Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Poetry Month: Ekphrastic

On April 13, our Poetry Forum Leader provided the following prompt:

Write an ekphrastic poem: a poem that describes, interprets, embodies, or speaks to a real-life work of art (such as a painting, sculpture, photograph, architecture, etc.)

Well, I love writing poems after devouring a work of art, so I jumped on this one. One of the paintings that has affected me most deeply, and many others around the world as well, is Pablo Picasso's Guernica. He painted this enormous canvas in 1937, while the civil war in Spain still raged. The title takes its name from a Basque village that was bombed by Nazis who supported the Fascist cause.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso, 1937

So here's my poor poem reflecting my observations:

“To Picasso’s Guernica

God’s mechanical eye
oversees slaughter

A mother’s scream shakes canvas loose
while flame scorches the frame.

Terror trembles on faces uplifted
but the hand is severed
so who is left to pick up the pieces?
The minotaur stomps free
trampling ruins of hope
while the warhorse flees.

Like shards of glass
from bombed-out windows
assembled in new patterns
to reveal a horror, color
as stark as right and wrong,

but isn’t war in red?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Road Trips: Mountain Corridors

My husband had training this week in Denver, and it's times like this that it pays to be a writer. I get to pack up my laptop and my notes and travel with him. Writing in hotels, where there are no distractions, is one of my chief pleasures. Hiking in the mountains with friends is another. Once training was over, we kidnapped our friends and they took us to the South Platte Corridor. It's a gorgeous hike up a pine-clad mountain that overlooks the tumbling river. The voices of rushing water below and wind in the pines above sound almost identical.

We came up over a ridge and were faced with the devastating results of a forest fire. The sight of the barren landscape took my breath away. This particular fire had happened a decade or more ago, but the land still had not recovered. My inquisitive mind, however, was fascinated by the lay of the land, as it looks underneath all the trees. It felt like getting to glimpse a secret.

This rocky peek that jutted up from the burned slopes inspired all kinds of fantastical stories in my head.

And bleached tangles of old roots always provide lovely specimens to admire.

We snacked and refueled at an abandoned mine, then hiked back down the mountain. On the 11-hour drive home, we raced a snowstorm. Made it just in time. 

Looks like our next trip will be in August, when we'll head back up the mountain for the Leadville mountain bike race. Until then, I have ogres to slay.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

National Poetry Month Returns!

I love April because National Poetry Month comes round again. Check out for more info on what this celebration is all about, and even find a link to 30 ways to celebrate the art of poetry.

At LegendFire, the moderator of our poetry forum has put together another month's worth of poetry prompts and inspiration. It's a great time to practice.

I wasn't home yesterday, so I missed the grand opening of LF's activities, but I got to dive in this morning. One of the prompts she provides today is: "Write a poem about one or more elements/forces of the weather. For example, rain, sleet, hail, tornadoes, clouds, wind, etc."

Now, I dread the coming of spring. In tornado alley, spring is the season to be watchful. This year might be the year, I say. Our town, our house, might lie in the path this time. And since today we are having our first threat of severe weather I chose to write about tornadoes and my first experience of running to a neighbor's storm shelter, which I blogged about last June.

So here I am, inflicting some really bad poetry on the readers of my blog. But it's for a good cause, right?

Prompt: Tornado
Style: haiku series

black afternoon sky
eyes raised to watch boiling clouds
a wail of sirens

running rabbit-like
a burrow deep underground
hail knocking on doors

morning in the sun
a palace where dreams are stored
strewn trash by nightfall

May 31, 2013. From our iPhone.
Copyright 2013 Court Ellyn

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jack Tales: The Art Lover

Last month, I introduced Jack, my new writing buddy, who also happens to be the orneriest cat on the block.

Yesterday evening, as I was rolling towels and socks from the laundry basket, Jack decided to make himself at home among the piles of clean laundry. Cats, he once told me, only like clean laundry. They refuse to lay among dirty laundry, because later, when they bathe, they will be licking human toe funk, which, believe it or not, doesn't taste as nice as tuna fish.

In a short while I looked over and saw him hiding under a towel. Luckily this towel is not used in my kitchen. So instead of scolding him, I asked him, "Jack, what in the world are you doing?"

He said, "Can't you tell? I'm reenacting La Primavera, and I'm quite good at it, thank you very much."

Jack as La Primavera

La Primavera, by Sandro Botticelli, 1481-82, detail.

Monday, March 17, 2014

"My Writing Process" Blog Tour

When I try to talk to friends and family about my writing, a curious frown often develops on their faces and they ask, “How do you do that? How do you come up with your ideas? How can you sit still that long?”

The Writing Process Blog Tour is where we get to answer some of those questions. A huge thanks to YA Fantasy author Lisa M. Green for inviting me to take part in this tour! Check out her response to the questions on her gorgeous blog.

So it’s confession time. What exactly goes on behind those closed doors to produce … *hand flourish* … magic?

What am I working on?

Currently, I’m trying to strategize a war and puzzle out how to defeat an army of flesh-eating ogres. Book 3 of the Falcons Saga is underway. Fury of the Falcon will conclude the adventures of my Ilswythe twins. That’s not to say that Fury is the last readers will see of the characters, however. Just that the focus will shift to someone else in upcoming adventures. So, while “the ogres go munching two by two,” I’m also weaving in details to set the stage for those later adventures.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The characters, definitely. My fiction is hard-core character-driven, rather than quest-driven. Readers may discover epic battles and hunts for stolen children, but it's what happens inside the characters and in their relationships with each other that drive the story forward. In truth, when readers pick up copies of the Falcons Saga, they will find many elements common in traditional fantasy, from the races they will encounter to the magic system. However! My ultimate goal is to make my characters so real to readers that they will feel a lingering void when they’ve been away from them for too long.

