17 September 2018

This is your Brain on Writing

As you may have noticed, I'm still pretty much Missing in Action on the Internet/Blog. Still writing on the newest fantasy novel. With two weeks vacation at home, I managed to boost my word count to 80,000. The end is in sight. And I think I know how to get there.

One thing I learned, that surprised me, was to trust my brain. The reason it surprised me is because I can walk into WalMart, step inside, and totally forget what I went there for. If I made a list, I get home and discover things that never made it onto my list. So forgive me for being skeptical about the powers of (my) brain, and the ability to make story out of half coherent sludge.

On a different side of the equation, I probably thought about this story for two years before ever trying to write it. That's a lot of time to mull things over. An epic game of 'What If'. I'm convinced my fascination with science had a lot to do with it. I've mentioned before I have no background in science, really, except the Earth Science and Biology I took in high school. Then came college and I took an elective in Astronomy, and everything changed. I could calculate light years. I could ponder things like the planets, the universe, cosmology, and physics.

Those things percolated in my brain pan for years, until a resurgence a few years ago of my interest in physics. I started reading about it, the different branches, the philosophy behind each. Not having the math background for much of it, my degree in philosophy came in handy to dig out little nuggets of information I could understand. So they plopped into my brain, along with some reading on traditional (witch) magic, and a reread of Tolkien books. Lots of them.

My brain got cooking, and a few years later, served me up a fine mix of elves, witches, magic and physics. Even some engineering. Yeah, surprised the hell out of me, too. The scary part was I remembered things I read years ago, and I was able to do some quick research, confirm ideas, and go forth with writing.

The last part about trusting my brain? I wrote without outlining first, without having a definite ending, without really knowing who all the players on the page. And my brain came through, built a plot as I wrote, characters appeared when I need them, some fully fleshed out, some shy and hiding in the shadows, waiting their turn. One thing my new and pushy brain enforced was no going backwards, only forwards. No jumping back to start editing when still in rough draft. Only rereading the previous days writing to get in the groove again. Full speed ahead. Dominoes falling. And it worked. I trusted my brain, and it didn't let me down.

I've been short changing my brain by thinking I was a space cadet, couldn't remember things, didn't have the chops to mash different fields together. My brain pummeled me from the inside and proved me wrong. Trust in yourself. That's all my brain asked. And I gave it a try. Have you trusted your brain, lately?

03 September 2018

Writing Torrent

Back to Work

Well, I've been gone a while I see. But it was for a good reason. I've been writing. No poems this time, I had an idea for a new novel so I dove right in and had my own personal NaNoWriMo. Except this one took 6 weeks for 50,000 words. Yeah, hard for me to believe, too. I've been averaging around 8000 words a week. When you're on a roll, you're on a roll. You don't want to break the streak.

I'm doing the seat of the pants method. I have a loose story idea, and I'm just spilling words out on the page in a somewhat linear fashion. No going back, except to read what I wrote the previous day to get back onto the mood of the story. Keep chanting, 'It's a rough draft, no need to be perfect.". Full speed ahead. Any ideas for a previous part I realize get jotted down in my notes section to be slotted in or unfolded when the time for revision is at hand.

Forward, ever forward. I have a good handle on the main protagonist. Her and her sidekick sprung forth, full blown, from my writer's mind. It's good to feel like Zeus. The bad guys are taking shape and form, they've already started to make the protagonist's life miserable. The secondary characters spoke up and demanded places in the story. My head is full, trying to empty it out onto the page.

Poetry, alas, has taken somewhat of a back seat. It's still moving forward, a line at a time, thanks to the collaborations I'm doing with Kathleen Cassen Mickelson. (Thanks, Kath.)  In a way, that's a good thing. It forces me to really concentrate on one line at a time. And the time off from poetry will help clear my head so when I go back to editing poems, it will be with new eyes. So here's to new work, walking up in the morning with scenes in my head, and a fantasy novel desperate to be born. What's new with you in the writing realm?

04 August 2018

New Poem in Rappahannock Review

Issue 5.3 Rappahannock Review

I have a new poem, The Greater She-Bear, up in the latest issue of Rappahannock Review. Check it out Here and read the other great poems and stories in the issue.

For fun, there is an interview with me in the same issue, Here, where I answer the great questions the Rappahannock Review staff threw at me.

17 July 2018

Water Monster Retrospect

I'll just leave this video of Merlin vs. The Water Monster here while the Periphery takes a short break.

For the record, it's Green Hose 7, Merlin 0. But there is always tomorrow.

30 June 2018

Reading Women Poets of the World


I've been re-reading Women Poets: From Antiquity to Now by Aliki Barnstone. It's an interesting collection ranging from a lone Sumerian poet through Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Persian, Indian, African, Chinese, Japanese, European, Native American and even one translated Egyptian Hieroglyph poem.

The time span ranges from about 2300 BC to poets born in the 1950's. The range of voices is fascinating. Although the poets are separated from us by hundreds and sometimes thousands of years, the poems themselves transcend time. They speak of love, hate, relationships with husbands and lovers, children, the pain of growing old, regret and betrayal.

In the introduction the Barnstones speak of the sense of loss in Latin poetry. We know women wrote and painted, but little has come down to us because of the culture of the time. Women's arts were not worth preserving. Contrast this with the reverence Eastern peoples held for their poets, male and female, and a subtle difference is seen in the writing. There is boldness, a straightforwardness to the writings of the Chinese and Japanese women. Their poems are as powerful as those of Basho, Issa, or Buson.

From the Diary of Izumi Shikibu
by Izumi Shikibu

On nights when hail
falls noisily
on bamboo leaves
I completely hate
to sleep alone.

From 18 Verses Sung To A Tatar Reed Whistle
by Ts'ai Yen

A Tatar chief forced me to become his wife,
And took me far away to Heaven's edge.
Ten thousand clouds and mountains
Bar my road home,
And whirlwinds of dust and sand
Blow for a thousand miles.
Men here are as savage as giant vipers,
And strut about in armor, snapping their bows.
As I sing the second stanza I almost break the lutestrings.
Will broken, heart broken, I sing to myself.

One of my favorites comes from India, a classical Sanskrit poem that is dated from somewhere between 700 and 1050 AD. It lists no title; the author is identified as Mahodahi.

On the holy day of your going out to war,
the sky is black with dust
which the chisel of your horses' feet
ground from the earth.
The sun's charioteer is lost,
his steeds rock from horizon to horizon,
stumbling off track
and the sun on its longer voyage
is melancholy.

The poet paints a vivid picture of a loved one gone to war, and how the day stretches endlessly as she waits for his return. The sense of pending loss hangs over the poem like a knife. She has little hope that he will return, 'black with dust', 'the sun's charioteer is lost', and 'stumbling off track' all lead us to the inevitable conclusion.

I find inspiration in reading these missives from the past. It translates over into other forms of writing. How does a female character feel as her lover gallops off to save their kingdom from invading forces? I imagine she reels from unsaid emotions much as the woman in Mahodahi's poem does.

We are not as far removed from our ancestors as we like to think.

Picture courtesy of Pixabay
This is a reprint from an earlier Periphery essay.