Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Night Circus and the 2012 Mythopoeic Awards

One of finalests for the 2012 Mythopoeic Awards is The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday, 2011).  If you have not had a chance to read this unusual and fascinating book,  I highly recommend it.  While I enjoyed the plot very much - Morgenstern juggles crisscrossing the plot through time, with a deft touch - the elements that particularly linger are the sensory details.  Descriptions of the fanciful circus displays are very vivid and left me feeling like I had personally been to the strange black and white tents of the Night Circus. 

In addition, it is being adapted for film - which I can only imagine has the potential to be an absolutely beautiful film if done right.  Put it on your summer reading list today!    

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Party Preview

The Ornish Launch Party is fast approaching... Too fast it seems sometimes.  Besides working on decorations I have begun the first food preparations.  Last week I blanched and froze sixteen artichoke bottoms and tomorrow I am going make and freeze a pile of crapes.  I have my menu planned out and so I thought I would post it to whet your appetites.  Get out your tunics and surcotes, ‘cause this is going to be a fine party!

White Grape Juice with Lemon, Honey and Lavender
Blackberry, Basil and Rose Sparkler

Course 1 - Starter:
Herbed Artichoke Bottoms stuffed with Ricotta and Parmesan on Braised Arugula, garnished with Roasted Fennel with Balsamic Vinegar and Pine-nuts

Course 2 - Salad:
Salad of Herbs, Greens, Radishes and Cucumbers with White Wine Vinaigrette, garnished with Deviled Eggs

Course 3 - Palate Cleanser:
Strawberry Black Pepper Sorbet

Course 4 - Main:
Leek, Mushroom and Cream Cheese Crepes,
9 Onion Braise (red, yellow, pearl, spring, shallots, leeks, green, and chives), 
Roasted Gold or Purple Cauliflower with Lemon, Olive Oil, Parmesan and Garlic

Course 5 - Dessert Round 1:
Meyer Lemon Cream Puffs

Course 6 - Dessert Round 2:
Almond and Orange Cake with Orange Blossom Water and Candied Orange Peel

Then – food coma and story time!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pledge of No Grousing

I have been working with a book called “Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform” (Christina Katz, Writer’s Digest Books, 2008).  While its primarily focused on non-fiction, I have still been finding it useful and I enjoy Katz’s breezy, no-nonsense style.  

I am nearly done with section one which has been focusing on helping an author figure out what her/his platform might be.  She also has a lot of common sense advice about behaving in a professional manner throughout the process and figuring out how to be your own producer and promoter without being obnoxious.  The section I just read was titled “Ditch Your Resistance” and she makes the point that you (the author) are 100% responsible for the success of your writing career.  All the time.  Then she goes on to ask that you (the author) make a promise that for one year you will never utter a word of reproach against anyone involved with getting you published – no whining, blaming, or other displays of poor attitude.

This promise is not hard for me to make because I had already decided to make it – and not just for a year.  At conventions and in writing groups one can almost immediately run into those people who are bitching and moaning and whose writing careers would be perfect if those other people weren’t idiots.  I had already made the decision that I wasn’t going to blame anyone else for my challenges – if they had really, truly “done me wrong” I’d deal with it in a professional, polite manner, but otherwise I would not rail bbout things.  So Katz’s pledge fits very well with this intention – and here it is (you can find it on pp. 68-9 of her book):

     I, Tannara Young, being of sound mind and body, do solemnly commit to keep my grousing to myself for the period of one year.  This stuffing of the sock in my mouth includes, but is not limited to, whining about all matters related to the publication of my work.  I will not grumble if I do not like an editor’s changes.  I will not moan if I do not like how long production of my work is taking.  I will not cry if I don’t get paid.
     Instead, when and if an injustice occurs, I will calmly take appropriate steps to alert my clients that I am a professional and that I expect professional treatment.  I will treat them in kind.  I will not even whimper when my pet projects get canned.  Regardless of how much I want to grouse, I will not so much as make a sarcastic remark.
     If I have a legitimate complaint and I can’t shake it on my own, or if one is eating at me to the point of distraction, I will discuss it with a good friend or trusted advisor until I find peace.  I won’t dwell on it or hang onto it unnecessarily.  I will do everything I can to avoid a victim stance.
Instead I commit to one year of channeling the energy I would otherwise spend grousing into becoming known.  Most importantly I will not contact Christian Katz with the intention of complaining in any way, shape or manner.  So help me Great Spirits of Publishing.
    Signed Tannara Young, May 16, 2012 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

World Building - 2: Landscape

Once I have a rough map of a country, city or town I start thinking about its landscape.  This might involve creating a topographical map or making notes about its climate and terrain.  I often start looking at pictures at this point – there are so many lovely photos available on the web!

Landscape has always been a source of inspiration for me – the giant trees of the redwood forests, the misty sweep of Puget Sound, the old castles I visited in Scotland.  One of the big differences I have noticed between landscapes in the United States and those in Europe and Asia is that the obvious layers of civilization are far more noticeable on the latter.  Though we have ancient native civilizations here, they are much smaller, fewer and less elaborate than in other places around the world.  Landscapes in the US often fell much wilder for this reason. 

At the moment I am working on the country of Hynovia which is somewhat based in the eastern Mediterranean. For inspiration I have been looking at pictures of Turkey which has both stunning landscapes and fascinating ancient buildings.  Here are a few of my favorites - they are linked to their original sites:


Thursday, May 3, 2012

World Building - 1: Maps

I always begin world building with a map.  I sit down with a piece of paper a draw a country, a city or just a field with a house on one side and the entry to a forest on the other.  Even when I start a story without a map, the moment I have to figure out something about the physical space, I start drawing a diagram of the house or the path of the river or the city streets. 

I drew the map of Idhua a long time ago - spreading out sheets of graph paper on the dining room table and shading in woods and rivers with my mother's Prisma Color pencils.  Eventually, I decided I wanted the ease of editing on the computer.  I didn't have a scanner so I took digital photos of the map.  

Jigsaw of the Photos
Since then I have generated political, historical and topographical maps - zooming in to country or city, zooming out to mark oceanic currents.

I like to know where I am located.  I have a good sense of direction and am usually correct when I try to locate north.  I like it also when I am reading to look at maps and diagrams on the cover leaves and trace the journey I am reading about.  Perhaps this is why I seek to understand the space I am writing in as the entry into my fantasy world.  I want to know how far it is to the sea or how close to the edge of the Forest, as the physical landscape is a powerful anchor and influence for a person.  As I am rooted in the various landscapes of my childhood, my adulthood and my travels, so I want my characters to belong somewhere – or if they don’t, to be able to explore where it is that they don’t belong.

Recent Topographical Map