Saturday, October 17, 2009

Treaties and treatises

Have you missed me? Good.

Work has been crazy busy this week and I've been playing catch up with little success. Now it's the weekend and I still have a load on my schedule, including finishing revisions and edits on a novel I have to send to an interested publisher on Monday. At least it's never boring here, not even when I'm comfy in bed in my own room. Spiders have decided to break our treaty and have moved in en masse.

Not your little spiders, but big gray and brown spiders that spin webs and hide under window sills and in the covers of my bed. Not cool. And not tolerated. When Mary Ann and I were on the phone the other night, one of them raced across the bed and over the book from under my covers, covers that had been on my legs. Two nights ago, another one raced across the bed toward me and the safety of the covers and I stunned him with a book. Ha! Gotcha! I thought I'd killed him until I slid a magazine under him and he stirred. Oops. I crowned him with a bigger book several times and appendages went flying, after which I scooped him and his severed limbs onto the magazine and dumped them all into the trash. I then went after his mate hiding under the window sill and let her broken and smashed corpse fall to the floor to be picked up with the vacuum.

Tolerating spiders isn't a problem and I welcome them, especially in the summer when they feast on ants and other vermin that wander in through the gaping spaces around my doors, but my bedroom is off limits. I have a no tolerance policy for spiders in my bedroom and this is the second time I've had to enforce it ruthlessly and without mercy. I do have my limits and it's best not to test them or go beyond them because termination with extreme prejudice is the result. After all, if I don't enforce the limits, spiders will take my reticence as an invitation to join me in my little sanctuary. That's not going to happen.

I'm tolerant of many things, including deadlines, but as I get older I am less and less willing to tolerate what I consider to be generous limits, with the except of spiders and vermin in my bedroom. For a year I have reminded the landlord the roof over my office leaks and nothing has been done, so I keep reminding him each time I send my rent payment. For eight months I have waited for him to fill in the hole in the planter and cover up the sewage system, but the dirt mound remains, getting smaller and smaller with each rain as it washes out across the parking lot and into the street and with the neighborhood boys on bikes who feel the hill is an invitation to ride over it an jump their bikes. I'm half tempted to fill it in myself and pay to have the roof fixed and take it off the rent. I may still do that. If I can't get him to do it, then I will have to do it myself. It's how I got the toilet fixed in February -- by calling Roto Rooter.

In the meantime, I will likely be more absent than present here in LJ because I do have to finish the revisions on one novel and begin writing the next two novels. I have been stuck on the post apocalyptic vampire story because I didn't have a clear motivation, or hurdles, for that matter. Then I did what most writers do, I talked to another writer and asked a question. I chose Mary Ann because I consider her an expert on vampire lore. It was a short conversation from my question to her answer. As we were really getting into it, she had to go because dinner was ready. Like she said, there's nothing worse than eating cold quiche. I turned to my journal, as I do when I need to work things out (personal, financial and literary). As I wrote, building on what she and I had discussed, it all came clear. I had not only resolved the problem with the motivation and hurdles, but I have moved in a direction that will make one or two more books possible. Bonus!

That conversation led to something else I was working on, a murder/mystery/ghost story/romance (light on the romance), and solved a small problem on that one, giving me everything I need to write the book. I'm still waiting on one piece of information, having requested assistance from a specialist in the field. Now I have a new problem.

I have revisions and work to do (the job that pays the bills) and all I want to do is get busy on the new books. I can have both of them written within a month now that I have all the problems and kinks worked out. But I have other obligations. That's what I hate most about having a day job: having to put my writing on hold to earn a paycheck. At the end of the day, I'm so wrung out it's difficult to muster the energy to write. I've expended it all on work. That's why weekends are so important to me and why I end up refusing a lot of invitations, especially lately. It's the only time I am not bound by obligation and responsibility, except to my writing. It's also the time I use to read books I need to review and do critiques, both of which add money to the coffers, much needed money.

All of this is really a long-winded explanation of where I'll be in the next few days and weeks and why I won't be able to devote as much time to LJ as I normally do. I'll still make the tarot posts on Wednesday, or thereabouts, and try to at least drop in to read, but my posts may be scarce. It depends on my writing and whether or not I need to take a break to clear my head and writing gears. In the meantime, I'll be happily ensconced in the zone, intent on putting out another two or three books by the end of the year and finding homes for more of my short stories.

Find your bliss and let nothing get in the way of making it yours. That's what I intend to do.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Look at the size of that thing!

Magicians don't make things disappear, but they are very good at focusing your attention away from what they're really doing, with jokes, pretty girls in skimpy costumes, flashy patter or a flair for showmanship. It's all about keeping your attention away from what they're really doing. The only magic is in the gullibility of the audience. Media outlets and politicians have learned the art of misdirection very well as anyone who reads or hears or sees the news can tell you, or at least they would tell you if they weren't so caught up in the trick.

When I was a child, the favorite prank was to shout out something outrageous (Look! That guy is naked!) to make you look away right before they poked, slapped, pitched, etc. you while laughing and saying, "Made you look. Made you look." It was funny if you weren't on the receiving end. The only ones who didn't look for their chance to even the score were either repressed or made-to-order fall guys.

One thing as a child I looked forward to as an adult was no more "Made you look. Made you look." while rubbing a sore arm or leg. No such luck. My arm and leg aren't sore, but my sense of justice is still smarting. Welcome to the grown-up world of "made you look." It's all about focusing attention on issues guaranteed to get your blood boiling and your sense of outrage tuned to a fever pitch.

It didn't start with O.J. Simpson's lawyer Johnny Cochran, but I'll start there. Instead of focusing on the issues -- a man accused of murdering his wife and a friend in cold blood -- Cochran focused on the race issue. It's all about a black man who married a white woman. Uh, no. It's about a man who plotted and murdered his wife in cold blood. By focusing on race, a real hot button, Cochran managed to keep the prosecution and the jury off balance in order to get his client off on a murder rap. The legal profession has always played "made you look" in order to rake in the bucks.

It works for law enforcement, too. Since the police were in Al Capone's inside pocket and the FBI were unable to make murder, drugs, prostitution, boot legging and racketeering on shifty Al, they got him on tax evasion. Made you look!

The left leaning side of the political scene has spent the past two years playing "made you look" in order to elect a nobody from nowhere as president. The campaign was never about the issues, but about race. If you opposed the Democratic party's nominee for president, you were a racist. I think a lot of people voted for Barack Obama not because he had a great record in politics or government or economic and social reform, but because they were afraid that if they didn't they'd be racists. Funny how that worked out. The President keeps playing that race card any time opposition to his plans and schemes becomes vocal and focuses on issues and the results of disastrous legislation and political moves. Made you look! It's an ongoing game that will get a lot of play in the next three years, and it's being played in other ways, too. The economic downturn, inflation and rampant unemployment is not due to the stimulus package or the other disastrous legislation signed into law by the President; it's George W. Bush's fault. Made you look!

The latest non-political game of "made you look!" is being played out over Roman Polanski. How many people have actually taken the time to look at the reason Polanski is being expedited? How many reporters for the media have focused on the real issue? None. All media attention and most people are caught up with the issue of whether or not Polanski raped, sexually abused and sodomized an 11-year-old girl under the influence of drugs and alcohol. It's a heinous act, but that is a topic for another post. People have taken sides. It's over already, they say. He paid the girl $500,000 in 1992 and she doesn't want to relive the nightmare and have him prosecuted. Made you look!

Polanski's extradition has nothing to do with the rape. It is a result of the rape (and, yes, Whoopi Goldberg, it was a rape-rape; she said no), but not the issue. Polanski plea bargained his case and was sentenced to undergo psychiatric evaluation for 90 days. The doctors were convinced that Polanski was not psychotic or dangerous and finished their evaluation in 42 days. Polanski was out on bail and slated to go before a judge who was to determine where and how Polanski would serve out the remaining 48 days. Fearing that he would be in prison for years, Polanski jumped bail and fled the country and has been on the run ever since, avoiding any country that had an extradition treaty with the United States. His mistake was going to Switzerland, that bastion of neutrality, to pick up an award for one of his movies where he got tagged. Made you look!

The Swiss judges refuse to let him out on bail because he is a flight risk (ya think?) and await extradition proceedings to proceed. Now the movie and arts communities are up in arms because Polanski has been in prison all these years, suffering for having sex with a minor under the influence of alcohol and drugs. They point to the girl, now a woman, who doesn't want to dredge up the past (or lose what's left of the $500,000 Polanski gave her in reparation for raping and sodomizing her) and has forgiven him. Guess what? It's not about a woman who was raped and sodomized as a child; it's about Polanski jumping bail and fleeing the country. That is a felony and he is right to worry about spending a few years in prison.

By focusing on the rape of a minor, a done deal as far as the courts are concerned, the media stirs up people's emotions and outrage and keeps them from seeing what's really going on. It's the ultimate "made you look!" Whether or not Polanski has made peace (paid off) with the rape victim has nothing to do with his extradition or his pending jail term. He jumped bail and fled the country over serving another 48 days and condemned himself to a lifetime of running, albeit in the best hotels and restaurants and resorts while making millions of dollars. He could have dealt with this years ago, come back to the U.S. and cited temporary insanity. He would have served maybe a year in prison, but most likely would have been sentenced to community service or something equivalent. Instead, he compounded his mistake of failing to serve the remaining 48 days of his sentence and turned the world upside down defending and reviling him for a rape that was already a closed case. It's not about the rape; it's about jumping bail and fleeing the country. That cannot be said too often. Not rape. Jumping bail and fleeing the country. Keep saying it. Repeat it often. Use it whenever someone brings up the fact that Polanski has suffered over his indiscretion (rape and sodomy) with a minor. Focus on the issue. Jumped bail and fled the country. Felony flight. Needs to pay for that.

Unless Polanski is willing to fork over a few hundred billion dollars to the U.S. government (they can use it), he needs to be a man, come back, face his punishment and stop playing games. This is one "made you look!" that needs to end.

As for the size of that thing . . .

Made you look!

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tarot: The alchemy of theory in practice

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune... are always in flight to your location -- and mine. Doesn't it seem like as soon as one problem is solved another is queued up waiting to hit you with another shot? That's life. C'est la vie. And all that stuff.

For writers, you're only as good as your last book and that may be the root of the problem, topping one moderately or wildly successful book with another and another and another and . . . well, you get the idea. Sometimes it feels like the only way to get ahead is to stay behind, except if your first book fails, no one is going to queue up to contract another book with the idea that the next one will be better. Publishing doesn't work that way.

You could rely on workmanlike prose and stories that are consistently mediocre and produce good consistent sales with the occasional literary and popular spark of brilliance, and that may be the way to go, even if you never reach above good consistent, mid list sales. It's a living and a living that the bulk of writers make. Mid list writers are the fuel that keeps the publishing engine running while the wildly successful breakout books garner all the attention and the bulk of promotional dollars. Still, publishing remains a "what have you done for me lately" kind of business and one that writers, real writers and not dabblers or amateurs, can't and won't give up.

About the only thing that keeps writers down more than disappointing sales and okay to bad reviews, is the writer himself, paralyzed by fear of success or simply paralyzed by the blank page. So many ideas to choose from and so little time to write because it always seems like the deadline that was years away is looming closer and closer and you, the writer, are standing in the middle of the juggernaut's path like a deer frozen in the headlights of an onrushing truck. What's a poor writer to do?

4 of Swords

The fagged out Knight in the Four of Swords lies beneath three sharp and glittering swords poised to strike him dead center in the heart. Instead of danger, these swords are the problems waiting him when he gets up to fight again. Actually, the war weary soldier is safe from the battle behind the impenetrable stone walls of his chamber where he can take a break before facing the next challenge afresh. In this stable and secure sanctuary, the soldier will be able to marshal forces and resources to solve the looming problems. The situation is difficult, but more problems will arise if he doesn't take a step back to get a fresh perspective, meditate and weigh his options and find his center while recharging his emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual resources. He has carefully built a solid foundation and can rely on that to support him when he is rested and refreshed. The one thing he cannot and should not do is ignore the problem; it won't go away, and ignoring it will not solve anything. Once he is ready to plunge back into the fray, he must do so with single-minded focus and avoid distractions.


When I think of Temperance I think of old stories of Carrie Nation and her crusade against alcohol. For Carrie and her crew, abstinence was the only way and moderation merely a slower path to destruction. That is not the meaning of Temperance in tarot.

This fiery-haired, passionate and strong willed woman holds two cups in her hands. One is gold and the other silver. From these brimming cups she mixes the contents to produce something new, blending until she gets the brew just right, tempering extremes in behavior, belief or feeling. She tempers life as a smith tempers iron in a white hot fire, mixing in air and charcoal to produce a strong and flexible sword to win battles and maintain order, maintaining and expressing passions perfectly. This wondrous wench is an alchemist who knows that in order to live well one must live life fully with one's internal beliefs in perfect harmony with external action and with the world around him.

Temper life physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually, mixing and blending with skill and wisdom so that life is a blend of elements in perfect balance. Beware extremes in behavior and don't let fear of making a mistake lead to inaction or stasis in which nothing is gained or solved or lived. Choose action or inaction appropriate to the current situation.

Page of Swords

The Page of Swords is a youth in the first flush of knighthood. He has not been tested in battle, but he has spent years practicing and honing his skills, learning battle strategies and etiquette and how to wield his sword with strength and bravery. He masks his fear with an air of confidence and pride that borders on disdain. He knows it all. He can do it all. He is an old hand and nothing surprises him. However, anyone who meets him can clearly see his apprehension and his doubts. They know he knows his trade and how to use his sword -- in theory. He's not been tested in battle.

He is ready to face new challenges and turn theory and logic into practice, but behind his bravado is fear. He is scared. What he doesn't know is that fear is understandable. Everyone is afraid before their first encounter, yet he also knows there is no substitute for experience, an experience he lacks. The only thing he can do is put on his armor, sharpen his sword and plunge into the fray, trusting what he knows and has worked so hard to achieve. Battles are fought with sword and muscles and intellect, but it wouldn't be wise to over analyze his opponent or strategy.

Swords in the tarot cards symbolize the intellect. The message of the Page of Swords is that too much thinking and planning will paralyze you. The other meaning of the Page of Swords, as with all pages of the court cards, is that a message is coming that usually deals with a current problem, issue or belief system. Basically, don't think too much, take things as they come and trust what you know.

* * *

Rest. Reboot. Temperance. Trust.

Life is a series of problems to be solved and wisdom to be gained and Francoise is no exception. She has worked hard to reach the top of her profession as a clothing designer, learned the essence of style and knows the way fabrics, color and embellishments work together or fight each other to a fashion nightmare standstill. She is an apprentice to a world class designer who has suddenly fallen ill and will not be able to helm the coming show for the new spring fashions. As his second-in-command, she understands his vision for the season and she is suddenly thrust to the forefront to finish the designs he began and create the rest of the designs in time for the showing. She's afraid she doesn't know enough and that she has not had enough time to prepare. Her career will be made or broken in one month and she's terrified. How will she manage?

In addition to her problems at work, her relationship is on the skids and heading for disaster. If she doesn't act quickly, the love of her life will walk away. She is being pulled in two directions: work and love. Both are important. Her relationship works best when she is caught in the fire of creation and her creative juices flow best when she is happy and in love. Everything is spinning out of control and time is running out.

You decide. Will Francoise rise to the occasion or fall flat on her face? Will this opportunity be a chance to make her mark or will she, after all the years of hard work and honing her talent, analyze herself into a professional coma? If she spends too much time on work, she'll lose George, and if she spends too much time with George, she won't be able to work. It's your story and your choice. What will you choose to illustrate?

* * *

Life is all about choices and using learning as a springboard to bigger and better things. Sometimes the best way to handle a problem is to take a step back and a deep breath, close your eyes, summon your courage and everything you have learned and take a leap of faith, trusting in what you know. Facing the blank page is difficult, but you'll never get a single word down if you don't face the page and trust yourself. The good thing about writing is that you can always revise, edit and revise again before committing your vision to print. Luckily, even after the contract is signed, you can revise, edit and rewrite again and again until everything works just right.

Once the editing is over, your vision is out there for everyone to see. Don't worry so much about how your writing will be received, get busy on the next book, story or article. It's like being thrown from a horse. In order to conquer your fear, get back up in the saddle and do it again quickly before fear paralyzes you. Trust what you know and remember that writing, like life, is a learning experience that always leaves room for more experience. Trust what you know and don't be afraid to try new things. That's how writers grow and evolve. Lay the groundwork and layer in texture bit by bit. There's always room for improvement.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Boobies, blushing and books

There are few things that embarrass me. While wearing hot pink silk panties and playing flag football in front of a gaggle of guys, my shorts were ripped off and I ran half the length of the field half naked, flag intact, to make a touchdown. The touchdown eradicated any embarrassment I felt when I realized I did it in my undies. I've slipped on wet tile floors in Sears and fallen on my backside, trailed toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my heels while wearing a very sexy dress through a crowded restaurant, conversed with celebrities unaware of a bat in the cave and endured the darndest things coming from the mouths of children and I'm still here. About the only thing that brings a blush to my cheeks is a heartfelt compliment; I've had little experience of those in my life, especially in person. So, I am not shocked or worried about revealing my sister's love/hate relationship with boobies for an anthology about breasts and self image. The phone call and discussion are exactly what people need to read and understand. Mom doesn't agree.

"Carol would be mortified."

"Why? It's just a story."

"At least change the names."

"I think by now people know that I have two sisters and it wouldn't be hard to figure out which one it is."

"Then you shouldn't write about it. It's embarrassing."

"It's interesting and funny and illustrates the point so much better than any story."

"Well, I can't tell you what to do." (You just did.) "I think it's in very poor taste, but you'll do it anyway. I know you." Mom hung up at that point. I'll have to bring this subject up again in case she's getting wise to my bathroom excuse for getting off the phone.

Beware: Anyone involved with me in any capacity is likely to end up as a character in a story or the subject of articles, columns and books. If you don't understand that, it's best to get out while you can.

The boobie story I'm writing for an anthology about breasts and self image is a perfect illustration of being careful what you wish. Beyond that, it shouldn't matter that Carol is my sister or that she seems a little shallow and ridiculous. It's not like someone to whom she's introduced will snigger and give her the "oh, you're that Carol, the one with the boobies" look. They might think it, but my sister and I travel in very different circles. Besides, I thought that any fifteen minutes of fame would do. Better to be known for boobies than for having drug addicts and thieves for children or some of the other things I could name, like turning a large bedroom into a closet because a regular closet wasn't big enough to hold all her clothes, shoes, purses, belts, hats and jewelry or constantly whining about being broke while working two jobs (one that pays $45/hour) and owning three properties, two of which bring in rent. We won't even go into the cars and truck and other necessities of life or the boyfriend who, after more than ten years, refuses to commit because he'd have to share his millions, or her four divorces. There are far worse things to detail than boobies.

As I told Aunt Anne a couple of weeks ago, it's better to push the skeletons out of the closet to make more room for books and so the skeletons can't come back to haunt or embarrass you.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Segue to promoting grammar

There's snow on the roofs this morning, as there was yesterday morning. It's cozy in here, but that's only because I keep under the covers and wear clothes for a change. The snow is no more than a light dusting of sugary crystals, blue grey in the dawn's light, matching the color of the sky. The green leaves of the leggy weed outside my bedroom window haven't yet realized they are not long for this earth and cling stubbornly and strongly to the branches. Only some wandering ivy has gone crimson as it weaves in an out of the lilac bushes leaves, obscuring the sign that says the parking space next to the cottage is exclusively for my use.

The honeysuckle has gone to berries, dark purple berries, drops of thick heart's blood on the slender tendrils of brown and green that are all that remain of the honeysuckle's perfumed and petaled glory of the summer past. It is truly autumn and yet feels more like the stirrings of a long and cold winter. The hoary, craggy head of Pikes Peak stands proud against the blue-grey sky, a monolith to immortality that will one day be worn down by the constant freezing and thawing that cracks the very foundations and will some century bring the mountain peaks low. But not today. Today it is strong and tall and immortal, visible from every point of the city and far across the eastern plains. Even on the other side of the pass, Pikes Peak dominates the eastern horizon.

Books lay littered across the bed, inching toward the crevice between mattress and wall, my constant companions. They wait silently and patiently for me to notice and pick them up once again when work and responsibilities are finished and put away, and they are the resources for much of my mental gymnastics and pyrotechnics, offering new ideas for old.

An old idea given a new form is up at Suite 101 after long and tiring labor, finally birthed and waiting to be read, all about the use of quotation marks in direct quotes.

That is all. Disperse.