Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In Defense of Mentors

My writer's group has been working through the Hero's Journey in our discussions. Last week we talked about the mentor character, and several people lamented that the Mentor always withholds essential information.

Having had some experience writing mentors lately, I have to step up and defend the mentors from unfair villification.

The mentor seems like he or she knows everything because he has to. After all, the secret to leadership is to act like you know what is going on at all times, even if you don't, but not to commit to anything unless you have good information. So, mentors come across as irriatating know-it-all's, but that is often not the case.

I feel sorry for the mentor, actually. Think of all the responsibility. Not just the burden for developing the hero from  hapless youth with unmet potential into a the defender of truth and goodness, but quite often the responsibility for keeping the whole realm from falling apart until he is ready to save it. Mentors must get very little sleep. Like anxious mothers, surely they hide their own fears until the wee hours of the night when no one else can see them weep and rail, then act like a wall of strength when the sun comes up or the monster awakens to threaten their young.

Mentors also get sacrificed in the middle of the plot, because the Hero has to do it by himself. So, off with Obi-Wan's head! Into the abyss with Gandalf! Thanks for everything, but your usefulness has ended and it is time to be replaced.

Sort of like the professional world, now that I think about it. (!)

Anyway... Be kind to Mentors. Remember that they, too, are struggling to fulfill their potential.

Heroes and Heroines, recall that one day soon you may well be in their shoes, and that you, too, might be cast into the abyss to make room for the next generation.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

Okay, everyone, it's time for a Sunday Snapshot! Post the last paragraph or several lines of dialogue that you wrote.

It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours.


Here's mine, written on the incredibly low-tech 3"x5" memo pad I found in my purse while sitting at the natural history museum waiting for my son yesterday.

----------------

She left him dripping and went inside for a couple of beach towels from the laundry room off the kitchen.

Callan knows Velyan? What the hell is he doing here? Stalking me?  She came back out and handed the towels around the shower door.

"Come in the kitchen when you're ready."

"Thanks." His voice was low, rough. As if he didn't use it much.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

I didn't do a Sunday Snapshot yesterday because I hadn't written anything and I wanted to make myself write something other than story threads.  But... I did all my writing on the internet this weekend.

I decided to stop feeling so bad about that. It's writing. It may not be publishable, but it keeps the old juices flowing. So this is the last thing I wrote.  How about you? Post in the comments.

It doesn't have to perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours!


--------------------------------------
Ginger said...

(waits at the glass wall, looking outside at the whirling snow. bent figures hurry from the parking lot towards the building for the next exam period.

her vision seems to shift and she sees what she saw last night, only somewhat clearer: black trails like snakes or curls of smoke following people on the ground.

yet her magic rises against no unusual or particular threat. the people seem to suffer nothing worse than the usual stress of finals. she can perceive something else as well: something brighter than the snow, darting quickly down and attacking the snakes. it reminds her of the flashes of light from the gryphons in Belhanor. the snakes die or coil to strike back and they both disappear. she isn't sure who won.

the whole shifting three-in-one world of light and darkness and people blends together and blows in the door with a gust of cold wind as someone opens it. she realizes this is happening all the time. she's just never noticed it before.

snowflakes spatter her face and she flinches as if it were shrapnel.

when she opens her eyes again the vision is gone.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Off the Path


My dear friend and writing partner, Betsy Dornbusch, has a post up at her blog on finding your own path. Now, if you know me at all you may be a little surprised when you read her post that we are friends... but we are. It is a testimony to the depth and richness of the creative life that not only do we write together, we write together really well! At least, I think so.

Anyway, her post made me think about just how far off track I've gotten lately. As I said in my comment on her blog,

"I am so far off my own path right now I might as well be in China. I don't even know myself any more, and I don't know if it's my poor work/sleep habits, the meds I'm on, or my complete lack of religious life lately. But I gotta find me again somehow."

To show how sidetracked I've gotten, I searched through my archives for this little tidbit I wrote back in 2006, when I was just starting to write again after a decade-long haitus. My son was little and I was struggling to stay on top of things as a SAHM and Mothers of Preschoolers group leader. I was very close to the Lord, which was one of the blessings that comes with being in ministry and not having to work outside the home.

Here is the piece. I want to find this Christine again. Not that I want to be in the same place I was then, but I want my heart to be in the same state of tender obedience.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Stand and Wait


In Greek mythology there is a character named Sisyphus who was punished by the gods.  His punishment was to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a mountain each day, only to have it roll back down again at night.

I can’t help wondering what Sisyphus would rather have been doing with his time and energy.  Perhaps he was a composer, making symphonies in his head that he never could write down.  Or a statesman musing on the problems of Greek society, unable to tell anyone his ideas.  Perhaps he was a philosopher like Socrates, or a poet like Homer.  We’ll never know.

I’ve been identifying a lot with Sisyphus lately.  It seems that this task of being a stay-at-home mom is a boulder I’m pushing day after day, with no time to do anything for myself.  I feel as if my God-given talents are being wasted; that my creative energies are being sacrificed.  Although I know that being a Christian wife and mother is one the greatest things I can do for the Kingdom of God, it feels as if I’m not really doing anything substantial for Him.

There are people who say “Well, if you want to do something, then you just have to make the time to do it.  If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way.”  That’s a fine sentiment, but the ugly truth is that there are only so many hours in the day and I only have so much energy.  If I focus my efforts on something creative, then something else always suffers, and I end up doing damage control with my family or a big push to catch up on my chores.  I know I can’t do it all.

Nevertheless, I am inspired when I recall the words of the great poet, John Milton.  At the end of his life he became blind, and could no longer write down his own poems but had to dictate them to aides.  One of them, titled “On His Blindness” includes the line “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  He was talking about serving God by waiting upon Him, the way a servant does, standing at attention, willing and obedient, until called upon.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Let me just close by adding that whenever I pray about this curse of a creative mind, asking God why he burdened me with it, the Holy Spirit reminds me again that my time is coming. "Just wait."

I have some really good content at my old blog, Christine's Cottage. I may post some "best of" content in the future. There's a lot on there about this book I'm *still* writing.

Is Your Smartphone Making You Look Dumb?

We’ve all seen those really cool commercials where smiling, well-dressed people are using fancy phones while images and words fly into the air above their heads, enhancing the world around them for themselves and all their smiling, well-dressed friends.

But have you ever stopped to think how dumb you actually look standing on a street corner or sitting in your car, ignoring the world around you, with your thumb sliding over your phone?

I got my first smartphone a couple of months ago and instantly succumbed to the crack addiction of my shiny, personalized, electronic little world. I get a physical twitch if I get up to go somewhere and it isn’t in my hand. I love the smoothness of it, the weight of it, the gliding feeling of the screen under my finger.

