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The Carnyx, the Games—Aberdeenshire’s Royal Farewell to Summer

THE CARNYX, THE GAMES—ABERDEENSHIRE’S ROYAL FAREWELL TO SUMMER
or The Royals know where to Party for End of Summer Fun

First Wednesday IWSG Party Time for Insecure Writers and other Scribes

March of the Lonach Men recalls the 1745 Rebellion, when wearing of the kilt was outlawed for 100 years

This Saturday, September 6th, 2019 finds the human Scots-Collective rallying at Braemar in extreme-inland-and-upland Aberdeenshire for the ‘Games’—the Braemar Gathering and Highland Games—in the 12-acre Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park in the town, attended by HM the Queen and her immediate family. It is her last (holiday) appearance in Deeside—and Scotland—before her return at the end of the month to business-as-usual in London.

Aberdeenshire’s Other Summereve’s Celebration

Braemar, on the river Dee, follows a rival tradition—over the mountain and through the pass to Donside—where the (178th) Lonach Gathering and Games was held last Saturday, August 24th in Bellabeg, on the banks of the Don.

Beloved of Lonach fans, Robin Williams at the 2001 Gathering at Bellabeg, Strathdon Aberdeenshire

Known as the Alternative Gathering because of its attraction for Hollywood stars and in-the-know Royals, the Lonach is more of a society promenade than a competitive event. Yes, caber toss, hundredweight lugging and tug-o’war with dainty Highland dancing are all going on within the stadium enclosure, but the action is where international alliances are being forged on the ‘champagne picnic circuit’ ringing the field. Scots actor Billy Connolly is not alone in having a gracious country house within spitting distance of the grandiose Beer Tent; and his international guests are legend—Steve Martin and Robin Williams among them.

It’s an excuse for the remote glen to entertain as many famous international guests as they can squeeze into the valley for their last summer party—and the noble families of Donside hinterland open their houses in force. Sir James Forbes, Bart, cousin to Lord Forbes, head of clan Forbes, leads his green-kilted warriors to pipe and march from 8a.m. until they reach the field at 11a.m. Other pipers and pike-carrying members of the Wallaces and former rival-clan Gordon—join them, swinging in down the winding track.

No Historial Reenactment—Lonach Men March Three Hours through the Glen

Sir James Forbes of Newe, Bart, Patron of the Lonach Highland & Friendly Society, Bellabeg Strathdon

“Scotland in 1823 was on the cusp of monumental change, finally emerging from the bleak post-Culloden years to resume her rightful place in the World. With so much change in the air our ancestors saw the need to preserve their heritage, whilst still embracing the new.

“This is no historical re-enactment. The Lonach March represents an unbroken link from our forefathers to the 21st Century. Encountering the Lonach Highlanders for the first time takes you back to pre-1745 Scotland.”
Sir James Forbes of Newe and Edinglassie, Bart.

The Forbeses were once premier barons of Donside and Mar. Today, despite dwindling fortunes and a rich, punishing history—but unlike rival Gordons—a Forbes remains in possession of the clan’s oldest stronghold, Druminnor—the original 1429 Castle Forbes, seat of Chiefs of Forbes for 500 years. The Gordons rose to become Marquesses and Dukes, lording it over Strathbogie and the North, but Huntly Castle is a ruin and the feud has gone into the history books. Nowadays Lonach Men march together as one.

Flying threadbare standards gifted by Queen Victoria (tattered replaced by new, 2011), the Lonach Men stop at several remote dwellings on their way through the pass, each marcher toasted in whisky, given a dram and ‘haste ye back’, before the next halt. By the time they reach the playing field three hours later, they are in fine fettle.

Drunk or sober, it is the pipers’ duty to play after the day is done, too. They beat the retreat at 5:30p.m. when everybody—upwards of 8,000 souls—starts packing up champagne bucket, shooting stick and cucumber sandwich leftovers, to drive home. There have been years when it took four hours to reach Aberdeen and the coast—42miles away—in single-track traffic from Newe. [For perfectionists, it’s pronounced N-y-ow, like Meow with an N].

Rallying Call to Battle Gathering—Pipes or Carnyx

Celtic continental influence in Roman Scotland, Deskford’s Carnyx battle horn rallied Caledonian troops to march—as haunting a sound as Lonach bagpipes

On a magnificent cloudless late August day, it is tempting to compare the faint haunting call of the pipes as the Lonach Men march into the valley with the battle cry of Pictish hoardes described by Tacitus in A.D.79 at Mons Graupius.

A recent collaboration by Aberdeen and Euro continental archaeologists, comparing the few examples of bronze-cast sacred battle horns—Roman carnyx—allowed a replica to be made which sounds authentic—John Kenny plays, photo left.

Its weird high-pitched call (to battle) is hauntingly similar to the sound of the pibroch from a single piper’s drone on a high mountain pass. The Deskford carnyx , found in 1816 Banffshire (now Aberdeenshire) was ritually buried (on a battlefield?) with gold, silver, bronze bell, the battle horn itself a stylized boar’s head with upturned snout, signifying bravery of an indomitable superior race.

