Alicia Anthony

Suspense with a Twist

Category: Writing

A Bit of Mountain Wisdom

My family and I recently returned from a much needed break from the daily grind. What better place to relax and rejuvenate than one of my favorite places, Gatlinburg, TN. Although the weather wasn’t prefect while we were there, I always take away a bit of wisdom from these visits, and this trip was no exception.

1. Slow Down & Keep Your Eyes Open

A little porch sittin’ never hurt anyone. And when you can look off your porch and see one of nature’s finest on a pre-hibernation hunt, it’s even better. When one of these guys is pawing playfully in a mountain stream, feet from your doorstep, life seems a little less ordinary.

2. Celebrate How Far You’ve Come

One of our favorite jaunts is along the Motor Nature Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are a handful of old homes and farms along the route that beg the writer in me to invent hypothetical scenarios of times gone by. The life of these early settlers was so different from our own, simple and pure in a way that most of the population will never fully understand. Visiting these old cabins reminds me of how far the pendulum has swung. Here’s hoping it gravitates a little more towards center as years continue rolling by.

 

3. Don’t Let the Scars of the Past Blacken the Sprouts of Possibility

In November 2016, the Great Smoky Mountains endured a catastrophic wildfire. The scars of that event still mar an otherwise pristine wilderness. Wandering through those areas, one can’t help but to reflect on how fragile life is, yet also how resilient. We could all continue to look back and lament our “what ifs,” but it’s the future that holds our hope. Check beneath the char, my friends. Possibility is there, lurking like new growth beneath a blackened façade.

 

4. Put on a Coat and Brave the Storm

Weather, figurative or literal, isn’t always sunny and warm. But even on the days when it spits snow and ice, get out there and brave the storm. Only then will the sugar frosted peaks show themselves. Opportunity only knocks when we go looking for it.

 

 

 

5. Appreciate the Beauty in Each Moment

Even the most mundane of moments are worth appreciating. The way that beam of light falls across the kitchen floor, or the way your spouse crinkles his brow when deep in thought, each moment is worthy of appreciation. The beauty is there, even when we’re run ragged by our day to day lives, if we look hard enough, we’ll find it.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our trip may have been short-lived, but I will carry these thoughts with me until the next time I venture into the folds of Tennessee’s tranquil peaks and valleys. My goal, until next time, is to apply each bit of mountain wisdom to my own daily routine. I hope you can find a way to make them applicable to your dreams, too.

Yours,

 

 

 

Moments That Make It All Worthwhile

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This week my daughter came home with an assignment for her 8th grade English Language Arts class. They are studying suspense (go figure) and they are charged with writing a story. She’d written the beginning in class and was dying to have me listen to it. And, let’s face it, I was dying to hear it!

As she read, my grin grew wider and wider. To the point she asked me what was so funny (it is supposed to be a suspense story, after all). I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t explain my reaction to the story my daughter had penned. I was floored. My little girl, who has struggled in school since Kindergarten, who never liked to read “for fun,” captured my attention from the moment she started reading. Listening to her unveil these characters, conjured from her own imagination, made me realize why I commit so much time and energy to writing. I do it to create another world. To find enough magic in words to breathe life into characters that feel like friends. To find connections where there once were none. The possibility that Jillian is now starting to understand the draw of such creation gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that is hard to explain.

I can’t wait to hear what happens to Jillian’s character of Rachel as she leaves Denver to open a bookstore in Dublin, Ireland with her family. I sense a peculiar magic developing in Jillian’s story and can’t wait to read more.Who knows? Maybe one day we can write a book together!

How’s that for a dose of inspiration?

Finding Motivation

Everyone warned me.

“Be careful. Make sure you have a plan laid out, goals that will keep you writing once this organism called an MFA program ends. Some people stop writing altogether. Don’t let that happen to you.”

I scoffed at their remarks. And rightly so. I had a plan. I would finish my manuscript and send it out, find a home for the characters who had become friends, get published, and write another one.

But things don’t always fall into place as easily as we’d like, do they?

I graduated from my MFA program in June. It was a wonderful final residency full of camaraderie and inspiration that I knew would follow me home. And after the pomp and circumstance of graduation died down, it did.

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I completed Inherent Lies, and was even named a finalist for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award just as I launched my first round of queries, hoping to find it the right home with an agent who shares my commitment to this project and can see the manuscript’s commercial potential.

I even have another project started, but for some reason, the spark that propelled me through Inherent Lies and even the novel that came before, Inherent Truth, is missing. Is it because the characters have yet to become so real to me? Perhaps. But I think the more likely culprit is fear. Fear of having spent so much time, so much energy, so much life working on something that may not ever…No…I won’t honor that thought with a voice.

But now that I’m in this place, this rut with walls so high climbing out seems impossible, what can I do?

Advice from some of the masters (Stephen King, James Patterson, etc.) indicates doing what you can to forget about that previous book. Focus wholly on the next project, and I suppose that is my struggle. Until Inherent Lies finds a home, I feel as though I’m in limbo. In some in-between place where one version of myself is pulling me to try to “fix” that manuscript.

“I’ve had some great feedback, there must be some reason it hasn’t been picked up. Maybe I can fix it… But then again, I need to focus on the new project. If I can just get in the groove on that one, waiting for news on Inherent Lies won’t be so hard.”

That is the mantra that keeps spinning through my mind, and I’m giving myself good advice. But regardless, it’s keeping motivation at bay when I wake at 3:30 AM to take advantage of the writing hours I’ve worked hard to carve out among the responsibilities of my day job and family obligations. And let me tell you, nothing makes an early rising writer crankier than lack of inspiration when she could be curled up asleep in her nice, warm bed.

Grrr…

So, what does one do with those early morning hours when she could be sleeping or writing but can’t?

Well, there’s Facebook, of course, and planning imaginary vacations. Those are two of my personal favorite time wasters. But a close third is researching writer’s block, of course.

And here’s what I’ve discovered… the masters are right. I’ve got to move on. Inherent Lies will find a home in time, and an editor will one day force me back into the world of Liv and Ridge, but now is my time. My time to unearth the new characters who are ever so slowly emerging from my subconscious, to peel back the layers to discover what they’ve done and why and what they will do about it next.

I realized that I almost allowed the treachery of waiting to wipe away the thing I love most about writing: the ability to constantly discover, and it is what I’ve been missing the past couple months or so. I’ve been gripping onto the characters in Inherent Lies so tightly that these new characters had no where to go, no one to listen to their stories. And in order to move forward, that must end.

So, with the publication of this post, I am determined to ward off the dark shadow of pessimism that calls out to me to re-revise my manuscript, to hold tight to Liv and Ridge and all the other players in that novel. Instead, I will listen for the whispers of the muse that shines a light for me each time I take up a pen or sit in front of my laptop. I will tune my ear to the eager voices of slowly developing characters. Voices whose time it is to be heard.

…I think I just heard a whisper… 🙂

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Opportunity Knocks

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As a writer, I’m constantly looking for ways to supplement my income from my day job in public education in order to pay for writing conferences, workshops, association dues, contests, and the myriad other expenses that come with struggling to make it in this industry. Over the years, I’ve tried quite a few “business opportunities.” None of them turned out to be the golden egg that I’d hoped they’d be. So when a friend contacted me last fall with a “great new opportunity,” I was less than enthused. In fact, I was downright skeptical.

But, my friend was armed with a 60 day money back guarantee and some pretty persuasive before and after pictures for the skincare line developed by the doctors behind Proactiv. This new line promised to address the signs of aging. The regimen I chose pledged to tighten, firm, and reduce the appearance of fine lines. What woman in their late thirties would say no to that?

That was November 2015. It is now July 2016 and I’ve been astonished by the difference I see in my skin. It’s softer and more toned. The deep lines around my mouth when I smile have morphed into barely noticeable divets. I couldn’t be happier. So, with my skepticism swept aside, I took the plunge and joined forces with the Rodan + Fields team as an independent consultant.

Will I get rich overnight? Of course not. My goal is modest. I’d like to generate enough extra cash to fund my writing life (and maybe pay off those pesky student loans). I’m excited for the opportunity to do that simply by sharing products that have already proven themselves, not just to me, but to multitudes of others as well. It’s easy to talk about products that you love!

So, I hope you’ll join me in my excitement as I launch this new endeavor. Let’s face it, everyone wants better skin! Who knows? Maybe Rodan + Fields is just what you’ve been looking for, whether it’s improved skin or an avenue to extra income. After all, opportunity knocks, but it’s up to us to listen for it.

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Check out the Doctors’ Solution Tool in the bottom right corner of my website to find the perfect regimen for your skin!

http://aliciaanthony.myrandf.com

Or Contact Me for more information about how R+F can work for you!

Persistence

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This little guy showed up outside my office window yesterday morning. Perfect timing for Mother Nature to remind me that persistence is the key to achieving your goals.

You see, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a somewhat hard to shake case of the blues, lately. Last week was spring break for my school district. A week I look forward to for the simple fact that eight hours of my day can be spent on writing. I look forward to days off for precisely this purpose. I had a list of accomplishments I’d hoped to achieve by the waning hours of Sunday evening. Unfortunately, life had other plans, and I have very few check marks on my To-Do list.

