Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wishing You All A...

Are you dressing up this year?  What as??

Have a blast!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Stephen King's On Writing

There are no coincidences in life, of this I am sure.  Timing is divine.  And that's the reason I hadn't gotten around to reading Stephen King's On Writing before now.

For the rest of you who make up the infinitesimal percentage I belonged to  of people who still haven't read On Writing, here's why you should pick it up today:

If you are a writer:  King talks about the craft like you're sitting on a sofa across the room from him, feet up on the coffee table or tucked underneath you.  He's so accessible, describing his life from his earliest memories forward and how his experiences shaped his writing.  You'll find yourself nodding as you read, validated as the writer you are, when he says things like:

"There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun.  Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up." -- Stephen King, On Writing (Copyright 2000 by Stephen King, published by Scribner, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. -- This Scribner trade paperback edition July 2010, page 37.)

If you're a Stephen King fan:  You don't have to be a writer to love this book.  If you devoured Stephen King classics like Carrie, The Shining, Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone, Misery, etc. etc., you will learn in On Writing what everyday experiences sparked the ideas for his stories.  This book is part memoir, a backstage pass into the creative mind of Stephen King, where he tells you where the dots fell and how he connected them.

But as I said at the beginning of this post, timing in life is often extraordinary.  I was reading On Writing yesterday when I came across a passage that spoke directly to me, its message seemingly intended for me:

"The most important [lesson King learned while writing Carrie] is that the writer's original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader's.  Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea.  Sometimes you have to  go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position." -- Stephen 78.

Thank you, Mr. King.  I needed to hear that!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Trip Back in Time

I spent the weekend in the Hudson Valley in New York with my kids, my parents, three of my sisters and all their kids, and friends of our family.  It was a magical time!  The entire weekend was to be a surprise birthday celebration for one of my sisters, planned by her boyfriend and her business manager.  Unfortunately, our father slipped last week during a phone conversation, (he's a terrible secret-keeper), but that in no way diminished the fun we had.

Our events agenda included apple picking, hay rides, square dancing (so hilarious!), horseback riding, a hunt for pumpkins hidden in a corn field, a birthday dinner in a circa 1760s farmhouse, s'mores by the bonfire, pumpkin carving for the kids, and lots of eating and drinking.

Our party staying in several local Bed and Breakfasts, restored historic homes with the most gorgeous wide plank wood floors and furnished entirely with antiques.  I slept in a four-poster bed and bathed in a claw foot tub.  I had my notebook and pen out all weekend, taking notes to capture the essence of these homes preserved in time.

I'm going to have all the photos I took of the houses printed and they're going on my design wall behind the computer monitor in my writing studio.  You never know when you'll need details, inspiration, or descriptions for a story!  I try to take advantage of every place I visit, even the more mundane or everyday spots, and record as many details as I can for future writings.

I was fortunate to be able to do this kind of research without spending any money.  My trip was paid for entirely -- a gift to my sister to have her whole family present.  But a writer is always researching -- at the grocery store, in the local botanical gardens, at a bus station, in the mall and restaurants.

Where are your favorite places to research for your writing?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Celebrating "Daddy"

I've been revisiting Sylvia Plath's poems this week and reflecting on her dark genius.  She is by far one of my favorite poets, because her work never fails to get under my skin and inside my heart.

In Sylvia Plath's poetry, as well as her fiction, suicide is a recurring theme.  And each mention of suicide makes her work all the more haunting for readers today, forty-seven years after she took her own life.  One such poem is "Daddy."

I first discovered "Daddy" a couple years ago when I was researching allegory in poetry.  I was hypnotized by Sylvia's words, by the tone of the piece and the way it affected my emotions.  Then, I found the video on YouTube of Sylvia herself reading the poem.  It became an instant favorite of mine.

I'm going to share that video here, and just below it are the words to "Daddy."  You can scroll and follow along -- I think that makes the experience that much better.  I hope you enjoy it.

by Sylvia Plath

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

~12 October 1962~

What's your favorite poem or poet?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's Lenny's Birthday!