I do hate the cramping in my fingers from Swyping, and don’t even get me started on the frustrations of trying to use apps – some of which work and some of which don’t – or reading web pages that aren’t mobile enabled. But overall, I’m hooked.

My husband and mother, however, are fed up. They tell me I am acting just like a teenager and they feel it is incredibly rude for me to be constantly checking the thing anywhere we go. I’ve tried to explain that this is What People Do Now, but they don’t get it. They think It’s Rude.

They have a point. I’m trying to cut back on my mobile usage, even to the point of locking the thing where I can’t get at it. I do notice how totally DUMB people with smartphones look when they stand in some public place, head bent to that little electronic rectangle, oblivious to the world passing by.

If we really could see the images and words flicking over their heads it might be a lot cooler. But then, maybe we don’t want to know. There is enough media clutter in our lives already.

Which brings me to my main point: Smartphones have brought overstimulation to a new level. I definitely notice that my brain cannot “wind down” the way it used to. I wake up in the morning to a jolt of regurgitated information from the day before, followed by a wash of guilt for all the things I didn’t do because I was online.

As informed about and connected to others in my field of interest as I think I am now, I am also feeling a strong need need to force myself to unplug and try to find the person I was back when I used my phone to call the people I love and talk to them.

I don’t even recall who she is any more.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Writing Exercise: First thing in the Morning

Here is a little writing exercise to start your day:

Hop on over to "Come in Character" and describe what one of your characters experiences when they wake up. 

First Thing in the Morning

Heck, don't just do one character, do as many as you want!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Structure, Smucture

Tonight I am talking about story structure at my writer's group. The thought that I am giving anyone instruction on writing is a wee bit frightening.

But it is also more than a wee bit sobering. I have been reminded by the preparation for my lesson that the real reason I haven't sent my novel out isn't the writing, it's the plot. I do have a great story. The plot, not so much. It really needs to be pulled apart and put back together again in a very different shape. There are multiple bad spots.

Like I'm putting the characters somewhere, or preventing them from going there, just for my convenience. But it feels fake and I know it is and they know it is and we're all looking at each other going, "This isn't going to work."

They're stomping for their trailers. "Let us know when you've got it worked out."

Truth be told, I'm tired of working on it, but this is the only project I've had for so long, I really don't know what to do with myself. I had another idea thrown out to me that I love, a collaboration, but that person is too busy right now to get started. So I'm going to have to come up with something all by my lonesome.

Sigh. I'm not an idea person. I don't walk around looking at the world as a thousand potential stories. But if you give me a story, I can come up with a thousand potential angles.

How do you come up with stories? And what do you do when you feel burned out on one?

Or does that never happen?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Controlling the Magic

I've really been struggling with this gift / curse of a creative mind. I once said to my husband, "I wonder what it would be like to live in only one world at a time."

His reply was, "Well, you'll never know."

At least he's getting it. Dear man!

In my current project, I'm exploring the concept of magic as something that rises innately within the characters and which they struggle to control. Not a novel idea, I know, but new to me.

Anyway, a funny thought occurred to me as I was musing last night over this puzzle of how to function in the workaday world as a creative soul: What if I think of writing as magic?


What if when I feel that urge, I think of suppressing it as the same kind of skill my characters must learn, and releasing it when called upon, another skill? A whimisical thought, but I'm grasping at anything these days.

What have you, dear fellow bloggers, done to control the muse during your non-writing hours? Please... tell me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A quick, silver cut
Kills hope
Quickening the tide of grief
For story's leaving

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Update

Yeah, so, not so much progress on the editing front. I need to edit something like 4,500 words a day to be done by the end of the month. hahahahahahaha  *gasp* hahahahahaha


But we had a great weekend in North Carolina, looking at possible property to purchase for a future home after my husband retires. Decisions, decisions. How'd you like to wake up in the morning and have this be the view from your bedroom window?


Or how about this one?


Or, we could get a less expensive, wooded lot and just walk up the road a short piece to enjoy the view.


But which to choose?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

It's time for a Sunday Snapshot! I haven't done one of these in ages.

Post an excerpt (100 words or less) of the last thing you wrote. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good... it just has to be yours! Here's mine:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Car accident. If anyone asks, I was in a car accident.” 

Crystal fumbled with her keys at the back door of her Sea Island, New Jersey, cottage.  She dropped them with a clatter on the wooden deck and reached down to pick them up again. Nervous sparks arced between her fingers.  

 “And staticky.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pre-Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month. "NaNoWriMo."  InCaUDiNo. (In case you didn't know.) Every year I lament the fact that I can't start anything new for NaNo because I'm still working on the same book  I started in 2007.

But this year I am going to do it. Which means I have to FINISH  The Golden Gryphon. I have set a deadline for myself of Sept. 30th to finish my revisions. Then I'm going to give it to a couple of beta readers, make a basket of reeds and send my baby out to sink or float on the great river of query slush.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Are you planning to do NaNo this year? How are you preparing for it?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Show Your Villains Some Love

What makes a good villain?  Is it the clothes, the snarky dialogue, the diabolically evil plots? We all know they need motivation and depth. But how deep? How much motivation? Do you develop backstory for your villains as well as for your heros?

Do tell.

-------

The photo above is my favorite villain of all time, the fantastically tortured Brian de Bois-Gilbert of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, portrayed to perfection by the incredibly sexy Ciaran Hinds. I love that man so much, I even recognized him as Aberforth Dumbledore in "The Deathly Hallows, Part II" under all that makeup. It made the movie that much sweeter, knowing he was in it. It's the eyes, oh my God, those eyes! And that slow, rich British cadence to his voice. And that he looks damn fine holding a sword, thank you very much.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Health is the first muse

Health is the first muse, and sleep is the condition to produce it.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is it about writers that we wear our lack of sleep like a badge?  We often write about such young, vigorous characters and yet we ourselves are models of poor health, myself included.

If only I had the energy to caper about as they do. I might if they didn't keep me up so late.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Monster Lily

The "monster lily" (as I call it) bloomed a few weeks ago. I finally downloaded the photos from my camera.  I don't recall the variety. I bought it from a Von Burgondien's fundraiser for my son's school.

It is enormous!!!! I'm awed every year when it makes its fragrant, spectacular appearance. You can see the bedroom window behind it for reference.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

No, I wasn't raptured

I'm just back to work full-time and not blogging. I miss you all.

Here, have a beer on me while you're waiting.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Fond Farewell

It's been a pleasure blogging and sharing with you all the past couple of years. I'm sorry I didn't get to finally finish editing my novel. But since the Rapture is scheduled to take place tomorrow at 6 pm EDT local time, apparently sweeping the globe hour by hour, this will be my last blog post.

I'll see you in Paradise. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying a hot fudge sundae since I'm not sure my heavenly body can tolerate all that fat and sugar!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

Wow, I can't believe it's May 1st. I have officially spent an entire month on the couch recovering from my various infections. I've lost a whole month of my life. But gotten some good rest and co-written.. get this... over 8,300 comments on the story threads at Come In Character.

