Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Power of Words Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007

I'm not talking abracadabra, but effective communication.

Free speech has been replaced by responsible speech: You don't yell 'FIRE' in a crowded place, nor should you call out a simple greeting to your friend John in the airport, 'HI JACK!'

Ripped from the headlines, as many crime/detective etc. shows and books claim, many unthinking (to be charitable) and deliberately cruel examples show up all the time.

How many times do perpetrators say to the victims or witnesses, 'Tell anyone and I'll kill them, then I'll come after you.' Messages of retribution are left in the guise of body parts or dead pets.

Talk shows are notorious for pitting neighbor vs. neighbor, or exploiting internecine family agnst for ratings. Murders have occurred, notably after the Jenny Jones show of a few years ago in which a man was brought on as the object of affection by a secret admirer--another man--to his shock. The reaction some time later came as a gunshot from the one loved to the one he had no interest in whatsoever. Recently, another revelation on a makeover show had the shamed and humiliated recipient killing herself.

A new Megan's law is trying to stop cyber-bullying but it doesn't work retroactively. In 2006, a 13 year old girl named Megan was on medication for manic-depression. She had a falling out with a girlfriend down the street whom she'd known for years. The mother of the friend went on line acting as a teen boy 'Josh', saying nice things for weeks then slamming Megan saying 'the world would be better off if she was dead.' Less than an hour after that text message, Megan had indeed killed herself. The world is not better off.

Is this woman who pretended to be Josh guilty of murder? Or merely an accessory? Deliberately causing emotional damage knowing the unstable nature of the recipient--is this a crime or an 'unfortunate series of events'. The communication was effective. The message was clear.

Words do indeed have power.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Critiques and Rejections August 25, 2007

Writers, like everyone else, need approval and pats, and we also need good critics--ones who will point out the flaws as well as the diamonds.

Writing scares me because I need to do it, and if I'm not doing it, I'm thinking of doing it. Isn't that the definition of obsession or addiction? Then I'm in good company with millions of others.

Writing scares others because it is isolating, it's retreating into your world, whether the sky is green and the sand red, or you're doing a technical manual on how to use Vista (which I abhor but that's a rant for another site).

I've been with Critters, a critiquing group for f/h/sf for nearly a decade. I cringe whenever I put something up, then I see the dreck--that's old-fashioned Yiddish for crap/refuse/garbage (as an American living in Israel I do understand that)--from others. I see seeds of roses in them that a great story can be built around. I have seeds too.

We're all trying to get better at our craft, we flinch when someone reads and hates it, or worse when they don't want to read it at all. I know I've done crap but it's also nourishing seeds for another time.

When a fellow writer or editor rejects us, who are they really rejecting? Muses willing, it's the writing that needs the improvement. If they reject you, the writing isn't and has never been the issue, no matter what the other person says. Losing a friendship over it is hard, they lash out at your literary children and we as the penning parents defend our offspring. That's on the top, the underlying issue is different. Often it's jealousy that they like your writing better, or they think they're doing 'serious' writing and you with the fantasy are just copying a genre. What someone says negatively needs a hardlook: do I mix tenses, lack continuity, ramble on? If so, I need to go in and fix it. If the person doesn't like me, f--k 'em.

All writing is valid, no matter if it's the daily journal no one sees or the blog thousands read. We're reaching out to communicate, to entertain, to inform, to soothe, to touch, and hope the reader gets our message.

The writer must be his/her first and best audience. Do it for love and hope someone else loves it enough to pay for it. Find a support person or 3 who listen and feedback, and you support them in their love of photography or gardening or whatever.

Call them and say: 'send me good vibes, I'm going to submerge myself in my book for 2 hours and write'. Call them back after and thank them. Letting someone know not only gives you the push, it gives you a place to start from and a place to end without guilt.

We write for many reasons, and we can not write for as many more.

When I need a push and or validation, I turn to writers I trust and read Natalie Goldberg's books: Writing Down the Bones, Wild Mind, Thunder and Lightning, Long Quiet Highway. I read Julia Cameron's Walking in This World, Vein of Gold, The Right to Write.

I may still be writing dreck, but I am writing. Fertilizer is never wasted.

The Naming of Names May 27, 2007

Ikarias Book 4 official name: 'Labyrinth's Edge', up to 3 chapters 5K+ word count.

How do names for books get chosen? What makes a good name?

My books are a series: 'Ikarias, Tales from the Worlds of the Half-Dragon'. That describes a name, that there's several things going on, that it encompasses more than one geographical area, and what my main character is.

For series name, it's longish, but the most important character is first so asking for the 'latest Ikarias novel' (wishing really hard that happens soon! lol) is easy. The name may be difficult to pronounce. Some people will think of Icarus, the flyboy, Daedelus' rash son, but that's one story, roughly 2000 years old so the competition isn't new.

What about secondary titles? Since the first is long, keeping the rest to two words is important. The shorter the name the easier it is for people to remember, also, puns, slang, assonance (vowel repetition), and alliteration (consonant repetition) help people to recall. Think 'Centaur Isle'-pun, 'How Stella Got her Groove Back' -slang, 'Angela's Ashes'-assonance, 'Pride and Prejudice'-alliteration.

In Ikarias Book 1: 'Sorceress' Game' describes what is going on: A 15 going on 5000 year old sorceress plays with the lives of Ikarias and her friends.

