Saturday, September 24, 2011

Satia Saturday Sampler

This is the WIP I'm supposed to be working on. First draft needing the tweaks and nudges to move it closer to something more. Something better. As usual, around 250 words of a much longer work--in this case an entire novel. Enjoy!

Michael reached for the doorknob, paused to take a deep breath before turning his wrist and pushing the door open. Almost immediately he could hear the swell of Maria Callas singing, the dense tones of Medea filtering from the speakers in the living room. He smiled knowing how some things never changed, wishing he knew how to make it different.

In a world of change, things that do not change stand out, sharp and violent.

The windows were closed, filtering out the sunlight of dusk. The room was heavy with the scent of spices, curry and cinnamon. Michael wondered if there was something simmering in the kitchen but he chose to follow the one source of artificial light reaching beyond the bedroom, marking a narrow path down the corridor. Walking past the large antique furniture, the inlaid and ornate decorations collected and kept for so many years, he moved with an uncanny silence.

The bedroom door was slightly ajar and, taking another deep breath, he pushed against it, his eyes adjusting to the interior dimness. This room was lavish and lurid in color, deep reds, furious oranges, rich plums, dazzled with gild and gold. The fabrics lush with texture, velvets and satins, silk and brocade. The bedroom was seductive, a sensory stimulus reminiscent of womb like safety.

The scents of jasmine and cardamom that Michael associated with Lillith were thick. From the bed he saw a movement muffled by the satin quilt and sheets. Lillith’s slender hand curled on one of the pillows, her pale skin glowing as if lit from within.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekly Quotes Part 38

In my experience, artists do want valid criticism.  We feel a sense of excitement and a willingness to work when a piece of criticism hits the mark and we intuitively feel it will make our work better.  (159)

Quoting Erica Jong
If sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities, it’s because they lead to the knowledge that you own your own body (and with it your own voice), and that’s the most revolutionary insight of all.  (164)

By breaking our life down into daily bites, we all have far more strength than we may realize.  It is possible to make the best of a difficult situation ‘one day at a time.’  (166)

So much of Julia Cameron’s rhetoric is rooted in 12-step programs and her sobriety.  Nevertheless, this quote is an interesting one and very true because it is easier to face even the most difficult situation if, instead of looking too far ahead or comparing the present moment with the past, one simply looks at the here and now.  The past cannot be changed; the future cannot be controlled.  But what one can do, what one should do, right now, or in this hour, is enough.  Especially when every moment feels like too much, doing even one little thing can be both overwhelming and enough. 

And I must always have a cat about.  A house isn’t a home without the ineffable contentment of a cat with its tail folded about its feet.  A cat gives mystery, charm, suggestion.  (77-78)

This quote reminded me of my daughter.  I was a die-hard cat person until Rob and Romanov came into my life.  Now I cannot imagine any other pet experience being so fulfilling.

A happy ending can never be artistic.  (134)

There was—there must be—something wrong with a girl when a man proposed marriage to her at first meeting.  And hurled heirloom goblets an inoffensive stoves.  (137)

I literally laughed aloud when I read this.  In fact, this concludes what is the funniest chapter of this novel, perhaps the funniest chapter I’ve ever read in a Montgomery novel.  A man proposes to Emily after only just meeting her and, when she naturally declines the proposal, he throws a glass across the room where it shatters against a stove.  In “inoffensive”  one at that because, truly, the stove did nothing to deserve having a goblet, heirloom or otherwise, to be thrown at it.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Because Rob Was Having a Bad Day

Rob had a bad day at work yesterday followed by a bad night’s sleep.  So I decided to bake him a spice cake.  I mixed it all up but, to be honest, it didn’t taste very spicy to me.  I ignored the temptation to add just a tad more because I figured that maybe the flavor would be released in the baking. 

It sure smelled good while it was baking.  While I was waiting for the timer to finish counting down, he sent me a text.  He’s having another bad day at work and even has to work through lunch.  Now I feel even better about my decision to surprise him with a cake.

They came out okay.  While they cooled, I made some butterscotch pudding to use as filling.  When I had originally suggested we bake a cake, I wanted a spicy cake with lemon but Rob didn't find this combination tempting and wanted butterscotch pudding instead.  Unfortunately, I didn't mix it long enough or well enough. Ironic really because normally I would do it by hand but I chose to use an electric mixer instead assuming it would do a better job.  I guess I'm too much of a hands on cook and using modern appliances is not my schtick.

The plan was to have the cake fully frosted by the time Rob came home but he worked through lunch and ended up coming home before I even had the layers cut down and the filling put between.  Oh well.  He was still pleasantly surprised.

It doesn't look as pretty as I would like but the whipped cream is butter-rum flavored and I dusted the top with a dash of nutmeg which, Rob informs me, you can smoke to get high.  Ummmm . . . okay . . . I'd rather just eat the cake myself but you know, some people have their own preferences.

And there's a big storm coming so I'm done for the day.  Feel free to drop by for a slice of cake.  There's plenty for one and all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Essentials: Books on Writing I Can't Live Without

Over on DIY MFA, Gabriela has posted a list of her favorite books on writing. I thought I would create a list of my own and share it with you.  My list only includes those books on writing which I own.  Library books I've read or have given away after reading are not included.  These are either the unread or part of my permanent library.

To be honest, some of these books overlap thematically so if you see a book you would move from one list to another, imagine my standing right behind you going, “I agree.”  But for the sake of oversimplifying, here is my list of lists.  I plan on updating this list as I go along because I’ll obviously continue to read books on writing and want to add or even replace recommendations as I go along.

Last Updated:  21 September 2011

For the non-poet in all of us
Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge
This quirky and inviting book on poetry is like an open invitation to writing poetry.  Anyone and everyone is welcome because the author doesn’t intellectualize the writing process.  Just have fun with words and see what happens.
Poetic Medicine by John Fox
Although Fox does suggest some technique in this book, the focus is on writing as a means of healing.  Filled with many examples from published and unpublished (until they appeared in this book, obviously) poets. 
For the poet in all of us
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
In only a few pages, Oliver manages to cover so much of the technique and craft of how to write poetry that one wonders where other poetry books are so long.  She hits all of the essential points and offers enough examples to drive each point home perfectly.
The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael Bugeja
This book is designed to walk the reader from coming up with original ideas through the process of writing, revising, and finally putting together a collection of poems.   The exercises also have beginner and advanced levels so this is a book that can be used time and time again.
One more recommendation regarding poetry.  I always tell anyone and everyone interested in writing poetry to read poetry.  But don’t go grabbing Shakespeare, Browning, Keats, Eliot, Whitman, or Dickinson.  While I encourage any serious poet to read any and all of the above (and many more), I urge anyone interested in writing poetry to read contemporary poets.  If you don’t know where or how to begin, try reading some contemporary poetry anthologies, find a few poets you especially admire, and buy the poetry books by those favorites. 
Fiction (short story/novel/etc.)
Writing Fiction Gotham Writers’ Workshop
This a collection of essays by different writers, each explaining a different aspect of writing story.  Using a single short story as an example, the reader learns to read critically and analytically for effect with the intention of carrying this knowledge over into future writing projects.
Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White
This is a classic with good reason.  A short but thorough list of basic grammar rules.  Everyone should read this if only because even the best grammar check is horribly unreliable.
There are so many options that I don’t think there’s one that’s better than the rest.  The one I use is the same one I’ve been using since my son won a copy in a spelling bee.  Of course, there are online dictionaries now so one doesn’t even have to flip a page but there’s still nothing quite like looking up a word and discovering three or other surprising ones alongside it.
When you know you haven’t found the mot juste, a thesaurus is your best friend.  It can also become a crutch, making your voice sound false or, worse, pretentious.  A useful tool but not one to be over-utilized.

Unstuck by Jane Anne Staw, Ph. D.
We all get creatively blocked at times and this book has well-grounded advice along with uncomplicated writing exercises that should help work through the block without adding to it.  A book I’ve recommended to quite a few blocked writers.
The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict
Throughout the book, Benedict uses examples from literature that highlight the potential of turning the passionate into the profound.  If every scene should communicate something about your characters, this book will show you how your characters can express themselves sexually without being gratuitous.

Writers on Writing
On Writing by Stephen King
I am not even a fan of King’s work but I enjoyed reading his thoughts on writing.  No, it didn’t give solid practical advice but it is interesting to get some insight into how even a prolific, published author can struggle over a story and how self-sabotaging behaviors can manifest even after success.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
I recently reread this and I enjoyed Lamott’s blunt take on the writing life.  She pulls no punches but, because they are cloaked in self-deprecating humor and self-doubt, the reader takes the truth for what it is.  

Inspiration for the Writer
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
This book is perhaps the book to which I give credit for most of my recent writing (and my divorce, but that’s another story).  The numerous exercises and the daily and weekly practices Cameron recommends are easy to do and infinitely beneficial.
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Every now and again, I simply have to re-read this book because I always find something new in what Goldberg says.  I’ve even been so inspired by this book that more than once I’ve written something I think is really good because something she said sparked my muse.

The New Diary by Tristine Rainer
This is another of those books I’ve read and reread with delight.  There are journaling exercises and suggestions that can’t help but inspire anyone to find a blank book and begin a practice of writing.  And I don’t know any successfully published writer who doesn’t keep a notebook/journal of some sort. 
Journal to the Self by Kathleen Adams
Another practical guide for journaling.  I typically recommend this book for anyone who is bored with their own journaling because the journaling exercises in this book are so easy to use and inevitably kick-start me into a renewed commitment to my own practice of writing daily.
Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson
I found this book on a bargain table and, after reading it, went back and bought every copy I could find which I then gave to my friends and my mother.  This book is one of my favorites because it is approachable without being overwhelming. 
A blank book
Whether lined or unlined, a blank book of some sort is a must have.  Or you can go electronic and keep your journal on a computer.  However, I still think there’s nothing quite like carrying a book with you so that whenever you have a flash of inspiration, it’s there, ready to receive your ideas. 
Reading published journals can also be an inspiration.  I recommend this with trepidation because reading some writer’s journals can feel intimidating.  Frankly, my journal entries rarely sound as insightful as Anne Frank’s, as intellectual as Sylvia Plath’s, or as interesting as Anaïs Nin’s.  Nevertheless, I plod on with my own journaling and am inspired by these other journals.  So if you think you can set your journaling ego aside long enough to appreciate someone else’s journals then I’d suggest seeking out published journals as well.  
Writing Your Life by Lou Willett Stanek, Ph.D.
This is a great book to help the writer move from a private format (journaling) to a published one.  Whether writing a short story based on your life or a personal essay or even an entire memoir, Stanek’s approach is approachable and applicable.

As if the above were not enough (because I’m not including the many books on writing I’ve read that I didn’t like and/or do not own), here is a list of books I own but have not read.

The Art of the Book Proposal by Eric Maisel, Ph.D.
Author 101: Bestselling Book Proposals by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman
Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman
Creating Fiction edited by Julie Checkoway
Escaping Into the Open by Elizabeth Berg
How to Write a Poem by Lawrence Jay Dessner (this book is out of print)
Memoirs of the Soul by Nan Phifer
The Practice of Poetry edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell
The Right to Write by Julia Cameron
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
What If? By Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter
The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron
Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway
Writing in Flow by Susan K Perry, Ph.D.
Writing Metrical Poetry by William Baer
Writing Personal Essays by Sheila Bender
Writing the Wave by Elizabeth Ayres

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Today's words are all brought to you the novel Emily's Quest by Lucy Maud Montgomery

n the Plesaunce Knostrop Hall Leed 1875 - John Atkinson Grimshaw -
Image from this site
An enchanted pleasaunce, full of rich, sensuous colours and wonderful spiritual shadows. (4)

(obsolete) The region of a garden with the sole purpose of giving pleasure to the senses, but not offering fruit or sustenance.
(obsolete) An area distinctly separate from a garden reserved for aesthetic planting that shares the same bedding properties.
Definition from this site

One of the joys of reading classics is finding new words and the occasional obsolete word is even more delightful a discovery. And this word, falling away into the archaic, is such a lovely one. Albeit, I can see why it fell away. Nevertheless, I think that the idea of pleasure nuanced within this word is just wonderful.

Image from this site
Laura’s tears and Cousin Jimmy’s pleadings and Dr. Burnley’s execrations and Dean Priest’s agreements budged her not a jot. (55)

The act of cursing; a curse dictated by violent feelings of hatred; imprecation; utter detestation expressed.
That which is execrated; a detested thing.
Definition from this site

I tell you, if I can’t find a way to weave this into my own writing, then I’ve become downright lazy. Unfortunately, I could not find an image that really described the word, especially within the context of family, friends, and medical professional arguing over the way a treatment should be given to someone. And execrate is powerful with meaning, especially given the more polite society in which this novel is solidly rooted.  (And again, I'm taking liberties with the image but this one cracks me up.)

Image from this site
But now in these drear weeks of pain and dread she shared the hope of the Patmian seer. (56)

I hesitate to share this one because the plain and simple fact is I cannot find any definition or explanation for this phrase. Who is “the Patmian seer”? When I try to search for it quotes from this novel and another novel by the same author are plentiful but nothing that says to what this allusion is referring. This is so frustrating. No doubt there is a story behind this that I cannot discover. If anyone else can shed some light for me, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank heaven, Emily, you and I were never the miauling kind. (209)

Another word for meow
Definition from this site

Okay. Who didn’t see that coming? It certainly sounds right on every level—not only does it read like any onomatopoeia word ought to read but contextually it makes sense. You don’t even have to have read the novel to immediately get the meaning.  

Image from this site

Happy Anniversary Again

Believe it or not, Rob remembers the strangest things like . . . today is the anniversary of his proposing to me.  Six years ago today he proposed to me and we've been married for almost 1.5 years now.  Can't say we rush into things but you also can't say we aren't happy.