Sunday, March 18, 2012

Getting Gritty

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have quite an infatuation with all things zombie.


I think it started when I watched The Night of the Living Dead for the first time. I was petrified. Yes, of that old black and white movie with the bad acting. I could not get those opening scenes out of my mind!

After watching that, I didn't watch anything zombie-related for a very, very long time. Then came one of those years when the Sci-fi network was showing a month of Halloween movies. And there it was. The Night of the Living Dead. I remembered the way my heart pounded the first time I watched that film, and it being Halloween and all, I wanted that rush of fear and adrenaline again.

So I watched it. And fell in love. Now, my home DVD library includes no less than 10 of my favorite zombie films. I own several books based on a zombie apocalypse. And I am completely addicted to the series The Walking Dead.

Heck, I'm even writing my own zombie novel!!

And it's that last that I want to talk about. I started writing that book years ago. It started with just a blurb that I forgot about and resurrected after a while. Then, I began working on it for real during National Novel Writing Month a couple of years ago. Since then, I tinker on it from time to time. I am about 100 pages in and I have the rest of the story mapped out--depending, of course, on the decisions the characters make along the way.

But I've been feeling stalled on it. I write. I close the program. I feel like something is missing and I don't write again for a long time.

Stephen King wrote a book called On Writing. My sister gave a copy to me several years ago as a Christmas gift (one of the best I have ever received). Now, I have never been a big King fan. I love The Stand but I want nothing to do with Pet Sematary. Anyway, I love his book on writing fiction. And of the many sections that have resonated with me, there is one that I want to talk about now.


King says that it is important to be honest in your writing. That if you hold back and don't let the characters and story ring true, people are not going to read or enjoy what you have written.

And I thought about that. And realized he is right. Part of the reason that I have disdained his writing is because it is very the point of making me uncomfortable.


Hubby and I caught up on an episode of The Walking Dead yesterday, and it was at the end of the episode that the epiphany finally hit.

The episode ended horribly. Not horribly in a "This show is stupid" way but in a "I am so disturbed right now" way. I thought about that, about the way my guts were filled with a creeping unease. Then, I thought about Stephen King's words. And then I realized what I have been ignoring for a while.

As I have worked on my zombie book, I have included some fairly disturbing parts. It is a zombie novel after all.

But I realized that I have been dishonest. In the back of my mind has been the fact that family members might buy and read this novel simply because I have written it. And I have filtered certain things that my characters might say out of respect for those family members who might be shocked that I know such words...and would put them in a book! I have been mindful that I am a teacher, and there are teachers (not in my district) who have lost their jobs because of the books they have written (usually steamy bodice-rippers but nonetheless).

I can't let those thoughts block me anymore. I've hit an impasse with my book because I have not been honest. The world that I am writing about is not a world that is concerned with niceties. It is a world that is about survival and death. It is a raw, gritty, dangerous world, and "Aw shucks" is out of place when weilding a fireplace poker and using it to bash in the brains of your ravenous neighbor.

I'm going back to the beginning. I am going to write the story the way it should have been written in the first place: with no regard to to anyone except the characters and their story. And I am going to see if that brings me to a place of peace and pride with my writing.

I may have to publish under a pseudonym, and I may have to tell some people in my life not to read the book because I use lots of dirty words and I describe some truly horrible things.

But I think that's what I have to do...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quiet Here

The house is incredibly silent right now.

My husband left early for a county band festival, so there's not the usual "bull in a China shop" noise that accompanies him wherever he goes. My son is sleeping soundly, not even a snore can be heard from his direction. The cat has abandoned me for softer surroundings and his rumbling purr is gone.

It's just me and the clicks of the keys on my keyboard.

If I stop typing, though, I can hear other things that largely go unnoticed.

The ticking of the clock on the mantle. I never knew that it had an audible ticking.

The occasional pings and thumps of the baseboard heat.

The clicks and snaps of the house settling.

The twittering of birds outside. Spring landed early this year.

The hum of traffic from the streets downtown. Sounds like a busy Saturday morning.

I really am a solitary human being. As much as I love the important people in my life, I enjoy my moments spent solely with myself, too. I like being alone in my thoughts, being able to focus on pleasing my own soul rather than someone else's.

