Getting Rid of August To-Do Lists

I’ll admit . . . I’m still on vacation. My brain stayed behind in Alaska while the rest of my body returned home. It’s been a struggle getting back into the swing of things, especially when all I can think about are bright blue glaciers, mountain goats and black bears, sea lions, whales, salmon, sharks if you can believe it, the jagged edges of mountain sides, the calming teal color of sediment-enriched glacial melt, hiking through the Alaskan rainforest, conoeing towards mighty rivers of ice, making bids at art auctions, buying too much jewelry, being rocked to and fro by the waves of the Pacific ocean, meeting the literal man of my dreams and not having the courage to talk to him. Oh, Alaska! I want to go back!

But it’s time to get back to business. I’ve kept you waiting long enough. I know you’re dying for an update on the Love Poetry novella, so here it is . . .

I’ll be completely transparent with you. I don’t want to say I fizzled out . . . but the second half of July got very busy very fast, and while on vacation, I decided to say “Screw it!” with all my self-imposed deadlines. I didn’t come on a week-long cruise to Alaska to be camped behind a computer the whole time. So I tossed my laptop to the 40mph catabatic glacier winds (not literally—my entire life is on that thing!) and decided to enjoy my once in a lifetime (hopefully not) luxury vacation.

Oh, by the way, I’ve decided I want to move to Alaska. I don’t know how bad winters are in that part of the last frontier, but the summers are amazing!

Anyway, getting back to what’s on the agenda for August. Right now, I am currently purging myself of the things that have taken me away from my writing for much too long. By the end of August I hope to have the majority of those burdensome projects off my plate.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2.0 is definitely a go because I am determined to finish this novella once and for all! Basically, I’m just gonna pick up where I left of and keep writing until I’m finished (and nip this problem on never finishing what I start in the bud) like it’s still July. I’ll try to post excerpts here, if nothing else, to keep myself accountable.

Other posts you’ll see from me this month: Monday’s One-Minute Fiction will be returning, and for the next several weeks, they’ll all be Alaska themed (because as I said earlier, my brain is still there). Also coming back is Throwback Thursdays—quickly becoming a staple for my Thursday posts.

But, because I promised to be transparent, I’ll admit you really won’t see much from me in August. My #1 goal for this month is to de-clutter my overcrowded to-do list. I always seem to have so much to do and never enough time to do it. It’s times like this when I often consider quitting my day job, or at least picking up some part time work so I can dedicate more time to my writing, but then bills . . .

Seriously, I don’t know why I always do this to myself. Clearly I’m not superwoman. And if I’m being honest, having a day job isn’t what’s holding me back, because what’s my excuse for the weekends? And while I sleep (or try to sleep) eight hours a day and work another eight hours, why are those last eight hours of the day never enough? I’m not good at managing my time. Which is sad, because my goal for this year is to get better organized, and with more than half of 2017 gone, I fear I’ve gotten worse. I’ve been back from Alaska a full two weeks now, and I still haven’t put up my suitcase, or folded my washed laundry from the trip (drastic temperature differences prevents me from just wearing them to get rid of the pile).

But I will hold onto the hope that purging myself of the weight of time-consuming projects I no longer have a passion for will finally free me up to do what I love . . . and clean my room.

On another note, I’m revamping the Lovely Curses blog. I wouldn’t call it an overhaul per se, but since reading this very insightful article, I’m finally going to do what I should’ve done over a year ago—back when I first had my writer’s meltdown—and that is create a blog content plan.

This is another reason why I’ll be relatively absent for the month of August— because I’m busy writing posts for the next six months! What types of posts will I be focusing on? The typical fiction and poetry of course, as well as more 1MinFiction prompts, frightful Friday ghost stories, serials, throwbacks, and more!

What I’m really learning now, is to write shorter posts. Sticking to flash fiction, which I’m come to enjoy, between 100-300 words. On those days when the inspiration bug really hits me, I know I will more than likely go over, but the whole point of keeping it short and sweet is so I can have more time to write outside of this blog. Because, you know, my publication list is getting kind of dusty, and I know you all are waiting for that damn book! Plus I want to be totally free to write and just write, worrying about nothing else, this November when I participate in NaNoWriMo.

