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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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inspiration

So, I’ve got a new character and an idea……

…….of sorts for her story.  I’ve been thinking of it as a short piece, maybe 30k to 40k words, but as any writer will tell you, the length is usually determined by the characters and plot.

This particular story and character came into being while I was at work at the hardware store – a rather unpleasant customer had me wishing I could lay a curse on him or turn him into an unpleasant critter.  Which, karmically speaking, would be a bad move on my part.  I mean, who wants the energetic kick-back on that kind of act?

But I did get a story out of it, so that’s where my energy is going.  And that’s a positive way to deal with negative situations, people or feelings – turn them into art, whether it’s a poem or a painting or something in between.

This story has a light sense of humor attached to it, which is very good.  Some of the stuff I write feels like it comes out of a dark place, whether I intend it to or not.  From character to story, that darkness has helped build a lot of fictional worlds for me, and I’m grateful for those tales I created.  I don’t expect to stop writing them.

In any case, I’m wildly curious about this new story and the lightness and humor that feels attached to it.  I can’t wait to find out more about this character, the world she inhabits and the the town she lives in.  It feels like a completely different type of story than what I’ve written before, much like my Saucy Speakeasy.

And with the cursing of a customer, I’m about to find out what happens next.

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So, You Need a Little Inspiration…..

…….and you’re stuck in place, unsure of which direction to go in.  It’s a frustrating and often suffocating feeling, not knowing what to do next.  Your creative project sits on your desk, silent and accusing, waiting for you to come back to it.

This is a familiar situation for me, and one that every creative experiences.  You’re not alone in this – always remember that.

When I’m stuck on a project, I like to travel.  Well, okay, thinking about traveling.  There are places I want to visit and just sit and be, soaking in the scenery, the sounds, the colors and feelings it brings up.  While I can’t travel to some places (yet), there are locations that are closer and more feasible to get to and enjoy.

However, sometimes I don’t even need that to jump-start my inspiration and creativity.

Here’s a creative challenge for you:

Pick a city anywhere in the world. It can be in Romania and have as its neighbor the castle of one of the most ruthless leaders of all time (Vlad Tsepes, aka the Impaler).  Or it can be an ancient temple in Greece, overlooking a beautiful beach and deep blue oceans. Or…..

Well, you get the idea.

Pick a city that pulls you into it, that inspires you to use all five of your senses, quickens those creative juices that pulse through you, makes you smile.  Even if you’ve never been there, you can utilize your own experiences to fill in the blanks.

For example – Secrets & Howls is set in a coastal village three hours north of San Francisco.  For various reasons, the closest I’ve ever been able to get is Morro Bay.  No two coastal villages are the same, as each town has its own unique personality.  However, the important elements are the same – the sounds of seagulls, seals, the ocean and harbor.  From this, I was able to build my own fictional coastal village, complete with lighthouse and jutting cliffs.

Utilizing all five of your senses and the creative medium you’re most comfortable with, pick a city and interpret it as best you can.  What comes up may serve your current project or inspire a new one altogether or both.  You never can tell.

Have fun. Happy creating.

So, after six years with nothing but an idea…..

…….a time frame, and one chapter, I finally found the story to the sequel to Secrets & Howls.  If Novel Now Finished gave me insight to its own sequel (and it did), as well as the first couple of pages, then I feel confident that it also gave me a window into two characters that featured prominently in S&H.

And I’m excited about that, because I genuinely like these characters.  I’d like to get to know their story better, of how they met, how they became lovers and what led to their decision to have their relationship play out as it did.  The questions I have for them run deep and I suspect that more than one surprise will happen when I finally dig in.  Of course, there will be plot threads from S&H running throughout the sequel.  Those threads will be tying into different time-frames that I’d set up for the world of Wolf’s Head Bay.

Some threads will be tied into a neat and tidy knot, others will serve to create more questions to be answered in succeeding books.  As is my plan for my other series, I’m planning five books total for the village of Wolf’s Head Bay, with a few short stories thrown in.  I have an overview of how my supernaturally themed stories tie in to each other and I think that’s why I like them so much.  These stories have a kind of depth that is demanded of me, and so I throw everything into them, including the kitchen sink. [1]

I’m interested in seeing how this sequel turns out.  One scene meant for S&H is being utilized in this story, but with some minor differences.  I keep everything I write, in part because these cut bits are really good when I read them.  And they got cut because, as it evolved, these bits no longer served the story.  But I knew I could use them elsewhere.

