Tag Archives: Inspiration

What a long strange trip it’s been (part 9)

When I started this blog one of the main things I wanted to do was tell my story, about going from a young
inexperienced man with aspiration of writing to where I am now,and how I and my writing have changed over the years to reach the spot that we are at now. So I have just looked back over the posts that I have made and I realized I have not updated the back-story in over a month and a half. So now it is time to pick up back up. I am approaching the end of this part of the blog because this week we will reach the point that I begin to write the outline for the novel that I am currently working on.  Next week I will go through some of the things between the beginning of the work on the novel and the start of the blog. That will put us into the last week in Oct. and I will probably spend that going over my last-minute plans for NaNoWriMo.
So last we left off I had gotten married and done some writing with my wife. It was probably the best writing that I have ever done and I was inspired to pick things up again, but my life seemed against me, soon after we got married we bought a condo and moved to Salem, MA. Being newly wed and raising a child (our son was 8 when we married) starting a career and spending time with friends all seemed to take the time away from getting to work writing. None of those things are a good excuse, and I fully know that I could have controlled any of those things and gotten to work writing much sooner, but I didn’t.
After four years in Salem my wife and I were ready for a change, we wanted to move to Florida and spend some time in the sun. We made plans for a place to stay while we found work and both my wife and I gave notice at our jobs. It was the day after I gave my two weeks notice that we discovered that the place that we were supposed to stay at in FL was being foreclosed on, and our friend who was renting the place and going to let us stay there had thirty days to find his own place to live. We sat down and discussed our options, we could not go South and we could not stay where we were, so the only option left was to head North. We contacted my mother-in-law and she offered to let us stay at the vacation house she owned in the beautiful town of York Beach, ME.
If you have never spent time on the lovely Maine seacoast I have to describe it for you, York Beach is the perfect summer vacation town, with a small beach with an arcade right on the edge of it, a candy store that has a taffy pulling machine in the window, a strip of gift shops and stores that cater to the summer vacation crowd with a couple of small restaurants. And at the other end of the strip an amusement park and zoo. Now for those of you from anywhere else in the world let me explain the small drawback, all of the businesses in York Beach either cater to vacations or vacationers, Summer vacationers. In a climate where summer lasts from early June through the first week in Sept summer is very short. The Fall in York beach is dead quiet and everything shuts down for Winter and does not reopen until late the following Spring. Living in a town like York Beach in Winter is purgatory. Long nights and dreary conditions with no sun for days. And worse of all in a house that was designed to be lived in for three months out of the year heating is not the first thought.
In conditions like this, when the outside temperature is below twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit and the inside temperature is just below sixty degrees Fahrenheit, one of the best was to bring your internal body temperature back up to ninety-eight degrees is to first thing in the morning jump into a scalding hot shower. Many days I would just stand in the small shower and let the cold and exhaustion drain out of my body.
And I would picture a man standing in a shower, feeling that same cold draining away, a bad man who would suddenly find that even with all of the choices that he had made in his life to avoid it, he was the father of a child. A young child who he would need to teach things to because there was more to this man than meets the eye. He would take the boy to an ancient village in the woods and meet with an elder who was even more ancient that the village and they would teach the boy secrets of their kind. This story built in me and I began to flesh out the character and who they were. Working back in time to figure out how they got to where they were from and forward to where they were going. And this was all before I even set one word down to paper.

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What a long strange trip it’s been (part8)

I talked last about the least productive time in my life as a writer.  Then all of a sudden after three years of poor to no production as a writer I was presented with my biggest inspiration of all time.  My muse.  I met my wife.

She inspired my to get back to my writing, to take those things from the past that had not worked, to take them apart and rework them to get the characters to do things that I never thought was possible before.

It started one night.  We were laying in bed trying to get some sleep.  She is an insomniac and was trying to get a good nights sleep for once.  As she laid in bed she said to me “Tell me a story.”  I blanked, I could not think of anything.  And then it struck me, A story that I had written almost seven years earlier while on a trip to Philadelphia.  A story that had been rewritten several times as I became a better and better writer.  Something which I considered one of my best work.  I told her the story, and something amazing happened.  As I slept that night the story got inside her head.  Unfortunately she didn’t get any sleep that night.  She sat down and did a re-write on the story.  When you have someone who inspires you and who you inspire it becomes a form of magic.  As I read her interpretation of my characters and dialogue It inspired things in me things that I had not known that I had missed.  It was that moment that I started getting back into writing.  I had decided years earlier that until I felt that I was a better writer I would not be ready to try to write a full length novel again.  Now I saw that it was possible to do that with the help of my wife in order to improve my skills at writing dialogue.

This is when I finally rededicated myself to working on a novel.  Now all I needed to do find the idea that would spark it.

As a sample of my wife and I’s work next week I will post the story that I referenced here.  I am not sure if the copy I have is a second draft or the original one that she typed out that very morning, but it still takes my breath away.

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What a long strange trip it’s been (part 5 leaving Virtue)

So I have talked a lot over the last couple of months about one of the definitive events of my life as a writer.  That was the chance that I had to meet and get to spend time with the creators of Virtue Publications at the first Philly Comic Fest.  I am going to wrap up my retelling with this installment.

Now let me start by saying that as a life long comics fan and hopeful creator, this was an amazing opportunity to be involved with a company that was starting from the ground floor.  It was truly a dream come true.  But there is nothing more lonely than being a writer without any published work sitting at a comic booth.  There is a truth to the fact that comics are a visual medium and when fans want to check out a new book from a company that they have never heard of, they are looking at the art work that is done.

So here I was with the only thing to do would be to write something to pass the time.  Unfortunately nothing is worse for my creativity than a blank page.  At this time I was still trying to refine my narrative voice by writing short stories when I was stuck on a project that I was working on.  So with only one sentence going through my head I decided to write it down on the page in order to get myself started.

“What am I doing here?”

I rolled that sentence around in my head.  I kept asking myself where would I be that this would be the most obvious thing to be going through my head.  I ran through several options but finally decided that my main character/narrator was a man sitting in the waiting room of a Ob/Gyn office.  I then asked myself why would this be a bad place to be.  The character is sitting and waiting for his wife as she gets a check-up after she has had a miscarriage of their first child.  At this point things started to flesh themselves out.  The idea that the husband and wife were not talking.  The fact that they both were holding on to anger at each other for the death of the child.  I wrote this story in probably less time than any other story I have ever written in my life.  And it was the best thing I had ever written up to that point.  It is a story about grief and anger, about punishing yourself as you lash out at the world.  And more than anything else it is about the slap in the face that wakes you up to how you have been treating those that you love the most.

I returned home at the end of the convention and immediately typed the story out on my computer and saved it, printing out a copy for me to keep.  This was the first time I had ever written something that could be considered literary fiction.  A story about people, not vigilantes or detectives.  Not Heroes and Villains.  A small story that talked about the horrible things that the characters go through on a human scale.

I really didn’t have much contact with Virtue after that.  They never did to the best of my knowledge release any issues of Ventures of the Virulent.  While I have never strayed very far from my love of speculative fiction and detective stories.  This is the point in my life that I first saw what I could do when I wrote stories about the people first.

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Inspirations & Mentors

One of the things that I have always thought that was seriously lacking in the modern world was mentors and apprenticeships.  Being able to work for a master of a trade and learn your craft from them.  the passing down of skills that could make you a success in the world.

I have learned as I have grown older that Mentors and Apprentices don’t always take on the forms that we recognize.  For those that do not know me I am many things two of which are a practicing Pagan (Druid) and a Meade Maker.  The crafts for both of which I learned my earliest lessons in from an ex-girlfriend of many years ago named Sara.  At the time I would not have called her a mentor and their are many things that I have learn in both areas since my break up with her, but in the purest sense she was truly a mentor to me.

Today I came across a story in a blog by the Author Mark Evanier where he related the story of the first meeting of Author Ray Bradbury and EC Comics & MAD Magazine Editor Al Fledstien, who adapted many of Bradbury’s short stories into comics.  The meeting occurred at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con during a panel Mark hosted with Ray and DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz.  Mark had planned to have the two meet for the first time but needed to steer the conversation toward comics.  When asked about his history with Comic-Con and it’s growth Ray decided to talk about his personal history with comics.
RAY BRADBURY: When I was nine years old, Buck Rogers came into the world. October, 1929. I was immediately in love with that comic strip and I started to collect it every day of my life for three months. I stopped collecting that because the kids in the fifth grade made fun of me. That was 1929, the beginning of the Depression. I listened to these kids and I tore up the comic strips. It’s the worst thing I ever did because three days later I broke into tears and I said to myself, why I am crying? Who died? And the answer was me. I killed myself. I’d torn up the future. I listened to these stupid people. So I said, how do I cure this? I went back and collected Buck Rogers strips for the next seven years, every day, and never listened to one more stupid sonofabitch after that. And that’s why I’m here. I collected Prince Valiant and all the various comic strips, and Tarzan drawn by Harold Foster in 1932. Incredible work. And when I published my first book in 1947, I sent a copy of the book to Harold Foster with a note saying, “You’re one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and I love your work and I love you.”

Now to most people this would be a sweet story about the inspiration of one of the greatest American writers of all time, but several weeks ago I read a story in a book called ‘The Barbizon Diaries’ by James A Owens.
I’d agreed to do a signing at Comicon for one of my favorite galleries, Every Picture Tells A Story.  About an hour into the signing, the owner, Lee, came over to where I was sitting with the other authors and told me someone wanted to buy my book.   I responded with a puzzled look (be cause that was, after all, why I was sitting in his booth), and he smiled and pointed to the other end of their floorspace.   “It’s Ray Bradbury.”   I jumped out of my chair and flew over to him.   “Ray!” I said. “It’s
James Owen!”   He took my hand (with his left) and shook it.   “James! But you do comics! This is a book.” (I’ve sent him copies of StarChild for years — to which he always responded with a counter-gift of his latest book.)   “Now I’m doing books, too!” I told him.   “It’s a beautiful book!” Ray told me. “I want to buy it ! Right now!”   “I have one for you,” I said, and hopped back to my chair where I had a copy with a dragon drawing already done. I signed it to “Uncle Ray ”, and handed it to him.    “It’s such a beautiful book,” he said again. “Your drawings are wonderful! I can’t wait to read it!”    “I hope you like it,” I told him. “You’re one of the reasons it exists. Thank you for the inspiration.”

Once again I can hear my reader saying this is a great story, but what does that have to do with anything.  That is going to require the telling of one more story.  This one of a much more personal nature.  In the fall of 1993 I was visiting my family in central New Hampshire.  My older brother and I drove over to the mall in North Conway because they were having a small comic book show.  Dealers from around the area had set up in the food court to sell comics.  My brother had just graduated from Massachusetts College of Art.  His interest in comics was based on the art and he found a book that had some of the greatest art that either of us had ever seen.  It was called Starchild #0, it talked of myths and legends and stories as great things that change the fabric of the world.  And it changed the way I looked at Stories.  I have had the amazing joy of corresponding with James A. Owen several times in the last year or so and even though we have never met face to face, I consider him a great inspiration on my work and life.

And now I see I am part of a great tapestry of inspiration that stretches from James Owen, to Ray Bradbury and to Harold Foster, and I would suspect back to Edgar Rice Burroughs and from him I suppose Rudyard Kipling.  I have to wonder if somewhere there is a battered copy of The All-Story magazine from Oct 1912 with a hand written note saying  Rudyard, You’re one of the reasons it exists. Thank you for the inspiration.  Edgar.

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