Blog-versary Post & Giveaway: Mickie B. Ashling, What Inspires a Story
*** Congrats to LISA for winning the giveaway! Thank you to Mickie B. Ashling for the great post and to all who stopped by to help us celebrate our 4th year and to enter the giveaway! ***
What Inspires a Story by Mickie B. Ashling
I’m here to join Cindi and Kazza in celebrating their blogs fourth anniversary. Before I get started, I’d like to commend and thank these two ladies for a job well done! I’ve always found the reviews on this site to be thorough, insightful, and above all else, honest. When they give a book a low rating they do it without being hurtful or condescending. As an author I appreciate that quality and hope they stick around for a long time.
That being said, I’d like to talk about inspiration. Let’s start off with my novel, Yesterday, a period piece set in Karachi, Pakistan. You’re probably wondering how or why I chose this locale. A writer’s brain is a weird and unpredictable part of our anatomy (at least mine is). It can draw inspiration from memories buried so far back in our subconscious we don’t even realize they exist—until a prompt comes along. It can be anything from a song to a smell, but once it’s unleashed, there’s no stopping the ideas from flowing. This is the magical part of writing I love. In the case of Yesterday, my trigger was a photo I’d unearthed while cleaning out my closets.
Several decades ago, before the Middle East was a tinderbox, my stepfather was assigned to a business posting in Karachi, Pakistan. Much like my character, Grady Ormond, I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect. The thought of spending any amount of time (I was also on break between high school and college) in a desert climate with no friends, other than my sister, and very little understanding of the culture or language of the region, wasn’t my idea of a good time.
Back then, I didn’t know Pakistan was a melting pot of faiths and cultures. Having been occupied at one time or another by different empires—India, Persia, Turkey, Arabia, Mongolia, and Great Britain—it’s ethnically and linguistically diverse. The religion is primarily Islam, but in those days, it wasn’t uncommon to have Hindus and Christians living side by side. The political atmosphere wasn’t charged, and foreigners could walk the streets without worrying about suicide bombers or being kidnapped.
We were able to freely explore the city (with a guide), and our first stop was the Empress Market. Like Grady, I was hypnotized by the exotic, trying on bangles, earrings, scarves, and necklaces. Shopkeepers showed me how to turn lovely gold-threaded lengths of fabric into a sari. My sister and I bought hand-tooled slippers, admired the intricate metal work and colorful pottery, tiptoed warily around the animal cages, praying none of the cobras would leap out of their baskets, and I ate more street food than was smart. It was a magical place and I tried to share some of my exploits through the voice of my character in Yesterday.
The Basque Series (Loving Edits, Tono, and Momentos: Mick’s Journey) was inspired by my mother’s battle with ALS. Long before it became a buzz word in Hollywood, with the ice bucket challenge, my family was torn apart by this disease. It took over three decades for me to come to terms with it, and to actually sit down and write the story was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The trilogy continues to inspire and draw praise by those who’ve been brave enough to read it.
Ocean cruises have been a recreational past time I was introduced to when I turned fifty. As soon as I boarded my first ship I was hooked! The Open Trilogy (Open Seating, Open House, and Open Case) was initially inspired by my interest in travel and cruising. It slowly morphed into a more complex story which deals with such things as suicide, long-term relationships, wrong choices, and second chances. The first book Open Seating released in June of this year. The second, Open House, releases October 24th. I’m including an exclusive excerpt for your reader’s enjoyment.
*** Giveaway ***
I’d also like to offer a giveaway. Any one e-book from the above mentioned books is up for grabs to one lucky winner. All you have to do is stop by and comment. Cindi and Kazza will pick the winner at the end of this month and send me your information.
Bryce’s pitchy rendition of Springsteen’s “Glory Days” tugged at Seth’s consciousness, rousing him from a sound sleep. He blinked a few times, trying to get his bearings. Nothing about his current location felt familiar, but when he rolled over and stared up at the mirror over the bed, memories of last night’s lovemaking came to mind and he smiled contentedly. It was six in the morning according to the antique timepiece on the mantel above the fireplace, and he realized he’d overslept by an hour. He blamed the break in his normal sleep patterns on jet lag and a general reluctance to get on with real life after their extraordinary vacation. It had been a wonderful interlude, but it was time to roll up his sleeves and deal with all the things he’d put on hold.
The first order of business after a shower and breakfast was walking through his and Mark’s Lincoln Park home. Bryce had agreed to accompany him, despite his own busy schedule, and Seth had gratefully accepted. He knew it would be jarring (and painful) to see all the reminders of Mark again, but it had to be done.
Nonetheless, getting through the walk-through without falling apart would take internal fortitude Seth wasn’t sure he possessed. Fortunately, Bryce was his usual pragmatic self, and Seth felt marginally better when he stood in front of his familiar front door. Until he tried inserting the key. He was shaking so badly he was doing a piss-poor job.
“Shit,” he muttered when the key slipped a second time. “I don’t know why I’m so damn nervous.”
“Let me,” Bryce said mildly.
Seth handed him the worn key, and though it took a few seconds of jiggling, eventually the tumblers engaged and the door opened. Bryce stepped back to let Seth pass through first, guiding him with a hand on his lower back to give him the courage he needed to walk back into the home he’d shared with Mark for the last twenty years.
Seth hadn’t been inside since he walked out almost a month ago to embark on his UK adventure. The next-door neighbors, Jim and Susan, had offered to keep an eye on the place and bring in the mail, which they’d left in orderly piles on the dining room table. Unfortunately, they’d neglected to air out the house at any time, and the rank smell of disuse only added to his discomfort.
“Help me get some air in here,” Seth said, already heading toward a window. Like everything else in the house, it was old and Seth struggled to get it open.
Within seconds, Bryce was at his side and wrestling with the casement window, which appeared to be stuck. Time and Chicago winters had eroded the crank mechanism, and it took all of Bryce’s strength to get the thing to finally turn so the window could slowly swing open, letting in the much-needed ventilation.
“First thing on your list is to replace these old windows with double-hung ones that slide up and down,” Bryce recommended. “It’ll modernize the overall look and increase the value of the house. You can get the kind with blinds in between the panes of glass. Then you’ll only have to install valances instead of full window coverings. A savvy buyer will insist on new windows, so you might as well head them off at the pass and do it yourself. I can save you a ton on labor costs.”
“You’d do this for me?” Seth asked.
“What’s the point in having a boyfriend who’s in the construction business if you can’t count on me to help with the remodeling?”
“I don’t want to take advantage,” Seth said. “I simply wanted advice. You have to make a living, after all, and working on my house for free is over and above your boyfriend responsibilities.”
“Babe.” Bryce pulled Seth away from the window. “The goal is to get as much out of this place as you can so you’ll have a nice chunk in savings. It won’t happen if we job out the repairs. My crew can do everything with my supervision, and these guys are on my payroll. There’s no price haggling or gouging when I’m in charge.”
“In that case, I insist on paying their salary as well as the cost of materials,” Seth said. “It wouldn’t feel right if I let you shoulder any of the expenses.”
“We can talk about money later.”
Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.
By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing–and the inevitable emptying nest–dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings. Mickie currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.