BE NICE…Advice from Roadhouse

Happy New Year!

Christmas 2014 was the best Christmas for our little family in a while. Finally, the chaos of the last few years receded noticeably, washing us up on happier shores. Mother nature graced us with a white Christmas. Things were glittery, fragrant, comforting. We smiled a lot. Held hands. Toasted one another in restaurants. Shopped, read, played games. fireworks 2A delightful holiday buzz permeated the house and, when the time finally came, I didn’t want to take the tree down, put away the ornaments, or turn out the lights.

In honor of our wonderful festive week I decided to make a SINGLE New Year’s resolution and that is: Be Nice. Be nice to myself.

The moment Be Nice wriggled to the surface of my brain, Patrick Swayze’s speech in the best B-movie ever, Roadhouse, lit up my synapses. RoadhouseWho knew a cooler’s advice to his bouncers  made such an impression on me? I revisited his classic lesson on the following blog: How Do You Handle Angry Customers? Patrick Swayze Style! This link contains great advice about dealing with anger and providing good customer service. However,  it also works on a personal level when doing battle with powerful insecurities about writing or anything else.

So, here it is – tailored for the individual:

Picture yourself in a rowdy bar filled with your personal demons. No, you can’t party with them because while some of them may be attractive, they are not your friends.  (Actually, this isn’t a bad premise for a story…)

Patrick, RIP, is your very own mental bouncer, and he tells you how to kick these monsters to the curb…

  • Never underestimate your opponent; always expect the unexpected. (Your thoughts can manifest themselves in any form so be ready to deal with negative emotions and accept them without judgement. Ask for help if you need to.)
  • Never start anything inside the bar. (Don’t let your insecurities take over your thoughts. Take a break and step away. Ask for help. Your friends will help and encourage you.)
  • Be Nice. (To yourself.)

He continues on in graphic detail, of course, but you get the idea. Being nice is better…usually.

So,  what are you doing this year to be nice to yourself?

 

Thanks, BS, for the inspiration for this blog.

(Warning: Rating on Roadhouse is R.)

 

 

 

DOG FACE PIE

We made Dog Face Pie today.

While waiting for my illusive muse to show up, I’m making a concerted effort to stay gentle with myself and my writing goals.

So, I’ve decided to include a quick story about this wonderful pie and the dog who loved it.

When Shadow, our flat coated retriever, was alive,  he was a brave boy.580799592_2063855751_562072303_1288220133127[1] His coat was so thick he had hot flashes. Often, we’d see him laying in a snow bank, happy as a menopausal woman with her face in front of an open freezer.  He had many aliments including a stroke from which he recovered 90% and diabetes that ultimately contributed to his death. My husband gave our furry pal insulin shots twice a day for over a year. One night Rick said, grinning as he rubbed Shadow’s neck after an injection, “Well my Navy ABC school finally came in handy. You know –  atomic, biological and chemical warfare? We had to learn to give ourselves shots.” He was putting this harrowing knowledge to good use.

Shadow, always  the most well-mannered of dogs, never stole food from the table, begged, or disrupted our meals. His boring dog food was occasionally augmented with gravy or meat scraps. No sugar – ever. However, one day I heard the sound from the kitchen that only means one thing. Animal eating  something he shouldn’t. I raced in, astounded to find Shadow with his front paws on the counter and his face buried in a cooled apple pie. I couldn’t believe it, but it was such a funny sight I couldn’t be angry. (Besides, we had another pie.) From then on, the delicious dessert was christened Dog Face Pie. Any pie that makes a good dog break his leash (so to speak) needs a special name.

So: Prepare crust, fill with sliced apples, press a mixture of brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon over all. Cook for 1 hour. Remove and drizzle caramel sauce and top with pecans. Good enough for anyone, canine or human.

Yummy. This one’s for you my buddy.

What’s your favorite animal companion memory?

stars-th

Guys and Gals

G – Even before I killed a main character, I let two other characters fall in love.

I made a conscious decision that neither individual would say, “I love you.”  These three words alter everything in an instant, bringing our Western values and preferences for a happy stars-thending into a story.  Believe me, I wanted my folks to drift into the galaxy and live happily ever after. Instead, I described love in the actions of the characters as they helped each other in spite of almost insurmountable cultural and species differences. The plot, the action, and the fortunes of each character has to work for the story, no matter what.

