The Write Tools

Hooptedoodle

NOLA December 1, 2009

My new chap book is ready for purchase! To see a preview and place an order, click on the link below. If you purchase this chapbook, I am happy to sign and number this limited edition run. **Now through December 15th you can get FREE 2nd day air shipping on THREE books. Use the promo code BUYTHREE when checking out.

By Amie Charney

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Twilight Preaches Mormonism November 19, 2009

One Day of Rain

One Day of Rain

A friend’s teenage daughter started gushing about a book series she is reading. As a lit major and writer my interest is always piqued when I see a teenager talk about literature with a glazed look of love in their eyes. So, on her recommendation I bought Twilight and devoured it (ha, joke for those who have read it) in a couple of hours. Stephenie Meyer is no Austen, Steinbeck or Hemingway, nor will Twilight ever be a classic…but it was a page turner of a yarn with characters… that may be stereotypical…but you instantly care about their fate. In lit circles we often debate genre vs literary fiction, and in the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer has “out genred” even JK Rowling. I have dubbed these types of books… pop rocks … remember the candy you put in your mouth… starts out sweet, then explodes in your mouth and leaves an odd slightly disturbing tingle before it disappears completely…yet you still want more?

So, I got “pop rocked” on the first book, then went out and got the other three… and read them in about 2 days … of course doing “laundry” while racing over the words. Everywhere I went (book in hand) I was stopped by women of all ages excited to share with me their own love of the books, relating the characters to their lives in personal ways.

All right, so now to what my blog is really about.

I am not a Mormon/LDS. I am not an expert on it either. I have studied it in comparative religion, and have friends that are…so I know enough to recognize it’s doctrine. To me, the Twilight series seems an apologetic treatise on Mormonism. Am I the only one out here that thinks this way? Stephenie Meyer, author of the series is a Mormon. In fact, an “elite” Mormon having attended BYU and all that entails. So I found it fascinating that she wrote about teenage angst and love among vampires and werewolves. When I tried to flush out why that puzzled me, I started checking out some web research and blogs about it. What I found were rabid Mormon fans that have approved the book for reading in their stake book clubs. The books were “clean” even though erotic, and I was disturbed by some of it’s messages but couldn’t put my finger on any specific thing…other than the regular vampire violence. So I was shocked when my search dug up remarks on LDS websites touting Twilight as seminal Mormon reading…why?

Light started to dawn when I was conversing about the series with a friend who is a pastor and teaches high school English. He asked me what I thought of the Mormon message of the book. My mind tried to recall the themes from my three day word trance…. and there it was, the answer to my question. The books are a romanticized indoctrination into LDS theology, made palatable by the classic themes of courtly love and the noble savage. Make no mistake, the contriversal doctrines of the Mormon church are there. Here are just a few in my opinion…I could probably fill up a good size term paper drawing all the comparisons.

*Warning – Plot Spoilers Below*

1) Mormons believe in deification – you can become a god or goddess through their various rituals and practices. Certainly that is what Meyer’s vampires portray. The gods of the world. They all have super powers, are all powerful both physically and through their immeasurable wealth, supermodel beauty… intelligence…and in the case of Edward’s coven (or stake)… they have risen above their baser natures and don’t even have to really be vampires…at least not the evil Dracula types. Bella, the protagonist, seeks to become a goddess herself…which can only happen if she becomes a vampire (Mormon). But she doesn’t just want any old vampire to change her into one. She sees it as a way to become one with Edward…so she only wants him to do so. Edward, a good old traditional vampire, will only make her one if she agrees to marry him. So her only way to immortality is through marriage. Of course she has a child in book 4, despite all odds… because only in having children does one truly become immortal….and it is a Mormon book after all.

2) The Vampires are living their afterlife. The Cullens, however, have evolved to a higher plane of existence compared to the other vampires. Bella even wonders in book 2 or 3 if Edward can move to an even higher existence if he were to actually die, because of his goodness (the dead, deader…). Meyer contrasts the enlightened Cullens to the “meat-eaters”… those vampires that still feed on humans and can’t control their baser instincts and blood lust. The “vegetarian” Cullen’s exist on a higher plain…perhaps another level of afterlife bliss…due in part to their dietary restricted lifestyle that allows them to co-exist with humans, thus putting them on a higher plain. This denial of nature allows them to follow the higher ideal of intellectual pursuits (medicine, science, music, art) and perfect them. They are civilized. Also, they are humanitarians. Instead of simply luxuriating in their spoils like the Volterra who live the ennui and courtly execess ala Medici’s or Louis XIV, the Cullens are still doing saintly things and continue learning/evolving (even if it means repeating High School or Harvard ten times). This doctrine is called “eternal progression” in the LDS, where it is a core belief for even a god or goddess to learn (progress) for eternity. And this progression doesn’t end unless you are chopped up and burnt (at least if you are a vampire).

3) It is all about the family… the family unit is the humanizing factor that sets them apart from the other vamps and even humans. The mortals in the story appreciate their humanitarian efforts (Dr. Cullen) and see them living a wholesome family life (hiking and camping together)…but they still find them odd and different from everyone else…even a little scary. Edward is not the only thing Bella is drawn too, but also his family life…so different from her own broken one. Family is so important to Dr. Cullen and wife Esme, that they create it in their own way. Because dead vampires can’t procreate (or so they thought in book 1-3), they make children by biting other humans… of course only the ones that would die anyways. This “sealing ceremony”… actually is portrayed by the vampires injecting the venom that turns humans to the other side…then they sear or seal the venom into the victims body, essentially making them immortal. In LDS, the sealing ceremony of marriage also includes future children they have, making them an eternal family. Amazing how the theme of children…having them, the inability to have them (Rosalie), the fact that Bella still is one in many ways…plays in this book. When you get the book 4 you find out the most bitter vampire battle is over vampires so desperately wanting children, that they bite young ones to keep them in that perpetual state.

4) Book 4 starts with a Celestial marriage. In a LDS sacred marriage ceremony, a man and a woman make covenants to God and to each other and are sealed as husband and wife for time and all eternity. When Bella marries Edward their vows last Bella’s human lifetime and in her afterlife shortly to come. Which is why it was so important to Edward that Bella marry him as a human. Although the true sealing doesn’t happen until Bella is bitten. In LDS doctrine, the sealing power in the ceremony is what maintains the union after the resurrection from the dead. Unions not sealed will not survive into the afterlife. Interestingly, a man can be sealed to more than one women…technically, only if she dies (polygamy wiggle room), but a woman can only be sealed to one man in mortal life…even if her husband dies. But in the afterlife, all rules are off…women can seal to more men. Good thing Eddie and Bella have a love to last an eternity.

5) Bella is sacrificed and resurrected. Of course Bella has been so prepared by Edward’s family, and her heart is so pure, she doesn’t even have the normal human devouring adjustment period. The death and resurrection scene is intense in book four, made palatable and acceptable to the outsiders (werewolves and family) by the sacrifice she is making to birth a miracle child, Reneseme. A child created by a union between mortal Bella (Mary) and a Edward (God). Mormons don’t believe in the virgin birth, and they believe that God physically impregnated Mary.The blue collar Mormon will tell you this isn’t true, but if you dig deeper into their actual teachings you will find this doctrine. The physical part of God joining with the physical part of Mary… Reneseme in the book becomes the saviour to a tormented Jacob and embittered Rosalie, and is expected to shake up the entire world she is brought into. Being both goddess and woman…. (Feminine mystique work here).

