Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Waiting for a hurricane is kind of dull UPDATED!

Well, I'm not waiting for it anymore... Irene blew through here on Saturday night through Sunday afternoon... and it's Wednesday now... I think...

But Saturday morning/afternoon/evening were a snoozefest! Places were already boarding up and sending people home, so there wasn't much to do. It was dark and threatening rain all day, so we avoided most outdoor activities... We did manage to squeak into the cupcake shop in Bethel to get a few yummies... but they're gone now... I haven't checked to see if they have power again yet.

Speaking of power, we don't have it. Mostly, it's no big deal. During the day we barely run any electric items/appliances anyhow, and leave the lights off in general. And at night we use candles to see... and the stove top is gas... and we have a generator to keep the fridge cool. I even don't mind not being "wired in" mostly (although it makes it kinda hard to let your family know you haven't died in the natural disaster. We haven't). I have been doing a LOT of reading... 800 pages to finish a 1000 page book... second in a series of 5... it's not like I don't have something to keep me busy :)

But the power is a pain for us for one MAJOR reason... the well. Our well pump is electric... and it's non-functional at present. We have been ordering in our drinking water for some time, so that's not too bad to deal with, but... it's exceedingly harder to wash dishes... and impossible to shower... and we're now using water we could be drinking to flush the toilet. I know all that water makes it there eventually... but it sort of burns to bypass the drinking part and just pour it down there...

With the two trees that took down the power lines on our street still sitting in the middle of the road and caution tape, I'm guessing it's going to be a few more days before we get that water pump back up and running. Ugh.

In the meantime... I'll be doing a lot more reading!

UPDATE!!! We got our power back last night! I've never been so happy to be able to flush a toilet in my life :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sparks Future: Afghanistan has loquats!

Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

So, I have grown up in a mostly post-Cold War era... I mean, the Cold War was still going on when I was in school, but Gorbachev had already come to power by the time I was in the 5th grade and politically things were moving towards a better peace between the US and the USSR.

By the time I was in the 7th grade, Hussein had invaded Kuwait and we had a new enemy... the Middle East. Not just Hussein, the crazed dictator... the entire Middle East and all of its desert dwelling Muslims. Yep... that's the culture of fear I grew up under.

Whenever I thought of the Middle East (and Afghanistan and Pakistan which are, technically, part of Asia)... I thought of people in turbans with machine guns living in nomadic dwellings in a desert wasteland that was covered with sand and dust and rocks... and nothing else... I'm ashamed to admit that this impression of that "other" part of the world lasted all the way through college!!!

It wasn't like I had never been to the Middle East. I visited Israel with my parents when I was in high school (and again later, after the world view change, thankfully). I ate the fruit and looked at the archaeological sites. And somehow my brain always reset to deserts and machine guns and turbans (there were quite a few machine guns present wherever I happened to look in Israel, granted...).

After college, I moved to LA from my little hometown in Georgia. That move in and of itself began to change my world view. So many cultures directly impacting each other! LA is a place like no other for learning about and experiencing the World right in your own back yard. I miss it...

One friend that I made while I was in LA shared my love of reading, and would exchange books with me frequently. She pulled me out of my world of Arthur and the classics and into the world of best sellers. I can't say I was entirely happy about this, but I was willing to give the books she recommended a try.

One of those books was "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. An amazing story of the friendship of two boys... so poignant and moving and... hold on... Afghanistan has loquat trees???

That book opened my eyes to the beauty and vibrancy of a region that it had never occurred to me to think of as beautiful or vibrant... and it opened my eyes to the horror that war can wreak on a landscape or a culture... and it reminded me that this world is bigger than my perception of it... I can only hope that those ideas are reflected in the way I interact with the world now and in the future.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sparks Present: Merlin and Arthurian Legend

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
Strap in, 'cause this story meanders a LOT before I get to the point :)

I think one of the things I like about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein is their capacity for embracing myth and legend and through that creating something new. As a young reader, I was not exposed to Arthurian legend, although my father was reading Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy around that time.

No, my first exposure to Arthur and Merlin came through the lens of fairytale despot of the day... Walt Disney; more specifically, through "The Sword in the Stone". I enjoyed the whimsical plot and characters in my youth, and it must have stuck with me, because in college I began reading Mary Stewart as well... too intrigued, I suppose... I conveniently "borrowed" the book from my Dad... I gave it back eventually!!

