Category Archives: Inspiration

Checking In and Some Thoughts on Current Events

Hello, my friend!  It sure has been awhile. I don’t know where the time has gone, but I’ve really missed your smile. 

~ Nelson ~ 

My oh my. It has been awhile.  The last few months have been filled with job hunts, landing a job and dealing with hosts of medical issues I hadn’t thought possible. I’ve thought a thousand times about sitting down at the computer to write, but the serious lack of energy / inspiration / motivation has kept me away. So I thought I would play a little catch up and hopefully it won’t be such a long time before my fingers grace the keyboard again.

First: What in the heck is going on in the world? I mean… SERIOUSLY?

In the past few months, it seems there has been a triple-dose of crazy run amok. I normally try to steer clear of more of the political hot-bed topics as this is more or less a me / writing type of blog. But let’s just get down to brass tacks here. This could be the bones of some great writing material.  In coming up with ideas for writing, I like to call my idea-file the “What If File.” Don’t laugh. I’m only creative on the page, not in my organizational skills. I leave that to my youngest daughter who is an organizational Jedi Master.  But I digress.  Back to the original thought of the here and now lunacy.

What if – the world actually thought it was okay to let Iran play with nukes?

What if – a once great Olympic athlete were given an award for courage, not for his athleticism, but for his, now her, transgendering to the masses and there was no public outcry, it was just another day at the office because no one cared?

What if – after a mass murderer is sentenced for killing a bunch of people in a theatre, a copy cat hundreds of miles away in another state lathers, rinses and repeats the same horrific crime?

What if – we all lived in a world where we didn’t have to listen to the latest “news” about Kim / Kanye or any other stupid “celebrity” and everyone minded their own business?  (And I say to myself… what a wonderful world.)

You see where I’m going with this? Take today’s headlines and ask yourself, “What if…” It’s a beautiful concept.


I have always loved astronomy and while I admittedly played with Barbie’s as a young girl, I also used my telescope to look up to the stars and wondered about what was out there. It’s a vast universe and the Hubble Telescope, long-range scans and other missions to the great beyond are showing us just how much. This brings me to a couple of points.

Pluto. I don’t care what NASA or any other scientist says. To me, it’s still a planet and the visual images recently released are spectacular.

BN-JN955_PLUTO0_P_20150724131944
NASA’s enhanced color image of Pluto was transmitted from the New Horizons spacecraft this week. PHOTO: NASA/REUTERS

Apparently there is another little Earth out there. It’s probably not habitable (in my opinion), but Kepler-452b has it’s own little orbit around a star that’s older than our sun. It was actually “discovered” in 2014, I believe. But things like this take time to get out.  (Please forgive me if my date is erroneous – reading technical jargon always puts me to sleep.)


My last thought of the day and love me or hate me, this is what I believe.

There’s this ugly thing in the world today called “racism.” I’m going to say this straight up, it’s not going to stop. It’s an issue that runs deeper than the color of one’s skin. It’s an engrained mental process and it’s an issue of the heart. A person has to want to change their thinking, their beliefs, their heart and so many people don’t believe they have a problem. This holds true for whites, blacks, reds, yellows, oranges, greens, blues…. you know what I mean. It’s not a black and white problem. It’s a human problem.

The only solution is to learn to love and love unconditionally. It would stop a lot of the hate and violence in the world.  But there will always be hate and violence in the world because that’s part of the greatest story ever told.

On that note, I bid you a good night. Adieu!

Advertisements

Tunes to Inspire

“Time stands still
beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything
Take away
What’s standing in front of me
Every breath,
Every hour has come to this…”

Red Dragon by Aggiorna
Red Dragon by Aggiorna

~Christina Perri: A Thousand Years~

Dipping into my writer’s toolbox, I dug out one of my favorite topics to share with you today.  Music.

Many writers and authors write to tunes of all sorts of genres.  I find that the music sets the scene, just as it does in the movies. I mean picture watching some of your favorite flicks without the scores. It doesn’t work. Music evokes emotion and that’s what we as writers aim for.

