Monday, August 31, 2009

Musing on a scene

The world ended at the horizon, a fact drawn in detail on maps that piled high and vexed librarians who had run out of drawer space.
But small ships, lured by curiosity or fate, sailed like lemmings day after day into that unknown. If they ever returned, there is no record. But it's whispered that they must have sailed right into an ocean of clouds, the air-borne sea at earth's end.
Sometimes there were gales, and other days the wind was but a breeze, gently puffing out the sails and ruffling the silvery water with naught but ripples.
Into this pewter realm the mortal seafarers squinted their eyes into the glare and licked salt from their lips, intent only upon the mystery.
This is an eerie photo I took into the sun's glare. If you imagine another tiny tale, share, please!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Babes in bookland

Okay. My last post is Important. Yes, upper case Important, and I hope you read it. But sometimes we gotta laugh 'til we cry. So with that in mind, check out the Kindle vs Book wars. *wipes eyes*

Ladies (and gents), mark your calendars

Two days ago was a significant date. It marked the 89th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That means next Aug. 26 will be the 90th year since the right of women to vote was finally won. It is shocking to realize there are women alive today who were born when that right did not exist and that there are women and girls alive today who do not know what that victory cost.
I celebrated, if that is an appropriate word, by watching "Iron Jawed Angels" on DVD. The 2004 HBO film tells a little-known story of activists in the suffrage movement who were imprisoned for "obstructing traffic" when they stood silently in front of the White House with banners. It was a non-violent protest and didn't break any laws of the time, but they were sentenced to sixty days in the Occoquan Workhouse where one was hung by her wrists and some were brutally force-fed.
The film was directed by Katja von Garnier and stars Hilary Swank as activist Alice Paul, Frances O'Connor as her friend Lucy Burns, Julia Ormond as labor lawyer Inez Milholland and Angelica Huston as an older and more conservative suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt. Swank was nominated for SAG and Golden Globe awards, and Huston won a Golden Globe.
PEN USA honored the film's writers--Sally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick Singer, Raymond Singer and Jennifer Friedes-- for best screenplay in teleplay category. The judges called it a "bold chance taken."
My friend, Lynette, recommended the movie to me and I'm passing that along to you and your daughters who are old enough to handle the rough parts. And I'd like to suggest that we all consider how we might celebrate next year. Some things need to be remembered.
For anyone interested, the League of Women Voters and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority are raising funds for the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial near the site of the Occoquan Workhouse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A jolt of raw fear

Kathleen Duey should get a Courageous Author award for writing a novel on Twitter. "What? How can a novel be written in 140-character bursts?" you may well exclaim. But, trust me, it's a grand and wonderful experiment that works.

Duey's written more than 70 books and been a National Book Award finalist, so this is no newbie gimmick. But she can be unconventional, and she chose to tell SKIN HUNGER and SACRED SCARS, the first two books in The Resurrection of Magic trilogy in alternating POVs with the characters centuries apart--one in first person, the other in third. These dark, cryptic tales enthrall me.

But it's what she's doing on Twitter that has knocked my socks off and sent them into the stratosphere. How many of us would commit to writing a novel in tweeted lines, real time, unrevised for all the world to see? Yikes.

Duey has said she did it after speaking at a conference and realizing she wanted a challenge that scared her, gave her a jolt of raw fear. She also realized she had a Twitter account she barely used. Putting the two together propelled her to a place few of us would dare tread. She says of her main character: He talks. I type.

I began reading RUSSET: ONE WING out of curiosity, nothing more. I didn't expect anything of real depth or cohesion. Boy, was I wrong. There was enough scene-setting and character development to settle me in and then I became increasing riveted by the story and concerned for Russet. The possibilities still ahead in this unfinished story are fascinating to imagine.

Duey begins by having Russet tell us he can't ever go back but first he has to find a blanket.

Right away, we know the kid is in trouble, alone and cold. By the fourth tweet, someone is following him. By the eighth entry, he mentions a mysterious letter, unopened, in his pocket, and by the ninth tweet, we know it's from his equally-mysterious missing father.

As a guest blogger on Cynthia Leitich Smith's site, Duey explains the steps that brought her to write Russet: One Wing, establishing its own blog. She's made chapter headings on the blog for the collection of already-written tweets. The story is ongoing on Twitter here. For more about Duey and the process, check her blog.

So how about you? Would you write a novel on Twitter? Would you read it? How far are you willing to push your writing comfort zone?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Go fly a kite

Hi! *waves happily at blogging friends* Bug kite, how cute is that?

I just need to grin at kites and try to let the last few days float away, let the breezes carry them into the heavens. You probably didn't notice but after I survived the Property Management Horror Show of my last post, I lost my internet for two days. Harumph. But the Lovely Mr. Phone Fix-it Man figured out it was just the power adapter for the modem and now, knock-knock-knock on wood, it's all better.

