Category Archives: writing

Human Solidarity

flag of earth profile pic

In the wake of the senseless destruction of life in Paris, Americans have taken to a movement of solidarity with France, turning their social network profiles red white and blue.  Fitting since the word solidarity finds its origins in French.

sol·i·dar·i·ty

noun \ ˌsä-lə-ˈda-rə-tē \

 : a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals, etc.

:  unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards

In seeing all my friends move towards solidarity, I had to ask myself, what unifying agent are they rallying behind?  Peace? An end to terrorism?  Vengeance?  I imagine each individual has a little different idea about what that French flag overlay means to them.  And once again I had to ask myself what does that flag overlay mean to me?

To me it doesn’t mean unity, it means division. It means one group of people have chosen to stand together against another group of people.  It means one culture, religion, ideology stands against another culture, religion, ideology.  This is the problem with unifying behind any one flag that represents “us” in a world of multiple other flags which represent “them”.  This is the birth of judgment.  I am not in the business of judging people based on the socialized cultural paradigm they have been bathed in.  The process of ingraining belief is the same for every single human on the planet and no one human has any more choice in their bath water than any other.  For that reason I cannot stand behind a movement of division that pits us against them, because when you distance yourself from the “experiment”, them ultimately is us.  Humanity.

hu·man·i·ty

noun \ hyü-ˈma-nə-tē \

: all human beings collectively; the human race; humankind.

:  the quality or condition of being human; human nature

:  the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence

Humanity is something I can unify behind.  I did a little searching and found a flag I can stand behind, a flag that unifies all of humanity.  The International Flag of Earth (IFE), a silver flower of life on a field of azure, designed by Oskar Pernefeldt of Stolkholm Sweden.

International_Flag_of_Planet_Earth.svg

Symbolically, the seven linked rings represent how everything on our planet, directly or indirectly, is linked.  The silver flower represents life on Earth.  The blue field represents the water which is essential for that life and covers most of the planet.

The purpose of the IFE is to remind the people of Earth that we share this planet, no matter of national boundaries. That we should take care of each other and the planet we live on.

This might still be a flag that divides us against them, as the IFE is to be used while representing planet Earth, but since them is now little green men in spaceships who may or may not even exist, I don’t feel too judgy.   With that, I’ve created my own profile picture overlay, an overlay of solidarity with humanity, every human on the planet, treating each other with kindness, benevolence.  That’s something I can unify behind.

Abandon Books

Yesterday was an arduous evening.  Facing an upgraded level of danger -a level 2 evacuation notice for my home- from the massive wildfires burning through our county and steadily approaching the small town I live in, I finally decided the time had come to pack up some belongings from my house in the event I’m forced to abandon my home for safety.

Abandon is a sobering word and it’s a sobering process.  The possibility of leaving my home because of fire danger was real, but what became even more real to me was going through all my possessions and choosing which of them I would also leave behind and possibly never return to.

 

aban·don

verb \ ə-ˈban-dən\

 : to leave and never return to (someone who needs protection or help)

: to leave and never return to (something)

: to leave (a place) because of danger

 

First things first, I packed up the few items my boys requested, two PlayStations, a dozen games and one favorite fuzzy blanket.  After these fires pass I’m going to have to come to terms with the fact that my kids’ most cherished possessions are video games, but in the words of a good friend, “Don’t waste energy trying to stop that train, boys love the video games, they just do”.  I trust the advice, no energy wasted there.

The remainder of the evening was spent assessing and packing my own cherished possessions and this was a much more difficult process.  Important documents are a given, but after that?  Pictures first and you take them all.  So many moments captured in time, so many smiles, so much laughter, so much love hidden behind the scenes.  You can’t help becoming misty eyed as you remove portraits from walls and pack them in boxes, can’t help but shake your head sadly as you walk 20 years of memories out the door of the home where many of them occurred.

Then the truly difficult work began, the decisions. Out of a lifetime of accumulations of import, which would I take, which would I abandon.  What was truly important to me, what were my most cherished possessions?   And maybe equally important, what weren’t, what was I willing to leave behind?   By the end of the night I knew.  It was amazing how few items it amounted to.  Only four things, my writing, my books, my stones and the gifts I’ve received from the people that mean the most to me.  Sadly I couldn’t take them all.

