Thursday, April 29, 2010

An American Writer's Perspective on David Tennant as Hamlet...and why every writer should see it

So little time, so much to say....

DISCLAIMER: Let me just say, upfront, that I am biased: I would pay good money to watch David Tennant and Patrick Stewart read the phone book. Seriously. I think I'd even pay to watch Tennant take out the trash for two hours. They both deserve credit for taking on such iconic roles--it's hard to add to Hamlet something new and refreshing--after all, he's character who has been constantly invented and re-invented throughout history.

ABOUT ME: I hate reviewers who limit things to an oversimplified thumbs up or thumbs down, or reviewers who have had little experience with theatre or acting (either watching, volunteering, writing or performing). So just to let you all know, I have a master's degree in English (though I'm sure some of my posts would make one question that credential), I have a BA degree from one of the top ten journalism schools in the country, two published novels ( NOT self-published), and I have received regional and national recognition for my writing.

I do this not to brag, but because when I say this performance rocks, I do know what I'm talking about. (And PHFFFFTTT! to those who want to jump my case for ending that last sentence with a preposition. Snarky Muse--I'm talking to you)

The quick 4-1-1 -- wow.

I loved the modern costuming and the use of mirrors throughout the play. My friend C, who is a community college professor, said this type of setting would make the play more 'accessible' to those who maybe are under the (false) impression that Shakespeare is dry and boring. I do hope that the Royal Shakespeare Company realizes that by doing this production, they have opened the doors for a lot of students of every age.

The use of mirrors is incredibly effective, in many ways, because we project onto Hamlet our own fears, ambitions and worries.

Okay, let’s just say this and get it out of the way: David Tennant was Doctor Who, and David Tennant is a hottie. Seriously. Blind people know this man is handsome. But I’m not going to gush, but rather look at his acting chops.

I think the biggest positive, is while so many of us were used to seeing him in the Doctor, that was furthest from my mind as I watched the performance: there was only Hamlet. Imagine playing such an iconic character as the Doctor---which is an intregal part of British cultural history---and then playing an iconic Shakespearean character who has perhaps the most famous lines in all of literature.

To give my fellow American friends a bit of perspective, Doctor Who –for lack of a better comparison—has had a similar cultural impact ‘across the pond’ as Star Trek has had here. [I know, bad comparison, but work with me here!] Of course, I’m very thankful that Dr. Who has a great fan base here in the States. And even more thankful for friends who have cable who tape it for me (hint, hint)

And yes, I do realize I am the only person in the 21st century without cable. It’s my line in the sand. That’s all I can say. If I had the History channel and Sci-Fi channel, I’d never leave the house.

Tennant’s eyes were incredibly expressive, and I think he did a brilliant job of really bringing even more to the screen the incredible depression Hamlet carries, and the angst that he believes the only way he can get justice is to commit murder. I particularly loved the “is he acting crazy or has he really gone crazy?” perspective.

Major praise goes to the cut away of Hamlet’s “home movie” [for lack of a better word] that he is filming off and on during the event. It is meshed and edited into the overall piece seamlessly. The security cameras almost gave it an Orwellian feel to it.

Tennant is a very physical actor—he uses his height and very thin frame to his advantage, appearing both at the same time elegant and awkward, clearly giving me the impression of a young man on the brink of becoming a true leader, only to have his entire world ripped out from under him.

Tennant is a powerhouse. It was actually the BBC production of "Recovery" I saw him in that made me realize how incredible he is---I mean, I knew he was good, but ---WOW.

This scene from Hamlet shows just how powerful his performance this scene, Hamlet comes to visit his mother in her bedroom--she expresses her concerns that he is going mad, and he confronts her about marrying his uncle so soon after the death of his father. Note the use of mirrors and the height / position of the actors [as will be explained in my Citizen Kane reference below].

I must admit that the BEST piece of brilliance about this production dealt with how the actors used the space around them. When Orson Wells did “Citizen Kane,” he wanted the camera to reflect the character’s relationship—i.e. if one character towered over another, if one character was on the ground, if one character’s face was hidden—because he believed you should be able to watch the movie without the sound and be able to clearly understand the relationship wit the characters.

This becomes even more intensely effective in Hamlet.

If I have one minor fault with it is that the final scene, where some of the characters died [oh come on, do I really need to put a SPOILER alert with bleeping HAMLET?] it seemed to come off as a tad melodramatic—but then, having four characters die in the scope of such a short span is melodramatic, and I confess, I’m rarely comfortable watching actors ‘die’ onstage. I’m not really sure why. Seriously though, this is me being majorly picky [and may just be in the mood for missing my deadline [see earlier post.]

