Tag Archives: writing

Sam Searches – III. The First Chapter

Advice for writing the first chapter

This search is a little different from the others. Less about a particular topic that might be useful to your writing, I figured I’d compile some resources on writing that dreaded first chapter.

Every author, every story, is different. These are more like “guidelines” than rules, but they should help you better explore the beginning of your work.

If you have more resources to add, please comment below! Thanks for reading and sharing.

srm

What to Do

What to Avoid

Other

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Sam Searches – II. The Effects of Child Abuse

Resources on the effects of child abuse

They say, “Write what you know!” But they forget to add, “Learn what you don’t!” For writers, thorough research is absolutely integral.

Inspired by this post and my own need for research on this subject, I’ve dug into the awful world of abuse. Child abuse is unfortunately very common and it does permeate our media despite being a sort of creative taboo. Of course, no subject is off limits in creative endeavours, but we must do it justice. If a character in your work is being abused or has been abused, you will need some resources to help you portray their experiences as accurately and respectfully as possible. Here are a few to get you started.

Feel free to reblog with your own resources, or check out other sam searches for different research topics.

srm

General Information

Effects of Abuse

First-hand Accounts

  • Child Abuse Stories – First-hand stories submitted to Child Abuse Effects. Stories of healing and recovery, as well.
  • Children’s Stories – Accounts of abuse from children, provided by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
  • Personal Stories – Personal stories from Childhelp

More Resources

  • Books on Child Abuse – Books and stories on Goodreads tagged as featuring child abuse. Some are fiction, some are memoir.

For American and Canadian readers – 1-800-422-4453 is the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline. NOT a writer’s resource, but a 24/7 hotline for counselling, encouragement, and direction for reporting abuse.

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Sam Searches – i. Karst & Caves

Sam searches karst and caves

They say, “Write what you know!” But they forget to add, “Learn what you don’t!” For writers, thorough research is absolutely integral. Sometimes I catch myself needing to become an expert on something I didn’t even know existed! Maybe my bizarre explorations of our world can help your writing, too.

Today, karst and caves!

srm

Karst & Caves

Flora & Fauna

Images

(my content – reposted from tumblr)

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It’s Official: I’m Self-Employed

As I’ve mentioned before here, the library desk job I had maintained since early December of 2013 was not at all the end-all-be-all I figured it would be at the start. Being my first full-time benefitted job, it served me well for many months, but as more time passed I simply found myself underpaid and seldom stimulated. By summer, I was seeking alternatives to kickstart my writing career and to help me move in a direction more conducive to my skill set.

I started writing for Blogmutt and Textbroker in July, sometimes from home and sometimes while at work, as a temporary location change made multitasking in such a way very easy. Realizing the potential income and the freedom I would see at selecting my own hours and meeting my own quotas, I began planning my exit strategy.

The original plan had been to hold out through the end of December, when I would quit just shy of my holiday trip to Scotland. Upon my return, I would dive into working from home full-time.

But, as plans sometimes do, everything fell apart just a few weeks ago. My car, a pathetic 1991 Honda Accord with over 250k miles on it and a slew of problems, fell gravely ill. The repairs were due to cost me almost as much as purchasing the car had. With a near 20 mile commute in an hour’s worth of traffic each way, I was left with no other option: I had to quit.

So I pushed forward with my plan as best as I could. After a few torrential weeks of trying to get my ducks in a row, finishing up everything I had at my desk job, I’m now in the writing game as my primary means of income. And let me tell you: It’s working pretty well thus far. With what I made in brief stints over summer combined with my projected income from this week alone, I already have half of my bills covered. I have the energy to do the things I enjoy, like reading and writing for my own creative edification. I get to spend the days with my boyfriend, sharing meals where I would usually go without eating. I get to take breaks whenever I need or want them, the only phone I answer is mine, the only person I have to answer to is myself, and the work is all mine. I never have to go above and beyond for no recognition, I never have to stay late against my will. I don’t cry when I wake up in the mornings, and I don’t dread every weekday.

In all, though my freelance career has just begun, it’s been one of the most effective changes my life has ever seen.

