Writing

Why I Can’t Write Without Planning

Image from Pixabay

Ten years ago, I returned to writing fiction after a while of not being interested. However, unlike now, I hadn’t studied the writing craft. I had only studied marketing and how to get published.

Anyway, I wrote my first original novel without planning ahead and before creating it. I also dreamed of having it published, even though many people said it was not good enough. Little did I know that they were right all along. I published it, but received no positive feedback. Once I turned 18, I removed that story from the market and actually studied the writing craft. That was when I could no longer write without having a plan.

It is not just with writing where I need to plan far ahead. I need to plan ahead with pretty much anything, including parties, trips, and much more. Sometimes, especially when I was younger, I would over-plan a lot. Many times, last minute changes would occur and I didn’t want to give up my plans.  I was often described as being inflexible.

However, those times have passed. Yet, the part where I have to plan ideas in advance still remains with me. Regardless of that, I have learned to be more flexible than when I was a child. That even goes for my writing.

While I praise my writing and ideas, I am more willing to listen to feedback than in the past. Sometimes, when an editor suggests I remove something, I find a way to make that unnecessary element more important. One example was a certain character, who was a dog that just barked when the doorbell rang. Instead of removing the dog, I managed to find a way to make him crucial to the story.

Anyhow, I have also tried writing without a plan in recent years, but I’ve failed. So, I am meant to plan before I write.

fiction

The Difficult Decision: A Flash Fiction Piece

My energy arose as I thought about my friend, Kylie’s, birthday party happening in two days. Kylie and I had been friends since first grade. I had just completed my freshman year of college, so I looked forward to seeing Kylie after a year.

            But I received a text message from my college friend, Astrid. I read it.

            Lila, my mom just lost her battle with breast cancer. Her funeral is this Saturday.

            Pain shocked my body and my jaw lowered. I responded.

            Oh, no, I’m so sorry to hear.

            The door to the house opened. My mom entered, dragging her feet and lacking energy.

            “Mom, are you all right?” I asked.

            “Lila, did you hear what happened to Mrs. Jackson?”

            I paused for a few seconds. “Astrid’s mom?”

            “Yes.” My mother sat. “Her mom and my mom used to be roommates in college, too.”

            I hesitated and then said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me this?”

            “I…I lost touch with her until you met Astrid.”

            My phone sounded another text alert. I checked it. It came from…Kylie.

            So excited for Saturday. Can’t wait to see you.

            I stared at the communication, but did not respond. Kylie’s birthday party and Mrs. Jackson’s funeral fell on the same day.

            I had attended my grandpa’s funeral two years ago, and I’d had a tough time. I missed him, but I hadn’t cried over his death once…not even after hearing about his passing from my mother.

            While other people had wept at his funeral, I had just stood, bored for hours until the speeches had begun.

            I had hoped not to attend any more funerals since. I recall how the time at the funeral home had dragged and I’d been there for hours with my family.

            Aside from that, I had not seen Kylie since graduation from high school. Her party would start at three P.M. So, maybe I could attend the funeral and then leave for the birthday event. But wait—would that offend Astrid? I had a feeling that it might.

            “Lila, we should go to the funeral this Saturday,” my mom said.

            “How long will it last?”

            My mother gave me a sharp look.

            “Well, I’ve got Kylie’s birthday party at three.”

            “Lila, I think you should skip the party and stay at the funeral.”

            My mouth opened.

            “I get it—we’d all rather go to birthday parties than funerals. But frankly, you’re more friendly with Astrid than Kylie now. Plus, going to the funeral shows that you care and you’re willing to give your condolences. I think it would be more polite if you go to the funeral instead.”

            I sighed and texted Kylie.

            Hey, I can’t go to your party. I’ve got to go to a funeral.

            I sent it. A few seconds later, Kylie responded.

            Oh, ok. I understand. Sorry to hear.

            At least she comprehended me. But maybe my mother had a point. Summer break had just started. So, I’d probably hang out with Kylie another time.

fiction

I Dream of Time-Travel: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

My name is Savannah and I am 26 years old. While I have a lot of amazing memories, so many moments from the past also hurt me to this day. Some I wish I could forget, and others I wish I could change.

            But there is one event from the past that I would consider one of my most painful memories—my seventh birthday. Yes, even when your little, certain things that happen to you can sting so much, you’re upset about them for life. That’s right, when I’m old, I’ll still be haunted by it.

            My second-grade teacher (I had a late birthday in September) forced me to experience something I hated. Then she threw me into a small space that was part of the classroom and had me go through that torture. Then I cried and lost my happiness for the rest of that day. My parents did nothing about it. No one did. You’d think the teacher would’ve been reported for that and would have had to face consequences. Nope. Everything resumed as if nothing had happened.