Ikarias Book 2: 'Soul Teind' focuses on what the debt of a soul is for, who has it, why the young woman Cephira who pays it is threatened, where it is paid, to whom, and how she copes with the bargain made in exchange for her life and that of her sisters. Ikarias and friends come to the rescue.

Ikarias Book 3: 'Balanced Scales' is Ikarias' search to bring her two halves into synch. She tries to find justice for who/what she is when drastic changes take over. Balanced also refers to her frame of mind, and of course scales are what dragons and Half-Dragons have. Scales are also associated with justice.

Coming up to 'Labyrinth's Edge', Ikarias Book 4. The edge does not mean the end, or the beginning, it's a place where one must leave in order to escape.

This brings us back to Daedalus who was the architect of the greatest and most deadly labyrinth. The name comes from the duo-headed axe with curves edges, labrys, Ikarias' favorite weapon. Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, the king of Crete was cursed to fall in love with a bull. This bull had been a gift from the sea god, Poseidon, to Minos. Minos was to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon, but he didn't. The bull was huge, it was without blemish. Minos didn't want to slay and burn the magnificent animal. You do not disobey a god. In revenge upon Minos, of course the god hit on his wife--gods prefer the anguish of suffering by a family member of the prime offender rather than smack the one who did the wrong. Gods are like that.

Pasiphae fell madly in love with the bull. This was before anyone knew of DNA so the laws of genetic matching didn't exist. He impregnated her, no one knows whether the bull brought her flowers and dinner first, if he did bring a bouquet he probably ate it.

Minos himself was the son of the god Zeus who in bull-shape seduced and boffed Europa. Hera found out and turned Europa into a cow pestered by flies. (Again the god doesn't punish the instigator. Zeus was notorious for skirt-chasing. Poor Hera had to be satisfied with making the damsels' lives a living hell. She wasn't too kind to her step-children either, as if children are cursed for the sins of their parents.) Europa swam across the sea landing far from Hera's wrath and the name of the place stuck. She gave birth there though I'm not sure in which form.

When Pasiphae gave birth, her son was bull from the head or waist up. Unable or unwilling to kill this monster, and certainly in no mood to coddle it, King Minos had the world's leading architect design a place where the bull-boy grew up to be a bull-man, the Minotaur, away from any contact. Meat or criminals were thrown in the labyrinth to feed him, until the war with Athens.

Androgeus was Minos' son, all human, a sterling fellow who visited Athens and King Aegeus. Androgeus and other young men went hunting for a dangerous bull. (Any one see a theme developing here? ) The bull killed him. Mad with grief, Minos invaded Athens and agreed to spare the city only if seven maidens and seven youths came to him every nine years. They were put into the labyrinth where the minotaur found them and ate them.

Theseus, visiting Athens, offered to take the place of one youth and kill the bull beast that was eating the best of the Athenian population. Aegeus made him promise when he sailed back, if the sails were white--victory that the minotaur was dead, or black for failure, as they were on the sorrowful voyage out.

Ariadne was the daughter of Minos and Pasiphae. Seeing Theseus, she fell in love and gave him a string to maneuver through the labyrinth to safety. He came upon the sleeping minotaur and beat him to death with his fists.

Scratching head--if this bull beast was so fearsome how could a mere man kill it with his bare hands? That's where stretching the fictional tale gets thin enough to read through.

Taking Ariadne and the thirteen other teens, Theseus sailed for home. Ariadne was abandoned on the isle of Naxos where the god Dionysus ruled. He's not only the god of wine but the god of beasts. Perhaps Ariadne felt guilty at having been the instrument of her half-brother's death. Exuberant with escape and freedom, Theseus forgot to change the black sails to white. Seeing the dark sails, in grief, Aegeus threw himself from the cliffs into the sea now bearing his name, the Aegean.

Like fate, labyrinths have many edges. The edges are often the most dangerous place to be.

Publish or Perish--Literary Children May 18, 2007

That's a well-known chestnut for the world of academia: you either make a place with the two-dimensional effort of writing an article/argument/thesis et. al. on paper or you are invisible to the rest of the world.

I've had a short tale accepted for the Sept '08 issue of Aoife's Kiss, one of several hard copy/ezines part of My 6th publishing credit.

'Sin Twister' came as a gift from the Muse in complete opposite of what I had planned. Which is why it's better. It's not the tale of revenge and hate I'd planned--that's too easy, but a tale of redemption by increments. I wrote it in 3 days, it's short and one of the best things I've ever done.

I still need to get Ikarias 1, to a publisher. 25 querys to lit agents have gone over 2 months with maybe 12 'no thanks' and as many non-answers. In this case no news means no interest. Agents have far too many queries to respond with even a form letter. I do think it's rude but I also understand time constraints. is by an agent describing her full day/life and the crap she endures because writers don't follow simple rules.

I've 3500 words started on book 4 of Ikarias, either titled 'Keramin Heights' or 'Demons' Dreams'. Titles are tricky. Make them out of whole cloth with no reference: those who've read the previous books will know of Keramin Heights but those who don't will think of heights as mountains and maybe Keramin as a name. This will be a darker book. 'Demons' Dreams' can cover a lot of ground with alliteration, the darkness of several characters, the darkness discussions and delved into depravity, the demonic activities, etc.

Back to the title: if publishers see credits they know someone wants/wanted you, making you more attractive to them. The more credits, the more you're visible with your efforts, showing off your literary children like a proud parent should. If you don't act and feel like they're worth it, no one else will give a shite, as the British say.

