Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “#InternSara”

March Madness Flash Fiction: EMILY by Jolene Haley

TODAY’S BREW: Fancee Mistobox coffee

By Julie

I can’t trust myself not to go on and on about Jolene Haley because my heart bursts with love for the girl. When I was having my roughest time she got a bunch of folks to write what they love about me and made an entire Friday event out of it. She’s there for all of us, whenever we need it, but without that do-gooder vibe that makes a person run, you know? And her jokes are the dirtiest. The DIRTIEST. And there is nothing she doesn’t do. The girl is a miracle. And then she goes and writes stuff like this. Raw, but polished and frightening and heavy-hearted. Beautiful.


by Jolene Haley


It’s whispered behind my back. It’s written on my charts. It’s murmured from professional to professional as they discuss me.

I don’t feel crazy.

I don’t look crazy. I‘m just an average teenage girl. Long blond hair. Brown eyes. Freckle-faced.

I’m not like the rest of the people locked away in Friendly Hills Mental Institution. For one, I don’t walk around drooling or screaming.

One of my favorite authors wrote something that fits these people perfectly. They’re “like haunted houses. The lights were on but no one was home.” That’s what it’s like here. I’m stuck in a house of horrors, complete with wailing.

I’m not dangerous like they say. It’s all a misunderstanding. If they ask Emily, she’ll tell you.

“Layla,” a soothing voice says.  “Ready for your three o’clock?”

Every Tuesday and Thursday at three o’clock sharp I see Dr. Novak, the resident psychologist.

No. I’m not ready.

I hate the doctor. He isn’t making me better. He makes everything worse.

Everyone at Friendly Hills knows that you have to go willingly. If you don’t, you still go. But with a new syringe mark in your flesh.

I slide the paperback back on to the shelf. I’ve read every book in the building three times. Maybe four.

“Sure,” I say, forcing a smile. “I’m ready.”

I know where the psychologist’s office is but the nurse escorts me anyways. The white walls and white floor are accented by white, tattered curtains moving gently in recycled air.

Before I know it, I’m outside the office. The blond woman in scrubs opens the heavy metal door.

I slip through the entrance, letting the door thud close behind me. This entire place smells like burst water pipes and mold.

An empty desk and rusty folding chairs are scattered around the waiting room. There’s another door to the left. This one is propped open. It’s the doctor’s office, so I walk in.

The round, middle aged man stands when I appear.

“Ah, Ms. Barnes,” the man says. Like he didn’t know that I’d be here. Like it’s some sort of pleasant surprise. But it’s Thursday, at 3:00. We both know better. We’ve had this schedule for the last six months.

“Dr. Novak.”

“How are you doing today?” he asks, almost like he genuinely cares. A warm smile spreads across his rosy cheeks. I want to cringe. I want to scream.

Instead I bite my cheeks and reply. “Great.”

He sits back in his seat, his large belly extending over his khaki pants.

“Well, you’re certainly looking well.” Dr. Novak’s eyes travel from my face downward. A shiver runs up my spine. Dr. Novak grins, his lips pulling up at the sides, displaying his yellow teeth.

My eyes slide over his desk. Messy stacks of paper, Bent manila folders full of secrets, stories. I hate that my entire life boils down to one fucking folder, strewn on his desk.

“Why don’t you shut the door,” the doctor suggests.

I didn’t like shutting that door. Nothing good comes after the door is shut.

“No,” I tell him.

A smile spreads on his face in such a strange way, it looks like a snarl. “I can help make you better, Layla. I can fix you.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me.” I’ve told him that since the day I arrived.

“Your family doesn’t see it that way,” the doctor says matter-of-factly. “After all, it’s my report that can get you out of here. Don’t you want a good report?”

Movement catches my attention. We aren’t alone. Emily is here too, peeking out from behind the curtains. How did she sneak in without getting caught? Emily is great at sneaking.

Her long brown hair is stringy and she looks pale. Her hospital gown sags on her shoulders but it doesn’t matter. She’s my best friend. I love her. She won’t let the doctor hurt me.

“I said, shut the door Layla,” Dr. Novak repeats. He’s growing impatient.

I nod and pad over to the wooden door. I peek my head out. My heart sinks. The waiting room is still empty. There’s no one around to help me if I need it. I close the door behind me.

“Pull down the shade,” Dr. Novak instructs me.

I pull it down and turn, leaning against the door. My heart is racing.

Emily gifts me an encouraging smile. One that is wordless but says everything. I’ll protect you. Just like I always do.

“Come here,” the doctor orders.

I want to throw up. Every bone in my body screams for me to run. But where? Every white corridor only leads to three more. Every door is locked. Every window has bars.

“Come here girl,” the doctor orders. “You don’t want me to tell your family that you’ve sunken worse into your madness, do you? Come.”

Come, I think bitterly. Like a dog. Like an obedient pet. I am to come, stay, sit, and roll over whenever he commands.

My gaze travels above the doctor’s head and they’re met by warm brown eyes. Emily moves out from behind the curtain, beckoning me closer.

I take a step towards them both. Then another.

The doctor narrows his eyes at me. “What are you looking at?” He sits up in his chair and turns. I’m afraid that he’ll see her, that we’ll be caught. I don’t want Emily to get in trouble.

Dr. Novak’s gaze moves straight past her, before turning back to me with a look of confusion.

For an all-seeing doctor, he sure is blind. Emily’s right there. Right behind him. And she doesn’t look happy.

