Month: October 2015

What is Your “Moment?”

Many successful people actively visualize their life’s ambitions. Over and over, they imagine a specific moment that captures the essence of what they’d like to accomplish.

Before he made it big as an actor/comedian, Jim Carey used to drive to the top of Mulholland Drive, look out on the sparkling lights of Hollywood, and visualize himself receiving  a million-dollar check for his acting work. Professional quarterback Drew Brees, before winning his first Superbowl, saw himself walking out onto the playing field.

What is your “moment?” Here’s mine.

Invigorated by a long walk and at peace with how well my family is doing, I sit in my lovely office with forest light cascading through the window.

Copies of my published novels rest on a shelf.

My literary agent emails to say my latest book has gone to auction and that another has been optioned for a movie.

My imagination swirls with scenes, dialogue, and characters’ intentions for the new novel I’m writing.

Then I write, and the words flow beautifully.

Challenge Yourself, Even (Especially) If it Seems Impossible

Literary agent and dispenser of great advice for authors, Janet Reid, periodically runs a 100-word flash fiction contest in her blog. (Yippeee!!! I won the last one and got Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows ARC as a prize.)

This week’s flash fiction challenge was:

  • Write a 100-word story with an actual beginning, middle and end.
  • (Though it’s outside my YA fantasy genre, I’m thinking it’s probably also wise to write the piece as a suspense/mystery/thriller since this is what Janet Reid–the contest judge–typically represents.)
  • Include the words gape, chute, less, plunge, and eject. Pretty specific, frankly, kind of ugly words, but okay.
  • Other than the prompt words, don’t use the letter ‘e.’ Wait…what was that again? Not allowed to use ‘e’ anywhere in the story (except for the five required words).

Come to find out later, the ‘e’ thing is kind of optional, but I decide to go for it anyway.

Boy, is it hard! Without ‘e’ you can’t even use the most fundamental of storytelling words, ‘the.’ No ‘e’ also precludes most body words, pieces of furniture, close family members, numbers, and rooms in a house, plus all plural -es words and past tense -ed words. . .you get the idea.

But I did it. And I’m proud of myself. Whether or not I win, or even place, in the flash fiction contest, forcing myself to experiment with language under such restrictions helps make me a better writer and, ultimately, that is the goal.

— Eve Messenger

Writing and Waiting and Plane Flights, Oh My #amwriting

Can it be? For the first time in recent memory, I’m between writing projects, mainly because NaNoWriMo doesn’t start for another week. So today I got to have fun with a writing prompt (not that I’m supposed to be getting ready to board a plane in a couple of hours or anything). I’ve been writing prose non-stop, so it was fun to play with language in poetry form today.

Nina’s writing prompt photo that sparked my imagination:

The writing prompt details:

#‎MY WritersWritingPrompt‬ – Week 43/2015

Write a piece of micro-fiction/non-fiction/poetry in English or Malay inspired by this image – word count: between 50 to 200 words

What I wrote:

Heart invisible, all face and hands, an imprint on the fabric of the ethos.

Degrees of gray. A brow but no eyes, existing beyond dimension.

On which side of the cloth do I stand?

Arms folded, timid, watching

Or a soul pressed, and expressing, against impossible vastness.

Step closer, lean in to hear.

Her mouth is open with the promise of truth, of a scream, of emptiness.

Beauty in the exertion

And a thrilling threat of rupture.

— Eve Messenger

Juggling it All—Taking a Moment to Assess #amwriting, #the writing life

Life is busy–I wouldn’t have it any other way, but sometimes it’s important to take a moment to assess and shift priorities as needed. Here goes . . .

Family. Is my priority, but finding balance between being there for them and letting them fend for themselves is challenging.

Career. Almost pays the bills.

Second job. Helps almost pay the bills.

Writing. My passion and the focus of my life–when I can fit it in between family and work, which I’ve been managing to do daily, even if only for a few minutes.

Spirituality. Except for a prayer now and again, pretty much nonexistent. I’d like to meditate more at all.

Exercise. I love being fit and healthy, but I’m finding it impossible to find time to shop for, and to prepare, healthy foods and to exercise.

Blogging and Social Networking. Mostly consistent.  Has helped me learn and grow so much as a member of the professional writing community, but I’m wondering if this is where I can cut back to make time to exercise.

Travel. Has become a bigger part of my life, and I’m glad.

Friendship. Sporadic phone calls between everything else.

Reading. At least two novels a week. Brings me joy and helps me improve my writing craft.

Television and movies. Barely.

Housework. Barely.

Cooking. Anyone for takeout? Thank God husband likes to cook.