You have to love them, and in return the world may just want more.

Publishing credits to date:

*'Sin Twister' to be in the ezine: Aoife's Kiss, Fall '08 as P. Lord
*'Jura the Wanderer' --Tavern Tales Anthology by ComStar Media, Nov. '05 as H. Winterthorne
*'Suits' -- ezine: ATSOISE, Oct. '04 as H. Winterthorne
*'Blind Boys of Bogen's Run' -- ezine: Nocturnal Ooze, Oct. '04 as P. Lord
*'Strains of Wagner' --ezine: Twilight Times, May '03 as P. Lord
*'I'm The Last One' -- literary magazine: Gotta Write Network, Fall '92 as P. Lord

Bad Publishers March 25, 2007

ComStar Media is out of my life, except for the first Jura story stuck in Tavern Tales anthology. (The whole is full of typos per a friend with a discerning eye for copy-editing but apparently they don't have one at CSM either).

Eighteen months was the contract time for 'Ikarias, Tales from the Worlds of the Half-Dragon, Book 1: The Sorceress' Game'. Despite reassurances of interest that's all I received, reassurances. There were no edits, nothing. I wrote emails which took weeks to get replies, tel. calls were picked up by an anonymous machine and not returned. Took CSM 9 months to do a company update. The October '06 sales report came out as a notice 5 months later in their yahoo site that there hadn't been enough sales on the Tavern Tales anthology. The contract for a second anthology never materialized though I'd sent my signed copy back 3 months ago. I pointed out typos on their website--ALWAYS A BAD SIGN WHEN THERE ARE TYPOS ON A PUBLISHING WEB SITE! Run do not walk in the opposite direction if you see that.

18 months is industry standard. Yes, there were problems with distributors, the owner's health, etc, yes it's a family-owned company, small and new, and there's the rub.

New means they're beginners.
Small means they pay after the book gets published--no advance.
New means they have a shoestring budget.
Small means if things don't get off the ground they just don't get anywhere.
If they also do games, and CSM does, then literary efforts will come second to pandering to the gamers.

The publisher-editor is also a writer, I have no problem with that. The fact that the publishing business had to come second or third after she needed to get a 'real' job to support the publishing business speaks volumes. I still needed to wait until the contract time was legally up to get out--that incident was a few months into the contract. I kept hoping, kept asking 'Are you interested?' 'What about the story sent for the sci-fi anthology?' 'How about an artist?' 'Should I edit now and send you the revised shorter version to fit the budget?' I was willing to do anything I could at my end but my end wasn't the issue.

On the good side, the time wasn't wasted. I have become a better writer. I have three complete novels in a series to offer someone who is reliable--a stronger case to present to prospective agents/publishers. It's been a learning experience. It's been frustrating, disappointing, and pissed me off as well.

Lies, Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies December 25, 2006

According to the clock here in Israel, it's past Christmas by a few minutes, a week to New Years, several days past Yule--the real end of the year if you're going to be accurate. Shortest day, longest night, that sort of end of the year...

Who gets to decide which is true?

What is truth? You can lie to your characters, you can have your characters lie to themselves and to each other factually, provocatively, or without meaning too, just like in life.

What makes the truth? Is it perception or is it something more emotional, more visceral?

There was an actual geographical event causing the collapse of Sodom aka (Bab edh-Dhra) and Gomorrah. Then someone says a deity did the destruction, and that's backed up by some writing for this event that occurred 4000 years ago to an establishment with maybe 1000 people, a city by those times' standards.

The tectonic plates don't lie, well, they do, on top of each other like dinnerware and if the shelf support drops on one side you'll need to buy a new set and eat off of paper plates till then. The Dead Sea area, within a donkey's ride of Sodom, had a 160+ feet change in elevation on that day.

To primitive peoples that's a major catastrophe, they may have had minor temblors, then the big one hit. Lot and company left before that but Mrs Lot looked back and was turned to a pillar of salt.

Aside from the fact that people have salt in them but don't become pillars is that line, 'literary license'? Third parties point to Mrs Lot's assumed guilty pleasures and regrets in leaving them. Isn't that blaming the victim?

Happens all the time. No one blames Lot for being a whoremonger and incipient child-abuser for offering his two virgin daughters to two men visiting him whom he knew were angels.

That poses the questions, A: Why would angels have need of sex? B: Would they have sex with children? If so, they're no angels. C: If Lot offered the children--is it a custom of the place he was following? D: If it was custom then he is as guilty as the rest of the Sodomites for their licentiousness. E: If it wasn't a custom then he is more guilty of the sacrifice of his precious daughters to rape by strangers. F: It's a lie, falsehood, fiction, and artistic license to explain away the 'difference' between 'good' Lot and 'evil' Sodom dwellers who wanted to see these men and speak to them. New guys in town can be trouble, they can be scouts for an invading army, have signs of illness that could infect everyone else, be provocateurs sowing dissent and causing trouble among people. It's not an unlikely scenario.

Does this make sense? No, no one said it had to, BUT, it does make for interesting reading doesn't it? And discussions on theology, ethics, boundaries 'good' parents should follow, etc.

What if Lot was making money off his girls? Whores get better pay than shepherds. What if the girls were promiscuous teenagers and, asked "Hey Dad, let's f--k the new guys to welcome them into the town?" Or it was something Lot did all the time and they were used to being abused? What if they were in love with local boys and had to 'service' Dad's old buddies for a welcome? What if Mrs Lot had to do the same?

