The Celestial Snail #5wordshuffle

Five Word Shuffle Fun for July 11, 2019

writing

The game is simple! Using the five words below, I am to write a flash fiction piece under 500 words. This piece is 495.

  • triangle
  • incident
  • quota
  • snail
  • total

#5wordshuffle

five word shuffle

This is a story concept I’ve been writing on for awhile, but this piece is brand new and written just for this shuffle!

The Celestial Snail

Virginia Carraway Stark

The Celestial Snail appeared at Belle’s side, nuzzling her with his eye stalks and interrupting her train of thoughts. She shut the book she hadn’t been reading anyhow and rubbed Herman’s head, ignoring the pearlescent goo that came off on her hand and cooing at the snail. His total size was about five times the size of the slight girl, but she had never been afraid of Herman or of any of his Celestial friends. Her father had taken the first incident where she had seen a Celestial squid as something to celebrate and since that day that a squid tentacle had swept her off her feet, she’d received a regular quota of visitors, always of the aquatic variety. It seemed that was where her talents lay.

Other than her father, it was unlikely that anyone would ever see Herman or her other friends. His eye stalks nuzzled against her, nudging her to stand up. She tried to give him a pat and hoped that would be the sum total of the incident, but of course, he wanted more.

His eyes closed on their stalks and formed a persuasive triangle, good for prying girls off the ground where they’d rather be reading than following slime trails (no matter how pretty the Celestial Slime may be). Belle stood up and tried to get some of the goop off of her.

Her father, love him as much as she might, always tried to get her to bring back anything Celestial she might find, but coming home with hands covered in slimes was an incident that was asking more of a young girl than any father had a right to ask!

“Herman, I don’t think today is a good day for an adventure. I think you have more than your quota of adventures for a snail, even a celestial one.”

He looked at her mournfully and Belle put a stalk of grass in her place in her book. Her father never really expected her home at any time at any rate and he’d be disappointed if she turned down an opportunity to become closer to the Celestial beings that Belle attracted to herself in droves.

Little was know about the beings, they made wherever they were fruitful and they filled the air with moisture, healthy, happy clouds blossomed where celestial beings flourished. Most people couldn’t see them, but those who could either attracted the Heavenly Celestial Beings, like Herman the somehow beautiful giant snail, or… diabolical beings. Those beings dried out the soil and caused destructions. The Celestial Beings would vacate an area wherever the Diabolical beings invaded.

The sunshine was fading and a raindrop pelted Belle’s cheek. She looked up and saw black clouds rushing towards where she had been resting moments before. Herman moaned and nudged her again.

“I should warn my parents,” she murmured.

Herman pushed her, there’s no time. We must leave now. They’re coming.

The clouds were as Diabolical as Herman was Celestial.five word shuffle

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The Pretty Lifeguard

I want to talk about a pretty lifeguard.

She is a very pretty, blonde, willowy lifeguard who is also a good friend.

pretty lifeguard

We always had a lot in common. We were both whimsical, liked to sing, to dance, to swim, to run and play.

Some of my favorite memories together were coming into her living room (which always smelled like coconut) and she was resting upside down in an easy chair. Her head was balanced on the floor and her hair was cascaded around her. Her feet were pointed with excitement and she tensed them and relaxed them in the air above the chair’s headrest. Her body was poised with excitement, but her face was serious and studied. She held a pad of paper and a pencil in her hands that she rested on her chest.

writing pad

“Oh my goodness, I’m so glad you’re here!” She exclaimed when she saw me.

I had no idea why. I hadn’t seen her for quite awhile and I was surprised from things that had been whispered in my ear that she was excited to see me at all.

“What are you doing?”

She flipped her legs over her head and tumbled to her feet. She reached out a hand and I steadied her. The dizzy fit passed as quickly as it came on, it seemed and I didn’t think about it, or the fact that she’d never gotten dizzy like that before.

She clambered back into the chair, this time upright. If I had known more, I would have realized that was a symptom of her invisible illness.

invisible illness 2

“Alright,” she was breathless. “Listen very carefully to this, and tell me what you think.”

She read the short poem she had on the pad, her blue eyes were large with expectation when she looked up at me. It was a couple of sets of rhyming couplets, something romantic. I wasn’t sure what to say. It meant a lot to her, I could tell that… but what was I supposed to be listening carefully to?

