Nurture the seeds of your story

Ideas for stories come to me at the oddest times and from the oddest places, which is why I carry a digital tape recorder.  I hate the sound of my voice, but using the recorder helps me remember a line of dialogue, plot out a key point or work through a scene that makes me want to pull out my hair.

In the middle of the night, I often awake to the sounds of my character’s voices reminding me to take notice of them and their wants, needs or dire circumstances. Such rudeness require that I leave a notebook on my night stand to jot down their issues–even at 3 a.m!

IMG_4364One of the techniques I find helpful is story-boarding my books. (A nice tip I picked up at one of my NJRW conferences.) My office is filled with post it notes. Starting from the first chapter and each scene, I outline the events as they take place in chronological order. I’m a plotter, so this extra step in outlining helps a great deal.

I also love a change in scenery.  Leaving the confines of my office and going to Starbucks or Barnes and Noble gets the creative juices flowing.  But for heavy duty getaway writing, I’m headed for a place filled with nature, water and quiet.

Lake George

A few years ago, I took a 7-hour drive (which is a big deal because I hate driving!)  to the Adirondacks, near Lake George, NY. I rented a cabin for the weekend, complete with a fireplace and kitchenette. With all the essentials a writer needs (or I need): wine, chocolate and gummy bears, I dove into my WIP.

During the early morning, I took walks along the grounds, taking pictures of the sunrise and breathing in the December atmosphere that had—the night before—delivered a dusting of snow.

I felt alive and creative.

If you ever feel the need to break free of your day-to-day writing confines, plan a trip. A short getaway will often do the trick. Not only are you getting away, but you’re setting your muse free to explore things that might otherwise stay silent in your everyday writing space.

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Throwback Thursday: All-Star Converses

When I’m so inclined, I will catch a rerun or two of “That ’70s Show” to relive my youth and see how close they come to getting it right.

Yes, I grew up with hot pants, tie-dye shirts and platform shoes, which by the way I should have kept. Who knew they’d be back in this millennium?

I grew up watching the Knicks (when they were worth watching) and stars like Walt Frazier, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, Bill Bradley (now Senator Bill) and Dave DeBusschere.

But when I really want to relive my ’70s days, all I need is a pair or two of All-Star Converses. Oh yes, I’m a Converse girl!

Back in the day, I wore them until the soles were hole ridden, the color faded or until my mother found them and threw them away! And, I am–along with countless others–dedicated to carrying on the genius and comfort of salesman and basketball player Chuck Taylor’s mega endorsement.

So, I’m starting to rebuild my collection with the four pair pictured above. And my eyes are focused on three more pairs: the pink, purple and brand-new all black leopard pattern.  There’s even the Wonder Woman pattern!

A while back my daughter and I saw the movie, “The Judge,” and afterwards wouldn’t you know–a showdown ensued–in the middle of the parking lot–between Converse or Vans!

Who won you might ask? I’ll let you decide. 🙂

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Jane Austen. Edgar Allan Poe. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Maya Angelou. Ernest Hemingway. To me, they were literary rock stars, who played the written word like Eric Clapton plays his guitar, Billy Joel his piano and Phil Collins the drums.

Each of these authors has influenced what I read, and not surprisingly, what and how I write. They’ve moved and inspired me with their stories, passages and verses.  And each time I “jam” to their work, I learn more about a character or uncover a theme that might have escaped me the first time around.

Probably my first and strongest influence in writing is American writer, commentator, activist, and educator—Nikki Giovanni. Over the years, I’ve swayed to the rhythmic verses of “Ego Tripping,” and felt spiritually and humanly empowered as I read, “Those Who Ride the Night Winds,” a collection of her poems dedicated to “the day trippers and midnight cowboys, … who have shattered the constraints of the status quo to live life as a “marvelous, transitory adventure.”

The author of 27 books, a Grammy nominee, and now a professor of English at Virginia Tech, Ms. Giovanni still moves me. And isn’t it the very nature of a writer’s existence? To move others? To enlighten others?

After all these years, I still want to be like Ms Giovanni–embracing my thoughts and my work without the internal editor or virtual someone looking over my shoulder. I will be forever grateful to Ms. Nikki Giovanni for her masterful command of the written word and her fierce grasp on what makes us think.  She rocks.

Nikki_Giovanni_speaking_at_Emory_University_2008

Who’s your literary rock star?

Write like a rock star …

Taking the first step toward normal …

Another year has passed.  Birthday wise that is.

It’s been another year filled with accomplishments and let downs; defeats and triumphs. And while I’ve gone through it all, there’s one thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind. WRITING.

I’ve doodled a sentence here and there.  Concocted two or three new ideas for upcoming stories. Revised a WIP. And even (much to my dismay) received a good tongue lashing from one or two of my characters who I have neglected tremendously.

Another year has passed, yet a constant theme drummed in my head.  I LOVE TO WRITE. I WAS BORN TO WRITE. I’M NOT REALLY HAPPY UNLESS I’M WRITING.

So, my new year starts today–with my birthday. Not on Jan 1.  My resolutions can’t wait until then. My life as a writer is urgent, critical and I have to take steps to secure my future. I have to get back into the swing of things.

Apparently, my characters are making bold statements in reminding me of who they are.  I’ve seen their names on the backs of trucks, street signs and even storefronts.

One thing about life is that we all go through stuff–king-size mounds of stuff that seem too overwhelming to move, or small droplets of stuff that are still annoying as hell to remove. The good thing is that we can learn from each other’s stuff. You know, share best practices for overcoming stuff.

If you’ve experienced a period of inaction or piles of stuff, but are doing better now, how did you get over it? What was your first step toward normal?

