DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WRITER

Note: This article is lengthy.

Just finishing lunch and trying to mentally engage with a specific project.

I’ve been trying for the past six or so hours.

I’m not concerned as for once in a long while there’s no deadline to meet and more I know what I need to do and even have the project started.  It’s just turning into one of those days where I’m meandering my way forward.

As opposed to running.

My mind wandered back to a day many moons ago, a day that pops into my consciousness quite a bit.

Ever since the shutdown last March.

Long before everything was shut down I attended a presentation at a Marine Center that was cohosted by the US Navy.  I struck up a brief conversation with a teen girl whose family was sitting at the same table.  After complimenting her on her presentation I asked what she liked to do.  Her answer?  “I like to write.”

I remember smiling big time at that and telling her “I’m a writer.”

She smiled just as big.

I asked her what kind of writing she liked to do.

At this point I became aware of her parents definitely focused on the conversation.

She told me she liked to write stories to which I explained that’s what I do.  I then spent a few minutes encouraging her to write with a specific caveat.  Follow your heart.

I went on to explain there would be times she would have to write papers she didn’t want to write about subjects that may bore her, but that they were important to her education as a writer.

All writing is practice.

I wound the conversation down by encouraging her to follow her heart – her inner guidance – as it would never steer her wrong.

I also told her to keep writing.

I often wonder what possessed me to speak to this girl.  My stomach was in knots almost the entire time.

Who was I to offer advice?  Oh, that’s right – a writer!

My mind drifts back to that young woman in these days of isolation and I think about how much she is missing by not being able to participate in that project aimed at youth.  I wonder if she remembers some adult talking to her about writing and hope she is still at it.

Following her heart.

I don’t think I did it because of the messaging I got growing up which was anything but supportive towards writing as a career.

  • You don’t want to be a writer – they don’t make any money.  You want to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer – or at least marry one.

So they could realize their dream of having one in the family they could brag about.

  • A writer?  Yeah, my son told me he wants to be in a rock band.  I told him to get a real job.

Told to me by a college counselor.  Apparently he didn’t think being a writer was a real job.

My parents encouraged me to…FOLLOW MY HEART!!!!

This included not discouraging me from being a writer. Not once.

I’ll admit my path to writing is non-traditional though I’m not sure if there is a such thing as a traditional path to that profession.

I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I only know that I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 3 and I’ve been writing ever since.

It’s in me.

Not Just Writing.  I found myself recently encouraging another beautiful young woman facing the challenges of lockdown.

A dancer.

The challenges she was facing were numerous.  Not only were they being asked to dance over zoom – alone– they were being forced to find a place to do so.

Oh yes, everyone’s home can double as a dance studio.

We talked back and forth and I offered some suggestions on how to turn a small space into a makeshift studio.

Hanging mirror doors and installing a barre are relatively simple.  Framing a closet is also relatively easy.  I know – relatively – but it can be done.

What came out of the conversation, however, was something that sent me back into writer mode.  This beautiful woman told me she didn’t know who she was if she wasn’t a dancer.

She’d been dancing since early childhood.  She was watching helplessly as many of her friends – faced with restrictions that made dancing a shell of what it was meant to be – drop out.

My heart hurt that she was at a point many of us find ourselves along life’s path…who am I?

It was a point I found myself at once upon a time.  

Did someone say once upon a time?  

I told her that dancing is a form of creativity but that the creativity is in her soul and that if dancing was not the outlet it would take that was okay because it would find another one.

I then backed it up with … of course … a story…

I told her how I had been training for the US Olympic Gymnast team – was told I was the next Nadia Comaneci – when two weeks before Olympic training camp I suffered a brain bleed that left me blind, paralyzed, and in a coma.

Needless to say – bye bye Olympic dream.

I told her that in the rubble of my dream I reconnected with the earlier one – of being a writer and while the rest, as they say, is history, the point of the story was that I was born a creative – as was she – and that that creativity would find a way to express itself no matter what.

I told her not to give up on dancing and that life has a way of working itself out but more importantly I told her that she is not the dancer so much as a creative spirit looking to express that spirit of creativity and that I was 100% certain it would find a way.

Addendum.  I didn’t whitewash the pain or frustration.  I told her that yes, the disappointment and frustration was formidable.  

I’d felt a lot of guilt because of what I’d lost – weirdly enough.  

And then…

Angels in Disguise.  I shared two events of significance – both facilitated by coworkers in the tech industry – that helped me move past the pain.

Writers Wanted.  One day early in my tech career I happened to mention to a coworker I wanted to eventually be a writer full-time.  Turns out, so did she and what do you know, so did another colleague who’d overheard our conversation and came over from his cubicle to join.

You haven’t lived until you experience the rat in a cage life of working in a cubicle with your alloted space for mementos. Provided they met with corporate approval of course.

Interestingly all of us were pursuing different genres.

What started as a random chance conversation turned into a mini support group.

Last I knew, Mary was able to “quit her day job” after getting a contract and winning an award for her first book.  Jim had an agent shopping his manuscript around.  Yes, this was years ago but I’d like to think they are still following their dream.

Olympic Reroute.  I was having lunch with two sales reps who had also been on track for the Olympics.

This was several years after leaving that other company and relatively close to when I quit to pursue my own writing career. 

One was a Canadian who was – interestingly enough – on the gymnast team.  

Had it worked out we would have competed!

The other was a guy who was on the US Olympic tennis team.

I was a bit puzzled by the sighs and lamenting that accompanied their stories.  I knew what had happened to my dreams but what were they feeling?  

What they told me changed my world.

“It was the 1980 Olympics.”

My reply was “Yes, I remember this – I had the brain bleed in the summer of 1979.”

“Don’t you remember?  We boycotted the Olympics that year!”

Um, no, I was kind of busy trying to learn to walk again.

That wasn’t a pity party statement so much as an explanation of why that wasn’t topmost on my mind of missed Olympic opportunity.

For the next hour we talked about our feelings at having spent years of hard work – the commitment of ourselves, our families – only to miss an opportunity.

This conversation healed me in ways I can’t express, and I am forever indebted to these two individuals for baring their hearts and souls that day.

As we concluded lunch all of us agreed that in spite of the deep disappointment, our lives were rich, filled with wonderful experiences. Most importantly, each of us had found ways to channel that creative passion that put us on the Olympic track.

The Canadian found a passion for horses and she competes – successfully.

She also has a beautiful spirit and sense of humor that makes this world a better place.

The gentleman found an outlet for tennis in teaching inner city kids not only tennis but how to find that passion within themselves.

Something he credits his dad for teaching him.

I shared these stories with the beautiful dancer to further explain 

  • Don’t give up on dancing because the final chapter has not been written
  • The creative spirit is in you – it IS you – and it will find a way out

Hell, maybe she’ll end up being a best-selling writer… 

Interspecies Relationships

Relationships in paranormal fiction take on a whole new meaning when you step away from a world where interpersonal and romantic relationships within your sphere of awareness are single species.

In Metatron’s Army and now in the Dragon Core series I’ve had the opportunity to explore just what that means.

It’s really a lot of fun.  It isn’t just the interspecies interactions it’s the almost endless viewpoints from which to explore them.

It’s more than just sex.  Not all interspecies relationships are intimate.  Friendships between species play an integral role in my fiction, perhaps more so because it’s character driven more often than not.

I do have plenty of action driving the stories.  I just think it’s important to show how characters change and grow through experience.  It goes to my desire to write characters readers can relate to, even if and when they are of a different walk of life (i.e. different species).

In Metatron’s Army, non-intimate relationships include friendships and alliances.

Because Christine was raised on Earth her responses to and interactions with other species are different than the other characters’ most of whom were born and raised on a variety of planets in another star system altogether (Vetria).  Her role demands that she embrace the challenges – not of accepting these differences herself – but getting other species to accept each other, something that evolves as the series progresses.  To that end I spent a lot of effort considering where she – as well as those of the different species – were coming from at any point throughout the series.  

Relatability is big for me.

In Metatron’s Legacy, we have the friendships and alliances that are important to the story along with the addition of chance interactions with other species.

In one scene, Corinna’s experience with a local from a planet she is visiting becomes confrontational in a manner that underscores she is not just another species but one that is not understood by the locals.

Stranger in a strange land.

In Dragon Core, each story deals with interspecies relationships from a different vantage point. 

I take the time to really consider what it would be like to learn someone you knew was a shape shifter, how that would affect your life.

Each book in the series takes into account the shifter species, the age of the characters (which can be centuries), their occupations, cultural background and upbringing, and of course, whether they are male or female.

Though I wrote Cauldron of the Gods with this in mind, with Shadow of the Gods, I took it a step further and explored what it was like to be a shifter not from an objective point of view (what they are trying to accomplish) but what it’s like to be them, what they go through because they are living among a different species.

Sometimes it IS sex.  In both the Metatron’s Army and Dragon Core series I needed to consider the social norms of an alien species when it came to sex and intimacy.  Just as with different cultures on Earth, not every species will view intimate relationships the same way.

What is taboo to one culture or species will not be in another.

This was occasionally tricky since I wanted to be considerate of readers and – to a degree – where they fall on that spectrum.  Since I cannot account for everyone’s cultural backgrounds and any social influences, I fell back on my belief that writing characters readers can relate to is key.

In other words, I felt if I provided enough detail to explain/illustrate where they are coming from, how they feel, etc a reader could say, “I can imagine…”

In the Metatron’s Army series I explored sexual intimacy between differing species in pretty explicit detail.

I wrote from multiple species’ point of view and was pretty detailed in that I considered what each character might be concerned about (or not).

In the Dragon Core series I step back and examine the same concepts from multiple points of view.

Some from shapeshifters, some from humans.  I focused more on age and gender and what human sexuality is typically like through those filters and relative to what it is I’m trying to accomplish.

No Really, It’s About Sex.  At the end of the day it’s about equalizing.  Sex and reproduction through sex is more or less a universal concept.

Even if science and technology have had an impact.

Depending on where you are in your life, whether you are male or female, your occupation, your goals, any number of factors will dictate how you view and experience sexual intimacy.  I wove all of this into the stories and used these nuances to enhance character development as well as use it as an opportunity for a character to tell part of the story.

I had a blast with this during a wedding event in Shadow of the Gods as one “new” adult talks to an adolescent.  It was really fun.

Not all my stories allow the freedom to explore from this unique vantage point but the challenges of intimacy in a paranormal world are always addressed.

This really comes up with Clint in Soothsayer when he has to “fish or cut bait” when it comes to accepting what it means to be in an intimate relationship touched by the paranormal.

I look forward to more adventures with inter-species relationships as I continue to branch out in paranormal fiction.

Stay tuned.

Cauldron of the Gods is due for an end of February 2020 release.

Fate or Free Will?

QUUHA6ZB3JFG3A4U7IYS43QM4UWhen I was in 9th grade we read Romeo and Juliet in my literature class, after which the teacher led a discussion on Fate versus Free Will..

The class was fairly evenly split, ironically enough and I have a feeling some went to one side or the other because of their argumentative nature rather than actually caring about the discussion..

Reboot.  I had an interesting run-in with this question this morning.  I approached the sofa with a double shot  espresso and as I was about to set it on the table I got a flash that the coffee would spill on a letter that was sitting on the table.

At this point I know to pay attention to these glimpses of the future.

I moved the letter, set the coffee in a place I felt was safe from disaster, sat down, and proceeded to browse a few news sites.

To make sure the Martians hadn’t landed.

Fate?  Within minutes my husband took a seat beside me.  I said hello then reached for the coffee only to find – to my horror truly – the coffee spilled and got the letter!

So – was it fate?  I could have taken additional steps to prevent it.

Aaron pointed out it could have been worse had I not taken the steps I did which raises a whole other level of Fate V Free Will and our role in it.

 

 

 

Bringing a Story to Life: Location Scouting

dpds021438.jpg

Note:  This article is lengthy.

Having a location to visualize when writing a scene puts the writer on the stage with the characters. For me the process of selecting locations for my work is complex even as it’s fun.

The Why.  Choosing a setting for a novel is an important step in its creation.  It sets the tone for the reader so they can identify with the tale but it also provides the foundation for character behavior.  A number of factors encompass the location.

  • Time
  • Place
  • Locations within locations (i.e. business, residences, infrastructure, etc)

When Dragon Core began to take form as a viable idea for a story, the only location piece I had was a bar.

There is a historical element that factors into the plot but that was easily dealt with.  I simply needed to do a bit of research on historical events to get a feel for that environment/location.

Just prior to Christmas I came up with the name of the bar – Aesop’s Cove – but otherwise had no details on the location or setting.

Outside that it would be in an urban environment.

Urban Fantasy. For several months I considered whether to use a real urban environment or make one up.  In the end I decided on a hybrid.

The decision to use a hybrid came from the need and desire to pull elements from a variety of locations.

Considerations. Portland and New Orleans were both in the running for a long time but each presented unique challenges for my story.

New Orleans.  To represent the city with justice I would need to provide insider details that add vibrancy to the story, and I haven’t lived in New Orleans for decades.

There would also be elements I didn’t want to bring into the story, such as Cajun lifestyle, Mardi Gras, hurricanes, and the oil and gas industry.  These don’t fit into my storyline but would have to be dealt with if not included were I to choose this city.

Portland.  The layout of this city – that it is on a river as opposed to the coast – meant I would have to make alterations to the overall environment.  There are also cultural norms for this city that I didn’t want to use as a focus in my story.

Hybrid to the rescue. In spite of the challenges, these two cities definitely provided potential by way of locations within the location.

In other words, neighborhoods within the city at large that held elements conducive to scenes in the Dragon Core series.

These neighborhoods provided some of the vibe I was looking for.  They also contained businesses and/or architectural uniquenesses that I was happy to include in the location I was building.

Living within the location.  I decided the characters would not only work in an urban environment; they would live there. This led to the need to choose the type of living situation they were going to have.

  • Condo, loft, apartment, or house?
  • Roommates or not?
  • Walk to work, take public transportation, or drive a car?

These were some of the details I needed to work out.  Having lived in several urban environments throughout my life I was able to draw from my own experiences for these details.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit other urban environments throughout the years, traveling for work, so was able to pull details from those experiences as well.

Work within the location.  In this case, it helps to have an understanding of what any specific urban environment is known for.  Large metropolitan areas are often associated with a specific industry and the nuances that go along with the people, places, and businesses that feed that environment.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the industries and the communities that surround those industries.

  • Detroit/Midwest with its auto industry and union influences
  • New Orleans with its Voodoo culture, Mississippi River, and oil and gas industry
  • Los Angeles with its Hollywood and Bel-Air vibe along with being the land of dreams if not dreamers.
  • San Francisco/Silicon Valley with its tech and Gold Rush boom bust history

I pulled from a number of cities along the west coast when creating Dragon Core’s urban environment.

  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Portland
  • Seattle

I also pulled in from a specific neighborhood in New Orleans.

History within the location.  In addition to where the characters currently live, I needed to decide where they came from.

While important for cultural influences such a location isn’t as detail dependent as the current location/setting.  In fact, it was more important to elaborate on personal experiences than environmental details as they have more impact on my character development.

The stage within location.  I use the term stage to refer to a scene setting within an overall environment. In the case of Dragon Core there are a few main stages.

  • Aesop’s Cove
  • Clare’s office
  • Warehouse Square

Each of these stages requires a location and setup of their own.  I drew from personal experience when creating them.

Warehouse Square.  For this location setting I drew from Washington and Jackson Squares in San Francisco, the area in and around Portland’s Chinatown as well as the area near Voodoo Donut, and Pioneer Square in Seattle.

Clare’s Office.  For this setting I visualized the building I worked in my senior year in high school as well as the area around one of the police stations in San Francisco.

Aesop’s Cove.  This was a toughie.  For whatever reason I felt I had to really be able to “wear” this location when writing.

In order to get into the vibe of the interactions with the characters as well as the mood of the place and the people within that place as it changes throughout the story.

I visited a couple of prospects for locations that would fit the vibe I was looking for.

I visited new locations as well as bringing to mind various pubs or bars I’ve been in over the years.

Goldilocks would be proud.  There is a scene in Cauldron of the Gods where I have the character – Clare Edwards – reflecting on the fact her friend described Aesop’s Cove as gritty sophistication.

She tells him she doesn’t want to go to a dive bar to which he replies “Have you ever been in a dive bar that could be described as sophisticated?

To be in the vibe when writing scenes taking place in Aesop’s Cove, I needed a bar that was “just right” (aka gritty sophistication).  It was more difficult to find than I thought it would be.

  • Some bars were too gritty.

gritty = dive.

  • Some bars were too sophisticated.

Sophistication = yuppy and/or beautiful people and/or trust fund babies

With a little imagination I was able to find one that worked though it had enough differences that I needed to meld it with a different location in my mind to get it just right.  The result is Aesop’s Cove, a combination of a place in Pioneer Square in Seattle and a brewery in San Diego.

I’m not going to disclose names only because I don’t want to leave anyone with the wrong impression since Aesop’s Cove, while inspired by real locations, is made up.  It doesn’t exist.

Synchronicities.  I did have a pretty cool experience visiting the bar that serves as the primary inspiration for Aesop’s Cove.  One of the distinctive features of the character who owns Aesop’s Cove – Lage McAskell – is the color of his eyes.  When visiting a very cool bar in a historical part of Pioneer Square, I explained to the lady behind the bar what I was doing and would it be okay if I took a few photos of the place.

I’d also taken photos of the area that I can reference when trying to pull up an image for a scene in the story

She had no issue with it and after I placed an order for food and wine, she gave me her name, Amber.

Amber is the distinctive feature for the main character, the color of his eyes.

I do so love synchronicities.

It’s like life giving you a thumb’s up.

Bringing a Story to Life: Alien Romance

1920x1080_px_abstract_angel_artwork_demon_fantasy_Art-774620.jpg!d-2Just listening to the playlist I created for the upcoming Dragon Core series and finishing final edits on Analysis:  Book 12 in the Metatron’s Army Series.

