Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Genesis of Story

"How do you come up with ideas for your stories?"

I'm sure that most, if not all, writers will hear this question in their lifetimes. It is a good question. How do we come up with all those nifty little ideas that eventually turn into short stories or novels or poems?

Every single bit of information that we receive through our senses is, in essence, an idea. A sad song on the radio. A delicious morsel savored at a fancy restaurant downtown. A bit of gossip uttered in a whisper as you walk past an open doorway. The joy of birth, the grief of loss. Every person is bombarded with ideas as soon as he or she awakens, and they will never be in short supply.

An author's job is to extract certain ideas from the constant barrage and combine them into something new. For example, one morning I was skimming through a book about the early Church fathers and martyrs, and I got to wondering what it would be like to meet them in person and see what they had to say about their faith and the time period they had lived in. A few hours later I left to go to my classes over at Northern Kentucky University. I always liked to take the scenic route through the rolling hills of southern Clermont County as opposed to taking the interstate because driving on a winding road through forests and then along the Ohio River seemed so peaceful compared to the alternative. Driving along that route put my mind at ease, and what do minds at ease do? Come up with stories, of course!

The story hit me at some point as I traveled along Locust Corner Road. I knew I wanted to write a short story set in the post-apocalyptic future where humans and other living things could be resurrected through the use of technology so archaeologists could learn more about the past. I jotted down notes about the story when I got home. The story, which I named "Vapors," took me about eight days to write. (I'm currently trying to get it published--I'll keep you posted about that.)

Even non-writers come up with their own stories. Ever heard of dreams? I hope so. Dreams are like stories in that they result from oodles of ideas that combine in our heads and play out in new ways. Some authors even use ideas from their dreams and turn them into stories. Cool, huh? Ideas begetting ideas. The possibilities really are endless.

In conclusion, I suppose it can be said that ideas are the primordial ooze that eventually spawns fully-fleshed characters and the stories they tell. If you want to become a writer, let those ideas simmer. Let them grow. Turn them into something that will entertain or touch or scare.

But most of all, write.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"One Small Jar"

 (Author's note: I wrote this nearly a year ago. Sometimes putting memories into words helps ease the pain, though it is doubtful that the pain will ever truly be gone until I breathe my last.)

One Small Jar

By J. S. Bailey

"Conception came out," he says
(conception? no, no, you're wrong)
then puts it in a jar and leaves.
A jar so small
and lifeless like the tomb it is.
i want to see i want to see my baby
(Why would you want to?)
"Sure," she says
then picks the jar off the counter
like it's nothing
And shows me.
But I cannot see
There's a label in the way
i cannot see!
And just as quickly the jar is gone.
Taken away

I never saw her
(Or was it him? I cannot know.)

Oh, Crystal, that gem of my heart,
Where have they taken you?
The flesh may perish
But when a warm breeze rustles the treetops
And the sun peeks its rays through the clouds
I know you are there.

Written March 29, 2011

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Tale of a Pseudo-Pseudonym

There are many reasons that an author may choose to use a pseudonym for his or her writing. Maybe he writes both action-packed Westerns and steamy romance novels and doesn't want to baffle his fans by using the same author name for each genre. Maybe an author's given name is Hcnsiuygewr Ykjbd and wishes to use a more easily pronounceable moniker on his books. Maybe his given name is identical to that of an already-published author or a celebrity. Or maybe he just hates his name. The possibilities are practically endless.

I use a "pseudonym" for another reason altogether. My full name is Jennifer Anne Bailey. Nothing too unusual about that, right? Exactly. Now, I don't mind being named Jennifer. Nobody is ever going to hear my name, wrinkle their nose in disgust, and say, "Why in the blue blazes did her parents name her that?" Jennifers tend to be quite successful in life, if one is to look at Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Hudson, and Jennifer Love Hewitt for examples. We Jennifers are determined to succeed in our areas of expertise. We might even be unstoppable.

The problem is, Jennifers are everywhere. My godmother and namesake is (duh) named Jennifer. At least four of my cousins are named Jennifer. My sister-in-law is named Jennifer. One of my friends is named Jennifer. Three of my husband's cousins married Jennifers. One of my old English teachers is Jennifer. My friend's sister is named Jennifer. One of my mom's cousins married a Jennifer, too. Counting me, that is a whopping 14 Jennifers. Crazy, huh?

Not only are there quadrillions of Jennifers claiming the Earth as their own; there are also nearly as many Jennifer Baileys. Okay, maybe there are only about 4,000 Jennifer Baileys in the United States, but that's still waaaaay too many for my taste. What if another Jennifer Bailey became a published author, too? What would I do? Send her scathing emails urging her to change her name? I'm too professional to resort to such tactics. Besides, it's mean.

