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Psychic Storytellers

I got adventurous today and went to a psychic fair.  I explored booths, listened to speakers, and got some readings.  I like to stay open-minded about things, and I take it all with a grain of salt.  For me, it’s entertainment.  Yes, there are charlatans out there, but I think others might have gifts.

The one thing that occurred to me is what good storytellers these people are.  They look to see what effect their stories are having upon their clients and try to tap into different emotions.  Can you imagine coming up with different stories all day long at one of these things?  People linger and listen in on other’s sessions, so they can’t stick with one story all day long.  I would have so much trouble doing this!  Maybe some authors have story ideas flying at them all the time, but mine take more time and cultivation.  Even those psychics who are truly seeing into a person’s life need to be able to communicate what they see in an effective way.  The better the story, the stronger the emotions and the more value people place on it.

There were some common themes that I heard today: that I’m strong and that I need to relax.  Those resonated with me, but made me wonder if I didn’t put enough concealer on my under-eye circles.  I try not to give them any hints.  An astrologist totally tapped into the fact that I write, but numerology was a bust for me.  My “life path” number is not me.  At all.  So there it was.  Some stories worked for me and others didn’t, but I like that they all tried.  I think that’s the part I like best, seeing storytelling in a different form.

Breaking through Writers’ Block

People often ask how writers come up with story ideas. Really, we don’t always know. Sometimes they’re inspired by music, kimberlydean_Ghost_Flute_200x320movies, or current events. Other times, they’re just suddenly there in our heads. The idea for Ghost Flute, however, came together for me much differently than any other story I’ve written. At the time, I was struggling with writer’s block. It had gone on for well over a year.  I couldn’t brainstorm no matter how hard I tried. My creative well was dry, and too many people were telling me what to do and how to do it.

Then one day, I was sitting at the computer, just staring out the window. My house backs up to woods and a small creek. It was sunset and the sky was in that hazy in-between stage. I started wondering what was back there that night. All forms of wildlife make their homes in those woods. It’s a very pretty, natural setting that can take on an entirely different personality at night. Once darkness falls, owls cry, raccoons scream, and trees creak in the wind. Watching the woods as dusk fell, I was suddenly caught by the feel of the nocturnal world coming alive. It was a sensual, spooky feeling, and it got my stalled brain churning again.

As much as the feeling intrigued me, though, I still didn’t have a story idea. The only thing I was sure of was that it tended towards the paranormal – but not vampires or zombies. It was closer to the earth, more primal. Suddenly, I remembered a book I own on Native American mythology. I love folklore and myths, but I don’t think I’d ever cracked the cover of that particular book. I did that night, and I stumbled across the inspiration I needed.

Suddenly, everything came together for me – the setting, the story’s vibe, and the characters. The story’s plot was so strong in my head, I could practically touch it. It was exciting to have a break-through like that, especially when I’d been struggling so badly. I started writing Ghost Flute the next day, and the story that ended up on the page is very close to what I saw in my imagination when I looked into those darkening woods.

Some writers insist that writers’ block isn’t real, but I can tell you it is.  Sitting down and forcing myself to write didn’t help; it only made things worse. What I really needed was to stop pushing, get other people’s voices and opinions out of my head (most important!), and let the inspiration come to me.

Ghost Flute excerpt

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Written in the Stars

This past weekend, I went to a Psychic Fair.  I love testing out how different kinds of readings work.  This time, I chose to have my astrological chart done.  The woman started reading my results.  She went very fast, so you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t use the correct terms.  Anyway, one of the items in my major house was sex.  She said it in a very hushed voice and looked at me closely.  I kept quiet, but thought “hmm, maybe there’s something to this.”

She continued on, reading my results in another area, and once again came upon the “s” word.  She kind of coughed over it this time and gave me a side-long look.  I couldn’t take it any longer.  I could just see the thoughts going through her head!  I blurted out, “I write romance novels.  Lots of them.”  The expression on her face was priceless.  Then she started laughing.  I started laughing and soon everyone was looking at us.

It all fit together then.  The focus on sex and the strengths that showed up in my communication field.  She had some exciting predictions about my future, which I’m looking forward to.

These are interesting times, she said, with two eclipses, the autumnal equinox, and a super blood moon all happening within a few weeks of one another.  Pluto is squared off with Uranus, which causes stress, but don’t worry.  That’s only supposed to last through 2017.  Hang in there!

And yes, after our hearty laugh together, I’m sending her a book.  I think Dream Man will be perfect for her.

In The Zone

I’ve been working hard on finishing up my next book (currently titled Courting Innocence.)  I’m cleaning up chapters, tying up loose ends, and rewriting scenes that don’t quite work.  I am in The Zone.

