Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thursday's Children 11/1/12

Sandy provided the spark for this week's post.
I like to make it work for me in a story.
Which sometimes means making it work against my protagonists.

Fair weather might be the pleasant backdrop of a scene.
Maybe it reflects the serene inner landscape of your MC...

This is Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, photo taken in August

Or the calm waters your MC is enjoying--before or after the storm.

Rachel Carson Refuge Wells, Maine August
I am extremely fond of fog. It can be peaceful and soothing.

Sailboat, Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport ME October

It can also be eerie and disorienting.
Familiar landmarks disappear.
You think you are alone, then suddenly someone appears right in front of you.
Sounds are sometimes muffled. Sometimes clearer.

Goose Rocks Beach Kennebunkport Maine The day before Sandy's arrival
Weather can be a living nightmare, an antagonist in your story.
In UNQUIET SOULS the main characters have to contend with supernaturally gifted villains and their Scottish deerhound familiars, during a blizzard slash ice storm.

Weather can be a catalyst, forcing your characters to take action.
In TENDRIL, a hurricane creates opportunity for the bad guy, and forces the somewhat reluctant good guy to act courageously.

Portland Head Light Maine October 31, 2012
How have you made weather work for you in your stories?

This is a bloghop-we're trying a new linky tool. I think you'll be able to add yourself to the list here. If not, go to Kristina Perez 's blog.

Here's the Thursday's Children theme song.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thursday's Children 10/25/12 Stone Walls

Before I got sidetracked by Halloween and horseback riding analogies, I had been posting about how houses inspire and inform my writing.
The same thing is true of the larger environment.
Here's the first in a series about settings.

Maine, and New England generally, are in my blood. Our connection goes back to the seventeenth century when some of my ancestors settled in what would eventually become Salem. They probably should have stayed in England - their decision proved quite disastorous in 1692.

The landscapes I grew up with and love are bordered by forests, the Atlantic, and a superimposed grid of stone walls. Sometimes these fences are odes to OCD perfectionism, other times they are barely recognizable as purposeful structures, and look more like some giant left a trail of stones, much as Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs.
It's especially easy to spot these relics of early farming life in autumn and winter, when the foliage is gone. Many times Nature has taken over the fields they once bordered, and turned open land back into woods.

Sometimes an artifact even more dramatic appears, like a foundation or this - a naturally deposited slab of granite that during the early eighteenth century formed the rear wall of a dwelling. The rock is called Tyler's Back. The Tyler family ran a mill along what is now called Tyler Brook. It's about two miles from my house. Not far from here a woman was killed by the former landowners, Abenakis.

Stone walls are often the only remaining evidence of early settlers. The cycle of freeze and melt in this latitude pushes up a new crop of boulders every spring. Finding building materials was never an issue.

In 1939 a mining engineer used USDA historical data to estimate that there were 240,000 miles of stone walls in New England. That's almost ten times around the equator, or all the way to the moon. 
That's IF the walls were in a straight line. But of course they aren't. They were built to mark property lines and to corral livestock.

According to one estimate, the labor involved would have built the Pyramids of Egypt one hundred times over.

The formula is simple in dry masonry: one stone over two, two stones over one.

The effort required however, is back-breaking.
Have you ever lifted fifty pound hunks of granite for hours at a time?

A little over a mile from my house

Writing and building a stone wall aren't dissimilar.
You select your parameters (plot, setting, characters) and you decide where you want this wall to begin and end. What you want to keep in. And what you want to keep out.

Then you begin the hard work of stone over two, two stones over one,
only in this case words are your rocks.
When you're done you've built something that defines and contains a world of its own.
If you've built it with care and skill, it may be admired long after you're gone,
even long after anyone who actually knew you is gone.

Tell us what inspires your writing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Writer Therapy Bloghop

So, I'm at my keyboard, diligently getting all the "business" taken care of (emails, tweets, Facebook, etc.) and then it's time to write.
It's time to write.
I've got nothing.
It's time for...

