Monday, December 6, 2010

Gift Shopping Update

Oh, dear, did we go nuts on buying gifts for Manalito. Of course we wanted to buy the biggest and most, like the Hot Wheels. At first we put into the cart the package with six cars, but on second thought had to choose the package with only three. Same with the Legos. My husband is all about Legos, so he picked out this huge scorpion creature, but we had to go with the smaller spider and medium shark. Then we went for the soccer ball and air pump. Picked up one air pump, but lo! and behold, there was a smaller one nearby. And, yes, we deflated the soccer ball, but it still wouldn't fit with all the clothes and hygiene items. *sigh* Off to the post office I go to get a second box.

We went with those flat-rate boxes and I knew shipping was going to be expensive, but I didn't anticipate quite that expensive. Yikes. That does it for anyone else receiving anything from us. Well, I guess we'll still get the nieces and nephews something. Everyone seems to be cutting back on the gift-buying this year, so there's no need to go overboard anyway. Which is a vast relief.

Expensive or not, nothing has given me more joy than to buy stuff for this child. I just wish I could bring him home with me, but I need to pray that Manalito will be a blessing to his own people, moving mountains for them, one person at a time, perhaps.

Christmas art to ponder:

Nativity (Holy Night)
Antonio Da Correggio, 1528


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Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks...

For turkey
For cake and cookies in abundance
For great story ideas
For a husband who is patient with me while I express those ideas
For 33 years filled with precious memories
For a family that made those memories possible
For Lady and Manalito, who teach me about priorities and unmerited blessings
For a country where I am still free to worship my Savior

Did anyone eat as much as I did? I feel like a butterball myself. For a couple of months I've been carefully monitoring my eating, so this weekend, I ate with impunity. Guiltless enjoyment. Now I never want to eat again. I say that every year. :D

Also, I have the privilege of buying Christmas presents for a boy in Mozambique. His name is Manalito and he's twelve, and I have no idea what 12-year-old boys want for Christmas. The necessities are easy, but what about the fun stuff? I'm recruiting my sister's help. Maybe she'll know what to do.

Regardless, a little boy on the other side of planet Earth has become precious to me. And seeing how he lives has taught me, not to feel guilty for the house I live in and the clothes in my closet and the food on my table, but to believe that we who live in this wealthy country have a primary responsibility of seeing to the needs of these children. I wish I could buy them running water, but toothbrushes and socks will have to do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Ideas, Rare and Precious

It's rare anymore for me to find a story idea that takes hold of my imagination and hangs on till I reach "The End." I feel like I'm floundering about, pretending to be busy with a great idea until a better one comes along. All the while, the mental tentacles are feeling around for that new inspiration. It's a murky sea, with low visibility most of the time.

So I was checking out the upcoming themes list on Duotrope the other day and came across an anthology by Dead Robots' Society that grabbed hold of one of those mental feelers and wouldn't let go. The prompt for Explorers: Beyond the Horizon is "characters forever changed by their discovery of lands and worlds beyond their own." I have rarely found a prompt more suited to my taste. Half a dozen possibilities rose amid a frenzied brainstorm session. I finally went with one and started typing. The only problem is that the word count must be under 5000 words. I have trouble keeping stories under 8000, so this will be a challenge. Even if the anthology doesn't accept the story, their prompt gifted me with the brainfood that those mental tentacles were grasping for.

Granted, I undertook this brainstorm session while sipping tea laced with cold medicine. Does anyone else find that while on cold medicine their inner critic shuts up and ideas flow? Or is that my lame equivalent of an LSD trip? Ah, well.

Here's some art to ponder:


PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST WITH TWO PUPILS
by Adelaide Labille-Guiard, 1785

We don't hear about too many women painters before the modern era. But this one is a jewel. That fact that Labille-Guiard featured the two future female artists under her wing in this grand self-portrait lets us know that they were out there, creating beautiful things in the vast shadows of their male colleagues. Though I seriously doubt these women painted while wearing their finest. :D Enjoy!

(Click on the pic twice to blow it up all the way. The lady even painted the seam in that shiny dress. Fantastic)
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Art of the Week, Sci-Fi

I have neglected to post any art from the sci-fi realm. Shame on me, for there are some amazing images appealing to the techie side of humanity lurking around out there. I just found a gorgeous one by JP Targete and thought I would share. I guess this one is a little more speampunk-ish, too:

THE CAPTIVE
JP Targete, 2003

As for writing, I have an enormous stack of paper to get through in one year's time. I have to remind myself that the text is printed on only one side of the paper. Then I remember that, b/c there will be so much new material and so many changes in the details, I will have to revise twice -- at least. I'm not panicking yet. Besides, I've set my own deadline. I can move it if I want. But I've already told too many people I'm shooting for December 2011. To hell with that. It's my deadline, I can move it if I want! Nope, not panicking. Though I do need to stop blogging now and get to those revisions . . .

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Art of the Week, Nov. 10

Here's a steampunk-style piece by Hungarian digital artist Kornel Ravadits. Hope it stirs the imagination:

BUDAPEST - Fantasy Panorama
Kornel Ravadits, 2006

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Worldbuild Sees Its Final Form

As a fantasy writer, I have to love worldbuilding. Taking all the historical and archaeological and social knowledge I've gathered over the years and plunking it down in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Maps, I love maps, too, which helps.

Years ago, before I ever wrote a single word of the novels I'm revising, I drew the world maps for the stories to come. Drew a couple of circles for each half of the globe and started filling in landforms, rivers, mountains, then kingdoms and cities. Common tale, but I wonder if everyone creating a new uncharted world gets those delectable butterflies in the belly by just looking at those vast, empty stretches of territory, yet unpopulated by humanity? Did God feel that way, looking at all the potential of the little globe spinning around in that vast universe? I think he must've. It's the potential that elicits that feeling, endless possibilities before the nitty-gritty of diving down and making it all work together.

Well, last night my husband finally got our scanner to work, so I was able to scan into my computer all those ugly hand-drawn maps. Then I loaded them into the GIMP program. Wow. While the maps have to be in black and white and fit into a smaller space than the old printer paper they were drawn on, they now have mountains that don't look like jiggly triangles! And the names are in readable fonts! And the water has texture! I must admit, they don't look half-bad. They will certainly work for my self-publish project. It will be so strange to see those old maps printed in the front of a book. And since they came before the first word, it's fitting that they will be a reader's first glimpse of my world.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Art of the Week - November 3

I have no idea who painted this or what it's called. But it's striking. A flaming, almost organic, sunset over a dark sea. One of my favorite activities is to drive out west of my house (which is surrounded by trees) and find a treeless hill to watch the sunset. The Great Plains have unsurpassed sunsets. The ocean, too, apparently.


Chiura Obata (1885–1975) Setting Sun: Sacramento Valley, ca. 1925.
Hanging scroll: mineral pigments (distemper) and gold on silk.
Courtesy of Gyo Obata
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Monday, November 1, 2010

How Busy Can I Get?

Feels like I'm being pulled in too many directions these days. But the primary writing focus is still the novel. I have set a deadline of December 2011 to get the project wrapped up and the files uploaded at CreateSpace or some other self-publisher. It's all about closure. A decade sitting on this project, trying to expand the horizons into short stories and other novel projects, but still this one lingers. Once I see it in print and hand it out to family and friends, I'll be able to call it done and move on. What a Christmas present that will be. To open that box and see my babies in their final form. That vision is my driving force, and it makes me giddy.

