Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm Thankful for.... Nature and its Bounty.

Savor the Moment: inspiration for writers
copyright, Aaron Paul Lazar 2010

It’s the last week of November. Winter has already stretched tentative tendrils toward us, chilling the evenings to icy temps and drenching the mornings with heavy dew. Today, as I rounded the top of a hill overlooking the valley, my breath caught in my throat. Before me lay the snaking path of the Genesee River, previously hidden from casual view behind fields and woods. Nebulous clouds of fog hovered above, revealing the river route that quietly meanders out of sight most of the year.

My soul exploded with a sensation of splendor best described by the Japanese philosophy, wabi sabi*. This was indeed a wabi sabi moment, a fraction of time linking nature and man, steeped in intense sensual beauty…so full of wonder it transports you to a moment of spiritual enlightenment.

In addition to the vapor-bound river, the countryside lay punctuated with farmers’ ponds, exposed via banks of fog steaming overhead. Normally hidden by tall fields of grass or corn, the wisps of moisture called attention to the quiet shallows, home to frogs and watering holes for livestock.

Stunned by the beauty, invigorated beyond belief, I continued on the drive that I’d taken thousands of times before. Heading north on River Road, whispers of “Thank you, God,” floated in my brain. Still and amorphous, the words vibrated in syncopation with stirring grasses.

Once again, nature presented a feast so lovely I choked with emotion. There, to the east, clusters of tall grass waved in the sunlight with heavy heads bowed under the weight of soaking dew, their curvatures swan-like as they moved in glistening silence.

The ephemeral nature of this phenomenon is part of the allure. That precise moment of intense immersion, that amazing connection with nature, will never repeat. The sun's rays may not hit the grass with exactly the same angle or intensity. The grass will change tomorrow, perhaps drier, taller, or shorn. This transient moment of staggering beauty must be absorbed and cherished.

What path do writers take to experience this? How do they open the channels in the brain that might have been content to listen to Haydn’s 19th Symphony in C Major, but blind to nature’s offerings? (this was playing on the radio when I delighted in these visions today.)

First of all, one must be a “visualist.” That isn’t a real word, but it describes what I mean. A person who is stunned by physical natural beauty (certainly not at the exclusion of aural, tactile, or emotional stimuli) possesses visual aqueducts to the world through his or her eyes. Infinitesimal flashes of stunning images move him beyond belief. These impressions are captured in his mind’s eye, never to be lost, forever to be savored. And often, when this type of writer is creating, they see the “movie in their mind,” pressing from within, allowing readers to feel intimate and involved in a scene.

What type of a reader are you? Do you soak up scenes written by others? Imagine them for days on end? Find choice gems of passages that affect you for life? Do you want your readers to feel this way about your own prose?

It is this deeply felt appreciation for nature, for life, for wonder, that promotes a good writer to potential majesty. Perhaps not to best-seller status – that illusory fate is in the hands of a publishing industry often not tuned into art, but focused solely on profit. Try to ignore that aspect when you are creating your next masterpiece. In time, if the stars are aligned and you achieve this pinnacle of greatness, it may happen.

Open your eyes. Reel it in. Absorb the beauty around you, whether it is the flash of love in an old woman’s eye, or the fragile petal of a tiny orange cinquefoil. Allow yourself to be in that moment, record it in your soul, and play it back for your readers for the ultimate connection.

And be ever so grateful... for this life of ours is a gift. Don't waste it!

* Wabi Sabi for Writers, by Richard Powell, Adams Media.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Book Title - Voting Results!

Last week we talked about how hard it is to come up with an original book title that hasn't already been used by a hundred authors. I spent a day perusing American phrases, and made a list I thought was original and pretty exciting.

It was only when I did Amazon searches on them to be sure they hadn't been used before that I was knocked down a few pegs - almost all of them had been used, countless times, and by some very famous authors like Agatha Christie and Fyodor Doestoevsky.

What instigated this new title search was a request from my publisher, Lida Quillen. She thinks my original title doesn't quite match the excitement level in my second Moore Mystery (sequel to HEALEY'S CAVE), and so she asked me to come up with some options.

One tip she provided was not to worry about a previously used title. Of course, titles aren't copyrighted, so anyone can use any existing title. And what would differentiate this book, is the subtitle "A Sam Moore Mystery."

I asked my readers, friends, and anyone who was interested to vote on my short list. Here are the results:

  • Cat Among the Pigeons   46
  • Dying to Meet You            32
  • Snake in the Grass           28
  • Dark Horse                       28
  • Paper Tigress                   25
  • The Bluff                           23
  • Terror on the Hill               19

There were a few votes here and there for the other titles, but they didn't make the grade, so I left them off.

Now, there were also some "write-ins" on this poll! Quite a few folks had suggestions, and I wanted to thank them by showing them here:

  • Terror Comes Knocking                Don H.
  • With Cat's Eyes                            Karen F.
  • A Time of Terror                            Mary E.
  • Regards                                        Ginny S.
  • Inquest at the Pyramid's Eye        Jeni E. 
  • Inside the Cat's Eye                     Anita S.
  • All That and Something Moore    Wesley W.
  • Dark Terror                                   Angela A.
  • Dark Talisman                              Angela A.
  • Pigeon Among the Cats               Greg S.
  • I Almost Cried                              anonymous
  • Stranger Within                            Larry H.

Aren't they great? We have some creative people who took this poll!

So, Cat Among the Pigeons was by far the favorite (I love it, too!), with actually tons of votes for most of the other choices.

But as I mentioned last week, my publisher has the last word. She's pondered both lists - yes, I sent your suggestions to her! And guess what?

It's a tie!

As I write this, she's still deciding between Cat Among the Pigeons and Terror Comes Knocking, submitted by Don Harman from Charlotte, North Carolina. She wants to take her time to reflect on it, and will let me know when she's ready to announce the next title.

You never know, do you? When I started this list, I really loved Snake in the Grass and Dark Horse, but now I'm open to whatever she chooses. After all, she's been in the business a lot longer than me.

Thanks everyone, for participating, and have a great Sunday!

- Aaron Paul Lazar