Inspiration

black and white of women talking over a fence

 

I love old photos.

 

 

 

 

black and white of unhappy children

 

 

They spark the imagination

 

nuns smoking

 

 

 

 

 

Make me want to ask questions.

 

 

 

 

And answer them.

 

 

 

black and white of women walking over a bridge

 

 

In a story.

 

 

 

 

I used to collect old photos I’d found at second hand stores and antique shops for the expressed purpose of telling their stories – giving them life once again.

Find an old photo – at a shop, or the internet, or grandma’s attic,  and tell that story.

 

Family Myths

grandmas last secret coverFamily myths are the richest to mine for stories. Family myths are things that a great aunt or uncle might have done, where they may have worked, lives they may – or may not – have lived.

It is rumored that one of my great grandmothers was Hoffa’s ex-girlfriend. Although when we tried to match up the timeline, it didn’t quite match; however, given a few corrections here and there – who knows?! It’s fun to think about.

Another family myth involves my grandfather – even telling the story here feels like I’m giving away secrets about my family, but my grandmother swore to her dying day that the tale was myth.

My grandfather was shot in the back by a police officer. A number of different stories are told as to why he was shot, but the officer stated he was aiming for his legs.

My grandfather was over 6 feet tall. The cop must have been the worst shot in the world if he was aiming at his legs.

My grandmother lived with people creating myths as to why he was shot. She would tell us stories about aunts and cousins who came to her asking for the truth, asking for money, asking for what they believed my grandmother had which caused his death. I was present for one such argument before my grandmother passed of a cousin asking her for the truth before she died. Grandma’s Last Secret is about one of those myths.

I love family myths so much, that I’m planning to write more stories about them. Maybe I’ll write “Hoffa’s Runaway Bride” someday.

newspaper about hoffa.jpg

The Conspiracy of Theories

eyes on a coded screen.jpg

I read friend’s blog about Conspiracy Theories; it inspired me to write this blog. 

I published a story about conspiracy theories in which a few of the characters believe that the microchip is a government tracking device. I believe it appeared in the first issue of Delphinium.

I don’t believe these theories, but I do find some of them interesting. I wonder how they begin. Who is the person that starts them? For example, how did the flat earth conspiracy begin? I was speaking to someone who believes wholeheartedly the world is flat and scientists have been covering for the government for centuries!

We had a rather long discussion of proof wherein he finally said, “Are you only going to believe credentialed sources?”

Uhm. Yes. Sorry. (one of the problems with our country is that people are believing any old damn thing they read on social media or the internet without checking where it comes from. – and another reason why my credentials are published for all to see).

I stumped him with – what is the purpose of hiding the “truth” that the earth is flat? What could be gained by our earth not being round?

I don’t want to tell you his answer.

What does this have to do with writing? EVERYTHING! These conspiracy theories may begin by word of mouth, but someone writes them down and shares them – especially today when everyone and his brother has a website.

This can affect your character – do they believe in any of these? Is your MC an otherwise educated person who is concerned about the identification chips in his dog? Or do they question – maybe not believe – but question the validity of fluoride in our water as a means to mind control?

Or – write a story about one of the theories. There’s a full list on Wiki.

Or – make up your own!

Enjoy – because, you know, because the powers that be want you to laugh at the list.

Family Secrets

girl with book that reads we all have secretsAll families have secrets. I think that’s why some of us become fiction writers. Maybe, much to our family’s horror.

Secrets released in fiction is like water under pressure – there’s a spurt which resembles something other than what it really is. So, mostly, our family is safe.

Some secrets come to us second hand – the things people told us, what we know of other families, friends, acquaintances. In all honesty, these are my favorites.

The Gold Tooth is an amalgamation of family secrets. These are separate things from the gold tooth cover.jpgdifferent people whispered to me at times, laughed about at other times, assumptions from other people – all mixed up in a writer’s brain to spurt out under the pressure of a story.

My grandmother told me a story in which a mother, in trying to teach her children biggest is not best, used to offer the children unmarked gifts in various sizes. Whoever choose based on the biggest gift didn’t necessarily received the best gift.

A friend told me she’d inherited teeth from an aunt.

Another friend provided details about an uneven and questionable disbursement of a will and trust.

They all mashed together to create this story of a mother who tried to teach her daughters a lesson, protect one, maybe both, by the terms of a her will.

