Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I won Nano!

I did it! I finished my Nano story a week early even. I didn't win last year, so this was a nice confidence boost on the writing front. It was good to just get something completely new on paper. I started from a literal blank page with no ideas on day one.

And I wrote this weird book. Still editing to do, and it's on the back burner for the season so to speak, but here's a bit about it, and a little excerpt.

The Forest of Souls 

Natsuki (Nat to everyone) was adopted by the Faroe-Thompson's when she was eight-years-old. Totally colorblind after a head injury when she was younger, she takes her life with a heavy grain of salt and a pessimistic world view. Her brother, Jamie, is the bane of her existence.

But things are about to take an unexpected turn for Nat during a class trip to Gettysburg--where Nat learns that she can see the dead in living color. Will Swift, Union soldier and ghost, has decided it's his job to protect Nat now that a cabal of mediums is on her scent. Will one earnest ghost be enough to save her? Will Nat figure out how to use her gifts in time to save her friends, stop the cabal and keep her family safe?


After spending way too much money on ridiculous trinkets the class was trooped over the see the reenactment of the Gettysburg Address. The actor playing Lincoln was passionate at least, but having had to recite the address by rote before we even left on the trip meant I was used to the sound and my attention…wandered.
There were some actors dressed as soldiers off to one side fiddling with their equipment. I don’t know what drew my attention to them. One of them was different and it took me a few seconds to figure out why. I raised my eyebrows, jaw dropping in surprise. He’s in color.
I could see the color. The dark blue of his uniform, the peachy color of his skin—the red of the dried blood on his sleeve. Sometimes I dreamed in color, but this was different. It was just him. Maybe he felt me watching him or something but his head turned and he stared at me. His eyes were blue. His eyes narrowed and his head tilted. He was maybe a hundred feet away from me, but I blinked and suddenly he was directly in front of me.
I backed up, stepping on Lito’s foot.
I turned back to look at Lito and then back to the soldier, but he was gone.
“Sorry, I—thought there was a bee,” I said.
I took a breath and looked back at the soldiers, but the man I’d seen before wasn’t there. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. What was that?
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Lito asked.
“Yeah,” I nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
Totally fine.
That night I woke up again to cold feet, but this time I was afraid to open my eyes. I tried to ignore the cold air. I pulled a pillow over my head and willed whatever it was to go away. Please go away. Please go away.
I felt a cold, icy touch run down the bottom of my foot and screamed, jerking my foot away.
“Nat?” Christina flipped on the light, rubbing her eyes and she fumbled for her glasses. “What’s wrong.”
I stared at the end of the bed. There was no shadow there, but for the briefest of moments, I swore I saw that soldier again, standing over my bed with his finger pressed to his lips.
“A bee? Really?”
“Not really. I think—don’t judge me—I saw a ghost.”
“Really?” Her eyebrows went up. “A ghost? That’s awesome.”
“Not really.” I shook my head. “Maybe it was a just a nightmare.”
“Well let me know if you see another one, okay? I want to get a look at it.”
“Sure thing, Christina.” I flopped back onto the pillows. “Let’s try to get some sleep.”
“Okay, but wake me up if you see another ghost, okay?”
“It’s a promise.” I turned off the light and tried to go back to sleep.
I woke up the next morning annoyed and puffy. I got coffee at breakfast and Papa raised his eyebrows.
“Late night, pumpkin?”
“I couldn’t sleep.” I added enough sugar to make it taste less awful and some milk for protein.”
He frowned and steered me away from the coffee station by the elbow. “Are you having nightmares?” he asked in a low, concerned voice.
“No, Papa, it was just—new place. Excitement. I’m okay.”
“You’ll tell me if you aren’t.”
I nodded. “Of course.”
“Okay. But only one cup of coffee, and eat some oatmeal.”
“Yes, Papa.”
He was the worrier; not like he didn’t have reason to worry. When my dads’ took me in I was not okay. I had nightmares. I went to a lot of therapy. I hadn’t needed to in a while but they worried.
He was definitely going to keep an eye on me. Not so great if I had more encounters with the soldier from yesterday. We were touring some historic buildings today and after lunch we would head to the Gateway Theater.
I stuck with Lito and Christina as we made our way through a period-furnished house. I felt uneasy. It wasn’t just that I hadn’t slept the night before. I felt like there was something waiting for me around every corner, hovering. I couldn’t shake the feeling. The hair kept prickling up on my arms. I almost felt like I was being followed. Like—someone was watching me.
I tried to ignore it, focusing on Ms. Irwin’s lecture about the house and the living conditions of everyday people during the Civil War but the sensation persisted. Even when we left the house, I could feel eyes on me. As we walked away down the sidewalk in a ragtag line I glanced back at the two story Victorian and paused. There was that soldier again, standing in the downstairs window. He was in color again.
“Nat?” Christina called.
I didn’t want to look away from the soldier in the window. I felt her join me, touching my arm.
“What is it?”
“You don’t see him?”
“No. What do you see?”
“A soldier, in the window.” I pointed. “He’s in color.” I kept my voice pitched low. “You don’t see him?”
“No.” But I didn’t hear disbelief in her tone.
“Girls, keep up please!” Ms. Irwin shouted.
I turned away from the house, following Christina back to the group but that prickle of the back of my neck told me the soldier was still watching me. I took Christina’s hand and she squeezed mine gently.
This was definitely not normal.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


I have been participating this year! Thus far I'm on target (slightly ahead of target actually) and have kept up word count every day. I've been in a slump for the past year, and I pretty much had a writing slump the year prior too so... Meh. So, in hopes of getting out of said slump and kicking my creativity back on, I decided to wait until day one and then pulled an idea out of thin air and started working on it.

Generally I try to use Nano to finish stalled projects and the like, write the next book in a series or some other such use. This year, I went in with the spirit I had the first time I participated and gave myself a blank page and spent the first several hours of Sunday brainstorming. Spent much of Monday that way too actually. But in the end I managed a viable idea and am sort of plodding away at it hopes of greater things.

We all use Nano for different things, I think. Some us are first timers just trying to finally get that novel on the page. Some of us are old hats delighting in the camaraderie that comes from the challenge, the social exercise that we, as writers, rarely get to participate in from our desks. It's a group effort with cheering and new friends and chance to help other authors flourish and grow.

It's a month where we don't have to keep to ourselves. More importantly, it gives us a goal to strive towards. A finish line we can accomplish. 50,000 words can seem like an unreachable goal to someone who had never done it. And only a month to do it in? Impossible.

And then you do it, and you realize, hey, this wasn't as bad as I thought. Or, inversely, this is awful and I never want to do this again.

But either way, you learned something about yourself. For instance, I learned in my first year that I could write everyday while attending college full time. I learned I could juggle a fledgling writing career with another thing.

As I continued to grow as an author, as I continued to do Nano, I realized that I had words to offer in encouragement and I really found enjoyment in helping my fellow writers learn and grow.

I found new ways to tell a story. I found confidence. I learned what kind of writer I am.

Nano isn't just about word count. It just just about the story. It's also about what we, as writers, learn about ourselves during the process. It's about becoming better writers. Learning the habits required to write daily and how much time it takes to get that writing done.

I'm so glad I signed up that first year. I'm so glad I've kept doing it, even though I've not won every year, the important thing was that every year I've done this, I've learned something. I can't wait to see what I learn this year.