There's a phrase that often repeats itself inside my head. It says, "I am becoming."

You see there's a gap between the person I was and the person I am going to be, so within this gap I am becoming the person I want.

Anytime you've had a goal or a vision but aren't there yet, it's okay, because you are becoming.

You are reaching down, digging up the courage/ability/willpower/gusto to do this thing you want to do, and once you've done it, you will "be." "Be" is a good place too, don't get me wrong. "Be" is like a beach resort destination, but "becoming" is where you live the other 360 days of the year.

I've been away from the blog for a few months, but it's because I've been busy becoming. In the last two months, during this year's NaNoWriMo, I wrote the sequel to Burning Spirit, which is currently titled Darkened Sky. I've never written a sequel before. I had to adapt--to learn how to be a new kind of writer. Again, "becoming."

So, I am still becoming. And I don't mind if I wear this title for years because "becoming" is a state of constant change. Always striving for the better element.

I'm certain if you think about it, there are elements of your life you want to improve on, and so I wish you a safe travel through your "becoming" no matter how long it takes. I'd love, however, to hear where you're going, so feel free to leave a comment on your journey.

Wiping the Slate Clean

Life has a way of becoming terribly busy on you even when it seems like nothing is happening, and when it appears you're moving painfully slow.

That's been my experience lately. I turn around and it's been two months since I've posted on the blog and really gotten a chance to touch base.

Well, first and most important in my heart: I've been writing. Without question, anytime I disappear from the blog it means I'm writing harder, working toward a self-inflicted deadline, or overwhelmed with the quantity of work I want to do but can't get my body to run without sleep.

I've also been doing critiques for my writing group, which takes its own amount of time to do well and helpfully. If writing is my baby, the critique group is my stepchild; these are the people that will pull me out of a burning building with their words and I would do the same for them--they cannot be neglected.

In the process of incorporating their notes about my chapters into my chapters, I had an epiphany and this is the nugget of wisdom I wanted to share that started this post in the first place.

...Makes You Stronger

Last Friday, when the summer sun had set and we had just returned home from a day out, a windstorm of twisting momentum crashed into our neighborhood. The Derecho was widespread over multiple states with little rain and maximum fury. Like a lot of others, we lost power.

Being the farm girl I am, I diligently lit candles and waited for the lights to come back on. That's what you do where I'm from. You play board games, fill tubs with water (just in case), and read by candlelight for two to three days. Since moving to the city, power normally is restored in a few hours.

The first few days passed without even a flicker of light, and the temperatures predicted to be near or over one hundred degrees kept their promises. With no air conditioning and no breezes, you can imagine the house heated effortlessly during the days to ninety degrees inside, and barely cooled off to eighty during the nights. The Hubs, our daughter Z, and I sweat along with the best of them. I washed clothes in the bathtub and hung them to dry each day, and we cooked food and made coffee over an open flame.

Day five brought with it an overheated car and then an abrupt complication which left us not only hot and sticky, stinky and hungry, but motionless. The idea of running out for a cool drink or going somewhere with working A/C was gone. With no power to recharge my computer and now no way to plug in somewhere else, what's a girl to do?

Life and Busyness

I've always been pretty clear about times when I drop away and times when I post on the blog with regularity. I'm here to say, that life has gotten pretty busy and that's when the blog posts slow to a trickle.

I'm of the belief that people need to know how to prioritize. That's how you tackle challenges and follow dreams: prioritize.

So when I'm overwhelmed with things that need to be done, I drop back on the lesser items to keep my focus on the most important items. For example, this blog is my connection to you. I love this blog; it's not a burden, but a fun retreat to peek in and see the world.

That said, when I'm choosing between blog posts and revisions on my novel, I'd be a fool not to chose the novel. Burning Spirit has to come just a notch ahead of the blog. If I addressed the blog first, and the novel later, I'd be sinking my own ship. It's just not good for business, for myself, or my soul.

A lot of new things have happened which have been great, and fun events have occurred, I just don't have the time now to share them weekly. I need to sleep sometime, right? What I'm not doing is quiting posting on the blog or quiting adding to The Trusting. What I am doing is refocusing, prioritizing, and refinding my balance in a new schedule. That is how you build a nest to comfort and protect yourself. And it is from within this nest that you can work, define yourself and your core, and create your most priceless eggs.

