There’s a Hole in My Bucket List

Bucket lists seem to be a big thing these days. While I never thought of it as a bucket list there were some things I wanted to accomplish before I am too old to enjoy them. Maybe my ambitions were small. Maybe I was lucky because my goals have been fulfilled for the most part. Or maybe my bucket had a leak.

The things I haven’t done were set aside mostly because I grew up and decided I didn’t want to do those things after all. For instance, for a long time I was enamored with celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The outing quickly lost its appeal when i learned about the lack of bathrooms. I am both too old and too young to wear a diaper.

After realizing that I don’t have a bucket list, I decide to research them. I perused the internet to look at other peoples’ bucket lists. Many were filled with exotic places or, strangely, related to heights. I couldn’t really relate to those but I suspect I could add traveling if I gave it some thought.

It was fun to see some of the things I have done on other people’s list. It might be even more fun to look at lists and compile one of things I have done. It makes me smile just thinking about some of my adventures.

I have seen Prince live nearly 100 times. I met him and got his autograph. I stood beside him and realized he is shorter than I am. I went to his concerts on two continents. When I was in MPLS, I was nearly involved in a traffic accident with him.

But is that 5 items on just one?

I’ve met Jason Momoa three times—and he remembered me. That probably makes two.

Hmm. Maybe I could borrow some that I found on other peoples’ lists for the other 3. Let’s see.
I’ve done a ride along in a police car.
I’ve stood in two different states at the same time. In the same vein, I’ve stood atop two mountains that allowed me to see multiple other states.
I’ve ridden in a hot air balloon.
And I have driven a limousine.(No, neither Prince or Jason were involved.)

I think I’ll start keeping a list of all the things I HAVE done. My life is full. I don’t need to focus on what I haven’t done—yet. Which reminds me:

I need to meet Roman Reigns!

If I Could Just Talk to Them #MFRWAuthor #book #authors

The list of writers I would like to meet and talk with is long. I’ve always been an avid reader and was lucky enough to discover Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Anne MCCaffery, and Ursula LeGuin as relatively new writers. But before them, I had fallen under the spell of Andre Norton.

Born Alice Mary Norton, she wrote at a time when publishers believed only boys read science fiction, and obviously only males could write it. She wrote other books under pen names Allen Norton or Allen Weston. Her juvenile fiction usually featured an outsider who survives challenges and becomes the hero figure, saving the day. This “rites of passage” theme appealed a broad audience making her a best seller to adults also. My love of “underdog heroes” can be attributed to her.

A little later, I discovered Barbara Michaels who I suppose would be classified as Gothic romance. Again the outsider, usually considered the “bad boy” in the beginning of the book would turn out to be the hero in the end.

I would love to talk to these women about how they withstood the prejudices against female authors (and readers) and flourished and became the leaders in their genre.

Some time between Norton and Micheals I discovered H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Both these authors wrote in the 30’s but had a resurgence of popularity. I can almost understand my attraction for Conan who was born a slave but became a king. He does loosely fit my character preferences. But my attraction to the cult of Cthulhu confused me until I remembered The Dunwich Horror in which the truly bad guy was my favorite character. He became a bad guy because the townspeople hated his family and shunned him.

So my third author would be H.P. Lovecraft. I would love to understand the working of his imagination. And I would like him to know that while he was never recognized during his lifetime, 80 years later he and his creatures are an integral part of the horror genre.

My 4th and 5th authors are still living. I would love to talk to Tanya Huff and Poppy Z Brite and ask why they stopped writing my favorite books. Tanya moved from main characters who were gay males to write female main characters in the military. And Poppy went from anguished gay males to books that seem to be about food in New Orleans. If I could just talk to them, for even a moment, I’d also beg them to write just one more book in their old style.

 

Lost Souls, Found Genre #MFRWAuthor

portrait of a beautiful vampire with blood flowing from the mouth

There have been many books that have influenced me over the years, each for a different reason. Some were non-fiction books on the craft of writing, business development, and managing life situations. These are, of course, designed to impact your life. One book of fiction that most directly influenced me is Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite.

I received Lost Souls in 1992 as a gift, the first of many novels given to me by someone I love. Lost Souls was published by Abyss, an imprint of Dell Publishing. Abyss published primarily horror fiction and I depended on that Abyss logo when I shopped for books. It never let me down. I was heartbroken when it disappeared.

Lost Souls did more than introduce me to my favorite publisher, it introduced me to vampires in a way they had never been presented before. There was still an element of horror in that some of them were vicious and deadly, but mostly they were beautiful, sexy creatures. Later this style of gothic horror, in my opinion, evolved into paranormal romance and to urban fantasy, where romance is typically secondary to the main story.

