Tag Archives: writing

kaleidoscope

 

Halfway to Long Island, Ben had a panic attack and had to pull over to the side of the road. Still clutching the damp and wrinkled directions in his hand, he decided that he was a jerk, an idiot, for thinking that they would even want to see him.

Each exit he passed was the one he was going to get off, the one that would take him as far away as possible. The sun was prismatic; it shattered the sky with kaleidoscopic color. He couldn’t see through the glare on the windshield. His head was pounding.

Taking a deep breath, he wiped his brow, then pulled back onto the parkway. It was nearing two o’clock. He knew Ari wouldn’t be home from school yet, which would give him a little time alone with Robin. He couldn’t face them both at the same time. Ben parked at least ten houses away from where Robin lived.

She had moved, Matt said, because the rent at their old place got too high. She was living in a basement apartment outside of the city with Ari. Ben knew Robin had always hated suburbia and he felt a pang of sadness as he passed houses that all looked the same, searching for the right number.

78. It was a decent, rundown house. Matt had told him to go through the side gate, which lead to the backyard. To the right was a stairwell lined with painted terra cotta pots and chimes that, moved by the sudden wind, rang in cacophony. He descended the stairs, his hand clutching the bag which held Ari’s gift. After several deep breaths, he knocked tentatively on Robin’s door.

“What does he want?” was the second thought that ran through Robin’s head. The first thought was not a thought; it was a visualization of action. She wanted to back away from the door. She wanted to run away and hide. She stayed in the hallway for a few seconds, her heart racing.

Ari looked like just like him: same nose, same eyebrows, same jut of the chin. Ben’s eyes were Ari’s eyes, pale green or blue, depending on his mood and the way his mind was turning. Ben bit his lip nervously. He was wearing an impossibly thin coat despite the March snow that still lingered in the bottom of the stairwell. She opened the door a crack and met his eyes.

“I know … it’s been a while,” he said. His hands were shaking slightly, and he attempted to put them in his pockets. The shopping bag secured around his wrist caused him to struggle to find his right pocket, until he gave up and let his arm fall by his side, still clutching the bag.

“What are you doing here?” Robin asked.

Ben opened his mouth to speak and closed it again. He looked at her plaintively, unable to find the words. She closed her eyes slightly, and opened the door further for him to enter.

They moved around each other in the small space. Robin thought, how strange it was to have loved someone so fully, to have breathed that person in until he had become part of her; and then, to have him before her as a person she could not touch, a person she could no longer lay claim to.

“Would you like some coffee?” She asked.

“I would love some.”

Moments passed in uncomfortable silence. Ben looked around the kitchen, trying to find threads of their old life. His eye caught the painting above the table, “That’s new?”

Robin turned and followed his gaze to a rather small abstract painting; it was a scene of the beach, the colors muted and distant. Sometimes Robin thought she could hear the cry of seagulls, their insatiable hunger, vibrate on the surface of the canvas.

She tensed. “Oh, that. I finished that about a year ago.”

“It’s … it’s really beautiful,” Ben said. He cleared his throat. “You’ve gotten a lot better. I mean, you were always great. But it’s different …”

“Why don’t you sit down?” Robin asked.

Ben wondered which place was Ari’s. There were three chairs at the table; the thought that the third chair might belong to someone else pained him. He remained standing.

“I read your book.”

“Oh.” Ben said. “I’m almost done with my second one … that’s why I’m here. I mean, that’s why I’m here in New York.”

“I see,” Robin said, looking down at her hands. “How’s that coming?”

“Good, I guess. You know. It can be… difficult, at times.” Ben cleared his throat again. “You know how it is.”

“I don’t know if I do, Ben.” Robin said, her voice edging discomfort. The coffee pot behind her continued its persistent sound, a noise that seemed to gather volume as they avoided each others eyes.

Ben wrapped his hands around his cup. Robin imagined that if he lifted a finger, or his palm, off the cup, he would crumble. She wondered if she would try to put him back together, or if she would purse her lips and blow, as if that movement of air would push him away, scatter the past like dust.

“I can’t force a conversation with you …” Robin began.

Ben looked at the painting again. “You know I’ve been in and out of the hospital, right?”

“I’ve talked to Matt.”

“It’s the meds … They’re supposed to be making me better, more stable. But I think they’re just making me worse.” He paused then leaped ahead as if crossing a stretch as wide and deep as a fault line in the earth.

“Do you know how much I’ve missed you?”

“How could I know that, Ben? After the first time you just checked out. You left. Nothing …” Robin struggled to control herself. “Didn’t you think about Ari? Even once?”

“Of course I did.” Ben faced her. “I wanted … How could I …”

They stared at each other for a long while, frankly, viewing each other in parts that did not quite make up a whole.

Robin’s face told him about the days she had waited to hear from him, about Ari at six, seven, years he missed, years he left her to take on the responsibility by herself. Ben’s face told her about the nights he had stayed away from her, about the spiraling downs, the manic highs, the loneliness and the guilt, the bathroom mirror at 3am, all the pills.

“I brought something for him,” Ben said, motioning to the bag that he finally released and placed on the table.

After deciding to visit Robin and Ari, Ben had rationalized that he couldn’t show up empty handed. Matt told him about a store in Manhattan that was packed with curiosities and antiques, all unusual or different in some way. Ben had walked throughout the store lightly; afraid he would bump into something and knock it over.

“Can I help you, Sir?” A well-dressed saleswoman had asked, eyeing Ben as if she wasn’t quite sure he could afford most of the items in the store.

“Yes, I’m looking for a gift… for a boy, about seven years old.”

“What are some of the little boy’s interests? Science? Art? Music, perhaps?”

Ben didn’t know what Ari’s interests were, but he couldn’t say that; he barely wanted to recognize it himself. “I just want to get him something unique and beautiful … something he can hold, something to stir his imagination.”

The saleswoman had nodded and directed Ben towards the back of the shop. It was there that he noticed a kaleidoscope, tucked into a corner. Ben picked it up and looked through it. The world changed unexpectedly. It was breathtaking and filled him with a deep joy. He wanted to share that vision, that momentary enchantment.

Robin looked at the clock. Ari would be home from school soon.

“How is he?” Ben asked, averting his eyes.

“He’s okay. He’s really smart, really creative. I don’t think he has that many friends in school. But he’s relatively happy.” Robin paused. “You hurt him, Ben. He and I have a great relationship, but … I’m not his father.”

