Writer’s Laryngitis

It’s rare my surly muse visits, and my writing has suffered in his absence. But, since I’ve reminded myself sucess is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, I’ve resisted the impulse to press the M key. Until now.

Alive or dead, Juan Reyes really is one of the most extraordinary characters I created. In case you don’t know, he was a videographer in my first novel. I killed him off so, in tribute to his stunning journalistic talent, good looks, irrepressible humor and selfishness, I resurrected him as my muse.

Tonight, in a gesture to the holidays, he wears new clothes, a black leather duster and broad-brimmed hat instead of his usual blood-stained fatigues. The overall effect is a bizarre combination of  western bad-guy and 1970s pimp. While I don’t comment on his clothes, I know he wouldn’t mind the comparison.Black leather jacket

Concern flickers in his eyes but, never given to sentimentality, a flirtatious grin immediately replaces worry.

“Been a long time since you summoned me,” he says, flashing his lighter and inhaling rapturously. Smoke wreaths my keyboard and while I can’t smell it, I remember the feeling.

I glance at him. He’s standing closer than usual tonight, almost within reach. Although he can’t enter the corporeal world, I have the strong feeling he wants to hug me.

“Laryngitis,” I say, turning to face him. “You know, my voice is gone.”

“Your voice sounds fine to me, but if it’s really a problem, try gargling with Jack Daniels twice a day.” In spite of his irreverent comment, he looks down at me, his dark face serious.

“Juan, I didn’t call you because…it took a while to figure out what was wrong with my book. My writer’s voice is gone, lost.”

dreadlocks 2He shakes his head, black dreads swirling over his shoulders. “I knew it was serious. I thought it was just my equipment when your words stopped coming. You put your WIP away, didn’t you?”

I nod.

“Don’t worry, girl,” Juan says, moving closer. I almost feel a rush of air as he brushes his hand over my keyboard and a single sentence appears on the monitor:

AN HONEST WRITER KNOWS WHEN TO MOVE ON.

“There’s no shame in quitting,” he whispers.  “Keep in mind the world you created will serve you well in the next novel. You have a character who’s so powerful, wise and relentless, I’m almost jealous. You’ll use him again. You have lyricism you’ll repeat while you fold it in with new inspiration.”

He crosses his arms. “When you blog about me, that’s your voice. That’s the way your world is. Remember: the definition of writer’s voice is the intangible power you use to make the reader wish he could live in your book or make him damned glad he doesn’t. It’s a sensibility; it’s like me. Always there in the background, adding all three dimensions, running like illegal software in the reader’s mind. He’s not even aware what’s happening, but you’re seducing him while he reads.”

We’re silent for a moment, and then he says, “I think we should watch a Christmas movie, don’t you?”

“Anything for you, muse. Which one did you have in mind?” I ask, my cursor hesitating over Netflix.

DIEHARD! Love all that 20th century American cursing,” he laughs.

“One of my personal favorites,” I agree and, as a young Bruce Willis fills the screen, my muse fades into the starlight of my office window.window stars

Have you ever misplaced your writer’s voice, if so, what did you do to regain it?

 

Photos: Foter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We were Future Retro…

future retro woman

Warning: Blatantly sentimental blog ahead!

During a gigantic stall in revision I’ve been looking inspiration. Every time I think I’ve found a new source, I’m disappointed. My bad-boy muse is vacationing on stellar shores far from here, so I can’t count on him. Sometimes though, inspiration is right under your nose or, in my case, right under the stairway.

When my husband suggested we clean out the boxes from under the stairs, I was excited. We don’t collect much stuff and we didn’t bring a great deal of junk from our former lives, but what we do have has lurked under the carpeted treads… for the last twenty years. Filled with enthusiasm, he lugged the crumbling containers out, piling them in the middle of our walkout basement.Nikon

“OK, tell  Harry Potter his room is ready now,” he called, grinning at me as I stared down at the huge mountain of cardboard artifacts. Suddenly, I was Indian Jones unearthing relics from an ancient life – my own.  How will I feel when I open the photo albums, I wondered. Inside there might be dragons…or so I thought.

