Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hell if I Know

I have no idea what I'm doing. It's true. It doesn't matter if we're talking about teaching, parenting, writing, sewing, breathing.. I have no clue. I'm just making things up as I go along and hoping no one notices. Luckily I've become good at faking it, but that doesn't change the fact that I feel like a fraud.

I have these moments of clarity when I think, "Hey, I'm a grown up now," or "Wow, I've been teaching for fifteen years," or, "My kids are still alive!" and think I may be competent. But then I wake up the next day and have to fight my own self doubt again.

In The War of Art author Steven Pressfield calls this niggling doubt of being an impostor "Resistance."

Resistance lurks and preys on insecurities. What makes me think I'm good enough to write a book that people want to read? I'm just me, how can I design and sew a dress that looks like anything other than bits of fabric an overweight mom threw together in her kitchen?

Sometimes Resistance floors me, filling me with doubt and self loathing. Then there are the times that I square my shoulders and flip it of and write because I love writing. I know that dress looks great because I trust my judgement (except when I don't). I am so full of ideas, of color, of energy, how can I not create?

Creative outlets, in writing or teaching or parenting, are where I find fulfillment so how can I let Resistance make me complacent and willing to be mediocre? In order to believe this about myself I have to redefine success to the act of creativity rather than any sort of external validation. Of course, this makes it easier to listen to Resistance when it tells me my books are terrible, but in the end I trust the spark inside me that pushes me to keep truckin'.

So, KERPLOWWWIE! I will continue to spray the world with my creative juices (ewww) because 1. I can. And 2. It makes me whole.

Who cares if I'm just making it up as I go along? Isn't that what creativity is?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Words, Words, Words

I remember using the "n" word as a child (the 1970s) with my friends when "eeny, meeny, miny, mo" had different words than it does today. Yes, I'm white. No, I did not live in a white supremacist community/family. At the time I didn't understand the history or the impact; now the word gives me the creeps. As a teacher I've dealt with students who have used the word to hurt, knowing full well the impact, but having no empathy for the recipient. I like to think caring will increase with age (hooray for optimism).

Today I used the word "tinker" and the woman with whom I was speaking winced. Based on my life experiences, tinker was a commonly used word and, at the time, didn't seem negative -- as far as I knew, it's just what the travelling people were called. I gather by the reaction today that the word's connotation has changed. Or, perhaps, the word always was offensive and I wasn't aware (innocent ignorance - the same could be said of the word in the first paragraph). Either way, I was embarrassed by my usage today.

In my historical manuscripts I strive to use accurate words for the times. If I question something's historical authenticity, I look it up just to be sure I'm correctly representing the era. That said, values have changed since the fifteen seventies and the significance of historically accurate terms to the modern reader may seriously impact the reading experience. My most recent research was on the terminology for early condoms (one nickname: scum bag.... ewwww).

Bearing in mind the reaction of the modern reader, I do not put faggots on the fire. I do not call ladies wenches, but nor do I use the term to imply a woman of ill repute (wench meant female and was not rank or morality specific). As much as I avoid addressing the hygiene norms of time in order to maintain reader buy-in to the romance, I keep obsolete, though era appropriate words to the minimum. As far as words go, black people in Tudor England would have been referred to as Moors or Ethiopians (to name a few examples) and were present during this time, not only in a slave capacity. I wonder if, at that time, there was objection to the generalization and massive grouping of a people comprised of many tribal identities. Either way, during those times, they were certainly considered more socially acceptable than those known as Gypsies or Romany. That said, I would never disparage the Gypsy people, even in a historical when that would have been the attitude of the day. It could alienate the reader.

The question this brings to mind is: should I? Should I aim for historical accuracy despite the potential for reader reaction? I think the answer lies in whether I'm writing historical fiction or historical romance. I addressed abortion in my second manuscript, but I did so keeping in mind the modern reader response rather than the Elizabethan attitude toward it. I did this to be safe, if not true to the era (and worked it into my main character's arc of self acceptance). Today, abortion is controversial and involves the question of when life begins. All my reading of Queen Elizabeth's court shows there was no such moral quandary.

