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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Autumn already

October 31, 2007

Fast away the old year passes; and how negligent I have been to my blog. But such long absence has been spent not in idle waste or corrupted moments of sloth. Nay, I have labored long as a literary agrarian, seeding the nightstand of TBR’s; plowing the piles of TBR’s and harvesting the wit and wisdom of successful authors. Alas, the more I glean, the larger the crop, until the silo overflows upon the ground, taking root, as shoots reach for the light cast by my lamp. A forest now encompasses the bed from headstand to footboard, and still I crave more, tho my treasures block the critical light required to savor each piquant page.

If reading and research were all I was to accomplish, what a fat sod I’d become. Such adventures Roland and Eloise have been having, whether as I rewrite their past exploits or endeavor to commit their new stories to paper and monitor.

Surrey International Writers Conference

October 17-23, 2007 in Surrey BC, Canada. My third, and as usual one of the absolute best writers conferences. Check out the website http://siwc.ca/, buy the anthology, and sign up for next year.

The Master Classes offered on Thursday are two hours plus of in depth, hands on workshops with Jack Whyte, Donald Maass, Hallie Ephron, Cricket Pechstein Freeman and Barbara Rogan. (http://siwc.ca/2007/masterclasses.php)

For us American writers it is a chance to get out of the somewhat incestuous rut of the US publishing scene (not that I don’t work hard every day to try and be part of that scene!) and experience the vast, rich heritage of Canadian literature. The highest caliber authors, agents and editors are accessible and supportive through workshops, interviews and the Surrey exclusive, Blue Pencil Cafe where an aspiring author can sign up for 15 sacred minutes with participating presenters! All within the lovely Sheraton Guildford Hotel, in beautiful Downtown Surrey.

My next writers conference will be in San Francisco, February 15-17, 2008, http://sfwriters.org/index.cfm. I’ve booked a room at the Mark Hopkins, and writers groups pals, Cathy, Pat and I are counting the days. Last year Cathy secured her agent right on the spot! I hope she write a blog about that (http://agingfamilydial411.blogspot.com/!)

Now I am inspired to write a Samhain story, what would Eloise, Roland the children of Dahlquin and Ashbury do during the autumn equinox, All Hallows Eve, and all Saints Day? Once the trick’r’treaters have had their fun, I shall return to the texts.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mica

Mica

There is a funny scene in Fiddler on the Roof, during the opening number, “Tradition” when the villagers are arguing “It was a horse; it was a mule; horse/mule/horse/mule…”

We have a Morgan, Mica, and this has become one of his theme songs. Visually, he is a stunning representative of the breed, striking the quintessential pose without cue, luxurious mane and tail, conformation and balance, black with a thin white blaze. Sighs and murmurs follow in his wake, he is that gorgeous.

But we think he had his ears docked, and maybe a brow job, because inside this handsome gelding is the heart and mind of a mule plain and simple. Mica is smart, really smart. We can see the cogs turning in his equine brain. We watch him try to pick locks. Outsmart us. Find the easy way home.

And self-preservation. Mica does not want to cause bodily injury to himself. We have witnessed him back into stacked fencing, while refusing to go where he should.

Where mere horses might have panicked and started kicking or flailing, Mica stops, thinks, the delicately extricates his feet from harm, still refusing to go up the trail. In refusing, he has gone over cliffs, up banks and into trees, never bolting, bucking or injuring himself.

Along with his many refusals to ‘work’, the word stubborn, let me say that again, STUBBORN comes to mind. We can not count the miles man and horse/mule have lounged on the trail. Like a pocket round pen. My husband has shown impossible depths of patience—I am in awe. Not to mention dizzy from all the circling.

Despite all this mayhem in and out of the saddle, Mica has got the kindest eye. He is sweet and friendly, not a malicious bone in his body. He never bears a grudge for all the ‘work’ we try and get out of him. We laugh ourselves silly over his antics. He has that much horsenality.

Vocalizations-is it a Morgan or mule thing to talk so much? Mica truly believes the world is entitled to his opinion and he shares it body and voice. Grunts, groans, sighs, exhalations. Aristotle on the trail; the great equine philosopher. Charlie McCarthy to my husband’s Ed Bergen.

We have been half owners of Mica (now 7) for almost 10 months. With my husband’s continuous tenacity, saintly patience and his own stubbornness, Mica has gone from crying, whining, shaking, sweating, diarrhea and constant refusals (Russ too!), to realizing he will not meet with some foul and devious end out on the trail. If nothing else, he is learning it is easier to walk down the trail than lounge it.

Russ and Gabe are the only people fit and capable to ride this fine specimen, and Mica may prove to be a one or two man horse. He is well on the way to becoming a truly great trail horse/mule. Maybe one day he will again deem me worthy of a ride.

So, the burning question, is he a horse or a mule?

HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY CONFERENCE

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Historical Novel Society just held its second biennial North American conference in Albany, New York at the lovely Desmond Hotel and Conference Center, June 8-10, 2007.

My thanks and gratitude to this fine organization for bringing lovers of historical fiction together through a quarterly newsletter and magazine, website, referrals and these wonderful conferences. As an unpublished author, I can connect with other writers, researchers and resources. I meet readers--potential fans--as well as exposure to agents and editors in the big wide world of publication.

Unlike other writers conferences covering everything from collectibles to cookbooks, memoir to travel, or werewolf erotica, all I need do is ask: “What time period do you write in?” Because it’s all history all the time. There might be medieval recipes (as in my own books), or poetry interspersed, but all within the realm of the past. I discovered Jack Absolute, the dashing 007 of the 1770’s, by C. C. Humphreys and met Carrie Bebris who writes the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mysteries. Yes, Jane Austen fans, that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. My daughter finished her autographed copy and is hot on the trail for more.

