Hello Darkness, Writers’ Friend

It’s get real time. Sorry. It’s because I (Carrie)was thinking about how I can write 500 words so quickly when they aren’t supposed to be truth, but when they are about my own life I stare and stare and stare at the blank computer screen and wonder what I’m doing being a writer at all.

AND THIS FREAKED ME OUT.

“Just write 500 words about your own life,” I tell myself in sentence form inside my head. “That’s not much. You can do this. Five hundred words.”

And then I give myself the finger, because pep talks drive me crazy. They feel like platitudes and I don’t believe in words any more. I believe in actions. Sometimes.

Only sometimes.

So, our daughter Em has made it through basic training and officer candidate school, which was actually more brutal than basic training since it involved nine-mile ruck marches/runs carrying massive packs, along with the regular things they did in basic – timed runs, sit-ups, push-up, lifting. She made it through, but with hip and back pain.

“A girl s**8 her pants during the final run. I got off okay,” she says.

So she had some perspective.

Another guy didn’t take water in his Camelback or canteen, running with weight at a nine-mile pace in the August heat of Southern Georgia. He passed out.

And she had more perspective.

And perspective? That’s a good thing. It’s what every parent wants for their kid and for their own self.

After a few months in limbo at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma, her first day of field artillery officer training begins.

I send her a text that says I LOVE YOU.

She sends me one right back that says, THE “SOUND OF SILENCE” LITERALLY JUST PLAYED AS I DROVE THROUGH THE GATE.

Another text arrives immediately after and it says, FML.

Hello darkness, my old friend….

She lost perspective.

And so do I.

I stare at the phone. I have gotten really good at staring at things lately – phones, computer screens, people’s faces – and it’s like I’ve forgotten how to process anything anymore. My response time is slow. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to interact with people. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll say it isn’t noticeable, but I notice.

There is something horrible about not having it together at all. I look back on my old columns from when I was a newspaper editor and they are all so – happy and funny. But I wasn’t happy at all then. It’s crazy. It’s crazy how good I am at lying to myself about my life. Are we all like that, I wonder? We post pictures of food and perfect children on social media, these happy highlights of our lives, but what about all the ephemera that happens in between nights out and kids’ award, how about times like now when staring at the computer screen and writing just 500 words seems like an impossible task?

When faced with only pieces of realities and truths, it’s easy to lose that perspective, to compare your life to other writers or humans lives and come up… Well, to come up unfavorably.

This is supposed to be a podcast about giving you a better life and making you a better writer and here is our advice AKA WRITING TIP OF THE POD:

Don’t lie.

Tell truths as you know it.

Experience your life beyond the screen.

Live like a dog – enthusiastically bark, sulk, wag your tail. Live your emotions as you are in them. Don’t hide from them.

 

How do you be a better writer? Care about what you’re writing about. Care so much that you have to write about it and wrap a story around it. That’s it. There is darkness everywhere and you don’t have to pretend it doesn’t exist. And there is light everywhere and you shouldn’t  pretend that doesn’t exist either. They are part of each of us, and part of the world.

 

So here you go DOG TIP FOR LIFE:

Be honest. Live fully. Care deeply.

Everything else is craft wrapped up in grammar. And that’s important, so important. You want to have paragraphs and dialogue, but the thing that makes a story matter to someone and to you? It’s what it’s saying, the beliefs behind it. The emotion that drives you forward to write it.

You’ve got this. Go write.

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 “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

Writing News

 

Appearance

Carrie is going to be hanging out at the Augusta Civic Center (Maine) on Saturday, Sept. 8 as part of a Maine Literacy event. It’s open to the public and cool. It’s from 10-2.

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ENHANCED PAPERBACK RELEASE!

Carrie Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Flying, presents another science fiction adventure of cheerleader-turned-alien-hunter Mana in Enhanced.

Seventeen-year-old Mana has found and rescued her mother, but her work isn’t done yet. Her mother may be out of alien hands, but she’s in a coma, unable to tell anyone what she knows.

Mana is ready to take action. The only problem? Nobody will let her. Lyle, her best friend and almost-boyfriend (for a minute there, anyway), seems to want nothing to do with hunting aliens, despite his love of Doctor Who. Bestie Seppie is so desperate to stay out of it, she’s actually leaving town. And her mom’s hot but arrogant alien-hunting partner, China, is ignoring Mana’s texts, cutting her out of the mission entirely.