These same issues were prevalent when I performed in a living history group. How much history do you sacrifice to the need to be entertaining/non-offensive? It's a delicate balance that can be upset by a single word.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Dear Blog

 Dear Blog,
          I've been working on an alternate project lately and can't really tell you about it. Rest assured that I am still writing, but I took a left turn at Albuquerque and who knows where I'll end up.
          I've been mulling over a question. I strongly believe that a writer should be true to themselves. That said, how smart is it to keep being true to yourself when rejection after rejection tells you that you are on the wrong path? There are only so many times you can tell yourself that you just haven't found the right agent yet before you come to the conclusion that the problem is with yourself.
         I know, dear blog, that you are on my side. I know you think I'm a great writer with manuscripts the world has been waiting to see. Thank you for that. I just think that, perhaps, it may not be the manuscripts that I have already written. That leaves me with the problem of figuring out where I go wrong. The latest rejection told me there was a problem with the pacing. Does that mean it's too fast? Or too staccato? That I don't give enough breathing space? I don't know.
        This brings me back to my first point. I'm taking a break from querying, pitching, or putting myself out there at all. I need to focus on my craft and find my voice. I also need to confirm whether my voice is in genre fiction or literary fiction and go all in.
        As for you, blog, I think I'll return to the premise of building my craft in my posts. Does that mean you'll still hear about Irish dancing? Well, I don't think that I can avoid including that. I hope you don't mind.  But, for the time being, there will be no conference/pitching posts because that's not where I am right now.
        Are we cool?

         Erin Spock

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sure, I Can Make an Irish Solo Dress...

You see the price tags on the USED dresses and think to yourself that you have years of sewing experience. You even have experience in costuming. You can embroider, you can bead. Hell, you once made a dress that weighed almost forty pounds, a little baby Irish dress has got to be cake.

Well, it's not. It's so much more than a dress. It has to hang correctly when stationary and when moving. The skirt has to be weighted to stay down, but light enough to pop up with kicks. The bodice can't be form fitting, but should show the dancer's posture and form. The sleeves should always been in the down position and hang correctly that way, but the dancer needs to be able to fix her wig.

For my first dress I was worried about putting in a zipper. One YouTube tutorial later and the zipper was the least of my worries. In the long run, my biggest struggle (construction-wise) was with the sleeves. The detail work took some getting used to as well. I hated the idea of working with glue and opted to stitch on all the beads. This resulted in a dress that, up close, had a home-made quality. I still think it danced well, but I was too stuck in my own vision to consider resale.

This is a good source that answers questions about Irish dresses. I also found this very helpful when it came to patterning and applique. Then there is always just looking at the dresses, figuring out how the professionals pieced them together (this has been the most helpful). To look at some of the big name designers, click on the images included in this post.

I had a similar experience when it came to writing my first book. I'd always been a big reader, but didn't think, "Hey, I could write this," until I started reading romance (my Mom's Fabio collection). I realize now that I didn't have a respect for the genre or the writers at that time. Not until, years later, I struggled with my own story arc did I really pick apart what made a good book and gain appreciation for the nuances of the story building.

My first book was a labor of love, based entirely on my vision of how it should be. No, it didn't/hasn't sold. There's been interest, yes - but ultimately I hear that it's more like historical fiction than historical romance.

Just like with my first solo dress. I received compliments, sincere ones about how pretty the dress was. But was it an Irish solo dress? I'm learning.

My point here is that, from the outside, sometimes things look simpler than they are in reality. This is not new news by any means, but it's a lesson I learn over and over again. Knowing this has made me a kinder person, less critical. I appreciate the work that goes into making something great so much more than I did when I was full of unjustified confidence.

And thus, I am finished with another adequate blog post.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Aphrodisiac Flash Fiction

I wrote this short piece for Romantic Friday Writers a in 2012. Since then, this is the post most of my friends recount to me when we discuss my writing. I thought I would re-post it just for fun (and to keep my posts more regular, a goal of mine).

Aphrodisiac Schmaphrodisiac
The goose was rubbed down with honey and citrus. I had been drawing cup after cup of rendered fat away for the past three hours. Oysters chilled on their bed of ice in my sink with only a little of my blood still staining the drain from my first practice shucking. The artichokes were steaming and the olive oil, caper, and dill drizzle was setting, drawing and blending flavors. The wine had been decanted, my prized Waterford red wine goblets, polished.
I had eschewed my regular floral perfume for a spicy cinnamon body lotion. My hair was loose, my cleavage bountiful. I had followed the Aphrodisiac Cookbook to the letter, but knew if all else failed, I could count on my breasts.
One way or another, I was going to get laid tonight. No, not 'laid'–seduced. My needs were basic; I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to feel. For so long I had been a wife and mother. Toward the end, when the Huntington's had disabled the man I married, I was more caretaker than wife. Now, with Jason finally at peace and the boys in college, it was time to be a woman again. I blinked away the threatening tears and checked my eyes in the mirror. The mascara was definitely worth the eight dollars, though the lip stain looked too contrived. Grimacing, I wondered if I should have colored my hair. The strands of silver among the auburn screamed, "Old lady." And no one seduced an old lady. No, they helped her open jars and cross the road. My skin was still smooth. Without the grey, I could, maybe, have pulled off thirty-nine. With the grey I was every inch of forty-seven. I ran a finger over my brows, and gave myself a smile. I looked... well, I look like me. And Mr. Harris, David, already knew what I looked like.
The chimes sounded. He was here. I took a deep breath and slipped my bare feet into the kitten heeled slings I bought years ago for a Caribbean cruise but never wore. They still felt sexy.
He stood in the doorway, tall and clean cut in his casual slacks. My son’s former soccer coach, I’d never seen him in anything but his team jersey and sweats.
“Good evening, Mrs. Walsh.” He smiled and brought his hand from behind his back. Roses.
I blushed like an idiot and took them, my smile  so big it hurt. “Gemma, please.”
“Sorry. Old habits.”
I stepped back and he stepped in, wiping his feet on the rug. I should have moved further back—I was too close, in his space. Before I could, he took my hand.
“I’ve been looking forward to tonight for a long time.”
His voice was deeper than I remembered. He was holding my hand—should I squeeze? Pull away? Stay limp? I blushed again, burying my face in the roses. Jeese, you’d think I was sixteen, not someone who couldn’t open jars.
“David,” his name sounded decadent on my tongue, “would you like some wine?” I gestured with the bouquet, but stayed beside him, my hand warm in his.
“Umm, yes,” he cleared his throat, “Or no. Not now. Christ, I’m no good at this.”
“Good at what?” My voice was breathless.
He stepped closer, tracing my cheek with his finger. My breath caught in my throat as he leaned toward me.
            “This,” he whispered. Lowering his head he brushed my lips with his. His hand cradled my jaw, his fingers spearing back into my hair.
I leaned closer and he pressed his mouth more firmly against mine. Closing my eyes, I melted into him and he wrapped his arms around me.
The roses fell to the floor, the timer on the oven beeped, and the wine continued to breathe. None of it mattered. This man, David, he wanted me, grey hair and all, without aphrodisiacs.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Naughty, Naughty Me

Today I packed up my classroom and completed all the check-out procedures at my school. While I waited for my exit interview with my principal, I decided to work on one of my blog posts on a school computer. Our filters are really ineffective, but they worked today and I was blocked. Not only was I blocked, I was given a summary of all the reasons.

Wow. I guess this is what I blog about. I'm pretty daring. One might even say I'm naughty. The block made me laugh, but I couldn't explain it to my colleague because a parent walked in.

I'm not sure what else there is to say, Diladele Web Safety said it all. I do wonder, though, why the terms 'free,' 'petite,' 'tour,' and 'teen' were blocked. As for 'blonde,' that goes without saying.

Maybe this should be part of my blog tag line.

Spock Writes Romance
The blog where you'll find erotic sexual content such as anal fetish porn, twats and more twats, rape, fetishes, blonde whores, sluts with fingers, full frontal, a few more whores, and much, much more!

Man, I hate the word twat.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Defining Literary Fiction

In jumping the romance ship (sort of) I have to acquaint myself with norms for the much broader umbrella of literary fiction. That said, it seems there are no norms other than telling a good story. Then again, that could be said for any of the genre fiction categories -- the underlying factor that makes them genre is that the bulk of the story meets a certain angle. In my case, romance requires an emotionally satisfying happily ever after. All of my manuscripts meet this romance norm, but the romance between my main characters does not always meet the aspect of fantasy implicit in romance, hence the switch.

Part of my research brought me across "Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction," a Huffington Post article by Steven Petit. I agree with much of what he says about the difference between genre and literary fiction except for the distinction that genre fiction is to entertain and literary fiction is an expression of the writer's being. Gotham Writers points out that "literary and genre fiction aren’t exclusive of one another." Every thing I have written has been an expression of my soul and I would argue that many author's of genre fiction put themselves into their books and consider them art, albeit art that entertains. Art is successful when it draws forth an emotional response and I like to flatter myself that my writing does just that (even with a happily ever after). Maybe that's because I am amazing. Sure. Why not? 

I struggle with maintaining the norms of one sub-genre of romance. My historical romances are too  chick lit and historical fiction to have a clear shelf space (and I've heard this from my critique partner, my beta readers, AND industry professionals so it's insane that I'm only now accepting it as truth). My paranormal are too historical and thriller/suspense to even be categorized under romance at all. The only clear genre fiction I have in the works (notice it's not finished) are my contemporary, but contemporary romance in itself is also skirting the boundary of chick lit, so bully for me.

In short, I think good writing is "Literary Fiction is comprised of the heart and soul of a writer's being, and is experienced as an emotional journey through the symphony of words, leading to a stronger grasp of the universe and of ourselves" (Petit).  This description can apply to all genres and gives me hope of being successful as I look into a new pool of agents and publishers.

For now I'll ignore the niggling doubt that reminds me many of the agents I have queried in the past represent more than romance. That said, if they saw something more like literary fiction in my manuscripts, wouldn't they have instigated the change? Or were they looking only for romance norms since that was the description they started with?
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