Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Art and Shakespeare

It's been a while since I posted for Art of the Week. Everything else I've been clamb'ring to learn caused art to slip my mind. So here goes.

My favorite art movement is the Pre-Raphaelite. It appeals to my love of melancholy, drama, beauty, and history, I suppose. A favorite subject for these 19th painters was Ophelia, the tragic heroine of my second favorite play by Shakespeare (my first being Macbeth). Many a
Pre-Raphaelite artist had a unique vision of this fragile, lost little soul, but nearly all these visions revolve around her death, described in lurid and lovely detail by Queen Gertrude in Act 4, scene 7, of Hamlet.

"There is a willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.
There on the pendent boughs her crownet weeds
Clamb'ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down the weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like a while they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and endued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death."

Three paintings to contrast:

Arthur Hughes, 1863

Alexandre Cabanel, 1883

John Edward Millais, 1852

I had not seen the Cabanel painting before today. I love it for catching Ophelia in the actual fall. For still more paintings to compare and admire, there's a wonderful entry >HERE< at blogspot.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Progress Report, 3-28-11, and Stress

Project: Falcons Rising
Pages Rewritten: 4 1/2
Pages Cut: 1
New Scenes: 0
Bad things that happened: a secret lurks
Good things that happened: nearing the emotional climax now! While this bodes bad things for the characters, it means excitement for readers. Well, it does for me anyway. :)

It's Monday, thank God! That sounds backwards, doesn't it? This weekend was so stressful and nasty that I have to get to Monday for recuperation. Not sure I'll go into detail, but I was . . . not well. Physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It was rough. Really rough. But I am on antibiotics now and have had a good talk with the Lord Almighty.

He is faithful. And this bedraggled little writer is on the mend.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Progress Report, 3-25-11, and Poetry Readings

Project: Falcons Rising
Pages Rewritten: 6
Pages Cut: 3 (so much disgusting, useless content. Ugh!)
New Scenes: 0
Bad things that happened: a manhunt!
Good things that happened: that harp comes into play again and wins a second chance for Kieryn

Six days until Margaret Atwood
speaks at USAO, my alma mater! I heard she was coming, way back last fall, like September or something, and I've been counting the days. When I lived in Indiana, I got to hear Naomi Shihab Nye read, now I get to listen to Ms. Atwood. There's nothing like hearing a poet read their own work and talk about the craft they love.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Progress Report, 3-24-11, and a Red Rider

Project: Falcons Rising
Pages Revised: 2
Pages Cut: 1 (Yep, I cut more than half the content)
New Scenes: 0
Bad things that happened: Elves have killer, cold glares. *shiver*
Good things that happened: nothing yet, and it's about to get worse.

I got a late start writing yesterday, but I was able to squeeze in a couple of pages. Today won't be any better, I'm afraid. Still trying to learn the ins and outs of Twitter (along with taking care of LF and other networking business). Twitter is really very simple; it's just that one name leads to a thousand others, not to mention the # marks and lists to explore. Once the birdie is old hat, I'll be able to fly through and get on with writing.

On a sidenote:

Here's an absurd picture for you. Yesterday, a gorgeous spring afternoon with a sky unhazed by field dust and pollen, and this prissy, country-girl writer, sitting on her back patio with her pages to revise; alongside her, a new Red Rider BB gun. A pink Red Rider. Oh, yes, they make them, just for prissy country-girls like me. I filled the barrel with shiny steel BBs and waited, lurking under the trees, looking, oh, so innocent with my novel pages propped on my knee, in my lime green high heels and frosty pink toenail polish. Then lo! and behold, those pesky, loud, hungry cowbirds flocked overhead, landing in the elm tree, thinking they were so clever that they found a sucker who is still feeding the finches. Those pesky, loud, hungry cowbirds cleaned out my feeders in one blinkin' day! So, as I say, they flocked in and landed for another course. Down goes the pencil and up comes the BB gun. My dad taught me excellent form. Those BBs must sting like hell, 'cause off flew those pesky cowbirds for another treetop. That wasn't far enough -- *pop pop* -- and off they flew to some other sucker's bird feeders.

(No pesky, loud, hungry cowbirds were killed in this battle. Though I hope their bottoms sting)

Ah, back to writing...


