Category Archives: A Writer’s Life
Yours truly, writing as MJ Flournoy, has a new book out. A Matter of Trust is a romantic suspense with paranormal elements and was published by Renaissance Ebooks, Sizzler Intoxication Line.
The release date was September 22, 2013 and I am thrilled for Jolie and Mac to have their story in print. There is another character in the book that I found very compelling. In fact, she almost took over the book. It took both me and Mary Marvella to keep the Maniac under control. When a secondary character has a strong, compelling voice and the author really likes the character, they tend to try to take over. But that is something a good editor can help you with fixing. Often a writer gets so caught in the character, that she/he doesn’t realize when that secondary character is trying to upstage the hero or heroine.
Getting the balance right is often A Matter of Trust. Trust your editor, she or he won’t steer you wrong. Read below, you’ll see what I mean!
A Coke, a fat one, or an orange soda.
“Not gonna happen.” Jolie Wyngate shrugged, climbed from her car and hurried toward the convenience store to pick up a quick snack before continuing on her way south.
And why not?
“Because I have to drive another hundred and fifty miles, and I don’t intend to stop every half hour for potty breaks.”
You are so not any fun! It’s just a Coke, for Pete’s sake.
“And you, lady, are so predictable.”
Make it chocolate then.
Chocolate, a compromise with which she could live. “Right.”
And stop speaking out loud, people will think you’re crazy.
“Me crazy? Get real, Maniac, I’ve talked to you since childhood. If I haven’t landed in the loony bin by now, I hardly think it’s going to happen.”
Humor me, then.
Jolie shrugged, continuing toward the store. She’d pick out a chocolate bar to keep her unseen companion happy.
Serve you right if I quit talking to you all together.
“Put it in writing.” Jolie reached for the door handle.
A giggle erupted within Jolie’s mind. Then, in the tone Jolie hated hearing: Shush, pay attention. There’s something wrong in there.
Oh, hell. Jolie bit the soft flesh of her lower lip. Her hand tingled as if the door was electrified.
Shit, this was the real reason for the Maniac’s sudden thirst.
The cool, dry air of the convenience store surrounded her when she stepped through the open door. For a second, the young clerk behind the counter looked up from the newspaper spread in front of her. Nothing. Jolie expelled a breath of relief, exchanged a quick smile with the clerk, and then headed toward the candy isle.
Then she saw her. The little girl wandered listlessly down the candy isle, her small hand trailing over the rows of candy, gently touching, but taking nothing. Jolie watched her for a moment, then scanned the store and saw no one in sight.
The child turned, her gaze lifting until it found Jolie. She tilted her head to the side, her eyes searching Jolie’s for an instant. Then she moved closer and stared up at her. The expression on the small face caused Jolie’s heart to turn over. She knelt to the child’s level and touched the riot of red curls. A jolt of emotion skittered along Jolie’s spine, but Jolie forced herself not to pull away.
“Hey, sweetie, does your mommy know you’re out here alone?”
The little girl looked about three. She continued to stare mutely. Jolie smiled at her. “That your mommy behind the counter?”
She lifted the child into her arms. Unprepared for the sudden shock of pain and despair that engulfed her, Jolie almost dropped her. Instead, she tightened her arms instinctively around thefrail body.
Something’s not right.
Slowly the child shook her head. She lifted her small hand and traced a line down Jolie’s
cheek, her touch feather-light. Sadness engulfed Jolie at the child’s soft touch.
You feel it.
Jolie pushed the intrusive thought aside. With the small child still in her arms, she moved toward the checkout counter. “Your little girl?” Jolie asked. “Found her wandering on the candy aisle.”
The clerk focused a smile on the little girl. “I wish, got me two boys. Pretty little thing, ain’t she?”
“She’s here all alone?” Jolie tightened her grip on the child.
“Looking for yourself a new momma, are you, Elizabeth?”
A voice from behind her startled Jolie. Her grip tightened on the small child. She whirled
around. Her fight or flight instinct kicked in when she faced a man with long, dirty-blond hair, scraggly beard and dirty clothes. He reached to take the child from her arms.
The tiny body shrank deeper into Jolie’s arms. Her small hands gripped tightly to Jolie’s shirt. Her brown eyes widened and filled with tears, but not a word crossed her lips.
“That’s her grampa,” the clerk explained when the man pulled the resistant child from Jolie’sarms.
Panic filled Jolie. The child’s eyes never left hers while the man paid for his cigarettes and
beer. Large brown eyes, shadowed by a sadness much too deep for her years, eyes that tugged at Jolie’s heart.
Do something: don’t let him take her.
Not now, she silently warned the Maniac.
Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
We are storytellers.
From the earliest humans who painted on cave walls, to the Egyptians who sent their pharaohs into the afterlife with hieroglyphics, to the kids on the way to the newest movie at the metroplex, we have an affinity for stories which transcends all time periods, cultures, races, and religions. The ‘art’ of storytelling is not just for enjoyment. There are theories that, in fact, storytelling actually may have been more important in the evolution of humans than opposable thumbs.