They all know the alien threat won’t stay quiet for long. It’s up to Mana to fight her way back in.

“Witty dialogue and flawless action.”—VOYA

“YA readers, you’re in for a treat this week. Hilarious and action-packed, this novel is sure to be the perfect summer read.”—Bookish 

“Funny and playful, with a diverse cast of characters and a bit of romance and adventure, Flying is the perfect light summer read.”—BookPage

Order Your Copy:

amazon bn booksamillion  indiebound

 

I made a video about copy editing my next book, co-written with Steve Wedel. It’s called IN THE WOODS and its scary self arrives in 2019. BUT HERE IS THE GOOFY VIDEO!

Our podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLEis still chugging along. Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs

The Final Time Stoppers Book

What is it? It’s the third TIME STOPPERS book!

Time Stopper Annie’s newfound home, the enchanted town Aurora, is in danger. The vicious Raiff will stop at nothing to steal the town’s magic, and Annie is the only one who can defeat him–even though it’s prophesied that she’ll “fall with evil.”

Alongside her loyal band of friends Eva, Bloom, SalGoud, and Jamie, who still isn’t quite sure whether he’s a troll or not, Annie journeys deep into the Raiff’s realm, the Badlands. The group will face everything from ruthless monsters to their own deepest fears. Can Annie find the courage to confront the Raiff and save everyone, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice?

What People are Saying About The Books:

An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” –  School Library Journal

“The characters show welcome kindness and poignant insecurity, and the text sprinkles in humor . . . and an abundance of magical creatures.” Kirkus Reviews 

“An imaginative blend of fantasy, whimsy, and suspense, with a charming cast of underdog characters . . . This new fantasy series will entice younger fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.” – School Library Journal 

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Hello Darkness, Writers’ Friend

 
 
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Being Nice: Who Do You Think You Are?

I spend almost all my time trying to be a nice person. It’s always been like this; I kid you not. Like in fifth grade I was voted MOST COURTEOUS like that was some kind of damn honor or something, right?

Carrie is polite.

Carrie is courteous.

Carrie is word-of-the day worthy.

That’s not who I thought I was.

“Most Courteous” wasn’t what I wanted to be, you know, right? Like I wanted to be “Smartest” or “Prettiest” or “Class Clown” or “Most Athletic” even though “Most Athletic” is something I could never be since I have zero hand-eye coordination. This is because I don’t use my left eye to see. They thought I was blind when I was born. I had an operation. I had glasses when I was one year old and kept them all the way until fifth grade when I prayed to God every night to not have to have glasses in middle school.

There was this stupid Dorothy Parker quote that says, “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” and that quote was like the word of God to me. I knew I would always be most courteous and not real superlative worthy unless I actually got rid of those damn glasses.

So I prayed.

At the doctor’s office, I sat in the chair and stared at the eye chart. It was all on my right eye, I knew. It had to perform at 100 % to get rid of those damn glasses.

The doctor was all, “Can you read this line?”

And I was all, “E.”

And he was all, “Can you read this line?”

And I was all, “T.O.Z.”

He made an interesting noise, like he was impressed. “Go down as low as you can. Just keep reading each line. Start at the top. How about that?”

“Okay.” I took a deep breath and started from the top. “E F P T P Z L P E D.”

I went on and on. I could see them all.

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Sadly, the magical return of my eyesight didn’t make me magically popular as one boy reminded me at a sixth-grade dance at St Joseph’s the one Catholic church in our town. We had one Catholic church, which was where some of the Irish and French Canadian kids went. We had Protestant church, which was Presbyterian. That’s it.

I wanted to be one of those church kids so badly. But one of my dads was an atheist. Another dad was a lapsed Catholic who believed that hell was where we were living right now, on Earth. And my mom gave up her Methodist Church in Manchester because she caught the minister cheating at bowling and called him out on it.

“He lied to my face, that man,” Mom would self-righteously retell us for decades. “Right. To. My. Face. And this man was supposed to be in charge of my spiritual growth? I’ll show him spiritual growth. He was always looking at my cleavage, too. Creep.”

Bowling mattered a lot to my mom. But I was just annoyed because her cleavage and insistence that you aren’t supposed to cheat in bowling meant I couldn’t go to church.

And I wanted to.

