Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guest Blog...Let Your Voice Be Heard

Since I have been busily scribbling away on The Hooded Man, I bring you a guest blog by my good friend Jennifer L Hart. Not only is Jen an amazing person, but she is a phenomenal writer! I am honored and glad she decided to stop by today.

Take it away, Jen,

Let your voice be heard!

Thank you Courtney the Magnificent for having me! The Hooded Man for Next Best Celler! Yeah baby!

Kay, I’m done sucking up. ;-)

See what I did there—other than brown-nose the good hostess— I gave you a taste of who I am as a writer, the particular flavor which makes up my voice. One part snark, one part pop-culture sass, two parts grateful human being.

Voice is one of those nebulous phrases aspiring authors read about all the freaking time, with no real concept of what it is. Quite a frustrating predicament; I mean how can you master something if you are unable to pick the suspect out of a lineup?

When I first started amassing rejections for The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag: Skeletons in the Closet, one of the most memorable was “Truth be told, I’m afraid these pages just didn't draw me in as much as I had hoped.”

As much as I appreciated the good agent’s effort in responding to me personally, you have no idea how much time I spent fretting over this sentence. In addition to the question chasing it around inside my brain.

What was I doing wrong?

Several things, but the biggest was obsessing over one person’s opinion. Took me awhile, but after reading a particularly horrific book told in first person POV I realized because I didn’t like the protagonist, I didn’t like the story. Was the author at fault? Absolutely not, it was my personal opinion, nothing more. Similar to the way some people like chocolate while—shockingly—others don’t. Could I change the agent’s opinion? Not on Laundry Hag.

So, I spent time focusing on my story instead. Tightening up paragraphs, deleting passive sentences and stall phrases. By getting rid of the clutter, I allowed my voice to belt out a chorus I was proud of for the first time. While I believed in my idea beforehand, I loved my story after. That’s what editing is all about!

I sold the manuscript. And as of a few days ago, the next in the series!

So the best way to develop your voice is to write, edit, repeat. Get to know your story, your style and the parts which comprise your unique ability. Will some not like your work? Of course, rejection is part of life. Only you can decide if developing your voice as a writer is worth the effort. I can tell you though; the world wants to read your story. Will you share it with us?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Guest Blog.. Pele's Power by AJ Llewelyn

Today we bring you the first of our guest blogs here at Rearview Vegas.
Joining us today the amazingly talented AJ Llewelyn.
Take it away, AJ!

I am heading to Oahu on December 17, meeting my family for the holidays. It is starting to feel real now that everyone is calling me for my address on island, to send parcels and boxes and also so that they can pick up their cars from Dollar (say dull-ah) and head straight on out there once they land in Honolulu.
With family members flying from all over the world, I decided only this morning to stop stressing about my house not being…well, elegant. It is a fantastic place up in the mountains. It’s pretty ramshackle, but I love it and hope, when I am able to carve a full-time living for myself, to stay there year-round.
I feel in awe of even owning my house, the model for the homes in my Phantom Lover and Waikiki Vampire books. The house is in much better shape in those books than in real life, but that’s the beauty of being a novelist. I can renovate to my heart and mind’s content!
My house is Goddess Pele-protected and blessed. Pele loves children. Pele loves me, even though I feel her anger that it’s been ten months since I went and paid her a visit. One of the things I love about my place is the endless greenery. In spite of a near-legendary drought, we still have a lush bamboo trail out back and rare, tropical birds love to come and visit me. The unruly garden backs onto what used to be Paradise Park, a bird sanctuary, and when the owners went broke, they released the birds. Let’s not talk about what the introduction to all those foreign birds did to the fragile island eco-system. The birds have gone forth and multiplied by the thousands, but I love them. Nothing thrills me more than a bright-red macaw (a messenger from the Volcano Goddess, I tell myself) shows up at my kitchen window.
My brother and his wife loathe my house, calling it Gilligan’s Bohemian Island, but their kids love it. It is a fantastic house for kids because inside or out, nothing can hurt them. We don’t have snakes and poisonous spiders do exist but not on our part of the island.
The kids are into geckos and frogs and we have plenty of those. My neighbor has a dog who likes to come over and has a fondness for carrots. I’ve played Santa for a few years now and I feel blessed that my niece and nephew still believes in him…and I have a more than willing recipient for the multitude of carrots the kids leave out for the reindeer.
My niece is convinced Santa likes beer (I think my brother told her this outrageous lie) but I’ve told her Santa prefers a Mai Tai in the islands.
“I don’t think so, Uncle Andrew,” she said on the phone to me yesterday. “He likes beer.”
So, I’ll let my brother handle the Primo and I’ll take care of the sugar cookies.
I’ve taught the children in my life to respect island traditions as much as Christmas and nobody leaves my house with so much as a pearly shell or piece of lava in their pocket.
In August, I attended a Hawaiian festival here in Los Angeles. I purchased a fresh cigar-flower lei to bring to Pele’s altar here in my home and mysteriously, it vanished before I could get it in the house. Yeah, she’s pissed. Pele has played these kinds of tricks on me before…but usually she returns things she takes, just to make sure I am paying attention.
I used to keep her little games to myself for fear that people would think I’m nuts. Undoubtedly I am, but she does play games with me. Now that I am a prolific and published author of Hawaiian paranormal gay erotic romances, I get to address her powerful ways, not to mention her peppery spirit and priceless sense of humor.
Going home to Hawaii is essential for me, both to bond with her, and also, to do fresh research for my new books. Ninety-percent of my books are set there and yes, they’re paranormals, but they are all grounded in reality.
Most of all, I am grateful that Pele led me to discover a kindred spirit in author Courtney Sheets. I bought her book Kona Warrior and loved it.
We are Pele people and I know we will become very good friends. Whatever you are doing this holiday season, honor the Pele within you – the power of finishing the old, starting the new and doing both fearlessly.
Drop me a line and let me know what new, magnificent eruption you are creating for next year. I think Pele, Courtney and I would love that.
Aloha oe,

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Do you hear what I hear?

There is a radio station in town that plays nothing but Christmas music up to December 25th. I have to admit I love it. There is something about Christmas tunes that warm my heart and make me feel good. Well most Christmas songs. I could live without hearing the Christmas Shoes or Jingle Bell Rock again. I use to work at a local mall and we had so many damn dancing Santa’s shaking their butts to Jingle Bell Rock one year, I was almost driven to hunt down Peggy Lee and pelt her to death with them.

Truth be told, my favorites are O Holy Night and White Christmas.

There is a line in O Holy Night that gets me every time I hear it and I mean every time. And I mean every time, doesn’t matter if I’m at work, in the car, or sitting at home reading. “Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices” I’m not an overly spiritual woman, at least not since I was 16 and gave up my plans to be a nun, yet this line squeezes my heart. Hard. I think it is the notion that there is something so powerful, so moving that your legs refused to work and you can only kneel. I picture someone so overcome with emotion their legs give out. There is something about that imagine that speaks to the romantic in me, and the believer in me. Good stuff.

What can I say about White Christmas? Bing Crosby. Enough said. I live in Las Vegas, where we rarely get snow, which means we are more Mele Kalikimaka land. This makes the lyrics of White Christmas even truer for me. I AM dreaming of snow…for about a week. Then I remember my college years spent in Reno freezing my butt off in May. Still, White Christmas is so smooth when Crosby sings it you can’t help but sigh a little and reach for a hot coca with a shot of peppermint.

What’s your favorite holiday tune and why?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Hero Factor

In light of The Hooded Man making it into the top ten of the Dorchester/Tenxtnovel America's Next Best Cellar Contest I thought a post on Robin Hood was appropriate.

The Hooded Man is my baby, and I am so happy that it has made it this far in the contest

Who was Robin Hood? Was he a mere man made into myth by constant oral storytelling or a symbol of a much simpler time? One could say that he is an exciting mixture of both, a unique melding of myth, hero, and man. While the legend of Robin Hood is rooted in history, it is also a combination of human interest and pagan mythology. So once again we can ask who was that hooded man? 'Was he man, or spirit of the forest, like Robin Goodfellow or the Green Man?"

In many intellectual circles, Robin Hood has been thought to have been a real man named Robert Fiztooth, the Earl of Huntingdon. While the true identity of the legendary outlaw has been highly debated throughout academia, history and Hollywood, Fiztooth probably is the most widely accepted character for the mythical woodsman. Another alter-ego belonging to the English Rogue is Robin of Loxley, a Yorkshire fugitive. Yet another identity is that of a humble forester who was outlawed for killing a deer in the Royal forest. Perhaps Robin Hood was a composite of all the mediaeval forest outlaws of England. Never the less, Robert Fitztooth's grave at Kirklees is considered to be the burial place of Robin Hood. It is visited many times over by tourist every year, searching for Robin Hood.

Many other questions arise when people try to put Robin Hood in an accurate place in history, along some type of actual time line. Was he a knight in the crusades? Did he live in the reign of Richard the Lionhearted, Henry III, Edward I, II, or III? Many books, tales and movies place him in the highly tumultuous time of Richard, a time of great turmoil and skullduggery, thus making the villain he defeats Prince John. John's plans to take over the throne were thwarted by the return of King Richard from the crusades in March of 1194. In spite of this setback Prince John does actually ascend to the throne in 1199 when he returns to England after his five year exile. So if there was really a man by the name of Robin Hood, he did not stop John from becoming King as many movies suggest. He only succeeded in slowing him down a bit. In his bid for the throne, John was indirectly responsible for advanced poverty and low public moral. These factors have contributed to the creation of Robin Hood.

John himself was not really all that terrible. He wasn't a bad or weak king; he was just king at the wrong time. His father Henry II and his brother Richard left him a rocky foundation of a kingdom. John did encourage some of the more powerful nobles to use military strength to gobble up more land and property, while he turned a blind eye, in the hopes that they would support him in his quest for king. In the end, the nobles did not support him and all John achieved was to allow the nobles the opportunity to see how powerful they really were, which caused the destruction of the Magna Carta. On the other hand, John does have a reputation for standing up from himself against all comers, but he did not have any redeeming or very loveable qualities, which helped historians and Hollywood, paint him in a sinister light.

If Robin was not a human, perhaps he was a "God." From the pagan standpoint, Robin of the Hood is connected to the Green Man. The Green man, according to the Celtic Pantheon of Gods, is Cernunnos, the God of Vegetation and fertility. Cernunnos is also the Lord of the Trees. The oak tree is sacred to Cernunnos. "The Green Man represents the male aspect of nature." Robin is consistently described as wearing Lincoln green and living in the forest. In Sherwood Forest there stands a mighty oak tree simply called The Major Oak. The tree is believed to be the meeting place for Robin Hood and his merry men. "The gargoyle-like carvings of the Green Man show a human face almost completely camouflaged by leaves." Robin has an uncanny ability to blend in with his surroundings, becoming part of the forest, much like the Green man.

The Green Man has two personas, the Holly Lord and the Oak Lord. The Holly Lord, or "old man winter", dies at Beltane and is reborn as the Oak Lord, or "baby new year". He then marries the May Queen. The horned God aspect of the Green Man is just another form of Herne. Herne is the Celtic hunter god. He is most often portrayed with stag's horns sprouting from his head. In many of the original gestes, or tales, Robin is referred to as Herne's son. This approach is taken many centuries later in the popular British television show, Robin of Sherwood. "It seems likely that Llew's [a Celtic sun god] mediaeval successor, Red Robin Hood was once also worshiped as a stag."

"Robin's weapons and tools are laden with pagan significance." Robin Hood is the best archer in all of England. In this way Robin can be seen as another type of manifestation of Herne, God of the hunt. Herne's sacred creature is the stag. In one of the most famous stories of Robin Hood, the outlaw enters Nottingham Castle with a stag thrown over his shoulders and tosses it on to a banquet table in front of the Prince, flaunting his disdain at the nobles the whole time. This scene alone made Errol Flynn as legendary as Robin himself. Many believed the forester identity came about from the killing of a stag in the Royal Forest. Laws of the Forest were strictly enforced, especially around 1200 to 1350. These laws prohibited any one not of royal blood to hunt in certain forests, Sherwood being one of them. If Robin Hood was in all actuality Robert Fiztooth, this would not have been a problem for the Earl, because he was royal blood. The episode of killing the stag as the main factor in Robin turning outlaw points more toward him being a forester, guardian or yeoman or the forest, then a nobleman. Also Foresters were there to prevent the wholesale destruction of the land. According to an old historical account several foresters were outlawed for poaching in the very forests they were to protect.

The May Queen is the main character, the leader, at Beltane. Beltane, which means Bel's fire and is held on May 1st, "marks the beginning of the summer, and the light half of the Celtic year." The May Queen takes over as head of the festival and summons the Holly Lord to her. Then her handmaidens kill him, which transforms him into the Oak Lord. Maid Marian may be the Christianized version of the May Queen. She loves Robin and in the final gestes, or ballads, of Robin Hood she marries him in the Greenwood Wedding, much in the same way that the May Queen marries the Oak Lord at Beltane.

