Monday, April 29, 2013

Inspiration From Siri

Technology is beast!
For a writer, inspiration can strike anywhere, any time. Over the weekend, for example, I got a very strange idea for a short story. Let me take a moment to tell you how it all began.

I'll start by saying that I'm not a huge fan of technology.  I'm still stuck in the 20th Century and learn only what I need to when it comes to laptops and cell phones.

However, my oldest son is somewhat of a techno-geek.  Sometimes I wonder if he's really mine.  Then I remember the labor pains--and the fact that Mr. McKenzie is also a bit of a geek!

For the past few months, my number one son has been saving up for an iPod.  Christmas money, birthday money, allowance, and the salary he earns from a job with his dad (which he's been frequently fired from, and then subsequently rehired) recently enabled him to make his dream purchase.

One of his favorite iPod features is Siri, which according to Apple "is the intelligent personal assistant that helps you get things done just by asking."  In other words, you can ask questions like what's today's weather forecast, where's the nearest gas station, etc., and she answers. Pretty useful technology, right?

So, what do you suppose a fourteen-year-old and a soon to be twelve-year-old would ask Siri...just for fun?  Well, I must say, I've never heard so many giggles.  Here's a sampling of some discussions that transpired over the weekend between the sultry-voiced Siri and my two boys:

The Mysterious Siri
Son:  Siri, do you like chocolate?
Siri:   Surprisingly, I have never tasted chocolate.
Son:  Siri, do you like pizza?
Siri:   I like whatever you like.
Son:  Siri, you suck!
Siri:  I am still here for you.

So here's my story idea:  What would happen if a guy fell in love with Siri? Hey, it's only fiction, and stranger things could happen! What's something a little strange that's sparked your imagination?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dedicated to My Dad

I apologize for a long winded post, but a lot has happened in the past month--some good, some sad--but all has impacted my ability to blog, as well as visit my friends in the blogosphere.  Now life is almost back to normal and I can return to my usual routine.  Yesterday I put away about six loads of laundry, and today cleaned house for the first time in over two weeks!

The tumultuous times began around this time last month.  My youngest was scheduled to go on a four day class trip to Washington, DC. He did, and had a great time, yet prepping for the trip and worrying about him traveling without family for the first time was a little nerve-wracking.

At about the time of his departure, I had almost finished my final read through of Masquerade before handing off to be edited. Also looming on the horizon was a reading for Escape that I'd scheduled for April 20. After the youngest headed off to DC, I compiled my guest list and sent out invitations for the reading.

Then I received the bad news that my dad was admitted to the hospital for some testing. He'd suffered a third heart attack in October and had never regained his strength.  At eighty-six, he had a pacemaker, defibrillator and I'm sot sure how many stints. Not many survive three heart attacks, and now my dad was suffering from congestive heart failure.

When my youngest got back from DC, spring break started. Now I had to start prepping for my oldest one's class trip to the Bahamas in May.  We spent some of school break shopping for snorkeling gear (the "real stuff" unfortunately, as advised by the school, not the economical variety available at Wal-Mart and Target).

At the start of the break, my dad was released from the hospital, but very weak. The kids and I went to visit with him at home every day. He'd received a hospital bed and oxygen device from Hospice.  Although the doctors had given him three months to a year to live, he was convinced his time was slim.

He wanted my sister from Los Angeles to come home so he could see her before "it was too late." She immediately dropped everything and came the next day.  And I'm so glad she did, because my dad's health rapidly deteriorated after her arrival.

With the reading quickly approaching, I talked to my mom about canceling. She advised me not to. Prepping for it went by the wayside. When the kids went back to school, I was at my mom's every day to help  her and my sister care for my dad.

My dad had come home from the hospital the Monday after Easter, but died last Monday, two weeks later. I didn't learn about the tragedy in Boston until that evening.

While preparing for my dad's memorial service, my heart still wasn't into doing the reading.  But my mom told me something that my dad had said, "If anything happens to me before the reading, don't let Maria cancel it." Well, that made me cry.

I did the reading Saturday and dedicated it to him. Thought I'd share that dedication today:

My dad was always a big dreamer.  He was a numbers man from an accounting background who became a real estate broker. He loved envisioning what his investments could do, whether they be in property, art or stocks.

I am not a numbers person. I’m much better with words. I’m sure my dad was a superior math student, but based on this story, I’m not sure if his language arts grades were as strong.  In first grade while learning about conjunctions, the teacher asked my dad to use the word but in a sentence.  His response, "I have a butt."

Like my dad, however, I’ve always been a dreamer.  But my dreams involve imaginary people and stories.  It’s ironic that my dad always admonished me for daydreaming! "Maria," he’d say, "you have to stop daydreaming and pay attention in school." Little did I know that at some point my daydreams would turn into books.

My dad was also a romantic, like I am, but I didn’t realize this until I was grown. He knew I loved old movies, and one day he asked had I ever seen the 1945 film Love Letters with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton.  He’d seen it as a young man while serving overseas during WWII and had never forgotten it.  It was a great love story filled with passion and pain—the same kind of story I enjoy—and I was surprised that my dad had loved it so much—because it seems like what we’d now call a sappy woman’s movie.

When my parents saw Love Story back in the seventies, which one of them do you think carried on about what a great film it was?  My dad!

When I wrote my first book The Governor’s Sons, I was surprised that my dad read it.  And I say that because he wasn’t one to read novels. He’d read financial publications and news magazines—that was about it.  But he read my book and told me how much he enjoyed it, and that he even stayed up late one night to finish it because he just couldn’t put it down! I was thrilled and honored to hear this! Apparently, my story had enough romance, passion and pain to keep my him entertained!

And he never stopped dreaming that one day The Governor’s Sons would be made into a movie.  He was always dreaming up new ways to market it, and envisioning what people of influence could make things happen with it.

Well. no movie deals yet, but I’ll keep dreaming about that for my dad! 

I miss my dad a lot, but happy memories ease the pain of losing him a little.  

Do you share any similarities with your dad? Thanks for visiting, and have a great week! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ernest Hemingway's Iceberg Theory

Family emergency calls for recycled post. Hope to see you all next week.

I attended a fantastic workshop presented by author Cinda Williams Chima on creating compelling characters.  Something Ms. Chima mentioned that's helped her develop the intriguing characters of her YA fantasy novels is Ernest Hemingway's Iceberg Theory

A Young Ernest Hemingway
If you're like me, and not familiar with that theory, here's what it is, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In 1923 Hemingway conceived of the idea of a new theory of writing after finishing his short story "Out of Season". In A Moveable Feast, his posthumously published memoirs about his years as a young writer in Paris, he explains: "I omitted the real end [of "Out of Season"] which was that the old man hanged himself. This was omitted on my new theory that you could omit anything ... and the omitted part would strengthen the story." In the opening chapter of Death in the Afternoon he compares his theory about writing to an iceberg.

Hemingway biographer Carlos Baker believed that as a writer of short stories Hemingway learned "how to get the most from the least, how to prune language and avoid waste motion, how to multiply intensities, and how to tell nothing but the truth in a way that allowed for telling more than the truth." Furthermore, Baker explains that in the writing style of the iceberg theory the hard facts float above water, while the supporting structure, complete with symbolism, operates out-of-sight.

The Tip of the Iceberg
So what the audience reads is only the tip if the iceberg! Just think of all the back story and info dumps you’ve cut from your finished novels and short stories. You know a lot more about your narrative than your reader ever will—and that makes for a much richer story.  In addition, all that hidden information can go into creating a sequel!

Had you ever heard of Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory? If not, have you been using it without knowing there was a term for it? Thanks for visiting!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Just this morning as I was wondering what to blog about, my friend, Lisa, sent me this fascinating link. What a wonderful topic to blog about--thank you, Lisa!  While writing my novel Escape, I used Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to help me in my research. For those unfamiliar with Harriet Jacobs' narrative, it provides a fascinating, heartbreaking and almost unbelievable account of a slave girl's life and her eventual pursuit of freedom for herself and her children.
Harriet Jacobs
According to Wikipedia, Jacobs began writing Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl while living and working at Idlewild, the Hudson River home of writer and publisher Nathaniel Parker Willis, who was fictionalized in the book as Mr. Bruce. Portions of the book were published in serial form in the New-York Tribune, owned and edited by Horace Greeley. Jacobs's reports of sexual abuse were considered too shocking to the average newspaper reader of the day, and publication ceased before the completion of the narrative.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was published as a complete work in 1861. The book was originally written as a way for Jacobs to tell her story and assist in the efforts of the abolitionist movement. It was also hoped that it would appeal to white affluent middle class women.  At that time, they were the ones most likely to read this type of literature. When the book was published, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was still in existence.  This made it a felony for anyone who found a runaway slave not to return the slave to his/her owner. The events in the book displayed the extraordinary impact of the Fugitive Slave Act and its influence on the actions of those in the north as well as the south.

If you enjoy American history, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is well worth reading!  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Break

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Easter! I'm taking a little spring break but will be back to blogging next week.