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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Too long have my blogs gone empty, but now that the dark days of menopause seem to have passed just as Europe’s feudal system rose from the dark void of Rome’s demise, I am happy to report that I am again hearing voices, yes, the schizophrenia of fiction writing has returned in full Dolby surround sound and with all the crisp Technicolor of a blue ray peacock.

And that said, I will share the absolute delight I receive when I am happily writing away, engrossed with my beloved characters in medieval Connacht, Ireland, when a conversation will progress onto subjects and about things I didn’t know until my characters surprised me with their insight and candor, my fingers gaily typing away as fast as possible so I know what will happen next. Does anyone else do that? Seriously, isn’t this normal for fiction writing? Or is this why I find myself continually in new dilemmas for my characters to over come, just so I can find the thread of theme I thought I wished to explore?

Is there any more joy in writing than having a total stranger walk out of the woods (literally in my case), into a scene with a voice and presence so enigmatic and engaging that you have to laugh at the absurdity, and write all the more to try and figure out who, what, when, how and why. I just wanted to say: “Who the hell are you and why have you barged in on my story?” Turns out this particular character helped propel my story, getting me back on track, keeping it true to the theme, while enchanting me with the wonder of my mental stability. This guy was not to be denied, luckily my other characters like him too.

Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Isn’t this where the inspiration and stories come from? Jean Auel heard a voice, felt a character, someone who was ‘Other’, didn’t fit in, launching Ms. Auel on a quest to discover who she was, where and when she lived, and ultimately delivered to us the Children of the Earth Series, with all the grandeur and magnitude of the Ice Age.

Another favorite author, Diana Gabaldon, was lead on a bonny quest to unravel the complicated time traveling lives of Claire and Jaime all because she was intrigued by a kilt wearing character on the vintage Dr. Who series. Who indeed, would have thought such an episode could have lead to the whole Rising of ’45 to our own Revolutionary War, with more details and intrigues than I even remember.

I don’t know if James Clavell suffered this affliction or not. I can only wonder.

There it is, I have no secrets, maybe not so funny as the honest woman on a You Tube post, but I’m not ashamed to admit I hear voices, and as long as they don’t direct me to live under a bridge --- wait, they are encouraging me to research the Pilgrim’s Way to Canterbury --- I think I will be alright.