Sunday, September 30, 2007

Steal this idea - "The Methuselah Mess"

Ah ha! Someone recognizes a problem I thought about years ago--aging criminals. You can go a lot of ways with a story idea like this. (comedy) Octogenarian inmates escape during a visit by retiree volunteers and stir up trouble in Tampa, Florida as they hunt for a hidden bounty of jewels from a 1940s heist. (crime) Septuagenarians, Billy and Bob Jones, seek revenge on the woman who testified against them in their 1949 conviction only to discover that she gave birth to a child--one of theirs--who's now a cop. (horror) Ninety-year-old Samuel Leumas is harassed by a vicious prison warden and a sadistic guard shortly before his release and then discovers he's not aging, but getting younger by the day and has revenge on his mind.

Yeah, I know, there are a few movies with aging criminals, but they are mostly vibrant (and way to mobile) sixty-year-olds.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Is my muse the past?

Am I getting old and nostalgic or is my muse my past? Memories have be rushing at me while I drive, when I dream, when I...ya know... and they come faster than I can write them down. Is there some age we attain when the past comes rushing back with a certain clarity and urgency? And what is the urgency? Are these memories the road crew of our mind trying to flag us down, get our attention, before we drive on and forget them in the wake of the information overload we deal with on a daily basis? Should I move to a cave and emerge years later with these thoughts scribble on the wall for the future to ponder them?

Oh, wait! I have paper. I have a computer. I have an Internet Web Log (blog). Nah! Who wants to read about the first spy I uncovered and what he and I did when I worked for NSA and lived in Berlin, Germany?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Where do you find inspiration?

After leaving the service and armed with the G.I. bill, I lived in a small college town for four years while pursuing my degree in English. I had selected a creative writing course for the fall term. I wanted to get a head start on my coursework, so I decided to write a few short stories during a three week period between the end of summer and beginning of fall. Splat. The brain froze at the moment of need. I needed to do something radical.

Over breakfast one morning in a local diner, I heard someone lament, "The most exciting thing in this town is watching the light change." Yeah, it's a cliche of sorts, and we did have only one light, and when schools out, there isn't much to do in a dry town in a dry county in which there are more deer than people. So I decided to test the theory. I would spend 24 hours watching the light change.

I reasoned it would be best to start in the late afternoon after rising at noon which was par for the course in the summer. Watching the light change from my post on the only bench downtown turned out to be a rewarding experience. I was harassed by a cop several times for being a vagrant (I wasn't because I had money on me). I got propositioned three times (only one seemed remotely legitimate--the other two would probably be passed out before we got anywhere--a dry town and dry county doesn't mean there wasn't alcohol). I got four items thrown at me (a beer can, empty cup of coffee, wad of paper, and a light bulb--maybe it was Diogenes' cousin). It is colder than you might think in northern Pennsylvania in mid-August in the middle of the night.

3:30 a.m. is the dead of night not midnight. At 3:30 a.m. all the drunks have made it home or have driven off the sides of the mountains and those early-bird workers haven't hit the streets yet. I saw two fender-benders, lots of trucks at night (I was surprised), a Model-T, two corvettes, had various people sit with me, but none for more than an hour (wussies), and had some woman very concerned about my mental state tempting me with chocolate cookies to come into the small downtown clinic. I was able to snatch two cookies without going in. Animals are about more than we realize, and at 4 a.m. a deer jaywalked from behind a closed frat house across the main road and through the Mr. Donuts parking lot without pausing to look both ways. She stood by a dumpster for a few minutes. Disgusted that there were no leftovers, she kicked the refuse container and left.

Did it inspire some great stories? Not until years later, but I did get an "A" in the class, primarily on the strength of my story, "I've Got Them Old Lovesick Cafeteria Blues Again".