It’s only a matter of time before the routine establishes itself in the most efficient way, and I’m so excited to begin balancing freelance work with writing my novel. Now, I may actually finish it just after returning from Scotland in January.

The pay cut is intense, but eliminating the expenses that come with having a car will certainly soften the blow. And for what it’s worth, I’d rather be happy and make just enough to live than keep making money I can’t spend due to crippling depression.

So don’t let anyone tell you it’s impossible. Writing as a career isn’t easy and it entails a lot of strange sacrifice, but money doesn’t necessarily mean leading an enriching life. Do what excites you, what fuels your passions. Life isn’t worth living if it’s all about leaping from one money-maker to the next expecting one to finally lead you to joy.

And if you or anyone you know has a small business and is looking for quality site or blog content (on literally any subject; I’m a very fast learner), please contact me. My rates are reasonable and flexible!

And to the rest of you: Happy writing!

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Obstacles, Large and Small

Fall is just about here and my heart is in a perpetual state of ache.

This time of year has always been my favorite as it seems to elicit some sort of dreamy longing, forcing me to act and act passionately before winter consumes everything. The world dies, and I can finally be creative– it’s pretty sick and twisted, and the limitation is a little outrageous, but it’s true.

This year is no exception in regards to the feelings, but the part where I must act and act passionately has been stifled and smothered by the wet wool sock I like to call “work.”

I am not worked to the bone. I experience very little work-related stress. I help people sometimes and do my boss’ busy work the rest of the time. It’s calm. It’s easy. But it’s killing me.

Doesn’t help that the commute is an awful one: one hour each way, into the sun in the morning, into the sun in the afternoon, in a realm where men and women view 45mph speed limit signs as “guidelines,” bumper-to-bumper traffic one direction, seven thousand stoplights the other, all while my car is on the verge of breaking down.

The truth of the matter is this: I dedicate 50 hours of my time per week, over $400 of my gross monthly paycheck (to taxes and “benefits”), over $100 of my net paycheck (to gas for the 2hr/day commute), and 80%-90% of my sanity to being bored. I go home, collapse on the couch, turn off my brain, go to sleep, wake up the next morning and dedicate more time and money to being bored. This is what being a “responsible adult” has brought to me.

There is a light down the tunnel, however! December will be the end. I’ve been counting down the days for months, now, but it’s starting to feel real. Days are getting colder, my car is about to keel over, I can count in terms of weeks rather than months. No doubt, I have to start making arrangements…

But wait! No, stupid! I need to be writing!

“Relic” has the potential to be a huge hit, and I’m not just tooting my own horn. The concept of “New Adult” alternative-world fantasy with Caribbean Gothic undertones isn’t one I’ve heard of in recent times, but those who have read the story as it stands are enamored, or at the very least intrigued. Only a few drafts in, I know the story and characters are there, but pouring the words out has become increasingly difficult. I’m at a point where I have to bank on myself, on my ideas, on the people and places I’ve created, to tell the story as it begs to be told. But after 8 hours of staring at a computer I hate, at a desk I hate, in a chair I hate, in a room I hate, at the job that bores me to tears, I can hardly stand to feel my fingers across my keyboard once I get home.

The time will come, once again, when my writing will not be stopped. But the further I slip into this depression, the more reluctant I feel, and the more reluctant I feel, the more depressed I become. Every waking moment is another obstacle to overcome, a hurdle to jump, one foot in front of the other until December when I can end this soul-suck.

I can’t wait that long, so the next best thing to intrinsic motivation is an external stimulus. I tried to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this year, but it didn’t really work out. However, traditional NaNoWriMo is on the horizon just as well. What better way to send off the job that has destroyed me and start running head-first into writing full-time than to complete 50k words on “Relic”?

I had originally planned to have “Relic” completed by December, but recent changes and suggestions by beta readers have prompted me into rewriting all together, pushing my deadline back by quite a bit. I was thinking “next summer” as a deadline, but now I realize that there is no excuse to not have something close to done by the end of February.

October for planning: To keep my creative juices flowing, and to construct a proper outline.