I packed up every bit my writing, wondering as I did about how many hours of love and labor was represented in all those notebooks full of my hand written words. I couldn’t begin to tell you, but it occurred to me that if I died tomorrow you could reconstruct multiple lives – not just my own- with the plethora of words I’d left behind.   As I walked them out the door I knew as surely as I ever have that those lives still needed to be shared. That they were as important as any life of living flesh and that I had much work in front of me to make sure this happened.

Setting about through the house, I collected the stones I would take with me.  Tigers eye and rose quarts, a piece or two of fluorite, all the stones my sister wire wrapped for me – garnet and lapis and citrine, and my amethyst cathedral, a gift from my aunts.  I left many stones, protection pieces that would serve a better purpose right where they were in my house. I collected the few cherished gifts, chosen with care, given with love by those few people I consider to be my dearest friends in the world.  Handling those items, I experienced a poignant moment of thankfulness to have such beautiful people in my life.  Their presence and support meaning more than all the possessions combined.

There was never any way I was going to be able to take all my books, I have a small library. So once again, I was forced to choose, choose the most treasured pieces out of my most treasured possessions.  I suspect a person would understand a lot about me by looking at the few books I chose to save. I suspect I could understand a lot about myself if I did the same. There in those boxes were the first book I remember falling in love with (taped together I’ve read it so many times), the first book that made me open my eyes and look at the world in a different way, the books written and signed by people I call friends, the books chosen and given to me as gifts by other dear friends, and the books that have imparted the bulk of my unique knowledge base.

Looking back at those still full shelves, at all the books I had to give up on, at all the stories I had to leave behind, I saw so much knowledge, so many other lifetimes of labor and love, so much of humanity bound in words on printed pages.  My heart broke for those words, for not being able to choose them all, for abandoning them…

library leftovers

…but as I turned and looked at what I chose to take with me, I realized it was okay.  This small pile of possessions in front of me were the ones I needed, the ones that meant the most, the ones I would take with me and never leave behind.

They were enough.

 

 

Dear Writer’s Block

writers blockDear Writer’s Block, it’s time we part ways.

It’s not you, it’s me.  There comes a time in every girl’s life when she has to put on her big girl panties and face the world head on.  That time has come for me and let me tell you, the big girl panties are chafing my ass big time.  Who the hell makes panties out of steel wool anyways?  Yeah, yeah, I know, big girls don’t whine.  To be fair, I’ve only had my SWBGPs for an hour and they take time to break in.  But fear not, I will break in the undergarment of steel or break my junk trying.

And so with that, I bid you adieu Mr. Block of Writers.  You have served me well in the past.  Always providing a convenient aside from my literary duties.  There were times I admit when I looked forward to your visits and the endless hours of social networking that always proceeded your knock on my door.  And only you could get me to tackle the chores on the bottom half of my to-do list.  Nobody likes scrubbing toilets or clearing out the junk drawer, but your type of motivation got me there many times.  So thank you for that.

But as I said, it’s time for me to face the world, and there’s just no place in this new frontier for your guilty seductive ways.  No more pins and posts and tweets.  No more Netflix marathons that last till Monday morning.  And no more staring aimlessly at blank pages vaguely wondering why there’s no words on that crisp expanse of white.

I’ll miss you writers block.  You know I still love you.  Deep down inside we’ll always have a connection.  But for now we part ways, I to conquer the world in my iron skivvies, you to ply your charms on another slightly desperate soul.    May we meet again on the other side.

NaNoWriMo Book Addict

book addict 2

Week one of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2014 is in the books and I think I have written a grand total of two sentences in my new novel.  And to be fair, the second sentence was an edited version of the first sentence, which itself will really need to be edited, so really it’s a wash.

 

Not looking like a promising start you might say.

 

I’m not daunted in the least.  You see, I have a grand idea, and while I was ready to go half crazed rough draft mode for 30 days, my stronger inclination was to take it down a notch and actually give the idea its due with a full outlining.

 

It probably wouldn’t surprise anybody who knows me to hear that on November 1st, instead of writing, I read a book.  What can I say, I’m an addict.

 

ad·dict

 verb \ə-ˈdikt\

 

:  to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively <addicted to BOOKS :D>
:  to cause addiction to a substance (BOOKS :D) in (a person or animal)

 

 

 

Did I ever mention I really like books?

 

Said book, Screenplay by Syd Field suggested I shouldn’t start writing (a screenplay or novel) without knowing how my story ends.  It makes sense.  Writing is a journey, do I want to wander aimlessly or know my future destination before I leave the front door?  Was there actually a question in there?  I’m not exactly a fly by the seat of my pants type of gal, so I pretty much need to know.