Emily lifts her arm and brings it to her neck, dragging her finger across her throat. Then she points at Dr. Novak.

I shake my head. I hate the doctor. But that doesn’t mean I want him dead. Or maybe I just don’t want to be the one to kill him.

Emily won’t understand. She doesn’t forgive. She doesn’t forget. And Emily wants Dr. Novak dead.

Emily points to the doctor’s desk.

My eyes wander over the mess. Amongst the files and papers there is one thing that catches my attention: a pair of large, sharp scissors.

“Layla, come here now,” the doctor demands, frustrated. “You’re being naughty. You ought to listen to your doctor. I know best.”

Dr. Novak settles back in his chair, tilting it so far backwards that for a moment I’m afraid that he’ll topple over into Emily.

I tiptoe to the edge of his desk, a scream settling in my throat. After all, who will hear? It’s no use. I don’t like to fight it. The doctor likes a struggle.

I run my fingers along the desk. The scissors are close. Very close. I can have them in my hands in a matter of seconds.

Emily nods encouragingly. Her nod says it for her, “Do it. End him. He doesn’t deserve to live.”

I don’t want to hurt anyone. Just like I didn’t want to hurt anyone last time. But Emily is never wrong.

“That’s it, girl,” Dr. Novak murmurs. “Just a little closer so we can begin our session.” He chuckles. I grimace.

“Do it,” Emily whispers. Dr. Novak doesn’t seem to notice.

I step around the desk stopping inches from his chair. He clasps his sweaty hand around my wrist. “Thata girl,” Dr. Novak coos.

“If you don’t, I will,” Emily warns me, standing right behind him. “And I’ll make him suffer.”

My eyes travel back to the scissors. They’ll do the job nicely.

Dr. Novak places one of my hands on his knee.

“He deserves it! He hurt me too. Don’t let him get away with it!” Emily’s shouting now. Her brown eyes are darker, cold. Her wispy hair is swaying, like there’s a draft in this windowless room. “Do it! Kill him!” she screams.

Emily’s right. He deserves it.

The doctor chuckles, grabbing my hand and inching it down his thigh. Then, he releases me, wrapping his hands around the back of his neck. He trusts me to keep going. He knows that I don’t want a bad report.

“Now!” Emily screams. Her dark eyes gleaming with bloodlust. “Just there,” she points to the doctor’s neck. “Jam them right in and twist.”

I keep my right hand on the doctor’s leg and with my left, I grab the scissors.

I stare at his neck, covered tightly with a stained button-down shirt and tie. The veins in his neck are crimson streams that soon will be set free.

I raise my hand, the shining scissors clasped tightly.

This is for Emily.

Emily dances with glee behind the doctor, waiting for the moment to come. She’s enjoying this. She always does.

“Doctor,” I say quietly, so not to alarm him.

“Yes?” he asks. His eyes are still shut. A smug smile is plastered on his face.

I clear my throat and perfect my aim. “I think my madness is getting worse.”

Emily rears her head back, screaming in laughter. She knows I’m not crazy. She knows that he deserves this.

The doctor’s eyes snap and land on the scissors pointed at his neck.

Before he has time to react, Emily grabs my hand. Just like last time. Just like all the other times. Before I can blink, the scissors are in his neck. Twisting. Turning. Setting his sin free, which comes out in squirts.

Emily’s hand is still on mine, pushing the scissors deeper.

“Oh yes,” she laughs. “Your madness is much worse.”

She giggles so loud it muffles the other sounds. The drips. Gurgles. Murmurs. Pleas.

I realize Emily isn’t the only one laughing. I am too. Giggling. Dancing.

Emily and I whirl around, holding the scissors in the air like a treasured pet.

The door opens, the blond nurse from earlier gasps. Her face twists up in horror and fear. She plasters herself against the office door. She screams.

I look over at Emily. Maybe she has an escape plan. But there, just where she was a moment before, she is gone.

Emily is gone.

Jolene Haley is an author and the curator of the best-selling horror anthology The Dark Carnival through Pen & Muse Press. She also runs a YA horror blog The Midnight Society and the author resource site Pen & Muse.. She writes every genre under the sun, but prefers horror. When she’s not writing she can be found cuddling her two dogs and enjoying the beach, where she lives.

Founder of The Midnight Society  |   Co-founder of Pen & Muse
Also hangs at    |   Moonbeams & Mischief 
Tweet me!  @JoleneHaley 

The Education of Intern Sara: Self Reflection and Independence


That’s the one word that really sums up my love for writing.

Yes, it’s a wonderful creative outlet.
But I have many others.

Yes, it gives me control over the world I create.
But I’ve had gigs that gave me that too.

What I love about writing that is different, so far, is that I work alone and I answer to no one. I have complete independence from everyone and everything and that is a true gift.

I can create limitlessly and boundlessly and the only way I can be bound is if I for some reason chose to be. It’s a choice I can make whenever I want. It’s a choice I can unmake but I have to freedom and independence to choose either way.

Reconnecting with writing has been so great for me. It’s been a wonderful creative vehicle as an artist but more than that it has been cathartic for me. A wonderful and freeing way to release ideas and emotions that might not have a place to go or a way to be expressed if it were not for these worlds.

Knowing what I know now, I’d love to tell everyone out there willing to listen, that they too can have this kind of independence. It doesn’t have to be scary or pressure filled. It can just be … free.

