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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Ironing is a Musing

What is it about ironing that’s so damned inspiring to me? I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. And yet, I always seem to get my best ideas while doing the very thing I dislike.

 

Me: I don’t wanna!

 

Muse: (Poking me in the ribs with her big stick) Stop winging and do it already. I don’t have all day.

 

Me: (Glaring at her over my shoulder as I set up the ironing board) I’m busy. I got stuff to do.

 

Muse: (A harder poke. This time in the stomach) Stop wasting my time. And get on with it. I’ve got places to go, people to inspire.

 

Me: (grabbing a very wrinkled shirt and slamming it down on the ironing board – after I catch my breath)

 

Muse: Now, about this story you’re trying to write. Just how does Michael become a fallen angel?

 

Me: (pouting) You tell me. You’re the muse.

 

Muse: (nodding at the sleeve of the shirt) You missed a spot.

 

Me: Right. ( ironing and thinking) Michael. He loses a bet. At Buried Pleasures. That’s how he does it.

 

Muse: Big deal. Lots of people lose bets. Most people lose bets. That’s gambling, that’s not a story. That’s boring. How does he lose? Who is he playing? What does he want?

 

Me: (carefully ironing the seam along a pair of trousers) He’s playing poker with Magda Gardener. He bets his wings.

 

Muse: (rolling eyes and giving me another poke) Cliché much? Pa-lease! Don’t waist my time. An angel losing his wings is the oldest ploy in the book. Tell me the story. Go over it again from the beginning. Out loud.

 

Me: (Starting another shirt) Well, what if he keeps winning, even though he wants to lose.

 

Muse: That’s better. That’s better. Tell me more.

 

Me: (Repeating more slowly the plot so far)

 

Muse: … Aaaaaand …

 

Me: (cramming a shirt on a hanger and grabbing for another – a little more violently than necessary) … And, I don’t know. I don’t know already! That’s my problem, isn’t it?

 

Muse: (Poking me hard in the ribs) Think! It’s what you have that brain for, isn’t it. You might try using it.

 

Me: (Grinding my teeth and rubbing my poor bruised ribs while offering up a few whispered curses to whatever writing god decided to send me the sadistic Muse from hell) Can’t I go for a walk to get inspired?

 

Muse: It’s raining, and you’ll just get distracted. Besides you have to do the ironing anyway. Focus. Focus! What’s more important to an angel than wings?

 

I iron another shirt. My head hurts from thinking. I drink some more tea. I iron another shirt and another, careful to get all the wrinkles out. All the while Muse simply watches me. At last she grabs a glass from the cupboard, pulls out the bottle of Glenmorangie and pours herself a generous amount. She sips and watches and taps the end of her stick on the floor.

 

I iron and iron and iron while I go over the plot so far out loud. I go over it again and again and again.

 

And suddenly it happens — that Eureka moment that, for some dumb-assed reason, comes only when I’m ironing.

 

Me: I have it! I know! (nearly burning my finger with the iron before setting it upright and pushing it away to pace the kitchen a couple of times) I have it! I know what’s more important to an angel than wings. I know exactly what Michael has to lose, and I know that once he loses it, he can never, ever get it back.

 

Muse: (Lifts her glass and salutes me, then downs the rest of the whisky) Good girl. (She never has to ask. She always
knows when I really do have it. She sets down her empty glass, pats my arm and smiles) Now finish up here and get busy. The story won’t write itself.

 

And just like that, she’s gone – off to poke someone else in the ribs and drink their whisky. My Muse may be sadistic, but she’s effective. And suddenly I don’t mind. I got exactly what I needed for the story and the ironing is done to boot.

 

Latent Creativity

 

I’m just in from the garden doing a little weeding and a lot of shucking sweet corn. This may sound strange, but that got me thinking about latent creativity. I’ve been contemplating the subject for a while now. Sometimes my most creative insights come when I’m not doing anything that has to do with writing. The best story and novel ideas seldom come from me sitting around trying to think of great plots. They come to me when I’m doing something totally different. They come to me when I least expect it.

 

 

 

That’s why I call it latent creativity. Some of the best plot solutions, story twists, character actions, some of the most exciting story elements come to me when I’m doing something totally different. That’s when the creative force finds an unexpected opening and ploughs its way full blown into my imagination. I’m convinced that there are some activities in which there is a whole lot more latent creativity than others, and it’s different for every writer. But I do believe that those activities are most often either creative or meditative in their own right.

 

 

As you can probably guess if you’ve been keeping track of what’s going on in my life, and if you’ve read much of my writing, veg gardening is a great way to stimulate my latent creativity. I love the whole process – even the weeding. But I’m especially fond of picking green beans. There’s just something meditative and wonderful about rummaging through the foliage for hidden treasure. Plus green beans are one of my favorite veggies. I have been known, from time to time, to be inspired enough to write a little veggie porn.

 

 

You don’t have to know me very long before you know I love walking. In fact I love it so much I walked all across England a few years ago. I can’t even count the number of times long walks have inspired that latent creativity that leads to a story or a novel. Walking is probably the most direct form of latent creativity for me. Because I’ve often walked to solve plot problems or work out blocks in a story, I consider walking more writing-on-the-hoof.

