Aspiring to inspire…


What Haunted Me at 17

I’ve posted about how Kat Rosenfield made her way onto my Writer Crush list. Well another YA author did so as well, Nova Ren Suma. I can’t say I absolutely loved Imaginary Girls or that I related to any of the characters on a deep level the way that I did with Amelia Anne Is Dead And Gone. The story was interesting, fascinating, captivating, but it didn’t wiggle it’s way to the favorites list. Nova Ren Suma’s writing style, however, did. I read and re-read sentences and then read them to friends who share my love of literature. Because I was that envious of her style, her ability to string a sentence together in a way that felt magical. So maybe that particular story didn’t grab me as well as I’d have liked… but her writing enchanted me, made me want to try harder with my own writing. And that’s something I cherish. So because of that, Imaginary Girls is on the *special shelf* and that’s where it will remain.

All that said, Nova Ren Suma has another book coming out this week, tomorrow in fact, by the name of 17 & Gone. And while I’m yet again unsure if the story will capture my heart, I want to read it just to feast my eyes on her words. She has a current blog feature about what haunted people at 17, and it made me think. I was severely haunted at 17, I have tons I could say. And I suppose I should.

— — —

At 17, what haunted me, consumed my every waking hour… was my obsessiveness, my self-destructive love for my abusive girlfriend, my depression, and most of all… distance.

I wrote intensely angry and depressing poetry, I hurt myself physically and then rebelled against anyone who got upset at me for doing so; I was a wreck and I allowed myself to stay that way. And I have no clue how I managed to have friends. The moment I started to be happy or content where I was… I lashed out. My friends were constantly made aware that no matter how much I loved them, or loved being around them, they were never enough; because thousands of miles away was a girl who treated me like crap and I worshiped her for it.

And aside from that, I was obsessed with the idea of running away and living as a boy. I thought if I could just get back, everything would be perfect. And so I concocted a plan… if I ran away, the police would be looking for a girl, so I would become a boy. I started practicing, which wasn’t that hard because I already had moments where I felt like a boy. I’d bind my chest with an Ace bandage and practice walking through my room with a boy swag. I’d practice sitting like a boy when no one was looking. And then… I’d start to forget. I’d get lost in a book or a movie or a conversation and forget I was supposed to be running, forget I was supposed to be thinking about a girl far far away, forget I was supposed to be in love. Until my phone rang and I remembered, she was everything to me and I was depressed and lonely because she was so far away.

Being depressed was a full time job. I wasn’t actually depressed simply because she was no where near me, but I made myself believe that was the source. Whenever I started to feel okay, that depression yanked me back down, and I sunk everything in her. I told myself if I could see her… if I could just see her everything would be better, I’d miraculously be better, her love would fix it all. Only none of that was love and if her love could have fixed it, it would have done so at 3,000 miles just as well as it would have from 3,000 centimeters. Love doesn’t really care about distance. But at 17, distance was the enemy. She wouldn’t have cheated, wouldn’t have done drugs, wouldn’t have berated me, wouldn’t have treated me like I was nothing without her and nothing with her and yet  like she graciously chose to keep me around anyway… She’d have been perfect for me, if only it weren’t for that distance.

And through all of that, I did so much to keep busy. I had a weekend job at a major amusement park. I did theatre and dance and played piano. And all of these things required after school practice and memorization and dedication. In my spare time I wrote poetry. I played video games none of my friends were interested in. I loved all of the things I did to stay as busy as possible, well, except maybe that custodial job. It was how I coped, how I kept moving, how I allowed myself to be tricked into believing that the black cloud above my head would disappear one day… if that distance was gone and that love was real. Always in the back of my my mind was this ever looming pain, threatening to consume me if I stopped for a second. And when I did stop, everything hurt so bad that I had to try to cut it out of me. Sometimes I’d hurt myself even when I felt fine, because that didn’t feel real anymore, happiness felt false and confusing.

Then… she would call me, mad that I was a mess, pissed off that I missed her or didn’t miss her the way she wanted or wasn’t try hard enough to come home, to be a perfect girlfriend, to be a better version of me… her version of me. She’d call me stupid for crying, she’d go days without calling me at all because listening to me was too difficult, or because she wanted to teach me a lesson, or sometimes for no reason at all. She’d call me a bitch, call me crazy, tell me I wasn’t worth it. And then… when life started to suck at the marrow in her bones and she wanted someone to kiss it better, she’d find me and cry and I’d soothe it all away. Every single time. Like a fool.

