Friday, September 25, 2009

"The Whirlwind of Passion"...

When I was in Grade 9, my english teacher gave our class an assignment. Pick a soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet and present it in front of the other students. I dare say you can imagine how this went over with the majority of the class...

I will admit to initial trepidation myself, even. This Shakespeare stuff was weird and awkward and didn't make any sense was the general consensus and I had no reason to believe to the contrary. Until I actually started to read the stuff, that is.

I can't explain it. But those words SPOKE to me. The rhthym, the music, the way the lines of text even looked on the page of my school-assigned purple-covered paperback edition (which, larcenously, I don't think I ever actually gave back at the end of the year, so enamoured was I). Something about the language just hit me. I chose Juliet's speech in the so-called 'balcony scene' (the one that starts out 'Thou knowst the mask of night is on my face') and... I memorized it.

I was the only one in the class who did that. Learned it 'by heart' as it were.

It set off a chain reaction that has culminated in my life's passion. It also got me a week's worth of 'weirdo' stares from my classmates (but also earned me bonus marks from the teacher - heh!). That one speech - and performing (in however small a way) that one speech - put my little sneakered feet squarely on the path of reader/writer/actor/storyteller. It imparted, with one swift blow, a profound, passionate, undeniable love of language - specifically of words meant to shape a story, tell a tale, move an audience, ellicit emotion - that sticks with me to this day.

I love it when I encounter the phenomenon. I can get lost in a story for days at at time, or for moments. Reading this week's entries from my fellow Girls was particularly wonderful for me. Because even brief blog entries can spark that passion in me -- although earlier in the week, they were also - admittedly - sparking hunger pangs, too, ladies! (Evocative food writing? That's pretty cool. *salivates*)

So my passion, at its most basic I suppose, is story. But - and here's an important distinction - it's not just the need to write. Or the need to perform. It's the act, itself, of creating something that can be inhabited by someone else's imagination. (Great art or photography or dance or - yes absolutely! cooking! - does it, too.) But it's not just the force of passion at work in most cases where something is truly extraordinary. Because when a piece of art really moves you, it's not just the passion working behind it. It can't be. It's also the craftsmanship and care and skill used to shape and hone that initial raw passion that is so vital to both the process and the outcome.

With the celebration this week of my WONDROUS STRANGE paperback release - and with me being smack in the middle of writing the 3rd book in the trilogy - I've been thinking about this idea of passion a lot. Particularly in terms of my character, Kelley. We have a shared background in the theatre and the passion that goes with it. And I worry a little bit about her because of it. Probably in much the same way my parents worried about me when I announced that it was the Theatre Or Bust for me. You have to be a little crazy to be in the acting business - I think I might have said that before - and you have to be committed. But you all so have to be disciplined. Passions are all very marvelous - but not if you let them run away with you. Let's face it - most of the time that just leads to over-writing, self-indulgence and plain old hamming-it-up-ery!

Like Hamlet says, upon giving instructions to the actors of his play:

"... use all gently;

for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,

a temperance that may give it smoothness."

I hope that's a lesson Kelley learns. Girl's full of passion at the moment. Temperance? Er... not so much.

So what do you guys think? Am I full of hot air? Is Hamlet? Is pure passion by itself ever sufficient in the act of creation? Is art better left undiluted by craft? Leave your wisdom in the comments - which (ooh! Multi-tasking!) automatically enters you in our Novel Girls Blogoversary Contest-o-Wonder! This week I'm giving away a signed-n-shiny copy of the WS paperback, plus you'll be entered for the grand prize of $100 Amazon Gift Card with which to indulge passions of your very own!! (details on the side bar of how to passionately increase your chances ot win win win!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A One Passion Kind of Girl

Before I get into my post, let me wrap up some unfinished business from last week and announce the winner of THE LIFE OF GLASS ARC! I used to select for me, and the winner is . . . Lauren! Lauren, I’ve sent you an e-mail, so please write back with your address so I can get the book out to you. And if you entered and didn’t win, don’t worry, you’ll still be entered into the drawing for the $100 gift card to Amazon at the end of the month.

Now onto this week’s topic – passions. This is a tough one for me, and I’ve been racking my brain to come up with something other than writing because saying that writing is my passion kind of feels like a cop-out. Obviously, that’s my passion, right? But the thing is, I don’t know that there’s anything else I really feel passionate about, the same way I do about writing.

There are other things in my life that are amazing, and I feel so lucky to have a wonderful husband, wonderful children, terrific friends and family. There are things I enjoy like books and movies and good food and taking walks. But without the writing, there’s a part of me that feels a little lost, a little hollow. I know this because there have been times in my life when I’ve stopped writing, times when I’ve given up. And in those spaces in my life, I felt a certain sense of dullness that I never feel when writing is a part of my life.

There was one time in particular, after my oldest son was first born, and I’d been through a lot of rejection on the writing front. This time, I said, of writing, eh, who needs it? I’m better off without it. Instead I spent evenings teaching college classes and days taking care of my son. And after a few months of this, I felt like a robot, moving through the motions of life. I had a boring job which I wanted nothing more than to quit; I got to watch my son grow, which was amazing, but I began to feel that there was something lacking in my life, something I felt really passionate about. With writing out of the equation my brain felt a little numb.

And then once I finally decided to start writing again, I felt more alive. I don’t know what it is about writing, but I do know that I have to do it. I must do it. I love to do it. (Which is a good and necessary thing, because as any writer will tell you, there is a lot of rejection and heartache involved in the actual business of writing.)

It’s not that writing never feels like work (because sometimes it does) or that, like with anything else, I don’t sometimes procrastinate when I’m facing a deadline (I do! Thank you, Twitter!). But unlike other jobs, other hobbies, other things I love, writing is the only thing (outside of my family) that I MUST have in my life for it to feel complete. That, to me, is a passion.

So what’s your passion? Comment to win a signed paperback copy of Lesley Livingston’s WONDROUS STRANGE and to be entered to win $100 to Amazon. (And check out the sidebar for other ways to enter as well.) And if you haven’t already read it, the fabulous WONDROUS STRANGE is out in paperback this week, so be sure and check it out!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ahh, Passion!

Our Blogoversary continues and this week we're celebrating the paperback release of WONDROUS STRANGE. Congratulations Lesley! You must feel fabulous. One thing's for sure WS is a passionate piece of art. A must read for any age! So please run - and hurry hurry - to your favorite bookstore and purchase it. Lesley is giving away a signed copy this week, so please leave your comments. Look to the sidebar on the right for more ways to win. Also, everyone who comments will be entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card, to be given away at the end of the month!

Just knowing Lesley through cyberspace has me not surprised that she would pick passion as this week's topic. Passion is pretty close to a perfect emotion. Any time euphoria is the outcome, I'd say it's mighty fine to be passionate about anything. Passion is what drives me. It enhances my life. Without it I'd be a mess and I certainly wouldn't be here writing this post. The single reason I was able to write a novel is because passion envelops my heart.

I'm extremely passionate about the people I love, all animals and of course, music. Antiques qualify as my passion as does vintage jewelry. It's hard to imagine passion as anything but wonderful but for obvious reasons an unfortunate passion of mine is beautiful designer clothes. I'm not proud of this mind you, it's actually quite troubling. And so is the following . . . my passion for expensive champagne. I'm not exactly sure when that last one developed. I do remember having my first sip of Perrier Jouet and thinking Uh, oh. I'm in trouble. If you haven't tried expensive champagne you should go for it. You'll see what I mean. It's silky smooth and it slides down your throat like it's a healing tonic. Great champagne goes with your throat like ketchup goes with french fries. Like it's meant to be there. Maybe it's something about the fizziness, I don't know but it's fabulous. Now before anyone thinks I have a problem here, let me clarify, it's nothing of the sort. In fact, I've only had expensive champagne a handful of times in my life. In fact, I hardly drink at all. But when I do, it's going to be delicious. That's for sure.

And here's a new one on me. 150-year-old Grand Marnier (the other spirit I'm passionate about) actually exists! I had no idea. I mean that's pre-Civil War! A very nice friend offered to treat me to a sip of it after my first book signing at Davis-Kidd in Nashville. I hope he's serious because that sounds like a passionate experience for sure! Now the unfortunate reality about all these passions is my pocketbook, or lack there of. But that's what dreaming is for, right?

I'm passionate about beautiful flowers. In particular I love gardenias. Just one bloom will freshen up a whole room. My culinary passions include homegrown tomatoes, Alaskan king crab legs, caramel cake and anything cooked from a recipe out of Fine Cooking Magazine.

I suppose there is a flip-side to passion. I'm one of those overly passionate people who cries at the drop of a hat. My heart bleeds when I feel sorrow or injustice and especially loss.

I could go on and on about my other passions but I've already taken up too much room here and I have to go on to my day job. I love hearing about what ignites a special spark in others. Please tell me about what makes your heart pound!

And don't forget next week is FINALLY THE RELEASE OF WHISTLIN' DIXIE IN A NOR'EASTER. I'll be giving away a signed hardcover copy so please come back next week and enter to win. Have a great week everyone!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lazy Passions

Hey there noble blog readers! I hope you all have had a chance to pick up Lesley's book, Wondrous Strange. It's beautifully written with exciting plot twists and some really neat mythology running through the story fabric. This week marks our party for the paperback release of the book.

So, if you missed the chance to enjoy this fab book in hardcover, make sure to pick it up in paperback! You won't be sorry, I promise!

And to celebrate, Lesley is giving away a signed paperback copy of Wondrous Strange! So, same rules apply this week. Leave a comment on any post this week to be entered. Look to the sidebar on the right for more ways to win. Also, everyone who comments will be entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card, to be given away at the end of the month!

As Tracy mentioned, Lesley picked the topic of "passions" for this week. And my passion is somewhat similar to Tracy's. But while I do enjoy cooking and eating more than I should, I'm going to focus on my passionate love of The Food Network in this post.

I write everyday when I put my son down for a nap. And as I'm type-type-typin' away (or, you know, staring at a blinking cursor), I always have The Food Network on in the background. There's something so comforting about watching Paula Deen add another stick of butter into a casserole or Rachael Ray say "E.V.O.O." It's all so predictable and inviting. And their dishes always look perfect, and they make it look so easy and totally do-able thanks to the soft music and precise editing.

For awhile, I tried to translate this passion into my own cooking, to very little success. I found that while I enjoyed watching other people make delicious risotto, I often either screwed it up, got bored or was so tired by the time I finished that all I wanted to do was order a pizza. Of course, that's not to say everything I made was a disaster--but it was nothing like the visceral experience of watching someone else cook and taste their food at the end of the show.

(Side note: It always cracks me up when the host tries their own creation at the end. They always say, "YUM! OMG!" As if they're going to be all, "Ew! Sick! This is awful! Don't try this one, folks!")

So, my passion, if you could call it that, is good food like Tracy.

I just want you to cook it for me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Don't Be Afraid!

I want to thank all The Novel Girls for their awesome posts last week, and a special thanks to Jillian for jumping on last Monday. It is much appreciated! I wish I could enter to win an ARC of THE LIFE OF GLASS...I'm so ready to read this book. But, alas, I will have to wait. *SIGH*

This week's topic is brought to us by Lesley! In addition, this week marks the paperback release of WONDROUS STRANGE. Listen up: if you haven't read WONDROUS STRANGE yet, why not? Stop reading this blog NOW, go get a copy, and then read that. Trust me, you'll love the story that Lesley has crafted.

So what's the topic on the agenda? Passions.

I have to admit this topic flummoxed me for a while, because my passions are fairly recognizable by anyone who knows me at all. Writing (Check), Reading (Check), Family (Check), and Friends (Check). And seeing as I've already dished on all of those passions on this blog at one time or another, I had to really think about what else in my life makes me smile.

It took longer than it should've, but that's because this is a passion I haven't truly been able to indulge in a while. I love...Love...LOVE to cook for friends and family and have everyone over for a get-together. But Tracy, you might say, how is this different than cooking for your family every night at the dinner time? Because that's not the type of cooking I'm talking about.

I'm talking about far more than throwing something on the table to feed my hungry brood, though that's fulfilling in its own way. What fires me up in the kitchen is when I go that extra mile and create a really special menu, and then when I can share that menu with those I'm closest with. I love making people smile, and I love hearing the "oohs" and "ahhs" from those enjoying whatever I've prepared.

Good food is such a great medium for socializing with the important people in your life, those connected by love, memories, and friendship. And yep, sometimes ordering a pizza works too, but I love planning a menu, choosing the perfect appetizers, main dish, side dishes, and desserts, and then going all out.

I used to do this often, for birthdays and holidays and just for fun. Lately, though, everyone in my life (including me) has been so busy, that this little passion of mine has fallen by the wayside. But hey, the holidays are approaching fast, so for November and December, I'll be able to indulge again. Hm, that makes me start thinking of menus...

And for anyone trying to connect the title of this post with my passion, "Don't be afraid!" is a quote from Julia Child, who, as everyone knows, had a true passion for cooking incredible food.

Remember to post a comment to enter both this week's giveaway (which Lesley will announce) AND the chance at a $100 Amazon Gift Card!