Why should writers pay close attention to Hamlet? Because Hamlet is both blank and multifaceted, he is both deep and shallow, eloquent and stumbling. Shakespeare has created a character that, as I mentioned earlier, serves as a catalyst to allow ourselves to project our own feelings onto him. Maybe this is just an American perspective, but it seems I’ve seen a WWII Hamlet, a classical Hamlet, a Great Depression Hamlet, a McCarthyism Hamlet…I think he reflects an image of a national consciousness as well. When the whole Freud thing was popular, we had the incestuous Hamlet --albeit, not a concept I think is supported by the text, but is often accepted as the case. That’s why I loved the Gertrude scenes I’ve posted here. They were incredible intimate and sensual without being sexual.

Hamlet transcends time because he becomes – dare I say it—almost too real to the viewer, because he not only creates a cathartic feeling, but the elements of Hamlet that make us uncomfortable may very well be the same—but milder-- issues we are dealing with ourselves.

To summarize: If you want to get your class interested in Shakespeare—see it. If you want to see amazing acting—see it. If you are remotely a theatre/ writing major – see it. If you’re breathing—see it.

I will be ordering my DVD copy ASAP.

In short, Tennant’s Hamlet was just what the doctor ordered J

Deadline Missed--but thankful for small victories

I hate to say it--and the former reporter inside of me is screaming-- I will not make my deadline. Ick. I could blame it on being sick for a week and pout and whatever, but the bottom line is the book is not going to make it. Needs to be at least 200 pages for the deadline. I'm at 156--still not quite finished.

This may be one of those cases where the glass is literally half empty or half full. So even though I missed the deadline---to have 156 pages in your novel in four months?

I'll take it. I'll take it and run with it. I'm usually pretty hard on myself, and a novel in four months [even a novel that I had been rattling around in my head for a while] was pretty ambitious. It was a big push to get me going and up to speed mission accomplished.

We stumble. We get back up.

I'm also trying to keep reminding myself of WHY I started the year of writing dangerously. It was because I had lost touch with what made writing 'fun.' While I recognize the importance of sending stuff out and of deadlines, I also recognize that writers [or really any artists] must keep track of what makes us joyful...and joy is not the same as happiness....

Plugging forward.
As Oscar Wilde said: "All of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reflecting Character Behavior--and David Tennant as Hamlet

I guess it's really no secret that, like many writers, I tend to be prone to melancholy and occasionally quite profound, depression. I tend to say it's like the old expression, "some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you."

The strange thing is, I'm not sure what exactly triggered it this time. I was under the weather last week and reacting to a medication that didn't "play well with others." That set me greatly behind on my writing deadline. This manuscript must be postmarked by May 1 to enter a contest [that I recognize it will not win, but as I said, this is about pushing me to make a deadline.] The characters I've been writing about, two in particular, are going through an extreme depression and angst. For the first time as a writer, I wrote what I considered to be a fairly violent scene. It's not that I'm opposed to writing them--if the story merits it--but just that I had never done it before. I kept it kind of Hemingway-esque--short erratic bursts, I guess because less is more, I'm hoping it was more style-merited instead of my own hesitation.

I'm wondering, if exploring these nooks and crannies of characters, in my effort to kind of step outside my comfort zone, that I had maybe been reflecting some of the feelings of my characters. Maybe I just need a good cry. Maybe I've been thinking about this whole thing a bit too much.

I'm hoping to get back to regular posting. I'm really excited about some [hopeful] guest bloggers I've got lined up. I've got some great online resources I want to share. And of course, Snarky Muse will be here with her revelations. I'm also hoping to redesign my website and start my 'page count' in the corner of this blog.

Despite it all, I know life is good. I know the world is not going to end tomorrow [well, I don't know that, but I'm not overtly worried about it.] My faith brings me peace, though faith never promises an easy life. I've learned that being joyful and happy are not the same thing. I've learned that cell phone companies will try to screw you over six ways till Sunday, and some days we're just sad for no explanation. Here's hoping for a good dose of serotonin tonight.

And I wonder sometimes if anyone is out there in the blogosphere. There's a lot out there. I don't expect my little ol' blog from ---yet another---nutty Southern writer to grab your attention. There are those that are far greater at it than I, and probably not half as neurotic.

Heat Wave Winner--

Changing the subject, the winner of our Richard Castle novel is ROSS! Congratulations. I know Ross has done some blogging before, and I hope he will be willing to accommodate me and maybe pop out a guest spot.

