Newbie Notta Mistake #3

Want to stay three steps ahead of the other newbie writers starting on the epic journey into writerly wonderland?

Read Newbie Notta Mistakes #3, #2, and #1.

#3 is below!

Newbie Notta Mistake #3 :: Learn As You Live

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Keep learning and practicing your craft. Even after 30 years of teaching literature (high school and college), even with advanced degrees in English and composition, even after over five years of pursuing self-publishing, even after over 25 published books—I am still learning.

New information keeps me fresh.

Practicing that new information >> that stretches my skills and builds improvement.

Also, no one will ever know everything there is to know about writing. But we can try.

I have three courses to take this year: two on the craft of writing, one on marketing. I am learning a lot.

I’m still trying—just like a doctor practicing medicine. The only difference is—I might speak with authority, but I will freely admit that I have more to learn.

Think a doc will say that?

Promotion ~ Groan.

Well, if you don’t want to take a course (which can be $150.00 to $300.00), you can spend a lot less by reading books about the craft of writing and cover by Deranged Doctor Design for Writers Ink Booksmarketing.

So (you did know there would be a So, didn’t you?) >> In 2019, I wrote the Discovering Set for Writers. Check them out at the link to the online distributor:

<< That’s it!

Discovering Your Novel  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PYYM2LG

Discovering Characters https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y7LYK19

Discovering Your Plot  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0838PTN49/

Discovering Your Author Brand https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YL8GBM1

Discovering Sentence Craft https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZQXKY87

Then, as if I didn’t have enough to do, I bundled characters / plot / author brand / sentence craft together as Discovering Your Writing (you can save money by buying the bundle). Here’s a trailer and the buy link.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08691892S

These five books (four in a bundle) are a full education in the craft of story telling and starting promotions for your books.

GINORMOUS BOOK … so right now it’s only available in electronic form `cause … well, at the start of this year, when I would have scheduled with the cover designer, people talked about a paper shortage.

Anyway~ Enjoy.

Next Up

Hark back to the July 1 blog, and you’ll see that questions from a newbie writer inspired this whole blog series.

On September 1, we’ll share the second email that she sent (names changed to protect the innocent, of course).

All through September and October and maybe into November, we’ll share our answers to her second round of questions. On the 5ths, of course (5 / 15 / 25 ~ only July was odd.).

~ M.A. Lee

Concept and Execution :: 3 Unities

For poetry lovers, we have a series of blogs, Poetry Lessons, guest-hosted by emmiD of Writers Ink Books. Visit our page on every 5th  (5th, 15th, and 25th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.

Three Unities.

Action.

Time.

Place.

All writing can sprawl into unnecessary digressions.

The job of the writer, any writer, is to control the words flowing onto the page so that those unnecessary digressions are avoided.

For example, remember the Death of Agamemnon in Greek mythology? He sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the winds so that the Greek warriors could sail to Troy. On his return, his wife Clytemnestra killed him, in revenge for Iphigenia. The ancient law of lex talionis demanded vengeance. Therefore, their son Orestes had to avenge his father which meant he had to kill his mother. Twisted stuff, you know.

When relating the story of father killing daughter, wife killing husband in revenge, and son killing mother to restore a balance, any writer might be tempted to stray away from the central storyline. Aeschylus managed to stay focused for his trilogy The Oresteia, and he didn’t have the Three Unities to guide him.

I am tempted, just from that previous sentence, to comment 1] that The Oresteia wiped out every family relation or 2] that killing doesn’t restore balance to the scales of justice, even in Greek myth with its differences between revenge and justice and its taboo on kin-killing. See? It’s hard to let things go. Orestes had to argue with the Furies to get them to leave him alone for re-balancing the scales of justice. And Aeschylus took three dramas to tell that one story.

Action. Time. Place.

Aristotle laid down the law about the Three Unities. These three “laws” help structure any writer’s work.

To create the law of Three Unities, Aristotle looked at the most impressive dramas (tragedy and comedy) and classified the reasons for their success.

The story should focus on one action occurring over a tightly controlled time frame within a closely bounded place. For ancient dramas, this meant one conflict occurring during one day and situated in one place, such as the front steps to a palace.

The law of the Three Unities, however, is not limited to ancient Greek dramas.

Novelists are similar enough to dramatists that no persuasive evidence is necessary. Short stories maintain a tighter control on all three elements while novels might address one single conflict (with subplots) over several days yet still in a closely-bounded culture.

The James Bond sagas focus on one antagonist to be defeated with a close-monitored ticking clock within the culture of the British spy game.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ring saga seems to sprawl all across Middle Earth [place] as the Fellowship gathers allies in order to defeat Sauron [action] before he becomes too powerful [time].

When poets work with the Three Unities, something unexpected and extraordinary occurs.

Frost and the Three Unities

Robert Frost’s “Once by the Pacific” presents Aristotle’s Three Unities. These present the concept that Frost wants to work with; placing them into the poem is his execution of that concept.

Action:  God considers re-making the world as he did with the Deluge.

Place: The great ocean crashes on to a shoreline saved only because it is “lucky in being backed by continent”.

Tme: “A night of dark intent / Was coming”, and it could be that the dark night might turn into an age of destruction.

Everything else is description.

Several of Frost’s poems use the Three Unities to control their meaning.

“Acquainted with the Night” and “Design” are examples of two sonnets also controlled by Action, Time, and Place.

Acquainted

Action: Solitary Walk. Place: Streets of a town. Time: Late loneliness, “neither wrong nor right”.

Design

Action: A white spider catches a white moth, life and death entwined, the one feeding on the other. Place: a white heal-all flower (more irony). Time: the very moment when the spider snares its prey.

His narrative poem “Home Burial” reads like an ancient Greek drama. Husband and wife have lost their future together since the day she watched him bury their child in the family cemetery. He cannot express his emotions; she cannot control hers.

All action concerns the grieving wife’s decision to leave her husband. Frost captures the moments in time that lead up to the decision: what is she doing? What is he doing? What are they both thinking—and not saying? Place triggers the decision: the stair landing that gives a view of the cemetery where their child is buried. There she stands when the husband is out.

Frost’s found poem “Out, Out—” is a Greek tragedy of futility and unexpected disaster. Action: The son is cutting wood while the sister stands close by (Place). Since the boy does not keep close watch on what he is doing (classic hubris:  challenging Fate), the chainsaw leaps out to take his hand. His death at the end (Time) with the understated “little – less – nothing” has all the unexplainable mystery of Doom.

“My November Guest” approaches the Action as if it were a reported conversation between a man and his love:  “My Sorrow when she’s here with me, / Thinks these dark days of autumn rain / Are beautiful as days can be . . . She talks, and I am fain to list”. The Time is the unexpected beauty of November and the setting is the simple beauty of the desolated land:  “the bare, the withered trees” and “silver now with clinging mist”.

“Mending Wall” is another unexpected use of the three unities. Two neighbors are in unexpressed disagreement over the wall between their properties:  one is instinct, delighting in the fairy shifts to the rock wall, while the other is plodding logic that dislikes sudden changes. They meet on an appointed day and repair the wall.

Millay and the Three Unities

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet “Time Does Not Bring Relief” covers all Three Unities.

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!

The first line begins with the conflict that she must resolve:  her love is gone, and she must go about forgetting him so she can move on.

Time ~ Her entire existence is taken up with remembering him and their love. Every day of her past year she has tried to forget him only to have her grief renewed:  the rainy season, last autumn, and winter have passed, yet her heartbreak remains acute.

Place ~ Typical romantic places have also served as reminders of him, therefore increasing her loss:  the oceanside, the mountains, country lanes. We can assume the city from the “weeping of the rain.”

Left unmentioned is Action. Since time and place have not eased her pain, the Bohemian Millay may move on to action to bring her relief.

A Petrarchan sonnet without the stiff formality of the 19th century and earlier, Millay presents her mastery of the sonnet by providing rhyme we barely notice. Only occasionally do we slow to read her meter-based lines, which lesser poets must twist to create.

Three coupled images tighten up her structure:  “I miss him / I want him” and “Last year’s leaves / Last year’s bitter loving” and “So with his memory / So remembering him”. The first two sets are coupled together; the last set are separated, just as the couple is broken apart.

Wrapping Up

Millay constructs her poetry more tightly than Frost does, but both are masters of the poetic line reading like conversation. With Aristotle’s Three Unities, we can grasp their methods of writing.

  • They begin with an idea and find a foundation to build on.
  • The foundation isn’t the sonnet; the foundation is the execution of concept, how the idea will develop.
  • The sonnet, then, becomes the poetic craft, fitting the ideas into a form for the reader.
  • The structure—the form that the lines take, that comes last.

The Three Unities can form the foundations for our ideas. In the hands of masters like Frost and Millay, the audience will not notice the framework that develops the poetic lines.

For novelists and dramatists, those Three Unities should also fade into unnoticed unless we stop to analyze.

As we go forward, we’ll look at the poetic craft, the way the words are put into poetic form. Structure.

Rhyme and rhythm help structure Pure Verse. Rhetorical devices from Classical Antiquity structure Free Verse. Where does Blank Verse fit into this structural decision-making by poets?

First, however, in September, we begin with those unexpected devices that poets use to structure their works.

Join us.

Newbie Notta Mistake #2

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Newbie Notta Mistake #2 ~ Finish Before Sharing.

Find good Beta readers who spot plot and character discrepancies as well as proofreading errors. ONLY give these readers a FINISHED manuscript.

First~~

Write the story in your head—not the story in someone else’s head. You don’t need developmental editors to write that story. You may need a good friend who will tell you when scenes need to be improved and ideas need a logical sequence. Just have them read the manuscript and tell you where they got lost. Then dig deep into those areas and work it out.

Second~~

You can’t give readers a chapter at a time and expect them to remember the flow of the story. Dump the whole manuscript on them.

  • Good friends will read the whole thing for you—might take them a while.
  • Great friends will tell you what doesn’t work.
  • Bad friends will tell you how to fix it.

Yep, I said “bad friends”. Because it’s your story, you need to figure out how to fix it. Your muse will do that for you—once the muse knows to work on a particular area. If your muse tries to work with other people’s ideas, she will shut her trap on ideas.

Third~~

I’m superstitious. Did I say this before?

The writing world has a myth that story ideas shared before completion will dry up and shrivel or be cursed when published.

I don’t know the reason for the myth. That reason never is shared.

But I have seen story ideas bounced around in a group, and the writer’s enthusiasm for the story is then dead.

Dead.

I have shared a story idea—and watched another writer spin it in a different way than I had planned—which killed my enthusiasm for the story.

We’ve all heard anecdotes about writers sharing ideas only to see another writer (with flying fingers) get that story out into the world.

Toxic people will tell you not to write the story. “It’s not for you.” or “Have you thought of doing this?” or “I really don’t want to read another story about… .”

Yeah, don’t share your ideas until they are done.

Also, when you send the completed draft into the world, the universal ether thinks it’s a completed story and directs the muse to dance around the next story Maypole.

So, finish the dang thing before you hand it off to good and great friends.

PROMO

When things get out-of-hand about your daily writing—which can be a free-flowing river of words or a gunked-up sludge blocking the words, try reading Think like a Pro, seven lessons that newbie writers need to learn in order to become Pro Writers. Check it out here and purchase here.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DYJDY5S/

Next up on the 25th: Newbie Notta Mistake #3.

~ M.A. Lee

Poetry: Burning Candles

For poetry lovers, we have a series of blogs, Poetry Lessons, guest-hosted by emmiD of Writers Ink Books. Visit our page on every 5th  (5th, 15th, and 25th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.

Burning Candles

“First Fig”

The entire poem, from poemhunter

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “First Fig” is a rich gem. An unassuming jewel of four deceptively simple lines preceded by a clever title, the poem seems merely to celebrate the bravado and esprit of the bohemian lifestyle:  adventurous, blithe, and insouciant.

Closer examination reveals the poem is crafted with a diamond-cutter’s precision, sparkling with St. Vincent Millay’s talent.

Part of a collection entitled A Few Figs from Thistles and published in 1920, this poem heralded the Roaring Twenties. In many ways, “First Fig” pronounces the prophet’s message for the decade. In concept and execution, “First Fig” rewards deeper analysis with its treasured secrets.

At First Glance

A quick read finds a persona reveling in an unending carouse as the persona burns daylight and nightlife, as stated in line 1. This is the Roaring Twenties, and the persona is a roaring flame through her life.

St. Vincent Millay employs the “brief candle” allusion to Macbeth’s famous speech by Shakespeare (“Out, out, brief candle.”). She burns her metaphor even more quickly than Macbeth did.

Like Macbeth, she may even see the end coming. She remarks that her life “will not last the night”. Yet she does not care what her gossiping “foes” or her worried “friends” will say.

Why doesn’t she care? Her deeds provide “lovely light”. So, now we ask about her deeds? How do we find out?

Return to the first line. How can a candle burn at both ends? It has to be held horizontally and kept balanced to avoid burning the holder. If candle = life, then how does a life “burn” at both ends? It can only do so if the daytime hours are as fully utilized as the nighttime hours.

Like Emily Dickinson’s “labor and leisure, too,” (from “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, perhaps another poem St. Vincent Millay had in mind), we realize the persona is enjoying herself as equally as she is performing her laborious daytime duties.

A Closer Look

The structure reinforces the revelations of the extended metaphor. The clear rhyme of lines 1 & 3 (“ends” to “friends”) and 2 & 4 (“night” & “light”) clues the reader that more is going on than simple rhyming lines.

The rhythm is primarily iambic, which is a traditional meter providing no additional information. A stronger magnification than a simple metrical analysis is needed to comprehend this diamond-cut poem.

The syllabication per line is a clearly cut facet, in sequence 7, 6, 8, and 6. The persona clearly relishes her life which “burns at both ends”. It is perfect to her, and 7 is symbolic of perfection.

Virtually everyone knows the symbolic meaning of 7. Let’s go deeper.

The persona may not achieve what some would call a complete life (symbolized by the number of 10). Friends and foes caution that her life may be cut short, a possible interpretation for line 3 with its 8 syllables (not achieving 10). The persona does not care.

That eight-syllable third line also lets us know that St. Vincent Millay is very careful with her word choice. “Foes” could easily have been enemies; that’s 10 syllables. She wasn’t after 10 syllables, though. She wanted to play out the alliterative F, and the 8 fit with the rapidly burning candle.

Just as she relishes life’s adventures, so may she relish the adventures of the after-existence, the exploration of the greatest mystery that we face ~ thus, the two lines of six syllables, a number of doubled mystery. (I am “reading in” here, but it fits.)

Back to the Title

Since the metaphorical idea and the line structure mirror and reinforce each other, we need to chip away and polish off the title to achieve any deeper meaning.

The title of “First Fig” is an unusual choice. Why not “Burning Bright” or “Single Candle” or “Candlewick”?

Could Millay create a metaphorical allusion with the title just as she does with the candle? Could it be a Biblical allusion to the fig leaves sewn together by Adam and Eve when they first recognize the shame of their nakedness?

Is it an art allusion to the classic fig leaf used to cover a male statue’s genitals? Again, a cover for nakedness.

Is she picking off one leaf after another, revealing a shame others want her to feel but she has no trouble baring to the world?

That fits—but it doesn’t. St. Vincent Millay says “first fig”, not “first fig leaf”.

A fig is a seed-filled fruit. Its sweetness is an acquired taste. And the tiny little seeds are potential that bring growth.

This also fits her poem:  The sweet-tasting events of her life, daytime and nighttime, are seeding her writing. Those sweetly savored events create potential, birthed through each poem in the collection.

Remember the title? “A Few Figs from Thistles.” This little gem of a poem is just the first in the collection.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

The poem is also a self-referent allusion. Millay’s bohemian lifestyle is an acquired taste, delectable only to her. Thistles are beautiful purple flowers on ugly, spiky stalks. This fig, this “First Fig” taken from a thistle, may prick and seem ugly to others. However, it provides the sustenance she desires (even as other people may not approve of the sustenance she takes).

Mark of Excellence

The burning candle is the obvious metaphor that dominates the first reading. It begins pointing to Millay’s theme. Yet to reach Millay’s overall meaning, we need a harmonious blending of all three elements—metaphor, structure, and title.

This harmonious blending of metaphor, structure, and title is the mark of an excellent poet. To create this blending in four short lines reveal Millay’s touch of inspired genius.

The ancient Greeks believed that the gods inspired poets. That was the only answer for poetic lines, living as if they had the breath of gods in them.

Celebratory of a life that others condemn, Millay’s “First Fig” speaks to the sparkling independence that each individual seeks to craft from life.

Like a rough diamond or the spiky thorns of a thistle, our existence must be polished or pruned of thorns. We must peel away the layers of others’ expectations to reach the glittery heart or sweet fruit of what we desire.

To reach our desires, we may have to burn our candles at both ends, passionately pursuing our labor and our leisure, no matter what our foes and friends advise.

Coming Up

Millay used rhyme and meter as well as extended metaphor to control the structure and meaning of her poem.

On the 25th, we look at another device that poets can use to control structure and meaning. We’re doing Robert Frost and St. Vincent Millay (again). Join us.

Copyright: The law of copyright states that a work is copyrighted for the life of the writer plus 70 years. Millay died in 1950. It’s now 2020, 70 years later. Her work is entering the public domain. On the 25th, when we analyze Frost, we will have to link to his poems rather than reproduce them here. Frost died in 1963; his works won’t be in public domain until 2033. Know your copyright laws.

 

 

Rock Allegory: Lady Fortuna & “Hotel California”

Rock Allegory :: Lady Fortuna & “Hotel California”

For poetry lovers, we have a series of blogs, Poetry Lessons, guest-hosted by emmiD of Writers Ink Books. Visit our page on the 5ths (5th, 15th, and 25th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.
Our first allegory was Carole King’s “Tapestry”, way back in April.  Allegories tell a surface story while a stronger meaning lurks beneath the obvious.

“O Fortuna” by Carl Orff seems a strange beginning to a post about the classic “Hotel California” by the Eagles.

Stranger things have happened.

Just as strange things happen in the Eagles’ classic rock song, which you can listen to at this link, which is of a live performance in 1977. Don’t blow off the guitar solo and duet at the end; that’s part of the charm.

The persona in “Hotel California” seems to relate a surreal visit to a roadside hotel that turns ugly before it imprisons him. However, through allegory, the song relates a pursuit for fame and fortune. These cost more than the persona anticipated and never wished to pay.

“O, Fortuna”

The lady who draws in the persona to the Hotel California is Lady Fortuna, a goddess who rules over fame and fortune, luck and fate.

Carl Orff (a rather uneasy German composer, seeking Fortuna with her sacrificial demands) does not consider this goddess benevolent.

Lady Fortuna’s world is lit by the moon, changeable in its monthly course: “statu variabilis / semper crescis / aut decresciss” (Orff). In our pursuit of her, we must enter her realm. She will first oppress us long before she soothes us. She takes her whip of servitude to our naked backs and punishes us before she rewards us: (“mihi quoque niteris; / nunc per ludum / dorsum nudum / fero tui sceleris”).

When Fortuna grants what we have sought, we discover the additional monstrous price we must pay. And we also discover that fame and fortune are empty achievements, material but not wonderful, a “monkey’s paw” of evil wrapped around good. As Orff writes, life becomes “immanis / et inanis”.

Here is the conductor Andre Rieu’s presentation of “O Fortuna”:

Lyrics with translation are found here.

The lyrics for “Hotel California” are here. You might want to print both of these song lyrics out so you can see how closely they compare.

Let’s play 20 Questions / Answers will Follow

1st Stanza & Chorus introduces the pursuit of fame.

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night.

People in pursuit of their dreams believe that their lives are deserts that they must drive through before they find where they want to be.

  1. Pick three words in the first stanza that represent the persona’s blindness about where he is heading in his pursuit of fame.
  2. What does the “shimmering light” represent?

There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
‘This could be heaven or this could be Hell’
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say

  1. “She” is Lady Fortuna. Why is she so attractive to people pursuing their dreams?
  2. The “mission bell” tolls a warning. In which line does the persona admit to hearing the warning?
  3. How is the line for #4 a paradox?

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place / Such a lovely face.
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year / you can find it here

  1. How does the famous Californian city that lures people seeking fame and fortune always have “plenty of room”?

Stanza 2 with Chorus

  • Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
  • She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends.
  • How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat
  • Some dance to remember, some dance to forget
  1. What does Tiffany refer to?
  2. Mercedes-Benz is the best engineered, mass-produced vehicle on the roads. What is the point of the pun “Mercedes bends”?
  3. From these two brand references, we know the persona is achieving success, enough that he can waste money. Why are material possessions a waste?
  4. What does the line “Some dance to remember, some dance to forget” mean? (Assuming that ‘dance’ is related to performing the job that is winning fame and fortune)
  • So I called up the captain, “please bring me my wine”
  • He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.”
  • And still those voices are calling from far away
  • Wake you up in the middle of the night
  • Just to hear them say . . .
  1. The wine represents the sweetness of the dream still before the persona. Why has that “sweetness” left him?

