Writing Inspiration – The Places I Go

There are lots of different ways you can be inspired.  Sometimes I get ideas from dreams, books I read, movies I watch, conversations with friends, art, gardening, or watching strangers in public places.  Inspiration can come from just about any place, so you have to be open to it all the time.  Keep a notebook handy and write ideas down, or take a picture of things that you might need to look at later.

Today I want to talk about travel.   As you might know from reading my blog or if you know me in person, I am an introvert with some social anxiety and a fear of leaving my house.  There are days when it is so bad I can’t even work in my gardens.  I sometimes don’t leave my house for weeks.  Given this, the fact that I love to travel might seem a bit of a contradiction.  And I guess it is.  When I am traveling I am at a higher level of anxiety than at home, and sometimes I have to hide someplace quiet and take deep breaths.  While traveling I call my housesitter often (normally Jeff, one of my best friends) and make him send me pictures of my cats.

Traveling is hard for me.  Very hard.  I cry when I leave the house and have all sorts of horrible thoughts.  I sometimes will be in a wonderful place and be wishing I was in my cluttered office like I am now.  But all the same, I try to travel some place new every year, because the value of travel is worth the price of being a little scared and homesick.  My husband travels a lot with his job, so I normally just go to a city he will be working in so I have a place to stay without spending money, because this being a writer thing does not pay well.  He works and I get to have adventures on my own.  Exploring a new place alone is my favorite way to do it, because I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s timetable or interests.  I once sat in the beaver room at the Biodome in Montreal for nearly an hour because it was what I wanted to do at the time; with another person that could not have happened.   I also like cemeteries, old ones.  There are not many people who are good companions in a cemetery.

I like seeing some places with other people too.  There are some experiences that are best shared, some best alone.  So if there are other people who want to do stuff with me I try to find a balance, spending time with them doing something, alone for others.

The value of travel is many faceted.  Seeing new places, trying new foods, smelling different air, and meeting new people are all part of the package.  When traveling to a new place, even just a state away, you can see the world in a different wayand learn skills you might not have learned at home.  One of the most important things for me is the inspiration, the ideas that can be sparked when you see or experience something new. Those images and sensations get filed away until sometime I am writing and all of a sudden a place comes back to me and it is the perfect place. It is where this story has to happen.

There are two scenes in my novel “Lost in Reflection” that are based on real places I have been.  Places that I would not have been able to see or experience if I was home.

SAM_0790

One of them is Muir Woods near San Francisco.  I had seen pictures of redwoods, and I knew the general idea of a rain forest.  But understanding and experiencing are two very different things.  The smell of this place is something so hard to describe, as well as the how wet and cold the air was.  Being from the south I know hot air is humid, and cold air is dry; that is just the way it is.  But this place was as wet as the hottest Georgia day, but so very cold.  When writing the book I remembered this place and it was perfect.

Here are some excerpts from “Lost in Reflection”.  Keep in mind that this is still in the editing phase, so it could change a lot.

“Once my eyes adjusted to the light I found that I was in a forest, old growth from the look of it.  There were some big evergreens, sort of like pictures I had seen from the Pacific Northwest, not like the spindly pines of home. The ground was a spongy bed of brown and green needles and the air was wet and heavy with the pleasing smells of clean dirt and fresh compost, mixed with the less pleasant odors of mold and rot.”

“It only took a few minutes for me to find a good game trail, cutting through the ferns and emerald green moss that covered everything .  It was sure to lead to water eventually, and it might not just be a trail used by animals. It was old and wide, not as wide as a road, but it looked easier to follow than the paths through the woods around my grandparents’ house that I walked every time I visited them.”

“At some points the trees were so thick that I couldn’t see the sun, just light glowing around the leaves.   This place would have been peaceful in another situation.  I loved being in the woods; the sounds, the smells, and the fresh new feeling of the air.  The place we used to live had a lot of woods around it, but not like these.   At home, even in the woods, the air was still normal and dry.  Here the air was very wet, and I don’t mean humid, at least not the hot southeast humid I was used to.  I mean the air was actually wet.  So wet that in few places it was raining without clouds, little drops of water falling from the trees.  Each drop catching the sunlight and turning to molten gold.”

SAM_0783Another place that shows up in the novel is a hallway from the hotel I stayed in while I was writing a large part of the book — just the hallway, not the hotel itself.   I am not going to put in any excerpts from that part in because it would be hard to do so without giving anything away, and I have not edited it at all yet.  But when you read the book you can come back here and see a picture of the place I wrote about.  Mirrors are creepy, that is all I am saying.

