Saturday, April 30, 2011

Welcome to Ogham Court: Threads and Theme

                So I was sitting having lunch at the day job, trying to send a message about my current WIP.  The title of the short story that started it was “The Shop on Ogham Court.”  Being from the East coast where we are always in a hurry, I started talking about it in shorthand as just “Ogham Court”.  That triggered a whole word association/stream of consciousness thing.  I thought about Ogham as history, hidden language, cryptic, multiple meanings and foreign.  Court became a string of justice, judging, rules and laws.  Suddenly my WIP began to take on a theme and subtheme.  Parts that I had written took on a new direction.  I think I have found the deeper meaning I need to get the momentum going.

                I had already poked and prodded Nora, the main character, about her past and present circumstances.  She told me a lot about growing up with a moderately successful father and stay-at-home mother.  Living in an affluent town in North Jersey and summering at their beachfront house on Long Beach Island.  She described as moderate, although we would consider it rich.  That’s because her father, she never calls him “Dad” went from moderate success to blockbuster and moved his movie production career and himself to the West Coast and a whole new life.   Mom moved back to the Miami area, where she grew up, and is now a hostess at a South Beach restaurant.

                Nora was “displaced” from her first job out of college and went to help out her elderly Aunt Aine.  Aine owns a little Irish Shop on a fictional street in Tribeca (Ogham Court).  The front of the shop if filled with standard stuff: sweaters, china, crystal and linens.  But as you venture deeper into the store, you find music instruments then ancient statues and the like.  Another part at the rear contains herbs, oils and other medicinals.  All the way in the rear of the shop are rooms, one of which is usually locked.  Aine calls it her tea room.  She goes in there with certain regulars for tea and conversation.

                So Nora has been judged by her employer, she judges her parents.  She has entered Aine’s world  on Ogham Court where the rules and laws are strange and foreign.   It is about to get stranger.

                In the weeks and months to come, I will be sharing some of what develops on Ogham Court and my discoveries about Nora and what the future holds. Perhaps I should pour a cuppa and read her cards?

                Just a side note, Nora, Aine and Devlin (we'll talk about him later) make their first brief appearance in Dark Dealings, my upcoming urban fantasy novel.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Light the Fires of Beltane

Light the Fires of Beltane

                In ancient times and to this day, Druids would celebrate the beginning of summer with the lighting of two bonfires.  The cattle, one the most valued animals, in the culture would be a paraded between the fires for health and fertility.  It is the season of new growth and creation.     In Ireland it was celebrated when the hawthorn trees were in bloom.   On the Julian calendar that was on about May 1; the changes wrought by the Gregorian  calendar in 1752.  The Gregorian calendar also changed the birthday of George Washington and other Founding Fathers, in case you were interested. 
                And so I start on a new project.  It is, like the summer, a rebirth.  I have begun the expansion of an old short story, a piece of which was feature in my post Show Me a Story.  You’ll be hearing more about that in the weeks to come.  I have also embarked on the final pre-publishing phase for my novel Dark Dealings.  I have found a group of wonderfully supportive, creative and motivated writers in my PubWrite friends. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter (#pubwrite)
                The ancient festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain are oriented to agricultural and livestock.  Beltane is the beginning of the season when the work since Imbolc begins to bear fruit.  And so it is for me. But as any farmer will tell you, the work to assure a good harvest is just beginning.  A great harvest also requires a degree of luck.  So I will look to the flowering hawthorn and cut a branch for luck and buckle down to the hard work.  The hawthorn is the tree of hope.  And so I hope for the harvest.
                Like a dedicated farmer of the word I will work and share my joys and on occasion whine about the aches and pains.  Unfortunately I don’t have a hawthorn in my yard, although I had one in my Irish Gran’s yard growing up.  But I have a beautiful weeping cherry and a crabapple tree and they are in bloom.   Every once in a while a breeze will bring a flurry of petals down on the robins that dance around my lawn.  Now if I could just do something about the stink bugs.  Any suggestions?



Friday, April 22, 2011

#FlashFriday Fun: Show Not Tell Challenge New WIP

The challenge was as follows:
The Show Not Tell Challenge: In 300 words or less, write a passage (it can be an excerpt from your WIP, flash fiction, a poem, or any other writing) that shows (rather than tells) the following:
  • you’re scared and hungry
  • it’s dusk
  • you think someone is following you
  • and just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: shimmer, saccadic, substance, and salt.
294 words

“Tristan’s word is not worth his salt.” Devlin opened the picnic basket and pulled out the bottle of Tullamore Dew and two glasses.  We’d wandered down to the Christopher St Pier.  The shop was closed and he’d gotten Padraic to cover the bar.
                “What am I supposed to do? How could Aunt Aine expect that I would show up, take charge of the Singing Stone and everything that went with it.”   My head throbbed. Was it a result of the reading of the will earlier or that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast?  My stomach growled and cast its vote.
                “Give it some time. Nora.  There’s no rush to accept his offer.”
                The shimmer of another sunset on the tall glass office buildings across the Hudson whispered of  urgency.   
                “Devlin, I did not signed on for this.  Aunt Aine was quirky in a New Age kind of way. Always talking about Sidhe and the old way, and mixing up wacky substances for her customers.  Why me?”
                “She saw something in you, something important.”  He spread a blanket on the grass and pullied a container of Irish stew and loaf of bread out.
                In the midst of the seagulls that had gathered and edged closer to our food, a lone raven stared at me. Its non-saccadic stare demanded my attention.   One brazen gull tried to steal a hunk of brown bread.  The raven screeched, spread its broad black wings and rebuffed the thief.  The great black bird turned its gaze back to me. 
                “Are you okay?” Devlin asked.
                “I’d swear the bird was trying to talk to me.”
                “And you ask ‘why me’.”  Devlin poured the amber liquid in crystal Waterford tumblers.
                I held out my hand for the drink.  The raven hopped two steps closer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Loooong Week

I haven't been around much this last week.  The day job is over-the-top. But this morning I found a post from Jody Hedlund that I wanted to share with writers, to help us improve our work, and readers, to help us understand why we like some stories better than others.

I hope to get back to a more normal routine over the weekend. I do manage to stop by Facebook and Twitter once in a while (especially #pubwrite and #UFchat).  Stop in and say Hi.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Show Me a Story

I wrote a short story two years ago.  Looking back on it, it is fair to say that it needed A LOT of work.  But I liked the story idea and decided to return to it.  I also realized that it was not a short story but, at a minimum, a novella.

But it also gives me an opportunity to talk about a major issue I see in many of the things I have read lately.  It is the natural tendency of all new writers, myself included, to tell more than we show. 

Warning the two excerpts below are mine and mine alone. No one lese can take the blame. The second is the first re-write of the original.  I do not promise mind-blowing literature.

Original Version
Energized by her plan, Nora was the picture of industry.  She opened the shop promptly at nine the next morning and each subsequent morning.  She spent extra time with the regulars who came to offer condolences and support.  She set out fragrant mulled cider and a guest book for customers to enter their contact information, including e-mail address.  Between customers, she cleaned and rearranged inventory, taking digital pictures of attractive pieces; certain a website featuring the store would enhance the value of the business.

Re-write #1     Only 15 more to go!

“I’m surprised you re-opened so soon, dear.”

Nora set the digital camera down beside an ancient looking stone figure and turned to the white haired woman whose shawled shoulders barely cleared the top of the Belleek china display case.  She wracked her brain for the woman’s name, there had been so many at the wake. Bernadette Doyle, originally from a Irish farm in West Meath, that was it,

“Morning, Mrs. Doyle. Can I pour some mulled cider?”

“Just a touch, dear.”  She ensconced herself in the rocker that Aunt Evelyn had kept by the register for certain regulars, like Mrs. Doyle.

“I wanted to thank you again for coming to Aunt Evelyn’s funeral and for all your help with the repast.”  Nora set the fragrant mug of cider on the counter.  She slid the brown leather guest register aside. A wayward spill would smear the few names and email addresses she already collected.

“Ooh, is that one of those digital cameras?  My granddaughter has one.  She wants to e-mail me pictures. Can you imagine?”

Nora had to smile.  For a woman that lived in Tribeca for forty years, Mrs. Doyle still oozed the countryside outside Athlone. “I was taking pictures of some of Aunt Evelyn’s finer pieces to put on the Internet.”

“Your Aunt Evelyn would be proud of what you’ve done with the place already.”  Mrs. Doyle raised the cup to her lips. “The Singing Stone and all its wonders are in good hands.  We’re all glad you’re staying, Nora.”

She turned away from the inquisitive stare of the old woman.  Did Mrs. Doyle suspect what Nora was really planning?


Okay readers, which scene do you like better?  Trick question, right?  The question is why?  We all know in our gut which one, but putting it into words makes for sharper readers and better writers. I'm not going to tell you. 

