Miami

We went to Miami Beach for four days in late March. We wanted to remember what the sun looked like. In Ann Arbor, the skies were either cloudy and rainy or it was snowing and cold. What would it be like to go outside in just a tee shirt and pants? We were both very tired of putting on sweaters, jackets, gloves, boots and hats every time we left the house.

 

Landing at Miami International Airport was WONDERFUL! The sun was shining. The skies were blue. The temperature was 76 degrees. We smiled as we put our jackets in our suitcases and called an Uber to take us to the hotel.

 

The Gates was in Miami Beach, a block from the ocean. We had great views from the room of the pool, the trees and flowers. Once we unpacked, we went out for a walk to see the neighborhood.

 

The receptionist at the front desk had suggested that we walk down to 17th Street and turn right. We were glad we did. There was block after block of restaurants and stores. The center of the street, which was very wide, was closed to traffic. All the restaurants had put their outdoor tables and chairs there, under large tents.

  

We picked a Spanish restaurant and ordered seafood paella and sangria. It was a wonderful evening. We enjoyed a slight breeze as the day faded into night.

 

A Writer’s Confessional Part Four

A lot has been on my plate this month. I decided to start my own business, my art illustrations and my jewelry the focus. It’s entailed time away from fiction writing but directed me towards writing copy for the marketing end of my business, where I got my ideas for my jewelry and art. It brought me back to around the time I began attending the Deadwood Writer’s Group. I was writing a children’s picture book. I’d developed illustrations which now I am selling as prints on my Etsy page, www.wjkartisandesigns.com. It’s an exciting time in my life and I’m glad and grateful that I get to share these artworks in my own way now.

Another aspect that’s filled my attention is all that goes into starting a business. Finance, marketing, social media, product development – more jewelry and illustration development. It’s a bit nerve-racking to fit everything in, meaning my artistic nature and my need to write juicy and intriguing romances. But a smart woman, when I thought doing both was crazy, told me, “Why can’t you do both?” Her encouragement toward my success and happiness has always been given right when I needed it. So, thanks Mom. Love you!

On other exciting news, I’m going to Ireland soon. I’m not even there yet and I’m already inspired. What kind of stories will sprout from my visit, the brogue, the people, the colors, the constant green that everyone talks about? My heart gallops to fiery beat of a stampede when I think of all the opportunities that have become evident these past few months, words that have been spoken by friends and family. I’ve heard encouragement before, but this time, as my friend and sister of the heart, Jo Self- who is also a branding/strengths consultant for business and the individual, would say, I listened to what the universe was trying to tell me and am using the strengths I’ve been given to make positive things happen.

Resident Evil: Tangled Web – Evolution of an Idea, Part 2

One of the things I find most interesting about the writing process is how ideas are liable to change at a moment’s notice, even if you think you have the plot all figured out. This was exactly the case with a Resident Evil fanfiction story I’d been working on since August 2014 – Tangled Web. It is one that is close to getting an ending. I was sure that I had every last detail planned out, until fate threw me a curveball.

The basic premise of Tangled Web revolved around the imprisonment of Claire Redfield – and her romantic prospect, Elliott Gregory – by supervillain Albert Wesker. Though I initially was making up the narrative from scratch, I gradually came up with a detailed, very nuanced plot. I planned early on for Claire and Elliott to escape from their captor. This particular plot element would have set a dozen different story threads in motion leading up to the finale. I didn’t see the remainder of the story working without this event since so much hinged on it.

The escape scene was initially planned for Chapter Twenty-Nine. I was all set to write it when I got an interesting review for the previous chapter from a reader, Ultimolu, on fanfiction.net. Ultimolu’s comment that Wesker had to suspect something was up needled at me. The more I thought about this, the more weight it held. I had built Wesker up as such an intelligent, shrewd character for much of the story that I felt there was no way I could justify Claire and Elliott deceiving him so easily.

Instead of having the heroes escape right away, I was compelled to write a scene where the villain confronts them and completely demolishes their belief that running from him would be a good thing:

One corner of Wesker’s mouth lifted in a smirk. “The point of this meeting is not to examine my motives. I’d rather talk about yours… You can start by sharing how you saw your escape attempt playing out if it were successful.”

With a surge of anger, she thought, Two can play this game. “If you don’t want to talk about what goes on in your head, I don’t see why I should.”

Wesker leaned back. “Very well. Then allow me. It may do you well to hear the truth instead of whatever fantasy you’ve concocted.”

Claire hesitated and felt a chill. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear Wesker’s version of the truth, but what choice did she have? Easy, Redfield. Don’t show him that he’s getting to you.   She put on her bravest face and said, “Why not? I could use a good laugh.”

“Pity that you think there’s anything humorous about this… How I see this playing out is that you’ll contact Chris at the first opportunity and get him to come for you. However happy your reunion might be, it will sour when you reveal that you and Mr. Gregory are infected. It may well kill your dear brother to realize he has to give you up to a government-manned science facility. But he won’t have a choice. If he tries to protect you from that, it will result in his own imprisonment.”

Though she’d not considered what her situation would mean for Chris, she said, “You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know.”

“I very much doubt that, dearheart. I know you well enough to recognize you tend not to look at things from every angle… In either case, your brother is bound to experience even more distress when he sees how much testing you’ll be subjected to. He’s so protective of you that he’ll inevitably cross a line by intervening.” Wesker paused. “That aside, the top officials in the B.S.A.A. likely would not want to employ someone whose family member has been compromised… No matter which way you slice it, Chris’ life will take a turn for the worse if you leave here uncured.”

Elliott crossed his arms. “I don’t buy it. You have no love for Chris Redfield. You’ve even said so yourself on several occasions. So why would you care about doing him a huge favor? Or Claire and me, for that matter?”

“My offer to cure you both has little to do with Chris… Miss Redfield is helping me to achieve something I would never have been able to attain otherwise. It’s only fair that I return the courtesy,” Wesker said smoothly. “As far as you’re concerned, Mr. Gregory, it’s a matter of correcting a wrong that never should have happened in the first place.”

Claire’s hands were clenched so tight her nails were digging into her palms. She tried to keep her voice calm, but anger still crept in. “You can stop now. You’ve made your point.”

Wesker nodded after a few seconds. “I believe I’ve given you more than enough to think about.” He paused to adjust his sunglasses. “But before you go, let me say I hope you don’t let your hatred blind you to what’s best for you and your loved ones, dearheart. I’d hate to see you ruin more than just your own life.”

Before Claire could stop herself, she leapt to her feet, raised her hand, and leaned across the table. She recoiled and fear coursed through her when the sound of a slap resonated around her. She gnawed at her lip and half-expected that Wesker would retaliate even though he’d allowed her to hit him.

When she felt Elliott grasp her arm, she nearly jumped out of her skin. Her boyfriend looked scared shitless when she glanced at him. The tension spiked further when she heard a soft snarl from Wesker.

“Consider yourself lucky I’m feeling charitable, Miss Redfield,” Wesker said, his hands laid flat against the table. She shivered at the menacing undertone in his voice. “It’s not often I grant someone such a means of catharsis.” He stood and turned his back to them. “You’re free to return to your quarters.”

She was so dazed that Elliott had to guide her from the room. Neither of them said a word during the walk back to their apartment. Claire didn’t know about her boyfriend, but her mind was frantically trying to write off Wesker’s many claims as bullshit.

The sight of the anniversary cake on the kitchen counter caused her to burst into tears. I completely forgot that Elliott baked this so we could celebrate, she thought. I feel bad that I don’t feel like eating right now.

Elliott placed one hand on her shoulder and wordlessly handed her a Kleenex box. As she dabbed at her eyes, Claire sniffled and said, “Not gonna ask me if I’m okay?”

He shook his head. “Don’t have to. I know you’re not.”

A sob caught in her throat. “God, I don’t even know why I’m crying.” She hesitated, then said, “This is not how I wanted today to go.”

“Same here. It wasn’t fair of the son of a bitch to blindside us,” Elliott answered. He pulled her close and cupped one hand behind her head after a second of silence. “I wish I had a way to make it better, Redfield.”

She let out a deep breath and forced herself to focus. “You… You said you had a surprise gift for me. Something to mark the occasion.”

He sighed. “Now’s hardly the time. It might only make you feel worse.” After a pause, he added, “What Wesker said…”

“He’s wrong. He has to be wrong,” Claire blurted out. “He can’t know how our story will play out if…”

She sobbed again when Elliott quietly shushed her. He started to stroke her hair in a comforting gesture and said, “Or maybe we’ve been kidding ourselves by thinking that breaking out of this place will be a vast improvement.”

Ironically, I felt that I had written myself into a corner with the above scene. I still needed the escape to occur and now I had to come up with something extremely good on why the two heroes would pursue this route. What could possibly make them desperate enough to risk everything?

After some time spent brainstorming, I came up with a twist that drastically altered the direction I’d mapped out for this story. A private moment between Wesker and Claire resulted in her realizing she’s more attracted to the monster who’s been holding her captive than Elliott.

Though I’d never planned for anything to develop between Wesker and Claire in this story, it was a plot element that fundamentally worked. I had fun writing the scene that added a new dynamic to Tangled Web. It also served to get my narrative back on track. Acting out of fear and revulsion over what she feels, Claire hides what happened from Elliott and invents an excuse to convince him that they need to leave at any cost.

Prior to this development, I’d written some scenes to come later in the story – for chapters I haven’t even gotten to yet. This twist has rendered half of them unusable, though they’ve been moved to a separate file containing deleted material for Tangled Web. I imagine my online fans will be interested to read about what might have been if the heroine and villain had never hooked up.

I don’t know if there will be any further developments that will further alter the course of the story, but I definitely look forward to finding out.

Spring Declutter Time

“Keep only what is beautiful, useful, or loved.” The Organized Life by Stephanie Denton

 

Spring cleaning for me means more than dusting, vacuuming, washing windows, and airing out the house. This is the perfect time to get rid of the excess furniture and kitchenware which I never use, clothes I never wear, and books I won’t read. I recently started purging myself of unwanted items by donating some to a resale shop and trashing others.

 

This is also the perfect opportunity to clean out my manuscript folders. I’ll reread some of the short stories I’ve written with plans to edit and submit them to various writing contests. I plan to repurpose some stories to become part of a longer manuscript and purge the ones that aren’t worthy of that effort.

 

Are you doing your spring cleaning now?

Writer’s Confessional Part Three

My most productive day of writing is on Tuesdays. I don’t understand why I seem to be able to write the best on that day more so than others. It is perplexing.

Why is it that my mind can focus on the task of writing someplace other than my desk, in my home where I always have access to my computer, my writing space? What psychology is at work? It goes back to my first confession about procrastination.

I went in search of ways to circumvent my procrastination, and this is what I found. An article in Psychology Today, online, says, “Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.”[1] It also says, “Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.”[2]

Now, I know I’m not a perfectionist by any means, but I do have goals with my writing and artwork, but the negativity of failure keeps sneaking in, blackening my mind, pulling me away from what needs doing. And when I add even more to my to-do list the dominos keep tumbling down and I can’t catch up fast enough to stop the consequences as they continue to fall away from me.

To add to the stack of black tiles with white dots, I’m starting my own business to sell my art called WjK ARTiSAN DESiGNS. I’m excited but I’m also terrified. But without the risk, there cannot be the success. So, I’m going for it.

I want to keep the dominoes from falling. What do I do to fend off procrastination? How do I control what needs to happen so my writing, the planning for my business, and my home life tasks all get done? I must break them down into smaller stacks and obtainable goals.

One of the reasons I procrastinate is because I always have other responsibilities at home. It’s why I write outside of my house at coffee shops, things that need to get done in my daily routine as a Mom disappear. There are no dishes or laundry to get to. I don’t feel I need to get back home to do any of that and I can be free to write. There is a time frame, but when I have my headphones on blocking out all the other noise of life, I can concentrate on the words that I’m putting on the page.

Dr. Jo Minden, Ph. D., in the article Beat Procrastination in 3 Steps[3], also on the Psychology Today website, talks about breaking things down into smaller tasks and making it easier on myself so I can start something rather than pushing it off until later. He also talks about procrastination as something that stems from anxiety. I would never have thought of it that way because I don’t ever feel nervous or sick to my stomach. As an observer, I can see why this would be the case. Based on my fear of failure which I talked about in my first confessional his conclusion makes sense. So now what?

Dr. Minden says, “Think about what needs to be done, how to make it happen, how long it will take, and whether it’s possible to break the project into smaller and more manageable pieces.”[4] My writing and artwork are in this category. Building stories bring together a lot of parts. It is overwhelming most of the time. Thinking about how I’ve gone about the planning for the next novel in my Hot Blacktop series, Hot Turns, when do I stop answering questions about my characters and their story arcs before I start writing the actual words for each chapter? Am I procrastinating by not beginning the chapters? Maybe. As for my art, there’s a constant stream of ideas that I sketch and don’t start the final drawing. Is that procrastination. I say yes, again. Because, in my head I’m hearing, “It’s not quite good enough, keep sketching, Wendi.” It’s like I’m a perpetual student that never gets a job in the real world. Ugh. Even writing this blog is making me frustrated and angry at myself. I can see what I’m doing as a write this, talking it out with you, but all I want to do is read another romance novel.

Admitting the problem is half the battle, right? I must force myself to keep scheduling my tasks, limiting my addiction, to read as an avoidance tactic, and get my goals or tasks crossed off one by one. Make each task smaller, more manageable. Even thinking about what I must do makes my eyes go to my e-reader. It’s a scary revelation.

[1] “Procrastination.” Psychology Today, 3 July 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/procrastination.

[2] “Procrastination.” Psychology Today, 3 July 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/procrastination.

[3] Minden, Joel. “Beat Procrastination in 3 Steps.” Psychology Today, 7 Nov. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cbt-and-me/201611/beat-procrastination-in-3-steps.

[4] Minden, Joel. “Beat Procrastination in 3 Steps.” Psychology Today, 7 Nov. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cbt-and-me/201611/beat-procrastination-in-3-steps.