“The Dragon’s Kiss”, the novel I’m currently working on, has about 35 songs attached to it at the moment. Each of which is for a different mood I need to capture in a scene. I thought I would share a few to maybe inspire you today.  These songs aren’t necessarily there because of the lyrics themselves, but the beat, the passion of the song.

“Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling. I use this song for two different scenes. One during a transformative moment of my protagonist and the other is a chase scene down the streets of NYC. I also use “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up)” by Fall Out Boy when I write chase scenes. It has that kind of throbbing beat that works well. (As a side note, it’s one of my favorite “running tunes.”)

“Rain” by Jon Heintz. Such a lovely song. Originally this appeared in the TV show, “The Deadliest Catch” (which I love.) But it’s a haunting song, dark and deep. It’s perfect for a character who has lost much and is in mourning. Bill Wither’s “Aint No Sunshine” has that same feeling for me. I alternate between the two because the loss is different.

“Kecharitomene” by Loreena McKennitt is brilliant for the fantasy world I have created. It has an etherial quality to it. I alternate between that and “Flying for the First Time” by Elenowen.

Some other songs on the playlist include the Kelly Sweet remake of Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” “Walk” by the Foo Fighters, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri and “Disappear” by Hoobastank.

Obviously there are more than I’ve listed, but maybe some of these will inspire you to look outside what you normally listen to and expand your writing.

Advice: Score your book while writing it. I think it adds a little something special to what you’ve done. Now go and create something amazing.

Thoughts on “The Book Thief”

“A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.”
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Book Thief

Apologies for the delay in communication. I have spent quite a bit of time as of late with the new grandson. Small. Cute. Easy baby. All in all, I will give him a 10.

It was during my travels to and from my hometown to my new home I encountered “The Book Thief.” I wanted to watch the movie, but I tend to read the books prior to watching a film as films can only grasp a tenuous amount of plot-line  However, I have to say this time I took it a step further and listened to the book narrated by Allan Corduner during the long, straight drives through the plains under blue or starry skies.

I have listened to some other books on tape including “Watership Down” and “Storm Front” (Dresden files by Jim Butcher-awesome), but while both were excellent stories, this one entangled me. Zusak wrote a great novel and Mr. Corduner’s read is delightful, moving and spot-on with the German, which is a necessity in a book of this magnitude.

Set in WWII Germany, we learn about Nazi fanaticism, a Jewish fist-fighter, thievery, friendship and death. They are all intertwined in the story of a girl seeking out an existence. We learn, we laugh and we cry. We learn that death indeed has a heart.

Liesel Meminger is a character I shall not soon forget. Deep. Well-rounded. Flawed and yet still flawless. She inspires me in ways I have not yet fully realized as she is each of us in our own unique ways. How did Zusak do that?

Beyond the well-scripted plot, the word economy and the descriptions of things seen yet unseen, I found Zusak to not be a writer or an author, but a natural story-teller.  And to add to this, Allan Corduner is a BRILLIANT talent who brought to life this poignant story.

Now, there are some who have trouble getting into the book as Zusak’s writing style is unique. It flips and flops until it settles into a rhythm such as a cha-cha or something of that nature. By the end of the first hour of listening, you are well into the story and transformation has indeed begun.

I generally steer clear of writing about books I have read, but “The Book Thief” changed that for me. I hope you will take the time to delve deep into the pages or the audio-book and breathe in a fresh and inspiring look at the beautiful piece of work Zusak shared with us all.

Icing the Iron Horse

“For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. When you look around, wouldn’t you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine looking men as are standing in uniform in this ballpark today? That I may have been given a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”

~Lou Gehrig~

Photo Credit: Willie Zhang via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Willie Zhang via Compfight cc

Lou Gehrig was a gentle soul with a wicked sense of humor and was also a humble man. He was taken too young by a disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). As Lou died pre-“me,” I never had the opportunity to meet the baseball legend. However my father did when he was with the Yankees during Spring Training in 1936 and 1937.

