This is how it began.

We stood in the kitchen, hair and pajamas mussed from sex and sleep.

His roommates completed the early morning talk circle: Max, the darkly brooding future artist, and Rod, “the God”, his exceptional physique highlighted in no shirt and a pair of flimsy cut-off sweat pants, clinging to his sculpted hips. They were my classmates, my peers. He, being the grad student, was basically our superior in the hierarchy of college life. He ardently pursued me for the program so I thought I was safe in his care.

A conversation lull made him open his lips in invitation. “Want some breakfast baby?” Till that moment, I hadn’t realized how hungry I was. My stomach answered with a growl as I said, “Yes, yes I would.”

His lazy morning smile still in place, my benefactor, my coach, the taker of my virginity replied, “Make it yourself, bitch.”

I had, by this point in my life, enough of bullies. Just enough self respect moved my hips in deadly leisure down the hall to his room, him right on my heels, much like he was when he wanted me on his forensics team. “I was just kidding, baby, don’t be mad, come on, wait-,” he cajoled all the way.

He grabbed for my arms, trying to still my already constrained motion as I grabbed for my tennis shoes, the only thing I could get to, and shoved my feet into them sans socks. In nothing else but boxers and a t-shirt, I marched through his attempts to hold me back, out the door and down the mile-long road to the highway.

Halfway there, good sense returned, and the reality of chucking it down the interstate with no underwear on impelled my brain to scrabble for an alternate plan. Going back was not an option. Otherwise hopelessly direction-challenged, I somehow remembered the route to the nearest friend about two miles away.

He did not pursue. He must have thought I’d walk off the steam and come back. I did not.

I reached my friend, sweating and mad as a disturbed killer bee nest. I woke her up, judging by her own sleepy appearance. “What the- Amelia?”

“Becca,” I huffed, “can I just stay here, please?” She looked hard at me, more like clearing the cobwebs out of her head than any kind of judgment.

She stepped back and swept her arm out. “Come in.” She gave me time to clear my own head space while she got us both a cup of coffee before she started her inevitable investigation.

“So,” the cup poised at her lips, “what’s, uh, going on?” My apartment was fifteen miles away. She knew I was dating her closest neighbor and colleague; it wasn’t a hard mental leap.

I stared at my empty cup. I’d only ever been in one quasi relationship. At fourteen, I’d dated Richard, an eighteen year old drop out with a crazy mother. Somewhere along the way, though, I convinced myself it wasn’t real. With that lack of experience and consequent denial, I’d never developed the tools to forge and sustain a real grown up relationship.

More denial seemed to fit. “I don’t know… I just, if he shows up don’t tell him I’m here, okay?” I gave her my best pleading eyes. “And,” I looked back down at my cup, “could you give me a ride home?”

She gave a burdened sigh. “Look,” she seemed poised to lecture but changed direction at the last moment, “I have to get ready to go into campus, so I can give you a ride then.” She took in my clothing. “Do you need to borrow something to wear?”

I looked down at my obvious bralessness. “Uh, no…”

This is where the narrative takes the bend I’ve long wanted to go back and straighten out. The following is what I wish happened.

“Uh, no… if you could just go to his house and get my backpack?” Becca successfully holds back an eye roll, but the long suffering sigh comes out unhindered. “My apartment keys are in there.” I wave my hand over my torso, “For, uh, clothes?”

“Yeah, yeah… alright.” Becca disappears for a bit to get ready for the day while I assess my rushed relationship with the graduate speech coach, deciding that, although I’d made the mistake of getting involved with him, I would now do the right thing and end the barely begun thing between us.

It would be the  best decision of my entire college career.

Becca reenters the room, putting in dangling hippy earrings. “So, just stop by, get your bag and dash out?” she raises her eyebrows at me.

“Yeah,” I figure, keep it brief. I’m already asking a lot.

She grabs her well worn leather satchel and her to go cup of coffee. “I’ll be right back.” She pulls the door as she walks through but stops just before it snaps shut and sticks her head back in, “I’ll get the rest of your stuff too – no use prolonging the inevitable.”

Although I only know her as an older, married graduate student, she’s proving to be a very good friend. “Thanks, Becca.” I say it pretty softly, but she nods and shuts the door.

True to her word, she’s only gone maybe ten minutes. She opens the door and drops my back pack just inside the door. Without preamble, she says, “Sorry. He followed me. Wouldn’t take no for an answer.” As Becca skirts the entry, he comes in the front door.

“Come back. It was just a little joke,” is all he says.

Self conscious in front of him, I hug myself to conceal my breasts. I figure, pull the bandage clean. “It was a mistake to get involved with my coach.” His lips part, but I hurry on, “I’m quitting the team, it’d be inappropriate to stay.”

He shifts toward me, arms already reaching. “You don’t have to do that,” he soothes, so I cut him off.

“Yes. I do. I mean a clean break.”

His jaw ticks. “You’ll lose your scholarship.”

I shrug. “So, I’ll take on a second job.” At his dubious smirk, I add, “I’ll make it work.”

Plain as an Amish suit coat, I see the thin sheen of anger spread under his entire skin. “You know, when I met you, I thought you were special because you were sweet.” His lips screw up in a scowl. “But you’re just an average bitch.”

At this, I nod. “Whatever you have to tell yourself, dude.” I move past him to reach for my pack, every inch of my sinew itching for him to try something. I’ll be ready. But he hangs there in mid air, like a slow mo replay in a boxing match.

“You think you’ll have a shot here? I will make your life mis-,”

I cut him off, “Try it. I will go to the trustees and tell them you seduced me.” This shuts him up nicely. Graduate assistants aren’t supposed to fraternize with the undergrads. He’s a bully, sure, and a callow one but he isn’t stupid.

He stands there, clenching and unclenching his fists. I just blink. “Well,” he huffs, “get in the car. I’ll give you a ride home.”

Still as lake water in early morning, I say, “No. Becca’s driving me in.”

The air in the room swells, like a building storm, until he pierces it with a loud “Fine!” He throws the door open and leaves it swinging on squeaky hinges as he spits gravel peeling out of the parking lot.

I jump when Becca says, “Well, that went well.”


That’s not how it happens.

I don’t quit the team and I don’t get a second job. And the worst thing, I don’t break up with him. The forensics team never gets off the ground, so I’m at the college for no discernible reason. I recognize this feeling; been here before. Completely cut off from all safety nets.

And I would soon need one.

Another NaNoWriMo, Done and Won

Today at about 6 pm CST, I crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line with 53049 words.

This was my fifth time attempting the challenge and the fourth time I crossed the 50,000 word line. Every single time I’ve done it, I’ve learned something different, changed in some way.

The next few weeks, I’m going to examine each year, what I tried, what I learned and what I’m going to attempt in next year’s NaNoWriMo.

Sort of a NaNo Post Mortem.

I hope you – yeah, you! -will join me.

And, because I can’t resist:



I love these badges!


A NaNoWriMo ‘First’ for Me

For the first time ever on NaNoWriMo, I typed exactly 1667 words in one day.

Of course, I had to stop typing for the day and log it on the word counter.

In daily life I’m not a big believer in luck, horoscopes or the power of wishing at 11:11… But in my writing? You bet I am. I save every tiny slip from fortune cookies during the month of November. I get spooked when I look at the clock at exactly 3:16 and then take it as a personal reminder of God’s favor. I extract cryptic messages from otherwise random conversations.

Because, during intensive writing times like NaNoWriMo, I need all the inspiration I can get.

Like Crash told Annie, if you believe wearing women’s underwear, looking out of the lava lizard eyelids in the back of your head or even, gasp, abstaining from pleasurable relations -ahem- makes you a better ball player than, by gum DO IT.

Because when a streak comes along you’ll do what it takes to keep it going.

So I save bits and scraps of otherwise meaningless pieces of paper. I tune in to everyday conversations waiting for that ‘message’. I look up at the clock and – if I catch it right on 3:16 – I feel a little thrill. If those things fill me with the courage to sit down and put my hands to the keyboard?

That, my friend, is Inspiration. I take it where I can get it.

Because for all our modern innovations, we aren’t very far from the superstitious masses we were during the Dark Ages. People need rituals.Because, sometimes, they are our only life preserver in the great ocean that is life.  In the Dark Ages, it was sacrifices and spells, hexes and curses. In modern times we still have our blood letting, incantations and frenzied devotion. Thankfully, though, they come in the form of our own blood, sweat and tears. Inspiration. The blood, sweat and tears of Hope. It’s what you need to write everyday.

But you have to feed that Inspiration, that Hope.

So, yeah. I could have written more last night… but I took that exact 1667 words – the words per day you must write every day to complete NaNoWriMo on time- as a sign. A sign I was on the right track. I sign that I would finish. I sign that said, “You’ve got a little life preserver out here in the big ocean. Hang in there!”

Silly, maybe. But it gave me the little boost I needed to get back in the chair, hands on the keyboard, today. Preserving the streak. That, to me, is what writing is really about.

Do you have rituals to boost your daily writing discipline? How do you motivate when you don’t seem to have any inspiration? Share your thoughts with me in the comments.

Although I warn you: Your comment might just be my next sign 🙂

Pride and Prejudice: my ‘Zombie Deconstruction’

This doesn’t have anything to do with the book “Pride Good for Night Reading!and Prejudice and Zombies”

I got the book for Christmas. The cover drew me in and the mash-up between PnP and Zombies grabbed me! I read it at night to help me fall asleep 😉

Nope, this post is about something different.

This is something I tried out to get a handle on good story construction. Aka, “Plotting”.

Since it’s a stripped down, bare bones, missing brain and flesh, outline version of PnP,  I figured “Zombie Deconstruction” sounded good. I love Zombies, they’re very relatable right now, too. Although I could have just as easily gone with a “Borg Deconstruction”, I think I’m gonna commit to this one…because I’ve got this nice picture to go with it.

Here, for your writing exercise pleasure, My Zombie Deconstruction of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:

1)     Building Anticipation for Meeting The Bingley aka “5 THOUSAND a Year!”

2)     Rich People Don’t Country Dance: Lizzy’s first introduction to Darcy

3)     A Fork in the Road: Wickham or Collins? Hmmm. Is there a door number 3?

4)     Netherfield Ball: a) Darcy Piques Lizzy; b) Lizzy Picks on Her Family

5)     Two Covert Ops: a) Operation Evacuation: Netherfield. b) Lizzy’s Operation Rehabilitation: Jane

6)     Lizzy Goes on the Lamb: a) A Glimpse of The Darcy (aka, 10 THOUSAND a YEAR, Mr. Bennett!) in His Natural Habitat; c) Yeah, He’s Pretty Much Still a Jerk; d) Surprise! He Wants to Marry Me… But Can I Ditch My Family First; e) Lizzy Reflects, Conclusion? “Although I loathe him… he HAS a point.”

7)    Circle the Wagons: a) Jane’s Melancholic Determination and Lizzy’s Frustrated Convicted…ness; b) When Frustrated In Love, Go Stand On a Really High Cliff…Hey, what could go wrong?

8)     The Second Round: Lizzy Vs. Darcy; a) Is the Beast Really a Prince? b) Darcy 2.0: Romantic Reboot; c) Uh-Oh. Silly Lydia and Her Whoring Around “Will Ruin Us All”

9)     All’s Well That Ends… a) Miraculous Intervention! b) Bingley aka “5 THOUSAND a Year!” Prevails; c) Darcy 2.0: Successful Reboot.

10) (Because all good blog posts must have 10 points)  Two Girls, One… Marriage Ceremony.

Well, that’s it. My “Zombie Deconstruction” of PnP.

I had fun working on it, and it really helped me see good plot construction. Now I’m going to apply it to my current NaNoWriMo novel which is eating my brain right now (Bad Zombie!) I hope this technique will help.

Have you come up with a fun way to “deconstruct” your favorite books to help in your own writing? Share a link or example in the comments!

NaNoWriMo Day 1!

I love NaNoWriMo.

I started my first one on November 4, 2007 and did not come close to finishing with just over 13,000 words, but I knew, as I put in that final word count, that I was hooked.

Almost four years later, after crossing the WriMo finish line not once but three times since, I’m still just as enthused as ever. I’ve approached the midnight hours of October 31 each year on a sugar high (what you think I won’t steal candy from my children? Bah!) filled with dread…but it’s the adrenalin pumped dread that only precedes the 30 Days and Nights of Literary Abandon! Even though I’ve started, now, as many times without an outline as I have with one and most times I don’t know the first word I’ll write until it’s on the page…

When November 1 gets here, I get excited.

I get excited to see where my imagination will take me. I get excited to find the story. I get excited to actually create something!

Of course, by the time it’s over, I’m just relieved I made it. I don’t even look at the M(e)ss I’ve written until after Christmas, most times. By then, the excitement is replaced with a new feeling of dread – that of trying to shape the M(e)ss into something coherant. I’ve got a 50/50 success rate going so far. If you count a half finished novel that is, nevertheless, impeccably edited. (Back then my Inner Editor sat on my shoulder from the start, so I never actually finished anything.)

But that’s a musing for another day! Today is NaNoWriMo Day 1, and the possibilities and excitement are limitless!


Are you a WriMo’er? Do you get excited to do it, too? Are you shopping a finished NaNoWriMo novel for publication? Has it helped your writing to participate? Tell me your NaNo History in the comments.

The Great Un-follow Social Experiment

Michael Hyatt, a man I respect a great deal,
took a step in the same direction as Chris Brogan and is ‘un-following’ all of
100,000+ twitter pals.

I was one of them.

Now, I don’t know Mr. Hyatt personally. When I first started
twitter two months ago, I despaired of ever finding any followers, as I have a pretty
small social circle. Through a twitter link I was introduced to Mr. Hyatt’s
blog and, as I’m both a Christian and a writer and he speaks to both, I
followed him on twitter to keep up with his blog posts.

Much to my surprise, he followed me back!

Now that was a huge lift to my twitt-esteem. Here was the
head of Thomas Nelson Publishing, following me back on twitter! Who wouldn’t
get a little lift from that?

Only two short months later, and I’m off the team. @MichaelHyatt is no longer
following me. But I’m not upset by that. Want to know why?

Because he was honest. He stated publically his policy to
follow back people who follow him. I found that out soon after he followed me
back. Even though it means I’m not ‘special,’ I still think he was gracious to
do so. And when he decided to implement the Great Un-follow Social Experiment, and
I was one of the first casualties, he was honest about that as well. In effect
he said, “Hey, nothing personal, but twitter spam is a huge Monster, and I want
to defeat it.” Gracious, even while disconnecting.

So, because @MichaelHyatt no longer follows me, does that mean I’m going to
un-follow him?

Absolutely not. I follow @MichaelHyatt because he is a
sharer of knowledge, a giver of insight, an inspirational leader. I followed him
without any expectation he’d follow me back. But as a newbie, I’m gathering a
social circle much slower than average. I could see this as a huge blow. But I

Because I am not my twitter feed.

I’m more than that. Just as Mr. Hyatt didn’t pay me any
particular regard in following me, he didn’t pay me any insult in un-following,
either. I will continue to follow his tweets, click his links and learn from
his blog posts.  Why?

Because I wish @MichaelHyatt well and hope he finds Twitter peace.

Meanwhile, I will continue to build my tribe, one important,
significant person at a time. Some may be ‘power users’ but most will be just
like me, slow-builders, low burners…  And
we will connect as we gain trust for each other.

Are you upset when someone un-follows you? Do you react by un-following
them? How do you handle un-following others? Tell me how you handle your social
interactions in the comments.

Forks shows his teeth

With a look back at Eddie, I walked through the door Forks
held open. He shoved it closed with a loud snap, leaving me feeling a little
less confident than I did in the main office. “I’m more of a hand-talker,
Forks, so if you could just remove-,”

“Shut up, Ellen Wiel.” The Sheriff slapped my file on his desktop, emphasizing his order. He shoved
a rolling chair my way, missing me by an inch or two.  “Sit down.” I stood still, gritting my teeth
and avoiding his rabid eyes. He closed the distance between us in a step,
grabbed my shoulders and shoved me hard into the chair. “In here, I’m the boss,
you little turd. When I say ‘Move’ you say ‘How far, SIR’,” he bent down to eye
level with me, “got that, missy?”

Holding my tongue between my teeth, I focused to the left of
him. Two long steps and he stood behind his desk, smoothed his shirt front and
sat down, rebar straight in his big leather chair.

“It’s Wiels,” I blinked and looked at the cord pull on his
window blinds.

His head twitched to the side, kind of like a buzzard does
taking stock of fresh road kill. “Excuse me?”
His voice was deadly calm.

I cleared my throat, “I said, ‘it’s Wiels’ – with an ‘S’ at
the end.”

He snorted and sat back then, “You been a thorn in my side
from day one, you know that Miss Wiels?” He emphasized the “s” on my name like
a hissing snake. I watched him fold his arms over his chest, studying me like I
was one of those speared frogs in sixth grade science class. “You know,” he
shifted, “I don’t like you much.”

Biting down on the insides of my mouth, I willed myself to
shut up. Couldn’t keep the spit from gathering in the back of my throat and cursed
my need to swallow. He focused on the bob in my throat and a slight smile
pulled the corner of his mouth.

“You go around this town like you own it,” the sneer cranked
from zero to sixty in his voice, “such big stuff when you’re showing off in
front of everyone. Bringing talk of drugs into my town. Breaking curfew. Back talking
your mama and daddy-,”

“She’s not my mother-,”

“That’s right – she’s your step-mother.”  He sat forward again, “That woman was good
enough to take you in, even though you’d been in all that trouble.”  He sat forward in his chair, his brow knit in
affected concern, “Juvenile detention, wasn’t it?” He flipped open the file, “That’s
what I figure. Oh, the records are sealed but anyone in law enforcement can
read between the lines, Ellen.” He directed a pitying look my way. “Truth is,
you ain’t wanted by no one, even your own kin, why I bet your mama kicked you
out and here you are causing a whole new mess of -,”

I shifted in my seat, “my mother didn’t kick me out.”

“-problems in a whole different home,” he went on like I
hadn’t spoken. “That’s pretty bad.  Mama
gives up on you, and daddy doesn’t know what to do with you.”

The tears stabbed at my lids and I blinked hard to stop
them. “I said,” I looked square at him this time, “my mother didn’t kick me

He shook his head, then removed his hat and wiped the sweat
off his forehead, “You can lie to everybody, but ain’t no one in this town
gonna believe you.”

I wanted to hit him. I wanted to knock him on the floor and
jump up and down on his chest and scream in his face. “I’m not lying.” I said it
loud enough but couldn’t keep the wobble out of my voice.

“How can you stand it,” he cocked his hat back away from his
eyes with the roughened tip of a forefinger, “how does it feel to know nobody
wants you around?” Shaking his head, he whistled lightly through his teeth,
“Shoot, if I had half the enemies you have around here, I’d wear body armor

I looked up, right into his eyes. Cold and hard, the color
of a well-oiled gun barrel, they revealed things that made me squirm in my
seat. “Keep on, Forks.” My voice sounded dry and tight. “You and I both know
how this all started,” the slightest pinch around his eyes told me I got his
attention, “If you’d done the right thing-,”

He rolled his eyes, “Rich – you talking about the ‘right

“Rich coming out of YOU, a kid comes to you to report a
crime – an assault-” He stood so fast the words stopped up in my mouth.

“You think anyone would believe anything you say against me,
little girl?” Before I could duck, his hands shot out over the desk and he
lifted me up to dangling like a half stuffed rag doll over his desk. “There’s
no police report, Ms. Wiels,” his voice was low and quieter than the pulse
throbbing in my head, “no witnesses, and no corroborating evidence.” He shoved
forward and let go at the same time and I fell into a heap in the chair. “And
do you know why, Ms. Wiels?” At this he sat back in his chair and watched me from
behind his laid back, politician smile. “Because there was no crime.”

My whole body shook, quaking right through my core. “So you
say,” I forced the words through my chattering teeth,” but you and I both know
the truth.”

The man leaned over the desk, mouth drawn up in a poor imitation
of a smile, “I don’t give a sawdust fiddle what you think you know. You understand?”
He sucked at his teeth and sneered at me, “Think anyone gives a damn what you
think ‘round here? You think anyone would shed a tear if you vanished into thin

That Forks didn’t like me, I already knew.  That he might actually take steps to get rid
of me, never occurred to me before. I stared down, watching tears hit my lap,
leaving behind dark circles. I focused on the first one, then another. “Whatever
you say, Sheriff…”

“One of these days, Ellen Wiels, you will slip up, and make
no mistake,” he sat back, crossed his arms over his chest, “I will catch you.
And when I do, you are going away for a long, long time. Do you understand what
I’m saying to you?”

Blinking hard, I swiped my sleeve across my eyes. “Oh, yeah,”
I stood up and fixed my eyes on him, “I hear you. Can I go now?”

He raised his hand like a gun and pointed at me, “I’ll be
watching you, Ellen Wiels,” and he made a soft “pow!” sound like we were little
kids playing a cowboy shoot ‘em up game or something.

I walked out of that office feeling the bulls-eye on my