Archive for April 2014 | Monthly archive page
I’m excited because my friend and business partner LeeAnn Lessard, (who is also the publisher of Lachesis Publishing) and I are heading to the New England Chapter of the Romance Writers of America Conference (May 2-3 2014).
This is my first conference as editor for Lachesis Publishing, but “it’s not my first rodeo”.
In 2005, I attended the RWA National Conference in Reno. I was there, not as an editor, but as a filmmaker, shooting my documentary Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings? In fact, I met LeeAnn while working on the doc. Funny, how the world revolves. The conference was fun and exhausting. I got to meet so many wonderful people in the world of romance fiction, and best of all, what a book haul!
When I worked in film and TV, I had the privilege of attending many a market and conference. I even got to go the Cannes Film Festival. Yes, it is everything you think it is, and more.
I love conferences. What I always take away from a conference is the energy boost that I get from thinking and talking about what I love, along with the creative ideas that conferences always inspire. Lots of great conversations buzzing around. Enlightening workshops to attend. Fun events to to take part in. New people to meet. In fact, I will get to meet some of our wonderful Lachesis authors in person. Yay! That will be the funnest part.
What do you think of conferences? Do you enjoy attending, or do you get frazzled by the busy days and late nights?
Don’t forget to have fun! And to borrow from the New England RWA Chapter “Let Your Imagination Take Flight.”
Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing Inc. She loves Cinnamon Dolce Lattes, going to writers confernces, and a good story.
What it’s about:
Angelica Douglas has no idea that she’s the Countess of Melrose. What she does know is that she needs to support her family as a card shark, while finding a way to seek revenge on the men who ruined her father and sent her family spiraling down into poverty.
Robert Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, heir to the Duke of Inverary, has no idea who Angelica truly is. He just wants to watch over her and make her his mistress.
Angelica thinks Robert is simply a dashing rogue who is far too dangerous for her peace of mind. Robert thinks Angelica is an angel except when she’s being a pain in the behind.
When Robert finds out that his own father may have been one of the men who ruined Angelica’s family, he vows to keep a careful eye on her. When Angelica finds out that Robert’s father may have been one of the men responsible, she vows to stay as far away from Robert as possible. But when danger threatens, both Robert and Angelica must face the truth and let fate take the upper hand.
“I would love to throw with you,” answered a voice in a tone suggesting intimacy.
The crowd parted for the handsomest man Angelica had ever seen. Older than she by ten years at least, the black-haired and dark-eyed English Adonis carried his tall, well-built frame with athletic grace. Though commonly dressed in black breeches and white shirt, the man had the bearing of an aristocrat.
Sacred sevens, Angelica thought, his devilishly good looks startling her. She felt as if Old Clootie, in all his sinful perfection, had stepped out of the crowd to lead her astray.
Towering over her, the man stood ten inches taller than her petite height of five feet, two inches.
Angelica tilted her head back to look into his black eyes.
Long moments passed. The sights and sounds and scents of the crowded Midsummer Fair disappeared as they gazed into each other’s eyes.
Recovering herself, Angelica gave him a sunny smile and produced a pair of ivory dice. She offered them to him for his inspection. Their fingers touched as he lifted the dice out of her hand; a jolt of excitement shot through Angelica, and she wondered if he felt it, too.
“I’m Robert,” he introduced himself in a husky voice. “What’s your name?”
“Are you a good angel or a bad one?” Robert teased her.
“I was wondering the same thing about you,” she answered.
He smiled at that and asked, “How much have you won today, angel?”
“Then let’s set the stake at four pounds,” Robert suggested.
Angelica hesitated and worried her bottom lip with her small white teeth. If she lost the whole day’s earnings on one toss of the dice, her family would go hungry. But if she won, she’d have eight pounds for her day’s work. Ensuring her own victory wouldn’t be difficult, but this man frightened her in some indefinable way.
“Four pounds,” Angelica agreed, unable to resist the temptation of doubling her winnings.
“What’s your main?” Robert asked, passing her the dice without bothering to inspect them.
“Seven.” Tossing twelve or crabs was the only way to lose by choosing seven, but there was no chance of that happening with her loaded dice.
Angelica shifted the dice back and forth in her hands, as if trying to get the feel of them. When she tossed the dice, a four and a three came up.