The good news is that I am finally able to work on my book again, since the visual problems are getting better. (Writing comments on Blogger is a) slow and b) fixed to a static comment box. Scrolling, however, aggravates my dizziness, so I haven't been able to work.)

So for today's Sunday Snapshot here is the last bit of action I revised, towards the end of the novel. Marenya is trying to get to the castle to warn the King of the coming invasion without getting eaten by a demon first. That's my girl!

Feel free to post your own snapshot in the comments, or include a link to it on your blog. Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours!

------------------------------------------
Marenya cantered Durwyn across the open ground. The doricorn’s hooves were sure and her energy boundless. Tor Aden grew bigger and brighter, as did the wide surface of the lake. She was about halfway there when she sensed shadows approaching from the hills. Glancing to her right, she could see a shape like a wisp of smoke being born on a fast breeze, followed by another, and another. Haggiths.

Durwyn sensed them too, and broke into a full gallop. Marenya leaned forward over her mount’s neck, thinking they could outrun them. But when she looked over her shoulder, she saw the first pursuer was gaining a little. She eased the feather out of her sleeve and held it tightly. They were nearing the lake; she could see the water rippling on its surface now. She wished she could ride straight across it for the hill, but made instead for the road curving along the far side. They passed through the town, galloping down empty streets.

At last they gained the highway that circled the lake. The haggiths were flying directly towards them over the water. The Hedgewood rose up before her and she bent Durwyn towards the gates, praying someone would see her coming and open them.
A cold mist chilled her neck as the first haggith swooped over her and flew ahead to block her path. She reined Durwyn in, glancing back to see the two others still approaching from a distance. The first one wheeled and dived at her, talons wide, red eyes blazing, but she was ready for it. She sent the gryphon feather like a dart between its eyes and it fell with a strangled cry to the ground. The two behind her shrieked and banked in the air over the lake, returning the way they had come. They were not accustomed to being challenged.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Radiance

"O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" - I Cor. 15:55

I've never understood the miracle of Easter. It moves me more than Christmas, this ultimate triumph against sin and darkness. It moves me like an earthquake shifts the ground; too great to comprehend, too powerful, too indescribably important to ignore or deny.

That my God, my Savior, should have died for me in such a horrifying, undignified way in order to meet the requirement of a righteous and holy God that the penalty for sin is death... that He suffered separation from the eternal deity and presence of the Father... that He cares for me at all... is incomprehensible.




The Angel Appearing to the Women at the Tomb (window at my church)


Radiance

The light is there, warm and golden
Just beyond my reach
Shaded by the edge of consciousness
It filters through thoughts
And flesh
Tangled regrets
Fears, sorrows binding
Pulling me back into the reek
Of humanity

Oh, don’t slip behind a cloud now!
Hide not your face from me
Let me see it just once unveiled
Shine upon me like glass
Through which the sun’s rays
Show each imperfection
In gilded radiance


- Christine Hardy 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

I haven't been working on my novel much, since I'm not well enough to concentrate that hard and scrolling through the file on my laptop screen gives me a headache. But I did do a little editing yesterday. I thought I should share this scene between Marenya and Faldur (who is NOT dead, despite the fact that I killed him off in the story thread), later in the book.
------------------------
Faldur sank down against a tree and fished out a small ration of pipecherry, filled his pipe and lit it. They had all been in what he called “trail trance” since the previous morning. No one talked; it was too exhausting. It had rained, which made everything first damp, then itchy. A hot bath was the principal thing on his mind at the moment. Only two days and one more night to go.

      Marenya sat a little apart from the hamen, hugging her knees to her chest, eyes closed. He had not asked her yet about all that had happened during her captivity.  He had been too busy, and she seemed unwilling to confide in anyone. He did not like to press her. But he needed to know what they were up against, and exactly how things stood with her. 

      He let her rest for a while, and when he saw her eyes open, went and sat beside her.  There were tears on her cheeks. “What is it?”

      “Nothing. I’m just tired.” She rubbed them away.

      “Please,  I want to know.”

      She studied him, as if gauging whether he was truly concerned or just collecting information from her.  She knew him too well.  “It’s Raynor.  No one knows anything about him, if he’s alive or dead. Nighfala’s gone, and I don’t know if she’s looking for him, or wandering somewhere in the darkness alone. And the erdmelesz are getting closer every moment. Every time I lie down I think I hear them marching through the ground.

     "Is this what it’s like for you all the time?  Because I don’t think I could stand it.  I’m ashamed of myself, but all I want is a warm bed and hot food and strong walls to protect me.”

      He tilted his head. “It’s like this sometimes. But it’s also very often boring. The best times are boring, when nothing is happening and you only have to patrol familiar paths and check on old friends. And drill.”  He smiled reminiscently.  “We’ve had some rowdy contests in the middle of nowhere. You see sunrises no one else sees, and fawns being dropped, and the whole length of the Silverbark River trailing down into the valley. And a certain hawin riding across a meadow, or hanging clothes in the yard with the sun on her bare arms.”

      She looked at him suspiciously. “Are you just saying these things to calm me down?”

      He reached out and drew her to him, and she rested her head against his chest. “I am saying them to calm you down, but they are all true. I have watched you for so long, I can’t imagine not watching you for the rest of my life.”  He smiled ruefully at himself. “I don’t know where all these words are coming from; you have opened up some sort of dam. But the truth is, it hurts so much I’m not sure I can bear it.”

      “Why does it hurt?”

      “I don’t know.”

      She was quiet for a minute, then said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me either. I feel like crying almost all the time.”

      He smoothed her hair. “You’ve been through an ordeal. Heaven gave hawen tears to overcome their demons; we must fight ours.”

      “In other words, we drown our demons, and you conquer them.”

      “Something like that.”

      “Is there no other way?”

      “I can think of one.”

      She tilted her face up, eyeing him quizzically, and he bent his head down and kissed her. He tasted salt, and brushed her tears away with his thumbs, comforting her at the same time he sought to conquer his own demons.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I swear, I didn't know it was "The Cave"!

When I posted last about the song that one of Betsy's characters sang to Marenya - the one that made me dissolve into weeping over my laptop - I didn't know it was "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons. I'd never heard of them until yesterday. Now, of course, I'm playing it over and over.

I think it so cool. Betsy's characters - twins Aidan and Kaelin - have such a raw, gut-ripping dynamic, that just knowing their situation and how it affects Aidan, then throwing in a few well-crafted song lyrics with no music whatsoever in my head, tore my heart out. And the way Betsy did it on the thread was just awesome. (Kaelin is undercover as a rogue demon in order to get close enough to the dominus Lorcan to kill him for torturing Aidan, but Kaelin is losing his soul in the process.)