Usually, when I'm writing a book I try to end in the middle of something-the idea being that I will pick up where I left off during the next writing session.
Minimize the chance of the blank page winning the stare down the following day.
I've found it to be a good strategy.
But sometimes at the end of the scene I just cannot think of what to write next.
The temptation is to check email, Twitter, FB, Pinterest, and so on.
But let's face it, fun distractions almost never inspire that next scene.

For me, this is what works...taking a walk.

I love walking in the woods in the autumn. Unfortunately hunters ruin my fun by making me fear for my life, but there are some places where they're not allowed.

I love walking in old cemeteries. This one is called Hope Cemetery.
All those markers tell me that whatever I'm worried about probably won't matter a hundred years from now.
And one my novels was actually inspired by a graveyard. Win-Win.

But my very favorite place to walk is the beach.
The sounds are soothing, the air is revitalizing. 
More often than not, a mile or so later I have at least a seedling of an idea.
Sometimes more.
It must have something to do with the rhythm of walking.
I like the beach best when it is deserted.
In the winter I'm often the only one on it (aside from my dogs).
It's damn cold. But worth it.

Speaking of are two of mine.
They're always up for a walk, and they don't write books.
Sometimes that makes their company therapeutic.
They are experts at living in the moment.
Here's my video "Dogs in Fog" (yes, Suessish, I know).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thursday's Children 10/18/12 Get Back on the Horse

Taking a leaf out of my friend Kristina Perez's inspriation "book", I decided to share my sports and writing analogy this week.

When I was a teenager I had a horse. His name was Kerry. Technically he was a pony (by one quarter of an inch) and his pony blood was definitely evident - ponies are known for being smarter than horses, and for having more highly developed senses of humor.
With Kerry this took various forms:

 1. Being the stable Houdini (one time he not only got himself out of the stall, but also his pony girlfriend Strawberry, one of them took the barn phone off the hook, they had a snack out of the grain bin, and then at 2 in the morning began galloping around the driveway).
2. Ambushing unsuspecting stablehands by digging a monstrous hole in the floor of his stall and then covering it with hay, so that they fell in.
3. Going under, over, and through pasture fences. Or standing in the middle of the pond, so he could only be caught if you were willing to get very wet.
4. And most importantly, teaching me first, to get back on after a fall, and two, how not to get thrown in the first place. He specialized in bucking.

Here's a picture of us together, at a dressage show. A looong time ago.

For your amusement here are some videos of riders getting tossed at horse shows.
Apparently I once did a cartwheel in the air when Kerry stopped short at a jump and I kept going.
I landed on the other side, on my feet, still holding the reins.
Unfortunately my mother didn't have a video camera.

Unintentional Flying Dismounts

So, about falling...
The very first time is nothing less than SHOCKING. One minute you're in the saddle, seemingly in control of the situation, and then something happens (a buck, a rear, a startle, a stumble, a sudden stop). Momentum, gravity, and your not so trusty steed, are no longer your friends.
Frequently the breath gets knocked out of you. Sometimes you get really hurt. If you're lucky neither you, nor your horse, sustain any serious injuries.
Falling or being thrown is scary, sometimes painful and bruising, both to your body and your ego.
Kind of like sending out queries or manuscripts and having them rejected.
With riding, assuming both you and your horse are okay, the thing you must do is, of course, get back on the horse. That's also scary. You have to dust yourself off, check your tack, mount up, and not let your horse sense your nerves.

Above all, you must not give up.
Not if you love it.
Not if you want to get better at it.
Good enough that some day the same situation will arise, and you won't get thrown.

I have two daughters. They both wanted to ride.
The older one got thrown her fifth time on a horse. She refused to get back on. But you know what? She didn't love riding. She loves cheering. She's a flyer, which takes skill and courage and trusting her stunt group. She's fallen many times, and gotten hurt. She gets back up. Because she loves it.
My younger daughter has fallen only once, at a trot. I was jogging right beside her and actually caught her as she slid off. I've told her that if she keeps riding, she will fall. All riders do. If she loves riding, she'll get back on.
If you love writing, keep doing it. No matter how many rejections you get. Someday you'll make it.

Here's the Thursday's Children theme song.

Share what inspires you...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

And I Humbly Accept...

The Liebster Award!

