This month is my birthday month. It’s a milestone birthday. Which means…. Milestone surprises. And I’m already being spoilt…
The Uses of Sorrow | Mary Oliver
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
…And today I felt like I was drowning in this ocean wave of grief and pain and lostness. I felt overwhelmed and raw with too many emotions trying to come out all at once…Then I knew I needed to quiet the ocean of noise in my brain. The only way I know how to do this is to Write! So here I have been writing in this journal on and off all afternoon/night. I don’t think the noise in my brain has died down yet. But it feels cathartic to see my thoughts and feelings in black permanent ink on a white page…-I need my poems to truly expel all this grey emotion. I’ve been purposely staying away from working on my poetry because I don’t want to actually face all these emotions. But I know I’m drowning beneath all my emotions/thoughts…the only way I know to come up and out from under all of this is through my poetry. It is my own life-raft. I need to get back in my life-raft… | excerpted from my journal ~ Greece, September 2016
I have always been fascinated with the spaces where creatives love to retreat to. I loved the Hachette vlog series #WhereIWrite. I absolutely love Catching Days’ How We Spend Our Days interview series where Cynthia Newberry Martin asks writers to guest-post on how they spend their days. I have also just recently found the delightful rabbit hole of Novelicious’s My Writing Room.
To me there is something sacred about being let into a creative space. For many creatives, this space is often where they feel most like themselves. It is a nest where they can retreat to succour their creativity. So I thought I would invite you into my #WriteSpace for a short while.
I am definitely a #PlanItOnPaper gal. I love my tech but for actually planning tasks and then ticking off/crossing off tasks done, nothing beats a paper planner for me. I also prefer a bound lay-flat planner rather than a ringed planner. Last year was my introduction to the Hobonichi – a Japanese bound planner system (available in 3 sizes) with Tomoe River Paper (Very high quality fountain pen friendly paper) – and for my first year using Hobonichi, I bought the Hobonichi Cousin (A5). I loved the Hobonichi Cousin so much that I knew that I wanted to get all 3 sizes this year. I love compartmentalising my planning. I like having an everything hold-all planner – both personal and professional – which I prefer in an A5 size. But I knew I wanted separate, smaller planners for both my personal life and a dedicated planner/logbook for my writing.
It’s been 5 months since … Last Post
So let me begin by stating the obvious…It has been a
while a long while a bloody long while since I posted on here. WordPress is kind enough to inform me that it has been 5 months since my last post. So why the deep buzzing of mosquitoes and no posts you may wonder? I could tell you I have been:
swamped ~ overwhelmed ~ stressed ~ burnt-out ~ burnt-through ~ exhausted ~ sick&tired.
All of the above would be true and accurate. But mostly I have been so quiet because I have just been learning to
Stop holding my breath
and just breathe…
This year has been a tough one filled with more darkness than light, in more ways than one. But the important thing, even in an Annus Horribilis, to remember is that there have been slivers of light. The last 5 months I have been searching for and storing those slivers of light. That is why I have been quiet online. I needed to take a breath and then to breathe out again. Breath by breath.
It got too dark for me to write. So instead of forcing it, I did the unthinkable, and just stopped. I realised I needed to refocus on myself, get my emotional + physical health on a better footing. I needed time to just learn to breathe again because there have been moments this year when it took all my energy reserves just to breathe.
I could go into a few logical reasons as to why I didn’t want to write but that wouldn’t be quite accurate. The worst thing was that I DID want to write. But my well was empty. A perfect storm of events + emotions + health (lack of) = Empty, dried up well of creativity/inspiration/focus. Things, past things, that I had boxed up and stored in a dank, forgotten basement in my memory crept up out of the darkness and demanded to be dealt with. Where I thought I had been brilliant at compartmentalising I was proven wrong. Because nothing had been thrown away instead the boxes had just been hidden.
But I’m still upright. Bruised, battered and scarred from the Past-become-Present and the Present, kneeling but upright. Ironically enough it has been this WIP – Tattooist – that has forced me to deal with those memory-monsters hidden away in boxes in that dank, forgotten basement. I was feeling claustrophobic because it was in the writing and rewriting of Tattooist that these memory-monsters started creeping out. Tattooist was their siren call. So I did the only thing I could do, I boxed up Tattooist and all the poisonous emotions and I faced down my hungry memory-monsters. I faced them and although they put in more than a good fight, I conquered my inner demons and released those hungry memory-monsters.