I’ve been fighting some weird illness for over a week now. Nothing major, mind you. Just cough, fatigue, random bouts of light-headedness… You get the picture. It started the Thursday before break and in spite of the antibiotic I’ve been on ever since, I’m still not my normal productive self. And the fact is, it’s wearing on me.

An entire week I could have spent polishing my manuscript, finalizing plot lines, and beefing up characters and conflict was instead spent in a ridiculous state of frustration because my body couldn’t keep up with the whims of my mind. It’s been a fruitless week.

But as I reflect on the past week, and watch my wood-pecking friend as he drills mercilessly through hardened bark to get whatever juicy morsel is hiding inside, I’m reminded of something important. Those extra blessed days of no school tossed in here and there are not what will make or break my future writing career. It is how I handle myself around that day job that makes the difference. My mystery illness will eventually dissipate and life will again revolve around school day schedules, homework, lesson planning, and trips to my daughter’s riding lesson barn. And I’ll find a way to make it work.

On Monday, I will trek back to school. I will do my best to leap feet first into my school time routine. My alarm will ring at 3:00 AM and I will slog downstairs to my coffee and computer. I will plunk out as much coherent text as I possible in those early morning hours of solitude. (I don’t even think my feathered friend gets a start that early.)

Perhaps that was what I was missing over the course of the past week. That element of satisfaction that comes from those early mornings spent at my computer. As I wipe the sleep from my eyes each morning, I know that what I’m doing is worth it. I know that someday not long from now I will be thankful for the ability to force my eyelids open at such an hour. I will be thankful for the persistence it takes to do that every morning. And I won’t beat myself up for those random days off that end fruitlessly.

I’ll just focus ahead and keep writing.

What do you do to shake off the blues?

 

A Gentle Reminder

Teachers work hard.

No matter how you feel about the profession or those in it, one thing is for certain. Good teachers put in many hours and go above and beyond to make the lives of their students more memorable. None of us went into the profession hoping to satisfy our state department of education (although it has become a necessary evil). We chose this profession for one reason, and one reason only… to enrich the lives of students.

The one downfall to this, however, is that we rarely get to see the impact we’ve had on their lives. Students get older, move on to the next grade, until eventually, we are but a speck in their memory. Hopefully, a speck they remember fondly, but still… you get the point.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of experiencing one of those rare moments of gratification. I was mentioned in the acknowledgments of a student’s novel.

“The last person I would like to thank is Mrs. Anthony. She brought NaNoWriMo to [our] school.”

-Joshua, 4th Grade Student at London Elementary School

It’s nothing more than a blurb, but I can’t tell you how warm and fuzzy that kind of thing makes me feel. That one line makes all the extra effort worthwhile. And since today I’ll be opening up sign ups at our school for Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it seems my young friend had perfect timing.

Thanks, Joshua, for proving that what we do makes a difference. You rock, my friend! And remember…

A_Mary

Spring Renewal

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Starting over – it’s not easy, but the season of Spring exudes it. Flowers poke their heads above the warming earth and trees begin to bud and leaf. What better season, then, to make a metamorphosis of my own?

I will graduate from Spalding University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program on June 4th. It’s been a long journey that has spanned four countries and two continents. It has been the impetus for new friendships with wonderful, imaginative people, and an excuse to travel to places I’d never under normal circumstances get to go. And although it proved arduous at times, and will likely bankrupt me as I spend the rest of my days paying back all those student loans, it is a decision I’d make all over again.

A year ago, in the midst of writing my extended critical essay, I was ready to be done. I was tired of the grind that five packets a semester entailed. Tired of critiquing books by other authors when all I wanted to do was write my own. But now that the time has arrived, now that I’ve spent the last several months immersed in my own fiction, spit shining my creative thesis, I’m having a hard time letting go.

I can’t help but ask the question, “What happens now?”

Thanks to the poignant words of my mentor in our final conference, I think I can begin to answer that question.

This is not the end. This is just the beginning.

This is the time to plan, the time to give voice and merit to the goals I’ve set for myself. It’s time to stop calling this vision I have a dream, and begin calling it what it is…a professional goal. One that I’ve spent the last four years dedicated to achieving, and one that has become even more attainable by earning this degree.

This is my spring renewal… my metamorphosis from dreamer to achiever. My chance to put what I’ve learned into action, not for the purposes of the next packet, but for myself. Each word, sentence, and scene that I write will bring me one step closer to the goals I’ve set for myself. This spring, it’s time to bloom.

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