The Black Phoenix

June 5, 2011 at 9:51 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Hey check out my tattoo! 

OK, it’s not mine.  It actually belongs to a scrumptious imaginary friend.  But you’re going to have to wait for my book and the obsessive edits I’m engrossed in to find out who that is.   

As a matter of fact, I’m not even going to give the slightest hint at what this beauty means to the storyline.  That, my friends, is forthcoming.  Sooner than later, I hope.

So why did I drag you across cyberland from your cozy seat and hot coffee to this blog post on a perfectly good Sunday morning?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Like many writers, when I write, I immerse myself in the world I’m working to create.  I’m not one of those people who sit at a coffee shop, tapping away at the keys in fashionable form.  No way.  I need darkness, music and solitude.  And sometimes, I need a little focus. 

My thoughts have a tendency to meander down a dark and convoluted path.  Give me the sweet chirp of a Red-winged blackbird frolicking under a magnolia tree and by the time I’m finished with it, there’s a vicious flock of angry birds (no relation to the game), carrying a novel, virulent strain of avian bacteria that infects human beings, turning them into mindless, flesh-eating zombies.  I’m pretty sure there’s some run-onism going in the last sentence…   

No focus.  So at times, I need something to draw me back to what the hell I was talking about in the first place.  In all of my stories, I incorporate a cue that not only holds some meaning for the character, but keeps me on track.  It might be a painting, jewelry, a phrase, some physical embodiment that I can visualize. 

In my latest HALOS novel, it’s a Black Phoenix.  Why this mythical bird?  Hahaha!  Nice try.  I think we all know what a phoenix symbolizes in general:  rising up from the ashes, rebirth and immortality.  But again, as it relates to the story, you’ll have to wait and see. 

I found drawings on the internet that temporarily satisfied my craving for some tangible illustration of what I was imagining.  But none of these really took the form of the vision in my head.  Sketching a bird seems simple enough, right?  Ah.  Not so much.  The phoenix is historically a feminine-looking creature; a cross between a dragon and a peacock (in China it is the female counterpart to the dragon).  My character is very alpha-male:  physically strong, dominant and sexy as all hell.  Branding him with a light and feathery bird would be a bad combination unless I’m looking to create some contradiction in my head.  No thanks.  I wanted to maintain the original look of the bird and introduce a bit of badass to fit the character.  This tattoo stretches across his back (between the shoulder blades) and down his spine. 

I come from a family of artists, so I could have had any one of them sketch the bird for me.  But when you need some plumbing done, you call a plumber.  In this case, thanks to a referral from my lovely cousin Amy Lake, I called Chris Hornus of Royalty Tattoo in Durand, Michigan.  His reputation preceded him, so I knew I’d picked the right guy. 



After giving him some parameters, he got to work.  This brings me to reason number two for why I would bother to have the tattoo of an imaginary character designed by a tattoo artist: collaboration of the arts.  True artistic talent is the ability to take the descriptions detailed by an individual and create the exact image on paper – my words translated to another art form.  It’s as if the man reached into the dark recesses of my head and ripped the picture from the stringy bits of my brain.  Like a mad doctor out to manipulate the minds of human subjects in his bid to form an empire of evil minions.  Where was I going with this?  Right.  Black Phoenix.  Tattoo.  Focus.

Now, I don’t have any tattoos…but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suspect that when a person decides to permanently etch something onto the skin, the skills of the tattoo artist are important.  Like I said, not going from experience.  But this little venture with Chris has given me the confidence that, should I resort to absolute reckless abandon and get a tattoo, I know where I’m going to go to keep me from sobbing with regret the next morning.  I reckon that will be the same time I curse myself for the shiny set of gold teeth and extra piercings I somehow acquired.  But at least I know I’ll love whatever design is branded across my chest.  (psst…the cool thing is, Chris is such a nice guy, he’d probably talk me out of it).  For those of you seeking out a little tattoo work, for yourself or your imaginary friends, check out Chris Hornus of Royalty Tattoo.  He’s friendly, talented and willing to collaborate in order to get the design spot on.

So without further ado, I give you The Black Phoenix:



What has this sketch given me?  Inspiration.  On the road to publication, there are often fruitless moments along the way.  We write, edit, market ourselves as best we can, edit some more and sometimes that pretty little manuscript does nothing but collect dust.  These moments of exhilaration, seeing evidence of what we have created, are just enough of a push to keep trudging forward.  The Black Phoenix symbolizes many things in my Halos series.  But for the moment, it represents motivation and a swift kick in the butt to keep me headed in the right direction.

What keeps your writing on track?


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What Makes Your Writing Rock?

May 15, 2011 at 8:03 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

A scenic place?  The cute barrista at your favorite coffee shop?  Inhuman contortions of your body during meditation?  Many writers use some form of stimulus to incite binging and purging of ideas like a bulimic master of prose.  For me, it’s music.

Here is where I confess something very nerdy about myself and my hope is that I don’t lose fans because of this: I was a band geek.  Ugh, I said it.  Not the kind who rolled her eyes by the time 6th hour approached; the bona fide ‘Band Pride’ type.  Now before you track me down to give me a wedgie, let me explain myself. 

Unlike most high school Marching bands, I had a cool teacher who didn’t mess around with the songs of Dorkdom.  In fact, my most memorable moment in band (and because I had a short attention span for school activities, memorable moments with any one sport for a given amount of time were very few) was playing House of Pain’s, “Jump Around”, at a football game.  I’m about to offer up some insight into my age here by saying that the song happened to be popular at the time, and the crowd loved it.  What I remember most, was how it added to the tension of the game. 

High school bands have come a long way since the days of “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 in D Major.”  And, my gosh, has anyone else seen that kickass video on Youtube of the George Mason University band playing RATM?!    Check it out:  Maybe you wouldn’t necessarily jam to this in your car (maybe you would), but if you heard that at a game??  Whoa.

I was a cheerleader in high school too, so I wasn’t entirely consumed by geekness. 

Music has a way of influencing people.  It can build adrenaline, triggering electric pings of excitement to surge, depending on the song and the situation.  Take an ordinary baseball game and add a little “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse – you’ve got a heavy shot of cool infused in an otherwise not-so-memorable scene.  And by the way, while we’re on the topic of sports and song, I have a bone to pick with the Chicago Blackhawks.  Can someone please explain what the hell “Chelsea Dagger” has to do with hockey?  Grrr.  Thanks for taking one of my favorites and sucking the awesomeness right out of it.    

That aside, let me explain how music affects my writing:  sometimes I just happen to stumble upon an extraordinary tune and Boom!  A story is born.  Other times, the chicken comes before the egg.  I might have a rough sketch of the character in mind, but need to add a little bit of soul.  iTunes to the rescue.  I happen to like Alternative and am a huge fan of songs not typically droning on every radio station across the globe.  Finding a newborn song that embodies my character’s personality is like being able to find a matching bikini top and bottom in my size at PacSun – rare but exciting when it happens.  And for me, lyrics are key.  Even if the rhythm is rockin’, it’s kind of hard to write a love scene when the singer is crooning about gouging his eyes out with toothpicks.  Spoils the mood, know what I mean?

Once I marry the lyrics and beat to the perfect character or scene, a bouncing baby story is sure to follow.  I’m in the zone.  And if we’re talking word count here, the right song can crank out speeds of 1000 words an hour; which typically only happens to me when certain Earthly phenomena are involved. 

So for funsies, here is a list of my top five songs for writing (I will not be held responsible for linking any goofy videos that should have been better envisioned for the song):

  1.  Sail by Awolnation
  2. Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine
  3. Here We Never Die by Sister Crayon
  4. Undisclosed Desires by Muse
  5. These Days by the Black Keys    


What’s on your playlist?

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