Cheating On Yourself

I was once on a panel at a writing convention in Oklahoma and made fast enemies with the agent (now an editor) on the panel.

Why?

Because I disagreed.

I’m a pretty mellow human most of the time, but if you say something that I think might not allow people to ascend, to be themselves, or something full of hate? I’m terrible at being silent about that.

I mean, I’m not cable-news tv forceful, but I speak my mind.

What had the agent said?

It wasn’t anything scandalous, honestly.

She just said, “You should only write in your genre. No author is successful if they write in multiple genres. You can’t jump genres.”

And I objected and listed authors who did write successfully in multiple genres. M.T. Anderson. Anne Rice. Elizabeth Gilbert. At that moment, I had just jumped from literary young adult to genre young adult with a book that made me an international bestseller.

She wasn’t cool about me disagreeing.

I disagreed anyway. The reason that I did that is yes, it’s easier to brand and market your art or your writing and generally make more money if you only write one thing. But it’s also limiting.

If you are a person who writes erotic werewolf novels who wants to write a picture book about happy hamsters? You should do it.

Limiting our selves and our art to one specific genre or story or way of being? One specific process? One specific type of heroine or character or fight scene?

We don’t have to do that. We can cheat on our norms and even on our own (and our readers/reviewers) expectations if we want to do that.

Trying new things, cheating on your writing, your art? It can transform you. It can expand you. It can make you bigger and better and stronger and more powerful even if it’s a fail, even if nobody likes it or reads it, but you.

When we push beyond the boxes and labels that surround us (whether we give it to ourselves or others give it to us), we become interesting.

Interesting is so much more fun than dull.

Interesting is being alive, being quirky, being an explorer, being curious, being a doer.

And sometimes being interesting means being on a panel and disagreeing with a hot-shot agent and having her glare at you.

No. I’ll never work with that editor because of that interaction. Do I care? Nope. Because that editor is safe. That editor isn’t interesting. And that editor would hold me back even though people think she’s a genius. She probably is. She’s just not my kind of genius.

We all have people like her in our lives, people who keep us from being brave, trying new things. You don’t have to be a writer to know this.

However, we also do it to ourselves. We hold ourselves back. We are afraid to try. We follow other people’s paths and edicts and hope that we will be successful like them instead of forging our own way.

Here’s the thing: You will fail sometimes.

You will get rejected or hurt and it will suck. But it is worth it. Because failing means that you took a damn chance on something, on yourself, on another person. Failing means that you were brave and that you are growing and that you are exploring and it means that you’re interesting.

The interesting people are the innovators. The interesting people who go after their dreams and desires? They change the world. They move the world. They inspire the world.

So go out there. Cheat on yourself. Move on. Do you art in different ways. Do your work in different ways. Do your life in different ways. Try all the things. Be interesting. You’ve got this.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

What is Bigfoot? Bigfoot theories – sexy humanoid, demon, alien pet?

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
What is Bigfoot? Bigfoot theories - sexy humanoid, demon, alien pet?
/

This week on the podcast, we discuss the theories of Bigfoot

Is Bigfoot real or not?

That’s the first question.

A Smithsonian Magazine article says,

“1958 footprints transformed the myth into a media sensation. The tracks were planted near Bluff Creek in Northern California by a man named Ray Wallace—but his prank was not revealed until his death in 2002, when his children said it had all been “just a joke.””

“Giant footprints puzzle residents,” a headline in the Humboldt Times announced in 1958 and since then, there’s been a growing cultural obsession with the possibility of a large bipedal furry creature roaming around.

When the famous Patterson-Gimlin tapes happened in the late 1960s, people became even more excited especially since it was filmed in the same area as the alleged Wallace hoax.

For some cryptozoologists, the problem is that there are so many hoaxes that even believers like Maine’s Loren Coleman, founder of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland say, “Technology has ruined the old cryptozoology.”

Ben Crair writes for the Smithsonian,

“Some people see these cryptohominids as symbols of pure freedom, living by instinct and foiling every effort to pin them down. To search for Bigfoot in the forest is to taste that freedom. On the trail, you become extra-attuned to nature: the smell of scat, the sounds of breaking branches, the curious impressions in the dirt. As long as there are wild places in America, Bigfoot remains a possibility that, to its most ardent proponents, cannot be disproved.”