Did I mention that I'm doing my own cover art as well? Ick. When I was little, I took my crayons and paper and color books everywhere, but I'm no Rembrandt. The love for that kind of expression just no longer resides in my little heart. I have the basic skills to get the project done, but it's the rare day that I can force myself to pick up the pastels and paint another portion of the picture. Not sure how it will look once I scan it into the computer. If it's too terrible, I'll search the web for something appropriate and copyright free, though searches so far have turned up nil. Thus my decision to paint the cover myself. Really, so far, I'm not too disappointed in how it looks. A moody post-battle scene with dead bodies and ravens and a sunrise. At least, I hope that's what it will look like to others. Meh.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My First Review!

Well, after Milo told us about his fantastic review, found right here at blogspot, I decided to find out if July's issue of Kaleidotrope had received any kind of review yet. So I googled it. Ah, the wonders of Google. It seems that SFRevu writes up reviews of several SF&F magazines, and Kaleidotrope happens to be one of them. Sam Tomaino had this to say about my novelette "Fire Eater":

Cort Ellyn's "Fire Eater" gives us Mother Mirrah who wants justice for a draeling, a creature that is partly human, who she is convinced was unjustly imprisoned 140 years ago. She talks with him and has great sympathy for him. I won't reveal how this one turns out, but I will say that is was a very well-written story.


Cool, huh? I had read a review of Kaleidotrope before and the critic that day had nothing good to say. Seriously he must've been in a bad mood or something. So I had cause to be nervous. But all's well that ends well, right?

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Writing High

Last week was hellacious, in a fun way. At least it ended that way. So I missed another week of posting, but no apologies this time. Life was hectic. In short, I was stuck in a house with eleven family members, half of whom were under the age of ten. Aaaah! Chaos. During the day the kids played with Tinker Bell dolls and watched really cheesy movies like Lady and the Tramp 2 and Alvin and the Chipmunks 2. Whatever happened to the originals that lacked the overdose of cheese? Well, at least in the case of the first above-mentioned movie there was no cheese, just spaghetti and creepy Siamese cats. In the evenings, we made smores around the firepit. Nice.

While I was happy to be with my chaotic family for a few days, the get together fell right in the middle of a writing high. I was pumping through the rewrites on the novel and experiencing that rare and amazing joy, so Monday and Tuesday, while I was preparing for this get-together, I was roaring and ranting and just ugly to be around b/c I was having to cut that high short. "High short"? How about "cut short that emotional high." Yeah, that's better. The inner editor is on key today, folks. Sorry about that. Point is, got home Friday night, so Saturday I dove (dived) back in and got through another chapter. I have only three chapters left until I finish this first half. Then it's on to the nasty second half that hasn't been touched in half a decade or more. I'm scared to see what's lurking in those cobwebby pages. I'll probably die of gag disease.

By the way, it's Monday! So here's some art for your brain:

Telling a Story Stitch by Stitch
Bayeux Tapestry, detail
1073-83



Page from the Belleville Breviary
John Pucelle, 1323-26

When the written word merited this kind of attention.














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Monday, October 11, 2010

Art and Apologies

Oh, dear. I neglected to post last week b/c I was laid up on the couch with a cold. 'Tis the season, says I. Nasty germs. But I'm over the worst, so here's some art for brainfood:


THE BIRTH OF VENUS
Sandro Botticelli, 1485-6
detail













A modern take on Botticelli's Venus,
unknown artist

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Art of the Week - Roots

Okay, I decided to go ahead and post my art for the week even though I already posted today.

Going back to the beginning this week, admiring the cave art in Lascaux.

GREAT HALL OF THE BULLS, Lascaux, France,
c. 15,000-10,000 B.C.

I greatly enjoyed taking my art history courses out of order. Totally missing Art History I and II, I started with the third class in the series, which included the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, then the fourth class which, of course, dealt with modern art, like Picasso's cubist works. Then, the next semester I got to take Art History I, which started out with these marvelous and stunning roots of human art. I swear, Picasso must've traveled back in time ... or maybe his ancestors came from Lascaux. Or maybe the ancient world was populated with gifted people. The similarities are too close to be missed:

LA TAUROMAQUIA
Picasso, 1957

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TAG!

Justin from "The Key of the Twilight" just tagged me, so now the spotlight has fallen and I get to answer some questions.

Here goes:
1. If you could have any superpower, what would you have? Why?
Well, there's a story behind that, I guess. My husband and I have cut our satellite package waaaay back so we can afford to do more meaningful things with that money, which means that my television options are down to shopping channels and preaching channels and a handful of sugary-sweet 50s shows channels and rude cartoon channels. Which means I choose the cartoons whenever I have a moment I need to vege out. Which means that I've become enthralled with the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. *blush* Seriously, I'm surprised by how well done it is. So with that preamble in mind, I have to go with MANIPULATION OF THE ELEMENTS. That would be so cool. Of course, with my temper, I'd probably burn down my house. "Cool" is not a very good reason, I guess, so let me say, "Wow, wouldn't my garden grow if I could pull up water from the creek and coax the plants with earth- and water-bending. And wouldn't it be great to be able to summon a wave of air that allowed me to fly to my sister's house? And, gee, the benders just look so neato doing their martial stuff. Wish I could do that.

2. Who is your style icon?
I assume this is for Wordpress people, b/c I don't have a style icon. If I do have one I just didn't know it was called that. Moving on...

3. What is your favorite quote?
Hmmm... There are so many that have had impact on me. Well, right now I have this quote in the signature of every email I send:
"When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God’s business."
--Flannery O'Connor


4. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
From the editor of Silver Blade ezine who ran my novella in their serials last year: "You are an excellent writer." Gives me hope when something I've written is far from excellent. :D

5. What playlist/CD is in your CD player/iPod right now?

Well, which is it? I use both. On the ipod, I have "writing music" lists, depending on mood of the scene I'm writing. In the CD player I think I've got the soundtrack to Tristan and Isolde, the movie not the opera. Heartbreaking violin and piano music. Gorgeous.

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?
Night owl, definitely. Do NOT talk to me for an hour after I wake up. It's risky. You never know if I'll be coherent or bite your head off or kiss you or all three at once. But I'll be active until midnight easily, often beyond.

7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?
CATS! I have three and while one is a complete bitch, at least she knows who's top lioness. I have to use a forklift to get my dog away from me when she's demanding attention. It doesn't help that she's a Great Pyrenees who sheds and drools when I'm eating in front of her. Oh, yes, the cats and I get along great.
I understand their moodiness. They're self-cleaning, lapsized, their spit stays in their mouths, and they reduce the local population of yard-eating gophers.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name?

Wordweaver? It's my aim as a writer to not just write words but weave them into a tapestry for the mind and senses. Now, how well I achieve this goal depends on the reader, I think. Can't please 'em all.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Changed It Again???

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Well, sorta. Just one little letter makes a difference. At least to me. So the penname was "Cort," now it's "Court." The former started looking strange to me. Inelegant, like "wart" or "fart" or "stork" or "dork." Which means I now have to change so many other things, like advertising and blog banners, website details, manuscript headers. All because of u.

Damn u

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Art and Autumn Fever

It's time for Art of the Week. I chose this week's offering because I'm so ready for Fall that it hurts. We're having an unseasonably warm, dry September, so I'm getting a little impatient for my favorite season to arrive. Here you go:




AUTUMN
by Alphonse Mucha,
my favorite Art Nouveau artist
















AUTUMN
by Russian Impressionist painter, Piotr Nilus,
1893

This one captures the chill in the air. Nearly all the leaves are gone. Autumn on the cusp of winter. November, maybe.



