Monday, March 26, 2012

Sad Song Blogfest

Sad Clown
Image courtesy: D Sharon Pruitt: Sad Clown

Today is L. Diane Wolf’s Sad Song Blogfest! Huzzah! Let’s get things rolling, in reverse order, with a blast from the past:

10. Elton John’s Sad Songs Say So Much (The title says it all.)

9. Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart (Turn around, bright eyes, ’cause every day I fall apart, sniff)

8. Billy Ray Cyrus’s Achy, Breaky Heart


Image courtesy: gl0ri

Hold on . . .

Oh, crap. That’s my top ten BAD Song List. Let’s try this again, shall we? And yes, I’m gonna keep on misbehavin’. I could narrow it down to eleven, but no further.

11. Riders On The Storm (The Doors)

Morrison sounds pretty despondent on this one. That voice, the spooky lyrics referencing a homicidal hitchhiker, and the literal thunderstorm in the background always leave me feeling like a lost, little kid.

10. It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back) / Eurythmics

If you’re promising to be someone’s destiny, dignity, storm at seas, and everything else under the sun, it’s not all right. Baby’s not coming back, and I think you know it.

9. Heartbreaker (Rolling Stones)

With a depressing social commentary on street violence this 1973 classic still rings true —consider the Trayvon Martin case.

8. Driver 8 (R.E.M)

The musical equivalent to Frost’s “miles to go before I sleep”. The conductor says take a break, we can reach our destination. But, replies the exhausted driver, we’re still a ways away.

7. Bittersweet (Big Head Todd and the Monsters)

A tale of love gone wrong but still going—more sweet than bitter, baby.

6. The Wind Cries Mary (Jimi Hendrix)

The psychedelic lyrics are as awesome as the guitar playing.

5. Interstate Love Song (Stone Temple Pilots)

It was tough to pick between this and Plush, but Interstate is more mournful, so it wins.

4. Major Tom (David Bowie)

Spaceman urges ground control to ‘tell my wife I love her very much’ just before something goes catastrophically wrong.

3. Badge (Eric Clapton)

She cried away her life since she fell off the cradle—now that’s sad.

2. Burden In My Hand (Soundgarden)

According to Wikipedia, this song’s about a man who murders his woman and leaves her body in the desert, a 1990s “Hey Joe” (that’s Hendrix for you young’uns).

1. I Got ID (Pearl Jam)

The lyrics are about unrequited love, but it’s the guitar bridge that slays me. It makes me want to learn how to play even at my age.

Done! Now, why do I have the sinking feeling I’ll get more comments on that faux bad list?

Click on the blogfest button on the upper left hand corner to get back to the list.

Losing It

Siren Alpha
Image courtesy: Elif Ayiter/Alpha Auer: Siren Alpha

I envy Johanna Garth's blog title: Losing Sanity. It certainly sums up my life.

Yet, to be accurate, I would have to use Lost Sanity or maybe go more literary with Sanity Lost. But that sounds too close to 'sanitary' and takes me to a whole 'nother place that's quite inappropriate. (Not only have I lost my mind, but I fear it's wandering around bad neighborhoods and is up to no good.)

Okay, time to focus. Today's post is about Johanna Garth's book, Losing Beauty. It certainly sums up my face . . . (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Think about your deepest darkest secret. Have you ever told anyone? Your spouse, best friend, or a priest? Probably not. Imagine meeting someone and hearing that secret spill out from your lips. This is exactly what happens to people who meet Persephone Campbell. While that power might sound like fun for a little while, Percy hates it so much she learns to avoid others. She doesn't want to know that her friend's father touches her in that way or the sexual desires of her male friends.

The name Persephone might seem like an odd choice, but this novel is based on the greek myth of the same name. As in that myth, Garth's god of the underworld, Hades, falls in love with Persephone and plots to make her his queen. You'd think this wouldn't be so hard for the king of hell, but other men keep getting in the way.

Hades first obstacle is the affable Aaron Strait, Percy's long-time friend and first husband. This guy is so squeaky clean and pure, his worst secret is loving Percy too much. Even the use of a seductress, the inhuman siren Leucy (see top image), doesn't get Hades his prize, because of yet another man in love with Percy rescues her from despair. Daniel Hartnett, Percy's coworker, has his own supernatural ability. He knows people's true intentions no matter what they say. Again, you'd think this would be a desirable ability, but it's made Daniel's life just as lonely as Percy's.

I won't spoil any more details, but I love how the supernatural details dovetail into the modern lives of these characters. It's seamless and fun. Now for the big question, Johanna: WHERE'S MY SEQUEL? (Picture me pounding on a table with spoon and fork.) At the end of Losing Beauty is a tantalizing teaser for Losing Hope with the date March 2012. April is almost here. What happens next?

Hades + Persephone - B3
Image courtesy: h.koppdelaney's Hades and Persephone on a Sunday morning walk

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ah, The Sweet Smell Of . . . Lysol?

Four Little Bunnies 05
Image courtesy: ja450n

It started with the ants--six or seven of them scurrying around my kitchen floor. The warm weather plus my poor (nonexistent) cleaning habits finally caught up with me yesterday. Something had to be done.

