Alicia Anthony

Suspense with a Twist

Tag: writing (Page 1 of 4)

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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Stress vs. Passion

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This quote puts so many things in my life in perspective.

Dream big, my friends, and WRITE ON!

(Originally posted on positiveoutlooksblog.com)

My Muse Has ADD…

If you know any writers or have spent time listening to their conversations, I’m sure you’ve heard reference to the term “muse.” In my mind, the muse is that little voice, the imagination if you will, behind the plot lines and characters that come through on the pages of the writer’s creation. Lately, my muse has exhibited the signs of a very serious problem. My muse has ADD.

Short of providing an imaginary dosage of Ritalin, I’m at a loss for what to do. The project I’m working on is the second book in a series and I’ve got TONS of ideas. Too many, perhaps. I’ve been working on this particular novel for the past few months and have written well over 200 pages in total. Unfortunately, those 200 pages are spread across seven different Word documents and take my characters in seven different directions.

I’ll be tapping along on my laptop for days on end following one storyline, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, my muse jumps up on my shoulder and screams, “Yeah, just kidding, I think that character should do __________ instead!”

Like a mother with an ornery child, the first few times didn’t bother me so much, I thought it was cute. A mark of my great imaginative prowess, even. Look at all these great ideas I have. Now, I’m done with that. My ornery child of a muse is not so cute anymore.

So, what should I do?

I’ve tried writing through it. Going on in the direction I started, but I realized pretty quickly that when you shun your muse, your muse sticks her tongue out at you from behind a tree and hides.

Hmm… So here I sit, writing a blog post instead of working on my novel because my muse is having a field day with my creative process.

Where’s that bottle of Ritalin??

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A Walk Down Memory Lane

One morning, many years ago, a little red-haired girl stood at the top of a flight of stairs, rubbing her eyes and yawning the remnants of sleep away. Her stuffed turtle was clutched in her little fist as she descended the stairs toward the scent of freshly fried bacon and homemade pancakes. That little girl was me, of course, and this morning I was transported back to those days thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Growing up, I spent a good deal of time at my grandparents’ farm. The century old structure somehow soaked up all those memories, holding them tight within her walls through the years, and today they came spilling out. Ten years ago, Doug and I sold our home in Columbus after agreeing to purchase “the farm” (as we lovingly called it) from my aunt. Unfortunately, the best laid plans do not always work out, and such was the case with the farm. Instead, we were left to quickly find a replacement home and ended up where we live today. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if the transaction had worked out. Those walls that saw so many Christmas gatherings, the floors that withstood the frolicking of rambunctious cousins, and the yard that provided endless hours of sun-drenched entertainment would stay in the family. I often regret that we couldn’t make that happen.

This morning I drove down a familiar long gravel driveway. Under the guise of a garage sale, I was prying into the lives of the couple who now lived within those memory-filled walls. The closer I got to the house, the more solid the lump in my throat became. What would I find? Would this couple have any interest in sharing a walk down memory lane for people they’d never met? Thankfully, they did.

These amazing people have lovingly returned my grandparents’ old farmhouse back into a well-loved home. As I ventured inside, I was struck by the care they’d taken. Flowers bloomed across the yard and along the walk. The kitchen, where I’d eaten more silver-dollar pancakes than a child ever should, was in its glory. An apron front sink spoke of an era gone by, and each furnishing seemed specially chosen to accent the age of the home. I was enthralled, and frankly, leaving was hard.

But as I drove away, I realized something. These wonderful people are perfect caretakers for the farm. I’d been afraid the new residents would somehow strip those memories away, but instead, they’ve managed to magnify them. I can still see that little red-haired girl at the top of the stairs, with turtle in hand, waiting to join her Grandmother and Grandaddy around a worn kitchen table.

Deep down I will always bear a seed of regret, and perhaps, when the time is right, I’ll have the opportunity to make it right. But in the meantime, I can rest easy, knowing that through the kindness of strangers, I got one more walk down memory lane.

Happiness is… Newly Discovered Kittens

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On Monday, we came home from school to find kittens tucked away in the feed room of our barn.

Those of you who live on a farm know that unexpected baby animals don’t always make it. Over spring break, Jillian’s rabbits had a litter of four kits, all of whom perished on that frigidly cold night after three days of 70 degree weather. Mother Nature at it’s best, some might say. However, I know a little eleven year old who was mighty bummed about it.

So, when she came to the house after feeding on Monday, with a grin as wide as the Grand Canyon, I knew something was up. In her hands she carried a cute little ball of kitten fluff. Of course, nothing can completely erase the disappointment felt at the bunnies’ demise, but if anything can ease the pain it’s a nose full of kitten fur!

Here’s to warm spring days and bright eyed new kittens!

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Trust

Trust

Recent events have given me reason to contemplate the importance of trust. Whether it’s the trust between friends,
the trust among colleagues,
or perhaps the trust between a girl and her horse…
without trust the relationship is damaged, often broken beyond repair.
Why is it that we all too often fail to take care of that one element on which all healthy interactions are based?

We are so quick to throw others under the bus in order to save our own skin. In this world of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and SLO’s, trust is apparently dead. Whatever happened to good old fashioned camaraderie? I wish I had an answer, but sadly, I don’t. Every day I see more and more of the disease that is eating away at the core of my workplace and I’m certain that mine is not the only district afflicted. What can we, the minions on the front lines, due to curb the damage done by those who seek to impose ridiculous standards on the youngest and most vulnerable citizens?

