July 26, 2011

Six Ways to Beat BIC Flab

You've heard the mantra. Hunker down and write the story. Great advice except while you're exercising those little grey cells the rest of you is going slack.

Think not?  Flick under your arm. Must be jelly 'cause jam don't shake.

I've learned a few tricks to fight the jiggles, top and bottom. See if any of them work for you.

1. Buy a balance ball and use it as a chair. Works the core while you sit. Open up those thighs. Tighten those buns. Squeeze and bounce.

2. When you're stuck or need a few minutes to reflect, pick up a latex resistance band and stretch: side-to-side, front to back, top-down.

3. Take water breaks. In the kitchen, do push ups against the counter and then shake out your arms and body. Indulge your inner wet dog.

4. Keep small weights nearby. Strengthen biceps and triceps while checking email.

5. Breathe, deeply. Muscles need oxygen.

6. Every page or so, get up and swivel your hips to a sultry song. Imagine Daniel Craig is watching.  ;-)

July 20, 2011

Timeless Tales: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

With basics taking up a larger portion of income, buying new books isn’t always feasible. You can request them at libraries, but their budgets are shrinking, too. What’s a reader to do? Easy. Enjoy the classics!

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1959 Newbery Award Winner)

Don’t be fooled by the title. While Speare addresses 17th century witch hysteria, this book is basically the story of a free-spirited girl from Barbados struggling against the constraints of a Puritan community and finding love. 

We meet sixteen-year-old Katherine (Kit) Tyler on a boat near the Eastern seaboard, a “plain girl with a beautiful smile” talking with Nat, the shipmaster’s son—wiry and good-looking, of course. Newly orphaned Kit is the daughter of a Caribbean plantation owner who’s grown up with personal slaves and arrives unprepared for the hardscrabble life of her aunt’s household. Exhausted and furious at being forced to work, Kit thinks she’s found a way out when a rich merchant’s son comes courting and starts building a mansion for her.

But Kit isn’t destined to be a docile companion. She scandalizes adults with her opinions—young ladies do not talk about politics in 1687—and wreaks havoc at her cousin’s school with unscripted lessons.  Despondent and desperate, Kit finds unexpected relief in the meadows near Blackbird Pond, where she meets and befriends an old woman:

“All at once, with an instinctive quickening of her senses, Kit knew that she was not alone, that someone was very close. She started up. Only a few feet away a woman was sitting watching her, a very old woman with short-cropped white hair and faded, almost colorless eyes set deep in an incredibly wrinkled face. As Kit stared at her she spoke in a rusty murmuring voice:

“Thee did well, child, to come to the Meadow. There is always a cure here when the heart is troubled.”

When her relationship with the widow Hannah Tupper leads to accusations of witchcraft and a trial, Kit learns she isn’t as alone as she thought.

I like Kit’s feistiness, though her superior attitude put me off at times. Kneeling beside her cousin Judith to pick onions, Kit scorns the “work that a high-class slave in Barbados would rebel at”. By book’s end, however, she's grown to appreciate her new world, especially since it includes a budding romance with Nat.

Recommended for readers 12 and above.

Have you read it?

July 12, 2011

Looking for Inspiration

There's an interesting post about writers who use different types of imagery to inspire their work over at The Enchanted Inkpot.

I've blogged before about totems scattered around my desk and home. I also rely on visuals. While researching Slavic mythology for my current WIP, I looked for pictures of the thunder god, Perun, a main character in my story. Here's one:

Now imagine you're Nadya, a sixteen-year-old descendant of the mermaid goddess Jurata, living a cloistered life by the Baltic Sea. You unwittingly summon Perun. He insists you're Jurata reborn—killed at his hands after she spurned him to love a human—and claims you for his queen.

When you marry, he'll make you immortal. You'll fly above storms in his chariot and accept the adulation of worshipers at his temple. When his temper erupts, your siren's voice will calm his rages.

The catch: leave and he'll wipe out your family. Hmm, eternity with a hotheaded killer. Not exactly the kind of relationship your average girl dreams of in this or any other world.

But Nadya isn't your average girl. ;-)

Where do you find inspiration?

July 5, 2011

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret

I'm updating my home library with some classics and, of course, had to add at least one Judy Blume favorite.

Published more than 40 years ago, Blume's exploration of tween angst still rings true. Yes, parts of it are dated — can't imagine anyone relating to a square dance these days — but Blume captures the desperation of every girl who feels she's not normal. Stuffing bras, anyone? :)

It brought back memories of the day my mother made me tell my father that I was now a woman. Talk about humiliating!

And that film we all had to see? Who can forget learning that your reproductive system looks like a ram's head?

Have to admire Blume for writing a book that addresses tween angst and choosing a religion, though I feel that particular aspect was less well developed. For someone working on a school project about faith, Margaret's investigations felt shallow, just attending Mass and temple a few times and deciding she didn't feel God's presence.

Even so, it's a brave concept and Blume has taken a lot of heat for it, earning a spot on the ALA's top 100 challenged books. Understandable, given that religion is one of the most heated topics in any decade, but banning a book because it talks about breasts and menstruation? Ridiculous.

Have you read it?