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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Truth or Lies Revealed...

Well, I took Nicole Murray's advice and mixed truth with falsehood on 5 of the 6 below. I said:

Truth or Lies:
1. I've been to all 50 states in the US and three European countries.
2. I was born in Fort Worth, Texas.
3. I managed to graduate with straight B's in college.
4. I married my high school sweetheart.
5. I didn't know I had a brother until I was ten years old.
6. I wouldn't be caught dead attending a Renaissance fair.

In truth,
1. I've been to only 26 states and three European countries, plus Canada and Mexico. I love to travel.
2. I was born in a dinky oil town in the Texas panhandle called Perryton.
3. I managed to graduate with all A's. Yeah, I had no social life. But graduating with honors rocked!
4. This one is true.
5. I was about 7 when I learned I had a brother. Maybe 6. One of those surreal discoveries that changed life forever.
6. I attend the fairs. I even have an expensive costume. *sigh* There, I admitted it.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Letter From Lady!

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When I studied up on correspondence with the child I sponsor, I prepared myself for the event that I wouldn't receive anything, at least not for a couple of years, when Lady would learn to write letters for herself. But today, I received an outstanding surprise: a letter written by her mother, describing Lady a little more intimately. And on the back is a picture Lady herself drew. Round-topped mountains, ducks in a lake or pond, two people walking up a path to a house or school, a sun and birds in the sky. Just the kind of thing I would expect from an intelligent three year old. But the one difference is the corn growing on the mountainside. The design might as well be carved into an Incan temple. Seeing that made her and her heritage real to me.

This goes far beyond my expectations.

But how do I even respond to something this precious? I fear that anything I write will fall far short of how I feel, or worse, that I'll sound pretentious. Well, I've got pink stationary paper with kittens sleeping all across the bottom. And now that I know that one of Lady's favorite colors is pink, I think she'll like that.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Two Blogger Awards! Wow...

*girly squeal* I could really get used to this. It's fun, it's frivolous, and who doesn't like awards, even if they're virtual? So to start, I'd like to thank Justin, whose blog "The Key of the Twilight" celebrates the ups and downs of writing and offers hints about a really cool world Justin is writing about. Best of luck with those stories, Justin! He awarded me the "Versatile Blogger Award":

In response, I'm supposed to

1. Thank the one who gave me this award.
2. Share seven things about myself.
3. Present this honour onto 15 newly discovered bloggers.

4. Drop by and let my fifteen new friends know I love them.

Thus,
1. I'm a coffee addict.
2. I have three cats, one very big dog, and two wild bunnies to make up for the fact that I don't have kids but still need to take care of something.
3. I help run a writing community, in which I take enormous pride.
4. I collect swords and dragons and fairies and other make-believe critters.
5. I'm terrified of spiders but like snakes.
6. I have a birthmark on my leg and like to walk barefoot in the grass and wonder, if I'd been born five centuries ago, would I have been burned as a witch?
7. I believe that I'm not the only fantasy writer dreaming of a Hugo. I.e. I like to reach for the stars.

Now to pass it on. Since this young blog has only 19 followers so far, and I'm supposed to pass this to 15 bloggers, why not pass it on to everyone of you? If you've received the award already, don't feel obliged, but if this is your first Versatile Blogger Award, take it for yourself and pass it on. I.e. if your blog is listed under the "Wonderful People" heading, then I give you this award.

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As for the second award. Nicole Murray has awarded me the "Bold Faced Liar Award":


The Bold Face Liar Creative Writer Award requires me to:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link to them.
2. Add the award to your blog.
3. Tell six outrageous lies about yourself and one truth. (Another variant: Tell six truths and one outrageous lie. YOU get to guess which variant I chose – and which statements are true, as well as which are lies.)
4. Nominate six creative liars/writers and post links to them.
5. Let your nominees know that they have been nominated.

Truth or Lies:
1. I've been to all 50 states in the US and three European countries.
2. I was born in Fort Worth, Texas.
3. I managed to graduate with straight B's in college.
4. I married my high school sweetheart.
5. I didn't know I had a brother until I was ten years old.
6. I wouldn't be caught dead attending a Renaissance fair.

So, you now get to have fun guessing which are the truths, which are the lies. Hmmm... I'll post the answers in a few days.

Okay, to pass it on. I wanna hear the truths and lies of:
Brian Fatah Steele
Milo
izzey
tab
Justin
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Birthday Surprise!

I am just thrilled. Expect nothing and you'll likely be pleased beyond measure.

My birthday is Sunday. I try to ignore the approach of my birthday and treat that day like any other. Having expectations about my birthday in the past have led to some very bad birthday experiences, so I refuse anymore to allow myself to expect anything at all from anyone. Usually, my mom and sister (and now niece) and I go out to eat and shop a bit (my mother insists she buys me the clothes I pick out) and that's usually about it. But this year I caught hints of my mother and my husband scheming behind my back. "Whatcha up to?" I'd ask. "None of your business!" he would reply. Then on Wednesday he came home with a huge
box in the front seat of his pickup truck. My mother bought me a brand-new color laserjet printer. The old one, we'd had it for about a decade, had finally printed it's last novel draft this last winter and died with me cussing it till its last pathetic breath. Since then I've had to email every doc I've needed printed, so my husband could print them off at his office and bring them home to me in the evening.

So praises to my mother, the best Mom on earth!


Then last night, after our LifeGroup get-together, my husband took me to Carino's for Italian nachos and tiramisu. Junk food city! After that, he said, "I gotta run over here for something." Yeah, that's vague. But he's often vague, so I didn't question him, just rattled on about whatever we'd been discussing. Next thing I know we're at the bookstore. He says, "Go to the magazine aisle and don't look over the shelf. Stay there." I give him the "I know what you're up to" look. But I don't want to mess up his scheming, so I hide in the
magazine aisle, ignoring covers of sexy half-dressed men and women and try to find a magazine of genre fiction. (Sadly, there is only one, the new Analog, which I don't read b/c it's only Sci-Fi, but I bought it anyway b/c I can't leave a bookstore empty-handed.) A little while later James comes back and says, "They didn't have what I needed. Let's go." We paid for the copy of Analog I'm likely to never read, then went to the truck. In my seat was a bag tucked around two items. I had to laugh. My husband found what he came for, paid out, ran to the truck, then ran back inside to get me, and I was so involved in looking for a fantasy fic magazine that I missed it all. He's so sneaky, and so sweet.

So what was in the bag? Why, George was in the bag. Not the curious monkey. My favorite
author, rather. The Ice and Fire guy. I guess it was three posts ago that I worried that I'd not get back to a bookstore to buy that particular calendar until too late. Well, that calendar was in the bag. Strange to be excited over a calendar, I know, but the art of Westeros's castles is outstanding! I'm gonna frame the suckers when 2012 rolls around and hang them up in my writing room for inspiration. The other item was "Warriors," the collection of stories edited by GRRM and Gardner Dozois. I had been eyeing that too, last time I stopped in. Started the first story when we got home. Late, it was, and I fell asleep dreaming of vikings.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Art of the Week, Sept. 7

Meh, so it's Tuesday... It's bizarre, it's surreal, it's Michael Parkes!




THE CREATION
by Michael Parkes, 1989



Parkes's work is so strange, it stretches my imagination to its limits. How about yours?

