Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Writing Workshop -- So Who is your Muse, Anyway?

So Who is your Muse, anyway?

Muse (capitalized) – Greek goddesses of inspiration; specifically in the arts

Muse (lower case) – n. to think or dream; to ponder or consider

The ancient Greek looked outside themselves and so valued the mystery of inspiration that they deified it. Eventually we ended up with not three, but nine classical muses covering all the artistic processes.

The Nine Muses

Starting out as three, by the Renaissance, nine Muses patronized the arts. They are:

What her name means
What she patronizes
Her symbol in art
the 'beautiful of speech'
Chief of the Muses; Muse of epic or heroic poetry

carries a writing tablet
the 'glorious one'
Muse of history
carries a scroll and/or books

the ‘amorous one’
Muse of love or erotic poetry, lyrics, and marriage songs

has a lyre and/or a crown of roses
the ‘well-pleasing’
Muse of music and lyric poetry

carries a flute
the ‘chanting one’
Muse of tragedy

seen with a tragic mask

Polyhymnia or Polymnia
the '[singer] of many hymns'
Muse of sacred song, oratory, lyric, singing and rhetoric

often has a pensive or thoughtful expression
the '[one who] delights in dance'
Muse of choral song and dance

pictured dancing or carrying a lyre
the 'blossoming one'
Muse of comedy and bucolic poetry

seen with a comic mask
the 'celestial one'
Muse of astronomy
Carries a staff often pointed at a celestial globe

Those are by tradition. However, individual women are often referred to by artists as their “Muse” or their “inspiration.” Only in the past few decades have female artists applied this term to men.

Muse. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muse. Accessed 3.26.08


Today we tend to look less to the heavens and more to the world around us for that special “something” that will spark a story or scene. There are two activities below (do them in any order; they’re numbered to keep them apart) for you to do today.

1) The Reflective Writer: set your timer for ten minutes and try to write the full time: Who/What is your Muse? Where do you get your inspiration?

2) Write a short piece (1500-3000 words) using one of the nine Muses as a jumping off point. Make her a character in the story or write a story about someone who is inspired by her.

If you enjoy the workshops and find them useful, please consider sending a donation my way. When the final product is ready to go, those who have donated each time will get a free copy of the ebook as a gift from me. I won’t dun you twice for the content. :)


Monday, December 26, 2011

Hope your holidays are going well! When my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, I told him to start me on a new fantasy series or give me a film festival as he did several years ago (he'd rounded up every movie he could get his hands on that starred Kurt Russell. Two words...Snake Plissken.).

This year he got me over twenty books by L.E. Modesett, Jr., mostly from the Recluce series. I am VERY psyched to get reading. I've seen his (her?) books in the stores for years but haven't made the leap before. Apparently they're all set in a world but are episodic, not serial, so can be read in any order. Anyone have a suggestion as to which I should read first?

Last year I counted out the number of books I read and posted mini-reviews as I went. This year, to be honest, I didn't read as many books as I did last year. Spent far more time writing than reading. Okay, not entirely true. But most of the reading I did this year was online blogs (I've been watching the entire publishing empire implode) or news sites (yes, I am an admitted news junkie -- one look at my Bloglines account will prove it).

So I don't know exactly how many books I read this year, but I'm sure it's less than last year. More non-fiction reading this year in alternate forms from books. I'll do better next year, but you'd better be ready for a whole bunch of posts on L.E. Modesett, Jr.!

Play safe and enjoy the holidays!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

New title from Mystic Shade

Yours to Command is a short erotic story from Mystic Shade. Her works are not erotic romances, but straight erotica, so beware! She's offering this short story for 99 cents for the first two weeks as an introductory price, so if you know someone who just got a Kindle for Christmas and who likes erotica, this is a fun little title.

Yours to Command blurb:

Set in modern times, Yours to Command explores Dru's need to submit and Malachi's need to push her boundaries. Dru likes her sex on the rougher side of kinky and has come to visit Master Malachi in the hope that he is just the Dom to help her find that ever-elusive sub-space.

Malachi, on the other hand, likes to find and then push his sub's boundaries. But how far is too far? With most subs walking that tightrope stirs his passions, but with Dru, his passions threaten to ignite.

Yours to Command is a short story. It deals with themes of extreme BDSM and is intended for mature readers only.

 So far, the Kindle version is the only live link. Other formats will be announced as they go live.

Want to know more about Mystic and her other books? Here's a link to her blog, Shades of Desire

Happy Holidays to all!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Virtual Choir 3

Eric Whitacre rules!

For those of you who don't know, Eric Whitacre is an incredible composer and choral conductor. Two years ago he created his first virtual choir using video from a hundred and eighty-five people living in twelve different countries. It was a cool experiment in using technology to bring together people from around the globe in a beautiful, musical experience.

Last year he repeated the experience with a piece called "Sleep" - only this time, over two thousand people sent in videos. Whitacre and his team blended the voices and videos in a magnificent video that went viral. When I watched it, I vowed that, if he ever did another virtual choir, I was going to be a part of it.

Well, guess what? That's right. He's now announced the formation of his third virtual choir and yes, I'm already practicing the music. I'm an alto and have sung in choirs for years but this will be my first time singing all by myself in my study, making a recording of my performance and uploading it to join with thousands of others in creating something so much larger than myself. I am so psyched I can barely contain myself!

Use the links embedded above to listen to Eric's wonderful work. If you're a singer, consider joining this incredible undertaking. The piece he's chosen is difficult, with --are you ready for this? FOURTEEN-part harmony. How could you NOT be excited???

Off to sing it through again!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing with the holidays

It doesn't matter what your personal religious beliefs are when it comes to this season of the year, messages of good cheer, good will and good friendships abound that encompass nearly every one of them.

I know this workshop is a day late (partly because last night I got sidetracked by a wonderful choir rehearsal for this year's Midnight Mass -- bet you didn't know I sing alto, did you?) but I'm keeping it brief with a holiday writing prompt this week.

Spend some time choosing a point of view other than one you personally hold and take a half an hour to write about these last days of December from that person's perspective. Dickens created a classic when he created Ebenezer Scrooge. Who will you create?

Play safe!

PS. For those of you who haven't heard, Eric Whitacre has announced the creation of the Virtual Choir 3. Get your parts and start those recordings! If you want to hear last year's amazing compliation, click here to hear Sleep.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Hiatus?

Like many, I work two jobs.

One, my "day job", pays the big bills like heat and electricity and food. While many people would love to tell you I only work forty, forty-hour weeks a year, I can tell you I know very few teachers who keep those hours. Even after thirty-one years in the classroom, I'm still working many hours after school correcting homework and spending my "vacations" creating curriculum and honing my skills in managing a room full of teenagers.

My other "job" is writing. It's more than my creative outlet, it's my passion and my love. But writers are not born, we are made by long hours of practice and patience. While our willingness to play with words may be innate, our skill with a phrase, our understanding of story structure, our ability to create characters our readers fall in love with, all takes time and training.

What I'm getting at is that, even though I enjoy one of my jobs over the other, they both are work. And like all jobs that require work, that means occasional vacations are necessary.

So why do I feel so guilty when I spend an entire Sunday watching NCIS re-runs instead of writing or promoting my writing or preparing a manuscript for publication? I don't feel guilty when school's out on vacation, yet I feel incredibly unproductive and guilt-ridden when I step away from my writing career even for a single day.

I have a to-do list of all sorts of projects that are in-progress. Every day I try to make a little progress on at least one of the items. Today I did not. Not only did I not make progress, I didn't even attempt to make progress. And now I'm writing about my lack of progress in an attempt to justify why I made no attempt at doing anything other than watch TV. See what I mean by guilt-ridden?


Tomorrow. Tomorrow I promise to do better.
Play safe,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Great "What If?"

Oh, my glory, I totally forgot to post this Tuesday! See what an airhead the holidays make of me? I'm having so much fun shopping and decorating and writing that I completely forgot to blog! Here it is now...have fun with this!

The Great "What if...?"

This really is the question at the heart of all storytelling. What if Hamlet's uncle killed Hamlet's father and what if Hamlet's heart was good, but his mind wasn't strong enough to carry out revenge? Alternately, what if Hamlet had killed his uncle immediately after seeing his father’s ghost the first time? And what if he had a girlfriend but he was so in love with her he didn’t dump her?

You see where this is going?

Asking the great What if? question gets answers you don't always expect. There are several parts to this workshop, so follow through them all and see where you end up at the end. I'm pretty sure it's not where you think you'll be!

Writing Journal Assignment

Answer four of the following in your journal. Throw some spaghetti!

What if the sun shone only three hours each 24-hr period?
What if newborn babies could talk at one-hour old?
What if the airplane had been invented before the Civil War?
What if we had jetpacks and could fly?
What if there were no more gasoline?
What if there were only three colors in the world—red, blue and yellow—and they couldn’t be mixed?
What if people were never allowed to leave their hometowns?

What if? questions can also be big questions:

What if  the rivers of North America flowed from East to West rather than primarily North to South? What would the expansion of the continent by European settlers look like if that were the case?

What would the world look like if China had colonized America before Europe? Would the world have a different political structure?

What would have happened had the European nations not remained neutral during the American Civil War and had sent troops and support to one or both sides?

What if the Axis forces won D-day?

Currently we can fertilize eggs and create the spark of human life in a test tube. What will happen when we can bring it to term outside a woman’s womb? What will happen to human reproduction?


You see…whole worlds of possibilities open up with those two simple words and a punctuation mark: what if?

Use any of the examples above or create a what if? of your own to write a story or create an outline for a story for later development. Let your imagination roam and throw that spaghetti!

If you’re willing, add some What If? questions in the comments below. J

(Some of the ideas in this workshop were taken from Strategic Learning in the Classroom, Dr. Harvey F. Sliver and Richard W. Strong, SilverStrong & Associates, Inc. and from Writing Smarter! by Keith Manos, The Center for Applied Research in Education (1999) )

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Characterization II

Morning! Back to our regularly-scheduled Tuesday writing workshops....:)

Using Adjectives in all the right places

"It was Miss Murdstone who was arrived, and a gloomy-looking lady she was: dark, like her brother, whom she greatly resembled in face and voice, and with very heavy eyebrows, nearly meeting over her large nose, as if, being disabled by the wrongs of her sex from wearing whiskers, she had carried them to that account. She brought with her two uncompromising hard black boxes, with her initials on the lids in hard brass nails. When she paid the coachman she took her money out of a hard steel purse, and she kept the purse in a very jail of a bag which hung upon her arm by a heavy chain, and shut up like a bite. I had never, at that time, seen such a metallic lady altogether as Miss Murdstone was."

                                                                   ~ from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is a master of description. From just this one paragraph, we readers learn a lot about Miss Murdstone, even though she hasn't spoken a word or even looked at the protagonist.


1. Analysis (If you’re keeping a journal, that’s a good place to do this. Alternately, copy and paste Dickens’ paragraph into your word processor and do your analysis digitally):
First, make two lists of the adjectives Dickens uses: one list describing Miss Murdstone herself and the second describing her possessions.

The protagonist calls her a “metallic” lady. Circle all the adjectives you’ve listed that refer to “metallic".

2) Choose a descriptive word that captures a personality (as Dickens did with "metallic"). Create a list of adjectives you could use in writing about that personality. Then turn the personality into a character and write a short descriptive paragraph showing us that character.

(you knew we’d get to this eventually)

Go back to a previously written work. Choose a random two pages and highlight all the adjectives you used. What kind of adjectives are they (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)?

Where can you add to the character descriptions to give the reader a clearer idea of the character's personality?

Final note

As you play around with adjectives, it’s important not to fall into the Adjective Trap or you'll end up with sentences like:

The cute-looking, bowlegged, tall, brown-haired, blue-eyed cowboy jauntily jumped onot his roan bandy-legged, long-maned, dark-eyed horse and clip-clopped, jingle-jangled into the purple, pink and blue-hued glorious, gorgeous, beautiful sunset.

 Play safe!

The nitty-gritty

A new workshop will be posted every Tuesday. Eventually we’ll have the contents of a book about writing. At that point, I’ll collect all the workshops in ebook (and maybe print) form for those who would like it all bundled into one nice, neat place and offer it for sale.

You’ll see a new button below. If you enjoy the workshops and find them useful, please consider sending a donation my way. When the final product is ready to go, those who have donated each time will get a free copy of the ebook as a gift from me. I won’t dun you twice for the content.


Monday, December 05, 2011

November is come and gone...

...and another NaNoWriMo bites the dust.

I really tried this year. Fifty thousand words in one month. I could do it...and I didn't. I started out counting the words I wrote on the blog as well as the words I wrote on my current work in progress. Then grades were due and I didn't write much at all. Then Thanksgiving happened and I lived life large rather than writing about it.

It didn't help that, by the time the end of the month came around, I'd started a new short piece that had nothing to do with any other work I have in progress. Inspiration struck and I chased it down and ended up writing a 6K+ short story in two weekends flat.

So the month wasn't a loss even if I didn't reach my word count goal (I haven't actually totaled them up, but I think I'm somewhere around 25K instead of 50K). And I'm okay with that. I moved one story considerably further than it had been and I wrote a short story from start to finish that I will be self-publishing shortly - probably another week since I it currently is with my proofreaders/editors and I'm still finessing the cover.

Reminder that tomorrow the writing workshops start up again, so watch this space for some fun with adjectives. :)

Anyone who wants to post their word counts in the comments, go right ahead. Come on, show me up!

Play safe,