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Perk Up! Ideas Float Through the Air

November 3, 2018 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger tagged as , ,

Perk Up | Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger | A Slice of Orange

 

Perk Up!

Ideas Float Through the Air

Will Zeilinger

As authors, one of the most often asked questions Janet and I hear is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

There are a myriad of answers. Inspiration is everywhere. We never know what may spark an idea for a scene, a section of dialog, a short story, or an entire novel. One of the many methods we employ, but don’t often tell when on stage or at a book signing is, “We eavesdrop.”  Let me explain. The eavesdropping is not intentional. We may be out having dinner with friends and a conversation at a table next to us may be loud enough for us to hear.

Standing in the checkout line at a big box store or supermarket is another. Snippets of conversations may drift past us and cause us to think…”That would fit perfectly in my story.”  In this age of cell phones and in our daily travels, it is sometimes impossible to avoid overhearing private conversations. Some may think this rude, but if people are going to speak so loudly, it’s fair game.

Janet was at a buffet and overheard the parent say, “Son. If you’re going to take all that food you have to eat everything on your plate. If you don’t eat it all, you’ll have to sit and look at it.”

Even while on vacation, our “writer brains” won’t turn off. Several years ago we were on a trip to China.  We overheard one of our tour members ask another while at lunch, “Don’t you think these people would get tired of Chinese food all the time?” The comment was not meant to be insensitive, but it was funny. We love to hear stories from people we meet while traveling. and we’ve used many excerpts from things we’ve heard.

We have heard random bits of conversations people don’t think others can hear. Will was standing in the customer service line at a home improvement store when he overhead to guys complaining about the small size of his imported car’s trunk. The guy said something like, “You couldn’t even stuff a dead guy in there if you had to.” Will used part of that in his book THE FINAL CHECKPOINT. In this mystery a headless corpse was found in the trunk of an abandoned sports car. The head was dumped somewhere else because it wouldn’t fit.

Overhearing conversations is only one way of getting inspiration. People-watching at malls and airports are another way to get inspired. Everyone has something going on in their lives and as fiction writers, we can dream up plots from our imagination.  In the course of hearing things the often warm our hearts, sometime they break our hearts and other times they are so funny that we have to bite our lip to keep from laughing out loud. Janet and I often look at each other, shake our heads and think, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

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THE CORNER THAT’S SEEN IT ALL – A LIVELY PLAYGROUND FOR A WRITER’S IMAGINATION!

August 20, 2018 by in category A Bit of Magic by Meriam Wilhelm tagged as , ,


My sister-in-law and I recently took a trip down to La Brea and First Street in Los Angeles, California. Saddened by the news that our favorite fabric store, The Fabric Store, was going out of business, we hoped to grab a final few moments playing with colors, textiles and patterns, and of course snag a few bargains!

Unfortunately, increased rental costs have hastened the closure of this fabulous store. A fact that seems to be plaguing others in this neighborhood of upcoming fashion boutiques, upscale condos and vogue restaurants.

Arriving before the store opened, we decided to venture down the block to Nick Metropolis’ Collectibles; one of the most interesting and unique playgrounds for the mind in town. A place sure way to spark any writer’s imagination.

Not your traditional shopping experience by any means, this open air shop is filled with movie memorabilia, quirky collectibles, odd pieces of artistic expression and a million other items you might never have seen before. Sprinkled throughout the site you’ll also find some beautiful paintings, trendy pop culture artwork, lamps, dishes, unusual furniture, mannequins, sculpture and a whole lot more.

As a writer who loves to dabble in the world of paranormal phenomena and magic, I felt like I’d stumbled upon an inspirational treasure trove. My imagination kicked into overdrive as I wandered through the tight, not so easily maneuverable pathways. What stories could I ring from the many items I’d discovered? Were there confused spirits trapped within this realm, afraid to release items they’d once cherished? Who had previously owned the beautifully sculpted marble angels and where had one rather spooky picture of two washed-out toddlers previously hung? What child had played with the now tattered bride doll or raced through their back yard on the now ancient lady bug cart? I was stunned to learn that one of the sculptures was actually an artist’s rendering of the children of a very popular actor. How had it ended up there? Hmmm, possibly one of these would serve as interesting fodder for a paranormal tale or two.

For over twenty-six years Nick Metropolis has bought, sold, rented and collected pieces from studios, actors, private collectors and everyday folks hoping to make a buck. Studio reps regularly stop by to rent out mid-century couches, an avant-garde painting or to grab items like an old telephone from the 1950’s – perfect for a scene in an upcoming TV show or movie. And numerous stars have popped in to see Nick in the hopes of finding that perfect retro piece or quirky artwork just right for their Southern California home. Nick seems to know them all and he is more than ready to help any customer find just what they are searching for be they a star, a studio rep or just someone hunting for their own inspiration.

Right behind Nick’s shop, homeless Vietnam War Veterans wander the alleyways; he greets them all with kindness and respect, happy to hear their stories. Known for his generosity, the Vets in turn watch out for their friend on this active corner. Unfortunately for the Vets – and those of us who love Nick’s place – the ever increasing rental costs are threatening the future of the site.

The King of Collectibles, as he calls himself, Nick has recently captured the attention of a local production company who is considering creating a reality show based on the happenings of this eclectic, happening place. Ever the entrepreneur, Nick is hopeful that the show will generate funds needed to keep this imaginative playground alive.

If you ever get down to 100 South La Brea, I encourage you to stop by. Don’t be put off by the apparent chaos of the place. Walk in, meet Nick and his wife. You’ll quickly have a couple of new friends. And if you take the time to really look about, you’re sure to find that candy for the imagination abounds at every turn in this ever changing, enchanting spot on La Brea Avenue.

http://www.californiacuriosities.com/nick-metropolis-trash-and-treasure-at-las-most-unique-vintage-shop/

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-lopez-nick-metropolis-05242017-story.html

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Now & Then: An Author Looks Back

March 15, 2018 by in category The Write Way by Maureen Child, Writing tagged as , , , ,

I am updating my early romances and contemporary women’s fiction novels with the intention of re-releasing them. I am excited because these books were my training ground. In these pages I can hear the first tentative sounds of my distinct ‘author’s voice’. I see that I instinctively had a good grasp of what makes a story work (don’t all voracious readers have that instinct?). There is one more thing I see in these books that is hard to embrace: my major author ‘dork’. I have no other word for my early writing stumbles. Some of them were mistakes of publishing fashion and others were born from an untrained sense of drama.

Since hindsight is a wonderful thing, I thought I’d share my top three ‘author dork’ mistakes.

1) Hysterical dialogue: This is not an industry term so don’t use it with an editor. Sill, I think it perfectly describes my use of long sentences, harsh words, and huge banks of exclamation points to get across a character’s anger, distress, fear and passion.

Solution: In my later work, I learned that proper scene set-up, thoughtful exposition, and spare and realistic dialogue give me a lot more dramatic punch.

2) Fad over fashion: Within the first few pages of Seasons (a book I really love) my heroine appears in Laura Ashley dress. If you’re old enough to know who Laura Ashley is, you’re cringing at the image. If you’re not old enough to know then I have made you stumble as you try to figure it out. I have no doubt I will also run across references to big shoulder pads and power suits.

Solution: I now describe clothing generally – jeans, slacks, blazer, leather jacket – to allow the reader to fill in the detail blanks. I use color to underscore character. I never use a designer name or a fad because this dates a book. The only exception is when I need the fad to assist in a plot point. For instance, a label in a corpse’s clothing might call out a specific designer.

3) Overwriting: When I first started writing there seemed to be an accepted rule of thumb that a chapter was twenty pages, that women’s fiction and romance were not worthy unless the author lingered over love scenes and dialogue was drawn out. If there is purpose to long stretches of prose or dialogue then go for it, but if during the edit the author can’t remember what happened in the last three pages of a book then the reader won’t remember either.

Solution: Tell the story. Do not write to word length. Either the story is solid and will move along at a good clip or it won’t, either it will be 100,000 words or it won’t.  The readers won’t stick with you.

The good news is that I am happy with these early books and will not fundamentally change them. I will, however, make them better by applying what I know now to what I wrote then. If only we could do the same thing with our high school yearbook pictures the world would be perfect!

Happy writing.

Don’t forget to check out my latest release, Secret Relations, book 3 in the Finn O’Brien Thriller Series.

Here’s where you can find me!

Website: http://rebeccaforster.com

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DEVILISHLY GOOD DETAILS

January 15, 2018 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster tagged as , , , , ,

Yesterday my husband and I decided to inaugurate the MoviePass cards our son gave us for Christmas. With one swipe (and $10 a month) we can see as many movies as we like at any theater.

Our first movie would be The Post at our local theater. It took both of us, and the manager, to figure out how to make the card work (which in hindsight should not have been necessary if we understood our phone settings). Finally, we swiped our cards only to find that The Post was sold out. That pushed us to our default selection: any movie that was not sold out. We ended up in a nearly empty theater watching Jumanji, the 20-year-later sequel to Robin William’s wonderful movie by the same name.

Jumanji is a fanciful action-adventure movie about a game that sucks people into an alternate universe and in order to get home, the player must win the game. In William’s version, he was the only one who disappeared. This version has an ensemble cast that includes The Rock, Jack Black and two other actors we weren’t familiar with but who were perfectly cast.

The movie began, the music was ominous, the set up delightful, the locations beautiful and the direction energetic. The kids in the theater reacted with oohs, aahs, and other exclamations of delight.

Oh, wait! That was me oohing and aahing!

Yep, I loved every bit of that movie and when I got home I realized the reason I loved it was because I lost myself in the storytelling. Everyone from the screenwriter to the lighting guy and cast was on board with the creative vision. The premise was quickly and clearly established. Casting was based on character and not on what looks that the producers deemed ‘sexy and salable’. The computer-generated stunts did not overpower the story nor did they last so long that the viewer could literally leave, have dinner and come back and they would still be crashing about on screen. If something fantastic happened – like characters dying and getting shot into space and suddenly falling back to earth again without injury – the viewer accepted it because it quickly became apparent that each piece of this story had a purpose. There was always a payoff that made sense. Threads were wrapped up at the end. The story built to a conclusion and didn’t present it. But better than anything, the actors never broke character. The adult actors were asked to channel their teenage counterparts in the real world that had been left behind. I have seen this transference in movies before but too often the adult actor simply remains an adult. The last time I saw this plot point beautifully executed was in Tom Hanks’s Big.

So, here’s what I want you to do. Before you write another word, before you start editing, go see Jumanji. It is one of the best lessons in pitch-perfect storytelling I’ve had in a very long time. As for me, I’m going back to work and give my manuscript the Jumanji treatment because the devilish details are what make for a heavenly story.

 

http://rebeccaforster.com/

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You Have My Permission

December 15, 2017 by in category Writing tagged as , , , , ,

Anyone who knows me knows that I love an adventure. Being asked to speak aboard a ship was definitely on my bucket list, so I jumped at the chance when I was asked to be an onboard lecturer. I prepared five talks that I thought were rather compelling: Peek Behind the Covers, a Look at Publishing, The Caribbean Influence on Popular Literature and Movies, The Five People You Should Meet in the Caribbean, How to Travel like an Author and Everyone has a Story: What’s Yours?.

Since I had sailed on this ship as a passenger, I knew the people coming to listen to me were well traveled, curious, intelligent and fun. On my speaking days, they gathered to hear me in the big theatre to watch my PowerPoint presentations and see me slide hither and yon on the dance floor when the sea got rough. At the end of each of my presentations, I asked if there were questions. There weren’t – at least not questions for public consumption. Instead, many in the audience came to speak to me privately. They wanted to talk about their own writing ambitions. There was a surgeon who wanted to write a children’s book, a woman in her nineties whose own children were asking that she write a memoir. There was a man who had written a business book a decade ago but he had always wanted to write a novel. And there was a composer who, as he listened to me, thought to combine lyrics and a story to create a unique novel.

After listening to every person who spoke to me after my lecture, or caught me on deck, or sat with me in the dining room it finally dawned on me what they were after. They wanted my permission to follow their dreams.

[tweetshare tweet=”@Rebecca_Forster: You have my permission . . .follow your dreams.” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]

Strangely, when it comes to fiction or memoir, many of us believe that our words are not as valuable as the next persons. We convince ourselves that writing with honesty and passion will somehow diminish us in the eyes of the world – or at least those we care about. We offer our writing up with caveats like ‘it is silly’, ‘you probably won’t like it’, and ‘promise not to laugh’.

I heard these things in the voices of the people on that ship, but when we were done talking I heard something else. I heard confidence. I heard the excitement. I heard their brains turning as they planned their books. By taking that first step – admitting they harbored dreams of authorship to someone who was already there – they had given themselves permission to write. When we all parted, I knew exactly where they were going. They were going home to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboards. They had taken more than a cruise, they had taken a journey and I have no doubt that by the end of that journey they will have written their book.

Give yourself permission to do whatever it is you dream of doing. If your dream is to write a book, do it with honesty and passion – and don’t forget to share it with the rest of us.

Rebecca


SEVERED RELATIONS
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