Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Stars Rising and Falling

51KWV913P1LMy Stars Are Still Shining: A Memoir by Amina Warsuma.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Amina Warsuma has experienced abandonment, bullying, abuse, jealousy, drugs, rape, destitution, wealth, celebrity, insight, care and compassion in her life, so far. In My Stars Are Still Shining she shares these childhood, adolescent and adult events, reactions, and consequences with complete honesty and understanding. Nobody is vilified, or perfect, including herself. I found her life to be both fascinating, and instructive.

The story begins with the background of the two women who had the most influence on Amina – Miss June and Miss Billie. She describes there lives growing up in Mobile, Alabama, how they ended up in New York, and how they came into Amina’s life. She shares there relationships, families, ups and downs, and personalities. Once that foundation is set, she takes the reader into her confidence and explores her own beginning years, and the mother (Virginia) who was so often absent.

“We were at Miss June’s no more than 10 minutes when my mother said, ‘I’m going to the store. I’ll be right back.’ She exited Miss June’s apartment and day after day, Miss June and I waited for her to return. A week passed and my mother was nowhere to be seen. My mother disappeared for 5 years.” Similar occurrences took place throughout Amina’s life, including moving from one house to another throughout New York City.

This is a fascinating book. It is part historical (about the South in the last century, and New York City and Harlem in the 40s, 50s, and 60s); part autobiographical (as the author grows up and comes into her own); and part biography (about Michael Jackson, and her longtime friendship with him and his family). Amina has endured many things, and flourished as a model, writer, actress, producer, and dancer. She reveals herself with both objectivity, insight and emotion. Don’t hesitate to get a copy of My Stars Are Still Shining.

A Cornucopia of Value

51a7xrY5DzLPublishing Tools of the Trade Every Author Must Know by Lama Jabr.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

This book caught me off guard, and in a very good way. I’ve done a lot of research over the years into writing, publishing and marketing books, and thought I was aware of most of the resources available for writers. Girl, was I wrong.

Publishing Tools of the Trade Every Author Must Know is a cornucopia of valuable links to most every legitimate, helpful site that I’ve know about, plus many others that I had not heard of before. There is a brief description, and the direct link, for every website listed.

Sections range from “Editing and proofreading”, “Book promotion sites”, and “Author Interview Opportunities”, to “Blogs”, “Marketing” and “Social Networking Sites for Authors”. Every area of this resource manual is also updated regularly, so there are few links out of date.

What is most amazing, and appreciated, is that all this information is assembled in one place and provided for free. Lama Jabr has given us a unique service, without strings. Her kindness, and care, in putting this together, and offering it without charge, deserves deep gratitude.

For further information about Lama Jabr and Xana Publishing and Marketing:
http://xanapublishingandmarketing.com

You Can Do Better

15085511-571384093053277-7761181997008017758-nSo, this was interesting. After a few years writing the screenplay for my story “Sorrow’s Embrace“, it was finally optioned by Breezeway Productions, and is now in development with Breezeway and Buffalo 8 Productions. I thought this was the beginning of the end for this screenwriting journey and it would soon be in distribution. Thankfully, my head got pulled out of the clouds before I floated away.

Just as directors, actors, actresses, producers, and others are lining up to get involved, the casting director, Nicole, tells me the script needs some work, and isn’t good enough to send out to “named talent”. At first, I thought, “Okay. Let me know what needs to be fixed and I’ll get it back to you in a day or two.” What needed “fixing” turned out to be much more extensive and time-consuming.

After grumbling to myself about all the work it would take, I started the rewrite using her suggestions, comments, and insight. Two weeks later, I am proud to say that this is now a story that will not only attract “name talent”, but be well worth watching, when it is released. Though I was reluctant at first, and skeptical, I am happy to admit that she was right on all accounts.

Now, it is on to rewrite my other screenplays (Buddha’s Wife, and The Last Conception), which are based on my books of the same names. I thought they were good already, now I can see how to make them much much better.

No Place Like Home

labygccoverSome people like to do it in bed. Others in a car, on a plane, or a train. A few prefer using other people’s houses, and caffeine addicts like doing it at coffee shops. What? No, I’m not talking about sex or eating. It’s all about writing. Well, usually.

You can see people going to retweets, or renting out cottages far away from there abode, or hanging out at Starbucks, furiously typing, looking off into space, or talking to themselves. You know these people. You may BE one of these people. For me, there’s nothing like creating at home.

Writing at home gives me a sense of security and safety, so that I can write about horrendous, dangerous, wild scenes, and acts, that I may never have done, or want to do, personally, yet the story, and/or characters, call for them to come forth and be manifested on the page (or screen).

I can take a break at home, without running into others, or being distracted from my train of thought or ideas. Grabbing something to eat is as easy as walking into the kitchen. Taking a nap, or reading someone else’s story, is as simple as laying down, or picking up a book. And, there are no lines, or waiting, for the bathroom.

There are a variety of places to write at home, including my desk, chairs, couches, in the garden, or in bed. It is also cheaper to do one’s writing where you live, as there are no expenses, or time, for transportation, workshop fees, or cabin rental.

Now that I think of it, it can be enjoyable to have sex at a restaurant, in a writer’s cabin, in a car, on a plane, or a train, but I think I prefer that most at home too, just like writing. If I plan it just right, I could write and have sex in bed at the same time. Ah, there’s no place like home.

Loving Annalise was conceived and written entirely at home,

Pleasure or Pain?

LastConception-CoverDoes writing give you pleasure, or is it a pain? Are you struggling through every line, wishing it would end, or enjoying the process word by word? Do you write out of necessity, or as a hobby, or pleasant pastime? Writers’ have argued through the centuries about whether writing should be, or is, a process of hard labor, or whether it is a joyous exercise in reflecting oneself and the world in which we live.

Some writers’ say they cannot live without writing something every day. Others tells us they write in spurts, when moved to do so, or have long periods of inactivity and/or creative ideas. And a few cannot stop writing once they get started and write manically, without pause or respite.

I’ve been told that writing involves a high degree of masochistic tendencies if you are not writing solely for pleasure, but to have what you’ve written read and accepted by others. There is a lot of truth in this, as so few writers ever receive any recognition, let alone financial rewards, for there many hours of plotting, research, editing, characterization, and marketing.

From my experience, writing can be both pleasurable and painful, whether it is for personal or public consumption. Scribbling, or typing, refried storylines again and again, is easy, but artistically boring. Writing something that has never been put together in quite the same way, can take hours of painstaking thought, and pleasurable results. Then again, the results may be painful to see, and not as joyous as the process.

So, this may sound weird, but unless it is a wee bit difficult, or challenging, I do not enjoy writing. That doesn’t mean I prefer an extremely intimidating project, but one that calls me out to do my best, improve my skills, and look at an issue, or story, with fresh eyes. Writing something I’ve written a thousand times before, though perhaps monetarily rewarding, is more painful than a new challenge.

What’s your hit? What’s it like for you? Do you cringe at the thought of a deadline, having to think of an idea, or putting an idea on paper? Or, do you get excited each time the words in your head come out on the screen as you envisioned? Pleasure and pain are somewhat subjective, but are also very real. I guess the real question is whether pleasure or pain is the driving force behind your writing, or any aspect of why you write at all.

Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba, The Last Conception, and Loving Annalise, are some of Gabriel’s most recent works of fiction. They were pleasurably painful to write.

Fictional Realities

41jh2yi72qlThere is a friend of mine, who worked with me as a nurse at hospice a few years back. One day, after work, I met her husband. When I asked her the next day how they’d met, she told me she’d been married to his brother. Well, I thought, that’s interesting. Tell me more. What arose from her telling was a story that sounded like a movie. She isn’t the kind of person who jokes around, so I knew she was telling the truth, though it could have been the best of fiction. That’s when I decided to make it just that – a fictional story based on real life. Loving Annalise was the result.

After years of poverty, heartbreak, loss and betrayal, Tomas enters Annalise’s world and shatters the iron casing she’s erected around her heart. Tomas is kind, intelligent, romantic and handsome, but he’s also her husband’s brother! Once Tomas and Annalise meet, they are forever intertwined and repeatedly ripped apart by fate, self-doubt and blackmail. Her husband, Jens, is a brilliant, jealous and manipulative scoundrel who keeps her psychologically under lock and key, until her passion for Tomas sets her free.

Writing Loving Annalise is the second time I’ve written a novel based on historical realities. Buddha’s Wife was the first. Though most of the people in the story existed, and some of the places, times, and words are reported to have been accurate, the majority of the conversations, interactions, and story-line were imagined. Like Loving Annalise, Buddha’s Wife is based on history, and people that were living breathing beings.

Loving Annalise, and Buddha’s Wife, are the only time I have written stories in this fashion. Normally (whatever that is), I either write straight fiction, or non-fiction, about a specific person, place, or issue, and do not attempt to combine these disparate genres. That doesn’t mean that parts of my life, and personal experiences, do not influence or become part of my writing, but not intentionally (that I am aware of).

Taking Liberty With the Truth

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbFor my satirical book of koans, stories, and words of wisdom (Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire), I used the same format that was used in the 1961 classic book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. Zen Flesh presented the sayings, teachings, and koans of real Japanese teachers, whereas Zen Master Tova takes liberty with a fictional character and the truth, to put it mildly.

From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Nan-in a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty our cup?”

From Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba

“Do cats and dogs have Buddha-nature” Sister Sexton asked Master Toshiba.

“Yes.”

“Can cats and dogs attain enlightenment?”

“Yes.”

“Can all animals reach Samadhi?”

“Yes.”

“Do insects and bugs have Buddha-nature?” Sister Sexton persisted.

“Yes, they do,” The Master, patiently replied.

“Is it possible for vegetables, fruit, and flowers to see their true selves?”

“Yes, they can.”

“What about dirt, grass, trees, rocks, and water?”

“All life can become conscious of its true nature, even if it does not have a consciousness, as we know it.”

“Then surely, all women and men can awake to their Buddha-nature and find peace?”

“Yes, all women can express their Buddha-nature and attain enlightenment.” Master Tarantino paused, “As far as ‘all men’. I’ll have to think about that.”

Perhaps this use of fact and fiction are more intertwined than we like to believe, and history is permeated with realities which have been diluted, reinterpreted, and/or intentionally changed, in order to favor, or present events, or beliefs, in the manner and fashion that the writer in the moment chooses, or “believes” to be true. Read Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba and do your own sniff test to see if any of it rings true, or it is a total farce.

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