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(Originally posted on SecondWindPub on October 25, 2008)

Music is an absolute must when I’m writing. Because I suffer from tinnitus, it’s important to have something to drown out the zillion crickets in my head when I’m trying to think about what I’m penning.

In addition, the mood of the music is critical. The best tempo for my suspense is, of course, heavy metal. There’s something about the deep, primal beat of the drum and the mysterious wail of the bass that feeds the story I’m writing.

 

As with music, tempo is important in storytelling. I try to keep an underlying steady beat throughout the story, with crescendos matching climatic scenes.

 

Dark and heavy with small glimmers of light populate my suspense stories. The music I listen to matches the mood of the scenes: Avenged Sevenfold, Pulse Ultra, Stone Sour, Godsmack, and Papa Roach are some of the more frequent bands I listen to when I want the story to pulsate with sinister tension.

 

When the mood calls for it, I switch gears. If a character becomes lost in a memory of love long gone or a life undone, I myself become reflective. This type of mood change calls for something retro and my pick of the pack would have to be Steve Perry. Other bands that bring back the good old days include Heart, Roxette, Fleetwood Mac, to name just a few

 

For me, there is a close relationship between music and writing. Music tells a story, whereas a story can be told with an underlying beat. The smooth transitions in musical chords mimic smooth transitions in writing.

 

I write stories with music as a driving force that helps me focus. Friends and family do not understand how I can write with the cacophony of noise. I cannot see how I can write without it.

(Originally posted on SecondWindPub on October 25, 2008)

 

The highest compliments I received when I wrote my first story were from several readers who assumed I was a man.

 

I am not a man. I am a woman. There. Now the cat is out of the bag. < – meow – >

 

I love stories about war and battle. Fighting and swords and guns, oh my. Long-range missiles and hand-to-hand combat, violence and destruction – all will put me in the mood to write. My best friend firmly believes I was a soldier in a past life or two. But, that’s another story (pun intended).

 

Part of this love for battle developed during my formative years. For better or worse, as a later-in-life surprise baby my father spent more time with me than he had with my older siblings. He and I spent many comfortable hours in front of the television watching his favorite movies and shows: war and crime.

 

As a youngster, I still watched the requisite cartoons and children’s shows, but the impact of sharing violent shows with my father had a profound effect on my psyche. Since my father had served as a Marine in WWII, many of the movies we watched were about combat.

 

Even now, given the choice between an action adventure and a chick flick, I’ll usually go with the suspense (unless the chick flick has a lot of action . . . no, not that type of action, the other type).

 

My father told stories to me as I grew older, tales of fighting in the Pacific Theater on islands against enemies in close quarters. He reminisced about his experiences as a gunnery sergeant and the shipboard guns he controlled. He spoke of the horrors of war.

 

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I had a somewhat normal upbringing (things didn’t get really crazy until I became a teenager). My mother tempered my father’s horrific stories with a softer side of death: she spoke (and still speaks) of car accidents, collapsing bridges, and the deaths of friends and relatives.

 

No, my father’s name was not Gomez and my mother’s name was not Morticia. Our house was not gloomy; in fact, it was super modern for its time. We didn’t converse with dead relatives nor did we have freakish cousins visit (well, not too freakish).

 

But, we did deal with reality. Typical topics of conversations around the dinner table would include life and death, crime and violence, all with the evening news as a backdrop.

 

Now that I think about, my family was rather fixated with the more brutal side of life.

 

The influences in my early years, and other experiences throughout my life, are what shape my writing. Action and suspense come naturally to me, as do battles and war. Being able to write through the perspective of a man is not that difficult; after all, men are remarkably human, too.

Here I go again. The weekend is half over and I have yet to reach my targeted writing goal.

Television is the culprit. It sits there, all innocent and benign, but once I turn it on, it hooks me and reels me in like a captive fish.

There are too many shows I like to watch. Of all things that really feed my addiction, ION has started showing repeats of Boston Legal. It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen the same episode a dozen times within the last month – I’m going to watch it again.

Boston Legal and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. When either are on, I am worthless. One Saturday a while back, some station was showing MBFGW all day. All Day, mind you – I didn’t do much that day.

And, of course, the steady favorites like Law & Order are always on one station or another. I have seen every episode of every L & W (orginal and spin-offs), but I can trick myself into thinking that I need to watch at least the first ten minutes – just to make sure it’s not an episode I may have missed. After ten minutes, well, I just have to watch it again because, well, darnit, it was such a good episode.

It works every time.

I tried locking myself in a separate room to write, away from the television. I thought if I could get away from the enticer, than I could get some serious writing done. My reasoning was no television equals more productivity.

All I ended up doing was watching episodes of Life from NBC’s 24/7 Video on my laptop.

So, now I’m trying to find a compromise between my television addiction and my need to write. When I’m writing, I’m experimenting with the television sound off and the caption on, and the music going and headphones on.

Oh, dear. The entire eight hours of The Stand is about to come on, back to back. I’ve only seen it four or five times.

Maybe I missed something.

(Cross-published at secondwindpub.wordpress.com)

Writing has to start somewhere.

In college I was taught to kick-start the process by free writing. The inspiration was supposed to come from the flowing gibberish I wrote and would congeal into a coherent paper eventually, or so my literature professor told me.

I was an abject failure at free writing.

I am hit by inspiration. I can’t squeeze it out of the pen if it’s not there to begin with. I don’t write nonsense hoping that it will spark a fever of writing.

My own personal muse comes from the good old what-if question. What if the world was square instead of round? What if the war to end all wars started on American soil? What if survival depended on the untouchables? What if the key to world peace was locked in an imprisoned mind? What if squirrels were actually smarter than dolphins?

The list is endless.

For me, possession is nine/tenths of the writing process. Not the kind of takeover by the ghosts of Forester or Fitzgerald, but the takeover of my own imagination. The characters in my stories come to life and I see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel.

In my mind, my characters live their experiences and adventures. As a participant in every little thing they do, I become deeply involved. Their pain is my pain.

The whole writing process is exhausting. When I get on a serious roll, I suffer the consequences, usually in the form of a writing hangover that lasts for a few miserable days.

But it’s worth it. Someone once told me that writing is birth and death with the broadest spectrum of human emotions in between. For me, this is true. I run the written gamut of feelings from fear and absurdity to anger and hilarity, sometimes within the same paragraph.

Life is such a candy shop. Inspiration is all around, waiting to be picked up. The wonderful thing about inspiration is that it is different for each of us: I see an apple where you see the beginnings of life and love; you see torn, dirty jeans where I see a struggle for world domination.

I have to be careful and keep my imagination on a short leash, else the candy bar I’m eating becomes the catalyst for the collapse of modern society or the calendar I’m looking at morphs into a countdown to apocalypse.

It starts with a single grain of sand. That’s how my inspiration takes birth. A single act, a single look, a single mistake – all have the ability to snowball into a story.

I’ve written short stories throughout my life. Most of what I write is dark. In fact, there’s a short story I wrote about choice and sacrifice, published in 2002, that I cannot read again – it is beyond dark.

In comparison, “False Positive,” the book I’ve written that was published by Second Wind Publishing in September, 2008, is right cheery. In comparison, that is.

I write about life and death, brutality and betrayal, love and loss. My mind is constantly asking, “what if,” and my fingers itch to answer that question.

The first book in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy, “False Positive” is about a man who holds a secret of which he is unaware. He faces loss and betrayal, and almost ends up losing himself to the dark side of vengance. What he uncovers along the way is a vast conspiracy with ties to the ancient past.

The book is graphically violent and I tried to keep the dialogue as close to real as I could. Of course, living in the Deep South, I had to stop myself from throwing in some “hey, ya’ll’s” and “who dats.”

The next book is coming along. I know where I want to go with it, which is one of the biggest obstacles I think a writer faces.