Youngblood Blog

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Taking the Summer (S)Train—Leaving July to its Own Fine Madness

MONTHLY INSECURE WRITERS‘ CRY~~LeavME.BE~~
or Leaving on the Next Train

“From all I’ve learned, there’s no religious revelation more satisfying than hard-won food of simple understanding—no liberation compares with seeing oneself as the illusions/delusions of the Age we live in.”
Terence McKenna b. November 16, 1946, Paonia, CO. d. April 03, 2000, San Rafael, CA
R.I.P. SweetSpirit

1959783_859329230761341_1448992354_nFifteen years after the death of ‘Altered Statesman’—colleague and ethnobotanist partner in triumvirate of Berkeley LSD scientists—of whom only Baba Ram Dass survives, Terence McKenna progressed Timothy Leary’s ‘sixties psychedelic débût by experiencing 15 years as an Amazon Ayahuasca Shaman.

Finally he planted his own Hawaiian paradise, where his life cycle terminated.

Living in a Time-Wobble
McKenna was convinced that Western society lives in a kind of a time-wobble. With fantasy worlds available via Internet and Cell 24/7, we have essentially relinquished control over what our subconscious has already (collectively) devised for us.

“Time and our consciousness are speeding up. We are being drawn closer to the Attractor at the End of Time”

He called this our Eschaton.

Media-eye-view of the World

Media-eye-view of the World

Add to such real human identity crisis the madness of July, revved up by today’s SuperMedia as three continents celebrate historical nationalism—French Bastille Day, U.S. Independence fireworks, Vedic Purva Ashadha.

If we are already in the thrall of a winking blinking (fantasy-internet-Muse) light at the end of a metaphorical Tunnel, the only antidote for these Cosmic surprises is laughter.

Thunder Moon Jupiter-Venus Conjunction
Before we get to the funnies, however, let’s take a quick look at how indigenous cultures in the Americas call on ancestral Spirits, to aid them through each Moon’s wax-wane cycle.

Vedic Ganesh holds tonight's July 1st Full Moon between his Tusks, shines Light of Clarity into Waters of our Soul

Vedic Ganesh holds tonight’s July 1st Full Moon between his Tusks, shines Light of Clarity into Waters of our Soul

A clustering of Native American Tribal Full Moons—Algonquin, Chickasaw, Okanagan/Cherokee, Choctaw, Lakota, Hupa, Yurok, Chumash, Hawaiian, Lucayan, Modoc and Tsurai—share similar Devic angelic view

January: Wolf Moon (end December) Old Moon
February: Snow Moon, Hunger Moon
March: Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Sap Moon, Lenten Moon
April: Seed Moon, Pink Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, Goose Egg Moon, Fish Moon
May: Milk Moon, Flower Moon, Corn-Planting Moon
June: Mead Moon, Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon, Thunder Moon
July: Hay Moon, Buck Moon, Thunder Moon
August: Corn Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Red Moon, Green Corn Moon, Grain Moon
September: Harvest Moon, Full Corn Moon
October: Hunter’s Moon, Blood Moon, Sanguine Moon
November: Beaver Moon, Frosty Moon
December: Oak Moon, Cold Moon, Long Nights’ Moon

Alternate Avenues through Muse Moodswings
When all else fails, #Humor never fails to do the trick. Even the saddest, most died-in-the-wool ‘LeaveMeAlone~I’m going away to eat Worms’ Muse-abandoned writer—the Mole—cannot fail to pause—if only for a blogging millisecond—and let out a chuckle.

If this apology for a monthly moan will suffice, dear Reader, and dear Cap’n-@our-Ninja-helm, Alex J. Cavanaugh 😉
then let me regale you with an Alternative Alphabet, conceived somewhere along those truly ephemeral airwaves our war-torn parents/grandparents constructed to amuse themselves, after a hard day’s work.

In their precious evenings, RADIO sprang to life. All kinds of fantasies might be fulfilled, all sounds and frequencies attempted.

Fantastical ‘Forties Fantasies over the R.A.D.I.O
For my sins, I grew up in a ‘Forties household, shielded from The Woah by a protective parent who—child polio victim, unable to serve—made all broadcasts [aka News] top priority. It became evening entertainment for the whole family—as there was only one radio!
Among a plethora of sounds emanating from the small walnut-cased glowing-dial box in the corner of the sitting room, after homework was done, we were allowed to hear a few tidbits.