Good news for writers and readers, the market for historic fiction is HOT. Hottest are books with real historic characters as a ‘hook’, especially when told from the point of view of a servant or outside character. “There will always be an England” according to Irene Goodman, literary agent, hands down the most popular locale, and the Tudors continue to fascinate. Eygpt is hot, as well as biblical, and Renaissance Italy or Casanova’s Venice are popular. The bottom line is writing a great book with compelling characters, action and the right amount of erotic tension. Victorian werewolves engaged in cross species sex…if it is brilliantly written (maybe not).

One of my favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon, of the Outlander series was a keynote speaker and presenter. When I grow up and become a published author—I know what panel I want to be on! Sex, romance and seduction. Perhaps my writing is a bit over the top, the sex shouldn’t be gratuitous— Dr. Gabaldon read an excerpt from a new, contemporary novel, she is working on about the allure of jewelry and what is says about a woman wearing it. Shackle my sapphires to the bedpost, baby!

Bernard Cornwell, creator of the Sharpe series, Saxon Tales, and an Arthurian saga, was also a featured keynote speaker and presenter, entertaining and educating us in the glories and perils of fiction writing. Take heed: Writers of Arthurian legend have a unique circle of critics challenging and correcting every detail of the book. They are not the scholars, historians or grammarians that plague other writers. These critics claim to bring irrefutable proof the author got it wrong and are justified in exposing the fraud, because these critics were Lancelot, Mordred or Guinevere. No one has ever written Mr. Cornwell claiming to be a Napoleonic rifleman or Wellington or any of that ilk. But get the Round Table wrong and there’s Hell to pay.

Allison McCabe, editor for Crown books, provided valuable insider information on the care and feeding of books, editors and publishers. She is an editor who literally rips her heart out of her chest and bares it on the boardroom table. Thanks to the aid of a plastic prop provided by a cardiologist.

My other ten minute session was with literary agent, Karen Solem, of Spencerhill.

For a complete list of all the presenters, agents and editors participating, as well as workshops please check out the Historic Novel Society Conference Website. http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/albany/conference.htm For information about The Historical Novel Society, check that website. http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/

Sadly, I will be counting the days until the next HNS conference in 2009, to be united with my brethren in fiction. I look forward to volunteering again, and better still, having my book to promote (with shameless abandon). In the meantime, I renewed friendships from the Salt Lake City Conference, and made new ones in Albany. We have two years to talk, share, encourage and celebrate. I have a bundle of new books to read autographed by the delightful authors who wrote them. I met writers and readers from Santa Cruz County to network with locally.


It is strange to post these out of chrionological from writing and experiencing. However...better late than never.

First Horses

MY FIRST HORSES

October, 2006. OMG, without even publishing my first book, my wonderful, most exalted and loving husband has made it possible for me to have a horse…We are co-owners of two horses, two!!

At the R-Wild Horse Ranch, Platina, California, 96076 (http://www.rwildhorseranch.net/index.html), we share ownership with Gabe Selles of a lovely little Arab mare, Savannah (13 hands/17 years) and black Morgan gelding, Mica (15 hands/7 yrs). We are starting at the beginning with the round pen, ground manners, etc. and having the time of our lives. Horses are great for the almost-empty-nest.

Please see pictures in the gallery on my website (www.AnneBeggs.com).

I should have kept a better diary/journal of horse/mule ownership. However, writing time is precious and generally best used for my novels. But with experience I have come to understand the value of blogging, and it is in the hope of learning and meeting like minded people through blogging/diaries/journals. So I will start fresh, as well as fill in the back story.

First, let’s start with: A Mule, you say? The first entry clearly states an Arab and a Morgan. Not to offend the Morgan lovers of the world, I must qualify this by saying Mica has all the finest qualities of the mule. He is intelligent, has a strong sense of self-preservation, and doesn’t panic. Mica is also stubborn, stubborn, stubborn. If he weren’t so magnificently beautiful, with the most handsome face and kindest brown eyes, my husband and I would swear he had an ear bob to disguise him as a horse.

After hours and hours, over weeks Mica has learned ground manners and respect. He excels in the round pen, and loves arena work when other horses are involved. Square dancing, drill work, and horse soccer. But out on the trail…Mica has backed more miles, over cliffs, into trees and in circles than he has ventured forth. Even after my patient husband has lounged him, backed him, and circled him, Mica still ‘joins up’ like a big goofy Labrador, seeking affection and approval. No hard feelings on his part! Not a malicious bone in his willful body.

I believe he will be a problem solver. Although so far he has NO incentive to leave his pasture mates or the barn area when there are lots of people to fawn over him.

And now for Savannah, AKA: Pony, Pasture Princess, My Doll (Midol). Need I say more?

Savannah has the most enchanting face and expression-if you are a person. In human diplomacy and ground manners, she is the quintessential Arabian. Gentle, affectionate, the lap dog of the equine world. But to other horses, especially her pesky “little brother” Mica, she is pure Stink Eye, pinned ears, beak lip, slashing tail.

Slow Poke, or Pokemon may also be good nick names for her, for she is the world’s slowest walking pony. Every time we leave the barn, she inches her way up the trail as if she were walking the plank, the green mile, the death march of Bataan. Each step carefully placed as if the ground were to suddenly slip away, so sure footed is she. But…true to Arab form, at a trot and especially a gallop, Savannah is fast as the wind, and loves to be first. Rags to Riches look out, Savannah is definitely a come from behind sleeper, ‘eat my dust you losers’ kinda of girl.

Been there, done that, very unflappable, even if something startles her, she immediately regains her composure and carries on. I wouldn’t call her bomb proof, not everyone can ride her…but I haven’t found much that spooks her, not charging dogs, motorcycles, cats, loud noises, and I understand she packs dead animals—a hunters dream come true. Unless I die on the trail, I won’t be testing that claim.

Savannah is a great singleton. Our best rides have been just us. A slow walk isn’t as noticeable alone, and is safer. We have done miles of steep, narrow trail in only a bareback pad and halter.

But…sadly, I don’t feel she has bonded to me particularly well. Or maybe it is just a work ethic thing…Savannah doesn’t like to be ridden, especially away from the barn and her pasture mates. Sour is hardly the word. When she is out riding with her pasture buddies, I think she is a different horse entirely. My matronly riding schedule does not coincide with those of her buddies, however. And, of course, that is when our partner is riding, quite happily. And that is good.

Hmmm…much to think on.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Writers Block

Writers block

Perhaps yesterday I had my first glimmer of writers block. And it was not what I thought it would be at all. Somehow I always envisioned writers block (WB) to be the inability to think of anything to write. A loss for words. No creativity. A blank canvas.

Ha, WB comes in many forms, and can be quite insidious if dwelled upon. Thank goodness for antidepressants, counseling and family and friends.

My affliction came in the form of intimidation, insecurity, a veil of doubt that I was unworthy and foolish to consider myself an author of some consequence. Lack of words, failing creativity, no. Not even fear of rejection. That is easy, I say please, they say no thanks…next. But the stifling, choking dread of rejecting myself. And when “It’s All About Me” that is paralyzing. Self-rejection. (Imagine your hand saying “No, thanks, I’m turning in early. Ask Lefty.”)

In my continuing endeavors to grow and expand my skill and knowledge of the historical novel market, I have spent some time on the Amazon historical forum I discovered at the bottom of World Without End, Ken Follett’s October 9 release. Bet there are more forums about literary, contemporary, mysteries, etc. I could be doing further research for Rainmocker and Cabs for Christ…but that would take even more time from writing them!

Given the 30 or so active people on this forum and the diversity of tastes in the genre, it has shaken me up a bit, reminding me with the undeniable clarity of a 2 x 4 between the eyes that getting published is as ephemeral as the smoke from the proverbial pipe dream, not to mention satisfying a strong and loyal fan base of avid readers. Not only Is It All About Me, but I Want it all! I want to write what I love, have others love it as much as I do, and have the best sellers to fund more writing. Please and thank you.

Whining and venting aside, Roland and Eloise beckon, there are wolf cubs to feed, a bear scratching his massive behind on a tree and an anxious steward longing to sleep in his own bed come nightfall. The horses are nickering, welcoming me with armloads of hay…oh the rich life of a fiction writer. Eloise will be rubbing be her back, weary from a days hard ride, the endless questions posed by her charges, complaints and rain. Is her mother well? The harvests have been good, and so the burgeoning populace. How will they all eat? Will the stores last? The friendly nickering and soft breath of the horses warm her heart, lifting her spirit as only communion with God’s most noble creature can. “Aye, you great looby,” she sighs, seeing to their feeding, one more step, another chore complete.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

OMG

OMG

It’s been almost a month and no blog…how can that be from someone as outspoken as me and who loves to see her words in print!

Well, I was working on some other assignments, learning a lot from the historical novel forum on Amazon. Yes, Amazon.

I was on vacation for 2 ½ weeks, and had no internet service.

More importantly, I think I found my dream horse. While on vacation. And posted that blog ahead of this one--the shame.But I like the format and the element of surprise...

Russ, June, Phydough and I were up at the R-Wild Horse Ranch http://www.rwildhorseranch.net/index.html 2 ½ weeks. And yes it was hot as I imagine Hell to be. But when you can combine horses with motorcycles, not to mention good friends, family, a swimming hole and two pools…well I am willing to give up my magnificent coastal fog for some equine fun. Check out the website, there are ownerships available. It is a rustic country club without a golf course.

Russ and I currently share half interests in two horses at the R-Ranch with one of the wranglers up there. A beautiful black Morgan gelding, Mica and a flea bitten Arab mare, Savannah—our first horses EVER! Please see pix on my website http://www.annebeggs.com/about.htm.

I must write a blog about Savannah and Mica, they are worthy of their own pages! Talk about horseanility. But, this is about my dream horse…

For two weeks we discussed the pros and cons of getting another horse (for a number of reasons) for me. There are hundreds of great horses available to good homes. It is sad and frightening, actually. Returning to the Ranch, we decided to table that idea for a while, we were in no hurry, when the time is right, that sort of thing.

To beat the heat and take a break from each other, Russ and June decided to take their Buells for a road trip to Hayfork. Is that a great name for a town or what? And what a picture post card place. Like a scene from Bonanza, or some other mountainous western. June checks the bulletin board outside the Frontier Village grocery store and what does she find? An ad for three horses for sale: a liver chestnut Arab mare, a black Arab gelding, and a bay warmblood. $750 each (Shush, I’m not supposed to know that, because it was a gift!) Russ calls for more information. The mare is 14 yrs and about 14 hands; has had some Parelli ground work, is a great, fast trail horse. She was bought as a brood mare and won’t brood…sounds perfect, so Russ makes arrangements for us to go look.

Having read the previous post---this is old news! But I am missing my Black Diamond, and am worried about how he is assimilating with the other five horses in his new pasture. He is a wimpy weenie. He was pastured with cattle for the past few months because the other alpha horses in residence were exceptionally dominate and Diamond didn’t establish himself. If he can not co-exist with his pasture mates, an alternate situation can be arranged. An in/out stall with a ‘courtyard’ is available; but we all know horses are social beings thriving on space and herd mates.

