This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse
Happy Labor Day Weekend! We hope the majority of our readers are enjoying the last few days of summer. The Posse's thoughts and prayers are with the Hurricane Gustav evacuees as they make their way to safety and shelter. Many of them are in stop and go traffic along the various interstates and highways heading north today.
We're winding up our month of Inspiration and, with the start of September, will begin a discussion of Writer Health.
Monday, September 1st: Overview of Writer Health & Announcement of the Barnes & Noble gift certificate winner
Tuesday, September 2nd: Norah Wilson "Seasonal Affective Disorder"
Wednesday, September 3rd: Karen Potter "Striving for Balance"
Thursday, September 4th: Maureen Hardegree "Just Say No"
Friday, September 5th: September Noodler New Releases
You have all of today to comment and increase your chances of winning that gift certificate!
Question and Answer Friday
As I contemplate Gustav and, yes, check the tropical updates every couple hours, I know I need to focus on the writing, not on the deja vu I'm experiencing as I wait for my parents to make the decision to evacuate. Wasn't I doing this three years ago, another Labor Day weekend?
Friends are starting to e-mail their evacuation plans to me--where they, their pets and their children will be as we all wait. But I have to write, and I will.
Some writers have rituals that help put them into the zone. Some posse members use music or candles. I've even heard about a writer who would wear a goofy hat. So my question for today is what cues do you use to put your mind in the writing zone even when you don't feel like writing?
Labels: writing cues
Inspiration and Humor: You’ve got to be kidding! - Marta Acosta
Esri told me I had to write about inspiration. I said, “Okay, I’ll write about humor.” She said, very sternly, “It has to be about how humor has inspired you.” She had that crazy look in her eyes, so I said, “Sure, of course, whatever you say, Esri!” I didn’t want to cross some chick who’s hawked beer and potatoes for a living. That beer-and-potatoes crowd runs fast and rough. I’d heard about the terrifying “French fry fingers” treatment they practiced on authors who made disparaging remarks about tubers and suds. This is why I always say something positive about beer and potatoes in each of my Casa Dracula novels, and I highly recommend that other writers also take this precaution.
So I’ve been thinking about how I was inspired by humor, and I’ve reached the rather depressing conclusion that I am not one of those inspire-y people. I don’t have an inspiration board filled with kewt sayings and pictures of kittens hanging from branches with “Just keep hanging in!” captions, even though those posters are totally awesome. I don’t read books about the wonder of writing books. I don’t write poems encapsulating my journey as an artist. I’m not a member of any groups where I actually have to meet people on a regular basis and talk seriously about writing or books.
I did like to sit in classrooms and meetings and make snarky remarks because I was bored. I tried telling people that I suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder, but no one believed me. So I guess boredom inspired me to amuse myself. I felt a social obligation to entertain those around me, too. When I wasn’t in a boring meeting, I was supposed to be doing something else boring, so naturally, I was forced to write on the job just to keep from falling into a catatonic stupor. Because, no matter how much bosses say they hate people wasting time, they hate catatonia even more.
People ask me when I decided to be a writer. The answer is never. I never thought, “Gee, I think I’d like a job with no security, no health coverage, no guarantees, and dubious social benefits.” I’d rather be an electrician, because no matter what happens, people need and will pay for electrical work. Also, people don’t go up to electricians at parties and relay in extensive detail their fantasy for a rewiring job and then say, “You should do that!”
Sometimes after people tell me in extensive detail the book they think I should write, they ask, “What’s the best thing about being a writer?” My husband says I shouldn’t keep answering, “Getting paid,” so now I just mumble something that sounds sensitive and artistic. In fact, I try to mumble the words “sensitive” and “artistic” in my response.
Back to the topic of inspiration. Whenever I’m stuck writing a passage, I play with my Slinky for a while. I like to bounce it on my dog’s head, but he only puts up with this for a few seconds. I wish he was more patient, because I find this activity both soothing and entertaining.
I also find reality television inspirational. On “Project Runway,” one of the contestants said, “Good taste is not style.” This was one of the most genius things I’ve ever heard. Naturally, I stole the line and put it in my book.
So my advice for those intent on being a writer are: Don’t piss off the beer-and-potatoes people; consider a career in the skilled trades; get a really boring job and write during the work day; learn to mumble in a way that makes you sound more sensitive and artistic than you are; watch reality television; and consider buying a Slinky.
------------------------- Marta Acosta is author of the Casa Dracula novels and owner of Vampire Wire, a blog that covers the paranormal entertainment scene. Everything she said about Esri Rose is true.
Labels: authors, Marta Acosta, paranormal romance, vampires, writers, writing
Lee’s List of People Who Inspire
posted by Lee McKenzie
We all have people in our lives who inspire us. Some are famous individuals whose names and achievements are well known to everyone. Others may never have achieved fame, but still live their lives as outstanding role models. So who are these people? And what draws us to them?
Here’s my (partaial) list of inspirational people.Albert Einstein
—The iconic Nobel Prize-winning scientist and philosopher whose name has become with genius. People like to talk about six degrees of separation. In my case, it’s two. My first-year chemistry professor had the honor of meeting Einstein in the early ‘50s.Charles Darwin
—Another iconic figure and (dare I say it?) science geek. I have a fondness for them! In spite of a constant struggle with sea sickness, Darwin traveled around the world, making observations about biological and geological phenomena. Much of what we know today about the natural world is rooted in Darwin’s work.Leonardo da Vinci
—Okay, this is the last scientist. I promise! He makes my list because he was also a writer, an artist, an inventor. When I started graduate school, one of my professors stressed the importance of being aware that I was among a privileged group of people who were being given the luxury of being able to explore new ideas. I’ve never forgotten that. For me, da Vinci is the embodiment of a true explorer.
The people who built this. Nuff said.Lucy Maude Montgomery
—Author of the Anne of Green Gables series and numerous other works. It seems every generation or so, we discover an author whose voice has a connection that is universal and timeless. Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908—one hundred years ago! I’m just one of thousands who have read and reread these stories.Nellie Furtado
—I’ve never been one of the star-struck masses, and I’ve never met this young woman, but she is another example of two degrees of separation. When my son was in grade eight, he attended the same junior high as Nellie Furtado, who was a year or two ahead of him. He was shy, awkward and an easy mark for schoolyard bullies. She was confident, outgoing and not afraid to do the right thing. My son attended a welcome dance for grade eight students that year and when I asked him later if he danced with anyone, he told me that “one of the older girls” had asked him to dance. That “older girl” was Nellie Furtado. My son, who is now a talented musician in his own right, still jokingly refers to it as a pity dance. I still see this young woman as someone who’s able to look beyond herself and think of others—not because it’s good for her career, but simply because it’s good.Hilda Ilvonen Barrie
—My grandmother, and my life-long inspiration. A couple of years ago I wrote a Superheroine
article about her for the Wet Noodle Posse ezine. You’ll find the article here.
Your list of inspirational people will be different from mine, but all these people—famous and not-so-famous—have one thing in common. They are thinkers, doers and achievers. They lead by example, not by instruction, and when the going gets tough, as it invariably does from time to time, we can look to them for the inspiration we need to keep going.
Until next time,
LeeLee's WebsiteThe Writer Side of Life
Labels: inspirational people, Lee McKenzie
Inspired by the Vision of Success by Guest Blogger Missy Tippens
Have you ever walked into a bookstore (or grocery store or Wal-Mart) and spotted a book on the shelf written by someone you know? Maybe a friend from your local RWA chapter or even a critique partner? And then you imagined what your cover would look like, and how your name would look in print. Or imagined how excited your family would be to see it sitting in a real store where real people could see it.
Have you ever heard a first sale story that gave you chill bumps? And then you imagined how you would cry when you got The Call from an editor. You could almost hear the words, “We’d like to offer you a contract…” You could almost feel the champagne bubbles on your tongue from the celebration.
Have you ever attended a book signing and envisioned yourself sitting there—knowing exactly which pen you would use and what you would write? And dare you admit, you may have even practiced your signature?) :)
If you’ve done these things (aw, come on, admit it!), then you’ve envisioned success. And what’s more inspiring than the vision of success?!
It’s so hard sometimes to keep a positive attitude after a rejection (whether unpublished or published). But you have to keep picturing that contract, that cover, that book signing. Then you have to envision the second book. And third. It’s like dangling a carrot out in front of you so you won’t quit.
Keep moving forward. Keep dreaming. Focus on the positive. And I bet you’ll find the inspiration to keep writing.
Missy Tippens first published in 2004--a short story included in Blessings of Mossy Creek. After 10 years of pursuing her dream, she finally sold a full-length novel to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Her first book, Her Unlikely Family, was a February release. Her second, His Forever Love, is due out in June 2009.
Labels: inspiration to write, Missy Tippens
It’s All about Motivation
(noun): a feeling of enthusiasm, interest, or commitment that makes somebody want to do something.
At some point, every published author was unpublished. Most of us are inspired by something or someone to write the book of our hearts. At some point, we all sit our butts in the chair and write. Why? What drives us, truly motivates us, to work alone for hours upon hours and write?
My motivation began over a decade ago when I decided that I wanted to show my kids that they could do anything they set their mind to. When I didn’t sell right away, I decided to prove that determination and perseverance would win in the end. A few years later, I became discouraged. I stopped writing for a few months in 2007, but the stories wouldn’t stop coming. And that’s when I had an epiphany! I couldn’t stop writing even if I wanted to. This realization was freeing. I no longer felt the need to prove anything to anyone. Suddenly, all of the self-appointed pressure I had put on myself disappeared. I was now writing because I loved to write. What a concept. That’s when I found the joy again.
I’m still shooting for the publishing moon, and I’m more determined and focused than ever before. Write and submit. Write and submit. That’s what I do. I KNOW I will sell. I just don’t know when. But it doesn’t matter because I’ve stopped looking ahead. I’m writing more than ever and I’m enjoying the ride. My motivation has changed. Now I write because it’s what I love to do. Why do you write? What’s your true motivation? Has it changed over the years?The picture above is of me jumping out of a plane last week. What motivated me to do that!? Other than my daughter begging me to do it for the last two years, I can honestly say that I have no idea why I actually did it. No Fear. Just Do it! I guess that says it all…
Labels: Motivation, Why?, writing
This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse
We've got a stellar line up as our conversation about inspiration continues this week. Be sure to comment to increase your odds of winning this month's prize--a $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate!
