Beautiful People Meme: Couples Edition

Alright, well since I’ve posted only serious nonsense recently, I thought the blog could use Beautiful Peoplea little brevity. And by brevity, I mean doing the BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE meme hosted by
Paper Fury
and Further Up and Further In. This month, the focus is couples.

So here’s 10 questions and answer on one of the couple (because yes, there’s more than one) in my first book, GUARDED:

No. 1 | How and why did they meet?
Kjersten and Jon meet during one of Kjersten’s shifts at Beans Hollow Café where she and her sister work. Jon was sent by the magical realm’s Council to document her progress with her abilities.

No. 2 | What were their first impressions of each other?
Kjersten’s first impression of Jon was just observing the similarities between them. It had been years since she’d run into a fellow martial artist, so the scars that come from splitting your brow open or breaking your nose stood out to her in a very specific way.

Jon’s first impression of Kjersten was a bit more conflicted. The information he’d been given on her painted her in a less than complementary light (the Council thought her abilities had killed her parents). So when he meets a girl who seems driven more by fear than guilt, it makes him question the validity of the Council’s report, which of course makes him more interested in getting to know the real her.

No. 3 | How would they prove their love for each other?
Their relationship is very much built of mutual respect and understanding. Neither of them needs ‘proof’ of the other’s affections. It’s more that neither of them quite know how to communicate the depth of their feelings.

No. 4 | What would be an ideal date?
Eek. Kjersten isn’t the romantic type, and Jonathan hasn’t entertained the idea of romance (also why they have a hard time communicating their affection for each other). The two of them just thoroughly enjoy each others’ company, whether it’s talking over Jon’s homemade kofta (a Middle Eastern dish where spiced ground lamb is wrapped in eggplant and baked in a delicious red sauce) or practicing new grappling techniques in a sparring match.

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No. 5 | Is there something they emphatically disagree on?
Kjersten’s impulse to do things herself. It’s a constant source of contention in their relationship because Jon just wants to be there for her.

No. 6 | List 5 “food quirks” they know about each other. (Ex: how they take their coffee, if they’re allergic to something, etc….and feel free to mention other non-food quirks!)
Quirk 1: Jon loves Hazelnut Latte’s. It’s the only thing he orders at the café and when Kjersten needs to apologize, she usually brings along one to soften Jon up a bit.

Quirk 2: Kjersten is a bad cook. She can bake if she has a recipe because her mind is analytical that way, but her personality doesn’t lend itself toward artful expression.

Quirk 3: Cooking is a soft spot for Jon. It’s one of the few positive memories he has of his birth parents, so most of the things he cooks are recipes learned from his birth mom.

Quirk 4 (non-food): Kjersten is bad at regulating her temper. Really bad at it. Jon can usually see when one her blow-ups is coming down the hatch, but sometimes he doesn’t catch it quick enough.

Quirk 5 (non-food): Jon is a deceptively talented healer. His foster-dad was a village healer in the magical realm and taught Jon a lot of what he knew, despite Jon not being a healer’s apprentice. Basically, you want Jon on your side of a fight.

No. 7 | What’s one thing they know about each other that no one else does?
Kjersten is probably the only person Jon has allowed to know the depth of his heartache over being cast out by his birth family. Jon refuses to show that sensitive underbelly to the vast majority of people.

On the other side, Jon is the only person who Kjersten allows to see her vulnerability. She trusts him implicitly. So if she makes a mistake, he’s the first person she confides in about it.

trust-in-everything

No. 8 | What’s one thing that they keep a secret from each other?
The depth of their affection for the other. Most of their lives have been filled with losing people they care about, so both of them have a deep-rooted fear that if they were to reveal their feelings, they’d suddenly lose them.

No. 9 | How would their lives be different without each other?
Jon would continue through life, detached from those around him, ignorant to the real reason his family cast him out. Kjersten’s PTSD would continue to eat her alive without that tether to pull her back from the edge. (I think it’s important to note that Jon doesn’t ‘fix’ Kjersten’s PTSD. He is a source of non-judgmental support that acts as a type of mirror for her to process her emotions and fears so she can better manage her PTSD.)

No. 10 | Where do they each see this relationship going?
Unfortunately, Kjersten’s going to outlive Jon by a solid couple centuries. But right now, they’re just taking solace in the fact that they know they have each other’s backs, as well as their hearts.


