Tag Archives: inspiration

Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog

Now that I’ve started writing again, I fully understand why I was so hesitant to jump back into it. The creative process is a bear. It really is. You start out with an idea, spend months and months thinking about it, dreaming about it, mapping it out, even listening to its soundtrack until you feel solid enough to put something on paper. I outline, and I mean thoroughly outline. I have outlines that are ten pages long. I do research. Do ALL of this leg work and as soon as I start writing the damn thing it goes wildly off the course I so painstakingly planned.

I know it’s cliché to say that the characters become alive to the author, but it is so true. I’ve laughed and cried with my characters; really, really ached for them. They become real once you start writing, and as cool as the experience is, it can get frustrating when they hijack your story and make it their own. It all ends well, of course, but the creative process is exhausting. It’s a lot of work, endless work. So, why do it? Simply because I have to. And I love it.

When the inspiration hits, I just start writing. I used to write songs and the inspiration would hit at the oddest times: like while I was driving on the freeway zooming into the spaghetti bowl. I used to carry a notepad and pen in my car so I could write things down as they came to me, but I was getting so prolific that, in the interests of safety, I bought a mini tape recorder and carried it with me so I could just talk into it.

Every author has their own quirks, their own ways of doing things and mine is very much inspiration-based. Sure, I can bang out something if needed, but it won’t be something with heart or that I believe in. So, I choose not to do things that way. I wait for the inspiration to hit and then pounce on it like a ravenous animal on food scraps. I think this is why the creative process is so exhausting to me. It’s a yo-yo at maximum speed, and sometimes it has me juggling between projects.

When I began writing again this year, I started on one project. Felt great about it. Was in the groove and then that inspiration went right off the deep-end. Just disappeared, because another project suddenly woke up inside of me and I had to yield to it.

As I walk my coonhound, I realize he does the same thing: zig-zags on the trail just following his nose, treating each direction with equal zest. But when he hits on a particular scent in a particular direction, he’s off and running and there’s no stopping him. I guess that’s me when it comes to writing.

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She Was Betty…

There is nothing, really, that can prepare you for the death of a loved one. Even when you wish it, say, in the sense of ending their suffering. Turning off machines, letting someone go…we can all justify it logically in our minds. But when you are there watching a living, breathing creature suddenly go still, it is always a shock. And it’s in that moment that you realize – you never really believed they would die. A tiny speck of hope lived on in your heart. It took over all of you, and then it betrayed you.

As a relatively young person, I’ve fallen into that trap of thinking, somehow, old people are prepared to die. I mean, surely they must know their time is limited. As my great aunt once said: “None of will escape this world alive.” And I always thought that as a person nears ninety or hundred years that they come to peace with it, accept it, and somehow become unafraid. But I was wrong.

My step-grandmother, Betty, passed away this week. She is, in fact, my step-grandmother, but I always called her Betty. I did so because when she married my Papa, I was still grieving my biological grandmother, Papa’s first wife, my mother’s mother. Dorothy. But, in truth, Betty was my grandmother far longer than Dorothy, by God’s will. I was eight when my grandmother died. And 34 when Betty died. I knew her as my grandma for almost 26 years. She never made me (or asked me to) call her Grandma, but my children called her “Little Grandma,” chiefly because she was a petite little thing and my Papa (whom the kids call “Big Papa”) is a towering six foot five.

The start of this blog might be a bit misleading. I was not there when Betty died, but I have witnessed other loved ones pass into the great beyond, so I know the feeling well, and those memories sprang to my mind when I learned of Betty’s death.

Two years ago, I had a bad dream about my papa, which then led to a “feeling” that time was of the essence to spend time with my grandparents. You see, they live in Washington and I in Las Vegas. Carting a family of four up to Washington is expensive. Papa and Betty used to come to Vegas a couple times a year and I’d see them then. Of course, throughout the year I’d call and write them (emails and letters) often, so we were always in touch. But about three years ago, they announced that they’d no longer be taking the trip south to Vegas because it was too hard on them.

So, after I had this dream and this instinct that we needed to get up to see them, I spoke with my husband about it and we decided we would deplete our entire savings, make some other large sacrifices, and spend a week up in Washington with my grandparents. As fate would have it, the day before we were to fly up to Washington, Betty’s sister who lived in Texas – died. Papa and Betty had to leave and fly out to Texas. Well, all of my travel arrangements were non-refundable (aka – the cheapest options). So, we went on vacation in Washington. It was a great time, but not what we’d hoped for. Then, I started to question my “gut feelings.”

I remember speaking to Betty about her sister’s death, telling her how sorry I was, even though her sister was in her 90s. And Betty said something to me I’ll never forget. She said, “Everyone thinks that just because a person is in their later years that they’re not afraid of death, and that is the farthest thing from the truth. It’s a frightening, horrible, awful thing that must be done. And you’re never, ever ready for it.”

Betty was afraid of death, like almost everyone is, and it’s been really bugging me the past week at the services to hear the pastors say that she met her death with peace, because she didn’t. She was terrified, to the very end.

Over the last two years, I’ve worried about Papa, but never – ever- about Betty. My sense of urgency and anxiety was always about him. So, when Betty went in for her routine heart doc’s appt. last Monday, it never occurred to me that she would be dead on Thursday, and it certainly never occurred to her either.

But the thing that really, truly strikes my heart is that she was aware of all that was happening around her -at least in the beginning, and that she was afraid. How the hell do you live with a thing like that?

Death is a very surreal, sad thing. And I wish I had a better attitude about it. I believe in God. Let me rephrase, I believe in Jesus. I believe, but am also a doubter. And I think that’s okay, because I don’t think we are all meant to be sheep who do not question. Doubting keeps me searching. But never is my doubt stronger than when a loved one dies. But there is one thing that always persists in these dark moments of life.

We grieve with hope. That is the Christian distinction. We grieve with hope of a forever. But I’m not going to pretend that the hope portion is dominant. It is a small, sometimes seemingly infinitesimal fraction of all that we feel.

But it is there. And to it, I cling.

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The Music that breathes life into my stories…

I took one of those silly online quizzes to determine the age of my soul. Those tests are always fun and comical, and sometimes they even ring true. I was given the age of more than 500 years for my soul, and was told that it birthed during the Renaissance. The analysis went on to say that I am often deeply touched by art, music, poetry, etc to the point of tears, and that is the result of my soul aching for the days of its birth.

Well, I know one thing for certain. The first part of that sentence is absolutely true. I have often been moved to tears by the beauty of art. I can’t listen to an orchestra without goosebumps pimpling my skin and water tugging at the backs of my eyes. Certain passages of writing, paintings, sculptures, photographs will have the same effect, but the strongest artistic area to incite an emotional response from me is, by far, music. Such a beautiful language!

It should come as no surprise, then, that I often plot and write to music. I use music all the time for inspiration on pacing, scenes, and just overall vibe of a story. While I’m immersed in writing a story, I tend to find a small sampling of music that encapsulate the text for me and I’ll listen to them repeatedly. The cool thing about that is when the book is published and I’m moved onto another project, I can still go back to my other stories with a simple press on my iPod.

Everyone imagines things differently. So, I’ve no idea if my readers see my characters and stories the way I do, but in case any of you are wondering what kind of music or songs I think have encapsulated the “feel” of my stories, I’ve provided the answer for you! If our imaginations  have synced up, cool. If not, at least you get to enjoy some cool music in the process!

Silver Nights With You – For this one, I went to the soundtrack of my favorite western (in fact, favorite “movie”) of all time. Lonesome Dove. I listened to that entire soundtrack a ton, imagining all of the tender moments between Lila and Morgan, envisioning the danger and the comedy, imagining the awe of the first view of the Washoe Valley. Here is a small sampling of the greatness that is the Lonesome Dove soundtrack, and if you haven’t seen the mini-series, you are seriously missing out.

Desert Sunrise – For the sequel to Silver Nights, I went with the father of American folk music. Due to the musical themes and influence of the characters in the story, I mentioned several songs by name. If you happen to be a geek like me, you will have noticed that all of the songs and lyrics in the story are all from Stephen Foster songs (with the exception of Ave Maria at the end). So, here are a few that I listened to quite frequently while writing Desert Sunrise, imagining how the powerful lyrics would have affected Jess as she thought about her cares and worries.

And, appropriately, for the scene of the hide races, I listened to this gem (not Stephen Foster):

Love of a Lioness – A few different styles of music went into thinking about/writing this medieval romance “adventure.” I had slower, more celtic sounding songs for the intense dramatic moments, but I listened to some up tempo and modern music to inspire the battle scenes. The first song I’m going to offer you is one that I must have spent a month’s worth of hours listening to. I envisioned the finale mapped out to this music, beginning with Isabeau standing on the railing of a ship, eyeing the coast of France just before diving off to swim ashore and rescue her knight. I know it doesn’t sound medieval, but you gotta admit – it still sounds pretty bad ass. 🙂

This was another one I went to for inspiration on other battle scenes:

This was another I listened to in order to imagine more sedate scenes, those during training, on calmer seas, more intimate moments.

Big Sky Eyes – for this contemporary cowboy tale, I went with Blake Shelton all the way. I love that guy, and I think his song, Mine Would Be You, captures the entire tale of Brent and Mackenna. I listened to it repeatedly, picturing scenes from their years together.

For quieter, more internal thoughts and moments, I liked these:

NOW, for a treat! I am in the middle of working on two manuscripts. One, many of you may know as Ruby’s Song, which is the third installment of the Love in the Sierras Series. The other is a contemporary that takes place in the Caribbean. I haven’t named that one yet, though it is 70% written. For Ruby’s Song, I am really heavily into Catrin Finch and the soft lyrical sound of her harp playing. So, the current inspiration for Ruby’s Song scenes are these:

When I’m working on my contemporary, I hit up A&B Acoustic, Above and Beyond:

Whew!! That’s a lot of music…and I love it all!! 🙂

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