“Let it ride,” Angelica said, casting him a side-long glance, hoping to double the eight pounds.
Robert inclined his head. He placed eight pounds down to match the eight on the table.
“Sacred sevens,” she whispered, and tossed the dice. This time a six and a one showed up.
Angelica gifted him with a sunny smile and dragged the sixteen pounds closer. Good Lord, her family could eat on this for a month. If her father didn’t steal it for drink . . .
“Do you play?” she asked him, feeling confident.
Robert fixed his dark gaze on hers, and Angelica suffered the uncanny feeling that he knew she was cheating. Then he dropped sixteen pounds on the table.
A four and a three appeared on her next throw. Angelica stared at the thirty-two pounds she’d won. “Let it ride,” she said, casting him a flirtatious smile.
Surprising her, Robert dropped thirty-two pounds on the table. Angelica tossed the dice; a five and a two appeared.
“This must be your lucky day,” Robert remarked in an amused voice. Carelessly, he dropped sixty-four pounds on the table and challenged her. “Will you let it ride, angel?”
Shocked by the size of his bet, Angelica flicked out her tongue to wet her lips. Should she meet his challenge?
Angelica tossed the dice. A six and a one showed up.
“I’ll pass,” she announced, dropping the one hundred and twenty-eight pounds into her pocket.
Afraid to look at her victim, Angelica walked away without another word. She hadn’t gone more than a few feet when someone grabbed her arm. She whirled around, ready to defend herself.
“May I escort you home?” Robert asked, his smile charming.
Angelica was instantly suspicious. Did he want to steal her winnings? Or was his intention even more sinister? He was incredibly handsome, but her family came first. They depended on her for their survival.
“No, thank you,” she refused.
“You need protection,” he told her. “You carry a great deal of money.”
“Who will protect me from you, sir?” Angelica asked, arching a perfectly shaped brow at him.
“You don’t trust me?” Robert asked, giving her a lopsided grin.
“I trust no one,” she told him. “Especially men I don’t know.”
“We are merely friends who haven’t known each other very long,” Robert argued. “I let you cheat me out of a hundred and twenty-eight pounds. The least you can do is allow me to escort you home.”
“I never cheat,” Angelica insisted, and walked away.
“I suppose you don’t lie either,” he called.
Angelica quickened her pace. She squelched the urge to turn around to see if he was following her.
Like what you’ve read? Click here for a free copy of To Tempt An Angel.
JoMarie DeGioia is our guest today. JoMarie writes historical romances with a touch of mystery for Lachesis Publishing. And her books are always on the racy side. Her Dashing Nobles series follows the love lives of four male friends in Regency London. When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer and why?
I’ve always written, even when I was a child. I was an early reader, thanks to my mom, and loved to make up my own stories. I didn’t start writing toward publication until after my youngest daughter was in school full time, though.
Describe your favourite place to write?
I prefer to write on my laptop, usually at the desk in my office. Since I’ve had to travel more lately, to visit family, I’ve found I can write anywhere. I just bring my trusty laptop with me!
What would I find on your desk at this very moment?
The phone to my left, and on my right too many pens in too many containers, some natural crystals for clarity, anti-stress, and attracting fortune (if only!) and a scented candle. Oh, I also have a big, chunky Himalayan salt lamp that is always lit. Need those ions, baby!
What is your tea/coffee beverage of choice when you’re writing?
Now that it’s warm down here in Florida again, I’ve made the switch to iced coffee. Mocha or caramel vanilla, thanks!
What do you love to read?
Romance, romance, and more romance! I’ll sometimes cross over to humorous mysteries if there’s a romantic element but I don’t do literary fiction. I like the people I’ve become invested in to be alive and well and happy by the end of the book. I don’t care what road they have to take there or how many obstacles they have to overcome. Heck, that’s what makes them worth rooting for!
What is some good advice you can give to an emerging writer?
Well, people tell you to “write what you know.” I write what I don’t know. What I want my story people to be. Am I a Regency miss forced to marry against my wishes but in love with an impossible man who doesn’t know when he has a good thing going? Am I a willowy blond who runs a cupcake shop and is irritated by the hot roofing guy who also happens to play jazz piano? Nope. But I thought of that last scenario on the fly and I bet I could make it work! So write what you like to read, I think. If you enjoy it, your future readers will.
