Fairy Gardens & Writing: how they relate

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Planting fairy gardens is one of my favorite things to do every spring. I do this for one of my jobs and on occasion, I teach how-to’s.

I’ve planted countless container pots over the seventeen years I’ve been doing this, but planting fairy gardens feels completely different and is always exciting to me.

Here’s why:

I escape into the mini world I am planting. Just like I escape into the worlds I create while writing.

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The writing and planting connection didn’t come to me until recently, while teaching a customer how to plant a desert landscape fairy garden.

“That’s the fairies’ winter home,” I said to her. “They go there when the frost covers their forests.”

The woman looked up at me with big eyes. “Ohmygosh. Yes! I didn’t think of that, but yes!”

I twirled over to another customer. “Oooo,” I said. “I like how those stepping stones trail off beneath that maiden hair fern. Where is it leading to?”

The girl looked up at me and showed her toothy grin. “A waterfall.”

And that’s when years and years of why I love planting mini landscapes, clicked.

It all stems from creating a believable SETTING!

Now, there are rules to planting fairy gardens, just like there are rules to writing.

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1- Scale: Nothing bugs me more than having a huge fairy, or dog, or bird bath right beside an iddy-biddy fairy house the same size. You need to have stepping stones in relation to the fairy house or have people bigger than animals. So, look for trinkets and decor that are to scale.

Scale in writing: This is called world-building. What are the rules, the magic system, the laws? Keep it consistent, and tight, and to scale. Don’t make the reader confused with things that don’t make sense.

 

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2- Plants: To set your fairy garden up for success, the plants all need to be able to survive in one pot together. Don’t plant outdoor with indoor. Or succulents and cacti with ferns. Or sun plants with shade plants. I know this seems like common knowledge, but this is the #1 issue I’ve seen. People buy plants just because they are pretty and then wonder why the beautiful flowers aren’t blooming inside in a dark room.

Plants with writing: I could go on, and on, and on about setting. In fact I have, many times on this blog. Here’s an award winning article I wrote about setting, if interested. I am extremely picky of the plants I see in novels. If the author names a real plant, in my mind, it better be able to grow in that realistic setting. If it’s fantasy, well, go crazy.

 

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3- Layers and texture: A woman I helped the other day was creating an herb fairy garden. She had rosemary, lavender, and curry all grouped together. She asked why it wasn’t working. I moved a few things around and added parsley, basil, and thyme between them. “It’s because all those plants have the same, slender leaves. See how they stand out now that they are next to other, cohesive plants with different texture?” I said. Think how a real forest grows with tall trees, shrubs, then ground cover. Add layers.

Layers and texture in writing: Resonance. Hints. Metaphor. What are you trying to say to the reader? What is the underlying theme? That’s the layers. – Voice. Substance. Emotion. How do you want it to make the reader feel? That’s your texture.

 

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Now, the fun part about fairy gardens is the play time. It’s the escapism. I made this one of The Shire. The whole time I was planting it, I thought about how much I love Tolkien and the vibrant way he creates setting. A customer came in and bought it right as I put it on the table to sell. She was a huge Tolkien fan like me. We were kindred spirits right away and it was because of the playful, whimsical thing that I’d created. It was cool.

As authors, writing should be fun. Creating things are fun. You have the power to create a world that others can escape into. I watch kids, and adults, play with the gardens I create, just like people can read the books I create.

And giving people that escapism to another world, is pretty cool.

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Here are some of my Instagram photos. You’re welcome to follow me for other planting, art, or writing tips.

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Thanks for stopping by!

  • Tara

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Author Life Month

February was Author Life Month over on Instagram and Twitter. I decided to post the photos—and captions about the photos—from my feed onto my blog. I didn’t post every day,  but I tried. My favorite day was “Challenge Overcome.” It made me realize that every person struggles to be creative. Everyone has the same doubts and the same insecurities, no matter where you are in your career.

Day one. Here was a breakdown of Author Life Month.

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Day Two. Author photo.

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Day Four. Work in Progress.

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Day 5, 8, 9. Book cover comps, awesome moment, challenge overcome.

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Day 10. Non-author photo.

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Day 16. Where you write.

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Day 17. Where I relax.

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Day 22. Dedication Page.

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Day 23. Bucket List item done.

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Day 26. Favorite book outside of genre.

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Day 27. Your signature.

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Day 28. Favorite event accessory.

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Another non-author photo of when I was in Hawaii a couple weeks ago. 

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So there you have it. Find your tribe, it makes the highs and lows bearable. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

  • Tara

 

 

Pale Ghosts – The Evolution of Ideas

Every night, a pale owl perches, standing guard outside my window. It is magnificent and white. I took a walk with my sons, counting long poop stains on my neighbors roofs (great quest for young boys!) We counted 11 homes.

So, if you are my close neighbor, chances are you are being watched over while you slumber. I can’t go to sleep until I look for it now. The owl and I are both creatures of the night. Most writers are.

Naturally, I took to research to find out what kind of owl peers through my windows. My conclusion is that it’s a barn owl, sometimes called a ghost owl. I listened to its call online and the snapping noise was identical. I was sad to read that they only live for 1-2 years in the wild.

Read further to see how my every day ideas develop into words on the page:

1- Connection: This ghost owl reminded me of a ghost raven I wanted to write into one of my works in progress. I’ve mentioned many times before how I LOVE research. When I say research, I don’t mean Wikipedia or listening to boring old professors. I’m talking about delving deep into the cavernous origins that make you question your sanity and everything you hold to be true. I think I like doing research as much as I like to write. It’s hard to decide what to use and what to keep.

Here is a side-note about a writing program called Scrivener. If you are a serious writer, you MUST learn how to use this program. While I am writing my novels, I can link research, notes, and thoughts in a little side bar as my book develops. Before Scrivener, in Word, I used to have two separate documents. One being my novel in progress, and one for all the research, quotes, and findings.

Also, whenever I need to delve even more deep, I schedule a lunch date with my older brother. I don’t know anyone who knows more about the bazaar than him. This says a lot because I have gone to so, so many conferences and many of them being about fantasy and the unusual. I don’t know where he finds half his stuff. Here is a link to his blog ARTDUH.COM. So, I suggest you find someone who is half crazy to bounce ideas off of. 🙂

2- Morph connections into my own creation and history: Back to the pale raven from my novel… Here is a brief example of how I take mythology, legend, and folklore and morph it into my own creation of history. Below you will follow my brain trail and see how I filter and process information and then make it my own.

The Norse God Odin had two ravens. Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory).

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Both ravens flew around the earth and reported what they saw to Odin every night. Make connections… Have we seen this else where, when birds report with information? Hmm… How about Noah and the dove, or even Maleficent and her raven. (hello, my article on resonance) I’ve had a curiosity about ravens from my first reading of Edgar Allen Poe decades ago. I love his writing and have his collections on my bed stand.

3- My mind spins further and I research everything I can find about ravens and how smart they are and their origin stories in most every culture and ancient civilization. Then I find a story that sticks and I ask the question “What if?” — Here is where an author steals. Here is where I make it my own by asking questions. — What If… all the ebony feathers of my character’s pet raven were plucked out, save but one? What If… that scrawny bird and my main character were banished? Upon near death, what if a medicine man, much like my findings in Indian folklore, were to resurrect the bird and it became a pale ghost raven? And that single black lingering feather, was the only tie it had to mortality and loyalty to my character.

4- So then I think of my setting and characters, and think “how can I use this in my book?” How can I morph my findings and ideas into my novel and make it believable? Well, give it life. Give it history. Give it backstory. Ground them into your setting. See things through their eyes. Give them an action that shows their personality. Do I want to make my raven playful by ruffling up my characters hair with its beak? Or do I want to make it sinister by plucking out someone’s eye? Your characters will speak to you, even if it is an animal or bird. Listen to them. Don’t fight who they are.

5- Finally, write. When all the pieces have fit together and I have an idea of where I want the story to go, I do a loose outline. This is when I open my other document or sidebar in Scrivener and jot down all my ideas because they come as fast as a freight train. The scenes and characters open up and it is so fun to see how the story and your brain trail evolves before your eyes.

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*** To think… all of this started because of a white owl who spies on me as I sleep. This is what I was talking about in my post Hidden Gems. Ideas are everywhere. Sometimes you just have to open your window and mind to see. I am happy that the ghost owl chose to move in next door to me and bless me with its graceful short-lived presence.

Thanks for stopping by! I love your comments. Have you ever followed your brain trail? Do you have a different method that works for you?

Tara

Do our tastes revert back to being a child? Here’s mine.

 

Recently, I attended a writers workshop where we talked about resonance within the genre that you write.

“Learn the language so you don’t sound like a fraud.”

Because fantasy is bone deep with me, I am going to dwell there in my writing for a while. I feel very comfortable within its realm. That is another reason why I love going to fantasy conferences and such. They are my people. I could chat about otherworldly things, forever.

I think back to everything I loved pre-junior high. Something happens to us in jr. high, where our tastes no longer become our own. We become jaded and want to impress others.

Below are some of my favorite things as a child and how I have incorporated them into my writing. These have become a part of my history and makeup. They are woven into my veins just as memory and DNA make who I am. As an adult, my tastes still run along what I couldn’t get enough of as a child.

When it comes to writing and reading, I love fantasy and magical realism.

My first two books that became published, were women’s contemporary fiction. I had written other books previous, but they will never see the light of day, unless I do major overhauls. Contemporary fiction means it could happen in real life. My books were stories that I needed to get out at the time. I will do more like them eventually, but the next 6 books in my queue all have fantasy elements and are geared toward young adult readers.

FAVORITE THINGS AS A CHILD THAT RESONATE WITH ME TODAY:

MOVIES:

– Labyrinth. Oh David Bowie, the Goblin King! My first crush, swoon. Honestly, this was one of the most influential of my entire childhood. This was the first time I was introduced to the seduction and the sympathy to the dark side. Ah, and then he would sing and I would just melt. I would watch the entire show just for this song. “As the World falls down.”

– Legend. The conversation below was life changing to me. “The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity. Through dreams I influence mankind.” I think this whole movie had amazing conversations, especially at the end when they defeat the darkness. “What is light without dark? What are you, without me? I am a part of you all. We are brothers, eternal.”

– Princess Bride. “As you wish.” Need I say more.

– Anything with a horse… when turned into a unicorn, even better.

– The Dark Crystal and The NeverEnding Story. Loved them and was truly frightened of the nothing! “What is the nothing?” “It’s the emptiness that’s left… the despair. People who have no hope are easy to control. And whoever has the control, has the power.”

ANIMATION:

– The Last Unicorn. This was my favorite animation of all time… ever. Yes, it’s creepy and weird and fueled many nightmares. But I loved it back then. Here’s a funny article I found about the movie.

The 20 Creepiest Moments from “The Last Unicorn”

– Robinhood. This animated disney trumped all the princess movies for me.

– The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit. We would watch all of the animated films from the ’70’s over and over and over.

I really wanted the Orcs to break into this song in Peter Jackson’s rendition. 🙂

– The Secret of Nimh

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BOOKS:

– Bridge to Terabithia. – First book that made me cry. I realized books have a magical power and influence on our emotions.

The Hobbit. My love of the LOTR books came later in high school. Although, I was very familiar with the story because of all animated films.

– The Witches.

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POETRY:

– Where the sidewalk ends.

– The Highwayman. This narrative poem is without question, the number one reason why I fell in love with words. Back in the day, I had it memorized, much in the same way Anne did in Anne of Green Gables.

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“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, And the highwayman came riding…

… He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand, But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand, As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast; And he kissed its waves in the moonlight, (O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!) Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.” The Highwayman – Alfred Noyes

FAIRYTALES:

Rumplestilskin.

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Twelve Dancing Princesses.

– Red Riding Hood.

TOYS:

– Horses.

– Unicorns.

– Brothers action figures.

PAINTINGS:

– I loved everything Pre-Rapheilite and of course fantasy art.

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I just started a Pinterest board of things that influenced me as a child that now resonate into my writing.

What genre do you write in and what are some of the details that resonate with you?

Happy writing-

Tara

Writing Fact… Mingled With Fiction

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I’m sitting here writing this post on my front porch while the moon turns to blood. October 8th at 5:00 am and my imagination is crawling with ideas looking at the lunar eclipse of the

Blood Moon.

I’ve incorporated the Blood Moon into my YA fantasy novel, Vagabond, which I started years ago. Now I might have to change it up because I worry that it might turn cliche because of the popularity. Anyway, I have done extensive research about the strange celestial phenomenon taking place within this year. Four blood moons have correlated with Jewish holidays. This October moon I’m looking at now, is also the hunter’s moon and I can’t help but think of the movie Predator as my gaze darts into the shifting shadows. 

What is a blood moon and tetrad? 

On April 15, 2014, there was a total lunar eclipse. It was the first of four consecutive eclipses in a series, known as a tetrad. Today, October 8, 2014, was the second one. April 4, and September 28, 2015 are the third and fourth. The red color is caused by Rayleigh scattering of light or electromagnetic radiation through the Earth’s atmosphere, the same effect that causes sunsets to appear red.

Signs of the times, maybe?

The idea of a “blood moon” as an omen to the ushering of the apocalypse, comes from the Book of Joel, where it is written “the sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” Some believe that something huge is afoot in Israel. I have loved finding heated sermons of gyrating pastors who have flailed their arms, asking for repentance during this ushering in of the end of days.

The four blood moons of 2014 and 2015 have and will appear on Passover and Sukkot, also known as Feast of Tabernacles (Passover celebrates the Jews’ liberation from Egyptian slavery and Sukkot commemorates the Jews’ 40-year wandering in the desert). A strange coincidence, but Jewish holy days are based upon a lunar calendar anyway. Passover is during the first full moon after the spring equinox and the Feast of Tabernacles is usually during the first full moon (harvest moon) after the autumnal equinox. You decide if it is only a coincidence or an omen. I have my opinion, but that is not what this post is about.

I want to talk about writing fact into fiction…

I wrote the Blood Moon into my novel before I even knew about any of these strange occurrences happening this year. I have written on a blog post before that research is one of my favorite parts about writing. My advise is to dig deep. Don’t only focus on one linear thought or what you find in Wikipedia. Find the mythology, the fables, the altered stories.

By digging deep, we unearth all sorts of creepy and interesting things. That is the fun part of being an author. We take those truths and distort them to our will. I love playing God, and so when I wanted a blood moon in my novel, I made up a lunar eclipse called a Lunar Caulum that happens every thousand years and ushers in a new reign of shadow.

Know the truth, so you can write the fiction.

Know the speculation, so you can build upon it.

Know that there will be people who said you got it wrong.

Know that you can smile at those critics, because you created your own history.

Here is a glimpse into my novel Vagabond at a part where I talk about the blood moon:

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“The moon is red—blood red,” he said glancing up at me. “The weird this is, this photo was taken two hundred years before the actual Lunar Caulum happened. It’s like they were prophesying that this blood moon was going to be different.”

“Or warning us,” I said with doubt, but then an unpleasant feeling grew inside me, making the hairs on my arms stand up. I looked down at the black and white photo to where the swatch of scarlet in the sky stained the antique page.

“If NASA actually existed anymore, lets just say they’d be geeking out about all of this,” he said.

“Since when did you become our resident astronomer?” I asked, teasing him as I sat up.

He stared at me intently. “Living up here has turned me into one. Don’t you think that the remaining survivors have used the knowledge of land and stars, and that’s the only reason why we are alive and most everyone else is dead?”

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Now go create some fiction based off of some fact! Thanks for stopping by and I’d love to hear if you have similar ways you’ve written fact into fiction. 🙂

Tara

Don’t be set in Stone.

Over the course of the past couple years, I have received feedback from critique partners and betas that have asked me if certain parts of my stories are true. This happened again last night when I had taken a part of a biblical story and expanded on a small detail.

“Did that really happen?” I was asked.

“No, that is not a real character from the Bible, and no it’s not a real story.” My mind debated my claim, because to me, all of my stories are real. They don’t just seem real, they are real! Ha!

I love it when these conversations take place because I want my fantasy novel to feel real. One of my favorite parts about writing is the interlacing web of research. I start out with one idea and it spirals out of control into a completely different direction.

This happened with a certain stone I placed in my YA fantasy novel, Vagabond. Because I love minerals and geology, I was dead set on Rutilated Quartz (Venus hair stone). The mystical crystal is an energizing stone to help with mental focus, diminishing fears, and obtaining higher spiritual experiences. Absolutely perfect for my seer stone bracelet… or so I thought.

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My wandering research took me to find… Ringwoodite! This unique mineral is found in a vast reservoir of water, enough to fill the Earth’s oceans three times over, which scientist have found may be trapped hundreds of miles beneath the surface. The water is locked up in a mineral called Ringwoodite about 400 miles beneath the crust of the Earth, researchers say. Click here for a pretty cool article.

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Once I had switched the seer stones, from there, my story evolved, changed, became better. All because I was inquisitive enough to not settle with the first thought I had. In my writing I have tried not to write cliches. At times I have fallen victim, just like the rest of us, but I try to take my first thought and think of the opposite reaction.

Here is a chant from my novel Vagabond when my main character is gifted her seer stone bracelet.

“Ringwoodite be the name of the stone.

It is yours, it has found its home.

Formed in the earth’s ocean beneath.

Born from fire, pressure and heat.”

 

– Tara

 

Award time!

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My unpublished Young Adult fantasy novel, Vagabond, won an award!

Click here to read a short synopsis.

The thing that I anticipated most was the feedback from the judges. First, I want to start by offering encouragement to those of you who fear to submit your work. (Or fear critique and criticism in general.) Sometimes I have won, but more often than not, I have lost. It has been worth every emotion because of the feedback I have received from professionals in this crazy business of writing.

Here are a few judges comments that I received.

*I believe this is a page turner that young adults will very likely read in one sitting.

*This story appeals to me tremendously, and not just as a YA book. I think it is a very marketable concept. I would absolutely buy this book and then buy one for my niece.

The comment that left me grinning from ear to ear was

*Your love interest is captivating and oozes with sexuality. 

That one made me giggle! Because, for an author who writes clean romance, that is exactly what I love to hear. I do not write erotica, nor will I. I believe characters can have the same attraction, if not more so, by focusing on the dynamics of the relationship, not the dynamics in the bedroom. I have met a kaleidoscope of women and men in all their varying degrees and comfort levels of romance. Because of this, I have only respect for anyone who conveys their truth.

Speaking of clean romance authors, the lovely Sarah M. Eden (pictured above with me) was in attendance at the awards banquet. As she spoke to the gathered crowd, she reminded me about the “why’s” of writing, not the “what if’s.” If you have not read her books, you need to. Like, right now.

Authors are dreamers, inquisitive wielders of words and thoughts. It is easy for us to get lost in the “what if’s”, daydreaming about book sales and five star ratings, but that is not why we write. It isn’t for me anyway. I write because I must. I write because it is an outlet for my heart to bleed or vent or dream. I write for myself.

I want to thank you judges (whoever you are) and all of my fabulous critique partners. You guys make it fun!

Tara