Saturday, May 31, 2008

Shrubs, Closets, and Suspicions

One hundred and twenty-four days...

The oppressive heat of summer has arrived, and I still have fourteen more shrubs/trees to plant. But, I got the cotton in this morning. ("Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton...oh wait, I am!") I should write a story about a man that goes nuts putting in shrubbery ("SHRUBBERY!") obscuring his house and life from those around him leaving everyone to wonder what he does all day and why there is a steady stream of UPS, FEDEX, and US Mail trucks winding their way up his driveway every day. Soon rumors start, especially after some kids are injured while climbing over a fence and falling into a Fire Thorn bush. Two dogs go missing. A child disappears for an evening and an angry mob grows until she is found sleeping in the closet at her Grandmother's down the street.

"Mommy and daddy where yelling at each other again," she laments as the cop brings her home.

"It doesn't matter that HE didn't have her. He's up to something, and HE should be stopped." The loudmouthed man threw down his spent cigar the angry in him seething as much over HIM as his son who left home after an argument over a used soda straw.

The cops break up the crowd, but soon the neighborhood quiet is disturbed by the clatter of metal and a humming noise that often starts as early as six a.m. It goes on for two months and one night a Molotov cocktail explodes against a line of Korean Boxwood's left to grow up to eight feet in height, the popping of sugary sap sounds like tiny firecrackers on the fourth of July. Though it is extinguished quickly by the fire department, the homeowner is never seen.

And then it happens...

...writing about strange places to live, check out this daring woman with no where to live but in a strangers' closet. I wonder if that show that builds new houses for people will go international and help her out?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Just Watch Which Finger You Grow!

One hundred and twenty-six days.

This article describes an amazing new technique for regrowing human tissue. If you can't develop a plot out of this article, you aren't a writer or you believe Philip Dick wrote all the possible futurist (speculative fiction) stories.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Job or is it Job (the guy in the Bible)?

One hundred and twenty-seven days.

A government funded service offered to help me re-write my resume for better effectiveness for free. Better to have me fully employed I guess, instead of seasonally employed as I am now.

I thanked them for showing me how to use the TAB key to move the dates on my resume from after the job title to the right side of the page. This is really going to help strengthen my job search.

Maybe I can get a job there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Orifice Outrage

One hundred and twenty-eight days.

Long night last night. Wifey with food poisoning. Rather disgusting. Got little done. Asked her to describe her feelings so that I could write them down in a story. The frying pan to my head only caused a small bruise. Never did get the feelings. But now I've got a few of my own.

Monday, May 26, 2008

MMWUC for May 26, 2008

One hundred and twenty-nine days.

Holidays can screw up your sense of what day it is. I knew without consciously realizing it that it was Monday as I drove to pick up two pick-up trucks worth of oak from a fallen tree at a friend's house. Still have to split it, but I'm sure there will be a 50 degree morning sometime soon. (He snickers at his own thought knowing full well that the 50s are not a number on thermometers in the South in the June, July, and August.)

