Are You A Reading Racist?

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Days ago I was reading an article discussing the dissatisfaction of several fans of the book, “Hunger Games”, with the casting of African-American actors/actresses in the recently released hit film based on the book as some of their favorite characters:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/26/hunger-games-racist-tweets-rue_n_1380377.html

This along with all of the racially charged current events that are happening in America right now made me think of the ways that race has played into my actual life as a new author and how it concerns the life of my characters themselves.

An African-American friend of mine was reading my book and must have read some minor implication as to the race of a character when she turns and looks at me with an expression of total shock and says,

“These women are black?”  Continue reading

Home Safety (Podcast)

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Home Safety is a short-short story that I created when I have those experiences where I am home with my alarm set and I know that I am safe, but there is just something, some odd creepiness that won’t let me rest; in this story, I give that experience to you…

03.25.12 Home Safety

JeanNicole Rivers

Writing Frustration and A Creative Way to Push Through

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If you are a writer…an actor, a painter or even a teacher for that matter you know how it feels to be frustrated with your work, everyone does.  I can’t speak for everyone else but as a writer I feel even more frustrated because there are no screaming kids, no condescending director, absolutely no one to be frustrated with except yourself and an inanimate object, the computer.  Usually, frustration sets in at those times when it is just you and the computer and you are staring at a page full of words that do not make sense or a page of no words while you wrestle with your brain in an attempt for it to string together one relatively cognizant thought.  There are many solutions, drink a bottle of scotch, eat an entire pint of cookies and cream (both of these are personal favorites, just don’t do them at the same time…I speak from horrific personal experience), but in college I learned of another, more interesting avenue, more creative and less self-destructive.

Continue reading

Motivation Where Art Thou?

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All of my adult life I have wanted to write a novel, but never had the amount of courage and/or motivation in the right amounts, at the right times to move the project forward.  As I brought in the 2011 New Year, I made a resolution to write a book as I had done several times in the past, but this particular year, I decided to get some outside assistance.  I began surfing the net with terms such as “writing a novel” and I found some websites that motivated me to put the pen to the page…and keep it there.

The first and most important thing that I learned on day one from the following website was that, “writers write”, which sadly enough is not as obvious an idea as it seems.

How to Write a Novel in 100 Days or Less

http://peacecorpswriters.org/pages/depts/resources/resour_writers/100daysbook/bk100da.html

This reminded me of a hilarious dialogue between two of the characters on my favorite television show, which went something like…

Blanch:                 I have writer’s block

Dorothy:              Well tell me, what have you written so far?

Blanch:                 Nothing, that’s how I know I have writers block.

Dorothy:              You have to have written to have writer’s block…or else we all have it.

–          The Golden Girls

I knew that I did not have writer’s block because I had written several things in the past, in high school and college and I was full of imagination, but I had not written anything recently and it was not for lack of ideas, it was simply a lack of motivation.

I was one of those “writers” who had to feel inspired in order to write something, but this phrase made me realize that was a copout and if I was truly a writer I had to write until I felt inspired…and then write some more.  I came to the realization that the only thing that I needed to begin writing my novel was the motivation to write something, anything, even if it wasn’t great, even if it didn’t flow right, even if the plot was not completely solidified, etc.

First, I started with a fiction story about the complicated relationships between women, but found myself getting stuck at different points in the plot, but I remembered what I learned on day one, “writers write”.  Determined not to give up, I thought that maybe writing a book of short stories was a challenge more suited to me at the time…still a book, right?  I wrote two stories that I thought were decent and began the third story, which was a tale about the disappearance of a teenage girl and how it affected the lives of her close-knit group of friends. Every day the story became longer until one day I woke up to my computer and decided that this was my novel.  Without the motivation to keep writing, despite the obstacles, I would have never reached the finish line.

Below are some of the websites that kept me motivated.

Writer’s digest                                  http://www.writersdigest.com/

Novel Endeavors                              http://www.novelendeavors.com/

National Novel Writing Month   http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Create Space                                       https://www.createspace.com/

If there is a writer somewhere inside of you, put the pen to the paper and keep it there until she comes out.

JeanNicole Rivers

https://www.createspace.com/pub/community/give.review.do?id=1092178&rewrite=true

Anatomy of a Genre

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Long ago I realized that I had a deep love of reading which soon grew into a love of writing.  I always thought that one day I would write the great American novel, after I ran a marathon and traveled all over the world, of course.  After some years I realized the last two things on my list probably would not happen anytime soon and I decided to go for the first.  I have always loved books, stories and movies in the horror/thriller genre, but as an adult I also grew to love fiction books that explore love, family relationships and human behavior in an array of daily conditions.