One of these—probably altered beyond reasonable comprehension, to any but a native Scot—a rare glimpse into a smattering of hilarious popular culture of the time, a mingled brew—indiscriminate. But it has to make you laugh.

Give me this. You will at least allow yourself a giggle.

And, with all the crazies going on out there—Full Moon tonight, Jupiter and Venus in close conjunction, solar flares mixed in with Fourth of July weekend yet to come—you know it’s the best medicine~lol

‘FORTIES FORTITUDE: Adversity Kindling the Common Heart
Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right.

“Yet, from it all I have learned that there is no religious revelation more satisfying than the hard-won food of simple understanding.”

Om, Omega, Oversoul

VERSOUL: that Unity within which every man’s Being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart

ALTERNATIVE ALPHABET
A is 4 ‘orses
Beefor Mutton
C For Th Highlanders
Deef or Dumb
Eve or Adam
F for Vescence
Geoffery Farnol
H for Scratch
Ivor Novello
Jefferson Airplane*
Kay Fr-ancis
L for Leather
M for a Pie (Dundee accent, pie=peh)
N for a Pint (probably home brew: post-War booze was in short supply)
O fer the Sea to Skye
P fer Sninks ???

At anchor in Dundee, HMS Discovery, flagship of Robert Falcon Scott's tragic Antarctic expedition, 1910—symbol of Brit fortitude/failure against all odds

At anchor in Dundee, HMS Discovery, flagship of Robert Falcon Scott’s tragic Antarctic expedition, 1910—symbol of Brit fortitude/failure against all odds


Q fer the ‘tippenies’ (cheap tuppenny seats Saturday matinée local cinema)
Rfur Askey
S for Williams
Tea for Two
U for me
V for Victory—this WAS the ‘Forties
W for Quits
X for Breakfast
Y for No?
Z for the Abbulance [nasal voice]

*[inserted by TimeMaster Alien, ‘cos.I can’t remember 1940s’ original]

I dare some Elder from the Olde Countree of Great Memory NOT to remember at least some of these [North-of-the-Border] Vaudeville gems.
©2015 Marian Youngblood

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July 1, 2015 Posted by | art, astrology, astronomy, authors, blogging, culture, festivals, fiction, Muse, New Age, novel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

Whatever the Weather: Write On

MONTHLY IWSG

What we IWSGroupies should always remember…

Writing should be an act of love; all else is a scribble—”écrire c’est un acte d’amour; ne pas faire c’est escritureJean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau clearly didn’t have a lot of deadlines; or else he was so secure within himself that they didn’t phaze him. Well, some of us DO write only when we’re inspired and in love with our words, but there are other times…aaarrrgggh.

No, I didn’t say that Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group [IWSG] stresses me with deadlines! But I did completely lose track first Wednesday last month, posting something which even Alex must have thought indicated I had lost it. So I am giving a quick apology now to any who read my cropcircle item at that time, as a bonus, or for misleading those who searched my site for other relevant material and ended up reading my (much older) post on how Myers-Briggs sees us flighty authors!

Blame it on the weather! Or something.

It is true: the 2012 season (which in Britain has been dire) since having early summer in March, resorted to Arctic gales and rainstorms from April through August, and now that September has arrived, only the most hardy of us mortals lingers outdoors to pick up the fragments of petunia blossoms, and rose petals hurled from their stems. It could get anyone down—in their right mind.

What we do may, technically, be illegal… 🙂

But we writers have never been really in our right minds, have we? And, as we all know, if we’re feeling down, or insecure, or unable to cope for any reason, it always helps to reach out and help another. So if you guys are still with me, reading/writing and supporting each other, you may find it gratifying to stretch out the hand of friendship—even if your fingers are full of petals and your mind full of untyped words—because this month marks one whole year that the IWSG has been together, and it has grown from just a few writerly bloggers to an amazing 276 people out there sharing their tips, fears, doubts or just plain helping other budding writer/bloggers along. Alex, our Ninja captain, is a great one for holding out a helping hand—besides he posts FAR MORE FREQUENTLY than I do—so if you are in any doubt about joining our disparate gang, [I said disparate, not desperate] I heartily recommend it.