In the afternoon, I went to the concrete graveyard near me to pilfer a load of concrete slabs from some broken sidewalk that met the sledgehammers blows without dignity. It's for the ever larger garden wall. Loaded up, I started my Ford Explorer and drove toward home, a mere four miles away, only to find smoke rising within the car. Oh great, now my car's on fire in the middle of nowhere. Long story short, I stopped the car and let it air out and flagged some guy on a bike who happened to have a cell phone (Yes, I one of the great unwashed without a cell phone.) Called brother-in-law, who is not familiar with the area, to get my wife and come to my stated location. It was a long wait. He went to our house, but couldn't find her. Went home. Never really understood this part. Changed cars. Came back to my house. Went back inside to look for her and couldn't find her. He leaned on the horn to see if she would respond. She didn't. Finally he went to the back side of the house and found my wife in the full sun with near heat stroke. "Didn't you hear the car horn?" "Oh, yes!" "Well." "Well what. I knew it would stop soon." (She sometimes plays Gracie Allen to my George Burns.) So they get in the car to come assist me. (I could have walked home by now.) "I think I need to puke," Gracie says turning a whiter shade of pale. "Not in my car," erstwhile brother-in-law says. Meanwhile, I'm wilting in the hot treeless plains of another developer gone mad PUD. "Come for the rural living." The sign shows a picturesque area of lakes and trees and a brick two story with 2.5 kids in the nearby community swimming pool. I'm always hoping that the .5 kid isn't being sucked into a pool drain like a Japanese beetle (who are arriving late this year by the way). Where was I? Right, I'm melting on the plains of destruction; brother-in-law is driving the car in which heat struck wife is threatening to regurgitate like a momma bird with a brood of ill-tempered Cow birds; sister-in-law is coming now in her car for moral support; thirteen motorists, two motorcyclists, six bikers have passed my propped up hood with my car doors open without stopping to check on the half-naked guy sitting on the curb and wrapped in a dirty sheet to keep the rays of the sun off of him. If fact, the only thing that seems interested in my are six red-headed turkey vultures whose circular pattern is down to the top of the telephone poles. I need to move, but I have to go to the bathroom so I'm concentrating hard.

They arrive. B-i-l checks under the hood. "I've suspected by now that it is the fan blower motor that is causing the problem," I kibitz with all the knowledge of a newborn speculating about brain surgery. He tentatively agrees. I start the car and drive home, the smell tolerable by now. They follow, and when we get home, I empty the concrete while B-i-l tries to see if he can get the fan blower motor out. He can't. Ford Explorers were built to incur expensive repairs. Tomorrow, I search for a inexpensive mechanic who can fix the blower fan on a 1992 Ford Explorer.

Have a happy remainder of the holiday.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

End Days

One hundred and thirty days.

Is the world as we know it coming to a crash? I see the slow growth of a survivalist mentality around me, and I admit that my own ability to survive has taken an uptick in recent years, but it was not provoked by the ideas in the article.

So what does the near and long term hold for us in your stories?

Most of my future based stories show a future of increased polarization: technology-driven societies versus self-sufficient masses, true believers versus non-believers, and cooperative driven individuals versus armed hordes with the vast middle-ground sacrificed to either sides goals and all leading to a world-wide dilemma that ultimately reduces the overall population to half of what it is now...and cycle repeats again.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Early Bird Class at WRW08

One hundred and thirty-one days.

"I'm sorry, but I have a problem with my novel. I don't have a plot. I can't visualize my protagonist or the girl he must save. She's kind of like Molly Ringwald, but not so tall because she has to squeeze into a Magician's Box to escape from someone at sometime and go somewhere to do something for someone. Dialogue seems elusive and the scenes flat. I don't know where it really begins, but I absolutely know how it ends...I think. It's set somewhere where there are mountains, plains, oh, and a desert nearby, and there are blazing hot days and a blizzard that mounds snow higher than Dolly Pardon's (is that how you spell her name) boobs. I've tried to use all five senses, but have trouble with smell and sometimes hearing, although there is a fire-snorting dragon that you hear coming from far off. With those big floppy wings to keep them aloft, dragons will never be accepted to the Navy Seals program. Oh, yeah I forgot, there's two massive armies, and one's not human because they came here from outer space using teleportation device which is who they got the dinosaurs to help them. It doubles as a time machine.

"But my real problem is the 25-word TV-guide pitch. Can you help me?"

Wise John contemplates for a minute at the 7 a.m. Early Bird class at the Writers Retreat Workshop 2008 in Marydale. Writers enter the room as he does so dressed in various personal codes of dress. Some where PJs; others look ready for a business casual meeting. John rubs his semi-bald head, clears his throat. "How about: A bitter dragon battles olfactory obstructions while aiding Rick save the red-headed princess from aliens, dinosaurs, and humongous breasts in order to cure Mother Nature's insanity."

Rick stares at the chapel/meeting room/class room/dance floor. "No, I don't think so. That's 26 words."