            Fast-forward 14 years and I attended a fashion college. One of the professors put me down for struggling with my assignments, and even demanded that I switch to another major. My mom freaked out over that. She had me speak to the dean about it, file a disciplinary action report, had me meet with a private instructor instead, and transfer to another college. Even then, she continued to yell at the previous university.

            Five times all those reactions should have taken place with my second-grade teacher. Not only should she have been reported for that awful treatment, but she also should’ve written an apology to me, gotten suspended for a few months, and been on probation for the rest of the school year. Everyone in the class should have apologized, too, along with the principal. She should have sent out a newsletter to everybody, revealing that an incident had occurred where I, the student, had been forced into an uncomfortable position. Adding a reminder that no one should’ve been pushed into those types of situations, mistreatment toward others wouldn’t have been tolerated, and to thank everyone for his or her cooperation, should’ve happened, as well.

            Even though 19 years had passed since, I wish I could go back in time, find my younger self (without revealing that I was her), hand her a note about what needed to happen with the teacher, and remind her to tell Mom. But that will always remain a fantasy.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: Why Don’t We Hear About Wizards with Disabilities?

While J.K. Rowling has addressed and revealed different elements of the “Harry Potter” franchise, including sexual orientations (Dumbledore was gay), there are topics she discussed little to nothing on. Those include vampires, because she claims they’re cliched, religion, even though she mentioned that there were Jewish wizards, such as Anthony Goldstein, and what this post is about: disabilities. Disabilities are never mentioned in “Harry Potter”, except for a blind wizard that didn’t make it to the books and the possibility of Professor McGonagall being in a wheelchair temporarily. But we never hear about wizards and witches who are deaf, mute, or have other physical or neurological disabilities. There have been no clues to special ed at Hogwarts or handicapped pathways or restrooms in the wizarding world.

Although there have not been big discussions about this from major sources, I’m not the first to notice the lack of possible neurodiversity in the “Harry Potter” series. For instance, I saw a comment on YouTube where someone said that they wanted to ask J.K. Rowling if there were autistic wizards, but they couldn’t find a way to contact her. I was thinking, I don’t know. Maybe. We do know there are Jewish, gay, and Transgender wizards. Another person asked on Quora if Hermione had Asperger’s (which I highly doubt), and another YouTuber came up with a theory that Newt Scamander from the spinoff “Fantastic Beasts” franchise had Autism (which I also think is highly unlikely as he didn’t seem that way to me).

Speaking of theories, I have come up with a guess on why neurodiversity is never discussed in “Harry Potter”. Maybe when J.K. Rowling was planning the series in the 90’s, she might not have thought about disabilities at the time. Think about it—the only option for magical education in her books’ world is going to the designated boarding schools. If a child doesn’t learn to control his or her wizardry and suppresses it, he or she becomes an obscurial, where he or she turns into smoke. In fact, many obscurial children don’t live past age 10.

I don’t know the real reason why Rowling never address disabilities in the wizarding world, but the only guesses I have are best to be avoided here. Have you noticed this detail as well?

fiction

Being Bananas at School: A Flash Fiction Piece

My name is Bernard Applebaum, although people often call me Bernie. Recently, my school had spirit week, and one of the days was “change your image day”. As a fan of the “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” song, I decided to dress as a banana.

Little did I know that I couldn’t fit on my bus and I kept bumping into people. And those stares everyone gave me are never going to leave my memory.

I tried impressing people and even recited the lyrics of “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”. However right before the warning bell rang, I fell down the stairs to the basement level, and everybody laughed at me. I got hurt as well. And if that wasn’t so bad, the principal, Mr. Finkle, glared at me. He took me to his office and reminded me of the dress code, which prohibited hazardous clothing, even during spirit week.

My mom had to pick me up as Mr. Finkle demanded that I get send home to change. And he forbade me to wear a costume. I had to take my banana costume off and ride home topless on a chilly October day.

When I came back to school, kids taunted and teased me for the banana costume I’d worn before. I’ll never forget when that boy, Dylan, called me Bernie the Crazy Banana and even said “Don’t throw your peelings at me.”

I had a few friends who I sat with at lunch. But even they didn’t talk to me. In fact, they left me to go to the library—without even inviting me.

I came home not wanting to speak to anyone. I guess I’ve learned my lesson about wearing big costumes to school. The next day was spirit day, where students dressed in the school colors. I just wore street clothes of those colors.

movie

It’s My “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” Review (2018)

Warning: contains spoilers***

Newt is suspended from traveling but gets to go with his brother, Theseus, to find Credence Barebone, who is in France. His American companions, Tina, Queenie, and even no-maj, Jacob, reunite with him. Newt also meets Albus Dumbledore and works together with him. Things get dark and intense quickly.

