ON WRITING

Remember writing doesn't love you. It doesn't care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on. A. L. Kennedy

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

#IWSG post - My ideal writing places - Italy and France. Why? Come and see ...

Hi all!

Time for the IWSG again!

This month we thank Alex's helpers for assisting in reading the entries. If you have time, please visit.

  Be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!



Top Site for Writers

Go HERE for more posts for the IWSG.

September 4 question - If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?


What a great question for me this month. If I could pick one place in the world to write my vampire stories I'd go to where they're set.


Castello de Castellina in Chianti

My first two locations for my first three books in the series of my Renaissance hero, Duke Vipunin de Castellina are Florence, Italy, and Castellina in Chianti, Tuscany. In Florence, my hotel is in the general area where Vipunin lives when he serves the powerful de' Medici family, rulers of Florence.  I cross the bridge he crosses when the story gets underway when he rides to Castellina, near Siena. I'll follow his route by car LOL and walk through the subterranean tunnels under 'his' castle which is still standing, albeit a crumbling heap of stones.

Book Four is set in 17th century Paris, which, surprise, I visit after Florence.


The Bois de Boulogne, Paris


So I spend some time in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris where a lot of the action will take place. I'll enjoy soaking up the atmosphere, imagining it four centuries ago.

I have two other books set in Paris. One needs more research, so beauty, I spend nearly three weeks in Paris just making sure I have the location sussed out just right. My first book is set in Montmartre, the second, in Saint Germain des Pres.

So, I have two places in the world where I will add to my stories and write Book Four of my Renaissance vampire series. Woo hoo. It sucks to be me, doesn't it?

Where are you writing? Why? Tell me...

Another WEP is over. No winners in yet.

The next WEP/IWSG challenge is in October. As well as a critique prize, there are prizes for each of the three winners. October is our BIG month. Please consider joining us with your Halloween or horror story.


Most of our members go with horror or speculative for October. But that's not written in stone. Nothing rigid about us - we are a culturally diverse mix and we welcome all interpretations. 

Thanks for visiting!





Wednesday, 21 August 2019

#WEP/IWSG AUGUST CHALLENGE. RED WHEELBARROW. My Paris story extract, The Arrival.

Hello all! Welcome to the August WEP/IWSG challenge, RED WHEELBARROW. For this challenge, I'm submitting a scene from my Paris novel. The protagonist, Saskia Bell has been fired from her fashion designer position in a New York fashion house and has come to Paris, where her mother was born to forge an independent life for herself away from her controlling father.
As stated in the blurb for this challenge: The RED WHEELBARROW can be purely a prop.
I hope you enjoy this extract..


Image result for place de abbesses metro image


The Arrival

I clamber up from the bowels of the earth that is the Place des Abbesses’s metro station, studying the stunning murals climbing the walls—the oranges, the blues, the purples—imagining what stunning fabric designs I’ll create using this art as inspiration. I snap pictures on my cell phone, so I don’t forget those perfectly orange and red poppies, the outline of the city meandering up the stairs, the white winged Pegasi flying on the blue background. I hate closing my eyes for a second in Paris. It’s a never-ending feast for the eyes.  

When I finally exit into the glaring daylight of a brilliant blue sky, I check my watch, then hurry along the narrow cobblestones to the Place du Tertre at the top of Montmartre hill. It’s alive with activity – bearded artists in smocks and berets touting, hopeful tourists posing on rickety wooden stools while artists frown and flourish brushes, trying to capture their image. Since my last visit, restaurants have set up in the center of the Place and already tourists are queuing for early lunch. I check my watch. Désolé.

Désolé,’ I say to the artists in berets who hover along the street, clutching their clipboards with blank art paper at the ready, begging to paint my picture. Soulful cries of “Pretty lady don’t break me. Until I find a job, if I can’t eat or drink it, I’m not interested.

Sacre Coeur is directly ahead past the cafés. I slip into the dim interior and light a candle for Mom in what was her favorite church. I cross myself, whispering, ‘Please forgive me, Mom’. My eyes fill with tears. Will I ever stop feeling angry with myself for the part I played in her death? There’s no answer in the flickering candles. Checking my watch again, I see it’s time.

Et vous, Madame Lavelle?’ I ask the tall African woman standing at the top of the street beside a red wheelbarrow overflowing with red and yellow blooms.  She’s more colorful than any potted plant in her flowery green maxi dress, matching turban, and gold earrings that brush her stately long neck.

Oui, Mademoiselle.’ Her beautiful smile is enhanced by a slash of shiny orange lipstick. I trot out my best French. ‘Je m’appelle Saskia Bell. I’m here for the apartment.’

