Rhythm and style


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Here is the February topic for the WriYe Blogging Circle:

Poetry has an obvious rhythm, but so does prose. Writing can be as musical as, well, music writing (as those doing FAWM may know!). What type of cadence do you find in your own writing? Are you short and choppy? Long and lyrical? And why is your way better than anyone else? ;)

My writing style (at least in first drafts!) tends to be long-winded and a little convoluted, full of parenthetical remarks. It tends to show off a bit too much. I do my best to edit it down, make it more discreet (and more readable), but to how much success, I do not entirely know.

Why is my way better than anyone else’s? I don’t think that it is necessarily better. It is just the way that I have become accustomed to write. I do think that my writing style does show something of my personality, and that it would do me an injustice if it were radically rewritten. If what I have written were redone in short, staccato sentences, people who meet me would not see my flair for the diplomatic and the descriptive impulse in my writing.


The Sources of Inspiration


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I have joined the WriYe Blogging Circle for 2013 in order to blog more frequently. Every month all of us in the Blogging Circle are asked to write on a particular topic. Here is the topic for January:

Where do you get your initial spark of inspiration? Is it from anything important? What else about inspiration intrigues you? What is your advice to other people to kick start their inspiration?

Good question! I often get my inspirations from books that I read, especially histories and biographies. I like to imagine what might have happened to the world and to ordinary people had some historical event turned out differently. In the trilogy of alternate histories that I am writing, I take inspiration from Sir Charles Petrie’s « If: A Jacobite Fantasy », but am not slavishly bound to it. I think that if there were a Stuart on the British throne, there would have been no expulsion of the Acadians in 1755 and no French and Indian War, with Quebec and Louisiana therefore remaining part of the French Empire. Following Petrie, I have decided that there would have been no American Revolution as well. However, if one has Louis XV of France die over a dozen years before he actually did and have his son succeed him to reign until 1789 (our timeline’s Louis XVI was Louis XV’s grandson), then possibly the French Revolution might have been averted for another century or so and become far less bloody and epoch-making.

I also receive inspiration from my family history (my father’s ancestors were Acadian and Quebecois, and those peoples often play at least a peripheral role in my fiction), suggestions from my friends and heavily disguised aspects of my own life.

How does inspiration intrigue me? That is a hard question to answer. I see it as a tool to guide me, and that I should guide as well. I see it as something that should be kept under the control of historical and psychological plausibility. I cannot let it run away with me too much, or else it would not be a realistic-seeming alternate historical novel, whether I focus on major political and social figures or on more ordinary people.

What is my advice to others to get their inspiration going? Research! Find out about the era or milieu that you are writing about, as well as peripheral matters that might not play a direct role in your story, but will help to make the world you create seem more realistic. Research is like an iceberg: only a small fraction of what you researched should appear in the finished novel. Fortunately for me, I enjoy researching, both in books and online. If you need help to begin your research, ask a reference librarian at a large public or university library to show you the way. Look at the bibliographies of the books and articles that you read as research for your novel. If any books or articles in the bibliographies intrigue you, strive to obtain them! And most of all, have fun!

Twenty years ago today…


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On this day in 1992, the riots in South Los Angeles began. I was living in West Covina, California, some 20 miles (35 kilometers) east of downtown Los Angeles, in the San Gabriel Valley: I have lived in West Covina since I was seven years old and (with the exceptions of attending Mills College in Oakland for a year and a half right after graduating from high school and living in the Westside Los Angeles district of Mar Vista while I went to grad school at UCLA) live there still. In the spring of 1992, I was attending Mount San Antonio College (Mt. Sac) part-time: I would receive my associate’s degree in Liberal Arts in May 1993 with an abundance of units. A year or two later, I entered the Library Technology program at Citrus College part-time and received my certificate in December 1996. I did not transfer to a college that could give me a BA until 1997, when I entered California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA).

The evening after the verdicts in the Rodney King case came down, I heard on the radio about a demonstration against the verdicts at Parker Center, the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department. I thought about going, since I did not like the verdicts, but I had no car and no way of getting downtown except by bus. Besides, I do not like to be out on my own after dark in downtown Los Angeles. So I stayed at home and watched LA explode in flames and riots and looting.

The next day, my mother and I went to lunch. The TV news was on in the restaurant, and everybody was watching it. When we got home, we either watched TV news or listened to National Public Radio’s news broadcasts. It was strange being so close to the riots, yet so far away — the rioting and looting in South Los Angeles seemed like a different world, yet we tried not to go out more than we had to during those days. There were certainly rumors that it might come our way, but it never did, thank goodness.

So I come off as a distant observer, don’t I? And oblivious, too, I suspect. People were suffering and dying some 30 miles (50 kilometers) away, and all I thought of was the news and rumors. Please forgive me.

The center of things


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When I went to Saturday evening’s Sunday Vigil Mass at my parish, I volunteered to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (of the Precious Blood, to be exact). The week before, Divine Mercy Sunday, I served as a lector: on Easter Sunday I served as an EMHC: on Palm Sunday I was a lector. I like to assist in a liturgical role at Mass whenever I can, as it gets me close to the center of things.

Sure, when I am studying a reading in the week before a Sunday Mass, I learn more about the context of the passage of Scripture that I am scheduled to proclaim. But I fear that there is all too often a focus on self when I assist at Mass in a liturgical role. Not solely a focus on self: but it is there. Why else would an usher jokingly ask me when I was going to say Mass? I misunderstood him, and thought that he was talking about the next time that I would serve as a lector. But no — he meant when was I going to become a priest! (Of course, I told him that I had no intention of being ordained a priest, since I am a woman and wish to remain in communion with the Church.) But it is true that I have a theatrical streak that coexists with my piety. My clothes are modest enough, but my manner has a certain self-centeredness to it that is not pleasant to behold.

At this Saturday Vigil Mass was the Confirmation and First Eucharist of those RCIA candidates who had already been baptized. Some had been brought up as Protestants: others were baptized Catholic as babies in nonobservant families (like me, but had not decided as children to attend Mass and CCD by themselves and thus receive First Holy Communion and Confirmation a few years after most of my contemporaries from observant Catholic homes). It was a wonderful thing seeing the ten or twelve people of both sexes, mostly young, receive these Sacraments, and I felt a tinge of embarrassment and shame for myself. The center of things in the Mass is not the people who participate in the Mass: it is Jesus. A moment after the first communicants had received the Eucharist, I received it as well, and I strove to bring it — unworthy though I am and will always be — to those in the congregation who went to receive the Precious Blood.

Dreaming of Serenbe


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What is Serenbe, you ask? It is a New Urbanist community in Fulton County, Georgia, outside Atlanta. HGTV has chosen it as the location of its latest Green (as in the environment) Home. Since my mother and I are fans of HGTV, I have entered the contest to win the furnished Green Home in Serenbe, along with $100,000 and a new 2012 GMC Terrain. The total prize is worth over $800,000. To have a good chance to win all that, I must go on the HGTV website and the HGTV Remodels website each day until June 1 to put in an electronic entry.

Of course, with my one-track mind, after I put in my daily quota of electronic entries, I immediately went to Twitter and Facebook to inquire of the publicity people at Serenbe the location of the nearest Catholic parish. After all, I want a good church home after winning the Green Home. Google and Masstimes.org were inconclusive, but seemed to state that the nearest parishes to 30268 (the zip code of the city of Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, where Serenbe is located) were located some seven miles away. I decided to take things to the source and direct my browser to the website of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. It stated that the nearest parish to 30268 would be St. Matthew‘s in Tyrone, Georgia — which is almost 12 miles from Serenbe.

Really! We Southern Californians are spoiled — the two nearest parishes to my house are each about a mile and a half away. I suppose there are not so many Catholics in Georgia, even now :-)


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