Why did she look back? She'd found a way out, she was going to leave with her daughters and start a new life away from Daddy Dearest when he said 'pack it in we're out of here'--and her chance is gone. She's doomed to watch the endless parade of male visitors in another location say 'hello' up close and personal with her underage daughters and there is no escape but death.

The old term for salt is also used for vapor. Lot's wife wasn't turned to sodium chloride, she went pouf by the actions of an angry planet. Lot and his daughters took refuge in a cave and, we're told, the girls, 'thinking it was the end of the world lay with their father to regenerate the world'. Or per usual with child abuse cases in which Dad gives his daughters' bodies to his buddies, the daughters have sexual relations with their dad, again, still.

What's true? What's real? What's fact? What makes good reading?

Are We There Yet? December 06, 2006

Ikarias 3 is finished. Close to 92K. I need to go over it, tighten things up, edit and nitpick, and get beta readers to help me see what works, what doesn't.

God is in the details, and the Devil is in the details. That's how we get drawn in: not to the whole game but to that one shot that makes the game memorable, not to the mass and riot of color in the florist's shop but to those three exotic, alien, bird of paradise flowers with orange petals and the little violet tongues tasting the air.

Here's an exercise that's fun--and that's what this must be, fun, else why do it? Tape a movie you've never seen before, color, b&w, doesn't matter. It's best if you don't know it--pick a genre you don't usually watch. Alternately, rent a video you've never seen. Mute the TV or the comp with your DVD player, go fast forward and stop where there's 2-4 people. No sound, that's important.

Look at them: Where are they? What's the time period? Roughly? Who are they? Do they look rich or poor? What are they doing? How are they dressed? What's the surroundings like? Outside? Inside? What do their expressions tell us?

Example: An old woman sits in a rocker with a cat in her lap. She wears a long black dress as if she's in mourning. A cameo rests at the high neck, off center. She's tall, you can see that even as she sits. Her pale grey hair is wound about her head in an old fashioned way that looks European. Her cream stockings are thick and pulled tight, her feet are tucked into sensible black shoes. The rocker's arms are pale, the varnish worn from years of sitting. The old woman's eyes are open, they're opaque, echoing the wooden arms. She smiles but it's not a kind smile.

The tabby cat's hissing at someone to the left. He's not agitated enough to jump from the lap of his owner. Her hand rests on his hips and he could run if he wanted to.

Behind her, the wallpaper has a Victorian look of pale flowers, slightly yellowed but not peeling.

To the right, her hand on the old woman's shoulder is a woman, younger by at least forty years. They might be related, or at least friends. She looks stern, concerned. Her features are aristocratic: high cheekbones, plucked eyebrows, lipstick applied with art. She's dressed stylish but almost as severe as the old lady, in a dark suit with a single strand of pearls.

The above is details, but not heart.

Making up a story with both catches the reader. I'll taking the old lady's line, her thoughts:

Emma stroked old Mr Tabbs. He hissed at Steven, he never liked that boy even when he was a kit. Steven, known as Stevie then, tried to take the young tom on a ride in his Arrow wagon down Thompson Street. He got all scratched up and blamed Mr. Tabbs for him whanging the wagon into the old maple at the corner lot where the old Foster house used to be. Mr. Tabbs hated the boy ever since then. He didn't get hurt, except for his dignity, and for a cat, that's unforgivable.

Steven's looking for his share of Emmet's will. Looking to take Cassie's share too, though she's been more kin to me than my own blood. Adopted don't mean nothing when she's been here through Emmet's cancer and my failing eyes. Maybe my walking's not as spry, nor my joints as limber, but my mind is sharper than that boy'll ever know.

Where was he when Emmet called for him as the damned thing was eating him up like a wolf tearing at a lamb? Drinking, whoring, gambling, spending his life as a wastrel. Emmet took him out of jail so many times it was a joke. Dignity, my family's dignity lost to a bad seed. He's not getting the money, oh no.

Now the reader wants to know more.

To the Bitter End December 02, 2006

Up to 88K on Ikarias 3, Balanced Scales. Wrapping up the third of the series is kind of a disenchantment, a loss. I know how it turns out, I've ideas for the 4th in the series, it's like the E ticket ride is over... this adventure, this year-long trek with old friends and new enemies is almost at an end. I will see them again but we'll all be older, a little more chary, a bit rougher and less shiny.

Writers make characters, and they, in turn, influence the writer. Ask any author and they will defend their literary children, no matter if they're good, evil, dull-witted, ugly, pathetic, psychotic, or even non-human, i.e. the old homestead that factors in a flashback, or the little town that sets the pace for the book, or that bite of pecan pie and a quarter cup of hazelnut coffee that waits for someone who's not coming back.

Characters do things I didn't plan on, they have a life and mind and heart of their own. 'They're just fiction, fantasy, not real, in your mind' people say, but then, am I not the creation of a greater mind? What am I doing this for? Me first, it's something I need to do, it's what I do.

The idea of knowing a writer is glamorous, the reality isn't. They have imaginary friends most of the non-writers have dropped by the time they enter puberty. Writers have other worlds that often prove vastly preferable to the real one.

Writers do need to balance their time. Most of us have other jobs we do so we have the luxury of doing what we love in the intersticies of our day. Only the top 1% of published writers can do that and live from it alone. The rest of us need to cook, clean, take care of the important people in our lives, get an oil change for the car, shop for groceries, change the litterbox, get a haircut, sleep.

