Thursday, December 12, 2013

Writing is a Journey

Over Thanksgiving week I had a chance to visit one of my favorite places: New York City. I used to live there ages ago, and even when I visited the first time, it felt like coming home. There's something about the city that's energizing and inspiring. I can't figure out what it is, but there's a reason so many songs talk about making your dreams come true in New York. Because really, when you're on the street surrounded by all that activity and creativity, it makes sense that you can conquer the world.

This is part of the reason I based my novel THE SHIFTING DARKNESS in New York City. It's a place where anything can happen. Down in the subway tunnel it's easy to wonder what's lurking in the shadows beyond the reach of the platform lights. Another more practical reason that I used it for my main setting is because I lived there and I was familiar with the locations I wanted to use. All except one of them.

Ellis Island is a key location in my book that I had never had the opportunity to visit. I really wanted to make it a point to get there on this latest trip. My husband booked us a room with a spectacular (albiet rainy) view!

I was so excited as soon as I looked out the window and spotted Ellis Island. I mean, all I had to do was peer out and see everything I'd studied so hard on Google maps. It was thrilling to see how much I got right. All I could do was sit there and stare as my characters came to life and watch as the events of my novel unfolded in my mind. 
“You are aware my labs on Ellis Island house the most renowned medical research facility in the country,” Alexander Lake continued.

Sidney made her way over to the huge window. The sun had set awhile ago and the buildings at the lower tip of Manhattan twinkled in the false twilight that always hovered around the city.
“Lovely, isn’t it? Mr. Lake is very proud of the view.”

“Get down!” Someone shoved her. The air hit hard and suddenly all she could hear was a high pitched ringing. She lay there on her back, staring up at the sky, thinking how pretty the smoke looked as it swirled up around the water tower in the middle of the courtyard.
In case you were wondering, that's just a hint of what it's like to be me. 

All I wanted to do was get down there and go exploring. From where we were staying, it seemed as though we could walk down to a footbridge and cross over into Liberty State Park, then catch a boat to Ellis Island.

The path didn't turn out to be very direct. Not even close. We had to go around a marina, through parking lots, past construction sites, and there were PLENTY of times we thought about turning around. 

But just when we thought we were at a complete dead end and we'd have to give up, we took a few more steps or peeked around a corner. Sure enough, we discovered a path to take us a little bit closer. Once we made it to the footbridge it was easy sailing. But getting there? It wasn't easy at all, and a couple of times it was even kind of scary. 

Now I'm going to get all deep and metaphorical, and compare this to my writing journey. 

Wait for it, I swear it makes sense. 

I've hit places I thought for sure would be a dead end. I've had rejections and set backs. A lot of times I felt like this whole writing thing was as pointless as... 

But I'm still going. Because, every time it felt like maybe this was it, maybe I was done for good... something else has opened up. It might have been an opportunity I didn't expect or see before, but it's always given me fresh hope and one more reason to keep going.

Right before I left for New York (as I was packing, in fact), I had another setback. A pretty devastating one. But a few days later... I entered Pitch Wars and I got chosen as a first alternate! So it just goes to show that you have to keep trying. 

If you want something to happen, you have to be prepared. You have to do everything in your power to be ready when good things come knocking, because you really just don't know what your path to publication might be.

How about you? Have you ever felt like quitting? What helps keeps you motivated?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pitch Wars: About Me

Hey Y'all! I applied to do Pitch Wars this year! Since everyone else is doing it, I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and share a little bit about myself in case you're looking for someone super awesome to mentor.

Instead of TELLING you how awesome I am, I figured I'd SHOW you, because I'm a good little Creative Writer.

I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

After graduation I moved to Atlanta where I got a job herding cats teaching preschool, and writing in my spare time.

My husband worked for the Atlanta Falcons, so I attended a bunch of NFL games and fed elephants with Matt Ryan.

(I know it's hard to see him in this pic, but that's his #2 right there behind the tree. I swear I wasn't being a stalker and hiding in the bushes. As you can see, Freddie Falcon and I are BFFs, so it's totally legit)

I have an annoying obsession totally healthy relationship with gifs. I mean, I love them like

For reals, they make me all 


and sometimes I need to express them. So this is why I think gifs are

When I'm not hanging out on twitter, I enjoy spending time as an advocate for human-zombie relations.

And occasionally, I act as an ambassador on diplomatic missions throughout the intergalactic empire.

If you need any rum smuggled, I've got connections.

I don't really like to brag, but I've met some pretty famous people in my life, including but not limited to:

John Goodman
Regis Philbin
Barbara Walters
Liv Schriber
Johnny Knoxville
Hugh Jackman
Bryan Cranston
and Elvis.

