Monday, March 31, 2008

MMWUC for March 31, 2008

EXERCISE: Who needs a writing exercise? Just write your own story based on my escapades. I feed the birdies. Every six months or so, I get overrun by rats with good PR, that is, squirrels. They're the main reason I'm poor. They eat all the bird seed, and I have to buy more. Have you seen the price of sunflower seeds lately! Anyway, yes I trap the squirrels, but they only become lunch meat for the hawks and owls. The circle of life continues albeit sped up a bit by me and the sacrificial alter at the edge of the woods.

Something has been digging in my garden. Coyotes? Opossums? Rabbits? Voles and moles? Wild dogs? Naughty little children from down the lane? The mystery may have been solved. In my squirrel trap was a huge and fat raccoon. He'd been dining somewhere this winter that was good to him, because he should be lean this time of year. Big enough, he was, that he couldn't notice the open door of the cage because he couldn't turn around to see it. So ornery. He didn't back down after repeated attempts to push him back with the butt end of the broom only meet ferocious attacks. So I let him be. And he sits. I think he's going to sleep and dream about fresh water clams down at the stream and leftover barbecue from a spit.

Me. I'm going to eat breakfast. Your exercise...finish my adventure.

MUSING: Ever happen to you? Tell someone you write and immediately they have something for you to write or edit or co-write or critique or read. Even Fedex guys with Amazon deliveries have notebooks with scribblings that, "You've just got to read this passage." From now on, I'm..."Joe. I body double for the guy on The World's Most Dirtiest Jobs. Let me shake your hand."

Everyone get out there and write!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Where have I been? What have I learned?

I've just finished scoring 2,548 of the almost 200,000 tenth grade persuasion essays from one of our great states. Flashes of brilliance graced some pages. Painfully inept, immature, and inane self-serving thoughts on other pages made me want to stab my eyes with a sharp #2 pencil. Pro and con arguments inspired by the prompt question surprised me, and more than a few students rose above the prompt, suggesting that great leaders and thinkers in our society are still to be found in our public education system. I'm feeling better about our future.

"Ring, ring, ring...." "Bong, bong, bong...." "Clang, clang, clang...." Over twenty times these two-page essays started off with nearly identical openings for the first one, two, three, or more sentences with an alarm clock waking up Johnny or Susie or Jose to start a new school day. Many times I swore that I'd already read the paper (inspiring some deep-seated worries of classroom-wide conspiracies of copycatting). If that many students come up with the identical lines of thinking (and writing), uniqueness is doomed! MY writing is doomed!! With the millions of other writers out there, I AM DOOMED!!!

Finally, I'd find some tale tell difference in the essay, and I could score the paper based on strict guidelines on its own merits and not some lingering vestiges of prior papers of the same ilk. Some papers earned Bronx cheers and some were ready for Pulitzers.

Balance restored to the universe, I'm less worried about someone stealing the totality of my story lines, but more worried than ever that anything I write is utterly thematically not unique. And both worries are traceable back to these essays. It makes me wonder how many unique stories there really are? Yes, yes, I know. Depending upon who your guru is, there are really only 1, 3, 4, 9, or 15 plot lines (themes) for stories, but infinite ways of writing them. Or, is it infinite? Are those monkeys really out there pounding on a million typewriters for 10,000 years and creating Macbeth? It's keeping me up at night worrying.

In these essays and all stories, the overarching theme is: Someone wants something but must overcome obstacles to succeed. How can I possibly come up with something that a tenth grader hasn't already created?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Swami has Died

NCAA Bracketology: No swami am I this year (39 points vs. 57 last year). Worst year of picking ever. Yuck. Phew! Still, the final four is intact as are 6 of 8 Elite Eight. Villanova? San Diego? At least I warned you about Davidson. Are screenwriters already writing the screenplay? "The Cinderella Year" or will it be another case of deer in the headlights syndrome in the sweet sixteen for these teams.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

March Showers Bring May Flowers

The bridies is; in the oak tree; one took a wiz; and surprised me.

The Easter bunny will bring chocolate and my writing will get sharp again. 16 hours sleep today will help chase the sickness away. Man, this stuff just lingers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Vernal Equinox

Spring has sprung; the grass has riz; I wonder where; the birdies is?

"Falling Man" by Don DeLillo

I had high hopes for this novel based on the author's stature and the penultimate event of my lifetime as the subject matter, but the stories surrounding the lives of the three principle characters before, during, and after 9/11 were flat. The story and writing meandered, which may be some sort of statement implied in the story, but it just didn't work for me. The one character I best understood was the terrorist, riding the plane toward the towers, bleeding, and concerned with nothing other than the complete conviction of his actions. Yeah, lives were devastated from the affects of the attack, unfortunately, I can only feel so much for these characters because they were all somewhat to seriously flawed before the attack for unclear reasons. The results of the attack only made them flawed in other directions. The saving grace is the exquisite language he often uses, rescuing this novel to a 3.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NCAA Bracketology

Since it isn't about writing, so I've posted my hoop dreams on my secondary blog. For those only needing the end result: Kansas edges past UNC while UCLA beats Texas. UCLA struggles but beats Kansas to win the 2008 tournament. I guess the Bear eats the Jayhawk.

Two teams that could destroy many brackets for basically the same reason -- when they get hot nothing really stops them. Davidson could be a giant killer if they take out both Gonzaga which I think they will and Georgetown which I don't think they will. The other team is Duke which I have bowing out at the Elite Eight. They've been fading down the stretch as people figure out how to pound it inside, but there are so many shooters on this team that if they catch fire, a six game run to the championship is well within their abilities.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Free Reviews of Your Book

Under the hard-to-believe news, is short on books to review. It appears to be a free book review site. I don't know how you published or nearly published or POD-published people procure prolific pontification praising your prose, but here's another one to add to your list.

List? Hmmm. Is there a list of places to get your book reviewed? I imagine agents/publishers have one. I want one!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Doctor is in the House

C.J. Lyons is special guest this week on Pix-N-Pens and is willing to comment on your 500 word or less medical scene. CJ Lyons is a physician trained in pediatric emergency care and an award winning author.
John grimaced. One hand held the elbow of the other arm. "Doc, it hurts when I move my arm this way.

John's anguish rose as he raised the arm over his held.

The doctor looked worried. "Well. Don't move your arm that way. That's $437."

MMWUC for March 17, 2008

EXERCISE: Read this blog about blogging versus writing. If you have the discipline, great! If not, consider brain surgery. It's easier than writing.

The leprechaun made me do it. Now, where is my green beer?

Paul, thanks for the inadvertent link.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fever Poem

I'm drinking fluids as Far suggests
But something still sits right on my chest.
I'm thinking fever inspires writing
The purple prose is so frightening.

One-oh-three doesn't sound very bad
But the rib cracking cough makes me sad.
And I wrote and found a thousand words
Spewed disorganized like cattle herds.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Burning Books?

Thrown drafts of your novel into the campfire later? I have. Try joining script month writing in April with NANOWRIMO's ScriptFrenzy for a change of pace. Perhaps you're just writing in the wrong medium.

Friday, March 14, 2008

How to write a fake memoir

How to write a fake memoir. Lessons here at Slate magazine. Yeah, that's all I've got today. Wanna make something out of it?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Remember the Pain, or Maine, or something

Baby flu: too sick to feel like doing anything; not sick enough to stay home from work, especially since I don't have any sick days

I know. Write down how I feel and use it in a story someday. Yada, yada, yada.

I ache. Hot. Cold. Small fever. Lethargy invades my soul. My fingers hurt. Cold sweat on my brow that feels slimy when I wipe it away. My back hurts. Where? All over, idjit! I blink, and my eyelids scrape over a moist yet still crusty layer covering my eyes. My nose is not sore yet, and I wonder when the body will stop creating this green slime. I don't swallow. My invisibly swollen throat won't tolerate the abuse. There is no nausea, yet, but there's an inch of water in a nearby plastic, and now I notice, puke green pale. It's enough to make one sick.

The fire's been stoked. It's back to bed I go. I owe. I owe. It's back to bed I go. I feel the brain cells slowing shutting down, and in my head I hear Sinatra singing, "It's my town; its' my town."

MMWUC for March 10, 2008

EXERCISE: "Drop and give me ten." Writing students looked at each other unsure what to do. "I said, drop and give me ten. Are you people deaf?" Students popped out of their seats, looking for space in the classroom to do ten push-ups. The instructor came over to one boy and grabbed him by the belt forcing him up and down. A girl giggled. "What are you giggling about? How'd you like to do an extra twenty?" "Uh, no, sir." "In your seats," the instructor shouted. "Grab pen. Close eyes. Breathe deep. Relax." His tone mellowed. "Now, take ten minutes and write, 'My surprise exploded...'."

MUSING: You can't wade into a story even if you are tapping the ready on the shoulder. Something must be presented that will make the agent, editor, or reader sit up and take notice that a story worthy of their time is now open in front of their face. It is a lesson I don't seem to grasp in my heart yet, but I will, in my next story.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Fowl Play" by Patricia Tichenor Westfall

Even after fifteen years in southern rural Ohio, Chicagoan Molly West still feels a bit like an outsider despite her involvement in the community helping to run Meals-on-Wheels type business. When a local woman is murdered and several roosters go missing, the investigation flutters into her lap due to her scratching at clues and pecking holes in the stories locals tell. Soon she's dragged deep into the investigation along with the seventy-year-old matriarch of the area. The writing is fine, the murder case is thin, some of the humor okay, and the dignity of the people kept up, but Molly's sociology professor husband, Ken, crows too often and too long about the Appalachian culture for my tastes. Still, it will keep you occupied on cold, cloudy day. For cozy lovers, it's a four. I like more meat on my chicken and old roosters don't taste too good, so it's a three.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Haiku for You

I worked hard all week

But can not write, read or sleep

Chocolate, I seek

...and now back to our regular programming.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Book according to Rick

George Harrison once wrote a song that had so few lyrics that it was lampooned on SNL as a song with only six words just rearranged. I want to write a novel like that, shove in two hundred blank pages with a fancy ambiguous picture on the cover and blurbs from Stephen King, Amy Tan, John Grisham, Cormac McCarthy, Evil Knievel, Jr., and Oprah tauting its brilliance.

Let me try...

God gave. Left. Returned. Cried forever.

At least I don't have a graven image of him/her/it. (I've got to stop watching "Dogma".)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Paper Cuts Can Kill

I had too many characters in my new novel. I wrote each name (other than the protagonist) on a separate piece of paper and then tossed the thirteen pieces of paper into a hat to let fate decide who was to die. I pulled out a name. Mary B. No not Mary. I can't kill Mary. She's the protags new love interest and the romance angle to the story.

Doh! Mary was perfect to kill off. That would really throw off the reader.

Next. How? Gun, knife, poison, poison dart, strangulation, car accident, electrocution, paper cut infection, blunt trauma, hanging, disembowelment, run over by a train. That seemed be enough.

Next. Where? And so it went with my own personal game of Clue.

Tell me. How do you decide which right-angle turns you want to throw at the reader?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Blood Moon Lovers" - Steal this idea

"Until the red moon comes, I'll thirst for you love." Count Vitameatavegamin kissed Lucy's fingertips before the lunar eclipse in February, 2008 concluded and she turned back into a thirsty werewolf. Their nearly four-hundred year old love affair would resume and end in December, 2010, the next lunar eclipse. Then, and only then, with a simple kiss will the curse be lifted and their unholy, unrequited union end. Their lives as young medieval lovers could move forward unencumbered.

It would happen if only they could elude the vampire hunters, werewolf slayers, and the 12th generation gypsy queen who can enslave them once again so she can live like royalty on the goods they surreptitiously must acquire for her, safe in the knowledge that neither can kill her, themselves, or live eternally apart.

--- ahem ---

How does the story unwind? I don't know. It's yours, but you better get cracking if you want someone to publish this in time with the next lunar about your tie-ins and right before the Christmas holiday season.

--- ahem, ahem ---

Extra points for the origination of the Count's name.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Safe Houses for Writers

Mexico has a safe house for oppressed writers from around the world.

I wonder if I qualify? I'm forced back into the working world by my birds who demand more and more bird seed, fish who will only eat food sticks from Dr. Foster, and an organic garden that demands only the best supplements. Do you get forced to pick tomato worms at dawn because you can't use insecticides? At least the frogs in the goldfish pond eat them. Every little weed gets picked by hand in the blazing sun. Worms are carefully transpanted from the stink pile to the garden to break down the three-year-old leaf mulch that I have to rake up each fall.

The slave labor continues by the chopping and stacking of wood to create fires to keep warm during the winter, and during the summer, I have to pick flowers and arrange them in vases for the lady of the house. Laundry, vaccuuming, dishes, dusting, car maintenance, grass cutting, and deer thinning must be done in order to receive, ah, well, favors. I guess I should be glad for small things. She doesn't know how to work a Kalashnokov.

Safe house in Mexico, heck, I'd settle for 10 days at the Writers Retreat Workshop.

Monday, March 3, 2008

MMWUC for March 3, 2008

Exercise: "Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. For the next ten minutes, write from the protagonists POV, 'I tripped the light fantastic with...'" Less than a minute later, the anal retentive members of the writing class began fainting from lack of oxygen to the brain. Some writers had written far off the paper and onto their desks. Other writers, relaxed as wet noodles, slid out of seats. "Such are the results," Dickens, ever the jokester, chortled from the raised dais, "when one follows a silly request too strictly."

Musings: In "Self Reliance"Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." I guess it can be that way when writing and trying to stay between the lines of the rules and ignoring the fact that all the writing rules are merely guidelines within which we drive our stories. Learn the "rules," and then color outside the lines to capture the attention of those who rule the writing world.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

JK Rowling Betrayed?

JK Rowling feels betrayed by someone writing a lexicon of Harry Potter. But after reading the article, I'm not sure I understand her betrayal or the suit to stop publication of the lexicon. I almost buy the explanation that she's upset because she hasn't gotten hers out there first, and I'm going to assume that she has a bunch of helping writing hers just as these guys have had and maybe their site is, in a bizarre twist, even a reference for her. Madness, I tells ya. It's all madness. What thinks you?