Written in the Stars

It’s supposed to get even more interesting on November 3, 2013 with the New Moon eclipse and Scorpio and Mercury Retrograde getting all comfy-cozy in the 12th quadrant (house) of the sky. Karma Brewing, that’s how Urania’s Well describes it and she’s saying this New Moon eclipse energy went into effect approximately 30 days before the actual event. She explains it better, so click the link:

BREWING KARMA

Interestingly enough, the 12th quadrant of the sky sits across the cusp of my 6th (Public Service) and 7th (Partnerships) houses (because when I was born, that’s where the fixed houses aligned with my chart). I went through the furlough like a good federal worker (6th) and I became more active in social media (7th) as my writing got a kick start. I’ve been building relationships in the public sphere for the 30 days prior to November 3rd.

But Urania predicts long-term effects. She warns of deep karmic issues bubbling to the surface and cautions her readers to deal with the issues as they arise.  I have an issue that leaves me paralyzed. I know what to do but I don’t want to do it. I have many reasons not to do it.

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Mercury, you keep coming back to haunt me!

I am a dark, family secret. In my reckless youth, I would have revealed all the gory details if given a golden opportunity like this and damn the consequences. And now that 44 years have passed, the consequences of this secret are laughable.  What concerns me is the possible upheaval of tidy mental worlds. Beliefs are such inflexible and tenacious things and I lack the energy to deal with the fall out of other people’s choices.

This secret is one of the reasons I have been brutally honest with my children. I don’t want them to constantly look over their shoulders wondering when the other shoe will drop. For me, the other shoe just dropped. New information has come to light. The shock is like being mugged in the back alley of a reasonably safe, suburban neighborhood.

My choices are: ignore the information or follow the thread to the center of the labyrinth and face the big, ugly Minotaur that awaits. Ugh. Of course, I am brave to a degree of stupidity that would make Evel Knievel flinch—I speak in emotional terms not physical.

I’ll confess, though I’m dithering about to do or not to do, I know I will do. I can’t help myself. This is my nature. I rush in where angels fear to tread. I leave chaos in my wake and only those things strong enough and flexible enough to survive will remain.

Clean or Dirty? Creating Art That is True

It’s Always Sunny in Tijuana asked a simple question: “What’s everyone’s thoughts on clean vocals?”  For those of you not familiar with metal music, the genre is dominated by screaming, grunting and growling vocals. Those who can perform these vocal acrobatics with precision are worshiped. Clean vocals can carry a stigma and possibly disqualify a vocalist from consideration as a serious metal artist. So this question voices an existential dilemma that I want to address for all creative people.

Whether you write fan fiction, paint with dog feces, or sing clean vocals in an obviously metal song, you have to ask yourself two questions. (1) Does performing this creative act nourish you? (2) Does the end result complete your vision?

Question One

A creative act is an act of Divinity. It should nourish your alienated, battered, constantly evolving soul. You should feel closer to the Source. You should dig so deep inside that your guts are laid out on the table for a close and thorough inspection by anyone who cares to look. That’s essentially what the creative act involves.

You want to feel like a string plucked by the hand of God. If you write something, and you’re like “Bazinga!” then you have connected with the Source. If you sing something and your whole body resonates with the notes, then you’ve answered the first question.

Art as Big Bang on a smaller scale...

Art is a Big Bang on a smaller scale…

Question Two

Vision is a misnomer. Vision isn’t just what we see but could be described more accurately as ambiance, atmosphere, or evocation.  When you have achieved vision, there is a resonance between you and the work you have created. It is like looking at your child and marveling that you produced something so freakin’ awesome.

Vision implies completeness. Vision leaves no confusion.  There may be loose threads, but the existential inquiries are answered. If the story you wrote provides a gratifying ending, one that speaks to the human condition, then you’ve achieved resonance. When the wall of sound reaches a crescendo and your vocals (clean, dirty, or otherwise) add that perfect counterpoint to cause heads to bang and they’re screaming for more, then you’ve answered the second question  (think “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

Clean or dirty is a question that will always be asked as artists grapple with their fears of exposure and ridicule.  Creativity is an act of courage. Doing anything that invites others to criticize and possibly reject the very essence of who you are is tremendously brave.

As you deepen in your art, cleanliness or lack thereof will no longer be a relevant question. Clean art has no greater value than its down-and-dirty sibling. Instead, the question becomes, is my art TRUE?

Raising the Bar

My son is downstairs practicing on the drum set I bought him when he was fourteen.  He practices every freakin’ day, no lie. I admire his dedication.

There are many, many days when he plays like poetry in motion, but today, he got a bee in his bonnet. Every word was the F-bomb between cymbal crashes, snare-a-diddles, and rapid-fire double bass. He told me he S-U-C-K-S. Me?  I just smiled. I know better.

He wants to play with the technical virtuosity of Adam Pierce from All Shall Perish and the current drummer extraordinaire standing in on the BATTLECROSS 2013 tour. “Mom, don’t compare me to him. I’m nowhere near his caliber,” he said to me. I said I wouldn’t. I meant it.

Playing in a metal band is NO JOKE. Technical skill is a must.  This is the classical element under the umbrella of Rock, and you will be crushed by censure if you can’t play your instrument.

But my son is good. Better than good. Better than most. Not because I’m his Mom, but because he is who he is.

He’s not a quitter.

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l-r: Xstrophy skeleton (backup singer), Cory Birdsell (drummer)

He asked me, “Why can’t I play my instrument?”

I gave him an answer that every creative person needs to hear: writer, painter, singer, dancer, [insert creative type here].

“You can play your instrument, just not to the standards you have currently set for yourself.”

“And if you, as an artist, do not raise the bar, why bother? If you don’t set a goal, if you don’t strive to be better, as an artist and as a human being, what’s the point?

“This is not a plateau,” I told him. “You’re climbing the mountain right now, and it bangs up your knees, scrapes your hands, and steals your breath. Keep climbing. You’ll reach the peak. You’ve done this countless times before.”

That angry frown of his wasn’t magically turned upside down by my counsel, but the tense set of his shoulders eased. The brooding cumulonimbus on his brow dispersed to a mere overcast. He nodded once, took a deep breath, and stood.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“To play my instrument. Until I get it right.”

And as I write this post, his skin-pounding perseverance rumbles in the bowels of my basement. \m/

Writing the Beginning

One of the things I’ve learned in writing is that the beginning has to grab your reader. Don’t start at the beginning of the beginning if that makes sense. Plop your reader right in the middle of all perdition breaking loose.

This doesn’t mean you need some flashy battle scene, especially if you’re writing a modern romance. Instead, show your reader what’s at stake and how this story is going to earn its keep. Tease them with a character preparing to do something that can’t be undone, something that will have far reaching implications for the story.

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A beginning – of sorts

Whatever you do, avoid the information dump. Nothing will lose a reader more quickly than a “telling” of what’s at stake. I love to read but there are a kagillion books out there and I’m on a tight schedule to pack in as much living as I can get. Don’t bore me. I can take a nap instead and that’s free.

Before you get all creative with that beginning, here are a few articles to look into:

How to Write Great Story Beginnings

Dynamic Beginnings: Getting Your Story Off to a Great Start

10 Ways to Start Your Story Better

The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

All of these articles touch upon the essentials of writing a good beginning.  So how is it done? I’ll give you a personal account.

I wrote the beginning for my most current short story in two paragraphs. Here are the elements I included:

  1. I focused on my protagonist’s nemesis. This guy was going to turn her world upside down so I set up his character, his motivations, and his abilities.
  2. I created an ultimatum. Either he was going to turn her world upside down or something very, very bad was going to happen. I made it very clear that whatever choice he made, it would irrevocably change my protagonist and him.

You don’t need to include every element offered in these articles.  If you’ll notice I used only a few of the suggestions, but that’s what the story needed. The effect grabbed the attention of the editor of a short story anthology and drove the rest of the story. The beginning is the starter and if it does what it’s supposed to, the engine of the story revs and you’re off.

Metal Nirvana

I went to see a metal show last night. Yes, I know I look so-not-metal in my profile picture, but I’m a kick-butt chick. I like loud guitars, growling bass lines, and drum beats so fast you could make a meringue with ’em.

A number of metal bands were on the bill at Cafe 611 and at the heart of the show was the thrash metal band Battlecross. The bands performed with passion of varying degrees. The Averist had a screamer that made me shiver. Exemptus had a stamina that had me howling. Xstrophy executed a  divine Metallica cover that had us gathering around like the puppets they claimed we were.

The crowd, properly revved, was poised to go wild. Battlecross flew into action like a freakin’ autocannon. Hair flew. Fists pumped. Boots moshed. It was an insane yet beautifully orchestrated trip into chaos. When we came out on the other side, it was metal nirvana. All was peace and beer. Yep, there was beer—go figure.

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Battlecross – a rare moment of calm

And this, my friends, is what writing should be.  You grab your readers with passion, maybe a screamer, and you give your characters stamina. You lure the reader in with a plot that resonates so that they dance to the tune of your story. Then you bring out the autocannon: make hair fly, fists pump, and boots mosh. Don’t stop until bliss is achieved. Passion moves the world, you just have to find your flavor.

And in the afterglow, don’t forget the beer.  😉

Voice Recognition

When struck by a moment of inspiration, I know I have 5 seconds to do something about it. You can thank Mel Robbins for that bit of wisdom. Here is a link to the video that inspired the ongoing reinvention of my life:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp7E973zozc.

So I grab whatever is handy and write it down or take a picture or something physical to lock in the idea.

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I was struggling with the plot line of a particular short story. I know where it needs to end but getting there can be a bit tricky. I had my revelation last night—while driving. That’s what sucks about driving but it’s also one of the best things about driving: your brain relaxes into the routine of clutch, shift, gas, brake, turn and when you aren’t looking the roiling sea of the subconscious tosses a few fish on the beach of your conscious mind.

What to do? I send myself a text. I use voice recognition so that I’m hands free. I’m a genius, right?

Unless of course my characters have strange names. Unless of course the events are so outlandish that voice recognition says “Derp.” Unless of course I’m stuttering in my haste to get the idea fixed in my mind.

So it went something like this:

VR:         Listening…

Me:        Pippa’s house uh gets thrown down the mountainside and hmmm Speers is kidnapped.

VR:         djoaejiredkjidjfdfjeiodjfdeefjeifejf —His house aunt has to come outside 59 doms is it.

Me:        DOH!

VR:         I’m sorry. I do not understand. Try again. Listening…

Me:        (After deleting the mangled entry and a couple of bad words to express my displeasure while adjusting for the VR’s limitations, I say): Home destroyed Speers kidnapped.

VR:         djoaejiredkjidjfdfjeiodjfdeefjeifejf —Ham destroyed spares kidnapped.

Me:        Good enough – Send.

I am happy to report that the tactic worked. Despite the home’s reduction to pork butt and the dashing Speers into a spare, the idea itself remained intact and I wrung an amusing story out of the debacle. Go me.

And if you haven’t visited the link above, here it is again:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp7E973zozc.

I highly recommend this pep talk. Funny, engaging, and relevant, Mel Robbins is one of the best public speakers of the day. When I grow up, I want to be JUST like her – as a brunette.

That Is the Question

As I transition from know-it-all adulthood to not-so-sure-about-anything middle age, I am realizing that every breath I take is a new beginning and every exhale is an ending. The world is full of potential, a hot bed of chaos just waiting for my application of order and sanity.

Right now I hold my breath as I fight for a moment of clarity in a world of potentials that collapse in the blink of an eye. The responsibility is monumental. Who am I to impose my idea of order? Who am I to allow chaos to reign? I know N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

I am paralyzed at times by the fear that I must continue to breathe or die. Each breath changes the worlds of any number of subatomic particles. Not breathing does the same. The macrocosm is similarly affected though not in such a noticeable fashion. Lesson: I am responsible if I do and responsible if I don’t.

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The symbol of chaos.

I have reached that level of understanding that could make or break me. At least I think that’s what’s happening. It’s this tension inside, a rubber band stretched tight, and I don’t know if I will snap, bind some serviceable dogma, or soar in flight from the hands that hold me. I’m afraid to choose because I want all three.

If I snap, I will become a raving lunatic or a mellow mystic. If I bind, then others will ridicule or follow me. If I soar, I have no idea where I’ll land and I will be alone. Eventually, I will choose whether by chance or design. Meanwhile, I choose what I wear, the food I eat, and make a host of other seemingly mundane decisions. These decision don’t frighten me, unless I find out that the fate of the known universe depends on my selecting the right shoes for my outfit. If that’s the case, be a dear and keep that knowledge to yourself.

I’m not complaining. The whole thing is exciting in a mad-cap adventure sort of way. I have realized that all the crap I’ve experienced, that I experience now, is due to the choices of not only me but everyone else around me. All the joys, too, are the result of choices – to breathe or not to breathe? Right now, breathing sounds about right.