The Hamlet you MUST see..

Not your daddy's Hamlet. Modern costuming, an edgy attitude, and two of my favs, Patrick Stewart and David Tennant [who I am madly crushing over.]
I'm going to hang out with my buddy C for an old-fashioned girl's night in. Kind of like a slumber party--we'll braid each other's hair, paint our fingernails and talk about boys.

This Hamlet looks so incredibly dynamic and it amazes me that Bill the Bard can create a character that is so reflective of ourselves, so multi-dimensional and yet, at the same time, such a blank canvas to paint things on.

Wednesday at 8 on your PBS station. Set your DVRs. Here's the trailer.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How to tell if your writing group sucks

Dawn's Snarky Muse discusses: How to Tell if Your Writing Group Sucks

by Moywn, guest blogger, the Muse Of Your Worst Nightmares

In honor of the incredible writer [and ex of mine] William "Big Bill" Shakespeare's birthday, I'm doing a guest column on how to know when to get out of a writer's group.

I'd also like to take this time to point out Dawn's typo of 'peak' instead of 'peek' in an earlier entry. Tsk, tsk. She and I talk more about this when I get home.

Writers--whether we like to admit it or not--are social beings, and as much as we'd love to hole ourselves up in a beautiful Rocky Mountain lodge all winter and write the Great American Novel, being isolated can --for most people--cause them to go crazy. You know what they say about all work and no play [why does this have a familiar ring?]

This is a picture of my last writing group, painted so beautifully by de Simon Vouet around the 1600s [I think...I was kind of drunk at the time.] You can see me in the lower left hand corner telling Apollo that his lyre was out of tune and asking him for Big Bill's messenger. Yeah, we didn't have Tweets or Facebook or e-mail. We had to kick it old school. I'd give this writing group of mine a B you can see, things got a little out of hand some times. So.....

How to tell if your writing group sucks:

1-- You're reading this. If you're wondering if it sucks, then it does. If you have to ask, you have your answer. Just like if you have to wonder if that is a good haircut for you. If you wonder, it's not.[hint, hint, Dawn].

2-- You don't have any accountability. I'm not talking about getting all old school on folks [that's my job] but if every other person is "oh, I didn't bring anything this week" then to hell with them. It's not fair for other people. B is really good at keeping her writing group in line and balancing the fun/ friendship/ work. She should be imitated. I'm quite impressed.

3-- It's a social hour. I'm not saying writers can't socialize for writing groups [as you can tell from my old photo, some good times were had by all] but when the social hour replaces the writing hour, then you need to obviously either a) lengthen your writing group time so you can have social hour and critique hour or b-) just call it a social hour and not even call it a writing group.

4- You have one person whose work is such an Incredible Work of Brilliance that No One Can Compare To and If You Have Critiques Then You Just Don't Get It. One person can ruin the group. Then you start talking about him [not being sexist, it's just that, in my experience, it's always a guy, though I'm sure there are ladies who get their panties in a wad over it, too] and his obsession with himself takes over the group. Get out. But not before giving him this (( Moywn shows middle finger)).

5-- You talk ABOUT writing and not the stuff you've written.

6-- You have a bunch of morons in there.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think we are all aware that writing talent does not equal a degree. There are great writers who have little more than a high school diploma, and there are PhDs who can't write their way out of a paper bag. The whole point is that the writers have some sense that what they are doing. Sure, everyone is interested in learning and everyone needs feedback, but you also want to have a good 'give and take' with who you are with---I mean, if not, it would be like me sitting in on a clinic to teach Michael Jordan how to dunk the ball better. See what I mean? There are some people that, to be quite frank, I don't care what they think of my writing....

7-- People don't show up to the group again after criticism.

Criticism sucks. Deal with it. Get a life. Harper Lee said that one of the most important things a writer could do was develop a thick skin. One reason why she rocks.

8--People don't attend regularly.

I understand. Life happens. Certainly if you have the swine flu or are in a coma, no one expects you to show up. But if it's like 'I got to wash my hair' I'd be like 'just shave your head and come on.'

9-- No one completes the goals.

Flexibility is good, but if my goal is to finish x number of chapters or to send x poems out and I want to group to help me toward that, then I need to have made reasonable progress toward that goal to mean that the group is doing its job.

And finally, the most important:

---10-- If MORE THAN TWO members of the group have manuscripts that include ANY of these type of endings:

a) Wow, it was a ll just a dream

b) Characters end up being--surprise--- Adam and Eve

c) Characters are ---surprise--- dead / alive/ purgatory

d) The characters are ---surprise---dogs, cats, vermin.

e) Oh, wait, the story was just all a big acid trip

f) Oh damn, the character just got hit by a Mack truck

g) "Sorry sweetheart,but to tell the truth, I'm.---surprise---..... gay/ straight/ dead/ a vampire/ a zombie/ democrat/ republican"

Then run. Run and never look back.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On getting published---by Guest Blogger Christy Hamrick

Welcome to guest blogger Christy Hamrick!
Christy is writing about the publication of her poem [one that even the Snarky Muse has to admit is pretty darn good]. Writing Dangerously is open to guest bloggers or any writers who want to plug their books, give helpful pointers, or go mano y mano with the Snarky Muse [not for amateurs].
Christy is a NC poet who grew up in Mocksville, NC and graduated from Meredith College. She enjoys hiking and yoga.

On getting published-- by Christy Hamrick

I drove to Boone the Saturday before Easter to gather copies of WNC Woman magazine. My first published poem 'Degrees of Freedom' is centered on page 19 of the April, 2010 issue. The first stop was Earth Fare on Kings Street.

"They haven't been by here. Check at Boone Drug."

No WNC Woman present at Boone Drug or Mast Store, and the helpful clerks smiled apologetically. I cut past Footsloggers and wheeled my RAV left through the stoplight on Rivers Street. As I glanced in my rearview mirror, an ASU police cruiser turned a U from the left lane and flipped his lights. There was no one else behind me as I muttered, "Oh crap", and rolled off to the side of Rivers Street. The officer took his time pulling up my license tag number on the computer.

Oh well, at least I just got my tax money...guess I know where part of it is going.

Patrolman T. Osborne ambled up to the side of the car.

"Ma'am, could you pull up and off on that side street."

"Why, yes sir."

GEEZ! Did I forget to take care of some car-related issue? He must've found a skeleton in my trunk!

I carefully pulled onto Rivers Street and turned right at a campus parking lot. I glanced back and T. Osborne was still there writing feverishly on his clipboard. As he walked back up to the car, I noticed the eagle tattooed on his left bicep.

"Ma'am, I pulled you because it's 25 MPH back there, and I clocked you at 41."

"I'm really sorry. I got in a hurry."

"Well, I'm only giving you a warning ticket, but you need to watch it."

"I will, sir, thank you."

Tears surfaced and I could've kissed Officer T. Osborne. I've only managed to get off with a warning one other time out of five. My face gives me away and I'm usually given a ticket and made an example.

"Thanks so much, Mr. Osborne. I got in a hurry because I'm trying to find a copy of this free magazine that's running my poem this month."

Osborne smiled an uneasy grin like he was dealing with a woman struck by a case of the vapors and started backing away.

"You have a nice day now."

I needed my published poem to present to my 90-year-old Ma-maw the next day. Time is of the essence and presentation counts. Placing a magazine in Ma-maw's hands with pages to flip would count for something. A computer printed copy isn't the same.

"Just like those dadburn cell phones, clapping in church, and when everybody gets up in the worship service to shake hands, running all over the place. Disgraceful! It's the downturn of society."

After I stopped two other places, I found WNC Woman, March, 2010 edition. I resigned myself to waiting until I had a hard copy before mentioning it to her. Yesterday I drove to Shelby and picked her up from the nursing home to eat at Strawberry Hill in Chesnee, SC.

"I've got some news."


"One of my poems is published."

"Who's it about?"

"A lady named Sue Spirit I met in the mountains. She was a street preacher in Akron, OH, and traveled to Haiti twenty-two times. She took street kids as her work crew. Then she built a retreat center in West Salem, OH, and travels in semi-retirement."

"Is she married? She must not be, if she got all that done. Are you still working on our book?"

"Yes ma'am."

“Well, you need to keep at it. Did I tell you about the time”…

There are many approaches to getting your work published. Some writers browse publications and write specifically on the topic or theme posted on a magazine’s website. Others submit work that was written prior to exploration of publishing options. I think the best advice is submit your work and don’t take it personally when it is not accepted. Post your rejections on the fridge and acknowledge the work behind them. Keep writing. If you love words and fitting them together into poems, sentences, paragraphs, and stories, then tuck that into your brain and pull it out when you feel discouraged. One day it will happen, and your family and friends will react with a mixture of pride, love, and curiosity. A few might question your topic of choice or pout sour grapes because it’s not about them. Some may not get it at all. But if you’re a writer, you are true to your gut first, and crafting the words to carry the present into the future.