Given to me by the lovely Tamara over at  One Magic Bean Buyer Thanks!

-Answer the presenter's 11 questions
-Choose 11 lucky recipients
-Formulate 11 questions for them to answer
-Plaster the award on your blog

Here were Tamara's questions for me:

1. What is your favorite month of the year? 
Soooo easy. October! My birthday, Halloween (also my anniversary), beautiful foliage, energizing weather, no more bugs, I could go on...

2. What's the number one most played song on your iPod?
Radiohead Lotus Flower (I just cannot listen to that song enough, and I'm not even sure why)

3. Name three writers you admire and tell us why. 
Jeanette Winterson (inventive and passionate)
Daphne du Maurier (suspense genius)
Tracy Chevalier (dreamy prose w/fascinating historical settings)

4. If you were reincarnated as an animal, what would you want to be? 
I WAS going to say one of my own spoiled rotten doggies.
But then I thought a Phoenix would be even better - reinvent yourself whenever those gray feathers start showing up...

5. What is one of your favorite quotes? 
Those three words
Are said too much
But not enough
(Gary Lightbody lyrics)
Everyone knows what the 3 words are, even though he didn't actually say them. Brilliant.
6. What chore do you hate doing? 
What chore DON'T I hate doing...
Weed-whacking. Hot and buggy, makes my arm hurt after a while, and I always end up with several nasty nicks out of my shins from flying debris.
Another reason to love October-no weed whacking.

7. If you could throw any kind of party (money is no object) what would it be? And for whom?
Ha! A book release party for me, of course! Ideally sometime in October, and in costume.
For anyone who wants to come, especially if they want to buy my book. I'd like it to be in a massive old barn, at night, with great food and music.

8. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would you stay?
25. It was a great year :)
9. If you could have any talent in the whole world, which one would you choose?
That's a tough one because there are so many possible answers.
I think I'd like to be able to sing like Adele.
Excorcise my own demons. Travel the World. Entertain people.
Make heaps of money doing something I love to do.
10. Which superpower would you pick if they were up for grabs? 
Reincarnation. One life is NOT enough.
11. If you had to change your first name, what name would you want? 
Katherine - mostly because I like all the nicknames (except Kitty, that's just silly).

This prestigious and higly coveted award can only be given to those whose blogs have fewer than 200 followers - but not for long, eh?

Here are the next Lucky Eleven-

1. Chris Allen-Riley

2. E L Adams From the Writer's Nest

3. The Writerly Exploits of Mara Valderran

4. Brianna Shrum A Shortcut to Shrums

5. Catherine Scully

6. Kristina Perez

7. Yolanda Renee Defending the Pen

8. Heather Riffle

9. Robbie MacNiven

10. SJP's Title by Jaq

11. Aldrea Alien-Thardrandian Thoughts

And here are the 11 Questions

1. If you were to choose a Nom de Plume, what would it be?

2. What is your favorite flower?

3. If you had to live prior to 1900, what century would you choose, and why?

4. What is your motto?

5. Lake or ocean, and why?

6. Tell us three things about a favorite character you've created.

7. You're in a car and this song comes on the radio - you can't change the station fast enough.

8. Which author influences you most as a writer, and in what way?

9. When you get writer's block, doing this helps. (If you never get writer's block I'm blowing raspberries at you).

10. What movie scared you (and maybe scarred you)?

11. What's your favorite Halloween candy?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thursday's Children 10/11/12 Thoughts on Halloween

I'm taking a break from my Dwelling Places Series because...
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! 

Christmas is nice enough, but personally I MUCH prefer Halloween. No presents, no pressure, and the holiday meal is...CANDY.

Here's part of my Halloween Stuff Collection 
The skull was purchased in London and is extremely realistic looking.  It raised a few eyebrows going through Gatwick Security. 
The other head is a sculpture I did at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston. 
His name was Charlie.
At this time of year I get to revel in all things Gothic. And nobody thinks it's all that strange.

On Halloween, adults are allowed to be children again, or something even scarier.

