Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #113: Right Said Fred and some rambling on writing...

We have entered that part of the year known as "butt cold." The kind of weather that is the real reason sweatshirts have hoods and is perfect for staying inside with a good sized supply of reading material...and/or computer games, hence the snowy Sims picture.

I'd first intended to post a traditional (if there is such a thing) Happy Dance Friday post, then decided I'd ramble instead, but the rambling reminded me of a bit of happy-dance-inspiring music, which ties in nicely with said rambling, so you get both. These guys have the right perspective on the creative life in today's tune:

2012 was not my best creative year, and far from the most stress-free. For 2013, I'd like to flip that coin over and have the opposite. Which takes some work, some faith, some trial, some error, and the resiliency of a SuperBall (I once dropped one out of a third story dormitory window to see if it would bounce back up all the way. It did. Many thanks to my friend, Diana R, who waited on the ground to make sure she caught any stray balls before they could meet car windows. Yes, she did, and no, they didn't.)but eventually, one gets there.

Like today. I'm reading straight through the ms formerly titled "Draperwood" which is now "Ravenwood," which makes more sense as a place name, and making revisions. You know it's a good day when you're driving your characters through a plague-decimated England and chair dancing as you do because it's fun to do so. I bought a book of stamps, earmarked for good old fashioned snail mail letters, because one dear friend gave me a fountain pen for Christmas and the lure of sitting at my antique secretary desk and writing letters the old-fashioned way is too much for a writer of historical romance to resist. Besides, who doesn't want something in one's mailbox that is not a bill or junk mail? The letter writer in me announced that she is done being quiet, and I have learned it's useless to oppose her. Hence the stamps.

Yesterday, Housemate Linda and I made purchases at two local small bookstores. Between those, the two libraries within walking distance, and my electronic reading devices, the TBR pile is shaping up quite nicely. Tomorrow's plans involve much reading, the baking of cookies, and messing about with some arty things because A) I have stamps and that means mail art, and B) the art supply store had free samples and the girls in my basement (borrowing term from Barbara Samuels, from her book, The Care and Feeding of the Girls in the Basement - highly recommended reading for writers, IMO)want to play with paint. I think I'm going to let them.

What weekend plans make you want to happy dance?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #112 - Sovereign Light Cafe

I'm going back to a time when we owned this town
Down Powdermill lane in the battlegrounds
We were friends and lovers and clueless clowns

- Sovereign Light Cafe, Keane

Do not ask me how many times I've seen this video, because I can't count that high. The name of the song drew me in at first - could this be about a place that's a character in itself? (It is, and it's a real place, though the website is still under construction, it would seem.) One of my favorite tropes right there, and with such an evocative name, I couldn't resist.

Every time I watch this, I find new things - the Union Jack flag on the parked bicycle at 1:57 and hey, where did the guy in the beanie at 2:39 come from? I'd kept all my attention on the couple with the ice cream in that shot the last dozen times. There are two gentlemen practicing martial arts, but one wears a black belt (high level of achievement) and the other a white belt (beginner) - are they teacher and student?

The melody is lovely, gently upbeat and hopeful, the lyrics implying both a troubled past and a homecoming with good intent, but it's the varied characters that catch my attention the most. The stern, intense concentration of a young male gymnast. A ballerina poised against the grey of sea and sky. Trick bicycle riders and acrobats doing somersaults through the air. A line of costumed belly dancers in front of changing cabanas wave their brilliantly covered scarves. The dancer who gets the closeup? A woman of experience, shall we say? I think she's gorgeous. Rock on, madam.

That's what makes this song worthy of the happy dance title. A wide variety of people, each doing their own thing. Antique cars drive along the same beach where a white horse gallops. Antique big wheeled bicycles traverse the sidewalk. Old friends need to say nothing, only be there for each other. Members of the band pose on benches or against walls, solo, while the singer, our narrator, strolls the seaside, eventually leading a scarlet-coated marching band to the cafe. There, everybody can gather at the end of the day; teens and pensioners, singers and athletes coming together to watch the night settle. Add to that our narrator coming home to those who know him -possibly to reunite with a long lost love?- and will presumably take him as he is? Bliss, and definitely something for the idea file.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Here comes that feeling again...

Last night, I stayed up far past my bedtime, reading Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson. This is my first historical my Ms. Roberson, though her romantic fantasy Sword Dancer series has long been a favorite of mine. I blogged about it for Heroes and Heartbreakers here.

Lady of the Glen isn't an easy book, and that's exactly what kept me reading.

Most of my favorite books aren't easy stories, and the same thing applies in writing. Story in, story out. Even if it's late. Especially when it's late. Those times when getting to the end of the story is more important than sleep, that's what I want, both as a reader and a writer.

For me, it's not enough to say "it was night." I want to feel the cool wind on my cheek, breathe the stillness of the night air, inch my way along in the inky blackness using only memory and the shapes that I can pick out in the shadows. Since my genre of choice is romance, it's a given that the two lovers are going to have their happily ever after at the end of the story, but if that HEA comes at great cost, even better.

Setting that book down at last, after closing the cover and my tired eyes, I was satisfied with Cat and Dair's happily ever after, sad at how much it cost them, and angry that my time with them was over. No, I don't want a sequel, spinoff or continuation. The story was complete in itself, and I wouldn't ask it to be anything else. I was satisfied knowing that, although I have to give the library back its copy, mine is still safely snuggled in its cardboard box in the storage unit, along with other books. In time, it will find its way onto my shelves in our new home. Said shelves are still in flux as we continue to settle in, but being able to touch a book that I missed. I'd packed my copy before reading it, and had a strong yearning for it when I saw the library's copy on their shelves.

I have other library books in my TBR stack, and purchased books and ebooks in two different formats, so it's not that I don't have anything to read. It's that I lived in that world for the time it took me to read Cat and Dair's story, and I'm going to need to acclimate some. Then I'll be ready to read something else. By tonight, I'll be engrossed in something from the TBR stack, and I'll let that story flow into me and feed my own story hamster.

I can feel that fire I've missed, the one that got dampened. Reading. Writing. The one feeds the other. Talking, too, about both, because that's how I roll. Feel free to chime in at any time.

Have you ever missed a book when you finished reading it?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Talk about writing exactly as much as you, personally, need to talk about writing.
--Seanan McGuire

When I walked away from the table, there were bruises on the unheard lyrics of my yet-to-be-born songs.

Creative work comes from internal fires.

--Mary Jo Putney

Today's quotes come from a file I started keeping a few months back. The title inserted itself in my head after I got to the laundromat, in a morning that looked pretty much like the picture above, and realized that I had not brought along a notebook. I had pens, but no notebook and nothing that could be pressed into service. How did I feel at the moment? Emptyfull. Technically not a word, but it fit at the moment, and it encapsulated a lot of what I've felt about writing over the past year.

Full of stories to be told. Empty of the right way to tell them. The voices of my untold stories doing their best to make themselves heard over the noise of the hypercritical gremlins who'd got into my head somewhere along the way. Since I had my e-reader with me, I delved into Marsha Canham's The Iron Rose, finished that and got a fair way into The Following Sea before it was time to fold laundry and haul it home. I've long admired Ms. Canham not only for her writing, but for her committment to telling her stories, her way. I find that a great inspiration.

A quick check of email and favorite blogs between laundry hauling and lunch alerted me to a timely post at the Word Wenchesm on writerly anxiety. If you're a writer or know one, I highly recommend this post. This. So exactly this. If the voices are going to talk to us anyway, we may as well let them have their say. Anxiety is going to happen, but we can ride it out and come out the other side, stronger. To add another quote to my list, this one from Joanna Bourne, "The only cure for the pain of writing is writing."

So yeah, I'm going to talk about writing as much as I need to. This is my place to do that. Talking is not a subtitute for doing, don't get me wrong, but I find that one revs me up to do the other.

How do you battle anxiety about your creative work and punch those hypercritical gremlins in the throat?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Inadvertently Awesome

Today's title comes from David-the-barista, the picture from Second Life. My original intent was to use my own photos for the post pictures this week, possibly as prompts, but that would require a camera.

Several years ago, DH surprised me on Christmas morning with a digital camera. This Christmas, our first in our new home, on a gorgeously snowy white Christmas morning, I took same camera out to get some pictures while waiting for everyone to get up (I'm the early riser in our family.) Since I love the cold, love the snow, love exploring our neighborhood, this was like a special present to myself. On with the leopard print rubber boots, on with scarf and gloves and coat and off I go.

I had the route in mind immediately. Leave house, head toward park. Since it's early and a major holiday, I'm reasonably well assured that I can get some shots of the virgin snow, especially in the park, especially park benches (I have a thing for empty park benches.) Since the best way to get to the park is along a gorgeous historic street lined with turn of the century buildings, many of them bedecked with holiday decor, I could not have asked for a better picture taking opportunity. Snow covered wrought iron. Snow covered stone steps. Snow covered bare branches on trees reaching up to the blue-grey sky that implied it wasn't yet done with the white stuff. I happily snapped pictures until the guilt over neglecting family told me it was time to turn back.