So tell us why in the comments below. Perhaps, share your experience with a re-write or something you read that grabbed you or fell flat.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blog Streaking with Thea and Friends

For the month of April, fellow author, Thea Atkinson is streaking through 30 blogs and flashing us a piece of fiction. I generously offered her a space today so she could expose a piece. My blog will be back to normal tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy and follow the links at the end to see who she flashed yesterday and who she will flash tomorrow. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if you enjoyed the streak, and you are welcome to tweet it or share it on Facebook. You can also follow the chain through twitter with the hashtag #blogstreak

I am Anna
By Thea Atkinson

I am Anna, and the sounds of this house whisper to me as I lie on my narrow bed in darkness. There’s no window in my bedroom to relieve my eye of wall; no moonlight streams in through clouded panes. This room is wholly blanketed in a perfume that dissipates by day but that leaks from the walls at night and rises to my nose with the stealth of a snake. It brings with it a spectral whispering that brushes over my body and makes each hair rise to its touch. From toe... to shin... to thigh... to stomach… the moaning washes over me, as if it were a blanket being pulled to my chin.

When it reaches my ears it swells to a whisper and circles my head with a ghostly life of its own, with essence, and movement, and body.

I repeat the same sentence to remind myself I am of this world and no other, that I am a solid body with a right to be here. I repeat it to block out the sounds of night in this room, to disguise the whispers, to fill in the brief silences between the guttural cries--to drive away the spirits.

I am Anna.

I scrub his floors and scour his fancy, indoor commode in return for billet, spare and cheap as it is. My employer just grunts at my efforts and scurries back into the mortuary, closing the door behind him with a deathly click. I gape and try not to look shocked at the naked bodies within.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Excerpt #2 Dark Dealings

Dark Dealings: You can read the opening in an earlier Sunday Sample post to the right of this. 
We are now in Chapter 2, Micaela has confirmed that Reece is missing and, given her earlier vision, she knows time is slipping away.  Peggy (mentioned below) is now Reece’s wife, but was a key player in the events years ago that drove Micaela away from her gifts and the Druid community.  Adam is Reece’s brother and next in line of shaman/wise man of the local Pokanoket community, which has close relations to Druids and Micaela’s family.

Your comments are welcome below.  If you like this, please follow and recommend to others  ____________________________

Adam stood over the sink washing dishes and strategizing with the other searchers.  She crooked her finger at him to follow her outside.
            “What’s up, Micaela?” he eased the screen door closed behind him.
            “I’m not sure how to start this conversation without sounding like a lunatic.  I worked years to avoid what I’m about to say and do.”
            “Spit it out.  Our families have known each other for generations, you can trust us…you can trust me.”
            Micaela stared out into the oaks.  “Things were said about me when I was a teenager…  I was different, I saw things.”
            “I was little, but I kind of remember.  Is that what Peg was talking about?”
            “I thought it was gone. That I’d out grown it or exorcised it.  That I could be like everyone else.”
            “But something happened in there.”  Adam made it sound more like a statement than a question.
            “I've opened Pandora’s Box.  But if I can help find Reece, I can’t close it now.”
            Adam leaned on the porch railing.  She watched the emotions play across his face.  His eyes lost focus and he seemed to go somewhere inside.
            “Micaela, I understand, more than you know, what we’re asking of you.  We’ve looked for Reece for hours.  Times running out.” His eyes were haunted.  His voice was barely a whisper.  “It was my idea to go out tonight.   I said it would be easy to hunt by the light of the full moon.  Reece didn’t think we should ignore the Elders.”
            “I can’t guarantee anything, Adam.”
            “But you’ll try, it’s all that matters.” He pushed off the porch rail and faced her.  “Tell me what you need.”
            “I’m not entirely sure. For starters, I think we should sit, in case someone passes out.”  She moved to the bottom step.  After the dizziness brought on by her brief contact with Peggy’s mind, she didn’t want too far to go if she went down.
            “Now what?”  Adam sat beside her.
            “Take my hands.”  They faced each other.  His large hands swallowed hers in their grip.
            At first nothing happened.   Micaela struggled for a way into the vision.  What happened in the kitchen had been so sudden and violent. She had been overwhelmed by the emotions.  That was it---Peggy’s strong feelings acted as a trigger. It must have been Reece’s own emotions that brought the vision on the highway.  Micaela would have to ask Adam to relive the event and the sensations.  She wished she could protect him from it, but she didn’t know how.
            “Adam, I need you to think about the last time you saw Reece, about what happened up on the mountain.”  And I need to stop resisting, she thought, for now.
            He chewed his lower lip, his dark eyebrows knit together.  Micaela exhaled and focused on releasing the stress in her shoulder.  She opened herself to the magic.   Images slammed into her.  She could see through Adam’s eyes.  She was Adam.  Reece and the other four men headed into the woods.  The temperature dropped as the sun set.  She reached beyond their muted voices.  The forest air filled with the hoot of an owl, the skitter of small feet, the final screech of a small rodent, and the snap of branches as larger things moved.
            Adam/Micaela signaled to Reece that Henry had spotted a six point buck.  She felt Adam’s confusion turn to concern when Reece wasn’t bringing up the rear as usual.   Adam retraced his steps.  At first he scanned the path, then whispered Reece’s name, no reason to spook the buck.  But another noise and a different scent drove the buck deeper into the woods.  Silence was no longer necessary. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Music of My Muse

The Music of the Muse

Sorry I haven’t been around lately but I’ve been a bit under the weather.  Trying to stay awake and get some writing done, despite cold meds.  To get in the mood, I have my personal writing station on Jango running in the background.  It plays a mix of songs from bands I’ve designated and those thrown in by Jango.  I knew that music had the power to change my mood, so it followed that my characters would have music that represented them, both in general and in certain scenes. Right now, I’m listening to Bruno Mars “Grenade”.  It somewhat reminds me of Ekaterina Vilkas, the shapeshifting assistant to my Russian vampire, Baron Ivan Vasilievich.  She is hopelessly and obsessively in love with him.  She will do anything for him and in a dangerous extension of this, she will do anything to make him hers.  So I might add it to Kat’s song list.  Songs are not a perfect reminder fit my characters but they help me focus on them or the emotion of a scene. 

Werewolves of London” belongs to Liam when he’s in one of his playful moods.  As his mood darkens and the moon grows full, he might switch to U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name”. When out driving, he listens to Bad Haggis. In his gloomier moments, The Doors and darker from there.

Micaela is a funny girl. She likes music but since there are so many things she doesn’t want to deal with she avoids associating things and herself with music.  As usual she’s holding out. As if on cue, Styx’s Crystal Ball started.  It now belongs to my MC Micaela.

Now I’m from New Jersey and here we have our own version of Coke vs. Pepsi and it’s Springsteen vs. Bon Jovi.  I like early Bruce, but I am a Bon Jovi girl.  Looking great from the front and rear doesn’t hurt, either.  So I find a lot of inspiration in his songs.  Welcome to Wherever You Are is a group song for my main characters who all seem to be on a journey to getting comfortable in their own skin (or skins, in some cases).

During fight scenes, it’s not about the lyrics; it’s the bass and the drum.

What do you listen to while you right? Is it about the character, the emotion, the location or the action?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

First 500 Critique-A Blog to Follow

Aimee Salter has a terrific blog that I recommend as a resource to writers.  She was nice enough to include my opening in her First 500 critique.  I was not the first and certainly not the last.  Read all her thorough critiques, offer your own insights, read her other posts and follow.  Sharing is one of the ways we grow as writers.  If she is still taking submissions and you are willing by all means reach out to her at this link:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Voices in My Head

The Voices in My Head

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia”                
-          E.L.Doctorow

                Last week, I posted my character sketch worksheet.  Today I want to talk about what came before.  The main character of my current manuscript, Micaela O’Brien first started as a voice in my head.  I was sitting one evening under a clear fall sky and I started thinking about a young woman, very successful on Wall Street who was hiding from herself.  Okay, so a nice cabernet was involved. I knew her name was Micaela.  I ran inside and grabbed a notebook and pen and wrote three pages about her.  At least, as much as she was ready to tell me at that moment.  She gave me height, eye color, weight, all the superficials.  She had gone to the Wharton School and then Harvard Business School.  Her parents had died in an accident when she was thirteen and was raised by her maternal grandfather.  She had a significant other, Parker, an architect she met at Harvard.  He was very prep school and normal.  Everyone thought they made a good couple but there was no fire, just best friends with benefits.  This was the first clue she was holding back and I needed to dig deeper.   

              Over the months that followed, we (Micaela and I) continued to talk.  She finally told me about the recurring dreams and after an argument in the shower one morning, that had my hubby questioning my sanity again, she told me what really happened to her parents. Sorry, no spoilers here.

                That novel, Dark Dealings, is in good shape and ready for review and edits by wiser eyes than mine.  I have several new projects that I am playing with including a sequel to Dark Dealings and two novellas.  One is an expansion of an unpublished (with good reason) old short story about characters who played a minor role in Dark Dealings.  The other is an experiment in urban YA paranormal, based in part on my childhood hometown and years as a high school teacher.  I realized today that none of these are proceeding at the pace I would like because I have not had one dominant voice among them.  I have tried to have the “so where do you go from here” conversation with Micaela but she’s being her usual reticent self.  Maybe I should write about Liam, one of her potential suitors (I know old fashioned but he’s that kind of guy).  Perhaps she’ll get jealous and speak up.

                I suspect that I will be waking a lot, earbuds firmly in place.  It helps me think and certain songs are connected to my characters.  And hopefully, I will start arguing with them, but not out loud in public.  People other than my husband might think I’m crazy.

                With gratitude to E.L. Doctorow.