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Back Into The Swing

Time to get back to it. The novel. Submitting stories.

Head cold is all but over, "Dreamflier" is revised and in the mail (yes, some mags still take snail mail the old-fashioned way), and I've started resubmitting "The Bone Harp" as well. The latter needs a new home. Realms, bless it's papery heart, saw only two issues before it was absorbed into another mag. Then that mag, too, has been shoved into the closet as Black Matrix focuses its attention on publishing books instead of short stories. Ah, well. I knew it was time to try for a reprint when I attempted to find that old copy of Realms at Amazon and got nothing. At first. Then I had to get fancy with the search to turn up the right mag. In other words, no one will find it unless they know what they're looking for, have a hefty dose of determination, or stumble upon it by accident.

Submitting is the part of writing that I dislike most. Trying to decide if this story or that story is a right fit for this mag or that mag, getting my hopes up, only to receive a rejection. The letters that are worst say, "This story just isn't the right fit." Ack! But I spent all that time reading sample stories and weighing YOUR description of YOUR mag against others! Fine, on to the next mag in the line-up. Tedious. One must have an endless supply of hope hidden in the deep recesses to keep at this job. Hope balanced with little expectation is how I've learned to cope with the minuscule chance that a mag will favor my story over the hundreds of others.

On the flip-side, there's nothing like waiting in anticipation for that acceptance.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Little Birdie Gets Around

Two posts ago, I reported how I had set up a fanpage on Facebook. Thanks to those who have responded by visiting and clicking Like. You give me hope that this effort is not a waste of my time.

Now, in conjunction with that, I have also set up an account on Twitter. I do not understand the point behind Twitter, but I do hope it will be a valuable marketing tool in the future. So if you Tweet, post your account username here and I will be happy to follow you, and please return the favor. As of this morning, I have exactly one follower, which is a positive beginning, I suppose. Gotta start somewhere, right? :)

You'll find me here:

Last but not least, I must admit I have no idea what I'm doing. I think I'll be able to figure most of it out, but I'm still flabbergasted about things like those "#" tags that follow some tweets but not others. So any tips for comprehension and productive use of this thing will be most welcome.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dreamflying and Head Colds

The title may make it sound like I've been taking too much cold medicine, but I haven't. Promise. In fact, I've hardly slept soundly enough since Saturday to have dream cycles at all. Why do colds wait to strike me in March? I was clean, all through the bad winter months, but now that spring is just about to burst free and the weather is too gorgeous to stay inside, I get laid up on the couch with a head cold. Go figure. Whenever the cold medicine begins to work its benumbing magic, I know it's pretty useless to try to focus on the bigger writing projects. Does anyone else suffer short-term memory loss when taking cold medicine? Well, maybe it's more short-term memory fuzziness.

Point is, I dragged out a short story that's been lurking on the des
k for a few months and decided it was time to give her a thorough going-over. A critiquer and an editor agreed that there was too much backstory dumped in the opening pages, so I'm trying to speed things up a bit, weave the important details in later and more gradually. So here's the progress report for yesterday and today:


Project: "Dreamflier"
Pages Revised: 22
Pages Cut: 1 (goodbye, my darlings! *sob*)
Bad things that happened: A team of dreamfliers get lost in the realm of dreams
Good things that happened: Ambryn, our heroine,
is allowed to help rescue them

I'm still happy with most of this story, obviously, and was able to speed through much of the text without altering too much. The tale was inspired by a contest prompt at LegendFire last summer. Unfortunately, I was reading Amy Tan at the time, which means I wanted to write a gorgeous, flowing narrative that bloomed as gradually as a lotus, and opened this piece in that style. But it's wrong for the rest of the story, which is quick-paced, frantic, and bizarre. Had I been reading Gaiman or Martin, perhaps, I might've made a different stylistic choice. But I still have high hopes for this piece. I just have to weave the narrative differently.

If I could choose an artist to illustrate this story, it would be Josephine Wall. Her paintings capture the color, movement, and bizarre imagery I see in the dream realm of this story. A picture is worth a thousand words.

by Josephine Wall

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

*groan* I Bit The Bullet

It doesn't hurt as badly as I thought it would.

