Saturday, January 10, 2015

Writers: Give Yourself Some Rope

As writers become bloggers, writerly advice is dispensed ad nauseum, as if we are all the same, all fitting into some mold called ‘writer.’ If we do such and such, we will be successful at . . . take your pick.


We are all too different to fit into one way of doing things (Oh, and by the way, this might just be a life lesson as well). I don’t want to fall into that trap of using the tried and true method of list making today. You know, do these 5, 7, 10 things and be a successful writer (blogger, author, dieter, skier, pool player . . .). Whatever!

So, in this New Year, why not open up your creativity without trying to do anything?  

Okay, that was easy, now what?

When I go into my creative mode, I try to remain as open as I can to the influx of new ideas and things that come into my world, how I view the world around me and the people I come into contact with. I try to just observe and not do anything for awhile. Not that I succeed all the time, and I have some miserable failures, but I see it as a mindset. Acceptance is a big part of it—believing in yourself as a path into your own creative mind. Don’t let anyone devalue your unique way of doing things. Play.

If you are stuck in your writing (or dieting, exercising, etc.), and you go to all the dos and don’ts that others have said will make you unstuck, it just might make it worse, because then guilt sets in. I tried this and I’m still stuck, I must be a moron.

Logic works well for science but can be deadly when applied to the artistic creative process. As some of you who have followed me for a while may have noticed, I can be all over the place in my blogging—from talk of perfumes to exploration of the Beat Generation to roses, thorns and the Munsters. It opens doors, it breaks down resistance in the mind.

Why? Because inspiration comes from exploration. I try not to limit myself because it might appear weird or strange. (I can be weird and strange so why hide it?)

Conclusion? Approach life/art with openness—with allowing. Don’t block your creative side with labels and structures that limit or rein in your creativity—give yourself some rope (It’s okay to hang yourself metaphorically, you learn from your mistakes—they can be some of the best teachers.).

For me, what works is to dip into the waters of the metaphysical (the non-physical or beyond the physical that our senses perceive), where freedom from the logical part of the mind can be found. Logic seeks to label, sort and box one in with “safe” structures that are tried and true—“be safe, do what is known to work, don’t venture into the unknown.” 

Uh . . . no! Not when I need to open up my creativity.

Of course I’m not talking about craft here. Writers always need to keep learning their craft. Writing is not just about spewing your creative ideas willy nilly onto the page. Characters and unique situations cannot just spill out without structure that readers understand and relate to. That’s where logic comes in so you can lay out your story with depth and intelligence—or simply as a romp for some momentary fun.

But if you are a writer who works with insights that go deep, you have to explore and not be afraid of what you find around that next dark corner, to those unexplored places that need the light of your consciousness. Go there, see it, feel it, understand it—then write it.

So, what am I exploring in this New Year to stimulate my creativity? Shamanic Journeying. Yes, you heard that right. Logical mind; step aside. I’m going out to play now without heeding your limiting roll of the eyes. My next blog post should be very interesting, right? 

To be continued . . . .

What do I write? 
I explore the paranormal and the possibility that past lives and the unconscious impulses they leave behind (or project before) us—that drive us; lead us into situations that cause us to work through these unfinished elements—this process of allowing is especially effective for my writing.

My first novel, Dance the Dream Awake is about Tessa Harper, a woman plagued by nightmares that drive her to go to the Yucatan in Mexico where the Mayan past that haunts her dreams is uncovered, exposed and healed—paranormal, romantic suspense. It awaits re-publication in 2015 with Black Opal Books.

Along with that novel, Haiku Dance, an erotic love story (inspired by the pillow book of
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji) that takes place in historical ancient Japan, in the Heian era, has also been accepted by Black Opal Books. This is the past life of two of the characters in my first book and the impetus for the sequel in book three, Dance the Edge that I am currently working on. It will be the final love story, with HEA (Happy Ever After required for a traditional Romance), even though it will be another paranormal romantic suspense of the sizzling variety.

Yeah, I’m all over the place, as per encouragement of @DonMaass in his newest book, Writing 21st Century Fiction.