About writing: Some days it just doesn't happen. The magic belongs to someone else, has slipped off next door or something. I simply could not wake up today, despite two cups of coffee. Couldn't make myself get on the exercise bike either. Typed in some revisions on the novel and stuck it out for many pages, so all is not lost. Now I'm baking a big fat lasagna and mean to veg on the couch tonight and recharge with a good movie. I hope.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Haiku Blogfest!

Below is my very rushed entry for Stephanie Thornton's Haiku Blogfest. A weekend that I thought would be available for me to participate to the fullest suddenly got overwhelmingly busy. When I thought I'd be able to visit everyone's blog and praise their efforts, instead I will be visiting with family I haven't seen in about two years. Yeah, it's an estrangement thing. Uncomfortable to say the least, so I will wish I were reading your haikus instead. I still hope to catch some during stolen moments to myself.

Without further ado, the haiku:


"WIP: a decade later"

In the hand fire sleeps
testimony of the will
written, inferno

Monday, August 30, 2010

Art and Jon Snow

Well, it's almost Tuesday and I haven't even thought about my "art of the week" entry. I think I'm gonna have to rework my little idea, to post some strange-lovely-wonderful art whenever I can post other material. Well, I'm posting, so how about some art? -

CASTLE BLACK AND THE WALL
by Ted Nasmith
(courtesy of www.tednasmith.com)

I've never had cause to anticipate a calendar before, but I can't wait till the new year so I can stare at paintings of the settings of my favorite novels ever, all year long. This one depicts, as the title says, the massive wall made of ice that protects southern Westeros from all the baddies of the far north of the world in George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Now, personally, I'm not a huge fan of Nasmith. His human figures are stiff and unnatural, in my humble opinion, but his landscapes and cityscapes are really spectacular. I had imagined the buildings of Castle Black a little more rundown than depicted in this piece, but I suppose it might've looked like this a few centuries before Jon Snow signed up for the crows ... er, Night's Watch. So I can't complain. Anyhoo, I'm excited about this collection of art. Saw the calendar on the shelf yesterday and got to gawk at it before my husband rushed me out the bookstore door. He has to keep tabs on me when I'm in a bookstore or bad things will happen ... like weighing down the counter at the checkout and depleting a tiny bank account to nothing. I didn't have $16 in my purse so I had to put the calendar back on the shelf with a sigh -- and the slight terror that next time all these beauties will be bought up and I'll miss out. Please, please, please, someone save one for me.

Such wistful and powerful depictions (and the occasional reread of the previous novels) will tide me over until Dances With Dragons hits the shelves. *sigh* Ah, the waiting is exquisite.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Art of the Week, Comparing

It's Monday already!? Yikes. Well, I wanted to try something a little different this time by posting two works of similar subject matter, but in totally different styles:

GREETING THE MORNING
by Dale Wicks
(courtesy of artbywicks.com)


















ABSINTHE DRINKERS
by Degas



















Early morning coffee and a stiff, hallucinogenic drink after hours. What could be better? Seriously, I love viewing these two side by side. People in repose, moods totally different, styles of human creativity at opposite ends of the spectrum, yet not. Colors and strokes separated into small dabs and small areas to create a whole that works.


About writing. Revisions have begun on "Dreamflier." I can openly write about it by title now. It didn't win the Shredder contest. Ah, well. It was up against some fun entries, so at least the contest made for a good reading and critiquing experience. While I can't agree with the voters who complained about some mysterious grammar issues (I'm a grammar Nazi, after all, and still haven't found anything wrong grammatically), they were right about the opening being less than smooth. I can do better. And now that I don't feel constricted by a word count requirement, I feel free to elaborate on some setting, etc. to fill out the picture. Can't wait to submit this one!


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Monday, August 16, 2010

Art of the Week, Aug 16

THE KNIGHT, DEATH, AND THE DEVIL
by Albrecht Durer, 1513

I love Durer's copper engravings. The stories they tell, the texture and lighting conveyed. His work was groundbreaking, setting new standards in this particular medium.

There's so much going on in this example, it takes a while to take it all in. The trees and Death's nag, especially, bring to mind the later work of Arthur Rackham, while the knight's warhorse is gorgeously Italian in influence.

Last May, I had the privilege to travel through southern Germany by train. It wasn't until I opened the tourist's map of Nuremberg that I realized Durer was from that city, an unexpected treat. His house, painted gaudily in red, still stands beneath the old medieval wall and reconstructed Nuremberg Castle. The place was packed with tourists, so I didn't pay to go in, just stood and stared in awe at the exterior and tried to absorb the vibes of genius. Not sure my efforts paid off. Ah, well.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Stories and Falling Stars

I'm so pumped! Yesterday I finished the rough draft of the story inspired by the LegendFire contest prompt (can't mention the title as voting is still underway). It's been a long time since I've been this excited by a story idea and this pleased by the results. Not sure I've ever written a story this quickly either. In other words, it's been too long since I've experienced that magic that happens when the story falls together and tumbles out virtually without effort. A couple of brainstorming sessions and the thing flowed like silk. I couldn't decide which ending I was going to go with until the day before I wrote it; if I couldn't predict how it would end, likely a reader won't either.

And when the author feels this optimistic about a story, my hope is that an editor will pick up on that, too. I mean, I've written some crap stories. I knew they were crap, and they're still reeling in rejections. The only issue is that this story is 3000 words longer than what I had aimed for. 8k is an average length for my work. So while I'm not surprised, it would've been nice to keep the word count down a bit. Still, the story has meat, and that matters enormously to me. So 8k it is.

Last night was also the night for the best viewing of the meteor shower. Comet shower? Meh, whatever. So a little before midnight, my husband and I drove out to the middle of nowhere to count shooting stars. To the northeast we have terrible light pollution from OKC, but we were still able to count 17 for-sure shooting stars in little less than an hour. Others in the peripheral vision or right after a blink may have been legit too, but we didn't count those. Cows lowing in the distance, crickets and an owl, along with the wind in the high grass made for a lovely hour under the stars.

(Next writing project, while I'm slogging away on the novel revisions: another Lucien Levenger story, inspired by Sam's Dot anthology idea about Potter's Field. Whether or not I'll submit the story to them remains to be seen.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Art of the Week, Aug 9

THE CALLING OF SAINT MATTHEW
by Caravaggio, 1599-1600

The contrast of light and dark, the realism, expressions, movement, are all reasons why Caravaggio is one of my favorite painters. (If you've not had a chance to examine this one, please expand it to full size and indulge)


His work appeals to me as a historian as well. I mean, check out the costuming. My historical fashions reference books don't come in color.

And a bizarre combination of clothing it is. Doublets and hose you might see in a Romeo and Juliet play up against what I assume is more what folks in Jesus's time might actually wear. An artist's license, I suppose.

***
About writing... It's wonderful when one word inspires a great idea, the brain cooperates and runs with it, and things fall together. At LegendFire, our irreplaceable Bird is hosting a contest in our Shredder forum. The deadline for submissions is today. The entry I wrote for last year's Shredder contest has yet to go anywhere. But this year's entry is blooming like a garden. It's been a long time since I've been this excited and optimistic about a story idea. I've come to a place near the middle climax where my vision is less clear, and so I'm stalling on diving in today. Clearly. I'm blogging instead. Shame on me. Well, now that I've confessed there's nothing to be done but get to it.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

My First Blogger Award!

