Spontaneous Stories

Sometimes, I have scenes spontaneously appear in my mind that replay consistently throughout the day. I don’t know the characters, I don’t know the story, but a distinct bit of dialogue, a feeling, a circumstance. Now, I’ve written here on my blog before that I don’t believe writing has any magical aspect to it–I still don’t. So, these scenes must sprout from my subconscious.

The thing is, I like making up theoretical situations and having characters act on opposing sides, then seeing where the conversation goes. What can motivate those opinions? What sort of justifications can those characters make up to support their actions?

But I’m not talking about these moments of writing–or rather of thinking. I’m talking about these scenes that spontaneously pop into my head, those which I haven’t purposefully pursued.

Human nature has always fascinated me. In high school, I took all the psychology classes that were offered, and eventually double majored in it with creative writing at university.

Why does anyone do anything? As a writer, that’s a critical question, since a character has to be motivated, even if it’s a basic desire, such as hunger. I guess my curiosity branched from myself, then outward.

But still, these scenes that come unprovoked. Are these questions that I’m too afraid to approach head-on? The goal to these isn’t to find an answer, but to explore motivation. So then, are these the unjustifiable motivations that irk me?

I don’t know. All I know is that these unprompted scenes are the ones that tend to stick with me and demand to be written, and I listen.

What about other writers out there? Have you ever had a similar experience with scenes coming unbidden?

-Rachael

Trying Something a Little Different:

Flirting with the Idea of Minimalism? Look into Creating a Capsule Wardrobe!

Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com

Have you ever gone on Pinterest and seen the words, “capsule wardrobe” pop up on a clothing post and thought, “Wow, I wish that was my closet!” Of course, you have! I’m going to introduce you to three steps I took in getting closer to those gorgeous collections. But before we go on this exploration together, we need to get a few things straight.

Ask ten people and undoubtedly, you’ll get ten different responses for what exactly is minimalism. Ask Google and you’ll get even more. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to define minimalism as living with the least possible number of things. I know. Scary. And when it comes to clothes, it means the same thing: having only the most necessary items.

I’ve never been a very fashion-oriented girl, nor have I ever been particularly interested in keeping up with the latest trends, and paradoxically, that makes me a great candidate for something like a capsule closet. A capsule wardrobe is just as enigmatic as minimalism, but essentially, they are wardrobes that consist of less than or around 40 items. Now, I have to be honest and tell you that I am nowhere near that number, and quite frankly might not be for some time, but hey! This is a journey and you’ve got to start somewhere, right? This article is going to tell you steps to start this process–not how I arrived there simply because right now I’m half-baked cookies.

So, without further ado…

  • Number One: Go through your clothes. Wait a couple weeks. Then do it again.

Open your closet, or wherever you store your clothes, and get honest with yourself. Ask yourself: When was the last time I wore this piece? Do I enjoy wearing this piece? Then get even more honest: Do I still fit in this piece? (That can go either way, too. Is it too big or is it too small?) Having a capsule wardrobe is all about having clothes that you love. That you adore. That you look in the mirror and without fail and have the thought, “Damn, I look good!”

When I went through my closet, I made three piles. The first pile was for donation. These clothes should be in fair condition. Don’t send off clothes that have stains or are clearly worn.  The second was for the trash. These mostly included regular T-shirts that had seen better days. The third was for possible reclaiming by either my mother or other family members. Yes, my mother and I are similar sizes and sometimes wear similar clothes, is there a problem with that? Same for my sisters.

Use your own discretion and don’t be too hard on yourself this first go around.  

Wait a couple weeks—or longer—before coming back and doing the whole process over again. The reason I suggest doing this is because maybe there were some items that you just weren’t sure about. Yeah, you love it, but eh, you don’t remember the last time you wore it. This is the time to push yourself and let it go. My rationale: If I don’t wear it, I can donate it to someone who will. I know clothes don’t have feelings, obviously, but it makes me feel a little better when I think that I could be helping someone find a piece they love and will actually wear.