Really? How could that be? According to Lisa Cron in her great book, Wired for Story, “opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” Humans are the only species on earth which can imagine the future and, through planning, prepare for it. We can anticipate and outcome – a successful hunt, the end of a long journey, even death itself – and understand the experience through other people’s knowledge. Story gives us that edge.
In fact, “the pleasure we derive from a tale well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it. In other words, we’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world.” We crave story to understand and deal with what is happening around us.
Like most writers – and readers – I love story. I’ve always loved story. Listening to story and making up my own stories gives me comfort in the crazy world we live in. And, in fact, the way I tell a story and the types of stories I read ultimately define me as me, as opposed to being you. We each are the sum of our experiences, the collections of what we have been, the hope of what we will be. The stories we resonate with become part of who we are.
Why do you like the stories you like? What story themes do you find yourself drawn to? Do you love the tear-jerkers? Or the funny ones? Or stories that make you shiver in the night?
Or, all of the above?
Oh, and opposable thumbs are nice too.
Isn’t it funny? The word “home” conjures up a picture of the place we grew up, where we were loved and protected by our families. It’s a “place” we curl into during our dark moments or during our greatest happiness. We seek that “home” when we’re lonely, needy or emotional.
For the past few days I’ve been trying to get ready to move my ninety-three-year-old mother into Assisted Living. It’s been a bitter draught to swallow. Until recently, I believed my mother was invincible. She’s in perfect health, more healthy than I am, for sure. She takes no medicines, walks with the speed of a running sewing machine and gardens with a vengeance.
It’s the last of the three “good traits” that gets her in trouble. She has a huge bed of day lillies. She weeds them herself. Not such a problem, right? Wrong. It’s a plot of about 50 X 50. She squats down until she looks like Chuck Berry doing his famous “duck walk” and goes between the rows weeding. I couldn’t do it. Not in a million years. Oh, my aching knees!
The gardening in itself isn’t bad. She’s as limber as a teenaged gymnist and can duck walk with the best of ’em. But, in addition to the day lillies, she has hedges. She trims these hedges about every three weeks. That’s right. My ninety-three-year-old mother climbs a ladder, trims the hedge (with the old-fashioned hand clippers) and then comes down, moves the ladder and off she goes again. We can’t keep her off that ladder. Gardening is what she does. Year ’round–regardless of the weather.
She’s getting a bit afraid to stay home alone, too. She’s obsessed with security. Face it, we all fear something, don’t we?
Is it the fear of not getting published? Being thought a presumptious fool for thinking we could be writers? Or, is it the fear of getting published and then getting bad reviews? Both of these are real fears for writers, both emotional buttons that get pushed too often for us to become content with who we are.
I don’t know of a single writer who is completely confident in his or her career. Every writer faces the dreaded uncertainty of a blank computer screen or the dread of pressing enter when we’re either querying an editor or agent or submitted a requested manuscript.
So what can you do to overcome that kind of cripling fear that can cause ulcers or writers’ block or, God forbid, a house cleaning spree?
Write your best every day. When the words flow from your fingers to the keyboard (or paper, if you’re of the old-school) and onto the screen, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t think any writer can jot down his/her words for the day (hint: write every day) without having to edit. We all have to do it. Every book or story needs an unbiased pair of eyes. Sometimes that’s a critique group. At other times, it might be the agent or editor. Somebody, besides YOU, will eventually have to read your manuscript. (I don’t mean your mama or spouse.) So write your best–and then polish it until it shines.
Notice I said “polish it until it shines.” I didn’t mean polish it until all the sparkle and shine is gone. Once you’ve edited/polished/revised so many times, the book or story loses its freshness. It’s almost impossible to recover that freshness, so don’t over-do the revising.
And make your office (or wherever you write) your haven, your “home”. Your writers’ room should be a place of safety, of warmth, of freedom to create and be yourself. Make it special, even if you can only afford a couple of small items placed on that rarely used dining table your computer lives on. Put something that has meaning for you. Play music–your music. (Some writers use a specific sound-track or type of music to add atmosphere to their writing room.)
For me, it’s rocks and candles. I’ve got a great collection of rocks. I’ll show them to you one of these days. I come into my office to write, light my blue, yellow, orange, pink, green, purple and white candles. (In that order.) Just doing that same “ritual” day after day helps launch me into my “alpha state” where I am most productive. It will work for you, too.
Home. It’s a place you can go to write, where nothing too bad can happen to you. It’s a place that will see you through your most unthinkable lows, but will also bring you your most exciting highs. Think of my mother, ninety-three and still climbing that ladder and whacking off stray twigs and limbs. Climb your own ladder. Make your own “writing” home.
Your next step will be to find a publisher or agent “home.” That’s a place (really, a person or people) that will help you on your way. This “home” represents your cheerleader, your best opportunities, your comfort zone. (Ahem, Gilded Dragonfly Books would like to become your publisher “home”.)
And most important of all? Come “home” every day and utilize that wonderful space you’ve created where you can excel at what you do. Your muse will be expecting you. (Just like Mama.)