6) Bella is a frustrating character. She is instantly in love with this hundred year old vampire who watches over her (literally when she is sleeping, she calls him her angel). Edward introduces her to a new world of sophistication and eroticism, protects her, is omnipresent and literally in book 2 sucks out her soul. In a nice twist, Bella becomes his saviour…but hey that’s a whole other blog. It is this instant comfort and acceptance of his beliefs, and the fact he is an old, kinda creepy man wrapped up in a hot sexy bod…that makes an interesting statement of what some LDS girls might be looking for…or at least being told to look for. She is willing to give up everything, even her humanity to be with him. Interesting how Meyer works it all out in book 4, so she doesn’t have to…takes some quick footwork though. And when she crosses over into immortality, her superpower is a mental shield, that protects all her loved ones from the mental trickery played by other immortals. Oh, and no one can read her mind. Supermom, hyper-vigilant to the evils of the world.

7. The book takes place in utopia for vampires… Washington State Olympic Peninsula, where it hardly ever is sunny. They can come out and live amongst the folks…interestingly right next to the Hyper aware and wise Native American tribe. The book of mormon follows Christ’s ministry to Native Americans, and the city of zion was said by Joseph Smith to be near their land. Although hard for me to believe Forks as a Utopian city… works in context.

8. Okay, last one for now… The idea of imprinting is creepy. The fact that a werewolves can imprint…or basically mark a mate who is an infant or toddler is weird. There are two characters in Meyer’s books who do so, one is Jacob…who upon seeing the infant Reneseme knows that she will be his future mate. He explains to Bella in book 3 I think, that it is not creepy. This older male will simply be a beloved uncle for awhile, then as she grows into an adolescent a friend whose shoulder to cry on, and then only when she is old enough a wife and lover. How the pack, or family will look out for her and protect her until it is time for her to be taken by the werewolf to mate. How they will even accept their mortal enemies the vampires, because of the power of imprinting. This is eventually accepted by Bella, because omniscient Edward can read Jacob’s thoughts and vouches for his purity of motive and heart.

Hmmm…. a lot to chew on. Anyone else read the books and see the parallels? Maybe you have some I left out. I would love to hear any comments….

Okay, so why do this? In interviews Stephenie Meyer has dismissed and hedged around her religious implications, calling it a story. I will grant Meyers that LDS is the context and POV she is operating within. CS Lewis was a Christian when he wrote Narnia, how much of the inferences we take from it were intended and how many are there simply because he was existing in the framework of Christianity…. authors write what they know. Albeit, Twilight came to Meyer’s in a dream, much like her religious idol Joseph Smith who saw Moroni (who strangely might have looked like Edward in sunlight). My “why” hypothesis is two fold:

1) It is my experience that the everyday Mormon does not know most of these “controversial doctrines”. I think they are purposely withheld from them until they work their way up and can be trusted. I think most cults operate in this manner. It is not until you reach the upper echelon that the true doctrine of their belief system is revealed. So, this is certainly a great plowing technique. Tilling the soil in the hearts of these young LDS women, preparing them for the ideals they will face…. Twilight, although not well written, is a provocative story and a great read…. I can see how easy it would be to start adjusting my expectations and beliefs in order to find a “higher love” like Edward and Bella.

2) It sows the seed in a generation of possible recruits. If the young hearts of girls go pitter-patter for the ideals espoused in the Twilight series… hey, when they are approached with a religion that makes it possible… it’s an easier pill to swallow. Books are powerful – they form and shape ideas of what and who we want in this world. (My husband, is a lot like Mr. Darcy…coincidence? Probably not.) Also, it introduces readers to the sanitized world of LDS. Hey, who doesn’t know that the author is Mormon…and she wrote a cool book like that… how bad can Mormonism be.

As a Christian, I have always found the lines of wizards, witches, vampires in literature interesting. Christians readily accept CS Lewis and Tolkien versions of them as acceptable…but have heart attacks over Hogwarts. I will NOT let my children read Harry Potter UNTIL they realize the biblical truth that witchcraft is Satanic…all witchcraft, even “good” witches. I will not let my daughter read Twilight, UNTIL she can realize how unhealthy Edward and Bella’s relationship is -that Meyers true message is cloaked in unrequited love and supernatural (not God’s) protection. However, I (unlike Bella) can’t shield them from all the evils and influences of the world. Instead, I can help them find the lines of truth before God. In Romans the Apostle Paul said, you have to find that line in your heart, and be accountable to God for the decision you make…however, open your eyes, and know what the message truly is.

