My Writing Process

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A few weeks ago my friend and colleague, Andrea Lani, tagged me on her blog, Remains Of The Day, for the purpose of participating in this writer blog meme. Since Andrea is an avid blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to read about her family, her writing, her political views, and her concern and care for the environment. Andrea is a writer who is able to capture the heart of all things she’s passionate about and translate her passions into words. Her blog is filled with rich texture of our world, and she has created a place where anyone can go to feel like their sipping a warm cup of tea even when their not.

1. What am I working on?

Hmmm… I’d have to pick a day in order to answer this question with great accuracy because on Mondays and Fridays I write something for this blog or a piece for Crazy Sisters Hiking the Maine Woods. Five days a week, my short story, “Next in Line” sounds off in my head on repeat to the tune of, “Feed me, feed me,” so I periodically drop morsels of round vowels and shards of consonants for as long as the brain will allow. But the main focus is my novel, The Midnight Thief. Seven days a week it is my heart and soul. The characters, Blue and Dolly, call out every morning at roughly 4am, just to remind me they need to get to the end of their story soon. Their wake up call helps me to remember the importance of their message, and it helps me remember what it feels like to be a kid who is waiting to open a gift that promises surprise and magic. The days I don’t allow their story to move forward causes such a tidal wave of guilt that I find myself eating Swiss Rolls and chocolate chip ice cream at regular therapeutic intervals: 10am, 3pm, and one more time at 10pm, much to my chagrin right before bed.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Midnight Thief is a southern gothic novel filled with heartache and loss, just like all books of this style, but TMT also looks at the affects of pollution that surrounds the coalmines of Eastern Kentucky and the rich culture that flows through the veins of its inhabitants. My novel also acts as a basic survival guide, teaching adults and children simple ways to start fires, find dry wood, fish without a fishing hook, and how to trap small animals. Appalachia doesn’t need to be seen as backwards, uneducated, and poor anymore. There is so much culture in that region that needs to be explored by more people than the experts. The world needs to see the art and talent that is often playing out on porches and in living rooms across countless counties. I’d like to help my readers understand there is so much more to coal mining families than moonshine and banjo picking.

3. Why do I write what I do?

About twenty years ago, a man walked into my life that I instantly connected with. A few years later, he became my stepfather. Mike changed my life. He filled our visits with stories of his childhood, growing up in Harlan County, Kentucky, a world far away from Waterville, Maine. Starting when he was only three years old, Mike ran the woods with friends often climbing up steep rock faces, so he and his friends could sleep on ledges under the stars. Mike carried a gun and hunted squirrel and coon while his father worked back breaking hours in the coalmines, the same place where men breathed in coal dust for countless hours. Most of the men ended their time here on earth with Black Lung and permanently hunched backs. Mike’s life couldn’t differ more from my own. After twenty years of me listening to Mike’s stories, a young boy named Joe knocked on my writerly walls and started telling me his own stories about growing up in the 1940s in Kentucky. Eventually, Joe introduced me to his daughter Blue who became the main character for my novel, The Midnight Thief. 

4. How does my writing process work?

Read, read, read. That’s what we writers hear and repeat frequently. I find inspiration in Janet Burroway‘s Writing Fiction and anything written by Flannery O’Connor. I love William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. I find reading the old stuff, the classics, inspire me the most. I think its because their language is carefully chosen, every single word serves a purpose. But those writers had the time, they wrote with ferocity just like writers today, but I don’t imagine they had the pressures to produce that we writers face today. My goal is to keep the organic pace that my words call for, not the one established by an impending doom. Hopefully, that will work for me. I’ll let you know. But until then, I write five days a week and think about writing for all seven. I try to encorporate some form of exercise every day, so that my body helps my mind stay healthy. I listen to converstaions even when people don’t know I’m listening, and I take mental snapshots of images of water caves and acorns, grainy snow melting over ice and men carrying ten plastic grocery bags, five in each hand, that are filled with other grocery bags. A few months ago I picked up the guitar because I think writers should have more than one artistic medium. A few weeks ago I began watercolor painting, a hobby I loved years ago. Art is part of my process. I’ve noticed the more I practice, the more I notice, and the more I notice, the more I have to give to the page.

