Just a couple of writers on a road trip through life. Hop in, hold on, and don’t forget your rain boots.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Taking a Break

Hello Fabulous Writer Freaks Fans!

Writer Freaks will be taking a break! Life is a crazy thing and we are pretty crazy already. So, we are going to take a break for a bit to pursue some new projects and develop some new ideas. But don't worry! There's plenty of achieved items for you to sift through between now and then. 

Keep on writing!!

The Writer Freaks

Monday, February 18, 2013


Writer Freaks is please to announce the winner of our first ever contest, the Rub-A-Dub-Dub Massage Envy Giveaway. Congratulations to:


You will be contacted on Facebook so that we can send you your prize! Thank you for your support!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Massage contest...One more chance to get all rubbed up :-)

Hello lucky duckies! Great news! We're extending the length of the contest til February 14, because we know you all want to get your chances before the big V-day :-) Contest details and rules below. Come take a shot at winning a massage! Who doesn't need a massage these days?

Image Courtesy of  steamingstone.com

No, it’s not a bath. It’s even better. We know that the holidays are so stressful and it leads into the dreaded tax season. Of course in between these things is the pressure of Valentine’s Day. We try to get the best gift for our loved one.  We need a break! You need a break! So, the collaborative think tank that is Julie and Stephanie is giving away a gift card to Massage Envy to one lucky loyal Writer Freaks reader. That’s right! You can go and have your stresses rubbed away. You can relax, take a break, decompress from the holidays, and get rejuvenated so that you can take on the world, or take over the world. Either way, Writer Freaks would like to help you out on your way to world domination and self control. And if you would rather win this so you can gift it to your sweetie, we won’t tell. Our lips are sealed. Here is what you need to know:


  1.  One entry per person
  2. Contest begins February 4th, 2013 and ends February 14th, 2013
  3. Winner announced on February 14th, 2013
  4.  “Like” us on Facebook (or have already “liked” us) at www.facebook.com/writerfreaks and comment on one of our fabulous blog posts with the word “Massage” at the top of your comment. To have your comment qualify for entry, you cannot comment anonymously. Please keep it clean or we won’t be able to post your comment and your comment won't count for entry.
  5.  When the Winner is announced, we will send you a private message on Facebook that you must reply to with your mailing address, so we can send you your Rub-A-Dub-Dub gift card in the mail.
  6. As much as we LOVE our family and are so thankful for their support, it wouldn't really be fair to have spouses or immediate family participate. If you are the parent, sibling or married to a sibling of a Writer Freak (Stephanie or Julie) you can't win this one. Wow that sounds weird-- married to a sibling. Qualifier: Not your own sibling, that'd be really gross. We're talking brother and sister-in-laws, people. You totally knew what we meant. Damn those squinting modifiers. Anyway-- immediate family-- no. Everyone else-- cousins, aunts, uncles, miscellaneous black sheep relatives, cats, are welcome. Okay maybe not cats. But everyone else, come on over to the blog! We love to hear from you.
  7.  Must be 18 or older to enter.
Good luck! We look forward to reading your comments! May the odds be ever in your favor!

Julie Simmons-Wixom and Stephanie D. Birch
Writer Freaks

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Roll of the Dice

I am such a slave to my own emotions. I wish it wasn't that way, but in the end, I think this mode of operation actually helps me write with a whole lot of heart. Either way, sometimes I feel like I am in a bumper car getting hit from all sorts of other cars without any time to hit back. Yesterday was one such day. It is hard for me to be a positive person. I'm not naturally a positive person. That whole "ray of sunshine" thing is so hard for me to encompass. My husband is one of those "everything is wonderful" kind of guys. In that sense, we are total opposites and we complement each other well. It all balances out.

Image Courtesy of rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com
But getting back to yesterday. What if you knew you had a 95% chance of getting something you really want, but a 5% chance of it being not exactly what you want or maybe not at all. Those are good odds, right? Wouldn't you take that bet? Wouldn't you roll the dice? Well, I did and know I am waiting. Waiting to find out if that 95% will win out. And while I wait, I cannot help but feel as though I am doomed to get that 5%. Why, oh why, do I do this to myself? I know other people do it too. We choose to focus on the negative and not on the positive regardless of the odds. See, in the end I know logically that I will win. I know, but man does my subconscious like to play with me.

