ON OUR OWN_IWSG POST

3 10 2017

 

“No one can build you the bridge
 on which you, 
and only you,
 must cross the river of life.”
–  Nietzsche
 “The true and durable path
 into and through experience
 involves being true … 
to your own solitude,
 true to your own secret knowledge.”
– Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney 
We live in a Pavlovian culture of constant feedback, 
in which the easiest and
commonest opinions
 are most readily rewarded, 
and dissenting voices 
are
most readily punished by the unthinking mob.
 
So when we write we must ask 
if we wish to be popular when read or to be true to what we feel is best in the human condition …
to be a pioneer or to be one of the herd.
To be a writer is to feel authentically, 
for that is the only way to write prose that touches the inner person of the reader.
 Why? 
Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, 
you’re a lot
of other people: 
but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
 To be nobody-but-yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, 
to make you everybody else – 
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, 

that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t an author can possibly imagine.

 Why?

Because
nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. 

We all of
us do exactly this nearly all of the time – 

and whenever we do it, we
are not authors but cookie cutters.



“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. 

 So bleed that one true sentence, and go on from there.”

– Hemingway

We are modern Argonauts — 
The Argonauts 
(Ancient Greek: Ἀργοναῦται Argonautai) 
were a band of heroes in Greek
mythology, 
who in the years before the Trojan War accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. 
Our Golden Fleece is to write the best prose of which we are capable. 
 
So good fortune, 

my fellow Argonauts,

the prevailing winds 

are against us.  

But as authors, we know that it is the struggle that makes the adventure.

 

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A Ghost’s Guide To Writing Success

9 09 2017

At Meilori’s, 

that haunted jazz club which is never too far from where dreams have died, 

I was playing chess with the ghost of William Faulkner.


The fog gathered near.  

The jazz murmured low in the shadows.  

The torches beckoned to all who wander lost in the dark of their soul.

I must have spoken that thought aloud, 

for Faulkner said low, “How do you know they are so lost?”

I smiled sadly, “On such a night, if they could be home, they’d already be there.” 


He returned my smile.  “Just so.  Just so.”


I asked, “Why weren’t you at the poker game last night?”


Faulkner snorted, “Hemingway gets too morose about November’s writing contest.”


“So you approve of NaNo?”


“Goodness, no!  It is a horrid waste of 30 precious days that will never come again.  

The dead know all too well how fleeting life can be.”

I nodded, “Mark Twain says each day is a coin we can spend any way we wish, but ….”


Faulkner finished with me, ” … you can only spend it once.


He sighed, 

“But have those contest participants bought anything of lasting value with those 30 coins?”


“So you agree with Hemingway?”



“No.  He lived a full life and should know Mankind has always looked for the secret elixir, the hidden keys, the lost path to success.”


Faulkner smiled bitterly. 

 “Not that they exist, mind you, but we want them to.  We live in denial of the simple fact 

that the true path to success, whether in writing or in any other endeavor, 


is paved with courage, imagination, and persistence.”

He blew pipe smoke into the shadows. “And it is a lonely road.”


I sighed, “For me it has been.”

Faulkner murmured,

 “So it is understandable that so many writers think they have found the key to becoming writers 

in this joint ‘group hug’ as Hemingway so colorfully and callously calls this contest.”


He frowned as I moved my knight in a move he had not foreseen. 

 “But the truth is as elusive as smoke in the night.  Sometimes you can smell it in the air, but it slips through your fingers.”




Faulkner took my knight in a move that this time I hadn’t seen coming and smiled,

 “But I can tell you and your electronic friends the simple secret to writing success.”

“It’s not nice to tease a struggling writer.”

“Oh, I am quite sincere.  The simple secret is this:

Write of an old thing in a new way.”

In response to my frown, Faulkner said, 

“The oldest lodestone to literature is the human heart in conflict with itself.  

From Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams that lodestone has been the compass that led the way to riveting stories.”

He tapped the chessboard with the stem of his pipe. 

“Only that is worth writing about, worth the agony, and the sweat of wresting something from nothing.”

Faulkner leaned forward, stabbing my chest with the pipe stem.