Monday, August 25th: Theresa Ragan "It's All about Motivation"
Tuesday, August 26th: Guest Blogger Missy Tippens "Inspired by the Vision of Success"
Wednesday, August 27th: Lee McKenzie "People Who Inspire Me"
Thursday, August 28th: Guest Blogger Marta Acosta "Inspiration and Humor: You've Got to Be Kidding"
Friday, August 29th: Q&A (Readers Ask Questions; Noodlers Answer)
Labels: inspiration to write, Lee McKenzie, Marta Acosta, Missy Tippens, Theresa Ragan
Question and Answer Day!!
TGIF. Doesn't that say it all? For me, today, yes.
Before we get to the question, let me congratulate Gillian Layne for winning Carla Fredd's Kimani Romance Release. Gillian, if you contact me via my website. http://www.maureenhardegree.com/, I can get the particulars for mailing you your book.
I'd also like to thank both Berta Platas and Carla Fredd for blogging with us this week and sharing their insights on Inspiration.
If any reader has a question they'd like to ask about writing, please feel free to post it. We'll do our best to answer. Remember if you post a response to one of our blogs this month, you'll be entered in the $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate raffle. The more you post, the better your chances.
Our first question of the day: What was the spark of inspiration that led to the first novel you wrote?
Labels: inspiration to write
Fear As Inspiration by Guest Blogger Carla Fredd
My greatest source of inspiration: FEAR
My name is Carla Fredd and writing is my biggest fear. As a romance writer, this is a bit of a problem. What am I afraid of? If it has anything to do with writing, I’m afraid of it. Here’s a short list of my fears. I fear my writing sucks swamp water. I fear my writing is good and I’ll never be that good again. I fear my editor. I fear my publishing house. I fear that my next book will be the last book I’ll ever have published. I fear I will fail as a writer. I fear I will succeed as a writer. I fear that I will never truly understand grammar. I fear I’ll have a book signing and no one will attend. I fear being a mediocre writer. I fear the manufacturers of word processing software will decide to get rid of spell check. I fear I will have to give back my advance check.
I’ll stop now because believe me I could go on with the list. Could it be that I fear the people reading this blog will think I’m neurotic and need serious therapy? Well, yeah.
My fears are both a curse and a blessing. The curse - my fear can cause me to doubt my work which makes me procrastinate. Repeat after me: Hail Carla, Empress of Procrastination and Queen of Writer’s Block. The blessing –In all other areas of my life, I’m pretty fearless. It makes me mad when I realize that fear is keeping me from writing. That’s when I focus on writing. That’s when I plant my butt in a chair and stay there until I have so many pages written. That’s when the pages start to pile up and my characters come to life. The more I write the more I can receive those flashes of inspiration about my character or plot. Fear of failing inspires me to keep reading books on the craft of writing. It inspires me to read the authors whose work I adore and new authors.
When I first started to write, I tried to conquer my fears. I quickly learned from successful, published authors that fear never really goes away. I’ve decided to use my fears and let them inspire me to become a better writer.
I’ll bet if you’re reading this post, you also have writing related fears. There are two books which helped me. The War of Art: Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles by Steven Pressfield and Write For Your Life by Lawrence Block.
Now, you know how fear inspires me. What are your writing fears?
Carla is raffling off her current Kimani Romance release The Perfect Man. Post a response to her blog to win!
Labels: Carla Fredd, inspiration to write
SELF-DISCIPLINE AS THE MOTIVATOR FOR INSPIRATION
By Debra Holland
Self-discipline and inspiration are two words that don’t seem to go together. Inspiration sounds creative and exciting. Self-discipline, on the other hand, sounds like hard work.
If your muse flashes you an interesting idea, (if you’re like me) you gather a stack of scribbled notes full of character sketches, plot details, and dialogue fragments. Yet without the self-discipline to actually write, nothing will come of your brilliant story.
I’m not saying that self-discipline alone will lead to a successful writing goal. You do need the spark of inspiration. Yet all your creativity won’t be enough unless you “sit your butt in the chair in front of your computer.”
These days, almost everyone has crazy busy lives. The “no time” excuse is valid for almost all of us. But even when I have time, I often don’t utilize it well. I putter around the house in avoidance mode. I’m sure some of you are nodding agreement as you read this.
I recently returned from the RWA national conference. This time something really struck me about successful authors—the seriousness of their writing routine. Over and over again, I heard best-selling authors mention the rigidity of their schedules. “I write from 9 to 5 every day.” Or, “I write a chapter a day.”
Now, this is not new information to me. I’ve heard comments like these many times. But for some reason, the concept sank deep into my brain. I returned from the conference resolved to be more self-disciplined about my writing time.
I know from my own experiences (and that of others) that story inspiration comes easier when you write (at least a little) every day. It’s as if you’re opening up a spiritual spigot, and the creative energy flows forth. Some days in a gush, others a trickle. But at least it comes.
If you don’t write every day, or almost every day, you’re shutting off this flow. The spigot could even rust shut, leaving you blocked and afraid you’ll never be able to write again. It’s not that you can’t turn it back on (although the process might involve a lot of hammering.) But why handicap yourself when you KNOW (somewhere in your day) you can slip a few paragraphs into a notebook or your computer. If you can’t think of anything to write about, you can still journal or blog.
Last week in my plot group, we discussed the concept of keeping a daily log of the time you write, what you’re working on, and how much you write. I learned that the authors who track themselves are also successful at keeping to a schedule. For the last few days, I’ve started doing this. There’s something about writing down my start time in my organizer, which makes me actually begin the work. I’ve made more progress than I normally would have, so I intend to keep it up.
Due to my consulting work as a corporate grief/crisis counselor, I can’t stick to a set writing routine. I never know when I’ll get the call that summons me to a company to help them deal with whatever crisis has just occurred. But I can still write every day—at least half a page. And if I do this, my inspirational flow will continue. A page a day means a book in a year. That’s all it takes. J
How about joining me?
Labels: Debra Holland, inspiration to write
Inspiration and Dirty Laundry by Guest Blogger Berta Platas
I’m such a procrastinator. I recognize that it’s my chief fault and try to overcome it with discipline. My tote bags are full of scraps of paper. "Top Five" notes, Things To Do pads, Git ‘er Done! cards – but none work. No amusingly illustrated list, magnetized for my fridge or digitized for my phone, is going to force me to finish my tasks.
I’ve sort of made my peace with that. ‘Sort of’ because I keep the lists going, although I don’t follow them. While this affects my laundry, dog grooming, and the general health of the dust bunnies behind my doors, it doesn’t touch my writing. I write every day, because I have to. I breathe and eat every day, too. Writing is a part of me, and it’s thrilling to write romance and urban fantasy.
It has little to do with money or fame. Many authors think that a pile of money will solve all their problems, allowing them to write undisturbed. Believe me, something else will take the place of the financial worries, including a whole new tier of financial worries.
Dorothy L. Sayers, creator of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, stopped writing them after World War II, even though her readers demanded more. Lord Peter had made Sayers a lot of money, enough that she devoted the rest of her life to academic work, and to translating Dante’s Divine Comedy. I’m sure the world appreciates her efforts, but I would rather have had a couple more mysteries.
Then there’s Nora Roberts, who doesn’t seem to have an "off" button. Fame, fortune, and she still writes six to eight hours a day. Why? Because she’s full of stories. As full of stories as Stephen King, who threw down his pen and said he had no fresh stories to tell and that he’d never write again. I think he said that three books ago. Writing is part of their souls. It’s part of mine, too, and I would guess, because you’re reading this blog, that you suffer from the same trait, and that you don’t have to go far to seek inspiration, because you are full of stories. So forget money, forget publication. Sit at the keyboard, or grab a pen, and let the stories burst from your fingertips. Never let an opportunity pass by to better your craft, and with every tale you write you’ll come closer to your goal.
Berta's next romantic comedy for St. Martin's Press Lucky Chica hits the bookstores January '09.
Labels: Berta Platas, inspiration to write
Tools that Inspire – Esri Rose
When I was a kid in Daytona Beach, Florida, one of my favorite things to do was go to the Pic ‘n’ Save with my Mom and Grandma. While they shopped, I would head straight to the office-supplies aisle and ogle the pens, pencils and notebooks.
If Mom and Grandma ran into friends, they might be a while, but when they finished, they knew where to find me. “We’ve been here forty minutes,” Mom would say. “Have you been in this aisle the whole time?”
I’m still inspired by the tools of writing. My desk is covered with brightly colored sticky notes and index cards, signing pens that coordinate with my book cover, and mechanical pencils that use .05 leads, not .07. For brainstorming, I like spiral-bound notebooks with holographic covers, decorated with stickers. Binders are for series “bibles,” and I make special pages to slip under the clear plastic covers. My friend Laura recently scored big points by giving me a set of highlighters shaped like little black cats. Oooh!
My accumulated tools act like a visual cue. I wouldn’t have all this stuff if I weren’t a writer. Stacks of filled and empty notebooks are tangible, weighty reminders of what I’ve accomplished, as well as the possibilities still out there. My lapdesk convinces me that writing is just lounging while you think and move your fingers.
This month, I acquired another writing tool -- one I learned about from a commenter on this very blog, months ago. Someone mentioned web diagrams -- visual mind-mapping tools. I’d never heard of them, but I found a review of some of the bestselling programs. But I waited to get one, because I was heavy into revisions, and I planned on using the program primarily for plotting.
I completed my revisions right before the RWA national conference. When I got back, I downloaded the free trial version of the one that looked far and away the best. You’re going to love this program’s name. It’s Inspiration, from Inspiration.com.
I did the tutorial first, with much Ooh! and That’s so cool! It’s simple and almost infinitely flexible, with layers that let you show as much or as little of the project as you want. Everything is in one place, from pages of text to hyperlinks, video and audio. And when you’ve connected your thought bubbles with lines and moved everything to where you want it, you can have Outline View transform it automatically, then print that sucker out as a synopsis for your editor. I am enchanted -- so enchanted that I not only started the plotting for my option book, but came up with a second book idea for my mystery series and have started plotting it. Now that’s inspiration.Esri Rose's elven romance, Bound to Love Her, is on shelves now. You can read an excerpt at ElvesAmongUs.
This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse Blog
Our month long discussion about inspiration continues. Be sure to post and get in the raffle for a $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate.
Monday, August 18th: Esri Rose "Tools as Inspiration"
Tuesday, August 19th: Guest Blogger and St. Martin's Press author Berta Platas
Wednesday, August 20th: Debra Holland "Self-Discipline and Motivation"
Thursday, August 21st: Guest Blogger and Kimani author Carla Fredd "Fear as Inspiration"
Friday, August 22nd: Q&A (Readers ask questions. Noodlers answer.)
Have a great week!
Labels: Berta Platas, Carla Fredd, Debra Holland, Esri Rose, goal and motivation, inspiration to write
Question and Answer Day on The Wet Noodle Posse
Thank goodness it's Friday. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm exhausted from school being back in session and from staying up late to watch the Olympics. The Olympics--now there's some inspiration. I wonder if anyone's ever been inspired to write a romance novel after watching an olympic event.
Since it's Q&A day, I guess I'll start with a question of my own. Why do you think, even though we're writers, we sometimes don't feel inspired to write?
Don't forget, all posts get entered into the $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate awarded at the end of August. The more you post, the better your chances.
Feeling the Music by Priscilla Kissinger
Some people can't concentrate with noise in the background. They must have complete silence, or their thoughts are pulled away by distractions.
Not so for me. Perhaps it comes from finishing my undergraduate degree while studying on the floor in my kids' playroom. Barbies walking along my back, stuffed animals propped up next to me because my kids wanted mommy to "play" alongside of them. I learned very quickly to tune out the distractions. In fact many times I need "noise" in the background while I'm concentrating. ESPN gets lots of play time when I'm working around the house.
When I'm writing, total quiet is unnerving to me, and actually becomes a distraction. Here's where music comes in. For years I could only listen to instrumental music. Songs with lyrics pulled my concentration away from the words I was trying to write, and I often found myself singing along. Now, I'm better able to go with the "feel" of the music that's playing.
I've heard of authors who have a so-called soundtrack for each of their books. A group of songs that inspired them while they wrote. Others, like me, pop in a cd or crank up their ipod to music that brings out whatever emotion speaks of the emotion in the scene they are writing. Or whatever music brings forth the emotion I'm trying to tap into within myself.
My books lean more towards family drama. Most of the music I play while writing evokes deep, rich, romantic emotions within me. Sometimes I play the soundtrack of a movie that brought out the same feelings. My "A Walk in the Clouds" cd has been worth the $13 it cost. As has my "Dying Young" cd. The music from "Love Affair", the Annette Benning and Warren Beaty remake of "An Affair to Remember" is absolutely beautiful, though I've yet to find the cd. In recent years I also include all of my Il Divo cds and anything by Josh Groban as "must haves" in my cd library.
Ultimately, when choosing my writing music my number one concern is how it makes me "feel". In my busy life, my writing time is precious. The right music helps me lose myself in the story, evoking the powerful, heartfelt emotions my characters are feeling throughout their story. Maybe it's the same music I listened to with a previous book, to me it doesn't matter. I just plug in my earphones, turn up the volume a bit, and let the emotions roll. Even closing my eyes with the swell of the music, willing my emotions to come forth onto the page.
Silly? Maybe. But it works for me.
What about you? Are you a silence is golden writer? Wild, rock n roll kinda chick? Or a swelling, love story soundtrack player?
Share your thoughts, music preferences and recommendations. I'm actually on the road, traveling half way across the country to take my oldest to college, so I may not be able to reply until late tonight, or maybe even Friday late afternoon.
But I WILL reply. I'm anxious to hear what you guys listen to, and especially if you have any recommendations.
Let's hear what you have to say....
People as Inspiration.
Have any of you been inspired to write a story by a person or people? Raise your hands. Okay, okay, I get the idea. Put them down now, all thousand or so of you.
It's almost a given that fiction is inspired by people because it is about people. Or at least it's about people as we imagine they might be. Yet I'm often surprised at how often we forget that our basic stories must arise from people, their inspirations, their conflicts, their relationships. Too often we get into thinking about characters, and we design them to fit the stories that are brimming inside of us, and too often they lose that little edge of humanity, the personal uniqueness that makes them alive on the page.
I'm thinking of this because I've read some contest entries as well as some books lately that have made me think I was back in my childhood playing with paper dolls-- or if I were a younger woman I might have thought I was playing Barbie and Ken with my friends. At the same time, others I'd read had characters that were people, not just mannequins that were being posed for my imagination. What was the difference? Well, I had the feeling the authors had been inspired by real people.
Last week I visited my older brother in his home, and had the pleasure of interacting with his chaotic and just a bit- unusual- extended family, which include his wife, her aged mother, their grandson who they adopted, and my younger brother. There's a lot of tension in the family, which always seems to function at the very brink of extinction, yet always holds together. There's a ribbon of faith that makes things work and pulls them through difficult times. No one who needs their help is turned away, even when times are tough and their own livelihood, based on the troubled real estate market in California, seems in jeopardy. At an age when he ought to be retired, my older brother works all days of the week, often late into the night, and somehow things seem to work out. He and my next younger brother are such polar opposites, it's amazing they can live in the same house. Neither of them can possibly live up to the ot
her's standards because they approach life and living so differently. One must have everything in its place. The other doesn't have a place for anything. But even though they have completely different goals and means of achieving them, they both get their jobs done.
I usually fit squarely in the middle between the two, and have affinities with both, which makes it sometimes hard to deal with the tension between them. Add to the mix my sister-in-law, who deals daily with everyone's frustrations, trying to make things and people fit together, and is often in a lot of pain. And their adopted son, who is their grandson, who has recently been diagnosed with Asbergers' Syndrome and presents a constant puzzle to them.
Then there's my sister-in-law's mother, delightful Daisy, who often as not can't remember who these people around her are or why she's living with them.
I spent a lot of time with Daisy. She knows she can't remember much of anything beyond her childhood, and it is a great frustration to her. We had a marvelous time one day chasing down some of her memories on my laptop. We hunted up her childhood home in Alabama near the Gulf of Mexico, and I was shocked when she recognized names of towns and put her finger right on her house, and said, "That's it." She even pointed to the pecan grove and her father's carpentry shop near her family house, all of which still stand. And with her finger, she traced the highway down to the Gulf, remembering the inner tubes they often took with them to play in the surf. Yet only occasionally could she remember her mama was gone now, that her husband's name was Frank and he'd been in the military.
The next day she had forgotten our little tour into the past. But she knew we'd had a good time together. We had no memories in common, and it left me feeling very sad and impotent, and I had to think of why. Is it because memory is so valuable to me? It was immensely valuable to Daisy too, and she knows that, but she also knows she has lost it. Yet we had one thing of immense importance to both of us, the sense of companionship. And now, I'm sure she doesn't remember me at all. But Daisy knows one thing: She may not remember the details, but she's had a good life and doesn't regret a thing.
I think, because I've known Daisy, I would write an elderly woman differently now. I've tended to avoid putting elderly people in my books for some reason, and I've never wanted to write of one who had lost his or her past. Maybe I didn't quite grasp the concept of losing one's memory. Or maybe I found it too frightening. But Daisy has taught me how it works, and that there is a wonder in living a long life when one can only say, "I can't remember it but I know it was good." And there is a wonder in watching her caretaker daughter, who can say, "That's all right, Mama, we don't worry about that. We're here for you because we love you." Or my younger brother, who, though he's been there two years and Daisy still thinks he's the live-in gardener, can say, "Don't worry, Daisy, we're here to remember for you."
And I think it would be good to take the dynamics between the two brothers and re-write it in a story because that is something very real in human nature. It's a hard thing to see the world through the eyes of someone whose values and way of living are so completely different.
I don't get to see my relatives very often, and just talking on the phone and emailing doesn't give the clearest picture, so this trip has been valuable to me and not just in terms of being with family. They have taught me something valuable about my own craft: The essence of character is people, and their relationships with each other. People are at once all the same and all different, each alone yet part of the common whole. And stories are, most of all, about people.
Inspiration - Grab it when you can by Diane Gaston
My friend Karen Anders
(here with me at the 2001 RWA conference) is a fountain of story ideas. They come pouring out of her-good ideas, often complete with character names and settings-too many to possibly write. Me, I’m lucky if I have one idea at a time, and I always live in fear of my idea fountain running completely dry.
I'll never have those grand, full-blown ideas like Karen has, but what I've discovered is, all I need is a glimmer of an idea.The Mysterious Miss M
started with a glimmer of an idea. I was entering lots of contests for unpublished writers at the time and I had this notion that I needed a very strong and memorable first scene, because contests typically involve the first pages of a ms. I wanted something to make those editor or agent final judges sit up and take notice. So I hit on the idea of a sex scene in Chapter One. I asked myself, “What sort of Regency lady would have sex in Chapter One?” That’s how my idea grew.
Mostly for me the glimmer is a character. My Harlequin Historicals have all been connected so there is always a character in one book who becomes the hero or heroine of the next book. Then I ask, “Who would this character fall in love with? What is the worst thing that could happen to the character?” I build the story from there.
For example, for Emily, the heroine of The Wagering Widow
the worst person for her to fall in love with was a gambler, and what if she married him? Cyprian Sloane of A Reputable Rake
was a sort of bad guy in Wagering Widow
. For his story, I thought, what if he wanted to become reputable? What sort of woman would ruin his chances?
Sometimes an idea comes from unexpected places. One day I found a book on the Barnes & Noble sales rack, Buried Alive: The Terrifying History Of Our Most Primal Fear by Jan Bondeson
. I got it in my head that it would be a cool idea to have my hero buried alive. That was the genesis of my Diane Perkins book, The Marriage Bargain
Sometimes an idea comes late, but when you find it, you know you have your story idea at last. The idea for my October 2008 book, Scandalizing the Ton
, initially came from characters, Adrian Pomroy from Innocence and Impropriety
and Lydia from The Vanishing Viscountess
I built a whole story around them, proposed it to my editor who accepted it, but said, “Diane, do you realize you have ended three other books with an abduction?” Doh! I could not do that again. My friend Julie came upon the idea of making use of the scandal and newspapers and gossip, a minor element in my original story. I knew instantly that this was the key. I have been fascinated by the phenomenon of celebrity and the paparazzi. All I had to do was bring that into my Regency.
My point is, you don’t have to have a full-blown idea, just a glimmer of one that excites you. Then build upon it.
And you really only need one idea at a time.
Have you ever built a story on only a glimmer of an idea? Where do your glimmers come from?Read an excerpt from Scandalizing the Ton on my website. Enter my contest. Scandalizing the Ton will be available in bookstores October 2008.
Labels: Diane Gaston, Karen Anders
Funny Bone Moments as Inspiration
Tickle my funny bone, and I’ll be inspired to write. The equation is that simple for me.
My brother’s proposal via Valentine card to his long-standing girlfriend struck me as funny. He couldn’t say it? He had to write it? Not exactly the romantic proposal of every girl’s dreams. I tucked the idea away, and then with his and his wife’s permission, I tweaked it and used it in a short story titled “Be Mime.”
I was also inspired by my mother doing something that I thought was particularly humorous during a visit to my house. She didn’t like the toilet seat in my guest bathroom. Rather than tell me or suggest that I replace it, she bought one and had my father install it while I was out running errands. I returned home to the big reveal. She’d thrown the old one in the trash. I used this oddity the first chance I could get in a short story titled “A Very Mossy Christmas.” She’s also thrown away pillows she didn’t like and replaced placemats on my kitchen table that went with nothing in my kitchen. Yes, all without asking first!
Sometimes I take an anecdote I’ve heard from a friend or relative and turn it into something more. One such bone tickler that I took parts of and embellished with my own characters in “Tale of Two Kitties” included in Critters of Mossy Creek (BelleBooks, Winter 2009) was told to me by a friend of my sister-in-law. When she’d moved to a new neighborhood, her cat went missing. The cat decided to hang out at a new neighbor’s house and was adopted by them—or so they thought. Imagine her son’s surprise to find his missing cat at his new friend’s house.
Inspiration can be found anywhere. What are some moments in your life that should be in fiction?
Labels: humor as inspiration, Maureen Hardegee
This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse
We have another great week on the topic of Inspiration. Remember all comments posted will be included in the Barnes & Noble $20 gift certificate raffle, so comment often.
Monday, August 11th: "Funny Bone Moments As Inspiration" Maureen Hardegree
Tuesday, August 12th: "Inspiration--Grab It When You Can" Diane Gaston
Wednesday, August 13th: "People As Inspiration" Delle Jacobs
Thursday, August 14th: "Music As Inspiration" Priscilla Kissinger
Friday, August 15th: Q&A (Readers ask questions. Noodlers answer.)
Labels: Delle Jacobs, Diane Gaston, inspiration to write, Maureen Hardegree, Priscilla Kissinger
August Noodler Releases
WHEN TWILIGHT BURNSGardella Vampire Chronicles, Book 4
by Colleen Gleason
August 5, 2008
Vampire hunter Lady Victoria Gardella Grantworth de Lacy "stakes the undead with the best of them" (Detroit Free Press).
After narrowly escaping from Rome, she returns to London, where not even sunrise can stop a vampire's carnage...
Ruining Victoria's homecoming, a vampire stalks the streets of London – during the daylight. Not only is Victoria unable to detect the vampire with her heightened senses, but she's being framed as the prime suspect behind the killings.
Meanwhile, her heart is still divided between the enigmatic Sebastian Vioget and her fellow slayer Max Pesaro. The battle is made even more difficult by the legacy of a vampire's touch – a vampire who left in Victoria's veins boiling blood that forces her to fight evil on two fronts: against the new breed of undead threatening London, and against the darkness within herself.
"Brilliant series" --Romantic Times
"Deliciously dark and delightfully entertaining" --Chicago Tribune
"Intriguing, witty, and addictive." --Publishers WeeklyTori Scott's
book DOUBLE EXPOSURE
is available NOW!
Lacy Fitzgerald may have made one bet too many. This time, the stakes are her trust fund, her freedom, and even her single status. To win, she must take her father's seed money and create a successful lingerie company in one year with no help from any outside sources. Six months into it, out of money and deeply in debt, she hires a handsome hunk to make her catalog sizzle and her sales soar. But far from being a typical lingerie model, there's more to Gabriel Wallace than meets her eyes--or her hands.
You can visit Tori at her blog here
Noodlers Trish Morey and Jennie Lucas both have books with Harlequin Presents out this month. You can check it out here
Labels: Noodler Book Releases
Favorite Quotes That Inspire
Earlier in the week, Terry blogged about how reading novels can inspire writers. Today, we’re going to tighten that scope to a sentence or two.
A quote by Henry David Thoreau that inspires me so much I have stenciled it on the border in my office is “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” When I have a bad writing day, I glance up to those words, and I’m inspired. When I fret over sending out another manuscript or entering a writing contest in the hope of getting some chapters in front of an editor, I read those words. They give me courage.
Is there a favorite quote that inspires you? Share it with us.
Labels: inspiration to write, Maureen Hardegree
Dreams by MaryF
I'm rewriting the end of my 2007 GH finalist, a book that came to me in a dream 4 years ago. The whole story didn't come to me, though, just the beginning, a team of archaeologists in South America taken hostage by guerrillas, but it was enough to spark the idea, to get my juices flowing. Research and a plotting retreat did the rest.
This isn't the first story I've written inspired by a dream. My very first book was inspired by a dream of two divorced cops taken hostage and their children working to free them. Of course, I didn't write that "Spy Kids" type story, but I did write a book about two divorced cops who were forced to work together again and its effect on their kids.
My ghost hunter story, which I'll be revising next, was inspired by a dream about Supernatural, where Dean was leading a ghost tour to make money to support his real job, only really scary things started happening.
I wrote a book for Bombshell a few years back, inspired by a dream I had of an invasion, where I had to save the world from these creatures enslaving mankind.
My first Nano book was inspired by a dream about Sydney Bristow, retired and deep into mommyhood, being brought back into the spy game when her ex-husband goes missing.
This year's Nano book will also be inspired by a dream, though not mine. My friend Kris Fletcher had a dream about me and Clooney, and it's just too good not to write (and yes, I have her permission.)
I write down those interesting dreams in my journal. Sometimes what seems like it will spark a good story sounds really stupid when you write it down, but sometimes it will lead to other ideas. Some just aren't developed enough and will need work (my dream, for instance, that I was on a bus full of women and Jeffrey Dean Morgan was on leave from the army and he chose ME - not nearly the conflict I'd need). Some are better left unmentioned and undeveloped (me running across a battlefield with Jeffrey Dean Morgan as characters from The Watchmen - yes, I have a thing for Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whatever gave you that idea??)
Maybe I'm odd, maybe my imagination is too wild, maybe other people don't have freaky dreams like me. Personally, I feel like some of them are gifts, though I've yet to have one give me an ending. That's probably too much to ask....
Do you have dreams that inspire you? Have you ever written a book from one?
Oh, and since I was feeling a bit left out of the whole shoe picture thing, here are my back-to-school shoe deals:
Read. Write. Repeat.
by Terry McLaughlin
All the writers I've ever met have only one thing in common: they're readers. They've always treasured books and craved the stories inside them.
As children, those future writers absorbed the way stories are told and gathered some of the elements--diction, phrasing, cadence, pacing, structure--that would later blend with educations, experiences, and personalities to produce their individual voices.
And reading helps keep those writers writing. It's not just a matter of rediscovering the universal appeal of timeless classics or staying in touch with current market trends. Like everyone else, writers sometimes need to vacation in the worlds of others' imaginations.
The only way to learn how to tell a certain kind of story is to read that kind of story--a lot. And then to write it, over and over again. Read. Write. Repeat.
When the going gets tough, it's a comfort to know the bookstore shelves are full of inspiration and relaxation and reminders of how and why we writers started down our individual paths so long ago.
What was the most valuable lesson you've ever learned from your reading? A recent lesson? How does reading inspire you to write?
Getting Stories from the News
I get lots of story ideas from the news media. Radio, television, newspapers, online news forums...inspiration can strike from a headline, blurb, or full story in any of these formats. For instance, let's take this headline:
"Town spends $1 million to buy, close strip club
" from the Associated Press.
What ideas might a headline like this spark? Your hero is the town mayor who comes up with the plan and the heroine owns the club? Or maybe she's a dancer with a child to support and all of a sudden she's out of work, thanks to the hero? Maybe he'll offer her a job in his company, or as his housekeeper. Or if you write thrillers, maybe the club owner is murdered and the money goes missing? Who did it?
Or how about this one?
I watched a show a while back about identical twins who were adopted out separately, and went to homes just one town apart. The women just found out about each other recently and met for the first time. They're so much alike it's uncanny, and they were both hysterical when they opened the small gift each of them brought the other--and found they'd brought the exact same thing.
Can you picture a story where a husband thinks his wife is cheating on him because he sees her going into a hotel with another man--and it turns out it's his wife's twin she didn't know she had?
Here are some headlines/ news story beginnings from past news stories. Post a comment about what kind of story you might make out of one of these:
1. Bone marrow donors risk DNA identity mix-up
2. 31 missing tourists tied to al-Qaida ally
. Europeans mysteriously disappeared
while trekking across Sahara Desert
3. Amid the traffic and bright lights, love grows from the back seat of a cab
Cab driver runs matchmaking service for his lonely passengers out of his cab.
4. Courses promise to turn shy virgins into red hot lovers
. A Dutch company is offering courses to turn shy male virgins into red hot lovers for £2,500.
One word of caution. If you saw it/read it on the news, so did someone else. You'll have to be quick to write your book and get it out there.
So turn on the news, but have your pad and pen ready!
Labels: inspiration to write
This week on The Wet Noodle Posse
August is Inspiration month. Noodlers and their guests will blog about everything from what inspires them to write to practical tips on how to be ready for those moments of inspiration. We invite you to share in the discussion. At the end of the month, we'll raffle off a Barnes & Noble $20 gift certificate. Each post counts as an entry into the raffle.
This week's schedule:
Monday, August 4th: Tori Scott "Getting Stories from the News"
Tuesday, August 5th: Terry McLaughlin "Read, Read, Read"
Wednesday, August 6th: MJ Fredrick "Dreams as Inspiration"
Thursday, August 7th: All Noodlers "Quotes that Inspire"
Friday, August 8th: August Noodler Releases
Don't miss these great reads from our authors this month:
Labels: Colleen Gleason, inspiration to write, Jennie Lucas, MJ Fredrick, Terry McLaughlin, Tori Scott
While We're Waiting
Tonight's the big night, and I'll be watching the RWA site for the winners of the RITA and Golden Heart. I imagine a lot of you will be waiting too. I finally got a new card reader today which can actually read this brand new 4 gb memory chip, so I can show you a few of my photos. Some of them didn't come out well especially when my camera wouldn't flash for the friends who were taking pics for me. I've doctored them a little, but they are really yellow.
When the re-enactors for the workshops couldn't get a room to change, Judy Laik and I volunteered our room. Here are some of the Victorian costumes going on, later in the day, to wear to the Regency soiree. Beautiful dresses! So why not? We've had 18th century Georgian costumes, including near ringers for Admiral Nelson, so why not mid-Victorian?
Kalen Hughes in the dusky green silk has the most beasutiful trm on her sleeves. I wish you could see it. The strings of pearls I'm hanging around Judy Laik's neck will actually go in her hair.
Bette Nybakken is wearing the most beautiful velvet pelisse over her print dress, and her hat us magnificent.
And here I am with Jennifer Miller.
On Thursday morning, the Wet Noodle Posse gathered for breakfast in the Garden Terrace. Here are a few shots of the
group, some of whom, we haven't seen in three years!
Have fun everyone! I'll be competing with you to get online and learn the new winners!