Friday, December 19, 2008

Guess what I've been doing?

The snow keeps piling up. I'm told we are getting more snow because of global warming. It seems odd but probably true. Another theme to use in a story.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Real Characters, Stories, and Legacies

As a storyteller, everything I learn about or experience comes into play when I write. Which is one reason I like to watch people and everything in which they are involved, for, after all, stories are about people, even when they don't seem to be.

This is why this blog seems to be all over the place with no one all-inclusive topic but a rambling of thoughts and experiences.

I've heard there is no new story, and I tend to believe that premise, but there are different ways to tell it. This is what I like to try to do.

So isn't the current affairs page interesting right now? All that fodder for stories about Wall Street, banks, fraud, greed, and power. And who is pointing the finger but Representatives, Senators and other governmental staff? Funny stuff if it weren't so tragic.

Those representing the government speak of the banking industry or the financial markets as if they were entities in themselves, not institutions guided by people who are all too human. And yes, I know the synergy effect of many humans putting their efforts in one direction can create, and this can often turn into an institution that seems to take a life of its own, but it is never safe to assume human foibles can't get the upper hand. Nothing is as simple as it seems to be.

Then there is this exciting election, one based on race and gender. It might be one of historical significance than any other since the very first election. I'm sure more writers than me are watching all the chaos, pandering, hate-mongering, lies, shenanigans, hypocrisy, hysteria, promises and strong conviction of this election process. What anxiety for voters! What fodder for fiction!

Or how about religion? I told a friend more than twenty years ago that religious belief would become more important to the general population the closer we came to the turn of the millennium, and that it would take ten or more years after 2000 for the fervor to calm down. That was based on what was recorded about the year 1000. So what do we have -- a war in the Middle East and dissension between two of the major religions of the world. Since the first crusade was in 1095 ad, and taking into account the speed of modern society, it seems right on time. I eagerly await moderation and tolerance, although the hyperbole makes excellent drama. How many new crusade stories can you count?

Update: 2019: We are still at war, the longest in U.S. history.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reading

When an author tells a story just right, the imagination takes over -- and although the eyes take in each word -- the mind visualizes the story internally and lets it flow. Have you ever had this happen? Where you became so enchanted you can't put the book down?

While understanding is important to non-fiction writing, only fiction lets the mind take this extra leap to make the author's story a personal experience. It's similar to watching a movie or seeing a play, where for a few hours, you become emotionally involved with what is happening on the screen or stage.

If this has happened to you, have you ever stopped to consider what a wonderful process this is? I'm not sure what exactly happens, but I know the imagination is a powerful force to make the author's world seem real.

Even if you don't read scifi or fantasy, it is a magical moment.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Contemporary Time Capsules

Georgette Heyer is listed as having written the first ‘historical’ romance novel. Don’t you find that interesting? I love so many historical novels. Jane Austen’s have become classic literature, as have Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights. Classics and historical, yes, but at the time they were written, these books were contemporary romances.

As time passes, contemporary novels often act like time capsules for the generation about which they were written. I remember reading Emily Loring’s romances when in my late teens. I found it interesting they were written at the time my grandmother was a young woman and gave me a picture into her world and cultural mores and what life must have been like for her.

If you have read some of the romances written since 1950, each decade comes alive as a special time and place in a novel's setting. So when you read a contemporary romance today, think about how the setting is revealed and how true it is to the world as you know it. Someday in the future, your granddaughter might read the same book, now a historical fiction, and relate to you and the world you live in today.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Vote -- Celebrate Women's Hard-Won Rights

My last post was about heroines, too. The Suffragettes were the real-life version.

My sister sent me an email today about why women vote. Not because its an inalienable right, but because a few of our predecessors worked tirelessly to make us independent by giving us a simple thing -- the right to vote.

It's important to remember that not so long ago women belonged to either their father or husband. The great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers of women eligible to vote today earned those rights. It took courage to bring about change, and the willingness to face the consequences. While I cannot forward the message I received, I found an on line version minus the photographs. Please go read this article about the 'Night of Terror.' Then be sure to vote in November.

Why Women CAN vote

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Supereminent Heroines


For all the fiction written annually, there are only a handful of heroines who stand out in my mind. 
 
I am not saying I’ve only come across a few good heroines. On the contrary, I’ve enjoyed many great heroines.

