Monday, May 31, 2010

Everything coming up roses

I had a great couple of days. Here's my check list:
* Revise short story ("Irene's Calling") and submit to contest.
* Revise opening chapter of Sea Daughters and submit first page for contest.
* Revise mid-point chapter for crit group.
* Email publicist for book for blog interview.
* Blog. Twice.
* Finish reading The Dead-Tossed Waves. Start The Demon's Covenant.
So that calls for lush bunches of roses for me and you, because now I'm going to post a slew of good news from writers in the blogging world.
Suzanne Hayze, who captivates readers of her blog with gorgeous, visceral slices of life, has signed with Liz Jote of Objective Entertainment. Woo-hoo! She's also started a new joint blog, Writing Out the Angst with her crit partner Amanda Bonilla. The new blog is a place for writers to talk about the roller coaster ride of getting published. They're kicking things off with a cool contest to win a critique of your query, which is the crucial gateway to finding an agent.
Frankie Diane Mallis got the Call, too, and signed with Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown. Yay! Frankie's holding a 500 followers contest to give away some sizzling signed books. But even if you are anti-book-contest (is that possible?) you must go read her hilarious post starring Princess Buttercup and Westley. Go. Read.
Megan Rebekah is celebrating 500 followers with an awesome giveaway contest of books and critique. Megan's blog is always a good read and her crit partners are so awesome I follow them all. You can't go wrong with these bloggers.
Yvonne Osborne at the Organic Writer tagged me with a meme. I did it before, so I won't repeat. But you must go check her answers. Fierce and breathtaking like her poetry.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Honored dead

I can think of no one more eloquent to speak for those who die in war than Abraham Lincoln. So in honor of Memorial Day, I give you some of the greatest words ever written: the Gettysburg Address. (Image credit: CORBIS)
* Postscript: These words were spoken 157 years ago and still have the power to transfix me, bringing me close to tears for men I never knew. President Lincoln proves that honest and heartfelt words can, indeed, long endure.
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. "

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Don't piss off the fairies

We learn young that fairies are a flighty lot. Some stories present them as capricious, others depict the malice that lies in some fey. As a reminder to writer-me, I keep on my desk a marble plaque that reads: Don't Piss Off the Fairies. I mean, I have enough work to envision a story, write it well and find someone who wants to publish it, without fairies pulling my hair or worse.
Why these photos? Because when I shot them, getting down low into grass and flowers and dew, I thought of fairies. They reside in the hidden places, in the mysterious realms of our minds.

Without imagination people would eat, sleep, procreate and that would be it. No art. No stories. No music.
For me, speculative fiction is the ultimate delight. It's not that I don't love a gorgeous piece of literary fiction or admire a gritty reality story from time-to-time, but my greatest reading pleasure is found in fantasy, science fiction, dystopian and magical realism. Let me step out of this world into another where the dragons or demons or Terminators are terrifying but can be outwitted.
Sometimes the weight of our world with it's financial crashes, corporate crime, man-made ecological disasters, genocides and more can be too depressing to read about yet again in the news, let alone a novel. I think the draw of spec fiction is those same topics can be there but in alien format so we are eager to fight them with the protagonist. I think that's why fairy tales and other fantasy forms of writing, even allegory, have worked for so long. We step outside our own problems, anxiety and fear. And with the characters we find ways to cope, we conquer the unknown. It's a psychological tool presented in a fun package, if you will.
Do you think this is true? Do you read/write spec fiction and why?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

From one thing to another

A cold front blew in today (Sunday) in Southern California. Big-shouldered white clouds sometimes tangled up with soot-black ones. But I had decided last night to go to the beach. I wanted to watch the NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) at Huntington Beach. On my way there, big splats of rain hit the windshield of my little red Miata, but I kept going.
Part of this was research for my WIP, so I had to do it, even if, dang, I had to go to the beach, you know?
When I got to Huntington, it was sunny but blowing like a wind tunnel. All I got to see were the sponsor booths and the judges stand being dismantled. The event was postponed due to dangerous, choppy conditions caused by the wind. I could've been bummed, but my favorite wetlands is just up the highway from this pier. So off I went to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

The wind howled across these inlets, creating a corrugated surface to the water. Least terns wheeled above. Seagulls took off, stalled and were pushed backwards, landing in defeat. They seemed a bit pissed about it, squawking and jostling.

After an ungraceful landing in the heavy wind, a great egret stalked a marshy area. A brown pelican sat out the blustery conditions. Some tiny bird I didn't recognize spiraled out of sight.

