Ghosts

Back At It!

I’m back from the West Texas Writer’s Academy. I got home on Friday afternoon, but I needed some recovery time. It was the best and worst week I’ve had in years.

First the good stuff. I plotted a novel! I started with a wreck of a first draft and ended up with the beginnings of something I will be proud of. It was hard work. The original book needed help, I’ve known that since I finished it. The problem was I didn’t know what to do to fix it. Now I do.

I panicked a few times, as expected. On the first day of class, we introduced ourselves. That’s always a not-fun experience. Then, we talked about plotting and got homework, which of course was to plot the first act. I was terrified because I knew I would have to read it all out loud the next day. We went in no particular order until someone volunteered me. I hated and loved that woman at that moment!

Each day I found it a little easier to speak, but I’m the type to get nervous anytime I have to talk to a group of people, so this went as well as it could have.

There was one late night when I sat down with some ladies and hammered out another act. I needed the help, and I got it. That late night was a turning point for my story. Everything from there was almost easy, creatively speaking.

It was wonderful how everyone wanted to help everyone else. We all wanted each of us to succeed. Writers don’t always like suggestions from other writers, but in this case, almost everyone seemed open and willing to listen. It was a great experience.

Now the bad stuff. You know how a lot of people believe hell is down below and unbelievably hot? They are wrong! Hell is cold and located in a dorm room on the campus of a college. Even though many of us complained, and they people in charge said they raised the building thermostat, my groups’ room was Antartica.

All day and night the air blew, colder than my heart after two divorces. I had two light blankets and a sheet as my only protection. Sleep was intermittent and miserable. Eventually, the last night, I thought to pull the bed into the middle of the room, which kept me away from the vent of torture and I slept a little better, but it was still not much.

Let’s talk about the bed for a moment. It had the worst mattress known to man. I guess the person before me either liked to jump on it or he/she used it to surf the stairs. The middle was sunken — maybe smashed in would be a better description. I tried turning it over, which didn’t work, then turning it around, which helped a tiny bit. My back is a wreck.

It didn’t help that I was sitting all day every day then going to the chamber of suffering all night.

Next year I’ll bring flannel sheets, a cotton blanket, and a comforter! Also, thick pj’s, a sweatshirt, and fluffy socks to sleep in. I won’t forget to move the bed too.

I need to rewind to the first day of class. I arrived on Sunday and class started Monday. So when I walked into the classroom, I wasn’t bright eyed and whatever-tailed. I was in pain, tired, and grumpy. Insert nerves, and I was a mess.

I forced myself to sit up front so I couldn’t hide, but I still wanted to stay under the radar. HA! If one wants to not stand out, then one shouldn’t screw up their medication. When I woke up that morning, I was hurting a lot, so the first thing I did was take a pain pill. An hour later, when I took the rest of my morning meds, I took another – I think. I was out of it, and I’m not sure exactly what I did, but the above is my best guess.

At breakfast, I started feeling odd and light-headed, but I chalked it up to being anxious. Then, about ten minutes into class, the waves of dizziness began. Any time I turned my head, I felt like I wanted to fall. Luckily I was sitting. Eventually, I realized what I had done, but there was nothing I could do about it. I did end up leaving the room and sitting in the hall. I was getting overheated so while sitting there I took off one shoe and sock and put my foot on the cold tile.

Several passersby were quite confused. I felt better and went back to my desk. I wasn’t better. When the instructor called a bathroom break, she asked if I was okay. I was embarrassed, but I was honest about what I did, and she was understanding. Several other students also checked on me. So much for hiding in plain sight!

At lunch, my friend (who was in class with me, yay!) and I walked across the street for food. I felt almost normal afterward. The meds were wearing off, and movement was the key to pushing past it all. What a day!

The rest of the week went well. In fact, I need to back up again to add something to the good stuff list.

There was a night where all the published authors attending of teaching at the academy set up tables in a big rectangle where they could sell and sign their novels. I roamed around a bit and bought a few. One of these books was written by the woman teaching the self-publishing class. She told me to sign up for her drawing to win an online version of the class. I never win anything, but I signed up anyway.

Fast forward to the final luncheon on Friday. Each instructor got up and said a little about their class and how the week went. The teachers who had giveaways also announced their winners.