Besides, in reading and visiting the blogs of others—even if you haven’t really got one going yourself—you develop a ‘feel’ which just could turn into something you’ve always wanted to try, but never had the guts to. Now’s your chance.

P.S. My criticism of world weather may sound unreasonable, particularly in the wake of hurricane Isaac, which seemed intent on doing a Katrina around the Mississippi basin; I don’t mean to steal any thunder. My dear goddaughter is a doc in one of the emergency rooms in NOLA and she says it wasn’t pretty; but the great thing we all share about WEATHER is that it changes; and there is always hope for us writers that our togetherness—hugely assisted by the friendly electrons of the internet—will give us the feeling of holding hands across the waves [literal and metaphorical], so that we know we are not alone.

For that reason alone, I am grateful for having found IWSG and want to wish it happy birthday. I also wish Alex godspeed with his third novel CassaStorm—go to his site and reeeeead about it—like his other two, it is destined for huge success.

Thanks for being there IWSG buddies.
Have a good September.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

September 5, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, fantasy, fiction, novel | , , , , , , , , | 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

Green Turtle Cay-ripples and submissions

Entry ‘hook’ for Show Me The Voice

Cetaceans at home beneath the waves

Not my usual frequency–blogging twice in two days–but circumstances dictate. And all writers know how those dreaded circumstances aka deadlines, have a way of changing time-worn habits. If it makes you feel any better, see this as a postscriptum to yesterday’s post, below.

If you have not yet read about Brenda Drake’s Show Me The Voice Blogfest Contest run in cooperation with agent Natalie Fischer, then scroll down to that blog, Blogs and Novels and Voice, for details.

In a word: here is my (updated, pared-down to 250 words) entry to the Voice Blogfest Contest. Many thank-yous to friends–known, loved and unknown bloggers– who critiqued in the very short time we all had to prepare for this adventure. In writing lingo: this is the Chapter One ‘hook’ with which we writers and authors attempt to snare you, dear Reader.

Here goes. Wish me luck.

Name: Marian Youngblood
Title: Green Turtle Cay
Genre: Adult Fiction: Fantasy-Magical Realism


“Next stop Marsh ‘Arbor, Habaco.” The ferry captain’s solid Bahamian voice echoed through the launch. It took Annabelle right back to her teens. With their Miami traffic, what a miracle the Islands still sounded Colonial.

Bimini via Green Turtle Cay
, her ticket said. Closest to Florida, Bimini was considered American—until you got there. So retro. Two stops and she’d be there. Her spirit rose as they headed out from Abaco.

Thirty years of mainland living hadn’t dulled her love of the ocean. Its sheer blue clarity curling around white atolls–amazing fish swarms–she felt comfortable in its watery embrace.

Green Turtle Trench guarded one of Earth’s stable populations of dolphin and basking shark. And shark city was where she was headed—if only for one night. She studied the approaching shore, knowing Tom planned to bring her back in his own boat. Nice of him. The old guy had asked his niece-–his nearest relative-–to check out an offer from a consortium to run a shark center here. Sounded like fun. Paradise for him—a shark man from way back. Green Turtle looked as placid as ever–not a sign of this new project he described. Maybe she’d adapted to change.

Back then, you visited the Islands if you owned an airplane, or a friend’s private yacht transported you magically from Nassau. Nowadays major airlines flew to the doorstep.

When she’d stepped off the plane—when the wall of heat hit her—she felt that childhood pull again, couldn’t wait to get out on the water.
©2011 Marian Youngblood

March 22, 2011 Posted by | authors, culture, fiction, novel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Displacement Activity during NaNo month

FEATURED WRITERS CORNER

November is NaNo writing month

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by
– Douglas Adams

My last two blogs have featured talented — and busy — authors: the GuestBlog is such a boon when you’re feeling not quite writerly yourself.

Er, well, it’s not that I haven’t been writerly, I have. Just otherwise focused.

