What Is Your Song?

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Do you have a song? One particular song that represents the beginning or flowering of your romance. How did it become your song? Do you play it on special occasions? Or do you just remember vividly when you chance to hear it?

What is it about music that speaks to us so powerfully?

I don’t understand it, but that power isn’t new. Archeologists have found flutes made of bones and mammoth ivory that are over 40,000 years old. But instruments and song may be older than that. Charles Darwin, in The Descent of Man, suggested that our language abilities may have started with singing–a long and deep foundation for our pleasure in music.

Scientist say that making music aids in the development of reasoning and language, improves coordination and creative thinking among other things. And most of us began learning reading skills by singing the ABCs. We tend to remember what we learn through song.

Who hasn’t experienced that vivid, sensual (in the context of senses) memory brought through music? Do you remember tastes, colors, smells associated with certain music?

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So, Christmas carols, dance/exercise music, hymns, your writing or study playlist may remind us and motivate us? But they also change us.

I ask again. Do you have a song? What is it? How did it become your song? What happens to you when you hear it?

Build a world

culture

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I have been thinking about culture. I’m defining culture here as that unspoken ‘knowledge’ that a group of people share. The things that we never question because we are sure that everyone understands, accepts, and experiences the same. Every family has a culture–a way of doing things and thinking that every family member assumes is universal (but often isn’t).

And isn’t that one of the challenges of the first little while of a marriage? Two people who love each other come face to face with another family culture and live with a person who has never seen life done differently or considered that there might be another way? Maybe even a better way. In most successful relationships, both people have to open their minds to other possibilities. Most create a new family culture, melded from the two that they came from.

Most books have a culture too. All writers, in one way or another, create a world.

I met this challenge this week in my writing group. One friend read my piece for the first time. (We can’t all of us read all of the writing. We choose a few pieces, and it mostly works out that every author has a few people reviewing and giving feedback). This friend isn’t a romance reader. He writes fantasy/science fiction, so he tends to choose those pieces that are closer to his wheelhouse, so to speak. But this week he read my piece. While giving feedback, he said something like, “And what is keeping these two apart. She’s just making a big deal about nothing, IMO.”

It isn’t fantasy, but Regency England is an unfamiliar world that I try to build/reveal in my novels. It has a very different culture that made no sense to this 21st century man and writer of fantasy worlds. This is a world where a girl can’t dance more than twice with the same man in an evening without endangering her reputation. If a single man and woman are discovered alone, perhaps in the garden outside the hot ballroom, he is honor bound to offer marriage. Name, position, history, and reputation–and money of course, determine a person’s future. And if the reputation of one person in the family is ruined, all suffer the consequence. (Think Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice after Lydia runs away with Wickham).

So, I’ve been thinking about culture. Have you ever been forced to question the way your family, your community, your culture does things? What caused the questions? What happened?

And what worlds, what cultures have you most enjoyed in your reading? Why?

Write What You Know

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Write what you know. You’ve heard it before. I think people say that hoping to de-mystify writing, to make it sound easier, doable for all of us.

I see three problems with this imperative.

One is that I only know so much. There is another saying that everyone has at least one book in them. I believe that. But if I only write what I know, I may only have one book in me. But I have a need to write more.

Two is the question of imagination, creation, and exploration. Where are those things if we stay in the lines of what we know? What about all those worlds out there that I don’t know yet? I want to explore those.

Three is perhaps the most difficult. What I do know, what seems most important for me to capture and express, are the most difficult things to capture and express. I have experienced kindness, and sacrifice, and selfless service. I know devotion, loyalty, romance, and love. I have seen beauty, friendship, joy. I also know sorrow, and loss, and regret. Reverence, and grace, and faith are very real to me. These I try to capture in words. And that is the biggest challenge. How do I put the reality of these emotions and experiences into words.

Write what you know. It does sound simple. But it is a quest, an adventure, and often a frustration and agony. Maybe that is one kind of writer’s block–being filled with a knowing that no words can capture and describe. I am compelled to keep trying.

Unfiltered

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Recently, I had an opportunity to guest blog for RWSL. So for today, you get a little bit of writing technique advice. Don’t close down yet. It’s not an English class. This might help in your own writing or speaking or social posts. So here goes.

In my writing group, we’ve been talking about filters. It’s made me hyper-sensitive to words and phrases that separate my readers from my action. Editing these filters has strengthened my writing. So let’s talk about filtering here.

The phrase ‘filtering’ comes from Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. She writes, “you step back and ask readers to step back and observe the observer—to look at [the character] rather than through the character—you start to tell-not-show and rip us briefly out of the scene.” Filters are words that come between our readers and our character’s point of view or their experience. They pull the reader out of the action.

Once you’ve become aware, you’ll begin to notice filters everywhere, and I guarantee that you’ll want to banish them as much as possible from your writing. Here is an example (filters in bold). First draft and edited excerpt from The Lies We Tell by Gigi Lynn:

The rocking of the carriage and the bumps in the road kept me holding onto my seat. I thought miserably about the day. I looked down at the boy’s clothes I wore, now much worse for the drying mud. I asked myself what did I have to show for my unladylike defiance and descent into immodesty?

I found a maid I no longer wanted but lost a dog I did. I had no papers, and I had no more information about what Hugh was doing. I asked myself, what did all of this have to do with me? I had never been involved in Hugh’s vices. I told myself shouldn’t feel responsible. I knew I wasn’t equipped to expose smugglers or fight women who ran brothels. I had been taught to be a lady. I realized that I had no other skills. What a muddle I had made of things I thought in discouragement.

The rocking of the carriage and the bumps in the road kept me holding onto my seat. What a miserable day. My boy’s clothes stuck to me, more disreputable for the mud. And what did I have to show for my unladylike defiance and descent into immodesty?

I found a maid I no longer wanted but lost a dog I did. I had no papers and no more information about what Hugh was doing. What did all of this have to do with me? I had never been involved in Hugh’s vices. I wasn’t responsible. I wasn’t equipped to expose smugglers or fight women who ran brothels. I was taught to be a lady. I had no other skills. What a muddle I had made of things.

When we take out the words that come before the action, our readers will experience the action and emotions more immediately. They will be in the story, living what happens along with the character.

Now that you’ve seen what a difference filtering makes, you’ll start noticing phrases like:

I watched as— She realized that— He noticed— He saw that— I felt like— She knew— I decided right then that— It seemed— He wondered— She thought— She heard— It sounded like— There are others, but you get the idea.

It’s our goal to have readers enter our stories. We want them to feel what our characters feel. We want them to experience the action with our character, not through our character. If we remove most of the filters from our writing, our readers will more vividly experience every action and emotion in our stories. so let’s write unfiltered!

“Gigi Lynn grew up in Las Vegas, devouring romance novels like they were candy. She studied and later taught English literature and writing—and continued to read romance novels voraciously. She raised seven children and read to them every day—and often read romance novels for fun or escape. She always said she would write one day. One day is now! She recently published two regency romance novels and a novella. Another novella will go live mid-October 2021.

A Handmade Gift

What do you give your family for their birthdays?

Alysen’s Quilt

A few years ago, my husband and I attended the funeral for the mother of a good friend of his. He had spent a lot of time in their home, and she had made him feel a part of their family. The funeral was a sweet tribute to her and a celebration of her life.

Gideon’s Quilt

I was touched me by the stories that her grandchildren told of letters she sent to them on their birthdays every year. In those once a year birthday letters she would reminisce about what she did and how she felt when she was their age. What a precious gift this woman left to her children and grandchildren.

I would like to say that I started right then to write birthday letters to my grandchildren. I didn’t. First, I’m not sure I could remember enough about my childhood to accurately describe what I did and how I felt. And I felt a little like I was starting too late (which looking back I realize is ridiculous). Regardless, I didn’t do it.

What special, personal, intimate gifts you give to your loved ones-your family, your dear friends? I’d love to hear from you.

Luciana’s Quilt

One thing I have done is make a quilt for each of my grandbabies. I haven’t always been timely with this gift, but before they turn two, they have a quilt from Mimi.

Taze’s Quilt
Juniper’s Quilt

In my family, this has been an exercise in quilt binging because the babies seem to come in batches. So a few years ago and again this last two months, I made five baby quilts.

I hope you enjoy seeing what I do when I’m not writing, researching, or reading.