I pulled my hair back and thought about what she had just read to me.

“Do you want to hear it again?” She asked anxiously.

writing

“That might be a good idea,” I agreed. What on earth… don’t talk to someone for a week and then this happens?

She clambered upside down again, perhaps more blood to the brain was called for or it read better that way?

I wish I could remember what the poem was, I asked her if she remembered it and said she didn’t. She said that if she’d written poetry it must have been awful.

Print

I wasn’t sure what merits I was supposed to be judging the poetry by, or if she’d even written it. She’d told me nothing! She read the poem out again, this time I decided it sounded like perhaps someone expressing a sentiment to someone, some sort of monologue?

Her cheeks were pale but had little pink blotches from her acrobatics, “well, what do you think?” She was more insistent.

“It was… good?” I tried.

She shook her head, and put up a hand as though to stop such sentiments in their tracks, she lowered her face so her hair covered it as though to disguise further signifiers. In retrospect, a bellyful of education behind me, I should have understood what she was after… right?

invisible book cover

I wrote a story for “Invisible: the mystery  of hidden illness” after being struck by a car and developing PTSD. I suddenly understood how PL felt and how she had been misinterpreted. You can read more about my story in a separate blog and don’t forget to get a copy of the book as well! It’s made the top 100 in Canada! 

 

“Well… who do you think wrote it?”

“Umm, you?”

She threw down the paper and pencil. I could see that words had been erased until their was no more eraser and then crossed out.

writing pencil

“No!”

She abandoned the notepad like it was rubbish and stalked into the kitchen. I read the poem over. It sure looked like she’d been writing it.

“Who wrote it then?”

“You were supposed to say you thought Shakespeare wrote it.”

shakespeare rainbow

I didn’t point out that she’d clearly been writing the poem so I had assumed she had written it. I read it yet again. It was a love ode, I think she mentioned a dove.

“It’s iambic pentameter for school. I thought it sounded just like Shakespeare,” she sighed, despondent and then bounced back and brightly offered me some lemonade.

She ripped out the page and let it crumple down to the carpet. She wiped away the hurt and I didn’t think about it again… much. It’s a confession that writers’ carry. Every event, every human reaction around with them, occasionally taking them out and turning them over and looking at them, learning from them.

I turn that memory over now, not the conversation that followed, not that she wanted to sound like Shakespeare, but that one moment. The one where her face flinched in pain and hurt and her enormous blue eyes sparkled like lakes about to overflow into streamlets. So briefly that it was nearly not even something that could be observed.

When I asked her about it, she said she didn’t remember it. I’m sure she’d say that it wasn’t important, but I bring it up to show an insidious chain of events. These sorts of events happen every day and people with invisible illnesses are particularly prone to having these bad chains happen to them. They’re such little things, but they make this writer question: what if I would have given the correct response? Would that have stayed with the pretty lifeguard and made a love of writing blossom instead of being a forgotten, incidental memory?

i am a writer

Let me share a bit more of my perspective and perhaps it will become more clear. The Pretty Lifeguard, we’ll call her PL, was diagosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and I hadn’t seen her for awhile when I came to her house that day.

Now, expand further: I described the scene as though I was alone when I went to her house, but that wasn’t the case. There was someone else there, someone who had been telling me things about PL and making me feel isolated from PL. Despite having CF, her friends and people who appeared to be her friends, were seeing something else. They were seeing someone isolate themselves from the rest of the herd; the question was, why was she separating from the herd?

It was a question that PL had tried to answer, but a question that her friends had a hard time understanding. PL made a point of continuing with her job as a lifeguard, that’s a smart thing to do. Regular exercise is important for everyone, but especially for people who are chronically ill! She did her hair and makeup, she got a trip to Hawaii in the hope that the sun and the beach would make her feel better. She got a sunbed for the same reason.

invisible illness 3

Yikes! Did you just see what I saw? A green eyed monster walked into the room and said: why does she get special treatment? She looks just fine.

This left PL open to machinations that she had no way to protect herself against.