Feel free to tell your secrets to a fiction writer. They’ll never tell the whole truth.

beautiful woman with wry smile.jpg

 

What makes good literature?

An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” parrot.jpgConsidering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?

This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.

Read The Great Silence here

When they believe it’s about you….

cover of west endI’ve written so many stories from first person point of view. At first, I was nervous because people did ask – is that real? is that you? and even contacted me and said – I know that’s about you.

So, it does make a person nervous about what they write and publish.

But at some point, you’ve got to let people think what they want to think. None of it will affect you in the long run.

I had an editor refuse a fictional story because, he said, it’s memoir and ultimately we didn’t ask for your personal story.

I thought – it must be good if he thought it was me! But I didn’t bother to correct him. It was a fiction call and I’d submitted fiction. If the editor didn’t realize the “I” didn’t necessarily represent the author, but the character, he is probably not the editor I need to work with nor the journal I want to be published in.

I worried about this with West End – my first big publication. One of the big criticisms girl on train tracks.jpgfrom someone who believed they knew me thought it wasn’t a realistic portrayal of me. I had to tell him because the character was not me! While the same story convinced another person that I’d led a secret life prior to moving to California.

Possibly, one of the convincing elements of the story is the setting. The place, the west side of Cleveland, where I grew up, is real. You can trace the steps of my characters who walked the path passed the baseball field and lost themselves on the train tracks, or those who played in the abandoned buildings. The streets are still there, the houses still stand, except the one which burned to the ground – a vacant lot interrupts the landscape of the neighborhood.

West End was a passion project. It was for the kids who I’d known and those I didn’t who never made it out. But it wasn’t me. Maybe parts of me live there in the pages and parts of me live on those streets.

Ultimately, you can’t allow another person’s possible opinion of you affect your writing.

When Editors Go Cray….

beautiful ppl.jpgMany years ago, All The Beautiful People was accepted for publication. But, then, as happens sometimes, I got the dreaded letter (yes, that’s how many years ago it was) in the mail stating that they had accepted too many things and something had to be bumped. The editor apologized and said they’d keep it in their files, but I should feel free to submit it elsewhere.

I did so.

A year later, that story was accepted for publication in another journal.

Even another year later, the original journal – with a new editor – wrote me via email and said they’d decided to use All the Beautiful People in their upcoming edition.

I responded that they were welcome to use the story; however, it had been accepted and was scheduled for publication by another journal. The publications would come out about six to nine months apart.

I never heard from that second journal and believed they had removed the story from their journal and their archives.

Six months later, I received a copy of the beautiful journal and my story within its pages.  YET – they’d billed the story as a memoir – it was fiction – and they’d cut off the last paragraph.

I was a little embarrassed. The girl in the story does things I would never have never girl with elvis facedone. I was concerned what readers might think – that this might serve as some sort of legacy I couldn’t live down.

See – with the last paragraph – it could NEVER EVER EVER be mistaken as memoir. I sent off a quick email to tell them these two things.

The editor dashed off a quick and nasty response – that they had published it as received, adding some choice and unprofessional comments. She made it sound as if I’d sent it directly to her and that she hadn’t pulled it from their archives.

I responded with the history of the piece, date sent, date accepted, and by whom, date and reason it was taken out, and by whom, etc.

I received another quick and dirty response. I wish I would have kept that email – misspelled words, inappropriate language, and completely and utterly unprofessional. I decided to look this person up. I then forwarded her emails to her employer.

She had found All The Beautiful People in the other publication – the one which was attributed correctly and published fully – and accused me, in her fancy slang, of lying, cheating the system, and whatever else she felt necessary. Another email I forwarded to those who were really in charge of the journal.

I again responded – with the forward – the series of events that had transpired offering all the original letters, archived in my own files, and the emails, which I had still in my saved box.

Route-66-Texas-Midpoint.jpgI didn’t hear from any of them again. But they did put a tiny little line in an inconspicuous place on their website that the story was mislabeled as memoir and should read fiction.

Now, it could have easily been a little mistake to publish it as memoir; however, again, the last paragraph would have told ANY reader that was wrong. Therefore, the missing last paragraph and the misattribution made me wonder. Still, this problem could have been easily, politely, and professionally handled.

I was shocked to learn that the editor who had acted so poorly was a lecturer at a University and had a book or two to her own credit. I do not believe she continued as the editor after that, but I didn’t bother to check.

I learned two valuable lessons from this experience – KEEP EVERYTHING! and always act like a professional.