The Summer of Frustration: My Summer of Striving to Write Realistic Mental Illness, Professional first Translation Projects, and Getting Myself Interested in my own writing again

I feel like I’m stuck in a rut when it comes to my writing. I have to admit that I haven’t been able to move the plot line of Mind Terrorist forward because I just feel iffy about the scene I’m currently writing. In it, Lenore has wandered away from a bar and her friends and gotten herself lost in Prague. She gets picked up by the police in the city park and tries to evade arrest by running. (For those of you just passing by, I should mention that Lenore is no ordinary special flower. She’s just had a mental breakdown and is trekking through Europe intending to kill the man she believes is controlling her thoughts. Her friends know this and this is why the police were called.) I’m hesitant about finishing this scene, because afterwards I’m unsure where the story is going. I can’t decide if I want her to spend a night in jail or spend the night with her friends (who have become more pushy and less patient with her). It’s too early in the book for her to land in the hospital. I don’t want this to be a hospital novel, because I feel like the niche market for books about people struggling with mental illness is overpopulated by narrators in mental institutions and psych wards–I mean, that’s the most obvious place you’d look when you want to find people who are mentally ill. But the reality of the situation (and I’m more interested in my book being realistic and believable) is that the police would probably take her to the hospital, and the hospital would try to find a way to keep her since she is such an extreme danger to herself and others.

I’ve kind of switched gears this summer because of the frustration I’m having with the plot of Mind Terrorist. I’m finishing a translation project I started for a friend. My friend asked me to translate a few German language interviews with two bands we really like to English so that she could read the interview. I’m fortunate to be in contact with one of the interviewees, so if I have any uncertainties about his intended meaning of a statement or if I have trouble interpreting the mood of the conversation (the first and third parts are a round table discussion between three people), I can just run the question by him. Of course, I don’t want to irritate him–he is busy–but I am striving to translate it so that the original meaning and message of the articles are not lost. (That happens sometimes with more experienced translators, and since this is my first major translation project, I know I’m not a seasoned professional yet and I don’t want to mess it up!)

The other project I’ve switched gears to is a long-running fantasy project that I have no immediate plans to publish, but that I work on between major projects or when I’m feeling demotivated about my current project. This summer, I intend to hammer out one of the major details of my fantasy world: the fashion. Luckily, I found a doll designing template on http://www.dolldivine.com for the Showtime series, “The Tudors” that features gowns and clothing visually similar to what I envisioned for my fantasy series. Also, the template is not so strict that I have to make things exactly in the way that designers of that time period would have done them, it allows me to take various clothing details from the period and mix and match them into the kind of outfit I was envisioning. I feel like I’m wasting a lot of time doing this, but the clothing worn by my characters is a lot of the times important to the central plot. (For example, one of my female characters helps free another from the dungeons by switching clothes with her.) However, I need to minimize the amount of time I’m spending on Doll Divine making dolls, because I found myself spending the entire afternoon yesterday just making duplicate outfits for one of my characters for a certain part of the book when she is probably going to be in her nightgown about 70% of the time. I think my next mini-maintenance project for my fantasy novel will be sorting out my world’s religious practices and customs, because I’m finding this is another hole in my world that I can’t visualize through what I’ve already written.

So where do you think I should go with Mind Terrorist? I’d love to hear opinions from people in the comments, especially if they have any experience dealing with severely mentally ill people. My problem is that I don’t want the story to suddenly become unrealistic, but I also don’t want it to turn into a hospital novel. Confining Lenore to a hospital would halt the action of the story dead in its tracks.  But again, telling a realistic story is also very important to me!

Character Development for my Supernatural Fantasy Project

I am lacking in interesting real-life commentary at the moment, and also lacking in something to do (other than studying, but I feel like my head will explode if I continue to try to force myself to understand German morphology). I’ve just realized I missed the deadline for The First Line Literary Journal’s Summer issue

But I love the prompt. For those of you unfamiliar with The First Line Literary Journal, it’s an online publication which gives its authors a one-sentence writing prompt that they would like each issue (published quarterly) to be centered around. I will probably write something for the fall or winter issue and submit it. Now though, I want to play with the sentence for the upcoming issue. You are also welcome to do so. I am doing so, because I think it would be excellent for one of the characters, Colina, in my fantasy series, Darling, that I am still developing.

The prompt: “I started collecting secrets when I was just six years old.”

I started collecting secrets when I was just six years old. My mother was a chamber maid and always busy cleaning up after rich, young school girls in their pristine, plaid uniforms and at six years of age, I simply had become too big to follow my mother around without being a nuisance or creating some sort of larger mess. The Headmistress, Miss Pritchett, insisted that I either hide in the kitchens or in the help’s quarters.

You can imagine how boring it is for a six-year-old to have to sit in the corner of the kitchen all day, doing nothing so that she doesn’t get in the way and disrupt the natural order of things at the St. Agnes School for girls in Aberdeen. One day, I figured no one would notice if I happened to wander away for a little while–as long as I was back in time for Mum and I to have our dinner. The practically ancient building itself held many secrets just waiting to be discovered. I thought I was just the explorer to do so. I tip-toed from the kitchen, heart beating in my chest over the suspense of my being caught.

Day after day, my daily routine went like this. Mum and I would rise, wash ourselves, have breakfast with the other servants and children, and Mum would go off to her work either in the gardens or assisting in the dining rooms. She’d leave me in the kitchen and tell me to behave myself. I assured that I would. The maids in the kitchen even informed her that I hardly made a peep and it was as if I were not there. As soon as the coast was clear, I stood up from my place in the corner and continued on my adventures around the old school, which was once a convent.

If anyone knew the St. Agnes School for Girls well, it was me. By the age of 12, I had memorized all of the secret tunnels and passageways around the school and to where each tunnel led. Unfortunately though, by the age of 12 I had become just big enough and just smart enough that I could be counted on to start helping Mum in the gardens and dining rooms, and also helping in the kitchens. In my free time though, I continued to make use of the passageways, eventually attracting notice from the students in my teens. But most figured I was just another student who just happened to never wear a uniform. Yeah, I noticed there were a few rebel ladies over the years who didn’t care for the rules set forth by society for them, and who didn’t care to be told what to wear. The headmistress usually set them straight though, and if they weren’t set straight during their time here, chances are they were set straight when they returned back to their parents’ estates or manors in disgrace for unruly behavior. For this reason, I’ve never envied these rich girls. I had more freedom with my tunnels and my woolen articles than these properly primped future homemakers did.

Hei! I’m in Norway for another week

I’m staying in Stavanger, visiting my friend Daniel, for the holidays. We went to see the viking graves in Stavanger yesterday and embarked on some “rural” exploration around the coast. Here are some photos taken by my friend, Daniel Vrangsinn, who may be starting a new career as professional photographer of supermodels. My friends on Facebook all think the photos turned out great and were super flattering. Not to mention, the view was lovely in a Lord of the Rings kind of way.

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