The Writing Playlist


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Writing Playlist

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

In my world music is the backdrop of a lot of things. I listen to it while working at my day job of writing letters. I listen to it while I drive my car, if I’m not listening to an audio book. I usually wake up with a tune in my head and go to bed humming.

I have stockpiled a lot of music on my phone and my tablet. It’s a very eclectic collection from Irish instrumentals, Spanish instrumentals, western ballads, movie soundtracks, operas pieces, disco, dance tunes (Macarena), and techno.

However, there are certain pieces of music I’ve purchased just for the purpose of writing. And I’ve created my own “Writing Playlist.” These are the ones that make my skin prickle with excitement because I can feel the story hiding in there. Some of the stories are very evident, like watching a movie. But some of them are like playing a hidden pictures game. It’s there. The instructions tell you it’s there. There may even be a ghostly shape of what the story looks like, but I have to see it. And then, half way through the song, it begins to glitter and I wonder why I didn’t see it straight-out before. So I look away, then look back, and I have to find it all over again.

So, I’ll show you some of my writing playlist, and I’d love to know what your writing playlist looks like.

  1. Music of the Night – from Phantom of the Opera
  2. Phantom of the Opera (Junior Vasquez Club Remix) – from Phantom of the Opera
  3. Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
  4. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
  5. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now – Celine Dion
  6. Dark Lady – Cher
  7. Hotel California – The Eagles
  8. Fire On High – Electric Light Orchestra
  9. Here We Are – Gloria Estefan
  10. Hallelujah
  11. Tom Dooley – The Kingston Trio
  12. El Matador – The Kingston Trio
  13. Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
  14. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond
  15. Try – Pink
  16. Just Give Me a Reason – Pink
  17. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
  18. Cell Block Tango – From Chicago
  19. Blood Theme (Alaska in Winter Remix) – from the TV series Dexter
  20. Perfect – Pink

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

 

The Reluctant Hero


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The Reluctant Hero

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

“A reluctant hero is a tarnished or ordinary man with several faults or a troubled past, and he is pulled reluctantly into the story, or into heroic acts. During the story, he rises to the occasion, sometimes even vanquishing a mighty foe, sometimes avenging a wrong. But he questions whether he’s cut out for the hero business. His doubts, misgivings, and mistakes add a satisfying layer of tension to a story”. (From Wikipedia)

As a reader, the reluctant hero has always fascinated me. This is the person who wants a normal life, hearth and home, living in his own world fulfilling his own desires. But due to circumstances he has no control over, he is forced to think about the good of others.

In my opinion, the epitome of this type of character is William Wallace in the movie “Braveheart.” I’m not sure about the historical accuracy of the story. I’ve heard a lot of talk about how there’s not a shred of truth to it. And, to be fair, it does give a pretty dark light on a certain group of people. But, let’s face it. Most, especially those of us with an overdeveloped sense of imagination, don’t really care how accurate of a biography it is.

Braveheart is a masterfully told epic with a true reluctant, unwilling hero at the very center.

Scotland in the 1300s has been taken captive by England, and the king of England is a cruel man who rules his people (including his family) with an iron fist. At the first of the movie, William Wallace is a boy and his father and older brother leave him in to look after the cottage and the farm while they go to peace talks between their clan and a the English rulers over their homestead. William watches as a wagon brings the bodies of his father and brother back home. At their funeral, a little girl offers him a thistle, her gesture of comfort for the new orphan. His uncle rides into the village and takes young William off on a journey where he is educated to read, write, other languages, and calculate numbers.

When he’s grown, he comes back to his home to live as part of the clan, raising animals and vegetables, and to marry the now grown thistle girl who has been on his mind for all the years he was gone. His only wish is to marry her, run his farmstead, and raise children. The circle of life, as it were.

But then, his wife (they did marry, but only is secret to protect her from the attention of the lusting English soldiers.) This ended his wife’s death. And this is the moment the hero reluctantly emerges. William kills the English soldiers, and the rest of the clan help him out and was able to pinpoint the exact moment when he became the successful leader that lead a country to freedom.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

A Thousand Words Worth


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

A Thousand Words Worth

By Nandy Ekle

Here area few photos from my camera to rouse your muse. If you find something you can use, write a comment and let me know how it’s helped you.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Quoting the Masters II


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Quoting the Masters II
By Nandy Ekle

I like to read quotes by authors who know what they’re talking about. I find a lot of inspiration, instruction, wisdom, truth, and humor.

Here’s a few I’ve picked out from other sites on line to share with you.

1, Every first draft is perfect because all a first draft has to do is exist. — Jane Smiley

2. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page. — Jodi Picoult

3. Fill your paper with the breathing of your heart. — William Wordsworth

4. You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. — Stephen King

5. A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. — Richard Bach

6. I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it. — Toni Morrison

7. If you want to be a writer, write. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again. Save everything that you write. If you feel blocked, write through it until you feel your creative juices flowing again. Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less. — Anne Rice

8. Write like it matters, and it will. — Libba Bray

9. Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. — Louis L’Amour

10. It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. — Gustave Flaubert
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Echoes of the Day


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

 Echoes of the Day

“I saw her again today.” You hear this uttered between friends.  You’re not part of the conversation, but the phrase works its way into your ears as if it was aimed there. The rest of the day you walk around repeating it over and over. You have no idea who “she” is or when the last time “she” was seen. But the words echo through your imagination until you develop some sort of picture and story.

Sometimes just a simple phrase will catch your attention and stay bouncing around your brain. You listen to it whisper inside your head over and over and marvel at the sounds and meanings of the words.  You consider all the different things it could have meant. Eventually you realize that there are as many stories as there are meanings of the phrase.

As writers, our job is to find the story that best fits the meaning of the day’s magic phrase.  When such a story is discovered, use the provocative phrase as your starting sentence and watch the rest of the story appear on your page.

Congratulations!  You have just received a post card from the muse.

Nandy Ekle

Gimmicks


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Gimmicks

By Nandy Ekle

As a horror/thriller writer I read a lot of horror stories and thriller stories. I’ve been told I’m an adrenaline junkie, and that may true. I just love a story with lots of deep layers, tortured main characters, a little action, a little (okay, a lot) of mystery and scary, and tons of surprises.

But as much as I love these things, sometimes I feel like I’m in a rut. I look through my library and pay attention to what I mostly look at in the bookstores and realize most of my reading material is basically all the same. And really and truly, I have to admit half of it did not deliver what the synopsis on the back of the book promised. So I get leery of starting another book with same formula to end up disappointed.

Not too long ago, I found myself in a rut so deep I had completely stopped reading and writing. So on a trip to the bookstore where a friend of mine was having a book signing for her latest book, I shopped for something new. I was convinced something light and fast, humorous and glamorous would be the answer to my dilemma.

So I found a cute little cozy mystery. A cozy mystery is a mystery story that’s very light hearted. There might be a murder, but it’s not tragic, except for the person murdered. The one I bought the murdered person follows the main character around through the whole story helping her solve the mystery of her death. And there’s another ghost of a murdered person from a previous story as well.

One thing I didn’t do before I bought the book was look at the first page. If I had I would have seen that the book is full of gimmicks. The writer shamelessly tries to get the reader’s attention by using sarcasm. As the narration and dialog is so unnatural it’s actually quite distracting from the story.

I’ve always said you can learn something from every book you read, even the not great books. And the thing I’ve learned from this book is to not use gimmicks. You should make your narration and dialogue flow naturally, and that will keep the reader’s attention much better than a gimmick.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Writing Prompt


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Writing Prompt

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

“Write about a time you were surprised.

On Monday I was sitting at my desk at the office, I had my earphones on listening to the radio. The DJ announced he was holding the last pair of tickets to the Eagles concert that Friday night.

“I’ve been told these are the last two tickets on the face of the earth. All you have to do for a chance to win them is to put your name and phone number on a piece of paper and drop it in the box at the car lot.”

I have never in my life won a raffle. If there are only names in the bag for the drawing, mine will not be drawn. However, The Eagles are the number one band on my list of favorites. Besides that, if you never put your name in, there will not even a chance at all, no matter how infinitesimal. So every day the week I left the office during my lunch hour and drove across town to put my name the box. My husband put his name in the box, and even my son entered for a chance to win the tickets.

Friday morning I was sitting at my desk at the office. I had my earphone on listening to the radio. The DJ announced he was about to draw a name for the winner of the last existing pair of tickets to the Eagles concert.

“My hand is going inside the box.”

I heard paper mixing around.

“I have one name in my hand.”

I wasn’t paying close attention because I knew it wasn’t my name.

“I’m dialing the phone number.”

I heard beeps and boops of numbers being pressed on the phone. But I kept working.

“The phone is now ringing.”

I heard the phone ring over the radio waves. Then something extraordinary happened. My phone lit up and the caller ID said “radio station.” I stared at it as it rang a second time.

“Is that your phone?” The lady sitting next to me asked.

“Yeah.” It rang a third time.

“You should answer it. I think it’s the radio station.”

“Yeah.” I picked up my phone and pushed the button. “Hello?” I said.

“Is this Nandy?”

“Yes?” I still felt like I was in a dream.

“Did you put your name in the box at the car lot for Eagles tickets?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Well, I pulled your name out of the box. You’re going to see the Eagles!”

I have no memory of what my answer was.

The concert was as fantastic as I knew it would be. But the most incredible thing was the fact that I won those tickets in a raffle. 🙂

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Writing Prompt


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Writing Prompt

By Nandy Ekle

 

“Write a story in which a broken coffee pot has a huge impact on the world around it.”

This is the coffee maker. This is the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the man eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the frown on the face of the man eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the empty cup belonging to the frowny-faced mad eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the black cloud floating above the frowny-faced man with the empty cup eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This is the door slamming closed under the black cloud floating above the frowny-faced man eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

This the gas pedal getting stomped to the floor after the door slammed closed under the black cloud floating above the frowny-faced mad eyeing the crack in the side of the carafe that fits under the coffee maker.

Well, I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

And be sure to drink your coffee first thing in the morning. *wink*

 

Reading Challenge


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Reading Challenge

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

I found this challenge on line and got my attention. Let’s all give it a try.

During this year I am challenged to

  1. Read a book I read in school.
  2. Read a book from my childhood.
  3. Read a book published over a hundred years ago.
  4. Read a book published in the last year.
  5. Read a non-fiction book.
  6. Read a book written by a male author.
  7. Read a book written by a female author.
  8. Read a book by someone who isn’t a writer.
  9. Read a book that became a film.
  10. Read a book published in the 20th century.
  11. Read a book set in my hometown.
  12. Read a book with someone’s name in the title.
  13. Read a book with a character with my first name.
  14. Read a book with a number in the title.
  15. Read a book with over 500 pages.
  16. Read a book I can finish in a day.
  17. Read a previously banned book.
  18. Read a book with a one word title.
  19. Read a book translated from another language.
  20. Read a book that will improve a specific area of my life.
  21. Read a book written by someone younger than me.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

 

THE MUSE


A Postcard from the Muse

THE MUSE

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

I pulled the package from the mailbox. I was so excited I nearly dropped it, and what a horrible tragedy that would have been. Especially after what happened to the first mug. I had been walking into the break room to get a cup of coffee. I raised my right arm, just like always (since I’m so hopelessly right handed). And, at that very moment, the old injury to my shoulder decided to groan, which caused my hand to open mid arc. My precious Stephen King autographed mug flew across the room and smashed on the floor into a million pieces. I was so stunned I could barely breathe. My. Stephenkingautographed. Mug. Smithereens.

Yes, it had become a very dark day indeed. Oh, I know the autograph was just a print on the side of a simple white coffee mug, but what it represented! All those shards of ceramic on the floor—some of them no more than white powder—looked like all the words I had ever written, ever would write, sitting in ground-up piles in my head. Nothing but trash, and dangerous to touch.

The morning crowd of zombies hunting for coffee looked at me and I could hear their thoughts. Did she just throw a coffee cup? Is she crazy? Why in the world would she do that? Look at that mess! Guess who’s going without their morning pot of black gold? Glad it wasn’t me. I fought the tears back from my eyes as I knelt and begin picking up the pieces that were still big enough to pick up. Carefully holding the remnants of my cup, I tried to turn myself invisible and tiptoe to the trash can. I was not to be allowed a moment of grief because I was holding up the traffic of bodies squashing around each other and my pile of Stephen King’s autograph. I closed my eyes and let the bigger pieces fall from my hands into the abyss of rubbish. A broom stood next to the trash can and I went back to my pile of smashed dreams and began sweeping. Another woman ran to get the dustpan to help sweep the rest of “my precious” into it.

I thanked her as I pretended to be aloof regarding the silliness of the situation. “I guess that’s a fitting end to a Stephen King autographed cup.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry. Well, there are the Styrofoam cups there.”

“Yes, I’ll just use one of those. As long as I get my coffee . . .” I trailed off.

“Yes! Must have the coffee! Well, if there’s anything else I can do, let me know.” She smiled and blended back into the crowd yawning and waiting in line for coffee.

You could conjure a new Stephen King autographed cup for me, I had cried out in my mind. My cup is broken. My dreams were in that cup. No one understands what that cup did for me.

That was six weeks ago. Today my new cup came in the mail. It’s still just a simple white ceramic mug with “Constant Reader” and his signature printed on the side. Same loops, same whirls, same angles, all the letters are exactly the same. And something else is the same. The spirit of the cup.

I’ve always loved Mr. King’s books, and stories. I was in high school when his first book, Carrie, hit the shelves. The story is about a girl in high school with no friends, and I identified with her in some ways.

In the 1970s, a lot of stories and movies came out about people with telekinesis. I enjoyed those stories because, for one thing, they were eerie. But also, I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to suddenly discover I could move things around with my mind. I would sit for hours alone in my bedroom at night, when I wasn’t working at the local Sonic Drive In, and try it. I would stare at the light switch next to my bed and concentrate until I couldn’t see anything else in the room but the light switch. “Flip off,” I would think in my head over and over. Of course, it never did. So I decided maybe I needed to say it out loud. “Flip off.” After repeating this command uncountable times, my mother would stick her head in the door thinking I was cursing at something.

“What are doing in here? And we do not say those words in this house!”

“I’m doing my homework, and I wasn’t saying bad words.”

She would look at me sideways with an I-really-don’t-believe-a-word-you-say look in her eyes. “Well, hold it down.” And she would leave.

So, Carrie. Carrie is one of those telekinesis stories. The other kids are cruel to her and her mother is crazy and she uses her powers to get back at everyone around her for their bullying all her life. Well, I didn’t have telekinesis, and I did have friends, but there were times when I felt alone and bullied. So Carrie was MY kind of story.

Then Mr. King’s Salem’s Lot came out and I was over the moon. Vampires! I had loved vampires since I was in elementary school, and now here was a book about a whole town of vampires.

The next book to hit the shelves was The Shining. By that time I had graduated from high school, married a mortician, and we lived in a duplex next door to the funeral home. The Shining was one of those books with so many layers that I didn’t even see half of them. Even now, as a writer in my own right, I still find new layers every time I read that book. Mountains in Colorado, snowstorms, a massive hotel, troubled parents, a child with ESP, and to top it all off, ghosts. Every single element I’ve craved in a good story since learning to read. And Mr. King added so many interesting layers that it would take the rest of my life to see the whole thing. Reading that book is like discovering a new cave, and the deeper I go, the more new rooms I find.

After that, his books came out so fast it was hard to keep up with them. I’ve read a lot of  his stories, some I have not read. Some I’ve started but not finished because my life became so busy with motherhood and my own attempt at writing.

But I can truthfully say that even though I’ve never met Stephen King face to face, he’s taught me everything I know about writing.

So, my cup. One night I had wandered onto to his website. I realize it’s maintained by a staff he’s hired just for that purpose. But still, to put the pointer of my mouse over his site and read the King News is thrilling. And then I noticed he has merchandise other than his books. So I clicked. T-shirts, towels, dog bowls, liquor flasks, pillowcases, tote bags, silver trays, computer skins, shot glasses, tumblers, and coffee mugs. And not just generic stuff. Some of it is specific to certain books. But there’s also a line of merchandise labeled “Constant Reader”, what he affectionately calls his fans. And I definitely qualify to be Constant Reader.

I ordered my first cup.

When it came in the mail I danced circles around the house waving my new coffee mug, which declared to the world that I am a Constant Reader fan of Mr. Stephen King’s books. And I made sure to point out his printed signature to everyone who had been unable to avoid me. My. Stephenkingautographed coffee cup.

I took it to work and, after waiting in line, holding my version of the Holy Grail close to me to keep from being jostled, I filled it with coffee. In my opinion, that was the best cup of coffee I had ever had in my life. From that moment on, I knew I would never drink coffee from any other vessel while sitting at my desk reading contracts and assuring customers their retirement funds were in good hands.

The next morning the cup sat waiting for me on my desk where I left it the night before, and I noticed the lipstick mark on the rim. As an adult woman past a certain age, I make sure I look presentable each morning, which includes my favorite lip gloss. Now, looking at my autographed mug, I saw the symbolism of my lipstick mark on the brim and my heart danced again.

But something else happened during my lunch hour that day. I know that my most creative time of day is noon, so I use my lunch hour to write my own stories. However, I had been in a sort of stalemate with my current work-in-progress. Writer’s block, if you will. And I’ll just tell you, there is nothing more miserable in the whole world as a writer who can’t write. That’s like a breather who can’t breathe. I had writer’s block so bad I was on the brink of giving up and chucking the whole idea of story writing.

Until the second day of being a Constant Reader. That day I opened up my little laptop I brought to work tucked into my work computer bag. It booted up and I put my hand on the keys. The next thing I knew, my hour was up and I had written four thousand words without even realizing I was writing. I had gone into “THE ZONE” and words had shot out of my hands onto the computer screen. And I knew it was because of my fabulous cup.

And then the unspeakable had happened.

Needless to say, the words stopped pouring out of my hands again, the characters in my head lost their voices, the color went out of the world.