I wanted to belong, you know?

plot pacing and proms writing tips

So, when S. slow danced with me three times in a row at the CCD dance, I felt like I might actually belong.

But then he pulled away from me and said, “Carrie, let’s face it. Neither of us are lookers. So we might as well make do with each other.”

I stepped out of his arms and I said one word, “What?”

“I’m saying… I’m saying… We’re not tens so we might as well make do.”

I cried and I ran away and hid in the bathroom. I didn’t come out even when his mom, a freaking chaperone, came in to check on me. I didn’t come out until there wasn’t any music playing at all.

Only then did I run out to my mom’s old Chevy Monte Carlo, which was waiting in the parking lot. I wrenched open the door and slammed myself inside the car.

“What is it?” Her smile went into the anger place where her lips were just straight lines. This was how she looked when she talked about her little Methodist minister friend.

I blurted out what S. said. With my mother, there was no pretending something bad hadn’t happened. There were no secrets, unless they were hers.

“That bastard,” she said.

“I’m ugly.” I sobbed that out somehow.

“You aren’t ugly. That boy is ugly. His heart is ugly. He was working some line. He thinks he’s some actor. Some comedian. He’s a punk.”

But I knew in my heart that my mom was lying. I was ugly. I had to be.

I suddenly became someone I didn’t think I was.

And the thing is, no matter how many times I’ve heard people tell me I’m not, heard boys and girls call me cute or beautiful or lovely or pretty, I’ve never believed them. It’s S.S’s words that I hear in my head, over and over again.

Neither of us are lookers.

            We’re not tens.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Prom dog

I have this other friend who photographs well. She is the opposite of me because I photograph like poop.

She says to me sometimes, “I don’t know how so many guys like you. You and me? We’re alright looking, but we’re not beautiful like OTHER GIRL.”

And I smiled at her.

OTHER GIRL is skinny and blonde and full of acne scars and holes of anxiety that threaten to eat her insides away. And I worry for her all the time.

And I am?

Alright looking, I guess. I became who she said I was.

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Her words shouldn’t matter.

It freaking matters.

 

Other people’s words have echoed and echoed and shaped me until I don’t even want to be in a photograph anymore. I’m too afraid that the image of me that I see will be even worse than I imagine.

I had delusions of insignificance. Every time I felt badly about who I was it was because someone else had put me in a comparison situation.

You know how that is right?

Ah, I’m not as successful as Rick Riordan.

Ah, I’m not as beautiful as all these famous actresses and models or even that random police dispatcher in my town. 

Ah, I’m not as smart as…

Ah, I’m not as good a runner as…

But the thing is? That’s crap. You are magical as you. You don’t need to be compared to anyone else or compare yourself to others. Superlatives are bull. We are all superlative at being ourselves.

Your life is your message to this world.

And what is that message? The truth of you? The truth of me? It sure isn’t how we look. It’s how we are on the inside. For me that’s word-of-the-day Carrie, Courteous Carrie, Writer Carrie, Photographer Carrie, Hug Your Dogs All the Time Carrie.

That’s the truth of you, too.

And looking into mirrors? It’s about more than seeing what’s on the outside, about more than being defined and labeled by what’s on that same outside. It’s about the inner you. The real you and seeing it – really seeing it – and knowing how freaking magic you are just by being you, authentically and truly you.

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That’s not saying you don’t have flaws, that you won’t mess up. We all mess up. We mess up constantly.

Some people are afraid of the #metoo movement, of making their own mistakes when it comes to racial issues, religious issues, sexuality, identity, ability.

That fear? It’s good. It makes us better. We are all heading straight into truth; burning it out of ourselves, all the ugly things that we don’t want to see. We can’t let our fear slow us down. We can’t let other people’s visions of us control us. We can’t be afraid to look into the mirrors that see deep inside of us.

Social media brings out trolls. That’s so true, but it also gives us a voice, a hope. We have a new template for telling our stories, for making our lives and for sharing them in a world where our voices often didn’t matter. We can share our magic in so many ways.

And it’s intoxicating and terrifying. People are interested in other people. People are sharing with other people. People are even interested in us. In us.

And that’s power.

And that’s magic.

Use it wisely. I know I will try to. I know I make mistakes. I know that I am human. But the thing is? I love being human. I love growing and evolving and changing. I hope you do, too.

Writing News

 

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of my 16-or-so books, check out my website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

The next book coming out with Bloomsbury in August is this one! More on the series here.