When I read back on my poetry from 17 it’s angst ridden as you might expect, but there is anger in there, bitterness, intelligence. The style is crap mostly. I was either too blunt or too cryptic. However, every time I read one of those poems, I am struck by how aware I was that I was in pain, that my relationship was abusive and nothing but a dead end. And yet… and yet I stayed. Because it wasn’t about love anymore, no matter what I claimed. It was an obsession. I would make it work, I would make her love me like she should, I would smooth the rough edges, I would make the abuse stop, I would, I would, I would… by going home to her. And that plagued me constantly.

The sad part is, there were times I was keenly aware that I was in pain and it was due to her meanness, her harshness, her abuse. But I would tramp those feelings down, I would bury them between lies and tears and scars and angry drunk scrawlings in diary pages. I suspected that no one understood that she was my whole world and my love was utterly wrapped up in her and the distance, that hideous distance, burned my heart until it was a pile of ash in my chest. And sometimes I suspected I put her on this pedestal so high that no one could ever reach it, let alone her, and that I kept her there just to torture myself. Every time I felt like moving on, there she was, texting, calling, messaging. Sometimes it was to tell me she missed me. Sometimes it was to call me names and leave me a puddle of tears and blood on the floor. She knew the power she held over me, the power I gave her, and she used it whenever she felt lonely. And I let her. And that plagued me too. Distance and obsession and abuse… all under the guise of love.

— — —

I feel like this story needs a moral. But there isn’t one. I went home, not as a boy like I had hoped, but as myself. She wouldn’t have liked my boy self anyway; he was too assertive, too abrasive, too dominant. And once I was back, things only got worse rather than better. The emotional abuse got worse, and eventually turned into other kinds of abuse. And then, for a while, I grew to be haunted by 17 itself, by 18, by 19, by 20, by all the choices I made, or didn’t make; by all the scars, both visible and not. Who I was, what I endured in the name of an obsessive and abusive love, who I let myself become for other people, that became what haunted me after 17. But when I was 17, before I was willing to accept what love really was, I was haunted by distance and by a girl I wanted to love for all the wrong reasons.

I’m not haunted anymore. Those choices made me who I am today. And I’m not going to pretend any of that was easy. Some days I’m not sure any of that was worth it. But I survived, I learned, I grew, and I pressed forward. It’s not much, but it’s something. Perhaps it’s everything… surviving. I am happy now, I am with someone who doesn’t exploit my faults, doesn’t hurt me just to keep me under their control, and who knows that even if they wanted to… I never gave them the power to do so. Because I may have given them my heart, but I didn’t give them permission to break it over and over and over. I’m not 17 anymore. I don’t allow anything to haunt me these days.

Checking In…

I said I had goals, yes? Well, I got sick. The beginning of the year always sucks for me. And so… I have fallen a bit short thus far.

But let’s not focus on what I haven’t done. What have I accomplished thus far?

I have read 7 books so far this year. Two of which were under 200 pages. But I’m not sure they count as novellas.
I thought I was going slow… but that’s actually rather impressive considering how I’ve been feeling.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The Children And The Wolves by Adam Rapp*
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith**
Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor*
Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

* Both of these were under 200 pages.
** This was for a Read Aloud Book Club thing I do. But I read it. So it counts.

I’m currently working on reading 4 books. Two adult and two YA. I’ll happily add those to the list when I finish them.

As for writing. That’s been slower. I try not to write when I feel too much of anything. Because I feel like what I feel seeps into the writing, and then it’s more about me and less about the story. That’s when I normally turn to poetry. But my mind has really been in wanting to write fiction. And I already explained why I haven’t been doing that. Fun circle I get myself into there. But… let’s check in with the writing anyway.

If Words Hold Weight
— 6 poems I’ve not really shown anyone yet
— 4 poems I haven’t finished yet
Flash Fiction:
Sweet And Heavy
Short Stories:
— Three starts, no finished ones as of yet
Novels Worked On:
— None

And I’ve been blogging at least once a month, improvement there!

I’ve got some cool and exciting things in the works, however. So even when I’m not writing, I’m staying immersed and that’s what is important. I dedicated yesterday to reading and watching videos dealing with the craft of writing. I bounced around an idea in my head for a potential short story. There is progress, even if it’s not entirely tangible just yet. And I think that’s worth the down time.

Good Writing, Romance, and Abuse

I mentioned in my previous post that I think more authors should really try to perfect their craft. This is not to say I’m a super fancy writer, obviously I’m not or I’d be published rather than writing a blog post that few will actually read. But I figure, since I picked at mainstream lit, I should explain my thinking. And it should be noted, I’m referring to YA here. Adult novels, intrinsically not focusing on coming-of-age tales, do not fall into the same problems, though they do have their own. And, obviously, all of this is my personal opinion. I am no expert, and as my wonderful friend Kim recently said to me, art has a bias and no one is ever stating fact.

I do read the sort of books I was poking in my previous post. People say “OMG this book was amaaaaaaazing you have to read it do it you must you know you want to it was absolutely wonderful please for me to make me happy and feel like I shared something worth sharing read it omg now.” (Painful run on sentence. I’m so sorry you had to read that.)

Also, sometimes the synopsis sounds like it could be a brilliant book. A book just waiting to make the favorites list. And then they don’t. And then I give them 2 stars and people tell me I’m too picky, too critical, too snobby, too… whatever they think is bad to make me feel stupid for disliking something I didn’t think was up to par. And the funny thing is… no one asks the important questions.

A lot of these books had a good idea, they just fell through in execution. A lot of these books also focus heavily on the romantic aspect and you don’t need TRUE LOVE to sell a book to me. I actually get along just fine without a heavy romantic element. Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough did a wonderful job of capturing my attention and holding it without romance. On the other hand, you can include romance without smothering me with it, making it the focal point to an unhealthy degree, and/or failing to keep it real within the context of the story. Divergent by Veronica Roth is by far the best I’ve seen that keeps the romance in perspective, builds up to it in a logical manner, and never overwhelms me with need, which is not what love or romance is all about.

There are books I wanted to like, but the writing was never up to the challenge the story presented. Flat characters are flat. Obvious, I know. But I don’t want to read two dimensional characters. I want them to jump out of the page and feel real to me. If an author can’t do that, I can’t be their target audience. Complex plot lines are wonderful. Convoluted ones are not. If you tried to do so much in your story that I need a manual to navigate through your knotted up sub-plots and around your gaping holes, I can’t be your target audience.

am critical. If your story is set in a mental hospital and you mention a patient hearing clinking silverware, I will put the story down. Because the only way that’s real is if the patient is hallucinating. And if she is, you might want to tell me before she hears the impossible and I tune out. If your werewolves, with their increased sense of smell, can’t sniff out a person is actually another werewolf, I will check out of your story. Because that is illogical. If your Hero deadpan tells your Heroine that he wants to kill her, stalks her, blatantly tries to restrict her freedom as a person, and/or treats her as lesser because of who she is but tries to say he loves her anyway… at any point in the story and she does not get scared, fear for her life, call the police, run away, or at least acknowledge that this is not correct,  I will probably chuck the book across the room because abuse is not sexy and I will not tolerate the romanticizing of it. I am happily critical about inconsistencies, fallacies, plot holes, and downright romanticizing things that have no right to be.

And let’s talk a moment about abuse and literature, shall we? If you’ve got a BDSM book (which would likely not be YA, but humor me anyway), and a fantasy the couple is acting out is a serial killer who wants to kill the girl but wants to have sex with her more, so they spare her, for now… dun dun dun! That’s fine. Because the characters acknowledge it’s fantasy and are consenting, and theoretically sane. But a love interest is not sexy because they could hurt you, yet choose not to. They’re sexy because they doesn’t want to hurt you. If your love interest wants to kill you, if they stalk you, if they restrict your freedom as a person, if they treat you like they are superior to you… they are abusive. And that’s not cute or sexy. That’s not loving possessiveness, that’s not loving anything. Abuse is abuse. And it’s not something to romanticize, because it truly could hurt you.