We enjoyed the rest of our vacation, spreading our time with five horses (Mica, Savannah, Black Diamond, Angel, and Kilo a delightful Qtr horse I share responsibility/riding privilege with). I’m Horse Mom+

And how does this tie into my writing career? Well, I will be submitting articles to my favorite equine industry periodicals. Anything I learn about horses will find its way into my novels one way or another.

Life is about living, creating, contributing, participating, and preserving. I honestly believe the happiest, healthiest people do those things, in a myriad of ways. Managing, teaching, nursing, nurturing, helping, seeking solutions, exploring…

I’m getting too philosophical for this “What did I do on my summer vacation” blog. One of the beauties of writing is blazing a path to further enlightenment…

Friday, July 20, 2007

When Dreams Come True

December 2006

Dear Santa Hooves

Please bring me a person of my own. Someone kind and fun and gentle for me to play with. Someone who won’t forget about me; won’t ignore me. One with a kind eye that is amenable and eager to please. Well broke but not sullen.

Please, Santa, I want to be bathed and brushed and combed. Then roll in the dirt and start all over again! To explore trails, jog about and take victory laps in the arena. Like I used to.

Once I was a winner, I think. But then…I don’t know…it all went bad. I was starving, thirsty. Then shipped off among strangers in noisy pens without a friend or a familiar scent.

I was rescued. Now I am fit, healthy and have food and water. But I’m lonely. I live with cows, they call me loser.

So please Santa Hooves, please please please, bring me a person to call my own. A forever partner.

Thank you,

Little black Arab gelding

May 2007

Dear Russ

I am so happy to be a horse owner, even if it is half ownership of two horses, with a great wrangler at R-Ranch. What a fortuitous opportunity for all. Really…honest …kinda…well…

I’m ready for a horse of my own. A good, sound, fun horse that wants to be my partner; explore trails, learn new things, have fun in the arena, and walks fast! I’m not competitive, I just want to ride and keep up with the other horses. A kind eye, amenable and eager to please. 6 to 15 years old so we will have years together.

Oh, it must be a pretty horse.

Thanks,

Annibella

July 2, 2007

Frontier Village Grocery Store

Hayfork, California

“Look, Dad, Horses for Sale,” June says to Russ. “’Liver Chestnut, Arab mare, 14 yrs, great trail horse. Bay warmblood gelding. Black Arab gelding 17 yrs. $750 each.’ Do you think Mom would be interested?”

Beep, beep, beep…(the sound of a cell phone)

“Hello.”

“Please tell me about the Arab mare.” “Thank you so much, I’ll check with my wife.”

July 4th, 2007 Independence Day

Hayfork, California

The chestnut mare we originally went to see about, was limping (needed a better Ferrier). We couldn’t catch the bay warmblood. But Nona Smith had a black Arab gelding. 17 yrs. Older than I was looking for, unless it was an exceptional horse.

He was one of four rescue horses she picked up at an auction because she couldn’t leave them behind. Nona nursed them back to health with food, water, supplements and care. But on a racing farm, they were extra mouths to feed and needed to move on to good homes.

It was almost love at first sight! A dangerous thing with horses, because I want to ride them, not just look at them!

He was head turning, Arab gorgeous. Big black eyes, soft and inquisitive. Thick mane and tail. But with a drooping bottom lip, making him look older than he was. He had Casanova, Romeo and Don Juan written all over him. My daughter and I are still swooning.

My first test ride in the cattle pasture was slow and thus disappointing. Great! One horse seems lame and the other one is slow. But they were SO appealing. We made arrangements for both to be brought to the R-Wild Horse Ranch for a trial basis. Not being swayed by pretty faces are we?

Back at the Ranch as they say…Black Diamond (yes, I already named him. Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend) was a whole different horse, especially after having his feet trimmed by the master, Dave Mattocks!

Diamond rides like a dream. All leg cues, smooth gaits, more advanced than my current level, but he seems willing to teach me! Bless his patient heart.

Remember the movie “The Black Stallion”? Add two rear white fetlocks, a star, some white blemishes, no stud anatomy and that is Black Diamond! A little older than I initially wanted, but Diamond is too exceptional to pass up. What are a few years between middle age friends, right?

How does a Diamond like this end up in the equine refuse pile, unwanted even at an auction? He exudes Western Pleasure; was someone’s pride and joy. Maybe he wasn’t competitive enough, not in the ribbons? Or a lingering injury that his months off in rescue eased? Divorce, loss of job, new baby, college? Flood or other natural disaster? Repossession? Is it possible for horses to get lost, like dogs or cats, and end up at a shelter/auction?

We are very thankful to Nona Smith, of Hayfork, California for recognizing this diamond in the rough and restoring him to his true brilliance. Diamonds are selected for the four “C’s” and so was he: Clarity (distinctness), Cut (conformation), Carats (lots of the orange kind), Color (black, rare indeed). And how about, Cute, Comfortable, Calm, and Character. Or perhaps, Classy, Compliant, Caliber, Compatible, Companion.

And our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for all the horse lovers and rescue organizations out there saving fine, quality, living, breathing equines on a daily basis. I don’t have a solution for the problem of unwanted horses any more than I do for global health coverage or world peace. But I can be responsible for my horses, and graciously acknowledge the contributions of unsung heroes.

Oh, what of the mare? She has proved to be a little rough around the edges for me. Out of practice; perhaps because she has been an unsuccessful brood mare for several seasons. But others at the Ranch have shown interest. She has great potential; and is waiting for a forever partner.

This has nothing to do with my books, but everything to do with my life. As a fiction writer, most things in my life find their way into my books…I will have to research more about the precious stones used in Ireland in the thirteenth century. I am not sure Eloise would have had first hand knowledge of diamonds…hmmm…I did get my novels into this blog.

Monday, June 18, 2007

How Much Sex is too Much? HNS

More from the Historical Novel Society

When I grow up and am a published author, I want to be on a Panel like “How Much Sex is Too Much?”

While attending the HNS’s second biennial conference in Albany, New York, June 8-10, 2007, I (and the assembled multitude) was treated to a pre-panel teaser, as it were. Diana Gabaldon (http://www.its.caltech.edu/~gatti/gabaldon/), Jade Lee-(http://www.jadeleeauthor.com/), C. C. Humphreys-(http://www.cchumphreys.com/, http://www.cchumphreys.com/contact.htm) and Lisa Jensen-(http://www.witchfromthesea.com/) read excerpts of love scenes as a reference for the Sunday morning workshop. While I am a HUGE fan of Dr. Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I was a virgin to the titillating talents and sensual skills of the other stellar authors. To be so utterly, publicly seduced, on the edge of my seat in anticipation and hope, or lmao with the erotic folly was pure literary rapture.

So, “How Much Sex is too Much?” In real life, there may be no such thing. At least in the fantasy of most healthy, consenting adults. Upon discovering the joys of sex, my protagonist Eloise Dahlquin wonders how anyone has the discipline to get out of bed at all. For the lucky few, only thirst and starvation (and evacuation) pull them from their union. Most of us relent to rise and resume work and chores enabling us at days end to return to our (fill in your own blank_____, ‘cozy’, ‘ravishing’, ‘insatiable’, ‘throbbing’) partners. Those of us with children have a built-in coitus interuptus program running; an endless infomercial on the virtues of birth control.

But in writing, the craft of storytelling, is it possible to have too much sex? If it is poorly written and clich├ęd, then absolutely. If it is gratuitous…save it for the ‘believe it or not’ mailbag. Blending great sex with riveting (yes, I like that word) page turning plot twists; exploring character development and emotions through the five senses, building tension, luring readers behind closed doors is a climax not easily achieved by all writers and shared by readers. Was it good for you?

Unlike the ‘real thing’ we authors do not want readers to light a cigarette or worse yet roll over and start snoring. What next, what next, what next? Romance writers follow a set formula, with building sexual contact as major plot points: The first kiss, heightened contact, interrupted sex, etc. until finally consummating the act itself. In most fiction, relationships, love and romance propel part of if not the entire plotline. How will this be resolved? What will be the repercussions? Who will suffer, who will gain?

Building sexual tension--written foreplay—is done in various, stimulating and evocative ways. For fine examples please check out the above mentioned authors’ work (I’m mopping my brow just remembering). Just because I fantasize about castle sex or cathedral sex, doesn’t mean readers don’t want and deserve a darn fine tale (pun intended), intrigue, mystery, suspense and deep, complex characters “seeking the cheese” (see earlier blog). What motivates characters? How do they relate to others? Striving for sex, or seeking to avoid it keep readers turning pages, waiting.

I love writing love making scenes. I like what it reveals about my characters. I want them to have some fun. Everything can’t be plague and pestilence, unless of course, it is violent sex as a power play. I doubt any of us like writing that stuff…but our heroes must overcome adversity. Few things rival sexual abuse for the sake of fiction writing. But I’m not discussing world changing, literary fiction. I’m keeping it light here.

So, how much is too much? The panel reached no definitive answer, because each book and each scene must be evaluated on its own heart pounding merits. But the audience certainly did not get enough, we were anxiously hoping for more oral sex--the literary kind.

And again, if you are not familiar with the authors, I provided their websites above.

Diana Gabaldon, Outlander series, Scots Highlanders and time travel

Jade Lee, Tigress series, exotic romance

C. C. Humphreys, Jack Absolute, 007 of the 1770’s

Lisa Jensen, Witch From the Sea, pirates and coming of age on the high seas

I’m keeping booksellers busy! And my librarians, bless them.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

I am reading (listening to audio, actually) Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. This book was recommended to me years ago and I bought a copy while completing the Santiego di Compostella by tandem. It appears on lists of Best Historic Fiction. It is definitely time!

What a magnificent book. This is my favorite kind, with multiple storylines and characters overlapping. Intrigue and plotting. And most importantly, the omniscient POV. I have noted one segment where the POV changes within a scene (a ‘bedroom’ scene where the reader is privy to both lovers’ thoughts—definitely my favorite type!)

The time period is around four generations (100 hundred years) before my first book, Dahlquin, A Medieval Saga, begins, during the brutal civil war between Empress Mathilda (Maude in Pillars) and King Stephen. Mathilda/Maude was the mother of the illustrious King Henry II, whose grandson, Henry III is the seventeen year old King of England in 1224 AD when Dahlquin opens.

The legacy of that civil war looms large in my story. King Gerald FitzGilbert of Leinster, Ireland has five daughters and faces the same dilemma as Henry I, trusting his barons to support his daughter as queen after he dies. Hubert and Anne of Dahlquin are faced with the same: A sole heir, a daughter, Eloise. Both families know the sordid history of betrayal with female ascension, and both struggle to avoid a similar fate for their families and estates.

I relish the opportunity to learn so much about that earlier time period while being thoroughly entertained. Studying the craft of Mr. Follett’s writing as well. Such a storyteller AND a new book out in October! Is this good timing or what?


Ah, the lure of the cathedral and its construction. I share Mr. Follett’s enthusiasm heartily and appreciate his fine detail to architecture, construction and design, breathing life into the stone structures, telling the possible stories of the people who built and used them. This is what I long to hear when I press my face and hands against those stones, willing them to speak, to share, revealing those lives.

