Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Ice Age Cometh

Staring out the window, I watch fat snowflakes land on the mound in front of my apartment. As each conglomeration tumbles before sticking, my mind turns to a favorite movie. A work of fiction, Day After Tomorrow is woven around fact and depicts the coming of a new Ice Age. Before the Big Freeze, there is day-upon-day of relentless snowfall in the northern (and not-so) regions.

Since this is happening now, I can't help but compare. Places with normally-mild winters, like Boise, Idaho, where I currently reside, are getting pounded. And it has here for the thirty-three days.

My mind jumps to a piece by Jack London I read for a creative writing class, though I rarely watch or read what I know will be a downer (other than research). If there's no redemption, no deliverance, no life-affirming message, then what, pray tell, is the point?

To Build a Fire is London's short story, about a man in the Klondike who ignores common sense and an old-timer's warning to take a shortcut to his gold-mining camp. He's on foot and alone except for a husky that (like me) doesn’t particularly like the man. It's nearing winter in the Arctic, so the sun is scarce, and the temp plummets to seventy-below.

The story is an account of arrogance gone awry and as I read, my apprehension grew. Something bad was going to happen and the man would likely die. The more I read, the sicker my gut, until I tasted the metal of dread.

I plodded on, as assigned, though I hated each beautiful, well-placed word the man “spoke” in his head. When he took a step, breaking through snow and ice, and his whole foot sank into a running stream, I knew (because of masterful foreshadowing) the time had come. (And even knowing, I wished for the best.)

London describes in acute detail the progression of hypothermia, as observed by the man, one frozen body-part at a time. I felt it all – his numbness, fear, panic, the futile attempts to light a match and tinder, only to have his one chance at survival snuffed out. Then the quick descent into apathy, eyeing the dog considering slitting it open for his own survival, the dog backing away because he doesn’t trust the arrogant man.

Then surrender, acquiescing to the coming of death, which was really only a matter of falling asleep.

I hated that short story, hated and loved it at the same time, because of Jack London’s literary genius.

In sharing this with Linda, my teacher (and now friend), she pondered that if written during the Alaskan gold rush, it was likely meant as a warning to foolhardy souls heading to the Klondike, a preview of what to expect upon arrival. That I can wrap my head around. That I get.

But back to the snow falling outside my window and the mound halfway-up the Handicapped sign. As one who looks for the "why" in things, I wondered at the time why I continued to read a story that left me icky and cold.

It occurs to me now. Maybe I read London’s dark narrative, in spite of my own rules, because a new Ice Age cometh, and I needed to know. I will recognize the signs of fatal hypothermia and find comfort when I succumb to frozen limbs and halted heart.

Or maybe it will be millennia before the next Ice Age, and it was merely an excellent assignment designed to further-open this writer's mind to the power of narrative prose.

Either way, the snow sure is pretty.

What are YOUR thoughts on London's short story?

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell (writing as O.J. Barré)

O.J. Barré is the author of the Blessed Are the Peace Makers trilogy. Book One, Coming Home, is in final edits. The first draft of Book Two, Coming To, is nearing completion and Book Three, Coming Full Circle, is swirling in the mists of creation.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Deliver Me (Revisited)

Ready to jump in the Wayback (WABAC) machine?

I'm dusting off another oldie-but-goodie, a post from January 2012 - six years ago. Boy does it takes me back. Waaaaay back. To the beginning. This is when I began writing Blessed Are the Peace Makers in earnest. Now it's 2017 and I'll soon be querying agents, seeking representation for the finished version.

I know what you're thinking. Six years is a long time to write a novel. But it took what it took and I'm okay with that. Many successful authors have walked a similar path.

So without further ado, here it is. Click here for the original post and to read the comments from 2011.

The New Year has delivered me to my writing. The manuscript, notes and characters I put down almost a year ago have come to life. The excitement is back, and building. My bedroom, my writing space, is adorned with various and assorted items that inspire me: posters, art, photographs.

While at Fernbank Science Center the other day, I bought a dragon (because, yes, there will be dragons), and was gifted a poster of the oceans and seas (because I love maps and this is maybe the coolest one I've ever seen AND it inspires me).

Now that I am writing again, I seriously need a new chair. And writing gloves. My current chair was a $20 thrift store purchase last year. It has served its purpose, considering I haven't spent that many hours a day in it. However, my left butt cheek sits at an angle and is about an inch lower than my right.

Dude. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this cannot possibly be helping a hip condition I wish to be rid of. Nor is it conducive to holding my head straight.

Vic Caswell suggested writing gloves. This house has no insulation and my crooked chair sits in a corner through which cold air seeps. Even with the heater at my knees and a blanket tucked behind me, my fingers get cold.

The rest is cake. I'm happy to be writing again, even cock-eyed. When I sat down at the first of 2012 and pieced together the already-written prologue, prophecy and main body of the story, I realized I had a substantial beginning.

But as with any muscle, the writing muscle is one you lose if you don't use. I have literally had to force myself to sit still in this lopsided rocker and write. But I persevere.

It is paying off. In the last three weeks I've added close to 10,000 words, upping total count to just shy of 18,000. Some nights the words flow. Other nights I edit. I am of the 'edit en route' variety of writer. It helps me with the flow, it helps me stay in character, and it keeps my butt in the chair.

Some nights I can't write at all, but my butt is in the chair to watch my television shows on hulu.com. Or to read.

Whatever it takes, I am telling this story. I'm doing it. And the only way that'll happen is by keeping my butt in this chair and my nose in the story.

~ ONWARD ~ Olivia J. Herrell

Ain't it awesome? I thought so, too. Especially knowing that the novel eventually morphs into a trilogy, and possibly a series, because the story is too big to fit in a normal-sized book. And the part where I no longer live in that cold, drafty house (or even that state). Or sit in that lopsided chair (with gloves) to write.

I no longer watch Hulu, choosing to wait until the content appears on Netflix commercial-free. And okay. I admit it. I am addicted. But it beats paying for cable and channels I neither watch nor want.

To close, I reiterate my 2012 ending - "Whatever it takes, I am telling this story. I'm doing it." And so I am.

What is your focus for 2017? Something fabulous and cheeky, I hope? Streeeetch!

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell (writing as O.J. Barre')

O.J. Barré is author of the upcoming Blessed Are the Peace Makers trilogy. Book One, Coming Home, is in final edits. The first draft of Book Two, Coming To, is nearing completion and Book Three, Coming Full Circle, is swirling in the mists of creation.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Dear 2016: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight

I’ve been hearing bad things about 2016. For me, it was so-so. So much so-so, that when I think back, I get nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Maybe it was worse (or better) than I remember. Hmm, let's see...

Yes, many of our icons died in 2016. In the last few days, two of my favorites – Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. So many actors. So many musicians. Most from my era. Most near my age.
Then there was my brother, Bill, who passed on June 19th from a heart attack that would probably not have been fatal had his girlfriend bothered to call 911 rather than waiting forty-five minutes to see if he would rouse.

I did go to the Keys in May with my sister and brother-in-law, stayed in a condo on the water (named Fins to the Left), saw a manatee up close, and several resident iguanas, ate seafood outside at sunset and sat on a spit of beach covered in seaweed.

In June I moved. To Far-Far Away. From Georgia to Idaho, in time to experience their worst winter since who knows when. The last four weeks I’ve remained at home. In the house. Where it’s warm. And am just beginning to venture out in the car.

During the long, long move, I drove (alone, except for Bugsy, my cat) from Atlanta to Cheyenne, Wyoming, until my car broke down nine miles from the night’s destination – my niece’s home - where I vacationed for the next three weeks.

2016 saw my Twitter induction. I opened an author account in February after a recommendation from Chuck Sambuchino at a Writer’s (Digest) Workshop in Atlanta. I’m now up to 2100-plus followers and have met many cool authors and bookworld people along the way.

Through Twitter I scored a live query workshop with French Press Bookworks and author, James Stryker, getting exposure as an author and great feedback on my query letter. Dionne Abouelela encouraged me to dust off That Rebel. So I did just that and am posting here weekly (rather than every few months), and some weeks even hit my goal of two posts.

Also in the stretch-and-do-something-new-and-different category, I’m helping my bro-in-law divide his fifty-minute instructional fly-tying video into segments – short videos that will be uploaded to SendOwl (soon) for sale. Once this project is complete, we’ll get his Fly-Tying YouTube channel up and running, monetizing that.

At the same time, I created a YouTube channel for my VLOG (basically a blog, but in video), which is on the back-burner, except for occasional, random posts. I have great plans for it in 2017.

Last, but definitely not least, I finished Blessed Are the Peace Makers, Coming Home (after six-plus years) and wrote another chunk of BATPM, Coming To (Book Two in the trilogy/series). I am currently rereading Book One for finishing-touches and will begin seeking representation when my query letter is polished and ready.

YEEEEHAAAA!!

Toward that end, I have the perfect agent in mind – Sara Megibow of KT Literary out of Denver. I “met” her on Twitter during NaNoWriMo and (be still my heart) she invited me to query. So you can bet hers will be my first. (Am I crazy for going for my dream agent first?)

So there you have it. My 2016 in a nutshell.

Other than Bill dying, not having an income due to a day-time-job crisis, freezing my buns off, being leery of driving in the snow/ice, going back on Prozac for some situational depression, having no local friends because of my hermit/writer lifestyle and missing the ones in Georgia, 2016 wasn’t half-bad.

In fact, parts of it were quite good. Like the stuff I’ve mentioned. Getting to see my sister several times a week. Finding my nearing-publication-author-legs. Overcoming camera-shyness. Learning to take, edit and produce videos. Having a newer home that is dry, has carpet and new tile and a covered parking place with great neighbors. Plus, the depression is lifting, yeehaa!

That said, I’ll be happy to see 2016 to the door, and am anticipating a fabulous 2017. A year of new beginnings. The Year of the Rooster*. My yearA big year. I feel it in my bones.

Happy New Year!

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell (writing as O.J. Barré)

P.S. If you're curious about Roosters (my Chinese sign), read this.

P.P.S. Sorry about the funky fonts, sizing and spacing, Blogger is being wonky tonight.

O.J. Barré is author of the upcoming Blessed Are the Peace Makers trilogy. Book One, Coming Home, is in final edits. The first draft of Book Two, Coming To, is nearing completion and Book Three, Coming Full Circle, is swirling in the mists of creation.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Peace On Earth

Hello ye Rebels, I've missed you.

I'm sneaking in to drop a wee line and since we're smack in the middle of end-of-year holidays, I'm sharing part of a post from December 2010. Click to read the original.

Here's the excerpt:

I ascribe to the theory that, while life might be random, there are no coincidences. My second novel has roots in ancient Celtic tradition. And four mentions in three days bears paying attention.

I listened to the song Bru posted and found it lilting, lyrical and haunting. Then I clicked over and sat, tears streaming, listening to the song that had been forwarded.

You've probably heard it before. Here it is again. Celtic Thunder performing an old classic, "Christmas 1915".

Celtic Thunder - "Christmas 1915"

As this song intimates, I believe that people don't make war, governments do. Religions do. Greed does. Call me naive. Or stupid. But don't try to change my mind. I have friends from Iraq, Iran, Afganistan, Turkey, Germany, Russia, China, Korea and Vietnam. They have hearts. They bleed. They cry. They have families. And they want peace, just like you and me.

Reach out. Love someone. Forgive someone. Let go of ill will.

For another bit of musical delight, check out Gladys Knight performing "Let There Be Peace On Earth".

Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me.

'Tis the Season ~ Olivia J. Herrell

Hmm. Let it begin with me. I hope you enjoyed the post from Christmas 2010. Look for a new one this Thursday (the 29th).

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell (writing as O.J. Barré)

O.J. Barré is author of the upcoming Blessed Are the Peace Makers trilogy. Book One, Coming Home, is in final edits. The first draft of Book Two, Coming To, is nearing completion and Book Three, Coming Full Circle, is swirling in the mists of creation.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Boy: A Journey" – The Adventures of Becoming a Productive Rebel

Today That Rebel is honored to host author James Stryker. You remember James, right? He is the query-ninja who, along with Dionne Abuoelela of Penname Publishing, gave me that great feedback in the Query Workshop a few weeks ago. James's new book Boy: A Journey releases four days from now (Monday, December 19th) and is available for pre-order by clicking any one of its links. 