She leans forward and air kisses me, bisou, bisou, bisou, smelling faintly of garlic and citrus. ‘Speak English with me, Mademoiselle. I’m from Burkina Faso. I need to practise.’ She smiles to take the sting out of her words. Obviously, my American-accented French hurts her ears. ‘Welcome to rue des Martyrs, the best street in Paris.’ She speaks with a sing-song French lilt. Adjusting her huge shoulder bag, she gestures with wide-open arms down the street. ‘Whatever you need, you will find here. Bookstores, baguettes, and bistrots that sell creamy Mont d’Or cheese you eat with a spoon.’

Immediately I taste that runny cheese melting on my tongue, washed down with a glass of bubbly. I study the narrow, cobbled street weaving down the hill. It’s so exotic, so cute, so medieval. What a contrast to Fifth Avenue with its clamor, its stylish buildings and wall-to-wall yellow cabs. No wonder Mom missed Paris so much. Here, people sit crushed elbow to elbow drinking wine or espressos while enjoying a cigarette sitting outside cafés under red awnings with gold fringes. I spy quaint antique shops I can’t wait to explore.  I breathe it in. ‘It’s perfect.’ 

We’ve only walked a short way down the street when Madame Lavelle holds up her hand. Arretêz,’ she says. I stop. ‘Here is the apartment.’ She points to a creamy art deco building the regulation Haussmann five stories high with black lacework balconies rising, slightly crooked, sitting above a fancy pâtisserie.

I’m in love, imagining the aroma of coffee and cake on my doorstep each morning. I wonder if they’ll make me an almond cappuccino like Dom’s in New York? 

Looking up, I see a woman on the second floor with long blonde hair, her elbows on the balcony rails, blowing smoke from a cigarette holder like she’s Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I wave back when she raises a palm in my direction. ‘It’s beautiful.’ I swallow the lump in my throat. 

I feel it in my bones.

I’m home.

‘Come.’ Madame Lavelle keys in the door code. ‘I think you will like the apartment very much.’

We clamber up flights of rickety stairs, the stairwell dark except for sensor lights added sometime in the dim past. I stifle a giggle. How fit will I become running up and down these stairs every day. It’ll fit in well with my training for the Paris Marathon next April.

As we climb towards the top, Madame’s wheezing grows louder. I take her elbow. We pass the fifth floor, then the building narrows and the stairs are so tiny I walk sideways to fit my shoes to the treads.  Where’s she taking me? The roof?

Madame Lavelle is wheezing and gasping for breath when she stops in front of an old arched door studded with huge copper nails. ‘We’re here,’ she says through ragged breaths. ‘The attic.’

I study the ancient timber door and shiver. My knees are weak. I clutch the door frame. Even before I walk inside, I know. This is my Paris home. My Parisian adventure is about to begin.

I step inside. 

The attic smells of time, of layers of life, of people who’ve lived here before. My eyes prick with tears at the simplicity of the light-filled space, loving its original scuffed parquet floors, shabby rose-tinted walls and distressed cream trims. I’ve grown up in luxurious homes decorated with bespoke furniture, antiques and gold-leaf trim, but they never excited me like this little attic with its sloping roof and two cute boxy windows either side of one full length grilled door. But what reminds me of my Hamptons’ beach house is the skylight which bathes the room in sunshine. Perhaps it was originally an artist’s garret. 

I walk over to the floor-to-ceiling window. There it is. The red wheelbarrow. Every day I'll see it and offer up a prayer of thanks for my arrival in Paris.

WORD COUNT: 1044
FCA

To read more RED WHEELBARROW stories, please click on the names in my sidebar or go to the WEP website




Wednesday, 7 August 2019

August 7th - #IWSG post. - Pen name, building websites, social media...Toni Morrison, Kristen Lamb on Amazon.

Hello all! Time for the August 7 IWSG! Yeah I know. But it's nearly lunchtime 7/8 (or 8/7) in Oz.

Go HERE to visit. more participants.

Top Site for Writers Alex's awesome co-hosts for the August 7 posting of the IWSG areRenee Scattergood,Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner! 
Please visit them if you can! 
  Be sure to visit theInsecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!

Before I begin, I honor Toni Morrison. the great American literati who recently passed. She will be sadly missed, but her words will never die. I plan to resurrect her yellow-leafed tomes for a good re-read.

If you haven't caught it, I recommend reading Kristen Lamb's latest post on Amazon's road to world domination of the publishing industry. It's not a put down of the ZON. She's researched it well - the NY big publishers and how they dropped the ball, never regarding e-books as real competition, to Amazon's well-thought-out, clinical, long range plan to sell books ... fascinating reading. 

I know there's an opinion that blog posts should be kept short, but in the same way I love LONG books (bring 'em on - I just read every book in the Game of Thrones series. Even skipping the gratuitous violence, them's some serious word numbers). If a long blog post captures my attention, I'll read every word. And Kristen's post are usually attention capturing.



Now down to little ole me. Not nearly as interesting as Amazon's journey which affects pretty much all of us ...

Keyword - PEN NAME

Who amongst us uses a pen name? Long ago, I decided to go with a pen name when I got around to publishing, whether traditional or self-publishing. I asked for opinions in my self-publishing FB group, 20Booksto50K, and the jury was overwhelmingly positive about pen names. These high achievers write multi genres and seem to write each under a different name.

Back in the day, the idea of a pen name was to publish in secret. Today it can be to separate genres or just to look for the right name on a certain type of book. Not really secret anymore.

Now that I'm approaching the day I publish all those books I've been working on for years, I have a truckload of work to do - new website, FB page, Twitter, Instagram ... As if maintaining one of each of these wasn't enough. 

Part of my insecurity is that I no longer have a photo editing program simple enough for me to use, and I'm too impatient to struggle with the steep learning curve of getting my head around a new one, so I spend a lot of time designing headers etc on paper and checking how it looks online, but not a lot of time actually building anything online. I know. I know. I don't have much choice, so I hope when I sit down and actually create these online, it'll all come together. 

Writing books is the fun part! The EASY part. All the rest, including BLURBS and SYNOPSES, are the HARD part. 



How's it going with you?

- Do you have a favorite photo editing program? (I never got over the loss of free PicMonkey.) Gosh, I was an expert! Now they want over $7 US a month, which is a lot more in $AUS.

- Do you do everything yourself - social media etc - blurbs, synopses, editing, covers? I'll definitely be outsourcing covers and some editing, but think I'm doing the remainder myself.


Now, to the fun part. WEP/IWSG will have the sign up for the August prompt, RED WHEELBARROW, on August 21st - open for 3 days. Go HERE for ideas. Consider writing for us. We'd love to have you. 





Wednesday, 3 July 2019

#IWSG July 3 - Personal traits and character traits. Style survey.

Hello all! 

Here we are again. Officially passed the halfway mark for the year. I like IWSG day when I can settle back for for my monthly blogfest. These days I usually only blog once a month. I spend most of my time writing, but I still don't want to let go of the blog like others have decided to. In my opinion, a blog gives more satisfaction than other social media, although I admit it is a time suck.

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

  Be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!

I'm going with the July question: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?


As soon as I saw the July 3 question I thought of the time I immersed myself in one of the wonderful Margie Lawson Immersion Masterclasses, a retreat I attended with 8 other writers awhile ago to improve things like deep editing, deep POV, character motivations, dialogue, visceral responses etc etc. 

The first thing Margie did was to hand out a Style Survey. We've all done those personality tests, right? A real pain as you fill out page after page trying to be honest, but not quite getting there. They're confusing I think. Anyway, Margie has whittled her survey down to one page - 4 colors - RED, GREEN, BLUE, YELLOW with 4 lots of 10 questions regarding personality attributes. 

RED - Driver - disciplined, efficient, energetic, keep others focused, impatient with delays.
GREEN - Expressive - outspoken, spontaneous, fun, generate enthusiasm, distractible
BLUE - Amiable - caring, sensitive, supportive, others confide in them, less likely to take risks
YELLOW - Analytical -  fact orientated, organized, may appear detached, fully assess before making a decision.

No surprise that I'm BLUE with secondary YELLOW. And no surprise that my female leads are BLUE with secondary YELLOW. Once I realized how 'me' they were, I did some serious changes!

Saskia, my mc in my Paris novel is caring, nurturing, not a risk taker and not spontaneous. So I had to change her as she progresses through her hero's journey and reaches her goals.

Her lover, Raphael, on the other hand, is RED - energetic, impatient, efficient and disciplined and very spontaneous.

Their different personalities make for some interesting conflict which has been at times painful for me to write. But to loosely quote James Scott Bell - get your characters up a tree and throw rocks at them.



Today, I publish the WEP/IWSG winners post. Yeah, I'm back baby. Pop over to the WEP website if you have time and read all about the tumultuous month we had, the fantastic stories posted and the wonderful winners who nailed the prompt, Caged Bird. Already I'm thinking of what I'll write for the August prompt, RED WHEELBARROW. If you haven't tried a WEP/IWSG challenge, it's a great way to sharpen your writing! And get some instant feedback. 




Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Combined #WEPff/IWSG post - My favorite genre, Women's Fiction - "CAGED BIRD" JUNE CHALLENGE - MY #FF, MEMORIES

Hi everyone!
Click here to read more posts...

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte! 

Please visit if you can!

It's time for the June WEP/IWSG challenge. One of the changes to WEP, other than L.G. Keltner has taken over as host, is that posting can be any time from the first of the month to the third Wednesday of the month.  So I thought, why not combine the two? So ... the June 5 IWSG question:

Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?


I'm an eclectic reader and writer, but one of my favorite genres is Women's Fiction, a pretty bleh name, since many 'women's fiction' writers claim over 40% of their readers are men (Jodi Picoult). I like WF as it delves into women's issues and foregrounds women. Unlike Romance, WF can contain a romance, but it's not the main focus and there doesn't have to be a happy-ever-after.  


Like everyone, I have hot-button issues - domestic violence, abuse of women and children - sexual and otherwise, inequitable salaries and promotion opportunities ... you know, just life. Not saying men don't have their issues ...


One of my WF novels which I hope hits the shelves this year has within the storyline - domestic violence, patriarchy, a woman fighting for independence, fighting to be strong. Hmm. Does she reach her goal? Of course it contains a hot romantic element. It is set in Paris after all.


So ... my flash fiction for the WEP prompt CAGED BIRD has the nasty whiff of one of my hot-button issues (boil, boil, boil, rant, rant, rant). My little caged bird is in a metaphoric prison shared by too many women. I hope you enjoy reading, although you may not like the subject matter. 


Image result for IMAGE OF HOUSE FALLING INTO SEA


Memories

She was a fool to leave Paris. 

The city where she feels safe.

She was a fool to come back.

Here.

Here holds too many memories, too many secrets.

Memories and secrets she can no longer ignore.

She must deal with them or she’ll never reach her potential.

There. In front of her. The beach house, its timbers broken and exposed. Since she escaped, years of relentless tides have eaten away its foundations. It now teeters on the edge of the dunes, on its knees in the sand, ready to surrender to a king tide.

Today the ocean holds no threat like it did that night many years ago. Its gentle waves lap the sand, leaving a trail of silvery froth and grit. Gazing at the peaceful sea, she almost forgets why she ran away from her memories for so long. But the mind holds onto things, remembers things best forgotten, overwhelms in the early morning hours when the body is most vulnerable.

Confronted with the crumbling house, her mind searches its dark recesses, unearthing hidden secrets which she thought buried. Through the years, in her silent moments when the busyness of life paused, it spoke so softly in the gentlest of whispers, as it tried to speak to her of its memories. Then there were other times when her pain rushed to the surface without warning, hurtling through her like a runaway train, threatening to derail her altogether.

She cries, falls to her knees in the wet sand. She no longer wants to carry that heavy sharp stone of hurt which has kept her caged like a helpless bird. 

She no longer wants to be a prisoner to painful memories.

Memories of her last terrible night in the house threaten to drown her in a tidal wave of hurt.

 vvv

On the night she died to her old life, the wind roared, the rain poured, the waves crashed. The Pacific swirled, rose and fell in a dance of wave and tide. Then the winds calmed, the moon rose and sat outside her window, bathing her in light.

She’d been asleep, tossing and turning like the tide as she did every night. She’d opened her eyes and watched the moonlight creep across her bed like a lover’s soft caress. The sheets tangled and folded over the bed like waves. Kicking off the covers, she threw herself across the bed like a beached whale.

The moon’s light overlooked the angry welts criss-crossing her legs. The welts throbbed, but she had no ointments to ease the pain. But the pain she felt inside at her father’s betrayal was worse than any belting.  There were no ointments to soothe that sharp pain.

The crashing waves heralded high tide. Soon the water would rise to just below her window. The relentless pummeling against the house posts, thump, thwack, thump, thwack, thumpthwack, mimicked the sound and rhythm of her father’s belt as it cut her tender flesh while her mother cowed in the corner, praying. For her husband’s soul? For her daughter’s pain? Why didn’t she do something? Anything … But her mother was as helpless as she.

Father would not be denied his will. She was her father’s daughter. She would never give in. She would not marry the boy from Afghanistan her father chose for her. She would marry the man she loved.

There was a big storm earlier in the night and now the rain starts again. Relentless. Like her father’s demands. He locked her in her room until you come to your senses were his words. She hasn’t been able to communicate with Ahmed since she was imprisoned, but she was not afraid. She would escape her cage. She and Ahmet would be together. As God willed.

She knew Ahmet waited for her beyond the dunes. It was her hope. Her belief.

She wrapped her hand in the end of her sheet and smashed the locked window, thankful the pelting rain muffled the sound of breaking glass. Falling from the window, she was thankful she did not cut herself on the jagged edges. The black night sucked her in. She swam for her life in the treacherous waters, her robe tangled around her knees, threatening to drag her under. Water filled her mouth and nose. Waves slapped her face but fell more gently than her father's hands. She fought the urge to surrender to the elements. No. She has waited too long for freedom. What was this water compared to the joy that lay ahead, a new life with her love? Her name meant ‘Heart’s Wish.’ She would have her wish.

A new life in Paris. With Ahmet.

Her bare feet found sand at last. Running out of the water, she held her sopping robe in her hands and sprinted toward the trees.

‘Emma Dil.’ Ahmed whispered her name from his place on the dunes where he later told her he’d made a shelter and watched her window for many days.

Ahmed held her in his safe arms.

She was home.

vvv

Ahmed watches her now from the top of the dunes, next to the crumbling wreck that had been her home when her family first arrived from Afghanistan. Before it became her prison. A few long strides and he is by her side. He gently lifts her from the sand. Cradles her. Rocks her like a baby while she cries in his arms.

Her tears are healing.

She will be whole again.

‘My brave girl,’ he whispers.

Over her shoulder the house groans and lurches, falls into the sea. Its timbers break up like skittles. The tide reaches out its greedy hand and sucks it under the waves.

vvvvvv

WORD COUNT: 949

My main reason for surrendering the hosting of WEP is that I need more time to sort my stories/books for publishing. I have plenty. I am collating a series of short stories from various genres written over my 9 years with RFW and WEP challenges. Most have grown from the 400 word days of RFW and the current 1,000 word limit for WEP to between 2,000 and 4,000 words. The above story may be included in one of my collections, so please comment on how to improve it. As it's a PRESENT/PAST/PRESENT it's easy to make mistakes of tense. 

Thank you!!!!


FCA



Click below to read more WEP entries. 




Wednesday, 1 May 2019

My May #IWSG post -- Cultural Genocide -- book burning.

Time for another IWSG post, thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh and 

his awesome co-hosts for May -- Lee Lowery, Juneta Key,Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin!

If time allows, please visit the co-hosts and 

  be sure to visit the
Insecure Writer’s Support Group Website!!!


May 1 question: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Top Site for Writers

Go HERE to read other posts

Today I'm going to take the question and mould it into what kept popping into my mind when I saw it -- cultural genocide in the form of book burning.

There's no argument against language having power. Just think about what happens in ideological wars -- often there's a book burning as a new regime tries to eliminate traces of the old.

According to Wikipedia, book burning represents an element of censorship and usually proceeds from a cultural, religious, or political opposition to the materials in question.
In some cases, the destroyed works are irreplaceable and their burning constitutes a severe loss to cultural heritage. Examples include the burning of books and burying of scholars under China's Qin Dynasty (213–210 BCE), the burning of the Library of Alexandria (c. 49), the obliteration of the Library of Baghdad (1258), the destruction of Aztec codices by Itzcoatl (1430s), and the burning of Maya codices on the order of bishop Diego de Landa (1562).
In other cases, such as the Nazi book burnings, other copies of the destroyed books survive, but the instance of book burning becomes emblematic of a harsh and oppressive regime which is seeking to censor or silence an aspect of a nation's culture.
A good example is a book often studied by my students, The Book Thief, by Marcus Zuzak. 

The title suggests that literature and writing is an important theme of the novel. It certainly is. Written from the POV of Death -- yep, you got that right -- who's fascinated by a young girl, Liesel who loves books, in a little German town, Molching, in the midst of Hitler's war. The Book Thief is framed by various other books, not the least of which is protagonist's memoir, The Book Thief

But for the purpose of this post, this novel also dramatizes the destruction of literature and writing, as shown by the burning of Jewish creative and intellectual products in a book burning to commemorate Adolph Hitler's birthday. Liesel loves words so much, she rescues a book from the burning pile and hides it under her coat, ignoring how it smolders away, burning her. Do we love books so much we'd risk our lives to own one?

I love how the character, Max Vandenburg, a Jew hiding from the Nazis, gets a small revenge by painting over the pages of Hitler's own book, Mein Kampf, and writing stories for Liesel over the top of them. Overall, the novel demonstrates the power that words of friendship have to overshadow words of hatred. 

Language in the small German town certainly had power.

I wanted to celebrate that today.

So, if you haven't read it, please do, and celebrate the power of language. Language is our life, right?