The Whys and Hows of it All

Angela MyronLast month’s meeting of OCCRWA, I met a young mother of twins. It was her first meeting, and seeing the flush of her cheeks, the sparkle in her eye as she listened to the speakers and networked with other writers, it made me smile. Because I remember, because I still do this. Because underneath the exterior of a busy, inspired, prolific writer is one giant WHY that compels us.

Why do you wake at 5 a.m. every day? Why do you take your free Saturday, exhausted from a week of work, to attend a lecture on craft, or business of writing?

And then there’s the stunned HOW that emerges when you meet another parent, and they learn that in the delicate, intimate first years of your children’s lives, you launched a career as an author…

There are as many reasons as there are people under the sun why a person would want to be an author. But it’s when the Whys and the Hows combine in a compelling narrative, that’s when you find the Way.

For each of us, the Whys and Hows and Ways are different. But it’s also the same, for all of us. It’s the touchstone we revisit when starting a new work: Why am I doing this? What matters so much that I must communicate it through story? It’s how we muscle through revising and editing the story until it’s good. It’s how we weather rejection from agents, editors, and readers.

Under the surface, there is always a driving WHY.

My Why stemmed from a need to share philosophy, varied and collected over my formative youth, a combination of Science, Buddhism, Christianity, world myth, and old world magic passed down through generations before me. At least, that’s my Why was when I started writing fiction. Today, still, I’m driven by philosophy, but it’s mixed with my interactions with my readers. The kids I meet at book fairs and school events for my Ennara series are a huge inspiration.

What’s your Why?

I’ll be signing books at the upcoming OC Book Fair. More info at: http://ocwriters.org/book-fair and  https://www.facebook.com/events/516548848506569/. See you there!

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It’s in the voice

I’ve been reading romance novels since—forever and haven’t read a romance I didn’t love—well maybe one or two. Several years ago my “to read” stack of books was growing and my reading time was shrinking. A time when I was working fifty plus hours a week and free time was at a premium.

I spent the day with author Linda McLaughlin, shopping at Barnes and Noble (adding to the “to read” stack) when we found an audio cassette box set of Nora Roberts’ The Key Trilogy. Linda asked if I’d read the trilogy, and sadly I had not. In fact, I’d only read one or 9781491542071_p0_v1_s192x300two of Nora’s books. She suggested giving the box set a try. I’d only listened, or tried to listen, to one audio book before when a friend let me borrow a mystery-suspense novel. I ejected the first cassette within minutes because the narrator’s voice drove me crazy, and never tried one again. At the time, I spent a minimum of two hours a day sitting on the freeway going to and from work, and since my car had a cassette player I decided to give audio books a second chance. If this one faired better, then I would be able to read more authors—no, listen to more novels by authors I hadn’t had time to read.

I slid the first cassette to The Key of Light into the dash. Brother, what a difference a voice makes. Within minutes Susan Ericken’s wonderful voice swept me into the lives of Malory Price, Dana Steele and Zoe McCourt and the world surrounding Warrior’s Peak. When I finished The Key of Light, I immediately started book two, The Key of Knowledge and finished with the Key of Valor.

One audio book led to another and another and another. Before I knew it, I’d listened to numerous titles by Nora, including J.D. Robb. I added other authors I didn’t have time to read. Then I started listening to favorite books I’d read. My favorite historical romance is 9781469261492_p0_v2_s192x300Saving Grace by Julie Garwood. I’ve read the book several times and when I was finally able to obtain an audio version, I was in seventh heaven. Performed by Rosalyn Landor, the Highlands and the Scottish warrior Gabriel MacBain became so vivid in my mind. I remember listening to Jennifer Cruzie’s Agnes and the Hit Man and laughing out loud while driving down the freeway.

My audio library is still growing. I now have either CD’s or MP3-CD’s in both unabridged and abridged (I prefer unabridged). I have even repurchased certain audio books I originally bought in cassette format. I recently read an article that stated there has been a strong growth in audio books in companies such as Audible. Amazon’s Kindle Edition offers an audible narration with your book’s purchase. OverDrive is a digital download platform for public libraries.

Even though I no longer find myself sitting on the freeway for hours at a time, I still prefer listening to an audio book instead of a music channel. And heaven forbid if I forgot to bring an audio book along.

If you have never tried an audio book, why not give one a try? You too might find yourself falling for them as I have.

Where do I get my ideas? by Jill Jaynes

Jill Jaynes

“Where do you get your ideas?”

People ask me this all the time. They ask it with a look in their eye that tells me they are a little afraid of my answer. It is the same worry I see in someone’s eye when I tell them my degree is in Psychology.

They worry that the jig may be up. They worry that if writers really write what they know, then I am writing what I know.

And I know them.

There just may be that chance that their lives – warts and all – could show up on my pages for all the world to see.

Everybody can just relax. I am not plagiarizing your life (as tempting as it might be. After all, truth is often stranger than fiction). I couldn’t get all the details right if I wanted to; my memory is not that good.