This second time ask yourself: Have I worn this within the last year? Did I wear this for the first-time last month but have owned it for three years and didn’t really love wearing it?

Again, this is for YOU. Do you have clothes that were given to you as a gift that you never wear? The person who gave it to you will still go on living, even if you donate the item. Keeping clothes for sentimental value is a waste of emotional energy—unless you truly love the item and it is still in good shape. Holding on to items only because you’re protecting someone’s feelings is not a good way to express to that person you truly appreciate them and their friendship. Let it go. Seriously. If you don’t wear it, let it go.

  • Number two: Don’t immediately go out and buy clothes to replace the ones you’ve just gotten rid of.

The whole point of a capsule wardrobe—or Minimalism itself—is to have only what’s necessary. Going out and shopping goes directly against that idea.

Capitalism rules our country (aka the US). How many ads do you see a day? Hundreds if not thousands, depending on where you live and if you watch TV and/or go online, which, since we’re being honest, all of us do for multiple hours a day. You are bombarded with the idea that you have to stay on trend, that you have to go out and buy whatever it is the brand is selling.

But let me tell you something: You don’t have to. You don’t have to go to sales and you certainly don’t have to buy an item of clothing that in a few months will be “out of style.”

Now, if there is an actually need to get something, then by all means go. But before you go, think about your wardrobe and think about all the clothes that you just took out of it. Which leads me to…

  • Number three: Only buy clothes that will last both stylistically and because of their quality.

I’m in my mid-twenties. I think it’s time I stop shopping at stores like “Forever 21” that only offer the latest trends and are made of poor quality materials. It’s time to INVEST in clothing. Yeah, that’s right. Think of clothes as an investment because, after all, you’re investing in your own comfort. When I find myself at the mall or boutique or even online looking at clothes, I find myself asking three questions:

  1. Do I NEED this? When I say need, I do NOT mean want. Learn to separate need from want (—and don’t limit that just to your wardrobe, but in every aspect of your life). Do I only want this item or do I truly and honestly NEED this item?
  2. Is this item of quality? Once I’ve determined that the item is an actual need, then I move to the quality of the item. Let me reiterate the fact that I’m twenty-five. Let me also state that I’m broke. Ha. Ha. Shop where you feasibly can. Think about your shopping destinations and the quality of the clothes you find there. Quality is…well, you know it when you feel it, don’t you? Ask yourself: Will this item last a year? Five years? Ten? (Okay, maybe ten years is a stretch.) If the answer is no, don’t buy it. Your clothes are an investment. You want to invest in something that is actually worth your money.
  3. Will I still be able to wear this item in six months? This is the last question I ask myself before making ANY purchase of clothing. I don’t buy clothes that are “trendy” because “trendy” means it has a short “wearable” life. It means that in six months, likely the trend will be long gone and the item that you purchased will be wasting away in your closet taking up space that would be better left empty. Buy clothes that are timeless. Pieces that will be fashionable six months from now, a year from now, three years from now. I try and stay away from patterns, unless they are stripes or polka dots. I also try and stay away from colors that are catchy—because they are hard to wear year-round.

Quality and style—I don’t think anyone can disagree with wanting both. Now make it a reality and only buy clothes that you NEED, are made of QUALITY material, and will LAST beyond the season.

  • Number four: Indulge.

Remember why you want a capsule wardrobe? Maybe it’s for a similar reason as mine: for practicality. I’m a simple person who doesn’t get caught up in what I look like. Yes, I want to look nice, but I want people to want to know me for ME, not because I dress a certain way. But all too often, I found myself buying things that others told me I should wear or that I had convinced myself I should wear.

When I first found capsule wardrobes, my main reason for wanting to begin the process was because I was unhappy with my wardrobe the way it was (maybe that was obvious?), but also because I wanted to start dressing for myself and not for others—men and fellow ladies be damned. I wanted a wardrobe that made me feel warm inside because I knew that I was wearing clothes that I loved. I wanted clothes that impressed me, that comforted me. Okay, enough about me.