Characters, motivation, how they lived and survived are my focus in Dahlquin. I hope to achieve the master plotting and sub plotting of an artist like Ken Follett; or my other favorites, Diana Gabaldon or James Clavell. Studying great books like this improve my own writing, and inspire me to keep working. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Omniscient POV

I have written a series of historical novels (three complete, four in various states of outline and finished chapters) in the omniscient POV—my favorite.

I am writing a contemporary legal drama from a first person POV, because it happened that way (fictionalized episode in our lives). A premise for a contemporary mystery is still formulating…can a mystery be omniscient? (Anyone out there want to help with Hollywood research? But I digress.)

My favorite books have been sprawling historic/fantasy epics; starting with James Clavell’s Asian series and Frank Herbert’s Dune chronicles. Followed by Jean Auel’s Children of the Earth and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

According to Oakley Hall, in The Art & Craft of Novel Writing, it is mandatory to write omniscient in the long historic/fantasy books because the scope is too broad for anything else, and it gets boring for the reader in first person or even third. Following several plot lines requires “insider” knowledge of the characters. Dare to be a Great Writer, by Leonard Bishop also addresses the need for omniscient POV in certain stories.

Barbara Kingsolver used omniscient POV in Prodigal Summer. The reader was inside the head of Deanne, Lusa, and Garnett. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is also omniscient, with the reader in the head of Peter Keating, Ellsworth Toohey and Gail Wynand as well as Howard Roark and Dominique Francon. But never in the same scene…

Tai-Pan, by James Clavell has omniscient POV in the same scene, and I copied some pages as samples. I have been rereading Shogun, (this is dangerous, because I can’t put it down!). Thus far, I haven’t found changing POV in scene, but it is a huge book, and ages since I read it.

Valley of Horses by Jean Auel is omniscient changing POV in scene between Jondolar and Ayla.

Diana Gabaldon shifts between first person, Clare Randall/Fraser and the omniscient narrator, which she says is the “book” telling the story. I have not found a changing POV in scene.

Personally, I LOVE knowing what everyone is thinking. It adds complexity and insight for me. Many other books achieve this through dialogue and body language. But then everything is “on the table”. There is a certain suspense in knowing more than the protagonist, I think.

Charlotte Cook of Komenar Publishing doesn’t like omniscient POV, and says Americans don’t know how to do it well...James Clavell was British and is deceased. It has certainly fallen out of favor. Prodigal Summer, Pillars of the Earth, are contemporary omniscient. Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley, I loved being in the Jack Russell, Eileen’s head. I sometimes write from the POV of the horses in my books.

I must also study Dickens. It has been AGES since I read any. While I religiously watch “A Christmas Carol” every Christmas season, I haven’t read it in ages, and must review it as well for omniscient or third person.

How about Atonement? Aren’t we inside the heads of Briony, as well as her sister and Robbie? Better check.

Back to me. I write omniscient because I like it. And I think perhaps because my early experiences reading were such. A Tale of Two Cities had multiple insights, while I can't remember if it was truly omniscient, my memory from high school is understanding multiple points of view, what motivated people. That is what interests me, what people think, and what motivates them.

Maybe it is a cop out. It is easy. As an author, I must know all the characters. Who, what, where, why and how. Of course I must know my protagonists inside out. Eloise and Dahlquin have a pedigree worthy of AKC registration. Roland, too. But I must know the Scragmuirs, Pingbee, Ainsley, the FitzGilbert’s, Charnley’s, etc. to understand what drives the story and keeps it plausible for me, and ultimately readers.

First person POV seems really hard to do. And limiting. Everything is filtered through one person, one POV. I am writing one book first person, because it is me. I have changed the names, and have taken fictional liberties. Maybe the book will rewrite itself in a different POV…I doubt it, because I don’t know the antagonist, I can only play off her actions. I can only presume so much of what my husband was going through. I must fictionalize this one, because I don’t want to do a memoir—too boring and all the participants are living (lawsuit and family strife). But the episode ended on a Capraesque/Hollywood note. It would be a waste not to capitalize on it. This was the lemonade after a year of a sour lemon harvest.

I enjoy first person of view. Please don’t get me wrong. Clare Randall/Fraser is one of my favorites. Write on, DG. CJ, the Social worker fashionista. Poisonwood Bible, with multiple first person POV’s…Li Hui (My Half of the Sky), Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, the list goes on and on in fiction. It is mandatory in memoir.

It general, it is just not how I write. Or, honestly, it is not how I hear the “voices”. Remember, I write fiction, straddling the razor’s edge of mental illness (see those blogs). My protagonists deserve worthy antagonists. (the maze and the cheese?) And those antagonists are the hardest part for me to create (or listen for), as I want to live in a pleasant world of happily-ever-afters. I don’t like strife or confrontation. Pansy that I am I avoid trouble.

Are there any rules dictating POV? If I read the word “wished” or “thought” regarding a character, then I’m inside that character’s head. If that happens for more than one character, isn’t that omniscient?

If I can't Get Boinked in a Medeival Castle...

If I can’t get boinked in a medieval castle OR cathedral then I’ll write about it.

That’s an attention getter. And it is true.

I don’t want to detract literary interest from my novel. It is not a bodice ripper. Good grief, bodices didn’t exist in 1224 AD! I’ve researched it and would be happy to discuss the fashion of the day. I even have a few re-creations. And, no, I don’t have costume sex.

The Middles Ages have always attracted me. Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” was a childhood favorite (and Tchaikovsky!!!). That opening scene, the castle. And let’s not forget Samson the horse. History and archaeology still fascinate me. But those castles and cathedrals…How disappointing in elementary school. Middle school, too, we never studied the good stuff. In high school I begged for medieval Europe. A compromise, the Industrial Revolution, starting in the Middle Ages. One of the few art projects I ever did that wasn’t a horse (that’s a different story) was a cathedral. Got an A. Oh, and my abject disappointment in discovering the Crusades were not about religion, but a zealous quest for wealth and power (there’s nothing new under the sun).

