Youngblood Blog

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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

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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

Genre-Bender or just Plain Naïve?

INSECURE WRITERS CORNER

NaNo keeps one at it, leaving little room for impromptu extras

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you
~ Ray Bradbury

It’s no surprise to anyone reading this blog — and coincidentally involved with Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Group — that November is a heads-down month for writers, authors, part-time-bloggers and scribes of every description. This covers those aspiring authors who blog in the bath, motived teenagers desperate to show they can break away from their school curriculum, to seasoned veterans like the icon quoted above (which, after February’s launch of his second book, CassaFire, will include our host, Alex). Hope he doesn’t mind being called a veteran, but I’m sure he won’t mind being thrown in with Ray Bradbury, 90!

This means that I, newbie NaNo-er only three years in, will make this particular blog shorter than my usual efforts — more inkeeping with my prolific (and self-disciplined) blogging buddies who seem capable of blogging day and night seven days a week for 365 days at a stretch. My headscarf is doffed to them, but I am the first to admit I usually only write when the Muse directs and, under normal circumstances — unless I’m NaNo-ing — I tend to wait for her signal.

This is probably naïve of me. But I admit to being naïve. There’s no point in pretending — particularly when it comes to writing and allowing the word to flow through the mind, down the arms, via hands and fingertips on to the blank page.

I am first to admit I still find the process miraculous. Almost like subconsciously intending to bathe, and five minutes later finding oneself soaking deep in the luxurious warm waters, without any recollection of having undressed, lit candles, found towel, shampoo and soap and turned on the taps to fill the bath. But I digress.

The same goes for knowing how to describe what I write. Naïve. On Twitter — which, as you know, requires a brief description in fewer than 140 characters to describe oneself and one’s tweets — I say I write New Age fiction. But, as far as I know, that isn’t a genuine genre. This was brought succinctly home to me when preparing my new profile and studying the genres suggested in this year’s NaNo — which, as you probably know, has put together a whole new user-friendly novel-conducive webpage, just to get us all fired up to CREATE for the next 30 days.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the genres in question — which have to be mentioned in query letters, and are important concerns to agents and publishers, the serious dramatis personae of the Publishing Industry — are not exactly well-defined. You are supposed to know. And sometimes trial and error is not an option open to you. If you have been writing query letters for the last six years and you’ve been describing your work as Sci-Fi and somebody *in the know* says they like your ‘Fantasy’ work, you swallow hard and start all over — with the knowledge that you’ve probably wasted a lot of time that could have been salvaged if you’d done your homework. Problem is, however much homework you do, it is still difficult to know the difference between ‘magical realism’ and ‘paranormal romance’. Well, maybe some of you experienced authors do know the difference. But, as I said at the beginning, I’m naïve. And it takes time — and loads of errors — to get it right.

So what do you think?

The genres which NaNo lists as ‘standard’ in this year’s contest are:

Adventure, Chicklit, Erotic Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror & Supernatural, Literary Fiction, Mainstream Fiction, Mystery Thriller & Suspense, Religious Spiritual & New Age, Romance, Satire Humor & Parody, Sci-Fi, Young Adult & Youth, and Other.

No Magical Realism, you’ll note.

When I first started out submitting queries, I was paralyzed by my inability to decide which genre my MS fit into. Being a Brit, it was, for me, even more daunting to read young American beginner writers (on Facebook and elsewhere) bandying about their knowledge of genres with fluent ease — as if I ought to KNOW. It has taken me a decade or two to calm down and use a couple of standards when querying.

Mt.Shasta's presence is awesome, even from a distance of 80miles, photo ©2008MCYoungblood

This quandary is purely self-inflicted, because I wrote historical non-fiction for years, before finding my voice in novels. Since the switch I have written not only historical romance, (Phantom’s Child, pictured below right) but also am blessed that my supernatural novella, Cockatrice is to be published early in 2012 by NetBound Publishing; and my New Age tome, SHASTA: Critical Mass, (sidebar-2, right, and pictured above) has been picked up by AllThingsthatMatterPress, also for publication in 2012. Two of my recent NaNo novels in the Green Turtle Cay series fall under the banner of fantasy, although they are borderline Sci-Fi.

So, you can see my dilemma. It might seem I have not yet honed myself — as any sensible person might — to fit one genre. It certainly makes for intrigue and change of pace. And it keeps me on my toes. But the question remains. How does one decide on one label, when so many strands and possibilities exist within a single manuscript which might make it more suitable under another?

In order to maintain my sanity — and because NaNo calls, which means I shall have to wind this up 🙂 — I blame the system that insists on labels. Bureaucracy in the microcosm. I may not like having to live with it, but live with it I must, if I wish to continue to write and be published.

Your opinions and personal experiences in this thorny field, dear Reader, are most welcome because, at this stage, I suspect I am not alone in this duel with the Publishing Powers-that-Be. Thanks for listening. And thank you, Alex, for allowing me another shot at these insecure blues…
©2011 Marian Youngblood

November 2, 2011 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments