Where Creativity Flourishes

Where Creativity Flourishes

There’s a place to which I escape…where creativity flourishes and I renew…my garden. To dig in the earth is to renew my roots to the planet. To share my little outdoor space with the birds, bugs, squirrels, and various other outdoor creatures in the neighborhood is to confirm my humble place in the world. I am just another creature in their midst, doing my best to make the most of my existence, just like them.

I love the solitude of my garden space. For the most part, it is my quiet retreat. But it can also be a grand orchestra of natural sounds, as the squirrels rustling through the leaves make me turn; as the swooping sound of the hawks’ gliding wings make me pause; as the birds, chattering in a wild chorus while they perch on the great assortment of garden gifts, catch my attention.

Winter Bulbs

When I’m the only human there, I can allow my thoughts to take me to creative places. At the same time, I can watch a worm wander through the soil, aerating it for the sake of my plantings. I marvel at our collaboration.

Snap Peas

There alone, my mind has permission to run freely. For a few moments, I let schedules and responsibilities take a nap while I allow my mind to tap into my creative tendencies, where writing ideas, music inspiration, family appreciation, new culinary concoctions, and thoughts on the greater world have room to breathe. Thanks, dear garden, for being there for me.

Peony white

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Video Shorts – The Teen Vowellans

Video Shorts – The Teen Vowellans

This week, we introduced Heaven’s Wait’s 5 main teen Vowellan characters to social media for the first time. Mok, Kip, Lek, San, and Dun took center stage in their own video shorts. The shorts gave viewers a chance to see who these characters are while their clan theme songs played in the background.  We thought the shorts deserved a place on the HW website as well. So here they are, all in one place.

 

 

 

 

 

You may also find these video shorts, as well as other videos from our growing collection, on Heaven’s Wait’s You Tube Channel: https://youtube.com/@heavenswait.

A special shoutout to my music arranger, Aki Ross, and my illustrator, Julia Semionova for their invaluable contributions to these fun little shorts.

These teen Vowellan characters make their first appearance in Book 2 of the Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella Series, Innocents and Curiosities. Find this book on Amazon.com by following the Innocents and Curiosities book link in the footer.

A Song for RJ

A Song for RJ

The character of RJ PLOM is based on my father, so I approached this song with special care. In writing the melody for this piece, I thought long and hard about what RJ’s journey from this mortal world to a new one beyond might sound like. It needed to be reflect various emotions as he traveled.

RJ was now a man alone and sad, surrounded by his little plane and his thoughts about everyone and everything he had left behind. He first ascended through the fog and clouds. He became aware that all he could do now was move forward. RJ embraced the feeling of freedom that accompanied that reality. Once above the clouds, there was time for RJ to cruise along at a peaceful pace. He was able to enjoy the wondrous view of the cloud blanket beneath him as he tried to figure out where the ride would take him.

above the clouds

RJ’s peace was eventually interrupted by a swaying sensation that progressed into a less comfortable, more tension-filled space. He soon found himself tangled in a wild storm that forced him down onto unstable ground. When the tension of the storm finally subsided, the clearing sky revealed to RJ a sight that was brilliant, colorful, and surprising…a wondrous new world.

The melody components for the various stages of RJ’s flight actually came rather easily. Trying to add my own accompaniment was another story. I wrote what I could to add a little texture and harmony to the piece. I realized after a little experimentation that there was an opportunity to blanket a verse of the Heaven’s Wait theme over the main “A Journey Above” melody, so I wrote it into the final verse of the song as best I could. It didn’t sound too bad, considering that my orchestration skills left a lot to be desired. This was all years before Aki entered the picture.

I put the files from my music creator app for this song into Aki’s hands, where he was able to see how I had delineated the different sections of RJ’s flight. He took it from there, finding instrumentation and chords to make each section sound appropriate to its mood. We went back and forth with ideas and corrections until we felt we had done it justice. Aki turned this special piece into something I will always hold close to my heart. I sincerely thank him for that.  We are especially proud of the way the two songs melded during the final verse. It still makes my heart swell whenever I hear it. Enjoy “A Journey Above,” otherwise known as “RJ’s Theme.” B

 

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The Mike Factor

The Mike Factor

It’s Belle McLaughlin here, with my behind-the-scenes cat’s-eyes-view report of the day!

Belle looking left

Did you know it’s the observations, the little habits and quirks that my mom finds in others, that help her create characters for her stories? I know because she’s told me about many of her past observations and inspirations. And I’ve witnessed a few myself.

Today, it’s mostly about my dad, Mike McLaughlin, and his influence on the stories of Heaven’s Wait. I call it the Mike Factor.

It’s about the time many years before I was born when Mom was trying to think of a name for the tiny flying creatures of Heaven’s Wait. They are small, colorful creatures the size of bees, with long, curlicue tails. They use their tails to hang from tree branches and often as chairs. One night, Mom described these creatures to Dad. She explained to him that the local townsfolks, the Vowellans, have contests using the creatures. The Vowellans take turns swinging the creatures by their tails in circles above their heads. They then fling the creatures through the air toward a mark on a target branch of a nearby tree. The creatures loop their tails around the branch, which makes them swing back and forth and giggle. They love the ride. Whichever Vowellan’s creature lands nearest the target mark wins.

“What should I call these oddball creatures,” asked Mom?

“Well, Flingbees, of course!” said Dad. Of course! No further discussion was needed. The Mike Factor was born.

It’s about the fact that each of the Vowellan clans has a crazy quirk or two. For the Ham Bats, it’s their unusual speech pattern. They speak in “ood’lies.” What influenced such speech? Once again, the Mike Factor. It turns out that Dad and his friends spoke in silly ood’lies way back when he was in high school. Who knows what ever prompted them to come up with such a thing. Take a look!

 

Finally, it’s about the fact that San Ham Bat’s father, Mat, has frequent run-ins with door handles. He moves quickly, and he doesn’t pay attention to his surroundings. Door handles and table corners seem to just jump out at him in their attempt to slow him down. Thus, hands full of bruises. That is totally a Mike Factor. Mom couldn’t resist giving Mat Ham Bat and other characters more color by sprinkling them with such quirks based on real-life observations.

Okay, it’s time for our nap now!

Belle and Mike

 

 

Heaven’s Wait Theme: The First Piece of Music

Heaven’s Wait Theme: The First Piece of Music

Allow me to tell you about the origin of HW’s first piece of music, Heaven’s Wait Theme.

Once the fantasy world of Heaven’s Wait had an established name, an idea entered my mind that this world should have a theme song.

I started tinkering on my piano, and the initial melody for the song came to me in bits and pieces. The song, which would establish the initial mood for the fantasy world, needed to be something that portrayed grandeur, a sense of the faraway and mysterious, and a heaven-like essence. I wanted the song to sound somewhat classical yet a little otherworldly. I had no idea how to achieve the treatment I desired.

The melody progressed nicely, and I was able to jot down a simple accompaniment. But writing the notes was a grueling task, because I wasn’t skilled enough to do it efficiently and accurately. I trudged along writing one note at a time, losing parts of the song as the notes traveled from my head to the sheet music. I didn’t know much about the chord progressions, and I certainly didn’t know which instruments to use for the mood I was after. At that point, I was simply happy that the melody sounded lovely to me.

Enter Aki Ross! I found it somewhat hard to expose my elementary work to someone who obviously knew so much about the world of music. It had been just as hard for me to send the first draft of my Heaven’s Wait manuscript to my professional story consultant, Brad Schreiber, many years ago. Back then, the fear of failure had been overwhelming. And I did fail miserably time and again until I learned some valuable writing skills and wrote numerous revisions. By the time Aki entered the picture, I had overcome the fear of criticism, and I welcomed his suggestions with open arms. I was still a little shy about the exposure, but I knew that anything he had to offer would do nothing but make it better than it was. And “better” was something I was eager to embrace.

Aki was full of ideas and suggestions. He took the piece and dug into the orchestration. It was our first time working together, and it was during the 2021 winter of COVID distancing. We passed the files back and forth and had a few Zoom meetings along the way. We discussed the progress and made sure the process was working for us. This was new territory for both of us. I was amazed by his ability to transform my simple work into something I think is now beautiful and something we’re both proud of. Please enjoy the completed Heaven’s Wait Theme. B

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The Evolution of the Vowellans

The Evolution of the Vowellans

It’s hard to believe, but the quirky, unpredictable Vowellans of Heaven’s Wait originated within the pages of a remedial reading workbook that I self-published way back in 1981. I used the workbook to tutor struggling primary students, and I sold it to local bookstores.

While developing the project, I named the five main characters of the simple stories within the workbook San Ham Bat, Lek Net Pet (surname later became Net Ken), Kip Fig Wig, Mok Fog Bob, and Dun Rug Bum. I assigned their names as mere examples of the five short vowel sounds: a, e, i, o, and u. I also heavily embedded these sounds within the simple stories to reinforce the usage of the short vowels. For example, San Ham Bat wore hats, carried bags, ate ants, slept in pans, and kept pet cats. His dad’s name was Mat, and his mom’s name was Lan. These other characters had similar traits based on their short vowel sounds.

Below are some examples of the original illustrations for the workbook, drawn by a high school student by the name of Jon Gudmundsson. He attended Kennedy High School in Richmond, CA, where my husband, Mike, was a student counselor.

Original Kip, Sil, and Mok

Original Kip, Sil, and Mok

Original Dun and San

Original Dun and San

Original Dr. Jon and Mok

Original Dr. Jon and Mok

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I abandoned the workbook after the passing of my dad in 1984 and pursued other interests. In 2006, I came up with the idea of writing some little life-lesson stories, not only for fun, but to leave to my family as a sort of legacy. I realized I could resurrect the characters from my remedial reading workbook, leave the phonics lessons behind, and embellish the simple stories to make them whatever I wanted.

The simple stories grew, as did the characters’ personalities. Before long, the five original characters took on lives of their own. Suddenly, they had families and stories to tell within their own “clans,” as they came to be known. There were so many places to take these characters, as many as my imagination would allow. I found a multitude of interactions that were waiting to become stories, and I dove into the project head first. Since I had already established the vowel-based pattern, I named the collective inhabitants of their world The Vowellans and their little hidden community Vowella Valley.

I thought you might also like to see the visual progression of the illustrations for the central character amongst the Vowellans, 15-year-old Mok Fog Bob. He’s had a fascinating and transformative journey in Vowella.

Original Mok by Jon Gudmundsson

Original Mok by Jon Gudmundsson

Barb's illustration in a home design program

Barbara’s digital illustration of Mok in a home design program

Mok by Michael Trujillo for 1st Edition of Innocents

Mok by Michael Trujillo for 1st Edition of Innocents

Current Mok Fog Bob by Julia Semionova

Current Mok Fog Bob by Julia Semionova

Today’s Vowellans are a colorful, animated bunch, full of fun, mischief, troubles, and real relationships. They are characters on a mission to find their true calling. I think you will find them endearing, interesting folks. Their adventures are chronicled in my new 4-part Book Series, Heaven’s Wait! Tales from Vowella. Find links to the books in the footer of this page to fully enjoy the Vowellans’ stories.

If you would like to receive alerts for future posts like this, I invite you to complete the email form in the footer. That way, you’ll know when I’ve posted something new, which is usually on Saturday mornings. B