So if you are thinking about it and fear is the only thing keeping you from doing it, all I can say is…


The Education of Intern Sara: Self Reflection Maya Angelou & Rereading Old Favorites

I feel fortunate to have experienced many of life’s joys and privileges and yet I still want more. Enter reading. Reading is that gift that the world has offered us that allows us to fill in those gaps and allows us to experience things that we wouldn’t experience otherwise. We are able to see places, learn things, and react to moments that weren’t meant for us. Maya Angelou’s life was exceptional, beyond what most of us will ever experience, and although I’m glad that I haven’t experienced her pain, there’s something to be said for being able to take that journey with her.


I read Maya Angelou’s first book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” in my late teens and was completely captivated by her words and her story. Decades later, I can still see many of the images she painted in my mind as if they were my own. Some of her memories are full of heart and charm while others are haunting and painful, but all are vivid and will forever live alongside my own memories.


I was heartbroken, last month when I heard that she had passed away. I also felt a little guilty. Before I ever finished her reading her first book, I knew I wanted to read it again. I felt that way about all of her books and had promised myself I would at the very least reread “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry like Christmas” because they were my favorites. At several points every year, I tell myself I will do it. I used to own all of Maya’s autobiographies and in my desire to share her words with others, I lent them out never to see them again. I wondered if I should repurchase them or borrow them from the library. Should I get paperback or hardcover? Should it be a hard-copy or digital?” Decades had passed and I was still asking myself those questions. I had yet to reread either book.


Within days of Maya Angelou’s passing, I decided I just needed to go to the library and get them. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was waiting for me on the shelf. The library gods had decided that I should start at the beginning and as soon as I got home, I started rereading.


Her words were as beautiful as I remembered but in spite of this, I knew that I wasn’t going to finish reading her book. I only read five chapters and then put it down. I may not remember everything, but I know that a lot of terrible things happened to her as a child and I wasn’t ready to re-experience that. I put the book down and haven’t picked it up since. I’m not sure that I will, at least not for a while.


I guess as much as I love this book, and as much as I’d like to read it again, there is something inside me that knows that I’m not ready yet. It is more powerful than I am and I need to respect that. Maya Angelou and her caged bird will have to wait. Perhaps I will have better luck singin’ and swingin’ with her, only time will tell.


I may not have reread Maya Angelou yet, but I did make good on two other promises. There are four books that I count as my favorites. In addition to Maya Angelou’s autobiographies are Mick Fleetwood’s, “My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac” and Dolly Parton’s, “My Life and Other Unfinished Business.” I made good on my promise and reread them both, one after the other.


Are they still great books? Absolutely. Are they still my favorites? I’m not sure. I experienced them so differently this time. They were wonderful, but there was nothing shocking or new about them. These were stories that I had read before. Perhaps that’s why I was afraid of rereading them and perhaps that’s why it took me over two decades to do so. It’s only new the first time and two decades of life experiences will alter your opinion about things.


Perhaps when I reread Maya, hers will no longer be my favorite books either. Who knows? I just know that I am not ready to find out. Perhaps I’m meant to discover new favorites or perhaps this is my time to just write.


Here’s to making time for writing, making time for reading, and finding new favorites.

The Education of Intern Sara: Lessons Learned from Tom and Jerry [part one]

I’ve had many favorite cartoons over the years, He-man, Jem, and the one with that little boy Simon who had a piece of chalk (if you’re old enough you’ll know who I’m talking about). All fantastic, truly, but there’s one show that I’ve always adored and have never stopped watching and that show is “Tom and Jerry.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there’s something to be said for a tiny little mouse that has been outwitting a cat nearly twenty times his size for seventy-four years. Seventy-four years!!! What is it about this duo that makes them so compelling. The thing that really blows my mind is that neither Tom nor Jerry speak (okay, I remember a voice coming out of Tom once or twice, it always surprises and me and always kinda bums me out). You do hear dialogue from b-characters like Spike the Dog, (and another dog called Butch who looks suspiciously like Spike), faceless humans, little ducky, and that cute little baby mouse but don’t ever speak and they are the ones telling the story.

So here’s the thing, this show has been on in many iterations for over seven decades, with little to no dialogue, relying on a visual story, and often some pretty great music. As a TV producer (what I do in my other life) I’m always in awe of fellow producers, writers and directors who create such iconic characters and keep them fresh generation after generation. It’s a feather I would love to have in my cap so I’ve decided that “Tom and Jerry” is worthy of a good study. I’ve also decided that whatever I learn MUST be useful to me not only as a producer, but also as a writer. After all, dialogue or no dialogue, someone has been writing these episodes for a very long time. I’m on the hunt for a connection between writing a script for a non-verbal animated television show and writing a book. Hopefully it won’t be a fool’s errand.

So and exciting thing happened a couple of weeks ago. I was watching my daily dose of the mouse and cat duo (see how I did that, I noted the mouse first, he’s where it’s at) and I saw what was possibly the coolest episode of “Tom and Jerry.” Even better, it looked like a really old episode that I had never seen before. I can’t even remember the last time that that happened. I feel like I’d seen all the classics. At any rate, the universe smiled upon me and gifted me an airing of an episode called, “The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit”

It starts with a narrator saying,

“Anyone can now enter the lucrative field of animated cartoons with the new Tom and Jerry cartoon kit.”

