Fiction Friday, TGIF, Writing

What’s in a Pen Name?

If the rumours are, indeed, true:

Hillary Clinton to Announce 2016 Run for President on Sunday – New York Times Politics

It’s funny that I mention her in this post from just over one year ago,

(Women & Books),

as I spoke about women, on International Women’s Day, 2015 and as I thought about feminism, equality, writing, and the pen name.

I wrote about two specific women writers in that post last year: L.M. Montgomery and J.K. Rowling.

I have a lot to say on women’s rights, but today I wanted to focus on another issue that has been at the back of my mind lately. The two things come together in the end though, as is often the case for me these days.

For this week’s Fiction Friday I wanted to discuss pen names and both L.M. and J.K., other than the fact that these two follow the order of the alphabet,

🙂

they also represent actual ladies, with real, full names: Lucy Maud and Joanne Kathleen.

Why do authors use pen names?

I have heard several reasons for the act of writing by one name or another, or more, when publishing several books or series of books.

Funny how I wanted to write this post and then, suddenly, I come across a few blog posts on the subject.

I am including them here, but I want to mention that I have not yet read them, as I write this.

I know writing is repetitive. It’s hard to truly come up with anything original anymore, so I did not want to have read another blogger’s thoughts on this topic, before I could explain my own.

Pen Names-Necessary Evil or Ticket to Crazyville?

and

What to Do When You Absolutely, Positively NEED a Pen Name

Anne Rice is best known for her novel Interview with the Vampire.

She had written so many novels over her career, but I only recently heard about her romance/erotic series of novels: Beauty’s Kingdom.

With the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey books and movie, Anne has been discussing the place erotica takes up in literature.

I visit Ms. Rice’s Facebook page on a regular basis.

Anne Rice on Facebook

And so I heard about the release of her newest Beauty’s Kingdom novel, on April 21st, first one since they first came out in the 80s.

Back then Rice wrote these erotic fiction stories under the pen name A.N. Roquelaure.

Funny how her initials are AN, so close to her actual name. What a coincidence.

😉

She said on Facebook that she preferred a pen name back then because it distinguished her persona, from one genre to another.

I happen to think that vampires can be a highly suggestive and erotic creature. It isn’t such a stretch from one to the other. I can’t say I was totally surprised, when I first heard about her alter ego.

From mainstream author to the indie world:

On Facebook I became aware, recently, of a female writer named Joanna Penn.

The Creative Penn

Perfectly literary name and the perfect name for today’s topic.

🙂

Joanna writes thrillers, under the “penn name” of:

J.F. Penn.

She goes by Joanna when she does podcasts, interviews, and speaking engagements.

She writes non-fiction on writing and on being an entrepreneur.

Anne Rice was trying to separate her writing personas, but in the 80s erotica was mostly secretive.

Nowadays, with Fifty Shades, it is becoming mainstream.

There is no more need to hide. Or is there?

It’s still important to keep separate, even when the audience knows the truth.

Hiding in plain sight I suppose.

Today’s world is a lot different from the one where Anne Rice wrote Beauty’s Kingdom.

It’s not the 80s anymore and nobody can keep a secret in the technological age we now live in.

Why does Joanna Penn even bother with the distinction now? Why do any of them?

When Harry Potter came to an end and Rowling wanted to go in a different direction, she first wrote The Casual Vacancy.

After a mixed review, she moved even further away from wizards, with a good old fashioned who-did-it detective story.

Only Rowling did not write this.

A man named Robert Gailbraith did.

J.K. Rowling to Publish Another Book Under Pen Name

So she has already fiddled around with her name in the past, using initials to disguise the fact that she was a female writer.

Now she chose to go with a male’s name, surprise surprise, when writing in a genre that has historically been known as a male genre.

This makes me mad and it confuses me. I love her and Harry Potter, but I can’t say her choices since have impressed me.

I wish I could talk to her about why, as a writer who has been given the extreme honour of writing books, why she has done what she’s done.

So I see it, still, partly as a fear of being unable to sell as many books if people realize you are a female. If you use initials, at least it may fool readers or customers, in the moment.

Is this a male writer or a female writer?

Hmmm.

Oh well…

But the creation of a whole new male author, Gailbraith, this is baffling to me on many levels.

No room for ambiguity with initials here.

On the one hand I know all about the importance of branding.

I have branded myself as Her Headache, for my writing blog.

I don’t disguise the fact that I am female or hide my real name, but I do put myself out there in a certain light.

Even more recently I have rebranded myself, for my “alter ego” as The Insightful Wanderer, with the creation of my travel blog.

So I have two names now, plus my real name underneath.

I see the value in having separate titles, to distinguish oneself in separate areas of one’s life. I just wish there was no issue, from a feminist perspective, but I believe there is.

I guess I just wanted to explore this topic, here, and to hear your thoughts on branding and pen names.

Do you understand why these authors and others have chosen, in the past and in present, to go by different names?

Okay, now I will go and read those other blog posts on the existence of pen names.

🙂

What’s in a name anyway?

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Fiction Friday, Memoir and Reflections, TGIF, Writing

Truth Or Fiction: Which One Is Stranger?

About a year ago I wrote the beginning of a story I had wanted to explore for a long time.

Fiction Friday: An Old Woman’s Regret

I called it this because I was attempting to establish Fridays, on my new blog at the time, as the days when I would try writing fiction. This was opposed to Mondays when I thought memoir would be the thing to write.

Well, let’s just say that a lot has changed and this blog has developed and evolved since I wrote that, but I have still not been able to figure something out…

I know there’s a lot of truth in fiction. It can’t be helped. Fiction is all things made up, or is it?

**“This proverbial saying is attributed to, and most certainly coined by, Lord Byron, in the satirical poem Don Juan , 1823:
‘ Tis strange – but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction;
if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange! How differently the world would men behold! How oft would vice and virtue places change! The new world would be nothing to the old, if some Columbus of the moral seas would show mankind their soul’ antipodes.”**

I won’t lie and say that there is no truth in that story I began to write. Anyone who knows me well, specifically family members, they could tell this right away.

The woman in the story is a clear reference to someone in my own life. I got my inspiration from her. Isn’t that where many story ideas start?

