The Power of the Written Word

Photo of lady and books              Girl with books Where does your inspiration come from? Is it the vibrant colors in a treasured painting or the pulsating beat of your favorite rock band that gets your heart to pumping and makes your hands itch to pick up a paintbrush or guitar and produce your own masterpiece? Maybe you’re like me and find yourself surprised by a plethora of sensory delights that stir your imagination and inspires your creativity.

I find my greatest inspirations in literature. Amazing novels take me on journeys of imagination that open up new worlds to explore. They can make me laugh, cry, and empathize with people who start out as fictional characters and evolve into friends by the last page.

Poetry speaks to the soul and entreats me to be best version of myself that I can be. Nonfiction educates my mind, causes me to ponder new possibilities, and entreats me to ask, “What if?”

Histories and inspirational biographies reinforce my deep-seated belief that we can overcome life’s trials. We can persevere.

After years of tragedy and triumphs, Becky, the main character in my novel, Breaking TWIG, concludes that, “We all filter the realities of life through our own personal fears, individual experiences, and the human need to cling to hope despite the circumstances, regardless of the odds. And in doing so, we each determine our own truth.”

Inside the pages of a book is where I find the people, places, words, and ideas that inspire me to continually seek and reevaluate my own truth.

Deborah Epperson

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The prints, “Dig”/Sadie Wendell Mitchell, artist and “The book worm and her favorite book”/ Will Houghton, are courtesy of the Library of Congress.   http://www.loc.gov/pictures

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Story-Hearers, or Leslie Coins a New Phrase

I’m giving away a signed copy of Death al Dente — a Barnes & Noble mystery bestseller! Leave a comment and your email address to be entered in the drawing; winner to be chosen Aug 22.*

Years ago, at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, I met a writer named Dianne Day, author of the Fremont Jones mysteries featuring a young woman who runs a type-writing service in early 20th century San Francisco. We had a lovely conversation, and after that, ran into each other occasionally in online mystery discussion groups, and conversed a bit by email.  Fremont Jones

Around that time, a young secretary in my law firm was about fourteen months pregnant and not sleeping very well. For some reason, I gave her one of the Fremont Jones books. She brought it back the next morning and asked if there were any more. I lent her the series and she read every night until the baby came. Dianne was delighted to have given comfort—and distraction—when it was needed.

Death al DenteI’m remembering that story because Dianne died recently, after a lengthy illness, and because my own first mystery, Death al Dente, has just been published. (Every writer knows that “first” means first published, not the first written. We’ll talk about that long winding road another time!) It’s doing very well, and for that, I thank you, readers. It finished its first week out at #11 on the Barnes & Noble Bestsellers List for Mystery, in mass market paperback (the small format). It’s being spotted regularly in bookstores around the country—if you see it, send me a picture and I’ll post it on Facebook. And it received a marvelous review in Fresh Fiction, a review site and community for readers of mystery, romance, and women’s fiction.

But best of all are the notes from readers. Only a few so far—how brave, how bold, how kind to take the time to write a woman you don’t know and talk about a book. Oh my gosh, they touch me. To know that a reader spends her time—six hours or so, for most of us to read a typical length mystery—in the world you created and is glad she did. Likes the people she met there. Wants to know what happens next. Stayed up too late reading. Went to the grocery store for garbanzo beans and bell peppers and triggered a mini run on prosciutto so she could make the recipes in the back of the book.

Storytellers need story-listeners. Story-hearers. Story-receivers. Those aren’t words in our language, but they ought to be. In my household, we say “that may not be in the dictionary, but I said it and you knew what I meant, so it’s a word.”

It’s a word. Thank you.

Leslie

* You’ll also be added to my email newsletter mailing list, so you’ll be the first to get Book News!

Courting the Muse

Christine Schimpff-Carbo

Inspiration can be elusive, but necessary at times for endeavors in the arts. And especially for a writer. No matter how good we are at sitting our butts down at our desks and computers and making that writing date happen, there are times when inspiration is needed to infuse what we’re doing with life and energy.
 
