Taking a break

The trip to the Quilt Show was fun, got some amazing pictures of some amazing works of art. Also got to witness human behavior in all its glory. One vendor was yelling at a woman, “No pictures, no pictures, NO PICTURES!!” There was a lot of noise going on and she was looking into her viewfinder. The poor woman was nearly attacked by the female half of the vendor team (The Screamer was male) and she very quickly offered to and did delete the photo. Now, from the standpoint of the vendor, I can understand their wanting to protect their designs, but they can find a less offensive way to express that. I saw no sign around any of their merchandise requesting no photography. I fully intended to enter their booth and perhaps buy something because I like their designs (animal patterns). I was put off by the confrontation to the point that I said aloud, hopefully where they could hear me, “Guess I’ll just move along.” So, I was a participant in the bad behavior, couldn’t help myself.

As this relates to writing, it’s nice to clear my mind of all the gears and smoke of trying to concoct a story and not worry about it. So now when I go back to reading it over, editing and writing fresh material, maybe it will be just that: fresh. One can only hope. I plan to sit down with the story/stories tomorrow and see if anything new arises. It should (I hope). If not, maybe more mind-emptying is called for and I have a wedding quilt I should finish.

Monday starts a new work day after almost ten days off. It’s been ten years since I made the Trip to Scotland and it’s been fun reminiscing with Con, Jette, Cat and Philippa on LJ. More material can be had from that trip, as long ago as it happened. I’m thinking Valerie took a similar trip about the same time and she and Daniel will have things to talk about, Daniel being a Brit and all.

I know, they aren’t real people, but they are stubborn and talk to me like real people. All they’re missing is a physical body…;-)

Breaking writer’s block

I’m not stuck, really I’m not. But not much writing has happened the past few days. No excuse really. I’m off from work, and have had the house to myself all day until DH gets home from work in the evenings. I swear it’s just laziness and/or my ADHD kicking in. Then there’s cleaning the house up. It actually looks like people live here now. And then there’s M*A*S*H reruns (what is currently distracting me).  And tomorrow I’ll be going to the Jacksonville Quilt Show with Mom.

Actually taking time out from writing does help me see it fresh when I get back to it. Distractions can inspire some too. Yesterday, while doing an impromptu cleaning of my office closet (I went in there to clear a space for the vaccum cleaner, which I ended up never using. It’s still sitting in the middle of the dining room floor), I had a new scene for Valerie and Daniel’s story come to me. Her house is vaguely based on mine (except her’s sits on a lake, mine is a good ten miles from the nearest body of water bigger than a retention pond). The house belonged to her parents, then her mother died and her father couldn’t bear to live there. Therefore there a lot of things left in the house for Valerie to go through. It makes sense that Daniel might help or end up there while she’s doing this chore. I haven’t yet decided where to put this scene in their relationship but it will go into the story somewhere, and it all came about because I was in the throes of a cleaning fit.

But ultimately for me, what it boils down to to break a block, is just sitting down with the laptop and getting words out of my head and onto the disc. It may be crap, it usually is, but if it ends up out of my head, I can edit my little heart out later. The first words to hit the page are garbage, but it’s the idea, the story they convey, that is what’s real. If I can get that down, the hard part is over for me. I can edit, revise, rewrite and rethink at this point. Getting the words out is the chore.

Write what you know

So, this is the most basic advice usually given to a writer. If you write what you know, then your material bears a ring of authenticity, of truth, even when you’re writing fiction. But what if your life isn’t overly exciting? What if you’re writing spy novels and you’ve never even left your hometown?

Well, what you do know about is home. Everybody has one, in some form or another. Write about that. Or, if your character lives out of a suitcase, try to imagine what that must be like, to move from place to place all the time. Maybe they long for a stable home. Think about how you would feel if your home were threatened or you lost your accomodations somehow. Even the most basic things would be difficult to come by as easily as they are at home. Now, maybe I’m just yammering on myself about something I don’t understand, but I don’t write spy novels either. I’m just sayin’.

Take my character Rayne, for example. She lives in a city that would be the historical equivalent of a feudal or medieval community in our world. Magic exists there, but it comes to different people in different ways and it follows rules. So, I may not know a damned thing about actual magic, but I can apply my ideas to a system and create an ability that my character posesses, something that makes her unique and also valuable to others, some who want to exploit her talents. She also knows horses. That is a love I share with her and, having owned a horse in the past, I can tap into that experience to write something with a genuine ring to it.

Same thing with Valerie Roark. She’s my main character in my contemporary story. She’s divorced (I never have been), she has siblings (I’m an only child) and she’s suffered the loss of a parent (mine are both doing quite well, thank you). I don’t personally know how any of these situations feels, but I have been hurt, I have friends who have lost a spouse through divorce or death and I can only imagine how they feel, but imagine I do. I try to learn as much as I can about the people around me, to be a good friend, and to try to understand their feelings. And it can help me write.

In lieu of actual experience, there’s always research. I am an employee of a state university so I theoretically have access to their library system. I have yet to take advantage of this benefit. I suppose if I were writing something that had actual historical facts mixed up in it, I wold try to find out as much about the backdrop as I could, but I haven’t written anything like that yet. Maybe someday…

Music and writing

I asked this question on the Lallywriters group recently. Did music inspire or influence writing for people and in what way? Well, that’s sort of what I asked, I don’t remember the exact wording. Some people have to listen to something while writing, for some, entire works are inspired by music. It’s fascinating how music affects and influences what we write.

For me, I need silence in order to write. Not absolute silence, but quiet, so that I can think and get into what I’m writing. Maybe just a touch of ADD in that requirement. If I listen to music, I have to be doing somthing that doesn’t require my full attetion, like cooking or sewing. Otherwise, I start listening to the music and singing along, rather than writing like I should be. Even on my commute from work and home if I’m trying to work through dialogue, I have to turn the radio off.

However, music inspires my writing. A certain turn of phrase, a style of music can evoke a mood that sends my thoughts down a path where my characters wait, eager to tell me their thoughts and adventures. Rayne’s soundtrack is heavy on Celtic folk and traditional music; Valerie and Daniel have been getting a lot of help from The Weepies. Their easy sound and the meaning of their lyrics really fits the issues that D & V have to deal with.

Back in the day when I used to write fanfic mostly, I would start each chapter with a line or two from a song. It helped set the mood for the following prose and helped me focus. I’ve started doing that with Valerie and Daniel’s story, though if I ever decide to try and get it published (which will have to follow the equally miraculous event of actually getting the darn thing finished) I’d probably have to dump all the musical inserts because of copyright issues. Although, I do always credit the artist in those little quotes… free advertising, people!

I can’t imagine my life without music, just as I can’t imagine my life without being able to write. If I were forced to make a choicde between sight and hearing, it would be a very difficult choice indeed.

How to Amuse a Muse

I wrote this for a college class about ten years ago. It’s how I imagine my personal muse to appear. Enjoy!

She sat in front of the computer, waiting. Waiting for something that it seemed, was not destined to happen. Ever, at least not within her lifetime. A faint rustling of wings sounded and a tiny but familiar weight settled onto her left shoulder. The wings fluttered again briefly, settling themselves, the motion bringing with it a faint stink of smoke and brimstone. So, it was going to be one of *those* writing sessions.

“What do you want?” she asked the weight on her shoulder irritably. “You just want to cause trouble. I know you.”

“Is that any way to talk to the creature that tells you stories, that gives you inspiration, that breaks the lock of the dreaded writer’s block?” Its arms and wings moved in a dramatic gesture, causing it to nearly tumble from its perch.

“You aren’t that creature. That would be a muse, and you, my little tormenter, are a demon.”

“Don’t I give you ideas?” it wheedled. A tiny clawed hand gripped her ear to keep from falling again as she turned her head to look it in the eye.

“Sure, you wait until I’m almost asleep and then you torture me with ideas, really good ones–” the creature preened at the compliment, “– but you always make sure I’m too sleepy to get up and write them down. Or you slip them into a dream and I forget them after I wake up.” She stared at the tiny incubus, glaring as it tried to look apologetic.

“Look, I’m sorry,” it told her. “I’m what you got. You have to admit, when you do get up off your lazy butt and write the stories I tell you–” The writer’s shoulder twitched threateningly and the demon reconsidered the wisdom of using the word ‘lazy’ while sitting this close to her hand. It couldn’t actually die but getting smacked into a wall hurt, immortality or not. “–Well, they are pretty good, aren’t they?” it crooned in her ear.

“I said they were, didn’t I? It’s just that, well, your timing is horrible. You tease me with ideas late at night, or when I’m at work and I can’t take the time to write. The best I can do is scribble something on a piece of paper and hope I remember that it’s in my pocket before I wash my uniform.” She turned to look at the bird-sized demon perched on her shoulder. “Why couldn’t I have ended up with a different muse? At least one that smelled better, anyway.”

Its wings flapped gently and it sniffed at the breeze created, checking for any odd aromas. “I don’t smell anything.”

She snorted a little laugh. “I guess not. But why the demon form? I mean, I thought muses were women wearing robes or something. What gives?”

The creature sighed with an air of infinite, but strained patience. “How many times do I have to explain it?”

“You never have!” she exclaimed.

“I haven’t?! Oh my, that must have been one of my others.” It reached into a hidden pocket and pulled out a tiny day-planner. “Monday… Tuesday…Thursday–” It was interrupted in its thoughts by her outraged squawk.

“You mean I don’t even have a muse all to myself? What kind of operation is this, anyway?!”

The incubus put away the book and turned to face her. Its tiny hind claws gripped her shirt tightly and its leathern wings were slightly open to help it keep its balance as it tried to explain.

“You see, some writers have a full-time muse. Really prolific authors like John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and Steven King. By the way–” it leaned toward her conspiratorially, “if you think I’m weird looking and smell bad, you should meet Steven King’s muse. Whew! Even *I* can smell that one! Anyway,” it continued, “newer writers, like yourself, get a part-time muse. We sort of fit to your preferences and work when we can, hence the weird timing. As you get better, you might get one assigned full time, but we still don’t work 24-7. Even we need time off to hang out at the beach, hide under children’s beds: you know, the usual. That’s what you describe as writer’s block. You know, you can work it out on your own, I don’t want to have to do *all* the heavy labor around here.”

“I guess you’re right,” she admitted. “It’s just very frustrating, especially when you bring that friend of yours along at night that whispers in my other ear about what a good idea it is and how mad I’m going to be if I don’t get up. And then I fall asleep! Is that some kind of racket you’ve got going?”

The demon snickered. “Nope. That’s actually my brother-in-law. He’s a first cousin to the sandman, but he didn’t have the right attitude so he can’t get on in the family business. I bring him along to keep him out of more trouble and try to get you moving when I’ve got a really good idea. You remember some of your dreams anyway. I know you do.”

“Only sometimes.” She sighed. “So, what can I do to make your job easier so I can write?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” it replied. The incubus moved forward to survey what was on her desk. “First of all,” it pointed to a can of diet soda, “get rid of that stuff. Gives me heartburn. And some chocolate and caffeine might be nice. Remember those chocolate covered expresso beans that Diana sent you….?”

Why I write

I ask myself this question, usually when I’m tearing my hair out when I can’t make any progress, or I’ve lost my flash drive with over 300 pages of material on it. Talk about heart palpitations…

But there must be a reason, right? I have theories, who knows how accurate or valid any of them may be. At any rate, here come the theories:

  1. I have an active imagination: Yes, I do, yet I don’t think my imagination is very original. I mean, I come up with my own plot points, such as they are, my own characters (with help from friends sometimes). To reduce the stress for myself, I have accepted the widely held notion that there are no original stories, only ways of telling them. I’m not convinced that my way of telling is very original either, but that’s another matter. Still, to have a lot of material written and pick up a book that several of the basic characteristics of my main characters are already illustrated is disenhearteneing. I couldn’t read the book, I was so depressed. Of course, there are probably plenty of people/characters out there who are youngest children, the only girl, growing up on a farm or a rural setting, blah, blah, blah.
  2. I’m schizophrenic, and so am I!: Well, not really (that I know of) but I have a vigorous population of people inside my head that sometimes take turns demanding my attention, sometimes they clamor to speak all at once. Rayne is the most vocal of these, because I’ve known her the longest (Yes, I refer to these characters as if they are real people, because in many ways, they are real to me.). The established cast are the usual participants in my internal dialogue, but every once in awhile, a new character springs forth and demands some attention too. A war chief did this to me not long ago in Rayne’s grown-up story. There is a war and a battle to be fought and not much progress being made recording this event in my story. The war chief took matters into his own hands and has told me of a pre-battle ritual among his people and he invited Rayne and her friends to come along, maybe because he’s sure Rayne is a priestess. She can’t convince him otherwise, so she just humors him. And then there are times when two characters demand a little more… *ahem* intimate attention. A completely random pairing happened and a rather hot scene emerged. It may never make it into the finished product (if I *ever* finish), but the two of them were, shall we say, satisfied.
  3. I’m an only child: That may tie back into the imagination thing, but it’s true. I never really had imaginary friends that I thought were real, but I always played alone and talked to myself (my mental health status is outwardly stable… usually 😉 I use my commute time to speak dialogue aloud, cementing ideas and hearing the words out loud helps me make sure it sounds natural.
  4. I have to write, I just have to!: I started with fanfiction, old Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, took it up again with the series form of Highlander and decided if people liked those stories, they might like stuff I wrote myself. I don’t know why I feel compelled sometimes to write, except it’s the only form of expression that I feel I have anything approaching skill, and sometimes, when I read someone else’s work, I despair of my own talent, or lack thereof. But regardless of whether I ever even send anything out in an attempt at publication, I will always write.

So, there it is. Maybe I am crazy. But I’m not skilled enough in any one area to make that my life’s passion. I’m decent at several things, competent in quite a few, but brilliant at anything? Not so much. But I keep trying.

Happy Birthday to Me

Today, I am officially 18, with 25 years experience. (For the math challenged, such as myself, that’s 43). As per usual, I’ve taken next week off from work. I’ll try to write, finish the wedding quilt (for the wedding that happened back in March…) and generally try not to think too much. Work can be a mental strain and it’ll do me some good to have a nice empty head. (There are some that would argue that my head is that way much of the time. Who am I to disagree?)

I hope to have more to post to the Lallybroch Literary Forum. I get the best advice from those wonderful ladies. I am truly in awe of the talent there.

For now, I have chicken in the oven, Dr. Who on the TV, and the laptop in my.. well, my lap. I’m fairly content with things. Forty-something isn’t so bad.