Conversations With a Muse

Awakened…

It’s midnight, pitch black and humid inside my bedroom. I have finally found the solace of deep, dreamless sleep when I’m pulled into consciousness by a faint whispering. I stir.

“What are you doing up, baby,” I say, assuming it’s one of my girls. “Bad dream?” With my eyes still closed, I reach out my hand to pat a little blonde head.  There’s no one there, so I force my eyelids open. It’s dark, but I can see a tall, thin figure perched on the end of my bed. He’s wearing…a top hat?

“It’s me,” the figure says. “But you can call me baby, sweetie.”

“Ahhh. Chris… I might have known. Hold on.” Careful not to wake my husband, I open my nightstand drawer and pull out a small notebook and a book light.

“Not Chris, Christopher,” he says, enunciating all the consonants. “Remember?”

“Right. Sorry. Christopher. Whadya got?”

“Saint Christopher, actually,” he says casually.

Saint?” I laugh. “Okay…you…your kind are beautiful creatures. And I guess it’s possible someone might mistake you for an angel, in the dark, having had something serious poured in her drink. But I’d hardly call you a saint. Anyway, do you even know who Saint Christopher is?”

“Of course dear,” he says, buffing his nails against his chest. “It’s me.”

“You know I think if you did a little research you’d find the irony…You know what, forget it. I’m not going to argue this at…” I glance at my digital clock on the nightstand “12:02 am. You can pretend you’re a saint if you want. But I am not calling you Saint Christopher.”

Finally my eyes adjust to the dim light and I see that Chris—er, Christopher is dressed in turn of the century equestrian clothes: tight, forest-green pants, a derby, leather riding boots that come to just above the knee. I raise an eyebrow. He smirks at me.

“You love it, right?” he says, lifting his hat from his head and grinning. I squint and shake my head.

“I don’t—“

“Mmm hmm,” he interrupts, pursing his lips. “Don’t think I don’t know about your love of horses. Not to mention your secret obsession for ridiculously tight boots. It’s just too bad it doesn’t work on them.”

“What? What doesn’t work?”

“Whispering,” he says, rolling his eyes. I shake my head at him in confusion. He sighs and clicks his tongue impatiently. “You can’t muse a horse.” He slides off the foot board and leans against it. I tilt my head and survey him. Somehow, even ridiculous in 18th century equestrian gear, Chris manages to look fashionable. “It works on dogs sometimes,” he says. “Cats yield varied and erratic results. But horses are like stubborn old men. They always think they know better.”

”You tried to…give a horse an idea?” I can’t stop the corner of my mouth from turning up into a half smile. I snicker.

“Listen, Miss Judgmental in ripped yoga pants and….my good Hell, is that your husband’s old t-shirt?” I glance down at my pajama selection and shrug. He cringes and goes on. “The point is, don’t judge me. I had a vision: A majestic black horse cantering  in the wind at night. A poem, or a story beginning, whatever…figuring that out is your forte. Anyway it sounded simply fabulous. So I wanted to try it out before I whispered it.”

“That does sound lovely,” I say, scrawling notes across an empty line in my notebook.

“Wait,” he says, moving next to the bed and pushing my notebook down. “Close your eyes.” He kneels in front of me in the dim light and for a small moment we look at one another. I see sparks of color erupting inside the sapphire blue rings of his eyes. Tiny torrents of light, gold, pink, and yellow and I wonder if this is what ideas look like. I wonder if he can feel them. I wonder what it means to be a Muse, and if that strange sadness I sense in him has anything to do with his career choice. Or if it was a choice at all…

“I said, close your eyes.”

“Sorry.” I lower my eyelids and I’m met with a rush of cool night air. The pounding of hooves on earth drowns out the beating of my own heart. I’m riding without a saddle, barefoot and clutching fistfuls of the creature’s jet-black mane, strands of which are whipping against my forearms. The horse slows to a canter and I slide off, stand beside him and run my hands along his muscular neck. His silken hair shines almost blue in the moonlight.

I’m drawn to the creature, Ilh_040Goliath can’t stop touching him. I’m beckoned by the diamonds sparkling in the velvet, black sky and the way the grass casts snakelike shadows onto my bare feet. I want to stay. I want to live here, fall into this world and never look back. But reality lies in waiting. I know it will call for me once it realizes I am gone. And eventually, I will call for it too. I open my eyes.

“Wow…that was—“

“Acceptable,” he sighs.  “Adequate. But it could have been brilliant. Sadly this getup was wasted on the likes of His Majesty in the manure pile out in the back field. Some creatures simply weren’t made to appreciate artistic inspiration.”

“I know why she goes riding,” I say quietly, picking up my notebook and pen.

“Oh? There’s a she?” Chris smiles knowingly and backs away from my bedside, leans against my desk.

“Yes, a young girl. She sneaks out of her house at night and rides because it’s the only way she can’t hear her heart pounding. She’s haunted by…something. I don’t know yet.”

“I’ll work on it for you,” he says.

“Thanks,” I say, and smile. He smiles back. We have a mutual, unspoken understanding. The magic of being mused doesn’t stop at one suggestion. It’s the merging of enchanting ideas with familiar emotion, the melding of imagination and truth. I close the notebook and lay it on the nightstand.

“What are you doing?” Chris says. “We aren’t done.”

“Listen, Chris. Christopher. I really appreciate all of this effort, but it’s after midnight. My kids are going to get me up early. And anyway I think I got the gist of what—“

“What…the horse in the field? That wasn’t it. What do you take me for, a dolt?”

“I don’t—“

“Get comfortable sweetie, I have the story idea of a lifetime for you.” He sinks to the floor and leans comfortably against the pillows I’ve tossed from my bed.

“I’m already writing the story idea of a lifetime, rememb—“

“It starts like this…He’s a man with a gypsy soul who trains horses, and he’s a ghost. But not in the usual way…

hand writing darkish

Top Ten Tuesday

Hey Firefans,

We decided to try something new this month, a weekly “Top Ten List” about writers. Whether these will continue to be humorous, sarcastic, or downright bitter, I simply cannot predict. Coming from our group, I suspect you will see a bit of each.

This one is based on a few things I’ve come across during the last year- having admitted to the world that I like to write fiction. Lots of polite-yet-unsettled smiles and awkward silences at family picnics, if ya know what I mean. So I thought I’d start with a list of our quirks to get this stuff out there in the open, hopefully save a fellow writer somewhere a little embarrassment.

Top 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Fiction Writers

10 – We compare real people to fictional characters. (Sorry about that one folks. It’s morally unjustifiable. We know. But it’s truth.)

9- We have imaginary friends. (Otherwise known as fictional characters.)

8 -Writers are not afraid of hard work. Most of us have other jobs, and besides writing is really *&#*#! hard work, most of the time!

7- That being said, there is such a thing as self-induced writers block. And procrastination can be friend as well as foe.

6- We do not wear sweaters all the time, own multiple cats, and drink coffee religiously. Eduard “Santa” Gorey and kitty.

(Well…I do adore a good cardigan. By pure coincidence, I own two cats and and… Okay can we just scratch this one?)

5- All writers are not grammar freaks. We write incomplete sentences, misuse apostrophes, change tenses inappropriately all the time. We have just become adept at finding mistakes and fixing them before you see.

4 – We don’t always write what we know. I mean, really? That’s like going to an amusement park for the first time and only riding the parking lot shuttle.

3 – You probably aren’t in our novel.

(Along with this, please don’t ask us if you can be in our novel.)

2-  Some modified version of something you did or said at any given moment in time is probably in our novel.

Including you having asked if you can be in our novel.

 

And the Number One Thing You Probably Didn’t Know About Fiction Writers…

1-  Most of us aren’t writing to get published, get on the NY Times Bestseller list and become famous authors drinking imported Italian coffee and buying diamond studded collars for our rooms full of cats.

We aren’t writing because it’s a hobby either.

We’re writing because, as Gloria Steinem said:

“It’s the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.”

Until next time,

~C

Fragment Friday- Contradictions

Hey readers!

I am very excited about this post.

Its Music Week, AND Fragment Friday, AND its my turn to share some fiction! 

I decided to write something new, just for this post. I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk lately, and this was just the ticket to bring me out of it.This piece is from my (very distant future) book, The Lyrics. This scene, combined with Ed Sheeran’s Give Me Love is a good example of when I hear a song, and it moves me, speaks to the Muse, and fits my characters so perfectly I decide to actually write the song into the story.

One more thing before you dive in. This piece is a little long (Read; it needs editing.) It’s rough, it rambles a little, and it’s probably not the best representation of my writing style. (Read: I finished it last night at 11:39pm.) But it’s fresh, its pure and raw, and that’s what we’re shooting for here on WTF.

If you have comments, questions, complaints, I’d love to hear it all. Help me make it better. We’re all about the feedback!

Hope you enjoy.  ~Cindy

The Lyrics  Chapter 22 – Contradictions

The droning voices and incessant, cacophonic noise of the Karaoke machine finally ceased, and now a 50’s style song pulsed over the bar with a purposeful beat.