All heroines are reincarnations of a few archetype women, most of whom fall into one of three categories. First, is the totally helpless but lovable Snow White often encountered in early romances, where the story depends on the hero saving the heroine. If you’re old enough, you might remember the beautiful but stuttering virgins of Barbara Cartland’s romances. Next is the girl-next-door heroine exemplified in Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels, or Beauty in Beauty and the Beast. In fantasy, it might be the healer Snake in Vonda McIntyre’s Dream Snake. These heroines are smart women making their own choices but often bound by the limits society sets on them. The third commonly encountered heroine is the in-your-face, self-willed and determined woman who emerged to prominence in fiction after the 1960s. These women take nothing sitting down, whether they sling verbal arrows or throws real daggers such as Arafel the Sidhe, in C.J. Cherryh’s The Dreamstone

However, Besides Snake and Arafel, only a very few have imprinted themselves on my mind. Phillipa in Dorothy Dunnett’s the Lymond Chronicles is one. The reader meets her as a precocious but stubborn twelve-year-old bearing a grudge in The Game of Kings and watches her develop into a wonderful character, an educated, politically savvy woman worthy of the hero by the end of Checkmate. Others are Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, and Morgaine in C.J. Cherryh’s Exiles Gate

What heroines linger in your mind far past when you first read their story?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What was your first book?

Do you remember the first book you selected and read all by yourself? I do. Dr. Seuss's On Beyond Zebra in my second-grade class.

I think Miss Hillman, my teacher, told the class to select a book to read from the shelf in the room whenever our work was done. The cover drew me because of the zebra which was similar to a horse, and being horse crazy even then, it was irresistible. The pictures impressed me as much as the words and sent me on a drawing-coloring fit that lasted a lifetime. It was a fun book and I remember feeling such a sense of accomplishment at having read it. I felt the same thing the first time I read a whole book without pictures although I cannot remember the title of that book.

Reading is such an enjoyment I don't know why so many people (I think the statistics are 2 or 3 out of every 5) don't read for pleasure.

Reading is a lot like looking at art, or a two-way communication between author or artist and reader. Everyone who stands in front of a painting sees and understands it a little differently from everyone else. It's the same with written material. When you read a story, especially one you like, you take ownership of it. When the story is distilled through your mind, when you see the action in thought and identify with the characters, they become a part of you. So, although you didn't write a book, in a very real way, the book becomes yours.

Well, do you remember that first book?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

2007 Dream Realm Award Finalist!


I've just learned by novel Devil's Due is a 2007 Dream Realm Award finalist for both the book and the cover!

I'm very pleased! Three books in three years have finaled.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Never have a camera when I need one.

There is a detour on 20 Mile Road while the road is being repaved. We were driving along the gravel detour when we passed an opossum carcass in the middle of the road. Dead animals along the road are not unusual here. What was usual was seeing the carcass moving. Backing up up we found a baby on top of the carcass. Bill parked the car in the middle of the road and got out to check.

Yep, a baby opossum with more more babies hanging out the mother's pouch, their heads still attached inside, their mouths suckling their dead mama. What to do? I have seven cats who would love opossum lunch. Several cars slowed and cautiously move around us, one driver saying to throw the critters in the ditch. Sorry, we stopped, can't do anything but help now.

While Bill called on his cell phone to find a shelter, I got a box and put a towel in it. Items easily found in my car's messy trunk. I used gloves found in the same source to remove the babies, counting bodies as I put them in the box. One on top, one moving around outside the pouch, seven suckling. Into the box they went, hissing and snapping. The pouch still moved. Three more babies (6" long) opossum curled up inside. Once the babies were removed, I moved the dead animal to the side of the road. We headed for the DNR. They don't do anything but had the name of a woman who rescues wild animals.

Ann had come home from a week's camping trip to feed some raccoon babies and said yes, she'd take the baby opossum. When she saw them, she said they were bigger than she expected, and they should have no trouble surviving. They could probably already eat solid food like canned dog or cat food. Placing the babies in an old aquarium, she put the aquarium on the front seat of her truck and told us she'd take them back to her campsite to watch them. Once they are ready to survive on their own, they'd be released at a safe spot.

This year, or perhaps next, will be Ann's last year rescuing animals. The DNR demands that she take a class out of state and pay for it and the book she needs. She is already paying for her cages and food to feed the animals. This is outrageous. We have thousands of wild animals of every ilk killed on our highways every year, but no one is interested in saving the few who escape? The state can't pay for the extra training for the few people who do this type of thing? They must take classes and pay for everything themselves?

I guess it won't be too long before we are hauling the living carcasses to the side of the road to die.

My only regret was not having my camera with me to take a photo of the twelve babies. I'll probably never have another opportunity to see opossums this close.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Changing Genres

I'm comfortable writing science fiction and fantasy, creating new worlds, imagining new technologies, but I decided to try writing a contemporary romance. It has been more difficult than I imagined.

Not because it is a romance and I'm not a particularly romantic person, but because I'm trying to reflect the real world. Maybe my mind doesn't meld with the concept of creating a world that is set in a place as complex as reality with all its intricacies that we accept but with which we aren't always familiar. You think you know because you live in this world, but when you go to write about different facets of contemporary society, you find you don't know as much as you thought you did. I've found stories set in contemporary settings need as much research as historicals, and yes, science fiction and fantasy.

No matter how long you live in this world there are always some aspects of it with which you will be unfamiliar. Part of the work of writing is making those instances believable, perhaps showing the reader some part of the world they've never experienced. And that is true no matter what genre you write.

Friday, May 2, 2008

More Authors than Ever

Computers and writing programs have made a drastic change in writing. I would not be an author without a computer. I wrote a few papers on old-fashion typewriters. I know I couldn’t do an entire manuscript that way – retyping an entire page with each edit draft and final proof. I’m not that great at spelling although I’ve improved, and while I’m good at grammar, it’s nice to have prompts remind me when a few words need rearranging. Good typists used to make a living retyping manuscripts. I think I remember the rate at a dollar a page. So as I use my keyboard, I’m very aware that technology changes allowed me to tell my stories, allowed me to become a published author. I’m just as sure the same is true for most authors today, and that, in fact, computers have increased the number of authors in the world. Isn't that great? More authors mean more varied perspectives on plots and the types of stories available.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Road

I try to walk the road in front of my house as often as possible, and always travel the same mile of road. One reason is health, but another is identifying all the native or invasive plants that grow along the road. What I've discovered is, given a chance, the natives survive in spite of all the completion from imported garden plants.

This week I snapped two native wildflowers: bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and a yellow dogtooth violet, also known as trout lily, (Erythronium americanum) along one shady bank. Another wooded bank is covered in Vinca minor, an imported ground cover known locally as periwinkle. The house it once surrounded is gone but this invasive plant has covered this ground and now the small native plants are gone.

The bottom photo is a pond with some leftover cattails. I found it an interesting spot, the deep snow and ice of winter finally melted but last season's cattails still standing tall.






Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Another Cat

Okay. So our kids are ready to commit us -- way too many cats. But what do you do when you find one like Jack wandering around town starving? We brought him home after learning he had been out all night in -20 degree weather. He's been indoors for three weeks with no desire to go outdoors. Actually, not much desire to move, period.

We were quite worried we might have to have him put down. He scratched and bit if you tried to pick him up and we have grandchildren and other cats to be concerned about. We couldn't just drop him outside again, which meant we might have to make a tough decision.

What we didn't know was Jack suffered frostbite along with a respiratory infection. If you look closely you can see portions of his ears are missing. The tips fell off.

Three weeks of guarding his food bowl have paid off. He is starting a nice plump profile. His temper is also starting to come around. He had a very nice inquisitive 'mew?' I still don't trust him, but he can be touched now, he even likes having his neck rubbed. He is less jittery and jumpy but goes to his hiding spot at any sudden movement.

Jack wasn't feral; somebody abandoned Jack. Maybe because of tough economic times. Jack may never recover. If you hear of anyone looking for a pet cat...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hoist in Your Own Petard

"For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar"

It’s odd how Shakespeare’s quote from Hamlet is so apt to the Michigan and Florida primary debacle. The meaning loosely translates to harm yourself by means you planned to harm others. Certainly when the DNC told Michigan and Florida to ‘Hoist in their own petard,’ it is only just now that the DNC does.

As a GDI I don’t know all the ins and outs of primaries and how they work. I didn’t design the process; I only vote. Although I didn’t this year because I was mad that my candidate wasn’t on the ballot and that my vote wasn’t going to count. In Michigan, you declare which party you want to declare before you are given the ballet. So some independents and Republicans declared they were Republicans to vote for the Republican candidates. Other independents and Democrats declared they were Democrats to vote for the Democratic candidates. The voters’ only choice was Hillary Clinton or an undetermined candidate for their selection.