Sacred to the Picts, carved Boar stone from Donside, Aberdeenshire approx. A.D.420-700—earliest clan animal of Forbes and Gordon, courtesy National Museums of Scotland

Pictish Symbols Distilled into Clan Heraldry
Roman legions called them the painted people. In A.D.4thC Ammianus Marcellinus’s historical accounts Dicalydones were northern tribes: one of two branches of Picti, Picts, Roman chronicler Tacitus’s Caledonians who inhabited modern-day Moray, Banff and Buchan. The second group were the Verturiones who occupied southern territories of modern Fife, Perthshire, Forfar (Fortriu) and Lothian. Carnyces have turned up in sacred settings along Roman routes through France to northern Baltic. There is a famous carnyx series embossed on the silver Gundestrup cauldron found in 1891 in a Baltic peat bog in Jutland, dating to around 2nd Century B.C. Its boar-headed shape has the same curvature, and was the work of Iron Age Celtic Franco-Germanic artists.

My fellow IWSG-ers and our Cap’n at the Helm, Alex will agree that we writers who have the advantage of Space-Time awareness, courtesy of our ancestral lineage, know how the power of sound/music—certain plaintive notes—can trigger a rush of joy, inspiration, fresh creativity.

Danzig Willie’s Craigievar William Forbes, creator of Craigievar Castle in Upper Donside brought the style of France to the Aberdeenshire hinterland, 1686

It may be my historical-fantasy-bias that drives me to compare the pale single note of an ancient Pictish battle horn against Roman battalions in rural Banff, with an even fainter soul-wrenching skirl of bagpipes played on a high mountain pass in Corgarff, but the heart beats faster when both are sounded.

Is my historical desire to link the fantastic Pictish family of animal symbols with the conquering (Scots) lineage A.D.845 so farfetched?

Forbes tradition has it that their ancestor, Pictish chief Ochonochar, trapped a boar which was terrorizing the neighborhood. Their emblem shows stylized muzzled boar. The House of Gordon has a similar legend for their boar crest worn by the Cock o’ the North. Pictish Class I Boar stone, as late as A.D.700, above, was a Donside symbol—just as the Pictish Bull is mainly associated with Burghead and Moray.

IWSGers with Scots-Irish ancestry, even when writing deadlines hover—today is Anthology Contest—know we all enjoy a dip in the gene pool.

Have fun. Take a last wild plunge before summer ends. Let me know how it feels.
Thanks for listening.
©2019 Marian Youngblood

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September 4, 2019 Posted by | ancient rites, authors, blogging, culture, festivals, history, popular, publishing, ritual, seasonal, traditions, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clinging to Mother Earth or Exploding to the Stars—the Writing Option

CLINGING TO MOTHER EARTH OR EXPLODING TO THE STARS—THE WRITING OPTION
April—Busy Month for IWSGers and A-to-Z Challenge Writers

East Island French Frigate Shoals atols and seamounts in Polynesian Pacific ocean, with levels rising

One WORD after another WORD after another WORD is POWER
Margaret Atwood

Somewhere amid Pacific Ring of Fire shaking last night—two Mag.6.2pointers in Aleutians & Solomons, Mag.5s in Baja and Peru—a mother Humpback whale with last year’s calf in tandem, swims into spouting distance of the black sand surfing beaches of Big Island, Hawai’i.

No seagulls, no hummingbirds, but Big Island has Hawai’ian Green sea turtles and…

She will not be disturbed. Neither will the pool of Hawaiian Green sea turtles doing swim relay within yards of a famous surfers’ beach.

The Hawai’ian chain has no native species of terrestrial reptiles or amphibians. But loads in the ocean.

On land lizards, geckos, salamanders and Coqui frogs were introduced—in contrast to marine reptiles—green-sea turtles and sea snakes—that are native. Offshore vast schools of whales, dolphin, orca roam. The Islands are pitstop and mating grounds for hundreds of Humpbacks every winter; babies returning to visit the following year.

Indigenous to the islands is Nene, the Hawai’ian goose and national bird, along with Hawaiian Monk Seal and Hoary Bat which live nowhere else. Geographic isolation has triggered their evolution here as endemic—wildlife not seen elsewhere. The absence of hummingbirds is striking—importing them is banned—but multicolor treecreepers and honeycreepers are vivid and acrobatic.

From Whales and Turtles to Lava and Myrtles
Tragic errors were made by colonial benefactors. An example is the 1883 effort to reduce (introduced species of) rats, mice and larger rodents by allowing predation by the Indian mongoose.

…and exultant fire turtles exploding from neighboring volcanoes in active flows

Hawaiian crow, Hawaiian goose, and other endemic birds of the archipelago have been lost to this predator. Unlike hedgehogs beloved of motorists in Britain, these spiny omnivores are illegal in Hawaii—where the mongoose—not a rodent but an (Herpestes) Ichneumon akin to a shrew—has taken over the territory. Original reason for importing Mongooses to the islands is not clear. They are famed for killing large snakes in India. Kipling made sure children read and made friends with Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in Jungle Book. There are feral cats, dogs, boar, goats. Miraculously, no rabbits.

Coqui frog—Eleutheradactylus coqui—can climb trees and serenades at night

And there are no snakes in Hawai’i. No monkeys either.

Indigenous wildlife groups guard the islands from ‘invasive species’ like the (right pic) onomatopoetically-named Coqui. I find his mating nighttime frogsqueak charming, and his consumption of mosquitoes a blessing; but he is considered a ‘pest’. Mosquitoes hitched a ride from Asia.

Unlike the inhabitants of Easter Island who cut and burned their own trees to extinction, Hawai’ian tradition has cherished and nurtured successive forests of a miracle hardwood—Ohi’a—itself under threat from within. Indigenous, multi-tasking, adaptable in elevation, from sealevel, jungle to volcano peak, it has served as lumber for sacred structures, roof-tiles, fencing and fuel. Its flower is the Lehua, below.

Sacred Carving, Weaponry and Ritual
Volcano goddess Pele became jealous because she asked the handsome warrior Ohi’a to be her consort and he refused, saying he already had a lover, Lehua. In her anger Pele changed Ohi’a into a gnarled and twisted tree. Lehua was heartbroken, as she and Ohi’a were inseparable. The gods took pity on her and turned her into a flower on the tree.

Sacred Hawai’ian hardwood Ohi’a tree with red Lehua pompom blossom, unique in creating its own subsoil on fresh lava, is under threat from within

Ohi’a hardwood was used for canoe decking and seats; for house building, cooking bowls, poi/pounding boards (traditionally beaten with a volcanic basalt pestle), furniture, spears and tools. The Lehua flowers and buds are used for ritual lei-making.

Folklore has it that if you pick the sacred flower, separating her from her tree lover, it will rain.

The tree grows in crazy places—tolerating a range of soil conditions, rainfall and temperature. At sealevel, in jungle, marshes and rainforest, all the way up to the treeline at 8,200feet on Mauna Loa—the world’s highest stratovolcano—twice the height of Mile-High Denver. There it forms a straggly succulent creeping plant, beloved of bees, unique in burrowing into fresh lava, establishing its own compost, root tendrils breaking down subsoil, creating new ecosystems.

In May 2018 lava emerging from under the cinder cone of Pu’u O’o several miles east of Pele’s Mauna Loa and Kilauea, completely submerged Leilani township in fresh basalt. The human residents left. But almost twelve months later the magic myrtle Ohi’a-Lehua has found cracks, created a new existence where nothing else could.

What do these ocean creatures and spirits have to do with writing, you may ask. Our fearless starcruiser Cap’n.Alex and #AtoZ Challenge Chief Arlee Bird might be busy bloghopping, but I think they’d agree—all of us—writers or readers—are going to be affected fairly soon by ocean rise, plastic absorption, mammal and fish death and by the need for clean water. I am the first 2nd.Lieut-in-writing to applaud their tenacity in reaching for the stars. Writers Rulez forever!

Thing about crises on a planetary scale, we writers-bloggers-A-to-Zers mostly just thank our stars we’re still breathing, turn back to the keyboard and…
Write on.
©2019 Marian Youngblood

April 3, 2019 Posted by | authors, blogging, calendar customs, culture, earth changes, environment, fiction, nature, novel, ocean, popular, publishing, rain, seasonal, weather, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Earthquake Survivors—Bronze and Beyond

IT’S ALL ABOUT LOCATION, LOCATION
Monthly Grounding of Writerly Antennae for IWSGers and Other SpaceTimers

Arcata Plaza, site of Saturday Farmers’ Market, presided over by McKinley bronze—before last week’s removal


Having been assassinated in 1901, one would have thought that statesman, lawyer and (Republican) 25th President of the U.S.A., William McKinley had paid enough for his sins…

But his century-old bronze effigy—which survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire—will be changing locations once again.

The story goes of philanthropist Georg Zehndner, immigrant merchant in frontier Weaverville, seizing an opportunity presented by the late 19thC Gold Rush boom in northern California, to become (wealthy) Humboldt County rancher and (Arcata) citizen. When the 25th President was shot in 1901, Zehndner commissioned Armenian-American Bay Area sculptor Haig Patigian—also an immigrant—to create the bronze casting of the downed statesman.

Market Street, looking west to Twin Peaks. Both sides of street lined with ruined buildings Battery-to-Powell

Arcata Plaza was chosen as a suitable site in the growing town—although currently lauded northernmost campus of Humboldt State University was not founded until eight years later. Yet it is HSU academic/radical protests of ‘settler colonialism’ and damaged Native American tribes which resulted in the statue’s removal at dawn last Thursday.
Arcata is Yurok/Wiyot = place of the Lagoon*
*Yurok oket’oh = “where there is a lagoon” (Humboldt Bay), from o- “place” + ket’oh = “to be a lagoon”. Same name given to Big Lagoon, ten miles North.

Neighboring unincorporated township of McKinleyville, CA has more claim to the beleaguered effigy than the University town, having willingly changed its name to mark its namesake’s death in 1901. Previously called Minor (aka Minorville), it was settled in the late-19thC logging boom. After the president’s assassination it joined with (unincorporated) townships of Dows’ Prairie (settled by Joe Dows, 1860) to North and Calville, settled by employees of the California Barrel Company, South, taking its new name in his honor. McKinleyville post office opened in 1903. The town remains unincorporated, and is home to California’s certified “foggiest” airport—Eureka/Arcata, ACV.

