Alicia Anthony

Suspense with a Twist

Tag: Dreams

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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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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Geneology and Crazy Dreams

Well, I think we’ve established that I’ve got some work to do when it comes to frequent blogging. But, the past it the past, so let’s move on!

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Several weeks ago I bought a Groupon that gave me a good deal on one of Ancestry.com’s new DNA tests. I spit into the tube and sent it in figuring I’d get a report back filled with a mish-mash of various cultures. That’s what we Americans are, right? We’re the 15 bean soup of the cultural world, filled with a little bit of every kind of bean. I was pleasantly astonished when the results came back: 87% British Isles, 13% Scandinavian

So that makes my long lost relatives Vikings that emigrated to Ireland and/or Scotland, right?

It’s funny. I’ve always had a rather obsessive fascination with all things Irish. In college I took Irish-Gaelic language classes and Irish dancing lessons. I have an enormous collection of Irish music CD’s and take unbelievable pride in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps our roots do influence the person we become. It’s an interesting idea anyway.

I had the opportunity in 2010 to travel to Ireland with my mother and will forever be grateful for that chance. We had a lovely time and I left hoping I’d be able to return someday. This summer will mark my “someday” as I travel back across the Atlantic for my writing residency. This time, however, I’ve talked Doug and Jillian into joining me and I can’t wait to show them around the place I can’t seem to get enough of.

A couple nights ago I found myself searching the internet. That, like most people today, is not all that unusual for me. But the subject of my search was a bit off. I was searching homes for sale. After a steady diet of home renovation and house hunting episodes, I suppose it wasn’t too far fetched, except that I was searching for homes in Ireland. Yes, you read right… Ireland. Now, let me just clarify something here. There is no way in the world that I would be able to financially afford a new house right now, either in the US or across the pond. I figure we are so far upside down in our current home that I’ll be living here when I’m 93 still paying a ridiculous mortgage on a home not worth what we paid for it. But I digress. We can dream, can’t we?

I have visions of living in a little cottage just on the outskirts of a small Irish town like Kenmare. The southwest part of Ireland just feels like home. I wonder if they need any reading specialist/writers and tool and die project engineers in that part of the world? Alas, I will probably never know. Although I have told Doug in no uncertain terms that if we ever win the lottery (which we rarely play) then I am buying a home in Ireland. He thinks I’m a bit crazy, but perhaps our adventure across the pond this summer will give him just the perspective he needs to lend my dream a bit of credence.

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A Study in Perspective

I took a photograph this afternoon of the newly opened blossoms on our peach tree. This peach tree bears the most delicious peaches I’ve ever tasted. Early each fall I look forward to relieving the tiny tree of its heavy burden as I pick peach after fuzzy peach.

Today, as I snapped these shots I was reminded of those scrumptious peaches. I could almost feel the juice sluicing down my chin as my teeth sink into the first fruit of the season. While I fiddled with the settings on my DSLR I realized that perspective is everything… not just in photography, but in life.

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In this first shot, I focused on the buds in the distance, virtually ignoring the flower closest to me. Too often I find myself doing just that, ignoring what is closest within my grasp. I focus on the broad dreams and aspirations instead of taking notice of the opportunities that exist firmly within my reach. As I studied the shot in my camera’s display, I realized that the ignored bud deserved her due.

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This flower has become my new focus. I resolve to take my life step by step. I can still see all those dreams and aspirations lying in wait beyond my flower of focus. They are no less important in my life. But this bud has offered to open for me. So I will accept her offer. I will live each day in the moment. Take each day as it happens. Enjoy every opportunity for what it is and stop to focus on what it has offered me. For today’s opportunity is a stepping stone along the path to tomorrow’s realized dream. Who knew a peach blossom could be so wise?

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