A female townie thought what I was doing was bold, cool, daring, and I even remember a few "far outs". My last few summer nights turned out to be exceptionally exciting, and I did learn that watching the light change wasn't the most exciting thing in my small college town.
So where do you find inspiration?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Which witch was which when we went with Wendy watching witches watering wilting willows with wet water while waning Wilbur wept wantonly without William's woollen woven windbreak which was whisked westward with windy whirs when wheezy witches winked wickedly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Banned Books Week - 09/29-10/06

Thanks for LZ in reminding me that banned books week is coming up. This is but one link to an organization "celebrating" this week. For a more global view, there's Amnesty International's site for banned books and the authors who suffer from the process.

"At least he is not a book burner, you Nazi cow." - Annie Kinsella, "FOD"

Monday, September 24, 2007

MMWUC for September 24, 2007

EXERCISE: James Frey walks into the classroom. Students stare. The shackles of his past impede his progress. He leans forward in an exaggerated manner as though Jacob Marley's chains drag behind him like an anchor. The arrows of outrageous fortune stick to his back like porcupine quills. A large O is branded on his cheek and an editor's arm dangles from behind, the fingers clutching the torn pocket where the memory of his wallet stains his pants. Mark Twain waits for him at the lectern stone-faced. As Frey takes his place in front of the students, Twain clasps Frey's shoulder. "The truth is a harsh master, but you're a master of good writing." Frey straightens his posture and faces the students. "Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. For the next ten minutes, write from a protagonists POV, 'The mirror reflected...'."

MUSINGS: It must be Writers Angry With Anyone (WAWA) week. I've run into a plethora of postings, articles, complaints, and tear-stained web pages with writers angry at agents, publishers, geckos, critiquers, editors, parents, significant others, reviewers, and mailmen. I've been known to vent a bit about the frustration of getting published, but I've never asked a million people to come read my weak writing so I can prove something to an agent and disguise it as some sort of helpful venture for other writers. Yep, the owner a self-serving site to which I won't link believes that one nasty agent needs to feel this writer's wrath by having a million people visit the site in 90 days. I visited and offered constructive suggestions to a first chapter that was serviceable but in need of an editor. I'm sure I will be ignored. I've learned with rejection, that in reflection, it's yourself that needs writing maturation. I doubt any agent will be humbled by any writer's web-based retaliation.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"The Virgin of Small Plains" by Nancy Pickard

A mystery with a solid arc that pays homage to the story's emotional centerpiece from the first to the last page. Characters react to events at two critical points in their lives, and their core values are put to the test in light of their maturity. Though I figured a few things out early on, the road to get confirmation was filled with doubt, as twists kept plopping down on the page like debris from a twister. It is a story of considerable power dealing with the choices people make throughout their lives, how they justify those choices, and how they reach for redemption later on. The few quibbles about coincidences are insignificant. Highest praises...5 out of 5.

My wife said, "Eh...another good mystery." and then went on with her beading.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Steal this Idea - "Calling All Brains"

You may be able to create a story out of this, but in any case, store this information in your calendar regarding when YOU have to sign up again for the DO NOT CALL list. Start now to write your horror story where aliens get ahold of the list and program a secret message to spread via the telephone to all the people on the list so that they become slaves to the aliens. You CAN buy it. It's a cheap and efficient way to start taking over the earth. Lot cheaper for the aliens then exposing their superweapon to Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum for destruction.

Nothing to do with anything, but the best places in the world to live list is out. Damn, I can't find Mongolia on it. Finland is tops; Eithopia is the bottom.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Interesting Resources

I've added two links under Writing Help that may be of interest to some.
* A collection of 42,000 war stories from the BBC (thnx RH) is available to inspired your next story for those writing historical fiction.
* Podcasts about writing in general on American Writers (thnx AH) are available. Since I still work on a 28.8 modem, I've not heard the quality of the podcasts, but I've been told they are quite good.

Now let's get out there and make every adjective count. "Adjective!" Leonard Elmore squints jets of ink onto your manuscript.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

True Passion

"Write!" Bubba was a man of few spoken words. He scribbled with his Number 2 pencil on yellow legal pad, smugged with grease from the brake job on which he'd been working.

Hours later, he lay down the pencil worn to the nub next to the thirty or more pages of paper. He smiled at me as he gently pulled a stick of gum from the pack like a debutant pulling a tissue from her sleeve. He growled with satisfaction as he chewed it, and then stretched like a panther ready to pounce on an unsuspecting gazelle.