Happy Birthday Lenny!

If you haven't wished the sweetest blogger in the world a happy birthday, won't you scoot over there right now and leave him well wishes?  And if you'll be meeting him for the first time, go ahead and follow his blog.

He is a boy with an enormous heart and great writing talent for someone so young.  What potential!  You'll love him to pieces, just like I do; I know it for sure!

Best wishes, Lenny!  Have a fan-tabulous day!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pics of Me in Africa ~ And a Great Cause

Candace Ganger at the Misadventures of Candyland is raising money today for Joy2theWorld.  (Joy2theWorld empowers business women (and their children) in Ghana, Africa by providing micro loans they can invest in their business.)  To reach her goal, she needs just one dollar from each of her followers, although bigger donations are certainly welcome!

If you don't follow Candace, please visit her blog today and join.  She's talented, funny, gorgeous, and I've never ever read one of her blog posts that I didn't thoroughly enjoy.  And while you're there, show your support for her fundraising efforts.  It's amazing what just one dollar can do in the Third World.  I know.  I've been there.

I thought, since Candace is raising money for Ghanan women and children, that I would share a couple of my Peace Corps pictures with you.  For those who don't know, I was a volunteer in the Central African Republic from 1994 to 1996.  The following pictures are just to give you a glimpse into where I lived, and in another post (that will take more preparation time than I have today :D) I'll show you photos from my project there.

Can you find me?  This was near the end of our intensive 3-month in-country training.  See the only guy in a green shirt?  I'm two rows back from him, standing behind the girl with a dark baseball cap on.

The front of my little mud brick house.

Inside, my desk where I worked on my project and my art.

Me, cooking in my kitchen. I brought all those spices from home, btw.

With my friend Chantal and her little girl.  Chantal was a business woman who sold cafe au lait and fresh beignets at a makeshift stand on the side of the road leading to the hospital.  She is the kind of entrepreneurial woman who would benefit from fundraisers like Candace is supporting.
And finally, here's me at the airport in Syracuse, NY, leaving on my life's greatest adventure.  I'd been advised numerous times to use old Army duffel bags to pack my stuff in, but I wondered how I'd tell my bags from everyone else's.  There were 45 other people leaving with me.  So, I painted happy flowers on my bags.  Locating them in a sea of olive green was never a problem!

Take it from me, for the cost of two Starbuck's specialty coffees, you can help an African business woman advance in her endeavors.  Let's put our dollars together and make a real difference in the world.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Final (contest) Stretch

As I've mentioned in past posts, I'm been competing in a creative writing contest at since August 30th.  There were nineteen competitors, but after three elimination rounds we are down to just me and two other participants.  On October 20th, the final round closes for judging, and based on our entries we will be placed either first, second, or third overall.  (Last year I made it this far, too, and ended up placing third.  Naturally, I'm shooting for higher this time ;)

The group hosting the contest specializes in Speculative Fiction, but in this final round, we are not bound by genre or word count.  Sky's the limit.  However, we have to write our stories based on what is, I think, the most creative prompt evah!  Here's how it works:

We were directed to this Wordpress blog.  I'm quite certain it was created by the host group.  The blogger's name and gender are not disclosed.  The ten posts are short, almost scattered-brained, and dripping with voice.  Our challenge is to create, guided by the post content, a character around which our story is based.  The instructions include this blurb:

"Your challenge is not to continue the existing blog of the individual, or write their next likely 'day in the life.' And, as you will find from the reading, this character need not even be your protagonist."

I had a truly inspiring experience working on this story.  Whether or not I was successful in the end is up to the contest judges and readers.  But for me, it was awesome.

I'm still in the final, spit-shining stage of this project.  Of course, any feedback will ultimately help me tighten it up.  If you have the time or inclination, I'd greatly appreciate hearing what you think of it.  It is Speculative Fiction, falling under the genre of (dark) Slipstream.  (Slipstream is set in our world ~ almost. There are slight, uneasy making distortions in our reality or else the protagonist has fallen out of the consensual reality but is not insane in any way.)