“Leave no room in your writing for anything but the old truths of the heart,

 the
old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – 

 love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.

 
Until you do so, you labor under a curse.

You write not of love but of lust,

of defeats in which no one loses anything of value,

of victories without hope and,

worst of all, without pity or compassion. 


Your griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars.

You write not of the heart but of the sex glands.”


He wrinkled his nose as if to sneeze.  

“When I was in Hollywood, Samuel Goldwyn would point out the latest hit to me and my fellow script writers

and say, “I want the same thing … only different.”

I smiled, 

“No stories of young boys or girls fated to save the world, no wallflower girl courted by supernatural heart-throbs, no ….”

Faulkner said, 

“Dare to save your character’s world in a way not seen before and with imagination not cookie-cutter formulas.’

I moved my last knight, positioning it to take his King.  “Checkmate.”

He tipped over his King and arched an eyebrow, “Only a callow soul takes advantage of the dead.”

The ghost of Mark Twain pulled up a seat and crowed, “Why I do that all the time!”

Faulkner snorted, “I rest my case.”





TO END AS I STARTED_IWSG POST

6 09 2017

 

 Cover by the talented Drusilla Morgan

My very first anthology inclusion came with STORIES FOR SENDAI:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1463574215/

A collection of inspirational short stories loosely themed around the
strength of the human spirit. 

All proceeds were donated to
GlobalGiving in aid of victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

 

Since then, I have been graciously accepted by other anthologies.

Some of those experiences were more rewarding than others.

I seriously considered to cease submitting to anthologies.

But then, I learned of 
LIKE A WOMAN ANTHOLOGY
The anthology editors, authors, cover artist, proof readers, etc. are all volunteers.  
The stories are donations by the authors.
All proceeds of the anthology will go to a charity 
that supports women who are survivors of domestic abuse. 
 
What a noble cause, right?
 
Last night, Mirren Hogan, one of the three editors,
 
(resident of NSW Australia, wife, mother, Food Person to dog, cat, and countless birds 
with advanced degrees in education and writing)
 
let me know my story was accepted!
Mirren writes urban fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction.
My last anthology, like my first, 
will be to help hurting others.
 
Of course, nothing in publishing ever runs smoothly, 
so the original publisher can no longer handle this anthology.
 
Still  
Mirren, Jeanette O’Hagan and Christina Aitken 
are going to push on and publish the anthology themselves.  
 
Wish them luck.  
 
If you have any ideas that may help them, visit their FB page:

This great endeavor reminds me of the lyrics to Thea Gilmore’s song:

“Start As We Mean To Go On”



We’re gonna do what must be done
And start as we mean to go on
Well, we came to the party late
But we’re staying here to see the sun
And start as we mean to go on.

So we’ll start the meter running
We’re gonna start to count the cost
To see what we’re becoming
And not what has been lost.

 

What do you hope to accomplish 
with your fiction?




LOVE NOR LIFE ARE SINGULAR

8 08 2017

 
There can be a real meeting 
between two people 
at the point where they 
always felt marooned. 
Right at the edge.” 
– Sam Shepard

Love and life are so difficult to define.  
Both are never singular.  There must be two.

Love is utterly singular to each person in each relationship at each
moment in time.
 We each love different loves, 
constantly navigating and
negotiating the infinite continuum of meaning 
with which we view each lover through eyes that may not even see us as we are. 
Sam Shepard‘s letters to his life-long friend, Johnny Dark
 explored love as a union of two sovereign alonenesses 
and a mutual awakening to dormant parts of each self.
 Both men belonged to “The Work”
a movement of gatherings based on the
spiritual teachings of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, 
whose philosophy was
rooted in the idea that 
although our default state is a sort of waking
sleep, we are capable of waking up. 
In 1982, Shepard met the actress Jessica Lange on the set of the film Frances, in which he had a
supporting role. 
Lange earned an Academy Award nomination and won
Shepard’s heart. 
The two entered into an immediate and intense romance 
that effected, as Shepard wrote to Dark, mutual awakening.
What do you think?

Do we mostly live in a waking sleep
 from which only love can awaken us?
or
Can our dreams awaken us even more?




LOVE & LIFE ARE NEVER SINGULAR

8 08 2017

 
There can be a real meeting 
between two people 
at the point where they 
always felt marooned. 
Right at the edge.” 
– Sam Shepard

Love and life are so difficult to define.  
Both are never singular.  There must be two.

Love is utterly singular to each person in each relationship at each
moment in time.
 We each love different loves, 
constantly navigating and
negotiating the infinite continuum of meaning 
with which we view each lover through eyes that may not even see us as we are. 
Sam Shepard‘s letters to his life-long friend, Johnny Dark
 explored love as a union of two sovereign alonenesses 
and a mutual awakening to dormant parts of each self.
 Both men belonged to “The Work”
a movement of gatherings based on the
spiritual teachings of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, 
whose philosophy was
rooted in the idea that 
although our default state is a sort of waking
sleep, we are capable of waking up. 
In 1982, Shepard met the actress Jessica Lange on the set of the film Frances, in which he had a
supporting role. 
Lange earned an Academy Award nomination and won
Shepard’s heart. 
The two entered into an immediate and intense romance 
that effected, as Shepard wrote to Dark, mutual awakening.
What do you think?

Do we mostly live in a waking sleep
 from which only love can awaken us?
or
Can a brush with death awaken us even more?




HOOK YOUR READER_ IWSG post

2 08 2017

The news.



 It has none of the characteristics that make something worthwhile.

It’s not fun, it causes anxiety, it gives you a warped sense
of reality, 

and people who watch it are rarely going to do anything with the information they get.

Yet, watch it they do.  Why?

If we want our books to sell, 
we need to be able to answer 
that question.




The appeal of many books, ideas and actions boils down to six key factors –

1.)  A person-centered subject matter
2.)  The presence of patterns
3.)  The odd incongruity
4.)  A topic that pushes the buttons of hope or fear
5.)  Stimuli that engage our body or senses 
6.)  Thoughts that play to our psychological biases

 Rhyming idioms are catchy, attractive and appear truthful 

because they are easy to mentally process and their repetitive sound
appeals to our love of patterns.

Idioms that at first glance appear
contradictory stimulate our keen eye for incongruity.

Fiction is so engrossing because we are hard-wired
to detect useful information 

and while part of our brain knows that what
we are reading is make-believe,

 another part thinks the characters, and
events, are real.

Some aspect of our poor susceptible minds really thinks Hannibal Lector is out there. 

Somewhere.

Have you ever left a movie feeling vaguely dissatisfied?  

You didn’t like the film but don’t know exactly why?

 Chances are, the movie failed in terms of story structure. 

 Storytelling
is so ingrained in us that it sets up certain expectations for how a
story should unfold.  

When those expectations are defied, it leaves us
vaguely unsettled.

A story is a character in pursuit of a goal in the face of an obstacle or challenge.

How the character resolves (or fails to resolve) the challenge
creates the drama and human interest that keeps us reading or listening.

HOW TO HOOK THE READER … 




1.) GET INTO YOUR PROTAGONIST’S HEAD RIGHT OFF AND STAY THERE.



2.) NO HEAD HOPPING


Readers will only know how the other characters are feeling through what your protagonist

 (POV
character) 

notices and perceives—their words, actions, facial
expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc.

3.) LEARN FROM THE DOCTOR DELIVERING A BABY

Slap your MC right out of the gate.   

It doesn’t need to be the main problem of the story,

but put something
on the first or second page that challenges him and makes the readers
start worrying about him.

 The difficulty or dilemma can be internal,
external, or interpersonal.

4.) GRAVITY TAKES NO BREAKS; IT ONLY GIVES THEM 


Introduce some opposition in the first few pages.  


Bring on a rival, an enemy, or a nasty villain fairly early to get things
moving fast and make your readers start biting their nails.

5.) SURPRISE!

 Surprise gets our attention by defying our expectations. 

We’re wired to
immediately start figuring out what’s actually going on, 

the better to
gauge whether the smack we’re about to receive will be on the lips or aside the head.