That Ms. Clinton kept her name on while other candidates pulled theirs seemed strange. I happen to like Hilary, think she might do an okay job, but have reservations about who is playing what role in her bid for the presidency and how that would work out if she were elected.

Because the parties in Michigan moved the primary forward to January, the DNC told their candidates to not have their names placed on the ballot and to not campaign in Michigan. The same happened in Florida, where the primary was also moved up. So Michigan and Florida’s delegates won’t be seated. The DNC and the states have been trying to work out a means by which the delegates could be seated, but for me, there is no fair way to seat them. The DNC made its decision not to seat the delegates, and now, though the circumstances are radically different from what they imagined, they need to stand by their decision. There is no FAIR way to redo the vote.

If only the members of the Democratic Party are allowed to vote, all independents are disenfranchised. If Republicans who voted for their candidate are allowed to enter a vote they could use undue influence to swing the vote against the one most dangerous to McCain’s election. Nope. The rules were made. We should all live by them.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Touch of Spring


The sun is finally shining. The snow melting although I know we will get at least one more major snowstorm. There is about 8" of snow on the ground. We've had a few storms this year with thunder. However, I have seedlings under lamps and my plants are blooming. Reading like mad. Writing again at last. Much more cheerful.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Your Call

I’ve done something I’ve never done before. Let me first explain, I've studied media and marketing, and that I know just by talking about it, I am promoting this product, that marketers no longer seem to care about negativity, only that their product is mentioned. I'm doing it anyway.

After seeing a commercial twice on TV, I called the Frito-Lay company and complained about their commercial made by Goodby, Silverston, and Partners. The commercial in question takes place in a laundromat with two women. In a snotty voice, the tired older woman tells the younger, who has just picked up a piece of the woman's clothing from the floor, ‘that other people are trying to do their laundry, too.’ Huh? Did I miss something? Obviously, the woman missed something, like she was being helped? You know you can't trust older people; they're blind, all kids know that. The girl sees an imaginary Chester Cheetah who tells her, ‘Felicia, those are her whites in the dryer.’ Whereupon Felicia sneaks over and puts a handful of Cheetos in the dryer. Oh good! A revenge prank! How funny. You can see this on YouTube.

Most of the comments about the commercial on YouTube seemed positive (probably from the 18 to 23 crowd who have never done six or more loads of family laundry in a laundromat — do you suppose this applies to those who dreamed this ad up at advertising company, too?), but I think most of the kudos were for the young actress, Felicia Day, who has at least five comedic episodes about a group of computer gamers she wrote and acted called ‘the Guild’ on YouTube. Very funny stuff. The commercial has the same insouciance as the YouTube episodes. Since I haven't seen this commercial lately on national TV, I'm assuming they placed it on YouTube to reach their target market.

The woman from Frito-Lay® (I had to go to their Cheetos® website and with a little searching found a number — and guess what? The website is aimed at children) was very polite and said Frito-Lay® was always interested in their customers' views, both good and bad. I explained I love Fritos® (good kayaking snack), I love Cheetos®, too (just have to contain my love for these fat-laden products), but told her what I thought about the commercial. She offered me some coupons, and I accepted and hung up. A few days later I received an envelope in the mail with three coupons for any Frito-Lay® product up to $3.49 and a letter. I guess I wasn’t the only one who was appalled at the ad's message. The letter stated the commercial was ‘intended to be a tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted way for us to talk about Cheetos®’ … and … ‘In the adult-focused advertising, Chester Cheetah has gone from a larger than life character to an inner, mischievous voice for adults.’

Speech fails me. My mind reels and spirals downward on so many levels over this whole episode. If interested, go view the commercial and form your own opinion. If you like light-hearted mischievously vengeful, well hell, I’ve just passed into the old fogy part of my existence and my steps have slowed too much to keep pace with today’s society. If you are impressed or unimpressed, call Frito-Lay® at 1-800-352-4477. They answer the phone Monday — Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Central Standard Time. At least the coupons pay for your time. I wonder if Frito-Lay® is going to pay for all the re-dos of white laundry loads? Because you know some young 'adult' is going to think its just too funny to pass up a prank opportunity and snippy elders abound in laundromats.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Allegory from an Unknown Age

I love science fiction and fantasy even though I’m selective in the types I read. I think all readers of this conglomerate genre, which includes space opera, steampunk, urban fantasy, horror, Dystopian worlds, fairytales, and more, are. For instance, horror has never interested me. I’ve found enough of that in real life. There are millions of devotees, though. My preference is for space opera and otherworld fantasy. Lately, I’ve also enjoyed some urban fantasy and paranormal selections. The thing is, the genre must constantly change. You can only read Lord of the Rings retold a finite number of times.