I had been told quite a few things at this point about PL and her family. How they looked down on me, how they thought they were better than me and my family… all the things that people whose eyes have been invaded by the monster say. I was young and stupid. I avoided PL increasingly. I stopped inviting her to things because her answer was often, ‘no’. I never thought about how that must have made her feel, to be increasingly isolated by ‘the herd’ so those days when she felt like she could be a bard and write like Shakespeare, her friends weren’t quite on the same page as her.

lemonade

The friend I was with gave me significant looks, they told me afterward… well, things that weren’t very nice. Yes, I fell for it. I wish I hadn’t, because it turns out, PL had no ill intentions towards me whatsoever. They had never told X that I was any of the things X had said.

X pulled me out of PL’s house and said only a few things. Subtle things. Like most subtle poisoners, her victims, myself, people in our circle, PL had no idea that we were being poisoned.
green eyed monster

 

 

I’ve decided to write about that circle of friends. I’ve learned a lot about things that went on behind the scenes. I’m not going to write about it a non-fiction book, but I don’t think anyone would believe the things that went on anyway. I’ve started a third person perspective series about it, each character will be carefully fictionalized to be a ‘character’ but it will, nevertheless, be the story of the lives of many people. If they read it, I think each character will recognize themselves. That’s what good books are for, for us to be able to recognize ourselves in, right? 

I’m a # 1 Bestselling Author… but there’s more to it than that!

I’m a number one bestselling, award winning author… when did this happen???

number 1

Well, it’s been happening for a long time and as to HOW did this happen? I just kept going and don’t ever give up.

 

witch doctor title page

I always forget that I got this one! I need to staple a list of awards and achievements to something, like a book… of scraps… yeah, a scrapbook I’ll call it… 😉

But writing has taught me a lot about how we measure success. I have seen people become number one bestselling authors in pools so small that ‘bestselling’ becomes completely subjective. In this case, it was paid books, all categories in Australia (and I’m pretty sure someone said the USA as well), but it hit number one twice in Australia.

Australia is pretty big, so that’s cool. All categories. That’s also very cool. Paid- very cool. I know I’ve been a bestselling author before, the difference here is that it was all categories and it was also paid.

passionate to a fault

See below; Australia is a BIG place. Not a small pond. I’ve heard people claim bestselling status off of being the bestseller in their small town newspaper when two people bought their book!

australia

But again, it’s subjective.

I’ve gotten honorable mentions since the first movie I ever wrote: Blind Eye starring Rowdy Roddy Piper and Nick Mancuso and that was an honorable mention at Cannes! That’s definitely cool. But… what does it all mean? What do these fleeting victories do?

I was talking to one interviewer who didn’t know a lot about me. She started to ask me about what I had written, what I had achieved. This was a long time ago and I didn’t have nearly as much on my CV at the time. After a few minutes of talking she interrupted me and said, “wait a minute, why are you even talking to me?”

Virginia wins award carnival fun

One of several awards I’ve one, this one was for best novel. That was a good one to get because a novel is a substantial slice of work! I’ve been involved in anthologies that have wone awards and my own poetry anthology won an award as well. Lots of nominations and several other awards from various foundations that I’ve very grateful for!

But that’s exactly the thing with writing, there isn’t a point where you become too cool to do new things. At least, that’s my opinion. I don’t think you can ever measure writing success in terms of how much money it puts into your bank account. I don’t think you can measure it terms of awards, although both things are totally awesome.

 

honorable mention essays of the world

Sometimes an honorable mention can mean as much as an award. I sent letters to world leaders including Putin, Trudeau, Trump…. all with my peace essay in them. Did it make a difference. I don’t know. Did I try. Yep. Did I get observed for my efforts? Yes, someone noticed! I was even invited to a banquet in Chicago where I would have been a guest of honor if I could have gone 😀 What a cool, cool thing to have happen in my life! 

I think that the only way to measure success in writing is that you’re doing it and that it’s filling that hole inside of yourself. I’ve started to do a lot more marathoning and I enjoy that. I’ve been finding more and more ways to challenge myself and it pleases me to do those things.

worlds number 1 bestseller

I still get rejection letters, and I’m sure I always will. Even Stephen King, when he hid his real name and sent things under a pseudonym found the ignominy of the rejection letter once more. I don’t think that ever goes away if people are objective about you. Not everything you write fits everywhere.

Writing is a compulsion that must be fulfilled. Even if I am content, writing must be written. Pain, pleasure, contentment, everything must be written.

The Worlds drabbles that I wrote will be expanded into larger stories and will be finding a home in StarkLight 5 and Tales from Space 3. A drabble, being forced out in exactly 100 words is like a book mark for a larger concept. I plan on using each drabble I write as the basis for a short story at the least, a novella or novel if I possibly can.