Contest This Week! Win 'Heat Wave' by Richard Castle

Deep, meaningful literature? No. A heck of a lot of fun? Sure.

This week, to honor Shakespeare's birthday, I am giving away a copy of "Heat Wave" by fictitious author Richard Castle, from the ABC series "Castle." Think of it as 'Murder She Wrote' meets 'Law and Order' with the sexual chemistry / comedy of Dave and Maddie in the early 'Moonlighting' episodes.

And...well, there's Nathan Fillion. Nuff said.

I recommend you Hulu the series or get a really cool friend to buy you the season on DVD [like my friend C did :)]

The meta-fiction aspect of this is really cool---Nathan Fillion the actor portrays a mystery writer, Richard Castle who bases a character on the NYPD detective Beckett....and now "Richard Castle" has released the book that was discussed in the series.

So, once again, the week of April 18-24, leave a comment on my blog. I'll put your name in a hat and draw a name on April 24. I'll video it just to show that everything is kosher.

I will e-mail you via whatever address you leave, and then I will snail mail the book to you. You can send me a PO box if you're not comfortable sending your home address to someone you don't know. (As someone once said, "there's nothing wrong with being paranoid if everyone really is out to get you.)

Also, MOYWN, my Snarky Muse, had a few things she wanted to say about Shakespeare....evidently she knew him or some such...Hey Moywn, nice get up. What's up with the cigarette holder? Isn't that a little know, FDR for you?

M: I don't know, Dawn, isn't your look a little too pushing 40 for you?

D: Ouch --- if you've missed our earlier interview with the Snarky Muse, you can check it out in the archive section and ---

M: Shut up. I just want to say that, Big Bill the Bard and I went way back, and this whole contest thing is a
celebration thing of his birthday...well, and for you to get some pathetic hits because you're just that insecure...but I am the "dark lady" he spoke of. Hmmm. What a man. My sisters would like to take credit for it, but it was really just Bill and me. Oh, the passion!

D: Kind of like when Richard Castle wrote in Heat Wave--

M: No, not at all like that. What is wrong with you, woman? Granted, I wouldn't throw Rick Castle outta bed for eating crackers...but...

D: Well, just in case you haven't caught "Castle" on ABC, here's a peak. Cute stuff.

M: Now, Rick Castle AND Big Bill together....

D: Yeah, why did you call him Big Bill?

Snicker, snicker

Her'es the intro to the Castle series--- I love it when he says "There are two types of folks who think of ways to kill people...."

Contest Week!

Been under the weather this past week, but the contest is this week---
leave a comment and be entered into drawing to win Richard Castle book....details in archive and more forthcoming.

Friday, April 16, 2010

If you look for your heart, you will find it

A while ago, I posted an entry about this way cool seashell I found at the beach. It had a heart perfectly formed within it [see archives for pictures].

Then, yesterday, I looked outside my "day job" office, and saw another one. Not a shell, but another heart.

For those of you who may read this from outside the state, or more importantly, outside the South,TREE POLLEN has taken over the state. Cars are covered, walkways are covered [so much so that you can actually slip on the darn stuff] and everyone who has an allergy is really, really hating it right now. It' s always bad in North Carolina, but this season is the worst I've remembered in 10 years.

My office overlooks basically a concrete drainage area. I don't complain because even getting a little bit of sunshine helps me get that vitamin D I need.

Looking outside, I found the tree pollen--disturbed by rain, or drainage or whatever--- had formed a perfect heart.

I was going to take a picture of it and post it, but some folks needed to do some work on the windows and as a result, part of the heart is gone. I like to think of it as God telling me that He's looking out for me, that He loves me, that, as CS Lewis says, Christianity is a matter of not being perfect, but a matter of constantly getting down on your knees and climbing back up again. Growth is not in staying on the straight and narrow, but growth is that process of constantly climbing back up...

It reminded me of my time at the 'Magic Mansion' [see previous entry]. I remember during my time there, I came into my room after a brisk walk / jog, and when I came in, the entire room was flooded with light. It made me believe that, even if for just a few minutes, anything and everything was possible. I think so many times, we cling to that, and we need to know that possibility is always there.

Of course, this is easy to say when you haven't lost a job, haven't been diagnosed with cancer, haven't lost a child...but then, ever so often, you look in nature and find hearts all around you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What the hell is up with the Progressive Car Insurance Chick?

