Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Back to Basics

I haven’t exactly been silent on the subject of my father’s death. He was hospitalized on July 1st, passed on the 9th and we finally had his memorial this past weekend. According to his doctor, he lived 5 years beyond his expectancy. Consequently, his death was expected and hung morosely in the air for a long time. It is safe to say that for all of us, his family, July was a tough month.

One of the effects it had on me was to knock my muse, Shirley, on her tushie and I’ve been trying to nurse her along. Today, I went back to basics and I feel much better.

“Basics” for me is re-reading Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way.  First published in 1992, this book has helped many artists in any number of disciplines find their paths back to their inner artist. I know because I bring this book up often and so many creatives rave with me about how it helped them. I’ve given the book to several people over the years, especially those who were trying to find their muses for the first time.

What Cameron does in the book is layout a simple but effective plan for tuning in to your own music. The method requires only two activities of the reader – daily journaling and artists’ dates. Now, this will seem very simple to many, but if you read the book, you’ll be guided to the right way to journal for this quest and how to give yourself the freedom to mentally play. 

There are a number of questions to be asked. I still have the original answers I gave ten years ago tucked into the book, but I’m coming at it fresh this time. It will be fun to compare my answers from back then to those I give now.

At the time I purchased the book, it was $14.95.  I just checked Amazon and they offer the book and a workbook (which I’ve never had) for $19.57 and a Kindle edition for $13.99.  Either one is a bargain.

I hope anyone who is trying to find their way artistically will give this book a try. Shortly, after reading it, I wrote a short story and sold it to Woman’s World for $1,100. 

I’m just saying.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is Sex Necessary?

That’s a big question for writers today. There is no real answer, only opinions. So here’s mine.

No, it’s not and yes, it is. It depends. If you’re writing fiction that doesn’t center around a relationship that normally includes sex, then sex isn’t necessary. However, if you’re writing a story about two people who have a sexual relationship, whether healthy or abusive or whatever, and you don’t write sex scenes, you’re not being honest and your readers will know it.

It’s really about how you demonstrate the sex. I’ve seen it so well done that only the biggest prude in the world would blush. An example would be Dying to Know by Christina Carson. Her sex scenes are not explicit, but you know and understand the kind of sex her two characters experience. That’s what’s important. We don’t have to be included in the most intimate details of that experience, but we must acknowledge that they are having sex and what its nature is to understand more about them as people.

Why? Because people have sex. It’s part of everyday life. If the characters are in a relationship that would normally be sexual and they aren’t having sex, then we need to know why not. 

Of course, there are entire genres that don’t require and/or shouldn’t include sex. This is understood. It’s when a writer has story that should have sex in it and it becomes an uncomfortable task that the issue arises.  There is always the question in the author’s mind "Will people (my mother, my friends, my children) think less of me if I write this sex scene as I know it should go?"  In my opinion, you owe it to your readers to get beyond this. You absolutely must be true to the characters. Most of the people you’re worried about will surprise you anyway.

So, that’s my take on it. What’s yours?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Snap Out of It!

Sometimes, the hardest thing in life is dragging yourself out of the dregs of despair. I firmly believe that the time we allow ourselves to wallow in something – pain or anger or grief – should only be one day, period, no exceptions.

Now I’m not saying that all that stuff is not still there, and shaking it off is certainly not that easy, but full-on wallowing can’t go past a certain timeframe or you just get stuck there.

My wallowing involves a complete shut down for a day. Nothing is required of me – not getting out of bed or bathing or even eating – nothing. It works for me. Yesterday was one of those days. I did get out of bed, but only to walk six feet to my laptop and even then I did only what I felt like online.

Moving on is essential. It is how we get through a life that can sometimes be a bitch. Now, what does this have to do with writing? Everything.

It is so easy to get stuck in what we too easily perceive as the tragedy of a story that won’t come together. We literally grieve the idea that has died, only too often beyond its infancy after we’ve already poured ourselves into it. And we should grieve, because, after all, our stories are pieces of ourselves. We would grieve a lost limb, wouldn’t we? So, grieving a lost tale is perfectly reasonable.

But like the mother who has to care for her living children after the death of one child, we have to move on. We have to listen to our creative souls as another idea comes to life and give it our all with every bit of the fervor we gave the story that perished.  We can’t afford to wallow.

