Kelly Flowers

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Work in Progress – New Novel

I feel like I’ve edited these 300 words a thousand times.

Transcendents

Chapter 1

Evan sees it in slow motion, the fall leaves scalloping Mara’s profile as the car hovers above her, the girl on the bike peddling by. He’s seen it a hundred times. Mara is turning to the sound of the squealing brakes, her silhouette swollen against the backdrop of autumn, her hand slung under her enormous belly. The breaching car winks in the sunlight and the sound of Mara’s body as the car hits her is like a sack of mortar being dropped from a truck. Then, she is gone.

It always start in the groin, the pressure so violent it’s almost pain. Evan stops walking. His fist clenches over six oval pills but when he opens his hand, it’s empty. He can taste the pills, the bitter film on them as he swallows one after the other. He feels the heaviness of his limbs, how easily he’d closed his eyes. But the pills hadn’t worked. He’s still here. Here. 

Evan turns in a small circle, his feet squeaky on the white floor. A set of tapping footsteps fades in front of him as the man he’s following walks on without him. Evan tries to focus on the man but all he sees shapes, changing, colliding, lines unfolding like dismantled origami. Hexagons turn into ellipses, triangles to quadrilaterals. When he opens his mouth, the queasy taste of metal comes in waves. 

The man turns, his face chiseled by the light. “Please try to keep up,” he says. “Our time is limited.” 

Beyond the man is a doorway, the white hallway telescoping to it. “I realize you are disoriented,” he adds. “But it will come to you as we go. This…” The man tilts a thin hand toward a door. “Is the waiting room. I will bring you back here once we’ve completed the tour.” He makes eye contact and then continues.

How many ways can this be rewritten? I’ll let you know.

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40 Before 40 – The Mid-Age Bucket List

bucket listMany moons ago, I was a bright-eyed go-getter, bent on squeezing every drop from the gristly lime of life. I had a lot of things I wanted to do and I was in a big hurry to do them.giphy-3

And then life happened. Every now and then, it occurred to me that the ME I had designed in my twenties was a long gone blueprint, some imaginary being the lab had given up on.

My priorities were unwillingly rearranged with children and societal pressure to normalize and the constant need to pay for some life necessity or another. The nerve.

Then comes 40. I’m on the countdown and it’s time to regroup, assess, question whether all that party planning and crafting really counts as moving forward in life. (Existentially, it is also time to question whether moving forward is the real goal.)

Have I lived enough? I asked myself. Have I accomplished enough? Have I adventured enough? I’ve never even been to India! 

This anxiety sent me straight to list making, because making lists is every Type-A’s therapy. A well-written list can solve any problem.

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Now, while I’m still ruminating on the existential meaning of life, I’ve constructed a really scintillating list. 40 things I want to do before I turn 40. Because if there’s one other thing a type-a likes, it’s a deadline. 😉

So, if anyone is so inclined… jump on board and do a 50 before 50 or a 30 before 30 or a 47 before 47 (although it, admittedly, doesn’t have the same ring).

(Legal disclaimer: I got a version of this idea from Gretchen Rubin, who on her podcast appearance with none other than Tim Ferriss, talked about her 18 for 2018 resolution list.)

Here’s my 40 Before 40…

  1. Publish book – Come hell or high water
  2. Sing karaoke – IN PUBLIC
  3. See the Northern Lights – I was born in Alaska and don’t even remember ever seeing the aurora borealis. poo.
  4. Do the splits
  5. Take Scottish dancing class – Seems random but I am Scottish, did Scottish dancing as a teenager (see how cool I was?) and am thoroughly obsessed with all things Scottish.
  6. Do 10 pull-ups
  7. Take a painting class
  8. Take a hip-hop/dance class – Maybe improve my Elaine-from-Seinfield moves. Maybe not.

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    I had to.