NaNo started on November 1st and won’t stop until November 30th and we’re not quite half way through the introductions yet. NaNo is when you abandon all hope of having a life, get up each day knowing you have an obligation to fulfill, fall into bed far too late into the wee hours because you know you won’t get a good night’s sleep otherwise, and generally find it difficult to communicate with your family — unless they’re on Facebook for a couple of minutes. Did I say eat? Whatever’s within reach. So long as it’s quick.

By now all leaf color is a leaf carpet

But November is also the month of Scorpio. That black and white personality, do or die, and if you die, don’t expect anyone to come and pick up the pieces — kind of month. Winter approaches. You can feel it in every breath. Watery autumnal sunlight, and where I live up here on the 57th parallel (cf Juneau, AK), light is gone from the day by 4p.m. Leaves are no longer pretending to cling to tree branches because most of the colorful ones are now carpeting the driveway. That kind of month. A time when one should be out there making the nest ready for hibernation through the next three months of dire weather and even direr temperatures.

And yet that’s the month a small group of writer-stroke-genius displacement activists chose to nurture the NaNo Bug.

Those of our critics who aren’t writers themselves say writing is ‘displacement activity’ from Life with a capital L. As a child, were we encouraged to write or were we encouraged to get an education which would slot us into a ‘good job’?

No displacement activity

Nevertheless I am writing. It’s what a writer is supposed to do.

NaNo was founded in 1999 by a looseknit group (I like the picture that conjures up, kind of like a quilting bee) of writerly types in San Francisco, CA. They chose to set aside the month of November — all 30 days of it — to create the bones of a novel. The ‘bones’ amounts to 50,000 words. Or writing a minimum of 1667 words every day. In order to nourish, challenge and encourage each other, certain perks, ‘gifts’, achievement stickers and carrots are used.

While the pain and self-immolation this exercise invokes might seem to be some people’s idea of lunacy, the Nano idea grew.

Gradually a body of supporters, themselves plunging into writerly waters for the marathon type-in, brought Nano fame. And purpose to November for writers. The month made the real world go away. Instead of the world of lethal freeze outside, your world turns inwards, into the novel or what the novel will become. You hand yourself over to an overlighting presence. You become just the fingers on the keyboard. The body on the bed.

NaNo’s acronym grew from the idea that November is now National Novel Writing Month and a website encourages the cotidien and foolhardy habit, suggesting you upload* a daily wordcount, so as to see your own (growing) stats and feel you are accomplishing something. There are free stickers and website widgets to egg you on, should you feel in need of a boost. And at the end of it, when you’ve passed the 50,000 word mark (some achieve 70,000-100,000. Hey, let’s not knock it), they proclaim you a Winner and you get a purple ‘winner’s’ accolade; plus the offer of a proof hardcopy of your book in print from Amazon’s CreateSpace.

But what happens to this human being who has committed her/himself to such a daily chore (sometimes a pleasure, sometimes a chore)? Does the Muse** visit every day and hold her/his hand through the ordeal?

Even if you don’t feel the Muse holding your hand every day, there are a couple of NaNo folks who do. They’ve taken on the volunteer job of keeping you at it. Been there, done that. They too, most of them, are sitting at their laptops in Peoria Illinois and Ashland Oregon and Walnut Creek California and (Rome, Madrid, London and Skye) pitching in again this November to finish writing their very own ‘new’ idea, plot, adventure, MS, WIP, exercise in writer’s-block-removal.

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him
– Ray Bradbury

At the end of the 30 days, if you drag yourself kicking and screaming to the keyboard every day, and create a piece of work, long or short — ignoring edits, spelling errors, lack of thought-flow; just get it out there — there’s one thing you’ll have achieved. A 50,000-word story. It may feel awful, scratchy, patchy, unformed or uninformed, and half the characters may have glaring holes in their back-stories, but it’s the bones of your next novel, your very own WIP — the Work in Progress that will make you feel a teensy bit achieving.

It may take another year before it becomes fit to print, but that’s not the point. During the process, and especially in the middle doldrums — Week Two Blues — it’s the vision of a completed task that draws you on when you tell yourself the last thing you want to do today is sit down and write a chapter about some silly characters that won’t talk to each other.

