On Coping with Writer’s Block

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Black coffee and cigarettes

writing 2

I haven’t written for a very long time.

I joined a creative writing class a while ago to help me through my ‘writer’s block’ – can you call yourself a writer if you don’t write? – and I managed to produce a total of 500 words over the entire four-week course. A paltry amount by any standards, though the course itself was brilliant.

One of the suggestions from my fellow writers was to write about why I don’t write. I’ve been thinking a lot about the reasons I don’t write lately so this seemed as good a place to kick off my writing again as any. And also address why I call myself a writer in the first place – a hard sell in the writing void of the last few months.

In my professional life, I have been a public relations consultant, a journalist and now, an editor. Words…

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Inspiration and Writing Daily

Inspiration is lazy and loves to sleep. Don’t wait for it to show up on a date. Bring yourself and begin to write. Set yourself a goal, 200 words, 500, 2K, whatever and you might wake the Inspiration up from its slumber.


I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the sound of clicking keyboard keys and hum of your undying devotion to the writing craft that make Inspiration prop it’s head, look around and listen in. At first, Inspiration might think that it was a dream and go back to sleep, completely ignoring you.It might, but if you stay consistent and write regularly, Inspiration won’t be able to ignore you anymore. Better yet, it will wait for you, needing to hear that clacking of keys, or that scribble of a writing instrument on paper and pop it’s head above your shoulder to snoop on what that is you are working on.


Be thankful and appreciative of Inspiration showing up, but remember that it is not a one-night stand, like with any relationship you have to work hard on it every day.


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My 500 Words: Day 3

Today is Day 3 of my Writing Challenge. So far I have managed to write every day even though I was away on my 4-day vacation.

Day 1 was almost successful, I wrote 463 words for the novel I am working on. I had a 4 hour drive that day and I was physically exhausted, but decided to stick to my challenge.

Day 2 proved to be a challenge as it was filled with activities involving a lot of fresh air and so when I was finally back in front of my laptop, all I wanted to do is go to sleep. I ended up writing 167 words for my novel. I know, sad, but I made a point of doing some writing no matter what.

Day 3 was my rebound day. I was determined to get some of that writing done, no ifs and buts, and so I just grabbed a journal I had on me at the beach and began writing a short story. As promised, below is this story. I proofed it as much as I could, but I don’t want over analyze and  to hold on to these short stories I will be writing during this writing challenge, and so I am letting it out into the world as is, just like I will do with any other stories I will write during next few weeks.



He always had a knack for getting in trouble. What’s worse, half of the time he didn’t remember what happened. Like this morning, he woke up and found his pillow covered with red stains, taste of blood in his mouth.

“Ouch, what the hell!” he grumbled and rolled out of bed.

He stood on his feet and swayed side to side, his head suddenly foggy. “Wow!” he said to himself and sat back down.

Trying to regain composure he looked around his body. A tattoo on his right forearm called his attention. It definitely wasn’t there before, that much he could guarantee. He touched it, gently pushing on the outline of what appeared to be some weird flower.

“A flower? Are you kidding me?” he said and pushed the outline harder. “Damn it, that freaking hurts! Flower?!”

The pounding in his head made him wince. He instinctively reached out to the source of pain on the right side of his head and winced again. There definitely was a wound and his hair, wet and sticky, proved that. He looked at his hand. Yep, blood.

He closed his eyes for a minute trying to regain some semblance of memories and composure. What happened yesterday?

He started his day by going to work, there was no other way his day could have started. As much as he hated that place he also needed the money to pay for his apartment, which he wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Nestled at a nearly penthouse level, it gave him a birds eye view of the whole city and he could look at that view for hours, feeling all his worries leaving him. And those worries were a plenty.

He still had a giant debt to pay off for his last stint at the hospital. His cancer went into a remission but left him owing three years worth of his boss’s salary. The danger of his restored vintage 1960 ‘vette being repo’ed was always in the air since it was the only piece of anything valuable he owned. The forty grand he borrowed from a local loan shark to fix it up haven’t been forgotten either and those guys would show up every other week but he knew that his latest injuries were not from them. They usually showed up on Saturdays to ruin his weekends.

Today was Wednesday, so yesterday was Tuesday and on Tuesdays he usually did plain nothing, yet his body that was screaming with pain was telling him otherwise.

“What the hell did I do?” he exclaimed in exasperation, getting up and making his way to the kitchen. He knew this wasn’t going anywhere without a healthy helping of black coffee.

He sipped the hot beverage and instantly knew the source of blood in his mouth. His left lower molar was no longer there. Pain radiated from that spot as soon as the hot beverage hit it. In disbelief, he reached in and touched with his finger the spot his tongue just tried to explore. Yep, there was no mistake, a gaping space was there now.

