Inspiration and when it strikes.

Inspiration is a funny thing–at least to me. The oddest things will inspire me to write. Sometimes its something mundane, like taking a walk outside. Something in the air will just put me in the mood to grab my laptop and type away.

Other times, it’s when I’m eavesdropping on conversations (Don’t judge me, but eavesdropping is one of my favorite things to do. And hey! If people don’t want to be overhead, then they should have their conversations somewhere private). Sometimes the dynamic people have–the camaraderie between good friends, that’s something that moves me to write as well. Because that’s actually something I try to capture with my characters. I want them to strike a chord with readers. I want my characters to feel real, and their conversations authentic.

When it comes to emotions–well this is going to sound basic, but I get that from real life. My life. I try to remember not only how I felt, but those around me in certain situations. Weddings, funerals, vigils. Church, holidays, get togethers. All the good, the bad–those are the kind of situations that I pull emotions from, and I try to transfer them into my characters.

For settings–well, it’s usually places I’ve been. I recently took a trip to DC and Virginia, and just being in Old Alexandria put me in the mood to write. If you’ve never been, it’s really beautiful. So beautiful I decided to write a novella that takes place in Virginia in a town a lot similar to Old Alexandria.

So there you go. Just a small list of the things that inspire me to write. So what kind of things inspire you?

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The Marvel Universe

So like a lot of people out there, I really love the Marvel Universe movies. But recently I was speaking to someone and they mentioned how the movies are all the same, regardless of who the main characters are. So that got me thinking, is Marvel really cranking out the same plot with different characters and settings? Well let’s see.

Although Avengers: Infinity War is the most recent release–for this post–I’d like to focus on Black Panther. Personally, I love Black Panther. I loved Wakanda and the whole idea that there was this country that was covertly strong with high tech. Also that Wakanda seemed to have a thriving culture and a monarchy that was just and fair.

But lets take a closer look at T’Challa, the protagonist of Black Panther and King of Wakanda. When T’Challa’s father dies, he assumes the throne, as is his birthright. When Ulysses Klaue, a villain from the past pops up, it’s T’Challa’s responsibility to bring him in for Wakandan justice. Unfortunately, Erik Stevens, the “Killmonger” and T’Challa’s long lost cousin, brings Klaue back to Wakanda dead, and also to challenge T’Challa for the throne. Stevens wins, and brings chaos to Wakanda as there are some Wakandans that want to bring weapons of power to people of African descent around the world so that they may fight their oppressors, and then there are others that don’t. A huge battle ensues, and T’Challa is able to wrestle control back of the throne before the weapons are made available to the public.

So after that quick recap, I wonder, does this story bare any resemblance to other Marvel movies? A hero, a villain, the conflict? Hmm maybe Spider Man? A little bit of Iron Man, too? Maybe some Captain America and Doctor Strange as well?

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s the movie’s differences that set it apart, and make it great.

And besides. It’s Stan Lee’s story. They’re all Stan Lee’s stories. And if he likes to repeat motifs, then why not? It’s not like they don’t work.

Weighing writing…

Sometimes its hard to find time to read. I’ve been working on finishing book 8 of the Wheel of Time series for years. My brother gives me such shit about it, because I started reading the series before him, was even four books in, and he surpassed me and finished the whole thing. But the truth is, something had to give–there are only so many hours in the day, and so many things we can do with those hours. I choose to write.

Prioritizing your life is hard when you’re a writer and you have a full time job, family, and all the other things in life. But it has to be done. You need to chisel out time in your day to actually do some writing. It was hard for me (and still can be), because my life is so full, but I decided it had to be done. I needed to cut the fat from my life.

The things that I had to spend less time doing were binge watching TV and reading books. Those two things took huge chunks of my time, so they had to go. Not watching so much TV isn’t a bad thing. I hardly miss it. But my books! Oh, I miss them. I miss immersing myself in someone else’s world. It’s the best! Especially when the author does it so well. But with work and life and all those other things, I have to choose writing over reading my epics.

I’m sure there are other writers that have made the same decision, and cut certain things out of their life to make time for their writing. It’s a difficult thing to do, because lets face it, sometimes writing is hard. It’s easy to be distracted and do something else. But you know its gone too far when three months have gone by and you’ve done absolutely nothing. Nothing to move your story forward. At this point, you might as well be in quick sand, trying to pull yourself from being stuck, only to sink further. It happens–you lose interest in your story, and start putting it off, and before you know it, it’s shelved.

So this is the importance of prioritizing your time to write. So many bad things happen when you don’t. So make a plan and stick to it, and you’ll be a much better writer for it.

 

Jiu Jitsu and all its things…

So like most people that are of a “certain age” I decided I needed some type of exercise in my life, but I didn’t want to deal with the monotony of the gym. I wanted something else, something that was more of a challenge. And that’s when I came across a gym that focused on Mixed Martial Arts. I gave them a call and decided to give Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a try.

Changed my life.

How? Well, I’m a tiny person. Like real tiny. And maybe because of my small stature, I sort of shied away from full contact sports. But this! Jiu jitsu, was all up in my face. It took a little bit of an adjustment, having people sweat all over me. And I’m not going to lie, there were times when I got other people’s sweat in my eye and mouth. Thoroughly disgusting. But in the end, it was an experience. A growing experience that helped me learn what its like to be in bad positions, and how to get out of them. And between all the arm bars, triangles, and Americanas I learned I wasn’t as frail as I thought.

The second thing I learned in this sport, was that as crazy as it seems to those looking in, it is not as dangerous as one might think. Oh yes, there is a chance you’ll get hurt, but it’s the same as any other sport, maybe even less. Because when you’re training jiu jitsu, you’re training with a partner, and no one–no one–wants to hurt their training partner. So while rolling (training), you match intensity with your partner, and there’s hardly anyone that trains more than 85%. The only time one goes the full 100% is while competing. So what I learned, is there is a respect between teammates and an awareness and desire for their well being.

The last thing I learned about jiu jitsu is: It’s just fun. There’s nothing like it. Training–wrestling with a partner, trying to get out of certain positions, or trying for a submission. Failing, and getting submitted yourself, just to dust yourself off, and roll again. Then, finally, submitting someone for the first time. It’s awesome. It’s fun. It’s jiu jitsu, and really, there’s nothing like it.

The need for “otherness”

The other day I sent a friend a copy of a rough draft of a novella that I’m working on. When she was done reading it, the first thing she said to me was, “You really work in those gays whenever you can.”

Yes. Yes, I do.

I do this with people of color, too. Because really, there isn’t enough representation out there for gay people, or Latinos, or any other ethnic group that is not white. But, I’m not going to sit here and complain about it. I’d rather change it, and encourage other writers to change it as well.

Try to make your writing colorful and full of all types of people from all types of backgrounds. I believe it’ll make your writing more rich and deep. And more in tuned with what we see everyday outside our windows.

I know I can get some push back, obviously my friend felt the need to voice the fact that I write in gay people at every opportunity, but I’m not going to let that deter me from writing about them.

But I also don’t want you to get the wrong idea about my friend. She’s supportive of the LGBT community and minorities, but she’s an older woman who’s old school. She isn’t used to reading stories that have diverse characters. Which is the point of this post. I think it’d be great if we can get to a point where not just novels but also movies and TV shows, are more representative of the diversity we see in this country.

I mean really, wouldn’t that be grand?

 

Writer’s block?

So it took me a long time to finish writing the first draft of my novel. Like, years. Why did it take me so long? Well, some of it was life. Things happened and pulled me in a direction where I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to write. And we all need to be in the right frame of mind to write. Otherwise, it’s probably going to be crap.

But there were other times where I had legit writer’s block. Where I was stuck and couldn’t write a word for months. I’m glad I had these moments as I learned how to manage my blocks and how to get past them.

I’ll be honest, I have bad habits. I don’t outline. I don’t brain storm very much. What I do is let the characters live in my head for a few years, and when I feel like I have a good idea of who they are, what their purpose is, who their adversaries are, what the climax of my story will be, and how my story will end–that is when I start writing. I don’t have diagrams or flo-charts or any of that stuff. Maybe some notes I’ve written here and there, but they’re flimsy, because I’m probably the laziest writer you’ll ever meet.

But I do have three parts to my story. A: the beginning, B: the climax, and C: the resolution. And the block comes in when I’ve written myself into a corner, and I can’t see how I’m going to get to from point A to B, or B to C. This is when I have legit writer’s block. The first few times it happened, I let weeks go by as I tried to figure out how I was going to proceed. After awhile, I realized that the best thing to do was to cut. Cut those last few paragraphs or pages and write something else, take my story in a different direction–because it doesn’t matter how I get to point B, as long as I get there.

And that’s something I recommend writers doing if they ever find themselves with writer’s block. Try putting the car in reverse and taking a different road to your destination. And enjoy the ride. I know I do.

 

Fantasy Football – it’s coming…

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I’m a middle child. I have two brothers, one older and one younger. We’re all pretty close, and the one thing we need to participate in every year is fantasy football.

Now fantasy football is one of those things that you either understand or you don’t. I’ve met so many people that are in love with it, that their need to play is as strong as my own. And yet, I meet others that believe it’s a colossal waste of time. Well I’m here to tell those people: It is a waste of time–a delightful waste of time. I mean, what are you going to do on a Sunday and Monday anyway? And Thursday is a throw-away day too. It’s not like it’s a Friday.

Now I only play NFL Fantasy Football. Some folks play NCAA Fantasy Football too. That’s some hardcore stuff, because the games are held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. So if you are married to someone who plays fantasy for both the NFL and NCAA, well, I’m sorry for you. Go with God. He will hear your prayers about your absent spouse.

But to be fair, if you’re playing fantasy football you don’t have to watch the games your players are playing in. But you will. Oh yes, you will.

You will be flipping the channels back and forth between CBS, Fox, and the NFL channel trying to stay current with all your players that are playing simultaneously, annoying everyone watching TV with you until the remote control is forced out of your hand. You will be relegated to trying to watch the games on your phone or eyeballing the live update on you ESPN Fantasy app. Wanting, praying, desiring your players to score. And when they do, it’s pure elation. The purest.

So that brings me to last aspect of fantasy football. It’s addicting. Winning is addicting. Blowing out your opponent on a Sunday so much you know they have no chance of winning even though they have two players playing on Monday. Or bragging to the losers after winning a prop bet. Going to work or the gym the day after and tormenting your league-mates with your winning score–all of it, it’s addicting. It will make you crazy. Crazy for football.

I hope some of you join me in the craziness. Let’s have fun and enjoy ourselves. Cause fantasy football is coming. As a matter of fact, it’s almost here.