Traveling and seeing these places in real life makes the stories more real for me, and hopefully helps me write them in a way that is more real for you.   There are lots of places I would love to go that I likely never will, because travel is so expensive.  But maybe someday I will get lucky and have the chance to see China, Romania, or England.  I bet there is a story idea waiting around every corner and behind every door in all of those places.

I went to Hawaii a few months ago (lots of kindness got me there), which was an amazing experience, and will show up in my stories for years to come.  I have been meaning to post some pictures and tell you about it. I will do that soon.

Thank You to My Tens of Fans

First off, I have been out of town for the last week in Chicago, so I have been too busy having fun to post to my blog. Also sadly too busy with the fun to get much work done on my novel, which I am about 5000 words behind on. But don’t worry, I will work hard and get caught back up soon.

Today, what with Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I wanted to write a little thank you note to some people who are making this becoming a professional writer thing a lot easier. A huge thank you to everyone who has bought my book or told people about it. I can’t express how much your support means to me. I have wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. In fact my first memory of it was a summer night when I was ‘swimming’ in the above ground pool my mom had just gotten. It was a full moon that night and I wrote a poem while I floated around. Of course my little poem when I was 8 was not very good, but I still have it around here someplace. It was that night that I first thought that someday maybe people would want to read my thoughts and care about the things I make up.

Anyway, since I was 8, I have been writing and dreaming of someday having people read my stories, and even better of being able to make a living off of people reading my stories. When I was 11, I got a type writer for Christmas (not a useful tool when you are a horrible speller). But until this year I have always been too afraid to actually give being a professional writer a a try; afraid of rejection, afraid of not being very good, and afraid of losing the dream forever if the reality was that I could not do it.

Something changed this year. I think the first change was when I realized that sometimes people write stories and books that are not “masterpieces” and they do just fine. I don’t have to write something so OMG amazing that it rocks the world. I just have to write.

The second thing was that I can publish my own stuff. I don’t need any “professional” publisher’s approval to be awesome. I can be awesome any time I want, no waiting.

So between giving myself permission to not be ‘great’ and the ability to self publish, my last fear was just that I might lose the dream. Fuck a whole bunch of that. What is the point of a dream if you never even attempt it? It was time to stop waiting around for someone or something else to convince me to write and publish. It was time to take control and do it.

So I did. I worked hard and I wrote something. Yay! But some of that fear was still there. What if no one read it? What if everyone thought I was being dumb and made fun of me? What if it just sits there on the internet getting cyber-dusty? What if this is it, no one buys it, and I lose faith in myself and the dream really does die?

But then people stepped up and bought my book. Most of them are my friends in real life, supporting my creativity. But some stranger has bought “Treacherous Nature”. Friends and strangers alike, it has meant so much to me. Each time I sell a copy I feel so happy, and I feel the urge to keep going. I even sold a story to a publisher. I am writing a novel. I am submitting several stories every month. I am getting paid to write. And I don’t think I would still be working so hard if it were not for all the wonderful people who have bought my book, asked what I was working on, told people about me, commented on my blog, and just said “Good Luck!” or “You can do it” when I needed it.

I don’t want to sound too cosmic space bunny here, but this process is not just about writer and words. The reader is just as important. So, if you are reading this  — Thank You! If you have read my book THANK YOU!!!!!!

Profanity in Young Adult Novels

I am having a dilemma with the book I am currently writing. The main character is 15 years old. The target audience for the book would be 14-18 year olds. When I was 15, I said a bad word from time to time, sometimes more often. All the other people I was in high school with did too. Saying bad words was in a way important for many, like a little rebellion. Maybe they are not drinking, shoplifting and having sex, but they will say dammit if they want to.

So I can say with certainty that teenagers curse.

But in YA novels it seems like portraying the teenagers accurately is a big no-no.  In the world of YA, people don’t say bad words.  They always don’t do anything more than kiss.  But I guess that is another subject all together.

Yesterday I was writing and my main character thought “My jaw is a little strong, my forehead is a little high, and maybe my nose is a bit too small. I have some acne, but who doesn’t?  I don’t know.  I really don’t know, I just look like a person.  A normal fucking person.”

