09 July 2018

Camp Mail Call

Sometime in the early 90's, at Camp Glisson
Those of you that are familiar with me know about my love for all things camp-related and Nanowrimo-related. So the fact that I am a die-hard Camp Nanowrimo Participant should be no surprise, really. Every year I do three rounds of Novel Writing Month work, two for Camp Nano and one for Nano Proper in November.

One thing I love about Camp Nanowrimo is that since it is set up like virtual summer camp you get the daily inspirational emails in the form of #CampCarePackages and they are jam-packed full of advice that you can use even after camp is closed for the year. I wanted to share the care package from Friday because it speaks to who I am as a writer on a very deep level. Enjoy, and don't forget your bug spray or sunscreen. It's brutal out here in the wilderness.


Camp Care Package: Writer's block v. "writer's laziness".
From: Camp NaNoWriMo
To: NancyEDunne

Author Claire Kann takes over as your first Camp Counselor this July! She's providing this week's Camp Care Packages:


I’m the kind of creator that doesn’t experience writer’s block. I suffer from what’s known as writer’s laziness—and I know I’m not alone. When this happens, I can’t even force myself to get my work done. But instead of sitting and staring at a blank page, I’ll give myself a set number of minutes to indulge in media that will inspire me to get back to work. Writing a romance? Watch your favorite romcom! Knee-deep in horror land? Find a book that has the same kind of spooktacular themes you’re exploring. I often find that’s enough to jumpstart my writing.

04 July 2018

Art...is art, is art, is love.


So today, instead of focusing on the holiday (that will come later when the yahoos in my neighborhood start lighting fireworks and my dogs think that we are under attack), I'm focusing on something a friend of mine said on Facebook - that today she is celebrating living in a country where she has the ability to create art without the government infringing on it or stopping it, at least not at this point anyway. (Apologies to Erin for that ugly paraphrase of the beautiful post she wrote this morning.)

My art is writing. I'm not a Tolkien or a JK, mind you, but I do find a great deal of katharsis and calm in writing. I let my characters do things I would never have the courage to do. I let them say things that I think ON A REGULAR BASIS but would never say because, well, SOUTHERN AMERICAN. They go places I only dream of going and live in worlds that if discovered to be real places - well, I'd never come back out, is the thing.

I create those sentences and actions and places. I create those characters - they may be based on real people, but I have given them life outside of the people that served as inspiration. I do all these things in this terribly creative art form, but it isn't usually called art. Why not? Is it less art because it is words? Because thank goodness for spell check? Because I have beta readers who point out to me that "a king would never talk like that" or an editor who finds the umpteenth time that I have used the phrase "beat feet" instead of hurried or ran? Because it relies on the imagination of the reader to give the characters voices - even though they talk to me in my own mind with their own voices, their own intonation, and their own accents?

Maybe it's because I want to hide behind my work - I am the first one to say that I'm not a REAL writer or author. But that's not the case, it seems. I am an artist - words are my paints, the laptop is my canvas. I put the notes of the words together to form chords of paragraphs, and those paragraphs link together to form the sonata that is a chapter. I choreograph my characters on the stage of the world I've built.

Well, either an artist or a fascist dictator, which brings me back to the holiday today and the fact that I need to think about shutting the blinds and finding something loud to watch on telly - or diving back into Orana, and only coming out when I absolutely must. Because I'm that kind of artist, and my writing is my art - or because we are four days into Camp Nanowrimo and I don't want to get behind.

30 June 2018

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!


It's the most wonderful time of the...every four years (except for the Women's World Cup which is even better). The FIFA World Cup is going on right now in Russia, and what that means is I get a month of football on tv almost every day, and for the first two weeks, it's on 2-3 times a day!

Yeah, take a moment to feel sorry for my husband. He's not as into it as I am, even when his own country is playing. My country's men's national team didn't make it into the tournament at all, but I'm still hooked. I'm sure there are those that would criticize my choice to watch football instead of BECOMING VERY LOUDLY INVOLVED IN EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD AND THE UNITED STATES RIGHT NOW, but - and this is tremendous personal growth on my part that I can say this out loud on my blog - I don't care.

There is nothing wrong with getting lost for a good two hours at a time in a football match. It brings a lot of things into perspective and teaches lessons that I think are incredibly important in the current political climate. It's also good for my author brain to tune out of rhetoric for awhile and focus on fast-paced strategy. Trust me, you'll thank me when you read the battles in my fantasy novels.

But back to the topic at hand - how football can inform politics. There are the obvious things like the fact that nations that cannot stand each other somehow can set that aside for 90 minutes on a football pitch. That said, there are disputes that come out during these matches between these nations that teach me more about the wider world beyond our current president's playpen - sorry, country. For example, during the group stage match between Switzerland and Serbia, there was controversy over a motion made by two Swiss players of Kosovoan descent followed by a complaint about the referees for that match being nationals of countries that do not have the best relationship with Serbia. None of that made sense to me at first, but it prompted me to look further into the double-headed eagle sign that the players threw up after the goal, and by that to learn more about Balkan Politics. Now I pay more attention to the nationality of the referees at all the matches.

The differences in play style remind us that there are differences in cultures, in climate, and in the people themselves - but that when it comes to the offside rule, we are all the same. The introduction of VAR in this World Cup allows for the objective (hopefully) assessment of penalties and fouls on the field - but it is still up to the referee to make the call at the moment on the field, and regardless of how fair or unfair the call feels, it is what it is and they move on. They move on to play smarter and harder and to avoid stupid mistakes fueled only by emotions.

I'm trying to use the lessons in my own life. Resist and call out tyranny and discrimination and hate without resorting to penalties and red cards that do nothing but make the rage louder and more fury filled. Find another way - a more civil way, to use an oddly vilified term right now - to make my point and stand up for those who cannot. Does interpreting for rallies rather than screaming in the street and waving a sign mean that I am not truly committed? Hardly. It means I am doing what I can to bring the message to even more people that hopefully will join the resistance. Offering food and shelter to those in need for whatever reason is JUST AS IMPORTANT as confronting the evils of the world that left them in need in the first place.

I was watching the Mexico v Sweden match the other day, being called by Jorge Perez-Navarro who is well known for his passion and excitement as well as his seemingly never-ending "Gooooooaaal!" He had called the previous match for Mexico and was very excited for everything that the Mexican team did. Makes sense. But in the match with Sweden when Mexico did almost nothing that warranted any excitement or passion, when Sweden scored he let loose with his famous "Goooooaaal!" anyway - because that's what you do. I am certain that it wasn't the result he wanted (even though Mexico and Sweden both went through to the next stage THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND HOLY MOLY HOW DID THAT HAPPEN South Korea?!?!?) but it would do no good in his position to be surly (even though it is VERY clear which team a lot of the commentators are following - glory chasers. Anyway. Where was I?). That is civility, ¿verdad?

This is who I am, who my parents taught me to be, and - once more for those in the back - this does not mean that I am resting in my privilege or supporting fascists. This means that I know myself and I am true to myself, and that is ALL that it means. I use the Gandhi quote quite often: "An eye for an eye will only leave the whole world blind."

Now, if you'll excuse me, Argentina have just equalized against France and I have got some cheering to do for the second half. Allez Les Bleus! Vaincre l'Argentine!

(and with editing...Argentina have pulled ahead and I clearly need to leave this and get back to cheering on France!)

20 June 2018

Just...wow.

I waxed poetic in my last post about how long it has taken me to get to this point - years of living with this story and these characters - and how surreal it still feels. Wanna know what will kick that feeling of being just on the verge of an anxiety attack right over into full-blown WHAT HAVE I DONE?

One little post on social media, from a real-life friend who happens to be KIND OF A BIG DEAL in the Rennie world saying she can't wait to start the new trilogy in the picture she posted: The Nature Walker Trilogy. She is about to find out about Gin and Sath and Orana and all the rest. The horrible little voice in my head says that I am about to be exposed as the imposter I am. Exposed - by someone that is my friend.

Now, all of us living in the rational world know that none of the drama described in the above paragraph is realistic. She may hate the trilogy. But she may also love it. In fact, there is a good chance that she will love it. And if she doesn't, my world will not end. Right?

There is a good chance that a lot of people would love it, and if only I would GET OUT OF MY OWN WAY and let them experience it then they will love it and share it with their friends. But that's the rub - getting out of my own way. I suppose this is something that all writers (and artists and dancers and anyone of a creative ilk) have to face. The tiny voice in my head is firmly standing in the way of me returning to dance class. But on the positive side, the tiny voice in my head kept me from following a traditional publishing route, and so far I'm quite pleased with the results of indie publishing (or self-publishing). I have a great team that provides me feedback and editing and creative support - a team that the tiny voice can't touch. One dissenting voice in the face of a supportive chorus is drowned out most of the time.

I hope that my friend's post on social media will lead to more people giving Gin's story a try and falling in love with her and Orana. But most of all I hope she enjoys the story because that's why I wrote it and published it - for people to experience and enjoy. All the wow moments pale in comparison to that.

11 June 2018

It's here! Guardian: Rise of the Nature Walker

Well, I have to say that almost two decades ago, when I first started playing an MMORPG, I never would have guessed that experience would lead to the gorgeous book cover over there. Even a decade ago, when the late nights, guild raids, and TeamSpeak chats were just a happy memory, I was sitting on a manuscript that I couldn't share - wouldn't share - but it wouldn't let me go. It took another ten years for me to finish it, polish it, rip it to bits and start again. It was a Superginormous chunk of memory in my cloud drive. It turned into a private blog, and that's where the first beta reader not only gave me feedback but encouraged me to keep writing and keep working on the story.

Wanderer came first and is the most similar to the original superginormous manuscript. Everyone hates exposition, and that's what I thought Wanderer was...but it isn't, not really. It's an introduction to Ginolwenye - Gin for short - and to the world I created for her to inhabit. Next came Tempest, arguably the most dark, personal, and difficult thing I have ever written. The majority of those two books were written years ago, and only needed some revising.

Guardian was different. Guardian was the end of the story that I couldn't quite make myself write. At the time that I wrote the first two, Guardian was somewhere I didn't want to go because I didn't want Gin's story to be over. I wasn't ready to leave Gin's world. But, as people started to get to know her and became invested in her story, I knew I had to be brave enough to see this story through. And so, Guardian came into being. And here it is, launch day for this last book in the Nature Walker Trilogy, and I still can't believe all of this is real.

Funny thing about Gin, though. She isn't done just yet. She is just coming into her own - her birthright, her inheritance, herself. Gin has a lot more to do, and I can't wait for her to point me in the direction of her next adventure. For now, though, you can get your copy of Guardian by clicking on this link. Ta very much, y'all. Very much indeed.

08 May 2018

#funnynotfunny

Mr. Allen, White County High School
Grief is a funny thing. Not funny ha-ha or funny "that is so interesting," but funny "what the..."

My default for handling things that are generally unpleasant, sad, upsetting, or otherwise is not to handle them. I use what I call the Interpreter Protocol - I close the door on whatever it is, build a wall to keep it out and try not to bother it again. And before any of you point it out, I know that isn't healthy or at all recommended.

I've been saying to anyone that asks me how I'm doing since losing my dad that "I'm okay" and "really, I've had the last few years to deal with it" and "He hasn't known me since about 2014 anyway" as though any or all of those phrases are the gospel truth. In fact, however, those phrases have been my protection - my wall that keeps my emotions safe from interaction with the pain and the guilt and all of those side effects that come with losing a parent.

The other day I posted a picture that I saw while at the farmer's market that I thought he would have found terribly funny. I can still hear his laugh and see him wiping away tears that always came with something tremendously funny. At the moment, when I posted it, I was not sad. I was not grieving. I was happy that I could see something and have a pleasant memory of my father that made me and Simon laugh to share. But that laughter - that humor - that's just another brick in my homemade wall.

Today I've had moments of profound sadness and I dealt with them the only way I know how - I ran. I pulled out a manuscript to work on, I cleaned out the makeshift food pantry in my desk because my summer hols from work are coming on, I did anything I could to stop thinking about whatever it was that set me off earlier. It worked - I cannot remember for the life of me what the trigger was this time.

But the sadness remains. I still miss him, even though it is not as visceral a feeling as the loss my mother and my sister are feeling. I miss him in the way that I missed both my parents during my first summer working at Camp Glisson, the first night of staff training week when all the fun and noise and laughter faded into the silent realization that I was alone in a new place with strangers. I miss him in the way you suddenly realize that something is gone as you pull away from university after graduation. This new reality is not that different from the one I was in a month ago, or a year ago, or even three years ago - and yet it is completely different and funny - and not funny, all at the same time.

The sign in question is the one on the right. Their tagline, "All Natural. No Doo-doo.
No kidding," would have made Daddy laugh until he cried, I am fairly certain.

24 April 2018

"I lift mine eyes unto the hills..."

Here is the public obituary (written mostly by my sister with input from me and our mom):

Hoyt A. Allen, 1933 - 2018

Please, if you knew him, or even if you didn't, take a moment and have a read about a life lived so well and with so much love by this soft-spoken gentleman from the hills of Cleveland, Georgia. You can even leave a message if you feel so inclined. We would love to hear your favorite memories of my father.

For now, that's all I can say, other than I am so very proud to be his daughter, and am ever thankful of the kind words, prayers, memories, and love we are receiving.  I miss you, Daddy, and I love you. Thanks - for everything.

03 April 2018

Bus Poetry, Vol 3

I think I timed this wrong...
Comparisons on the Bus

Espadrilles.
Ankle trousers falling perfectly at the sandal strap.
Delicate fingers holding pistachios and a very literary novel.
Patterned blouse containing the hue of the trousers - exact match.
Hair pulled up in a messy bun that is far from.

Old Clark's shoes.
Gray yoga trousers masquerading as business casual.
Too many beaded bracelets paired with a Fitbit the same color as the faded Clark's - exact match.
Worn navy top, at least three inches shorter than when purchased.
Artificially straight hair, complete with a midlife red stripe.

Which is which?
She is awake and ready.
I am tired and ready for a nap.
She will take on the world today while I will sit...and compare.

25 March 2018

March for Our Lives

View from the old courthouse steps at the end of the march
So there was this thing yesterday, this public gathering, this demonstration called March for Our Lives. It was started by the Never Again MSD movement that was born out of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This is a group of high school students - kids - that have decided that if the adults are not going to act like adults and make sure that they are safe in their schools, it's up to them.

These are amazing kids, and the groups that have sprung up all over the country are made up of even more amazing kids. I feel like I say the word AMAZING too much, but in this case, it is warranted. Millions upon millions of people came out yesterday, all over my country and indeed, all over the world, to join with this group of kids - whose pain is still so raw - to say that enough is enough. They are asking the adults of their world how many more of them have to die before someone in charge does something to make them safe.

I came out yesterday and joined the March in Greenville. I have never in my life seen that many people crowded into the NOMA square at the top of Main street! Now, normally I am not a fan of large crowds, and I will admit to being trepidatious yesterday - there was a point that I found myself spending too much time trying to decide if a man nearby us, who was wearing a clerical collar, had something hidden under his blazer. That's how nervous it makes me - but yesterday was different. I wanted to surge up to the front of the line yesterday and surround those kids to keep them safe from the 2nd Amendment counter protest that we heard was going on just a few blocks down. That's been my motivation in this whole thing - to protect. I don't even have kids, y'all, but the thought of my niece, my friend's son, or anyone having to go through a lockdown drill at school just hurts my heart. It is so preventable! I wanted them to stay kids a little longer because if you hear them speak at rallies or on television, they sound so poised and intelligent - like the young adults they are.

