is the aunt she never met, but has eerily resembled her entire life. Thrust into living a dirt poor, rural farm life, Kate struggles to make sense of her situation- a boyfriend with a dark side, a “townie” who steals her heart, and the knowledge that 1960 is the very summer her aunt drowns in the local river.
            Even with every precaution, Kate cannot stop fate, and an unexpected twist adds to her dilemma. To her horror, Kate finds out firsthand her aunt’s death was not an accident or a suicide, but something much, much worse.


Lost Through Time-

“There never was a body, you know.”
Such is the bizarre statement from Gran only weeks after Kate has returned from an accidental time traveling incident, surviving certain death…twice. Capturing Sarah’s killer seemed to be the reason for Kate’s disappearance, but Gran believes otherwise.
Learning of Kate’s power to time travel loosens memories and desires Gran has long since buried. Gran is set on finding Sarah, who she believes never died the night Dave Slater threw her in the river, but instead, went back in time through the Rapid River portal. With rudimentary research and analysis, Gran thinks she has unlocked the secrets to controlling the time traveling link that she and Kate share with their ancestors and she plans to use Kate to bring Sarah back.
            When Kate agrees, she is shocked to find out that in the more aggressive form of time travel, she doesn’t become Sarah, but trades places with her, sending Kate to Baudette, Minnesota in the year of 1910, and Sarah ahead to the year 2000.
Baudette’s catastrophic 1910 fire and typhoid epidemic are the least of Kate’s worries once she discovers what has happened. Her chances of a return trip are thwarted with the struggle just to survive, and Sarah, reliving her lost childhood in the ease of current day life, decides to never return to the past, leaving Kate to suffer the life she has left behind.
            Gran is torn- get rid of the daughter she has dreamed of finding for four decades, or rescue the precious granddaughter who risked everything for her selfish dream? And to what lengths will Sarah go to destroy any chances of Kate coming back? Will Sarah succeed in severing the link?

Destroyed Through Time

After a decade of her life wasted in a futile search, Kate Christenson returns to Baudette, Minnesota to face more than just her failure. Broken relationships, broken hearts, and a slew of unanswered questions plagues her every move. Guilt and fear have turned her cynical and distrusting, and most of all, have left her alone.
When she encounters a stranger with the same hourglass birthmark, the past she has desperately tried to suppress comes roaring back with a vengeance. Hungry for answers, Kate pursues the stranger, eager to find another like herself.
But the answers she gets are beyond any she can imagine, derailing every idea she’s ever had about time travel. Who is really alive? And who is really dead? What can be changed? And what is forever broken?

When Mary disappears, Kate is thrust into a race against time itself. But this time, it’s more than just one life on the line.


Jessica was kind enough to share an excerpt of the first book in the series, Linked Through Time. Check it:

LINKED THROUGH TIME

Steering carefully into the gravel drive of the Rapid River parking lot, I swore under my breath as the bike’s rear wheel slid on loose gravel. Trying to right the bike too quickly, I ended up swerving sharply to the left and crashing into the brush at the side of the gravel lot. Flying over the handlebars, I landed in a patch of overgrown weeds, my knee striking a rock hidden in the ground. Pain radiated from my knee, paralyzing me for a moment. I lay sprawled face first in the grass, breathing in the smell of earth and dry grass, cursing myself and everything on the planet.
     Emotions overwhelmed my frazzled, fragile mind and I let loose with a string of profanities that would have definitely earned me a whipping. Rubbing my throbbing knee, I groaned.
Lightning flashed and the breeze picked up as if on cue, sending the cattails above my head into an agitated dance.
     With great effort, I stood and flexed my leg. I could feel the slightest trickle of blood dripping a warm path down my shin. Perfect, I grimaced. Can anything else possibly go wrong tonight?
My vision had adjusted slightly to the moonless night, but I still had to partly feel my way to the place Travis and I spent the evening. Pushing through the brush, I couldn’t help but sense that uneasy, creepy feeling that comes from wandering in the dark, as though eyes watched you and monster hands waited to grab at your feet. My heart pounded loudly in my ears, the tingling creep of fear working its way from my head down through my limbs. I forced myself to keep my eyes forward, ignoring the nagging feeling that someone or something watched me from the shadows of the rocky shore.
     Limbs of the interlocking pines poked and prodded my bare arms as I threaded my way through the trees. The pounding of the rapids had increased with the coming of the storm; the wind tossed the water upon the rocks, sending spray high into the air.
     When I broke through the tree line, I stood mesmerized by the awesome power of the roaring water. It looked as if the rapids were fighting to break free of their rocky channel, its watery fingers washing over the rocks, reaching far down the wall, only to withdraw and try again.
     Above the churning waters, a simple two-lane bridge hung defiantly in the air, its thick concrete arches planted firmly around the dangerous rocks. Suddenly, a semi loaded with logs thundered across the bridge overhead; its headlights lighting up the darkness for a matter of seconds. I used the momentary help to break my gaze from the water and search the outer banks for my sweater.
     A flicker of movement amidst the trees caught my line of sight, and I focused in on a ring of pines to my right; the very place Travis and I had been a few hours earlier.
     “Travis?” I called out hopefully, thinking he had remembered to retrieve my sweater.


Jessica Tornese is an amazon bestselling author and was voted Solstice Publishing’s 2012 Author of the Year! She has finally finished the final novel in the Linked series; check out Destroyed Through Time this summer!

Jessica Tornese’s debut novel, Linked Through Time, was inspired by her home town Baudette, MN. She graduated from high school there and continued her education at Minnesota State University – Moorhead where she earned a degree in education. She spent several years coaching in the Junior Olympic volleyball program in Minnesota as well as the junior varsity team for Lake of the Woods High School in 2010.

Her favorite hobbies include reading, scrapbooking, playing volleyball, and extreme outdoor sports like caving, ziplining, and white water rafting. Jessica is also active in her church and has run several Vacation Bible School programs and Sunday school programs. She enjoys working with kids of all ages!

She hopes to continue writing and venture into new genres and age groups. Recently, she self-published her first juvenile fiction book for kids online. (see M&M Twins)

Jessica is married and has three children. Her family recently relocated to a small town in south Florida.

Catch up with Jessica here:

Website:

Amazon author central page:

Facebook page:

Twitter:
@jltornese

Goodreads:

LinkedIn: