Friday, July 29, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Abraham's Love Letter to Mary
In this Valentine's week filled with Lord Byron and Barry White, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Hallmark, I offer up a confection-free taste of love at its purest and most vulnerable. It seems before Abraham Lincoln offered up one of the most important documents in human history, he was a simple man in love who dared to pour out his heart in a letter:
My dear Mary:
You must know that I cannot see you or think of you with entire indifference; and yet it may be that you are mistaken in regard to what my real feelings toward you are. If I knew that you were not, I should not trouble you with this letter. Perhaps any other man would know enough without further information, but I consider it my peculiar right to plead ignorance and your bounden duty to allow the plea. I want in all cases to do right, and most particularly so in all cases with women. I want at this particular time more than anything else to do right with you, and if I knew it would be doing right, as I rather suspect it would, to let you alone, I would do it. And for the purpose of making the matter as plainly as possible I now say you can drop the subject, dismiss your thoughts--if you ever had any--from me forever, and leave this letter unanswered without calling forth one accusing murmur from me. And I will even go further and say that if it will add anything to your comfort and peace of mind to do so, it is my sincere wish that you should.
Do not understand by this that I wish to cut your acquaintance. I mean no such thing. What I do wish is that our further acquaintance should depend upon yourself. If such further acquaintance would contribute nothing to your happiness, I am sure it would not to mine. If you feel yourself in any degree bound to me, I am now willing to release you, provided you wish it; while, on the other hand, I am willing and even anxious to bind you faster, if I can be convinced that it will in any degree add to your happiness. This indeed is the whole question with me. Nothing would make me more miserable than to believe you miserable; nothing more happy than to know you were so.
In what I have now said I cannot be misunderstood; and to make myself understood is the only object of this letter. If it suits you best not to answer this, farewell. A long life and a merry one attend you. But if you conclude to write back, speak as plainly as I do. There can be neither harm nor danger in saying to me anything you think just in the manner you think it.
At first read, the lines seem to come from a measurable distance, almost political. But to realize, in the privacy of his most intimate thoughts, never meant for public consumption, this revolutionary man could pour out his raw honesty and lay every stake in his future at the hands of the woman he loved is worthy of the greatest truth of this human condition. No matter how we try to capture love's essence, it's still not enough.
Happy Valentines Day!
Late in his life, Abraham Lincoln foretold Mary of his death. Read one of my first blog entries for the story.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Today's favorite is one of those sparkling moments of clarity that fully encompass why I blog. Had I not created this space, befriended a circle of dedicated bloggers and committed to fresh content, I wouldn't have written this piece of flash fiction that eventually won second place in the Western Pennsylvania Romance Writer's Bump In the Night contest. I've learned much about writing since this piece, am tempted to fix what is wrong, but for now am content to celebrate it as it was in October 2008...
Flash Fiction: Home
If we were to pull out a technical card, this is my first piece of flash fiction ever. Most people know my rambling prose would put Faulkner to shame. So, I seized the challenge and had a great time. Thanks to Charles for the idea and the invitation to join him in the spirit of Halloween. Be sure to head over to his blog to read the stories of others who felt inspired, too.
Number of things I should have done instead of watching this beaut to the end: 40
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
So, we collectively offer up ten heady doses of reality, ones that chase away any notion of fantasy. I'll start.
1. "I'm taking the Browns to the Superbowl." And he isn't talking football.
Comment from June:
2. "Not tonight, honey, I have a headache."
Comment from Melanie:
3. "Honey, did you pack the Viagra?" LOL
Comment from L.A:
4. "Cramps, Shmamps. I've fought an entire brigade of blood-thirsty soldiers with a lance in my thigh!"
Comment from Stewart:
5. "Does it look strange when I do this?"
Comment from Sue L:
6. "Yes, it was fun, but your sister is much more bendy."
Comment from L.A:
7. "My stallion is not accustomed to carrying such weight."
Comment from Sandra:
8. "Do these pants make my butt look big?"
Comment from Pam:
11. "Honey, you look a little dumpy in that sweater..."
