Monthly IWSG Corner
Some time between in post-fifties Britain before the ‘Sixties’ revolution, BBC Radio aired a weekly show, Desert Island Disks, allowing a celebrity castaway to a fictional ‘desert island’ to take with him a handful of favored tunes, to accompany him in his exultant solitude.
Some of you will know I recently moved lock, stock and library shelves to a new abode [PDT is my excuse for being three hours late, Alex]. And while my internet hiccups continue—I know, it’s getting boring—I seem to have discovered a Desert Island Inventory of my own.
Higgledy piggledy among a few other life-enhancing objects—my possessions recently completed a circuit by sea from Europe to North America via the Panama Canal. I add quickly, I did not. I came the other way. And while I am still ‘camping out’, I’m gradually able to open a few boxes, and thought the readers/hoarders/collectors among us IWSGers might enjoy what came out of the first couple of cartons. I swear I didn’t pack them—this was movers’ choice. Isn’t it interesting to see one’s life flash before one’s eyes?
There follows a sample of my lifetime reading—as they emerged from the box. In the opinion of some, a ‘wasted youth’; but IMHO, Goodreads, eat your heart out.
Joseph Conrad: Outcast of the Islands, Limited Ed. Avon, CN 1979
Frank Herbert: God Emperor of Dune, Berkley Books [Putnam's], 1981
Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood’s End, Penguin, 1963
Arthur C. Clarke: 2010 Odyssey Two, Penguin, 1986
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary—on historical principles—Vol. II N-Z, Clarendon Oxford, 1965 (‘shorter’ edition requires only mild magnifying glass)
William Golding: Lord of the Flies, Capricorn [Putnam's] New York 1959
Fred Hoyle: Astronomy, MacDonald, London, 1962
Robert Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land, Berkley, 1975
Jeffrey Archer: As the Crow Flies, Coronet, Hodder & Stoughton 1991 [no apology]
Shirley MacLaine: Dancing in the Light, Bantam New York, 1987
[in my suitcase as current reading are:
Shirley MacLaine: Going Within,
Ken Carey: Return of the Bird Tribes so I guess my reading habits alter little!]
Victor Hugo: Notre Dame of Paris, Vols I, II & IV[??] Dent London, 1899
Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Ox,U.P. 1979
Mrs Gaskell: Cranford, Nelson, London 1945
True Annals of Fairyland in the Reign of King Herla, Dent London Dutton NY, prob. 1940s
Wallis Budge, E.A., Egyptian Book of the Dead—Papyrus of Ani, Dover NY, 1967
Evans-Wentz, W.Y. Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries Oxford Univ. Press, 1911
Concise Oxford Dictionary [don't ask; handier single volume] Oxford Univ. Press, 1976
Aldous Huxley: Point Counterpoint, Chatto & Windus, London 1938
Thornton Wilder: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Penguin (2 copies?), 1966, 1971
Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon: Scots Heraldry, Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh, 1945
Lyall Watson: Heaven’s Breath, A Natural History of the Wind, Hodder & Stoughton, London 1984
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Sunday School Union, Ludgate Hill, London 1896
G.Brook-Shepherd: The Last Habsburg, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1968
L & J Laing: Picts and Scots, Sutton, Stroud, 1996
Marion Campbell: The Dark Twin, Colonsay, Argyll, 1973
E.B. Lytton: Last Days of Pompeii, King, London 1832
Bros. Grimm: Household Tales, Dover, London 1963
P.D. James: A Taste for Death, Faber London, 1986
Lyall Watson: Lifetide—Biology of the Unconscious, Coronet 1980
J.V.Luce The End of Atlantis, Paladin [Thames-Hudson], 1973
J.C.Lilly: Centre of the Cyclone, an autobiography of Inner Space Paladin [Thames-Hudson], 1974
J.C.Lilly: The Human Computer; Abacus, 1968
New Oxford Book of English Verse, OUP, 1972
S.Rushdie: The Satanic Verses, Viking, London, 1988
Taylor Caldwell: Dear and Glorious Physician, Fontana/Collins, 1959
Vera Brittain: Testament of Youth, V. Gollancz, London, 1985
Rbt. Burns: Poetic Works, Kilmarnock edition, Scot.Daily Express, Glasgow. 1938.