And I did.  And now it’s time to find out what happens next.

What secrets lie hidden in this small, coastal village?

[1] Not really, but it feels like it.

So, I’ve begun a new notebook of ideas……

……for the sequel to Novel Now Finished.  This is new territory for me, because I’ve never actually written a true sequel before.  I’ve written many stories that developed into multiple novels (written or in summary form), but never upon completing a manuscript.  I know who’s returning, who’s new to the story and I even have a story to go with the idea.

I’d known from the start that this would be a five-book arc – I didn’t want to write more than that involving these characters.  Part of that is because of my own experiences in reading several different series – by the time I get to book six, I’m bored and wishing the whole thing had been wrapped up in the previous book.  This is not the fault of the writer – I’ve read many authors whose series spanned multiple titles and have always enjoyed them.  But lately, my attention span has petered out at book five and I’d rather leave my audience wanting more than losing their interest (this is also an old theater saying).

While writing Novel Now Finished, I had no idea of how I was going to carry this character into another book, let alone four more.  I don’t usually plan my stories out to the tiniest detail nor do I use an outline – I tried the outline once and found it to be more of a hindrance than in any way helpful.  [1]  I was a little worried about how I was going to stretch this character’s story out beyond this one novel, regardless of how much I enjoyed her world.

The idea came to me while I was rearranging a snippet in Novel Now Finished – a simple image of the character standing at the entrance of a seldom used road.  Suddenly, I had an idea of what the story would be, of what the mystery would entail and who was going to be involved.  I also knew that there would be some character dynamics at play that I hadn’t tried before, so I’m curious to see how that works out.

And a few days ago, I wrote the first page of what’s to eventually become the sequel to Novel Now finished.

The character showed me what’s going to happen next in her story.  Now all I have to do is pay attention and write it.

The Manuscript in Question.

[1] I’m not suggesting that outlining or planning out a story to the smallest detail is wrong in general, just wrong for me, specifically.  If it works for you, then by all means, keep doing it.

So, I worked at a small farm for a couple of days…..

…….packing fruit.

Tangerines, specifically. Well, smaller than tangerines, if you can believe that. I don’t remember the name of it and probably couldn’t spell it on a dare. I was able to sample some of the tangerine family fruit and it was pretty good stuff. Fresh off the trees, just like nature intended for fruit to be.

It wasn’t an intellectually demanding job – you had to cull out the rotten fruit and sort out the remainder for orders to ship and farmer’s market. Once you got the knack of what to look for, it was pretty easy-peasy.

It wasn’t a job that was hugely physical, either, except in picking up crates of fruit and carrying it over to the sorting table. If you were early enough to nab a chair, you could sit or stand during the course of the day as you worked. It helped, but I was still exhausted after my first day. I just wanted to go home, crawl into bed and go to sleep until I had to be up the next day and do it all over again.

But I enjoyed the experience and will probably have some use for it in a story. I’m thinking the Narrator in my current Novel in Progress might have worked at such a citrus ranch. It’s seasonal work, so it would make sense to have her come for a month or so, then disappear. It happens in some situations and it did on this job, whether by conscious decision or an injury.

I’d definitely recommend getting out there and having an experience like this, whether it’s a citrus ranch or a cow ranch. Life experiences enrich us and help us grow. They also inform our creative work.

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So, my Novel in Progress is coming along……

…….and I’m starting to feel energized by writing again.

One of the notes I was given was to not summarize parts of my story – that if it was going to be mentioned, it deserved a scene of its own, in the present, as an action. So, I broke a chapter in half and created not just two, but three, chapters out of one. This includes the active version of what was a summarized scene.

The new scene, the one that breaks the former single chapter in half, takes place in 1924. An incident occurs in that year that is continually referred to throughout the story. It’s a pivotal moment in the story, as it affects several lives over the course of several decades leading up to the present. It may also be key to how the Narrator resolves the story and put an end to the danger that began even before 1924.

So it made sense to bring this moment out into the open.