I figured something out though. That 5% that my mind inevitably wanders toward? I use it. I write about it. Doom and gloom might not be what some people like to hear, but man can I write about it. And I think most can relate to it. Everyone has all been there before. Feeling negative is all a part of the human condition and if you think about it, most of the greats use it too. Edgar Allen Poe, my favorite writer, used a lot of doom and gloom. He is the grandfather of Gothic literature, after all. Even great writers like Tony Morrison, Terry McMillan, and Joan Didion use gloom and doom scenarios. So I guess the only real loss is if I feel these things and fail to let it fill the pages I craft in some way. So, that is just what I am going to do. I am going to take all that focus on the 5% and write like a mad woman about something similar. I'm going to kill it. I'm going to let this negativity and pain shine for all to see. So hold on, buckle up and be prepared. Because this girl isn't going down. No, no. She's just going to show you what it looks like to use it for triumph.

Stephanie D. Birch is a crazy writer who uses every part of her experiences to craft a story. She would even write you a story about how she always dropped her ice cream on the floor as a kid with so much heart it would make you feel the entire gambit of emotions. If you want her to write something just for you, contact her at www.stephaniedbirch.com

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Head in the clouds

I've been in sort of a daze the last few days, and part of it is because I discovered a new (old) addiction. I've always been a big reader-- writers who don't read don't make any sense to me, live vegetarians who hate vegetables. But I've had a rough time lately getting the time to really read. This week, though, I found a new thing. I can download books, especially classics, for practically nothing, and then read them on my giant phone which is almost like a Kindle. I have a phone that is so big people laugh when they see it and ask me how I use it as an actual phone. But it's great for reading, and even though I have always been staunchly old school when it comes to reading actual three dimensional paper books, I realized this week how handy the phone is. Because it fits in the back pocket of jeans and I can whip it out and read while I'm standing in the kitchen waiting for coffee to brew, or browning meat, or folding clothes. I don't even need two hands.

 Anyway--- I'm not abandoning my ideals of an actual flesh-and-blood paper book or jumping on the technology bandwagon, but I have read three books in three days. Consequently, I have done no writing. There are downsides too, major ones. I'm like an addict, like one of those crazy people that gets so hooked into video games that they just have a heart attack all of a sudden. Okay maybe it's not that bad, but it's a little crazy how much I love reading. It always cracks me up when people put down reading as a hobby. It doesn't feel like a hobby to me. Building little models of stuff or gluing macaroni to things is more hobby-ish in my head than reading. 

All this reading left a big store of useless but entertaining thoughts in my brain that I've been bursting to share with someone. So here they are, in no particular order:

There used to be this show on television called Medium, with Patricia Arquette. This is in no way an endorsement of that show although I really like it, and I spend a lot of time when I'm not reading, cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, writing, changing diapers, etc., thinking about it. Okay mostly this thinking time is when I'm in the shower, but don't let that debase it for you. I sometimes have my most awesome epiphanies in the shower. Anyway in that show when you die, you are wearing what you were last wearing in life. The main character, Allison, doesn’t seem to see naked dead people that I can recall, so I’m assuming the universe defaults to your last living person outfit.  I was in the shower thinking about how if that’s true I hope I don’t die in my sleep or wearing my laundry day outfit with the non-sexy boring white cotton panties and mismatched bra and ill-fitting t-shirt and holey jeans that are holey from real actual age and not fashionably holey. I don’t think I would like that for eternity. 

And maybe it's just me, but I sometimes think about what would happen if I died unexpectedly, or if the zombie apocalypse started very suddenly at night when everyone except the zombies was asleep. Zombie apocalypses in movies seem to start quite suddenly without much warning, like a tsunami. I think I would wake up pretty quickly but without shoes and a bra on I don’t know how long I would survive.  I never feel prepared without a bra on, but even if I wanted to be in a constant state of impending zombie preparedness, I couldn't sleep in a bra.