What does the Progressive Car Insurance chick have to do with writing dangerously?
Quite a lot, actually.

I just got back from my writing residency at the Magic Mansion (thanks to JB who was a great house-sitter in my absence) and I did a record 70 pages. My friend B not only cranked out a beyond impressive 51 pages, but she finished her cool pony book and made an incredible connection through a chance in counter of someone who is related to an editor at a major publishing house. By far the best, most productive time I've ever spent.

Which brings us to the Progressive Insurance chick [who, according her name tag, is called Flo].

During my time at Magic Mansion, a writer friend of mine quoted a famous writer [sorry, can't remember who] who said "All writers should write with erections, even if they are women." That theme really stuck with me during this whole retreat--i.e. how 'dangerous' are we really willing to go? [see earlier posts]

I was surfing the web and came across pictures from the latest ComicCon, and in addition to the regular Star Trek and Dr. Who fans dressing up [ subliminal message: David Tennant, I love you, please call me] there were a few folks dressed as Progressive Car Insurance chick. I was like, huh? They are decent commercials, but not in the same tier as the Mac "1984" or even the CareerBuilder monkey ads, but what is it about Flo that made her have fans at ComicCon --or at least give the impression that she has a fan base?

Then, after seeing a commercial where she was blissfully giddy about helping people save money, I thought, what the hell is up with this flaky Progressive chick. Then I realized...she was writing dangerously.

Okay, not writing per se, but she is just so freaking THRILLED over what she does, like there was NEVER anything that could even remotely come close to the joy she got selling insurance---and it is that same kind of childish exuberance I think I am starting to see emerge again in myself, much like the Progressive girl...though I don't look that good with a price gun.


Also, sending love to my friends in California---y'all be careful. The ground is freakin' MOVING out there....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Art folds itself unto art ---and for me, this is near ultimate happiness

I've been remiss in posts this week, trying to get my novel done before the May 1 contest deadline. Right now I've completed a total of 100 pages...and I've discovered that, in many ways, I think for myself, writing faster---purely concentrating on nothing other than cranking out that first draft-- is truly better. I have no time to second guess myself.
Of course, I'll naturally be editing the manuscript, etc. But I have to crank out that first draft, and writing fast has opened my creativity up to characters I would badger and back into a corner otherwise.
I'm here at an undisclosed location that I call Magic Mansion---MM--with my friend B. We have both had major creative breakthroughs. While we do tend to get stir crazy from time to time and we like to explore the quaint village shops a ten minute walk down the road as a break, this time, we have totally, totally kicked it "old school." I have not left the house save for a 3.2 mile walk / jog, and we did take a quick drive that allowed me to splurge on the best Philly cheesesteak and a cannoli. I have not had a connoli in a long time, and I confess, I was kind of captivated by the silly artiness of it all, the famous "Godfather" line: "Leave the gun, take the cannoli."
But now, I'm gearing up for what is for me, pretty close to the ultimate bliss. The MM has a concert going on downstairs. While I must stay in the writer's wing, I can perch myself int eh den at the top of the stairs above the catering kitchen, and listen to the beautiful, gorgeous music. There is a world class flutist [and being a recreational flute player myself, I'm totally psyched to get to hear a professional] a harp, cello, soprano...all the things I so dearly love about classical and symphonic music, but rarely allow myself the chance to indulge... I've decided to sit here, have a small glass of wine, and listen to the gorgeous notes, letting them inspire me as I still crank out a few more pages in the "Australia" novel. B will almost certainly join me...[SIDEBAR- for some reason, I feel like this novel, more than the other two that have been published, would incredibly lend itself to a of those really artsy movies you see at Sundance. ]
...I'm gearing up to just slide into bliss, thanking God that I'm alive to experience this moment, thanking God that he is also an artist, and He knows what it is to take joy in creation of something beautiful.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Snarky Muse and Her Top Ten Mistakes Writers Make

Who is my Snarky Muse?
She's not the sweet, kind, gentle muse of Greek mythological lore. She's a gal with an attitude who constantly drums the rattling rhythm of my characters in my ear until I finally write it down. Well, that and she threatens me. Sometimes.

Because my Muse is doing a feature next week - How to tell if your writing group sucks-- I thought I'd bring her out and introduce her to everyone in this short interview where she highlights the many ways writers go wrong.

So who really is this crazy chick with her Greek chic? Introducing, Dawn's Snarky Muse:

D: So...I guess I really should give you a name, huh?

SM: You give me nothing. I already have one. I'm the Muse of Your Worst Nightmares. You can call me Moywn.

D: How do you pronounce that?

SN: You don't ---because you're supposed to be too busy writing -- duh.

D: That's an interesting did you get it?

SN: I got it specifically to wear for my buddy N. One of the few folks on this blog who makes any sense. Here's to you, N. (call me).

D: So what makes you a "snarky" muse?

SN: I don't run around Mount Olympus dancing in those stupid togas. I stand behind your chair when you're writing and threaten you with a two-by-four.

D: Umm...okay...what are some of the biggest mistakes you've seen writers make?

SN: Here's the top ten biggest mistakes writers make, and my solutions.

One - they never finish what they start. See my earlier comment about the 2 x 4.

Two- they talk ABOUT writing and don't write. The time you spend talking about writing --or writing blogs, ahem--is time you could be writing. Just shut up and write. Once again, the 2x4

Three - They don't know the mechanics - grammar, spelling, all that. You wouldn't operate on someone's brain if you didn't know how to operate--well, maybe you would be stupid enough to do that, but most people wouldn't. For this one, I put down the 2 x 4 and make them eat a copy of Strunk and White's "Elements of Style." If they don't improve, I force-feed them the Webster's New World Dictionary. They're crapping vowels for a week.

D: Aren't there other books you can---

SN: Shut up.

Four-- they can't take criticism. They're so @#$@ caught up in themselves they can't --- Dawn, would you @#$@# stop @#$#@ censoring my #@^&.

D: No need to be nasty.

SN: Why am I surprised? You were Baptist, which means you were only raised from the neck up.

D: Ouch.

SN: So for number four---the writers who can't take criticism, the ones who think that everything they write is perfect and if you don't think so, it's because you don't "get it," for these dudes, I chat them up. Sweet talk them. Tell them I'm in love with them, @#$#@$ them and then dump them like a smelly wet dog. That usually wrecks their self-esteem enough that they can get their act together.

Now, number five are the writers that are actually pretty good, but they don't send anything out. Solution: I break into their houses, steal the manuscripts and mail them myself...I also pick up any loose cash or jewelry while I'm there.

Number six - these are the writers who either 1- don't drink enough or 2- drink too much. It's a balance.

D: Speaking of drinking balance, what's in that drink you're holding?

SN: Like I'm going to tell you.

Number seven are the--"oh my gosh my idea is so @#$@#% brilliant, everyone's going to steal it if I send it out, so I'm just going to wax poetic about how @#$#@$@$ brilliant I am and I must hide my brilliance, because everyone wants to steal my stuff."

D: So what do you do about them?

SN: I steal their stuff. Doesn't help them any, but makes me feel better.

Number eight are those who don't follow the guidelines for magazines, editors, etc. Come on, if the publisher specializes in romances and you send them your gory story about bats, do you really think they're going to buy it? For this one I go back to the two-by-four. It's an oldie but goodie.

Number nine are those who actually are successful, but it goes to their head and they diss their readership. They get too high and mighty. I don't have to do much about buddy Karma takes care of it for me.

D: You know Karma?

SN: And he makes a mean margarita.

Number ten are those who give up too easily. They get one rejection and they give it all up. Dawn, how many rejections did you get with your first novel before it was published?

D: Um...a couple.

SN: And the second one?

D: I don't like talking about this.

SN: You said you stopped counting at 15...

D: Um...

SN: Was it because you got so many or because you couldn't count that high?

D: Well, obviously that's all the time we have left here. I'm gearing up this weekend to finish the bulk of my novel.

SN: And I'll be there too...with my two-by-four.

Novel Progress and Final Track on Novel Soundtrack

Sent off first 60 pages of "Australia" to K, my “comma Nazi” [and I say that with great love and affection]. I am going to go to a writing retreat to knock out the rest of the novel this weekend. At least, that is the plan. I’ve got bits and pieces of it written here and there and everywhere…I think if I can just pull it all together, I can pull it off…

… and btw, in the interest of Internet safety, YES I DO have someone house-sitting for me while I am away. :)

Let me reiterate that this is not typically the way I write a novel. Sometimes, however, having a deadline [in my case, a contest] can be the perfect kick in the pants to get it done. After all, that’s why I created the “year of writing dangerously” – a year with no extracurricular activities—a year to focus on my writing because, well, I’m definitely not getting younger...well, that, and, like so many other Americans, I seem to have an addiction to trying to do too much.

The page count is at 60 ---I'll check back in on Monday, send another group of pages to K and we'll go from there. It has just hit me that if I make this deadline, I will have written A NOVEL thus far in 2010. Granted, I had been working on it off and on for a while, and it was the brainchild of a National Novel Writing Month project, but still, to finally get everything together...Whew!

For some reason, a hymn that has been featured briefly thus far in my novel is starting to play an even bigger part in it than I anticipated. Here is a clip of it, the final track on my novel soundtrack..."Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

I love the acoustic guitar fact, I love the guitar. Hopefully one day, I can learn more songs on my guitar [my current repertoire is limited to "Smelly Cat," "Folsom Prison Blues" and some Dylan.]

Here's the final track for "Tomorrow in Australia."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Progress and Upcoming Contest--Richard Castle Book

Okay, so I've just about got the 60 pages ready to send to my friend K for her to go on comma patrol. I'm kind of doling it out to her piecemeal, because, as I've mentioned, this puppy's got to be in the mail on May 1. It also has to be at least 200 pages, but I do not think that will be a problem--I've got great headway into the next section of the book and I've already written the ending.
One of the pluses of this technique is that with K looking at the earlier pages, I'm not tempted to go back and write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. I'm all for putting out a polished product, but if you don't finally send the book out of the house...or at least, if I don' find it's like an overgrown college drop out--thirty-five, living in his parents' basement and smoking weed behind their backs.

Contest coming up!!!!
Okay, here's the 4-1-1 on my upcoming contest:

While Shakespeare's birthday isn't really "officially" known, it is commonly believed to be on April 23. Therefore, the week of April 18-April 25, all you have to do is leave a comment on my blog here, and I will put your name in a drawing for your own hardcover copy of "Heat Wave" by fictitious author Richard Castle.

Castle is an ABC series that is like a cross between "Murder She Wrote" and "Law and Order." Most importantly, it stars Nathan Fillion of "Firefly" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame. He plays Richard Castle, a mystery writer who joins forces
with the NYPD when a killer starts copying scenes from Castle's mystery novels.

The chemistry between Castle and the cop (and his inspirational 'muse') Kate Beckett reminds me of the early seasons of Dave and Maddie on "Moonlighting."

Deep, meaningful literature? No. A heck of a lot of fun? Sure.
And...well, there's Nathan Fillion. Nuff said. I recommend you Hulu the series or get a really cool friend to buy you the season on DVD [like my friend C did :)]

The meta-fiction aspect of this is really cool---Nathan Fillion the actor portrays a mystery writer, Richard Castle who bases a character on the NYPD detective Beckett....and now "Richard Castle" has released the book that was discussed in the series. I'm sure there's a Twilight Zone moment in here about what makes reality and how thin that line between virtual world and our world is, but that will need to be done by a far more talented writer than I....

So, once again, the week of April 18-24, leave a comment on my blog. I'll put your name in a hat and draw a name on April 24. I'll video it just to show that everything is kosher.

I will e-mail you via whatever address you leave, and then I will snail mail the book to you. You can send me a PO box if you're not comfortable sending your home address to someone you don't know. (As someone once said, "there's nothing wrong with being paranoid if everyone really is out to get you.)

BTW-- this clip art is from can't really look inside the book, but you can go to Amazon and do so....

Oh, it would be nice if you left a nice comment for me. Doesn't need to be lengthy, you know, just "don't be hatin'"

Happy Easter - C.S. Lewis quote

I had an incredible Easter experience this morning. I think we so many times picture heaven and Jesus and angels as these puffy, floating, warm-fuzzy, glassy-eyed creatures, that we forget how dynamic they are meant to be. (** author's tip--you may want to avoid these cliches. Granted, I've never seen an angel, but I think good writing comes with presenting the unexpected--but that's a column for another time...).
Our priest, S, made an interesting point that I had never considered before...if the angels we picture were so warm fuzzy and fluffy, then why is it that the first thing they always say is "Do not be afraid." Evidently there is something about them that is recorded in the ancient scripture as frightening and dynamic. They didn't have digital cameras back then--and in a way, I'm glad [see the Doris Betts quote in the archives at right].

So Happy Easter to those who celebrate it. I also send wishes of peace, love and joy to those who do not.

From C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity"

A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself...a Christian is not someone who never goes wrong, but one who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin again, because the Christ-life is inside him. ...that is why the Christian is in a different position from other people trying to be good. They hope......the Christian is different from others trying to be good. They hope to please God if there is one; or--if they think there is not--at least deserve approval from men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. God does not love us because we are good, but God will make us good because he loves us.