Don’t Pass Gas

If the title of this post captured your attention, well ha ha, it’s not what you think.

Today I chanted, “Don’t pass gas! Don’t pass gas! Don’t pass gas!” on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol.

I loved this homemade sign.

I loved this homemade sign.

As an author, I often place my characters in situations where they need to speak up and take a stand for what they believe. They use their wits, voices, and skills to protect their families and communities from great danger. Their enemies often wield vast power with a ruthlessness that disregards the welfare of the common folk. The villains are greedy, righteous, deceptive, and utterly relentless.

I have high expectations of my characters, and they expect no less of me.

That's me in the sunglasses.

That’s me in the sunglasses.

A gigantic energy conglomerate wants to transport fracked natural gas through Oregon to the Pacific coast for shipment overseas. A monster pipeline would traverse my tiny mountain town, cut through our water supply and plow through miles of forests dry as tinder in the summer months. My characters told me to quit complaining and do something about it.

Holding someone else's sign while they take pictures.

Holding someone else’s sign while they take pictures.

So, for the past few months, I set aside my fantasy writing to apply my skills to detailing the real-life facts about fracking, pipeline failures, and environmental catastrophe. The risks would make your head spin.

Our Senator who supports Passing Gas

Our Senator who supports Passing Gas

Today, I went to my first rally with all the other aged hippies. Now you know what the senior citizens do on a Tuesday afternoon in Oregon.

We didn’t get pepper-sprayed. It was a blast. I suggest you try it.

Separately we are small as mice. Together we roared, “Don’t Pass Gas!”

 

 

Impression of contentment

Over the past few weeks, my thoughts roamed back to this gorgeous post by Sue Vincent. I returned to it again this morning, knowing all the while that I would share it.

There’s something sacred about growing up and growing older – a contemplative wisdom gathered through the passage of time. In order to reflect back, one must have moved forward. Age transforms our relationship with life through changing perspectives. Sue deftly and beautifully associates life’s transitions with artistic styles, moving from sharp edges and crisp lines to the rich hues and deep contentment of the heart.

If you missed it…here it is again.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Pablo Picasso Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Pablo Picasso image Wikipedia

I never really got contentment. “Are you happy?” I once asked a friend. “No, but I am content,” was his reply. To me, it wasn’t enough. It seemed like accepting some kind of mediocrity. I was young then and life was lived in all the vivid hues of passion. Emotion ran sky high or hit the depths… the times in between were bland, a mere waiting for the next rise and fall of the rollercoaster.

Emotions, back then, were all sharp-edged, like a cubist painting… and like such works, always disassembling the object of them to examine them from every angle. Some of the edges were so sharp you would bleed if you touched them… but you were alive. There were no in-between days of grey and dun.

Alizarine: sandorfi, maklary Alizarine: Etienne Sandorfi, image: Maklary

A little older and the days took on a greater…

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Pondering Time Zones

image from faradayschools.com

image from faradayschools.com

No stranger to discussions on the fluidity of perception, I’m often pondering the different ways of interpreting events, places, and people. I include myself in the mix. Who I am is entirely based on a host of perspectives, mine and others. It changes minute by minute influenced by a stirred up stew of subtle and not so subtle emotions.

image from popsci.com

image from popsci.com

Even the date of my birth is subject to interpretation depending where I and you live in relation to the International Date Line. Time is real, I suppose, but it’s also invented. When my brother used to fly back from Guam, he would arrive in Seattle an hour before he left Guam. Weird, huh?

When I started blogging, I became more aware of the play of time zones. I’m closer to the time-flip than quite a few readers so while I’m posting over a coffee and buttered bagel, some of you are slipping into your pajamas after a long day. If I post in the afternoon, you’re snoozing or rushing off to work.

image from pixshark.com

image from pixshark.com

WordPress occasionally confuses me. My stats show views on Tuesday and here it’s still Monday. My posts are time traveling into the future!

 

Then it only gets more complicated…

According to Kiss Metrics timing is everything and knowing when to post is mandatory for any successful blogger.

  • The highest percentage of users read blogs in the morning. Therefore, I should post occasionally at night?
  • A higher percentage of men read blogs in the evening and at night. Oh, so perhaps I should post in the morning…
  • The average blog gets the most traffic on Monday.  So, now and then I should post on Sunday which is Monday in half the world.
image from beforeitsnews.com

image from beforeitsnews.com

To be fair, these recommendations are based on Eastern Standard Time, so it shouldn’t be all that muddling to me. Yet I care about my readers across the oceans and continents, and I think about them and where they are in their “times,” so near and yet thousands of miles away.

To finish off the stats here are the rest (based on EST):

  • The average blog gets the most traffic around 11am.
  • The average blog gets the most comments on Saturday.
  • The average blog gets the most inbound links on Monday and Thursday.
  • The average blog gets the most inbound links at 7am.

According to that round up, the best time for me to post is just before 4 AM on Saturday morning. Not gonna happen.

I’d love to hear about your slice of agreed upon time. It’s 4 AM out here when it’s 7 AM in New York (EST). What day and time is it for you?

 

A Space to Write

Virginia-Woolf-lock-up-your-libraries-quote

Spring has arrived in the mountains. It’s always a couple weeks later than down in the valley, and though the mornings are still frosty, the leaves have unfurled, and the dogwood wears its white petals. I’ve filled the hummingbird feeders and opened the windows to capture the afternoon sun.

And my writer’s room beckons.

In 1929, Virginia Woolf wrote that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Well, that money thing would be convenient, wouldn’t it? Yet, it’s not a prerequisite for writing in my mind. Time strikes me as the rarer commodity.

But what about that room of her (or his) own, that “must” for the imagination to bloom?  A sacred space of quiet and solitude without the common daily distractions of television, movies, and videogames? A space where a writer can shut the door?

100_0983When I moved to the mountains, there was a half-finished room above my husband’s shop. I claimed it as my writing room and made it my own. Out went the spiders. I spackled and painted, installed a floor, tiled around the wood stove.

The walls are jewel tones, a change from the lovely but abundant wood in our log home. I stenciled falling leaves, hung dream catchers, and lugged in some well-loved furniture. The stairs are still rickety and the door doesn’t close well, but it’s peace, it’s immersion. The muse resides there, waiting expectantly for me.

100_0989I don’t use my writing haven in the winter, despite the wood stove. The windows aren’t tight, and a fire would require more effort than I’m willing to expend, especially since my writing day starts at 4 in the morning.

But once spring comes…

100_0991Today, I hustled out the new brood of spiders and cleaned up the bat poop from my nighttime freeloader. My walls will soon hum, as they’re loaded with bees. A bouquet of wildflowers and branches of cherry blossoms draws in the hummingbirds. They fly in the arched window, wings thrumming as they hover over my head.

Tomorrow, I’ll write.

Do you have a sacred space, a room, a closet, a special chair where you write? How have you made it yours?

Five Elements Anthology Supports Children’s Literacy

Children have a natural love of books. I remember reading to my daughter as an infant and toddler. Her first words weren’t mama and dada. In her little, raspy, Yoda voice, she uttered, “Reeead booook.”

We cuddled as we read the same books over and over and over and over and over again until we’d both memorized the words. We made weekly trips to the library and carted armfuls of books back and forth to our little home. She still loves to read.

DSC00609

The Overlord, age 1

Now I’m repeating history with the overlord, already book-obsessed at the age of two. Here he is reading one of my books. He just got to the good part!

 

WWLogo-1in300When my writers group and I pulled together a little sci-fi/fantasy anthology, not one of us volunteered to take the role of accountant. To make things easy, we elected to donate 100% of the profits to support a literacy program for children run by Willamette Writers, the largest writers organization in the Pacific Northwest.

BooksForKids2The program, Books for Kids, collects and distributes books to underprivileged youth in over 75 agencies and organizations. These new and used books land in the hands of children and teens that might not otherwise have them.

For $.99 you can download a kindle copy of the Five Elements Anthology and get seven short stories, knowing that all the profit (about $0.30 per book) will benefit Books for Kids. If interested, here’s the Amazon link: Five Elements Anthology

Five Elements Cover From May 7 – May 11, Five Elements Anthology will be Free on Kindle. In order to preserve our commitment to children’s literacy, I will make a direct donation of $0.30 to benefit Books for Kids for every free download up to $100.00 (and will post the receipt).

Of course, direct tax-deductible donations to Books from Kids are more than welcome and can be made on their website. The link is here: Books for Kids

Thank you for everything you do in your own way to support future readers.

Gardeners and Architects

image from spamula.net

image from spamula.net

When I plunked down to write my first book, Myths of the Mirror, I was on a mission of discovery, led by the muse and sheer inspiration.

I had no plot in mind beyond a mental sketch of a couple things that could happen maybe sort of somehow. It was all incredibly vague, but what did I know? Nothing. I wrote like a woman obsessed, relishing every moment of my creative forage and traipsing along behind my characters down whatever path they chose to wander.

Halfway through my journey, a secondary character whom I was in the midst of killing off stood his ground. With the unwavering support of his companions, he argued that he should not only survive but should become a main character. Oh, okay, I said, and skedaddled back to the beginning of the book to start over. That happened a lot.

A year later, once every character had their say and did as they pleased, my masterpiece was almost 190,000 words long. Ta da! Ready to celebrate, I enlisted a couple courageous readers.

Uh oh.

For the next two years, I peeled away words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and whole chapters! Deleted. Recycled. 60,000 words forever gone. I felt as though I’d been flayed.

Then an editor wielded a red pen and lopped off another 4,000. After all the anguish and suffering, I had to finally admit it – I had a much better book.

Nature-Multicolor-Flowers-Garden-Summer-Bees-Depth-HD-PhotoGeorge R. R. Martin separates writers into Gardeners and Architects. Gardeners are discovery writers, planting seeds and digging around in the dirt of writing because they can’t wait to see what grows. They thrive on a process that is full of surprises and let their stories develop organically. To them, outlines feel like straitjackets, stifling the natural unfurling of character and action.

images (22)At the other end of the spectrum, Martin’s architects are outliners. Structure is key. Charts, graphs, and spreadsheets abound. Every step is planned in advance: the story’s try/fail cycles are mapped, the hero’s journey arcs through its phases, the turning points and pinches are set in stone. For outliners, the steps of each plot and subplot form the stairwells in a skyscraper. An architect has an eye on the penthouse and knows how to get there.

awesome-tree-houses-to-live-in-plextm4bAfter my trials and tribulations as a gardener, I brushed off my hands and applied a bit of architecture to my stories. I wouldn’t say I engineer skyscrapers – that’s still too much concrete for me. In my mind, my method is more akin to building tree-houses, leaving plenty of space for nature and play.

I plot out the story threads and set the characters off on their journey, letting them be who they are. Occasionally we have to negotiate and backtrack, but overall they cooperate. It’s collaborative; they know their goals and I know mine.

My guess is that most authors engage in a little gardening while they construct their cottages, fortresses, and stone towers. How do you bring stories to life? Are you a Gardener? An Architect? A builder of tree-houses?