Unlock the Muse – December 10, 2019

It’s December. And wherever you are, there’s a good chance that means lots of parties, concerts, gift buying, family gatherings, road trips and more. This year I participated in the Christmas production at my church. We had five performances over three days. It was a lot of fun, but I’m worn out.

Up next I get to exercise my civic duty as an American citizen and report for jury duty. I am not one of those people who despises jury duty just for the principal of it. No, I want to believe in the system. But it is an interruption to the normal routine. And, for me at least, it can cause a great deal of anxiety. I don’t look forward to going by myself to a strange place I’ve never been before, spending the day in a room full of strangers, and possibly being chosen to decide the fate of another human being.

Still, I will go and fulfill my responsibility. I’m hoping in the process to carve out some quality reading time, so there is that.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Saturday. Elton John sang “Saturday night’s the night I like.” Write a song of your own either praising or despising Saturdays. Have the refrain echo the tune of that song.

Last month we played around with poetry for something new. Now, turn your poetry into song lyrics. And don’t limit yourself to Saturdays. Write a song for every day of the week!

Encourage
I’ll finish with this final thought…

Next Quote 1

What’s your next move?

Happy writing!

New Vision: Hallie Ford Museum of Art

A few weeks ago the weekly writing prompt I shared in my Unlock the Muse post encouraged trying out a new experience designed to excite one of the five senses. One of the suggestions was to go to an art museum. I had never before been to the art museum located here in my home town. Every time I would happen to drive by, I would remember how much I wanted to go. When this writing prompt showed up, I knew it was time to make it happen.

I had some time off work, so while my children were in school, I took an hour and explored the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. This art museum – the third largest in the state of Oregon – is connected to the Willamette University. Many of the displays in their permanent collection include artists who taught at the university at one time or another.

Since I was there by myself I made up my mind I would spend as much time as I wanted and thoroughly enjoy each piece. And I did take my time. I wandered through the rooms on the first level, stopping to read the placard beside each piece.

Some of the artwork really captured my imagination – pieces such as an oil on canvas, Untitled Memory #44, by Royal Nebeker and C-print photograph, The Glowing Drawer, by Holly Andres. I spent a good deal of time examining the first. It has so many various elements, something new would catch my eye every time I started to move away. The second piece looked like something begging to become a story.

Ocenscape.RobertHess
Oceanscape, by Robert Hess – Hallie Ford Museum of Art

My favorite piece was probably a welded bronze sculpture titled Oceanscape by Robert Hess. Swirling lines and interesting details give this sculpture a sort of whimsical look. According to the placard, “Oceanscape uses the forms of modern sculpture to speak in witty ways about Pacific mist, undertows, and whale watching.”

SpiritinOrangeSkirt.MaritaDingus
Spirit in Orange Skirt, by Marita Dingus – Hallie Ford Museum of Art

I also learned to appreciate the art better. One piece in particular was not visually appealing to me at first, but became more so after I read about the artist and her work. I found Spirit in Orange Skirt, by Marita Dingus at first interesting, but not especially attractive. Then I read the placard:

“Washington artist Marita Dingus learned to sew from her mother and paternal grandmother; she made her own clothes but also used sewing as play. Following a more formal education in traditional fine arts as an undergraduate, Dingus returned to sewn cloth as a medium in graduate school after taking a Black Studies course and thinking about African culture as a resource for making art. As she noted, ‘Not only was work constructed with a needle related to my own family heritage, but it sidestepped the inherent cultural baggage of the European painting tradition.’

Dingus uses scavenged materials in her art, first from necessity and then gradually working from a deep cultural affinity with Third World ethics of ‘waste not, want not.’ Her figures reflect childhood games with paper dolls (and the clothes she would make for them) as well as her familial and ancestral roots.”

I took a step back and examined the sculpture again, with a much greater understanding of its significance. It really is a beautiful piece of art.

I didn’t get to finish exploring the art museum the way I wanted to. I unfortunately ran out of time. But while I was there, I gained a deeper appreciation for the visual arts. I went there seeking a new experience and a new vision. I came away with all that and more.

Unlock the Muse – December 3, 2019

Welcome to December, the next month after November, and the last of 2019. Before we know it, it will be next year. We will start the next project, read the next book, finish the next task. There is always something next – next week, next word, next breath. But in all that comes next, don’t forget what is happening now. Live in the moment, and don’t let life pass by too quickly.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write about someone cutting in front of you in line.

You’re next in line when, wham! someone shoves their way in front of you. Are you angry? Do you want to shove back? Or do you meekly step aside and let them in?

Encourage
So, you finished NaNoWriMo and you now have this 50,000 word mess on your hands. What’s next? That might depend on what condition your mess is in. If you are fortunate enough to have a fully formed draft of your novel, next might entail jumping into editor mode – though it might be advisable to let the draft set for a bit before tackling edits. If your mess looks a bit more like mine, well then, we have some work to do.

For myself, the first thing I plan to do is, well, make a plan. I have been working on this novel in fits and starts for a little bit too long, and it’s sort of all over the place. I have a tendency after November is over to go a little off the rails when it comes to writing. I decide I “deserve a break” and I essentially quit writing. So, my first step is to schedule myself some daily writing time. For now, that will be evenings after the kiddos are abed.

What’s your next step?

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – November 26, 2019

At one time all things are new. But old things revived can also be new. This year for my NaNoWriMo project, I chose to continue working on an ongoing project rather than start something completely new. Although this is not recommended by the official website, sometimes, you just got to break the rules. And there’s nothing wrong with revisiting an old project, especially when the new ideas start flowing and everything feels fresh once again.

Whether you’re working on something new, or “new again,” November is coming quickly to a close. I hope you are finding success in whatever you’re working on. Above all, have fun with it!

As a bonus dare for this week, here’s a thought brought to you from Dove chocolates:

Dove chocolate

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a journal entry that describes nothing about your day. Pretend you’re living another life.

This is another opportunity to try out something new. Don’t care for the way your life is going today? Try out someone else’s. Maybe you’ll find the “old” is just fine after all.

Encourage
In keeping with the spirit of “new” this month, I have a new set of Rory’s Story Cubes to share with you today. Here’s a roll of Batman dice for you! I hope you find fun inspiration to keep you writing all the words.

StoryCubes18

Happy writing!

Otherland Series, by Tad Williams: A Review

Tad Williams has long been a favorite author of mine. I first fell in love with his books with his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, and then moved on to others. I read his Otherland series many years ago when I was still on a student-borrow-books-from-the-library sort of budget. I have finally managed to collect copies of all of these books and decided this was the year I would finally reread them.

It was a huge bonus then, when I was able to fit each of them into prompts for the 2019 Reading Challenge, both the Popsugar and ATY challenges. Book one, City of Golden Shadow, I read for Popsugar’s prompt #8, a book about a hobby (online gaming); book two, River of Blue Fire, for ATY’s prompt #17, a speculative fiction; book three, Mountain of Black Glass, for ATY #19, a book by an author with more than one book on my TBR (I have eleven of his books on my list for this year!); and book four, Sea of Silver Light, for ATY #22, a book from the ATY polarizing/close call list – a book where the protagonist enters another world.

There is a lot going on in this massive series (four books totaling over three thousand pages!) which is really one long story. It follows multiple main characters – a young, professional woman from Africa, an African bushman, a teenage boy with progeria, an aged former test pilot, and many more. Even the “villain” is not so straight forward as all that, but there is layer upon layer of opposition that confronts the main characters.

The story opens with Renie Sulaweyo – an African professor working with virtual reality technology – and her widowed father and younger, dependent brother. Something happens to her brother while he is playing online with friends that puts him into a coma. Trying to help her brother, Renie sets off to figure out what put him into the coma in the first place. Her search leads her to a new form of virtual reality technology that has been secretly developed over the past decade or so. She learns her brother isn’t the only child to be affected in this way. Something sinister is going on and she intends to find out what.

Her path leads her to this new network, known as The Grail Network. But this super secret network is impossible to break into. Until an encounter brings her, along with several others into contact with someone who can get them into the network. Once there, however, they are trapped online and must move forward to find answers in order to make it out again.

This network consists of a huge number of virtual worlds. Anything seems to be possible here, from recreated fictional worlds such as Carroll’s Wonderland to Coleridge’s dream world Kubla Khan. There exists a warped version of Oz, a grotesquely corrupted wild west, an ancient Egypt ruled by the god Osiris, and even a bizarre cartoon world. Williams shows himself a master world builder in this series, as each world is flawlessly detailed, each complete with their own set of rules.

The Otherland series is set in a future world where fully immersive virtual reality gaming and other internet-based activities have been fully realized. Published between 1998 and 2001, the future tech is well imagined, and even by today’s standards feels impressively futuristic, and has stood well against the advances in real world technology. Though I was momentarily dropped out of the “voluntary suspension of disbelief” by the very brief reference to hunting for replacement batteries to power a hand held mobile device.

Otherland, like most of Tad Williams’s books, is massive. It is rich in detail, that for some might slow down the action. For myself, I love it. I can’t help but be fully engaged in the world he has created. His characters are beautifully drawn, and I need to know what happens to them. I will read anything written by Tad Williams, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Unlock the Muse – November 19, 2019

I recently tried a new route to work. More and more, urban growth has been impacting my normal route, and things have consequently slowed down. And now, signs have been posted indicating a massive development project will be underway on this route for the next several months. It seemed like a good time for a change.

Of course, new isn’t always better, and in this case, it made little difference. Sometimes in our writing routines, it might be a good idea to try something new. If what you are doing feels slow and stagnant, change it up. Take your laptop out to a cafe or a park instead of writing at your desk. Write in the morning instead of at night. Use pen and paper instead of your computer.

A new routine can shake things loose. If you’re stuck, give it an honest chance. You can always return to the normal routine if things don’t work out. And maybe you’ll return with renewed energy.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Spend 10 minutes today drafting the beginning of that dream novel or poem you’ve imagined writing.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you’re likely already deep into that new novel idea that maybe doesn’t feel so new anymore. In which case, it might be better to jot down some quick notes on the “shiny new idea” that hit you in the middle of the night and table it until November is over.

If you’re not NaNo-ing, there’s no time like the present to dive in to that novel you keep thinking about. Write it!

Encourage
new
/n(y)o͞o/

adjective
1. Not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time.
2. Already existing, but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time.

The word new comes to us through the Middle English neue, which comes from the Old English neowe, niowe, or even earlier, niwe meaning “made or established for the first time, fresh, novel, unheard of, untried.”

I found this bit from etymonline.com very interesting:

There was a verb form in Old English (niwian, neowian) and Middle English (neuen) “make, invent, create; bring forth, produce, bear fruit; begin or resume (an activity); resupply; substitute,” but it seems to have fallen from use.

Apparently, even what’s new can become old. Maybe we should bring it back into use – I’m going to newen a novel!

Make something that didn’t exist before. Experience something for the first time. 

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – November 12, 2019

It’s a new week. November is nearly half over already. When did that happen?

Did you try something new this week to excite your senses? I went to the local art museum and spent a good hour enjoying color, shape and texture. I had a fabulous time examining all the beautiful artwork. I am always impressed by the creativity of other artists. I’ll share more about my experience there later this week.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, how’s your word count? I’ve had a rough beginning, but that is nothing new. I’ve made good strides this week to make up the deficiency, but I remain a little behind. My goal is to get caught up by the end of this week.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Celebrate Wednesday – the hump of the week – in a poem!

Don’t normally write poetry? That’s okay, we’re trying new things this month. Wednesday isn’t the middle of your week? That’s okay too. Write about Friday. Or Monday. Have fun with it!

Encourage
I’ll leave you with this thought from Dr. Seuss:

New quote 1

Happy writing!