When I first read Shakespeare, I was fourteen. My freshman year in high school we read Romeo and Juliet and Julius Ceasar. Over the next four years I read Twelfth Night, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing and the Sonnets.
Okay, so here's the punchline: I attended a public high school in North Florida. Go figure. We read a lot of great stuff; all that great stuff we read kept me from becoming a high school dropout. My life was saved by Shakespeare and Plato and Dante and Joyce and Woolf and ... well, you get the idea.
I think as a beginner I found Shakespearean language daunting. I had not been raised on the King James Bible which certainly gives one a head start. But once I let myself drift a little, let the words unfold and the rhythm of the language seep into my soul, I was hooked. I still go back to these plays and reread scenes that made my stomach burn.
And when I'm writing, there's nobody like Shakespeare to lend a little poetic inspiration. Often when I'm plotting out a story, I use a Shakespear search engine, looking up key words and using the resulting links as a springboard into the land of the bard. It's a very postmodern way to explore Shakespeare, I admit, and I'm sure there are purists cringing and closing out my blog window as they read this, but for me it's magical.
A month ago I read an entire act of Henry V spontaneously when I was looking for a quote about battle. Last night I read a long angry passage from Julius Ceasar. As a result, I'm working on a story tentatively titled "With a Monarch's Voice Cry 'Havoc'"... You can't beat the Bard for poetic titles.
And the sonnets are as fresh and passionate as the drama. Last year I wrote a novella called The Marriage of True Minds (Dreamspinner Press). It's a romance about two GIs during WWII who meet, but never really fall out of love. The novella was my tribute to the concept of a love that "looks on tempests and is never shaken."
April 23 is (maybe) the Bard's birthday. We know when he was christened on April 26, 1564, we know when he died on April 23, 1616. A lot of people seem to think he was born on April 23 (St George's Day). As a writer and historian, I recognize the symbolic importance of dates. And so today, I choose to remember William Shakespeare and think about his influence on my writing, my heart, and my soul.
"Yeah, but the photo?" you ask. "Joseph Fiennes? C'mon."
"Poetic license," I reply. "Joseph's a hottie and we all know the Bard loved a hottie. Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare."
My story "The Thank You Note" will be included in this anthology. Necking will be released in ebook formats from Dreamspinner Press.
Available for Pre-Order Now.
"66 Hours in the Devils House" will be included in this 2010 Daily Dose Collection. A story a day for the entire month of June will be delivered to your Dreamspinner ebookshelf. Some of the best authors in the industry are writing about summer hauntings and summer lovin'. Special pricing is in effect for April. The price will rise May 1 and again in June.
This story will be available in eformat at a later date for individual purchase.
If you're a fan of my story, look for the further adventures of The Five Investigators coming soon from Dreamspinner Press. Some of the boys' edgier adventures will appear in other anthologies this year including the short story "GingerChakra Pimps a Vid" in Video Boys from STARbooks. "Bookended by Beauty" (a story written for my dear friend Jonathan) will be appearing Beautiful Boys from Cleis Press. There are some more stories floating out there with editors, so hopefully I'll have more updates for you on the boys soon.
I brought home an iPhone today and I have spent the last four hours playing with the apps and loading all kinds of useless toys. Thus far I have avoided taking nude photos of myself, but then I don't look like this guy either. What is it about boys and their iPhones that makes them want to strip down and share their bounty with the world?
As a Southern boy, I grew up around women like Julia Sugarbaker, strong-willed Southern women with lots of opinions, fierce family loyalties and good old fasioned Southern charm. Manners are important to these women as surely as the rules of engagement are to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You've heard all the stereotypes; some of them are true, even here in the New South.
My mother is, in her way, one of these women. She claims a Yankee lineage, but she and the women in her family relocated here during the 1950s and their historical roots extend just a few miles north of the Mason Dixon line to a plantation in the darkness of the American past.
My father's family too was filled with these women. My grandmother and her sisters with their Southern pedigree, springing from the rich soil of the Mississippi delta, were perhaps more clearly traditionally Southern, both geographically and socially.
I loved the movie Steel Magnolias (and recognized the women from my own life), but Julia Sugarbaker on the 1980s sitcom Designing Women was the Southern woman who stole my heart.
I find myself returning again and again to these women in my writing, these strong, smart, sexy women, bull-headed and tender and fierce. I am editing a novel I completed a few years ago that I am finally ready to send out into the world. It's called Jude the Unsure and features one of my favorite characters. Valor Balder is a City Councilwoman in the novel, but she goes on to become a U.S. Sentator by the time she appears in my short story "The White Stag." She embodies all those great contradictory traits of Southern womanhood and she's just a pleasure to write. She was modeled after the women in my life: my mother, my grandmothers, personal friends, women I've had the pleasure of working with and, of course, Julia Sugarbaker.
Dixie Carter has had a long and varied career. I've watched her in other television roles and movies, and I have a copy of one of her CDs loaded on my iPod (Dixie Carter sings John Wallowitch Live at the Carlyle) so I can hear her dulcet, sexy tones when I'm having a quiet cocktail or writing about life in the South. But to me, the name Dixie Carter will always be inextricably linked to the fiery soul of Julia Sugarbaker.
Thank you Dixie, for making me laugh, cry and fall in love.