Changes

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Social MM imageYou may have noticed that my username has recently changed. That’s because I decided it was time for a makeover. No, not the kind where you sit at the spa all day and come out with a new hair color, painted finger and toe nails and a fresh face, I’m talking about a social media makeover.

While I was in school, I didn’t really have a goal for using social media. The various sites were just places to pop into, see what was happening, post something and then duck out of. Now that I’ve graduated and am ready to put my skills to work, I’ve realized that social media is an important factor in reaching my goal to be a published indie author/freelance editor. A uniform presence in cyberspace is important, so, I made some changes to fit my vision for the future.

Here’s to a new chapter in my life’s journey…

Sometimes Writers Need A Visual

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Writer's Drawing

I’ve been very busy lately trying to finish up Ch. 9 of my story about a girl named Margarita whom Death touched when she was born and saved her life in return for service as a Deliverer. Margarita is young (13) and learning all about life, death, love and sacrifice by way of her power. In her first lesson, she emotionally attaches to a woman in a bad relationship, reads her soul and invokes her power to call vindictive reapers to put an end to the evil that is revealed to her in the reading. She realizes, however, that she, too, has a vindictive nature and must be careful not to get caught up in her power.

Skip ahead 10 years and that’s where this picture comes into play. I needed a room for Margarita to have a “moment” in now that she’s 23, but I was having a tough time writing what I was visualizing in my head. Refusing to give in to writer’s block, I opted to try a different approach. I stopped writing and scribbling things out in my notebook and started drawing. As you all can see, I’m a terrible artist; I have no idea how to draw walls. I figured the walls didn’t matter as long as I got what was supposed to be on them down.

There’s a view of the mountains, a kiva fireplace in the corner, and a zia symbol woven rug that can be seen from that asterisk (which represents Margarita) in the hallway. Once I drew this out, it was so much easier to describe. The long rectangle in the middle is a rug and the rectangle on top of it is supposed to be a coffee table. I promise the description is waaay better than the artwork! I’m sharing it here just to show that the creative process truly is an amazing thing:

Parallel to one another in the center of the room, two long, antique-white, fabric couches adorned with a V of coral, black and turquoise lines on the backrest created an inviting sitting area. A Navajo area rug with a traditional diamond pattern in shades of red, gray and black decorated the floor and showcased the ornately carved, Spanish style coffee table between the two sofas. Southwest charm and warmth were represented by an adobe kiva fireplace standing in the far corner of the room. Steps away from it to the right, an oversized picture window flooded the entire space with natural light and provided a breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountains. A six foot weaving of a rich, red Zia sun symbol against a vibrant yellow background rounded out the décor on the left wall.

Once I got this description down, everything fell into place to create a great first romantic encounter for Margarita. I hope my crude drawing  encourages and inspires anyone out there who writes to try different techniques when working on a piece. I never in a million years thought I’d draw my way out of a writer’s block, but lo and behold, I did.

 

 

5 Tissues for Me Before You

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I won’t get into details about the movie Me Before You and spoil anything, but I will say this–there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater by the end. A very touching, thought provoking movie about living life on one’s own terms. Go see it.

Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood

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This is a great short story that speaks to writers about plot. I love how the author imparts this pearl of wisdom.

Couple examining menus in restaurant

John and Mary meet.
What happens next?
If you want a happy ending, try A.

A.
John and Mary fall in love and get married. They both have worthwhile and remunerative jobs which they find stimulating and challenging. They buy a charming house. Real estate values go up. Eventually, when they can afford live-in help, they have two children, to whom they are devoted. The children turn out well. John and Mary have a stimulating and challenging sex life and worthwhile friends. They go on fun vacations together. They retire. They both have hobbies which they find stimulating and challenging. Eventually they die. This is the end of the story.

B.
Mary falls in love with John but John doesn’t fall in love with Mary. He merely uses her body for selfish pleasure and ego gratification of a tepid kind. He comes to her apartment twice a week and she cooks him dinner, you’ll notice that he doesn’t even consider her worth the price of a dinner out, and after he’s eaten dinner he fucks her and after that he falls asleep, while she does the dishes so he won’t think she’s untidy, having all those dirty dishes lying around, and puts on fresh lipstick so she’ll look good when he wakes up, but when he wakes up he doesn’t even notice, he puts on his socks and his shorts and his pants and his shirt and his tie and his shoes, the
reverse order from the one in which he took them off. He doesn’t take off Mary’s clothes, she takes them off herself, she acts as if she’s dying for it every time, not because she likes sex exactly, she doesn’t, but she wants John to think she does because if they do it often enough surely he’ll get used to her, he’ll come to depend on her and they will get married, but John goes out the door with hardly so much as a good-night and three days later he turns up at six o’clock and they do the whole thing over again. Mary gets run-down. Crying is bad for your face, everyone knows that and so does Mary but she can’t stop. People at work notice. Her friends tell her John is a rat, a pig, a dog, he isn’t good enough for her, but she can’t believe it. Inside John, she thinks, is another John, who is much nicer. This other John will emerge like a butterfly from a cocoon, a Jack from a box, a pit from a prune, if the first John is only squeezed enough. One evening John complains about the food. He has never complained about her food before. Mary is hurt.
Her friends tell her they’ve seen him in a restaurant with another woman, whose name is Madge. It’s not even Madge that finally gets to Mary: it’s the restaurant. John has never taken Mary to a restaurant. Mary collects all the sleeping pills and aspirins she can find, and takes them and a half a bottle of sherry. You can see what kind of a woman she is by the fact that it’s not even whiskey. She leaves a note for John. She hopes he’ll discover her and get her to the hospital in time and repent and then they can get married, but this fails to happen and she dies. John marries Madge and everything continues as in A.

C.
John, who is an older man, falls in love with Mary, and Mary, who is only twenty-two, feels sorry for him because he’s worried about his hair falling out. She sleeps with him even though she’s not in love with him. She met him at work. She’s in love with someone called James, who is twenty-two also and not yet ready to settle down.
John on the contrary settled down long ago: this is what is bothering him. John has a steady, respectable job and is getting ahead in his field, but Mary isn’t impressed by him, she’s impressed by James, who has a motorcycle and a fabulous record collection. But James is often away on his motorcycle, being free. Freedom isn’t the same for girls, so in the meantime Mary spends Thursday evenings with John. Thursdays are the only days John can get away. John is married to a woman called Madge and they have two children, a charming house which they bought just before the real estate values went up, and hobbies which they find stimulating and challenging, when they have the time. John tells Mary how important she is to him, but of course he can’t leave his wife because a commitment is a commitment. He goes on about this
more than is necessary and Mary finds it boring, but older men can keep it up longer so on the whole she has a fairly good time. One day James breezes in on his motorcycle with some top-grade California hybrid and James and Mary get higher than you’d believe possible and they climb into bed. Everything becomes very underwater, but along comes John, who has a key to Mary’s apartment. He finds them stoned and entwined. He’s hardly in any position to be jealous, considering Madge, but nevertheless he’s overcome with despair. Finally he’s middle-aged, in two years he’ll be as bald as an egg and he can’t stand it. He purchases a handgun, saying he needs it for target practice–this is the thin part of the plot, but it can be dealt with later–and shoots the two of them and himself.Madge, after a suitable period of mourning, marries an understanding man called Fred and everything continues as in A, but under different names.

D.
Fred and Madge have no problems. They get along exceptionally well and are good at working out any little difficulties that may arise. But their charming house is by the seashore and one day a giant tidal wave approaches. Real estate values go down. The rest of the story is about what caused the tidal wave and how they escape from it. They do, though thousands drown, but Fred and Madge are virtuous and grateful, and continue as in A.

E.
Yes, but Fred has a bad heart. The rest of the story is about how kind and understanding they both are until Fred dies. Then Madge devotes herself to charity work until the end of A. If you like, it can be “Madge,” “cancer,” “guilty and confused,” and “bird watching.”

F.
If you think this is all too bourgeois, make John a revolutionary and Mary a counterespionage agent and see how far that gets you. Remember, this is Canada. You’ll still end up with A, though in between you may get a lustful brawling saga of passionate involvement, a chronicle of our times, sort of. You’ll have to face it, the endings are the same however you slice it. Don’t be deluded by any other endings, they’re all fake, either deliberately fake, with malicious intent to deceive, or just motivated by excessive optimism if not by downright sentimentality. The only authentic ending is the one provided here:

John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.

So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it’s the hardest to do anything with.

That’s about all that can be said for plots, which anyway are just one thing after another, a what and a what and a what.

Now try How and Why.

The Perfect Wedding

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Beaters with Choc Cake Mix

“Sandra why are you letting that child lick the beaters from the cake batter?” Aunt Emily asked shaking her head.

“What’s wrong with it?” My mom asked.

“She’s ruining her wedding day with every lick, that’s what’s wrong with it.”

“Oh, she is not,” said Mom batting her hand in the air as if to shoo away the old wives tale. “Eating cake batter has nothing to do with whether or not it rains on a girl’s wedding day.”

“Mom never let us eat it.”

“Mom had issues, Em.”

“Well, issues or not, neither one of us had rain on our wedding day.”

My 6 yr old ears listened to my mom and her sister argue about the curse of eating cake batter, while my tongue swirled between the spaces of the beaters trying to get the chocolate off of the inner side of the metal. “What’s so bad about getting married in the rain?” I asked.

Aunt Emily looked over at me horrified that I had asked such a question. She pursed her lips and informed me that a girl’s wedding day is supposed to be the most special day of her life. It should be as close to perfect as possible. The weather should be just right, the dress gorgeous, the bride’s hair and makeup flawless and the bride herself should be all smiles and laughter.

“Rain ruins all of that,” she finished flatly.

“Weddings aren’t about all of those things, Abby. The only thing that matters on your wedding day is marrying the man you love,” my mom countered.

rain on roof

“Oh,” was all I could think of to say. I liked rain. It smelled good and it was neat to listen to when the drops fell on the roof of our house. I didn’t really care much for boys, but I didn’t think it would be so bad to get married to one in the rain if I ever found one I liked.

starry night

Years later, I actually did find a boy I liked–Cisco–and one starry August night he asked me to marry him.

“Yes,” I answered. “On one condition.”

“Anything, tell me what you want,” Cisco said still on one knee.

“We have to get married in the rain.”

“In the rain? Why?”

“Because I ate cake batter.”

“What does that mean?” Cisco got off his knee and took my hands in his.

“Girls who eat cake batter are supposedly doomed to get married in rainy weather. So, I vowed that if I ever got married, I would make sure it was on a rainy day–to fulfill the prophecy.” I said mystically.

Cisco shrugged. “Whatever my bride wants.” He looked at me with a mix of adoration and confusion.

The wedding took place in Washington state, during the rainy season at a beautiful park.

Rained Out Wedding

There were plenty of umbrellas for the guests.Umbrellas for Guests

And it was just as Aunt Emily and my mom said it would be. The weather was just right, my dress was gorgeous, hair and makeup flawlessly wet and smudged. Both Cisco and I were all smiles and laughter. I married the man I loved, and my wedding day was as close to perfect as possible.

Wedding Rain Boots

 

Writers Who Share My Birth Month

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This weekend is my birthday, and as I do every year, I look for others who are or were fellow June Bugs. Instead of looking at actors and singers this time, I thought I’d look for writers. Just look who all I found:

Marquis_de_Sade_portrait

First up, The Marquis de Sade. (June 2, 1740 to Dec 2, 1814) I consider it sort of an honor to share my birth month with this perverse (in his day) pusher of the plumed pen since I dabble in female dominant erotica from time to time. He was the original 50 Shades, and to his credit, his work may not have been deemed tasteful, but at least it was very well written. His most popular books include Justine, Juliette, The 120 Days of Sodom, and Philosophy in the Bedroom. This excerpt is from Justine:

The thing which least flatters men, that which makes the least favorable impression upon them, for which they have the most supreme contempt, is good behavior in your sex; here on earth, my child, nothing but what brings gain or insures power is accounted; and what does the virtue of women profit us? It is their wantonness which serves and amuses us; but their chastity could not interest us less.

thomas-hardy

Also born on June 2nd was Thomas Hardy (June 2, 1840 to Jan 11, 1928) I don’t know much about him, but from what I Googled, I learned that he wrote about disappointment in love and life, and the twistedness of fate in his poems. He wrote stories about the social classes and dared to challenge their constraints in his pages. His notable (and controversial in his day) books include Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Wessex Poems is a compilation of poems spanning 30 years.

I found this poem by Hardy and I really liked it:

She at His Funeral

They bear him to his resting-place-

In slow procession sweeping by;

I follow at a stranger’s space;

His kindred they; his sweetheart, I.

Unchanged my gown of garish dye,

Though sable-sad is their attire;

But they stand round with griefless eye,

Whilst my regret consumes like fire!

Allen-Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 to April 5, 1997) is another writer I’m not familiar with, but again, thanks to Google, I have broadened my field of knowledge. He was part of the Beat Movement post WW2 when many poets were questioning mainstream politics and culture in their writing. He was also gay at a time when being so was not accepted. His poem Howl is his best known work. I checked it out, but it’s before my time, so the impact of it is lost on me. He was a pretty outspoken guy, though. You’re welcome to see what you think –http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/49303

Helen Keller

Helen Keller (June 27, 1880 to June 1, 1968) has to be included in my list of famous June birthday people because this woman achieved phenomenal things in her lifetime. She was the very first deaf and blind person to get a Bachelor of Arts degree (from Radcliffe). She learned to speak and delivered many speeches while she was alive, and she wrote several books including The Story of My Life and The World I Live In. Below is an excerpt from the latter:

Ideas make the world we live in, and impressions furnish ideas. My world is built of touch-sensations, devoid of physical colour and sound; but without colour and sound it breathes and throbs with life. Every object is associated in my mind with tactual qualities which, combined in countless ways, give me a sense of power, of beauty, or of incongruity: for with my hands I can feel the comic as well as the beautiful in the outward appearance of things. Remember that you, dependent on your sight, do not realize how many things are tangible.

yeats

W.B. Yeats: (June 13, 1865- January 28, 1939) was an Irish poet awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923. What’s interesting is that this guy was really into mysticism, the occult, spiritualism and astrology. He was essentially a “ghost buster” in his day, and he belonged to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. His most famous works include Deirdre and of course The Tower which includes the famous poem “Leda and the Swan” (how Helen of Troy came to be) Check it out-http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43292

orwell

Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell (June 25, 1903- January 21, 1950), was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic best known for his novel, 1984, and the political allegory, Animal Farm, both of which warned against the dangers of totalitarianism. He was a big voice on social injustice and totalitarianism really stuck in his craw. He wrote several political essays and also addressed literature, language and culture in his writing.

jose emilio

And last but certainly not least, we have Jose Emilio Pacheco (June 30, 1939 to January 26, 2014). He has been lauded as a Latino poet of great significance in the late 20th century. Being Latina, I felt it important to include him in my birthday list. He racked up some big time awards for his work including the Cervantes Prize, the Pablo Neruda Award, the José Fuentes Mares National Prize for Literature and several others. Here’s a little something he wrote that has been translated into English from the original Spanish courtesy of Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/seven-poems-jose-emilio-pacheco/

The Lives of Poets

In poetry there’s no happy ending.
Poets end up
living their madness.
And they’re quartered like cattle
(it happened to Darío).
Or they’re stoned or wind up
flinging themselves to the sea or with cyanide
salts in their mouths.
Or dead from alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty.
Or worse: canonical poets,
bitter inhabitants of a tomb
entitled Complete Works.

Based on my research, I think June has been a pretty good month over the years for birthing writers. I’m happy to be in the company of such talented wordsmiths.

 

What Was Your Inspiration?

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salvador-dali

Do you ever get this question when people read things you’ve written or tell them about a work in progress? I do, all the time. I’m very deep into a magical realism piece right now and several people have asked me how I came up with a story about vindictive reapers.

“Well, “I answer, “have you ever secretly wished that someone you knew who was causing someone else a great deal of strife would just die so that person’s world would be right again? No? Oh, okay that was just one of my random thoughts then.”

Anyway, that was the grain of inspiration that brought about the story I’m writing. It was an angry moment I was having, and after I cooled down, I started thinking about punishing evil souls. Before I knew it I had characters, a situation and a kill!

People watching has got to be my number one source of inspiration for story writing, though. I watch people, listen to them, wonder about them and take notes on some of the things they do. I also like to make stuff up about them.

For instance, once when I was waiting in line at the pharmacy I saw this short, well-dressed, reserved man ahead of me waiting for his prescription. I started to wonder what sort of medicine he was waiting for. Was he sick? Nah, he didn’t look sick. Did he need Viagra? Hmm, maybe not Viagra, but what about something else that was enhancing in some way?

Then it hit me. He was waiting for some Tualto, a new height enhancing drug. He had always been self conscious about being  5’2″ and with this new drug his legs were guaranteed to grow a minimum of 3 inches  and a maximum of 6 inches. He was excited, but nervous, too. The side effects were unknown. He had to sign a waiver before his doctor could prescribe him the pills. It didn’t matter, as long as he grew, he didn’t care.

This is how a writer’s mind works. With a little imagination, a story can be written about anything and anyone.

Photo: Salvador Dali http://www.dalipaintings.net