It's quiet here. And I like it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


It's cold. Not in a way that chills your bones but just enough that you wish you'd brought your sweatshirt with you when you left the car. Still, looking down the winding path that you just struggled to climb, you grimace. It feels like it took forever just to get this far. To turn back now, to go backwards? You know that you wouldn't try to climb this hill again.

And you want to climb because you've heard the rumors about what is on the other side. No one speaks of it directly. To do so would perhaps diminish the magic of the destination. That is your guess, anyway, for all you have to go on is the rapturous look that washes over the faces of those who have made the climb before you.

So you sigh, brace yourself against the breeze that grows stronger as the altitude climbs, and you keep going. To your surprise, the mere act of going forward seems to change everything. The sun's rays push through the clouds and your goosebumps diminish. The air blowing around you is no longer as cold as it was when you thought of turning around.

Shrugging, you don't bother to wonder about this change. You simply keep walking upward. The path, though still winding, doesn't seem to be as steep. There seems to be fewer rocks and you don't feel as nervous as about tripping as you had earlier on your trek. You even find yourself humming, something that you now realize you haven't done in a very long time.

Cresting the hill happens sooner than you had expected. But suddenly you are there, standing at the peak, looking below you. The path continues forward for just a few more yards. Either side of the path is swept in color for the fields are filled with wildflowers of more hues than you knew existed. The breeze brings you the scents of these flowers as well as a nearly tropical scent that you can't name and that you didn't expect but that you inhale deeply all the same.

At the edge of the path, the world ends. Not in a frightful way and not in a forever way. To your amazement, though, is the fact that you find yourself somehow above the clouds. Below you is sure to be the earth, but right now it's like you have found yourself standing on the cusp of heaven.

You feel exhilarated and only a slight sense of trepidation slips vaguely into the back of your mind. This is to be expected, of course. No new journey begins without a slight sense of fear. But you smile and the fear is dispelled.

This is the moment that you have struggled to experience. This is what you had hoped in your heart that you would find. You now understand why no one put this moment into words. It is something only to be understood through experiencing it; it is something that, as you now understand, will be different for every person who crests the hill and stands on the cusp.

You spread your arms and fly.

Leap of Faith

(Model Source: Faestock)
(Birds and Textures Source: Distressed Jewell)
(Sky is my own image)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Catastrophe!! And Recovery...

It was bound to happen.

When I bought my laptop in 2010, I told myself that I didn't need to spend top dollar on it. I told myself that I didn't even need to spend middle dollar on it. It wasn't like I needed it; it was more of a desire after Hubby got one.

So when we paid his off, I began to shop. Low res this. Minimum that. I really took it down to nuts and bolts.

And then I began to add programs. Highly intensive graphics programs. On a practically nonexistant graphics card. That's when the crashes started. But I put up with it figuring that it was more disruptive than anything else.

And then I got more into photography. I started processing images and saving them as high-resolution files. Pretty soon my hard drive had almost no space left. I deleted a couple of programs that I didn't use and figured that would help.

Crash. After crash. After crash.

And long story short? A little over a week ago my laptop shut down and wouldn't come back.

It was toast.

I tried every trick I could until I finally had to make the ultimate last ditch effort: I did a factory restore...a trick that wipes out everything that has been added since the laptop came out of the factory. Every program I'd added? Gone. Including Photoshop. Every file I'd added? Gone. Including all my pictures.

Don't worry. I had finally purchased an external hard drive and saved nearly everything. Phew! A couple of pictures got lost. A couple of files disappeared without a trace. But overall, everything stuck around. Double phew!!

But now I am on a process of rebuilding. I no longer have Photoshop, so at a friend's suggestion, I downloaded a free program called GIMP. It's like Photoshop without all the prettiness. And I am finding that, among those who make their lives by photography, GIMP is kind of the bastard at the family reunion, if you'll excuse the expression. I've also found that those same people are stunned at the results I've gotten from using this program.

I'll admit that it makes me feel good to know that it doesn't matter what program I use; I can still work a little magic. I like to think that means something...

In any case, here are a couple of my recent creations...I think I may stick with GIMP for a little while...and treat my laptop a little better this time around...

Down on Red Roof Farm

Up Where We Belong

The Time They Forgot