And, after I float for a bit, I will turn my thoughts back to my WIP, which has been sinfully neglected, and also come up with something more substantial for my blog. But isn't it fun to just reach for the sky now and then?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Award deja vu

I've been gone two days, which I will describe in most hideous detail, but for now I get to say "Thank you, guys, for making my homecoming bright!" Yes, more awards have been bestowed upon this fledgling blog. They are oddly familiar since I received both previously. However, this time they came in a virtual shower!
I must thank Michelle McLean, Rick Daley and Abby Annis for each nominating me for the Kreativ Blogger. And Robyn Campbell honors me with the Humane Award. Whew!
All these people are awesome bloggers, so check 'em out.

I'm supposed to tell stuff about me, and I've decided to tell you about my two days in an alternate universe. I went to my mother's and noticed her message phone was dead, her lights were flickering, her TV was snapping off every few moments and the refrigerator was gasping. After I took her for a doctor's appointment, I called the property management people responsible for things like faulty electricity. They said someone would come around but I could call Edison, too, if I pleased. I called Edison. A little later Lovely Mr. Edison Man appeared. (No Lovely Property Management Man was seen at all).

Me: So glad to see you. The problem is happening in three other condos in this building, too.
Lovely Mr. Edison Man: I will check it out. *checks it out*
Lovely Mr. Edison Man: I have found the problem. I need a maintenance person from property management to meet me so we can fix it. Can you call?
Me: *dials* Hello? The Edison man has found the problem. We need you to send someone out.
Property Management Phone Answering Person: We can't do that. It's after 4 p.m.
Me: Huh?
Property Management Phone Answering Person: We don't have personnel after 4 p.m. We can send someone between 7:30 and noon tomorrow.
Me: But the Edison man has found the problem and nobody has electricity and the lady upstairs can't cook and is almost crying and the food will spoil and it's only a few minutes after 4.
Property Management Phone Answering Person: That's how it is. Edison can meet with someone in the morning.
Me: But he's here now. This is ridiculous. It's absurd. I can't believe you do business this way. (I may have said some other words)

Property Management Phone Answering Person: Someone will come in the morning.

Lovely Mr. Edison Man: We have a swing shift. How can they not have one? *shows me the broken bolt that needs to be fixed and leaves*

(I take my mother to dinner. We can't cook, watch TV or read. Next morning I prowl around until Property Management Maintenance Man arrives)

Property Management Maintenance Man: *opens the box* This is Edison's problem, not ours.

Me: The man from Edison tried to get one of you out yesterday. Someone has to fix this. All the food is spoiling. This is ridiculous.

Maintenance Man: I have to go on another job. Call when Edison comes back.

Me: *more choice words*

(Later, all parties meet and fix the problem. I empty five bags of ruined food from the freezer and show them to Maintenance Man.)

Maintenance Man: Want me to throw them away for you?

Me: No, thanks. I'm going to take them to the management office.

(I load my car with soggy frozen dinners and leaking ice cream containers)

Me: *carry bags into the spiffy lobby and up to receptionist desk* I'd like to see a manager, please. (poor lady looks at my bags) Yes, I know it is odd to bring ruined groceries in your lobby but I'm here to make a point.
Receptionist: No one is answering. I can give you a phone number, if you'd like to call later.
Me: No, I think I'll wait.
Receptionist: I'll try someone else. Okay, someone will be out.
The manager gawks at my leaking grocery bags, listens to my tale, says she'll take it up with staff. She even writes my name and phone number down. I leave her with the groceries.

You probably didn't want to know all that, but now you know I'm dang tenacious. And next, I write The Letter to the Board.

Now we come to the part of awards where I'm supposed to nominate a certain number of people and tell them the rules. I'm funny about rules, so my solution is to name some cool blogs here and invite you to read them if you haven't. The named bloggers may accept the award and put it on their site and play by the rules or not. Everyone gets to be creative.
Andrea Cremer at A Blurred History
PJ Hoover at Roots in Myth
That's all, folks. Thanks, and good-night.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What the fates allow

fate 1: the principle or determining cause or will by which things in general are supposed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do: destiny 2: whatever is destined or decreed 3: final outcome 4: the three goddesses of classical mythology who determine the course of human life - Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

This painting, "The Three Fates," by contemporary artist Katrin Wiese hangs in my living room. Wiese paints in narrative, often inventing characters and strange worlds. Here, she interpreted mythology. I bought it for its power and the whimsy of Clotho's hair made into a sail and her hands held in the energy flow of yoga mudras as she spins the thread of life. Note the bounty of a bowl of berries at Lachesis' elbow and her hand on the tiller. And the way Atropos, shrinks behind with her shears, prepared to cut the thread of some poor soul. But even so, flowers float on the water and there is a sense of beauty and purpose in the ebb-and-flow of life.

I plan to spotlight artworks on this blog from time-to-time, and at this moment I'm drawn to the Fates. I suddenly remembered a fairytale I started to write sometime ago about a girl who is destined to fall again and again from high places. The princess goes to find the Fates and ask why this is her lot, beginning with a power-hungry uncle who tossed her from the top of a tower. Unfortunately for him, she survived with just a scratch.

She finds the Fates on a mountaintop. They are surrounded by skeins of yarn in every color imaginable. Great tapestries billow in the wind, swirling with images.

"Why is my lot to fall?" The Princess sees no point in mincing words.

Clothos, her hair glittering with sunlight, barely glances from her spinning. "Into every life rain must fall."

"Without rain, no growth." Lachesis measures the lengths of yarn.

"Fine. It must rain, but I don't see why it must be a cyclone or a flood. And what's that got to do with me falling?"

"We came on the day of your birth and foresaw what your uncle would do. It may have been the early end of you, but you burned with such courage and resilience, it seemed to us you should bounce instead of break. And so it is." Atropos squinted out of rheumy eyes and pointed a gnarled finger at the Princess.

"I spend a lot of time falling." The Princess tapped her foot with impatience.

"Every gift has its price."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How about you?

I watched the Irish comedy "How About You" on DVD the other day and was enchanted. Nothing earth-shaking, gut-wrenching or ground-breaking, just eccentric characters with a touch of normal-life suspense. Would the old-folks home be closed? Could people change and make their world a better place or were they destined to remain bitter and cranky? (Heads-up for folks with kids, there is pot-smoking.)
The movie title and theme comes from the catchy song written by Ralph Freed and Burton Lane for "Babes on Broadway," starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. I'm sure you all have heard the memorable lines, "I like New York in June, how about you? I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?"
So let's have some getting-to-know-you fun and write our own lines. Here are some from me:
I like suspenseful tales, how about you? I like a tall ship's sails, how about you?..I like shooting stars at night and a vampire's flight; I like the smell of trees and honey of bees; October skies and pecan pies; marks in the sand and a roadhouse band---how about you?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Writers helping writers Part Two

I seemed to have raised questions in my last post about haiku, so here is clarification (I hope!).
The original 5-7-5 line count is unique to the Japanese language. English haiku usually is short-long-short up to 17 syllables. The important points are that it is nature oriented and a single heightened moment happening in present time. Senryu is the form depicting human nature.
Each word is carefully selected and is not a run-on sentence, nor padded for syllable count.
Anyone really interested may want to read Modern Haiku, Simply Haiku and Shadow Poetry. I'm no expert, just a fan.

Writers helping writers

When I was little I wrote playlets and staged them--sort of. As a teenager I wrote poetry of pain. But my first published writing was haiku, and for that, I thank Lorraine Ellis Harr.

Ms. Harr was a haiku author and editor who promoted the Japanese artform, founding the Western World Haiku Society. She passed away March 3, 2006 at 93.

The first time I sent a submission to her Dragonfly Quarterly she sent back guidelines, which listed the "isn'ts" of haiku. It isn't a prose sentence divided in 5-7-5 syllables or padded with modifiers. It isn't an intellectual statement, a pretty picture, a moral judgment. But it is heightened awareness, Zen-like being in the moment.

Ms. Harr not only reached out to every submitter with this list, she wrote personal notes. She showed me how I had written "quickly the fog came" in Western-style, while in haiku it would be "a sudden fog."

I shall forever be grateful for her helping hand and the further understanding and love she gave me for haiku.

Here are a few haiku of mine she published in Dragonfly:

A gust of wind:

the recently beaded branch

--bare again.

Searing sun...

and now the parchment flaking

of the manzanita.

A sudden fog

covers the fading moon

--gray dawn.

And I was pleased to be a runner-up in one of her contests with this:

New Year's morning:

ice in the bucket...wedge of geese

breaking the silence.

Any writer can benefit from being in the moment, by putting into words a small slice of life. Did another writer help you see more clearly, reach out a helping hand in an unforgettable way?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gardens of my mind

A friend asked me to water her garden whilst she camps at a seaside park, wandering the shore, watching for dolphins and breathing in the salty, moisture-heavy air. We live in an arid zone where plants would turn brown and crisp quickly without a hose gushing into pots and trickling into the ground. It's a pleasure for me since I am currently garden-less. I love green. I adore trees. I am a nut about fruits and vegetables bursting forth.

As a bonus I got to eat a handful of those little tomato gems, which surely have been touched by the Flavor Fairy's wand. They do not seem to be from the same planet as supermarket tomatoes. There is a sci-fi story in there somewhere.

