Y’all come back now.

Y – You can tell it’s spring in Colorado. One day it’s 78 degrees, the next day it’s snowing. So, automatically, my thoughts drift to the beach. I love the mountains – I do. But, there is nothing warmer or more comforting than the ocean. Particularly the beautiful shores of North Carolina. Several years ago my husband and I travelled to Atlantic Beach  to spend a week with my mother, brother and sister-in-law. 267317_258012604226721_2408210_n[2]We rented the first floor of a gracious house on the beach, walked for miles on the hard sand, played in the water, ate chicken sandwiches and drank warm beer. Above us undulating ribbons of pelicans patrolled the waves.

Only problem was, it was August. If you know the South, you understand only crazy tourists go to the beach in August. It was hotter than a piece of chicken frying in the pan. Fortunately, we had an offshore breeze most days but, still, OMG. That didn’t stop us. We went on an early morning see-the-dolphins charter from which the slippery mammals were conspicuously absent. The guide later informed us dolphins head for colder water in August. Somewhere the dolphins were laughing at us.

We toured historic Beaufort, NC, home of the notorious pirate, Black Beard. Beaufort has a wonderful museum full of recovered pirate artifacts, maps, weapons, and other Jack Sparrowish items. We slurped melted ice cream and plodded the tourist route through town.  My husband gallantly squired Mom around, steadying her during moments of fatigue or dizziness – his own. Mom soldiered through the day until about 2:00pm. She was like a dolphin, seeking the safety of cool surroundings. She stayed inside basking in the AC while we lubed up with spf  50+ and headed out,  determined to enjoy the ocean. Heat notwithstanding.

That night we watched UFOs rise in the sky and, for a few moments, we believed – until we realized the bright darting lights were probably maneuvers from Seymour Johnson AFB or Cherrypoint.

So, in spite of disappearing dolphins and false UFO sightings, we had a wonderful time. And, when our hosts said, “Y’all come back now,” I thought to myself, I’ll be back as soon as I can.

stars-thWhere do you go when you’ve had enough of winter?

xenophobia

x – Are you fearless? human-rights-day_l

Some events we never forget, and these experiences work their way into our stories. For me,  xenophobia, fear or contempt for foreigners or foreign cultures, is such a memory. Xenophobia is the vicious mirror-mage of racism. After years gave me distance,  I used my brush with evil as a template for characters and situations in my science fiction novel.

Science fiction is a perfect forum, with its diverse universe and varied species and cultures. Some of my people display xenophobia like badge of honor, others wear it with shame, and still others fight against it. Two of my main characters fall in love in spite of it. Sometimes, the lies of xenophobia  can be exposed with humor, helping everyone learn some compassion. But, usually, the truth remains as dark and brutal as watching the KKK  march  in  full regalia down the main street of the town I grew up in. Of course, that was then and now our town is  a bright, sophisticated destination for arts and entertainment.However, like everywhere in our 21st century world, xenophobia still lurks like a hibernating virus. When writers bring these dark impulses to the surface, it reminds us all no one is immune to these potentially destructive thoughts and actions.

Will you speak against the dark side through your characters?  What memories from your past, good or bad, influence your writing?

Are you fearless?stars-th

 

Photo credit: Catching.Light / Foter.com / CC BY

Word Wizards

vision-quest_l

W – People who write are always looking for a way to be heard. When did you begin longing for an audience? It took me about a year of pounding the keys before I realized I was on my own. For a while, I felt terrible. How would I know if my writing was any good? Why write if no one read my stuff? The old if a tree falls in the forest thing. I hadn’t started reading chapters to my husband at that point, so I was completely isolated.

Unlike painting, music, or dance, writing isn’t a social expression of art. For the most part, writers work alone. But, at some point, they need feedback. I always swore I would never join a writer’s group  but, out of the blue, through a series of coincidences, I found out about a newly forming group at a local independent bookstore. yes-would-you-like-to-buy-a-book_lAfter one meeting, I decided it wasn’t for me but, again, another coincidence brought me back to the fold. It was the best thing that could have happened for my writing.

One of the great things about a good writer’s group is everyone gets it. Each member has doubts, setbacks, and triumphs. And, as I got to know my fellow writers, I learned so much from reading and critiquing their work. I read genres I would never have touched a year before, I poured over non-fiction, and I even read poetry. Forming a kinship of compassion and honesty with other writers is priceless.

So, thankyou, my Word Wizards. Our group has accomplished so much. In the last year, four of us finished our books. One of us is selling her non-fiction book and increasing  sales every month. WIPs are still evolving. Memoirs are being refined.

Next time someone tells you about a writer’s group, consider joining up. It might be just the thing you and your writing need!

 

Photo credit: ALL CHROME / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: 0olong / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Universe Unfurled

METEORMILKYWAY_ROWELL_C600_cropNote: Sorry this is late!

U – The universe is out there. All you have to do is look up.

When I was in CanyonLands on Outward Bound, I saw the Milky Way for the first time. We pounded ten miles a day in full pack (sans weapons), and we were exhausted, hungry and exhilarated. For a pack of wimpy city girls, this was a brutal slog. Somehow, we fumbled through dinner. Food on the course was horrible, but that stripped everything down to basics. No fussing. Just eat, sleep, climb, and laugh, and then do it again for five days.

Luck was on our side, and the weather was good. Mild and dry. Perfect for the show. I crawled into my bag and closed my eyes. Unable to sleep, I lay in the crystalline desert stillness. Finally,  I looked up and the Milky Way’s twin ribbons unfurled from horizon to horizon.

I didn’t sleep after that. If I had been a God-fearing woman, I would have celebrated such amazing beauty with a prayer. Instead, I just gaped until dawn nibbled away the glitter. Nothing, before or since, affected me the same way as that web of stars. It was miraculous, and it was real.

Two-thirds of the population of the western world has never seen the Milky Way. Light pollution is so rampant over the Earth, it creeps into the night like a brilliant rash, covering the East and West Coast of America, Europe and parts of South America. I feel privileged to have glimpsed our stars.

If you have a light free opportunity promise me you’ll look up!stars-th

Tangent Tales

T – Tanget – a sudden digression or change of course.1197121887834365039Chrisdesign_Flying_Stars_svg_med

Ok. Admit it. It’s happened to you. You’re chatting with friends, laughing and blabbering away when suddenly another idea seizes control of your tongue and, several moments later, you’ve backed yourself in a verbal corner. How did I get here? you wonder. What the heck just happened? Instead of following a neat thought-thread from point a to z, you find yourself rattling around in point r. Granted point r is something you feel passionate about, but it led you astray. Maybe point r is a favorite cause, a fond like or a profound dislike. But, there you are. Off the track.

This happens to writers. When I write without an outline, I often end up in cave of cobwebby words and concepts, fighting toward the light, side tracked and frustrated. Usually, something interesting appears, something I can’t possibly use in the current story. It falls under the category of it’s fantastic but it doesn’t work here. Some of my best scenes turned out to be tangents and, I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t realize it until I did a huge revision on the novel.

I’m fairly tangent free now, but I always wanted to harness them. They are so full of potential and spontaneity.

stars-thSo tell me how you hog tie your tangents, or do you capture them and make them work for you?

(BTW, don’t delete those wandering thoughts. They could be the next big thing in your writing.)

Snowarama

S – OK, it’s getting to me. Have we been hurled into Winterfell? Where the heck is spring?

Yes, we need the moisture and we are thankful for the snow but come on, mother nature. Enough already. DSCN1381 - Copy

To celebrate our last snow of the winter (hopefully), I have created the world’s worst poem.

Snow falls to the ground,

making it hard to get around.

Snow falls in the ditch,

making tomorrow’s drive a b***h.

 

Is winter over  in your part of the world?

Renegade-self

R  is for Renegade.

My first novel is finished, queries are emailed. Now what? I have several ideas on the back burner but, honestly, they aren’t what I want to write. Not at this moment.

So, I’m wondering – should I give in and write a contemporary adult fiction novel – a story of life right outside the front door with no paranormal creatures or sexy space guys. Don’t get me wrong. Some of the best books I’ve read are about normal people solving problems, but I have the feeling these stories are not mine to tell. Once you’ve written something you really enjoy, something that makes you laugh, cry, or wish you could be in the story, you can’t ever go back.

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a renegade but when it comes to this, I fall down the predictable rabbit hole. I do want to snag an agent, and I want to be traditionally published. If I create a mainstream novel at least I would have more agents to query. Another novel (possibly a sequel) with an interstellar setting, humor, and sexual content reduces my potential agent base.

So, I’m faced with a dilemma. Creativity verses $.  Write what might sell or write what you love? Slog on with the popular stuff or be a renegade writer, out for a good time, fearless and foolish?

The song Girls Just Want to Have Fun keeps running through my mind. Well, so do writers!

What does your renegade self tell you to write?stars-th

Quiet Please

Q – Only nine blogs left. Here’s a quick comment, taking us one step closer.trickling_water-web

Something important is missing from our lives – something soothing, thought enabling and natural.

QUIET.

The following excerpt from a wikiHow article confirms my suspicions about our noisy daily lives:

Scientists estimate that we are subject to receiving one billion stimuli every second in our brains.
 Of this amount, our brain manages to filter out most but there are still around 100 sensations kept for continued processing every second. And much of the stimuli received is in the form of noise. With all this bombardment, you can be forgiven for feeling easily distracted, ready to down tools and go for a little mind wander (or even a wander somewhere else totally).

Before I started writing, the constant confusion of tv, radio, talking, and music was annoying, but I learned to live with it. After I began my novel, noise became an issue.  Keeping my train of thought hurtling down the narrow tracks ahead was difficult on a good day and with excess noise it was nearly impossible. Now, I use ambient music apps, ear-buds, or earplugs with moderate success.

I do understand we live in the Age of Racket. On a warm summer day, I roll the windows down and pour bone-rattling latin jazz over my fellow commuters at a stop light. So, OK, I am an occassional noise marauder.

But, the next time cacophony invades the space between your ears visualize the following image:

It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

Wow.stars-th

Jambalaya Journey

J – In our joint effort to inspire me through A to Z challenge, my kind husband suggested twenty J words, and I picked jambalaya before I could stop myself.

What the heck is jambalaya? It is a spicy rice stew which, as I suspected, it is many things to many people. A distinctive combination of foods – chicken, shrimp, sausage, rice, spices, celery and tomatoes in varied amounts – this sassy delicacy sprouted in Jamaica, flourished in Bayouland and seduced palates all over the country.1245692931947677249egonpin_Caldero_svg_med

So, what does this have to do with writing? After I read the descriptions of this dish, the similarities were inescapable. Everyone who writes combines everything they know while creating a word path. The meat of their writing is as distinctive as tender chicken or fragrant sausage. Add a dash of action, a glob of adjectives, a pinch of pronouns. On a daring day, throw in tablespoonfuls of eroticism,  pounds of politics, and cups of laughter. Like the rice stew, writing evolves and morphs in the hands of every new word wizard. In fact, as a novel is written, its style becomes more sophisticated from first chapter to last. (I found that out the hard way!)

One article cautioned that tasty jambalaya is only as good as the kettle used to simmer your personal concoction of foods. A writer’s surroundings, office, nook at the bookstore, or hiding place in the library is the kettle of her ideas. Does she thrive in a boil of anonymous noise in a coffee shop, or does she simmer between her ear buds? Is she a sloppy writer leaving words, notes, and files scattered across the screen, like splashes on the stove top? Or is she tidy, cleaning up word debris as she goes?

What writing habits make your words simmer?

Infinite Variety

11971499311643754029erik_Single_Snowflake.svg.thumbI – I love snow. Even after 34 years in this cold mountain kingdom, snow fascinates me. Each storm brings an infinite variety of ice crystals as uncountable as stars. Every new snow I can’t resist using a complex scientific tool, the plastic ruler, to measure the depth of the magic white stuff on our back deck.

Ancient cultures with long winters  (Winter is Coming) described snow in practical ways: consistency, stability, and color. Survival depends on knowing the condition of the snow and ice under your feet. Our modern culture describes snow as if it were food or fantasy: dry, sparkling, powder, granular, snow cream, ice storm, dancing snow, flurrying snow.

Our twenty-first century protection against the cold has evolved to a high level, and we think we’ve passed the need to know snow’s makeup. But snow hasn’t changed.  It remains a great equalizer, keeping humans in their place in the natural world. As we flow down glittering slopes on streamlined boards or float over champagne powder on roaring snow machines, our ancient instincts still guide us – hopefully.  We need to respect the unknown depths, the white masses disguising  crevasses, and the mounds of flakes hiding unknown risks between the pines.

Whether inside or outside, rejoice and let it snow.

Do you build a snowman, or would you rather stay in the warmth, sipping hot chocolate?

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