Places of Inspiration: Old New Castle

As some of you may know, I spent all last week visiting a friend in Delaware, and as such didn’t get any writing done.  It was a time for me to focus on my friend, who I hadn’t seen in three years (though we talk regularly online), and it was a time to recharge a little.  So, no, I didn’t get any writing done.  But I did keep my ideas percolating in the back of my brain, and I also gathered inspiration from unlikely places.

It’s fascinating to me how many random places you can gather inspiration from.  Big Cities, Little Towns, Museums, etc…  For me one of the big ones this past week was Old New Castle in Delaware.  It’s the old town section of New Castle, right on the Delaware River, filled with beautiful old Colonial style houses and government buildings, etc.  I took a ridiculous number of pictures.  It was just such a beautiful town, and it was a gorgeous warm-with-a-cool-breeze kind of day.  And as my friend and I walked around (with me clicking pictures maniacally) I realized I really want to write about a setting like this.  And when I do write about it, I want it to be more than just a setting – I want the town to become practically a character in its own right.

Pictures like these will, I hope, make that a possibility:

In what kinds of physical locations do you find inspiration?  Do you collect photos for future reference, or do you mainly rely on places you remember, or places you live in?  Any cities/towns/places in particular that you’d like to share with others?

As a side note: As it is the first of June, here are my major goals for the month:

1) Finish my demon hunter WIP, tentatively titled Midnight’s Knife

2) Start first re-write for Midnight’s Knife

3) Read 4-6 books as part of #ToBeReMo (To Be Read Month), which was started by Suzan Isik. You can read more about it here: #ToBeReMo is Back!

See ya folks on friday!

Writerly Habits 2: The Playlists Keep Coming (or the marriage of music and writing)

(I had this post all done and ready to go last night, so all I’d have to do in the morning was press ‘Publish.’  And then I forgot to.  Can you say “fail”? Oh well, anyway, enjoy.)

Here’s a habit I’ve noticed to be fairly common among writers: the use of music to help focus, inspire, associate with specific scenes or characters, etc.  I’ve been known to do this, and many of my writerly friends do the same.  When I was in high school I used to create playlists for different stories; sometimes I’d have entire playlists just for one or two main characters.  These playlist got… interesting… to say the least.  I look back at some of them now, and I’m not really sure what I was thinking.  However, it still holds true that I absolutely have to have music playing to write effectively.

It really is just the perfect marriage of arts: music and writing, together forever.

I’ve learned through experimentation which artists/albums/genres will distract me, cutting through my thoughts so that all I can think about are the lyrics or melodies I’m listen to, and which ones will create a background.  I think of this background like a wall of sound that helps to block out unwanted noises and thoughts and keeps me focused on the task at hand – a little like blinders on a horse.  For such purposes I’ve found that Vivaldi and Bach are fantastic.  I also tend to listen to the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack quite a lot it, because its energetic and invigorating without being distracting (and completely awesome).

I also still associate certain genres or artists with certain stories or scenes.  For instance, one of my WIPs is a high fantasy with dark overtones and a strong, somber female main character.  While working on this story, I tend to listen to female-fronted metal bands: Within Temptation, Nightwish, Flyleaf, Evanescence.  And for a few scenes, I find that Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor is the PERFECT soundtrack.  For another one of my WIPs, an urban fantasy about a demon hunter, I listen to The Killers (let me admit right now, I’m not entirely sure HOW The Killers became associated with this story, it doesn’t make much sense when I think about it, but there ya go…).

Those are just a few examples to give you some idea how my mind works.  But I’d love to hear what others listen to.  Specific artists or songs?  Do you make playlists?  Do you look for music that is quiet and good for background music, rather than songs that are associated with stories or characters?  All of the above?

Inquiring minds want to know!

(Also, I am ALWAYS on the look out for new music suggestions.  I am VORACIOUS when it comes to music, and I’ll listen to almost any genre.  Send them my way!)

The Lightning-Strike, or, Sources of Inspiration

I am always curious about what inspired writers to become writers.  If there was a particular book or author that made someone say, “this is it, this is what I have to do with my life,” and if there was one or two books/authors, in particular, I love finding out which ones.

I can pinpoint my inspiration to three books/authors.  When I was 8 or 9 years old, my dad gave me one of the best presents he has ever given me, even to this day.  He wasn’t around much because my parents are divorced and had been since I was 3 yrs old, but these particular presents had a huge impact on me.  He gave me the Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe (his personal favorite) and the Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. To say I devoured them would be a gross understatement.  To say that my dad was the reason for my love of the written word would be hugely inaccurate, because it was my mother who bought me most of the books I owned, and it was mother’s enormous personal library that admired as a child, and it was my mother who read to me every chance she could.  That being said, Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson were revelations to me.  They both brought me wholly awake to poetry (still one of my loves, though my own poetry isn’t much worth mentioning), and Poe began my love for psychological horror (which, years later, brought me to Lovecraft).

Those two books from my dad nudged me persistently toward writing (especially, but not only, poetry).  However, the final and greatest push came from my mom’s personal library.  J.R.R. Tolkien.  In the fourth grade I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in quick succession.  And I was struck by lightning.  I knew, I KNEW, that THIS was it. This was what I had to do.  Period.  And I never looked back.

I would love to know if other writers have similar stories, and what particular books or authors made them feel as if they had been struck by lightning.  I would love to learn what got Tolkien started, or Roger Zelazny, or William Gibson, or Michael Crichton.    And what about the newbies like me?  And what about the people who are even younger than me, who have perhaps been raised on an entirely different group of authors than I was?

This question is related to the previous blog about the anxiety of influence, but it isn’t the exact same question.  Admittedly, Tolkien, who was my lightning-strike, is (as I already mentioned) one my greatest sources of influence-anxiety.  The topics, themes, characters, and settings I write about are all influenced by him, and even my stylistic choices have some echo of Tolkien.  But, while I definitely consider Poe and Dickinson as my other two original inspirations, I do not think they greatly influence my actual writing now.  Is this true for everyone?  Do we always/sometimes/never gather inspiration and anxiety from the some places?  What say you?

(Side Note: I had this scheduled to publish on Fri, Feb 25th at noon, but apparently I need to more carefully figure out how to do that, since it obviously didn’t ACTUALLY get posted.  *sigh* )