Next up on my writing blog tour:

K.T. Bryski is a Canadian author and podcaster. She made her debut with her apocalyptic fantasy novel Hapax (Dragon Moon Press, 2012) and she has stories in Black Treacle, Tales from the Archives Vol. III, and When the Hero Comes Home Vol. II. Select playwriting credits include various scripts for Black Creek Pioneer Village and East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon: a Children’s Opera (Canadian Children’s Opera Company, 2014). K.T. also manages The Black Creek Growler: the official blog of the Black Creek Historic Brewery. She is currently at work on her next novel while pursuing her MFA through the Stonecoast Creative Writing programme at the University of Southern Maine. As you may have guessed, she has a slight caffeine addiction. Visit her at www.ktbryski.com.

Tee Morris has been writing adventures in far-off lands and far-off worlds since elementary school. Inspired by numerous Choose Your Own Adventure titles and Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he wrote not-so-short short stories of his own, unaware that working on a typewriter when sick-from-school and, later, on a computer (which was a lot quieter…that meant more time to write at night…) would pave a way for his writings.

Tee has now returned to writing fiction with The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine. Their first title in the series, Phoenix Rising, won the 2011 Airship Award for Best in Steampunk Literature, while both Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair were finalists in Goodreads Best in Science Fiction of 2011 and 2012. In 2013 Tee and Pip released Ministry Protocol, an original anthology of short stories set in the Ministry universe. Now in 2014, following a Parsec win for their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, Tee and Pip celebrate the arrival of their third book, Dawn’s Early Light and launch a new venture—One Stop Writer Shop—offering a variety of services to up-and-coming and established indie authors.

My Writing Process

Image

A few weeks ago my friend and colleague, Andrea Lani, tagged me on her blog, Remains Of The Day, for the purpose of participating in this writer blog meme. Since Andrea is an avid blogger, I’ve had the opportunity to read about her family, her writing, her political views, and her concern and care for the environment. Andrea is a writer who is able to capture the heart of all things she’s passionate about and translate her passions into words. Her blog is filled with rich texture of our world, and she has created a place where anyone can go to feel like their sipping a warm cup of tea even when their not.

1. What am I working on?

Hmmm… I’d have to pick a day in order to answer this question with great accuracy because on Mondays and Fridays I write something for this blog or a piece for Crazy Sisters Hiking the Maine Woods. Five days a week, my short story, “Next in Line” sounds off in my head on repeat to the tune of, “Feed me, feed me,” so I periodically drop morsels of round vowels and shards of consonants for as long as the brain will allow. But the main focus is my novel, The Midnight Thief. Seven days a week it is my heart and soul. The characters, Blue and Dolly, call out every morning at roughly 4am, just to remind me they need to get to the end of their story soon. Their wake up call helps me to remember the importance of their message, and it helps me remember what it feels like to be a kid who is waiting to open a gift that promises surprise and magic. The days I don’t allow their story to move forward causes such a tidal wave of guilt that I find myself eating Swiss Rolls and chocolate chip ice cream at regular therapeutic intervals: 10am, 3pm, and one more time at 10pm, much to my chagrin right before bed.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Midnight Thief is a southern gothic novel filled with heartache and loss, just like all books of this style, but TMT also looks at the affects of pollution that surrounds the coalmines of Eastern Kentucky and the rich culture that flows through the veins of its inhabitants. My novel also acts as a basic survival guide, teaching adults and children simple ways to start fires, find dry wood, fish without a fishing hook, and how to trap small animals. Appalachia doesn’t need to be seen as backwards, uneducated, and poor anymore. There is so much culture in that region that needs to be explored by more people than the experts. The world needs to see the art and talent that is often playing out on porches and in living rooms across countless counties. I’d like to help my readers understand there is so much more to coal mining families than moonshine and banjo picking.

