A Faerie Tale

Of all the things I’m about to tell you, only one is a lie. I can’t tell you which, because 1) that wouldn’t be fun, and 2) that’s the whole point of a lie, you’re not supposed to recognize it. See, you don’t even know me and already I have a winning personality. Okay, here goes:

I was ten years old when my parents were murdered. I was also ten years old when everyone thought I did it. Everyone includes my grandma (who I’ve since learned has never liked me, by the way), my psychologist, my social worker, and my attorney. Yes, even my attorney thought I was guilty. That’s probably why we lost the case and I’m in solitary confinement for the rest of my life. But this isn’t news to you.

Still, you’re probably thinking a few things right now, like How can all of those people be wrong? and Is that even legal? Well, to answer your questions, I don’t know, but they are, and I don’t know, but I’m here.

Now, I am no longer the cute ten-year-old chubby kid with glasses who supposedly hacked his parents up, Lizzie Borden style. Granted I apparently used garden shears instead of an axe, but I don’t have access to an axe, and I don’t think Lizzie had access to garden shears. We child murderers have to use what we can, am I right? Sorry, that wasn’t funny.

Now, I am a scruffy, still overweight (but it’s no longer cute), shaggy haired twenty-four year old, who has been such a gem in solitary confinement that they are considering, considering, letting me play with the big boys. That is, I might have a roommate and bars instead of a toilet and solid walls. But you don’t really care about that, do you?

You’re probably also wondering how I got in this huge mess to begin with. It’s all rather stupid, really, and it’s all because of the faeries.

Now you know why no one believed me.

Research faeries in folklore. You’ll realize that NONE of them are Tinkerbell and ALL of them are assholes. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

*          *          *

            Done? Okay, glad you agree. So these dumb faeries can only be seen by children. I’ve explained who they are and how they work in my testimony, which I’m sure you’ve already listened to, considering the circumstances. But I want to tell you more.

They used to follow me all the time as a kid. Taunting me, making me trip, knocking off my glasses, because it wasn’t enough for just the kids at school to be real asses. I had to be terrorized by European folklore, too. Oh, by the way, I’m British, but I live in America. Long story. Maybe you know it already.

Anyway, faeries don’t look like they do in the cartoons and whatever. They look like normal people, but with red eyes, and no, they don’t have wings. If you’re thinking, man, that sounds kind of like a demon, then I would say, where the hell were you at my trial fourteen years ago? Maybe a straight headed person like yourself would have voted no on the whole “prison for life” sentence.

So, imagine a ten-year-old loner, who most definitely got picked last for gym every damn day, being followed around by a squad of demon faeries. Not exactly the ideal life.

You would probably assume that this kid told someone, right? I mean, he’s scared all the time, he can’t sleep at night, can’t eat (how was I so chubby then? I inherited a shitty metabolism.), surely he shared his fears. You’re damn right I did, sane or not. I told my grandma, but it turns out that she’s so deaf she didn’t hear a word I said. The conversation went something like this:

“Hey grandma, can I talk to you?”

“What?” (I realize now she was saying What? like, What I can’t hear you? Instead of What do you want you annoying brat?)

“I think I’m being haunted.”

“Oh, that sounds nice dear.”

“No, grandma. HAUNTED. I’m scared.”

“Is this from a…what do you kids call them? A TEE-VEE show?”

“No grandma, I’m serious.”

“Well, okay honey, whatever you want.”

So I told her my story and I thought to myself, Hey, this could work. Grandma doesn’t think I’m crazy. And so I went on my merry way only to realize after she testified against me that she thought I was a lunatic, and whatever story she heard is NOWHERE near the one I told her. In her version I admitted to being the spawn of Satan (pretty sure I said the “faeries be hatin,’” but who knows), along with other things that NO TEN YEAR OLD would ever do.

Sorry for the all caps, I’m just really emotional.