So enough chit chat! I only stopped by to let you know I haven’t disappeared again. (Don’t send out a search party!) I’m nearly done with the first purge, I can almost taste it! Camp NaNoWriMo 2.0 is underway. I’m already thinking up six new posts to get started on my blog plan for the rest of the year, and . . . ¬†that’s it? That’s it. Don’t want to do too much. I am trying to trim down my to-do list, after all!

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Love Poetry Novella: An Interlude

I’ve crawled out of my cave briefly to chat and share some new developments from Camp NaNoWriMo.

The first three days of camp were beyond productive. I built myself a whopping ten day cushion going well past my daily goal of 968 words, which came in handy yesterday because I wrote absolutely nothing, just ate dry hamburgers, undercooked Bratwurst sausages, and bland potato salad ( ūüė¶ ), slurped melted homemade strawberry ice cream, and spat out seeds from sweet, locally grown watermelons at my granddaddy’s 4th of July cookout.

I’m so happy that I drew out an outline for Love Poetry. Each day I come back to my computer, I know exactly what I’m going to write for that day. Sometimes I even go back to add to what I wrote the previous day, a wave of inspiration coming upon me as I read over the selection.

I’m trying to refrain from editing anything. Editing too soon lead to my downfall my last attempt at NaNoWriMo. So no editing. A first draft should read like a first draft. Write it first. Edit later.

I had a mini heart attack on day two of camp. While praising myself for writing an outline, I suddenly remembered my outline for my planned NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy, also scribbled on a scrap sheet of paper, and slightly different from the outline I shared back in April. I nearly tore up my room looking for that damn outline! Everything I found was for a different, abandoned story. Why do I have so many story ideas on scrap sheets of paper?

Eventually, I found it. Folded in an unused 2017 planner in my desk drawer. *sigh*¬† One of these days, I’ll make use of the OneNote program in my Microsoft Office Suite.

But not now. Now I have to get back to writing Love Poetry. But before I leave you, here’s a very short excerpt from what I’ve written so far. Enjoy. ūüôā


Camp Excerpt from Love Poetry

She turns around in her seat, and Bruce is staring at her, one eyebrow raised. He glances at the couple then back at her, and there‚Äôs that damn smile again, slowly spread across his face like the Cheshire cat. Jessica can‚Äôt help but feel of tinge of jealousy toward the woman now that Bruce has seen her, which is idiotic, she knows. She‚Äôs descended, head over heels into her own personal wonderland, but she wants to take back some semblance of control. She wants him to see how she really is, not this frazzled wretch, who couldn‚Äôt care to look presentable, whose attention is snatched everywhere but to him. Can we have a do-over? she wants to ask. Go someplace else, somewhere less red, less intimate to make her nervous, preferable out of the country where Whitmore can‚Äôt find her. In her comfort zone, Jessica would look like that woman too, wearing something semi-decent, something more in her style, less overly available cocktail waitress, more catch me if you can bartender…

© Nortina Simmons

July Treats While I’m on Retreat

Have we reached the end of June already? Wow, this month just flew by, and with everything I’m preparing to embark on in July (literally and figuratively—if you follow my personal blog, Single . . . Mingle Me Not,¬†you’ll soon find out what I mean ūüėČ ), it’s a wonder if I’ll ever see the sun again before mid-August. But I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, because these last three months I’ve been on a roll. Still, my¬†epic¬†meltdown was only a year ago, so I’m going to rein myself in just a little for July.

I’m Going Camping!

No, not outside. We all know I hate bugs. I’m talking about Camp NaNoWriMo. My decision to join Camp NaNoWriMo started in May. While participating in Short Story A Day, I was able to bring back to life some characters I let go dormant in 2015.

They’ve been revived, and my desire to finish their story has been revived too! What story am I talking about? Love Poetry, of course! This is a story I’ve been working on since November of 2014, when I first attempted the NaNoWriMo challenge. Back then, I only made it to a little over 5,500 words before giving up. This year, I want to get up to 30,000 words (about 968 words a day), and I want to FINISH! While it seems like a lot, many of the short stories I wrote in May were well over 1,000 words, and I wrote every day, so I have no excuse, especially since I have a plan going into this challenge.