Which was exactly when the camera started acting funny. I'd snapped a few different shots of the historic promenade in the park (built in 1803, originally for military drills and parades, later the spot to see and be seen) as well as benches, sky, plaques on and doorways of buildings with historic ties as well, and then...the drag began. Something was...different...about how long it took the camera to tell me it was done doing whatever it is cameras do for that shot. I begged it. One more for mommy, okay? We're going home, really. Then you can take pictures of family members opening presents wrapped in brown paper with colored ribbons, all nice and inside and...nothing.

"Nothing doing," the camera seemed to be saying to me. "No more pictures for the crazy writer person who takes me out in the cold when all the other cameras are inside, watching adorable tots tear into the latest in hand-knitted sweaters and pink plastic minivans outfitted with laser cannons." I took it home, cradled in the warmth of my coat, telling myself it was probably the batteries. I'd try new ones.

I tried new ones. I tried newer ones. I let Housemate Linda have a look at it in case she might see some error I'd made and set things aright. Once more, nothing doing. Camera now sits on a bookshelf in my office, next to yet another set of batteries. I am surprisingly okay with this.

It's not a disaster. Either the camera can be repaired, or it cannot. In either event, the memory card is in there, and I can stick it into my printer (once that's up and running) and all those pictures will still be there. I can still have them, even if not right now. They're safe. They're waiting. They're still mine. Maybe I'll open them on a hot day in July and have myself Christmas morning all over again.

The inadvertantly awesome part? When I sat down to write this entry, I had no idea what I was going to say, and lookee here - I wrote a story. It has a protagonist (moi) and a beginning (plan to take pictures) and a middle (the picture.) and an end (camera on the shelf, dead-at-least-for-now.) It has a black moment (dead camera!) and a resolution (will try memory card in something else.) Some dialogue, and I'd have to call it extremely rough, but gussy it up some and there could be something.

What mundane experience of yours do you think could inadvertantly turn into the seeds of an awesome story?

Monday, January 14, 2013

2012/2013 - and so it begins


Made three attempts to blog today, and deleted them all. I do want to commit to a solid week of blogging to start the year as I mean to go on. Hence this.

Thanks to Barbara Samuels' blog entries on the fear and joy of writing, I'm getting a much better handle on why 2012 was not my best or favorite writing year, but we have a brand new year started, and that's good for a fresh start. Which makes this the right time do commit myself to another whole week of blogging.

There are a few reasons for doing this. One, it gets me on the right path (as in picture above). At the keyboard every day, getting something that's in my head out for public consumption. Two, I'm a talker. Staying quiet isn't natural for me, and the longer I am, the harder it is to climb out of it. Three, enough days of forcing myself to blabber about nothing, I will bore myself and have to talk about something interesting. Stories are interesting.

Our new home is within walking distance of two libraries. Maybe three if we're feeling adventurous. We've found both a small independent bookstore (with a really really really good romance section even though it's only one shelf - kudos to the buyer for excellent choices) and a splendidly sprawling (David-the-barista from our local coffee shop has me doing his vocabulary thing these days. I'm not complaining) Barnes and Noble.

I will admit to going on what housemate Linda and I long ago named "library orgies." No, not that kind. In family parlance, it means to go to more than one library in one day and take out whatever strikes one's fancy. Which means that I have a nice TBR stack next to my bed. At present, I count three library books -no, four, but one is a nonfiction book on art journaling, not a novel- and four newly purchased paperbacks on the "read me next" shelf. My nightstand also holds an ARC of a novel by two favorite authors. My Kindle app on my laptop has been a busy thing lately, as is the ereader that lives in my purse (and dearly needs a charge tonight.) However many books I have, I need more, because of that story hunger. After a dismal 2012, it has me again. Or I have it. It's hard to tell sometimes.

There's one more reason for this week of blogging. Fear. What if I'm not doing it right? What if I don't have what it takes? What if I've been kidding myself all this time and should shut up and go away because nobody really cares anyway? What if....fill in the blank with anything that seems appropriate. Fear, for me, can be crippling, and from my perspective, the only way out is through. So, how best to conquer fear of writing? By writing. No, a blog entry is not a novel, but it's putting the tush in the chair and the fingers on the keyboard and sending something out into the world.

So. This is a week of blogging. Some entries may ramble. Some entries may stink like that hunk of cheese that got trapped between the sofa cushions the same week the not yet paper trained puppy decided that sofa was his. (Not that this ever happened to me, because it hasn't, but DH once stashed a pastrami sandwich in my purse and didn't tell me, which resulted in me taking it to work that night and not finding it until um, eating it was no longer a good idea.) Some may actually make some sense, and some may surprise even me, but they will be written. So far, so good.