Tag Archives: Storytelling

Pages to go…gulp!

I’m pages to go.  Just 20 or so to get to the end of this round of revisions for Stands Alone. I set a deadline for March 26th because the plan was to go to AWP with this novel ready. Tucked under my arm. Well, not really, tucked there but ready on my laptop and on multiple disc drives. But I got sick. Really sick and by Monday night, I was going down fast. I canceled my trip and hit my couch. I spent the next few days taking soaks for aches and pains, drinking tea, napping and bingewatching Tin Star. Both seasons. And of course, looking at photos and posts of friends in Portland at AWP, making myself feel worse.

AWP was not a golden ticket to landing an agent or finding a publisher. Not at all. There are none. This is hard work. Perseverance. It’s about the stars lining up AND talent AND determination AND craftwork AND networking AND AND AND…. I missed an opportunity. This time.

So this morning, as I opened up the word doc to go back to line edits and rethinking, rejiggering passages, and hopefully deepening my characters, I stopped to think about this journey. How far I’ve come from an image (yes, I’m still beginning stories with a Black woman’s feet running) to a pilot to a novel to multiple drafts to beta readers and now…queries for an agent.

I think about how much I’ve learned about myself, my skill and what continues to drive me to tell the stories that I do. I reread and rewrite painful acts of against women and let my weeping take me through to tell of their triumph, too.  I see the slivers of myself and my story in some of the women. I write their strength, their uniqueness, what makes them cry and shiver, what makes them run and what makes them fight. I am forever changed because of them.

Gulp.

Next step will be sending this story, these women warriors, out into the world.

I’m pages to go to let them fly.

Gulp. Sigh.

Chuckle and grin.

Yeah…  I got this.

 

 

 

Creating a White Supremacist Character

If there’s at least a tiny part of ourselves in every character we create, then what does that mean when it comes to creating bad guys? To creating the narcissist? The evil? To creating the one who wrecks havoc and tears through whatever and whoever is in their path?

Of course, writing to the humanity of these characters is the goal. That’s what gives them flesh. Finding their underbelly, exposing it, and then healing is a goal. Maybe. Destroying them? That’s a righteous goal, too.

I’m thinking about this as I prepare to go back into my novel. It’s been with beta readers and now I’m ready to enter this world again, which means I have to pull up a chair at the table headed up by a white supremacist. Of all my characters, my bad guys, and there’s plenty of them; I write crime suspense so my bad guys do heinous things, creating Raimond Davies has been the toughest.

In Stands Alone, my novel about a Mixed Blood cop who takes on a white supremacist, their ancestors are the soldiers in this war. Which means I wrote their histories, too. I know who Raimond’s father was and what he did to him. I know who his grandma was and how filthy and mean she was. I know who Raimond was as a small boy at the mercy of the adults in his life and how that set him on a course of hatred.

I think that in the many hours I’ve spent with this story, and the many more to come, my own ancestors settle on the loveseat in my office. Native men and women who fought the destructive forces of white men for their families and their tribes. African women who endured unimaginable atrocities and yet never stopped fighting for their freedom. They keep the sage burning, the drums pounding as they wrap their arms around me, whispering that this is the story that I need to tell. That only I can tell. They say it’s okay. That I’m safe from the horror on the page, from the horror in my imagination. They tell me I’m honoring the fight. Their fight.

My fight.

But damn.

Loving True Crime…?

I put a question mark on that because it’s weird. I know. I don’t ‘lovelove’ true crime, like it’s a good thing. Not at all.  I ‘love’ writing stories about crime, though.  In them I can make the women the victor. I can take down the bad guy. I can create suspense that’s entertaining. I hope. Above all else, don’t bore, right?

It’s difficult to write good crime stories.  But that’s my goal.  I often joke that I wish I could write a romcom because they’re light and about love. Ya know, a woman who doesn’t believe in love anymore or thinks they missed theirs but then the very cute and maybe annoying dude they work with, or are forced to work with, or sells them bagels by day but works as a God-sent guardian for runaway youth or has a dream of opening a diner and she just happen to be the inspiration for him, ya know, with all her quirky but sexy ways… If I was to write this story they’d stumble across a dead body on their first date, he’d be implicated somehow and she would have to solve the crime but quickly because there’s another dead body. And this time it’s a child. There’d be an amazing show of gunshots and racing through dank and dirty alleys that smell like old piss and dying dreams. And there’d be blood splatter when the chick would catch the guy, who happens to run that same organization for runaway youth but does heinous shit to kids cuz he’s working out his own ish. But our lead could give a fuck. She’s taking him down and if that same cute guy still wants to screw then she’d be down for that, too, when she says so.  And then… And then… our lead would get a commendation for bravery which she’s too humble to accept. She goes for street tacos and a cold beer instead.