12. "After you finish cooking dinner and doing the dishes, will you iron my clothes so I have something to wear tomorrow? It's been a week..."
C'mon, Vortexers. We can add to this can't we? Go for it...
More Longmire Does Romance book covers
Monday, July 25, 2011
The Migration of a Love Scene
Day 1: Starbucks, downtown. 9 am
I know what you’re thinking. Is it possible to write sex in a Starbucks? Contrary to what many believe about romance writers, we don’t have satin-covered chaise lounges in our offices. Our crystal goblets are filled with java to fuel the energy for the endurance marathon that is the love scene. We don’t slip into something more comfortable unless it’s the stained Parks and Rec shirt we got when we signed up for Pilates. Maybe some do, but they probably live on some planet in the Nora galaxy.
It’s true, the whirring espresso machines and baristas hollering out stranger’s names shifts the muse into a diesel engine. Slow to warm into the character’s heads, their motivations, the emotional journey necessary for this one scene. I watched two grown men fight over a stained, upholstered chair. I took in a nearby conversation (You know writers do this don’t you? Eavesdropping with a bionic ear fuels our creativity) between two men. One laid out enough laptop computer gadgets to put Best Buy to shame. The other laid out the male-version of his tragic “I’m happily divorced, my wife is a stalker” love story, complete with metaphors to lifeboats and Carole King.
Character’s state of undress: nowhere near first base
Day 2: Barnes and Noble, downtown (I was stuck for a week, okay?). 9 am
Those periphery desks? My next attempt. The man at the next table sat opposite, more intent on people watching than thumbing through his business journal. Normally, a past-time I identify with. On this day it was the equivalent of an audience. How can I be inspired to write the precise shade of flesh when all I have to go on is a glossy Pete Rose biography in the Sports section and Wall Street Boy with roman chimes for a cell ring? An added bonus to this day: a visiting surgeon from the nearby hospital in a chance meeting with said business boy discussing Apple stocks. The visual impact of the doctor’s powder blue scrubs turned every phrase clinical.
Character’s state of undress: first base
Day 3: Kitchen Table, home. 9pm
Yes, by this time, I was thinking that, too. Eliminate all factors out of the realm of control. And it was dark. That should help, right? But the guide channel from earlier that day flashed through my brain. Brokeback on Bravo. What would be cut, exactly? Would it be a study in tight storytelling? After all, Jake is the inspiration for my hero, who by this time was, no doubt, getting frustrated at the slow turn of events. So Jake is wearing thermals the whole time. The face, focus on the face. Twenty minutes, that’s all.
An hour and a half later: the cat is giving me his one-eyed stare. I’m back at the table trying to get that cruel earwig of dialogue out of my brain: “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Does mine wank like that line?
Character’s state of undress: past second
Day 4: Coffee Shop Three, less than 1 mile from home. 7 am
One detail I left out of my previous rant about this place is that it contains a flowing water fireplace-like room partition. I’d drunk enough limeade the previous night to float an arc. Add that to the perfection that was just-brewed iced tea, and I was b-lining it to the ladies room between heavy pettings.
Right about the time my hero’s internal dialogue was screaming “Finally!” a bible study group assembled at the next table, roundtabling and dissecting the moments each had been saved. At that point, the only deliverance I needed was from this *!@# scene.
Character’s state of undress: enough to go to confession
Day 4: writing desk, home. Midnight
Tissue box. I couldn’t be sure if the tears were because my characters had just been mercilessly ripped apart or because I’d championed over Debbie Downer love stories, nosy strangers and decidedly non-inspirational input and typed the scene’s ending punctuation. Is it satisfying for the reader? I’m too close to tell.
I do know it wouldn’t be the same without that precise shade of green from the Pete Rose cover. The exact contour of a stubbled jaw line on a Wyoming hillside. The fire and passion with which the saved had spoken. For writers, input is output, and I remain grateful for what life shows me.