What do you do after you finish a book? Do you celebrate or take a nap?
The first thing I do is post about it on Facebook! I don’t nap but I do decompress. Watch some soaps or old movies. Treat myself to some chocolate. That’s my way to celebrate.
Oh, from the first time I glimpsed the Regency era in movies I was in love. The clothes, the manners, the sophistication. And the men! Jeebs, I love a man in breeches, waistcoat and cravat. He can leave off the jacket. Maybe roll up his full sleeves. The ladies’ dresses are wonderful, too. I think readers love that time because it’s so civilized, yet you can’t just pick up a phone and straighten things out. Nope. You have to write a letter or ride your horse over to make things right. So much more effort than a “my bad” text, if you ask me!
You wrote a short novella called Just Perfect, part of the Dashing Nobles – about a young lady of quality who decides that she needs to learn a few tricks before she can tempt the man of her dreams into marriage. Hilarity ensues. How did you enjoy writing comedy and will we be seeing these characters again in the future?
That little book snuck up on me. I was kind of stuck after the first chapter and then one morning I woke up with the entire story in my head! The snappy dialogue, the outrageous antics. It was like I couldn’t write it fast enough, and that’s so very rare. The comedy came quite naturally and I loved writing it. Yes, I have a series in mind for Constance’s cousin Sarah and her scandalous family. It should be a lot of fun to write.
What are you working on next?
The Hideaway is the first book in my Regency Private-Eye series. It’s definitely darker in tone and it’s been that way since it first came to me. Very little social niceties or fancy balls, to be sure. Our hero is a nobleman who people count on to solve their problems. But even as he can’t turn away anyone who needs his help, he refuses to see that he needs help too. He’s hiding his own wants, needs and heart. As for our heroine? She’s on a mission and she won’t be denied. It’s very romantic but there is a strong thread of mystery and danger in this and the other books in the series. I’m hoping people will love these characters and want to see more of their piece of the world.
Our ongoing topic is: what inspires your writing? Over to you Elaine . . .
A few years ago my granddaughter asked me to write a book and let my heroine be called Kara. Kara is her own name so she thought it would be cool to tell her friends she was in a book. Okay, I was game. What grandmother wouldn’t be?
“What’s it going to be about?” Kara asked.
“Secrets and mean sisters,” I answered.
“Remember when you thought you were adopted? Well, that gave me the idea.” (The adoption thing is funny because she and her mother are the image of each other.)
But what about other books? Where did my inspiration for them come from? Just look around you. I’m writing this during my lunch break, and already this morning I’ve been given plenty of material for new books. One of my students is worried that his cat has rabies because it bit another cat. In my sociology class, we had a super interesting discussion on modern dating practices. During first period some of my students had a spirited conversation on baking zucchini bread. Interestingly enough, the heroine in my latest WIP is a baker. Shall I offer my recipe for zucchini bread in the book? I might.
As I said before, look around you. My family and I always have an Easter picnic, and we did this year too. How do you like the view from our picnic shelter? (below) If that doesn’t inspire a writer not much will.
I’m a big fan of social media. I’ve been doing the social media hustle since it first began. I got my facebook and twitter accounts when they first launched and I’ve dabbled in numerous other social media sites. I started blogging (on blogger) in 2006, when I was working in film and TV, and I haven’t looked back. I also blog on wordpress, and I have accounts on pinterest, digg, goodreads, and stumble upon.
The great thing about social media is that you can figure everything out. You can figure out how it works and all the “etiquette” stuff just by hanging out for a while. You don’t necessarily need to hire a pro, although it could be helpful. What you do need to do is hustle. You need to be on every day, for at least one hour. You need to share and you need to interact.
I’m by no means, an expert at social media, but I’ve been on it since 2004. I’ve learned by doing. And I’m still learning. I’m still figuring out how to navigate and interact. Some people bring their emotional baggage onto social media, others can be quite nasty. You have to figure out what you want to share and what you want to keep private. There are a lot of sad, strange, and shocking people out there. When your instinct tells you that someone is not quite right, listen to your inner voice, and don’t engage with that person. If you do run into trouble, you need to block that person or report them.
Many authors are seasoned pros at social media. For all you social media gurus, what are some tips you can share with all of us?
THE MUST HAVES
You should have facebook and twitter accounts. These two entities are the foundation for social media interaction and for getting your name out there. But it’s not enough to have an account. You have to build your following. You do that by following people you already know, ahem, and then following the people they follow. And you should be adding a few people each week. Why? Because you are building your network. And your online network is just as important as any other network in your life. Both facebook and twitter make it easy. They suggest people for you to follow or friend. Easy peasy.
Facebook: Every author should have his or her own facebook page. Your facebook page is your home base. It’s where you work, i.e. interact with industry people and most importantly, readers. Keep a separate/private account for family and friends, people you know IRL (in real life). Why? Because you have a private life and you want to keep it private. How do you get people to like your page? You invite them via your e-mail contacts and you invite them on your web site. Just two ways to get “likes”.
Twitter: Don’t use a cutesy or obscure twitter moniker. Use your professional name. So people know it’s you. Guess what? You want people to know it’s you, because you want people to buy your books. Include your web site address and a bio on your twitter home page. And use a picture of your face as your avatar. Otherwise, people will think you’re a spam bot.
THE MUST DOs
Facebook: Post. Every. Day. Mornings are great – lots of traffic. Don’t just post about your book. Post a cute pic of your silly cat with a funny caption. Tell us about the juicy conversation you overheard in a coffee shop and how you’ll be putting it in your next book. Post a pic of you with one of your readers at a book signing. Post a recipe of your favourite pie that your mum made for you as a kid. Run a contest and post about that. One of my favourite romance authors is Eloisa James. She is brilliant at social media. Follow her, and you’ll see what I mean. She is engaging, charming, and exudes warmth. She always has a lovely little story, or tidbit to share, and she regularly runs contests and giveaways. Engage with your followers. Like what they post and leave a comment. Yes, it’s work, but it’s fun too.
Twitter: Tweet several times a day. Tweet a meaningful quote, or a picture of your new book cover . But don’t just tweet about you. Throw some twitter love around. Retweet other people. Hit that “favourite” button a few times and leave a thoughtful or saucy reply to someone’s quote or quip. I guarantee, you’ll have fun doing that too.
TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG
You should have your own blog. You should blog at least once a week (bare minimum). You should promote your blog on facebook and twitter and anywhere else you hang your hat online. Your blog is where you get to ruminate, muse, share fun/silly or poignant stories about your craft, or even your life.
DON’T FORGET YOUR WEB SITE:
You absolutely need a web site. You can either pay someone to make you one, or make one yourself on wordpress. If you haven’t already bought the url with your name – do it, because the internet is full of shady people who buy up url names and then sell them back to you at an outrageous price. Why do you need a site if you are on social media? Your web site is your home base on the internet. People will google your name first and look for a web site. A web site tells the world, that you are a professional and that you have something to offer. It’s your internet calling card. You can link all of your social media sites onto your web site. And best of all, you can list all of your books and link them to every online store out there.
You can control what you put out there. To use the “lingo” – you control your message and your brand. What you choose to share (or not) is up to you. But you know what? It’s called “social” media for a reason, because people interact. And that is the key. We work in a business (and it is a business) where we want complete strangers to read our books. How do we get them to do that? We talk to them. We tell them a bit about ourselves and we ask them a bit about themselves. Social media is a perpetual party. You can hang out for a bit and chit chat, dance a little, and then go off and write, and when you come back that party is still going on. Remember to always have your dancing shoes with you. Now, let’s do the hustle . . .
Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing Inc. She loves Cinnamon Dolce Lattes, social media, and a good story.
What it’s about:
When a woman is poisoned to death at a Christmas bake sale that Vinnie’s mother organized, suspicion turns to Mrs. Esposito.
Vinnie is not about to stand by and let her mother get framed for murder, no matter that Vinnie’s dad forbids them from sneaking around. Her boyfriend, sexy State Trooper Marcus Richmond is worried about Vinnie’s safety, not to mention any laws she might be breaking. Her friend and upstairs tenant, FBI Agent Aaron Grant is off on a secret mission, so at least he’s not around to yell at her.
Vinnie is determined to find out who is behind this evil act . . . and why. The trouble is, Vinnie gets her tenaciousness from her mother, and when the two of them start snooping, danger follows.
But nobody messes with the Esposito family. Not even a cold-blooded killer.
The door burst open. My aunt Muffy entered the house like the invasion of Normandy. Mom and I turned toward her at the same time.
“Well, Mafalda, come on in,” Mom said rising to get another glass.
“Make mine Burgundy, Theresa,” Muffy ordered.
With a kiss to her cheek, I waited until Muffy settled at the table before I glanced out the window to see if anyone else would storm the house. All was clear. I resumed my seat.
“Did you know that Iva Lindon passed away? I just got a call from Concetta Fonseca. She said it happened a little while ago,” Muffy blurted.
“I know. I was there when it happened. So was Lavinia.” Mom set the wine glass and bottle on the table in front of Muffy.
My aunt is a strong-minded woman with a mouth that would put a truck driver to shame. She also dated mob connected men. A habit we couldn’t seem to break her of. Muffy had a heart of gold where the family was concerned. She glanced at me and then turned to stare at my mother’s tear-streaked face.
“Don’t even tell me you’re both involved in this unfortunate woman’s death. Good God, can you not stay out of trouble for one minute, Lavinia?”
“I didn’t do anything,” I said with hands outstretched to ward off the oncoming lecture. “I was an innocent bystander in all this, Auntie.”
“So, tell me what happened,” Muffy demanded as her jet black eyes became intense and sparkly.
My mother shared our experience. She managed to keep it together when describing the scene where Iva croaked.
“Imagine that,” was all Muffy could say as she glanced at the two of us and gulped the remaining liquor from her glass.
“A policeman arrived, and I think he wanted to arrest me. I’m sure of it. Mrs. Galumpky was very offensive, and if Lavinia hadn’t intervened, I’d have been hauled away in handcuffs.”
Muffy’s dark eyes peered at me when she turned in my direction.
“Did you know this cop?”
“Yeah, it was Nick Pirelli. He patrols that neighborhood. Do you remember him? He lived down the street from us as kids.”
“I do. His father was an ass and his mother was a timid woman who jumped when his father said so, the bully.” Muffy snickered. “I kicked his ass more than once when we were young.”
Chuckling at the idea of my short, stout aunt kicking some guy’s butt, I watched my mother begin to relax. Muffy kept the stream of stories up until my mother had restored her sense of humor. Leave it to Muffy to save the day, I thought with relief.
Today, Christine Mazurk is our guest for our Monday Q&A. Christine is an author and a Ironman (Ironwoman) triathlete, whose stories reflect the inner strength in all women. Christine has two titles with Lachesis Publishing, including the women’s fiction Passion’s Race about a young woman who embarks on journey to become an Ironman pro athlete and overcomes her struggles. And a short story called Identity in the Sister’s of Spirit Anthology about the transformation that a woman goes through when she loses more than 100 pounds and trains for a marathon. Both stories have strong romantic elements as well.
When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer and why?
I was ten years old when I started my first novel, because one of my teachers said I had talent. (Nancy Brooks if you’re out there, thank you!!!) Alexandra Chase and Tyler Daniels stayed with me as I finished college and climbed the corporate ladder. My career continued to grow, taking me all over the world, putting my dream of writing a novel on hold. In 2001, I was a senior executive for the Mid-Pacific Region of a large retail company. We lived on Guam at the time. After 9/11, my husband suggested I quit my job to write that book I always talked about writing. Alexandra and Tyler finally made it into the spotlight. The Chase is Over, was my first manuscript. I have since gone on to writing and publishing several other books. The first one needs revising, but I hope one day it will be available for you to read.
Describe your favourite place to write?
I have three favorite places to write. My home in Florida is across the street from the ocean. I sit at the dining room table and enjoy the view of the waves lapping the sand, my fingers dancing over the keyboard. The second place is in St. George, Utah, with the red rock mountains as my view. It’s beautiful, peaceful and my imagination runs wild. The third is a friend’s home on an island off the coast of Connecticut. I went there for the first time in 2003, after meeting Lynn at the RWA National Conference in NY, and it has become our annual writing retreat get away. Ocean and mountains, what more could a writer ask for?!
What would I find on your desk at this very moment?
Pictures of my family, my Sisters Of Spirit mug filled with colorful pens and markers, and Dot Com, a gnome – she types on her seashell laptop – that I bought for Lynn’s mother when I visited the island that first year. A notebook filled with plot points for my current story and the profiles for each of my characters.
What is your tea/coffee beverage of choice when you’re writing?
Morning is coffee, brewed with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and afternoon is herbal tea. I also keep a bottle of water on my desk to sip on throughout the day.
What do you love to read?
Everything!!! Romance, suspense, paranormal, adventure. I loved historicals as a girl, and though I read less of them now, I still enjoy them. I can name my favorite musician, but if you asked me to pick a favorite author, I’d be at a loss. I couldn’t do it.
What is some good advice you can give to an emerging writer?
Write. Write. Write. Then, persistence. Persistence. Persistence. If you don’t write it and knock on doors (submit your work), you’ll never realize your dream. Keep learning about the craft as you go, so you can continue to grow as an author.
What do you do after you finish a book?
Do you celebrate or take a nap? Celebrate for sure. Pop open a bottle of champagne, dance around the house, and then start my next book.
You write meaningful women’s fiction with strong romantic elements. Your first book for Lachesis, is Passion’s Race. It follows the journey of a young woman who embarks on a career as an Ironman triathlete and follows her struggles and triumphs. What inspired her story?
I’m an Ironman triathlete. Some of my best creating is done while I’m out there training for hours on end. I was also a business woman, so Ironman was only a hobby for me, but I thought ‘what if’ my character made a decision to leave her career to race fulltime? What highs and lows would she face on her journey? CJ Fallon also struggled with low self-esteem thanks to her toxic, emotionally-distant mother, so I wondered if becoming a pro would help her gain strength and belief in herself or would it be too much? You’ll have to read the book to find out how her coach, Nick Madison, and her twelve male teammates helped or hurt her throughout her trek in the world of professional athletes.
You also wrote a short story for Lachesis in the anthology Sisters of Spirit about a young woman who undergoes a physical transformation in weight loss and becomes an athlete. Writers have different reasons for telling stories, what are your reasons for writing the kinds of stories you write? What do you want women to get from reading your books?
I’ve always believed a person can achieve anything she sets her mind on. We overcome adversity by stepping out of our comfort zones. Having courage and taking risks makes us grow. I want women (and men) reading my books to understand that a positive attitude, courage and taking risks can take anyone to the next level, mentally and physically. And of course, I also weave a good love story into my books!
What are you working on next?
The working title is Passion’s Spirit. Mike Dawson, Nick Madison’s best friend in Passion’s Race, owns the resort on Guam that the team visits when they train on the island for half of the year. He’s described as a laid-back surfer dude and a player, because he chases tourists. He doesn’t do relationships, so he just enjoys himself with the ladies while they’re visiting the island. In this book, the team arrives for their annual visit, but this year, they bring their new team doctor along. Natalie Walsh is a buttoned-up lone-wolf, who’s a fanatic runner. She’s so serious, almost too serious for the team of men who train hard, but love to have fun and goof around. Did I mention, she’s drop-dead-gorgeous too? Imagine the fun I’m having throwing her into the mix with all these men and their host for six months. (I’m hoping to have it finished and in my agent’s hands by the end of the month!)
Hope you find some time this weekend to relax and read. I always recommend our Lachesis authors.
Our guest blog today is from Lachesis author Greg Ballan. Greg writes science fiction/suspense for Lachesis. His Hybrid series (Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vengeance) follows a private investigator with abilities that are decidedly super-human and “other-worldly”.
Our ongoing topic is: what inspires your writing? Over to you Greg . . .
Wow, this is a great topic! It’s fascinating to see how different authors find inspiration, or what they do to get inspired. Inspiration, for me, is a specter that pays a call at 2:30 in the morning, waking me from a dead sleep. It’s a sense of idea and plot so wonderfully deep and concise that it can only come to me early in the morning while my mind isn’t burdened with the thoughts of work, chaos at home or struggling to develop the plot line for my latest WIP. I used to wake up . . . kick around the inspiration, be amazed at my “Brilliance” and then fall back to sleep convinced I’d remember this stroke of pure genius. When I awoke the next morning the idea was gone as if the same phantom that brought me such inspiration came by and stole it away again. Many a great idea came and went, I’d wake up each morning and my mind would be a blank slate! Now I keep a journal by my nightstand to capture the inspirations and put my whims to paper. THEN I go back to sleep. Several early morning inspirations made their way into Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vengeance and my upcoming Lost Sons projects.