All of which leads me to writing. I was bummed to miss the SCBWI conference in LA this weekend but have come to realize I have an abundance of inspiration around me--from the mini-world of a garden to the enormous reach of the internet.

Lady Glamis has been posting a superb series on mapping your novel. I am not a outline whiz and fall straight to sleep if faced with making a list that involves Roman numerals. I like to write as if possessed by a story, to let the characters lead me on a merry dance, to submerge myself deep in the enchantment.

I must do a weird tangent thingie here and thrust in one of my favorite anecdotes from Neil Gaiman. He said in a blog post that he was traveling with his daughter after the death of his father and when the plane landed, she interrupted his writing to tell him it was time to get off. He said: 'But I want to find out what happens next.' If that isn't going deep, what is?

Back to my taskmistress the lovely Lady Glamis. I have decided that my Mr. Toad's Wild Ride writing needs me to examine its structure, to map its arc, to study each scene's tension. Since I have her great suggestions, I have something to start with but it's still going to be daunting when facing a 300-page story.

Therefore, I'm announcing that I'm starting today, in lieu of conference. I could have done that without a peep, or told a writing buddy, but if I stand on my mini-platform and shout it out to any who read this, I feel like I'm making a commitment, a goal. And I honor those.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rotting flesh and plum blossoms

Angela and Becca are serving up a loathsomely lovely contest at The Bookshelf Muse. Just write some zombie haiku and maybe win a most awesome prize. I'm not telling what. You have to look for yourself.
This is the sort of contest you can sink your teeth into, really rip into it and decimate the competition. Or you could go for an odd juxtaposition of plum blossoms and rotting flesh. I'm just saying this throws the door of opportunity off its hinges.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Testing the Teaser

Being slow on the uptake, I notice today that several bloggers are posting little snippets of WIP and call it Teaser Tuesday. So why not continue my challenge-taking of late? This is from the first chapter of a YA fantasy in which the king has summoned Fiona and other sixteen-year-old girls to consider their futures. Fiona is accompanied by her only relative, her great aunt:

“Lady Celia,” the king said without taking his stone-gray eyes from Fiona, “it has not escaped me that your young charge has unusual occurrences around her, whether it’s the way she can calm the most wild-eyed horse or whether it’s the more mysterious issue of what she has done with her little songs.”
Neither Fiona nor her great-aunt moved or spoke. Fiona’s heart pounded so violently she thought the whole room must hear it.
“Did you think I would not notice a slip of a child standing alone on a freezing morning singing to the bare cherry trees? Did you think I was blind to pink blossoms bursting on the barren limbs, or deaf to people running out of the castle, exclaiming that spring had come early? But the flowers turned to ice, and you grabbed Fiona’s arm, scolding. Some may have thought it a miracle or aberration. I believe it was the girl.”
Lady Celia stirred, a jerky movement, and her voice came out cracked, “Sire, her silly singing at inappropriate times and places has long plagued me. It is a nuisance for which she has been punished.” Her voice gathered more of its usual assurance as she added, “I regret if it has caused you any disturbance. I can send her to a friend in the country until she learns her manners.”
The king laughed, but it was not a pleasant sound. “I’m not talking about manners, Lady Celia. The girl has magic, and no one may do magic without my command.”

Monday, August 3, 2009

I'd like to thank all my English teachers

I've been blogging just three months--92 days, to be exact. So it's very cool that two other bloggers I admire gave me two different awards whilst toddler-me is still dropping cookie crumbs and falling on my rump in cyberspace.

Andrea Cremer of A Blurred History, who takes her readers on adventures to the British Library and Scotland and the jungle outside her door, has nominated me for the Humane Award. It's very vibrant and makes me feel like packing my travel bags.

Bish Denham at Random Thoughts nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award. It is lovely, just like her stories of growing up on a Caribbean island.

Kreativity requires spilling personal beans so here are tidbits from my cupboard: I sometimes paint watercolors of dreams. I once passed the legendary Orient Express while riding a train from Prague to Vienna to Venice. A moose came within a few feet of running me over in Yellowstone. I still have a photo I took of a bear just before it knocked my father's eyeglasses off (he was okay). I crave dark chocolate and dark stories. I think I've always been myopic because I like to look inward. I describe the way I see the world as Impressionistic--not realistic detail but wild swirls of color and emotion.

Now comes the part where I am supposed to nominate others. And here comes the part where I reveal one more thing about me. I break rules. I color outside the lines. I laugh for hours over Edward Gorey. I am hopelessly unable to nominate anybody and tell them what to do. So, I offer a free-for-all. If any blogger who visits me, which makes them totally award-worthy, would like to be recipient of one of these cool awards, you can put a comment on this post or email me. I adore all my blogging friends and want to spread the love.