And that might be true, but the feelings/thoughts behind Bigfoot are changing in the United States and Canada and much of that change is coming from a YouTube channel howtohunt, where the host, a backwoods hunter and guide, shares emails from listeners who have seen/heard/believe in Bigfoot.

A lot of those stories are about Bigfoot being nefarious. He’s not some chill guy that you want to hang out with in Harry and the Hendersons or a slightly annoyed and bullied sasquatch in Jack Link’s commercials. Instead, Bigfoot is potentially part of a much bigger conspiracy that might involve nuclear scientists and aliens, not someone to cuddle.

That juxtaposition isn’t new.

In a Popular Mechanics article, Matt Blitz writes,

“In California, there are century-old pictographs drawn by the Yokuts that appear to show a family of giant creatures with long, shaggy hair. Called “Mayak datat” by the tribe, the image bears a resemblance to the commonly held vision of Bigfoot.

“Some tribes really love Bigfoot, they have a great relationship with him,” says Kathy Moskowitz Strain, author of the book Giants, Cannibals & Monsters: Bigfoot in Native Culture and archaeologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “To other tribes though, like the Miwoks, he’s an absolute ogre, a monster, and something best left alone.”

So even the most elementary questions—Is Bigfoot real or not? Is Bigfoot good or not?—are inconclusive.

But for Shaun, as we discussed on the podcast, there are three main thoughts.

Bigfoot is a hominid—an ancient branch of the tree, related to us, but not us.

Bigfoot is an alien or an alien pet—people link Bigfoot to UFOs, orbs, and portals.

Bigfoot is a spiritual creature—not of this dimension or beyond it. Some think he/she/they are a minion of the devil.

What do you think?

RESOURCES WE USED IN THIS PODCAST

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-so-many-people-still-believe-in-bigfoot-180970045/

https://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a23622082/bigfoot-history/

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/48870/11-crazy-bigfoot-conspiracy-theories

https://www.hcn.org/articles/essays-even-if-bigfoot-isnt-real-we-still-need-him

https://crosscut.com/opinion/2021/06/ufos-and-bigfoot-two-local-enigmas-get-another-moment-sun

https://wakingbear.org/is-bigfoot-an-alien-2/

https://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/2015/10/is_bigfoot_an_extraterrestrial.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisibility

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo

https://www.foxnews.com/science/bigfoot-is-part-human-dna-study-claims

New Book Alert – SAINT – A YA paranormal

I have a new book! It’s about to come out!

Big breaths.

If you don’t remember, I’m doing this BIG EXPERIMENT where I’m independently publishing a book every month even though

I’m terrible at pushing my own books and getting people to buy them.

Yeah. That’s basically it. But I coach and edit so many writers who choose independent publishing over traditional publishing and I wanted to do a big year-long experiment and immerse myself in that world so I could learn about it, too.

But the problem is:

I still want people to buy those books because I really really love them.

Which leads me to the problem of:

I hate marketing my own books. It just makes me feel dirty somehow. Yes. I should probably go to therapy for this, but I can’t afford therapy thanks to American healthcare. 🙂

So, here goes:

My book coming out is SAINT. It’s super fun. It’s part of a series of stand-alone paranormals all set in the same world/same town in Maine. And I’m SO in love with the lead character Cole and his bestie, Norah. And also there are Bridge to Terabithia references. It’s such a book of my heart.

Think – Guy who levitates and is followed by birds.

Think – Guy who has a crush on his best friend and a skeleton knocking on his window.

Think -An evil curse on a town and a demon demanding guy’s best friend be sacrificed.

There you go!

Look! That’s me with Tobin and Tammy and Kekla and Katharine Paterson! Cool, right? Yes, I’m in Tobin’s armpit.

Okay. Here’s more about the book!

What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

And please buy it if you’re feeling like helping a writer pay for therapy some day. Or if you just like fun books. I’m a pretty good writer, I promise. 🙂

So many thanks for my awesome patrons who help support me write new books. I wouldn’t be able to do any of it (emotionally especially) without you cheering me on.

Life is About More Than How To and How To Be.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Life is About More Than How To and How To Be.
/

On BE BRAVE FRIDAYS, we share other people’s stories (unedited) to build a community of bravery and inspiration.

Please let us know if you want to share your story with us and we’ll read it here and post it on our social media and website.

We don’t edit these because we want people’s stories to be heard as they tell them.

This life is too short to not be brave. We can do this together.

This week, I’m telling one of my stories.


