Of Feathers, Stars, and Melodies

Image courtesy of Steven Iodice @ stock.xchngWings, rain, dreams, starlight, footprints, silver and songs —these are some of the spices in my Muse’s cupboard, and with every story I brew up, I find the same flavors mixed up in different ways. A bit of moonshine, a dark melody, a flutter of wings and before I know it, my story sizzles with a different seasoning, but one that hints of previous endeavors.

In this latest WIP, I’ve just discovered the name of my male protagonist and one of my Muse’s favorite flavors, feathers and wings, once again played a role in its creation.

Intrigued, I decided to trace the history of our feathered friends through my storytelling evolution.

I guess you could say it started with my NaNoWriMo handle, which is Larkk. I needed the extra ‘k’ because, apparently, Lark is a popular handle amongst writers who try to write fifty thousand words in month!Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 7.51.35 PM

Then, as if pointing the way to future stories I would write, my very first novel draft ended with two birds flying into the darkness. Two revisions later, a dream the protagonist has about doves flying under the full moon led me to the place the story began. My second book seems to have escaped the feathers, (just wait until revision, I say!) but the heroine bears the nickname ‘Nightingale’ because she is the Muse of the protagonist’s dreams.

Birds played an important role in my third story, where the population of a distant world shares a psychic bond with the animal kingdom. The sorcerer overlords imprison all the birds inside their lair because if their subjects could see what birds see, the sorcerers’ secrets would be exposed and their dominion overthrown.

Have you ever flown in your dreams? In my fourth story, Constants, I propose a science fiction reason why all of humanity shares that common dream. The secret project to unearth this reason is named Nightingale. To further tie into the theme of flight, the main character in that story is an aerospace engineer who works at Boeing in Seattle. As you’ll see, I have a thing for rocket scientists.

In my fifth book, A Crown of Thorns, animatronic dragons fly between the moon and the earth, their flight courtesy of the future’s anti-gravity technology.Image courtesy of Asif Akbar @ stock.xchng

My most recent creation, The Whole of the Moon, the prequel to A Crown of Thorns, features another aerospace engineer, who eventually takes the name Swansong, and designs aircraft designed to protect the pilot at all costs. His wife is named Avery, which means Elf Ruler, but also sounds an awful lot like aviary.

Anyway, I suppose it was only a matter of time until the birds made their appearance in this new story. With a nod to Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, and inspired by a favorite line from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, I give you: Falcon Cooper.

Do you find recurring themes in your writing? What spices are in your Muse’s cupboard?

Image courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian @ stock.xchng

Geese and moon image courtesy of Steven Iodice, falcon image courtesy of Asif Akbar, spices on spoons image courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian, all @ stock.xchng

IWSG: Intervention

InsecureWritersSupportGroupThanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh, I now have an excuse to expound upon my self-doubt without fear of reprisals! If you’d like to join us at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, click on this linky, and prepare to meet some of the nicest writers on the web. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.

Today, I’m going to share something I’m worried I will never overcome. It’s this: I’m a horrible plotter, and even my characters are getting tired of my haphazard plotting. So fed up …well, how about I show you how fed up they are? Here’s how it went down …

***

Image courtesy of Emiliano Hernandez @ stock.xchng

My footsteps echo in the front hall of the Muse’s palace. “Muse?” I call. “You in here?”

“Over here.” His voice resounds on the stone walls. He’s in the library. Of course.

As I near the room, I hear whispered conversations, snatches of phrases like, “… tears of stars … walk in dreams … rock god …”

Then a loud ‘shhh.’

“What’s going on?” I ask as I enter. The lights come on.

Omigosh. The room is full of people I know, although I’ve never met them in real life. These are the people in my stories. Nick Moore from The Tempest’s Serenade stands near the front of the group, his arms crossed over his chest, watching my reaction with concern. On the opposite side of the group towers Teragus Swansong from The Whole of the Moon. The implacable steadiness of his golden eyes makes me shudder.

“Nick?” I ask, because he’s still the one I talk to most. “What’s going on?”

Image courtesy of 'miamiamia' @ stock.xchngNick takes a deep breath. The rest of the crowd has gone back to conversing amongst themselves. Rafael from Lost Wax, with Abigale wrapped in his arms, is exchanging Italian phrases with Noelle, the lithe ballet dancer from Constants, while Aiden, the numbers-addicted protagonist of the same story is immersed in conversation with Griffin of March, the gem collector and heir to the crown from Bridge of Light. Dr. Andria Morgan from my latest story–which doesn’t even have a proper title yet– looks forlorn as she stands off to the side. Despite the ill-fitting black Regulation uniform disguising her tiny frame, she has managed to attract the roving eye of Stuart Livingston.

“Who’s the new chick?” Stuart, Nick’s sidekick from Tempest’s Serenade, asks me.

Andria, with her as-yet-uncolored-eyes narrowed, faces him and answers, “I’m from her latest project— one that actually has a plot and an ending, I might add.”

“That’s what our Writer told me too when she started,” Rigel Mondryan from A Crown of Thorns sneers. “Just wait until she gets to the middle section. You’ll see. It’ll all fall apart just like it always does.”

