Monday, May 28, 2007

I Think It's Gone For Good

I think it's really gone for good. was an excellent community for the newbie blogger. I started my first blog there over a year ago, and found that I loved blogging, more for the interaction than I would have thought. We had book discussions and debates, we linked each other and had games. Writing Challenges abounded and people actually got to know one another, more than only by screen moniker.

I've been checking back there from time to time, having made the switch to blogger a while ago, when it seemed destined that the site would eventually be gone for good. In the last few months that site became like a ghost town, a few of the bloggers hung around trying to maintain what we had all built together... Yes, I know John built the site - but anyone could have done what he did, it was the rare commodity of writers with spirit, ideas, and a willingness to openly share without looking for the mythical gold that was promised and only, if made at all, deposited into the site owner's paypal accounts... Well, over the last week I've attempted to stop at some of my favorite old blogs a number of times and the site has not been up at all... not that this is news for writingup, but I tend to doubt at this point that it will ever return.

It was, as I said, a great place to learn. I met more wonderful writers there than I could believe, landed my first paying gigs through references and resources found within the blogs, and had better literary and process discussions than I was able to find since college days... If you look in my blog roll you'll see a number of blogs that are on writingup - hopefully I can replace all of those with the blogger's new sites, because they are all fantastic... If you're stopping by and I haven't got you yet, drop me a link.

For me, I'm bowing my head in a small moment of silence to that little corner of cyberspace that gave me so much to ponder, and new ways to interact in writing...

The Thinking Blogger

I have been awarded the

Thank you, Show in Tale for thinking of me!!!!

Show in Tale was awarded the thinking blogger award by another great blogger, Silken who I would’ve listed in my own awards, but she’s already received one, congratulations, Silken!!!

Here is my list of five bloggers who are great to visit, and always make me think... often they make me laugh as well, which is always great fun....

1. Laura Spencer at Writing Thoughts I just found her in the last month or two and have been picking back through posts on a fairly regular basis... any writer moms, writers, or freelancers out there will find Laura’s blog both insightful and fun to read.

2. Dana Prince is another great blog for the writer or freelancer... I first met Dana at my original blog place, writingup (now, I think, defunct) but I’ve followed her as ‘marleymauve’ and under her real name around the Internet and back... all of her other blogs and topic editing positions should be listed at the one linked – she’s a great wealth of information – and wonderful conversation as well.

3. Jersey Girl is a fun romp from the stay at home mom’s perspective.... This girl knows how to infuse a little fun, and an occasional dirty mind, into the humdrum life of the full time mother (yeah, like we have any time to be bored)... She’s a great read on topics of marriage, children, and education... for whatever type of mom you are.

4. Quantamama is another great read for the moms among us... Her blogs are both fun and insightful and you’ll find a lot more there than child raising tips..... always with a dose of good humor.

5. The Writer Mama authored by Christina Katz who recently released a book through Writer’s Digest under the same name... this blog has a wealth of information for the writer, and the mother.... her blog roll in itself is priceless... Anyone out there who writes for a living, or thinks they might like to, would have a fabulous time exploring her blog.

*Should the bloggers choose to participate, please make sure to pass the rules on to the next Thinking Blogs you tag.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

This award was began by ilker yoldas at The Thinking Blog. I hope to follow the links to some more great bloggers out there who make us think.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Final Discussion on The Mists of Avalon - Fated Love

This will be the third, and final, discussion on The Mists of Avalon. If you missed the first two, go check them out:

Second Discussion

First Discussion

If anyone else is thinking of holding a book club blog – let me know in the comments so I can follow along.

Treatment of Love

There are certainly other things to analyze when talking about this novel, but the treatment of love and ‘fated’ love never fails to capture my attention. Why is it, I wonder, that stories are more poignant when we are assured of true love, but in the end it never works out. Maybe it adds to the drama. Maybe it keeps us turning pages because, really, what’s more boring than ‘happily ever after’? Well, it’s not so boring if you get to live it, but maybe it’s more fun to watch the chase... or maybe, being faulty humans, we always want what we can’t have – but then, that would make these cases less about true love and more about pride and vanity, wouldn’t it?

Well, then, I suppose I’m digressing. In The Mists of Avalon we see fated love in many different facets. Of course there is the love triangle between King Arthur, Gwenhwyfar, and Lancelot. In this telling, Arthur seems to love his wife but there is always the underlying duty of it – it is his wife, though not by choice. Gwenhwyfar and Lancelot share a deeper love, one that can’t be denied, even though duty commands it.

Then we have Ingraine and Uther... and in one passage we find that this, apparent fated love was connived... while we believed that Uther and Ingraine shared a life before as King and Queen of Atlantis, in fact it was Viviane’s past life, her soul mate, “...And in a searing moment, Viviane knew why no man had ever been more to her than duty, or a path to power, or a night’s pleasure...”(p.194)

Maybe you all have a different sensibility here than I do. Does duty bear a higher responsibility than love? If not, why do we find it so fascinating when characters choose to forego happiness to retain honor? Maybe women see this differently, too. My sensibility tells me that true love is not replaceable. That foregoing the chance to be with a fated love is throwing away the greatest gift and one that will not come again. It also tells me that if you can walk away from this type of love, for any reason, it wasn’t really all that you imagined in your mind. I think the real thing would be worth any consequence... but maybe that’s naive.

It seems to me that the male sensibility is that all loves are replaceable. Maybe I’m wrong here, but that’s how it seems... So how about you? What was your take on the depiction of love, fated or otherwise in this telling?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Spoon Feeding = Bad

I’m currently embroiled in the process of editing my novel. I think a lot of new writers, and non writers, underestimate the importance of the editing process... so when you say, “I’m editing”, they think, ‘oh, checking the spelling and punctuation...’

The largest part of this, for me, is concentrating on keeping it active and getting rid of the dreaded back story... Back story is the enemy, and I, my friends, am a rampant spoon feeder. I know, in my head, everything that’s brought them here (my characters, that is). I know the intricacies of how, when, where, what and why... but I’m impatient in the first few drafts and have a tendency to tell you exactly how it works.

Writers hear things such as, ‘show don’t tell’ and think they have it locked if they just eliminate the passive verbs... it helps, but that’s not the only factor. Telling information in an active way is no better than telling it in a non active way... It’s all passive.

So, currently, I’m removing all back story which is moving the story faster, but in spots it’s also hard to do... When I’m done with this revision, I may have to go back and add some foreshadowing to beef up the descriptive passages... it’s also a balance where to drop these little nuggets of information, so that the reader maintains a good understanding of the characters’ motivation...

But here’s my philosophical thought for the day. Back story in a novel is often part of the characters’ history – it’s in their past with respect to this telling. It will also completely stop the movement of your story and take the reader out of the action... Just like your own memories and history can take you out of the motion of life today... Spoon Feeding = bad. In fiction and in life.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Second Discussion on Mists of Avalon - Religious Duality

This is the second post on the book club discussion of the Mists of Avalon.

You can find the first discussion on the Sacred Feminine, here

For today’s discussion I’d like to start with the religious connotations inherent in the text. Duality seems to permeate the story in many ways, and my reading of it almost seems to take the pagan ideal of both male and female, god and goddess, and transplant that into the dueling philosophies discussed in the text. While the Priestesses of Avalon centered solely on the goddess, only making passive mention of the horned god and almost relegating him to a position of doing their bidding and then going away... the Christians and their one God became the Patriarchal symbol.

I found it interesting that the women, though possibly on purpose as the main idea was to focus on the female perspective... but the women were painted in the more accepting, less judgmental light. The character of Viviane said repeatedly that the God of Christianity wouldn’t allow for any other gods, while their view was that there was room for all belief... The thing I found interesting here is that their obvious contempt for all things Christian, marked their words as hypocrisy... at least for me.

We talked at length about the bending over backwards for the feminine perspective in this rewrite of Arthurian Legend in my last post. I do love the writing and I think the story itself was ingenious in bringing a new light to an old tale... But because the focus on the feminine permeates all aspects, I think that topic will come up here, and in any discussion about the text. Here’s what I’m wondering. Do you think it was intentional, to show these female characters hypocritically in relation to their behavior toward the male dominated religion? And what do you make of the negative inferences that Christianity bound its women to a life of powerless servitude? Do you find that to be an honest rendition of the time period or as another means to draw negativity toward Christianity while highlighting pagan virtues?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Self-Censor; Enemy of the Tale

I'm interrupting the regularly scheduled blog to bring you the following walk down memory lane. In cleaning out my old blog, I've decided to repost some of my more favorite entries. This one was posted in January of 2006 on the subject of self-censorship in writing - hopefully it can spawn a good discussion here, as well.

Self-Censorship in Writing

We've all heard of censorship, been incensed by it, and devoured a number of those devilish books to see what all the fuss was over... Most often when the word, 'censorship' gets bandied about in conversation, it illicets visions of small minded people building bon fires to burn hard written work that they have never bothered to read or understand... It is a thing of ignorance more often than anything.

Though that form of censorship is a far reaching topic, and one I may expound on at a later date, what I'm thinking of here is far more ominous... the writer's worst enemy: Self Censorship!!!!

There is a wonderful thing that happens to most writers during the course of creating their vision, the muse takes over and words you didn't have to try for just pour forth as if something greater than meager little you is moving your pen (or fingers across the keyboard, as the case may be). But so many times, what is true in your writing, what is most heartfelt and honest, is squelched by the person who should be championing these words the most; you, the writer.

There are numerous reasons for this type of censorship, but it never fails to weaken the truth of the telling. If it is fiction, there is an underlying worry that friends, family, enemies, etc... will detect some bit of themselves in the characters and balk, or be offended. Worse still, they will fail to understand the difference between fact and fiction and will assume that the main character's feelings, thoughts, and actions are the author's. What if your main character is an ass, racist, bum, drunken circus performer.... it may make for excellent fiction, but do you want your mother in law eyeing you over the Thanksgiving Turkey, waiting with bated breath for you to break out your unicyle and juggle, while yelling racial epitaphs?

This is a large and ever reaching topic, and I would like to expound on it in future blogs... Any input would be great. Let me know what you guys think...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Mists of Avalon - First Discussion

Long ago, in a blog far, far away, I began a book club blog. The work we were due to discuss those many moons ago was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, but time and responsibilities threw me off course. There were a number of readers at my previous blog who were going to partake in that discussion, and I hope they will find it here. For those of you who weren’t aware of the discussion, I hope you’ll stay and contribute. If you’ve read the book, I’m sure you’ve got some insight to share, and if you haven’t you might find it’s one you’d like to pick up.

The Feminine Perspective

I’ll break this up into a number of discussions, because it’s a lengthy book with a myriad of topics to discuss. Today, I’d like to begin with the obvious feminine perspective and reverence to the sacred feminine. On my first reading of the novel I thought it was brilliant, not only for the writing itself but in the author’s ability to take such a well known patriarchal saga and tell it in a new light with deference to its women. That’s not to say that the women are all viewed as good or right, but that their unique vantage point is brought to the front.

Take Morgaine, who history and most retellings cast as the evil adversary. This Morgaine is fully fleshed out, her story is compelling and motives are explained. This Morgaine is not the petty seductress but instead, she herself has been manipulated into her position and the way in which she manages these situations for which she has little power become the crux of women’s fortitude in a male dominated society. I found it revealing, too, that the goddess and priestess used their religion to permit them some form of power over their lives, which were otherwise largely out of their control… but I think the conversation of religion should be relegated to one whole discussion, possibly the next one.

Then, too, the depiction of all of these characters as being more in depth, where even their negative traits and actions are understandable, may have more to do with the sensibilities of society at the time of this novel’s writing than it does in truth have to any feminine characteristic. No longer can we paint one evil character with no means or motive other than evil – to make them breathe we need to understand them and how they came about.

The women here all come with their personal sets of baggage and position. Beauty is often depicted as superior, but obviously so because of the male dominated world rather than its actual credit. What I mean to say here, is through Morgaine’s eyes, beauty is enviable because the world believes it so and she wishes to be viewed as such. I also noticed fatal flaws in those characters deemed beautiful; dreadful unhappiness or an inability to flourish in some way. The two most powerful and knowledgeable of the main female characters are Morgaine and Vivien, both of whom are viewed as small and fairy like, and often called ugly or at least not beautiful. While both of these characters have some semblance of power, they are still very much at the mercy of other forces in many things, such as Vivien’s inability to have true love and her driving need to manipulate those around her for what she believes is the greater good.

Then you have Ingraine, who is both beautiful and inherently good, but whose life is smothered in guilt. When you take a careful look at Ingraine you realize that the powerful women of her life have taken away her choices, and most likely her hope for true love or happiness. Yes, she spent most of her life completely in love with her husband, but that love was the result of a spell more than fate… We find that it wasn’t in fact her fate to be with him, but Vivien’s doing… That love led her to withdraw from all other things, most notably her own children. Her reverence to the new religion led her to forever blame her childbearing problems on her own actions, which were again largely out of her control. But for me, looking at her love for Morgaine prior to her first husband’s death, and then her removal from them after, I can’t help but see her life as very sad and unfulfilling.

Morgause is another of great beauty, but she has no love for anything but power and herself. And then we have Gwenhwyfar, who is both beautiful and good, but is tormented for her entire adult life by the love of a man who she cannot have and the inability to have children which she desperately wants.

Of course, the non beautiful characters have no easy road, either. So I wonder whether the real distinction here is between beauty and non beauty, so much as it is a testament that these outward things have no real bearing on our trials in life. Beauty will not make the road lighter. What do you all think of the feminine portrayal here, or any of the topics above?