Remember the scavenger hunt? Seven Midnights of Kisses? The Great Novel Migration? The Blog Carnival? I even found 101 Great Posting Ideas but number 54? Spruce Up Your Posts With Pictures. Uh. Number 60 holds promise: Make a [blank] for Dummies post. What could that [blank] be here, you ask? MacGyver for Dummies? Surviving Rejection for Dummies? Booksignings With Bumpkins Who Hate Wal-Mart for Dummies? Campy Elvis Movies for Dummies?
My point is this: blogs have changed. Not so long ago, I considered no longer writing a blog. I needed to know the payoff was worth the time investment. Thankfully, I stuck it out. It still gives me an enormous amount of satisfaction to write something not four-hundred pages in length. But I have heard blog buzz from social media and marketing experts of late and wanted to pass along tips to keep your blog spruced and current.
Keep blogs short and frequent
A paragraph or two up to four times per day? Sure. I'll get right on that. But it does speak to the impact Twitter and texting has on an internet surfer's time. Three to four times per week seems to be gospel right now.
Links and pictures out the wazoo
Just like Vortexers like their eye-candy physicists, so do random universe blog readers.
Strive to keep it two-sided
Yeah, I know comments on blogs are down thanks to feeds. In fact, stats here prove a inversely proportional relationship between the decrease of comments and the increase of feed subscriptions. But when someone does click through, make sure you thank them or offer up some nugget of blog-savvy wit.
Blogs Should Tie But Not Strangle
Tie your content to your books, your platform, whatever part of you you're selling, but don't make that all it is. Your readers are responding to you, day in and day out, not an endless string of 101 Ways to Tie a Knot. Make sure part of you ends up out there, too.
Given the list, I'd say we'd score a "fair" here. But in the pursuit of better-than-fair and in honor of wet men and blog-tending, I'll be posting twice daily this week, early with fresh, short content and late with re-posts of my favorites. I hope you'll click through and leave a comment. Re-tweet the posts. Add the Vortex feed. Every time you spread the social media love and let me know about it via the comments here or to email@example.com, I'll enter you into a drawing for your choice of (1) Love, Texas Style anthology (Holy Cow!! Don't pay this...the love is given freely here) featuring my time travel romantic short, The Lost Highway or (2) a DVD of something completely Vortex. Scared? You should be. Drawing Saturday, noon CST.
Happy Monday, everyone!
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
tom selleck's ass
Are you kidding me? We talk about dangling participles and grammar most days. I feel so cheap. Mostly because I can't report with any authority on this topic, either.
"is a relation between those sensations and those memories which simultaneously encircle us"
This sounds like something I might have written on my college entry essay. The writer I am now would tear this like a Dean Butler shirt. Those, twice? Slay that -ly!
how to write Jake Gyllenhaal
If I was in the know on this, I wouldn't be wasting my time writing four hundred page tomes. I'd be writing those cursive jobbers on hand-dipped paper and trying to elevate fan-girl into literary art.
how old is l.a. mitchell
I can only assume this google-searcher was seeking the other L.A. Mitchell, who by the way is a very successful singer in New Zealand. Go ahead, peek. I'll share you with her. Think she gets emails asking about Fabio's lahve-attack and time travel?
oops. I wasn't supposed to mention he-who-shall-never-again-be-mentioned. Sorry.
time traveling orgies
Whoa. Let's not get excited here. Geez. I put orgy in one blog title and it is now half the search hits. Those of you looking to increase blog traffic take note: Tomato Soup Recipe Orgy! Went To See Harry Potter This Weekend Orgy! Hum-Drum Monday Orgy! Figurative Language Orgy!
I'm pretty sure we settled this here. But just in case-yes, it was me. And it was fabulous.
Was it fun for you?
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Turns out, freedom was a prison shank. Crafted in fear. If grabbed the wrong way, lethal.
Carl clenched the rail like a bitch.
Carl clenched the rail like a bitch.
A laugh clinked at Zac’s ribs, itched to tunnel free. Instead, he wore his attendant face. A friggin’ saint.
So he focused again on the wheel, the fifty-degree sway of the top car, the stillness of the others. A foot emerged beneath the bucking safety gate. A ponytail swatted the brass number plate.
He turned back, focused again on the ride. Thirty-nine cars settled. The top car swung a good fifty-degrees. Above its safety gate, a white sneaker stabbed the night sky. He didn’t see a ponytail swat the brass number plate or a naked ass become the moon or a bikini top catch like a windsock, but he knew it was the boardwalk version of the Mile High Club.
Though my journey to publication has been paved with amazing critique partners, mentors who told me which paths to take and which to avoid, contest judges who gave me a boost, published authors who passed along their knowledge and no small amount of good fortune, no person has had the impact on my writing that Margie has. She is, and will forever be, my wax-on, wax-off literary Miyagi.
Head over to LWA today and comment for your chance to win her amazing lecture packets.
Monday, July 11, 2011
First, the awesomeness of it all. Motivated as I was, as we all are when things are fresh and exciting, I accomplished an unreal amount of editing. Knowing I had only four hours shortened my decision-making process immensely. I edited from knowledge, but my instincts drove the bus. I didn't look up the clinical process for a stomach releasing acid so I could get just the right physiological response in my character. The response came. Was it fresh? Yes, so moving on....
I also loved the sense of accomplishment. I loved logging into my email and having an inbox overflowing with notes from my critique partners and friends and new writing opportunities. I loved logging into my email and seeing nothing. How many times might I have checked in those four hours had I not had the discipline to stay away? How many sentences benefited from not having to share my brain, say, once an hour.
So you're thinking this is a no-brainer, right? Productivity--can I get an Amen from the rafters?! But that's as far as the Luke and Laura love affair go with my four hour workday.
I don't first define myself as a writer. When I started my writer's journey, I promised myself writing would never get in the way of two very important parts of my life. No amount of critical or Twilight-level of movie-deal success would ever make up for short sighting these two areas. When I shut myself off for four hours-and I was hard and fast about the rules: no phone, no texting, etc-I misstepped on that promised to myself. Things happened. Things I wouldn't have wanted to miss for a Tardis and Jake Gyllenhaal. Together. With me. Trapped inside.
Are we a culture that's too tech-ed out, too fragmented in our attempt to become more connected? Heck, yeah. Do we need to prioritize our social connections so our work time is full-brain commitment? Definitely. Does a writer who just wants to work faster and better need to shut herself off from life in order to better capture it? Not anymore. Experiment over.
Oh, and the Twitter promise? A few...maybe one...Pam?... may have noticed I didn't follow through on my update commitments. Truthfully, at the end of the four hours, I had no taste for technology. It acted as sort of a detox. Computer-sensory overload. And for a girl who still struggles with the existential Twitter question: who cares that I'm having spinach salad for dinner? it just didn't happen.
Speaking of Gyllenhaal and the perfect storm of awesome, he is with Bear Grylls in Iceland tonight. Will they talk about the triple threat of crazy y-l-l in their names? Sadly, it is not a tropical climate-thus a zero on the Brokeback-skin exposure level-my muse is quite happy with the arrangement. She must edit a thousand more words. Tough love and all.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
To achive a four-hour writing day with maximum-editing output, there must be rules. No email, no phone calls, no texts, no Restaurant Story (omg, my roast beef will burn!), no Elvis movies, no wandering except to restroom and to keep blood flowing, no snacks, non-distracting caffeinated drinks only, no petting the cats or tossing them a soggy mouse, no checking the mailbox, no emergencies of any kind-save the pants-on-fire kind. Idle hands are the work of the wicked muse, I tell you! Ferriss has daily goals, so we can too, right? Though I've learned from doing Write or Die that I often underestimate my output and tend to slack at the end.
So there you have it...the four hour workday. My answer to increased productivity. Will it work? I'll tweet each day to report in. If you're not following me, why the heck not? Oh, right. Because I don't use it much. Maybe that's something to tackle next week. One hurdle at a time, people.
If you could accomplish in four hours what you previously accomplished in eight, how would you spend those extra four hours?