Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cluck Like a Chicken, Bark Like a Dog

A few months ago I had the privilege of taking an online writing course taught by Bruce Holland Rogers. He's a fantastic instructor, by the way, so if you ever have the opportunity to pick his brain or take one of his classes, do it. After the course was over, I found myself wanting more, so I picked up a copy of Word Work. I think it's geared more towards the beginning writer rather than towards someone who's been at it for a while, but I found some gems in the book, and it certainly got me thinking.

Anyhow, one of the chapters is on rituals. What do you do to ease yourself into writing for the day? Most of us lead busy lives and have a finite time for writing. I, for example, write during my son's naps and sometimes at night (but only if my brain isn't fried or if I have a deadline and have no choice), so I don't have the luxury of taking an hour-long walk or surfing the Internet or any number of other things to ease slowly into that mindset. I need to sit at the desk and GO. And I accidentally discovered how to make that nearly instantaneous switch while I was pregnant.

My husband and I took a hypnosis birthing class. When I mention hypnosis, some people instantly think of stage tricks or that scene in Office Space where the main character is hypnotized and then remains in that state when the hypnotist has a heart attack in the middle of the session. Hypnosis is not like that, by the way. Anyway, I'm an anxious person, and I wanted--and needed--something non-medicinal to help me keep calm during pregnancy and the birth. As part of the homework for the class, I had to practice my hypnosis trigger at least three times a day. One of those times happened to be just before I sat down to write. I'd spend maybe three to five minutes in a hypnotic state, then come out of it and start writing, and after a while, I discovered that instead of needing fifteen or thirty or so minutes to get into the groove (which used to be the norm for me), I was slipping right into the mental place I needed to be. My productivity went way up, which was great, because I was trying to finish a novel before my son was born. Talk about a deadline!

At this point I sometimes still practice hypnosis before writing, but it's not necessary anymore. I did it so often that I suppose I trained myself to be ready to write the moment I open the laptop.

I'd love to hear about the rituals that others have, whether it's a pre-writing ritual or another kind.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Movie Firsts

As you can tell by my less-than-inspiring title, I'm continuing my series on firsts, and more specifically, about movies that left impressions on me for whatever reason.

I got to thinking about the first movie that blew me away. That's a hard one to pin down. I remember seeing the original Tron at the theater with my brother, and the special effects were like nothing I'd ever seen before. People were actually in a video game! How cool was that?! I would have been about 8 years old at the time. Of course, I look at that movie now and the effects are cheesier than my sixth grade class photo. Heck, special effects have already moved beyond what the Matrix did. Movies are visually amazing now. But still, nothing can take away the awe I felt as a kid watching Tron.

What about the first time a movie truly scared me? That would be Aliens, hands down. I was at a really small birthday party/get-together for a friend who was turning 12, and her parents had rented Aliens for us. It was like a terrifying train wreck. I couldn't turn away as those creepy aliens came out of everywhere, and I couldn't wrap my head around Newt/Rebecca (oh my God, and she had my name, that made it scarier somehow) surviving alone all that time in the colony. Did she know that she'd be rescued? My heart rate sped along like a bullet train through the entire movie. Then afterwards, my friend's parents dropped me off at home. At night. In the dark. Did I mention how my driveway was about a hundred yards long and lined with tall, bushy trees that could have hidden about fifty of those acid-bleeding aliens? I called my mom to let her know I was on my way and told her, VERY SPECIFICALLY, to wait at the street for me with a flashlight. But did she? Nooooo! I whimpered when I got out of the car and my friend's parents drove off into the night, leaving me alone with the wind whispering through the palm trees and my mother waaaay down at the other end of the driveway. I hauled ass to the house, all the while expecting sharp claws to rip into my back and drag me away so an alien could lay an egg in me that would then burst out of my chest. And people say I was a melodramatic kid.

Interestingly enough, Aliens was one of the first movies to feature a strong female lead. Ripley was smart and tough and maternal, and her maternal instinct, as she cared for Newt, made her both vulnerable and stronger. She became that mama bear that would have ripped off an alien's head with her bare hands if need be in order to protect Newt.

Okay, one more mind-blowing movie. The Princess Bride. I can't remember how old I was the first time I saw it, only that I watched it on TV, and that scene in the beginning where Wesley and Buttercup say their good-byes? Yeah, that made me cry. That was, what, ten minutes into the movie? And I was already crying! That movie made me feel just about every emotion possible, and it remains my favorite to this day.

I could go on and on about movies, but I see your eyes glazing over. You want me to wrap this up.

As you wish.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


I was a guest on a recent blog post about my first vampire, which got me to thinking about other firsts, like the first thing I ever wrote. Back when I was 12 years old or so, I read Hound of the Baskervilles for an assignment. I decided to write a knock-off called Hound of the Beckervilles, in which Joe Elliot of Def Leppard rescued me from the fiendish hounds. I'm not sure if that booklet still exists, but one thing that does is a novelette called The Poison. Yeah, I've never been that great with titles.

During one of my trips back to the Mother Land (aka Texas), I was rummaging through a box when I found the aforementioned novelette. It's 36 single spaced pages long, written on a typewriter, and filled with red marks because at some point I must've gone back and edited the thing. It's a murder mystery told in first person, the narrator being a teenager. There's a teensy prologue and even an epilogue. I actually got the ball rolling on part of the mystery pretty quick. The narrator is already suspicious of her ne'er-do-well boyfriend at the bottom of page one. When does the dead body turn up? Not until page 13. Ah, well, rookie mistake. But… dun, dun, dun, dun! It's the narrator's boyfriend--ex-boyfriend, that is--and guess who suspect numero uno is? That's right, our intrepid narrator is in a whole heap of trouble from page 13 on. Muahaha!

On a more serious note, I actually gave this thing to my mother to read. I shudder now to think of her reading that story, but she dutifully did so as I impatiently waited--okay, lurked--nearby, watching her eyes scan the page then flip to the next, lather, rinse, repeat. Then the inevitable question when she finished. "What did you think?" And that wonderful woman said, "It's good." Insert huge sigh of relief here. It wasn't just the verdict I was waiting for, I was also paying attention to the way she read it, giving it the same considerable attention that she gave novels (she's always been a voracious reader).

It's so easy to crush a child's dreams with a few careless words. It's one of the things I think about often now that I'm a mother. I think carefully of the words I use around my son. I don't think I could ever forgive myself if I said something to crush him.

Well, now, there I go, straying from the topic a bit. So I found this interesting tidbit that talks about how different authors view their juvenilia. Some look upon it with disdain and horror. Some destroyed their early work. Others look at it a bit tongue-in-cheek. I guess that's more of my approach. I mean, this stuff is far from brilliant, but considering where I was in my life, it's not that bad. And it's not like anybody is going to judge my current work by what I did over two decades ago when I was an obnoxious teenager. Anyhow, it's a bit fun to look back at what I considered important, and it's a good feeling to know I've grown considerably since then.