3. Why do I write what I do?

About twenty years ago, a man walked into my life that I instantly connected with. A few years later, he became my stepfather. Mike changed my life. He filled our visits with stories of his childhood, growing up in Harlan County, Kentucky, a world far away from Waterville, Maine. Starting when he was only three years old, Mike ran the woods with friends often climbing up steep rock faces, so he and his friends could sleep on ledges under the stars. Mike carried a gun and hunted squirrel and coon while his father worked back breaking hours in the coalmines, the same place where men breathed in coal dust for countless hours. Most of the men ended their time here on earth with Black Lung and permanently hunched backs. Mike’s life couldn’t differ more from my own. After twenty years of me listening to Mike’s stories, a young boy named Joe knocked on my writerly walls and started telling me his own stories about growing up in the 1940s in Kentucky. Eventually, Joe introduced me to his daughter Blue who became the main character for my novel, The Midnight Thief. 

4. How does my writing process work?

Read, read, read. That’s what we writers hear and repeat frequently. I find inspiration in Janet Burroway‘s Writing Fiction and anything written by Flannery O’Connor. I love William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. I find reading the old stuff, the classics, inspire me the most. I think its because their language is carefully chosen, every single word serves a purpose. But those writers had the time, they wrote with ferocity just like writers today, but I don’t imagine they had the pressures to produce that we writers face today. My goal is to keep the organic pace that my words call for, not the one established by an impending doom. Hopefully, that will work for me. I’ll let you know. But until then, I write five days a week and think about writing for all seven. I try to encorporate some form of exercise every day, so that my body helps my mind stay healthy. I listen to converstaions even when people don’t know I’m listening, and I take mental snapshots of images of water caves and acorns, grainy snow melting over ice and men carrying ten plastic grocery bags, five in each hand, that are filled with other grocery bags. A few months ago I picked up the guitar because I think writers should have more than one artistic medium. A few weeks ago I began watercolor painting, a hobby I loved years ago. Art is part of my process. I’ve noticed the more I practice, the more I notice, and the more I notice, the more I have to give to the page.

Next up on my writing blog tour:

K.T. Bryski is a Canadian author and podcaster. She made her debut with her apocalyptic fantasy novel Hapax (Dragon Moon Press, 2012) and she has stories in Black Treacle, Tales from the Archives Vol. III, and When the Hero Comes Home Vol. II. Select playwriting credits include various scripts for Black Creek Pioneer Village and East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon: a Children’s Opera (Canadian Children’s Opera Company, 2014). K.T. also manages The Black Creek Growler: the official blog of the Black Creek Historic Brewery. She is currently at work on her next novel while pursuing her MFA through the Stonecoast Creative Writing programme at the University of Southern Maine. As you may have guessed, she has a slight caffeine addiction. Visit her at www.ktbryski.com.

Tee Morris has been writing adventures in far-off lands and far-off worlds since elementary school. Inspired by numerous Choose Your Own Adventure titles and Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he wrote not-so-short short stories of his own, unaware that working on a typewriter when sick-from-school and, later, on a computer (which was a lot quieter…that meant more time to write at night…) would pave a way for his writings.

Tee has now returned to writing fiction with The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine. Their first title in the series, Phoenix Rising, won the 2011 Airship Award for Best in Steampunk Literature, while both Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair were finalists in Goodreads Best in Science Fiction of 2011 and 2012. In 2013 Tee and Pip released Ministry Protocol, an original anthology of short stories set in the Ministry universe. Now in 2014, following a Parsec win for their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, Tee and Pip celebrate the arrival of their third book, Dawn’s Early Light and launch a new venture—One Stop Writer Shop—offering a variety of services to up-and-coming and established indie authors.

 

Ghostly Desires

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Scene: In A Midnight Thief, a new character has been introduced, Dean. He’s a teenage ghost.

The Problem: Dean wants to leave this earthly plane but needs forgiveness in order to pass on to the next realm.

Fortunately, his victims, Blue and Dolly, don’t know who he is since he was a grown man when he attacked them, and they don’t know the boy standing in front of them is a ghost.

Dean needs the girls to stay until nightfall, a time when he can reveal himself to them. But once he reveals himself, they will most likely be frightened because he hurt them so badly. Dean has to find a way to convince them to forgive him at a time when their wounds are still fresh.

Will Dean be able to convince the girls to forgive him?

Will Blue and Dolly see past his earthy desires and find forgiveness?

Will they all be able to part ways peacefully?

Oh… and there is a loaded gun in play.

