Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The 12 Days of Fantasy Writing Dec 9th, '08

Just for fun! And I like parodies that go off the deep end :}

On the first day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

A sultry sylph in a birch tree.

On the second day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Two dragon-eating virgins, and a sultry sylph in a birch tree.

On the third day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Three toothsome trolls, two dragon-eating virgins, and a sultry sylph in a birch tree.

On the fourth day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Four fierce ogres, three toothsome trolls, two dragon-eating virgins, and a sultry sylph in a birch tree.

On the fifth day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Five wicked warty witches! Four somewhat-fierce ogres, three toothsome trolls, two dragon-eating virgins, and a snarky sylph in a birch tree.

On the sixth day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Six sleazy villains, five wicked warty witches! Four ambivalent ogres, three tra-la-ing trolls, two dragon-eating virgins not on a diet, and a surprised sylph in a birch tree.

On the seventh day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Seven doe-eyed maidens, six sleazy villains, five wicked warty one-eyed witches! Four fiddling ogres, three travel-weary trolls, two dragon-eating virgins who aren't vegetarians, and a startled sylph in a birch tree.

On the eighth day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Eight eagle-eyed elven archers, seven doe-eyed maidens, six sleazy villains, five wicked warty one-eyed wincing witches! Four fainting ogres, three tv-addicted trolls, two dragon-eating virgins in need of a stair-master, and a sylph scratching poison ivy in a birch tree.

On the ninth day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Nine nasty necromancers, eight eagle-eyed elven tiddlywink champs, seven doe-eyed maidens (at least that's what their name-tags read), six sleazy badly-dressed villains, five wicked warty witches with winsome slack-jawed smiles! Four flatulent ogres--no more refried beans, three traveling trolls looking for room service, two dragon-eating virgins who don't need this much fiber in their diets, and an antsy sylph in a birch tree.

On the tenth day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Ten tremendous giants, nine nasty necromancers wearing Nikes, eight eagle-eyed elven florists, seven doe-eyed maidens--who are we kidding they're all trollops, six sleazy villains with greasy hair answering to the name of Snape, five wicked warty witches with widdle bittle bwack kitties! Four frumpish ogresses sans spouses, three toothsome trolls opening a dentistry service, two dragon-eating virgins (the girls need antacid by now), and a panicking sylph in a birch tree.

On the eleventh day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Eleven scheming councilors, ten tremendous giants with gout, nine nasty necromancers in search of a reality show, eight eagle-eyed elven pizza delivery boys, seven doe-eyed maidens, er, okay, not after the wet-t-shirt contest, six sleazy villains working at Wall Street, five wicked warty witches with stock in Mary Kay cosmetics! Four fur-covered ogres since winter's finally here, three toothsome trolls nibbling on the dental receptionist, two dragon-eating virgins who have stopped snacking between meals, and a hysterical sylph with oozing blisters in a birch tree.

On the twelfth day of fantasy, this cliché came to me:

Twelve regal empresses, eleven scheming councilors in a pillow fight, ten tremendous giants who want to be couch potatoes, nine nasty necromancers selling fake Viagra, eight eagle-eyed elven mud-pie makers, seven doe-eyed maidens--uh, they're in their fifties now and opened a whole-food outlet, six sleazy villains torturing Barbie dolls with Malibu Stacy, five wicked warty witches slow-cooking Mary Kay founder for false advertising! Four flailing ogres who fell through thin ice on their way to the ballet, three toothsome trolls who gave up the whole Billy Goat's Gruff schtick, two dragon-eating virgins in jail on the Endangered Species act, and a hysterical red-bump covered sylph needing more hands to scratch with, and who wants to bulldoze every damned tree!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Your Character's Voice Nov. 30 '08

Your Character's Voice

This has oodles of variables from age, sex, education, areas lived, social status, family income, friends and acquaintances, personal influences, and physiology of the mouth, lungs, vocal cords, etc.

For modern teen males, the increased use of slang and shortcuts like txt msg are popular. Sometimes vulgarity use is higher with teen males though that can be dependant on dozens of correlations.

Experience and knowledge--which 99% of the time comes with age will make a difference in the voice. Even if a teen is a genius, s/he will not have the social and emotional ranges that an adult has accumulated by the sheer passage of time (again this leaves out hermit types).

Traumatic events can also shape a characters voice and lock them into a replay of a certain past that will show in times of stress.

YA voice vs adult, think JK Rowling's Harry Potter vs the Robert Ludlum's Bourne Identity/Ultimatum, or Patricia Cornwall's forensic novels with Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta vs the whodunits of the Hardy Boys.

Read the genres you love, and read the ones you don't like because even they can teach a new turn of phrase or how other writers deal with situations, characters, dialogue, settings, etc.

Watch shows and movies with good writers. Some of my favorites are: Saving Grace, The Closer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Farscape, old Twilight Zone classics are right up there. Actually many Tales from the Crypt are very well done and Alfred Hitchcock Presents suspense classics are great.

It's not just good writing, it's how the character says it, body language, pitch, emotional input. Communication is only 5% verbal, the rest is how a person looks at others or the surroundings, how the body is held tense or loose, what the hands are doing, shrugs, grimaces, sniffs, fiddling with exterior objects, and more.

Reality TV is useless garbage. Survivor, The Great Race, cook-offs, designer fetes, singing contests--the situations are contrived. The contestants/people are voted in to draw the most viewers by the greatest shock value and the most stupid/outrageous words/actions.

Being a good writer happens in part by being a good listener, you need to be able to discriminate between what you hear and what you're being told as in commercials.

Ex: Buy a new car for only $17,995 gets more people than a car for 5$ more at $18,000. What does the commercial push? Features, mileage, how a model is draped over the car (as if the woman is part of the extras), or how much more machismo also known as mental Viagra comes from driving a Hummer vs a Subaru.

I worked in advertising and what advertising sells what the advertiser wants you to believe, not what you actually need--which is reliable, inexpensive, transportation. Be an educated observer and question what you hear. Crest toothpaste won't make you popular, the Armani clothes won't make you a magnet for love, the Infiniti sedan won't enhance your business, Burger king fast food won't increase joyous times with friends, the Nike sneakers won't make you a better athlete.

What do you want the reader to take away?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Publishers Guidelines Oct 22, '08

I sent out one of my literary children today. I hope for the best and am prepared for a rejection or more likely, no response whatsoever.

It's a novella, about 28K, enlarged a bit and darkened to fit the writing guidelines for which the publisher asked.

I spent about 20 years in the graphic arts field. I know the why of things for publishing standards. So I follow them. They aren't arbitrary rules just to piss off writers.


Not following them accounts for 99% of rejections. If you're a NAME like JK Rowling or Stephen King, you could submit in purple crayon on toilet paper, likely used. Since most of us are not, be wise, follow the publishers' instructions.

If the publisher doesn't say what they prefer, write an email and ask. Better to appear ignorant and become enlightened rather than assume, do it wrong, look stupid, and be trashed.

"Oh, but why? I want to stand out so they'll pick me!" Often comes from newbie eager writers.

News flash--there are reasons for a standard submission in the industry. Sticking out shows you're new, you're ignorant, and that you're cocky and rude not to have spent a wee bit of time cooperating and doing as the publisher asks. So why would anyone want to work with you?

"But I've written the next GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL!"

Yawn. No one will read it unless you send it conforming to the guidelines.

1: Ease of portage: it's easier to handle a stack of 8.5" x 11" & A4 (European size) paper than to have poster sized writing or your anthology tucked into a do-it-yourself 5x8" book, with pullouts, pop-ups, post-its for 'the good parts' etc.

2: It is a courtesy to follow the rules when you're in someone's home. Sending a book is going into the publishers' home. You keep your feet off the furniture, mind your manners, and give respect.

3: Ease of readability--this is the mechanical part:
--standard paper size: 8.5 x 11"/A4 20#/75k bond--plain copier/laser paper, not coated, no watermarks. WHITE only. No color, no exceptions.
--printed with margins min. 1.25"/3 cm from all edges because publishers write in these margins, and having white space allows the eyes to rest.
--solid black ink, minimum 360dpi. It's a decent contrast against the white paper and easy to read.
--only one side of the sheet printed. Yes, a waste of trees, but much easier than flipping over to read the back side--that takes time, time the publisher would rather spend reading. When an editor makes corrections these would likely bleed through to the back making it difficult for the author to see what's what.
--send it in a snug sturdy box for a large book, or a snug envelope with a sheet of same size cardboard to help keep the pages flat.
--leave the pages loose, no staples, no paper clips, none of those brass T-shaped paper holders that come in different sizes and the middle of the T opens to bend back around the pages. They make it hard to read what's on the binding edge. Don't send in a file folder, spiral binding, report binder with a slip on edge, keep the pages loose.

Formatting standards--I found these on the web:
--Use a fixed width font like Courier at 12 point. This is a font in which the 'I' takes up just as much room as the 'Z'. This way the publisher can determine how many words in a close approximate count. This count can be then projected into how many pages for a 5x8" or 6x9" whatever size book. It is also used to calculate the amount of paper needed, the amount of ink, the printing press time, the hours the printer person will need to be working, binding materials and time, the number of books that will fit into a box, number of boxes on a pallet for shipping, shipping costs, etc. All this depends on the word count.
--Line break use # symbol --just one, centered. This is a symbol that means space.
--If you need to italicize for thoughts, or for flashbacks, songs, etc, use underlines. Italics often get lost when converting between software programs.
--If you need emphasis, "Mary--look out!" Use 2 hyphens. A single hyphen is known as an en dash, 2 hyphens make an em dash, touch the em dash to the letters on either side.
These are old printing terms from the days of lead type. An en dash is one letter space, an em dash is two letter spaces. Often word processing programs will substitute a solid line for an em dash. Again, that can get lost in conversions.
--Paragraph indent 5 spaces from the left. Just hit the space bar 5 times, see where it goes and you can set your margin stop to there.
--Always double-space between lines & sentences, & after colons. Again easy to read. Yes, making it easy on the publisher will be appreciated.
--Flush left type -- not counting the indents for paragraphs, and leave the right ragged. Justifying with even margins makes it hard to read--we've all seen lines scrunched up, because paper costs money and this can save paper. It also makes type look wonky when they stretch to fit across the column but that's the price you pay, or not.

Top of first page on the upper left corner:

Author Name -- the real one you want the check made out to
City, State, Zip
ten digit tel: (000) 000-0000
email addy (wshakespeare@gmail.com)

Make the email a professional one, don't use your surfing email like 2Hot@handle.com because it looks amateurish.

If you belong to a professional writing organization, you may list your membership beneath this information if it is relevant.

Top of first page on the upper right corner:
word count (2,500 words)
Byline, max 2 words of your title, page # (Milton, Paradise Lost, page 2)


How can you NOT put that in? Easy.

Top of MS Word, Insert menu, drop down, Page Numbers, has a box that you can check or not if you want the first page labeled.