So, what do you do for inspiration and to stimulate your creativity? Tell me in 25 words or less—just kidding, take as long as you like…I’m giving you enough rope.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hot Coffee, Croissant and Angst

I decided to shake things up a bit this morning. It was cold—that is, cold for California—well okay, chilly. It was quite chilly and foggy. 

I took my two dogs out into the damp air to the groomer’s. My little Chihuahua was shaking and happy to go inside to be fawned over in their waiting arms. Not so for my long haired Lhasa Apso, Buddy. He’s a loner and doesn’t like all the fussing like Milton does. He headed toward the exit the minute I put him down.

After getting them settled in, I decided a short trip to the La Boulangerie French Bakery & Cafe was in order. Warm, fragrant and soothing—seemed like a good idea on what could have been a downer morning.

 With coffee and a bag of sweets in hand, I sat outside to listen to a live Dixieland Band group that were gathered to perform that early morning. They played Bye, Bye Blackbird while an older couple danced on the sidewalk, a small child bounced in time to the music and his parents drank coffee and texted—yup a good morning even though the cold metal chair was a challenge to my tush. 

Sparrows descended as soon as I took my first bite of almond Croissant—which  being French was very light and flaky. Crumbs dropped intentionally and unintentionally. Where the heck do all those sparrows come from? Duh, Cora, if it's winter, cold and damp, and if you had to eat every day, wouldn't you choose the eaves of that particular building?

I sipped my coffee (yes!!! love me that strong brew), and taking a suggestion from the craft book I’m studying, completed an exercise by penning this moment into my main character’s POV:

Tessa whispered the words of the lyrics while the laughing couple danced to the Dixieland tune, Bye, Bye blackbird.
“Where somebody waits for me…sugar’s sweet and so is he.”
She closed her eyes to stem the tears.  Jack, in her studio last night, alone. Calling her, wanting her.
"…nobody here can love and understand me…oh, what hard-luck stories they all hand me."
She  threw crumbs to the greedy chirping birds that only came for what they could get from her. Jack was different, now, wasn't he? Could she trust him with her already broken heart? Or was she headed for another fall.
“...make my bed, light the light, I'll arrive late bird, bye, bye.”

 Will I use that in my novel? Time will tell. At least it's given me a fresh perspective. 
(I'm not a great fan of Dixieland, so I've included Joe Cocker's version of Bye Bye Blackbird.)

Have you done something to freshen up your perspective when in the midst of a novel? 

I highly recommend it—even if you’re not a novel writer. Change is good I always say. Do you agree?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Makes a Novel Successful?

Why do writers choose the stories they do? Is it as simple as figuring out a plot, some characters and a story issue? Or does the story emerge from the experience of the artist in an unconscious flow; he opens that vein and lets it bleed out onto the page?

To touch the heart of a reader there has to be a successful mixture of both a well constructed story and the magic of connection to something deeper. That is why when we construct a plot, our characters often change it up on their way through to its conclusion.

There are stories, but then there are scenarios that touch us, dig in deep, make us think and reflect on our own lives.

So, can a young writer touch our hearts like that? Or is it a generational thing that young writers only speak to young readers but seasoned readers don’t react as much to those young issues of angst any longer? Not necessarily.

As artists, we must enter the zone where the deeper knowledge resides if we want our writing to get to that next level. It takes work, clarity, sensitivity, reflection--a contemplative mind or a meditative spirit. The young writer does not often have that ability yet. For that matter, it is not a gift to the older writer, either. It is a life practice which some never achieve or don't wish to achieve--or don't even realize is an option.

One can access that level either consciously or unconsciously, but to write a book that makes a successful, meaningful connection to the reader, one must reach that depth of thinking and bring out the jewels to be had.

Story is important, but the deeper story within the plot is what makes connection with readers—whether they are aware of it or not.

Do you agree? Or, do you see it differently? And what is that deeper story within the story?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

From the Stars to the Page

A Snitch in Time
by Sunny Frazier

Christy Bristol and the astrology mysteries I write emerged from a single incident while working for the Fresno County Sheriff's Department undercover narcotics team. I've been doing astrology for 40 years now, quietly, not really advertising the fact that I cast horoscopes. People tend to look at the practice of astrology with skepticism and I have always wanted to be taken seriously, not some sort of kook. When one of my detectives (Wolfe in the book) asked me to do a chart on a notorious drug dealer who was hooked on astrology and calling the 1-800 astrology hotline on a regular basis, I refused. I could just see getting up on the witness stand and saying, “Yes, judge, I did a horoscope on the criminal to scare him into showing us where the bodies were buried.”
But, what a great book, right? I actually did charts on not only the drug kingpin but also all the members of his meth crew. I used the case as the storyline for “Fools Rush In.” In the book, Christy is an office assistant, much like my position. Captured by the drug dealers, she uses her knowledge of astrology against them to stay alive. Much of what is in the book is true, as strange as it all seems. The publisher would not put my photo on the back cover for fear he might put a hit out on me from prison. The man conveniently died in incarceration.
I forced Christy to go undercover to a sex club to find a missing person in the second novel, “Where Angels Fear.” Christy's shyness makes this an excruciating endeavor but her wild friend Lennie (based on a friend from my wild days in the Navy) won't let her off the hook. By doing the horoscopes of three dead men, Christy finds the connection and the motive for their deaths. And yes, this is also based on a true incident, and yes much of the strange stuff I wrote about is true.
In every book, Christy grows and, hopefully, grows on the reader. She is Every Woman, not Wonder Woman. I didn't make her pretty or rich, but I gave her warts, insecurities and many of the same daily problems women experience. I also gave her the strength to overcome whatever I throw at her. 
 1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historic?
Christy Bristol. She's fictional but is very similar to me in a lot of ways. Awkward!

2) When and where is the story set?
All of my stories and novels are set in the San Joaquin Valley. They are contemporary and set in the now. 

3) What should we know about him/her?
Christy is a 32 year old office assistant for the Central County Sheriff's Department. She's unmarried but has a hot boyfriend who she can't believe loves her. She's plain, but improving both in looks and confidence with every book.
Christy does astrology, receives unwanted glimpses into the future and relays messages to her sister, a nun, via ESP. She is not comfortable with her “gifts” and resists being pulled into doing horoscopes. Unfortunately, fate doesn't let her off the hook. 

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
In the latest book the main conflict is that Christy is at the wrong place at the wrong time. She just wanted a long weekend with her friend Lennie up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. But, when a murder occurs and the homicide detectives need an office assistant to man the phones at the substation and type up reports, she conscripted to work with them. Unhappy at the arrangement and anxious to go home, she decides to try and profile the killer using reverse astrology.
Her relationship with girlfriend Lennie is also strained because Christy takes an instant dislike to Lennie's latest man. She's jealous because her former co-worker now owns a newspaper and has left the drudgery of office work behind.
While up there, she is given a forest ranger's cabin to live in. He shows up and they have to share the small space. They bond over literature and his poetic nature. Never having had much attention from men, Christy is flattered that two men are now interested in her.    

5) What is the personal goal of the character?
In each book, I force Christy to go outside of her comfort zone and grow. In this book her impatience with the homicide team's inner politics and personality clashes finally  makes her throw up her hands and do her own investigation with the only tool she's got: astrology.
The conflict with her BFF comes to a head and Christy is forced to recognize that she has, in the past, belittled Lennie for her lack of education and sexual escapades. It's hard for her to admit that Lennie has been the better and less judgmental friend in the relationship.
Christy also has to decide between her love for the man who has stood by her but is frequently away and a new man who seems to “get” her on an intellectual level.  She's never had choices like this before. It's all very flattering.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
The title is “A Snitch In Time.” No, nobody gets to read anything until the book is out.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?
The book is in the final edits at Black Opal Books as we speak. I think the launch will be early 2015.

And now, to continue the blog hop, I nominate Che Gilson and Liane Spicer.