He closed his eyes and rubbed his face with his hand, getting overwhelmed with all the signs of something that happened that his mind refused to release to him.

“What the hell happened to me?” he wondered out loud. As an answer, his phone rang and he flinched in his seat. “Stupid piece of crap!” he swore and walked over to the opposite wall where the vintage red phone hang.

“Yeah?” he answered, already annoyed with whomever was calling.

“Um, Pete? That’s me, Gray.”

“Ah, what’s up, buddy?”

“I… I just wanted to see how you were doing.”

“Funny you asked. I’m not sure. Sitting here, trying to figure out what train hit me.”

“I get it. I can’t imagine how that must feel. I mean to hear something like that.”

“And what would that be, Grayski?” he was puzzled even more now.

“Sorry dude, I promised not to intrude but just couldn’t help it. Sorry, I’ll check on you later. Or you can call me.” And he hung up.

“What the hell? Gray? Hello?!” he stared at now disconnected phone in a complete dismay. “Is there something I should know?” he hung up the phone and jumped up as it rang as soon as it touched the hook.

“Hello? Gray?” he yelled into the phone.

“Pete, this is Bradley.”

“Hey, Brad, what’s going on?”

“Nothing yet this morning, just wanted to check on you.”

“Ok, you too?”

“Me too what?” Brad sounded puzzled.

“Checking on me. Was what happened to me yesterday that exciting?”

“What? Um, well. Sorry dude, I didn’t mean to offend you like that. I’ll just go. Wanted to see how you were, call you later.” He said and hung up.

“What the hell?!” roared Pete. “Is this some kind of game? I’ll show them games!”

He placed the phone back having a feeling it won’t be too long till it rings again. He stood by until it rang a few minutes later. He picked up the phone and yelled: “I’m fine! Any other questions?”

“Hello? Is this Pete Flanagan?” a melodic voice on the other end asked after a pause.

Pete cleared his throat and answered in a much more subdued tone: “Yes, it is him.”

“This is Martha calling from the office of Doctor Goldstein to schedule a counseling session to help you cope.”

“Help me cope?” he asked, still not understanding what was going on.

“I’m sorry about the bad news yesterday. Doctor is concerned about the state of your mental being and suggested counseling.”

“News yesterday?” Pete slowly repeated and lowered himself in a nearby chair.

Before she had a chance to answer, he already knew what happened yesterday and why he couldn’t recall at first. What he found out yeaterday his mind refused.

His cancer was back with a vengeance and has progressed beyond cure. He had about three months to live.

“Yes, sir, the news about your health. Your cancer…”

“Yeah, my cancer, I got it!” he cut her off and she was now silent on her end of the phone. “I’ll take your counseling, I’ll call tomorrow to schedule.”

He hung up and stared at his hands now trembling uncontrollably. His head began to buzz with panic and he closed his eyes trying to steady himself. He remembered what happened yesterday.

He went to doctor expecting to be prescribed another round of chemo he couldn’t afford and instead received a death sentence with a proposed grief counseling. He then headed straight back to his workplace where his newly found freedom of impending death gave him a courage to tell his boss all the things he wanted to say in the past ten years.

After subsequently being fired, he headed to a nearby bar and began to drink heavily until his buddies arrived to save him from himself. They ended up drinking with him, after which they all wound up at the tattoo shop where sexy Roxy, the head designer, long caught their eye. There at the parlor, Pete, convinced that after death he would grow back as a beautiful flower, demanded that one to be tattooed on his forearm and them cried over it for a good hour after it was finished.

One of the loan sharks he owed money to happened to stop by the same joint and, seeing Pete wasting money on tats instead of paying back, ended up getting in a fight with him, during which Pete lost his molar and his opponent fell backwards hitting his head on the pavement and knocking out. Loan shark’s partner in turn shoved Pete so hard he flew and hit his head on a counter of the tattoo shop. They were all kicked out and bailed before police was to arrive.

Pete touched the side of his head again. “Counter.” He said. He then tongued the spot inside of his mouth there the molar was. “Loan shark.” He concluded. His eyes turned to his tattoo. “Roxy.” He mused.

Nodding his head as if trying to recall if he remembered everything, he walked to his desk and jotted a note addressed to Fein, attorney at law. The note was short and to the point: “I, Pete Flanagan, give my Roman Red Chevrolet Corvette 1960 to Bradley Thomson living at the address below as a gift, irrevocable.” He quickly signed it as if afraid to change his mind and stashed it into the fax machine sitting on the countertop. Watching the paper being sucked in and his gift making its way over the phone lines, he smiled and said: “Now, hospitals and loan sharks, hands off my ‘vette.”