But the images of a mighty destrier and great stone edifice persisted, taking on erotic proportions with age.

An evening of horsemanship at Medieval Times, Anaheim, Calif., rekindled the fascination. I started rewatching old movies. Unsatisfied, I began researching for myself. And the voices started in earnest.

But, I promised sex in the title…what do sex and real estate have in common?

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Ultimately, I suppose it is all about the castle sex and cathedral sex.

My first trip to Europe was Paris precisely, and Notre Dame. OMG! Let the orgasmic fantasies begin. I was panting and had tears in my eyes. All those lit candles…that was nothing to my flame. Ste. Chappelle, more of the same.

One of my favorite cathedrals is St. Stephans in Vienna. There is this little spiral stairway, with a carving of the artist looking out a window…dude. Everywhere my husband and I walked, I was thinking: Right here, right now! Curse these jeans! Over and over and over.

I realize now in writing this blog, the same modesty that prevents my husband from ravaging me in the vestibule, censures me from further personal exposition. Effectively binding my tongue, wasting a lingual communion, a paradise lost in biblical proportion.

How I swayed beneath the thick, stone columns, engorged and reaching to the sky.
Penetrating the space within, thrusting heavenward. Each one a salient reminder of our sacred purpose: And woman shall desire her husband. And they shall lie upon the high alter and give thanks and praise. And praise and thanks. And a husband shall desire his wife, and they change positions, with more thanking and praising. With the laying on of hands the alleluias burst forth. The holy water flows. And they rest; and it was good.

You get the idea…pretty tongue in cheek…or _ _ _ _ _ in cheek to be more accurate. My husband may be modest, but he is happy.

It’s the same with castles. All that erect, hard stone. Projecting towers in phallic magnitude, arousing a sense of power and safety focusing onto the drawbridge and gate house…inviting, encapsulating; begging admittance, promising a welcome.

Peering out from the crenellations, sea birds soar below us on the salty breeze that pushes up rustling my hair, delighting the senses as I rock back and forth back forth, like the rise and fall of a ship, I ride the rhythmic swell of my love, pounding, pulsing, a relentless surge crashing against the fortress wall, wave upon wave, until the banks flood and all too soon, love spent, the tide ebbs.

I can be silly here, it’s a blog. But seriously, I do fantasize (size does matter) about having sex (with my husband--he’s the stuff fantasies are made of) in medieval locations.

***I am not soliciting on line medieval sex fantasies; please don’t send pictures or letters suitable for Penthouse. This is not a porn site or partner exchange.

This is one of the reasons I write, and people I talk to ask about it.***

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fiction Writers and Mental Illness

Fiction writers run the gauntlet of mental illness, living on the edge of schizophrenia. We hear voices. Unlike our homeless brethren we don’t do what the voices tell us. Instead we write about them.

My aim is not to disregard those who suffer debilitating mental illness or learning disabilities, but to distinguish the fine line that separates us, barely. Art and creativity go hand in hand with a variety of mental illnesses. Perhaps alternative brain power (ABP), or mental processing (MP) would be good monikers. Less judgmental and without the stigma historically and religiously placed on illness.

Dyslexic and suffering bouts of clinical depression, I possess a first person point of view of the absolute validity of an irrational state of mind. I have walked both sides of sanity. I’ll pick sane any day, thanks to Zolft and counseling. But I fully embrace the debt for creativity.

Artists are frequently on the outside looking in. Observing the world, reflecting it back in a chosen medium (visual, audio, performance, story). Clinical depression and bi-polar run rampant in the arts. Dyslexia, too: John Lennon, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison (ADHD, too!), Ken Follett, Walt Disney. There really are too many to list here, please refer to the web: http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/020307/awakenings.shtml; http://www.dyslexiamentor.com/famousdyslexics.php; http://bipolar.about.com/od/authorswriters/Authors_and_Writers_with_Bipolar_Disorder.htm; http://bipolar.about.com/od/celebrities/Celebrities_with_Bipolar_Disorder.htm; http://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/dyslexia_famous.htm

--Please respond back with additional information.—

I believe dyslexia is an open door to creativity (Although proof reading is a nightmare). In fact, the creativity comes unbidden. An urge as irresistible blinking. I have never been able to ignore a blank piece of paper. It exists, therefore it must be filled. There IS no otherse for a blank piece of paper (unless I start another philosophical blog on the spirit of paper and the killing of trees, papyrus or rag) than to write or draw (okay, okay origami and paper airplanes!). The fantasy surrogate horses of my youth; dragons and bunnies. Even margins and borders beckon my wayward hand, still!

Some might design a building, cure an illness or write the Declaration of Independence on a piece of paper. Others will formulate equations, solve problems and correspond. Artists might compose music, write stories, draw, paint or sculpt with the paper.

Writing about characters in medieval Ireland is comparatively easy. Say, to balancing a check book, algebra, tabulating figures, negotiations, framing a house. Characters come to me (who); scenes come to me (where). The endless “what ifs?” “hows?” and “whys” captivate me for days, weeks, years. One of the hardest aspects of writing for me (besides editing) is brevity, culling, focusing on the theme in a coherent story format for the reader and leaving out all the details, histories and back story unrelated to the book. “Killing my darlings” as the saying goes. (Ah, but with computers, I can just delete my darlings; save them in a cyber retirement home and visit whenever I want) But I digress from the topic—the theme of this blog as it were…

Everyone feels disconnected, alienated, disenfranchised or left out, at least part of the time. These feelings are universal to all peoples and cultures. I explore these feelings through my characters lives, bearing in mind the three “E’s”--entertainment, education, and emotion. In my first book, Eloise Dahlquin feels disconnected when her family invalidates her dreams. Roland feels disconnected leaving Leinster. Alienated geographically, Ireland dangles on the remote western edge of the known (flat) world. Women and the poor are disenfranchised in the male dominated warrior culture.

I hear their voices, their stories and want to share them with others. I want to paint the picture and evoke the aroma, present the textures and flavor, play the music, with words alone. There are other characters, in other times, pressing me to hurry up with the Dahlquin saga, so I can concentrate on their stories. I take notes, make outlines, and hope they will be patient. All the while putting on a normal face at school meetings, the office, while making dinner or brushing the dog. We are all waiting our turns. That is why I love writer’s conferences, I am with my brethren (the disconnected, alienated…just kidding).

Fiction writing is the best—Telling Lies for Fun Profit, as Lawrence Block wrote (great book). Publishing is the business end of it, and worthy of its own blog entry.

Fiction Writers as 'mad scientists'

As a fiction writer I feel like a ‘mad scientist’ observing lab mice negotiating a maze to find the cheese. My beloved characters are those mice. The cheese is their goal. I put up obstacles and write about the characters overcoming challenge or facing disappointment. I love the “what if?” followed by the “How?”

What if…a young woman wanted a different life than her family, her society had carved out for her? What if…like most adolescents, she didn’t know what she wanted? In my first book, Dahlquin, seventeen-year-old Eloise Dahlquin bristles under the patriarchal culture of medieval Ireland. Like most of us, she wants to choose for herself. Her cheese, her quest is for self-determination. Lord Roland enjoys his freedom to move about, unencumbered. The Scragmuirs want to see the Dahlquin’s vanquished. Ireland has been conquered by England, but the petty kings still govern themselves, yearning for an independent Irish voice. Power of choice motivates all the characters. But, what if…every thing is preordained, is anyone truly free to choose?

The ‘mad scientist’ fiction writer must put up road blocks, obstacles, ‘red herrings’ to test the mice, deem them worthy. What if…we don’t like our choices: The proverbial rock and the hard spot; with nothing, you have nothing to lose? What if…we can’t make up our minds? Circumstances change with the turn of a page and there are no choices. A future lost with the speed of a dropped call. How will Eloise save her family? What is she willing to do? How will Roland serve two kings? What treachery will Scragmuir devise to bring Dahlquin down? How will Ireland shed the English yoke?

Love, lust, betrayal, loyalty, fraternity, happily-ever-after…or death and subjugation…

And, how can I, the mad scientist, make my story fresh and alive. How will I retell the same old legends with new insight, joy and surprise? It has all been done before…around ancient campfires…Greek amphitheatres…Nordic ships…The Globe…lecterns…and preschool circle time.

For just that reason. We are endlessly entertained by those stories, the Who, Where, How, Why and ultimately What If…? Strong, memorable characters with universal motives, struggling against all odds for…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…simply people, seeking pleasures…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness)…Will the rebels defeat the Evil Empire? Can Tom Builder and Phillip the Prior construct a cathedral? Will Dorothy ever get home? Can a 15 year old boy with Aspergers negotiate the London underground? Was Penelope really so steadfast, and Odysseus worth waiting for?

Writing stories is so wondrous, so powerful. I love my characters. I love the Middles Ages, and I want to do them justice, continually learning and growing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Self-determination

Self-determination is what directed me to become a published author. Dahlquin, A Medieval Saga is the first volume, and is about finding a voice, recognition, and ultimately, self-determination.

Seventeen year old Eloise Dahlquin, in remote Connacht, Ireland rebels against a future bound in domestic slavery in the rigid, male dominated warrior culture of 1224 AD. Eloise simply wants a say in her future. A voice in the hinterland.

Self determination. The freedom to choose.

We all begin life with a will to live. And the struggle to find a voice in the world begins. Language is the first obstacle. Next the demands of parents, family and community. “Go to bed.” “Do not hit.” “Eat your vegetables.” “Work hard.” “No stealing.” Thou shalt and thou shalt not. Today teens rebel against parental restraints. Telemachus challenged his mother for his inheritance, to claim his manhood.

How would a young medieval woman cope? Would she be able to please her parents, the Church and herself? What would inspire her? Europe in the early 1200’s experienced a mini Renaissance, a glimmer of feminism. In the wake of the illustrious Hildegard von Bingen, lusty Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the rise of Mariology instigated Bernard of Clairveaux I could realistically explore this story with a strong female protagonist juxtaposed with the martial oligarchy.

History reveals an endless cycle of repression, whether by race, religion, gender or socioeconomics. One conqueror enslaves another; the poor are kept uneducated; congregations are manipulated by corrupt leaders; advancement and opportunity are withheld.

Self-determination is the driving theme throughout Dahlquin, A Medieval Saga. As Eloise struggles to make her own decisions; her parents fight to control their estate; the fractious Irish kingdoms fear another invasion by England. Is any one truly free to choose, or is everything preordained? And ultimately, what are the consequences of the choices made? If choices there be.

I have been married over thirty years, with one teen left in the house. I know about seeking a voice in alien and sometimes hostile cultures. To have my choice of music ridiculed, banishment because of my clothing (“Did you answer the door dressed like that?”). I remember a choice my husband gave me years ago, about a vacation. A bicycle tour, 6 weeks. He ripped our sole towel in half and asked which piece I wanted. Self determination, to dry my face or my…As it turned out, it rained the whole trip and I and my towel were wet most of the time. Was that pre ordained?