November for writing: Daily goals implemented by NaNoWriMo will keep me going, and I know I can do it– I’ve won NaNoWriMo once before.

December for life and love: With quitting my job and a trip to Scotland in there somewhere, I’ve gotta take some time to love me, to love my boyfriend, and to fall in love with life and my own work ethic again. December is for living, experiencing, feeling, so I can put all of that joy and life back into my writing.

January to finish the new draft: To finish and to polish. Working in Scriviner now means I don’t have to toil over rewrites and edits. Everything should be easily accessible and easily changed.

February for final drafts: To rework it all where it needs reworking and otherwise to let it rest.

It will take a lot of forceful thought on my part, but I can’t sit and struggle for breath when all I have to do is stand to reach the surface again. I’ve only had a few dry weeks, but I’m feeling the effects of my lack of creativity. I want so badly to pretend counting the days will help, but it’s making the days count, instead, that will serve my purpose best.

To those of you who read: Thanks for bearing with me this long. This post turned more into personal word-vomit than anything helpful or informative, but I had to look at it from a different angle, voice it more securely, see it written in front of me.

I’m tired of wasting away. If I’m to put everything I have into writing, I can’t very well run on empty.

/rant

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Free eBook Covers for a Limited Time!

Graphic design has always been a little hobby of mine.

Recently, I’ve put my Photoshop skills to use in designing a book cover for my upcoming NA Fantasy, “Relic,” and have volunteered to create eCovers for a few others in a handful of Facebook writing groups. I do it because it’s fun, I can justify to myself that I’m doing something “productive” for my craft without actually having to write or edit anything, and it gets me connected to authors and stories I may have otherwise not known of.

But with enough praise and demand, I thought maybe I could start charging. I’ve seen others shell out creations for $25-$50 a pop, but I just couldn’t stomach charging up-and-coming writers so much for something I’ve been doing for free for so long. So, I thought I’d start at $2. That’s right. $2. Of course, that’s for “the basics,” but my maximum price is $15 for two complex covers to choose from. Sound too good to be true? My hope is that enough people will feel that way to really give me a wave of business to ride. If not, then I’ll hopefully make a few bucks with another very-part-time hobby. Not so bad.

And while I build my portfolio a bit more, I’m still offering one FREE basic cover to new customers. So what do you have to lose?

If you want an eCover for your latest novel, or for your very first Wattpad creation, or anything in between, why not give me a shot? And tell your friends! I’m no professional, but I think the work speaks for itself. Check out my Facebook Page for more information.

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Camp NaNoWriMo Failed Again! … Or Did It?

Last month, I tentatively accepted the “challenge” of Camp NaNoWriMo. For those of you unfamiliar, it is simply a summer-time version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place each November, the “goal” being to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I accepted the challenge, and I failed.

But how much can one fail at something self-paced?

Ultimately, I got a couple thousand words written on one project, nearly one thousand on another, refined a second draft of the first 1/4 of a WIP novel, accepted a handful of very helpful beta readers, redefined the “genre” of one project, joined several (very) beneficial writing groups, created a digital book cover, and unveiled a few plot twists even I didn’t know were coming.

This is what I love about the NaNoWriMo institution. It allows you to set a goal. It prompts you to keep going when the going gets tough. It creates atmosphere for you to brainstorm with other users and even to utilize some of the great ideas that aren’t being used (with full consent of the original creator). It gives you insight from other authors– some very successful, others just seeing the first results of their accomplishments.

I prefer the November writing to the summer writing. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the holidays, maybe it’s tradition– I really don’t know.

But Camp helped me figure a lot out, it coaxed me into working on aspects I hadn’t considered.

So maybe I failed at the original goal I’d set for myself (25k words on a new project), but it sure rocked.

Really looking forward to November. No one needs an excuse to write, but sometimes it’s really the best kick in the pants possible.

Kudos to all of you who participated, those of you who reached your goals, and those of you who have been inspired.

Write on!