Andria gives me a furtive look.“Hey, that can’t be true, our Writer has an outline this time—”

“Silence!” bellows Lord Swansong. He steps in front of the melee, his arms stretched wide. His son-in-law Rigel continues to bicker with Griffin of March until they come to some sort of agreement and break out in guffaws.

I spot the Muse sitting on a bookshelf high above the fray and hope he knew what he was doing when he put this gathering together. This many alpha males in one room can only lead to trouble.

Nick nods in acknowledgment as Teragus Swansong begins. “Writer, (because, to avoid confusion, all my characters simply call me Writer.) We’re here to stage an intervention.”Image courtesy of 'deafstar' @ stock.xchng

“An intervention?” I stammer. “For what? The hardest drug I do is coffee.”

I hear Stuart Livingston snicker. He jumps as his girlfriend elbows him in the gut.

Lord Swansong continues, “It has come to our attention that you are seriously deficient in the plotting department. We fear that you will never tell our stories properly.”

“I’m trying, really I am,” I reply. “I’m taking a revision course. I write every day. I read blogs.”

Rigel disentangles himself from his wife Cerule’s arms and stands. He’s wearing his crown, so I know I need to be careful what I say or he’ll be inside my head reading all my wicked thoughts. “Nick over there—” Rigel indicates the dark-haired, steely eyed protagonist of Tempest’s—  “Tells me you’ve been agonizing over his story for years now. Don’t you think it’s time you figure out how to get it right and get on with it?”

“I would if I could, but a novel is so big, it’s hard to keep track of everything. I’m doing my best. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a novelist— ”

Nick holds up his hand to stop Rigel from perturbing me any further. “I think she gets the point.”

Cerule Swansong, silent up to now, stands. She smiles at me. With her silver blonde hair and her graceful yet powerful motions, I can see why Rigel fell in love with her. “We only want to help you, Writer. It’s not just about us. It’s about you. We want to see you successful, perhaps even published.”

“That’s what everyone tells me.” I sink onto the chair that Nick has pulled next to me. “I just don’t know how to stop writing and plan something. You guys just spill out onto the page and I write and write and can’t stop–”

“Which is why we’re staging this intervention.” Libra Duvall, Nick’s mysterious Muse, has left her window seat to stand next to him. “We want to be read, Writer,” she says as Nick absent-mindedly strokes her long blonde hair. “It’s why we exist. But your stories need to make sense.”

Nick continues, “We have some ideas for you. To get you back on track.”

I scan the faces before me. Teragus, Rigel, Cerule, Stuart, Libra, Nick and all the rest stare back at me expectantly. Their fate lies in my hands. I feel so helpless.

41GtFMuVhWL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_“I don’t want to let you down,” I say. “But the only book about writing I’ve read is No Plot, No Problem.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered,” Nick says. “We picked out a few craft books for you.”

Aiden chimes in and stands, holding a stack of paperback books. “Here are a few to get you started. Writing the Breakout Novel , Story Engineering,” He winks. “A personal favorite.”

“Well, you’re the numbers guy, after all,” I agree.41zE6Pp83tL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

“There’s more though,” Cerule says. “Techniques of the Selling Writer, Save the Cat.

41KYQst9aIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Abigale chimes in, “You’re going to love Bird by Bird!”

“And this one,” Rigel offers, “The Art of War for Writers. And Nail Your Novel. You loved Memories of My Future Life so I’m certain you’ll appreciate Roz Morris’s advice.

I hold the books in my hands, quite a stack, and see the concerned looks on their faces. “Wow, you guys are the best. I really hope I don’t let you down. Wish me luck.”

***

So, writers, any other suggestions to help me with my plotting woes? What’s your favorite writing craft book?

Images: rainbow of books courtesy of Emiliano Hernandez, talk bubbles courtesy of ‘miamiamia’, chairs courtesy of ‘deafstar’, all @ stock.xchng.

IWSG: My Blogging Blooper Reel

InsecureWritersSupportGroupWelcome to 2013, Insecure Writers! If you’re not already part of the Insecure Writer movement that is—thanks to the inimitable Alex J. Cavanaugh— taking the Internet by storm, click this linky to add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web. The first Wednesday of each month is the day we post about our trials and traumas, supporting each other as we overcome our writing troubles.

A new year is always an opportunity to look back upon what was and what could have been. In my case, a lot of ‘could have been’ never gets past the gatekeeper of, “Would anybody really want to read this crap stuff?!” But then sometimes, I think maybe I should have given it a shot. Hence, fellow Insecure Writers, I present for your amusement: A glimpse of the posts that didn’t make the cut for the year 2012: My Blogging Blooper Reel

Take for instance the unfinished post: Building the Perfect Hero

He’s handsome, of course, but with scars.'Lucretious'

Okay, but describe handsome. Handsome starts with the eyes, deep-set, probing, intelligent, thoughtful. Not sharp, unkind, or darting about the room while I’m talking, but looking directly into mine without fear, with curiosity. They can be any color. Blue is overdone, but green will work, and in my hero’s case they’re brown with auburn highlights …

Another post was about how a trip to the E.R. ended up nudging the Muse to whisper the name of a main character in The Whole of the Moon. The post was tentatively titled Stranger than Fiction.