Thank you to James who took the extra time to look at how his character might be considered a Rebel. Please open your minds and hearts to James Stryker and his new book, Boy: A Journey.

Take it James:

The deeper I’ve ventured into Internet rabbit holes of thoughts on rebellion, the more at home I feel being a guest on That Rebel with a Blog. Many of my writings showcase rebellion – Assimilation, my debut novel, actually features a first-definition-listed-in-the-dictionary rebel with the main characters rising against the authority of an organization. But my forthcoming release, Boy: AJourney, takes a different spin on the concept of rebellion.

In his book-length essay, The Rebel, philosopher Albert Camus writes “What is a rebel? A man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation. He is also a man who says yes, from the moment he makes his first gesture of rebellion.” At its core, my novel is a story of individuals who said “yes and no simultaneously.”

The resistance within Boy:A Journey begins before the main character, Luke, even exists. After his father Jay’s sudden death, Luke hears about the first step in rebellion from [an enigmatic stranger] Tom, Jay’s childhood friend: 

“What if you could never leave the stage? What if you were forced to stay there? To keep performing. To keep playing a character? However much the people praised and admired you, I guarantee eventually that spotlight would burn you alive.”

Luke nodded as if he understood.

“This is the pièce de résistance. This was the night. This was the moment, if you like. He’d finally decided that it was enough. He launched himself off that stage without knowing where he’d land, or caring if anyone would catch him.”

The character Jay refused to play any longer was the role of a female. Throughout Boy: A Journey, Luke learns how the repercussions of Jay’s rebellion against his gender assignment are without the destructive connotations the word rebellion typically carries. Even as Jay said no, his actions carried no abandon but rather consistent progress toward his goal – to build a meaningful life aligning with his true male identity.

While Jay’s journey is complete almost as soon as the book opens, Luke must confront a similar internal struggle to become a productive rebel. Driven by aspirations of Broadway stardom, Luke has felt pitted against his father for years, believing that Jay never supported his dream. On returning home after a year of self-imposed exile, Luke still nurtures the dream of dramatic triumph over Jay’s perceived expectations for him:   

He’d land a lead role in a huge production. Carnegie Hall. A big, classic Broadway show with his name on a marquee in huge letters. And then he’d call his father to rub the success in his face.

Luke doesn’t have a problem being a man who says no, but his rebellion fails in the latter half of Camus’s thoughts on a rebel – his refusal is accompanied by surrender and a lack of ambition to create something better for himself.

As Luke seeks answers about Jay’s hidden past as a transgender man, he is guided by another man well-acquainted with forms of rebellion, his father’s best friend, Tom. Like Jay, Tom hasn’t been hesitant to strike out on his own path; however, the argument could be made that he was never able to overcome implications of a renunciation:

It was a cliché, stereotypical scenario. Tom had moved into the neighborhood, and in the house next door lived the slender, beautiful girl with long dark hair and light-colored eyes. His parents had been thrilled—maybe this girl could knock the “gay thing” out of their otherwise exceptional son. Tom had fallen. And he’d never been able to pick himself back up.  

Now in the end stages of terminal cancer, Tom is faced with the consequences of a life spent in incomplete rebellion. He’s broken the mold, but by failing to move forward. The novel opens as he considers if there is even any merit in continuing what he calls “his pathetic existence.”

A final thing Camus said of the rebel is “[it’s] those who know how to rebel, at the appropriate moment, against history, who really advance its interests.” Boy: A Journey is Luke’s moment. In re-discovering the man he thought he knew, he must navigate the examples of rebellion set before him and determine his own path.

For my friend, O.J. Barré’s audience of rebels, I hope you’ll check out Boy: A Journey when it releases from NineStar Press on December 19th

Thank you, James. It sounds like Luke, Jay and Tom are definitely rebels. Good luck with your upcoming launch and please check back with us down the road a month or two to let us know how it's going!

Thanks to all you Rebel readers! Have a glorious day!

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell (writing as O.J. Barré)

O.J. Barré is author of the upcoming Blessed Are the Peace Makers trilogy. Book One, Coming Home, is in final edits. The first draft of Book Two, Coming To, is nearing completion and Book Three, Coming Full Circle, is swirling in the mists of creation.

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