Where to buy Traci Robison's books

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January 31, 2011

The End . . . Or is It?

Over the weekend I finished the rough draft of a book I've been working on for more than a year, and yet this morning feels like every other Monday.  No great sense of accomplishment or closure or loss.  Finishing the rough draft of my first novel, I'd mourned for days--missing the characters, the story, the experience of writing and daunted by the idea of editing.  It seems odd to feel nothing upon finishing this manuscript, but I suppose I've come to realize the ending of a rough draft is no ending at all.

I'm planning to let the manuscript rest for a couple weeks (or a month if I can hold off that long) before I start reading it.  In the meantime I'll be working on short stories, a form I haven't worked in outside a few college assignments long ago.  Writing shorts should be good practice, and I'm hoping it will help me tighten my plot pacing.  I'm really looking forward to a few weeks of something different.

Photo by Alex Basnett
Since it's a Monday like all other Mondays, I'm bound to offer a writing prompt.  Imagine a scenario that, in life, you'd consider an ending and begin your writing exercise there.  You might take the narrative backward and show how things arrived at that end, or you might re-think the "ending" as a beginning of something new.  Play around with the idea without too much directed thought and see where it takes you.  

January 24, 2011

Joshua Bell

Yesterday I attended a performance by Joshua Bell.  My last-minute tickets landed me in the second row, where I could see his shifting expressions--the almost grimacing tightness around eyes melting as the cadence mellowed.  I could hear his breath flow into the music.  Sometimes I'd realize I wasn't seeing him at all but I'd gone off somewhere, following the music into dreamed-up worlds.  Sometimes I'd wonder what he experienced as he played.  I supposed he was wholly in the moment--in the music--just as I lose myself in writing on those days when the writing flows.

 Though it's very different from yesterday's performance, I like this take on "Eleanor Rigby".  Have a listen and jot down the images that come to mind.

January 17, 2011

Found phrases as story starters

Stories surround us, but sometimes, drawn deep into our work, we lose touch with those lively inspirations.  The imagination needs fuel.  If you neglect filling it for too long, you'll wind up with the dreaded empty page glaring back at you.  Personal experience is an excellent catalyst for writing, but I often prefer to search for ideas outside myself.  One technique I've found useful is glancing through newspapers or online sources to find phrases that spark my curiosity and call to mind a character or setting.

I've pulled a few posts from craigslist as examples :

Regarding wolves:
My grandfather, a Native American from Browning, ranched in the area near there. He told me that the occasional cattle killed and eaten by wolves was an honor- a very small sacrifice for stealing the land from them. 

Woman's ruby ring:
Beautiful dark ruby ring surrounded by diamonds selling for half the value due to financial needs.

Sunbeam Faces:
Let Sunbeam Faces put a smile on your face - young and old alike. You can be made into a fairy princess, a puppy, a tiger or even a super-hero. 

Lost Shepherd Husky Mix Male:
Lost dog, about a year old, big and friendly! He is not fixed and has a tan mask. Our children miss him dearly. He goes by Ollie. Please help us find him; he looks like a wolf and is very healthy. He does not bite and has had his shots. Please do not mistake him for a wild animal and shoot him.  

Feeling inspired?  I sense stories waiting in each of these . . . And I'm thinking I might call Sunbeam Faces about being made into a super-hero.  It can't hurt, right?

January 14, 2011


Way back in September I promised I'd post some photos and blog about the Etruscan sites I visited this fall.  Rather than overwhelm you with everything at once, I'll focus on Tarquinia today.  Because of its unique tombs, the Estruscan necropolis at Tarquinia has earned recognition on the UNESCO World Heritage List .  I first learned about the Etruscans in an introductory art history class, and the tomb paintings from Tarquinia began my fascination with Etruscan culture.   For over a decade I've been learning about ancient Etruria, the setting of  some of my fiction and homeland of my favorite character.  Setting foot in places that have occupied my thoughts and imagination for so long was exhilarating, and looking back, the experience hardly seems real.   

Landscape view from Tarquinia's necropolis

My husband and I hopped on an early train from Rome to the small town of Tarquinia.  A short shuttle-bus ride took us to the city center and the Tarquinia National Museum, which housed an excellent collection of artifacts, sarcophagi, and restored wall paintings.  From the museum we hiked about a mile to the necropolis.  Situated on a hill, the necropolis overlooks the sea in the west and rolling hills and valleys like the one pictured above to the east and south.  The day we visited, the wind roared, dragging low gray clouds and rain over us.  We hurried from one tomb to another like gophers popping in and out of holes to avoid the wet, chilling gusts.

Each tomb is covered by a bunker-like structure with steep stairs leading down to its burial chamber.  The chambers are protected by a plexi-glass barrier, and timed lighting features insure that the paintings are exposed to light only when they are being viewed.  Although houses of the dead, the tombs conveyed a sense of life's continuity.  Music, dancing, feasting, sex--those activities depicted by Etruscan artists more than two thousand years ago remain central sources of human delight.  Examining those tombs, I didn't wonder about religious symbolism or the mysteries of Etruscan culture.  I thought about how alike people are.  The distance of decades or miles or ideologies doesn't alter the basic attributes and experiences of being human.

Detail from Tomb of the Leopards