The siren song of stories needing to be told, creeps back. We're tied to the mast, straining for more while those around us put their back into the oars, stuff wax in their ears, and pull us away.

We may never hear again, but we do remember, and we will write them down.

Drama? Say What? October 02, 2006

Chasing through the tunnel, the enemy somewhere, sensing without seeing... there!

Wrapping around the monster, struggling as they tear into each other. Tired but unable to give up, he gets a burst of energy and the foe collapses.

That could be two fighters in a darkened city or a white blood cell in a vein going after a virus.

Keeping some things unknown either to yourself, to the audience, or to other characters in the tale creates drama. Tension between characters is drama--one wants one thing, another wants something different or the same thing at another time, or no action at all.

It's all about asking questions and asking more questions. The eternal 'what ifs' that drives the character drives the reader too.

James Michener has a tendency to start his books from the first amoeba struggling in the primordial stew: ala Hawaii, Alaska, Chesapeake, Iberia, then he tells of the epic struggle of mountain chains and river meanderings.

By the time some caveman is sucking his finger from cutting himself with a flint knife it's like--with the geological upheavals and titanic storms, what difference can one little Neanderthal make?

Michener's a good storyteller but he's formulaic. I stopped reading his stuff in my teens because it was always the same beginning and end: Let there be light, separating the waters from the earth, ooze becomes sentient, a two-legged pre-man bops another and climbs the evolutionary ladder. A bunch of character sketches later, cities and civilizations rise and fall, then today we have a thriving metropolis and the chosen family struggling with itself and the world to stay in one peace.

Of course as the trite saying goes, one person can make a difference--but we need to add the influence of others who base their actions on ones who came before, the vagaries of weather, catastrophic epidemics, the ability of those in power to force change into the wrong hands/wrong hearts.

Drama keeps us going, the struggle for everything or anything can be the pull for the audience to keep coming back.

The old Perils of Pauline had early movie goers more interested in the serials than in the features.

Keep the reader asking, 'What's going to happen next' means that they care, and that's what keeps the writer going.

The Hateful But Necessary Character August 20, 2006

Sometimes you've just gotta have it, or him, or her, the character you dread to write because the person is such an idiot/bastard/unredeemable pustule of misogynist actions and motives that makes your skin crawl, your stomach roil, and your soul cringe.

Then the old chestnut--if there wasn't evil what would good do--pops its questionable tendrils out and you need to deal with that pile of used kitty litter.

Making a likable or interesting evil doer is easy, give them a 3D background, a well-rounded life, habits, quirks. Hannibal Lector is a fascinating example of this--an erudite, well-mannered gentleman of leisure who likes fava beans and a nice Chianti with his kidney, freshly taken from an unwilling donor. I can't abide tongue so I don't care whose organ meats are on the menu. Err on my part, I do like pate and liver with onion and bacon, so on with the show...

Premise: an evil woman uses mutilated children as beggars to bring in money from passersby. This is nothing new, still happens in the poorer countries with too many mouths to feed and too little money where your favorite sports shoe manufacturer pays 12 cents a day for the workers to spread toxic glue and sew up those $200 sneakers hawked by that multi-million dollar hoopster, but hey, everyone is entitled to make a buck.

If the child isn't fit to work or would do better as a prostitute, that's their strength. Even their own would pay more pennies to a begging child with stumps than one hale and whole. It's the ugly truth of the world.

I abhor child abuse, animal abuse, elder abuse. Which is done by all layers of educational/socio-economic areas.

What tells us of this unpleasant subject? That we retch thinking of doing it so it's easier not to write it? Are we doing it for shock value? See above, that's easily done. Are we doing it to show the evils the world can do, see above again. Is it to advance another character, one who must witness it or be a part of the chain of hellish events in order to move on to the next level?


How does the writer face that 'icky' part and get through it? Does writing about the evil make you the same? Does it anesthetize you to the proliferation of foul acts, or educate you? Do you face something inside that resonates and that you must overcome? Can you understand or rationalize the bad guy's actions? Does it serve the purpose in the scheme of that novel?

We're way beyond the 'you must know the subject' to write about it. No one needs to be a medieval trooper to use a crossbow. Research and finding references can do the job, little details like getting a splinter from the stock and your bunkmate likes to pick his teeth with a quarrel tip do more for authenticity than the exact measurements.

Face the demons, write through what makes you want to puke. Even if you never use it, it's a growth of your writerly soul. Nothing is wasted.

Keep It Precious July 13, 2006

To quote a Melissa Etheridge song...

What books are keepers? What books pass through you like junk food: tastes good but no sustance, nothing to show for it but a memory?

I just finished Natalie Goldberg's 'Long Quiet Highway', aka 'Waking Up In America'. She's simply amazing. The first book I ever read of hers was 'Writing Down the Bones', a writer's way of expressing how she wrote and why--simply for love.

Ms Goldberg is a zen student, she's also a prolific writer doing it for herself first and for the rest of the world later--that's what every writer needs to do--whether you're Stephen King, Robin Cook, Anne Rice, Tom Clancy, JK Rowling, etc--they write first for themselves, they are their #1 readers, their sole and most important audience. Selling and making $ is a happy coincidence, first they had to commit themselves to the word.

I love the way Ms Goldberg writes, she's so honest, so open its like seeing her soul, not only does she tell of triumphs but of failures, of misconceptions, of her petty thoughts and her glorious ones.