Marenya is trying very hard to figure out what to do to help Aidan cope with the loss of his twin, and Marc, one of Aidans cousins and sworn guards, sings her a song about them. The really sweet thing is that Marenya doesn't get it that she's in danger. She's only thinking about Aidan because he's so obviously in over his head. She thinks Marc is just being sweet, not that he's her bodyguard. But I guess she'll have to figure it out pretty soon.

As Betsy says, "This is seriously nuts. My stomach's in knots." "These people aren't REAL." (to read the scene, go here and start with Aidan's commment @ 5:45 pm. He is about to speak to Faldur about taking Marenya away from him, and is given a vision of an alternate eternity than being in Hell, which is the destiny of all the demons in Sentinel unless they can defeat the demon Asmodai who made them. The contrast between the two eternities - Aidan and Marenya's - brings home even more poignantly Kaelin's tragic self-destruction for the sake of revenge.

Remember folks, this stuff is not planned! It just kinda happens as we write it. We might say, "Marenya needs to figure out she's in danger" but exactly how it plays out is all spontaneous. With some really funny bumps in the road, too.

(Yes, I know I have to get back to real life soon. As soon as these meds wear off, I'll be my usual business-like self, I promise.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nature of Magic Blogfest

Thanks to Tessa Conte, who prompted me on Facebook to participate!  I would not have wanted to miss this one.  But it has been an absolute hell of a week.  I can't even describe the overlapping, intertwining layers of stress that have converged in the past three days, except to say

"Big Presentation to Entire Company + Severe Cold +  Loss of Voice + Child with stomach virus + No Sleep + First Writer's Conf Ever + Unprepared Pitch = ACK!"

But thankfully, we have magical worlds to escape to.  Here are the instructions:

Write or share something you've already written that, to you, shows the nature of magic. It can be an excerpt from your WIP, something you've written especially, poetry, whatever strikes your fancy. It just needs to show the nature of magic as it exists for you or for those you write about. Unless you're writing poetry, try to keep the entries somewhere between 250-1000 words.

So, here is Marenya's first experience with creating an orb of light.  She can light a fire, which any Hanorja can do, but only the elevja, or magically-gifted royals, can do more sophisticated magic.  Or so she thinks.

* * *

The cavern was dark. Raynor had completely disappeared, taking the light with him. She called out, but her voice was swallowed by the sound of the water. What do I do now? she thought.

Cast a light.

The words came unbidden to her mind. She raised her eyebrows in surprise. Could she do that?

If you can make a fire, you can make a light.

She tried what Raynor had done – opening her hand as if throwing something into the air. Nothing happened. She tried again, but as she did so she thought of fire. Again, nothing happened. Frowning, she thought for a moment, and tried again, this time thinking not of fire but of the yellow sun. To her amazement, a small, bright orb left her hand and floated above her.

Perhaps all of the magic didn’t belong to the kings.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm An Idiot

Argh. I looked at the website for this weekend's conference, to double-check what I needed to have with me, and I realized that the agent I have an appt. with doesn't consider fantasy. I had looked all the info over carefully before registering, but somehow I must have gotten confused.

So I emailed the organizer and asked if she could switch me. I doubt it, but it's worth a shot. In any case, I told her to give my appt. with this person to someone else.

Oh well. What can I say?  At least I made a lot of progress the past month or so.

(tries not to cry)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Snapshot, and an update on my retreat

I had a FANTASTIC weekend "off the grid." I knew we wouldn't have wi-fi, but I wasn't expecting "zero bars" on my cell phone, too.  I got so much done, and feel comfortable about talking to an agent next weekend. I sincerely doubt I will get a request for a partial, but if I do, I'm ready.

I could do this once a month.  It was just so great to be in a cabin with four other writers, doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and writing.  I arrived around 8 pm Friday. It took a while to find the place in the dark.  But the cabin was clean and everything was in good order.  I wrote until 10:30, went to bed, woke up at four-thirty on Saturday morning, wrote all day (except for meals and a long walk) until after midnight, got up at 6:30 Sunday and wrote until 1:30 pm.

Of course there was plenty of comraderie as well, and food.  We used almost an entire can of Melitta coffee in a mere 36 hours!  I'm sure the other campers wondered what cult those strange women belonged to who almost never stirred from their cabin.

And now it's time for the Sunday Snapshot.  Post the last paragraph (or about five lines of dialogue) that you wrote.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  It doesn't even have to be good.  It just has to be yours.

***
“What else did he tell you?”

“He told me,” said Faldur, “not to bring hawen along on missions, because they waste their breath on useless questions.”

“And distract the Captains from their duties,” added Gorrith, who had come up behind them.

“Hush, you idiot!” hissed Marenya, afraid the men would overhear.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

~ C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Character Playdate

Last weekend, we talked a little about the difficulty of keeping things fresh when you've been working on the same thing for a while. I have the solution: Come in Character.

I know I've mentioned the site here before, but last night things went to a whole new level of interaction. I had no idea what it would take to make Faldur totally lose his famous cool, but I found out last night when one of author Betsy Dornbusch's characters developed a little crush on Marenya, and she decided to pursue it.

Well, actually, Marenya has had a crush on Aidan for a long time. It's kind of hard not to, considering he's a beautiful boy demon who has nice manners to boot. She kind of threw herself at him and... well.. you just have to read it.

As Betsy said, this type of thing is like improvisational theatre for writers. I had no idea what was going to happen, just that Marenya was so lonely and desperate for affirmation, she was going to latch onto Aidan no matter what. But she did it in a very gracious, Marenya-like way. She is extremely compassionate, and sensed that he needed her to reach out as badly as she wanted to do it. I didn't feel as if I was writing, but rather channeling these characters I know so well.

The key that makes CIC work is that you have to take your characters out of the carefully constructed environment of their own book. The interactions are spontaneous, and take place entirely via the comments. So it's a great way to build your dialogue skills. It also forces you to think about your character's worldview and setting. For example, mine don't live in the modern world so many things the other characters mention are totally foreign to them. I have to think carefully about what they would say or do in response, as well as how they would explain their own world. By this time, however (it's been what...2 years?) they've picked up some of the jargon and begun to use it themselves.

I do feel a little guilty for spending a couple of hours just playing around, but I know I'm going to dive into my revisions tonight with a new enthusiasm and a much better understanding of who my characters are. I realized that Marenya is not just lonely, but insatiably curious, and that Faldur would do almost anything to avoid a scene.

The other key that makes CIC work: Participation. We can always use more writers who are willing to think outside the box and bring their characters out to play.

So... come on over to Come in Character! You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

Time for the Sunday Snapshot!  Post the very last paragraph (or up to 5 lines of dialogue) that you wrote.  It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours!

