Stranger Inspiration

Once upon a time, we lived in a small awkward house that had issues. When we pulled up the mustard yellow carpet, we found makeshift spacers in the wood floor where walls used to be. Who knew there were walls before? The hallway had a a random bend in it. The kitchen cabinets were layered with paint, the linoleum was worn through to the layer beneath at places. That’s just a few of the non-standard features. It was our first house, affordable and what we gave up in finished and pretty, we gained in space and potential. Then we had our second baby in fifteen months.

We were in that house a bunch of years without changing a thing except the windows, which were a must since in the winter a sheet of ice formed on the single panes. One day, my brother in law whom we rarely saw, stopped over with his latest girlfriend. She came in and walked around surveying the house saying things like, “how cute”, “is that an original stove?”, “there’s a lot to be done. How long have you lived here?” She was a stranger to me who acted as though we were familiar which I thoroughly rejected. I’m glad because in those days if I took offense, I would not keep quiet about it.

The only thing is, her comment that insinuated that we were sitting around and doing nothing to improve our surroundings didn’t fade from my consciousness. She planted a seed whether she had the right to or not. I admit, she inspired me, woke me up, gave me a perspective I had lost sight of. I looked around and realized we had settled for ugly as though it were the only option. We got going on several projects after that. I never told my husband what sparked the initial ‘why don’t we put up some tile?”.

I learned something through that random visit. Inspiration can come from many sources and it should never be shut down. I needed something outside of me to get to the place where, a bunch of years later we sold that house for double what we paid. Not everyone has family that guides them to know how to live well. Some of us have to learn from others. That’s okay.

It’s also okay if you’re writing away and someone comes along and says, “why don’t you fix this?” or “maybe the character should not win the race. How about he trips and falls and eats dirt instead?”.
It’s okay if your writer’s block is broken by some random person who takes your story concept and solves the riddle plaguing your brain coming up with an idea that screams blockbuster. It’s still your book to write. Inspiration doesn’t have to only come from your creative wealth. It can be granted to you. You’re still worthy of the credit as the author for the finished product.

Write on! Grab inspiration or trip over it, just go with it every time.

Lessons From the Comics – Do You Have a Story?

Helpful, that’s what people like to be when you tell them you’re writing a novel. Help is good, no doubt but writing is a solitary endeavor most of the time. Though really, success is found in embracing a community of editors, beta-readers and dogs…no not dogs, unless you’re thinking of Snoopy who has a lot of experience with unhelpful people like Lucy.

Today’s lesson from the Comics, is from Peanuts. Lucy informs Snoopy that his writing is terrible. She doesn’t say that, family and friend critics often don’t. She says it lacks ‘feeling’ then gives the great advice of a plot of ‘boy meets girl, loses her, finds her again’. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. This is Lucy’s interpretation of feeling, a simple plot with an emotional path.

Apologies for the grainy copy. The original has gone the way of a the floor of a bird cage!

Okay, so a backbone of a three sentence plot is a good idea but I challenge you to look a little deeper in your current work. What feeling pervades it? Is there one? I think the easier that you can identify the feeling of your novel, the more likely the story is sound and therefore able to handle the structure and bulk of a novel. I took this challenge myself. I debated and searched in my novel “Kill Words”, but I cannot say what overarching feeling the story carries. I’ll have to think about that, which means I’ll have to think about why that is and if it is fixable. In my defense, I haven’t been working on it for several weeks. I’ve lost my way a bit. However, the storyline in “The Roady Series” on my flash fiction blog is easy to state. The story is saturated with rejection and acceptance juxtaposed. Hmm, also something to think about.

Lucy doesn’t stop there with her editorial advice. She insists on helping Snoopy by looking over his shoulder to provide him with instant feedback. Is that the answer to a great first draft? Would immediate criticism ensure writing and the story stay on track? I’m thinking, no. As much as reader’s opinions are essential to perfecting a novel for publication, feedback over the shoulder is as helpful as a back seat driver. I’m likely to drive off the road in nervous reflex to one more instruction on how to improve a sentence. Even so, I would take someone up on the offer. I have found even one pointer on how to improve my writing is worth any amount of feeling like my hard work is derailed to the junk yard; a truth I want to face early on. What about you? Is there a brutally honest ‘Lucy’ in your life?

Write on, even if you have to start over. Sigh.