Ms Goldberg does timed writings, alone or with a friend or group, any subject: toes, toast, time, tweed, name it and set your pen to paper and go. That's all, it's that simple. No--I feel crappy--write through the crap. The weather's too nice to be inside--go out with pen and norebook then. I'm hungry or sleepy--you name it, she's known the excuses and blown past them because that's all they are--just stray thoughts trying to slow her down.

Ms Goldberg says sitting zen was like that too--no matter the weather in sub-artic winter Minnesota, no matter her falling apart marriage with her husband, no matter the agnst and the doubts, she just sat, just breathed.

If you love something, what would you do? Save it for 'sometime'? Or do it until you dropped? Aside from destructive habits and over-indulgence in sex, food, drugs, alcohol, self-pity, wining, etc, there are things you can do that you love.

Don't wait for 'someday'. Time is the most precious commodity we have. Everything else can be replaced but this minute, this second, this moment--it's ours, no one elses. You going to spend your time in empty tasks, meaningless banter, with boring media? Or are you going for your passion, going to take out that camera, those brushes, those dancing shoes, that pen and paper, and do what is in your heart and soul?

Books that stay with me:
Ms Goldberg's: Writing Down the Bones, Long Quiet Highway, Thunder and Lightning;
Julia Cameron's: The Right to Write, The Way of the Artist, Walking in this World, The Vein of Gold;
Patricia Lynn Reilly's: Imagine a Woman In Love with Herself; Ursula K LeGuin: Always Coming Home;
Mary Staton: From the Legend of Beil;
Sherri S. Tepper: Beauty;
William Morris: The Water of the Wondrous Isles;
Lillian Hellman: Pentimento;
Ted Andrews: Animal Speak.

The web and free ebooks give us tremendous opportunities to expand our personal libriaries.

See what wonders lie ahead, and enjoy!

Bang, Bang, You're Dead: Killing off Characters July 10, 2006

Actually, the character you've painstakingly made into a 3D person with feelings, pet peeves, favorite pastimes, and an aversion to brussels sprouts needs to die.

Why do writers need to kill characters?

A: art imitates life, everything dies so does 'Little Nell'. One of Dickens most beloved characters had such a huge following on both sides of the Atlantic, people would wait on the wharves in New York for the ships to come from London with the next installment. What happened to 'Little Nell' Americans screamed to the Brits who'd known for 6 weeks that alas, 'Little Nell' was no more. Oh the weeping and gnashing of teeth!

B: the author needs to move on. When Arthur Conan Doyle dumped Sherlock Holmes over the falls the hue and cry of his fans forced Doyle to have the detective reappear, having foiled Moriarity once again.

C: the plot is stronger for the death of such and so. In Harry Potter book 6, 'HP & the Half-Blood Prince' JK Rowlings killed Dumbledore! Gawd, I hated that! Harry's main support, aside from his friends who have less powers than Harry, as well as being his mentor and grandfather figure is murdered. How will Harry make it through book 7, the final installment? Will JKR kill him off to the stop any fanfic that would and has come out inc. parodies and such, of the boy wizard? Killing main characters forces the remaining ones to adapt to the loss and move on.

D: Killing likable ones gives the main character the impetus to act in a way they wouldn't if that character lived or was merely lost.

E: Killing bad ones to solve the issue is cheating unless it's done with panache. Don't forget, 'the evil men do lives on after them' because they always have followers, progeny, evil wannabe's, and rabid pets. And let's not forget sequels as the chance to kill the bad guy again!

Unblocked, Cover Crocks, and Mentoring July 04, 2006

To hell with the artist! I've my own damned pix and I know what I want!

Ever notice all those lookalike fantasy covers? Same collection of mightily-thewed heroes and generously bosomed heroines and dragons and gryffons and basilisks, oh my, (my apologies to Frank Baum.) Don't writers realize if they don't describe their characters well enough, all the artists in the world can't do the characters justice. Same for doing the protagonists and antagonists done in such detail that there's no room for the reader to say--hey, that's not what the person looks like to my mind but now that I see them I can't get that out of my mind.

What do the covers say? Here's a scene from the book: Odyn and Frya have just smote the beastie and have several other beasties sneaking up on them, stay tuned! Gee that looks just like the book next to it with Thar and Thyn smoting even bigger beasties etc ad nauseum.

Yes, there are many excellent illustrators out there and my fav dragon master Cabral Ciruelo is awesome, so is Rowena Morrill, naming 2 giants among many. Again, alone on a gallery wall, they're outstanding, packed among dozens of similar though lesser lights, you lose the impact of the cover.

On to Ikarias book 3, Balanced Scales is up to 41K. I have the mystery solved as to how to get our heroine out of the gladiatorial ring. Snubbing the Empress is a mistake, Malakite takes her revenge by having the #2 ranked fighter do a job for her, resulting in Ikarias doing the unforgivable--killing a fellow gladiator outside the sands. Sentenced to death by mantichore, our heroine has a few surprises in store. has my mentoring interview with Paula B., out of my superwriter persona as mild-mannered Pam Lord with my mentee Tiff Lodoen for Little Owl via the Absynthe Muse site.

All you published writers out there--think about being a mentor. It's easy, it's fun, and you'll be putting credits in the Universal bean jar, which will come back to you in spades. Your Muses will thank you too.