Pops was a pretty good player, but never actually played a game as a first baseman. The problem? Lou Gehrig, the “Iron Horse” himself.  Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games – games where he was ejected (after receiving credit because he was already up to bat), injured (including being knocked unconscious), and ill.  But dad was in training with Lou (and Joe DiMaggio, Kemp Wicker, Frank Crosetti, Bill Dickie, Red Rolfe and other great Yanks) for two seasons before transferring to the minors.

Lou Gehrig impacted dad’s life quietly. He wanted to emulate the legend in many ways and Pops told me how Lou and Joe helped change his life not only on the diamond, but on the train rides to St. Petersburg, FL. Pops was a smoker on and off during his life. Trying to be “cool” like some of the other ball players, he was lighting a cigarette up on the train. Lou leaned over to my dad and instead of reading him the riot act, he softly explained to him, “If you keep that up, you’ll lose your wind.”

Dad kept in contact with Gehrig after leaving the Yankee organization and there is a letter tucked safely away written in 1938 or early 1939 (I can’t remember) to pops explaining Lou’s illness and that Eleanor, his wife, was taking care of him.

75 years after his death, Lou Gehrig seems to be finding himself in the spotlight again, not for his baseball prowess, but for the disease that took his life.  I’ve been watching the ice bucket challenges on social media to raise money and awareness for ALS. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or just plain Gehrig’s disease.  ALS is a neurodegenerative ailment that is as debilitating as they come to the human body and someone with ALS does NOT have a good quality of life.  Gehrig died when he was just 37 years old. You don’t have to do the challenge to help a really worthy cause. To make a donation today:  http://www.alsa.org/

If you want a weekend in, check out a movie called “Pride of the Yankees” starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig as well as real members of the Yankee organization: Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig and Bill Dickey. This was my father’s all-time favorite movie – most likely because of the representation of Lou’s character. To find out more about my father’s friend, Lou Gehrig: http://www.lougehrig.com/about/bio.html

Neither dad nor Lou are here today to witness the ice bucket challenge. I personally think both are probably sitting in a dugout in Heaven looking down and wondering what we’re all doing. However, I just know that as silly as dad would think the concept is, he’d agree it’s a brilliant piece of marketing in bringing awareness and funding to ALS research.

The Old Man and Me

2978360981_416357d8a7_o
Photo Credit: Chaval Brasil via Compfight cc

I saw this picture earlier today and remembered my dad, the old man.  Pop’s spirit never waivered. Age never diminished his sense of humor nor did it take away his mind as it does many old men and women. As his youth faded, his back stooped and his steps became slower, shorter. Weight fell off of him in a way my fluffy frame could only envy. His eyes faded from blue to gray and time bleached his hair so that as he took his last breaths, it was as white as freshly fallen snow.

My father was born in 1918. I used to tell him he was born when dinosaurs roamed Earth and mentioned more than once I believed he must have had a pet stegosaurus named Clive.  Occasionally I’d regale him with tales of “Clive’s Amazing Adventures” which included WWI and WWII, a trip with Amelia Earhart, Clive’s Moonwalk, standing outside the Dakota with John Lennon and listening to Lou Gehrig say “goodbye” to name a few.

Pops was a story-teller and while some of these tales were outlandish, I think he enjoyed them and came right back with his tales steeped in historical truth.  He lived the events and his emotion brought those memories to life.

There’s a couple of reasons I wanted to speak about this today.

First, I got to thinking about all of the “old” characters in the movies, on television and in books. Frankly, there aren’t that many. I find they are few and far between. There is something that can be said about having an elderly character in a story – no matter what medium that character is in.  I would like to see more “old” characters in books, movies and on television and ones that are not the butt of the joke (which I’m truly afraid would happen on TV.)

Second is the “why” I would like to see them.  There are two reasons. One is because older characters bring a “wisdom” that generally does come with age. They have truly been there / done that and especially in books, sage advice is always a good thing. The other reason is for electronic media I think there is a lack of “aging actors.” Rene Russo said something along the lines when shooting Thor that when she came back to acting she was used to being the leading lady kissing all the gorgeous guys (Mel Gibson) and now she was playing Thor’s mother. What was wrong with that? Ageism exists in Hollywood and I would personally like to see the industry embrace older actors instead of shipping them out to pasture or limiting roles and scripts to what I consider are mundane or demeaning positions. There are exceptions, but seriously I must ask – how many actors over 65 (or 45 or 55) do you see on TV or in the movies?

My challenge to you today is when writing your piece, consider adding someone who is more advanced in years. You just might find they add something to your story that’s missing… color, wisdom and maybe my dad’s dinosaur, Clive, too.

What I Learned About Writing from America’s Next Top Model

“I’ve always seen modeling as a stepping stone.”

~Tyra Banks~

Photo Credit: Coralie Bilasimo (slowly catching up) via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Coralie Bilasimo (slowly catching up) via Compfight cc

Lately I’ve been binging on Hulu episodes of America’s Next Top Model. For some this may sound a bit bizarre. However, there is method behind the madness. I’ve been studying women and their personalities, interactions, expressions and movement for my characters. Not so bizarre now, eh?

So here’s some of what I’ve learned.

1) Even the most beautiful woman has flaws. In fact, her flaws are what give her depth and help the reader (viewer) connect to her. Without imperfections, the female character is flat and lifeless and has no opportunity to learn, change and grow.  Who wants that?  ANTMs need to learn how to do the job. They aren’t good at what they do. This means my characters don’t need to be “Miss Perfect.”  In making mistakes, an inner character is built.

2) There can be only one.  The show generally starts out with thirteen girls and through the process of competition and elimination there is a final winner. At some point it becomes pretty clear who the front-runners are and who the finalists/winner will be. If you have a female lead character, you must do the same thing. Other characters shouldn’t over-shadow your protagonist / antagonist. If they do, you need to beef up her/their presence.

3) ANTM points out with the model’s pictures there is a fine line between couture / sexy and “hootchie/ghetto.”  Sex may sell, but unless you are writing erotica, your female main character shouldn’t always be in situations that have to deal with sex. Other characters shouldn’t always be talking about her body, the way her clothes fit her body or the way she uses her body.

4) A woman has more emotional range than a gnat. They aren’t “always” crying, bitchy or what have you. I love Tyra Bank’s expression “smize” – smiling with the eyes. I love this photo because it shows this “emotion” beautifully. Your character can do this many different ways. What does your characters’ eyes say about them?  Can you portray body language on the page to “show don’t tell?” It’s a valuable tool.

14649156403_8921e4ab36_o
Photo Credit: kinojam via Compfight cc

5)  Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. Women handle relationships MUCH differently than men. We catch nuances in conversation and read into situations that most men wouldn’t catch if it were handed to them on a silver platter. If you aren’t a “people watcher,” go to a restaurant and eavesdrop on a group of women having lunch / dinner. Watch the body language and facial expression while listening to how they speak with and to each other. Then, do the same thing with a group of men. Night and day.  Mars and Venus.

I’m sure there is more valuable information that may be gleaned from America’s Next Top Model. After all I’ve only watched the first 10 seasons. I believe there are at least 10 more to go.

A Simple Verse

 
“Oh captain, my captain…”  ~Robin Williams~
 
th
 
It’s been a few days since the startling news Robin Williams, actor and comedic genius, took his own life. I debated writing about this as so many other people have shared their thoughts and feelings on this subject and my thoughts align with many. However, I wanted to focus on something about Robin that left an everlasting impression – “Dead Poets Society.”
 
 
Robin Williams made many movies throughout his career. From “Good Morning Vietnam” to “Good Will Hunting” to “Mrs. Doubtfire” and others, but DPS was bar none the one to make me think, to stretch my limits and to make me seize the day.
 
 
There are many lines in the movie that speak to me, but this scene is brilliant beyond description. It is absolutely, positively brilliant.
 
 
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
 
 
I know what Robin’s verse was for me and now I find myself wondering how I shall answer that question. I pray it’s with a shout and echoes across generations, but if it falls with a subtle whisper, I just pray it’s heard.