In this way, I challenge myself again and again. Growing each thing I write, reaching ever further. Now that I’ve won awards, now that I’ve filled a shelf with my writing, now that I’m a paid number one author, now that I’ve read my poetry in front of large audiences to cheers, now that I’ve read my writing to large audiences to the same now that I’ve… there’s always more to do. That’s what living is. That’s why writing is so wonderful, writing IS living.

Girl (3-5) playing in mud
As always, writing will always, to me, be having the time of my life and inventing wonderful worlds just like I have since I was about 2-3 years old. Hell, since I was an infant most likely! 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years and who has ‘got’ my writing. Thank you to everyone who hasn’t ‘got’ my writing too… it’s elucidating to find how my mind works differently although it probably won’t change much about how I write. Although, I will always and forever be looking for better ways to communicate my insides to the rest of the world, because there is nothing as wonderful as that feeling of being ‘got’. That’s why we do it. Avid readers, avid writers, we all just want to get each other.

 

Also, thank you to everyone who is badly behaved, because as always, you’ll end up somewhere in my books. My dad once said to me, “It wasn’t fair raising you, I didn’t know you’d grow up to be a writer. I wouldn’t have raised you the way I did if I’d known you’d remember it and write about it.”

i am a writer

 

Writer says: hahah, we remember everything and it all, eventually gets told the way we saw it. So, thanks for all the memories! You’ll all be in my books and you never know when you’re around a writer… so maybe you should just be nice and decent 😉

have fun

Birthday Thoughts

I had a cool birthday this year. I can say that and really mean it, and that’s an epoch for me.

Months before my birthday I had ‘the talk’ with friends and family who wanted to know what I wanted to do for my birthday.

Right way I replied, “I don’t have one of those any more. Just let me hide under the covers for the day and it will be perfect.”

virginia surprised veil

A month or so before my birthday I looked online for a search of, ‘how to enjoy your birthday’ and, ‘how to have the best birthday by yourself’. The lists of results were typical of what you would expect: give yourself a spa day, watch movies, eat your favorite foods, go out for dinner, see how many birthday freebies you can get and make a run on them…

When you’ve looked death in the face, live a life beset by chronic pain after being run down by a van, been raised by abusive jerks who only ever loved themselves; you either sink and die, or you learn to make the best of every good moment that you have. I realized that any day I could, I did all the things on the list (except the freebie thing which didn’t sound very fun anyway!).

I give myself spa days and enjoy the days when I have little or no pain with the ecstasy of someone who knows the relief of when pain leaves. I enjoy a generally healthy diet; but I treat myself on high quality treats that bring more light and joy into my life. I don’t like going out for dinner the most because my husband and I are both excellent cooks and my husband was practically begging to let him make me a birthday dinner.

Neverthless; I learned something from the list: love yourself. Celebrate yourself.

Somedays it’s hard to do those two things. It’s a world that seems to love to beat us down instead of lift us up. It seems like things that should be innocent can turn and embroil you before you know it. It’s scary to let yourself love yourself again after the world tries to teach you that no one, including you, especially you, is worthy of love.

I realized that it was hard to enjoy a birthday for many reasons. I have some special ones that are documented with childhood photos where black eyes and bruised face and arms show how my dad reacted to his daughter looking so pretty in her new birthday dress. I don’t have a single birthday picture where by the end of the day, I’m not bruised from the age of four. That’s some tough birthday mojo to get over. That’s some pain that has to be a ‘top 100’ for reasons to never love having a birthday.

 

I was shown from an early age that my beauty equaled pain and a ‘punishment’ that was meant to be a show of ‘favour’ from my messed up dad. I was shown that every year, it got worse. The world got a bit smaller, there were new ways to be humiliated even if that was being overlooked once I got ‘too old’ for my dad (twelve was when he started to find my transformation into womanhood repulsive and get mad at me for each curve and adult feature that developed).

I had twelve birthdays where love equaled pain and bruises that were put into snapshots for the ages, after that, I was neglected and my family found new ways to hurt me. My mom forgetting it was my birthday to the point where I had to get my birth certificate was one of my neglecting traumas. She didn’t believe it was my birthday. I kept waiting for her to surprise me and say she was joking, but by the time I got my birth certificate out I knew there was no joke.

She rummaged in her purse and gave me a crumpled twenty dollar bill and told me to get myself a cake and birthday dinner with it. I biked to the store after school and bought the a cake mix and some soda. I went home to an empty house and made myself a cake. I iced it after it was cold and sat waiting in the darkening house for someone to come and remember me.

I put the candles I had bought on the cake, only fourteen, I lit them and sang happy birthday to myself and blew out the candles. The rich chocolate cake tasted like dust in my mouth and I left it with a bite taken out of it sitting on the kitchen table, the little bit of smoke dissipated already from the candles.

After that; I didn’t like my birthday. The year before I had waited by the window for my dad to show up: he showed up over a week late with a cheap necklace and a distracted hug. I should have been grateful that his attention wasn’t on me the way it had been when I was younger, but it only hurt all the more because it felt like for having birthdays I had let him down. I had gotten too ‘old’ for him.

“And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days…”
― Dylan Thomas, my now deceased mother’s favorite poet, Collected Poems

When I came downstairs the next day I saw that my mother and younger brother had eaten all of the birthday cake. I told my mom, ‘Happy Anniversary’ and kissed her on the cheek. I didn’t cry, I didn’t berate, but part of me closed a door on birthdays. My parents had been separated several years by then and the reminder that it was her anniversary to my dad was something that made my mom happy then. She still had hoped that he’d come home to her. She did cry and said, ‘thank you’ and then she hugged me tight. It was her day, she felt comfortable enough to give me a snippet of love then.

Years later I had  a teacher question my intelligence on my birthday in a way that was reprehensible and unexpected. I had hid away from the day but my husband had braved the outside world to attend a meeting and it had been he who had been confronted with the attack on me. I’m putting this in the kindest possible way, it was MUCH worse than I’m phrasing it here.

It was always something on my birthday. I had tried having big birthdays, little intimate get togethers, everything inbetween. Not even hiding under the covers was safe! I even had a therapist who suggested that I try moving my birthday to another day and month entirely because she saw the malignant pattern that stalked me and had tried for several years to help me evade it to no avail.

“I give up, there’s no fixing it! Just… I don’t know, maybe you could celebrate it in March or May??”

I agreed whole heartedly, but the problem was that April still existed and the twelfth day of April had to come no matter when I placed my birthday.

So this year, I tried to focus on what other people did for their birthdays. I know I’m not the only one with birthday trauma. Birthdays aren’t very fashionable, an uncomfortable reminder of mortality in a world that seems to speed up more and more every year.

I read an article, I’ll try to share the link, because it was the article that made me change my outlook on birthdays.

A fellow was talking about the AIDS epidemic and how traumatizing it was to see his young, beautiful, vibrant friends sickening and dying around him. He said that he called his mother, a loving woman and told him about his distress.

Her response was to talk about her own trepidation about aging and birthdays. He interrupted her and told her that this was different. These were young people, they hadn’t had a chance to live their lives and it wasn’t fair!

She silenced and for what he described as one of the rare times it ever happened, his mother became angry with him. “Is that what you think? That I’ve lived my life and that I might as well be dead? Do you think it’s any easier to leave the world when you’re my age than when you’re your age?

She proceeded to reveal to him the fears of aging, the terror of watching your body fall apart no matter what your age, the fear of losing your lover no matter how many wonderful years you had had together.

The journalist was now the age that his mother had been when he’d made that call and he had come to realize the wisdom of her words. He loved life, he had love, he also had loss… but we all have loss. The longer we’re blessed to live in this world, the more loss we have.

And the poignancy of the birthday became apparent to me. All the talk about self-love and spa days didn’t do the same thing that article did. After all, no matter how bleak the world has been to us, doesn’t it make the milestone of reaching another year all the more beautiful?

I had wanted to talk about how beautiful my family and friends had been to me this birthday, but there was too much wrapped up in why it mattered to me that those things happened this year. I found the love of the light enough in those words, the knowledge that I not only love myself, but that I am beloved to be beautiful.

I was still worried when ‘the day’ rolled around. It’s not like what they say with curses, just don’t believe in it and it can’t effect you’. No. It’s not like that at all. I’ve tried that. Whatever the birthday curse was, it was there whether I wanted to look at it or believe in it or not.

What changed wasn’t the gifts I was given, it wasn’t the people I surrounded myself in, it was a sort of treasuring of the day. It wasn’t a celebration, it was an opportunity to look to the past. It was a day to love myself for being a survivor and for having survived with love and light. I survived with the truth, without denial. I survived and I have another year ahead of me with the people I love and the things I love to do.

My situation is not ideal, but it’s so much better than so many other people in the world. It’s better even than it was for myself in previous years, because for the first time, I’ve told the entire world the truth of what my childhood was like. I feel sorry for my surviving brother and my half-sister who hide in denial and fear from the past. I feel proud of my older brother who tried to come to terms with the past before his sudden death. He and I were never close because we both tried to uphold the idea of having had a ‘normal’ life and all that was unsaid and the manipulations of the adults around us kept us from ever being close. But before the end, he said some of the truth and that’s better than the cowards who survived him and still try to placate and hide from the past so that they can find, ‘normal’.

preacherman family1

I have told the police the truth. I have told the page the truth and I have ensured that others will continue to exact some sort of leveling of the past as well. I’ve done everything I can for that little girl who sang happy birthday to herself. I did what I could for the four year old in a sailor dress whose bruises became more apparent as the day went on. I told the truth for the girl who was turning six and had the prettiest yellow gossamer dress down to the floor like a princess that clashed with the black finger marks on her cheeks.

Featured Image -- 1297

Love this little girl, she’s part of every birthday I will ever have and have ever had. 

These are the parts of myself that cannot understand the point of having a birthday. These are the parts that desperately needed to be acknowledged and told that they were loved. When it comes to self love, it isn’t enough to love who we are now. We have to love who we were on the journey that brought us here. We have to hear the lingering ‘Happy birthday to me,’ of the quavering little voice and love that girl. Be there for her.

Every year on my birthday I was shattered apart as the weight of these parts whose pain they never forgot, even when I had put it far from my mind.

Now that I’ve shared this, I feel more free to talk about the rest of my birthday. I have a new guitar that put the name on my band together, I was given my name on a kickstarter project for one of the most advanced mass produced Artificial Intelligence androids developed and a lot more!

I’m in a good place in my life considering what the world has given me to work with. I had a good birthday. My husband made me a cake (black forest, not too far from the dark chocolate cake a fourteen year old made for herself, but this was made with gourmet ingredients, not a cheap mix and we got to eat it!) he made me a feast as well! We had friends come by, I had gifts from friends, fans and family sent to me before and after my birthday.

Maybe a few people forgot, maybe a half sister who hates the truth remembered and didn’t say a word (to be fair, I didn’t send her a birthday greeting either… I don’t think it would have been welcome). The same is true for the little brother I raised, the brother who called me ‘mommy’ because our mother was never there for us. The same brother who lied to the police, repeating back his father’s lies for things he was in the cradle for and had no memory of as he told me several times.

sister family2 promo

Some people are best out of your life, other people, and the parts of myself, are best in my life. I’ll continue to remember. I’ll continue to bear the stigma of being an abuse victim (believe me, there’s no reason I would lie, it’s not fun having people think of me the way the truth allows).

Happy Birthday to all the birthdays that have been. All the years a little girl was her daddy’s princess and she was too pretty to be left alone. All the years that same girl took care of herself and her family at her expense. I have the truth and it’s the truth that makes a birthday a good day. It’s not acknowledging all the ‘yous’ you’ve been that makes them a curse.

 

 

Bio

Virginia Carraway Stark has published numerous novels. She has been part of dozens of anthologies, collaborations, guest blogs and has written screenplays that starred Rowdy Roddy Piper and Nick Mancuso. Virginia enjoys new writing experiences. She has taken part of many writing marathons both for poetry and novels. She’s a regular for the yearly novel writing exercise NaNoWriMo, the 24 hour poetry marathon and the 3 day novel writing competition. She has even contributed to online ‘choose your own adventure’ series! Virginia has won awards for her novels and poetry, her works have been part of other award winning series and nominated for her essays, blogging and other writing. She is well known for her passion her spirit of adventure both on and off the page. Her stories range from science fiction. Supernatural, horror and the true stories of her life. You can find her by Googling her or at www.virginiastark.wordpress.com and @tweetsbyvc. She loves to get fan mail and to take part in new adventures in writing.

virginia pink three quarter view

Her other hobbies include photography, gardening, quilting and various other forms of artistic expression

Promoting Your Work: You ARE Doing it Right

This is a difficult article to write because promotion of your writing is intensely personal. This is a collection of advice I’ve frequently give, advice I’ve frequently been given (and it has proven to be effective! Frequency of advice doesn’t always mean that it works!) and general observations from what I’ve seen and done over the years. This is by now means a definitive guide but read it through and some of it might be just what you’re looking for to improve your own promotional skills.

Being Constant. Constantly YOU.

I don’t mean constantly spamming your friends and family, that is in fact being a spazz. Don’t gush your enthusiasm and then deflate in despair. Look at what you’ve written and talk to people about it. A lot of the time having a comprehensive interest in your own writing will lead to invitations to engage in further conversations and interview. This happens because you’ve successfully expressed why you  spent so much of your time and energy writing whatever it is your’re promoting.

I mean be constant the way a butterfly will ‘constantly’ pollinate flowers. Butterflies aren’t looking for appreciation from the flowers, but despite acting on pure, intuitive needs, they provide a service for every flower they visit. Writing is giving a gift of leaving a trail of words behind you; if you’re lucky, people will find your words when they need to hear them. That’s when the real magic of writing manifests!

popular-fail

Take advantage of these invitations to showcase who you are; and don’t panic if it seems like you aren’t getting instant recognition!

I don’t mean ‘invitations’ in terms of who you wish you were or how you wish people would perceive you: people are sensitive to insincerity. This also doesn’t mean letting the worst of you out and being a depressive wreck during your interview. You need to be your best self, but still true to you. Be as honest as you can when you talk about your book and your process and don’t forget that this is a chance to engage someone not just in your promotion but in their promotion as well. Whoever is interviewing you is a human being too and listen to them and how they interact with you.

There are more deceased famous writers than living ones. You don’t know when you’ll be heard or if you’ll even be heard in your lifetime. The best way to promote yourself is by being you. Maybe there’s a dozen different ways to be ‘you’, explore them all. Be prolific if it’s in you to do so. Share and don’t count your value as a writer in terms of dollars earned.

i am a writer

Your life and your experiences will invade every aspect of your writing, go with it. Love it. Even when you think you’ve lost yourself in the page and the world has nothing to do with your life; one day, you’ll look back on your writing and see layers in what you were saying. 

You’ll know you are doing the right thing in promotions when you start to hear back from people and they say: what you wrote spoke to me. What you wrote was exactly what I needed to hear and it showed me the way when I felt like there was no way.

Those are the sorts of fan letters you want the most… those and the ones from fans who also send chocolate!

Getting Back to Unfinished Business

It’s the middle of February; if you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution, statistics say that you’ve likely broken it by now.

broken new years resolutions

I’m in a small minority of people who DOES manage to keep my resolution, I’ve kept my resolution for five years now and I’ll continue to keep it. The reason I’m so sure? I make the same resolution every year: For every project I start, I will finish one unfinished project.

One of the most difficult stumbling blocks to my resolution is when I attempt to finish a project that has involved other people. I’m working on a few unfinished projects this month. One of them is all mine, another involved Writer Colony Press and the other… well, not every group of people is unanimously concerned with finishing projects. But I’m sure it will have a happy ending one way or the other! Determination and good hearted people are far more endemic in the world than those who blindly roadblock because of their own bitter disappointments.

new years resolution

Writer Colony Press is a press that I’ve worked with before. A major project that we are working on is an anthology in memory of Terry Pratchett. The proceeds go to support the research that is ongoing into Alzheimers, the dreaded disease that robbed Mr. Pratchett of his brilliant mind and ultimately of his life.

the long night watch promo

I LOVE writing for The Longest Night Watch Anthology. It’s so much fun! I was reading a note and thought that I’d missed the 2018 call for stories… but it wasn’t, it was the call from 2017.

It turns out that I did have a story accepted for the call out and after a few people got to talking… everything came together and Volume 3 of the Longest Night Watch will soon be available for sale! Woohoo!

There is a phenomenon in the writing industry (and any creative pursuit) called the lure of the shiny new idea. The lure is a powerful thing and hard to resist.

The end result of chasing the lure of the shiny new idea is a plethora of unfinished projects that sit unread and unpublished. The fear of not following the shiny is that the beautiful new idea and the energy contained in it will be lost forever. It’s not cool to ignore the shiny new ideas; they’re part of what makes being a creative person so delightful!