Here's mine:

Marenya was shaken from a kind of stupor by a deep, hollow rumbling from under the earth behind them.  Everyone turned to look over their shoulders. A great white column of steam rose up to join the clouds that coated the sky like ice on a frozen pond.  They waited, but nothing else happened other than that the birds flew up from the valley and wheeled south on the wind in one long, trailing mass.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Painfully Familiar

After working on the same book for so long, the characters with whom I was once so rapturously in love have now become like painfully familiar relatives I am reluctant to introduce to society.

 Insert gratuitous Hugh Jackman photo here:

Lost in Revision

"It was so much easier in the first draft."
I am really struggling to come out of the fog here. Final revisions are going nowhere. I'm just so stuck!  Things keep changing, which requires more revision, and I'm getting lost in all the additional emotion and plot complications. Don't get me wrong - both of those things were needed (emotion and plot complication) but I am desperate to finish the manuscript by the 26th.

I don't see how I can possibly do it without help.  My husband is helping today by taking our son out for the day so I can be alone, but the house needs cleaning, we need laundry done, we have no groceries, and I MUST go to the post office before it closes.  I have decided to write for 50 minutes, then do chores for 10 minutes, until they come home.

I need another form of help, too.  I need a few objective readers to look at the first several chapters and tell me if
a) it's crap and
b) I should re-restructure the opening.

So if anyone who reads or writes fantasy is willing to do a quick read and get back to me by mid-next-week, please let me know in the comments.  Thanks.

In the meantime, forget the "Tea, Earl Grey, hot."  I need a double cappuchino pronto!  Good thing my favorite coffee shop is right next to the post office.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blog Encouragement and Sunday Snapshot

Michelle Gregory at Beautiful Chaos (what a fantastic name for a blog!) has generously given me the "Friends for the Journey" award.

She says, "Every one of us in on a journey called life. If we’re fortunate, we find friends along the way who can help us with their words of encouragement, something to laugh over, or a shoulder to cry on. Some friends stay with us for our whole lives, but often, they are with us for only part of the journey. I have friends like these in my life – some I see in person, and some I know via the internet."

Thank you so much Michelle. The feeling is absolutely mutual. I don't know if I would have kept going in the beginning if it hadn't been for your kind, sweet, generous friendship.  And I hope that one day we can get to know each other in person, too.

I am supposed to pass this on to seven other bloggers.  The first person is Kristal Shaff, whom I met through Michelle and who has been a fantastic encourager and critique partner, someone who is tough on me when I need her to be and from whom I've learned a lot.  She also has one of the most unique careers I've ever heard of: Professional Face Painter!

The next person is Donna Hole, who always comments, always supports, and has that dry, cutting humor that so often makes me laugh.

Another person I'd like to pass this on to is Laura Martone, the perky blogging diva at Laura's Simple Pleasures and Come in Character, and author of Ruby Hollow.  Thank you so much for your steady support and encouragement, Laura, and all the fun we've had along the way with our characters.

 I must include Jessica Bell, the Alliterative Allomorph, who always is so encouraging on both Blogger and Facebook;

Krista at Literary Debauchery - I can't tell you how much I appreciate all you do for our writer's group and the personal encouragement you've given me;

Elaine Smith at Wordsmithing (whom I met at Come In Character, through our characters) - I hope we can meet in person some day, too. You are so good for my writing soul!

Last, but not least, is Betsy Dornbusch, aka Sex Scenes at Starbucks. You write some funky stuff there, girl, but without Aidan's crush on Marenya, and all the back and forth our characters have had, I don't think Marenya and Faldur's relationship would have grown to be quite what it is now.  Your interaction with my characters has truly been invaluable, and I've learned a lot from you, writing-wise, along the way.


                     Time for the Sunday Snapshot

Post the very last paragraph (or 5 lines of dialogue) that you wrote.  It doesn't have to perfect; it doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours!

Faldur crouched opposite them, catching his breath.  He found himself suddenly afraid to draw Marenya's attention. But when she saw him, she jumped up with a small cry and ran to him.  He took her in his arms and felt the frailness of her, as her hands fastened around his waist and her head pressed into the hollow of his neck.  She was surprisingly thinner for having only been gone a fortnight, dirty, scarred and strangely dressed, and yet he thought her the most beautiful creature he had ever longed to hold.  She began to cry deep, gasping, tearless sobs, her whole body shuddering against him, and he found that he was doing the same.

Friday, March 4, 2011

My First Live Pitch: I need your help!

I have an appointment with a real, live agent in three weeks.  This will be my first big writer's conference as well as my first pitch. I am desperately trying to finish my manuscript and polish it by then, but I also have to think about the interview and what I'm going to say.

I also don't know what to bring with me.  Should I have the first three chapters?  A synopsis?  Business cards?

Help!  Give me your best tips, helps, anything you can suggest.  Thanks!

Monday, February 28, 2011

You Gotta Have Soul

Agent Rachelle Gardner wrote a post on her blog comparing the competition for publishing contracts to American Idol. "The talent here is ridiculous," she quotes one contestant as saying (also the title of the post). Then she goes on to make the analogy about how you don't just need to be talented, you need to be better than everyone else to break into the biz. All that stuff that just makes my confidence fall to zero every time I hear it, especially from an agent.

Then someone who chose to post anonymously (but gave me permission to use his comment) said this:

I am a 50 year old man whose first book is about to arrive in the shops. On the face of it my path to publication has been embarrassingly easy. Was taken on by the agent of my choice overnight on the strength of one chapter, and this was followed by an auction between every publisher my work was sent to (5 of them.)

BUT (and it's a big but) as a young man I dreamed of being a writer. I wrote daily, relentlessly ...and got absolutely nowhere. Finally I put down my pen, and got on with my life. I lived a little, and then I lived a lot. Finally I decided the time was right. I walked out on my job and started writing again.

Which brings me back to the singing competition. Almost anyone can learn to sing - you can go to vocal coaches, you can learn the techniques. But out of that pool of talent, there will be one or two who stand out, because they've got soul. Their voice somehow projects the weight of a human life in a way that goes beyond technique. It's that and only that which will make you stand out from the competition.


I don't know who this person is, but I would like very much to buy him a drink. Because I felt like he was telling me my own story. At least, the "putting down my pen and getting on with life until I felt it was time to start up again" part. The "embarrassingly easy path to publication" remains to be seen.

I stopped writing in my twenties because I realized that I didn't have anything to say. It wasn't until I'd really put myself out there in the world and suffered a while (I know this is a cliche' but it's the truth, dammit!) that I felt I had something to write about.

Now I've got so much going on in my story that it overwhelms me, and I'm afraid it may overwhelm the readers. Good God, my characters suffer! And it seemed like so much sweetness and light at first. But isn't that the way life always is?

This story is emotionally powerful. And that is why I feel it needs to be told. I may or may not get published. It may or may not be easy. But thank you, Anonymous, from the bottom of my heart for reminding me why it's worth writing.