Putting Yourself Out There

Yesterday I shared with everyone part one of my six-part fiction series The Trusting. I've written, edited, and revised this story for weeks now, and after the countless hours spent working on it, there wasn't anything left to change. Well, onto the blog it went, as promised, and I made announcements across the Internet so the world would know I checked into work at Writerville for the day.

Then I promptly closed my email, blogger, social media websites, and I left the house. I couldn't take the waiting while I knew others were reading my work. I wanted to know what people thought, but couldn't handle staring at the screen in silence. The waiting period is an aspect author C. Hope Clark just recently blogged about, and I couldn't agree with her more.

Yes, it can be terrifying to share something so close to your heart, whether it's the project you've been working on, a piece of artwork, a fashion design, a novel, even a new recipe. Yet, you can't let that fearful moment between, "here, I made this," and "what do you think?" stop you from creating or sharing.

That's why it's so important to be brave enough to put yourself out there.

Item of Importance: The Key

A few weeks ago I wrote about Items of Importance in books and movies, and how much I love them. I also mentioned that I'll be sharing my own Items with you as I write and edit my novel, Burning Spirit. My hope is they are intriguing enough that you get a feel for the book through these items before you have the chance to read the story. Well, today I'm happy to share with you the first Item of Importance from Burning Spirit, and that item is a key.

Elsbeth, the main character, first receives this key when she goes to an inn. While it seems simple enough--insert in lock, turn--the key represents something more, something Elsbeth herself isn't aware of.

Elsbeth lives a life of secrets as she searches for other witches, but the person who gives her this key knows all too well who, and what, she is. What other doors could this key open beyond Room 9?

Knowing Your Voice

There's an expression in writing which says "know your voice."

But what does that even mean?

Knowing your voice is knowing truly who you are, how you express yourself that sets you apart from others, and finding the part of you that consistently delivers what you want to give to others without becoming generic or routine.

Knowing your voice takes time. You must grow into yourself, dig your roots down (not out to others), and find out who you are. For some this happens at 20, others need to hit their 70s for it to click, but whether you know your voice or not, know that it is already within you.

Rita Dove has a poem titled Ars Poetica, which speaks of a man who "entered each day with an ax." That's my way of knowing your voice. To enter each day with the same powerful tool, whether it be an ax, an ear, a shoulder, a pen, ambition, vibrancy, etc. But knowing your "voice" isn't something exclusive to writers. Everyone should, at some point in their lives, come to know their voice and hear how it sounds unlike any other.

Coming Soon...

Photo courtesy Phiseksit
"Magic in the hands of a man is not the same as magic in the hands of a child."

The Trusting: a six-part series

Paying Dues

If there's anyone I can literally cry to, it's my sister. She's heard every trouble and walked me through every emotional nightmare I've been through from teenage drama to life and death moments. There's no doubt she's the strongest rock on the dark, craggy cliffs of my life.
While I work as a freelance writer, and have since 2009, the fluctuating wages of the last year have been less than stellar in this economy. The idea that I might need a 9-to-5 kind of job has turned into a glaring truckstop sign on the road ahead. Yes, I have come to the crossroads between the desire to work from home versus making money by clocking in.

If you're like me then there have been jobs on your resume which you loved, some that you absolutely excelled at, and those that you just knew had all the wrong edges to be the missing puzzle piece in your life. I've always called the latter type of job "selling your soul at an hourly rate." Sure you need the money, but man does that job strip away any ounce of will-to-live you might have.

So in light of my dwindling financial situation, I did what adults do when faced with tough choices and life decisions who really just need to get a good night's rest and write up an action plan: I called and cried to my sister.

Why Readers Are Fantastic

I was at my local library the other day (remember how you were supposed to go there??) and they were hosting a used/discarded book sale. Unable to resist the stacks and tables loaded with books, I started browsing. Somewhere between fourteen excess copies of The Firm and the occasional Ann Patchett or Cormac McCarthy it hit me: readers are fantastic!  Readers get more opportunities out there than any other consumer, and we're smart enough to know our own tastes, share our opinions, and chose how we access books.

Short Story: Easy Enough

Photo courtesy Boaz Yiftach
He loved to play the game. Pay a visit. Fix the target. Collect the reward. Easy.