Wow, I always wondered what the big deal was with these awards bloggers passed around. I received my first one this week. Yay! Nicole Murray was kind enough to award me this lovely Find and Friend Award:

Apparently the goal is to pass it on to five other bloggers. Usually I don't participate in those chain-type emails and whatnot, but I don't want to break any blogging rules. In truth, I'd love to award it to everyone who managed to stumble onto my corner of cyberspace, but to start I'll just give it to the five who have been keeping tabs on my ramblings the longest:

Stephanie Thornton, whose award-winning blog revolves around her WIP, a novel about the female Egyptian pharoah, Hatshepsut.

Martin Turton, my writing friend from England who seems to have fallen off the face of the planet!

Milo Fowler, whose insightful blog focuses on the writing world.

Izzey, who posts her powerful poetry in her blog, "Life's Peculiarities," for all to enjoy.

L.T. Host, who is one of four creative and informative writers who contribute to The Secret Archives of the Alliterati

If you haven't stopped by Nicole Murray's blog, check out her gorgeous jewelry under "SalvagedBeauty" (if that's your thing. It's certainly mine), and her Wednesday WIP that includes snippets from her novel and other fiction she's working on.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Art of the Week

I'd like to try something and see if I can stay dedicated enough to it to keep it updated.

One of my favorite past times (when I have few a moments between activities or just to chill) is to find new and exciting art. Art History I, II, and III were, I believe my favorite courses in college, and believe it or not the ones that have proven most useful since. Art is everywhere. Iconic images are plastered on billboards, advertisements, television programs. Dozens of artistic styles from ancient Celtic to Art Nouveau enhance what might otherwise be dull webpages and letterheads. Point is, I love art! I love the way every style and movement from past centuries makes a new appearance here and there. All of humanity's past creativity meshed together in a tireless, eclectic mix that both honors that past while creating something new.

Instead of paying good money I don't have to collect my favorite art, I collect art images from across the web. Granted, most of my collection to date consists of art from the fantasy genre as that's what inspires my writing to expand to strange, new horizons (a necessity, for sure), and I can't apologize for that as there are some exciting things going on in the world of fantasy art. So along with the work of more classic, more widely known artists that one might find in a college text book, I mean to present a few from our contemporary, speculative genres as well. Images to inspire, challenge, and move anyone who cares to take a look.

To begin this whole project, the following is one of my all-time favorite paintings:

NORTH WATCH
by Keith Parkinson
Magazine cover, oil on masonite

I think it's the isolation, the loneliness that comes with dedication to duty, that cause this piece to move me. And, of course, having a dragon to ride to work everyday is just too cool.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Me? A Webmistress?

Like I needed another project on my hands.

But I've gone and done it now. Committed myself to learning how to build a website. A year ago, when I had to learn how to run and manipulate stuff on LegendFire, it was a matter of studying the builders very simple and straightforward code and sorta reverse engineering things when I needed to make bigger changes. That familiarized me with the basics and everything that actually made a webpage happen. I found it fascinating that changing a little bit of code would produce dramatic results on the community page. (And I haven't broken anything irreparably yet.)

Then, after all the searching and questioning I underwent this last couple of months concerning my novel projects, I decided, for many reasons, that it was high time these ugly things got into print. Well, if I'm going to publish three huge novels myself, I need all the help I can get to sell a few stray copies. Thus, the website project. It'll be nice to advertise traditional publications there as well. Next step was to browse all the templates available. None served every need I envisioned, so I downloaded the one that I felt would need the least customizing, then...

I went to the bookstore and bought a tome the size of Texas: "HTML, XHTML, and CSS for Dummies." That's me all right. I'm forcing myself not to skip any pages and take the exercises one at a time. I found that when I skipped ahead to change fonts on my template that it didn't work, so obviously I missed something vital somewhere, so back to the beginning. In other words, this has been so much fun, a practical challenge for my brain that produces visual results, and that's rewarding. Nothing like brainstorming for a plot solution and writing it out and still being uncertain if it worked right. Oh, dear. And it's been ugly work brainstorming plot solutions to novels that are a decade old. But that's another post.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Sponsor of Compassion

An amazing and unexpected thing happened today. After church service, I walked out into the lobby and there was a Compassion Organization booth set up. I felt this overpowering draw to go check it out. The table was full of pictures of children who need sponsors. The first child I saw was of a little girl from Ecuador. Her name was Lady. My eyes were immediately blind to any other child. It was me and Lady and no one else. I picked up the package that has her picture and information in it, saw that her birthday is the same as my husband's and broke out into open tears. It was all I could do to wail quietly. Luckily, the lobby was full of people and loud chattering, so only a few noticed the state I was in. My husband didn't know what to do but rub my shoulders and look at me like I'd, well, lost it, which I had.

So we are now sponsors of a little girl named Lady who lives in Ecuador. We don't have kids of our own. I had always felt led to adopt from overseas or sponsor several children, but was leery of trusting any of these organizations. Well, today, I acted without thinking about any of that. To hell with fear of being robbed. We just went for it.

When we get the account stuff figured out, we'll receive a larger package about Lady. Then I'll start sending her letters. She's only three. She can't read or write yet, and I'm not sure that the little Spanish I know will even work, as she speaks an old Inca language. But I'm sure the translators know what they're doing. We'll be able to communicate a little bit, I'm sure. If not in words so much, then in pictures, in gifts like stickers to stick on the things she values, pages to color, postcards of the place where I live. I hope my refrigerator is soon covered in her "letters" and the pictures she draws for us. I hope that my hope will give her hope.

http://www.compassion.com/


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Burnout?

Is it burnout I've been suffering? Has anyone else suffered writer's burnout? I don't think it's writer's block. Maybe it is, since I've never seen an apt definition for it, how would I know? I guess the point is that I have yet to learn to maintain my own style of writing after having jumped into the critique gauntlet. That gauntlet can be so harsh and unfavorable toward a flamboyant writing style, b/c it doesn't appeal to more minimalist writers. So I've been minimalizing my writing style, trying to make it conform to writing "rules." And now I find myself in a fix. My brain is exhausted, my inner editor has grown into a monster, and I think I'm afraid of every word I put on the page -- or don't, in many cases.

The experts say, "Write everyday." So writing continually (I haven't been able to maintain a daily writing schedule in years. That's called obligations to someone besides myself), in addition to all the above, I believe, has led me to Writer's Burnout. In other words, I've really been contemplating what's been going on inside my head for a while now (obvious, given the ponderings below), and that is my conclusion.

Still working on the Falcon Novels. I can't believe how involved I am in a book I've revised multiple times. The work of my heart. Everything else is peripheral. I don't feel burned out when I'm working on the Falcons. I'm even dreaming about the characters again. Things are on the upswing. Surely. I hope. Yes!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rant!

All this dependence on fallible things!!! Last week we suffered some very bad flooding not far from the town where I live. Nasty lightning too, so I figured when the phones and internet went out, the problem had something to do with the rain and lightning. The AT&T tech comes out two days later, "fixes" the issue. Two days later, the phones and internet go down again. The floods are dried up so that wasn't the issue in the first place. How am I supposed to take care of my online writing community when I can't get online!?! How can I call my dad on Father's Day if I haven't got phone service?!? (And before anyone says, "But...," not every American has a great cell phone. I live in a tree-covered valley; cell phones don't work here anyway) Aaaaahhh!!!! Then, to beat all, the satellite service goes out. Nope, no television either. How much per month am I paying for this??? You gotta be kidding me! *rrrrROAR***

I seem to have found a moment when the sparks are hitting the right wires b/c I've had service today. Long enough to check on LegendFire and post this rant. Will it last? Who the hell knows. C'mon AT&T, I gotta close a writing contest tomorrow. You might not care, but many people do. *fingers crossed* Hoping service continues.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Lady of Shalott


In one of my literature classes in college, we read Lord Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott," which I had loved from years before when I imagined I was the incarnation of Anne Shirley. The poem has since become a theme of my life. I have a copy of Waterhouse's painting of her hanging over my fireplace, central, unmissable.