I’ve had moments when the mental roadblocks and obstacles appear insurmountable. These are the times when I need to seek inspiration. During these difficult times inspiration is found through intense physical activity. My activity of choice is MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) or boxing. I’ll tape up my hands, put on my gloves and go several rounds on the heavy bag working a scene over and over in my head while throwing punches and kicks into a defenseless mass of ebony canvas. After a good thirty-minute sweat I’ve usually resolved the problem or at least come closer to a workable solution. If I can’t work around a problem I’ll usually punch and kick my way through it. When I wrote Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vengeance, I choreographed all of the fight scenes on the heavy bag. Each combat scene was played out to make sure the sequences were realistic. Seeing the sequence in my mind and acting it out against an object really helped me describe the intricacies of each strike and counterstrike and made the actions come alive on paper. Truth moment . . . in Hybrid, my main character, Erik Knight, executes a series of offensive moves ending with a perfect, airborne, spinning back kick while in heated hand to hand combat. As I worked through the series of movements leading up to that kick, I leapt, spun in the air and threw my leg around preparing to kick the heavy bag. My approach was too far back; I missed and fell flat on my backside landing on the hard cement floor. After recovering what was left of my dignity and making sure I didn’t need an ambulance, I decided, at 45 years of age, I’d allow myself to just visualize that one move. Those kicks were much easier to do twenty-five years ago.
I’ve also found inspiration in the forest, walking through the dense woodlands. The entire story of Hybrid was created as I hiked through the Hopedale Town Forest (Hopedale, MA). Imagination is a powerful tool, especially for a Science Fiction/Suspense writer. Being alone in the woods as the Sun sets, miles away from the nearest road, gets one’s imagination to wandering in dark places. The result of that hike in the dark was my first novel. I get a twisted sense of pride when one of my neighbors tells me they won’t run the trails in the Hopedale Forest anymore because they’re convinced one of my alien creatures is lurking out there, waiting to pounce!
When I’m working on a project, there are several things I need to have on hand to keep the internal creative/inspirational juices flowing. The most important is my Honey Dew iced coffee and a blueberry muffin. There’s an indescribable comfort of sipping on my favorite drink and nibbling on my favorite comfort food as I’m typing away, putting an idea into words.
I’m also a stickler for dialogue . . . I enjoy creating a picture through conversation. Sometimes it’s better to hear (read) a character’s own words regarding a situation or conflict instead of an author’s description. My favorite author, the late David Eddings, was a master of dialogue. His characters leap off the pages and their conversations can be intense or humorous, conveying more meaningful plot information than any description. Conversation has to be real; the words said have to be believable. I’ve found a great method for realistic dialogue is actually speaking both sides of the conversation aloud, adding the proper tone and emotional aspect to the conversation I’m creating. I quickly discover what lines are good and constructive and which lines need to be reworked or removed. If the conversation sounds real when spoken aloud, then there’s a much better chance a reader will follow the dialogue and mentally process every vocal cadence I’m trying to impart. I’ve often used this technique while driving to work to pass the time, and work through scenes that require intense verbal interaction. What I didn’t realize is that when you drive along the highway and have an animated conversation with yourself, people driving near you tend to notice. I’m often given a wide berth on the road.
I’ve learned a great deal about what inspires my fellow authors and I’m going to adopt Kim Baccellia’s and Alexis D. Craig’s musical inspirations during my next work session and see what amazing things happen! Maybe one of my fellow authors will pick up some boxing gloves, go for a long hike in a dark forest, or just grab a cup of iced coffee and a warm blueberry muffin as they search for their inner muse.
Greg Ballan is a graduate of Northeastern University holding Bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and Management. He lives in Hopedale, MA with his patient, tolerant and sometimes bewildered wife, Teresa and his three children: Tom, Rachel and Christie. Greg enjoys several outdoor activities such as hiking, archery and shooting. When he’s not working his full time job as a Financial Analyst or getting lost in some unknown woodlands, he’s crunched over his laptop putting his warped imagination into words or penning a column about politics, hunting humor or his latest tale about avoiding house work and yard work.
To read some of Greg’s musings visit his writing page on facebook, for several short stories and pithy takes on yard work and homelife.
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