Friday, August 26, 2011

"Leeky Friday"

Just Another Leeky Friday Morning

“What the stinky lint and abandoned food particles trapped in the deep dark recesses of the belly-button of a naky ogress trollop trying ta entice a group of poor, unsuspecting halflings into her lair, do ya make of the week I've had?
“She's impossible ta live with, I tell ya! I think she's finally lost her mind. What little she had left that is. Maxine Mansfield has been spending her days lately, stumbling from room to room mumbling in what can only be described as, an edit induced trance.
“Just keeps repeating over and over to herself and the bird who now keeps his head down and shivers at the back of his cage, 'I will not use the same word twice in the same chapter, let alone the same sentence. I will start to no longer be a passive writer. I started to begin my sentences and paragraphs with the words start, started, began, begin, as if to, but I now know better. I will, no longer treat comma's, as my personal, slaves. I will insert action into my dialogues, and dialogue into my action, and I will use the word insert, only once in my sex scenes. I will not be so sick of my hero and heroine that I hope they die horribly gruesome deaths, and I (Will) meet my deadline.'
“Gotta admit, I'm kinda scared for her, and I'm usually fearless. Is there perhaps a writers intervention hotline I can call?”
Leeky Shortz!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tharz Gold in Them Thar Hills... The Value of On-site Research

I completely understand the proverbial statement: you don’t have to jump off a bridge to know it will hurt when you hit the water. Like everyone, I’ve jumped off some very high bridges in my life knowing full well there would be consequences but just defiant enough to jump despite the warning. Those jumps were not futile attempts at self-inflicting pain. What I learned from those experiences is that you do sometime have to jump to be able to differentiate the quality of the experience. You can watch someone jump and say to yourself, “Holy crap, that’s gonna hurt.” But if you jump yourself, you gain an entirely different perspective on the way down! Your experience is totally encompassing beginning with the roots of understanding the process and consequences then radiating through your entire body, mind and soul. Assuming, of course, you survive, you carry the experience with you through life in cognitive memory, emotional memory and muscle memory. So what is this all leading to? An epiphiny of sorts.

Last year I had the opportunity to visit Ireland for 15 days. I presented a woman’s self defense class in the wild northern hills near Kylemore Abby, but the rest was pleasure, pure, unadulterated pleasure! I jumped... Now, I have to mention up front that traveling through Ireland was the first time I ever felt as if I walked (and drove) in a world in which I truly belonged. It was a world where almost everyone looked like me – fair skin, some freckles, green eyes and varying shades of auburn hair. Seeing the country and meeting the people stirred in me a creativity that I have not felt before and did not expect.
The stories just rolled out, splashing from my mind so rapidly that I would often pull to the side of the road and scribble some new idea or sketch a character. And trust me, pulling to the side of the road in Ireland is an adventure all its own! My mind was filled with thoughts of the wee folk, fairies, gnomes and strong women who fought for their families and people carrying on in the face of daunting odds. As I walked the chambers of Knowth and Dowth lightly touching the ancient carvings, visions of a civilization dead
some 4,000 years played with my senses and tickled my imagination. Climbing the tight circular staircases of dilapidated castles pressed upon me the reality of life in an age most people can’t even comprehend. Standing on the Cliffs of Mohr feeling the sea breeze beat against my face reddening my cheeks like those of the children who ran past chasing sea gulls that rode on the wind. They could have been children in my own family or from a family centuries ago. Spending time in a small crystal-cutting workshop on the Dingle peninsula with the hands of a master cutter wrapped around mine, I created a pattern in lead crystal that amazed us both. You can put those feelings into words without having been there and done it, but the richness these experiences have lent my writing is incalculable.

The first travel I have done solely for myself since I began writing in earnest, I now know that there is no substitute for taking that leap, for seeing something with your own eyes, feeling the real thing beneath your fingertips and literally soaking up the ambiance of being in the presence of a story come to life. There is just no alternative as enriching or stimulating. The stories that rolled from my mind drenched the pages of one travel journal, then another and a third was filled by the end of my journey. In 15 days! Sitting behind a computer researching facts, descriptions and characters on the Internet or in an encyclopedia can not compare to what I gained in those few days I drove the length and breadth of the Emerald Isle. Granted sitting behind a computer is cheaper and less dangerous considering the Irish drive on the left side of trails they call roads, but dodging tourist busses and lories is just one of the many adventures that make it all real. Real is important to an author and critical for our readers. Lying on a damp rug, bent over backwards kissing the Blarney Stone I came to the realization that, had I never been there I would not have known that the rock I was kissing used to be a drain for - yep, sewage and rainwater! Now that's a "holy crap!" moment. And there were many moments that ignited a passion within me. I found my renewed imagination and desire to write surprising and totally encompassing. It was a challenge to cram everything into my brain before it was time to leave.

So here is my humble recommendation for all writers: whatever the challenge is, do it. Whatever the food might be, eat it! I ate blood pudding and guess what? It’s a kind of sausage. I drank Guinness with bitters. It was horrible but I can definitely describe it now! I cut a pattern in crystal with my own hands on a wheel in a tiny village in western Ireland. I felt it. I carried it all the way home in my shoulder bag in a towel I swiped from a hotel! Okay… don’t steal it, but take away every experience you can, like it is a valuable jewel in your author’s crown. If you have an opportunity to stretch your wings and meet new people, conquer your American inhibitions and grab at the chance! Stretch your comfort level and go for it. What I do know is one thing leads to another and soon your feet walk a path you could never have imagined from a chair behind a computer. The jewels you gather will definitely twinkle in your manuscripts catching the eyes of those how venture past the covers.

If I could have met a real leprechan on my wanderings, I would have asked for this wish; that my sister writers seek out and treasure all of life’s experiences blown their way by the gales on cliff’s upon which they have the opportunity to stand. I did and now I have a burning desire not only to return to Ireland but to return to everywhere I have never yet been. I have a scalding desire to take those half a dozen stories that beg to be written bouncing about in my brain banging on my imagination out of me and put them on paper. But I will never again write from behind a computer. I think one of the wee folk lit a fire under my chair that makes me jump up and run for the hills where I not only find gold, but diamonds, and emeralds and crystal! More jewels that will eventually find their way into my manuscripts.
Happy spilunking.
Miriam Matthews.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chickens and Writing

How many of you have ever correlated writing with chickens? Well, I’ve discovered that having and housing chickens is a lot like writing your first novel. First there is a desire that grows until you decide to take action. You investigate the types of chickens and what you would like to end up with. As an example, you could choose a breed that will be showy pets, or meat producers, egg layers or a multi-purpose breed. Next, you look at plans and pictures of housing facilities (coops) that have been built before you. An idea of what you would like gets mulled around in your mind until you are satisfied you will end up with something that will be of use.

Now you build your frame work. This seems to go up rather quickly and as you sit back and admire your work you think that this could be easier than you thought. Confidence builds. You start enclosing the coop and paying attention to details like nesting boxes, a feeding station, water, window and lights, the human door and the access door for the chickens to go in and out to their run. Whew, that was work, and it takes longer than you think, but you still have the determination and confidence that you can do this . . . yes you can, so you move on to the next step. The chicken run. The first run contains the chickens, and all is well. You even planned ahead and made sure the neighborhood fox couldn’t dig under the fence by using large timbers to line around the bottom of the run. That was easier than you thought it would be, you are almost done. Finally, or so you think, you take the last step, purchase chickens and bring them home. All is well, the chickens are happy, you are happy, and even your husband is happy because he loves the fresh eggs. Life is good.

Now for a more painful phase, the learning phase. The chicken run was built to keep the chickens in and the fox out, and that works. The run was even built near the house in a treed area giving cover from prying, or should I say, preying eyes above. That also works, at least for the first year. The second winter brings in a hunter from above, a hawk. The hawk had a very tasty last meal and that took care of that.

Now things are going along without much change and you feel the need to expand, learn and even create. You know what that means? That’s right, hatching chicks. It gives you some much needed enthusiasm for the never ending and mundane chores you have to do, the cleaning, feeding, watering. It all gets a little easier as you expectantly wait for some new additions to the flock. Then the little peepers start popping out one by one. They are adorable, you smile as you watch them run around mimicking mom. You have to take in some sadness as you learn that not all of the eggs hatch, and you lose a chick or two for some unknown reason, but all in all things go well, until . . . those tiny little chicks decide it is time to go exploring and the holes in the chicken wire are too large to keep in such tiny creatures. The fox was pretty much dissuaded from hunting here, but the distress calls from little peepers that could find their way out, but not their way in, was just too enticing. Now that there are distress signals, it also brings in magpies. Time to go back to work and build a better chicken run. Maybe the second time around you will get it right. Maybe not. Maybe there will be other bumps in the road. Only time will tell how determined you really are to make all of this work.

Sandy Shacklett