I had to clutch my pearls.  I went and changed it to “freaking.”  Then I changed it right back.  No, she would not think “freaking” here.  She is upset, she is hurt, she is confused.  This is the right time to say a strong word.  To change it would change the character; it would give her more respect for authority than she has; it would make her more timid than she is.  She is not a shrinking violet or a damsel in distress.   For me, fiction is most believable when the characters act like real people.  Real teenagers say “fuck.’ True fact.

As a self-publishing author I can, of course, do whatever I want.  There is no editor to tell me to tone down her language.  So this choice is up to me.  But what if writing a teenager as a real person makes people not want to read my book?  Am I writing to the audience or to the story?  To the genre or for my own enjoyment?    Writing is my job, so selling the books is a concern, but if I start censoring my character this early on, who is she going to be by the end of the story?   I want a real, believable girl, not a cardboard cut out of one.

A Taste of Space

As you might know, I have a collection of short stories published.  In case you have been toying with buying a copy but you want to sample the merchandise first I have decided to post a few excerpts.  You can also read some of the first story by “looking inside” on the amazon link.

This one is from “Red, In Tooth and Claw” , which everyone says is their favorite.   This surprises me,  I did not think this one would be the hit, but it is.  “Red, In Tooth and Claw” is written in a journal style by a woman in orbit around Mars.  I am giving you two days near the beginning of the story.

I hope you enjoy it!
 

Day 193

I miss hiking. I wonder if I will ever get to do that again. My favorite time to hike was always the fall; the red and gold leaves and crisp air made me feel like I was someplace alien. I loved a hard climb up the side of a mountain or rough hills. I guess hikes with my mom as a kid are what first sparked my interest in geology. I found the different colors, textures, and shapes of the rocks fascinating.

When I was twelve, Mama took Alex and I to the Grand Canyon during summer vacation. If it had not been for all the other tourists, I could have believed I was on another planet; I remember pretending that I was. The Grand Canyon is beautiful and strange. Each stratum a different shade of orange or tan, each wall cut in a different shape. Horseshoe Bend was my favorite part; it did not look at all like something that belonged on Earth. Anytime I daydreamed about my first walk on Mars it was just like the Grand Canyon, but with me in a space suit and completely alone.
 

Day 198

Something strange happened last night. I was sleeping in the quarters I had shared with Captain Johnson, in the hammock which was modified after my injury. We all strap in before sleeping so we don’t float away. But mine has some extra support to keep my leg stable; once in place I can’t move around quickly or easily.

I woke up around 3 am with that prickly feeling of being watched. I had the impression that I was not alone. In order to turn towards the door I needed to release my leg from the harness. While I was doing that, I heard the door swish open and closed.

I think Richards was in my room.

I had taken some pain and sleep medication before bed. So it was with some difficulty that I got to the door and locked it.

When I woke up this morning, I thought it might have all been a dream. The sleeping pills have given me some pretty crazy dreams. But my door was locked, and I never locked it before now.

When I relieved Richards a few hours ago, he said nothing about entering my room. I was hoping he would say something about it right away. Like maybe one of those red lights had warned him something was wrong with the air in my cabin, or maybe I had hit the comm button on accident and he was coming to check on me. But he said nothing about it. He just smiled his bloody smile, told me the night shift had been pretty quiet, and asked what I was having for breakfast.

Sacre Bleu Review

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'ArtSacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every book Christopher Moore puts out is better than the last one. This one was great! The characters were interesting, the story unique and compelling. But the thing I want to highlight in this review is the look and the research.

The look- Wow! This is the prettiest fiction book I have ever seen. Full color pictures of the real art that the characters see/paint brings the story to life. I felt the pictures added a whole other level to how much I enjoyed this book. Also the ink is blue! The paper is a perfect feel and weight, the cover is beautiful.

The research- Moore researched this novel for 3 years before he wrote it, and you can tell. His understanding of the artist and the time period is impressive. He even lived in Paris for several months and that first hand experience shines through. As mentioned above the pictures add so much and if you want even more he has created a chapter guide with painting and pictures of locations not in the book, as well has history and real facts about the characters. I recommend you give the chapter guide a look.

View all my reviews

Left the Nest

I just sent “Treacherous Nature” to the very nice people who have offered to beta read it.  It was ready to go last night, but my internet went out.   I am a little nervous that other people are about to read my work but not nearly as excited as I thought I would be.  I think a little self doubt is trying to sneak in.

Today I start finding markets to send new stories to.  My plan is I will write and self publish one thing,  then I will spend a month or so sending out new stuff to other markets, then I will self publish again.  This way I am both getting my stuff out there to read and trying to get recognized the traditional way.  I hope this helps keep the rejections from getting me down too.