 

That posed a conundrum.  My great idea for a story didn’t include an ending.  Come to think of it, that other half written great idea ruminating in my computer’s memory banks, suffers from aimless wandering in the search of a true destination as well.  Hmm.

 

Brainstorming session:

 

Day 1: What if?

 

Day 2: Maybe I could?

 

Day 3: How about?

 

Day 4: That doesn’t sound too bad.

 

Day 5: Okay I think I’ve got it.

 

Day 6:  Really?

 

Day 7: What if maybe I could,  Yes!

 

I know where my story is going, and I even know all the stops along the way, call me a planner and slap  me with pen and paper.  Time to go half-crazed rough draft mode on this beast.  And relax.  If I don’t have 100,000 words written in 20 days, I’ll live.  I have something better yet, a road map to a destination, and a treasure at the end of the line.

 

I’ll take that over out of gas on the side of the road any day.

 

 

 

How do you write after a hiatus?

How do you start writing again after a four month hiatus?

hiatus

[hahy-ey-tuh s]  
nounplural hiatuses, hiatus.
1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.
2. a missing part; gap or lacuna:

Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medievalmanuscript.
3. any gap or opening.
4. Grammar, Prosody. the coming together, with or without break orslight pause, and without contraction, of two vowels in successivewords or syllables, as in see easily.
5. Anatomy. a natural fissure, cleft, or foramen in a bone or otherstructure.

 

Well first, you can’t dwell on the questionality of taking an entire four months off from writing.    I knew it wasn’t a good idea in June when I set my pen down and that point was hammered home as I picked it up this morning and found I had forgotten how to use it.  Isn’t writing like riding a bike, once you learn you never forget?  Right?  Possibly, but that doesn’t account for the squeaks, the rust, the wobbly tires, and the voice in the head doubting the entire endeavor. Can I still do this? Will I end in a ditch on my head with a mouth full of dirt?

In a lot of ways picking up the bike after a spell is easier than picking up the pen.  Physical vs mental exercises.  We walk every day, using nary a though in our head to keep our balance, place one foot in front of the other and move across a room, a driveway, an entire block or more.  Walking uses the same skill set as riding a bike.  But writing?  Writing is the opposite of walking or riding a bike, yes when we are in our own writerly world, the hands fly across the page or the keys with ease, never failing, but it’s the conscious use of the creative centers of the brain that make it such a challenging endeavor and so different than any other activity.   It’s the accessing of those creative synapses that is so hard to recreate for the first time after a hiatus.  The accessing and the translating of creative thought into physical expression – writing.  Believe me, any writer will tell you how fast those skills go rusty.  Sometimes overnight.  But four months.  It’s like I have to learn to write all over again.  And my book, forget it, I don’t even know where to start on that.

Last June, I left my book in a fugue state.  I had just paid for a professional critique of my story idea and it came back red.  At one point while reading through the extensive comments, all I could do was laugh.  I thought I had turned in A+ material, and it threw me into a tailspin to find out I hadn’t.  Reading is subjective and writing is an art form, but there are still key qualities that make a story really good, and while I write because I have stories to tell and I love where writing takes me in my mind, I also would love to do it full time, and that means having enough commercial success to pay the bills, So C- just won’t cut it.

Maybe I should just keep my day job.  (Of course my day job heard me think that and doubled my workload during the summer).

So how do you get back on the writing wagon after falling off and being left for the scavengers?  Here are the proper steps.

  1. Sit you ass back in that chair, in front of that blank page.
  2. Pick up the pen.
  3. Write.
  4. Write some more
  5. And write some more still.
  6. And keep writing.
  7. And when you think you’re finished, write just a bit more.

Writing is a lot like riding a bike, you never actually forget how, you just have to get past that big first step, that self-doubt filled valley of fire and brimstone, with warning signs posted every four inches, warning against traversing the terrain -You can’t do this;  Turn back now before it’s too late;  Imminent death awaits.

  1. Remember that what is inside your head is your best friend and your worst enemy and Valleys of fire and brimstone are ripe with possibility.

The Story Fix

book jack When jacks won’t get the job done, try the story fix.

Once upon a time, I wrote a story.

It started off as a great sort of idea, (schizophrenic vampires) but then it kind of tanked at the end.    I thought I could fix it by rewriting it with a better sort of idea, (Sumerian Goddesses).