Once the kids and hubby were off to their schools, I attacked the house with broom, Swiffer, Lysol, bucket, and gajillion handrags. I washed walls! I scrubbed cabinets! My house smelled, um, pretty clean. Wow.

But then I realized I just burned an entire day of writing time. Duh-oh! When will I ever learn?

On a better note, I did come across a remarkable book at just the right time--Anita Shreve's Fortune's Rocks. It's set in the 19th century and features a young woman protagonist. My current manuscript does too (but mine happens forty years earlier and the MC is three years older).

In Fortune's Rocks, Olympia Biddleford spends the summer of 1899 with her parents on the shores of New Hampshire where she falls head over heals in love with a forty-year-old married man. YA fans and creators take note: Shreve captures that wild, falling-in-love period beautifully. Olympia is fifteen: young enough to let her feelings dictate her actions and old enough to recognize their fallacies. She knows the dreams featuring her beloved have given her a sense of intimacy with the man that doesn't yet exist.

Things get really wild when the married man returns Olympia's affections. They start a torrid affair knowing the outcome will be somewhere between heartbreaking and a complete catastrophe. Since this is fiction, guess which way things turn out? Yep, catastrophe.

I loves the historical details like the evolution of factory workers in the northeast. Years before this story takes place, young women from nearby farms were hired to work long hours. Yet the factory owners created a housing environment and opportunities for learning and entertainment that created a lifestyle somewhat like going to college. In the MC's time, the farm girls have been replaced with foreigners who crowd their entire families into dorm-sized rooms, allowing disease to run rampant. There is a class/culture warfare brewing between the established (wealthier) whites and the more recent French immigrants. The members of this poor class are referred to as 'Franco' in a derogatory way.

This is one of those library books grabbed on a whim that now, I must own.

On a different note, who's psyched about seeing Hunger Games this weekend?

Monday, March 12, 2012

I'm It

Image courtesy: Malingering

Thanks to Prerna Pickett over at The Sands of Writing, I've been tagged! Cool. Let's do this thang:

1. What's your favorite book?

Shadowland by Peter Straub. As a young reader, my first love was horror. Stephen King is still my fave, but this book (and Ghost Story) by Peter Straub are incredible. Of course I was super jazzed when these two authors got together to write The Talisman (and not so enthralled by their later effort, Black House). But I digress.

What's so awesome about Shadowland? The writing is top, top notch. I love the dreaminess and how easily Straub moves from reality to fantasy sequences to stories and forward and backward in time. The symbolism with all the birds is masterful.

What's is about? A young boy befriends an oddball at his prep school. His new friend's hobby is magic and his uncle is a retired professional magician and not a nice guy. The uncle brings the two boys to his Vermont home for a summer of magic, mayhem, and ultimately, a battle to become the next great magician. If you read The Night Circus and were hankering for a real, to-the-death battle between magicians, this is the book for you.

2. What inspires your writing?

My personal daydreams. I tend to daydream in novel-length epics, expanding and editing as I go. Writing just gives me a chance to capture them on paper (in bits and bytes?) and turn them into a story for the masses. Not that I've actually gotten the stories to the masses yet. That's another daydream in progress.

3. Where's your favorite place to write?

My desk sits in my sunroom. See pictures here.

4. If you could plan ahead, what would want your last meal to be?

I'd go to the Melting Pot and have the Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue (Gruyère and Emmenthaler Swiss cheeses come together with white wine, garlic, nutmeg, lemon and Kirschwassee), their Caeser Salad, and then another swiss cheese fondue for dessert. And then another Caesar Salad. See, this way, the end would not come until I exploded.

5. If you had to participate in one extreme sport, what would it be?

Rollerblading on a half-pipe. I can skate backwards, roll off a curb without falling (usually), and once went down an entire level of a parking garage with the backs of my heels facing each other. Oh, and I can do a nifty little spin from forwards to backwards.

At my age, if I tried to do anything on a half pipe other than skate along the bottom slowly and carefully, I'd better just go ahead and order my last meal from The Melting Pot.

6. What's your biggest fear?

That one or both of my children will die before I do.

7. Vampire or werewolf?

Hmmm, that's a tough one. I'm edging toward vampire right now. Maybe that's because I recently read Anne Rice's Wolf Gift about a werewolf that vividly describes how much the MC enjoys eating raw animals and people. Yuck. Then I read Jodie Picoult's Lone Wolf about a guy who went to live with wolves (not werewolves) and ate freshly-killed deer stomach. Double yuck. (Not that sucking blood is all that appealing either.)

Is there an equivalent to the Independent Party here? This muggle would much rather be sent to Hogwarts and eat well-cooked fare, thank you very much.

8. Favorite writing snack?

I've been chewing Trident gum like it's going out of style. Sweet Cherry/Island Lime or one of the other two-tone flavors.

9. What's your favorite scary movie?

Oh brother, do I have to pick just one? The Exorcist scared the bejusus out of me, but I've also lost some serious sleep to Paranormal (haven't had the guts to see the sequels yet), The Blair Witch Project, and the first Nightmare on Elm Street.

On the more artistic side, I have a deep love for The Company of Wolves and would love to see M.Night Shyamalan's The Village again.

10. Why did you start writing?

Because I've dreamed about writing my whole life and was finally ready. I had the time, the story, and the motivation.

11. Your favorite day of the year?

Image courtesy: rocor

Again, do I have to pick one? It's probably not a holiday. A good candidate is the first day of our annual Kiawah beach trip. I've been going to this island every year since I was nine. It's so beautiful, so relaxing.

Okay, I guess I need to tag someone. Hmmm . . . I pick CluelessEve, Johanna Garth at Losing Sanity, author of the excellent book Losing Beauty, and my writing club pal, Julia Reffner over at Dark Glass Ponderings. Dude, you haven't updated that blog since September! What are you doing? Homeschooling and writing and and and . . . okay, I'll shut up.

Here's the awards. Pick your fave.

And here's the list of questions to tag three other bloggers after you answer them yourselves.

1. What's your favorite book?
2. What inspires your writing?
3. Where's your favorite place to write?
4. If you could plan ahead, what would want your last meal to be?
5. If you had to participate in one extreme sport, what would it be?
6. What's your biggest fear?
7. Vampire or werewolf?
8. Favorite writin snack?
9. What's your favorite scary movie?
10. Why did you start writing?
11. Your favorite day of the year?

Or, if you've already done this list how about:

1. What book would you like turned into a movie?

2. Are you a repeat reader or one-time-only reader? If you're a repeat reader, what book(s) have you read the most?

3. If you had to pick just three artists/groups to fill up your iPod, who would make the cut?

Okay, Tag! You're it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hurrah! An Accomplishment

Image Courtesy: Old Shoe Woman

Hello, bloggers. Thanks for your sympathies on the Winter Break from hell. We have recovered, I think. Actually, Big Bear can't hear out of one ear from post-infection fluid build-up, and Little Bear went to school this morning with half a degree of fever. (Please don't get sick, please don't get sick, I need you to stay well so we can get those ear tubes put in, oh, please don't get sick.)

But enough whining. Something good happened last week. On Friday, I finished the first draft of my second book, entitled Goldleaf. The plot (set in the south circa 1859) has more holes than:

Image courtesy: thenoodleator

But it is done, ladies and gentlemen. Now what?

Well, duh. Editing. I prefer editing to free-style creating, so I'm jazzed to switch gears. Here's some things I'll be focussing on:

1. Create an emotional experience. Without this, the book has failed. I've got to make my reader feel for the characters and what happens to them.

2. Create 'round' characters. I'm liking the supporting characters more than the MC. That's not good. I've got to get in touch with my gal, Miss Adeline, and bring her to life. I'll be rewriting the chapters in first person and rereading diaries written during this time period until I satisfied with her voice.

3. Fill in the holes. I've got minor characters whose story lines disappear without a trace. Plus, historical fiction demands I pay special attention to what the characters wear, eat, where they live, and how they travel. But I also want to infuse the story with the politics, currents events, religion, songs and books of this era. This ain't easy. Here's my research pile:

This doesn't include all the online material. I've read most of these books cover to cover, highlighted the heck out of them, and let them sit around. A few were consulted over and over throughout the first draft. Now I have to go back through the neglected ones and pick out what to use and figure out where to use it. For example, nineteenth century moms were hesitant to feed their children too much fresh fruit. Many feared it would make their kids sick.

Image courtesy: karmablue

4. Dialect. The spoken word is a whole 'nother can of worms. I have to give the flavor of the era with select words and phrases, but I can't bog down my reader with "His conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray's Grammar, and was garnished at convenient intervals with various profane expressions, which not even the desire to be graphic in our account shall induce us to transcribe." (Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852) Say what?

Goldleaf's dialect will be my creation. I'm not going for strict accuracy. I can't. Southern slang can be approximated with apostrophes and substitutions:

An' den he's gonna go runnin' in dem dose shoes an', boy howdy, he'll be beggin' fo a drank. Fo sho'!

Did I just channel a bad SNL skit? Anyway, every hyphen and deviation from the standard spelling of a word forces the reader to slow down. It's not a good thing.

5. Create a coherent piece of art with a theme and symbolism. My first book was thriller, influenced by Stephen King, James Patterson, and Dan Brown, authors I've loved for many years. However, my reading habits have branched out. The writings of Barbara Kingsolver, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anita Shreve, Jodi Picoult, The Help's Kathryn Stockett, and Pat Conroy are my inspiration this time.

After going through the query process once, I know certain things. The first five, ten, and fifty pages must be strong. The query teaser, all two paragraphs of it, must be compelling. The synopsis must capture the major story arcs and characters in two, little-bitty (double-spaced!) pages.

I should write these now. Because if there is a weakness, fixing it now will be easier than fixing it later. I should also have that one line pitch for "What's your book about" ready to roll. Right now, it's a five-line explanation at best, dominated by 'and, uh'.

The challenge: where to start. The solution? Delay by creating this blog entry. I've climbed a small mountain with this draft and the view is lovely but, to paraphrase Frost, I have many (more) mountains to go.

Where are you in your writing these days?