Oh my God! I’m dying. I sooooo want this kit! It’s a cartoon box (naturally) filled with the following;

ó A cat aka Tom

ó A mouse aka Jerry

ó A cartoon slice of watermelon (why does cartoon food always look like it tastes so damn good?)

ó Assorted tools/weapons (a hammer, some dynamite…)

ó A tea cup and saucer filled with steaming hot tea, along with a packet of sugar and a spoon for stirring (again, why does cartoon food always look like so damn good?

ó And what looks like a pack of cigarettes (can you imagine adding that to a cartoon nowadays? Sheesh!)

The narrator continues, 

“This kit contains everything needed for quiet, sophisticated humor. One mean, stupid, cat, one sweet, lovable, mouse, and assorted deadly weapons. The coffee and cigarettes are for the cartoonists. Just follow the simple instructions.”

I’m dying. The secrets to their success are about to be revealed. Ready for it?

The narrator continues once more,

“Just follow the simple instructions. First put the sweet, lovable, mouse into a simple situation expressing a natural human need, such as eating a piece of watermelon contained in our kit.”

Oh, that’s what the watermelon is for. Gotcha.

“The result may not make sense but it will last long enough to make you comfortable before the feature begins.”

Thank you very much Mr. Narrator, I will take over from here… 

Jerry eats said watermelon and spits the seeds out machine gun style hitting Tom in the head with every last one (remember watermelon seeds, you don’t really see those much anymore do you, I digress).

Tom then goes after Jerry with the hammer supplied in the kit, but instead of hitting him with the hammer, he flicks him in the butt with his finger (weird, I know) and this causes Jerry to accidentally swallow a mouth full of seeds.

Soon he realizes his body is making maracas type sounds and he starts dancing to generate said sounds to accompanying music. He dances his way into a canister being held by Tom who decides it his turn to do a short dance sequence. When his homemade maracas stops working, he opens it up to see what’ happening and Jerry sprays him with the seeds that were just in his belly (gross).

Next there’s a chase which leads Jerry to a book called, “Judo For Mice” which he speed-reads. There’s some cat-and-mouse judo action, followed by a short scene where Tom goes to a boxing gym, and trains to be a great boxer, and then there’s some cat-and-mouse Judo/Boxing action. Actually, that never really happens, Tom showboats all his fancy boxing moves and wears himself out before he ever hits Jerry.

Next Tom pulls a knife on Jerry but he is unsuccessful. Finally he decides to fight fire with fire and goes to Judo school and graduates with degree in hand.

Now it’s on!

Jerry demonstrates his Judo skills by breaking a wooden board with his hand.

Tom takes it to the next level and breaks a brick with his hand.

Next, Jerry breaks a cement block with his hand.
Finally, Tom tries to outdo Jerry by attempting to break a massive piece of marble in two with his hand.

Sadly this never happens because the floor caves in from the weight of it all.

The narrator returns and tells us,

“Our next film will be for the kiddies and will demonstrate a new poison gas. Thank you and good night.”

The audience gets closure when Jerry finds the lid of the cartoon kit box and slaps it on a defeated and nearly passed out Tom.

HILARIOUS! Not to mention wildly inappropriate for children. Maybe it’s better that I don’t remember seeing this episode as a kid. At any rate, we have a few tips here about what it takes to set up a great story and how to keep the audience entertained but I’ve decided that this requires further study. For one thing, paying attention to an episode to break it down kinda takes the joy out of it but if it gets me the answers I’m looking for, the sacrifice will be worth it. I’ll also say that I realize that reading a play-by-play transcript of a cartoon show was probably equally, if not more painful to you my reader and for that I apologize. That being said, I still believe that there’s something to be learned here. For one thing, if I had intended to write this episode as a book, instead of just giving you a play-by-play of the action, I would have had to think A LOT more about what was happening between these characters and describe it much more differently. I would have to SHOW you what they were doing so you could conjure the images in your mind instead of just telling you what happened. I would also have to give you a sense of who they are, and why they are there together. I took the liberty of assuming that you know who Tom is, what he looks like, how he feels about Jerry and so on.

If there’s a connection to be made between a television script for a no-dialogue program and a book that relies entirely on words to tell a story, I will find it. I don’t have all of the answers right now, but I’m taking the journey, and I’ll send you postcards along the way. Oh, and I also promise to spare you the play-by-play on any more episodes. 

Fun Facts About this Episode

The age rating on this cartoon according to my satellite provider is “5” and notes that it may be “iffy for 5+” 

This episode had a copyright date of MCMLXII (which I believe is 1962)

The Education of Intern Sara: Random Sharing

ImageHappy National Dougnut Day!

Yesterday ended with me eating a whole lot of delicious things that I didn’t necessarily want to eat but enjoyed just the same. It was all-good until I started feeling a slight tightness in my chest. I decided that this was either and early 40th birthday present and/or a physical reminder not to eat all of that crap ever again. In case you were wondering, my binge included some Pepperidge Farm cookies, not my favorites mind you, but they were good just the same, some Trace Adkins (yes the country singer) ice cream in Maple Macadamia Mashup, which was AMAZING, and an assortment of other crap I don’t ordinarily eat. I would tell you what it was, but I honestly can’t remember. I decided to enjoy my little binge, the ensuing tightness-in-the-chest, and just not do it again, EVER.