They are often more adult than the actual adults.

But protection wasn't their bag yesterday. They led the march, heads held high, and passed by the...five or six?...2nd Amendment counter-protesters and kept on going. They held signs reading "Am I Next?" and "The NRA is a terrorist organization" and "Thoughts, Prayers, ACTIONS!" There was a rally at city hall, and it was peaceful - but forceful. I have never been so proud to live in my town as I was yesterday.

Tell me what democracy looks like? THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.

20 March 2018

Fáilte go dtí an taobh dorcha...

So this happened...
Welcome to the dark side indeed... for her, anyway. This is Ciaragh, (Kee-rah, the feminine form of Ciaran, which means dark in Irish) and she has joined our house as a foster, for now. She is 14 months old, and we are already terribly smitten with her. She is the spitting image of Bryn when she was that age. Actually, she looks more like Bryn at five months because she is so very tiny. A pocket IW! She is curious, sweet, submissive to Willow and so far completely in love with our backyard. She would stay out there all day, whittling sticks and digging to China if we let her. So...things here at The Lettuce have derailed a bit, but all is well: we are puppy-proofing as we go and generally getting to know this precious little muppet. I mean come on, how CUTE is that face?  More Muppet Shenanigans can be had over at Bryn's blog, Our Daily Bryn (as soon as I get caught up, that is). Also, be sure to watch for the next in the Clobberpaws series - I think Bryn's story just got a whole lot more interesting! As for Miss Ciaragh, she may be making her debut at GARF! Stay tuned...

14 March 2018

Writing a Writerly Post, Vol 1

They didn't know they were a cliché, clearly.
There's a theory going around that all Disney movies have one thing in common in their storytelling - dead/missing parents. Look at the ones that stand out in your mind, the classics: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty...at least Sleeping Beauty's parents died because she was asleep for so long, but it is still important. Look at current Disney blockbusters: Frozen's Elsa and Anna lost their parents at sea and Brave's Merida almost lost her mother to...being a bear. I remember when some friends and I sat down to finally watch Frozen, my friend Brian said that he already knew the plot: Introduce hero/heroine as a normal so-and-so, kill off parents, so-and-so becomes super somehow and saves the day. How mad was I when it turned out that he was right?!

Don't get me wrong, I love a good Disney movie. And that's why I started thinking about the post for today - I've seen a lot of them! But what really set me off on this tangent was a post on a writers group on Facebook that talked about the "overused trope in fantasy writing" of the hero/protagonist losing their parents, and how that spurs them on to greatness.

Well, of course it does! Revenge is a mighty motivator, as is just wanting to honor the memory of a parent or make that parent proud, even if it is posthumously. In my books, my protagonist is taken from her comfortable life and thrust into the great unknown to avenge the deaths of her parents. Overused cliché? Maybe, but let me tell you why I think it is so well worn (rather than overused): I think that it is a metaphor for life in general. A person can be the most well-rounded, confident, mature individual and live an independent and fantastic life, but as long as that person's parents are still living, that person is still someone's child. To see that relationship through to its normal and natural conclusion - with the parents living to an advanced age - provides time for the child to grow into the role that he or she will take on in absence of the parents: the "grown-up," if you will. To take away the parents before the child has naturally reached that point forces growth and maturity that may not be complete. It is that shock to the system, to the natural order of things, that makes some into heroes and others into villains.

Why wouldn't we take that and use it in writing? For the unlikely hero in a fantasy novel, what better jumping off point for the rest of the journey? Granted, that point has seen a lot of feet, but I think that what makes the trope well-worn is that every hero has the potential to jump off in a different direction. My protagonist takes up the mantle of revenge as a side arc, really, but it is a sub-plot that informs the rest of her journey. Other writers have protagonists that spend their entire story arc plotting and carrying out revenge for their lost parents. Every protagonist needs a catalyst to set them on their path - I chose the Disney route.

Now, if only I could choose the Disney route to see my books become movies...

Camp Mail Call