 I think zombies would go for me pretty quickly if I was ever caught off guard. I have the mad ninja skills and all but I’m also a realist and I don’t know this for a fact but I’m pretty sure that I taste delicious. I know this from mosquitoes. Those sucky little fiends love me. Love. I am a delicious tasty treat that even the hard core heavy duty cancer inducing chemicals designed to kill mosquitoes on contact have almost no effect on them. They think that DEET is like savory seasoning on my skin, making me even tastier. So even though nothing except mosquitoes has ever taken a nip of me and come back for more, like the alligator in Captain Hook or the bear in that movie with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin or the man-eating sharks that once they get a taste only search for human flesh, I’m pretty sure one little nip and I’d be a goner. 

Although maybe that would be more true in the case of a vampire apocalypse of some sort, but generally vampires are more sophisticated and intelligent and they know that if they wait awhile I would be all full of blood again and so they’d keep me around, maybe on a chain in a golden bikini like Princess Leia in Star Wars, and take a sip every once in a while. Or I’d be like a really fancy kind of wine, like Champagne, where they’d bottle and sell my blood because it’s just so darn tasty. I’m not trying to be vain or anything. I’m just being honest—my blood is really good stuff, which might be an asset to vampires but would probably be my doom when it comes to zombies.

 But back to the realm of reality. The show Medium and other unwholesome shows like CSI and Bones and Castle also make me worried, not just about dying without a bra or shoes but having something criminal happen to me, like getting murdered. I probably watch way too many crime dramas. Anyway, then I would want to be fully clothed because it would be super awkward should the likes of Nathan Fillion (from Castle) come to the crime scene. I wouldn’t want him to see my giblets. But if I was in super good shape, with rock hard abs I wouldn’t care probably. Which is a good reason to work out, or one of the most random and far-fetched reasons to work out ever. It's also a good reason to always have painted toenails and nice smooth legs and sexy underpants on at all times, because you just never know.  When I lived in Hawaii I only ever wore flip flops and shorts and a tank top with a bikini under it, because I was constantly ready to go swimming or surfing. Almost all the time. I don’t think I owned other clothes—actually I know I didn’t because when we came to Seattle for Christmas one year I had to buy a coat and long pants when we got there, because there were none for sale on the island. But anyway at least I was always ready to go swimming, and that’s how I feel about being murdered. I just always want to be prepared—that’s not morbid, it’s just good sense, like a Boy Scout. 

Julie Simmons-Wixom is currently unavailable for sane, rational conversation. Email her here if you want non-sane conversation or random ramblings of an otherwise preoccupied psyche. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reset, restart, don't give up... again

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Two days ago, my universe imploded. Thanks to one of my alpha readers, I realized that my manuscript is a complete ripoff. Well, okay, that's a bit dramatic. It's not a complete ripoff. But when I saw the similarities, that's how I felt. Like a fraud and a ripoff artist. This happened completely unconsciously, by the way. I would never intentional steal someone's intellectual property. And this wasn't plagiarism like copying directly from their story. No, it just crept in. There’s this author who I really love, and I consciously am aware of deep admiration and a little bit of style and genre mimicry. I’ve read all of her books, most of them several times. And now I realize my favorite book of hers was so closely incorporated into my own manuscript that it is impossible to ignore the similarities. There are more than one plot similarity, and a similarity of language that I probably picked up from reading so many of this author’s books. 

This is the reason for alpha readers. These people (in my case) are friends and family who volunteered to wade through my manuscript and tell me honestly what they think. And the reader who brought up this major flaw saved my life. Because not only do I not want to pitch a manuscript that is similar to another, I don’t want to plagiarize on intellectual property, even unintentionally. My characters are unique and I love them, and the story itself, despite some of the plot point similarities, is also unique. But I have to fix those details, and I could have walked into a very bad situation, especially if I’d been set on self-publishing. I could have even maybe been open for a law suit, though I don’t think my story is close enough to warrant that. 