StormWeaver- 10 – Flowers in the House

I pick up the grey stone.
The hail pelts us still.
They began pea sized, but they grow.
“Come with me.”
I grab the young woman’s hand.
To my house in the hill,
We go.
Slipping and sliding on the ice,
Till I push my door open,
And my house is filled,
With people.
And the cat.
The ice hits the door,
But we’re safe,
Behind dirt walls.
Her name is Clover.
“They bloomed the day of her birth.”
But they call her Chloe.
Mama is Rose.
They were not in bloom.
Her mother’s pain,
Like the stab of thorns.

This is a continuing story in 100 word increments. Read from the beginning by choosing StormWeaver category in the side bar of page.

Out of my Mind With Grief

My head feels lost,
My body weak,
I want to grab normal,
But it slips through my fingers,
And I know,
I’m not there,
I’m in that other place,
Out of the flow,
Not in sync with the rest,
Bobbing along,
In a stream of pain,
That can’t be glued back together
With words,
Or thoughts,
Or even prayers,
Because the pieces,
Are not meant to be,
A picture any more,
And that throws my mind,
To another plain,
Don’t bring me back,
I don’t want normal,
I want to be forever outside,
Forever hanging onto,
What was,
What cannot be,
Except within my heart.

Do It Again

Every day we start our way and face,
the grind, grind, grind, grind,
ground up joy, can’t lie, can’t say, it’s okay,
doesn’t matter anyway,
We’ll make it work, put in the time,
doesn’t even have to rhyme.
Look away, pages say, life gone by,
bye, bye, bye, bye,
bought the lie, felt the pain, put our faces to the rain,
and feel it all wash away.
Lay down, take a rest,
put hope,
to the test,
chase it down with love now,
Don’t hide it.
Makes each breath alive and,
breath, breath, breath, breath,
gasp for air, no time to spare,
then say it’s done,
we have won,
another day.

Just For The Hack of It! – Tips on Breakfast

So ‘hacks’ are a hot topic and why not? They’re fun. I’m going to start with my breakfast hacks and a few I’ve picked up on the way. Maybe by the end of this post, I’ll find a segue to writing. Disclaimer: not all these hacks will be in alignment with your health goals. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

1. Don’t ever throw away cold, premium take out fries (Five Guys comes to mind). Put them in the fridge, trust me, you won’t be sorry. The next morning chop those fries up and put them in a medium heat fry pan. Toss in some green pepper, onion or whatever vege you like or none at all. The potatoes have enough oil in them to fry up nicely and they’re already seasoned. If there’s only a few fries leftover, still worth it. Crisp them up and toss them in scrambled eggs, a little goes a long way.
So this hack sounds unhealthy but if it makes you eat less fries in a dinner serving so you can have some at breakfast, then maybe not so bad, right?

2. For most people, limiting cholesterol is a challenge that robs fluffy full scrambled eggs from the menu. There are still egg whites but they’re so…white. The only food that looks wonderful in white is dairy; whipped cream, ice cream, cheese, you get the idea. The transition to egg white only, can leave a person grieving over the injustice of aging (I could go on about that but I’m trying to grow old ‘gracefully’; no complaining please). But the mind is a fickle thing that can be easily tricked, so hack away and add some paprika and/or turmeric to those pale egg whites. They’ll look just about as delicisioso as the yoked eggs and while you’re at it put hack 3 into play.

3. Chop up baby spinach, arugula, kale or bok choy and put it in everything, especially those egg whites. Deep greens suggest fresh (cause they are) and give texture. A friend of mine goes to a dietician to manage her digestive issues. When we spent a weekend away at a writer’s retreat, she brought out leafy green vegetables with every meal, breakfast included. In my brain, leaves are eaten as salad or to give crunch in a good sandwich. For some reason though, I couldn’t get it out of my head that it’s good to eat fresh vegetables with every meal. Hence, I started adding baby spinach and salad greens to whatever I made. Okay, so greens did not end up in the French toast, though maybe I’ll try it some day. But chopping leaves into bits renders them easily added to anything; on top of a hamburger, in a quesadilla, in mashed potatoes, mixed with corn. So many places to add in fresh greens and feel good without being overwhelmed with green tasting stuff.

4. Peeling boiled eggs. This is a big issue for humanity. Just check the internet and find out how many sites deal with this very skill. I’m just going to share my technique that works ninety percent of the time. Boil the egg. Remove from water. Hold in a towel and smash the shell gently all the way around. Take a spoon, slide it under the cracked shell and then use the spoon to follow the curve of the egg. The shell typically comes off in one or two crackly pieces. On occasion, if the spoon does not slide under the inner membrane, this technique can fail. If that happens I just start with the spoon in a different place. If you don’t like that idea, I saw a post that said to use a serrated knife and cut the egg, shell and all, in half then the two halves can be easily scooped out. Haven’t tried this yet. If you have, let me know.

5. Waffle Iron not for waffles. Two ideas I need to put to the test. Store bought refrigerated cinnamon rolls burn easily in the oven. So don’t cook them in the oven. Use a waffle iron. Butter it and pop those babies in. They’ll have a cool shape and nooks and crannies for the icing to pool in. Yum! Second idea, take shredded potatoes, season as you like. Spray the waffle iron with oil and put gobs of potatoes in each quadrant. Potatoes will crisp on both sides and you don’t have to worry about flipping them. Nice!

Well I’ve come to the end of my hacks list and still no connection to writing except, writers need to eat a good breakfast so we can go the distance and forget about sustenance while in the grip of writing passion. Plus, let’s face it. I just wrote stuff, so there’s that.

Write on! Eat breakfast!

StormWeaver 9 – Frozen Deluge

Her blonde hair is shocked with electric blue streaks.
Her grey eyes are on her mother,
With pity and pain.
She wears baggy cotton overalls with a lacy tank top underneath.
“Excuse my mother,” she says. She comes over and takes the older woman’s hand.
“No trouble,” I say.
“It’s Adam. He has magic stones.”
“Of course he does.”
I squeeze the pouch in my hand and out pops the grey stone.
It falls to the ground.
Rain and hail blasts upon us.
“What is happening?”
The women cling to each other.
“We’re going to die!”
It may be true.

This is a continuing story in 100 word increments. Read the StormWeaver series from the start – Choose StormWeaver category from the home page.

Color My World

“We all live in a yellow submarine.” How many of you are singing that song in your head now? How many see a bright yellow submarine of sorts? Words to music, especially whimsical, stay in our minds but I want to point out how the use of color in writing, brings out a vivid picture.
Writing effective description that doesn’t scream, “I can write a lot of flowy words because I’m a literary writer” or “clichés are best because everyone gets it”, is a skill. My first pass of writing a novel, I’m usually lean on description, though I’m improving on that. Part of that problem is needing to gush out the story that is unfolding in my head. I’ve learned to write with less urgency (not meaning I can’t keep a schedule – NaNoWriMo 2020 proved that is not an issue). Even so, there’s nothing wrong with employing the second draft to work on translating the imagery that is in your mind into words. Where it’s appropriate it will add depth without being one long, yawning break from the plot. Third draft can weed that out again!

Back to our yellow submarine. Here’s an example from my WIP where I think a dash of color adds a fuller picture:
As soon as we enter the windowless room, it’s clear this is serious business. A long computer desk stretches across the back wall with multiple monitors and swivel chairs. There’s a coffee bar where an urn silently wafts steam. White ceramic mugs and spoons are lined up next to a pitcher of cream, a bowl of sugar and a platter of packaged muffins. Off to the side is a small table and two chairs under a blue glass pendant light.

I’m offering this example because when I read it after having put it aside for several weeks, the last sentence immediately created a picture for me. The ‘blue’ glass pendant light was like the ‘yellow’ submarine sans the song. It reminded me of how a little smattering of color can create a tone for a scene. In the example above there is also “white” used to describe ceramic mugs. This use of color is less impactful, because ceramic mugs being white are not uncommon. I could cut the ‘white’ and just say ‘ceramic mugs’ and chances are it would create the same picture as ‘white ceramic’. But just saying “under a pendant light”, feels like a flat photo as opposed to 3D. While my mind runs through all the possibilities of how that light actually looks, I’ve lost my way and distanced myself from the intended atmosphere of the room. Add back the blue, and there’s a glow of cool blue, pleasing but not warm.
What do you think? Am I right?
Color your writing like an artist, purposeful; bold where bold makes a difference and subtle where less produces the emotion and feels best.
My hope is that this post brings the tool of color to your attention or back to your attention.
Write on!

Intimate Solidarity

Hardship and trouble,
Crumble walls built by,
Boredom, disappointment,
Ridiculous expectations,
Self protection,
Laid down like scum,
Layer upon layer,
So skin does not touch skin,
With electrifying connection,
but dull and shallow reflex.
All this swept away,
In the storm of tribulation,
That holding a hand,
That holds back,
Answers the need,
Declares that the cement,
Is good,
Worthy of deep gratitude.