The most important thing I recall about that particular literature lesson was the professor's discussion on the poem's deeper meaning. Yes, it's a tragically romantic tale of a girl in a tower who follows Sir Lancelot to Camelot and dies. But what woman really gives up the ghost because she follows a man from her sanctuary? Plenty of us. So the professor revealed to us enrapt, blissfully ignorant students that Lord Tennyson meant one particular character in the poem to symbolize the artist. "Now which character?" she asked. I was not one to shout answers in class, so I did the usual thing and let others have the glory. "Lancelot?" one student asked in return. I groaned inwardly and for the first time opened my mouth. "The Lady," I said. The professor went on to explain that the poem describes the artist's choice between her art and the world outside it. And should she ever choose the world, her art will die.

I kept waiting for this to happen, and sadly, I'm afraid it finally has. The forward momentum on my novel has come to a stuttering halt. I used to be able to immerse myself into the story and characters, seeing them so clearly, knowing them so well, that I became them (which made for some very strange mood changes, I must say, and led my husband to joke that I had multiple personalities). I used to write so hard that I would work up an actual sweat. That's when I knew things were flowing best of all. It's been a long, long time since I've worked up a sweat just sitting there writing.

Yesterday, I realized how bad things have gotten when I pulled out the novels I wrote several years ago. I can't write like that anymore. Yes, I've written a few stories that have found their way into magazines, but we're talking 550,000 words, all tallied, over the space of three epic novels. How in the hell was I once able to create that many characters that leap off the page, emotions so real that I have myself near tears, in laughter, tensely biting a nail? (And I even know what happens!!!) How in hell was I able to capture that attitude of voice and maintain it throughout the whole bloody thing? I thought I would read that old thing and start gagging and groaning because what I thought was good then was really terrible. Not the case. Not the case at all.

It's caused me to wonder what in the world has happened to my art. Then I recall The Lady. I have not only looked out the window, I have left the tower. The tapestries languish somewhere up there unfinished, while practical duties call me ever farther down the river. Wrangling pets, housework, family, husband, Bible study, a writing community that I love, obligations, obligations, obligations. Among my family, I am surrounded by competent functioning women, and I suppose I've felt the pressure to join them in being as competent in the work of reality as I can. I longed to stop forgetting appointments and outings scheduled. I longed to stop feeling horrible because I'd missed someone's birthday in April because I thought it was October. That's how immersed I was in my art. I suppose I needed to surface just a bit, but now I can barely even see the tower for all the trees. It's taken a decade. That's one hell of a long river. I just hope I wake up again. I hope this is just a needed rest and not the death of the artist.

I'm afraid I shall have to tell everyone I'm going back. The eccentric hermit that's learned to live in the world is going back to her hermitage and the door will be locked. I thought coming out would be research, fuel for inspiration -- and please everyone. Now I don't know what to do.

I suppose I shall sit in front of my novel and try to make a miracle.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

So Pleased ...

Hurray! My copies of Realms came in yesterday. They are more professional and attractive than I had hoped. A gorgeous format for any story.

I remember receiving a couple of magazines several years ago in which some of my poems appeared, and was gravely disappointed by the quality of the products. Regular paper, cheap inkjet covers, plastic spiral binding. They looked like a high school project. One of them even cost $15 !!! And that was nearly a decade ago. Needless to say, that particular magazine is no longer in existence.

Comparatively, Black Matrix Publishing, who puts out Realms and several other magazines devoted to other genres of spec fic, appears to have their stuff in order. Though they're relatively new, having only one or two issues of each magazine yet released, I hope that given time, they'll gain popularity and demand among readers and writers alike. Their product shows that they deserve it.

Now to dive into the reading. What company does my story keep among those pages, those portals to far-flung worlds?

Edit: Things change fast. It seems that from now on, all those other magazines Black Matrix puts out will now be absorbed into one large volume. Encounters seems to have won the popularity poll.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

C'mon, Mr. Postman!

I'm excited beyond excited. I got to order several copies of Realms the other day, but to save a few bucks I had them shipped slowly. It will be another couple of weeks before I can get my fidgety paws on them. It's wonderful to have several stories published in online magazines. Wide distribution, saving trees, easy access, etc. But there's just something about holding a hardcopy and curling up in a cushy chair with it. One can't really snuggle with a laptop. I'm hardly the first to say so.

Point is, this will be the first time the hardcopy has one of my stories in it.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Edits

Well, today provided the first time I've gotten to work with an editor on some changes to one of my stories. Fred Coppersmith of Kaleidotrope sent me an edited version of "Fire Eater" this afternoon. He is the second person who has shown me that I shouldn't use "must've." I like my contractions, though. People speak in contractions unless they're emphasizing the words for various reasons, so I write in contractions. But "must've" seems to be the one that bothers folks. I think it's lovely. Oh, well. Better obey the boss.

Because the story was accepted well over a year ago, I noticed, while peering through those red marks, the copious amount of ellipses I used to use. Ick. It's a habit I've dropped since then. Not sure when or how gradually that particular change in my writing took place. Though poor Mr. Coppersmith has had to wade through a useless amount of ellipses like a universe of little black stars on the page. How silly of me.

But if "must've" and ellipses and one spelling oversight were all that he had to complain about, I'm more than pleased. Of course, I've read reviews of earlier issues of the zine, and depending on the reviewer, it's gotten vastly different receptions. Please, God, a kind reviewer would be nice.

I'm waiting on pins and needles for the next issue of Realms to come out in print, and now only a couple more months for the special summer addition of Kaleidotrope. I just love that feeling of anticipation!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'm Too Sleepy To Think of a Great Title

Well, I'm still here. No more weather talk for now, thank God. (Except that this rain is going to make my flower beds look fabulous)

Still working on the turning point of the novel. Haven't had much time to write in the last few days. Or at least, engagements in the evening are too great a distraction for me to make the time during the day to sit down and jot out a few paragraphs. Why is the month of May so stupidly busy? It's not just that it's spring and there are more expected activities. Seems there are more odd holidays and birthdays in May. All of which consume the weekends and keep me from going to the Renaissance Faire. I love that fair, and I've been unable to attend for two years now. This year, we even missed the Medieval Faire. No turkey legs for me. *sigh* And I have a gorgeous, expensive costume gathering dust in the closet. Playing "dress-up" is one of my favorite childhood memories. When I get to go to the fairs, I get to play dress-up again. It's like the childhood game, but for adults, and permissible in public! Wow.

Oh, well. Point is, I hope to have more days this coming week to write than I did last week. Good grief...

(...am I really writing this entry at 1:30 am?)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dangerous Weather

Things have been scary around here the past couple of days. Having lived in Tornado Alley nearly all of my life, I'm well aware that nasty weather is expected this time of year, but we've had a relatively quiet time of it the past couple of years. The weather people gave us the heads-up for Monday, so I was expecting a thunder-boomer or two. I wore my jacket in the morning; when I went outside about 1:00 that afternoon and felt that strange air -- hot, wet, close -- I said to myself, "Oh, no. This is going to be bad." You get to know the feeling in the air when you've had so many scares over the years. People say, "This is tornado weather." As it turns out, I was not mistaken.

