Sunday, January 31, 2010

Knit? Never!

"Maybe you should take up knitting!"  An off the cuff comment meant to be funny as I bemoan the fact of the long waits common to writers.  I'm a writer not a knitter and all things considered I barely have time to vacuum.  

At the moment I'm waiting on a submission, and the waiting is painful.  It has been broken by fits and starts of revisions, encouragement, new submissions and more waiting.  I'm not naive, I know that in the publishing industry things don't move quickly, still...

I feel blocked, rather like our easements which are clogged with snow and only accessible if you have the desire to unexpectedly sink to your waist in snow. It's a roadblock to which I don't have much control.  There's one in every life path, in every dream.  So what to do now?

Well, first I stew and stall and then...

A good friend aptly named the malady to which I am now subject as "hurry up and wait."  Sometimes it's hard to hold a dream when despite the best reasons for delay weeks slip into months and still you wait.
The world of brilliant blue skies is a realty in Saskatchewan year round.  But how do you dream when everything in the blue sky just appears like a holding pattern?

Sometimes when we send our dream into the world, we forget the heart of the dream  its inception, the simplicity of that primordial moment.  In my case, the joy of just writing because of the rush of putting words on paper got forgotten for a brief impatient moment.  A short time ago I was reminded of my knack for starters, first liners that begin that fabulous journey into fiction.  I was asked to submit first lines so that readers could submit what they thought should follow.  I'd forgotten the ease and joy I got out of writing those opening lines.  And as I started the lines to stories I would never complete, I remembered the dream and how far down the path I'd already traveled.

Everything good is worth waiting for and of course everything good is also worth working for.

But in that lull between dream and reality - How do you keep your dreams alive?

Ring of Desire
From the Dust

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fear - For Better? Or Worse?

Sometimes being scared means walking just a little slower.  That's what I did today.  Of course, I didn't have much choice having to carry 40 pounds of dog with snow banks to navigate.

Yes, the burning question - why?

Well it had something to do with the Pitbull that was hot on our heels.  A walk on a quiet snow covered sidewalk was no longer so quiet.   It was like a stealth attack.  All alone on our peaceful walk and then the growling out of nowhere, and the not overly friendly Pitbull on the loose charging us with teeth flashing.

So here was the dilemma, my Irish Terrier is an extremely sociable guy but don't get in his face.  He loves a good fight as well as the next guy.  So with a snarling dog confronting us and my dog only seconds from giving the dog version of "Bring it on" there was only one thing to do.

I picked up my dog, looking ultra tough with his red boots and "You Fetch" t-shirt complete with an overgrown Benjii like look, and faced off the snarler with a snarl I only hoped was louder and and deeper than his.   And then we just started backing up which isn't easy to do on snow clogged streets with forty pounds in your arms.

No I haven't digressed.  Not really.  It's about fear.  Fear of the unexpected, the what if.  Today's incident with the Pitbull didn't give much time to think about what if.  It was just do or someone's going to get hurt. 

My current story is a different matter.   The story was at a standstill.  Was it fear?  And if so fear of what?  Nothing I did seemed right until I realized that one of my character's had to change.  And it was fear but it was the character's not mine.  Yes, they really are real people, at least to me!

Anyway, her fear had the story at a standstill.  It's a fine character that just slides through to the finale on someone else's coattails and one of my characters was doing just that.  Now she hadn't done that originally but a change or two had caused the problem.  It was time for her to face off the growlers and make it through to the end on her own two feet and carry one or two other characters if necessary.  So now things are sailing along.  We're all bite free and the story, well it has a hunk or two removed for the better.  And a heroine who can only say "bring it on."

Any fear in your life today?   And was it for the better?

Ring of Desire
From the Dust

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winner of "Cleopatra's Daughter" Contest

I was really rooting for all of you but in the end there can only be one winner.

The winner of the ancient Roman coin and a copy of "Cleopatra's Daughter" is Cheri!  Congratulations Cheri!  



You Fetch

Time really does slip away.  The contest for Cleopatra's Daughter and an ancient Roman coin has officially ended.  Thanks everyone who entered.  I kind of hate to see it all end!  I don't know about everyone else but I had a great time and enjoyed meeting you all!  I'll be making the draw for the lucky winner later in the day and notifying the winner then.  
Good luck everyone!!

As for the rest of the day.  My dog has an attitude.  Did I mention that before?  Anyway,  his winter walking shirt says what I'm pretty sure he thinks.  Today I share the sentiment.  It's one of those days when I wish I could just say:

Ever have one of those days?

Ring of Desire
From the Dust

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Trip With I

I travel with words all the time but I rarely traveled with I.  Of course I traveled with self but it's books that are today's topic.


Books written in first person, I avoided them like the plague.  Interesting that I should mention plague as that is one of the key elements in the book I am reading.  A book written in first person!

There was a time when I felt first person didn't allow me to get deep into the story.  I felt like I was skimming the surface.  Yes, I know there is great literature written in first but I always thought that's what made it great, the ability to pull off a good first person read.  We won't even contemplate the fact that today's post is written in yep, you guessed it - first.

Ironically in the past two weeks I dove into two books written in first person, "Stripped' by Marcia Colette and "Heretic Queen" by Michelle Moran.  And while they are completely different books I am enjoying them both, first person and all.  Both these books take me away into another world, one into the world of urban fantasy and the other into the world of ancient Egypt as easily as third person ever did.

I'm not saying that I'll ever write in first.  As a writer I find it challenging to get deep into the worlds I create from the perspective of one character.  It's a talent that I can now say I truly admire.  What I am saying is that if there's a book written in first, by an author I've never heard of, I won't skip on by.  Not anymore, I'm a convert.

Oh and to the two authors I just mentioned above - I am also a convert, first person and all.  Wait - back up, maybe because of first person!  Fab stories.  Great job ladies!

Will you travel with I or are you strictly into she and he?

Ring of Desire
From the Dust

The contest for Michelle Moran’s, "Cleopatra's Daughter" is still running. Commenting here or anywhere on my blog counts as an entry. Post often through January 17 to up your chances to win. 
But to make things easier for me, if you’re responding to an older post, please enter the title.
Good Luck!

Monday, January 11, 2010

For Keeps

I have a sweater.  A black turtleneck, nothing special about it except that it has been washed so many times that the synthetic is as smooth as silk.  The sweater is old but it’s like a chameleon.  It fits everywhere for every occasion, under a business suit, over jeans.  Comfortable enough for long days of travel and great for lounging around in.  It’s a keeper. 

The topic of keepers has come up quite a bit this week.  First with a contest I’m holding where part of the prize package will be a few books I think of as keepers. And the term keeper came up again with Michelle Moran's "Cleopatra's Daughter" who I featured this week on my blog.  And that made me think, what makes a keeper?

Well in clothes we know it's comfort and versatility and maybe something more.  Maybe it's a memory the piece might be attached to or maybe it's survived through the majority of your adulthood and there's a certain loyalty in that.  Can one feel loyalty to clothes? 

And what about books? I love to read but truly the majority of books don’t make the keeper shelves.  I might keep them but I may never recommend them or take them out for that second read. So what makes a keeper?

The first thing about a keeper is that they stand out from the pack.  There’s something unique about every one of them.  And often there's something to be learned, a lesson to be taken away.  Many  of them cut to the heart of an emotion or force us to look clearly at issues.  They take the reader so deeply into the pages of the story that there's no doubt that this is real.  We taste, smell and feel the characters' emotions and can't help but cheer for them. There's something about the story that imprints itself so that you find yourself thinking about it long after you finish that last page.  It's the book whose end is met with that feeling of regret and the wish that you had read slower and savoured each word.  There's magic to a keeper and that's not easy to pinpoint or define.

So back to my original point - what makes a keeper?  Could it be as simple as they touch a nerve?

What books do you consider keepers?  

The contest for Michelle Moran’s, "Cleopatra's Daughter" is still running. Commenting here or anywhere on my blog counts as an entry. Post often through January 17 to up your chances to win. 
But to make things easier for me, if you’re responding to an older post, please enter the title.
Good Luck!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Post and Win - Cleopatra's Daughter

 From now until January 17 you can enter to win a hardcover copy of Michelle Moran's book "Cleopatra's Daughter" and an ancient Roman coin complete with a certificate of authenticity.  Entering is easy.  Post a comment on any post on my blog during that time and you will be entered to win. 

Every comment qualifies as an entry!

 Michelle's Bio: 
Michelle Moran was born in the San Fernando Valley, CA. She took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer's Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve. When she was accepted into Pomona College she took as many classes as possible in British Literature, particularly Milton, Chaucer, and the Bard. Not surprisingly, she majored in English while she was there. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University.
Michelle has traveled around the world, from Zimbabwe to India, and her experiences at archaeological sites were what inspired her to write historical fiction. In 2006, Michelle was married at the Chateau d'Esclimont in France, a 16th century location which spoke to both her and her husband's love of history. Every year, both Michelle and her husband embark on an historically-themed trip for two to three months. In 2008, they retraced the journey of Homer's Odysseus, and most recently they followed the path of the American Revolution from Boston to France to Virginia.
A public high school teacher for six years, Michelle Moran is currently a full-time writer living in California with her husband. She is the author of Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra's Daughter. Her fourth novel, Madame Tussaud, will debut in March 2011.

Here's an Interview with Michelle

Q: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. Some authors come to writing by chance, some after graduating college or working for a while. For me there was never any doubt about what I would do as a career. I think my teachers felt the same way. I can remember being in third grade with the toughest teacher in the world and hearing her voice echo in my mind like a scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. "Michelle... Michelle... Michelle?" Only I wasn't physically absent like Bueller. Just mentally! When I write, the scene unfolds in my mind like a movie, only I'm the director. I can listen to characters' dialogue, then tell them to stop, do it over, say the words differently, or strike a different pose. In an academic setting this can be a problem, because instead of learning Calculus I'm watching a movie, only it's a movie with endless possibilities because I create the scenes.
Q: How long did it take you to get published?
My first attempt at getting published was in seventh grade, when I was twelve. So I guess I can say it took me fifteen years. I had written a full length book that was probably pathetic but everyone praised it and my father hailed it as the Next Great American Novel. My father was very good at ego-boosting. But no one knew how to go about getting published, so I went to my local Barnes and Nobles and asked them how. And instead of laughing, the bookseller took me to the writing section and I purchased the current edition of Writer's Market. From then on, no agent or publishing house was safe. I learned how to write query letters and regaled them all. And some of them sent personal letters back, probably because I had included my age in the query letter and they either thought a) this kid has potential or b) this is sad and deserves at least a kind note. I went on to write eleven more books before writing Nefertiti, which would eventually sell to Random House.
Q: Where are some of your favorite places to travel? 
France tops my list, and I mean anywhere in France. Paris, the Riviera, Normandy, Saint Symphorien, the Languedoc region. Then Italy, particularly Venice, and finally Vienna in Austria. I could live in any of those places easily, and someday probably will.
Q: If you weren't a writer what would you want to be?
A teacher. I taught in a public high school for six years and nothing could be more rewarding than exposing young adults to historical fiction and many other kinds of reading and writing. Many people talk about teaching with an abundance of clichés. You can change lives, you can open doors, you can etc etc. But for me, those clichés were all true.
Q: Any advice to aspiring writers?
Keep writing. If at any point along the way I had stopped writing and said to myself, you know, I think book number eleven will be my last, I wouldn't be published. Writers don't like to hear this, though. I know when I was looking at writing advice and I would see this posted somewhere I would think, well that's helpful. I wouldn't have thought of that. But the truth is there's no good-ol-boys-club and there's no backdoor into the publishing industry (unless you're already a star). Good work sells, and if it doesn't, write another one, then maybe once you're a success they'll haul out all of your old books that weren't worth publishing the first time around, spruce them up a little, and voila, all of your previous efforts won't have been wasted. Or maybe you'll look back on those books and think, wow, they knew something I didn't. My work has gotten better. And then you'll hide those first eleven books in a closet somewhere (or a craftily labeled folder in My Documents so that no one ever finds them).

An excerpt from Cleopatra's Daughter:

Cleopatra's Daughter
C H A P T E R - O N E
August 12, 30 BC.

WHILE WE waited for the news to arrive, we played dice. I
felt the small ivory cubes stick in my palms as I rolled a pair of ones. “Snake eyes,” I said, fanning myself with my hand. Even the stir of a sea breeze through the marble halls of our palace did little to relieve the searing heat that had settled across the city.
“It’s your turn,” Alexander said. When our mother didn’t respond, he repeated, “Mother, it’s your turn.”
But she wasn’t listening. Her face was turned in the direction of the sea, where the lighthouse of our ancestors had been built on the island of Pharos to the east. We were the greatest family in the world, and could trace our lineage all the way back to Alexander ofMacedon. If our father’s battle against Octavian went well, the Ptolemies might rule for another three hundred years. But if his losses continued. . .
“Selene,” my brother complained to me, as if I could get our
mother to pay attention.
“Ptolemy, take the dice,” I said sharply.
Ptolemy, who was only six, grinned. “It’s my turn?”
“Yes,” I lied, and when he laughed, his voice echoed in the silent halls. I glanced at Alexander, and perhaps because we were twins, I knew what he was thinking. “I’m sure they haven’t abandoned us,” I whispered.
“What would you do if you were a servant and knew that Octavian’s army was coming?”
“We don’t know that it is!” I snapped, but when the sound of sandals slapped through the halls, my mother finally looked in our direction.
“Selene, Alexander, Ptolemy, get back!”
We abandoned our game and huddled on the bed, but it was only her servants, Iras and Charmion.
“What? What is it?” my mother demanded.
“A group of soldiers!”
“Whose men?”
“Your husband’s,” Charmion cried. She had been with our family for twenty years, and I had never seen her weep. But as she shut the door, I saw that her cheeks were wet. “They are coming with news, Your Highness, and I’m afraid—”
“Don’t say it!” My mother closed her eyes briefly. “Just tell me. Has the mausoleum been prepared?”
Iras blinked away her tears and nodded. “The last of the palace’s treasures are being moved inside. And . . . and the pyre has been built exactly as you wanted.”
I reached for Alexander’s hand. “There’s no reason our father won’t beat them back. He has everything to fight for.”
Alexander studied the dice in his palms. “So does Octavian.”

While Michelle isn't here to answer your questions, I'll do my best to field them.  Every comment is an entry.  Comment on this and other posts and up the odds that you may win this great prize.  Contest open up to and including January 17.  
Good luck everyone!

Ring of Desire
From the Dust

Monday, January 4, 2010

Inspiration in the Rockies

Do you find that sometimes you get so caught up in the day to day routine that you forget what's almost under your nose or in this case, a day's drive away?

This weekend I spent time in Calgary and a day in Banff, Alberta. Calgary, for all its big city allure, still has pockets where nature is just across the street. I discovered a herd of mule deer just two short blocks away on the Nose Hill. A lovely sanctuary that's peaceful despite the fact that it's surrounded by city lights. However, I wasn't so enthralled with the idea that it was also the home of coyotes and other

predators.  Hey, I know they're not apt to confront humans, still I'm a city girl and that hill was their territory! I headed for home after a brief visit and a photo or two.

Then on to Banff. It's been a few years since I've made it to the mountains. Set within a national park, Banff is a small town seemingly locked in time and nestled within the Rockies. The faces of the tourists that ply the streets may have changed somewhat from years gone by but the town itself remains almost timeless. After cruising through the picturesque streets it was time to visit the Banff Springs Hotel, have a drink, relax and enjoy the view.

How can you not be inspired by a view like this?

                                                      View from Banff Springs Hotel

And the next day with silver shadows bracketing the road beneath the late afternoon sun, it was back to the prairies. There, trees and grass pierced the snow and ice standing like sentinels as a murky quilt of clouds rose over the horizon and warned of more snow. Hills rolled gently, making a mockery of the prairie flatness and a herd of antelope grazed. And with the mountains long gone, the inspiration was everywhere.

Needless to say, without a New Years resolution - no, not even one,
I came back inspired!

 Banff Springs Hotel

What inspires you?


Happy New Year - 2010 the Year of the Tiger
And for a bit of trivia - the actual year of the Tiger begins 
February 14, 2010 and ends February 2, 2011