So I went to bed pondering if that EVER part was even possible, and I know it’s not, but I figured I’d at least not do it for a while. I woke up this morning, feeling slightly less heart-attacky and found myself a nice little writing sprint. Yah!!! I LOVE writing sprints. I especially love writing sprints in the morning. I really, really, love writing sprints in the morning when I find one by accident. I did more rewriting and adding on than fresh writing, but enjoyed it just the same. I got in 1294 words and feel a sense of accomplishment that I will take with me the rest of the day. Perfect day so far, and then it happened, my inner foodie found out it was National Donut Day.


This. Is. Not. Good.

Here’s the thing about donuts. I don’t really even like them that much. I’m not saying that I hate them. That would be a lie. They are faaaar too delicious, carbohydratey and sugary to ever hate. But like a lot of other sweet things, the lure far outweighs the actual taste or enjoyment. They’re kind of like drugs. I’ve never understood the lure of drugs, and have never done any but when faced with sugary treats I sort of understand the feeling. You know they are bad for you, nothing good will come from doing them, but you want to do them anyway. Maybe, just maybe, you enjoy the first hit of that donut, but the second bite is never as good and from there on it’s just down hill. Then you have that sugar-high-food-coma feeling. Then you come down. You realize you feel like crap, tell yourself you’ll never do it again, and then inevitably, you do.

That being said, I really want to partake in National Dougnut Day.

I know. I suck, but my inner foodie insists. I think holidays are important and should be celebrated, especially the ones that involve food, candy, and presents. And besides, not ALL donuts are bad. I quite enjoy the occasional Dunkin Donuts jelly munchkin, and I had a wonderful visit at VooDoo Dougnut in Seattle, WA . I had a mango donut, which I thought was orange (don’t ask, it was good just the same) and the blueberry cake donuts that 7-Eleven carries are sort of heavenly. It’s all-good until the chest pains start. The one donut I TRULY with-all-my-heart love and always enjoy is Dunkin Donuts Boston Kreme Donut. The balance of chocolate glaze, light donut and cream filling is just, amazing! I’m certain I make “nom-nom-nom” sounds when I eat them. I only have one complaint about them, seeing the letter “k” in place of the letter “c” really revolts me. I don’t know why, it just irks me. I’m all for alternate spellings. I’m pretty sure I used a slew of them in the post, but the “k” in “kreme” just bothers me. If Dunkies would just change the spelling back to “cream” or even “crème” instead of “kreme” I would be greatly appreciative. Please and thank you.

All this thinking about National Doughnut Day, which by the way started in 1938, and came about because of a military doctor who along with helping wounded soldiers, also gave them a donut. This kindness led to a history of donuts being distributed to soldiers, and the holiday honors those men and women who served the treats. These days, it’s just a great excuse to get a free donut and ponder why cream is spelled with a “k.”

By the way, your chances of scoring a free donut are pretty good.

Enjoy the heart attacky feeling. After all, the only thing better than a donut, is a free donut.





The Education of Intern Sara: Self Reflection & My Three-Month Anniversary

My Three-Month Anniversary with the Undead Duo

Disclaimer: If you don’t like love-fests, please don’t read this

So, I’ve been having a harder and harder time writing for this blog lately. Maybe it’s because I still can’t believe that anyone would actually be interested in reading what I have to say (although I soooo appreciate it when someone does) or maybe it’s because I haven’t, as of late, had a minute to assess my thoughts on my own writing deeply enough to reflect on it. I’d like to think it’s because I’m so into actually writing my book that that’s all I really want to do anymore. In truth it’s probably a little bit of everything. Or maybe I just miss seeing Kristen and Julie and am lacking the inspirational motivation they offer (it’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve had a meeting).

I definitely feel something is missing when I don’t get to meet with the Undead Duo ladies. It’s inspiring to hear about what they are working on and to be able to pick up on their insights and methods. I always learn something and it often makes it’s way into what I’m working on. Not meeting with them makes me realize a couple of things.

First, I know that I would probably still be THINKING about writing these books rather than spending time each day CRAFTING WORDS into stories. That’s HUGE and I will forever be grateful. I know that I am ultimately doing this because I want to and need to, and I have things I want to say, but there is something to be said for knowing that I have two people who are genuinely excited about reading my book, and who are supporting me while I take this journey. Now, all I have to do is just write it.

Second, I learn A LOT from these two. They have been through what I’m going through right now and have incredible insights to offer. Even though I’ve been learning a lot about writing, just by doing it, There are things that I learn from Julie and Kristen that I’m not going to realize on my own, at least not as quickly. I’m looking forward to learning more from them as we continue to meet. 

I should mention that this past Monday marked my three-month anniversary as INTERN SARA. To date I’ve written over 30,000 words and 8 blog posts. It has been an amazing three-month ride and I’m looking forward to the next three and the three after and so on.

Thank you Kristen and Julie. And with that, I will conclude the love-fest

The Education of Intern Sara: Self Reflection and the Importance of Outlining

I started writing my first book a couple-few months ago. I’ve written over 20,000 words and I’ll admit I’m pretty damned pleased with myself. I know the 20,000 words I’ve written aren’t all gems, far from it. I’ll probably end up rewriting over half of them, but after years of mind-writing I’m glad to have something down on paper.

The question I had been dealing with the last couple of months was whether or not I should have started with an outline. It’s never really been a question, it was more of an inner struggle that I had been having with myself since I started writing. The thing is, I know I should have started with an outline but I didn’t. I was so ready to do this writing thing that I wanted to capitalize on my excitement. I knew that if I just started writing that I would be writing and that’s what I needed to do.