I had asked the Muse a week ago but had given up on getting an answer. The heroine’s father was in need of a name. And since he is a god, it needs to be a good one. I can see what he looks like, bushy white eyebrows, aquiline nose, and a stern, disapproving set to his mouth, weathered skin framed by a cloud of white hair. His frame is aging, but every bit as powerful as it was in his youth. A name worthy of such a man would not be an easy assignment.

Then, as the darkness of sleep crept upon me, I heard a name whispered inside my head.

Teragus Swansong.

I had a mind to post a character sketch for Danny DeVries- a minor character in The Tempest’s Serenade:

Christy ThompsonHi Danny. Got a minute? I know you’re busy tonight, but if you could just…okay, I’ll sit back with my margarita and speculate. Thanks for the drink, by the way. I know they are mostly for the tourists so I really appreciate you sending one my way even though I’m a regular.

So, I’m trying to get what you look like onto my page.

What? You hate your looks? Who doesn’t. Getting older stinks, especially in self-conscious, self-absorbed SoCal. There are a lot of nice people in Los Angeles though, you just have to be open to them …

There was a short post about a pivotal scene that came to me on a rainy afternoon: Caught in the Rain

A sudden shower, a dusty gem of a song, and a burst of inspiration written on the back of an airline ticket was all it took to give my story another nudge in the direction of the book I set out to write.

My mind’s eye saw a newspaper article announcing the tragic death of an emerging musician by drug overdose tacked on a bulletin board. Beside it were lyrics and some chord charts hastily Billy Alexanderscribbled in dark pencil.

My female lead, insisting, “Because I’m a ghost” when I am desperately trying to keep her from disappearing off the page. She has unfinished business she left behind. She haunts him.

I had some interviews with Rigel, the protagonist of Book Two of The Dragon’s Milk Chronicles:

He gets up early, like me, before the rest of the world wakes up. It gives him time to think, time to let his defenses down. I’m not even sure if I should bother him.

“You again.” He tries to appear angry, but I can tell that he is glad to see me.

“Just a few more visits. I have some things on my mind.”

“Okay, I suppose so,” he says, but I know that the word ‘okay’ might not even fit into my fantasy world, even though it is set in our world.

“Can you tell me more about the girl you loved?” I ask him.

“You want to know her name, don’t you?”

“I do.”

I had an interview with the love interest in The Tempest’s Serenade all cued up, before I backed out. It went something like this:

Chrissi Nerantzi“Libra?” I ask.

I try to be calm and soothing. She’s a nervous girl, and very shy. She looks around the room the way my cat would, always prepared with an escape route. I don’t describe her blue eyes, but choose instead the fragile bones beneath her cheeks. Her lips part in a tremulous smile.

“You don’t usually ask for me,” she says. “It’s always Nick.”

“Does that bother you?”

“A little.”

Nick was angry with me once:

“You know why it is taking so long on this revision, don’t you?”

I sigh, and keep typing. I know what is coming without even thinking about it too much. “You were meant for this,” he says, “Why do you always try to deny it?”

“I can’t bring myself to let it go.”

“You are hiding. Why?” His eyes are gentle, his anger gone. “Why?” he reiterates.

“Said bookism,” I accuse him weakly. Why is he beating on me, when I am so tired?

And then, I was going to post the scene when Nick got his guitar at twelve years old: Nick and the Black Strat

Image courtesy of 'RockNRollP' @ stock.xchngA long-haired dude saunters up to the two of them and addresses Nick’s father. “What can I do you for?”

His father looks him over, and tries not to judge him. The guy can probably play the pants off Eddie Van Halen. Erik used to listen to rock music himself, but now music makes it hard for him to think.

“It’s for my son.”

The long-haired dude looks down at Nick, who can’t disguise his fervent admiration for anyone who plays the instrument he loves so much.

Nick looks up at him and smiles. “Can you play Van Halen?”

The dude grins and rolls up the sleeves of his flannel shirt to reveal tattoos up his elbows. “‘Course I can play Eddie, and I can play Jimi and …Satriani. ” The young man plucks a guitar from the upper row, bright red with black hardware. Nick grins in anticipation, but it is all Erik could do to keep himself from rolling his eyes.

Most recently, there was the post about my story having a shape:

Alaa HamedSometimes writers talk about writing with intention. For me, it is the unintended, those moments where I discover what my subconscious is weaving into my words, that gives me a glimpse of my soul.

One of my favorite aspects of drafting a novel at the accelerated pace of NaNoWriMo is when a pattern begins to emerge in the tapestry of my story. Halfway through The Whole of the Moon I was struck by a theme that keeps popping up. My story has a shape. That shape is a circle …

There are more, but that’s enough for today, don’t you think?

How about you, Insecure Writers? Do you ever toss posts back into the bin because it’s just too scary to put them up there? Do you have a blogging blooper reel?

Images courtesy of Antony Ruggiero, Chrissi Nerantzi, ‘Lucretious’, ‘RockNRollP’, Billy Alexander, and Alaa Hamed, Christy Thompson @ stock.xchng