Image courtesy of PD Photo.org

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Snapshot

Okay, it's time again for a Sunday Snapshot. Post one paragraph (or up to 5 lines of dialogue) that represents the very last thing you wrote.

Seriously. Just cut and paste it.

It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be YOURS!

Here's mine:

She was covered with dirt from head to toe, dressed in a grey garment of what looked like goat’s hair, and seemed strangely thinner for having been gone less than a fortnight. Deep smudges of fatigue shadowed her eyes. But her eyes themselves burned with an intensity he had never seen before. Even here, in the half-light, s

Yeah, that's where I stopped last night.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Writing is Like Sesame Street

I feel exactly like Don Music today. "I'll never finish it. Never!"



How about you?

Let's just hope that, at least, it's a sunny day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Almost 100K!

I just looked at my word count.  97, 815! I had no idea I was so close to my target.  This is incredible news!

I am planning to write a total of at least 110K because I know I'm going to end up going back and cutting stuff.  But for those of you who know how many times I've gone back to the beginning and started over, well,... you understand how HUGE this is for me!

Nothing like a deadline to light a fire under my butt.

I know some people are shocked that I've taken so long to write this book.  Personally, I'm a little surprised too.  But it all made sense last Friday when our human resources director took the seven of us in my department through our personality profiles.  She said that I am a "dominant introvert who is very high on structure and precision."  This means that "I have very high standards and am very, very hard on myself. I get my confidence from knowledge and have to become an expert at whatever I do."

Well, DUH!!!!  That totally makes sense.  It's perfect for my job... guess what?  Almost all of us have the same profile.  That's what analysts need to be.  But it kinda stinks on the creative side.  I feel like I can't let it go until it's absolutely perfect, but at least I know it's not a flaw... it's a personality type.

How do you think your personality affects your writing style?

Oh, and don't forget to take my Writer's Satisfaction Survey.

I want to know how you feel about your progress as a writer, your ability to juggle tasks, and your outlook for the future.  It's your chance to speak!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Writer's Satisfaction Survey

I really want to know what you think about being a writer. Here's your chance to tell me.

Please take my Writer's Satisfaction survey by clicking on the link below, and I'll share the results next month. Thanks! And, have a cookie.

 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

Today is the Bernard Pivot blogfest hosted by Nicole Ducleroir.  Each participant has to answer the same ten questions (originally crafted by  interviewer Bernard Pivot) that James Lipton asks of his guests on "Inside the Actor's Studio." I love that show and am thrilled to participate and get to know other bloggers better.
For a complete list of participants, look here.
  1. What is your favorite word? Onomotopoeia.  Only, I can't figure out what it sounds like.
  2. What is your least favorite word? Morning.
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? A long walk in the woods.
  4. What turns you off? People who do nothing but complain. It's not about you.  Really. It's not.  That's life so suck it up and move  on.
  5. What is your favorite curse word?  Crap.  That's as close to cursing as I get.
  6. What sound or noise do you love?  The wind rising in the trees before a rainstorm.
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?  Heavy traffic.
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?  Wildlife photographer
  9. What profession would you not like to do?  Sales of any kind.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "I just want you to know, I love your books. Fantastic job!  Really.  So I have this castle all set up for you to live in, and I want you to keep on writing novels for eternity, for My pleasure. With plenty of divine inspiration, of course.  Not that I'm saying you need it.  As much or as little as you want, I just want you to know I'm here for you.  Now come on in and start picking out furniture."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Authors are Cruel Gods

We authors really are cruel gods in our fictional worlds, aren't we?

I just did something truly horrible to my heroine.  She's going have post-traumatic stress for a long time.  No, seriously, she will. I'm going to have to deal with the aftereffects into the sequels.

(Before I go any further, let me just say that there's nothing sexual involved. I don't do sex, good or bad, in my stories. There's enough of that elsewhere. Sexual tension, yes, but not the act itself. Just so we're clear.)

So why did I do that?  Because I could? Well, yeah. But also because the story needed it.  She needed it.  She needed to mature, as well as to fully realize the danger that the hero has been trying to protect her from all along.

There is a matter of building tension in a story, which eventually has to be brought to fruition.  I had been hinting all along about bad things that could happen and the characters and I had gone to great lengths to prevent those things, but I realized I needed to let a few of them actually occur.  For one thing, it brings in a lot of intense emotion.  For another, it raises their motivation to never, ever let anything like that happen again.

And, lastly, it makes her vulnerable.  I've done such a good job of shutting Faldur out of Marenya's life that I had to find a way of letting him back in.  Though I'm at the point again where I'm not exactly sure how this romantic triangle is going to work out.  I've always been somewhat ambivalent about the ending.  Who lives, who dies, and who gets the girl? I could easily go either way.

How do you feel about doing bad things to your characters?  Are you ever shocked by the vicarious deeds you commit?  

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day! I am a firm believer in this holiday.  Even if you don't have anyone to cuddle today, go eat some CHOCOLATE!!!! 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

I saw this on J C Martin's blog and think it's a great idea.  You have to post six sentences of your writing for critique.  This is what I was trying to get at with the Sunday Snapshots here at the Writer's Hole - something very short, just to share.

But it's hard to get people to limit their sharing to something really short.  I feel that we are in a very quick-paced social media universe; people don't have time to read pages and pages and comment on it.  (Well, at least I don't.)  But I love sharing stuff I'm working on, 'cuz writing is a lonely profession.  ("One is such a lonely number...")

So, here are my six sentences.  I know there are a lot of "ands" but I don't know how to describe this kind of action without them.

      
With a great effort she whispered,  “Raynor, please don’t.”
 “You may not speak to me!”  He lunged at her as if to tear her apart with his hands.  She screamed and Nighfala leapt up, caught his arm in her teeth and pulled him down.  He hit his head on the floor and grunted.  The spell died. Nighfala let him go and began licking his face. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Afraid of the Words

Do you ever feel afraid of the words on the page?  I do.

I write something and then think, "I can't leave that.  It's too [mushy][crude][lame][stupid]."

We are trained to be lean, mean writing machines.  It's all about story arc, tension, and micro-tension.  You've gotta have voice and style and tone.  You've gotta be polished.  Perfect. Publishable.

Yet sometimes I feel like I'm editing the guts out of my work.  There is such a thing as too much revision. I recall reading something by an editor who lamented that new authors are like over-eager English students, who when you ask them to change something, change it so completely that they lose the spirit of the original work.