I wrote nearly every day for about two months and got my 20,000 words, and yes, I was pleased with myself. The problem was, that I kept promising myself that I would stop writing long enough to do the outline but I never did. Day after day I would just lunge into writing. I figured I would get to it one of these days and besides, the words were just flowing.

In the meantime I had started researching and planning the next book I intended to write. I knew that the second book would be done the right way. I wasn’t going to write one word until I had fully conceptualized the main characters and outlined the book complete with noting where significant scenes would go. This was an ongoing project and the outline didn’t need to be done until the first book was nearing completion.

Two and a half weeks ago, I was gearing up to do my daily dose of writing. I had discovered writing sprints and they are my writing mode of choice now. I feel much more focused when I am sprinting, the writing comes more easily when I write with others. I was waiting for the designated time to start but realized something. I had no idea what I needed to write. This hadn’t happened to me before. In the two months I had been writing, I would just put my hands on my keyboard, or pencil on paper, and the ideas would just flow from my mind through my hands.

I finally hit the writing-wall. You know, where you know that you have a lot to say but you can’t remember what it is. I was just kind of stuck. I hadn’t by any means run out of things to say, I just couldn’t remember what they were and now I knew that I had to stop and just do the damn outline. 

I opened up a new word doc, and tried to concentrate on this book that I had been writing. I knew that once I started outlining it would just flow. I was wrong. Instead, I started thinking about my next project. I realized that I had spent two months really thinking about what I wanted to write for that project and that if any outline were going to get done that day, it would be the outline for book two. I quickly started outlining book two and within an hour I had a solid outline. I could see these characters so clearly, I understood things about them that I have yet to know about the characters that I’ve been writing for the last two months and with this realization, I knew what I had to do.

I needed to stop putting the cart before the horse with this book. My story and my characters deserve the same thought and care that I gave to book two and now I was going to give myself the time to do that. I put my 20,000 words on the backburner and started working on “book two” immediately.

I’ve been working on “book two” for nearly three weeks now and to date I’ve written a little over 12,000 words. If I didn’t already know the importance of writing an outline, I’d be sold on it now. I end each writing session knowing that I wrote something much better than I would have had I not outlined this book. Sure, I will end up rewriting what needs to be rewritten and killing darlings here and there, but I’m certain that this writing far exceeds what I was doing before, largely because of the time I put into it before I started writing.

In reflecting on the two paths, I know which path is right for me. Outlining is the only way to go. That being said, I don’t have any regrets about my 20,000-word experiment. For one thing, bad, good or great, I have 20,000 words to work with when I resume work on that book. More importantly, I did what I intended to do. I cashed in on my enthusiasm for writing and established a writing habit. In less than three months, I’ve written over 32,000 words, all of which have the potential of making it into my two books, getting me 32,000 words closer to my goal of completing a novel. My advice, do what you’ve got to do to get yourself writing, and get to that outline as soon as you can. It’s a life-changer.

The Education of Intern Sara: Lessons Learned from Kat Von D (& a bunch of other people)

Wanna Write a Book? Just Do It

by Sara

When I was a kid, I truly believed that artists, particularly musicians, were magical beings that were given great gifts of talent that mere mortals could never possess. That’s what made them special and gave them the right to do what they did, make albums and tour. Although there will always be a part of me that feels that way about certain musicians (I mean, Stevie Nicks IS magical and always will be) but for the most part I know better. For one thing, I myself have worked in a very cool industry (television), on some very cool TV shows and I’m neither magical nor do I possess any special gifts that were granted to me by the talent fairy. I got to do everything that I’ve done because I decided I wanted it and I just started doing it.

That being said, sometimes we can’t help but feel that we should just wait for something to happen before we jump in and just start writing. Maybe we secretly want the talent fairy to come to us, but waiting for the talent fairy is like waiting for The Great Pumpkin. It’s just never going to happen no matter how long you wait. Sorry Linus.

In my television life, I made it a habit to make coffee-dates with coworkers and other amazingly talented people in order to learn more about the industry, learn about job leads, and just connect with people I admire. I’m a great fan of this and will tell you networking with people you already know is wonderful because you always learn something. I’m lucky that in my writing life, I have two mentor/friends, Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel, who I can go to in much the same way. My favorite coffee-date from my life as a producer was one I had with my friend Markie (not his real name). Normally, on one of these things, you catch up, (they are friends and acquaintances after all) you tell them what you’ve been up to and where you are hoping to go and they tell you how they think you can get there. Usually this involves a piece of advice, a recommendation or two on a resource you should be aware of or the name of a person you should connect with. My coffee date with Markie would prove to be different.

For one thing, I don’t think Markie and I ever even made it to our designated coffee shop. He pretty much just came to my office, sat down, and started talking. He told me he knew what I was looking to get from this conversation because at the beginning of his career, he used to do the same thing. And then he told me this story.

Apparently, the young Markie went to a producer/director type that he admired. He was expecting, what I was used to getting, a nice sit down, a coffee or a lunch, where wisdom would be shared and perhaps and encouraging word or two would be thrown into the mix (when you are lucky, you get those as well). Much to Markie’s dismay, all he got was this. “Markie, just do it!” At the time, Markie wasn’t necessarily thrilled, truth be told, he was kinda pissed. He had hoped for more than the words, “just do it.” It was a reasonable expectation but the guy just kept saying “just do it, “don’t talk about it, just do it.”