Zilla and Nothing (the main characters) introduced me to the possibility of new worlds with new rules. Boys loved boys, humans desired non-humans, heroes could be flawed, rape and incest questioned the norms. And of course there was music. Lots of music. My love of this book led me to another novel by Brite, Drawing Blood. Later, I was drawn to the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series.Vampires and other supernatural creatures walked among us, lived and worked with us, and had lives with purpose beyond being the “boogeyman”. Between 1992 and now there have been many incarnations of the vampire story.

Experts periodically tell us that genres with supernatural elements are dead, but a stroll through a bookstore or Amazon indicates there are still plenty of people, like me, who are looking for that sexy, supernaturally dangerous hero. Which is why I write urban fantasy. My love of horror and fantasy merged perfectly.

And I can make my world whatever I want it to be.

My Choices Brought Me Here #MFRWAuthor

Life is filled with roads untraveled. Decisions I’ve made to go left instead of right, north instead of south, have brought me to where I am—who I am—today. What if I’d made different choices? Would I be a different person? Maybe. Maybe not. There are too many “what if” questions to know for sure.

That being said, the answer to the question, “What would I do if I didn’t write?” isn’t a stretch when one considers I still have a “day job”. Two, in fact. In my work life,I always find myself in some type of social service. Whether it was as a social worker, a professor, or CEO of a non-profit, the emphasis has always been on working closely with people, helping them to acquire the skills, information and resources needed to live their best lives possible.

My human service work isn’t as disconnected from writing as one might assume. I’ve learned to patiently get to know people, to see their lives from varying points of view instead of making easy snap judgements about them due to their circumstances. This probably explains my tendency to write about and cheer for the underdog, as well as create rich, three- dimensional characters.

None of this means, however, that I don’t dream a myriad of what-if scenarios. An exercise in The Artist Way by Julia Cameron asks the reader to write down 5 occupations he or she would like to have. Here’s my list: Rock star, dancer, rock star’s wife, rock star manager, or rich man’s kept woman. I guess I zigged when I should have zagged.

What’s your what-if list?

It’s a Little Like Giving Birth #MFRWauthor

People ask me all the time if I write myself into my books. Yes and no. Most of my characters are male so I don’t particularly identify with them other than finding them attractive and, for my heroes, likeable. My ego may show up in a female character at some point, probably more as someone I’d like to be rather than who I am.

That being said, I’m not sure that it is possible to create without having myself in my writing to a significant amount. Getting a book to print is a little like giving birth: Your DNA is in the mix with your blood, sweat and tears. And it’s all fun and games until you have to painstakingly squeeze out actual words that you  hope other people will find as wonderful as you do.

More to the point, like DNA is passed onto one’s children, my interests and choices are infused in my stories. For example, on a simple level my characters—or at least my heroes—will look and behave in a manner I find appealing. My heroes are either significantly short or exceptionally tall. None of those average height guys for me. They’ll all have long hair because I like long hair. Their clothing may change to conform to the story but it will still be something I find attractive. So my preferences and desires will always be present.

In terms of personality and behavior, the protagonists in my books are unlikely heroes who have to go the extra mile to prove they are worthy. I’m not sure that means anything more than their struggle is huge (and therefore more interesting to me). I would have a difficult time writing about a gorgeous billionaire who has to fight to get ahead. Kudos to those who can.

Turntable with LP playing.

Because it’s so important in my life, music will usually play a role in my stories. If nothing else, a minor character will be a musician but most often it will be a significant element in the setting or in the life of a main character. I frequently get ideas for stories from music. I am sure that the mood of the music I play while writing affects the words on the page. Emotional music makes for an emotional story. Sexy music…well, you know.

There is also the aspect of the time and effort that goes into writing these stories. If I’m tired and pressed for time, my writing echoes a negative feel and drags on. In revisions, I can effectively moderate this tone. On the other hand, if I’m excited about the story or something else in my life, my writing takes on a lighter, happier, or more optimistic tone.

I dare say people die when I am feeling angry about something. #writerprivilege

Recollections #MFRWAuthors

Vintage memories close up

I have heard people claim to remember events from their childhoods, some clearly as far back as their toddler years. Maybe they do. I don’t.

What I have are flashes, pictures that come to me. Sometimes I know their context, sometimes I don’t even know that.

My earliest memory is of me as a preschooler sitting at window at the front of our apartment, waiting for my grandmother to come home because she always brought me a treat of some kind. I turned and watched her walk up the stairs and down the hall and wondered why she didn’t speak to me. Then I heard the door open and her walk up the stairs and greet me.

Weird, right?

The apartment was across from a grand hospital that had once been someone’s home. I remember my sister and me crawling under the fence to play on the grounds of the hospital. I loved that park with its soft grass and towering oak trees. Eventually the hospital was turned into apartments and the land leveled for parking.

We didn’t live in that apartment long because strange things kept happening to people in the family. I remember a dream I had there when I was four or five, and it still gives me the creeps.

I’m currently working through the book, “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again” by Julia Cameron. Thanks to some of the exercises, I have discovered that if I set aside the time to think about and explore the fragment of a memory, one image leads to another and more of my childhood is revealed, or perhaps imagined. Unfortunately ,still nothing from my toddler years.

How far back do your memories take you?

The First is Always Special #MFRWAuthor

I have been writing most of my life. Although every story has a permanent place in my heart, House of the Rising Son is my favorite work. The obvious reason could be that it was my first traditionally published novel. Firsts always have a special place in your heart. But that isn’t the only reason it’s my favorite. It’s special to me because of Cheyenne.

The original story was born in 1993. Cheyenne, the hero of the story, has changed over the years, and his family has had many incarnations. Some variations worked better than others. For example, Chey has always been a rockstar— the talent is in his blood—but being human didn’t seem to suit him.

Another aspect that has remained constant has been that this unlikely and totally unprepared rock star became a parent. His children’s ages, names, and even the number of his offspring have varied as Cheyenne’s world evolved. Only his reactions and judgments have changed. Consequently, some of Chey’s stories were adventures, others were love stories, most were funny and all were outrageous. He was not a hero to anyone or savior of anything in any of his previous lives.

When I decided to submit his story for publication and introduce him to the world, Cheyenne changed more than he ever had before. In House of the Rising Son I expanded the number of people in his life and focused less on his primary role as parent, instead focusing more on his role in the world as an important member of the Incubi Nation. Of course, he remained a rock star.

The sequel to House of the Rising Son is scheduled for publication later this year, with more books and short stories planned. It’s time for the rest of his story to be told. Then who know? Maybe his children’s stories will make their way into published works. I imagine it will be fun watching their stories unfold, too.

Book Quotes I Love

My weekend was not what I hoped. I missed the deadline to join the 52 Week Chalkenge Blog Hop, but I thought I’d share my thoughts anyway.

I still prefer paper books to ebooks. One reasis the ability to underline and write in a physical book. For awhile I kept a 3×5 file box of favorite quotes but it was lost in a move and I never quite got back into the habit.

The quotes I love are rarely found in a collection of famous or inspirational quotes. But for whatever reason they resonate with me. Sometimes I read them later and can’t remember why I marked them.
Some have even been paraphrased in my memory. For example my memory of this quote is “children are born knowing magic and the world takes it away.” But here is the actual quote from Robert McCannon’s Boys Life.

“ See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls.”

During emotionally rough periods, these quotes came to mind. “The night is the hardest time to be alive and 4am knows all my secrets.” (From Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite.)Or-

“Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.”

Stephen King’s Delores Clairborne.

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These Words #MFRWAuthor

When I hear the phrase “words to live by” I think of Facebook memes and quotes at the end of writing exercises. But they are more than that. Often they’re a shorthand for someone’s philosophy toward a particular thing or life in general (Don’t sweat the small stuff), or an emotion.

Speaking of which, I am not sure where “Bless her heart” became a “fuck you”. That is not how it’s used in the South, rumors to the contrary.

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‘Tis Always the Season

I have friends who say they would like nothing better than to have static seasons, preferably in a warm climate. I can’t imagine being happy with that. There are things I don’t like about each season but why deprive myself of the good parts? It will be difficult to limit myself to the best part of each season as there are so many.

As we head into Autumn I’m excited to be able to go outside again. The temperature is cool and nature is putting on a show of amazing colors. The beach is deserted, and the amusements, while on a shorter schedule, are still operating. And the holiday season of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas gives us something to celebrate.

Then there is winter. I love snow. I love watching it snow. I love playing in the snow with my partner and our dogs. I even like shoveling snow unless it is the 3 footers we sometimes get. The earth is beautiful, quiet, and serene.

My favorite part of Spring are the colors on the mountains of home. The tender greens mix with redbuds and dogwoods painting a picture no mere human could create.

And finally, summer. The best part of summer is that my partner works less so is home more. We manage to take the occasional vacation and day trips if we watch the weather carefully. Too hot? Too humid? Too much. We use those sweaty days to go to the movies or the bookstore.

I used to be the type of person who complains about the weather constantly. One day I realized I was missing out on a lot of great stuff being so grumpy. In every season there’s a reason to smile.