Why have these themes been packed into this genre? Probably because they all exist in a time and place that never was, whether the setting is the past, the present or the unknown future. They are based on the ‘Once upon a time’ premise, the world of the folktale.
Now you and I both know that all fiction is, well, fiction – made up, a fantasy of the author’s mind, so in fact, all fiction is fantasy. However, most fiction is placed in the world we know, the real-time and place of our earthly reality.

Study of mythology, folk tales, and fairytales has given new insights into these often scary stories passed on by oral tradition to the next generation since the earliest know times. By consensus, it is fairly well established that these forms are allegories or life lessons presented as entertainment.


An allegory is a story in which the characters and events represent abstract ideas allowing two stories to be told: one of the literal words on the page, and the second a parallel story deep with symbolic meaning.
From my reading, I know the best stories often offer a deeper message, one of hope or warning, or one that deals with controversial issues in a less threatening make-believe world. Isn't that truly what scifi/fantasy is? A genre of allegories from an unknown age for readers of every age. Surely that works better than some critics who believe scifi/fantasy to be the blathering of someone's too wild imagination? Don't all stories come from the collective consciousness of mankind?

So here, I think, is the attraction of scifi/fantasy: the once upon a world that might have been or has yet to be.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

January's gone!

Here it is the last day of January. We have had to have the drive plowed six times this month. Whoever makes predictions said we were going to have a mild winter. Not so far.

We've had eighteen turkeys (seen above from my back window) coming to feed on sunflower seeds. Last week they were going into full display mode with tails fanned and plumage fluffed at my kitchen window which is quite low to the ground. They saw their reflections and thought there were intruders come to eat their seeds. They cackled and pecked the window and even bumped it hard enough I thought the glass would break. I've had to shout at them to get them to quit.

My organization month has been discouraging. I've sorted a few files but haven't finished all I wanted. But, I have accomplished a few things. I'm in the process of painting my bedroom floor. Couldn't stand the carpet any longer and didn't want tile. Any carpet with seven cats is a bad combination. You say get rid of the cats. Yes, I know... too many cats.

My second big accomplishment has been teaching myself HTML and CSS. I've redesigned my web this blog, and the Cadillac Garden Club site. So far just basic plain design right now, and I've more pages to re-do. The Art and Science of CSS just arrived in the mail with more about navigation, photo galleries, background images, etc. I want to do something a little more graphic on each site.

I have seeds started under lights for my summer garden. I love growing perennials from seed. Sometimes I'm successful, sometimes not, but it is cheaper than buying full-grown plants. I have Papaver (Iceland poppy), Dianthus, Thymus (mother of thyme), Helenium, and parsley started. In the fall I started a large planter of herbs and couldn't understand why they never came up until I found one of the cats laying in the pot sunning himself under the lamps.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

New Book now on sale


Fantasy with romance elements, now available Wings ePress
This is a sequel to the Magic Aegis world and a prequel to Acceptance although written out of order.

Tyna is Kissre's sister. Where Acceptance gave Kissre's story, Change is Tyna's. After her mother's death Tyna, who has always been warned not to expose her special mental gifts, finds the temptation to take her trader's caravan into Cygna irresistible. Once there she finds she won't be permitted to leave.

Excerpt:


The flaming brand heavy in her hand, Tyna took two steps and thrust the short length of wood into the carefully built structure. Dry kindling quickly ignited. Like a replay of the life it consumed, the fire remained hesitant at first. Small nascent flames crawled in pale transparent lines along pine branches to crackle suddenly with the energy of young life. Air caught and twined the glowing currents in endless possibilities and eddies that eventually whipped into a crescendo of radiance, engulfing the pyre. She imagined she saw her mother writhing within, as she had before the fever claimed her. The image was so strong she nearly called out.
“Your mama is now at rest.” The cleric patted her arm and left.
At rest? Mama never rested. She caught herself up, hearing Naomi’s curt reply to calling her 'Mama'. “I am Naomi, owner of a caravan and mother of two girls, but still myself. You will call me Naomi.” Her words backed her strong Kernite belief that the Holy One was everyone’s parent; his followers were all brothers and sisters, meant to work together but maintain independence. Tyna murmured an answer to her memory. “I am sorry, Naomi, but you will always be my Mama.”