But the downside is the huge number of files where you’re unsure of what exactly you were writing and where that idea was going… Onward! To the next shiny new idea!

It’s no way to live. It’s where the bad reputation of creativity comes from. Creative people are labeled as flakes, unreliable. We are being unreliable if we never finish the projects we begin. There’s a certain humility to bowing your head and gathering your energy for something that you neglected. It’s like asking for forgiveness after going on a shiny new idea binge (I’m sure there’s a twelve step program!).

One year I looked at the colossal number of unfinished projects and decided that I would devote time to each orphan project for each new one that I followed.

The results were astounding. First of all, I became extremely prolific because I had so many projects that were close to being finished. They only needed that last little bit of dedication to finish them. A little bit of elbow grease and voila! An entire novel was completed!

Second of all, I learned to have more stamina. Working on finishing these projects and realizing how much more work it is to lose my inertia by abandoning a project and returning at a later date taught me to have fewer orphan projects.

Third, it raised my self esteem. Every time something is abandoned, there is a part of our mind that secretly dwells, mourns and chastises us. You may not even realize it’s going on in the deep recesses of your mind until you pick up the project again. The guilt is even greater if other writers were involved. I’ve recently dealt with writers who, when approached about a project finished but unedited and dropped when it was slated to be published years ago, broke out in a rage!

(How embarrassing for them! Can you imagine the pain and guilt they’re experiencing to act like complete nut jobs because they feel so much like they’ve failed?)

Getting back to unfinished business has taught me one thing about writers and the writers who share the burden of publishing: some people are born writers and other people think they’re going to get rich and famous and write for no other reason.

I don’t believe that if you are a writer you can ever stop writing. You might have a pause, but I don’t think you can ever STOP. The rage of failure in particular convinced me of this. The person who was so angry had come to me years ago and put a post up in a writing group that I kept for the purpose of encouraging writers.

writing love

I was dubious about her, it seemed strange, opportunistic. She said that she had been an airplane hostess and that she was now pregnant and stuck at home: this seemed like a good idea.

She seemed like a goodhearted person so I let her solicit in my writing group for writers and contributed to her collaborations myself. When she came to write in a collaboration that I was directing, things abruptly changed. When someone else is guiding things, I’m quick to agree, quick to change my writing, it’s their ship, I’m not going to argue with them! Suddenly when she was on my project, she became pugnacious and angry when I pointed out a chapter she had written that made no sense.

She quickly came to the conclusion when other people noticed the same problems, that we were ganging up on her! Unknown to me, this disagreement resulted in her nurturing a long, simmering hatred toward me that makes here look like a mad women! Unfortunately, she’s one of the people who is involved in a long ago project that I’m trying to get to the light of day. She furiously asserts that no one can take anything anywhere… if I’m involved in editing.

I think the fact that her publishing project ceased to produce projects and didn’t generate revenue may have contributed to her anger. It convinced me that she had never been a writer at all and gave me fresh determination towards my ‘orphans’. Her assertions that she owned everyone’s writing (except mine, since I had it in writing that I owned everything I wrote before I contributed) were not answered when I asked her what legal contracts she had to say she owned the other’s writing.

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It’s amazing how success, even if that success is simply to make sure that things get finished and that you keep on keeping on- can make some people furious!

If you are a writer, you need to write. When things are bad, you need to write more than a junky needs heroin. For other people, when things are bad, and success is unseen, they drop their writing and slink away, ashamed of what they see as failure.

The only failure is giving up on what you’ve begun. The only failure is fury over creativity and a generous heart. The only failure is in the orphans you’ve left behind and never revisit.

So hurray for all those people brave enough to pick up their orphans and to keep on keeping on! Hurray for all the people who get some joy out of the orphans who are reclaimed and brought home to get their life completed, no longer miscarriages, but happy, joyful children that are sent out into the world.

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Most of all, hurray for Volume 3 of The Longest Night and all the warriors and loving guardians of the written word who have picked up their words and returned to finish this volume of hope and humor. Congratulations to everyone at The Writer’s Colony on the upcoming publication and picking up the longest night watch… the watch over our own creative whims.

longest night3 promo

Always Passionate, Always Authentic, Always Virginia