It’s a wonderful and horrible place to be.  It might be hard for non-writers to understand (and some writers might not agree), but I have to be in a certain head space for this to happen.  It’s truly a mental and physical experience.  I can actually feel when I’m there.  I can write around the space.  I know the plot and the technical aspects of the story.  I can write some cool characters and some really hot sex.  Yet writing in The Zone is entirely different.

Everything else goes away.  I’m very aware of the passage of time, but it goes too fast.  I’m one with the characters, and the words flow.  I sit in front of the keyboard for hours.  I ignore the phone.  The house doesn’t get cleaned.  Meals are whatever I can grab fast.  Family knows not to disturb.  Sleep is shorter.  I am mentally checked out and in another world.  In this state, I can crank out an immense number of words — and they’re usually keepers.  But when I come up for air or drink or food, it’s like trudging through sludge, trying to come back to reality.

So why don’t I always write in The Zone?  Because as difficult it is to leave it, it’s even harder to get there.  My mind resists, and so does my body.  It doesn’t like the ache in my back from sitting in a chair.  My mind resists being pulled away from so many other interesting things.  What helps push me past all this and get into the groove?  Pressure.  I wish I could turn it on and off with a snap of my fingers, but I can’t.

So yes, I do have different places I go inside my head.  No, I don’t have mental problems, I’m a writer.

Do any of you do that?  Do you have a job or hobby or talent that you can become engrossed in?  What does it feel like for you?

Plotting-Go-Round

plotting_process_webWhen I write, I have a bunch of scenes in my head or points that I know need to be made.  Sometimes they come in orderly fashion, but often they’re a jumble.  There are always holes on how to get from one place to another.  That’s when I know I have to sit down and think everything through before I write one more word. Today was one of those days.

When I started writing this story, I followed the same process.  I wrote down a bunch of high points on index cards.  I haven’t looked at them for a while, but I’ve followed them really closely.  I had six cards left when I started today.  Quickly, I began to add all the new things that have come into my head.  They’re all scenes that need to take place to close out the book.  Threads need to be tied together. Characters need closure. Climaxes need to be hit. (Excuse the pun, but the sex scenes are on the index cards, too!)

Then I stare and sort. Add a card here, move a card there.  Stare some more.  Get rid of something that’s cool, but doesn’t fit. Save it for another time. Take care of a supporting player, add some foreshadowing, shuffle the remaining cards… Etc. etc.  And so it goes until I’ve got a pretty darn good map to get me to the end of the book.  Sometimes it works well (like today).  Other times I just want to throw the cards at the wall.  Then I have to figure out another way to get the thoughts out of my head and onto paper.

And yes, whatever method I end up using, peanut butter-filled pretzels do help.

They say there are no original ideas, but…

I stumbled across a television series this weekend called Orphan Black and ended up binge-watching all of Season 1.  The show airs on BBC America, and it’s – in a word – fantastic.  The show starts with a woman running into a look-alike at the train station. Just as the main character, Sarah, realizes she’s looking at herself, the other woman jumps in front of a train. Sarah steals the woman’s purse and impulsively takes over her life.  This leads to other doppelgangers!

As I was watching the show and becoming more and more engrossed, I kept having this vague sense of deja vu.  It wasn’t long before I realized that Orphan Black had a ton of similarities to my Triple X series. (duh!) When Sarah and Beth met, it was like Lexie and Roxie meeting for the first time. (Although neither of them jumped in front of a train!)  Then there was a scene where Alison, another look-alike, pretends to be Sarah.  It was similar to the scene from Maxie where the identical triplets pose as one another at the magic show. Then there’s the scene where Sarah jumps the bones of this impossibly hot guy. It’s a page right out of Roxie’s book where… Oh yeah, you haven’t read that yet.  😉

Anyway, in the television series the women look alike, but their styles are very different.  I’m not just talking about hair and clothes.  They have different lifestyles and priorities, but at the heart of it, they’re one unit.  They care about each other, and they’re all working together to get to the bottom of their mystery.  (Well, except for maybe Helena.  She’s nuts.)  Does any of that sound familiar?  Once again, it was my Triple X trilogy.

They say that there are no original ideas left anymore, and maybe the similarities between the television show and the books are an example of that.  Yet I still think there are countless ways to make ideas unique.  Orphan Black and my books might start out with the same basic premise — how would identical women react to one another and how could their lives intertwine?  After that, though, the ideas spiral off to very different quarters — and that’s what makes things exciting. Maybe we have to start out at the same place, but I think there are a gazillion original ideas left to be found.  How could there not be?

So I can’t wait to watch Season 2 of Orphan Black, and I hope you’re just as excited to read Roxie’s story.  It will be here soon.  Just one more week!

 

 

The Brain is a Funny Thing

brainThe brain is a funny thing – and I’d dare say that writers’ brains are stranger than most.  Usually I’m very good at keeping my projects separated.  Currently, I’m finishing up one and planning on quickly moving on to the next.  Right now, I’m finishing up edits.  My brain is supposed to be in a very analytical place.  Are all the loose threads tied up?  Can I add some foreshadowing here or there?  It’s like finishing up a puzzle, and my brain has been performing well.

Except when it starts to have a mind of its own.

I know what my next book’s about, and I have a very high level story arc in mind.  I’ve tried for several weeks to start breaking down the plot into more definable pieces, but it wouldn’t break.  I’ve written up some character bios.  They’re fine, but I didn’t really feel like I knew the hero or heroine.

Until the past few days.

Suddenly my analytical brain is jumping into the creative phase, which is good.  I stopped pushing and it finally started going there on its own.  It’s been polite and hasn’t interfered with the clean up work for the current work-in-progress.  What’s rude is that it’s doing this at 4:00 in the morning!

Agg!  The past three days in a row, I’ve woken up with scenes in my head.  Don’t ask me why or how.  I don’t know.  But the characters have suddenly found their voices.  The story is starting to flesh out.  It’s awesome.  It’s organic.

And it’s 4:00 AM!

I need to jump into this new project soon so the story will feel free to come to me at more convenient times of the day.  I promise you, book, you will be my main focus very, very soon.

But right now, please.  I need some sleep.

The Power of Sleep

I’ve been having trouble figuring out how to end a chapter in a book I’m currently writing.  I’d been mulling this over in my mind for days.  I’ve got the entire chapter plotted, but I didn’t know how to close it in a way that would drive the next scene.  I couldn’t get to sleep last night because I was fighting with it so hard.  Then this morning, I woke up and BOOM!  There it was, a line spoken by another character.  It wasn’t the person I was trying to make speak, and now I know why she wouldn’t talk.  It’s because this line is perfect coming from the other character.  It matches the motivation and sets up an interesting turn of events.

Yay!  I love how sleep works.  And that makes me want to get back to the Dream Wreakers and all the interesting research that comes along with it.  Soon, I promise… very soon.  It’s next on my writing calendar.

Inspiration

Writers often get asked what triggers their story ideas.  It can be a lot of different things:  the news, movies, television shows, overheard discussions, etc.  It’s really anything that strikes a chord.  It has resonance inside, whether it’s a scene that’s pictured in the writer’s head or even just a mood they feel.  That’s what happened to me this past weekend.  I was driving home from the Save the Cat workshop and trying to work through some issues I’ve been having with Roxie’s story.  That’s when a song came on the radio.

It was Emeli Sande’s My Kind of Love.  Oh My God.  I’d never heard it before, but the mood it gave off was perfect for what I’m trying to do with Roxie’s book.  Plot is important and characters are key, but if I can hit the chord that song was giving off, that story would fly.  Suddenly my worries faded.  I just need to keep that mood in mind as I’m writing.  And probably play the song a million times.  If I come even close, I’ll be happy.  Because that song is so passionate.

I’ve been inspired by songs before, but I’m curious if readers can see/feel that inspiration in my stories.  So I’ll share a bit.  Let me know what you think.  Do you see any links between these?

Hit the Ground Running by Jonny Lang …. inspired my novella Wanted in Red’s Sage’s Secrets Volume 9

Savin’ Me by Nickelback … inspired Solace in Scandal

 

 

Down time

I spent most of the month of May working hard towards a deadline.  When I’m in that frame of mind, everything else gets pushed into the background.  The house goes uncleaned, chores go undone, and I disappear from the radar of all my friends and family.  It’s self-imposed isolation, and I suppose it’s good for the story.  When that deadline passes and the story is put to rest, though, it’s time to re-enter the real world.  It feels a bit strange to be excited about paying bills and weeding the flower garden, but that’s where I am right now.  I have so many things I want to do that don’t involve sitting in front of a keyboard.  This down time is important for recharging batteries and getting the creativity brewing again.

However this, too, shall pass.  Soon, the urge to write will return and I’ll be moving back into the planning stages for my next project.  I will tell you that I already know what my next project will be, but I wouldn’t actually consider it new.  It’s more of an old project that I’ll be picking up again.

Yes, for all of you who’ve asked, I’m going back to the Dream Wreakers.