I loved Stewart's rendition of the legend of Merlin and Arthur. She made use of a lot of history and grounded that legend so firmly in the past that, to me, it seemed like it could exist! And Merlin fascinated me... the idea that he was a man, not just a cartoon, sort of swept me away.

When I had the chance, I picked up "The Wicked Day"... a follow up to the Merlin Trilogy, chronicling the life of Mordred, Arthur's bastard son by his half sister... and again, Stewart astounded me. Mordred, the villain son who is responsible for his own father's death, became so real in his flawed humanity that I cried for him!

The characters Stewart represented for me sparked a curiosity in me for the legend of Arthur... and so I read "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White and was shocked to find Disney's inspiration for "The Sword in the Stone" in the first part of that 3 part epic volume. It was not quite so cutesy and clean as Disney had made it, but the echo of the story was there, resonating out of my childhood and into the now.

In the second (and decidedly more dark) part of "The Once and Future King", White takes the reader to the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland... where Stewart had taken us to hear about Mordred growing up... I wanted to know more about this haunting, harsh landscape... and so, through the magic of Google, I began researching the Orkneys.
I eventually went there, even!
Yep, this photo is by me :)
I found a land rich with its own folklore and mythology there and an idea that had been swirling around in my brain struck a chord in the landscape and folklore... and sparked a NEW idea... one that I'll hopefully bring to life in full in November, since I've decided that will be my focus for NaNoWriMo.

So there you have it. I must say that's quite a ramble! And it took a few different authors and an entire landscape to get me there, but... sometimes that's what it takes!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sparks Past: Narnia and the One Ring

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer?
I've known that I wanted to write since I was pretty young... the current Work In Progress I have going I started in high school and it was heavily influenced by two works I had experienced at a young age.

When I was a child, my father used to read to me in the evenings... looking back, I realize that didn't last as long as I would have liked... but before evening reading time disappeared, he made it through The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Between LOTR and Narnia, I think that Narnia had a deeper impact on me... I'm not sure if it was the length of the Chronicles being more accessible at the young age I was first exposed to them... or if it was the character of Aslan, so powerful and reliable (if not "safe")... probably it was the fact that the main characters were children who were sucked into a world beyond their imagining... I always wanted that to happen to me. I would open closets, look under rocks, spend hours wishing to disappear into Narnia and become a queen, ride in a hunt, wield sword or aim a bow...

drawing by Kate "Silverfish" Jennings

I would love to tell you that LOTR and the incredible J.R.R. Tolkein were entirely responsible for my creative bug... I have such high esteem for Tolkein and his amazing world of fantasy. It is, I believe, physically impossible to plumb the depths of the world Tolkein created and find the bottom. I think if the movies had come out when I was still young and impressionable, that would have sealed my fate. But, if Tolkein was going to be trumped by anyone for the place of chief imaginative spark in my life, it could not be anyone better than C.S. Lewis.

Both these authors had a significant impact on the way I conceptualize my fantasy worlds (I'll NEVER write as well, but... hey! A girl's gotta dream!). If you've never read any of the Chronicles, I suggest you give them a try. If you can overlook the heavy allegorical imagery, you're in for a real treat... if you can appreciate the allegory, you're in for double :).

Hmmm... may be time for a re-read... but for now, off to create!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sparkfest and a rehash of summer goals*

First things first... I'm a follower, for sure, in this world of cyberspace, but you know what they say, Juliemybird? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery :) Through my cool blogging friend, I discovered the Spark Blogfest. Because I know you were wondering, blogfests are an awesome way of networking on-line, in this case with other writers who are also on-line. While they can seem distracting, they actually help you build your follower base, and thus your conversation becomes richer. As we can all see, my conversation needs to become richer!!! Talk to me, people!!!

But back to the Spark Blogfest. The idea is to, over the next couple of days, answer the following 3 questions:
What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 
What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

I can't answer those questions immediately because... well, I just can't :) I'm going to have to think about it for a little while and get back to you :) But that means more posting! Which is always good... So be sure to check back later this week (in the next 3 days before Spark Blogfest ends, actually) for an insightful, endearingly ironic post from yours truly.