I need to remind myself I have upcoming projects as I wind down this series.  It’s been with me so long I occasionally feel a twinge of anxiety about it ending.

As I wind down the series, two elements have taken center stage.

  • Reveals
  • Relationships

Reveals. In coming along on a journey that traversed thirteen installments, readers of the series have put their trust in me.

The nature of the story necessitated this format where each book in the series is like a chapter in the life of the main character, who was born in one universe, raised in another before returning to her home universe to fulfill her destiny.

To end a century’s old war and save a race of energy beings which are not always complimentary objectives.

My focus in these final books is to ensure I share various secrets and individual and collective character motivations that reveal the numerous plots within the plot in a way that honors that trust while not revealing too much at one time.

I need to keep the reader entertained – and guessing.

Relationships.  Relationships between a variety of characters definitely take center stage in these final books for the simple reason I need to answer the question Then what?

Through much of the series, the characters have worked together for a variety of common goals that included

  • training to do the jobs they need to do
  • doing those jobs to the best of their ability while continuing to grow as individuals
  • protecting each other and themselves while keeping their eye on the overall objective.

Having something in common does not equal compatibility though I have created characters who not only respect each other, they generally get along well, even as they often work at cross purposes.

Alien V. Culture. Most of the characters have grown up in a universe where different species are akin to what humans would consider a different culture.

It’s just no big deal to have different physiology or physical characteristics that make you stand out.

That doesn’t mean the different species trust each other, even as they work together for a common purpose.  Focusing on how those relationships evolve and transform throughout the series has been fun and something I only had an overarching understanding of.

I knew the overall goal but not what any specific character(s) would do to fulfill that goal. 

I’ve had the joy of allowing characters to evolve in such a way as to transform from being a minor background character to a main character that contributes significantly to the plot and the saga.

I didn’t plan for these changes, they just happened as the story progressed and I got to know certain characters better.

I also need to deal with interdimensional relationships as I’ve brought people from Earth to the Vetria system.

From Analysis:

“Look, can we file this under the Light Beings don’t understand humans category and move on to the reason you are in my apartment?”

“For the moment.”

Fuck.  He so did not want to get roped into the help the Light Beings understand the subtle nuances of intimate relations.

There is also the necessity of addressing how characters move from one type of a relationship to another.

  • From being team players to individual leaders as their careers transform
  • From reporting to someone to becoming a peer as the roles evolve
  • From colleagues to lovers
  • From culturally different species to lovers

On the path to love. Those last two points have been surprisingly less challenging than the two above.  It’s not only been a joy to take various characters from soldiers to lovers, it’s been relatively easy.

The key has been to think – really think – about the challenges they would face.

  • As an individual
  • A couple
  • A team
  • A community

Individual.  When dealing with different species I needed to take into account individual expectations based on social customs as well as individual likes, dislikes, expectations.

There’s Two.  I had to address the challenges of being a couple.

Emotion isn’t a switch to be turned on so imagine being involved with a species for who emotion was forbidden for centuries, for example.

Team Player.  I had to consider how the characters would view themselves in terms of their professional roles, as well as how their teammates would view any changes in relationships.

How do you go from soldiers who fight side by side to lovers? 

Who’s coming for dinner?!  Imagine bringing someone considered the enemy into a community with the implicit expectation that he would be entering into a romantic relationship with a member of that community.

Assuming the individual would have them to being with.

In this situation the relationship is under a microscope as every member of the community takes note of every move.

Which actually happens with multiple characters who enter into romantic liaisons.  As Christine puts it, the universe is watching.

To facilitate the process, I simply looked at each relationship through those four filters.

But wait!  The challenge has been to pace the development of the relationships relative to upcoming plot developments and the reality that such relationships typically evolve over a period of time.

As Christine says at one point, loving someone isn’t the same as being in love with them.

I have to think ahead to what the characters will be facing and make sure that their feelings and thoughts about the relationship are in line with where they are in the progression of the story.

There’s more!  And of course, there’s the whole physical side to the relationships.  That has been a lot of fun to deal with as I’ve had the challenge of incorporating different cultural and personal views on sexuality.

And stopped to think what would each character be worried or excited about in taking that step with the one they love.

This last was a central focus of multiple characters in Promotion: Book 11 in the series.

Front and Back. As I wrap this article before going back to Analysis, I will add that another facet of relationship development is the need to shift the romance from front and center to back burner out of necessity as characters remain true to their roles.

There’s still a war and they are still soldiers, even if some of them are now “closer.”

It has been fun even as it has been, in spite of the implication of emotion, an intellectual exercise.

Analysis will be available August 1, 2019.

Note:  This article is cross-posted to metatronsarmy.com.