“Look at me.” Ben said, extending his hands upward. “I’m a fucking mess, Robin. It’s better that I’ve stayed away all these years.”

“Better for who?”

“For you, for Ari. I can’t be what you need.”

“What do you know about what we need? You’ve been, what, in and out of hospitals, you’ve been working on your second book. You, you, you. Do you hear yourself?” Robin felt her voice growing louder. “It’s all about you. It always was.”

Ben looked at her with relief; he would no longer have to wait for her anger, knowing it would come but not knowing when. “You’ve always been the more responsible one.”

“Because I had to be,” Robin spat at him, “Don’t you think I’ve wanted to be free of consequences, to do whatever the fuck I want, to really concentrate on my art, and not just … when I can?”

“Is that what you think I do? You have Ari, you have a life… I have nothing. Words, paper, a book. I spend half my time writing and the other half of it wanting to die. You want that? You can have it. You can have my disorder and my pills and my instability and my fucking overwhelming emptiness.”

Robin gazed into the living room, instinctively searching out the painting she had done when Ari was about five years old, around the time Ben had left. When it was finished, she had laid it against the wall to finish drying. Robin had sensed that it was a turning point in her work.

That night, when Ari had walked into the kitchen for dinner, Robin remembered turning to him, noticing his look of joy, then his hand, streaked with yellow ochre and alizarin crimson. Her heart had seemed to stop.

“You didn’t touch Mommy’s painting, did you?”

“I’m an artist, too!” Ari laughed.

Robin had raced into the living room to check the painting. The right side of the painting was blurred along the edge. Ari had taken his hand and allowed it to travel downwards in a long stroke, as if petting a sleepy cat.

Robin broke down. She literally fell to the floor in front of the painting; the strength that she had seemed to summon since Ben left was gone. She wept openly, bitterly. Ari watched, his eyes wide and scared. Robin caught his expression through her own pain, and knew that she would have to pull it together, allow the gaping wound to scar, accept that it might never heal. She needed to be stronger. For herself, for Ari.

At 3:25, the school bus arrived. Robin had told Ben it would be better for him to wait inside the apartment.

She stood on the sidewalk and waited for Ari to descend from the bus. The sun was cold brightness. Light refracted from windows and the chrome of car bumpers, throwing a dizzying spell.

Ari’s blonde head burned brightly under it; his hair was getting a little too long, and he pushed it from his eyes in order to see Robin. He ran across the street, smiling, dragging his book bag on the ground, his coat thrown open against the rough wind.

“Ari. Hold on a sec.” Robin looked at him, his face was so trusting, as open as the sky.

“What’s up?” Ari asked, furrowing his eyebrows and smiling at the break in their routine.

“Someone came over … someone we haven’t seen for a long time. Your father …”

A cloud passed across Ari’s face. Robin didn’t have time to explain any further; he took off running and didn’t slow down until he reached the gate. Robin was breathing hard when she caught up to him.

“Ari,” she said.

He avoided her eyes.

“Are you sure … I mean, it’s sudden. Are you okay with this?” Robin paused. “I can tell him to leave.”

“No,” he whispered. He didn’t move. He didn’t look at her; he stood rooted outside the gate.

“Do you want me to go in first?” Robin placed her arm protectively around his shoulders, and he nodded.

Ben was sitting in the living room, on the couch that doubled as Robin’s bed, his head in his hands. He looked up when they walked in, his face pale, so pale that Robin instantly asked, “Ben? Are you okay?”

Ari stood behind Robin, the way he used to do when he was much younger, when he was afraid of grown-ups, of strangers.

“I’m … I feel a little sick. I’ll be fine.” Ben tried to smile, but the smile came out more like a grimace.

“Ari, sit down,” Robin said, “let me get your snack.”

Ari sat at the kitchen table. His large eyes, dark and unsmiling, were focused on Ben.

“I brought something for you, Ari.” Ben said the boy’s name as if tasting a new word. “It’s right there, in that bag. You can take it out.”

Ari reached into the bag and took out a wrapped box. He opened the wrapping slowly, carefully, until he reached the plain cardboard that held his gift inside. Lifting each corner flap, he tipped the box so its contents fell into his hand. He turned the object over.

“What is it?” he asked.

“A kaleidoscope. It’s an old-fashioned one,” Ben said.

Robin set a cup of milk in front of Ari, along with some cookies on a paper napkin. “Wow, Ben, that’s really beautiful.”

The kaleidoscope was heavy. The body was constructed of solid wood, the lens was real glass. The turning chamber was an oil filled cell infused with color, containing pieces of glass, beads, wire, polymer clay and other hand made trinkets.

Ari gazed into the object, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

“Well,” Robin asked, “What do you see?”

“Colors,” he said. “I see a star, full of colors and shapes. When I turn this part, the picture changes. This is really cool.”

Ari looked at Robin; he seemed slightly dazed, as if his equilibrium had been altered by the spell of the object. He held the kaleidoscope possessively in his hand and glanced at Ben.

“Thank you,” Ari said softly.

“I … I just wanted to see you for a little bit. But I have to go now.” Ben stood up.

Ari looked up at his father in disbelief.

“It will probably take me about an hour to get the car back to the city, and my flight’s at six o’clock,” Ben explained thinly.

“You’re leaving?”

Robin watched Ari’s face change. She turned towards Ben as the kaleidoscope hit him in the jaw with a smack, a thud, and then crashed to the floor. Ben instinctively put his hand to his face; his eyes filled with tears.

Ari ran out of the kitchen.

“Go.” Robin said sadly. She put her hand on his cheek and gently brushed his bruised jaw with her thumb. Ben closed his eyes. He remained still, as if her touch extended beyond his face to the entire surface of his skin, then deeper, to his heart, his soul.

As she walked down the short hallway to Ari’s room, she heard the faint click of the door closing behind him.

Robin called Ari’s name, then stood outside his door and waited. Moments passed. Each second Robin felt the distance between them growing and shaping into something real.

She thought about the kaleidoscope in her hand and wanted to cradle it in her arms, to restore it to its earlier safety, inside the box, wrapped, an unexpected gift. She called his name again.

Ari opened the door slightly, and then returned to his bed. He curled up, facing the wall. Robin entered lightly and sat on the edge. She smoothed the hair from his damp forehead and placed the kaleidoscope beside him.

“Did I break it?”

“No,” Robin said, “It’s okay.”

Ari touched the kaleidoscope gingerly and held it to his chest.

“I didn’t mean to throw it.”

“I know.” Robin laid down on the bed next to him. Side by side, they searched the cracks in the ceiling.

“Will he ever come back?”

Robin wrapped her arms around Ari and closed her eyes. She imagined Ben leaving, walking into the raw sun, the wind beating down on his shoulders, leaving, over and again, caught the cycle of eternal return.

 

*

 

 

Kaleidoscope is a story I wrote many years ago, and was first published on this site in February, 2012.


reading series 10.2

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One of the interesting parts I find about being a writer is the pieces I do not publish. On my computer, I have many stories and poems that I’ve collected throughout the years that are in varying states of completion, sketched out in drafts, or finished but not likely to be published. There are even novels and plays that I have never (not yet!) completed. I believe that this is true for most artists.

The reasons why these pieces linger are as varied as the states I’ve left them in. I have many ideas for stories and poems, and there is a certain necessity to putting them down in written form, but that does not necessarily mean that they are ever intended for the public eye. There are stories that didn’t make it into my dark and erotic collection (Into the Woods) for different reasons; one I thought was way too subversive, another way too romantic. Will I publish them elsewhere? I have no idea. When you write to write, and not with an eye towards a specific market or specific publication, many times these pieces of writing linger in a purgatorial state. When looking towards publication, there is always a question of fit, and many pieces I have do not appear to fit anywhere. So, they linger. I’ve found places for some of these stories years after their writing, which is always interesting. I’ve revised stories years after their initial drafts. Even work that is accepted for publication can take up to a year to be actually published. “New” work is rarely “new.”

One of the reasons I started this reading series was to share some of these lingering stories and poems in a direct way with readers. These are the stories and poems that I am not looking to publish as part of a collection or an anthology. Many times, I’m sharing work that doesn’t seem to “fit” anywhere else, but I still like them for whatever reason, and don’t want them to stay trapped in a doc file. Sometimes I share things that have been published, and wish to impart a sort of contextual lens to the work. Other times, I share stories from my life, written specifically for this purpose, as in my “stories of failure” series.

Awhile ago, I came across this idea: “You are not reading what I wrote.” I think this is always true, even as it applies to myself with work that I have written. This is the idea that readers bring something very important to the process of writing. I believe that good writers leave a lot to the reader’s imagination, making them an active part in the process of creating the story. “What I wrote” is only the beginning of the process. Readers are essential in bringing a story to life, by bringing their own sense of meaning and connections to the words they read. In this sense, “what I wrote” will be a different story to every person who reads it. Furthermore, it will be different to each person at different points in his or her life. This is one of the major reasons why I love re-reading and revisiting not only books that I love, but my own work as well.

In thinking of what to share today, I kept coming back to a story that I wrote a very long time ago. This story is called “Kill your television!” I wrote this story even before I attended my MFA program, which is now quite some time ago too. For many years, I considered myself a poet and fiction writing was elusive to me. One of the reasons I wanted to receive a MFA was to study fiction, although I wound up studying playwriting, which is another story altogether …

Nevertheless, I brought this story into one of the workshops, and everyone liked it a lot, but even then, no one could offer suggestions in which to change it. It was a slice of life, a little piece about college life, a time capsule. People in the workshop felt that it was a throwback to the 70s, which was something that I had not even anticipated (the title itself was a partial reference to a song that was relatively popular in the early 90s, when I began my college years. I also felt that the television was a substitute for the self); however, I see the threads my fellow students saw to 1970s subculture more clearly now.

For me, I was writing about some of my college experiences a few years after the fact. Like so many writers, I drew heavily upon my personal experiences in creating my earliest attempts at “fiction.” This is a fictionalized account, but it is also surprising at how much of what I wrote was thinly veiled truth. I just wrote it. I never intended on publishing it. I wasn’t even sure it was a proper story. Yet, this is a story that still makes me smile when I re-read it. I remember how I was trying to wrap my mind around telling a story, working on dialogue and character. I think that it is interesting that my voice is pretty much the same. I also love some of the lines, such as:

“Yaron threw the television out the kitchen window as dawn gave way to day on Wednesday morning, before Diane had the abortion, before Thom od’d, before I told James I was leaving and he painted all the red doors in his apartment black.”

“My room was my refuge, my safe haven. I had painted the walls forest green, and because I was inept with a roller, ragged green edges that looked like grass surrounded the parameter of the still-white ceiling. I had plans for the ceiling, and I used to lie on the floor, looking up, imagining what I would paint. When I moved out, the ceiling remained white, only slightly imprinted by the will of my imagination”

“He was offering me a path that would only lead further and further into darkness. I had spent nearly three days in seclusion, trying to figure out a way in which to live. I had already figured out all the ways in which to die.”

“Before I had time to answer him, he kissed me. I had been numb for so long I didn’t recognize the space between us expand and contract, or that my body moved according to his. I didn’t know how it was that my breath caught under his touch, against my more logical inclinations. All this, and I kissed him back, breaking my heart so he wouldn’t have to.”

There is also a bittersweet element to reading this story, because it does contain some elements of truth. That was my room when I lived off-campus, painted dark green with ragged edges that looked like grass extending around the perimeter. I did used to lie on the floor, imagining blue sky and clouds instead of the chalky white above me. Reading this story brings me back to that time, a time of great uncertainty in my life. It is amazing to think of how far I have come in the past twenty or so years.

Reading this also brings to mind the idea of publication, which is another thing that I think most writers struggle with. Publication is an important part of the writing process, but it is not the only part, and I think it is far from the most essential part. In our contemporary time, the idea of publication has also expanded greatly. Since I am writing this on my website, one could say that I am inherently “publishing” my work. Some would say that it is only through 3rd party publication that one is truly “published.” Is not publication the opportunity for others to read what you have wrote? Is that not the reward for any writer … to be read?

Relatively recently, I came across a post from a writer who was lamenting the lack of opportunities to be published in the erotica field, due to some major publication houses closing and the lack of monetary compensation awarded for stories. This writer has also posted an extensive collection of stories on her website, which is available for free to all. The irony is that she was lamenting not the opportunity to be published exactly – she has been publishing her stories on her own site for many years. What she was upset about was the opportunity to be paid for her work. Only a few short years ago, it was common to be compensated about $100 per story in the erotica field. In today’s market, $25 is considered to be in the high range for payment. There are many reasons for the depreciation in value, but I have to divorce the monetary compensation from the freedom many writers have (including her) to publish their own work across the internet, without the somewhat limiting hand of external publishers.

I’ve also recently come across a post from a writer complaining about the nepotism in a well known and respected sci-fi/fantasy/horror website. Apparently, there is a tie between a certain writing program and the publisher, and a disproportionate number of graduates have been published there, many within a year or so after graduating said program. Are they being groomed for publishing? Perhaps … sometimes people go into specific MFA programs because they are well connected. That is a reality. However, I truly feel that this a short-term success. Writing is life-work, and no matter how well you are connected through a MFA program, long-term success rests solely on the writer. Writers are meant to grow and evolve. While MFA programs can be transformational spaces, their function is to help emerging writers learn the craft of writing. Two years with a specific set of teachers can only teach so much.

As I said, writing is life-work. Our true teachers are those who have written in the past, those who have left their legacy through their work. Teachers of creative writing know this. There is always more to learn. There is always room to grow. As in any craft, one learns most by doing, by living and breathing through their work. Anyone can follow a formulaic plot line or keep regurgitating the same material. The writers we celebrate are often the ones who have unlearned what they learned, who have created new ways of expression, measuring their success by their own measure, and not what society has defined that as. Is Tom Clancy a success? Of course he is a best selling author. There is a big publishing house behind him. He also doesn’t write his own books. He has become a name, a brand, a pre-formulated, calculated machine meant to churn out books to the general public. That is not my idea of success.

Ah, I am getting tangential again. Where was I? I am posting in this reading series, taking about a story that I wrote a long time ago that I never intended on publishing, something I wrote when I was young and searching for meaning, standing at a precipice between life and death, choosing life.

To read “Kill your Television!”, click here.

 

*

 


into the woods: an interview

black heart magazine

Many thanks to Laura Roberts and Black Heart Magazine for the fun author interview in which I talk a little about my book, Into the Woods, some of my influences and inspirations, what I’m typically doing on a Friday night, and assorted other topics!

Into the Woods: An interview with Michelle Augello-Page

intothewoodsMichelle Augello-Page is the author of Into the Woods, published in 2014 by Oneiros Books. We recently had a chance to ask her a few questions about her literary influences and inspirations. Here’s what she had to say.

Who are your top 5 favorite authors or influences, and why?

It is very difficult to limit my favorite authors or influences to five! So I will choose 5 that immediately come to mind at this moment in time:

Angela Carter – My favorite book by her is The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. The stories in this collection are rough-cut jewels: sharp, brutal, beautiful. The first story I ever read by her was called “Reflections” and everything about it touched me to the core of my soul, knowing that even though I wasn’t there yet, this was where I, too, lived as a writer.

Carl Jung – I’d say that his body of work has influenced me a great deal, and has given me a deeper sense of understanding and connecting the links among psychology, dreams, archetypes, storytelling, and life. I love Memories, Dreams, Reflections and The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious.

Adrienne Rich – Her book of Collected Early Poems: 1950-1970 is one of my most beloved books, and was my first introduction to Rich’s work and (by extension) to poetry itself as a life-long pursuit, a journey rooted in but also transcending the cycles of time and change, an imprint of the “depth and breadth” of one’s personal and creative life. I also love Diving into the Wreck and her sexuality/gender focused political essays.

Margaret Atwood – Her prolific body of work is impressive and varied, and I love that she continues to evolve, stretching even beyond herself. As a writer of fiction, short stories, poetry, and essays, she refuses to be locked into a genre. She has cultivated her own uniqueness, which only grows deeper and more refined with each creation. My favorite books by her are The Handmaid’s Tale and Power Politics.

Stephen King – One of my favorite books about writing is King’s On Writing. Growing up, I devoured King’s books. He has such an ease to his writing that really draws you in, while telling some of the strangest, most horrific stories one could imagine. He is a master of both storytelling and balancing dichotomies. My favorites are The Dead Zone and The Eyes of the Dragon.

What type of writing fuel do you prefer, and what – if anything – do you feel this contributes to your creative process?

My writing fuel is tea, coffee, music, and visual images. Many times when I write I listen to music through headphones, which provides a sort of background emotional undercurrent, a tether, and helps me block out all other worlds except for the one I am writing.

What inspired you to write your latest book?

I was inspired to write my latest book by fairy tales, mythology, language, transformations, relationships, love, and sex.

… to read the rest of the interview, please click here!

And be sure to check out the rest of Black Heart Magazine for a wealth of great stories, poetry, author interviews, reviews, and more!

 

Black Heart Magazine is an independent online literary magazine, transmitting tenacious text around the world at the speed of wifi. Since 2004, our site has been combating clichés and skipping straight to supercharged stories with a simple catchphrase: we heart art.

Join us, if you dare.

We publish the best in short-form modern literature, from pulp and literary fiction to poetry, along with all manner of literary commentary to keep readers informed and entertained.

 

Laura Roberts also recently published the Best of Black Heart, a collection celebrating 10 years of fiction, poetry, author interviews, and more indie literary mayhem! Check it out! x


reading series 8.14

Through the Looking Glass by Mo T

I wanted to share something fun and different through this reading series, so I decided to share a little bit of a play that I had created many years ago.

When I received a MFA in Creative Writing, my concentration was not in fiction or poetry; it was in playwriting. I had entered the program on the strength of my poetry. I had intended on switching to fiction. But I fell in love with playwriting, and I decided to focus my efforts there. My thesis project was a full-length play called “Through the Looking Glass.” I loved and lived this play for many months, and it was the culmination of the time I spent at the university pursuing an MFA. Upon graduating, there was a staged reading of my play at a space in Manhattan, and it was bound and published in the university library, where all the thesis projects are stored. You can read the beginning of this play here.

For a long time, I was a writer without a MFA. I had studied poetry and fine art as an undergraduate student. After I received my bachelors degree, I spent about a year working at a bookstore. While working there, I ran a poetry workshop and immersed myself in writing. I was considering going for a MFA, and I began an inquiry into graduate programs across the country.