Here I am as Lucrezia Borgia, you can't see it in this photo of a photo but I had a lovely little cut crystal ampoule in my hand with a mysterious white powder.  (Alright, alright, it was baby powder).
I made the dress from a tablecloth. 
My "date" was the illustrious Marquis de Sade
We were returning from the dead, hence the zombie-esque makeup.  ScaryMatchdotcom
Actually, we ended up getting married. On Halloween. The bride wore black.

Initially this post was simply an ode to Halloween. It didn't really fit the Inspiration Theme.
But then I realized something.
The dressing up and pretending to be scary/scared is all about the fun of being someone else for a night. Writing gives me that same thrill.
I explore different worlds, live different lives, and at the end come home, safe and sound.
This is what drives, or inspires, me to write.
Whew, that worked out quite well after all.

What inspires you to write?

This week I started off the Halloween Inspiration Relay-
I am passing the torch (or Jack O'Lantern) to the lovely Kristina Perez and she will blog about Halloween next week. There are plenty of pumpkins to go around, so feel free to stick with the Halloween Inspiration theme if you want-but if Halloween isn't your thing, that's okay too.

And because Halloween provides a good enough excuse for a gratuitous cute doggie pic...
I think she's managed to look fairly dignified. Or maybe she's plotting revenge. Can't be sure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thursday's Children 10/4/12 Haunted by Houses

Last week I blogged about how knowing where a character lives can help both reader and writer gain understanding of that character's psyche. Or how outer world can reflect or influence inner world. In most of my stories I have the character in mind BEFORE I figure out where they reside.

But sometimes it's the house itself that sets off the spark. At this time of year I am especially susceptible to dwellings with a certain...vibe (read that word as Vincent Price might, if he wasn't dead, or maybe as if he was dead, but had decided to visit).

Here are some of those places. They haunt my imagination, begging for their own story.

The home below belongs to one of my best friends from college.
It's a fascinating house with an interesting history and even its own name...
Rhododendron Hall.
Has a nice Gothic ring to it, don't you think?
I know it's really hard to see the actual house in this atmospheric photo, but it's very cool, trust me.

Photo Courtesy of Craig Comeau

You might live right in the middle of a swarming hive of stories without even realizing it.
Are there any haunted houses in your town?
Or houses with intriguing backstories?

This ode to weathered shingles is in my town.
It actually got resided this summer and looks hideously new and raw,
but the salt air will fix that quickly enough.
Rumor has it that this house appeared in the opening of the "Dark Shadows" tv show,
recently reinvented by two of my creative heroes, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.
Clinging to the granite cliffs the way it does, I would imagine that on stormy nights the crashing waves must make the whole place tremble.

Below is the Captain Nathaniel Lord Mansion built in 1812,
from money made in his ship-building business.
He died before he ever got to live here.
The Lord family lived here until 1927. It is now an inn.
Somewhere in the middle it was also an old ladies' retirement home.
It is also in my town and apparently a ghost is a permanent resident.
She wears a nightgown and is sometimes seen in The Lincoln Bedroom.
It was known as The Wisteria Room
until someone pointed out that wisteria means "remembrance of the dead".
She's also been known to climb the stairs to the eight-sided cupola.
Some think she is Mrs. Captain Lord. Apparently she gave a honeymooning couple quite a fright.
I could write a story about them. Or about her.

Captain Lord Mansion

And then there are dwellings that suggest inhabitants who might, or might not, be fully human.
They might be squatty, hairy, and not very nice.
Especially if the sun went down while you lost your way in the corn maze nearby.

Husk Wigwam
Though it is teepee shaped it's covered in cornhusks. I took this photo at a PYO apple orchard.

This week I hope you'll join our Thursday's Children bloghop. 
Here is our Beautiful Badge (well done Kristina!) Just grab the jpeg and apply to your own post. Or if you want the html code, see the post just before this one.

Thursday's Children

Here is the Linky List...

Thursday's Children Badge!

And now without further ado...

Thursday's Children

Isn't it lovely? Kristina Perez did a wonderful job.
And here is the code if you'd like to add the button to your blog.

<div align="center"><a href="" title="Thursday's Children"><img src="" alt="Thursday's Children" style="border:none;" /></a></div>