For a while, I thought I was going to end up in Oz. Low, churning black clouds, rain and hail blowing from all directions, no thunder or lightning. The latter means bad things are going on up there. All that energy is being stored, and then sure enough, a few miles from my house, a tornado. Then another and another and another. I can't see them for all the trees and dust in the way, and there's no way I'm leaving my house to "chase" them as so many living in the Alley do. I'm home alone, running from window to window (the worst thing you can do, by the way), to see if I reeeeally need to duck into the closet under a pile of pillows. I toss in a flashlight, a bottle of tonic water (all I've got on short notice. Shoulda thrown in the vodka, too. What was I thinking?), my laptop and my novel manuscript. (I used to have such a fear of being blown away in the night that I used to sleep with my works-in-progress right beside the bed) After an hour or so, the storm blows past, we get a final downburst of wind that threatens to bend the trees sideways, and debris flies past the window (some kind of white tile or metal siding). After all the near-hyperventilation, the sight of the debris causes the blood to drain from my head. Yep, I nearly have a fainting fit. Then sun. Filtered through red earth wafted high into the sky, but it's sun, nonetheless. For me at least. The tornadoes went on to tear up miles of houses and killed at least 7 people. Last I heard, they were calling for volunteers to walk the woods and fields to look for missing bodies. When my husband got home, he said, "We dodged the bullet." Well, technically, there wasn't much dodging. The "sitting ducks" metaphor fits better.

A fabulous illustration of this saying was the footage of the first touch-down (which happened right outside an apt building where I used to live). In between window-peering, I was watching Mike the weather-guy and his radar maps crawl by with all those lovely colors. They cut to live footage shot from the helicopter in time to show us a white cloud spin up from the ground. This ground happens to be feet from a traffic light. There are cars stuck at the traffic light. We all get to see, in real time, a white van being picked up, spun around, and thrown into the cars sitting at the light. God knows what words came out of my mouth.

This was all a reminder of May 3, 1999. All those feelings and thoughts came rushing back. I will never forget that day. Even though it took place over a decade ago, it stands out in brilliant color. Everyone seems to give all the attention to that amazing stovepipe that ripped through the city (and rightly so, for it took the greatest toll in lives), but while we were standing outside watching that green cloud pass to our southeast, there was a second tornado to our northwest. We were standing in sunshine, surrounded by these things. It continued all night. We slept on the couch in our clothes, with the weather station on. And every time the warnings would beep at us, we'd wake up, terrified that we were about to be blown away. Tornadoes were fun until that day.

The threat is back again today. I'll have to be watching the radars. And praying.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Turning Point

I've reached the turning point in my novel. I hope I'm halfway through that ugly first draft. I loathe first drafts of anything! Then on top of that, turning points are a little stressful to write, at least for me. There's the need to keep a certain amount of tension while divulging new bits of information. I've decided that what I have at present is crap. It's just information and too little action. Things are moving forward, but too slowly. Gotta pick up the pace. Right now, the structure is at a high plateau, but I want the trail to keep winding up the bloody mountain. So, back to rewrites!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Deviant

Well, I've set up an account on DeviantART to show off some of my old photography. Everything I've uploaded there is from 2005 when I was serious about the hobby -- when I had time for hobbies. There are so many options available on that site that I'm sure to mess something up before I figure it all out, but that's just part of life: clicking on a button and seeing where it takes you.

The photos I've posted in my entries below are snapshots compared to the ones I've uploaded to my DA gallery. Check them out! HERE

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name ...

My husband says I should start a garden blog, but like I wrote in my previous entry, I don't love it for it's own sake. I love beauty. If I have to get dirty to make beauty, I suppose I'll get dirty. He's the one who loves gardening for gardening's sake, but he's not the one to write about it in an online journal, or any journal for that matter.

But if there's ever a time to blog about gardening, it's during the early part of the season when the plants are young and about to explode with color, and when the wild roses are in bloom.

When we bought the property where we live now, the creek bottom behind our house was a wild, overgrown mess. We cut through the tangle for months, deciding what was worth keeping and what had to go to the bonfire. In the process we came across a treasure: wild rose bushes tucked under the trees. They're in full bloom right now, and when the south wind is blowing, I can smell them an acre away. I wish I could photograph the scent for you, but these pics will have to suffice:


RosebushThe larger of our rose bushes, just at sunset. There's an elm tree for perspective. That's a very large tree. The rose bush stands well over my head.













Rose CascadeA cascade of roses. (A bit overexposed, sorry about that. Messing with the camera settings again.)














ClusterA cluster of roses. Can't you just smell them?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I'm a reluctant gardener at best, driven more by the desire to have a lovely yard than love of the plants. When I complain that I killed yet another lovely, sometimes even "hardy" specimen, my sister asks, "Did you talk to it?" I must reply, "Yes, I tried. I yelled at it." Then she says, "Well, there you go. That's why it died. You've got to talk nicely to your plants."

Whether or not my plants die because they can feel my negative vibes approaching or for some other reason, this year promises to be a better year. If these photos are any indication of the prolific beauty that's to come, then we're in for a treat:


The Herb Patch: Oregano, Chives, volunteer wild flowersThe small herb patch:
Oregano and Chives
with volunteer coneflower
and yarrow, not yet in bloom.












Grandmother's IrisesMy grandma's irises.
Well, they're my irises,
descended from bulbs taken from
Grandma Cille's garden years and years ago.

We've had spotty blooms in years past,
but this year, every plant seems to have
multiple blooms.









ColumbineI've been trying to get columbines to grow for years,
and just when I had given up, neglecting the thing
all through one hot drought-ridden summer, finally,
one the puny thing is loaded with pink and white
blossoms.










RaphaelAnd this one I just threw in for fun.
My big fat tabby, Raphael, is quite the stalker.
It looks like he's peeking over the rim of the
picture, being all sneaky.











Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's been a while . . .

. . . so I suppose I ought to jot down a few things. Life has been good. How many people get to say that? Not enough, I guess. I've finished a ten-week long Bible study that was so intensive that it took up my mornings. I had to learn to let go of less important things, including my writing. I squeezed in a few words now and then, but progress has continued to be slow. Though I must say, it's been liberating to take a step back, breathe, and put things into perspective. Personal growth has been the surprise and the blessing of the season. The novel will be there in the morning, and I'd rather live this life in a spirit of peace and confidence than in one of frustration, driven by self-consuming goals. The novel will be there in the morning.

The guilt for not working on it every second of every day, of not finishing it sooner, will not be there. And that's a relief. Even those of us with enviable lives have wounds, many self-inflicted, some not. It's good to find healing at long last.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Published!!!

I am so thrilled! The revised version of "The Bone Harp" was snatched up by Black Matrix Publishing. They plan to print it in their next issue of Realms. I guess all those editors and critiquers were right. The story needed expanding. Go figure. ;) I've added a link to their homepage in my sidebar, in case you're curious. Also, their blog is in my bloglist.

Tonight, I get to celebrate! My honey said he would take me out to dinner. Mmm...

God is good.

Edit: the Mexican food was fabulous, by the way. I tasted garlic and onion for two days. Had leftovers with my own homemade salsa. *sigh* I make fabulous salsa! Without lime and cilantro, salsa is just tomato juice. The Sangria Swirl, on the other hand, was a little weak on the Sangria side. I was hoping for that blood-red splash down the middle of my margarita, but it was mauve. Mauve drinks are less than inspiring. And so the celebration went just fine. Happy and relaxed, quiet and romantic. Now the waiting begins. Now, when the editor said, "It'll be in the next issue," did that mean THE very next issue? Breathless, waiting to find out and get my hands on that copy!