This Q&A goes on for the rest of the month, so if you want to get to know some of the other couples in the series, let me know in the comments below and I’ll do a separate post for each. 🙂

If you want to learn more about Kjersten’s story, check out the pitch and first 500 words here.

Sometimes You Can’t Push Past The Crap, and That’s Okay.

So originally, I was going to write a helpful post of how to budget your energy to achieve your goals. Because let’s face it, living with mental illness is a draining, exhausting endeavor. And I’m sure I’ll get back to that post at some point in the future, but as I was rounding out the second paragraph, the Superbowl started.

Everything was fine. The Schuyler Sisters rocked America the Beautiful. Atlanta was kicking Brady’s ass. Twitter was a semi-happy place for the first time since the election. And Lady Gaga gave a phenomenal Half-time performance that had me crying because BORN THIS WAY!

Then everything wasn’t fine. Patriots came back. Richard Spencer (the Nazi who got punched) was rejoicing the white-ness of the Patriots. And reality hit like a double decker bus speeding out of hell.

Safe to say, that budget-your-energy post kinda disappeared into the abyss of my irritation. I’ve taken on quite a lot (for me) this past month and that paired with new awful Cheeto-related disasters happening on a fairly daily basis, my ability to rebound from depressive states has pretty much disappeared. I’m trying. I swear! Hence the blog post.

But Holy Crud is it difficult. I love my country. I served in the Army for several years and spent one of those years in Iraq. That deployment was what got me into this little mental health pickle I’m now in. And funny story, my PTSD has very little to do with the incoming rockets our base took on a regular basis. My PTSD is the result of being used as a scapegoat for men’s incompetence. My PTSD was caused by my own effin countrymen.

So seeing the current state of America and how millions of lives are being destroyed by ignorance and incompetence and greed, it all gets a tad overwhelming to deal with. Because what was the point of my military service if people can’t love freely, if people can’t worship freely, if women can’t walk down the street without getting sexually harassed, if black men can’t walk down the street without getting arrested (for no good reason other than their skin tone), if refugees can’t find solace within our borders, or if First Nation Americans are being brutalized for protecting THEIR land from Oil-Industry greed. And let us not forget our allies who helped American troops overseas and at home, who had our backs in war zones.

I love my country. But I keep falling back on the same fear I had in Iraq: what if the people who I could supposedly count on could benefit from hurting me? This is always on my mind, and I can’t remove that filter from my eyes as I look at my family who all voted for the Cheeto and who refuse to follow what his actions are doing to this country and our allies.

But like Iraq, I have things to do. So here’s me, seeing the shit storm, pulling up a poncho, and hunkering down to achieve my goals. Because, in the words of Maureen Johnson, Trump doesn’t get to steal my joy.

Recovery & Broken Promises

And it’s 2017… well then…

At the turn of the new year, I realized that I made a few promises as a blogger that I totally failed in fulfilling. I’d promised I’d give you a run down of NerdCon, that didn’t happen. Was supposed to do all three posts for the Beautiful Books Meme during NaNoWriMo, that definitely didn’t happen. And getting back on a regular posting schedule, haha yeah… nope.

I kept hoping that I would get my feet back under me and I could be “the old me” again. The “me” who could handle multiple projects and intense deadlines. The “me” who didn’t flinch at the idea of interacting with people. The “me” who met every challenge with determination for success.

Yet here we are in 2017 and I’m still figuring things out. One thing that therapists at the VA say when you’re dealing with PTSD say is that I need to come to grips with the fact that THIS is my new reality and that I need to understand that I might never get back to “the old me.” I comprehend what they’re saying, but dear Lord, is it difficult to accept it. Because I want to do ALL THE THINGS.

Therapist’s response: Don’t overwhelm yourself.

She’s right, of course. The more I push to get back to my old rhythm, the more I end up snapping back into exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. This is probably TMI, as this is suppose to be a writing/reading blog, but I don’t want to pretend that mental health issues are something that can simply be overcome. I’m NOT saying that there’s no hope. I’m saying that mental health is a constant, a program running in the background. Depending on how many items you have open on your desktop, you can either run smoothly or get bogged down, have things shut down on you, then you get so infuriated that you want to throw the whole computer out the window… or maybe that’s just me.