Teasers January 14, 2006

The Empress Malakite is demanding more time, and her nemesis--Devestyn, daughter of Ravager will also get more pages. Does Devestyn do this for revenge against the Half-Dragon, or is there more to it, proving that she's better than her defunct mater, working with a 'higher class' of victim, using each against the other for a third victory? Who is Malakite's true father? Who killed her mother? How will Ikarias escape the life of a gladiator?

Stay tuned!

Ah yes, the artist was a loss, she did not keep in touch and was unreliable so a second choice is up. Hopefully he can protray my Ikarias as she would like.

Trust the Characters August 30, 2005

I have thirty handwritten pages and more in my head but will they come out? No. Why not? Can't decide on the beginning... Have a secondary character waiting on #1 or have #1 start? When in doubt: Ask the character! After all, it's their book. I'm just chronicling the adventures, the angst, the passions, the catastrophes. The writer needs to trust the characters. Often they know more than the author gives them credit for, especially since it's the third book and they've done a fine job in 1 & 2.

Everything is open to change. Nothing is set in stone, and if it is, the chisel can plane across and smooth the slate. What if no one likes it? I've heard from several who want more, they can't be the only ones who like the writing. (They're not even family so they don't have to be nice!)

Keep writing, keep track of who's doing what to whom and things can move if they have to, that's the way 1 and 2 were done. It works! Buzzduck! (eh hun? lol)

Art, Desire, Belief! August 17, 2005

WHOOHOO! The artist that I've been trying to get for Ikarias book 1 has contacted me! She was on vacation, that's why she didn't answer her email for so long. She says she has time to do the cover. Now it's what price and how long. I believe in my book, I believe in LB as an artist. Forgive me for not giving her name or site yet because I don't want pressure from outside sources on her. Once she says yes, and CSM agrees to her price, we're ON!

I am confident in LB to the point of contributing a few hundred $ to the cover art for the 1st book. Ikarias is my baby, part of my heart and soul, my pain, my joy.

I didn't have the tattoo of 'desire' done 18 months ago just for fun. It was for the desire to write well, to love what I do, to find others with whom to share it, to find a publisher, to do more.

Course it peeled and looks like swiss cheese so can I say: my desire is flawed? Whose isn't?

Also desire for O, always and forever. She makes so much possible for me.

Writing Vignettes August 14, 2005

I keep dropping vignettes and slices of conversations into the notebook for Ikarias 3, Balanced Scales. Up to 6k+.

Should I bring in the Centaucorns? B'sylla? Maybe bring her in for book 4.

For suspense, time limits can help, note the popularity of the TV show '24' when every season is based on 1 hour in the 24. Can't say I'm terribly fond of the Sutherland boy. I think his father is a much more accomplished actor.

On one hand I want to get to the editing of Sorceress' Game, Ikarias 1, asap, and dreading it. How much will they want to change my voice? I know J's good. She didn't twist 'Jura the Wanderer' for Tavern Tales, just made things clearer. The old 'forest for the trees' was never so real as in doing a novel.

Maybe I should start working up a concordance or site map. That would be fun too.

Pandora's Hope August 05, 2005

ComStar received Pandora's Hope, (thanks to my O who helped me revise and choose a better title). Hopefully they'll want it for their sf anthology.

What's it about? Frogs in space... that's different isn't it? I changed the POV to be from the captain, a human woman named Cass to the eldest froggie, Vici, who's about ready to leave the hatch tanks. Frogs are intelligent and intuitive space-farers. They grow to the size of a child of 12 and have eidetic memories. Vici's like a 15 year old girl even though she's much smarter.

Conflict starts with hints of those who don't want frogs as space partners. Keeping with the 'Greek myth' theme, I use the Trojan horse gambit to bring the horror home. I hope they like it at CSM. I think it's different yet it has the 'us vs them' eternal war...

Redid Balanced Scales beginning, Cephira is lost, Ikarias comes home wounded and ill, then the story is told. This takes the plot from what to how and why. Now it feels right.

RUSH! July 30, 2005

I want to get a tale into the SF anthology with ComStar and I have 3 days to do it! Bye!

POV, What's Right? July 28, 2005

Rather than accept the first POV (point of view) that comes to mind take another tack and try one not so obvious. I should listen to my own advice. I do multiple POV's because all my main characters have something to say or think that having an omniscient POV wouldn't carry. First person is difficult and limiting, not most publishers' first choice for listening to a story.

Ex: I awake to the sound of the alarm and smack the clock to the floor. I hate leaving the warm body murmuring half-asleep next to me, but one not so warm awaits in the morgue. Ana will rise after I leave, teasing me now with the blanket slipping off her thigh. She knows it takes more than the promise of sharing very good times to postpone a bad case. I appreciate the offer, life and love is preferable to cold still death. I leave her with a kiss on the small of her back where the fine hairs brush invisible against my lips.

I did prelim looksee yesterday, today Det. Lt. Kerry Grasier will watch the autopsy proper. She's a good cop, twelve years on the force, made Detective three years ago. She always brings me cappuchino and cinnamon crullers when she needs to know who did what when where and how.

Immediate voice knows only what happens to her/him and her/his past.

Limiting, but it is immediate, so choose carefully.

The Secret to Writing Is.... July 27, 2005

Be honest. The characters may lie, but the writing cannot. The scene may be deceptive but the context must be real. Even if the character is dreaming or psychotic or hallucinating, it must be real. Don't think of purple cows. See? Everyone thinks of purple cows until the next image or sense is alerted. What next?

A purple cow smells of grapes. The cowpat drops with a splat like shredded gummy eggplant, fried and lost in the back of the fridge growing a sauce of furry violet mold rich and sickly sweet like prunes decaying.