I could, however, use my initials instead. C. S. Lewis did it. J. K. Rowling did it. G. K. Chesterton did it, too. So why can't I?

Because J. A. Bailey sounds weird. Go ahead, say it aloud. Jay-ay-baylee. Jay-ay-bay. Blech. Nope. Won't do it. Plus, my initials spell "jab." Don't blame my parents; they aren't the ones who told me to marry a guy whose last name starts with B.

The solution? My maiden name is Schmid. S is a nice letter, and J. S. Bailey has a nice ring to it. It rolls off the tongue. Jayessbaylee. Beautiful. People have begun referring to me as "Jayess." My husband alternates between calling me "Jennifer Schmid-Bailey" as if I were a British dame and "Johann Sebastian" in homage to my homeboy J. S. Bach. I've even periodically forgotten that my middle name is Anne.

In conclusion, I have to say that I truly enjoy being called J. S. Bailey. It's not too common but not too unusual either, and I finally feel that I have my own identity as an author, which is just pretty darn cool.

Bailey out.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Meet the Author: Erin Healy

Good morning, readers! Today we give a warm welcome to novelist Erin Healy. After editing fiction for many years, Erin began to write novels of her own by collaborating with author Ted Dekker on the novels Kiss and Burn. Healy's more recent works include Never Let You Go, The Promises She Keeps, and The Baker's Wife. Erin's next novel, House of Mercy, will be released in 2012 through Thomas Nelson.

First of all, tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? When did you first start writing?
I’m from Ventura, California, which is a beach town north of Los Angeles and the inspiration for one of my first stories, Sammy the Bad Seagull. In Ventura, all seagulls are vermin. Sammy was a terribly arresting morality tale about a seagull who stole picnic lunches, and a dog who taught him to turn from his wicked ways. I think I was in the third grade.
What was it like switching careers from being an editor to becoming an author? What made you decide to start writing novels of your own?
It was like a God-ordained exercise in humility. Editing and writing are related but require different skill sets, and I got into writing with a lot of intellectual but not practical knowledge. After I edited several of Ted Dekker’s novels, he invited me to write two with him. Part of that contract was the opportunity to write novels of my own. It seemed like a no-brainer opportunity. Even if I failed, it would be a great learning experience.
Describe for us your writing process. Do you use an outline or do you go by "the seat of your pants"?
My definitive creative process hasn’t solidified yet. I continue to experiment with different methods. But generally speaking, I start with a very big-picture outline (that is, the general idea of where I want to start and where I hope to end up). Then it’s seat-of-the-pants from there. The actual process of writing is where I make most of my discoveries about my characters and the influences that direct them.
Has anything in your novels been inspired by real people or events?
Never Let You Go was inspired by my observations of a family dynamic of bitterness and unforgiveness. As an outsider looking in, I thought that the parent’s bitterness was having a clear and negative effect on the child. But the parent seemed unaware. I saw it as a spiritual dynamic that challenged me to think about unforgiveness: if we realized the collateral damage it causes to people we love, would we be quicker to forgive?
What inspires you to write? In other words, what causes the seeds of your stories to begin to grow in your mind?
As you might have guessed from my answer to #4, I almost always start with a thematic idea. Themes don’t make good stories, though, so it takes a while for me to “see” who the involved characters might be, and what events might propel them to thematic discoveries. I think I’m a backward storyteller. So far, the stories I’ve written evolve to such an extent over the course of writing that by the time each is published, it’s really, really hard for me to answer the question, “Where did you get the idea for that?”
What are three things that your readers would be surprised to know about you?
I had a higher SAT score in math than in English.
I have been to Auschwitz.
I gave birth to my second child at home with a midwife.
What do you do when you aren't writing?
Reading. Hanging out with my family. Editing. Thinking about exercising. Trying to decide what to make for dinner. If not for my children my days would be pretty boring.
Do you ever listen to music when you write, or do you have to have absolute silence while you craft your stories?
I was the girl who did all her homework in the library because the dorms were too loud. Yes, it’s silence for me, though I love music and listen to it often when I’m not writing.
If you could visit one place in the world, where would you go?
I’d like to spend an extended time in Ireland, writing and walking and finding my roots.
And last of all, where can your readers find you and your books on the Web?
The best place to read about my books is on my website: But I love to chat with readers on Facebook at erinhealybooks. Hope you can drop in soon!