Thursday, October 23, 2014

Celebrating a perfectly horrible day... (Celebrations, October 24, 2014)

Another Friday is here and I am posting in VikLit's Celebrations hop.  We pause every Friday (as possible) and take some time to notice the small celebrations that we somehow overlook.  Friends, food, events in our lives - we all share.   If you want to join, the details are at the bottom of this page.

I am celebrating a perfectly horrible day (I am writing this Thursday).  It has been a bad day.  The workday was notable for being tiring.  I read ignorant comments on a blog post.   Other things happened that are serious and expensive.

And I just know that I will experience once more that truly wonderful moment that happens the morning after a bad day, when you first wake up, open your eyes, and for a breath of time it's as though nothing happened.  And then you remember. 

I am so thrilled.

So, why am I celebrating?  Well, because as bad as the day has been, no one died, no one turned on me, I have my health, and I'm not out on the street.  There are others who would not mind having my terrible day just as long as their situation was similar to mine: my health, a job that pays me, my freedom and my friends.

That is what I am celebrating.  The fact that my bad day, which is, to me, certainly bad enough, is nothing compared to what others have had to put up with every day.

I think perhaps I am blessed.

What are you celebrating?  Why not join us?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Run-On Sentences Illustrated


Based on what people say to me (some of them whining), we live in the age of the telegram.  Or do I mean the Tweet?  Brevity is crucial, and the spaces between the words are more important than the words.  That, at least, is some of the grumbling I have heard from colleagues who are unhappy about having their scenes pruned.

We all have those scenes we just love to death.  We don't want to deprive our generous readers, who have paid their good money and committed their precious time to purchase and read our efforts.  They do deserve the best!  Why deprive them of our wonderful work?

I'm overstating, of course, though I admit to a twinge when I concluded that a perfectly delicious scene of one of my MC's, who was an impressive but sometimes sobersided fellow, in which he drank an entire bottle of liquor and had a drunken reverie that had had me rolling on the floor, almost literally, was not needed in my story.  Sigh.  It is hard.

...but what if you are so adored an author, you can write monstrous scenes - monstrous in length and complexity, I mean - with no one curling a lip?  Or - let's daydream really outrageously - what if we are so idolized and admired, we can churn out a sentence of nearly a thousand words - and have it printed?  What about that?  Did it ever happen? 
Victor Hugo, hands to face

Yes, it did.  And to salve the sensibilities of all authors who hate to see a single deathless word deleted, I am putting up here the stuff of which daydreams are made, courtesy of Victor Hugo, who is referring to the then (in his book, Les Miserables) King of France.  Hugo was quite the iconoclast, but my mind boggles that even he was able to pass off an eight hundred-plus word sentence with no one screaming bloody murder.  And I think he did it out of a sense of mischief.

Here it is, and lest the flow (flood?  torrent?  spate?) of words exhaust us all, I am interspersing it with depictions of the subject:, who is an historical character that I happen to admire very sincerely:

Louis-Philippe, King of France
“The son of a father to whom history will accord certain attenuating circumstances, but also as worthy of esteem as that father had been of blame; possessing all private virtues and many public virtues; careful of his health, of his fortune, of his person, of his affairs, knowing the value of a minute and not always the value of a year; sober, serene, peaceable, patient; a good man and a good prince; sleeping with his wife, and having in his palace lackeys charged with the duty of showing the conjugal bed to the bourgeois, an ostentation of the regular sleeping-apartment which had become useful after the former illegitimate displays of the elder branch; knowing all the languages of Europe, and, what is more rare, all the languages of all interests, and speaking them; an admirable representative of the “middle class,” but outstripping it, and in every way greater than it; possessing excellent sense, while appreciating the blood from which he had sprung, counting most of all on his intrinsic worth, and, on the question of his race, very particular, declaring himself Orleans and not Bourbon; thoroughly the first Prince of the Blood Royal while he was still only a Serene Highness, but a frank bourgeois from the day he became king; diffuse in public, concise in private; reputed, but not proved to be a miser; at bottom, one of those economists who are readily prodigal at their own fancy or duty; lettered, but not very sensitive to
letters; a gentleman, but not a chevalier; simple, calm, and strong; adored by his family and his household; a fascinating talker, an undeceived statesman, inwardly cold, dominated by immediate interest, always governing at the shortest range, incapable of rancor and of gratitude, making use without mercy of superiority on mediocrity, clever in getting parliamentary majorities to put in the wrong those mysterious unanimities which mutter dully under thrones; unreserved, sometimes imprudent in his lack of reserve, but with marvelous address in that imprudence; fertile in expedients, in countenances, in masks; making France fear Europe and Europe France! Incontestably fond of his country, but preferring his family; assuming more domination than authority and more authority than dignity, a disposition which has this unfortunate property, that as it turns everything to success, it admits of ruse and does not absolutely repudiate baseness, but which has this valuable side, that it preserves politics from violent
shocks, the state from fractures, and society from catastrophes; minute, correct, vigilant, attentive, sagacious, indefatigable; contradicting himself at times and giving himself the lie; bold against Austria at Ancona, obstinate against England in Spain, bombarding Antwerp, and paying off Pritchard; singing the Marseillaise with conviction, inaccessible to despondency, to lassitude, to the taste for the beautiful and the ideal, to daring generosity, to Utopia, to chimeras, to wrath, to vanity, to fear; possessing all the forms of personal intrepidity; a general at Valmy; a soldier at Jemappes; attacked eight times by regicides and always smiling; brave as a grenadier, courageous as a thinker; uneasy only in the face of the chances of a European shaking up, and unfitted for great political adventures; always ready to risk his life, never his work; disguising his will in influence, in order that he might be obeyed as an intelligence rather than as a king; endowed with observation and not with divination; not very attentive to minds, but knowing men, that is to say requiring to see in order to judge; prompt and penetrating good sense, practical wisdom, easy speech, prodigious memory; drawing incessantly on this memory, his only point of resemblance with Caesar, Alexander, and Napoleon; knowing

deeds, facts, details, dates, proper names, ignorant of tendencies, passions, the diverse geniuses of the crowd, the interior aspirations, the hidden and obscure uprisings of souls, in a word, all that can be designated as the invisible currents of
consciences; accepted by the surface, but little in accord with France lower down; extricating himself by dint of tact; governing too much and not enough; his own first minister; excellent at creating out of the pettiness of realities an obstacle to the immensity of ideas; mingling a genuine creative faculty of civilization, of order and organization, an indescribable spirit of proceedings and chicanery, the founder and lawyer of a dynasty; having something of Charlemagne and something of an attorney; in short, a lofty and original figure, a prince who understood how to create authority in spite of the uneasiness of France, and power in spite of the jealousy of Europe, — Louis Philippe will be classed among the eminent men of his century, and would be ranked among the most illustrious governors of history had he loved glory but a little, and if he had had the sentiment of what is great to the same degree as the feeling for what is useful.” 

**   **   **

Inspector Javert Editorializes
I can only imagine the hue and cry (or, more likely, the spate of sneers) that would greet any writer who attempted to match that run-on sentence, deliberate though it must have been. I can't imagine Stephen King attempting it.  I have read some books that seemed unending, but they were (mostly) equipped with paragraphs and reasonable sentences.  What boggles my mind, however, is learning that there is a 1,400 word sentence (not in a European language) that beats this one by nearly double.  It is enough to make even the most toughened character cringe.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Celebrations, October 17, 2014 - of Sheep, knitters and heaven...

Welcome to our Celebration of the Small Things, a blog hop started by Viklit (address below) to pause to appreciate the small things that make us smile.  It doesn't have to be something big, which is why she chose the name.  Whatever makes you smile, whatever has happened that you like to savor or share.  If you want to join, the details are at the bottom of tis page.

I'm celebrating a bit of anticipation:  I am attending the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival (click for the site), held in the pretty town of Rhinebeck NY.  I knit from time to time, have lots of friends who knit, crochet, weave, spin, raise sheep, shear sheep, always have knitting needles stuck behind their ears, and generally act like crazy people having a lot of fun. 

I enjoy strolling and watching the  people, and fingering yarn and dreaming of maybe taking some time from editing and polishing The Orphan's Tale, Book II to take that gorgeous tone-on-tone RED yarn and actually KNIT something...  Sigh.  There's a fairway with hot dogs and fries...  And I don't have to drive there for the first time in years.

I've so enjoyed this hop, I decided to post a little photographic interpretation of a favorite quote.  I wish the photos were actually mine, but I hope they make you smile.

Have a wonderful weekend!

You gotta dance like there's nobody looking...

Love like you'll never be hurt...

Sing like there's nobody listening

Live like it's heaven on earth

- William R Purkey

Ending a Dry Spell

Dry spots are the worst.  I think anyone who has done anything has encountered them.  They are a fact of human endeavor, I think.  How to break them?

I had an interesting experience in it...

I'd been in a dry spot for about ten years. Or, if you prefer, I had an excruciating case of 'writer's block'.  It happens, and it can be devastating.

When I first started writing for the sheer joy of telling stories, the ideas came tumbling over each other.  I wrote, rewrote, rethought, shifted plot lines and timelines, deepened characters - in short, wallowed.  I was younger, I had the energy, everything was going well in my life (I wouldn't mind being in my early twenties again).  I had an immense output and an ego to match.

Creating, for me, is the most wonderful part of writing.  Forming stories with my own energy and skill, channelling the flood of ideas, molding them, riding the flow - it's intoxicating, ravishing, irresistible.  And it accounts for only a small portion of the time that a writer spends at his craft.  Thomas Edison said,  "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."  Definitely true, but ah! that one percent--!

That is how it was when I first started writing with all my strength.  I would catch the spark of an idea and go with it, I wouldn't stop - how could I when it was so obviously what I was made to do?  (I was rather young then.)  I remember working on one story - I'm finishing it up after a long hiatus, since I burned myself out on it - where I had produced perhaps 200 pages of manuscript and then decided that a specific character's development needed to go in another direction.  I ripped the plot line apart, redid it, rewrote it - it was a massive effort, and I didn't blink.

At that time I lacked a computer with electronic storage capability.  My early manuscripts were put in binders.  The stories and society underlying those early manuscripts changed and evolved to the point where the manuscripts were worthless except as a record of where I started.  In the course of moving six or seven times over the years they were packed away and forgotten.  It didn't matter - I'd moved on.

At any given time I was generally working on up to three projects.  I would pick away at one if I hit a dry spot with the other.  If the first one took fire, I could put the second aside and worked on the first.  It helped to cut down on the almost despairing feel that you get when a project is finished.  But there is a cost: you can't sustain that level of activity for very long.

For one thing, life gets in the way, and I had not (at that time) learned to nurture my craft, to bank the fires, so to speak, against a cold night.  Things happened outside my writing world that led to pulling up stakes and moving elsewhere.  Other concerns intruded, and I lost touch.  The spark was gone.  Years passed and I looked at what I thought was the wreckage of my writing.

I hadn't stopped writing, actually.  I'd kept my hand in.  I used words with my work, wrote articles for clubs, did various types of writing,  but nothing in the line I loved.  It was like trying to run a marathon with a sprained ankle.  I'd produce a couple of pages, maybe a note or two in my notebook, but nothing more.  The energy just wasn't there.   I thought it might come back; things were changing, I was starting to feel it, but still...

And then, going through the chaos that is known as the shelves in my garage, I opened a box and found my three earliest manuscripts.   They had been the raw material for several other story lines that I still have going (and near completion) but they themselves had been so altered, adjusted, tweaked, rewritten, they were useless.  On top of that, since they were manuscript pages, I'd have to retype about six hundred (1.5 space 10 pt) manuscript pages  if I had wanted to try to salvage the story line.  Um...  No.

I frowned at them, and then shook my head, toying with the notion of throwing them out, but then I hesitated.  Ah, yes, I thought,  It could be fun to reread these.

I took them inside, sat down, put my feet up and read.  Gosh, I'd been green then.  Lots of energy, but not a lot of polish.  I also didn't know as much about life then.

I leafed through them, read...  Yes, all those issues, but still...  Not too bad.

I came to a specific scene involving three characters.  One character, who had started out (originally) as a villain, had morphed into a hero.  In fact, I'd fallen in love with  him (did you read my post about 'Author's Pets'?) but had enough subtlety not to ram him down a reader's throat.  In this scene, the two heroes, one of them your typical medieval-type heroic hero, had cornered the once-villain and all but accused him of treason.  The dialogue was involved, dramatic, there was a fine blast of fantasy, and then a sort of denouement in which the once-villain swears that he isn't one and the heroic hero leaves, which leaves the second intellectual hero and the once-villain to hash things out (they had known each other before).

The dialogue, let me add, was stilted.  At the time I'd written that, people spoke in measured, stately paragraphs.  Sitting and listening to one of my characters delivering a warlike address to the governing body would have put any spectator to sleep.

Oh, good grief!  I thought.  What a mess!  I can do better than THAT!

I fired up my computer, transcribed the chapter, and overhauled it, bringing it in line with what I knew now about those characters and their pre- and post-scene histories.  The raw emotion was tamed, the dialogue was far more polished, the scene was (if I may say so) splendidly done.  And in adjusting that scene, the consequences to the story altered.  One very likeable character did not die young; the once-villain was never a villain, and there was no need for him to die magnificently and tragically.  The Heroic Hero got his ears clipped in a most satisfying way, and the scene itself ended up being amusing for me, rather than touching.

Here is part of it.  The Healer (who doesn't appear directly in this snippet) is the Intellectual Hero.  Sinthai is the Heroic Hero.  Lokathi (also known as 'Haldann') is the once-villain.  To 'Open' is a sort of teleportation, rather like 'beaming up', that I discarded fairly quickly after I first wrote this manuscript.
     The sparkle deepened to a flicker and then a blaze.  The blaze intensified to the sound of a rising gale.  Sinthai pushed away, his attention riveted on the two pairs of eyes, dark and pale, that were locked on  each other.   The wind rose to a shriek and the light slowly scattered, leaving Lokathi alone and white-faced in the suddenly dark room.  As Sinthai watched, Lokathi collapsed to his knees and doubled against the carpeted floor, his hands clenched at his temples.
     Sinthai jumped to his feet. "What happened?" he demanded. "What did you do with the Healer?"
     Lokathi raised his head and stared at him through half-blind eyes.  "What did I do with him-?"  he repeated through his teeth.  He pushed to a kneeling position, one hand braced against the floor, the other at his forehead.  "As far as I know, he's Opened to the Temple.  I wish him a happy arrival!"
     "But he didn't take you with him!"
     "He couldn't," Lokathi said. "I refused."
     Lokathi directed a pained glance at him through slitted eyes.  "I. Told.  Him.  No." he repeated slowly and clearly as he climbed to his feet and stood swaying, the heels of his hands pressed against his eyes.  "Oh, dear God..."
     "But you can't fight a Healer!"
     Lokathi lowered his hands and stared at him.  "Obviously you can, idiot!"  he retorted.  "…though if I'd known the result it would have-" 
     Sinthai's' eyes narrowed. "You just called me an idiot!"'
     Lokathi muttered something barely audible about shoes fitting.
     It was enough. Sinthai rose as Lokathi went slowly to Doren's chair and collapsed into it, shading his eyes and watching his approach with a derisive smile. 
     "I called you an idiot, Prince-General," he said through his teeth.  "I meant it with all my heart.  I've wanted to say it to you for a long time, and not just to you only.  You have a sword on you, you're welcome to take it and kill me this moment.  You've wanted to, seemingly, for some time, and I can tell you're ready right now.  At this moment I'd welcome it."
     Sinthai's color rose. "Don't talk nonsense," he said stiffly.  "If—"  He saw the painful rise and fall of Lokathi's breathing and broke off.  "You're in pain aren't you?  By god you don't lack courage!  But I still don't understand what just happened!"
     Lokathi closed his eyes. "What on earth is there to understand?" he sighed.  "I fought him off."
     "...And he did a very good job of it, Sinthai" Doren said, coming through the door.  "Well done, Haldann!  It appears we were wrong in some assumptions about you."
It flowed.  It worked.  I had the ability to take a really wretched piece of writing and fix it.  Of course I still couldn't salvage the manuscripts.  The story and characters had changed far, far beyond their original concept, but it had been good to wander through there and see what I'd done and what I could still do.

The most wonderful result, for me, was the discovery that the spark had never died.  It was there, I was ready, and I had my energy.

So, why did this little exercise suddenly make me able to write again?  I asked a friend who is a clinical psychologist.  "You touched that period of fecundity, and were able to reconnect with it!" she said.

Well, it sounds interesting, but I think it's something simpler than that.  I set out to exercise my muscles, so to speak.  And I discovered that I still had the touch, I just hadn't used it in the dry years.  I also learned that I must discipline myself more strongly.  Just going with what makes you sing might be satisfying, but you have to practice.  Take notes. Think things through...  Just do it.

But it's working...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Come Pass the Time with a Charming Cad! (Giveaway time!)

Inge H Borg was featured on my blog a while back HERE.  We discussed her books and I'm glad to say that you can pick up one delicious novella free on your vendor of choice.

Edward is, oh, so very British; a dreamboat of a man, especially to the well-to-do middle-aged ladies he courts. He makes their fantasies come true. Their gifts are bestowed upon him freely as they blush from brow to breast. Unbeknownst to them, however, the dapper Edward has his own dreams full of deceit and mystery. And still, they believe this conman’s stories, and willingly support him.

Take Betsy, for instance. After sipping a bit more of her heady Chardonnay, the smitten Mrs. Bunting hits upon a brilliant idea. Would he take her ill husband’s place on a prepaid Egypt tour? In a strictly platonic sense, of course.

That week, the dapper Edward Esquire, reads several guide-books on Egypt (since he told Betsy that he is familiar with Cairo). Then he buys himself a pith helmet because, somehow, Edward has weaseled his way into Borg’s “Legends of the Winged Scarab” series, where he appears no longer quite as charming.

 Inge has a delicious way with words.  You can pick up a copy on:



 and visit her blogs Here and  Here

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Celebrations, October 10, 2014 - All things horses

Welcome to the latest Celebrate the Small Things blog hop, a brilliant idea conceived by Viklit (address below).  We post every Friday, and we tell of the things we are celebrating that week.  It can be something as small as not having to take a test and or as large as surviving cancer for yourself of a loved one.  The list of celebrations always makes me smile.   Why don't you join?  it might make you smile (See the bottom of the page for details)

I have been going at a rum for the past several months.  That means I have been overcommitted and am spinning my wheels.  I've disengaged (gosh, sounds like psycho-babble, doesn't it?) and am catching my breath.

This week I am celebrating one of the great loves of my life:  Horses.

Famous samurai with gray horse
Like a great many little girls, I fell in love with horses.  My first poem (which I am not posting here) had to do with a horse.  I remember I really wanted a dapple-gray horse with a white mane, which I would name Marigold.  Male?  Female?  I don't recall.

