Lessons from Chittorgarh / Lecciones desde Chittorgarh

Rani Padmini's monsoon palace within a small lake, within Chittorgarh fort atop a mountain in Rajasthan. Oh, and me and my husband.

Rani Padmini’s monsoon palace within a small lake, within Chittorgarh fort atop a mountain in Rajasthan. Oh, and me and my husband.

Pardon me for the blogging hiatus. I’ve been traveling and “doing research” for the novel the last couple of weeks in India–my favorite subcontinent, my second home, and often my inspiration. A trip to the mighty fort of Chittorgarh has reminded me to keep the mechanics of writing at bay for now and just absorb the story because the story is everything, isn’t it? It is how we learn from the past, how we weigh the choices of the present, and how we size up the future.

This afternoon I was enthralled by a storyteller, a.k.a. my tour guide, a young man born and raised in the fort who is sharing the stories of this place with the world. This young man not only put us through our paces, walking us to vantage points to view nearly a dozen of the half-destroyed palaces and crumbling temples in the complex, but he was a passionate narrator of a version of the fort’s history. I say “a” version, because history is such a complex thing, and so many histories never really make it to the tour guides, but I don’t mean in any way to denigrate the stories he told.

These stories were anchored to the timeline and the regime in power, so I was submerged in a world of family dynamics over time as well as seemingly ever-battling cultures and noble choices on the battlefield. Now this is a tried and true approach to storytelling, but one that made me wonder about the impact that narrative choices have on listeners and readers. Let me relate one of these stories to you. Continue reading

“The Return on Investment” is finally finished

EyesAt last “The Return on Investment” is finished! You will find part four and all the other parts on the Free Stories page. Part of my motivation for this story is an abiding frustration with the socio-cultural conditioning of women and girls that is so dangerous to our development and sense of agency. This conditioning is especially damaging when it is preached, practiced and enforced by those who love us the most. Anyway, that was in my head when I started. Never did I think the story would be so long, but I’m fairly happy with it. Let’s say, I’m as happy with it as I can be until I hear from readers. And I do want to hear from readers so I can improve my storytelling. So, tell me, what do you think?

Beautiful illustrated novels are still out there — but not for the masses / Hermosas novelas ilustradas todavía existen — pero no para todo el mundo

Stumble around long enough and you will find…something.

My quest to discover why we don’t see more illustrated fiction, particularly illustrated novels, continues. I have begun to pester a few authors whose work clearly calls out for beautiful illustrations and illustrators whose work has impressed me. I’m querying them about what barriers there may be from both the writer’s and the illustrator’s perspectives, and how those barriers could be overcome. I hope I’ll have some significant responses above and beyond “It’s too expensive” to share with you in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I found The Folio Society.

I got so excited when I saw this amazing cover for their illustrated edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which is coming out in April. The illustrator is Sam Weber, and while you’re on his site, check out his work in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

I think I knew about The Folio Society before, but I had pushed that information into a dusty corner of my head. There are many…dusty corners. The point is, yes, works that are deemed classics may indeed be illustrated one day. But doesn’t that seem overly selective? (More grumbling here.) Continue reading

Sausage making

Here in the Washington metro area a lot of people work in politics and have a hand in making the laws and policies of the land. These folks have a saying that compares policies to sausages. Everyone loves a good sausage but no one wants to know how it’s made–meaning that it’s probably better if you don’t know all the political compromises, threats, blackmail and, yes, editing that goes into making a policy. I, however, am slowly transforming from a politico to a writer, and I thought I’d give you a glimpse of my novel sausage anyway.  Uh…okay, let’s forget this analogy before it gets gross.

WallAnyway, this photo shows one wall of my home office. What you see taped up there are chapter summaries for my novel in progress. I started doing this after I hit a snarl in the plot action and couldn’t find my characters’ way from chapters 27 through 35. I knew what had to happen in those chapters, but I could not see exactly how the characters were going to get where they needed to be. Tinkering with it in my head was not working because I couldn’t manage all the subplots simultaneously. A breakthrough in chapter 29 was creating problems in chapter 27, and when I rewrote 27, I created problems in chapter 31, etc. I was getting so bogged down with plot that I was writing nonsense like “He stopped into Korvar’s kitchen on his way to the Council meeting to see if Master Avani had returned from the fort.” Bleh! Continue reading