I know the posts I’ve published since my giant hiatus have been mostly focused on my PTSD, and I want to apologize for that, but honestly, I think that this is a conversation that some people need to have. To know they’re not alone. To know it’s okay to talk about these struggles. Sure, this platform didn’t start off as a mental health discussion, but you know what, everything we do, everything we experience, affects our mental health, and subsequently our creative projects.

I promise I haven’t been “down for the count” since last I posted. I DID complete the 50k for NaNoWriMo. I DID perform in the musical I was cast in. I DID start querying. And lastly, I AM developing consistent friendships.

Don’t “aww” that last one. I spent most of 2016 pushing away EVERYONE. Creating and developing friendships is a huge step forward for me, and I’m not mad at it.

So I am finding “a new me” because that’s all I can do. I have to take the things I want to do and prioritize them. But self-care has to come first. Things that keep me from spiraling down into the dark abyss come first. I can’t miss therapy. I have to be physically active. I need to keep writing.

I know I have a lot of privilege to be able to structure my life this way. A small perk of being a War Veteran, I guess. Maybe I’ll write a blog post regarding my attempt at working fulltime last year, but no promises. But I do urge you, if you struggle with mental health, to get help. Or at the very least, try to find things that help you cope and make them a priority as best you can.

Till next time.
– Bree

 

An Update on Life, Writing, and What’s Next

Hey all,

So it’s been a couple months since I last checked in, and quite a bit has happened. I finished the latest version of GUARDED (book 1 in my YA series), went to NerdCon: Stories, and I was cast in a musical.

But here’s the thing about suddenly doing all the things after months of simply surviving: constantly attempting to be a “real person” exhausts you to the point that there’s very little energy to overcome those pesky PTSD symptoms. Which is why I fell off the blog bandwagon… again.

Recovery. It’s a slow process.

There is good news in all this though. I’m really, truly, only a round of revision plus polish away from sending queries out into the universe. It’s terrifying and exciting to finally be at this point. Especially after not being able to even look at the manuscript for so much of this year.

I promise I’ll do a whole post unpacking the phenomenal awesomeness that was NerdCon: Stories. I’m still recovering from all the socializing that was involved. Despite how exhausting it was, I’m beyond happy that I went. All the panels and talks were brilliant, I really hope they’ll do another one in 2017.

As for the future, I go to Chicago this week to meet up with a friend from Maryland for a Girls’ Weekend. I adore Chicago. It’s one of my two favorite cities. The other being Baltimore. Fantastic city plus fantastic friend. Should be a fantastic weekend. 🙂

Then there’s November right around the corner, which means National Novel Writing Month. Despite all the goings-on of this year, I am still planning on participating. And when I come back from Chicago, I’ll post what project I plan on tackling.

Hope everything is well with you all!

Bree

Just Use Said: A Writerly Discussion on Dialogue Tags

There are a lot of articles and blog posts on this subject, but I wanted to open a discussion here.

Before I joined a writer’s critique group, my writing was far from publishable. I had adverbs everywhere, along with a lot of ‘said’ synonyms. The more my work was reviewed, the more I realized I had a lot to learn in the writing department.

Like the use of adverbs, I realized that when I began avoiding said-synonyms, I was forced to strengthen the narrative and clarify the action.

I’m not sure about you and your writing, but when I was using said-synonyms, it was as a means to avoid excessive use of ‘said.’ BUT the glorious thing about changing all those tags back to ‘said’ is that you begin to see all the holes in the narrative, giving you the opportunity to strengthen the prose and clarify tone.

Here’s an example:

“And what about you?” I whimpered.

Or.

A shudder rippled through my chest, spilling tears onto my cheeks. I pulled my sleeve over my knuckles and wiped them away. “And what about you?”

The first one is fine, sure. But the second gives a sense of what’s going on outside of the dialogue. As a reader, I start a book for the concept, but stay for the characters. When you take the time to reveal those subtle character traits, like how they interpret what they’re feeling or how they respond to what they’re feeling, the reader is able to get a clearer picture of the character, leading to a better connection between your writing and the reader.

Substituting action for dialogue tags also provides a more cinematic reading experience. Going back to the example, whimpered describes how it is said, but when you add in the details of the character wiping away the tears with her sleeve, you get to see what the character is doing. Again, this gives the reader more insight into the character, making the reader more sympathetic to the character’s cause/goals.

Of course, these are just my thoughts and preferences as a reader and writer. I believe that writing, like most arts, is incredibly subjective, so if you have additional thoughts, please share them in the comments section below.