Instead I found inspiration.

As I looked into the faces of dear friends and an ex-husband, a lost lover and a sweet child named for me, my wonderful co-workers still living or long dead, I was amazed.  How could people who sucked the air from the room then appear so human and normal now? Apparently my eyes were dazzled by what was in front of them at the time, leaving my mind to expand moments of the past into infinite size.

The second those photos were snapped we all became Future Retro; we just didn’t know it yet.baby photo

So, after dashing away a tear, I decided to wrangle all that sentiment into something useful – Word fodder. Opening the door to the past sometimes tests our nerves but, even if we laugh or blush, nothing more can happen to those Future Retro days. Now they are strictly under our control, highly charged emotional clay we can mold into fiction.

Imagination is, after all,  the sum total of our memory and experience. Our fears and hopes, humor and chaos invade our writing resulting in characters who are fearless or weak, compassionate or wrathful. These people  are bold, they accomplish what we were unable to accomplish…maybe.  They succeed where we failed…or the other way around:)

Do memories inspire you? Have you tapped the aquifer of memory in your own mind?

 

Future Retro is a fantastic 80’s compilation remix released in 2006 by Rhino Records. Check it out on Wikipedia and, while you’re there, contribute to keep Wikipedia commercial free.

Photos: Foter

Great Galactic Couples

11954241201556281584tomas_arad_heart.svg.thumbAs I approach the most important scene in revision, the moment my two lovers meet for the first time, I’ve been thinking about my favorite SFR novels. They span decades, their styles are different, their characters unique, but they all have one thing in common. L.O.V.E. At first sight. Pretty much.

In preparation for this scene, I read through my male character sketch and I found the following:

“Who can explain the nature of attraction? The philosophers promise it is a gift of mystery, the devotees preach it is the will of the gods, the cynics sneer it is an accident of timing. Until Naomi appeared in my life, I never thought about these questions. Now I cannot stop asking them.”

So, here are a couple of early SFRs that explore the nature of attraction. If you haven’t read them, you’ll find they stand the test of time.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman51JF1gGjMgL._AA160_

Written in the early 1970s , The Forever War is an evolution of Starship Troopers, without Heinlein’s not-so-thinly veiled sexism. Haldeman’s love story is military science fiction set in a grim universe, but his draftee characters, William Mandella and Marygay Potter manage to triumph over the ruthless barriers of time and space. Haldeman’s irony and humor make this a true classic.

 

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

51eiH-Rv2oL._AA160_On a routine survey mission astrocartographer Captain Cordelia Naismith is taken prisoner by Lord Aral Vorkosigan, leader of a merciless expeditionary force. In spite of  their strongly opposing politics  and profound culture clash, Aral  is immediately intrigued with his serene and wise captive. And the feeling is mutual.Cordelia’s compassion and intelligence tempers Aral’s hunger for power and tormented nature seamlessly.  Bujold frames their unlikely romance with her truly remarkable world-building.

So, you tell me. What inspires attraction? Who are your favorite galactic couples?

 

Check out TaylorGraceauthor.wordpress.com for the 5 Books I re-read over and over.   Thanks for the inspiration for this blog, Taylor.

Also, J. C. Conway.com has a wonderful post about what happens when we fall in love – Love Science. Amazing stuff!

Book images: Amazon

 

Armed star-gazer in Elkland

2014-10-12 07.54.36Last Friday was a big birthday so we took a couple of days off and visited Estes Park, Colorado…just up the hill from our town. When you make your home in a tourist destination state it’s easy to let everyday life distract you, so it was fun being part of a tourist weekend. People were everywhere, visiting Rocky Mountain National Park and watching the last of the aspen leaves swirl from the trees. From a polite distance, crowds observed the yearly mating dance of the elk who reclaim their grazing rights among the buildings, parks, and golf courses of Estes Park. It’s a wonderful live-and-let-love tradition in town. I’ve enclosed a few photos.  To the left is the royal male himself, munching on grass in the Safeway parking lot.

To the right the former King of Elkland reclines in the sun by the soccer nets.2014-10-11 15.51.53 The cows grazed around aimlessly but, occasionally, I swear I saw one of the gals wink enticingly at the young King.

In any case, we had a good time, ate too much and went  off the grid.

During the day we also scouted out places to star gaze  in RMNP.  I wanted to see the Milky Way in its glory, but even though the weather didn’t co-operate, my husband was ready. At the beginning of our trip, as I searched through the center console of his pickup  for my camera, the unmistakable glint of a twenty-two winked up at me.

He grinned and shrugged. “Can’t go up in the hills at night without protection. Just think of me as your armed star-gazer.”

I whipped out my spiral notebook. “Do you mind if  I use that for the title of my next novel?”

He just smiled.

Where do the titles of your stories, blogs, or novels come from?

My Word Men

I love my men – my written men.

Folks who know me but haven’t read my novel would be surprised at the amazing the guys who inhabit my word worlds.

So, where do these fictional men come from?

stars-thAs a romantic teenager scribbling furiously on notebook paper, a #2 pencil clutched in my fist, my written men, like the devil, assumed pleasing forms. The Disney princes come to mind. Broad shouldered and iron jawed, they appeared in scrawls of graphite, ready to save my narrow ass from the living hell of teenage metamorphosis. My first alien darling was a classic Disney derivative. He stayed in perfect stasis for decades, preserved in my imagination like Snow White, until I resurrected him with a key stroke six years ago.disney_cartoon_characters_series_snow_white_2_3330

I found my unearthly fantasy all grown up, a struggling and battered man, who, in spite of slavery and torment, prevailed and flourished in my first novel. Of course, he had not lost his glamour but he had gained intelligence and developed something critically important in a man – a sense of irony and humor.

In the same novel he was joined by a human, a driven man of questionable morals. Filled with ambition and recklessness, this character was selfish and unpredictable. He broke hearts without a thought and threw his trusting protégée in harm’s way to save his own skin. But, somehow I made it impossible for the reader to hold that against him for long.

Only a writer can manipulate life this way!

And now, my written men have changed again. They aren’t always gorgeous loving men or even sassy bad boys. gentaSome of them are scary, glowering killers. Their behavior isn’t always decent or conventional. They vacillate from assassin to philosopher, from murderer to rescuer. But, it works.

Over the years, I’ve learned that, testosterone or estrogen aside, the brains of men and women are surprisingly similar. I can describe the world from a man’s point of view because, as humans (or humanoids :)) we have the same needs and desires. We have the same willingness to test the deep water and the same fear of getting wet.

But, that being said, I still have a lot to learn. I’m sure my husband would agree.

 

Who are your written men and women? How did they evolve in your storytelling?

Warrior: Foter

Snow White and her prince: Freepix

 

 

Closer to the Edge

Happy first Wednesday, everyone…

After a lengthy absence, I’m back to IWSG, Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for his wonderful forum and outlet for writers from the timid to the confident. You’ve provided us a safe place to vent, to question and to celebrate. Click on the badge to the right to join us.

Be forewarned, this blog is not about a happy subject. danger

If you write mystery, romance, or adventure you may have reached the point where a specific scene is hard to write because of its unpleasant nature. As a no-gratuitous-violence writer, I avoid scenes like the one looming ahead of me but, the simple fact is, this is a pivotal scene. The POV’s feelings of guilt and self-doubt flood from this terrible mistake. Her actions at this moment change everything, providing tension and conflict. Without it she is two-dimensional. Through the novel she searches for redemption and when she finally finds it she’s faced with more questions than answers.

But, unfortunately, her creator was not brave:) Bumping up against the fictional rough stuff made me uneasy. It felt personal. As writers we sometimes set limits for ourselves, lines we hesitate to cross. Other writers are fearless and over the top, but I found myself dancing around this scene as if it was a cornered rat in my kitchen.

However, that said, I’ve had time to think about this since first draft. Now, in revision, I’ve decided to forge on ahead, fine-tuning the action and honoring its importance in the story.

Are you willing to get closer to the edge? If so, any advice for me?

 

The Meet My Character Blog Hop-Juan Reyes

The recent murder of a captive photojournalist in the middle east  made me hesitate to use my fictional videographer as the subject of this post.

But, in spite of his imaginary existence, this character serves as a reminder that members of the press have been on the front lines of  war and human suffering for almost two hundred years – they are truly fearless men and women who document the information that matters to the world.

*

Hesitantly, I click the M key. Calling my muse, my deceased galactic videographer, is always a crapshoot. If he is within range and in a good mood, he contacts me. If not, my attempt to summon him falls on the vast deaf ears of the universe.

Mathew Brady 1861 American Civil War
Mathew Brady 1861
American Civil War Considered by historians as the father of photojournalism.

 **EAR PIERCING STATIC**

“Juan Reyes, here. Writer Girl, is that you?”

“Where in hell are you, Juan?” I shout. “I can barely hear you! ”

Deep laugh. “You’re lucky you can hear me at all. I’m orbiting Ranger Five, twenty-seven light years from Earth.”

“My readers want to know if you are fictional or historic.”

“Well, I was fictional, but since you redshirted me I guess I’m history.”

“So, will you tell them when and where the story takes place?” I ask.

I can almost see him scowl, and I hold my breath. He can be touchy and .

“I’m alright with the time, late twenty-first century,” he says, “but I really despised your choice of Washington, DC. Far too many arrogant politicians of all flavors. The coastal North Carolina location was beautiful. However, my favorite was Canyon, a planet two galaxies north of our Orion arm of the Milky Way.”

 

a-wwii-combat-photographer
A WWII combat photographer

**REVERBERATING SCREECH**

“My readers want to know about you.” I yell, covering my ears. “Can’t you squelch that racket?”

“Sorry about the noise. Let them know I’m a galactic heartbreak with copper skin, black dreads and a killer smile.” A pause. “I still dance on the edge of the combat zone, and I’m still searching for the perfect image.”

“Have you found it yet?” I ask, already knowing the answer.

His voice is tinged with sadness. “I found it twice, but as you wrote it, the second image cost me everything.”

“What is the main conflict? What messes up your life?” I shout.

“The main conflict is trying to get to the crossroads of history for the second time in my career. Filming first contact was the assignment of a life-time and it would have been enough for most videographers, but not me. Had to try for it again.  What messes up my life? My brief affair with a gorgeous alien and my ensuing obsession for her.” Silence, then: “How about bringing that lovely creature and me back together in a sequel?”

I sigh. “You know I can’t do that, Juan.”

“You writers can do anything you want.” Deep masculine chuckle. “Don’t forget that.”

**RIPPLING WAVES OF STATIC**

“What is your personal goal?”

“You’re… breaking… up…”  His voice fades and flares.

“Personal goal, Juan. Personal goal!”

“Always telling the story – no matter the danger.”  His voice is a whisper, but his smile is bright in my imagination.

Is there a working title for this novel and where can we read more about it?

Learning Levitation. You can read more about Juan and his role as my muse in Sharpies and Quill Pens and Muse Humor in this blog.

When can we expect the book to be published?

Learning Levitation was a labor of love (alliterations – I love ‘em). It was born in the fires of Holly Liesl’s How to Revise Your Novel. Perhaps after my second novel is published I’ll revisit LL.

After all, I have to see Juan again.

How about you writers out there? What does your character have to say for him or herself?

 

Thanks Kirsten of  http//ascenicroute.wordpress.com/ for  inviting me to join this blog hop. I enjoyed it:)

Mathew Brady photo/foter/public domain