Another figure Maid Marian may represent is that of the Virgin Mary. She is equated with the virgin by the simple fact that she is clearly Robin's "lover" yet she remains a maid, or virgin at all times. She retains this title in both her name and her reputation. Robin is devoted to the Virgin Mary in the well known versions of the ballads. He is equally devoted to Marian. He follows a fierce code of chivalry never harming a woman, which extends to Marian. On the other hand Robert Graves, in his book The White Goddess, states that "Marian is not even faithful to Robin." Graves argues that during the dark time of the year, the time preceding Beltane, she becomes the mistress of his rival, The Sheriff of Nottingham. In this aspect Marian is a symbol of the Lady of Misrule who is celebrated during Twelfth Night.

Considering the state of social acceptance of women in the mediaeval time period, Marian plays a very active role in the stories. She is never ridiculed for following her lover into the forest and living as the only woman among male outlaws. In one much later ballad Robin and Marian, in disguise, engage in sword play and knock each other about for awhile before they realize their mistake. The art of battle was not something women were encouraged to know, yet it is perfectly acceptable for Robin Hood's consort. Although she does not appear in many of the surviving ballads she is key to the legend.

Another legend that Robin Hood may be associated with is that of Puck. William Shakespeare used the character of Puck, giving him the name Robin Goodfellow as well, in his play A Midsummer Night's Dream. Although Shakespeare, who may have been influenced by the Welsh Pwca, refers to Puck using both names, Robin Goodfellow and Puck are in all actually two separate creatures. Now however, they are considered the same character. Puck was a shape-shifter. Robin Goodfellow was a master of disguise. Both had an uncanny ability to give travelers a hard time, much like Robin Hood. Shakespeare's drinking buddy and fellow writer Ben Johnson even used the Robin Goodfellow character in his unfinished Robin Hood play, The Sad Shepherd. "Since the Robin Goodfellow ballads appear later then the Robin Hood ones, it's possible that the faerie may have taken his name from the outlaw-not the other way around."

We all know Sherwood Forest to be the place Robin Hood calls home. But many tales place him in Barnsdale. Still another is Loxley in Yorkshire, thought to be the traditional birthplace of our hero. His central base of operation is the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest. This one thousand year old tree is still standing to this day. If Robin is not so closely associated with the Green Man of pagan life, would this tree, an oak tree, be as sacred to him?

Mythology is not the only place that manifests different types of "Robin Hoods." Literature has several versions of the tales under different names. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy is yet another re-telling of the Robin Hood stories. Sir Percival Blakeney even wears "Blakeney Green." While he does not rob from the rich and give to the poor, he does save several poor souls from the guillotine. The Pimpernel acts almost in a reverse of Robin Hood. Sir Percy "steals" the rich aristocrats out from under the noses of the poor French mob. He is an eighteenth century Robin Hood. He must win the love of his wife, Marguerite, whose name happens to be the French variation of Marian or Mary. Marguerite is just as spirited as Maid Marian, maybe even more so. And the villainous Chauvelin is constantly trying to seduce her, much like the Sheriff in several Hollywood versions of Robin Hood.

Another exciting literary outlaw is Zorro. First created in 1919 by the writer Johnston McCulley, Zorro is the Hispanic version of Robin Hood. Don Diego Vega, a man of noble birth, fights for the people of Los Angeles against the evil Alcalde. The Alcalde of the Zorro stories is very much like the traditional Sheriff of Nottingham. In The Adventures of Zorro, the wealthy land owners seek the protection of the Alcalde. He in turn uses them in his bid to be governor, much the same way John used the nobles. The peasants are then made to suffer with outrageous taxes to pay. Don Diego protects the peasants from this "terrible" government by assuming the identity of El Zorro or the fox. "He is simultaneously wise, brave, charming, cunning, and romantic. Zorro has true cross-generational appeal, with four generations around the world having grown up with the character." Both The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Adventures of Zorro carry many of the same themes and characteristics of the original Robin Hood tales.

How do people deal with hardship, by creating a hero. Any hero can be looked on as a bastardization of Robin Hood. Super heroes and everyman characters that are endearing in our minds can be broken apart to show their similarity to the mythical Green man of Sherwood. Robin Hood could be compared to Captain America doing war times in The United States. Robin, dashing and full of adventure, fought off the "Evil Prince John" in efforts to protect the English crown. The monarchy, while mainly a figurehead with no real politic power, is something viewed as sacred. When their monarch is threatened, the English people take is personally. Captain America fought Nazis, protecting the American way of life. Throughout history humanity has always needed a hero.

Who was that hooded man? Great debate has continued through out the ages looking for historical basis as well as mythical proof as to the existence of Robin Hood. Did a single man live to take on the tyranny of injustice or was he something more?

Robin Hood is a hero for all ages. He and his legend have enthralled us for centuries and it will continue to do so for many more to come.

Running Naked Down the Las Vegas Strip

Armed with a razor sharp wit, a great pair of legs, and a less then perfect body, I have attempted to navigate the choppy waters of the dating pool in the sin capital of theworld, Las Vegas, for quite a while now. The best and most accurate description of dating in Las Vgeas would be like telling a rabid dog to sit calmly at the foot of the bed while a pair of howler monkeys bounce up and down rapidly. Not a pretty sight.

The single male Las Vegas, a creature unlike any other, when faced with the choice of a smart career-minded woman in sensible shoes or Bambi the weather bunny, seem to experience full brain meltdown. Following that object loacted in the Southern Hemisphere of their bodies, men are ultimately drawn to Bambi.

Now I use the name Bambi as a generalization. Sometimes her name is Tiffani or Buffy or Brittany or some other name that should be banned from the English language on the sheer saccharin content of it. Pop singers and beloved TV characters aside. With breasts that leviatate through the smoky air of any nightclub in a way that befuddles even David Copperfield, wedged into the smallest top available at the juniors department, these women blind the average male in Las Vegas, with the ridigitiy of their nipples alone. Come on girls, it ain't that cold in here. Much like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming SUV. Mere mortal women like myself do not stand a chance.

Perhaps part of my dating trouble is I refuse to squeeze my ample endowments into something so tight as to cut off all bodily functions. Now don't get me wrong. I like to dress sexy, but I feel if one fears going to the bathroom because you're not to sure your pants are going to make it all the way back up, then said pants are too tight. I speak from a vicarious experience here. Ask me about a night at Dylans with Deanne. But I digress, that is another blog altogether. Personally I have to much pride, or fear of every hot guy in the room seeing my granny panties, to risk the ultimate humiliation of my pants splitting down the seams in the middle of a dance floor. And me, I likes to boogey.

Go out and meet people my mother, and I think anyone over the age of 25's mother has said, says to me. And I do. But please how many nightclubs, bars, and mixers can a person go to before their IQ is forever damaged. Also in Las Vegas, as I am sure this happens in every big city but with different names, there is a plathora of what I commonly refer to as Leisure Suit Elvi. They are a cross between your average dirty old man and a baboon, with a little Richard Nixon thrown in for good measure. This makes for an unholy combination that would scare the leather pants off Alice Cooper. Imagine being faced with such an abomination as you calmy stand at the bar, daiquiri in hand. The sight alone would stop the Croc Hunter dead in his tracks with more then just one 'crickey!" Not quite forty, but well above thirty, their favorite prey is a woman of around 22. Someone with enough brains to know what sex is and how to do it, but not enough to realize that polyester should have died with disco.

What makes dating in Vegas different from other cities, is it the neon? Is it the casinos? Is it the fifty foor billboards plastered with women in bondage gear on them? No, it's the mentality of the people. It is a sandbox for the young, bored, and emotionally stunted. Don't get me wrong we have a fair share of smart people, but they are hideously overhsadowed by the pod people who inhabit downtown, uptown, and everywhere in between. I think the disease stems from too much neon light soaking into their veins.

In a city that markets sin and sex in every flavor, it is amazing how little of either a single person can get. I think drastic measures are in order. Full frontal nudity is an arrestable offense here so perhaps I won't go that route. Plastic pants and tube tops from Wal Mart don't suit my style or my Rubenesque frame, so that too is out. I could be a naked table dancer, but I can't even stay firmly planted in my sneakers let alone those tall spiked objects of torture strippers wear on their feet.
So I fear I must go the traditional way, and wait for Prince Charming to me meet halfway, if he isn't in a strip club.

So you see that love and life have a hell of a time tryign to mix here in Sin City. Drinks do it easier than humans. But keep your fingers crossed for me. There has to an Elvis out there for me. If not, I can always be a nun, a rare commondity indeed.