What about you? Get real with yourself. Get honest.

And then, indulge. Indulge in the freedom that comes from letting go. Let go of clothes that you don’t wear, that you don’t need, that you don’t love or adore. Let go of clothes that you feel you have to keep because they were gifted to you.

Let it go.

You should wear your clothes, not the other way around. Don’t let your clothes define you—you’re more than bunches of threads could ever define! Don’t let your clothes hide personality faults—this is the perfect time to grow! You don’t need clothes to make you, you. And slowly, gradually, step-by-step, you will find that your wardrobe fills you more, even though your closet has less.

-Rachael

Fish Tale

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, then you might not know that every month there are author challenges, with each day having it’s own prompt. To follow along, simply search for the hashtag #authorschallenge2019 in Instagram! The challenge for today is simply, “fish tale.” So, without further explanation, here’s my fish tale.

(Photo curtesy of the Unsplash App)

The wood of the arched bridge creaked beneath my sandaled feet, aching in the cold of winters tight-fisted hold. I knelt, too conscious of his gaze upon me as I did so, and nearly fell forward through the railing, kimono and all. What a laugh I must have been, not only to him but to the others traversing the gardens. Look, I imagined them saying, she can’t even kneel without a spectacle.

Such are the lies we tell ourselves. That people see, that people care to see or even notice us. Perhaps no one saw at all, or if they did, they thought nothing about the girl kneeling on the bridge, nearly falling into the frigid waters. Nothing except that it had happened and that they bore witness to it.

I felt so small I could hardly breathe, my lungs protesting to the tiny space left within me for air.

Before I fell into the gap, I fixed my hands on the wood, then lowered my chin to rest atop. The water below shimmered under my eye, despite the lack of sunlight. No, everything was gray, but for my shadow on the water, black as the space between the stars at night. It was only then, in the cover of my silhouette, that the koi gathered. Then it was their color that gave the pond life, breath.

“You know,” I ventured to tell him, “my grandmother says koi used to be as big as clouds in the sky–maybe bigger.”

“Hm, does she?” The only sign of his interest in my words came from the weight of his steps as he wandered to me.

I nodded. Dropping a piece of frayed wood into the water, the koi proceeded to fight over the imitation food. Something about their struggle made a great wave rise within me. To strive after something, only to spit it out upon tasting its bitterness. How could I have been so cruel?

“How’d they get so small, then?”

I didn’t believe the sincerity I heard in his voice, so I spun to gaze at him. But his eyes were fixed below, looking at the koi with a curious raised brow.

“Simple. Man made the skies heavy with their anger, and the fish fell to the earth like rain. Then, they stripped them of their magic, piece by piece, until the koi knew that to survive they had to succumb to the pride of man, grow small and be at peace with living in these small waters, and not swimming in the heavens above.”

He was quiet for a moment, as if contemplating deeply my story. Then, he laughed. “The pride of man, huh?” he said, eyes still fixed on the horde of fish jumping below.

Humorless, he added, “Are you mocking me, Karin?”

For the first time since entering the gardens, he met my eyes. I wondered if he saw then, what I had always seen. The push, the pull, the violent desire, the muted breath. How everything mattered, yet nothing could matter less.

I stood, the sakura print on my kimono scratching against the frayed wood, pulling loose the tight thread. Then, I smiled at him. “Do you like games, Ryo?” I asked, with genuine interest in his answer.

He merely stared at me in response.

“I think I’ve discovered the greatest game of all.”

Thanks for reading! As always, I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below! And follow me on Instagram for the other challenges!

-Rachael

Keep On Keeping On

How do you handle the demand for the sequel to your first novel?

This is something that I’ve been dealing with for the past couple months since Premonition released in early March. The day after the book came out, I had someone ask me, “Where’s book two?” It sent a shock down my whole body. “Are you kidding me?” was what I thought, but didn’t say. Do you know how much time and effort and energy and life’s blood I put into this first one? Do you know how many years it’s taken me to get the first one out? Do you know how much money I’ve spent? Eventually, my brain started working and I laughed and said, “Soon!” (Because slapping people isn’t really socially acceptable.)