To understand the reason that the sweetness is implied to have left music and culture in 1969, you need to know about Woodstock, the Summer of Love, and the change in the music industry:  basically, the music corporations required musicians to “sell out” their purpose in order to make $$ while making music. Musicians who didn’t buy into the industry’s model of success were shut out. The persona feels that he had to abandon his simple dreams for something much more complicated and which twisted his original purpose.

  1. “The voices [that] are calling from far away” have to do with the persona’s original dream. Which line relates that he is stressed about the loss of that dream?

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place / Such a lovely face.
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise / Bring your alibis

  1. Notice the two changes in the Chorus. How is “living it up” a “nice surprise”?
  2. Why does he warn people to “bring your alibis”?

3rd Stanza

  • Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice
  • And she said, “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”
  • And in the master’s chambers
  • They gathered for the feast
  • They stab it with their steely knives,
  • But they just can’t kill the beast.
  1. Lady Fortuna tells them they are “prisoners . . . of [their] own device”, or as Orff says, “Sors salutis” and “semper in angaria” :: “Fate is against me” and I am “always enslaved” to her. How is this devastating?
  2. “The beast” is the juggernaut of the now-rolling success. The master is what controls the success: the audience. How does an audience start controlling successful people?
  3. Who has the “steely knives” to kill the “beast”?

4th Stanza

  • Last thing I remember, I was / Running for the door
  • I had to find the passage back / to the place I was before
  • “Relax,” said the night man, / “We are programmed to receive.
  • You can check out any time you like,
  • But you can never leave.”
  1. Why is the persona “running for the door” to find the “place [he] was before”?
  2. The night man says that “we are programmed to receive . . . you can never leave”?
  3. What does this line means: “You can check-out any time you like”?

Answers

  1. Dark, colitis, dim (sight), distance, night
  2. The lights from an arcade promoting a performance. The shimmering would be the action of the neon in the lights.
  3. Lady Fortuna is attractive because people believe that once they are rich / famous, they will have no worries.
  4. “This could be heaven or this could be hell”
  5. #4 contains a paradox because life can be both a heaven and a hell at the same time.
  6. People keep coming, expecting to succeed, only to fail and return, making room for more seekers.
  7. Tiffany is an extremely famous NYC jewelry store. Highly successful, highly branded, over-priced: you pay for the name. Should we want to buy brands? No. We should go for quality that meets the $$ we pay. However, materialism “twists” us to prefer the brand.
  8. The “bends” could refer to driving on a crooked road. The persona does start out on a “dark desert highway”. And the pursuit of fame and fortune requires some bend-y actions that we might abhor in honorable daylight. Or it could be the “bends”, decompression sickness when deep divers come too quickly to the surface. Rising fame could be making the persona sick as he considers everything he’s giving up and everything he’s hurting. Nyah, I’ll sticking with the highway.
  9. Material possessions only temporarily feed our greed and gluttony. They do not help the persona or others. Without giving to others, the persona will never fill satisfied and will always seek more and more to fill his emptiness. This is classic Platonism: attempting to balance the mind, the body, and the soul through equally fulfilling events.
  10. This is the treadmill that the persona is on: the beauty of the work he loves keeps him still performing but the grind of the work wears him down.
  11. The joy of his work has left.
  12. “Wake you up in the middle of the night”
  13. The persona has paid so much sweat and pain that he is surprised when he finally has the opportunity to enjoy the benefits that fame and fortune have finally brought to him.
  14. Alibis are only necessary when criminal activity has occurred and penalties will be adjudicated. Has Fortuna led the persona into evil misbehavior? Obviously.
  15. The evil and the pain are what the persona has brought upon himself in his selfish pursuit of the lady of fortune. He is appalled at his choices, but he still cannot give up fame and fortune.
  16. For musicians, they are controlled because they must keep producing the same things that brought the original success. For painters and writers and performers, they are also trapped, their creativity cast aside so that their work can continue to keep the audience happy. If they do not produce what the audience wants—with just a tiny bit of change to seem “new”, the fickle audience will abandon them.
  17. It’s not the audience. It is the trapped performers, who have come to hate the juggernaut wheel grinding them down and down.
  18. He can no longer accept everything he has sacrificed, all the pain and evil he has endured; he wants to return to the time before fame and fortune.
  19. Success can never be abandoned. Lady Fortuna’s hotel accepts people in, a small funnel that can endure the pain, laps up the evil in a blind acquiescence to the dream, and willingly abandons everything good about the dream in order to achieve wealth and fame.
  20. The only way to “check out” of Lady Fortuna’s hotel is death.

Summing Up & Coming Up

I enjoy the guitar solo and then the guitar duet at the end of “Hotel California”.

a screenshot of the 1977 performance, linked above.

Most people with their “imp of the perverse” (as EAPoe calls it) get focused on the colitas and the lady and the wine and the beast and go no farther.

Understanding the darker elements of HCa doesn’t destroy my enjoyment of the song; I just have to turn off the intellect and dance around to the guitars. Hotel California is not a happy place to visit.

And you don’t get to leave.

In my own blindness on dark desert highways, I have often wanted fame and fortune for myself.

Next up, a lighter work, thank goodness, than “Hotel California”. I promise.

Well, it might be a little dark and a little snide. 😉 grn

Join us on the 15th.

Newbie Notta Mistake #1

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Newbie Notta Mistake #1 ~ First Impressions Matter

Unless you truly understand the minutiae of graphic design (direction of eyes, color contrasting, proportional sizing, foreground against background), then hire a cover designer.

The cover is the first thing that attracts a reader. You have nanoseconds to snare readers; a great cover will draw readers to your book.

Great cover designers understand the needs of genre as well as branding for the book, the author, and the series.

Took me 18 months to find a cover designer that matched my aesthetic and that showed promise of staying as a professional business—rather than starting up then closing down in three to five years.

I started my search in 2013. I found and then contracted with my cover designer for the first cover in 2015. Since then they have created over 10 NF covers, 14 mystery covers, and 9 fantasy covers plus covers for bundles—and I remain in awe of them.

Pay the bucks.

Want to do it yourself? Then pay the bucks for a quality program, like InDesign > not Canva or Powerpoint.

And seriously look at your competing covers. Do your research. Admit the ones that look crappy, and admit what your skill level is.

Finally, use the greatest writer test in the world > WIBBOW … Would I Be Better Off Writing? That’s your question, every time you start to take on additional writer jobs.

Cover Design: Yes or No? WIBBOW.

PROMO

Sometimes we can reach the best answer to the WIBBOW question by tracking our own productivity and planning ahead.

I struggled for years trying to use basic calendars and planners for daily productivity and project planning. A writer’s need for tracking and planning are totally different from other professional fields.

A calendar let me look to the next week, the next month, the next season—and all calendars do that very well. Problem, though, is that I had to create a space in the calendar to track my daily productivity.

Daily productivity inspires more daily productivity. When disruptions and distractions occur, the calendar reminds us to get back on track.

Finding a project planner was more difficulty. I mean, we have so many parts to novel writing.

  • Original idea exploration
  • Sketching ideas into the first story arc
  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Proofing Plus (which includes contracting with a cover designer and writing your sales copy [blurb, taglines])
  • Publishing and Promotions

I did think a construction project planner might work—but nyah.

So—you knew there would be one, didn’t you?

A couple of years ago I sat down and created the planner that I wanted.

You can read about the planner here—as well as see interior images

cover by Deranged Doctor Design for Writers Ink Books
The Guiding Lamp edition.

https://writersinkbooks.com/celebration-2-for-june/

And you can find it here.  https://www.amazon.com/Think-Pro-Planner-M-Lee/dp/1983248673/

I always promote the “guiding lamp” cover, but I also created a floral cover. (That, however, is no longer up in the store.)

Enjoy.

  Here is the Productivity Tracker.

This is the Yearly Review/Preview.

Next up on the 15th: Newbie Notta Mistake #2.

~ M.A. Lee

Newbie Writer?

Here’s a series of 7 mistakes that Edie Roones and Remi Black are working together to answer. The blog series came from a question that a new writer asked. This link takes you to Remi’s site.

On the 5ths of August (5/15/25), Edie and Remi will offer “3 Newbie Notta Mistakes” ~~ because Newbies can come into the writing business pretty savvy. Bookmark Remi’s site and follow throughout the month!