It has 3292 words, and here's the link -->  ~Silenced~

I hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What We All Need Is...

One of the Chilean miners to reach the surface last night in the incredible, unprecedented rescue mission unfolding at the San Jose Mine had written a letter to his wife in the days following the discovery of the thirty-three men, alive, 700 meters below the mountain-scape of Copiapo, Chili.  In the letter, he said the hope of returning to her, his dear wife, would keep him going throughout the ordeal.  He closed the letter with three words: Patience and Faith.

In the midst of what is certainly the most harrowing experience of this miner's life, his profession of optimism and trust traveled around the world to touch my heart.  I'm reminded today that this simple credence has boundless power, and can be applied to any situation or challenge I'm faced with.

Everything of true value in life must be achieved.  A treasured possession lacks luster if it came to you by chance, when compared to the rewards of hard work and determination.  And in this day of "I want..." and "right now," it's easy to succumb to the pressures of frustration and the false promises of life's short cuts.

My publishing journey is well underway, but I've struggled at times with its course.  The days are tough when my muse shuts down and my inner editor shakes her head in disappointment; although, it seems a bad day is followed by a truly inspired one, when the words pour out with the effortlessness of the Niagara River over the Falls.  Deep down, I know I have to trust the process.  The journey of achievement is more rewarding than its destination.

Today, my heart is with the Chilean miners and their families.  Their ordeal of isolation and fear is nearly over, as the healing process begins.  As with all our life's journeys, they will get through it with patience and faith.

Happy writing, all....


Monday, October 11, 2010

Is it just me...?

...or was my handbag smiling at me?

Or maybe all this writing I'm doing is blurring the lines between reality and imagination. (I love when that happens!)

Anyhow, I wanted to ask anyone stopping by to help me welcome two awesome writers to the blog-o-sphere. Even though I haven't met either face-to-face (yet!), Mara, Adriana and I have been friends for the past couple years, enjoying each other's fiction and supporting each other as we hone our crafts.  They are wildly talented writers and all-around great people, and I know you'll love them too!

Mara McBain's blog is Mara's Musings
Adriana Noir's blog is  ~*Ink in Faded Hues*~

Pop over and say hello (...and why not follow...? :D)

Hope your week is off to an inspired start!  On this week's To-Do list I've got reading/critiquing Jess's chapters, working on chapter seven of my WiP, and writing a short story entry for the contest of which I'm a finalist.  What are your goals this week?

Saturday, October 9, 2010


And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

Hope your weekend is full of guts, imagination, and genius improvisation!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guess What This Is a Picture of:

This is the gorgeous cover art for the upcoming anthology Literary Foray that accepted my short story "Homage" for publication!

And, this is not even the best news...

One of my cyber BFFs -- my critique partner who is a wildly talented author and blogger you all know and love -- Jessica Bell @ The Alliterative Allomorph will also be published in the same anthology.  How COOL is that?  I can't wait to read her short "How Long Do the Lights Stay On?"!!

The anthology is still accepting submissions, and will be published through Pill Hill Press.  For more information and submission guidelines, click HERE.

Wishing you a spectacular day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kowalski, progress report!


The speculative fiction short I wrote for a contest that I blogged about in Monday's post got me through to the Final Round!

When the contest began on August 30th, there were nineteen competitors.  Based on the entries in each of three rounds, participants were eliminated.  Now, there are just three of us left standing.

Tonight at 10:00 p.m. (EST) the final prompt will be posted.  I'll have two weeks to write my entry.  When the entries are judged, the winner will be announced, as well as second and third place winners.  Wish me luck!

And, for anyone dying to read my story (*snort*), here's the link again:

Happy Hump Day to All!

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Closer Look at Speculative Fiction

The challenge before me last week was write a short story contest entry in the Speculative Fiction genre, inspired by the following prompt:
Practice is nothing to be sneezed at.

