Detour: Where Do Stories Come From?

Change of scenery ahead!

I’m taking a jaunt over to visit Anushka Dhanapala at Finding My Creature for a guest post. Yes, me! A guest post! My very first.

Join me there as I explore where stories come from.

Celebrating One Year of Blogging Fun

I’m surprised at this myself, but I’ve been on A Scenic Route for a whole year now! I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge this milestone with some thoughts about how I ended up here.

I pretty much stumbled into blogging. WordPress makes it incredibly easy to start a blog, so the temptation was great to come in and take a peek. What I discovered thrilled me. Themes, ready to fill with pictures and words! Widgets to track my word counts! Fonts galore! Spam blockers! I immediately set about making this place feel like home, rearranging the furniture so that my words might feel comfy here.

It never occurred to me that I was going to get visitors. I was just playing around. I’m a super shy writer. In fact, when I showed my blog to a writer friend, who knows about my inhibitions, she asked me, “If you’re afraid to show your work, why do you have a blog?”

Well, she had it exactly right. That is the perfect reason for me to have a blog. Blogging has been a great way for me to start overcoming my self-doubt, five hundred to a thousand words at a time. Many of my first posts were password protected, partly because they contain copyrighted How to Think Sideways course material, but also because exposing so much of myself to the world was downright scary for me. Clicking the publish button and the thought of someone coming upon my words induced stomach cramps.

Image via Geeks.com

Because writing isn’t supposed to induce gastric distress, I knew this was something I had to work through. I resolved to post something once week and wrote about anything that crossed my path. (Surfing by moonlight, anyone?) Usually though, I ended up with writing related posts: research discoveries, progress reports, playlists, or character interviews. The random nature of my posts fit in with the title and intent of the blog–to chronicle my writing journey.

The first few months were challenging for me. Even after the piece was published, I would usually edit it at least four or five times. I couldn’t imagine my words ending up in someone’s inbox, where my leaps of logic, typos, and grammar faux pas would be exposed for all the world to see.

Before I knew it though, I found myself looking forward to putting something up on the blog. I got a deep sense of satisfaction seeing my words up here, neat and edited, with pictures on the side, just like the pro blogs do. I looked at the Freshly Pressed blogs and aspired to be just like them, polished and pretty and popular.

Then, I gained a follower. Just one was enough to make me feel that I was now big time. The pressure was on, and I felt my posts had to be more perfect than before. Lo and behold, my practice paid off. I only edit my words once (or twice … ) after they post.

Now that I have a few followers—and believe me, the fact that you have invited me into your inbox means more to me than you can even know—I feel I should let the world know what joining me on A Scenic Route means.

My goal from the beginning was to make my blog a peaceful place to visit and read about my words and my stories. No hustle, no credit cards, no exhortations to visit this or that. No blatant pitches to buy my book—not that my book is anywhere near being finished. A Scenic Route strives to be a one stop shop for fun and relaxation. My writing is my holiday, my rest stop, my few hours of escape from the hassles of the everyday. I want my blog to be the same.

What is your vision for your blog?  How long have you been blogging?

Character Interview: Who's Teaching Who?

It’s been almost two years since Nick and I first got to know each other. Sometimes I wonder if he’s still there; if we can still talk like we used to. Can I still conjure him up? Or have I lost my touch?

I head out to the woods to find out. I have some questions about his buddy Milo.

Like the Cheshire cat, the first thing I see when Nick appears is his grin. I notice the years haven’t changed him much as he leans on a convenient tree in front of me, hands in his pockets, his baseball hat keeping his unruly hair out of his eyes.

“Back on conflict arcs again, babe?”

“Babe?” I raise my eyebrows.”Where did that come from?”

“Just goofin’ around. It’s spring; it makes everyone a little goofy.”

Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. My pen hangs poised over the page, and I wait. For answers. Nick? Answers, please?

“If you want an answer, you’ll need to ask a question first.” Nick sounds so matter-of-fact, he could easily be the one teaching me to write, instead of me trying to impose my story upon him. “I’m waiting…” he prompts me.

“It’s about Milo.”

“Is that the last conflict arc?”

“I think so, except for the one with the song.”

“The song is a character?”

“You would know that better than I, wouldn’t you?” I ask him.

His eyes scrunch in the most appealing way as he appears to process this.

“About Milo?” I remind him. “When did you get to be friends?”

“In college. My parents wanted me to study medicine, remember? He was in my biology class–or was it anatomy–” He grins. “I can’t remember.”

“Did you study together?”

More grinning. “Well, he studied.”

“What do you mean, he studied? You didn’t cheat your exams, did you?”