When the self-pub teacher walked up to the podium, I said to the group at my table: “I’m out of the running, I never win anything, ever.” They all said things like “me either.” As I’m sure you guessed, my name was called. I truly hope no one was talking pictures because my mouth was hanging open in shock for much longer than I would have liked.

They went on with other teachers and winners while I sat there stunned. I did notice that every person who won something was in my class. Since I liked them all so much, I was thrilled. I’m still not past the shock.

The week was fantastic. Despite sleeping in hell, sitting more than my doctor recommends, walking more than I have in months, eating things I know I’m not supposed to, a major (but thankfully survivable) medication mess up, and having to speak in front of a classroom full of people every day, it was great. I will go back, probably every year from now on.

I’ll be better prepared and hopefully not as nervous.

The end of this story is really the beginning of the next story – my novel. It’s time to write it, and for some chapters, rewrite it. I’ll post updates as I’m able but I plan to be very busy until the book is written, revised, edited and submitted.

I typically write high fantasy, but I’ve found myself drawn more to urban fantasy lately. In fact, I’ve written more short stories set in modern times than a typical fantasy setting. The novels I’ve worked on that are urban are much easier to write, and I work faster on them. I find them more exciting too. The universe is telling me to put away the epic stories I’ve agonized over for too long and work on what I really want.

Therefore, the novel I’m writing now is about ghosts and a medium. The next one I plan to work on is about a witch/shaman, a vampire (not in a silly way), and the Fae. Plus my middle-grade fairy novel set in the here and now. It’s not only urban fantasy and paranormal trying to make it to the page. I have a suspense novel partly written, a vigilante story, and a book with fantastic elements but isn’t fantasy. It involves a portal and time travel but no magic. Each of these is more interesting to me than my fantasy trilogy.

I’ll write it eventually but I have to go where my muse takes me. I also have to rein it in. I will finish my current novel before working on the others!


Photo courtesy of Jesse Bowser

I chose this picture because my story is about ghosts and it seemed appropriate.

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Story A Day Challenge – Day 11 – One Yellow Weed

Today’s prompt didn’t completely work for me. It involved the premise from a well-known (not by me) novel. I had a few ideas but I felt they were too obvious and I think we all know by now that’s not something I find acceptable. What I decided to do with it was use a character from a story I’ve been working on (on and off). It fits the prompt a bit.


One Yellow Weed

Drae noticed the flower on accident. Though it was brightly colored, her eyes were focused straight ahead. Just get through the field and everything will be okay she told herself. It took almost tripping over her own feet for her to look at the ground.

She brushed her dark hair out of her eyes and noticed before her a bright yellow misshapen flower. The petals were barely hanging on and the entire plant drooped, but it was alive. The horror in front of Drae lost her interest as she stared at the flower. How strange to find something living in this field of death and decay. It was one ugly, normally unwanted weed but somehow it gave her hope.

Drae turned her attention back to the task that brought her to the field. When she squinted she could almost see the building the survivors called HQ. All she had to do was get inside. First she had to cross the damned field.

Arrayed before her were more than a hundred ghosts. Each glared at her with hatred, but none came too close. She knew they sensed she’d already been possessed and she was anathema to them. For added insurance she’d slathered a paste consisting mostly of iron powder and salt over her entire body. Even getting within a few feet of her would burn the shades.

She didn’t know how they could stay in the area when the ground had clearly been sown with salt, but she supposed the presence of so many of the living was enough of a draw to overcome the discomfort they must have felt. Drae hoped they weren’t so accustomed to the pain that her protections would still keep the spirits at bay.

Glancing down at her feet she thought about the flower and how it came to attention. Keeping her gaze straight ahead could be a bad idea so she looked at the ground and started walking. When she made it through this hell she would tell the leaders she was taking over. Once they knew who she was there would be much debate and dissent. After all, the blame for the deaths of two-thirds of the human population rested on her shoulders. She was the one who started the Ghost War.


The Prompt

A person just starting out in their field takes a prestigious, entry-level position in a big city, but the result is not as perfect or exciting as they imagined.
(The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath)


Okay so it only barely goes with the prompt. Since Drae is about to take over the resistance, it could be argued this is her first day on the job. The job will be much harder than she can possibly imagine and she will have to do things she never dreamed she would be capable of. She won’t have the option of making good choices. She’ll have to choose from the best of bad options. I think this will be the story I work on for Nanowrimo since it has my attention so fully at the moment.

Rough draft 378