BRINGING A STORY TO LIFE: WHO WRITES WHO?

Listening to the Police Spirits in the Material World – on vinyl and contemplating a twist in my creative career.

It’s fun adding “favorite vinyls” back into a collection I gave away in the 90s after trading for CDs.  More interesting is discovering Aaron and I are in agreement with “must have” vinyls like Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road.

Who Made Who.  Okay, music on the mind.  Cheesy movie but the AC/DC Soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive is pretty awesome in my opinion and while that movie considered the question of which came first the robot chicken or the tech egg I’m dealing with an observation of a similar yet parallel – as in universe – consideration.  

Does the author write the story or the story choose the author?

This question occurred to me as I considered the twisty turny way The Day Before has come into being  

  • Started as an image that appeared on my mental screen
  • Observation allowed me to get a feel for the character which led to who, what, when, where, why
  • Fingers to keyboard and watch as 50 words explodes to 25000 with an acceleration rate that started somewhat slow then exploded up – or out depending how you visualize.
  • Realize that in spite of my initial thoughts if not beliefs on what this story was – it wasn’t that simple.
  • Follow the trail of breadcrumbs.

Follow the Leader.  Ironically, the image that presented itself early on was a soldier standing waiting for someone to catch up to him as he stood on a path.  I stepped back to notice the environment he was in and who it was he was waiting for while taking his measure as to why he was waiting for the individual known as a retrieval and more to the point – who was he that he was the one leading?

And why him?

Turns out this character – Cai Ranger – is not only a guide for another character he is the guide for the author.  

I began the story confident it would be a success even though I hadn’t planned it.  As I went along I saw numerous possibilities for where it would fit in my catalogue, numerous directions the plot could twist and turn, and numerous branches it could extend for future books.  And yet…

It soon became apparent that somehow the story had – like a manifestation – managed to show up in my world in a manner that showed me the story – not the writer – is in charge of this excursion.

A central theme behind manifestation is you visualize something – feed it energy – and it outmanifiests itself.  In this case – the story “manifested” into my creative studio – the place where body mind and spirit come together to create.

What’s Happening?  Though I was happily working along producing and satisfied with where things were headed I got a strong urge to step aside and read a book that showed up in my sphere one day.

Unsurprisingly there was a seemingly cosmic message delivered along with a much needed break.

This action led to another which led to another and suddenly I realized the story itself seemed to be leading me along a path to completion.  

Including where it will fit in the catalogue – Dragon Core.

It made me stop and wonder – do we pull from the well of creativity or does it drag us into itself?

Do we dream the dream or does the dream dream us?

BRINGING A STORY TO LIFE: THE DOTS CONNECT THEMSELVES

After taking time to bring a couple of visions to life in the form of new t-shirts I was setting up to work on The Day Before when I made a decision which circled back to an action taken earlier that ended up being like a tap on the shoulder from the universe saying, “How’s this for help?”

Help I hadn’t asked for but now see I definitely needed.

I did take time to just chill today but I truly am happiest when I writing/creating. 

Folding Back on Itself.  As a follow on to a conversation about Neil Young and Crazy Horse last night, Aaron sent a link to an article on Nils Lofgren this morning.  While reading it I saw an ad pop up for a musician.  The title intrigued me so I typed it into a document with the idea I would circle back around to it at some point and check it out.

I often jot titles of groups or songs down to circle around to later and typically that later is weeks from the date I jotted it down.

Right after bringing the manuscript for the latest Dragon Core story up I decided to check out the artist’s new album.

I was that intrigued by the title – Where the Guitar Meets the Forest.

I launched iTunes and – the album wasn’t listed.  However, several other songs were available so I clicked on a few.  One jumped out not because of the song’s title but because the lyrics perfectly fit the essence of the book I’m working on!  The song, 1000 Days, reminded me that I hadn’t yet set up a playlist for this book and while that isn’t technically necessary it often helps put me in a frame of mind for a scene or a character.

In this case the song is helping with two scenes, the one I’m working on and one that’s toward the end of the book.

I couldn’t help but think of the breadcrumbs that had to be laid in order for me to circle around to something I needed yet didn’t know I needed.

  • Trip to Record Store to land a gem that led to an interesting and somewhat passionate conversation about Neil, CSNY, and a number of other issues intertwined over the decades.

The guy just got the Neil album in. It wasn’t there when Aaron visited 24 hours earlier.

  • Aaron deciding to send me the link and then putting a bit of pressure on me to read it.

It was one of those things I was going to look at later but he kept talking about it – read an excerpt – so I read it.

  • Seeing an album with an intriguing title while reading the article.

I normally ignore ads.

  • Deciding to look up the artist then deciding to check out her other work when the album in question didn’t show up.

The first couple of songs I listened to turned me off to the point I was going to give up but something told me to try other songs.  Glad I followed that instinct!

  • Choosing the song that ended up being a perfect match for what I needed for the scene I’m working on.

It helps me think ahead and keep to the theme line I’ve got going, something that isn’t always easy when you have multiple plot lines going.

Secret Messages.  As a final note I can consider that there are multiple messages in these events.  In taking time out to put this article together I ate into time I might have spent on the novel.

It’s time for dinner.

My guess?  Someone’s telling me I need more chill time.

Happy 4th of July!

The new t-shirts are on my store under the EM logo.

