Entry Fee Collected at the Door

It’s election season. And you know what that means. Lot’s of people talking smack about candidates, and trying to persuade me to vote, give money, participate, belong, think about the future, just doooooooo something. And it’s true. I should do one or all of those things. After all, isn’t the entry fee to any society the participation in their events?

Joy of Missing OutAs I was pondering this deep, philosophical point, I got distracted by an idea on how to create a light saber for my daughters Halloween costume (she’s going to be Yoda) and then I pondered lunch, then work, then I wondered who was in charge of Princess Leia’s hair on set. Was there a hair wrangler? By the time I made it back to democracy, I had clearly demonstrated how easy it is to NOT perform my civic duty – simply get distracted by life. Which led me to wonder, is connecting with the writing community difficult for the same reasons? Do writers miss out on connecting in person, on being a literary citizen, because… Star Wars?

Probably not. My reasons for occasionally not participating in the greater writer community, aren’t generally because I’m building a death star. (Although, really, death star’s take a lot of time, so jeez, get off my back Emperor.) My reasons for not participating usually looks more like this comic from The Oatmeal.

The original entry fee to the writing community, the one I paid when I was quite small, was to read, quietly in the privacy of my own home and then write something, usually a bad something. I have paid that fee about 16million times over. But progressing in one’s writing career means paying a different kind of fee. You must talk to people – actual people – as opposed to the fictional people I usually talk to.

I recently participated in my local Lit Night, put on by Creative Colloquy. Each literary night, allows time for a roster of readers, and then some open mic time. The Colloquy group is incredibly supportive of writers and encourages an atmosphere of positive support. Participating reminded me that actual people aren’t that bad, and that listening to others works gives perspective on my own. My political party of choice, might Introverts Unite!, but being with other writer’s does give me the warm glow of community that is hard to achieve from my couch. So, if you have the urge to be a literary citizen, I recommend paying the fee – go, interact, don’t build a death star. You’ll have a good time, I promise.

The 4 Question Interview

Today Bethany Maines uses her blog space to interview first time novelist J.M. Phillippe about her debut novel Perfect Likeness.

Jennae-tempheadshot160x200J.M. Phillippe has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She worked as a freelance journalist before earning a masters’ in social work. She works as a family therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

PerfectLikeness-Cover_156x250Q1: J.M. Phillippe tells us a little about your book!

A1: My book is about a woman who is not super happy with her everyday life, so she creates a fantasy version of herself and goes off on adventures in her head. But then one day, the fantasy version of herself becomes real — and begins to haunt her. I really wanted to tap into the feeling a lot of people have of not feeling like who they are and the life they live is “good enough.” What would happen if that little voice in your head stepped out of your head and started talking to you as an actual being?

Q2: As a mystery / adventure writer I was intrigued because I felt that the core of Perfect Likeness was Ally’s unraveling the mystery of what was wrong with her, but the book isn’t a traditional mystery. Have you ever written mysteries or were you inspired by mystery novels?
A2:
I love mystery novels and have been reading them since I was a kid. My aunt gave me a complete set of Agatha Christie books and that’s what really started it for me. I particularly like mysteries with strong characters and dark themes, like the Dashiell Hammet books or Elmore Leonard books. But I also love a good sense of humor with my mystery like the Janet Evanovich books. I think ultimately every book has a question it poses, and tries to answer, and there is an element of mystery in more books than people realize. Even the Harry Potter series — every book has a different mystery to solve, but it’s not seen as a “mystery series.” But you also can’t beat a classic “whodunit”.

Q3: What is your number one tip for writing?
A3:
The number one tip I can give other writers is to not listen to any voice in — or outside — your head telling you that you’re not good enough, or what you are writing is not good enough. Embrace the drafting process and get something completed before you judge it — and then revise, revise, revise.

Q4: What are book are you working on next?
A4:
I am actually working on a sort of zombie story, which is very different than Perfect Likeness, although I’m interested in exploring many of the same themes. It’s called “Infected” and is about a woman who is attacked — and doesn’t get away. I’m really enjoying writing the action scenes.

Perfect Likeness is on sale now!

The Reality of Research

On Sale Nov. 17, 2015!

On Sale Nov. 17, 2015!

I don’t always go on vacation, but when I do I prefer to call it research. Part of the fun in writing the Carrie Mae Mysteries featuring a group of super-spy girls is that my characters travel around the world to exotic locales. Which means that if I want to have authenticity in my writing I also need to travel to exotic locales. The problem with this experiential approach to research is that you find yourself thinking, “Where can I find an AR-15 to shoot?” or in the case of my latest manuscript, “Where can I find a plane to jump out of?”

Don’t ask about the boots. I emulate my characters actions, not their keen fashion sense.
As it turns out, the AR-15 is not so hard to find (I called my brother). But jumping out of a plane is a little more expensive and even if you get a Groupon you still only get to tandem jump. And since I have an 18 month old, I don’t really have $200 to throw around on random research. Also, when I mention my new research need (my need for speed) suddenly everyone’s all “But you could die!” Apparently when you become a mother people become even more likely to judge your actions – who knew? And in response I would like to point out that, number one, of course I could die! That’s the point of doing 90% of the fun things in life. And number two, I’m not going to. In 2014 there were 3.2 million jumps and 24 deaths. I’m literally more likely to get hit by bus.

SkydivingBeing the person that I am, that kind of nonsense makes me want to jump out of a plane more just to prove that I won’t die. But that doesn’t change the fact that I still don’t have to $200 to waste on jumping out of a plane for a not truly accurate experience of what it feels like to fly yourself. (But hear this world – I’m not jumping out of a plane because I said so, not because you said so.) But then my genius mother-in-law came up with a great idea (and a great gift): indoor skydiving. It’s a giant wind-tunnel, less than half the cost, and all of the free fall experience. And what did I learn? It’s a lot harder than it looks. And uses a lot more muscles than you might think. And it’s fun. That’s my kind of research.