Over the years I sat at my desk in sporadic bouts of determination to reach my goal and tried to churn out classic literature that would compete with Toni Morrison or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but soon realized that I was consistently up against a brick wall and I wondered why.  I realized that in order for me to change my unsuccessful luck at writing a book I had to figure out the problem. After deep, sometimes harsh self-reflection I realized that I did not have any earthly idea of what I was trying to write about.  I love to read great fiction literature, but I did not quite understand the anatomy of the story:

            –           The characters

            –           The struggle

            –           The flow

            –           The conclusion

Every type of story has an anatomy and working with this anatomy is what makes writers of that genre unique and different, but being able to adhere to the anatomy is what makes the story possible.

Horror/thriller fiction, I knew.  I could recite the Nightmare on Elm Street nursery rhyme before I knew my ABC’s.  I have been watching horror movies ever since I could sit up and I understood completely how the story was supposed to work.  Years of trying to write a classic piece of fiction had failed, but when I finally sat down, waved my white flag and wrote about something I knew, “the words poured forth like liquid from a stream”.

I will always be on a mission to conquer all genres, but I am very happy with the accomplishment of finishing my first novel in horror/thriller fiction.

JeanNicole Rivers

Yours Truly

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I am yours truly, ripe and unruly

Blood, black, blitz, fact

Striding in gloriously on the back of illusion

Bolted tightly down with the nails of confusion

Pull me down, sweep me up and rip out all that I have

Bloody your face with it and I will smile

Drag me through the wet dirt mile by mile and I am happily muddied

By the chest pounding, stomach fluttering, heart aching emotion

Not to be termed quite as love but riding close enough

By the authentic emotion for me to feign vexation

But, now, here you stand threatening me with sensible notions of

Health and purpose and I spit on them and dismiss them without thought

Warning you, retreat and cease testing the boundaries of dysfunction

Marked by you in the quick sand with your spiked whip

Else chancing you not survive the inquisition

For all the untamed angst and slippery lust and beastly passion

Once laid down for you could be provoked to rise up against you

The cross that finally drives you into the ground

For today and forever I am yours truly

Extremely ripe, ripped, damaged, blasphemous

And very, very unruly.

JeanNicole Rivers

Little Did She Know…

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Julie Gladmore was sitting in bed in a violet, silk robe smoking a cigarette when I walked into her bedroom. I was covered in black, head to toe, from the cap on my head down to the combat boots that I wore on my feet. She finished off her nightly bedtime routine by spraying herself with an expensive fragrance that I immediately recognized. Her heart was pumping thru her chest and I could tell that she was momentarily startled but not at all surprised by my sudden presence when she looked up.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk, Julie, you do know that smoking can cause death, don’t you?” I warned her.

“Jessica.” She spoke my name solemnly.

“My daughter loves that perfume. She has been begging me for it for the past couple of months, but I keep telling her that I cannot justify a 13-year-old owning a $200.00 bottle of perfume.” I laughed to myself with exhilaration. Only once in my past had I felt this surging of power through my body as it pumped my relentless blood. On an every day basis I was a mild-mannered soccer…well actually, softball mom whose biggest care was which detergent to use to get the stains out of my daughter’s and husband’s clothes but there were times when I was wild, an uncontrollable lusty beast with a blood thirst to fulfil my desires at any cost.

“Jessica, I have not told anyone, I swear.” Julie pleaded and the desperation inched out of her eyes more with every passing moment. Her shaking hand rested the cigarette in the ashtray on her night stand next to an empty wine glass.

“…but you know…” I whispered longingly.

“No, no, I don’t!” She backtracked in vain as I pulled out the gun.

“Oh, Julie! I really hate to do this. It’s not your fault…really it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” I told her so that she would know that there were no hard feelings.

“Over the years you would always comment that Gretchen looked nothing like her father or I and everyone would laugh it off because that is common and no one would have ever suspected that Gretchen was not my daughter. It was all just a big joke, until a week ago when we were watching TV, isn’t that right Julie? That damned mystery show just HAD to re-air her case and with a picture of what she would look like today. It didn’t really even look like her.” I laughed.

“…but you knew. Right, then and there you put the pieces together and you knew and you tried to hide it, but I could see it all over your face and I knew that it would just be a matter of time before you told.” I finished.

“Why?” Julie asked moving slowly trying to inconspicuously place herself in a position to run while distracting me with her ridiculous question.

