Friday, May 31, 2013

Animal Connections

Not only do pets tend to look like their owners, I believe they share characteristics of personality.  Girl is a large boned (aka fat) black with orange and beige interwoven into her thick longish fur. She has a natural gift for laziness, napping, and finding the prime sleeping locations.  There is nothing unusual in our household to have a cupboard open and see a large ball of fur glide out in search of another, more fulfilling sleeping place. She is the personification (catification?) of my love of rest.

At ten years old, Playful continues to live up to her name. Waking me at four in the morning as she tackles a bookmark, small toy, or my foot gives her no greater joy. After ensuring that it is not a mouse she is chasing, as has occurred before, I marvel at her dedication to play no matter her age. When she was younger, we put bells on her collar in an effort to quit receiving the gifts of half alive song birds she brought home. That cat represents the reason I have so many facial laugh lines.

Australian Shepherd, Sydney, is the household Queen of Drama.  You should see her tell people how she never gets enough attention, and the way she looks ready to die when left alone.  But her disposition is of the extreme opposite when I reach for the dog leash. Just going outside to use the restroom is of the same level of bliss as visiting Hawaii for a month.

Her extreme nature is also found in the attention she pays to anyone getting too close to me.  She is the self-appointed guardian of the bathroom door. If one of my boys tries to knock at the door, she'll growl and send them away. I've tried for years to explain that they are not out to attack their mother, but she does not believe me.

The cats I can see as parts of my personality, but the dog, well, I don't know. Maybe it's the side of her that is naturally beautiful, even as she is aging. Everyone who meets her oohs and ahhs over her gorgeous fur, lovely face, and friendly disposition. Yes, that must be it. It's our inner beauty that we have in common.

Definitely not connected in the Queen of Drama syndrome.

Heather Leigh

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book Blasts

Getting a book promoted--how is it done? As I have chosen the self-publishing route this time around for my young adult novel, Red Nectar, now I have the opportunity to learn about self-promoting.  First, of course, I told family and friends. The issue with this, however, is that none fall into the age category of the audience this book is written for: ten to twelve year olds.  That, and my circle of friends is limited and my family is small.  Even if every one I knew bought a copy, it wouldn't get onto the New York Times Best Sellers List--my ultimate goal (or maybe a movie--dreaming big is always a good thing!).

My Creative Writing teacher and friend, Dave Holper, suggested buying copies, giving them to every preteen I meet, and asking that it be passed on to others and reviewed on-line.  Okay, great suggestion number one is underway.  Last night I ordered ten copies and will order more when those are gone.

Next, my second cousin, Amanda Branham, has recently started an artwork promotion service. Now we're talking good stuff.  I'll be paying her an extremely reasonable amount to hit the social media waves with giant shocks of Red Nectar advertising.  I can write stories, and let someone else do the promoting and networking! As she loves the latter and I love the former, it's a win-win situation.  Don't you just love when that happens?

Lastly, I am begging, pleading, and beseeching at the top of my naturally quiet voice for The Universe to move mountains and get the word out there about what I think is a really darned good book.  Angels are allowed to advertise, aren't they?

Hey Little Baby went with the prized route of a major publisher, Simon and Schuster.  They got it reviewed in the big time writer's magazines and on-line, and got it selling in books stores and libraries.  Red Nectar is going to show its stuff through the non-traditional path (but becoming more popular) of self publishing. The other picture books, and one chapter book, I've written have been sent to smaller publishing houses.  And now I'm writing for a local magazine, which widens my resume and gets my name out there in the world of search engine optimization.  This is one of the things I love about writing: the diversity.  So the answer to my initial question about getting a book promoted is that, for me, each book will be promoted differently.  But that's today. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?

If anyone out there has a suggestion that worked for them, feel free to share. Creativity can go farther when more than one person adds to the pot of ideas.

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Walking, Wading, Wafting

Walking along the north side of the dark olive river this morning, there was a bird sound that I'm not certain was authentic.  It was a blending of a hoot and whistle at a medium pitch.  But there would not be duck hunters along a river that runs between a mall and condominiums, so it was probably a bird.  At first, I searched for the bird, but then decided that I would rather not know what was making the sound.  It gave me a pleasurable sense of mystery to not know where the call came from.

Wading a few feet from the bank of the slow flowing river was a fisherman in a rubber suit.  His body was supported by an air filled round tube that kept his chest above the water and allowed for free movement of his arms.  I wondered what it would be like, to be in a tranquil place out of view of the city not fifty feet away.  Did his feet touch the ground? Did his outfit keep him warm? Was he there for the love of fishing or the desire to be immersed in natural settings?  I wonder how he stayed in one place without being tugged down stream toward the ocean only a few miles away.  Why does water seem thicker when I can't see the bottom then when it is shallow and clear?  It appears more like the consistency of a watery olive paste then the water that I drink. But it's water, so it must be the same.

Wafting every few feet were smells that only my dog was interested in pursuing. I remind myself that this walk is for her enjoyment as well as mine as she stops periodically to take in the odor left by dogs before her.  What would life be like at the sight level of a dog? How would it feel to be at the mercy of a leash and who decides to adopt you? What would life be like if everyone I met was my friend and needed to be greeted when we passed? What does it feel like to have a black fur coat on every moment of your life?

Back at home, the palm tree outside the window is straight but the fronds flow with the movement of the wind.  Another day to write.

Heather Leigh

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cities Held In Check By Ocean Waters

The city sits behind me, straight lines of hot concrete, and the ocean is a straight line of blue in the distance, and white froth and movement up close.  Cities can press up against you, change their skyline, and intensify heat with wind-blocking buildings and hot tar streets.  Nature can be blocked, trees cut down, traffic incessant, and noise a constant.  But it all stops at the beach.

Swimming in the cold ocean waters is no longer inviting to me, having lived in tropical weather beach towns.  But opening up to the vastness of the sea while sitting on sandstone benches is a meditative treat.  I like the feeling that the man made stuff of cities is stopped by sand and waves.  Beyond a pier, a few boats and occasional ship, the backdrop of deep blue against the lighter blue sky is, hmm, wait, I can use the word of the day from my calendar, ineffable: to great to be expressed in words.

Yesterday, there was the perfect temperature blend from light breezes and warm spring sun, a rectangular piece of shade beneath a sign for our dog, Sydney, a high tide that brought in periodic waves over the lower rise of sandstone platforms, families playing in the waves and sand, and my boys laughing with their friends.

It was a good day.

Heather Leigh

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Book Was Way Better

How many times have you heard someone say the book was better than the movie?  My son starts laughing every time we hear this.

"Of course it's better," he'll cry out, "you can put all the thoughts and descriptions in a book!"

Whether or not books should be converted into a movie is often a passionate subject among writers.  No matter which way people lean, they are usually fixed to their preference and will argue their point.  And this is a question that I have received many times.

My answer?  I love a good movie. And movies are not meant to be exactly like the book. When they are, it rarely spits out a decent one. Movies are their own beast, a different entity than the written word. They are comprised of visuals and dialogues.  Is it a sin against the humanity of a book to use it's premise to put together a movie?  No, it's just another way to get an idea.  And when I see a movie based on a book, I have to go out and read the book to compare them.

Books, beautiful rapturous books, are open to the creative visualizations of the reader.  They can give thoughts, viewpoints, allusions and illusions, descriptions, and more, while leaving wide open spaces for imagination--blowing away the moving picture competition.  What's not to love?

And picture books do this in 32 pages with still illustrations. Wow.

For me, comparing books to movies is like comparing my children to one another.  Both are so different, but equally entertaining.  But both are far better to hang out with when they're being 'good'.

With two exceptions that I won't name, books are always better than the movie.

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Sin of Adverbs and Adjectives

Have you ever gone through your written story and taken out every adverb and adjective?  How about every word, sentence, phrase, paragraph and line that does not propel the story forward? Try it.  What is left behind is your story.

Thanks to the marvelous instruction of a class I took from Diane D'Andrade, professor and editor, I learned this technique.  Was I ever surprised by how much was cut out--how short my piece became.

Next, go back over the story and selectively add the words, adverbs and adjectives that enhance the story, not show your audience how great you are with a Thesaurus.  Your story will go up the ladder in professionalism.

On one of those flung out existentialist things, I believe this to be close to what spiritual masters are hinting at when they say to not judge, live in the moment, and speak your truth (that's a lot of stuff all rolled up into one sentence, so bare with me).  Writing what has been referred to as an honest sentence, one without fanfare--just the facts, forces a writer to examine every word that is adhered to the paper.  No glossing, no tricky word play, no superficial junk.  A story, a life, a way of being that does not judge what is being portrayed.  It is wiping your ego off the slate and attempting to give a story that is not about you, but about the story.

Is using the word 'story' twice in one sentence a writing faux paus?

Heather Leigh