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Visit me at Ovations [Apr. 27th, 2007|11:36 am]
Please visit my blog at Ovations. Thank you.

Find me at MySpace here: Carolyn Burns Bass

View my Publisher's Marketplace page.
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Milestones and Marathons: NaNoWriMo Recap [Nov. 30th, 2006|10:18 am]
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Studio]
[Current Mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[Current Music |Silence]

Today is the final day for NaNoWriMo participants to finish their 50,000 word novels. Everyone who submits a manuscript of 50,000 words or more is considered a winner. I finished mine yesterday. Well, sort of. I hit the 50,000 word finish line. By my estimate, I still have at least 25,000 words to go before the story is complete. One of the authors in my online writer's group asked NaNoWriMo participants what they learned from their experience in the month-long writing marathon. Here’s what I said:

"Winning" NaNoWriMo takes a far second to the joy I have about this novel. Had I not taken the challenge by Lori Weinrott to join, propped up by Brian Howe's enthusiasm, I don't think I would have started this novel--just yet. Each paragraph, page, and chapter convinced me that this is the book I should be writing right now. I'm setting aside WHISPERING NIGHTS while I finish TSSD.

I started out composing at a genteel pace, but as the days slipped by and I got behind, I began to feel crushed by the approaching deadline. I don't think there's a switch to turn off my inner editor. I don't like schlocky writing when I read it and I tolerate it less from myself. Nevertheless, it's still a shi**y first draft. It’s going to need some serious editing in the second round.

In the beginning I was excited by the new story and the words came easily as the characters revealed themselves. As my word count lagged behind the daily goal, however, I became hyper aware of every word I produced, clicking the word count meter every few pages. Toward the end I reverted back to my normal writing style, which is imagining and framing scenes for content and plot progression, rather than word count sessions. This put the joy back in the journey.

This is the first morning I haven’t plunged myself into TSSD. I’m taking a day off from the story to do some other writing tasks (like updating Ovations). Not to worry though, THE SWORD SWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER is even now sitting on her bed in the doll room, glaring at me to come up and play.
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A Sword Swallower's Daughter is Conceived [Nov. 16th, 2006|10:14 am]
[Current Location |Studio]
[Current Mood |giddygiddy]
[Current Music |Silence]

My friend EJ posted a comment to the previous blog entry, kindly reminding me the post was getting a little old. More than two weeks old. Truth is I’ve been busy. Everyone gets busy, but I mean buried with details. But you don’t want to hear about the two-day holiday event for 500 people that I’m coordinating for SITE-SoCal. I’m pumped up about this annual event, excited about mingling and jingling with industry friends, and most of all hoping to raise $200,000 for the three charities (Camp Alandale, La Calle, Oasis of Hollywood) we’ve chosen to support though this event.

It’s not like I’ve been holding out on you, but the holiday event is not what’s been filling my early morning creative hours. I’ve started writing a new novel. I’ve joined several of my writing pals for a month-long novel writing challenge called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). NaNoWriMo is kind of like the Boston Marathon for writers. The course is 30 days of 1667 word writing stretches. Everyone who writes 50,000 words and submits their manuscript at the end of the month is a winner. Although I’m not a quantity over quality writer, and I haven’t met the daily 1667 goal every day, as of this morning I reached 22,297 words in 16 days. I’m behind the nano quota, but I’m confident I’m going to cross the finish line with a novel I am proud of.

THE SWORDSWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER is a coming of age novel about loving people despite their failures, faults, and fetishes. The title, which has boiled around in my head for years, is autobiographical and many of my character’s experiences are loosely—emphasize loose here—based on my experiences growing up with an unconventional father and an over-conventional mother. Set the turbulent 1960s of my white Southern California childhood, it was an era when divorce was a sin, negroes were untouchable, Vietnam sent bloody images into American living rooms, and the Beatles led the British invasion of rock and roll.

You can read the first chapter of THE SWORD SWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER on the fiction page of my website. Click the title above to get there.

I’m nearly half-way through with the NaNoWriMo challenge, but THE SWORD SWALLOWER’S DAUGHTER will end when the story has been told. Check my daily word meter to see the progress. And leave me a comment to cheer me on.
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Why do you live where you do? [Sep. 20th, 2006|07:52 pm]
[Current Location |My studio]
[Current Mood |curiouscurious]
[Current Music |Simpsons on TV in the background]

Today’s post at LitPark got me thinking. Susan Henderson, the gracious host of LitPark interviewed author Amy Wilentz about her new book, I Feel Earthquakes More Often Than They Happen: Coming to California in the Age of Schwarzenegger. Amy lived in Jerusalem where peace on the streets is an oxymoron, and also in New York City during 9/11. As an author of two books and a journalist who’s written for The Nation, The New Republic, Newsday, Time, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, Amy considers her recent move to California a foreign assignment. I Feel Earthquakes More Often Than They Happen is a memoir informed by Amy’s search for safety and renewal after 9/11, yet dosed with California history and contemporary political reporting. I have not read Amy’s book yet, but the premise intrigued me beyond the surface. [Click the LitPark link to read more about Susan and Amy.]

While in New Orleans and the Katrina-devastated Mississippi bayou areas last summer, I heard several residents say how the media and other insensitive souls often asked them questions like, “why do you live here when you know it’s a hurricane zone,” or other less kind phrasings. Living in Southern California we hear such comments as, “Why do you live there with all of the [choose one] crime, heat, traffic, crowds, cost of living, liberalism, bad schools, earthquakes.”

Because it’s home. My father’s ashes are spread across the Pacific, my mother and sister lay side-by-side in the ground only fifteen miles from me. Because my children have roots in the same valley where mine have flourished. Because we like it here.

Being entirely fair to my husby, he stays here because of me. He’s a Carolina boy, raised on grits, fatback, and collard greens. The Marine Corps brought him here twenty-five years ago, he met me, and except for our three year tour in Iwakuni, Japan, we’ve lived here since. Given the chance he’d move back to North Carolina as quick as you can say suet.

A trend among retired California homeowners who sit on million dollar real estate they bought 30 years ago for the price of a Toyota today, is to sell out and buy into a community for active senior adults. They can buy a nice place with their house cash, invest the balance, and live off their retirement investments. Last Monday I was talking with a couple of my friends in that position: Gal One is selling her Orange County goldmine and moving to a retirement community in the desert and is trying to convince Gal Two to join her there. Finally Gal Two says, “Why should I sell the place that I love and move to a place where I don’t want to live?”

Why indeed? In light of Gal Two’s remark and then reading about Amy’s move to California to be rejuvenated made me wonder. Why do you live where you do? What took you there and what keeps you there?

Click the comment link below to tell us your story. Or join the soiree at Ovations
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Remembering the fallen heroes [Sep. 10th, 2006|07:46 pm]
[Current Location |My studio]
[Current Mood |thoughtfulsomber]
[Current Music |You Lift Me Up]

It's midnight in New York City. It's time to remember.

I could write something to commemorate the fallen, to memorialize the tragedy. But someone I know already has. Read Bella Voce and leave a comment there.
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A daughter grows into herself [Sep. 7th, 2006|07:36 pm]
[Current Location |My studio]
[Current Mood |pleasedpleased]
[Current Music |Il Divo]

My daughter returned to college this week. She’s a sophomore at a University of California campus only a half-hour drive from our home. Despite the nearby proximity, we decided last year it would be good for her to live on campus, not only because it’s more convenient, but because of the transitional value of life in a dorm.

She left for college as a political science major and came home as an English major. In between the change in her major she flirted with the sciences, having taken an oceanography class to satisfy her core requirements. The theory of continental drift fascinated her. She saw the whole of creation through the evolution of the earth. Yet she did not move into the sciences because the arts and humanities wooed her back through her first university level English class. Everything her teachers have been saying throughout her educational experience came into focus through this class.

Have I mentioned that she’s a scholar? A recipient of the university’s Chancellor’s Scholarship, among a list of other scholarships won during high school, my daughter craves knowledge. Not just trivia that makes good party chat, but the deep truths of how things work, why they work as they do, what happens when things break. She loves a research challenge and finding new ways to present time-honored truths. She has found an avenue of adventure in writing.

Had I tried to mold her into my own hopes for her she would have been a music major. I’ve been told by music teachers that perfect pitch does not exist, but near-perfect pitch does. She has it. Her soprano is clear and crisp, without shrill. When she plays piano and sings “Come What May” from Moulin Rouge, I get chills. All summer long she played selections from Phantom of the Opera while I worked. The house is silent now, the piano will collect dust again.

Her tennis coach thought she could have been ranked had we put her in competitive tennis early on. She picked up the game as a freshman in high school and smoked through lessons, burned up the court with her speed, but often defeated herself in the head play. Steve Kronseder, the tennis pro who took her under his wing, was an English major himself and did as much for her tennis game as he did her scholarship. I watched during lessons when he’d smash balls at her and then toss over questions about Beowulf, Chaucer, or Shakespeare. He’s the one who instilled in her the value that college is not a place to go to prepare for a job, but to explore knowledge.

Over the past year my daughter came home on weekends to do laundry, raid the pantry, see her local friends, and attend church. She’s a devoted Christian, but many of her friends are not. She doesn’t force-feed scripture, she doesn’t accuse them of sinfulness, she doesn’t make them squirm with evangelistic diatribes. Unlike most Christians she’s found that loving a person for who they are is the basis of faith and her heart is big enough to love a person no matter their lifestyle, faith, or political bent.

When she went away in September of last year she was a girl excited to be out of the social cauldron called high school. She had no interest in joining a sorority, but made quick friends with her suite mates. The typical dorm hall dramas came and went and she often found herself the one doling out the psychic band-aids. It’s no wonder that this year she’s a Resident Advisor to a co-ed hall of 44 students.

She gave up her spring break last year to go on a service trip to Pass Christian, Mississippi, the gulf area most devastated by Katrina’s fury. She saved her money from her job at Starbucks to pay for the trip and came back a changed person. When we planned our summer vacation this year to include a week in New Orleans, she logged on with Habitat for Humanity and worked for three days in the brutal heat and humidity to build houses in the Ninth Ward area called Musician’s Village.

Only a few weeks ago she began a blog, Bella Voce. After 19 years of watching her attack and subdue anything she set her mind on I should not have been surprised at the depth of her writing. Yet I was. I’m glad I didn’t overbear my hopes on her in her early years with music. As talented as she is, I can see now that writing will be her destiny. She was born the spitting image of my husband; my genes seem to have been cancelled from her physical appearance. She’s blonde, I’m brunette; she’s blue-eyed, I’m hazel-eyed; she’s slender, I’m Reubenesque; she’s tall, I’m short. But as she gets older I see more of myself in her in different ways.

Elisabeth went away to college last fall as my daughter, but she came home as my friend. I’m missing my daughter, but I’ll always have my friend.
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Do you have Katrina Fatigue? [Aug. 29th, 2006|11:23 am]
[Current Location |In my studio]
[Current Mood |optimisticoptimistic]
[Current Music |Kutlass]

You may have heard the term “Katrina Fatigue.” Fatigue is a term used by the media to explain the indifference that creeps into the minds of the public when it is barraged with images, sound bytes, and sensationalist reporting that follows a catastrophe or prominent news event. You may have felt recurring Katrina fatigue as the one-year anniversary of the killer storm approached this week. If you’ve read my blog, you may have seen my on-location writing and photos from my trip to New Orleans this summer. But as I’ve watched the media coverage leading to the one-year anniversary of the storm’s landing, I’m haunted again at what happened to this glorious city.

Katrina Fatigue means something entirely different to those who live in the areas affected by Katrina. After a year of mourning, denial, and anger, there still isn’t resolution or acceptance for many Katrina victims. Katrina Fatigue hits them every day when they’re fighting with their insurance company over losses, hammering shingles and laying flooring, waiting for an “as is” sale on their water-ravaged house, listening to the occupants in the FEMA trailer next to them fighting over a drug deal and hoping they don’t pull out guns because those aluminum walls don’t stop bullets. While lights in the French Quarter are shining again, the shadow of Katrina is everywhere.

Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” spotlights the devastation of New Orleans’s Ninth Ward, a cramped section of old, wood-frame houses, occupied primarily by working-class blacks whose heritage in the city goes back generations. Many of the houses in the Ninth Ward have been scoured up and reoccupied, but whole neighborhoods were dozed and are being rebuilt. The orange search and rescue signs painted on the fronts of the homes remain visible, like graffiti tributes to survival. Habitat for Humanity has a rebuilding project going in a Ninth Ward neighborhood called Musician’s Village. The homes are going up two and three at a time, but they’re built from volunteer labor by people of all color from around the world.

The often conspiratorialized 17th Street Levee break is blamed for much of the flooding that hit New Orleans, but east of that Levee is St. Bernard Parish, where that levee break hit hardest. St. Bernard Parish, and other middle and upper class areas were also destroyed by hurricane winds, storm surge, or levee break flooding. Like those chronicled by Spike Lee, these were working class people, too; second and third generation New Orleans natives who’d saved and saved to buy a dream house in the suburbs. These residents still battle Katrina fatigue and many will never again occupy their dream home or get the insurance money to rebuild.

Moving east, we traveled to Mississippi, stopping in Pass Christian, the coastal hamlet which got the full fury of Katrina on August 29, 2005. Residents of Pass Christian and other devastated areas along the Mississippi coast are the forgotten cousins of Katrina’s victims. Even New Orleans residents expressed concern and great compassion when we told them we were headed out to Pass Christian. We visited with several couples in Pass Christian whose homes my daughter worked on in a service mission last April during her college spring break. Their homes are nearly rebuilt, but the reconstructing of their lives is far from over.

Katrina Fatigue is an easy term to use when we’re sitting in our air conditioned homes, drinking our designer water, and wearing new clothes from a pre-season rack at Macys. News fatigue hits from over-exposure and sensationalized media coverage. It focuses on incidents, rather than issues; personalities rather than persons, and victims, rather than victors. Katrina Fatigue is a cop-out term for over-stimulated and under-involved people. If you’re reading this, you are probably not one of them.

You can view more photos from my trip through the Gulf Coast in my website's photo gallery.
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Blogging for Booksales [Aug. 23rd, 2006|10:15 am]
[Current Mood |curiouscurious]
[Current Music |My daughter playing ALL I ASK OF YOU on piano]

I am participating in a blogging experiment hosted at dearauthor.com. To enter the contest, put up this blurb, image, and trackback and you are entered to win the following prize package.

  • $200 Amazon gift certificate
  • Signed copy of Slave to Sensation
  • New Zealand goodies chosen by Singh
  • ARC of Christine Feehan's October 31 release: Conspiracy Game

You can read about the experiment here and you can download the code that you need to participate here.

Nalini Singh
Berkley / September 2006

Welcome to a future where emotion is a crime and powers of the mind clash brutally against those of the heart.

Sascha Duncan is one of the Psy, a psychic race that has cut off its emotions in an effort to prevent murderous insanity. Those who feel are punished by having their brains wiped clean, their personalities and memories destroyed.

Lucas Hunter is a Changeling, a shapeshifter who craves sensation, lives for touch. When their separate worlds collide in the serial murders of Changeling women, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities…or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.

Read an excerpt here.

Nalini is one of my author sisters at the Knight Agency, and SLAVE TO SENSATION was the first book my agent, Nephele Tempest sold. See this post for more.

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