  9. Go tent camping – Glamping doesn’t count, much to my city-boy husband’s chagrin.
  10. Take a pottery class
  11. Buy a Motorhome
  12. Motorhome across the country
  13. Go to a horse ranch
  14. Organize/print digital photos – Honestly, this may be the hardest thing on this list.
  15. Go whale watching
  16. Go to Iceland
  17. Try aerial yoga
  18. Try acro yoga
  19. Ride a skateboard – Friends are trying to talk me out of this due to potential physical injury to my middle-aged body.
  20. Learn to ski
  21. Meet Tim Ferriss – Tim, if you’re out there, I’m a total fangirl and will likely have nothing intelligent to say due to nervous paralyzation.
  22. Do a handstand
  23. Get back to my college fluency in Spanish
  24. Remodel our home office
  25. Go rock climbing – Indoor is ok. I’m not a snob or anything.
  26. Learn how to swim strokes – like real swimming, not bobbing and flapping
  27. Play the ukulele
  28. Go to a poetry reading
  29. Read the Harry Potter books – Because I have heard this should be on every bucket list and apparently I’ve been living in a barn having not read them.
  30. Organize travel memorabilia – Hmmm, what to do with train tickets from Belgium, coasters from Peru and sugar packets from Morocco…
  31. Burn music to hard drive – I literally do not have a CD player
  32. Teach my kids to play chess
  33. Teach my son to read
  34. Go to a trampoline gym – I’m thinking without my kids. Would that be weird?
  35. Be vegan for a week
  36. Make a good (thai) curry
  37. Make a scrapbook for my husband’s last birthday – I’m such a giver.
  38. Take self-defense class
  39. Get laser hair removal – because shaving sucks
  40. Ride a jet ski – I have never done this and stole it from my friend’s bucket list because I was like “Oh yeah, I HAVE always wanted to do that.”

So there. I’m about to get at it.

P.S. If any writers out there are feeling mid-life crisis-y like I was, be comforted by the statistic that 95% of great writers are over the hump of 40. Like fine wine, apparently literary success improves with age. One in the pro column for getting older.


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Writing For The Masses. Writing For One.

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 2.57.26 PMSo, a friend of mine, Tricia, recently wrote a book. She’s written screenplays and movie scripts (both produced) and despite writing being her hobby, she has a keen knack for storytelling, drama and pace.

(She’s also one of my favorite editors, able to zero in on flaws with ruthless and confident precision. She has red-marked, nay, red-slashed many a written page of mine. And I love her for this.) 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 2.51.35 PMAt the 2016 SDSU Writer’s Conference, Tricia’s book was voted best new work by not one, but both of the agents that read it. Must to the chagrin of the second agent, the first agent immediately asked for exclusive rights and is now her agent. This is the stuff writer fantasies are made of, amirite?giphy

 

And they lived happily every after… However…

Of course we all know, like, logically, that writing a book is not the hard part. Publishing a book is the real work. We know, we know. We just don’t reeeeeally believe it.

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And here is where my tale begins.

Tricia’s agent has her book in the hands of top editors in the industry, matchmaking to the best of her ability. And love has not yet struck. The fact is, finding the right publisher can be shitty miserable humiliating frustrating.  Continue reading


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How To Write A Book – 5 Tips For Using Beta Readers

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*Note: This blog is for those using FREE beta readers, as in.. favors from friends or friends of friends. If you are paying beta readers, many of these points will not apply. But you’re not paying for beta readers, are you???

  1. That Which Should Not Be Named

The first time I asked a couple of people to beta read my book, I sensed their hesitation. I wasn’t sure if this was because they thought I was a terrible writer (because as a writer, I ponder this question Every. Single. Day.) Maybe they didn’t want to devote time to what could be an awful read. I knew they liked to read, after all. That’s why I chose them.

Then one friend said, “I don’t think I’m qualified to beta read.”

To which I replied, “I just need you to read it and give me feedback on things like plot and character and such.

“Oh!” she said. “I can do that!”

And I realized the problem. The term “beta reader” implies some prowess of critical reading that only a professional would have. But the fact is, beta reading is giving an overall impression of the work. Maybe just scrap the term unless your beta reader is in the writing world.

I told my friend. “Just imagine you’re one of those reviewers on Amazon.com who leave detailed and scrutinizing criticism of the books they’ve read. (And your feedback might save me a few scathing reviews someday)” Now, if I could just get my hands on a few of those Amazon reviewers! They would tell it like it is! Which leads me to my next point…

  1. Don’t Ask Your Mother

Mothers Make Better Fans Than Critics

Or

Mothers Make Better Critics Than Fans

mother dear

Either way, your mother (whether she be adoring or unpleasable) will never be your target audience because she changed your poopy diapers and listened to your lisp until you were 5. She is too close to you and your work. (Maybe she is even IN your work a little.)

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New Years – How To Find More Time

After drinking our champagne at dawn, my husband could not stop congratulating himself on his artsy photography skills.


It’s that time of year again! Time to careen into January full of gusto and resolve. So what if we sputter halfway into February. That’s a whole month (and one twelfth of a year) of progress. That has to be worth something!

It seems like just yesterday I was writing last years new years blog, “Resolutions” Don’t Work. I get really excited about this. My readers, all five of them, know that New Years is one of my favorite holidays.