The Child Kills the Man

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Over the last several weeks, I’ve struggled to write a scene for my work in progress where my main character, twelve-year-old Blue’s little sister has been attacked by one of the moonshine still watchers whom the girls refer to as “the dirty man.” Thankfully, Blue hears her sister’s screams, but she doesn’t know if she reached her sister before he hurt her. Blue’s little sister’s shorts have been torn off, and the dirty man is on top of her when Blue rushes in. Blue has a gun and knows how to shoot. The question remains, does Blue shoot him? If so, does she kill him, or do she and her sister just get away? This is the second time the dirty man has attacked the girls, and he’s crazy, so Blue knows he will follow them and try again.

When I asked my trusted Facebook friends “what should Blue do?” they all said, “Kill him!” Since this is not the end of the book, Blue has to move on with her life. What would life be like for a twelve-year-old girl who just killed another human being? Could she live with the memory? Could she continue to protect her sister from other dangers in the world?

Well, I wrote the scene. I won’t tell you what happens, but I think I’m going to write the scene again. Maybe I’ll write twelve different scenarios to see where my words go. As Mike Kimball told me once, “As a writer, you have to walk through the fire, not just stand beside it.”

In Memoriam of the Visceral Kindergarten Sentence

I’ve decided to start on a new writing project in hopes of learning how to cope with my writer’s mind transforming. A lot of bat-crazy shit happens when locked away alone for hours day after day, week after week, month after month. “Start at the beginning” is the phrase most commonly heard out of a new therapist’s mouth.

Kindergarten, 1979, was the first time I remember falling in love with the sentence, not individual words mind you, they came much later which actually makes sense since my mother told me when I started talking I spoke in full sentences.

During kindergarten writing time, Mrs. Sawyer sat at her half-moon table in the front of the classroom with her sweet smelling black Magic Marker all set and ready to go. When not in use, she held it up like the Statue of Liberty holds her torch inviting her children to come forward and when utilized it glided across my manilla paper like a painter’s brush thick with paint strokes its canvas.

After completing a detailed drawing, I did the long-walk, squeezing between the tiny school chairs, to the front of the room, where my teacher’s wide grandmotherly bottom balanced on a five-year-old’s chair. As I approached, she smiled with her old-lady gums and gold arches holding in sections of false teeth. I suspected they wouldn’t come loose like my grandmother’s often did.

Before taking the final steps, I stopped and stared at my picture, processing the details, figuring out one sentence, and only one as that was all we were allowed. If chosen carefully, my words would have the power to awaken a world I had just created with 8 fat crayons. For that moment, I felt like God.

With the right words linked together, I opened my mouth and let each syllable loll through the air toward her ear. I could see it in her eyes, she knew my creation fulfilled me. She uncapped her torch and inscribed my sentence with the mindful accuracy only a kindergarten teacher with perfect penmanship could. Before me, her fine print exceeded my expectations. It was like the one present I opened on Christmas eve, chosen deliberately, shaking up and down, back and forth to understand weight, structure, and size.

In 1979, I carried my long manilla sheet, as if it were the Shroud of Turin, back to the table someone’s grandfather made from old plywood in his basement workshop because that’s what people used to do, and copied each letter in my best hand. Still shining with holy wetness, the scent from Magic Marker letters rose to my nostrils and filled me with heaven’s euphoria. Everything in my world was right.

No matter how much time passes, childhood honesty remains the same when I talk to my genius, my muse. My love affair with the written sentence is alive just as much today as it was when I sat in the last seat near the pencil sharpener in Mrs. Sawyer’s class.

With this love also comes fear. Fear of screwing up the feeling of the interlaced words. Fear of not relaying each of them with intent. The same fear that reared its ugly head while standing in front of my fellow first graders preparing to read Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Last winter, I nearly stopped breathing when reading a paragraph to my nontraditional college-aged peers. A lack of confidence forced me to opt out when given another opportunity by my ever supportive writing tribe. 

My transformation? The more I write, the less confidence I possess. I feel my skin shrinking inside my self. I don’t give permission for the mean geniuses to run amuck. But they still do. Stop, I say. For I too, shall pass on the words that float on the same current of a kindergarten class of long ago. I too, shall allow the good genius to tell her story. I don’t have a choice. I have to listen. I have to relay her sentence for she has a lot to tell.