I’ve mentioned this before, but in terms of inspiration–or “spark”–I find a lot of mine in music.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve linked songs to story. Maybe it’s because my favorite songs as a child told a story; I especially liked “Chanson Pour Les Petits Enfants” and “Band on the Run” and “The Gambler.” So somewhere in the back of my mind, every song became a story (and I guess in a way they all are), and I just began to fill in the missing bits.

When I got to that age where one begins to make mix tapes (CDs and playlists now, I suppose), I would pick a character or TV show or movie and put together songs that I felt were connected to them in some way. My cassettes were stories of a sort, and my friends would come to me, bewildered, and say, “I never would have thought . . . But I absolutely see now how these things fit.”

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember not everyone sees and hears things the way I do. Being a writer means living somewhere in your head, and the words are the open door when you invite someone in.

I was working on a major motion picture at one point, and they let me help put together the soundtrack. And while the movie itself was only so-so–it was never big at the box office and only rarely ends up on a movie channel late at night–the soundtrack became a bestseller. Too bad as a lowly PA I didn’t receive any credit! But I can look at the track list and know I was the one to suggest the Rolling Stones.

So yes, sometimes when a song comes on the radio and I start to really listen–because for me lyrics are just as important as beat or rhythm or melody–something will spring to mind. The song sparks my imagination, and I find I must go play with whatever idea has been ignited.

So my post earlier today was about the two big projects I’m currently working on. In keeping with Sparkfest, then, I’ll talk about what, well, sparked them.

The play came from a drive. Quite simply, I went over a bridge. I was thinking at the time that I needed an idea for this play, and I might’ve seen something about the lottery out of the corner of my eye? Somewhere in there, the first line of the play sprang to mind: “The day Lucky jumped off the bridge was the day he won the Lotto.”

The “K-Pro” story was something that simmered for a lot longer. I have a tendency to lie in bed and think a lot. Daydream, make up stories, whatever. But this story is an odd blend of personal experience–that is, time I’ve spent on film sets and with actors (one of the main characters is an actor), time spent abroad, and my own history. They do say write what you know. I’d probably add: but make it more interesting.

I thought I might expand a bit more on my two current projects, which I mentioned briefly in yesterday’s Sparkfest post.

(1) The play I’m writing–this one is a full-length play–is about a man who jumps off a bridge. Sort of. Is any play ever really about what it pretends to be about? My previous playwriting effort, “Warm Bodies,” has been generally well received, so I hope this one will be too. I’ve dabbled in scene writing before, and I’ve even taught playwriting classes, so it’s funny that I never really tapped into that side of me for out-and-out writing. I only wrote “Warm Bodies” because someone asked for a 10-minute play for a directors’ workshop, and I thought, Well, it can’t be so different from screenwriting, so long as you keep it in your head that they can’t do quick cuts and will need time to change sets. Right? It probably helped that I do have a modest history in stage acting.

(2) The story I’m writing, which looks like it will be novella length before long, is called “The K-Pro.” It’s, uh, different from my usual thing. But not in a bad way. Can’t quite tell if it’s going to go the paranormal romance route or just be a kind of weird . . . thing.

And once I finish these two projects, I have a couple of actual screenwriting projects to get on with. “Something Real” is a romantic comedy, and I also have a TV spec script to sort out. When it rains, it pours! I’ll be off to NYC this weekend to devote some real time to all of this; it can be difficult to concentrate at home with the ins and outs of family.

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and making up stories for longer than that. So I can’t really say which book did it for or to me. In fact, since I wanted mostly to be a screenwriter, it’s far more likely a movie or television show is the culprit.

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
Right now I’m writing a stage play, and I’d say there’s a bit of Tennessee Williams in it, though I’m picturing a young Ewan McGregor as my lead, and I’d say that more than Williams is inspiring a lot of my choices.

I’m also working on a novella, and again I have an actor in mind as my main male character while drawing the female protagonist from personal experience.

Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?
Oooh. Neil Gaiman maybe? It’s funny because I read Dean Koontz and Stephen King for years and years–used to steal my daddy’s paperbacks–and they were very dark and strange and gave me a lot to think about (Twilight Eyes, Lightning, and The Dark Half pop into my mind here). BUT . . . It wasn’t until I started reading Gaiman that I sort of learned how to look at things a bit differently.

Here is a random form of procrastination on my part; I should actually be working on my play. But this little meme is a fun way to look at fandoms, of which I have many, not all of them represented here.

The one who seduced you, screwed you over, broke your heart in a million pieces, and laughed about it:
The X-Files probably. It started out so well, and I was so loyal, and then . . . then it just fell apart as it became increasingly clear that Chris Carter either didn’t know what he was doing, was mentally unstable, or both.

The old flame you don’t see very often any more but whom you still really enjoy getting together with for a few drinks and maybe a pleasant nostalgic romp:
Highlander: The Series. (My college nickname was Methos for a reason.) Every now and then I just really need to go watch an old episode of it.

The mysterious dark one whom you used to sit up with talking until 3 AM at weird coffee houses and with whom you were quite smitten until you realized s/he really was fucking crazy:
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic book series. Friends in college introduced us and boy did we stay up late together! But yeah, pretty fucking crazy.

The one you spent a whole weekend in bed with and who drank up all your liquor and whom you’d still really like to get with again, although you’re relieved s/he doesn’t actually live in town:
I’m not sure I have one of these. At a stretch I’d say Gone with the Wind or the BBC Pride and Prejudice, either of which I’ve been known to curl up with when I’m sick or depressed. Neither is really the type to drink all my liquor, though.

The steady:
Sherlock Holmes. In various incarnations, but you have to understand that I was predestined to be a fan because of my father, who probably would have named me Sherlock if (a) I’d been male and (b) my mother would have allowed it. In fact, criterion (a) may not have been a prerequisite. My father loves Sherlock Holmes, and when the film Young Sherlock Holmes hit theatres, I fell in love, too. I used to watch it EVERY DAY after school. This is not an exaggeration. I would pop the VHS in while I did my homework. My best friend and I would play Sherlock Holmes. My nickname was Sherlock. I’d watch the Jeremy Brett series with my dad. I have an extensive library of Sherlockiana. To date my car’s license plate is SHRLCK. He trumps everything else.

The alluring stranger whom you’ve flirted with at parties but have never gotten really serious with:
The original Torchwood series. I’ve watched some and would like to watch some more but haven’t got around to it.

The one you hang out with and have vague fantasies about maybe having a thing with, but ultimately you’re just good buddies:
Bones. I love this show but don’t have that all-consuming passion for it.

The one your friends keep introducing you to and who seems like a hell of a cool person except it’s never really gone anywhere:
The Terry Pratchett Discworld books. I’ve tried, but we just can’t get our relationship off the ground.

The one who’s slept with all your friends, and you keep looking at them and thinking, “How the hell did they land all these cool people?”
The Twilight books. For the love of God, I can’t figure out why so many of my friends find them “hot.” I read the first two but gave up after that. I didn’t find any kind of chemistry with the books.

The one who gave you the best damned summer of your life and against whom you measure all other potential partners:
Any number of Steven Spielberg movies could be inserted here. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade really set the tone for me, but even before that, Young Sherlock Holmes (as mentioned above). And after all that, Jurassic Park. These are all films as opposed to real fandoms, but they were the building blocks of my hopes, dreams and goals as well.

The one you recently met at a party and would like to get to know better:
I’m only just now catching up with all the previous Doctor Who series. Not the really old ones–my dad used to watch those and I sometimes watched with him–but starting with the 2005 reboot. We’re just now coming to the end of David Tennant’s reign and the launch of the current incarnation (Matt Smith).

The old flame that you wouldn’t totally object to hooking up with again for a one night romp if only they’d clean up a bit:
ST:TNG maybe? Now that I can watch all the eps via Netflix streaming, we can have fun again. Alas, it’s sad that the show hasn’t held up to the test of time a bit better. Back when it aired, wow! But we’ve come a long way in production values since then.

Your hot new flame:
Sherlock.

The one who stole your significant other:
He doesn’t do fandom like I do. And he doesn’t really watch anything I don’t watch too.

Anne Rice is having an interesting sort of discussion with her Facebook followers about how the Internet world enables obsessive negative “fans” to launch sustained attacks against authors they dislike. Rice asks the question, “Why bother?”

Authors deal with a lot of criticism; it’s part of the package when putting your work out there. In a way, criticism is good. For one thing, an open-minded author might learn a thing or two, or at least have something to think about when reading reviews of his or her work–whether the reviews be good or scathing. And of course you’ve heard that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. People criticizing your work means someone is reading your work. Always a good thing. And even hurtful reviews might garner interest, so that other people are tempted to read your work themselves and form their own opinions.

Okay, but then there are these singular individuals (though the bigger the author, the more of these there seem to be) who make it a sort of mission to berate an author’s work. These are the negative fans Rice talks about. These are the people who send letters and e-mails to the author detailing everything that’s wrong with every book–even if the fan hasn’t read them. Not one letter but dozens or even hundreds. The fan might also write about the author’s personal life, might take the author to task for any number of his or her life choices and so on. This person starts websites that are designed to slam the author, they go on chat boards and leave nasty comments, or they write long-winded Amazon.com reviews about how awful the books and the author are.

“Why bother?” Rice asks, and there are as many reasons why a person might do this as there are people who do do it. Some people simply can’t stand to see something they disagree with succeed; they have a sort of allergic reaction to what becomes popular and mainstream. They feel a need to show they are different, somehow more selective (elite) than the average person. Some of them–I’m sure in Rice’s case–have “religious” reasons for antagonizing a writer whose books they feel are somehow agents of evil. Some of them like the idea that they have a platform and are getting attention. It gratifies something inside them.

I studied fan psychology as part of my screenwriting degree (that probably seems strange, but there’s actually only so much screenwriting one can do in college, so I had to have an additional focus). As a fan myself, I found it interesting on a variety of levels. And certainly, as Rice posits, the Internet has made it all that much easier to latch on to something, whether it be pro or con. It’s easy to start a site or a blog, easy to search and find others who like or dislike something or someone, easy to form or join groups, etc. But the flip side is that there’s that much more for authors to sift through, too, and what’s funny is how these negative fans start to feel like they’ve made a connection when, realistically, the author they are hounding may or may not have noticed at all. Or even if she’s noticed, it’s just as easy to discount the ravings of one person online in the clamor of all the other “voices.” So while the Internet works for the negative fan, it also works against him.

I should know, since I spent a year writing letters to Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty on my old site Letters to Rob. I did it as a lark, mind you, not because I really had any particular beef to pick with any of them. In fact, I very much like their music (as unpopular as that makes me with my friends). It’s strange because you have to really like something or someone–or want to like them–to be able to feel betrayed by them. So negative fans must have had some expectation that was not met, some disappointment, in order to generate the kind of hostility involved. Though sometimes the perceived betrayal is that a friend, or many friends, or the whole world likes something that the negative fan cannot embrace, and so that person lashes out in frustration. The fan feels misunderstood and wants to enumerate the reasons he or she cannot be brought into the fold, the circle of fandom, that everyone else seems to inhabit.

I didn’t read Harry Potter for a long time, even though everyone else was insisting it was wonderful, I must read it, etc. And of course the more people told me I had to, the less I wanted to. But I didn’t start writing letters to J.K. Rowling about how she was ruining the world with her stupid wizard books. (I’m sure someone did, but it wasn’t me.) The negative fan that takes that extra step–some kind of switch flips inside them and they feel that need to go after whatever or whoever is irking them. Whether it’s that “God told them to” or they just hate that something or someone is more successful than they are–these fans are the people who often say they “could have written something better”–who knows? I would tell them not to waste such energy in fighting someone who has no interest in fighting them. I would tell them that if they really could write something better, do it. Why not try to be successful in your own right instead of detracting from someone else’s shine.

But as ever, it’s easier to ride the coattails of someone else’s hard work. These negative fans are still riding the author’s train, even if they are sitting in the very back.

Every now and then I review a book or movie or some music or whatnot. I’ve just put up a review of the collection Bespelling Jane Austen. You can find it (and my other reviews) here.

In case you missed it last time I did this (and I don’t always remember to do it every Tuesday), this one comes from Should Be Reading. The object here is to pick up your current read, open to a random page, and post two teaser sentences–but no spoilers!

I just finished The Ghost and am now finishing up Bespelling Jane Austen, which has four pseudo-adaptations of Austen’s work recast with paranormal elements. I opened at random to page 128, the story “Northanger Castle” by Colleen Gleason. Here, then, are the two teaser sentences:

She tried to settle in her seat and even to watch the play, but Caroline could not keep her thoughts from wandering hither and yon. She must investigate, if only to ease her own mind.

Been underground for a bit working on this new story. Looks to be a novella, possibly in the paranormal romance genre. No wizardry kind of stuff, just the slightly surreal/magical realism kind of thing. Sort of in the vein of Sarah Allen Addison maybe.

So I had originally been planning to hammer out the television spec during my upcoming weekend in New York, but now I’m wondering if I won’t just keep on with this story. Not sure I could finish it, though. I could try, but I might actually get farther with the script, and it would feel good to have completed (or nearly completed) something. Decisions, decisions.

I’ve gotten very little writing done the past couple days. Been so busy with life and children, and getting over a cold at the same time. Hopefully I’ll get back into the swing, soon. I’ve still got people waiting for more Sherlock besides . . .

The news from London also has me feeling sad. I love London and would live there if I could; as it is, I try to go regularly to get writing done because I find London has good vibe for my creativity. And everyone there is always so nice to me, despite my being a stupid American. So I hate to think of that beautiful city having such a difficult time.

Oh, and then I’ve been trying Google+ but I can’t find any use for it so far. Nothing that Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn don’t do for me. I mean, I’m supposedly part of a G+ writing circle, but the feedback is weak. Maybe I need better members or whatever. I guess I have found G+ okay as a news aggregate. But then there’s just so much junk that fills the streams too. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. If so, the interface should be more intuitive.