It’s Time to Face the Music

Hi everyone.

Today I want to talk about how I use music in my writing process.

First, let me say that music is an absolutely essential part of my life. I listen to music every single day – when I’m cooking, or doing the dishes, or just generally chilling after dinner; in the car, on the el, or the bus. It’s there, like nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide. It’s the air I breathe.

So naturally, music finds its way into my writing, too.

Like a lot of people, I discovered that “regular” music – you know the kind with people singing words – is too distracting while I’m actually writing. Songs have a funny way of taking up space in your head, and before you know it, you’re writing down the lyrics instead of your story. (Sure, it’s funny until someone gets sued.)

Anyway, now I listen to either instrumental tracks – usually classical things online – or “white noise” things I find on YouTube. My current favorite is a writer’s cabin in the woods. There’s a manual typewriter, a crackling fire, and a wet, drippy thunderstorm going on. It’s a kind of music, and it works for me. The only negative is that it makes me have to go to the bathroom. A lot.

 

 

 

 

I also use music to inspire me when I’m getting to know my characters. Like a lot of writers I put together playlists, one for each major character. These playlists always consist of songs that I feel represent these people – like, if they were in a movie, this is what you’d hear whenever they appear on screen. The songs become inextricably linked with the characters in my mind, so whenever I listen to them I learn new things about my people. It’s like magic and when I’ve picked the right songs for them, I end up loving them even more.

 

 

 

How about you? Do you use music in some form when you write?

I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

 

Interview with a Reluctant Celebrity

Hi everyone. Welcome back.

Today we’re going to have a little fun and interview the main character in my novel, The Terrible Strange.

This idea came from multiple “What do I write about in my blog when I write fiction, but I haven’t been published yet?” websites. At first I thought this was kind of dumb, but now I realize that it could be lots of fun. Plus, potential readers will get to know my characters better.

So here goes … Oh, and the interviewer is one of those “young and hip” entertainment journalists. Let’s call her Micki.

Micki: Today we’re talking with Jacob Grey, the protagonist of the bestselling novel, The Terrible Strange. Jake, how would you describe yourself? What do you look like?

Jake: What the fuck are you talking about? I’m standing right here, you tell me what I look like.

Micki: Uh, okay. Well, you’re good-looking, obviously, and wearing jeans, ripped jeans, and er, a nice, white tee shirt … and your hair is dark, and a little shaggy … and you’re carrying a green Jansport backpack.

 

 

 

 

 

Jake: Exactly.

Micki: So does the backpack mean you’re a student, Jake?

Jake: Why are you asking all these stupid, fucking questions? Of course I’m a student. I’m in grad school at UPenn. Is there a problem?

Micki:  Oh, no. No. Nothing like that. It’s just that … well, you don’t exactly strike me as the Ivy League type.

 

 

 

Jake: Wait, so, you ask me here to interview me for some stupid online magazine, but all you want to do is stereotype me? Are you trying to say I don’t look smart enough to go to Penn?

Micki: No! Of course not. I apologize. Really, Jake. I’m so sorry. Uh, can we please move on? I have to finish these questions. Please?

Jake: Fine. Go ahead. Ask your damn questions.

Micki: Can you name one thing you did as a kid that you’re most proud of today?

Jake: That’s easy. By the time I was five years old I knew how to pour a beer with the absolute minimum amount of foam on top. 

Micki: Er, okay. That’s wonderful. And how about the most embarrassing thing?

 

Jake: Are you kidding me? I’m not going to tell you that. I hardly fucking know you.

Micki: Uh, okay. How about this – Did you have a best friend when you were a child, and if so, what were they like?

Jake: My best friend is Maya Davenport. She’s fucking brilliant. She’s a grad student in physics, also at Penn. Her dad works for SEPTA, and her Nana is awesome. We’ve known each other, like, forever. 

Micki: That’s wonderful, Jake. It sounds like you two are still friends, is that correct?

Jake: Jesus. Yes, we’re still friends. I would have thought it was obvious from my use of the present tense when talking about her. How did you even get this fucking job? What are they paying you, because it’s obviously too much.

Micki: This is actually an internship, so I’m not getting paid.

Jake: Wow. It sucks to be you. How many more of these stupid questions are there?

Micki: There are 30 altogether.

Jake: Fuck.

 

Well, there you have it.

Jake is definitely one of those people who are fierce and prickly on the outside, but once you get to know him he’s all soft and squishy on the inside. 

 

 

 

Have you ever interviewed one of your characters? I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Let me know if you want Jake to answer any more questions.

So badass

Hi everyone.

While writing my novel, I’ve come to appreciate what badasses each of my characters is in their own way.

This got me to thinking about what exactly is a badass? How can you tell if someone has achieved the state of badassery? Or if they’re merely posers who wish they were badass?

Please note, these are my personal definitions. There are other definitions out there, but if you want to be a badass in my book, here’s the deal …

First off, let’s talk about who is NOT a badass:

  • Anyone who thinks being an asshole to other people is a sign of strength
  • People who are cruel to animals for ANY reason
  • Anyone who never stops talking about how badass they are
  • People who do cruel or questionable things simply to impress another cruel or questionable person
  • Anyone who breaks shit just for the hell of it, or who starts fights for no goddamn good reason

Now, how do we define a true badass? A badass is:

  • Not an asshole
  • Someone who doesn’t go out of their way to look tough. They ARE tough.
  • Kind to animals. Period.

 

 

 

 

  • True to themselves. They refuse to live inauthentic lives to try to impress others.

 

 

 

  • Someone who never preys on the weak
  • Never afraid to show kindness

 

How about you? Would you describe any of your characters as badasses? How so? Do you personally know any badasses? How does my definition measure up to yours?

I’d love to hear about it in the Comment section.

A rose by any other name

Hi everyone.

Today I want to share something from my current WIP.

One of the characters, Kostya, is Russian, and I am using Russian curses or insults wherever possible in order to give his dialogue some flavor.

It turns out, there are a LOT of Russian curses.

So here are a few of my favorites (so far). Please note, I’m not including the original Russian words, obviously, since that would require a Cyrillic font on my computer.

These are best spoken with a heavy Russian accent. Enjoy!

  • Durak – fool (starting off nicely. If you are easily offended, NOW would be a good time to visit some other blog.)
  • Govnyuk – shit, shithead (this was Vladimir Lenin’s favorite word, I’m told, so use it at your own risk)
  • Razyebi – a fuckup, a screw up (ah, this describes so many people I know)
  • Urodina – feminine: gargoyle (apparently, there are no masculine gargoyles? Who knew?)

  • Sukin syn – a son of a bitch (a classic)
  • Blyadina – a big-time whore (well, at least I’m a BIG-TIME whore, and not some nasty, little poser)

 

 

 

 

  • Huy – prick, dick, cock (that’s pronounced hoo-ey, ladies and gents and others)
  • Pizda – cunt, pussy, twat (is it just me, or does this sound a LOT like pizza?)
  • Zhopa – ass (well, what can you say after you’ve said zhopa? I mean, really?)

Well, let’s stop here.

There are SO MANY more it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole.

Please don’t bother sending me hate over this. I’ve been in love with the Russian language since I was about 9 years old when I taught myself the alphabet. Don’t ask me why.

I would LOVE to know if you use words or phrases from other languages to give your characters some depth? If so, which ones?

Please let me know in the Comment section.

Thanks for reading.

Cheating is such an ugly word

Hi everyone.

What do you do when you want to write a blog post, but you have a hard time tearing yourself away from your other writing?

This. This is what you do.

 

 

 

 

 

Some people may think a post built around memes is cheating.

I prefer to think of it as deferring to someone who had the same idea as you, only they said it better.

Coincidentally, both of these speak to me on a very personal level.

Every time I sit down to write, I talk to myself in order to shake off the normal world and hopefully make the transition to the world of make-believe. It’s like a little pep talk.

And this is what I say to remind myself that writing is a terrible, horrible, wonderful way to live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And …

 

 

 

 

 

What are some of the things you tell yourself when you write?

I’d love to hear about them in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Everybody’s Got Pain

As I’m writing this blog post, the anesthesia from my root canal is wearing off. Needless to say, I’m in pain. A lot of pain.

This made me think about how we deal with pain.

Sometimes, if it’s bad enough, we just curl up under the covers and will ourselves to sleep until it’s over. However, too many people never have the luxury of allowing their pain to crash over them and carry them out to sea. These people – and they are usually poor people – are told to just “push through it” and “you can’t stay home with every little ache and pain.”

The implication being that if you give into pain you are weak, you are unworthy, and you are definitely not getting paid for today if you do.

Consequently, that’s how I knew now was a perfect time to get this post written. And so here we are.

Is this a sign of dedication to my craft, my blog? Of strength of character? Or of brainwashing and stupidity?

Hard to say.

So instead of whining about my own pitiful problems today I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my main character, Jake’s, tattoos.

Jake has a large slamming door tattooed on his back. It’s there so he won’t forget the night his father left forever, his mother screaming “Good riddance” at the empty air.

There’s an old coffee pot covered with spider webs on his left shoulder. It’s to remind himself of all the times five year old Jake got up at 2:30 am just to make his dad a cup of coffee when he returned from the bar. 

 

 

The yellow license plate, dinged and bent at one corner, that sits below his rib cage belongs to the car that killed his mother as she was crossing Roosevelt Boulevard when he was six.

 

Yeah, everybody’s got pain.

How do you deal with your own pain? Do you dive in, or try to ride it out? Also, what kind of pain have you dished out to your characters? And how do they deal with it?

I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.

Timelines

Hi everyone.

I’m currently stuck on my novel’s timeline, so I thought I’d share a bit of that hellishness with anybody out there.

Obviously timelines are important in any story, but especially in long,  complicated stories such as in a novel. Not only do you need to know what is happening in your novel, you need to know when it’s happening.

And if you’re a visual person like me it is so much better to see the important events in your story laid out in front of you than to merely think about them.

That’s where timelines come in. You can:

  • make your own with pen and paper,
  • use a calendar, or
  • find a program online.

 

 

I have, in the past, tried making my own and found that my ideal timeline consists of one, long sheet of paper tacked to my living room walls — satisfying, but not very practical.

Calendars are probably a lot of fun to use, but all those little boxes feel confining to me. Don’t judge me.

I’ve recently come across an online option on writershelpingwriters.net. They have a resource called One Stop for Writers that includes a 2 week free trial of all these cool features like Character Builders, Story Maps, Scene Maps, and you guessed it — Timelines. So far I’m really liking it.

Just so you know — I’m not affiliated with this group at all. I just thought you all would like to check them out.

Anyway, back to playing with my timeline.

How about you guys? Do you find timelines useful, or just another excuse NOT to be writing?

Please let me know in the Comments.

Thanks for reading.

10 Ways to Stay Creative Despite Everything

Writers, like most people, fall into slumps – you know where our brains aren’t capable of much more than wondering what to make for dinner? And even that can be too much sometimes.

So when the dreaded slumps hit you know it’s time to shake things up.

 

 

 

It used to be that just going out and socializing with friends would do the trick – talk all night about non-writing subjects, eat some tasty junk food, and maybe have a few beers – only that’s not really a good idea now, despite what some ignorant asshats say.

 

 

 

 

So, here are 10 ways to kick start your creativity in the Covid19 world we live in now.

  1. Create an Inspiration Board – also known as Vision Boards or Mood Boards —  This can be for your current novel or something else entirely. I made my first inspiration board when I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I covered a large piece of foam core board with pictures of beauty and health, along with images of my ideal environment (a beach house down the shore). I placed it over my monitor and looked at it every day. It helped a lot.

2. Listen to music – I listen to instrumental stuff when I’m writing because the lyrics in songs just distract me. But when I’m not writing, I love rock, pop, rap, R & B, metal, and even — God help me — some country,  (hey, Kacey Musgraves and Shania Twain… ‘sup, girls?). Music wakes up my brain and fills my soul with gladness.

3. Meditate – I started meditating a few months back, and once I got into the swing of it I realized it really did spark my writer’s brain. Plus, doing it makes you feel just a little bit virtuous.

4. Watch Netflix – when your brain is running on empty you need to pick other people’s brains. Movies and TV shows are loaded with the creative ideas of many, many people so dive in – the water’s fine.

5. Get a new hobby/learn a new skill – depending on what you choose, this can be either relaxing or demanding. Either way it will get you out of your accursed writer’s head for a while.

6. Read books – both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve found that reading in my own genre tends to make me either contemptuous or envious – neither of which is good for me. So I try to read in other genres when I read fiction. Non-fiction really ignites my brain, especially the well-written stuff. Unfamiliar times, events, and people turn me on and always give me new ideas for stories. Reading Dragon Teeth, by Michael Crichton right now.

7. Doodle or sketch – even if you’re not artistic. This is tough if you’re not artistic, but once you chain your ego to a parking meter outside (where it can bark its little heart out), it is very freeing and a lot of fun.

8. Take naps – oh, I can hear people screaming about naps being “a waste of time” now, but really, studies show that a refreshed brain is a productive brain. Take that, Corporate America.

9. Learn how to cook a new cuisine – if your idea of “ethnic cuisine” is Taco Tuesday, maybe you should branch out a little. So far I’ve cooked vegetarian, Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Mexican, and Japanese meals. Be brave. Even less than perfect meals tastes great.

10. Have sex – this is kind of a tricky one as far as stimulating one’s creativity goes. Some people feel energized afterwards, while others just feel sleepy. However, considering the amount of physical, emotional, and psychological energy being exchanged here it certainly couldn’t hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

Safe sex, everyone!

How about you?

What are some of the ways you keep your creativity all shiny and new?

Let me know in the Comments section.

Thanks for reading.