This photo is of my daughter Jillian and her horse, Jett. Between them exists an amazing amount of mutual trust. She trusts him to take care of her while she’s in the saddle, and he trusts her to do the same for him. Through this trust they learn from each other and together build a solid foundation on which to move forward.

Is there a reason the government can’t trust me to teach the students with whom I’m entrusted? As a reading teacher, my job is to help fill some of the gaps that weaken the foundation my students have built. More high-stakes testing and bullying by state mandates will only serve to create foundations that resemble Swiss cheese. I suppose I should be grateful. In essence the state is creating better job security for intervention teachers like me, since the students will be forced to suffer through unproven, unreliable, and unachievable standards. There has to be something we can do to bail ourselves out of this mess. The relatively meager State and Federal funding available is not worth selling out the establishment of public education.

We need to re-infuse our education system with the trust that is necessary to create lifelong learners, not life long test takers.

The Best Daughter in the World

Yes, that’s right. I do have the best daughter in the world. (Argue all you want, to me she’ll always be number one.)  🙂

I often find myself bemoaning the fact that Jillian struggles with so many aspects of life. Be it academia or the world of sports, it constantly seems to be a struggle. But, as I realized today (and not for the first time), WHO CARES?!? She is, without a doubt, one of the most caring, agreeable 10-year-olds you’ll ever meet.

Today I listened as she had a phone conversation with one of her friends. (Who shall remain nameless in the interest of protecting the innocent… or, not so innocent. Whichever the case may be.) Jillian has a generally rather annoying habit of having full phone conversations on speakerphone. I’m not sure if the other party realizes this, but regardless, today it worked in my favor.

I listened as this “friend” griped on and on about how unfair it was that she couldn’t come to swim with Jillian. On and on went the friend, accusing us of denying her the privilege simply because we didn’t want them around, instead of acknowledging the actual fact that the large un-heated, in-ground pool was, quite frankly, too cold to make for an enjoyable day at the pool. We had, after all, just emerged from a snap of Fall-like weather.

As I listened I became more and more aware of the fact that Jillian was saying nothing. She didn’t agree with her friend. We had talked about the temperature of the water, and Jillian was well aware of the chilliness that comes with too cool pool water. Blue lips and shivers are fun for no one, unless maybe you’re a member of your local polar bear club. We, however, are not.

I digress… I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked over to the phone and said simply that the pool was too cold. Jillian’s friend retorted petulantly, “But my pool isn’t too cold. You just don’t want us there!”

This is where I must note, that this friend’s pool is the above ground 4-foot deep variety, which tends to warm very quickly in the late summer sunshine, unlike the large 8 foot deep pool in question. I did my best to explain this, but again was met with nothing short of nastiness and disrespect. I then was promptly hung up on by Jillian’s 10-year-old friend.

It was after this exchange that I realized how truly lucky I am to be blessed with such a special little girl. Instead of being angry with me (which I must admit, probably would have been my choice at that age) she said she understood and that it wasn’t very nice of her to act that way at all.

Wow… that was a moment.

I think our children often teach us more than we ever teach them. This was one of those moments. My daughter showed me that she’s more mature than I give her credit for most of the time. Even though this friend may not be the best influence, I can trust that Jillian will hold her own and not get dragged down into the spiral of disrespect.

I always suspected, but now I know, she’s truly the best daughter ever!

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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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Blog-o-Rama, Day 18: Want

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I felt myself becoming one of those moms today. You know the ones, the moms who nag at their children at sporting events as the child puts forth as much effort as she can muster. Yeah. That was me today at Jillian’s swim lesson. And I’m far from proud of my behavior.

Okay, so what does this have to do with today’s prompt? You see, my biggest want is for Jillian to be able to experience success… at something… anything. Jillian has struggled and been behind her peers in virtually every area of life. School is difficult for her, although she’s made huge strides in the past couple years, we still have a long way to go. She was never quite coordinated enough for cheerleading or gymnastics or dance. Horseback riding lessons went well, but there’s a fear factor there that I’m not sure we’ll be able to conquer. Last year she was going to show a rabbit in 4H. We practiced and practiced the information she had to memorize for the interview portion of her grade, needless to say, she ended up not showing the rabbit.

Right now, Jillian loves to swim. This is the same girl who screamed bloody murder when I took her to her first Mommy and me swim lesson when she was about two years old. I never thought I’d be sitting the sidelines at swim lessons, gearing up for her second season of swim team.

Which brings me to today’s breech of etiquette. Jillian was definitely off her game today. Her strokes were short and choppy, her rotational breathing was non-existent, and she was having serious trouble following simple directions from her instructor. Now, Jillian always struggles with directions. They have to be repeated several times and even then she sometimes gets them wrong, but today was different. Today I watched the other kids in her lesson group show her up time and time again on skill after skill.

Swim is her thing!

I just couldn’t take it.

So, is it too much to ask that my child be successful at something? I want her to be able to feel the pride that accompanies a job well done. The excitement at earning a ribbon or hearing praise from others for something you’ve done is a precious gift that I want her to experience. But beyond that, I want her to know she’s perfect, no matter what challenges await her. I want her to believe in herself.

Is that too much to ask?

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