As fate would have it, I also fell in love with someone I had met while working at that bookstore. He introduced me to Andre Breton. I introduced him to Bettie Page. We shared a love of surrealism, poetry, music, and art. I started receiving pamphlets and booklets from graduate programs in writing around the same time I discovered I was pregnant. The pile on top of my desk became heavy, but it could not match the weight of the life that was growing inside me. I loved poetry. I lived poetry. And ultimately, that was what led me to my decision.

At 23, we moved in together, a musician and a writer. We were in love. We were going to start a family. We had no money; dreams were our currency. And at the time, I believed that was enough. I decided to go back to school to receive a masters degree in Education. I had initially went to the New School with the intention of learning and enjoying education again. I intended on pursuing teaching at the masters level, after I received my BA. I wanted to have a career as a teacher, so I could have a stable income. First, I thought that being a teacher would provide a job I would love while I pursed my writing. Then, I thought being a teacher would provide an income for my family. I never thought that I would make any money as a writer, but I also never wrote for money. That was never a motivating factor for me. I actually went into “being a writer” feeling that I would never make money from it. I didn’t care. Writing was just something within me, something I couldn’t stop doing if I wanted to, something that was given to me, a gift.

Fast forward a few years, and I was a single parent with two children under the age of 5. I was working nights and weekends as a cashier in a grocery store. (The bookstore had closed almost 2 years after I worked there) I was healing from the break up. I was raising my children. I was writing. I took a couple of classes each semester to finish my degree in Education. In order to graduate, it is necessary to complete a semester of “student teaching.” Those twelve weeks were some of the hardest of my life. I enjoyed teaching. I loved the children I taught, and they loved me. I loved my experiences teaching kindergarten and first grade. But I had to leave my own children in the care of others from early in the morning until late in the evening. It affected my relationship with them. It affected my relationship with my self. I felt that even though I’d make good money as a teacher, I would not be there to raise my children. That wasn’t acceptable to me. It was at that time that I decided that I would wait just a few more years (until they were both in elementary school) to get a full time teaching job.

I left my job as a cashier and began tutoring. I worked at a learning center, then as a freelance private tutor at a SAT company. During that time, I was writing mostly poetry. I had published some poems over these years, but not very much. I had two full-length manuscripts of poetry, unpublished. I applied for grants. I applied for book publication. I applied for a lot of things that would help me get my work into the world. But I felt mostly invisible (This was also before the explosion of the internet into what we know it to be today). I began noticing that most of the contemporary writers I was seeing published had MFA’s. I began wondering if that was what was stopping me from being published. For the first time in a long time, I remembered the choice I had made, and I realized that I could make another choice.

I couldn’t go across the country to get a MFA. I couldn’t even go into Manhattan, which is about an hour away from where I live. The commute alone would take away too much time from my work and my family. I needed something close by. Even though I had never heard of any, I decided to look into graduate programs in writing in the area I lived. That would be the only way that I could get a MFA.

At the exact time I looked into this, a relatively local university decided to start a MFA program in creative writing – to begin the next year!! I couldn’t believe it. No other colleges or universities in my area offered an MFA. It would mean adding an extra year to my plan, but it would only be another year. This was my second chance. I received the information. I applied. I was accepted! I applied for loans, which were also granted. Strangely enough, that summer before I attended, I received notification that three of my poems were accepted in some new experimental-type online journals. This was proof that I didn’t need a MFA to be more widely published, like I had started to think. The type of writing I was doing was different. The world of publishing, especially considering online resources, was changing. But I took this as a sign that I was on the right track. I entered the program, which was brand new. Because it had just begun, it was a very small and intimate program. It was just right for me. I was among the first graduating class.

I was 33 when I decided to get a MFA in creative writing, exactly 10 years after I had seriously considered it as a possibility, a lifetime away from where I had been ten years ago. My intention on entering the program was simply that I wanted to be a better writer, to expand, to grow. I wanted to enter the world of writers again. I had been solitary for so long. I wanted to learn how to write fiction, because it seemed elusive to me. I had never been introduced to playwriting before the program, and when I took my first playwriting class, I loved it so much. (It is said that most people come into playwriting as either actors or poets.) I met a lot of different people through the program, people of varied ages and stages of writing, people I still consider close friends. I became a different student than I had ever been in the past. I have always loved school, but this time I was incredibly active in my learning. I was back in a world where writing and reading mattered. I spoke out in class. I wanted to! I shared my work. I read my work aloud. I offered my ideas, opinions and insights. I listened to the ideas and opinions and insights of others. I learned how to stand behind my work, to make conscious choices. I didn’t take a single thing for granted.

After the program, I immediately got a job teaching at an elementary school. I continued writing. I began publishing more. After a few years, I was laid off from my teaching job. I went through a series of unemployment and crappy jobs. I continued writing. My writing moved in an inverse direction, and my work has been published more. I am proud of the work I’ve done so far. After I was unemployed was about the time I created this website and blog, so this brings me to now, where I am. My goal for so long was to have a career as a full time teacher. I was devastated when that plan fell through. I became an unemployed teacher, surprisingly unqualified for most other jobs (or at least those who are hiring seem to think so). I have dated and I have had long term relationships, but I’ve never had a marital relationship (nor do I want one). I am still a single parent. I still don’t have that ability to provide for my family in the way I wanted to. I am poor. I work at very low paying jobs, the only jobs I seem to be able to get. What happens when you don’t have a plan B? What happens when a dream falls apart? I know, I know. This is the story of my life. Fail better.

When I received a MFA in creative writing, I entered a transformational space. I did literally begin again, anew. I didn’t think that at the time. I looked at it as a second chance to do something that I had wanted to do in the past, but didn’t. I didn’t think that it would change me, or that it would alter my path in any way. I even went right back to my idea of teaching elementary school. I imagined it as a moment in time, and I knew it was an important step for me, but I couldn’t foresee the ways in which it would affect me. When I was unemployed, I also entered a transformational space. Similar things resulted. I was forced to begin again. I didn’t know the ways it would affect me or how it would change me. But interestingly, that wasn’t something I chose. That was something that life chose for me.