 

 

Along similar lines, but perhaps a little more latent source of creativity is any kind of working out. I love kettle bells, Pilates, I am enjoying the hell out of learning pole dance, and I love creating my own workouts at home. Unlike walking, there’s no time to really engage the brain on any level but the physical act in which I’m involved. Sometimes, however, that means afterwards my mind is clear enough of the detritus that I’m ready for a good hard shot of inspiration.

 

 

Okay, ironing is not one of my favourite activities, but strangely enough, it really is a source of latent creativity. For some strange reason I find myself quite often able to solve plot problems or coming up with new story ideas while I’m sweating over a hot iron. Who’da thunk it? Makes me wish there was a bit more latent creativity in housework, but sadly, for me there isn’t, so less of that happens than probably should. A writer’s gotta do what a writer’s gotta do, after all.

 

 

Finally reading a good book is a great source of latent creativity for me. A lot of people ask if I find that if I read, I inadvertently pull ideas from the book I’m reading at the time. No, I don’t. I consider a good book to be one that takes my mind completely off whatever it is that I’m writing at the time. I read for the shear pleasure of it. In a lot of ways reading a good book works the same magic on my creative process as working out does. If the author whose novel I’m reading has done her job, then I won’t have any room in my head to engage in anything else but the romp said author has created for me. The result being that I go back to my own work refreshed and inspired.

 

 

There are lots of other places where I find latent creativity from time to time, and that’s always a wonderful surprise. But the above are consistent and treasured (well okay the ironing maybe not so treasured) sources of inspiration for me. I’m sure for every writer the list is different. I’m also sure that every person has his or her own sources of latent creativity. Writers haven’t cornered the market. Everyone is creative in one way or another. That being the case, I would suggest we would all be happier and more satisfied in our lives if we took time to cultivate that latent creativity and see where the experience leads us.

 

 

Going Underground: Creeping Ourselves Out for Fun and Fiction

 

What is it about tunnels and caves and mines that fascinates us so much? I for one, have loved going through tunnels
and into caves since I was a little girl. And yet the thought of caving, going into tight, dark places terrifies me. I can’t even sleep in a totally dark room. I have to have enough light so that I know I’m not trapped in a tight space. Abandoned tunnels and scary dark spaces are a recurring theme in my writing. Perhaps it is because I can put my characters into the places that terrify me and enjoy that frisson of fear without actually putting myself at risk. One of the best things about reading fiction, after all, is that ability it gives us to live vicariously.

 

I’ve been in caves and mines in Colorado, Japan, Poland, the Lake District. I’ve even been in a few that I probably shouldn’t have been in, and that little touch of fear that raises my pulse rate and makes my stomach flutter is always there. Then there was the time I was stranded on a train in the Eurostar tunnel beneath the English Channel … but you already know that tale and what it inspired.  While I may keep myself out of places that are too scary, my characters, well, I give them the full down deep and dark scare-the-bajezus-out-of-me treatment because they can handle it.

 

 

If you’ve been enjoying the Medusa’s Consortium stories, then you know that there are crypts in deconsecrated chapels, there are slate quarries and hidden tunnels. Vampires gotta have ‘em, after all. And what demon doesn’t love crypts and scary-assed abandoned churches?

 

Morlocks, Mole people, monsters – underground is the place for more than a few of our nightmares. If it’s dark and
deserted and underground, it’s a fiction writer’s wet dream. Remember the Horta from The Devil in the Dark episode of the original Star Trek series. If you’re too young to remember, check it out. While the effects may seem hokey in the age of green screens and CGI, and the plot a little corny – scary shit when I was a little girl, and definitely some serious psychological parallels in the telling. My favorite scary abandoned underground place has to be The Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings. Two thumbs up for scary! But you get the idea. Digging too deep — DO NOT DO IT!

 

 

Fun Fact: Did you know Fleetwith Pike in the Lake District is actually a hollow mountain. It’s true. The inside is riddled
with slate mines from the extraction of the gorgeous green Honister slate. The whole Fleetwith and Honister Pass area figures prominently in my Lakeland Witches series because of those mines and quarries and the tales attached to them. I have done a bit of exploring there myself and hope to do more.

 

 

How many horror movies have subway tunnels in them? And abandon New York City tunnels and stations are a favorite. They figure prominently into Blind-Sided. Fun fact: Did you know the oldest subway tunnel in NYC is the Cobble Hill tunnel, which runs nearly the entire length of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue? It was built in 1844, but abandoned in 1861 – mostly due to some corrupt politics. Can you imagine such a thing?

 

 

Buried Pleasures, book three of Medusa’s Consortium, was inspired by the storm tunnels under Las Vegas, which have become the default shelter for Sin City’s homeless, along with the hang-out for a good bit of the scorpion population. Oh, and of course it’s been the hide-out for a dangerous criminal or two.