How do you write it? Are your readers guaranteed a happy ending?

BTW, I’m enjoying this A to Z Challenge. Thanks to everyone who has responded to my blog. The variety of fascinating and beautiful blogs out there is amazing.

COSMIC AHA!

 

I don’t know about your muse, but mine arrives at the damnedest times.

Sometimes, he gives me brain-bursting ideas while I’m hurtling down I-25. I have been known to pull over to record these ideas on my iPod as people blaze past me at 90 miles per hour. What I do for love.

Or, he visits me as I’m falling asleep. He teases me with a lyrical idea guaranteed to make my novel a best seller. I frantically memorize it before I fall asleep but, in the morning, I only remember it if I’m lucky. Most times, I wake knowing there is a great concept in my brain-somewhere.

And, he interrupts me during important projects at work. At least, at work I usually have a paper and pencil nearby.

Signaling my muse is a last resort, because he likes to toy with me. Like my cat, he refuses to appear just because I called. When he does show up he always looks slightly annoyed. Oh, come on, stop whining, he tells me. I have a billion stops to make today, so use what I’m giving you and write it like you love it.

I visualize my muse clearly, as easily as I see the folks in my novel. Arrogant and articulate, my muse is an ageless smart-ass.  (OK, he is one of my characters.) He fills my head with exit strategies from the tangled word messes I make. When he leaves, it’s ok. I never have to worry because, the next time I need him, he’ll have my back. I can count on my muse, as long as I’m patient.

Is your muse a whisper in your mind’s ear or a brush of inspiration from a well-loved outside source? Does your muse take a recognizable form? What does the cosmic aha feel like for you?

WRITE IT LIKE YOU SAW IT

What defines an excellent chapter? What makes this particular chapter one of the best in my novel?

Chapter 23 just flowed out of me. I experienced some of the I can’t remember writing this phenomenon Holly describes in an email to HTRYN students. I didn’t struggle with my thoughts, with description, or with the death of a main character. I just saw it and wrote it.

The MC suffered her terrible loss with sorrow and dignity as a strong, sweet secondary character helped her to safety. I could see him so clearly; his outlines were bold, his bravery was understated, his strength and compassion tangible.  The chapter ended with a wonderful hook.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m writing science-fiction romance, a genre that can’t be taken too seriously. However, those characters at that particular time interacted seamlessly, with depth and clarity.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that I only made a few changes. (Most of my chapters look like a bloody crime scene, splattered with red ink.)  And, it doesn’t break my heart that I have only four chapters to go in lesson seventeen.  As a spare writer, I struggle to add dimension to my world and my people and, in this chapter, I nailed it. I just hope after revision most of the novel will be this deep and rich.

So, I ask you brother and sister writers. What makes your chapters memorable?

Writing for an Elevator Moment

Don’t mention you’re writing a novel unless you are willing to describe it . Quickly.

Recently, at a gathering of college buddies,  someone asked THE question. What is your book about? I had the attention of the room-for exactly one minute. The more I talked, the more I realized I was no pitcher. Not about my own stuff.  Fortunately, my listeners were friends so they just handed me another beer and the conversation moved on.  I was so embarrassed.

Later, I talked to my art mentor and good friend, Diane Edwards, and she told me about elevator time.

A stranger gets on the elevator with you. He sees  canvases under your arm and a paint splattered tote bag by your feet.

“What kind of painter are you?” asks the stranger. And, in the time it takes to move from first floor to second, you tell him.

So, just for practice, I’ve created an elevator moment for  two books science fiction readers may recognize.

**Under threat of alien invasion, the government drafts the country’s most talented high school students to fight a galactic war.**

Yep. Starship Troopers and The Forever War. In 2o words.

Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Any one who has written a query letter knows this is the toughest writing you will ever do. First, you hook the agent with less than 30 words. Next, you reel him in with mini-synopsis of about 150 words. Finally, you send the SASE or an e-mail and you wait.

Or,  you corner him on an elevator.

Onward, fellow word warriors!

REST, RELAX, REBOOT

I love to write. Honest. But, there is an actual life out there beyond our scratching pens and clattering keyboards.

Life is happening in spite of email, cellphones, iPods, Facebook, writer’s forums, revisions, revolutions and the precarious state of our world.

So, here’s my other things to do list:

*Take a day trip to a beautiful mountain home, visit a dear friend, drink sweet tea.

*Garden. The outside world ends at your fingertips when you get your hands dirty.

*Read someone else’s novel.

*Watch HBO.

*Visit your local independent bookstore.

*Grill and chill with your family.

*If possible, go to the beach.

*Meditate.

*Walk.

*Listen to music.

*Sleep.

Let your mind and body rest. A rested body revitalizes the mind, and a revitalized mind incubates ideas.

How will you reboot your brain?

Eight-eight Birthdays

Happy Birthday, Mom

I didn’t send a card. I sent you a blog.

I want to thank you for the many things you did that natured me creatively.

You read to me.

You taught me to draw, read and write.

You taught me how to think outside the pencil and how to translate concept to graphite on paper.

You introduced me to science-fiction and fantasy, from Azimov to mZb, and everyone in between.

You taught me chemistry in the kitchen and string theory in the living room.

You shared your love of the natural world, and you still love it. You are the only one in your building with a garden on your porch.

You taught me the survival skills of making bread, feeding a family, and washing my own clothes.

You took me on flights of fancy and walks of mystery.

You taught me the importance of women friends.

Thankyou, darling girl.

Here are the photos I promised.  In no particular order and a rookie layout. If you run your cursor over the photos information about them will appear.

 

AQUIFER OF MEMORY

An aquifer is a body of saturated rock through which water can easily move.

Our brains are our personal aquifer. Everything we have ever done, seen, or felt nestles between our ears. Our memories are like water moving through the chaos saturated rock of every day life. The constant pulse of the present slows the flow of these memories until, over the years, they become a trickle.

Three weeks ago, a young friend of mine died suddenly. The circumstances of her death were tragic.  Unexpectedly, memories of my life with her family began flowing again, gushing up through the years into right now.

Within a few days of learning of her death, I wanted to write about grief and  how we handle loss. It shouldn’t be too hard, I thought, as I sniffled into one soggy tissue after another.  After all, you’re a writer, I told myself. You can express these feelings and share them, adding compassion and depth to your work.

It was much more difficult than that.

At first, I thought I would write about her, the girl I knew and our times as a family. But that seemed too much like a memoir.  Or perhaps, I could chronicle the last year of her life.   But that seemed too much like tasteless  prying. How did I want her to be remembered?

Remembering her through my fictional characters as a beautiful child,  a gorgeous young woman and a loving mother sounded like an excellent idea. So, the next time I need a sprightly little girl, a daring young gal, or a fierce warrior, she’ll be ready to step into my story.

Writers can, if we choose, let the dead speak through our words and let our memories speak for the dead.  And, if we are able to do so, it is our obligation.

Onward.

THE LEFT SIDE OF RIGHT

In Holly Liesl’s wonderful How to Revise Your Novel forum, someone posted a question for discussion that I’ve haven’t been able to get out of my mind.

What recurring themes show up in your writing?

As you can imagine, the answers ran the gamut from beautiful to beastly, from twinkling to twisted.

My particular theme is moral ambiguity, and it affects all of  my characters. I make them deal with those inevitable times when dark vs light = grey, when they find themselves on the left side of right. Are they bad people if they make a morally ambiguous decisions?

What does it take to make a person step into the light — or not. I’m talking about more complicated issues than black and white “Come over to the dark side, Luke” tales. I’m speculating on how people grapple with the conscious choice to pursue a path that is not ethically correct but is expedient at the moment.

I love this theme. I use it with humor in some stories and with horror in others.  I see it everywhere in life, and it adds a layer of conflict to my fiction I couldn’t get any other way. It fascinates readers because we’ve all been there.

Another theme I use is the semi-happy ending. To me, a happy ending isn’t always necessary. Certain genres depend on happy endings but my genre, whatever it is, does fine without hand-in-hand, off into the sunset stuff. Even though I’m writing fiction and science-fiction at that, I want to push my characters to their limit. Readers want to see what characters will do and wonder if, in the hero’s shoes, if they would do the same.

Rewrite update: Chapter Ten in the hopper.

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