Got sight, smell, taste, touch and sound there. Talk about your purple prose, but I forgive me, it's an illustration.

Highland cattle watch from the rocky hillsides in Scotland, their shaggy coats the color of cinnamon and nutmeg. They're wilder than their two-tone American cousins. Those black and white coats even adorn computer boxes but the Highland cattle disdain advertising. They wait for winter, cropping the short sour grass, ignoring the purple heather.

Now purple is in the backrow, a sidebar, a decorative touch.

What's another secret of writing? Read what you like and what you don't like. Why? Because there are different ways of looking at the elephant, as the Indian fable goes.

Six blind men come upon an elephant, each touches a different part. The man at the leg says the elephant is like a tree. The one touching the trunk says the elephant is like a snake. The one holding the tail says the elephant is like a rope. The one at the side says the elephant is like a house. The one touching the ear says the elephant is like a fan. The last pricking his finger on the tusk says the elephant is like a spear. They are all right as far as each goes, but the elephant is much more.

Writing is giving more than what meets the eye or hand.

Feed the Writer's Imagination! July 26, 2005

Went up north for a day to Rosh Hanikra (northern Israel) where the sea has carved out the limestone cliffs. The water rushes in clinging to the rocks and drops off. Brown/grey flint is imbedded in the ecru walls making them look like chocolate chip ice cream. Have the ice-cave/crystal home of the dragons figured out for the end of book 3 of Ikarias.

Everything feeds the writer!

That is thanks to the @$#%#$ migraine that damn near crippled me all day. You'd think something would work. Nada, codeine barely takes the edge off so I'm in 5% less pain. All I can do is hide in my head and work on the stories. The Empress hides a secret too... Or is the secret hiding her?

Plots within plots...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Muses & Song of Amergin July 23, 2005

Mnemnosyne is the Goddess of Memory. She had 9 daughters, the Muses:

Calliope--epic poetry...(There once was a young man from Bangkok...)
Clio--history...(How long was the 100 Years War?)
Erato--lyric poetry and mime...(First word, sounds like...)
Euterpe--lyric poetry and music...(99 bottles of beer on the wall.)Melpomene--tragedy...(She swoons: I broke a nail!)
Polymnia--sacred song and oratory...(Yada yada yada...)
Terpsichore--dancing and chorals...(Ta-ra-ra BOOM de-ay!)
Thalia--comedy and pastoral poetry...(Where men are men and sheep are nervous.)
Urania--astronomy...(you were born under the sign of the yapping mouth.)

I jest but with serious intent, acknowledging them keeps the stories coming. Ask many writers and they'll tell you--the stories are there, they just act as scribes putting down that which already exists. We know there's a greater Mind that holds everything. We're blessed to tap into that and take what we want from the abundance.

Storytelling IS the oldest profession, forget the joke re: prostitution. Stories were used to explain the world and the unknowns, to call the spirits for good hunting and bless the newborns, to send the dead away with love and promises that they would not be forgotten.

The storytellers were the shaman of the tribe, some were healers, some just had the gift of memory to hold all the myths and customs and pass them down so that nothing would be lost.

Over 3500 years ago the Song of Amergin still resonates. I won't pretend I know what it means but it's strong, it's real and alive, it's full of mystery and promise.

I am a stag: of seven tines,
I am a flood: across a plain,
I am a wind: on a deep lake,
I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,
I am a hawk: above the cliff,
I am a thorn: beneath the nail,
I am a wonder: among flowers,
I am a wizard: who but I
Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

I am a spear: that roars for blood,
I am a salmon: in a pool,
I am a lure: from paradise,
I am a hill: where poets walk,
I am a boar: ruthless and red,
I am a breaker: threatening doom,
I am a tide: that drags to death,
I am an infant: who but I
Peeps from the unhewn dolmen, arch?

I am the womb: of every holt,
I am the blaze: on every hill,
I am the queen: of every hive,
I am the shield: for every head,
I am the tomb: of every hope.

Writing Is Hard to Do July 22, 2005

Why is the 3rd book so hard to do? I've got 4K words on the comp--and probably another 4-6k longhand. I know what's going in and where, chronology, plotting, major characters, they're all there. It's as if it's already written, thank the muses, but not visible. I still need to do the grunt work.

Most voice recognition programs are dreck. You need to train them to your speech mannerisms and individual dialect, then go back and edit what they don't get so you might as well type in everything since there's no time savings. To think I got a D in typing class, lol. Ah well, that was in the pre-Cobol/Fortran days when computers were the size of walk-in closets.

Great old sci-fi story: The computers around the world were finally hooked together and running. One old scientist realized that was a VERY BAD idea and tried to unplug the master comp called Colossus. He was zapped by lightning from the mainframe.

One scientist said, "Oh God!"

Second scientist in despair, "There is no God."

The computer answers: "There is, now."

Ref. Colossus, the Forbin Project.

Being Published?! July 21, 2005

It's a done deal, I mailed the contract back that I received on July18th and the first book, Ikarias, Tales From the Worlds of the Half-Dragon, Sorceress' Game is that much close to being real.

I'm going to be published! I'm not too famous not to have to empty out the litterbox, lol. First things first, keep up with writing the 3rd and 4th books, tidy up the 2nd, and work on the website. I need to find out more about marketing and promotion, and a cover artist, and keeping my head while all about are losing theirs...