Well, it is for me.

As much as I love writing memoir, there is something about fiction that can’t be compared.

As I say on my About Me page on my blog, fiction gives a freedom that memoir does not, but that does not make me feel a whole lot better.

I guess I’ve just never been someone who can come up with totally imaginary worlds and populate them with completely created characters.

My ideas start from somewhere real and true, but this crosses the line that sometimes happens in writing.

This brings out my fears every single time I write something. I hate the thought that someone somewhere might read and be offended, seeing something in my words, real or imagined, that they believe is about them.

I know all those disclaimers on television shows, in movies, and in books that says any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is unintentional.

This is to protect people, but we are talking my own writing here.

I write to help me figure things out, how to put my life in perspective, and to bring clarity where their was only chaos.

This all goes on in my mind most of the time, but it comes out on the page/screen.

I tried, for many years, to not write and to not rock the boat. I hid from any possible rejection or criticism I feared writing might bring me.

this was unbearable and stifling.

Now here I am. I am hardly in any sort of Oprah and “A Million Little Pieces” scenario:

Author Is Kicked Out of Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club

🙂

Do you remember that whole situation?

But I find it a curious thing.

Now here I am again and have been attempting to confront this fear. I shouldn’t feel bad for expressing myself, if my conscience is really clear.

I am proud of what I write and anything that has come of that is done without malice, but I realize I can’t really worry about what others might think.

Yeah, when I figure out how to completely not worry about that, I will let you know here.

I have not written any conjoining parts to the story I began from above.

I would love to tell even a version of that old woman’s story, but am not sure I can do that.

I have experienced things recently, heartbreaking instances of harsh reality, for those I love. I can’t quite do anything, at this time, to hurt them, whether they think so or not.

I think it is an extremely interesting issue. What do you think?

Authors and writers and people who read.

How much of what you write, as far as fiction goes, is completely made up and how much of it comes from your own real life?

It brings back the notion of how truth truly can be stranger than fiction, but both have their place.

Hmmm.

All this talk makes me want to see one of my favourite movies, Stranger Than Fiction, again.

If you have not seen this particular film yet, go and check it out. It’s a will Ferrell classic and one of his best performances…not to mention the ones given by the rest of the cast: Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. .

Also, as a fan of literature, I just think it’s a really cool storyline.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

**Referenced in above article:

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/truth-is-stranger-than-fiction.html

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Happy Hump Day, Kerry's Causes

In The News and On My Mind: #1000Speak Edition

Watching the news in the evening is a bit like being on an emotional Tilt-aWhirl. “Isis now sets people on fire.” “Harper Lee has a new book out!” “Some oddballs are bringing measles back because they’re scared of autism, which is a bit like saying I’m worried about birthday candles, so let’s start a forest fire.” “It’s going to be gorgeous this weekend!” “Look, a politician being deliberately rude.” “And also, look at these adorable puppies!” My limbic system does not work that fast!

The above is a status I came across on a Friend’s Facebook page a few weeks back and I thought it summed up the horrors and the confusion to be seen on the news every night, with a bit of her witty and intelligent sense of humour thrown in for good measure.

The following five things have been on my mind lately: Isis, measles, assisted suicide, Deflate-Gate, and Fifty Shades.

Note: I am writing longer versions of my thoughts on these topics, one a week, for the next five weeks. I just wanted to write a more trimmed down post, to coincide with:

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion

The #1000Speak movement is coming to its dramatic finale in two short days.

On February 20th I and over 1000 bloggers will write about what compassion means to each of us. We will do this together, as one, and we will stand up and speak about acts of kindness and empathy, to rival any of the horrors to be found out there.

The news, like is illustrated at the be inning of this post, can be dreary and can bring you down within the first two minutes.

Watching this over and over again, night after night, will make it seem like there is no goodness left in the world. This is so very far from the truth of it.

I just wanted to highlight five things that have been going on lately, in the news, and on my mind. I want to share the compassionate view I choose to have for all five and I hope, by bringing my own personal brand of attention to these, that I can help share and spread the thinking of kindness just a little bit.

***

1.
Isis

It’s so hard to hear about such horrific and senseless acts as hostage takings and beheadings. It seems like this threat is growing and we are powerless to stop it.

It’s a part of the world that I know nothing of: Egypt and Libya, Syria, or Iraq. This, however, is not where it ends.

That part of the world wants nothing more than to live in peace, like anywhere.

The problem exists here too, although it may be harder to see.

I do wish there existed much more empathy and understanding for our fellow human beings.

Extremist terrorist groups are out there, like some invisible bully on steroids. This isn’t something I can wish away with my positive thoughts.

I just hope to partake in small acts and acts that spread, such as a newly started compassion blogging project, to show us that the world isn’t all bad, one hundred percent of the time. With one thousand speaking out for compassion, we can say our piece and hope to inspire peace in return.

2.
Measles

Fear and ignorance spread like wildfire when it comes to our children, most of all.

Rumours and myths aren’t so easily distinguished for some like for others. The measles vaccination is no exception.

I know how powerful conspiracy theories can become. Is that what fear of vaccinations is, like the moon landing and UFO’s before it?

I fall prey to thee sorts of thoughts sometimes, when I’m feeling suspicious and doubtful about the world. I wake up some days, and I choose pessimism over giving the world the benefit of my doubts.

I sometimes wake up feeling angry at a world that would allow such rumours to spread so rapidly. I have benefited, so very much, from medical science. I think about fifty years ago even, and the fact that I probably wouldn’t be alive now, to write these words.

It’s hard to imagine a time when illnesses such as measles killed with impunity. I think we take for granted the advances we now benefit from.

So I guess you could say I am pro vaccines, but the idea of forcing parents to give something to their children or themselves that they don’t freely choose, well that does not sit right with me either.

What will win out?

I have children in my life that go to school and I know how easy it can be for illness to spread through a classroom full of kids.

I hate that any kid might miss out on an education and a social life with friends because of a decision their parents or the government made.

No clear-cut and right answers here, I realize.

All I can do is have compassion for each side of the debate, hoping that we don’t regress to a pre-vaccine, tragic, society.