And with that story told, Markie turned to me and said, “It pissed me off at the time, but I’m going to tell you the same thing he said to me, Sara, just do it.”

And now, I was kinda pissed. Come on Markie! You know what I was looking for, why did ya do that to me? Well, that’s simple. It was the truth and he was a good enough friend to just say it. Sometimes you just need a friend to remind you to just do it.

I’ve always wanted to write a book and I’ve always planned on doing it. I figured it would be something I’d do in the future. One day, a couple of months back, I decided to just do it. I didn’t over think it, I didn’t even do the important preliminary work that I knew I needed (and still need) to do, and I just started writing. I knew that if I didn’t just start, that that feeling might pass and then I would be waiting for the talent fairy again. I’m tired of waiting for her. Besides, for all I know she’s probably on some never-ending hot date with The Great Pumpkin in Never, Never Land, never to return.

If my third generation advice hasn’t convinced you to just go ahead and start, here are two other reasons.

Reason #1

The talent fairy doesn’t visit tattoo artists. Here’s a really cool excerpt from Kat Von D’s book, Go Big, or Go Home:

One of the most common remarks I hear from people when they see on of my sketches or tattoos is: “I wish I could draw.” It’s flattering, but a part of me cringes at that comment simply because it isn’t true that they can’t learn to draw. There’s nothing special about what I do. Technically speaking, anybody can do what I do… Drawing well only requires practice, devotion and dedication, will and drive, and practice and more practice…Tests show that it takes the average mind approximately ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery of something… It sounds crazy but anyone can master anything if the so chose.

The sooner you start writing, the sooner you’ll get to be a good writer. You can’t improve on something you haven’t tried yet.

Reason #2

The talent fairy doesn’t visit dancers either.

I recently had the great honor of studying with one of the world’s greatest living dancers, Rachel Brice, a tribal-fusion belly dancer that I greatly admire. During her nearly weeklong dance/art training, we were given a lot of useful information but one thing stayed with me more than anything else.

While I know that Rachel has earned her talent, she is another person whose technique is so exceptional that you sometimes have to wonder if the talent fairy might exist after all, if she did it would be reasonable to assume that she’s made multiple visits to Rachel over the years. WRONG. It was clear in the five days of drilling, and musing about dance that she has worked hard, practiced hard and studied hard and continues to do so. At one point in our training we watched clips of dancers from many other dance genres and happened upon one dancer who was just beyond. That’s all I can say. He was just beyond. Rachel said one thing that I will never forget. (Paraphrasing here) You can’t fake practice.

In other words, you’ve either practiced or you haven’t and people can tell the difference. It was simple but profound, the time you put in, will be seen by everyone watching, and the time you don’t put in will be seen as well.

I’m certain the same is true for writing. You can’t expect to wake up one day and just know that if you write your novel on that special day, that the words will flow out beautifully and perfectly. It’s simply not going to happen that way. You are not going to get better unless you do a lot of writing and you won’t ever get there if you don’t start. So, if any of us hope to ever be great writers, we have to start by writing, work our way to being good and then keep on trucking until we attain our goals of being a writing genius. It all starts with telling yourself to just do it and following through.

So for anyone out there thinking of doing this writing thing, or anything, my advice, like Markie’s, and the dude before him, is just do it and for those of you already taking the journey, keep on truckin’.

Lessons Learned from the Undead Duo

Killing Your Darlings: Can I Get Therapy For This?

by Sara


So, my dear friend, Kristen Strassel, tells me I have to kill people. And I don’t know how I feel about this. Well, actually I do. I HATE IT! I created these precious characters, who have been gestating in my mind, for YEARS and shortly after breathing life into them I’m told I have to kill my darlings? Really?

Naturally, my first thought is to switch gears and write for soap operas. No, really. They never have to commit to killing anyone because anyone can come back from the dead, and I mean anyone. They can put someone in a casket, lower it into the ground, have a nice ceremony and some time later, the dude in the casket pulls a Criss Angel and finds his way out of the box. Whad’ya know, they’re not dead after all. Does anyone remember Bobby Ewing in the shower scene? (No, not “Who shot J.R,” the other thing) You know, Bobby Ewing, the patron saint of the Ewing family on Dallas who died, but then later, he wasn’t dead, because he couldn’t be dead, because dead people don’t usually take showers. Did I mention it was all a terrible dream? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

I have a feeling my novel will be the next Novella on Telemundo? It’s perfect. The only time soaps kill a character off is when an actor totally pisses them off. (Soap opera character deaths, the kind that stick, seem to occur only to characters played by really obnoxious actors. Am I the only one who has noticed this? Joey Tribbiane’s Drake Ramoray + tragic fall down elevator shaft, anyone?)

Back to Kristen, you would think that a woman who writes about immortal characters would have an appreciation for what I’m saying. Why should my darlings have to die when hers rarely do? But, no, she wants me to kill my darlings. And even worse, her Undead Duo coconspirator, Julie Hutchings, is ready to kill off some of Kristen’s characters. What is going on with these two? Perhaps they have spent too much time dealing with immortality of vampires. I imagine spending years thinking about the psychology of the undead makes you appreciate the realities of life and death. Or maybe they are just hateful, awful people. Can I get therapy for this? Is this why there are so many people in therapy in Hollywood? Remorseful, murderous writer/producer/director types with blood on their hands who just need someone to talk to? Does my HMO cover this?