That is what I have been doing for most of this year and all of the last five months. I haven’t been writing but I have been healing. In the next few weeks I’ll share a little on how and where I found the small slivers of light that took me from a dark place up into a place of faint, but growing, light.
Today there are exactly 6 weeks left of 2015. 42 Days. I won’t lie by saying I’ll miss 2015. I won’t. But today, with just 6 weeks left of 2015, I embrace my personal Annus Horribilis and I thank it. I embrace the hungry memory-monsters and I thank them. I embrace my stalled WIP and thank it. I embrace my creative claustrophobia and I thank it. I embrace the dark nights of my soul and thank them. I look at the reflection in my mirror and I see a woman who is stronger for the struggles and I thank her. I embrace and thank the girl that stands in this woman’s shadow, a reminder of what hope, joy, optimism and love look like.
So today there are 6 weeks left of 2015. 42 Days.
I have been holding my breath but now I’m breathing again. I’ve exhaled the darkness and I’m inhaling the light. It is time to dust off the creative cobwebs of that dank basement and step into an open space. A space where there is light and where I can breathe without fear, without panic, without doubt, free from the shackles of the past. A space where I can pour the elixir of story back into my soul. Tattooist calls me again but now I am ready to accept the call not as sirens calling me near treacherous, dangerous rocks but as a lighthouse guiding me back home to the written page.
So today there are exactly 6 weeks left of 2015. 42 Days. 42 Fresh starts. 42 Days to start over…
What are you going to do with your one precious life these 42 days?
This year is all about Getting Things Done.
I have my focus word to drive me forward: PUSH
I have a writing plan set into motion for 2015.
So, of course, the next step was an accountability plan. It is one thing having plans and talking about them at the beginning of a year. But it becomes an “expectation” when you’re made accountable. I am lucky enough to have an incredible Story Sister in my friend Darcy Conroy. Every writer needs another writer that they can turn to. You could call it a critique partner, a writing partner, a colleague but most importantly for me we all need support and Darcy is this support person for me.
But sometimes you need further accountability and then something like ROW80 happens.
ROW80 = Round Of Words in 80 days
What is RoW80?
The writing challenge that knows you have a life.
Perfect for rewrites/writing/editing
I signed up for the last round, there are 4 rounds per year, last year but life interruptus happened and I was not able to get everything done I wanted to for ROW80.
So I have signed up again for the first round this year. I have a writing plan and focus that is very specific this year. But there is something about Writing Down an action plan in S.M.A.R.T. bite size chunks that makes your plan doable.
2015 ROW80 Rnd #1
1. Be kinder to myself
This year I am going to be kinder to myself both personally and professionally. As a perfectionist and a daughter of a German mother, most times I do not need any other critics because I am my own worst critic. I am “never good enough” and things I do are “never perfect enough”.
I am shaking off the old German professor on the side of my shoulder and I am going to go easier on myself.
I am not going to use the words: _____…
not good enough / ____… not perfect.
I am also going to stop beating myself up about work not done on days when the migraine monster comes calling. Instead I am going to work through the good days and on the bad days I am going to be kinder to myself.
2. Listen to my body, nurture my body
I have a tendency to push past pain until I create more pain. It is one of the reasons I have never needed a personal trainer to push me to train. Rather I need someone there to help me put the brakes on.
Last year I ignored my body’s messages for far too long and put my physical health at risk which impacted on my writing life.
This year I am making a firm decision to intentionally listen to my body and to intentionally nurture my body.
3. Unplug, destress, relax…more
At the end of last year I took a wonderful week off…a week off from the internet, the constant information overload, the television and got back to nature. I realised 1 week per year of this unplugging needs to be more.
So this year I am taking every Sunday/Monday back.
Every Sunday: Complete unplug. No internet. No writing. No television.
Every Monday: Unplugged (except for the first Monday/month when I co-host #Storycraft on twitter). No writing.
Intention #2015 – I want to take a whole week off (Sunday – Sunday) once every 3 months and unplug completely.
To PUSH forward I need to allow myself rest days where I stand still in order to energise myself for the next week.
4. Make more time to read
Last year I did not read as much as I wanted to. Mostly because I was battling sapping energy/concentration levels. This year I want to read more for pleasure. As a writer, I do read a lot but this year I want to read every day.
