Friday, August 18, 2017

Keats and the Kindred Fear

John Keats is one of my favorite poets, in part because I know the ache in his poetry is tied to the brief urgency of his life. His father died in a horse-riding accident when he was only eight, and later his mother and younger brother died of tuberculosis. He also caught the disease and died at the young age of twenty-five. Yet what he accomplished still dazzles the minds of starry-eyed English majors everywhere.

But beyond the lust for life, there is also a very familiar fear threading some of his lines; the fear of failure, of never finishing, of a blank emptiness haunting Keats as his time comes to a swift close:

When I have fears that I may cease to be

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
 Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

I would dare to say that every writer has known this same, kindred fear at some point. Somehow, knowing that Keats felt that yawning pit of despair but still inked his way out gives me courage to keep on inking on. I've lived almost nine years longer than Keats so far, and I want to make each precious additional year on this spinning marble count for something. But like love and fame, I will sink one day, too, along with everyone else. I just hope I can catch a few of those "huge cloudy symbols of a high romance" first and pin them to a page, no matter how ephemeral. For in the end, aren't all the people we know, and the stories we've heard, a "fair creature of an hour"? Time doesn't let us keep them. So we reach for each other, so we share tales, passing hearts and ink likes sparks in the dark that would be nothingness.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hitting the Halfway Mark

Cue the confetti . . .

I'm halfway done with my current WIP!

I honestly never feel like I am going to finish a novel. I lose the vision too easily, I give up as the character and plot flaws pile into mountains. I actually have four unfinished novels totaling about 500 pages that I abandoned. And then I have 2 practice novels and 2 unpublished novels on top of everything else. So why do I bother slogging along? What keeps me going?

Good question. Many answers.

*Wisdom from fortune cookies! Seriously, this is deep stuff:

"It takes guts to get out of the ruts."

"The dream is within you."

*MUSIC. Shut up and listen. Then get your muse on.

*My peeps. Can't emphasize the importance of nurturing your relationships with friends and family enough. As an inky introvert, wallowing in despair comes naturally. A good friend will kick your brain back into gear and/or distract you with their awesomeness until the story bug bites again.

*Flexercise. Take a walk, engage in some form of (in my case, most moderate!) exercise, and chill with the tree babble. The leaves are saying far more interesting things than you or me. But don't take my word for it.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Golden in the Dark draft

Just for fun, I am publishing the very first book I ever wrote, Golden in the Dark, for free on Wattpad. New chapters coming every Friday. Art drawn by the fabulous Lyvia Alaida Martínez Álvarez, my very talented neighbor from my good old college days!

  
Lorelei wakes up in a hospital on a war-shattered world and discovers that she bears an uncanny resemblance to an alien that lived there nine centuries before. Too bad she's lost her last fifteen years of memory and can't remember if she is Kyrtannid, the so-called "Angel of Genara." Worse, she has extrasensory abilities that are now considered criminal. When Lorelei is forced into weaving illusions of Kyrtannid around herself to quell rioters and stop child slavers, rumors spread across the planet that the Angel of Genara has returned. Tikosian, her best friend and technowizard extraordinaire, tries to help Lorelei lay low until they can jet off-world on his almost but never-quite-finished hoverboard. But after becoming entangled in a plot to assassinate a royal lady, Lorelei must decide whether to remain an outsider, or to use her abilities to save the future of an interstellar government that just might decide to kill her.
 
Lorelei Redelven, Mind Hacker 


Tikosian Mandelorrus, Technowizard Extraordinaire

Sketch Art of:
Lorelei, Tiko, Keexa
and Lady Cilinisa Vannon


Thursday, April 13, 2017

8 Methods to improve your Creative Madness

A novel never feels real to me until I hit the first ten thousand words. Then, I feel obligated to finish the dang thing! And excited...by the 10k word count, the ink threshold in my brain is beginning to overflow with ideas.

But how do I keep that creative momentum up? Here are a few of the methods that help me:

1. Morning Meditation: I read a bit of philosophy, poetry or biblical wisdom for a few minutes. My current favorite is Earth Prayers from around the World edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon.

2.  Exercise: I do physical exercises to get myself energized before I plop in front of the computer. Other times I write a little first and then exercise just to break things up.

3. Writing Excuses: I am getting into the habit of listening to this fabulous podcast whenever I exercise, or take a lunch break.

4. Online Stopwatch: I use the countdown tool to keep myself from getting distracted too often. Sometimes I set the timer for only 15 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes. Usually I stop using it once I get into the flow of ink.

5. Music: Playing music often inspires me while I write. This method doesn't work for everyone, but it definitely helps me. Also, making up a track list that expresses the mood of a chapter or character also gets me energized to write.

6. Get gritty! I re-read this story shared by Paulo Coelho and written by W. Timothy Gallway, and tell my fragile whining ego to shut up because every story starts as a seed. Of course it will be gangling and strange as it grows and needs pruning to shape it into its end form. So take pride in the dirt and nourishing dark and keep pushing towards the light.

 “When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.”