I feel 100 times more prepared this round. First, I have lots of material right here on this blog to help inspire me, including my 2015 A to Z Challenge, and my recent epigraph poems that will remind me what’s supposed to happen in each new chapter. Then of course I still have the unfinished version from 2014 saved on my computer, which will help me get started, since I’m opening the novella with that same scene. Finally, I have my plot, which will tell me where the story’s going. Although it’s still a rough outline scribbled down on scrap notebook paper, it’s a rough outline of a completed story—something I didn’t have the first time.

While I’m away at camp, I obviously can’t dedicate the time I want to this blog, but fret not; I’m not abandoning you again. All July, I’ll be re-posting my 2015 A to Z Challenge. So for those of you who’ve never read it, you can get familiar with the story and the characters, and for those of you who’ve been with me since the beginning, this will serve as a refreshing treat. Although a lot of the story has changed since the A to Z Challenge (and I’ll tell which parts I’ve taken out, added to, etc.), it is still relatively the same story, so I think you will really enjoy this month-long trip down memory lane.

I’ll try to post Camp excerpts from time to time, mostly to keep myself accountable and to stay on track. In the meantime, if you want to keep up with me, you can follow me on social media, or check out my personal blog,¬†Single . . . Mingle Me Not.¬†While you won’t get the Lovely Curses stories that you’re used to, maybe you’ll get a couple laughs from some of the random things I post about my truly boring life. ūüėČ

What About My June Goals? Did I Meet Them All?

Before you ask, no, I still haven’t written that damn short story. But I do have an outline prepared, which is more than what I had at the end of May, so maybe by August I’ll have something new to submit to magazines.

Monday’s One Minute Fiction, was a success, if only just for me. It’s always good to have something to motivate me to write on a sluggish Monday morning, so I think I will bring it back in August. I truly love writing flash fiction. It has helped me so much in polishing my writing, making it clear and precise.

I love going back into my archives every Throwback Thursday and rediscovering posts I haven’t seen in a while. And you guys seem to love them too. I hate thinking that after something is posted, no one ever looks at it again. Throwback Thursday will definitely be back in August, and I’ll go even further back (which is really only three years), back when I first started this blog and had no idea what I was doing, just that I wanted to write and share my passion. Maybe I’ll even go back to those stories and poems that never made it online. Like that poem about the woman who strangles her husband while he’s eating a steak—my first “love poem.” ūüėÄ Would you be interested?

I still want to do more Fright Night Friday stories. Conveniently, I haven’t been able to think of any scary good ideas lately, but I’m definitely bringing this series back after Camp NaNoWriMo, because I’m not me without posting at least one ghost story every week. I might even include a frightful badge! ūüėČ

I’m re-reading some of my favorite books I read during my hiatus in 2016, so new book reviews will come soon, but let’s reserve those for September for the time being, just to give me some time to catch up.

And finally, what will be my next serial story? Well, it came down to a three way tie between Widow, For the Sake of Humanity, and Dry Spell—all my favorites! In terms of ranks, For the Sake of Humanity won out, so I will start with that one first, but I might end up doing all three at the same time, giving each series a designated day out the week. But that won’t come until August, because first I have a novella to write! Until next time!

Lovely Curses’ Next Serial Story: You Decide

Earlier this month in my Agenda post, I told you that I was eager to get started on my next serial story, but I that needed your help in deciding. Which one of my favorite Short Story a Day May stories should I expand into a series?

Well, the votes came in, and there weren’t many, so I’m reopening the poll, because I really want to engage my readers, especially those of you who stuck around while I was dealing with my chronic writer’s block. You’ve truly been loyal and I want to reward you!

So yes, YOU have to decide! While I do have my preferences, I won’t be making the decision this time. I’m leaving it up to you. The future of my blog is in your hands. No pressure…

To refresh your memory, here are your options.