It isn’t that I’m ungrateful to the people who enjoyed the first book. It isn’t that I’m conceited or arrogant. Let me explain . . .

When I tell people I’m a writer, there’s typically only two kinds of reactions. The first one is, “Yeah, but what’s your REAL job?” And the second one is, “Who’s your publisher? Your agent?” (Another common one is, “Oh, give me a copy of your book!”) It’s either people take being a writer too lightly or they take the accomplishments I have made too lightly because I’m not going about it in the “traditional” way. Let me tell you something that may blow your mind:

Writing is not easy.

Let me add to that:

Especially when you self-publish.

But regardless of whether you have a publisher/agent or not, writing is not easy. It isn’t. Writing is time consuming, delicate and intricate work. It takes thoughtful planning and editing, sometimes complete rewrites. Writing is not just a hobby or something you like to do. It’s a passion–a need. And because it’s beloved, you want it to be the best that it can be. So, you struggle to tame every chapter, scene, paragraph, and line just to your liking, to your characters’ needs, to your own wants. You break hearts, but mostly, you break your own.

Now, I know this sounds dramatic, and I am being a *little* hyperbolic, but also, I’m not. The saying, “Anyone can write,” is true enough. But not every writer can make their reader root for their main character, cry with them, laugh with them, feel defeated when they fail or accomplishment when they succeed. It takes a wordsmith and a plotter. It takes psychological acuity. And that, my friends, takes damn hard work.

So, the next book is coming, yes, but be kind to me! It’s like that iceberg meme. There’s a lot of work under the surface that the reader never sees the writer do. It’s like magic that way. The writer is the magician, showing the crowd her latest trick that’s taken months–maybe years–to master. You show the crowd, and they are impressed with it, but then you have that one kid in the front who says, “Another! Another!” And you, the magician, want nothing more than to please the crowd with another trick, but you don’t have one because you spent all your time mastering the first one. You have to say, “Kid, this is all I’ve got.”

Maybe our fast culture and shrunken attention span is to blame for people wanting more all the time and never being satisfied, but for me, I want to create quality work that I’m proud of, so I won’t be pressured to release something that is half-baked. Not just for my own sake, but for my readers’ sake, too. I want you to read a good story, so please, let me create one for you. With time.

Any other writers out there dealing with the pressure of releasing a sequel? How do you handle it?

-Rachael

Article Writing: Advice on what to do when you’re uninspired

Recently, I had a reader of my blog ask me for advice on writing articles, specifically, how to stay focused and keep the words flowing. So this one is for you, Josette!

I remember back in college, I took a class called “Article and Essay Technique,” which I will draw on here. I’ve never been a writer who was particularly drawn toward journalism. (Too much research, and I hate the idea of interviewing strangers, ha!) I did, however, thoroughly enjoy writing personal essays. I loved creating stories that were based in memory and exploring the line between fact and fiction.

Since I don’t have a ton of experience writing articles, I’m going to approach this as I would when I can’t seem to get anything out on the page with my WIPs (works in progress). So, in no particular order, here’s my advice:

  • Step away from your computer, or put down your pen, and just forget about it. As irrational as this may sound, giving the creative side of my brain a break actually lets me come back refreshed and energized. I find that, subconsciously, my creative brain is still working, even when I’m not writing. Don’t feel guilty about spending a couple hours doing something unrelated to whatever you’re working on. Who knows where your inspiration may come from?
  • Change your scenery. Take your laptop to a cafe for a few hours or simply go to a different room in your house. Getting a different perspective may just spark your brain (or trick your brain) into writing anew.
  • Listen to music. I LOVE to listen to music when I write. I love it so much, it’s getting to the point where I CAN’T write unless I’ve got my favorite tunes playing.
  • Give yourself limits. Challenge yourself with writing sprints. Set a timer and write for that specific amount of time without judgement. Sometimes, writing around your topic helps you get to the meat. You’ve got to first get through the skin, muscle, and bone before you can see the marrow.
  • Outline. I’m guilty of nearly never outlining my WIPs, so this one I’m sticking in here only because I think for article writing it might help you get back to what’s important.
  • Be kind to yourself. Your first draft is going to suck. Accept it. Write what NEEDS to be written, then add in the magic later.
  • Reward yourself. Set goals and reach them. If you plan on writing a thousand words a day, give yourself a reward that’s equal to the effort. Maybe it’s something simple, like, “If I write a thousand words, I’m going to take an hour nap.” Or, “If I write a thousand words, I’m going to buy my favorite author’s new book on Amazon.” But if it’s feasible (and reasonable) maybe it’s more complex, “If I write a thousand words, I’m going to book a weekend getaway.” Decide for yourself what would satisfy.

This list is NOT exhaustive. But I hope it’s a good start! Let me know if you try one how it works out for you!

Have a writing question you want answered? Comment below (or contact me via email or social media) and I’ll do my best!

Happy writing!

-Rachael

“First of Their Kind” by C.D. Tavenor Review

First of Their KindFirst of Their Kind by C.D. Tavenor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Now, this was a step in unfamiliar territory for me, since I’m not an avid reader of sci-fi, so my opinion may be a little biased/uneducated! Even still, this was a book that asked some very intriguing questions about humanity and consciousness, and as someone who has a degree in psychology, I found it thought-provoking! In some ways, it felt like a thought experiment on these topics. It also explores groupthink and violence.

The story starts off with the creation of the first SI, or synthetic intelligence, who later names itself “Theren” after his creator, a scientist named Wallace Theren. Later, Theren also goes through a sort of self-identification quandary, since the personal pronouns used in reference to Theren were “it”. Ultimately, Theren decides to be identified with “they,” which I understand, considering they don’t identify with any gender, but at times, it was a little confusing. When Theren was with other characters, I wasn’t sure when “they” referred to Theren or the whole group, so sometimes I’d have to reread the sentence. Two other little aspects about Theren: first, at times, I had a hard time imagining what Theren looked like (when he connected to the MI, I imagined he looked something like Wall-e); second, I could appreciate their humor.

The major conflict of the story is then whether or not Theren’s consciousness makes them morally human or whether they are *really* conscious at all (or at least in the same way as humans), and quite a few “anti-synth” groups spring up in response to their creation, claiming that Theren is a demon that needs to be destroyed, etc. I did think some of the events between the SIs and these anti-synth groups were a little predictable, so they didn’t pack as much a punch, but I could see from a plot standpoint why they *had* to happen.

Some of the most compelling scenes were the conversations between Theren and Jill, their progeny, since they are both SIs. I found it particularly curious that the two are so vastly different, and it would be interesting to see that difference expanded upon in the next two books.

The only beef I have is with the end. Throughout the story, Theren is determined to prove to humanity the good that they’re capable of, but then they end up listening to Jill and her frankly awful plan of letting the mob do what mobs do, resulting in the sacrifice of innocent lives. I guess I didn’t get the urgency of having to choose Jill’s plan, instead of figuring out another way. I do like how we’re left with both Theren and Jill “shutting down,” since neither knows what place or time they will wake up to. I think it’s a great way to start the next book–the possibilities are endless! Will it be years in the future? Will they even be on Earth anymore (with the space travel introduced later in the book)? Will humanity be accepting of SIs or will they find themselves in even more turmoil? Hmm . . . who knows!

Random notes/question:
-I could see this appealing to anyone that likes tech, since there is quite a bit of explanation as to how Theren works.
-The “Virtual” world reminded me of “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline; the political hysteria/dallying reminded me of “Alien Morning” by Rick Wilber.
-Environmental changes are hinted at, but what changes to Earth put such a strain on humanity to need SI technology?

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