Saturday, February 26, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #4

This Six Sentence Sunday (and happy birthday, SSS!) post is an excerpt from a little earlier than the one posted last week, though both are taken from chapter one of my second book, Blowing Embers, due out this summer.

Let me provide just a little background. In Fallen Embers, book one, Kiera, our heroine, battled power-mad mages (Alaks), murderous shapeshifting, Alaskan dogs (Shunakah), and won, and lost, and won her man. Laszlo. The slave captain of the ruling mage’s army. Things are precarious. War is imminent. But here, just for a moment, before the hell that she knows is coming, she basks in the love she shares with her shapeshifting, Alaskan bear.

The door opened again and she lifted her eyes to Laszlo’s, who would soon be lessoning the otuks* on some aspect of battle strategies. A smile started on his face when he caught her staring, startling a return grin from her, and as he held her eyes a softness filled her chest, wrapping her with the warmth that her feet still craved. God, she loved that man. And she knew – could see it every time he looked at her – that he loved her as much, and maybe more than she loved him, if such were possible. That his love was a blessing, a miracle, was an understatement. The love with which he gifted her had healed her heart and filled her world.

*otuk = an army squad leader, whose authority lies just below the captain’s.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #3

This Six Sentence Sunday post is an excerpt from a little later in chapter one of my second book, Blowing Embers, due out this summer. (And don't forget to check out the other six sentence snips posted by other writers!) 

Perhaps as tired as she, the sun had slid behind the mountains by the time Laszlo finished his lecture. Feet still up, Kiera waited in her chair as the men filed out. Too intoxicated by the warmth of the brazier to want to move, she instead waited for him to come sit with her. Soon he did, followed by an Alak* she didn’t recognize. They both remained standing, but she held her seat, hoping they would either sit or politely ignore her breach in etiquette.
“I was flattered by your rapt attention, a’kala*,” Laszlo told her blandly, and she looked up and into his face, and wondered how annoyed he felt.

* Alak = shapeshifters native to Alaska
* a'kala = "my lover"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Economic Conundrum? Methinks Not.

Every damned day media inundate me with hubabub about how governments, state and federal, spend every waking moment raking hands through their metaphoric locks as they struggle to make what they’re calling some “hard choices,” meaning without saying, usually, that they “have” to decide which social service programs to cut in order to balance the budget: education; medical payments for the poor, children, and the disabled; WIC assistance; food aid grants. And more. More, more, more, notwithstanding the record number of unemployed.
And all this is despite that the Dow Jones is a very healthy 12,200 and a huge segment of America’s corporations recorded record profits last year. In fact, at $1.7 trillion, profits for third quarter 2010 were the highest ever recorded. See this.

Well, it doesn’t seem logical, or even sane, to wait for these corporations to decide to create more jobs for the masses. They aren’t doing it, and you don’t need a crystal ball to figure out that they don’t have any plans to.

So instead of further cutting social services programs, how about cutting Corporate Welfare, since corporations are not only not helping, they are why we’re in this predicament to start with?

Since it’s largely big banks’ fault that we’re in this mess, I can’t help but wonder why we don’t start by stepping in and forcing them to cut their ludicrous bonusing and make them invest in employing the people they put out of work.

Big banks paid out something like (a horrifying) $143 BILLION in bonuses in 2010. See this. Since American taxpayers bailed them out, how about making them pay those bonuses back into America?

But no. Instead, the GOP (champions of the uber-rich) is pushing for big cuts in the programs that support the people who the banker’s blunders pushed out of work (see this) - cutting the very help for the people that no corporation will spend one penny to put back to work.

And, ludicrously, not one word is being said by either side about slashing Corporate Welfare in this precarious economy, which costs America trillions every year. Instead of helping out-of-work Americans, our governments are paying for overseas advertising for Agribusiness, subsidizing the growing of corn, letting companies (who are making record profits) continue to pay little or no tax, and throwing trillions of wasted dollars into the pockets of foreign purchasers (and defrauders) who promise to buy U.S. products. See this and this. And that is of course just the tip of the iceberg.

In truth, just that $143 billion in bonuses could easily pay to restore the threatened programs, with some left over. That money would help destitute Americans get by until they can find work again.

The L.A. Times published a tool where you can decide which programs California can cut to balance its budget. It's here. Not shockingly, absent in this tool are any other options besides cutting social programs. Propaganda cocktail, anyone?

Imagine, as John Lennon advised, what America would look like if the ruling class, including our fractious, ineffectual, corporate-sycophant government actually gave a shit about Americans. I am a far left, radically-minded woman who votes democrat because I think the Donkeys are often the lesser of the available evils. However, as days go by, as the stink of corruption steaming from our corporate shitpile, and no less so from our own government, wafts past a level of stench that even I can bear, I find myself more and more aligned with the tenets of the purists among the Tea Party. And, frankly, I don’t know how to feel about that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #2

This Six Sentence Sunday post is an excerpt from my second book, Blowing Embers, due out this summer:

Too late Kiera understood, and before she could send a sheet of air deep into the winter’s dead soil between them, the knife’s-blade claws broke through to her side of the shield. Without pausing, he leapt up and back, lifted the shield, and Kiera, off the ground. A vision of trees, mountains, fog, and sky flashed across her eyes, and her breath, and the elemental air that she held, oomphed out when her back slammed into the snow.  
An enormous naked man landed on top of her, a rare grin lighting his face. For a moment, she stared into deep brown eyes set in a god’s rugged mien, skin as dark and warm as umber, as the wind blew a tendril of black hair across his jaw.
“Damn it,” she wheezed. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

"Whore," he breathed into her ear.

Her eyes opened. "Yeah, maybe," she spat around the gag, then used her teeth to bite it flat. "But this whore is going to rip your guts out."

The sound of gravel being crushed under a boot was his laugh, and it went on too long. 

It stopped when she yanked her blade from the hole it had torn.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What Songs, Poems, and Prose Have in Common - or Should (aka "Show; Don't Tell!")

What kind of music do you like? Popular music? Rock and roll? Country and western? Hip hop? Rap? Disco? Maybe a tid from here and a tad from there?

Ever wonder why you like a certain song?  

Songs – songs from every genre – capture emotion – tell a story – encapsulate a moment.

Songs are little, candy-bar-sized packages of consumable sound. Tear open the wrapper, close your eyes, and sink your teeth into what you saw, and felt, and thought during a different time, even if that time was just ten minutes ago – or put words to the essence of the furor/joy/despair/longing that echoes inside your chest at this very moment. These delicious treats employ a calculated formula of words and music to wrap experiences, epiphanies, joys and sorrows, fury and rage, heartbreak and despair, and so on, inside just a few, collective bytes of sound.

In other words, songs help you organize and preserve your experiences, validate your feelings, and make sense of your world. (We could argue that they do lots of other things, too – such as offer potentialities, and we could list many other functions, real and potential, but since this isn’t philosophy or a course on the sociology of music, I’m going for the simple here, so cut me a little slack and just go with it, all right?)

How do songs do that? Capture emotion, and experiences, so adroitly? Have you ever wondered? How, exactly, do songwriters imprison – press to glass – a moment – and your attention? Win your loyalty? Make you spend your money, and your time, on them? What tools do they use?

And why in the hell am I, an author, musing about music?

Well, frankly, it’s this simple: music – and poetry, but I’ll get to that in a few – and prose share some characteristics, and require some of the same skills as prose, and I want to point one of those out.

Anyway – onward.

One of my favorite songs goes like this:

“Want to put my tender heart in a blender,
watch it spin 'round in a beautiful oblivion.
Rendezvous, then I'm through with you.

“I burn, burn like a wicker cabinet,
chalk white and oh so frail.
I see our time has gotten stale.
The tick tock of the clock is painful,
all sane and logical.
I want to tear it off the wall.
I hear words in clips and phrases;
I think sick like ginger ale;
My stomach turns and I exhale.”

(That’s from Eve 6’s “Inside Out,” in case you haven’t heard it.)

And now a question: How do you think the narrator is feeling?

Angry? Sure; I’ll buy that. Frustrated? Yep; I agree. Heartsick? Probably so. Sad? Yeah; I think so, too. It’s pretty clear, I think. I mean wow – do I get that. Exactly. I have so been there.

So – why didn’t he just say so? Say those words -- angry, frustrated, heartsick, sad?

Wait; wait. Does that seem like a silly – even stupid – question?

Well, it isn’t. I read this kind of thing in prose all the time: “I felt angry.” Or even: “I felt very angry,” or “I felt furious.” Or perhaps it’s “he dashed down the stairs with an angry look,” or similar. Or maybe something akin to: “it looked different, and she didn’t like it.”

Do those bits of prosewriting listed above knot your stomach? Raise your ire? Bring a tear? Really -- let's be honest here -- do you care one tiny bit about whomever I am referring to, no matter how angry they are?
Of course not. How could you? And I don’t think a lengthy explanation is necessary. You get it.

And now I want to bring poetry into this for your consideration as well. Poetry (and I mean literary poetry here), unlike prose, focuses very, very precisely on choosing just the right words to capture a connotation, an emotion, an idea, and it does that to convey a precise meaning – and to whet your appetite, and make your tongue wet your lips.

Let me give you two examples for comparison:

1. After listening to judge read the sentence, Bessie felt upset because Basil was to die at the ringing of curfew. Bessie walked to the sexton. “Curfew must not ring tonight!” she told him.

Now pry your eyes back open and compare that to this:

2. Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her thoughtful brow,
As within her secret bosom, Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh,
"At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must die."
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, faintly spoken. "Curfew must not ring tonight!"

(That’s from one of my favorite poems, “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” by Rose Hartwick Thorpe.)

Okay. Sum up time, and let me put this as simply as I can. If you want readers – like me! – to care about your characters, to get into your story, to remember it, to identify with it, and to BUY IT, don’t tell me that she slipped and fell, or that his heart broke. Tell me that a fog cluttered the corners of her vision, and that the floor went crooked – and that as she felt herself falling, her hand shot out and missed the rail. That bile rose in her throat in the seconds after the back of her head bounced off the floor.

Now, on the other hand, don’t go on and on and on and on. And on. Find the best one or two descriptors – the ones that most eloquently – or starkly – portray what you’re trying to get across. And then use them. Make me feel it – make me tap my metaphorical foot along with the beat – if you want me buy, much less remember, your work.

The end.