Unlike many films, I was in the majority of how I viewed this movie. I am often in the minority with a lot of films, where most didn’t like them, but I enjoyed them. With a few exceptions, however, I drift apart from those movies and lose strong feelings about them over time.

Anyway, back to this one. The overall tone was a little too dark and intense for me, especially when Leta had swapped her baby brother, Corvus, with another one (who happened to be Credence), and Corvus died. I found it odd that she didn’t get arrested, even though she was only supposed to be, like, 4 years old.

Speaking of which, the actress who played 4-year-old Leta was the same one who played her as a Hogwarts student. I know some say realism isn’t supposed to be dwelled upon, but that’s about a ten-year difference as in the flashback scene where Newt and Leta were at Hogwarts (and I believe Eddie Redmayne also played the same character as a student, which made me assume Newt was a little older than Leta), and I think they were third-years. That’s a bit too bizarre.

Like many fans, I noticed some inconsistencies with this movie, such as disapparating onto Hogwarts grounds, which isn’t supposed to be possible. Some people guessed that maybe it used to be allowed and then changed before Harry Potter arrived at Hogwarts. But J.K. Rowling said that it was always there. What?

Others include the Obliviate spell only erasing bad memories, probably so that audiences could be satisfied to see Jacob reunite with Newt, Tina, and Queenie. Nice try, creators, but the memory-wiping spell erases pretty much all memories, including the good ones, as shown in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”.

And let’s not forget that Professor McGonagall made a brief appearance in both the current moments of the film (1927) and the past ones (1910’s) as a woman in her late twenties or early thirties. I hear she was there because J.K. Rowling says she isn’t that good at math. Hey—a lot of people aren’t, including myself. Still, Professor McGonagall shouldn’t have been born for several years, not until 1935. Unless she was lying about her age this whole time (which is not un-common for women to do as well as hide their real ages), this was just sloppy, even for someone who isn’t very strong in math. I’m sorry. It’s no wonder some people presumed that maybe that was a different Professor McGonagall, who happened to be similar, but unrelated to the one we know. However, it’s the same one.

The ending was also unsatisfying, as well. Grindelwald is basically Voldemort of the 1920’s. And Queenie took his side so that she could “hopefully” be with Jacob, because wizards and witches weren’t allowed to communicate or marry no-majes.

While I enjoyed the main “Harry Potter” franchise as well as the first “Fantastic Beasts” film, I’m afraid this didn’t really do much for me. It was so dark and intense that I felt the need to watch something more lighthearted, and I did. I watched a “Mickey Mouse” cartoon.

Anyhow, I’d rate this movie 3 out of 5 stars. The cast and crew promise to fix the plot holes and inconsistencies in the third “Fantastic Beasts” movie, which won’t be released until 2021. Hopefully, that one is better.

Writing

Back Cover Blurb Issues

Image from Pixabay

If you publish the commercial route, a copywriter in the publishing house writes the blurb for your book—that is, if your manuscript gets accepted. But if you self-publish, you retain control over your book, including the blurb for the back cover. That’s right.

Writing the blurb that’ll sell your book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, is no easy task. In fact, it can be super-difficult. At least for me, it was. I recrafted my blurb for my series’ first book several times, especially after I re-published it as a new edition and eventually changed the title. Not only did I fail to create a strong description, but I also had trouble judging it. It would feel strong to me, but weak to others, and I was unable to pick up on the weaknesses.

Frustrated, I searched for services that edited blurbs. I didn’t find anything relevant—except a service that writes your blurb for you. So, I hired that person, and I think it made a difference. I used this same service for my second book, as well. From that point on, I told myself, you don’t illustrate your own cover image, quit writing your own blurb. That’s how it is in traditional publishing, anyway.

That being said, I am re-considering that for the future. I want to improve my copywriting skills for a certain career change, regardless of earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. I haven’t been producing much art, anyway, these days.

But back to the point, I shouldn’t just give up on something I could eventually improve on. The struggles with blurb-writing were the same with prose writing in my late teens years ago. I’m now in my mid-twenties. It took me around seven years to go from poor storyteller to being able to produce great novels. When I say great, I mean that. The reviews are a lot better than they were even just a few years ago.

Hopefully, I’ll become a better copywriter later. But for now, to stay on the safe side, I will hire others to write my back-cover book descriptions. If I master copywriting, then I’ll return to crafting the blurbs myself.

fiction

Confessions of a Zookeeper Parent: A Flash Fiction Piece

Summer is coming, and my eighteen-year-old son is about to graduate high school. My twenty-year-old daughter is completing community college and will go off to a SUNY school this fall.

