Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Road Less Traveled

Do you have a curious mind? Want to find out what’s underneath rocks? In dark caves? In forbidden rooms? Me, too. Oh, wait, did you say, No? Well think about this. If we don’t test ourselves, challenge ourselves, go into unfamiliar places, try hard things, uncomfortable things, then we atrophy. And we miss wonderful opportunities for love, life, happiness—even wealth.

As soon as you begin putting up walls in your thinking, nothing new can get in, and that may well be to your detriment. As goes the mind, so goes the body. That’s a coraism. (I decided I needed to start coining my sayings. Ha! Even though that’s been said in different words--nothing new under the sun and all that)

So, with this as my philosophy, I challenged myself this year by taking on a couple of different studies and a pinch of adventure—I love adventures. Don’t you? As a result, I have a new perspectives and new ideas feeding my writing brain and my life.

The first part of 2015, I took on shamanic journeying. The whole drumming, traveling with spirit guides to learn a different kind of wisdom than this world has to offer, thing. If you’re already thinking I’ve got a screw loose, or maybe you think I’m consorting with evil spirits—that’s the kinds of walls I’m talking about. See paragraph #1 & 2. Open your mind! (And read on to learn what else I’ve been up to)

So what did I glean from that? New, fresh ways to view the world around me—and how to look and deal with situations (in life and in writing) in new ways. I saw the walls I had put up around parts of myself, learned new techniques to tear those down and bring into focus the strengths and powers I had hidden in dark rooms (hey, I’m a poet and metaphor is my go-to whenever I get into areas where there are few words . . ..
This was probably why I didn’t blog much this year (I really love Anne Allen’s term, ‘slow blogging.’  (Don’t run yourself ragged trying to blog every week if you have nothing to say that’s useful—another coraism) Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know much. And when I feel like that, I don’t blog. You don’t need to hear my ramblings when I ramble.

Next, I began classes with Tai Lopez on getting what you want out of your life and career—even get rich if that’s what you want. And you know what? It wasn’t a scam. (Go back to paragraph #2.)  I’m learning to view the world differently—relate to it differently. I actually see progress in the way I’m thinking . . . and, it has strengthened my creativity, my writing, and my health.

And, I had two mini adventures this year as well. The RWA (Romance Writers of America) had a conference in San Diego which I attended. It was okay—I learned stuff. 

Doug Richardson, Gene Perret, Jonathan Maberry on panel of 6
But the Central Coast Fiction Writer’s Conference at Cuesta College this past month was totally amazing. The talent was over-the-top! My head is spinning with all the new information. I can’t go into all the speakers that gave me more than my money’s worth, so--
I’ll pick one, Jonathan Maberry (NYT best-selling author who writes horror).

What did I learn from him? I learned I have a bit of the horror genre in me! It’s been there all along and I didn’t recognize it as that. My short stories reflect it (in the anthology, Valley Fever, Where Murder is Contagious, free on Kindle Unlimited right now). I even use the tagline on this blog that I write stories of romance and, “suspense that straddles the edge-whether that edge is the paranormal, a deadly decision or the place where science ends and magic resides.”

How can I be a horror writer if I’m writing Romance and Romantic Suspense? (see that last word—yup, it’s in there—genre crossover. When ‘suspense’ comes to mind, so does Hitchcock). And I even had one short story on line in the erotic horror genre. I surprised myself with that one.

“The more pervasive the paranormal is, the more you fall into horror,” Maberry states. . . and ghost stories aren’t necessarily horror.

Define horror? Maberry points out that when he gets together with other horror writers, even the experts can’t agree on a definition. For him it’s, “whatever makes us afraid and gets a reaction.” 

The horror genre diminished in the 1980s when it began to get into extreme horror; movies concentrating on blood and pain (focused on women and children). Many people were turned off and stopped buying into it and the horror genre tanked. Publishers stopped buying it.

But serious writers then began writing under supernatural thriller, suspense, and crossover fiction (Urban fantasy, dark fantasy, sci-fi—think Stephen King; he writes to the mainstream audience but with elements of sci-fi, fantasy and horror). 

And don’t belittle the horror genre. The Road by Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer for literary fiction and was horror.

Lest I get too far astray, I won’t go on about the horror markets and Maberry’s advice for writers (unless enough people want to know more and tell me in the comments below).

Needless to say, all these experiences this year have affected me and my writing—deeply. And it’s only September. Can’t wait to see what Oct., Nov., and Dec. will bring!

Keep tearing down those walls that keep you from your good.

Were there any walls you tore down this year that you can share?  I’d love to hear about them.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Inspiration? Hmmm

I'm posting over at Women's Fiction Writers today. The talk is on inspiration and where it comes from--the jungles of Mexico's Yucatan being one of mine.

Inspiration can be a funny thing. You might have to dig for it, but after researching (that research being from books, the internet or by experience) it will come forth, sometimes in an unexpected moment of reverie. Or maybe while washing the dishes. You have to be ready to grasp that sucker and get it down.

I like to give my fellow writers notebooks to write down when that moment of inspiration hits. Or any details that strike their imagination. We lose so much as our minds hurry along their speeding tracks of everyday life. 

Inspiration is right there in our every day experience-everywhere. It's a matter of picking up a moment, a feeling, an image, an idea and rolling it around until you find the opening in. 

Traveling - and it doesn't have to be far -  is an excellent way to pick up the trail to another story. Earlier this year I went to the coast and visited Carmel at night. A walk down one of the streets yielded a moment when I captured a short video on my phone of a lone artist, sitting in a gallery, playing a guitar.  
           (I'm not sure if you will be able to see this video, but here it is. Let me know.)

The whole sense of his loneliness, the walls of paintings behind him as he sat on that single chair in the middle of the gallery playing for himself yielded a story which I later sent off to an anthology. 

So grab a notebook, your phone or camera and grasp those moments of life that impress you. You may not know why at the moment, but it will stew and maybe become the inspiration for a story. If nothing else, a treasured memory to store in your box of memories.