But even though I couldn’t talk to my parents about this little faerie dilemma, I couldn’t totally rag on them. (Mostly, sure.) They did eventually realize something was wrong. I wasn’t the best kid. I had…have ADD. I once painted a mural across our living room wall just because I was bored and mum and dad were too busy to entertain my six-year-old self. And there was one other time, but I swear it was just the once, where I streaked naked across the front yard. I made it halfway to my neighbor’s house before my dad tackled me and took me screaming inside. My reasoning then was that I was hot, and the only way to cool down was to be in the buff and run around like a madman to force the stale air into a sort of wind. These didn’t exactly play into my favor with the “I can see faeries and I swear I didn’t do it” argument. And apparently saying “I swear” repeatedly in court as a ten-year-old doesn’t make my testimony iron clad.

So like I was saying, when my parents realized that there was something more going on with me than being a hyperactive little shit, they sent me to a shrink (think of the person you hate most, now imagine that person giving you life advice), and bumped up my medication. Have you ever seen an ADD kid on twice the amount of medication normally prescribed to him? They have a name for those kids, and it’s “zombie.” I was in a daze. Could barely lift a pencil to write let alone some gardening utensils to murder my full-grown parents. But according to the prosecutor or whatever his name was, I quit taking my meds days before the incident. Not true. I may have forgotten once or twice, but I promise you that the second the light came back on in my little squinty eyeballs, my mum and dad were shoving more pills down my throat. I can’t blame them. I shouldn’t blame them. Okay, maybe I do blame them, just a little bit. But I didn’t want them to die. That would be drastic.

Back to my story… None of it worked, of course (the shrink and medication, I’m off my meds now and am trying the holistic route. Eating more veggies and taking my vitamins, but I don’t think it’s working.). There was this incident. The defining incident, I think, when my parents contemplated putting me in a nuthouse. I remember eating a bowl of oatmeal one morning while my parents were sitting at the table with me. One of the faeries came up behind me and shoved my face right into the bowl. I picked oatmeal from my nose for days. What did my parents do? Cleaned off my face and sat me in a corner to think about what I did. What I did. What I did? You see the injustice here, don’t you? Meanwhile that asshole faerie just sat in my seat and laughed. I just tried not to cry (tried being the key word here). I heard them whispering later while I was washing the mush off my face that they were this close, this close, to giving up. It didn’t feel the best, I’ll tell you that. But they’re my parents. Were my parents. I have to love them, right?

It wasn’t long after that the faeries started to get violent. Like really violent. Like occasionally suffocating me in my sleep type of violent. But on the bright side of being the only one to see them, they couldn’t kill me. They could bring me close to it, sure, but they couldn’t push me over the edge. Perks of being a child.

I guess that’s why they went for my parents instead.

Look, let me pause here to say that I don’t expect you to believe me. I just kind of hoped you of all people would at least understand me, even if you don’t believe me. I just need someone to understand. I didn’t do it. I mean, you had to have heard crazier stories than this, right?

But on the other hand, if you’re wondering why the faeries suddenly went from pranksters to murderers, I can explain that quite easily. Now, I was only ten, mind you, so don’t judge me or anything. I was pretty desperate at this point. I went to a public library and found some books on witchcraft, the art of the séance, that type of stuff. Obviously I didn’t check any of it out, because who in their right mind would let a ten-year-old do that? But I read all the books and took notes. A librarian caught me hiding in a back corner once. She thought I was up to something bad, which I guess I was. She saw what I was reading and took the books away and made me go home. That librarian later testified against me in court as a demonic little brat who ruined the Dewey decimal system. So I guess that actually backs up grandma’s “spawn of Satan” crap.

But by that point I knew enough to get started. I referenced my notes, lit my candles, and tried to summon some sort of spirit to take control of the faeries. Of course it didn’t work. Not even a little bit. But, it did piss off some already uptight red-eyed freaks. This is when they decided to kill my parents (granted, this is an assumption, but it happened the next day so I feel pretty confident about it).

I feel like I need to repeat myself here for clarification. I won’t be surprised or upset or really feel anything at all if you don’t believe me. I just know you’ve helped some other people out in similar situations. If they were willing to try me again in court, I wouldn’t mind it. I’d welcome it, actually. I’m kind of hoping that if you write my story for my point of view, the full story, not the bits and pieces most journalists print, they might take up my case again.

So while you’re sitting there in your morning meeting, accepting assignments on the rising price of gas and the teacher strike at Ashburger Elementary, think about the opportunity I’m offering you. You. No one else.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, let me ask you this: Do you know what it’s like to wake up holding a pair of bloody garden shears, your fingerprints clearly visible, and a faerie hovering over your head, a red-stained finger to its lips? Do you know what it’s like to stumble, sleepy and shivering, to your parents bedroom and see them hacked to pieces? Pieces. Did you get that? You don’t know what it’s like. Just as you don’t know what it’s like to wake up every day to four white walls, knowing you are innocent but unable to prove it. (Look at that, I already wrote your first paragraph for you. It’s catchy, isn’t it?)

I digress. So what do you say? Will you help me out?

Keeping a Writing Journal

Do you carry a writing journal with you? I do, but I rarely write in it. I’m more of a typer, and my hands now find holding a pen to be very foreign.

There’s something special about writing things by hand, though. It feels more personal, like the words somehow mean more because you took the time to draw them out. As a blogger, I have to recognize the disconnect with typing, even though it’s my preferred method. There’s a boundary between you and me that doesn’t exist if I were to write this by hand and mail it to you.

Handwriting implies familiarity, whether that familiarity is between you and your reader or you and your story.

I’m definitely not suggesting to handwrite a full novel. If that’s your deal, by all means, go for it. I’ll cheer you on from behind my computer at Starbucks.

But, if you have a chance to take your notebook out and jot down some ideas or write the beginning of a story, please do it. Go somewhere even. Somewhere quiet and isolated or beautiful and inspirational (or all of the above). Just be alone with your mind and your imperfect handwriting.

I think you’ll be as surprised what happens.

 

Creating the Space Around You

If you’re anything like me on this, then I’m really sorry. It makes us kind of high maintenance sometimes, but it is what it is, right?

What I’m talking about is that need to set the mood before you write. Light some candles (there are so many literature inspired candles out there it’s insane). Make sure all the dog hair has been vacuumed. Pour a glass of wine or grab of mug of tea. Get that ambient music Pandora station going.

Sometimes it takes me longer to create the space around me than I actually spend time writing. That’s not a bad thing, per se, if the time I spend actually writing is used efficiently. But it can definitely cripple me if I’m in a space that’s less than perfect trying to write. I am not one that can write anytime, anywhere. I’m the little kid distracted by squirrels in the middle of a conversation. I can’t help it.

So I’ve decided to preset my space. Even though it may take some time to rearrange my desk and get my life in order, it’ll at least save me from having to do it later when I just want to claw at my keyboard and get the words out.

I’ve been slacking a bit on that, and I don’t really have a good reason other than the weeds in my yard took over my plants and I had to put the rest of my life on pause. But hopefully I can get myself back on track. And I’m going to start by staring at my desk and figuring out what I can do to make it feel less hectic.

 

Croissant, Coffee, and a Cafe

Is that too much to ask for? I mean, really.

I’m going to be blatantly honest with you guys for a minute, so please, don’t laugh. I recently downloaded the app Disney Enchanted. You know, the one where you build your own fairy tales on a quilt. Of course I chose to build Belle’s story first. What book nerd wouldn’t? Your little characters can do actions and my bookkeeper can dine in the cafe for an hour. Did you hear that? AN HOUR!

And the sad part is, I’m jealous of him.