Jackson sat up and trimmed his thumb nail with the blade of his hunting knife, the sound etching into the night closer to his ears than the crickets. A snap. He glanced across the open desert. No one else knew he was out here. Well, no human. As he scanned the rocky landscape, distinguishing cactus silhouettes from straggled trees, he caught sight of it—a coyote.

Continuing to drag the blade over his thumb, his eyes stayed on the animal. Jackson’s horse grunted and shifted her feet behind him.

“Be cool,” Jackson said, his voice loaded with the same grit which filled Nevada.

Why We All Want to Be Katniss

I'm more than halfway through reading The Hunger Games now after having enjoyed the movie, and I'm about as sucked into the story as the rest of the world, teens and above. Katniss Everdeen is in the literal fight for her life, and the world around her isn't forgiving. This is great fiction: conflict, danger, emotional turmoil. As readers we love to explore a world unlike our own, and gladly trade our life drama for a fictitious one where we don't have to suffer the consequences. What makes The Hunger Games so enthralling is that deep down, we all want to be Katniss.

Now, I'm not saying we each want to be the main character, the hero, the potential love interest, or the unlikely victor of our stories. What I mean is this:

Total Side Note: Margaret 1, World 0

Just throwing this out there into the world that there's been much healthy debate about my novel Burning Spirit's presentation in first person, present tense.
I've gone back and forth about what to do and if it should be changed to past tense for the sake of marketability and publishing trends, etc., etc. I've even been told by a critiquer, whose critiques I adore, that present tense is good for short stories, but past tense is the "correct" form for novels.
Well, I went on vacation this past week with The Hunger Games on my Kindle and lo and behold, it's first person, present tense. In no way am I saying I can hack it like Suzanne Collins, but I am saying I now firmly believe I'm okay to leave my book as is in the tense department.

Items of Importance

Whenever I read novels or watch movies, I love when there are key physical things incorporated into the plot. I call these "things," Items of Importance.

In Harry Potter, a major Item of Importance is Dumbledore's wand, made from an elder tree. Major plot lines are constructed around it, yet most of the time we hadn't given it any thought; we didn't known it was even important, until it was. Recently, I read Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and red scarves are used as a way to identify other "dreamers" in a crowd. The scarves become so real in this already visual tale, that I could imagine people lined up for book signings wearing them the same way kids wore Harry Potter glasses to the book and movie releases.

Items of Importance have a place in our minds because we crave for elements around us to have power or symbolism, and we want to be near to those things even when it's only in our imaginations.
As I'm writing and editing my novel Burning Spirit, I'm consciously aware of how I want to give you a few special Items of Importance to follow and hang on to. So far these include:

Tomorrow is Not Promised

There's a saying my sister told me long ago that sticks with me: "Tomorrow is not promised."

Yesterday, we lost a family friend--the father of one of my husband's best friends since elementary school. This man came to our wedding, always invited us into his home (with free insult to my husband), made apple butter every fall, and enjoyed the classic spider-on-a-string as the best Halloween trick ever invented, despite my husband and his friend's attempts toward big-budget movie style horror.

Every time someone close to me passes away, I always hear my sister say those four words.

Tomorrow is not promised.

If we are going to do ourselves, our hearts, our familys justice, then we must remember this phrase and act on it. Don't waste the time you have. Don't treat others with cruelty. You only get to clock in and clock out once in this life (we aren't all Elsbeth), so you better make the most of it.

Henry David Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."

I assure you, our friend Bill did not, and I refuse to be one of those people. Hug your children, kiss your spouse, call your parents and grandparents, play outside, and write and create with passion streaming through your veins. You do not get a second chance at this. Make a difference for yourself and others. Improve the world through love and understanding. Sing the song you have at the top of your lungs, and go to your grave exhausted holding out the last note.

The Key to Finding Inspiration

Whether you're a writer, artist, poet, crafter, or any person willing to look outside themselves for inspiration to create or do, there is never a short supply of places to find it. Recently I was loitering on Erin Morgenstern's blog and saw a link to a small etsy shop. What I saw there, sparked a domino effect of inspiring ideas which will be used in the sequel to Burning Spirit (the novel I'm currently editing).
Although it didn't look like much and wasn't very large, the simplest of things, a ring, has made all the difference.