With six lengthy strides, Bubba stood before the car with his large hands, calloused in ways not normally associated with a mechanic. He flipped on the compressor and grabbed the pneumatic wrench. Bubba tightened the last nut of the tire, and then lowered the car.

"Done," he said.

"Thanks." I looked him in the eye. "Sometimes you just have to strike...." I let the rest of the cliche get sucked into the garage's exhaust fan like a rank fart in a small bathroom.

"'Nuff said." He took my check.

As I drove away, I saw him get another pencil and pad. He plopped them beside his stool before he raised the next car in a long line of tired and patient customers that would keep him busy until late at night.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


This may be old news to some, but Blogger has partnered with the NANOWRIMO. It's no longer National; it's galactic. Get your plot and character sketches in gear for November.

First and last comments on these side notes:
* O.J. I yawn discomfortably at the media's ability to keep him in the limelight and how quickly the conspiracy theorists concocted the "Goldman set him up" defense. Almost as good as the Chewbacca defense (aside to "South Park").
* Spector. Convict him already. His impact on the music industry doesn't give him a free pass to commit murder.
* Spears. Whichever parent gets the kids, the kids lose. To quote Keenu Reeves from "Parenthood", "You need a license to drive, you need a license to hunt, you even need a license for your dog. But they'll let any butt reaming asshole be a father [or mother]."
* Lohan. She'll either be dead and sainted or a superstar at age 27. We are a forgiving society.

Now I must return to the garden and pick the bumper crop of beans, green peppers, and Jalapenos, not to mention the okra.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"You Can Do It"

Now you can discover that you are not alone in the universe...of writing...and struggling to get your masterpiece published. "How I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own Words" by Ray White (Author), Duane Lindsay (Compiler) is out there for you to digest. Haven't read it yet, because I'm trying to decide if it will inspire me or make me want to dance around a bonfire of my novels burning to the Heavens.

Monday, September 17, 2007

MMWUC for September 17, 2007

EXERCISE: "Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. For the next ten minutes, write from a side-kicks POV, 'I watched her as she paced the ramparts mumbling...'." Students stared at their assignment written in strong block lettering on the whiteboard. One after another they powered up their laptops or opened their journals and wrote. Time elapsed. Some stopped after the allotted time and then started again as others continued on gleefully. Soon, the smells of the cafeteria down the hall foretold of lunch preparations. The clatter of plates and ding of silverware followed. No one had come to the morning session to guide them. No one had said start. No one had said stop. Some had written thousands of words. Hours later at noon, all had left to go eat.

In a tiny room with a one-way mirror to the classroom, the guest teacher smiled in satisfaction. He dimmed the light and stepped outside into the brilliant sunshine. "Writers write," Kafka mouthed before fluttering off.

MUSINGS: I've rewritten the first page of one of my novels for the 81st or 822nd time. I'm not sure which it is. At times it feels like I have an obsessive/compulsive disorder. Yet, the next morning, if I'm honest with myself, I know it will read better. It always does. It is a wonderful and frightening feeling--continual improvement continually.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Time Sensitive - Free Workshops

Registration closes on Saturday, September 15. See this site for free workshops by writers, editors, and publishers. Can't vouch for it, but since time is short, I thought I'd let you know about it.

It Rains

After 44 days without rain (the two days with .02 inches don't count), it has finally rained and continues to do so. The earth drinks in the sweet nectar remnants of Hurricane Humberto.

Nominations Needed

Nominations from authors, editors, publishers, and agents are being accepted for the following awards:

* The PEN Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers
* The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography
* The Laura Pels Foundation Awards for Drama
* Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship
* PEN Translation Prize
* PEN Award for Poetry in Translation
* PEN Translation Fund Grants
* Beyond Margins

101 Best Web Sites

I've added Writer's Digest 101 Best Web Sites link under "Wrting Help". Not sure when this came out or the criteria used. (One site is no longer updated.) However, there are many good sites and blogs listed. If you're pushing your book, these are probably some sites where you want your name and tagline to show up more

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Book Titles that Hook

The auctioning of the proof for "For Whom The Bell Tolls" got me thinking about book titles that induce us to by a novel. One of my favorites titles of all time is "The Mote in God's Eye" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. What title makes you want to grab the novel?

Of course, you can always check out whether or not your title will bring you success using the LULU titlescorer.

To all the writers out there.

"A blank page is God's way of showing you how hard it is to be God." -anon

AMEN!!! Now let's go fill up those blank pages. I was thinking about four-toed sloths the other day when a dragon swooped by carrying a unicorn mounted by a Minotaur. How odd I thought as they flew toward Atlantis, which as everyone knows is really in the Indian Ocean near where the great meteorite fell in 5386 B.C. that created the great flood and wiped out all the dinosaurs. Whew! With thoughts like those, I'm glad I don't live in Tennessee.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Steal this idea -- Morning has Broken

I awoke after a long night with little sleep. Maybe my doctor's right. Ten cups of coffee a day is too much. I stopped counting sheep after I shot one who decided to squat. I'll have none of that in my bedroom. He must have crawled off in the dark, and now I'm left with a .45 hole in my ceiling and probably some excrement in my slippers. Most disturbing was the news report on the radio--morning has broken. Cat Stevens, yeah, he did it, but now we have to deal with the consequences. Sure ther will be lawsuits because of it, probably a few car accidents as people rubberneck looking at the broken morning like they did a few weeks ago when evening fell. It was a long night after that, and I was as busy as girl car hop at an all-night drive-in burger joint next to a male fraternity house on the Saturday night after the big win.

But now I'm going to have a busy day trying to track down the Cat and fix the morning. It needs to be done before darkness comes again. Pity me. For I am, the Sandman.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On it goes

Six years ago, I awoke on vacation in Fifield, Wisconsin in the "Blue House Bed and Breakfast". When I turned on the television, I saw a plane fly into the World Trade Center. Bleary-eyed, I wondered what movie was on so early in the morning. Life changed, but it goes on. It's the best tribute we can make to those who died and have died for someone's inane cause.

"The Red Lamp Shade"

Carol moves into a small furnished apartment on the edge of the seedy part of town where bars dominate the landscape and nightly rentals hide the sins of the city. She unpacks hurriedly and doesn't notice the lamp by the window wears a red lamp shade and that her questions about the former tenant go unanswered. The world is a blur and opportunities await.

As she scours the classified ads later that evening for a job, a knock at her door startles her. She knows no one in the city, and no one knows she is here.

"Who is it?" She stands near the door holding a small knife.

"Bobby sent me." The man's whispery voice is horse. His words barely leach through the thin door.

"I'm sorry. I don't know a Bobby."

"But the light is on."

She glances at the lamp.

"Please. Go away."
Detective Ron Howard looks around the room. The girl lies in a puddle of blood next to the smashed door.

After dusting the lamp for prints, a CSI technician sets it upright. "An egg-shell colored shade would have gone better with this color motif."

Howard listens inattentively and stares at a torn remains of the red lamp shade. He nods. "Yes. The color of the lamp shade made all the difference in the killer's motive."

Monday, September 10, 2007

MMWUC for September 10, 2007

EXERCISE: "Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. For the next ten minutes, write from the protagonists POV, 'The enemy approached...'." The students stared at the loudspeaker where moments before Michael Jackson had been crooning to some rat named Ben. The voice had not preambled his instructions for the Monday morning writing exercise. He merely stated what needed to be done. "Just do it!" the voice commanded and the students focused on their work. "Some days," muttered one student to no one in particular, not lifting her head up. "Some days that's all you need to do. You just need to put your butt in the seat and just do it."

MUSINGS: If all the "readers" for my various novels had bought my novels, I'd be on someone's best seller's list today. If a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his ass so much. Those two ideas have the same results...wishful thinking. Time to put forth effort into the next book, learn from the past, and look forward to success.
Billions of turkeys gathered on the plains of gravy. Though most would be dead by the end of the day, they knew there weren't enough bullets to kill them all. "Victory will be ours," gobbled General Tom. They turned as one and headed off to their destiny, except for the chickens.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Steal this idea - The Popcorn Affair

This article informed and angered me about the dangers of getting lung disease and dying from popping microwave popcorn. This and my natural tendency to want to kill sparked an idea for a story about a man who wants his wife dead for insurance money, plans her murder, but she contracts some lung disease from microwave popcorn (She's popcornholic). He needs to call of the murder and does as she's dying, but the hired murderer blackmails the husband so in order to survive, he kills the hired killer. She learns that her husband killed someone, and believes she is next...she's in denial stage about the lung disease from she starts pestering the cops about him. The cops thinks she's loony and...well you figure out the ending and the twist. I've got a few in my mind. Write on.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Wrting Naked in the Woods

I was asked where and when I work and how I dressed when I did so. Here's my response to her about my writing environment. What about you?
Where I work is easy. I work from home in my office with two computers: one hooked up to the Internet and one that has never seen the Internet to save it from possible viruses. It's on the nonInternet computer that I write my novels.

When do I write? The weather controls a lot of when I write. No. Seriously. I have a large vegetable garden, and my wife likes to pretend she's a flower gardener. What she actually likes to do is pick the flowers and blooming shrubs. I do all the heavy lifting. That means I rise before the sun and get the watering, weeding, planting, bushwhacking, spraying and cooing to difficult plants done before ten a.m. After breakfast, a shower, and indoor chores, I end up writing from 12:30 until whenever. Oh, I'll sneak inside for a few minutes to get on the Internet in the morning, but the heavy writing is done in the afternoon and late at night. I have terrible sleeping habits.

What do I wear? I live in shorts and t-shirts in the summer, sweats in the winter, and write naked in the middle of the night when my characters yank me out of bed with plot twists they've concocted while I was sleeping. I've put on a suit a few times to get in the mindset of a character, but I've not had to put on any of my wife's dresses to get into character. At least, not yet.

Check out Ralph Keyes' "The Courage to Write" for more about what writers wear to their "job".

Friday, September 7, 2007

"The Maltese Falcon" by Dashiell Hammett

A large black bird landed near me as I finished "The Maltese Falcon." No encrusted jewels on it, but it tasted good over the barbecue. Hard to believe this novel is 78-years-old. It holds up well, but I must admit that I think this is the rare book that the movie improved upon. Bogie is a much more agreeable Sam Spade and a few extra twists, scenes, and people that slow up the pace are left out in the movie. What is it we were taught? Combine characters when possible. The movie ending surpasses the book, especially the last words, which are not in the book but sums up the story so well. Stars sprinkled on the book (4.5) and movie (5).

Though Bogie is the iconic Sam Spade, there were three movie versions made.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Morning Madness Rectified (see previous)

Chain saw and weedwhacker fixed. Sydney being very affectionate. Tree down. Tire fixed for free with coupon. (It was screwed.) The 20-year-old car passed inspection. Ate cantalope instead of burnt bacon for breakfast. My heart thanks me. Alarm set to higher threshold. Snuck up on a deer and threw a nunchuck in retalitation for tipping over my sprinkler. It hit her in the ass. Eliminated one squirrel...don't ask. Removed third tick and roasted it. World returning to normal chaos. Now, where is my protagonist?

Morning Madness

Alarm sounds at 5:30 a.m. I notice that the ISP server rejected all the emails sent last night. Happens about once a year. I resend. I discover that the sprinkle I had turned on in the dark before dealing with the emails has tipped over. Practical joke by the deer, I assume, so I reset it. In the dusty light of morning, I step on a snake while entering the garden. Luckily it's non-poisonous and only strikes my sneaker before slithering off. I return with about a pound of okra, ten big tomatoes, sixty-four cherry/grape tomatoes, four cucumbers, two green peppers, two Jalapeno peppers, and a tick crawling up my arm. I burn the tick and wash the veggies, before I notice that one of the hummingbird feeders is missing. I look down at the edge of the pond expecting to see it shattered amongst the rocks. Phew! It's intact, but to string another wire is a difficult process that takes fifteen minutes.

