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Category: Creativity

Cover Design is Hard

I had a very long day yesterday, sifting through stock photos.  I’m trying to come up with a concept for some covers I need to re-do.  You’d think this would be fun – and it is – for the first three hours or so.  Then it becomes unbearably frustrating.  There are millions of photographs and various images out there.  Many are fantastic and would serve perfectly fine as book covers.  So what was the problem?  Designers have to tag their images with keywords in order for me to find them, and the keywords they use don’t always match up with what I think their keywords should be.

Not all creativity is the same.  My creativity is rooted in words.  Designers think visually.  Often, it’s difficult for the two sides to communicate with each other.  Example?  I was looking for a “sophisticated couple” or a “classy couple.”  My results were disappointing.  It took me forever – and I mean hours – to figure out that what I was looking for was an “elegant couple.”  Aaaaggg.  Beyond that, even when I had the right search words, a lot of the pictures were labeled wrong.  So, so wrong.

It’s interesting how the brain works, isn’t it?  We often think that creative people and practical people have trouble communicating, but it can go deeper than that.  It can be difficult for writers and graphic artists to communicate, too, because our creative strengths are in different areas.

This process consumed my entire day.  It even affected my sleep.  I finally got up at three o’clock in the morning to write down a couple of new keywords and some different concepts to try.  I started searching again early this morning.  While none of them panned out, I stumbled across something I think will work.  Finally!  What a relief.  I’m ready to stop looking at pictures and go back to words.  It’s much easier on my brain.


The Deer and The Darkness

People often ask where writers come up with ideas.  I usually can’t pinpoint what exactly will spur story ideas, but here’s an example.  The other evening, I was mowing the lawn.  I got started late, and it’s getting darker earlier every night.  My back yard butts up against a wooded area, and the sun had gone down.  It was getting darker with every pass, but I wanted to finish since it was cool.  I was walking along, eyeing the forest when I heard a noise.  Something was moving fast.  My head snapped to the right, just in time to see this deer go tearing by, between me and my house.  I mean, this thing was moving.  Deer are usually very graceful, even at high speed.  This one was not.  He was so close to the ground, he looked like a torpedo, and he was getting ahead of how fast his legs could go.  He stumbled, kind of bounced off a rise in the terrain, and shot across the neighbors yard back into the wooded area.  Holy crap, did he startle me.

That’s when the questions started.  Where did he come from?  The forest, for sure.  What would have happened if he’d run into me?  It would not have been a pretty sight.  Deer are not small animals.  I was mowing with a large, very noisy piece of equipment.  What compelled him to run across the open grass, instead of staying in the treeline?  Deer tend to stay in herds.  Where was his buddies? Were they out there, lurking, too?  What else was in there?  Had something scarier than a human with a lawnmower compelled him to run for his life?  WHAT was scarier to a deer than a lawnmower?  I’ve been writing a paranormal, so those thoughts tumbled in my head.  The dusk.  The crickets chirping nearly as loudly as the lawnmower.  The complete disappearance of the deer… Yeah, I didn’t make it for another pass.  I quickly ended my mowing task for the night.  Now, that’s kind of a dramatic idea starter, but that’s how a writer’s brain works.

I finished the rest of the yard the next day, much earlier in the evening.  Would you believe that deer came back?  Or maybe it wasn’t him, but this thing was as bold as can be.  He came out from the trees, looked at me with my monster mower, kind of shrugged, and started having dinner.  He was in my neighbor’s yard, nibbling on grass and leaves the entire time it took me to finish my mowing job.  Yes, the questions started again.  If he’s so calm around me tonight, was there some kind of predator out there the night before?  Why’s he so calm now?  Can deer have multiple personalities?  What if deer stopped being so timid?  What if the deer rose up?  Questions, questions, questions… That is how writers come up with ideas.

Switching Gears is Hard!

I’ve been working diligently lately on getting my new book ready for the marketplace.  The story is finished, but now it’s time to write blogs, get reviews (hopefully good ones), and promote the book so readers can find it.  It’s business work, and it needs to be done.  After spending so much time getting a story down on paper, it’s sometimes a relief to think about something totally different.  That’s where my mind has been.

So imagine my dismay/excitement when I saw a call for proposals yesterday.  One that intrigued me.  And started pulling my brain back to the creative side.

Agghh.  It’s like half of my brain wants to run off and play, while the other knows it should be responsible and work.

Do I have any actual ideas for a proposal for this new opportunity?  Not one.  But do I want to sit and daydream them up?  Yes, please!  Am I going to pull up a lounger, relax on my deck with a lemonade, and do just that?  I don’t really think I can stop that from happening!

Today’s writers need to do it all.  We have to be creative and a cold-blooded business woman/man, yet writing is what writers love to do.  We’re just happiest when our heads are in a story.

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_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!