 

Calling all Writers… Up for an Adventure? April 21, 2008

Global Domination...One polish at a time

Anyone up for an adventure in writing “green”? Any aspiring or published writers out their looking for a fun, collaborative blog novel?  Are you an artist, photographer, cinematographer looking for a fun way to work with writers? Ok… so I am sure this is not a terribly new concept… but it is definitely experimental for me. I have a great idea for a novel and thought it would be fun to open up the process from conception to completion with my blogging family. We would have a weekly, guided forum with goals. Gather ideas form our adoring readership on characters, plot points, twists…  Not a huge time commitment, just a fun, collaborative process with other writers…and a good way to learn if you are new to the writing game…and mentor if you aren’t. On Meebo we will have real time chat writer’s meetings once a week to discuss all our options and close out the section. At the end of the planning process, we can split research if needed…and then decide if we will all write the chapters together or split them up…

We will use simple formula structure like Book in a Month… it has easily digestible “assignments”.  The goal is to story plan for 30 days, and then write the chapters in 30 days. You can be an author, a collaborator, or a lurker. If you are chosen as an author you would be taking the suggestions and storyboards we come up with and using it to write the actual chapter. If you want to collaborate you can leave suggestions, vote on characters… suggest plot points…participate in online planning meetings if you would like…and yes, you can be both. If you just want to lurk, and track our process…let us know you are a fan and comment once in a while. An over all “Bible” will be developed for plot and character… something that, the author will follow. Then, the draft chapter would be open to the other authors (maybe on a private blog) for editorial review and acceptance.

…. Once the chapters are complete (and edited 🙂 we can publish on Kindle and/or other forms of electric press…. or just release the chapters as they come to all our blogging friends…

If you are interested, leave a comment… I have already reserved the blog under the title of the book, and will be getting it up and running with the story concept next week. If you are interested in authoring the book…meaning writing chapters and participating on a regular basis, let me know so I can tag you as an author. You can leave on comment on this site, on the books blog site or at the book’s email listed below.

So, you are not a writer… perhaps you are an artist and would like to illustrate with drawings, animation or photographs? You make movies or cartoons and care to follow along… we would love it! Let’s see what what the collective can do with a simple plot idea.

Ok, ready? Want to try?

The book is called Manicure Mafia, and you can start writing now! http://manicuremafia.wordpress.com.

You can also contact us at: manicuremafia@gmail.com

Can’t wait to see you, click over now if you are interested!

 

Write Tool of the Week #2 April 17, 2008

Butt Glue.

The secret to successful writing…the secret to actually finishing the book…the key to getting published.

Butt Glue.

I am a collector of books about…well…writing books. I have quite a little library put together, most end up saying…Thanks for putting my kid through college buying this book, now quit reading a book about how to write, and just…well, write!

Write Away,  (see below for link) one of the more recent (and in my opinion, best) books on writing Elizabeth George extols the virtue of gluing one’s bum to the chair in which one sits. Pull up in front of your writing instrument of choice…and go to it straight away. She goes on to quote another author saying, “He who possesses the best bum glue wins.”

Amie’s tips to help you STICKETH:

1. Write what you want to, not what you think will sell. Write your passion and about what interests you. If you do that, you will always have something to say.

2. Write characters that you would actually like to spend a good portion of your life with. George says that “writing requires forced introspection.” Don’t avoid your life. It will help you create believable characters, who have to feel something themselves in order to become real.

3. Commit yourself to the process…for the value of the process alone. Of course we all want to be published. We are writers, why write if no one will ever read it. Don’t put the pressure of “having to publish” on yourself. Write it, because you love the characters…because the plot intrigues you. John Dalton once said, “Don’t waste your time feeling ashamed for being an unpublished author. Each time you sit alone in a room and give your most honest and complete effort, you’ve earned the title of writer.” The pressure to publish is often the number one cause of writer’s block…with that said… When you run into a block in the process Frances Itani says “Write your way through all your problems, don’t sit around thinking about them.

4. You actually have to write the darn book if you do want to get published… Authors write every day…how they account for their productivity varies…some authors work on an hours system, some on page count, some on word count… pick a way of tracking your goals so you can see how far you have come. Remember to reward yourself…and schedule in a “day off” in order to recharge. American Artist Chuck Close put it this way: “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

5. 15 mins a day of writing will get you closer to completion than 0 mins. When people find out that I am a writer … the conversation seems to wind to them having a book they have always wanted to write…but don’t have the time. WRONG… repeat after me… I choose to have time…I choose to have time… turn off the tv (or put headphones on), screw the laundry for one day, as much as you love to read someone else’s novel (or latest book on writing) WRITE instead. We choose to be…too busy.

6.  Write for someone. Even if it is your husband, best friend, neighbor, writing group… ME…I’ll take you on. You need someone to hold you accountable to your goals. Pin their photo up next to your desk, so you can see them staring down at you 🙂

7. Last one, for every hour you sit…glued to your chair writing… balance it with adventure, fun, new experiences, people, exercise…. go into nature, or the city…or wherever inspires you. Spend time with people who inspire you. LIVE… then go write about it

I know there are more ideas and tools out there… you may have a list of your own… why don’t you comment and leave some here…let other writer’s and aspiring writer’s out there know what works for you!

To Find My Favorite Books on Writing… Guaranteed to help or at least inspire you…click on the link below. 

http://astore.amazon.com/thewritoo02-20

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of WritingOne Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing LifeLessons from a Writing LifeWriters Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything In Between

 

 

Write Tool of the Week March 30, 2008

3 x 5 Card Bleachers - Index Card Organizer, 3 x 5 Card Organizer, Holder

If you are a writer, you MUST see the fantastic tools at Levenger (www.levenger.com). Their claim to fame is providing tools for serious readers, however I have found some great tools for serious writers as well. My favorite is their 3×5 index card wooden bleachers. Most writers I know use 3×5 cards as a staple for productive storyboarding. They are easy to write on, small enough to port around and make us look like we are actually accomplishing something. I had two big challenges with the cards (Other than writing to much on them). I would pin or (gasp) tape them to the wall beside my computer. My wonderful husband did not like the new wall decor, no matter how festive the neon bright paper was…or how productive it made me appear. My second challenge was, once attached to the wall, it was difficult to move plot points around and even worse try to detach them for a trip…(scotch tape…not pretty on painted walls) I stumbled across the answer to all my problems, Levenger’s Bleachers and 3×5 cards. The bleacher is made from high quality wood in two colors (dark and light cherry), is stylish and has storage in the back for extra cards and pens. I can easily tote it around. If I could suggest anything to Levenger it would be a carrying case to protect the wood, because mine shows the battle scars of travel. I am thinking of buying another so I have one that moves and another that looks pretty on my desk.

Storyboarding on it is a breeze. I can organize the cards on different levels or dedicate one of the six levels for each thread. I can keep everything about the character I am working on up, and follow their logline. I like the tactile feeling of moving the cards, more concrete than cyberspace. How you use it is up to you! I purchased their blank window 3×5 cards. They are pricier than the office supply stores, but I like the heavier quality and ultra bright white color of their cards. I found it easy to customize my character, plot and setting card templates onto them. They also printed through my ink jet without a problem. Levenger has also created organizers, file folders and storage boxes that provide no-brainer organization to the vast amounts of cards that I produce. My biggest challenge is trying to talk my kids out of using up my stock, they love the cards too.

Levenger has great customer service and easy on line ordering from their well designed website. They also have a great catalog that I enjoy thumbing through and drooling over. If you are a writer and share an appreciation for fabulous supplies…this is the place for you… www.levenger.com

If you end up trying this out, let me know what you think!

 

 
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