Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Candlesticks & Daggers Interview Series

Are you curious about what it is like to put together an anthology, or self publish? Want to know how other writers started writing, or how they've cracked certain markets? 

Please join me for the first in a series of interviews on Candlesticks & Daggers anthology contributors at publisher Kelly Ann Jacobson's blog: 

http://www.kellyannjacobson.com/candlesticks-and-daggers-interview-series/candlesticks-and-daggers-interview-editor-kelly-ann-jacobson.html#sthash.ZrL8csMz.6l8f9gw8.dpbs

Monday, December 19, 2016

After the Happily Ever After Anthology Available!

I've got a story in the After the Happily Ever After anthology by Transmundane Press:

The paperback version:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0998498300

And, until the end of the year, a Kindle version is available for $6.99. Great value for a 536 page book! 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MRYLKIE/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482174275&sr=1-2-fkmr0&keywords=After+happily+ever+after+anthology+%2419.99

Friday, December 9, 2016

Candlesticks and Daggers Anthology Available Now!

I'm delighted to announce that I have a new story, "Soon Night Will Press Upon You," being published in the Candlesticks and Daggers anthology which just became available on Amazon.

Lots of great stories to curl up with over the holidays!

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:


Candlesticks and Daggers is an anthology of short stories, poems, and personal essays that mix mystery stories with elements of other genres, including romance, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and more. Mystery solvers from Sherlock Holmes to the local cat lady must figure out not only whodunit, but cross time, space, and even reality in order to do so.


You can find the anthology here:

https://www.amazon.com/Candlesticks-Daggers-Anthology-Mixed-Genre-Mysteries/dp/1540414558/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481298934&sr=8-1&keywords=candlesticks+and+daggers

Friday, November 4, 2016

On Conquering Our Dragons



My guest post is up at the Transmundane Press blog. If you like fractured fairy tales, come check us out!

https://transmundanepressblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/conquering-our-dragons-by-sati-benes-chock/

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fractured Fairy Tales


I'm thrilled to announce that a story of mine, "The Eye of the Beholder," was recently accepted into an anthology of fractured fairy tales entitled After the Happily Ever After.

But what the heck is a fractured fairy tale, you might ask?

Fractured fairy tales take traditional tales and either turn them upside down or change some of the elements significantly, so that you get an entirely different story. Humor is often an important part of the retelling. For example, The Three Little Pigs could be about greedy capitalist bankers confronting the Wolf of Wall Street, or Cinderella might become a man-- Cinderfella is a classic example of this. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves could be a woman who does animal rescue and is, herself, rescued by a litter of 7 puppies, or a sci fi tale about life on other planets (Well, ok, on second thought, either of those might be really weird. But you get the idea).


More info about fractured fairy tales:
Marilyn Kinsella's Fractured Thoughts

A wonderful source of traditional fairy tales:
Andrew Lang's Fairy Collection

Have you got any ideas for reframing a traditional fairy tale? Please share them in the comments!

Want to read some brand NEW fractured fairy tales? Get your fill by supporting our anthology! 70+ unusual tales of what happens when the traditional fairy tale recipe has some....substitutions:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/transmundanepress/after-the-happily-ever-after-anthology

Bonus: Here is a teaser for my short story. Which traditional fairy tale do you think inspired it?

Father has done something so, so foolish. He didn’t want to tell me, but I coaxed it out of him in the special way that only I can. He purloined a rose from a beastly lord for me and was caught. Now, either he must stay, or I must go as payment for his crime. Of course, I will go. I’d never do otherwise. But I confess that I am horrified at being handed over to a husband sight unseen, even if he does live in a castle. 


At least we won’t starve.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer Thoughts

VACATION INSPIRATION

I just returned from an annual trip to the East Coast to visit family. If you live far from home, and only go once a year, you know how these "vacations" are, right? You wait all year to see loved ones, and yet, after a week, everyone is bickering and you desperately need a vacation from your vacation. The worst part is returning exhausted & stressed out, with your next "vacation" looming 365 days away.

This time though, part way through the trip, we went to NYC, one of my happy places. I hadn't been in years, and although there were changes, what struck me the most was how much the Big Apple remains the same--vibrant and invigorating. I usually stay in the Upper West Side, a residential area with nearly everything you might need to feel at home. Yoga studio? Check. Good restaurants? Check. Excellent supermarkets? Everywhere. Need a culture fix? Museums galore. The Met or the Natural History Museum are only a few minutes walk. Got kids? The Central Park Zoo is a gem. It is just the right size for a quick visit and boasts a rainforest, penguins, otters, grizzly bears (one of whom apparently likes to have her teeth brushed and willingly opens her mouth to have it done) and a snow leopard, among other animals.

The best part of my trip was the constant creative inspiration. My recharging began the minute we hopped on the Amtrak from Providence, with the rhythmic rolling of the train over the tracks, my stress dissipating like humidity in the desert. By the time we reached Penn Station, I had a number of ideas for new stories, and, thanks to the free wifi, was even able to do a little research.

Once there, for four blissful days we wandered the city, dipping into markets, restaurants and museums, with no set plan other to enjoy ourselves and let serendipity, which is so important to creativity, rule. This meant impulsive--yet relaxed--dinners at street-side tables watching the city and its many dogs meander past, and lazy post-prandial strolls as we absorbed the energy around us. 


I've always been amused at the bizarre and fascinating conversations overheard in NYC. Striding past me on Broadway, a thin woman wearing a striped sundress yelled "That's WHY we had sex! To have a baby!" I was tempted to follow her and hear the rest of the story. (Did they have the baby?) But it was a scorching July morning, and my stomach was growling, so instead we headed to the welcoming Cafe 82, where I had the best gluten-free blueberry pancakes of my life. The scents of maple syrup and bacon mingled with those of freshly squeezed orange juice and rich, dark coffee.

A woman with curly red hair seated next to me but overflowing from her small booth, spoke to friends (in English & Spanish) in the booth behind us: "Claro, she was my cousin, and, like her, I'm a singer, but I didn't know her well. She had a difficult life. After the affair, the press was terrible. He was married, you see. Her career was never the same."

Her voice was melodious, and laughter, bright. Every so often she punched the air with her hand to make a point, and her sparkly silver bracelets tangled like wind chimes. With her arm thrust in the sky, she reminded me of the statue of liberty. 

Pure creative magic! I can't wait to use these two characters in a story. Maybe even in the same story....

So next time you have an extended vacation with relatives, give everyone a break and take a side trip. Listen for stories. Capture characters. Write them down. Your creativity and sanity will thank you for it. And you'll have some good story ideas when you return. 


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A-Z Challenge Reflections


“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Writing a daily blog is both incredibly easy and unbelievably difficult.

Easy, because it is fun. Way more fun than expected. Because when you have the right topic, the sentences just flow. 

But when you don't, they are a bit more like glue. And by glue, I mean paste. 

I'm a perfectionist. I had to learn to let go. I joined days before the challenge began, so didn't have time to learn about the mechanics of creating a better-looking blog. Things like mysterious extra spaces & colors showing up, when they weren't in the original or the font size only showing as HUGE or miniscule. My instinct was to tweak all of these until I got them right, including what I wrote, but I had to learn to post even when it wasn't perfect. Because the point of the challenge was to get something, anything, up every day. 
To create habit. To teach us that maintaining a blog is entirely possible. If you can do it every day for a month, you can certainly do it every few days, or at the least, weekly, for years.

And then, there were the images. This was the most time consuming part.

Let me first say that I am incredibly grateful to the generous sites that offer free, unrestricted pictures--this is in no way meant to be a criticism of them. In fact, for many of my posts, the images I found on these sites were the very best things about the posts. 

That said, if you stick to the free ones all the time, and you are looking for something very specific, it can be frustrating because, although there are many breathtaking shots, (especially nature-themed) for certain subjects, there is sometimes not a lot of choice. Also, the image might be a little off. Maybe it is blurry, low res, or out of balance. Not quite right. Which is why it is free in the first place. Frequently, however, my first or second choices required purchase or had complicated permissions, which meant I had to keep looking. And that took some time. But I'm still terribly grateful. 

Would I do it again?

Yes.

Will I keep my blog going until then?

Not sure. The thing is, there are so many fabulous writing blogs out there. I did hear from a few people who got something out of the posts, and that made it all worth it. But it's probably a better use of my time to read the other exceptional blogs and, ahem, focus on my own writing. Which sort of fell to the wayside during the challenge. But maybe, just maybe, I can find the time to direct people to those blogs, or recommend new books that I've fallen in love with. 

Things I learned:

There are so many incredible blogs out there. That we all should be reading on a regular basis.

There are so many generous and kind people. Not only the amazing bloggers whom I discovered thanks to the challenge, but the ones who offer up prize-worthy photos for free, meaning anyone can put together a great blog.

I can write a post every single day, if I need to. Which means I can write a blog. It just takes commitment. So creating a blog is kind of like becoming a parent--it takes more out of you than you ever expected, but can be one of the best things you've ever done in your life. 







Monday, May 2, 2016

What Next?


It was only yesterday that I was saying how relieved I was to be done blogging every day for the yearly A-Z April challenge.  Lots of people asked if I'd keep the blog going. 

My standard response was. "Hmm. I need to think about that. For about a year."

It was an awful lot of work. And yet, here I am again. I must be a glutton for punishment.

Right?

But I had such a great weekend, and it revolved around books and writing, so....

Hawaii's Book and Music Festival



This weekend was Honolulu's 11th annual Book & Music Festival. You can always count on this festival for great music & books--new and used (bring your own 5 books to the bookswap to get 5 others), inspiring panels, and live author readings.

Luckily it was only a 10 minute drive away, and always has free admission & parking, because I had to dash to the festival between multiple family activities. Over the course of the weekend, I only made it to two panels, a few of the kiosks, and the bookswap. 

But what wonderful panels they were!

The first, Shaping the Story, was made up of New York literary agent Jeff Kleinman, editor/author Don Wallace (Honolulu Magazine) and grammar vixen Connie Hale (Sin & Syntax). The panel was informative and hilarious. Wallace moderated & played the straight man as he sat between Steiner and Hale, who had different takes on just about everything, which made for great entertainment. Hale is a spitfire prone to using spicy language, and listening to her is pure pleasure (though Kleinman might disagree).

The second panel, Navigating Truth in Fiction and Nonfiction, was more serious in tone, but equally full of wisdom. Moderated by the ever elegant Shawna Yang Ryan, the panel included Cecily WongPam Sakamoto, and Julie Checkoway. I've had a copy of Checkoway's classic Creating Fiction since 2001, when it was first published, but it's been out of print for a while. Good news for Checkoway fans--they will be updating and publishing a second edition in the near future. Sakamoto and Checkoway detailed the impressive amount of research & integrity involved in their most recent historical nonfiction works, Midnight in Broad Daylight and Three Year Swim Club. Wong is someone to keep your eyes on--she's out of the gate fast, and I predict many more success stories in her future. 


Tomorrow the Mokule'ia Writer's Retreat begins. Those lucky enough to be registered can look forward to an idyllic week of writing, inspiration, workshops, yoga & hula--right near the beach. If you can't be there during the day, they apparently have some free events at night if you are willing to brave the pau hana traffic to join them.




Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zen

ZEN




“And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” 


To be "zen" in your writing practice means to be in the moment. To be grateful and spontaneous, yet disciplined. It requires nothing and everything. It means that just showing up is half the battle. Imperfection is ok.

 It means that some days, no matter how hard you try, things get in your way, and that's life. Just find a path around them. There is always a path. There is always another way. 

Just ask Ray.


The Zen of Ray
When you put the words Zen and writing together, the first thing many people think of is Ray Bradbury's famed 1990s essay collection, Zen and the Art of Writing.

There's a good reason for that. Bradbury's enthusiasm is contagious, and his love of writing shines as he dispenses enough pearls of wisdom to string necklaces for a small country. 

Here's a sampling:

“That's the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing

“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

“We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory. Remember that pianist who said that if he did not pratice every day he would know, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would know, after three days, his audiences would know.

A variation of this is true for writers. Not that your style, whatever that is, would melt out of shape in those few days.

But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity


“Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand.
And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short story teachers recommending them for browsing.

What poetry? Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don’t force yourself too hard. Take it easy. Over the years you may catch up to, move even with, and pass T. S. Eliot on your way to other pastures. You say you don’t understand Dylan Thomas? Yes, but your ganglion does, and your secret wits, and all your unborn children. Read him, as you can read a horse with your eyes, set free and charging over an endless green meadow on a windy day.” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing


“No to write, for many of us, is to die.” 
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing


Update: Just came across an article titled Zen and the Art of Writing in the June 2016 issue of Writer's Digest.




“Write. Don't think. Relax.” 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for Yoga

YOGA 

Among all the forms of exercise, yoga is one of the best for releasing creativity.

Why?

When you practice yoga, you not only restore balance within your own body, but you may also be tapping into shakti, a primordial cosmic energy. As the personification of divine female power, shakti is believed to be responsible for creation and change. In yoga, shakti is associated with the sun salutations (surya namastar) and focuses on flow, transitions, mantras, and mindfulness. Sun salutations include standing, forward/back bends, and upward/downward facing dog, all of which stretch your spine, where primal kundalini energy is believed to reside, dormant, until it is awakened. 

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.                                      
-Upanishads


But you needn't restrict yourself to sun salutations or kundalini if you are looking to expand your creative powers. Any type of yoga will do that. Focusing on breathing, relaxing, letting go, and allowing your mind to be free does wonders for your imagination.

There are so many yogic poses and practices. The thing is, what works for one person might not work for others, so if you've tried it and it didn't stick, try another class at a different studio or school, or a new DVD or streaming session (I like Gaiam). Some yoga classes are silent, others include the chanting of mantras but no music, some have loud, invigorating music (Corepower). Some are strict, some are relaxed, some are hot, and some mix it all up.

There are countless ways to awaken and fine tune the creative powers in your body, and to connect with the cosmic energy that surrounds us. If we are open to this energy, it can change our lives, and bring purpose to our every breath. 

So grab a mat and tap into the force. Your body will thank you!






"Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame."-B.K.S. Iyengar

Some yoga/creativity links:
yoga poses for creativity
more yoga for creativity
yoga for creativity
yoga unlocks creativity
yoga benefits creativity
yoga nidra for creativity
for skeptics
"Yoga is invigoration in relaxation. Freedom in routine. Confidence through self control. Energy within and energy without."
-Ymber Delecto
"Yoga exists in the world because everything is linked."
-Desikashar
"Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevents our living in the most full and whole way. With yoga, we become aware of how and where we are restricted -- in body, mind, and heart -- and how gradually to open and release these blockages. As these blockages are cleared, our energy is freed. We start to feel more harmonious, more at one with ourselves. Our lives begin to flow -- or we begin to flow more in our lives."
-Cybele Tomlinson

"The word yoga comes from Sanskrit, the language of ancient India. It means union, integration, or wholeness. It is an approach to health that promotes the harmonious collaboration of the human being's three components: body, mind, and spirit."

-Stella Weller

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for Xanadu

XANADU
definitions: 

1. An idyllic, exotic, or luxurious place. (Merriam Webster) 2. A particularly bad Olivia Newton-John romantic musical fantasy film (1980). 3. An ancient Chinese capital during the Yuan dynasty, ruled by Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis). Visited by Marco Polo in 1275; world heritage site, only ruins exist today. Also known as Shangdu. 4. The inspiration for Samuel Coleridge's famous poem Kubla Khan. 5. A metaphor for a safe place for creative wanderlust and inspiration. (definition mine)
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree: 
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran 
Through caverns measureless to man 
Down to a sunless sea. 
So twice five miles of fertile ground 
With walls and towers were girdled round; 
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, 
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; 
And here were forests ancient as the hills, 
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. 
                         --Samuel Coleridge Taylour
                          Kubla Khan

I admit it, I dug the Olivia Newton-John film. Because, Magic.

Cut me some slack, though-I was nine. And really into roller skating, music, and romance, which is essentially the entire plot of the movie. 



But Xanadu has a long history of being a retreat from reality. In the West, it became best known as a subject--and muse--for Samuel Coleridge Taylor's poem Kubla Khan:

"...The poem was composed one night after he [Coleridge] experienced an opium-influenced dream after reading a work describing Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan.[1] Upon waking, he set about writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream...."
                                                                        -Kubla Khan Wikipedia

What is Xanadu for writers? A "stately pleasure dome?" "Fertile grounds?" "Gardens bright with sinuous rills (streams)?" "Forests ancient as the hills, enfolding sunny spots of green?" 

All of the above.

A place to let our imagination roam freely, meander, even, with no judgment, no restraint. A museum. The wilderness. A place of fantasy. A place that exists nowhere but in our minds. A place of refuge.

Where is your Xanadu? 

"There is at this place [Xanadu] a very fine marble palace, the rooms of which are all gilt and painted with figures of men and beasts and birds, and with a variety of trees and flowers, all executed with such exquisite art that you regard them with delight and astonishment."
-Marco Polo

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Write

WHY I WRITE

“I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. 
I write to create red in a world that often appears black and white. 
I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts."
-Terry Tempest Williams 

I write because I cannot not write. These words have been said many times before, and will be said many times again, but that does not make them untrue. But actually, that’s a lie. There are weeks of my life—and in the darkest moments, months—during which I do not write. During which I cannot write. I do not write, and I suffer. I suffer, and all would be better if I wrote, and yet I do not.

But when I write, I write because, next to reading, it is one of my favorite things in the world.


I write to make peace with the past. I write to exorcise my demons.

I write because it makes time blur. I write because it makes time freeze still. I write because it makes time disappear. I write because it returns me to times, places, and people that no longer exist. I write because it takes me to locations I can never visit in reality.
I write because it reveals a me that no longer exists. I write because it foreshadows a me that one day might be.

I write because words are beautiful: epiphany, ethereal, gossamer, luminescence, mellifluous, serendipity, sparkling, solitude, sonder, vellichor, not guilty.


Whatever you want. Yes. I love you.

I write because words are frightening: stalker, rapist, massacre, Ebola, regret, nyctophobia, dementia, sepulchral, surgery, tumor, inoperable, malignant, coma, terminal.

You should have locked the doors. Did you check the children? I’m sorry, we couldn’t save him. I hate you, I don’t love you. I’ve met someone else. I love you.

I write because words are powerful: Victory, eternity, courage, sacrifice, strength, equality, democracy, freedom, peace.

We shall overcome. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. In seeking happiness for others, you find it for yourself. How can I help? I’m always here for you. Thank you. I love you. 

I write because I fear that if I do not, the unwritten words might stab me from the inside, the shards of frozen imagination cutting their way out of my head, heart and soul.

I write because if I do not, I will forget, and not remember what I’ve lost. I can no longer recall many things about my grandmother, even though I knew her for 33 years. The exact tone of her voice, the glint in her eye, the lilt in her laugh. With every day, lost loved ones and places grow fainter, even as we gather new ones. If only I’d written everything down. 


This is the mantra always flowing in my head:


Write it down, write it down, write it down. 


I write because there is nothing sadder than not writing, except that there are many things sadder than that, and yet, it seems to be true, when I’m not writing, and there is nothing I can do to convince myself otherwise. 


Why do you write?

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
-Flannery O’Connor

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” 
-Gloria Steinem

“That is why I write – to try to turn sadness into longing, solitude into remembrance.” 
– Paulo Coelho

I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die. 
-Isaac Asimov

Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself. 
-Octavia E. Butler