A Year of Muses To Come

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

– Ray Bradbury

This is SO my New Year’s resolution – which was the same resolution I had for 2015.

What’s yours?

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A Night With Neil Gaiman


So tonight I got to see and hear Neil Gaiman in his penultimate appearance before he goes off for “a year or so to be a writer.”

“Writing is really lonely…but it’s time to do a novel.”

He started the evening with two stories, the first one about Harlan Ellison and the second about Terry Pratchett. Then he read a poem he wrote shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks about ideas which is his credo, so to speak.

“I believe that ideas are invisible and they linger and sometimes they are true.”

I loved his answers to questions people posed before the talk, among them his advice about writing (read, even the things you aren’t into), writer’s block (doesn’t really exist though being stuck in a story does) and how long it takes him to write a story (between 2-1/2 months for Oceans at the End of the Lane and 22 years for The Graveyard  Book).  He also read a short story, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury from his book of short stories, Trigger Warning.

“My biggest moment of self-doubt is probably the same reason in up here on the stage in front of you.”

I loved how he spoke about Amanda and his baby, Ash. I love the man, and have loved him since I first read American Gods so many years ago. And I count myself lucky for being there tonight.

Oh, and then I got myself this autographed copy of The Sleeper and The Spindle. So time to get reading!

Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 203, Ray Bradbury

With Camp NaNoWriMo all done (yet not yet dusted at 95K words and then some), it’s time to revisit some of my favorite authors.  Here’s an old/new interview on Ray Bradbury by the Paris Review.

I’m a California boy. I don’t tell anyone how to write and no one tells me…

….A conglomerate heap of trash, that’s what I am. But it burns with a high flame.

….I used to study Eudora Welty. She has the remarkable ability to give you atmosphere, character, and motion in a single line. In one line! You must study these things to be a good writer. Welty would have a woman simply come into a room and look around. In one sweep she gave you the feel of the room, the sense of the woman’s character, and the action itself. All in twenty words. And you say, How’d she do that? What adjective? What verb? What noun? How did she select them and put them together?

Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 203, Ray Bradbury.

Found Memory Thursday

Stuck at home with a sick child (he has a high fever but that doesn’t stop him from driving me nuts by running all over the house naked and refusing to rest), I was organizing crap here and there, when I spied a few misplaced treasured memories in the garage.

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Yes, that is amazing writer, Ray Bradbury!

I met Mr. Bradbury twice when I was an officer for our local writers’ club and he always came down to speak to a large crowd once a year ever since the club was formed more than fifteen or twenty years earlier.  After the talk, all the officers would then go to the club president’s home where Mr. Bradbury would regale all of us with more stories, this time more intimate and usually, I’d like to believe, the ones he would tell close friends.

In this photograph, the president asked me if I wanted to have a photograph taken with Mr. Bradbury after I had taken everyone else’s photos for the newsletter and I realized at that moment that I was actually ‘starstruck’ – or should be ‘writerstruck’ or ‘authorstruck’?

One of the most important things I learned from Mr. Bradbury was to never stop asking “what if” questions.  Keep asking them and write the stories to figure out the answer.

Because of that, I never have a dull moment to myself because there are just way too many questions to ask.

Aren’t there?

Pantser or a Plotter?

Someone asked me this today on Twitter and although I’ve never heard of the first term, since we were talking about writing, I figured it out right away.

And so I answered that I am a “seat of your pants” type of writer these days – a pantser.

I used to be a plotter – oh was I ever!  I plotted everything from the beginning of the story to kingdom come, till the cows came home and till the ink ran dry from both my pen and my mind, and I was left too dry and too exhausted to actually write out the damn story.

Sometimes it would happen in the middle of the story, by the time I’d reach 25K words, and once, when I reached 65K.  I plotted so much that I actually ran out of steam, and fall out of love for my technically drawn out characters and all their character arcs.  Oh, the tables and the charts would all be filled out, but the writing page would end up…empty.

And so, after almost ten years of not writing – totally burned out and besides, I had a real life to tend to, a baby to birth, etc. – I picked up the pen and began writing again.

Armed with my new iPad (this was a year and a half ago) and all the writing apps I could get my hands (and wallet) on, I started plotting…and plotting…and plotting.  I had story boarding apps, index card apps, even writing complete with music apps.

But my writing was dry and devoid of that oomph that comes with writing that seems just so organic, as if words just flowed freely from my pen, or from the artery that I’d just cut deep enough to produce a healthy flow of creative juices.

Then I came across this quote by Ray Bradbury:

Jump and unfold your wings as you fall

It told me about writing organically, just allowing words to flow through your fingers, just letting them all hang out.  And maybe later on, I could just trim them down or add to it, but at least there was something real on the page.

I also got rid of all those damn apps.

I started with a paranormal novel and looking back now – this was begun in September 2012 – I wrote without a muse inside my head.  Just faceless creatures walking to and fro reciting dialogue as I wrote – dialogue that was actually really good, but impersonal.

I was too afraid to put faces to the characters then, afraid that I would revert back to my old ways of plotting till the ink well ran dry and I’d fall out of love with the faces I’d chosen.

But being organic in my writing also meant welcoming new ideas in, allowing things that used to scare me back into my life.  It meant allowing a new muse to enter the threshold of my ‘mind palace’ and feel at home – and be an inspiration for me.

It meant that I needed to find him, and let him in.

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So these days, I can definitely say I’m an organic, seat-of-my-pants type of writer, one who has let the muse into her life and allows herself to play with words each and every day, even when the plots that form on the page often go on overdrive and become a bit too wild and crazy at times – but at least I can rein them all in later.

Plotting for me has become like making a sandwich.  I have the two pieces of bread to start with – my beginning and my end – and what goes inside, the filling, I fill it up as I go – as long as the goal is the same – to make it to the second piece of bread, that ending that I had loosely ‘written’ or thought out inside my head.

And so if you’re reading my stories these days, you’ll probably be asking yourself, ‘what is she thinking?’ or ‘where the hell is this going?’.

And the answer is – it’s a journey that begun at the beginning and is making its way to the end.  And along the way, you and I are simply on this one huge adventure – with you as the reader, and me, as its writer.

And boy, am I having fun.

I hope you are, too.

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You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

Somewhere in my garage is a photograph of writer Ray Bradbury and myself, him leaning against a cane and me with a big grin on my face.  At that time, I was one of the youngest officers of a writers’ group that Mr. Bradbury was an honorary member of, and each year, he’d make the trek (all 16 miles of it) to speak at an annual gathering that was open to the public.

After the gathering, we’d all get into our cars and make our way to the home of one of the senior officers of the group, a published author, and with whom Mr. Bradbury was very good friends with.  There, in a group of about fifteen or less, we’d have some tea or coffee and chat with Mr. Bradbury and listen to him tell his stories.

It didn’t matter that I’d hear the same stories stories year after year.  What mattered to me was that even after all those  years, he never stopped asking questions.

He loved asking questions that begun with “What if…” with that childlike quality that we often lose as we seek to shed the innocence of our early lives and feel that we need to be more mature if we’re to make it through the night.  He taught me to never stop asking questions especially in one’s quest to be a writer, to always seek the unknown and be forever curiouser and curiouser – for that’s how we discover life, even if we were never to walk out that front door.