6.) SQUIRM!

 Science has proven that the brain uses emotion, rather than reason, to gauge what matters to us.

So it’s not surprising that when it comes to story, if we’re not feeling, we’re not reading.

 In a compelling story the reader slips into the protagonist’s skin and
becomes her/him –

feeling what she feels, wanting what she wants,
fearing what she fears.

7.) HEMINGWAY YOUR WORDS

Over 11,000,000 pieces of information dive-bomb our five senses every second. 

Don’t add to the reader’s input unless it is necessary. Bore the reader; lose the reader.

8.)  NEVER BLUR THE FOCUS


We access the universal only through the very specific.  The story is in the specifics.

“Dario had a hard day.”

There are all sorts of hard days. Is Dario a door-to-door salesman or a Roman gladiator?

Use the” Eyes-Wide-Shut test.”

If you shut your eyes, can you see it? If not, then neither can the reader.

9.) MAKE THEM LAUGH

Life is hard enough for your reader.  Give them a chuckle or two in each chapter even if your tale is a dark one.

It is always darker after a light has died than if it had never existed at all. 




10.) CARE ABOUT YOUR STORY


If you care, it will carry over into your words.


Charlaine Harris stopped caring about Sookie 

and just continued to write the novels to keep her contract.


It showed.

However she redeemed herself with her Midnight, Texas novels.

Let’s hope her enthusiasm for those characters is not tarnished by the NBC series based on them.

For laughter and reflection:




When TV gets PREGNANT

18 07 2017

When Lucille Ball became pregnant,
 the network wouldn’t even let the show 
use the word “pregnant.”

How times have changed, right?
THE X-FILES

When baggy clothes would no longer cover Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy, the X-Files went full Sci-Fi …


and had poor Scully the victim of an alien abduction in the episode, Ascension/


this scene was so particularly graphic the network originally did not want to air it.

XENA

When Lucy Lawless became pregnant, the show’s writers went full-on mythic.


In a twisty episode that found Xena’s soul both in Hell and then Heaven, 

Xena meets her arch-enemy Callisto in both places.

Callisto touches Xena in a gesture of forgiveness.


Upon her return to earth, Xena finds she is pregnant with no idea how.

The mystery is solved when Callisto’s spirit

reveals in another episode she “gave” Xena the child to make amends for all the evil she did her. 

DOUBLE DOOMED SARAH SHAHI
In the too short series, Life

Sarah played the feisty partner to the hero of the show. 
To cover her pregnancy, 
the show had poor Sarah kidnapped and held captive for most of the 2nd season.  
In the excellent series, PERSON OF INTERST,
Sarah played yet another feisty and unwilling love interest of a killer trying to turn over a new leaf,
Root.  

No pun intended.  

To cover Sarah’s pregnancy that would not have fitted at all in the story-line …
Aw, you guessed … 
Sarah was apparently killed, then found to have been kidnapped

and held captive for most of the remaining episodes of this fine series.  
Notice Sarah’s baggy clothes in the following video
whose music was composed by the same artist who composes for GAME OF THRONES:


WYNONNA EARP

Although Melanie Scarfano was pregnant the entire 2nd season, she
still did a lot of her own stunts.  

And took ballet lessons to keep up her strength and balance.


My Stetson’s off to this trooper.




Writing for the second season began in the spring of
2016,

and Scrofano told executive producer and showrunner, Emily Andras, 

of her happy news in September of that year,
when she was not that far along. 

 “I basically blacked out for a month, so I’m hazy on the details,” Andras joked. 

Emily seriously added,

 “I went into Syfy and basically said, 

‘I need to do a
‘Fargo.’ I really want to have a pregnant superhero. 

I want to do a
Marge Gunderson. 

I think it speaks to everything that makes our show
special.” 

And they fell in love with it.

It is a fine show that entertains with laughter and heart … 

not too many of those shows around any more.

Apparently, if you record this show on your DVR, Syfy is notified …

So even if you do not plan to watch it, please record it and play it in the background to up the ratings.

Support a new mother and her fans who love her.