  • Widow¬†—¬†A story about a woman who sets her house on fire, killing her husband and infant child. If chosen, this series will begin before the events of “Widow” take place to explain what led her to such horrendous act of violence.
  • For the Sake of Humanity — In this dystopian, post-apocalyptic tale, a young woman takes her adopted ward on a quest to find the last remaining humans on earth. If their search is successful, she’ll avoid having to go through with the promise she made to the young boy’s dying mother to not let the human race die with them.
  • Dreams are Real — Does true love every really die? Lovers grow apart, they embark on separate paths that lead to different careers, pursuits, marriages, kids, etc. But one day, someday, they eventually find their way back to each other, right? If it was meant to be. This story is all about the possibilities of a nostalgic lover’s dreams of reunion coming true.
  • One Night Stand — This story is a continuation of the “White Jesus” storyline. I haven’t quite developed a plot for this series, but it would have¬†a very urban, Living Single vibe to it. This series would follow the shenanigans of three friends: Lyndra, the¬†main protagonist,¬†her ex-boyfriend, Levon, and his buddy, the philosophical pothead, Philip, aka White Jesus.
  • Dry Spell — In this fun, witty tale, a 34-year-old, sexually inexperienced divorcee, tries to get laid with the help of her promiscuous, sexually liberated friend.

You have your five choices, now it’s time for you to vote! Let me know your favorite story in the comments. Eventually, I’ll probably serialize all these stories, but your selection will take top priority. You have until next Thursday to cast your vote. I’m really counting on you, so don’t let me down!

 

Sunday Morning Word Has a New Home!

Sunday Morning Word has moved to a new site! This is a project I’ve been working on for years now, both here, and on my other blog, Single¬†.¬†.¬†. Mingle Me¬†Not. It’s come and gone over the years as I’ve repeatedly put it on the back burner for months at a time, wanting to focus on different things. But God continues to bring it back to the forefront, and I’ve come to accept that this is my assignment from Him—to teach His word and simplify it in a way that others will understand. But instead of bogging it down and having it get lost amid the content of my other blogs, I’ve created a dedicated blog for it. And no, I won’t only be posting on Sundays; there will be much more content to come.

So head over and read my first post about why bad things happen to good people, and feel free to follow!

Source: Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

June Writing Bug: What’s Next on the Agenda?

We did it! Yay! ¡Lo Hicimos! 

Now that I’ve shown my age ( ūüėČ ), let’s talk about writing, and writing A LOT.

After wallowing in my own self-pity for many months due to the incessant beast that is writer’s block, I’m happy to announce that I’ve caught the writing bug! For the last two months I’ve been writing nonstop, posting almost every day for April’s A to Z Challenge¬†and May’s Short Story a Day Challenge, and during the first week of May, I also participated in the poetry challenge, #fapalywo.¬†My followers have slowly started to come back to visit, now that I’ve assured them I won’t disappear again. It feels good to be back to form.

But now it’s June, and I don’t want to wear myself down by committing to another month-long writing challenge. I could already feel it starting to become a burden toward the end May. I was reaching for good short story ideas. The last week and a half of prompts weren’t all that inspiring, so I really had to force myself to write¬†something.¬†The ironic thing is the stories I posted in the last week of May seemed to have been the most popular. That is truly a confidence boost, so thank you. (You really like me!)

One of my goals for May was to write a new short story to submit to literary magazines. I haven’t had anything published since 2015, mainly because I haven’t written anything. For the second half of this year, it is my hope to change that. Unfortunately, that will have to wait at least another month, because I didn’t get to write the story yet. I have an idea for what could be a strong story. To give you the basic premise, it’s a redemptive tale about a wayward woman who wanders into a church service one Sunday morning and has a life-changing experience. I’m still working out the details in my head, but while that story is still in progress, another rose to the surface while I was deep in the trenches of Short Story A Day May.

In short story #10, “I Can’t Stay,” I was exploring a story that came to me in a dream a few years ago about a woman¬†who is running from her current boyfriend and has a ‚Äúchance encounter‚ÄĚ with¬†her ex/the one who got away. I brought it back and expanded a little more with short story #31, “To Rewind Time,” and I think short story #26, “A Mother Still,” will also be a part of that story arc. So I will spend this month further developing the story and bringing it all together, and hopefully by July, I’ll be back to submitting to magazines and receiving more rejection letters than acceptance notices. (Hey, you gotta laugh at these things sometimes).