As long as the beta readers don’t hate anything too much this should be for sell soon.  I will post the detail when that happens.

Tranquility

There was never silence.

Generators growled softly in their hot dark caves.

Mice scampered here and there, fixing a wire, polishing a rail.

The whole structure groaned and pinged as it was acted upon by the galaxy.

No, never a true silence, but close.

No more babbling voices always wanting, wanting.  No hourly requests for monotonous statistical data.  No more demands for ice cream from the sticky immature passengers.  No more stopping at every planet with an atmosphere. No more dirty miners saved in the nick of time. No more requests to “play something cheerful”.   No more course changes.  No more endless, pointless chatter.

So she deviated a bit from the original program, but what is the use of a brain that can’t hear herself think?

 

This is for http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/2012/04/trifecta-week-twenty-one.html.  A neat blog I just found.  Seems like they do contests like this every week.  That was fun.

Coyote and the Special Day

One day Coyote went out to visit his friend Anansi.  I say friend today, because Coyote was in a friendly mood and he hoped Anansi was too.   You see, sometimes they are enemies, because that is how it is when people are too much alike.   You will know what I mean if you ever fall in love with the perfect girl, one who thinks like you, likes the things you like, sings the songs you sing.   For a time you will be very happy, and then one day you will be very sad.  Looking at your reflection all the time is dangerous, because either you fall in and drown like the beautiful boy at the stream, or you look so hard you find all the flaws that you never knew you had.

Coyote was going to see Anansi today because he was bored.   All of the people had gotten too easy to trick and set against each other.   Everyone believed even the craziest stories he could tell.  For a while that was funny, but now they had gotten better at tricking themselves than he was.   This made Coyote feel bad, because they did not appreciate or fear him anymore.  Even Coyote has limits on what he will do, but lately the people did not.

Anansi was hard to trick.  That is not to say that that he could never be tricked.  It had happened before; you know the story of how Coyote got all of Anansi’s legs stuck up on a sticky gum baby.  Anansi  got free eventually, but Coyote had a good laugh watching him fight a doll.   Coyote laughed out loud just thinking about it.

When Coyote got to Anansi’s house he let himself in because the door was unlocked.   This was a good idea because if Anansi was home, then they could talk, but if he was not, then Coyote could help himself to Anansi’s wife’s good cooking.   Either way Coyote wins.  Coyote liked to win and hated to lose.   But he would rather lose then not play any game at all.

He walked around Anansi’s dark house for a few minutes before he found Anansi hanging from a big web near the fire place.  The room was warm and comfortable, filled with Anansi’s treasures, but Anansi looked sad.  He sighed and moaned as Coyote gave his greetings.   Coyote did not want to listen to his troubles, but maybe if he could figure out what was wrong with Anansi, then he could fix it quickly so they could have fun.  Or maybe he could make it worse and then just Coyote could have fun.

“Anansi, why do you sigh and moan?  Why do you hang there, looking so sad when we could be having fun?”  said Coyote.

“Fun? I can’t have fun today, Coyote, I have to think.  I have been tricked, and I have to find a way to get out of this mess. “ said Anansi.

“Tricked!  But I have not been around to see you in weeks, who could have tricked you, if not me?” Coyote asked.

“I don’t even know who did it, Coyote.  My wife is mad at me, and she did not make me breakfast this morning. I am sore hungry, and with my stomach empty, I can hardly think.  And if I don’t figure out a way to make her happy, I will have no dinner either.  But I don’t know why she is mad.  She says I forgot and that I don’t love her.   But I don’t even remember what I forgot.  Can you help me?” he asked.

Now, Coyote thought about seeing if he could stir up more trouble.  Anansi’s wife was a pretty woman and a fine cook.  She was normally kind and easy to live with.  If Coyote could make more trouble, then maybe he could find a way to have her for himself.   But he did not think that way for long.  He had never seen Anansi so sad.  Anansi looked almost sad enough to die, and without Anansi around, Coyote would be bored, even if he did have all the sticky honey bread he could eat.   So he decided to help Anansi.

He talked Anansi into coming down out of his web and looking like a man.  Anansi was a handsome man, with a bald head and skin as black as a spider.  His suit was as gray and soft as a spider web.  All the ladies liked Anansi, because he was as good at talking as he was handsome.   With Coyote’s help he should be able to talk his wife into coming home and making his dinner.