Writers picky to the end, ah, I mean finish, finis, --30--.

Friday, May 23, 2008

NANOWRIMO, are you there?

One hundred and thirty-two days.

Memorial Weekend...The weather will be gorgeous. I wish I were at the Writers Retreat Workshop in Erlanger, Kentucky at the Marydale Center for the next ten days, but I am not. I will have to pretend I'm there, writing, resting, learning, drinking (did I write that?), hob-nobing with published authors, agents, publishers, and other wizards of the publishing world.

I will just have to hunker down with "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues" and in-between social engagements and picking snow peas, maybe, just maybe, get some writing done.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

MIA I am or was or will be

One hundred and thirty-three days.

Missing in action the past few days while trying to score seventh-grade New Jersey persuasion papers. Yeah, I see some new generation wise guys coming out of the school system up north in my home state in which I haven't lived for four decades. (Darn it, that makes me sound old.) "Hey, why don't we take our school field trip to Australia. We can brown bag it, and the entire trip will only cost $1,000. And don't worry. The animals are slow and friendly there, plus they have hospitals." This kid ever see the snake specials on Australia? Four of the top ten deadliest in the world, plus the #1. Secretly, I'm jealous. I want to go, but I'd have to mooch off of all the writer's I've met over the Internet for housing.

I was going to go into deep seculsion this holiday weekend and write until I dropped, but my social director has me lined up for other things. So many bushes to plant (don't worry Robin, your bushes are reserved on the side) and so little time to do it before the oppressive heat of summer arrives and turns the Carolinian red and gray mud into something just short of concrete. Maybe I can do some flash fiction.

The telephone pole didn't provide enough stopping power for her Nissan's engine, so she backed up and deflated the air bag with a hat pin. "Hat pin," she mummbled. "Who the heck carries hat pins anymore?" She trudged followed with the engine emitting a coughing noise. A deer jumped over the front hood with a spoon in its mouth followed closely by a raccoon without his mask. She shook her head, but it only hurt worse--the headache from the air bag took root. She weaved down the empty road until she saw the lights. "Country Kitchen. Here I come." She paused in the parking lot as the engine died four minutes after she turned the key. She glanced at the familiar cars, but didn't see Rupert's Oldsmobile. "Damn," she yelled, sinking to the ground. "I'm too late, he took off with Mabel. Oh, to be 76 and hot again.

A brown corvette pulled up with a deep growl. "Car problems?" She thought it was Omar Sharif. She patted her hair and rose from her Sunday kneeling position. "It just stopped," she said, a shy smile showed the new dentures. "Hop in," he said. She did. They roared off. "I had a date with this Mabel woman, but I guess she stood me up. How about the Radisson for the breakfast buffet. She swooned.

Monday, May 19, 2008

MMWUC for May 19, 2008

One hundred and thirty-six days.

To be in the business, you must have a product. Here's a cheer!

Go Write,
all day and night.
Hit those keys
Bring 'em to their knees.
Plotless prose
Hit it on the nose.
Go Write
Till each line's tight!

Okay, it's 6 a.m. time to go to the garden and pick those snow peas.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Secret Weapons for WW2 - Blue Herons

One hundred and thirty-seven days.

Another secret weapon from WW2 just revealed. When will the revelations end? This would make a great TV movie, but I have a hard time plotting this for a book.

After 14 years, a blue heron has discovered my goldfish pond with its 147 goldfish. Yesterday, he ate Tom, Dick, and Bartholomew, three large (about ten inches each) goldfish in about ninety seconds before the heron saw me watching him. (Not much meat on a heron, so I didn't pursue him like a hungry escapee from a Gulag.) Put two four-foot tall statues of storks out there. My supply of pink flamingos being low. It didn't sway him from returning. Maybe I'll sic my attack parakeets on him next.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Burn baby, Burn!

One hundred and thirty-eight days.

