Finding Inspiration in Odd Places…

I’ll state this right off the bat: the Disney character I most identify with is Moana.

Yes, that adorable, epic heroine who found herself in the middle of way too much responsibility, and didn’t really understand why she had to be the world’s savior.

I’ll be straight with you; I don’t totally understand it myself, but I’m sure a psychoanalyst would have a field day with me on this one.  I’m a pretty normal person.  I work a day job, I have a family I care for.  I try to be someone who leaves the world better than she got it… and I write.

None of that sounds epic, right?  None of that is out of the ordinary, or special.  Certainly nothing Disney movie-worthy.  I certainly am not a teenage hero that restores the heart of a god.

But I’ll tell you this about Moana: she just goes for it.  Don’t know how to sail?  Wing it.  Don’t know how to find a random ass magic hook or the shady guy who wields it?  Follow some stars based upon legend.  Don’t know how you’re going to fight a GOD from a wee canoe in the middle of the ocean? Um…just…try to be fast?

feel that.  I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants, making the best of what’s thrown at me.  I’ve taken jobs out of left field because, hey, why not?  I moved across the country without even a job to my name (but one very loud cat), and just figured I’d sleep on the floor until someone offered me a job.  Both of my children were unexpected in different ways, but hey, here we are, so we’ll figure it out.

In fact, that’s what my husband and I say to each other when things look pretty grim.  “We’ll figure it out.”

That moment in Moana when she most doubts herself, and she asks the Ocean to choose another heroine?  She makes  a connection with a spirit who reminds her who she is.  And she sees the ghost ships and spirits of her ancestors sailing by, and I. Just. Bawl.  Every single time, no matter who’s with me.

That scene touches me so deeply and feeds my soul in a way that no other movie ever has.  It’s pushed me through writers block, it’s gotten me through self-doubt.  It’s beautiful.

But I still don’t understand how a Disney-created epic Polynesian heroine is the one that calls me.  Maybe it’s just enough that it does.


The Bad Guys Never Think They’re Bad

I have a certain set of skills that come in handy when I write.  I have an ear for interesting turns of phrases, an intuitive sense of word choice, and I can read the nuances of human behavior.

I struggled for a long time, trying to figure out why most people would say one thing, but their bodies would say another thing entirely.  I didn’t know which was accurate.

It took way too long for me to realize people lie, all the time, every day, over anything.  But their bodies don’t lie.  So now I just watch the body language and make my judgments based off of that.

Most people either don’t take a moment to realize they’re lying, or they purposely lie just to make their lives easier.  Rarely will people lie maliciously.  Because people just don’t think they’re pure evil.  Even those who routinely do terrible things never think they’re the bad guy.

And that’s the thing while writing: no one thinks they’re the bad guy.  To write a well-rounded story, your antagonist has to think they’re doing the right thing, the best thing.  Their motivation has to be good.

I’d also challenge you to to look at the people who have done awful things in your own life.  What was their motivation?  Why did they do it?  Did they believe they were in the wrong?  Use it to make your story more believable.

#amwriting #authorconfessions

Give the People a Prayer!

We’re in the fallout of another comment by the president which ostracizes a significant number of Americans and American-Hopefuls.  He denigrated their home countries as s***holes.

I realize to some people, that’s just salt-of-the-earth talk.  Something you’d hear in a bar from the elderly gent from the farm around the corner.  Farmer Bob, however, doesn’t bend the ears of the world’s most powerful leaders.  Not everyone is listening to Farmer Bob, lovely as I’m sure he is.

When you become president, you must become more than you are.  You must hold up the mantle respectfully and respectably.  Trashing another person’s country as essentially worthless is unbelievably hateful and incorrect, and will most certainly affect our interactions with those countries in the future.  We are not an island, Mr. President.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to come to America.  There is nothing wrong with wanting prosperity for yourself and your loved ones.  And it doesn’t mean you love your home country any less.  Treating those who would petition to become a US Citizen as worthless, or worth less simply because of where they are from is fundamentally un-American.  The Statue of Liberty does not read: “Give me your wealthy, your pale-skinned, your genius children…”

America is not just for those who are already wildly successful, or who were blessed with many advantages over their fellow countrymen.  America is for the dreamers.  For those who want to build a better future.  Always has been, always will be.

To Be Criticized Is To Be Human…

If you were to meet me seven years ago, when I was still a seedling, you might have considered me still quite childish.  You would have been right.  I was defensive, said everything that came to mind, and in general, did not control myself.

Then I met my husband who had all of the social skills I lacked.  To his credit, he never tried to change me.  I only emulated his supreme calm, his conscientiousness, his kindness and thoughtfulness.

I’ve since learned that the secret to getting really good at hearing criticism is to get as much as possible.  I worked in a field for several years where I received constant feedback, good and bad.  I learned to decipher what was true, what was false, and what I could safely ignore.

I’m still not a pro.  I still sometimes get defensive.  But now, I know I can take it.  I can separate what is critical knowledge, and what is just some rando’s opinion.

Still working on perfecting the comeback, though.

What’s In A Name?

I came up with brilliant names for each book in the Burner trilogy: Savage, Salvage, and Salvation.

Catchy, right?

Except I found myself bending the story to suit the title.  I prefer to let a story pour out of me organically.  I’m terrible at planning every single detail out on paper before I begin.  To me, writing is more about finding a few dinosaur bones and filling in the details as I go.

My writing didn’t flow until I gave up control.  I decided to let the story be whatever it would be, and I would just be its pawn, typing it up during the endless dark nights of Wisconsin winters.  So why did I think I could control the tone of my story, of Gwen Walker’s story, to match whatever kitschy title I decided to give it.  It may as well have been called Conversations in the Kitchen with Granny, for all the influence titles should have on my work.

Titles reflect, not guide.

So the title is changed, and it feels like kismet to call it Catalyst.  So much more descriptive, so much closer to home, and I like how the word feels on my tongue.

It’s true in life, too.  My life improved greatly when I let go of the master plan, and just let my life happen.

Reflections on 2017

There should be a word to describe the sensation of feeling so happy in your personal life’s bubble while the rest of the world disintegrates.

I love my family.  I am grateful, and share my happiness with those I care for every day.  I’ve achieved satisfaction in the work I do, my day job.  I’ve gone back to school to bolster my knowledge base and give me a leg up when the time comes.

When the time comes.  Because it will.  I can feel it.

I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do my whole life; I’ve completed my first fiction novel, and what’s more, it’s a great start to the trilogy.  2018 will be mine.

But then I see the state of the world, heck, even my country.  There is so much division, hatred and ignorance, I have no idea how to even begin to bring anyone together.  I know this: it’s easy to judge and generalize until you meet someone, and they become the exception.

“Oh, those millennials are so lazy and stupid.  Except for that Susie, she’s so hardworking and just hasn’t made it yet.”

“That Bob is as liberal as they come, but he makes sense when he talks and I get where he’s coming from.  But the rest of them…”

“Conservatives are stupid.  Except for the ones in my family.  They’re the smart ones.  But I don’t agree with them.”

Maybe it would be easier to consider that maybe everyone’s point of view is logical and makes complete sense, if we just took the time to listen to their experiences.  A lot of the seedier, scum-sliding aspects of our society have come to light in recent years after being hidden under rocks of money.

It wasn’t pretty, but maybe it’s like finally buckling down and cleaning the basement.  You see some things you can’t unsee, and finding bug carcasses makes you feel like you’re not safe to sleep in your own home without being crawled on, but once you see where you are, you can see where you need to go.

I believe we can do better.  Sure, there are some dark sides to humanity.  Check out Black Mirror on Netflix if you doubt.  But there is a lot of good that can be done.  We just need to make an effort instead of holding our tongues.

I’ve decided to rename the first book of the trilogy Catalyst.  I won’t pretend the events of our modern times don’t reflect in my work.  They absolutely do.  They’re messy and intertwining with Gwen Walker’s own messy issues.  No one conquers the world in a silo.  The best you can do is take the noise and pull the notes out one by one.

Confusing desires, personal wants at odds with societal needs do, however, make rich, fertile soil for a story.


What’s the Point?

When the Burner Trilogy came to me, I was single and living in a comically small apartment on the bad side of town.  My only companions were my dog, Cola, and the complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer series.  At that time, my story was a crude, nebulous idea, and I thought it was too juvenile to pursue.

The funny part of that is I LOVE coming-of-age literature.  Finding your fate, striking your own path, all of that appeals to me.  I’ve always been a fan of starting fresh.

But fresh paths were all laid out before me at that time in my life.  I started dating the man who would become my husband, and we lived life in fast forward.  Here I am, seven years later, and I have two dogs, two toddlers, a husband, and a very messy house.  I’m now on my fourth day-job since that time, and it was only this year I found my muse once again, demanding this book, these books, be written now.

I started off trying to write what I thought would sell the best.  It was the most boring, God-forsaken thing I’d ever written.  And I had written some bombs, believe-you-me.  I tried at least five drafts trying to please someone else, the shadow figure who would one day buy my book.

Then I said, “To hell with it!” and started writing whatever would come pouring out of me.  Thus, Savage was born.  My first draft, hand-written in a thread-bound sketch book, was so angsty it pushed the boundaries of suspension of disbelief. My second draft was so muted, I was left looking for the passion that spurred my protagonist onward, onward.  My third draft, I sought balance between passion and realism.

It was about this time I realized I was writing myself.  That isn’t to say any character in the series is me.  The story, the struggle, is all me.  I see it in every line.  When I think about letting the people I know and love read this book, I’m concerned they’ll see the real me, and be shocked and dismayed at how much I wrap up under mascara and dresses.

And that was the truth, there.  Something I’d briefly, intellectually considered but never really thought long about: to write a piece of fiction is to lay yourself bare for the world to pick at.  I feel splayed with my writing out there.  I feel vulnerable.

But you know what else I feel?  Excited.  Like I’m doing the one thing for myself that I was born to do.  I’m forging a path, opening possibilities for myself, and being my most authentic self.

So, when I circle home to the title of this, my first blog post, I ask what is the point?  If the means is an end, then doing is all that matters.  Despite obstacles, despite fears, and despite the fact that I am like a fresh baby, here, I’m doing this.  And I’m taking it as far as I can.  If that means I have a trilogy sitting on my shelves, unpublished and collecting dust forevermore?  I’ll be proud.