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“Relic” Finally Has a Face — Er… A Cover

It’s been ages since I’ve updated the ol’ blog, but between my constant loathing for my day job and trying to build upon this platform of mine, I’ve been busying myself with writers’ groups, discussing my manuscript with beta readers, and occasionally procrastinating the “writing” part by supplementing with other creative endeavors somehow related to my novels.

My most recent adventure has been in learning new techniques in Photoshop to create a wholly unique (e)Book cover for “Relic” free of all copyright-infringement worry and hopefully eye-catching enough to spark an interest in the content. I share this now with you!

relicmark8.5.14

Obviously the watermark won’t remain after publication (should that ever happen), but it’s just for my sound of mind, now.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

And if you’re interested in having a cover created for your project, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As with my freelance writing, I’m flexible with pricing based on your needs.

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God’s Out Sick: Excerpt I

This is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, “God’s Out Sick,” the project I’ve been working on for Camp NaNoWriMo.

This, as all other works posted here unless otherwise noted, is © me, this blog, S.Rae Meisinger and is not to be reposted, recreated, altered, or used anywhere else without permission. Contact me for more information if you would like to use it.

Constructive criticism always welcome.

This is real life.

 
The words gorged themselves on the pause’s antipathy, growing larger and more fearsome by the moment. Before he could even gasp, Adam had lost his breath under the weight of the phrase. A swelling heat licked his cheeks crestfallen-red. Smiling diffidently, he rolled his shoulders as though he could cast the implication away like a stubborn shiver. He swallowed past his bloated tongue.
 
“I guess you just don’t get it,” he snickered to cover the breathless hitch in his voice. “I already know this is ‘real’ life. It’s been real for me for a long time.”
 
Before he had even finished the thought, Penny threw his hand from her own and stood up, turning her back on him. From paces away, Adam could hear her still exhaling her exasperation. He rolled his eyes and leaned back in the chair, causing the wicker to creak. It was impossible to keep from falling into the same mechanical routine with this Penelope as he would have with his own so many years ago. They may as well have been fighting about too many late nights, or her favorite dress ruined by careless paint spatters.
 
“We’ve had this conversation before, Adam,” she sighed at the wall.
 
That was news to him. He ran his hand down the length of his beard, stopping just before the end to tug the skin of his chin to a small, fleshy peak before releasing it to snap back into place. “Oh, really? When?” 
 
Indignation and doubt painted those words with sarcasm and that automated response at once made him feel disconcerted. Eerie familiarity broke in cold sweat across his forehead. She wasn’t his person. Not really. She looked and sounded and even smelled the same, but she wasn’t his Penelope. Interacting with this version was never supposed to have happened. It was as unnatural as talking to a clone created postmortem and yet it felt as ordinary as kissing the woman he loved good-bye as she left for work each morning. Once upon a time…
 
Adam stood at the precipice of truth and looked deeply into it. He remembered what “crazy” felt like, but the room around him, the thick, lifeless clay walls, the stagnant, dusty smell, what was happening just beyond the protected neighborhood, the circumstances that led him to not-Penelope, the friends he’d made, the people still facing persecution, the cause he fought for– none of it was a mere product of a broken mind.
 
Penny wheeled around, her temper pinching her eyebrows together in deep wrinkles. Her fists started as white bludgeons, then opened to pale and deadly talons sinking into her waist where they perched, poised for attack.
 
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess it was maybe six months ago?” She squeezed her hips, digging fingernails into the fabric of her dress. At every pause and questioning inflection, she shrugged and shook her head exaggeratedly. “Do you remember that, hmm? Just before we admitted you. Wouldn’t that make sense?”
 
Adam licked his bottom lip, avoiding looking directly into her eyes. His were searching the floor while he picked through the files of his own mind, thumbing through for proof of his sanity. Six months prior, he guessed he had been on the plane where he buckled under drug addiction at age seventeen, just before his initial leap into this strange future. Explaining that to her would amount to nothing, but it was enough to ground him once again.
 