Sometimes we are fixated on what we want to happen, and forget that the world is so mysterious, so filled with things we can barely understand. Things happen for reasons that we do not understand, in the universe, in the world, our societies, our governments, our personal lives. Even when a choice is made for you, you can choose how you respond and how you grow from the experience. I believe that we each have a path in life, and that we are guided by our passions. Some people call this intuition. Others call it following signs, which is the idea that Paulo Coelho talks about in The Alchemist.  I believe that following our passions is the only guide we really have in which to live our lives. It is what we love, at the core of our being, that helps us make our decisions and choices. As Joseph Campbell says so wisely,

“Follow your bliss, and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t even know they were going to be.”

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lariat

The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales is now available!

This anthology, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and published by Cleis Press, contains 69 short-short stories by as many authors. I’m so happy to have my story “Lariat” included in this collection! “Lariat” is linked to another story of mine called “Ring of Fire,” which was published in Best Bondage Erotica 2014.

I had already written “Ring of Fire” when I saw the call for submissions, and I knew that I wanted to submit it.  “Ring of Fire” is about two people in a BDSM relationship who celebrate their anniversary by renewing their vows to each other. At the time, there was also a call for “short-short stories of submission.” I don’t usually write stories under 1k words, but I wanted to do something fun, so I decided to give the characters in “Ring of Fire” a beginning.

I was thrilled when both stories were accepted! Both of these stories are a little more psychological, and a conscious attempt on my part to explore the positive and healthy aspects of committed loving relationships that include hot BDSM play/sex.

Both The Big Book of Submission and Best Bondage Erotica 2014 are available in bookstores and online in all formats. If you are interested in BDSM and erotic stories of immeasurable variations, you will love these anthologies!

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on creating characters

I’ve been wanting to write a post on this topic for some time. The process of creating characters is very interesting to me, and I am always intrigued at how other writers approach bringing their own characters to life.

While looking for a picture that would invoke “character” for this post, I came across so many different meanings and approaches to understanding the term. There are characters in books, but there are also characters in comics and graphic novels, cartoons, drawings/illustrations, movies, television, theater/film/performance, music, dance, and other creative arts. We also refer to the word “character” to define the core of one’s personality, the moral and ethical make-up of a person, the compass that one lives by.

For writers, there are many books dedicated to creating characters. There are lessons, templates, webs and maps, and computer programs intended to help us develop character. Part of the reading and writing curriculum for students of all ages is to identify and understand “character,” and school based worksheets are to be found for children as young as 1st grade.

It is no accident that the term “character” has such deep connotations. When we create character, we are creating sentient beings. If one is writing other people, then it follows that we are following the same guidelines … what makes one’s “character” in life is the same as in fiction.

I like some of the templates for creating characters, especially the ones where you fill in all the pertinent info about the character (name/age/place of birth/physical, socio-economic, and mental characteristics/habits/memories/friends/etc). That’s because I like to make lists. But I confess that I rarely use these templates.

I believe that the essential ingredient to creating characters is deep empathy. I think that people who successfully create characters have an ability to corporealize all of the above information into the character’s thoughts, behaviors, and actions within the story.

It is not the list of information that creates a character; it is knowing where that information affects the character’s motivations and choices. This understanding, this deep empathy, does not judge either, which is why people can create “bad” characters without actually being bad people. It is an ability to step outside oneself and to see with another person’s eyes, to feel with their heart, to know their strengths, their weaknesses, their blind spots, their failures, their successes, their desires, their passions, their memories. It is living in another person’s soul. This is not memoir. This is how a fictional character becomes a living, breathing person.

While looking at quotes on “character,” I compiled a short list.  I feel these quotes say something essential about character, and really get to the heart of what we do when we create character.

“Our character is but the stamp on our souls of the free choices of good and evil we have made through life.”
~ John C. Geikie

“Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on their guard. It is in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feelings of others and denies nothing to itself.”
~ Arthur Schopenhauer

“Every thought willingly contemplated, every word meaningfully spoken, every action freely done, consolidates itself in the character, and will project itself onward in a permanent continuity.”
~ Henry Giles

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
~ Abraham Lincoln

“Choices determine character.”
~ Brandon Mull

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
~ Helen Keller

“Character is an essential tendency. It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s the structure of our bones, the blood that runs through our veins.”
~ Sam Shepard

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

“Until a character becomes a personality it cannot be believed. Without personality, the character may do funny or interesting things, but unless people are able to identify themselves with the character, its actions will seem unreal.”
~ Walt Disney

“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”
~ William Faulkner

When we create characters, we also are entering the territory where fiction straddles the line between truth and lies, the idea of “the truth inside the lie.” Many times people think that authors create characters from people they know or who they are, especially if the author writes in 1st person.

I have dealt with this sort of identification, which is why I like to come back to these topics every once in a while. I know that many people don’t always understand this part in being a writer.

I’ve had the experience of reading fictional work and having people ask me afterwards, “did that really happen?” Once, after one of my erotic stories was published, someone asked my boyfriend at the time if he was the protagonist in my story! I’ve also had friends ask me if I modeled a character after them, or someone they knew, or if I created a setting from a place they had been. I think the reason for this is because writers do use bits and pieces of real life in their fiction. It is inescapable.

For example, a friend of mine used to live in an apartment in Harlem. The thing I loved most about her apartment was the antiquated, ornate molding where the walls met the ceiling in each room. The apartment house was old and had fallen far from the glory envisioned in the original architecture. The molding was painted over many times carelessly, almost as if trying to erase it under layers of paint, without regard to how beautiful it must have been in its original state.

Let’s just say that aspect of the apartment fascinated me. I thought about it a lot. I began noticing this type of molding in other places. This single detail. Why? I have no idea. I thought it was beautiful and sad and it just struck me. Years later, I had written a story where I used a detail of ornate crown molding in describing the setting of the character’s run-down apartment. My friend picked up on this, and asked if I used her old apartment for my story. No … I didn’t. I actually didn’t even think of her apartment when I was writing the story. But that detail of the crown molding had stuck in my mind.

I consider this to be a kind of “occupational hazard.” Many people seem to think that writers write about their lives and experiences, but non-writers don’t know the difference in process between memoir and fiction. Memoir -is- the I, whereas Fiction is beyond the I. This is an important but powerful difference.

Writing in 1st person pushes this hazard further, even though I think 1st person is the easiest way to really get into a character as a writer. It is a powerful tool, but it is also a double edged sword because the “I” who is narrating the story sometimes becomes fixed in the readers mind as “I” (the author).