A good coffee shop is my writing paradise. Starbucks is okay, but there are too many giggling girls talking about their boy drama for me to stay there for longer than thirty minutes. I prefer the locals. There was one I was obsessed with in college. It had a back room for us quiet studiers that had a ratty old couch, which of course I always sat on. I practically slept there one week when I was between apartments. I literally wrote my name under the cushion in permanent marker. That’s how often I was there. That’s how far I’d fallen from normal society.

Anyway, I’m craving that kind of home again. My best writing usually happens at a coffee shop, with a warm chai tea (I know I know, I go there and I don’t even drink the coffee…I like the smell, just not the taste) and nondescript music playing in the background. The occasional yelling of a customer’s name. It’s like I’m really there.

Except I’m not. Right now all I can hear is my AC turning on, my dog snoring in the living room, and the crunch of chips and salsa.

But home has its own kind of beauty, too. I may not get my best work done here, but I get some work done here. Nearly all of my work this past term, anyway. People may scoff at this, but you can develop a relationship with a place. Certain places will bring back intense feelings within me. For that reason, there are some places I refuse to return to, and others I can’t wait to revisit.

It’s the same with books. A book is more than just words on some pages. It’s a place you go to. It’s a place you feel you belong. It’s a place that draws out your honesty.

Now that I’ve gone on sentimental on you, where’s the place you belong? It is n a book, in a coffee shop writing, or sitting between library shelves perusing your options? Is it all three?

~Liz

Follow me @wethewriters on Instagram and @liz_tampa on Twitter.

That Feeling of Exhaustion

I’m derailing a bit from my usual tip-giving self to just vent for a bit…Hurricane Matthew kind of messed with my weekend plans and threw me off my productive track. I didn’t post to Instagram like I should have. I conveniently ignored the fact that it was Thursday and I hadn’t posted anything. Heck, I barely even did any school work.

I won’t lie, I was exhausted. I felt like I was hitting a glass wall with this whole blog thing. It’s hard work, and honestly I don’t know if it’s worth it. I know I’m supposed to have one because a hopeful writer should have lots of followers to prove agents/publishers can take a chance on them…blah blah blah. I get it, I really do. But seriously, it’s tiring.

So instead of pushing through my exhaustion and posting something inspiring about what to do when you’re down, I decided to wallow in it. And let me tell you, I’m an excellent wallower. I can ignore a problem like you wouldn’t believe. That elephant in the room staring me in the face? Don’t even see it. I am a professional ignorer.

And how does that leave me feeling on Monday? Kind of dirty, honestly. But if I had been productive all weekend I think I’d still feel the same. Frustrated and this stupid glass wall and I can’t seem to get past. Tired from trying. Angry that it’s even there.

The positive side of me (which is very tiny) says to use all that emotion to get things done! Power through!

The realist in me (which is much bigger) says to just forget about it. No one will read it anyway.

Sigh.

Okay, no more pity party. I’m here to say one thing and one thing only.

It’s okay to feel exhausted.

If I was on all the time I wouldn’t be real. I want you guys to know I’m real. There are hundreds of blogs that give tips on how to write. I’ve decided I don’t want that to be all this blog is, because if that’s the case, no one will ever find it because I suck at SEO.

So instead, this blog is going to be a journey through the life of me writing my novels (with occasional tidbits on what I’ve learned), because that makes for a much better story, and I won’t hate writing my blog posts as much.

Hope you enjoy!

~Liz

Follow me @wethewriters on Instagram and @liz_tampa on Twitter.

The Popular Kid: Joining MG/YA Writer’s Groups

So this is something I periodically struggle with and then subsequently forget about after checking my empty wallet. A writer with his or her ducks in a row would probably be in all the right writing groups/clubs/associations/etc. A writer just trying to get through grad school and work and puppy life doesn’t even know where his or her ducks are. Raise your hand if that last one is you.

Don’t worry, me too.