He walked around the apartment, gliding his hand over its surfaces, stopping to admire his kitchen and finally making his way to his balcony. Placing his hand on the railing, he said: “You know I loved you, but there would be no way for me to keep you and I wanted you to remember me like this, and not when I’m nodding at the grave.”

Looking around at the sweeping views, he breathed in deeply, capturing the familiar smell of the air and the warmth of the sun on his face.

“I did always loved these views.” He said and jumped.


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Writing Challenge: My 500 Words

I have been following Jeff Goins for a while now. I found him via Twitter one day when one of the writers I follow twitted about his book. I followed the link and got the book the name of which spoke directly to me: “You Are a Writer (Now Start Acting Like One)”.

At that time I was going through an unnerving time of writing my first YA novel. Because I was unpublished, I felt like a liar referring to myself as a writer, or even thinking that I can write something worth putting on paper. At times I would stop writing for weeks, paralyzed by self-doubt,  self-criticism, and general “I will never write anything good.” I thought to call myself a writer I had to have had written a “real” book, got it published and sold a good number of copies. I was barely getting through my first 5K words and the most I would dare to call myself was “an aspiring author”.

Then I bought Jeff’s book and got on reading. Right from the start I knew – he totally got it, he knew what I felt writing but not “being” a writer. He talked about wanting to be a writer but not feeling sure if he could call himself one and and quoting his friend telling him “You don’t have to want to be a writer. You are a writer; you just need to write.” That phrase really stuck with me, it became my daily mantra. I gave myself a promise to refer to myself in front of others, and most importantly in my own mind, as a Writer. And let me tell you, it did miracles. It gave me freedom from impostor syndrome and made me feel that I was not just toying with a hobby, but really working on a craft. Yes, I still have my days when I think that I can’t produce another word worth reading, but I know that I need to work through it and just repeat: “I am a Writer”.

Anyone who has doubts about being a writer, who calls themselves “a beginning writer”, “an aspiring writer” or any other version of “I am kind of a writer but not really” should read Jeff’s book and start believing in themselves and pride themselves in what they do.

Recently I was reading Jeff’s blog post on his interview with Guy Kawasaki and his new book “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur…” and at the bottom of the blog post I noticed a link to “My 500 Words: A Writing Challenge” where Jeff calls to write 500 words a day for 31 days to help develop a discipline of writing every day or at least on a consistent basis. To many a thought of writing every day can be daunting and straight up intimidating, but 500 words is not that much. 500 words a day is a doable goal and done daily would produce a non-fiction size book draft in 3 months. Those are small steps that add up to a big thing.

So… Since this past month I have been having a hard time writing consistently to finish the first draft of “Love Me or Bite Me”, I decided to take on this 500 word challenge. I will write every day for 31 days. I will work on my novel or write short stories if it’s not a “novel” kid of day. I will post the short stories that I wrote as a part of this challenge here on my blog.

Wish me luck and, if you struggle with writing discipline, join me in doing the challenge.


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Sleepwalker Chronicles, Chapter 1

Today, as a Mother’s Day gift to myself, I decided to set aside fear and doubt and begin to show my baby to the world. I am posting the opening chapter of the Sleepwalker Chronicles, my first paranormal YA novel I am planning to publish at the end of this year. This is still work in progress, so bear with me.

So, here it comes. Phew!


Chapter One

The fire flickered on Elizabeth’s face. In some other time, she would have enjoyed the warmth cast by the flames, but not tonight. She stood on the sidewalk, lost and confused as the blaze swallowed her home. Her bare feet melted the snow beneath her. She shivered and gazed up at the burning house, now almost gone.

Looking around desperately, she realized she was the only one there.

“Mom? Dad?” she whispered, her throat suddenly tight.

Only wearing her pajamas, she felt as alone in the world as a sixteen-year-old could. She shivered uncontrollably, even though the fire made it feel like summertime in the middle of December. She wanted to run into the house, but her feet wouldn’t move. A wave of shock and realization slowly rolled over her mind – and then it went dark.

Elizabeth opened her eyes to see white walls, curtains, balloons. It didn’t look like her house, and she was sure it wasn’t anyone’s birthday. Her house… Her house… A painful memory sharply stung her heart. The fire flashed before her eyes and made her jump up in bed. “No!” she screamed before she could stop herself.

People in scrubs rushed into the room. Elizabeth screamed and thrashed around, unable to control herself. Unbearable grief threatened to explode inside her. Some nurses pushed her down, while others tried to re-connect the IV line she yanked out. Blood spilled onto the white sheets. Finally, another nurse ran into the room with a needle in her hand; Elizabeth felt like she didn’t care anymore. The world became hazy, muted and heavy. She closed her eyes and let the dream take over without a fight.