Even tiny woolly caterpillars got blown sideways and tumbled over as they tried to cross the dirt.
More than 300 species of birds have been sighted in the 1,700 acres protected here. About 95% of California's wetlands have been destroyed by development, making this a treasure. And, believe me, it had to be fought for. It had been dammed up, leased for oil drilling and slated for development.

Despite my jacket and hair whipping, my fingers chilled, I had a fabulous time. Sometimes being in wild conditions makes me feel most alive. It was jarring and spectacular.
And then I thought of the Gulf Coast and the oil that is now covering pelicans and eggs, the dead fish washing to shore, the oyster beds destroyed. And I am sad. All the natural beauty and wonder of this planet we hold in our hands. Whatever happens is our responsibility and our legacy.
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children. --Haida Indian saying.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I am blogger, see me fly

iridescent flash,

hummingbird whirs and flits to

its spider-silk nest

A splash of haiku for my blogging friends. This post is all about the wonderful people I meet, like Julie Dao, who writes exquisitely and plays violin, too. Thank you, Julie for this pretty Blogger Buddy Award.

And thank you to Liza Carens Salerno for the Versatile Blogger. I like that it embraces poems, stories, messages and essays--all of which I enjoy.
Nisa at Wordplay, Swordplay gave me the Silver Lining award, which is all about keeping positive on this writing journey. Since I've snagged that one before, I just say a big thank you to Nisa.
Janet Johnson tagged me with a meme. Now, it's supposed to be all serious and getting-to-know-you and stuff. But I can't help it. I've got to have a bit of fun. So hang your disbelief on the coat rack and grab a cup of coffee.
Where were you five years ago?
I'd been shanghaied off the coast of California and was chained to a work desk in the windowless bowels of a brig. I labored from sunup to sundown forced to write in inverted-pyramid style. It has led to a tendency to spill the beans.
Where would you like to be in five years?
In a tree house in a redwood forest by the sea. I will listen to the woodpeckers drilling and the owls hooting, hear the rustle of breeze through branches, write on a little deck with the horizon shimmering with sun on water.
What's on your to-do list today?
Write the Great American YA Novel. Eat chocolate. Repeat.
What snacks do you enjoy?
See question above.
What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
Start a publishing house and invite you all to submit. Repeat.
Lastly, if you haven't checked out the new blog by four debut dystopian authors, you simply must. (News flash just added: Elana Johnson's debut dystopian novel has sold to Simon Pulse!)
And if you've been waylaid in the distant past or far future, here's another news flash: Do the Write Thing for Nashville raised about $74,000! Huge kudos to Myra McEntire, Amanda Morgan and Victoria Schwab.
On to the linkage! As you all know, awards and memes are meant to be passed along, and I am a very bad rule follower. This time, I decided to show appreciation to five bloggers newly met and let them choose any or all of the awards they please. And they are free to be creative in what they do with them. In fact, they don't have to do anything at all. Consider this string-free.
But please check out these great folks whose blogs are quite diverse:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chat it up in Let's Talk Blogfest

Today is the super fabulous Let's Talk Blogfest organized by Roni at Fiction Groupie. More than eighty--yes, 80+ people are signed up to show off dialogue-driven scenes. What a way to get an earful. Come on, let's talk.

I've been working like crazy on revisions of my Sea Daughters novel. For this fest, though, I decided to pull Harper's Stone, a high fantasy, off the shelf and offer up a scene between the protagonist Fiona and her dying great aunt. I'd love to hear if you think it works.

Lady Celia’s eyes fluttered open and her frail hand, dwarfed by its signature ruby ring, reached up to latch onto Fiona’s wrist. Her fingers tightened like a knot in a rope. “Are we alone?”

With a slight nod of her head, Fiona dismissed the servant hovering nearby.

“There is much I should have told you, but I wished you'd become more mature, more in control of your emotions." Lady Celia's voice, though weak, still carried a sting. "Now, I fear I waited too long.”

“Please, don’t speak so, Aunt. The physician will be here soon, and he will set you right again.” Fiona wanted to believe her own words but feared she was about to lose the only relative she had. Then she'd be at the king's mercy.

“Listen carefully. I must give you something before the physician arrives.” Lady Celia let go of Fiona’s wrist and tried to pull off the ruby ring but seemed to lack strength. “Take the ring off. Do it quickly.”

Fiona eased off the gold band set with the enormous stone. It rested in the palm of her hand--a flawless, sparkling gem the color of richest blood held in place by fasteners shaped to resemble clawed fingers. “Where shall I put it, Aunt?”

“Secrete it in your bodice.”

As Fiona hesitated, her great-aunt’s voice cut the air. “Do it. At once. No one must know you have it, just as the harp is your secret. They are your heirlooms and yours alone.” Stringing together several sentences depleted the old woman. She sank into her feather pillow, breathing raggedly.

Fiona bent close to hear a whisper: “Put the ring on a chain and keep it near your heart always. It will help protect you. I believe that to be so. It must be so.”

A chill swept through Fiona. “Please, Aunt, try to rest. The physician is sure to arrive any moment.” She glanced over her shoulder, wishing help would walk in.
“They are coming for me.” Great Aunt Celia sighed, as though at peace.
“Who?” Fiona turned her head again, but there was no one but the two of them.

“My work is done.” The old woman jerked and half-sat before dropping back against the pillow. “But, no, I didn’t prepare you enough. I leave you helpless as a fawn without a mother.”
At the word ‘mother,’ Fiona felt that old chasm in her open—the longing and hurt. This could be her last chance to find out what had been kept from her. “My mother. Was she your niece? What was her name? What became of her?”

Lady Celia’s eyes, which had been staring at nothing, focused on Fiona again. “There can be no harm in telling you now, but you mustn't share it with anyone. Ever. I'm not your blood relative, at all. I'm a guardian. Your family--their names, their history--all passed from this world.”

An ache blossomed in Fiona’s chest. What little she thought she knew about who she was vanished. She felt like the empty shell of a bird’s egg, lying broken and wiped clean of whatever had been there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

One sentence game

Every revision is an opportunity.
*Suzyhayze has started a one-sentence tag game. Write a one-sentence post and link back to her. Mine tells you what I'm doing! And, by the way, I didn't make that up. I read something like it somewhere, sometime, and it's become my mantra. Have fun, and happy weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Establishing roots

I can't tell you how glorious it is to have two face-to-face critique groups--people who know what it means to write, who are willing to tackle anything and who become invested in your characters and stories. I feel very fortunate.
This is one of the weeks when I've had back-to-back meetings of those groups, so I'm particularly inspired and energized at the moment.
One of the topics that arose was motivation and how it's important for the author to know the motivation of even minor characters. Motivation gives a story roots, kind of like the behind-the-scenes backstory and character sketches you do for your own understanding.
And, yeah, I put up a photo I took of some gnarly roots. Many times we don't get to see the way tree roots twist and intertwine and reach out, how rugged and strong and purposeful they are since they are burrowed into the earth. (This is a Montezuma cypress, which grow to enormous size and old age, perhaps thousands of years old.)
So the reader sees the tree/story and, hopefully, admires its amazingness. But the writer knows all the deep, hidden roots that allow it to be strong and grow. I can hear somebody saying, 'But motivation is a drive. It's movement toward a goal, not a tree.' Yes, it is a propelling force for the characters, but, as a writerly tool, it's part of a story's foundation.
I attended a SCBWI conference that included a round-table discussion with Alyson Noel. One of the things that stuck with me was that she goes back through every scene to be sure that something changes for the character and moves toward the story's end point, at which time the main character should be different than at the start. If this doesn't happen, she alters or cuts the scene. Since I'm deep in revisions, I'm on the lookout for scenes that do not propel the character's development. If we think of our writing as a labor-of-love, I suppose such pruning could be called tough love. I want the strongest story I can write. What about you?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Winners, yay!

My lovely daughter brought me those gorgeous ginger flowers and took me to see Iron Man 2 and dinner and then was my draw-person for the non-high-tech, completely random contest draw yesterday.
I wanted this to be homey, so I typed up each name--some of them thirteen times, but I love you guys! Then I cut the name strips up and mixed them thoroughly in this cottage-box. And the winners are:
Anna Staniszewski
Yat-Yee Chong
Storyqueen (Shelley Moore Thomas)
Anna's name was drawn first so she gets first pick of the gift card, critique or books. Yat-Yee is second and then Shelley. I will email all of you, too. Thanks everyone for entering. I had so much fun reading the haiku and comments.
And now I'm off in a rush to one of my face-to-face critique groups, so I will be back to respond to any comments later. Happy day, all!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Get it write

Most of you have, no doubt, already heard of the amazing auction site Do the Write Thing for Nashville set up by authors Victoria Schwab, Myra McEntire and Amanda Morgan. But if you haven't, please click on the link and check out the signed books, manuscript critiques and agent phoners that are up for bid. The monies raised (more than $9,000 so far) will aid flood victims in and around Nashville.
I will announce winners of my first-year blog anniversary contest Monday. Thank you so much to all who entered. Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A winner and a new contest!

