I did it! by Cayenne Michaels

I actually did it!

And I think it’s taken me almost up to now to realize it.

A couple of weeks ago I packed up my whole house. Well, technically the brick building is still standing, but I stashed all our belongings into the spare guest room and basement. Then I jumped on a plane to move halfway across the world. To study literature. Continue reading

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Hidden treasures by Cayenne Michaels

Let’s talk about inspiration.

Namibrand 1

Where does it come from? Is it stored inside of us and stirred awake when we encounter something in our everyday life that brings out this hidden treasure we never knew we carried?

Or, is it handed to us, as a gift, by someone or something that has you or me are the perfect person to see its true potential?

Elizabeth Gilbert says:

The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

Have you found any yet? Please…share them with us in the comments field. As writers I think we all know how to appreciate them. We know how precious these discoveries are. Continue reading

Writer’s resolutions 2016 by Cayenne Michaels

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

(called out in a, hopefully, cheerful voice)

I’m so not the right blogger to write the festive season post.

I’m traumatized by childhood memories of polishing silver, cleaning the porcelain and hurting my back from pulling out the couch to remove the colony of dust balls that had sought shelter there since last Christmas. They knew it was the only place in the whole house where they’d be safe from the vacuum cleaner until next year’s Christmas clean. These were just a few of the points on Mom’s endlessly long list of Things to Do and we worked our asses off up to the afternoon on Christmas Eve.

When dusk finally settled and Mom could do nothing more than fret over her mother-in-law (also called The Dragon) and stare through the foggy glass front of the stove, as if she could will the pork rib to roast to perfection, the rest of the family (except The Dragon, I suspect) would sigh in relief and silently vow to eat whatever came out of that stove, regardless how burnt or raw it was. (It took me a while, but as an adult I’ve realized the pressure of catering for a mother-in-law who’s keen to grade everybody’s effort, and why my dad would insist he’d have to make certain the aquavit (Norwegian schnapps) was still drinkable, long before the dinner guests arrived.) Continue reading

No man is an island… by Cayenne Michaels

Entirely of itself,

Every man is a piece of a continent,

A part of the main.

John Donne

It’s something we take for granted in our everyday life. Most of us, at least. We might feel like eccentric outsiders. I can’t be the only one that has a tendency to occasionally withdraw from conversations, and the apparent lack of interest have caused some tense moments now and then. But you see, in my head an irresistible scene is taking form, where the most gorgeous man says the right words at the right moment, and I join my own heroine in a swooooon– Continue reading

Bundu bashing through a jungle of languages by Cayenne Michaels

It’s a bit ironic that I, as one of the few non-Americans on this blog, have the privilege of wishing all the rest of you a happy 4th July. But here you go: HAPPY 4th July to all of you from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Joburg, South Africa.

If it hadn’t been for a kind soul reminding me, I’d probably forgotten about it altogether. Which, I suppose, in a way, would be quite fitting for this post because it’s about different set of references in a way. Continue reading

Jungle fever

I have been on my first ever research trip for a work of fiction. Officially it was called a holiday, otherwise my Other Half and travel companion might have objected, but our travel route was, to large extent, determined by my story and what I needed to know about the eastern part of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

Here’s the thing. My female main character works on the Andaman Coast of Thailand. I know the area fairly well. Her love interest, Nick, is a wildlife photographer and he’s supposed to be somewhere else. The long distance and time apart is a strain in their relationship. I needed him out of the way for long periods of time, but perhaps not on the other side of the globe. So I checked the map, considered where I could put him. Which places did I know well enough to be able to add convincing sensory details to my story? Continue reading

The awakening of a newbie writer

I started writing on Christmas Day 2013. It was my first day off in ages. I woke up from the chirping weavers outside the bedroom window and enjoyed knowing that there was no rush. And as I was lying there, dozing, my mind started to puzzle jigsaw pieces of different scenes or daydreams together into one large picture. Five years of day dreams and silly fantasies had, in an hour on Christmas Day, turned into one (awfully long) story. Continue reading

A lion’s tooth – using own experiences in writing

I was going to write about writing fiction in a second language, like English is for me. But sometime during the day that plan disintegrated and I decided to rather focus on how I feed own experiences into my writing instead.

One of my main male characters wears a lion tooth attached to a leather band around his neck. It’s a bit out of character for him, he’s not the jewelry/accessory kind of guy, but it’s there, as a reminder of where he came from and how Africa has shaped him. The tooth is from Djimba, a lioness he encountered when he was a novice wildlife photographer, struggling to get assignments and make ends meet.

I’m writing this blog post in a scorching car parked at a waterhole in Etosha National Park, one of the largest and most well known parks in Southern Africa. The glaring midday light forces me to squint to see the words on the screen. Now and then dust devils swirl up white dust and gust it into the car. It gets stuck in the hair and makes the camera equipment squeak in protest. The bottled drinking water could be used for making tea. Continue reading

“So, you’re writing a book?”

My sudden interest in writing took everybody, including myself, by surprise. The news that I was fiddling with a story sent shock waves through my circle of friends and family.

I hadn’t quite anticipated the reaction. Had I known, I wouldn’t have mentioned it in the first place. But now it’s out there, and it’s impossible to take back the words or pretend they misunderstood me.

Initially, when I decided to tell my friends and family that I’m trying to write a novel, it was because I thought a bit of pressure would be good.

Kind of the same way the peer pressure in a weight loss group gives you no alternative, but to buckle up and resist temptations. The mere thought that you’d be the only one at the collective weighing that have gained weight the past week is so traumatic it’s simply not an option.

I had this crazy idea it would be the same way with writing. I’d tell them, and get some help to stay focused and keep writing. It’s not like they’re not supportive. They are, in their…own way. They’re all eager to read, but I doubt it’s because they truly have faith in me as a writer.

Yup, as you’ve probably already gathered, my confession didn’t work quite as planned.

I’m just relieved I never told them my pen name and it’s impossible for them to track me at the moment.

This is roughly what it happened…

In a weak moment I mentioned to one friend that I was writing, and that I really, really enjoyed it.

A few nights later, all the hens (that’s my girlfriends and myself) are gathered to drown our sorrows and solve world problems with alcohol.

The red wine is opened and the glasses are filled. All the normal topics are discussed in great detail; nappy rashes, the increased kindergarten fee, the notoriously unfaithful bastard of a husband that, for some unfathomable reason, one of my girlfriends still wants to keep. Our favorite clothing store has a sale on, and have you seen the last episode of Sons of Anarchy? Holy crap! Charlie Hunnam is so freaking hot, we all discreetly dab away a bit of drool just thinking about him, even though he’s probably too young for us. Lets not even go there, it will bring us on to Botox and anti-wrinkle lotions and other depressing topics. That’s the kind of conversations that float around the table while the glasses are topped up.

Out of nowhere, silencing everything else: “So, you’re writing a book?”

“Maybe.” I cringe, not sure I’m ready to go there. Why did I mention it in the first place?

“About what?”

“Life and love, I guess.”

“Really? So, when can we read it?”

“I’ve got no idea. Probably never.”

“No, seriously.”

“That was serious. Look, I’ve told myself I’ll try to have a draft ready for my fortieth birthday.”

“What? You gotta be kidding! That’s like two years from now.”

I know.”

“So what genre is it?”

“I have no idea.”

They laugh as if I’ve said something really funny.

“No seriously, I’ve got no idea.”

“She’s writing the next Fifty Shades,” somebody says. “She’s just too shy to admit it.”

Thank you.

“You are?!” An excited unison exclaim from the whole table.

“Definitely not. How the hell am I supposed to write stuff like that? I almost died of embarrassment when I watched Basic Instinct.”

“You’re not?” In disappointed unison from the whole table.

“No.”

“Maybe she’s writing about us.”

Shucks. “No, no, no, I’m not. They’re all fictional characters. It’s fiction, not real life stuff.”

“But I bet they’ll be inspired by us.”

“I don’t think so. They’re made up. They don’t exist in real life.”

“Well, you had to draw inspiration from somewhere…” It’s quite clear that my friends think the nutty crowd around the table is the obvious place to search for inspiration.

Shit…

The table gasps at the prospect. Then they start looking at each other, wondering who’ll be good girls and who’ll play the role as Cruella De Vil.

“Oh, this is so cool,” says one of the single ones. I imagine she could see herself in a Carrie Bradshaw type of role.

“Don’t you fucking dare. I’m not having my messed up life smeared onto book pages,” says a mother of three, currently in the middle of a divorce. She threatens me with her wine glass. I’m not sure if she’s considering pouring the content over my head or break it and use it as a weapon. In the end the precious drops win and nothing much comes out of it.

But that’s still where it took off…

To make a long story that included a lot of wine (some will claim way too much), very short, my friends seem to have a strong need and will to link both physical appearances and personal traits of my characters to real people. Like in a very strong urge.

It’s terrifying. The pressure. And the danger. Fuck, I feel like there are toes to step on everywhere I look now.

It’s also quite a blow for my imagination, or lack of, if my friends’ reaction is anything to go by. The idea that I would be capable of inventing characters out of the blue is not something they’re willing to buy into just like that.

And it makes me question their opinion of me. What have I done to make them think I’d write a story like a tabloid gossip magazine and use our dirty, little secrets to spice it up? Why, oh, why?

I felt like drowning myself in the wine when I realized almost any feature or personal trait I’d attribute to one of my characters can also be linked to a person we know, if you really, really want to. But are my friends connecting the dots correctly, or are they just making a big, messy tangle of it all?

Who are these characters? Where do they come from? Why did they decide to set camp in my head? Are they products of my imagination only, or are they actually a fusion or blend based on real people? What I see as vague resemblances at best, can be seen as real inspiration by others. And it matters, to some extent.

This is getting too messy to deal with at the bottom of the wine bottle, I decide.

“So…back to Charlie Hunnam…”

Some distractions never fail.

Fruit trees in Alaska, bolus insulin and the elusive clouded leopard – and they told me to write about things I know

Write about the things you know.

I’ve heard and read that phrase so many times, and since I’m not writing a crime story or a fantasy novel, I planned to stick to it. I had that advice as my mantra, and stuck it onto the iMac screen written out on a orange post-it note. No, I’m lying, I didn’t actually stick it there because the glue was all dried up, but you get my point, right? Or not…?

Let me spell it out for you: I was going to write about the things I know because (and this is an important addition) I didn’t want to do any kind of research, not even small stuff. I’m a sloth camouflaged in a human body, and it would require too much effort. But more importantly,  I didn’t want to be like Bambi on the ice. If anything required research it would imply that I didn’t know what I was writing about, and it would take me out on the (potentially) slippery surface of ignorance. I pictured myself sprawling all over the place because my readers would see through me and realize I don’t know anything at all, really. I’m just trying to write a story.

So I was determined to write about things I know. And I did, until my characters began to put obstacles in my way, making life difficult. You’d think that a product of your own imagination would have the courtesy to be fairly obedient and manageable, wouldn’t you? Nope. Somewhere along the way they develop their own quirks and crazy ideas. They turn into that bunny…what’s his name again? Thumper, that’s the one. Continue reading