I’ll also be reviewing more books. I have baulked for a while about reviewing books but realised that before I am a writer, I am and have always been a voracious reader. So I am going to set an intention to have a Kaffeeklatsch, where I discuss my current reads along with what coffee I am drinking, at least once a month, aiming for two per month on Wednesdays.
5. Getting words done in S.M.A.R.T bite-size chunks
I have been looking for a productivity tool for a while now.
The thing is: I love being organised but I hate lists. But this week I found an app that just Zings for me.
It is called droptask.
It is the Visual task organiser/project planner/team collaboration tool that is built for some like me. It is visual, colourful and there is no list in sight. Instead of telling you I am going to show you what it does.
Along with Tappsana/Asana, Droptask and my incredible Lifetopix organiser – Aside: watch for a “Favourite Productivity Tools and “How I use them” post next week Thursday – I am completing small daily bite-size goals of words done/edited/rewritten instead of just focusing on a large, looming volcano of a deadline.
6. Accept “Good Enough” and Move Forward
Words are never “done” for me. I can edit until the proverbial cows come home and leave again. But…this year I am going to STOP at “good enough”. At the end of the day I need to accept what I have done and the next day “turn the page” and move towards the next goal-post.
So I have come up with a plan for myself. Every day I am going to print off the page/s I have completed and file them. That means I am not allowed to go back over those pages on the screen once I have printed them. I am also filing them away digitally in my Dropbox as an added backup.
7. Finish and Submit
I have the intentional goal of finally finishing my Rewrite on Tattooist and submitting it to publishers. I am itching to get this rewrite done and dusted and off my computer screen onto a potential publisher/editor’s screen so that I can move on to something new and shiny. I already have a loose plot for book #2 in The Blood & Ink series and even have a working title. So the sooner I finish the rewrite on The Tattooist (Book #1) the sooner I can get going on book 2.
The long-year goal for this year is to find a publishing home for Tattooist (Book #1) and secure a publishing home for “The Blood & Ink” series.
8. PUSH forward
PUSH : My intention and focus for 2015. PUSH forward with each new day’s task. Focus on the small goals in order to Push forward to the large goals. Push past procrastination and perfectionism and get to Progress and Achievement.
PUSH = Persist Until Something Happens
Check in with what the other writers are doing for #RoW80.
Tell me: What are your intentions for 2015?
Imagine being one small part, a word, of a story…Now imagine your skin being part of a global story.
This is what SKIN is.
…while thinking about how much I liked forms that reflected their content, I thought of my unfinished story “Skin,” and suddenly it suddenly occurred to me that there is a kind of “publishing” we already do on skin: tattooing. The idea of publishing a story on volunteers, one word at a time, was only a few mental leaps away. The whole concept of the Skin project leapt into my mind in that moment. I put out a call for participants in summer of 2003…
– Shelley Jackson
2003 – Shelley Jackson came up with this idea to craft a new medium for story. She would write the 2095 word story and then request volunteers to have one word of the story tattooed on their bodies.
…The existence of the author is a necessary flaw in this (every?) story. But this project makes me keenly aware that I am not the only, or even always the dominant voice in it. I recently took great pleasure in watching three “words” coach a fourth, nascent word through her first tattoo: “Have you eaten anything? Here, have this apple. Do you want us to hold your hand?” My presence was a comfortable irrelevancy to them at that moment. Furthermore, my story is being rewritten, one word at a time, by my participants. As my words enter the specific contexts of their lives, they change forever. In the end, 2095 other people will have signed their names to my story…
– Shelley Jackson
Each person would be given a word by Shelley and would then need to tattoo this word on their body. Once accepted as a WORD each volunteer would then receive the complete story. The provision being that they would keep this story forever confidential.
…I was quite serious when I called this a Mortal Work of Art. As words die, the story gradually changes; it’s possible that the first word will die before the last one has been published, meaning that no complete version will ever appear. But I consider each version of the story legitimate; each successively shorter version of the story that will be created by these deaths is the story too, right down to the one-word story that will be its final printed form. If all my words hold to their promise not to share the story, that will truly be the end. The work includes its own disappearance in its aesthetic project, so it is not complete until it is gone. However, like all living things, each “word” has a complex destiny of his or her own, affecting many other lives, and I consider that part of my project too. When I die, the destiny of the project will fall into the hands of the remaining words, who might decide, who knows, to do something different with it than I intended! Some people have asked if they could will their words to their children, creating a second-generation story…
– Shelley Jackson
I love the idea of this project on so many levels. I love the exclusivity of the story only being made available to 2095 people. I love the secrecy and the intimacy of tattooing a story one word at a time on different people around the world. I love the idea of being a WORD in a story in both a figurative and a literal sense.
