Creativity Comes From…

Creativity comes from many sources and directions: newspaper articles, movies, dreams, travel, photographs, talking to others and more. Writers observe as do photographers and other artists. To me, that is the key to creativity… observation.  You see something, you hear something and that gets your creative juices flowing. I have been inspired to write by my own photographs. For example, the photo below was taken at the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. The photograph inspired a story called The Bombay Hook Incident.

Sunrise Bombay Hook NWR Delaware CW-1572

 A little background. My wife and I went on a photo trip with photographer John Slonina, and The Bombay National Wildlife Refuge was one of our stops. As any photographer knows, early mornings are a great time to shoot, especially landscape and wildlife. While driving around the refuge, we came across a tent near some sand dunes. Apparently, some people camped there overnight. I doubt it’s legal to do so, but there they were. The scenery, the beautiful morning skies, the abundance of wildlife got me thinking, and I wrote this story about a female photographer out there alone in the early morning who runs across a shady individual looking to steal her photography equipment. It was published last year in the online A Million and One Magazine. You can read it here.

This leads me to my new collection of short stories, The Late Show and Other Tales of Celluloid Malice. One story, The Butcher’s Kid, is about an older teenage boy who helps his father get out of a jam with a local hoodlum. I was thinking about my old Brooklyn neighborhood and a butcher shop that my mother frequented. The butcher had a daughter about my age. We both attended the same junior high school and shared a class or two together. The girl was pretty, and I admittedly had a bit of a crush on her. That’s probably the reason it remains a memory. Using that as the background, except for the girl who is not in the story, I came up with this short tale of a father and son protecting their turf and themselves.

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The Butcher’s Kid is one of eight short stories, all with two things in common – Movies and Malice! Murder, revenge, greed and more are now playing. These stories may make you change your movie-going habits. Available now for pre-order. Due on March 3rd.

Inspiration

After recently watching James Cagney in the 1931 film, The Public Enemy, I was inspired to begin work on a new short story. It was one of the film’s most famous scenes and lines uttered by the actor that caught my attention. Badly shot after a shootout, Cagney as Tom Powers, comes out of a storefront carrying two guns. He staggers down a rainy dark street. Just before dying and falling to the ground, he mumbles his  famous line, “I ain’t so tough.”

My story deals with a small time local hood on the run from the cops, after catching his girlfriend in bed with another guy, and shooting them both.  At this point in time those famous last words are the title of my story, but that could change as the tales evolves. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Below is the famous scene from The Public Enemy.

 

Bitter Ends: Making of a Book Cover

In an earlier post I wrote about how I designed my own book covers for my previous books using my own photographs. In this post I focus on the book cover for Bitter Ends my forthcoming collection of short stories.

Part of the thrill for me in creating a book cover is digging into my files and discovering that one photograph that expresses what’s in the pages in between and expressing it in a way folks who see the cover will be interested enough to take a peek inside and maybe even buy the book.

Like my previous book of short stories, Devious TalesBitter Ends is a collection of tales filled with murder, revenge, greed, and other mayhem along with a couple of slightly less deadly yarns. That said, the cover needed an ominous look informing the potential reader what they are getting.

In digging through my files I first focused on a few images taken in New Mexico back in 2013. One in particular was of a deserted highway with its colorful mountains in the background. I felt it reflected a feeling of vast emptiness and a bit of dread. I saw bodies potentially buried everywhere.

Below is the original image followed by a series early versions of the book cover.

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We were on our way to visit Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch located in Abiquiú, New Mexico,when I pulled over and took the above shot that was my first choice for the cover.  Cropping it was the first step followed by the lettering. I tried various fonts  and colors before settling on the image on the right.

I spent some time reviewing the image, asking myself was this what I wanted. Did it visually express the stories and entice potential readers. The more I looked at it, the more I wasn’t satisfied that it did.  I went back to digging into my photographic archive.

I next found a photograph taken just two months earlier in Yellowstone National Park. We were on a photo tour and came across this area  in the park that had burnt. We stopped and took a series of photos, one of which is the first photo below.  Looking at it, I thought it projected a dark, eerily, end of life feeling.

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Some cropping followed and then some software experimenting resulting in the two early versions below.

I still wasn’t completely satisfied and kept working at it. Finally, I came up with what I envisioned visually expressed what I wrote. Below is the final cover.

Bitter Ends will be available in January from Amazon and Barnes and Noble as a  paperback and ebook.

 

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Inspiration: Where Does it Come From?

Abandoned Shack - 1924-CW-1144I find inspiration can from anywhere and at any time. Many times it happens when you least expect it. For Life Lesson, one of  twelve short stories in my new e-book, Devious Tales, it came from the above photograph I took back in 2015 in Vermont. My wife and I did a photographic road trip that began in Burlington. From there we made our way to Woodstock, St.  Johnsbury and eventually back to Burlington; making multiple stops to photograph what caught our eye along the way. One day during this road trip we found ourselves on a dirt road. Instead of turning around, we decided to see where it would lead. There was actually little to see or photograph except for this old boarded house. I took a few photos from different angles and we went on our way.

The house intrigued me. I wondered who built it way back in 1924? Why in the middle of nowhere? Who and how many people have lived here since? What happened to them? It all stayed buried in my head. As the idea for Life Lesson began to take root, this house was the image that suddenly appeared in my head, and where most of the action in the story takes place.

Like any creative individual does, no matter what form your art takes,  you observe, you listen and you store away information into a mental or physical file for possible future use. That’s where it remains, waiting for that spark of creative juice to bring to life something new.

You can read Life Lesson and other short stories in Devious Tales. Currently, available as an e-book on Amazon. Click here.

It will soon be available as a paperback. More on that later.

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