Monthly Archives: December 2010

Eliza Haywood: from The Female Spectator, Vol. 1, No. 1

(writes Eliza Haywood):
“It is very much by the choice we make of subjects for our entertainment that the refined taste distinguishes itself from the vulgar and more gross. Reading is universally allowed to be one of the most improving as well as agreeable amusements; but then to render it so, one should, among the number of books which are perpetually issuing from the press, endeavor to single out such as promise to be most conducive to those ends. In order to be as little deceived as possible, I, for my part, love to get as well acquainted as I can with an author, before I run the risk of losing my time in perusing his work; and as I doubt not but most people are of this way of thinking, I shall, in imitation of my learned brother (Not her true brother, but Addison and Steele’s Mr. Spectator, of the Spectator journal) of ever precious memory, give some account of what I am, and those concerned with me in this undertaking; and likewise of the chief intent of the lucubrations (writings by candlelight) hereafter communicated, that the reader, on casting his eye over the four or five first pages, may judge how far the book may or may not be qualified to entertain him, and either accept or throw it aside as he thinks proper.” (2468*)

What can we learn from Miss Haywood, you ask?  First of all, let it be known once and for all that reading is a delightful entertainment–one that may improve the mind.  She reminds us that, at the time she began her journal entitled the Female Spectator, 1744, many, many books were being published.  It became necessary, therefore, for readers to choose wisely which books would take up their time.  Some would enervate, and others energize the soul.  Those are my word choices: enervate versus energize.

From the writer’s perspective, this means that she must consider her audience.  She must consider the affect her words might have on her audience.  Writers entertain, as well as influence.  Nearly three-hundred years after Miss Haywood became the Female Spectator, her words ring true.  And they ring with irony.  Haywood was a prolific author before she began this journal, a prolific author of some sixty works of popular fiction, many of which were considered highly scandalous and erotic.  Well, there’s nothing saying a lady mayn’t be tempered through time and wealth and popularity.

*The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Vol. 1C The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century

p.s. The picture is an irony, in itself, because it is taken from a Daniel Defoe book, Roxana/The Fortunate Mistress, in which Defoe subtly mocks/mimics Eliza Haywood’s Idalia: The Unfortunate Mistress.


New Mexico Noir: Serial Update!

I should spend a few moments to give an update on the plot of my New Mexico Noir.  I’m still in the process of moving, and seeing as I haven’t posted a new weekly chapter in several months, I thought a review would be best—less stressful on me and you, my lovely readers.

First, let me tell you about my new house.  It is light and bright and much more spacious than any place I’ve ever lived.  The numerous long windows in my living room, facing east and south respectively, give way to such marvelous views that I may never write again.  I don’t actually mean that, but I do sometimes wonder if writers ought to lock themselves in cells where they are sense-deprived, so as not to be distracted.  I could sit and stare at my view for hours, I think.

Sigh.  Here goes.  For those of you who haven’t read NM Noir in a while, and for those who have read no chapters, let me tell you about Ella’s plight.  Ella is the protagonist, by the way.

Ella loses her job as waitress at Manuela’s New Mexican diner.  She gains a job, thankfully, as secretary for a stereotypical private investigator named Anthony (stereotypical, as in drinks too much Bud Light and whatever else with his New Mexican suavity).  As she begins this new ‘job’, she realizes she’s not just secretary, but housekeeper and general do-whatever-he-wants kind of gal.

Along the way, the mystery of a fuchsia butterfly appears–literally–on Ella’s bathroom mirror, by way of her expensive lipstick, when her house is broken into.  Her long-time on again/off again boyfriend is murdered, and her parents have disappeared.  There is some mystery having to do with a sexy Latina named Demetria Chicken, or Gallina, to be exact.  And in the last posted chapter, Ella breaks into her parents’ house to find clues to their disappearance.  While there, she steals some of her mom’s paintings and file folders and her parents’ answering machine.

What could possibly happen next?  As a reminder, this is a serial novel which I post as I write each new chapter.  It isn’t a work for traditional publishing, but for fun.  It is fun, too–full of New Mexican culture and beauty and craziness.  And food.  I’m so hungry.  Anybody up for a plate of flat enchiladas, New Mexican style, with red chile?  Yum.


Blogging, P90X Style!

I was a little devastated to read agent Rachelle Gardner’s article, Blogs We Don’t Like, last Friday.  I know, I know–she doesn’t speak for all agents, but I’m betting that a lot of agents feel the way she does.  Aspiring authors should have blogs that they update on a regular schedule.  They should, and I have no excuse for being a lazy aspiring author.

I’ve spent the past weekend mulling over how to make the blogging life work for me.  And then I heard Tony Horton’s voice in my head (yes, goofy Tony Horton of the P90X workout system): Anybody can do something for a minute.  Well, yeah.  He’s right.  It’s a little psychological trick you play on yourself.  You convince yourself you’re only exercising for a minute because each exercise is set up to last that long, when in reality you’re completing 50 or 60 of those exercise minutes.  How does this work for blogging, you ask?  Well, if I tell myself I can blog two days a week for a month–just for a month–then, surely, I can blog for another month and another and . . . then I will have become a regular blogger.

I never had too much trouble with the P90X workouts–and not simply because I tricked myself into finishing the daily videos.  I never had trouble because I was already a regular exercise nutcase before my husband brought them home and decided we were going to have some marital bonding through plyometrics and kickboxing.  I have been exercising five days a week for years.  Literally, I mean that.  Years.  Then another truth dawned on me–if I have found the time to exercise daily for years, why can’t I find the time to blog?  I am thoroughly BUSTED.  P90X and Tony Horton have busted me.  I have come to realize that I am a disgrace to aspiring bloggers/authors everywhere.

THE PLAN: I will blog two days a week for a month–and I might just manage not to die of utter blog exhaustion.  After I practice for a few months, I might not have to trick myself into enduring.  I will be a buff blogger by that time.  I will blog every Tue. and Thurs. evening (which in reality makes a Wednesday/Friday posting schedule.  Oops, have to change that on my sidebar!)  I will write short posts.  For example, I will cut my NM Noir chapters to 500 words, instead of 1000.

OTHER EXCITEMENT! I will not be able to start regular blogging this week because we are finally moving into our new house!  We have official occupancy status!  For those who don’t know, we have been living in a 30-year-old single wide trailer for the last eight years–suffering being fiscally responsible–in order to build a house.  Honestly, I’m not giving up before I’ve started.  At some point this week, our phone lines and internet will be cut off here and reconnected at the new house.  And it will be crazy around here.  That’s all I have to say about that.  The picture above is of our new home.  The front porch and balcony are east-facing (toward the Rio Grande river valley), and I wish I had a better shot of it to show off.  It’s so beautiful.

MORE and MORE EXCITEMENT!  I have completely revamped my authorial website to make it more professional.  I have also added in a feature which will allow for my blog posts here to scroll through my website.  If you’re following me here, you might just as well follow me over there: Jill’s (other) Writing World.


Who is this Muse, this Nun, this Poet?

Sor Juana was a 17th C Mexican nun, who was an intellectual and a poet, perhaps the greatest intellectual and poet in Mexican history.  Although she has no connection to New Mexico that I’m aware of (the dwelling place of my heart), you must remember that the current border between Mexico and the United States didn’t exist at the time of Sor Juana.  Therefore, New Mexico was just as much a Spanish colony in her day as Mexico was.

While Sor Juana was cloistered in her convent, studying and writing, New Mexico was experiencing turmoil.  In 1680, the Pueblo Indians revolted against the Spaniards, who fled to El Paso del Norte, but Sor Juana happily, in the same year, befriended the latest vicereina, who encouraged Sor Juana in her writing.  It was, in fact, a prolific year for Sor Juana, because the vicereina inspired her.  What better friend could she have chosen?  Encouragement and inspiration are of great importance to an aspiring author, but having a friend with political clout provides publicity, as well as protection against the Inquisition.

For me, Sor Juana is very much a part of my Southwestern experience.  I had never heard of her before I moved here, to be honest.  It was only after I enrolled in UNM and took Spanish classes that I learned of this amazing woman.  Not only did she write poetry with precision, but she was well-educated in philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy.

Plus, she bridged so many gaps for me.  Before I went back to school, I had scattered passions.  I had always loved studying Spanish and writing poetry and reading British books of all sorts, including Jane Austen.  When I studied Sor Juana and the other lovely Jane, they provided a frame work on which I could build a house of interests: the English met the Spanish, the Old World met the New World, the turn of the 18th C met the turn of the 19th C, which gave me an entire century in between, ripe for study; and early conservative feminists spoke to me through the words of those Janes.