Writer Wednesday – The Mystery of Flow

Door-Into-MindIdeas come easily to some writers, not so smoothly to others.

There’s a little door to our writing mind which must always remain open and then things will flow in and out. it’s a frame of mind, to be open and to listen, or to always have writing on your mind, like a song playing in the background.

In a supermarket, the cashier says something to me. It could be an every day comment that strikes me a little strange. That (creative) door is standing ajar and a shadow is leaning against the frame when the cashier, red hair piled 50’s high, said something about “blueberry pie.” But I heard Blue Pie. My writer mind twirls within possibilities. That idea that lingered at the door-frame to my writer mind smacked right into the blue pie and it became a dog named Blue and Grandmother’s award-winning pie at a local fair in the height of the home-making 50’s.

I’m standing in the window of my little home watering plants; the catnip falls to my feet and I remember a dream I had the night before. Catnip Dreams begins whirring.doors

Enough of the bleating sirens, says an annoyed neighbor upon hearing yet another car alarm as my dog anxiously howls at the buzz. He says sirens. I hear a howl. I see ancient mermaids sitting on a rock caterwauling.

The space between our everyday life our creative brain must not close. Between kids and to-do lists, work and school, it must become a screen which catches things and holds them, even somewhat distorted, until we race to a notebook and write.

doors.jpg

Food Crimes: A Lover’s Revenge

muffins2

Many years ago, in a suburb north of Los Angeles, Eat My Cupcake was in danger of becoming another victim of the gluten-free, sugar substituted society when Zin stepped in.

People wanted choices, she said. Eat my Cupcake changed to Eat My Muffin and featured exclusive, secret recipes that other bakers tried to duplicate but none succeeded; the some sweet, some savory, some healthy, some masquerading as healthy became a much sought-after experience.

Therefore, in the once nondescript neighborhood with the small bakery, lines around the corner formed beginning early each mornings, people waiting for the one and only Zin’s famous muffins.

Among one of the favorites was a Millet Muffin. The savory-sweet combination of light and fluffy grain pastry was a hit. muffins1

Zin was offered money, lured by head baker guarantees at more established places with promises of salary, health insurance, assistants.

But she liked where she was, who she was, and the freedom to create.

Rob became Zin’s lover years before she became almost-famous. Rob followed her from place to place, always a second to her baking but accepted the position. They loved each other.

But more hours meant more workers meant more people in Zin’s life. Zin had two weaknesses, fresh white flour and sweet young flesh. She slipped into an affair with one of her assistants, Rob was heartbroken and angry.

muffin3One night, crying over a tequila sour, the recipe came out in a drunken slur. Friends who sympathized turned for a single moment to make a note.

Zin begged forgiveness and agreed to work fewer hours, no assistants. Rob forgave her. He barely remembers his drunken night but thinks something may have slipped. Zin is blissfully unaware that her recipe is being shared in whispers like a friend’s quite insinuations.

What follows is the rumored recipe from a once famous bakery and a once famous baker.

Millet Muffins

½ cup of millet

1 ½ cup of flour

1 tsp baking soda

Dash of salt

½ – ¾ cup of brown sugar

1 (room temperature) egg

1/3   cup of butter (room temperature)

¾  cup of buttermilk (room temperature)

Mix the wet ingredients

Mix the dry ingredients

Oil the muffin pan/preheat the oven to 375.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and place the muffins in the oven.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

muffins4

 

*Based on a true story. Names/places changed.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the original recipe. Although I have not baked them myself, I’ve been the beneficiary of the final product. Mmmm.

There are two lessons to this story. First – don’t cheat on your partner who may have your secret recipes. Second, don’t trust a writer with your stolen secret recipe.

Friday Feature – Fantasy for Mental Health by Lara Lee

 

Today, I’ve asked Lara Lee, fantasy author to write something for us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

fantasy2In brainstorming ideas for one of my novels, I decided to research the question: Can a person be immune to brainwashing? We have all seen on television or in movies or even old books the trope of someone being brainwashed to do horrendous crimes against their will. It is overused, so I often stay away from it. My villain just seemed the kind of person to try and brainwash my hero, but I was curious how this worked in reality. Other books have their protagonist resist by the strength of their will. Was that how it is done?

No!

I was absolutely shocked by the research I came across. Strong-willed people were not immune to brainwashing, daydreamers were. Often, those resistant to brainwashing were people no one would expect, average looking people with little to brag about. Why is this?

First, we have to deal with what brainwashing is. Many people over the recent years have argued that true brainwashing doesn’t exist. Just like hypnosis, a person cannot be forced to do something against their foundation beliefs. The term and identification of the phenomenon of brainwashing came from around the time of the Korean War. Prisoners of war were “brainwashed” and then released to their home countries as spies for the Koreans. The same phenomenon was also seen in cults in the US and other organizations. These people did change. They did act in a way that they previously thought was wrong. Something happened to them that changed them.fantasy1

Brainwashing, like the movies, doesn’t happen. People’s thoughts are not wiped clean and then planted with new thoughts, but what does happen is that a person is put in such restrictive environment that denies all basic needs until the point that the person either is on the brink of a nervous breakdown or experiences one. Then the captor offers “kindness” such as water or food and slowly breaks down the victim’s foundational beliefs to those that the captor wants. They are convinced and persuaded under pressure to adopt new ideas. Sometimes these new thoughts stick for a lifetime. Sometimes they only last until a healthy lifestyle is restored. It again depends on the person.

As I read this description, I realized that sometimes life events bring people to the point of breaking, even without a captor. We have all heard of people who suffered emotional breakdowns just from trauma in ordinary living. Deaths, illness, financial struggles, relationship problems produce extraordinary strain. Life can be hard, and at times people break. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD are common. Some people endure a lot in life and stay strong. Some people crumble relatively quickly. So I continued my research wondering how one would fight this mental breakdown. It stopped being about brainwashing and more about mental health. How do we endure high stress without falling apart?

The secret is dissociation.

It turns out, that people who can disassociate from the circumstance that they are in do well. This practice is often taught to soldiers in the military to help in case they are captured and tortured. Dissociation is the process of mentally removing yourself from reality and separating your emotions from your circumstances. If not done intentionally, it can be a psychological disorder, but, when done intentionally, it provides a brief relief from the pain of reality.

To me, this sounds like escapism literature, my favorite being fantasy. We all either have said or heard someone say that they read or go to the movies to “get away” from life. This act of “getting away” is to remove yourself from reality for a time into a fake world. Escapism is often about ignoring the pain of reality to have a little fun, or just to “veg” for a while. Sounds a little like disassociation right?

Not all entertainment is escapism. Some highlight the painful realities of life, but the popularity of the superhero movies, Harry Potter, Twilight, Game of Thrones, and The Hunger Games show that escapism is alive and well. I personally remember in some of the darkest times of my life escaping into books to bring relief to my emotions. I read nearly the entire Dresden file series that had been written up to at that point when a loved one was dying. I was often asked how I survived some of what I went through without shutting down, getting a divorce, or turning to substance abuse. I do have a Christian faith that I depend on, but I think I was also provided a way of emotion disassociation through fantasy fiction that helped me bare the emotions. God is not against fantasy; he told parables himself.fantasy

From the beginning of human history, we have had folklore, myths, legends, and fairy tales. These are the precursor to our modern fantasy fiction. The ancient world knew they needed an escape from the harsh realities of life. The human mind can only handle so much before breaking and caving in. Some seek relief in substance abuse or unhealthy relationships. Fantasy is a place in which you can be the hero and in control for 300 pages. Perhaps you will never endure the type of stress used in brainwashing, but I think we all can benefit from a bit of fantasy.

 

Lara Lee

The Shadow of the Gryphon

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Thank you, Lara!

 

Friday Feature: Guest Author P.S. Malcom

I’m happy to have P.S. Malcom’s writing advice to offer today. Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Three Ways To Come Up With A New Book Idea

I’m so excited to be here on the blog today, and I wanted to chat about writing.

Us writers sometimes get the urge to write something—anything—but often find book1ourselves with a lack of ideas or inspiration. This is a really tough position to be in because you have the motivation to create and write, but nothing to work with. *Cue frustration*

Of course, this is worse when you have deadlines to meet or depend on a good portion of your book sales to pay the bills. You gotta keep those books coming! So today, I’m going to share three tips to help you come up with a new book idea:

 

1) Get inspired

I know, best advice of the year right?

book1It sounds simple and blunt, if you’re not giving yourself space to get inspired, you can chase all the inspiration in the world and still end up with nothing. Stress from work, family life, responsibilities and pressure can all contribute to a block in your creative energy, and if you don’t make time to relax, unwind, and just chill, you won’t be able to imagine and envision your next story idea.

So my advice?

Do something different, whether it means going for a walk or a drive, spending an hour reading at a quiet café, heading to the beach for the day, painting or playing a musical instrument for an hour, or sitting in a hammock with your earbuds in. Whatever it is, make sure it’s an hour of distraction free time, and don’t force yourself to think up ideas. Let them come to you in the flow of the music, or the visuals of the painting, or the concepts of the book you’re reading.

It might take a couple of tries, but if you stay consistent in giving yourself space, you’ll find your inspiration again. I always get my best ideas (such as the inspiration for my Ryan Rupert Series) while away on vacation or immersing myself in something new.

 

2) Ask yourself questions

I’m not telling you to sit there like a lunatic and talk to yourself. What I mean is ask yourself questions about your current WIPs, or journal your thoughts, and ask yourself what you don’t know about your budding story idea yet.

Quite often, we come up with a simple, small concept but fail to expand on this idea enough to turn it into a feasible, book-length story. This results in us sitting down to write with our amazing new story idea and being stuck on where to begin because we have no clue what the story is about yet or who’s involved and why.

book1.jpgWhile this is all a process undertaken as we write, it’s a good idea to get clarity on the bare basics before you begin putting pen to paper, so ask yourself what you don’t know, answer what you can come up with, and go from there. I use this method all the time for my own books, and it’s also something I teach my writing students too.

 

3) Pick a topic and expand on it

If you’ve got nothing—not even a concept to work with—this is where you pick something you’re interested in and expand on it.

If you love mythology, you might browse through some of your favourite stories until you find an idea or concept that interests you, and find a way to put your own unique twist on it.

Or, if you love a particular country, you might immerse yourself in it’s culture and think about how you can tell a story from the perspective of somebody living that lifestyle.

There are so many possibilities to choose from, and you can turn any personal passion into a story. Just try it! You might not end up with a book-length story, but even the practise can help you get back into the swing of writing and help you conjure a new idea for a full-length book.

 

I hope these tips help anyone struggling to write!

Also, thank you for having me on your blog Noreen.

P.S. Malcom (Webpage) (Facebook)

Ryan Rupert Series

Starlight Chronicles

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

You’re welcome. And, Thank you. Simple reminders are the best.

 

Monday – a new food section on food on this blog. Who does not love food?

book1