Why do I write what I do?

*Shrug* That’s a matter of practicality, I suppose--if writing fiction can be called ‘practical.’ I started out wanting to write historical adventure. But at the time, the internet was in its infancy, and in my house we did not have a computer or internet access. Libraries that featured research material weren’t near at hand. So the short of it is that I felt frustrated in acquiring the information I needed to write authentic historical stories. So it just made sense to start making up my own worlds where I knew the history, the laws, the culture, etc. Suddenly I felt confident in what I wrote, so I stuck with fantasy.

How does my writing process work?

Groaningly. That’s how. By 11:30 a.m, I had better be sitting at my writing desk with a mugga joe in my hand, or I start to get a little peevish. With my first cup of coffee comes the pleasant task of re-reading what I wrote the day before, making changes, big or small. Then, with the second cup of coffee starts the mental anguish of writing new material. I despise writing the first draft of most everything. All the words want out at once, and most of them aren’t even the right words. The brain becomes a bottleneck, and the fingers on the keyboard start twiddling, saying “Ho-hum, is there anything up there? We’re waiting.” So I pace my house, or I say my mantra, “It’s a rough draft, just write it,” or I go pull some weeds or chase a cat out of the house or sweep my floor. I’ve found that sweeping is the best exercise for finding the next phrase. Why did I leave the broom lingering in that doorway? Because that’s where the muse decided to show up and cooperate.

Some days the words flow. Some days they don’t. Magic is hard to come by.

So there’s a peek behind the glittery door of writerhood. It might be best to back away slowly.

Next week, on Monday, March 24th, take a gander at the writing habits and quirks of these writers. I’m honored to present to you:

Brian Fatah Steele is co-founder of Dark Red Press and horror author of Brutal StarlightIn Bleed Country, and many other gruesome and thrilling tales. 

CL Stegall, co-founder of Dark Red Press, is the author of the Urban Fantasy novel The Blood of Others, as well as the YA adventure The Weight of Night.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fury of the Falcon, Progress Report #2

It feels wonderful when I'm writing a chapter a week. I can tell it's still early in the game.


Chapter: 4
Pages Revised: 5
Became: 9.5 pages
New Scenes: 0
Death count: 1, a tree 
Good things that happen:  Picking up the pieces...
Bad things that happen: Carah and Thorn butt heads. Again.

Next week, I'll be participating in the "Writing Process" Blog Tour. Stay tuned for a glimpse of what really happens behind this writer's closed door.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Meet Jack, my new writing buddy!

Last July I posted about the death of my darling companion, Raphael, getting all sappy and stuff. Well, it's amazing how I still miss that little guy. My last statement in that blog post was that I wouldn't be replacing him any time soon. It's amazing how life makes a liar of you.

One day in mid-October we were minding our own business, enjoying breakfast and the cooler weather on the back patio when all of a sudden we heard the heart-wrenching yowling of a cat in panic. It was coming from the creek that divides our backyard into usable space and non-usable forest. In my head I envisioned this poor creature trapped under some fallen logs, on the verge of drowning. I put on my wellies and slogged out into the water.

As it turned out, this panicked cat was stuck on top of the logs, likely chased there by the evil tom that prowls the neighborhood. But as we also have other cats, this poor vagrant was likely scared to venture into our backyard as well, lest he lose an eye or two.

When I finally got a good look at him, I saw that he was orange and only half-grown. Thank God he's orange, I thought. I don't keep orange cats.

Right? Yeah...

So my husband and I rescued this terrified animal and set his paws on solid ground, and said, "Beat it!" But the cat promptly glued himself to our feet. We tried walking him through the neighborhood, hoping someone would recognize him. We discussed shelters and pounds and other methods of being rid of him. We decided, well, we won't feed him and we'll go inside and he'll wander off and go home.

Why do cats fall out of the blue and decide to adopt me? They detect a sucker, that's why.

Come late afternoon, we found that the cat was right back up on the logs from whence we "rescued" him, and he was yowling so loudly that we could hear him inside the house, 40 yards away. Okay, I say, I'll feed him, but I'm not naming him, and if he doesn't shut up, I'll deliver him to the nearest shelter. This cat was so desperate and scared, he kept meowing even while he ate. Non-stop noise. I said, this cat is crazy, there's no way we're keeping him.

And then I did something really stupid. I said, "His eyes look like pumpkins. If he were a girl we could call him Pumpkin, but since he's not, we'll call him Jack." That was fitting, right? It was almost Halloween and it was Jack o' lantern-carving time. My husband looked at me and said with a smirk, "You just named him." I ducked my head and said a swear word. How could I be so stupid? Oh, yeah. Sucker, right.

So Jack became a new member of the family, and all he wants to do is lay on my lap or curl up on  my shoulder, even though he's getting way too big for that now. So, today Jack said, "You haven't blogged about me, snob." So here he is, in all his orange orneriness:

Jack said he doesn't want anyone to see how he picks his nose and don't publish that picture or he'll pee on my bed, but it's a parent's prerogative to embarrass their children, right?

This portrait, however, is Jack-approved.