No matter how imaginative we are, fiction writers draw from their lives and experiences because we can’t help but be the medium that our work passes through. Even high fantasy contains elements of reality, sublimated with bits and pieces of the author’s experience of being a person in this world. No one exists in a vacuum, and I believe that no matter how successful a writer can be in practicing this kind of deep empathy to create characters, there are always threads to connect the writer to his or her work. Some of the quotes I came across by Kundera address this very eloquently.

“Characters are not born like people, of woman; they are born of a situation, a sentence, a metaphor containing in a nutshell a basic human possibility that the author thinks no one else has discovered or said something essential about.”
~ Milan Kundera

“The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them all. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own “I” ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author’s confession, it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.”
~ Milan Kundera

Over the years, I have taken many classes and read many books about the process of writing. I have also taught writing to students at many different age levels. There is always more to learn, more to explore, and more to discover. Writing is a complex art that offers continual paths for growth.

After creating a character, a writer then needs to put the character into the world of the story. Or sometimes, the world of the story dictates the kind of characters that will be created. There is an interconnectedness here. But no matter how the seed idea comes into being, I still feel that deep empathy is the essential component to fully realizing a character.

One of my favorite books about writing is The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. Next to my encyclopedic dictionary, this is the book I reference most. If I am stuck or feel like I need to revisit the fundamentals, this is the book I turn to. In this book, Egri devotes several chapters to “character.”

Moving forward from how characters are created and into how characters function within a story, I’m going to share an excerpt from Egri’s chapter on character growth:

“Regardless of the medium in which you are working, you must know your characters thoroughly. And you must know them not only as they are today, but as they will be tomorrow or years from now.

Everything in nature changes – human beings along with the rest. A man who was brave ten years ago may be a coward now, for any number of reasons: age, physical deterioration, changed financial status, to name a few.

You may think you know someone who has never changed and never will. But no such person ever existed. A man may keep his religious and political views apparently intact through the years, but close scrutiny will show that his convictions have either deepened or become superficial. They have gone through many stages, many conflicts, and will continue to go through them, as long as the man lives. So he does change, after all.

Even stone changes, although its disintegration is imperceptible; the earth goes through a slow but persistent transformation; the sun, too, the solar system, the universe. Nations are born, pass through adolescence, achieve manhood, grow old, and then die, either violently or by gradual dissolution.

There is only one realm in which characters defy natural laws and remain the same – the realm of bad writing.

A character stands revealed through conflict; conflict begins with a decision; a decision is made because of the premise of your play [or story or novel]. The character’s decision necessarily sets in motion another decision, from his adversary. And it is these decisions, one resulting from the other, which propel the play [or story or novel] to its ultimate destination.”

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Character is an essential tendency. It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s the structure of our bones, the blood that runs through our veins.
Sam Shepard – See more at: http://josephsoninstitute.org/quotes/quotations.php?q=Character#sthash.S27O2Q7Z.dpuf
Character is an essential tendency. It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s the structure of our bones, the blood that runs through our veins.
Sam Shepard, – See more at: http://josephsoninstitute.org/quotes/quotations.php?q=Character#sthash.S27O2Q7Z.dpuf

my writing process blog tour

Many thanks to Kirsten Imani Kasai for inviting me to participate in the “My Writing Process Blog Tour.” Please click here to read Kirsten’s articulate and thoughtful Q&A last week, and to find out more about her amazing work.

 

Q&A with Michelle Augello-Page

michelle augello-page

 

1) What am I working on?

I am currently working on a poetry chapbook which I plan to submit for publication, so my primary focus recently has been creating and revising poems which form a collective arc, a journey, as inspired by the myth of Persephone, the Tarot, and the life/death/life cycle of love relationships. Once the chapbook is completed, I plan on immersing myself in writing short fiction. I have at least a dozen ideas for stories that I put on hold in order to complete the chapbook, and many other stories that are in various states of completion. After the publication of my book Into the Woods a few months ago, I knew that I wanted to move forward and expand even more in my fiction writing. In many ways, a collected publication of one’s work is the end of something. However, I know that the end of one cycle is only the beginning of another. I wanted to take some space from storytelling to wrestle and fall in love with language again in its purest, most distilled form. Poetry was my first love, and it’s the place I instinctively turn for reawakening, renewal, and regeneration. Poetry is the essence, the heart, of all my writing. I’m really happy with the way the chapbook is coming together, and I will be sad when it is completed. But it’s a great feeling to know that after it is completed, there are so many other things  waiting to be written. As much as I love the project I’m working on, I’m always very excited to begin a new writing cycle.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Because I write and publish in different genres, I don’t fit neatly into a box. There are both benefits and drawbacks to labeling oneself in a certain way and keeping within a specific genre. Some of the benefits include fitting into a group or a community who will support your work, keeping a specific focus in your writing, and being able to reach readers who look for new work based on the genre they like to read. Some of the drawbacks to identifying with a certain genre include stagnation, limitation, subscribing to stereotypes, and furthering the hierarchy and misappropriation of all writers through genre.

For example, many people feel that “literary fiction” writers are somehow smarter and more relevant than “erotic romance” writers. Of course this couldn’t be further from the truth. Truly the only distinction between the two genres lies in the way that sex is represented. Some people say that erotica’s biggest crime is that, in this genre, the characters actually enjoy sex. Though I feel there is some truth to that joke, I think that erotica writers are generally much more cognizant about the power sex holds and how this power manifests in our relationships, and they consciously use sex as a lens to explore how we relate deeply to ourselves and others.

Nevertheless, inherent in this bias is the fact that “literary fiction” writers tend to be published in “respectable” (i.e. academic, scholarly, traditional, high paying) journals and receive book deals from more traditional publishing houses (which are able to promote to the public more successfully, giving wider distribution and more money to the writer). They are also more likely to receive associate and tenured professorships, giving them a monetary cushion in academia while they pursue their writing. This is only one example. In some genres, only one gender or race dominates the scene, making it harder for writers in the minimized role to be seen and heard because of the stereotype. This can also apply to writers who are marginalized in the dominant culture, where their “otherness” is directed into genres which only serve to reinforce their outsider status. I see this prejudice and inequality among writers as a problem that seems based directly in genre.

My philosophy has always been to write first, and try to find the “fit” later, because genre really only comes into play when one is trying to publish his/her work and needs to find a way to present it to the world. I have never set out to write a genre-specific story or poem. During the process of writing, I am only interested in the act of creation and bringing ideas, concepts, and images to light through language.