That’s part of the clever NaNo trick. They must have learned it from Jack Kerouac. He pasted sheets of copier paper top-and-tail together and fed the roll into a typewriter carriage, stocked up with coffee and ‘uppers’ and wrote ‘On the Road‘ in three weeks.

I’m not suggesting the ‘uppers’. Besides, NaNo ‘writing buddies’ are quite good at keeping you going if you flag. Or Facebook. Remember what they say: if your Subconscious has been alerted and informed by your Will that it has to regurgitate something every day in November, believe me, the Subconscious does.

And it sends in the Muse.

You may not like Her. You may not even be able to identify with Her, but at the end of 30 days, you will have Her staring you in the face, handing you a story. And when you really have something finished — I didn’t say polished: that comes after — you really feel you have to do something with it! Because it’s your WIP and it’s all yours.

They say writers are the least likely people to market their own wares. Isaac Asimov said:

Rejection slips, query and form letters, and synopses, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil, but there is no way around them.

2010 NaNo in progress

Which brings me back to Displacement Activity. What NaNo does for writers is just such a way around the roadblock that Asimov thought inevitable. It physically takes over space and time and allows the writerly urge to come through. Displacement activity is put aside to make way for words. That means life functions, regardless/oblivious of eating, drinking, sleeping, making love, shopping, paying bills or stoking fires — or any other life chore, for that matter — take a back seat, offering space for the writer and Muse to get to know one another all over again. And ideally during the process, all distractions, such as rejection slips, plotlines, query letter seminars, agent/ editor suggestions or even how the story’s going to end (along with cell phones) fall into the file drawer below the supply of tea/coffee, twinkies/cookies, cheese bits, and granola.

The rest of the world can criticize you for making writing your Displacement Activity from Life. But by the time you’re past Week Two, the halfway hurdle, and you find you’ve got a story going, your characters are coming alive, even if you’re not quite on the home stretch, you (hopefully) don’t believe your activity is displacement at all. You’ve found a new friend.

So why am I here writing this blog? Must be Nano Displacement Activity. Sorry, dear readers and fellow writers, I got to get back. My NaNo Muse is calling.

* An exciting widget until year 2010 was the wordcount widget. You copy & paste your daily output as input to the NaNo page and it counted the result for you and pasted the glorious total as part of your personal and site-wide stats. In 2010 this feature will only become available to site visitors after November 25th when the widget will be available to participants to ‘verify’ their (completed) output/MS/novel.
**Some days She does; some days She doesn’t.

Ed. As evidence of Marian’s supreme NaNo Displacement Activity, she wrote the following little Drabble for entry in the December Drabble contest over at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash.

NOLA HOLA

She’d worked hard – her beads sparkled in December sunshine. Farmers market always busy on weekends, the tomato and squash guy in the next stall said, selling his pumpkins for pennies. Mark ’em down low was his recipe for getting home early.

Freezing, only her second time, she gotta stay to cover costs. Don’t come back without a Franklin, or I break your arm, he’d said.

That weirdo, watching from a doorway since lunchtime, came over, handed her a 1000 dollar bill.
‘Cleveland cover it?’ he asked, picking up the jewel case.
Passport outta Dodge, she thought.
‘Sure,’ she said. ‘Thanks.’

©2010 Marian Youngblood
photo ‘Colourful beads’ by Natasha Ramarathnam
A Drabble is a story — a bullet, an idea, a character outline, a work of fiction that is exactly 100 words long: no more, no less.
December Drabble Theme at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash

November 13, 2010 Posted by | astrology, authors, culture, novel, seasonal, winter, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Writing’s the one thing I can call my own’

Featured Writers Corner

Oftentimes we have no choice: the keyboard calls

Margaret Atwood once said:

“Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths”

I think I would put it even stronger: we are compulsive wordsmiths, yes, but sometimes we are actually unable to put the pen down or — in this case in the 21st century — abandon the computer keyboard. We may, like my adorable blogging compatriot, Tara Smith, be compulsive people-watchers and take notes or store the info in our heads until we get a moment to write it down; or we may just be of the temperament that it takes us over, we have no recourse but to let it and we set aside somewhere, some time apart from our Other Life in order to do it. It drives us. It controls us. I am no longer fooled into thinking I have a choice in the matter.