E.A. Poe: Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Bracken, London, 1987
Salley H.E. & Greer, H.E.: Rhododendron Hybrids, Batsford London, 1986
David Austin: English Roses, RHS, Kew London, 1997
Reader’s Digest Great Illustrated Dictionary, Vol. II L-Z, 1984
One bonus to having even a single volume of the last item: it comes in handy when the wireless goes … I won’t mention it again… but round here, the internet service isn’t called Suddenlink for no reason…
I suspect you’re getting a little insight into my dilemma.
Onward and upward.
Once again, my thanks to Alex and his team of stalwart IWSGers. And a teeny weeny apology for not getting to press under the midnite deadline, EST. Raps own knuckles. Will try better next time.
And, BTW, oh so HAPPY MAY!
©2013 Marian Youngblood
May 2, 2013 Posted by siderealview | authors, culture, fiction, publishing, traditions, writing | Aldous Huxley, Alex J Cavanaugh, Arthur C. Clarke, books, David Austin, Desert Island Disks, Evans-Wentz, Fred Hoyle, inventory, IWSG, Ken Carey, Lewis Carroll, library, Lyall Watson, Mrs Gaskell, Rbt. Heinlein, reading, Robert Burns, roses, Shirley MacLaine | 8 Comments
Monthly IWSG Corner: or
Are [Insecure] Writers better at weathering stormy times than other people?
There is no doubt that—if one watches the news at all—we are all heading for hell in a handbasket, according to media-directed focus on the negative aspects of our economy, environment, life-expectancy and statistics on survival. But, quietly, behind the scenes other aspects of our lives are changing for the good… if we but extract ostrich-like heads from sand and look around to see what we may have achieved.
Some years ago, the book publishing industry used toxic solvents, bleach compounds, felled a lot of non-regenerating trees and had no interest in recycling materials or finding alternatives to the [sometimes candy-coated] printed page. In fact, if we are honest, since the days of the Gutenberg press, we (writers) as a race, have probably been addicted to the sensation/smell of a good book in our hands.
“Achieving the great economic transition to more equitable, ecologically sustainable societies requires nothing less than a design revolution beyond today’s fossilized industrialism. This enlightened and enlightening book—Cradle to Cradle—shows us how and indeed, that ‘God is in the details.’”
Hazel Henderson, author of Building a Win-Win World and Beyond Globalization: Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy
Then, in 2002, along came William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s seminal edition of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things, manufactured from ‘upcyclable’ material. The ‘Durabook’ feels substantial, pages wipe clean and at the time (before the great upswing to e-books), it was the darling of all ‘progressive’ universities. It looked so good on the second-hand book shelf!
With the advent of the e-book, electronic art, IT-in-all-schools, mass web access, we writers may have been guilty of continuing to keep our heads buried in the sand: not wanting to see what was happening: while the industry was changing—writers and indy publishers taking the business under their own wing; writers providing platforms, support systems for fellow-writers—we may even have rebelled internally, determined not to lose that most elusive of pleasures (to an author), the sensation of holding a ‘good book’ in one’s hands.Now, eleven years after their first Durabook (a synthetic made from recycled plastic resins and inorganic fillers), McDonough and Braungart launch their ‘sequel’ from Northpoint Press, The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance, on April 16th. The foreword is by former president William T. Clinton. Northpoint is a subsidiary arm of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
In the early 1990s, then President Bill Clinton asked Bill McDonough to help with the White House ‘Greening’ program, to make drastic reductions in presidential fuel bills. The former president enthusiastically contributes to the new ‘durabook’ with a foreword clearly showing his support for the architect-chemist team’s solution to the world’s ills:
“Bill and Michael proposed that a better-designed world would be good for business, good for people’s health and good for the environment. Their first book introduced these ideas to the broader public and gave momentum to the sustainability movement, urging us to eliminate waste and consider no resource dispensable… essence of Bill and Michael’s work is the genuine desire to help others, coupled with intellectual curiosity and a deep commitment to transform ‘good enough’ into the very best. They focus on making the right things the right way.” President William T. Clinton
While the publishing industry may be slow (almost as leviathan as the banking industry, if we are being honest), there is certainly a sense of camaraderie developing among fellow writers-bloggers-authors by the fresh breeze blown in by indy publishers and independent e-book self-publishers in the last decade.
“We do not want sustainability, because that is not enough. We want real quality”
Judging by the press releases, the sequel to Cradle-to-Cradle may be even more inspiring than the original. Eleven years worth the wait? I am not totally confident that we insecure writers—led always to our fearless Alex J Cavanaugh, will succeed in plunging—all at once—into the new world of Durabooks or plastic substitutes, because of … our insecurities, you know: our favorite ‘feel-good’ and ‘smell-good’ sensations are indulged in when we curl up with our… well …you-know-what …
… Or do our insecurities insist that a good book isn’t the same if it doesn’t come from a tree? We shall have to wait and see. Thanks for listening, IWSGers and Alex. And great achievement, Michael Braungart and Bill McDonough.
©2013 Marian Youngblood
April 3, 2013 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, culture, environment, fiction | abundance, Alex J Cavanaugh, book launch, Braungart, Cradle to Cradle, Durabook, good book, Indy publishers, McDonough, Northpoint Press, president, recycle, sustainable, synthetic, Upcycle, William Clinton | 4 Comments
POWER OF A Piscean Stellium
Monthly IWSG Corner
Many times during a new transition, a house move, rearrangement of one’s life, writing has to go on the back burner. Much though we would like to keep up the pace, our stamina—our ability to get through it—flags and we feel the need to let it all go.
Stellium in Pisces
With the present swing in public fancy to the ‘Astroview’, it will astonish nobody to learn that we are currently midway through a major stellium in Pisces. For the uninitiated, this is astrospeak for turmoil of the heart/emotional mayhem throughout the run-up to the new moon [in Pisces] March 10-11th, 2013.
On those nights, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Chiron, Venus, Mars, Neptune are held in a crucible within the bosom of Pisces—the most emotional, watery, spiritual sign of the zodiac. These bodies already stand in close conjunction, waiting for the Moon.
Following in the wake of the recurring potent three-year-long stress of a Grand Cross, it isn’t surprising that we now feel like a wet dish rag.
Psychic Piscean ‘Go with the Flow’
Life-affirming Piscean tendencies include:
Compassion, forgiveness and healing without sacrificing your self-esteem
Using the energy of the dream/fantasy to create something that touches people
Faith in what’s healthy for you
Letting go of what drags you down
Seeing what lies beyond the mundane world
Allowing things to happen
Less-than constructive qualities include:
Compassion, forgiveness and healing that drains you
Using the energy of the dream/fantasy to become addicted to someone
Faith in anything/everything, whether it’s healthy or not
Letting go of all boundaries
Denying the mundane world
Passively waiting for things to happen
For those who like specifics,
Neptune entered its watery home sign two years ago and will remain in Pisces through 2024;
Mars moved into Pisces: February 1st
Mercury into Pisces: February 5th
Sun into Pisces: February 18th
Venus into Pisces: February 25th
Moon stood in Virgo (full) on February 28th and
will move (new moon) into Pisces March 11th.
The immediate window extends through March 21st, equinox. So, brace yourself!
Being guided by one’s heart and following one’s intuition seems the only way. Or, to translate that in psychiatric concepts: allowing the left hemisphere to dominate—right handedness—will only lead to grief. By allowing our right hemisphere to guide us—left handed creativity—we may pull through this massive—planet-wide—emotional storm.
Sometimes, during Insecure Writers’ Support Week, we get to throw out a little nugget of a favorite subject—astro being one of mine—and our tolerant Ninja Cap’n Alex allows us the liberty of rabbiting on about matters unrelated to the honored art of writing. Such is this post; but since it DOES have a ‘space’ theme, and gives us a little insight into what we’re currently experiencing, never before having been exposed to such a degree of cosmic force, may I wish us all Godspeed and stamina to sail these choppy waters in uncertain times.
To end on a (positive) romantic note, when in trouble, dream…
… and a poem-let of inspiration by my nine-year old muse, inspired by [Neptune and] her ocean vista, top.
The Ocean by Oriah
The Ocean’s waves gracefully in the sunset
Where the seagulls fly
Pink clouds gently float away while the Moon rises
Then the Ocean comes back
No doubt our SpaceCaptain feels mucho at home in the rarified reaches of planetary atmospheres—Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all familiar territory; so maybe wishing ourselves well through this emotional roller-coaster is the best support we can give each other. May all our blogs be guided by superlative cosmic forces… sounds like a phrase from his forthcoming CassaStorm.
Thanks again for being there, fellow IWSGers and Alex.
©2013 Marian Youngblood
March 6, 2013 Posted by siderealview | astrology, authors, blogging, poetry, publishing, writing | Alex J Cavanaugh, astrology, crucible, fog, Grand Cross, IWSG, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, moon, Moon in Pisces, Neptune, ocean, Oriah, Pisces, Saturn, seagull, stellium, sunset, Venus, waves | 3 Comments
MONTHLY IWSG CORNER
For us bloggers, insecure or otherwise, this might be seen as a boon, a blessing, a break away from the electrons which pull us relentlessly through the freeze of winter and into a, hopefully, more forgiving spring; or we may be so accustomed to computereze and the flow of the airwaves that we stress and tear our hair until the little gizmo, all innocent and apologetic, turns itself back on.
I ought to show bravery, fortitude, like our Ninja Capn. Alex, and just write by hand until my little comp changes her mind and acquiesces… but after years of being wired, I—and I’m sure several other IWSG-ers—get irritated, try to bake bread, make cookies, or throw our energy into non-writing-related artistic activities, hoping the hiccup will pass.But, what it comes down to is this: we have—since approximately 1993 or so—stepped up our writing skills to take advantage of internet versatility [communication with others being a supreme advantage; almost like personal mindreading] and we take it hard when our toys fall off the shelf or play hard-to-get.
So this monthly mutter from me may seem unwarranted—if you are in the fortune zone [E.coast US, Atlantic Ocean? and the Falklands!]—but for the rest of us, I say hold on, keep a calm sough—sorry:that’s a very old Scoticism which sounds like a sigh —and be prepared to knock out the words in duplicate, in tandem, in spades even, when the ethers deign to bring our connection back into the land of the living.
Meantime, the night sky and starry heavens have more to teach us than frustration. And the Universe is sentient, so perhaps it is listening and our prayers may be answered.
Thanks, as ever, to our fearless leader and to all you (countless) brave minions out there in bit-and-bite-land.
©2013 Marian Youngblood
IWSGers New Year’s Corner 2013Winter mode–solstitial ‘standing still’–affects us all to a greater or lesser hibernatory degree, so once again my apologies this month for brevity: but I hope the quality of my young guest IWSGer’s poem will make up for that, and add a little youthful passion and mystery to the mix as well.
I’ve mentioned my talented granddaughter Oriah, aged nine, before. She is currently giving me ideas for stories which seem so much more exciting than my own. And her own evening media entertainment has also opened up new spheres for me: Victor Hugo and the Great Barrier Reef (Finding Nemo) courtesy Disney cartoon, H.G.Wells’ classic, the updated version… makes one long to create on the spot a new scifi classic or extra-terrestrial world never before contemplated…In addition to the certainty of her age group (oh, what ecstasy to have such innocence and belief that one can create anything one wants), she is also fairly cool herself when conversing about states of matter, extra-dimensional ways of thinking, and especially as she is currently working her way through the intricacies of algebra and math-algorhythms along with the ‘magic numbers’, [don’t ask!], her dedication is awesome. So it struck me that her venture into poetry was pretty daring, considering she is new to the medium.
On an IWSG note, one of the delights of the pre-teen mind is that everything has a thrill, a potential; and a twist to the story can always be added to change the whole thing around, without messing it up. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Plot and storyline are spontaneous, pure fountains of creative thought, without an edit pencil anywhere near one’s consciousness. Would we could all go back to the drawing board with that kind of attitude. Who knows? we might revolutionize the fiction world.
To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom
CAT IN THE WINDOW
“Black cat in the window eyes were like gold
When the legend was told
The collar was silver
When the lights went out, nothing was told
“When the dead tree turns into the shape of a hand
the full moon in the misty night
the howls of the coyote
Then the black cat in the window turns into gold”
Bertram Russell touched on the crux of our adult angst in the quote above. To the open consciousness of the world before double figures, there is nothing to be afraid of. That, too, could be something we grownups might like to contemplate in this new year; with no apocalypse, no fiery earth-plunging meteor threat, perhaps we owe it to ourselves to release our personal fears and doubts, put on our cloak of invisibility and a whiff of that nine-year old confidence, and go out there and knock ‘em dead in 2013.
My new year wish is genuine: if I had my way, it would be book launches all round for IWSGers. But I also believe it is up to us to take whatever surprises 2013 has in store for us and make it happen..