In the upper-right corner of the first page place an approximate word count. If your manuscript is between one and 1,500 words long, round your word count to the nearest 100 words. For manuscripts of between 1,500 and 10,000 words, round to the nearest 500. For 10,000 to 25,000 words, round to the nearest 1,000. For 25,000 or more words, round to the nearest 5,000

You do not calculate the wordage of your story by counting actual words. Figure out the maximum number of characters per line in your manuscript, divide this number by six, and then multiply by the total number of lines in your story. This gives you the word count. Round from there.

This is for printing, if your work is to be on an ezine, the MS Word count will be accurate.

Center the title in bold capital letters about one third to halfway down the first page of your manuscript.

Two single lines below your title, you should place your centered byline. Your byline is the name that will receive credit for the story when it appears in print. Not necessarily the same as your real name.

Begin the text of your ms four single lines (or two double lines) below your byline.

If a word is too long to fit at the end of a line, then move the entire word to the beginning of the next line. Only if a phrase is normally hyphenated may you break it up at the end of a line. Thus, you must always place "antidisestablishmentarianism" on its own line, no matter how much empty space this leaves at the end of the line above. Never include a hyphen that you don't want to have show up in the final printed version of your manuscript.

Do not place "#" or "30" or "The End" or anything of the sort at the end of the story. The exception to this comes when the last line of your story happens to fall at the bottom of a page, write the word "end" by hand and in blue ink in the bottom margin of the last page.

Yes, following the guidelines can be a pain in the ass, but once you do, you've cut wayyyy down on the reasons for a publisher NOT read your story.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

3 Evil Words--Make Me Proud, 9th Oct. '08

This isn't exactly about writing but it will be.

'Make me proud' is a demand. It may be couched in a sweet tone, or a pleading one, but take away the coating and it's has nothing to do with love. It's conditional acceptance of something or someone to elicit the reaction of pride. A reaction like this is a secondary, side-line, parasitic disease sucking the life and energy like a leech.

The parent demands with the word 'Make'. The parent holds the child's life and dreams hostage for the lack of whatever in the parent's life.

When a parent says this--what are they looking for? The boy gets into the Little League because Dad loves baseball? The daughter is in law school because Mom always wanted to be in the middle of a courtroom drama?

Yes, parents want their children to do well, as authors want their work to sell, but that has got to low on the list because it is based on artifice. It's based on selfish reasons, not on love for the sake of something just being.

The parent is selfish using the word 'Me'. Oh, 'I gave the child life, the child owes ME'. Really? The parent is the one who provides the egg or sperm. The child HAS NO CHOICE IN BEING BORN. Many parents take away other choices: in what the child should do, whom they should be, what kind of spiritual life they should practice, what kind of partner with whom want to share their life, and on, and on.

Pride is a feeling of self-worth and self-respect. The one who says this, Make Me Proud, is stealing that worth and that respect from another. Emotional slavery reinforced by acting tall because one stands on another's shoulders.

I want this story to sell. I want the world to know me.

Is that going to be the basis for the writing?

Being published is not bad, making money from what you love to do is not bad.

We all enjoy laurel wreaths and financial recognition, but they are temporary. When champions rode through Rome, lauded by the crowds, one stood by whispering in their ear.

"Remember, thou art mortal."

Love isn't. When you love, that just keeps going. It's not based on 'Make Me Proud', or 'what are you going to do for me?' which stretches wants into the future, but on what is now.

I love this child, now, as she is, as he is, that's all. I want the best for this child. I give the child all the tools I know, all the tricks I have, all the places I know to be that, and I will give the child freedom to find her or his own path.

I love this story. I will make it as good as I can. I will look for others who will help me to do the same, and I am happy that it exists, here and now.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Editing pt 2--Oh You Knew This Was Coming :} Oct. 04, '08

Based on a comment that what if the writing was 'A child caked in mud'? Love that, TL.

Take time off--3 days, 2 weeks, (let the mud dry), then randomly pick a passage and start there.

It's never as bad as you think. There's a purpose to 'mud' aside from keeping off insects and hiding the truth. Often literary mud is a way for us to protect ourselves--and we do need it. Writers sabotage their own work by being too critical, by losing the love they have for the art, for the play of words.

Forget the audience, forget the publisher, just tell the story. Read aloud to yourself as if you were a child--or appropriately aged audience of yourself. Read to share, not to scare. Don't rush through or feel like it's a chore, these are your words, with your heart in them. It's okay to feel a bit shy even with yourself.

You love this part of yourself whom you're reading to, and that listening part adores the writer. I'm not saying blind adoration, I'm saying again, GENTLE ACCEPTANCE. Let the flow come and be heard, watch for repetition that can be deleted and turned into a better description.

READ ALOUD--I repeat. This is an effective way to pick up all sorts of things, which can be improved. I catch the same descriptive phrases or words done in close proximity, or using the same word to begin two adjacent paragraphs. I can straighten out action and dialogue between two characters. I can embellish to make a description richer: blue becomes teal, indigo, cerulean, cyan, lapis, sapphire, topaz. Him or her, nameless--not so much of a connection, but give a name, even a made up one for a minor character: Duin, and you snag the reader. Names have meaning. We don't name something that we don't care about.

If you have that luxury of time, giving time between works in progress is helpful. If not, read the work differently.

I've only one pair of eyes! Unless you're an arachnid, but hey, we can still fool ourselves with changes in font, color, size, spacing, direction. These will all make us pay new attention to a familiar work.

Change the font style. Print the work out in a different font than the one you use for the screen. If you want to save paper, then just change the font on the screen. I always use Arial, similar to Helvetica, sans serif (Latin for without feet). Something like Courier or Times is a serif font. For some people the serifs feel like they link one letter to another making reading faster and easier--which means we can miss errors. Condensed type also makes us read faster, so do Italics because they are on a slant. Don't use them. Ponderous fonts labeled Black or Bold are hard to read because they look intimidating by calling attention to themselves. Good for titles but not for the body of work. I know, it's all optical illusion and psychology but it's true, so play into it and switch to Garamond or Gill sans.

Change the font color--do dark blue or red or purple. As you edit, change the read paragraph back to black so you can easily track what you've done.

Change the size. We pay attention when something is larger in our field of vision. One of those pesky instinct things.

Change the spacing between paragraphs. I write single space but with air, meaning more space with a double or space and a half between lines, again you feel less crowded and tend to see errors better.

Read back to front. What?! Yes, this does work. It's tedious, but reading the last paragraph and working your way back to the beginning is a whole new way to see the literary child.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Re-Re-Re et al Ad Nauseam Editing -- Or Not? Sept. 27 '08

Many writers would rather have a combo root canal/colonoscopy with a pair of rabid weasels than do editing.

Why does editing our own work have such a bad connotation? For some it's the time constraints of needing the finished product out NOW. For other's it's the 'damn I was stupid to put that in/leave that out/why did I write such tripe?' moments. One character takes over a scene, another doesn't play nice, the mule in Ch. 6 is a donkey in Ch. 7 (my bad on that).

Why can't we write perfect the first time?

Because perfect is an illusion.


That's in all caps because we're not, not even me. We need to be that way, to nurture ourselves instead of 'I'm an idiot, oh that was stupid, you're a jerk'.

Rough geometry of comments and the effects: it takes 1000 'Good job!' to offset 1 'That's crap'. Even more, when we do it to ourselves.

This can all come back to why we write, for love.

We need to remember that love of writing whether we're sand surfing on Mars, gunslinging with Doc Holliday, flirting with Madame Pompadour, or telling how to get along with Vista. (I don't hate it quite as much any more).

We can't help being critical, or being judgmental. It's hardwired into us for survival--reading the signs of game that passed a few hours could mean a meal, vs. following signs days old that lead nowhere. But it's not good and evil, it just is.

That inner editor and the inner child are always battling for supremacy. So SHARE! Inner child gets to play alphabet soup and put down all sorts of stuff, and then inner editor gets to arrange into something cohesive. Damn it, they ARE FAMILY so they need to respect the time and effort each makes.

Dropkick that resentment of the inner child from the editor, because without those playful moments--there'd be nothing with which to build. Tone down that editor to a gentle parental role, nurturing the seeds the child plants. A broad cast works for some styles, measured furrows for others, or even a single pot, poke a finger in the soil, drop in the seed and cover it gently.

The child and the editor aren't adversaries, but complementary, both are the progenitor of the story, and stories, like everything else, grow best with love.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Reading and Writing Evolution -- Sept. 08, '08

We read books, newspapers, magazines, web pages, those little comic bits wrapped around bubble gum and oatmeal packages. Why do we do this? It's for information, for increasing our chances of doing something better tomorrow, and for entertainment.

Early humans looked to the skies for changes in the weather, they watched migration patterns and the prints of animals. If you didn't 'read' your surroundings the right way, you could die.

Likely the first marks for communication were simple ||| like that to record things like exchanges of skins for flint knives.

Permanent marks were needed for conveying ideas over time. The Rosetta stone in 3 dialects is over 2200 years old and still is readable.

Wax tablets were easier to carry and reusable, so too parchment made from goat or sheep skin, scraped thin as it was reused. Papyrus has been used for 5000 years. While not nearly as durable unless sealed in a moisture/temperature proof place, papyrus was the peak of mobility being lightweight and easy to roll up or fold.

While for eons, only the wealthy and powerful could read and write--or have someone to do it for them. All work was laboriously transcribed by hand. A personal library of a dozen manuscripts was considered unusual.

The dissemination of knowledge for the common folks came by word of mouth. Bards, messengers, and visitors were the news carriers of the day.

In 1455, Johannes Gutenberg used a machine with movable type to print 200 copies of the Bible. He made words available for everyone to read. Written ideas were no longer the province of the rich and the influential.

We can read Chaucer, not easily, but those are the words he wrote, printed in his time, brought by mechanical means to ours. We can watch the changes in how ideas were conveyed from monarchs to philosophers, from Ovid's Metamorphoses explaining how the world was made to Oscar and Hammerstein's musicals. What went before is still here, we can see the world in books, so read.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Character Changes and Growth -- Sept. 06, '08

In the Odyssey, which spans 20 years, Ulysses driving force is to return home with his beloved Penelope. Tucking the disastrous Trojan war into one corner--to which conflict Ulysses didn't want to join in the first place, but he was tricked. As king of Ithaca, subject to the vow of all for one, he had to back up any war declared by any Greek king. King Agamemnon's brother Menelaus lost honor when Helen ran off with Prince Paris of Troy. Only blood would wash away the dishonor.

Ulysses feigned madness to get out of going to the war. Having yoked a donkey and an ox to his plow, he plowed a field with salt--basically killing anything for further growth for years until the salt left the earth. Palamedes, at Agamemnon's request, figured wily Ulysses was feigning. He placed Telemachus, Ulysses's infant son in the way of the plow. Ulysses stopped and admitted his madness was a ruse. He went to war.

Ulysses' Trojan horse idea ended the decade-long conflict, but getting home took another ten years. Blinding the Cyclops, Polyphemus caused his delay as the Cyclops are sons of Poseidon. The sea god followed his blinded son's request for vengeance and Ulysses came home alone, all his men dead, having lost everything.

Did Ulysses change? He started out not wanting war, he tried everything to avoid it, but when the time came, his ideas changed the course for the Argive victory. He was no coward, but he knew there are other ways of changing things than killing and killing. In that he was right, up to a point.

Ulysses came home nearly naked, scarred, unrecognizable except by his old dog who died at his feet. His old nurse knew him by this. He took his son into his confidence.

Penelope was besieged by suitors who had insisted she take a husband rather than wait on a dead man. His son, still a minor, was treated like a servant and not as his father's heir. Ulysses disguised as an old man by Athena, noted the dishonor of these men to him as a king and to Penelope as their queen.

Penelope had tried to hold them off by weaving a shroud for Ulysses during the day, unraveling the threads at night. This worked until a maidservant betrayed her mistress and the loom was broken, the shroud burnt. Meeting the old man who gave a loving account of Ulysses quest to get home, Penelope made a decision. If any man could bend and string Ulysses' bow, and send an arrow through the eyes of a dozen axe heads, he would be king and have her as his queen, along with all the lands and wealth Ulysses' had.

Penelope had it set it up, she also had all weapons removed from the rooms, then she and her maids and household locked themselves away. The suitors mocked the dead king and each boasted of having his queen. No man had Ulysses' strength and all declared the bow cursed and the task undoable. The old stranger nocked the sting, he sent the shaft true. The noble suitors turned to kill him, Athena's guise fell away. Ulysses paid back the foul deeds and the greedy suitors in blood, returning honor to his home.

Did Ulysses change? All he wanted from the get go was to be with his family. He tried to make peace before the war, he tried not going, he tried faking madness, he followed Agamemnon and did all he could to end the conflict, because he wanted to go home.

Despite the action, the adventures, the angst, that's secondary to Ulysses' motive, his goal, of being with his wife and son. Of course this discounts Ulysses screwing around with women captives, or Circe, or Calypso. Despite these dalliances, Ulysses wanted home above all.

The character changes no matter what--whether we plan on them having a 'duh' moment or a life-shattering epiphany. By the end of the book, they've gone through some medium to heavy duty sh*t and that's been stretched out over days or decades.

A major assh*le can ease off a little or become even worse and out villain the villain. A person with a sunny disposition can fall into stupor or become psychotic with a 'god wants it that way' approach to everything, denying any responsibility for her life. One character can believe something about herself even more so: I'm not lovable becomes why should I try anymore. Or the MC builds shells around herself with each disappointment, and even each victory, as if she didn't deserve what came. By getting harder inside she's stronger for an even more fateful outcome later.

Frodo found an inner strength he didn't know he had.

Little Red Riding Hood--in a lighter version--nearly lost her beloved Granny if the woodcutter hadn't stopped by to chop up the wolf.

Change will happen, that's the nature of change.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

How Do You Write a Book?--Sept. 01, '08

That's a huge question but not that difficult to answer. Number one, you have to want to tell a story. Doesn't matter the genre, or the setting. Number two, you need to keep the audience involved.

You also need to know the basics of grammar and punctuation. Strunk and Whites The Elements of Style is here in a free ebook http://www.bartleby.com/141/

You need to use plotting that carries the drama forward rather than sidetrack with things that don't keep the main idea foremost: Ex: In Alice in Wonderland we follow Alice's adventures. We aren't drawn away by what her sister is doing or what the cat Dinah gets after. Lewis Carrol sticks with Alice and her activities, her thoughts.

You need to know the difference between Show and Tell. Today the emphasis is more on Show 80/20 to Tell

Tell is visual with few details that connect: He was afraid.

Show involves the senses, emotions and thoughts: His knees shook, the blood pounded in his veins, his face went white and a sour taste rose in his throat.

15ish years ago I had a wet cold marvelous afternoon, despite a massive migraine, being a character in a live action role play. That choreographed plot led to me writing a story about it, then adding my friends' characters, then switching to another online RP, then making up more characters and having adventures beyond that.

I'm into the 4th book, editing the 1st and will do the same for 2 & 3 with only my original characters and situations in the series.

It all started with 'what if there's this woman with scales on her left side' then there's how that happened, her family, her upbringing, her friends, her enemies, her loves and hates, what's happening in the larger world, what ties things together, and on and on.

Everyone has a past, a present and a future. No matter the genre here's always more to write about the person, the climate, culture, the civilization, the cuisine. Stories end at some point but the characters have children, friends, enemies, their actions which set another plot going.

So you write, and rewrite, and carry a small notebook with you for ideas, and have one in the toilet, in the living room, by the bed, in the car, because ideas are and do come from everywhere. Just write them down.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

To Blog or Not to Blog -- Aug. 26, '08

This is writing too, doing it for fun, for family news, for sharing recipes, trip suggestions, for offering tips on making quilts, or writing books, or any of thousands of topics--do it with care.

Secret to blogging: write at your comfort level--but do it wisely.

If you don't mind your grammy reading the dishabille details about the night you spent cavorting with the penguins (sobering up the next am to realize you just defrocked several dwarf nuns) go for it!

If you change the names and places to hide the innocent/guilty--that's a good thing. Libel and slander DOES get prosecuted.

If you give your home addy, tel #, school or place of business, and other personal info like bank and credit cards that someone can use to fleece you, you're dumber than a bag of plastic rocks. Or you're a child who doesn't know better and that's VERY dangerous.

There are folks out there who are looking for prey, and that can be with promises of friendship, making money, giving to a worthy cause, etc, -- BE CAREFUL PEOPLE!

PARENTS! Your kids can talk to the world out there and it's not all Carebears and Barney. Kids think a stranger looks scary, talks scary. No, they look like a nice person who shows interest and wants to be your friend, telling you about their kitten or puppy while pulling snippets of information out, grooming the child to be their next target.

You want to give your child independence, you want to keep them safe. For younger children, offer to read their blog and help out with news, for older ones, explain that not everyone is as nice as they seem from words typed on the screen. For your middle and highschool kids--let them know the truth as raw and horrible as the child is mature enough to handle. You want to protect them, you don't want them running out to see 16 year old Bobby from the coast who's a 45 year old pedophile getting his kicks while strangling your child.

If you blog nasty stuff or gossip about work or brag about doing something really stupid on Facebook, Myspace, etc, chances are someone who has influence in your life can and will read it, and decide you are not the person they want as a friend, co-worker, etc. People HAVE gotten fired, expelled and arrested for their confessions.

Different blog sites work for different types of blogs: from personal family and friends news sites that you need a password to read, or public ones that are out there for anyone to look at. many give areas for favorites in music, books, movies, etc, others offer enough room for pictures though if you require more than the standard space you can usually upgrade and buy more.

Again, blog with your good sense.

Monday, August 11, 2008

FanFic--Does It Work for You? Aug. 11, '08

Some years ago, I did fanfic and had a great time polishing the writerly muscles. You're given names, setting, etc, but what adventures can you have that keeps the original identifiable as such?

I read a whole lot of crap, and a few gems, which is what got me into writing fanfic in the first place. I felt that I could do better than most and as well as the top 5%. I got on a few popular sites, had some great times with fanfic fans. Then I wanted to tell stories with similar but not exact characters. In fanfic those are called ubers: different names, different times.

I always credited the original author/company and posted on free sites. These tales were to be shared with fans, they were not for sale.

A few good fanfic writers do continue stories of popular series and characters. There are hundreds of StarTrek and Star Wars books NOT written by Gene Roddenberry (while he was alive) or by George Lucas, for two examples.

Often with known names who stop their series, the publishing companies will look for writers who can copy that style and continue the adventure of the character, the family, the sweeping saga of a nest of mice. :}

Ghost writer Andrew Neiderman is still doing Flowers In the Attic books. The original author, V.C. Andrews died in '86. Her name still goes on the books, a percentage goes to her heirs, and a bit goes to Mr. Neiderman.

All these 'well-known' books are formulaic and are based on a paradigm of any number of familiar tales that go back as far as stories themselves: Marduk vs Tiamat--god vs dragon, Gilgamesh--the flawed hero, Old Woman and Coyote the Trickster--from American Indian tales, Amaterasu--the Japanese goddess who brought light to the world, etc. The Cat in the Hat is the Trickster all over again :}

Romeo and Juliet is based on a Greek tale from 1500 years before: Pyramis and Thisbe, off from that we have West Side Story.

Boiled down, everything is 'fan fiction' done by those who love what they read. If you are willing to put in the work: change the names, add new drama, put in a new setting, and write a good story, anything can happen.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Work In Progress--WIP, or Not, Aug. 10, '08

That novel or story feels as limp as an overcooked noodle. You can't always blame the muse. Sometimes it's the how of writing not the what.

Bumps and blocks come and then they DO GO! I had one for 20 months--nasty f**ker, but I kept thinking about my characters, I wrote notes to friends, I did other silly non-WIP stuff, and when I came back--they were there, waiting, ready to rock and roll.

There are times when it's more than BIC (Butt in Chair) and it's possible to identify souces of irritants that AREN'T RELATED (directly) to writing.

Surroundings: Does your writing area look inviting or would it be better off if a mudslide covered it, after a fire, a flood, and a tornado cleans up?

A comfortable chair that gives good support -- with or without arms is essential. So is a table at the right height, big enough to let you have 'props' to make you feel good about yourself: pix of family and pets, small statues of favorite things, rocks from special places, a bit of room off to the side for your tea and a brownie.

I've a mini-bookshelf with 5 dragon-themed knives and 1 sword, a bunch of tiny dragon figurines, 4 teddy bears (okay I'm wierd) rocks and shells from places we've been to: Dead, Red and Med seas, & Masada, a bunch of notebooks, my fav pens which I have to keep the cats from running off with.

Good lighting that focuses on the surface of your work space and doesn't glare, and no reflections of sunlight from a mirror to throw you off.

Your monitor top should be either level or higher than your line of sight. Otherwise your neck and sholders will hurt. Hardcover big old books will work in a pinch until you get something permanant to get that screen up.

NOTE: Makeshift 'raisers' can be unsteady if you don't have a big enough base--and sometimes even if you do. So secure your screen with something solid--baby bungee cords or those heavy leather bootlaces. You, the kids, the pets can knock the screen off and that would piss you off.

When was the last time you had your eyes checked? Seriously? I had trouble seeing the screen 2 years ago. I went from contacts to glasses, and the screen was bearable only if I sat a certain way. I realized I needed reading glasses too! Horrible bow to aging eyes but they stopped bothering me and the screen and I have a much better rapport.

If the mouse you're using alot makes that tendon running from your thumb down to your wrist hurt--look into the 3m mouse: http://store.ergocube.com/3mermous.html

Honest, again it keeps the wrist and hand in a natural position. We've one here that's been lasting 5 years now.

Clean the mouse! That little circle underneath where the ball is pops open and dust, hair, and entire Horton Hears a Who universes live there! A bit of glass cleaner on a cloth will help get the crud off. All that crap gets in the wheels too, a pair of tweezers here can be helpful. A new mousepad that isn't worn helps too.

Closed mice--battery-free like those at www.A4Tech.com -- I've one and I love it--has the mouse pad that plugs into the USB port. The pad is smooth and I clean it and the bottom of the mouse with a bit of glass cleaner every few weeks.

Hurts your wrists to type? RSI--Repetitive Strain Injuries are common to folks who do the same thing over and over, like us writing for hours. Inexpensive solutions: Take a 15 min break every hour, make some tea, water the plants, rub your wrists.

Buy an ergonomic keyboard! Most keys go |||||| .
Draw your hands up from your sides and they NATURALLY turn in like this: ////\\\\.

If you've a laptop that doesn't have an ergonomic keyboard, there are plastic platforms that raise the bottom a bit like so: / 30 degrees or thereabouts. I put two small metal angles like L's at the bottom of my wooden one so the laptop won't slide off. This also raises the screen to be easier on the neck.

I made one of wood scraps in 10 min with a few screws. Been doing good for me.

Don't EVER give up writing!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Winner Doesn't Take All--Pyrrhic Victories, July 29, '08

Does the main character have to save the world? No, she doesn't, just her part, and that's not always a positive thing.

In the 1st Ikarias novel, Ikarias has help ridding the world of an evil sorceress, but that's after the woman has done some serious damage.

In the 2nd book, Ikarias and friends undo a demon monarch but again there is loss--especially to Ikarias' lover.

In the 3rd of the series, Ikarias wins a war but loses her partner to the daughter of the demon monarch from the previous book.

In #4, so far--Ikarias searches with the sister of her partner-- which sister will die at the end. The partner will have undergone some horrific changes that are probably permanent.

In an early novella I did years ago, the main character sells more than her soul to get the bad guy, which she does. Then she finds out the cost at the end and she's left searching for that which she NEVER would have given up--had she known.

Having a dichotomy is good--it's real, no matter the genre. No one really wins 100% in anything without a secret or overt cost--or both.

The detective finds the serial killer but that is AFTER the body count is way too high. The scientist finds the cure for X, but again, X has killed so many while the scientist was researching, experimenting, etc. that it's a often a pyrrhic victory.

That little term relates to Pyrrhus, a second cousin of Alexander the Great. Pyrrhus fought Rome as Rome was growing mightier with each passing day. He won, but often with staggering losses.

You may have unplugged the fan but the sh*t still hits it :}

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Zinger Lines July 8, 2008

*Got the baby back. My Toshiba laptop had a furked up video/screen wire. Fixed that and I'm up and rolling. I'm also paranoid about saving stuff ASAP. Now back to writing stuff.*

There's a line here and there in novels and shorts that just bring the whole story home. Some folks call it an eyeball kick, I call it a zinger line. The tone can be wry, blase, terrifying, regretful, funny, bitter, any number of deliveries.

Examples come to mind:
Shakespeare's Othello-- Act 5 just before he kills Desdemona:
"Put out the light, then put out the light."

This is the whole play, the motive, the passion. Everything Othello is, is about loving too much, beyond the ability to reason, up to and including destroying what he loves most. The light of reason, the light of love, the light of any day he will live through will be utterly obliterated.

Mark Twain's short story, Eve's Diary--
Adam speaks at Eve's grave: "Wherever she was, there was Eden."

Again, that is all that mattered to Adam. Not losing Paradise and being chastized by God, or seeing the horror of one son killing the other, but that partner who stood by him, she was everything.

Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus:
Lucifer offers Dr. F. some of the most beautiful women in history, Helen of Troy shows up and he remarks: "The face that launched a thousand ships." Though the Dr. forgets that the destruction over 20 years left scars to the present day.

Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" can certainly apply today when we have amazing technology and horrific genocide.

Not all lines will resonate the same with everyone. Sometimes they're at the beginning of a work or scattered inside or at the end.

Some of my fav lines from my works:

--'the stars picked holes in the night'. I like because it's not describing friendly twinkling stars like sequins. It's not a romantic or meditative sky. It's pulling off scabs, or sticking pins into flies.

--'None of your business what I kept my third eye on.' Says the woman who's more than she seems. She watches, she acts only when she needs to being gentle and nurturing to a friend while allowing others to dispose of a danger in a messy manner.

--'I like to take care of my birthday suit. It's the only one I have.' Is a blatant falsehood, but no other character knows it. For the speaker it's an inside joke, one only the reader will get.

What are your zinger lines?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Save It Immediately Dammit! June 22, 2008

I'm slogging away on the 4 + year old emachine laptop since my 1 year old Toshiba laptop decided to give me a blank stare the other day. I'm pretty sure it's the video card since the bugger goes from black to dark grey as if it's trying to show but can't. Good news it pooped out 2 days before the warranty was up so I'm sort of saved.

This emachine is prone to over heating--which I find out AFTER I buy it--which is why I bought a new laptop. Everything has a weakness. One of mine is chocolate but that's another blog :}

SAVE what is typed immediately! Silly me, I worked on little stuff here and there thinking no problem and then I can't see a damned thing. I've 3 pages edited on a work for a friend, some flash fiction pieces, photos I haven't copied over--get the picture? No, me neither! ARGH!

I'm usually anal retentive about saving anything new I've done, added, etc, but I forgot, got lazy, didn't think it would happen to me, fill in the blank. *sniff*

There's oodles of places and gadgets to keep your sanity from being pulled out with your hair when something like this happens. Check out the list:

Email: I send my recent stuff to my gmail account, I can retrieve it and it's fairly safe. Gmail is free, over 7 gigs now, and will hold quite a lot. I think Yahoo and AOL are hefty too.