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OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE – New episode tomorrow!

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
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Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice, and life tips.

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.

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Look. Lying is Bad for Your Health and Authors Stink At It, No Matter What “Experts” Say

Seriously.

I know people lie all the time. I know these people get powerful, get fame, get money, get whatever… I know that their lies are there to shelter them, protect them, because they are afraid that their past mistakes or inadequacies  will make people love them. Or just because they are ashamed of what they’ve done and who they are.

I know that we all do it.

That we all lie.

Sometimes.

I’m not talking about the white lies where you tell someone their butt looks good when it doesn’t.

I’m talking about the lies we create to try to dig ourselves out of humiliating experiences. You know what I mean right? When you mess up on your job. When you mess up in your book. When you mess up in your relationship.

Those kinds of lies.

Lying makes you sick. It makes your heart sick. It makes your body sick. I don’t want you to be sick.

I knew a man who was in an insufferable marriage. Before you judge, just know it was bad. He had an affair and then he had eczema, terrible eczema. He finally divorced his wife and the eczema was gone. Yes, correlation doesn’t always equal causation. I get that. But I also get that lying messes us up.

According to an article in the Atlantic, people lie about 11 times every week. It’s no wonder we as a society have forgotten what truth is, right? We lie an average of 572 times a year. And sometimes, telling the truth is seen as the act of the unsophisticated.

Yeah. I am not cool with that. I’m not cool with lying to get ahead or lying to get out of trouble or lying so that your public persona seems better than it is. Because I know that lying hurts your insides. I want your insides to feel good, darn it.

In Gunderman’s story for the Atlantic, he writes:

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame followed 110 people over a period of ten weeks. Half of the participants were asked to stop lying over this period of time, and the other half were not. Both groups took weekly polygraph tests to determine how many times they had lied in the previous week. Those who were able to reduce by three the number of lies they told had four fewer mental health complaints (such as feeling tense) and three fewer physical health complaints (such as headaches) than those who did not.

So how do you not lie?

  1. Sign an ethics agreement with yourself.
  2. Avoid conflicts of interest
  3. Realize that if you lose your job, or mess up big-time, people can and still love you. They’ll relate to you because it’s happened to them, too. And if they can’t? If your act of imperfection is unforgivable to them, then move on honestly. It will be better for you in the long run.
  4. For some people writing down the Ten Commandments or similar articles of behavior is a reminder to be honest and helps prevent dishonesty.
  5. Don’t pick a job or a lifestyle or a relationship that rewards dishonesty and encourages it. Here’s an old story about that with Wells Fargo.

Lying and Writing

The perception is that all writers are liars. We construct these fictional worlds that aren’t truth. Therefore we must be lying, right? We must be suffering from the same health effects that liars-in-real-life do.

Yeah. No.

Writers create entire worlds. Yes. We fabricate details. Yes. We make people up. Yes.

But we aren’t experts in lying. We’re experts in truth.

“Wait… What…?” you’re probably saying.

But here’s the thing. Writers create worlds. But we create worlds out of truths. We put in key details. We focus on being believable. But what we’re doing is using art to tell the truths of our own stories, of the world’s stories, which is the truth of people’s stories and existence.

The best writers are the best truth tellers because their story matters to them. The depth of what they’re writing about (grief, racism, oppression, love, justice) is the truth that needs to come out of their soul. That’s the opposite of lying.

So, go write. If you’re writing your inner truth? That’s only going to lift you up.

Do Good Wednesday

Make a pact with yourself to tell the truth as much as you can. It’s that simple.

 

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page on my website carriejonesbooks.blog.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

Write! Submit! Support! Begins Again in July!

 

It’s not easy to create a thriving writing career in the children’s industry, but what if you didn’t have to do it alone? Write. Submit. Support is a six-month program designed by author and Writing Barn Founder Bethany Hegedus. Classes are led by top creatives in the children’s industry field; they’ll give you the tips and tools you need to take both your manuscripts and your developing career to the next level. Think of it as an MFA in craft with a certificate in discovering (or recovering) your writer joy! – Writing Barn 

More about the class I specifically teach? It is right here.