One portion of the Short Story A Day May Challenge that I really enjoyed was novel week. It not only gave me the opportunity to do some further sketching for my NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy, but I also got to revisit some characters I haven’t looked at in two years: Jessica, Whitmore, and Bruce, from my 2015 A to Z Challenge melodrama, Love Poetry.¬†And it gave me a wonderful idea—Why not write this novella (which I should have finished in 2015) for Camp NaNoWriMo in July? Camp isn’t as strenuous as the real deal in November; at least here we can choose our own writing goals, so if I don’t make it to 50,000 words, I won’t be a total failure. Camp will also prepare me for writing (and hopefully finishing) my first novel,¬†Lost Boy,¬†for NaNoWriMo in November. (My heart is pounding just thinking about it!)

So I took fifteen minutes to sketch out a quick outline for Love Poetry, which is slightly different from what I posted back in April 2015 but not too much, and for July (so you don’t think I’ve disappeared again), I’ll be taking a chapter out of fellow blogger,¬†Marquessa’s, book (I hope she doesn’t mind), and while all my focus will be on completing Love Poetry for Camp NaNoWriMo (what’s ironic is that I first attempted to write this novel back in 2014 for, you guessed it, NaNoWriMo ūüėÄ ), I’ll be re-posting my 2015 A to Z Challenge, along with other Whitmore and Jessica related stories (because I have more than a month’s worth). If you’re a new follower since May 2015, you’ll be getting a treat, and for those of you who’ve been here a while, a blast from the past!

Getting back to June, I have a few ideas on where I want to take this blog moving forward, but I need your help.

First, I am overdue for another serial story. If you want to check out previous (completed) serial stories, read the Buried Series from the beginning here, and my 2016 A to Z novella, 26 Husbands—26 Unusual Deaths here. I thought my next series would be Oceanview, but while attempting to write Part 3 for one of the Short Story a Day prompts, I went completely blank. So that story goes back to the drawing board for now. However, I did write a few stories that are a little more developed and could possibly be expanded into a series. Below are the links to those stories. Which one do you think I should turn into a series? Vote in the poll, and I’ll reveal the winner next week!

For the Sake of Humanity

Widow

Dreams are Real

One Night Stand (from the “White Jesus” story line)

Dry Spell

 

Was there a story not included above that you would like to see in a series? Not a problem. Let me know in the comments, and I’ll consider it in the voting too.

Also in June I’m doing a test trial for a new Flash Fiction writing challenge. Last year, I hosted a short-lived challenge, Moral Mondays, which was fun, but too much of a commitment for me at the time. I may be shooting myself in the foot here, but I’m bringing back the Monday challenge, because we all need a little Monday motivation, right? This challenge will be One-Minute Fiction. As the title suggests, you’ll be challenged to write a flash story in one minute, no more no less, based on the prompt (a word, a phrase, a photo, whatever I’m feeling for that week). Sound promising? It should really light a fire under your bum and set you up for a whole week of writing! If it’s a success, I’ll keep it going; if not it’ll end June 26. (womp, womp¬†)

Other June personal blogging ideas:

  • Throwback Thursday – Share a post (fiction or poetry) from the past.
  • Fright Night Friday – Post a frightful (thriller, suspense, paranormal, etc.) story or poem every Friday night. (You already know I love a good ghost story.)
  • Book Reviews – I have a lot of book reviews in my arsenal. I think I might reserve these posts for Saturdays.

So what do you think? Are you excited for June? Do you think writer’s block is plotting its revenge? Would you be interested in purchasing Love Poetry¬†if I were to self-publish it? Do you plan to participate in the one-minute fiction challenge? Are you looking forward to the next serialized story? Or maybe you’re waiting for me to mention the one left unfinished…I’m being really secretive about it.

You’ll see why in due time… ūüėČ

By the way, are you enjoying these beginning of the month goal setting posts? They’re my way of holding myself accountable, but sometimes I think I’m just talking to myself. Prove me wrong and leave a comment!

Mayday! Mayday! Writer’s Block is Going Down!

We’ve all heard the saying, “April Showers Bring May Flowers,” right?