This particular contest, hosted by WYRM, a writers group at that promotes Spec-Fi, is one of my favorites.  I don't normally write speculative fiction, so the contest flings me far outside of my comfort zone.  Since I've been concentrating on the genre for the past month, I thought I'd share what I know here.

Speculative fiction is an umbrella category, under which fall stories usually incorporating elements of science fiction, horror, fantasy, paranormal, etc.  So what makes a story spec-fi, and not simply one of those genres? To answer, you have to focus on the word "speculative."

Speculative fiction premises ask the question, "What if...?"  What if a major world event had ended differently?  What if space aliens walked amongst us?  What if humans took an evolutionary leap, yesterday?  What if...?

I like to think back to the old Twilight Zone television series when I'm brainstorming for spec-fi story ideas.  My favorite episode starred Burgess Meredith as the man who just wanted peace and quiet so he could read.  Suddenly, in typical Twilight Zone fashion, the world ends and Meredith's character is the last man alive.  In his devastation and terror, he stumbles upon the ruins of the public library.  Salvation is his!  Until he trips on the library steps, breaking his coke-bottle thick glasses in the fall.

What distinguishes speculative fiction is that the story's supernatural or other-worldly facet is more than just a sidekick cat that can talk.  It is a fundamental element around which the entire plot swirls.  If you take out that element, the plot collapses.

J. Golden at has provided an excellent list of sub-genres under the speculative fiction umbrella.  I use it here with permission:

  • Alternate History
    Alternate History poses questions about different outcomes to historic events, and how that would alter our known world.
  • Apocalypse/Holocaust
    Apocalypse/Holocaust is set in a reality where The World As We Know It ends or has ended.
  • Coming of Age (as a species)
    Coming of Age stories redefine what it means to be human when we make an evolutionary leap as a species.
  • Contemporary Fantasy
    Contemporary Fantasy has a realistic modern world setting with elements of supernatural forces such as magic or mythological deities occurring through access to another world, realm, or plane.
  • Cyberpunk
    Cyberpunk is actually one of the more likely SF genres, with virtual reality & technology inundating every level of society, most of which still have a low quality of life.
  • Dystopian
    Dystopian literature is set in dysfunctional utopias.
  • Fairy Tales
    Fairy Tales tell a lesson story via human-like beings (fairies, elves), animals with human traits (goblins, trolls), and enchantments and charms, set in a rustic setting.
  • Fantasy
    Fantasy is set in medieval or low technology environments with strong dependence on magic and other supernatural elements.
  • First Contact
    First Contact stories are about how we react as a species when confronted with other intelligent life for the first time.
  • Horror/Dark Fantasy
    Horror/Dark Fantasy develops from supernatural evil or human evil/mental disorder encroaching on ordinary people's lives.
  • Magical Realism
    Magical Realism is set in a realistic modern world with the addition of magical elements.
  • Science Fiction
    Science Fiction explores potential (far) future developments in technology, space exploration, and human evolution.
  • Slipstream
    Slipstream is set in our world ~ almost. There are slight, uneasy making distortions in our reality or else the protagonist has fallen out of the consensual reality but is not insane in any way.
  • Steampunk
    Steampunk gives the Victorian era modern technology.

I submitted my speculative fiction contest entry last night.  It could be classified as Horror/Dark Fantasy or Slipstream.  It was sooooo hard to write; although, once the main character and plot solidified in my brain I found a rhythm that worked (I think) really well.

Should anyone be interested in reading it (3500 words), here's the link.  To whet your potential reading appetites, I will say this:  the title is a huge play on words that can be interpreted in (at least) three different ways.

Here's the link:  Controlling Nature

How about you?  Ever dabbled in Speculative Fiction?  What do you find is the biggest challenge in the genre?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Check Your Ta-Tas

Today kicks off the 25th annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Ladies, remember to self-examine your girls once a month!

And if you're within one of the age groups, schedule your annual or biennial mammograms.
[Not sure?  Read the recommended guidelines here: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month]

Awareness is key!

Have a great weekend :))