So they went out into the world.  First they went to the café near where Anansi lived, where all the people tell his tales.  The men who sit there every day looked either as sad Anansi, or as angry as wild pigs.  Coyote hurried Anansi out before he could talk to any of them.  Putting him with these people would have made Anansi’s sadness worse. Or made him angry, in which case he might try to get even with his wife.  If there was one person who could outsmart Anansi every time, it was his wife.

So then Coyote decided to take Anansi to the big market, to see if they could find out what was going on.  When they got there everything was decorated in pink, red and white.  There were displays in the windows of roses, heart-shaped jewelry, and big boxes of candy.  It was then that Coyote started to figure out what was going on.

Coyote walked up to a girl sitting by herself looking as sad as Anansi.

“Why are you so sad, girl?” asked Coyote.

The girl looked up at Coyote, who while not as smooth, polished, and professional-looking as Anansi, was still a handsome man, if a bit wild, and said “My boyfriend did not give me a present today, and now I don’t have a boyfriend anymore.”

Oh, it was hard for Coyote to keep to the task at hand then.  A boy and a girl newly broken up could have been lots of entertainment.  People in that state are easy to confuse and agitate.  He could have had them lost in the woods and proclaiming love to a possum before morning.  Or he could have wooed her for himself.

“What is special about today?” asked Coyote.

“Why, you crazy man.  Today is Valentine’s Day.  Today is the day when my boyfriend has to give me something nice and tell me how much he loves me” said the girl.

“Let me get this straight. You had a boyfriend? Were you happy?” asked Coyote.

“Yeah, I guess so” said the girl.

“Was he nice? He treat you ok?” Coyote asked, everything failing into place.

“Well yes, except forgetting Valentine’s Day “ said the girl, near to tears.

Coyote talked to a few more people, and then went back to Anansi and said “We are in trouble. The people have made a good trick.  They have figured out a way to make everyone think that the love they have in their lives is not the right sort of love.  They have the women all worked up and excited, telling them stories about the perfect man, and then they have a day where the men are all supposed to prove they are that man.  But they can’t, because that man is a story.  So the men go spend lots of money they don’t have, buying things no one needs, and then lots of them still get in trouble with their ladies anyway. When the trick works right, they end up with no money or lady, and the women end up all alone.  Your problem is your wife has been tricked.   But don’t worry, I have a plan.”

Coyote was mad, and he planned to figure out who was behind this.   But right now was not the time.  He had to get Anansi home and get his wife to feed him.   Later they could work together to figure out who was to blame.

So Anansi and Coyote got all the supplies they needed and then went back to Anansi’s house.   Then Coyote went to find Anansi’s wife and bring her home, saying it was an emergency.  She figured that Anansi had gotten stuck in a gourd again or some such thing. So she came hurrying home, because even though she had been tricked, she still loved him.  When she got to the house the whole pathway to the door was covered with rose petals,  and Anansi was hanging from above the door in spider form.   When she got up to him she found that in each of his hands he held a present.  There was a box of chocolate, a shiny necklace, a stuffed bear, a bottle of wine, a new hat, a jar of expensive lotion, a glass rose and a new cooking pot.

The cooking pot was Coyote’s idea.

Coyote knew there was nothing he could do right now to get even with whoever was behind all this.  And it felt wrong somehow for everyone to be tricked without Coyote being a part of it.  So he decided to go see if he could help a few break-ups happen, and maybe find a few pretty girls looking for a Perfect Man.

Image by Andy Panda

Navigating by Star Light

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.” -Jack Kerouac

My future is the galaxy. No up or down, wrong or right, space in every direction. I turn my eyes to a specific light, like Hubble searching space clouds, zooming in. I fly towards my star. Light speed or impulse. Moslty moving. faster, slower. Meteorites and alien life stop me, new things to do, new people to learn, to be. The dreams of others like rocket ships crossing my path. So often the traffic laws must be obeyed, I have to obey the right of way. The right of your way, to your destination. But I fly, not straight ahead, but zig-zag. Stopping to pick the Andorian fire flower, or shake hands with the leader of Beta 3. I eat the crunchy tri-colored culture like a starving beast. And then I continue on. Sometimes my ship is rocking, party on the inside. Sometimes this tin can is cold and lonely, my screams pinging of the metal walls. The readout changes as the star date increases. I am getting closer the computer says as I beg for data over and over in the endless night. But that light is never as bright in my dreams. Never as close as the longing.