Thursday, May 26, 2011

Making the Most of It

May 18, 2011

After a long day spent at the computer writing, editing, researching and yes, who doesn’t benefit from mini facebook breaks to tickle the muse, I still haven’t made it to the garden for a weed whacking workout of weightlifting proportion. I decide to hit the gym. Clothes, shoes, check. Water, towel, iPod, check. Extricate myself from my daughter’s cat. Close the door. I forgot, no car, no truck. Nothing with four wheels.

What do the resourceful do? Trot on down to the beach for a Riverdance power walk. High tide. Is anyone seeing a trend? Having advised flexibility earlier, I heed my own advice. There is a beach if one wishes to power walk the mile and a half.

I find myself once again on New Brighton Beach, the home of my rehab and recovery on a beauteous spring day. Almost three months to the day since my accident. But unlike those painful walks of the past, wearing that figure 8, I am pain free. I run. In the sand and the sun. Running. My triumph and exaltation are contagious as people smile and wave at me. Chariots of Fire playing in my head. Rocky at the top of the steps.

Where my fantasy ends, someone else’s begins. Approaching the landing, three adorable, perky pep girls, in matching royal blue one pieces with tiny black shorts jog onto the beach. Youthful, unblemished, polite, probably valedictorians majoring in some third world language to better the world; minoring in hot waxing for spending money. They kick off their flip flops, squealing with maidenly glee as they run into the frigid waves of Monterey Bay.

You cannot deny it, they are cute. And I’m deflated.

My husband says I still look that way to him, seventeen, like the day we met, a million years ago. He’ll get lucky tonight. Gullible grandma. Running free on the beach.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

“Peasants make good traction.” A rude line from one of my books. Maybe it’s true, I haven’t asked my horse, but I believe he’d disagree. There wasn’t sufficient damage for my insurance to cover implants or a face lift. More insult to injury. I swear I didn’t look like this went I went out (liar, liar breeches on fire). A lumpy souvenir permanently attached to my right clavicle reminds me I’m not Super Woman. Physical therapy keeps my rotator cuff, well, rotating.

For those of you plagued with fear issues or maligned with chronic pain, there is life back in the saddle (or behind the wheel, handle bars or on the mats, whatever your pleasure). I’m riding again with renewed and expanded confidence, with a truly forgiving and oh so sensitive horse.

Thank you very much to my devoted husband, Russ, who not only did all the driving and ER waiting, watching and working, sweating and worrying, but had to tend to our tres caballos alone during my recovery, trying diligently to pave the way for my successful return to the barn. June tended me with her gifted touch, heavenly hands. A clinic with Jim Barrett and lesson(s) with Jon Barrett helped bridge my equine communication from heart to hand to seat furthering Desejo’s and my partnership. Friends like Susan, Roberta, Troy, and Sharon kept the equine dream real and attainable. Others kept me laughing and crying, expanding my lungs so pneumonia didn’t have a chance Ken, Trey, Ben...keep serving it up. My writer’s groups provided not only a forum, but an escape, to live beyond the hurt and heart break, thanx Cathy, Eiko, Connie, Dolphin, Paula and Carol. Just goes to prove it takes a village to heal an idiot!

Julie and Julie reminded me fear is always lurking.

But its power comes from hiding in the dark. I had deeper fears than getting back in the proverbial saddle. Riding again was immaterial by comparison. We all need to face the storm, find the courage to express the things that scare us to the core and attend to them. Thank you again to Russ. Not only for being my hero, but for helping me be yours.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Editor Lesley Kallas Payne has been working with me on my latest book, still unnamed, and has shined the beacon of truth on what is lacking in my story—the story. (faltering drum roll and cymbals) Although I believed I was utilizing Martha Alderson’s book, Blockbuster Plots: Pure and Simple, dutifully charting and rearranging the chapters I still lost the thread of the theme bearing Eloise and my readers to the exalted conclusion they all deserve.

My other glaring difficulty is shifting POV. I love knowing what characters are thinking. My favorite books have multiple POV’s. Written by masters of the craft. (again with the deprecating drum roll)

Lesley provides me with resources and examples to strengthen my writing. Focus on the heroine’s journey. This book was supposed to be a simple sojourn exploring environmental consequences as three families struggle to survive on the dwindling resources of Europe’s deforestation. Prodigal Summer in the Middles Ages. But there isn’t enough suffering, or tension. Hmmm…Poor Eloise, I must stick more pins in her, how will she evolve and ultimately change?

What will Eloise do? I find clarity riding, just Desejo and me out on the trails, exploring and playing out the heroine’s journey. For Eloise, anything is possible in the saddle. Like Eloise, I can think in the saddle, or rather dream.

But that all came crashing down, literally, for me this weekend, when a second involuntary dismount, dragging, trampling, then ditched as my noble steed ran for the barn without me. A broken right clavicle, bruised ribs and sternum, as well as broken heart I had plenty of time to think sans saddle as I hiked the mile of shame back to the barn. Not a heroine’s journey I wish to write about. And there would be plenty more pins stuck in me as the nurse failed repeatedly at the IV. Pain relief denied.

Recuperation will give me the chance to concentrate on craft, play out the scenarios from the safety of my home, listening not only for the voices of my stories but the voices of reason and knowledge to guide me back to the barn.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Why Medeival?

The has a page “Why Medieval?” It invites readers (scholars, teachers, fans, gamers, writers) to answer that question.

I am working on my own writer’s insight.

I’m a fiction writer, I hear voices.

I eagerly press myself against stone ramparts, feeling for distant accents.

I want to hear medieval voices.

Same with castles. I want to touch and be touched, to engulf myself in the surroundings, crying, shaking, panting, lusting, and dreaming of past lives working, breathing, laboring and feasting.

Only the Middle Ages tingles my soul and tantalizes my spirit and enters my page with such force.

Maybe it started with Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” when I was five, blue gown, grey horse, orgasmic castles; images I still fantasize about.

There was the forbidden fruit aspect; my mom hated the Middles Ages, giving no encouragement for enlightenment in the time, church or horses.

A Medieval fetish was born; sketch books and art projects reflect the obsession. In my early thirties I started hearing voices, nearly twenty years later

I am still writing their stories of love and lust in Medieval Ireland.

That answers the question.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19, 2010

My medieval Christmas music is still playing even though it is well past Thanksgiving and I can officially have modern Christmas music blaring. What could be more appropriate than to finally work on a Christmas themed story in Dahlquin? Last week at Monday Night writer’s group we did a writing prompt and I launched into the beginnings of just such a Yuletide tale.

I already know Eloise gives birth to her first daughter in December, what better Yuletide to commemorate? I know what music she would be listening to and singing and teaching her children. I’ll revisit the holiday celebrations of the period (always fun). But the stress, the conflict, the tension…what is at stake on every page, in every scene? Unlike her contemporary sisters whose holiday conflicts include searching for a parking space, hunting a ‘must have’ toy for her children, or the elusive perfect gift for her hard-to-shop-for father-in-law, nay, what confrontations must thirteenth century Eloise face to keep readers turning the pages.

Disease swept through the castle last winter, so plague is out. Rape, pillage and mayhem, not until Christmas day--no wait that is our house!

Her parents must be called away, to a dying sister north in the O’Connor’s lands. Roland, too, must leave mighty Dahlquin Castle during this most festive season, leaving Eloise rotund and physically vulnerable.

Never one to enjoy her ninth month incarceration, Eloise embraces her freedom forming a children’s choir, reciting Christmas stories and Yuletide tales, planning the banquets and feasts as the weather grows ever colder and the travel more perilous. Holding to the belief her mother will return in time to deliver this fourth child. Roland will find Val and both will be warmed and well fed through Twelfth Night.

With Eloise’s parents and husband absent, and her due to deliver any day, a mercenary force instigated by the opportunistic Scragmuirs lay siege upon Dahlquin Castle.

This is to be a short story. Short. Story. Requiring me to have a beginning, middle and end, a theme and a building story line with more and more at stake with every scene. A Scene Tracker and Plot Planner, with a viable yarn to spin.

Can I do this? Will I rise to the challenge as I know Eloise will? I better get started.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I had not planned for Pearl Harbor Day to be the theme of this blog post, but I felt so unpatriotic ignoring it I was compelled to write about it.

Actually, I remember Pearl Harbor Day every year, even when it is not printed on a calendar. (One Pearl Harbor Day I attended a surfing contest) I’m not sure why I’m so devoted to remembering the day. Perhaps it’s because I love history, or that I have seen the FDR footage so many times, or because “From Here to Eternity” left an indelible mark upon me. Or perhaps it’s because Pearl Harbor was a turning point in the 20th century for American and global history—the point when we entered World War II. Of course, my interest is enhanced by the wealth of film and photos that keep the events alive and potent. Literature and movies continue to build and perpetuate the stories of the war’s military and political giants as well as those of the common solider and civilian—stories that span continents. The Diary of Anne Frank and Patton are but two of thousands. Atonement, by Ian McEwan still speaks to the spiritual depth of those war years. Whatever the reasons, December 7 has always been a day I commemorate.

Is there a message in all this? Is there a reason I am compelled to remember this monumental day, perhaps, neglecting other infamous days of equally great significance? Born in 1955, I didn’t experience Pearl Harbor Day first-hand. For my generation, it’s not a landmark day like that of the Kennedy shooting, Woodstock or December 8, 1980, when John Lennon was murdered. But Pearl Harbor and WWII formed the days of my life—through media and politics—and that of the western world as I came to know it. To this day, I still view World War II as an epic battle between the forces of good and evil, dark and light, freedom and persecution, as opposed to other more ambiguous disasters that have plagued us nationally and globally.

This December 7 I will attend my Tuesday Afternoon Writer’s Group and my daughter will attend Grad Fest in preparation for her college commencement in May. My husband will see patients. But it won’t be just another Tuesday, because I will remind them it is a day that will not be forgotten in this household.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

San Francisco Writing for Change conference was last weekend at the Hilton on Kearney and Washington, and as usual these exceptional and diligent organizers provided diverse and inspiring workshops as well as talented and varied presenters and speakers. Although the focus was primarily non-fiction writing with the goal of changing the world, there was a generous amount of cross over for the fiction writer like me, although the category of novels that changed the world was lofty and oh so very inspiring, it was also intimidating.

Such great books and driven authors, Charles Dickens illuminating the dark, dour misuses of children during the industrial revolution, the lonely and ignored souls depicted by John Steinbeck, and Harper Lee’s quiet dignity and resolve in To Kill a Mockingbird. This is the short list, to be sure, of literary giants and the heroic stories they were and are compelled to tell.

Never have I sat down to the mighty keyboard with the sole intention of highlighting a wrong doing or travesty in the human condition, expecting my written words to rally people to political or social action. Originally I believed I was writing entertaining stories about things I loved, horses, hounds, and of course, my medieval fetish for castles and cathedrals. The characters spoke and I listened and wrote.

In the end they told me of injustice and heart ache, solitude and earning, and over and over again, the desire to be heard, and the freedom to choose for oneself has become the resounding theme throughout my books. I invite the reader to explore my characters’ world, their adventures and conflicts, religious convictions and heretical pragmatism, love, lust and the hierarchy of conflicted loyalty: Family, God or crown, hopefully with as much laughter and tears as my characters have shared with me. Rousing entertainment and thoughtful reflection are my deepest wish in writing these stories.