So I decided spur of the moment to give you a list of some of the major writer’s associations that you should at least consider. And by consider I mean look at your wallet. If you can do it, do it. If you can’t, don’t feel bad. There isn’t a secret rule that keeps us loners out of the publishing world. But you will make lasting friendships in these groups that will support you on your road to publication.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to at least take a look.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

This organization is huuuuuuuge (in a good way). They also work on the regional level so you don’t get lost in the shuffle. Obviously it’s for children-young adults, and the plus side is it’s not too expensive to join. Students even get a discount! You’ll have to check out the conferences/opportunities for each state individually to see if it’s right for you.

http://www.scbwi.org/

Young Adult Chapter of the Romance Writers of America

Like the lovey dovey stuff? Check this out. This group includes a mentorship program which is awesome and rare along with the usual discussions and support.

http://yarwa.com/

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

So this one is pretty exclusive because you have to already be a published writer to join. They have a special group within the organization specifically for MG and YA writers that focuses on sharing knowledge on this particular audience.

http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/sfwa-middle-grade-and-young-adult-writers/

Hopefully these will get you started on your search. Don’t forget to look at your state associations as well. They don’t have to be MG or YA focused to benefit your writing.

And if after all this research you feel like an organization is not for you, then I definitely encourage you to look into going to a writer’s conference, specially those with agent panels and pitch sessions. Those experiences are invaluable and some of my best memories as a writer.

~Liz

Follow me @wethewriters on Instagram and @liz_tampa on Twitter.

Shadow and Bone | Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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I’m squishing both of these books into one post because I can’t just do a review on the second book in a series. That would be completely irresponsible, right? (Ps. meet Sock Bun, my creepy sock bunny my mom bought me forever ago. He is now the guardian of my books.)

So I’ll be honest, I really liked the first book while I was reading it, but then after I was just like, okay, that wasn’t bad. I wasn’t quite blown away by the plot or the world. It seemed kind of been there, done that. But I still liked it enough to read the second one, and even though the second book is largely a setup for the third, it was when I realized that Leigh Bardugo is a dang good writer.

What do I mean by that? I just said the first book was okay. How can she suddenly be so great?

Honestly, it was during the second book that I realized how flawless her narration was. Her characters still drove me nuts sometimes – I’m just not a huge fan of love triangles – but her execution? Superb.

So without further ado, my thoughts:

Characterization

So I hinted at this above, but some of the characters kind of made my eyes twitch. They can be a little moody and woe is me at times. BUT, and this is a big but, Leigh introduces some new characters in Siege and Storm that I really really love. So if you’re like me and kind of want to punch a few people in the face during Shadow and Bone, just hang tight! It gets better. Promise.

Plot/Narrative Arc

The second novel is mostly setting up for *drumroll please* a siege. But you get a really good look into how Alina’s world works and the politics behind the war. I was surprised at how into it I was. Leigh sets up for multiple possibilities in her third novel, so I’m interested to see where she goes with it.

Believability

So believable. So so believable. Leigh really creates an airtight world, and she includes some Russian culture into it, which is totally respectable. I don’t know a lot about Russian culture, but I’ve been wanting to do the same thing with Polish culture – no, not a Holocaust novel, more like Water for Elephants – so I totally give her props. I do wish we had a better understanding of where magic comes from or how Mal is such a good tracker. To me, his tracking skills seem even more magical than some of the actual Grisha.

Creativity/Originality

The idea of people with special powers in a war torn country isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but making the setting a fictional version of a real world country is on the newer side. The more the story progressed, the more original things became, though the family dynamic did remind me a bit of Victoria Aveyard’s royal family. Not so torn but definitely dysfunctional.

Cohesiveness

Like I said, Leigh is a brilliant writer. She weaves together realistic dialogue with an engaging story in a dynamic setting to create a seamless story. The more I think about her second book, the more impressed I am with her abilities. Now I just need to get my hands on the third one…

Overall result: yes! Go read these books.

~Liz

Follow me @wethewriters on Instagram and @liz_tampa on Twitter.