I'm also super addicted to book signings, because I think it's fun to support fellow writers, and also to be able to meet my heroes and tell them how awesome they are. So here I am with some amazing writers I've met either at a signing or out in the wild:

Megan Orsini, Megan Whitmer, Angi Black

Another thing I really love to do is travel. I lived in Wales for a semester in college. I've also visited France where I saw the Mona Lisa and met Quasimodo.

And there was that one time when I was visiting my brother in Wisconsin and had an encounter with a Hodag.

Oh, and I met Jaws too, but that didn't go so well...

When I moved from Georgia to California, my friends were concerned I'd turn into a tree hugging hippie, but that hasn't happened. At all.

Out of all the crazy activities in my life, my favorite thing to do is write. The X-Files was a huge influence in my life, so I really enjoy creating stories with a good murder (or 12) and some kind of paranormal element.

Scully and Beckett are my heroes (heroines?), so every story I write needs to have a tough chick who can hold her own against whatever she might encounter.

This past year, I've spent revising my manuscript THE SHIFTING DARKNESS. It's been torn apart and put back together, so you should know that it's in really good shape and I'm also not afraid to beat my own words into submission.

And if ALL OF THAT didn't convince you how how badly you need me as your mentee for Pitch Wars? Maybe my gangsta friend Kelsey Macke can do it... watch here. I'll wait.

Isn't she bad ass?? I totally wouldn't be anywhere at all with out the support of my incredible CPs like Kelsey! She and the rest of my critique partners have helped me take THE SHIFTING DARKNESS from the 65k she mentioned in the video all the way up to it's current word count of 77k. 

I've shed blood, sweat, and tears, and I'm damn proud of this ms. I need a mentor who will love my characters and story as much as I do. Someone who can help me spit-shine my ms so I can present it in the best way possible to the awesome agents, because I fully intend to be the WINNER OF PITCH WARS.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Power of X

20 years ago a little show called The X-Files premiered on FOX television network. I was 11 years old, and still thought a kid named Urkel was funny. That particular night, all those years ago, I had no idea that a show I wasn't watching would change my life forever.

Unfortunately, I was one of those annoying kids who did everything opposite of whatever was "popular" so as soon as I heard people talk about this show, I made the decision that I would absolutely NOT take part. Every time my cousin mentioned how awesome it was, I replied with, "Mulder and Scully? What kind of weirdo names are those?"

Okay, I was a total idiot. I didn't miss out on many episodes, but missing even ONE at all, I soon found out, was too many.
Thinking really hard about it, I tried to remember which was the first episode I DID see. I thought it was "Anasazi" but it turns out that it was actually "The Calusari."
The phone rang one Friday night and my best buddy Jessica said, "Sarah! I'm home alone and I'm watching The X-Files and it's dark in my house and I'M SO SCARED! Turn it on and watch with me!"
So I did.
And it scared the crap out of me.
It was also the most amazing show I'd ever watched ever.
And HOLEY BUCKETS this dude called Mulder was HAWT.
An obsession was born.

Here are a few true facts about me as relate to The X-Files:

*My first car was a Ford Taurus.

*I painted a giant black X on my wall exactly like the one in the opening credits.

*I carried around packs of David Sunflower seeds like they were crack.

*I played The X-Files drinking game with plain 'ol iced tea because I didn't know what a drinking game actually was and I figured that's what Mulder would have done.

*I take my coffee with milk and no sugar because I remember reading somewhere that's how Scully likes her coffee. (Note: I can't remember WHERE I read this. It very likely could have been a fanfic, or GASP! an UNauthorized guidebook. Either way it stuck with me. I also hope it's true, because I actually really like my coffee this way.)

*I made my debut on the World Wide Web using the AOL screen name BigBlue82.

There have been many fandoms that I've geeked out over in my life, but The X-Files was my very first. It's a special thing when you experience an addiction so intense you quite literally just. can't. get. enough.

I bought every guide book, authorized and unauthorized. If Mulder and Scully were on the cover of a magazine, I snatched it up without even blinking. If I saw anything with an alien or an X on it? Into my stash it went. 

When the movie came out, our local radio station held a special premiere party, and I stayed glued to the radio for A WEEK trying to win tickets. I was desperate to be the 100th caller, but no matter how fast I dialed, no matter how many times I hit redial, I couldn't make it happen. The day of the premiere finally arrived and I was ticketless and heartbroken. 

Being an Aries, idea that OTHER people in Knoxville would see this movie BEFORE me was absolutely unbearable.

