Six Tips on Building a Creative Writing Bonfire

It seems to me that desire to tell stories is universal among humans — almost as necessary as it is for a bird to sing. The urge must be written into the DNA of who we are. There are tales we want to blurt out to our friends in casual conversations. Or maybe we dream about getting our stories produced or published, wowing much larger audiences.

When bigger goals are at play, many people don’t know how to begin. It’s a fantasy they keep tucked away for their retirement years, or when they can cajole someone else to write a story for them.

I understand. The prospect of putting down words on a page can seem overwhelming. But there are ways to do it, one word at a time.

Read More on Medium

Choosing Painful New Paths That Just Might Lead to Joy

Some of the hardest things that I’ve ever done have involved a sharp, painful turn in a new direction. If I didn’t make a needed change, another person pushed me hard. I had to do it.

In a lot of situations, it seemed like someone was forcing me into some gawd-awful situation. Maybe they laid me off (a.k.a., fired me). Maybe someone broke off a passionate relationship. However, if I step back and look at the circumstances that led up to the heave-ho, it often comes down to my own actions. At least partially.

Read More on Medium

A Free Read for You – THE JUICE’s First Chapter

What were you doing around this time a year ago? It was the best of times and worst of times for yours truly. On the negative end, my husband was a month away from dying of cancer. When I wasn’t helping him, I was desperately trying to find anti-COVID vaccines. On the positive end, David and I had an amazing group of friends and family supporting us. And while that was all going on, my novel, THE JUICE, was published.

Chances are, if you’ve drilled down to this blog on my site, you already know that the title of the book refers to a chemical substance that makes people extraordinarily charismatic. I threw in a lot of romance and suspense over the course of writing the novel. Because it’s also a commentary on the future of media and advertising, and dystopian in nature, I like to think follows in the footsteps of some sci-fi greats, like William Gibson. In honor of the book’s publication last February by Dragon Moon Press, the first chapter follows below. Many hopes you enjoy it.

Read More on Medium

To My Beloved Dead Husband: Science Fiction Is Here Now

Dear David,

Now that you’ve been gone for nearly a year, I’ve developed a new theory that I want to tell you about. It has to do with science fiction — that passion of mine that you so encouraged.

Perhaps the sci-fi genre first came about when someone wanted to tell a dead loved one what has transpired since their passing — how fantastical it all might seem.

Wouldn’t your father have been startled to learn that millions of people, of all social classes, were felled by a virus? That people would be afraid to touch each other, breathe the same air?

Read More on Medium

Can’t We Just Get Along? A New Path to Harmony (or Not)

There’s a simple solution to get rid of all the hatred, contempt, and distaste expressed across the great gulf that separates so many of us — Democrats vs. Republicans, vaccination proponents vs. anti-vaxxers — the factions go on and on. If only this solution to our growing antagonism was utilized, we’d all get along. No more gatherings with friends or family that are marred by arguments about differing beliefs and opinions.

As I sketched out plans for my sci-fi novel, THE JUICE, I saw an end to all that. I envisioned a time in the future when we’ll live much more harmonious lives, like we haven’t in years, maybe decades. It’s not that we’ll believe in exactly the same things. We’ll just agree with ideas or opinions that are complementary to each other, like red and yellow blossoms artfully arranged in a floral bouquet.

Read More on Medium

A Carnation in My Attic: Inspiration From a Harlem Street Vendor

One of the most valuable sources for me as a creative writer is my own attic. By attic, I don’t mean a physical place where wasps buzz around in overheated spaces on summer afternoons when your mother demands that it’s finally time to get all those old boxes of Christmas decorations and your dad’s old military gear sorted out. Instead, I mean my mental attic.

As I wrote my sci-fi cyberpunk novel, THE JUICE, I tried to imagine New York several decades into the future by sifting through all my experiences living there, and the people I knew. Among those I conjured up were some executives at media companies, who who helped inspire the creation of my character Petra Cardinale, whom I wrote about here. Another treasure in my attic is a guy by the name of Carnation France. As I filtered through my memories, he popped out and gave me a big, fun-loving grin.