“How do I become an artist?” I used to ask my mom this all the time when I was little.

“Nobody in our family has an artistic bone in their body,” my mother said every time I asked. She’d light a cigarette. She’d take a drag. She’d offer me a Pepsi, cold from the fridge, always poured over ice and never in a can because we weren’t that kind of people either. “Not one bone.”

“Our family” only meant her family. One of my grandmothers painted all the time, hiding away her canvasses, horrified by how bad they were. None were ever bad, but they were dark, dripping with sadness, a sadness that also came out in her poems. One of my father’s sisters did batik, made jewelry. Another aunt did ceramics.

That wasn’t about me though. My only genes, according to my mom, came from her. And so I was left wondering, “How do I be an artist if there isn’t an artistic bone in my body?”

And I gave up even though I was a kid who didn’t think with words, a kid who was haunted by images and color, the smash-up of form and hope always twirling around in my head.

And then my mother was dead. And my father was dead. And a brother and aunts and uncles were dead and grandparents and two best friends.

The grief grew in my fingers and writing stopped being enough. But I was lost because I still didn’t know how to be an artist.

I googled it. Google did not help.

And then I just started. I’d paint out the images in my head, disappearing women, angel-women (never men) watching landscapes, cruelty hidden as trees, shapes in the water that nobody would ever see but me.

A local artist that I love asked me about my oil technique and I said, “Oh, I’m too cheap for oil. I use acrylics.”

She gasped. I figured I was doing something wrong and didn’t post a photo of my art for a long, long time. I assumed that gasp meant that I was breaking the artist guidelines, the rules somehow.

Where could I find the rules? I wondered.

We all tend to look for the rules, the how-to-do-things when we first start out in our careers, our relationships, our lives.

“How to be a . . . ” is a pretty hot topic, right?

And it makes sense that we do this. We go to school. We learn that there are rules to abide by, ways to think, certain methods we should follow to solve math problems, right essays, grammar rules, behavior rules, etiquette rules.

Do well with the rules and you might get As, high marks, praise from the teacher.

But there is a certain joy that happens when you don’t know the rules, when you aren’t typing away every day on your masterpiece even though you don’t know about three-act structure, painting skies that look like envelopes drawn by three-year-olds, and singing songs that are completely, unintentionally offkey.

Art is like that.

Being brave is like that, too.

Art is when you see/read/hear/feel something and your emotions become bigger or even better? They become something you’ve never felt before. Art is something that pushes you beyond your own self. It can make you remember. It can make you think. It can make you forget to remember all over again. It can make you brave.

Because yes, there is a certain bravery to put yourself out there in your art. But there’s also just a bravery in putting yourself out there and living—living a whole, big, amazing life—a life where you’ll mess up massively and succeed hugely and fail and love and lust and fall down and sometimes not want to get back up again.

Being brave is determining for yourself who you are and not caring if you don’t fit the genes, if there aren’t artistic bones in your body. Being brave is doing things despite the rules. Being brave is being you. The real you. You can do that. I’m positive of it.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Flexible Love is the Best Love

On Thursday, my co-podcaster, Shaun, and husband guy, takes over the blog.

He’s adorable. I hope you’ll read what he says even if he does occasionally sound like a surfer dude from the 1990s or Captain Pontification. And no, we don’t always agree. 🙂

best podcast ever

These are the things I have heard in the last thirty seconds in my house.

Carrie, after turning around and seeing my completely blank blogpost Word document, “Oh my God that is a naked page!”

Me handily offering up an intelligent rebuttal, “Yeah, look down here at the bottom. Isn’t this every writer’s worst nightmare? Page one of one, zero words.”

Carrie then points across the office. “Oh my God, there is a furball blowing across the floor!”

I was having such a hard time trying to figure out what to write today! I knew that I wanted it to be about love, in some way at least. However, I just couldn’t latch onto an idea that was striking me both in the heart and the funny bone.

Then Carrie had the gall to try and check in on my blogpost writing progress! I mean, yeah, she is the one who has to do all of the pre-posting work and whatnot, and is totally dependent upon me, “the talent,” to pen a masterpiece, but come on. Then it struck me.

Love is all about mental flexibility! Love is about not giving one crap if you just made a hilarious joke and the person listening to your joke doesn’t even acknowledge said joke, let alone laugh.

“Oh my God, there is a furball blowing across the floor!”