‘We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed.

“When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped, nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear.


‘We stand in wonder at the process taking place, and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development.

“The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential.


‘It seems to be constantly in the process of change: Yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.

“A flower is not better when it blooms than when it is merely a bud; at each stage it is the same thing — a flower in the process of expressing its potential.”


7. Write something, even if it is just one sentence: still working on this one! The point is to get myself into the habit of facing my ink demons. Start with just a sentence, and the next day make it three, and before long paragraphs and pages come next.

8.  Fallow Days: Some days I just don't write, and that's okay. Quiet times nourish creativity, too.

 What are the methods that work for you?

Friday, March 3, 2017

New Novel Alert! Cyborg+Boy

So I have been working on a new novel since January!

Slowly,

EVER so slowly . . .




Getting the plot and character details right is taking much longer than I thought it would, but I hope to have the full draft completed by the end of June. I won't give any hints about the story today, except to say that this is the song I imagine complementing the last chapter of the novel:







Monday, February 20, 2017

Writing by Taoist "Nondwelling"


"All beings work, without exception:
if they live without possessiveness,
act without presumption,
and do not dwell on success,
then by this very nondwelling
success will not leave.

-Wisdom from the Tao Te Ching 


These words struck a powerful chord with me when I read them earlier this week, because I realized I had forgotten how important the concept of "nondwelling" is in the writing process. I will break nondwelling down into four steps:

1. (Write) Live without possessiveness

Sometimes I hold myself back in my writing because I am unwilling to recognize that an idea is not working. I sabotage my own progress by clinging to ineffective plot threads because I want them to work. I have to let go in order to keep learning, improvising, and yes, revising yet again. Sometimes that means letting go of a sentence, or a page, a chapter, or even a whole book.

2. (Write) Act without presumption  

I have been guilty of presuming my own "inherent" creativity will provide enough sparkly thoughts to make a good book. But creativity is just a spark and even that becomes a weak ember when starved of fuel. The creative fire has to be fed, and that means hard work gathering all the kindling: reading other books to nurture my mind, refining my writing craft by learning from other writers (The Writing Excuses podcast is awesome!), and building a fairly consistent writing routine even if that means just one sentence a day sometimes.

3. (Just write!) Do not dwell on success

This is perhaps the hardest part of nondwelling to put into practice, at least for me. I always obsess over each word, wondering if it is inferior, if all my ideas are banal, if I am wasting my time on a novel that will never make the cut. Wondering if I just don't have what it takes: the stamina, creativity, humility, and diligence to polish a lumpy pebble into a scintillating syllabic jewel. Sometimes I don't. And that's okay . . . because I'm never done writing!

The only way to shake off my mental paralysis is to grow a writer's skin as thick as a dragon's hide, one scale of courage at a time. I must allow myself the right to ink my heart out because that is the wellspring of my dreams, while a publishing deal is more of a goal than a dream. If I obsess over whether I will ever become a published author or not, then I will fail my ultimate dream: to become a vibrant storyteller. This truth will make me suffer if I deny it, because then I am dishonest with myself about why I ever started writing in the first place.

4. (Write, and . . . ) Success will not leave?

Maybe success will mean a spot on a bookshelf and a shiny Kirkus Review one day. Maybe it won't. But if I can wholeheartedly commit myself to honing my craft, and make even just one reader laugh, or stay up late at night reading my novel because their fingers and brain are glued to the page, then I will have succeeded. 





Friday, February 3, 2017

Prayers for the Planet

With all the deeply troubling news in America and the rest of the world, soul-crushing weariness comes easily.

So how do you pray for your planet? For sanity and beauty and the evolution of humanity to a kinder species?

This is one way I visualize a prayer: feather-light hopes cast on the air, tangled filaments caught by gravity, gleaming brightly, truly even where they fall.

Iceland Feather Prayer I


Iceland Feather Prayer II


Japan Feather Prayer


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Vibrant: this word perfectly encapsulates the world of Alice Alexis Queensmeadow, who was born into a world where colors and magic are intricately woven together. Hue is everything in Ferenwood, and while she has a hidden and much hated talent, to all appearances she is just a pale and washed-out albino with no magical abilities. But she has an even bigger problem: her father has been missing for several years, and when the wily boy Oliver promises to lead her to him if she will accompany him on a questionable journey, she takes a wild chance. They cross over into the Wonderland-like land of Furthermore, where the only thing more dangerous than the land's unpredictable magic are the natives, who like to dine on the magic-rich souls of any visitors who dare enter. One of my absolute favorite scenes in the book is when Alice meets a native boy who is her vivid opposite in rich colors, and instantly smitten, she stumbles over her words as she tries to ask him to marry her on the spot. Alice is no delicate damsel, but a willful girl who is not afraid to go after what she desires most. What I loved best about this story is how very human the characters all were in their wants, needs, and dreams: alternately selfish or kind,  brave or fearful, hurting and healing each other. The story wove a spangled tale of living, breathing ink. Here's hoping for more forays into Furthermore!