Stacey wasn’t on the stage anymore, and she hadn’t gone back to the crowded table of women—Sam could only assume they were dancers, covered in makeup and casting sparks of light around the room with their sequin-covered breasts. When he’d first caught sight of her, bare-faced and wearing a soft-pink hooded sweatshirt and jeans, he was grateful. Rising fame and palpable heartbreak hadn’t changed her yet. That’s it, keep fighting it, baby.

He wandered through the club, trying not to breathe in the scent of alcohol, trying to shut out the sound of ice clinking in thick glasses. He maneuvered around a crowd of women chatting on the dance floor, averted his eyes away from the bartender and made his way toward the back door, propped open. He somehow knew he’d find her there. He drew in a breath.

He could only see the silhouette of her, and she wasn’t facing him. But there was no doubt it was Stacey. She was leaning against the railing and dangling a half-empty thoughtful silhouettebeer bottle over the edge. He hesitated in the doorway, watching the way the flat lamplight bounced off her hair, casting an amber glow onto her nose and cheeks. It was possible, with every subsequent heartbreak she grew a little sadder, a little less sure of herself, and a little more beautiful. She leaned her head back and took a gulp from the bottle. He half smiled, watching her try not to cringe as she swallowed it.

“Hey,” he said, still inside the open door. She whipped her head around but didn’t move in any other way, so that a length of her brown hair swept under her chin, like a fine silk scarf. He could see her throat muscles move as she swallowed so she could speak.

“Sam?” Her eyes widened. “What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you since…I thought you were still in London.”

“I thought you didn’t drink beer,” he said, ignoring her question.

“I don’t.” She swirled the bottle around, looking through the hole at the liquid inside instead of him. “How long have you been here?”

“Long enough,” he said, When he saw her swallow hard and close her eyes, he wished he’d found another way to say it. She laughed sardonically and shook her head.

“That figures. It’s like I’m always finding new ways to humiliate myself.” He started to shake his head but she went on before he could think of what to say. “Cry about my dipshit ex in front of a famous director, a room full of theater critics. Come to find out it was in front of my best friend too. Typical.” Her words stung at him, and he wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t like being referred to as her best friend, or because he didn’t feel like he’d been any sort of friend, to her or anyone. Not for the past six months anyway.

“Hey,” he said, placing his hand on her arm. “You didn’t do anything except not sing Karaoke. I’m not saying you’re bad, but that’s no crime.” He grinned, but she didn’t smile back. “Ok…so you watched Jake make an ass of himself on national television.  So what? Anyway, you have to know it isn’t true. All that chatter about his broken heart and making babies. It’s bloody nonsense.”

“You mean he made it up? Why?”

“Come on Stace. You’ve gotta know by now— he isn’t above feeding fiction to the press for publicity. It’s part of the game. We do it all the time.”

You don’t,” she said arguably, swirling the beer bottle around so it made a swishing noise. “I don’t.

“Well that’s because you and I—” he paused, wanting those words to slide easily across his tongue and out of his mouth and into the air again. “You and I…” he hesitated.. She turned and looked at him expectantly. “Well. We have a mutual understanding that any publicity is bad publicity.” Her face warmed, she smiled slightly. She was standing next to him now, her arm touching his.

“Tell me why it matters to me Sam,” she said, still swinging the beer bottle and gazing upward. “I wasted five years of my life waiting for Jake. He obviously wants fame more than he wants me. So what do I care if he’s out there, leading someone else on?” Beer on railing

Damn. He’d hoped that things would be different now, that she wouldn’t want to talk about Jake, that she’d no longer regard him as the middle-man. It was that one hope that gave him the courage to walk through the door of that bar. He wanted to pull her into his arms. Even more than he wanted to go to the bar and order a Scotch, even more than he wanted to find that bastard he used to regard as his only confidante and send him through a wall. More than all of it, he wanted to hold her. But he didn’t. He couldn’t.

“Because,” he said instead, forcing out words. “You gave it your all, and it’s tough to stop that momentum.” He swallowed hard. “Because your heart’s still in it.” He wasn’t saying it: The truth that hovered between them like the smoke in the air. Because you’re still in love with him.

She sighed and tipped her head so it touched his shoulder. He didn’t move. She sniffed a few times. She’s crying, he thought.  Suddenly her arm was moving around his waist. He started to hug her, but she reached into his jacket pocket and thrust a carton of cigarettes into the space between them.

“I thought you quit,” she said, her brown eyes flickering.

“I did,” he said, squinting and scratching behind his ear. She opened the carton. One missing. She eyed him for a few minutes, quiet scrutiny on her brow. He waited for her to ask if he’d been drinking. At least then he could say no, and it would be true, and he could be honest about something. But she didn’t ask. She pushed the cigarettes back into his pocket and gave him a weak smile.

“You and I…” she said, shaking her head and reaching for her beer. “At least we’re mutually ridiculous.” She took another long swallow and balanced the bottle on the railing, then opened her arms to embrace him. He lifted his to let her in, and she tucked her head under his chin. He closed his eyes.

hug “I don’t know why you’re here Sam.” Her voice was muffled by his jacket. “I probably don’t want to know why you’re at a bar, in L.A., at midnight. And this is probably really selfish… but I’m glad. I needed a friendly face.”

He hated the way she’d said it. A friendly face. Those words made it clear that things were not different. Time and distance had not changed anything. Up until now he’d been telling himself he’d changed inside and out since the last time he saw her. And maybe he had. But he was still the man she needed without being the man she wanted.

The smoke and the noise from inside the bar drifted out the back door and into the atmosphere, disappearing into the long, waving fingers of palm fronds. Bouts of laughter from the tables inside rose above the murmurs of flattery and pick-up lines, the publicized beginnings of one-night-stands. The music overhead changed from 50’s-pop into something contemporary; novel, with a softer beat. There was a bit of sorrow in the singer’s voice that rung familiar in Sam’s ears. The voice sounded subtly British, not unlike his own, and the lyrics floated out into the night air.

Give me love like her
Cause lately I’ve been waking up alone
Paint splatted teardrops on my shirt.
I told you I’d let them go…
And that I’ll fight my corner.
Maybe tonight I’ll call you
After my blood turns into alcohol.

A couple came onto the patio holding hands. They kissed. Sam watched them for a long time. They started to dance. Don’t, a voice in his head urged. It’s too much. It’s too soon. 

“You wanta dance?” he said, ignoring it.

“I thought you didn’t dance.” She pulled out of his arms and gave him a weak smile.

“I don’t,” he said. She grinned. The realness, the sweetness of it on her lips made him want to tell her. Everything. That he’d been waiting for her to stop reaching for the unreachable. That all the imperfections Jake saw in her were what made her…so bloody perfect. But he couldn’t find a way to make those words into anything outside his own head. Instead, he managed:

“But it seems to be a night of contradictions.”

She laughed, the breathy, soprano notes of her laughter ringing in his ears, and he tried hard to memorize it. He’d forgotten that laugh, how it made him feel: Unafraid.

“You’re right,” she held out her hand.  “I’d love to.”

**********

Hello, you beautiful reader you. If you made it this far, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. If you’re interested, I’ve created a soundtrack for this story on Spotify. Find me there and I’ll share it with you. 🙂

It’s Music Week!

Hey Firefans!

We are so excited to share a special treat with our loyal followers this week. And…if you’re new to Writing the Fire, you picked a great time to join us. We’ve had an epiphany.

Last week when I wrote the 3 Ways to Keep Writing… or How Not to Lose Your Writing Mojo post, I was chatting via Facebook with Lori and asked her to give me a few ideas about what inspired her to write. She said:

“Music is huge, particularly when I am writing something spiritual. Music speaks to the soul in ways that nothing else can. In fact, I believe that when we pass on, we’ll communicate through music…somehow. It’s a more complete form of communication.”

Eureka! An idea came into my peripheral vision: We need a tribute to music on Writing the Fire!

Why? Because for each of us, when nothing else moves us, when the Muse is MIA and we’re certain we can’t write another word, music gives us fire.

Do something for me: Think of one of your favorite songs- from any genre or phase of your life, by any artist or group. A song that you can listen to a thousand times and not get sick of. Now… go pull it up on YouTube and have a listen.

What images start to come into focus in your i-love-musicmind…Inside your heart?  What emotions rise up from within, what memories does it bring back into your conscious realm?

Whether you felt ecstatic or sentimental or sad or angry, isn’t that a beautiful phenomenon? What a wonderful thing, that some notes strung together with the right voice and some instrumentation can produce that kind of raw feeling in a human being?

Part of the reason the three of us became so attached from the get-go because we all quickly realized we have one sort of odd phenomenon in common. We write to music. We all figured out we were alike in this way during Camp NaNoWriMo last August, and we all kinda geeked out about it together. Our group Facebook page became a virtual corkboard where we shared all our favorite songs and the scenes we’d written to go with them.

So this week we’re going to let you inmy_favorite_song-3892 too! We’ll share some of the music that plays a part in our writing, along with the story that appeared in our heads as we listened. I also convinced a local performer, our Indie Ogden friend Jenny Shaw to share some of her music here, for a look at the other side of things. We’ll answer the question: What music summons stories from the minds of writers, and what stories propel a musician into making music?

Consequently, this morning at our monthly business meeting I asked Natalie to give me some song ideas to go with this post. I wanted something that anyone could listen to and see the vision that we see: Music is a pathway to the soul. She came up with this one:

It really is perfect for this post, but it’s funny…  I think if someone was ever to write a story of our group, this would definitely be our theme song.

Anyway, get ready to read some of our deep-from-the-murky-depths writing this week, and hear the music that inspired it. And- we’d love to hear your favorite songs and how they inspire you too. So don’t hesitate to give us a shout out if you want to sing along. ; )

So. Much. Fun. You do not want to miss this. Stay tuned!  🙂

Cindy

Interview with a Writer: Kira Lyn Blue

Hey guys, it’s Natalie.
You remember how last month we had guest writers? Each and every one of them had something wonderful to share. Well, this month, through my personal blog, I found another one!
Kira Lyn Blue is the author of an up and coming urban fantasy novel entitled Murphy’s First Law! Take it from me, ladies and gentlemen she and her book are fantastic! If you’d rather not take my word for it, head over and check out the first chapteKira imag0031-1editedr on her site. See? It was awesome, wasn’t it?
Without further ado, here is Kira sharing her experiences as a writer, and a little bit about Murphy’s First Law (her book, not the adage.)
 
 
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
This tale takes us back to the dark ages of dial-up internet when I was a senior in high school and thought I had my life all planned out. I was going to attend a service academy and become a career military officer. After turning in an essay on The Name of the Rose for a philosophy class, my teacher asked me to stay after class. I remember being mortified. I had agonized over that essay (read: there were tears involved) and I just knew he was going to tell me it sucked. What he said: “You know, if this military thing doesn’t work out for you, you should become a writer.”
  essay-writing
He had loved the essay and I was flabbergasted. That was the best compliment anyone had ever paid me and it stuck with me long past the military thing not working out. (Note: Short, myopic girls with inclinations towards motion sickness do not make good candidates for jet fighter pilots. Who knew?) It took me years to finally act on his advice, though. I’ve always loved to write, but I was never brave enough to actually commit to writing a novel.  I was, and still am, afraid it won’t be good enough. It was finally my wonderfully supportive husband who gave me a kick I needed by being supportive and encouraging me to follow my dream. I also keep the words of my former philosophy teacher in my head as encouragement and a reminder that other people sometimes see us much more clearly than we see ourselves.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have to pick just one? Eeep! I’m going to go with Chuck Palahniuk. It might seem odd since it’s not the genre I typically read and not the one I’ve chosen for my own series, but I think he writes the most amazing opening chapters. That he opened both Fight Club and Invisible Monsters with the end of the story has always impressed me. He shows you the end and still manages not to give anything away, so I devour his books trying to understand how the characters get to the point that he showed in the opening.
I’m also intrigued by how he can make me empathize with characters so flawed I would probably find them despicable in real life. Now that’s good writing. I want to be able to do that!
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
All of it. Ok, not really. I’d say my biggest challenge is not rambling. I’m still learning how to craft scenes using the minimum amount of words that still convey the tone and emotion I want.

What is your book about?
Jacquelyn Montgomery is a Jinx; the living, breathing embodiment of Murphy’s Law. When you’ve accidentally blown up a college chemistry lab, killed your boyfriend and best friend, and attracted the attention of the Justicars who hunt down and kill Jinxes, what do you do? You hide out in in a city no self-respecting sorcereress would deign to set foot in: Indianapolis. You hope the endless miles of cornfields surrounding the city will protect you. News Flash: They won’t.
What inspired you to write your book?
This question popped into my head one day: What if having a magical ability completely sucked? Things just kind of developed from there. The idea is fun for me because I want to see how my character, Jac, can learn to control her life even if she can’t control her magic.
What experiences do you draw from to make your characters so believable?
Hold on, I’m still reeling over the implication of that question. My characters are believable! YAY! Setting the book inbigstock_Indianapolis_Sky_Line_937865 my hometown makes it easier because I can picture the scenes better, so then I just have to focus on actions, behavior, and dialogue. Other than that, I have no idea. It frequently feels like my characters have a mind of their own. Their actions and words just play out in the never ending film running in my mind and somehow it ends up on the page. That said, I do have to go back in and revise using my character notes to make sure each character stays true to the personality I intended for them.
See, what did I tell you folks? She’s awesome! And if you didn’t click on the link above when I told you to… do it now so you can be as hooked as I am!
Thank you Kira for giving us this interview and reaffirming the knowledge that no writer is alone in their crazy! And thank you to our wonderful readers for coming back here again and again to see what kind of lunacy we’re cooking up!
Natalie

About Kira Lyn Blue:

Kira Lyn Blue is an urban fantasy author living in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband, two furry ninjas with tuna breath, and a deaf Humane Society rescue dog that looks like a cross between David Bowie and Krypto the Superdog. She is currently working on a novel about Jac, the chaos class sorceress or Jinx, tentatively titled Murphy’s First Law.

3 Ways to Keep Writing…or How Not to Lose Your Writing Mojo

I promised to share some insider tips from our group about writing, and today I’m going to start with my ongoing advice to myself. Things I have to make myself do, outside of my freelance writing work and constant mommying.  Without these activities in my day to day life, I tend to lose my writing mojo, so to speak.

For me personally, my attempt to write just enough so that I actually feel good about calling myself a writer goes a little beyond typing at the keyboard. So that I feel like a writer, there are three things I do every day.

I Read

Yep. Everything. At any given time I’m reading a book I love, aopen-book-on-top-of-pile-of-booksnd one that I probably don’t love but I’m forcing myself to get through, if for no other reason than I know how I don’t want to write. On top of this I read newspapers, magazine articles, blog posts, and my very favorite– fresh, unpublished fiction from some future authors I am lucky enough to call friends. Everything I read, whether I love it or hate it, agree or disagree with its message, makes me a better writer in one way or another.

As far as what I like to read, I try to choose books that are similar to the genre in which I like to write. This helps with a myriad of things: what kind of characters are best for my stories, how dialogue and narration plays into the overall piece, the way the plot unfolds, and etc… When I’m reading a book I’ve chosen specifically because it’s like my own writing, I not only look for things I love, I find and analyze the things I don’t like. I ask myself why I didn’t like something, and what I might have done differently.

If you want to write but aren’t sure what genre might suit you best, think about your favorite books. Go back to the stories that stay inside your head long after you turn the last page, those favorites you keep on your shelf year after year.  Read them, even if it’s for the twentieth time and make a note of specific scenes, characters, paragraphs and pages that strike you. Chances are, you’ll find your writing voice there. If it means something to you, that’s probably the kind of thing you want to say with your writing. As the popular young adult fiction author Brandon Mull says: “Try to find the music that only you can hear.”

I Write

This may seem a little obvious, but if you’re a parent, have a job, or are working on a higher education (basically any form of adult human being) you know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are some days I literally have six minutes in between obligations. But I make myself write something every day. It might be a short conversation from my novel,  an idea for a scene, or even an idea for a new story.  hands_on_laptop_green_field-353x179

A lot of times, what I write is simply a random observation; a quick sentence about what the trees looked like after a storm or an overheard conversation that sparks an idea.  It can be any length, from a few simple sentences to a thousand word document. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t grammatically correct or especially poetic. The point is that original thoughts from my head have made it into print.

Try this, and do it without limits or rules. Anything goes. Trust me, this does wonders for the psyche. Start doing this and you’ll see instant results— hit with an onslaught of new words and ideas. The brain is a beautiful thing in that once it creates something new…it begs for more. There is simply no better way to inspire writing, than to write.

I Imagine  Romance

I have to admit this one is my favorite (and I chose this picture because it reminds me of the characters in my current project…*sigh*)

Ahem. Anyway, every day, just before I fall asleep I close my eyes and give my imagination a chance to hold my attention.  I just let whatever images come into my head play around there for awhile, to see what my muse comes up with.  A lot of times it’s random, anything from the perfect first kiss to a giant, fire-breathing dragon, but if I’m in the middle of working on a specific story, it’s an existing scene.  And even if I’ve re-written it twenty times, I figure if it comes about in my semi-subconscious, I still have probably not written it to its truest form.  So I let the muse have her way with my mind. And that isn’t as dirty as it sounds. (Well, okay maybe sometimes…)

Often, I simply let my mind settle into sleep and let the images gracefully fade away. But sometimes  (this is the best part!) I get an epiphany. Suddenly I have a new idea, the perfect premise for a new blog post, an essay or a poignant conversation between two of my characters. I keep a notebook or two, (or twenty) in my nightstand for just such occasion. I jot it all down without worrying what it sounds or looks like—just get the idea down there on the paper so I can tangibly reach for it later.  It’s the perfect way to capture random creativity. It’s like getting keynotes from my imagination

Zion NarrowsEssentially, those are the basics for me. Sometimes, a friend will come across something I’ve written, a blog post, part of my book, (a sarcastic Facebook post) and ask how I keep coming up with fresh things to write. In repeatedly doing these things I’ve discussed, that’s how.  Believe it or not, most of the time I have to lead my mind into the narrows of creativity.

Before I sign off, I feel compelled to say that my methods aren’t the only means for inspiring oneself into writing. On the contrary. In our little  group alone, each of us have probably tried a half-dozen different approaches on any given day, to keep the muse at hand.

I hope this has brought some insight to those of you who want to write but aren’t sure where to start. And for those of you that do write, I’d love to hear what keeps you inspired!

Gotta go, it’s time to imagine. 😉

~Cindy

Writing Amidst Life

It’s a little uncanny,

Near the beginning of the year, our group came up with the idea to let our community of friends, family and fellow writers fill our blog with their musings. It would be led by whatever posts came in, with no particular order or plan.  Lori decided to plan for March to be mainly guest posts. And as it turns out, the past month was just the time we were going to need help from the outside most.

Over the past month the three of us have taken turns having meltdowns, induced by relationship dramas, family issues and work stress. The three of us have alternately expressed our need to back off of everything, including our writing projects and this blog. We sent each other statements like:dreams5048468_headache_girl

“I just can’t promise anything right now.”

“I hate that I’m forced to decide, but I have to let some things go.”

“I just have to… breathe.”

Don’t worry. We still love this space. We still want to write. We’re all going to be ok. We’re just going through…well, life. So I decided that for the blog in April, the beginning of spring and therefore the very soul of change itself would be about just that: Writing… Amidst Life.

For each of us, writing provides something beyond producing a story or organizing information on a page. It’s more a reminder that we are driven by a Higher Power; true and honest sources we can’t see or explain, only feel. Feel, and work like hell to get that feeling onto paper so that others might feel it too.

In the throes of raising children, supporting spouses, building relationships, working like maniacs at new endeavors and trying not to look back at old mistakes, in the highs and the lows that life throws toward us with no abandon, we still write. We find ways. We have to. Our sanity depends on it. It’s how we get through all of those things and still come out O.K.

And yet…writing itself is like any other career, full of bliss and tedium, depending on the day. We’re like everyonewriters-block else, trying to squeeze our best selves out of what life gives hands us, at any given moment.

So this month we’re going give you a glimpse into our crazy little lives. (Hang on, it isn’t as frightening as you think.) We’ll share our favorite books and movies—the ones that not only draw us in with their stories, but inspire us to create something likewise. We’ll share our secrets for staying motivated. And, as a little bonus we’ve all agreed to share some of our works-in-progress with you, so that you can see a little deeper inside the process. (Yes. Fiction too!)

In April, our posts will illustrate how we’re inspired and discouraged. What keeps us going when it seems nothing can. Like friends who take up the slack, fellow-writers who leave their fire on our pages when we just can’t seem to find a match.

Stay tuned Firefans. iStock_Chapter1

Lots more to come,

~Cindy

My Sparkian Identity Crisis

Since last August when I really dove headfirst into writing fiction, I’ve sort of immersed myself in learning ways I can possibly do it better. I’ve read books by authors on writing from just about every angle that exists. I’ve been attending community writing classes, and I even managed a way to sit in on a Novel genre class at the local university.

I’ve learned some really great stuff. And I’ve even had chances to get chapters of my novel critiqued, edited and then revised. Because of this, parts of my story are now very close to publishable. Awesome.
But I’ve learned one giant lesson in the process. There is such a thing as too much advice.
A few nights ago I experienced what I’m going to refer to as a Sparkian identity crisis. And by Sparkian, I mean that I was in such a desperate and confused state about my writing (because of information overload) that I resigned myself to becoming a writer like Nicholas Sparks.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with him (where have you been living?) he’s a very famous romance novelist. He’s written something like 16 novels in the past 20 years, five of which have been made into major motion pictures- including The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, Dear John, and etc…

As much appreciation as I have for the guy and all his success, I truly cannot stomach his novels. Time and again, I pick up one of his books and find myself wanting to toss it across the room before I get to page 2. The characters feel bland and flat. The dialogue often seems pointless. I can’t make myself care about what happens to them after reading the first chapter, the second…the twentieth.

When I read his books I sorta feel like a walking corpse.

So why would I ever try to identify with an author I don’t respect?  Well, I didn’t really know at this point and so I’m going to keep telling the earlier part of my little story. Read: You’ll have to keep reading if you want to find out.

So- fully engaged for the first time in years in writing fiction, and wanting to make full use of the classes I’ve been taking, over the past few weeks, I’ve been revising the first two chapters of a story I’ve had in my head for seven years. Part of this meant that I had to sit quietly while a class full of writing majors critiqued my writing. Twice. Crazy stuff.

It’s been a really eye-opening experience. I truly recognized the weaknesses I have as a novice writer. For example, my characters say each others names too much. Cheesy. And from a third person perspective I tend to sort of overstate emotions. A quote from the novel class:
“Ok, we get it already. She’s sad.”
Oh, well.. yeah. I can see that now. Oops.
To be fair, many valuable things have come out of all this advice. My revisions are a much clearer picture of my story than what I started with.  I’ve learned a lot about what I do well, and well…what I need to do less of.
But at the same time the whole process has been one giant emotional roller coaster. I’m in a sort of shell-shocked state about my current book in particular, and I sort of flinch whenever I hear anyone talking about characterization or plot devices because it makes me go into a sort of auto-analyze mode about my book.
So last week, Natalie and I went to a community writing class. It’s taught by a published author, and honestly he’s full of great information. It’s been a great resource. But after the craziness of analyzing and revising my story for two months, I was a little on edge. I should have known better than to try to soak in even more writing advice.
Ironically, the class was about conflict. Near the end of the class, the instructor starts explaining a simple rule for writing conflict into scenes throughout a book.  He says to keep the reader interested, you use a certain tactic. He uses The Hunger Games as an example.  “At the end each scene, your main character should end up in a slightly worse position than when the scene started.”
Well friends, that one sentence pretty much negates the premise and format of the entire first half of my story.
So after the class I’m driving home, listening to All American Rejects full blast and trying to pretend I’m not bothered by it. I get home and watch Parenthood, finish some flat Spumante, tuck the kids in, and lie in bed thinking that I am really inept to write the story that seems to have chosen me to write it.
And then, for reasons I  didn’t really understand, I got out of bed and started searching my bookshelves for anything that resembled a Nicholas Sparks novel. I sort of knew there wasn’t one- I  donated (or burned) them all years ago.
 The next morning, I dropped my youngest off at preschool and headed over to the library. I stood outside waiting for the librarian to open the doors. Once inside, I checked out the first Nick Sparks novel I found on the shelf. And then I spent the next hour reading the damn Lucky One.

In reading the first paragraph, I remembered why I have a hard time reading any Sparks novel past chapter 3. (Ok, in the next few sentences I’m going to be blunt. This is only my opinion. If you love Nick Sparks and enjoy his stories, please don’t think this means we can’t be friends.)

The dude tries to be funny and is just not. He uses too many dashes and commas and extremely long sentences. His characters seem generic and kinda soulless. In this book, he tries to characterize an annoying dispatch lady (throw-away character) by saying that she eats doughnuts all day and “she probably weighed over 300 pounds.”

 Please Nick. Either make a genuine effort or simply spare us these pointless, generalized details.
 But mostly, I just can’t give a flying leap whether his characters never come back from the war or marry the wrong person or die of a terminal illness. They all seem like generic cardboard cutouts of the people they represent. And whether I have plot devices that leave my characters in progressively more desperate circumstances or not, I just can’t believe that it’s o.k. to write like that. At least, it’s not ok for me.
So then why am I reading his book now?  Self sabotage? The writer’s version of drinking something horrible and regretting it the next day? Possibly.  Trying to find other authors who don’t end every chapter with a more desperate hook?  Probably. Trying to convince myself that I don’t write like Nicholas Sparks? Yep.
Now. Let’s back up for a second. Would it be so bad if I did write like the Sparkster?
 His stories are about love and life and fate.  That’s what I write. The man is wildly successful. He’s published a ton of books, five of which have been made into movies. He’s a freakin’ famous author. That’s what I want.
 
And hey, there are always going to be critics. If I were rich and famous like him, it really wouldn’t matter that some people thought my writing was shallow.
But…I would care.  If my characters aren’t believable, if my story is predictable and formulized and cliché, I honestly would rather not write anything at all. I really want people NOT to feel like walking corpses when they read my book.
 I don’t write because I think it will make me rich and famous one day. (Though admittedly, that would be a nice perk.) I write because I want to connect with people, to make them feel and love my characters like they are them.  I want my stories to reach out, into people’s hearts and make them say: “Yes. This makes sense to me. I feel this. Someone out there understands.”
Well, there you go. I just solved my own problem.
Bottom line: I’m writing this story. And while there is a lot of valuable advice out there about how I can do it better, there is a limit to how much of it I should ingest. (Ironically this is something my writers group has been telling me all along. But I’m a little dense, a little stubborn and I like to try to learn things the hard way.)
 I’m the author. I know what’s best for my story. I know there are readers out there like myself who want a little more out of a book than a melodramatic plot or a sappy love story. This book is for me, and for them. When it comes down to it, I need to do what’s in my heart.
Sparkian Identity Crisis averted. It’s time to move on.
Until Next Time,
~Cindy