I have a high standard for what I consider good writing. And I think plenty of authors have the potential to reach that level. But I honestly do think a lot of them settle for mediocracy. My saying that is actually a compliment. I’m saying they could do better and they choose not to, as opposed to saying they are incapable of doing better. The goal is not quantity, but quality. I understand writers want to make a living off of their words, but perhaps it’s the love of words that should take the foreground.

About A Book I Loved: Amelia Anne Is Dead And Gone

Amelia Anne Is Dead And Gone by Kat Rosenfield

This was the last book I read in 2012 and I feel like I have much to say about it. It has officially been added to my Favorite Books Of All Time list (which at this point really only exists in my head). This places it in the company of books like Sarah Water’s Tipping The Velvet, Christopher Rice’s A Density Of Souls, Melissa Marr’s Ink Exchange, and Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood And Chocolate. But Kat Rosenfield has done something else with this book as well. She’s placed herself on my Writer Crush list (also only existent in my head, perhaps I should fix this trend). This list seems to grower shorter the more I read, rather than longer. As I refine my taste and what I look for in a book, in writing, in myself even, this list grows shorter. And I’m happy to say Kat Rosenfield has found her way onto said list with her debut novel.

It’s not a light and fluffy book. As if you couldn’t tell from the title, right? There is a heavy theme of death throughout. Death in the form of murder, in the form of relationships and friendships, in the form of one’s understanding of the world they live in. I love mystery and suspense, but that wasn’t the focal point here. Becca and her struggle, juxtaposed alongside Amelia and hers, is the heart of this story. The struggle to either let yourself be buried in death or rise out of the ashes.

I have read reviews where people complain that Becca was whiny and the suspense was subdued and bitch bitch bitch whine whine whine this books isn’t how I wanted it to be.

I disagree with those people. Becca was 17, desperate to get out and yet feeling her life stagnate before her. And I could relate to that feeling on such an intense level. Because at her age, I was right there. She isn’t whiny. She’s processing the potential loss of a future she never questioned. The anxiety of all that can go wrong, of everything that has the ability to leave you lying on a highway, bleeding your life away. She was real. And I think people are unwilling to accept that. Her weakness was perhaps too real for some people to handle. She was not directly involved in this murder, didn’t know the girl or her circumstance, but she didn’t need to know in order to feel. And no one wants to admit that you can be affected by the outside world. That small town or not, death reflects on and claims us all. And sometimes, even at 17, that’s a large and looming thought, one you sometimes have to sit and wangst about.

Becca was real. I knew her. I both loved and hated her. Because Becca was me. Becca is me. If I were to look back on my life and tell you the story of it, you would see that as well. There is a sort of knowing in the prose, a maturity, that she’s reflecting on her life from a distant place. That’s where I found myself the most. In the knowing that whatever is back there, in your past, whatever ghosts you hide and whatever pain you endured, it’s behind you. And this quote pretty much defines me.

❝ I have learned that knowing where you’re going means remembering where you’ve been. I’m not afraid of what lurks behind me, or ahead.

Which will bring me to my next point. The writing.

I have also seen people complain about her writing. Too many adjectives is the biggest complaint. Followed by the absurd statement that she’s “trying too hard to be literary.” I’m sorry, what? These people should maybe keep the evidence that they enjoy paying upwards of $8 a book to gluttonously scarf up loads of crap to themselves. Personally, I find it gross that many authors appear to hardly try to perfect their craft at all. I would much rather indulge in the delicacy that is a well-written book. And this really was. The prose was nearly bloated, but it painted a picture. The writing was  well thought out. There were a few places, here and there, where the grammar or the structure of a sentence made me pause and re-read for clarity. But there were far more instances where I paused and re-read to take in the beauty of it all. Such a heavy story, with such pretty writing. Allow me to demonstrate.

❝  I tried to make that fit–to reimagine last night as something less final, something other than an execution, something nebulous and misunderstandable that left us neither together nor apart. Not done, not undone.

It seemed impossible that something which had felt so brutal and decisive to me could feel to him like limbo.

But I wanted to believe him. I had trusted James, and in return, he had loved me, protected me, kept my secrets. In his eyes, even more than in mine, we were always solid.