Here is what current students are saying:

Carrie is all strengths. Seriously. She’s compassionate, funny, zesty, zany, insightful, honest, nurturing, sharp, and…Wow, that’s a lot of adjectives. But really, I couldn’t praise Carrie enough as a mentor. I’ve long respected her writing, but being talented at something doesn’t automatically mean you will be a great mentor. Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching. Aside from the specific feedback she offers, she also writes letters in response to the process letter and analyses. These letters have been so impactful for me as I writer that I plan to print them and hang them up. Creepy? Maybe. But they are so inspiring. And that, in the most long-winded way possible, is how I would summarize Carrie as a mentor—inspiring.

Sticking Your Finger In A Bear’s Eye: Why We Don’t Believe People When They Talk About Bad Things

Maine Man Fends Off Bear Attack To Save His Puppy

This past week a guy who lives sort of near me fought off a bear who attacked his puppy.

The link is here, but if you don’t want to click through, the man stopped on the side of one of our bigger roads (for Maine) so that his puppy could go to the bathroom. It was an urgent dog need.

The dog owner was zoning out, gazing a different way. Maybe the puppy needed privacy. Scotty was like that. He couldn’t do his doggy business if you watched.  Plus, honestly, why watch?

 

Back to the story…. This guy and his puppy are on the side of the road. Man is admiring vista. Dog is doing dog business.

But then the leash was yanked out of this guy’s hand. He turned and a bear was attacking his puppy, so he did what any dog lover would do. He attacked the bear and stuck his finger in the bear’s eye. The bear ran off. The puppy went to the vet and should be okay.

The newspaper article spent a lot of time corroborating his story. They obviously assumed people wouldn’t think it was true. But the Maine wardens found a bear den close by the site. The vet confirmed that the dog had puncture wounds

But it made me wonder: 

Why do we have such a hard time believing people when they have experiences outside our own experience?

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One Of My Own Bear Encounters:

When my daughter Em was little, I had her in the LL Bean backpack carrier – because Maine and LL Bean is basically required gear – and we were tromping through the woods in our backyard when we came around a curve on the ATV trail and smelled this rank skunk odor and saw a bear.

Em said, “BIG DOGGIE! BIG BIG DOGGIE! Pet it?”

She liked dogs.

And I was like, “Shh…. baby. That’s a bear.”

The bear looked at me. I looked at the bear and we backed up and then booked it home where we promptly told the story and we were promptly greeted with…

“Seriously?”

And…

“Yeah, right.”

And…

“You did not see a bear.”

There have been so many time in my life that I’ve told stories of my experiences and been greeted with those phrases, with disbelief.

And it obviously isn’t a phenomenon isolated to me.

Here’s the thing About Experience and Truth: 

Our experience is never the only experience.

Our reality isn’t always other people’s realities.

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Just because it didn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Just because what happened doesn’t connect with your image of the people involved or even how the world works doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

None of us are all-knowing.

We are not omniscient gods who understand and have knowledge of all things. Sometimes we can’t even remember where we put our car keys or school id. How are we supposed to know the truth of other people’s experiences?

One of my friends once told a story on his Facebook page about a racist thing that happened to him and immediately people said, “You read the interaction wrong. There was probably another reason for that happening.”

No.

Just no.

When we were writing my dad’s obituary, I wrote that he was a truck driver, but my siblings said, “No. He was a mechanic.”

Because I am 14 years younger than my closest sibling, I only knew Dad as a trucker. Since my older siblings were gone from home and out in their own lives when that transition happened, they defined him as a mechanic. Same dad. Same family. Different perceptions. If that can happen within such a closed sphere, imagine what happens in the bigger world.

And the other thing is that none of us are perfect. People we love will do things that are wrong. We will do things that are wrong when it comes to things like understanding other people’s experiences, oppression, bigotry.   How we face these things, what we do, it’s part of what defines us.

We need to trust that our experience isn’t the only experience of anything or anyone out there, that our perception isn’t the only perception. Even when we write stories, we can’t have every single character react and think exactly the same way we do. If we did our readers would throw the book away.

This also applies to life.

If something as simple as a bear encounter has to be enthusiastically proven to be believed, then something is wrong with our society. Something deep.

Let’s start to figure out how to fix that, fix it on multiple levels, the levels of discrimination in all forms, but also in just easy simple truths. Let’s tell our truths and believe others’ truths, too, even when they are uncomfortable, even when they make us feel scared or guilty or conflicted or sad or envious or angry.

We don’t get to define other people’s realities or experiences. Life is not fiction. It’s stranger than that.