Monday, November 29, 2010

Bleeding Feet

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! What with the cleaning, baking, cooking, and dining, I'm off to hit the treadmill with a vengeance.

Before I go, however, let me explain these pointe shoes and the title of this post. The Chacotts above were the first pointe shoes my daughter ever wore. (She's had many pairs since.) We took this picture before she had the chance to work in them, before the ribbons were even sewn on. Before the blisters and the lost toe nails. Before the inside of the shoes became stained with her blood. Ever heard the saying, "Beautiful dancers have ugly feet"? It's so true. My little firebrand is my hero. I'm buying her red silk pointe shoes for Christmas because they represent how she dances. Blazing and vibrant.

Amazing what a person is willing to endure for what they love.

Last night, we watched Youtube clips of dancer Natalia Osipova. Her feet moved almost faster than my eye could follow. Like hummingbird wings. Obviously, Ms. Osipova worked many years to achieve her level of skill.

Humbled and inspired by this experience, I've decided that I won't complain about writing anymore. It's a challenge I can deal with. The writing journey has pitfalls and disappointments, and while my feet are not bloodied, sometimes it does feel as though my heart is battered. But, this passion is mine. This journey is mine. I do it because I love it.

The joys outweigh the cost, wouldn't you agree?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Longfellow Appreciation Day

To me, Longfellow is the literary equivalent of comfort food. As a teenager, I would turn to his poetry again and again. I never grew bored because I chose Longfellow for the way his words made me feel. When I was lost or heartbroken and needed a friend, he was always there, waiting on my bookshelf.

I would stretch out on my bed, turning the pages of my book to The Day Is Done or The Bridge, and speak the words aloud, as though I were reading them to a beloved child. Peace always followed because Longfellow understood me--he had experienced in his day what I was going through in mine. Crossing time, he reached out and threw me a lifeline.

Back then, I didn’t see how human bonds could surpass the kinship of author and reader. Because at that moment I loved Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and like a wise, kindly grandfather, he belonged only to me. There wasn’t another person, living or dead, who understood me as he did, and with sweet reunion, his healing words met my mind. I turned them to suit my mood and put them away in my heart. He had saved me yet again, my gentle poet.

Thank you, Henry. All these years later, you're still my hero.

Do you have any comfort books?

















Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Loglines, Where Have You Been All My Life?!


No, really, where have they been? I've known about synopsis and outlines for decades, but when did writers begin loglining? Err, probably from the beginning, right?

I guess I've just been oblivious to them until recently, when I entered myself in Authoress' Baker's Dozen Agent Contest at Miss Snark's First Victim. This contest was so competitive and the number of entrants so vast, I doubt that I made it into one of the forty available spots. Good experience though since I learned about loglines.

Authoress is so gracious and lovely, and she provides so many wonderful opportunities for writers to receive feedback and information. If you aren't acquainted with Authoress, you really should introduce yourself.

Back to loglines-- those pithy, one or two sentence, show-the-heart-of-your-story wonders! Below is my first attempt at loglining for The Second Life.

Logline: The lone survivor of a horrifying accident, Maggie Hathaway lives a half-life riddled with scars, chronic pain, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. With the help of her childhood friend, Ben O’Connor, Maggie must risk facing her fears in the hope of future happiness and redemption or remain crippled by her memories forever.


Well, there it is. How are your loglines going? Heard of any great contests or blogfests lately?



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dickens, Capote, and Thomas

No, the title of this post isn't a bureaucratic law firm. It's my traditional Holiday Reading List! Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, I gather my favorite Christmas stories together, station them on my night stand, and let the reading celebration begin.

Here they are in all their yuletide splendor . . .

#1. Truman Capote's short but sweetly sentimental A Christmas Memory:

"A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable - not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "it's fruitcake weather!"

#2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens:

"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come around apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely . . ."

#3. A Child's Christmas In Wales by Dylan Thomas

"One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."

The holidays wouldn't be the same without these treasures. Do you have reading traditions for this time of year?


Monday, November 15, 2010

Hmmm . . .


Have you ever repeated a hackneyed aphorism only to wonder what you've just said? I do this once in a blue moon, don't you? I guess the proof is in the pudding . . . Sorry. I'm wincing, too.

But why do we keep the phrase "happy as a clam" alive? Are clams especially happy creatures? I can't imagine they would be. I wouldn't enjoy living in the cold, gritty sand until some person dug me up and put me in a chowder. Who started this saying in the first place? Do you know, readers? I'm pretty sure it wasn't the clams.

And what about the he "doesn't hold a candle to you" axiom? Is it a good thing to be that close to fire? Funny, but I don't want a guy holding a candle anywhere near me. Ouch! Those things burn. Then there's the whole "falling off the wagon" thing. What wagon are we on, where are we going, and is it driving at high speed? "You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours." Again this sounds painful. And if you don't "know on which side your bread is buttered" should you really be allowed to eat at the grown-up table?

Don't forget these favorites . . . like two peas in a pod (only two?), a nod is as good as a wink (Is there a nod/wink standard and how do we judge their equality?), and a picture's worth a thousand words (Only if you're Vermeer).

Actually, there is one adage that I like. "No man is a hero to his valet." Can't we all relate to this? A discreet servant is so difficult to find . . .

Right. I know, I'll stop now, but first, I must ask this question.

Are there any adages that cause you to say, "#*%#, why?!"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bronte Appreciation Day


As a teenager, my mother took me to Victoria, British Columbia to stay at a lovely English-style inn. There were beveled windows and antiques everywhere, and I remember how thrilled I was to see a darkly-stained dining table that had once belonged to the Bronte family. This period piece was cordoned off to protect it from further ruin, but I stood at the table for a long while imagining Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and their brother Branwell. I saw them with their glasses, cutlery, and plates, perhaps commenting on the food or the brisk Yorkshire weather, completely unaware of their greatness, of the spell they would later cast upon future generations.

Here is the church in the historic, West Yorkshire village of Thornton where the Bronte children were born. Their family then moved to Haworth. This is Bronte Country. No, seriously, that's what it's called today.
Branwell Bronte painted this portrait of his sisters, Anne, Charlotte and Emily. Originally, he was in the painting as well, but later removed himself so as not to crowd the scene. I like the warm, smooth tone of the colors he used. Branwell was also a poet and created fantasy worlds with his sisters which they wrote about for many years. Troubled with alcohol and opium addictions, he died of tuberculosis at 31.

Lesser known than her sisters, Anne wrote the novels Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She died at 29, also of tuberculosis. This disease tragically plagued the Bronte family. Most of the six siblings died of it.
I love this portrait of Charlotte. She's lovely, isn't she? And doesn't she look kind and intelligent? One of my favorite writers ever, I like to think of this remarkable lady as a friend from another era. Jane Eyre brought Charlotte great literary success, yet she remained quiet and shy with strangers. Fair, delicate and small, Charlotte died at 38 while expecting her first child. Her cause of death was recorded as tuberculosis, though further research suggests that it might have been typhus.
This is the title page of the original Jane Eyre. Notice that Charlotte wrote under the pen name of Currer Bell. The subtitle An Autobiography is interesting, isn't it? Charlotte Bronte lived through much of what Jane did. She attended a harsh boarding school similar to Lowood and also served as a governess. While teaching, Charlotte developed deep feelings for a married man, but later, separated herself from him and married another. That scenario reminds me a bit of the whole Rochester-Jane-Mr. Rivers triangle.

I do not have a picture of Emily Bronte, but from recorded descriptions, she was attractive and very much a homebody. This Yorkshire rose ventured out from her family many times, but always returned, struck with loneliness and a longing for the familiar. Wuthering Heights was not the swift success that Jane Eyre was, but today, it is considered a literary masterpiece. (Saying the name Wuthering Heights aloud takes me vicariously to Catherine and Heathcliff's solitary manor on the moor. Emily's title isn't just the name of a book, it's a frame of mind.) Ms. Bronte's influence was felt strongly among those who knew her, but her life was cut short. What started as a bad cold evolved into a wasting disease. Thin and weak, Emily never recovered and died at 30.

Thank you for joining me in this brief tribute to a brilliant family. I'll conclude with some of my favorite Bronte quotes . . .

~Charlotte~

"Who has words at the right moment?"
..........................................................
"Am I hideous, Jane?

Very, sir. You always were, you know." Jane Eyre
...........................................................
"There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad."
...........................................................
"I'm just going to write because I cannot help it."
..........................................................
"Reader, I married him." Jane Eyre
..........................................................


~Emily~

"I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after."
............................................................
"Terror made me cruel."
............................................................ Wuthering Heights
". . . he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."
.............................................................
"Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you."
.............................................................
" . . . lying from morning 'til evening on a bank of heath in the middle of the moors, with the bees humming dreamily about among the bloom and the larks singing high up overhead, and the blue sky and bright sun shining steadily and cloudlessly."

Beautiful words that sink into your mind and make you happy you can read and think and learn. Next week's Author Appreciation Day? Maybe the mad, bad, and dangerous Lord Byron. Tennyson or Hemingway anyone?

So many choices . . .


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On Bieber, Gaga, and Genre Selection


We have any number of clocks in our house. There's a Napoleon Dynamite chiming clock that rings at odd, random moments and a faux-antique kitchen clock with huge Roman numerals on its face. And then, there are the radio alarm clocks. These digital gadgets are plain evil.

At 5:30 this morning, I was awakened by two of my kid's clocks blasting Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga simultaneously. Picture it happening to you . . . "Baaaaby, baaaaaby, baaaaaby. Ohhh!" plus "Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah. Roma, roma, ma Gaga." In Dolby sound. Of all the stereos in all the world, why did this have to happen to mine?

I can handle these songs individually. Together? Not so much. Had Dante been with me, he might have created another level in hades. (Yesterday, my wakeup song came from Whitesnake, but I kind of like the hair bands.)

Without any logical segue, I'll move on to my real topic. Genre. In On Writing, Stephen King said he was drawn to horror films because the only other option were stridently happy musicals and beach-blanket movies. The teenage King couldn't relate to the latter so he chose the former.

Here's the question: Is the genre we choose a result of what we're lacking in life? Or do we just write what we enjoy reading? Do we gravitate toward a certain audience and write specifically for them?

How did you decide upon your genre?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ordinary Magic


Sometimes life is magical. I'm not referring to Frodo-and-the-ring or unicorn blood magic, I'm talking about the amazing little miracles that take place each day. The ones we take for granted because they are so commonplace.

For example, the bumblebee. The yellow-banded snappy dresser of the insect world, the Volkswagen bus with tiny gossamer wings. I love everything about this creature. Perhaps it's because of the noise it makes as it floats from blossom to blossom, sounding a bit like good-natured complaining. Think about their distinct reverberation . . .

"Bzzz, bzzz. I should have stopped three flowers ago. Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz. That last bit of nectar went straight to my hips. Bzzz."

Captivated by this humble bee, I grew up believing the legend that said they were a scientific anomaly, that they shouldn't technically be able to fly as they lacked aerodynamic properties. During the 1990s, however, a group of scientists got together to debunk this myth. They proved that bumblebees could indeed achieve lift due to their wing function, similar to the way a helicopter flies. Their work was then challenged by other researchers who contended that the previous findings still didn't adequately explain the bumble's abilities.

Oblivious to the controversy, the hairy pollen bandit continues to do the job it was made to do, and I continue being charmed by it.

And don't forget the bulb's perennial magic. We plant them in the cold autumn earth, throw a little freezing water their way, and then forget all about them until spring. They don't look like magic at all. They look like dried-up shrunken heads with stringy topknots. Judging on appearance alone, the bulb is always underestimated, but once the snows melt, these papery stems emerge in all their radiant elegance and color.

And my favorite magic of all is the one I sometimes overlook because I live with it each day. There are times when I feel like the Les Stroud of parenting, as though my only goal is to survive for the next few days. That's when I forget the magic because I'm tired and rundown and overworked. But magic has a way of reminding you it's there.

A good example of this is when I take my youngest child down the street to catch the school bus. I watch him run ahead, leaving me behind as he races toward his friends and independence. I wave as the bus pulls away and at the last moment, my small kindergarten man turns and waves back. Unfailingly, my heart gives a painful, sentimental tug, and I am so grateful to be a part of this remarkable young person's life.

It's been the same with each of my children as they grow up and move on. When they return home, I am always amazed that they are happy to see me, a plain middle-aged woman with wild hair and a dubious sense of fashion. And yet, they are. And I hope they always will be, these glorious children of mine. I am thankful beyond measure for a heart that sometimes hurts a little because it loves so big.

Magic, magic, magic . . . It's all around us.

During this month of Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Email From The Bard


Dear Lady,

Why art thou not content to write? Hath thy supply of quills and ink run low? Nay. Me thinketh not. Is it the plague or a cruel debtor's prison? Doth the Queen withhold her favor? Once more, I say nay. Yet, I perceive thou hath hit a wall of impediment. Aye, there's the rub. All the enticements of thine imagination cannot make thy hand write this day. Inconstancy thy name is Roxy Haynie. Get thee to a keyboard. Out, out damn-ed dilly-dallying! Reason not the need for revision, and mend thy ways lest these charges be upon thee proved.

Hold fast to thine resolve, Madam, and thou shalt win the prize. O, for the muse of Daniel Craig that doth ascend to lofty heights! If these words be false then I am but a novice and in my salad days. Boot up thy Mac, sit upon thy crappy, fold-out chair, and put thy story to the test.

We few, we happy few, we band of writers. Let our hearts, and talent, be true, for then no man who readeth our work will call it false.

I await to see thine improvement anon.

Fondly,
Will

It's always nice to receive encouragement from a friend. If you could choose a writer from the past to give you advice, who would it be? How is NaNoWriMo going for you? Have you hit any snags in your WIP?

Have a brilliant Tuesday!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Summer's Show Your Space Blogfest

Hi, All. Did you have a crazy weekend, too? I know, Monday should be suspended on account of Halloween. Let's take a moment to recover from miniature candy overdose and visit Summer at And This Time, Concentrate! She's having a fun blogfest where we can take a tour of writing spaces. I do enjoy vacations! Even the vicarious variety . . .

These are the cute people who keep entering my office and asking for food, money, help with their homework, etc . . . They have a gift for interrupting that is uncanny. Every time inspiration hits they are magnetically drawn to me. I love this picture. My husband said something funny and we all laughed.This is my messy desk. I write here each day. Sometimes I accomplish a lot and other times I get distracted.

This bookcase hinders my concentration since I love to read, and it's just sitting there looking interesting. My muse, Daniel Craig, reminds me each day that work comes before the reward. Darn you, Daniel. I'd take a good book over almost anything.
These are bleeding hearts. They bloom outside my office window in the Spring.
This is the Japanese Maple that softens the light through my plantation shutters. I feel protected with this leafy beauty guarding me.
Have an awesome afternoon, bloggers!