So here’s the deal, intellectually, I know that killing your darlings is inevitable, and even important, especially in the worlds that I’ve created. That being said, I decided to let this go for a while and not worry about it until I had to do it myself. So, I put it on the backburner, until, last week.

Last week, the day finally came. I had to kill my first darling. There were two shocking things; the first is that this is a character that I never expected to ever kill off. Ever. I thought of this character as a family historian of sorts, someone who had many of the answers that the other characters would need, and he connected all of my major players together. Convenient right? I started writing and realized that I needed to kill him. I just knew it was the right thing to do and it blew my mind, how easy it was. It made the story so much richer and added a complexity that I really needed. After all, having him live was far too convenient to me as the writer, and therefore robbed me of the drama making I’m supposed to be doing. I started to appreciate why good writers do this. I really thought it would be far more painful, and far less gratifying. I guess killing your darlings isn’t so bad after all.

Earlier this week, I started working on another story. This story begins with the main character losing someone close to her. I conceptualized this story knowing that I would be dealing with this character’s loss. I knew this, and yet, it broke my heart to a million pieces when I revealed his passing. Broke me. This was a darling, who was never meant to be seen in anything other than a memory or a flashback.

This simple act of revealing a loss broke me, so much so that I stopped writing as soon as I killed him. It was such an emotional experience for me. I can see this man, feel his warmth and was torn by the loss of his soul to my newly created world. His love for my main character and the sacrifices that he has made for her made me mourn for him. Deeply. And then I realized, I never actually killed him. There is no scene that shows him bleeding, grasping his chest or struggling for breath. We simply know that he has left this world and yet I feel like I watched him die.

If only I could have used that intense rush of feelings to write. But I couldn’t. I just needed to go to bed and save it for the next day. Truth be told, I have yet to go back and deal with that particular scene. It will happen eventually. In the meantime, I’m doing what I have to do. I’m writing the rest of the story, the parts that reveal why his loss was significant and why we should care. Maybe that rush of emotion was put to good use after all.

I guess if being God were easy, we’d all have that job. Little by little I’m learning about being a writer, and with that, being god of my worlds. Sadly, this includes the inevitable passing of a beloved creature that came from my soul and killing more darlings in the future.

Here’s to killing your darlings and the many therapy sessions that will follow.


* In this blog entry, darlings, refers specifically to characters. It’s my understanding that darlings can refer to anything that you are enamored with in your own writing (scenes, wording).

The Education of Intern Sara: Writing Discoveries

My First Writing Sprint, Actually, My First Six

The last time the Undead Duo, plus one (that’s me) met, I received a piece of writing advice from the lovely Julie Hutchings. She introduced me to the concept of writing sprints, told me the various options and suggested I give it a try.

I had never heard of writing sprints and had lots of questions. Well, it turns out that you can use social media, usually Twitter, to gather a group of writers who write at the same time, for a set amount of time. Sometimes a writing prompt is given and you as a writer can chose to use it as inspiration or work on your current project. When the sprint ends, everyone reports back with their word count and cheers each other on. I was completely intrigued by this idea, and decided that this was something I definitely needed to try and so I did.

I may not have known what a writing sprint was a couple of weeks ago, but I can preach the gospel about them now. Writing sprints are the greatest gift that social media has given me to date. The greatest.

Last Saturday, I decided that I was ready to do this writing-sprint-thing. I got on Twitter and searched out #writeclub, #writingsprint, and #nanowordsprints. I can’t remember what time I went on but I felt like I had missed all of the writing sprints and I was committed to sprinting then and there. I decided to just go for it and lead one of my own. I’m not sure that I did it exactly right, but I invited the Twitter Universe to join me for a one-hour sprint and told them the start time. A lovely writer accepted my invitation and I was ready to go. I had 15 minutes to myself before my first foray into writing with a stranger so I pulled up my document, got a snack, and found a Will & Grace marathon to keep me company.

I’m not quite sure that I led the sprint correctly. I probably didn’t give enough warnings and I’m not sure I even hash-tagged it correctly but I figure, whatever I did worked. For one blissful hour I was writing, I knew that I had company, and nothing could distract me. It felt great to know that I was doing this with someone else but at the same time I enjoyed all of the benefits of working by myself. No one could complain that my audio-cocktail of music and television dialogue was distracting them, or that they hated my choice of music and no one paid attention when I got up half way through to get some cheese and crackers. No one even knew that I was doing those things because I WAS BY MYSELF. It was FANTASTIC!!! I would liken it to the rush you get when you start writing a 20 page paper at 2am knowing it’s due at 9am. I was working with the rush of knowing I only had so much time and had a lot to accomplish and that my writing buddy would expect a respectable word count. I ended up with 1098 words and it may well have been the most enjoyable writing I’ve done so far. With this great first experience under my belt, I decided to do nothing but sprints for the week. I released myself from my self-imposed 1500 word-a-day diet and just watched to see what would happen. I decided to mix it up by leading some sprints, following some, doing a couple in the morning, a couple in the evening… And these are the results (so far).

Saturday            1098 words

Sunday              666 words

Monday              1180 words and then another 1991 words

Tuesday             784 words

Wednesday        558 words

Thursday            1047 words

The total for 6 days was 7324 words. That’s about 1220 words a day. Not too far off from my usual goal but far more enjoyable. I’m certain that if I had regular sprinting buddies, I could easily get my 1500 words. So now that I’ve officially professed my love for word sprints, I invite you to join me. You can find me on Twitter. @sarachaudhary.



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