Abandoned and Pointing to the North
Downtown San Francisco was on fire, consuming trolleys and neighborhoods, with horse-drawn water carts unable to dowse the flames.

No melt-down—McKinley found undamaged after 1906 San Francisco fire, his finger pointing North


Coming full blast after the deadly earthquake, many residents ran—sculptor Haig Patigian among them. He saw the bronze casting works go up in smoke and thinking all was lost, fled.

“‘Come on, boys, let’s save the statue of Bill McKinley,’ he cried and under his inspiration the workmen bore a ready hand.” San Francisco Examiner 1906

A passing worker—employed by the Ironworks—saw that the statue would be ruined if abandoned, and called to his co-workers who were saving their own belongings. The Examiner wrote: “They dragged the heroic figure to the center of the street and there it remained unharmed, resting on its back”, with an outstretched hand pointing to the sky.

Returning to the scene, Patigian noticed a crowd gathering near the Works. He hurried over to find his art piece lying in the street—the rescue vehicle used to haul it to safety a charred wreck. Twelve days after the great quake, George Zehndner, Arcata businessman and benefactor who ordered the bronze, received a telegram from Patigian stating the effigy had been saved.

San Francisco City Hall’s surviving dome, 1906, McAllister Street and Van Ness Avenue in charred ruins

Haig Patigian was a respected artist in his day, at the time of his death called by the San Francisco Chronicle “one of the giants of San Francisco’s Golden Age.” Many of his works survive in San Francisco, including one of Abraham Lincoln outside City Hall, itself regenerated and reconstructed after the demise of its iconic predecessor, Chronicle Archive picture, right.

Zehndner paid $15,000 for the original sculpture in 1906—lost, mourned and then recovered unblemished from the glowing coals of the surrounding foundry.

One hundred thirteen years later the now-politically-incorrect statesman found a new home—in Canton, Ohio—where the local residents appreciate his other works—including a McKinley Memorial Library and Museum. The statesman’s 8-1/2foot 800-lb bronze likeness will find a public stance nearby.

Fickle Finger of Fate and Finance

Last week brought some kind of closure to the beleaguered bronze. Through fire, earthquake, flood and (occasional student) harassment, the skilled lost-wax bronze rendering of the late 19thC politician will not bite the dust.

East along Market Street after 1906 Mag.7.9 earthquake—lavish art-deco Call building burns to ground

This time it will rise again on another plinth in another guise: Canton was McKinley’s chosen home town. He had planned to retire there. Now he will.

In Canton, the townspeople have $15,000 to spend. That’s exactly how much its benefactor Arcata resident Zehndner paid for the sculpture in 1906. And Arcata has accepted.

Insecure Challenge and Update
We IWSGers know how Fate—and our writing Muse—tend to travel hand-in-hand. But there’s no telling how fickle financial finagling will affect any outcome.

IWSG question for March

Synchronously, we may therefore empathize with our fellow Insecure Writers in our March IWSG challenge/question

[choose one] Whose perspective do you like to write from best: the hero [protagonist] or the villain [antagonist]?
And why?

Now there’s something to get our [insecure] teeth into.
In McKinley’s case, he is both bad guy and good guy—depending on our —writerly/historical— perceptions.
Which would you choose?
Thanks, blog-Cap’n.Alex for allowing me such digressions 😉
©2019 Marian Youngblood

March 5, 2019 Posted by | art, authors, belief, blogging, consciousness, culture, elemental, environment, fantasy, fiction, history, Muse, nature, novel, popular, publishing, seismic, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Royal Line of Succession—All Change

ALL CHANGE—FOR ROYALS AND INSECURE WRITERS
Early Catch-up Corner for IWSG-ers and Wannabe Royals [like Meghan]

HRH Duke & Duchess of Cambridge with newborn HRH Prince Louis, 23rd April 2018

Brand new Prince Louis of Cambridge has become the fifth in line to the British throne. Born Monday April 23rd, in London’s St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, the newborn infant
returned home to nearby Kensington Palace hours after birth. HRH Prince Louis Arthur Charles becomes the Queen and Prince Philip’s sixth great-grandchild.

He follows his father and two siblings in the line of succession as the great-great-great-great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

New Rules of Succession
His uncle, HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York is the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s third child, but when Andrew was born in 1960 he leapfrogged his older sister, Princess Anne, in the line of succession. Little Louis bumps his uncle down a notch, sliding into his (5th) spot, after elder sister Charlotte and brother George.

Under new rules of succession, below, the Cambridges’ third child although a boy, will no longer be allowed to jump ahead of older sister Charlotte in the line of succession.

Previously, under the ancient rules of male primogeniture, royal sons took precedence over their female siblings, even leapfrogging first-born royal daughters.

But a radical shake-up of the royal succession rules removed discriminatory male bias and came into force in March 2015, affecting babies born after October 28 2011.

The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 has already affected the Duke of Gloucester’s granddaughters, Senna Lewis and Lyla Gilman, whose younger brothers, born in 2012, now follow them in the line of succession.