3.
Assisted Suicide

I know this is one of the touchiest subjects there is in our world today. I know the idea of stepping in and taking one’s own life or someone else’s is beyond controversial.

I know things like religion, ethics, and consent are all twisted up and even breaching the topic is taboo.

I know that what constitutes a life worth living is up for furious debate. Nobody wants to use this as an excuse to rid the world of all those poor people who we shy away from because of disabilities beyond our imagination and handicaps we hate to think about.

I can’t help but putting myself in the place of anyone who lives with pain constantly, no end in sight. I keep going back to those poor souls and, although I too hate to think of what this means, I know this issue is not going to go away, no matter how much we look away.

I think we all have compassion in our hearts for these people, but then the fear of “playing God” stands in our way of anything more.

Think of those in real need of empathy and consideration. If there were any time to put ourselves in their shoes, this would be it.

4.
Deflate-Gate

I almost wrote a blog post about this after the news broke that the New England Patriots, on their way to the Super Bowl, were under suspicion of having tampered with their team’s footballs.

Now I fully admit to having no prior knowledge of the rules and regulations of how the footballs are handled. I considered writing about my outrage, that this team was suspected of cheating and yet, off to the biggest football championship they were going, but I ultimately decided that I really had no business writing about it.

Maybe my own personal issues were getting in the way.

This lead to more of a broad concern with the Super Bowl as a whole. I looked at all the hype with Katy Perry set to perform and I felt unsettled.

With all the talk of feminism these days, and all my interest in it, I felt uncomfortable.

It seemed like the NFL was trying too hard to bring themselves out of the recent scandals in their franchise. Katy Perry, for me, did not wipe away all the bad judgement and the celebration of star players and athleticism our world idolizes.

I don’t want to feel this way about anything that brings such joy to others. I’ve seen it. I try to understand the passion with which they express their love of football. I just wish we could value such things as criminal behaviour and spousal abuse not at all, instead valuing things like playing fair and no cheating. These values and rules of the NFL and organizations like it are hard for me to wrap my head around, but it seems to be a powerful force that I have to accept. I just hope it remains all fun and games, yet I know there’s more going on than meets the eye.

Finally…

5.
Fifty Shades

I read the books. As both a reader and a writer I was curious.

Since then the love for these books (originally Twilight fan fiction) grew for so many, but I was unimpressed by the silly catch phrases and the silly banter between main characters Ana and Christian;.

A fantasy come to life, from one middle-aged woman’s brain to millions of women, looking for a thrill.

I do not ignore or underestimate the cultural value of a book like this, come to life on screen.

I know it is nothing more than a romantic experience for so many ladies. I know how I take it, as nothing but a story. It’s fiction and I put it in its proper place.

I don’t know if impressionable youth are able to do the same thing. However, I am not prepared to hide and shy away from the things people like James are thinking.

Feminism is an important issue for me and I can’t begin to imagine what a movie like this says about our society, both men and women.

If any person has been hurt by a serious issue like controlling and abusive behaviour, and this movie reminds then of those traumatic experiences, I think we should be sensitive to that.

If Fifty Shades is enough to open wounds for those who have experienced real abuse in their lives, then I want to recognize that, instead of simply brushing it away.

Something like this doesn’t make the money it does and draw in the number of movie-goers it does if it hasn’t made an impact. That is impossible to ignore.

I want to remain willing to have an open dialogue about issues of gender equality, sexual rights, all with the proper amount of love and respect.

Women should be able to make up their own minds, as to what they want to watch or read, without completely dismissing the very real feelings of shame and regret that exist for so many, both women and men alike.

***

All these stories are, for the most part, not going away. These things rarely vanish, but rather are changed and altered with time.

Today I wanted to speak my mind and hope to show that compassion, even in the face of disagreements and differing opinions, is indeed possible. It is the common thread we all must not lose sight of.

Two days left and I will continue to share my view of what compassion means to me. It isn’t over just yet.

🙂

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, Book Reviews, Fiction Friday, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, TGIF

It’s a Sin To Kill a Mockingbird

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit “em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
—To Kill a Mockingbird

**Note: All quotes below were taken from this novel.**

In the previous Fiction Friday I wrote a piece about the literary news of the year so far:

Big NEws For Harper LEe Fans Everywhere,

where I spoke about the announcement of her recently-discovered manuscript from before the release of To Kill a Mockingbird and the suspicions some have had about the whole thing coming out now, after all this time.

This time instead, rather than focusing on the part of our human nature which is being suspicious of others, I wanted to focus on the compassion that our world could always use more of.

This week I wanted to tie in more about this classic with the blogging project I have been participating in.

It is called 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, and what story is more about that word than To Kill a Mockingbird?

I suddenly wanted to showcase all the ways in which compassion is illustrated, but first I had to reread the novel, which I hadn’t read since high school.

🙂

***

If I could choose one word to define what To Kill a Mockingbird is about, it would certainly have to be:

COMPASSION

The above quote is the most famous of them all throughout this classic work of fiction.

This novel has more than one “mockingbird”: Tom Robinson and Arthur (Boo) Radley.

Throughout this period of a few summers in the 30s, mid-depression era Alabama, brother and sister Jem and Scout, along with friend Dill, learn several life lessons.

They learn compassion.

In the beginning Jem says something about how turtles can’t feel pain.

Soon he must pay off a debt of punishment by sitting and reading to an elderly and dying neighbour. He starts out thinking she is an evil, unbearable old lady, but his father, Atticus, he teaches his son that people aren’t always what they seem and that those we think are the worst human beings of them all are, more often than not, dealing with pain we did not see. We all experience pain sometime.

The children are fascinated by a spooky house, a few doors down the street. It is rumoured to house a raving mad young man. He is never seen and this provides a vast span of imaginary possibilities in the children’s mind’s eye.

They see this frightful phantom of a neighbour as a monster in the shadows and the house he hides in, “inhabited by an unknown entity”.

As long as they kept seeing this neighbour and this house in this light, their compassion for what else could be going on wouldn’t be permitted to grow.

Their father works hard to help them see that things aren’t always so black and white.

Scout is naive and quick to speak without thinking. She is quick to anger and soon her and her brother must develop tough skin, when their father, a lawyer, is appointed to defend an African-American man against charges of raping a young white woman.

Scout fights children, at school, who call her father ugly names for his doing his job. She fights them and must learn to get her emotions under control.

The children slowly learn about what compassion means, throughout the novel, but with Atticus as their father, they really can’t fail at this.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.
Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Okay, despite the slightly gross imagery here about people in other people’s skin (yes, I am very literal), this line is the second most poignant line from “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

Scout is able to find compassion for Mayella Ewell, the young woman who accused her negro neighbour of rape.

This girl is obviously lying, even evident to Scout at her young age, which makes Mayella the enemy of Scout’s father, who is defending Tom Robinson.

“I wondered if anybody had ever called her “ma”am,” or “Miss Mayella” in her life; probably not, as she took offence to routine courtesy. What on earth was her life like? I soon would find out.”

Scout suddenly realizes what a tough life this young lady has had, feeling sympathy for her, even after everything.

This compassionate muscle is being developed in Scout, by experiences like this, all throughout the novel.

Atticus has taken on a case, which in the 30s is unwinnible, but he takes it anyway. He puts his children and himself through so much for this case. People, even his own sister think he’s doomed to failure and just plain foolish.

“If a man like Atticus Finch wants to butt his head against a stone wall it’s his head.”

When the case is lost, both Jem and Atticus allow themselves to give in to the bitterness, for a while:

I peeks at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them.

How could they do it, how could they?

I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it seems that only children weep. Good night.

The reference to “only children weep” is why these children in this novel are at centre stage in learning these lessons on compassion and empathy.

It takes a motherly neighbour’s wise words to help Jem deal with his anger at the injustice he’s learning exists:

“I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.”

Atticus is able to move forward from his loss in court and for a poor innocent man, finding compassion even for the last person to deserve any:

“Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than that houseful of children out there. You understand?”

When the children finally do come across Boo Radley, it turns out he was nothing as outrageous as they had been picturing him to be.

Scout discovered things about him that surprised her and she received one more lesson on how things aren’t what they seem always and her compassion and threshold for empathy grew once more.

I took him by the hand, a hand surprisingly warm for its whiteness. I tugged him a little, and he allowed me to lead him to Jem’s bed.

Jem’s life was saved by Boo Radley, pretty well vilified by their young minds all that time.

“I had never seen the neighbourhood from this Angle.”

Scout received one final bit of perspective, as the novel came to a close, and her compassion, just like her fathers’, had been imprinted on her heart.

“Atticus was right. One time he said you don’t really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.”

***

The countdown is on with less than one week to go until the 20th and

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion: My 1000 Voices Speak Reveal.

There have been some wonderful contributions, from fellow bloggers, leading up to the day we all post for compassion.

I wish I could recognize them all, and I have been doing my best to share as many as I could on

TWITTER,

but here are just a few, before I wrap up the post for today:

But I CAN help THIS one (a #1000Speak story)

and

THREE FLOORS BELOW.

Jewel, Hands, on YouTube

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Spotlight Saturday, Writing

Spotlight Saturday: Interview With Writer Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Today’s Spotlight is author/editor Jordan Rosenfeld.

I have been following an online magazine for a while now: Sweatpants & Coffee.

Who doesn’t love those two things?

🙂

I must say that title caught my attention.

Then I read an essay she wrote, which was published on one I visit weekly:

Full Grown People.

After I read her there I decided to contact her, at her website, to see if she might agree to do an interview with me.

Lucky for me, she said yes, and here we are now.

Here is a sample of her writing, one of the most recent articles she has written:

http://www.rolereboot.org/life/details/2015-01-motherhood-broke-addiction-busy/

And now I welcome Jordan.

***

K: What can you say about yourself? If you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself a little first.

J: How funny is it that I draw a blank here? I guess most people know of me as the author of some books, two novels, some writing guides. I’m a writing teacher, as well as the mom of one 6 year-old boy and a teller of dirty jokes. I live in Northern California with my husband and son. I’m a born and bred Californian, in fact, though all my family hail from New York. Writing is the only thing I”m really good at and my one great love.

K: How long have you been writing?

J: In earnest, as in writing stories and such, since the age of 8. Yes, I still have those scribbled on binder pages and hundreds of journals. In pursuit of a career? About 20 years, since I was 20.

K: What education/training do you have in it? How important do you think formal education in something like writing is?

J: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts, and a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Literature. Education is good and I never think you can go wrong learning more, but I have come to believe that the best education for writing is reading widely and writing a lot. Writing is a craft you learn best by doing it. 

K: Do you think, to be a good writer, you must open up and reveal as much as you can?

J: I think if you’re writing non-fiction, essays or memoir, you must strive to tell the emotional truth and be as vulnerable as possible. That means that you don’t write from a position of judgment or blame, but rather look at your own part and experience. I don’t think “confessional” writing is particularly interesting, either, unless there’s a lot of strong craft involved–imagery, language, and a goal of the writing. A good essay or memoir should take the reader on a journey. In fiction, which is actually what I’ve written most of in my life, it’s much different–then, you’re crafting experiences through the eyes of a fictional character. In which case, you want to make sure you understand plot/story structure and keep your language interesting.

K: What do you think is the most important quality for any writer to have and why?

J: Persistence. I’ve written an entire book on it, forthcoming in April, called A Writer’s Guide to Persistence. Why? Because if you don’t persist through the many challenges of being a writer, you will give up, or feel depressed, or waste time. Life’s too short to feel sorry for yourself.

K: It can be very hard out there, with so many writers and material for readers to choose from. How would you advise a writer who is just starting out, to get the experience often required for literary magazines and online publications to give them a chance?

J: Read the places you want to be published. Really read them and try to understand their aesthetic. My success as a writer in placing pieces went up exponentially when I finally started doing this. Otherwise, it’s like any craft: practice your craft. Keep at it. Don’t hurry. Rushing something to publication is a form of self-sabotage. 

K: Do you think writers must have a lot of struggles in their life to be good? Why or why not?

J: No. I think writers are often just people with a keen sense of observation, or born storytellers. Not all art comes from suffering. 

K: Which do you prefer: fiction or non fiction? What do you like about both?

J: To read: I’m drawn most to fiction, which is my first love, which rescued me from difficult things as a child. As such I wrote mostly fiction, predominantly novels, for years. But in the past year I’ve been writing personal essay (and reading them) and have fallen in love with the form, so I’d have to say I love them both for different reasons. I like taking the messy raw materials of life and shaping them into a crafted essay that makes meaning of them.   But I will always love a good page-turning story, to escape, to become another character, to travel to other worlds and places.

K: Can you explain a little about Sweatpants & Coffee and your role as Persistent Optimist over there?

J: We are an online magazine dedicated to inspiration and comfort in an often uncomfortable world. We share content that fits our mission. I pen a column called The Persistent Optimist, since I am a natural optimist, that tries to offer some of that optimism back to my readers.

K: What is your writing routine, if any? Do you work best on a deadline?

J: I am pretty self motivated, but I do work well under deadline, yes. My writing routine USED to be rise at 5:30 and write until 8 and then begin my paid work. But once my son was born 6.5 years ago that all changed. Now after my husband takes my son out the door to school around 7:20, I get to work on whatever is most pressing, be it paid work or my own fiction. When I start a fiction project, I write every day as is possible.

K: What tips would you offer a new writer? What is the best way to learn and to get your writing out there?

J: Write constantly. Read widely. Be open. Don’t wait for inspiration and don’t believe in writer’s block. Don’t assume you’re too talented or not talented enough–just keep writing. Persist. Love your writing practice. Ask questions and submit your work when it’s done, widely. 

K: Have you had anyone in your own life, a mentor of any sort, who has taught you about writing or supported yours? Or have you been that for someone else?
How can this benefit a newer writer? What does the mentor get out of the relationship?

J: I have had many mentors in and out of school. I always gravitate to people who can teach me. It behooves the young or new writer to ask questions, be open to feedback and realize that others have already trailblazed the path. 

K: How do you handle rejection in your writing?

J: I see it as a sign that I either need to go deeper into the piece that is rejected, or take it elsewhere. I used to have a thinner skin but quickly realized all that does is keep you from writing, so I got over myself. I mean, there are days, and occasional rejections that hurt worse than others, but overall, I’m okay 

K: How do you think writing has changed with the growth of the internet and social media?

J: I don’t think writing itself has changed all that much, though trends and genres go in and out of popularity, but how authors have to market themselves has changed. Social media is necessary if an author wants to sell books or share online pieces. 

K: What sorts of things are you working on now? What would you like to see happen in your writing in the future?

J: I’m working on half a dozen articles or essays and about to begin a new novel. I’d like to have a new agent soon and sell some novels. 

K: What do you love about writing? What do you like least?

J: I love everything about writing: the thrill of new ideas, organizing information, the lure of language and creating imagery, the power of making meaning out of things with my own brain…I love using it to connect to others, and to calm and soothe my own brain and heart. I love revising and I love drafting new material. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t love except maybe trying to write to the specifications of someone else when I don’t quite know what they want.

***

I love all those things about writing too Jordan. Thank you.

While some things about writing are fairly universal, I learn something new each and every time I interview a writer who has something valuable to share.

For anything and everything Jordan (list of all blog posts, articles, essays, books, and courses offered), visit her website at:

http://jordanrosenfeld.net

Follow her on her author page, on Facebook:

Here.

And on Twitter:

Here.

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Blogging, Memoir and Reflections, NANOWRIMO 2013, Writing

Letting Go and Continuing to Write Another Day

Last May I read a call for submissions, from an online author’s Facebook group I had recently joined. They said it was for an anthology they were thinking of putting together, for charity, and that people didn’t need to be experienced or professional writers to join in. Sounded like an excellent cause: literacy for children was the thought at the time. I could think of no better cause than that.

I was new to this, thinking this would be the perfect way to get my feet wet, so-to-speak. I felt welcomed with open arms. I thought it could be the perfect opportunity to send a short story in and I started working through some ideas in my head immediately.

As summer progressed the idea took shape in even clearer ways. The storyline grew out of some things I had recently experienced in my own life, but I was attempting to deal with those real-life issues and feelings through the magic of fiction.

I write a lot and I mostly have written memoir over time. A lot of authors say writing memoir makes them feel naked and exposed, but I find fiction does that more for me than anything I’ve ever written about myself outright.

Now that it is mid-January I am trying to stick to really the only sort-of resolution I’ve made since 2015 began a few short weeks ago. I am trying to not feel envious or jealous of what others have and to find the good in my own life, where I currently stand and to not feel angry at what I see that others may have or be doing without me. Then something happened to me last week that left me feeling angry and wounded.

I know. I know. That didn’t take very long at all, did it?
🙂
I actually did it. I have very little to show for any sort of fictional writing, but I wrote a short piece to submit to this charity anthology. Other than the half-way attempt at a novel from 2013s National Novel Writing Month and a few short stories I’ve written on my blog, I have very little to show for the years I let pass me by, but I hoped to start on the road to changing all that.

Unfortunately, things did not work out like I hoped they would. First of all, I found it difficult to communicate with the group of writers who were publishing this anthology, especially over the holidays. This is totally understandable. People are busy and days are hectic and harried.

So then when the new year came and went I had sent several emails, gotten help to make sure I’d sent my story in a format easily edited, but I hadn’t heard back that my story had been edited at all. I still assumed, having kept in some contact over the private Facebook group about this anthology, that everything would work out somehow. I guess I was being naive.

I received an online contract from one of the authors in charge and I sent it back, all filled out. I wasn’t making any money from this. I didn’t want any. I only wanted to be included in something with a group of other writers, just a way to get my work out there amongst others, for the experience of joining something alone. The contract wasn’t perfect, but it promised my story would be one amongst the others in the anthology and that I would receive one e-copy for myself.

Someone else, with much more experience than myself, they would be handling everything else. I only had to write the story and they would see that it got published with the others in the group, on the online ebook selling sites such as Amazon. I knew, from others who had recently done it, that the formatting and publishing of an ebook on Amazon is difficult and confusing. I was glad to have my story included and this first time I didn’t have the stress of trying to figure all that other stuff out.

There was to be a big online release party on the weekend and as far as I knew, I would be a part of it, but I wanted to be sure, before I went and told friends and family.

I thought I was getting a short piece of my writing published on a site last spring and I couldn’t help telling people about it; I was so excited. When that did not materialize, I felt let down and disappointed. It had been my fault though. I was the one to jump the gun and rush into speaking about it, before I had any real confirmation, but I figured I would get another chance.

Well this wouldn’t be it.

I decided I needed to confirm so I came right out and asked and was informed that my story was lost, never received, and that they were sorry to tell me I would not be included in the anthology. The timing had never been right and I felt like there was enough blame to go around, me included, but I felt the sting of rejection and mistreatment nonetheless.

This story was a short story I wrote about the roller coaster, the ups and downs, all that love can throw at you and how to move on and turn a new page. Even the title of the anthology seemed to be perfectly fitting and meant to be. That is what it was called and what it was about.

Why should I be upset? This was just some online thing with people I have never met in person. Why did it hurt so much when I heard for certain that I was not a part of it?

I was mad and hurt, in equal measure. I felt toyed with, like a lot of drama and unprofessionalism had gone on behind the scenes somewhere and through no fault of my own. I did not fully understand what had happened and I never will. I had worked hard on my story and had written it about a particularly difficult period of my life, hoping too that the publishing of this story would mean a new page, a fresh start, a blank slate and next chapter in my own life, personally and maybe even a step forward with my writing.

I felt like I had been messed with and treated carelessly. I wanted to complain and whine and vent my frustrations on Facebook, to all who would listen, even those who were celebrating their stories all being published in the anthology that weekend. I got upset all over again when I accidentally heard notifications and statuses about the anthology’s release.

I have sat with these emotions ever since and have tried telling myself I am better off. I know it wasn’t meant to be and I will have future opportunities still to come. I know the important thing is that I wrote it and nobody can take that away from me.

Then negative thoughts entered my mind. The suspicious part of my brain feared that someone somewhere still actually has my story and that they could possibly take it and publish it as their own. I know this isn’t likely. I know the authors involved are still people I have never met in person and that I didn’t really know any of them. They don’t owe me anything and I don’t either.

Even online I feel it, it can be petty. I have realized there can be and there are groups like in real life, like in high school and beyond. I suppose what I wanted was to be a part of something, to feel my writing was receiving some sort of attention and recognition from others. I had to let go of any anger, realizing that I had written something that meant a lot to me. That hadn’t changed.

I believe in taking the good and the positive from any situation and learning and growing from it. I have felt a bit lost and adrift lately and since the start of 2015 even more so.

I have found a lot of interesting blogs and bloggers, writers and authors, but online is still a mystery to me, a place where circles of people hang out. I see it all the time. I wonder how these circles form and how they keep going. I see it because I have a blog. I can’t avoid it, but it is important to remember that there is a big bad world not to be missed outside my own door. Sometimes it’s just easier to hide out where I have been, but I know I will move forward and on to experience new places and new people, perhaps even over the coming year.

So much bad stuff in the news and these latest above experiences notwithstanding…I woke this week to a truly wonderful thing going on online, mostly through social media and blogging. I wrote about it the other day. If you missed it or are a blogger who might be interested, check it out here:

https://kkherheadache.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/my-voice-amungst-the-thousands/

It’s hard for me to understand why people do what they do. A lot of it, although often called selfless or good deedish, still comes off feeling disingenuous and unauthentic. I wonder if anyone ever does anything without expecting something for themselves, deep down. Even the best people with the best intentions, it seems to me, are ultimately hoping to get something out of it.

This isn’t a bad thing; however, I have a hard time with it. Perhaps that is why, online or off, I am not making a lot of money, certainly not of my own. I can’t feel like I am selling myself. I feel dirty and uncomfortable, like I am not being true to who I am. It doesn’t seem to sit well with me.

I know writing is most often an attention-seeking endeavour. It screams, if you choose to share it, “LOOK AT ME!” and I do play a part in this dance.

I guess I just haven’t found a way to use my blog to sell something to people or to sell myself as a product. I have developed a brand for myself: the Her Headache of this blog and the Insightful Wanderer more recently still, but I can’t quite seem to fit comfortably snug in either role, not entirely anyway.

Sounds fickle, I know.

Finally, I just wanted to share the following link, an interview below with a writer and blogger I’ve followed for some time now. She is a Canadian, a mother and wife, and a writer. I have been attempting to focus in on a selection of Canadian literature and writers when I can find it. This interview is the purest explanation of what being a writer means, why it’s important, and how life feels without that outlet. I couldn’t agree more with Carrie Snyder and her thoughts:

Carrie Snyder’s Advice to an Aspiring Writer

I want things too. I want, ultimately, to be recognized for the thing I love and for which makes me whole. I want to be able to support myself through this thing.

Is that possible or a far-away pipe dream?

It isn’t easy. In the end I will need to let go of the relative security of the online world and hopefully show what I can do to real people, people I can speak in person with, who I can look directly in the face. I declare here that I will find a way to do this. I have taken steps and I will take more of them. I will not let myself grow bitter and disillusioned. I just won’t!

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Fiction Friday, NANOWRIMO 2013, NANOWRIMO 2014, National Novel Writing Month, Writing

NANOWRIMO 2014: Priorities, Goals, and Motivation

Okay, so in case it has skipped anyone’s notice, we have arrived at the end of November.

This means that the month of NaNoWriMo is nearing its finish.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this either, but I missed last week’s Fiction Friday, my usual post here and I did it for a reason.

Not for the reason I wrote about in my previous NaNoWriMo edition of Fiction Friday:

Rebellion.

Not for the cool, wild, hip concept of being a rebel.

🙂

But more like avoidance…avoidance of returning to the place I was at last year at this time.

The reason why I avoided writing any sort of update last week was I knew then and I certainly know now that I will not be reaching fifty thousand words on any novel, not this time.

I did it on my first try, but I guess I’ve learned that, in writing as in life, my priorities can sure shift, only one year on.

In author/writer Alana Saltz’s latest blog post,

What NaNoWriMo Has Taught Me About the Writing Process,

she writes about her own experiences, over the past handful of years with this writing challenge.

It is a helpful thing to me, to read about someone as successful as her, and how the same ups and downs (although not wanted or welcomed) can happen to anyone.

Alana says the two things that made the difference for her, the year she completed the challenge, were focus and a lack of distraction. these two go hand-in-hand, in a big way.

Last year I had distractions, sure, but I was highly focused on getting the novel I had been storing in my head for years down in actual words.

I don’t know where to go with it next and I do know I love the writing I am doing now. this means I didn’t want to give up all the focus I use for blogging multiple times a week, for this huge novel, that has not moved out of the first draft stage since I wrote it one year ago.

Will it have a sequel or will I keep writing?

What do I want it to be and to mean?

I definitely have my share of distractions at this point.

I have discovered that I love blogging, that I find it highly therapeutic in my life right now. I can’t say I feel that way about my novel-in-progress at this time.

In this day of technology and with the advent of ebooks, I hear authors saying all the time that it does no good to have one book, but what counts is to write one and then another and another, until you can build momentum.

As for the points made by Alana, this is my take on it:

1.
Motivation

I am motivated, but apparently not to grab the reins of the story I started last November, and run full-speed ahead.

I am motivated and I set goals all the time with my blogs, every week and month. I keep a fairly steady schedule of posts, present and future. I live by certain deadlines all the time with a blog and now a second one, especially when I am guest posting and hosting guest posters. It is imperative. People, not only me, expect this.

2.
Community

I do not have this, quite as much, with NaNoWriMo. There are no local NaNo groups, at least none I have discovered readily.

As for a community, I have found this in the blogosphere and I like it.

3.
Distractions

I am distracted constantly, my mind constantly wound up. I feel a sense of focus and calm when I am blogging that I couldn’t give up nearly enough to return to the novel that I started while still a part of the life I used to live and am not living in the same way anymore.

4.
Determination

I am determined to make something of blogging and more recently, with travel blogging. This is where I am right now and, although I may regret putting more and more time between myself and the novel I started, right now I must live in the present and future and not allow myself to return to a past I can’t afford to reexamine at this time.

The problem, for me, is that I don’t know if I have more than one novel in me, if I even have this one and the ability to finish it to any real end.

In an extremely uplifting video I came across earlier today, as I was thinking on how I was going to end off my lack of a completed NaNo goal for the month, what I wanted to say here, author Alina Popescu made some valid points:

NaNoWriMo14 – The Deadline Menace – Video on YouTube

I am a writer, like she discusses, whether I write novels, short stories, memoir, reviews and interviews, or travel articles.

I AM A WRITER.

I have discovered I like writing, in a way I did not understand one year ago, and I will follow this path, wherever it may take me.

All I know, at this point one year on, is that I have things inside me to say: about love and relationships, about heartbreak and moving on, about the movies and music that are my inspirations, and the people and places that move me and teach me so much.

Now that I have discovered this world of blogging, and most recently travel blogging, I needed to put all my focus on these things because they are getting me through.

I guess I didn’t really think anyone who might happen to read this would really care that I could not pull off fifty thousand words in a month, two years in a row.

Really, I am the only one I owe any explanation to, whether in my own head or heart. This post just helps me lay all that out, for the record, because maybe next year I will return to this post and start again with Till Death…

I am not giving up on that dream of publishing a story of fiction, but perhaps I am not meant to be mainly a writer of fiction at all.

Living in the present of November 2014 I am a blogger and I like that title and the feeling that gives me.

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Fiction Friday, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, NANOWRIMO 2014, National Novel Writing Month, Writing

NANOWRIMO 2014: End of Week Two, Rebellion

Welcome back to my weekly Fiction Friday post, all the month of November dedicated to National Novel Writing Month, 2014 and we have arrived at the close of Week Two.

Last week I spoke about the somewhat hesitant decision to take part for the second year,

Here.

This time I will explain what I mean by the title of today’s post: Rebellion.

Yes, I am a NaNoWriMo rebel.

What does this mean?

Writer Alana Saltz writes an excellent blog post about this and I wanted to share it here, before I explain how I fit into this category:

How to be a NaNoWriMo Rebel.

Now, anybody who knows me knows I am routinely known as a rebel anyway. This is, therefore, not all that far off.

🙂

Actually, I like to follow rules, when I can. It’s the OCD in me that prefers this.

So last year I wrote my daily word count, writing one novel, and it was only a frustration with the site that was so bothersome that I resorted to Twitter to keep track of my progress.

I felt I did everything I was supposed to do, according to,

NaNoWriMo.org.

This year I thought I would give it a try once more, but from the beginning I did not feel like following any rules, whether this might disqualify me or not.

I did not have a new idea for a story. I barely got to editing after last November and I never did finish last year’s story.

I had that one floating around in my head for several years. There was no way I was going to finish it in one year or even to put it aside and focus on a whole new story, but I did not want that to disqualify me from participating this year.

My novel “Till Death” is a story of great love, the hardest of times, and finding one’s way through grief and loss.

I thought this year I would continue the story of three generations of a family: a teenage daughter, her father, and her grandfather.

I wanted to answer the question: how does death affect people at different stages of life?

I thought, why not? Why couldn’t I continue that story this November?

Who says it has to be a brand new story?

Who was going to stop me?

I will use the motivation, but not necessarily stick to the rules others are following for the month.

When I heard Alana speak on how she wasn’t following the rules either, I felt a freedom and like I had been given some invisible marker of permission to be the rebel I always wanted to be.

Next week I will write about setting goals and meeting them.

What do you think of my themes and storyline?

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Fiction Friday, NANOWRIMO 2014, National Novel Writing Month, Writing

NANOWRIMO 2014: End Of Week One

November is here again. I can’t believe it.

Last month, every

Frightful Fiction Friday,

was set aside for phobia stories, all Halloween-based because it was October.

Last Saturday was the start of a new month and I couldn’t believe it was time for National Novel Writing Month yet again. It’s amazing how fast a year goes by.

Every Fiction Friday for the month of November I will be posting an update on my progress with writing 50,000 words in the thirty days of November.

Last year I only just found out about this huge initiative at the last moment. I dove right in and managed to reach the goal, by writing a first draft of the novel I had had rolling around in my brain for several years.

The site

http://www.nanowrimo.org

Allows you to make a profile, keep track of your daily word count, and to speak and connect on the forums and through local writing groups.. People come together with a common goal and support one another in meeting the challenge, through American Thanksgiving, work and school, and more and more holiday and family gatherings.

Unfortunately, I found their website, as a visually impaired person, overwhelming and tricky to navigate. this time I got a little farther, but on entering my word count I must have done something wrong. I want to write, but instead I am messing around with numbers.

I would rather go to

https://twitter.com/KKHerheadache

to keep track of my own word count.

As much as I love the idea of writing all month long, I don’t like that attached to the term “word count” there just so happens to be the word “count” because that means numbers and math, two things I hate just as much as I love words.

I HATE MATH!!!

This year, once again, I signed up on the site in the hopes that I would find it easier to work with. No such luck. If I am going to focus on writing thousands and thousands of words in such a short time, I am not about to fiddle around with something that only brings me frustration, when I could be writing.

Also, it is a bit of a drag that there aren’t really any local chapters of writers in my area who are participating. This takes away from some of the community feeling of NaNoWriMo for me, but the isolation still seems to be low enough. I guess it’s all in the mind, but I could write a novel any time. Why do I need a specific month to do it?

On this second year I started off on a great foot, beginning immediately at midnight on November 1st and writing fiercely into the early hours of last Saturday morning. This resulted in several thousands of words from the get-go, but who knows if I will make the goal at the end of the month. I have to be okay with it if I don’t. Who else would I be letting down?

Unfortunately, I did not keep this momentum up every day this past week. Every other day is more like it, and I still haven’t hit 10 ,000 words.

I can offer only this excuse to myself or anyone of you: last year this time I did not have one blog, let alone two. I may be writing more this year than I ever have, but my time is more divided than ever.

Week One: 8731 words

Next week I will talk about what I am writing.

Are you taking part in National Novel Writing Month this year? Have you taken part before and have decided not to be a part of it this year? Is it your first time?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this growing movement.

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Fiction Friday, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights

Nyctophobia

Happy Halloween!

For the final edition of Frightful Fiction Friday I have gathered some excellent inspiration for my final phobia story.

I took part in a

Ghost Tour of Niagara,

last weekend in Niagara On The Lake and if it weren’t for the guide with the candle, well I was pretty much in the dark the entire time anyway. Let’s see what I can dream up.

Check out my previous story,

Acrophobia,

and now…enjoy getting lost in the darkness.

***

5.
Darkness. Nothing tightens our breath or sends chills down our spine like the idea of walking through a dark forest, alone. We know it’s full of trees and timid squirrels, but we know that’s beneath the sunlight. The night tells a different story. The night is dark and quiet, and unknown. We hate when we have to trust that there’s nothing following us and we hate to be lost for we know there are times when the strength of our mind and the strength of our legs simply isn’t enough.

***

This historical ghost walk is going to be a peace of cake, she thinks. After all, she is in a fairly large group of people. What could possibly go wrong?

She wakes suddenly. Something is not quite right. Her head is swimming and she reaches out in the dark that surrounds her and in the blank part of her own mind. She can’t remember what happened, how she ended up here, or indeed where here even is.

It is dark. That is all she knows.

She stands unsteadily and fully takes in her situation. She had been exploring this historic site with a group of other curious people. Where had they gone?

She couldn’t stay here. The tree roots caused her to stumble as she began to grasp the fact that she was totally alone.

The others must have not noticed she was missing or they would have sent someone to find her. Surely those who knew this spot best would have found her, no problem.

As she moved slowly through the ever enveloping darkness she heard noises somewhere out there and shivered. Was this some bad dream she was having in response to her decision to go on that bloody, excuse the term, ghost tour that evening? She probably should have just stayed home. Lesson for next time: trust her instincts.

There was no more group of people surrounding her, allowing her to shake off her nervousness. No longer was there a confident tour guide with a candle to lead the way. The darkness felt heavy and seemed to weigh heavily on her limbs.

She spotted one of the buildings up ahead, a dark shape looming out of the rest of the darkness. She approached it with a mixture of relief and hesitancy. Something told her this building wouldn’t hold the safety and protection she hoped it would. It would be just as dark, or darker inside. Maybe she was better off staying out here.

She reached for the wall and slumped down, her back to it. Any strength she may have had was waning. What if she didn’t make it to morning and the relative certainty of rescue?

No no no. What a silly thought. Someone would be back and they would find her and apologize profusely for losing track of her like this. This definitely was not a part of the tour.

Suddenly a horrible moaning came from somewhere out there. It was a sound unlike anything she had ever heard. It was, undoubtedly, the sound of someone experiencing great suffering.

She had the urge to run to and from it. She wanted to help who ever that was in such agony, but at the same time she could not escape the darkness and wished to run in the opposite direction, even if it brought her into more unknown, pitch blackness. She could not go, and yet she could not move.

A figure came near then, running and dropping something as it passed her. It seemed to take no notice of her, but ran from the direction of the screams.

“Wait!”
The fleeing figure did not stop and appeared not to notice or hear her.
She stood in fear and picked up what the passerby had let fall.

She felt the sticky rag between her fingers, but could not see what this was in all the dark.

All she could do was smell the thick metallic odour and she knew it was the blood of the one letting out those terrible sounds, somewhere out there in the abyss.

The darkness seemed to take over than and the last thing she heard was more screams and moans and the scent of blood on the rag in her hand choked her as she slid down into a darkness so thick she felt like she would be trapped in this black pit for eternity.

***

So there you go and here we are at the end of October and the end of this series.

I don’t know if I frightened you with any of my stories, but I sure frightened myself. I wrote about fears I have had and I want to thank

Young And Twenty,

one more time for providing the blog post and the inspiration these last five Fridays, with her:

5 Fears and What They Say About Us.

Are you afraid of the dark?? I don’t require lights on to get around my house in the middle of the night. You’d think I had no fear of the dark if I had been so used to it, but depending on my circumstances I can be very jumpy.

What are you most afraid of? Do you have a phobia of some kind? How has it affected you?

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