Unsure since I had a slight disappointment with Kaleidotrope yesterday. Mr. Coppersmith posted (or his web guy posted) the roster for the April issue, but I did not find "Fire Eater" among the contents. Bummer. When the story was accepted, Fred informed me that my story would appear perhaps in the next couple of issues. When it didn't appear in October, I was sure it would appear in April. Alas. More waiting. On the optimistic side, I had the chance to send Fred my updated bio, which had changed somewhat in the past year. More publications, no longer suffering as a slush reader -- *shudder* And more enthusiastic about LegendFire than ever. So all is well.


Edit again: I received a reply from Mr. Coppersmith. Good news! But I don't want to spill any beans prematurely. Just in case he's not spread the word yet. (hint: I may not have to wait till October) :D

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Progress!

Well, we've made it over the Chapter 7 hump. On with Chapter 8! My two protagonists finally encounter the object of their search, the event that changes their lives forever. Things get to moving right along, then the family plans a four-day retreat that I feel I can't miss. We are a family of loud, kid-happy, cooking women, so when our core group gets together, our men tend to flee for the hills. It will be a fun, laughter-filled four days, but that is four days spent at my mother's house, four days I could be writing, four days that the novel's forward momentum must come to a screeching halt, four days without a moment's quiet. I shall have to run to the bathroom to snatch a moment to myself, I'm sure, but I'm packing the Xanax, so if worse comes to worst, I can pop a chill pill.

I think I'm giving the wrong impression. I love being with this wonderful group of women and kids. I just need lots of quiet and still, too, or I get so keyed up I can snap into cries-ville or feel so overwhelmed that I become introverted to the point that I float along in hazy-eyed silence. I'm not so alone in that anymore either. My sister made sure to ask, "You're bringing your Xanax, aren't you? I might need one -- or ten." She and mother knock heads a lot. So it can make for some tense moments. Another reason I dive into myself. Escape when there's no other option for escape.

I'm still giving the wrong impression. I'm fully anticipating a fun, food-filled weekend of well-earned indigestion and exhausted vocal cords. The kids are so much fun. I don't have any of my own, so I feel like I can dive in with them and play their games at times. The most precious thing is seeing them dress up in the same play clothes we women used to dress up in when we were that age. Sometimes they come to me for help, and I get to dress them up in wild combinations of old prom dresses we found at garage sales back in the 80s, or old drapes we turned into long capes and veils, or sashes that become a pirate's bandanna. Our memories become theirs, and we get to see them making the same precious moments that will fill them with warmth in the cold days, years down the road.

Not only has progress been made on the novel, however. We've completed one of our yard projects. I guess I can call it that. We were planning on getting goats; we put up the fencing ourselves, bought the guard dog, a huge Great Pyrenees, but decided to downsize the garden area, so we don't need the large animals now to produce copious amounts of fertilizer. We bought bunnies instead! Two adorable baby bunnies that now we must protect from the Great Pyranees, not to mention three cats who would love to ... how did I put it elsewhere? ... feast on those tender bunny brains. My sweet, snuggly kitty Raphael steals the varmints that his brother, Gabriel, catches, then eats the critters head first. Gopher brains! Yum. But hasn't this turned a gory direction? Bunnies. Right. Cute, fluffy, poo-producing bunnies. Project checked off the list. Progress feels good.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Still Slogging On Seven

Oh, good grief! I looked back through these blog entries and saw that way back on 9 February I was about to start a revision of Chapter 7 of my novel. It's exactly a month later, and I'm still working on Chapter 7. That is just sad. Pathetic. As in Puts Me In Dumbfounded Despair kind of pathetic. I used to break into tears over the fact that I had no life, that all I had was my writing, day in and day out, all I did was write, write, write. A chapter a week.

Now, what have I discovered? I have so much life going on that I have no time to write. I've been desperate to squeeze in a few paragraphs in a four-hour stretch here, a two-hour snippet there. And a month later, I've still not reached the end of Chapter 7. I'm never going to reach my deadline.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympics Fans?

I am not a sports fan, never have been, never intend to be, but since I can remember, I have been enthralled with the Olympics. I think it was Mary Lou Retton that hooked me for life. What an impact she and her victories had on a five-ish year old girl. So, I guess the point is, my writing, reading, and other projects are doomed for the next two weeks. While I'm rooting for the Flying Tomato and other young American heroes (yes, they all look like babies to me now), I hope to make a little more progress on Chapter 7, but I'm not counting on it. It's nice to have some pressure taken off the drive for progress for a few days, at least, to enjoy some peaceful cultural exchange and human excellence. The games only happen once every two years. The novel will be waiting when they're over this time around, too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Face

Well, I decided it was time to explore new looks for my journal. Added some more pics, and brightened things up a bit. It's like makeup. Some women wear the same color of eye shadow every day. Me, if my eyeshadow doesn't match the shirt I'm wearing, I'm not sure how I can cope. So, in short, you never know what I'll be wearing next time you stop in.

About writing... I'm far happier with the revisions to "The Bone Harp." One of my critters said Experiment, so I did. Several said, It's incomplete, I didn't feel for the main chick, It needs a twist at the end, so I added 1600 words to a 2200 word story. The results, I must say, please me greatly. I loathe chasing word counts for anthologies or magazines. I'd rather write a story, then find the market that takes that length. So I've learned that I'm happier with stories that dig down inside a character, inside a world, and that means longer pieces. I have yet to master the moving flash masterpiece. Meh, nor have I interest in doing so. Give me meat, enough to sink talons into.

So I'm about to undertake a full revision of Chapter 7 of the novel, meaning, I think I'm going to have to add a character that I hadn't envisioned before, which means a full rewrite of several chapters all the way back to the beginning. I usually add too many characters and have to edit some out. It's good to have useful folks floating around, waiting in the wings, but this time -- chasing that lean word count -- I've not added enough, which means that word count is about to expand. Unless I can think of another way to punch up the villain interest.

Also about to go over "Swords of Glass" again. I've only submitted it to three places, but it's been nearly a year since I wrote it, so it's time to give it a new eye. Maybe find places that could suffer improvement. I greatly prefer editing over writing rough drafts. Rough drafts hurt ...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What?!

A new month already? Life has sped up suddenly, and it's February.

I'm not going to make that May deadline for my novel. No way, Jose! I've come to a stuttering halt somewhere in a nasty rough draft of Chapter 7. Only Chapter 7! That's just about 100 handwritten pages. *sigh* I remember the days of my energetic youth when I could write 15 pages a day, with a quota of 6. That amounted to an epic of almost 300k words in six months!!! And I accomplished that feat, not once, but twice! The quality may have been crap, but the content was out of my tortured brain. My quota has slipped to 3 pages a day. I'm thrilled if I get in 3 measly pages. Maybe, since I'm aiming for 100k (120k at the most), I'll still be able to finish the rough draft by May 31. What happened to that irrepressible writing spirit? That unquenchable frenzy of the imagination?

Answer: It got repressed. It got quenched.

Well, while I'm still groaning over Chapter 7, I have had just about enough of rejections over a particular short story called "The Bone Harp." So this weekend, I started a heavy rewrite, taking the advice of several editors who were kind and generous enough to take the time to respond with more than the dreaded form letter. The story also received a couple of helpful crits at LegendFire, for which I'm grateful. When I'm satisfied with a story, but no magazine seems to understand that I am satisfied with a story, how am I to know what's missing, where I went wrong? My critiquers and those generous editors become invaluable.

I just hope the rewrites work.