Once, I saw something on HONY (for those of you that are not up on HONY, I’m obsessed with him. It stands for Humans of New York and this photojournalist, Brandon Stanton, walks the streets and takes people’s pictures, telling little bits of their conversation. I’ve followed him for years and its always poignant and powerful and I feel he miraculously reveals a bit of soul in two or three lines of conversation. Readers, all five of you, follow him! You’ll thank me.)

So back to my point… Years ago, there was a post of a woman. She said something like… (Excuse the lack of verbatim. This is how I remember it.)

“I have this theory. We are all given the same amount of time but time is a subjective concept. So if things in our lives are always changing, it feels like we get “more” time.” Continue reading


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How NOT To Write A Novel – No Pressure, No Progress

Writing, for most, is not their day job. I do write for a living and therefore feel entitled to this sketchy analogy.

Writing for work (aka your day job) and writing for fun (aka your literary masterpiece) are like having a child or a puppy, respectively. With your child, you have a schedule. School, dentists, doctors and soccer games. If you don’t make your deadlines, you’ll have CPS or a truancy board after you.

But your novel is like a puppy. It was a choice that brings you great joy and anguish and tests your discipline and resolve. And you can be as diligent as you want (as long as you feed it) If you do a lazy job raising your puppy, you’ll just have a jerk of a dog.

After a long day of parenting, training a puppy doesn’t rank high on the joy list. Just as, after a long day of work, carving out a couple hours to work on our manuscript sounds exhausting (especially if you’re STILL editing 😞)

It’s easy to put it off. And then put it off again. Because there’s always tomorrow, right?

Welllllll, let me tell you the difference between work writing and hobby writing for me.

DEADLINES.

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This is great if you are UBER disciplined. You have probably already put yourself on a schedule. You’re probably already adhering to your deadlines. (Good. For. You.) and (Whatever.)

But if you’re like me, Continue reading


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How NOT To Write A Novel – To Plan or Not To Plan, That is The Question

tmhnksI began writing a book the way you probably shouldn’t. I sat down and thought, “Hey let’s describe this cool place” and “let’s develop this random character. Yes, this is fun. Look at me! Writing a book!”

I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t even have a plot! There was a character I really liked so I started to write around him and brainstormed as I went. Geniuses write this way, I’m told. I, however, am not a genius so what this produced from me was lots of pretty dribble. I can say that now. And the problem is, it took me a long time to figure out that it was dribble. (I am comforted by the fact it was pretty dribble at least).

There are a thousand ways to go about writing a book. I’ve polled a small population of authors and come to this…

You can Plan. Plan. Plan. Engineers-turned-writers work this way. They chart their course and check their charts and set sail under a favorable moon. The danger in this is that some never set sail at all. Or that its not all that captivating.

Then there’s the creative types, writing freestyle, letting their inner genius keep them afloat in the open ocean. Everyone wants to be this type, I think. I know I did. Partially because I’d love to discover I happened to be a genius and just didn’t know. And also because, I realize now, I’m lazy.

Write an outline and a bunch of character profiles?

Bah. Just start writing and see where it takes you.

Scrawl a bunch of different story arcs? Character arcs?

Isn’t it more fun to just sit down and write? I mean, this is supposed to be fun, right?

As you can see, I had a lot to learn. I do have to say, having employed this method, it kept me going. If I reached a snag in my storyline, no problem. I’d just skip it. I’ll figure it out later, I’d say. Now, let’s describe this weather. (#FunnyNotFunny) But what I was left with was lots of meandering description and no pace. And it is ALL ABOUT PACE. And here I am, post humorously trying to write my story arc and plot points. And you know what, I’m going to be rewriting A LOT.

A friend of mine has an interesting writing technique. She writes half the book, then writes beats (the chapter by chapter synopsis of what is happening) and then she rewrites the whole thing, like new characters, new plot, everything!

“All that time wasted!” I said when she told me her method. “No,” she said. “This is my process. It’s how I write a better book.” So I started to think about that. There have been times I’ve wanted to start all over. Literally, scrap this book and start fresh. That, my friends, is also laziness. Because the real grief is in the editing.

And what constitutes wasted time anyway? What is a long time to write a book? Some people do it in a month. (#NaNoWriMo) Some prolific authors turn out a new book every few months and they’re best sellers. Some craft their masterpiece for years, boiling their ideas down to syrupy delicious prose. If you finish a book… and it is good, is any of your blood sweat and tears (and more tears) wasted?

If you’re like me, you’ve read about Stephen King’s method and Diana Gabaldon’s method and Elizabeth Gilbert’s method. Prolific, best selling authors to learn from. And there is still no right way. We just have to do it wrong a few times until we find the easiest way.

Onward…

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