“BECAUSE I WANTED A BABY! And I couldn’t have one so I took one. I set a fire in her nursery and I just walked out the back door with her snuggled in my arms. Most people assumed her little newborn body had just been lost in the massive fire.” I explained neatly.

“You won’t get away with this. I won’t go down without a fight.” Julie protested just as I could tell that she was beginning to feel woozy.

“Oh, yes you will darling, that is what the sleeping pills are for.” I smiled. An “O” of surprise formed on her mouth as she felt her body weaken and melt back into the bed.

“My husband…” Julie spoke weakly. “I told him and he will figure this out! He won’t let you get away with it.”

At that point, I walked up to her when I realized that she was too faint to put up much of a fight and I got close enough to look directly into her eyes.

“No you didn’t, Julie! How do you think that I got in here?” I asked. “You’re husband came to me and he made no mention of our little secret.”

Her eyes widened in despair.

“Oh yes! I got so caught up in my own agenda that I forgot to tell you that your husband no longer loves you and he wants you dead too. This is just not your week, darling! He came to me and as far as he is concerned I am doing him a huge favor for which he will forever be indebted.”

Her body was incredibly limp now, but she was still conscious so I went on, considering that she was going to die for all of the this, the least that I could do was explain what was going on.

“Your husband is at my home right now. Gerald came over and gave me his key, I rode my bike over here and used his key to come in. My husband is out of town and Gretchen is staying over, at a friends. We will say that he came over to talk for a while, after all, we are old friends. He is my alibi and I am his. No one will suspect a thing.” I could see her eyes shift toward the gun.

“I don’t plan to use this. It’s just a prop.” I pointed the gun at her face and fired which caused the toy to make a inconsequential clicking sound.

“I just brought this to keep you in line. What do you think, I’m a monster or something? I could never shoot anyone. You are going to drop your lit cigarette on this hideous rug and it is going to catch fire which will spread to these thick drapes and burn this house like a paper plane, I am sure of it. I’ve done this before. Similar to the way you fell asleep last year with a cigarette in your hand…after a few drinks I might add.” I snickered at how her previous folly was aiding in my crime.

“What a disaster!” I reminisced.

By this time she was completely unable to speak, but her eyes said it all; they were frozen in fear.

“Don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing!” I assured her as I picked up an oversized pillow that lay next to her and placed it tightly upon her face. Her body moved slightly but the drugs that Gerald put into her wine earlier that night were rendering her almost completely powerless by this time and suffocating her could not have been easier. When I removed the pillow from her face her eyes were still wide open, frozen with that same fear and for a moment I thought that maybe she was still alive, but she wasn’t. She was dead. I took her cigarette from the ashtray on the night stand and placed it on the plush rug where I lit a fire. Next, I went to the heavy drapes and I began another fire there and finally on her bedspread I started the last fire and I headed for the door confident that my secret was secure once again.

I turned and walked back to the night stand where I picked up the clear ornate bottle.

“There is no reason why Gretchen shouldn’t have the perfume.” I told Julie before I walked out of her room, out of her home, locked the door behind me and set off triumphantly on my bike with her home burning brightly behind me.

JeanNicole Rivers

Beware of Alligators and Snakes

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Constantly, I am inspired by things around me. I have made it a point to begin carrying my camera with me everywhere I go so that I can capture some of the infinite inspiration in the world and keep it with me. The picture posted with this blog is one that I took close to my home and I am always reminded of a conversation about it that went as follows:

Friend: We should go and take a walk over there.

Me: I’m not going over there, there are alligators and snakes.

Friend: There are no alligators or snakes over there, I have never seen any.

Me: If there weren’t any, there wouldn’t be a sign.

I pass this warning every day and every time I see it, I get goose-flesh and if I were to write a story inspired by it, it would begin like this…

My little brother Bo didn’t want to go. My friend Trish and I knew we shouldn’t march the foreboding mile west of my family’s farm on that dreary day when the sky spit sporadic spurts of dirty rain water down on us when it felt moved to. It took us many months to gain the courage to seek out the abandoned land where we had been told by my crazy uncle Larry that someone may have left behind an alligator pond. Trish and I teased Bo the entire way, goading him with names like “Fraidy Cat”. When we finally arrived we were chilled by the sign that warned us and almost could not believe that this place even existed, but we were just as quickly unimpressed by the calm and serene seeming water.

“There’s nothing in there!” Trish whined as she picked up a large stone and launched it into the water.

Now that I sit here in the rush of people moving around me, my mother screaming hysterically, Trish bawling in the corner with Bo’s blood covering every inch of my dress I wish we would have listened when he told us, “Just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t really there.”

JeanNicole Rivers