Anyone who knows me, knows how I shout slander and all manner of vile things against the privacy-sucking, time-wasting institution that is Facebook. But my friends and family and all manner of writer-marketer people out there assure me that Facebook is my friend. These days, writers must be marketers, too, and one of the easiest ways to spread the word of one's aspirations to sell books is through the Facebook network, so last week, some friends convinced me to set up a fan page on Facebook. I don't have any books yet to sell, only a handful of stories available, but it seems that I need to start building the "fan base" now. I have a small following on my blog, but FB is supposed to help change that, or so they say. So interesting parties may find my fan page here:
Court Ellyn

Clicking "Like"--even if you're not a fan--will help me out. So will any tips from FB users who know how to market themselves via that avenue. I'll be happy to return the favor if you provide me a link to your fan page or equivalent. Bribing fans? You bet. I'd throw in a batch of cookies, too, but I don't think they would taste very good when posted here.

On another note, one I prefer far more, is our Art of the Week:
by Ciruelo Cabral

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pictures from Lady

Ah, this is what I had been hoping for, actual photos of the little girl we sponsor. We received them this last week. They were taken around Christmas and show little Lady in her traditional Ecuadorian costume, standing beside her lovely young mother. They are very proud to show us what they bought for Lady with the family gift we sent for Christmas and for Lady's birthday. Propped up against the blank wall behind them is the gorgeous headboard of a single-sized bed. Lady had been sharing a bed with her brother, but now she has her own.

How much we take for granted.

Edit: Okay, I couldn't stand it. I had to post one of the photos. It's just too wonderful.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Know Your Falcons!

Obviously, falcons in some facet play a big part in my novels (see novel title in posts below). While the time-honored sport of hunting with falcons is mentioned in my story, the characters get into too much trouble to actually devote any scene-time to this noble way of catching one's dinner. Still, it pays to do one's research. Better to be armed with too much information than not enough. So, the next time you take your falcon out a-hunting, you'll want to take along the following:
(this gorgeous sketch is from "Knights"
by Julek Heller and Deirdre Headon, copyright 1982)

Not depicted:
1. "Mews," little buildings where your falcons live
2. Perch, or "sedille" where your falcon will rest when it's not flying or sitting on your arm

Interesting Tid-Bits:
-Only female birds were used in hunting, and only females were called "falcons" while males (smaller and rarely hunted with) were called "tiercels."
-Different sized breed of raptors were used to catch different sized quarry.
-If your falcon fails to catch its prey, you may feed it unsalted cheese or scrambled eggs instead of raw meat as a reward for a good attempt. (I'm guessing you'll want to make a good campfire in the meadow and tote along your scullery staff to cook your bird up some eggs in such a case)
- If your falcon escapes, then is found but not returned (good hunting falcons are hard to come by, after all), or if your bird is stolen outright (some people just don't have the patience to train their own), you may exact a severe penalty on the perpetrator: the falcon is allowed to eat six ounces of flesh from the thief's breast. (You can't make up this stuff, folks!)

So, my question is: What research did you feel was required for your story, but never actually came into play?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A New Pet Peeve

Something is driving me bonkers lately, though I'm trying really hard to go with the flow and not let the ... issue ... get under my skin. So I'll vent about it here instead of sending notes to the people I would love to yell at.

I was taught that if you make a commitment to do something, you carry through.
Come hell or high water, you get the job done. You communicate with the people you have committed to and let them know if there are unavoidable problems that are delaying progress. You don't leave them to freak out, wondering if you've fallen off the planet or high-tailed it for the far country because you just don't want to participate in the task any longer.

Can anyone say "irresponsible"? Don't people understand how little things like this reflect on one's character? How in the future people will be less likely to trust them with other activities and responsibilities? I do not understand this neglect. IF YOU VOLUNTEER FOR A PARTICULAR JOB (I can't stress that enough), doesn't it make sense to uphold your end? In the least, tell me why you can't finish the task on time, or not at all, so I can find someone to take up the slack! It's not difficult. It's just a small mouthful of pride one must swallow to do this. Take it with sugar. It will go down easier. I'll even provide the sugar!

Now, I've vented. On with prettier things, like springtime and stories and fluffy kitties begging to come into the house to be in my company. Well, the kitties just want food, but they lie well and they're cute, so I'll let them get away with it. Back to the novels!