The hot fresh smell of Home-Made Bread…

Free Stock Photos - Bread
© Photographer Anatoliy Babiychuk | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Mmmmh…There is nothing like the smell of hot, home-made bread, fresh from the oven. I wish the internet/WordPress could figure out how to embed scents into blog posts but since I know you have a great imagination…Close your eyes and picture/smell bread fresh out of the oven.

Bread is a world-wide symbol of nourishment. In my own home, I have many fond memories of my mother baking homemade German bread *recipe passed down through the generations* and the amazing smell wafting through the house, guaranteed to pull all of the family to the kitchen.

So…what does this have to do with writing? Well, bread has to have one key ingredient to give it that rise and that ingredient is yeast. Much like a story has to start with a kernel of an idea. A question of what-if? A character with such a compelling story that you have to be the one to write their story. A setting that teases your imagination. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Secrets. All of these are the yeast to a writer’s baking.

Home-made bread is the symbol for my month of August.

July was a wash-out for me as personal issues pushed writing to the background and at times I felt like I was a wheat kernel on the threshing floor waiting for the harvester to scoop me up. But sometimes we don’t or can’t control our external lives and we just have to keep our head above water and keep swimming.

The good thing about real life dramas is that we can use them for fodder in our stories. I don’t mean writing a tell-all or fictionally “killing off” your most troublesome relatives. *Even though it is incredibly tempting to do both.* No, you can use the emotions – both high and low – to bring depth to your fiction. Going back to my bread analogy: Baking bread is tough on the muscles. You need to knead away any imperfections and to continue until you get the perfect consistency. Then you need to have a hot oven or hot fire to bake the bread. In just the same way the fire of real life dramas can help you bake a story that is rich and layered. For this writer, writing is both my therapy and my sanity. It is the best place I know to throw excess emotions leaking out from real life dramas…

So this August I am going to be baking my bread and watch it rise into a hot, fresh and new manuscript. (Genre: Paranormal Psychological Thriller) I already have all the ingredients mixed in especially the yeast of a sparkling idea, now I just need to pop it in the oven and see what rises. Hopefully what comes out of my efforts is hot, fresh and delicious. I am really excited about this new WIP and have been itching to get to work on it. The main character is already a favourite of mine: She is complicated and strong-willed but she has a secret she can’t tell anyone because if she does they may just lock her away in a padded cell. But keeping this secret makes her the #1 suspect on investigator’s lists which leads her into a whole world of trouble. Watch this space and I may drop a few more breadcrumbs about her story.

I have a ^word count goal all set in Scrivener^ for the whole month and broken down into the individual word counts for each day. I have a plotted out first draft, character profiles and backstories. I am ready to make this the month of the WIP.

(Aside: ^^ = To edit and utilise Project Targets in your Scrivener project. See below.)

On your Scrivener Menu – Go to Project, Then Show Project Targets

There you can edit either a session goal (words/pages/chapters) and/or a project goal. You can also add in a deadline date as well as mark what days you will be writing on. Then Scrivener will calculate it all together for you and give you a daily total of words/pages/chapters needed to reach either/both the session and the project goal. *This instruction is for Scrivener Version 2.3 for Mac*

What are your goals for August?

Bread-wise…do you have a favourite bread recipe you would like to share?

Stories: Passports without borders

Stories are passports without borders. Stories are passports without visas. Stories are passports to adventure. Stories are passports into the exotic and the extraordinary. Stories are portal doors into worlds unknown. Stories are magic carpets.

One of the first reasons that made me fall in love with stories is the ability to travel to exotic places, experience exotic cultures all without leaving my chair. I love traveling and often call myself a Gypsy at heart. New places usually mean new people to meet and new adventures to experience. In an unknown place the average and ordinary can suddenly become extraordinary. Having a coffee in my local cafe is very been there, done that. But having a coffee in some little plaza in an Italian village on the Amalfi coast would immediately be extraordinary for me. In the same way, that Italian local may find having coffee in my local cafe an extraordinary event.

For this reason I have always read books that are based in foreign countries and even foreign cultures. I come from South Africa, now live in New Zealand – to me neither of these two places is exotic. They are what I know. They are familiar. But when I have told American friends that I come from South Africa and now live in New Zealand – they are always fascinated. They want to know if I have seen lions in the wild. When I tell them that we had a family of leopard living on one of the farms my father managed, they go: “WOW!”. They want to know all about New Zealand especially since the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that really put NZ on the map. But for me exotic places are in Europe or in Central Africa/Northern Africa or the Amazon in South America. But I doubt those same locals who live in these areas think that they live in an exotic locale.

That is the joy of reading stories and in my case going one step further and creating your own stories. I love writing about places I have not been because I find often what may be fairly ordinary to the locals there becomes extraordinary and special in my fresh eyes. One of my favourite pastimes is searching for fresh inspiration for not just story ideas but setting ideas. Pinterest (new addiction) comes in as a very useful tool in these moments. I also love reading/studying/researching the history of each setting and often finds it seeds an idea in my imagination that I let lie and germinate to see what it could potentially blossom into. Nowadays with the ease of the internet and software like Google Earth/Google Maps your research into a place can become acutely accurate down to the street names and the name of that cafe on the corner in that Italian village on the Italian Amalfi Coast.

But at the end of the day the best research you can do when checking out a setting in an exotic locale (if traveling there is absolutely ruled out) is to talk to the locals on the internet. In this day and age there is an internet group for just about everything and there are blogs for just about every type of subject. So I trawl the blogosphere and see if there are any local-specialised blogs devoted to the locale I want to set my story in. Setting is so much more than just a geographic location or street names. Setting is also about the quirks that make that place unique. Is there a particular smell? Smell is a big one. For instance when I smell oranges and lemons I immediately think of Athens, Greece. One of the strongest memories of my time spent there 12 years ago was the tree-lined streets with trees heavy with oranges and lemons. So the smell of oranges and lemons now sums up Athens for me. Location bloggers will give away a lot of these type of tidbits in their blog posts. And most people are always flattered when you tell them you want to learn more about their home because you find it fascinating.

So while I have begun writing on my next project I have been trawling the internet for setting ideas. So I will leave you with some images from my Pinterest board. Some of them are definite settings in my story and some of just teasing seeds of inspiration right now…Mum’s the word (for now) on which settings I am actually going to be using in both the current WIP and upcoming ones. Perhaps you can guess which settings I have chosen.

Perhaps you have been to these places or live there. I would love to know at least 2 quirks that I could not find out from the internet that is unique to each place. Leave me a comment in the comments.

Tell me>> What exotic places would you like a story to be set in? What places grab your imagination?

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Abandoned mountain town in Sardinia, Italy)

Source: worldtopjourneys.com via Kim on Pinterest (Manarolo, Cinque Terre, Italy)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (The City of the Caesars, Patagonia, South America)

Source: underthesunexperience.blogspot.co.nz via Kim on Pinterest (Carcassonne, Languedoc Roussillon, France)

Source: earmchairtraveler.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Meteora, Greece)

Source: accommodation-bol.com via Kim on Pinterest (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

Source: une-deuxsenses.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Swallow’s Nest, Crimea)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (Angkor-Wat, Cambodia)

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Gunkanjima, Japan – “Ghost Island”)

Source: roman-empire.net via Kim on Pinterest (Herculaneum, Italy)

All imaged embedded via My Pinterest boards – Feel free to follow me there…

Hello June…I am going all Jackson Pollock on You

It’s June!

It’s time to get a little crazy, go a little wild, ride the winds…

I am going all Jackson Pollock on this month!

As stated last week… “I am going to do more than play Hookie with Tattoo. I am going to have a full-blown affair with Tattoo. The urge to write must take control over the urge to edit. I cannot wait for that delicious feeling of playing hookie and that first blush of the first draft.”

For the first time in months I am going to be flinging my creative ink at the canvas of my new WIP without thought of editing and embracing the freedom and unadulterated joy in WRITING that First Draft!

“A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor … There was complete silence … Pollock looked at the painting. Then, unexpectedly, he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance like as he flung black, white, and rust colored paint onto the canvas. He completely forgot that Lee and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter … My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said ‘This is it.’

Pollock’s finest paintings… reveal that his all-over line does not give rise to positive or negative areas: we are not made to feel that one part of the canvas demands to be read as figure, whether abstract or representational, against another part of the canvas read as ground. There is not inside or outside to Pollock’s line or the space through which it moves…. Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas.”

– Hans Namuth 1950

I love the first blush, the illicit intimacy and the head-rush of a First Draft. First Drafts are all about the Writer, the Creative, the Artist. I love simply getting lost in a first draft and a new story. I love meeting the new characters and watching their scenes in my mind’s eye like a movie. I love that the story can and will go anywhere and everywhere.

What do you love about first drafts?

________________________

In other exciting News just in from this weekend…The anthology that could…

WooHoo! I am now a contributor to an AWARD-Winning anthology! “Tales for Canterbury” just scooped the 2012 Sir Julius Vogel Award in NZ for the Best Collected Works in Speculative Fiction-SciFi/Fantasy/Horror. This is a national award awarded annually at the NZ National Science Fiction Convention to recognise achievement in Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror.  Congrats to our editors: Cassie Hart and Anna Caro on scooping the win! The editing team did a brilliant job in pulling together a great crew of authors, who all contributed incredible stories all for an amazing cause. Once again, I am so proud and pleased to be part of a fantastic crew of authors and editors who helped get this anthology  out there.
There are still print copies available on the current print run of Tales for Canterbury. You can buy them here. *All profits* will be donated to the NZ Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. See talesforcanterbury.wordpress.com for more details. (* ie after we’ve paid any applicable transaction fees, printing, and shipping costs – neither Random Static nor the authors are keeping a cent)
A little background on the Sir Julius Vogel Award: The awards are named for Sir Julius Vogel, a prominent New Zealand journalist and politician, who becamePrime Minister of New Zealand in the 1870s. He also, in 1889, wrote what is widely (though erroneously) regarded as New Zealand’s first science fiction novel, Anno Domini 2000 – A Woman’s Destiny.[1] The book — written and published in Great Britain after Vogel had moved from New Zealand — pictured a New Zealand in the year 2000 where most positions of authority were held by women – at the time of writing, a radical proposition. In 2000, New Zealand’s Head of State, Governor General, Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Attorney General were all women, as was the CEO of one of the country’s largest companies, Telecom.

Confessions…and I want to play hookie

I want to play hookie…with my new WIP that is. I have been stuck in an editing foxhole for months now on my current WIP and really I am getting fed up with myself. I have a problem. I am a perfectionist and I cannot stop myself editing and editing and editing… Is there a perfectionist anonymous group out there or an editing anonymous group? Maybe there should be! There could be a 13 step recovery process…OH and I detest synopsis writing! Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with the editing process or with a perfectionist gene?

One of the first steps of curing a problem and recovering from it is in accepting the problem and admitting that you have a problem.

Confession: I am a Perfectionist and my problem is that once I start looking for errors and editing…I cannot stop.

I have no idea if there is a group called Perfectionist Anonymous but I have decided that writers like me desperately need a group like this for recovering editing addicts. We need an intervention and we need people we can call when the urge to continue editing ad infinitum hits us. It is a quagmire of sinking sand that sucks us in even as we try to clamber out. The more we struggle against it, the deeper we sink.

So every recovery program and intervention has a step by step list of dos and don’ts in the steps to becoming cured. So I have come up with a 13 step recovery program for all writers who suffer from Editorix Perfectionist.

13 Steps to Overcoming Editorix Perfectionism

  1. Say the Words: I am a Perfectionist and suffer from perfectionism – the neurotic need to find error and fault and correct and recorrect and still recorrect.
  2. Ask for an intervention to be held by more saner individuals than your neurotic self.
  3. Step away from the manuscript, now on it’s umpteenth draft.
  4. Close the folder entitled WIP – Nth edit.
  5. Repeat to yourself ” Perfectionism is a sly form of Procrastination” – stick this note on every available surface.
  6. Type “The End” on current Nth draft of WIP – and mean it.
  7. Hide all red pens, correction fluid and erasers.
  8. You are a writer not an editor. You have no sane moments nor objective moments when it comes to your WIP. Doctors are not allowed to treat their own family members so writers should not be allowed to edit their own works without assistance and intervention.
  9. The first edit is allowed, the second edit is treading on dangerous ground and the third edit is an edit gone too far.
  10. Surround yourself with notes telling you: You are not useless. You do not write rubbish. Your work is fit for more than a trash can – both on the computer desktop and near the desk. Perfectionism is an unattainable myth as it is as the opposite of humanity – since you are a human, you are imperfect anyway – pointless to fight it.
  11. Surround yourself with critique partners, writing buddies and other writers who know what you struggle against and who know that the writer’s fragile ego is our own worst enemy. Do not be afraid to say you need help before you destroy both your sanity and your manuscript.
  12. Step away from the edited WIP and take a walk with a notebook. Write down the plot for the next manuscript.
  13. Begin writing the new manuscript and find refreshment and creative fulfillment in throwing yourself head-first into a creative binge. (No editing allowed at least until You have typed “the End” on the first draft!)

So this week I am going to be closing the editing folder on Ring a Ring o’ Roses (Nth draft). I am submitting the synopsis and query and then I will leave the rest to the fates that be. I am opening my notebook and starting work on The Tattooist. Editor Kim is going away – she had no business being here for so long anyway. Writer Kim is returning. I am a writer. I am not an Editor. Saner individuals than me become editors, I will stick to what I do best and that is WRITING not EDITING. To be clear I am a recovering not a cured Editorix Perfectionist. This is a continuing struggle.

I am going to do more than play Hookie with The Tattooist. I am going to have a full-blown affair with The Tattooist. The urge to write must take control over the urge to edit. I cannot wait for that delicious feeling of playing hookie and that first blush of the first draft.

Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with the editing process or with a perfectionist gene?

Sign up here _______ if you would like to become a member of Editorix Perfectionism Anonymous.

Watch Brene` Brown on The Power of Vulnerability

Excerpts…”I am surrounded by people who kinda believe that life’s messy love it, and I am more the “life’s messy: clean it up, organize it and put in into a pinto box.” [👍 ]

“…lean into the discomfort of the work and I am like, you know, Knock discomfort upside its head and move it over…”

“I want to separate bravery and courage for you for a moment. Courage: The original definition of courage when it first came into the English language; it’s from the latin word “cor” meaning “heart” and the original definition was: is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart…and so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect…”

Writing is that for me…the courage to be imperfect and to be comfortable in my own skin while being naked in my vulnerability. 👌

Shivers down my spine…

We all have had those moments of spine-chilling fear…when the shivers of chill make their way slowly down our spine, every hair on our body rises, our bones seem to turn to water and the back of our necks prickles. Our bodies surge with adrenalin and we fight the instinctive response to flee or fight. Fear is one of the core base emotions. We all know what it is. We all know when it has struck…

Sleep, those little slices of death, how I loathe them. – Edgar Allen Poe

I am a part of a stellar group of authors called TESSpecFic ** We are “The Emissaries of Strange: A Speculative Fiction Writer’s Collective” is a group of writers whose fiction fits under the speculative fiction umbrella. Our captain, the lovely Marie Loughin set us a question that stirred in each of our hearts this week: What is Horror?

This is a question that I faced at the end of 2011 when I was getting ready to pitch my WIP to an agent. Genre can be a tricky question. Especially these days when there are so many variations on the classic genres and so many sub genres to further muddy the genre waters. When I set out to write my WIP, I was not thinking in terms of genre. I was thinking STORY and CHARACTER. I wrote the story that poured forth and decided to leave the question of genre until it was absolutely necessary to come up with an answer.

Right up until the moment that I sat before the agent, I was second-guessing how to genre-alise* (Yes, it is a term I made up.) my story. The days before my pitch I researched other stories similar to mine to see how those authors had genre-alised their stories. One term kept on cropping up: Horror.

There is a quake that rips the soul asunder. . . it is the pain of remembering. – Nrb

The day of my pitch arrived and as I sat before the agent and she asked me what genre the WIP was, out came the word: Horror. She allowed me to continue with my allotted 10 minute pitch and then kept me talking because she was intrigued and wanted to know more. After I had basically given her the synopsis, she sat back, clicked her pen on the table-top between us and told me that though she could see how I genre-alised the plot into HORROR, she thought it would sound better as a Paranormal Historical. She was concerned that the term HORROR would limit the marketability of what she thought was a very marketable story.

We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones. – Stephen King

Mmmh I wonder what Stephen King  would have said if someone had told him HORROR would make his market limited? Seriously, who has not heard of a Stephen King story  whether in books or movies. I think the HORROR genre has served Stephen King very well and he has done more than ok with finding a market for his work.

So what is HORROR and why are so many people afraid of that term? Pun intended*

I think Hollywood and B-Horror movies have given us a vision of blood, gore, guts and general grossness. But that is just one variation of HORROR. Below is the Dictionary.com definition of HORROR…

horror |ˈhôrər, ˈhär-|noun1 an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust: children screamed in horror.• a thing causing such a feeling: photographs showed the horror of the tragedy | the horrors of civil war.• a literary or film genre concerned with arousing such feelings: [ as modifier ] : a horror movie.• intense dismay: to her horror she found that a thief had stolen the machine.• [ as exclamation ] (horrors) chiefly humorous used to express dismay: horrors, two buttons were missing!• [ in sing. ] intense dislike: many have a horror of consulting a dictionary.• (the horrors) an attack of extreme nervousness or anxiety: the mere thought of it gives me the horrors.2 informal a bad or mischievous person, esp. a child: that little horror Zach was around.ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’ (see horrid) .

I think the very origin of the word answers the question: What is Horror? Horror is an involuntary trembling and shuddering from sheer terror. For me however, true horror is those scenes that play with your mind. Psychological fear is far more intense and horrific than mere physical fear. The mind is a scary place. It’s capacity for imagining the worst and the darkest is scary. Think of your favourite horror movie, the imagined monster behind the shadow at the foot of the door that is ajar is far scarier than the monster that is seen and can be fought. What is unknown is far scarier than the known? For me, that is true HORROR.

We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe. – Johann von Goethe

So I take the stand on my trilogy. It is HORROR Paranormal Historical. It deals with death, ghosts and revenge. There are scenes that gave me the creeps as I was writing them. There are scenes that I still don’t like reading after midnight because they literally have me seeing the ghosts I have written become real.

It is dark. You cannot see. Only the hint of stars out the broken window. And a voice as old as the Snake from the Garden whispers, ‘I will hold your hand. – John Wick

Horror is the difference between the UNKNOWN vs the KNOWN and the UNTHINKABLE vs the IMAGINED. Horror is those shivers down my spine, that prickling on my skull and the bone-deep chill that makes my heart want to stop.

This is how Stephen King defines Horror:

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

What is Horror to you? Is it a misunderstood and misaligned genre-alisation of a core human instinct? Is HORROR just a label or is it more a style of story-telling?

Join my fellow TESSpecFic members on their blogs below as they delve into: What is Horror?

Schedule for blog tour: What is Horror?

Marie Loughin – Wednesday, 9th May

Jaye Manus – Thursday, 10th May

Paul D. Dail – Friday, 11th May

Aniko Carmean – Sunday, 13th May

Jonathan D. Allen – Monday, 14th May

Penelope Crowe – Tuesday, 15th May

Always Trust Your First Instinct

Have you ever had a piece of advice that has translated into everything you do? Many years ago a junior school teacher gave me just such a piece of advice. Her advice:

Always Trust Your First Instinct

This is a lesson that I have returned to over and over again in my life. Sometimes a little seed of doubt – damn that doubt – creeps in and I second-guess myself. But time and time again I have to do a 180 or a 360 turn back to that first instinct.

This last week has been one of those weeks where I had to do a 360 turn back to my first instinct in my WIP. On advice, from an agent and from a few authors, I had second-guessed a key element of my WIP’s story structure. After much tweaking and re-tweaking I made the new way work. But the entire time while working on the 2nd draft, this new style kept on grating on my nerves. I couldn’t figure out why this 2nd draft was not jelling with me and why this WIP was so determined to fight me every inch of the way.

Then I was asked a question by my cp that jolted me into a massive A-HA (no, I don’t mean the Oprah saying, I am talking about a huge ballad ala AHA the 80s pop band) moment. What was the question? She asked why I had ever changed styles from the 1st draft to the 2nd draft. Bells and whistles went off in my head! Why indeed? Well, there is no reason I can’t change back, is there? No. That is what editing is about. We can change our minds. We can make 180 or 360 turns. We can cut out, add in and re-splice scenes and chapters.

So here are my writing tips for today in #lessonslearnedwhenediting …

  • Always trust your first instinct & Always trust your story
  • The story is your own, hold your own pen and write the story you must write the way it needs to be written because the writing is not done until you type The End.
  • You can always do a 360 and return to your first instinct…It is never too late until it is too late.

Have you ever second-guessed your first instinct & then ended up doing a 360 back to that first instinct?

Has a WIP ever fought you and just not jelled? – What did you do?

Go wandering… Get lost a little…

Are you ready to lose the map?

I love road trips. Always have. It started when I was a babe in my mother’s arms and the minute the vehicle started I was in “happy-land”. I love road trips with no clear destination in mind. You know, those times when you get in the vehicle and just drive following the road as your only map. Travelling fuels my sense of adventure, exploration and discovering the great unknown. The best adventures don’t usually happen on the main highway. They usually happen when you take that pothole-ridden abandoned side-road. There’s a sense of risk maybe even danger. Your adrenaline is fizzing through your bloodstream. Anything can happen. It might not all be good but it will be an adventure.

So what’s road trips got to do with this post. Everything. To get very profound, life is a road trip: unpredictable, risky, mapless, pitstops unknown, destination murky and a complete adventure. But this is not a post on the profound meaning of life. That is for another day. This is a post about writing, story, creativity and inspiration.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

Writing both as a vocation and the act of writing individual stories is a lot like a road trip. As a writer, words are my vehicle and inspiration is my driver and gritting-your-teeth-clenching-your-knuckles persistence is the fuel that makes this trip possible. With writing even if I start with a map, I usually tend to veer off the main road and take that tempting side-road. Sometimes these side-roads turn out to be dead ends or cliff tops but the beauty of a vehicle is that it reverses as well so I can always turn back. But more often than not these side-roads tend to give me nuggets of pure gold. They give me the little twist in the tail in my plot, they work out that ugly knot you may have written yourself into and sometimes they change your whole plot into something even better.

I am on just such an adventure right now with my two WIPs. One of them is in the final drafting stage and the other is new and shiny and keeps on catching my eye. I had a map with the first WIP, all neatly outlined. But something was not working, some magic was missing. So I figured the map was holding me back. I threw the map away, refueled with some gritty persistence and took the pitted side road. I am about 2/3 way through edits and the characters are driving it. I stopped thinking and directing so much and just let them take the wheel. It does mean that Book 2 is going to change a little from the original map but that is the beauty of a side-road: Change. When you edit a draft, you need to tear it apart, change it up, stretch it thin and then do it again. You have to get brutal with your plot and you have to get brutal with your ego. You have to buckle up and just keep going, hold on through the rocky patches and speed wobbles but stay in the driver’s seat.

As for my new and shiny WIP, this one is going to be a road-trip completely off the map and off the highway. My creative synapses are sparking off major electric sparks of excitement. The story is gritty, the characters are raw and I am ready for this road trip. I am also ready for a new adventure. I do love the final draft WIP but I know what happens on that road trip, I have seen the destination in the distance. This new WIP is a trip into the unknown but so far the landscape is stripped down to that raw and natural beauty you find in a vast desert where the horizon seems endless. It is just the beginning of this story’s road trip and I have already thrown the map away. I am ready for the adventures these characters are going to take me on. My adrenaline is buzzing.

So what about you?

Do you love road trips?

Are you one of those people who has to have a map and navigator?

Are you ready to lose the map and get lost?

Have you ever found you had to change up the whole plot of your story, you had to get muddled to get found?

Always extra room in my closet for some…Dress me Inspiration

“Fashion is as profound and critical a part of the social life of man as sex, and is made up of the same ambivalent mixture of irresistible urges and inevitable taboos.” – Rene Konig

I know that I have been lax in posting on the blogs but hopefully this post of inspiration will make up for it. Though I am a writer and should be more focused on words than anything else, I am also a very visual person. I have spoken before about how I create vision boards for each of my WIPs and even for future works. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but for me one picture can spark off a whole manuscript. One of my favourite forms of vision boards are when I find clothing for my characters. I never need an excuse to stroll through fashion magazines/sites but when I can mark it off as “work” in research, the satisfaction is doubled.

"Everything you own should have value, either because it's functional or beautiful or you just love it."-- Peter Walsh

A week ago I was invited to sign up to a new social network: Pinterest. I had heard about it for a while beforehand and had even had friends who signed up but I resisted the lure of another social network. The resistance proved futile and my curiosity finally won out. I wanted to know what all the cool “kids” were on about. I wanted to be in on the secret too. So a friend kindly invited me (like most deliciously secretive societies, Pinterest membership is by invite/request for the time being) to Pinterest and within a few moments I was in and had my own Pinterest boards.

 “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” – Yves Saint Laurent

Pinterest is fantastic for a person like me who is a vision board junkie. It is set up much like a regular cork board vision board you would set up at home. You create all these boards, title them, describe them and then you “pin” your interesting images, either your own from your computer’s drive or pinned/linked from other online sites. The great thing with Pinterest is that the original creator of the image is credited and you also have the original link from where you found the image in the first place. This cuts down on your web-browser bookmarks and keeps all your visual inspiration in one tidy place.

” ‘Style’ is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.”           – John Fairchild

So here for example is my Pinterest board for my current WIP trilogy – The Curse`d. So on this board I have a few of the images that I have used for inspiration for my WIP, whether it be settings, culture types, clothing and characters.

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” – Coco Chanel

Which brings me to CLOTHING and STYLE. Two of my favourite interests but also vital to a story. I don’t know about you, but if I can picture the characters the way they are dressed it really gives me a picture in my mind. The type of clothing worn by some characters can tell me much about who they are. It also tells me when and where the story is set. Clothing/Style of characters can tell me about whether the character is a businessman/woman, a lady/man of leisure, a woman/man of action and it can also tell me what the character wants me to know about them. Clothing can also be symbolic of a character’s emotions. Memorable outfits by literary characters/film characters come to mind at the drop of a hat and we can recall the stories behind these outfits. Think of the green dress in Atonement or the fire dress in The Hunger Games. Clothing can make a character stand out from all the others. In a sense the fashions in a novel are characters in and of themselves.

 “Fashion is born by small facts, trends, or even politics, never by trying to make little pleats and furbelows, by trinkets, by clothes easy to copy, or by the shortening or lengthening of a skirt.” – Elsa Schiaparelli

I love the societies that my current trilogy is set in: a mix of contemporary urban, early Victorian society and Romany Gypsies. The inspiration for the clothing is almost limitless. You have the exquisite formality of the Victorian era, the romanticism of the Romany Gypsy culture and the simplicity and understated sexiness of the urban-contemporary.

“What I really love about them… is the fact that they contain someone’s personal history…I find myself wondering about their lives. I can never look at a garment… without thinking about the woman who owned it. How old was she? Did she work? Was she married? Was she happy?… I look at these exquisite shoes, and I imagine the woman who owned them rising out of them or kissing someone…I look at a little hat like this, I lift up the veil, and I try to imagine the face beneath it… When you buy a piece of vintage clothing you’re not just buying the fabric and thread – you’re buying a piece of someone’s past.” – Isabel Wolff

So here for your pleasure are some style/clothing images that have been the inspiration behind my WIP.

This is the inspiration for one of my MCs.

This dress is the dress that my MC will mean in a key moment in her story.

This is another key piece worn by my MC later in her story.

The inspiration for the debonair man who catches my MC’s eye and heart.

This is inspiration for my second MC but later in the trilogy.

This is my inspiration for my hero.

This is inspiration for my second MC.

Writers: What do you use for fashion inspiration in your novels?

Readers: What are your favourite outfits from the pages of fiction?

 

April…It is all about the “A” in Attitude

March is over and we are already into the second quarter of 2012. Don’t look now, the year is flying by. So how are those goals, ambitions, resolutions and aims looking? You know, the ones you made in that fresh first blush of 2012. Some of you may be feeling pretty damn happy with how the year is going so far but then some of you will be wanting to throw up in your hands in frustration and just bury your head in hibernation… For me, this year has been a mixed bag so far … I have taken steps forward and I have wanted to step back and throw things. But this is not a moan or a groan… You don’t have the time for that and I don’t have the energy for that. Three months are done. Three months are gone. No point in complaining. If you stumbled off the path to success, it is not too late! You just have to keep walking and when you don’t have strength to walk, keep crawling as long as you are moving FORWARD! So say it with me now: Goodbye March, Hello April!

Make April all about the “A” in ATTITUDE. My April is about being a FIGHTER. No, fighting is not wrong at least not if it is done the right way. The FIGHTING I am talking about is the Fight to put your own stamp on this world. Personality can’t really change but ATTITUDE can. You can choose what Attitude you are going to begin April with. Don’t give up just because you are behind. Behind is a good place to start from, it motivates you to kick some ass and get ahead. Fight for your goals. Fight for your dreams. Fight for your wins. 

Think of 2 boxers in a boxing match. (I meant the human kind not the dog kind.) The fight is not always won by a knock out. It is won by the fighter with the most guts who gets the most “right” hits in. The point is to keep fighting until that whistle blows. So are you going to be the fighter who backs away or are you going to keep swinging and stay in the fight? It’s your choice. Nobody can make it for you.

Over the last few months I have been doing battle with one of manuscripts. It had got to the point that I wanted to give up fighting for it and wanted to just give it up. I was very close to hitting the delete button on the whole thing. But I have this stubborn streak in me that just won’t quit and won’t give in or give up. I think my ms has a little of that too. One of the people in my life, a writer, friend and mentor, got “real” with me and told me to quit “bitching” about how much I hate this manuscript and to send it to her for a second opinion. She told me I was not allowed to delete it, was not allowed to do anything to it until she had read the whole thing and offered me her thoughts and opinions. So reluctantly I sent it though in the back of my mind I was still going to delete it but this time I would have even more reason because she would tell me what I knew all along: this manuscript sux! She read it. She skyped me. She told me she loved the story and was super p…ed off that I had not sent her the ending as she was left wanting more. (I had deleted the whole ending because the ms was not feeling right to me.)

HOLD ON! What! She “loved” it. This turned my decision on its head. We skyped some more and she convinced me that there was something special in this ms. It took a long conversation (ok it was more of a pep-talk) to remind me why this story and these characters had called to me in the first place. So I agreed to her kind offer that she would walk the edits through with me chapter by chapter. This is what I have been doing the last couple of weeks.

You know what? The manuscript’s beautiful layers are being revealed bit by bit. I am back in love with the story. I can see the holes and I know what will fill them. I still have quite a bit of work to do but I am now excited because I am back on the path and walking up that hill. But the great thing is that when I get too caught up in doubts (or ego as she likes to say) I have another pair of eyes on it. Sometimes working on your own manuscript is a bit like looking in the mirror. You don’t always see the truth or the beautiful parts because you are examining the faults too closely. Sometimes you have to look at yourself through another’s eyes to appreciate the “real” you. I think it is the same way with a manuscript. And this is why it is important to have a writing BFF or two. 

What’s a writing BFF? Let me start by what they aren’t. Writing BFFs are not YES People. Writing BFFs are not jealous of your success. Writing BFFs are not your mothers or your puppies. Writing BFFs are honest. Writing BFFs will not pander to your particular brand of head-crap. They are the people who will tell you the truth about your writing. They are the people in your corner who will wipe your brow and then push you back into the ring even when you want to leave the stadium. They are the people in your corner that stop you from hitting delete just because you can/want to. They are the people who are there, whether you are flying high with success or at the end of your tether over the edge. They are the people who understand my particular brand of self-doubt/ battle against perfection because they are running the same marathon. I am lucky to have a few writing BFFs, each vital for my sanity. A thousand thank you’s to you!

Writing is hard. This is not an easy thing we have chosen to do. We put ourselves and our work out there for people to judge and sometimes the judgements (though not personal) feel very personal and feel like a kick in the gut. I was asked the other day whether I regret quitting the day job and doing this writing thing full-time. The writer who asked me was thinking of doing the same thing. I was honest. I told them that it is hard work and it is an uphill run most of the time. But I also told them it was the best choice I have ever made. I don’t regret it not one bit. Writing is also not a race: not a race against other writers or a race to finish. It is a marathon. You are the only runner on this marathon. It is your path and only you can run it. Success might take time but that is ok. You have time. Don’t waste the time you have. I may never make millions from it (if wishes were gold) but this is not why I am on this path. Millions of dollars might make life easier but it doesn’t grant happiness. Chasing your dreams gives you a reason for happiness and obtaining those dreams makes you happy. I write because this is what I love to do. It is not the only thing I can do but it is the thing that makes me happiest. 

Maybe you have been in the same spot as I found myself a couple of weeks ago. Maybe you have been tempted to hit delete or worse to think you are not a writer and want to give up. STOP. Get honest with yourself. Lose the EGO. Get yourself a writing BFF you trust and let them get “real” with you. You may be surprised like I was. You may be talked down from the edge like I was. So make this your month to get real with your dreams and get back to the reason why you started in this fight in the first place. Don’t step out of the ring just because you got scared. There is nothing wrong with being scared. But there is something wrong with fear stopping you in your tracks and knocking you down. I am sure even if we speak to the best of the best in any industry, they all have moments of fear. But it is FIGHTING through that FEAR that is the important difference between failure and success. Try for success, you have nothing to lose!

Have you had doubts fill your head? Have you had an MS you wanted to/did delete? What got you through it? Tell me, I would love to know. After all we’re all just dreamers chasing a fantastic dream. How many people really get to say they chased their dream, win or lose, they did not give up? That is true success. The rest is just icing on the top. 

Who needs edits? I opt for Brain Surgery instead!

…No really I am not joking…after the round of migraine attacks I have had just this year I am ready for elective brain surgery, failing that a brain transplant from a non-perfectionist…

Archeological remains of patients of brain sur...
Archeological remains of patients of brain surgery performed by ancient doctors of the Inca Empire in the 15th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So March is National Chainsaw-Wielding Editing Month…However for me, I have been deep in editing mode for about 6 months. But for me March is the If I don’t step away now I will …. End-Game. So what have I hated learnt about the brain surgery editing process?

 

  1. … I am a Control-Freak Perfectionist and my own worst enemy not to mention my novel’s. 

  2.  …Don’t over-edit…That is what an “Editor” is there for.

  3. Step away from the manuscript slowly when you have the itch to wield a chainsaw. (Or make sure there is a tree nearby that needs pruning if you cannot step away.)

  4. … In the words of a very wise CP : Say to your EGO “SHOVE OFF” or use more colorful  4 letter terms, I am sure I don’t need to elaborate here.

  5. Step away from the manuscript when you want to kill all your characters from frustration.

  6. …Make sure you have someone in your life who will call you on the head-crap you put yourself through in editing mode…

  7. …Do not hit delete (as tempting as it is) instead Step away and send it to that person who does not accept head-crap from you. (Tip: Make sure you truly are scared this person will whack you if you don’t let them help. Fear is a great motivator to get rid of the EGO.)

  8. …Don’t be so struck with stage-fright or that dreaded EGO to not ask   demand help from any corner willing to give it.

  9. Step away from the manuscript when it starts turning your hair follicles white and your fingers are being chewed to the bone from tension and nerves.

  10. Step away from the edits and play with another WIP to rejuvenate your creative self-esteem…It helps if the next WIP is all about a serial killer…There is something soothing about killing off your secondary characters in a new story. Great stress-reliever.


When all else fails, buy yourself a bottle of red wine, a ginormous slab of chocolate and curl up on the couch with your favourite thriller (Then making sure all the windows are closed, you can scream out your frustrations with the excuse that you are scared of the killer lurking on the screen.)

… What doesn’t kill you, (or make you kill others) will make you stronger….Breathe…Count to 100…Stretch…

So nod yes if you have learned any of the same lessons above as I have. Nod yes if editing your own ms has given you grey hair and/or a license to wield a chainsaw. Nod yes if you wished a virus would eat up your ms so that you could just forget it and head onto the next story.

Now I am stepping away, putting down the chainsaw, staying away from the Destroy “Delete” key and off to play with my new WIP…Followed by red wine, chocolate and the scariest thriller I can find on the movie channel.

Rinse & Repeat: What doesn’t kill me (or make me kill others outside of fiction) will make me stronger!

I can sleep when I am dead…

…this…according to my internal clock (life of an insomniac) and the alarm clock that is my Muse (life of a writer)…motto of story = Drink more coffee!

Sleep is over-rated anyway…No seriously, before you lecture me on the importance of sleep, I rate sleep highly especially because it tends to elude me. Main reason # 1: I am an insomniac, irrefutable, incurable. Believe me I have tried everything from acupuncture to sleeping pills to sleeping herbs to lavender sachets on pillows to silk eye masks to white noise machines. I have just learned to accept that about myself. Reason # 2: My mind does not switch off…I can lie in bed for hours with my eyes closed and still sleep does not arrive. I think I need to send a “redirect all mail” to the Sandman as he has obvious issues with getting to me in time each night. Reason # 3: (and the reason that led me to writing this post) My muse drags me out from my sleep-starved state, usually just as I have finally fallen asleep, at the craziest hours with the best ideas and sometimes if I am lucky enough with the best scenes.

Funnily enough I can be sitting in front of the computer all day waiting for inspiration to strike and nothing happens. But come the hour between 3 -4 am and he won’t shut up. But don’t get me wrong I am not complaining. Thank goodness my Muse won’t shut up. But just once it would be nice if he kept human hours not cat hours. Now you can see why this blog is called “Wrestling the Muse”: He is usually trying to drag me kicking and screaming from a very sleep-starved state and I am usually wrestling to get back to sleep. Who wins? The Muse. Sorry Sandman. But my writerly Muse trumps you every time and kicks your butt to the curb…sleeping dust or no sleeping dust.

This was the scene in my bedroom this morning at about 4.45am. I know this was the time because when I was dragged from my sleep (which had only arrived at 3.15am) I looked at the clock to see if I had actually made it to past sunrise which my aching mental muscles prodded me into denying. What dragged me from sleep? My Muse and the first scene of my new WIP. I saw the scene as clear as if I watching it on a high-definition 3d cinematic screen. For about a minute I wrestled with my Muse and gambled whether if I rolled over and ignored it, I would be able to remember it when I woke up after sunrise. But the wrestling did not last long as I knew the gamble would come with the higher risk of me not remembering what I had seen. So without switching on the light, I grabbed my iPod touch and logged into my Evernote app (Not just a name-dropping plug…This app is amazing! My favourite note-taking/note-syncing app – seriously you should try it out!) and wrote exactly what I saw in my mind’s eye. I barely knew what I was writing as I was still in a 1/2 sleep/wake state. Then I rolled over and fell exhaustedly into sleep again. When I woke the second time this morning (this time after sunrise) I had the next 2 scenes ready to write as well. The Muse’s prodding was so strong that instead of my usual dreamless sleep I fell straight back into the scenes of my WIP.

So now I sit with the first three scenes, two new characters and very little sleep. But I am not tired. Instead I am high on adrenaline. The exact same way I get when watching a scary movie or after rigorous exercise is how I am feeling right now. It is early afternoon now and I am buzzing with adrenaline, excitement and anticipation. To be honest, the scenes that I dreamt were not how I was planning on starting the WIP. I had a total other beginning in mind or rather my conscious mind had another plan entirely. But my Muse / my Sub-conscious knew better this time. This beginning, coming from the depths of a sleep-starved mind is much stronger and more visceral in intensity than what I had planned in my conscious awake state.

Perhaps there is something to that scientifically speaking…Perhaps because our subconscious mind knows no inhibitions nor any doubts, what comes from these sleep-starved states is more pure and real than what we can plan in our wake states. Perhaps also it is because our conscious editor is not active in our sub-conscious self. We are only creative and instinctual creatures in this raw, sub-conscious state. Perhaps writers are all just lucid dreamers more in touch with listening to our subconscious selves. Perhaps we need to not fight our subconscious creative instincts with our conscious plans.

For me, as much as I can plan a story or plot a pathway on a map for my characters, rarely does my story or my characters stay on the path. I tend to always “colour outside the lines” and my best writing comes from these early morning wrestlings with my Muse. Funnily enough new stories always arrive when I am busy with another story. They never wait their turn. But then again I will take that over “searching and not finding” inspiration any day.

So on second thought I won’t send a complaint to the Sandman for missing my address yet again. Instead I am thankful for wrestling with my muse whether it be at pre-dawn or post-sunrise. I know the real problems will start when I am no longer being dragged from my sleep to write down that fleeting piece of inspiration, that one of a kind sentence or that crucial scene.

>>What about you? Are you often dragged out of sleep to write down that idea? How many ideas have you lost the tail end of because you rolled over and chose sleep over inspiration? Do your ideas for new stories wait their turns for you to finish the current WIP? Are we just slaves to our inspiration and creativity? Well as long as my inspiration / creativity / imagination/ sub-conscious / Muse keeps my notepad full of ideas and my stories full of new scenes than I am happy to be a slave to it. Anyway…I can sleep when I am dead.<<

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
― Ray Bradbury

Sneak Peek…Tease…Unzip…

You met my Amazing Cover Artiste, Silviya Yordanova (@Morteque on DeviantArt.com), in my last post:

Cover Lust

So….

As promised….

I promised you a first sneak peek teaser unzipping of my new cover art for my WIP…

Designed by Silviya Yordanova.

Ta-da….Here it is…Hold your breath….It’s juicy….

RingARingORoses-Teaser(1)

Ring a Ring o’ Roses  

A Paranormal Historical – Book 1 in The Cursed Trilogy

by Kim Koning

Kintala | Balance is Sacrifice

Between what we know

and what we fear to believe…

One place | Two times

Two women | One secret

Eliza Chambers

A woman who speaks to the dead

Vortimo…

Truth hides in reflections

Beth Cooper

does not believe in Ghosts

Both women have the Gift

One accepts the Gift

but denies the Truth

One denies the Gift

but seeks the Truth

The Secret of the Past

brings revenge to the House

Kintala…

Balance requires Sacrifice

~~~

“A gust of wind swept over it and a rush of heavy black wings lifted from the chimneys.
The Ravens kept their silence, roosting in their nests, a court of jesters wearing the colours of mourning.
Their eyes missed no secrets and their wings shadowed them with darkness. Every night they took flight.
Their wings of coal like liquid night.
They hunted while the living slept.
Their prey did not hear them until the talons of fate caught up in their fur.
Death came swift and silently.
It was dressed in feathered robes of black.
Its talons gloved in the jeweled ruby tones of life.
As the dawn sky cracked open the night, death flew home to savour the sweet taste of life in its talons.
It landed on the cold gray stone.
It watched as the night leaked into soft light.
The song it sang farewelled the night of death with a haunting cry.
It watched over them.
Its dark gray stone walls were cemented with their secrets.
Shadows stood veiled in its windows.
It breathed slowly and ominously.
The walls would not give up the blood of their despair.
The windows shuttered the grey of their shame.
The doors kept the dead and living captive.
It was their keeper: this court of stone.
They called it The Raven’s Court.”

– Excerpt from my WIP (A Paranormal Historical Trilogy)
Ring a Ring o’ Roses 
~ Book 1 – The Cursed Trilogy ~