"When we speak we are afraid
Our words will not be heard nor welcomed.
But when we are silent, we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak.” - Audre Lorde

"Today we are afraid of simple words like goodness and mercy and kindness. We don't believe in the good old words because we don't believe in good old values anymore. And that's why the world is sick." - Lin Yu-tang

"Studying craft... can create timid writers. Ones who are afraid to make giant awkward splashes and instead write safe, neat sentences that may conform to guidelines but are often uninspired. There is a time for rules in writing, but one should only cage the beast after it has been let free to run and wrestle and tumble in the mud until it is exhausted and ready to collapse, willingly, inside the cage." - Rebecca Hargreaves


Have you ever been afraid of words? How did you overcome it? Or are you still working to find the right balance?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poll: What's your favorite chocolate?

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, all hearts turn to... Chocolate!

Next to coffee and beer, chocolate is (to borrow the words of Benjamin Franklin) "proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."  There are so many kinds and forms it can take.  White, dark, milk, super-dark.  Truffle, bar, with almonds, with fillings.

So, what is your favorite kind of chocolate?  Do tell.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

We Have Winners!!!

Wow, this is so cool.  I have the winners.  The three people who have been chosen (totally randomly by RANDOM.ORG) are three very special friends who have been truly encouraging and inspiring to me.

But what has also been hugely encouraging and inspiring is all of the entries. I love blogfests because I love reading snippets of others' work.  We in the blogosphere talk a lot about writing, but in the end it all comes down to the writing itself, doesn't it?  And no matter how much we might know about our craft, the key is getting those words on the page. Nothing else really matters.

I truly appreciate everyone who entered and commented.  And I do have a warm, fuzzy feeling about my own work now.  I hope you all weren't just being nice.  Seriously - I want honest feedback from anything I post.  So if you really thought it was awful shoot me an email or post a comment, okay?

Oh, yeah, the winners! Who are they?

Well, Olivia Herrell has won the signed copy of Eldala.  It was fate, Olivia.

The author of Eldala, Michelle Gregory, has won the butterfly calendar.  May it help you count the days until your flight to your new home in Montana, Michelle.

And Tessa Conte has won the mug and chocolates.  I am sorry to say that I was unable to find another mug with the same design as the one in the photo, but I will substitute something comparable for you.

I will be emailing you for your contact information.
Have a great weekend everyone!!! Thanks again!!! It was a fabulous anniversary celebration for sure.

And, check out Tessa's Blurb for "Sort Yourself Out Month" in February.  A fabulous way to get oneself organized and stay accountable with each other.  Something I, personally, need quite badly.  "Kind of like Nano.. for your life."

Friday, February 4, 2011

You've Come a Long Way, Baby Blogfest/Contest

It's time to dust off some of our old writing and take an unflinching look at how far we've come.  It's not too late to sign up to win prizes or to join the Blogfest. 

When I started writing "The Golden Gryphon" I was basically daring myself to write something.  Anything. Just write!

So I started with a place.  I made up a castle on a hill in a UK-ish setting, then I put some people in it and moved them around like paper dolls in my head.  Pretty soon they started moving around by themselves.  And talking. And feeling. Before I knew it, my first draft was in full, riotous gallop through my imagination.

This is that first paragraph.

Glenholm Castle stood in the rolling foothills of the Dagger Mountains. It was a squat stone fortress that had housed the Eorl’s ancestors for ten generations. Behind it, the hills sloped gently upwards until they finally crested with bare rock and then climbed sharply to join the mountains. The land below the castle spread out in a vast patchwork of farms and woodlands, with a village along the central road. On far side of the village, the Glenholm Road led down to the bank of the Silverbark river, which formed the eastern boundary of the Eorl’s lands. Crossing the river, it then merged with the Forest Road, which led through the Great Forest to the capital at Cairwyn, the western reaches of the kingdom and eventually the sea.
Now for the revision:

(chirping crickets)
 
There is none.  All that opening exposition got cut.  But it was a crucial first step in the writing process.

Actually, I did incorporate some of it into the description of the family's departure for the capital.

In the bottom of the valley the new crops grew in bright green rows, and sheep and cattle grazed on the lush grass.  Before them the Silverbark River flowed in a winding ribbon spanned by a stone bridge. On the far side, silver birches stretched along its banks, their smooth, grey trunks gleaming in the sunlight as if to live up to their name. Beyond them loomed the dark mass of the forest.

The party crossed the bridge, hooves clattering on the stone, and turned to look one last time at the slope behind them. There was the village, looking very small now, and the castle raising its towers in the sunshine, with the orchard in blossom tumbling about its feet. Behind it rose the hills in purple and grey succession, capped by the dazzling white of the morning peaks. It seemed impossible to Marenya, as she gazed upon its stalwart beauty, that any harm could ever come to Glenhym.

 What did I learn?  That setting needs to be tied to emotion. It has to mean something to the characters before it will mean anything to the reader.  

I also learned something that has become my writing mantra: It is always better to have something horrible to edit, than to have written nothing at all.

Enjoy the entries and the contest!  But don't forget to "Write first, blog later."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Did I Miss a Blogfest???

I have this horrible feeling that I signed up to participate in a blogfest this week (other than my own) but I can't for the life of me remember which one.

So, if you are popping by expecting to see something that isn't here, please leave a comment, would you?

Meanwhile, grab a cookie and sign up for my contest on Saturday if you haven't already.  There are a book, a gorgeous calendar, and chocolate to be won.

Darth Cookies
That is all.  Good night!

Postscript, 6:08 a.m. Friday morning.


I broke 85,000 words.  I'm writing a totally new scene. I don't get to do that much anymore.  I've been revising for so long that I forget sometimes how hard it is to write from scratch. 

I have about seven weeks to finish, edit and polish my masterpiece before I attend The Write Stuff conference and pitch it to a real, live agent! 


This is going to take a lot of cookies.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the Universe which runs through himself and all things."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why Fantasy? Part II

Pennsylvania Renaissance knight
A couple of weeks ago, I asked if there isn't something a little wrong with a 40-year-old woman writing medieval fantasy. Why fantasy? Why is it at all popular or relevant in 2011?

I got some great answers from you in the comments. The desire to escape into another world was primary, along with capturing the magical feelings of childhood and, yes, pretty clothes!

But I think that it goes deeper than that. All genre fiction is an escape from reality to some degree. I'm not talking about nitty-gritty realistic or literary fiction, but the stuff that we read for fun.  And it seems to me that, despite the general claim that traditional fantasy is out of mode, there is a faithful cache of readers who love it.

But why swords instead of six-shooters?  Why magic instead of science?

These questions have plagued me for months, and I find myself uncharacteristically at a lost for answers.  Being an analytical, big-picture kind of person, the fact that I can't pin it down bothers me.  So here are my random theories, and I'm genuinely interested to know what other people think. 

My first theory is that, due to the highly technological and time-bound culture in which we live, a world without machines or clocks or anything that ties us to half a billion other people every second of the day is tremendously appealing.  I think we long for a sense of mental and personal space.  A chance to find out who we are when not driven by the whip of technology.  But we don't like being bored, either, which is why we want a story and not just a vacation to Ireland.