In other news, re: my writing goals for the summer... I have not done what I might have dreamed here by the end of August 2011... big shocker! But! I have hope! My new plan is to finish my current Work In Progress draft by the end of September. Huge step!!! Draft done means revising can begin! And that's where I'll really have fun, I think. Anyhow, finish by the end of September so that N and I can take a vacation in October (I know, like I need a vacation, but HE does!)... and hopefully I will come back from vacation refreshed and inspired and ready to pound out the first draft of Work In Progress number 2 for NaNoWriMo!! (that's National Novel Writing Month, in case you were wondering... and you should check out their website. It's a pretty cool event/month!)

I can't believe it's already that time of year again! But there you have it! Having a draft done is going to feel SOOooooo good! Now if I can just stop nattering on here long enough to get some work done on it! Wish me luck!

Love and hope to you all!

*Disclaimer: Please ignore the blatant overuse of exclamation points throughout this post. I think I'm trying to work myself into a writer's frenzy :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why yes, I do admire you...

It's so much easier to say that sort of thing on the internet than it is in person... for one thing, the odds of my being face to face with Keith Miller, author of "The Book of Flying", are pretty slim... and for another... it's less likely that, when I admit my admiration, you will be able to hear the bottom fall out of my stomach or see/feel the sweat of my palms... thus I keep my dignity, yes?

All this gushing was brought about by a post on Mr. Miller's blog recording a review he received for "The Book of Flying". One of my favorite parts of "The Book..." was the poetic rhythm of Mr. Miller's prose; his alliteration and imagery delighted me! So, when the reviewer said "beautiful writing can be an end unto itself..." I could not help but add a resounding YES!

And now I'm embarrassed... but, hidden behind a computer screen it's less likely to show... although... here I am posting about it. Oh well.

If you've never read "The Book of Flying", by Keith Miller, and if you are a fan of fantasy like I am, I highly recommend that you pick the book up right away. You will be enchanted, to say the least. Then, hop on over to Mr. Miller's blog and learn more! And tell him what an amazing writer you think he is!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I went on a road trip

Over the past 10 days I drove South (and then North again) to visit family and friends. Noah had to work, so I loaded up the dog and he kept me company during the trip. I saw friends from high school, from my Asbury Hills camp days, and my family. Between driving, visiting, and eating there was little time for blogging. I did, however, manage to take a few photos for your pleasure.

Days before my road trip these fantastic friends came to visit.

Daughter of two of my great friends from Asbury Hills. Isn't she a doll?

Tag did so good with the kiddos!

Flowers for the puppy.

I love this tree and its roots!

Some interesting graffiti... food for thought...

Here is a sampling of my family.

The grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary the weekend I was there.

Us grandkids (not everyone was present).

My aunt had us all make a square for this quilt she stitched. (see mine bottom center :))


I had a really good time hanging out with people. We ate tons of good food, and the large majority of it was vegetarian! I'm so thankful and proud of my family for being willing and able to pull that off. :)

Tag, of course, was a huge success overall. He charmed everyone with his dashing good looks and his lovable personality. He was very tolerant of all the children we came in contact with (yay!) and seemed to handle the changing scenery well. I will definitely take him on more road trips. Too fun!

Now that I'm back, I hope I will have some time to write and renewed energy and focus towards meeting at least one of my summer writing goals. I am so close I can taste it!!!
Tag, happy to be home after a long journey.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Creative space

I know this is a total Proxy project... as Havi would say... maybe it's just downright Avoidance! Who knows? Either way, I hope that it actually helps me move further along towards my super goal of finishing the draft of Novel #1...

Wondering what I'm talking about, eh? Well yesterday I rearranged some furniture... I carved out a, I'm calling it a Workbench, in the dining room (my favorite room in the house)... a place for me to write, or paint, or draw, or even sew (the machine is under the desk). What do you think?

Yay for creative space :)

And yay for sunflowers!

Look how tall!
Tomorrow two amazing friends will be coming for a brief visit... only a couple of days, but it will be SO GOOD to be with them... and then next week I'm driving South with the dog. Eep! At least all those hours I spend in the car I'll have Tag to talk to.

So now I have creative space but no time to use it! Sigh... one of these days...