Screenwriting sparks creativity – thank the Muse at last!

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A couple of months ago, I got the chance to try something I had never done before – screenwriting. I was slightly terrified, but wanted to help a friend who’s really into film with a creative project. I’d never worked on a film, mind you, and I’d never tried my hand at crafting a screenplay, even a short film. But I decided to go ahead with it for the pure fun of having a unique creative experience.

I had no idea what to expect when I met with several new friends to work on Boston’s recent 48 Hour Film Project in May 2015, but within a couple of hours the ideas were flowing and within an evening we had the potential plot to our own little suburban drama. Then came the really fun part – I had to write a 5-7 page script overnight so we could start filming in the morning. Ah, the joys of a deadline. Sometimes I panic at deadlines – self-imposed or work-driven – but I found the film deadline really gave me the freedom to get words on a page in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I had teammates counting on me. The clock was ticking and we had less than 48 hours to finish our short film. I had to make the magic happen and it did. The Muse finally smiled on me, or maybe I just didn’t bother to wait for her to show up and just did what had to be done – WRITE!

I’m grateful to the 48 Hour Film Project and our film crew for helping me try new things, which in the end, helped rekindle the flame for my novel writing. Off to go conquer some more pages…See You In Tahiti – A 48 Hour Film Production.

Wanderlust…that time again

Maybe it’s the leaves falling to the ground, the colder weather, the days getting shorter, or the holidays coming, but every year around November, I get anxious to try new things and go new places.

During the summer I started working on a graduate degree. One of our assignments was to describe our lives in six words or less. Here’s what I picked. Kind of appropriate considering my regular wanderlust.

She wandered about to find herself – Tara Holt

This summer I was lucky enough to add  a two week sojourn to Scotland to my list of travels. Before I head to the kitchen to make some tea, I thought I’d share some pictures of my time there this August.

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The Keys to Her Heart

Sometimes you have an idea for a story that doesn’t go very far. I usually put those in a file to save for another day – like a writer’s slush fund of sorts. Here’s a cute meet I wrote for a short contemporary romance that didn’t quite get off the ground (maybe someday that will change!). Enjoy!

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Jenny hoped her new home would be a fresh beginning; she had no idea it would bring romance.

The movers gone, Jenny walked into the kitchen of her new home to make coffee. She needed a break before tackling the boxes taking over the 1940’s bungalow she bought days before. As she fumbled around looking for coffee filters the doorbell rang. Maybe the movers forgot something? She hurried towards the front of the house.

Jenny opened the large, wood door, but kept the screen door shut. She took in the sight on her front porch – tall, clean cut, and very handsome. Definitely not one of the movers. The neighborhood welcome committee? She could only dream.

“May I help you?” she asked, hoping she didn’t look like a total disaster after managing the big move over the last few days.

“Are you Jenny? I’m here for my Dad’s toolbox. He forgot it in the pantry.”

Mr. Martin, the former owner. He’d been such a sweetheart during the house inspection and closing. He even left her a bottle of champagne on the kitchen counter. “He didn’t mention it at the closing. Do you have any ID?” She pulled on the screen door, making sure it stayed shut. Being a city-girl, she always went with safety first.

The man on her porch smiled. He pulled out his driver’s license and his police badge before handing Jenny his cell phone. “Give him a call. I think he’ll vouch for me. I’m Greg.”

She looked at his ID and badge. Detective Gregory Martin. Welcome to the suburbs, Jenny. Local PD at its finest. He looked like his father, only younger. She flipped through the contacts on his phone. The number next to Dad matched the number she had for Mr. Martin. “Looks like you check out. I don’t need to call him,” she said as she handed him back his belongings.

“Thorough, I like that. Dad said you would keep me on my toes.”

“Really,” she said, intrigued. “What else did he say?”

Greg smiled. “That’s between me and my Dad.”

Feeling more relaxed, she opened the screen door. “Come on in.”

“So, how do you like the house so far?”

“I love it, I’m glad I waited until I found the right one,” she said as images of the thirty plus homes she’d looked at ran through her mind.

“Always wait for what you want, never settle for what’s available, that’s what my Mom used to say.”

“Good advice.” Jenny remembered that Mr. Martin was selling the house only a year after becoming a widower. “How’s your Dad doing in the new condo?”

“He’s good. Thanks for asking. We were about to hang shelves in his new place when he realized he forgot his tools.”

“The pantry is this way…at the end of the kitchen,” she said, “But you probably know that, huh.”

Greg laughed. “This is weird for me too. Last week I was packing this house up, this week I’m a stranger in a strange land.”

She felt for him, remembering all the moves she endured as an Army brat. “You’re welcome here…any time. And I won’t check your ID again, I promise.”

“I appreciate that. What kind of plans do you have for the place?”

“Painting for sure – this place is like a crayon box, too many colors to count,” she said, only realizing her faux pas once the words left her mouth. His mother likely decorated the entire house to her taste. Flustered, she turned to Greg once they were both inside the kitchen. “I’m sorry, forgive me.”

He laughed. “Mom loved to repaint every couple of years. It drove Dad crazy. This house was her masterpiece. I’m sure you want to put your own stamp on it too.”

She appreciated him being so kind. He walked past her and into the pantry so he could retrieve the toolbox. She saw him shake his head as he grabbed the toolbox. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “I think my Dad sent me over here for a reason.”

“What makes you say that?”

He showed her a picture of his parents, which had been left beside the toolbox by his father. “I told him the other day I felt Mom was still watching over me. I guess he’s watching over me too.”

Jenny smiled. “You’re lucky to have a Dad like him. One reason I bought this house was because I had a good feeling about him…and now you.”

He smiled too. He had such an amazing smile. “I’m glad he sold you the house. I worried who might end up living here, but not anymore.”

“Want to stay for coffee?” she asked, those butterflies still kicking around inside her. “That is, if I can find the coffee maker.”

Greg moved closer to her. “I’d like that. Maybe I can even help you paint.”

Moving from the city had definitely changed things for Jenny – and the house was only the beginning. She could tell Greg was one of the good guys – with or without the badge. Maybe one day soon he’d have a key to the house again. He was already finding his way into her heart. 

You gotta love happily ever afters!

happilyeverafterWhen asked why I write romance novels, I always give the same answer – there are not enough happy endings in the world. And I mean it. Call me a Pollyanna. I like my rose-colored glasses. That’s not to say I don’t live in reality, I can assure you that I do, but when I want to relax and unwind, I want to read or watch a good love story. I want the same thing when I write. “Once upon a time” is one of my favorite phrases in fiction, right up there with “And they lived happily ever after”.

I want to experience the hero and heroine falling in love, going through all the relationship firsts, and struggling to be together against all odds (the more substantial the odds the better). I want to know that no matter what their love will conquer all. They will triumph in the end. They will get their reward and so will I as a faithful reader. Or when I’m writing, I can get the same thrill my characters do when my hero and heroine achieve their Happily Ever After (HEA).

With hard economic times, lots of pessimism out there, too much stress and too much work, who needs a book or a movie where the hero or heroine dies, someone gets maimed or the villain wins in the end.

Screw that.

I want to smile, to laugh, to cry “good” tears. I want that “damn, that was good” feeling ala Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone. I refuse to read a wall-banger because “everyone else is reading it” or wish I had watched the news instead of the latest film meant to make me “think.” After a hard day at work with only a few moments to manage my personal life each day, do I really want to use my limited free time to get depressed at how harsh life can be? I would rather eat a bucket full of broken glass, thank you very much.

That being said, I like it best when our favorite characters earn their happy ending. Characters that are flawed, get a few bumps along the way, and have to wrestle some internal as well as external demons along the way.

A heroine does not have to be pure as the driven snow when she meets our hero, but she does have to worthy of falling in love with, worth the struggle he must endure to win her heart, not to mention to overcome the obstacles in their path. She must be strong, smart and courageous in her own right, helping the hero (even if begrudgingly at times) at every turn throughout the course of the story. Dim bulbs need not apply.

The hero can be a jerk on his way to redemption, but he can’t be a heel forever. Wounded alpha-males trying to prove they don’t need anyone only to find out they most certainly do are among my favorites, but so are the Everyman beta-types finding their true calling on the way to saving the world, who also can’t believe they finally found the one girl who “gets” them.

With all the ups and downs in life, a good love story can give us all some comfort – a proverbial port in the storm. So, as we hunker down for winter and the days are bleak outside in New England, remember a happily ever after has the power to chase your troubles away – if only for a day.

Write Your Own Kind of Music

musicblogA few years ago, almost by accident, I learned that listening to music while I write can spark tremendous creativity and inspire me to write words I didn’t even know I had in me. I was working on a new manuscript at the time and couldn’t get past the first five chapters. I wasn’t even stuck in the middle; I was mired in the quicksand of a good idea that wasn’t turning out so hot on the page. I was, however, determined not to give up on yet another almost manuscript. I decided to dig in, to stubbornly press on, and of course not much happened. Then I moved, and we all know how much writing usually gets done when a major life event occurs.

But, the move ended up providing me with a fresh start for my writing in a most unexpected way. I found the CDs for a music course I took in college again and feeling nostalgic I listened to the CDs. The CDs were filled with many of the classics, Mozart, Copeland, Smentana, Lidzt, and Brahms, to name just a few.

The music was powerful, emotional, compelling. It moved me, so I listened to it again and again, and then, almost like magic, the music and my characters began to fuse together and I finally I knew how to fix my story.

Life is tremendously busy these days and finding ways to write can be difficult. I’ve been trying to do at least an hour a day, no worries that the words are far from perfect, just as long as they reach the page. To keep me focused and motivated, I’ve been listening to tons of music while I write and I’m thankful to report the magic is still along for the ride.

For me, I think music gets all the parts I need to write (my head and my heart) headed in the same direction. Music is like a force of nature unto itself – it can move you physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. The word music finds its origins in the Greek word for muse, so I suppose it is no surprise it can be such an effective tool while writing.

I tend to stick to movie soundtracks, think Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, LOST (composer Michael Giacchino is a musical gem I would recommend to anyone), and Pride and Prejudice (2008), among many others, but depending on what I’m writing, more contemporary music can help to spark my imagination as well (thank you Coldplay, U2, Lifehouse, Sarah MacLachan, The Killers, and anything from the 60s and 70s).

Hey, it’s good to be eclectic.

Welcome to my web site

Welcome to my website! I’ve been writing romances for a few years now and have enjoyed love stories for as long as I can remember. While not yet published, I’m actively working towards it – sending sample chapters to writing contests, pitching to agents/editors at writer’s conferences, and critiquing with fellow writers amongst other things. This website is one of those “other things” – me doing more to follow my passion for storytelling and getting ready for the day the publishing gods/goddesses smile on me.

This website will be my way of connecting with readers and sharing news and events as well as information about a variety of topics, mostly around writing and my journey towards publication, but also other topics that interest me. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for visiting. Stay tuned!