So I called the request line at the radio station and BEGGED the DJ if he would please, please, PLEASE with whipped cream and a cherry on top give me tickets?

And... he did!

Thinking back on that night, it's hard to remember much of anything other than the way my heart actually stopped when that black oil filled the frame and the logo came up.

It was all kind of a blur, really. But the coolest thing about that night? There were around 340 people in that movie theater, and one of them turned out to be the man I would grow up to marry. We didn't know each other yet, but we were both there in that same room for 121 minutes. Maybe I'm a sap, but I think that's pretty special. :)

Chris Carter has mentioned many times how he was inspired by a show called Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Well, Mr. Carter, you went on to inspire millions more with your very own show. There are many reasons I'm a writer today. The X-Files is very high on the list of those reasons. It taught me so much about suspense and pacing, characters and storytelling, and how to develop and add depth to plot.

Some of the first stories I ever wrote were pieces of (very terrible) fanfiction. 

A lot of people are making lists of the "Best Episodes" so I'll share a handful of my favorites with you. I have to limit myself to a handful, because I could seriously find something I love about pretty much every single episode. 

Best Vocabulary Lesson: "Quagmire" 
The conversation Mulder and Scully have on that rock sent me straight to the Miriam Webster to look up many words such as, megalomaniacal, cosmology, abhorrent, and flippant. Of course, I proceeded to use them every chance I got.

Best Hair Episode: "Home"
Seriously, whatever the hair stylist did in this episode, whatever the humidity levels were, it all combined to give Mulder and Scully both the most AMAZING hair!

Best Crossover: "X-Cops"
Mulder and Scully chasing around some creepy unseen creature on Cops? Hilarious.

Skinner in a Bubble Bath: "Hollywood A.D." 
A lot of you may know that Mitch Pileggi is the muse for one of my characters, so I adore the episodes where Assistant Director Skinner makes an appearance. Even though there are lots of great things in this episode, seeing him in a bubble bath is the icing on the cake for me.

Most Inspirational: "Small Potatoes" 
The idea of someone who could shapeshift had a heavy hand in making THE SHIFTING DARKNESS what it is today. Also, let's do a slow clap for Darin Morgan, because, REALLY.

The Moment Where All the Shippers' Brains Exploded: "Post-Modern Prometheus" 
It's no secret that Chris Carter loved messing with us when it came to getting Mulder and Scully together. There are any number of episodes that could fit this description, but the manly way Mulder yanks Scully out of that chair to dance in the finale of this episode is the absolute best IMHO.

The One That Has It All: "Dreamland Parts 1&2"
I don't care if this is cheating because it's two episodes. They're great episodes. They have the conspiracy, they've got humor, and angst. GAW, that moment when Mulder and Scully are standing there, thinking Mulder's going to be stuck in Morris Fletcher's body forever? And they have to say goodbye? AAAGGGHHHH!! 

And obviously this moment:

That is superior television right there, folks.

Best Kissing: "Triangle"
This had not only one, but TWO kisses in it. Gillian Anderson totes got around in this episode. And even though she wasn't really playing Scully when Mulder planted that giant smackaroo on her face, every Shipper on the planet simultaneously went

Ultimate Creeper: TIE
This is a tie between Eugene Victor Tooms in "Squeeze" and "Tooms" and Donnie Pfaster from "Irresistible." Because, seriously, on a Creeper Scale from 1-10 these dudes hit it out of the ball park with a score of like 1,013. I can't look at an air vent without wondering if Tooms is gonna fly out of it and gnaw on my liver. 

And every time I clean my hairbrush I wonder if Donnie Pfaster is gonna go through my trash and use my hair to fluff up his pillow. *SHUDDER*

Best Episode Where Mulder and Scully Are Stranded in the Woods: "Detour"
Yeah, "Darkness Falls" was creepy as hell, but it takes a week of showers to get the nasty buggy crawly feeling off. Who wants to watch that when you've got Mulder very blatantly saying hinting that he and Scully should get nekked and crawl into a sleeping bag together? 

Lamest Monster: "Arcadia"
A monster made of trash that will...drag you into some dirt because your mailbox isn't painted the right color? Pfft. Whatever. Everybody knows this episode was only made so Shippers could pretend Mulder and Scully were married.

Best Parody: "The Springfield Files"
I couldn't pick just one image for this. I couldn't.

And there ya have it. I know that was more than a handful, and I'm sure I could go on forevermore with this, but you're probably itching to go watch all these awesome episodes, so I'll let you get to it.

Happy X-Files Day!