Pets. Keeping them healthy and happy, but I wish I had more time to take my little furry buddies for walks.

What You Can Do Now to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

For many writers, National Novel-Writing Month has become a joyful tradition like Christmas or the Super Bowl. NaNoWriMo is also crazy–riding-a-bucking-bronco kind of crazy (50,000 words in month?!). The good thing is that for the whole month of November we get to indulge in pure, unadulterated writing bliss. The bad thing is that, because we’re writing so much so fast, we sometimes end up with 50,000 words (or more) of “litter”-ature.

I hereby declare that it is possible to enjoy the adventure, camaraderie, and thrill of NaNoWriMo while also writing a cohesive first draft.

How?

Like the Boy Scouts motto goes: Be Prepared.

Boy Scout Pledge

In the final days leading up to NaNoWriMo:

1. Write an outline. In the interests of avoiding a sprawling, unworkable mess of a first draft, head into NaNoWriMo with a plot outline. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, just key plot points or, at the very least, knowing what ending you’d like to write toward.

2. Make up a word, any unusual, distinctive word. This will allow you to write faster. As you’re typing away at a breakneck speed, rather than lurching to a stop to mull over what name you’d like to give a character, place, magical fruit, etc., type your made-up word (i.e., “zibbit), which you can then search for later and replace with real names you like better.

3. Find write-ins you’d like to attend. Write-ins are good. Repeat. Write-ins are good. Write-ins mean rooms full of creative energy, discovering new local places to write, and proving to yourself that you can write anywhere. To find write-ins near you, go to the NaNoWriMo site, click on “Region,” then “Find Region,” then “Make this region my home.” Your home region should show a list of planned weekly write-ins.

4. Mark your calendar with virtual write-ins. In case there aren’t any live write-ins near you, or if you’d like to supplement with virtual ones, visit this YouTube link and make a note of upcoming virtual write-ins.

5. Prepare your family. Your loved ones may not like giving you up to the writing muse for a whole month.

Do whatever you can to ease your family’s pain. Bribe them with money for pizza delivery, tell them you’ll get them a really nice present at Christmas or Hannukah, whatever it takes. Then on November 1, say “See you at Thanksgiving,” get out of your house, and write.

Good luck and happy writing!

— Eve Messenger

Strange How One of the Best Talks Can Come at 4:30 a.m. in an Emergency Room

Strange how, in the course of our busy lives, one of the best talks can come at 4:30 a.m. in an emergency room with machines beeping and nurses conversing in the hall.

3:12 a.m. My husband stands specter-like beside our bed, shocking me awake with, “I need to go to the hospital.”

The hospital (where our daughter was born) is a three-minute drive from our home, so I drive.

3:14 a.m. At the emergency room, my husband is a man experiencing chest pain; there is no wait.

3:18 a.m. Once we’re in the examining room a nurse–handsome, calm, good-natured–asks, “Pain level from one to ten?”

“Ten.”

Tests.

Embarrassment as a huge team of student doctors surrounds my husband’s bed with questions and conjecturing.

More tests.

My husband is wise and smart; he tells excellent stories; and, so far, he is not dying.

4:30 a.m. Morphine drip. My husband relaxes into its relief and enchantment while I, seated on a chair with my head resting on his bed’s side rail, float in a woken-in-the-middle of the night half-dream

We nerd out on Game of Thrones.

“How could Maester Aemon have access to milk of the poppies in Castle Black?”

“George R. R. Martin is a genius.”

Then…

“Remember when we first met in the writers’ workshop at UCI?”

“You used to wear a cowboy hat.”

“You were good at stroking the instructor’s ego.”

In the daily crush of earning a living, raising a family, and Keeping It Together, we rarely have the time–or take the time–to say how proud we are of one another, which makes me feel all the more grateful for what my husband says next.

“I’m proud of you for pursuing your writing dream,” he says, “You’re doing everything right. You will get there. There’s just one more important thing you have to do…” This is where my husband, master storyteller that he is, closes his eyes for effect and employs his trademark dramatic pause. At last, he says, “Don’t quit.”

I look at him and love him and memorize this moment. And I commit his words to memory.

Don’t quit.

— Eve Messenger

P.S. My husband is fine.

Stick close to your novel until it’s done so you’re less tempted to break up with it. #amwriting #writer

When I’m writing my novel, I love it.

But when I’m away for too long, doubt sets in and I’m filled with everything that’s wrong with it.

With a novel in progress, distance makes the hard grow colder, so stick close to your novel until it’s done, nurture it every day, and you’ll be less tempted to break up with it.