Read More on Medium

A Kiss Is Still a Kiss, But I’m Seeing ‘Casablanca’ Through a More Truthful Lens

It took some vintage films to make me see how my mind has shifted — in ways that put the movies in a new perspective that isn’t entirely flattering. This came to me while watching Bette Davis claw her way to a richer life in “The Little Foxes.” And then I watched Ingrid Bergman trapped in a life-or-death love triangle in “Casablanca.

Read More on Medium

Struggling With the Feeling of Failure, 10,000 Times Along the Way

If you’re anything like me, then you were utterly gobsmacked by the astounding images that NASA released this last week. They are “the deepest infrared view of our universe that has ever been taken,” according to NASA administrator Bill Nelson. The odds we’d even get to see those images was amazing: there were 344 possible points of failure along the way, NASA said.

Read More on Medium

How We Move Forward, After the Supreme Court Devastations

When I was very young, my older brother died of brain cancer. He was four years old. As you might imagine, this was a deeply shattering experience for my parents. My mother’s way of dealing with it was to repress her feelings under a big flat stone. She rarely mentioned what she and my father went through — all those repeated trips to the hospital, the crushing sense of failure.

Read More on Medium

From Sissy Spacek to Jean Smart: Delicious Roles for Older Women Multiply

Outstanding roles for older female actresses on TV have always been in short supply. In recent years, the business has tried to address the issue of racism and sexual misconduct. And older men have been around in shows for a long time. But as for a variety of shows with primary characters that authentically portray fascinating, mature women? Not a lot.

Read More on Medium

The Essential Writers’ Tool: How to Build or Join a Feedback Group

Writing a piece of fiction can be like walking through a foreign land that seems endless, and occasionally filled with thorny brambles. Yes, you may have friends who will commiserate with your dilemmas, pour you some wine, or provide some good advice. But maybe the people you know just are not enough to get you where you need to go. Maybe you need to widen your circles, suck it up and meet some absolute strangers even if you’re an introvert — people who can guide you in new directions that you hadn’t considered before or hadn’t thought about strongly enough.

Read More on Medium

Top 8 Things About a Friend With a Richly Lived Life

Her parents were part of the French Resistance. To evade Nazi detection, her mother hid tiny bits of paper with secret messages in the curly locks of her children’s hair.

A treasured friend of mine who lived in the United States for 45 years recently emigrated back to her native country, France. I’m coming to grips with the reality that our frequent visits are at an end. And I’ve written a list of things about her that I want to remember, always.

Read More on Medium

Elon Musk and the Future

It was like a musket shot when Elon Musk pursued a deal to acquire Twitter. (And actually snagged a deal after this story originaly went to press.) But the most striking thing about it, for me, is his use of the word “freedom.”

Read More on Medium

Red Beans and Rice: Memories of a Creole Love Affair

The cookbook lost its cover countless years ago. It’s spattered with roux (that baseline sauce of many a Creole recipe) and other unidentified marks from meals long gone by. The spiral binding has been a little derailed, but still holds the pages together. And part of the index was unintentionally ripped out of its original place somewhere along the way and is now a bookmark.

” is like a bible for some people utterly smitten with New Orleans cuisine. And its author sure has one snobby attitude. Leon E. Soniat Jr. prefaced his recipe for red beans and rice: “If you insist on cooking sausage with your red beans, try this recipe.”

Read More on Medium

Fantastic Worlds Coming Our Way: How Metaverses Will Evolve

The cascading crises that the world is facing tear me in two directions. I pay attention to it in a pretty big way. But at the end of the day, escaping into far-flung fictional worlds is even more vital to my state of mind than before. If there were a bookstore version of a deli, where you could order novels instead of sandwiches, I’d be yelling: “Hold the futuristic disasters and smear on something fantastic.”

Read More on Medium

How to Increase Your Powers of Charisma and Seduction

The dominatrix wasn’t what I expected. It seemed like anyone earning money from erotic bondage-and-submission services would be seedy, down-market, and a bit of a loser.

I was so wrong.

When we met several years ago, I discovered that she had her very own dungeon, with an assortment of whips and other trappings of the trade. Even a bed of nails. Anyone who hired her wouldn’t be disappointed — and she had some powerful clients.

Read More on Medium

CBD to the Rescue: Responsible Ways to Live Without Booze

By Janet Stilson / November 22, 2021 /

Do you ever wonder if there will come a time when humans will no longer need to swallow and smoke chemical substances to relieve their pain and relieve anxiety? As the relationship between humans and computers continues to evolve, maybe future generations will implant a chip in their bodies to counteract whatever whacked-out thing they’re…

Read More

The Confessions of a Stick-in-the-Mud: Searching for Spontaneous Joy

By Janet Stilson / November 9, 2021 /

There’s a defect in my personality that I have only recently identified. Those of you who know me may immediately think, “Uh huh. Maybe Stilson is actually going to stop (fill in the blank). She drives me nuts.’” Whatever that might be, today, right now, the defect du jour that I’ve pinpointed is a lack…

Read More

Cherishing the Small Stuff: Porting Into Lost Times, Distant People

By Janet Stilson / October 26, 2021 /

I once owned a locket of no particular value. It might have been made out of tin with gold plating on top. And it was a little dented. But it was something my grandmother had cherished. Inside were tiny little photos of her parents, a dairy farmer and his wife who raised her in a…

Read More

The Woman Who Looked Like a Chicken, and Other Inspirations

By Janet Stilson / October 12, 2021 /

I once met a woman who reminded me of a chicken, and another one who often stored muffins between her breasts. At the time I met them, they were both well into their 70s, if not older. Though many, many years have passed since then, they were so memorable that I based two of my…

Read More

A Dark, Steamy Movie and a New Isaac Asimov Series Splash Down

By Janet Stilson / September 28, 2021 /

  The new Apple TV+ series, FOUNDATION, based on Isaac Asimov’s landmark sci-fi novel series, is blowing my mind. Although I’m still trying to decide whether I like the gender switching and romantic frisson touches that weren’t in the original work. It’s not fair to deliver final judgement, because I’m still on episode 2, but…

Read More

How Beauty Helps Me Look on the Bright Side of Life

By Janet Stilson / September 13, 2021 /

It’s almost like I’ve been in a science fiction story over the last week. I’ve inhabited a world in which all niggling and gargantuan points of tension lifted away. All I did was gaze at exquisite wildlife and scenery, breathed pungently healing air, listened to sweet bird cries. Nothing could crowd out those wonders; nothing…

Read More

It’s All in Your Head: Feeling Future Happiness Today

By Janet Stilson / August 31, 2021 /

Do you know how WD-40 got its name? I recently discovered that the 40 refers to the number of versions of the formula that were created before its makers finally got a lubricant that worked just right. Chances are, you’ve used it to make cranky windows open more easily, or get rid of that squeak…

Read More

Why I Love Ishiguro’s ‘Klara and the Sun’

By Janet Stilson / August 17, 2021 /

What if it were possible to walk into a store and buy a best friend with artificial intelligence – a humanoid robot able to love you and serve your best interests? That is the central premise behind a novel that rocketed up close to the top of my personal “favorite book” chart. And that was…

Read More

Growing Up Like a Wild Bird in a Town Called Franklin

By Janet Stilson / August 3, 2021 /

Imagine a lottery system that runs across the entire universe. And each time someone is about to be born, a ga-zillion colored balls ping around, and as a select few are pulled out, your fate is sealed. Perhaps you will become Rusty Redsnore, and you are foisted off on an alcoholic old aunt in a…

Read More

What Gets You Hot and Bothered During This Crazy Summer of Ours?

By Janet Stilson / July 20, 2021 /

Remember that old song: “Roll out those lazy hazy crazy days of summer — those days of soda and pretzels and beer”? At the time I first heard Nat King Cole croon it, I was a kid and enjoyed the romantic notion. Now I still love the summer. But when I consider my laziness, thoughts…

Read More