Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘writing’

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.

Searching For Someone

Some people are easy to find. Others, not so much. Especially when you are trying to meet up with someone to interview for a story and/or book. That’s what I’ve discovered through the years in my attempts, and some success, in tracking down people I’ve wanted to talk to, especially those that are well known.

With the internet it has become easier to get people’s information and background, but getting their contact data, or getting through there gate keepers (managers, agents, family, lawyers, etc.), is another matter. It can take persistent emails, and calls, to get a response, let alone an interview.11898_cover_front

When I was putting together a book about loss and grief sometimes being the catalyst for people to not only change their lives, but to also create social movements and influence public opinion (Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call), it literally took years to get ahold of everyone and complete the interviews.

Obviously, people who were less known were easier to contact and meet, but women like Nancy Goodman Brinker (who started the Susan B Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, after her sister Susan died); Candace Lightner (who founded Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, after her daughter Cari was killed); and Leah Rabin (who gave speeches about reconciliation and peace around the world, after her husband, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated) were another matter.

The difficulty isn’t always due to an individual’s reluctance, or apprehension, about being interviewed, or not knowing who you are (if you are not a known author, journalist or organization), but most often it is their schedules. They have limited amounts of time, and some are booked years ahead. In those cases you have to be willing to go where they are and get whatever snippet you can.

I’ve also had unsuccessful attempts at getting interviews for different articles. and news organizations, as a freelance journalist. Even though I went to Rwanda twice, I was never able to meet with President Kagame. The closest I got was his press secretary. An interview with Christina Aguilera and Joan Baez has also alluded me, after many attempts and conversations with there managers.

If you need to interview people that are heads of government, well-known in entertainment, or in social movements, don’t give up before you try. Be persistent, yet courteous; creative, and respectful; and be able to explain briefly (in a call, email, or personal contact) why you want the interview and who you are.

Articles: http://tinyurl.com/glpyt2p

Books: http://tinyurl.com/z8pdtj7

Connect the Stories


Some writing “experts” once told me that the best way to write a novel is to first write short stories. They said, “If you can write a good short story, with a beginning, middle, and end, then a novel will easily follow. All you have to do is use the same characters in one short story after another and string them together.” Turns out that they were right, in most respects, but not always.

From my experience, it is extremely difficult to write a good short story, and more difficult to string a number of them together for a book. I’ve had some success with shorts, with some of mine appearing in Go World Travel, Listen, Los Angeles Journal, Japan Airlines/Wingspan, Omega, Enigma, and the Roswell Literary Review. As you can see from the following description of my collection of short stories, Saint Catherine’s Baby, which was released 7 years ago, I hadn’t yet figured out how to keep the same characters and storyline for a novel.

Saint-Catherines-BabyAn eclectic collection of short stories that include Ruthie and her obstinate elderly student from Germany (The English Lesson); Stephanie, who waits for the unorthodox return of her deceased father (Dressed In Black); Walter O’Brien, who discovers a young couple and their child in an abandoned monastery on the West Coast of Ireland (St. Catherine’s Baby); Shannon, on the run at a shoe store in Chicago (Sizing Up Shannon); Jacque, meeting Rosalita’s shocked parents in New Mexico (Framed); and Joshua Johnson, a school custodian whose mother may have interfered in his love life for the last time (The Sweetest Man).

It still rings true,  writing a good short story is a great beginning for a novelist, and also some of the most difficult writing to do. Character and scene development, crisis, insight, and/or conclusions, must all be created within a limited number of words. Some writers can also write great books, without ever having written a short, and vice-a-versa. To this rule, if you choose to call it that, does not apply to everyone.

Writing “Real” Sex

I enjoy writing about “real” sexual and sensual experiences, and including them in my fiction. Some of it is imagined, or fantasized, but most of my scenes are from personal experience. This isn’t true for all writers of erotica and romance. Many will include scenes and situations that are unbelievable or, literally, out of this world. This kind of sex writing is not better or worse than using, or exploring, “real” sexual situations, just different.

Setting, relationship, and feeling are vital ingredients in my erotic world. There’s nothing wrong with throwing in “pussy” “fuck” “lick” “suck” or similar words into a scene, but to do so without context tends to have them fall flat on their face, or someone else’s. Sometimes you just want to fuck, or read about a good fuck, without any emotion, romance, or preamble, but minus some setup or story, it ends up looking like a glut of sexualized words and actions randomly thrown onto the bed. The heat is missing.

Here is an example of intimate sensual sex from my erotic romance Loving Annalise.

41jh2yi72qlHis soft fingertips lightly scratched the skin as they moved towards the base of my spine, lighting a torch that licked my groin from the inside out, filling my body with the heat of the sun. As my legs wrapped him tightly into my cocoon, I heard a voice rise from my gut, screaming, “Tomas! Tomas!” My body shook and jerked on the wet sheet with gale-force winds, as my muscles contracted from my toes to the crown of my head. The candles danced, and my back arched towards an invisible force. I was conscious of nothing and everything; bathing in a river of sex, I swam in its smell, sight, sound, taste and touch.

I invite you to read Loving Annalise, if you enjoy realistic erotic fiction.

 

Dante Interviews Gabriel

Gabriel Constans Interview on writing and Loving Annalise.
Interviews by Dante 10 November 2015

Guest author for today on Interviews by Dante is Gabriel Constans. He is an author of Contemporary Erotic Romance. His latest is Loving Annalise.

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Please tell us a little about yourself.

Raised in a lumber town in Northern California, where father worked in the mills for over 40 years. Mother worked as a bookkeeper, later remarried and took in 9 foster sisters and 1 foster brother. Biological sister lives and works in same town.

Been writing since first publishing an alternative newspaper in high school against the Viet Nam war, for civil rights and sex education, for which I was threatened with arrest. Am practicing parent for 5 adult children (2 adopted) and 4 grandchildren.

Tell us about your latest book.

Loving Annalise is based on a true story for a woman I used to work with at hospice. She was kind enough to sit down with me for extensive periods of time and tell me about her life, which I then made into a fictional romance (keeping many of the actual events that took place).

What do you have coming out in the future?

I’ve been teaching about mindfulness meditation and mental health for loss and trauma for almost 40 years, and will start to put together a book about it next year.

Is your book a stand-alone or a series?

Loving Annalise is a stand-alone romance.

Why romance and what makes your particular brand of romance special?

Love and sex are two wonderfully pleasurable aspects of living. Loving Annalise is not only unique, because a lot of it is true, but also because it involves a lot of background and insight into the characters and how Annalise eventually has the courage to stand on her own and be the person she chooses.

Is romance the only genre that you write in or do you write in other genres? If so what other genres do you write in?

All of my romances, Loving Annalise, The Last Conception and Buddha’s Wife, have twists and turns that are not usually found in most romantic genres. I also write children’s fiction and non-fiction for adults, that include books about grief, loss and trauma, sexuality and smoothies. I also write screenplays.

From where do you draw your inspiration?

The primary inspiration for my stories come from personal and family experiences and people I admire, some publicly known and other’s close friends and role models (such as my Judo and Jiu-Jitsu teacher Prof. Jane Carr).

Do you ever base your characters on real people in your life?

All the time. Observing people I’ve known in the past and present, and situations and families I’ve been involved in through work in hospice, hospital, coroner’s office, prisons, etc., are a big part of what brings my character’s to life and makes them realistic, flawed and believable.

What authors inspire your writing?

A variety of writer’s have, and do, inspire me. Bell Hooks, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Isabelle Allende, Ruth Ozeki, Pat Conroy, Chitra Divakaruna, and Zora Neal Hurston are the first that come to mind.

How have your real life experiences influenced your writing?

I’ve been married three times, once when I was very young. Each marriage, and other relationships in-between, have influenced who I am and how I see the world. Each partnership provided emotional, physical and psychological experience that shaped who I am and how I write.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Some of the things I enjoy are film, reading, playing music, gardening and sculpting stone.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

Loving Annalise captures both the reality of other people wanting Annalise, as well as her learning to love herself.

Read entire interview and much more at: Interviews by Dante.

I Like Writing About Sex

Donna Minkowitz: Growing Up and Writing It All Down
Posted on 15. Dec, 2013 by Sarah Burghauser
From Lambda Literary

Donna-MinkowitzThis past October, former Village Voice contributor and activist journalist Donna Minkowitz released her hot-blooded new memoir, Growing Up Golem (Magnus), about her struggle with the inhibitive physical condition RSI, her injurious family history, and the intimacy of abuse.

In an email exchange with the Lambda Literary award winner, Donna discussed the roles of fantasy, identity, and writing sex in Growing Up Golem.

I’d like to start with a quote from your book: “I have never felt particularly Jewish or lesbian. I identify much more, I say, as a sort of sexy, holy kid on a motorcycle. The kid may be male. He’s an effeminate boy with long hair. I think he has pork remnants on his fingers.”

When I read these lines I began to wonder if you consider your book to be more of a queer memoir? A Jewish memoir? A disability memoir? Or something else entirely? In other words, is there a particular part of your story that you see as the northern star? A theme more naturally fertile or interesting to you as a writer?

The reader should bear in mind that I’m saying these words at a very particular moment in the book; this is not always how I feel. (In the book, I’m saying those words as a member of a panel on “Jewish Lesbian Writers,” and of course I immediately feel the ways I don’t fit in that box.) Actually, I find I’m feeling both more “Jewish” (in terms of culture, not religion) and more “lesbian” as I get older. As to the rest of your question, the book is all of them and more! It’s also a memoir mixed with Tolkien-style fantasy. It’s impossible to separate the different aspects of it, just as it would be impossible to separate me into the queer Donna, the working-class Donna, the fantasy geek Donna and so on. Which is appropriate, because it’s a book about becoming whole.

When you read your book now, do you still see the Donna Minkowitz in the book as yourself or as a character? How much distance do you have now, or did you have during the writing process, from the “protagonist”?

Someone said about memoir, the writer must know more than the narrator, and the narrator must know more than the character. So there are really three Donnas here, the writer, the narrator (the voice telling the story), and the character (the person described as going through the events in the story).

I needed to have a great deal of distance during the writing process, because I think the whole point of doing a memoir is to really observe yourself and attempt to write about yourself with some insight. That’s only possible if you try to step away and really look at the things you do.

But of course, it’s also me. The Donna in the book does all the things I did, and goes through the same travails.

The sex scenes in the book are very powerful–the writing really stands out in these scenes. Can you talk a little bit about the experience of writing sex, specifically with this character?

I like writing about sex, and in particular, writing about real sexual and sensual experiences. Partly because I think the reality of sexual experiences is often elided in writing into something less ambiguous or ambivalent than sexual experiences often feel. All of the emotions and sensations you may feel at a particular time of having sex – fear, discomfort, and annoyance or anger, as well as excitement, ecstasy, connection and fullness – need to be written about. The other piece of it for me is that I just really like to convey sensual experiences of all kinds through words. I think descriptions of touch and smell can be some of the most lyrical writing there is, and I think they can give memoir more of a concrete base; a base in the physical world.

In reading, it seemed as though a lot of your healing and processing through your abuse happened during the actual writing process. As a reader I felt like I was watching your thoughts unfold before me. In the moment. Did it feel raw writing it? Does it still feel raw now? Or was this the effect of a highly calculated and arranged tone/approach to give readers that illusion?

I would say it’s almost entirely an illusion. I’m glad you felt like you were watching my thoughts unfold before you in real time, but that was definitely an illusion! I worked on the book for eight years, and almost all the events in the book had been over for a long time before I wrote about them. I mean for the book to feel raw – that was my goal. It is almost a book about feeling raw, as though you don’t have a protective outer layer. The main character doesn’t, or at least she starts out that way. One of the many meanings for “golem” in Hebrew is embryo… one of the newest, rawest and most vulnerable things there is. “Golem” also means fool, and it is partly a book about starting out not knowing how to run your own life, and then perhaps gradually learning how.

Read entire interview and much more at Lambda Literary.

The Round House

41HfjdXnn9L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The Round House by Louise Erdich
Review by Gabriel Constans

I usually only review books for The New York Journal of Books and tend to not make the effort to share what I am reading, at least not often. This is an exception.

There are many times when books that have won prestigious national or international awards tend to fall short (in my eyes) and don’t live up to the hype and praise. 2012 National Book Award winner (for fiction) The Round House by Louise Erdich is not not one of those books. This story soars and takes you with it.

The story focuses on the aftermath of a brutal attack upon Geraldine Coutts, on the reservation where she and her husband and her thirteen-year-old son Joe live in North Dakota. Everything is seen through Joe’s eyes as he and his father (who is also a judge) try to discover who attacked their loved one and why.

Every character in this book is as real as real can be. Joe’s family, extended family, friends and everyone else on and off the reservation come to life with nuance and depth. “My father bent his head down and rested his forehead on his fist. He closed his eyes. There was the ticking of the clock in that sunny kitchen. Around the face of the clock there was a kind of sunburst. But the rays were plastic squiggles and the thing looked more like a gilded octopus. Still, I kept looking at the clock because if I looked down I would have to see the top of my father’s head. To see the egg brown scalp and thin patch of gray hairs would put me over the edge. I’d snap, I thought, if I looked down.”

One could go on and on, with further explanations and examples, but it will suffice to simply say that this is a story most people will want to read. It includes humor, pathos, fear, suspense, drama, coming of age and romance, but most importantly, it includes some of the best writing to be published in years.

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