 

The storm tunnels in Vegas were constructed as flood control in the seventies. Vegas is built on bedrock in the center of a huge basin surrounded by mountains. A flash flood would funnel all of that water right into the Strip, the financial heart of the city. The original plan was for a thousand miles of tunnels beneath the city all draining into Lake Mead thirty miles away. The project was never finished, but there are roughly six hundred miles of channels and tunnels in the Las Vegas Valley, with several of the tunnels running right beneath the strip. While an estimated three to four hundred people live in these tunnels, they were built for flood prevention. In heavy rains the tunnels can fill up at a foot per minute with currents of up to twenty-five to thirty miles per hour. Home can be washed away in a matter of minutes.

 

These are just a few of the really fascinating underground places that have inspired me. But why they fascinate us is at least as fascinating as the places themselves. I’ll talk about that in Part II of Going Underground.

 

 

Musings from the Dentist Chair

I had a post all lined out for you lot. It was nearly done – all about creepy underground places and why they appeal to us. In fact I was thinking of that post and how those places are a recurring motif in my stories as I sat in the dentist chair this morning. Distraction, much? That’s when it hit me. There must be a bazillion BDSM stories that use the dentist chair for fun and games. The one and only real BDSM dungeon I’ve ever been in had one – black, leather, sinister-looking. Oh, and let’s not forget all the great torture scenes that involve dentist chairs and tools. I shiver at the though. In fact I shivered at the thought while I sat in the dentist chair this morning with the threatening whirr of the drill going at it against my numbed molar, me white-knuckling the chair arms, every muscle tight enough I could have been one Medusa’s statues.

 

The creepy underground post was a great distraction. I relaxed a bit as I began writing it in my head. It took my mind off the general unpleasantness of my circumstances. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a weeny when it comes to pain and, even though there was relatively little in the minor procedure I had done this morning, I still wouldn’t call it pleasant — certainly not meditative. Because I was thinking about all the times I’ve used abandoned underground places in my novels, about more yet to come as Magda Gardener’s world unfolds in my head, I closed my eyes. I might have even relaxed my suicide grip on the chair just a teeny bit. That’s when I noticed that my Muse, with her big stick, was standing right next to the dental assistant who wielded a mean suction tube and wore a storm-trooper face shield lest one of my teeth exploded or I had a general Aliens moment.

 

It’s a strange place to be inspired, when someone has your mouth pried open and sharp electric instruments whirring around in tender places. But lets face it, with the suction tube, the little water squirter-thingy and a drill all stuck in my mouth at once, I was happy for whatever distraction I could get. As the dentist excavated, I thought frantically about creepy underground places and their psychological associations. By the time she finally got around to scaling and cleaning my teeth within an inch of their lives, I thought about all the great horror films set in underground places, all the fantastic thrillers. Her face was up close and personal to my own version of a dark cave complete with stalactites and stalagmites. Okay, poor analogy, but you get the picture. And all of a sudden I was totally intrigued with what has just happened in my head, in my imagination, while I’d been Dr. Veena’s captive audience.

 

As the litmus paper went into my mouth and I bit and tapped, as the dentist ground all the uneven bits away, I thought about dental scenes in films, in books, in cartoons – everything from outrageous comedy to nail-biting thrillers and all
stops in between. Like the creepy underground, the dental chair also has psychological connections to the scary parts of us – to the scared witless parts of us, to exposure and vulnerability and torture and sex. That delicious sense of vulnerability, that fear of pain, that fear of what we can’t see – even if the dentist can — is always going to titillate and make our hearts race a bit.

The whole procedure took less than thirty minutes, and then I was rinsing and carefully probing my numb mouth while being pronounced of sound dental health once again. My mouth is still a bit numb as I write this post, but I’m still
smiling, albeit a bit lopsidedly, at the strange and wondrous places from whence inspiration comes.

 

Oh, and the creepy underground post? You’ll get that on Friday, bigger and better and much improved thanks to a little inspiration in the dentist’s chair.

 

A Veggie Porn Prologue to a Croatian Main Event

It’s only fitting that on the day after I’ve given you the latest in Mr. Sands’ unfolding story, we’re flying off for a week in Dubrovnik. As I’m finishing this up, it’s stupid o’clock and I’m bleary-eyed at Gatwick. But I’ll be in sunny Croatia in time for a late lunch. That definitely makes stupid o’clock seem a lot less stupid.

While you can fully expect to get lots of glorious updates and piccies from Dubrovnik, today, you get veggie porn instead. The corn and the beans are now all in the bed and other than the tumbling toms in the pots, the tomatoes are still too small to transplant, but we are hopeful.

 

 

No, we won’t be eating French beans any time soon, but I have faith … And the corn is finally getting a little bit of warm weather and sunshine.

 

Tomatoes are a long way from ready to plant out. Too much cool weather.

 

 

The tumbling toms are looking good though.

 

 

I’m fully expecting to be inspired, as I always am in Croatia, and who knows what stories I’ll bring back for Jet-lagged and Lusting. Perhaps Mr. Sands will have an urge to visit Dubrovnik.

 

 

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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