Photo courtesy of Icanhascheezeburger.com
I could just say to hell with it and throw away the MS entirely. I could start over. I’m a writer. We do that. I’m not sure if I want to, though. This could have been the first in a potential series that I have already started planning out. This would have been the first book. Am I really done with this story? Can it be salvaged? I think so. But if I weren’t getting honest feedback, I may never have realized this oversight. And that is huge. 

I've read that when you're listening to your first readers, you have to be able to sort through and find the real essence of their critique. Everyone will find something they don't care for, but if more than three readers notice a flaw, it is incumbent upon the writer to fix that portion of the story if they can. Because if three people noticed it, many more probably will, and it is most likely indicative of a weak point in the story. Writers can't be all about the whims of the people, but we're storytellers, and we want the story to be good and make sense and speak to the reader in some way. Maybe even change them. It's a lofty goal but I don't want to reach for it by standing in another author's footprints and following their trail. I want to blaze my own path. So I go back to the drawing board once again, determined to eradicate derivation from my beloved manuscript. A lot of my friends chimed in and encouraged me, and that shored up my determination all the more. I'm actually looking forward to the next revision. Revision is usually my least favorite part of writing. But today, I feel good. Bring it on!

Julie Simmons-Wixom is becoming an expert at falling down and getting back up. COMMENT below on your own experiences, or email her for a more in depth discussion on the ontological necessity of man's existential dilemma. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Murphy's Law

Courtesy of www.cartoonstock.com

We have all heard it before. We've all conveyed its message to others. Really it is like magic, a spell, a superstition if you will. It is called Murphy’s Law. According to Wikipedia, Murphy’s Law is, “is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”’  You've been there, right? You get pulled over and ticketed the day you forgot your wallet at home. You bought a book and someone gives you the same book as a gift the next day. You swear you never get sick and then end up in the ER in isolation for a rare and potentially incurable disease. You run out of clean underwear they day you go to the gym. You wear flip flops the day you go into for your pap smear. Ugh! Those cold strip-ups! Whatever the case maybe, everything goes wrong.

It got me wondering, what is the opposite of Murphy’s Law? Anything that can go right will go right? Hmmm. Is that the whole illusive “power of positive thinking” mumbo-jumbo? They've repackaged it now and it is called The Secret. Some say it is a matter of putting out the right energy into the universe and getting the same kind back. Me? I call it trusting in God. Either way, I think the concept is the same. It is a fabulous counter to Murphy’s Law, but I think we need a different law. Yes! One that states, when you think something bad will happen, you get a surprise twist instead. Maybe it is a writer thing, but I love a good twist. Although, I am sure readers appreciate them too. This law could be called the Gotcha Law. It would be epic! You get pulled over on the day you left your wallet at home, but instead of a ticket, the cop only wants to show you his Gangnam Style Dance and get your input. You bought a book and the next day someone gives you the same one, but your friend accidentally left an embarrassing picture of him in women's stilletos and a clown hat inside the book that you can rib him about for the next ten years. You wear flip flops the day you have your pap smear, but instead the doctor gives you his socks and has to go through the rest of the day barefoot. You get the idea.

I really don’t want the Gotcha Law to be a made up thing. I want to see this happen! Let’s start a movement! Oh yeah! It’s going to be epic!

Stephanie D. Birch likes to start grassroots movements to get people to not take themselves too seriously. She enjoys public displays of humor and would willingly make herself the butt of a joke just to see others laugh. Want to laugh with her? No? Then laugh at her. She doesn't mind. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Planting an Apple Tree

Picture Courtesy of Library of Congress

I’m a nutty girl. I like quotes from famous people. I hang on their wisdom like it is a life raft in the middle of a stormy sea. I started thinking about how much I like quotes yesterday on MLK Day. He said one of my favorite quotes, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

You see, there are all sorts of craziness in the world. I think it speaks to our character that we choose to act in the same manner, even when everything else is falling apart. There is a Zen to this philosophy and it is a Zen I strive for everyday. Stay true to yourself. Don’t give into the fanatical thoughts and action of others, even of the world. In the end, those feelings and thoughts do nothing for us.

