Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pick One and Jump In

Since I can't seem to get my act together to write a blog post (and yes, I missed last week's too), I went through old ones mining for gold. Lo and behold, I found a draft that was basically complete and needed little editing. AND it has never been published.*

Actually, I found several, but this one is timely, as it sets up a coming post. So I'm polishing (a little) and publishing. Some back-story, since it's out of time sequence - this was written on March 17, 2016 after I attended Writer's Digest's Atlanta Writing Workshop. I hope you enjoy!

Life has taken another twist, propelling me forward and on. That’s what happens when you have a dream (or goal) and work toward it. Even if only a little at a time.

Thinking my manuscript was “ready”, I attended the Atlanta Writing Workshop on February 20 to pitch my novel to three literary agents. Nothing came of that, but during the day’s sessions, my vague suspicion that my story could be better was confirmed.

After the eye-opening “First Page” panel, I went home and cut the first five pages of BLESSED ARE THE PEACE MAKERS: COMING HOME, giving it a crisper, less background-intensive beginning and leaving more for the reader to discover. But like any remodel, the initial action creates a ton of related work.

C’est la vie.

In the last session of the day, Chuck Sambuchino shared a list of things writers can do to feel in control (though we mostly are not), and said to pick one thing and jump in with both feet. When that one is mastered, pick another. One is to build a platform, a way to let people know about our books.

Like Social Media.

Chuck asked how many were NOT on Twitter and about half the room raised our hands (including me). Not good. TWITTER is where literary agents and editors hang out. Meaning a Mecca for unrepresented writers like me. It’s also a way to get the word out about my books, once published.

So, bored with Facebook, and itching to put Chuck’s advice to work, I decided to try Twitter again. And am shocked and amazed. I like it.

The pace is fast, but brings a stream of fascinating people and topics, mostly of the artistic/literary ilk, any and all of whom are available for interaction. All I need are the cajones. Two weeks in, I have 93 followers with light participation. The more dedicated I am, the more people I meet, the more books, contests, music, etc, I discover.

I like it. I love it. I want some more of it.

So much so, that I find myself transferring Chuck’s advice to other areas. Like my livelihood, using it to launch a couple of (ad)ventures I’d been noodling, one for months.

Are you dancing around something in your life, wishing and hoping for it, dreaming of having or doing it, but not getting any closer?

Pick one. Jump in with both feet, like Chuck said. And don't forget to tell us about your adventures in the comments below.

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

P.S. Find me on Twitter. My current follower-count just passed 2400, and is rising steadily (if ploddingly).

* Oops. The article previously appeared on Relentless Writers in March of last year. Click here to read the original and other great posts by a variety of gifted writers, agents and editors.

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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Ice Age Cometh

!SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't, but plan to read To Build a Fire by Jack London, please know that this post is about my visceral and psychic reaction to it and contains definite spoilers. If you don't mind the spoilers, read on. If you do, click here to read his short story (it takes only 10-15 minutes, maybe 20), then come back to process your own reaction by reading about mine and leaving us a comment. 

Thank you for stopping by. Please enjoy...

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 one of my favorite movies. 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 northern) regions.

This is what is happening now, and I can't help but compare. Places with normally-mild winters, like Boise, Idaho, where I currently reside, are getting pounded. And have been for thirty-plus days. On the other side of the globe, normally-sunny Greece is blanketed in snow.

My mind jumps to a short story by Jack London that I recently read for a creative writing class. Other than research, I rarely watch or read what I believe will be a downer. If there is 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 foolish man in the Klondike. He 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 an Alaskan Husky that (like me) doesn’t particularly care for the man. It's nearing winter in that Arctic tundra—the sun is scarce and the temperature often plummets to seventy-below.

The story is an account of arrogance gone awry, and as I read, my apprehension grows. Something awful is going to happen, and the man will likely die. The more I read, the sicker my gut feels until I can taste the metal of dread. 

I plod on, as assigned, though I hate each beautiful, well-placed word the man 'speaks' in his head. When he takes a step, breaking through snow and ice, and his whole foot sinks into a running stream, I know (because of London's masterful foreshadowing) the time has come. And even knowing, I wish for the best for this arrogant man.

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, his futile attempts to light a match and tinder, only to have his one chance at survival snuffed out.

Then his quick descent into apathy, eyeing the dog and considering slitting it open for his own survival, the dog backing away because he doesn’t trust this man. Then his surrender, succumbing to the coming of death, and its gentle kiss as he falls 'asleep'.

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

In sharing my reaction and pondering the point of this awful (and beautiful) story with Debbie, my teacher and new friend, she posited that since it was 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. That I can wrap my head around. That I get.

But back to the snow falling outside my window and mounded halfway up the Handicapped sign. As one who always looks for the 'why' in things, I had wondered why I continued to read a story that left me feeling icky and cold. Especially in the middle of my first frozen winter.

That 'why' 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 need to know. I will now recognize the signs of fatal hypothermia, and maybe find comfort when I face surrender to my own frozen limbs and halting heart.

Or maybe it will be another millennium 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 Awen trilogy. Book One, Awen Rising, is in final edits. The first draft of Book Two, Awen Storm, is nearing completion, and Book Three, Awen Tide, is swirling in the mists of creation. UPDATE: as of December 2020, the first two books have been published and the third is scheduled to be released Summer 2021. Click the links to view their respective pages on Amazon.

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 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.
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