Love is all about taking a picture of the cat lounging on the couch cleaning her privates and then showing that picture to the object of your love. Object of love then chuckles and says, “She has the same look on her face that you always look at me with.”

I say, “I was trying to get her to give me a ‘what the hell are you looking at face.’”

Object of love says, “Yeah, that’s the one I mean.”

Then we both chuckled a bit. At least I think she did, but either way, we went on loving each other.

See what I mean? Love is the ability to be flexible! You either have to be mentally flexible enough to roll with the swell of the waves or mentally flexible enough to convince yourself that the other person is that mentally flexible and forgives you.

Actually, I am just kidding. That doesn’t usually work out to good after a while. Be mentally flexible! Remember that nobody is perfect and your way is not the only good way.

Have a very flexible week and remember to always Love Your Way Through It!

Shaun

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Elusive or Scared? When a Bird Lands on Your Shoulder.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Elusive or Scared? When a Bird Lands on Your Shoulder.
/

Our house is styled a bit like a farmhouse even though it’s in the middle of Bar Harbor, across the street from the YMCA’s back, dirt, and (until recently) unused parking lot, secure behind a row of tall ,cedar bushes that hide our porch, our windows, our selves.

There is a deep urge in me sometimes to just hermit myself and just do the work, to write, to cook, to paint, to help others make stories, and I’ll occasionally freeze in terror when someone knocks on the door or calls on the phone, or whenever anyone shocks me out of the realization that I am not alone. 

“You are a bit elusive,” one of my friends told me when we were walking through town together, past the storefronts full of t-shirts and mugs, the ice cream shops and restaurants, the big mailbox full of free masks.

I said, “Oh. I don’t mean to be elusive. I’m just scared.”

The day was scented with salty ocean air and all the houses and stores that we passed had lights on and the hum of music and videos and laughter.

“Scared of what?” she asked.

I didn’t know.

But I did know that I didn’t want to be controlled by those fears, that I wanted to sit out on the front porch and talk to people as they passed by rather than hunkering in my backyard.

In our backyard, we have a couple of bird feeders that Shaun (my husband) put up and is in charge of. My parents divorced when I was three or so, and my mom was horribly afraid of birds—all birds, even cartoon birds. So, we never had bird feeders. And the crows cawing in the trees, the jays making the feeders rock with their weight, the graceful hovering of hummingbirds, and the tiny steps of finches thrill me like they are magic, forbidden magic.  

My mother would not be able to go in our backyard.

All my life, I’ve wanted to have a bird land on my hand. I’m not sure where that urge came from. A passing romanticism? A proof that my soul was good enough for a bird to trust? A way to convince myself that I was linked to something bigger and more profound than I was?

Sometimes when I go out into our backyard, the birds startle and rush into flight and I coo to them, “No. I’m not a threat. I’m not a threat. I’m just here. . . .  Um, we gave you the food in the bird feeders. Friendsies?”

The pigeons are usually the boldest and they’ll just watch me from the eaves of our house and sometimes they’ll coo back. A tiny trickle of adrenaline will rush through me and I’ll whisper, “Yes.”

Sometimes, I think that the backyard birds are elusive, but they probably just want to be safe like I do. But sometimes in that urge for safety we miss opportunities. We are stuck wondering: What is it to be whole?

It’s so much easier to answer: What is it to be broken?

When I was little, after my stepfather died, I would go out into the woods and flop in the tall ferns, smell the New Hampshire soil above the hard granite and stay absolutely still.

Waiting.

If I was still enough, I hoped, a bird would think I was just part of nature, that my cords were dirt and my K-Mart shirts were flowers or stones. If I was still enough, I was sure, a bird would come and land on me. We’d be—connected.

The world would go on all around me. Squirrels would hop from pine tree to spruce to oak to maple. Chipmunks would scurry along the ground. Birds would alight and gather. Deer would tiptoe by.

And I’d be waiting. Hoping a bird would come along, land in my small, upturned palm and claim me as part of it all—connected.

But I already was. I just didn’t realize it. A deer smelled my hair. A chipmunk scurried across my stomach. A squirrel would drop acorns near my feet. My spine rested against the ferns, the moss, the soil and for hours would feel the rustlings of a world beneath me, rooting. Connected.

Sometimes, my mom would come and find me and yell, “What are you doing out here? You’re going to make yourself sick.” She’d hurry me back home, complaining of the dirt on my legs, the flicks of moss, the ferns that had somehow twined themselves into my hair. “Look at your fingernails, Carrie! What am I going to do with you?”

