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Showing posts from April, 2010

Seducing the Muse

Blogs! Writing groups! Beta readers, online and offline! Books and seminars on writing and publishing! All of these have been and continue to be helpful to me as a writer. But I always try to remember that some of the most important things we writers can do to nourish our muses, to maximize our mental acuity and productivity, are not so obvious. Sometimes we even view them as competition for our writing time: physical fitness, happy relationships, and beauty sleep.

I speak for more than just myself when I say that our muses are snotty bitches, friends. They tend to snub us when we get grumpy, sleepy, or dopey on too little sleep.

Forget crossword puzzles and sudoku--The most effective way to keep the brain sharp is to exercise the body. That means setting aside a few hours each week to get some cardio to offset those long stretches of time parked in the old desk chair. It doesn't have to be a lot, but it does have to be consistent. I try to schedule in about three hours a week of …

Happy Earth Day! Writers, improve your karma by planting a tree.

As writers, our hopes for success involve the massacre of innocent trees to print our books. Drop an investment in the karma bank by planting a tree today. I don't have a picture yet, but the three apple trees I planted in front of my house last month are all leafed out! Now my ugly siding is masked by fruit tree foliage AND fragrantly blooming lilacs. Ahhh, I love it!

If you own property, I highly recommend planting fruit trees. Just think about it... They'll bear fruit and add value to your estate at about the same rate of speed as you writing that novel!

Now, I had better finish Sleeping Beauty and the Beast of Vepreskastel before the first apple falls.

I'm not outdated. I'm vintage.

When the heck did everything I liked as a teen become retro?!?

Safety pins, grunge, graffiti t-shirts, Du Hast, raver pants, ironically worn Catholic schoolgirl pleated skirts... Oh my.

I went to see Rent this past weekend. The friend who invited me insisted that we dress like extras in the play, so I squished into a pair of black leather pants I found at a thrift store, paired them with a tank top I bought from an Iranian Rastafarian (yeah, whaaaat?) in Key West, a pair of tarnished butterfly earrings from Claire's a decade and a half ago, and an attempt at the wild bedhead 'do I rocked in 1997.

I felt just like a high school girl! ...Except with gray hair showing in my roots and... are those wrinkles starting?!?

It was the first time I'd ever seen Rent, even though it's based off one of my favorite operas, La Boheme. I'm glad I hadn't seen it and loved it in high school, because my heart probably would have broken just now over how DATED it looks and sounds. …

Values... on the page and in life.

There's a lot of talk about values these days, but most people don't take the time to clearly define what their "values" really are. I decided to write down my own values to better articulate how I feel about the world and what I care about most. Next, I did an exercise in character sketching for the four main characters in Sleeping Beauty and the Beast of Vepreskastel. Sketches for fictional characters often list traits such quirks, motives, or personality or physical characteristics. But what about values? I'm finding that writing characters who disagree with each other and misunderstand each other is a good exercise in building empathy and understanding for people who disagree with me in real life.

Here is a short list of my MCs' core values at the beginning of the story:

Rosemarie values honesty, companionship, and romance.
Johann values bravery, chivalry, and valor.
Gustav values humanity, kindness, and civility.
Bellynda values freedom, power, and wealth.

Strong Characters... on the page and in life.

As you can tell from my last post, I had a rough weekend. The work I do in my day job is a little hard on the psyche. Working on issues of social justice means facing up to the ugliest, most tragic, and sometimes nastiest sides of life. A bad mood can throw off my writing--not just my will to write, but the feelings and thoughts I put into my characters. And I've been thinking about "character" lately, in reference to real people and fictional ones. I've heard that in a work of fiction, you only need one sympathetic character to feel emotionally connected to the story. And this week, I've found that it's true in real life, too. Just one friendly face can make a whole world of ugliness seem redeemable.

In my work on social issues, I've been dealing with people who are fearful and aggressive. There is so much bigotry, hatred, willful ignorance, and violence going on in this country right now that I'm ashamed and saddened by it. I go to the bookstore an…

New Muse Jamila and the Community Gap

At her last party in my psyche, my muse the Marchesa invited a special guest from her homeland of Italy: Jamila Salimpour, pioneer of "tribal" style belly dance in the U.S. in the 1960s. The Marchesa found out about Jamila through a few handy links about Jamila and American Tribal Style on the Bellydance Paladin blog. I was stoked to meet Jamila and completely in awe of her history, teaching, and style of dance as shown in this short documentary:

But it also made me sad to watch this. I was saddened because it brought home to me how much I miss out on real, in-person community with other women my age, women who dance and live and love and bear children. I realized how little I know about cultural dances, historical and modern. I realized how little time I spend in real community with people like myself. I have lady friends my age, of course, but we are all so busy with our working lives that we rarely get to spend time together, in person, as opposed to connecting by e-mail…

Be your own evil stepmother.

Spring cleaning time! (I know, ugh.) Sadly, I am not yet receiving any large royalty checks for my writing, so I can't hire a maid or cook. I'm also not a Disney princess with the power to sing out the window and call my animal helpers to do my chores for me. Even worse, my "housewife" Esperanza left me for Mexico a couple years ago. (I miss you, Esperanza!)

The only option left to me is to become my own evil stepmother and forbid myself to go to the ball (finish Chapter 5) until I complete my list of chores. This might actually motivate me to get some work done around the house, which sure would make Mr. G happy after he comes home from his two jobs. But it's very hard for me to stay away from my keyboard, because in Chapter 5... A PROPHECY is fulfilled! A CURSE descends upon the castle! And in Chapter 6... BLOOD and GORE! Two people Rosemarie loves will DIE HORRIBLE, VIOLENT DEATHS! Whole ecosystems will be OBLITERATED! A new monarch will SEIZE CONTROL of the …

2010 Quarterly Review

I made some pretty ambitious New Year's Resolutions back in January, and now we're about one quarter into the year. Did anybody else make big resolutions? Do you remember what yours were? I do, but only because I posted them! I'm a list maker, which helps with my absent-mindedness. Now let's see how I'm doing so far. My resolutions were:
1. Instate the Marchesa Luisa di Casati as one of my highest muses for fashion, beauty, attitude, artistic appreciation, and writing inspiration.
Status: In progress. After inviting the Marchesa to be one of my muses this year, she crept into my WIP, Sleeping Beauty and the Beast of Vepreskastel, and began to possess the body of one of my secondary characters, Vera, a girl with homely looks, humble beginnings, and a major attitude. In Part II, Vera is expected to receive a fierce makeover from a conspiratorial troupe of gypsies. That is all I can say for now.

Other muses followed the Marchesa into my work, inlcuding Brigitte Bardot …

It's Shorts Season!

The hot pants kind AND the literary kind!

I just watched The Dukes of Hazzard with special features.* Yeah, stick with me here. This is highly intellectual stuff. One of the special features explained the fashion engineering behind Daisy's shorts. Though they look like simple cutoffs that any yokel with a pair of scissors could create, apparently there was some intense design work required to get them as sleek, sexy, and daring as possible... while still having enough substance in strategic spots to cover her ass.
What's the point? Short STORIES, I am beginning to understand, are just as deceptively simple. I used to think I just didn't "get" short stories. I'm a novel kind of girl. At the library, I'm drawn to big, thick books with plots that flow like coursing rivers and large casts of slowly-developed characters. I've never liked reading short stories much, and I've always wanted to write novels.

But lately some writers I admire, including the …