2013 could just be that year!
Thanks to Oriah, Walt Disney and to our Cap’n at the helm, Alex J Cavanaugh.
©2013 Marian Youngblood
Monthly IWSG Corner
“I’m Late, I’m Late
For a Very Important Date…
No Time to say ‘Hello’; Goodbye.
I’m Late, I’m Late, I’m Late”
White Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland
Put it down to being on another planet for the last month—California is another time zone—but truly it can also be a whole ‘nother world…
And, apologies to our Ninja captain Alex for transposing the first Wednesday of the month and attempting to re-create it as faux. I couldn’t miss you guys altogether. It’s just that my schedules and my life have taken a slight detour in the interim…
Mostly, sorry for being absent—moving house-life-continents can be rather demanding
and, for similar reasons, for this month’s brief contribution. It’s not really a moan at all—more a hi to all of you/Alex’s brave stalwarts out there —including his new lady co-hosts !! wow !! Livia and Tasha. Thanks to you all for still keeping us with the pen on the page; the book launch in sharp focus, the literary nose to the grindstone…
New Meaning to the Word ‘Wireless’
To be honest, the last month has been an exercise in experiencing and cherishing the wonder of electronic connection. Most of us don’t give it a second thought, unless there is a solar X-flare surge in our local electricitiy supply or a city power outage: usually, grateful for our cozy office or window view and a computer… we stress instead about not communicating with our Muse… or other lovely literary languishing.
But without internet—or wi-fi in some form—the Western World, our current little chats, frivolous interplay and supportive commentary—wouldn’t have a platform; wouldn’t exist on any plane whatsoever.
Basic intercontinental travel is only half the issue: we have all probably experienced the vagueries of wi-fi in big airports: the smaller the airport, the less likelihood of a reliable connection. Been there, done that. Now, several weeks, and a hinterland later, I am graced with sporadic wireless when the Universe—and the current 2000-foot mountain range—allow.
Like General MacArthur: I shall return; but in the meantime, guys, thanks for listening, hang in there, pray for no more solar X-flares, and other delights the Universe might throw at us in the rest of 2012 … and enjoy the season and the runup to Solstice 2012.
Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh, Walt Disney.
©2012 Marian Youngblood
December 6, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, culture, Muse, popular, writing | Alex J Cavanaugh, Insecure Writers, IWSG, Ninja captain, power outage, solar X-flare, solstice 2012, wi-fi | 6 Comments
What to do during a Grand Cross
"During such intense time acceleration, chaos breaks out everywhere, since chaos is always part of new creation. The reorganization of the fractal fields creates exceedingly unexpected new things in our lives."
Barbara Hand Clow
Monthly IWSG Corner
We all know when the Muse is directing operations, it’s better if we just go along with her, with the tide, and allow her full rein. It’s important to give her loads of room to stir up the subconscious, and then wait and see what little miracles she has planned for us.
At other times, when the outer world directs—like editors, publishers, book-signings; that whole exciting round of putting oneself out there—it sometimes takes us by storm and we need to follow that flow, too.
But our Muse doesn’t like it; does she? Even when we tell her she needs to rest occasionally. Like her human charges, all work and no play… you know.
I wish it were as easy as it sounds: deciding when to write, and when not to. But, especially in the writing-publishing world, it’s never that simple. We writers aren’t totally in charge.
To be honest, we probably never were. We may think—especially during edit-mania—that the left hemisphere of our brain is running the show. But, even then, the direction is more likely to be coming from the reading public, what our publisher expects, what the market wants; what subjects are current darlings of the book-club circuit.
So, because I have been working flat-out—over the last month, at least—to try to get through final edits on my apocalyptic/end-times New Age novel, SHASTA: CRITICAL MASS, forthcoming from lovely Maine publisher, All Things That Matter Press, I have to say upfront I have probably let down my blogging/authorly friends in Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group. I know how good it feels to hear a word of encouragement from others in the same position—writers and bloggers and authors beginning to make a name for themselves out there—so I apologize if I haven’t had a chance to make the usual rounds of IWSG authors’ pages in the last few weeks. I promise I’ll try to make up for it, when the current push subsides.On the other hand, there may be quite a few IWSG-ers whose work is ideally suited to the ATTM ethos, so I’ll explain. They are a small press who like to introduce to the world of readers those authors who have a message—predominantly spiritual—to relay, a distinctive “self”, which they’d like to share. In these times where the ‘Big Five’ often have little patience with first-time authors or new discoveries, their approach is refreshing. Run by husband-and-wife team, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Phil and Deb Harris, the system operates smoothly, and the cogs are well-oiled and kept rolling by a team of editors, including the superb Marvin Wilson, himself a blogger and author of several books, including the Avatar-Award-winning novel, Owen Fiddler (2009). I couldn’t be in better hands.
For IWSG-ers, it may be of interest to point out that Marvin is also a mentor who delights in assisting writers, bloggers, other authors in the art of good writing.
That said, my Muse is feeling a little restless. She doesn’t like taking a back seat. Edits and reworked points-of-view (POV) are not what she thrives on. But I have told her that she, like me, should take a break from time to time. We all need to make the Journey Out and In. Besides, I’ve had a couple of chapter rewrites where she seemed delighted to pitch in again and throw her weight around!
And, if all goes well, she will be allowed to stretch her wings fully once more next month, when the annual NaNoWriMo marathon starts up again for all of us fledgelings to soar, unencumbered, to dizzy heights.
Until then, I hope she will a-Muse herself—sorry —and I have reminded her that we have even greater (Muse-ical) avatars who paced this path before us:
Gazing past the Planets
Looking for total view
I’ve been lying here for hours
Got to make the Journey Out and In
Thank you ©Moody Blues.
And thank you, Alex.
©2012 Marian Youngblood
October 3, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, fiction, Muse, novel, publishing | Alex J Cavanaugh, AllThingsthatMatterPress, apocalyptic, deadline, edit, Insecure Writers Support Group, IWSG, Journey Out & In, Moody Blues, Muse, novel, POV, Shasta: Critical Mass | 6 Comments
Writing should be an act of love; all else is a scribble—”écrire c’est un acte d’amour; ne pas faire c’est escriture” Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau clearly didn’t have a lot of deadlines; or else he was so secure within himself that they didn’t phaze him. Well, some of us DO write only when we’re inspired and in love with our words, but there are other times…aaarrrgggh.
No, I didn’t say that Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group [IWSG] stresses me with deadlines! But I did completely lose track first Wednesday last month, posting something which even Alex must have thought indicated I had lost it. So I am giving a quick apology now to any who read my cropcircle item at that time, as a bonus, or for misleading those who searched my site for other relevant material and ended up reading my (much older) post on how Myers-Briggs sees us flighty authors!
Blame it on the weather! Or something.
It is true: the 2012 season (which in Britain has been dire) since having early summer in March, resorted to Arctic gales and rainstorms from April through August, and now that September has arrived, only the most hardy of us mortals lingers outdoors to pick up the fragments of petunia blossoms, and rose petals hurled from their stems. It could get anyone down—in their right mind.But we writers have never been really in our right minds, have we? And, as we all know, if we’re feeling down, or insecure, or unable to cope for any reason, it always helps to reach out and help another. So if you guys are still with me, reading/writing and supporting each other, you may find it gratifying to stretch out the hand of friendship—even if your fingers are full of petals and your mind full of untyped words—because this month marks one whole year that the IWSG has been together, and it has grown from just a few writerly bloggers to an amazing 276 people out there sharing their tips, fears, doubts or just plain helping other budding writer/bloggers along. Alex, our Ninja captain, is a great one for holding out a helping hand—besides he posts FAR MORE FREQUENTLY than I do—so if you are in any doubt about joining our disparate gang, [I said disparate, not desperate] I heartily recommend it.
Besides, in reading and visiting the blogs of others—even if you haven’t really got one going yourself—you develop a ‘feel’ which just could turn into something you’ve always wanted to try, but never had the guts to. Now’s your chance.
P.S. My criticism of world weather may sound unreasonable, particularly in the wake of hurricane Isaac, which seemed intent on doing a Katrina around the Mississippi basin; I don’t mean to steal any thunder. My dear goddaughter is a doc in one of the emergency rooms in NOLA and she says it wasn’t pretty; but the great thing we all share about WEATHER is that it changes; and there is always hope for us writers that our togetherness—hugely assisted by the friendly electrons of the internet—will give us the feeling of holding hands across the waves [literal and metaphorical], so that we know we are not alone.
For that reason alone, I am grateful for having found IWSG and want to wish it happy birthday. I also wish Alex godspeed with his third novel CassaStorm—go to his site and reeeeead about it—like his other two, it is destined for huge success.
Thanks for being there IWSG buddies.
Have a good September.
©2012 Marian Youngblood
September 5, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, fantasy, fiction, novel | Alex J Cavanaugh, Arctic, blogging, Insecure Writers Support Group, Isaac, IWSG, Jean Cocteau, NOLA, September | 6 Comments
Pick a Card, Any Card
The title of this piece is pretty familiar. If we haven’t actually heard it in the course of being part of a card trick, we’ve seen the scenario play out on film, or as part of a live audience.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
In 2009, I remember watching Judd Apatow’s comedically-disguised drama “Funny People,” starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Aubrey Plaza, and an army of others, and just being in stitches with the hilarious dialogue. Then it hit. The characters, when not performing on stage, weren’t laughing. These comedians, most of whom are comedians in real life, were NOT laughing. Instead, they might simply say: “Yeah, that was funny.”
Is that true to life?
With many endeavors, I think it just might be. How does one keep the magic magical? And not just to the general audience, either. How does a practitioner, an artist, keep that magic real, and real to his fellow magicians?
I can’t give an answer.
But it must be difficult, at best. After all, once you’ve peeked behind the curtain and really seen what’s going on, once the gears are spotted and the machine is understood, how can you honestly say the magic’s still there?
And yet, with reading, it is!
For more than twelve years, I’ve been practicing the craft of laying down words, of transporting readers to other worlds, into other people’s shoes, other sexes, times, circumstances, and moral bents. For many years, I’ve also been editing: genre-fiction, and non-fiction. I’ve learned many of the tricks; have certainly learned the jargon. Reading a work, I can recognize foreshadowing, can tell when I’m being manipulated to hate or love a character, or in some way identify with them. There’s quick recognition, too, when a book has two lines of suspense, or three, five, eight, or even more (yeah, thank you, Mr. George R.R. Martin). These lines are put down to manage characters, yes, but they’re also there to keep me turning the page.
With mysteries, it’s a quick spot that I’m being grounded in time and place, and if not quite yet with character, then certainly with event. Something bad has happened; usually there’s a body; and now, despite red herrings and/or MacGuffins, a person or a team has to find the culprit(s).
With thrillers, of course, it’s almost a reversal. Bad things are going to happen, and some stalwart champion, jaded anti-hero, or assembled squad must stop the bad folks from pulling it off.
There are tropes and cliché-ish plots—is there a plot that isn’t cliché?—whole lines of dialogue, or plot-turns that I can just call, with both books and film, and more often than not, be right (and, man-oh-man, how family members get irritated with that). I’m a veritable spoiler machine.
I think most long-term story addicts usually are. And certainly writers. It’s almost a given. Perhaps it is a given.
But, thank God, boredom isn’t. Or disdain. Or vitriol. Yes, it happens. We experience these things, and we read about them, and have been rejected because of them. Whether it’s someone’s Twilight novels getting hammered by the real vampire-lovers, or all the writers who’ve been putting out erotica for years, aghast at the thought that there are apparently millions who mistakenly think E. L. James invented the form.
Quite the contrary. The best of us writers, including the many who’ve written tomes of how-tos, or who have taught the craft of storytelling, from Stephen King with his Danse Macabre and On Writing, or David Morrell’s Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at His Craft, the many works put out by Writer’s Digest Books, to the countless articles and essays put out by the mags: Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Poets & Writers, and more, have blown away the curtains, have reverse-engineered the machinery, laid out the schematics, spilled their guts (and those of others) on dialogue, characterization, description, the telling detail, the truth of weak words and power words, the hazards of adverbs, of too much of this, or too little of the other thing. Of a truth, every bit of nose-to-the-stone and shoulder-to-the-wheel has been committed to demystifying the writing and storytelling process.
And yet, all the books and seminars, workshops and boot camps, conventions and panels, all the teachers and texts and syllabi, to-do and must-never-do lists… despite all their individual and collective wondrous help, they have all—
Because the process is still mystical—still MAGICAL.
Because the magic’s real. It must be. What other explanation is there?
As unique as I am–and I am unique–I’m still only as unique as everyone else. And the magic still works on me.
Recently, after reading the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (yes, I’m mentioning him again), I shot to Facebook, and messaged the sadist who wrote A Storm of Swords:
The Red Wedding … thanks, Mr. Martin. I don’t know whether to pen a piece of hate mail or send the most fawning of fan letters. But of a truth, there’s no crueler set of gods, old or new, than that of authors.
I stand by the line. The novel hurt me. Beautifully written, yes—hadn’t expected anything less—but I lost some friends. And reading on in the series, I’m sure to lose more—and I got mad. Hell, I’m still upset.
Gary Braunbeck, a master writer who also teaches the craft, brought me to tears with his work Mr. Hands, a rare occurrence when I read spooky books.
Tom Piccirilli, with FICTION, gave me genuine willies with his work The Dead Letters.
Every so many years, I re-read Stephen R. Donaldson’s series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and every time, I get mad NOT at the author (who’s really the one responsible), but at the character of Thomas Covenant, and all his doubting.
Annually, I read Morrell’s The Brotherhood of the Rose, and feel sorrow at the loss of Chris, with every reading, hoping in the back of my mind that perhaps this time, the man might be saved.Five times so far, I’ve howled when nearly half my beloved characters are exploded away in King’s The Stand.
And let’s not even explore how I’m manipulated as a Bible-loving Christian. Thankfully, I’m un-churched, and don’t have to discuss why I cheer Dexter on, or think Hannibal the Cannibal is kinda cool … ’cause he only eats a-holes. Don’t have to worry about why I wouldn’t mind—if I had a cute puppy in hand—meeting Rex Miller’s Daniel Edward Flowers Bunkowski.
Humans, with their incredible science, can dissect a seed, identify all its parts, look upon it at the microscopic level, yet it cannot be put back together, planted, and be expected to produce anything living.
But with books, it happens. If not always, then often enough.
Stories live. Despite annotations and laborious page, scene and chapter breakdowns, they still manage to transport a reader. Even through multiple visits. And even with those who are in the know with the alchemy involved.
And they’re not always written by the greats, the successful, the famous. Sometimes the A-listers hit a foul or otherwise strike out. On websites like Short ’n Scary Stories, I’ve read incredible pieces by otherwise unpublished writers, even first-time writers. I’ve been moved by poetry in live crit-groups by people too scared to submit for general publication.
With all the rules, and more rules, and then even more, at best there’s only a general roadmap to pulling off the magic—and that’s being optimistic. There has to be a bit of knowledge, to be sure. But ultimately, this knowledge gets refined through a lot of failure, a lot of practice, and even then, for lack of a better word, there’s some extra-special something that’s present as well, some gift of Hermes that I can’t really define.
Proof?Some pull it off with their first attempt, whether their fellow writers like it or not: first-time breakout authors with work blazing across the reading landscape, making the rest of us who have been toiling for years grind our teeth. It’s not fair, yet it is, the mixing of admiration, jealously, frustration, and anticipation… because now I’ve got to read the work, too. I have to see how the elements were so successfully mixed, if not with the writing, then with the story.
With all I know, with all the secrets I’ve been exposed to: tricks, devices, paradigms, and sleight-of-hand, I can’t imagine ever becoming jaded. Oh, no. Instead, when it comes my turn to read, I’ll always remain a child, waiting for that rabbit to get pulled, my card to get picked. Even when I know the secret behind the act, for some still-mystical reason, I never get bored.
With comedians and magicians… with what they know, maybe they do.
Not with writers. Not when the work’s done well.
Because we love the magic.
We’re readers first and always.
And when we get together, you can tell. We’re always saying to one another: “Yeah, right, but have you read…?”
©2012 Rob M. Miller
Rob M. Miller, writer and editor, staunch supporter of his own inner child, lives in the Pacific Northwest, where he continues to enjoy reading and writing. His work can be found in various anthologies. Visit his site at http://www.jaggeddarkness.com. And while you’re there, be sure to sign his guest book, the Robonomicon. Thank you, Rob.
August 26, 2012 Posted by siderealview | authors, blogging, culture, publishing, writing | anthology, characterization, dark fantasy, dialogue, George R.R. Martin, guest, magic, mysteries vs thrillers, NetBound Publishing, On Writing, plot, power words, Rob M. Miller, Sideshow, sleight of hand, Stephen King, story addict | 2 Comments
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