Her writing makes me look at my own and wonder why… why in poetry and short flash fiction pieces I can sound beautiful and heartfelt, but when I try to write a novel I fall into Generic Writing Land. This feeling that someone’s work is wonderful and beautiful and mine sucks, it used to get me down. But not anymore. Now I look at this lovely writing and think… I can do that… all I have to do is actually try. And that’s why these arguments that Ms. Rosenfield tried too hard are ridiculous. She did not try too hard, she merely respected her craft and her own abilities and did not dumb things down or go about it the easy way.

I should have a troop of Hipsters to chime in right here about how she’s doing it right and everyone else is a sell out. But since I don’t, you’re stuck with me and my honesty. All these popular YA authors are likely more than capable of writing something lovely and worth reading for the prose alone, if they only tried, rather than churning out half-assed regurgitated crap at the speed of light. Writing isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s not supposed to pounding on a keyboard just to send off a decent story into the world… it’s supposed to be difficult and involve lots of alcohol and swearing and wondering who’s bright idea it was to write this effing story in the first place… followed by quality literature at the end of the painful process. Kat Rosenfield, you’re doing it right. And I will read anything you write as long as you try just as hard as you did with Amelia Anne.

This book was beautiful and painful. I thought about it while it was closed and savored it while it was open. I had borrowed it from the library, but I had to buy it, to have a copy of it within reach at all times. I know the novel is Kat Rosenfield’s, but the story is mine… she just doesn’t know it yet.

Thus Far… and Resolutions

It’s that time again. End of the year babble and resolutions and all that. So… let’s take stock of what I accomplished.

2012 Resolutions
Writing Goal:

1. Complete short stories:
-The Door Home
-Life Size
2. Complete novellas:
-End Game
-Solitary King
3. Complete Transforming Silence
4. Revise Transforming Silence
5. Complete first draft of Tempting Defiance

Reading goal:
50 books

Okay that looks rather sad, right? Here’s why. I wrote plenty of things not on that list.

2012 Scribblings:
1. Five Flash Fiction (under 500 words)-
Woeful Disposition
Feathers to Guard You
Deliciously New
Possessively New
2. Five Short Stories
Gathering Darkness
—Morning Routine
—Rescue Me Before the Supernova
—Much Too Calm
—Once Upon a Dream
3. Twenty Poems 

And I’m still working. I have a short story, presently titled Lies, which I’m working on. And a flash fiction that was actually requested. I started to revize Transforming Silence and realized I needed to finish Tempting Defiance to know where to go with it. I started Tempting Defiance and realized that needs to simmer until I can go there. I started working out details for an entirely different novel idea. A standalone. Something I want to read but haven’t seen yet.

And I did a lot of not working. And that’s on me. And for personal reasons. 2012 was a year of discovering, of what-happens-if-I-play-with-this, of turning 25 and realizing I’m not a kid anymore. I mean… I knew that. But I think I finally shed the last of the things that held me back. The last shreds of I-need-distraction-because-woes. I spent the last couple months of 2012 looking at the things I’d been consuming for “inspiration” and realizing they were holding me back, not propelling me forward. I spent the last two months reading only things of quality, only things that stir the senses and make me think and feel. I’m trying everything, with my writing and my reading. Like I used to before my heart was first broken. Before I knew that darkness forming was depression. Before the first scar.

As for reading in 2012. I read thirteen novels, one novella, one anthology, and nineteen manga. Not impressive. And that’s because I spent months trying to force myself to finish books I wasn’t enjoying. What aren’t I doing in 2013? Hmmmmm.

So moving onward…

2013 Resolutions
Writing Goal:
1. Write at least 52 flash fiction pieces
2. Write at least 52 poems
3. Write at least 25 short stories*
4. Write at least one first draft of a novel

Reading Goal:
30 novels**

Less specific writing goals. But that is attainable, realistic, and yet still challenging. If I can write one poem and one flash fiction piece a week, I can be sure I’m constantly writing. And that’s what keeps me going.

Also, I’d like to post often in 2013. But I don’t always know what to post about that relates to writing. And no one wants to read about writing from someone who isn’t even published yet. So! I will start posting about books that truly inspired me or that I’d like to pick apart. Thoughts or Rants I have about society or humanity or… whatever I have to say really. And these are relevant to my writing because I believe my views show in my writing. So yeah. Goals. I have them.