Virginia Woolf said: ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ That was an early 20th century view. Nowadays, all we ask is a tiny corner in the middle of the madness, so we and our Muse can be together for a brief (illicit) rendezvous.

As you probably read in my blog on John LeCarré, this little corner is my attempt to feature my favorite real-life struggling authors. By that I mean those of us who are continually pitting our wits against the ever-growing behemoth of the Publishing World: the world we writers are so NOT equipped to tackle and yet, as agents keep on telling us: we don’t get there unless we try. So in addition to being tied down with imaginary ropes and shackles by our Muse, our flow is constricted by being constantly reminded that to publish we must become marketers.

To refute this assumption, Barbara Kingsolver says:
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”

I present you with persistent blogger, Princess of Procrastination, ChickLit author of Cardiffella and my Welsh Sista, Tara Smith.

Featured Writer: TARA SMITH

When Marian asked me to guest on her blog, I immediately decided to do it without thinking about it at all. For those of you that don’t know me (which I’m guessing will be the majority of you), that’s very typical of me. I’ll agree to almost anything and I never think about the consequences. I over-commit myself, I allow myself to be persuaded into projects, and I tell myself that it would be rude to say ‘no’ (well, it would be rude to say ‘no’, especially when people specifically think of me to help them with something And I really don’t like to be rude).

Cambrian Princess, Tara Smith

Anyway, along with my Can’t Say No Attitude, I’m also a Procrastinator of the Highest Order. You would think that the two wouldn’t go hand in hand – indeed, they shouldn’t go hand in hand – but unfortunately they seem to be Partners in Crime.

So here I am, at the eleventh hour (24 hours before Marian’s deadline to be exact, and when you consider that I was asked to do this weeks ago, you can probably see how much of a procrastinator I really am) typing up this blog post.

Those of you familiar with Marian’s blog will have come to expect detailed, well thought-out posts which show care and loving attention to every sentence, so I should probably apologise because my efforts are definitely not of the same level at all. As with all writing, I’m a Fly By The Seat Of My Pants kind of girl, which means I rarely research and just dive right in, hoping against hope that I will have produced something legible at the end. I really shouldn’t call myself a writer at all, I’m far too haphazard in my approach to it.

But the thing is, I enjoy writing. No. Scrap that. I love writing.

It doesn’t matter if I am writing for my own blog, for other blogs, for my fan fiction stories, or for my original stories, I just love to write. Sure, I get frustrated more often than not when my Writing Mojo doesn’t do his job properly (my current Writing Mojo looks suspiciously like Jensen Ackles, by the way, and as he’s been so naughty lately I may have to punish him accordingly), but when I get into the flow of it, writing makes me about as happy as it is possible to be.

Writing, for me, is escapism from the busy life of a working mother. I only work part time, but add the 16 hours of my earning job to the endless hours of my ‘mother’ job, and there really aren’t enough hours to go around. Sometimes I think that if I paused for a moment, everything would come crashing down upon me, such is the balancing act that is my daily life. I don’t really have any hobbies (aside from an addiction to reading [and procrastinating] ), so writing is the only thing that I can do that is especially for me. My kids can’t get involved in it, my husband can’t get involved in it, and my cats can’t pester me about it either. A working mother (or any mother, for that matter) is spread so thin that sometimes she can forget all about herself, so for me writing is the one thing that I can call my own that is not accountable to anyone else.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t write for a while, it doesn’t matter if when I do write it is nothing more than the mad mutterings of a crazy person, the writing comes from me and me I don’t really have a current project as such, more a pile of unfinished projects that could probably do with a good dusting off (part of the problem of being a procrastinator is that you tend to be a starter and not a finisher, if you know what I mean). I’d like to say that I have written a novel. Well, actually I have written a novel, it’s just it’s nowhere near ready for publishing yet, so it’s technically a draft.

Soon to hit the bookshelves -- if the Muse is willing -- Cardiffella by Tara Smith

This draft was the finished product of last year’s NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month), and it was the first time I had ever written something so long in such a short space of time. You would think that after achieving 50,000 words in a month I would be able to go back and add another 10k and tidy it up a bit with no problem at all.