Hmm…not a romcom, huh?

When I started writing I used to keep a folder of true crime stories that could be inspiration at some point. This made for some interesting looks and conversations if anyone caught what I was printing at the office. I work from home now where I can wrap myself in my mother’s blanket before I read the crime news.

These days I save articles online. Interesting enough, I don’t watch a lot of true crime shows or documentaries.  Hmmm…I’m gonna change that. That’s a creative writing goal I’m adding to 2019.

So, if you love true crime, too…what are you favorites?  Which ones are unique and well-told stories.

Hit me up with your suggestions.

And Write On!

 

 

The love of a story prompt

I gave myself a goal this holiday. For the month that I am spending in MN with my family. That goal was to continue honing my prose writing chops by writing short stories.

I have a novel in works out to beta-readers so I’m sitting on starting revisions or the second book of that trilogy. (I CAN’T WAIT!!! And yes, imagine that in my best Oprah-esque voice) And I have all these characters sorta milling around in my head.

Okay, some of them are more demanding of their stories than others. They’re mostly cops. Female cops in gritty cities or small towns. Badass chicks who have to hunt down some evil POS and do right by the badge they hold dearly. Some are women fighting for their families, for their lives. For the world that may be kicking them in their asses but it’s the world they’re committed to save. So, I guess the image of them milling around, sipping tea and watching holiday baking shows in the afternoon doesn’t really fit them. (actually that’s me when the work is done…lol!)

I needed a way to get these stories to the page so I put the word out to my online writing friends- incredibly talented women who are so far ahead of me in the prose fiction journey, accomplished novelists and authors who have had stories published online in the top journals and in beautiful collections, just all around inspiring, talented storytellers. I found some sites that have prompts to jumpstart a story. And I’ve started popping in on an incredible writing session with book mentor, Ericka Lutz http://erickalutz.com. 

In her sessions, writers would gather in zoom room for a timed writing session. She’d give us prompts if we wanted them or needed them. Set a timer and we’d go. Aside from seeing these other writers at their computer, intense looks on their faces, sipping tea or staring off, however they were creating their magic on the page, I was seeing that they were doing it like me. One word at a time.

These prompts, though! They were like lightening in a bottle. BOOM! I had a line of dialogue that gave me a direction to take my undercover Native cop, Carla Killingbear, to the alley to confirm the dead girl was the missing girl. She and her partners disagree on how swiftly they had to move on a suspect she developing a relationship with but had no concrete evidence. Yet. This story, Skye Isles, will be a longer work of fiction. O MY GOD!! Another novel??! YUP YUP! I’m excited and so is Carla Killingbear. I didn’t even know she was waiting to tell her story until I got the prompt. Joy. Joy. Joy!

The next prompt I used in another session was a place. Ericka said country store and I immediately saw Becky’s. A dusty place Off The Highway in New Mexico. And I saw Stella, a young Native girl, in old guy Coozer’s truck as he raved about how much he loved Becky and that she would be able to help Stella get her car fixed that died on the highway. Stella was on her way to California, on a grief healing journey after her mother’s death. What they didn’t know was who else was in that country store and the murder that was going to happen. BOOM! I WAS SO HAPPY! That prompt opened up a whole new story world with these incredible characters! A short story that moves with intrigue and suspense. More Joy, Joy, Joy!

If you’d like to connect with Ericka, you can find her on Facebook at Spark the Second Fire https://www.facebook.com/groups/sparkfire/.

If you have other links to writing prompts, let me know!

Write On!

Toast! to Inspiration!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about what I’ve Toasted, so sitting down to share with you, Inspiration is the what I’ve been thinking about and here’s why.

This spring as Peter and I have been gearing up for our first Through the Wilderness, LLC production- a short action film about a Native American cop who is forced to deal with her feelings around miscarriage, motherhood, and justice when a dying hooker leaves her baby in her garage (btw, I LOVE this story but that’s a different posting) – I find myself attempting to develop a business mind while watching for the obstacle to my creative work that I fear this business mind will create.

I get that might not happen and perhaps this is just the work of my critic taking advantage of the change in my life to whisper more shit in my ear. I get that.  Yet, the reality is, the time I spend researching to understand…franchise taxes, accounting practices and deal memos and marketing strategies, is all time that I’m not writing.  And let’s be clear, before all this other business in my life, getting to the page to just write was hard enough to begin with. Sometimes.

But before I can go to the page, I need to be inspired, so what is that and where is it?

I’m at my messy desk, in my robe, blanket wrapped around my feet- yes, this is the glamourous life, and I ask myself where is that inspiration.  I look to books next to me. The Quran, Jon Kabat-Zinn Full Catastrophe Living, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, my bills to be paid, my bowl of nail polishes, crayons and greeting cards, The Ten Indian Commandments on my wall, my empty bowl that held oatmeal and berries, my now cold cup of green tea. Then I hear the birds outside. The hummingbird that flutters to my window and peeks in at me in the mornings has arrived. Outside my window beyond the bush, I see the new bistro size patio table and chairs, the big bright yellow and white umbrella, the expansion of my office. Then my mind travels outside our gate and down the street. The sky soft blue (yes, under the LA smoggy haze but stay with me here…smog is an inspiration, too, different post, different story), the palm trees create a landscape so different than home in MN, which I now see in my mind, the big oaks, the flat farmland alongside the highway to my mom’s, the tall cedars along the North Shore,  all so different than…awww…there it is- the places I’ve traveled this year, the people I’ve seen, the voices and languages, songs and food. O yes, the food. But there’s more that inspires me.

The last couple months have been filled with great joys and opportunities. Celebrations, one after another rolled through my life.  In May my daughter, Bird, graduated from college in San Francisco. Family met us in Santa Cruz for beach time, for little girl laughter and salt water taffy on the boardwalk. And in San Francisco, a beautiful city filled with rolling hills and tall skinny houses hugging at the shoulders, I had early morning moments on bagel runs for the family packed into the hotel suites. And in those mornings, with the sun on my face, feeling grateful for love and support, I felt inspiration, too. I did.

I listened to speakers at SFAI send the graduates out into the world with advice. Some was good. Most was daunting, but I saw fresh and slightly frightened young faces eager to run out and show us their world. And at the gallery, I saw my amazing Bird beaming in front of her painting, revealing to us, her family, what she learned about herself at school. And I was inspired by the depth of her creativity, by the young woman she’s become.

For her graduation gift, we took her to Tokyo. Yes- we are able to travel like that. A blessing beyond our wildest dreams.  While there, oh, the sounds and smells. I was often overwhelmed but yet, I had moments of sheer joy, moments of  being deeply awe-struck by beauty, like in Kamakura, the tiny beach village where the huge statute of Buddha lives.

While there, we walked to the shore. And standing on the “other side of the Pacific” while Peter waded into the water, I looked to my daughter and nearly fell over with love and admiration. The three of us inspires me. Our family in MN and across the country inspires me. Our journey that got us from the the tiny, poor little places we lived in while Bird was a baby, to that moment on the Japanese beach, inspires me. Yes. the memories will keep inspiring me, will keep my creativity alive.

So, the Toast! is to Inspiration whether it’s from the photos on the desk, a song on Spotify, the wee bird at the window, or a breeze that invokes a memory, inspiration is all around me.  And my wish for you is to be inspired by what’s in your life, what’s in your heart, what’s in your memories.

Peace.

 

Toast! to Art That Heals- Blessed the film

This is my desk on some mornings. Many mornings. Most mornings.

I discovered a long time ago that what I write is good for me, for my heart, for taking on the emotions that sometimes seep into the morning from the nightmare that wrecked havoc with my soul.

I appreciate that about writing. I am so grateful I discovered this for myself. I know that when I create a story about a woman who’s fighting for her family, I’m dealing with what it means to be a mom and what I’d fight for. How I’d fight. I also know that when I create a story about loss and grief, that I’m trying to heal my own wounds.

Right now, I’m in pre-production for a short film called Blessed. It’s a story about a cop who is trying to make herself believe she doesn’t want a baby and what happens when her wall she creates to hide behind comes tumbling down… in the most incredible way. She is forced to deal with her pain, her loss…her understanding of her faith and who she is.

It’s a tall order for a short film. It’s powerful and deeply connected to me.

See- my character, Kiona, has suffered her third miscarriage. She’s asking all those questions about why and what has she done to deserve this. Her mother, however, straight up believes that Kiona will be blessed when she’s ready.

Of the many beautiful characteristics of these women, the main one for me is that they’re Native American. So to have Mary Beth state so matter-of-factly that she believes the Great Spirit will bless Kiona when she deserves only deepens Kiona’s exasperation of dealing with her loss. Why doesn’t she deserve?

Grief is grief- that’s what my shrink said when I told her about making this film and how exposed I am. See- I suffer…struggle with secondary infertility. I just found that term and a bunch of amazing women, mothers, who suffer this, too. It may not be the same miscarriage as others but none of us are the same, except grieving the loss of a child who will never be.

I know the incredible joy of creating a child, and carrying her inside me only to give her life…I know how I felt when it dawned on me that God must see that I’m worthy of something grand in this world to give me a child.

Now- I truly believe that is true for any parent, no matter how that child comes into their life. When you are chosen to be a parent, through whatever means, that’s what God is doing. Blessing you. And I know Peter and I will blessed with more children.

For me, right now, though, the wound lies deep inside me. In that place of creation that is no longer capable of creating any life. I went through an early menopause at 43. And have never felt so alone. Because so many women my age are just cool with not having more children. Or at least that’s what they say. Their lives are filled with college-bound teenagers and elementary school-agers…and they don’t seem to ache as much I do.

I had my daughter, Bird, by myself. I was a single parent from pretty much minutes after conception. Seriously. And it was hard at times…and it was lovely. And warm. And I love her in ways I can’t even find the words for. I love her with all that I am, with all my essence. Becoming her mom gave me purpose. Gave me direction. Bird saved my life. She did. (that’s another film – to tell the story of the life I was living before her)

But now, I have a husband who is the most incredible dad. His love for Bird is unmeasurable and I wanted to create a baby with him. When we first met and became friends, he told me that what struck him the most was the kind of mom I am. On one of our first dates a couple years later, he told me this and that he wanted me to be the mother of his children. But I can’t have babies. His babies. I can’t.

The pain is so deep. I’ve lost friends who couldn’t stick around to help me. I’ve lost friends who weren’t capable of showing up. I’ve suffered through newborn happenings and baby showers and birth stories and struggled with balancing my pure love and joy for all these incredible mamas in my life while tending to my wounds. My grief. It was private and personal. Intimate aches.

So last year when I pushed to finish a draft of Blessed I didn’t recognize what I was doing, actually. I didn’t see the healing I was committing. I found a brilliant director who not only dug the story of Kiona, she also appreciates the beauty of Kiona being a cop who believes in laws, justice and strength. My director also is committed to the action and suspense in this story, which apparently doesn’t happen that often – female leads in action films about a more feminine theme. She’s bringing me extremely talented people who are joining us to make this film and they get it, too. And I’m so grateful.

I’m meeting actors who take my breath away. Fierce and strong, and yet so wounded, they are giving this story life so that I can heal. I get to keep healing.

Along with my therapy, my daily writings, my Brene Brown work, my watercolors, my collages, tea, toast and dark chocolate, Blessed, the film, is healing me.

So today’s Toast! is to Art That Heals.

And here’s wishing you all some healing love and magic today.

PEACE

Toast! to...Kicking Fear's Ass with Roses in A Walk Thru the N'hood

When I lived in Minneapolis some of my best mornings began with me rising early, riding my bike 15 minutes along the Mississippi River to the Minnehaha Falls. I’d pass people walking dogs, some on their front steps getting their paper, greeting the day. At the Falls, though, I’d park my bike and stare into the water crashing over the waterfall. I’d say good morning to nature, good morning to Great Spirit.

I felt connected. I feel tiny pebbles of peace that I’d gather and shove in my pockets to hold for later in the day.

When I moved here to Los Angeles, I first blown away by the nature, by plants and trees so exotic for this Minnesota chick to see…on my own street! Beautiful. Living here in Silver Lake I also the joy of the amazing hills. Winding roads lead to breathtaking views that I often feel are peeks into my future. Out there, over the landscape of Los Angeles, my films will come together, my stories will be made. Yes, I am one of the worker bees in this vast city but here I am, looking out over the edge, knowing that I will make it there.

Then there are days when I can’t see the horizon, when I wake with my fears so close I feel their darkness bearing down on my shoulders, whispering ‘nothings..you are nothing….’ with their rancid breath. Yes, I have a really vivid visualization of what my fears look like. I also know that they’re tricky, smart and conniving. They have many creative ways to layer their insults, to shut me down. And those are the mornings when I have to take my husband’s hand and go for A Walk Thru the N’hood…to stop and smell the roses. Literally.

This morning- I didn’t smell them, though. He did, but I realize now I was in full rant mode at that moment. I was purging some negativity and fighting the pain of being kicked aside by an old friend, the sadness of losing another friend and the anxiety around dealing with this grief. Frantically searching for the lesson I’m to learn. Even the time I spend with the most loving friends, I still ache to understand what went wrong with others.

This morning, I didn’t stop to smell the roses. So, I’ve found this photo taken awhile ago, invoking the memory of those roses with me now. They are: love. Love from my partner, my handsome hus-b, Peter. Our INCREDIBLE DAUGHTER, BIRD!, our family in Minnesota, DC, Alaska. “Friend-family” here in Los Angeles and back home. Good health. Our gift of time and support to write and create. And the gift of our ancestors, spirit storytellers who are here with me, always.

My roses are kicking fear’s ass this morning. And I’m taking deep breaths to let them do that.

So- here’s the Toast! to Kicking Fear’s Ass with Roses…in A Walk Thru the N’hood.

Peace