Can anyone guess--by looking at the seahorse-riding girl I put on this post--who won a copy of THE STOLEN ONE by Suzanne Crowley?

I chose the winner in a random drawing, but when I saw who it was, I just had to do something sea-whimsical. Anyone who follows her blog can probably guess:

Email me your snail-mail address, Karen, and happy reading!

Monday's Spreading the Awesome blog event was an incredible way to start this week, which is my anniversary of becoming a blogger and starting Talespinning. What a year it has been!

The best part has been meeting so many wonderful writer/bloggers. From each of you I have learned something or enjoyed a laugh or a celebration. I thank everyone who has become a follower or left a comment. You're all amazing!
But enough of the speeches and on with the celebratory contest. I will choose three winners. First randomly-picked name gets first choice of one prize, second gets second, etc.
Because people have different desires I want to leave it open which type of prize suits you. So here are the choices:

* $20 gift card for Amazon, Borders, Barnes&Noble or Powell's.

* A critique of first 15 pages or opening chapter of your work-in-progress.

* Choose any two of the following books:
DULL BOY (Sarah Cross)

EYES LIKE STARS (Lisa Mantchev)

ETERNAL (Cynthia Leitich Smith)

BLUE MOON (Alyson Noel)

THE DEAD & THE GONE (Susan Beth Pfeffer)

+1 comment
+2 new follower
+3 already following
+4 blog, tweet, sidebar, whatever
+5 write me a haiku and put it in the comments
Add 'em up with your comment, and put your email if I'm not going to find it by clicking your name. I'm going to leave this contest up until midnight Saturday, May 8.


Those of you who've been visiting me awhile know I love haiku--the three-line, five-seven-five-count Japanese poetry that distills a moment in nature. They go something like this:

dawn tide washes in

angel-wing shells and remnants

of forgotten dreams


So what's the tide washing in for you lately?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spreading the awesome for books

I don't remember why I bought THE STOLEN ONE by Suzanne Crowley. It may have been a rec from another blogger, or I might have been drawn to the cover and jacket blurb. It sat in my to-be-read stack for some months, because I add and add to my collection of unread books until they sigh mournfully about my neglect.
When I finally read this YA historical mystery last week, I was glued to the skillfully woven tale of yearning and deceit. I've picked it to showcase in Elana Johnson's Spreading the Awesome event today. More than 60 bloggers are spreading the word about books and authors that rock. So check out this list and get some recs!
Mostly, I read fantasy, paranormal, dystopian kinds of books. THE STOLEN ONE is a bit different for me.
The setting is Elizabethan England. Kat, a girl from a simple village, has always felt she didn't belong there and has an insatiable drive to learn the identity of her real mother. She isn't content with the love of a handsome farmer boy or the loyalty of her sister, and she disregards their feelings in her quest to learn her roots. And while she thinks she's unearthed the secrets about her family, she has actually misconstrued the evidence. She discovers the duplicity of court life, learns the loneliness of monarchs and finds what she truly desires along the way.
Kat's skill at embroidery gets her into Queen Elizabeth's court and gives us eyes into this fashionable world: Lady Ludmore pulled out the fanciest piece, a luscious seawater green velvet, a damask pattern of cowslips and fall leaves gently sewn on the surface, pale gold bugles shaped like flowers set within.
The allure of this book, though, is the artfully-woven mystery. The sense of danger and intrigue begins as early as the opening paragraphs, where Kat says Grace, the woman who's raised her, calls her hair Wolf's bait and says the color is red as Queen Elizabeth's.
Grace reminds me of a Greek chorus with her sharp, cautionary words: Coveting beautiful things is a sin, a sin that attracts greater sins, Grace always warned. "Be humble of what you have. It is enough." Grace needed not know what I wore underneath my dress that night--a lovely red taffeta petticoat, stitched secretly and hidden from Grace. It felt wonderful against my skin, devil's color or no.
This novel is born of a what-if scenario based on a real-life queen's daughter, who disappeared from history, but I don't want to say anymore in hopes you will read THE STOLEN ONE. I was fascinated to learn that Crowley's family lore claims she is a distant relative of Lady Jane Grey--the nine-day queen beheaded by her cousin, Mary. Check out Suzanne Crowley's web site for more about the author, the book and the era.
As part of my celebration this week for my one-year blogversary and reaching more than 200 followers, I'm going to give THE STOLEN ONE to one of you lucky readers. Simply leave me a comment and I will draw a name. Another contest will follow in a couple of days. Happy Monday, happy May, everyone!
Added May 5th: Contest now closed. Randomly chosen winner will be announced in my next post, which includes a new contest.