However, as I mentioned in a previous post about “Where” my stories take shape for the first time (in my head, or as they are spilled onto the page), I rely on a deep pool of past experiences, especially those that are emotionally charged, to bring to life whatever story I am currently telling.

Which still doesn’t answer the question- where do I get my ideas?

I have to say that I have never thought of myself as a creative person. Ideas, especially original ideas, have always seemed hard to come by. But I am beginning to think that the only thing that has ever limited my creativity has been my own lack of faith in it. Because not too long ago, I decided I would come up with an idea for a book. Do something different than I’d ever done. Go in a new direction. And you know what I did?

I thought about it. I thought about what kinds of books I enjoy reading so much that I can’t wait for the next one to come out? What books do I come back to again and again?

Guess what? I had an idea. I had such a good idea, that it brought a whole bunch of other ideas with it. And they aren’t bad. I don’t know exactly what happened, but somewhere I found my confidence, and now every time I reach for an idea, I find one. Or two, or three. It is so much fun.

You’ll see. But you’ll have to buy the book.

Somewhere in Time – Kathleen Harrington

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Someone once asked me, if I could visit any time period and location, when and where would I go? I felt pulled in, oh, so many directions, just envisioning the possibilities.

Even today, I find that a hard question to answer. Every epoch has its allure, and I’ve visited many exotic locales in my books. If you’ve ever seen Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, you can understand my dilemma. The hero, played by Owen Wilson, yearned to be in Paris when it was the literary playground of such greats as Hemmingway and Fitzgerald. But in the film, a young woman from that era longed to live in the Paris of Toulouse Lautrec and the Moulin Rouge.

One of the first choices that come to mind, for me, is London during the Regency. Of course, I’d want to be the daughter of a wealthy duke with handsome suitors surrounding me at a grand ball. And my dance card would be absolutely full. Yowza!

I love the thought of elegant carriages pulled by matching chestnuts, morning rides around Hyde Park, town mansions lit in the evening with brilliant chandeliers, and spacious country estates. No wonder I cherish Jane Austen! Ah, to be Lizzie Bennet, Mr. Darcy’s beloved spitfire. Sigh.

Another place I can envision visiting is the Scottish Highlands during Scotland’s Golden Years under James IV. On the brink of the Enlightenment, the country remained independent from English rule. Clansmen in their tartans, with great claymores on their backs, met in the Scottish Court at Edinburgh to woo their sweethearts with song and poetry. Who can resist the sight of a brawny Scot in a kilt? Hmm. Not me.

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I think, however, the place and time I’d most like to visit is the American West in the 1880’s. Women wore the most fantastic costumes, fitted tightly through the bust and waist, and adorned with buttons and bows and perky bustles perched right on top their you-know-what. They carried frilly parasols over their feathered bonnets and button shoes on their dainty feet.

But the men, oh my! They were anything but dainty! Wearing leather chaps and wide Stetsons, pistols strapped to their sides, the broad-shouldered fellows simply oozed muscular, masculine charm. Add to that, horses with tooled leather saddles, ropes hanging from a saddle horn, and riding with your darling in a surrey with a fringe on top! Doesn’t get better than that!

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Hmm. Guess I’ll let you choose which place and time sounds the best to you.

Kathleen lives in Southern California with her American Bulldog, Auron. Her latest release, BLACK RAVEN’S LADY, Book 3 of the Highland Lairds Trilogy, is now on sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research…love it or hate it.

[ri-surch, ree-surch]  noun:  diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.

There’s a very popular children’s book called “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” which I had read over and over to my granddaughter; we both loved it.  The premise of the story is as follows:  If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk to go with it.  If he wants a glass of milk, he’s going to have to get the milk from the refrigerator and pour it into a cup.  When he pours it into the cup he might spill it and then he’ll have get a mop to wipe it up, etc., etc., etc.   I think it’s the what happens next question that makes the story relatable.  Each choice the mouse makes has a direct connection to the next choice.  And on, and on, and on.  I do know that if you give me a cookie I’m going to want to know where it came from and what’s in it.  (And I’ll want a glass of milk.) This is what I do when I’m writing.  One piece of information leads to the next and then the next and so on.

For example, my current WIP (work-in-progress) I’m researching a very specific event in California history that occurred in the winter of 1861/1862. Although the Great California Flood of 1862 affected the entire state, the northern part of California suffered the most—the great “inundation” at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers.  The rain poured steadily over a period of ??? days and the entire Sacramento Valley turned into one big lake. Sacto Flood 1862 So much so that ??? inches were registered. The Sacramento river rose ??? feet, broke the levees and covered ??? square blocks of the city.  Hundreds of people, livestock, homes and property were displaced.   See the question marks?  So I don’t slow down during my actual “writing” I put them in, go back later, search for the marks and fill in the missing information.

I can’t help myself.  Research—for me—is trying to eat just one M&M.  I look up one simple fact and swoosh, I get sucked into the vortex of information not to be seen or heard from for days.  I want, no, I need to know what was so unique about the weather and related conditions that caused so much flooding and damage?  How much (cold) rain came down each day and how many feet did the river rise?  How did it feel to stand near the river’s edge and think “how bad can this get” then watch a boat or two float up to street level?  How did the business owners on Front Street feel as they watched debris-ladened water rush into the streets, Flood of 1862fill up their basements and then…..rise to the height of the second floor?  How did they save their merchandise?  What if they couldn’t get a boat?  What about their families?  Who would save them?  And worse, what if they got swept up in the water and possibly drowned?  Research, research, research…….

But, I love it.  It’s my favorite part of writing.

See you later.

Katie

(Answers:  90 days; 33 inches; 24 feet, about 30 square blocks.)

The Magic of Research

One of the great things about being a writer is the research. Great for me because I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, from the esoteric to the scientific. I learned about mushrooms (fungi) and the study of them, called mycology, when I researchiOCX7EjJdTlDkbSF5Y9mWhIJ_9xkZa0jUU7XoajAWLoed the subject for one of my earlier stories. I contacted a mycology student in the Pacific Northwest where my story takes place and she happily provided me with her published research papers. A decline in mushrooms would result in a decline in flying squirrels, which would ultimately result in a decline in the already threatened northern spotted owl. Who knew?

From that same story came my love of Procyon lotor, also known as the rascally raccoon. One of these hardy, adaptive animals figured prominently in the story, and every time he was on scene he entertained me. I also learned about other flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest, the dangers of deforestation and the wonders of our ecosystem.

Another story had me delving into the world of road rallies where, not speed is king, but perfect timing to various checkpoints. Normally, you have a driver and a navigator. Some rules will not allow the use of GPS. You’re given a road book, and some directional instructions can be as basic as “go 10.56 miles and turn right onto the dirt road.” In my story, I added the additional challenge of deciphering a riddle at each check point that, when solved, would reveal an artifact that each entrant would need to collect for extra points. Humor was key here, as some of the items were hilarious, often inappropriate.

When my interest turned to the paranormal, I knew I wanted something a bit different for my witches than what most people associate with that world of magic. In my work-in-progress series Charmed by a Witch, I have witches, both female and male, with differing levels of power, differing specialties and talents. My Internet search led me to all kinds of interesting and weird sites, including many self-proclaimed real witches who take their status very seriously. I learned about covens and spells and tools of the magic realm.

My witch in Charm’d, the first book of the series, makes charm bracelets using crystals and gemstones, then “charms” them with a spell so the wearer may achieve success, fall in love, overcome difficulties, gain better health, etc. Her spells enhance the already-mysterious properties inherent in the stone itself. For instance, a carnelian can aid creativity; coral will bring happiness; garnet, wealth. Most have healing of the physical as well. Are you looking for love while trying to get rid of wrinkles and a few pounds? Wear rose quartz. Are you seeking success in your endeavors while suffering from chronic constipation? Amber is the key.

In my paranormals I can make up a lot of stuff, but I still find myself constantly researching facts to lend authenticity to an imaginary world. The wacky and wild can then somehow make sense. And I can satisfy that thirst.

by Barb DeLong

INSPIRATION…where does it come from?

I’m often asked where my ideas and inspirations come from by family members, friends and new acquaintances when they find out I’m a writer. My answer—everywhere: when I travel, just out and about, or reading travel and cooking magazines. I take pictures galore to remember settings and save articles that have piqued my interest.

Here’s an example. My professional background is in the field of real estate. Whenever I’m in a new town or city, I pick up the local real estate magazine showing homes for sale. I flip through the pages, look at the pictures and read the listings. I usually fall in love with at least one or two of the homes. One time I read the intro for a property that went something like this:

Nestled in the stately ponderosas, this 5,000 square foot cedar and redwood home weaves modern comforts with endearing rusticity. A huge stone fireplace graces the living room area, while high ceilings and glassed dining area show off breathtaking views. Five bedroom suites provide warmth and elegance, with most rooms overlooking either the lake or the forest. In addition, the 30 plus acre parcel provides a wealth of outdoor activities. This is one of the finest homes ever to come on the market. Priced to sell quickly. It won’t last long.

I can tell you my imagination went wild. I started to think about a heroine who needs a fresh start. She reads an advertisement (like the one above) on a real estate website and decides then and there to put in an offer to buy the property (sight unseen of course). When she arrives she finds that yes, it is nestled in the stately ponderosas, but the modern comforts are not endearing at all. In fact, they look to be from the 1940’s. And so the story begins.

My niece took a picture when she was in Oregon and sent it to me of train IMG_2593tracks leading into the woods. And I was off on an adventure. Might hero or heroine be returning home after running away years before??

One day I was out walking at Downtown Disney by the Disneyland Hotel and I saw a man talking on his cell phone by the gated swimming pool area. I started to think, was his wife sitting by the pool watching their children and wondering if her husband was again talking to the office or worse, his mistress? Was this the last straw?

I’m working on a new project I was inspired to write when a friend sent me a picture of a lighthouse on a charming little island. This one will have a bit of suspense and I will be blogging about it occasionally as I go through the process.photo(2)

I wish you and yours a glorious 2016! I hope it’s filled with relaxing days reading your favorite author and a few new ones.

Jann Ryan