Alas, the bane of procrastination!

Still, with another WriMo coming up I am hoping that another month of sleep-deprived crazy writing will give me the kick up the butt that I need. Last year I wrote a Chick Lit comedy – which, let me tell you, was a complete surprise to me, as I had been sporadically working on a fantasy-based novel for a good number of years (yes, years: it’s not a typo. I’m not the most prolific of writers to be sure). This time around I’m thinking of taking another genre path and going for contemporary drama instead. I’ve been known –- despite my reputation for being slightly loopy -– to write good, solid drama over the years, and I’m thinking that’s what I should maybe do. If I do it, that is. Yeah, we’re a dithering bunch, we procrastinators, and can never decide what we are going to do until the last minute (hence this eleventh hour ramble blog post).

That’s the beauty of being a writer though, there aren’t any boundaries. Most jobs in the real world have a routine to them that borders on mind-numbing. Unless you are extremely lucky and have a job that you love, or you work in some sort of challenging academic field, your place of work pretty much fences you in and you have to deal with the same stuff day in, day out. I work in a newsagents three days a week, and although the tasks vary a little for the different days, it’s still the same things that I have to do one week after another. The only upside (or downside, depending which way you look at it) is that along with the regular customers that frequent the shop, you are almost always guaranteed to get a few new people every day. And for a writer, that is good news.

People-watching (or nosing at strangers; you decide) can be a fountain of inspiration if you do it properly. On the few occasions when I am not running around like a headless chicken with newspapers flying out of my hands, I’ll stop for a moment and observe a customer. It may only be for a few seconds, but in that short space of time I’ll have given them a name, an occupation, a relationship status, and a little back story.

Not that I’m a stalker or anything, you understand, I’m just a curious person (as in curious about other people, not curious myself. Then again, I suppose you could call me odd if you wanted to).

NaNoWriMo: writing every day in November

Anyway, that’s what I do in between counting the magazines and putting stock on to the shelves. You see, even when I’m supposed to be working, my brain is still in writer mode. Which is why I call myself a writer. It’s not something that you can make yourself do, you either are or you aren’t.

I’ve had people say to me over the years that they can’t understand how I can write stories from thin air, as they wouldn’t know where to begin. Others have commented on how I can fill blog posts with (mostly) legible words on a daily basis (though, to be fair, that was only during last October and November, which were the only two months that I managed to blog every day. . . *shifty*). But to me it would be inconceivable if I couldn’t write a few paragraphs about any subject in the world. I can’t understand what is so difficult to understand, if truth be told.

Writing, for me, isn’t a job. It’s isn’t a hobby either. It’s just a part of me, like my arms or my legs. I can go months without physically writing anything, but the storytelling instinct lurking inside me is never far from the surface. I could no more stop writing than I could stop eating (and I do love to eat, it has to be said). And let’s not forget that I’m just an ordinary thirty-something woman. I have a crappy job, two kids, a mortgage, and bills to pay (or not to pay some months, let’s be honest). I’m no J.K.Rowling or Dan Brown, I’m just me, Tara Smith, living my ordinary life for the time being while I sit on the pipe dream of becoming a published author.

Everyone needs something to hope for and to aspire to, or life would become stagnant. My writing dream may only ever be a dream, but it’s a darn good one that I’ll keep having until I stop breathing. I love to write. That’s it, that’s me. It’s what keeps me sane in my insane life, and it’s something that I’ll always do, no matter what.

And no-one can take it away from me, because it’s mine.
©2010 Tara Smith

That, folks, was TARA SMITH. Isn’t she fabulous?
OTHER featured writers soon to appear (or appear again) are:

Cathy Evans
Hart Johnson
Pete Madstone (May 2010)
Natasha Ramarathnam
Genie Rayner (October 2010)
Rob Read
Mehal Rockefeller (April 2010)
Catrien Ross of Energy Doorways
Tara Smith (September 2010)
Jim Vires (October 2010)

ED: Tara Smith is author of hilariously funny Cardiffella, a dedicated NaNoWriMo participant, working wife and mother and Blogspot blogger Princess of Procrastination. Enjoy.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | authors, culture, Muse, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments