Taran Jordan, writer

When I get writer's block, this is the place I come to.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Come on over...

Just a warm invitation to my readers to come over to my new blog: http://taranjordan.wordpress.com.

As you know, I and many other Cotse.net users had been experiencing blockages when we tried to view Blogspot pages, including our own blogs. So I elected to move my writing to a more privacy-friendly environment. (The Google/Blogspot people have finally remedied this issue, but it's too late for me to want to come back.)

Wordpress.com is a delight to use, and made transferring my posts and comments a breeze. I'll have to redo my blogroll and links by hand, but these will soon be done.

I chose to merge all three of my Blogspot blogs into one cohesive site, too. So please update your bookmarks, drop on by, and let me know how you like the new digs. ;-)

Bye-bye, Blogspot!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blogspot/Google blocking proxy access

For the past week or so, maybe longer, I get a "503 - Connect failed" message every time I try to connect to a Blogspot.com blog through my SSH proxy.

I'd had this issue in the past, and then it seemed to go away. But now it's back, and I can't read Lewlew's or Morrigan's or Jefftoo's blogs - or any others hosted on Blogspot.com. (Including my own.)

Well, after going to the source (Doh!), I realized that this is an across-the-board issue between Blogspot and my proxy provider. Here's what I found.

The good folks at Cotse.com and Cotse.net, in mulling over this dilemma, don't seem to be considering that perhaps Google (owner of Blogspot, and with whom they're having other issues) ain't interested in receiving connections from computers they can't catalog and trace back.

Looks like I might need to create some alternatives for my blog activities. Odd, that today I'm able to sign in here at Blogger.com through my proxy. I guess it's only the blog readers they're tracking - for the moment.

If you use Blogspot, whether to blog or to read, Cotse asks you to contact the blogspot people to request that they remedy the situation. If you do blog here, you might be missing out on readership because of this issue.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Defusing with truth

A little scenario that went through my mind yesterday…What if I were sitting somewhere, say alone in a bus station, and a man who looked to be a panhandler asked for money, then, when I said no, threatened to take it from me anyway? Instead of showing fear, or even anger, what if I then said to him, “So, what you’re saying is, you were going to take my money all along? You aren’t a beggar, you’re really a thief, then. Not a very nice thing to be.”

And what if this unexpected reaction from his “victim” made him sit back for a minute and think? True, he could respond with anger and lash out with violence. But I had to wonder if maybe the act of naming his actions as thievery might give him pause, enough that he might think, “Hey, it isn’t nice to be a thief, and I like to think or at least pretend that I’m a nice person, so maybe I shouldn’t take this woman’s money.” I just wonder if this approach might work more often than one would suspect nowadays, even given the violence that seems so widespread. And maybe the power of simple honesty, plus the fact of connection on a human level (even through disapproval), could cause a shift in the atmosphere.

Here’s another deeper thought – what if the thief is really something of a child still, and feels an odd comfort at the reproach, and a certain affection for the person delivering it? Like having a wise old grandma who sets reasonable boundaries and standards of moral behavior for her grandkids. Psychology seems to be telling us nowadays that children do better in structured environments with gradual increases in freedom as they show they can be trusted with it. Does this mean that criminals are generally operating at a child’s level? "I want something, and I’ll have it, even if it means being a bully to get it"?

And what does this say about people who aren’t bullies? Who don’t need or want or appreciate others setting boundaries for them? Again, is it a question of intelligence? Does intelligence mean that one accepts the need for responsibility, and is willing to accept it as the price of freedom? And what about people who don’t care to do the boundary-setting for others, either?

It occurs to me that the man would be much more likely to show this sort of docility if he's not armed and neither am I. If he were a bureaucrat, though, I'd have to catch him alone without his goons at his elbow to enforce his every word, before he'd even hear one of mine.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Lines in the sand

Well, I took a break from blogging and did indeed get more writing done on other projects. But that other writing has given birth to a lot of new questions and concepts that just need some working out. And a blog or journal is a good way for me to explore them.

The novel I'm writing a novel is about a unique version of an underground railroad in the days of Bleeding Kansas, just before the outbreak of the War Between the States (or whatever name you prefer). And I'm striving to understand the motivation of people who prefer (or at least accept) non-freedom, and what separates them from those who truly need to live in freedom.

The heroine of the story starts out naively assuming that every slave desires freedom, and the only reason they haven't yet taken it is because they don't see how. So she's going to teach them. But in the process she learns that even most of the slaves don't have the will to freedom - some do, of course, but many just want to get by and not make waves, or they're stopped by fear that the unknown will be worse than present reality.

So what I’m dealing with here is the vast ability of humans to adapt to conditions, to find ways to get by under any system. Most humans, anyway.

Where and how and when do the lines in the sand get drawn? Do some people have no lines at all, or see no need for them? Do the lines more often only become evident in the heat of a situation that threatens to become intolerable, for instance when one’s children are about to be taken away?

What causes some people to draw lines beyond which they will not go? I think all of us who desire freedom have some depth of courage in us that knows it will make its stand someday, who knows how or when, but the courage is there and will prevail.

Does everyone have that courage in some way, when the right combination of chips are down? If not, what makes us different? What do they have that we lack?

The deeper I get into the planning and plotting of this novel, the more I realize how central questions such as these are to the heart of the story and its theme - which is "the unquenchable urge to live free." This whole project is turning out to be much wider and more complex than I expected. I've got a lot of thinking to do.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

First excerpt from the novel in progress (working title Liberty Rain)

October, 1856

Why in heaven’s name did she find herself feeling this way near him?

What was she about, to lose her composure so utterly? He was a mere working man.

A strong, strapping working man. A man with glistening muscles covered in smooth deep brown skin. A man whose attraction was actually palpable in the air around her, like a blow to her throat and ribcage.

And she – she could not understand. She knew only that she felt a shuddering compulsion, to be near him if she possibly could, to evoke some sort of response from him.

He stood upon a crate, speaking clearly above the jumble of confused voices gathered to hear the news. He read confidently – he could read! – from a long sheet of newsprint.

“Five slaves have escaped from Mr. Whitten’s loading-yard on Light Street and are being sought. It is believed that the five gained their treacherous ideas of escape from followers of Mrs. Tubman, who is wanted in several states for her treasonous acts of thievery and incitement.”

He went on as the group quieted to listen, calling out conspiratorially,

“I have it on good word that they made it safely to the North, although this news is not yet public. Naturally, we do not know who these five slaves could have been, do we? Nor do we know anything about their plans, route, or intentions. But, friends, it is important that we keep abreast of the happy news of freedom, and not merely the terrible hunting of our people by inhuman beasts of prey.”

The group around him breathed sighs of relief. They understood. It was not to be talked about outside. This meeting, though, was needed – because the news of late had not been good at all.

Allegra Nelson tried to imagine the hunted, desperate longing of those who had escaped, or wished to. She could not quite take it in; she could manage only a deep but puzzled empathy.

It was time for her to go. If her father learned that she had been present at such a meeting in his own warehouses, what then? She couldn’t imagine what he might do. But she knew there was a fierceness in him that she preferred not to test.

She had wanted to be here since another free black worker had whispered to her quickly, the day before, of an organization among the crews. Had her youth and apparent kindness spurred the confidence? Had the group been hoping for clandestine support from those among the white, well-to-do community of Baltimore who sympathized? Or had, perhaps, something been noticed of her tendency to take the unusual course, ladylike or not? She didn’t know.

The workers knew her by sight, as she often visited the warehouses in her sickly mother’s stead. Anna Nelson was a Quakeress by birth, a lady of quiet, smiling breeding and gentleness, and it had been her custom to become acquainted with the workers, white and black, in her husband’s enterprise. She visited them, asked about their work and their families, and occasionally brought them soup or cakes or fresh fruit as a surprise. But during the months of Anna’s illness, Allegra had welcomed the opportunity to stand in for her delicate mother, to hear and smell and taste the world without, to escape from the stuffy house and the confinement of a lady’s daily existence.

It was taking her a long time, though, to learn the names of the crews, she fretted. She would have to do better. But she did know – she had made sure of it - that the speaker’s name was Christopher.

She gazed across at him, forgetting to cast down her eyes as she was expected to. And then, to her shock, he saw her and smiled. Then he strode toward her.

She turned, her heart in her throat, but with decision, and walked to the door before he could reach her.

Two morsels of food for thought

First, from Lynn Andrews's book Crystal Woman, which I'm rereading:
"You see, you have a story that has come to live in you. Now you must tell that story...Stories need a voice. This story can see that you are a storyteller and it likes you." --p. 23

And second, for some feisty inspiration - found on some website I visited "accidentally":
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” --Ephesians 6:12

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sigh

Okay, the whole "whoopee - my time is my own and I can revel in unending, rich days of nothing but writing now" thing just hasn't worked out as I planned. It was doomed from the start, dingbat!

It's amazing, embarrassing and disgusting how strong the temptation is - and how often I succumb to it - to loll around with an old favorite book and a bag of potato chips, rather than getting to work the way I said I wanted to!

I spent a lot of the summer doing just that, and trying to recover from the very bad lower back/leg pain left over from a car accident this past spring. Three months of twice-weekly visits to the chiropractor did no discernible good. Sometimes my density astonishes me after I finally notice it. So I told him to go take a leap (nicely, as is my wont) and found a modality that's working: Jin Shin Do acupressure. At last! I am finally able to get real on my vow to exercise! Oh, man, I actually feel BETTER! I got my hips back! Heheheh...

And then, of course, there's been contract work from the old job popping up more often than expected. Crusty (former) boss #2 calls and expects me to jump, forgetting that I don't work for him full-time anymore. Problem is, I tend to forget it too. Plus, there's that little question of finances or the lack thereof. Hoping to avoid any such lack, I jump, if reluctantly.

Anyway, the writing is happening. The story seems to have a life of its own, as well as a timetable by which it reveals itself. I find that if I give it an hour or more per day, the plot elements keep flowing. I don't even know how it's happening, but I listen and write them down and flow into that state of "and then what?" and "what if?"

And I really like the new element of suspense and mystery that's cropped up this week. More on that next time, perhaps.

Oh, and bummer of the week...the industry magazine I just landed a regular column with (third submission due next week) is going to be outsourced to a production company. No idea whether they'll be interested in keeping me on, because they haven't even been selected yet. Grf.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A quick thank-you...

...to all the good folks at the James River Writers Festival, for the excellent conference this past weekend. I'll definitely be back, and in the meantime, I'm looking forward to getting involved with the organization over the course of the coming year.

A very special thank you to literary agent (and very classy lady) Dorothy Vincent, whose encouragement and excellent advice were the highlight of the weekend for me.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Unavoidable delays...

Well, the "real world" and my "real" job have intervened in my schedule for weeks now, and I'm pining to get back to long stretches of novel writing. After this week is over...really! I promise! I'll go nuts if I can't get writing again!

In the meantime, for anyone interested, here's a link to my nonfiction blog, The Freedom Outlaw. I'm headed to a writer's conference this coming weekend, and who knows? Maybe the editors and agents due to appear there will want to see a little of my work.

Until I can get my life back into AVOIDABLE delay mode, that is...and get some more done on the novel that won't go away. I'm damned glad it won't. Do you writers out there have the same experience - a story that won't let you get away until you get it down on paper or disk? I've never known this before, and wonder if it's part of the writing life.

Oh...and I've got some great new inspiration from a visit I was able to make recently to a safe house from the Underground Railroad days. You could just sense the hope and fear still hovering about the ramshackle frame house. Awesome. It's going to show up in the book, I know that much.

See y'all soon - maybe in a conference room full of other writers?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Like a trip on an underground railroad

What if my life is, and has been so far, a hurried, seemingly chaotic journey, like a trip on an underground railroad, taking me past stops that show me something I’ll need to recall later, and hustling me in a jagged, roundabout, yet oddly logical procession to someplace I’ll eventually end up belonging in at last?

What if Allegra's (the heroine's) life is the same? She begins young and filled with passion for the ideas she's learning - but senses there's a much bigger, undefined, ineffable goal ahead of her. And a bigger, more drawn-out and ongoing struggle than she planned.

Goethe's couplet, "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it/Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it," moves me greatly, as I've found it to be true. People often say that hindsight is 20/20. But I think we can catch glimpses of the "divinity that shapes our ends" even right while it's happening.

I need to remember the power of a logical yet suspenseful plot, one filled with meaningful events whose meaning isn't always obvious in present time. And to embrace the magic of concerted action, which touches off all manner of serendipities.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Welcome

You've found me - so thanks. I'm Taran Jordan, a writer who believes in freedom and self-reliance. You might know me as Lightning on several freedom-based discussion forums.

This summer I'm writing a historical novel, working title Liberty Rain, a story of a very unusual young woman who decides to run an also unusual escape route - and has quite a few adventures along the way. As it progresses, I'll post excerpts here. It won't be done by the end of the summer, though...that's way too much to promise!

This is also my place to hash out questions about plotting, characterization, style, and the whole process of learning enough to get published. Your comments and ideas will be welcome. A writer can't and shouldn't work in utter isolation, intellectual or otherwise.

Thanks for stopping by, and please come back now and then.