Not that Ireland is boring! I'm going to get myself in trouble here. I really want to go to Ireland some day. What I mean is... not just to reside in a castle somewhere for a week but to have an adventure populated with living, breathing contemporaries and an element of danger.

Speaking of danger, the world around us is dangerous enough. I take my life in my hands when I drive to work each morning in New Jersey traffic. I'm haunted by the images of body parts in the Moscow airport after last week's suicide bomb, and I would really like to know about the other people who were shot at the same time as Congresswoman Gifford.  Who are they?  How is their recovery process going? I actually gave my husband an itinerary of where I was going to be last Sunday at the Philly Area Writer's Meetup, in case someone decided to go on a shooting spree in Center City. It was eerie, knowing that was my conscious reason for being so detailed in communicating my plans. I'd never done that before.

But all of these things are out of our control. We can't go after the bad guys with a sword, or shoot a catapult at our irritating neighbor's house no matter how many times they block our driveway with their car.  We need a release.  I know that video games serve that purpose to an extent.  I also believe that the reason the states in these "United States" don't break out into wars all the time like Eastern Europe does is that we have football instead.  The solution to world peace is the NFL.

But besides just emotional release, we want a story.  We want the struggle to have meaning.  So much of life does seem meaningless.  When your number is up, it's up.  And when you lose your job, tough luck. There is a sense of drudgery underlying all the flash and hype.  I am bombarded with ads constantly everywhere I go. "Be healthier.  Have more fun.  Eat this. Drink that. Wear these."  But no matter how many {blank} I buy, I will still have to get up and go to work and meet my boss's (and my own) expectations, fight the traffic home again, make dinner, walk the dogs and cope with all the family stuff, good and bad, or with being sick or with not sleeping well.

It *feels* like a heroic struggle some days.  Yesterday was one of them. I wasn't sure if I'd pull through.  I had a killer headache, been unable to sleep the night before, spent two-and-a-half hours in traffic, had a huge presentation due at 2 p.m. that wasn't ready, and I really thought I'd just throw up right there in the big corporate meeting I'd been summoned to. But I didn't. When lunch was brought in I ate something, grabbed a Coke, slipped out to the atrium and finished my presentation.  I gave it at 2:00 with enthusiasm and a smile, with much success.

But I felt like Faldur.  I think that his character - totally unexpectedly - has tapped into something very deep in me.  His endurance, discipline and unwillingness to let go of a mission, is something that I think I have been unconsciously cultivating my entire life.  There are those of us Who Do It - and those of us Who Don't. Not that it's always a person's choice.  I had a hard time at first with the concept of a "hero" until I realized that sometimes it's just a question of being born strong.  (Or pig-headed, if you ask my husband.) 

Some of us start out life charmed, and some struggle for every accomplishment.  Marenya is one of those who struggles. She doesn't see herself as important or capable except in very small, domestic things. But in the end she realizes that she is exceptionally gifted and powerful in ways she could never have understood if she hadn't been tested.

One more thing... Magic is a universal stand-in for spirituality.  C.S. Lewis has a quote that I cannot for the life of me find again about how fairy tales let us put spiritual truths in beautiful stained-glass colors for anyone to see.  That's what I'm trying to do with "The Golden Gryphon."  I hope that it will resonate with my audience as much as it does with me.  Because ultimately I'm writing myself a story.

Friday, January 28, 2011

99th Page Blogfest Entry

I stumbled across the 99th Page Blogfest in my Friday night browsing and couldn't resist entering. I don't even know what is on my 99th page, but you will as soon as I cut and paste some of it below.

You are supposed to think about 3 questions as you read it:

1. Would you turn to page 100?
2. Why or why not?
3. Based on what you read, how likely would you be to buy the book?

(peeking through my fingers)

Okay?.... here we go..

(I can't look)

* * * * *

Faldur took a long drink and splashed cold water on his face, trying to clear the fog in his brain. The fog cleared quickly enough when he pulled his shirt away from his shoulder. He cried out and staunched the fresh flow of blood with the fabric. It was red, swollen and very painful.

Marenya heard him and came running. When she saw him, her face tightened. “Let me.”

She cleaned the wound, stitched it up with a needle and thread retrieved from her sewing kit, then dressed it with faithflower leaves to draw out any infection. When she had finished, Faldur wiped the sweat from his face and reached for the flask of velasz he had recovered from his saddle. He took a searing mouthful, then handed it to Marenya. She was pale and her hand, which had been so steady throughout the process of stitching him, were shaking slightly as she took it and sipped. She coughed as it hit the back of her throat, but her color returned.

Together they went back to where Gorrith lay, and she stitched him up as well. This was a longer, more difficult business, made easier by the fact that he was still deep. Faldur assisted her as well as he could, marveling at how capable her slender fingers were. She used the rest of the faithflower leaves on him, spreading them out carefully over each wound on his chest.

When at last she was finished, Marenya took another sip of velasz. “He’ll be painful and stiff for a while, but he’ll recover.”

* * * * *

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

List Your Accomplishments

Laura Diamond has a great post on her blog about the importance of Self-Evaluation which reminded me of last week's meeting of my writer's group. We were setting goals for 2011, but first we took a few minutes to tally and share our writing accomplishments in 2010. You know what? When you actually write down what you've done in a year, it's pretty impressive.

Here's my list:

Joined a writer's group
Wrote/revised 30,000 words for JanNoWriMo
Started a blog and attracted 130 followers
Hosted my first Blogfest
Wrote a Doctor Query-approved query letter
Took an online writing class worth college credit
Beta read a novel and wrote a long commentary (requested by the author)
Completed nearly 80,000 words by the end of the year on my own book


One of my writing friends recently bemoaned the fact that no matter what else he accomplishes in a given day, he feels like he hasn't done anything if he hasn't written. That is so true!

I think it's because we tend to focus on what we *want* to get done rather than what we actually do. This is true in other parts of life as well. Don't laugh, but I have made lists for myself of what I accomplished on a given weekend: laundry, cleaned the bathroom, food shopping, etc. It really helps keep things in perspective.

Two other things really help with the writerly woes:

1. Try to make sure that the things you do are the things you wanted to get done, as much as reasonably possible. Don't offer to critique someone else's work if it means not finishing your own. Write first, blog later.

2. Accept the fact that there is no such thing as balance. A balanced life - like a balanced diet - is an illusion. You can't eat freshly picked blueberries in January (at least not here), and you can't write 1,000 words a day every day (or whatever your goal is.) But everything you do adds to the life experiences you can draw on.

During the past four years, I went from being a stay-at-home mom to full-time professional and I changed my career three times. I also spent a year in night school getting a certification I will probably never use again, but the experience was definitely worth it.

There is a time and a season for everything. Learn to appreciate the season you are in!