Back off. I am the keeper of MY domain.

networks

Coming back to life can be a real pain in the behind.

After a few days of connecting with fellow authors at the New Jersey Romance Writers conference, I was inspired to dust myself off and get back to the business of getting published. Any conference that fuels your passion is always a good thing. I didn’t want to waste a minute of it.

After walking Poe, (yes, he’s still my little mascot) I started working on a scene, which became a chapter. Oh yeah, I was on a roll and let me tell you, it felt awesome! Feeling quite satisfied, I decided to jump start my poor, neglected blog.

And then …. OMG.

Unbeknownst to me, my domain name was now up for auction and apparently someone trying to sell me (nettrobbens.com) for the mere price of $60. Are you kidding me? I called GoDaddy.com from whom I originally purchased my domain and they said that it happened sometime last month. Evidently this is a common occurrence. Well, whoa …knock me over with a feather!

Now, enter Google. In prior years, I always received a reminder that my the expiration on my domain was approaching, since they were in partnerships (or should I say cahoots)with GoDaddy. And I always renewed. But something funky happened this year. I received nothing. No email. No reminder. No domain. My love affair with Google has hit a major snag. Who knows if I’ll ever recover?

The guy from GoDaddy tried to reassure me that $60 was really a good deal if I had to “buy” myself back. Some people have to pay thousands for their domains when something like this happens.

Pfft. It didn’t work. I was still ticked off. But who knew someone would want me so badly? 🙂

Still this experience taught me a few things:

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1) Any one can take what you’ve worked hard to develop–even your domain name. So beware!
2) Sign up for the privacy registration on your domain, which give you more control and keeps the owner of the domain private. Not that it will guarantee you won’t ever have trouble, but it might lessen the aggravation.
3) Auto renew whenever you can, so you’re sure to keep your domain YOUR domain.

There was one piece of good news in this whole fiasco. During the time I registered my prior domain, I had enough sense to also buy the .net domain. I guess that wasn’t good enough to try to auction off, so they left that one for me.

For now, or least until I can reclaim myself, I will be blogging, writing and getting back into the groove under nettrobbens.net. And this time around, I have more control.

No man (or writer) is an island …

Living a writer’s life leaves many of us hovering over our computers and notepads, yet we shouldn’t forget that our solitary “islandlike” existence intertwines with others.

Our literary endeavors may be depend upon our individual prose, style and craft. But our work ultimately relies on the feedback from someone other than our characters. We depend on editors, agents critiquing partners, readers and yes, other writers to offer guidance, help and encouragement.

Therefore, I’m pleased to promote a fellow author’s invitation to name her latest book.

Jordan K. Rose pens novels that will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat, and her next book is sure to do the same. But she’s looking for a few good ideas for a title. And you can help!

Just click on the promotional box above (or to the left) to enter Jordan’s NameThatBook contest and let your creative juices flow. Have a little fun, and receive recognition if your title wins.

The writing community spans countries and continents, yet I find it to be surprisingly small and intimate, where everyone knows someone and where good deeds and well wishes are shared for years to come.

So, send a good wish and a little help to fellow writer, Jordan K. Rose. Enter the contest, and NameThatBook!

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, By John Donne, 1624

N’oreaster and all …it’s STILL a good day to be Friday

nor'easterI’m not going to be the grim reaper with news of doom and gloom. I’m just going to say that the northeast, which includes New Jersey, New York, (particularly Long Island) and Connecticut is bracing for a massive blizzard.  And for those who have yet to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Sandy, this is not a good thing. Between the three states, we’re expecting between 6-24 inches of snow, 60 mph winds, blustery conditions where you can’t see in front of you.

Yeah. Welcome to winter.

Although we’re used to it, you do get tired of preparing, and the urge to scream “Enough of this #$@@#!” is high.   (But I have to admit the need for people to run to the grocery store and buy food like we’re on lockdown for the next month is still a mystery to me.)

One good thing about this storm is that it’s happening over the weekend and should end on Saturday. This, at least, gives you a day to dig out. It also gives you a chance to enjoy some of your weekend.  Speaking of digging out, shoveling is my least favorite sport, so I’ve learned over the years to keep a little cash handy for anyone feeling ambitious enough to earn a little money, and help dig this tired soul out of the snow!

Poe and I had plans to attend the 13th Annual Super Pet Expo, and we still may go. I definitely want to check out the latest gifts and gadgets for our animal friends. There’s shopping and shopping and did I say, shopping? Oh, and you can even adopt a pet, which is very cool.

If the power keeps flowing, I’m going to catch up on my writing and reading.  First up is J.K. Rowlings’ grown up book, “The Casual Vacancy.”   I’ve heard mixed reviews and now it’s time to dive in and see for myself. Besides, I’m in the mood for a little dark humor.

Oh, and on Sunday, I might take in The Grammys. It depends. I think out of all the awards show, I’ve outgrown the Grammys the most.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a few performers who I enjoy watching like Alicia Keys and Adele.   But there’s no one who makes me want to sit through the whole thing, at least not on this year’s roster.

I hope the snow melts fast because on February 14, I have a date—with John McClane and his son.  “A Good Day to Die Hard” hits the theater and I’ll be there. It looks action-packed and filled with classic John McClane, and a side of all grown up Junior McClane. Take a peek at the trailer.  That alone gets my heart fluttering. Bruce Willis is still at the top of his game!  Yippee Kai Yay!

Well, I’m off to the store to buy gummy bears and a bottle of wine.  In my humble opinion, THAT’s all you need for a blizzard!

Have a great weekend and wherever you are, be safe.