I thought the gray was perttier
I love them, though, and I enjoyed riding them.  I have Japanese woodblock prints of horses in my house.

I said, once, that I thought they were beautifully proportioned.  My listener said "hah!  If they were beautifully proportioned, their legs would be as thick as their bodies!"  I thought it a silly retort.  Unfortunately, I was a very respectful child and the speaker was a grownup.  Otherwise, I might have suggested that he adjust his own proportions until everything matched his torso.

just a bit much, I think...
Surprisingly, though I love horses, I never had horsey print clothing, never wore jewelry with snaffle bit adornments...

One of my favorites is in the sky most times of the year, if you know where to look and can remember that he is galloping along upside-down.  You can only see his head, neck and forequarters, but the constellation is unmistakable:

I do have a favorite figurine of a Lipizzaner from Vienna by way of a generous friend:

Gift from generous Austrian friend
Anyhow, today I am celebrating horses, beautifully proportioned, and always, always elegant!

...Did I mention that they are truly, truly silly?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Celebrations, October 3 2014

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a lady who wrote decided to set up a blog hop to celebrate the things that made her happy, whether or not they merited a 21-gun salute.  She ran the idea past her friends and co-bloggers and everyone agreed that it was a great idea.  And so the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop began.  Why don't you join?  it might make you smile (See the bottom of the page for details)

A lot of nice things have been happening.  I rediscovered a lovely little CD I bought a while back and have been singing my made-up words to con te partira (time to say good-bye).  Here it is on YouTube.  (Do click to end the advertisement):

Interesting enough, though I don't play an instrument, unless you count a Recorder, sort of, or a Kazoo, I've always been a little musical.  Music seems to 'firm up' things for me, or condense them.  This particular instrumental piece served as a sort of theme for my recent book Mourningtide (Book 2 of The Memphis Cycle), which chronicles a powerful man's passage through grief at his eldest son's death through a very stupid mistake.  The man, a king, makes his way through his loss and heartbreak and finds peace and love again.  Somehow, that tune expressed it for me.  Very hard to explain.  But now I have it back to listen to, remember and enjoy.  (I reread the story, too and I have to say that I liked it.)

I also received the delivery of the 10th Anniversary concert (Royal Albert Hall) of Les Miserables., along with a two CD set.  In this production they gathered the actors that they thought did the absolutely best performances of their parts.  One of them, a distinguished Australian actor named Philip Quast, played the part of Inspector Javert.  Quast has won several Olivier Awards (as prestigious in live performance circles, as an Oscar).  Unlike some in that production, though he had presented a splendid interpretation of the Police Inspector, Javert, he rethought the part, honed it, and delivered a breathtaking performance.  (see below - but do click to end the adverts)


Javert's soliloquy.  I could wish they had done the hair and makeup differently.  A para-military type of that era would not have worn his hair long.  It was out of style and it was conducive to being seized (by the hair) and disabled.  But I digress in the way of writers of historical fiction: 

And listen to that passage at 2:38 where he holds that soaring note.

I do love baritones.

As I said, I have the DVD of the concert, which is nice and does Not feature the man in front of me at my first viewing of Les Miserables in 1988 with the head the size of a pumpkin, who kept sitting bolt upright and swinging his skull about during the most important songs.  I wanted to relieve him of his skull and hurl it out the window for him but, alas, the Civil War Navy Cutlass that my late father willed to me was safely at home.  He lived to annoy another theatre-goer.  (I did thank him after the performance...)

You can never find a good sword when you need one!
We must learn to bear our griefs and celebrate our joys.  In my case, the CD of that performance is currently in my car's CD player and I have been belting out those two songs at the top of my alto lungs.  It has been delicious!  I had forgotten.

Driving along, pretending that I can sing well outside the shower stall - what greater felicity can there be?  Saturday coming lickety-split, that's what!

What are you celebrating?
The buy link (Amazon US) if you are interested.