A buzzing noise came from somewhere. It grew increasingly loud and impossible to brush away. What is it? Why can’t they just leave me alone?

She wasn’t particularly sure who they were, but she wanted that annoying sound to stop. She considered opening her eyes, but something was telling her not to. Why? What is so wrong with opening my eyes? Her thoughts were slow and groggy. She wondered about that, too. She couldn’t recall anything, and her head felt empty and void of any information. Weird. What is the matter with me?

The buzzing noise persisted, throwing off her train of thought. It grew louder, then quieter, even stopping for a second before resuming. What a strange buzzing, it must be an annoying fly or a bee… I hope I don’t have an allergy to bees, or I would end up in a hospital…

Her eyes flew open. Now she knew where she was and why she was there: in the hospital. Her home burned down, her family was gone, and Christmas by the fireplace would never be the same again.  It was her dad’s idea to finally light up the fireplace. It was never used for as long as she could remember, but this winter was so cold and the Christmas dinner so wonderful, it made them feel like celebrating as never before. They fell asleep in front of the warm, crackling logs.

Despite the usual sleepwalking jokes, Elizabeth didn’t walk into the fireplace in her sleep. Instead she wandered outside and eventually woke up when she got cold enough. She remembered thinking, “Funny, I’m cold and I can still feel the warmth of the fire…” When she opened her eyes she saw that she was standing barefoot in the snow in front of her burning house.

She heard a gasp; the buzzing stopped. She blinked her eyes and realized she had been staring into a blank space. Her best friend, Molly, was sitting by her bedside, hand to her mouth. The source of the gasp. “Liz, you’re awake!” she jumped to give a big hug. “I was talking to you all this time; I was hoping it would bring you back from the coma!”

Her high-pitched voice escalated by the second.

“Thank you, I heard you, you did bring me back, Molls… Wait, coma?! How long was I in coma? What year is it?”

“Settle down, it was more of a drug-induced coma and you were asleep for four days. You were kind of going crazy after you got here and they were concerned that your brain was having an overload.” Molly was visibly proud of her newfound medical expertise.

“Oh, Molls, I’m so glad you here. I felt like I was all alone in the whole world. I am alone. Mom and dad are gone… And I’m alive. All because of the stupid sleepwalking.” Elizabeth’s voice began to race, trying to keep up with images in her mind. “Why? Why didn’t I die too? I don’t want to be alive like this. Why did they have to die? What if I tripped the fire? I was sleepwalking again, maybe I bumped into something and it got the house fire started? What if it was me? I can’t live like this!”

Tears poured down her face. Long sobs shook her body.

Molly tried to wipe the tears from Elizabeth’s face. “Calm down, are you crazy? Don’t say things like that. It was an accident, things just happen. And I’m happy that you were sleepwalking, it saved your life! You are not all alone in the world, you have me. You can stay at my house for as long as you want.”

“Molls, you have no proof that I’m not the reason for this fire. And I love you like a sister, but I can’t just invade your house. What will happen to me now? What if they put me into a foster home or something?”

There were footsteps at the door. Both girls flinched. A tall doctor stood in a doorway, accompanied by a short, peppy-looking woman.

“Hello, Miss Hawthorne,” he said, “I am Doctor Mena, the staff physician on this floor. I have been keeping an eye on you these past few days.” His tone was a nice warm baritone. “This is Mrs. Talbot, she is with Social Services.” He waved to the woman by his side.

“Social Services? No, I don’t want to go into a foster home, please, no…” Elizabeth felt overwhelming helplessness and panic.

Doctor Mena looked as if he was about to jump to her side to administer another dose of “medically-induced coma”, but Mrs. Talbot extended her arm to hold him back.

“Oh no, darling, please calm down.” Her voice was surprisingly pleasant. “We have located your extended family; you will be moving in with them.”

“An extended family? Where? I have never heard of any other relatives. Everyone I knew of still lives in Europe. I have never seen them.” Elizabeth looked at Molly who was equally puzzled.

“Apparently, you had an aunt on your mother’s side, don’t ask me how many times removed, but I think at least three. Her name is Adelle Evans and she lives in Sweet Home, Oregon.”

“Oregon? Are you sure she is related to me?”

“Yes, darling, we do our job well. We wouldn’t just give you to a stranger. Our agents checked everything thoroughly. She is your relative without a doubt. It appears your family separated after arriving here many years ago for an unknown reason and lost touch with each other. Apparently, she’s been trying to locate the relatives for the past several years and she just recently found you. Unfortunately, the first news she heard was about what happened to your parents.”

“Does she know that I’m coming to live with her?” Elizabeth asked.

“Yes, we got in touch with her a couple days ago. She was delighted that the family will be reunited at last. It seems that at one point, your side of the family changed their last name to Simmons, you mother’s maiden name, and it became hard for your aunt to locate anyone, since the family name is Evans.”

“So my name is really Elizabeth Evans?”

She liked the taste of it on her tongue, but she tried to brush that feeling off. Her dad, William Hawthorne, wouldn’t be happy with her throwing away his name. “Why would have they change it?”

“Really, I don’t know, dear, that’s all an old family history. I guess it will be for you to find out.” Mrs. Talbot began to regret divulging so much information. “And speaking of which, as soon as Doctor Mena says you are good to go, we will arrange for your travel to your new home.”

Elizabeth sat quiet, trying to digest all that she just heard.

“I think we should give her a few minutes,” said Doctor Mena. He and Mrs. Talbot left the room.

Elizabeth turned to Molly. “I can’t believe I will be moving, all the way to Oregon! I don’t know anyone there, even my aunt. I hope she really is my aunt. And what am I even saying? My mom, my dad, they are dead, and for all I know I caused the fire, and here I’m talking about moving! What am I going to do, Molls?”

“You can’t be thinking that way, Liz, you just can’t. You didn’t cause the fire; it was just an accident, a horrible accident. Maybe in some crazy way it was meant for you to find that lost family of yours. I’ll miss you so much, but you need to take care of yourself, you’ll be better away from here.”

Molly tried her best to quickly wipe a stray tear and threw her hands around Elizabeth. They sat there, motionless, for what seemed like an eternity.

At last, they pulled apart. “Oh, God, it just dawned on me.” Elizabeth closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I need to pack and decide what to bring with me. I don’t know how much different the weather is there, and I’ll be starting a new school term; that’s a challenge in itself. I don’t even know if I can fit everything I need into my polka-dot luggage, or should I just use the old brown luggage, it’s way bigger…”

She stopped mid-breath when she noticed a wild look on Molly’s face. “What?”

“Ummm… Your luggage is …. ummm…”


Molly nodded.

“It’s all gone, they are all gone, and I’m rumbling about packing and polka dots like an idiot!” Elizabeth hugged her knees and buried her face. Her body shook as she cried silently.

“Liz, you’re not forgetting about your parents or anything, you need to think about your future. You just have to! I’ll give you my luggage and my stuff to wear. It will be something you can remember me by… And when you get there, you can get something new, whatever the kids there are into. It’s going to be ok. You’ll be ok.”

Elizabeth raised her face, her eyes red and wet, and silently nodded to her best friend.

“I will be ok, won’t I?”


Nillu Nasser Stelter

The Penman's Blood by arnoKath The Penman’s Blood by arnoKath

I have a confession to make. The content of my email inbox, with the exception of pictures of my nephews and the blogs I subscribe to, is uninspiring. My virtual letterbox tends to be filled with bills, receipts and reminders. Emails save time and money, yet still I long for days past. I’d like to cut down on the amount of missives I receive, and replace them with more satisfying ones. I’d choose fewer but longer emails over the perfunctory electronic communication of today in a heartbeat. What a joy it is to pour over rare long emails, the ones filled with delicious titbits of news and sensual descriptions of new experiences, reminiscent of the letters of old. Snail mail is even better. How wonderful to sink into a sofa, tuck your legs up under you and tear open a letter from afar, to see…

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I Disappear When I Write

I heard somewhere that Jules Verne was so engrossed in his writing that when he was working on a chapter taking place in Arctic, he got sick with flu.

It happens to all of us more often than not, when we write, we become so much part of the story, we transport there and the world disappears. We are right there, in the middle of the scene, seeing what characters are seeing, feeling what they are feling. We fall in love and our hearts race. We get scared and our hands go ice cold.

I love this experience. I feel that in the moments like these I am writing what truly matters to my heart, because I get lost in it without any limitations from the inner critic. Later I reread it and think: ‘WOW, I wrote that? I don’t even remember writing it!’

I also love this experience because I love to read and writing in a moment like this is like reading an unwritten book that is unfolding right before me. It’s amazing that we can write things that we had no idea we had inside us!

Recently I was writing an intense love scene and when I got back into the real world an hour later, I had written 2K words, my heart was racing like crazy and I was completely exhausted. Our mind is a powerful thing that can take us anywhere we want and, if we are lucky, our readers will follow us there.

Tell me about your ‘getting lost in a moment’ experience!


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