What are your goals for 2013?

*As per the rules of my prompt project, they don’t have to be short stories. But I predict they will be. On the off chance I do something different one week, I hope to make up for it with a short story on the side but… we’ll see how that goes.
** I can read as many Manga or Novellas as I like. But I need to read a diverse selection of novels as well. So my goal is specific to novels.

Short Story Writing

I have a habit of writing short stories when I’m stuck on a character. I was thinking about a character in Book Two who was the least developed… when suddenly an opportunity presented itself to write his back story and enter a contest at the same time.

So I give to you… Jai. I learned a lot about him while writing this short story. Jai was inspired by a conversation… and then built upon in my imagination… until we get the poor guy you see in my story. I entered the Defy The Dark contest that Figment and Harper Teen were holding… and if I win the following link will be removed and replaced with a link to buy the story (or a link to the story on the Defy The Dark website, depending). In the meantime… you can read Jai’s origin story here:

Gathering Darkness

Beginnings and Ends

I finished Transforming Silence in March. And I was going to revise it right away but I figured a break was in order, to reassess and get my bearings on where it needed tweaking.

In that break I realized a massive flaw… It’s not dark enough. Not remotely. Not enough for where the story continues to go. So as I continue the story… I have a complete re-write in mind. Especially since I have sweet talked some super cute help who sees literature in a very unique way.

So this is to stories… to beginnings and ends… starts and stops… and rewrites.

I have big plans and big dreams and I plan to make them real… one word at a time.

I’ll write again, soon I hope, and presumably less vague and worldly, more amusing and descriptive. Maybe. ^__^

Writing Resolutions

I did not write a whole lot in 2011. I did a lot of plotting and tinkering and excuse-making. I moved three times, Orlando to Nantucket to Salt Lake City to Santa Rosa. I wrote poetry and worked on my graphic skills, which you can see on my poetry tumblr. And then I finished the year working on short stories for friends and family as Christmas presents.

In about a week and a half I wrote 16 pages worth of short stories. That was actually the combined page count of two stories. I’ve got plot outlines and ideas and songs and plans… for several more short stories along with plans to finish my novel, edit, and start in on book two. But 2011 seemed to be the year of drama, the year of I-don’t-feel-like-doing-anything, the year of sigh-groan-grumble. And I am determined to make 2012 my year. And to prove it… I give you my resolutions. Which I will periodically repost to cross off what I’ve accomplished.

Writing Resolutions:
1. Complete short stories:
-The Door Home
-Life Size
2. Complete novellas:
-End Game
-Solitary King
3. Complete Transforming Silence
4. Revise Transforming Silence
5. Complete first draft of Tempting Defiance

Ambitious? Yes. But I have faith in myself… if only I’d apply myself I could get all that done.

I would like to read at least 50 books this coming year. I’ve aimed for this two years in a row and both years I only got to 46. Perhaps this year I will get there. But it’s not really the end of the world if I don’t. The writing plan is more important.

New Problems

I’ve been doing research to lock down a location in Book One. And every time I come to some conclusion, new problems arise. I fix those problems and get brand new ones.

I’ve got two kids wandering around a forest. With very specific requirements for the forest size and proximity to the city.

I find a perfect location…
But it messes up other aspects.
I solve those aspects…
But I need a new park/forest.
Not to mention my solution poses personal problems for me as well.

So then I’m back to no location… and now a whole new problem to fix as well.

And I’m just tempted to say “SCREW IT ALL! I don’t feel like fixing this story!”

Hopefully I’m not the only person to get to this point while being *so close* to done.

What Is In A Name?

I’ve been looking at character names and deciding if they honestly fit the characters. Names are important to me. And I don’t just mean in writing. Obviously names are important in writing. But as a whole. I look at my friends’ names. What they mean, what they say about the person, how they sound. This is what I do with my time, yes.

The significance of this whole thing… is an important character with a POV is having an identity crisis. Her name doesn’t seem to fit her. And the names I like that do fit her are too similar to other character names. So… do I re-name other characters as well or just give her a name that is slightly less than perfect?

Oh the dilemmas we face.