— Eve Messenger

Basking in the Bounty of the Book Gods


The book gods have been good to me this week. I’m suddenly basking in books that are at the top of my TBR list.

Currently Reading
Julie Bertagna’s Exodus. If you ever read this book, rest assured it gets really good after the first couple of chapters. It’s so imaginative and, as for social commentary, whoah.

Library Holds
Two holds also came through from the happiest place on Earth, my local library:

  • At last, my first Rainbow Rowell book, Fangirl.
  • Leslye Walton’s debut novel, with its simple yet very beautiful cover, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. (I’d like to randomly add that I am mad at the word lavender because it refuses to be spelled — as I perpetually want to write it — like the word calendar.)

   

Contest Prize
And here’s where I saved the best for last. Along with a nice handwritten note, literary agent Janet “The Shark” Reid mailed me Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows ARC as a prize for winning her recent flash fiction contest. I’m not gonna lie, I worked HARD to win because I REALLY wanted to read Six of Crows, but I had no idea that….

THIS ARC COMES WITH WINGS!!!

Six of Crows book wings

Fellow book lovers, surely you understand how happy this makes me.

Happy reading!

— Eve Messenger

300th Follower Celebration

Blow the party horns, toss the confetti, my blog just hit 300 followers. In the three and a half months since launching this blog (with a post that I later deleted–there’s a learning curve, okay?), I’ve learned far more than I ever imagined I would. I’m grateful to everyone I’ve crossed paths with: to the readers who’ve visited and commented and to the writers who’ve entertained and enlightened with their own wonderful blogs about writing, reading, and life.

On this special day, I would like to recognize…

My 300th Follower!
Thank you, redheadedbooklover, for taking my blog over the top. You seem like a genuinely nice person, and I really like the books you’ve reviewed.

Smart, Savvy Book Bloggers
As always, Josie’s Book Corner, in whose reviews I’ve found a treasure trove of YA books.

Carolyn at A Hundred Thousand Stories, who went above and beyond to help find a particular kind of book I was looking for a while back.

Fabulous New Writer Friends
During the often solitary pursuit of writing, it’s a comfort and an inspiration to be able to connect with fellow writers.

As always, familyrulesbyplainjane, a genuinely kind person and an eloquent writer.

Kristina Stanley, who’s taking the publishing world by storm.

Jennifer F. Santucci, a gifted writer with great ideas.

Wallace Cass, funny and really talented.

Dale E. Funk, who genuinely writes from the heart.

I Did It; I Called the Police.


Yes, and I’m nervous and excited about it all at the same time. After weeks of fear-fueled procrastination, I called my local police department–on their non-emergency line, of course. My intimidation only grew as I spoke to the first officer: a stern-voiced woman with a disconcerting ability to speak while barely opening her mouth. I explained in a very scattered way that I was calling as a local resident and writer (yep, that’s the word I used 🙂 ) with a question about police procedure in a missing persons case.

(Note: The book I’m working on is not a crime story, but it does contain an important incident involving the police, and I wanted it to be accurate.)

As she patched me through to the detective division, my palms really began to sweat. My thoughts at this point were: I’m not worthy; the detectives are busy solving crimes; I shouldn’t be troubling them with a petty writing question.

But then I told myself: it’s just one question, and I repeated this aloud to the next person I spoke with, Sharon, who surprised me by speaking in a lilting Scottish brogue. (I’ve never heard a character on a cop show speak this way, and since that’s pretty much my only exposure to police detectives, I was surprised.)

I’m not going to say getting an answer from Sharon was easy. If today’s call was any indication, law enforcement officers do not like giving definitive answers to questions like:

If there’s a missing person whose vehicle is taken into evidence and there’s no obvious sign of foul play, how long might it take for the vehicle to be returned to the family?

Sharon went off on several tangents (I took notes anyway), and I kept reeling her back in with comments like, “That makes a lot of sense. What do you estimate the range of time might be for a vehicle to be returned to the family?”

More tangents.  More variations of my question. Then, at last, an answer:

In a missing persons case, if a vehicle is taken for evidence, detectives and CSI officers try to process and release it back to the family as soon as possible. If there’s no blood stain or other evidence of homicide, the vehicle might be returned to the family in as soon as a day.

Eureka! What a relief to finally have an answer to my question; the uncertainty had really been bugging me and was putting a crimp in my plot timeline.  Now, as I dry off my sweaty palms, I want to share that I am also proud of myself for taking another step in my journey toward becoming a successful published author. For those of you who’ve read my blog, you know this is my mission and my dream.

— Eve Messenger