Tongue still pressed wetly to the pink corner of his lip, Adam looked up at Penelope, exposing the lower whites of his eyes, wringing his hands together to squeeze relief from the reflection. His head swiveled slowly to sling the word “No” around the entire room, to coat her in the elongated vowel. The hesitation he felt began to lift, resolve taking its place. With a modest cluck of laughter he rose from the chair, a groan of friction vibrating through the small, dark space as the chair’s feet slid noisily across the smooth floor. The impatience on Penny’s face diminished into suspicion as Adam took long strides to meet her.
 
“It doesn’t make any sense. If I could count every day on the time-line of my consciousness, as I am now, my relationship with Penelope would have ended five years ago.” The corners of his lips turned up into a cordial smile. “Give or take some. Time isn’t as cohesive as it once was for me.” 
 
Penny frowned. Only an inch or two in front of her, he watched her pupils dilate and constrict as she digested the notion, trying to dissect what he said. While she calculated, he imagined he could hear a machine-like whir governing the eyes’ movement– anything to make her seem less real, less intimate than he perceived her. 
 
Then she broke. The butts of her palms slammed into his chest, thrusting him backward. One step was due to her force, the other for the sake of distance. He threw his hands up in surrender.
 
“Five years ago? You mean when we started our family? You’re a bastard. A sick, Godless bastard!” By “Godless,” her tone had become shrill and loud and Adam’s small smile had spread to a reactive grin. Penny’s long white neck pulsed, one vein bulging blue while red heat spread from her exposed collar bones to her cheeks. Her lips quivered and her talons fell limp at her sides, no more than a fragile girl’s fingers. Like a popped balloon, she had one vicious outburst and then deflated into her overwhelmed emotions.
 
Adam shrugged, allowing his defensive palms to drop as well. “That’s what they keep telling me.” He approached her again, understanding glazing him in empathy. Collecting her hands in his, he watched disheartened tears well and spill.
 
“Why do you hate me?” She muttered, blinking hard and sending more rivulets down her face. “Why do you hate the life we built, our kids?” Penny’s voice was a croaky whisper, but the guileless tone shocked his heart.
 
“Now, hey, I’m sorry this is happening to you. But I don’t hate you. Hell, I don’t even know you.”
 
She sobbed hard, slumping forward as though he’d dealt a deliberate blow.
 
“Listen, damn it!” Adam squeezed Penny’s fingers, the twinge of pain sending her gaze wide-eyed back to his. She sniffled. “I am not who you think I am, I may not even be what you think I am. You have children, but they’re not mine, you have memories, but they’re not with me. You have a life, but I’ve never been a part of it until now.”
 
She shook her head in denial before he had finished speaking. Adam released his hold on her, but did not retreat. “I left my Penny years ago. We lived together for a few months, but we fought all the time. One time because she didn’t want the baby we were going to have together. That was the last time. Did you fight with your Adam?”
 
Penelope’s eyebrows slanted, her mouth opened and closed a few times as though trying to dislodge the right words. Finally, she rasped, “No… Not really. Not until–“
 
“He started going a little nuts?”
 
She pressed her lips together and nodded. Adam nodded with her.
 
“I get that it doesn’t make any sense, but you gotta help me out. I need to get back to my friends and I need no one who ever interacted with your Adam to know I was here. Can I leave and trust you with this secret?” 
 
Another nod.
 
“Good.” Adam smiled, this time genuinely and without the pretense of simple habit or self-preservation. All at once, he wanted nothing more than to kiss her, but there was no time for that kind of confusion. She would be all right. Everyone was always all right. 
 
In the next moment, he was already across the room, slinging his bag over his shoulder. The soles of his shoes slapped against the concrete floor with renewed vigor and the pack’s weight felt like the embrace of an old friend. He reached the brass handle of the basement door and turned it halfway.
 
“Adam?” Penelope’s voice echoed. He turned, releasing the knob with a metallic click. “I’m sorry that I– that she–“
 
Adam held his hand up to gesture a halt. “Those memories are somewhere else in time, now. We only have this very instant. Let’s do something good with it.” With a smirk, his backpack, and no idea how to become reunited with Molly and Anna Lisa, he left Penelope Clark with the kind of resolved conclusion he’d craved over an infinite span of space and time.
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Why “Lolita” Was Despicable– And Why I Loved It.