My wife has been promising all summer to weed the area around the pond. Now, that task is mine so I can retrieve the fallen hummingbird feeder. Fifteen minutes later, it is hung. Angry hummers feed immediately. No thanks. No gentle fanning of my beaded brow. I remove the second tick of the morning and enjoy his fiery death. Nightfall came before I could finish weed whacking last evening, so I grab the whacker, and after ten seconds, a hidden wire has wrapped itself around the rotating shaft. I'll save it for the afternoon to fix when it's too hot to work outside. Heading back into the garage, I notice the tire on my wife's car is flat. Another deer joke? No. More likely the handiwork of squirrels. I'll deal with it after I take down a dead tree that is liable to fall on the house should we get the potential storm, Gabrielle, this weekend. Two-thirds through the cut, the chain saw stops working. It's got gas and lubricating oil, but won't kick over. I change the spark plug. Somethings wrong. I load it into the back of the car to take to the repair shop in the middle of the woods (story for another day).

I'm sweaty. I'm frustrated. I need breakfast. Sydney, my 15-year-old cockatiel wants attention. He alights on my shoulder. "Whatcha doing?" he asks. I tell him. He doesn't care and picks at his feathers. As I'm flipping the bacon, the alarm sounds that the water needs to be shut off. I pass through the garage and open the backdoor as I've done a thousand times before. The water spigot is right there. Sydney gets spooked by something unseen by human eyes. He's flopped off before. He's clipped. Ten to fifteen feet later, he always plops to the ground, looks back at me, and alarmingly runs toward me as if to suggest, "What is the hell am I doing on the ground?"

He makes it to the balloon flower. Impressive. Suddenly, he has lift. Down the drive he goes gaining height. 150 feet later, he makes a right turn, as if he knows where he's going, and I'm in hot pursuit in my stocking feet. By time I reach the end of the driveway, he's nowhere to be seen. I call. No response. I run down the road a hundred feet. No response to my calls. I rush back to the house, turn off the water, and enter. The bacon is smoking up the house and the smoke detector sounds a deafening roar. (At least I know it works.) I turn off the burner, flip the bacon onto the paper towel, and dump the grease into a can. The frying pan is tossed into the sink under a dash of cold water. I laced up my sneakers to the sound guaranteed to attract the attention of the police. and neighbors. Unfortunately, since I live in the middle of the woods on a cul-de-sac with only five lots and four houses, and no neighbors home during the day, I'm alone in my search for Sydney during his great escape.

I run up the road trying to think like a bird. (Pause for you to think of all your bird brain jokes.) I figure that since he's never flown in woods before, he won't go beyond the yard of the last house on the street. I just hope their dog is inside. He's friendly to me, but Sydney might look like a doggie treat. I call. No reply. I whistle. No reply. I'm on their driveway heading for the back of their property can I call Sydney once more. I hear a faint chirp. Yes, there are many birds in our little oasis. I feed hundreds of them a day. I may not know all their calls or be able to tell which call belongs to which bird, but like a mother in a crowded shopping mall with hundreds of crying babies, I know the sound of my own. I call again. No reply.

I change tactics. Sydney has a small repertoire of words or phrases he knows. "Peek a boo," I call. "Peek a boo," he shouts back from my right in the woods somewhere. Oh, please don't be up a tree. He'll want me to come to him, and I'm not Tarzan. I call a again. He answers me, "Peek a boo." I get a fix on where he's at. We repeat the process five more times before he goes silent. I try a different call to keep him interested in this life or death game. Snakes, dogs, ticks, lice, coyotes, fox, and any other of a number of predators could be homing in on his troubled calls.

"Jack and Joy," I call. He responds immediately. I'm getting close, but I know he'll only do this call a couple of times. I try again. He responds. Again, and he goes silent. I call his name. Nothing. For the first time, I'm really worried. I call his name over and over again, not moving in the woods so I can hear his response. Nothing. MY WIFE IS GOING TO KILL ME. I may have to move to rural Maine to hide from her. Finally, I try, "Peek a boo," one more time. Leaves rattle at my feet, and he looks up from me from under a fallen twig clutching its leaves. "Peek a boo."

Stupid bird. Now isn't the time for games. I'd been standing next to him for the last three minutes. Relieved, I pick him up and carry him home. I put him on the short counter top where he lives and he heads for his box (he prefers a box) and from inside the box, he sticks his head out. He seems relieved to be in his comfort zone. It's 9:16 a.m., and my day is improving.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A New Holiday - Present Day

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. That's why it is called the present."

Some days, it is the simple thought that counts. Thank Eleanor Roosevelt for the first sentence. Unclear who added the second sentence, but it has been attributed, unbelievably, to Joan Rivers. Now, let's get out there and make a present to yourself of some good words in your WIP.

Monday, September 3, 2007

MMWUC for September 3, 2007

EXERCISE: A paunchy, nude writer, already in the room when the students took their seats, stands hunched behind the lectern. The writer taps the keys on his laptop with a measured pace of a metronome. An alarm buzzes. He flushes and stops typing, and then gazes at the silent students who teeter with anticipation. The writer grasps a blue string between two chubby fingers stained purple from a half-eaten plum donut oozing onto the lectern. The string is attached to a weight on a table. He pulls. His thin lips create an O; his eyes squint in anticipation. The weight doesn't move. Wrapping the string around his large hand, he pulls harder. The weight moves until the writer allows the string to slacken. He releases a sigh of resignation. "Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax." He waits. Barely perceptible movement occurs on the podium. "Open your eyes." He tugs the string, now labeled inertia, and it snaps. The weight, labeled ideas, is out of his reach. "For the next ten minutes, write from the protagonists POV, 'My preconceived notions failed me when....'"

MUSINGS: A delicate balance exists between crystallizing an idea in your mind and overcoming the inertia to get it on paper versus flying along at breakneck speed to capture the essence of an idea and snapping the train of thought in the process. I've been on both plains of existence. While it is nice to muse about your idea until it rises like a soufflé, always carry pen and paper with you (car, office, plane, bathroom, bordello, doctor's office, etc.), because you never know when it is time to capture an idea whether it has finally risen or the idea flies by like a fleeting hummingbird that must be capture or lost.

See...I told you it was hot here.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

To NANO or not to NANO?

On another forum, I reminded some writers about NANOWRIMO in November. A novice writer wrote me, "I don't understand the idea of writing a novel as fast as you can. Why would people take a potential work of art and turn it into a cheap stunt?" The reasons are varied, and I'm sure on the NANOWRIMO Home Page they have many answers to that or similar questions. And I'm sure that many do it as a lark because they don't know how to make a work of art and only 17% of those who sign up complete the 50,000 words required to be considered a winner. But I think, for many writers, it boils down to a precious few reasons.

* Competitive nature. Will I be the first one finished, first one in my state, my town, my group of friends?

* Pressure. Some need it to motive them to the finish line. Some writers need the kick in the pants to meet deadlines set by agents or publishers. Not everyone is self-motivated when the boss isn't watching. And some of us are delusional in the amount of work we think we can accomplish in weeks after avoiding it for months. The added pinch of NANO may be the missing ingredient in the recipe for success.

* Creative blast. Sometimes you want to capture brilliance. And once it is completed, editing is much easier for some than editing while you write.

* Family obligations. What a marvelous way to avoid cooking/cleaning duties on Thanksgiving, shopping at six a.m. on black Friday, watching endless football games with the buzzed boys ("What's the score?" "Don't know."), and dealing with the overstaying relatives. "I've got a novel to write," I shout, grabbing a drumstick as I leave the kitchen. Friends and relatives back away, their bodies bending forward in a short, sloppy bows, and the reverence for this obscure relative about whom they can later crow to increase their swagger in a bar settles in their mind. "Yeah, my sister's uncle's brother-in-law wrote that. I think I inspired it."

And for some, it's just plain fun to see what will happen when you throw off the shackles of knowing what you should do, and just let it rip.

Why do you NANO or not NANO? ("Book 'em, Dano.")

P.S. Two of my three completed novels were NANOWRIMO winners of 78,000 and 53,000 words.