It’s probably not hard to imagine that I ended up with two completely different stories on my hands and sadly they both needed help.

Help arrived.  And it wasn’t in the form of better idea number 3 and another rewrite.  No, it was in the form of a major intervention, a chance meeting with Larry Brooks, Author  of Story Engineering and story fixer extraordinaire.   The chance meeting and the book introduced a set of instructions on how to fix  my story.

1fix

 verb \ˈfiks\

: to make (something) whole or able to work properly again : to repair (something)

: to deal with or correct (a problem)

: to attach (something) in such a way that it will not move : to connect or join (things) physically

You see, my story had a lot of problems, it wasn’t working properly, it needed some rather major repairs.  It didn’t  take me that long to spot all of my stories problems once I knew what I was looking for.   And it took even less time to start correcting those problems.

The best part about fixing my story was joining my two drafts back together and making them whole again.  I now have a schizophrenic Sumerian Vampire Goddess that has to fight the Elder Sumerian Gods for the fate of every human that has ever lived.  And that folks isn’t just a good idea, that’s a killer concept.   That’s a major story fix.

 

It started as an Idea

 

 queen pubai cylinder seal Lapis-lazuli cylinder seal found in the grave of Queen Puabi /(Shubad) in Ur province Iraq.  (2600BCE).

This was my first Idea.  Notice the capital “I”, it was a big one.

idea

 noun \ī-ˈdē-ə, -ˈdēə also ˈī-(ˌ)dē-ə or ˈī-dē\

: a thought, plan, or suggestion about what to do

: an opinion or belief

: something that you imagine or picture in your mind

Having almost finished my rough draft, I finally decided to describe the pendant my protagonist had been wearing the entire story.   The pendant needed to be very old and very distinct.  Antique just didn’t cut it so I went straight for ancient.  And voilà, a picture of a Mesopotamian cylinder seal surfaced and I knew immediately I had found what I was looking for.

Not only was it the answer to my question, it sparked an Idea, a picture in my head, a suggestion, a plan.  I had to do more research.

A dozen  books, and hundreds of web searches later: 

The ideas have taken on a life of their own, and led to more ideas.  That’s how good ideas work.  Mesopotamian cylinder seals led to Sumeria, led to Sumerian mythology, led to the most heinous creation myth known to women kind, led to more ideas, led to more questions, led to fictional answers- You get the idea.  The Sumerian culture, embodied in the cylinder seals they created is idea fodder.

And all those ideas led to a belief: there’s a story here, and I’m going to tell it.

Also in case you are interested, Cylinder Seals date from as early as 3500BCE in and around the Mesopotamian Valley (current day Iraq).  They are typically carved from stone or gems and were a form of signature ,-complete with cuneiform text- the impression being rolled across wet clay.  They also functioned as jewelry and magical amulets.   Although a fairly large number of cylinder seals still exist from ancient times, certain engraved themes can be quite rare.  

The cylinder seal in my story is truly one of a kind, (of course it is, I made mine up) and fills the roll of sacred object.  That is, it reoccurs in the  story enough times that it becomes a symbol, think of Cinderella’s shoe.  It symbolizes – well, I’m not going to tell you what it symbolizes.  Why?  Because I just figured it out for myself just now.  Yes, another idea spawned from my unlikely cylinder seal.

Phenomenal woman that’s me.

Official Author Photo smallGreetings all, welcome to my author blog.  You may be wondering, where is my published book? The quick answer to that is, I don’t have one yet.  What?  How can you be an author if you don’t have a published book, you ask.  Merriam Webster defines an author as:

1au·thor

 noun \ˈ-thər\

: a person who has written something; especially : a person who has written a book or who writes many books

: a person who starts or creates something (such as a plan or idea)

My very writing of this blog post defines me as an author.  But I especially want to be a sucessful author so I didn’t stop or rather start there.  I have written something else.  Many somethings else.   Thousands of pages of notes, character studies, and outlines, and manuscripts. But, no published books.

Yet.

And that’s okay, because I have ideas and a plan.

The ideas are too numerous to list here, but lets just say they all converge on a single theme -

I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

                                                                                                         (Maya Angelou – Phenomenal Woman 1978)

Simple as that.   I have everything I need to get where I’m going.  I’ll see you there briefly, but don’t think for an instant I’ll stop.

That’s the plan.