The “new” Royal Line, HRH girls included, gives Prince Louis status of five-times great grandchild of Queen Victoria

William may need to adjust to caring for a newborn once again.

Kate joked in the months leading up to her due date that her husband was ‘in denial’ about having a third.

And the social whirl is hotting up.

Little Louis and Big Andrew
By having more than two children, William and Kate are following in the footsteps of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who went on to have four children—although there was a gap of ten years between their second child, HRH Anne, and third, HRH Andrew—now bumped a place in the hierarchy.

As a sibling to both future king George and ‘spare to heir’ Charlotte, new prince Louis is unlikely ever to be crowned sovereign.

The new infant is already a prince, thanks to HM the Queen, who stepped in ahead of Prince George’s birth to ensure all William’s children would become HRHs, with fitting titles.

The Queen issued Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Realm in December 2012 when Kate was just a few months pregnant, declaring ‘All children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales should have and enjoy the style, title and attribute of Royal Highness with the titular dignity of Prince or Princess prefixed to their Christian names or with such other titles of honour’.

Royal line of succession places new Prince Louis’ status above that of his uncle Andrew, far right


A Letters Patent in 1917, issued by George V, limited titles within the royal family, meaning daughters born to William and Kate would not have been an HRH but Lady (Charlotte) Mountbatten-Windsor instead and second or later-born sons would also have lacked the HRH title and become Lord (Louis) Mountbatten-Windsor, rather than a prince.

Royal Social Calendar getting crowded
With more British royal engagements coming thick and fast—another royal wedding in the offing for May 19th—the little prince might be seen to upstage his uncle Harry and his new American bride, who will wed in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Prince Louis’ mum, HRH Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has not been asked to be maid of honor to Ms. Meghan Markle, as according to Buckingham Palace sources, “it is not appropriate, having so recently given birth.”

Among Royal circles, the choice of names for little Louis reverberates in history.

HRH Prince Louis is first seen to commemorate Prince Charles’s mentor and great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten, killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb in 1979. Arthur and Charles are also names in honor of the infant’s grandfather Charles, who was unable to see his grandchild for more than a week because of State appointments—of which the Heir to the British Throne has over 600 this year, having relieved his mother, HM the Queen, 92, of most of them.

Insecure royal chroniclers and other writers will await developments in the run-up to the royal wedding in May, when more than half of Hollywood is slated to descend on London. 😉
©2018 Marian Youngblood

April 28, 2018 Posted by | ancient rites, culture, history, popular, ritual, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Muse on Strike? Branch out into Art

MONTHLY IWSG CORNER: Art as an Alternative to Pacify the Muse

Prehistoric tattoo inspires modern body art

Prehistoric tattoo inspires modern body art

Few of us writers survive the pressures of a deadline, without stress. Summer may be on our doorstep—temperatures world-wide hastening the season—but we still feel like dragging our feet. Sound familiar?

Miraculously, we can sometimes soothe the savage breast—unfortunately standard accoutrement of our battle-ax Muse masquerading as our Ninja Captain Alex—to take a break. Or better still: think laterally—move sideways.

While ART covers a multitude of creative activities these days, it is truly refreshing sometimes to ignore the harridan shouting in your left ear; set down the pen. And take a look around.

Left Hemisphere—Literate, Analytical Right Hemisphere—Color, Number, Spatial

Artists Dee Hemingway, left, phenomenal voice captured on canvas by Westhaven's Toni Magyar

Artists Dee Hemingway, left, captured on canvas by Westhaven’s Toni Magyar


We are surrounded by Art—from simplest woven baskets to multi-faceted jewelry to cave painting c.2015. Yet writers prefer to keep nose to grindstone, in the fond belief that we may never need to explore that other hemisphere.

Artists, I am told, spend half their time trying to work out where their filing system is—any filing system—because they are continually having to feel their way through a “mess of space”, according to one art therapist.

Hanging out in our Right Hemisphere is good for us.

Making A Wish in Westhaven show

Making A Wish in Westhaven show

As luck would have it, my local art venue—Westhaven Center for the Arts—aren’t I fortunate?—just opened its Membership Show. It runs through June 30th, 2015.

What is inspiring to a cranky writer with an even crankier Muse at her elbow, is that many artists admit their Muse is just as difficult to please.

Pen Mightier than the Sword
The pen, traditionally, allowed Man to elevate himself from prehistoric tattooing through medieval wars to a philosophical level of wisdom. Surprisingly, the paintbrush, the weaver’s loom, the gouache splash are far more effective therapy, according to art gurus.

None of the above may be much consolation, mid-writer’s block.

But there is something about an eclectic mix of art in Northern Humboldt that I wish Alex and all you Back Easters could hop over here and see. If nothing else, getting out of our rut—and ignoring Muse-girl for twenty-four hours—is sure-fire way of getting her back in harness.
©2015 Marian Youngblood

May 6, 2015 Posted by | art, authors, blogging, culture, fiction, Muse, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Second Anniversary, Insecure Writers’ Support Group

Monthly IWSG Corner

Blowing bubbles to celebrate—Happy Anniversary IWSG

Blowing bubbles to celebrate—Happy Anniversary IWSG

A long time ago we told multi-talented Alex Cavanaugh, author of sci-fi smash hits CassaStar and CassaFire—and imminent release, September 17th, CassaStorm—that if he thought he could retire afterwards and write/play his music, nobody would let him.