BRINGING A STORY TO LIFE: SOURCE

Enjoying a bit of peace and quiet and a much cooler morning.  It got so hot during our heat wave that our food processor bowl melted while in use.  The round area that has the blade come through is now oblong. 

 I loved hearing Aaron say, “Oh, that’s why it sounded so funny.”

I was listening to music through headphones at the time and missed all that audio fun.  Thankfully, we live in a time when you can get replacement parts easily; you don’t have to buy an entirely new appliance.

As I listen to the sounds of the morning which include enough wildlife I sometimes feel I live in a zoo, I’m mentally sorting through projects in the queue.   It isn’t just that there are a number of possibilities it’s the order in which they should be done. 

Temporal Awareness.  At the start of the pandemic shutdown I wrote about what it felt like having my temporal awareness turned on its ear.  

As someone who already worked from home the inability to have any contact with the outside world for months on end was surreal.

I channeled that frustration into writing making it one of the more prolific times of my writing career.

I finished Beacon, Rainmaker, Mirror, and Redemption among other projects in a span of about three months. 

It came at a cost.

Burnout.

I know that work burnout was a common problem during the pandemic.  I read several articles in which people talked about the effects of being shut in or – if they couldn’t work from home – being completely overwhelmed.  And yet I couldn’t relate.

Career burnout wasn’t my burnout.

It took until yesterday to understand that my burnout was related but different.  It wasn’t career burnout so much as life burnout. 

 As someone who has worked from home for twenty-seven years, other than a period of incredible productivity, it wasn’t my career that was impacted.

Outside acknowledging the challenges of going from minimal outside interaction to none, I never considered the impact of total lockdown on my life outside my career.

Work Front and Center.  There was a cost to the constant attention on work from home in our community and in the world.  It hid the impact of what was happening outside that construct.

When you’re so busy focusing on making something work you can miss all the areas of your life that are being starved of critical energy.

 Missing the Signs.  Because my productivity  was not negatively impacted  I missed warning signs that not all was well.  Or, if I did sense something wrong I simply channeled it into my work, exacerbating the problem.

Open Is Closed.  Regardless of the state of the states I still work from home.  Thanks to the delta variant and other unknowns it’s business as usual as far as the pandemic is concerned.

Masks, social distancing, and good health habits.

This lack of real change and the knowledge that it will likely remain so for the foreseeable future had me turning to my de facto approach, writing.

Excuse Me.  An interesting thing happened.  Somehow the message from the nonwork areas of my life that were suffering got to the productivity camp and, as you can predict, everything shut down.

Few things cause panic for an author.  Writer’s block is one of them.

Because my attention was on the impact to my productivity I missed that the symptoms had nothing to do with writing.

There was no writer’s block.

Ignoring the symptoms since I didn’t map them to nonwork issues, I continued focusing on my career.

It never occurred to me it was soul burnout related to the pandemic.

Meet Me Halfway.  Apparently, my higher self has a clue.  It figured out I’m going to double down on the creative outlet as a coping mechanism – something I’ve done my whole life – so it plugged into that part of the energy spectrum.  This led to a series of “coincidences” that got the message through.

That while my body and mind were doing just fine, my spiritual health was in need of some serious TLC.

The Edge of Nowhere.  I decided to work with Event Horizon which does an amazing job of pulling me out of myself so I can solve issues unhindered by “noise.”  Sure enough I started to see where energy blocks were having a negative impact.  As with all Event Horizon sessions, a number of solutions were offered to address the situation.

I Can’t Hear You.  It was during one of the better sessions that I realized that while I gave myself suggestions to address issues I wasn’t following up.  I kept setting the stuff aside for later after which I would go back to writing.  Luckily for me, this time I listened.

One Thing Feeds Another.  As I followed through on the suggestions I was inspired to go back and do another EH session during which more insight was gained and more suggestions given.  This went on for a few days and I noticed those other energy blocks began to dissolve.

In some cases I didn’t even realize there was a block until it was gone.

Helping Hand.  I continued working with Event Horizon and continued to follow through on the suggestions and continued to see improvements including subtle messages from the universe that helped me on my way.  And then a funny thing happened.  The messages became not so subtle.  In fact, they got downright direct.

Read My Lips.  The universe has a fun way of getting the message across and I’ve long known that when we ignore the messages, they get louder. 

This isn’t always a good thing.

In this case the increased volume was relatively harmless.  A book that had appeared in my sphere of awareness months ago reappeared.  This time I paid attention and bought it.  I also got an email from a dear friend, the right words at the right time.  Interestingly, both sources had the same message

Don’t forget the basics!

It was through each of these messages I realized that in all the chaos I had forgotten to nurture my own spirituality.

I was so busy being there for everyone and everything else I forgot to be there for this.

Energy In Bloom.  As I read the book and did the exercises which included relaxation, meditation, visualization, grounding, I found the creative whispering increasing in volume.

The voice of the source – what goes into bringing a story to life.

Bruised But Healing.  When you are a creative, to create is to feed the soul. The worst thing that can happen is to turn off the spigot but just as damaging, as I’ve learned, is to turn it on full blast. I believe my soul understands this now. I recognize the need to find other ways to nurture that soul.  Especially when the avenues open to me are cut off by lockdown.

Bringing a Story to Life: Location Scouting

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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.