Tattooing is an ancient art form. I have always been fascinated by the whole process of tattooing.
Who gets a tattoo?
Why they get a tattoo?
Where they choose to be tattooed?
“There is something wonderfully melancholic about a piece of writing that’s living flesh and finally dies and is grieved over.”
– Shelley Jackson
Tattooing is one of the most intimate experiences.
I have long been fascinated with tattoos and I have been designing my “dream” tattoos for years now. I have not yet found the perfect tattoo that I would want inked on me permanently yet so the search continues. But a tattoo is so much more than a symbol or a fashion accessory, in many cultures it is an integral part of the culture’s history and spiritual practices. Tattooing is a bizarrely intimate ritual: a ritual where a person literally carves a symbol, words or an image into your skin with permanent ink.
…the body interests me most as something to write about, not to touch (not in a professional capacity, anyway). I am fascinated above all with using it as a object of fantastical transformations, because we care about the body and we know it intimately, and I think that makes it possible to invest bizarre scenarios with very strong, creepy, personal feelings…
– Shelley Jackson
As a writer alone this bizarre ritual where blood and ink are fused together into a permanent “stain” sparks my imagination.
This long-held personal fascination with tattoos and the desire to seek out their history in different cultures sparked the idea behind The Tattooist my current WIP.
Would you get/Do you gave a tattoo?
Do you prefer Literary (words/quotes/mantras) tattoos or image tattoos?
Would you be a WORD for Shelley Jackson’s SKIN project?
All Quotes courtesy of
Written on The Body: Interview with Shelley Jackson
Images courtesy of Shelley Jackson’s Ineradicable Stain
So I have seen a few posts on various blogs, facebook statuses and twitter where writers give the world a glimpse into their google searches. I was mostly inspired by the post by Leigh. K. Hunt.
As a writer I tend to do a lot of research. I do it the old fashioned way by taking out library books. Believe me I have lived down my fair share of raised eyebrows by blue-rinsed-haired little old ladies at the check out counter. Sometimes I am tempted to ask them what they are thinking as they stamp my books of nefarious themes.
But I probably do about 60% of research with the help of Google. Google is my friend. Although sometimes that friend takes me to places I may not want to go. Did I mention I Love to research. When I get started with a new W.I.P (Work in Progress) it becomes both an obsession and an addiction to research. Let me preface this by saying, for those who don’t know me, I don’t write romance. I write about serial killers, unsolved murders and the paranormal.
Unlike actors who like to use The Method school of acting, it is unadvisable for a thriller writer to try this method to better get into their character’s minds. Unadvisable because it would mean breaking quite a few laws, committing crimes, having to evade the law by obtaining a false identity and skipping the country to some tropical island where nobody speaks your language (preferred), where cocktails are the preferred beverage (goes without saying) and where there is no internet (less likely to be caught by the law).
Although in the interests of being open and honest, I have placed my body in weird death positions to see if it is physically feasible to lie in that way. As I reread what I just wrote I realise how ridiculous my logic is because after all if you’re dead it does not matter if it is “physically feasible” to be in your death position.
I have been a thriller and crime reader since I can remember. For me the thriller especially gives the deepest insight into what makes the Homo sapiens tick and more importantly what makes the ticking manic enough to give into a darker nature. I follow true life crime stories too because of this same fascination. So naturally it was natural that I fell into writing about the darker side of human nature.
Of course by now we are all aware that every little thing we do online is seen somewhere by someone, usually a worker drone at some international alphabet lettered company. If you’re online, you’re not private. I have often wondered what people would think about my google history.
So first let me repeat that I AM A PARANORMAL THRILLER AUTHOR.
It is vital that in the interests of authenticity, I must know about what I write. Which is where Google comes in. Just like the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”; Don’t judge this writer by her google search history nor by the books she chooses to write.
Let me ensure you:
I am sane.
I do not have mental issues.
I do not want to nor have I murdered anyone.
I do not keep a list of people who annoy me.