So I write for the sake of writing. I write because it is cathartic. I write because it is who I am and what I do. The world might think I am crazy. They might tell me to quit, but I won’t and I can’t. The world tells me that I should be concerned with politics and current events. The world tells me that I should focus on what kind of car I have, what kind of home I live in, what kind of clothes I wear. The world tells me this is important, even though it isn’t. That makes what is REALLY important at war with the world’s ideals. The world is raging and waging war with my ability to plant my apple tree.
Apple Tree Picture Courtesy of
David Luther Thomas

But besides my wars, there are other storms. Everyone goes through their own war every single day. The mother with the special needs child who stands up for their child in public, even though the world says, “just shut up and deal with your hand.”  The person with a chronic disease or illness that refuses to let it knock them down. They push through even though their body begs them not to. The man with a family to feed who lost his job in this lousy economy. He refuses to take no for an answer even though there are no job listings. The person reading as many self help books as they can in an effort to learn to forgive someone who wronged them in such a terrible way. The woman struggling with her weight and despite the fact that the pounds won’t shed, she continues to work out and eat right. The person diagnosed with a mental illness trying to find emotional balance even though their family continues to tell them it is simply “an attitude problem.” I could keep going because there are so many brave people in the world.  These people are my heroes. These people are staying true to their character while striving to be better people. These are their wars and they battle them bravely.

 MLK would be proud. These heroes are planting their apple tree while the world is falling apart, while the world is telling them not to. I would go one further. They are not only planting their apple tree, but they are also fertilizing it and well. And that tree? Well, it’s going to grow into a beautiful tree, dripping with fruit for other people to savor. And you know what? These are the people that will leave us with quotes of wisdom for us, for our children, for our future. These everyday heroes will leave a legacy. It is this part of humanity that I connect with. My heart is tender toward them. I am honored to know them. I believe in them. They are my hope and provide me with an example to live by.

I hope that I can stay the course. I hope I can ignore the cataclysmic events in my life and in the world. I hope I can find my tree, plant it and learn to give it the nutrients it needs as time goes by.

Thank you to all of you who plant their apple trees, even when the world is fighting against you. I want you to know that whether I know you or not, I love you.

Stephanie D. Birch finds inspiration in the battles of the ordinary and not-so-ordinary. Even if it isn't successful by your standards, she begs to you accept that maybe it was all along. Your wars and lives are a beautiful mystery. She is honored to know so many amazing and inspiring people. To contact her, visit www.stephaniedbirch.com or email her at birchwordnerd@ymail.com

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Ant-y Diaries

I don't like to be negative or badmouth-y. I believe in karma. But I am done being Miss Nicely Nicely*. I mean it. I'm coming out. No, not like that-- just out as a hater. I have to get this off my chest. So here it is. Ants are jerks. Little tiny six-legged jackwagon-y poop-faced fiends. I know it sounds harsh, but it's true. Anyone who says different has been brainwashed. Probably by the government. 

Photo courtesy of cozypad.com
They think they can just come on in whenever they want and make themselves comfy. Who even knows what they're doing?  They march in these crazy lines and run into each other and I stared at them for like a half an hour and you know what? I didn't see them carrying a freaking thing. Supposedly they are so super strong that they could get together and lift up a whole house if they wanted to, with their tiny disgusting ant arms, but they just go back and forth and even with my 300 mm (super big camera lens) I can't tell what they're doing. I feel like they are just trying to tick me off. They're like hey, let's make a line and march around like jackwagons, and not even eat any food, just to annoy the crap out of whoever lives here.  My house is pretty clean, but we have kids so you’ll find the occasional crumb or stray pea or Cheerio or Hot Pocket lying around. Ants are supposed to go bat crap crazy for crumbs. These ones don’t. They’re in the sink, on the counter, marching, marching, forever marching, but not swarming around anything in particular or carrying around crumbs. 

So I did some research and tried some stuff to get rid of them. Now I’m not saying this is true, but I have a suspicion that some internet savvy dude is sitting in his mom’s basement, eating Cheetos and laughing his ginormous butt off as I spray vinegar all over my house until it smells like pickles, and then sprinkle cinnamon in the corners like a complete nut job. I believe stuff people write on the internet. Maybe I am gullible, but I expect people not to lie all over the place and then put it in a website where God and everyone can just go read it whenever they want. I’m trying to kill the ants or at least convince them to find some place else to do their marching and mouthing off.  I feel like all I've really done here is season them and make them more delicious to whatever thing eats ants. I hope it's not spiders. I hate ants, but I don't think I would invite spiders over to take care of the problem, like the old lady that swallowed the fly. That is a freaking nutso song by the way. The Little One has a book with the song in it, and it's pretty disturbing and morbid. I feel weird telling my 19-month old kid about this crazy old lady who swallows a variety of animals and insects and stuff until she finally dies. So I changed it-- I just say "da dum da dum" instead of "perhaps she'll die" and then at the end, when she eats the horse and it goes "she's dead, of course" I just say she's full. Because she is. Full of animals. It's a cracked out song. But anyway I know that when one thing that comes in to kill another, which seems like a good natural food-chain kind of extermination,  it's a bad thing. That happened in Guam and now there are no native birds there. For realsies.

Anyway, back to the ants.  I researched further with my super awesome internet research skills. I'm really good at internet research, in case you don't know me personally. I do it all the time. One time, I had this friend who had something really weird happen to her, and I offered to investigate for her. The person thought she had been irradiated by nuclear waste or green gamma Hulk rays or something, but then I found this blog for her. Oh yeah, it's funny. Anyway, turns out if you eat a lot of black licorice, you have very green irradiated looking doodies. So my friend felt way better and vowed never again to eat anything with Blue #5 in it or whatever, because #5 affects your number twos. 

Anyway-- ant research.  I discovered that there are some sick maniac housewives running around on the internets as well. They comment back and forth to each other over the various ways to feed stuff to ants that make the ants explode and die painfully from being turned inside out by some chemical reaction that happens in their stomachs. And they are LOL-ing and ha ha-ing all over the place at the thought of exploding zombie ants. As I said, I hate ants too, I think they are jackwagons who just want to crawl around in my cereal and sneak into my bed at night so I can have nightmares about things crawling all over me or getting inside my ear and living in my brain. But I don’t want to see them turn into zombie death ants or explode or anything. That’s just cruel, and kind of sick.

 If I could I would just scoop them all up and take them to a nice field in the country somewhere, or maybe a farm where they could live out their days making friends with wise cracking owls or little pig ingĂ©nues a la Charlotte's Web. These are city ants, though, so they might not make it in the country. They might end up like the Donner Party, freezing and having to eat each other to stay alive, in which case my magnanimous act of charity would be a total waste because they would be dead anyway. The exploding deaths would be less trouble and use less gas money, frankly, if they're going to die anyway. But in the end I decided that I just want them to find another place to live, out in the yard and not in the house. So I put vinegar and lemon juice and cinnamon and chili powder on baseboards, which are supposed to encourage them to go somewhere else. The house is starting to smell like salad dressing and the ants are still far from gone and the internet-savvy computer geek is now wiping his greasy, Cheeto-powder-covered hands and settling in to add more tips to the already hilarious website o’lies he’s created and I’ve fallen victim to. 

Meanwhile, back at the farm, ants are now invading even my computer. I imagine these are very smart ninja computer programming ants. They seem to be trying to get inside the computer mechanism and actually rewire my computer. As it took me about three hours to fix the television from the split screen picture-in-picture thing after Little One got to the "momote" control, I doubt I could undo any tiny ant rewiring, and I simply refuse to buy them a new computer. 

I don't know if I will be able to make myself  try some of the sick and inhumane exploding techniques next. Maybe I can just do it to a couple of them just to scare them in hopes that they may just realize I am serious and give up. But what if the ants are smarter than people, and rather than doing the entire Jonestown reenactment, they will see a few of their jackwagon ninja ant comrades explode and stop eating the Kool-Aid and just pack up their tiny pants and go live on a farm of their own free will? 

*Note: Nicely Nicely is a reference to Guys and Dolls. I didn't spell anything wrong, I swear. I meant to do that.

Julie Simmons-Wixom is working on becoming an expert in ant relocation. If you are interested in talking to her about ant cruelty, email her here. Oh, and leave a comment below, just for funsies.