After having been accosted by friends and colleagues for ages about not having read Nabokov’s “Lolita,” I finally picked it up some two weeks ago.

I’d thumbed through the thing on several occasions due to its high praise and high controversy while I worked as a shelver for my first library, but it never stuck. I often found myself put off to it because the subject matter just seemed too, well, perverted. And I’m not prudish by any means (I mean, c’mon, I grew up with some of the most appalling fanfiction), but the thought of reading an entire novel about one man’s obsessive sexual love affair with a preteen made my stomach churn.

I had no idea just what I was missing in rejecting this novel for so long.

In the past, I’ve read it acclaimed as the “only convincing love story of this century” or some such wording, and to a degree I can understand this thought.

But the inherent problem (and what made me wrinkle my nose at this quote at first) is the idea that “love” is always this infallible, beautiful, selfless thing. However, in my own past, I’ve seen “love” as Humbert Humbert sees it with Dolores Haze– not pedophiliac, by any means, but certainly distorted, obsessive, excruciating. That is the love story we see between our manipulative narrator and his prey, Lolita. His Lolita, as we are reminded so many times. We see a relationship sick, selfish, and full of deceit. This is not one for the storybook lovers, for those who desperately desire a happy ending. And in that sense, “Lolita” truly is a very convincing love story– where love and lovers are underhanded and egomaniacal. Desperate to the point of utter immorality.

 

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

And that is what disgusted me so much about the book: each character appeared to have been crafted to be as alarmingly loathsome as possible, riding a wave between antagonist and protagonist throughout.

H.H., so darkly humorous, well-spoken and charming, handsome and crafty, was every inch the spider he described himself to be. His exploitation of Lolita and others around him was sometimes the only thing keeping me from falling in love with him, myself. From the moment you understand his affliction and his total grasp of it, you want nothing more than to hate him. But it’s hard, at times. He makes it hard.

Dolores was much the same, in some respects, but it was watching her become a casualty of Humbert’s delusion that became the only thing keeping me from hating her. Her apathetic communications, flirtatious and sardonic interactions with H.H drove me mad. I was as much disappointed, I think, in her desperate plea for money and the roundabout conversation in which she gave Clare Quilty away (and perhaps the entire escape with him) as I was with Humbert Humbert’s initial scheme to remove her from Ramsdale.

But Charlotte’s infantile disdain for her own daughter and the jealousy she felt around H.H. made her the most outrageous villain. Upon learning of her husband’s antipathy towards her and his lust for her very young daughter, she still wanted to send Dolores away to a reform school.

I hated all of the characters to some degree, even auxiliary ones.

And that, friends, is why I loved “Lolita.”

I was manipulated by the same orchestrations as the girl after whom the book is named.

I was forced to love and hate Humbert Humbert as he loves and hates himself. I was forced to struggle to love Lo as he struggled to “love” her. I was forced to view Charlotte through a dirtied, altered lens, making her seem more nefarious than she probably was. And each secondary character left an impression of frustration and exasperation on me, much as they did Humbert.

In this analysis, I’ve come to understand why I had been so wrong in assuming the novel itself was one of illicit lust and nothing more. It was one of struggle and manipulation, and I would even go so far as to say it’s one of sociopathy. We know only of the story through Humbert’s eyes, how he perceived those fateful years, that conglomeration of tiny moments, and nothing more. We have only little details to ground us in the reality of the circumstances. One could even argue that the only struggle is an internal one– beyond his obsession with the girl, there was nothing to keep Humbert Humbert in the situations that drove him so mad. There was nothing to prompt him to transform from a sick man with disturbing appetites to a willing and able pedophile– to a murderer.

Somewhere down the road I would really love to read “Lolita” again, understanding how pliable I was in the author’s hands, so to speak. I wonder if I will find something else in it I had been too blinded by the first telling of the story to see.

For now, five out of five.

✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪

If you’ve read “Lolita,” what did you take away from it? If not (and you haven’t minded the spoilers), why not? Share in the comments below!

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