I do not own a weapon of any sort.
I do know how to take an intruder or person with bad intent down.
I do know how to take a weapon off someone.
History of Tattoos
Mythology of Tattoos
Understanding Serial Killers
Serial Killers, Motives, Crimes
Psychopaths vs Sociopaths
The Nature of Evil
CSI and Forensic Investigations
Multiple Personality Disorder
Dissociative Identity Disorder
Nurture vs Nature
Crime in New Orleans
Old New Orleans
The History of New Orleans
New Orleans Mardi Gras
New Orleans Jazz
French Quarter, New Orleans
Streets of New Orleans
Famous sites in New Orleans
Food in New Orleans
Crime in New Orleans
Crime Investigation in New Orleans
So what’s in your Google Search History?
Do you make the cut for any Big Brother Suspects list?
What is the weirdest thing you have searched for on Google?
Posts of Interest
Books that I recommend to hide those weird search subjects from Big Brother:
I just recently found the books below and now I swear by them. I have not given up Google yet but these books answer so many questions about forensics in fiction, many I had not even thought of. Both books are in question/answer format. The questions come from fiction authors and the answers come from experts in the forensics/medical/criminal investigation/legal fields.
Highly Recommend adding these two books to your book shelf. Even if you are not an author the books are intriguing enough to keep anyone interested.
Related Posts as suggested by my good friend: Google
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The Tattooist – Blood & Ink #1
I was reading an article about tattooing and how intimate an art form it can be and it sparked an idea. A few nights after reading this article I dreamed the first scene of the story. I woke up at 4am and started jotting down the dream and within a couple of hours I had the first draft’s main plot-points drafted out.
Paranormal Psychological Thriller
Heroine = Sasha RouletteKeira Knightley is the perfect actress to play my main character in The Tattooist. She has that rare quality of being believable as a bad girl turned good but also has this raw vulnerability that gives her depth. Keira IS Sasha in The Tattooist.
Hero = Shane PatrickColin Farrell IS my bad boy hero. He is the perfect flawed character, the bad boy who you want to reform. He IS Shane Patrick, my bad boy hero.
Villain = Michael DaliFor my villain I needed to cast someone intense, charming, seductive but chilling – who better to fit this role than Viggo Mortensen. My villain is known by many names but the one he chooses to call himself is Michael Dali. Killing is not just an occupation but it is a calling and an art form to this ice-cold killer. Viggo IS Michael Dali.
A paranormal psychological thriller about a tattooist who bonds psychically with the people she tattoos who realizes that she can now read a sadistic serial killer’s mind and is the only one who can stop him but if she can read his mind, can he read hers?
I will be submitting it to agents.
I am still in the process of the first draft but typically a first draft takes me 4-6 weeks to write.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I have long been fascinated with tattoos and I have been designing my “dream” tattoos for years now. I have not yet found the perfect tattoo that I would want inked on me permanently yet so the search continues. But a tattoo is so much more than a symbol or a fashion accessory, in many cultures it is an integral part of the culture’s history and spiritual practices. Tattooing is a bizarrely intimate ritual: a ritual where a person literally carves a symbol, words or an image into your skin with permanent ink. As a writer alone this bizarre ritual where blood and ink are fused together into a permanent “stain” sparks my imagination. This long-held personal fascination with tattoos and the desire to seek out their history in different cultures + the article I read sparked the idea for The Tattooist.
The Tattooist is the first book in a Series: The Blood & Ink Series. The what if’s started piling up in my imagination and before I knew it I had a plot.
Next the characters themselves inspired me to write their story. All three main characters, the heroine, the hero and the villain have a very strong voice. I also wanted to write a story where the heroine is not your typical girl next door or perfect heroine. I love flawed characters and characters that have to fight their way through life. All three of my main characters are deeply flawed and in this story the truth is never just black and white. Nobody is all good or all bad in this story.
The story’s theme is about facing the fact that we all have darkness within us and that we could all be pushed to give in to that darkness if the stakes are high enough. All three main characters, the two protagonists and the antagonists fight this inner darkness as their own demons threaten to overwhelm them. At the end of the day whether they choose the darkness or the light is what will be both the making and the breaking of them.
- New Orleans
- Criminal Profiling
- Serial Killers
- Evil vs Good
- Darkness vs Light
- Psychic powers
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress)
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing: