Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Music to Write By #10: Forever Enya

Ever since I was a young teenager, my muse has been Enya. I can't count how many stories I've written while using her music as my background soundtrack. She sings in different languages, even one she and Roma Ryan made up! The instrumental pieces are lovely, and her voice in the others is ethereal. Moods can range from joyful to grim with everything in between. She's great for relaxing as well as inspiration, without getting too elevator-ish, if you know what I mean.

Here are just a sample of some of her different styles and sounds from each of her major albums:

First up, the title track from her album "The Celts." This one's a nice mix of vocal and instrumental, magical and uplifting:

The next album is "Watermark," and everyone's heard "Orinoco Flow," so instead I'd like you to experience the more serious and grimmer, "Cursum Perficio":

After that comes "Shepherd Moons." From this album I'd like to showcase the haunting "Afer Ventus":

Then we get to my all-time favorite album, "The Memory of Trees," which I solely used to write one specific novel. I love everything on this one, but to give you another sampling of Enya's broad reach, let's listen to "Once You Had Gold," which has a sad/regretful tone:

Next is "A Day Without Rain."One by One," tells a story of taking chances and letting go:

This is followed by "Amarantine." We'll do the upbeat "The River Sings":

Then we have "And Winter Came." While at least half the tracks on this album can be classified as Christmas music, I'd like you to try "Last Time by Moonlight," a song about remembrance:

And lastly, "Dark Sky Island," choosing "The Loxian Gate" which is one of her pieces where the lyrics are completely in her made-up language.

Are you an Enya fan too? What are some of your favorite songs? I also love playing the sheet music to these albums. There are also some great compilation albums out there to give you a smattering of her work: "Paint the Sky With Stars," and "The Very Best of Enya."

I've grown up listening to Enya and to this day, she is still my favorite artist. Her music touches my soul, and has been an inspiration. Be sure to check out not only the video links above, but also her other wonderful songs from your favorite music retailer. Whether for relaxation, pure enjoyment of good music, or because you need "music to write by," you can't go wrong here. (And no, I'm in no way affiliated with Enya, although it would be a pleasure to thank her in person someday for sharing her talents.)

Do you want even more ideas for music? Be sure to check out the entire on-going series on my blog of "Music to Write by":
 Music to Write By #1: OCRemix Doom 'Jade Spawn'
Music to Write By #2: 'The Different World' by Peter Schilling
Music to Write By #3: OCRemix Deus ex 'Siren Synapse'
Music to Write By #4: OCRemix Chrono Trigger Aqueous Transgression
Music to Write By #5: OCRemix Chrono Cross Another Inspiration
Music to Write By #6: OCRemix The Binding of Isaac 'The Clubbing of Isaac'
Music to Write By #7: Valentine's Edition
Music to Write By #8: Groovin' with Command and Conquer
Music to Write By #9: Adiemus

Thursday, August 2, 2018

In Which My Feminine Side Gets the Better of Me

I've always loved girly clothes: lace, ruffles, silky fabrics ... Of course, I like them in good taste and never over done. I think that's one reason I loved princess stories and why they resonate with girls little and not so little - the fashion. I mean, how cool are puffy sleeves and floofy skirts with multiple layers beneath?
(Isn't this cute? Perfect for little girl dress-up!)

Clothes like that are highly impractical and as a grown-up, I've often felt amazement at the women in history who had to wear things like corsets and hoopskirts and snoods while trying to raise kids, clean house, or organize community projects. Historical costuming aside, there is still a couple of traditional regalia out there that I think rock in the modern age. What are they? Keep reading.

(Okay, so women who wore these probably didn't have to mind the kids or make bread, but their poorer counterparts who had less pretty versions of these dresses did.)

I really hate Western fashion. For the average woman, it's frumpy, or constrictive, immodest, or gaudy. And please give me the right to say that fashion designers are clueless (okay, that's harsh, maybe strapped by modern standards would work better) when it comes to workable, good-looking clothes for everyday wear. Maybe it's our cultural downward spiral into extreme casualness to blame. Well, whatever the reason, I'm locked into Western fashion because that is where I live and unfortunately, my cultural background and identity has taken fashion in directions I loathe.

This one says, "I just threw something on. Oh well.":
 Who could walk comfortably in this thing?:
I wish we had more clothing like this:

Mirraw Designs

Mirraw Designs

Indian fashion is so pretty! Of course it can get too opulent and impractical too. Any cultural fashion type can. But how comfortable and gorgeous these clothes are! (I'm not a fan of the missing mid-drift, but that aside ...) I follow a couple of Indian fashion houses on Facebook just so I can look at the pictures and my hope in femininity can be rekindled.

I admit that Indian fashion helped shape some of the clothing in my stories. And I wish I had the cultural background to get away with wearing Indian fashion. I'd stick out around the people in my community, or get censured for not having the right cultural identity to wear things like that. I don't have much of a glamorous night life either for the really glitzy stuff. *sigh* A girl can dream, right?

The pictures say so much more than I can, so I'll leave you with a few more. Tell me what you think. Do you like what you see? What traditional cultural garb do you wish you could get away with wearing? And for fun, what's your favorite color?

This one's my favorite:
Beautiful colors. Beautiful fabrics. You can move in these! And most Indian fashion is modest. Proving you don't have to show a ton of skin to draw attention. To me, these clothes say, "I respect myself. I'm comfortable with my femininity. I take care to look my best."

And yes, to the snarky person who is thinking, "You can't chase kids or clean the bathroom in most of these outfits," most of these you couldn't. But there are simpler, less dressy versions of these styles that Indian women wear every day to do mundane chores. They are still feminine.

The Atlas of Beauty

(I am in no way affiliated with either Mirraw Designs or I'm just a fan who is happy to share their work.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What Do You Look for in a Writing Group?

That question has been on my mind a lot lately. When we write, we're usually alone; it's a solo process. When we want feedback or advice or direction, we want to turn to other writers, not non-writers. That means we need to be part of some kind of writing community.

I've been part of four writing communities over the past decade. One fizzled out, one was so huge you felt like you'd never get noticed or respected, one is a local online group that I'm fairly new in and am not sure if I'm going to stay, and the third I helped carve out and create. You'd think the last one would still be solid gold, but it's not. It's kind of existing right now. The writers who originally were a part of it have either reached a measure of success and no longer need a writing group, or they're too busy, or have gone in an entirely new direction. The remainder are still seeking publication or a sense of community, but the hunger isn't there any more.

What do I mean by hunger? That thirst to figure out how the writing/publishing world works and where we stand in it. There's vulnerability and its partner, courage. Eagerness to interact and try new things. A sense of wanting to help make a writing community something to be proud of.

I get it: after so many years, people get burned out or tired, or pretty much have things figured out. Sometimes we're so wrapped up in the writing or revision process that the timing isn't right. Life happens and pulls us away from that sense of community. Writing forum leaders get burned too many times, or find that their writing time has been sucked away into trying to make their forums relevant and fun so they quit. I've come dangerously close to that a time or two. Yet, I like being part of a writing community, and I like the friends I've made who are sticking it out with me.

So I ask myself, what do I want in a writing forum?

Honestly ...
1. Friends who understand the writing journey and can commiserate with me.
2. Conversations about writing and publishing. It's the lifeblood of any good forum.
3. Networking. Helping each other connect with others and expanding our reach.
4. Critique partners that will want to read my work as badly as they want me to read theirs.
5. Mutual respect. Recognizing that not all writing paths are the same, and even though we may like each other as people, it doesn't mean we have to love what each other writes. And that's okay. It's a huge bonus if we love each other's genres and styles, but that shouldn't be the deciding factor of our friendship. We also don't have to follow the same pathway to publication.
6. A forum where I don't have to feel like I have to carry the entire burden of making it a great experience for everyone else. Or where anyone else feels like they have to either. Some people love to dominate conversations and threads, of course, but no one should feel compelled to.
7. Fun. Games, trivia, contests, getting-to-know-you activities. A place where I can enjoy the company of other writers.
8. No fear. Meaning, no one is patronizing or rude or a troll to anyone else. No worries about someone else copying anyone else's work or ideas. No fear that if someone takes that leap of courage and puts their work out there for feedback that everyone else won't descend like a pack of bloodthirsty sharks and rip not only their work, but them as a person, to pieces.

Sounds idyllic, I know.

The most important thing I've learned, as both a participant and a forum leader, is that it takes more than bells and whistles and guests and fun to make a forum work. It takes participation and dedication from the members. A forum dies when people only come to take and never give back. I am grateful for the many people I've known who understand the give and take of a writing community. I wish I could collect them all and stay together.

What do you look for in a writing group/forum? What would make the perfect place for you to be nurtured and/or do the nurturing of other writers? What would make you want to come back to that place for years?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Big News!

(In which my Trefury saga starts to resemble the interstellar phenomenon that connects worlds in the first book ... Virtual brownies to the person who can tell me the name of that phenomenon in the comments below!)

I'm excited to announce that Book 2 will not be released by itself. Book 3 will be right on its heels! In fact, the two of them will be companion novels, happening simultaneously. Which means there will be a Book 4 which brings everything back together for the conclusion.

What sparked this?

As I and my critique partners have been going through the process, I realized that keeping both main storylines together would give everyone a very large, (although not inflated as to content), book to read. It started to make more and more sense to split each storyline into its own novel. I had all of you in mind, dear readers. It will not only keep page counts down, but it will be easier to keep track of what is going on. It also gives me a little more wiggle room to flesh out the characters' journeys so the pacing doesn't seem rushed.

All-in-all, this splintering has alleviated a lot of stress and spurred new excitement into the process. I'll continue to share developments as they come, including the title of Book 3.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Writing Update for April 2018

I know, I've been absent for a long time.

I think everyone reaches a stage as a blogger when you feel like you're only rehashing your own thoughts or the thoughts of others. The main purpose of this blog is to share my discoveries as I aim to be a better writer in the hope that it helps others miss some of my mistakes or gets a lift in the right direction faster than I did.

So what have I learned lately? To chill out mostly, especially when it comes to writing. There are going to be good and bad days, entire chunks of time agonizing because of writer's block, or real life gets in the way of writing. I imagine it's much harder for people who are under contract to get their books done by a certain deadline. I don't want to imagine how stressed I'd be if I had to submit to a deadline like that! I do set my own goals and deadlines, but I've learned that's its okay if I don't meet them exactly - as long as I tried my best to meet them in the first place.

Book 2 has taken longer to put out than I originally planned. Firstly because I was burned out after publishing Book 1. I strained my eyes badly in the editing process, and when it was all over, I didn't even want to write. It wasn't enjoyable. Plus, I couldn't shake editor mode for the longest time. I hated it, because I had a goal, but I had to have a year off. Then slowly, I got back into writing again. I'm making great progress now. Book 2 is in the final deep revisions stage before heading into those tweaking and copy editing drafts. This time I won't blow my eyes out by staring at a screen too long.

And to support that, I won't announce the release of Book 2 until after copy edits are over. I'm all for a more laid-back release this time. Book 2 is garnering more excitement from critique partners than Book 1 did, which is saying a lot. Mostly, that I have chilled out and am enjoying the writing process, and secondly, I'm a better writer than before. It's progress, and I'm glad.

Along with ramping up my enthusiasm and time on Book 2, big changes have been going on for me in the social side of writing. I created a group for speculative fiction writers on Agent Query Connect a decade ago, and now we've branched out into our own private forum. It took some time to get the new site figured out and to make the move. I have two wonderful co-moderators helping me run things and a loyal core group of writers who wanted to stick together. I expect there will be lots of tweaking for awhile before we get into a strong rhythm. I look forward to continuing the process of improving my writing skills and helping others do the same on the new site.

What words of wisdom or advice can I offer with this post? Have goals and be realistic with them. Know your limits. Writing a story should be an enjoyable process in the long-run. And I still say it's best to take your time to write the best story possible than to rush in order to meet someone else's deadline or try to make a bestseller list. A lot of those best selling books do fade away in time. Books that endure have a better quality to them than meeting a trend. They have something to say or to show. It really depends on what your motivation to write is. Knowing that, can help you with the rest of the picture and knowing what to expect.