It seems we were right.

Not only does his third book have pre-release rave reviews, but he himself has decided to continue his backup team of support writers—us, the IWSG-moaning-minnies—who celebrate our two-year anniversary today.

His little monthly group has kept insecure writers writing—which is the whole point—but the fact that the site is to be jazzed up, amplified and opened up to more writers is the greatest news. He has put it together with the help of a team of fellow writerly bloggers, Joy Campbell, Michelle Wallace, Joylene Nowell Butler Susan Gourley/Kelley, L. Diane Wolfe, and Lynda Young, and hopes that it will turn into a center for writers, with tips, encouragement, support and links.

IWSGHEADER1

“My goal isn’t for the site to be just a database—I want it to be THE database of writing databases, with links to places like Elizabeth’s Writer’s Knowledge Database, Query Tracker, and WriteOnCon, plus tons of other links and listings of resources. It will also feature a weekly informative post or two, plus house the main list for the IWSG.”
Alex J. Cavanaugh

They aim for an October launch.

What synchronicity, Alex, just when the rest of us had thought our Muse had abandoned us…my token IWSG moan for this month…:(

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US
_________i love y____________i love yo
______i love you♥i l_______i love you♥i lov
____i love you♥i love y___i love you♥i love y
___i love you♥i love you♥i love you_______i lo
__i love you♥i love you♥i love you_________i lo
_i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i l_______i lo
_i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i love ______i
i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥__i l
i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i l_i
i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i lov
i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i lov
_i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i l
__i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i
____i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i love yo
______i love you♥i love you♥i love you♥i lo
_________i love you♥i love you♥i love yo
____________i love you♥i love you♥i l
______________i love you♥i love yo
_________________i love you♥i
___________________i love yo
_____________________i love
______________________i love
_______________________You

May great good fortune go with the launch of CassaStorm, and here’s to loads more years of IWSGing.
©2013 Marian Youngblood

September 4, 2013 Posted by | authors, blogging, fiction, novel, popular, writing | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Late is Relative: Faux-Wednesday IWSG

Monthly IWSG Corner

I'm late, I'm late ... but am I Alice or the White Rabbit?

I’m late, I’m late … but am I Alice or the White Rabbit?

“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 | authors, blogging, culture, Muse, popular, writing | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Editing one’s Way through Writer’s Block

Monthly IWSG

Self-explanatory; though some friends say there should be a time segment for beating-head-against-wall...

Believe me, I really didn’t think I’d get hit by the dreaded Block –the writer’s nightmare par excellence— only a few months into our fun bloghopping fiesta with Alex in his Insecure Writers’ Support Group. Part of the IWSG guidelines are, after all, that we can share our insecurites, without feeling vulnerable, but if we’re feeling strong (sometimes we are), we writers who ‘have been through the fire’ (Alex’s words) should encourage others who might be struggling, by sharing the lessons we’ve learned.

“When I write I feel like an armless, legless man, with a crayon in my mouth” Kurt Vonnegut

This month the only lesson I’ve learned–blah–is that the Block waits for no man-woman-child; it can pounce at any time and, unless we can lay culpability at the door of the Muse–for her being in absentia–there’s no-one else to blame, but ourselves.

Alex and his equally illustrious-and-prolific blogging buddy, Arlee Bird, don’t hang around. They both blog and read/comment on others’ blogs daily and, instead of allowing the ‘block’ to take me over, I should probably have signed up for Lee’s amazing April A-to-Z challenge. It is, after all, one of the best ways to ease oneself out of that frozen-can’t-cope stance, because the challenge makes you write EVERY day during April: self-evidently alphabetically sequential. I recommend it to those bloggers/beginners who have the gift of writing something interesting/meaningful every day in life. [I do write every day in life–I have always kept a journal, still do–but what’s going through my head at the moment is far from meaningful]. And, for those just getting into the blogging craze, it’s a great way to start; to follow and comment on other blogs; and to emulate other bloggers. If you check out the link, you’ll find their following is massive, and if you want to make new writing friends, both AtoZ and IWSG are the way to go.

There’s an added incentive to put–just a few–words on the screen every day, because, as we all know, words on the screen are basically what this (unblocked) writing’s all about.

All writers need encouragement, because what we have in common is our (strange) lack of self-confidence. It must come from all those years of being holed up alone, writing our magnum opus. So when the day dawns for the book launch, we seem to be surprised that we pulled it off. [I am being positive, here, you’ll notice].

But I didn’t sign up, because I’m–er–editing. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Nevertheless, my editing is coming along fine. I have just tightened up (again) chapter twenty-nine; only another sixty more chapters to go…

Feeling discarded, Muses waiting in the wings, until the left hemisphere departs

What it comes down to is this: while I may LOVE the sensation of being enfolded by my Muse (when I’m in the “zone”, right hemisphere), the editor in me (left hemisphere person) that insists on inserting commas, semi-colons and em-dashes in the correct places, has a valid role to play, too. I imagine countless Muses waiting in the wings, feeling redundant and discarded, while their left hemisphere counterparts tackle the job.

I admit to struggling with the switch-over. I tried, in one earlier blog, to summarize how it feels to have plot bunnies interrupt the editing process: almost as irritating as having them try to direct the creative flow, when the Muse is in residence.

I shall have to take my own advice and try to be a little more patient with myself. The best and worst of writers have good and bad days. Philosophically, we wouldn’t appreciate the one, without the misery of the other. And it is never productive to rail against the status quo. We all know in our hearts that it is the very contrast of what currently ‘is’ that, with a few gentle strokes, helps us change it to what we hope ‘will be’. And it’s never a good idea to beat the horse we’re mounted on, and even less clever to heap criticism on the rider. If we give ourselves a hard time about it, it will take even longer to resolve..


When it comes to edits, don't rely on your Muse to help, because she'll send a minion

So, I’d better get back to that edit: my inner taskmistress is a bully. But she won’t mind if I pause for a moment to add five pieces of advice which the great C.S. Lewis gave to a young writer: they are, after all, rather more editorially- than Muse-inspired words; so, when you wake up one of these mornings in bed with Rite R. Block yourself, you may find them worth re-reading.

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
C.S.Lewis

And thanks, Alex, Lee and my other talented writerly friends (you know who you are) for letting me sound off today.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

April 4, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, popular, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog Party: Dancing with Lemurs and Alex

Watching in the wings as Alex's book-launch catches fire

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot”
Stephen King

Alex J Cavanaugh is one of those fortunate authors who never meant for it to catch on. But today promises to turn him into a household word, as his second Sci-Fi book to launch in less than 18 months catches fire.

Cavanaugh’s CassaFire is released today by Dancing Lemur Press.

Trained as a visual artist (with a degree in Fine Arts), he wrote for his own pleasure. He is still master of all he surveys in the design field. But his Heinlein-esque prose, deep techno-filled space journeys, military precision — and, dare I say, a misspent youth watching the ’70s cult series Battlestar Galactica — combined with a love of sci-fi from childhood reading, has turned the wheel of fortune in his favor.

Alex's CassaFirE launches today

His first book, CassaStaR (2010) hit the Top-Ten Bestseller list; his second, CassaFire launches today from Dancing Lemur Press. That’s what the blog party’s all about.

So, to celebrate an author whose blog always tries to help others –his modest acceptance of his own fortune gives him an edge to support fellow writers– some of his friends and I are joining his Catch Fire Blog Party. *

Alex and I ‘met’ in the ethers and while his blogs and mine diverge, we were both drawn to each other’s conviction that there is a whole starsystem of talented authors out there trying to mesh their writing with a reading audience; as well as a waiting world genuinely wanting to read our works of fantasy, adventure, and (in his case) hardcore Sci-Fi. Despite his assertion that he is only a humble designer, he has found a way to build a world around his success.

“I’m not as intensive a world-builder as most authors. I took notes on the basic structure, using a few science fiction movies as guides for the overall feel and details on spacecraft and alien vessels” Alex Cavanaugh, CassaStaR

Modesty strikes again.

I happen to know that Alex has method behind his apparent madness. He loves his characters, structures them deeply; plans them from the inside out. So, having given his main characters life in CassaStaR, he found that even when the story changes (CassaFire), their personalities and traits “just fell into place”.

There is more. Because of our shared conviction that reading, writing and creativity are essential to keep the human race evolving (he worked in the Adult Literacy Program for several years; he plays several musical instruments), Alex persists with his blogging to reflect his love of everything sci-fi: movies to books to blogs. It will not surprise me if he comes out next with a screenplay! A musical!

Dancing Lemur dancing for Alex's blog party

Alex is not one to sit back and wait while the rest of the revellers raise their champagne flutes to him and look around to see if any of this high-rolling might rub off. Today his nose is buried in a galaxy of supporting blogs (after all, that’s what we bloggers are here for, isn’t it?) — he’s taken the day off ‘work’ (design) to scan the fans. But today also marks the start of his blogtour, which runs through March 9th. When he’s not doing that, he’ll be back at the helm, steering his Insecure Writers Support Group to the stars.

Told you, he plans ahead. And we all wish him the utmost of great good fortune with CassaFire. Well done, Captain Alex.

*Today is the Catch Fire Blog Party, celebrating the release of Alex J. Cavanaugh’s CassaFire by Dancing Lemur Press. The goal is to help CassaFire “catch fire” on the best seller charts and achieve the success of his first book, CassaStar. There’s also a special package of prizes being given away at the author’s blogtour”>blog (copies of CassaFire, CassaStar, tote bag, mug, and bookmarks) as well as book giveaways during his two-week blog tour.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

February 28, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, fantasy, fiction, novel, popular | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Writing for Pleasure or Pitch?

January with the Gremlins

Wormholes in Time -- a dominant theme of my ABNA 2012 entry, 'Coco Bay: the Awakening'

Earlier in the year — mid-January, to be exact — I was panicking slightly because some of my blogging buddies were focusing not just on producing their regular blogs, but also doing edits and re-writes of their WIP (work-in-progress) for submission to ABNA. I’ve covered the finer points of entry to this annual award in my bloghop post, immediately below.

At the time I was mostly concentrating on encouraging other bloghop authors — younger/newer, published or not — to enter, just to get the ‘feel’ of an international competition. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is bigtime, but it’s also fairly simple to enter and before the fun begins — judging — it is not too taxing to come up with five (required) items that qualify you for entry:

1. Your bio — called ‘About You’
2. Your contact details: self-explanatory
3. Book description — ‘About your Book’
4. Your excerpt — up to the first three chapters of your book
5. Upload your MS — ‘Your Entry’.

Simple. You would think so, wouldn’t you?

It’s that last bit, ‘Your Entry’, that creates palpitations, anxiety, sleeplessness and sometimes compels the most fearless of writers to break down and cry. And it’s not because you haven’t edited your WIP to perfection, had three Beta Readers review and revise it, and rewritten the ending to your own plot-bunnies’ demands, see also below.

It’s the pitch.

Southern rim of the Bermuda Triangle, the Bahamas set in deep ocean trenches, as seen from Space

While on the submit-to-agents, submit-to-publisher circuit, it’s known as the infamous query letter. Ah, I hear you sigh, that. The query letter is that most difficult of all instruments for a creative writer of fiction to write, because s/he is tearing her hair to describe from a ‘marketing’ perspective what s/he has slaved over for the last —fill the gap— months, dreamed dreams over plot, character nuances and surprise twists in a story that was close to one’s heart. Now, to present it to the reading world, it must go through the hoops of the query circuit. We have to distill our fledgling work of 50k+ words into a 300-word bullet. Not only that, every line has to catch the eye of the destined agent. Or it gets rejected. All of us who have trodden that thorny path know how soul-destroying (ongoing) rejection can be.

Amazon use exactly the same method to get you to capture the essence of your newest baby: but instead of having to write them a query letter, they ask you to submit a pitch. That’s not the same as ‘about your Book’. More exactly, it’s a short ‘snappy’ catch-all to hook readers. More significantly, in the ABNA contest, your completed entry will be judged in Round One solely on your pitch.

Now that the competition is officially closed while first round judging takes place, five thousand writers in each category (general fiction and YoungAdult fiction) are biting their nails, comparing blogs and praying they hit the target with their pitch: one thousand of those praying will be chosen to go through to round two — *Round One ‘winners’ announced February 23rd.

My ABNA 2012 entry 'Coco Bay' combines deepsea breeding tanks with deepspace time-travel

So, just for laughs, here’s a link to the first chapter of my entry, ‘Coco Bay: the Awakening’, the second in my Green Turtle Cay trilogy of deepsea, deepspace, deeptime fantasies to cross the final frontier. If, after you have read my opening chapter, you want to compare it with my pitch, below, please be my guest.

But you will surely be able to tell, won’t you? that I still feel I wrote one, but not the other! It’s the perennial schizm that working authors face. No wonder they say we’re neurotic.

Coco Bay: the Awakening by Marian Youngblood — the Pitch:

Philadelphia Experiment witnesses say Navy destroyer USS Eldridge disappeared in a mist cloud in 1943

When Annabelle awakes from a scary dream of a WWII Navy ship returning through a time wormhole in the Bermuda Triangle with crew’s limbs stuck randomly to the bulkheads, she knows she’s in for an interesting week at the new Seaquarium.

In Green Turtle trilogy Part-1 she met the mysterious John, head of a Bahamian initiative to save world oceans, when she started work for the consortium in its ocean-floor lab.

In part two, Coco Bay, she discovers the marine project has endless resources — both financial and electromagnetic — somehow connected with 500,000 square miles of Bermuda Triangle on their doorstep. Harnessing electromagnetic Triangle energy could work miracles for her local Out-Island community and she finds herself drawn by the thrill of rescuing endangered species, without really understanding where these never-before glimpsed denizens of the deep are being rescued from!

When an entire human family returns through the wormhole to help John scale up the operation from eco-project to wholesale planetary migration, she dives in to help. These are John’s own children, missing in the time-fabric since the project began forty years earlier.

A random chain of events may save earth’s sister world, Europa, with its great mysterious deep, but may also redeem Earth’s inhabitants from destroying their own future.

Coco Bay — second in the fantasy trilogy — will appeal to a wide age/readership, within the present-day context of world concern for mass extinctions. Its scientific reality pulls readers into a scenario which crosses electromagnetic boundaries, suggested by exciting developments in plasma science current with astronomers and physicists.

Parliament buildings, Rawson Square, Nassau, Bahamas


The Bahamas’ unique setting and history will appeal to readers, travelers and piracy buffs alike.

Fantasy/borderlineSciFi novel along the lines of Cosmic Connection meets The Abyss, its final (electromagnetic) surprise twist should entice readers for more.

*ABNA first round neurosis ends February 23rd when they announce 1000 authors in each category who will go forward. Wish us luck.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

February 11, 2012 Posted by | authors, culture, fiction, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments