Friday, November 30, 2007

MWA's Publishing List

You be the judge. Is Mystery Writers of America (MWA) establishing a level of criteria or becoming elitist with regard to who can be on their panel discussions? Is that level of criteria too high or really just right to create a measure of quality control? In part, MWA has decided to "...develop quality control, criteria to determine who is a legitimate author and who is not..." based on the book's publisher to ensure that vanity and self-published authors don't end up on panels.

Seems to me, after all the discussions over the years about being a writer/author, that published or unpublished, if that's what you do, you're a writer. Seems to me, if you can publish your book (vanity and self-publishing have been around for a long time), you're an author. Seems to me, there are many coaches/managers/teachers who have a lot to say on how things should be done, although they may not have had the skill sets to perform well on the playing field, and I've seen some good writers who had absolutely nothing worth saying. Seems to me, MWA may be punishing their own lifeblood (authors) by using a yardstick to measure the performance of the publishing industry, not the viability of what the author has to say on an instructional level.

I don't know how they come up with panel members or whether it's a long and arduous chore or if they evaluate the panel members' performance after the fact, which would seem to be the best way to decide if a panel member is worth re-inviting. I'm not an MWA member for no other reason than because I've just not bothered to join. But it is their organization, and they can do with it as they please. But to me, discounting a great many AUTHORS (possibly as high as 50-70%) because of their PUBLISHERS seems backwards and counter-productive.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mohammad and Me

Some British woman is going to be given 40 lashes because her class named a Teddy Bear, Mohammad. I have a character named Mohammad, who's not a particularly nice guy, in one of my novels. I hope I don't get any lashes. That would make me mad.

Are there any other names that get such negative reactions that they probably shouldn't be used?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Steal this idea - "The Bush Whack"

Conspiracy theorists and action authors, this is your day. What if Bush and the boys were right for all the wrong reasons? Huh! What if a routine army patrol finds yet another secret Iraqi installation, and it did contain elements of a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD). However, the actual weapon triggering devices were ported out of the country only days before the patrol finds the installation. After a brief firefight with the well-paid remaining Iraqi troops, the only clues point to a toy set to hit the Christmas market in two days that will kill thousands of kids world-wide instantly and render the families sick and dying over days. Can your agent overcome the maze of business denials, bureaucratic red-tape, and tight timeframe to stop the sale of this toy while uncovering the shocking truth that...

...the Icelandic President is backing the toys and sleazy manufacturer for years

...that the nebulus Council for Human Population Control supplied the money for the toy

(or some other nonsense)

Gee...almost sounds like a job for James Bond or Clive Cussler.

Monday, November 26, 2007

MMWUC for November 26, 2007

EXERCISE: Students waddle into the classroom and plop into their seats like so many egg dumplings in grandma's turkey leftover surprise soup. Paul Simon, still dressed in his SNL turkey costume, stands on the dais. The faint humming of "Still Crazy After All These Years" settles over the room. He gobbles, "I am a musician. I am a lyricist. I am not a novel writer; however, choosing the right word, Mrs. Robinson instead of Mrs. Roosevelt as in "The Graduate" can mean the difference between a chuckle amongst friends and a lasting image in popular culture." He spreads his wings wide. Students teeter between falling out of their seats laughing, barfing leftovers, or applauding. "Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Today, you will write with new vigor from the antagonist's POV, 'Dozens of herring lay on the counter-top...'."

MUSINGS: ...and a dead body rested on the bar stool like a walrus after a heart-chocking feast. I only wished I could have been there when it happened. Fat Tony, who'd need to beef up to match the bulbous proportions of the dead man, said he actually heard the guy's head crack when it hit the bar. Blood mixed with the juice from the pickled egg jar that fell when the dead man hit the bar. Vodka collins, rum and cokes, beer, and a old-fashioned completed the smells and added to the sticky film on the floor. One of the last smoker's bar, it tasted like a pack of Camels when I breathed through my mouth to avoid smelling the foul air. It smelled as bad as Joe Camel after a week on a Saharan trek. I made a wide swing past the body while heading for the back office. My hand slid along the wall in need of a paint job, flecks pealed like Fat Tony's dandruff. When I passed the door to the woman's room, it opened. Sam Spade came out in drag; I rubbed my hand across his startled cheek. "You need a shave, sweetheart." "I was tailing the dead man's moll, but she gave me the slip," he replied. "Sure," I said. Then a punch out of left field knocked me down. The last thing I remembered was that Sam had a great set of legs.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Thanksgiving

This was my thanksgiving. How was yours?

My Thanksgiving
Kids scream, adults talk
bloated belly sings enough!
Warm fire, victimstalk
Grandkid/grandpa, toot same snore.
Friday we mall walk
Dash to movie popcorn stuffed
Nights of sleepless talk
lifting stories -- realm of lore.

All turn homeward bound
Vacuum litter, mop the floors.
Strip bed without sound
Find pets who beg, "Please, no more."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Who are you?

I have this little world map at the bottom of the blog. It shows the places from where people have visited my blog on an updated basis. Sometimes there's as many as 64 visitors in a day; sometimes as little as six, but usually it's in the mid-teens. I actually can figure out who a few might be. I can reasonably speculate a few others. But sometimes, I'll get one from some far flung site, and it sets my already over-developed sense of imagination into hyper drive. (It ain't pretty being in my head at that point.) Someday I'll put down on paper the amazing stories surrounding those unusual visitors from northern Chile, a dot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, southern India (Is that you Anita?), or Tehran (where a little girl meets the Ayatollah and melts his heart, so he decides to marry her and is stoned to death as an unholy man, not because he married her, but didn't get approval of the father first). Stories are everywhere. Kick over a stone and unleash a good wizard trapped in a salamander's body until a kindness is bestowed upon him, and he brings back unicorns whose horns are the only weapon that can stop the aliens who have been secretly taking over the Earth. I CAN'T STOP!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Six Word Stories

Can you write a story in six words? William Shatner did. Margaret Atwater did. See what they wrote.
Ate turkey, burped, expired in pie.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gobble down your next writing assignment

In honor of turkey day, don't forget to get your turkeys into the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest by April 15th (or so).
It was a dark and stormy night.
Bowlegged frogs littered the roadside mimicking the drunken old men under the railroad bridge who released methane thick as swamp gas into the sultry night choking the frogs in mid-croak in an endless cycle of what passed for life, death, and Al Gore's worst nightmare.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Prior to Black Internet Monday...I have this to offer.

Mother and Daughter clothes. Amber also writes horror which her kids don't get to read...thank goodness.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Who is your scariest character?

Abebooks asked visitors to name the scariest characters in books. The results:

1. Big Brother from 1984 by George Orwell
2. Hannibal Lecter from the novels by Thomas Harris
3. Pennywise the clown from It by Stephen King
4. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
5. Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's novel
6. Annie Wilkes from Misery by Stephen King
7. The demon from The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
8. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
9. Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
10. Voldemort from the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling

Got another favorite?

I lifted this list from Southern Review of Books from Anvil Publications. Though promotional in nature, there were some interesting marketing tips in this review.

Monday, November 19, 2007

MMWUC for November 19, 2007

Exercise. Yes, for real, do this exercise before you break into your story. "Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Release and relax. Write for ten minutes, 'I held open the door and in walked...'."

Musings. Do I do my own exercises? Yes. Faithfully? Well, no, but I do find warming up with something I'm not committed to gets the juices flowing so that when I start on my WIP (work in progress), the brain is engaged. And sometimes I keep what I write in the exercise, because it feels like it might lead to something. (What I really should do is put them all in a journal.) Also, I'll try to apply the exercise to my current WIP even if the opening words in the exercise doesn't apply to anything that I'm aware of yet. And it's kind of important to have the brain engaged when you're writing. Finally, I do open my eyes before I start writing. It's dangerous being a writer with pens and pencils sticking up at odd angles, paperclips looking to be launched when least expected, tape ready to hold you hostage, electrical shocks from computers, batteries catching fire on laptops, and radiation leaking from IPods, cell phones, and the X-ray machine in the other room. I'm sure some can write with their eyes closed, but I'm a visualist and need to see the showering sparks from my overhead lamp from the 100 watt bulb in a socket for a 60 watt bulb. Write on!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Steal this idea - "Dust Mite Poop"

I was vaguely aware that NPR was on the radio, and frankly, I don't remember anything about the allergy suffering session except these words, "...dust mite poop." Jack Klugman and Tony Randall invaded my thoughts--television's version of the odd couple. (Stay with me.) Now, the idea of suffering with allergies is not a funny thing...the old rolling pin and hair net gets allergy shots, but I couldn't get over the idea of dust mite poop. What if...

Barry Grubber makes Felix Unger look slothful. But when Barry finds out about dust mite poops, the cleaning gloves get thicker as he starts a one man campaign to wipe out dust mites. After ridding his house of them with a toxic solution he has become immune to, they return. Pushed to the edge, he wages his secret one-man campaign against his perceived enemies, first his neighbor, then the block, and then the town. What starts as a one-person eccentricity becomes a national emergency. Comedy, dramedy, sf gone mad. It's my idea, but you can steal it and make what you can of it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"Blue Screen" by Robert Parker

I guessed the murderer about six lines after it happened in Robert Parker's "Blue Screen". I even had a handle on the motive. Guessing the murderer and motive early in a story isn't a bad thing, because it's the journey sometimes that makes the story as pleasurable as the surprise of "who dun it." But I must confess that any gossip mag or TV show would have had Erin and Misty's past figured out LONG before the investigators made whoopee. Parker sacrificed a thin plot to create some interesting secondary characters, but the female (Sunny Randall) and male (Jesse Stone) leads packed the emotional punch of the boys on "Dragnet," especially with their staccato dialogue. Parker must have had someplace better to be and phoned in a weak ending. Still, it was a quick read suitable for a long drive with an undesirable in-law. Rosie gets bonus doggie treats from me. I'm sure those who've read the series from the beginning see character development that I don't, but that may be part of the problem for later books in a series -- they still have to stand on their own merit. This one does, but is tipsy earning a 3.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fighting World Hunger Through Vocabularly Lessons

Here's the link to the story. Here's the link to the site where if you get the correct definition to a word, you help fight world hunger.

Inspirational Inclemency

What type of weather inspires you to write? Me! Give me a cold, raw rainy day when the lumpy, mash-potatoed cloud bottoms are occasionally ripped by winds creating wispy feathers of moisture-laden clouds streaking Earth bound to touch and inspire me. Allow the wood stove's fire to warm me while I watch the cloud dance, and a rush of words will spill onto the page.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Write, er, White Stuff

Whoa! Where did Wednesday go? Oh yeah, that's right. I was working in another medium - painting. NANO has been sacrificed to the God of Time. Time is a harsh God, but a steady one, beating out the seconds of the day evenly, giving all of us the same amount of Time, allowing each of us to meter out the use of the gift of Time. My Time didn't go to writing, getting a job, studying for a test, watching TV (although I did get to see the "list" episode of "South Park" in half a stupor with my honey. Maybe today the God of Time will afford me the necessary attention to writing.

As for my painting, I can't pain anymore. I can't do it when it is cold and raw, like it is today, a huge change from the sunny 70s of yesterday. I think Andy Warhol would have appreciated my efforts. The ghostly after images of wood showing through the snowy white of the primer coat on my front porch. My neighbors cheer, the mossy green growth has been vanquished.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Poison People Perfectly

Looking to poison your next victim in your mystery? Check out this blog from Poe's Deadly Daughters about untraceable poisons. Also useful if you have someone who drives over you bed of begonias every Friday night.

Monday, November 12, 2007

MMWUC for November 12, 2007

EXERCISE: Wake me up! My pencil is rubbing me out; my computer is deleting me; my pen is scribbling me into a unrecognizable mass of blue spaghetti. What happens to you when your muse takes off with your electrons to Aruba and you're stuck in Inuvik without a dog sled or toilet paper? I scream into the oblivion of an arctic winter's night, where even the snow white of forever is coal black: "Vampires can't handle the cold."

The flight attendant coos over the intercom: "Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Fasten your seat belts and relax. For the next three minutes and twenty seconds write, 'I heard the wind rush by and...'."

MUSINGS: It's Monday.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

Yeah, I'm a Vietnam-era veteran. Thanks to all the other veterans who put themselves in harms way for our country and our way of life. Write about a better day when none of us have to make the decision to do so again.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I've been tagged

Ooh, we're about to get personal over here!The rules of the game are:

A). Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog...

B). Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself...

C). Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs...

D). Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I got tagged by Rae, and my seven random facts are:

1. I once wrestled an alligator...okay, he was only 14 inches long, but I was only ten at the time. (Yeah, Aunt Joannie)

2. I've never been to Mexico (but I've been to Mexico, NY -- Carol M.) or south of Orlando, Florida (Carol M. again).

3. I inhaled, but then again I'll never run for the Presidency.

4. I ran 36 miles once, but I don't even run to the bathroom anymore, and I have to do that more than once a night.

5. I designed, engineered, created the blueprints, and was the general contractor for my 3,500 sq ft home, but have never worked in the trades or taken a class in architecture. The county engineer approved the plans on the first try.

6. As I age, OCD is becoming part of my life. I don't know how many times I've gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to make sure I've turned off the hose or the oven or an outside light.

7. There is intelligent life in the universe. The odds are too stacked in favor of it, but I find it hard to believe we've been visited without a shred of "verifiable" evidence left behind.

I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with writing, but it did give me an idea or two for a story.

Friday, November 9, 2007

On Memoirs These Days

There was an old man who wrote a book
And an old lady who took a look.
She got a surprise
And widened her eyes.
The story was her life that he took.

On another group site I frequent (IWW), the discussion recently wove around memoirs as first "novels" as suggested by an (editor or agent, I forget) at an event with Haven Kimmel, author of the creative nonfiction memoir (my tongue snaps off with that classification) "A Girl Named Zippy". Is it easier to get a memoir published and then move on to novels? Are all our lives worth laying down on pages for publication? Have we lost our moral compass when it comes between the desire to be published and the willingness to blur the lines between the truth and fiction? Inquiring minds may not want to know, but I do.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Smell of Danger

It officially went below 32 degrees, but my gardenias are still in their second blooming -- the fall blush. It got me thinking about Joel Cairo from "The Maltese Falcon". It was his scent in the movie, although in the book it was something else less recognizable. It was very effeminate. What smell would your hunk detective or P.I. have about him? Cigars, cigarettes, Tiparellos?

Segueing my way through the writing world.

Steal this idea - "The Murder of Moo"

I've GOT to include this somehow in my next novel. I can see it clearly. The bad guy getting away when something VERY unexpected prevents him from doing so. Maybe he gets amnesia and falls in love with the female sheriff or something who's investigating his crime(s) and he unwittingly keeps bringing her closer to the truth.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Muse Search

Where do you go to find your muse?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Turkey City Lexicon

I've added the Turkey City Lexicon under "Writing Help". If you're a SF writer, you should memorize. If you write, you should be aware.

Monday, November 5, 2007

MMWUC for November 5, 2007

EXERCISE: Writers pound their keyboards as John Kennedy Toole lumbers up the aisle. He smiles broadly at such an industrious lot, as he positions himself behind the lectern. The clock up ticks to nine a.m. A Yorkie charges in from the side door and bites him. His mother glides into the room through the skylight, somersaults out of the parachute and throws ninja stars at the Yorkie who deflects them with his studded collar. John lies bleeding on the podium. His mother rushes to her son, but a gaggle of men in dark navy blue suits charge out from behind the stage and carry her away, hoisting her high and shouting "Pull at her" or something like that. The Yorkie clears his throat and barks into the microphone, "Close your eyes students, take a deep breath, and relax. For the next ten minutes, write from the OMNI POV, 'Reginald couldn't wait...'."

The writers don't look up. And with his dying gasp, John asks, "Why?"

The blond haired girl in pig-tails in the front row mutters, "NANO. Must get words done."

MUSINGS: Is 2,000 words a day a reasonable goal for a writer? S. King says it is, and some writers are more productive than him, so they must have no problem with it. But I struggled to 2,001 words on Friday and decided, it's not the words that are the problem, it's the words without a plot that's the problem. Without direction, the words come hard and frankly, somewhat less than stimulating. With direction on Saturday after spending some time to plot a bit of the NANO story, the words flowed better. Were the words better? I don't know, but I'm sure there's a host of critiquers who'd love to decided whether or not I'm a dunce.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Steal this idea - "Chewbacca Found"

A friend, with a bad habit of smoking weird cigarettes, was really worried that Star Wards had actually happened because the dead body of a Chewbacca had been found in Texas. This was months ago, and I paid little attention to her ranting. She couldn't remember what she was listening to, but insisted she was right.

Well she was...sort of.

Somehow, I think this could be an excellent story. Something like a Coen movie where a misheard word starts a massive search for the missing Chewbacca and how everyone reacts to the search, and even once solved, the conspiracy theorists start things back up again.

"Visions in Death" by J. D. Robb (Nora Roberts)

It took me three tries before I could finish Chapter 1. The gruesomeness of the crime wasn't nearly as off-putting as the character of Lieutenant Eve Dallas. Perhaps I'm just not ready for the mid-21st century's version of the inverted thin man series. It's not that she's the cop and that her husband's so fabulously wealthy and a man of infinite abilities, but that he gets to play tag-along detective with his wife despite her otherwise prickly attitude about procedure. I found her as emotionally welcoming as snuggling with an Arctic Grayling. The police procedural parts of the story are top notch, but I stumbled over some surprising awkward writing. Any number of times, I was confused as to who was speaking, and some of the secondary characters were poorly drawn. I was ready for a twist at the end, even though I couldn't fathom its form. I had a hard time rating this story and settled for a strong 3 though I suspect her legion of fans will envision me dead.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Post-Halloween Thoughts

I'm sad. The only two goblins I expected to see at my door in the middle of the woods never showed. And I had two 14 inch long okras for each boy figuring that kids these days eat too much candy and this would be better for them.
I like Halloween; my wife loves Halloween. I dressed in appropriate orange all day to scare the birds, forest animals, and goldfish. The goldfish, however, had this funny loving look in their eyes. I'll never wear all orange around them again.
Can we cease with the blood and gore Halloween movies? I wanted to relax with an Italian sausage on bun for an hour or two last night, and all I found on my 902 channels were gory "Halloween" movies. Vampires sucking, werewolves woofing, the dead rising, bees stinging, jellyfish jiggling, and sharks snapping. And just what do sharks have to do with Halloween? I mean, I like Jack Nicholson. "Here's Johnny." But the last time I checked, no one except some poor Eskimo on an ice flow gets that much snow at Halloween. My wife pulled out Bambi and slipped into the VHS. We breathed a sigh of relief until we realized 39 seconds later that it was my copy of "Bambi vs. Godzilla". End of story.
NANO day one went well. Have a log of each day near the bottom on the right-hand side.
Must go write; must think; must get rid of those okra, they're starting to stink.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NANO Nuttiness Begins

I thought about staying up all night, yanking those first 1,667 words out of my brain, dropping them on paper like gifts from my muse, slamming down cups of coffee to keep me awake, but I'm getting old. I need my two hours of sleep (then pee), then two more (then pee), then maybe three more and awake refreshed in the morning, bed hair directionless, and waddle into the bathroom to pee. (You just knew it was coming.) The words can wait until I get a plot. I did open a file for the story and a few supporting files where I put character lists, names list, timeline, and other assorted tools. I even wrote the title and the opening paragraph. I woke my wife up and read it to her. "It sucks." She rolled over and went back to sleep. I'm not sure if she was dreaming about our vacuum cleaner or commenting on my opening paragraph.
"Secrets My Grandmother Never Told Me"

Two years ago, my 78-year-old grandmother stole a scooter from an elderly gentleman, roared through the terminal to our gate, and barely made the flight out of Istanbul. It took the authorities hours to figure out what had happened. By then, we were halfway across the Atlantic and the plane didn't have the fuel to turn back. For my grandmother, it was just another bizarre episode in a long series of weird adventures that began long before I was born. But now I wonder if her luck has run out. Being wanted by the Turkish government for theft is one thing. Being taken away by Homeland Security after a flight for murder is another.
"Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are." - Jimmy D.