He lets me stew about this, before reassuring me. “Nah, I just took the low grade. Didn’t want the parents to think I’d be much of a doctor.”

“You would have made a better doctor than some of the ones I’ve met.”

“Not what I was meant for, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember. But, tell me more about Milo.”

“Milo was always weird. Needed to get out more. He read books by Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud, and Kant. Talked about philosophy and religion. I always told him he needed to lighten up. It’s okay to think about stuff, but man, you gotta live it to understand it. You know what I mean?”

“I do, Nick, I do,” I say as I scribble down everything he’s told me.

When the wind blows on my skin, reminding me that I’m alive, I can hear Nick mock me.

“You’re afraid I’m going to leave, aren’t you?” he asks.

“Well. A little, yes,” I admit.

“You shouldn’t be. Is that why you’re afraid to finish the revision?”

“I’m not afraid of the revision.” But I know he won’t believe me. I can’t lie to my own characters.

“Really? You keep saying you’re going to cut that second scene, and it’s been …” He ticks the weeks off on his fingers, frowning. “Two…three weeks.”

“I’m thinking this Sunday. I might have a block of time to tackle it. But I’d really like to get through the outline before I do that.”

Nick looks dubious. The wind tousles his dark hair. No grey yet. He’s gone all young on me, reminding me that, even as I get older, he’ll always be the same.

“You sure?” he asks. “‘Cuz I bet you’ll want to do the time line, and reorganize the scenes.” He fixes his stormy eyes on mine. “Again.”

“I’m doing all I can, Nick. There’s this editing challenge–fifty hours in March, and I don’t know how I’m going to fit that many hours in. I’m not even sure I’m up to this. Other writers have nothing but line edits between them and a finished novel. I’ve got … a full rewrite, and then who knows, I still might not be close to finished. There must be something wrong with me. I’m not much of a writer, you know—”

He holds up a hand, shaking his head. “You’re cutting yourself down again. And I can’t let you do that to yourself.”

I study him, in all his graceful, fluid, steely eyed, dark-clad glory. His very existence is an affirmation of my abilities. I want to cry with joy in this moment. This ecstasy that is writing saved my life, my soul. Without it, I would drink myself into a stupor or worse. Instead I savor every day that is given to me, reflect upon the miracle of being alive, and leave a river of words to mark its passing.

If only I were as eloquent in my novels as I am in my journal.

Nick has meandered off into the trees, and looks back at me occasionally to see if I have finished yet. I’m still writing, agonizing about what I should do next.

Wandering back to my side, he watches the words creep onto the page with interest.

“Nothing about me?” he asks.

“What do you want me to write about you?”

“Hmm….” He thinks for a moment. “Have you described my guitar– the black Strat?”

“Not really. But I could, I guess. I’d really like to see more pictures …”

He drags my pen across the page to make the words. “Curves like a woman. Ebony, shimmering under the lights. We left her at the Hacienda. That was the only lucky thing about that night.”

“Maybe if you’d brought her–it– with you things would have been different. Maybe Libra guided you to it because it–she is your destiny. Wait … she gave it to you didn’t she?”

Nick lets go of my pen and smiles triumphantly.

“When did she give it to you?” I ask. “For your birthday? When was your birthday? Was your sign Libra just like hers was? Or did she give it to you for Christmas? Is this important?”

Nick paces, letting the wind press his t-shirt against his spine, his fine-boned physique appearing fragile for someone so fearless.

“She sold the coat–the fur coat–to get you the guitar, didn’t she?”

“Maybe.” He stuffs his hands back in his pockets.

“You’re not going to tell me any more?” I ask. “Where does one buy a nice guitar in the 1960’s?”

“Looks like you’ll need to do some research, won’t you?”

I sigh. “Yeah. But that’s okay. You done good, Nick. But can you hold that thought? I have to stop for a while–”

He shrugs and gives a lopsided grin designed to send my heart aflutter. “I’ve got all night.”

Sadly, I close my notebook.

“Should I walk you home?” he asks.

“I would like that,” I reply. Avoiding the puddles in our path, he walks beside me, sharing this last bit of a sunny afternoon. Sometimes I think this ghost in my mind will be the only one to completely understand me.

What ghosts walk across your pages?

Surfing at Night

It never occurred to me to surf at night until one of my adventurous characters brought it up. Really, can one surf at night?

A quick check with Google confirmed that, yes, the few and the foolhardy do surf at night. I found the coolest video that showed what it might be like.

It’s only thirty seconds long, but is incredible. Check it out at:

http://www.thescore.com/buzz/articles/108052-win-surfing-jaws-at-night