Well, my April showers started at the end of April last year.¬†After finishing my A-Z theme of Grandma’s 26 Husbands—26 Unusual Deaths (which you guys really seemed to love), I descended into a nasty case of chronic writer’s block. In hindsight, I believe I had become obsessed with topping 26 Husbands. The series had become so popular, and I wanted to continue that popularity with something even better. Unfortunately my perfectionism was at its peak also, and eventually I crashed, flipped over, rammed into a tree, exploded, and burned.

My posting became erratic, and eventually I disappeared from blogging altogether. I couldn’t force myself to write. Everything my pen produced was total rubbish (according to editor bitch), and if my writer’s block relented enough for me to start a new project, it came back with a vengeance so catastrophic, I was never able to finish.

But that all changed this year. If last year’s A to Z Challenge put me in this crud, then this year’s A to Z Challenge would get me out of it, and that’s just what it did.

This year’s A to Z Challenge was all about planning for NaNoWriMo, another project I’ve unfortunately never been able to finish. For 26 days—yes, 26 days—(some days were harder than others, but I stuck in there), I wrote outlines, character sketches, and back stories. I brainstormed on themes, conflicts, subplots, stakes, and resolutions. Last night, I finished—yes, finished—with my zealous “Z” post, and I only want to continue. It may be be the end of the April A to Z Challenge, but it’s just the beginning for me. I still have a novel to write, and I’ve never felt so prepared for NaNoWriMo in my life!

But it’s not just NaNoWriMo, I feel reinvigorated to write any and everything! Writer’s block, hear me roar!

The end of April marked not only the end of the A to Z Challenge, but also the end of National Poetry Month, which means that May is . . .

Short Story Month!

Ahh, short stories, my first love. I’ve been writing them since I was old enough to write, been reading them for even longer. I haven’t written a new short story to submit to literary magazines in a long time. Speaking of submitting to literary magazines, I haven’t submitted anything to a magazine since 2015 (yikes)! So in honor of Short Story Month, I’ve challenged myself to keep this writing buzz going and write a complete short story that I hope to submit to some magazines and get back on my publishing journey. I’m giving myself a whole month to write just one story (probably between 3,000 and 5,000 words), which is plenty of time to produce something great! I’ll be posting weekly updates on my story status for you guys just to assure you that I won’t let writer’s block win, but in the meantime I have a couple of treats for you.

Also for May, I will be participating in the short story a day writing challenge. Each day, I’ll post a micro fiction tale between 100 and 300¬†words. There is an optional prompt, but I can’t guarantee I’ll stick to it; it just depends on how the prompt inspires me that day.

I also want to exercise my poetic pen (since I didn’t get a chance to during NaPoWriMo in April) and jump back into #frapalymo, which is now called #frapalywo. If you’re unfamiliar with #frapalymo/#frapalywo, it’s a German poetry writing challenge, translated Frau (Miss) Paulchen’s Lyric (Poetry) Month/Week. It’s usually held every May and November, but it looks like she’s changed the May challenge to a series of week-long prompts¬†(the first one was back in February) leading up to the big shebang¬†in November, which I won’t be able to participate in because of NaNoWriMo, but I can still do the week-long challenges. This first week of May, the prompt is “noise.” So stay tuned for seven days of NOISY POETRY!

It looks like I have a lot to do for May, so why am I still talking? I’d better get started—we’re halfway through the day already! I’ll be back soon with a new story for Short Story A Day May. Writer’s block won’t hold me down!

Z is for… [Z]ealous Interviewer #AtoZChallenge

I’m feeling quite zealous today. Why? Because it’s April 30, and I’ve made it to the end of the A to¬†Z Challenge without burning out. That deserves an applause!

I’m also excited to be starting on my novel, Lost Boy very soon. While I’m reserving the actual writing of the novel for NaNoWriMo in November, these next six months will consist of more planning, outlining, character sketching, and possibly a few more changes¬†to the plot as things come together, and also a change in title (because I’m still not settled on “Lost Boy”).

I also hope to do more research so that the novel sounds as realistic as possible, because if there is one thing I cannot stand about the Christian fiction genre of¬†today, it’s that the plots are so unbelievable, and the characters are more like caricatures.