I’d be ordered into the bath or shower, to clean my nails, wash my hair, and be just myself again.

To be whole is to be afraid, to long for safety, but also to stretch beyond it. To be an artist or a writer or even a person is to remember that we are not just individuals, scared all by ourselves, acting all elusive even when our hearts pine for connections. Mortality is terrifying sometimes. Pain? Not so fun. Fear and rejection and ridicule sucks.

Like the birds often fear us for our predatory natures, we can really fear each other, fear exposure to trolls, to negative-nellies, to grumpy people in restaurants, shops, or even our own Facebook, Twitter or TikTok pages and of bigger villains who do unspeakable things.

When we try to connect, we can be admonished by people who love us and look after us, people like my sweet, fearful mom who worried about the dirt I was collecting, the potential bugs, ants, ticks, predators.

But we’re bigger than those fears. We’re more than our resentments, our pain. We’re more than our flaws and egos. We are part of something huge and connected and divine, connections so massive that it’s hard to comprehend sometimes.

A bird can’t land on our hands unless we show them our palms.

We can’t heal or help or love other people unless they step outside.

This weekend, I went on the hammock in the backyard to read a book for work and less than a minute after I flopped down there, a sparrow alighted on my shoulder. She was barely on me for five seconds and her wings fluttered and beat the whole time.

But she was there.

It’s okay to be elusive sometimes, even fearful sometimes; it can help protect us, but we don’t want our fear to become our prison. We are bigger than that, our whole nature is bigger than that. We just have to reach out our hand and let the bird land in it and settle for and rejoice in a shoulder, and we have to be the bird and not always fly off or hide away, building our nests bigger and bigger until we can’t find the way out.

There is a way out if we want. We have to want it.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Naughty Transitions are A Writer’s Best Friend

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Naughty Transitions are A Writer's Best Friend
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There are certain traps us writers fall into.

  • We generalize.
  • We are too abstract.
  • We summarize.
  • We fail at transitions.

And a lot of those negative tendencies can quite easily be fixed when you think about them a bit more and learn to recognize them.

Scenes are a bit like connected shots in a movie. I think everyone from Blake Snyder to Robert Olen Butler has said this, but they’re right.

The scene is the basic element of your story. You want to stay in one point of view. Think of it like the camera lens zooming in.

In film, the shot is similar, right? You stay in one uninterrupted image for a shot. Right? Then you hook those shots together. A lot of filmmakers, like novelists, use transitions. They move us from one place to the other.

Butler defines a scene as “unified actions occurring in a single time or place.” Shots becomes scenes become sequences. There is a beginning, middle, and end to all of these. And then you can have long-shots, close-ups, super close-ups, etc.

What we want to do as writers is to use those tools as well (even in first person). We want the extreme close-up of deep POV, but then also to pull back sometimes and see the world and big-picture setting, and then to see that middle distance scene where the character is interacting.

When I write YA and adult genre, my first drafts are almost all deep POV and I have to go back in and add those wider shots, sensory details, setting.

When I write middle grade, my first drafts are almost all middle shots and long shots, and I have to go back and do those extreme close-ups and close ups and that’s okay.

What you want to do as a writer is to know where you tend to lean. Are you a big-picture, abstract, distancer? Are you she-who-is-only-into-close-ups? He who does no transitions and only black-out cuts?

And you want to layer in those elements that you don’t have for effect.

When you don’t do this, you risk one of two things. If you’re a big picture writer with that long-distance point of view, you risk never showing intimacy or immediacy.

If you’re an extreme close-up writer, you risk never showing the reader that bigger world or big picture and sometimes your story can lack setting so it’s all just talking heads and interior monologue.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up.

And don’t be afraid to mix up those transitions, those movements between scenes. Sometimes they can be big cuts and scene breaks and chapter breaks, but sometimes they can be softer and gentler transitional words like –

A week later (or whenever)

At the same time

Afterwards

For two weeks/days/minutes

Meanwhile

At night

The next day

The next night

For a month, I cried into the phone

In the morning

When the sun rose

When the sun set

The following Monday/night/morning

Months passed

Weeks passed

When we got back to the office

When they got back home

As the neared the date site

Then there are the phrases that show us a change in location:

They boarded the train

Down the street

Up on the third floor of the office

Over by the water cooler

Back in my living room

The motorcycle was situated

She ran fast through the dark alley

In the hall of the hospital

Outside on my front lawn

And so on.

Sometimes though, us writers tell our readers TOO much and it ends up sounding like script or stage directions. Those are things that slow the narrative down and just read a bit awkward or stilted.

It would be a sentence like:

When I arrived at the elevator to go up to the office on the fourth floor, I pushed the button to close the door and rode it to the floor.

Or:

            They drove to the restaurant and waited in line for their table and she hummed a little bit.

Instead you just want the transition to get us there into the juicy part of the scene:

Twenty minutes later, they were sitting at their table, playing footsie under the fancy white linen tablecloth when the giant hedgehog with a man bun stormed through the wooden doors.

Places like the bad examples are not really needed because:

  1. It doesn’t really add to the story.
  2. It doesn’t really add to the character.
  3. It’s unnecessary information.

You really only want things in your story that:

  1. Show your character’s inner state/characterization/choices
  2. Move the plot forward.
  3. Set the reader in the moment

The key here is this: Don’t use the same transition every time. Don’t even use the same transition technique every time.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Mix it up. Good story is about variety. Do long shots. Close-ups. Location transitions, big cuts, fade-outs, scene transitions.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t be boring in life either.

Carrie had the epiphany that she’s tried to fit in with other writers for far too long, clinging to the idea that she can’t be as weird and dorky as she is. No more, my friends. Her witch cackle is coming out.

LINKS WE MENTION IN OUR RANDOM THOUGHTS

Angel shots.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/bartender-explains-what-angel-shot-24605557

Nudist cruise.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/couples-anniversary-dinner-interrupted-nudist-24612029

Weird image on the CCTV.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/mum-calls-priest-bless-home-24611677

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange things people do for luck.

The Magic of Numbers – How Novelists and Writers Can Use Them For Impact

I know! I know! We’re writers not accountants or mathematicians, but there is a great lovely magic to using numbers in our sentences and paragraphs.

What a lot of people don’t know about my writing life is that I started out intensely focused on newspaper stories and poetry.

What the what?

Yep. It’s true. I was actually a sports reporter and a poet for awhile. And it’s weird, but also lucky, because it allowed me to get some training that not all novelists get. And this post calls back to that training.

Here’s the thing: Numbers, repetition, lack of repetition? They all have their place in our writing arsenal. We can use them to make impact.

Poets repeat elements purposefully and us writers can use that tool in our own writing, too.

What exactly am I talking about?

I’m talking about the elements of a sentence and how we can vary them or not to stress things or to make them lyrical.

A lot of us writers have favorite kinds of sentences. We might be fans of simplicity or of multiple clauses. We might be all about starting every sentence with “he” or be addicted to beginning with a subordinate clause. You’ll write a paragraph like this:

He walked outside. He went up to a tree. He hugged the tree. The tree didn’t hug him back.

Or . . .

As he walked outside, he went up to a tree and hugged it. While he hugged the tree, a bird fluttered by and chirruped.

We get in these ruts of style and structure and we are lulling the reader a bit, right? It gets boring.

No writer wants to be boring!

Now, I want you to imagine that you are a writer supervillain and your job is to manipulate your reader into feeling what you want them to feel. You’ve taken away their agency and through the sheer power of your storytelling tool box, you are making them cry and worry and imagine and feel.

But to manipulate our sweet readers to the best of our abilities, we have to be able to access all our tools and this is one of them.

One – The Simple Sentence.

This is the kind of sentence that tells us one thing. It’s probably an important thing.

Jesus wept.

Hug me.

The boy was dumb.

Trust them.

These are the sentences where we don’t give the reader any room to doubt. They are simple. They are declarations. There is nothing fancy going on.

Two – Things Get Deeper

When we add another element, the reader suddenly has a slightly different feeling about the sentence and the character. Traits are thrown out there. Do those traits make sense together? Are they odd together? There is power in both of those decisions.

Jesus wept and snored.

Hug me and the manatee

The boy was dumb and enthusiastic.

Trust them and the dogs.

Things are different now, aren’t they?

Here’s a great example.

“The past is a life sentence, a blunt instrument aimed at tomorrow.” – Claudia Rankine, Citizen

When we put two things together, life and story aren’t quite so simple anymore. We’re making the reader think.

Three – Making Magic

In the Western writing world, the power of three is a thing in both narrative structure and paragraph/sentence structure. Editors look for it in picture books where the main character has to try three times before succeeding in their goals.

The most common type of book structure thanks to Aristotle? Beginning. Middle. End. Three acts.

Even Christianity gets in on it with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—the holy trinity, right?

Jesus wept and snored and wept.

Jesus wept and snored and washed his feet.

Hug me and the manatees and rejoice.

The boy was dumb and enthusiastic and dead.

Trust them and the dogs and maybe not the gerbils.

With three we have that resonating power, but we also have the chance for humor and a twist. Things aren’t so simple any more, not so declarative. But they feel done—complete—resonating.

It’s also kind of fun to look at it without the AND in there connecting things.

Jesus wept, snored, and wept.

Jesus wept, snored, and washed his feet.

Hug me, the manatees,  rejoice.

The boy was dumb, enthusiastic, and dead.

Trust them, the dogs, and maybe not the gerbils.

It’s interesting how much difference a tiny AND can make, isn’t it?

Here’s an excerpt that shows the power of three followed by the power of two.

“I wonder if I would tell him what I became, what I made of myself, what I made of myself despite him. I wonder if he would care, if it would matter.” – Roxane Gay, Hunger

So good, right?

Four And Up

The simplicity of one? Gone.

The duality and occasional divisiveness of two? Gone.

The magical completeness of three? Gone.

We are into the land of over four. And four and more? That’s a lyrical place.

Jesus wept, snored, and wept, smiling.

Jesus wept, snored, and washed his feet without water.

Hug me, the manatees, and rejoice and sigh.

The boy was dumb, enthusiastic, dead, and full of yearnings. 

Trust them, the dogs, and maybe not the gerbils and maybe not the crickets either since they never stopped running in circles (gerbils) and running their mouths (crickets).

Okay, maybe my super villain writing examples weren’t so lyrical, but here are some better examples. Look at what Jacqueline Woodson does here:

“Our words had become a song we seemed to sing over and over again. When I grow up. When we go home. When we go outside. When we. When we. When we.” – Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn

One of the most famous practitioners of this is Tim O’Brien.

They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.” – Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

Roy Peter Clark talks about this concept a lot, but he also makes a lovely primer that really shows what each element can do.

“Use one for power.

Use two for comparison, contrast.

Use three for completeness, wholeness, roundness.

Use four or more to list, inventory, compile, expand.”

Yes, Carrie, that’s all well and good, you’re probably thinking, but how do I apply this to MY story.

Well, you can apply it to make special moments snazzier or more powerful.

When you go over a scene, look for places where you want to be powerful. Use the one. Look for places where you want a litany, create that O’Brien list. Think about how your dastardly writer supervillain self wants to make the reader feel. Where would it help the reader to add on things/images/examples? Where would it help the reader to subtract those same things?

It really is a skill that I’m positive you can do and use to make your writing even more brilliant than it already is.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Loving the Strange – Let’s Tell Some Ghost Stories

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Loving the Strange - Let's Tell Some Ghost Stories
/

Ghosts are . . . well, they seem to be everywhere and nowhere all at once, and that’s a little strange, right?

Come hang out with us as we talk about ghosties!

Links and Resources!

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/504950/spookiest-ghost-stories-all-50-states

https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/a29055997/scary-ghost-stories/

https://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/holidays-occasions/scary-ghost-stories?slide=f7f75ff3-3024-46a9-b7ad-bbfa3989db6f#f7f75ff3-3024-46a9-b7ad-bbfa3989db6f

https://www.outsideonline.com/culture/essays-culture/real-ghost-stories-for-campfires/

http://abandonedtrailsofacadianationalpark.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-secret-cave-of-flying-mountain.html

Ghosts of Acadia by Marcus LiBrizzi

When Your Patient Teaches You a Thing or Two About Living

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
When Your Patient Teaches You a Thing or Two About Living
/


On BE BRAVE FRIDAYS, we share other people’s stories (unedited) to build a community of bravery and inspiration.

Please let us know if you want to share your story with us and we’ll read it here and post it on our social media and website.

We don’t edit these because we want people’s stories to be heard as they tell them.

This life is too short to not be brave. We can do this together.

When Your Patient Teaches You a Thing or Two About Living

This is a story from the wonderful Donna Roberts. Thank you so much, Donna!

I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky. — R. Kelly
(Note: names and minor details changed to protect privacy)

The thing about clinical work is that each day you never know what’s coming. You can be working with a patient in the most clear-cut treatment plan with everything going textbook perfect and suddenly . . .

“Hi, Joe. Nice to see you.” And it was. Joe (not his real name) was a regular in my therapy room, but unlike some others, a willing and enthusiastic participant in his treatment program. He worked hard in session and practiced the suggested exercises in the times between visits. He was open, expressive and insightful — all elements of the “perfect patient.” We usually both felt good after a session.

That’s not to say that there weren’t painful struggles in his treatment program. Joe, like many of us, had his own demons to confront, his made more powerful and debilitating by his bipolar diagnosis. But he embraced the challenge, knowing that working through his “stuff” meant some pain for each gain.

Joe’s condition was stabilized by medication prescribed by his psychiatrist. My role was part two of his treatment plan — the talking cure — the “fun part” we called it.


With his more severe symptoms under control, Joe’s problems were not all that uncommon — relationships, work, stress, etc. We just had to approach them from his unique history and dysfunctional behavior patterns.

That fateful Friday started like any other session with Joe. He was calm and chatty and we exchanged some trivial dialogue before getting to the more serious work. I had tentatively penned in “communication skills” as a topic for the session, but only if Joe didn’t lead us down another path.

Joe turned pensive and quiet. I was just about to suggest the communication topic when he took a deep breath and said, “I think I want to go off my meds.”
I tried not to look surprised, but I was. While this is a typical reaction for many on psychiatric medication, it was unexpected from Joe. He had been faithfully following his medication regimen for almost five years. He had few side effects and had frequently expressed agreement that they normalized his behavior, for the better.

I was curious why he would say this now. Was he facing a crisis? Was he experiencing negative side effects? Did he Google his condition and become convinced he should try the latest wonder drug or fad? I even wondered if he was joking, trying to jump start a lagging session. And, to be honest, I was a little bit scared. Joe’s more serious symptoms had always been under control in my therapy room, courtesy of his effective medication. They made his problems seem normal and, more importantly, manageable. The full-blown symptoms of bipolar disorder were another matter altogether.

So I said what all therapists say when they don’t know what to say, “Well, Joe, tell me more about that.”

And thus began the most intense conversation I ever had with a patient in therapy.

He looked out the window, off into the distance and said, “It’s me. I’m losing me. I think the meds are taking away what it means to be me.”

“You’re losing the sick you.”

“That may be the only me there is.”

I let the silence get uncomfortable waiting for him to explain.

“You know, I’ve never really talked about it, but when I am manic I feel like I can fly! Like. I. Can. Fly. The world is mine.”

“I understand. But Joe, it’s not and you can’t.”

“Who says?”

“The healthy you knows this is true. We’ve talked about that.”

And then he focused his gaze directly on me and asked me questions that shook me to my core — my healthy, non-bipolar core. His voice was raised, but not in anger, with a deep and heart-felt passion for what he was saying.

“Have you ever felt anything that intense? Have you ever lived that fully? Have you ever felt that deeply?”

Taking a deep breath and donning my therapeutic persona again, I replied, knowing my argument would hardly stand up to such emotion.

“But you’re a danger to yourself when you’re in that state.”

“I’m a danger to the real me when I am so subdued. I get it. I get where you’re coming from. It’s not you. You don’t want to live that way. But how would YOU feel if everyone told you that you had to? Wouldn’t a little piece of you die inside?”

I knew I was defeated here. Arguing with him would just entrench him more deeply in his convictions. I couldn’t match his intensity in that moment. I needed to stop fighting him and accept him where he was.

“Joe, you know I cannot recommend that you do this.”

“I know,” he replied calmly.

“I don’t have the authority. I’m a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, so I cannot make judgements or decisions about your meds.”

“Yes, I know.”

What we both knew, but didn’t say, was that he would be taken to the psychiatric ward for observation and consult.

The time between making the call to his psychiatrist and when the orderlies escorted him to the other ward, could have been awkward and tense. But Joe made it pleasant. We chatted about the trivial things that make up casual conversation — the weather, the Yankees.

Then, just as he was about to walk out the door, for the last time, Joe turned to me with one final piece of advice.

“Live a little, Donna. Just once do something that makes you feel like you can fly. Don’t always play it so safe.”

And while his words did not turn me into a risk taker they do come back to me from time to time when I stand on the brink of something I’m afraid of. And they make me just a little bit braver.

And sometimes . . . I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has a new book out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.