Where do I find inspiration?

In a word, EVERYWHERE. I’m not making fun, honest. Some days it is as simple as a sunrise. A snippet of music on the radio. A painting or photograph. A line of overheard conversation. The smell of fresh flowers. A kaleidoscope of fresh vegetables stacked at the store. A little girl with ringlets trying on pink shoes with sequins. Birdsong in the morning. Bugs singing at night. The quiet after a snow storm. Sun sparkling on ice crystals.

See what I mean? I never know what will inspire me. Dreams can get your subconscious going big time. The trick is remembering them when you wake up. Thus, I keep a handy dandy notepad and pen by my bed. I’m pretty good at writing in the dark.

That’s the key really – writing down the idea the moment it hits you. Having pen and paper at hand wherever you are so you can capture the muse as it flies by. Julia Cameron’s method: Morning Pages gives you fifteen minutes to unload whatever is stacked in the mind, clogging up the way. I used to think I had to write perfect prose in those fifteen minutes, but it wasn’t happening. It turned into a data dump, and truly that’s what I needed to do.

The main thing is to clear the roadblocks in your mind. Don’t worry about writing anything perfect. Write. Write anything. Don’t worry about the grammar of repetitive words, that’s what editing is designed to do. I heard an author once liken it to vomiting on the page. That’s vivid and not something I like to think about, but not writing can sometimes make us feel off. Sick, almost. It’s who we are and what we do.

So, if you can’t find inspiration where you are, go somewhere else. Walk in the park. Visit a museum. Sit in a cafe and eavesdrop over a cup of java. If you usually write with a computer, take a notebook and pen – mix it up! Make time for writing. Make an open space in your mind to allow the words and images to come. Like Nike says, Just Do It. There’s a slogan I can get behind. Enjoy the journey!

Local Author Day

The Wichita Advanced Learning Library hosted a local author day, with discussion panel and author expo on August 24th. Three authors were chosen to discuss their experiences with publishing and answer questions from the audience, giving guidance to new writers as well as we experienced ones.

A couple of author buddies and I (H.B. Berlow & Kathy Prichett) joined most excellent reader, Penny Sanderback for lunch. We headed out to the Anchor but the line was out on the sidewalk, so we whipped in for a burger at Five Guys. Good stuff!

In the afternoon sixty local authors, you read that right – 60 – came together at the library conference area and renewed acquaintance, set up our works with signs and props, and the doors opened at 2:00 to admit a bunch of folks. For two hours the readers came and went, we sold some books, and talked about writing. It was great fun, exhausting and I hope to be involved next year. The library staff was attentive and very helpful. Thank you Racine, Sara, and Sarah (not sure of the spelling, so I hope you’ll forgive me). Reverie Coffee kept us supplied with caffeine and sweets, too. I’m certain there are others whose names I didn’t hear.

The Five W’s

WHY do I write? My mind is filled with stories, characters, issues that need to be discussed, and sometimes a crazy idea or ten. Nature and the uniqueness of the human race and our pets often inspire me.

WHO do I write for? Mostly for women, but sensitive men have enjoyed my novels, too. Women have a unique yet shared perspective and experience. We help each other, we are nurturing, guiding, leading and comforting – as a general rule.

WHAT do you write? I write stories about women, feisty families and friends and issues they deal with every day. Abuse. Desertion. Sexual awakening. Love. Children. Loss. Forgiveness. Aging. Opportunities. Change.

WHERE do you go to write? My office mostly. They closed my favorite bookstore (Borders West Wichita) where I spent many hours on my first and second novels. Watermark Books & Cafe is another good place to hang out and write. Libraries and coffee shops work, too.

WHEN is your best time to write? Afternoons and evenings. Mornings I usually do chores (laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, gardening, care giving). Sometimes when I wake up I remember a part of a dream that applies to my current work in progress, or and idea for a character or story, so I quickly jot it down before I forget it.

A book you can sink your teeth into…

Bite Me (Demon Underground, #1)Bite Me by Parker Blue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes you need a little fantasy in your life. A wee bit of butt-kicking, a girl with a few drops of demon blood to ramp up her skills. Killing vampires seems to help Val keep the demon under control, but it leads to unforeseen consequences. After being kicked out of the house for supposedly endangering her younger sister Val is bereft, but soon finds solace and a furry partner who is part Terrior and part hellhound, and does a mean job of grabbing for the dangly bits on vampires.

This was great fun to read and no doubt I will read more in the series. Parker Blue makes the dark and seedy side come to life with humor and just the right amount of tension. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

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“Need to know” keeps you guessing to the very end.

Need to KnowNeed to Know by Karen Cleveland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vivian has it all, a wonderful husband, a home, an important job, and four lovely children. She’s having trouble juggling it all, being super mom and super central intelligence analyst. When she discovers the unthinkable, everything she believes is not what she thought it was, nor is she sure what she can do to protect her family. Lies have a habit of compounding and this story kept me enthralled. She finds she’s made of tough stuff, but the more she finds out the worse things get. Will she ever escape the downward spiral of her life – good question.

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Finding Joy in Sadness

I can’t imagine losing your child. Our kids aren’t supposed to go before we do. I’ve seen it happen, quite a few times and it is heartbreaking.

My best friend’s son died yesterday. He’s just a couple of years younger than my son. I’ve known him all of his life. He was such a good man, son, and father. Everyone is no doubt wondering “why.” We can’t answer that question, not really, but I like to think that because he was so special he was needed above. He’s making a fantastic Angel. And when he’s not busy helping others, he’ll be fishing with his grandfather, his grandmother rocking in her chair, crocheting, with a huge smile on her face.

Meanwhile, his parents, children, and friends grieve. His warm arms will not hold us as they did before. He was a great hugger, and he was kind enough to share them with me when my son is so far away. He worked so hard and loved so deeply, what a huge hole his absence is making in the world. It’s still so hard to believe he is gone from us.

I loved his laugh and I can appreciate a good one. He laughed with his whole body and that’s the only way to do it and do it right.

Watching him with his kids was amazing. And listening to his mother share stories of him painting the girl’s toenails really cracked me up. His patience with his sons showed his love for them, I hope they never forget it. With four kids and two jobs, he didn’t get much time for himself, but he didn’t seem to mind. I’m told he was a great cook and grill master, knowing just what to do with spices to make everything taste good. I’m sure his experiments worked out much better than my “creative cooking” ever could.

When you’ve lost someone so special, you can’t help but feel empty. The tears never stop and everything hurts. Nothing works to make that feeling of loss and pain go away. Except, maybe time, but I doubt it. You grow a scab and a memory may tear it off. Eventually, the good memories outweigh the sad ones and you laugh. God, I loved his laugh, it was so contagious and heartfelt. That’s the part I will remember, his laugh, and his bear hugs. We love you, Shawn.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunning first novel. The prose is vivid, as are the characters and setting. One by one, Kya has been abandoned by her family, so she carries on living alone in the shack in the marsh. The townspeople don’t understand who she is and dubs her the marsh girl. She is strong and a survivor. She gets a little help from a few others, but she spends her life isolated. A friend of her brothers realizes how smart she is and teaches her to read. He also shares textbooks about biology, because he is also a child of the marsh. The sense of nature, the lack of nurture, the stunning scenes and tension of being alone and different are a poignant part of the story. I loved this book. I could smell the fetid water and hear the cicadas. I could sense Kya’s heartbeat as it matched time with the waves coming into the shore of North Carolina.

Thank you, Delia Owens for writing such a compelling book.

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Dreams of Joy, follow up to Shanghai Girls – ROCKS!

Dreams of Joy (Shanghai Girls #2)Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading “Shanghai Girls” I had to find a copy of book 2. It was worth it. I read it less than 2 days. OMG. A 19-year-old Chinese American girl runs away from home (L.A.) to the Peoples Republic of China with stars in her eyes and guilt in her heart. She wants to be a part of something bigger than herself, where everyone is equal and shares everything equally. She jumps into the culture with her eyes closed and her heart open and suffers along with the comrades in the countryside.

Lisa See gives us an amazing glimpse into what it may have been like from 1957 through 1959 Maoist China. Nothing is as it seems and our young heroine nearly loses her life before she realizes how wrong she has been.

Amazing stories from a wonderful author that transport you and tug at your heart and mind. Thank you, Lisa See.

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