Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Asparagus Shrines

Sharon Wildwind

I’m stuck.

My Viet Nam veterans series is winding down. Book #4 is finished and I’m well into writing book #5, which will be the last one with those characters. It’s time to add something new to the pipeline—new characters, a new setting—something that will come out as a newborn book in about two years.

Some people might call this long-range planning. I call it long-range aggravation.

I have a working title: Dead Man’s Curve. I have a working premise: a flight nurse, who is hooked on adrenalin, doesn’t know when it’s time to quit. I have names for the protagonists: Ann Cormier and Landry Prejean.

Yes, I’m tapping into my south Louisiana roots for this one. I even have background music picked out to listen to while I’m writing. Last week, after a careful explanation from my husband about how to use my computer to find far-flung radio stations, I discovered several Cajun stations, which play music I haven’t listened to since my childhood.

So far, so good. What I don’t have yet is a plot.

Ann does something to get in trouble—not for the first time, she’s been in trouble before—and Landry is the only one who realizes how much danger she’s really in, and he tries to help her, and people are murdered, and both characters are stressed to the breaking point, and eventually Ann and Landry have a falling out, and there are helicopters involved somehow, and both of them are in danger at the end, but justice prevails.

When I set my gaze for the middle distance, that not-quite-focused-place where my office walls disappears and the story appears, what I see so far is white cotton wool. And I heard a static sound, like trying to pick up SETI signals from a distance galaxy. The problem with white cotton wool is that it does no good to pound on it while yelling, “Let me in! Let me in!” All that happens is that your hands, and your words, become muffled in the wool.

So I’m on a creativity quest. I’m out looking for ways that other people have taken everyday elements, mixed them, twisted them, and created something almost heart-stopping in its cleverness and beauty.

Let me introduce you to Lindly Haunani’s Asparagus Shrines.

When I came across this photo last week, while sitting in my office, in Canada, listening to a Cajun radio station from Lafayette, Louisiana, I knew I’d hit it. I want this new book to be my asparagus shrine, even though there probably won’t be a single asparagus or shrine in the entire story. I want my writing to be this cool! I want the elements to come together with the same sense of beauty, proportion, and playfulness. I want to be able to craft a mystery with the same degree of artistry that Lindly used to put her elements together.

If she could build these two shrines, I know I can build this book. All I needed was a little inspiration, and you find inspiration in the most unexpected places.

Lindly Haunani is a polymer clay artist. More about her and her clay creations can be found at http://www.lindlyhaunani.com/.
Steve Payne is a professional photographer, who among other things, took the photographs for Judy Belcher’s book, Polymer Clay: Creative Traditions, where a photo of Asparagus Shrines appears. His web site is http://www.stevepayne.com/home.html
Thanks to both Lindly and Steve for permission to use the photograph.
Writing quote for the week:

I will be a cruel goddess. I will stress out my characters to the breaking point. A non-stressed character is a useless character.~Jo Beverly, romance writer


Julia Buckley said...

Those are wonderful, Sharon! And you are a brave writer.

Darlene Ryan said...

Those shrines are beautiful and now I feel I have to do something creative with the asparagus we're having with supper.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Ahhh, as a big asparagus fan, I LOVE the shrine. Good luck on your new series, Sharon. I adore your first series so I'm sure this will be fantastic. Hugs, Lonnie