Shonda Brock and I have been working together for a long time and how it has flown by! We’ve had so much fun over the years. We knew we were destined to make a good creative team because we both were born on January 22nd. We also both appreciate wine, books, and yoga.
Shonda Brock served in the US Military before becoming a medical professional and a busy mom. Somehow, she manages to squeeze in some writing every now and then. She is also an indie author advocate, hosting Paranormal Author Interviews and some of the best writing contests on the web.
Her paranormal romance series, Eternal Traces, features powerful female characters, exotic locations, and fascinating historical references. Readers who like diverse romances layered with mysticism, pulse-pounding action, and a fair amount of blood will enjoy her books.
I’m thrilled to introduce you to Shonda. I’ll leave all her links at the end. Please leave your comments for her as well!
I stopped by Chat About Books with Kerry Parsons and answered a few questions about my writing process, naming characters, and other ramblings. Please check it out and subscribe to Chat About Books. If you’re an author or publisher who would like her to review a book or feature you on Chat About Books, I’ll leave all her links at the bottom of this post.
Do you ever come across a passage in a book that makes you stop and marvel at the genius of the writer? I’m going to be sharing my favorite lines with you on Writer Crush Wednesdays. I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale right now. This is my first Margaret Atwood book and I’m astonished by her writing. I’ve selected an excerpt to share with you. Notice how skillfully she describes a face.
A little of her hair was showing, from under her veil. It was still blond. I thought then that maybe she bleached it, that hair dye was something else she could get through the black market, but I know now that it really is blond. Her eyebrows were plucked into thin arched lines, which gave her a permanent look of surprise, or outrage, or inquisitiveness, such as you might see on a startled child, but below them her eyelids were tired-looking. Not so her eyes, which were the flat hostile blue of a midsummer sky in bright sunlight, a blue that shuts you out. Her nose must once have been what was called cute but now was too small for her face. Her face was not fat but it was large. Two lines led downward from the corners of her mouth; between them was her chin, clenched like a fist.
The chin really got me. The description also says a great deal about the character’s personality.
Take notes, fellow writers! There is no doubt this is the work of a master.
Kind of creepy how much this favorite childhood poem reminds me of young John Branch.
“I cannot go to school today," Said little Peggy Ann McKay. “I have the measles and the mumps, A gash, a rash and purple bumps. My mouth is wet, my throat is dry, I’m going blind in my right eye. My tonsils are as big as rocks, I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox And there’s one more--that’s seventeen, And don’t you think my face looks green? My leg is cut--my eyes are blue-- It might be instamatic flu. I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke, I’m sure that my left leg is broke-- My hip hurts when I move my chin, My belly button’s caving in, My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained, My ‘pendix pains each time it rains. My nose is cold, my toes are numb. I have a sliver in my thumb. My neck is stiff, my voice is weak, I hardly whisper when I speak. My tongue is filling up my mouth, I think my hair is falling out. My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight, My temperature is one-o-eight. My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear, There is a hole inside my ear. I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what? What’s that? What’s that you say? You say today is. . .Saturday? G’bye, I’m going out to play!”
Why I Wrote Sick – Dreams often set the tone for my day. I have vivid dreams that feel just as real as the fact that I’m siting here writing this blog. They form a vapor around me as I go about my normal life – whispers, impressions, and lingering emotions. I’ve always had the ability to overlay fantasy over reality (or the other way around), and I try not to box-in my perception. I think our human brains have room to grow if we let them, and I keep my idea of reality is very loosely defined (Carlos Castaneda and psychedelic drug use could have a part in this). Sometimes this swirling imagery makes me anxious because I feel like I don’t have anything solid to hold onto. But, most of the time it’s wonderful to experience life on so many levels.
My dreams and visions are especially important to my writing. Antoni Azarov came to me in a dream years ago. His presence felt like a shadow, mute and timeless, blocking out the rest of the world. When I looked up into his eyes, I felt jarring sensation underneath my ribcage. I will never forget his determined stare. He would not take no for an answer, so when it came time to write my first novel, I knew it was he who had to be the sculptor.
John Branch, the character in SICK, I met more recently. He didn’t have a name yet in the dream, but he was a beautiful and manic version of a young John Lithgow. I hadn’t seen John Lithgow movie in years! So I’m not sure why suddenly my brain conjured him up as this sick man. It still cracks me up to this day, but John Lithgow is perfect for him. Anyway, I wasn’t myself in the dream either. I was another woman, his wife, and I was a shorter, more grounded and level-headed sort of person. I was a person with faith in God.
I remember the dream house with the same familiarity as my own real home, but this place was decrepit and neglected. I had difficulty getting around the clutter and mess everywhere. The silent white light of autumn glowed from the windows. The wooden floors creaked as I approached the bed. My husband lay there limp and motionless; a smell was diffused into the air by the warmth of his body. It was pungent from the dried blood, antiseptic, and medicine, but also sweet and overripe from his clammy skin, his healing wounds, and his sickly breath. I remember that most from the dream, my husband’s smell. It fills my nose right now as I write this. His broken leg was in a cast; the rest of his body was covered in bruises. The soiled sheets clung to him, incubating him. If you’ve ever been around a very ill or badly hurt person, you will know that sickly smell of a healing or dying body.
He then asked me for pain medication, a shot of Demerol. I remember that although he looked anemic and weak, there was an underlying menace that made me uneasy. I sensed that behind his sweet requests, he was mocking me. I was a little bit resentful and a little bit fearful at the same time. It was just a flash of negative emotion, and then my reason blotted it out.
I felt foolish and guilty for thinking about him in that way. I was a good wife, and this was my husband, whom I had been with for years. We knew each other inside and out, didn’t we? And he loved me, and I loved him. No matter how much of a burden he was, I would take care of him forever. I gave him his shot, and smoothed the damp hair from his forehead.
The dream continued and I viewed the whole story to a shocking and revolting end. When I woke up, I just couldn’t shake it off. His watery-eyed stare. And my fear. The eerie fog of it snuck up on me for weeks. The experience clawed at me and wouldn’t let go.
I entertained the thought of writing it down. “Oh, yeah. Maybe I should write that as a book one day.” It wasn’t really my style, or so I thought. I never wrote anything like it before, but the scene just wouldn’t leave me alone. Then I researched the medical condition I was treating in the dream and discovered John Branch’s situation was real. I couldn’t believe it! I knew I had to write it.
So, I never set out to write a creepy suspense. I didn’t invent the plot or the characters. It was all handed to me by my subconscious. That’s the story behind SICK. Strange, but true.
Have you ever had a dream that just wouldn’t let you go?
Do you write or create from ideas based on dreams?
What role do dreams play in your waking life?
I’m happy to say my dream experiment worked out.
SICK is getting great reviews!
PS: Part II is in revisions and coming very soon. Stay tuned!
Since I started writing a few years ago, I discovered a peculiar phenomenon – I’m often shocked at what happens when these fingertips hit the keys.
I know many writers plot out every scene ahead of time. I thought that would be my way of putting a novel together. I am obsessed with efficiency and order in my daily life. However, I’ve found that I can’t adhere to any structure when writing. I suppose that’s why it’s so exhilarating and therapeutic for me. I get to let the messy, intuitive side out to play.
I’ve just finished Part II of the SICK series that my readers voted for. I had planned to finish it sooner, speed-publishing it like the first book, but I was delayed by my own aversion to the manuscript. Yes, I freaked myself out with my own writing. SICKER has become sicker than I ever wanted it to be.
Excerpt from Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham.
I finally finished reading Of Human Bondage. Honestly, I didn’t want it to end. It’s an amazing book that resonated with me on multiple levels. My copy has kept me company toilet-side for the past year and is dog-eared and slathered in orange highlighter. I’ll probably be posting more quotes from the book whenever they come to mind.
There were so many “Yes!” moments for me in the story watching Philip explore what it means to be an artist, not only of writing or painting, but an artist of his own life.
What do you sacrifice for art?
This quote, spoken by Philip’s friend Clutton, is a perfect example.
“Oh, my dear fellow, if you want to be a gentleman you must give up being an artist. They’ve got nothing to do with one another. You hear of men painting pot-boilers to keep an aged mother – well it shows they’re excellent sons, but it’s no excuse for bad work. They’re only tradesmen. An artist would let his mother go to the workhouse. There’s a writer I know over here who told me that his wife died in childbirth. He was in love with her and he was mad with grief, but as he sat at the bedside watching her die he found himself making mental notes of how she looked and what she said and the things he was feeling. Gentlemanly, isn’t it?”
I think every writer develops the capacity to objectify people, events, and emotions. We have to distance ourselves from them so that we can examine them – whether they are tragic, vulgar, absurd, joyful, wrathful – and render them in their truest light according to our perspective (or that of our characters). The more I write, the more skilled I become at this distancing. It’s kind of creepy.
Does this make artists predatory, opportunistic sociopaths?
Weeelll, I say.. not completely.
I admit, I do sometimes pursue adventures in the same way the proverbial lawyer chases an ambulance, but I also do it as a means to greater understanding and depth of experience. For me it’s a form of delirious homage for all the mysteries, horrors, and delights of existence. It allows me to ignore my ego’s emotional investment in a situation so that I have the ability to look at it simply as it is, and not what I believe it is or should be.
(Let’s hope I’m not outing myself on some personality disorder here.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have at it below!
I hit the streets of historic New Hope, PA to immerse myself in my characters’ world. You guys know I’m anal about the details. I sucked up the sounds and smells. I took lots of notes and pictures. I expected to see Ona walking to work or Antoni shooting by on his motorcycle. Going on location really got me back into the story. After a long period of burn out, I’m ready to get back to revising The Sculptor of New Hope.
More to come!
How do you research your location?
What kind of locations do you like to experience when reading a novel?
Have you ever read a book with inaccurate location descriptions?
Seeking help in choosing a bike… (for my character) 😉