What Writers Should Be Doing While Writing

Every writer has a list of naughty things they do when they write that all but destroys the movie magic imagery of the creative type whisking themselves away to sit at an old table to focus and bang out a novel in a single weekend on a typewriter. If you're looking for some insight into my dirty writing habits, then you're in the right place.

Before I get started with my list, however, I must bash upon the rocks those "movie writer" notions. Novels aren't written from start to finish in one sitting and no one can seclude themselves for a weekend to complete the task either. There's a reputation/stereotype that writers hang out in their slippers all day, and while that's a possibility, the writing life is anything but comfortable. There's a lot of mental anguish going on that requires slippers, coffee, snacks, and a few other things to get the job done. No writer can snap their fingers like Mary Poppins and have the story told.

There is Hope

There's a dark place in all of us where we fear if the things we want in life will ever come to pass. We painfully yearn for relief from depression(me), to find a home, to publish a book(me), to cure a sickness, to find love, or money to afford the essentials of life(me). This dark place of fear and trepidation, however, isn't sold separately. It always comes prepackaged with Hope. Through my own depressive states, when things feel totally awful, I know somewhere deep down that my problems will lull and resolve...eventually. I have Hope, even when I have to really dig deep to find that sucker, and you should know there's always Hope for you as well.

My Advice for New Writers

If you're a would-be, wannabe, gonna-be, aspiring writer and you're just getting started (or you've dipped your toe into the pool, but have yet to make the plunge) a quick Internet search will provide you with a mound of both helpful and less than helpful information. There's no shortage of dos and don'ts about everything from plotting entire novels, to how to craft a good sentence. Want advice about descriptions? It's there. Need to find a suitable name for your character? You won't have to look far.

As for the actual task of "being a writer," there's a plethora of that, too. Stephen King insists you be a reader and I couldn't agree more. Neil Gaiman says to finish your work, also sound advice. There's also a lot of caution delivered by successful writers for you to quit while you have the chance. Writing is, after all, a terribly cruel and difficult business which requires the thickest skin and many hours of solitary work. My advice for new writers is this:

Publication News: The Jump

Super happy! My short story "The Jump" has been published in From the Depths, a literary journal put out by Haunted Waters Press. I'm so excited to be included in this great journal and hope you'll check out my story, as well as others' stories and poems, in the Spring 2012 issue found here.

Book Snob: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

A while back I mentioned I wanted to share great book covers with you since I'm basically a big, fat, judgemental, book cover snob. So, here's a beauty: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. This cover is simple, yet vibrant and the picture along with the title font can't help but create a sense of mystery and build intrigue. Flip the book over and the back is just as suited for the fantastic: solid black with electric blue feathering on the top and bottom with a strong pitch for the book. The back reads: She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil's lair. She wasn't innocent now..." and that's all. No kudos from editors/writers/critics. Just the pitch in blue text. Great stuff and I can't wait to dive in.
Jacket design is by Dave Caplan and Alison Impey.

Getting Trapped in the Gap

Like a lot of people, I go through spurts of heavy creativity followed by plateaus of blahdom. Either I'm terribly intensive, slaving away on my story and annoyingly stuck in my own head, focused on the world I'm building for Elsbeth and Burning Spirit,...or I'm not. I'm either the crazy chick from The Craft, or I'm the girl next door: someone calm and fun.

The problem is that you can't really get any work done in either situation. If you're girl-next-door (GND), then you're out having coffee and not working at all, and if you're crazy-bitch-from-the-craft (CBFC) you can't be objective about your work and you, my lovely readers, get left behind.

Embracing the Fantasy Genre

There's something I've been trying to wrap my head around for going on a year now, and that is the Fantasy genre and how I come to greet it. The second I think of Fantasy I picture dragons, fairies, knights, princesses in thick gowns, goblins, days of old, and a bunch of fresh bread baking in open flame ovens. This is clearly a stereotype of the genre since so many fantastic books are Fantasy without containing any of that, and a lot of books with those features are also great and engaging.

Burning Spirit - The Pitch

February, so far, has been a busy month. Between housesitting and just about everyone coming down with some kind of temporary sickness, it's been hard to keep up with the blog and talk to you. However, when things get busy, I keep writing. I keep working on my witch novel, A Burning Spirit, editing, cutting, adding, etc.. But, to be honest, when the squeeze of time happens, I'm sorry, I choose the novel over the blog. If I didn't, then I wouldn't have anything to submit to agents/publishers down the road but an idea, a first draft, and a lot of blog entries.

The Name Change

In case you've been here before and suddenly your world has been turned upside down and you think you're losing your mind because this lady won't use commas fear not! It's okay. You're in the same place you used to be in when you recognized everything but now it's all very different and somehow smells better.

What am I talking about? (I don'tknow, I'munder the weather andmy spacebar is still actingup.)

Actually, I do know, I've changed the name of my blog from Confessions of a Fiction Writer to, simply put, Margaret Telsch-Williams' Blog.

While I love to write about writing, and talk about writing, and sing about writing, and dream about critiquing writing (true story), I think the old title was restricting all of the wonderful things I wanted to say to you fantastic readers all because the title of the blog told me not to. Not about writing somehow equalled, don't share.

So, tah-dah, here's the new shebang blog, just like the old one, but with more me.

Whatdya think?

The Names of It

First, I'm sorry I've neglected you, lovely reader, with my absence. You're the apple of my eye and I promise never to do it again.

Now, last week was beyond weird, strange, boring, frustrating, and full of a lot of nothing. To be honest, I had some of the worst PMS and was working on edits. For the record:

PMS + edits = a bitch about words

I then cried to my sister (who lives 600 miles away) through private message about my woes and "Aunt Flow," and as a way to make myself feel better, started trash talking Flow and calling her evil names. Many messages later, there was quite an impressive collection of disgusting and vulgar nicknames for ye ol' period and I was feeling a million times happier.

Flash Fiction: The Business of Remembering

Just a bit of flash for you. Not prompted by anything other than trying to condense a character's back story -- for my own good -- who will probably never see the light of day. Sometimes, things like this are the only thing you have left of an entire novel. Writers are weird.

The Business of Remembering

Cynthia remembered standing in the kitchen braiding pigtails when Grandma’s phone rang. She remembered freckles across her mom’s nose. She imagined 747s shattering over the Atlantic, and pictured freckles dissolving into bubbles and plane fragments. Mothers existed in photos. On television children deserved hugs. That wasn’t real life.

She might’ve steadied if her father refused the drink. Years broke him. Empty bottles consumed counter tops. He sent the bullet from temple to temple. No one adopts eight year olds.

Editing and Other Labor Intensive Jobs

So, I'm currently editing the first draft of la novel tentatively titled A Burning Spirit. I'm also still trying to come up with a title that sticks for longer than a few happy days. I swear I'm just going to start calling it my witchy book and then you will all know what I'm talking about without me giving it a title.

As always, I find editing to be the real meat and potatoes of "writing." There's just so much work involved and while it is work to clean up sentences that were no more birthed from you as much as they just fell out while you were on your way somewhere, I love the challenge of the job.

This witchy book, huh, you like? Anyway, this witchy book is actually the fourth novel I've written and the first that I have loved from start to finish during the writing of the first draft and I'm still in love with it now that I'm editing. While I'm no idiot, and I know damn well, this feeling might fade away by the time I'm line editing, right now it feels like momentum and potential. I still want to be in the same room with Elsbeth, the main character, and I still crush on the boys, the innocent Andrew and horrific Hopkins, for so many different reasons.

So, that's where I am: buckling down, choosing to work on my novel, and editing to make it a better tale for you to some day pick up in the store or download and really enjoy the ride whether it be on a broom, a team of black oxen, or otherwise.

Judging Books By Their Covers

Although I tend to talk about writing a lot here on my blog, you may not realize I'm a major reader too. I know, I know, like a real person, right? I lay in bed at night, knees tipped to the sky, cat lying on my feet, and flip the actual pages of books or press the button to turn pages on my old school Kindle sans ads and touch screens.

I read quite a wide variety of books and I'm often in more than one book at a time. I also take advantage of my local library, which is fantastic beyond belief, for both my print and digital books to keep costs down. I'm a starving writer, I NEED my library to support my habit. Currently on my nightstand I have Shangai Girls by Lisa See, Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft's comic issue #5 of Severed, The Help from Katherine Stockett, Fables: Book Three by Bill Willingham, and Tom Franklin's richly-verbed Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. In bed is the safest place for me to read since that means my child and the cats are already asleep, so my time is quiet and mine. But why do I pick up these books and what's sucking me in?