CD/DVD, R & RW: these are pretty cheap from 700 MB to 8 gig in bundles of 10-50 at about 10c each and with the rewrite if you wipe it you can reuse it. Copying over same-name files is simply drag and drop.

USB drive/memory stick/disk-on-key: whatever you call it it's that thumb-sized doohickey that can hold up to 12 gig or so at about 10-20$ per gig. I had the unfortunate experience of getting a bad SanDisk that had some damned virus that created numerous folders with 000000000 as the name, filled with 50+ more files of the same name. Deleting them didn't work, using antiviruses didn't work, it was a flaw in the hardware chip and not something that I could fix--or trust so now I have a Verbatim and an Apus.

External harddrive: 40 gig for about $80 here, (converting shekels to dollars), can be used with any computer, doesn't take up much room at 2" wide x 6" deep x 8" high.

I'm hoping the repair folks don't have to wipe my memory to fix my baby.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Describe the Perfect...June 16 2008

Perfect what? Argh! First off, there's no such thing but we CAN describe something to the best of our knowledge or imagination!

Quick exercise to jump start the muse: food--last or current meal.

I'm having breakfast. I've mixed two packages of Instant Quaker Oats--and yes, they do have them here in Israel. One's peaches and cream, the other is blueberries and cream. Now I could wax on about the ingredients as a list and how food companies save money: they often use cheaper apples cut, colored, and flavored to substitute for other more expensive fruits, or I could just do taste as I know real blueberries and peaches:

The oatmeal is very warm, not hot enough to burn but to explode through the mouth with the alternating bumpy and smooth texture. The blueberries taste come in small bursts stronger than the peach that sneaks in with a subtle stubbornness. The oatmeal flakes are the quiet homogenous background, happy to soak up the brown sugar I added.

I'm drinking a pint of Lipton Yellow Label tea, based on orange & black peko tea leaves. I've added sweetened condensed milk for a creamier texture, and two sweetners. This I like almost scalding to feel each swallow drop down my throat into my stomach. The tea leaves have a flicker of sharpness in their scent. The thick milk spreads out to fill and change the color of the tea from sable to a pale sepia.

Almost done with the oatmeal. The heavier brown sugar has sunk to the bottom of the bowl making the last spoonfuls extra sweet. Does this do anything more than promise the next bowl will be just as enjoyable?

This is a comfort food breakfast.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fear of Writing May 19 2008

Yeah, you think as writers we'd be well over that little phobia by now. Nah, it still sneaks in like a cramp from an okay looking piece of fruit that ended up being not quite ripe but we weren't going to waste it and toss it after one bite.

Natalie Goldberg is one of my inspirational writing mentors. I never met her. I have read a number of her books: Writing Down the Bones, Wild Mind, Thunder and Lightning, and Long Quiet Highway several times each. I do that to keep reminding myself that someone else has gone through this, I'm not alone.

Every word is a step. You walk a mile, 5280 feet gives 2112 steps, about 30 inches apart for my stride.

Teams play a football game on TV that lasts 3 hours, but up to that time they have practiced for hours every day 6 days a week for months.

You can run but it took months to learn to crawl, then to walk, and then to decide where to run, for how long, and to what purpose.

Why should writing be any different? Our works don't come full blown like Athena dressed and ready to kick ass--I wish! Words grow, they follow the sun and close up at night. Or they stay still during the day and spread out like night-blooming jasmine. They have a pace and depending on what you feed them--they will keep growing, in unexpected directions sometimes but that's okay too.

Don't be afraid. As Natalie Goldberg says, give yourself permission to write the worst crap in the world.

Even the words you don't use will lead to the ones you do. Call them fertilizer, call them maintenance activities, call them warm-ups for the finale, they aren't wasted.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Stab the Bastard! May 10, 2008

Or to be a tad less flamboyant: Bad Guy--BG, hurts Main Character--MC, but how?

Okay, lets take it from the top:

1. stabbed with what:
knife, pencil, sword, ice pick, toasting fork, etc.
A thin blade--like a stiletto or rapier will leave a smaller wound though deep, a scimitar leaves a wide one, broken glass from a bottle can slice and dice like a scalpel.

Which era is the MC in, what type of weapon is the BG likely to use?

2. MC stabbed where:
A: clean area--chest with heart, lungs, liver
B: dirty area--stomach, intestines, bladder, kidneys--any perforations here and waste matter gets out for a secondary infection
C: head--face, eyes, cheeks, neck
D: limbs--clipping the femoral artery inside the thigh--as thick as your thumb, and you'll bleed out in 2-3 minutes.

How long does the fight last? Quick means a fast chest stab may hit a rib and deflect worse injury. Prolonged means the BG can strike multiple times and do serious damage.

How proficient is the BG? Is s/he a pro? Drunk? On drugs? In a rage?

What about the MC? Knows self-defense? Carries a weapon too? Knows of the impending attack? Is clueless?

How does the fight play out? Both standing, one stands and one sits, BG dives from a roof onto MC below, BG cuts from under the basement stairs across MC's Achilles' tendon?

What's the MC wearing--depends on personal taste, weather, social class, job, etc. A heavy coat can take longer to stab through. Add an inner pocket with something to deflect or slow a blade and your MC is lucky.

Size and shape of BG to MC matters as well: a small person attacking a larger one would have less force.

Unconsciousness can come from the impact of a fall after an assault, or a choke hold from behind while being stabbed. If the MC goes unconscious from a bleedout, survival isn't assured.

If the victim is not quite human--werebeast, alien, etc, the organs could regenerate faster or even be missing, in different places, etc.

Yes, miracles do happen, but keep it real or the reader will wish that all the characters kick off ASAP and quit wasting time.