Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To the moon but still on Earth

No, I haven't gone to the moon, but it feels like a million miles from life's troubles, at least for a little while.

I'm on vacation in San Clemente where wondrous things pop out of the ocean when the tide is low, like rocks covered in patterns and tiny creatures.


Is there a face in this hunk of stone?


Definitely, a face on this one.


This isn't a tall cliff. Just a small rock shot from low vantage point.

I love the way my mind sees miniature worlds within the rocks of this tide pool area.


Tons of sea life spend most of the time submerged where we don't see them. But when the tide pulls out, they are exposed. What are their lives like?


old man egret waits,

shoulders hunched, watching for his

sunset dinner


A couple finds a rocky perch as the tide begins to flow back in and the sun sinks into the sea.

I found wonder and peace roaming the beach. I also have read through more than half of my 80,000-word manuscript as I start editing and finding the right ending for the fairy tale I've been working on more than a year.

As you know, I've been sidetracked by some serious life issues, but this small vacation is lifting my spirits and hope to high levels. This is a working vacation of the best kind.

I'll still be absent a lot from the blog world. My best to all. (Sorry for the weird spacing. Blogger wonkiness)


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Finding solace & haiku

Oh, the aloe is on fire! Isn't this one a show-stopper? Just around the corner from our house in Venice is a gorgeous, Craftsman-style house, surrounded by aloes. The home belonged to the late Jerry Leiber, who wrote the lyrics for classic hits like "Hound Dog," Jailhouse Rock," "Kansas City," "Smokey Joe's Cafe" and tons more.

When he was still living, I was delighted to see him at the grand piano when I strolled past one day.

Walking, photographing and musing are some of my favorite things to do as you no doubt have noticed on this blog.



You've probably also noticed how often I post beach photos. I can't help myself. Walking along shorelines is one of the places I find solace. I love the murmur of small tides, the rush of booming high surf, watching kids race in or surfers tear up a wave.

And then there are the things I find. This time it's just the way the late afternoon light was shining through a piece of kelp.


sliver of stained glass

caught by the descending sun--

window to the sea



Finally, I may be absent a lot in coming weeks. My mother broke her hip and isn't responding quickly to rehab. I not only need to keep an eye on her, but I may need to find long-term care, which is daunting. Meanwhile, I have a week vacation coming, luckily near where she is, so I will be trying to work on my manuscript, as well.

As soon as things settle down, I'll post less sporadically and come visiting you, as well. In the meantime, I wish you all well in writing, publishing or wherever you are at the moment. Peace.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Watch where you step

I'm much better this week and attended one of my critique groups yesterday. A discussion arose that I'd like to continue here.

My illustration is a stingray I found on the beach. Even out of the water, these poisonous creatures blend in to the background. Stingrays don't go out of their way to strike people with those venomous glands on their barbed tails. But if you step on one, you'll likely get stung.

This discussion has nothing to do with sea creatures. It's about stepping into trouble as a writer, especially if we write for middle grade through YA. We need to be alert, as we wade into our stories, about a lot more than plot, character development, pacing and grammar.

Because behind every story is a message, even if it's as basic as find-your-inner-strength-and- survive. The thing is, when you write for kids, any message may have a huge impact, even more than it does on an adult reader.

I want to be clear that I'm not saying we should be turning novels into platforms for a message, but there is no way to write an engaging story, with any depth, that doesn't have life experiences that lead to character growth, and, therefore, to a message of sorts.

This discussion is about abuse--whether it's parental alcoholism or drug use, a pedophile or a date-rapist--and how a writer deals with it in story. I'm not opposed to these topics. In fact, I was livid when there was a move to ban Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK, which is a tastefully written, harrowing tale about the fallout to a teen-age girl who is raped.

Kids need these kind of stories available to them, especially if it helps them deal with a situation already happening, let's them know they are not alone and that they aren't a bad person because something bad has happened to them.

They know a whole lot more about bad stuff than parents realize. What they need is guidance in processing that information. This can come through parents who have good communication with their children, through other trusted adults, or through books that don't hide the bad but show how to survive it.

That leads to the next part of the discussion. Dealing with it doesn't mean the author has to kill off the bad guys. We all know that lots of times in real life they get away and justice is not achieved. This is particularly true in historical fiction where the judicial system may have been weighted against the victim.

So what to do? I believe the answer lies in the personal growth of the protagonist, that somehow even if justice is thwarted, the protagonist learns an important thing and is now stronger and more able to avoid or survive bad things when they come.

Without that the story is too bleak, hopeless, and no kid needs that. In fact, I think the reason YA and middle grade stories have become so popular with adult readers is that there is usually that sense of hope.

This was a bit of a ramble. I'd like to know if you've given this topic consideration and what you think. Any books you think work particularly well?


P.S. I'm afraid my desire for discussion is on hold. My mother had to go in the hospital and I'm on the way there. Not sure how long I'll be gone. I'd still appreciate comments, but I may not respond right away. Thank you for reading, anyway.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Time out

This is what I'm going to do--watch my Buffy DVDs for hours on end. You see, I've been sick and I want to be somewhere I love.

I've been lucky to rarely get colds or flu, but I've caught some bug that has laid me up. I've already watched some Supernatural, Doctor Who and Cowboys and Aliens. All fine, but now I want Sunnydale's demons and angels and witty, kick-butt heroines.

Forgive, please, my lack of presence on blogs and Twitter for a bit. See you soon.

(P.S. I had to come back an edit out a typo. In original post I wrote Sunnyvale. Sigh. My brain's been scrambled, but it's coming slowly back--hence the noticing of the mistake...)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Frankie's No-Kiss fest

I just entered the No-Kiss Blogfest hosted by Frankie Diane Mallis. I thought I'd pass this year, but it's too fun! From its title, you probably get the idea--some sizzling moment that doesn't result in a kiss.

Since I decided to enter moments ago, this is super-fast. I lifted a short scene from a high fantasy novel that is shelved. (painting by Renoir) Hope it tantalizes:

The two men carried Samuel, who was limp as dough, out of the room. Fiona stared at the fire awhile, then stood, stretched, and wandered around out of curiosity. A tapestry covered one wall. It was faded and thread worn, but she admired the skill of the artist who created a lush forest. In its background were snow-peaked mountains, above which circled large birds.

On a side table was a small box with exquisite enameled roses on its lid. Fiona opened it and smiled when it began to play tinkling music. She started to dance by herself, to spin in exuberance, and immediately collided into Brendan, who had returned so quietly she had not heard him come up behind her. She reached out to shut the box, mortified.

“No, leave it open. This music is made for dancing.” He bowed slightly from the waist and held a hand out to her. She was astonished but took it, like any well-bred woman.

He pulled her close, closer than she had ever danced with a man. She could feel the warmth of his body and his breath against her unbound hair. Her heart fluttered. Her cheeks flushed. In fact, heat seemed to spread throughout her.

“You smell like lavender. My favorite,” he said softly. Did his lips brush her ear? He drew her so near she thought a feather would scarce fit between them.

They glided across the gleaming oak floor, again and again. He finally whirled her to a stop next to the music box and shut its lid.


That's all, folks. Hope you're stepping lively in 2012!