Show Me the Romance

No cherubs. No doilies. No crap.

Archive for the month “March, 2010”

Fragment Friday!

It’s that time again. 🙂  Today, we’re highlighting an exchange between Layla and one of her teachers, Ama Istani.


Layla couldn’t think of a worst day to have a poetry examination. Even in the best circumstances, her attempts to construct original verse stumbled to an inglorious finish. Today, with her thoughts tuned toward siegeball practice that afternoon, her poetry more closely resembled unpeeled potatoes jammed through a cheese grinder. She bit her thumb beneath her veil.

Outside, the day was glorious. Cool breezes fragrant with hypsis and trumpet flower blew through the classroom. The topic was the sea, but she knew she and her fellow students were supposed to write about love—romantic love. Sometimes, she wondered if women were ever supposed to write about anything else. She was heartily sick of crafting metaphors for a subject she knew nothing about.

Oh she loved plenty—she loved her father, siegeball, her friends. She loved the sea, too, so if this assignment was about just any type of love, it wouldn’t be so difficult.

The shrill blast of a zurna rang throughout the academy. Layla scribbled one last line below her stanza.

“Pens down, ladies.” Ama Istani plucked the pen out of Layla’s hand and laid it on the desk. “I’ll grade these drafts, and then we’ll revise our poems first thing next week, once you’ve had time to gain a fresh perspective on the subject matter. For tomorrow, read the next four chapters in A Dream of Blue Fire, and be prepared to speak on them.”

The ama opened the door and waited for the students to file out, collecting their poems as they went. Layla checked the fasteners on her veil, wondering if she’d have time to stop by her room before changing for practice. Absently, she handed Ama Istani the paper in her hand and walked past.

“I do not tease myself into believing literature is your best subject, Layla bar Avran, but I do expect a bit more focus.”

Layla whirled back to her literature teacher, her mouth open. “I—I was focusing.”

Beneath an artful arrangement of wavy dark hair, Ama Istani’s brows lowered. “I attend siegeball games, bar Avran. I have seen you focus. Do not insult me by claiming this was anything like that.”

“Yes, Ama.” She turned to go, but an impulse turned her back. “Why do we always write about love?”

The Ama peered at her for a moment. “Should we write about something else?”

Layla knew better than to shrink before that forbidding gaze. Ama Istani could be as cruel or as fair as a student expected her to be. “I might do better with a subject I know more about.”

At that, the ama chuckled and waved Layla from her classroom. “No one writes poetry about siegeball. You’ll have to make do with love.”

The changing face of high school musicals

I wrote over 4,000 words for Broadway High on Monday, and with a clearer hold on the novel as it’s taking shape, I’m re-evaluating my choice to use Guys and Dolls as the performance in the story. Currently, the forerunner to replace it is my personal favorite, Hello, Dolly! but in my research to see which of these is more overused (according to Time Magazine, Guys and Dolls is) I’ve also discovered something that I kind of suspected but never really knew: musicals at the high school level are evolving into grand spectacles of their own.

Experts seem to agree that revitalized interest in music theater among young people is partly due to the emergence of the “new family musical” in the mid 1990’s and 2000’s (Beauty and the Beast, Wicked, The Lion King). Most recently, the kindling interest caught fire with Disney’s High School Musical franchise.

In 1999 (the year I graduated from high school), the first chapter of the Cappies was founded–Tony Awards for the high school performance set. Since then, they’ve grown and now have something like 14 chapters across North America. There still isn’t a chapter in the Shenandoah Valley, but maybe there will be someday.

Now high schools are tackling Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Urinetown, and even one brave school near Chicago put on Rent a couple years ago. (Ha…can’t see Rent being performed at Broadway any time soon, but you never know). I just read an article about a school in Seattle whose big-top performance of Barnum cost $90,000 dollars to produce!

Part of me wishes Kim Tate and Holly Dickerson at Broadway High School had that kind of budget to play with, but another part of me is proud of what we did (it was Kim Tate and Scott Smith back then) and what Kim and Holly continue to do. It’s all possible with the support of parents, the community, and the sheer determination of kids fighting to produce a show that will transform cardboard walls and a budget auditorium into March magic.

So whether I go with Hello, Dolly! or Guys and Dolls, here’s to hoping I can do justice to a school that brings the glittering toil of music theater to a little country town far from the maddening crowd.

I have readers in Israel, Finland AND Ukraine.

Why? I have added fan-fiction to the burgeoning list of things I write.

When my mother reads this she’s probably going to croak, er, think I’ve abandoned all hope of getting my own original novel(s) published. But so far, I have nothing but great things to say about the experience. Yes, I’m still working on Broadway High , and yes, I’m busily editing Veiled Iron (query letter polished, primed, locked and loaded, ready to fire…any gun words I’m forgetting?) so that it’ll be ready to go out when I get agents beating down my door after they read my query (I wish that wasn’t tongue-in-cheek. Positive thoughts!). In the meantime, working on a fan-fiction story is kind of a way to keep my creative wells from not getting pumped dry all at once. Plus it’s fun to get responses from people who love the source material as much as you do.

So to answer the next logical question, I’m hosting our first-ever Keyboard Sandbox Poll.

Question: What exactly IS the source material, Michelle?

A) Anime

B) Battlestar Galactica

C) He-Man/She-Ra

D) The Office

Cheaters can go to and do an author search by my name, “Michelle Sinclair.”

You know you want to 😉

Fragment Friday (nearly missed it, didn’t I?)

Enjoy 🙂   [Background: Layla and Sanjar have gone horseback riding.]

Carefully, Layla sneaked a glance at Sanjar. His hips rolled with the horse, as fluid as breathing. The reins hung limp from his hand. She recalled Jiro’s comment the night before. “Is it true, Bahadorens think they can ride through anything?”

A smile quirked the corners of his mouth. “That’s because we can. Anything but sandstorms.” He could be distant, and the intensity she often saw in his eyes made him a little intimidating, but when he smiled like that, Layla wondered why he didn’t do it more often.

She urged Kiraz into an easy gallop. “Let’s go a little faster.”

Sanjar picked up his pace. “Not much more,” he called, “there could be rabbit holes.”

Of course. She didn’t want to lame her horse trying to prove something.

The wind plastered her veil to her face, playing among the loose waves of hair beneath her braids. Sanjar pulled even. He caught her eyes, and a smile so mischievous it stole her breath broke across his face. He surged ahead, laughing at her shriek of frustration. ‘Not much faster’ her eye!

“Hie!” Layla let Kiraz loose. The mare leaped into her stride, gaining ground on Sanjar with exhilarating speed. The grass whipped by in a blur. She raced into the lead just as a pair of quail burst up out of the grass.

Kiraz screamed. She kicked into a thundering gallop across Sanjar’s path.

Wind stung Layla’s eyes. Her veil sucked into her nose and mouth, sliding to whip across her vision. She clawed at the fabric. The wild pace jarred her bones. She couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. Each bounce slipped her farther off the center of her saddle. She tried turning Kiraz’s head by pulling the right-hand rein, but the animal barreled on. Tears blurred the last of her vision. One more slip, and death would catch her.

Fragment Friday!

Time for my first-ever Fragment Friday! Every Friday I’ll share an excerpt from Veiled Iron. Please feel free to comment, complain, critique, whatever 🙂 It’s all helpful.

A few words of introduction–Sanjar sneaked into the stands a few pages earlier to watch his new siegeball team practice. Only Layla and his “basinmate” Jiro know he’s come to play on their team, and Sanjar thinks the player he sees wearing a mask must be a guy from one of the desert nomad tribes. He’s very impressed with “Mask’s” ability to run and catch the ball. Master Kemal is their siegeball master (head coach).

Sanjar had seen enough. He rose from his seat and ducked through the exit, grabbing the handrail to swing himself down the wide, spiraling stairs. The door at the bottom swung open with a screech, and all motion on the field stuttered to a halt. Seventy pairs of eyes swept his way.

Read more…

The words are always greener on the other side of the genre

I’ve only ever written novels set in some world dated at least 400 years ago. Maybe that says something unflattering about my ability to relate to the world the Good Lord plunked me down in, but in the past, whenever I read something clever and visceral set in the “now,” I always made myself feel better as a writer by dismissing it as “oh it’s easier to write the world you live in.” Or “it’s easier when you can use the swear words and expressions people say today.”

I’m writing my very first contemporary novel and it’s freaking me out.

It’s not that I don’t think I can WRITE contemporary stuff (eek what if I can’t?) I just think I might be over-thinking it a bit. It’s like an alcoholic being locked in a room full of top shelf liquor and being told he’ll be locked in there forever if he doesn’t empty the bottles in the right order. Weird analogy, but bear with me. I can’t wait to get my hands on all those words and expressions and descriptions I could never use before, but now that I’m free to do it, I’m constantly afraid I’m doing it wrong.

Part of the problem is I’m currently writing the all-important first two pages, which can always be revised/cut/rewritten later, but of course, how awesome would it be to get it right–first thing out of the starting gate.

Perfectionism, thou art my frenemy.

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