Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bleeding Elephant

Wrinkled pillars,
In four corners
Of aging flesh
And clotted fears,

Abandoned life
Of no more use
To those who watch
Blatand abuse,

A Web of viens,
Pumbing out blood
In a rust pool
Of yellow mud.

Who will avenge
Sorrow and pain
Of this blameless
Animal slain?

(Apologies for the morbidity. This was a nightmare that needed to be written out)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monarch Review

by Michelle Davidson Argyle
Rhemalda Publishing

Nick's career as a CIA agent has led to many secrets in his life, from the distrust of his daughters, Clara and Violet and their mutual hatred of each other, to the betrayal of a trusted associate and the suicide of his wife, lies have become a part of what he does. But now he is wanted by both the CIA and Ferriera, the Brazilian drug lord he was assigned to bring down, for a murder he never committed. In his quest to clear his he visits the Bed and Breakfast of Lillian Love, an old and brief flame he has never quite been able to get out of his mind. He hopes that her vacation house will be the perfect place to hide himself and his daughters without too many questions asked, but the betrayal of trust runs deeper than he thought. As he returns to Cuba to dig up his past he wonders exactly who he can trust, including himself, with danger infiltrating itself into every corner of his life.

MONARCH is both an exciting thriller and character driven love story, full of gun fights, kidnappings, ex-lovers, and broken marriages. But above all it a journey through hard, cold reality and human pain and destruction, to hope and new beginnings. The prose is vivid and poetic without being overdone, while the plot is both fast paced and intricate, eventually merging several plot lines into a riveting climax, transcended by the strength each character discovers for themselves, and eventually ending in forgiveness.

The strangest thing about my personal experience with this book is that the settings kept mirroring the place I read it. I started reading it on vacation before I knew that a good fifty percent or more takes place in a kind of hotel, then I went swimming just before the first scene in the lake and then hiking just before the first scene out in the woods. An eerie coincidence to say the least. Almost made me think there was a drug lord after me. Thrillers aren't usually my genre (though I will read an Elizabeth George mystery ever now and again) but good writing is and MONARCH was full of that. It's definitely worth a read if you like good, honest characters with equal parts selfishness and heroism, and a storyline laced with excitement and romance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

So today I'm thinking about music. Actually TODAY I'm thinking about the fact that my Western Civilization class finally added me back after dropping me the first day because I had a driver's test and didn't show up (yay persistance)and the fact that I just got a novel chapter length e-mail from a friend in China who I haven't talked to in probably a year. (Actually I've never talked to her at all the for real, in person kind of way, but we've been internet friends since we were both in high school seven or eight years ago.) A member of my crit group also just moved to Japan and another friend I've know forever is going to move there in December. Why is everyone suddenly in Asia?

At any rate, YESTERDAY, when I decided what I was going to ramble about today, I was thinking about music and so now I am about to start thinking about that again.

Music. If I were the type to use, music would be my drug of choice. I used to be a music major and sometimes it just felt like a bad addiction. I HATED being on stage. I hadn't decided to learn any kind of instrument until I was sixteen and had no natural aptitude for any of the ones I tried. And yet somehow I couldn't stop. I wanted to know music. I wanted to be music. To control with a twist and weave of my fingers the way my classmates did. I wanted it to obsorb me completely, and take me to whatever majical place it trickled down from. Becuase how could anything so sweet, so perfect, so exciting, come from our world? How could it even be compared with ordinary life?

Maybe that's why it didn't work out for me. Chopin and Motzart and Joplin and the unknown composers of folk tunes were too unreal for me. Too Other. I couldn't think of them with the casual, every day aditude the other musicians had. They played music. That was what they did. There wasn't anything special about it. It was just a part of who they were.

Some people like to say there is no such thing as inner born talent. People who say that have never seen my little brother pick up an instrument he's never touched before and start playing. Talent needs to be nurtured. It sometimes manifests itself later in life or when you least expect it, but it exists.

So my allotment of musical talent is small. That doesn't mean I don't still fiddle around on the piano from time to time. That doesn't mean that my fingers don't twitch when I hear a strain of particularly etherial flute notes and long more than anything to be the one holding that flute. It just means I know where my stronger talent lies. The one that is just a part of who I am. What I do.


I wonder sometimes if when those classmates played their finals all they heard were their mistakes. I wonder if they agonized about them afterwards and went over in their heads about what went wrong.

Actually I know they did. I listened to them do it sometimes. "I held those notes too long. Did you notice when I acidently hit a mnor chord instead of a major?" To which I laughed nervously. Manically. I didn't hear their mistakes. What I heard was magic, otherworldly.

So then I look at my drafts. The long ones, and short ones, and finished and unfinished ones. The run on sentances and typos and over use of the word "saids" and wonder if my readers will even see those. That doesn't mean I'll ever stop agonizing over them or trying to find the exact perfect turn of phrase but I wonder if--or maybe hope that --my readers might see past the mechanics. If maybe to them the story itself will seem otherworldly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What I Haven't Been Doing

Writing. That's what I haven't been doing. Not really. Not in proportion to all the time I've had lately to devote to it. Instead I have been

Going to costume parties

Sitting around the backyard firepit

Exploring Beaches

Going to More costume parties

Exploring more beaches

Having Tea

And generally making a hoolagin of myself.

You may remember a post of summer goals a couple months back. Let's see how I have fared.

1) Query----I sent off six. Does that count?

2) Finish my current WIP --- I'm about thirty pages further along than I was

3) Write short stories with particular magazines in mind for them ---Uh . . . I started one new story but didn't finish it

4) Read --Well this one was a lot easier. I got quite a bit more than usual reading in.

The point is that despite the fact that I am only six days away from returning to a classroom to run my mind through obstacle courses. Despite the fact that my free time will soon be so sparce that every moment of it will be spent before I get to it. Despite the fact that my list of goals and list of accomplishments for this summer look nothing alike. . .

I don't regret the way I've spent my time.

Stillness is a difficult lesson to learn.

Sometimes we need a little quiet, a little inspiration, a little experience. All writing is ultimately about life. What's the point if we don't live as well?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Three is a Magic Number

Eek. Now I have school house rocks stuck in my head.

But on to important things, there are three of them that I should like to pass on to you.

First, I have been accepted into the society of The Secret Archives of the Alliterati! Starting tommorrow I will be blogging there on Thursdays along with L.T. Host on Monddays, Keriann Greaney Martin on Tuesdays, Matthew Delman on Wendsdays, and K. Marie Cridle on Fridays. I am so excited to be in such good company! it is going to be so much fun! Taliesin will still be here though to house my book reviews, character interviews, dabblings in poetry and any other contemplations more vaguely connected to writing.

Second, L.G. Smith over at Bards and Prphets has granted me the honor of the Stylish Blogger Award. Thank you L.G!

Here are the rules:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

And in addition I am meant to reveal seven things about myself. I am going to cheat and call my first anouncement (about the Allitarti. You remember that one don't you?) number one and my last anouncement (still to come) as my seventh. That leaves five in between.


I wear hats. A lot. I'm sort of an addict.

I sometimes (now for example) come into Starbucks and use their wifi without ordering a drink but consider myself justified by remembering how many times I come in to use or not use their wifi and DO order a drink

I cut my hair for the first time in my life last month (apart from trimming or layering) and LOVE it.

I can't dra unless they are stick figures and even then the lines aren't very straight.

At one point I declared myself a music major and took a year of music theory . . . before realiziing I didn't actually play an instrument

And who to pass this deluctable award on to . . .

1) Anita Grace Howard at A Still and Quiet Madness because she is always so generous in passing on awards and I'm stillin love with her blog name

2)Yvonne Ozbourne at The Organic Wirter for her different persectives on writing and other pieces of life

3)Adam Heine at Author's Echo because he lives half way aorund the world and still blogs for us

4)Lydia Kang and The Word is My Oyster for her fantastig drawings at the beginning of her posts and her insightful plot related medical advise.

5)Stephanie Thornton because she makes me love ancient history as much as she does

You seserve it. I love reading your posts!

And now for my final piece of all important information. I have at last joined the collective and am on twitter. Sntill o idea what I'm doing at this point but follow me at taryn_tyler so I can find you!

How's that for a long and undirected post? have a good week friends and happy writing!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What You REALLY Didn't want to know.

I know. I said I would put this up last week after the other meme. There may have been a sojourn to Disneyland that put my inclination to blog on hold. I appologize.

However . . .

What has now been a couple weeks ago Anita Grace Howard tagged me in Greenwoman's Diabolical Panty Meme to end all memes (about underclothes)!

I won't be offended if you click on the back button right about now. I really won't.


What do you call your panties / underwear / undergarments? Do you have any commonly used nicknames for them?

Just 'underwear'. Every once in a while I have a boring answer for you. *Grins sheepishly while you all snort at the "once in a while"*

Have you ever had that supposedly common dream of being in a crowded place in only your underwear?

No. But I have had it before without the underwear.

What is the worst thing you can think of to make panties out of?

Iron. What if a feary wanted to wear a pair?

If you were a pair of panties, what color would you be, and WHY?

Black and white stripes. To represent duality. And because black and white is the best possible combination of colors --becuase it is both all of them and none of them and just looks really cool.

Have you ever thrown your panties/underwear at a rock star or other celebrity? If so, which one(s)? If not, which one(s) WOULD you throw your panties/underwear at, given the opportunity?

Not unless I sleepwalk and don't know it, which is, I suppos,e a possibility but you would think at least one memeber of my household would have mentioned that habbit to me. The sleepwalking that is, not the underwear throwing. I would hope they wouldn't find out about that one. If it existed.

You’re out of clean panties. What do you do?

Wash some?

Are you old enough to remember Underoos? If so, did you have any? Which ones?

I don't beleive so. The image that comes to mind is a kangaroo in long johns.

If you could have any message printed on your panties, what would it be?

"To be worn and not seen"

How many bloggers does it take to put panties on a goat?

Three. One to provide the goat, one to provide the panties and one to provide the jokes. I volunteer for the final possition *pauses to a chorus on groans*

Tag Four People and tell them why you are being so cruel to them.
1. L.T. Host because you are foolish enough to invite me to join you at The Secret Archives of the Alliterati and I want to remind you what you are getting into.

2. Erin Kane Spock because you have the word bloomers in your blog tittle and I want to know what you will have to say about sixteenth century underwear.

3. L.G. Smith because this is my sick way of thanking you for the Stylish Blogger Award I have yet to pass along.

4. Laila Knight because you were brave enough to become my newest follower and I figured it would be best to get the embarassing part of our introductions out of the way as soon as possible.

Happy writing and enjoy your underwear!

Monday, July 25, 2011

What You Never Wanted To Know

This week is going to be meme week. I have been sitting on a couple of rather hilarious memes for awhile and now information you never wanted to know about me shall be released into the wild. You have been forewarned.

And the best part? I get to tag you and force you to release similar information into the brambles of the internet. Mwahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK so you don't have to participate if you don't want to but I hope you do.

To begin with my crit partner Keriann Greaney Martin tagged me in a meme that may look familiar at first but on closer examination becomes deliciously twisted.


Are you a rutabaga?

Not to my knowledge. Though if I were I would want the dolls from Francess Hodgson Burnette's Rackedy Packed House to make a ten course meal out of just me so they can immitate the snooty dolls at Tidy Castle but have much more fun linking arms and dancing in a circle until they fall over.

When was the last time you ate lion meat?

When I was six and had just watched The Lion King. My mom would tell me she was feeding me hot dogs but I knew better.

Upload a heartwarming picture of something that makes you smile.

My feet and my sisters' feet hovering over a very familiar rug at a very familiar starbucks where I do most of my writing.

If you could go back in time and kick the crap out of someone, who would it be?

Nepolean. Really, one shouldn't go around turning revolutions into dictatorships. Not OK.

Name one habit that makes other people plot your demise.

Not planning their demise first.

What song would you like to be playing while you are kicking the crap out of someone?

"I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Disney's Mulan.

Where da muffin top at?

Drurry Lane? On top of the hill I think. Very cute little bakery but hard to find.

How many goats, stacked atop one another like Yertle's Turtles, would it take to reach the moon?

One with a good imagination and paper and ink. Some unusually evolved hooves that allow him to use afore mentioned instruments would also be useful.

Describe yourself using obscure Latin words.

Apoc hoc (take this)
Pax vobiscum (Peace be with you)
. . . I learned my Latin phrases from reading Walter Scott novels in high school so they aren't very extensive. The first was shouted while the speaker was stabbing someone, the second while the speaker was disguised as a priest. Consider the description as a contrast of extremes. Both sneaky and straight forward, violent and peace loving. Or maybe just really confused and doesn't know much Latin.

Why does evil exist?

Because good does.

What the chiz are you thinking right now?

That my previous answer was obnoxiously trite like something meaningful but unhelpful a wise mentor would say to a hero while he was in a tight spot.

So there you are. A lot of information you never wanted to know about me. And now for the fun part.

I get to tag as many people as I so choose.

Oh the power.

The diffictult part is in choosing people I don't already know have been tagged.

1. Roland
2. Tara Maya
3. Summer Ross
4. Karen Amanda Hooper

Pick a funny nickname for number 1.

Rollick. Yeah. I made a pun from your name. Consider this a sheepish grin, that is half apology half revel in the mischief.

Make up a rhyme about number 2.

Magic and intelligence with a touch of art
Risk taking bohemian, not afraid to start
on her own.
She won't moan
If her whimsical ink-sweat is not highly paid.

Where would number 3 hide in the event of the apocalypse?

I can't speak for certain but I think she would grow wings and fly away.

Where does number 4 purchase her pants?

. . . Somewhere in New York would be my guess. Other than that I don't know but its enough to make me just a touch jealous.

And later this week . . . an even stranger meme.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II post. (Come now. I write fantasy. You knew it was coming.)

This last Thursday night, like ever so many other human beings in the English speaking world, I saw the grand finale of the Harry Potter films. Watching movies at midnight has been a long time past time of mine. Often in costume. In fact, just last month, I saw a special showing of The Two Towers extended edition armed with home made lembas bread. But this wasn't just another pirate movie or something I could choose to watch at home on VHS (yes, another testament of my geek-dom. I still watch those). This was the last of a cultural phenomenon, a series that has taken over ten years to translate into film. So despite the fact that I had work at eight AM the next morning ,and despite the fact that it came after a long day at the DMV, I visited three theaters in person and then spent over an hour on line to get a hold of a ticket.

Eventually I ended up at Horton Plaza downtown San Diego. Needless to say it was crowded. The mall was swarming with young wizards and excited fans but there was something . . . different about these fans compared to those I've waited in line with for other movies.

First there was the costumes. Most of them were store manufactured. They were very accurate of course, but showcased none of the ridiculous dedication and knowledge it takes for a geek to piece one together on his own. There was one home made costume but after puzzling for some time over the inaccuracy I discovered (because the wearer of said costume was asked) that it was meant to be a Gandalf costume.

This was the first sign that something was wrong. As the night progressed many other strange things took place.

My brother and I sat in our seats, drawing each other Harry Potter themed word puzzles to pass the time

The ingenious and excruciatingly difficult Harry Potter word search my brother drew for me to do. You can tell how ingenious it was because he broke down and gave me hints (note the arrows) and I still didn't finish it before the movie started.

The slightly less ingenious crossword puzzle I drew for my brother. You can tell it is less ingenious because he finished it in a matter of minutes. Or maybe he's just a genius.

While we did this a light saber fight broke out somewhere in the theater, met with enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. A beach ball was released and thrown back into the air with shouted quotes from Spartacus. My little brothers' friend admitted to me that not only had he read none of the books but hadn't seen the last two movies.

I slowly began to realize that I was not surrounded by fellow die-hard fans of the boy who lived out to watch the final battle with he who must not be named and compare the adaptation to J.K. Rowling's original. I was in an excitable crowd of people harboring varying degrees of fondness for Harry Potter who were out to have a good time. If I was certain you had read Terry Pratchett's Going Postal I would tell you that they were not true pin-heads. They were merely *gasp* hobbyists.

When I first began to read the Harry Potter books I was reluctant because they were so popular (a bit of my inner emo manifesting itself there). But my sister insisted that however much the books were overestimated in the eyes of the public they were equally underestimated. They are praised and hyped at every corner of the universe because they've made so much money and, well everyone else is talking about them, but few people really take the time to recognize their true literary value. The believable aging of the characters, the progression of the themes as Harry gets older, the way Rowling sets up plot twists so far in advance and then hides them with school yard drama.

With that in mind I don't suppose it was much of a surprise to see that Harry's last moment was over shadowed by his own popularity. The world is full of people who want to be excited about something and one hit movie will do as well as another, but what really struck me, and made me feel just a teensy bit lonely, was that they were playing the game of the geeks. Except that it wasn't uncool anymore and it wasn't as meaningful. I can't help but wonder, does this always happen when something good is discovered by everyone else? Is it maybe better to let some things remain unknown?

Monday, July 11, 2011

On Giving Critiques

I don't think I even need to comment on the invaluable effects of a good critique. I myself have some very amazing critique partners, (L. T. Host, Keriann Gearney Martin, K. Marie Criddle, Refugio Jones and Whitney Coleman) who help me to improve my writing constantly. I am sure many of you who have crit partners know exactly what I am talking about. When critiquing a piece however, it is sometimes difficult to know how much help I am actually being, if maybe I am ripping apart the writer's love child for my own pleasure. Here are some general guidelines I try to follow when I am asked for my opinion on a piece of writing, though ultimately it comes down to a lot of old fashioned intuition (drat writing and its inability to conform to absolute rules –except that that's my favorite part about it).

1) What is my relationship to the writer? Critique partners, of course, want nothing but my full, honest opinion but occasionally a close friend will ask me to review something they've written and I try to be a little more gentle. Similarly, if I am visiting a new critique group or critiquing something by a guest I tend to explain my comments in greater detail since they are aren't likely to be familiar with my verbal shorthand for particular writing issues.

2) How experienced is the writer? Some writers leave almost nothing but nit-picky grammar mistakes for me to discuss with them while others leave a vast legion of plot and formatting hiccups that I take issue with. When that happens I try not to point out every single item in their piece that causes me to pause. If they are bombarded with everything at once they will likely get discouraged and not know where to begin. Instead I will point out a few of the issues in the same order I would edit my own work, beginning with plot and character hiccups and then the structural and stylistic if there aren't too many of the others for the writer to deal with at once. Not because I don't think the writer can “handle” the feedback so much as it is easier to fix things when the focus is narrowed.

3) What are the good qualities of the piece? Sometimes good writing is harder to see than bad. When something is amiss it jumps out and screams at me but when everything is flowing smoothly I become involved in the story and forget all about the writing. It is just as important, however, for a writer to know what she is doing right as it is for her to know what she is doing wrong. I wouldn't want her to sacrifice her beautiful, clever use of language in order to quicken the pace. At least not on every page.

4) Is the comment I am about to make stylistic or a personal preference? Stylistic comments are usually pretty easy to find. If you prefer to dialogue tags or italicized thoughts, omniscient narrative, or present tense. These comments are worth bringing up but a disclaimer recognizing it to be stylistic or an explanation as to why that particular technique does not work in that particular spot is needed. Personal preferences, however, can be harder to spot. For example, if I were not attracted to particularly manly men I might be tempted to tell a writer that her character's love interest is unattractive when the majority of her readers would disagree with me. Similarly I might sympathize with a character I am not meant to if she is given a hobby I enjoy or a vice a struggle with myself.

So what are your guidelines for critiquing other writers' work? Do you tend to ere on the side of being too nice or too harsh? What writing issues can you simply not stand?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Could Have, Would Have

“I could write a novel if I had the time. I might not be very good at the language but I could put together a good story. I dream novels.” --Actual quote.

Perhaps I am over sensitive but these kinds of comments make my tongue bleed trying to hold back a retort. I can't help but feel like I've been letting the tannins of a good pinot roll around on the back of my tongue when someone comes along and tries to chug down the whole bottle in one go.

First, who actually has time to write? Writing is what you do instead of sleeping/eating/shopping/watching tv/doing the dishes because you can't help yourself.

Second, writing is all about the language. True, the grammar doesn't have to be perfect and the prose doesn't have to be poetry for the story to be compelling (though it does help) but you have to choose your words carefully and piece them together in a way that will make your reader not only understand what is going on, but care.

Third, dreams aren't novels. Dreams can inspire novels, they can be as vivid and complex as novels, but when you wake up and try to write them down they are full of holes. Wait, why was I so afraid to sound the strange gong? What were we doing at the monastery anyways? Why did the floating boat community we lived on have to close after dark and what did that have to do with the gong in the first place? (questions from actual dream) These holes can be filled but it takes a lot of careful thought.

I am sure that people who make such comments really could write a novel if they were willing to put the time and effort into it. It might turn out to be harder than they expected but they could do it. Still, there is one important factor that prevents them.

They haven't started one yet.

I hope I don't sound overly bitter and defensive. Do these kind of throwaway comments frustrate you at all?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Xanadu. My Wasteland.

Mind fueled by a dim and flickering furnace.

Faded Memory, ripe with souls long past.

Uncertain wisdom crowded with ghosts.

Will you deign to take their place?

Images fill my cavern of consciousness.

A smile, a touch, a shadow colored glance.

Imagined memories, tales of romance,

Laced with thoughts of rest.

Smothered in mind patterns, I struggle for air,

Entranced by the entity called self,

Unable to escape, to breach gulf

That surrounds my empty lair.

If I reach for you will you close the gap?

Smother the smotherings with your breath, your voice,

Words that choke the cacophony, the noise.

Touch my mind. I'll give you a map.

Show me everything you know how to chase

Don't leave me without the grasp of your hand.

Join me in my Xanadu, my Wasteland.

Would you deign to fill that place?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Interview with Gaharis of Orkney

Today I have brought Gaharis of Orkney from my WIP WHITE HART to talk a little about his adventures. Hello Gaharis.

Gaharis: Good day m'lady

Is it true that you serve your older brother Gawain as squire?

Gaharis: That would be the first question you would ask.

Well he is the family celebrity.

Gaharis: For the moment. He'd be helpless without me though. Half the time he
doesn't remember where he left his armor. If I let him do the packing he would bring his horse and his sword and forget basic essentials like food. A map. Maybe a smaller knife for cutting kindling and starting fires. The ability to whistle.

Sounds like you look after Gawain quite a bit.

Gaharis: Haha. I do, but don't tell him that. He thinks he's the protective older brother.

Do the two of you get along pretty well even though he gets most of the fame and glory?

Gaharis: Ach, he's a good man –strong leader type-- even if his sense of humor can be kind of dry. I'd much rather have the excitement of adventures without worrying about fortune and glory. That's the firstborn's burden.

Who talks the most on the road?

Gaharis: I do. Gawain's as sullen as a fish sometimes. Contemplating the meaning of his life or some such nonsense. I prefer a song to pass the time myself.

Oh, do you sing?

Gaharis: Not according to Gawain.
Do you think your adventures will end once you reach Camelot?

Gaharis: Not if I have anything to say about it. The sons of Orkney were meant for more than growing stale in some king's castle. I wouldn't mind a decent meal though when we get there. Food is so much more delightful when one doesn't have to cook it oneself.

Well thank you for coming by Gaharis. Maybe we can get you a doughnut on your way out.

Gaharis: You are truly a lady of mercy.

If you, my dear readers, have anything you have anything you would like to ask Gaharis feel free to put it in the comment and he will do his best to sate your curiosity –provided his mouth isn't too full of doughnut.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Character: Villains Within and Villains Without

Everyone loves to see the bad guy brought down at the end of a story but only in Saturday morning cartoons is the villain the sole cause of the conflict. It can be tempting to create an antagonist who's sole purpose in to torture the protagonist but a writer must be careful in constructing her villains. A villain who does not have his own reasons for doing things and his own feelings about everything that is going on is not a character. He is a plot devise.

A good villain has a choice between more than one path, which makes his decision to be evil more frightening and detestable. More frightening because we see the same duel possibilities within ourselves and more detestable because we see the same duel possibilities in the hero.

A good villain is human.

Similarly, a good hero's worst foe is himself. Defeating the villain in the flesh is only an outward demonstration that he has destroyed his own inner demons. He must find the strength without joining the dark side (Luke). Even the simplest good against evil plots become static unless the hero is fighting something deeper than external conflict.

A good hero is human.

And then there are the gray areas. The --gasp---possibility that the antagonist is preventing the protagonist from getting what he wants, not because he has a dark soul, but because two men can not marry the same girl, rule the same kingdom, or win the same trophy. Perhaps the antagonist chooses the good of his own family over the good of the protagonist's family or the good of the many over the good of the one who happens to the protagonist's true love. Perhaps the antagonist is the true force of light while the protagonist tries to justify his own dark deeds by parading a great nonexistent cause.

Brood. Whine. Search. Wallow. The hero becomes more acquainted with his humanity. The writer becomes more acquainted with her humanity. The readers become more acquainted with their humanity. Pain. Tears. Struggle. Hidden wounds are unsurfaced. And when it is done?

Strength. Humanity.


Bang. Boom. The villain is dead and peace is restored to Happy Valley. You decide which you prefer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Stillness is Maddening

Do you hear that? Listen. That is the sound of no assignments due. That is the sound of no essays to write, poetry to read, or vocabulary words to memorize. That is the sound of a thousand stories waiting to fill the silence of my brain.

It is a good sound if only I could make up my mind which story to tell. And if I would adjust faster to not doing something for ten minutes together. Stillness is a difficult lesson to learn.

Here are some of the ways I plan on filling the stillness between now and late August when my mind shall be once again under seige. (Yes, I am afraid this is one of those "goal" posts that serves to lock in my decisions by making them public more than to provide you with interesting or informative information. I do appologize. I shall try not to have too many more in the near future.

1) Query. No really. I mean it this time. 50 quesries will be sent out before Septemebr hits or I'm a rubics qube. Hopefully I will send more but I figure since I may be a bit down and regection weary by the time I'm done with the process I had better make my goal number something I have no doubt I will be able to reach.

2) Finish my current WIP. I started working on it in January and am only about five chapters in. The frusterating thing is that, unlike many of my other manuscripts, I know exactly what is going to happen and how I just haven't been able to sit down and write it. Now I will.

3) Write short stories with particular magazines in mind for them. I haven't really written a lot of short stories in the past because I've never been able to find them a home afterwards. However, I have recently experimented with writing for a particular purpose and rather than impede my creativity, I find the challenge enhances it.

4) Read. A lot. I have so many unread books on my shelf right now it is painful to look at. The habbit of not pleasure reading is hard to break too. Seems like everytime I pick up a book this week I suddenly think that my time would be better spent going for a walk, making cookies, or doing the dishes.

5) And of course I shall be back here, giving you more posts from time to time. Let me know if there is anything in particular you'd like me to ramble about.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thank You!

Anita Grace Howard from A Still and Silent Madness (isn't that a lovely blog name?) has g iven me this delightful Versatile Blogger Award.

Thank you Anita! Just what I needed at the end of a difficult week!

I would like to pass this Award on to:

S.L. Stevens at Scroll of a Modern Scribe
Lydia King at The Word is My Oyster
Stephanie Thornton
L.G. Smith at Bards and Prophets
Keriann Greaney Martin at Novel Beginnings

Congradualtions. You guys are some fantastic bloggers!

To make it fun Anita mixed up the rules a little. To give you more options I'll give you both versions.

The original rules:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2. Share seven random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 5 deserving blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them


Anita's new rules...

Instead of #2 above list the first and last lines of the first five chapters from one of your manuscripts. Can you see a story taking shape? Does it intrigue and intensify, making you want to read what's between?

So here are snit-bits from RULER OF GEAL. The manuscript I mean to start querying soon. . . probably.

Chapter One

Taig Feargal dropped his silver pieces, one coin at a time, onto the table in front of Ol’ Con Eibear the Lodge Master.

He raised the mug and all present drank to the convict’s health –or death—save Veli who discovered too late that the mug was already empty.

Chapter Two

The prince of Gystoria marched toward death.

Another round of quarrels made sure they were both dead.

Chapter Three

Taig let the time drag as he made his way toward his village.

Then he turned and left, leaving gaps in the dust as he tramped up the staircase and into the streets.

Chapter Four

Prince Roneir was welcomed home by ghosts.

Only for a moment and yet the image had planted itself in her mind in a way she knew it would never be uprooted.

Chapter Five

“Thena. Thena wake up.”

His mind could grasp nothing else.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What do you need to write?

Next week is finals week which means this week I am running around with my head on crooked trying to get projects done and snapping at all who try to speak to me. As much as I would love the excuse to ramble about something I'm not going to be graded on I don't have much of a post for you today. Instead I will leave you with a quote followed by a question.

"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
--Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Would you agree? What do you need in order to write? Quiet? A certain pen? Enough sleep? Sleep deprivation? Coffee?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Feminism in Fantasy Literature

There is a sub-genre in fantasy that focuses mainly on female protagonists. Robin Mckinley. Patrica McKillip. Julliet Marillier. Sharon Shinn. Ellen Kushner. They each feature a feminine prospective in a genre that is usually riddled with long lost kings and brutal battle scenes. What is interesting is the different prospectives they give and the subtle ways they show them.

Robin Mckinley's protagonists are usually very straight forward female heroes. They wield swords along side men and stand up for their gender in the face of oppression. Her heroines are proud of being women and make sure everybody knows it. This used to annoy me. A lot. When I was young and didn't realize that gender equality wasn't self evident to everyone in the world. Now I sometimes wish her heroines would relax and just be without having to prove their independence to everybody all the time but I also understand that, especially in the context of a pseudo medieval society, that isn't always an option.

Patrica McKillip is almost the opposite. I have never encountered anything resembling gender inequality in her books. She has equal female and male characters who fight battles and rule kingdoms and play music together without ever thinking anything of it. Rather than fighting against oppression her heroines serve as an example simply by living in an idyllic world where no one has ever suggested that one gender is more important or able than the other. There might be certain social expectations but even those are seldom strongly enforced.

Julliet Marillier's characters are feminists in a way that took me a book or two before I recognized it as such. Rather than fight against expectations or live in a world where they don't exist, Marillier's characters are content to be domestic and nurturing. These skills are painted, however, in such a way that they are revered rather than looked down on. Her characters recognize that their roles are just as important as the "great deeds" performed by the men and are able to unlock secrets and magic everyone else might over look.

Ellen Kushner takes yet another approach. Her male and female characters tear down the constrains of both gender roles. Within the context of a very strict society her male and female characters fuss over silk and wield swords simultaneously.

I know that over all good characterization is more important than a "positive" feminine --or male --image but when I'm working with a historical society that enforces unfair expectations I am reluctant to allow them to get away with it. On the other hand I want the setting to remain authentic without too much modern thinking infiltrating its way into my characters' heads. I strive for a balance but I think I ere on the side too much modern thinking more often than too much accuracy.

What about you? Do you ever wonder about how you are representing gender in your manuscripts? Have you noticed any other ways authors deal with it? Or do you only worry about character and let any gender issues that arise take care of themselves?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Literary Idol Challenge: Princess Tales

When I was a little girl my favorite book in the whole wide worlds was A LITTLE PRINCESS by Francess Hodgson Burnett.If you don't already know the story Sarah Crewe is a wealthy, popular school girl who is kind and imaginative until her father dies and leaves her penniless. The Headmistress of her boarding school, Miss Mention, lets her live in the attic as a maid. Even with hardly enough to eat, no more silks and dolls, and strenuous exhausting work she remains kind and hopeful, whispering stories to the other servant girl to make the cold and hunger more bearable. Sarah is eventually restored to her former wealth much to the chagrin of Miss Mention but that is not the point. Sarah was always a princess whether her circumstances expressed it or not.

Due to the recent nuptials of a certain royal couples there has been a lot of talk this last week about princesses. Does royalty only belong to a long forgotten age? Should we allow our daughters to romanticize the unrealistic concept of being a princess?

If their concept of "princess" is limited to pretty dresses and hansom princes then I agree with the feminists. Absolutely not. But when I think of princesses I always think of Sarah Crewe's stunning imagination and knowledge of her own worth despite what anybody eles tells her. I was eight years old when I first read A LITTLE PRINCESS but I can still remember a long night time ride in the back of a van with a window that wouldn't close. I thought of Sarah's imagination and pretended that I was in a carriage full of soft fur blankets and warm chocolate to drink while I waited to get home to rest. I can still remember the dark tunnel at the natural history museum that I was afraid to enter until I decided to think of it as the diamond mines Sarah's father finds. Sarah Crewe's story taught me to imagine. It taught me to believe. I don't know if I could have survived childhood without it.

So this month's Liteary Idol Challenge (no I didn't forget. Just waxing nostalgic for a minute there) is to write a princess story or fairy tale 50-1,000 words. What is your take on royalty and princesses? The symbolism? The reality? send your interpretation of it all to me at:


by Sunday, May 22nd and I will post it to be voted on Monday May 23rd.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z: Zonked

I took this picture while waiting for my food at a crit group earlier this month. I thought it was fiting. Even if it does remind me a little too much of Sesame Street.

I should probably come up with some clever insight to acompany it but my creative mind is currently zonked.

Happy writing all.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y: You

As we approach the end of the A-Z challenge I just wanted to say thank You to everyone who stopped by my little blog and to everyone who frayed the edges of their creative minds this last month posting delicious nougats on their own blogs for me to read. And of course to all of our hosts Alree Bird, Jeffrey Beesler, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Jen Daiker, Candace Ganger, Karen J. Gowen, Tali Roland, and Stephen Tremp for creating this fantastic event. It has been a lot of fun. But most importantly I hope to still YOu all around the web from time to time. Don't be a stranger!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X: X Marks the Spot

A shrine hidden in a faraway land
Calls me to follow what I cannot see
With no promise I ever be free
From the siren pull of desire’s hand.
Bound by the gravity of native sand,
I choke and spew on the salt of the sea.
Danger drowns my in strains of apathy
Unless I chase the waves beyond the strand.
A treasure is buried, waiting to be found
By the lost fires of my soul unbound.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W: Wanton and Wild

In a book I read once upon a time on Medieval history (Growing Up in Medieval London)the author stressed the concept of Medieval children beginning as 'wanton and wild' and becoming 'sad and wise'. The idea is not quite as dismal as it appears as the Medieval concept of 'sad' was more serious than forlorn and yet . . . who would choose to be serious when they could be wanton and why oh why must 'wild' be the obvious counterpart to 'wise'?

I am contesting long forgotten conventions, of course, which means that there will be no one (or few) to dispute my theories but I feel that some of the attitude from that concept may have leaked through the centuries of our culture. It is understandable that in an age of such violence and political instability predictability would be valued in a person's behavior. It is also understandable that those even of today who have lived longer might look at the antics of those who haven't with a slight shake of the head and think "They have no idea". Still, there is an undertone of lifelessness in giving up everything associated with youth once one enters the throws of wisdom. From my side of enlightenment --wanton and wild though it may be --it looks an awful lot like defeat. Wouldn't it be great if there was a way of reaching wisdom without allowing the world to beat the wildness out of us?

And so I read. And so I write. And so I live.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V: Very Awsome Story

Ok, I cheated. I used a qualifier. If it makes you feel better. V: Versus. As in Jack Vs. Them, the title of said Very awsome story.

This piece was submited to the Literary Idol Fertility Challenge. Unfortunately it was the only story submited so there won't be any voting this round. I considered writing one myself for it to compete against but wouldn't feel quite right if mine ended up winning. So, I pre-anounce Kris O'Connel April's Literary Idol for the following tale of out of control growth.

Congradulations Kris! Your zine and gift card will be sent to you forthwith.

Jack vs. Them

I had been lost before, but never this lost, never this displaced. Where I had come from the world was quiet and simple, I had known nothing of chaos and nothing of destruction. But that seems like so long ago, not in days but in life changing events.
I had come here out of greed, the food was plentiful and easily to obtain. They had warned me, there is no happiness there, not for one like you, but I didn’t listen, I never listened, And now this place. It wasn’t that I was in pain or even uncomfortable, it was the animals here. There were so damned many of them, flowing like streams down thin corridors, too many too feed from the food around them and yet they summoned it without work then without a flinch they would cast the excess food on the ground. I did not belong here amongst these creatures.
One morning they had come and taken all the bounty from our land, then they crawled into the belly of a larger noisier animal that created a vile black air around itself, leaving a barren spot that would take seasons to restore. They had not followed any of the ways that I was taught and I hadn’t seen why I had been taught those ways until that day, so much beauty and elegance was destroyed in so little time. But it was so easy for them, I had to follow. I had to know how they had taken so much so easily I wanted to take as they did; at least I had thought that.
I had followed them only a short distance before I found this “forest”. But the trees where so perfectly shaped and so very tall, the almost seemed to emit light during the day and definitely did during the night. The forest was alive with sound but none of them comforting, and all around these animals would continually work entering and exiting these perfect trees, raising them and tearing them to the ground. There forest edging ever closer to mine.
And in these moments I knew I could never stop them, they were too many and too great. What could a jack rabbit do to stop the endless progression of the human race?

Monday, April 25, 2011

U: Unknown

Never underestimate the power of the unknown.

Sometimes that might mean leaving something unstated in your WIP.

Sometimes that might mean allowing a piece of mystery to remain in it that even you don't know the answer to.

Sometimes it just means chasing new ideas, new styles; skill you're pretty sure you don't posess. Sometimes it just means taking a chance.

So go forth today and discover the unknown.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T: Tangled

Tangled. The word so acurately describes my feelings toward this movie.

On the one hand I really enjoyed it. It was cute and playful, full of swashbuckling, whimsey and charming characters. I supose that should be enough but . . .

I've loved the story of Repunzel for too long and I know that the Disney version will slowly milk the dark symbolism out of common tellings. No one tells the version of Cinderella where she speaks to her mother's ghost anymore or the version where her stepsisters cut of their heels and toes to fit into the slipper. No one remembers the other objects Snow White's stepmother tried to kill her with before the apple or that the prince, rather than kissing a dead girl, wanted to keep her on display in his castle. No one tells the part where the queen is forced to dance in hot iron shoes at Snow White's wedding.

Fairy Tales have been largely "Disneyified" in common thought. So much that a "Fairy Tale" often refers to a perfect world. Have you ever actually imagined being in a fairy tale? Sure they usually have a happy ending (If you are the hero or heroine. Otherwise you will be eaten or rolled down a hill in a barrel full of nails to pay for your sins) but first the poor princess or youngest son is beset upone by ogres, asked riddles they must answer on peril of their life, tormented by step relatives, nearly toasted by dragons, made to work in the scullery, lost for years at a time in the woods, turned into swans or pots of flowers, kidknapped by fairies, or tricked into making a bargain with the devil. I doubt any of the characters would describe their lives as perfect.

I don't for a moment beleive that adaptors of fairy tales must remain one hundred percent true to the original version. How would we ever know which one was first in a genre that originated in oral storytelling? Still, I do beleive that there is a reason why versions of the same stories appear almost everywhere cross culturally. It could, of course, be that there was an original version that was spread across the world and changed by each culture. Or it could be that rooting for the third and youngest son, discovering that the myserious stranger in the woods is really royalty, and being banished from home by relatives who aren't true relatives, are all part of our collective consciousness, integral to our experience as human beings. These motifs symbolize our love for the underdog, our ability to find beauty in the strange, and the feelings of alienation we sometimes experience at home. These ideas can be shifted and morfed to match the idealogy of the story teller but not ignored. Not if the power of a story that has been told over and over for hundreds of years is going to remain intact.

So what were the changes in the Repunzel story that I fear will be lost?

First, the character of the witch. I have always been facinated with the idea of an old woman, shunned and feared by society, wanting to raise and love a child but not knowing how. She gets the child by blackmail (because repunzel's parents tried to steal from her)and then locks her in a tower to keep her safe. The protection soon becomes a curse and doesn't even keep out the danger. In Tangled, however the witch is purely selfish, wanting to use Repunzel's magic hair to stay young forever. Becuase if we are to keep our own children in their ivory towers we can not allow them to entertain the idea that a single person could contain both admirable and despicable qualities.

Second, the whole metaphor or the girl in the ivory tower. I understand that this is a difficult issue because so many people --with good reason --are trying to change the ideaology of women being "won" or "obtained". I have no objection whatsoever of a more modern, gender equal twist being added to the prince's treacherous trek through the woods, poetical acrobatics to get the girl's attention, and scaling of a tower with no doors to reach her, but the element is so obviously there that it should at least be addressed. There is certainly potential for a strong love story there as well. Repunzel does help him by letting her hair down (figuratively as well as literally?) and he is blinded by trying to reach her (love is blind or so they say)and then healed by her tears after she is exiled by her family. Tangled encorperates a love story of course, but it doesn't use any of the symbolism.

Disney fairy tales remind me of the "Fair Re-Tells" my sister wrote when she was twelve. All the characters did the nicest and most logical thing from the very beginning, resluting in paragraph long stories that read something along the lines of "Once upon a time there were some people" without all the stunning conflict and tangle of magic and ideas that a story should be. They told us the right thing to do but didn't teach us anything about life.

So, do I recomend that you see this movie? Yes. It is charmingly entertaining and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Still, I regret the loss of the deeper, darker parts of the Repunzel story.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S: Selkies

A selkie is a seal shape shifter from celtic folk lore. The selkie sheds its skin and becomes human, usually to get married. Unless their spouse keeps the skin hidden from them, however, they soon sucomb to their longings to return to the sea and abandon their family.

Movies featuring selkies:


The Secret of Roan Inish

Books featuring selkies:

Worfskin by Julliet Marillier

Foxmask by Julliet Marillier

Tower at Stony Wood by Patricia McKillip

R: Reminder

I just wanted to remind anyone who is interested in the Fertility Challenge that the deadline is the 24th.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Q: Query the Questing Beast

(image by Carisa Swenson)

Questing Beast: A beast with the neck of a serpent, body of a leopard, haunches of a lion, and feet of a hart that makes a sound from its belly like "thirty couple hounds question" (widepedia). Many knights chase after it put only Pelonore or someone of his blood-line (such as his son Percival) can capture it.

Query: A beast that must have the brevity of a paragraph, the drama of an opening scene, the personalization of a letter, and the cohesion of a sonnet that holds all the hopes of my manuscript in its jaws. Many writers can give me advise but only I can write it.

Only I can send it out.

I need to stop putting this off.

P: Pelinore

Today I have invited a special guest to come by and give us some insights about life, the universe, and everything. Or at least his involvement in my WIP. Please welcome King Pelinore of Arthurian fame.

*King Pelinore, a thin knight with long greying hair and hint of rust around the edges of his dented armor, raises his lance and releases a battle cry as he enters*

Me: Carefull Pelinore. Don't scare everytbody away

Pelinore: Oh right. Sorry. *he sets his lance down across his knees as he takes a seat* I'm still not used to this 'peace' thing.

Me: I understand. You've grown up in a very violent enviorment.

Pelinore: Ha! Not unless being called to arms every other year and constantly defending my castle againts bandits is a violent enviorment.

Me: It is.

Pelinore: Well then. I guess I did.

Me: Did King Uther really summon his kings and lords to battle every other year?

Pelinore: Give or take. Some battle sessions lasted longer than others and of course he never summoned the kings and lords he was planning to do battle against. Except once but he already had his real army, assembled in secret, waiting for them.

Me: You must be relieved that your new king hasn't summoned anyone for battle in the full three years of his riegn.

Pelinore: Ha! Beardless sop! I could use a good battle. Its as dull as a marriage around here these days.

Me: Ehem *glancing at the lance strewn across his knees* You are a mythic character rather than someone born entirely out of my mind. Does your work in my WIP feel like old helmet to you?

Pelinore: Old crown. I'm a king, remember?

Me: Right. Sorry. Does your work in my WIP feel like old crown to you?

Pelinore: Not really. I'm always glad to give Camelot another visit of course, but at the same time I'm not exactly the same Pelinore from all those myths. I retain part of their energy and influence and many of the same charactoristics but I am my own character and to me the experience is entirly new.

Me: Do you think that some of my readers who have seen you --or other manifestations of you --before might think they've heard every possible version of Camelot?

Pelinore: If you mean they might be tired of them no. My fans are always glad to see me. They might get bored during the pages between my scenes though --That reminds me. Looking at the word count so far would suggest that I am not actually your protagonist. This is ridiculous of course but I was wondering if we could negotiate --

Me: It looks like we're out of time. I'll see you soon Pelinore within the pages of my WIP.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O: Orkney Isles

The Orkney Isles are located in the far north of Scotland. They hold a lot historical and prehistorical past in their soil and their culture has been remarkably preserved compared to the rest of the UK and yet what facinates me about them are the myths about them. The fairy stories about kings and queens and knight who may never have existed. Never underestimate the power of a myth. The stories that play over and over in people's mind reguardless of facts.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

N: Notes

When I take notes in class they usually look something like this

Something in my brain refuses to remember things when I'm not in some way multi-tasking. And neat organized rows of legible handwriting? They'd make me crazy. So here are a few of the sentaments I've recently jotted down in class between the margins of course material. While I was, you know, learning.

If hate is the other side of love I'm not willing to give it up.

Do we deserve to be shocked by the world or should we be prepared?

Don't extract answers from your book. Extract ansers from yourself.

Magic is too often maligned.

Children understand abstract thoughts because all their thoughts are abstract.

Individual doesn't have to be in oppostition to the collective. They are the same if you allow them to be.

Science and magic are not exclusive.

I do not believe in binary opposites.

Humans are not objectifiable.

Life is interpretive.

If you perfect all skills you will lose some.

Learning one thing blinds you to others.

Magic = something you can not explain = everything.

I do not beleive in defects.

Strengths can become prisons.

Something is what it is or it can not be defined.

Imperfection allows us to survive. Morally vacinated?

There is little difference between an exception and a mutation.

Which finger is the fifth?

Regrets are good.

Luxery of a concsious?

I hate the word outdated.

Nature rebels against the boundaries we set on it.

Science is a kind of mythology.

Mythology doesn't give easy, cut and dry answers. Science does.

I can adore fine art without belittling folk art.

Art should have no function.

Nothing is ever ALL something is for.

Art can reflect and shapes culture but that is not its purpose.

Is there a self beyond action?

So much emphasis on clarity. Not enough on expression.

I see the world in blue. All my thoughts are abstract.

Nutral ground is profane.

What you call a dumb decision I call embracing and experiencing life.

I am me, myself. I need no other definition.

Being fooled is part of understanding.

My pain is part of who I am. I will not give it to you.

Children don't need identity. They just are.

Personality doesn't need fixing. Ever.

I am an island. It is rich and plentiful, exotic and vast. You are welcome to visit its shores. Perhaps some day I will visit yours.

We are all vulnerable. We are all children.

Compete only with the self.

You ARE the masses.

Learning takes humility.

Rules do not exist.

A single word could never really describe an emotion.

There is no golden mean.

What people don't realize is that it is because I am pasionate about everything that I speak so little. Words and motions are never enough to express the intensity of what I feel.

We should all be able to fly.

People who dram about ideals may seldom be happy but they have beautiful dreams and go further than anyone else.

Meanings are in people.

Interesting and miserable is better than boring and the same.

Describe something as a fact. Never percieve it as one.

There are too unicorns.

I approve of craziness.

We need more kayaanisquatsi (disturbances that change life)

What does your word choice say about you?

Nothing is ever "just".

Don't sugar coat. Sometimes things are not all right.

I'm not keen on the word primative.

Does it matter if something is a lie?

A myth can happen anywhere.

Writing is creation.

Chase a comet.

Our minds can't comprehend a true apocolapse.

Practicality eats the soul.

We are the earth.

I will never know everything.

Embrace your cravings and romantic longings. The expereince more than the goal.

I want to go on a pilgrimage!

I want to reach a state of timelessness.

We are in an electronic revolution. We need a new romantic era.

Most of the "great" writers weren't paid for their work.

science is another kind of "mind forged manacle"

Chaos is comforting.

My concentration is askew.

I don't see it as dark and depressing. I see it as cycle and experience, better to be confronted than ignored.

No one is ever "just" a friend.

If you write everything down it is the same as writing nothing.

Also, if you've lasted this long (Odds Bodkins! I didn't realize how many there were when I started this!) I am doing a guest post at Velvet's vvb32 blog for her Fairy Tales in Bruges (the sequel) series today.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

M: McKillip

Of all the authors I could read over and over and never be tired of, Patricia McKillip is on the top of the list. Her newest book, The Bards of Bone Plain, did not in any way disapoint me. Her prose is so rich, abuntant with feeling and imagery. She creates music with her words that you can feel in your bones.

The story of The Bards of Bone Plain centers, of all things, around the research of a term paper of young scholar, Phelan Cle. This is a McKillip world however, so even though the time era (if there is such a thing as time in her books) is something similar to Edwardian, bards still play at court and even something as mundane as chronologuing the life of a dead poet is clouded in magic and mystery. In fact, on closer imspection it is the simplest things that contain the most magic. The past quickly merges with the present as Phelen begins to unravel them both.

Even more than her astonishing style, what makes McKillip's books seem so much like poetry is that they exist in a place that follows no rules. Musicians compete for the position of royal bard with songs drawn from their bones while the queen throws garden parties and the princess drives her automobile to an archeological site to dig up ancient tombs. Anything can exist and yet the world winds around itself, so inctricately connected, so vivid and tantilizing that the reader never for a moment questions.

Other favorites by Patricia McKillip:

Alphabet of Thorn

Od Magic

Song For the Basilisk

The Forgoten Beasts of Eld

In the Forests of Serre

Note also the beautiful book covers by Kinuko Kraft. No one else could fully capture the mood of these books.

Friday, April 15, 2011

L: Ladies of the Lake

It seems like there is always some slight confusion surounding the Lady of the Lake of Arthurian legends. This is because there is actually more than one.

First, there is Vivian. It of course depends on which version you are looking at but she is usually the one who gives Arthur excalaber. I have some how got it into my head that she's the one in charge. Maybe because she appears first.

Nimue is usually the one who sorcels Merlin into a tree.

And, finally, Nyneve is the one who joins the court of Camelot in the quest of the white hart in the begginning of Le Morte D'Arthur.

Other varients of these characters include Viviane, Viviana, Vivienne, Elaine, Ninianne, Nivian, Nimueh, and Myish in various poetry and novels.

This is all to say that, in concstructing my ladies of the lake I can make whatever decisions I want about them. *insert evil laugh here*

Also, this is my eleventy oneth post. In commemoration of the fact I would like to let you know that one hundred and one posts is far too short a time to spend among such admirable readers. I don't know half of you half as well as I should like to know you and ---well I'll skip that part because I don't have a magic ring and am not going anywhere anytime soon. I just thought it would be a good time to thank you all for reading. I am honored that you take the time to sift through my ramblings.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

K: Kitchen Knave

Yesterday, instead of dutifully blogging a clever "k" oriented insight, I conducted some research in a particularly tasty form.

First, I made, as featured in my WIP, Cormarye (roast pork) --only no one at my house eats pork so I used tofu sausage-- and served it with a Irish guada cheese and garlic bread.

This was followed shortly thereafter by Tartys in Applis

So now I can more accurately describe the flavors of saffron (which is more or less pure magic), caraway, and coriander. Because, of course, that was my only motive for this particular activity.

I pulled the recipies from medivialcookery.com should any of you wish to try them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

I: Intelligence

A flickering screen with words typed from

knowledge in a chip.

My mind's ability seems obsolete

compared to its hip,

quick clicks, and artificial information

made of binary

synthesis, but machines will never learn

to write poetry.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H: Hunting

My current novel project deals a lot with hunting. This is a little intimidating because Medieval hunting was a big deal. There are so many terms and intricate rules and I've only begun to scratch the surface of my research.

Here is a simplified account of one of the processes taken form Widepedia:

Quest: Before the hunt started, an expert huntsman, accompanied by a lymer, would seek out the quarry. By the help of tracks, broken branches and droppings he would try to locate the lay of the hart as accurately as possible, ideally he would see it.

Assembly: Then, early on the day of the hunt, the hunting party would meet, examine the huntsman's information and the deer's droppings, and agree on how best to conduct the hunt. This would be a social gathering also, with breakfast served.

Relays: When the path of the hart had been predicted, relays of dogs were positioned along it. This way, it was assured that the dogs were not worn out before the hart.

Moving: Also called the fynding. Here a lymer was used to track down the hart.
Chase: This was the hunt proper; here it was essential to keep the hounds on the track of the selected quarry.

Baying: When the hart could run no longer, it would turn and try to defend itself. It was said to be "at bay." The hounds should now be kept from attacking, and the most prominent man in the hunting party would make the kill, with a sword or spear.

Unmaking: The deer was finally dissected in a careful, ritualistic manner.

Curée: Lastly, the dogs had to be rewarded with pieces of the carcass, in a manner so that they would associate their effort with the reward.

I need to ballance the aristocratic sophistication with the wilder celtic side of hinting while still remaining accesable to my readers and . . .

its enough to make a poor girl call for her hounds to wade through the labrinths of informationneeded for her, sniffing for what might be. But alas, a researching huntress can only make use of her spoils if she finds them herself. I must embrace the chase . . . and be patient with the slow progress of my word count.

Friday, April 8, 2011

G: Genesis

This is the piece I submitted to win my ten pages in Notes From Undeground. I thought it would be a good example of how loose you could be with the Fertility Challenge. And I rather like it.

The silence was first. Then a word. Tangible or not, life began.
Some called it the void but can anything really be void? Can even nothing be not at all? We have tried to answer over and over what that word was that began life but what came first? What was the darkness that was nothing?

“I am dead.” The girl threw herself onto the bed and pounded at the floral bead spread. “I am dead, I am dead, I am dead.”
“You are not dead.” The mother stroked her long thin hand against her daughter's black colored tangles. “You are heart broken. It will pass. It always does.”
“It won't.” the girl said. “It doesn't. I might as well be dead.”
The mother looked out the window at her gate's broken hinges then back at her daughter's young face, puffed red with tears. Not as young as it had been a day ago. Perhaps not as young as an hour ago. “No.” she said “It doesn't. It won't. But you aren't dead.”

Connie watched the small plant grow. First a small white streak poking its head out of the soil then a tiny shoot in pale green with thin papery leaves getting ready to spread from the center. She'd never planted it. It could have been a weed. If she had been a clever gardener she would have removed it. If she had been a clever gardener the geranium and lavender seeds she had planted in neat little rows on the other side of the yard might have grown larger than her hand before they shriveled. But she was not a clever gardener and the weed –if it was a weed –showed promise.

The child pointed up at the stars. “Big Dipper!”
The grandfather shook his head. “That one's Virgo. The virgin. She's a mother.”
The child scrunched his chubby face with stubbornness. “Teacher said Big Dipper.” He stretched his voice on the word 'big' and held his hands far apart.
The grandfather smiled. “If you want to call it the Big Dipper you can.”
“They followed it.” The child said. “The slaves at the war. Teacher said.”
The grandfather looked again, imagining the child trapped in the mother's womb. “You may be right Danny.” he said “Maybe they did follow those stars.”

Everything wise has already been said. Has it been heard?

Art is the scream of humanity. A piece of ourselves trying to break out of the confines of our bodies. Of our lives. Of what we have defined ourselves as.


The streaks in the mirror were cracks. Fragments of slanted reality. Her fingers rubbed themselves raw through the thick weave of the rag in her hand but they would not come off.
“They won't come off.” Rick said from the other side of the one room apartment. He rolled over in the bed and let the sheet fall off the surface of his chest. “You can't make a smooth surface out of something rough.”
Viki turned around and gave him a sardonic expression. “That's what glass is.”
He stared at her.
“A smooth surface made from something rough.”
“Oh.” he yawned. “Well you can't do it again. Not unless you have a furnace.”
Viki looked again at the mirror. The snag of green fabric from the cloth. The spec of blood from her finger. The way her crooked reflection made her left eye look three times the size of her mouth and her cheek look like she had a scar across it instead of yesterday's makeup. “Ok.” she said. “I’ll find one.”

The streets were dark, the stars a faint sprinkling of dust over the towering height of the skyscrapers. Viki clutched the heavy round form of the mirror under one arm and her heels clattered against the concrete. It was early morning but not quiet. A car's horn sounded from somewhere. The door to the pizzeria on her left opened and a young boy with dark curls and a dreamy expression shook a snowfall of flour out of a rug.
Ice. Viki was looking for a fire. Where could she find a furnace in the city?
The jeweler maybe. Still. There was something in the boy's eyes. He would know a fire if he saw one. He shook out his rug again. Bits of the powder got caught in the cracks of Viki's mirror.

He opened his eyes and the light pierced through to his mind. He closed them again, smarting from the pain. It had been a long night. He wasn't ready for a long morning.

Viki looked at the bright orange streaks the sun made across her mirror. Now there was a furnace. So far above her she couldn't see it. Only the reflection of it from millions of years before she had been born. The heavens. The only place the distance of time could be breached. Or was that light?

He slept on, dreaming deep where there was no sound and no sight. He tried to open his eyes again inside his mind but he only saw more darkness. More silence. More stillness. His own body would not move.

The plant thrived. Connie watched as the leaves opened up beneath the light of the sun. She watched as buds began to form and then fan out in a delicate trumpet shape. Soft sky colored petals on a long vine of green. A weed? The woman down the street said it was. She said morning glories would take over a garden and choke out all the wanted plants. Well none of the plants Connie had wanted seemed to want her and she wasn't sure that she didn't like the morning glories better anyways. So she watered them.

Viki stopped and let a taxi drive by. The tourists were across the street fingering through the glass beads and polished stones of the craft fair.
A smooth surface made from something rough. A stone. That was what had cracked the mirror to begin with. A decorative piece of earth she'd placed too close to the edge of her shelf.


He woke. The darkness was real this time instead of in his head. It had texture. Pieces of gray that formed shapes around him. The piano. The drapes Viki had closed before she left. Her shelf of nick-knacks. Recognizing what they were didn't make them any less sinister.

The glassblower twisted his lips and bent low toward the melted sand. Air trickled through his teeth and then it wasn't melted sand anymore. It was a boat. With a tiny flat sail the size of a paperclip. Viki looked at the miniature flame blower in his other hand then at her broken mirror. A piece of glass fell out and landed with a clink next to her pointed heel.
The glassblower smiled at her. “What can I do for you?”
Viki picked up the piece of glass, careful not to let it cut her finger. She held it up to the light, watched the sun warp into a piece of glitter, then looked at the glassblower. “Can you make me a piece this size? In violet?” She pulled another piece off the mirror. “One like this too. In amber.”

The morning glories died. Connie went into town to visit her mother for a few days and when she came back there was nothing left of them but a withered vine of gold that crumbled at her touch. Perhaps she ought to have asked the woman down the street to water them while she was gone but the spring had plummeted into a sweltering summer. They couldn't have had too much life left in them anyways

Viki hung the mirror back on the wall, admiring the scattering of color it cast over the window.
Rick looked up from his plate of eggs. “What's that?”
“My mirror.”
He made a gurgling sound as he swallowed. “What did you do to it? How will you see yourself?”
She turned to look at him. “The way I am.”

An unfinished story. A piece of nothing. A shriveled plant. What came before is what comes after.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F: Fertility (Literary Idol Challenge)

Spring is in the air. (well actually, at the moment fog is in their air but fog leads to rain and plants need rain to grow so . . . yeah. Spring. Just the colder part) The pollen. The growth. The richness of the land. Animal births. The festivals of fertility. Spring is so much more exciting than summer. Everything is shifting and anything could happen -- is about to happen.

For this this month's Literary Idol Challenge:

Write 50-1,000 word story that in some way ties into the ideas of birh, change, and the celebration of life.

Send your submission to:


before Monday the 24th, on which day I will post the submissions to be voted on. I know a lot of you will be pretty busy with the A-Z challenge so I tried to keep the theme pretty loose. You can always dig up something you've worked on in the past. If it doesn't obviously feature fertility you can include a sentence of two explaining how you feel it connects to the general idea. Thank you all so much! I hope to see some of your masterful storytelling soon!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E: Experience

There are many ways in which experience is important to a writer. The obvious way is being an experienced writer. Having lots of credentials, developing the skills to type out fascinating characters and smooth and riveting plots without having to think about it,

Or . . .

There is the less obvious but more important. Experiencing life.

Everyone experiences life to some degree but when was the last time you experienced the full potential of the exact time and place you were in? When was the last time you let your mind stop talking long enough to listen to your senses?

Taste the playful freshness of the wind toying with your hair while you wait for the bus. Allow the tingle of the curry in your lunch to salivate a moment on your tongue. Drink the sight of your loved ones when they come to greet you. Don’t just observe the world. Absorb it.

This is important to us as writers because every moment is potential fodder for a scene, a description, a fresh idea, an inspiration, but it is also important to us as human beings to allow our mind, body, and soul to connect and rejuvenate. To war with itself and to find peace.

What will you experience today? Go and embrace.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D: Dragons

Here There Be Dragons

The ocean's blue gleams against scales of green,
My reflection dripping in saliva.
Teeth gnash. I sharpen my claws for hunting.
My prey struggles against an armada
of chains welded with fear made mania.
I can not escape the shrieks of my heart,
self lit fires impeding nirvana.
I am imprisoned by a breath scorched art
of my creation; poison bled from my own dart.

Growling the secrets of safety, of lies,
My longing becomes a song of restrain.
Devouring the stinging salt of sighs,
a gust of destruction guards in my veins,
That place of horror where my mind still reigns,
A key buried deep in a weave of nest,
the chord pulling tight against heavy strains.
Here there be dragons, warring in my breast.
But past the sea's horizon lies eternal rest.

Monday, April 4, 2011

C: Costumes!

Ren Faire costumes to be exact, as worn over a very inspirational weekend. See that, see how its writing related and everything. Costumes can help put us in character for a day. And they're just plain fun.

Errol Flinn!

Winsom Wench

Gypsy Swordswoman

Lioness Courtier (who was also quite the heckler)

Belly dancers!

Unfortunately the Austrelian Bagpiper in the back did not come off stage to propose to me during his performance. I did however buy one of his band's CDs. Very fantastic music. If you like bagpipes and didjeridus I would highly recomend you check them out.

And wear lots of costumes. You should definately wear lots of costumes.

Edit: I put these pictures up just before class but then we were talking about reversal rituals in Cultural Anthro and some ideas started connecting that made too much sense (at the time) to not add.

First thought: Our culture only has two rerversal ritual holidays, Holloween and Madi Gras, whereas a couple centeries ago we had Twelfth Night, April Fools, Fat Tuesday, May Day, All Hollow's Eve and doezens of other depending on which region you lived in.

Second thought: Renaissance Faires are one example of ways we compensate for that. By wearing costumes and going back in time a pretending to be someone else for a day to bring ballance to our lives when we get back to it. I could go into how books are another way is the recent rise in video and online roll playing games etc. and which forms of compensation I think are better than others but . . . I'll spare you that. For the time being anyways.