And now I’m getting ideas on how to add some necessary details of the Narrator’s past into the main frame of the story.

And I’m beginning to feel excited by my work again.

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So, I’m learning French on my own…..

……..thanks to this little app on my phone called Duolingo. I started out with Spanish, then added French and then, in honor of my trip to Ireland, Gaelic.

Let me say, right now, that my Gaelic sucks. I can’t even figure it out in context. That’s okay – I’d never heard it before, so…..I’ll cut myself some slack on that one. I didn’t delete it – it’s still there, waiting for me to come back to it.

And I will.

I fared a lot better with Spanish, mainly because I live in California and am surrounded by the Spanish history and influence. I have a couple of Agatha Christie and Stephen King titles in Spanish, which will be helpful in bettering my comprehension of the language. Years ago, I suspected that if reading helps us with comprehending our native tongue, then surely it would have the same effect when learning a foreign one.

If I already knew the story, I thought, then my main struggle would be in understanding it in a language I’m not fluent in.

I stumbled across that idea when I was taking Spanish in college, lo, these many years ago. I read the Spanish translation of Pablo Neruda’s poetry to my tutor. In a few weeks time, she commented that my pronunciation and comprehension improving. And I was pleased.

So, imagine my surprise when, upon beginning my French lessons on the app, that it came to me far more easily than Spanish did. I’ve progressed further in the French than I have in the Spanish – indeed, I don’t think I’ve gone back to Spanish or Gaelic in over a year.

I’m not worried about that, because my goal is to learn more than one language and some far more complicated than French or Spanish (1). The better I get at French, the easier it will be to switch over to Spanish. Like Italian, French and Spanish derive from the Latin, which explains why they are similar in structure. Even particular words resemble each other.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m feeling determined to learn French right at this moment, but I’m willing to follow my instincts and see where it leads.

Sometimes, that’s what you need to do.

 

(1) Complicated in that I would also be learning an alphabet made up of letters that I won’t recognize, like Japanese.

Clockwise from bottom: Eso (IT); Ventana Secreta, Jardin Secreto (Secret Window, Secret Garden); Orguillo Y Prejuicio (Pride & Prejudice); Matar es Facil (Murder is Easy); Telon (Curtain); Une Poignee de Seigle (A Pocketful of Rye); Le Retour D'Hercule Poirot (The Return of Hercule Poirot).
Clockwise from bottom (Spanish to French):    Eso (IT); Ventana Secreta, Jardin Secreto (Secret Window, Secret Garden); Orguillo Y Prejuicio (Pride & Prejudice); Matar es Facil (Murder is Easy); Telon (Curtain); Une Poignee de Seigle (A Pocketful of Rye); Le Retour D’Hercule Poirot (The Return of Hercule Poirot).

So, I’m always learning something new……

……..even about things that I’ve known how to do for years. Like, constructing a scene more efficiently or embedding links into a post or even about an historical event.

This is a good thing. It keeps me on my toes, it helps me keep an open mind and allows me to adjust and adapt.

It’s not always easy to do, but if you want to do your best and bring out your best work, that’s the way to go. It can be painful, there may be much gnashing of teeth and grumbling, but in the end, you’ll get a result that may surprise you.

And it could even be better than you expected it to be.

This is the goal.

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So, it’s the first day of the New Year……

…….and so far, I’ve got something accomplished.

Well, okay, some of it was accomplished on Friday, but getting it done before January 1st was a huge goal and I met that with a little timing, a little planning and a trip to the next city over from where I live. Now I don’t have to worry about it and that’s how I like it.

My other accomplishments are on the mundane side and could easily be classified as daily tasks, but I always feel better getting them done anyway. In other words, the horses have been fed, the cat has been adored and laundry is being…..laundered.

The rest of my goals for today include working on my lines for a one act play that I’m in, taking a nap, working on my novel, both editorially and narratively, and my two act Ancient Greek Comedy.

These are, I feel, reasonable goals to meet.

I have some thoughts on resolutions and goals and why keeping them can be such a pain in the ass, but that’s for another post.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful New Year, that peace and love find you and that you take as many steps as possible to achieve your dreams, whether it’s to travel to another country or learn a language or earn a degree in a subject that inspires you.

Best wishes to you all.

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