I know this has nothing to do with writing, but it is an interesting story about an amazing 107-year-old light bulb that has been burning 24/7 for all those years. Check out the explanation in the comments. Talk about a green bulb that would kick the damn energizer bunny's butt! Makes me think about the episode on the original Star Trek series when they found Vger (Voyager) which had been retrofitted by an alien culture to wipe out imperfect life forms but stops its incredibly long mission temporarily when it erroneously thinks that Captain Kirk is its pappy. (Makes me wonder how many children Kirk really had in the universe.) Shame they had to use the basic same plot in the first Star Trek movie.

But, what if an alien race had visited here in the past. What if they had a ship programmed to return here. What if they all died enroute. What if the seemingly benign ship misinterprets a programming message and starts to eradicate life on Earth. Would Hezbollah lie down with the Massad in order to create a counter-attack like in "Independence Day"? Or would there be a Congressional Hearing while the Earth burns to find out why Condeleeza Rice didn't create a plan to deal with this eventuality when she was in office? I'm thinking we send it the Texas Rangers to deal with that unruly alien computer.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Off-beat and Unusual

One hundred and thirty-nine days.

Okay, here's an exercise that might lead to publication since agents are looking for the off-beat and unusual. Combine the five top stories on "Odd News" for yesterday into a plot for a story. It will probably end up looking like a cross between Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut.

* Michigan girl scout, age fifteen, sells 17K boxes of cookies.
* Nine-year-old girl finds twin in her stomach.
* Giant beetles seized at Pennsylvania post office.
* Ten-year-old college student amazes.
* Foul-mouthed cabbie fined.
* Man sues Jet Blue for being forced to spend flight in toilet.

After being fined for a foul-mouthed tirade directed at a bragging father, cabbie Omar Sharif mails giant beetles to Harry Sheepshead, the offending father. A postal inspector, Harry is nipped by one of the beetles. Heading to Atlanta to get inspected by the Center for Disease Control, Harry is locked into the toilet after his one arm sprouts a dangerous claw, killing the passenger next to him. Harry rants in the toilet that he needs more toilet paper and that he'll sue the airline. Meanwhile his genius ten-year-old son gets word of his dad's predicament, but is torn between saving the life of his nine-year-old girlfriend by performing a delicate surgery or going to his dad's side. Meanwhile, Harry's other daughter has just sold a record number of girl scout cookies. She has to chose between a shot at stardom on "The Apprentice" and a job with Donald Trump in order to raise money for her dad's situation or a trip to Paris with her troop and a chance to be Paris Hilton's assistant for two weeks. "Think of the shoes," she whines to her brother. "I think dad's missing the upside to the claw appendage. Red Lobster could pay millions," the brother suggests. Will dad come to his senses? Will the cabbie be fined yet again? Will the boy find love? Will the girl where Prada to Paris for Paris and popularity.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Screw the Volcano Jimmy Buffet

One hundred and forty days.

While the article is a bit over the top with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese and many of the comments are more insipid than a Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle conversation on nuclear energy, the list of places in jeopardy due to global warming could be used as a jumping off point for the next novel on the affects of global warming.

Jack and Janet Jones jumped at the chance for a once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos islands. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided that the decade long heat wave needed to have a signature event and allowed the entire land-based portion of the Ross Ice Sheet in Antarctica to slide into the ocean after several decades of creating and under-ice river. The resulting tidal wave wiped out most coastal cities along with the the twenty-five foot rise in the ocean level. Half of their twenty-five member party died over night and now the real fight for survival begins with the remaining members of the party and some seriously annoyed native species. Can mankind pull itself together? Can the Jones' survive? Can Tiny Tim make a recording comeback?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Global Interest

Wow! Hits from four continents (N. A., Europe, Australia, S. A.) in one day. Now, if only those penguins would learn to access the Internet.

Scrub Those Queries

One hundred and forty-one days.

Writing buddy, Ron, has alerted me to another place to test drive your query before having your dreams shattered unnecessarily. Query Shark, which seems to be the pet project of Janet Reid, seems like a gentler, kinder Miss Snark. (For a while, Janet was suspected of being Miss Snark. She has also rejected yours truly three times. Maybe now I'll find out why.)

Write on! Write on!! Brothers and sisters, amen. Write on!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Bandits" by Elmore Leonard

One hundred and forty-two days.

Published in 1986, it seemed like everyone in "Bandits" by Elmore Leonard was a bandit with the good and bad guy distinctions blurred by each person's justification for their unsavory actions. The contrived plot had the messy Nicaraguan situation as the backdrop to Leonard's traditional mystery genre with the usual suspects: a likeable ex-con, two hot dames, a few quirky sidekicks, and a bad guy who really deserves justice. Character growth, or the lack of it, overshadowed the make-it-up-as-you-go plan to relieve the bad guy of some money. Leonard rendered the potentially rich New Orleans setting to slightly more than tourist guide references. Not his strongest novel, it still had the twists and turns along with the crisp dialogue that you expect in his stories. I'd like to give it a four, but I'm forgetting it already and senility is not a problem I have...yet. So, it is a strong three from me.

Monday, May 12, 2008

MMWUC for May 12, 2008

One hundred and forty-three days.

Chicago's O'Hare airport is a nice place to visit, but it felt like I was living there until I remembered that Tom Hanks movie, "Terminal", where he did live in an airport terminal. important in a story. What is unique about your setting that will capture your reader's attention?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Monsters in the Closet

One hundred and forty-five days.

I'm in Wisconsin, the Badger state, the frozen north, the setting of my first unfinished 65,000 word novel that is the one that all novelists hide in the closet waiting for Silverfish to eat or that they burn in a fit of despair (I'm close) or that they hope will be the "I told you so novel" later in their career or that when they do pull it out once they've "made it" they remark how naive they were about what it takes to write a novel or how badly written it was.

Four days ago when I reread portions of it, it was poorly written, but, ya know, the plot still held together. Unfortunately, I still have another 70,000 words to go to finish out the complex plot. Oh, well. I'm good at delusional thinking.

Only one minute left on this computer, gotta go.

"Thank goodness," you whisper.

I heard that, smart aleck.

Friday, May 9, 2008

"Turtle Moon" by Alice Hoffman

One hundred and forty-six days.

It took ten years, but I finally finished "Turtle Moon" by Alice Hoffman, an off-beat magical, romantic, mystery journey that several characters embark on after a runaway wife is murdered and her baby taken. Some reviewers called this novel suspenseful and thrilling, but its beat sways to the lazy, hot weather in Verity, Florida, where emotions drip like the sap from a gumbo tree and relationships are as messy as the squashed turtles on the road in May. One must wade through a muddled beginning, but the story line eventually straightens out, clarifying the obstacles each character must overcome. Some wonderful moments and insights, especially concerning "...the meanest boy in Verity," kept this reader reading on. However, spread some pixie dust to believe the resolution of the plot, the murder, the kidnapping, and the redemptions. Through all this, it is a good read, and I anoint with a 4.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fruitful Adventures

One hundred and forty-seven days.

My wife just returned from a trip to Paris. Once we arrived home from the airport, I held drag her suitcase into the bedroom for the unloading.

"What a bear," she said, unzipping the bag with a hard pull. "I barely made it to the airport in time." She turned the bag. I stood with a mixture of empathetic travel frustration and a selfish concern over the contents of her bag. She always brought me something from her travels. I'm a big kid, and she knows it. I'm easily amused, and just as easily excited. And even more so, easily disappointed.

She twisted the bag one last time and the three-sided zippered monster's lid was flung open. She grab a green grocery bag and held the contents in her palm like a softball pitcher struggling with an oversized ball. She smiled coyly with unparted lips, a dimple forming like a hint on her right cheek.

"The last one," she said and tossed it to me.

I opened the bag and grinned just short of a Cheshire Cat.

She undid the top button of her fitted, white blouse and pushed the bag off the edge of the bed.

"So," I said, flipping off the light switch, "is it time for the last mango in Paris?"

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What Guys Know. Do Women Care?

One hundred and forty-eight days.

Esquire has an article about the 75 things guys need to know.

This article is loaded with ideas for stories, or rather, those little points in the stories that can make it touching or poignant or something like when some nasty villain's heart is melted for a moment when he snatches a baby from a captured princess and receives a smile from her because of the naturally impressive way he holds the child giving the good guy an opportunity to impale the evil villain. Tender moment then justice.

Other things that a guy REALLY should know...

* How to steer a car down a road with their knees at50 mph because they have to get their shirt off to...
* How to drink milk from the cartoon without their mate catching on to the fact they do so.
* How to hit a golf ball like Tiger Woods while drinking like John Daly.
* How to do laundry really bad in public so the cute redhead in the corner rescues him.
* How to wield a sword in case you encounter a really evil dude.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One Thousand Words is worth one picture

One hundred and forty-nine days.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

MMWUC for May 5, 2008

One hundred and fifty days.

Write. Just_put_down_one_word_after_another.

"Hey there Little Red Writing Hood..."

One hundred and fifty-one days.

Thanks to Melissa, you now know that the Encyclopedia Britannica online is offering free 1 year subscriptions to anyone who "regularly publishes online." That means if you have a blog or a website, you qualify. Go here!

Yes, I have red hair and I write under a hood (actually more like a cone of silence) so that evil thoughts sent out by squirrels and chipmunks don't invade my writing. The hood makes the turkey's sad. They have so many interesting thoughts to send my way, and I often see them passing by giving me a hopeful glance, either that or there are a lot of good to eat bugs on the edge of my lawn.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

"Blow me down. Yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck." - Popeye.

One hundred and fifty-two days.

A twig snapped behind me as I stood at the edge of the vegetable garden. I whirled around.

"Crikey, a T-Rex," I mumbled too afraid to scream.

I remembered reading that the ugly brown and red, drooling beast with twiggy arms and smelly breath flowing out of his slobbering mouth have poor vision. I stood still as a naked mannequin in a downtown department store window on a day so cold that grandfather said we had to have someone watch the fire to make sure it didn't freeze. It roared like Jackie Gleason after eating a Thai pepper that Norton had given him. His yellow eyes stared at me like I was a tuna surprise, yet I did not move a nostril hair. He sniffed me like a florist in a rose garden. The foot-long teeth had yellowed over time and the urge to floss them with rope rose in me. Suddenly, the fifteen foot high beast leaned over into the garden and pulled up a row of my early surprise corn and chewed it up. He sucked up twelve stalks of okra, and the sound of satisfaction dribbled out of his mouth like Dom DeLuise at a breakfast buffet table.

"Are you going to eat those carrots," he asked, imitating a Sean Connery brogue.

I shook my head and moved aside just as he scoped up fifty or so carrots and relief overcame me. "You're a vegetarian?"

"Well, my cholesterol is a bit high," he said slurping down the last of the carrots, "I mix things up most days." He smacked his lips and bent over.


Friday, May 2, 2008

A Dinosaur Roars in Connecticutt

One hundred and fifty-three days.

What if there was an Earth-like planet that didn't get hit by a dinosaur killer asteroid? Would the dinosaurs have made much progress in the additional 250,000,000 years? Would Raptors evolve thumbs? And from where would they get their fossil fuels? Would there an equivalent to Madonna in the dinosaur world? Would Jesus have been a Brontosaurus. "Please, my brothers, pass the fern."

I'd write this, but it'd have to include a murder mystery aspect.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport"

One hundred and fifty-four days.

Aside from already established links on the right-hand side of the blog page for help with queries and critiques, check out Elizabeth Lyon's youTube five minutes on how to write an effective query. I've broken bread with her at the Writers Retreat Workshop in Kentucky, and she knows her stuff as evident in her latest book "Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction writer Can Afford to Ignore" which is getting glowing reviews.

Watch, learn, grow.