Los Angeles: The Writer’s Natural Habitat

 

“There are just as many starving writers in Los Angeles as there are actors parking cars.”

 

That was my mom’s standard response whenever I told her I wanted to be a writer, beginning somewhere around age 5 when I first fell in love with the written word. (Incidentally, the irony that I began the freelance writing career that allowed me to raise my brother and sister only after she passed isn’t lost on me. I like to think it makes her smile, wherever she is.)

 

At any rate, I understood her desire for me to focus on a more stable career path. Hey, I’m no dummy. L.A’s smoggy, congested streets are littered with the broken dreams and half-finished manuscripts of the writers that came before me. But if there’s anything I’ve gleaned from my time hustling articles, blogs, press releases and web copy it’s that I am nothing if not tenacious and driven. Instead of being discouraged by all of the unemployed and “aspiring” writers in the City of Angels, I’ve come to discover that there’s plenty about my home town that’s actually pretty inspiring. So, as I carve out my “I am going to start writing fiction, too, even if it kills me” plan, here’s a look at some of the (sometimes surprising) reasons why I love LA –

 

Characters are Everywhere

Seriously. Have you ever been to Los Angeles? Or any part of California, for that matter? There are characters, personalities, fascinating people everywhere for you to explore and gain inspiration from. I grew up in a part of North Hollywood where most people roll up their windows and try to drive through as quickly as possible. Thinking back on my grandma’s apartment complex, I could probably populate an entire novel with the characters behind those faded numbered doors.

 

There was the incredibly sweet old woman old woman who still wore the huaraches she’d crossed the border in every time she walked to the Laundromat; her face a crisscross of deep lines and a wide, toothless smile. The gang bangers with wrap sheets longer than they were, who always – always – brought my grandma’s groceries into the apartment for her so she wouldn’t have to carry them. The German man who lived across the street and washed his old and immaculately kept Volvo every afternoon, muttering way too loudly about how this used to be a nice neighborhood. And, of course, my own loud Cuban family.

 

Basically, everywhere you turn in Southern California, you’re going to run into someone with a story. And those people make for great stories.

 

Beauty is Inspiring

No, I’m not talking about the perfectly plastic and polished actresses strolling along Rodeo, or the buff bodies strutting their stuff on Muscle Beach. (Although, there is a lot of that kind of beauty in this town, too.) No, I mean there’s something about the city and the suburbs themselves that are beautiful. And that kind of setting inspires.

 

I live in a high desert suburb now, where there’s not much traffic and sunsets over the Joshua trees and mountains still catches my breath. But I’m a close drive from lakes, beaches, palm tree-lined streets, soaring buildings… basically there’s something to see all over the place, and that variety and scenery is a gift for writers.

 

It’s Gritty

Behind all that beauty, of course, is the noir side to the city. Crooked cops, riots, tension, drugs, pollution… The best art comes from pain, and LA is definitely a city with a past. Tapping into that is sometimes all the inspiration you need.

 

You’re Not Alone

Finally, there’s something to be said for the fact that there are so many damned writers in LA. Writing is often a lonely, confusing world. Knowing that there are talented, struggling, successful, and brilliant writers near you that you can talk to, ask advice from, and who just *get* what you’re going through makes you feel less like an island and more a part of a community.

 

So there you have my reasons for loving LA. Do you find inspiration from your location? Is there something about your town, city, state, trailer park, UFO or farmland that pushes you to be better at what you do?

On The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance

Being a reader with lady parts, I’m not ashamed to say that I indulge in the occasional romance novel. In fact, I have often said that a well-written romance is my dream gig, and will most likely be the first thing I actually publish of my own. However, I will be the first to admit that I am all kinds of picky when it comes to my girlie reading. I’m all about a good plot first and foremost. I’ll take a little paranormal with my story, as long as it’s not all throbbing members and heaving bosoms. In fact, I tend to steer clear of anything that doesn’t have a modern setting, and have been known to toss aside a freshly purchased novel at the first sign of a heroine that can’t seem to find her own backbone.

Maybe that’s why I’d avoided the whole steampunk thing thus far. Hey, I’m not normally one to roll my eyes at an entire genre without giving it at least an honest to goodness shot first, but it all seemed a little out of my comfort zone.

And then, in the midst of my quasi Twitter stalking (Twaking?) swearalicious author Chuck Wendig and Stephen Blackmoore (who’s Dead Things I absolutely could NOT put down) I stumbled across another author with lady parts – Miss Delilah S. Dawson. If you’re the Twittering kind, I highly recommend you check all three of them out, as they are Twitterific. At any rate, it didn’t take long for me to develop a total word-crush on Miss Dawson. I figured if she could keep me chuckling and entertained and thinking with 140 characters or less, it would definitely be worth checking out what she could do with a whole novel.

As it turned out, her brand spanking new novella, The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance was due out in 48 hours. I figured it would be the perfect gateway into the whole steampunk romance world, as well as a peek into her Wicked series of novels. Boy, am I glad I gave it a shot!

First and foremost – yes, it’s part of a series. But, I didn’t read anything that came before this, and I didn’t feel the least bit lost. I will say that I probably would have felt more “in the know” had I read Wicked as They Come first, but all in all, I had no trouble keeping up.

The whole tale takes place in Sang, a parallel world crafted by Dawson where live animals are a rarity, and living, breathing pets are rarer still. In the midst of this somewhat Dickensian London sits Needful Creatures – an actual pet shop run by Frannie Pleasance. Frannie happens across a needful creature in the form of Casper, a fellow that reminds her of her late brother. She gives the drunken cad room and board, and it isn’t long before he’s flirting away.

And then we meet Thom – a sexy Scottish fireman in a kilt. Think a love triangle is coming? Think again.

Soon, strange things start happening to and around Frannie, and it’s obvious that someone is out to do the feisty pet shop owner harm.

Dawson weaves an incredibly detailed story, making you feel a part of her world from page one. The character development is quick, which is important in a work this short. I found myself immediately drawn to Frannie, and relating to her – despite (or maybe because of?) the whole steampunk vibe. Oh and Thom? Totally yummy hero.

Five stars to The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance, and I’ll definitely be reading more of Delilah S. Dawson’s work in the near future. Hey, who knows, maybe she’ll swing by and write a guest post? (A girl can dream, can’t she?!)