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Posts tagged with: Imagination

Journeying to Wild Places for Inspiration

Happy Monday, everyone! 

I’m writing this post from the deck of our house on the coast of Maine. We inherited my husband’s grandfather’s vintage home and property in this small lobster-fishing village ten years ago and have been fixing it up. It is beautiful up here and cool in the summer, in complete contrast to my sweltering home in North Carolina. So my family and I retreat up here for three weeks each July. 

 

 

 

 

I’ve learned from our visits that the USA has so many different cultures and landscapes. Jonesport, Maine is like a different planet compared to our suburban home in NC. The people, the weather, the daily living, even the color of the dirt and wildness of the terrain are so varied. The differences spark an awakening in my author brain. 

When life and daily living are routine, we tend to glance over the small details. Our lives can become flat, which translates into flat, boring writing. By visiting another world, we become aware of the little details, the brilliant little divots in the perceived smoothness of the life around us. These details breathe new life into my writing. Even doing things that I normally do (like morning yoga) feels completely different in a new location.

I’ve met such amazing characters here. The couple that visits hospital cafeterias in towns as they travel to find nutritious, cheap food instead of stopping at Burger King or McDonald’s. The 80-year-old man who still moves scaffolding all on his own to fix our roof. The woman who is writing a book full of cliches because she likes them. The goat farm family who sells cheese and soap. The physically challenged man who uses his eye movements to type out his stories at the small library across the road. The couple who tried to have sex on our cabin porch next door until we sicked our friend, the angry Irishman, on them. The winery owners who make the sweetest blueberry wine. The list goes on and on, and the character details fill my brain. 

The landscapes are also enrapturing. Fog that snakes around the island before our house, which seems to have a mind of its own. The seals basking in the sun on the small islands a short boat ride away. The lobster boats chugging in and out of the reach. The boulders poking up through the moss-covered pine forest like giants’ kneecaps. 

Top of Blueberry Hill overlooking Spring River Lake

I’ve only been here a week, and so far we’ve gotten trapped on an island by the incoming tide and had to run through the freezing water rising over the connecting sandbar. We’ve canoed a lake, climbing an unmarked mountain to eat sweet wild blueberries at the top while sitting on a painted American flag. We’ve explored two marked hiking trails and seen a seal bob up right off the cliffs, with a feisty lobster in its mouth. We’ve watched lobster crate races, lobster boat races, a parade, half a dozen bald eagles and fireworks that we couldn’t see because of the fog (looked like a naval battle in the smoke) and my husband hypnotize a lobster before we steamed him (the lobster, not my husband).

Hypnotized lobster – see what a Marine Biology degree will teach you!

Wild Maine Blueberries – can’t get more organic than this!

The sounds and smells are different from NC. Pine, primroses, the sweetness of moss and wildflowers in the forest, the smell of the tides. The lapping of water and chugging of lobster boats fill the air, punctuated by the caw of seagulls and rustle of wind through the trees. 

Enjoying the warmth of the rocks while watching the ocean.

All of the details are interesting because they are distant from my usual daily life. And even though I am not currently writing a Maine set book with a vengeful fog antagonist, my mind feels more awake than it has in months. My words flow more easily, and I can breathe. 

So, my advice is to try to seek out “the wild” in contrast to your tame, normal environment. Whether that means going to New York City when you live in the country or heading to the beach when you normally wake up to mountains. Even driving to a new town in your state where you can investigate a local museum or new library can inspire. Sit and breathe and take in the people and landscape around you. Give your muse something new about which to be curious. It will awaken your writer’s mind.

What journeys have inspired you? Have you met a character or experienced a landscape/setting that will or has found its way into one of your books?

P.S. The house and both little cottages are for rent during May, June, August and September each year. The VRBO links are below if you’re interested, and they are also on Airbnb. 

Primrose Cottage

Lupine Cottage

The McCollum House

 

Decoupage Your Promo

As authors, we are creative people. Some feel that their creativity lies only in the written word, but I believe that creativity is broader within people. It just takes a little teasing to bring it out and a willingness to risk, mess up, and learn. It is a great way to exercise the far reaches of the brain, sweeping out the cobwebs by tossing around ideas.

When I’m not thinking of plot twists and what makes my characters tick, I like to try out all sorts of fun crafts. I sew, knit, etch glass, cut and glue. For fun I search the internet for crafting ideas and visit craft fairs for inspiration.

Today I want to teach you a craft that I’ve found very helpful to my writing. Decoupage.

Before delving too far into a new writing project, I create a collage with elements of setting and characters to help me visualize. A collage is really decoupage, so it was easy for me to expand the craft. At writing conferences, people invariably ask me what I write. So I created a portfolio with all my covers decoupaged onto it. Pretty, isn’t it. And so much fun! On the other side I have inspiring quotes and images.

Notebk front notebk back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I plan to decoupage shelving in my house next and a new phone book. Oh, and light plates. Really you can decoupage most anything. I’ve even seen high heels decorated with Mod Podge (decoupage glue) and printed out images. The possibilities are endless!

decoupage shoes

You can decoupage blank books or journals to give as swag, as well as little prize boxes or canvases that represent your books or your author brand.decoupage tins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some simple steps for Decoupage:

Mod podge drawers1. Choose a canvas. It can be anything from a book cover to a light switch plate to a jar. If it’s your first project, you might want to stick with something flat.

2. Choose your Mod Podge. There are shiny and mat finishes.Mod-Podge

3. Find the background. What is the underlying theme you hope to depict? Maps or music or dragonflies or even just polka dots might speak to your theme. You can use scrapbook paper, napkins, tissue paper, etc. Don’t glue it down yet.

4. Find pictures or letters. You might want to check out decoupage projects on line to see what you like. Some people prefer to totally fill up their canvases. Others like to leave a lot of background showing. If cutting out letters (you can use stickers), go for dark or standout colors. Pictures can be found on line or in magazines. Also check out calendars, wrapping paper, non-valuable comic books. Really anything flat and thin can work, even fabric.

quote mod podge

5. Arrange items on the canvas first to see if you like how it looks.

6. Glue down the background with Mod Podge or other glue. I use a wide brush to coat the canvas and lay the paper down, starting in the middle and working outward. Wrinkles can occur. Some people don’t mind wrinkles (me). For others, wrinkles can drive them crazy. Pros use a roller to try to get out all the bubbles and wrinkles.

mod podge tech1

 

 

 

7. Mod Podge over the background. Don’t leave puddles. Keep the coat even. Remember it dries clear.mod podge tech2

8. Now glue on your pictures and letters. You don’t have to wait for the background to dry. Mod Podge over them.

9. Add stickers, little items or final touches. Decoupage over everything once more in an even coat. Actually you can do as many coats as you want depending on how much exposure the project will get (ie. Shoes, you’d want many coats and probably an acrylic sealer). Let coats dry in between. Allow to dry completely (a couple days probably) before stacking with other materials.

mod podge roller

Decoupage can be an easy, cheap and fun project. Sweep away the mental cobwebs and stretch into a different realm of creativity. It will benefit you on many levels.

Do you decoupage? What have you created?

Decoupage

Pipe Dreams, TV, and Random Research

002A writer looking out the window is a writer at work.  A writer sitting on a bench eavesdropping on a conversation is a writer at work.  Even a writer crammed into a tiny, cluttered space searching the internet while a cat wiggles his way into more and more of her chair is a writer at work—as you can see.  The list of things writers do that others see as wasting time or daydreaming is endless.

However, sometimes, even for writers, daydreaming is just daydreaming.

This is a healthy thing.  It’s a broom that sweeps all the cobwebs and mind-clutter away, opening the space, banishing the musty, and letting in new and fresh possibilities. It’s also a time for the great What if and to ponder the Why of whatever strikes your fancy.

It was in this state I started watching this season of Dancing with the Stars.

A Writer’s World

Have you ever gone for a walk in the early morning when no one is awake yet? The birds are quiet, no airplanes streak overhead, even the hum of the distant highway is muted? And for an instant you wonder if civilization has faded away somehow.

What would happen if suddenly every animal and human being were gone? Why? How? The spark of a story begins. As I traipse the waking neighborhood, I ignore the lights flicking on and the cars warming in the driveways, the kids walking to the bus stop and the Apocalypsebirds flitting from tree to bush. I am still in my sci-fi thriller world of disappearance. Was there an apocalypse that I’d missed? Where have I been? How am I still alive? Should I raid the houses for food, storing it in my familiar home? The possibilities are endless!

“Hi, Heather!” a neighbor calls and it takes me a moment to remember that I’m not really alone. I wave back but don’t have any small talk words when I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to survive on a vacant planet.

 

I continue across the cracked sidewalk. A car goes by and I inhale, coughiForestng against the early morning, noxious fumes. As the heavy odor clears I wonder what this very air smelled like in the 16th century, the time period of TANGLED HEARTS, my newest book (that released yesterday BTW : ). No car fumes, no aroma of Downy from morning loads of laundry, no tang of dog poop when I pass the receptacle. The world must have smelled sweeter. If I was suddenly transported there, would I notice with my first breath? This part of North America would have been wooded, quiet, populated by Native Americans. What would I see and smell and hear if I was plopped down in this very spot four-hundred years ago?

My large golden retriever barks and strains to reach a poodle who is staring at us with a vicious gleam in its eye. “Sophie, leave it,” I say, breaking the spell. We jog together to reach home in time to intercept the kids waking up.

Later, after thephone-fear-300x249[1] kids are off to school, I sit before my e-mail with my hot cup of comfort and inspiration, Chai Latte. I can’t write, it seems, without the taste of cinnamon on my tongue. The phone rings and I answer. Silence. “Hello?” Silence. It must be a telemarketing computer that realizes I’m on the “no call” list, but…

What if it is a future version of me? I’ve dialed back to my past in desperation. What would I do if my voice came across the line, crackly yet insistent that I flee the house immediately? Would I continue to sit there asking who it was or would I drop the phone and yell to my husband (who works at home)? We’d run to the front yard just as the house explodes from an undetected ga9.-Levi-Laundry[1]s leak. Hmm…

I hear a noise upstairs. It could be the washing machine draining or…what if someone appeared in my house? A lost child with saucer-like, fear-filled eyes, wearing ancient clothes and speaking in a language I’ve never heard? What if she began to lift my heaps of laundry just by looking at them? It could be Kailin from my SURRENDER book, somehow sent through time to my suburban house instead of the crypts of Victorian Era Egypt.

I sigh and look back at my computer. So many stories to write, yet so little time. My husband comes in and glances at my blank screen. “No ideas today? I’m sure something will come to you.” He kisses my head and moves on. I just smile. And begin to type.

Heather McCollum tends to her 3 kids, rescued golden retriever, and Highland husband while usually staring off into space as scenes race through her mind. She has six full-length historical paranormal romances out, the latest being TANGLED HEARTS. Her first YA contemporary paranormal romance will debut in another month. More information about Heather and her work can be found at www.HeatherMcCollum.com .

 

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