Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Women Spies in the World Wars: Marika Rokk

In my research for At the Table of Wolves, I found a number of fascinating stories of women who played important roles in the world of espionage. This is one of them.

Marika Rokk

Said to be one of Hitler’s favorite actresses, Marika Rokk is likely to have had a secret life working against the Nazis for the Russians.

Born in Cairo to Hungarian parents and raised in Budapest, Marika Rokk got her start in show business in Paris, performing in the Moulin Rouge cabaret.

She was in the right place at the right time in 1935 when Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, decided that Germany needed its own film star who could help showcase German films and engage in the culture wars with Britain and particularly the US with its superstars like Ginger Rodgers and Rita Hayworth. Rokk was relatively well-known dancer in various European revues and was tapped by Goebbels to be a Nazi film star. Subsequently, the two had an affair, but it is believed that by 1940 she had been recruited by the KGB. Read More…

Writing on a Bad Hair Day

Here’s my next installment on author myths.

Myth #5  Writers depend on inspiration to get through the writing day.

This one comes from the idea that writers are artists. And artists, as we all know–or think we know–are so very sensitive and subject to crippling moods.

It’s a persistent idea that writers are subject to unbearable sensitivities. The idea goes like this: writers are obviously creative people, and their fragile artistic selves have to wait for inspiration. The creative process, after all, must be fueled by the muse. When she’s snubbing you, you’re toast.

Is it true? Well. I’ve been inspired at times and bored with my work at times, and I’d much prefer to have aOvercoming Writers Block big dose of inspiration. Truth to tell, sometimes I’d settle for even a tiny spark. But if nothin’s there, a journeyman writer can’t wait for the muse to make an appearance. Nor is it a time–even with a big deadline looming–to break out the whiskey and work through the night.

The reality is, I’ve never blown a deadline so badly that I had to work all night. (Don’t ask about the whiskey.) This is because, even in times when I’ve been bored with my work in progress, I’ve been writing anyway. This is true even when I’m thinking the story may be terminally ill, my writing chops aren’t up to the challenge, and I’m so not in the mood to write.

Bad Hair Days

The reality of the writing life is, you may not get a great idea every day, but you write anyway. You refuse the excuse of writer’s block. It’s just a mood, not a cardinal principal.

You write through the blahs, because sometimes inspiration comes only after you’ve been typing for awhile. If you don’t have a great opening sentence, start with an adequate one. If your opening line is totally lame, just get it on the page and fix it later.

I know. It’s hard to watch yourself write lines, paragraphs, pages that lack elegance, interest, and originality. But you soldier on. If you’ve been writing long enough you know that eventually you’ll find your sea legs. And here’s the thing: Sometimes it’s because you wrote the lame material that the good stuff comes. You were just warming up. Your brain was not in the mood to write, but once it saw that writing was inevitable, it said, Oh for crying out loud, ALL RIGHT.

And then, because you’ve seen it work over and over again, you tolerate bad writing because you know that rewriting will be loads of fun. OK, strike that last idea. I know only a very few, highly annoying, people who love to rewrite, but at least most of us know that it can all be fixed on the next pass.

So, do you write when you’re feeling down, beat up, or just plain blah? Yes, you do. Because you know that while inspiration is the spice of the writing life, it isn’t the most important thing.

The most important thing is to practice your craft and have faith that the deep, beautiful story is within your grasp . . . but only if you keep writing.

Myth #1. It’s All in Who You Know

Myth #2. The Glamour and Prestige

Myth #3. It’s a Dog Eat Dog World

 

It’s a Dog Eat Dog World

Today I continue my musings on the top myths of the writing life. Wherein I share some of the odd notions I started out with; and how they just ain’t true.

My journey in writing started over two decades ago. I don’t blame myself for not having had a clue about things. In fact, I’ve been delighted to be proven wrong. Over and over again.

Wrong about what? Things like how one big introduction or connection will launch my career; how cool and glamorous being a published author is (Go ahead, fellow authors, snicker!)

And today’s myth: how in this cut-throat competitive arena, authors basically wish you ill.

Myth #3: Other Writers Will Stab You in the Back

When I first started out, I was concerned about the hyper-competitive publishing environment. It’s a dog eat dog world, I reasoned. All those raging egos and jealous fellow writers!

What I was conflating is the competition for visibility and sales, which is real, but not the result of other authors working against you–and relationships with other writers. (Perhaps spawned in the memory of those horrid high school cliques of oh-so-together people.)

To be fair, the publishing world is tough, and one is going to get bruised in ego and pocket book. It should give aspiring authors a few moment pause before plunging in. But we don’t need to worry about everything. Some things will be remarkably rewarding.

Like people. Yes, published authors are usually highly competitive. They have enormous energy to invest in creation and promotion. We can’t help but envy them and worry that we’ll never achieve what they have. That’s natural. And if you find yourself feeling these things and wonder whether you have a nasty, paranoid mind set, stop beating yourself up. We all experience those feelings. Um, perennially.

The fact is, however, that other authors will end up being among your best friends. Remember, everyone is basically lonely and afraid. It’s human nature. Most writers relate to the uncertainty and frustration of the writing life, and are generous with each other. No one else “gets” the writing life as much as another writer. I even think that there may be more generosity among writers than in other fields.

And inevitably, you’ll click with a few writers, and you’ll share the journey with them–through the ups and downs, at conventions and signings, at writing retreats and worry sessions over the phone if your buddies are far away. When you make a big sale they’ll email you a picture of them toasting you! They’ll give you blurbs for your books. They’ll help you strategize, celebrate, and survive.

So much for stabbing in the back.

It’s a dog help dog world. And even when it isn’t, if you’re open to building friendships, there’ll be a group of writers who’ll be on your side. I guarantee it.

For the other posts on my Myths of the Writing Life series.

Myth #1. It’s All in Who You Know

Myth #2. The Glamour and Prestige

 

Oh, the unbearable glamour

This is my second post on the myths of being an author. Some of these casual assumptions are great fun, but they may not be at all true to life. The reality of being an author and getting and staying published is far less dramatic than many people believe when they start out. But the truth of it is also less daunting!

The last post on “myths” was on finding Mr. Big, or the person we assume will save us and how (not) to get this person’s attention.

Myth #2. The Glamour and Prestige

Most of us starting out would never admit that there’s a teensy part of us that imagines life as an author is glamorous. We say instead that we have always wanted to write, that we have stories inside us that demand to be written, or more self-deprecating: we just don’t feel suited to doing anything else.

But deep down, there are images: sitting at a desk in front of window, sun streaming in, ink flowing from the pen; the line of people at the bookstore eager for our signature on a book; holding forth on Oprah on How I Wrote this National Bestseller. “Oprah, it started when I found a tattered newspaper on a park bench with a minor story on the Prime Minister’s cat. . .” Read More…

Meeting Mr. Big

Most professions spawn myths. They cling pretty tightly, despite the facts. Like: Actors are superstitious. Screenwriting is a glamorous line of work.

These things are fun to say and think about, but they just aren’t generally true.

Writing, particularly novel writing, has a few myths of its own. In my next few posts I’ll cover a few of them. Sometimes aspiring novelists (not all–I know some of you are doing your homework!) don’t have a realistic notion of what they’re getting into. So let’s explode some preconceptions that may get us off on the wrong foot.

I’m here to say that the reality of being an author and getting (and staying) published is way less dramatic than many people believe when they’re first starting out. But the truth of it is also less daunting.

Myth #1. It’s All in Who You Know

This one is surrounded by a romantic plot line that goes something like this:  You struggle for years in obscurity (usually on one, soul-sucking novel) until you finally get a big break. You meet the right person. At last! An agent, say. Or an editor.

For fun, let’s call this person Mr. Big. Once you meet Mr. Big, you’re on your way. Read More…