            However, I am fighting against letting my son go to his senior prom or have a graduation party. Why? Because he barely passed this year. He should consider it a miracle that he can graduate this year.

            My daughter also passed just by the skin of her teeth. She’d had to abandon her dream of going to an ivy league school last year.

            As a zookeeper, I wish I could take my children to work with me and teach them responsibility with helping out. I was considering a farm trip where they’d have to collect eggs from chickens and clean up a barn. However, I can’t afford it this year.

            And I don’t think the zoo I work at would allow me to bring my kids, even if they’re overage. They’d probably say that it’s too dangerous. It makes sense to me as most of the animals we have to deal with are unsafe. They’re technically not meant to be tamed and around humans.

            I can’t think of a position they could do that would keep them safe as well as teach them responsibility. Helping out with directions would be too easy for them.

            I might know someone who could keep them busy and give them little, if any, time for fun. He’s a farmer, but he lives in Nebraska. I’m in New York, and I had trouble finding affordable tickets to fly anywhere, especially since it’s a peak travel season.

            Well, I can’t think of any big, famous tourist sites in Nebraska. A lot of people I know like to go to Disneyworld, Alaska, and other popular destinations for the summer. I’ll try looking at plane tickets to Nebraska online. If I can get permission from this farmer to let my kids help him, maybe then I’ll send them off there. I’m going to be a tough dad.

fiction

Unlucky Twelve: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

Days like this make me want to cry. It was my twelfth birthday and I’d hoped for a fantastic time.

            However, instead things had gone wrong. I’d received my math test back with a grade of fifty—an F. Another thing that’d ruined my birthday had been when I’d fallen down on the basketball court and my pants had come down a bit. Everybody had laughed at me.

            My parents had lectured me about the failing grade I’d earned on my exam. I’d even cried after. They’d yelled, too.

            Who’d want to spend their birthday in misery? Yes, there were people who’d had worse birthdays, such as Shakespeare. He’d actually died on his birthday.

            Still—this is a day I wanted to forget. My older brother had been treated nicely on every birthday he’d had that I could remember, including his twelfth.

            Yes, turning twelve wasn’t as significant as turning thirteen, when you actually became a teenager and could do teen activities. You also could no longer be considered a little kid.

            If my twelfth birthday hadn’t gone right, I could only hope that my thirteenth one would turn out better—a lot better.

            In fact, my parents hadn’t gotten me a cake tonight. Why? Not because of my poor math test grade. But because they’d been busy supporting my brother at his basketball tournament. So, they’d forgotten.

            A few people at school had wished me a happy birthday here and there. But overall, I wish I could have my memories of this day wiped and not remember a single thing.

            Maybe I could have a party at some point later. I hadn’t thought about doing something. But perhaps that could make my mood better. I would have to come up with an idea. Then I, Ally Preston, would feel happier.

Writing

Want to Revive Your Childhood Imagination? If so, Be Careful

Image from Pixabay

Many young children love to play make believe and use their imaginations. Some like to be more creative. A handful might like to make up concepts in their minds. I was definitely like that.

As a little kid, I would imagine fan fiction of my favorite movies and TV shows and dream of seeing them—unaware of copyright law then. I also imagined my own ideas of TV shows.

When I was around 7 years old, I read a book called “Morris Goes to School”, which was about an upright moose who went to school with children. It was cute for a small child.

That had inspired me to write my own version, but about an upright polar bear named Spike.

Later I evolved Spike into a child polar bear who also went to school with children. Not long after, I did a spinoff of one character and imagined a series about her living in a house in a jungle with talking animals as her friends.

At about 10, I abandoned the idea of that imaginary series. However, fast forward 6 years and the idea came back into my mind. I was so excited that I wrote it into a novel. Sadly, no one, except those I knew personally, found it appealing. So, once I was 18, I removed it from the market.

No matter how much you love and value something, it isn’t always going to please people, especially if you do little to no research on that idea. Few adults and older kids are interested in reviving their childhood imaginations. Fewer want to hear or know about it.

As you get older, you realize certain ideas make little to no sense or aren’t as good as you thought when you were younger. Hey, that’s growing up.

So, while other writers tell you to write down any idea you have for a story (which I totally agree with), unless you’re writing it just for yourself or maybe friends and family, be careful with trying to market that idea. You may have to do a lot of research. You’ll also have to study the writing craft if you haven’t started already. And the progress can take several years. I’m not exaggerating—it took me 7 years to develop my writing voice and be able to write great books. Not just good. Believe me, it’s not nearly as satisfying as it sounds. After a while, I took the less-than-great books off the market.