One phase of my research will be interviews. Right now,¬†my focus is¬†on interviewing¬†one of my fellow¬†church members who’s in the prison ministry From Leslie’s character sketch, we¬†know that she is very active in the church, including going out to the county jail to minister with the prison ministry. Unfortunately, I know nothing about prison ministries, so it’s time for¬†a little¬†investigation.

I’ve already contacted the church member about interviewing her. Now it’s time to put together some interview questions. Here are a few¬†that I may ask in my interview.

  • How long have you been in the jail/prison ministry?
  • How often do you visit the jail?
  • When you visit the jail, do you go as a group? Do you need specific paperwork or documentation to enter?
  • Is there certain dress¬†requirements you must meet before entering? Types of clothing, shoes, hats, purses? Will they let you¬†bring¬†your Bible?¬†Are you searched/patted down? Do you go through a metal detector?
  • Where do you go to witness to the inmates? The cells? a chapel? Is there a common meeting area with many tables¬†similar to¬†a cafeteria? Are you separated from regular jail visitation?
  • Are you restricted in the types inmates you visit. For example, do you see people who have been convicted of violent crimes like rape or murder?
  • Do you talk to the inmates individually or do you stand before a group and minister?
  • What do you say to the inmates? Do you talk about them, how they ended up behind bars? How do you transition into talking about Jesus?
  • What major points in the Gospel do you like to hit on when talking with the inmates? Does the message change depending on the crime?
  • Are the inmates generally welcoming?
  • Do people get saved?

These are all the questions I have so far. Do you have any suggestions? What questions do you think I should ask?

I’m hoping that some of the answers I get to these¬†questions will help me write¬†an inspiring revival at the end of the novel, but if not, I’ll have great material to work with for one of my subplots.

And . . .¬†that’s it for the A to Z Challenge! I’m glad I decided to participate after all. It¬†has truly helped me get over my writer’s block. Not only¬†do I have a new novel in the works, but I feel my mojo¬†coming back. I’m eager¬†to¬†dive back into writing more poetry¬†and¬†short stories, and I’m even more zealous to return to the many flash fiction challenges I loved so much. So stay tuned! More to come soon!

—Nortina

X is for… [őß]ŌĀőĻŌÉŌĄŌĆŌā #AtoZChallenge

I got nothing. A big fat ZERO. There just aren’t enough “X” letters in the English alphabet. The dictionary agrees with me too.

My writer’s thesaurus skipped the letter “X” entirely, jumping from “W” straight to “Y,” and when I attempted to look up some words in a dated Webster’s Dictionary I found at work (labeled, “Best Reference Source 1989” by the American Library Association), it had one word, one word, for “X”: Xmas. That’s not even a freaking word! All it does is cross Christ out of Christmas. Of course, the dictionary had an elaborate definition for why the “X” is not meant to offend but to educate, apparently derived from the Greek letter chi (X), which is the first letter in őßŌĀőĻŌÉŌĄŌĆŌā, which translated means Christos. So in fact, the “X” stands for Christ, not against Him.

Yea, yea, so you expect me to believe that everyone who says, “Merry Xmas!” is an expert on Greek language? Nah, I don’t think Leslie’s buying that excuse either.

But, since we’re here, let’s talk about Leslie, and her Christian foundation, and how on earth she’s going to bring her wayward sons back to her, and more importantly, back to Christ.

We’re down to the last three (and arguably the hardest) letters in the A to Z Challenge, and I’m getting a little anxious because I still don’t have a definitive ending to Lost Boy. I took a brief moment to revisit my outline, hoping to spark some inspiration—and laughing at how much has changed already since posting it (for example, Detective Maye has been reduced to a secondary character, and Gio, Clara, and Bethel are all out).

For today’s purposes, I want to focus on the Falling Action and how it can lead to a resolution. So what’s happening…

  • Leslie visits the scene of the crime
  • Leslie confronts Jacqui
  • Maye bails out Gregory

Already the last scene has to change, since Maye is no longer a main character, but there’s opportunity for me to add layers to the other two scenes. Eventually, I want to bring all the characters back together for a final intervention, or showdown, if you will. I think it will start with Leslie retracing Gregory’s steps, going to the gas station, talking with the bank teller who gave him the money. When she stops by Jacqui’s trailer, another character, whom she doesn’t expect, will already be there, waiting for her.