I missed the discussion on sacred places, but for me, it’s more than place that inspires; it’s the doing within the place that often energizes and gets my brain going. I came up with my idea for the first novel I wrote while driving to Seattle, the scenery of the mountains and the eastern plains of Washington flashing by. I was inspired to write my second novel while simply jogging on a county road near the Flathead River. For my third, my first mystery, I came up with the beginnings of my plot while biking around Whitefish Lake to rehabilitate my knee after two surgeries. My fourth, yet to be written, is currently being plotted from the spark fanned by lots of reading whenever I can fit it in. Other writers’ works of creation are fueling my fire.

The following are just a few of my top ways to lure the muse when I’m in need of inspiration:

 

1. Reading. Books, blogs, magazines, newspapers… Biking around Whitefish Lake

2. Exercising. Walking, hiking, jogging, biking or whatever else energizes and gets the blood flowing.

3. Visiting with other writers who are excited about their projects.

4. Going to a good movie and challenging myself to create characters just as interesting and with just as many roadblocks.

5. Surfing the net with the intent of looking for interesting ideas.

6. Visiting museums or craft shows and being in awe of all the other creative mediums.
My muse seems to be fickle, but if I can keep myself energized and entertained, she seems to come more often.
Here’s to keeping your muse visiting frequently!
Christine Schimpff-Carbo

An Idea Was Born

Writers are told to write about what they know. Sounds easy enough, except I had not traveled the world or had an interesting job or ran a brothel or committed murder. What could I possibly know that would appeal to readers? Well, I know about babies and pregnancy. I know that upfront and personal. I gave birth to four children in five years and at the time of writing Maternal Harbor, I had ten grandchildren. Okay, I thought, how can I make that into a story that readers would like. They like suspense. So now, I had two ideas. Babies and suspense.

What else? I know about Seattle and Montana. Now I had two settings.

And, love. Ah, I know love.

I know about fear. Will my children grow, be safe, love each other, learn, and make their own way?

These thoughts were the earliest concept for Teagan and her friends. I also know about friendships, how they form and grow into dependence on one another. My core group is my golfing buddies, who cheer me on.

So the idea was born.

Picking out the names for the make-believe babies was worse than picking out names for my own children. My poor daughter was not named for two days. My husband and I could not agree. Finally, he said, “Okay, you pick out the first name and I’ll choose the middle.” That was fair, after all, she was my daughter and I should get the first pick. I chose Deanna. He chose Lynn. She never liked her name.

It is the same with a story. Some will like what you write, others will not, yet it is an accomplishment not too much easier than giving birth. The pangs are real, hurtful some times. But when a reader writes and lets you know how much the story meant, that overcomes any disappointment in creating a book. And fifty-one years later, my daughter concedes her name is okay.

So I shall write another book, but what do I know about. I still have not run a brothel or committed mayhem, but I know about the years past middle age. I know about retirement. I know about widowhood. And I still know about friendships. And I know my valley.

My new idea is born.
Marie F Martin_edited-1 (2)
Marie Martin

Feeling Their Pain

Yesterday, at the VA’s Fort Harrison in Helena, I turned anxious thoughts to how illness makes characters sympathetic. Or does it? Happily, my husband is fine, but I’m still pondering how authors have given us ailing characters and how readers receive them.

    Start with opposites. Take Tiny Tim from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, he of “God bless us, every one!” fame. Readers love him. But, wait! With Richard III, Shakespeare created a hateful character, twisted in mind and body. The guy drowns little princes in wine vats. Modern readers, perhaps unlike less enlightened Elizabethan audiences, love Tim and hate Richard not because of their infirmities, but solely because of their behavior.

     But, for a protagonist readers can truly empathize with, I give you the title character of Ben Fountain’s, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Billy has a pounding migraine that plagues him through the entire day the novel covers. Who hasn’t been there? Billy is part of Bravo Company, soldiers whose heroic firefight, caught by an embedded reporter on video, results in their being invited to be part of the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day halftime program. It’s a surreal day, with Billy responding to everyone who asks if he needs anything if he could please have an Advil. Only when the day is winding down, the soldiers to be returned to Iraq, does Billy finally get the bottle, which he shares down the bleacher with the rest of Bravo Company. By then the reader has been begging, “Somebody give that kid something for his headache.

Sure, we shed tears over the deaths of innocents, and love to hate bad guys regardless of their appearance, but if I want a character my readers can truly identify with, I’ll just bestow an itch, a blister, or a relentless headache.

Karen Wills

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