So, if you're stuck in grief for a failed narrative - as Cher says to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck – “Snap out of it.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

In Memoriam

My father passed away in the wee hours of the morning today. His last week was a valiant struggle against multiple health problems: COPD, a broken clavicle and a collapsed lung. He was 82 years old and frankly his release from this world was a blessing.

I have a terrible need to do something, say something. So, I will do my best here.

My Pops grew up very poor in Louisiana yet he rose in ranks consistently through his service in the Navy, which included a stint in the US Embassy in Venezuela, then on to several executive positions in companies like Memorex and Avantek. Somewhere along the way he reached the level of Vice President - this from a country boy whose high school graduating class consisted of eleven kids. He never went on to college.

He cut out of the corporate world at the age of 49 and became Lord of “The Property”, the 40 acres my folks brought outside Sutter Creek, California when I was just a kid and turned into a hilltop residence over the years. He bulldozed away many a day, on his DC8 Caterpillar, mending roads and spotting rattlesnakes until my mother and he took up garage saling which led to an overflowing garage of their own and ultimately a business. The pair have been in the antique business for the past 23 years.

He was an ordinary guy, blessed with smarts and charm. He had a 63-year love affair with my mother, Nancy, that began with a declaration on the day he met her that he was going to marry this girl. He wrested her away from her date that day and never looked back.

I’m sure that the remembrances that will be spoken over the next few weeks will be varied and cover many aspects of the man I knew as my Pops. The one shining thing I would hold up in his memory is his ability to forbear, to never give up and fight the good fight until the end.

As other authors will understand – here are a few “tags” for my Pops: handsome, honorable, patriotic, committed, athletic, country, lovable, flirt, romantic, smart, stalwart…

Fred Tully Bryant – Dec. 25,1929 to July 9,2012 - A Life Well-Lived

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What Keeps You From Writing?

For years now I’ve been tell myself, and anyone who would listen, that I couldn’t write because I didn’t have enough time. Well, I’ve been unemployed now for four months however nothing has changed. There’s plenty of time to write yet my butt-in-the-chair time has not increased. I went to breakfast recently with an aspiring writer friend of mine, who is still working, and told her that. I watched her face fall.

Perhaps for her it will be different, but I highly doubt it. The real reason I haven’t written more than I have in these 120 days is that I still have to shift my thinking from the mundane to enter the imaginary. That has always been difficult for me and probably more so than for others because I literally have a split personality when it comes to left brain versus right brain. I’ve functioned well in business due to organizational and marketing skills, which isn’t exactly the traditional artist’s way.

When my late husband was still with me, he’d steer me into my writing office, which he helped me create, the minute I walked through the door at the end of the work day, urging me to type a page or two before I started on the evening chores. That was an incredible gift. During a period of about two years, I wrote nine screenplays.

Now that it’s just me in my little RV, I must find that loving voice within and guide my writing spirit into a creative space on a more regular basis and before I jump into the day’s chores. I’m working on it. That’s what I did this morning. Writing this post came before anything else.

So, if you’re having trouble escaping into the world in which you write, I urge you to delve into why this is happening and then try to develop a trigger mechanism, something that will propel you to your writing space as urgently as life seems to want to pull you away. 

It’s a battle we can win.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Indie Authors’ Expo Update

Well, I’m busy making phone calls, filling out forms and trying to nail down a date for our Indie Author’s Expo. It’s a bit of a slow go at present because my attentions are elsewhere due to illness in my family.  However, I’m slogging along.

I’ve had great response from Indie authors out there, potential speakers and even a fully-functioning non-profit organization that would like to be involved. 

Here are links to the previous posts on this event. 

Indie Authors' Expo?

Indie Authors’ Expo – What’s Next?


Sometime this month, as soon as humanly possible, I will kick-off a fund-raising campaign. I’m discussing doing a video for it with a friend who is a videographer.

I’ve had some very good suggestions on subjects to cover in the workshops. Thank you.

Here’s what I’m looking for now:

  • People located in Northern California who are interested in volunteering during the event and perhaps interested in joining an Indie Authors group. Please contact me with any questions or just to throw up your hand and say, “Me, me!”
  • Day Two will start with a breakfast followed by a keynote speaker. I have three possibilities in mind for that speaker, but would really like to know who you would most like to have up there at the podium.
  • Comments from those who have attended a book fair, convention or tradeshow in the past as to what you liked and what turned you off. 

Again, this event if for all of us, so please let yourself be heard.