One of the reasons I started Siren is because I wanted to create the type of publication that didn’t exist for me, a place where I would have loved to send my work, a place for writers and artists who were interested in pursing their craft in edgy and experimental ways that didn’t necessarily fit into the mainstream or subscribe to a genre box. My book, Into the Woods, is a collection of dark erotic fiction stories that could have been labeled in a number of different ways. Upon publication, the book was labeled “fiction and literature” because that is a general, all encompassing term. One of the reasons why I was so happy to work with Onerios Books is because they are a genre-less specific publishing collective, interested in quality writing and art that both explores and expands our traditional views about the kind of art we create, the meaningfulness of what we write without regard to finding a box to put it in, and how we publish and share work through new and non-traditional paths.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I feel that this question is really asking, “who are you?” I write the things I do because of who I am, and I’m aware that this answer is both simple and complex. I write to explore my interests, my obsessions, my questions, my world. I write about the things that drive me to write.

There seems to be a very high level of control assumed in this question that I don’t think writers necessarily have. Writers channel dreams and visions into language. It is true that they sublimate real experiences into their work because no writer lives in a vacuum. But when you are dealing with creative and imaginative writing, it is necessary to open yourself up to many things that none of us, and that includes the writer, truly understands. I often say that writing is a type of seeing, more than anything else. I think of “revision” is a literal re-vision, a re-seeing. Writers develop a kind of inner-vision, and in the process of writing they are touching upon something very real that is also very magical and mysterious.

In her Q&A last week, Kirsten Imani Kasai said something that really resonated with me. She said, “Storytelling is a collaborative effort between me and the characters who need to speak – I act as an interpreter of dreams and the hidden world.” Yes.

The way we engage this process is dependent on who we are, and the results are specific to who we are. Throughout my life, I’ve been intrigued and drawn to certain aspects of the world. I have always been drawn to reading. I have always felt a great love for books. This was something within me that I nurtured, but one might also say that it was nurtured because it was within me. I’ve always loved fairy tales, mythology, folk tales – stories of deep archetypal truths that have been carried down from generation to generation. I’ve always been drawn to art that is sensual and erotic, surreal and dark, because I recognize something in myself there. As a woman and a mother, I have a deep feminine consciousness. I am also drawn to writing that is not typically considered “creative” and I love learning and exploring psychology, philosophy, science, history, and religion. All of these things contribute to who I am and what I write.

I know that my entire life has prepared me for the path of being a writer. Yet, I still can’t truly explain why when I walk into a bookstore or a library, or any place where books dominate the space, my entire being goes “ah” … I’m home. This is how I’ve felt from the time I was a child.

4) How does my writing process work?

There are many different ways that I engage my writing process. Probably the first and most important way is by reading. Reading good work by other writers is a great way to immerse yourself in the craft, and to expand and grow in your own work. Reading can inspire and challenge you. Reading teaches you how writing has been done and it shows you the potential that has been reached so far. When I read good work, I am excited, enthralled, invigorated. I am invested in learning. What I get from reading, I bring into my own work, with one eye on what’s been done and the other eye in the realm of what’s next. I am not interested in doing what has been done before or what I already know works. I want to explore further and to push myself further, and reading helps me find inspiration from those who have (or had) similar motivations.

Another part of my process is thinking. I am not the type of writer who does a lot of preliminary writing. I do a lot of preliminary thinking. I’ve noticed that often when I am thinking of a story or a character or a poem or an idea, I tend to draw. Oftentimes, these drawings are very strange maps of my thoughts, almost like a blueprint from the non-verbal side of my mind. Art is essential to my creative process, and I am constantly inspired by visual art, music, and the natural world of the environment. I also write in a journal nearly every day, and I find it both necessary and important. I need the tangible act of writing and drawing with a pen and paper as much as I need the sensory stimulation of typing on a keyboard. Journal writing helps me try to figure out what I am doing with my life and my work, and it is the place where I practice deep, stream of consciousness thinking.

Beyond that, my writing process is simply finding long stretches of time to write. I use short stretches of time for revising, refining, editing, and sending out work. But as far as creating and generating work, there is really nothing like sheer unaccounted-for time to write. Between working for money and carrying the responsibilities of a family, I have to find time to write.  Sometimes I steal time to write. Sometimes I will stay up all night writing, knowing that I will suffer the next day. Sometimes I will ask my kids to give me space, and I’ll be at the computer typing frantically all day on a saturday afternoon. But no matter how I get there, when I am there, I am there. I allow myself to fall into it, whatever “it” is. I am still amazed that I will be working on something and then look at the clock to see that hours have passed. Where was I during this time? What experience has moved through me? Though I am very interested in why and how this happens, I think at this stage I have just completely given myself over to it. I am open and receptive. I am there to discover, to learn. I am there because I have no choice but to be there. It is beyond me. Long ago, I accepted this gift, and it has both blessed and cursed my life. Every day, I accept the gift; I am so grateful for it.

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Next week, June 23, 2014, the “My Writing Process Blog Tour” continues with writers Eric Nash and Lucy Taylor, who will answer these same questions from their own unique perspectives. Be sure to visit the sites below to read their insight into the writing process.

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Eric Nash lives amid chaos in the south-west of England. On occasion, he escapes to his laptop and writes something dark or wicked. He has discovered that he rather enjoys editing and is looking to attend a self-help group to address this issue. Eric’s short fiction has been published in various digital and print anthologies. He is currently writing his first novel. Read Eric’s interview at eanash.wordpress.com

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Lucy Taylor  is the author of seven nov­els, includ­ing Danc­ing with Demons, Spree, Nailed, Sav­ing Souls, Eter­nal Hearts, and the Stoker-​award win­ning The Safety of Unknown Cities. Her sto­ries have appeared in over a hun­dred mag­a­zines and antholo­gies, includ­ing The Mam­moth Book of His­tor­i­cal Erot­ica, The Best of Ceme­tery Dance, Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Gothic, The Year’s Best Fan­tasy and Hor­ror, and the Century’s Best Hor­ror Fiction. Lucy lives in Pismo Beach, CA, where she vol­un­teers with cat res­cue orga­ni­za­tion, attends Bud­dhist retreats, and plots dar­ing escapes to exotic and fan­tas­ti­cal places. Read Lucy’s interview at darkfantasy.us

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