Being a member of the jail ministry, Leslie witnesses to complete strangers often. She’s gotten complacent in her message, telling people about the Gospel of Christ with the hope that she’ll probably never see them again.

You have nothing to lose when you’re talking with a stranger. If they reject you, or respond in an offensive matter, you just move on to the next person; you don’t let it affect you, because the goal is not to seek the approval of man, but to save as many souls for Christ as possible. But evangelism starts at home, does it not? What about your own family and friends who are unsaved? Will you pray that the Lord sends forth laborers (Matthew 9:35-38)? Will you be that laborer to reap God’s harvest?

Everyone in Leslie’s circle needs redemption: Will Gregory’s poor choices prevent him from reconciling with his family? Will Tony be able to quench the resonating anger he feels toward his mother and brother? Will Jacqui and Tammi turn from their selfish greed and seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness? Will Kerry learn to forgive? Will Leslie continue to put her hope, faith, and trust in the Lord?

Leslie’s going to need all of her prayer warriors plus the empowering presence of God to fix her family, and it will start in the most unlikeliest of places. A revival is coming to Pleasant’s Edge, a city in exile, but as scripture says, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but there is hope, for we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Amen! Let’s hope Leslie can do it!

—Nortina

V is for… [V]iews #AtoZChallenge

Plans change. When you start building, you don’t expect to find an underground river beneath your foundation. When a bride-to-be hires you to design her gown, with intricate lacing and beading, you don’t expect for her to tell you that the wedding is in a week. When you have a novel all planned out¬†and eager to be written for NaNoWriMo (which seems so far away now), you don’t expect to eliminate what you thought could have been¬†a main character—and certainly a co-narrator—along with their subsequent subplots.

But that’s exactly what I did.

The editor bitch in me has awoken (I knew it was time), and she’s itching to make some changes. Better to change things now before I start writing. I know all too well how editing a story before it’s even finished can completely derail progress.

So what’s changed?

Reviewing my latest posts, I’ve discovered that Detective Maye isn’t as essential¬†to the plot of the story as I had originally¬†intended. While I won’t ax his character altogether (we still have a “Lost Boy” to find) his part will get significantly reduced to make room for Tony, who’s character grows more and more with each new post.

A few things contributed to this change. First, I’ve barely mentioned Detective Maye since K is for Kindred, and his last dedicated post was I is for Ice Cold, which seems like ages ago.¬†However, what really sealed Maye’s fate was the outline, or more specifically, the fact that if you sneezed, you probably would’ve missed him.

I’ve said before that Lost Boy is a family story, and the outline was an obvious clue of¬†which family I needed to focus on. So I’m not going to force a subplot that simply isn’t there. A good writer (or maybe a better editor) knows when a character has overstayed his welcome. The three scenes that Maye had (without Leslie) didn’t really affect the plot much, and I don’t think they would be missed if I tossed them, so…

Let it gooooo!

I don’t want to completely give up on the Detective Maye character, which I think is very strong on its own, so stay tuned—you make see more of him on this blog in the form of a separate short story or flash fiction.

However, concerning Lost Boy, Maye is now just the cop Leslie enlists to search for Gregory. He won’t have any dedicated chapters, although I will keep the multiple points of view structure (for now), alternating between Leslie and her son Tony. With Leslie and Tony as the narrators (actually, I think I prefer Leslie’s chapters to be in first person, and Tony’s in third), you will get to see the drastic contrast in how the two main characters react to Gregory’s disappearance.

Well, that’s it for today’s post. A short one, I know—I’m just relieved to post it at a reasonable hour for once. I haven’t decided what “W” is going to be about. I’m debating between a post on¬†potential research interview questions¬†for Leslie’s prison ministry (which is currently still a plot point until editor bitch decides otherwise), or another backstory on Tony. What’s your view? Which do you prefer?

By the way, if you’re wondering if anything else will change with the novel between now and NaNoWriMo, the answer is a definite YES. I still need a real title!

Until tomorrow, A to Z-ers!